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裂流 | Riptide

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This whole thing is really stickmarionette's fault for dragging me into the X Fire/X Nine pit with her (I'm not even mad about it because it is honestly a goddamn delight and X9 era Xiao Zhan is a thing of beauty). Massive thanks to Stick for enabling and also for betaing/sensitivity reading/audiencing and just being generally wonderful. This is the first fic I have completed since May 2018 and it's hilarious to me that my first finished story is literally the first English fic for this pairing. What can I say? They are A LOT. stickmarionette and I put together a little primer in the end notes for those people who want to know more about X Fire and X9 and this pairing.

Peng Chuyue and Xiao Zhan sleeping

***

There are times when Peng Chuyue wonders what he's done to deserve this, if it is all some kind of test to endure Xiao Zhan and everything he is, everything he chooses to unleash.

Peng Chuyue's always been very good at following rules: rules and order and structure calm the whirlwind in his brain, soothe the tempest that threatens to rage under his skin. When the rules falter, when he buckles under the weight of that structure there's nothing left.

Xiao Zhan, on the other hand, has clearly never met a rule he wouldn’t break if he chose to. Oh, it seems quite the opposite. He appears to behave like Peng Chuyue does: ordered, structured, the model competitor, one who would never bend rules, let alone break them.

But the Xiao Zhan the public sees is nothing like the Xiao Zhan who appears behind closed doors when the cameras aren’t on him. It’s behind his eyes if anyone looks hard enough, though. The glint in them like asphalt on a sunny day. The predator who hides under soft fabrics and coy smiles and does what he wants, not what others expect of him. This is the Xiao Zhan that Peng Chuyue sees lounging on his bed wearing very little, the Xiao Zhan who presses Peng Chuyue into cramped spaces, and teasing, always teasing.

“So serious, Huanhuan,” he says, his lips resting on the shell of Peng Chuyue’s ear, “you need to loosen up.”

No I don’t, he wants to say, this is who I am, this is all I am, but Xiao Zhan’s lips are too soft, he’s too good at this and his thighs turn to liquid when Xiao Zhan’s teeth scrape over the delicate skin.

He always gives in. Gives in and gives up. Xiao Zhan is a force of nature, a goddamned riptide and if Peng Chuyue doesn’t mind himself, doesn’t try hard enough, he'll get pushed out to sea. He will drown in it. Sometimes, it’s hard to remember why that would be a terrible thing.

***

The thing between them, whatever it is, started on the second week of competition. He wasn’t able to sleep that night, wired from the first performance and wound too tight to relax. Bai Shu never had that problem: that boy could sleep anywhere, at any time of the day and in any position, no matter how odd. Standing up against a wall was not only odd but dangerous and yet for Bai Shu? Apparently normal.

Peng Chuyue, on the other hand found that he couldn’t get comfortable, his long legs restless, a deep, burning ache settling into his hips and knees and his brain like the second hand on a stopwatch, constantly tick tick ticking away.

When he couldn’t sleep at home he would always get up, make himself a cup of tea and sit alone at the kitchen table with his latest book. Reading always worked better than any other sleep aid, something about the way the words forced him to focus on anything other than the whirring in his brain. Eventually, after reading the same paragraph over and over, his eyes beginning to close, he would venture back to bed. It had worked since he was a child, his brain always more awake than the rest of him, and far slower to calm down. He’d just started rereading Jiang Rong’s Wolf Totem and it seemed like a good choice: a dense read, but an engaging one.

Bai Shu was snoring lightly, his legs tucked up and the blankets half off. He always slept like that in bed: half in, half out of the bedclothes, always so messy. The idea of it, of being partially cocooned in blankets and partially open to the night air made Peng Chuyue feel as if his skin was too tight. Restrictions and freedom were fine in singularity but together meant confusion.

Peng Chuyue grabbed his phone and turned the flashlight on, grabbed the book from his desk and padded out to the kitchen. It wasn’t as dark there as he expected, nor as empty. Xiao Zhan was sitting at the kitchen table in shorts and an EXO t-shirt that was so stretched that it fell off one angular shoulder. He was bent over his phone, with two of his fingers resting on his full mouth. The screen glare highlighted his eyes and cheekbones. It was hard not to stare. Xiao Zhan was always so very hard not to stare at.

“Hey,” Xiao Zhan said. He looked up then, a lazy smile spreading across his features.

Peng Chuyue nodded and sat down. “Can’t sleep?” he asked. Stupid. Redundant.

Maybe Xiao Zhan was the type to tolerate dumb questions. Or maybe he was just humouring him. Either way he shook his head, his smile more muted than it had been. “I wasn’t feeling great. About it. Tonight I mean. Couldn’t shut my brain off. Tea?”

“Thanks.”

The tea was still steaming, Xiao Zhan couldn't have made it too long ago. Perhaps they'd both gotten out of bed at the same time. It was an odd thing being in the kitchen when it was almost pitch black, but for the light from both of their phones, and almost dead quiet but for their almost-whispers and the noise of them both drinking. In the daylight hours it was more like a railway station with constant foot traffic, chatter, and Chen Zexi rapping along to Tupac in his best American accent. It wasn’t just the lack of noise or light though, the room seemed to radiate a tension that Peng Chuyue had never experienced before. It was dizzying, the cloying nature of the air in there.

It was Xiao Zhan. The way that he looked at him, and Peng Chuyue’s awareness of it. It wasn’t a new thing, he’d heard the others talking about it, the way that Xiao Zhan looked at people, the fixed attention he gave to those he chose to spend his time with. The fact that Xiao Zhan’s attention, if it was fixed on you, felt like a laser, almost unbearably focused; and at that moment it was completely focused on Peng Chuyue, maybe for the first time.

