Actions

Work Header

Nothing But Trouble

Chapter Text

"Lan Zhan," Nie Huaisang says thoughtfully.

"Lan Zhan would never do it." Wei Ying flops over onto his side on Nie Huaisang's bed. "He doesn't lie. He would never lie. He would never do it even for someone he likes, let alone me."

"Yes, yes, we all understand that Lan Zhan is too good, too pure, too above all of our earthly concerns," Nie Huaisang says.

Nie Huaisang doesn't seem to be taking Wei Ying's worries very seriously.

"You say that like you're joking." Wei Ying lets himself flop over again so he's on his stomach, head dangling off the side of the bed. "But it's really true. He'd just tell me to 'tell the truth' and 'don't do dumb things' and 'be a human being.'" He stares at the carpet as all the blood rushes to his head. It feels weird but good. Maybe all the blood flow to his brain will make him smarter and give him better problem-solving skills.

"He probably would say that stuff." Wei Ying feels Nie Huaisang rearranging himself on the bed so he can poke Wei Ying with his foot. "You're going to give yourself a headache. That always happens when you do this."

He's not wrong. Wei Ying sighs heavily and scrambles backwards to flop back against Nie Huaisang's pillows. He nudges against Nie Huaisang's arm until he sighs and lifts it, letting Wei Ying snuggle in against his side. Nie Huaisang always smells good but weird—today it's like lilac and mint. He's been dabbling with essential oils lately, super into it, in that way that makes his brother stare at him and say things like, "Imagine if you focused on school as much as you focus on...this."

"Maybe you could date me," Wei Ying says against his chest.

Nie Huaisang pats his arm. "Oh, friend," he says.

"What?" Wei Ying says, frowning. "I'm a catch."

"You're certainly something," Nie Huaisang says, not meanly. "But there's an absolutely zero percent chance anyone on this earth would believe we were dating."

Wei Ying sighs. "I know." He's right, and Wei Ying does know that. They've been friends for approximately eight million years. They know everything about each other. They'd tried to kiss when they were thirteen, and it had been...weird. They'd tried again when they were eighteen and the complete lack of any chemistry between them made it hilarious more than anything else.

"I'd fake it if I thought it would work," Nie Huaisang says.

Wei Ying nods against his chest, slinging his leg over his thighs. "I know. Fuck, your bed is comfortable."

"It's one of those internet mattresses." Nie Huaisang settles back more fully with a comfortable sigh. "It came all wrapped up in plastic, like, vacuum sealed? I was convinced it would explode when I tried to open it."

"It didn't?" Wei Ying tilts his head to look up at him.

"No, it just unrolled."

"Oh. Well, I like it." There's a brief knock at the door and they both look over as the door opens and Nie Huaisang's brother sticks his head in.

"We're leaving for dinner in fifteen." He stares at them for a moment, then shuts his eyes for longer than a blink. Nie Mingjue often looks like he's getting a headache when he looks at them. There had been about thirty seconds where Nie Mingjue, at least, thought they might be dating. He seems to be more confused that they aren't. "Hey, Wei Ying. Huaisang, you heard me? Fifteen minutes. Be ready."

"Hey," Wei Ying says, struggling to sit up. He likes Nie Huaisang's brother. He's...tall. And built. And a little scary. And it's fascinating to look at him and try to see how he's related to Nie Huaisang, because Nie Huaisang is none of those things.

Nie Mingjue levels him with a look, lifts his chin at him, and walks away. He leaves the door open.

Nie Mingjue had made Nie Huaisang move in with him right after freshman year, after Nie Huaisang had almost been suspended for running an after-hours party (he'd called it a "nightclub") in the disused wing of the huge library on campus. Wei Ying still doesn't fully understand how he'd managed to not get expelled, let alone escaped suspension, but the living arrangement—and the fact that Nie Mingjue is some bigwig political science professor at MIT just across the river—had something to do with it.

Nie Huaisang's brother's place is way nicer than anything on or even anywhere near campus, anyway. He doesn't even make Nie Huaisang pay rent.

Wei Ying flops back down next to Nie Huaisang on the bed. "Do you think your brother would fake-date me?"

Nie Huaisang gives a full-body shudder. "Never speak of that again," he says. "That is—no. No. That is not something we should explore."

Wei Ying sighs. He knows Nie Huaisang is probably right, but he also thinks some low-stakes fake dating would be interesting, in that way where he'd end up completely wrecked but it might be worth it? Like, what would fake make-outs with Nie Mingjue be like? Would the mustache tickle? Wei Ying bets Nie Huiasang's brother could pick him up and press him against the wall, hard, without even breaking a sweat.

"Stop." Nie Huaisang hits him on the shoulder. "Stop doing that. Stop it."

"What? What?" Wei Ying is giggling even as Nie Huaisang switches from smacking him on the shoulder to pushing at him with his feet. "I wasn't doing anything."

"You were." Nie Huaisang isn't actually kicking him, he's just resolutely shoving at him with his feet until Wei Ying tumbles off the edge of his bed with a screech. "You were picturing my brother in...sexy ways. Stop. God. Never again. Never. Again."

He's leaning over the edge of the bed and pointing at Wei Ying. Wei Ying pushes himself to sitting on the floor, breathless and still giggling. "I was. I was doing that. He just looks so strong."

"Get out." Nie Huaisang is up on his knees on the bed. "Get out before I murder you."

"Okay, that seems fair." Wei Ying scoops up his bag and snags his phone from Nie Huaisang's bedside table. "Love you."

"Get out." Nie Huaisang has collapsed back on the bed and is absorbed in his phone, seemingly completely unbothered that several minutes of his brother's fifteen minute warning have already passed. "I'll see you tomorrow."

"Okay, be ready to solve the rest of my problems then, so I don't have to have fake make-outs with your brother." Wei Ying scoots out quickly, just in time to hear the soft thump of the pillow Nie Huaisang has flung at him hit the door.

***

He does have a lot of problems to solve, though, he thinks as he walks home.

But he's good at problem solving. That's why school is easy for him, even though he manages to hand in homework only maybe half the time: because the professors (mostly) like him and he aces every test, but more importantly, he couldn't stop himself from participating in class if his life depended on it. College professors love class participation. It's Wei Ying's favorite part of any syllabus: what percentage of his grade is based on him just being himself.

So his grades are not the problem. He likes learning things and he likes arguing about things and that's college right there in a nutshell. That plus friends, and parties. He feels incredibly smug at having convinced Jiang Cheng to apply to a college in Boston with him. He'd wanted something new, something different, something on the east coast, as far away as possible from his adopted family, who had established themselves on the west coast. But he'd also wanted Jiang Cheng with him, and he'd won that battle easily, wheedling Jiang Cheng into applying early decision and crowing when he'd gotten in.

The early-decision acceptance had helped Wei Ying clinch his argument, hanging off of Jiang Cheng's arm and wheedling him to come with him. "You're going to leave me, alone, in the wilds of New England? Think about the messes you'll have to come haul me out of," he'd said. "You'd have to fly out regularly anyway, to bail me out."

Wei Ying himself had only applied to one college. Application fees were huge and he wasn't going to ask Jiang Cheng's dad for more help than he'd already given him. He'd been completely unconcerned by it until it had come time to check the application portal to find out the decision. His body had decided to release months' worth of anxiety in one thirty-second rush of flop sweat and heart palpitations. The relief when he saw the early-acceptance confirmation had been profound.

Nie Huaisang applying to the same college had been a sure thing. His brother had been ensconced in the city for years now and while Nie Huaisang had shuddered over the idea of applying to MIT, he'd agreed to apply to the same college as Wei Ying easily enough. Even though he'd shaken his head every time it had come up while they were waiting to hear. "I just don't know," he'd say. "I'm probably not going to get in. I'll just languish here, alone, while you all go get educated."

Wei Ying had clasped Nie Huaisang's hands in his own. "That will never happen," he'd promised. "I'll smuggle you with me in my suitcase and steal food from the cafeteria to feed you."

Nie Huaisang had shaken his head again. "I don't eat cafeteria food. You know that."

No, Wei Ying's problem isn't college. His problem is his brother. He just loves Jiang Cheng and wants him to be happy, but Jiang Cheng is a stubborn asshole who absolutely refuses to get out of his own way.

It happens again when he gets back to their shared apartment that night. "Just ask her."

"No." Jiang Cheng refuses to look up from the textbook he is absolutely not reading, shifting away from Wei Ying on the couch.

They'd gotten an off-campus apartment junior year. Wei Ying's school debt was looking to be staggering even without continuing to shell out for dorm housing, and Jiang Cheng had been itching to move off campus anyway. They're both on the lease, but Jiang Cheng had blustered about getting the bigger room and insisting he'd pay more rent that way. Wei Ying allowed it only because his room was, in fact, much nicer, and Wei Ying's bank account was basically full of moths most of the time.

"Come on, just ask her." Wei Ying flops across Jiang Cheng's lap so he'll have no choice but to pay attention to him.

Jiang Cheng glares down at him, then lifts the textbook higher and glares at that, instead. "Don't you have homework to do?"

Wei Ying waves his hand. "I'll do it on the bus tomorrow morning."

"How the fuck have you not flunked out yet?" Jiang Cheng's glare, this time, looks honestly a little jealous.

"My devastating good looks," Wei Ying says reasonably. "And unrelenting charm. Stop trying to distract me. Just ask her."

"No." Jiang Cheng turns a page in his textbook and stares at it blankly. "I don't even like Wen Qing."

Wei Ying dissolves into giggles on his lap.

Jiang Cheng won't even deign to look down at him, but he's blushing, his cheeks very, very red.

"I can't believe you got that sentence out with a straight face." Wei Ying twists around, pushes himself back to sitting, and leans his head against Jiang Cheng's shoulder. "She likes you."

"She does not!" Jiang Cheng shoves Wei Ying's head off of his shoulder, then immediately grasps his arm and drags him close. "Did she tell you that?" he demands.

"She didn't have to." She hadn't, quite, as such, but Wei Ying has it on good authority that Wen Qing is heartily bisexual. The good authority being Wen Qing herself. The last time Jiang Cheng had tried to speak to her, he'd fumbled his words, stared yearningly at her for a truly embarrassing amount of time, then nearly fell over in his attempt to walk away. Wen Qing, looking after him thoughtfully, had murmured, "I can't believe that worked for me." She'd taken a long sip of her coffee. "Being a full-on lesbian would make life so much easier."

Wei Ying was in agreement, but he still wanted her to wreck his brother sexually.

"She thinks you're cute," he continued doggedly. "She wants to—" Wreck you. Sexually. "—get to know you better."

"She did not say that." The color in Jiang Cheng's face blooms an even brighter red and there is a tiny flicker of hope in his eyes before Wei Ying sees him shut it down. "Shut up. Stop talking. Stop talking forever."

"That is clearly never going to happen." Wei Ying has his teeth in this now. Jiang Cheng has had a crush on Wen Qing since the second semester of their freshman year. It's time. It's more than time. It's past time. If Jiang Cheng won't make this happen, Wei Ying will. "Grow a pair. Sack up." What else do straight people say? "I don't know, be a man and do this. Just ask her. What's the worst that can happen?"

Jiang Cheng barks out a laugh and his mouth gets sad. "I get humiliated and die alone and unloved.".

"Whoa." Wei Ying flings himself against Jiang Cheng. "Whoa, whoa. First of all, you will always have me, whether you want it or not."

"I don't," Jiang Cheng says, but his mouth gets a little less sad.

"Second of all," Wei Ying says, then has to pause to think. "Second of all," he says again, firmly. "You have to do this. You've got to. I've decreed it."

"That's rich, coming from you," Jiang Cheng says.

"What?" Wei Ying is offended. He is just trying to help. "What the fuck does that mean?"

"You don't ask anyone out." Jiang Cheng's judgy eyebrow is up. Wei Ying hates Jiang Cheng's judgy eyebrow. "You've never asked anyone out."

"That is patently untrue!"

"Nie Huaisang doesn't count," Jiang Cheng shoots back.

"Joke's on you," Wei Ying retorts. "I've never asked Nie Huaisang out."

Jiang Cheng rolls his eyes. "Okay, then," he says. "Then solely hitting on lesbians and straight guys so that you'll never have to take a turn-down seriously doesn't count as 'asking someone out.'"

Wei Ying stares at him. Ow. Ow.

Jiang Cheng sighs and shoves at his shoulder. "I'm just saying you're in no position to give advice."

"When has that ever stopped me before?" Wei Ying asks. "But okay, then, listen: a pact."

Jiang Cheng presses the heels of his hands against his eyes, ignoring Wei Ying.

"A pact," Wei Ying says again, insistently. "Listen, listen, I'm telling you, this is it, this is what we're doing." He pokes at Jiang Cheng's shoulder until Jiang Cheng drops his hands with a sigh, still refusing to look at Wei Ying. "Listen." It really is a brilliant idea, and Wei Ying shifts, getting onto his knees on the couch so he can more effectively explain it. "We both do it."

"We both...ask out Wen Qing?" Jiang Cheng says.

"No, no." Wei Ying shakes his head. "We both ask someone out. We both do it. A pact. You ask out Wen Qing and I'll ask out...someone else."

"Uh-uh." Jiang Cheng shakes his head. "No way. That's not fair. That's not even. You'll just ask someone out and get turned down and move on with your life, while I'll humiliate myself in front of Wen Qing and then have to spend time with her forever, because there's no way anyone is cutting her out of our group." He shakes his head. "Not fair."

"I won't!" Wei Ying insists. "I'll ask out someone...high stakes. I'll find someone. I'll...okay, how's this? I swear that I'll ask someone out and keep at it for at least two dates."

"No."

"Three dates."

"Nope."

"Okay, okay, five. That's fair! That's more than fair! One person, five dates." He points at Jiang Cheng. "You have to do it, too. That's how a pact works."

Jiang Cheng stares at him. "Five dates," he says flatly. "Five. And yours can't be Nie Huaisang."

"It won't be Nie Huaisang!" Wei Ying pouts until a glimmer of a smile appears at the corners of Jiang Cheng's mouth. "I don't like him like that. I'm in on this thing, Jiang Cheng. I'm going to really try."

He is not going to really try. He is fairly certain that once Jiang Cheng gets his brains fucked out, he won't be able to count to five, let alone care if Wei Ying is fulfilling his end of the pact. He will find someone, he will ask them out, and they will go out on a date. Wei Ying can kill time having a drink with anyone. This doesn't have to be serious.

"Fine." Jiang Cheng says, finally. "Fine."

Wei Ying's mouth drops open. "Oh my god, I can't believe you caved," he says softly.

Jiang Cheng scowls at him. "Okay, it's off, no pact, fuck you."

He gets up and Wei Ying flings himself at him from the couch, giggling as he hangs off of him. "No, no, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I apologize, I swear," he says, pressing his face against Jiang Cheng's back. "I'm just happy you agreed! We can do this! It will be good for both of us, right?"

Jiang Cheng remains tense and Wei Ying can feel how hard he's scowling. He finally sighs, and turns, slinging Wei Ying off of his back so he lands on the couch momentarily before rolling off onto the floor. "Just don't be a jerk about it," Jiang Cheng says. He's blushing again, a little.

"I would never." Wei Ying says it solemnly and he really doesn't deserve the eye roll Jiang Cheng gives him. "Pact?" he asks.

Jiang Cheng sighs, loudly, then says, "Pact. Fine. Pact." He pokes Wei Ying in the side with his socked foot. "Now stop fucking talking about it. Let's order food."

"Oohh." Wei Ying flails until he can reach his phone on the coffee table. He lies back down on the floor with the phone over his face, scrolling. "Let's get it from that noodle place from last week."

"You're buying," Jiang Cheng says.

"We both know that's not true," Wei Ying responds distractedly.

***

Of course the bigger problem is finding someone who will actually say yes to having from one to possibly five dates with Wei Ying. Yeah, he flirts, sure, but who would want to actually date him?

He'll do it. Like, fine, of course he'll do it, it's worth it to help out Jiang Cheng and also to not see Jiang Cheng making cow-eyes at Wen Qing every time she's around. Jiang Cheng needs a push and if a stupid dare is what it'll take, well, Wei Ying has never backed down from a dare.

But. He's got to find someone who's willing to do this. He doesn't want to actually date someone. For all he gives Jiang Cheng a hard time about it, Wei Ying has never actually, in fact, ever dated anybody. He's kissed people, sure, who hasn't, but he's not...actually...done anything more than that. And he doesn't want to do anything more than that, like, randomly. It's stupid. He doesn't even like the idea of dating. He likes video games, and reading increasingly obscure articles about economic and global inequality, and giving Nie Mingjue a headache.

Fuck. Okay, he has to solve this problem.

He's moping about it after class—he's spent the entirety of his sociology class trying to problem-solve the shit out of this, and all he's gotten out of it is two pages of incomprehensible notes on his laptop screen and no progress.

"Wei Ying."

The deep, somber voice startles him out of his reverie and he lifts his face from where he had been contemplating the desktop from close-up with a start. The room is empty except for him and—of course it's Lan Zhan. Of fucking course it's Lan Zhan.

"Hey." He puts his face back down on the desk. "It's cool, I don't think there's another class in here for like an hour, I can stay like this, no one minds." He flaps one hand at Lan Zhan and thinks, again, of how he should maybe give another shot at having pretend sexual chemistry with Nie Huaisang. It's the only solution he's come up with.

"Wei Ying." Lan Zhan says his name again, but differently, and Wei Ying waits a beat to see what he'll say next which is—nothing. How is Wei Ying supposed to know what he means when he just keeps saying his name?

"Yes," he tells the desk. "That's me, Lan Zhan."

There's a long moment of quiet and then the sound of a chair being pulled out. When Wei Ying peeks over, Lan Zhan has settled into the seat beside him. Wei Ying waits for him to say his name. Again.

Instead, Lan Zhan says, "Is anything wrong?"

Which is weird enough that Wei Ying pushes himself upright, then immediately slouches back in his chair, pressing his hands over his eyes. "A lot is wrong, Lan Zhan," he says sadly. "A lot is always wrong. I am a very stupid person and I say a lot of of very stupid things that get me into a lot of—very—stupid situations."

"Ah." When Wei Ying drops his hands, Lan Zhan is studying him. Why is Lan Zhan studying him? Why does Wei Ying suddenly feel like a calculus problem Lan Zhan is trying to solve?

"Yes," Wei Ying says. "Ah is right. I'm a human disaster."

"That is not," Lan Zhan says, "what I have observed."

That's surprising enough that Wei Ying actually sits up straight. "Yes, you fucking have," he says in his most argumentative tone. "Of course you have! I know a human disaster when I see one. I am late to class almost every day and every time I am, you give me that look that clearly says my god, Wei Ying is a human disaster."

Lan Zhan opens his mouth.

Wei Ying holds up his hand. "Do not deny it. Do not deny it. You may not be thinking it in so many words, but trust me, the meaning is there."

Lan Zhan closes his mouth, tilting his head. He doesn't look amused—Wei Ying isn't sure he is capable of looking amused—but there's something about his face that makes Wei Ying feel like he is amused, even though his mouth stays in its stolid, straight line, and his eyes definitely do not sparkle. There is literally no difference between how Lan Zhan is looking at him right now and how he looks when he gives him the human disaster look, but—Wei Ying is pretty sure he's amused.

He gives a big sigh. He supposes that, at least, he's funny. He's got that going for him.

"Perhaps," Lan Zhan says, "I could assist in resolving this particular...disaster."

Wei Ying blinks at him. "Well, A) no, you couldn't, but B) why would you do that?"

Lan Zhan gives a small shrug. When Wei Ying continues to stare at him, Lan Zhan finally says, "I like a challenge."

"You like a challenge." Wei Ying says it flatly. "Well, then, my friend—would we say friend? I would say friend. You might not say friend. Anyway. Friend, do I have a challenge for you."

***

Lan Zhan comes with him to the nice coffee shop on campus. Lan Zhan buys him a coffee. Lan Zhan sits down with him in said coffee shop, in front of everybody to see, and sets his own cup of iced green tea in front of himself neatly.

He's wearing a deep green top, sort of a...tunic, Wei Ying guesses it's called? It kind of laces up the front and It comes down to his thighs and it's got a hood, too, and matched with his dark leggings—it's a good look on him. Wei Ying gets distracted for a moment—he really likes how Lan Zhan dresses. It's like no one else he knows. It's a little off-kilter, and it's always very pretty, and it's probably very expensive. It's one of the first things he'd noticed about Lan Zhan: he's so buttoned-up, personality-wise, so you'd expect him to be the sort of guy who dresses in khakis and button-downs, but instead he's cultivated this sort of avant-garde aesthetic without ever once showing any indication that he's doing it for the attention.

"You didn't need to buy," Wei Ying says again. "I dragged you here because I have a headache that will not quit and I one hundred percent cannot have this conversation while under-caffeinated. This is a caffeine-driven conversation, Lan Zhan—I hope you're ready for that."

Lan Zhan inclines his head minutely and takes a sip of his tea. Wei Ying stares. Somehow he had never pictured Lan Zhan—beautiful, gracious, impeccable Lan Zhan—with a straw in his mouth. Something about the image brings him down to earth a bit; Wei Ying doesn't know why, but taking a sip through a straw seems to be such a normal thing to do that he finds himself spilling his troubles to Lan Zhan.

Of all people. He knows Lan Zhan, and he likes Lan Zhan, but Lan Zhan and he are not, he would say, sympatico. They travel in the same circles, sort of—Lan Zhan's brother is buddies with Nie Huaisang's brother, which results in Wei Ying actually having seen Lan Xichen around more often than Lan Zhan. But Lan Zhan knows, and is friends with, Wen Qing, and he's been at parties with the group, and at brunches, stuff like that. Wei Ying always finds himself somehow looking for Lan Zhan's attention when they're at the same party—he doesn't mean to, but it does keep happening. Only Lan Zhan's attention is usually negative: a pained look here, a concerned glance there, his one-sentence responses to whatever bullshit Wei Ying would be spouting usually some mixture of "shameless" and "please do not do that," even if Wei Ying's plans are usually very good. Rock solid. Not always. But usually.

"So you see," he says, having made a wonky star out of Lan Zhan's straw wrapper as he told his tale. "I made a deal. I can't back out of a deal. Jiang Cheng needs this. Jiang Cheng deserves this. Jiang Cheng absolutely deserves to—"

"Get wrecked, sexually," Lan Zhan says. "So you've explained." Again, his expression doesn't exactly change, but Wei Ying thinks that he looks...pained.

"Yes," Wei Ying says delightedly. "Man, you saying that is even better than you with a straw."

Lan Zhan blinks, and looks down at the straw in his drink curiously. "Pardon?"

"Nothing." Wei Ying waves it off. "But yes, correct, he deserves to get wrecked—sexually—by Wen Qing. Because, Lan Zhan, I cannot take him mooning over her anymore. She's willing, but she feels like he's got to take some initiative to get this going and, ah." Wei Ying sighs and lifts his cup, which is—sadly—empty. He puts it back down. "He's just never going to do that."

"Not without impetus," Lan Zhan says.

Wei Ying blinks up at him. "Right," he says. "Right. Hey, you've really been listening. You get it. That's it: he needs impetus."

"And you taking this chance with him," Lan Zhan says, "is said impetus."

"Yes, exactly, you understand it—I'm just here to make things better for Jiang Cheng, and trust me, he needs the help." Wei Ying picks up his coffee cup again—it's still empty, why can't he remember that—and puts it back down. "But I don't want to...I don't know." He blows out his breath on a sigh. "I don't want to really date anyone. It's so stupid, I just need to pretend date someone until Jiang Cheng gets his act together, then go back to my own life." He stares at his empty coffee cup.

"Date me," Lan Zhan says. Then he looks at Wei Ying's empty cup. "Would you like another cup of coffee?"

"Always," Wei Ying says automatically. "But wait, what."

"I'll get you another one." Lan Zhan rises smoothly from the table, reaching for Wei Ying's cup.

"No, wait, hang on." Wei Ying grabs his wrist before he can take the cup and Lan Zhan freezes, staring down at where Wei Ying is hanging on to him. "Fuck, sorry, I'll—" Wei Ying hastily lets go of his wrist. "Sorry, I—what did you mean?"

"I can pretend to date you," Lan Zhan says. "You take it with cream and sugar, correct?"

"I don't—" Wei Ying feels like he has a concussion. "I mean, yes, cream and sugar. Wait, no, I mean you don't need to buy me another..."

Lan Zhan has already left the table, and is walking over to the order counter to get Wei Ying another coffee that he hadn't meant to ask for. He hadn't meant to ask for anything, actually. He was just talking. That's all he did: talk. Lan Zhan definitely didn't know him very well if he didn't know that about him. He should know that about him—they're in class together every week, and Wei Ying talks circles around himself in class. He's seen it in Lan Zhan's eyes, how annoying he finds it when Wei Ying really gets into a topic and gets all worked up about it.

A cup of steaming hot coffee is set down neatly on the table in front of him, where he's been staring blankly for the entire time Lan Zhan has been gone. Wei Ying wrenches his gaze up to Lan Zhan's face as Lan Zhan once again takes his seat across from him. "You didn't need to do that," Wei Ying says frantically. "You didn't have to—coffee wasn't— I can fix things, you don't need to swoop in and—"

"Oh." Lan Zhan's giving him the stern look he sometimes gives Wei Ying in class when Wei Ying swings in only, like, ninety seconds late. Only this time the tips of his ears have gone pink and that somehow changes the whole thing from 'stern' to 'embarrassed.' "I did not intend to...swoop," he says stiffly. "My apologies."

And fuck, that's not what Wei Ying had meant, either.

"No!" he exclaims, way too loud, so that three separate tables and the barista look over at them. "No," he says again, more quietly but still a little too loud. "I didn't mean swoop. Or, like, I didn't mean I didn't want you to swoop, I only meant that you didn't have to swoop, no swooping necessary, fuck, is swoop even a word, it doesn't sound like a word anymore." He takes a breath. "Fuck."

Lan Zhan is just staring at him from across the table.

Wei Ying takes another breath. He tries to make it come from his diaphragm. Maybe he should take up yoga. Maybe he wouldn't run off at the mouth so much if he learned a discipline or something. "What I meant," he says carefully, when it seems like he might once again have control over his whole...situation, "is that I caused this problem and I should probably be the one to get myself out of it."

Lan Zhan's expression doesn't change, but he still does the thing where he blinks and somehow he's radiating a whole different vibe. "Ah," he says, nodding down at the coffee, like he's indicating Wei Ying should take a sip before it gets cold. "But you did get yourself out of it. As it were."

Wei Ying absently picks up the coffee cup and takes a sip as directed. "As it were," he says, making it a question.

"Yes." Lan Zhan is rising, lifting his bag from where he'd hung it neatly on the back of the chair when they'd sat down. "You discussed it with me. You explained your situation, with clarity and care. The solution presented itself. Here." He reaches into his bag, pulling out a small blue notebook—because of course Lan Zhan carries a notebook—with a pen tucked neatly into it. He flips it open, writes something down, then tears out the piece of paper and hands it to Wei Ying.

Wei Ying stares down at the sheet of paper blankly. There, in neat penmanship, is Lan Zhan's phone number, with Lan Zhan's name written just as neatly underneath it.

"Call me," Lan Zhan says, "when you are ready to begin." He puts his bag over his shoulder and starts to turn away, then turns back. "We should probably practice, before we endeavor to do anything in a public place. I do not have a great deal of experience in these matters. But I am a quick learner."

"Right," Wei Ying says faintly. His fingers are already leaving little sweat marks on the piece of paper. "I—okay, I'll...call you." Will he? Are they doing this? By 'call,' does Lan Zhan mean 'text'? Or— Lan Zhan seems like the type of person where 'call' probably definitely does mean 'actually call, on the phone, like we live in the past.' So Wei Ying should probably call him when he's ready to... "Practice," he says, faintly, to himself, because Lan Zhan is already gone. Wei Ying watches as he moves in swift strides past the window of the coffee shop, his long hair caught a little bit in the breeze, the deep green of his tunic glowing richly in the late afternoon sunlight just before he disappears from view.

***

Wei Ying has saved Lan Zhan's number in his phone (as ???Lan Zhan???) and he has, in fact, punched the numbers in, poised to call him, three separate times, but he keeps second guessing himself. Calling someone feels so rude. Who knows if they're busy? Or sleeping? Or watching a really good movie? He looks at the clock—fuck, it's nearly eight, he really should figure out what he's doing for dinner—and back at his phone. Eight o'clock on a Tuesday night feels...safe. Right? Who has, like, plans at eight o'clock on a Tuesday?

"Call him," he says sternly to himself. "Hit the goddamn button. Make the call."

He finally does it, his thumb slipping a little sweatily against his phone as he resolutely punches the button.

"Wei Ying." That's how Lan Zhan answers the phone. Wei Ying has never heard his name said with such gravity before.

"Wow," he says before he can stop himself. "Hello, hi, yeah, it's Wei Ying."

"Ah."

Wow, Lan Zhan really isn't going to help him out here, is he? "Right. Right. Anyway, so! You said to call, so I'm calling. Uh. I guess so we can talk about...parameters?"

"Correct." Lan Zhan pauses for a moment. Wei Ying's mind is a whirring blank space. He hadn't really thought about...parameters. Just that he needed someone to pretend to like him for enough time that Jiang Cheng would have to follow through on his end of the pact. "Shall I start?"

"Please." It's a huge rush of relief. Wei Ying bets Lan Zhan is swell at parameters.

"I do not lie well," Lan Zhan says. "I'm not a tactile person. It would be a red flag if I were to behave in a manner that would be perceived as greatly out of character for me."

Wei Ying opens his mouth.

"That said," Lan Zhan continues smoothly, "I am willing to work with you on a way to contrive a situation in which some behaviors could, in the perception of observers, be attributed to the fact that you and I are—that is, that we are—"

"Together," Wei Ying fills in.

"Yes." Lan Zhan sounds relieved. "And that in being together, that perhaps some..."

Wei Ying says, after a beat, "...feelings?"

"Yes," Lan Zhan says. "That perhaps some feelings and, ah."

The beat is longer here before Wei Ying says, uncertainly, "Desires?"

"Yes," Lan Zhan says. "Correct, that those things may lead to some aberrant behaviors."

It takes Wei Ying a second to untangle that sentence. "You mean that public displays of affection, while not your usual thing, are something you'd be okay with, since it would be a good sign that we are into each other?"

"Yes." There's that sound of relief in Lan Zhan's voice again. "Thus, the practice."

"Right." Wei Ying has been thinking about the practice ever since Lan Zhan first mentioned it. "So you mean we should meet up so we can practice touching each other."

The silence on the other end of the line has a tinge of what might be alarm to it.

"Like holding hands, I mean!" Wei Ying says quickly. "Or like, everyone knows that I like to drape myself all over people, that I'm super handsy even with just friends, like, I don't know, hugs and stuff. Not like touching each other, touching each other, that's not what I meant, it's—"

Lan Zhan clears his throat. "Tomorrow," he says. "Are you available? Your last class ends at three, correct?"

How does Lan Zhan know that? Also, that's Wei Ying's usual afternoon nap time, but he guesses he can put a pin in that if it means getting to the next step in this stupid, stupid plan. "I am."

"Good. Plan to return to my dorm room with me after class. I have a single. We will have privacy."

"Great," Wei Ying manages. It comes out only slightly strangled. "That's good. That's so good. We need privacy for all of the hand-holding. And stuff."

And stuff? Why did he say that? What's and stuff? Oh god, Lan Zhan is going to quit this before it's even begun.

"Good night, Wei Ying." Lan Zhan hangs up.

Wei Ying drops his phone to his lap and presses his hands against his eyes. Great. Great. Cool cool cool.

Practice.

***

"This is a really...clean dorm room." Wei Ying can't stop prowling around, looking at Lan Zhan's stuff. He keeps his hands behind his back so he won't accidently touch anything. "You've got, like, really good light in here." He does—Lan Zhan has curtains (curtains!) that move back and forth a little in the breeze from the cracked-open window. "And furniture, even! Most people move off campus by their senior year but I can see why you stayed."

