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family dinner

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Jin Zixuan leans against the side of his yellow Audi and checks his Rolex Daytona watch. Behind his car are the massive white gates of the Jin mansion, a massive complex with no less than four houses, two gardens, one lotus pond, a garage for the rest of his car collection, and a private movie theater in the basement. Normally, he would open the gates and let himself through, but tonight, Jin Zixuan has no intention of going down the lonely, two-lane road to the main house alone.  

The time is 7:18. He has only twelve minutes left, and no one is here. Jin Zixuan shifts nervously in his Stuart Hughes suit (Diamond Edition) and represses the urge to check his watch again. Instead of checking it, he worries until his heart is thump-thumping in his chest and all he can feel is the bitter cold air on his bare fingers. 

He’s twenty-seven years old, with a two year old son, and he’s still nervous about the coming dinner. He would be less nervous if his mother was coming, but she hasn’t been back to the Jin family home since she divorced his father almost a decade ago–long enough to see Jin Zixuan through high school–and he was not about to ask. Instead, he’d asked the rest of his family. 

He’s musing on the meaning of family and obligation when the first car pulls up. It’s a white Rolls-Royce, and it carries a single passenger: Jin Zixuan’s younger brother, Jin Guangyao. His half-brother wears a crisp dark cream-colored Brioni suit, and he adjusts the small osmanthus flower tucked into the pocket when he straightens. 

“No one else is here yet?” Jin Guangyao questions, like he can’t see it with his own eyes.

“Not yet,” Jin Zixuan says shortly.

His brother continues smiling despite his terse tone. Jin Guangyao has never been anything but friendly to Jin Zixuan since he came into his life several years ago, which is why Jin Zixuan is half-terrified of him. The other half of him wants to intervene everytime his father so much as looks in Jin Guangyao’s direction, and half of the time he does, so needless to say, they have a rather complicated relationship. 

“I’m sure they’ll be here,” Jin Guangyao offers, still smiling sweetly.

Jin Zixuan isn’t so sure. Realistically, there’s no reason for all of them to come just to support him. The only reason Jin Zixuan is going, beyond the convention of his father’s annual dinners, is because Jin Zixuan is in fact aware of his skills in life. As of the moment, Jin Zixuan is the sole inheritor of his father’s fortune. Despite the number of half-siblings that Jin Zixuan apparently has, or perhaps because of it, he is confident that he will always be the sole inheritor. That is, unless Jin Guangshan decides to withhold the inheritance to remind Jin Zixuan that he is the only way Jin Zixuan can provide for his family. So Jin Zixuan needs the inheritance, no matter what A-Li says.

Which is why he’s standing here, on his twenty-seventh birthday, trying not to look too nervous as his brother calmly locks his car door. 

“Thank you for coming, A-Yao,” Jin Zixuan finally says, forced but sincere. 

Realistically Jin Guangyao knows that he can expect better treatment from his half-brother than he can with Jin Guangshan as the CEO of Jin Industries, but naively Jin Zixuan still hopes that Jin Guangyao has some room for frivolous things like brotherly affection and genuine kindness. 

Jin Guangyao puts his keys in his pocket and walks around his car to the gate. He’s not a moment too soon: a silver car rolls in after Jin Guangyao’s Rolls-Royce, and parks just a little too close for comfort. 

The first out of the silver car is Qin Su, from the driver’s seat. The gold trim and white hem of her floor-length evening gown trails over the edge of the car as she exits, and as she stands up Jin Zixuan realizes that she really went all-out. She’s dressed in white and gold, complete with a pink peony flower, and her hair and face indicates that she spent at least two hours getting ready. From the way she walks up to him in her white high-heels, Jin Zixuan knows that she knows that she’s stunning. If she wasn’t his daughter, Jin Guangshan would probably make a comment about it. He might anyway. 

“The new style suits you, A-Su,” Jin Guangyao says politely.

“Thank you,” Qin Su says, her pretty eyes flashing. “It’s what my mother wore.”

She doesn’t specify when, but Jin Zixuan winces anyway. “I didn’t think you would come,” he says helplessly. 

“And miss a chance to ruin your father’s evening?” Qin Su retorts, and smiles beatifically. “I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

The last sibling emerges from the copilot seat. “It’s your birthday celebration, isn’t it?” Mo Xuanyu points out. 

He’s wearing ripped jeans, a tank top, and heavy black eyeliner and eyeshadow. Jin Zixuan wisely does not comment. Mo Xuanyu pulls on a black puffer jacket as he speaks, which makes him the only one with adequate protection from the chilly February temperature. He’s also the youngest here; Qin Su picked him up from his university on the way here. 

“Technically,” Jin Zixuan says instead. 

Mo Xuanyu shrugs and jams his hands into his pockets. “Then what are we waiting for?”

Jin Zixuan checks his Rolex again, and the golden watch hands proclaim the time to be 7:24. “We’re still waiting on a few more people who said they’d show up.”

 “Who?” Mo Xuanyu asks curiously, and it’s at that moment that a flaming red and black sports car comes roaring down the road, and Mo Xuanyu’s face lights up. 

The door is kicked open, and Jin Zixuan’s brother-in-law flings himself out. Wei Wuxian emerges in a black Armani suit, now the tallest person in their smallest gathering, and grins. 