“And why can’t you sleep, Yueyue?” Xiao Zhan asked as he sipped his tea.

He rested the cup below his bottom lip and blew on the steam rising from it. Peng Chuyue shifted in his seat, suddenly, joltingly aware that his legs were splayed open and his palms were sweaty. He wiped them on his shorts. Xiao Zhan blowing on a cup of hot tea and holding the cup below his mouth should not have caused him to be immediately, shockingly hyper aware of his own body, and yet, it had.

“Um. A bit like you, I guess. Couldn’t shut my brain off either.”

“Number two and he still can’t rest,” Xiao Zhan said, grinning wide, something in it that was not altogether friendly. A tease or a challenge, Peng Chuyue could not tell, but it made him shift in his seat, made him want to look away. It was impossible to, though, he kept turning away and always returning to Xiao Zhan’s gaze as if there were a string connecting the two of them, around Peng Chuyue’s throat, always pulling him back to where Xiao Zhan was waiting.

“Number two isn't number one,” he said, after a too-long pause.

“What a fine example for your team you are.”

Peng Chuyue frowned. “Why do I feel as if that's an insult, Zhanzhan?”

Xiao Zhan laughed. “It wasn’t meant as one.” He stood and crossed over to Peng Chuyue’s side of the table. Peng Chuyue could see him more clearly then: up close, his shorts were— very short, barely covering his ass and his t-shirt was not only falling off one shoulder but whenever he moved his arms it rode up, exposing a patch of skin at his belly. It looked soft, and Peng Chuyue wondered what it would taste like: salt and sweat probably, maybe also slightly sweet. Xiao Zhan probably tasted sweet all over.

When Xiao Zhan reached out, cradling the back of his head, it seemed like Peng Chuyue should have been more surprised than he was.

“Stop fidgeting,” he said, his fingers tight in Peng Chuyue’s hair.

“I—wasn’t?”

Xiao Zhan laughed. “You were. You were doing that thing with your leg you always do. And now you’ve stopped. See, even a captain can listen to instruction.”

“You’re such an asshole.” Peng Chuyue pushed him off and stood up, arms crossed in front of him. “I literally did not ask, at four, when I should be asleep, for an etiquette lesson.”

Xiao Zhan leaned in, a hand on Peng Chuyue’s back and his mouth so close that Peng Chuyue could feel his breath on his jaw. “Ah, but you followed it so beautifully.”

He swallowed, hard. He could see Xiao Zhan’s eyes flick down, tracking the movement of his throat. It was as if he was on display and it made his scalp prickle. It was too much, holding his gaze like that and Peng Chuyue looked down at his feet, barely visible away from the light of his phone.

“Do I make you nervous, Yueyue?” Xiao Zhan asked. His voice was low, languid, drawing out every syllable as if he was rolling them around in his mouth.

“What are we doing, Zhanzhan?” He asked, his voice cracked on Xiao Zhan’s name and sounded far, far breathier than he intended.

“Just talking, right? Why? What do you think we’re doing?” Xiao Zhan walked them backwards — one hand pulling Peng Chuyue by the hem of his t-shirt — into the corner by the stove. “No cameras here. Trust me, I checked.”

“Um. Okay.” His head was a whirlwind and he wasn’t sure why Xiao Zhan apparently knew where all the cameras were and how best to avoid them but Peng Chuyue was finding it harder and harder to engage his brain. He was sleep-deprived and anxious to start with, never mind the fact that Xiao Zhan’s hands were on his waist, his plush mouth resting on Peng Chuyue’s jaw.

“The way you were playing with that cane tonight was pretty obscene, Huanhuan. Very suggestive. Not sure what you were going for but it certainly got my attention.” He scraped his teeth along the outline of Peng Chuyue’s jaw.

Peng Chuyue closed his eyes. And when he opened them again, Xiao Zhan was gone.

***

They don’t talk for a week. Xiao Zhan nods to him whenever they walk into rooms at the same time, but he looks away just as fast as they lock eyes and Peng Chuyue doesn’t know why, doesn’t want to know why, really. He’s almost convinced that maybe it never happened, that it was a fever dream brought on by too much stress and not enough quality sleep. It isn’t completely implausible; who amongst the twelve of them hasn’t spent time imagining what it would be like to kiss Xiao Zhan’s mouth, to feel those fingers gripping tight on their waist, to get their hands inside his skinny jeans and see if he feels as smooth there as everywhere else—

Okay, maybe that part's just Peng Chuyue. Unless he isn’t the only one who doesn’t just have a mancrush but an actual crush crush. It’s definitely possible, probable even that Xiao Zhan hasn’t just infected his brain. Or his dick.

“He’s kind of like a Veela,” he complains to Bai Jugang, who smiles and nods. He hasn’t read Harry Potter and has no idea what a Veela is which is probably just as well.

Peng Chuyue is backstage after he and Bai Shu have done their number, in his favourite alcove. It’s always breezy there and no-one bothers him and there aren’t any cameras which gives him time to just breathe and decompress before his next costume change. He wipes his forehead with the back of his hand and hears a soft, “Hey.”

Xiao Zhan walks towards him, tucking in behind the curtain. He looks perfectly unfazed. He’s sweating a little but aside from that he looks perfectly put together: his costume smooth and unrumpled, his hair falling perfectly. Peng Chuyue feels like a mess, looks like a mess. Is a mess. One look at him and Xiao Zhan must know it.

“Hey,” he says, his voice as steady as he can possibly manage.

Peng Chuyue wants so very badly to get his hands on him. His hands are so comparatively big compared to Xiao Zhan’s slender figure and he can imagine what they would look like framed on that ludicrously tiny waist, moving over Xiao Zhan’s body. His fingers ache to just reach out and touch.