"Yes." Lan Zhan does have furniture—the singles on campus are small, but he's got his bed tucked neatly into a corner, and has left himself space for what looks like a supremely soft chair, which is a deep jewel blue color. Like, it looks like a perfect place to curl up with a cup of tea and read. It's across from his very neat desk, everything on it (laptop, books, notepad) set at perfect right-angles. It's not littered with post-its and snacks and to-do lists like Wei Ying's. "Are we ready to begin?"

"Yes!" Right, they're here for business. "Okay." He can take charge here. "You sit there," he says, pointing at the soft chair.

Lan Zhan settles himself neatly in the chair. Wei Ying's not sure how it's humanly possible to not tuck your feet up under yourself in a chair like that, but Lan Zhan somehow manages it. He sits the same way he does when he's listening in class: back straight, hands in his lap. His eyes are...extremely focused on Wei Ying. It's a little overwhelming. Wei Ying grabs Lan Zhan's desk chair and swings it around so he can sit in it facing Lan Zhan. "So," Wei Ying says. "Here's what I'm thinking: we have to make this believable. The more believable it is, the better the chances that Jiang Cheng is forced to make his move, and the quicker this is over with—I'm sure you want this wrapped up as soon as possible, right?"

"Mn." Lan Zhan really is so intense, like, all of the time. The sun coming in through the window catches on the blouse Lan Zhan is wearing—it's white and it's got billowy sleeves and looks soft, and it isn't until just now that Wei Ying realizes it's got accent sparkles amidst the white-on-white embroidery that's woven through it, glimmering in the sunlight.

Wei Ying clears his throat. "Okay, so. Believable. I think that means this: we have to spend time together. Like, in public." He starts ticking things off on his fingers. "You have got to get used to me touching you because I'm very—what was the word you used?—tactile. I'm a super tactile person. I know you aren't and that's cool, I don't want you to do anything you don't want to do. You're doing me a favor. We can figure this out."

Lan Zhan tilts his head a little. "It is fine," he says. "I just need to...be prepared for what it will be like."

"Right." Wei Ying watches him. "Right, okay, so I'm thinking, hmm." Lan Zhan waits, looking expectant. He has this small tilt to his mouth, the same one he gets in class when he's really concentrating on what the professor is saying. It's really cute. It's—focus up, Wei Ying. "If we were dating," he says, "and I came in here and saw you sitting there looking like that, I'd probably..." He gets up and tries to picture it, to feel it. It's weird, getting into character as...yourself. But okay, if he was dating Lan Zhan and he walked in here and there Lan Zhan was, sitting there so neatly, caught in a beam of sunlight, his hair up neatly in a loose bun, the light blue ribbon around it fluttering a little in the breeze...

Wei Ying settles himself on the broad arm of the chair, leaning in close to Lan Zhan, sliding an arm around his shoulders. Lan Zhan stiffens a bit, and Wei Ying can see a muscle jumping in his jaw—that jawline, you could cut glass with that jawline—and then, minutely, he feels Lan Zhan relax under his arm. It feels like he does it in stages, letting his neck relax first, then his shoulders, and Wei Ying actually sees it when he unclenches his hands with slow deliberation, stretching out his fingers before letting his hands rest loosely on his lap.

"Good," Wei Ying says softly, not wanting to startle Lan Zhan. "That was good, you did it. Does this feel okay? Are you—is it uncomfortable?" Lan Zhan's shoulders are warm, Wei Ying can feel it through his blouse. Wei Ying's face is very close to Lan Zhan's from this angle.

"It's not uncomfortable." Lan Zhan's voice is calm. "What next?"

"Oh." Wei Ying shifts on the arm of the chair, blinking as he tries to think What would Wei Ying do? God, this is weird. "Well, I'd probably—I mean, listen, if we were dating, and I was right here and you were...right there, I don't think I'd be able to stop myself from—" He does it slowly, trying to telegraph it so that Lan Zhan can prepare himself. He presses his lips against Lan Zhan's cheek, high up. Just that, just a kiss, not too much, but he thinks that this is what he would do, if he were allowed: kiss Lan Zhan right where the dappled sunlight is tracing across his skin.

Lan Zhan is quiet next to him, but his hands are still relaxed on his lap, so Wei Ying thinks it's probably okay.

"So, like." Wei Ying has slid a little closer to Lan Zhan, and can smell him, that waft of what Wei Ying is pretty sure is sandalwood lightly coming through. "I think it would be...believable. You said you're not, uh, tactile, but if you don't mind me being...tactile, I think this would work."

"Mn." Lan Zhan makes his small agreeable noise, and Wei Ying can see, again, the muscle jumping just below his jaw. He thinks that he would—that if they were dating, he would—

"Can I," he says. "I think I would, just because I'd want to, and I wouldn't want you to be surprised but." He presses his lips against the spot under Lan Zhan's jaw. He can feel the muscle there jump, and thinks he can feel the beat of Lan Zhan's pulse under the thin skin of his throat. This feels. Intimate. Like. He's kissed a lot of cheeks, and you wouldn't think that just this spot would feel that different but it definitely does. It definitely feels like a lot more and he thinks, suddenly, that it's good that they're practicing, not just for Lan Zhan's sake.

He pushes himself back, flustered, pressing the back of his hands against his flaming cheeks. "Sorry," he says, laughing a little bit. "Sorry, I didn't mean to—whew, that was a lot, maybe a step too far. Was it too awkward, Lan Zhan?"

Lan Zhan's lips look redder than before, like they've been bitten, like he's been kissing. Wei Ying's heart is beating very fast in his chest. This was such a dumb fucking idea.

"It's fine, Wei Ying," Lan Zhan says calmly. "I would tell you if I felt uncomfortable. Are you—" He pauses, tilting his head to look up at where Wei Ying is still perched on the arm of the chair, half-balanced against Lan Zhan. "Are you okay with it?"

"Me?" Wei Ying laughs, and it comes out too loud. "I'm—this is nothing, I'm totally fine with it. I did this to myself! I'm always getting myself into these situations. I'm lucky that you're willing to take a bullet here and let me, like, manhandle you for the sake of getting my brother laid."

Lan Zhan's eyes had gone a bit wide at manhandle.

Wei Ying winces. "Sorry. Sorry. I wouldn't—not manhandle, per se, it's just that you—"

"Wei Ying." Lan Zhan's head is still tilted back. "If we were dating. What next?"

"Oh." Fuck. Wei Ying's face is, he's pretty sure, going to burst into actual flames any second now. Focus. Focus. "If we were dating," he says, and stops.

Lan Zhan is still looking at him.

Wei Ying blushes harder. The neck kissing was a Step for him and he hadn't actually even meant to do that. He'd just—that damn muscle jumping on Lan Zhan's jaw had been—and the room was so warm—and he'd been trying to get into character as, you know, himself, and—

"I think that if we were..." Wei Ying swallows and thinks, frenziedly, fuck it and lets his brain go fully offline. "If we were dating, I'd probably get tired of balancing here and just."

He swings himself into Lan Zhan's lap. It's an easy move and he lands with a knee planted on either side of Lan Zhan's hips. The chair is wide enough that he fits, but barely. Lan Zhan is...way closer to him this way, which is so obvious, but for all of the laps Wei Ying has draped himself across, this is the first time he's straddled someone and that's...different. Really. Different.

Lan Zhan's hands have somehow ended up on Wei Ying's hips, just loosely hanging on. Wei Ying thinks frantically that he's not sure if anyone has ever touched his hips before. Like this. Because this feels—it's a lot. He's on Lan Zhan's lap and Lan Zhan's hands are on his hips and Lan Zhan's mouth looks kissed, even though they haven't even done that. Yet.

Are they going to...do that? Is that what practice means? Why did Wei Ying never quite let himself realize that's probably exactly what practice means? Why is he like this?

"Is this okay?" he asks. "Am I squishing you?"

Lan Zhan shakes his head minutely.

"Okay." Wei Ying takes a breath. "Okay. What do you think we should do? I mean. What would you do, if we were dating? I know the onus is on me to keep this going, because it's my problem in the first place and you're just helping out, but I figure it's good for you to maybe be the one to take the initiative sometimes, right?" Oh my god, Wei Ying, stop talking. "So." He takes a breath. "What do you think?"

"I think," Lan Zhan says in a thoughtful tone, the same one he uses in class, "that we need to kiss."

Wei Ying laughs but it doesn't come out like a normal laugh. More like a strangled laugh. "No, you're right, that's—yeah." He doesn't move. He's not sure he can move. He feels frozen here, on Lan Zhan's lap.

"From what I've observed on campus," Lan Zhan says, "the act of publicly kissing is expected." He looks up at Wei Ying. "I have never been one for public displays of affection. But I would—I believe in the right circumstances, I would. Participate."

"Participate," Wei Ying echoes. "Right."

"Right." Lan Zhan is looking up at him expectantly. His hands are still resting on Wei Ying's hips. Wei Ying feels like he can feel the heat of them through the denim of his jeans. He probably can't. That's probably just the heat of his own flop-sweat. Lan Zhan is looking up at him. His mouth doesn't have that hard, stern look to it that it usually does. It looks soft, right now. He should—they should— "So, I would probably just..."

Wei Ying leans in and presses his lips against Lan Zhan's. Oh fuck. Oh fuck, his lips are, in fact, soft. He thinks he sort of assumed this would be the type of short, quick smacking kiss that he is so fond of pressing against Jiang Cheng's cheek. Instead, when their lips touch, it's slow, and it's so, so soft. Wei Ying isn't sure if he's breathing.

He pulls back after a handful of moments, his breath coming in an embarrassing sort of gasp. Lan Zhan doesn't laugh, though. He just looks up at him.

"Good?" Wei Ying asks. "Is that what you were thinking?"

Lan Zhan nods. "Let's try it again."

"Oh," Wei Ying says faintly. "Oh, right, okay, 'cause, like, practice makes perfect or something like..."

"Like this," Lan Zhan says. He rests one hand on Wei Ying's head, gently, curving around just behind his ear, and Wei Ying's heart gives this jerk in his chest, just from that. Lan Zhan tilts Wei Ying's head, draws him closer, and the second kiss is ten times better than the first. And the first kiss had been pretty damn good. It's the angle, Wei Ying thinks, frantically. The angle apparently makes a lot of difference. Lan Zhan was right about the angle, he was fully correct, he's so smart, Wei Ying was really lucky to get a guy as smart as Lan Zhan to help him out.

When Lan Zhan pulls back, Wei Ying sways forward, still with his eyes closed, just for a second. He catches himself, pushing back, and—oh, he's got one hand clenched around Lan Zhan's shoulder. He doesn't remember doing that. His other one is resting on the back of the chair but he is definitely for sure hanging onto Lan Zhan with the other one. "So, uh." He blinks down at Lan Zhan. "That's how I would kiss someone, if I were dating them."

"Understood." Lan Zhan keeps looking up at him. "So that is something I should expect."

"Expect?" Wei Ying's mind is a whirling blender. He can't hear anything over the sound of, oh, so many thoughts screaming at him all at once.

"When we are pretending to date," Lan Zhan says.

"Right." Pretending. They are pretending. This is pretending. "Right. Listen, I'm, uh, going to just—" He scrambles out of Lan Zhan's lap, banging his knee against the chair, and ending up half-tumbling down to the floor in his effort to free himself.

"Are you all right?" Lan Zhan is reaching forward, holding out a hand to help him up. Wei Ying reaches for it, and oh, okay, that's yet another in a series of mistakes he's made today, because Lan Zhan's hands are definitely hot, so warm that Wei Ying is pretty sure he was feeling them through his jeans, when Lan Zhan was holding onto his hips and—

"I'm so good," Wei Ying says. "Totally, totally fine." He scrambles back into Lan Zhan's desk chair, sits down there tensely for a moment, then shoots to his feet. "Actually, you know what? I think that's good! I think we both totally get what we're going for here."

Lan Zhan's brow furrows an incremental amount. "Are you sure?" he says, getting up.

Wei Ying is slinging his backpack over his shoulder. "No, totally. If we practice too much, it's going to look rehearsed. We can't have that."

"No," Lan Zhan agrees, looking reluctant. "But how do we—"

"Backstory!" Wei Ying bounces on his toes. "We need a backstory and what I'm going to do is really get to work on that and we can workshop the shit out of it over text later." He hoists his backpack up higher and heads to the door. "That's what I'm going to do, I'm going to text you later, and you're going to be so impressed by my backstory skills. And then tomorrow, we'll just be, you know—"

"Dating." Lan Zhan says it seriously, calmly, standing in front of Wei Ying. His eyes look literally golden in this light and his blouse is still giving off occasional sparkles and his lips look even more kissed that they had before.

"Dating." Wei Ying gives him fingerguns. "You got it. I'm heading out—bye!"

He lets the door slam behind him way too loudly and if he collapses back against it to just sort of pant for a couple of moments afterwards, well, that's nobody's business but his own.

***

"Fingerguns," he says miserably, later, to Nie Huaisang, sitting cross-legged on his bed. "I closed with fingerguns."

"I won't lie to you," Nie Huaisang says solemnly. "That's not great."

"I am extremely aware that it isn't great," Wei Ying says with dignity. "I am deeply aware. Profoundly aware."

"I would hope so." Nie Huaisang shakes his head. "This is maybe why you can't find someone to real-date you, you know?"

Wei Ying is—profoundly—aware of that as well. He does not dignify it with a response.

"So tomorrow," he says instead. "Dating."

"You and Lan Zhan."

Wei Ying shoots him a look but Nie Huaisang has his fully innocent face on. Wei Ying scowls. "Yes," he says impatiently.

"Didn't you say he'd 'never do it'?" Nie Huaisang asks. "Didn't you say he'd tell you to 'tell the truth'?" He makes the quote marks with his fingers, because of course he does.

"Yeah, because that's definitely what he was going to say. You've seen him at parties. You know what he's like. You should hear him in class. He is this upright, by the book sort of dude. He doesn't get into—" Wei Ying waves his hands around. "Shenanigans."

"Shenanigans," Nie Huaisang echoes.

"I said what I said." Lan Zhan doesn't get into shenanigans. He doesn't laugh when everyone else in the class laughs at something, even the professor. He doesn't even smile. He seems to like structure and neatness and studying. Even at parties, half the time Wei Ying finds him cleaning up in the kitchen, washing dishes and glasses, wiping down the counter, staunchly ignoring Wei Ying even when he hops up on the clean counter right afterwards. Wei Ying really doesn't understand why he'd agreed to this. "Stop giving me a hard time," he says now to Nie Huaisang. "I came here for help. Do you want me to go back to thinking about practice-kissing with your brother?"

Nie Huaisang hits him in the face with a pillow.

Wei Ying sags back and leaves the pillow over his face. It's kind of soothing. "Help me workshop this," he says into the softness of it. He blinks when it gets yanked off of his face.

"No one can understand you when you do that," Nie Huaisang says.

Wei Ying rolls onto his stomach. "Help me workshop this," he says again. "So, Lan Zhan and I started dating because of—"

"Hitting it off in class." Nie Huaisang rolls onto his stomach, as well, propping up his chin in his hands. "The best, most believable lies have a bit of truth to them."

"Right. Right. Okay, so we hit it off in class and he became so hopelessly hung up on me that—"

Nie Huaisang makes a small, dubious noise.

"...I became so hung up on him that I pretty much bullied him into going out with me."

"That makes more sense," Nie Huaisang says. "Hey, are you trying to make this into, like, a first-date thing?"

"No," Wei Ying says, sighing. "But it has to be, because that's the deal I made with Jiang Cheng. That we both needed to do something high-stakes." He sighs again. "But all he has to do is just ask Wen Qing, because she actually likes him, and he's loads better than me at all kinds of stuff. His part is easy."

"Right." Nie Huaisang chews on his thumbnail. "Talk to me about the practice-kissing." Nie Huaisang rolls closer. "What was it like? He's so—tall."

"Well, I was on his lap, so that didn't matter so much."

"You were on his lap?" Nie Huaisang smacks at his shoulder. "Hussy."

"No, no, it wasn't like that, it was just—" Warm. It had been so warm and Lan Zhan's hands had been scorching against his hips. "Practice," he finishes, finally. "We were just....making sure we could make it realistic."

"And can you?"

"I think so," Wei Ying says. "That's why we tried it out."

"Well." Nie Huaisang sits back up, pushing his hair out of his face. "I can't wait to see how this plays out."

***

They had decided to give it a shot after class the next day. Jiang Cheng has class just across the hall from them, and it lets out at the same time. This is a completely easy one, almost too easy, and Wei Ying is ready for it. He's pumped. "Are you pumped, Lan Zhan?" he whispers in Lan Zhan's ear, as he sits down next to him in class. He's taken someone else's regular seat, but he doesn't care. He needs to build up to this. He can't spend the full class sitting on the other side of the room.

"Class is beginning," Lan Zhan says, not looking up from where he's typing the date into his Word doc.

The date. He dates his class notes, like a dweeb. Why is that so cute? "The professor isn't even here yet," Wei Ying points out. "I got here real early." It's the truth: he'd rolled in a whole ten minutes early, vibrating at what feels like a very high speed. "Just to be ready."

Lan Zhan takes his hands off the keys and folds them neatly in front of him. "I am prepared," he says. "For what we discussed."

Wei Ying had texted him the backstory plan last night, and the after-class plan, and made sure Lan Zhan remembers what Jiang Cheng looks like. ("Broad shoulders. Long hair. Constantly looks like he just stubbed his toe.")

Lan Zhan had responded, "Noted," after Wei Ying's seven text messages, and then nothing else. Not much of a correspondent.

"Cool." Wei Ying leans forward on his desk, hooking his ankles around the legs of the desk chair. "Cool, cool, cool, we have got this."

"Wei Ying," Lan Zhan says, in his shut up voice.

Wei Ying glances up. Oh, the professor has arrived.

He gets through the class, barely, paying almost no attention and typing random notes on what the professor is saying that he's pretty sure won't actually make any sense when he looks back at them. By the time it's over he's no longer nervous, he's just ready, he just wants to do this. "I can't handle transitions, Lan Zhan," he bursts out the moment the professor ends class. "Let's just go, okay, let's do it, let's—"

"Yes." Lan Zhan finishes tucking his stuff away in his bag, then stands up and neatly slings the bag over his shoulder.

"Great." Wei Ying bounces up, sweeping his stuff into his backpack. "Let's just—hey, wait up."

Lan Zhan is already heading out the door. Wei Ying scurries after him.

The timing could not be more perfect. Wei Ying catches up with Lan Zhan outside the classroom, his jitters sending him colliding against Lan Zhan. Instead of making a "hmph" noise, or pushing him away, or sidestepping him, Lan Zhan steadies him with one hand against his shoulder. "Oh," Wei Ying says, looking at him. "Oh, hi."

"Hi," Lan Zhan says back. Students are pouring out of the classroom across the way, and Lan Zhan draws him out of the path of the crowd, letting his hand run down Wei Ying's arm until he's looping their fingers together. They're holding hands. Lan Zhan is holding his hand.

Wei Ying is startled, yet again, by how Lan Zhan's hands are so warm and he nearly misses it when Jiang Cheng emerges from his classroom. "Oh, there he is," he hisses. The adrenaline rush hits hard and he pushes up on his toes and he kisses Lan Zhan. He knows—he knows—that this goes beyond the scope of the plan but, whatever, he's committing to the role. He's buzzing with adrenaline; he can't quite feel his hands.

Lan Zhan's lips go soft under his own and his hand lands on Wei Ying's hip for a moment before he pulls away. His cheeks are a little bit red as he murmurs, "Public displays of affection are embarrassing." He doesn't sound mad, though. He's looking at Wei Ying like he's the only person in the world and they're not being buffeted left and right by members of the student body, and—oh. Oh, right, he's acting. They've talked about this. Lan Zhan isn't a PDA sort of guy, and everyone knows that.

He's blushing for real, though, and Wei Ying really appreciates him for doing this. "Sorry," he says, grinning up at him.

Lan Zhan tugs on his hand, saying, "Not here, let's—"

Wei Ying has never heard Lan Zhan cut himself off so abruptly before. He really is a good actor. He's letting himself get into the role. Wei Ying is so lucky Lan Zhan is the one he'd spilled his problems to, because Lan Zhan, it seems, is a problem solver and he's really putting in an effort.

He almost doesn't realize that Lan Zhan has drawn him into a newly empty classroom, and shut the door behind them.

"What?" Wei Ying asks. "Are we—did you—"

"Were we dating," Lan Zhan says, "and you did...that, this is what I would do." He's watching Wei Ying and his eyes are very dark. "I do not enjoy public displays of affection," he says again.

"I know, sorry, I—"

"But I believe that, were we dating, I would merely prefer...privacy. If possible."

"RIght." Wei Ying looks up at him. "Right, that's—that makes sense."

It's quiet in the room for a moment, the muted sounds of the passing period in the hallway making this space feel even more private.

Lan Zhan lets the silence hold for a moment before he says, "We had discussed holding hands," he says carefully. "As an opening salvo. As it were."

Oh. It hits Wei Ying with a jolt and— "Right, right, I'm sorry." He presses his lips together. "I really am sorry, I didn't actually plan it. I—in the moment, it just felt like the thing to do, but you're right, you are so right. I should have discussed it with you. I'm sorry, I really am."

Lan Zhan lets Wei Ying run himself out before he continues. "I believe we are going to have to...improvise, at times, for this to work. I understand that."

"Still." Wei Ying isn't sure, exactly, what compelled him to go up on his toes and kiss Lan Zhan in the middle of the hallway. Mostly that he's an idiot with poor impulse control, probably. "I'm sorry."

Lan Zhan nods, and then, with a glance over Wei Ying's shoulder, moves in swiftly, his hands landing on Wei Ying's hips, tugging him forward and kissing him. It's different from the kisses in his dorm room yesterday. Different from the dumb hallway kiss. It's hotter than those, and the way Lan Zhan is holding onto his hips in a tight grip is somehow kind of making Wei Ying's knees actually go weak. Lan Zhan kisses him hot and sweet and holding him close like Wei Ying might try to get away, and then—

Wei Ying stumbles as Lan Zhan releases him, his knees genuinely almost going out from underneath him. Lan Zhan catches his elbow, steadies him as he rests one hand against his cheek. "Your brother," he says quietly, staring deeply into Wei Ying's eyes, "is watching us from the doorway."

"Oh," Wei Ying says weakly. "Oh, got it. Got it. Good job, you, for clocking that and—"

"Improvising," Lan Zhan says. His hand is still on Wei Ying's cheek. Wei Ying is pretty sure he's the one who's blushing now. His face feels so hot, like he could burn up right here in this classroom.

"Right," he says. "Improvising." He swallows, looking up at Lan Zhan. "Is he still there?"

Lan Zhan glances over Wei Ying's shoulder. "No." He drops his hand from Wei Ying's face, and adjusts his bag on his shoulder. "I believe we have made a strong start to this," he says.

"I agree," Wei Ying's knees still feel weak. Leftover adrenaline. He's going to need a nap after this. Two naps, maybe.

Lan Zhan gives him a short nod, and turns and swiftly exits the classroom.

Wei Ying lets his knees give out, sitting down on a desk and pressing his hands to his face. "Okay," he says to his palms. "Great. Cool. Improvising is...so good."

***

That was their only plan for today. Wei Ying is planning to head back to the apartment, with a mind to absolutely revel in smugly making good on his part of the pact, so he can pressure Jiang Cheng to follow through on asking out Wen Qing. The sooner that happens, the sooner he and Lan Zhan can stop...improvising, and thus life will be better for everyone involved.

Jiang Cheng, however, is waiting for Wei Ying right outside of the classroom building. He grabs him as he emerges and Wei Ying gasps so hard he almost chokes—his body has got to learn how to process adrenaline better than this. "What, what the fuck, let go of me!"

"What was that?" Jiang Cheng sounds outraged, spitting the words out with his hands curled into Wei Ying's hoodie.

"Hey!" Wei Ying slaps at his hands. "Stop, you'll stretch it out, this is new!"

"What was that?" Jiang Cheng ignores him but his hands do ease up, just a little. "What did you do? What is wrong with you?"

"I didn't do anything." Damn. Jiang Cheng is really worked up. Wei Ying's plan is definitely a good one.

"You made out with...with...him." Jiang Cheng shoves him back against the wall and Wei Ying laughs a little bit, clinging to Jiang Cheng's shoulders.

"Only a little," he says. Would you call that making out? He guesses that was, in fact, making out.

"Only a—?" Jiang Cheng cuts himself off and lets go of Wei Ying's hoodie so abruptly that Wei Ying almost falls down.

"Well, yeah." Wei Ying brings his hand up to the back of his head, scrubs at the hair there, almost knocking out the messy bun he'd pulled his long hair into this morning instead of washing it. He ducks his head the tiniest bit. He knows he can't show real shame—never heard of it—but he thinks that if this were real, he might be a little bit shy about talking about it. "It's...new."

Jiang Cheng's mouth is a thin, angry line, but his eyes look confused more than anything else. "How." He glares at Wei Ying. "Why."

"Oh." Wei Ying is ready for this one. "You were an inspiration, actually. You know, our pact?"

Jiang Cheng blanches at the word pact.

"Honestly, I thought it would be a lot harder than this," Wei Ying says. "Or, like, more embarrassing. I was really doing it for you." He's warming to this now. "But then, it just...it was kind of easy, actually. I don't know, Lan Zhan just—he made it easy."

"Lan Zhan." Jiang Cheng blows out an impatient breath. "Of all people."

"I know!" Wei Ying slings his arm over JIang Cheng's shoulders. "Can you believe it? I don't know if it's, like, a thing yet, but we just sort of...hit it off. I guess." He beams at Jiang Cheng. "So now I'm an inspiration to you." He looks at Jiang Cheng expectantly.

Jiang Cheng is really good at rolling his eyes.

"It's your turn, now," Wei Ying says encouragingly.

Jiang Cheng huffs out a breath and crosses his arms over his chest, but he's getting all flushed.

"You know it's your turn." Wei Ying presses a messy kiss to Jiang Cheng's cheek and doesn't let him shake him off of his shoulders when he tries.

"That pact," Jiang Cheng grits out, "was for a date. You've been on a date? With Lan Zhan?"

"Well." Does it count as a date? It probably doesn't count as a date. "I've been to his room."

Jiang Cheng spins around so fast Wei Ying loses his hold on him. "You went to his..the two of you went to his—"

"He has a single," Wei Ying says thoughtfully. "Does that count as a date?"

"Oh my god." Jiang Cheng's cheeks are truly flaming now. Wow, he really doesn't want to ask out Wen Qing. "First of all, never talk to me about hooking up with Lan Zhan ever again. Ever."

"We didn't hook up," Wei Ying protests. He thinks about what Nie Huaisang said, about a little bit of truth making a lie more realistic. "We just wanted to kiss in private. A little bit."

Jiang Cheng makes a sound like a strangled cat. "Second," he grits out. "That does not count as a date. A date is in public. A date is appropriate. A date involves, like, flowers, or a token of appreciation for the other person, like, I don't know, a nice comb or something, not your tongue in their mouth."

"Oh, my tongue wasn't in his mouth," Wei Ying says hastily. "We're not there yet." They didn't practice that. They should...practice that.

"Shut up." Jiang Cheng is pacing now, which means he's thinking, which is good. He's moved into the second stage of working through this. "A date is a date, and that was not a date. It doesn't count."

He doesn't sound victorious or anything, though, which means he knows that this isn't even a minor roadblock for Wei Ying. "That's okay," Wei Ying says soothingly. "It's almost the weekend. Hang on, let me text him."

"Don't," Jiang Cheng says, strangled, but it's too late: Wei Ying is a very swift texter.

Wei Ying: are you busy tomorrow?

???Lan Zhan???: I require more information in order to respond to that.

Wei Ying: That's fair. Would you go out with me tomorrow? On a date? In public? I can bring flowers. And, like, a

"What was it?" he asks Jiang Cheng distractedly. "That you said, about how dates work? Something something a token?"

"A token of appreciation," Jiang Cheng says. "Also I hate you."

???Lan Zhan???: Wei Ying?

Wei Ying: ...sorry, back. A token of appreciation.

???Lan Zhan???: Yes.

"He's in!" Wei Ying crows, clapping Jiang Cheng on the shoulder. "For tomorrow. Okay, now it's your turn." He looks at Jiang Cheng expectantly.

Jiang Cheng stares at him. "I'm not asking someone out over text," he says.

"Not someone," Wei Ying says. "Wen Qing. And why not?"

"It's not appropriate." Jiang Cheng's cheeks are flaming.

"Well." Wei Ying thinks for a second. "You can't call her, because that would be weird. And also maybe don't you think that texting is sort of good, in a way? Like, it will give her a chance to process it."

Jiang Cheng stares at him. "Why does she need to process it? Actually, you know what, never mind, I don't want any more advice from you. Why am I taking advice from you? I'm not doing this."

"Jiang Cheng!" Wei Ying puts on his most hurt, betrayed face. "You have to."

"I do not." Jiang Cheng is turning away resolutely.

"It's not fair otherwise."

Jiang Cheng hesitates.

"And besides," Wei Ying says quickly, "you really do have to. Do it now. Quick like a bandaid. Get it over with and then I will never talk about it again."

"That might almost be worth it," Jiang Cheng mutters.

"Listen, I happen to have it on good authority that she goes to the fancy coffee shop right after her three o'clock class, and if we hurry, we can catch her now."

"No," Jiang Cheng says, but moves forward when Wei Ying catches hold of his arm and propels him along.

"We're doing this," Wei Ying says, resolutely dragging Jiang Cheng across campus.

"You're the worst." Jiang Cheng is hurrying, though, moving as swiftly as Wei Ying is.

"You spelled 'best' wrong," Wei Ying says cheerfully.

***

In the end, it doesn't go...as badly as it could have.

Jiang Cheng has definitely tensed up, to the point of looking nearly like a zombie by the time they get to the coffee shop, but that actually makes him more pliable, since he's not arguing. Outside the door, Wei Ying pauses to straighten Jiang Cheng's collar—he has a really good sense of a style and the wallet to make it happen. He dresses up for class, a little, and the deep purple button down he's wearing works for him, the crisp lines of it setting off his shoulders in the best light. Wei Ying thinks about making him undo an extra button, but he doesn't want to push it too much. "Roll up your sleeves," he orders instead.

Jiang Cheng dutifully does so. He looks a little pasty in the face, but the rolled-up sleeves show off his excellent forearms and between that and how put-together he looks, his button-down tucked neatly into well-fitted black trousers—well, Wei Ying is pretty sure it all comes together.

"Okay," he says. "Just line up the words in your brain and go say them." Wei Ying peers through the window. "She's right there, at the table across the way. You can do this. It's a pact. Go."

Jiang Cheng gulps, and goes.

Wei Ying presses his hands up against the window so he can watch.

He thinks it goes okay, from his vantage point. Jiang Cheng definitely stands over Wen Qing in a realllllly awkward silence for too long ("Say the words," Wei Ying mutters under his breath. "Just say the words."), but when she looks up at him—man, her red lipstick is truly perfection, even from here, Jiang Cheng must be dying—he opens his mouth and says...something.

She keeps looking up at him without blinking. Is not blinking a good thing? Wei Ying thinks it might be a good thing. He knows Wen Qing and he's pretty sure that means she's thinking about something and not dismissing it out of hand. She certainly doesn't seem surprised by the question. If Wei Ying had to define her expression—he peers more closely through the window—he'd say she was...deliberating.

After a handful of moments, she nods, getting up. "Fuck, she's so small, she barely comes up to his shoulder," Wei Ying murmurs to himself.

She says something to Jiang Cheng, then holds out her hand, gesturing for his phone. He gives it to her, his face an absolute picture of disbelief, and she types swiftly for a moment, then hands it back. She studies him for a second, her head tilted back so she can look up at him, then she smiles, just a little, nods, and heads out.

