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every time we touch (i get this feeling)

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The navigation deck is all a flurry of movement as the ship touches down on the new planet’s surface. Sensors bleeping, static fuzzing, people jogging back and forth, preparing to alight- Wei Ying loves the chaos of it. He’s not one of the first crew to enter the atmosphere on foot; Wei Ying’s job aboard this ship is scientist, and he’s thrilled at the opportunity. 

“Engage all landing gear, surface at eight thousand feet. Watch the rock formations.” Wen Qing, their fearless leader calls out, keeping cool control over the situation. Wei Ying watches everything from the back, not really having anything else to do except go back to his quarters- and where's the fun in that?

In all honesty, the final moments are underwhelming. Since the whole process is monitored on sensors and not through the window, there isn’t any last moment swerving, just a dull thud, followed by the receding whirr of some of the engines. Wei Ying had hoped for something more interesting than that, for his first new planet, but he supposes they can’t all be winners. He joins the rest of the crew in cheering anyway, elbowing Jiang Cheng next to him, who is reluctantly smiling as well.

From there, it's a simple matter of waiting for the initial search crew to determine immediate safety. This is the hardest part, in Wei Ying’s opinion. The only window is in the navigation deck, and while large, it’s currently mostly obscured by data screens. So he has to stay there, leaning up against the wall, tapping his feet and talking at Jiang Cheng until they get the go-ahead. He isn’t even allowed to go to the entrance bay, which they’re leaving open in case the initial team needs to make a quick get away. 

Apparently Wei Ying isn’t to be trusted.

“Who would trust you?” Jiang Cheng snorts. 

“Are you insinuating that I am, in general, untrustworthy ? Jiang Cheng!” He leans heavily into his foster brother’s side, causing him to destabilise and hop to get back in balance. He glares at Wei Ying.

“Give me a reason to trust you. You would run into the distance with your camera the first chance you get.”

“I wouldn’t!” Wei Ying grins winningly. “I would take dinner with me as well.”

“Ugh. This is why you’re not allowed out right away. Why don’t you go back to the lab and do something useful.”

“There’s nothing useful to do yet, none of the datasets are complete and we don’t have any samples.” It has been a leisurely trip here, but Wei Ying is glad that the real hard work is due to start soon.

The crew gradually grows more tense as time goes on, the earlier cheer from landing safe diffusing the longer the radios go silent. They hadn’t expected there to be anything particularly hostile, but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t miss something. An hour passes.

The main screen flickers into life, and shows a man with his face shield up, grinning sweatily at the camera. Wei Ying recognises him as Song Lan, leader of the search team.

“It’s clear.” He announces, to more rounds of cheers. “There isn’t much out here, honestly. Just a lot of rocks and crab things.”

Beside him, Jiang Chen groans. “Why is it always crabs?” He complains. Wei Ying curls his lip in agreement. Carcinisation is a universe-spread problem that causes Wei Ying personally many boredom-related problems. Only Wen Ning seems excited by this announcement. Well, whatever, if he’s going to make a breakthrough, it might as well be with the coolest crab he can find. 

“Bagsy studying the biggest one.” Wei Ying says. Jiang Cheng turns on him immediately, wrestling him until his head is tucked under his arm. Wei Ying lets it happen, laughing so loudly that Captain Wen Qing has to tell them off.

 

They still have to wear the full protective gear when they venture out to collect first samples, but after there are no incidents, Wen Qing relents and lets them go out in ordinary lab gear. The first week or so is spent collecting samples, then coming back to the lab on the ship (one of the best Wei Ying has ever worked in!) to run tests and compile data. It’s not the thrilling scientific discovery he was hoping for, and he tires of it quickly.

Mostly, Wei Ying’s expeditions revolve around photographing wildlife, and shoving tiny cameras into rocky crevices. Most of the tiny crustaceans are very speedy little critters, and don’t take well to humans tramping over their feeding grounds, which makes them incredibly difficult to capture. Even catching them is boring; just waiting around all day until traps spring so they can photograph and mark their shells. Two weeks of this, and the number of unique crustaceans is over fifty.

Nie Huaisang, lead geologist, finds a cave. Dutifully, he reports this to the higher ups, and Wei Ying wrangles himself into the team to explore it for the first time. 

The material makeup of the cave is some kind of dark rock, maybe granite or something, that looks darker for the perpetual wetness dripping from the ceiling the moment they walk in. It’s streaked with veins of clear, glassy mineral- quartz, maybe? It's very beautiful, and Nie Huaisang is ooh-ing and ahh-ing, taking four photos with every step he takes. Apparently the clarity of this quartz is special somehow- all Wei Ying knows is that it's cold and wet. But he knows that if there’s going to be anything interesting, it will be deeper.

They go quietly, the only sounds the scuffing of their boots on the rock, and quiet breathing. If there is anything to be found living in here, they certainly don’t want to scare it away. The cave tunnel is so narrow that they have to pass single-file, for a lot of it. There’s one point where they have to go through sideways, but it's not a dead end so they keep moving.

As they go further, the cave begins to noticeably slant downwards, twists and turns, the quartz deposits becoming larger, and clearer. At some points, they form inside cracks, crystalline like the inside of a broken geode. Nie Huaisang exclaims that he’s never seen anything quite like it.

The narrow tunnel begins to widen until they can walk comfortable two, then three abreast. Then, without warning, the space opens up into a large cavern, three small holes in the ceiling to let in the light, which shimmers prettily on the surface of a still pool of water.

Next to him, Huaisang gasps. Wei Ying stands slackjawed as well; he’d been holding off on admiring the scenery, but really, this is stunning. Not just from a geologist’s perspective, either. The quartz deposits are even larger and plentiful in here, and they reflect the sunlight from above.

Actually, Wei Ying thinks on further inspection, it looks like it's glowing from within . The light from the tiny cracks shouldn’t be enough to make it this bright. He edges closer to the water and kneels next to it, leaning over the edge without touching it- without samples having been tested, he can’t be sure it's not toxic. 

He peers closer to the water, and squints into the deeper part- the part that seems to be brighter. There is definitely something down there, something that is giving off a light of its own. 

“What is it?” Huaisang asks next to him, volume low.

“Not sure.” Wei Ying frowns. It could be any number of things, from bioluminescent algae, phosphorescent rock, or even some kind of animal. “Here, hold me, I want to look closer.”

“Uh, wait-” Huaisang hesitates, yelping when Wei Ying doesn’t give him a choice in the matter and leaning further anyway. 

“Dr. Wei!” Voices call out behind him concerned at his recklessness. What they don’t seem to get yet, though, is that it’s all calculated. He knows what he’s doing, and although Huaisang can be a little rat sometimes, he would trust him with his life.

“What is that?” Wei Ying asks no one, as he spies something moving down there. It is definitely not a rock, and most likely not a plant. He grins. “Well, hello there! Aren’t you a cutie?” 

Something rises to the surface. It looks a little like a jellyfish, but long and thin. As it breaches the surface of the water, hardly disturbing the stillness at all, Wei Ying retreats a little bit, and turns his head away. Just in case. But he doesn’t take his eyes off it.

It’s clear, kind of like a jellyfish, with a thin line of white bioluminescent thread, or muscle, running down the centre, almost reaching the face of it. Wei Ying wonders what it is- a display? Warning? Or is it just always on like that? Fascinating. White light? He wonders how that works.

A second, and third creature pops up into the air, their posture curious and curved into an S-shape, the rounded head (is it a head? Could it be an arm? It doesn’t look like it has eyes) pointing towards him.

“This is incredible.” He wants to reach out and touch, but he doesn’t. He doesn’t want to frighten them, and he also doesn’t want to potentially get hurt. If he did, then this cave would be off-limits in the future, and he’d have to have armed guards to even attempt to study here.

Wei Ying kneels back properly, and the creatures don’t make a move to chase him. They seem more like they’re warning him, telling him to keep his distance. As long as he stays still, maybe backs off a bit, it should be fine.

“A-Sang, I hope you’re recording all this.” He murmurs, hardly moving his lips.

“I was holding onto you , how do you expect me to record you at the same time?” He hisses back. Another voice from behind them promises that they got all that on camera. 

“Alright, first things first.” He says, still not moving. “One of us needs to get a water sample. Hopefully these things don’t take offense to that, so try and do it slowly and carefully.”

“Yes, Dr. Wei.” Someone says. Wei Ying isn’t actually lead scientist- that’s Jiang Cheng. But everyone seems to treat him like he is, anyway. He’s just loud like that. 

Wearing thick gloves, Luo Qingyang collects a small sample. As expected, the creatures don’t love that- they splash water at them, but none of it actually reaches them. It’s more the sound that makes everyone jump. But, Luo Qingyang manages to get a sample, so it works out ok.

Wei Ying stays next to the water’s edge while the others bustle around behind and around him, collecting samples quickly and efficiently. They seem a little nervous, but Wei Ying is just ecstatic. The creatures eventually slip back underneath the water, but don’t leave. Wei Ying can still see the glow emanating from down below.

“Aren’t you just beautiful.” He says softly.

This is it. This is going to be his big breakthrough. He stays, observing the creatures- he thinks now, noting the way they tend to sway and surge in tandem, that they’re actually all part of just one creature- until the very last minute. Nie Huaisang has to nudge him to get his attention.

“Alright, alright, I’m coming.” He says, grinning then pointing back at the creature, “But don’t think I’m not coming back for you.” 

 

Two days pass, Wei Ying travelling down into the cave every morning, spending all day there, then leaving in the afternoon. The creature is there each time. He takes all the recording equipment he can manage. Thermal scanners tell him that he was right: it is likely one single creature, probably cephalopodic in nature. Sonar tells him there's an underwater tunnel at the deep end of the pool which it uses to get in and out of here.

He keeps talking to it, telling the creature what he’s doing even though it doesn’t have a hope of understanding him. Who knows if it can even hear? Jiang Cheng tells him he just likes the sound of his own voice, and likes to feel clever, even if it’s only in front of an octopus. Wei Ying thinks he has rocks for brains.

It refuses to come up to the surface at all again, but if it’s still here, then it’s not been permanently frightened away yet. Wei Ying hasn’t lost yet. Not by a long shot.

The water samples come back normal. Wei Ying puts his hands into the water that very same day.

Not deep , because he’s not a total idiot. 

“I’m putting my hands in the water now, ok?” He announces, just before he does so. It gets the desired reaction- three tentacles surge upwards into the air, pointed at Wei Ying threateningly. He takes his hands away immediately.