“Nice handkerchief,” Xiao Zhan says, and he reaches inside Peng Chuyue’s jacket to grab it from where Peng Chuyue pocketed it. “Think I’ll keep it under my pillow.”

Xiao Zhan lifts the handkerchief to Peng Chuyue’s face and slowly, agonisingly slowly, trails it down his neck and throat, then brings it to his own face and just — holds it there, pressed to his skin. It’s the prop handkerchief from Fire in Winter that Peng Chuyue used to wipe the sweat from him and trail suggestively over Bai Shu’s face. One of Shu Qi’s more provocative choices that week and there's no way in hell, given that Xiao Zhan is repeating the choreography, that he didn't see it. He tries not to think about it, the fact that Xiao Zhan was watching him and definitely, definitely tries not to think about Xiao Zhan pressing the fabric to his own nose, chasing Peng Chuyue’s scent at night when the lights are out.

It must show on his face and the smile that Xiao Zhan gives him in return is filthy, full of promises that Peng Chuyue doesn’t even know how to process. Xiao Zhan lifts a finger to his perfect lips and just — leaves him there as abruptly as he found him. Leaves Peng Chuyue hard, panting, wondering if he has time to jerk off before his next costume change. He doesn’t, and if he snaps at Chen Zexi and Xia Zhiguang when they make too much noise in the green room, well, he’s sure they’ll forgive him. It isn’t his fault that he’s just been hit full-force by Cyclone Zhanzhan.

Then the freezes happen and so do the pair splits and Xiao Zhan is forced to leave his own team and join them. It should feel good, should feel like a win when Peng Chuyue has his arm around Xiao Zhan, pulled in close in between him and Bai Shu. But it doesn’t feel like one, it feels like some sort of miserable consolation prize and Peng Chuyue can’t stand seeing him like this: no light behind his eyes, no mischief, tear tracks etched in his make-up.

This isn't the Xiao Zhan he knows in darkened corners with stolen touches. Who flashes him filthy grins and bedroom eyes. This is someone else altogether, constructed by a cruel reality show twist that’s forced him away from his brothers and from Li Yuchun, forced him into a team that feels like enemy territory. Maybe the other Xiao Zhan is gone for good now— thrown in the rubbish alongside a stolen handkerchief.

There are moments though when he thinks that maybe, maybe that Xiao Zhan hasn't disappeared forever. In Week 4 when they’re in the middle of that ridiculous photoshoot, Xiao Zhan leans on him, his back against Peng Chuyue’s chest and his face turned towards Peng Chuyue, lavishing him with attention, and for a moment that intense stare is back. It’s times like this that Peng Chuyue thinks maybe, maybe— and then Xiao Zhan laughs and punches him and lounges back on Bai Shu instead, and Peng Chuyue has to watch Xiao Zhan’s head resting in a lap that's not his and it’s just gone.

Peng Chuyue doesn’t expect anything from him. It’s just not the right time and maybe it never will be again and that’s okay, he’s fine, it’s all completely fine and normal and not at all fucked.

The room is different now, Xiao Zhan taking up space like it was his to begin with, his bed wedged in next to Bai Shu’s, crowding Peng Chuyue out. Having him so close and yet not close enough feels like torture and every night Peng Chuyue fights the impulse to crawl into Xiao Zhan’s bed, the weight of his longing hanging like a lead weight around his neck. Xiao Zhan's always whispering with Bai Shu, always giggling, like there’s a joke Peng Chuyue hasn’t been let in on.

If he can just concentrate on the performances, the rehearsals, the battles, the group who needs their captain now more than ever. That’s what will get them through. And if he lies there with the lights off, one hand on his dick and the other clapped over his mouth then nobody has to know. Least of all the one he conjures up every time he comes: dark eyes that bore into him and a sulky mouth on his throat and long, long legs wrapped around his hips.

When Week 7 rolls around, he can convince himself that he’s moved on. Xiao Zhan is his friend, and that’s all he is and it’s fine. And naturally, that’s when Xiao Zhan decides it’s time to come crashing back in like he never left.

They’re in the middle of rehearsals for Wild Child, during Shu Qi’s latest cigarette break. They’re randomly alone for just a few minutes, no camera, no chief, everyone outside having their nicotine fix and Peng Chuyue looks up for a second and there it is. That look. The one he hasn’t seen in ages. Xiao Zhan’s intense scrutiny is there like it never left and it’s enough to make Peng Chuyue feel like he’s under a microscope, his belly flooded with heat. It’s as if no time has passed at all and as if he hasn’t spent countless hours, days, weeks trying to get over this exact feeling.

He has a moment where he wonders if maybe he didn’t even really see it. If he’s imagining things. This is, after all, how it goes in every dream, every fantasy he’s had since Week Two. But he isn’t imagining this: Xiao Zhan striding across the room and pushing Peng Chuyue against the wall with strong hands and even stronger thighs, pressing against him all hard angularity and body heat.

“Why? I thought—” he wants to punch himself as soon as he says it because he sounds far too needy, too desperate. It doesn’t matter anyway, nothing matters at that moment except Xiao Zhan’s hands on him.

“Don’t think, Huanhuan,” Xiao Zhan whispers, “there’s no time.”

He nods. Xiao Zhan is so close to him, his forehead pressed against Peng Chuyue’s, breathing hard.

“I’ve wanted to do this since that first week,” Xiao Zhan says, and it’s dizzying, his voice, scraped raw and broken.

“Do what?” Peng Chuyue asks, as much fake innocence in his voice as he can muster.

Xiao Zhan laughs. “Some people don’t know what a tease you are, Peng Chuyue, imagine that!”