Jiang Cheng blushes so brightly Wei Ying can see it from here. It looks painful.

Wei Ying whips away from the window as Wen Qing comes out the door, hunching his shoulders and looking away down the block, into the middle distance.

"Wei Ying," she says as she brushes by him.

"Ah," he says. "Ha. Fancy meeting you—" She's already gone.

When Jiang Cheng stumbles out a moment later, he's still flushed and he looks wildly bewildered.

"Did it work?" Wei Ying asks intently. "What am I saying, I watched it, it worked, it totally worked. What did you say? What did she say? Tell me everything. I want details. I want so many details."

"I think," Jiang Cheng says, and stops. He's still got his phone clutched in his hand. "I think it. I mean. She."

Wei Ying grins at him. It's all coming together.

Jiang Cheng's phone buzzes in his hand and he startles so much he nearly drops it. Wei Ying crowds in next to him to look down at the screen. It's a text from Wen Qing and Wei Ying gives a yell and smacks Jiang Cheng's shoulder. "Read it, read it, what does it say?"

Jiang Cheng looks down at his phone. "Friday," he says faintly. "It says Friday." He looks up at Wei Ying. "I did it. I asked her out. I said maybe Friday and she said." He looks down at his phone. "She said Friday."

"Oh my god." Wei Ying is the smartest person in the world. "It worked. It's a date. You have a date. With Wen Qing."

"Oh." Jiang Cheng blinks. "Oh god."

Wei Ying smacks him delightedly on the shoulder again and Jiang Cheng's eyes narrow, coming a little bit back into focus. "Stop hitting me."

"I'm sorry!' Wei Ying presses his face against Jiang Cheng's arm. "I'm just happy. You have a date!"

"Right." Jiang Cheng looks at him. "We both have dates."

Wei Ying's stomach gives a weird, lurching swoop. "Oh," he says. "Oh, right, I...almost forgot."

***

Wei Ying is the one who asked Lan Zhan out—in the fake way, and in the real, actual spend-time-with-me-on-Friday way—and that means he's responsible for picking a place to go.

It takes him all night Thursday and most of the morning Friday to figure things out, to the point he ends up doing his political science homework on the bus to campus, his laptop balanced on his knees as he frantically types up his essay.

It also involved several calls to his sister last night. "Jiejie, where do you take someone on a first date?"

There's a moment of silence and Wei Ying can almost see her smile, even over the phone. It makes him cringe—he tries his level best not to lie to his sister, but listen, this is for Jiang Cheng's benefit and Yanli, of all people, would certainly understand that, if she knew the real story. "You have a date, didi? That's nice," is all she says, but the warmth of her voice floods through Wei Ying. "Okay. Let's think. You really like this person?"

"This boy," he helps her out. "And I mean, I don't know, yeah, I guess? Probably? It's just a first date. Ask me after date five." He can't believe he's supposed to get through five whole dates with someone who only tolerates him. He's pretty sure after the fight yesterday, Jiang Cheng is going to hold his feet to the fire with that one.

Another tiny moment of silence. "Date five, huh?" she says. "I guess we have some planning to do, coming up."

"That's not what I—I didn't—" Wei Ying groans. He's such an idiot. Life would be a whole lot better if he could control his mouth. "Anyway. Do you have any ideas? I need help."

"Right," she says thoughtfully. "Okay. Well, first off, does he have any specific food requirements? Allergies, preferences, stuff like that?"

"Uh." Wei Ying hastily flips his computer open, shooting off a quick message to Lan Zhan. hey, do you have any food allergies or stuff?

"Also, you should think about ambiance," Yanli says. "First dates can be a little awkward. Do you want it to be noisy, to fill in the space? Or quiet, for the intimacy?"

Wei Ying's got this one. "Quiet," he says firmly. He'll never be able to hear Lan Zhan's soft voice otherwise.

"Oh," Yanli says, sounding pleased. "Well, that's nice, we can work with that."

"Great," Wei Ying glances down at where a message from Lan Zhan has just popped up. "And he's a vegetarian, I guess," he says. "Huh, I didn't know that."

"It's good to pay attention to these things," Yanli says. "But that's easy. Okay, let's think. Not noodles, those are too messy to eat. Not hot pot, that's too spicy."

"Hey, I like spicy," Wei Ying protests.

"Not on a first date," Yanli says firmly. "You don't want to get all sweaty and it will make the kisses taste funny."

"Oh my god, you're my sister, stop talking about kissing." Wei Ying is going to die.

"Kissing is important, didi," she says, laughing. "It's a good way to find out if you're compatible with someone."

Wei Ying feels his face flush. "Not always," he says. Sometimes they're just for...practice.

"Ah, so world-wise and weary, are we?" she teases. "Trust your older sister, I know what I'm talking about."

"You've been married for eight billion years and are extremely smug about it," he mutters.

"Yes, and how do you think I got this way?" she says firmly. "First kisses are important."

He bites his tongue so he doesn't tell her they've already handily gotten first kisses out of the way.

She talks him through it and they settle on a nice-ish modern place that's in walking distance from campus but not too far of a bus ride from Wei Ying's place. It looks charming and neat from the website photos and it does have both noodles and hot pot ("All of the best places do, jiejie," he points out) but he promises Yanli not to order them.

It's also at the level he can afford, so that's good too.

He texts Lan Zhan a few more times throughout his conversation with Yanli to get more details (she's really smart about planning ahead). Lan Zhan's last class on Fridays ends at 5:30, he finds out, and fuck, who takes a late day seminar class on a Friday?? They arrange to meet on campus and walk over together.

("That way he doesn't have to sit there fidgeting at the table waiting for you to arrive," Yanli says.

"I could be there first," he protests.

"Didi," is all she says in response.)

Which is why Wei Ying is fully ten minutes early, sitting on the broad cement bannister alongside the steps into the building where Lan Zhan's class is.

He'd put on a nice outfit, too, at Yanli's order: black jeans and big stompy boots, and a grey button down that he'd left untucked. He'd washed his hair today, so it's soft and keeps escaping the high bun he'd put in it in little wisps, but it's too late to change it, so wisps it is.

The late afternoon fall sunlight is warm on his face and he actually gives up looking at his phone as he waits, leaning back and resting his hands against the cement behind him, tilting his face up to the sun and trying to breathe. His stomach feels tight. This is so stupid. Dates are so stupid. Why is going out to eat with someone such a fraught thing? He does this all the time with friends. It should be fine. It's not even a real date. He's fine.

He's on the edge of talking himself into a mini panic attack when the door to the building opens and a handful of people spill out. He gives himself a shake and swings around to watch and it's actually a relief to see Lan Zhan. He's behind the rest of the students coming out, but he's so tall, Wei Ying can see him right away.

"Oh good," Wei Ying says, hopping off of the bannister. "You're here!"

"I am." Lan Zhan draws to a stop in front of him.

"You look so nice!" He really does. It's hard to tell if it's a date outfit, because Lan Zhan dresses way, way nicer than anybody else in class all the time. But it's Lan Zhan and Lan Zhan is nothing if not a rule-follower, so Wei Ying bets he went to a little extra effort today on account of their fake-date. He's in loose linen pants, a deep blue color, and a lighter shirt that drapes differently than the pants, but still gives a certain flow to the whole outfit. He's got what looks like a soft sweater draped over one arm, even though it's pretty warm today. And the earrings he has on—small dangly ones, shimmering against his hair—really do bring the whole thing together. Wei Ying is impressed.

"Thank you," Lan Zhan intones. "So do you."

"Oh, this old thing?" Wei Ying says with a grin.

Lan Zhan is still just standing there, looking at him. Wei Ying thinks for a second about what he'd do if this were a real date. Would he kiss him? Should he kiss him? He remembers his conversation with Yanli about first-date kisses and thinks that—if this were a real date—he'd maybe wait. Let the anticipation sit there for a bit.

Instead, he loops his arm through Lan Zhan's and says, "Let's go."

Lan Zhan, to his credit, doesn't startle at the casual touch. The practicing definitely helped, Wei Ying thinks. They're both doing really good at this first date thing. Except. "Oh fuck," Wei Ying says. "I totally forgot to bring you the token."

Lan Zhan glances at him.

"Of my affection." Wei Ying shakes his head. "I'm really bad at remembering things, Lan Zhan. You're going to have to get used to that if you're going to date me." He shoots Lan Zhan a grin. "You still know you have my affection, right?"

"I do." Lan Zhan says it smoothly and if he was anyone else, or if this was a real first date, it would sound cocky. Instead, it just cracks Wei Ying right the fuck up.

They head across campus and man, it really is beautiful at this time of year. "Do you see that tree there?" Wei Ying points, chattering as they go. "It's my favorite tree, my very favorite. The color of the leaves, it just doesn't get better than that. Hang on, look, when you stand under it, it's like stained glass, it's just so beautiful."

He drags Lan Zhan under the tree and they stand there for a second, the deep, crimson red of the leaves—it's another one of his favorite things about this tree, the leaves turn so early and stay that way for a long time into the fall—dappling their skin, as they stand there in the warm shade, the leaves flickering around them in the light breeze.

Lan Zhan is just standing beside him, watching him. Wei Ying's arm is still hooked in his. Wei Ying looks up at him, and gives another grin, shrugging a little. "I don't know, I just like it."

It's a good thing this is a fake date, he thinks. Who cares about his stupid favorite tree?

"I do, too." Lan Zhan's tone is as serious as it is when he says anything else.

"Ah, you're just being nice." Wei Ying tugs him out from under the tree, so they can get on their way again. "But it's a pretty good tree, right?"

"An excellent tree," Lan Zhan says, like he means it.

What a good guy, Wei Ying thinks, to put so much effort into this fake date. Wei Ying really did luck out.

"Oh, it's as cute as it looked online," Wei Ying exclaims when they get to the restaurant. He glances over at Lan Zhan. "I did some research," he says. "Only the best for this very important first date."

Lan Zhan just looks at him.

"Teasing, Lan Zhan." Wei Ying swings the door open and holds it for Lan Zhan. "Just teasing, I promise."

They get a perfect table, set back from the others, plenty of space around them, and Lan Zhan seems actually pretty relaxed as he sits down. Quiet, but relaxed.

"What are you thinking about?" Wei Ying can't help but ask after they've ordered their drinks. Lan Zhan gets tea, and Wei Ying sticks with tea, too.

Lan Zhan lifts his gaze from the menu, shifting it to Wei Ying. There's a moment of silence, and Wei Ying can't help but fill it. "You don't have to answer, it's not, like, a requirement, I'm just curious. You do an awful lot of thinking, it feels like. I don't do very much thinking at all. I just do stuff and say stuff without ever thinking it through. It's a terrible drawback of mine that you should know about. All kinds of stupid things happen because of it."

Lan Zhan waits for him to wind down—which is nice, a lot of the time people just start talking over him when he gets like this—and says, "You."

Wei Ying's mouth drops open and it takes him a second before he laughs. "I bet," he says, leaning one elbow on the table and propping his face on his hand. "Regrets?"

One of Lan Zhan's eyebrows goes up a miniscule amount. "No," he says.

"Well, that's good," Wei Ying says, and waits, but Lan Zhan doesn't follow up. "Hm." Wei Ying studies him and Lan Zhan doesn't look away. He doesn't blush, either, at Wei Ying's long, steady look. Wei Ying wonders if he would have blushed if this were a real first date. "Okay, so, what do we do here? What do first dates look like?"

Lan Zhan is quiet for a moment. "Like this," he says finally. "But often a bit more awkward."

"Oh." Oh. "Have you...been on a lot of first dates?"

"Not a lot, no," Lan Zhan says.

Not a lot. Is that not a lot compared to Wei Ying's none, or not a lot compared to normal people? Wei Ying is relieved when the tea comes. The server gives it to them in a fancy pot that has a pretty nice pour, and Lan Zhan reaches to serve them once the waiter leaves. It's nice having someone else pour tea for you.

"How about I tell you something about myself," Wei Ying suggests, once they've ordered—he really has to come back here for hot pot when it's not a first date. "And then you tell me something, and we go back and forth like that."

"A conversation," Lan Zhan says and the way his mouth looks means that's a joke. He really is so stealth-funny, Wei Ying can't even take it.

"Yeah, like a conversation," Wei Ying says with a grin. "A real conversation. I feel like we can do this. I'm really good at talking."

"I can tell," Lan Zhan says and it's not wry, it isn't, you couldn't call it wry by anyone's standards, not really, but the point comes across nonetheless. Wei Ying can't help but laugh, it bubbles up in him.

"Okay, I go first," he says. "Hmm, what can I tell you? There's too much to choose from—you don't know anything about me."

Lan Zhan does that thing with his face again where his expression doesn't change, not really, but there's some sort of a shift there that means...something. Wei Ying really needs to get to know his expressions better.

"Don't worry," he says, "I won't go on and on. Okay, should it be something wholesome? Or something sexy? It is a first date, after all." He grins widely and waggles his eyebrows across the table at Lan Zhan.

Lan Zhan takes a sip of tea, watching him.

"Okay, wholesome: I played the flute for, like, ten years, all throughout my teens, and I'm still pretty good at it." Oh, that was a solid choice: Lan Zhan looks both surprised and a little interested, and how Wei Ying can tell that from the tiny tilt of his lips and the way his eyes get a little bit warmer is a little weird, huh? But it's true.

"Why flute?" Lan Zhan asks. He's so serious. It's so cute. Of course he'd have follow-up questions. He always has follow-up questions in class.

"Right, right, don't say things in front of Lan Zhan unless you're ready to deep discuss it." Luckily, Wei Ying is always ready to deep discuss things. He leans forward, fiddling with his tea cup. "I don't know, my sister was always trying out new things, like, musically. She sang for a little while there, she danced, and she always got, like, super happy when my brother and I did artsy things." He shrugs, and grins. "I think I chose flute because the case was small and easy to bring to school."

Lan Zhan is still just watching him. "And you were good at it."

"I was okay at it." Wei Ying waves it off, laughing. "It was fun, it was something I could pick up and just...do, you know? It made the teachers at school nuts." He takes a sip of tea. "Okay, now you."

Lan Zhan is silent.

"It doesn't have to be sexy like my flute story," Wei Ying says, letting his own eyebrow go up a miniscule amount. "You can stick with wholesome."

Lan Zhan seems to be considering it. He sits very still—not tense, not locked in place, just going fully still, in himself, as he thinks. Wei Ying lets himself study him, as he tucks his own foot up under himself on the seat and fiddles with the wrapped chopsticks on the table.

"I compose music," Lan Zhan says finally.

Wei Ying beams at him. "Lan Zhan!" he says. "That's both wholesome and sexy, did you know that?"

Lan Zhan just looks at him.

"You didn't know that, but it so totally is. What kind of music? I bet it's classical. Do you play? You've got to play something, if you compose, right? What do you play? How didn't I know this? I mean, that's dumb, I don't know anything about you, not really, but still." He'd leaned forward over the table in his interest and he sits back hastily..

Lan Zhan's lips curve into the smallest smile. "I compose in both classical and contemporary styles. I can play the guitar, a little, and the piano, somewhat more."

Guitar, Wei Ying glances down at Lan Zhan's hands, wonders if his fingers are calloused from playing.

"That's really cool, Lan Zhan," he says. It is. "Will you play for me sometime?"

Lan Zhan inclines his head a little. "Mn," he says. "Perhaps on our next date."

Wei Ying stares at him for a handful of seconds then bursts into laughter. God, he likes Lan Zhan. "That's good," he says, through his giggles. "That's good, that's a very good line, I like that a lot."

"You did say five dates," Lan Zhan says, picking up his tea cup and taking a thoughtful sip.

"I did." Wei Ying is delighted. "I did say that, and you pretty much signed a contract, so you're all in, right?"

Lan Zhan looks at him. "Correct."

"You're good," Wei Ying says. "You're so good at this."

"And perhaps," Lan Zhan says, "You will play for me, as well."

Wei Ying's entire face gets hot and he laughs again, letting his leg slide back down and slumping back in his seat, accidentally kicking Lan Zhan under the table. "Oh god," he says. "Maybe? I don't know. You want a grade-school flute recital? Really? You compose. I can play, like, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star."

Lan Zhan just looks at him across the table, cool and composed and beautiful. How is his hair constantly perfect, even when he wears it down like that? Wei Ying can feel strands of hair falling out of his bun even as he slouches further down in his seat. "I would like to hear you."

Wei Ying shoves himself back to sitting, tries to pat his hair back into place. "Fine," he says, sighing. "Fine. God, is dating supposed to be this embarrassing? Are we doing it right?"

Lan Zhan shrugs one shoulder minutely.

Wei Ying can't help the grin that slides across his face, even though he's still blushing. "Okay, well, you're the expert." He knows he shouldn't ask, he really shouldn't, but. "You said you'd been on first dates before."

Lan Zhan takes a sip of tea before responding. "Yes," he says. "A few."

"A few." Wei Ying taps his finger against his chin, pondering. "Surprising, Lan Zhan. You don't strike me as someone who dabbles in dating."

Lan Zhan's lips move in an approximation of a smile. "I...have dabbled," he says. "A bit."

Wei Ying widens his eyes at Lan Zhan. "Tell me more," he demands.

Lan Zhan just looks at him.

"Just give me some pointers," Wei Ying says. "I haven't even dabbled before!"

Lan Zhan blinks. "You haven't...dabbled."

Wei Ying winces a little, then laughs. "No. No, I really haven't."

Lan Zhan leans in a little. "You've dated, though."

"I...really have not," Wei Ying says. "What, you can't tell because I'm just so good at this?"

"I've seen you," Lan Zhan says. "I've seen you at parties. You are with someone, quite often."

"That's just Nie Huaisang," Wei Ying says dismissively.

"And you and he have not..."

"We most definitely have not," Wei Ying says firmly.

"Oh." Lan Zhan sits back. He's still watching Wei Ying. "And so have you...without dating, have you." He stops, the tips of his ears turning pink. "When we kissed. You've." He stops again.

Wei Ying helps him out. "I've...I mean, yeah, but not seriously. It's just not—I don't know." He laughs, reaching out to tap his fingers against Lan Zhan's hand. "Why do you think I needed you to fake-date me, huh? I don't have any real experience in this." He feels deeply stupid saying it out loud. It's not like he's saving himself or anything. And it's not like he hasn't had opportunities. He just—hasn't.

Lan Zhan is quiet for a moment longer. "I see."

"I know, I know." Wei Ying waves his hands around. "Senior year, blah blah, what have I been doing with my time? Oh, look, the food's here!" A welcome distraction.

They keep up the Q&A after the food gets there, trading stories over their meals. It's easier, while they're eating, not quite as loaded, just a good back and forth, and it stops being a sort of contest after a while, just a...conversation.

Wei Ying pays—he insists, vehemently, even as Lan Zhan draws his lips into a thin, tight line, and argues as much as Wei Ying has ever seen him. "It's our first date," Wei Ying says, greatly resisting doing finger quotes. "I made you do this. You are doing me a favor. I am paying."

Lan Zhan opens his mouth, then shuts it, and turns his eyes away. Dude really doesn't like being treated, Wei Ying guesses. Oh, well. "My sister says it's appropriate, and I am nothing if not appropriate."

Lan Zhan, still not looking at him, makes a small humming noise that positively radiates disagreement, and Wei Ying has to tamp down a grin. God, Lan Zhan is so bitchy. It's so good.

It's darker than Wei Ying had expected it to be when they leave the restaurant. "We were in there for a while," he says, hooking his arm through Lan Zhan's. "Guess it was a pretty good date."

Lan Zhan startles a little, looking down at where their arms are linked, and Wei Ying makes a face and starts to move back. "Sorry, sorry," he says. "That wasn't—I wasn't trying to be, like, funny, ha ha, we're on a date. It's just how I am."

Lan Zhan stops him from pulling back by putting his hand over Wei Ying's just as it's about to slip away from the curve of his elbow. "It's fine," he says.

"Oh." Lan Zhan's hand is startlingly warm. And. Huge. Wei Ying's own hand fully disappears beneath it. "Okay. If you're okay with it."

"I am." Lan Zhan waits until Wei Ying fully slides his arm back through Lan Zhan's, so they're linked again, and they continue on their way.

"Tell me something else about you," Lan Zhan says, as they walk, heading vaguely back towards campus.

"All I've done is bend your ear telling you things about me," Wei Ying says teasingly. It's true, though—he feels like he hasn't stopped talking for hours.

"Tell me something serious," Lan Zhan says then, tilting him a look.

"I told you all kinds of serious things," Wei Ying says, putting on an offended tone. "I told you I'm afraid of dogs. That is deadly serious."

Lan Zhan just looks at him again, as they walk slowly together. It's gotten colder as they'd been inside and Wei Ying wishes he'd put his huge, warm hand over his own again. He shivers a little.

Lan Zhan draws to a stop and turns towards Wei Ying, taking the sweater he's been carrying all night and draping it over Wei Ying's shoulders.

"No, don't, oh my god, Lan Zhan, it's fine, no one is even looking, you don't have to be all...boyfriend." Wei Ying is trying to tug the sweater off, shove it back towards Lan Zhan. He's fine.

"You're cold." Lan Zhan pulls it firmly back around Wei Ying's shoulders. "I am not. I would like you to take this. It is...this is how I am."

He says it like a quote, and Wei Ying hears his own words like an echo. "Okay," he says, finally. The sweater is, in fact, incredibly soft, and it's settled warmly over his shoulders. He tugs it closer, looking up at Lan Zhan. They're on campus now, pulled off to the side of one of the winding paths that lead back towards the dorms. Lan Zhan looks satisfied, and Wei Ying wraps his hands tightly around the sleeves of the sweater. "Okay," he says again. The night is very quiet around them. "I don't really have a family."

It just spills out.

Lan Zhan's expression doesn't change.

"You said to tell you something serious." Wei Ying manages to say it cheerfully. "I guess that's my serious thing, or whatever." He shrugs.

"Jiang Cheng," Lan Zhan says carefully. "Your sister."

"Oh, that's just—it's an easy shorthand, you know?" Wei Ying shrugs. "We grew up together, and I'm not going to get into adopted-brother this and adopted-sister that."

Lan Zhan waits, looking at him.

"I'm the adopted one," Wei Ying clarifies quickly. "My parents died when I was, oh, real young. It's not that sad, don't worry, I was young enough that I only have, like, one memory of them." It flickers into life in his head, his parents laughing over some shared joke as they tucked him into his seat in the back of a car—he thinks—looking down at him and drawing him into the joke until he'd laughed, too. "Their family took me in. Well, their dad did. Their mom just sort of...endured me." He shakes his head. "It's fine. It's not a big thing. It's just—I didn't want you to hear anything and think I was making stuff up. Jiang Cheng is my brother, and Yanli my sister, in every way that counts." He'd grown up with Yanli saying that to him his entire life, drilling it in, like it was the most important lesson to be learned.

Lan Zhan's expression isn't soft, which is the best possible thing, because Wei Ying definitely could not take that. He's just watching Wei Ying. Listening to him.

"Anyway." Wei Ying shrugs, tugging Lan Zhan's ridiculously big sweater around him more closely. "Your turn. Tell me something."

Lan Zhan leans in and kisses him. Kisses him, right there on the path. His hand slides around Wei Ying's side to his back, tugging him closer. Wei Ying makes a startled noise in his throat before he remembers to kiss back. Lan Zhan's mouth is soft, and warm, so warm it suffuses Wei Ying's entire body, sending tingles down his back, his arms, his fingers: he can feel it in his toes. Lan Zhan kisses with his whole entire body—if Wei Ying had let himself think about it, he'd have thought Lan Zhan would be stiff if they kissed like this. Even the practice kissing in Lan Zhan's room the other day, that had been Lan Zhan just sort of letting Wei Ying. And the classroom kiss had been so surprising that Wei Ying hadn't even really had a chance to feel it. This is different. This is...really different.

Wei Ying's knees go a little weak and he's pressed up against Lan Zhan. His mouth is so soft, and Wei Ying opens his own mouth, just a little, just to see, and oh, god, that's...a different world, that's so much better, Lan Zhan's tongue in his mouth, it's overwhelming, he's going to die from it, this is—

"What the fuck." It takes Wei Ying a dizzying moment to recognize Jiang Cheng's voice.

He stumbles back out of the kiss, Lan Zhan releasing him slowly, but not drawing too far away, leaving his hand resting against the small of Wei Ying's back as Wei Ying turns around.

It's Jiang Cheng, all right, and he's with—he's holding hands with—Wen Qing. Wen Qing looks wildly amused, her eyebrows going all the way up as she looks at Wei Ying and Lan Zhan. Jiang Cheng looks...well, he looks outraged, like he's about to start clutching his pearls.

"Hi," Wei Ying offers, then glances over at Lan Zhan. Oh. Right. "We're on a date."

"Yeah, I can see that," Jiang Cheng grits out.

Lan Zhan is standing beside him, looking at Jiang Cheng. "Your brother?" he asks, mildly. His hand is still on Wei Ying's back. He's playing the perfect role as boyfriend.

Oh, right. Wei Ying...he gets it. He gets it now. "Yup," he says cheerfully. "This is Jiang Cheng. Jiang Cheng, this is Lan Zhan. My date. And you know Wen Qing," he says to Lan Zhan.

"And Jiang Cheng is my date," Wen Qing says, amusement flickering in her eyes.

"Look at us." Wei Ying clasps his hands in front of himself. "All on dates."

"Okay, we're going to go now." Wen Qing says it firmly.

Jiang Cheng makes an outraged sound in his throat but immediately follows her when she heads down the path in the direction they had been headed.

Wei Ying turns towards Lan Zhan. "So now you've met Jiang Cheng. You can see how right I was that he needed help."

Lan Zhan pauses, then nods. "I can."

"Well." Wei Ying grins up at him. "Thanks for being cool about it. You know. Kissing me, when you saw him, so he'd believe this was a real date."

Lan Zhan just looks at him.

"Good thing we practiced, huh?" Wei Ying bumps his shoulder against Lan Zhan. "We did good. I bet it looked like the real thing. Come on, it's getting late, we should get you home."

It's so funny: when Wei Ying tucks his arm though Lan Zhan's again and starts tugging him down the path, he hears Lan Zhan make a very quiet sound in his throat that hilariously sounds almost like an echo of the outraged sound Jiang Cheng had made.

***

"We had a minor altercation over if I was going to walk him home or if he was going to walk me to the bus stop," Wei Ying tells Nie Huiasang after class a few days later. Nie Huaisang is in Wei Ying's political science class; Wei Ying cannot fathom why Nie Huaisang signed up for it. The only thing Nie Huiasang ever says by way of explanation is, "My brother." He says it in a greatly pained tone every time.

"Who won?" Nie Huaisang asks with interest. He's using his textbook as a pillow. They're sprawled out under a tree in the middle of campus, the remains of their lunch scattered around them. The sunlight is rich and warm today, one of those suspiciously warm autumn days that belies how cold it gets after dark.

Wei Ying shifts up onto his side, propping his head on his hand so he can see Nie Huaisang better. "He did," he says sadly.

"Well." Nie Huaisang looks thoughtful. "Maybe you can trade off. You still have four dates to go."

"Yeah." Wei Ying sighs a little. "Jiang Cheng is so pissed. After he saw us kissing, he realized he has to go through with it."

"Why is he mad about that? Was it weird with Wen Qing? Did he hate it? Was she mean to him? Was he mean to her? And tell me about the kissing, what the fuck, why didn't you open with that?" Nie Huaisang says it all without taking a breath, but somehow still looking sleepy as he lies there in the sunlight.

"Well, we had to. Lan Zhan saw Jiang Cheng coming and pulled me into this kiss that was, like, Hollywood-level acting. You would have died. He really gave it his all." Wei Ying is still truly impressed by that kiss. He doesn't know that, if the situations were reversed, he would have been able to pull off a kiss like that. He's not smooth like Lan Zhan. He can't stop thinking about it.

"Huh." Nie Huaisang looks, Wei Ying thinks, impressed. "Well, that's good. Jiang Cheng bought it?"

"Sort of. He yelled at me a lot when he got home about 'crass behavior in public' and 'taking advantage,' which sort of makes me think that he doesn't one hundred percent believe it. But listen, he's the one who definitely had hickeys on his neck when he came home."

"Hickeys?" Nie Huaisang's eyes had slid closed, but he opens them again at this.

"Multiple hickeys," Wei Ying confirms. He'd been delighted to see it. He'd known this would be good for Jiang Cheng.

"How did she even reach his neck?" Nie Huaisang says. "She must have climbed him like a tree."

Wei Ying giggles at the image, rolling back over onto his stomach on the grass. "Maybe," he says. "Or maybe she just, like, straddled him." He thinks about how it felt when he'd done that to Lan Zhan, how sort of...wanton it felt, to have his thighs spread over his. "I stole his sweater," he confesses.

"Jiang Cheng's?" Nie Huaisang asks, looking confused.

"Lan Zhan's," Wei Ying clarifies. "He had lent it to me, because it was a little cold, and I forgot to give it back to him." He chews on his lip a little. "I should give it back to him." He hadn't realized he'd still been wearing it until he was halfway home on the bus, fiddling with the cuffs. He doesn't know what it's made of, still, but it's so soft and the warm grey color of it is somehow soothing, and he keeps meaning to bring it with him and hunt down Lan Zhan on campus, but instead it's carefully draped over his desk chair in his room and he's found himself putting it on when he gets home at night. It smells good, too, the same sort of soothing smell of Lan Zhan himself. "I've really got to give it back," he says again quietly.

"Are you going out again?" Nie Huaisang's eyes have closed again, as he settles himself more comfortably in the grass.

"Of course. We have to." Wei Ying sighs. "It's a pact."

"A pact," Nie Huaisang says sleepily.

"Right." Wei Ying props his chin on his hands and thinks about what a person would do on a second date, if they were really dating the person they were...taking on a date. He lets it run around in his head, trying to think it through, while Nie Huaisang naps beside him in the afternoon sun.

***

I still have your sweater, he texts Lan Zhan later that day. He's got it on, again, actually—the apartment had been empty and cold when he'd gotten home and he'd absently shrugged into it when he'd padded into his room.

He waits a few seconds then texts, You could come get it, if you need it? He makes a face after he sends it—it's kind of rude to expect Lan Zhan come get his own sweater that Wei Ying had literally stolen from him. He hastily follows up with I mean, I could also bring it to class but I was thinking that we need to practice some more. He lets the phone drop after that—even he knows that more than three unanswered texts in a row is just sad. He can chill.

He has, actually, been thinking that he needs the practice. That kiss from Lan Zhan had been so good, so easy, and he's nowhere near that level. What if it's him, next time, who spots someone and he needs to prove that he's dating Lan Zhan? It's not just Jiang Cheng that he needs to sell this to—the only person who knows it's fake is Nie Huaisang, because Nie Huaisang is a bro and would never, ever tell anyone. Oh, well, and Lan Zhan. Lan Zhan knows as well. Obviously.

His phone buzzes on his stomach and he snatches it up. Yes, is all Lan Zhan says, which...isn't really the level of detail Wei Ying needs. Yes, he needs the sweater? Yes, he'll come over? Yes, Wei Ying needs the practice?

Wei Ying decides it means Yes, all of the above and texts back, Cool cool. Do you want to come over now? Or, like, whenever? Jiang Cheng has a late class tonight. He does, but hmm, if Lan Zhan says long enough, maybe Jiang Cheng could walk in on them. Or something. Would that count as a second date? That could totally count as a second date.

Yes, Lan Zhan texts back again.

Really. What a wordsmith. Wei Ying grins at the phone and sends him the bus information and his address, adding Call from downstairs, the buzzer is broken.

He sits up. This is great. This is so great. He'll return the sweater, they'll get to practice—it's two birds with one stone. He's got such great planning skills. He looks around his room. It's...a disaster. Lan Zhan's room had been neat and soothing to be in, all meticulous but also sort of soft, mellow colors and muted lighting.