“Hey, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I know this is your space, and I’m getting all up in your face. I’m just trying to test your boundaries, maybe see if I can get you more used to me. Or just people in general. I’ll back away, and I won’t try anything else again today, that sound fair?” The tentacles recede. He smiles.

He keeps talking while he records the results of this experiment. He doesn’t really realise that he’s started showering the creature with compliments until the others start sniggering at him.

“It’s not a good doggy.” Luo Quingyang teases. Wei Ying narrows his eyes at her.

“This is insubordination!” He cries.

“You’re not my boss.” She shrugs. Damn. She’s got him there. 

“They just don’t listen to me anymore, huh? It’s no good. They’re like naughty children, always getting me into trouble.” He sighs dramatically, as if the creature will have any sympathy for him. The others scoff at him, and carry on with their work. “So cold! Everyone is so mean to me.” He pretends to cry, then peeks one eye open to see if it's working. No one is even looking at him. 

The things he goes through in the name of science.

 

Jiang Cheng’s first visit goes…. Well, it doesn’t go smoothly. He glowers at the pretty rocks, and when they reach the cave pool, he grumps. He doesn’t really mean anything he says, especially as he could technically take Wei Ying’s place at a moment, being lead scientist. 

“Isn’t he gorgeous?” Wei Ying says, with an exaggerated swoon.

“I can’t believe you got the cave beast and I’m stuck studying crabs with Wen Ning.” He mutters, as they go to kneel at the water’s edge. 

“Hey! Don’t be mean about Wen Ning!” Wei Ying scolds. “By all means, be mean about the crabs. But don’t you talk about my precious boy like that.”

“Isn’t he technically older than you?”

“Technically? Yes. But in spirit, he’s just a baby.”

“He has two degrees, and a master’s degree.” Jiang Cheng raises an eyebrow.

“So do I!” Wei Ying argues. His smile turns teasing. “Aaww, are you jealous ? Do you want me to call you my precious boy instead?”

“Fuck you!” Jiang Cheng shoves him over, just a little too roughly, and his hand slips on the wet rock when he tries to catch himself. 

Before Jiang Cheng can apologise, though, three tentacles send a small cascade of water over him. He looks like a drowned rat.

Wei Ying is in hysterics, even though his hand smarts. He might have cut himself a little bit, which is potentially cause for concern, but he doesn’t worry about it for now. He’s laughing too hard.

“What the fuck?!” Jiang Cheng’s expression is that of startled shock, wide eyes, eyebrows downturned, mouth hanging open. Face dripping with water.

“Ah, my hero!” Wei Ying giggles, putting his hand into the water. “I dub thee my saviour, Hanguan Jun!” To his surprise, one tentacle swipes over the back of his fingers. It doesn’t stay long, but it's the first time it’s made contact with anyone.

“Jiang Cheng! Did you see that?!” He gasps, already taking out his camera.

“It touched you, big deal.” Jiang Cheng mumbles, trying to push his hair back into an appropriately stylish shape before it dries weird. 

“It touched you?” Someone asks from behind them. They sound jealous. The creature splashes at everyone except Wei Ying.

“Yes. We’re calling him Hanguang Jun from now on.”

“Him?” Luo Qingyang says, skeptical. “How can you tell?”

“I just have a feeling.” Wei Ying shrugs, then swoons, fanning himself. “Can’t you just feel the masculine vibes?” He freely admits; he mostly says this to antagonise his brother. He makes it so easy.

“Ugh.” Jiang Cheng rolls his eyes. “I’ll see you at dinner. I have crabs to get back to. Don’t fall into the pond.” 

“What’s the total so far?” Wei Ying calls out, as he makes to leave. He ignores the jibe.

“Almost a hundred.” One hundred different unique types of crabs? That’s impressive. “Some of them look like we might be getting into insect territories, though, we’re not sure. Scorpion-like. I’ll tell you in more detail later.”

“See you.” Wei Ying waves him off. Hanguang Jun remains at the bottom of the pool, but Wei Ying talks to him anyway.

 

The next time Jiang Cheng comes to visit, another two days later, he gets splashed again. Not as badly, sure, but he hadn’t actually done anything this time.

“Ah, Hanguang Jun!” Wei Ying scolds. “Naughty boy!” He pulls Jiang Cheng up and away from the edge, taking their talk away into the tunnel’s entrance. This seems to work; the third time he comes, Hanguang Jun doesn’t splash him at all. Wei Ying makes sure to praise him well for it.

He becomes much more approachable after that, for everyone. He still won’t let anyone other than Wei Ying touch his water, though.

 

Wei Ying starts to delay dinner time, in favour of sitting at the water’s edge, just talking to Hanguang Jun. It’s interesting to note the changes in behaviour, compared to when everyone else is around.

When it's just the two of them, Hanguang Jun is willing to crawl further up the incline, instead of huddling at the bottom. Wei Ying thinks he’s nervous about the hustle and bustle. Usually the most they see of him is maybe three or four tentacles, just the very ends, poking out above the water. He’s so clear, it's hard to determine how big he is without the thermal imaging. 

Like this, Wei Ying can see his eyes. They’re almost translucent, too, but instead of being white, like his bioluminescent parts, they’re a shade of shimmering yellow. Almost gold, if Wei Ying were inclined to poetry. Which he isn’t.

He can also see, like this, that the luminescent thread inside each tentacle leads back to his head, in a smooth membrane that must contain whatever keeps him alive. His brain, his heart if he has one, his guts. It’s all contained in a ball of light. He’s stunning. 

Wei Ying sits cross legged, elbow on his knee, cheek resting on his palm, smiling down at Hanguang Jun in a dreamlike daze. Right now, he’s talking about his foster sister, and how much he misses her, despite the almost daily video calls. He trails off, voice wistful.

“I just wish I could give her a hug, y’know? I miss her so much, and Jiang Cheng isn’t exactly a hugger.” He sighs. “What am I doing? Unloading all my emotional baggage onto you. That’s not very fair, is it? You can’t even complain back. What is your family like, huh?” He puts his free hand into the water. Hanguang Jun reaches towards that hand, allowing Wei Ying to gently wrap his fingers around it.

Hanguang Jun can’t tell him anything, but this is nice anyway. He’s warm. So much warmer than he expected, even despite seeing the evidence before.

“Aww, thank you. I feel like you’re trying to comfort me, in your own way, huh? I’m just feeling a bit mopey today I guess, I won’t dump all my shit on you again I promise. I’ll just stick to telling you all the good bits.”

He starts into a story of when he fell into a river, trying to catch a frog. Jiang Yanli had tried to rescue him, and fallen in right alongside him. Then so had Jiang Cheng. It was a big muddy mess, and his foster mother had been very angry with him, but it’s still a fond memory. He never did catch that frog though.

The whole time, throughout the entire rambling story, Hanguang Jun allows himself to be held. It’s only when he gets to the end that he starts to move, slipping through Wei Ying’s fingers like butter. But this movement distracts him; another tentacle rising out of the water, towards him.

Wei Ying stills when he notices it, maybe a hand’s distance away from his face. He doesn’t say anything for a moment, confused. At first, he thinks it’s a threat; most often, when he does this, he wants someone to go away. But this is a little different. The posture isn’t the same, and the longer they wait like this, the more Wei Ying think’s he’s just curious.

“It’s ok.” He coaxes quietly. He leans forward, meeting him halfway. That seems to wash away any hesitations on Hanguang Jun’s part. “You just want to see what the big deal is, huh?” He says.

The warm appendage lightly touches his cheek first, followed by his nose. He giggles. This situation is pretty funny, if you look at it objectively. Wei Ying tries not to flinch when he touches near his eyes, but Hanguang Jun catches on quickly, avoiding that area. He touches Wei Ying’s lips. Gently at first, like everything else. 

“You trying to see where all the noise is coming from? I get it.” He tries to push inside the cavity of his mouth, Wei Ying halfway lets him, staring up at the small sliver of sky as he does so. He bites down lightly. Not enough to hurt, hopefully, more just to show him that he’s not without defences. Hanguang Jun lingers just long enough to push down on his tongue once, then moves on, feeling his way down his chin towards his neck. He makes a prolonged ‘aah’ sound as the tentacle passes over his Adam's apple. Hanguang Jun seems to jolt.

“Yeah, that's where my vocal chords are.” Wei Ying explains, when Hanguang Jun presses a little harder, testing. He leans back when the pressure gets uncomfortable. “That’s where all the sound comes from. It’s kinda like a violin or guitar string, though that has no meaning for you, I guess. Why would you understand what an earth instrument is? Hmm. I’m not sure how else to explain it. It’s like-” 

His walkie talkie buzzes. The sound makes Wei Ying jump, and Hanguang Jun flees back to the bottom of the pool. Wei Ying turns and answers the call to see Wen Ning’s round face staring back at him.

“Dr. Wei?” Wei Ying shakes his head, and turns the camera on his wrist to face the pond. Hanguang Jun is right at the very bottom, glowing distantly.

“Look what you’ve done.” He says, turning the camera back to himself, unimpressed. “You scared him off.”

“Oh. I‘m sorry.” His dark eyes become large and watery.

“It’s alright.” He heaves himself to his feet. His knees had locked up from sitting there too long anyway. “How can I not forgive you? You're too cute.”

“Dr. Wei….” Wen Ning turns away, bashfully. 

“Anyway, what are you calling me up for?”

“Captain Wen is threatening to throw your share of dinner in the trash if you don’t hurry up.”

“Ah. That’s a problem.” It’s true that he’s been sort of late for mealtimes the last few days, but like...there’s a super cool tentacle creature here, and no super cool tentacle creature in the cafeteria. What’s he supposed to do? 

“Yeah.” Wen Ning agrees. 

“Your sister is so mean to me.” Wei Ying shakes his head.

“She really means it this time, though. We had to stop her from tossing it away herself.”

“Alright. I’ll be right there, lemme just say bye to Hanguang Jun.” He ends the call and goes to do just that, but the pool is dim. Hanguang Jun has already left.

 

Wei Ying’s days go like this:

06:50am: Alarm goes off.

07:00am: Second alarm goes off. Breakfast is served.

07:10am: Third alarm goes off.

07:20am: Fourth alarm goes off.

07:30am: Fifth and final alarm goes off. Wei Ying gets washed and dressed.

07:45am: Wei Ying speed walks to the cafeteria before it closes for breakfast at 8.

08:05am: Wei Ying is shoo’ed from the cafeteria, barely managing to grab a lunchbox on his way out.