“Consider the source,” he says, shaking his head.

Xiao Zhan has a mole under his lower lip that Peng Chuyue has been staring at for far too long and he traces it with the pad of his index finger.

“Watch out,” Xiao Zhan whispers, “we’re about to be not alone again.”

But instead of immediately moving, he grabs Peng Chuyue’s finger and mouths it, his tongue dragging over the nail and down to the first joint before stepping back with that smile on his face: the one that spells danger, the one that makes Peng Chuyue want to shove him down and make him pay.

He manages the rest of the rehearsal with his mouth dry and arousal pooling in his gut like it’s taken up permanent residence. He doesn’t fuck up his harmonies, which is, frankly a miracle with Xiao Zhan’s perfect fucking face and his liquid voice acting like an assault on his senses. The song is an anthem about self-love and triumph and liberation. But it feels as if it’s more than that to Peng Chuyue when the two of them sing it to each other.

It’s so very easy to fall in love with Xiao Zhan and not so easy to fall out of it.

Xiao Zhan grabs him that night after the performance, drags him into that dark alcove and kisses him, his mouth dragging over Peng Chuyue’s, his tongue slipping inside.

“How long since you’ve been kissed like this, Huanhuan?” he asks, before diving in again, harder this time, frantic and breathless and almost rough. Xiao Zhan’s hands are in his hair, holding him where he wants him and Peng Chuyue gives it right back, grabbing him around his waist and pulling him in. He’s so ridiculously fucking beautiful that it makes Peng Chuyue’s chest seize up sometimes, makes him want to admit what he absolutely should not out loud.

He does anyway. Just dives off the cliff onto the rocks. “Never,” he says, before pulling back to look at Xiao Zhan. He looks like Peng Chuyue feels: mouth red and swollen, his eyes wide and dark as he looks up through eyelashes that are far too long, far too pretty. Everything about Xiao Zhan is far too much.

They don’t have long enough, they never do, but by the time Xiao Zhan is through with him he has sweat pooled in the hollow of his throat, he’s harder than he’s been in weeks and he has a vague sense that this is only the beginning.

Xiao Zhan spends the rest of the evening mostly ignoring him, tickling Bai Shu backstage until he’s nearly crying with laughter. Occasionally Peng Chuyue looks up and the weight of Xiao Zhan’s gaze is on him, but it never lasts, Xiao Zhan turning away to lavish his attention on the others.

It continues like this for weeks, the never ending game of flirt, grope, ignore, flirt, and rinse and repeat. They haven’t really kissed again, and there have been days where Peng Chuyue wonders if they ever will. One day Xiao Zhan will touch him, a thumb brushing Peng Chuyue’s lower lip, a thigh between his and a whispered “You’re so gorgeous, I hope you know that?” and it’s good, it’s so good.

But the next day he'll ignore Peng Chuyue in favour of petting Guangguang’s hair and telling him what a good didi he is, cuddling Bai Shu on his bed while Peng Chuyue is right there, aching right down to his bones for something he doesn’t even know how to ask for. The times when Xiao Zhan ignores him, when it’s the others he chooses to grant his attention to, those are the times that seem endless, painful like Peng Chuyue's covered in bruises and Xiao Zhan is constantly pressing on them.

The night Chen Zexi leaves, Xiao Zhan, his eyes still puffy, pulls Peng Chuyue into the wardrobe room and locks the door. Even cried out and desperately sad he's still the most beautiful thing that Peng Chuyue's ever seen and it makes his stomach twist with need.

"Hi.”

Peng Chuyue laughs. “Hi? You have to lock me in a room to say hi?”

Xiao Zhan shakes his head. “No. I have to lock you in a room to do this.”

He pushes Peng Chuyue up against the door, his hands on Peng Chuyue’s shoulders, and kisses him, his hands gripping hard and his mouth soft and insistent.

“What are you doing?” he asks, breathing hard against Xiao Zhan’s mouth.

“I thought that was obvious.” Xiao Zhan says, his hands on Peng Chuyue’s face now, his mouth pressed against his cheek, warm breath and soft lips branding him. He can feel his resolve crumbling with every swipe of Xiao Zhan’s tongue, every caress of his fingers, every soft word whispered into his skin. And he can’t. Not any more. It isn’t enough.

Peng Chuyue puts his hands on Xiao Zhan’s shoulders and pushes him back: the fabric at his left shoulder is still damp from Xia Zhiguang's’s tears, a stark reminder that Xiao Zhan is who he is.

“I can’t do this,” he says, his voice shaking, and he hates himself for it, for that pathetic waver in it he gets when he’s too emotional. Always too emotional, his father would say, you must be stronger if you’re going to survive out there, son.

“Do you not— want me, Huanhuan? Because I thought—”

Peng Chuyue laughs, but it sounds more like a dry sob. “I want— I’m tired of only being this for you. When you’re sad and missing someone else. When you just want the nearest warm body.”

“Is that what you think?” Xiao Zhan asks, his eyes wide. “Aiyah, you think that’s all you are to me?”

“I. Don’t know?” He looks away, his cheeks flushed red. Shameful to be so desperate. Shameful to let Xiao Zhan see that Peng Chuyue’s as painfully raw as an exposed nerve. Shameful to show him that he wants so very badly. Too emotional. “How could I know? When you ignore me? When you’re climbing into Bai Shu’s lap and constantly touching him? How could I know, Xiao Zhan?”

Xiao Zhan jumps back as if Peng Chuyue has slapped him. And the look on his face is— it’s the most devastating thing Peng Chuyue has ever seen and he wants to reach out, to hold Xiao Zhan, to take that awful look off his face that he put there.