He hops up. He's got at least a half hour before Lan Zhan gets here from campus. He can do this. He's on this.

When his phone buzzes again, he's just finished making the bed for the first time in...a while. He'd saved it for last, knowing it would be easy. The rest of the room is—he glances around—in pretty good order. He'd gotten all of his dirty clothes together from where they'd been scattered around his room and, weirdly, they'd all fit into the hamper in the corner. He's pulled all the bottles, cans, and dishes that he'd left in his room over the past few weeks and dumped them all in the sink in the kitchen. He'd picked up all the random things that somehow ended up on his floor (mail, broken phone chargers, earbuds he can absolutely never find when he actually needs them, where does it all come from?) and either thrown them away or stacked them neatly on his dresser. He'd actually straightened the stuff on his dresser and on his desk, sweeping some things into drawers, sure, but with the stuff that's left, he'd piled up, grinning as he lined up his laptop on his desk at a neat angle, like Lan Zhan had. He looks at it for a moment, then nudges his laptop at an angle—he just can't take it being quite so perfect.

A quick swipe with an old t-shirt had handled the dust issue on the surfaces and he's ready just in time to text back Coming! and dart down the stairs.

"Hi," he says, swinging the door open and grinning at Lan Zhan.

Lan Zhan looks...impeccable. The late afternoon sunlight makes his face look golden. He's got his hair up today, in a neat ponytail that leaves his neck exposed in a way that's distracting—Wei Ying has found himself zoning out on it in class on those rare days that Lan Zhan wears his hair up.

"Hello." Lan Zhan doesn't move.

"Oh, right, come on in, I just—" Wei Ying stands back so Lan Zhan can get in, then closes the door, making sure that the lock catches, before turning to dart up the stairs ahead of him. "You made good time! Was the bus okay?"

"Mn." Lan Zhan is following him up the stairs. Wei Ying opens the door to the apartment and ushers him in.

"Grab a pair of slippers, they're right there," he says, pointing at the pile as Lan Zhan slips his shoes off.

Lan Zhan does.

"Don't look around too much." Wei Ying quickly steers him down the hall towards his bedroom. "I only had time to clean up my room, so pretend you don't see the rest of the mess, okay?"

He shuts the door behind him as they get to his room, beaming at Lan Zhan. "Welcome!" he says, spreading his arms.

"Thank you." Lan Zhan looks around for a moment, his eyes flickering over Wei Ying's space, before putting his bag down neatly by the desk. "I like your room," he says then.

Wei Ying's face is warm—he must still be overheated from all the cleaning. "Well, I'm glad," he says. "I like it too. Here, come in, you should sit. Um." He looks around. "The desk chair is kind of wonky, you can sit on the bed, it's okay, don't worry about it."

Lan Zhan hesitates, then sits down neatly on the end of the bed. He's looking up at Wei Ying. He's in Wei Ying's room. Lan Zhan. In Wei Ying's room. This is...weird. It's weird.

Wei Ying flops down on the bed beside him and Lan Zhan's gaze drops down a little as he shifts to turn towards him. Wei Ying glances down and—

"Oh," he says. "Oh, I'm still wearing your sweater." He starts to shrug it off, his face really hot now. Does Lan Zhan think he did it on purpose? Like he was trying to be cute or funny or something? "Sorry, sorry, I—it was cold, when I got home, and it was just right there and I—"

He finally manages to get it off and thrusts it at Lan Zhan hastily, pressing it against his chest in a bundle. "You might need to wash it, sorry, I don't—"

"It's fine," Lan Zhan says. "If you're cold, you should—" He starts to hand it back.

"I'm not cold," Wei Ying says quickly. "I'm good, I'm so good. So hey, okay, listen."

Lan Zhan's face goes all expectant and it's...remarkably cute, the way the shift of his mouth and his eyebrows go into paying attention mode.

"When you kissed me," Wei Ying says, "on our date."

Lan Zhan's eyes immediately shutter. "I apologize if I overstepped."

"What? No. No, that's not it at all, oh my god." Wei Ying waves his hands around. "It was so good. You are so good at it. Like. Really good. And I was thinking that, you know, we practiced before and it was okay, but it was nothing like that. I just want to be prepared for if I need to be the one to...do it. To you." He looks at Lan Zhan. "If I happened to notice first, you know, that someone was watching."

Lan Zhan nods slightly. "I see." He's still got his sweater in his hands. He smooths it out then turns to rest it neatly on the bed behind him. When he turns back towards Wei Ying, he's got a serious expression on his face. "It will be easier to show you if you come a bit closer," he says.

"Right." Wei Ying slides closer on the bed, until he's right up next to Lan Zhan, their knees touching. "Okay."

"Okay," Lan Zhan says, sliding one hand up Wei Ying's neck. It's so warm against his skin that Wei Ying gets shivers down his spine. "Like this." He tilts Wei Ying's head, his thumb pressing in a little against Wei Ying's jaw.

It's possible Wei Ying makes a tiny sound in his throat when Lan Zhan kisses him. It's possible the shivers down his spine run through his entire body. Fuck. Fuck, Lan Zhan is good at this. Wei Ying should have been letting Lan Zhan take the lead this whole time. Lan Zhan has experience. Lan Zhan knows what he's doing. Lan Zhan—

Lan Zhan pulls back from the kiss. "Okay," he says. "Now you."

Wei Ying blinks at him for a moment before he gets it. "Oh," he says. "Oh, right, now...me. Okay. I'm on it." He shifts forward some more—he's so close to Lan Zhan but when he pulls his knee up, it makes the angle better. "Okay, I'm going to—" He puts his hand against Lan Zhan's neck, the same way Lan Zhan had done to him. The skin there is exactly as soft as it looks, and Wei Ying can't help but let his fingers move back a little, push into the hair at the base of Lan Zhan's ponytail. "And then," he says, pressing his thumb against Lan Zhan's jaw, so Lan Zhan's head tilts just so.

Lan Zhan's eyes slide close when he does it, and his mouth opens just a little, so when Wei Ying presses his lips against Lan Zhan's it's gentle, and damp, and open, just a little bit more than the last kiss. Wei Ying concentrates, trying to move his mouth the same way Lan Zhan had, so he can send that rush of heat through Lan Zhan's entire body.

He makes himself pull back. "How was that?"

Lan Zhan blinks his eyes open. "Good," he says. His lips are still damp with kissing. Wei Ying can't stop looking at them.

"What next?" Wei Ying asks, without exactly meaning to, but hey, they're here for a study session. They should build on what they've already learned.

"Well." Lan Zhan appears to be thinking about it. He shifts backwards on the bed, until he's on it more fully, leaning back on his hands. "What we did last time," he says. "In my room. When you—" He stops talking, but makes a small gesture towards Wei Ying, which Wei Ying interprets as straddled me.

"Oh," Wei Ying says. "I can—yeah, sure, like...this?" Why does this feel so much weirder in Wei Ying's own room? In Lan Zhan's room, it felt like acting, maybe, like trying out for a show or something. This feels...it just feels weirder. But Wei Ying can roll with weirder. He pushes himself up and straddles Lan Zhan in one movement.

"Yes," Lan Zhan says, looking up at him from his new vantage point. "Like this."

He puts his hands on Wei Ying's hips and Wei Ying gets that same frisson he'd gotten back in Lan Zhan's room, that hot feeling of being touched somewhere no one usually touches. He has to take a deep breath as he looks down at Lan Zhan before he can say, "Okay. And now?"

"Now," Lan Zhan murmurs, tilting his head up and catching Wei Ying's mouth in a kiss. God. It's always so startling when it happens, like Wei Ying's body doesn't know quite what to do with it, with Lan Zhan's mouth pressed against his own. When Lan Zhan opens his mouth just a little, Wei Ying tilts his head at the same time, and oh, fuck, that makes it...so much more than it was before. It's deeper, and it's more intense—Wei Ying feels like he's sinking into it. He realizes his hands are clenched tightly on Lan Zhan's shoulders and he tries to loosen them, can't, and thinks, fuck it.

It goes on and on, a much longer kiss than they've ever shared before. They keep coming up for air, then going back into it, this long, languid, easy back and forth.

Wei Ying knows about kissing, of course he knows about kissing, he's kissed people before, but not like this. Not like this. This is the sort of making out that he'd never quite understood—how can people kiss so long, doesn't it get boring, just pressing your lips against someone else's?

This isn't boring. This isn't just pressing their lips against each other, this is a trade, a back and forth, the two of them moving together.

He's panting when he finally pulls back, and isn't that embarrassing. He gives a shaky laugh and starts to pull back a little bit more, getting ready to say something funny, when Lan Zhan lays down on his back and tugs Wei Ying down on top of him.

"Oh," Wei Ying says. He's still straddling Lan Zhan, but Lan Zhan has tugged him down against his chest, and it's more intimate than Wei Ying has ever been, with anyone.

Lan Zhan is looking up at him. His eyes are dark, but he seems calm. Very calm. Like, his lips are red with kissing, and damp, but in all other ways, he just looks the same as the everyday, put-together Lan Zhan. Except it's everyday, put-together Lan Zhan lying on Wei Ying's bed, holding Wei Ying against him. "Well," Lan Zhan says, and his voice sounds calm, too, the way it does when he reads out loud in class. "You asked what's next. We've already practiced...what we were just doing." He looks at Wei Ying quietly. "This is what's next."

"Oh, okay, I got it, I think I was just confused but—" Wei Ying is cut off when Lan Zhan flips him over onto his back, as easy as anything. Like it took no effort to do so, no planning, he just—did it, flipped Wei Ying over.

Now Wei Ying is breathless on his back beside Lan Zhan and Lan Zhan is sliding on top of him, oh god, oh god.

"Is this—" Lan Zhan stops, then starts again. "Is this okay?"

"Uh-huh," Wei Ying says, his voice coming out way too high. He clears his throat and tries again. "Totally."

"Because we can stop," Lan Zhan says, starting to draw back. "If that's enough for today.'

"No, wait, come back, it's fine," Wei Ying says. "We said practice. I'm here to practice. I'm all about practicing. We have to get this right. Right?"

"Right." Lan Zhan edges back towards him. He's not on top of him on top of him, he's more like...pushed up on his hip, looking down at Wei Ying. He's got one leg sort of slung over Wei Ying's thighs, the other pressed up against him all down his side, and his hand is—fuck, his hand is resting on Wei Ying's chest, and is so hot Wei Ying can feel it through his shirt. "So I'll start." He continues looking down at Wei Ying for a moment, and the tilt of his mouth has a sort of...considering feel to it. "I think if we were dating," he says, "and you invited me to your room, and we were...doing this, then I'd—" He stops, taking a little breath. Wei Ying has never seen Lan Zhan not finish so many sentences before.

"You'd—" Wei Ying says breathlessly, because his breath is caught in his chest, somewhere underneath Lan Zhan's huge, hot hand, and he thinks he needs to know exactly what Lan Zhan would do, if they were dating. He really needs to know precisely what Lan Zhan would do.

"I'd," Lan Zhan says and he doesn't finish the sentence—again!— instead just lowering his head and kissing Wei Ying. Turns out, kissing while sitting up is one thing. Kissing while lying down is a whole other thing entirely. Lan Zhan is half on top of him and his leg is a heavy weight across his thighs, and Wei Ying's whole entire body wants more.

He tries to focus up, tries to pay attention to what Lan Zhan is doing—this is practice, he's supposed to be learning something—but it's a cacophony in his brain, too many new things happening all at once, pinging through his body like lightning.

"Here," Lan Zhan says then, "like this." Then he shifts forward and oh. Oh, god. His leg slides between Wei Ying's thighs and Wei Ying automatically spreads his legs for him, his body won't let him not do that. Lan Zhan's weight settles against him in this new angle and when he keeps kissing him, it's deeper, and there's more tongue. Wei Ying's socked feet are slipping against the end of the bed as he tangles his legs against Lan Zhan's—he's not sure if he's supposed to be doing that, he's probably not supposed to be doing that, but he can't stop.

Lan Zhan makes soft noises as he kisses him, almost like he's murmuring something at him, but Wei Ying can't hear it over the pounding of the blood in his ears. He's sweating, he's so hot, how had he ever thought the room was cold, how could he have ever needed a sweater, he's steaming.

"And," Lan Zhan says, sounding a little breathless as he raises his head, looking down at Wei Ying. "Maybe..."

Wei Ying knows he should be listening, is desperately trying to pay attention, but Lan Zhan's thigh is snug between his legs, and the room is so hot, and Lan Zhan's hair is messy, oh, there are strands of it everywhere, falling out of his ponytail into his face. Wei Ying realizes with a start that his hands are in Lan Zhan's hair, that his hands have done that, have messed Lan Zhan up, made him undone, and he would probably blush about it if he wasn't already so hot-cheeked. "Maybe," he manages to echo, and he sounds wrecked, embarrassingly so.

"Hm." Lan Zhan lowers his mouth and Wei Ying gets ready for another kiss, he's so fucking ready for another kiss, but Lan Zhan's mouth lands on his jaw, instead, mouths there a little bit, hot and wet and that's such a weird fucking thing to feel so sexy but it does, sending another zing through Wei Ying's body all the way down to his toes.

Lan Zhan moves his mouth down, kissing right under his jaw, the soft part, and then lower, so it's on Wei Ying's neck, a gentle, hot kiss that makes Wei Ying wriggle for a moment until Lan Zhan kisses him there harder, deeper, sucking and, oh, holy fuck. Wei Ying is pinned, under his mouth, as he sucks harder, using a little bit of teeth. Wei Ying is clutching at him, one hand still in his hair, one against his shoulder, and he thinks he's making noise, he thinks he's keening, but can't possibly stop it, not with Lan Zhan's mouth doing that.

Lan Zhan shifts against him again, his thigh moving forward, and Wei Ying can't stop the roll of his hips, even though he's hard, he's known he's been getting hard, but he's all the way there now and he probably shouldn't be getting a boner when they're just practicing but that's the way it is, and now, with that roll of his hips, Lan Zhan knows it, too.

And still Wei Ying can't stop, caught up in the inexorable pull of Lan Zhan's mouth against his neck. His hips roll up again, of their own accord, and he's holding onto Lan Zhan so tight he can't feel his fingers.

When Lan Zhan releases his neck, lifting his head with a truly filthy, wet sound, all of the breath leaves Wei Ying's body in a gasp. His eyes fly open and he immediately pulls his hand out of Lan Zhan's hair and uses the hand on his shoulder to push him away a little.

Lan Zhan sits back immediately, rolling off of Wei Ying and onto his side.

Wei Ying feels cold in every place Lan Zhan is no longer touching him, but at least he can breathe again, even if it's coming in weird, shaky gasps still.

"I apologize," Lan Zhan says quickly. "I didn't mean to overstep."

"No." Wei Ying waves his hands around, then presses them over his hot, hot face. His cheeks are flaming. "No," he says again, laughing a little against his palms. It comes out just a little bit hysterical. "It's good, it's so good that we practiced this, because I have no idea what I'm doing, Lan Zhan, literally not a clue. I'm sure that was obvious."

He peeks at Lan Zhan from between his fingers. Lan Zhan is still looking down at him—he's carefully not touching him, an inch of distance between them. He looks concerned, an actual, real expression, a small wrinkle between his eyebrows, his mouth tugged down a little at the corner.

"Hey," Wei Ying says, belatedly turning over onto his side to face Lan Zhan and drawing his knees up a little in hopes this position makes the fact that he is still stunningly hard a little less obvious. "You look a little wrecked, too." He pushes some of Lan Zhan's hair back behind his ear, trying to fix the mess he'd made. "I'm glad it's not just me. I was thinking that I need to start, like, working out. Get some cardio in. Something, because, fuck, look at me, I still can't catch my breath." He can't—all of his words are coming out breathless, but he's never let that stop him. "But you look all flushed, too. I'm glad. I guess it's good for both of us to work on this stuff, huh?"

"Mn," Lan Zhan says. He doesn't seem to notice or care about his hair falling into his face, doesn't seem to mind that Wei Ying is talking a mile a minute. His mouth gets so red when he's been kissing—Wei Ying can't stop thinking about that. Lan Zhan’s skin is so delicate that his mouth looks bruised now, and Wei Ying has to make an effort not to reach out and run his fingers over it.

He takes a breath and sits up, scooting down to the foot of the bed again. "I think we...did a good job." He's still hard. He's still so fucking hard. He has to get it together. Lan Zhan is going to be so embarrassed if he notices how seriously Wei Ying's body took this whole thing. Wei Ying's body doesn't understand about fake dating. Wei Ying's body really needs to work on that.

"I agree." Lan Zhan shifts, as well, moving to sit next to Wei Ying, still with that careful inch of space between them. "We made some....good progress."

Wei Ying's brain is still spinning and he has to work to think what would Wei Ying do if Wei Ying's whole entire body wasn't confused about the concept of fake dating? He grins—that seems like a strong start—and knocks his shoulder against Lan Zhan's. They don't have to be careful about normal touching, because everything is fine. So totally fine. "I think so, too," he says, trying to sound grave while tilting his head to let Lan Zhan see his eyes are teasing. "A-plus work, Lan Zhan. Gold star."

Lan Zhan isn't laughing, because Lan Zhan literally never laughs. He's got his elbows on his knees, sitting forward, his head tilted to look at Wei Ying. Between the messy hair and the bruised lips and the complete lack of good posture, he's almost unrecognizable while at the same time still...Lan Zhan. Like a photograph that's been double exposed, this wrecked-looking Lan Zhan over Wei Ying's image of the perfect, serene Lan Zhan he knows from every other moment of his life.

Wei Ying doesn't realize he's been staring until Lan Zhan moves, his hand reaching out towards him. "Sorry," Wei Ying says, "I was just zoning out, I—oh."

Lan Zhan's fingers are tilting Wei Ying's head a little, his gaze on Wei Ying's neck. "I hope I didn't hurt you."

"Oh." Wei Ying's hand claps over his neck, right where Lan Zhan's mouth had been, his teeth had been, the spot where he can still feel his pulse pounding. "Oh, you didn't, but—wait, wait."

He pushes himself up—his dick has calmed down a little, but he still tugs his t-shirt down as far as it will go as he hurries to the mirror over his dresser. "Is that—oh my god, Lan Zhan."

He's got a hickey. It's a real hickey, blooming dark on his neck. It's embarrassing and extremely hot and a little bit funny, all at once. His gaze darts up, catching Lan Zhan's in the mirror, where he's still sitting on his bed, his back straight now, looking at Wei Ying. He looks a little uncomfortable as he says, again, "I hope I didn't—"

"You're so smart, Lan Zhan." Wei Ying spins around, leaning back against his dresser and crossing his arms over his chest. "It's so perfect. What a great way to prove to people that we're dating. A hickey." He looks at Lan Zhan, keeping his gaze admiring and trying to ignore the continuing pulse of heat that comes from the spot where Lan Zhan had sucked him with teeth and tongue. Fuck. Fuck. "You've got amazing ideas. You're really good at this. You should start a business. A fake-dating business."

Lan Zhan stares at him, the silence holding for a beat too long, before he puts his hands on his knees and nods, pushing himself to standing. "I'll take that into consideration," he says.

How do more people not know Lan Zhan is funny? Lan Zhan is one hundred percent one of the funniest people Wei Ying knows.

"I have some assignments to complete," Lan Zhan says then.

Wei Ying's eyes flick to the window. Oh, it's gotten dark around them. How long have they been doing this? "Oh, sorry! I was going to order dinner, maybe. Can you stay for dinner? We can—"

Lan Zhan shakes his head, picking up his bag from the floor and slinging it neatly over his shoulder. "Perhaps we can save dinner for our next 'date'." He doesn't make finger-quotes, because he's Lan Zhan and Lan Zhan doesn't need to make finger-quotes, he can make finger-quotes happen with just his tone. "Thank you for inviting me over, Wei Ying. I enjoyed seeing your home."

He says it stiffly, but something about the way his eyes do a quick survey of the room makes Wei Ying feel like he maybe means it. Wei Ying likes seeing the places other people live too. He gets it.

"No problem," he says. "Maybe next time I'll do a real clean-up and you can see more than just my bedroom."

It comes out different than he meant it, it sounds almost dirty, like he'd just invited Lan Zhan over here for some hot and heavy making out, which...is pretty much exactly true, but he hadn't meant it that way, he'd just meant—

"Mn," Lan Zhan says, and heads for the door.

Right. Right. Lan Zhan is too polite to say it, but he's not going to come over here to just hang out with Wei Ying and, like, play video games in the living room. That's not what this is about.

At the door, Lan Zhan takes off the slippers and puts his shoes back on—smooth black ankle boots with a low heel and what does Lan Zhan of all people need a heel for, he's already taller than Wei Ying and Wei Ying is taller than most people he knows. He turns to Wei Ying and says, "Would Saturday work?"

Wei Ying stares blankly for a moment then says, "Right. Right! Yes, for our second date. Yes, sure, perfect. You get through that, only three more to go, and then you're free!"

He thinks he sees a flicker of relief in Lan Zhan's eyes, but, "Saturday, then," is all he says. "I will see you then."

"Also in class tomorrow," Wei Ying says cheerfully.

Lan Zhan pauses, his hand on the doorknob. "Correct," he says. "We have a quiz tomorrow. It would be good to review this evening."

"Wait, we do? Wait—" But Lan Zhan is already out the door, closing it gently behind him, leaving Wei Ying in his foyer trying to dig his phone out of his pocket to see if he can find the email with the syllabus. Fuck. Fuck.

***

When Jiang Cheng gets home, it's pretty late. Wei Ying had, indeed, confirmed that there is a quiz tomorrow and stared at his phone in dismay for a while before ordering food so he could process his feelings about that. He'd eaten, then wandered back into his room, half-heartedly thinking he'd look at his notes and maybe think a few things over, but he'd found Lan Zhan's sweater still lying on his bed.

He'd picked it up, staring down at it for a minute before shrugging it on. His room seemed colder, again, somehow—they really should get the heating looked at—and he'd wrapped it tight around himself, tucking his fingers into the sleeves, before heading to the kitchen for a beer.

Jiang Cheng lets the door shut with a slam and Wei Ying calls out from the kitchen, "Didn't your class get out like two hours ago?"

Jiang Cheng doesn't deign to answer him, just makes an annoyed noise from the foyer. He pads into the kitchen a moment later. He looks—Wei Ying's not sure how he looks. It's not angry and it's not annoyed and it's not tired, it's— "What happened?" Wei Ying asks.

Jiang Cheng slumps down at the kitchen table across from Wei Ying. Wei Ying's been curled up in his chair here, a beer in front of him, taking an occasional sip. He doesn't want to go back to his room yet, and he doesn't feel like video games, and the kitchen feels like the best place to be right now. He doesn't know.

"You're behind," Jiang Cheng says shortly. He looks at Wei Ying's beer, then gets up and gets himself one.

"What?" Wei Ying's head hurts. He really can't process too much more information tonight. "What does that mean?"

"You've only had one date so far, right?" Jiang Cheng twists the bottle cap off and takes a sip of the beer as he lets himself slump down at the table again.

"...yes," Wei Ying says, puzzled, then looks at Jiang Cheng more closely. "Wait, you went out with Wen Qing again tonight?"

Jiang Cheng makes the noise that means yes, idiot. "After class," he says. He sounds distracted. "She—yeah."

That's all he says, taking another sip of beer. Wei Ying looks at him across the table, while he absentmindedly presses his fingers against the place on his neck where Lan Zhan had...where he had... Anyway, he can't stop touching it, he keeps pressing against it, getting that hint of a zing through his body every time he does it.

Jiang Cheng keeps staring vacantly into space, picking at the label on his beer bottle. He's a little bit of a mess—his shirt is untucked, which never happens. It's also buttoned wrong, askew, and Wei Ying looks up at his brother's face. "Did you—" he starts.

"We are not discussing this," Jiang Cheng says firmly, not meeting Wei Ying's gaze.

"Yeah, but, did you—I mean, did you and Wen Qing—"

"Stop." Jiang Cheng points at him with the beer bottle. "We didn't..."

"Oh." Wei Ying doesn't believe him.

The silence holds for a minute before Jiang Cheng says, "Not...exactly."

Wei Ying sits forward, tucking his hands more firmly into the sleeves of Lan Zhan's sweater. "Not exactly? " he says. "What does that mean?"

"It means what it means." Jiang Cheng sits back and finishes his beer with several quick swallows. "Anyway," he says then. "Like I said, you're behind."

"I know." Wei Ying is weirdly annoyed at this line of conversation. He knows how many dates he's been on. He knows how many there are to go. This isn't algebra. He presses his fingers against his neck again.

Jiang Cheng zeros in on the movement. "Is that—" He leans forward, snatches Wei Ying's hand from his neck. "What the fuck. Is that from Lan Zhan?"

Wei Ying nods, trying to pry his hand out of Jiang Cheng's grasp. "Who else. Stop it. Give me my hand back."

Jiang Cheng's still staring at him. "He mauled you." He finally releases Wei Ying's hand and sits back, shaking his head. "So I guess you aren't a date behind."

"No, it wasn't a date," Wei Ying says without thinking. "We were just..."

Jiang Cheng gives him a look.

"It wasn't," Wei Ying protests. "Listen, we have another date on Saturday. Me. And Lan Zhan."

Jiang Cheng looks at him. "Yeah," he says. "Us, too."

"Ah." Wei Ying nods several times. "Good." He fiddles with his own beer, takes another sip. "Listen, if you want out, we can just—"

"No," Jiang Cheng barks out, then, a little quieter. "No. We're— No. We're doing this."

"Right." Right. "We're doing this." He looks at Jiang Cheng. "Another beer?"

"God, yes." Jiang Cheng looks relieved.

Wei Ying gets them more beer.

***

It's Lan Zhan's idea.

Wei Ying is chattering at him before class. He's started getting to class early, the same ten full minutes before it starts that Lan Zhan seems to believe is a requisite. That way he gets to sit next to Lan Zhan, and it's actually sort of nice spending time with him when Lan Zhan isn't doing it out of the goodness of his heart, for a favor. They're just classmates hanging out and talking.

Well, Wei Ying does most of the talking, usually.

He's just babbling about Jiang Cheng. "He came home really late and he was all undone, and Jiang Cheng is serious about his appearance, usually, he's all button up and tucked in, like you." He studies Lan Zhan for a second.

Lan Zhan is wearing a flowy, white sort of poncho-type thing over white jeans. Wei Ying doesn't understand how anyone is brave enough to wear white jeans in the world, he'd spill stuff on them immediately, probably get them stained just by looking at them, but Lan Zhan's are pristine. And snug. He has them tucked into low boots, and those are white too, leather and no heel this time. He's not what you could call buttoned up by any means, but he's together in a way Wei Ying almost never is. Even his earrings go with the outfit, delicate silver hoops that swoop down and flip around, curving back up around the back.

"Okay, not like you, but you know what I mean, he's all precise." He takes a gulp of the coffee he'd picked up on the way over. "But he was unbuttoned and untucked and looked like he's just gotten a concussion but was trying to pretend like he hadn't." That had been it, that vacant, distracted look, so uncommon on Jiang Cheng. "He'd clearly had a good date. Oh, and he made fun of us for being one date behind. He's going out with her again on Saturday so that's going to make him at three, where we'll only be at two when we go out on Saturday."

The class is starting to fill up and Wei Ying looks around, wondering if anyone here thinks he and Lan Zhan are a thing. Maybe. Probably. Wei Ying's always up in Lan Zhan's business now, and he never really used to be. And people could have seen them on campus after that first date. Seen them kissing after that first date. He wonders if Lan Zhan minds. He wonders if Lan Zhan had thought it out, when he'd agreed to this plan, that they'd be in it to trick Jiang Cheng but they'd definitely end up tricking other people in the process.

"We should go together," Lan Zhan says. He's got his laptop open. He's already typed the date at the top of his document.

"What?" Wei Ying had missed something.

"The date," Lan Zhan says. "Their third, our second." He looks at Wei Ying. "It would be an excellent way to show Jiang Cheng that you are adhering to the agreement."

"The pact," Wei Ying corrects automatically. "Wait, you think we should double date with my brother?"

Lan Zhan looks up as the professor walks in and poises his hands over his keyboard. "Yes," he says.

"But—"

Lan Zhan shoots him such a disapproving look that Wei Ying can't help but snap his mouth shut. Lan Zhan really hates side talk in class. He knows that.

But.

Wei Ying squirms his way through class, going through the scenarios in his head and paying even less attention than usual. The professor drops the quiz on them at the end, giving them fifteen minutes to complete it, and even though Wei Ying had again completely forgotten about the quiz by the time he’d arrived in class, he'd done the reading and then been so pissed off by the supercilious attitude of the writer that he'd tracked down three other articles disputing one particular point. He ends up half-assing the multiple choice part, but scrawling five paragraphs in response to the final short answer question, with a neat outline eviscerating the point of the original article.

Lan Zhan is finished before he is, but Lan Zhan is the type to review his answers if he has extra time—which he always does—and by the time Wei Ying is finished with his superlative take-down of the article, the professor dismisses the class, so he's right behind Lan Zhan as they go to drop off their papers with her.

"Listen," Wei Ying says, darting after Lan Zhan as he heads out. "Listen, I've thought about it and you're totally right."

Lan Zhan glances at him as he heads down the corridor at a smooth clip, Wei Ying jogging a little beside him in order to keep up.

"About the double-date," Wei Ying clarifies. "It's good, it's perfect. Jiang Cheng was thrown for such a loop the other night, I'm worried he's going to bail before there's any...follow through." He's not sure what exactly he means by follow through, but he's pretty sure Jiang Cheng doesn't put out on the first date, and probably not the second one either—or the third—and Wei Ying is in this to win this.

For Jiang Cheng.

Lan Zhan nods, making his way down the corridor and pushing open the heavy outer door. He pauses then, holding it open for Wei Ying, waiting for him to go first. Wei Ying darts out, immediately spinning around so he can see Lan Zhan's face. Lan Zhan keeps walking forward, so Wei Ying ends up walking backwards down the broad outer steps that lead to the sidewalk, doing a near-perfect job of keeping his balance. "So we're doing this, right?" He stumbles on the next to last step and Lan Zhan catches his arm, keeping him from toppling over. Lan Zhan's got his hair down today and it falls neatly over his shoulders, the sides tucked back from his face in nearly invisible clips. He's perfect.

"Yes," Lan Zhan says. "I'll make a reservation and send you the details. Seven o'clock is the usual date time, correct?"

"Yes," Wei Ying says. "Yeah, sure, I think that works. Let me text Jiang Cheng. He'll make all sorts of noise about it but he'll definitely give in. I'll let you know if the time won't work, but seven o'clock is definitely Saturday Date Time." He says it so Lan Zhan will hear the capital letters. It's important.

"Noted." Lan Zhan pauses for a moment, his hand still on Wei Ying's arm, even though he's gotten his balance again.

"Okay." Wei Ying looks at him. He's just glowing in the sunlight. Lan Zhan really rocks the all-white look. "Cool. Saturday."

Lan Zhan nods, releases his arm, and says, gravely, "Saturday," before he heads on his way to...wherever perfect, beautiful men who can wear all white and never have a single worry about spilling on it go when they're done with class.

***

Wei Ying wheedles Jiang Cheng into it, because he's the best there is at what he does, and what he does best is convince Jiang Cheng to do all sorts of ill-advised things. "It's a double date! Have you ever been on a double date? I've never been on a double date. It's an experience."

Jiang Cheng doesn't look away from where he's absolutely slaughtering Wei Ying at Counter-Strike, but Wei Ying still feels like he wants to give him a withering look.

"Also," he says, wrinkling his forehead as he tries to control his character on the screen and his brother on the couch at the same time, which is sort of like trying to juggle while you're also cooking dinner, "it'll be easier. Right? You're on your third date with Wen Qing—won't it be good to throw some new things in there? Give you guys more to talk about? Let her get to know you better."