“I didn’t know you were coming,” Mo Xuanyu squeaks, and Jin Zixuan holds back a wince. His youngest brother has the most embarrassing idol crush on Wei Wuxian, which is only embarrassing because–

“Mn.” Out of nowhere, Jin Zixuan’s brother-in-law (-in-law?) places himself in front of Wei Wuxian, straightening his white suit coat like it’s even a millimeter out of place. He glares Mo Xuanyu down, and Jin Zixuan goes from feeling embarrassed for his brother to feeling sorry for him. 

“You brought him?” Jin Zixuan complains to Wei Wuxian before he can stop himself.

“Where I go, Lan Zhan goes,” Wei Wuxian retorts. They’re already holding hands. Jin Zixuan hates this. 

Wei Wuxian’s husband levels his icy glare on Jin Zixuan, and suddenly Jin Zixuan is imagining that glare leveled at his father when Jin Guangshan inevitably tries to get world-renown bioengineer Wei Wuxian to work for Jin Industries again. Perhaps bringing him along isn’t such a bad idea after all. 

“It’s lovely to see you,” Qin Su offers, and the glare is gone, just like that. 

“But not as lovely as you are tonight,” Wei Wuxian says smoothly, and the glare is back.

Jin Zixuan pinches the bridge of his nose with two fingers and sighs. He’s so busy sighing that he almost misses the arrival of the last car, a violently purple Jaguar that for once is not racing around at nearly illegal speeds. 

“You’re late,” Jin Zixuan snaps, when the driver’s door opens. 

“I was helping my sister get ready, asshole,” Jiang Cheng snaps right back, slamming his door closed. He straightens the cuffs of his dark purple suit before opening the copilot door for said sister. 

Jiang Yanli ducks gracefully out of the car, and Jin Zixuan’s heart immediately goes gooey in his chest. He’s afraid that his face does, as well, because Wei Wuxian makes a disgusted face at him. 

She wears a layered dress of lavender and rose pink, and the skirts skim over the ground as she steps out of the car. In her arms, she carries a precious little bundle that Jin Zixuan loves with all his heart, and now he knows that his face has gone all gooey with emotions because his wife smiles at him, which really doesn’t help with the emotions. 

Jin Zixuan holds out his arms, and Jiang Yanli places their tiny baby bun in his arms. 

“I’ve finally got him sleeping,” Jiang Yanli says in a hushed voice, and for a moment there’s silence as everyone welcomes the newest, sleepiest, cutest little dumpling to their growing party. 

Jin Ling’s little face is puckered up even in his sleep like he’s thinking hard. Jin Zixuan’s small, sweet bao of a son is dressed in a matching pair of a white jacket and snowpants, complete with a white yarn hat that’s the size of his entire head. 

“It’s good to see you, A-Li,” Qin Su says finally, once the moment of silence has passed.

Jiang Yanli smiles. “You too, A-Su,” she says. “We should get the group back together one of these days.”

Jin Zixuan isn’t sure whether he’s terrified or pleased. Jiang Yanli’s friends from college are a force of nature, and given that they’ve gone on to become a rising neurosurgeon, an environmental scientist, an urban planner, and in Jiang Yanli’s case, a child psychiatrist, they’d be even more a force of nature now. 

“I wanna hold him,” Wei Wuxian says in a stage whisper.

Jin Zixuan directs his best glare at him, holds his sweet little dumpling closer, and prays that his wife won’t cave to Wei Wuxian’s puppy dog eyes. 

“I believe it’s time,” Jin Guangyao intervenes smoothly, swooping in before a fight can break out. 

Jin Zixuan shoots him a grateful look, even though he’s mostly sure that Jin Guangyao didn’t intervene just so that he wouldn’t have to turn his darling baby son over to his brother-in-law. 

“It is 7:30,” Qin Su agrees.

Mo Xuanyu cracks his fingers, grins wickedly, and then puts on a pair of black shades, just to match his black puffer jacket. “Let’s go ruin Dad’s night.”

“Can we not get him to call the cops on us?” Jin Zixuan asks, one step short of begging. 

“My dad is on speed dial in case anyone needs a ride,” Qin Su says, tucking her phone into her purse. 

Of course. The CEO of Qin Industries on speed dial. Though Jin Zixuan supposes that that move is fair, considering that Qin Cangye knows his daughter is going to Jin Guangshan’s house. 

“I think we have enough cars,” Jin Guangyao says.

“But let’s not burn the house down?” Jin Zixuan pleads. It’s true that he asked all of them to come, but please come, I don’t want to be alone with A-Li is not the same as please, I want to pay for damages. 

“No promises.” Wei Wuxian smirks. 

“Nothing that can be proven,” Jiang Cheng adds. Jin Zixuan belatedly remembers that he’d invited them because he knew they would defend A-Li if his father even looked at her funny. Which he might. God, Jin Zixuan hated his family.

“What else is family for?” Wei Wuxian retorts. 

Oh no. Jin Zixuan’s heart is going all gooey again, and this time it isn’t from the adorable sleepy bun in his arms. He furiously tries to force down a blush that heats his cheeks in the cold winter air. 

Jiang Yanli notices, because of course she does, and she steps closer to pat his arm. “He won’t burn the house down,” she says reassuringly. 

Jin Zixuan is privately still dubious, but he doesn’t argue. He turns to the grand white gates. Jin Guangyao stands on his left and half a head shorter, and Jiang Yanli stands to his right. His two other siblings and three in-laws gather behind him. 

Then, with his family dressed to the nines and ready for war, Jin Zixuan unlocks the white gates and sets forth to ruin his dad’s night.