Not long before this Xiao Zhan had been the one holding the others backstage as they cried over Chen Zexi, pressed up against Peng Chuyue’s back, a warm, comforting presence, telling him not to blame himself.

“Look, let’s just get through this. The team’s the most important thing, right? Like you said? We just need to— we need to concentrate on winning, Zhanzhan. On being the best. We’ve gotta think of our careers, don’t we?”

It’s wrong. Not the thought itself, this is why he’s here, right? That’s why they’re all here. But when he says it out loud it feels like ashes in his mouth.

Peng Chuyue unlocks the door and walks out, heart hammering in his chest. Walks out and doesn’t look back because it’s easier that way.

***

To outsiders, it might seem like nothing is wrong. Xiao Zhan still lounges on his bed, half-dressed, more than he should. They crash each other's vlogs. To an untrained eye, it seems as if nothing much has changed at all.

But an untrained eye has not spent the better part of two months cataloguing Xiao Zhan’s smiles like he has, and Peng Chuyue is no longer on the receiving end of the flirty smile that makes him melt, the filthy one that spells danger, or the open, sunbeam one that hardly anyone gets to see.

“Look,” Bai Shu hisses at him after they watch Han Mubo exit in tears. “I don’t know what you did or what you said, but you’d better fix it.”

“You're making less sense than usual,” Peng Chuyue says, “and that’s saying something.”

“Xiao Zhan.”

Peng Chuyue stiffens. “What about him?”

"Uh. He's a wreck?"

"Yeah. He and Han Mubo were really close. Of course he's a wreck."

Bai Shu sighs. "It's not just that and you know it. I’m not completely fucking stupid, Yueyue, I’ve seen him making sad Zhanzhan cow eyes at you for the last week. And, I mean, you haven’t exactly been subtle. I’m sure if I went investigating I’d find PCY loves XZ written all over your journal with that pink glitter pen you think is hidden down the bottom of your drawer.”

Peng Chuyue sighs. “For one thing, stay out of my goddamned drawer. For another? I'm sure Xiao Zhan's fine.”

“Oh you big fat liar, he is not. He’s been walking around all week like a puppy that someone kicked. He watched your solo tonight dabbing his tears away with a tissue like one of his lovesick fans. You’re a monster.”

“I didn’t—” Peng Chuyue starts but Bai Shu cuts him off with a shake of his head. “Okay, we had a fight. But he’s been fine. Hasn’t he?”

Bai Shu glares at him. “Just fucking fix it okay? Or I’ll eat in your bed and spill crumbs everywhere and then when you wake up the next day there’ll be crumbs in your underpants and you’ll deserve it because you made Zhanzhan cry.”

He storms off like a very short, very angry whirlwind.

It turns out that he doesn’t have to seek out Xiao Zhan, though, because as soon as they get back to the dorms Peng Chuyue's being dragged into the bathroom by him, his hands fisted in Peng Chuyue’s Versace hoodie.

Xia Zhiguang's in there already, brushing his teeth and gargling to the tune of Crazy in Love.

“Zhanzhan,” Xia Zhiguang says and launches himself at him, toothpaste smeared all over his mouth.

Xiao Zhan smiles fondly and Peng Chuyue tries to look ahead, eyes on himself in the mirror. “Guangguang, me and Yueyue have to have a meeting now. Right here. Are you good to go?”

“Of course, Zhanzhan-ge, anything for you.”

The two of them stand there fluttering their eyelashes at each other until Peng Chuyue wants to heave and then Xia Zhiguang finally leaves.

Xiao Zhan shuts the door and locks it and the air is so heavy that every cell in Peng Chuyue’s body is screaming at him to get out of there. Yet he can’t make his legs move.

“It’s cruel, you know, stringing that poor besotted child along like that.”

“What’s cruel,” Xiao Zhan says, “is your sweatshirt. That gold swirly thing is an affront to my eyes, Huanhuan.” He smiles. It doesn’t quite reach his eyes, but he doesn't look like a small creature who's been savagely abused either. Maybe Peng Chuyue won’t wake up to crumbs in his bed after all.

"I'm sorry about Han Mubo," he says, "it sucks."

Xiao Zhan laughs. A hollow laugh without any warmth in it. "Yeah. Understatement. But that's not why I dragged you in here."

“Yeah, no kidding. A meeting? In the bathroom? Highly implausible, Zhanzhan.”

He shrugs. “No cameras. No-one else to interrupt us. It’s about as good as we’re gonna get so I can tell you what a fucking idiot you are.”

“I’m sorry,” he says, and he can’t look at Xiao Zhan, not when he’s got something uncoiling in his chest that feels like it’s crushing him. “But what did you expect me to think? I’m just—tired of not even knowing if—.”

“If what?”

He feels like the truth is being pulled out of him, inch by inch, like those magicians with the scarves that go on and on forever. “If you even like me or I’m just convenient. Weeks, weeks in between. Nothing, not even a look.”

“Ahhhhh,” Xiao Zhan says, “but you’re wrong Huanhuan. I’ve been watching you, you just didn’t look up at the right time.”

He turns around and Xiao Zhan’s face is considered, serious.

“So here’s the thing,” he says, after a long pause. “It doesn’t mean anything. With them. It’s just fun. It’s who we all are. You know it doesn’t mean anything, right?”

“I should.” He shrugs. “But, I mean, your signals are more mixed than that hotpot you served last week.”

“But also spicier. I took mercy on you soft Southerners.”

Peng Chuyue smiles despite himself.

“I never wanted to get too close, okay? I just— what if you got frozen, Huanhuan? What if I did?”

“Okay. Now who’s the idiot? Like you’d ever get sent home.”

Xiao Zhan laughs. “I suppose that’s true. Okay. I’m sorry for being an idiot also. And for hurting you.”