08:10am: Wei Ying grabs his things, almost exits the ship, then remembers something he forgot and goes back to get it.

08:15am: Wei Ying exits the ship to go to the cave for real. 

09:00am: Wei Ying makes it to the cave, and greets everyone. Checks over the cameras and other monitoring equipment. Takes notes of extraneous data, and changes batteries that need to be changed.

09:40am: Wei Ying greets Hanguang Jun, ‘plays’ with him, and records any interesting behaviour. Notes that he’s much more willing to be touched, but only by Wei Ying. Makes fun of colleagues for not being liked by a tentacle monster. They make fun of him for being liked by a tentacle monster. Fair is fair.

12:00pm: Eats lunch. Maybe joins his colleagues outside for this, maybe stays inside with Hanguang Jun. Depends on the day.

12:45pm: Finishes lunch break. Bickers with colleagues about meaningless science things. Wei Ying wins argument. Wei Ying does data analytics stuff, and records Hanguang Jun’s behaviour. Re-listens to voice recordings to transcribe them, even though subordinates offer to do this for him.

17:00pm: Paid hours end. Colleagues leave. Wei Ying stays to chat to Hanguang Jun a little longer. Hanguang Jun starts being curious about him, tugging at his lab coat, and even his hair one time.

17:25pm: Wei Ying hurriedly leaves the cave to make it back to the ship before they stop serving food.

18:00pm: Food is served. Wei Ying is in transit, probably swearing. 

18:10pm: Wei Ying makes it into the cafeteria. Captain Wen Qin shakes her head, but lets him sit down anyway. Wei Ying grumbles about strictness and forced ‘togetherness’. Jiang Cheng smacks him over the head and insists he be more punctual. Wei Ying teases him for having a thing for mean women. Wei Ying gets told to shut up about Hanguang Jun.

19:00pm: Food stops being served. People linger in the cafeteria. Sometimes Wei Ying joins them, other times he goes back to his quarters to video call Jiang Yanli, with Jiang Cheng. Wei Ying plays computer games, or reads, or bullies Jiang Cheng. 

21:00pm: Wei Ying goes to the gym. Recently, he swims in the endless pool, although he used to use the treadmill.

23:00pm: Ship-wide curfew. Wei Ying showers and goes back to his shared quarters, where Jiang Cheng is usually already in bed. They chat for a while. 

23:50pm: Wei Ying talks too much about Hanguang Jun (or something else, occasionally) and Jiang Cheng turns off the light and rolls over. Wei Ying complains about neglectful siblings until Jiang Cheng throws a pillow at him.

00:10pm: Wei Ying actively tries to go to sleep. 

 

It's a wednesday, some five weeks into the program, when Wei Ying gets the fabulous idea to sit with his feet in the water. He takes his shoes off first, of course. No sense in walking around with soggy shoes later. 

He finds a corner of the pool where he can sit comfortably, instead of right in the middle of the slope. There’s a butt-shaped vein of quartz that looks perfect: there’s enough of a drop off that the water goes up to his ankles, and no further. He doesn’t have to roll up his work slacks, and no one gets to see his sexy calves. Everyone is very disappointed, he can tell.

“Whew!” He exclaims. “Wow, it’s just as cold every time I stick my hands in there, but somehow this is worse.”

“It was your own idea.” Huaisang reminds him.

“I know,” Wei Ying waves a hand at him. “It will just take me a moment to get used to it, that's all.”

“Alright. If you feel like your toes are about to drop off, let one of us know, ok?” 

“I will!” He promises, turning his attention to the creature in the pool. He’s definitely there, glowing at the bottom, but so very still. “Aiyou, Hanguang Jun, why are you keeping me waiting? Don’t you wanna hang out with me?” He swings his legs back and forth, disturbing the water. That doesn’t seem to attract him, so he stops moving as much. Hanguang Jun seems to like it when he talks, so he carries on doing that.

“Have we figured out a way to get further imaging on what’s on the other end of that tunnel yet?” Wei Ying asks.

“Not yet, Dr. Wei.” This particular problem poses a lot of difficulty. Hanguang Jun won’t have anyone sticking cameras or other imaging devices into his waters, not even if it’s Wei Ying doing it. The most they can figure out is that the tunnel goes on for at least a mile underground. At least .

“Hm.” Wei Ying scratches his head. “I’m not sure if we’re going to be able to find out without potentially getting diving suits out. We don’t have any of those on the ship, so we’d have to wait for a shuttle to bring some out to us. Ah! Don’t look now but I see movement. I’m going to keep talking and you reply like normal, let’s see what he does.” 

“Ok. He is getting more used to you, maybe some time soon he’ll let you in the water?”

“Maybe. I’m definitely gaining his trust.” Wei Ying finds himself grinning as one lone tentacle loops around Wei Ying’s ankle, and just…. hangs out there. The touch is barely there, just making his presence known to Wei Ying.

“Yeah, that’s one way to put it.” Luo Qingyang snorts. “I don't know how you let him rub all over your face like that all the time.”

“Aw, MianMian, don’t be like that. Don’t you think he’s cute?” She shakes her head.

“Not enough to let him do that. And don’t call me that.” She folds her arms, and looks away from whatever she’s writing to regard him carefully. “Don’t you worry that he’ll yank you in or something?”

“Oh, nah. Not really. I mean, it’s always a possibility, so if it does happen I’m trusting you guys to help me get out of that situation. But no; he’s spent so long trying to make sure people know to stay out , I don’t think he’d do that. Would you Hanguang Jun? Huh? You wouldn’t try to drown me, would you?” He swings his leg a little, and the tentacle tightens just a little. 

“See? He’s nice.”

“If you say so. I would still prefer we practiced this sort of thing with inanimate objects first though.”

“I know, but he just throws those out again. Hanguang Jun is a strong advocate for no tolerance anti-littering.”

“You’re ridiculous.” 

“That’s why I got hired.” He makes finger guns at her. The look she gives him makes him resolve to never do that in front of her again. His wrist vibrates. Thank god.

“Oops, gotta take a call.” He says, pulling up his walkie talkie, and accepting the call. “Ah, Jiang Cheng. Always a pleasant surprise. Do you need tips on how to look less...well, better?”

“Shut up, idiot. I’m calling because Wen Ning says you apparently have a particular idea of how culture monitoring should be done. It’s kind of time sensitive.”

“Ahhhhhh, let me think...” Wei Ying drags out his response.

“Don’t be a dick.”

“That’s not very professional, you’re only allowed to call me that off-hours Jiang Cheng, and you know it. Anyway, Wen Ning is right, I wou-whao! Hangua- oh my god!” 

Wei Ying drops the call very quickly, on account of a tentacle snaking its way up his trouser leg.

Hanguang Jun makes it just beyond his knee before he’s able to get his hand in the way, blocking his path. He gets up, red in the face for no reason he can name.

“Hanguang Jun, you do not go inside people’s clothing without asking. I thought we’d discussed this.” Wei Ying has spoken about it, but, to be fair; Hanguang Jun cannot understand him. The inside of his trousers are now damp in one leg.

“He’s sooo cute, right?.” Luo Qingyang comments, smirking. Wei Ying blusters for a moment, speechless, before getting back under control.

“I,” He starts, raising one finger to point at her, “am going to finish this call in the tunnel, then come back. And by then you will have recorded this incident, and then we are going to move on. Clear?”

“Crystal, Dr. Wei.” Luo Qingyan continues to smirk at him as he hobbles barefooted across the cool stone.

“Insubordination.” Wei Ying mutters, with no heat, reaching for his walkie talkie once again.

When he comes back, Hanguang Jun is gone.

 

Hanguang Jun doesn’t show up the next day. Or the next, either. Wei Ying drapes himself over the cafeteria table about it.

“Will you stop pining for your goddamn octopus BFF?!” Jiang Cheng says, putting down his glass so hard it spills a little water over the edge.

“He’s better company than you are.” Wei Ying says, rolling his head to the side to peer over the barrier of his own arm. Jiang Cheng shoves him.

“You’re an idiot, that’s why. You only like this ‘Hanguang Jun’ because he can’t talk back when you say dumb shit.”

“That’s not true.” Wei Ying insists.

“Maybe this is good for you, anyway.” Huaisang pipes up on the other side of the table. “You can check out some other labs while it’s away, or start working on more paperwork. You’re always behind on that.”

“Ugh.” Wei Ying, “yeah, because it’s boring.” 

“Do you want to get defunded?” Jiang Cheng says, “Because this is how we get defunded.”

“Obviously I don’t want to get defunded.” Wei YIng placates, “I just hate doing the boring parts. They suck.”

“Didn’t one of the interns offer to transcribe for you?” 

“Ah, yeah.” Wei Ying rubs the back of his neck, “I’d feel bad making them do extra, y’know? Anyway, you worry too much. I’ll get it done! I swear!”

“You’d better.” 

“I will .” Wei Ying pulls him into a headlock. “Just because you technically outrank me doesn’t mean you aren’t still my baby brother. Stop giving me sass .” He rubs his little brother's head furiously, until Jiang Cheng is wrestling back with equal fervor. 

“Uh, the captain is looking over here.” Huaisang says, with some amusement. Jiang Cheng instantly drops like a rock, and when he finally escapes, his face is a shade of bright red and his hair is in disarray. Wei Ying laughs.

Jiang Cheng kicks him under the table.

“Ow!” Wei Ying exclaims, not really meaning it. It didn’t actually hurt. He spies Wen Qing from across the cafeteria, keeping an eye on them. Jiang Cheng has surely noticed it as well, which is why he’s brushed down his hair, and is now not looking anywhere except his empty plate.

Grinning like a cat about to pounce on his prey, Wei Ying poses, index finger and pinky extended, arms crossed in front of him.

“In the name of the Interplanetary Science Alliance, I will punish you!” He announces, before kicking him back. Huaisang sniggers, and Jiang Cheng forces himself to not react.

“I’m gonna make you clean the crab shit from the boxes.” He spits from the corner of his mouth. Wei Ying just laughs harder.

 

Wei Ying is actually in the lab, overseeing the classification of some arachnid-type creatures’ with Wen Ning when his walkie talkie goes off. It’s Luo Qingyang, from the cave,

“Whats up?” Wei Ying says, leaving the room.

“Your Hanguang Jun is back.” She replies, all nonchalant. “I thought you’d want to know.” 

Wei Ying is already running, disposable shoe-covers be damned.