"If you tell Wen Qing anything about me, I will cut your heart out with a rusty spoon," Jiang Cheng says through gritted teeth. His character on the screen pummels Wei Ying's character extremely thoroughly as he says it, lending some veracity to the threat.

Wei Ying tosses his controller down as his character dies on screen and lets his head rest on Jiang Cheng's shoulder. "I'd never tell her anything bad," he promises. "There's nothing bad to tell her. You're the best. She should know you're the best. Does she? She'd better treat you like that."

He tilts his head up to look at Jiang Cheng. Judging by the blush that immediately suffuses his face, Wei Ying thinks that, perhaps, Wen Qing has definitely been treating Jiang Cheng some sort of way. He grins. "Trust me," he says. "It'll be fun. I'll make it fun."

"Please don't." Jiang Cheng looks pained. "Just make it normal."

Wei Ying beams. "I will," he says. "I'll make it so very normal, you won't know what hit you."

Jiang Cheng winces. "Wei Ying," he says.

"Trust me," Wei Ying says cheerfully.

Jiang Cheng groans, but he doesn't say anything else, just picks up the controller, shoves it back in Wei Ying's hands, and starts another game.

Wei Ying grins and settles back, preparing himself to die yet again by his brother's hand.

***

He'd texted Lan Zhan and said, "It's a go!" and attached a sticker with a frog waving a banner that says YAY in big block letters.

Lan Zhan had texted back, "Received."

That's it. Wei Ying had looked at his phone sadly. "He's such a romantic," he'd murmured to himself.

Lan Zhan had sent him the name and address of a restaurant and Wei Ying had meant to look it up, he'd been totally going to look it up, only he'd accidentally stayed up reading until like one in the morning instead, some book that his sociology professor had recommended he read after he had mouthed off in class again and gotten the professor to argue with him about his opinions until class was over and the rest of the students had filed uneasily out while they were still going at it.

So he doesn't remember until like six o'clock on Saturday that he should probably know where they're going and how to get there and stuff like that. He pokes his head into his brother's room, where Jiang Cheng is just out of the shower, standing in front of his open closet door, a towel wrapped around his waist. "Hey, do you know what you're wearing? When are we leaving? Is Wen Qing meeting us there? Did you blow dry your hair?"

Jiang Cheng ignores him. He's definitely blown dry his hair. It's neatly styled and smooth down his back, and even wrapped in a towel, he looks more ready for tonight than Wei Ying does. "What are you wearing? This place is fancy." Jiang Cheng pulls out a shirt, studies it, and puts it back. "Not over the top fancy, but fancy for me." He looks over at Wei Ying, finally. "Fancy for us," he says firmly. "You have to dress up."

"I'm going to dress up," Wei Ying says. "I'd planned on that. I'm sure I have...something." He probably does. He thinks.

"Wen Qing is meeting us there," Jiang Cheng says distractedly. "Get out. I have to get dressed. I need to think."

"Okay." Wei Ying starts for the door. "That's good, she knows Lan Zhan. They can talk about us before we get there." He flashes Jiang Cheng a grin. "Trade stories about what good kissers we are."

Jiang Cheng throws him a startled look. "Go get dressed," he says grimly. "We're getting there early."

***

They do actually manage to get there early, beating Wen Qing but not Lan Zhan. Wei Ying doesn't think it's possible to be earlier than Lan Zhan to anything. He's waiting just inside the restaurant and he looks...sharp. A deep blue button down tucked into trousers that have a crease to them. He's got on the low boots with the heels again, and his legs look a thousand feet long as he stands waiting for them. When they get closer, Wei Ying can see he has studs in his ears this time, diamond ones that Wei Ying has some glimmer of an idea might just be real diamonds.

Wei Ying had managed to pull together an outfit that he thinks looks pretty good for this date. For a Saturday Date Night. It's just dark fitted slacks and a grey sweater, but it comes together pretty well.

"Lan Zhan," he says when he spots him, heading right over.

"Wei Ying." When Wei Ying gets over to him, Lan Zhan takes his hand smoothly. When he looks over at Jiang Cheng, Jiang Cheng has definitely noticed.

He looks pained. "She's going to be here soon—"

"I think she's arrived," Lan Zhan says, nodding at the door.

Jiang Cheng spins around on his heel. Wei Ying sees that Wen Qing is, in fact, coming through the door, and he can't help the low whistle he gives. "You look spectacular," he says when she gets close enough.

"Thank you," she says, then looks over at Lan Zhan, nodding. "Hello."

"It's nice to see you," he says, bowing a little bit.

"You too," she responds distractedly, turning her eyes towards Jiang Cheng. "Jiang Cheng," she says then. She doesn't do anything more than that—she doesn't put her hand in his, or pull him into a kiss, or anything like that, but something about how she looks at him is...smoldering.

Wei Ying blinks. Like, he's known he was right about them, he'd known that, but there is...definite chemistry there.

The double date is...good? He thinks? He thinks maybe the whole double date concept is set up to be slightly awkward, but this seems easy. He's in a good mood and he likes all of these people, so what's to worry about?

Jiang Cheng is a bit stiff, sure, and he seems to not be able to look at Wen Qing head-on—he keeps darting glances over at her from the corner of his eye, but nothing more. From someone who definitely had his shirt untucked by Wen Qing only the other day, he sure looks nervous. That's why Wei Ying had said five dates—he'd done some quick mental math and figured five dates would be what it would take for Jiang Cheng to loosen up enough to believe this was really happening.

"Lan Zhan got me in trouble in class this week," he says cheerfully, because two birds, one stone—if he can annoy both Jiang Cheng and Lan Zhan with it, then he is thriving.

Jiang Cheng barks out a laugh and says, "I seriously doubt that."

Lan Zhan takes another sip of the tea he'd ordered, not even deigning to glance at Wei Ying.

"He did," Wei Ying insists. "He kept distracting me, all throughout class. It was shameless."

Lan Zhan looks at him now, which Wei Ying counts as a win. He's got one eyebrow up, just the slightest bit.

Wei Ying lifts his glass of wine and grins at Lan Zhan over the rim. "Look at him," he says, taking a sip. "He's doing it right now." He takes a sip of wine—it's still so weird to be old enough to actually order wine in a restaurant, like an adult or something. Also, it's so unfair that nice wine tastes so much better than the cheap stuff. He's seen the price of this glass of wine in the menu that's thick enough to be a book and it costs twice as much as he'd ever pay for a whole bottle. Lan Zhan has already established, firmly, that he's paying tonight, since he'd chosen the restaurant. Thank god. "Being too pretty," he clarifies for the group. He shakes his head. "So distracting."

"Please shut up." Jiang Cheng looks pained.

"Never," Wei Ying says with a promise in his voice. "Isn't the whole point of this to get to know each other?"

"No one needs to get to know you," Jiang Cheng says.

"Untrue." Lan Zhan's voice is soft, but his words carry across the table.

"Right." Wei Ying lets his hand slip under the table, squeezing Lan Zhan's thigh, and knowing Jiang Cheng clocks it. "We're brand new at all of this. Lan Zhan knows nothing about me."

Jiang Cheng presses his lips together and casts a pointed look at the spot on Wei Ying's neck that is still mottled and obvious three days after Lan Zhan's mouth had put it there.

"Wen Qing," Wei Ying says quickly, leaning forward over the table. "Tell me something. Do you think Lan Zhan is the prettiest person you've ever seen or what?"

Wen Qing makes eye contact with Lan Zhan across the table and when Wei Ying glances over at him, he's expecting Lan Zhan to be blushing, but instead he just looks sort of...long suffering. The nod Wen Qing gives is a knowing one, and Wei Ying looks back and forth between them, astonished. "Stop that," he demands. "Stop that right away. You two can't be having a silent conversation across the table when you don't even know each other that well. That's entirely unfair."

"We know each other," Wen Qing says. She takes a slow sip of wine and doesn't say anything more.

Wei Ying shoots a look at Lan Zhan, who only nods slightly in agreement.

"Oh my god," Wei Ying says. "You can't just—Jiang Cheng, they can't just do this, right? You have to be on my side about this."

Jiang Cheng isn't paying any attention to this and when Wei Ying looks, he realizes that Wen Qing's other hand is definitely somewhere under the table. He looks at her, and grins, and she gives him a sardonic smile and takes another sip of wine.

He's definitely broken the ice, though. The conversation gets easier after that. He'd known Wen Qing was pre-med but he hadn't known that she'd come to this school to get away from her family. "Other than my brother," she amends. "He's perfect."

Wei Ying has met Wen Ning, and agrees with her. He's a good kid.

She doesn't dwell on it—most of what she says is imparted in short, clipped sentences, her tone very much one of it is what it is. "They are bad people, who do bad things." She raises one finger and the waiter immediately brings her another glass of wine. "Worse, they're all stupid."

"Okay, there has got to be more to the story there," Wei Ying says, leaning forward over the table.

"There is." Wen Qing nods at the waiter when he sets her new wine glass down neatly in front of her. "You can ask your date about it later. Not now. It's deeply boring," she adds as an aside to Jiang Cheng.

Wei Ying shoots a look at Lan Zhan. "You know the story?"

Lan Zhan inclines his head slightly. His lips are a little bit tight and he's looking at Wen Qing. He doesn't look mad, that's not exactly it. It's different than that. "My family," he says carefully, then stops, and raises one finger at the waiter, as well, who swiftly comes over. "May I have a glass of what he's drinking?" he asks, gesturing at Wei Ying's wine. "And another one for him." He looks over at Wen Qing. "Actually, let's just order a bottle."

Wei Ying feels his eyes grow wide and he makes eye contact with Jiang Cheng. He's seen what a bottle of that wine costs. Jiang Cheng makes a be cool face at him, which is honestly hilarious, because no one has ever in their human lifetime been less capable of cool than Jiang Cheng.

Lan Zhan lets the silence sit until the bottle arrives. Wen Qing seems content with it as well, and Wei Ying is too busy having his own silent conversation with Jiang Cheng to feel a particular need to fill the quiet. They wait as the waiter shows Lan Zhan the label, opens the bottle, and pours a small amount into Lan Zhan's glass. He sips it, nods his approval, and the waiter fills his glass. Wei Ying's empty glass is swiftly removed and replaced with a fresh one, which the waiter fills with alacrity. Wen Qing is still drinking hers, her glass half full. Jiang Cheng looks at his glass, still mostly full, like he wishes it were a beer.

"My family," Lan Zhan says again, holding the stem of his glass in his hand, studying the wine in it, "were involved in the discovery of, and response to, certain activities the Wen family had been involved in."

Wen Qing is watching him over the rim of her glass. She doesn't look angry, just curious.

Lan Zhan is silent for a long moment. "It was not handled well. The actions of a portion of one's family do not—and should not—color everyone who happens to bear that name." He's looking at Wen Qing again.

Her look is sharp—Wei Ying has always thought she could slice through you like a knife with just a look—and she inclines her head slightly. "And that," she says smoothly, "is enough of that. It's not my favorite story." This last part she says to Jiang Cheng. He's watching her now, and he doesn't look as tense or nervous anymore. His eyes look soft, like he understands what's going on here.

Wei Ying glances at Lan Zhan and then back at his brother and Wen Qing. Jiang Cheng puts his hand on Wen Qing's and she allows it. It's...sweet. It's what Wei Ying had been hoping for. It's weird.

Lan Zhan lifts his wine glass by the stem and looks at it.

"You don't have to drink," Wei Ying murmurs. He knows Lan Zhan usually doesn't. He's seen him turn down drink after drink at parties.

"I know," Lan Zhan says, and takes a sip. "It's good wine." He looks sad, but only if you look close—the corner of his mouth is tugging down the slightest amount. Wei Ying hasn't seen this look on him before.

"It is good wine." Wei Ying says it firmly, to the table at large. "And look, here's our food. Let's eat. Wen Qing, did I ever tell you about the time that Jiang Cheng ordered extra spicy noodles by accident and didn't know until he was eating them?"

"I will murder you in your sleep," Jiang Cheng grits out at him.

"You can try," Wei Ying shoots back cheerfully. He lets himself slouch against Lan Zhan, bumping his shoulder and looking up at him. Lan Zhan's cheeks are red already, flushed with even just the one sip of wine. "You'd protect me, right, baby?"

Lan Zhan's cheeks get even more red—it's fascinating to watch the rush of color. "Yes," he says. "I would. I will."

Wei Ying grins and reaches up to pat Lan Zhan’s cheek, glancing across the table to see if Jiang Cheng is taken in by his A-plus flirting technique. Jiang Cheng isn't even looking at him—he's topping up Wen Qing's glass from the bottle. The look on his face is—well, Wei Ying will just say that he was totally right about Jiang Cheng and Wen Qing, and if this is the vibe between them on date number three, then they might be engaged by date number four.

***

Turns out Lan Zhan is a complete lightweight when it comes to alcohol. He gets loose and even funnier than usual, unbends so he's actually resting his elbows on the table. Wei Ying snags the glass of wine from him easily when it's nearly done, finishing it before Lan Zhan even notices—he definitely doesn't need more than a glass, as tipsy as he is.

He's not an embarrassing sort of tipsy, just...hyper focused and maybe a little bit maudlin. They wrap things up right after dinner—there's a smoldering heat between Wen Qing and Jiang Cheng across the table that seems like something they're going to need to take care of right away. Lan Zhan is unfocused and slouching—it's good, this time he won't argue when Wei Ying insists on walking him home.

He does pay the check, moving more swiftly than Wei Ying would have thought he was capable of in order to do so. "My treat," he says firmly to the table at large, and the intensity of how he says it quells any arguments that might be made, Jiang Cheng settling back with his hands raised.

They say goodbye just outside the restaurant door. It's gotten chilly again, much colder than when they'd arrived. "It feels like it might snow," Wei Ying says, peering up at the dark sky.

"It's too early for snow," Jiang Cheng says, but there's no heat behind it—he's clearly distracted by Wen Qing. He's gazing down at her like she holds the answers to the universe.

"Thank you for dinner," Wen Qing is looking steadily at Lan Zhan. "I appreciate it."

There isn't any tone to it, but Wei Ying isn't entirely positive they're still talking about dinner.

Lan Zhan gives a short nod and waits until Jiang Cheng and Wen Qing walk away to turn towards Wei Ying. He's gazing at him, his face is still flushed.

"You really don't drink much usually, do you?" Wei Ying says teasingly.

Lan Zhan shakes his head slowly. "I do not." He's still looking at Wei Ying. "I'm sorry."

"Don't be sorry." Wei Ying tucks Lan Zhan's arm through his. "Let's get you home."

"I'll call a car." Lan Zhan fumbles for his phone.

"You don't have to," Wei Ying says, glancing around. "We could walk, or find a bus, or—"

He's too late, Lan Zhan has already done it and is putting his phone away. "Just a few minutes," he says. He's blinking down at Wei Ying and he looks a little sleepy, now, and a lot buzzed, and it's really fucking cute to see Lan Zhan all undone like this.

"Come here," Wei Ying says, reaching for Lan Zhan. His coat is still open—he'd slid on a long, dark coat after dinner, flawless and perfect, swirling around him as he'd settled it into place. Wei Ying starts buttoning it up, tucking Lan Zhan's scarf in place underneath it. "This coat makes you look ridiculously tall, did you know that? I mean, you are ridiculously tall, that's just a point of fact, but this makes you look even taller, and no one needs that. There." He pats Lan Zhan on the chest. "Now you're warm."

"Wei Ying." Lan Zhan's just looking at him.

"Lan Zhan," Wei Ying says, echoing his tone. He glances around, tugs Lan Zhan to follow. "There's a wall here, come sit down, the car will be here soon and we can—"

When he turns around, Lan Zhan is right there, so close to him, and then he's kissing Wei Ying, intent and a little messier than usual, softer, and the same flood of warmth that Wei Ying has come to expect suffuses his whole body. Wei Ying allows himself to get lost in the kiss for an endless moment before pushing Lan Zhan back a little bit. "How do you do that," he asks.

Lan Zhan makes a protesting sound in his throat, trying to kiss him again, and Wei Ying laughs, just a little. "Did you forget?" he says gently. "Jiang Cheng already left. You don't have to—"

Lan Zhan blinks at him. He's not listening. He raises his hand to brush Wei Ying's cheek, then clumsily tucks his hair behind his ear, just like a boyfriend would. Wei Ying looks at him, feels Lan Zhan's thumb move to trace along his jawline, then brush over his lips, and—

"Oh, look, the car's here!" Wei Ying grabs Lan Zhan's hand, squeezes it in his own. "Come on, let's go home, okay?"

Lan Zhan lets Wei Ying help him clamber into the backseat of the car. It's not that long of a ride to Lan Zhan's dorm, but it seems longer with Lan Zhan sort of boneless, sitting so close that he's half-leaning on Wei Ying. He's got his hand resting heavy on Wei Ying's thigh and he keeps tilting his face towards Wei Ying's, like he's watching him in the light of the streetlights as they flicker by.

Wei Ying takes a deep breath and fixes Lan Zhan's hair for him, where it's fallen forward into his eyes. Wei Ying has had his own fair share of wine, as well—he's no lightweight when it comes to it, not like his friend here, but the wine had been rich, and good, and it's buzzing in his veins, making him feel like he's really got to sober up and be the responsible one here.

The car pulls up in front of Lan Zhan's dorm and Wei Ying thanks the driver with a grin. He tugs Lan Zhan out of the car and gets him upstairs with not too much of a problem.

Lan Zhan's room is dark and chilly when they get in, and Wei Ying fumbles to get the lamp on the desk turned on. Lan Zhan is just standing beside him, not wavering, but waiting. He blinks sleepily at Wei Ying when he finally gets the light on and Wei Ying can't help but laugh a little, again. "Look at me," he says, as he tugs Lan Zhan's coat and scart off, draping them neatly over the desk chair. "Not only did I get you drunk, I kept you out past your bedtime. What kind of a boyfriend am I, huh?" He shrugs his own coat off and drapes it over Lan Zhan's.

Lan Zhan is still quiet,, and passive, letting Wei Ying help him out of his shoes. Wei Ying slips his own off, so he can help Lan Zhan pad across the room. "Hang on, let me just—" He manages to get the duvet pushed back and he sits Lan Zhan down on the edge of the bed. "You should probably get changed, but I will tell you something: I am not man enough to help you with that." He's not. He's really, really not going to think for even a moment about the idea of helping Lan Zhan out of his shirt, out of his pants, he— "Nope," he says again. "You can change the sheets in the morning. I bet you're the type who has, like, multiple sets of sheets, right?"

Lan Zhan gives him a puzzled look and Wei Ying shrugs. "I only have one set," he says. "I have to wash them and then put them back on if I want to go to sleep that night."

Lan Zhan's eyes get that concerned line in between them and Wei Ying gives in to his impulse and smoothes it out with his thumb. Lan Zhan will never remember. "Okay, stay there, let me just..."

Lan Zhan has a mini-fridge, because of course he does, and inside Wei Ying finds bottled water, as he'd hoped. He grabs one and twists it open as he heads back to Lan Zhan. "Hey, hey, don't get lazy on me," he says, grabbing Lan Zhan from where he'd started to sink sideways against his pillow. He takes a quick gulp out of the bottle before holding it out towards Lan Zhan. "You've got to drink this whole thing."

Lan Zhan gazes at the bottle, then looks up at Wei Ying.

"Okay, wow." Wei Ying pushes the covers a little further away and sits down next to Lan Zhan on the bed. "Here." He puts the bottle in Lan Zhan's hand, makes sure his fingers are wrapped securely around it before letting it go. "Drink."

Lan Zhan does, dutifully. He watches Wei Ying as he does so.

"You're pretty cute when you're like this, did you know?" Wei Ying tells him. "All loose and sleepy."

Lan Zhan's forehead wrinkles again and Wei Ying gives him a smile. "That's a good thing," he says. "Okay, let's get you to sleep."

He nudges at Lan Zhan's shoulder and that's pretty much all it takes for Lan Zhan to lie down with a gentle thump. He's got his head—mostly—on the pillow and he curls his legs up and lets Wei Ying tuck him in. Wei Ying sits down beside him for a moment. He's quieter when he's tipsy this, more so even than usual. His eyes keep falling shut but when Wei Ying says, "Okay, I'm going to head out," his hand curls around his sleeve and tugs at him until he's sitting next to him again.

"I guess you want me to stay for a little bit?" Wei Ying looks at him.

"Yes." It's the first thing Lan Zhan has said in a while, and he says it firmly. Guess Wei Ying is staying, for a little bit.

Lan Zhan's hair is up in a half-ponytail, which looks uncomfortable. When Wei Ying carefully tugs the hair tie out, Lan Zhan allows it. He's still looking at Wei Ying in the dim light of the desk lamp. Wei Ying gives into the impulse to push his fingers into Lan Zhan's hair now that it's down, rubbing his fingers over his scalp where the ponytail had been, the way Wei Ying himself likes it when he's sleepy and drunk.

Lan Zhan makes a soft sound and shifts back a little in his bed. "Were we....convincing?" he asks.

Wei Ying looks down at him puzzedly. "Hm?"

"Your brother," Lan Zhan says. "Did we. Convince him."

"Oh." Wei Ying yawns a little. "You shouldn't worry about that right now."

Lan Zhan gets the line between his eyes again. "We didn't?" he asks. He sounds sad.

"No, no." Wei Ying laughs a little, and settles next to Lan Zhan, resting his elbow on the pillow and letting his socked feet curl up on the bed away from the cold floor. "We did, we totally did. Didn't you see him when I called you 'baby'? He looked like an angry cat."

"Ah." Lan Zhan's eyes slide shut, then open again. "Well. Good."

"I know." Wei Ying watches as he blinks at him sleepily. "You did good. It was great. I never want to go on a double date again."

"Nor do I." Lan Zhan murmurs it against the pillow, but he still sounds profoundly certain, the same way Wei Ying feels.

"Why do people do it?" Wei Ying yawns again, letting his elbow slide down so his head is resting against his arm, there on Lan Zhan's pillow. "You see it all the time in movies. It's supposed to be fun. Instead it's all...weird."

"Weird," Lan Zhan mumbles. He reaches out, fumbling until he finds Wei Ying's sleeve again. He wraps his fingers around it, his eyes blinking open to look at Wei Ying. "So weird."

"So weird." Wei Ying watches as Lan Zhan's eyes slide close, and stay that way. He yawns again. He'll stay until Lan Zhan's breathing evens out, until he's really asleep, and then he'll head out. The buses are running, still—it's not late-late, it's just Lan Zhan-late. He wonders if Jiang Cheng will be there when he gets home, or if he'll still be out with Wen Qing. Wen Qing doesn't seem like an early-to-bed person. He'll still be out, probably. Wei Ying will wait up for him, just to annoy him. He'll like that.

***

There's sunlight streaming in when Wei Ying blinks his eyes open. Did he not close his shades last night? He always closes his shades. What time is it? Did he—

Oh.

Fuck. He's—fuck. He focuses. Lan Zhan is beside him. Asleep.

Lan Zhan is asleep beside him. In the same bed. Lan Zhan's bed. Where they both slept.

Fuck.

Wei Ying pushes himself to sitting, scrubbing his hand through his hair. He fell asleep? He fell asleep. He's—it's got to be, like, dawn out. The sunlight coming in through the window is early morning pale and it's hitting him right in the eye and—

Lan Zhan shifts a little beside him.

Wei Ying freezes, his hand still in his hair, his face turned away. He closes his eyes, like he can hide like this, like if he just doesn't look, then Lan Zhan won't—

"Wei Ying." Lan Zhan says it just like that, but it still comes as a question.

"Ha," Wei Ying says. "Ha, guess what? I fell asleep. I guess. I didn't mean to, I was just waiting for you to go to sleep, but then I did, too? I guess. In your bed. With you. As you can see." He's babbling. He knows he is, but he can't seem to stop. He presses his lips together and gives it a shot.

"I see," Lan Zhan says slowly. He pushes himself to sitting, the covers pooling around him. His shirt is rumpled, the collar half turned up, and his hair is messed up from sleeping and—oh right, Wei Ying had rubbed his fingers through it last night. Right.

Please don't remember that," he thinks desperately. Please.

Lan Zhan's looking at him with odd intensity. "I...drank wine last night," he says uncertainly.

"Just a glass," Wei Ying says, "but it hit you pretty hard."

Lan Zhan winces—it's slight, but Wei Ying clocks it. "I have a low tolerance for alcohol." He pauses. "Very low. I...don't remember much about last night. I truly apologize if I embarrassed you in front of your brother."

"You didn't," Wei Ying says. "You really didn't, I promise, neither of them noticed. By the time the bottle was done, they only had eyes for each other."

Lan Zhan winces again and slowly brings his hands up to his face, pressing them over his eyes.

"You were fine," Wei Ying says quickly. "I promise, I swear, you didn't do anything embarrassing! Honestly, that's the good of having me around, I'm embarrassing by nature, I take up all the embarrassing there is, no one's ever going to even look at you if that's what you're worried about."

"Did I—" Lan Zhan hesitates, then straightens his shoulders. "Did I do anything untoward? To you?"

"Untoward." Wei Ying rolls that around in his mouth a little. "That's a good word. No, Lan Zhan, you did nothing untoward. You were perfect. You even kissed me, outside the restaurant, just like a real date would have. Jiang Cheng had already left—possibly to get sexually wrecked by Wen Qing, if the way they were looking at each other is anything to go by—so he missed it, but trust me, it was just perfect."

"Perfect," Lan Zhan repeats dully. Wei Ying bets he has a headache. Wei Ying pushes himself off the bed and goes to snag another bottle of water out of the mini-fridge.

"Here," Wei Ying says, pushing it into Lan Zhan's hands. Lan Zhan takes it, holding it loosely in his lap. "Do you have aspirin? You probably do. I keep meaning to carry some with me, but I obviously keep forgetting, because of who I am as a person."

Lan Zhan just stares at him.

"So, do you? Aspirin? For your head?" Wei Ying is hovering between the bed and the rest of the room, ready to move in any direction to fetch the aspirin.

"My head is fine," Lan Zhan says finally. "And please let me apologize for drinking too much. Even if it was a faux date, it's still not appropriate behavior." He pushes the covers back, frowns down at his trousers, with the crease nowhere near as sharp as it had been.

"I know," Wei Ying says. "I know, outside clothes in bed, it's gross, but I wasn't going to undress you, so it was sort of the only option." He watches as Lan Zhan pushes himself to his feet. "I told you that you could change the sheets today," he says then. "You were okay with it."

"It's fine," Lan Zhan says. "I'm— Thank you. Thank you for making sure I got home, and to bed."

"Not a problem!" Wei Ying makes sure he says it cheerfully. "I didn't mind at all. You'd have done the same for me. Though you probably wouldn't have fallen asleep by accident." He grins at Lan Zhan. "Sorry I'm such a dope. I must have been sleepier than I thought. Or maybe I'm just not used to good wine. The cheap stuff doesn't knock me out like that, I tell you what."

Lan Zhan, even in his last night's crumpled clothes, with his hair made messy by Wei Ying's fingers, still looks more together than Wei Ying ever will. Or maybe not more together, exactly, but better. Even hungover, even at this hour in the morning, even pre-caffeine and post-not-enough-sleep, he looks good.

Wei Ying gives into his impulse without thinking about it and steps forward, leaning to kiss Lan Zhan on the cheek quickly.

"That was for being such a gentleman last night," he says, teasing, because of course Lan Zhan was a gentleman, what else could he possibly be? "I'm sorry I took advantage and slept with you."

Lan Zhan's face goes flamingly red so fast Wei Ying's a little surprised he doesn't pass out from it.

"Slept in your bed with you," Wei Ying clarifies, and laughs, even as he feels a blush rising in his cheeks as well. "Sorry. Okay, I'll get out of your hair." He looks around, grabs his phone off the desk, and slips his feet into his shoes by the door. "Okay. Well. I'm off to find some coffee. You're good, right? You don't need...anything?"

Lan Zhan nods stiffly. He's still got the unopened water bottle clutched in his hand. "I don't need anything," he says. "Thank you again."

"Gosh," Wei Ying says as he opens the door. "I'm telling you, such a gentleman." He gives Lan Zhan another grin over his shoulder and heads out.

Chapter Text

He gets the biggest coffee they will sell him from the nearest coffee shop, even though it's the expensive one. He drinks the whole thing by the time he gets to the cheap coffee place by their apartment and he buys another one for himself and one for Jiang Cheng as well, because he's a nice brother who does nice things.

And maybe because it will offset the inadvertent—and unearned—walk of shame he's doing.

He shuts the door to the apartment carefully behind himself and leans against it for a moment, both cups of coffee clutched against his chest. The place is quiet—he's pretty sure he hasn't exactly gotten away with it, but if Jiang Cheng is still asleep, maybe Wei Ying can sell it like he came home just real late and...got up early to get coffee? That doesn't make any sense. Should he just drink both their coffees before Jiang Cheng wakes up? That might be his best plan.

The door shoves open behind him and he doesn't drop the coffees, but that's only because he clutches them against his chest hard enough that they both overflow onto his shirt. He stumbles forward, yelping, as Jiang Cheng pushes in through the door.

"What the hell?" Jiang Cheng demands. He looks flushed and his eyes are shifty. "What are you doing? Why are you here?"

"I got coffee." Wei Ying gingerly pushes one of the cups at his brother—the lid is half off now, and dripping down his hand, but it's still more full than not. "Now you say thank you."

Jiang Cheng rolls his eyes instead of saying thank you, but he does take the cup, frowning as it drips down his fingers. "Why are you in the doorway? Why are you even up, it's—"'

"I'm not, I'm not." Wei Ying starts to beat a hasty retreat to his bedroom. "I just wanted coffee, I have so much homework to do, I decided to get a hard start."

"Why are you in last night's—" Jiang Cheng cuts himself off and focuses down on his coffee instead, as he bangs the door shut behind him and starts to toe his shoes off. "Fine, go."

Wei Ying breathes a sigh of relief and then stops, and about-faces in the hallway. "Wait. Wait. Why are you just getting home? You're just getting home? Where were you? Wait, dumb question, oh my god." He can't stop the wide smile that spreads across his face. "Jiang Cheng," he breathes. "Tell me everything."

"I'm not telling you anything." Jiang Cheng is fixing his coffee lid, using every bit of focus he has on it apparently, refusing to look at Wei Ying. "Nothing happened, I just—nothing happened, we were just—"

Wei Ying is so happy. He can't stop beaming.

"Stop making that face." Jiang Cheng looks up at him, finally, glowering. "Why are you in last night's clothes, why are you up, did you—"

"I just pulled them on when I went to get coffee," Wei Ying says cheerfully. "And now I'm covered it in, because you banged the door into me. I smell like a coffee shop. I don't hate it."

Jiang Cheng just looks at him.

Wei Ying makes steady eye contact and Jiang Cheng finally blows his breath out through his nose and says, "I'm going back to bed."

"Back to bed?" Wei Ying says archly.

"Shut up," Jiang Cheng shoves past him in the hall.

"Okay." Wei Ying is still grinning as Jiang Cheng slams the door to his room shut. Jiang Cheng spent the night with Wen Qing. Sounds like their third date went exactly like it was supposed to. And Jiang Cheng will tell him everything. Wei Ying will make it happen.

He heads, whistling, to his own room, to peel off his coffee-soaked shirt and hey, he might actually get some homework done. He went to sleep earlier last night than he has in...possibly ever. He feels pretty good about it, all things considered. He really does, he tells himself again, have the best plans.

***

"So he did get laid, or he didn't?" Nie Huaisang is studying the contents of his refrigerator carefully as he asks the question over his shoulder.

Wei Ying wraps his feet around the legs of the stool he's sitting in at the big island in the kitchen. "Uncertain. Depends on the definition of getting laid."

"Hmm." Nie Huisang seems uninspired by the possible snacks in the fridge and comes back empty-handed to drape himself in the stool next to Wei Ying. "Say more about that."