It’s a relief to see him laugh, even for just a moment. To see the brightness back in his eyes. Peng Chuyue’s fingers ache with the desire to just reach out, to touch the crinkles at the corners of his eyes that only ever appear when he’s laughing like this.

“I didn’t mean to hurt you either,” Peng Chuyue says, I just—”

“Go on.”

“I want you so bad it makes me a little bit insane.” He flushes from his chin right up to the tips of his ears.

Xiao Zhan reaches out, his hands on Peng Chuyue’s face. “Idiot. Serious, serious idiot. You think I do this with just anyone? Shove them behind locked doors and jump on them?”

And he doesn’t. Not really. It’s just that sometimes it’s very hard to reconcile the Xiao Zhan who's touching him with the one who flirts and flirts and flirts with everyone. Who moved his bed right up against Bai Shu’s when it was just the three of them, who makes Peng Chuyue sometimes feel like he’s the only boy in the room and then other times like he’s the only boy who isn’t.

“I don’t,” Peng Chuyue says. “I really don’t. I’m just—”

Xiao Zhan kisses him then, just once, just a very quick brush of lips, soft and almost the sort of kiss you would give a friend. And they are. Friends. Best friends. It should be enough, really, shouldn’t it? Peng Chuyue sighs, his eyes closing for a minute. They stay like that, Xiao Zhan’s breath warm and mingling with his, their foreheads pressed together.

“I miss you,” he says, so softly that maybe Xiao Zhan doesn’t even hear it.

The air changes, he can feel it in the space between them such as it is, and he opens his eyes. Xiao Zhan’s gaze is burning hot but his mouth is even hotter as it drags across Peng Chuyue’s jaw. There is nothing friendly in this kiss, nothing chaste, it feels like a promise of so much more.

“You were amazing tonight,” Xiao Zhan says, his mouth on Peng Chuyue’s throat now, dragging his lips, featherlight, across to mouth along the line of his jaw. “You looked like an idol.”

“You’re the idol,” he says, moaning a little when Xiao Zhan holds his jaw with one strong hand and licks across his lips, slow, lewd.

“Not tonight, rock star.” Xiao Zhan bites him then, his teeth on Peng Chuyue’s bottom lip, almost to the point of pain.

“We all know who they scream for.”

“They were screaming for you tonight too, sweetheart. Do you have any idea how much they all wanted you?”

The rush that surges through his body over Xiao Zhan calling him sweetheart should be embarrassing. It emboldens him.

“Did you?”

“Oh you have no fucking idea.”

Xiao Zhan presses his thigh between Peng Chuyue’s, and Peng Chuyue can’t help it, he groans, probably a little too loudly, opens his legs.

He isn’t normally like this with his partners, and it’s frightening, almost, just how much he’s willing to give into this. To let Xiao Zhan take from him what he wants.

“Tell me. Please.” Pathetic. He knows it as soon as it’s out of his mouth, but he’s been living on scraps and it isn’t that Xiao Zhan is cruel, it’s just that it’s so easy to want more of him, he makes it almost impossible not to by the mere virtue of being himself. That voice and those eyes and those insanely long legs and that sinful fucking mouth and Peng Chuyue doesn’t want to be this person: to be needy and pathetic and jealous of the time that the others get with him. To want this so badly. But he can’t help it. When it comes to Xiao Zhan he’s just so gone, so fucked up with it that he can hardly see straight sometimes.

“Oh, you want to know how much?” Xiao Zhan asks, the corner of his mouth quirking into that smile that means Peng Chuyue is in a great deal of trouble. He’s missed that smile so much there’s an ache in his chest just glimpsing it again. “Is that what you want, Huanhuan?”

He nods, his cheeks burning with need, his gaze directed down at the floor because looking at Xiao Zhan right now is too much.

Xiao Zhan grabs his chin and tilts his head back. “Ah Huanhuan, so needy, so desperate. What would they all say if they could see their strong, strict captain like this?”

Xiao Zhan grabs Peng Chuyue and pushes him against the wall next to the vanity. He holds him there, hands pinning his wrists. Xiao Zhan’s mouth is on his, kissing him and Peng Chuyue can feel it in every nerve ending. It isn’t like the fast, desperate kisses they’ve shared before in dark corners. It’s slow and thorough.

Xiao Zhan’s tongue teases him, coaxes his mouth open so slowly it’s almost unbearable. When Peng Chuyue tries to take control of the kiss, Xiao Zhan pulls away, his smile incendiary. He pushes Peng Chuyue’s wrists above his head, pins them there with one hand while the other grips his jaw, holding him there so he can push his tongue as slow and deep into Peng Chuyue’s mouth as he wants.

He’s never been kissed like this before, never so thoroughly and relentlessly claimed by someone’s mouth on his. Xiao Zhan’s thigh is pressing into him, pushing into his already aching dick and Peng Chuyue isn’t sure how he’s still managing to stand while this maddening creature is attacking him from all sides.

“You were—fuck— so beautiful,” Xiao Zhan pants against his mouth. “Your voice was unbelievable. I wanted to—”

“To what,” Peng Chuyue says, breath coming out in short, violent bursts.

“I wanted,” Xiao Zhan says, punctuating each word with a bite, a lick, another bite, “to fuck you. Bend you over and take you just for looking like that. Hanging off that mic stand, practically begging for it.”

Peng Chuyue is sure that the noise he makes cannot be described as anything other than undignified. “Do we have time for that?”

Xiao Zhan shakes his head. “Not right now. Not in here. But there’s time enough for other things. Soon, Huanhuan, I promise. I’ll make it so good for you.”