“Tell him I’ll be right there. Jiang Cheng! I’m going to the cave, see you later bye~!” He only stops to grab his scarf from his room, then he’s jogging down the ship gangway, and across the rocky planet surface.

He doesn’t run all the way, only because he might slip on the wet cave floor if he tried to do that, but he’s still a bit out of breath on arrival.

“Hanguang Jun!” Wei Ying calls out, as soon as he skids into the cavern. He leans against the wall to catch his breath, wishing he worked harder during his gym sessions. When he can breathe normally, Wei Ying starts across the cave towards the pool, where four tentacles are already reaching out of the water to greet him. 

“Hanguang Jun, we missed you.” He smiles as he kneels down, extending his arm, “where did you go off to, huh?” All four tentacles surge up to meet him, three of them twining around his wrist and the other into his open hand. The rounded end pushes into the palm of his hand like a cat.

Suddenly, Wei Ying is looking back at himself, in his mind’s eye. 

He blinks, trying to acclimate to the weird sensation of seeing his own face. It looks different, paler and a little more misty than looking in a mirror, and the image warps oddly. He looks down at Hanguang Jun, and his face in his mind makes eye contact… with himself. It’s confusing. And fascinating.

“Is this you? Are you doing this?” He whispers, finally wrapping his fingers around the tentacle lying across his palm.

“What is it?” Luo Qingyang asks with concern. She kneels down next to him and puts one hand on his shoulder, ready to pull him away at a moment’s notice.

“No, no, it’s ok.” He blinks, trying to focus on her, as well as his own side-profile. “He’s communicating with me. When I touch him, he can share what he sees, I think. Maybe that’s how his kind always communicate? Could you do this the whole time?” He directs this question at Hanguang Jun himself. 

He doesn’t know how to explain it, but he feels like Hanguang Jun is telling him ‘no’. Without using words. It’s incredible.

“How is this possible?” He breathes. He’s heard of ants communicating with chemical trails, and is intimately familiar with stridulation (the crabs are inescapable]), but never directly passing thoughts from one brain to another. More images sweep through him, transient, never staying long, like he’s waking from a dream. Dark tunnels, filled with other creatures like him, who light up the shadows in large groups- some of them are his direct family, most aren’t. They carve their homes out of the stone, taking great care with smoothness and slope of each curve. Vast networks of tunnels and caves, that extend for miles and miles, deep into the planet’s core.

“Wow.” Wei Ying’s glad he’s already on the floor, otherwise he might have collapsed from the sudden onslaught of information. Hanguang Jun stops abruptly, his grip on Wei Ying’s arms tightening in what he interprets- somehow- as concern.

”Dr. Wei, what’s happening?” Luo Qingyang says, more intently this time.

“He’s not hurting me or anything, don’t worry. I don’t know how, but he’s showing me images. When he touches you, he can send you images. Memories?”

“What?”

“Yeah. I don’t know how he’s doing it.” Would he let someone else experience this? Just to prove that he’s not making it up? Hanguang Jun seems resistant to this idea at first, clinging onto Wei Ying then leaning away when Luo Qingyang reaches forwards too. He relents, a moment later, allowing Luo Qingyang to see.

She snatches her hand back quickly.

“Oh, that’s weird .”

“Yeah.” Wei Ying agrees, grinning. It’s weird, and cool, and interesting. Hanguang Jun is amazing.

“It doesn’t feel too... creepy to you?”

“Huh? No.”

“It’s like he’s partway into my brain.” She says, shaking her head. “I don’t think I can deal with it.”

“Oh. Well, your loss.” He shrugs. Secretly, Wei Ying is kinda glad that she doesn’t like it. That’s a feeling he’s not going to explore. 

“Ah, I wish there were a way to share what I’m seeing without the link. Like those old sci-fi movies that show what people were thinking on a computer screen. That would be useful right about now.” Hanguang Jun squirms, curious. 

Wei Ying happily launches into an explanation of what a computer is.

 

From that day forward, it’s almost impossible to tear Wei Ying away from the cave. He stays there late at night, and starts taking double lunches, so he can eat a second bowl of cold rice or noodles after everyone else has gone. Captain Wen Qing isn’t happy about it, not by a long shot, but she grudgingly respects that he’s making a lot of headway with the anthropological aspect of their research. 

She makes him promise to at least never sleep in the cave.

Apparently sleeping below 15*C, without a sleeping bag, is not good for you. She threatens to report him to the health and safety bureau, which could technically get him fired. He would be barred from ever seeing Hanguang Jun again, because he’s part of an ongoing project.

Wei Ying finds himself learning at breakneck pace. He spends almost all the time he’s allowed to, clinging onto one or more of Hanguang Jun’s tentacles, relaying back and forth information almost too fast for his mouth to catch up. He records everything he says, and transcribes it himself later. He used to use voice recognition, but he talks too fast for the AI to understand.

They learn that Hanguang Jun’s people- and they are a people , not just a species, there are others completely different but the same out there too- are demonstrably silent. While they can hear very well, which aids in hiding from predators, and hunting prey, they mostly use the light from their bioluminescent cerebral membrane to communicate. The light flickers and dims, too fast and too little respectively, to be detected by the human eye.

Originally, Hanguang Jun used to come to this pool to be alone. Most of his kind don’t enjoy being this close to the surface- the sunlight makes their light seem dimmer, which is frustrating when trying to communicate normally. This makes Wei Ying feel guilty for a while, but he is reassured again and again that Hanguang Jun could easily find another place to spend time alone.

He chooses to come here, every day.

Hanguang Jun actively enjoys spending time like this, with Wei Ying. It’s a weird and happy thing to learn, and he only finds out because one time, Jiang Cheng visits, and Wei Ying can feel it, the moment Hanguang Jun’s mood sours. 

“Hey! Be nice.” Wei Ying makes him promise, stroking the tentacle in his hand with his thumb. Hanguang Jun hesitates, torn between his apparent dislike of Jiang Cheng- which seems to stem from when he shoved Wei Ying and made his hand bleed a few weeks ago- and his desire to not let go of Wei Ying.

Jiang Cheng sits near, but not next to Wei Ying. He’s a reasonable distance away from the edge of the water, too. He watches on, with an expression that Wei Ying interprets as a mixture of curiosity and mild disgust.

“I’m not gonna make either of you touch each other if you don’t want to.” Wei Ying rolls his eyes. Hanguang Jun adjusts himself primly, pulling Wei Ying’s hands down until they are partially submerged.

“Relax, he’s my brother .” He reassures, “He only hurt me last time by accident, we play like that all the time.”

“He’s still hung up on that?”

“I guess so. Don’t your people ever play-fight with your brothers and sisters? Huh.”

“What’s he telling you?” Jiang Cheng tries to hide the natural curiosity. 

“He only has one brother, but he’s never been rough with him, ever. Not even when they were newly born- or hatched- born...?” The images he’s getting right now are vague, and blurry. Does this mean he can remember coming into existence? Much to think about. 

“Unsure what that means.” He continues. “Anyway, it wouldn’t have been tolerated. He thinks it’s childish. Not gonna argue with that, buddy.” Wei Ying laughs. Hanguang Jun likes it when he laughs, now that he’s found out what the sound means.

“Great. An octopus thinks I'm childish.” Jiang Cheng rolls his eyes, but he’s not really angry.

“He’s not an octopus. I’m not entirely sure what he is, but he’s not that. They don’t have words, they don’t even use images or texts really. Everything is communicated either like a kind of incredibly complex, layered morse code, I guess, or through images and feelings like this.” He moves his hand to emphasise their connection.

“I heard that it feels really weird, when he’s inside your brain like that.”

“Yeah, everyone seems to think so. I kind of like it.”

“Of course you do.” Jiang Cheng says, his tone implying things that Wei Ying does not like.

“You calling me weird?” He narrows his eyes.

“Yes. You're really weird. Always have been, always will be.”

“I’m going to choose to take that as a complement. And I prefer ‘unique’, just so you know.”

“Uniquely weird.” Jiang Cheng raises an eyebrow.

“I’ll take it. Now, did you come here for anything except to bother me?”

“Yes, actually. You’re behind on paperwork.” Jiang Cheng’s smile widens as Wei Ying’s dims. “You have to actually finish, and hand in your write-ups. You know this.”

“Oh my god. I bet you're just doing this because the captain put you up to it.” Wei Ying weedles. His secret technique of getting out of doing things; annoy people until they leave him alone. Jiang Cheng blushes, and averts his dumb lovestruck eyes.

“Regardless, it’s work you need to do. You know we have a deadline for primary research, we lose funding if you fall behind.” This catches Hanguang Jun interest- Wei Ying will have a lot of explaining to do later, about bureaucracy.

“Ugh, I know, I know . I’ll get it done, I swear.” 

“And I mean not all at once, in a two-day sleepless block right before the deadline.” He crosses his arms. He’s so annoying.

“Aah, Jiang Cheng. Stop knowing me so well!” He hunches over, forehead resting on Hanguang Jun. He reaches up to curl one along the side of his cheek, and inquires about his work. 

“Oh, not you too,” He complains. Hanguang Jun, a stickler for getting work done on time, in a healthy, sane manner? He never would have guessed it. The tentacles become more insistent, pulling at his hands and pushing at his face at the same time. “Alright, I get it. I’ll get it done. Good job letting Hanguang Jun know about this, now he’ll never let it go. He’s so righteous .” He makes it sound like a complaint, but he can hear the smile in his own voice.

“Huh.” Jiang Cheng is staring at him when he looks up. His face is deliberately kept blank.

“What?”

“Nothing. I’m going back to the ship. Don’t be too late coming back.”

 

True to his word- or image? We Ying isn’t sure- Hanguang Jun doesn’t let up about the paperwork.

It’s not difficult, really. It’s just tedious, cataloguing everything. Wei Ying spends a long time doing that, his feet in the water of the cold pool, letting Hanguang Jun share whatever thoughts, feelings, and questions that he comes up with. He holds back on asking more detailed questions of his own, for now, though. He already has enough to write down, he shouldn’t add more to the pile. But, oh, it’s so hard to resist .

It’s getting a little late, and if he doesn’t leave soonish, he’ll miss dinner again and get in trouble.

He’s humming, the sort of tune he uses when he has to make noise but not waste concentration on thinking of actual words, when-

The memory of Hanguang Jun, almost two months ago, pushing one tentacle into his mouth, oozes into his mind. It makes him stop short. Hanguang Jun repeats himself, somehow in slow motion this time. Wei Ying is left blushing (from embarrassment ), and confused. And absolutely nothing else. Head empty, no thoughts other than Hanguang Jun, the watery recollection of how it felt from both his own and Hanguang Jun’s perspective.