Wei Ying sighs, and feels like it echoes in the huge kitchen. Nie Huaisang's brother must be rolling in it, to afford this place. It's easily three times the size of the apartment Wei Ying shares with Jiang Cheng, and Wei Ying happens to know that Nie Mingjue owns it. He's such a grown-up.

"He could still form coherent sentences," Wei Ying explains. "Don't you think that being with Wen Qing would leave you unable to even speak?"

Nie Huaisang nods thoughtfully. "When you're right, you're right."

"I know it." Wei Ying rests his chin on his hands. "It's only a matter of time, though. He spent the night with her. He told me they kissed for hours."

"Just kissed?" Nie Huaisang asks.

"I asked the same thing, but he just smacked me, hard, and wouldn't give me any more details." He'd blushed, though, hugely, and that means...

"Handjob?" Nie Huaisang says after a thoughtful silence.

"I'm guessing," Wei Ying agrees.

They sit quietly for a moment, then Nie Huaisang's expression grows focused. "I heard somebody say something, though," he says.

"Oh?" Wei Ying leans forward a little.

"I heard somewhere, I can't remember from who, but that someone saw you doing what can only be described as a walk of shame the other morning." He gets off his stool, sliding to the floor with a thump. "From the dorm room belonging to none other than Lan Zhan. Do you want some tea? I'm going to make some tea." He flips on the electric kettle.

"It wasn't a walk of shame, oh my god!" Wei Ying bursts out, just as Nie Mingjue walks into the kitchen. "Oh, hi," he says.

Nie Mingjue completely ignores both of them. He grabs a bottle of water out of the fridge and stands there, drinking the whole thing in several long swallows, his head tilted back as he does so. He's in workout clothes, and still sweaty, clearly having come from the workout room he's set up in the basement. He finishes the bottle, puts it by the sink, and ruffles Nie Huaisang's hair as he heads back out, saying, "Hey" to Wei Ying as he does so.

"Stop!" Nie Huaisang fretfully pets his hair back into place, then looks at Wei Ying. "Oh my god," he says to him. "I can't believe you're cheating on Lan Zhan already."

"I'm not!" Wei Ying says. "I'm not—hey, we're not dating, so it's not cheating, but also, I was just...looking." He clears his throat. "Respectfully."

"I hate you." Nie Huaisang says it matter of factly. "So much. Also, if you want someone to toss you around, Lan Zhan can definitely toss you around. I've been in a yoga class with him. He's strong as fuck."

"You've been in yoga class with him?" Wei Ying asks. That's interesting. That's just. Very interesting. "What does he wear? What do you mean, strong? What does he do? Wait. You do yoga?"

Nie Huaisang shrugs a little. "I said I've been in a yoga class, not that I 'do' yoga. I got all sweaty. I didn't like it."

Wei Ying waits for a beat. "Okay, I don't care about that, tell me the Lan Zhan stuff."

"He wears shorts that fit him like a glove, and a sleeveless top." Nie Huaisang ticks off the points on his fingers. "He can do a headstand like it's nothing. I've even seen him do a handstand like it's nothing." He gets up as the kettle finishes heating up with a click. "His shirt slips up when he does it," he says over his shoulder. "Caf or decaf?"

"Caf," Wei Ying says faintly. He can't believe he's spent the night with Lan Zhan and still Nie Huaisang has seen his abs before Wei Ying has. He knows Lan Zhan has muscles, he's felt them when they've been...practicing, but he hasn't seen them. "He's one of those guys who looks like he could be soft, you know? Those clothes he wears, how they make him look like some kind of...angel. But underneath it all—"

"A six-pack," Nie Huaisang confirms.

Wei Ying makes a small noise in his throat.

"Exactly." Nie Huaisang sets a cup of tea down in front of Wei Ying. "I'm telling you."

***

Wei Ying hasn't exactly been avoiding Lan Zhan, but he also hasn't seen him since he'd left him in his dorm room way too early on Sunday morning. He knows he has to see him again—they have three dates to go and Jiang Cheng is holding him to that—but also he feels a little weird about how they left it. Lan Zhan had seemed embarrassed, and Lan Zhan should never have to feel that way.

He doesn't want to wait until after class on Thursday. He doesn't want to let it linger. He feels like he needs to take care of it now.

He texts him without letting himself think about it. Lan Zhan! Are you busy?

Lan Zhan texts back almost immediately. What do you need?

Which is fair. Wei Ying respects him not committing to anything before he knows what it is. A third date," he types back.

Noted, Lan Zhan responds. When is a good time?

I'm outside your dorm. Wei Ying attaches a sticker of a cat peering through binoculars. Are you home? He's pretty sure he's home. He's got a copy of Lan Zhan's schedule. Nie Huaisang had sent it to him when he mentioned wishing he knew it. He doesn't want to know how Nie Huaisang got it.

There's a somewhat longer pause before Lan Zhan responds. I'll meet you at the front door.

Wei Ying grins and shoves his phone in his pocket. He arranges the tray from the bakery carefully, holding it in front of himself, and places himself to good advantage near the front door, so that Lan Zhan will spot him right away.

Lan Zhan's eyebrow goes up when he sees him, and he holds the door open so Wei Ying can scoot by. "I brought snacks," Wei Ying explains as they head up to Lan Zhan's room. "I wasn't sure what you liked, but I took a guess."

Lan Zhan is silent on the way up, and holds open the door to his dorm room just as he did the front door, so Wei Ying can ease in.

"Here." Wei Ying clears a space on Lan Zhan's desk with his elbow so he can put the tray down. Lan Zhan moves forward and stacks the papers he'd pushed aside more neatly before tucking them away. "Oh fuck, sorry," Wei Ying says. "I didn't mean to mess up your system."

"It's fine." Lan Zhan is watching him curiously. "You brought...snacks."

"Oh right!" Wei Ying refocuses. "Okay, look, I have a green tea for you—it's cold out today, so I got it hot instead of iced, I hope that's okay. And I went to that Chinese bakery, you know the one, just off of campus? I got all the best-looking pastries from the display. Here, look!" He holds the bag open so Lan Zhan can peek in. "You pick first, I got these for you."

Lan Zhan reaches for the bag, and Wei Ying hands it over, leaning back against Lan Zhan's desk and cracking open his own coffee so he can take a sip. He watches as Lan Zhan looks into the bag for...longer than it should take to pick out a pastry before he slowly reaches in and extracts one.

"Oh, good," Wei Ying nods encouragingly. "Honestly, their steamed buns are the best. They're so light. So many other places get them all dense and chewy. You should try it." He slides out of his coat and puts it over Lan Zhan's desk chair.

Lan Zhan holds the bun in his hand and passes the bag back to Wei Ying. Wei Ying grabs a mango roll cake out of it and holds it up to Lan Zhan like a toast.

Lan Zhan gravely holds his bun up for Wei Ying to bump against, and then takes a bite. "It's very good," he says.

"Ah, good." Wei Ying starts in on the mango roll. "Anyway," he says. "So, look. It's you and me, and," he gestures at the bag of pastries, and at their two drinks, "a meal." He looks at Lan Zhan meaningfully. "This might just count as a date, right? A third date?"

"Ah." Lan Zhan takes another careful bite of his bun and chews it slowly. "Is that the criteria?"

"Well." Wei Ying finishes his roll and brushes off his hands on his jeans. "I mean, basically. Dates can be at—" He glances down at his phone. "Two thirty in the afternoon. And dates can be casual." He gestures at his outfit, which consists of jeans that probably could have used a wash two wears ago and a hoodie that is, in fact, freshly cleaned, zipped over a t-shirt. "And you always look like you're ready for a date."

Lan Zhan looks down at himself and then up at Wei Ying. "This is extremely casual." He sounds almost offended. It's really cute.

"It is one hundred percent not." Lan Zhan has on a hoodie in this light blue color that looks like the late fall sky. It's a little oversized, so it goes down to nearly his thighs. It's pullover, not zip-up, and it looks incredibly soft, and the hood of it falls in neat curves behind his head like he's been styled that way. He's got jogging pants on, deep grey, that fit him perfectly. It is exactly what Lan Zhan would consider casual. It probably cost more than Wei YIng's rent. He looks like a model.

"It's loungewear." Lan Zhan eats the rest of his bun in three quick bites and takes a sip of his tea.

Wei Ying has never heard anyone say loungewear in such an exasperated tone. He grins. "I bet it is," he says in agreement. "Anyway, my point is, you look great—and comfortable," he adds quickly. "And I look, well, okay, by the third date, I'd probably want you to get used to me as I am, so I look like this, so this counts, okay?"

Lan Zhan takes another sip of tea. "It counts," he agrees.

"Great." Lan Zhan looks at him. "Do you want to sit down?" They're both sort of just hovering where they are—Wei Ying is leaning back against Lan Zhan's desk, still, and Lan Zhan is in the middle of the room, tea in his hands, looking—

"Is that hoodie as soft as it looks?" Wei Ying demands. "It looks like a cloud."

Lan Zhan glances down at the hoodie, then back up, holding out his arm towards Wei Ying.

Wei Ying sets down his coffee and wipes his hands off on his jeans before touching it. He moans. "Oh my god, it is. It is as soft as it looks. What the fuck." He's got his hand wrapped around Lan Zhan's arm, and the sleeve is so, so soft, it's ridiculous, how do they even make clothes this soft? "This is impossible," he says, moving closer. "I want to wrap myself in it. How much did this cost? No, don't tell me, it'll just make me want to go buy a knock-off and then I'll be disappointed for the rest of my life." Lan Zhan's lips quirk a little. Wei Ying grins up at him. "You think I'm joking."

"No," Lan Zhan says. "I know you're serious."

"I'm a very serious person, Lan Zhan," Wei Ying says. "I'm glad you know that about me. Listen, hear me out: can you hug me in this ridiculous hoodie for a minute? Just for a minute. I've always wondered what it would be like to be wrapped in a cloud."

Lan Zhan hesitates.

"It's a third date, Lan Zhan," Wei Ying says firmly. "Technically."

"Technically," Lan Zhan echoes. He sets down his tea and wraps his arms around Wei Ying.

"Oh no," Wei Ying moans, pressing his face against the softness, resting it against Lan Zhan's shoulder. "I can never unknow this."

"Mn." Lan Zhan's arms are firmly around him, holding him close. It's...a really good hug. All of the muscles in Wei Ying's back untense at the same time and he can't help the tiny shudder that goes through his body as they do so. "Sorry," he mumbles against Lan Zhan's chest. "This is just...so warm and. So good. Do it tighter."

Lan Zhan hesitates again, but when Wei Ying begs, "Please," he does it. His arms wrap around Wei Ying's shoulders more tightly and bring him closer into the cloud hug, and then he's pulling Wei Ying forward and drawing him down until—oh, he's sitting his his big, soft chair, in his big, soft hoodie, and he's tugging Wei Ying into his lap and— "Okay, that's good," Wei Ying moans. "This is good."

"Mn," Lan Zhan says again. He's looking up at Wei Ying and he still looks slightly hesitant.

"Honestly," Wei Ying assures him, sitting back a little so he can be sure Lan Zhan understands. "It's really..."

Lan Zhan is just looking at him. He's so beautiful, how did Wei Ying ever swing this deal? He's so beautiful, and so warm underneath Wei Ying's hands, his thighs, everywhere he's pressed against Lan Zhan's stupid, soft, expensive outfit.

"This is just really..." Wei Ying tries again, but he has to stop and swallow before he can continue. "So soft and." He's looking at Lan Zhan's mouth. "And."

"And," Lan Zhan says.

"And," Wei Ying says helplessly, and then he's kissing him. Fuck. Fuck, that's so much. Lan Zhan is wrapping his arms around him and pulling him forward and he's holding him close but it's not like the way they were hugging. It's heated and intense, and it tastes like green tea and pastries. The kisses are as soft as the touch of the hoodie underneath Wei Ying's hands until they aren't, until they turn harder, fiercer. Wei Ying thinks he's the one who does that, he doesn't know, he's dizzy with it. He's hitching himself forward, sliding closer, losing himself in it. Lan Zhan's holding him so tight and oh, fuck, he's making these small sounds in between the kisses that are just sending shots of heat through Wei Ying's entire body.

Wei Ying pulls back, panting for breath, looking down at Lan Zhan. "I," he says. "Can we—" He should shut up. He needs to shut up. "There's." He gulps, and shuts himself up by kissing Lan Zhan again, falling into it. It cycles back up again, hot and real and desperate and. "Bed," Wei Ying says, pulling back again. "Can we—your bed, it's right there, and I want—"

Lan Zhan nods, several times. On anyone else, it would be frantic. Wei Ying starts to scramble backwards off of Lan Zhan's lap, but Lan Zhan just hitches him closer—Wei Ying's eyes flutter shut at the feel of that—and lifts him, standing up and taking three short steps before tumbling him to the bed.

Wei Ying's heart is beating so hard he thinks he might die from it. That was so hot. Lan Zhan had lifted him like he was nothing. "Yes." Wei Ying drags Lan Zhan down on top of him. "Yes." He can't stop saying it. "Come here, come closer, I want—" He kisses Lan Zhan again, hard, and opens himself up to Lan Zhan's tongue, to Lan Zhan's hot, wet kisses. This is why people date, Wei Ying thinks dizzily. If it comes along with this, why do people ever do anything else?

He spreads his legs around Lan Zhan, dragging Lan Zhan closer by draping his thighs over his hip. It's a big mistake. Lan Zhan is right up against him and Wei Ying is harder than he's ever been in his life. He's gotten hard with Lan Zhan before, of course he has, but he's managed to—mostly—keep from pressing it against him, keeping things relatively appropriate. With Lan Zhan's hot weight against him and Wei Ying somehow just wrapping both thighs around him as tight as he can—he can't seem to stop—this has skidded way, way past appropriate.

"Fuck," Wei Ying says, pushing his hands into Lan Zhan's hair. "Fuck, fuck, you're—" Lan Zhan is hard, too, and he's not trying to hide it either. Not that he stands any chance of that from the way Wei Ying has him trapped between his legs. He's rocking forward against Wei Ying, or Wei Ying is rocking up against him, he doesn't know. Maybe both, maybe it's both of them. It's the best Wei Ying has ever felt in his life, he wants to stay lost in this, wants to live the rest of his life here with Lan Zhan between his thighs, moaning against his mouth.

He rolls them over, he can't help it, his whole body just wants to move, wants more. He's on top of Lan Zhan and fuck, Lan Zhan is hard against him, in his soft, expensive sweatpants. Wei Ying slides off to the side a little, so he can just—he wants to just— He brings his hand down to press against Lan Zhan through the soft fabric of his pants. Lan Zhan gasps, loud, and his hips go up, pressing his dick—that's Lan Zhan's dick—against Wei Ying's hand.

"Fuck." It comes out on nearly a whine, but Wei Ying can't control that. "You're so hard, it feels so good, I'm—sorry, this is—" It's so much more intimate, somehow, than the way they had been rutting against each other, but. "I can't stop, I don't want to—"

Throughout it all, they haven't stopped kissing, these frantic, messy kisses, Wei Ying hitching himself forward against Lan Zhan's hip, grinding his dick against him there as he moves his hand against Lan Zhan. He's big, and he's so hard, and Wei Ying wants—he shouldn't do this, but he wants to.

"Can I," he manages, breathless, lips against Lan Zhan's lips, his cheek, his neck. "Can I—" He moves his hand up to the top of Lan Zhan's pants, pushing up the hoodie so he can tuck his fingers into the stretchy waist of them, Lan Zhan's stomach hot against his fingers. He makes himself wait, makes himself, and in the long stretch of that liminal moment is the most turned on he's ever been in his life.

"Yes." Lan Zhan hitches his hips up. His dick is pressed up against the pants, hard and obvious against the soft material, absolutely obscene, absolutely perfect. "Please—"

Wei Ying pushes his hand down the front of Lan Zhan's pants and underwear, manages it in one movement, and then he's got Lan Zhan's dick against his palm. He's holding it in his hand and it's so slick and wet, drenched, everything damp and hot around Wei Ying's hand. "Fuck," he whimpers against Lan Zhan's neck, pressing himself hard up against Lan Zhan's hip in three short thrusts, he can't stop the staccato move of his hips. "It's so wet, you're so wet, it's so hot, fuck."

Lan Zhan is moving his hips into it, and his dick is slip-sliding against the clutch of Wei Ying's hand. Wei Ying slings his leg over Lan Zhan's thighs—he wants to feel that movement, it feels like fucking, like how Lan Zhan would move if they were actually doing it, if they were—

"Fuck." He can't stop cursing, can't stop moving his hips. He's got his eyes clenched shut, his mouth against any piece of hot skin he can reach—Lan Zhan's cheek, his neck, back to his mouth, reaching up to pull his head around so he can kiss him again, dragging his mouth against his as he—fuck, he's going to—he can't stop, he should stop, but—

He shoves his hips forward again, once, twice, and cries out, fuck, it's so loud, muffled only a little against Lan Zhan's mouth, as he comes in his jeans, pressed up against Lan Zhan's hip. His head is filled with white noise, his brain going entirely offline for a handful of moments as he comes harder than he ever has in his life.

When he comes back to himself, Lan Zhan's dick is still in his hand, still hard, and when he blinks his eyes open, the look Lan Zhan is giving him is...broken-open, is the only way Wei Ying can describe it, his eyes pure pupil, his mouth open, wet, wrecked, his expression—

Wei Ying moves his hand on Lan Zhan, and Lan Zhan's eyes fall shut, his hips moving with Wei Ying, a perfect rhythm against Wei Ying's hand. It's slick and it's smooth and Lan Zhan is so hard, and it's the hottest thing that's ever, ever happened to Wei Ying. "You're so hard," he whispers, watching Lan Zhan's face. "You're so hard, I didn't know it could get so hard, does it hurt? It feels like it could hurt. You should come. You should come. Let me make you come, I want to, I want—"

He can't stop talking and Lan Zhan isn't saying a single word, but he's gasping, his mouth open, his face lost in it, and he's hitching his hips up harder with every word that Wei Ying says. And then he's coming, fuck. Wei Ying can feel the jerk of Lan Zhan's dick in the palm of his hand as he comes against Wei Ying's wrist, his fingers, Lan Zhan's own stomach, coming endlessly, it feels like, pulse after pulse of it, like he's being wrung out.

When Lan Zhan is done, he collapses, boneless, against the bed. His breathing sounds loud in the room. Wei Wuxian knows he should tug his hand out of Lan Zhan's pants, should take it off his dick. He does so, regretfully, and when he pauses, looking for something to wipe his hand off on, Lan Zhan takes him by the wrist and draws his hand down, wiping it off against the hip of his sweatpants.

Wei Ying buries his face against Lan Zhan's shoulder, laughing a little unevenly. "Sorry," he says. "Sorry, I keep coming over and making a mess of all your stuff." He laughs harder now, keeping his hot face against the softness of Lan Zhan's hoodie, his leg still hooked over Lan Zhan's thighs. "Making you do so much laundry. First the sheets, and now this."

Lan Zhan is quiet underneath him. He's gotten his breathing under control and Wei Ying makes himself take a peek up at his face. He looks...relaxed? Wei Ying thinks that look is relaxed. He's never seen Lan Zhan look relaxed before. Do they talk about this now? Maybe they should talk about this. Maybe...not. Maybe it's just— "I guess this really was a third date."

Lan Zhan looks at him. He has two spots of color, burning high in his cheeks. His mouth is so kissed it looks almost bruised with it. Wei Ying's come is getting tacky in his underwear and he's just wiped his hand off on Lan Zhan's expensive sweatpants. They've just— Both of them, they've just— Together, they've—

"I didn't even get to see your abs," Wei Ying says helplessly. Fuck. His head is still full of bouncing, flickering brain cells, just clanging around in there.

Lan Zhan's still looking at him. "Did you want to?" He asks it so purely, not even a hint of smugness or conceit, just slight confusion.

Wei Ying nods, because, well, yeah, and also because he's trying to keep his mouth shut so he doesn't keep saying every single thing that skids across his brain.

Lan Zhan, still looking at him, nudges Wei Ying's hand out of the way and draws his hoodie up to his chest.

"Oh." Wei Ying pushes himself halfway to sitting without even intending to. "Oh, will you look at that." Fuck. Nie Huaisang was right, that sure is a six-pack right there. Those are muscles right there. He reaches one hand out to touch, then snatches it back. "Sorry, I just wanted to—"

Lan Zhan's lips quirk the tiniest amount and again, he wraps one hand around Wei Ying's wrist and tugs it forward until Wei Ying rests it tentatively on his stomach, stroking up over his abs and then back down, because he can't help it, he's never seen anything like it, not in real life.

"Just so you know, I don't have this." He's watching his hand rest against Lan Zhan. "I mean, there are probably abs there somewhere, but they're padded a little more than yours." He's just talking, he's not even paying attention to the words coming out. He wants to push Lan Zhan's hoodie further up. He wants to straddle Lan Zhan again. He wants to get his dick out and he wants to jerk off over Lan Zhan's abs. He can see it, in living color, what it would look like if his abs were streaked with Wei Ying's come.

Fuck. Fuck, he's going to jerk off about that later and there is just nothing anybody can do about it.

Lan Zhan gives a little shiver and Wei Ying glances up at him, startled out of his reverie. "Sorry," he says, hastily tugging Lan Zhan's hoodie down again. "You must be cold and my hand is still a little...sticky, and—sorry."

He makes himself sit up, wincing a little at the tug in his jeans. He crosses his legs, sitting sideways next to Lan Zhan on the bed. Lan Zhan pushes himself to sitting as well, and it seems to take a little effort, despite those abs. He sits against the headboard, one knee propped up.

"It's gotten dark around us again," Wei Ying says, peering out the window.

Lan Zhan nods. "We do seem to keep losing track of time."

Wei Ying gives him a startled grin. "You're not wrong." He should go. He knows he should go. It would be weird to stay. "I should—"

"Are you hungry?" Lan Zhan asks. "Pastries will only take you so far. We could...I could order us dinner."

Dinner. Wei Ying bites the inside of his lip a little, trying not to smile, and failing. "You don't have to do that," he protests. "I just descended on you, probably screwed up your schedule and everything..."

The look Lan Zhan gives him at that is just—it's full of heat and also a bit amused, and Wei Ying can't help but grin as Lan Zhan says, "Wei Ying. I did not mind." He's smiling, actually smiling, not a big, huge grin, because Lan Zhan doesn't do that, but it's a definite smile.

Wei Ying smiles back helplessly. "Good," he says. He can't stop smiling, either. He must look like an idiot. He doesn't care. "But listen, I can just get out of your hair, I—" His stomach growls, loud, like the traitor that it is. He laughs, burying his face in his hands. "Okay, maybe, if you're sure."

"I'm sure." Lan Zhan sits there for another moment, watching Wei Ying in the dimness of the dorm room. He's painted all over in shadows and Wei Ying can't quite see his eyes now, can't see what he's thinking.

"Okay," Wei Ying says softly. "Okay, me too."

***

Lan Zhan suggests dumplings, and Wei Ying is always on board for dumplings. Lan Zhan places the order then directs him to the small bathroom just off of his room that he shares with the double next door, and Wei Ying's face gets hot, again, wondering if his suitemates are in, if they heard anything. He locks himself in and fixes the situation in his pants, swiping away the worst of the mess with some damp paper towels. "It's not perfect," he mutters to himself in the mirror, "but it will do." He studies himself for a moment. "Story of my life," he adds.

His hair is a disaster and he finger-combs it and pulls it into a messy ponytail to get it out of the way. His lips look well-kissed, too, and he presses his fingers against them, thinking about third dates. He shakes his head, finally. He washes his hands—thoroughly—and splashes water on his face for good measure. This is as good as it's going to get.

They eat dumplings together, Wei Ying on the big chair, Lan Zhan sitting in his desk chair. Wei Ying convinces Lan Zhan to let him pull up a movie on his laptop and it's very much like a date. Lan Zhan has turned on the lamp in the corner that casts a golden light through the room, and Wei Ying's legs are curled up under him, and they eat together in companionable silence.

They move to the bed when they're done eating—Lan Zhan had stacked the take-out containers and put the leftovers in the minifridge, cleaning up with neat efficiency. Wei Ying had stood, thinking he should maybe leave, but Lan Zhan had said, "I would like to see the end of the film."

"Oh, good," Wei Ying had said, and it had come out way too quiet and happy, but Lan Zhan hadn't seemed to notice. He'd moved the computer to the foot of the bed and climbed back onto it, sitting neatly against the headboard with his legs crossed. He'd looked at Wei Ying expectantly and Wei Ying had climbed up beside him.

It's not late when the movie ends, but Lan Zhan's eyes are a little heavy when the credits start running and he's more relaxed, leaning back against the headboard. He'd shifted, his legs stretched out in front of him. He's lounging, is what he's doing, looking loose and warm and—

"I should go," Wei Ying says softly. "It's late."

"Mn." Lan Zhan doesn't move.

"I don't want to fall asleep in your bed again." He's also not moving. He really needs to go. He needs to get up and just go.

"I didn't mind," Lan Zhan says.

"You didn't?" Wei Ying asks. "Are you sure? I'm glad. I worried."

Lan Zhan looks at him. "You shouldn't have."

"Ah, well." Wei Ying shakes his head, trying to give a normal grin. Why is his heart beating so hard? "It's better that I worry. Keeps me in line."

Lan Zhan just keeps looking at him. Wei Ying's heart is going to beat out of his chest. "Okay, so—"

Lan Zhan reaches out and rests his hand on his wrist. "Wei Ying," he says. "If this were a date..." His hand is scorchingly hot against Wei Ying's skin. "If this were a date," he says again, more firmly, "then I would kiss you goodnight."

"Oh," Wei Ying says faintly. He can't move. He's frozen in place, except for how he's swaying closer to Lan Zhan without meaning to. "Well, then, I guess...I guess you better do that. For the sake of..."

"Veracity," Lan Zhan says, shifting closer, his hand closing fully over Wei Ying's wrist before moving up his arm to tug at him.

"Veracity," Wei Ying echoes, and then Lan Zhan is kissing him. He's kissing him and it's not a simple good night kiss, but maybe good night kisses aren't ever actually simple. Maybe they're all like this: hot and deep and full of some very real intention. It's becoming remarkably clear that Wei Ying actually understands fuck-all about dating.

Lan Zhan kisses him there on the bed until Wei Ying is slouching back against the headboard and possibly making little sounds every time Lan Zhan finds a new angle for his mouth. He kisses him until Wei Ying is trembling and he wants to—

"I have to go." He forces himself to draw away. "I have to—if I don't go now, I won't—I mean—" He shakes his head. "I have to go."

Lan Zhan nods. He doesn't seem breathless. He waits for Wei Ying to get up from the bed—it takes Wei Ying a moment to get his feet under himself—and then gets up too, waiting patiently as Wei Ying fumbles to get his shoes back on. Wei Ying finds his coat and starts to shrug it on, startling just a little as Lan Zhan, closer behind him than he'd thought, helps him into it, going so far as to untuck his long ponytail from the collar. Why does that make Wei Ying flush even harder? His body is out of control.

"Okay, I'm going to head home," he says, turning around.

Lan Zhan is right there. He's so close to him. Wei Ying's stupid heart still doesn't know how fake dating works, it's trying to pound right out of his chest. "Okay," Lan Zhan says.

"I'm heading out." Wei Ying is looking at Lan Zhan. They're not touching, but they're so close. Wei Ying wants Lan Zhan to grab him, to just shove him up against the door. He wants— "Okay," he says again. "I guess...good night."

"Good night." Lan Zhan looks, for just a second, like he might kiss Wei Ying again, another devastating good night kiss that will absolutely destroy any self-control Wei Ying has, so he just darts forward and presses a swift kiss against Lan Zhan's cheek (and even that is enough to make Wei Ying's knees feel weak) and heads out the door.

He keeps up the momentum until he gets downstairs, and outside, and halfway down the path in the general direction of his bus stop before he lets his bag fall to the ground with a thump. He sinks down onto his haunches, presses his face into his hands and curses silently to himself.

"You okay, bro?" Some dude walking by pauses briefly.

"Oh yeah," Wei Ying says against his hands. "I'm, like, so good. Just perfect."

"Take care?" the dude offers hesitantly. It's kind of sweet.

Wei Ying pushes himself to standing and gives the guy a thumbs up. "I'm fine," he calls, as the guy heads away. He is. He just needs to get to his bus, and get home, and possibly jerk off. He's fine.

***

Jiang Cheng is home when Wei Ying lets himself in. He's in his room, but the door is half open, so Wei Ying nudges it open further and leans in the doorway. "Hey," he says.

Jiang Cheng looks up from his computer. He's at his desk—what is it with all of these people in Wei Ying's life who do their homework at an actual desk, instead of sprawled out on the bed giving yourself back problems like god intended?—and he's got music playing, something with a driving beat that he says helps him focus when he has a paper due. "I'm busy," he says immediately, then narrows his eyes. "What? What is it? You look weird. Did something happen?"

He actually starts to get up, looking like he's ready right now to go fight someone on Wei Ying's behalf.

Wei Ying waves him back. "No, no, nothing, I'm just tired. Stayed up too late last night."

"Oh." Jiang Cheng settles back down. "Well, you look like shit."

"Yeah, I know." Wei Ying chews on his lip a little. "Listen, we can quit the pact, okay? It was a dumb idea. We're both full adults. We can date or not date who we want. I'm sorry I was so pushy."

"No," Jiang Cheng says, before the words are fully out of Wei Ying's mouth. "No. Uh-uh. You're just trying to get out of it."

"I'm not," Wei Ying says. "I'm not, that's not it."

"That is it," Jiang Cheng says. "It's because you're behind on dates. You can't stand to lose." He sounds...super intent. Almost frantic. He's got a little bit of whirly eyes going on.

"I'm not behind on dates," Wei Ying says miserably. "We just had our third date. We're even now."

"A third date," Jiang Cheng says flatly. "On a Tuesday. Does what you did even count as a date? Don't cheat."

"We had drinks," Wei Ying says. He's getting a headache. "Well, coffee. And tea. And we had dinner. Together. And." He stops.

Jiang Cheng is still staring at him. "And?" he demands. "And what?"

"And," Wei Ying says, and then stops again. He can't...there is just no way he can tell Jiang Cheng that they...

"We are completing this pact," Jiang Cheng says firmly. "There is no way we are not completing it. You said five dates. Minimum."

"Minimum," Wei Ying echoes faintly.

"Minimum," Jiang Cheng says again. He's still got that slightly frantic tone to his voice, and a kind of wild look to his eyes. "We're—you said we'd both do it. That we'd go through with it. I want—" He clamps his lips together and glares at Wei Ying, and oh. Oh, Wei Ying gets it. It's what he's always known, what got him to start this whole thing, but it's possible that he'd sort of lost focus as this has gone along. Jiang Cheng needs this to be a challenge, something he can win, or else he's going to lose his nerve.

It would be cute, if Wei Ying could stop being a total idiot about every aspect of this.

"Right," he says, sagging against the doorway. "Right, you're right. Okay. Right. Not giving up."

"Okay, well." Jiang Cheng turns back to his laptop, letting out the breath he'd clearly been holding. "I have work to do. Get out."

"Right." Wei Ying pushes himself off the doorframe and heads to his room. He needs a shower. He really needs to get out of these clothes. He needs to lie in bed and stare at the ceiling for an hour. Possibly two.

***

The rest of the week goes by slow like molasses. Wednesday lasts for approximately three years. Wei Ying knows he goes to classes, knows he studies, a little, knows he does desultory work on a paper that's due next week, knows he gets his ass kicked at Super Smash Brothers by Jiang Cheng, but looming over it all is the fact that he needs to set up a fourth date with Lan Zhan. Fourth date is the drumming pattern of his headache that won't quit. Fourth date, fourth date. Fourth date feels like this is getting serious, or would be, if they were real dates.