“I—” Peng Chuyue’s eyes nearly roll back in his head when Xiao Zhan drops his hand down to Peng Chuyue’s dick, grinds the heel of his hand up and down. He’s so hard and leaking and his trousers are going to be a mess if he doesn’t do something about it soon. “Gege, please.”

“Ah, damn you, you little—” Xiao Zhan’s voice is raw, ragged like it gets when they’ve been singing for too long, but with an edge of something else that Peng Chuyue's never heard before. Xiao Zhan is always so composed and together but the edge in his voice, the way his breath is hitching, his cut off phrases, it all indicates something else, something unrestrained and wild, and Peng Chuyue wants to lose himself in it. He groans, deep and needy, when Xiao Zhan drags his teeth down the column of Peng Chuyue’s throat. “Yeah, yeah, come on then, if that’s how you’re gonna play it. Wanna hear you fall apart for me, pretty boy.”

That’s you, he wants to say, you’re the pretty one and you know it, but Xiao Zhan’s hands are on him, unbuttoning his trousers deftly, like this is the easiest thing in the world for him, and he can’t seem to make the words come out. Peng Chuyue’s hands are useless when he tries to help, his fingers clumsy and pointless, his hands shaking like jelly, and Xiao Zhan just bats them away, whispers, “It’s okay, let me. If you want, I mean?”

Peng Chuyue nods and closes his eyes for a minute. He can feel his trousers being pulled down past his hips and down to his ankles and he steps out of them but doesn’t open his eyes. He can’t look at Xiao Zhan, not right now, not when it’s all he can do just to get his shallow, tattered breathing under control.

It’s an overwhelming feeling, getting what you want after months of thinking about nothing else. Xiao Zhan’s hands and his mouth are marking Peng Chuyue in places that no-one has been in so long and it’s almost too much. His nerves are on fire, that pinprick sensation in his scalp, on the back of his neck and his fingertips. His skin is itching, too tight, far too tight. Finally, he manages to tamp it down, that knife’s edge of anxiety, that maddening sensory overload, and opens his eyes.

“There you are,” Xiao Zhan whispers, and touches his face, his thumb tracing the line of Peng Chuyue’s cheekbone. “Do you need anything?”

“For you to touch me,” he says, leaning into Xiao Zhan’s hand. “If you want to.”

“Oh, I do,” Xiao Zhan says. He leans forward again, and kisses him, a hand on Peng Chuyue’s jaw holding him there as he licks into Peng Chuyue’s mouth, just once before dropping down to his knees. Xiao Zhan looks up, doesn’t drop his steely-eyed, hungry gaze, just pulls Peng Chuyue’s briefs down and off and braces his hands on his shaking thighs. Xiao Zhan’s smile is filthy, crooked, and it makes Peng Chuyue’s pulse hammer in his throat as Xiao Zhan leans forward and presses a kiss to Peng Chuyue’s hip bone, mouth dragging across the line of it.

It’s a sight he’s imagined so many nights alone in his bed with the weight of Xiao Zhan’s presence so fucking close and not close enough. But the reality is far better than he could have ever dreamed up. It’s difficult to describe Xiao Zhan in any way other than superlatives and even they don’t come close. Cataloguing his features when they aren’t right there in front of Peng Chuyue’s eyes doesn’t come close either. The perfect contours of his face, the cut of his cheekbones, the full, rich mouth and those dark, transfixing eyes. These are all things that Peng Chuyue is aware of, has catalogued, has committed to memory more times than he could count but this is something else altogether. Seeing him like this, on his knees, his face completely unshielded, is an eventuality that Peng Chuyue could never have prepared for.

Xiao Zhan’s mouth on his cock is, similarly, an eventuality that he could not have prepared for, regardless of the number of times he’s envisioned this very scenario. The noise he makes when Xiao Zhan goes all the way down on him, just takes him in like there is no challenge in it whatsoever is, frankly, humiliating. From the look that flashes across Xiao Zhan’s face there is no possible way that Peng Chuyue is ever living it down. It’s likely that Xiao Zhan will make him regret it but he can’t bring himself to care because Xiao Zhan’s mouth is as perfectly lush on the inside as it is on the outside and he can’t think about anything other than the slide of Xiao Zhan’s tongue on his dick and how brain-meltingly good it feels.

If this is, in fact, a competition then Xiao Zhan has already won which is, frankly, one of the most Zhanzhan things that could possibly have ever happened. Peng Chuyue had never imagined that Xiao Zhan’s ludicrous perfectionism and annoying competitive streak extended to cocksucking, but it’s not really a surprise either.

“You’re thinking a lot,” Xiao Zhan says, pulling all the way off, “I’m wondering whether I have your attention.”

“I hate you,” Peng Chuyue hisses, “you’re extremely not nice.”

“I’m very nice,” he says, lapping at the head of Peng Chuyue’s cock, just the tip of his tongue, little kitten licks that are barely perceptible, mouthing the slit so slow it’s almost painful, “do you want to see what happens when I’m not?”

“No,” he groans, “not right now. Just suck me and stop being a bad person.”

Xiao Zhan laughs and Peng Chuyue wants to bang his head against the wall. How did he end up with the most sadistic fucker in all of boyband history? Did he do something really, really bad in a past life?

And god it’s good, so good when Xiao Zhan takes him back into that sinful fucking mouth. It’s like he knows exactly how to draw every little bit of pleasure out of Peng Chuyue. His tongue dragging along the underside, rough and smooth at the same time and finally, finally going down on him again, pushing forward until he’s all the way in and his nose is pushed up against the wiry hair at the base of Peng Chuyue’s dick.

Peng Chuyue can see how hard Xiao Zhan is in his jeans and he wants to see, knows that Xiao Zhan’s cock will be just as gorgeous as the rest of him and he wants to touch it so badly that his own dick aches in response. Wants to do this too, work his jaw on it till it aches for days.