Wei Ying wants-

He blinks. Hard. 

Two tentacles slowly rise out of the water, just like they did that day. He can sense Hanguang Jun’s question, thrumming in his brain. Without really thinking, he answers back; yes.

The first tentacle rests against his cheek, sliding underneath his jaw. The second, when Wei Ying doesn’t turn away, inches closer towards his mouth. Rests delicately on his lower lip.

He’s so warm

Wei Ying doesn’t know why that always seems to surprise him. He’s also wet, and leaves a cool damp patch wherever he touches, that makes him shiver. He opens his mouth a fraction, and Hanguang Jun enters. 

According to Wei Ying’s earlier research, each og Hanguang Jun’s twelve tentacles is 4.3-4.7cm in diameter, which is, as it turns out, enough to make Wei Ying’s mouth stretch to just before the point of discomfort. Wei Ying hadn’t really considered that, when he was taking the measurements.

Hanguang Jun tastes cold , despite being so warm. Wei Ying can’t really put his finger on why that is. It’s like the feeling you get when you have mint tea, without it actually being minty. Odd, but not unpleasant. Hanguang Jun surges against his tongue, glad that…. that Wei Ying likes the way he tastes? The movement makes Wei Ying think of other things, that he probably shouldn’t be thinking of right now.

Wei Ying has never given anyone a blowjob before (he’s solidly in the virgin category, unfortunately), but he imagines this is close to what that might be like. Maybe. A little. He shuts his eyes, and tries really hard not to picture all the porn he’s ever seen in his life. It doesn’t work.

The moment the thought even appears in his mind’s eye, Hanguang Jun already sees it too. He pushes further into Wei Ying’s mouth, enough to make his head bob backwards from the force. Then, he retreats, until verging on leaving completely, before diving back in. Rinse and repeat.

It’s… It feels… Wei Ying likes it. Hanguang Jun likes it too, though whether that’s just a feedback loop of Wei Ying’s own feelings or not, is difficult to pick apart right now. 

He doesn’t have the mental capacity for that, and for feeling every centimeter of Hanguang Jun’s clear weight against his tongue, the roof of his mouth. The slick friction against his lips. It’s really good. He finds himself getting lost in it, his consciousness dripping away until all that's left is Hanguang Jun’s attention. He’s making low noises, in the back of his throat- Hanguang Jun raises a third tentacle, resting there to feel the vibrations. It curls around his neck, and across his shoulder.

Wei Ying is hard.

In becoming aware of that fact, so does Hanguang Jun. A new tentacle surges out of the water, eager to help with this as well. It lands solidly on Wei Ying’s bulge, splashing him with cold water and making him choke in shock. The trance breaks, and Hanguang Jun slinks back into the water, the last fleeting thought from him of regret.

“Hey, no it’s ok.” Wei Ying says, then clears his throat. He reaches for Hanguang Jun again, but he’s all the way by the tunnel entrance. “It’s really ok. I was just. Uh. Surprised. That’s all.”

Hanguang Jun hesitates. Wei Ying is rewarded for his patience (and silence) when a few moments later, Hanguang Jun crawls up the slope once more. He doesn’t close the gap, respectful of Wei Ying’s space. He wishes he wouldn’t be. 

He’s glad he is.

“You really are beautiful.” Wei Ying says, staring directly into the light behind Hanguang Jun’s eyes. Hanguang Jun stares back and doesn’t blink- he can’t. Can he understand what he’s saying, without the mind melding? He hopes Hanguang Jun knows he’s beautiful.

Hanguang Jun backs off, slowly, and flees down the tunnel. Wei Ying watches him go, melancholy mixing with the leftover burn of arousal.

It is pretty late.

Wei Ying looks down at himself- at the unfortunate wet patch on his crotch. His clothes might be black, but it’s still horrendously noticeable. He sighs, and leans back. He doesn’t think he can get away with the ‘oops I tripped, clumsy me!’ excuse. It either looks like he peed himself, or what really happened; that Hanguang Jun touched him there.

That thought sends blood rushing back to his half-mast dick. He groans to himself.

What even just happened

Whatever it was got out of hand, clearly. He shouldn’t have let it go that far but… it’s not as if he was taking advantage of him. Hanguang Jun is a fully grown adult male of his species, with a strong will of his own. There’s no way any of that would have happened without his consent. Or Wei Ying’s- Hanguang Jun is very careful about boundaries, both his own and those of others. Even when he doesn’t understand, because of cultural reasons. Especially then. His hasty retreat is evidence enough of that.

He lays back on the granite floor, and marks all the spots that dig into his back, trying to focus on how uncomfortable it is.

Since the Interspecies Relations Act of 2411, 80.08, almost a century ago, interspecies relationships have been more and more widely accepted. Though it is usually expected that all parties are fairly compatible in physiology, and habitat. For example, a couple made up of a human, and a vulcan might be easily accepted; both two legged airwalkers. 

Wei Ying’s situation… less acceptable. They can’t even communicate properly with one another without physically touching. Not to mention the terrain incompatibility. He rubs his hands over his face. 

Most of all, how did he not notice until now that he had a crush?

Wei Ying remains at the cave until his clothes are mostly dry. It’s nearly 10pm, so he’s missed his gym hours- not that he always used them anyway. He’s missed dinner. He’ll be going to be hungry tonight, because there’s no way he’ll be allowed any leftovers from the cafeteria.

The walk back to the ship is not very pleasant. Neither is his reception on his return.

“What the hell are you doing back so late?” Jiang Cheng asks from his bunk, as soon as Wei Ying slinks inside.

“Research related stuff. Super boring.” He doesn’t realise how off-brand that sounded until Jiang Cheng sits up to regard him with suspicion.

“What happened?”

“Nothing happened.” Wei Ying says, hoping his face doesn’t look as red as it feels. Jiang Cheng clearly doesn’t believe him, and like any horrible dog with a bone, he’s not going to let this go so easily.

“I was just hanging out with Hanguang Jun doing my paperwork, and I lost track of time. That’s all.” Wei Ying goes to his closet and pulls out his pyjamas.

“Why are you being so evasive? Normally I can’t get you to shut up about him.”

“Maybe I tried reading the room for once.”

“Like you would do that. Idiot.” He turns around and goes back to laying on his bunk, reading whatever it is he’s reading. “Fine, don’t tell me. I don’t care anyway.”

“I really did just lose track of time, I swear.” Wei Ying insists. He gets no further response. Wei Ying scoffs- since he started spending time with the captain in his off hours, he’s been much mellower. It’s honestly disgusting.

“Whatever, I’m going to go take a shower.” He’s not going to jack off in the shower.

 

Wei Ying jacks off in the shower. 

It’s- he can’t help it. There’s no one in any of the other cubicles (not that they would hear or see anything anyway, the shower room is state of the art) and he’s still feeling horny from the sort-of-blowjob from earlier. He gets hard so quickly, and then his brain keeps bombarding him with images that coalesce into a fantasy. He jerks his fist faster.

Hanguang Jun pulls him into the water. Wei Ying can't resist him, but Hanguang Jun knows he wouldn’t anyway. Hanguang Jun ties his hands up- either behind his back, above his head- doesn’t matter. All that matters is that Hanguang Jun is in control, free to go to town on his body in whatever way he wants. Would he want to use his mouth again? His mouth falls open at the idea, hot shower water getting inside. He would definitely want to touch his cock again, he’d seemed interested in that before.

He’d fuck his ass, for sure. With one, maybe two tentacles. Maybe more; it’s his fantasy, who cares. Fantasy him can’t get hurt. What about Hanguang Jun, though? What would happen for him to feel good? Would he come, from fucking Wei Ying? God, he hopes so. He hopes Hanguang Jun thinks about him. He uses his hand to stifle the sounds that are spilling out unbidden. 

Fantasy Hanguang Jun gets rougher, and Wei Ying lets his head drop back against the plastic wall of the cubicle and comes hard. He doesn’t even open his eyes to see his spend swirl down the drain. 

He breathes hard, letting himself get used to being in a world post-Hanguang Jun-related orgasm. He feels dizzy from it. 

Wei Ying finishes washing himself, then dries off in the cubicle. No need for towels on the S.S Lotus. Like jelly, he lets his legs carry him out into the main part of the room, and dresses himself. 

Lucky, Jiang Cheng is either already asleep when he gets back to their room, or pretending to be. He crawls into bed on the other side of the room and thinks about love until he falls asleep.

 

Wei Ying is nervous, going into the cave as normal the next day. But he figured that avoiding it would make Jiang Cheng even more suspicious, and he really doesn’t want to explain himself. About anything. The less he knows, the better.

He doesn’t go straight to Hanguang Jun’s side like usual. Instead, he hovers, checking machinery that doesn’t need to be checked, and going over already-verified datasets. He’s trying very hard not to think about last night.

Of course, in trying to avoid thinking about something, he only ends up thinking about it even more. 

It’s Huaisang that first calls him out, though it could have been any of them. And he knows he won’t be able to control it at all in the face of Hanguang Jun’s mind meld. He isn’t sure if it’s due to the inherent natures of each species, but Hanguang Jun is able to control what passes through the connection he shares, and Wei Ying can’t. Anything Wei Ying is thinking, at any given time, is right there available for Hanguang Jun to see. Usually, this is not a problem. 

“You’re acting weird today.” He says, sidling up next to him as he pretends to look over the selection of pipettes and bottles of acid.

“I am?” Wei Ying plays dumb.

“You’re jumpy. And you’re not all over Hangang Jun. You haven’t even said hi to him yet, he’s practically climbing out of the pool to come get you. Look at him.” 

Wei Ying looks. Hanguang Jun is as far up the incline as he can get without his body being exposed to the air. He watches Wei Ying’s every move with his huge, sparkly golden eyes. It makes Wei Ying’s heart twist.

“Yeah, you’re right. I’ll go say hi to him now.” Wei Ying agrees, putting down the bottle of acid in his hand and making his way over. 

“Heyy,” he says, softly. “Good morning, my beautiful.” Hanguang Jun waits, still as a submerged statue. Only when Wei Ying moves his hand into the water does he reciprocate, reaching for him as well. He seems hesitant, shy almost. The tentacle winds comfortably around Wei Ying’s hand.

Wei Ying tries to concentrate really hard, thinking very loudly about his breakfast (uninspiring), about the weather outside (the same as usual). It works for all of two minutes, maybe, before Hanguang Jun sees everything . Not only the memories of how he jerked himself off the night before, but what he was thinking about while he did it.