Why had he said five whole dates? Three dates are something you could shake off, say you gave it a shot but it didn't really work. Five dates is a lot.

But, he tells himself grimly, that's the whole point, isn't it? He'd wanted Jiang Cheng to get in deep. He'd wanted him not to be able to shake it off.

He stays up too late on Wednesday night—the buzzing of his brain won't let him sleep, so he gives into it, finally, grabbing his laptop and finishing the paper that's not due for five whole days in one fell rush of possibly incomprehensible writing. It doesn't make him sleepy but when he's done, it's after three in the morning and his limbs won't work anymore. All he can do is lie down and shut off the light and let himself vibrate there in the darkness.

He must doze at some point, because the alarm from his phone jerks him awake in time to get to his morning class. He drags himself through it, fueled by caffeine and a sugary bun, and then he gets through the next class, and the next one, and then it's sociology with Lan Zhan and he's not ready but what choice does he have?

He drags himself in thirty whole seconds before the professor gets there. He drops into his seat next to Lan Zhan—no one ever tries to sit there anymore—with another coffee clutched in his hand. "Hi," he says, smiling at him normally.

He must miss the mark, because Lan Zhan looks concerned. "Wei Ying," he says. "Are you all right?"

Wei Ying tries to rearrange his smile into something that looks comforting. "Totally," he says.

Lan Zhan's eyes widen a little—fuck, Wei Ying is really off his game—but the professor walks in and Lan Zhan presses his lips together and turns to face her. He shoots Wei Ying another concerned look out of the corner of his eye. Wei Ying has never seen him not pay full attention to the professor at the start of class ever before in his life. Wei Ying must really be a disaster.

He stays awake through the whole class by dint of finishing the extra-large coffee, and when it's over his stomach hurts from too much caffeine and his head hurts from too little sleep and his eyes feel like they're filled with sand. He pushes himself up from his desk and feels himself sway a little in place.

Lan Zhan catches his arm because of course he does. "Wei Ying."

"I'm okay." Wei Ying doesn't try for another smile, because apparently he's bad at those today. "I didn't sleep much. That's all." He slings his bag over his shoulder and fidgets with the strap. Just say it. "We have to make a plan," he says, trying for a cheerful tone.

Lan Zhan puts his own bag on his shoulder, one hand sort of hovering near Wei Ying like he thinks he's going to topple over. He looks at him curiously as he starts to guide him out. Wei Ying allows it, because they should have this conversation. The only way out is through and all that. "Fourth date," he explains.

"Ah." Lan Zhan holds open the classroom door for him and they start heading down the hall. Lan Zhan has still got his hand near the small of Wei Ying's back, not touching him, but nearly, and Wei Ying is hyperaware of it. "We can discuss."

"Yeah." Wei Ying waits as Lan Zhan holds open the building door for him, as well, then follows him through. "We can. We should. We have to." The sun is brilliant as they go through the door and Wei Ying clutches at his face. "Ow." The whole day has been one of those ridiculously warm fall days, like somehow summer forgot that it's been over for a long time. It had been so cold yesterday that Wei Ying had wished he had gloves and today, it's unseasonably warm, the sun looming overhead, the air rich and warm with it. He just wishes it wasn't so bright.

"Wei Ying," Lan Zhan says. He sounds worried. It's weird.

"Do you know you say that a lot?" Wei Ying asks, dropping his hands from his face. "My name. You say it like fourteen different ways. And it's hilarious, because I always know what you mean. You pack a lot into my name. It's funny." It isn't funny. It's something different from funny.

"Let's—" Lan Zhan seems to be looking for something, casting his eyes around. "Here. There's shade."

He guides Wei Ying, actually touching him now, his hand a light pressure at the small of his back, to a tree in the middle of the grassy area near their classroom building. The leaves have all turned, all different shades of red and orange and brown, but they have only just started falling, the ground underneath scattered with a light layer of them.

Lan Zhan puts his bag down on the ground and tugs Wei Ying's off his shoulder. He takes the jacket he's wearing—wait, that's not a jacket, it's all flowy fabric, fuck, is it a sort of cloak?—and spreads it on the ground. It's as broad as a blanket all laid out like that. "Sit down," he says.

Wei Ying does. He sort of doesn't have a choice. His stomach still hurts—he really shouldn't have had that last coffee—and his head aches and he's looking up at Lan Zhan standing over him, blocking the sunlight from Wei Ying's eyes, and that hurts, too, in a different way.

Lan Zhan sits down neatly next to him. "Don't you have class now?" Wei Ying says. He can't remember Lan Zhan's schedule over the ache in his head.

Lan Zhan ignores the question. "Come here," he says. He settles his back against the tree and holds out one arm.

Wei Ying stares at him. What is he...

Lan Zhan's hand lands on his arm and tugs him forward. Wei Ying is too tired to resist. He ends up right up against Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan's arm a heavy weight across his shoulders. He's tucked up against him, his head resting on his chest, pretty much. He knows that this is something they maybe shouldn't be doing. He'd meant for them to have a conversation about a fourth fake date, about getting through this intact, about...

"Rest," Lan Zhan says, very quietly from somewhere above him.

"No." Wei Ying shifts a little, moving closer. "I'm fine, I just need to close my eyes for a second. Just. Give me, like, three minutes and I'll be—" He yawns against Lan Zhan's chest. "I'll be..."

He wakes up slowly. He can't open his eyes for a long handful of seconds—he's drifting back and forth between waking and sleeping, still half in a dream state where he's in a sort of cocoon. Not trapped, just safe. His head is resting on something soft but his hip hurts a little where he's curled up on it. Not enough for him to move yet, though—he's too comfortable. There's a gentle rhythm keeping him here in his half-asleep state and it takes him longer than it should to realize that it's someone running their fingers through his hair, right over his ear, a soft, steady movement. It's lulling him, drawing him nearly back to sleep over and over again.

It takes an enormous effort to shift over onto his back and open his eyes.

"Ah." Lan Zhan is studying him from up above. "You look...better."

Wei Ying's head is resting on Lan Zhan's thigh. Lan Zhan's hand is still in his hair. Lan Zhan has a book in his other hand, his place held with one finger between the pages.

"I feel better," Wei Ying confesses. He yawns, directly into Lan Zhan's face, then claps a hand over his mouth. "Sorry," he says. He pushes himself up, finally. Lan Zhan's hand slips from his hair as he does so and Wei Ying tells himself he doesn't care. "I didn't mean to fall asleep."

"You were nearly asleep on your feet already." Lan Zhan looks amused. "It was better that you did it lying down."

Wei Ying makes a face at him as he runs his fingers through his hair, pulling it back into a ponytail with the elastic from his wrist. "I didn't get enough sleep last night, I guess. Thanks for..." He gestures at Lan Zhan. "...that." He makes an apologetic face. He can't believe he fell asleep in Lan Zhan's lap. Did he drool? He hopes he didn't drool.

"It was no trouble," Lan Zhan says, and seems to mean it. He pauses, then says, "You seemed concerned about scheduling a time for our fourth date."

"Oh." Wei Ying nods several times. "Right. We have to—"

"I believe," Lan Zhan says, "that this could, conceivably, count."

Wei Ying looks up at him, startled.

"We were together," Lan Zhan says. "You were asleep for...quite a while. Many people saw us here." He pauses again. "Including your brother."

"Oh," Wei Ying says. "Fuck, how long did I sleep for? Wait, my brother saw us?"

"If the goal is to show people that we are, in fact, continuing to see each other," Lan Zhan says like Wei Ying had not spoken, "I believe we've accomplished that."

Wei Ying feels himself blushing, for no reason at all. What is his face getting all hot for? He's fallen asleep in much more embarrassing situations before. Nie Huaisang will never let him forget the time he fell asleep right in the middle of a party, curled up on the floor while everyone continued playing spin the bottle around him. "Ha," he says. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean for you to have to, like, flaunt it."

Lan Zhan looks at him. "I do not mind...flaunting it."

Wei Ying blushes harder. "Ah, Lan Zhan, you can't just say things like that."

"Why not?" Lan Zhan asks curiously.

Wei Ying ignores the question. "Besides, this isn't a date. Falling asleep on someone isn't a date. It's...an imposition."

Lan Zhan gets that little line between his eyebrows, but something about it looks put-on, like he's teasing. "What would constitute a date, then?"

"Well, a meal, usually." Wei Ying looks at Lan Zhan. "Or snacks, or something."

"Hm." Lan Zhan shifts a little closer. "But not always."

"No," Wei Ying says. He's sweating. Is it even warm enough to be sweating? "Not always. Sometimes it's just a drink. Or coffee."

"Ah." Lan Zhan studies him. "I don't think you need more coffee just now."

"No," Wei Ying says. "I really don't." His heart is beating too fast as it is.

"So, a meal, or a snack," Lan Zhan says slowly. He's looking at Wei Ying—he hasn't taken his eyes off of him this whole time. "Or a drink, or coffee. These would make it a date. Is there anything else?"

Wei Ying can't look at his eyes anymore, it's too much. His gaze drops but it's caught on Lan Zhan's mouth. He swallows. "Sometimes there's...kissing."

"Hm," Lan Zhan says again. "I would say that there's usually kissing. Not just sometimes." His face is really very close to Wei Ying's now. "When one is on a date," he clarifies.

"Right," Wei Ying says weakly. "Yeah, I mean—"

Lan Zhan kisses him. His lips are soft and Wei Ying opens up to him right away. He couldn't stop himself if he tried. He knows he should try. But Lan Zhan's slipping his tongue into his mouth and tilting his head just right, and it's not frantic the way it had been in Lan Zhan's room, it's just deep. Intense. It makes Wei Ying want to climb into Lan Zhan's lap. Not even to grind against him, though he wants that, too, but just to get closer to him, to sink into this. He's dizzy with it, thinks he could let Lan Zhan kiss him here under this tree for hours, let him just—

Lan Zhan pulls back. His breath is coming a little fast and his lips are wet and red. Wei Ying clenches his fists tightly in his lap to keep himself from dragging him back into the kiss. "So," Lan Zhan says. His voice sounds a little tight, too—just a little, the smallest bit off of his usual control. "Does that make this a date?"

Wei Ying gives a short nod. Fuck. "It does," he says. "I think it does. I think..." He stops talking. He doesn't know what he thinks. He doesn't know what he's doing. Is this the fourth date? If this is the fourth date, and now it's over, then there's only one more to go. One more and then Lan Zhan will be off the hook and they can go back to being...whatever it is they were before. Not friends. You couldn't really have called them friends. Classmates? They'll go back to being classmates.

Lan Zhan's watching him. "Wei Ying?"

Classmates. Lan Zhan will be the classmate who Wei Ying has jerked off. The classmate who Wei Ying knows gets seriously wet when he gets turned on. The classmate who has trembled in Wei Ying's arms and come against his palm.

"Wei Ying?" Lan Zhan says it again. His name. Right. He's—right.

"Yeah," Wei Ying says, pulling up a grin from somewhere deep inside himself. "Fourth date, absolutely. Talk to me again about seeing my brother? What did he do?"

If it's a fourth date, it wouldn't end after a stupid nap and a stupid kiss. It would keep going. Wei Ying made a commitment and Jiang Cheng is holding him to it and he's not going to fuck this up.

Lan Zhan settles back against the tree, his back straight but looking a little more relaxed. "He was passing by," he says, gesturing the path. "He was with Wen Qing. He stopped in the middle of the path, right there." He points this time, and it's cute, Wei Ying thinks with despair. Lan Zhan pointing at the path, just a simple, human gesture, and it's so cute that Wei Ying's stomach starts hurting again, just a little. "He stared at us and he was, I think, about to come over to say something." The corners of his lips turn up just the slightest amount and Wei Ying feels that in his spine. Fuck. Fuck. "Wen Qing stopped him."

"She did?" Wei Ying manages to say. He swallows around his suddenly dry throat. "How? Jiang Cheng is like a battering ram usually."

Lan Zhan looks quietly amused. "She just put her hand on his arm."

"Wow." Wei Ying knew he was right about Wen Qing. "Powerful."

Lan Zhan nods. "Your brother blushed when she did it."

"He did?" Wei Ying grins despite himself. "Oh, that's good. Oh, he's so in. Oh, man."

Lan Zhan nods. "They seemed very close when they walked off together."

"I wish I could have seen it." Wei Ying fiddles with the laces on his boots, his legs crossed in front of him. "Instead of being dead-ass asleep and drooling on you."

"It was a moment only," Lan Zhan says. "You needed the rest more than you needed to tease your brother."

Tease. Wei Ying wants to crumple up in a ball and roll away, he finds that so cute. Lan Zhan knowing that Wei Ying would definitely have wanted to tease his brother. He can't take this. He can't. He's going to fuck this up. He should just go. He should go.

"Here." Lan Zhan gets to his feet in one smooth motion, and reaches a hand down for Wei Ying. "We should get something to eat."

Wei Ying puts his hand into Lan Zhan's—it's so warm and so soft and Wei Ying wants to be dead - and lets Lan Zhan haul him off the ground. "Something to eat," he repeats.

Lan Zhan is picking up his cloak from the ground—fuck, Wei Ying had almost forgotten about the cloak. Fuck, Lan Zhan has a cloak. And wears it. Like it's normal. "Your stomach was growling," he says, "while you were sleeping."

"Well, that's embarrassing," Wei Ying mutters. His face gets hot again. Why is he like this?

"Besides," Lan Zhan continues, and from here, it looks like his eyes are dancing with amusement. Just a little. Just a smidge. How does he do that? "If we want to ensure this meets the parameters for a date, we should have a meal. Just to be certain."

"You really don't have to—" Wei YIng is saying, but Lan Zhan is tucking the cloak over his arm and reaching down to pick up both of their bags. He puts them both over his own shoulder—is he carrying Wei Ying's books for him? Like this is high school and also, like, a TV drama? And then he reaches out and takes Wei Ying's hand.

"I'm hungry, too," he says, and tugs Wei Ying towards the path. The day has gotten colder as the afternoon has worn on. Lan Zhan's hand encompasses his own, huge and so warm that the heat floods Wei Ying's whole body. He feels it in his chest, and in his stomach, and he can't bring himself to pull his hand away. To say no, to take himself home, to call this fourth fake-date done, and then just have to grit his teeth and get through the fifth one.

He stumbles down the path next to Lan Zhan instead, their shoulders bumping against each other, holding hands where everybody can see.

***

Lan Zhan takes them to a hole in the wall place, a Chinese restaurant with dumplings and noodles and hot pot that Wei Ying is helpless to resist. He is, suddenly, aware of how starving he is, now that his body is no longer running on caffeine and sugar. "My body is desperate for nutrients," he says, looking across the table at Lan Zhan. "Doesn't know when it last saw a vegetable."

He's just talking for the sake of talking, because he can't stop looking at Lan Zhan and maybe, if he just keeps chattering, Lan Zhan won't notice. Lan Zhan looks good even tucked in the corner of this restaurant—it only has ten tables and they were lucky to snag one. He's a little flushed from the heat of the hot pot in front of them. They'd gotten a dual-sided bowl—Lan Zhan's got mushroom broth, with Wei Ying's spicy broth a bubbling cloud beside it. He keeps losing his pieces in it and having to swirl it around to hunt them out.

"It's delicious," he says, desperately talking and wishing he could stop. "I can feel my cells expanding as I eat. I can't remember the last time I ate something that wasn't made of pastry." But of course he can—it was the dumplings at Lan Zhan's, eaten in Lan Zhan's room, their knees bumping up against each other as they ate, right before they—

He stuffs a piece of bok choy into his mouth after dipping it in chili paste. He should just keep eating. That will take care of the talking problem.

"Pastry is not a food group," Lan Zhan says mildly, selecting a piece of tofu and delicately placing it into the steaming mushroom broth. "You do need actual food on a fairly regular basis." He's studying the tofu as he says it, watching it bob in the broth. The steam is making the small hairs around his face curl up and that plus the flush of his cheeks is really just so deeply—

Wei Ying stuffs a piece of shrimp into his mouth as soon as it's done cooking. It's too hot and it burns the roof of his mouth and he has to pant, waving his hands in front of his face. It's better than thinking cute again. Fuck.

Lan Zhan is watching him with concern and he pushes Wei Ying's water glass closer to him. "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine." Wei Ying gulps water, which doesn't really help but at least gives him something to do. "I'm totally fine."

"Mn." Lan Zhan selects a dumpling with his chopsticks and drops it into Wei Ying's side of the broth. They both watch quietly as it bobs in the frothing liquid. When Lan Zhan scoops it out with a spoon, it looks like it's cooked perfectly. He deposits it on the small plate in front of Wei Ying, like a gift, or an offering, or....like the way a date would do something, to be—fuck—cute.

Wei Ying stares down at the dumpling for a moment then sighs and eats it. He really is starving, still.

By the time they've worked their way through all of the food, his brain has stopped buzzing quite so much. He's full, in a good way, and his mouth is alive with the flavors, and heat, and only slightly singed from his scalding shrimp mistake. He'd ordered a beer halfway through and he takes another sip of it, letting the coolness of it offset the heat. "This was a good call, Lan Zhan."

"It seems so." Lan Zhan studies the table in front of them, seeming pleased at how thoroughly they've gone through the food.

"The double pot was a good idea. I didn't think we could ever agree on anything to share but this worked perfectly for us." He didn't know why he hadn't thought of it himself—he knows he likes pretty much everything hotter than most, but usually he just bullies Jiang Cheng into suffering through spicy broth for him.

"It did." Lan Zhan looks happy, relaxed. He's not quite smiling as he looks at Wei Ying across the table, but Wei Ying knows his contented look. "You look like you feel better."

Wei Ying grins and takes another sip of beer. "You mean now that I'm not strung out on caffeine?"

"Yes," Lan Zhan says in solemn agreement. "And now that your body has been properly introduced to the concept of vegetables."

Wei Ying laughs out loud; he can't help it. This is easy. Now that he's been fed, he can see that clearly. He doesn't need to make this more complicated than it is. They'd hung out, they'd gone to get dinner, and that's fine. It's good. They're making their way through this dumb pact Wei Ying has going on and when it's done, it's done. One step closer is good, really. It's excellent. They're nearly there.

It's fully dark when they emerge from the restaurant and any lingering warmth of the day has been stripped away. It feels like winter again now, particularly after the heat of the restaurant, the cold hitting them with a smack that takes Wei Ying's breath away. "Whoa," he says, zipping his jacket up quickly and tucking his hands in his pockets. "That's a tone change."

Lan Zhan has swung his cloak on and it's swirling gently around him as it settles into place. "I've got to tell you," Wei Ying says, watching him. "Not everyone can pull off a look like you do."

Lan Zhan looks down at himself, "Hm?"

"The whole...cloak...thing." Wei Ying gestures at him. "I'm just saying it works for you."

Lan Zhan shrugs his shoulders a little, setting the cloak to swirling again, just a bit, at the ends. "Thank you. It was a gift from my brother."

"My brother never gives me cool gifts like that." Wei Ying nudges Lan Zhan's shoulder with his own and they start walking back towards campus. "He just gives me a hard time."

"You love your brother very much, don't you?" Lan Zhan asks. He's not looking at Wei Ying, he's watching the path ahead of them.

"Well, yeah," Wei Ying says in surprise. "I mean, of course I do, he's...Jiang Cheng. I know he can be kind of a lot but he's honestly one of the best people I know. He just—he's a lot of bluster, you know?"

Lan Zhan slants a look at him. "I don't know him very well," he says. "He seems quite...hot-headed. But I believe you." They walk for several paces before Lan Zhan says, "The fact that you'd do all of this to bring about a circumstance that you believe would make your brother happy speaks to the depth of your relationship with him." He's quiet for another few steps. "I admire it."

Wei Ying is quiet too, a little dumbstruck. He doesn't think about it like that. "It's just that Jiang Cheng deserves nice things," he explains. "And he doesn't always know how to get there. This isn't—I'm not out here saving lives, you know? Besides." He lets his shoulder brush against Lan Zhan's as they walk. "This isn't exactly a hardship, spending time with you."

He says it lightly, because he means it. This has been nice and if he can do a good job not making it weird, maybe they can be friends, going forward. Not just classmates. Or whatever.

"Mn," Lan Zhan says, and there's this depth of warmth to the sound. How does he do that? "I'm glad."

"So." Wei Ying says cheerfully, tucking his hands more deeply into his pockets. "Fuck, it's cold. Okay, so I should walk you home now—just like if this was a date!"

"I need to go to the library, actually," Lan Zhan says, sounding a little regretful.

"Got it!" Wei Ying reorients them so they're heading towards the path that leads to the library. "I guess it's not actually that late, it just feels late. It gets dark so early now. I've got to figure out what jacket I left my gloves in last year, my hands are freezing."

Lan Zhan wraps an arm around him easily. Wei Ying startles a little, and thinks about pulling away, but Lan Zhan's hand rests firmly on his shoulder and the cloak really is big enough for two. Besides, this is the end of the fourth date and there's only one more to go, to wrap this whole thing up, so what can it hurt?

He's quiet the rest of the way to the library, caught up in the rhythm of walking with Lan Zhan's arm around him, matching his pace to Lan Zhan's. They come up along the path next to the big, stately library building, up to the intimidating front steps that sap Wei Ying's will, whenever he has to come here, before he even manages to go in. "Well," he says brightly, slipping his arm out of the curve of Lan Zhan's. "Here you are, safe and sound."

"Wei Ying." That's all Lan Zhan says, but it shuts Wei Ying up, stops him in his tracks. In the next moment, Lan Zhan is tugging him into the shadow of the library building, a spot tucked just next to the stairs. He's turning him, pushing him up against the wall there, and kissing him. Wei Ying's hands are caught in the folds of Lan Zhan's cloak and he's going to push him away, laugh it off, tell him it's not a real date, explain that good night kisses aren't required when you're only fake dating.

But Lan Zhan is against him and he's got one hand on Wei Ying's face, his thumb stroking his cheek as he kisses him. Wei Ying kisses him back; he's helpless not to. His hands slide up until he's got his arms looped around Lan Zhan's neck. Lan Zhan is making soft, intent sounds into his mouth, pressing against him harder. Wei Ying tightens his arms, drags Lan Zhan's head down so he can change the angle, and god, he's so fucked. He can't breathe. He can't stop kissing Lan Zhan. He can't. He wants to swallow those noises Lan Zhan is making, wants Lan Zhan to never stop stroking his cheek like he's the most precious thing Lan Zhan has ever touched. He wants to live in this, right here, this kiss and this date and this thing he has going with Lan Zhan. He wants it. He wants it.

Lan Zhan pulls away, finally, reluctantly. Wei Ying can't stop himself from chasing his mouth this time, going for one last, lingering kiss.

"I—" Lan Zhan has to stop for a second, catch his breath, and oh, Wei Ying likes that, likes that Lan Zhan is breathless from kissing him. "I really do need to do research." He's still got his thumb on Wei Ying's cheekbone, tracing up and down.

"Right." Wei Ying looks up at him. "You should do that. That's important. Research is—"

"Important," Lan Zhan finishes for him. He pauses, his eyes tracing over his face, then kisses him again, lightly, before pulling away for real, his thumb tracing over Wei Ying's cheek one last time just as he steps back.

The cold seeps in shockingly fast when Lan Zhan isn't touching him anymore. Wei Ying takes a breath and then has to take another before he can step forward, shaking his arms out, then wrapping them around himself. He's fine. It's fine. This is all...so fine. "Okay," he says. It comes out a little too loud. He makes himself grin. "Go do research," he says. "You have a paper due?"

Lan Zhan closes his eyes for slightly longer than a blink. "Wei Ying," he says, when he opens them again. "We have a paper due. For sociology."

"Oh," Wei Ying says, frowning. "Oh, that's what you're working on? That's not due until next week."

"It's Thursday," Lan Zhan says, sounding pained.

"Right," Wei Ying says. "We have so much time."

Lan Zhan opens his mouth and closes it again. "I'm...going to go do research."

"Okay," Wei Ying says. "You go. Work hard. And listen, I'll text you about, you know."

Lan Zhan looks at him inquiringly.

"Our fifth date." Wei Ying's throat hurts as he says it. Too much hot pot, probably. Too much spice.

"Ah." Lan Zhan's lips are doing that almost-smile thing. "I will await word from you."

Wei Ying nods. It's all he can do. His throat feels too tight. He watches as Lan Zhan walks away, pushes off the wall to look around the corner so he can watch Lan Zhan head up the library stairs. He takes them steadily, his back a long, straight line under the cloak.

Wei Ying watches until he disappears through the doors. He sags backwards then, the cement of the library wall rough under his head. One more date. One more.

***

"It's just one more date." Wei Ying rolls over onto his stomach so he can bury his face in Nie Huaisang's pillow. "It doesn't even matter," he tells it. "It's almost over."

"You know I can't hear you when you do that," Nie Huaisang says.

When Wei Ying turns his head a little to peek out at him, Nie Huaisang is intently playing a game on his phone. "You aren't even listening to me," Wei Ying accuses.

"I'm listening." Nie Huaisang's thumbs are still moving swiftly over his phone. "But you keep saying the same thing over and over again. It's a little boring."

"You're a little boring," Wei Ying says before stuffing his face back into the pillow.

"That's true," Nie Huaisang says. "I'm deeply boring. Boring is good. Boring means I don't create all sorts of drama and then have to run and hide in my best friend's bedroom."

"I'm not creating drama." Wei Ying pushes himself to sitting, offended. "I'm helping my brother."

"Sure you are." Nie Huaisang's phone makes a winning chime and he smiles, looking satisfied, and finally looks at Wei Ying. "I made it to the next level," he explains.

"Now will you pay attention to me?" Wei Ying gives him the most pathetic look he can manage.

"Yes," Nie Huaisang says. "Come here, tell me your woes."

Wei Ying flops over onto his back with a sigh, lacing his hands and staring up at the ceiling. Nie Huaisang companionably assumes the same position, lying down next to him.

"It's not drama," Wei Ying says glumly. "It's just stupid."

"Ah," Nie Huaisang says. "Are those two things mutually exclusive?"

"If you're not going to help me, because you enjoy teasing me so much, I'll just—" Wei Ying starts to roll off the bed but Nie Huaisang grabs him and pulls him back onto the bed.

"I'm sorry," he says contritely. "I'm here, I'm focused. Tell me about the stupid thing."

Wei Ying studies his face for a moment before settling back against the pillow grudgingly. "It's just one more date. One more fake date. And then it's done and hopefully Jiang Cheng has been well and truly destroyed by Wen Qing and will be too far in it to fuck it up—they really like each other, did I tell you? He's been walking around all starry-eyed for days now—and then I'm done and free."

"Okay, but that sounds like a good thing," Nie Huaisang says. "Why are you so...like this?"

Wei Ying flings one arm over his face. "It is a good thing," he says. "It's all going like I planned it. For Jiang Cheng."

"Right." Nie Huaisang is quiet for a moment. "And on the flip side of things?"

Wei Ying doesn't move his arm from his face. It's comforting.

"The flip side," Nie Huaisang says again, "meaning your side of things. You know. With Lan Zhan."

Wei Ying groans a little against his arm. "That's the stupid part," he says finally.

"Ah." Nie Huaisang shifts next to Wei Ying, rolling up on his side next to him. "I sort of figured." He pokes at Wei Ying's arm a little. "Come on, tell me. This sounds like the interesting part."

"Shut up, shut up," Wei Ying says. He doesn't want to talk about this. He doesn't want to talk about any of this. But if he can't tell Nie Huaisang, who can he tell? He needs advice. "Just. Okay. Fuck." He scrubs his hands over his eyes. "There is a possibility that somehow Lan Zhan is, like, an overachiever."

"Surprising to whom," Nie Huaisang murmurs.

"No, I know, but even when it comes to fake dating. He's giving it his all, and he's really good at it—"

"Again, as to be expected," Nie Huaisang says.

"I know." Wei Ying drops his hands from his face so he can stare up at the ceiling some more. "I should have known that. I should have figured that he'd be good at it, because he's good at everything. He's not a slacker."

"Master of the understatement." Nie Huaisang wiggles closer to Wei Ying. "Tell me how he's good at it."

"Augh." Wei Ying shakes his head. "It's like...okay. He's so good at making sure it all looks real. And feels real. When he kissed me outside the library last night—"

"He kissed you?" Nie Huaisang breathes. "In public?"

"Yeah," Wei Ying says miserably. "He does that."

"Okay, that's unexpected," Nie Huaisang says.

"He does it in private, too," Wei Ying says.

Nie Huaisang's eyes get a little wider.

"I told you," Wei Ying says impatiently. "He's really giving this the full treatment. He's so good at it."

"At kissing?"

"No—well, I mean, yeah, that too, but at fake-dating. He's really...taken to the role."

Nie Huaisang looks at him. "Say more about that."

"So when it started, it was just practice, right?"

"Practice kissing," Nie Huaisang says. "Ohhhh, Wei Ying. That's quite the idea."

"I know." Wei Ying sits up. "I know. I'm so dumb. But it was fine, when it was just practice." He chews on his lip a little. "Mostly. But then it sort of—like, it keeps getting more..."

Nie Huaisang nods encouragingly.

"I jerked him off," Wei Ying admits. His face is so hot he feels like he's going to burn up. "We were kissing, and then we were on his bed, and then we just sort of—things got a little bit more, and somehow I just..."

"Had your hand on his dick," Nie Huaisang says. "Say more. About that."

"You're so shameless," Wei Ying says, but there's no heat behind it.

"How can I help you if you don't tell me everything?" Nie Huaisang looks offended.

"I'm not telling you everything," he says. "He's...it was...I don't know, it was really good." He stops and then mumbles, "I never even got to see everything, but it felt...good." He stops talking. He can't think about Lan Zhan's dick right now. He's never going to get to see it. This is all almost over.

"You didn't see it," Nie Huaisang says slowly, "but you definitely...touched it."

"Yeah," Wei Ying says sadly.

"Oh wow." Nie Huaisang looks at him for a moment. "And you made out with him."

"Like." Wei Ying takes in a breath and lets it out again in a rush. "A lot."

"Hm. Okay, we are definitely going to circle back to that. But for now, if I put together what you're being an incredible sad sack about correctly, the problem is that all of what you did—including jerking him off—is fake-dating stuff. And that you have another date to get through, which, phew, after everything you just told me, who knows how that's going to go. Do we have to have a talk, by the way? A safe sex talk?"

"Please don't." Wei Ying pushes himself up on his elbows. "Please. Can you just—"

"Right." Nie Huaisang looks like he's pondering. Wei Ying waits. Finally, Nie Huaisang says, "It would be incredibly off base for me to suggest that you might have somehow gotten the lines crossed and grown feelings about the dude you're fake-dating, right?"

Wei Ying just looks at him.

"Because if you did that," Nie Huaisang continues, "then you'd be in one hell of a spot, since the guy—Lan Zhan—is doing this as a favor. Right?"

Wei Ying slumps back on the bed.

"And you wouldn't want to be in that spot, right?"

"Definitely not." Wei Ying is studying the ceiling again, carefully. "And also he—Lan Zhan—definitely wouldn't want to be in that spot."

"Definitely?" Nie Huaisang asks.

"Definitely." Wei Ying shuts his eyes.

"Oh, buddy." Nie Huaisang lies down beside him. "That's rough."

"It's just this one last date that's making everything complicated." When Wei Ying rolls towards him, Nie Huaisang lifts his arm so Wei Ying can press his face against his chest, Nie Huaisang's arm a comforting weight over his shoulders. "Other than that, it's all totally fine, actually," he says, muffled against Nie Huaisang's chest.

"Of course it is." Nie Huaisang pets his shoulder a little. "You're fine."

"Totally." Wei Ying takes a shaky breath. They lie there like that for a while. Even when Nie Huaisang picks up his phone and starts playing the game again, one-handed, it's still kind of comforting. Wei Ying keeps his face pressed against his chest and thinks that, after this final date, he's never going to go out with anyone ever again. He's very bad at it.