Xiao Zhan looks up at him, his eyes dark with want. He grabs at Peng Chuyue’s hands and puts them where he wants them and Peng Chuyue doesn’t take his eyes off of Xiao Zhan for a second, starts to thrust into his mouth with tiny, incremental hip movements that get more frenetic as he gets closer and closer to the edge of where Xiao Zhan is taking him, wringing it out of him.

He’s always beautiful, always, but he’s even more beautiful like this, his face open and unguarded and his mouth full of Peng Chuyue’s dick and groaning around it like this is all he wants in the world. It’s as if all the walls that Xiao Zhan has so carefully crafted around himself are gone and he's stripped bare and Peng Chuyue doesn’t quite know what he’s done to deserve this Xiao Zhan in particular, but regardless, there he is.

“Zhanzhan,” he breathes, “I’m close. I’m going to—”

Xiao Zhan’s hands are tight on his hips now, holding Peng Chuyue there so he can just fuck into Xiao Zhan’s wet, perfectly wanton mouth. He can feel his skin starting to tighten, his nerve endings sparking, his stomach flipping over and over like a series of triple somersaults and he’s coming, his teeth biting into his lower lip, his hand clapped over his mouth to stop himself from yelling and Xiao Zhan just staring up at him as he takes it all, dark eyes, messed up hair, and his face flushed.

When he’s finally done, Xiao Zhan pulls off and wipes his red, used mouth with the back of his hand and Peng Chuyue is pretty sure he’s going to have that image imprinted in his brain and on the backs of his eyelids for the rest of his life.

“Get up here,” Peng Chuyue says. When Xiao Zhan stands, Peng Chuyue shoves him against the wall, unbuttons Xiao Zhan’s jeans and pulls his dick out from his briefs, encircling him with one large hand.

“Not going to take long.” Xiao Zhan sounds wrecked and Peng Chuyue kisses him, his free hand grabbing Xiao Zhan by the hair. He shoves his tongue into Xiao Zhan’s mouth; graceless and messy, chasing the taste of himself on Xiao Zhan’s tongue.

He strokes Xiao Zhan with as much finesse as he can manage given how completely demolished he feels, but it’s rough and graceless. It does not seem to matter one bit to Xiao Zhan who moans into his mouth, desperate, needy, and Peng Chuyue feels it in his groin: deep, aching want that makes him stroke harder, faster.

“Good,” Xiao Zhan says. “yeah, really, really good. Can’t wait to get you on your back so I can—ah fuck you up—”

Peng Chuyue whispers, “I want that too. God, you’re so fucking beautiful like this, do you have any idea how much I—?”

“Yeah, yeah. Shit.” Xiao Zhan paws at Peng Chuyue’s face, his fingers skimming across his jawline, up to his cheek, across to his mouth and Peng Chuyue opens for him, nipping at his fingertips, tongue dragging across the tip of Xiao Zhan’s thumb before he opens his mouth wide and just takes it in, right down to the base, his tongue dragging over the ridges.

“Oh fuck you,” Xiao Zhan says, “gonna make you pay for that. You think you’ve seen the worst of me. Just you wait.”

“Mmmm, bring it on Zhanzhan, threats are just empty promises unless you actually do something about it,” Peng Chuyue says, pulling off of Xiao Zhan’s thumb, tonguing in between the webs of his fingers, stroking him even more viciously.

“I’ll give you empty promises, Xiao-yue, mark your words.”

Xiao Zhan grabs at him, one hand on the back of his head and pulls him in, kisses him slow and languid. An open-mouthed, filthy tonguefuck. Xiao Zhan knots his fingers in Peng Chuyue’s hair and pulls. The almost-pain is a direct line to his dick and if they didn’t have to worry about time he’s pretty sure he could manage another round.

He can hear how close Xiao Zhan is, how ready he is to come and Peng Chuyue wants it, wants to see it, wants to feel it, the image etched into his brain forever.

Xiao Zhan comes, his eyes closed, his mouth open, making a mess of them both and he fucks his tongue deep into Peng Chuyue’s mouth like a promise.

***

Later that night, when the lights are off, Xiao Zhan crawls into his bed and whispers, “How quiet do you think you can be, Huanhuan?”

It’s dark but he knows perfectly well what smile he is getting right now; he can feel the heat of it on him and it makes him squirm a little, he can’t help it, knows there’s no way that Xiao Zhan doesn’t see it.

“I used to hear you, you know,” he says, whispered into the sweat-slicked skin of Peng Chuyue’s neck, “when you thought I was asleep. You were so quiet but I knew what you were doing. You’ll have to be far, far quieter than that.”

Peng Chuyue nods and bites down on his lip, bites down hard, as Xiao Zhan begins to map his body in the dark, learning the places only a lover could know with soft hands and clever tongue. Intimate, secret places like the hollow at the base of his throat, a sensitive nipple, the dip of a hip bone, the soft skin of his belly.

“You’re going to be so sore tomorrow,” Xiao Zhan whispers, his tongue tracing the outline of Peng Chuyue’s mouth, dipping in at the corner, “can’t wait to see you wince every time you move, Captain.”

Xiao Zhan hands him a pillow and Peng Chuyue holds it over his mouth, bites down hard on the fabric while Xiao Zhan fucks him mercilessly with his fingers, fucks him until he’s a wreck, until he’s filthy with lube and sweat and desperate to come, but trying so, so hard not to make a sound.

“Just remember,” Xiao Zhan says, his wicked mouth sucking bruises into Peng Chuyue’s skin, below his collarbone, where nobody else can see, “you asked for this.”

He closes his eyes and lets the riptide take him.

 


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