Mortified, he tries to pull his hand back, but Hanguang Jun won’t let him go so easily, actually using more tentacles to keep him there. Hanguang Jun seems to savour the memories, pleased and excited that he feels the same way. Wei Ying frowns, and looks around furtively, hoping no one else in here notices the strange behaviour. And also, desperately trying to ignore his own arousal.

“Alright, alright. I won’t ignore you anymore. I’m sorry.” He says, hoping that will explain anything that looks amiss. His breath catches in his throat, as Hanguang Jun feeds him dissected clips of his own fantasies, and memories- him, looking down at his own body in the shower, water running over him.

So, Hanguang Jun wants to see Wei Ying naked. He’s expressed an interest before, tugging at his clothes and trying to get underneath them. Wei Ying had thought that was only curiosity. He wasn’t entirely wrong. Hanguang Jun is curious to know his body intimately .

Wei Ying clears his throat. 

“Uhm.” He averts his eyes from Hanguang Jun’s. God, it’s too embarrassing. Is Nie Huaisang watching them, or is he doing his own work? Wei Ying can’t tell. Ugh. He tries to think about something, anything else.

“Hanguang Jun, today can you tell me about your family?” He asks, voice a little uncertain. He hopes no one is paying attention. He pulls out his camera with his free hand, and moves to sit a bit more comfortably. Hanguang Jun suggests sitting with his feet in the water, like he usually does, but Wei Ying thinks he’s not up for that today. Just the light pressure against his fingers is already threatening to overwhelm him. 

Fingers crossed it becomes less… distracting when he gets into the zone.

Hanguang Jun launches reluctantly into a detailed explanation of how family ties work for his people. Wei Ying, somehow, manages to get through the day without anyone noticing that he’s so horny he might die .

 

Spening time with Hanguang Jun after that, is something akin to torture. Everyone can tell that he’s agitated, and he keeps having to feign ignorance of the reason for it. Not one of Wei Ying’s team can say they’ve managed to avoid getting splashed by him- especially if they sit too close to Wei Ying. It’s very petty, but also pretty funny that only Wei Ying can get anywhere near him.

These little bouts of jealousy almost offset the constant onslaught of lust that has taken up residence in his mind. Both with and without Hanguang Jun’s presence.

He hasn’t had a peaceful shower in days. It’s virtually impossible to touch him without the underlying simmer, the flashes of desire becoming a continuous presence. He’s running out of excuses and ways to hide his boner. 

The worst part is that it’s entirely his own fault. Hanguang Jun seems perfectly capable of controlling his thoughts, or at least what Wei Ying sees of them. So whenever Hanguang Jun is visibly acting weird, it’s because Wei Ying has been thinking dirty thoughts. He needs to work out how Hanguang Jun manages such control over his thoughts, or at least how he chooses what to show him. But that means asking Hanguang Jun himself for help with the problem and that’s just… inconceivable.

 

“Any closer to figuring out why Hanguang Jun has been acting so weird?” Huaisang opens with, over dinner six days later. Wei Ying has made a point of following the normal schedule, and leaving Hanguang Jun at the same time as everyone else, ever since…. Well.

Huaisang is the literal devil, and had pointed out how sad Hanguang Jun seemed to see Wei Ying leave him so much earlier than usual.

“Um, no, not really. I think he’s just… probably going through some stuff.” Wei Ying says evasively. “Y’know, like…. At home.”

“Right.” Huaisang seems sceptical. Luo Qingyang is staring pointedly at her food, eyebrows raised. 

“He’s not really an over-share-y type of person.” Wei Ying explains. Except that’s not entirely true. Sure, he doesn’t open up much about his uncle, and that whole weird can of worms, but he’s very forthright with what he wants. Very. Wei Ying blinks. Time to think about something else, right now.

“I’ve been working him over, though. I’m getting bits and pieces out of him. It’s kind of cool, really. It’s like destiny; me and Hanguang Jun are both orphans.” 

“And you think that’s destiny?” Luo Qingyang asks, at dinner, one eyebrow raised. She and Jiang Cheng, to his left, share a look.

“Hey, look, you guys just don’t understand the bond we share.” He blushes, and moves on before anyone can notice, “anyway, he’s been telling me all about his older brother- they tend to only have one or two siblings, typical, just like us, which is weird because they lay so many eggs at a time, they actively choose which ones are the most healthy and likely to survive, and prioritise care for that one- but yeah his older brother apparently is interested in coming to meet us.” He takes a mouthful of rice, and carries on talking before he even chews. 

“Hanguang Jun has been telling him about us, and thinks he wants to check us out, but he doesn't know when that might happen yet, because his brother is super busy basically running the village. And then his uncle- his parents died when he was little, so he was raised by his uncle- seems really strict, so he hasn’t said anything to him about this yet. And-”

“God, Wei Ying, save it for the write ups.” Jiang Cheng grouses. “I’m gonna have to read all this then anyway.”

“But then you have to miss out on my dramatic flair.” He wiggles his fingers to emphasise this. “Whatever. I’ll shut up. For now. Why don’t you tell me what’s happening with you and you-know-who? Do I get the room to myself anytime soon? Aiming for the captain’s quarters, huh?”

“Fuck. Off.” Jiang Cheng comes this close to bending the metal spoon. Wei Ying laughs. Luo Qingyang watches their typical brotherly banter unfold with a longsuffering air.

“Aw, my little baby brother is growing up, right before my very eyes. It’s so cute!”

“What ‘growing up’, you’ve never been on a date in your life.” Jiang Cheng argues, threatening him with the now-slightly-bent spoon.

“I have!” Wei Ying says, “I went on that date with, uh, Xue Yang back in 10th grade.” Jiang Cheng just looks at him, until Wei Ying crumples. “Alright, fine, that didn’t count. But still!”

“Still what.”

“My baby brother is growing up.” He pretends to wipe a tear. Jiang Cheng sighs, but admirably, restrains himself from further antagonisation. He finishes the last bit of his dinner and picks up his plate.

“I’m videocalling A-Jie later. I won’t let you in if you’re late.”

“Sure!” Wei Ying waves him off, grinning at Luo Qingyang, smug. She rolls her eyes.

 

Wei Ying wakes from another vivid dream, his bedsheets stuck to his sweaty skin in a sordid tangle. His dick lays across his thigh, throbbing uncomfortably. 

Propping himself up on one elbow, he checks the time: only two am. He sighs as loudly as he dares; Jiang Cheng is not a light sleeper, but Wei Ying is absolutely not shameless enough to try taking care of the problem right here. He flops back down onto his pillow.

It’s been a full two weeks of this now. Wei Ying is at the end of his tether. He can’t take it anymore. Wen Ning, bless him, has been asking him about his eyebags, and Jiang Cheng has been hovering incessantly. During their last video call, two nights ago, Jiang Yanli had heavily implied that no one would hold it against him if he wanted to call it quits and go home for any reason, which can only mean Jiang Cheng has been talking to her. It’s nice to know that he's worried, but really. What is he supposed to tell him?

“Oh, the problem will be solved if I let the gorgeous alien in the cave rail me! No worries!”

Actually….Maybe the problem will be solved if he lets Hanguang Jun rail him. The only thing that’s truly holding him back is embarrassment- god knows Hanguang Jun himself has made no secret of his willingness.

That’s It.

He’s gonna go. To the cave. He doesn’t know what he’s going to do when he gets there, but it will be something. It will fix… something. 

Like a man possessed, Wei Ying crawls out of bed and scrambles for clothes. It’s hard to get them on over his sweaty skin, but he manages, somehow. The ship corridor is dark, and creepy in the silence. Wei Ying makes his way down to the main hangar, hoping fervently that no one notices on the records that he’s opening doors at this hour. 

The planet’s surface at night is a marvel, but Wei Ying has no eyes for it. He marches onward, mind set on one thing, and one thing only. When he reaches the cave, his footing gets a little more difficult; like a sex-crazed idiot, he had left behind anything he might have actually needed to navigate in the dark. Like a light .

The cave is cold, and a chill sets in against his damp forehead. He wraps his jacket closer around him, feeling his half hard dick deflate completely.

Hanguang Jun is not there.

Wei Ying sinks to his knees.

Of course he’s not here: Hanguang Jun is never here during the night. He knew this. He curls up into a ball and puts his dumb head in his dumb fucking hands. What kind of idiot gets up and goes spelunking, just to get laid? Without even remembering that there’s no chance of said sex taking place at all? How stupid. He’s an idiot.

More than a little frustrated, he walks back to the ship. 

 

When Wei Ying wakes up the following morning, everything is quiet. No signs of the usual early morning chatter outside, no shouts from his brother telling him to get his ass out of bed. The numbers displayed on the clock make him jolt out of his sleepy daze- it’s almost midday. 

“Shit.” He hisses, scrambling out of bed. Wow, a midnight wander to the cave and back really wasn’t a good idea. Shit . He scarmbles to dress himself- he’s still wearing what he wore to the cave last night, fuck . He grabs a hair tie, and pulls his hair into a ponytail while he speedwalks out. No breakfast, no lunch. No time for that.

He has the whole twenty minute walk to prepare himself, but he still doesn’t feel ready by the time he makes it to the cave entrance. He takes four deep breaths.

“Ahh, there he is!” Luo Qingyang calls out, the moment Wei Ying enters. He plasters a smile onto his face and waves. “You’re lucky you can technically claim so much overtime already.”

“Hi guys!” Wei Ying waves awkwardly with both hands. “Haha, I guess.” He hasn’t logged any of that, so that’s not true. It’s all down on the records as leisure time.

“He’s been asking for you.” Huasiang informs him slyly. Wei Ying winces. He doesn’t exactly want to go over there, but loitering will only call more attention to himself. Hanguang Jun will know pretty much instantly why he’s so late today. He forces himself to grit his teeth and kneel next to the lip of the cold pool. Hanguang Jun refrains from swarming- though Wei Ying knows he must want to. 

The very instant Wei Ying moves to dip his hand in the water, Hanguang Jun is already shooting out to meet him halfway, bombarding him with how much he missed him, as well as second-hand memories of Wei Ying in his bed that morning, refusing to wake up for anyone. He looks like a mess, all tangled up in his sheets, hair in disarray. In the excitement, Wei Ying is distracted momentarily.

“He let you touch him?” Wei Ying calls out behind him, to Huaisang. He’s the only possible culprit, sleeping in the same hallway as him.

