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Ye Xiu was smiling at him again and Han Wenqing turned his gaze away, keeping his focus on where Zhang Xinjie is demonstrating proper wing care. He wouldn’t even be at the demonstration if his friend hadn’t caught him rushing through his wing care after a race in order to be ready for the next one faster. Yu Wenzhou was the person chosen for the demonstration and he had his eyes closed, wings pressed up into Zhang Xinjie’s touch and Han Wenqing felt the urge to look away.

The easy intimacy in the way Yu Wenzhou seemed unable to stop himself from leaning into Zhang Xinjie’s touch, the way his eyes were shut, trust clear in the loose, relaxed lines of his body- it felt intimate. Han Wenqing wondered if the real consequence wasn’t attending the class, but being forced to sit through his friends’ blatant public affection.

He glanced back over to where Ye Xiu was sitting, also having been forced to come along if the way Su Muqiu and Su Mucheng kept elbowing him in the ribs to keep him awake. Han Wenqing pulled his attention back to the front of the room before someone noticed what had distracted him but he was still startled when Zhang Xinjie’s voice rang out, dismissing them.

“Proper wing care is an essential step for everyone, but particularly for anyone who chooses to take part in racing,” Zhang Xinjie aimed his gaze at Han Wenqing while he spoke. “Ensure that you don’t neglect your wings.”

Han Wenqing was sure that his friend was quite willing to continue to glare at him for much longer, but to his relief, Yu Wenzhou brushed his fingers against Zhang Xinjie’s wrist, drawing his attention away. Before Han Wenqing could capitalise on the distraction, Ye Xiu was beside him, seemingly perpetual smug expression firmly in place.

“Are you racing tomorrow?” Han Wenqing didn’t get a chance to answer when Ye Xiu simply continued, “not that you’ve won against us yet.”

“I’ll be racing.” Ye Xiu huffed out a laugh, reaching into his pocket for a packet of cigarettes, but before he could do anything else, Zhang Xinjie’s voice sounded out from behind them.

“No smoking in the building, outside for that.” Ye Xiu waved one hand in acknowledgement, tugging Han Wenqing outside with him, lighting up a cigarette and inhaling the smoke deeply.

“Were you dragged along because Xiao Zhang caught you rushing through your wing care?” Ye Xiu’s eyes were bright with amusement when Han Wenqing gave in and nodded, tilting his head back against the wall.

“Ahh Mucheng insists we all attend one every month, be glad Xiao Zhang doesn’t require that.”

“That’s an excellent idea, Wenqing should attend one every month as well.” Zhang Xinjie didn’t pause as he continued on his way and Yu Wenzhou offered Han Wenqing what looked like an attempt at sympathy before catching up with his boyfriend, wing curling around Zhang Xinjie’s shoulders.

“Your wings are bristling, you can’t blame me for this, how was I to know he was behind us?” Han Wenqing frowned but it didn’t seem to affect Ye Xiu who just took another drag of his cigarette, letting the smoke curl through the air. “You can’t intimidate me with your face, I know you aren’t part of any criminal syndicate, Zhang Xinjie wouldn’t allow it.” Han Wenqing didn’t offer a reply, turning to lean against the wall, mirroring Ye Xiu, only to flinch away when his wing brushed up against Ye Xiu’s.

Despite knowing Ye Xiu for years, he’d never laid hands on his friend’s wings, never finding the right time to ask permission and he opened his mouth to apologise, only stopped by the dismissive flick of Ye Xiu’s hand.

“Ah what is there to get riled up about? Aren’t we friends, you can touch my wings if you’d like.” Ye Xiu’s voice was casual and Han Wenqing swallowed down the impulse to admit that he wanted more.

Wanted to be Ye Xiu’s friend but also wanted to be the first one Ye Xiu came to if his wings ached and he needed help. Wanted to be able to tuck one of his wings around the other man’s shoulder, see what their feathers looked like against each other. Even if he’d never admit it out loud, he’d always thought that his red would complement Ye Xiu’s gold but it wasn’t the right time.

So he simply leant back against the wall, his wings resting against Ye Xiu’s, letting that be his answer and he watched as the sunlight made Ye Xiu’s feathers glow, pushing down the affection that threatened to choke him, determined to bed content with what he had.

Han Wenqing was magnificent when he raced. Ye Xiu never missed his races, watching the way his back flexed as he flew, the way his wings stretched out, showing off his full wingspan. The way his feathers gleamed in the sunlight had heads turning, taking in his broad shoulders and handsome, if a little intimidating, features. Ye Xiu felt the urge to walk over and press his wings against Han Wenqing’s, an obvious declaration of a relationship.

Except he couldn’t. Because they didn’t have a relationship to declare.

Ye Xiu pushed the thoughts to the side and took his place at the start line. If nothing else, perhaps he could impress Han Wenqing with his flying.

He didn’t expect to bump into Han Wenqing in the changing rooms, watching as the other man tried to stretch out his wings, seemingly unable to reach the spot that ached. Ye Xiu broke the silence, watching Han Wenqing turn to face him, slight furrow between his eyebrows at the apparent strain.

“Do you need help?” Han Wenqing hesitated for a moment before nodding, moving to sit and letting Ye Xiu take his wings in hand. His feathers were soft to the touch, and Ye Xiu forcibly pulled his mind away from that in favour of helping Han Wenqing with the knot in his muscles. He dug his fingers into the stiff muscle and a sound slipped out of Han Wenqing that stopped everything in its tracks. His wings were out of Ye Xiu’s hands in a moment and he took a moment to mourn the loss before tuning in to what Han Wenqing was saying.

“Thank you for your help, I have another race-“ Ye Xiu caught his wrist before he could vanish out of the door, Han Wenqing stilling in his tracks.

“Do you like it when I touch your wings?” Ye Xiu felt that he should feel bad for the colour that Han Wenqing flushed, but the other man wasn’t one to back away from a challenge and he squared his shoulders, as if he were going into battle.

“I like it when you touch my wings, I’d hoped that you might let me touch yours.” Han Wenqing’s lips curved into a soft smile when Ye Xiu curled his wings towards him, an obvious show of permission.

Ye Xiu’s feathers rustled slightly as Han Wenqing let his fingers card down the back of Ye Xiu’s wing, making the other man shiver. Han Wenqing stepped a little closer, forcing Ye Xiu to tilt his head up to meet his eyes.

“Can I kiss you?” When Ye Xiu nodded, Han Wenqing let their lips brush against each other, sinking into the sensation easily, one hand resting on the small of his back, holding him close. Han Wenqing could hear the last call for his race distantly but he made no move to break away.

They were both perfectly content with where they were.