“Uh, yeah.” Huaisang, “He was really quite insistent about it. He thought you might be sick, or hurt or something. I dunno.”

“Oh.” Wei Ying holds tighter to Hanguang Jun, flushing at the attention and concern. It’s very sweet of him. “Well, just because you're perfect and punctual doesn’t mean that everyone is.” Wei Ying grumbles, turning his face away so Hanguang Jun can’t see just how red he’s becoming. Not that he exactly needs to, when he’s broadcasting every single emotion through touch.

Finally, Hanguang Jun sends across a question. Why? Why was he late today? Wei Ying shuts his eyes and lets him remember. 

Hanguang Jun freezes, like the ice sculptures Wei Ying saw at the Harbin Ice Festival when he was a kid. Prettier. If Wei Ying looks carefully, he can see the restraint in Hanguang Jun’s body; the way he appears to vibrate in place. He’s holding himself back. Both physically and mentally- occasionally Wei Ying will receive flashes of something, memories, fleeting thoughts. In almost all of them, Wei Ying is naked, and in the pool with Hanguang Jun. Wei Ying feels his whole body buzzing. He clears his throat.

“Uh, H-Hanguang Jun. Um. Today can you tell me about….” He checks his notes frantically, skimming over the dumb heart doodles, trying to find the least sexy topic, “the, um, the economy. And money.”

Hanguang Jun bristles at the diversion, wanting nothing more than to yank Wei Ying into the water right now and have his way with him. Wei Ying wants that too, but not in front of everyone. Tonight , he promises, and Hanguang Jun latches firmly onto that promise.

He makes a point of reminding him of it every few minutes. It makes it nigh on impossible to get any actual work done; he has no idea if anything he’s saying into the recorder is making any sense at all. 

“Bye-bye, my beautiful!” Wei Ying hums, bidding Hanguang Jun farewell. Hanguang Jun reminds him of his promise one last time, before turning and leaving himself. Wei Ying exits the cave, feeling buoyed.

 

This time, Wei Ying lies awake until he’s sure Jiang Cheng is definitely asleep.

Maybe rolling over thirty times hasn’t helped Jiang Cheng get to sleep either, delaying the time when he can make his escape. He’s excited. He’d been fidgeting earlier, more than usual, but Jiang Cheng hadn’t questioned it, only looked at him, maybe a little annoyed, and scoffed. 

It’s only when Jiang Chen is definitely, absolutely snoring (quietly) that Wei Ying dares to crawl out of bed. He’s chooses to wear a casual t-shirt, and his only pair of jeans, that Hanguang Jun hasn’t seen him in, and even borrows Jiang Cheng’s comb. 

He realises he’s making an effort to look nice for someone who isn’t really going to understand, but it makes him feel a lot better. Wei Ying is about to lose his virginity, after all, it wouldn’t do to be dressed like a slob for that. No pyjamas allowed. And certainly no week-old socks. No socks at all.

Wei Ying shuts the bedroom door behind him, with a soft click. He hadn’t really bothered to be that quiet the night before, too sleepy and lust-addled to make good decisions, but he’s going to be careful now.

Another soft click sounds behind him, and he freezes, turning around to scan the hallway doors. Nothing seems amiss. Wei Ying frowns. He waits another thirty seconds until he’s sure no one is going to come outside and catch him in the act, before tip-toeing away.

In half an hour, Wei Ying is going to be having sex with Hanguang Jun. The thought quickens his pace. He’s bouncing with every step.

Hanguang jun is already there, waiting for him. His glow is so much more potent in the darkness. When he moves, it sends the water rippling, and reflections on the walls dancing.

“Hey there, beautiful,” Wei Ying says quietly, through his biggest smile. Hanguang Jun is almost out of the water completely, reaching for Wei Ying with as many tentacles as he can, risking overbalancing. 

His jacket comes off first, dropped on the ground carelessly. He toes off his shoes as he moves closer, glad he decided against socks. He finally reaches Hanguang Jun, who grips onto him with force, tugging him closer and almost sending him tumbling.

“Hey, wait, wait. I want to be able to wear my clothes again, afterwards.” Wei Ying informs him. “So I’m. Um. I’m going to take them off now, ok?” The answer is a resounding, howling yes that reverberates in his brain.

“That means you have to let go of me, first.” Hanguang Jun does so reluctantly. Wei Ying isn’t sure how much of a striptease he’s able to give (he’s never done one before) and how much Hanguang Jun would appreciate one anyway, so he strips off pretty quickly. It’s not like he wants to waste time either- he wants Hanguang Jun all over him as soon as possible.

He can feel Hanguang Jun’s emotions, bubbling up right alongside his own. His affection beats just next to Wei Ying’s own heart like a mirror of Wei Ying’s for him.

Naked and nervous, Wei Ying walks forward towards the cold pool. Hanguang Jun extends tentacles, helping him wade in like a gentleman helping a lady down the stairs. Every inch of him that is submerged is instantly surrounded and accosted by more unfathomably warm appendages. They drift closer to his cock, already half hard at this amount of attention, but don’t touch yet. Hanguang Jun wants to wait. His breath comes out shaky.

“You want me all the way in huh?” Wei Ying says. 

As the water gets deeper, Hanguang Jun helps him to keep afloat, supporting his weight so gently. One tentacle claims his thigh, another his waist. The rest surge around him, rubbing against his bare skin, keeping him warm. It’s so good, and confusing. The water reaches Wei Ying’s clavicle now. His feet no longer touch the floor, and Hanguang Jun seems delighted with that, vibrating out of his skin with anticipation.

Before Wei Ying can ask ‘now what?’ Hanguang Jun has one tentacle pressing against his lips, pleading for entrance. Wei Ying opens up without question, eager to have Hanguang Jun in his mouth again. He’s hardly stopped thinking about it. That same cold-but-not flavour bursts on his tongue, pleasant and refreshing. Is he going to get a boner every time he brushes his teeth, from now on? 

More and more tentacles move around him, wrapping around his calves, his chest, his thighs. Wei Ying loves the way he looks against his skin, lighting him up in the best way. Hanguang Jun is so thrilled to be touching him, ecstatic to have him in his arms like this. Wei Ying lets his mind drift into the feeling of it, relaxing into that slippery facsimile of a blowjob, sucking and licking whenever he is given the chance. 

He doesn’t notice that Hanguang Jun is pulling his arms behind him, until he can’t move them. There’s no give at all, he finds, when he tries to pull out of his grip. He makes a small noise around the tentacle in his mouth, a sound that Hanguang Jun can’t get enough of. Wei Ying hums, then moans for real as something brushes past his inner thigh. He moans louder as he approaches his cock, suffering in the cold water.

Yes yes yes , he thinks, yes, please there! 

The tentacle lingers, brushing against the skin of his v-line, circling him. It’s good, so good, when Hanguang Jun finally wraps around him, not jerking him off like a human hand would but stroking him all the same. Wei Ying thinks he could probably just come from this, alone, but he wants more.

The tentacle in his mouth pulls away, the rounded head resting lasciviously on his lower lip so Wei Ying can feel it still. Wei Ying kisses the tip, and giggles breathily as the sentiment reaches across the bond. He kisses it again, for good measure, before it loops comfortably around his neck.

“Ah, Hanguang Jun.” Wei Ying complains when the movement on his cock slows, “please, don’t stop. Feels really good... Ah!” 

The two tentacles around his knees pull his legs apart, wide enough for him to feel very exposed. He knows exactly what Hanguang Jun’s view right now is, and it makes his blood race. Another tentacle surges up towards his ass, curling around the curve of it, squeezing, playing, until Wei Ying is complaining loudly. 

“Hanguang Jun, come on , you know what I want, please! Please, it will be so good for you, what are you waiting for? Ah! Please!” Hanguang Jun pushes against his hole, testing. Trying to draw out louder sounds from his human. It’s not enough .

Wei Ying thinks hard about Hanguang Jun filling him up, pounding him hard, his thoughts so vivid that Hanguang Jun cannot escape them. The alien’s entire body seems to shudder, and he pushes in for real, the slide made easier with the water.

It does sting, a little, at first. But it's so, so good , at the same time. It’s so much better than his own fingers, he can’t describe it. Hanguang Jun is soft, in a way that humans simply aren’t. The sensations rebound between them, feeding each other and multiplying.

The tentacle on his cock starts to move again, and Wei Ying recognises it for the distraction it is, but that doesn’t stop him from humming in drawn out pleasure. Hanguang Jun starts to move inside him, slowly, but that only lasts maybe half a dozen obscene thrusts before he’s picking up the pace. The slick drag of Hanguang Jun’s pillowy body inside Wei Ying’s ass has him moaning, trying to arch into the friction. He doesn’t know what to do with his body; there’s so much, tentacles everywhere, stimulating every nerve. 

“Yes, yes! Hnn, Hanguang Jun !” Wei Ying wails, in answer to his unspoken question, “S-so good! Please don’t, aah , don’t ever stop!” He descends into incomprehensible pleading, then wordless moans. The tentacle loosely wrapped around his throat absorbs the vibrations. Hanguang Jun thrills at the sound of his voice, fucking him harder to hear him shout louder, the cries echoing in the tiny space. 

What the fuck would Wei Ying do if someone heard him, like this? The thought ripples through him with a latent anxiety, which is quickly put to rest by Hanguang Jun filling his mouth again. Wei Ying can’t take anymore, and comes into the water. 

His body wants to curl in on itself, as Hanguang Jun continues to fuck him through his orgasm, but he can’t; Hanguang Jun is too strong. He holds him tightly, so tightly Wei Ying hopes for bruises come morning, and thrusts harder, faster, deeper. 

Ah, please! Wei Ying whimpers pathetically, as Hanguang Jun teeters on the edge of losing control. Hurry up, you’re gonna break me! He lets out a long, drawn out moan around the tentacle in his mouth, now limp in favour of the one in his ass, and suddenly-

Hanguang Jun comes. He can feel it ricocheting around inside his head, coursing through his body like a tidal wave. Wei Ying cries out, hoarse from the onslaught of everything . Hanguang Jun pulls out of his mouth, and Wei Ying sucks in a deep gulping breath. He opens his eyes, glittering with pleasure. 

Hanguang Jun pulls out of him, leaving him feeling empty, and he shivers as cold water rushes in to replace him. 

Arms released, Wei Ying tries to hold onto him, wanting nothing more than to cuddle with his boyfriend right now, but he keeps slipping through his grasp. Looks like hugging after sex isn’t in their cards. Oh well, Wei Ying thinks, spending time with his boyfriend is plenty enough for him.

Is that ok? To call him that? He wonders. Hanguang Jun doesn’t respond, seemingly too distracted with his own post-orgasmic bliss. Wei Ying grins. He’ll ask again later.

“That was amazing .” He sighs happily. “As expected of Hanguang Jun.” He’d be content to just float here all night, if it weren’t for Everything Else. 

Wei Ying yawns. Hanguang Jun seems sleepy too, tentacles trailing lazily over his skin, occasionally sending warm bursts of fondness in his direction. This would be all too easy to get addicted to, Wei Ying thinks.

“I can’t sleep here. I’ll get pruney. And I don’t want to be found here naked like this.” Wei Ying says, without moving a muscle. “And, I definitely don’t want to keep you up all night; I’m sure holding me up all the time isn’t easy.” There’s a strong denial- Hanguang Jun would hold him all night long, if he could. Wei Ying’s heart shakes. Eventually, though, Hanguang Jun starts to usher him out of the pool.

Not without some last minute groping, of course.

The air seems colder than the water, now that he’s out of it. Is his breath fogging up? He can’t tell. He misses Hanguang Jun already. Even though it’s gross and everything sticks to him, he doesn’t wait to dry off before putting his clothes back on.

Wei Ying makes his final goodbyes for the night on his knees. He captures one tentacle in his hand, and raises it to his lips, kissing him chastely. It gets a little out of hand, when a few minutes later Wei Ying has the tentacle in his mouth again. Giddy, Wei Ying has to swat him away. He feels like a husband trying to leave for work, leaving his wife behind at home.

“See you tomorrow, my wonderful Hanguang Jun.” Wei Ying says, as he starts down the tunnel back to the ship.

 

Wei Ying is woken up at nine am the next morning, to a bucket of cold water over his head. He sits up in fear, wondering what typhoon has blown into his room, then relaxes. It’s just Jiang Cheng. He scowls, and tries to flop back into bed. It ends up more of a squelch instead.

His asshole throbs. This morning isn’t really shaping up to be a great one. He pouts.

“You’re thirty three, idiot. You should be able to get up on your own by now.” Jiang Cheng grumbles. “You’ve missed breakfast.”

“Maybe I don’t want breakfast.” Wei Ying grumbles, but gets up anyway. 

“Everyone else is already at the cave, they all left an hour ago. Huaisang asked me to check up on you.”

“Ok, and now you have. You can get back to work now.” Wei Ying complains, tugging on his work clothes. Jiang Cheng storms out as soon as Wei Ying takes his shirt off, obviously not wanting to waste any more time. He doesn’t care if he looks a mess today. Although…. He grabs Jiang Cheng’s hairbrush again, not wanting to look like shit in front of Hanguang Jun.

He makes the walk to the cave for the fourth time in two days. 

“Guys!” He calls out, as he nears the entrance. “I’m sorry I’m late. Been having sleep issues lately…” He trails off, noting the grim looks on his teams’ faces as he walks in. This can’t be good.

“What’s wrong? He asks, frowning. “Did you break something? If you tell me now, I can claim it as damages, and we can get another-” Hanguang Jun isn’t there. He deflates.

Did he do something wrong? He said he’d be here tomorrow, and tomorrow is today, right? He didn’t mean tomorrow as in the day after tomorrow, right?

“He was here.” Luo Qingyang is first to explain, looking awkward. “He popped up for a few minutes, made a fuss until one of us let him talk to us. To Huaisang. He said he’ll be back again, but didn’t say when.”

“Oh. Cool, ok. Uh.” Wei Ying sags further. He looks to Huaisang, “did you get anything else from him? Like, a sense of what he might be doing?”

“Me? Oh, uh, no! Nothing. Just very normal tentacle-y activities.” Huasiang watches him very carefully. Wei Ying makes his best effort not to let anything show on his face. Huasiang can sniff out weakness from a mile away- was it him that was awake last night? Almost certainly. Fuck . Well, as long as he doesn’t anything, Wei Ying can live with the knowledge that Nie Huaisang suspects he had sex with a tentacle creature.

“Right.” Wei Ying says slowly. Hanguang Jun is gone, for an indeterminable amount of time. What is he supposed to do with himself now?

 

“I feel like pure shit, I just want him back. Wen Ning .” He whines. “Why did he leave me? What did I do?” 

“Um. I’m not sure, Dr. Wei.” The poor guy seems uncomfortable with his presence, draped over the lab table. He hasn’t gone back to the cave since Hanguang Jun left, and it’s been four days now. Crabs don't get any more interesting the hundredth time you observe them, unfortunately. They’re lucky they have Wen Ning on the team, because he doesn’t seem to think so.

“Stop pouting, you’re polluting my workspace.” Jiang Cheng gripes, from the other end of the lab. Wei Ying sits up in mock outrage.

“I’m not pouting !” He insists, “Am I pouting, A-Ning?”

“Um.” Wen Ning delicately looks away. Wei Ying is devastated.

“Even my precious boy betrays me! Oh the humanity .” He swoons, and pretends to cry loudly. When he peeks one eye open, no one is even looking at him, though Wen Ning’s shoulders are drawn up around his shoulders.

“Have you finished your write ups?” Jiang Cheng asks, pointedly. Wei Ying glares at him, and yanks his keyboard closer. He’s almost done with them, and the first deadline is still three whole days away. That beats his university record. He would thank Hanguang Jun for most of it, since he was there overseeing a lot of it.

Only, Hanguang Jun is not here.

Thinking about Hanguang Jun makes him feel morose. Maybe he has been pouting, just a little bit, but who could blame him? Hanguang Jun was, he is starting to realise, a much larger part of his life here than he had expected him to be. He shies away from using the L-word for what he’s feeling- especially since he’s not actually around, right now, indefinitely- but he knows deep down that’s what this must be.

And although Wei Ying had heard it straight from the man’s mind, he can’t stop himself from talking himself into conspiracy theories. What if Hanguang Jun was lying to him, and he just wanted to fuck, and now he’s never coming back? What if it was bad for him, and he thinks coming back for him is a waste of time? He should go find aluminium foil from the kitchen, and make himself a nice little foil hat to go with these dumb ideas. 

And yet, they linger, growing like mould when he tries to get to sleep. The more days that pass, the more worried Wei Ying becomes.

 

The day he submits his write up, Wei Ying makes the walk down to the cave, around mid morning. It’s not to mope, or anything, so can Luo Qingyang stop giving him that look, please and thank you? Definitely not moping at all, not even a little bit, Wei Ying sits cross legged right in the middle of the room, a few inches away from touching the water. He sighs, resting his cheek on his closed fist.

That day, he waits the whole day, and nothing happens. No one really talks to him, either, and the whole thing is horribly disappointing. The next day is the same, and the one after that.

“It’s like you’re pining away for your husband.” Huaisang says, eyes glittering like the demon he is, when Wei Ying rocks up halfway through the day. 

He decides to play up the tragedy, so no one looks too deeply at the truth of Huaisang’s observation. Hands pressed to his chest, which actually aches with genuine longing, Wei Ying performs. 

“How am I expected to survive any longer without my sweet, sweet husband, Hanguang Jun? I shall waste away without him.” 

“I’m not sure,” Huaisang says, “All I can suggest is spending a long time in the showers- oh wait, you-” Wei Ying thumps him.

“Huaisang, you’re a piece of shit.” Wei Ying hisses, flushing terribly and hoping no one else heard that. How the hell did he know? He stalks over to the water's edge. He flops sideways, elbow popping his body up, one leg bent at an angle. It’s awfully undignified, but Wei Ying thrives on indignity. Or so he tells himself. He blocks out Huaisang’s dumb giggles.

Humming a forgotten tune, he dips his fingers in the cold water and drags them in circles, creating patterns. It doesn’t look as pretty without Hanguang Jun’s light, so he shakes the excess off and stops. 

He’s almost dozing off when he first notices the disturbance in the water. Wei Ying gasps, scrambling semi-upright, rolling up his sleeves so he can put his hands underwater as deep as possible without getting wet. 

No tentacles come to greet him.

“Hanguang Jun?” Wei Ying questions quietly, confused. Is it someone else? He said he was trying to get his brother to visit- is it that?

Something breaches the water, right in the middle. 

“What the hell?!” Luo Qingyang cries out. There’s the sound of crashing behind him.

It’s not Hanguang Jun. It’s-

It’s a human head? Wei Ying’s mouth hangs open. The head is ostensibly attached to a body, their broad shoulders emerging next. The stranger’s long black hair is plastered to their-his?- face, flowing over his very naked shoulders. He keeps waking up the slope, towards Wei Ying.

Very naked. This man is entirely naked. That’s cool. Also, he’s very handsome, not that it matters. Priorities; how the fuck is a human walking out of a body of water?

He turns around, red-faced, to see if he’s going crazy. But no- everyone else is staring at the pond-man, bug eyed, just like he is. The man uses his hand to push some of the hair out of his face. His movements look awkward, unpracticed. He stares at Wei Ying.

Gaping, Wei Ying finds himself blushing, and averting his eyes- this stranger hasn’t looked away from him once.

“Wei Ying.” His voice is deep, and pierces through him. The man stares at him, golden yellow eyes piercing through the blackness of his hair, watching his reaction carefully. Wei Ying is spellbound.

“H-Hanguang Jun?” He breathes, in total shock. “Is it really you?” Wei Ying whispers, gobsmacked. The man simply nods. 

Hanguang Jun- the human? - nods. 

It's...it’s bizarre to see him like this. As a human, he’s so still, and unmoving. But also incredibly attractive. Wei Ying blinks hard, flushing harder when Hanguang Jun reaches out for him, with one hand. He places one finger under his chin, the pad of his thumb lightly brushing his lower lip, and raises his face to look at him.

A flash flood of memories washes over him, Hanguang Jun missing him, wanting to meet him, but needing to find a way to make a body that would be better suited to Wei Ying’s needs. It took a lot of time, and a lot of effort, but he’s here, and he did it. Breathing air is easier than he expected. 

Wei Ying looks even more radiant, with his new eyes.

“Wow.” He says, trying not to cry. Hanguang Jun’s face shifts, from completely blank to softly smiling. Wei Ying is devastated.

“Love you.” 

Wei Ying is aware that behind him, the rest of his team are in uproar, but it fades into background noise as Hanguang Jun awkwardly kneels on the crystalline rock next to him, and pulls him into a hug