***

When he gets home, he jerks off. He keeps it hard, and fast, and tries to make it mindless, not thinking about anything at all. When he's done, he lies there with his hand still wrapped around his softening dick, his come cooling on his belly, for what feels like a long time before he can bring himself to fumble for the box of tissues on his bedside table. He wipes his hand and cleans himself off, then does up his jeans. He picks up his phone and swipes it open.

Saturday night, he types. It's the last time you have to do this, so might as well do it right. Saturday nights are the true date nights and if he needs to close the door on this, he's not going to do it like a coward. They'll go through all the motions and wrap this thing up.

I am available, Lan Zhan texts back just a few moments later.

"Great," Wei Ying says, looking at the message. "That's just so great. I'm so ready." He is. The only way out is through.

***

They meet up on Saturday evening. Wei Ying had had vague thoughts about finding someplace for dinner, keeping it simple, but when he gets off the bus at the stop near campus, Lan Zhan is waiting for him. When Wei Ying says, "Sorry, sorry, I know I'm late, the bus was stupid," Lan Zhan hands him a flower wrapped in tissue paper.

It takes Wei Ying several moments of blinking down at it before he can look up at Lan Zhan. "You brought me flowers?"

"I did." Lan Zhan's watching him.

"It's...pretty," Wei Ying says. It is. It's a small, curled-up rose, nestled against the protective paper, but it's simple, too. A bouquet would have been a little funny. This is sweet and it makes his chest hurt. "Thank you."

"Flowers, you said," Lan Zhan says, as they head down the street, "are part of dating."

Wei Ying nods, trying not to stumble over his own feet as he looks down at the rose in his hand. "I don't want to wreck it," he says, trying to hold it as lightly as possible.

"Ah," Lan Zhan turns and draws him over to the side of the sidewalk, where they won't be in anyone's way. "I had thought—" He straightens the collar of Wei Ying's coat—it's cold enough tonight that he's worn his winter one, worn black wool that still serves to keep him warm. Lan Zhan tucks Wei Ying's scarf more fully around his neck and Wei Ying makes himself hold still, like this is normal, like this is something that happens every day. Like Lan Zhan's fingers brushing his jaw doesn't send shivers down his spine. "Here." Lan Zhan plucks the rose from the paper and Wei Ying sees the stem has been wrapped so it's reinforced. Lan Zhan carefully tucks the stem through Wei Ying's top buttonhole. "It will be secure." he says as he does it.

"Great," Wei Ying says faintly.

"There." Lan Zhan stands back and looks at him.

"Thank you." Wei Ying takes a breath, letting the cold air cut into his lungs. "Do you want to—are you hungry? We could get something to eat or we could just—" He can't do it. He can't sit across the table from Lan Zhan and watch him and let the minutes tick away until the date is over. He can't do it. "Do you want to just take a walk, maybe?" he says finally, frantically. "I know it's cold, but I just need to walk. Is that okay?"

"Yes," Lan Zhan says. "I would like that."

Wei Ying doesn't want to be near people, doesn't want to deal with the swirl of downtown, or the crowd of campus on a Saturday night. He tucks his hands deep into the pockets of his coat and leads them away from the bustle of the street, skirting along the edge of campus. There's a path there and they walk along it as the evening gets darker. They're mostly quiet—it's rare that Wei Ying can let a silence hold, but tonight it feels like just being together is enough, possibly too much, for his brain to process. He keeps his hands in his pockets, so he's not tempted to let one tangle with Lan Zhan's, and he doesn't let himself nudge against Lan Zhan's shoulder as they walk.

This path leads down to the river that runs alongside the campus. It's one of Wei Ying's favorite spots. The sound of the water is a soothing white noise and there are benches along the bank and sometimes he comes here when his brain is too loud just so he can take a break from thinking.

It doesn't seem to be working tonight. "Fifth date," he says, without meaning to, as they walk slowly along the river. "Last one."

"Ah," Lan Zhan says. Is he matching his pace to Wei Ying's, or have they just fallen into stride together? "Right." He draws to a stop on the path, turning to look at the water.

Wei Ying stops and turns as well. He's tired. Why is he so tired? He wants to lean his head on Lan Zhan's shoulder, maybe wants Lan Zhan to put his arm around him for just a couple of minutes, hold him up. Just for a little bit.

He pushes his hands deeper into his pockets and hunches his shoulders, instead. "Sorry this date is such a dud," he says, trying for cheerful. "I promise we can go get something to eat, after, or I can get you tea, or—" He looks at Lan Zhan, the cut of his jaw, how his eyes catch the glow of the streetlights lining the path.

Lan Zhan is just watching the water. "Did it work, do you think?" He asks it in the same studious tone he uses in class, when he's working through a question. "The...premise." He tilts his head to look at Wei Ying. "The pact you made."

"Oh." Wei Ying can't stop looking at him. He should watch the water, instead. The water is safe. "Oh, yeah, it totally did. It was—you were great. It was so nice of you to help me out." The words are coming out strangled no matter how hard he tries. He shakes his head, rocking back on his heels, still looking at Lan Zhan. "So good. You're just really good. At this."

Lan Zhan hesitates for a moment, then he nods. "I'm glad," he says. "I'm happy to have been a help to you."

"Oh," Wei Ying says. "Big help. Huge help. Really good." They've turned towards each other on the path, somehow, and Lan Zhan is studying his face.

Wei Ying swallows.

"Fifth date," Lan Zhan says, reaching forward and gently straightening the flower in Wei Ying's buttonhole.

"Right," Wei Ying says. He can't stop watching him.

"Last one," Lan Zhan says then. His hand is still on Wei Ying's collar. He moves his fingers up to brush against his jaw.

"Last one," Wei Ying agrees desperately. His breath is caught in his chest. It's too cold along the river. Why did he ever suggest this? Lan Zhan must be freezing. They should just—

Lan Zhan kisses him. He kisses him soft and slow. He's bending forward, his hands resting lightly on Wei Ying's sides. His breath is hot against Wei Ying's mouth and his lips are so soft, and that thing happens where Wei Ying's knees feel weak, just from this, the brush of their lips together.

They stay like that, trading quiet kisses in the chilly air off of the river, until Wei Ying has to pull back to take a shuddering breath. He's freezing all over except for where Lan Zhan's hands are resting on his hips.

"Wei Ying," Lan Zhan says. He's still so close, his breath warm against Wei Ying's mouth. "Do you want to come back to my place?"

Wei Ying is clinging to Lan Zhan's arms. He's not sure when that happened. His fingers are freezing cold and holding on so tightly it almost hurts. "Yes," he says, fiercely, instead of laughing it off the way his whole brain is telling him to. "Yes, I want—yes."

Lan Zhan eyes get darker, hotter, and Wei Ying can feel how his hands tighten just a bit against his hips. He steps back and takes Wei Ying's hand in his own, and the warmth of it makes his fingers tingle. "Let's go," he says.

***

The door to Lan Zhan's room has barely closed before Lan Zhan is pressing Wei Ying up against it, unwinding his scarf and shoving his jacket down and off. He kisses him feverishly, his hands on Wei Ying's face belying the way they'd walked back to his dorm together, not touching, not even a little bit. Wei Ying had been vibrating with tension and he'd felt like if he gave into it, he wouldn't have been able to stop, like if he just brushed Lan Zhan's fingers with his own, that would have been enough to light him up inside and he would have had to kiss him, right there on the street.

Now, Lan Zhan has him pressed up so hard against the door he can barely breathe, but he doesn't feel like he even has to. He's crushed against Lan Zhan and kissing him back just as frantically. Lan Zhan's hands keep moving—his thumbs up against Wei Ying's cheekbones, then down to stroke his neck. Wei Ying can't stop clutching at Lan Zhan, dragging him closer, closer. When Lan Zhan pulls his mouth away, Wei Ying whimpers. Lan Zhan is dragging his mouth along his jaw, down his neck, hot and wet and dangerous. "Please," Wei Ying is saying. He tries to clamp his mouth shut, swallow the words, but they keep escaping. "Please. Lan Zhan. Lan Zhan."

It feels like his words echoes in the room and Wei Ying could cry from how desperate he sounds, but Lan Zhan just presses his mouth against Wei Ying's neck, his tongue a brand against his skin. "Yes," he's saying, pressing the words against Wei Ying's skin, so that he feels it rumble through him. "Yes," and "Yes."

Wei Ying surges up against him, dragging his face back so he can kiss him again. When Lan Zhan moans, Wei Ying feels it right down to his toes. Lan Zhan's hands are tight against his shoulders, then against his sides, his hips, and oh, oh, he's dragging him forward, pulling him closer and turning them both around.

Wei Ying stumbles backwards—he can't stop kissing Lan Zhan, he can't—and when the back of his knees hit the bed, he sprawls backwards. He's toeing his sneakers off with the tiny part of his brain that still works, and Lan Zhan is kicking off his own nice dress shoes—one goes flying and knocks over a pile of books with a crash and Lan Zhan doesn't even turn his head. He just climbs on top of Wei Ying on the bed, following him as Wei Ying frantically scoots himself backwards, dragging Lan Zhan with him by the hips.

Lan Zhan's good, he's so good, he lands with one leg sliding between Wei Ying's thighs and the sound Wei Ying makes when he presses up against him would probably be embarrassing if he had any thoughts in his brain other than how bad he wants Lan Zhan to fuck him. He's so hard. He'd been half-hard since they'd kissed on the river bank, his body thrumming with it. Lan Zhan is rocking up against him and the noises he's making are rough, and needy. Wei Ying's whole body is zinging with how much he wants to hear more.

"Come here," he's saying, even though Lan Zhan is pressed up against him as close as he can possibly get. "Come here, I want—I need—" Shut up, Wei Ying, shut up, shut up. "Please," he says, his hands somehow working to pull Lan Zhan's shirt out of his trousers, then pushing his hands up underneath, the smooth skin of Lan Zhan's back hot underneath his fingers.

"Wei Ying." Lan Zhan rocks forward against him like he can't stop. He's panting too, breathless, and Wei Ying's so glad he's not the only one losing it, he can't be the only one, not right now. "Wei Ying, let me. Let me."

Wei Ying nods frantically, not caring what he's agreeing to. He wants it. He wants it any way Lan Zhan wants to give it to him.

Lan Zhan's hand is in his hair, using Wei Ying's loose ponytail to tug his head back. Wei Ying moans deep in his throat, a startled sound. Fuck, he liked that. Fuck, he's screwed. Lan Zhan knows it, too—Wei Ying sees his eyes go dark in the glow of the streetlamps outside his window. He keeps his hand in Wei Ying's hair as he kisses his way down his neck, long, lingering kisses that make Wei Ying hitch his hips up against Lan Zhan's thigh, rocking his dick against him. When Lan Zhan digs his teeth in, all of the air leaves Wei Ying's lungs in a gasp and he thinks for one frantic moment that he might come from it, might come in his pants again just from how Lan Zhan's teeth and tongue are holding him here, against Lan Zhan's bed, sending shots of lightning through his whole body.

Lan Zhan pulls away with a wet, obscene noise and Wei Ying's cursing breathlessly into the darkness. Lan Zhan moves, unbuttoning Wei Ying's shirt with careful fingers—Wei Ying doesn't know how he has the control, he thinks he'd need to just tear Lan Zhan's shirt off like in the movies, he gets that, finally, how the idea of having enough motor control to undo buttons when his entire body just wants to fuck is utterly impossible.

His brain goes offline again as Lan Zhan's mouth moves over his chest, his tongue flickering lightly over one nipple in a way that makes Wei Ying's whole body go tight and hot. Further, down to his stomach, lingering there as he thumbs open the button on Wei Ying's jeans and eases the zipper down and Wei Ying is going to die. He's going to die. He'd known that this was where they were headed, but he'd both known and hadn't known, hadn't fucking thought this through, not really, because he never thinks anything through. Not even the important stuff, like this.

Lan Zhan's tongue is tracing an achingly slow line just below his belly button along the top of his underwear. When Lan Zhan's hands catch on the sides of his jeans, tugging at them, Wei Ying moves, helping him, lifting his hips and shoving them down his thighs. "I want," he gasps before he can stop himself, then brings his hand to his mouth, like he can shut himself up, hold everything in.

Lan Zhan doesn't notice. Lan Zhan is focused on tugging his jeans the rest of the way off, his socks going with them. Lan Zhan is easing his underwear over his dick, and the intake of breath Lan Zhan gives when he sees Wei Ying's dick is something that resonates in Wei Ying's brain. Lan Zhan shoves the underwear off Wei Ying's ankles and closes his eyes, running his mouth over the length of Wei Ying's dick.

Wei Ying groans, way too loud, even with his fist pressed against his mouth. It's too much—Lan Zhan isn't exactly licking him, he's using his whole mouth to run up the length of his dick, hot and wet and beyond anything Wei Ying has ever felt in his human lifetime. He'd thought about having his dick sucked, who hasn't thought about having their dick sucked, but this isn't anything like he'd thought. He wasn't prepared. He didn't know.

"Oh, fuck, Lan Zhan." It comes out muffled against his hand, but he can't stop talking. "Your mouth, fuck, your mouth, I want—it, I want it, I want—" He cries out when Lan Zhan wraps a hand around him and takes him in, going slow, almost studious, which is a weird way to think about your dick getting sucked, but it's true. He's working the head of it, tracing over the shape of it with his tongue and Wei Ying's hips want to come off the bed, but they can't, because Lan Zhan is holding him down with one huge, hot hand. He likes that, so much, too much, he might die from it?

Lan Zhan goes down deeper and Wei Ying has both hands pressed against his face now. It's an achingly slow press as Lan Zhan seems to learn the shape and size of him. Wei Ying can't feel his hands, can't stop the moans pouring out of him, can't stop his hips from trying to hitch up, the press of Lan Zhan's hand against them a counterpoint to Lan Zhan's hot mouth taking him all the way in.

When Lan Zhan moves, sucking Wei Ying with purpose, Wei Ying gets lost in the rhythm of it. Somehow he's got one hand tangled in Lan Zhan's hair, holding on as Lan Zhan moves. He's trembling, his whole body shaking, as his hips keep trying to move up, as everything in his body centers in on his dick in Lan Zhan's mouth. Every muscle is tense, and he's got his face pressed sideways against Lan Zhan's pillow, whimpering desperately. Lan Zhan swallows around him, he's got him in deep, so fucking deep. Wei Ying hears himself make a frantic, warning noise, and then his body goes taut and he's coming, a rush throughout his entire body, white light suffusing his brain as he arches up against the bed and shakes through it.

He can't move. He can't open his eyes. He can't feel his hands. He doesn't know his own name. He—

"Wei Ying." Lan Zhan is crawling up over him again. When Wei Ying manages to blink his eyes open, Lan Zhan is wiping his face with the back of his hand. His mouth looks wrecked, used, and Wei Ying can't stand how fucking into that he is. He drags Lan Zhan closer, kissing him, hard, and fuck, everything in Wei Ying's body is winding up again, even as the last thrum of his orgasm is still rocking through him.

"Take it off," Wei Ying says against Lan Zhan's mouth, trying to wrench Lan Zhan's shirt off. "Please, please, I can't—" He can't be the only one nearly naked, his shirt still hanging off his shoulders, scrunched up sweaty underneath him. Lan Zhan's still fully dressed and Wei Ying can't take it, he can't, he wants— "Please," he says again, desperate.

Lan Zhan tugs his shirt off over his head without unbuttoning it, and kneels up over Wei Ying to undo his pants and Wei Ying is getting hard again, watching this.

Lan Zhan has to roll to the side to push his trousers down and off, removing his underwear along with it in one smooth motion. Even the few seconds that takes is too much for Wei Ying, and he pushes up onto his side so he can run his hand down Lan Zhan's hip as soon as it's exposed. His eyes fall to Lan Zhan's cock. Finally. He's hard and it looks as big as it felt, jutting out from his body, glistening at the head. Wei Ying has to swallow; why does he like that so much, how wet Lan Zhan gets? He likes knowing that, like that he gets to know that.

He tugs on Lan Zhan's hip, bringing him in for a kiss, and Lan Zhan melts against him, one hand coming up to push into Wei Ying's hair as he moves. Wei Ying groans into the kiss as Lan Zhan's cock drags against his hip. "Oh," he says faintly. "Oh, fuck."

Lan Zhan's hand fists in his hair and Wei Ying's hips jerk forward without his volition. "Wei Ying," Lan Zhan says, his voice tight. "I—oh."

Wei Ying has wrapped his hand around Lan Zhan's cock. It's slick from the get-go and Lan Zhan has his face buried in Wei Ying's shoulder as he pushes into Wei Ying's fist. Something about this, about Lan Zhan trusting him like this, trusting him to stroke him off, trusting him to swallow the sounds he's making—somehow all of that hits him hard. Even though he'd just come in Lan Zhan's mouth this feels...like more.

"Can I—" Lan Zhan's hips move forward, Wei Ying doing nothing to stop them, loving the uneven thrusts, loving how Lan Zhan has to stop talking as his voice breaks when Wei Ying moves his hand on him, stroking up over the head where he's leaking, hot and wet against Wei Ying's wrist. "I want to feel you," Lan Zhan says finally. He's pressing the words against Wei Ying's skin, his breath hot against Wei Ying's chest. "Like this."

"Yes," Wei Ying says. He's dizzy, his dick getting hard again so soon that it nearly hurts. A good hurt, as he rubs it up against Lan Zhan's hip. "Like how? Tell me, Lan Zhan, I'll—yes, yes."

He'd say yes to anything Lan Zhan wants right now. He knows he's an idiot and he absolutely doesn't care. He knows they wouldn't be doing this if Lan Zhan didn't—if he didn't somehow, in some way—

Lan Zhan is moving him, shifting him, and Wei Ying is letting him, fuck, he's being manhandled, Lan Zhan's huge hands moving him so easily and he's as shockingly into it as he was into Lan Zhan's hand tugging at his hair. He moans as Lan Zhan turns him around—is Lan Zhan asking to fuck him? Would Wei Ying let him? He might. Fuck, he might.

Lan Zhan is mouthing at the back of his neck, pushing his hair out of the way so he can kiss him there, open-mouthed and hot, sending shudders down Wei Ying's spine. His cock is up against Wei Ying, so hard and so wet, dripping against him. "Just—" Lan Zhan says. "I just want to feel you, want to feel—this." He pushes between Wei Ying's thighs with his cock and, oh. Oh, that was not what Wei Ying had been expecting but fuck, it feels good. Lan Zhan's cock is right in between there, and the head is bumping against Wei Ying's balls every time he shifts forward and that, too, is sending sparks through Wei Ying's entire body like he's been, he doesn't even know, rewired so everything Lan Zhan does to him just lights him up inside.

"Please," he's saying—again. Still. Begging for it. "Please, yeah, you can—like that, I want it—"

Lan Zhan's moving, and he's slick, but it's not quite enough, Wei Ying wants the slide of it, wants to feel it, enough that he's saying, "Wait, wait, lube? Lan Zhan, lube?"

And Lan Zhan lifts his head from where he's been mouthing at Wei Ying's shoulder to say, his voice hazy, "Yes, that's—yes, please, it's there. The drawer."

Wei Ying fumbles for the bedside table, having to pull away from Lan Zhan a little to do so. He hates it but oh, it's so worth it when he yanks the drawer open and spots the flip-top bottle of lube, lined up neatly there alongside—oh, god, he's going to be thinking about Lan Zhan opening himself up with that slim blue dildo for the rest of his life and there is no one on earth who can stop him. He slams the drawer shut and pushes himself back against Lan Zhan, his face burning so hot. Fuck, what a vivid image. He might die from it, and he doesn't want to, not yet, not before he gets Lan Zhan to come between his thighs.

"Here," he pants out, pressing the bottle back into Lan Zhan's hand. "Now, I—"

He's shaking like he's the one who hasn't already come, like he's the one who's slicked up, god, the slide is so much better now, it's so good, the feel of Lan Zhan's cock moving smooth and hot, the way Lan Zhan is panting for breath against his shoulder, holding him tight and close, thrusting again, harder, his teeth digging against Wei Ying's shoulder.

"It's so good," Wei Ying moans, pushing his hand back to hold onto Lan Zhan's head, keeping it there. "Please, fuck, please."

He'd just meant he'd wanted Lan Zhan to keep going but Lan Zhan does him one better, and with the next thrust, he brings his arm around Wei Ying's waist, reaching down and unerringly grabbing his dick, wrapping it in his slick hand and jerking him off. It doesn't even matter that the rhythm is uneven, Wei Ying is caught up in the damp, desperate sounds Lan Zhan is making behind him, how he's driving forward again and again, how he's clearly going to come any second now. Wei Ying wants it, he wants it.

Lan Zhan thrusts in and holds himself there, shaking as he spills between Wei Ying's thighs. He's groaning with his mouth against Wei Ying's shoulder and trembling behind him, so hard Wei Ying feels as though he might shake apart. Wei Ying feels caught up in it, shaking nearly as much. Lan Zhan draws in a breath against his shoulder, and then another, and then he starts moving his hand on Wei Ying's dick again. "Oh fuck," Wei Ying pants. He'd almost forgotten his own arousal, so caught up in Lan Zhan's, but it slams back into him now. "Please, I have to—please make me come, please." Which is obviously what Lan Zhan is very intently doing at this very moment, even, but Wei Ying is fuck-dumb. His thighs are sliding against each other with Lan Zhan's come and it's both gross and also incredibly, deeply hot, and honestly he needs to be excused from having to control whatever it is that comes out of his mouth right now.

"I've got you," Lan Zhan murmurs, and if that doesn't send one hell of a zing through Wei Ying in a way that's going to be a very real problem for him... "I've got you, I've..." His mouth is back against Wei Ying's neck, mouthing at it as he moves his hand on Wei Ying's dick in the perfect rhythm, the best possible rhythm, fuck, he's going to come, he's going to come again, he's going to come again in about ten seconds and—

"Oh," he gasps, his hand flying back to grab Lan Zhan's hip, hanging on, holding him close. "You're so good at this, you're so good, you're too good, Lan Zhan, I—"

"Wei Ying," Lan Zhan says, like a command, like a direct order, and Wei Ying shakes apart in his arms. He's coming hot and hard, spilling all over Lan Zhan's fist, all over his bed. He's got his head thrown back against Lan Zhan's shoulder, his arm still clutching at his hip, and he can't get enough breath in his body.

He collapses forward when he's finished, his entire body going limp and boneless. He definitely lands in his own wet spot and he definitely doesn't care. "Hhnnrgh," he says against the covers. He tries again. "Hhhnn—that was...so dirty, Lan Zhan."

Lan Zhan's hand is on his hip, and he's pressed up against Wei Ying's back. It's a pleasant weight, a good weight. He feels like he'd maybe float up towards the ceiling without Lan Zhan anchoring him here. He can feel Lan Zhan's heart still beating hard and fast against his back and that feels grounding too, a counterpoint to the thundering in his own chest. He can feel Lan Zhan's lips move against his shoulder when he says, "Not so dirty."

Wei Ying uses a great deal of energy so he can twist around and look up at him. Lan Zhan's face is flushed and his eyes are dark and he looks...

Wei Ying shuts his eyes, hitching himself over more so he can press his face against Lan Zhan's chest. Lan Zhan takes a breath when he does it and his arm comes over Wei Ying's shoulder, warm against the air of the room, air that feels chilly now as the sweat dries on their skin. "Ha," Wei Ying says. "Then you must have much dirtier thoughts than I do." He can't just stay here and, what, cuddle? Fall asleep in Lan Zhan's bed again? He can't. He can't.

He sits up slowly, extracting himself from Lan Zhan's arms. Lan Zhan's hand falls to Wei Ying's thigh. He's pushed himself to sitting, as well, and he looks completely at ease, even though he's as naked as Wei Ying is—or nearly so, since Wei Ying's shirt is still half on, twisted around his arms and shoulders now. Lan Zhan's hair is a tumbled mess, falling in waves over his bare shoulders like he's the cover of a book, a romance novel where the hero comes and sweeps the girl off her feet.

It makes Wei Ying fumble with his own hair, which has almost completely lost its ponytail, his hair elastic having disappeared somewhere in the tangle of it. "I'm a disaster. Look at you, you're perfection and I'm—" He laughs, trying to extract his hair elastic and Lan Zhan's hands move to his hair, gently pushing Wei Ying’s aside and working out the elastic carefully.

Still, it tugs, and when Wei Ying winces, Lan Zhan murmurs, "I'm sorry, does it hurt?" and drops another soft kiss to Wei Ying's shoulder as he hands him the elastic.

Wei Ying bites the inside of his lip, hard, and takes the elastic, flashing Lan Zhan a grin. "I'm good," he says. He claws his hair back into what is probably a really insane ponytail—he can feel how lumpy it is, but it's fine, it's fine.

"Wei Ying," Lan Zhan says, and oh, Wei Ying can't talk about this. He can't. His heart is beating even harder now, but in a weird, unsteady rhythm, off-kilter and unhappy. If they talk about this, then it's over, it's well and truly over, and he can't sit here and listen to Lan Zhan explain that. He can't. He knows.

"Oh, look at that, it's late, it's so—you've got to be so glad I won't be keeping you up late anymore. I'm like that, I mess up schedules and plans. Nie Huaisang is always telling me that." He's scrambling off the bed as he talks, desperately searching for his underwear. It feels like a miracle when he finds it flung to the floor at the foot of the bed. "He doesn't mind it, of course, you know Nie Huaisang—wait, do you know Nie Huaisang? You do, right?"

"I do." Lan Zhan is watching him scramble into his clothes. He slides to the foot of the bed, gracefully scoops his own underwear off of the floor. "I am acquainted with his brother and they are both...well known amidst my circles on campus."

"Right." Wei Ying is doing up his jeans, wondering where his socks are, questioning if he even needs socks. Maybe he should start leading a sock-free lifestyle. It would mean sweaty feet, but less laundry, and he wouldn't have to find them, and—

Lan Zhan hands Wei Ying his socks.

Why is that the thing that makes Wei Ying blush? His thighs are still tacky with Lan Zhan's come. "Thanks!" he says, sitting down to tug them on. "Right, you would know them, obviously, not, like, 'oh, ha, all Chinese people on campus know each other,' but, like." He stops with one sock on. "You know what I mean."

"I do." Lan Zhan says. He's pulled his trousers back on and he's just there, with his slim hips and his ridiculous abs and he's looking at Wei Ying. He opens his mouth and Wei Ying leaps to his feet.

"I should go," he says. "It's late. It's—so late, and we, well." He shoves his feet into his sneakers, grabs his coat from the floor. The rose is still in the buttonhole, a little worse for being flung on the floor, but still intact. Wei Ying stares at it for a second before shrugging the coat back on. "Thank you," he says, pausing with his hand on the doorknob. "Thank you for helping me, for...you know, the dates. The five dates. It was—" Devastating. "A lot less work than I thought it would be. Sorry I put you through that. That's me, always needing saving from myself. My brother tells me that all the time." Stop talking. "Okay. I—"

He darts forward, leaning in to press a kiss against Lan Zhan's cheek. He lets his hand rest on Lan Zhan's side as he does so, just for a moment, the skin warm under his fingers. "See you in class, right?"

He spins and leaves before Lan Zhan can respond. The door bangs shut too loudly behind him and he has to make an effort not to collapse back against it. He grimly moves forward, in a fugue state. A step at a time and he'll be home, and then he can crawl under the covers and—possibly—never come out.

***

"Is it going to be like this for the rest of our lives?" Jiang Cheng demands. "I don't want that."

"Like what?" Wei Ying doesn't bother to push the blanket off of his face from where he's curled up under it on the couch. Jiang Cheng can hear him. It's fine.

"You." Jiang Cheng shoves Wei Ying's feet out of the way and sits down on the couch next to him. "Moping. Dragging yourself around like it's the end of the world."

"I'm not moping," Wei Ying protests. He pushes his feet into Jiang Cheng's lap, twisting around on the couch so he can stare at the ceiling. "Shut up. You're moping."

"I most definitely am not." Jiang Cheng pinches his ankle, and Wei Ying whines at him until he pets at the spot. "You haven't left the house in three days. You haven't showered in three days, either, it smells like."

Wei Ying gives him a sad look from his end of the couch. "Why are you being so mean to me," he asks. "I'm a nice brother."

"You're a sad brother," Jiang Cheng shoots back, but he's not rolling his eyes, he's just looking at Wei Ying. He's still got his hand on Wei Ying's ankle and he gives it a little shake. "What is up with you?"

"Nothing." Wei Ying sighs. It's really true. There's nothing.

"That is a lie." Jiang Cheng says it flatly. "You're the one who said we should make a pact. You're the one who said it. And then you just—" He clamps his mouth shut and shakes his head.

"What?" Wei Ying blinks at him. When Jiang Cheng doesn't say anything, he pushes himself to sitting, pushing aside the blanket. "I just what?"

"You didn't even ask," Jiang Cheng bursts out. "About me and—" He cuts himself off, breathing angrily through his nose. His face is flushed red all over. "About the pact. About the...fifth date."

Is the phrase 'fifth date' ever not going to sound like the end of the world to Wei Ying? It cuts through him, his stomach giving a lurch. He shakes his head, and pushes the blanket to the floor so he can scoot closer to Jiang Cheng on the couch. "Fifth date," he says like it doesn't hurt. "Right! You and Wen Qing went out, right? On Saturday?"

Jiang Cheng says, "I'm not sure if it counts, if we didn't...go out." He's flushing harder and oh. Oh, Wei Ying has been caught up in his own misery, but does that mean...?

"Jiang Cheng!" He puts a hand on Jiang Cheng's shoulder. "Did you and Wen Qing—did you guys—oh my god, you did!"

Jiang Cheng's blushing so hard Wei Ying's worried he might catch fire. "Shut up," he says gruffly, but he looks pleased, he looks...happy.

"Tell me," Wei Ying demands. "Tell me everything. I want details."

"I am absolutely not telling you everything," Jiang Cheng says flatly. "That's weird."

"Fine, whatever," Wei Ying says, inching closer. "But tell me something."

Jiang Cheng looks away. His hands are clenched in fists on his lap, but he's also got this small smile playing across his lips. "You were right," he says. "She likes me. She's liked me. She said she didn't want to play any games. Like, from step one, she made it really clear that this was—more." He looks at Wei Ying.

Oh, he's been dying to tell someone, and who is he going to tell, other than Wei Ying? But Wei Ying has—he's not wrong—been dragging himself around the apartment and not even noticing Jiang Cheng. "More," Wei Ying says. "That's good, right?"

"It is." Jiang Cheng presses his lips together then bursts out with, "She's so tiny, right, but she's the one in charge, and it's...nice, not to have to wonder. She tells me. She lets me know. She—"

Wei Ying watches as his blush gets even deeper. "You like her?"

Jiang Cheng gives a short, sharp nod. "Wei Ying, I think I love her." He looks immediately alarmed, like he's startled himself. "Oh, fuck."

Wei Ying smiles and slumps against Jiang Cheng's shoulder. "Good for you," he says. It is. It is so, so good for Jiang Cheng. That was the whole point, actually, of the pact, and it worked. He wasn't sure it was going to, but it had, it worked just the way he'd planned. This was so good. Exactly what he'd hoped. "So good."

"I guess?" Jiang Cheng sounds a little dismayed. "Fuck," he says again, with feeling. He slants a glare at Wei Ying. "Now you," he demands.

Wei Ying blinks at him. "Now me what?"

"Now you tell me what's going on with you." Jiang Cheng frowns. "You and Lan Zhan."

"Nothing." Wei Ying says, pressing his face against Jiang Cheng's shoulder. "There isn't—it didn't work out."

Jiang Cheng knocks his head off his shoulder with the flat of one palm.

"Ow." Wei Ying slumps back on his side of the couch, staring at Jiang Cheng reproachfully.

"You're such an idiot." Jiang Cheng sighs. "You are the smartest complete moron I've ever met."

"Hey," Wei Ying says, staring at him.

"I'm not kidding about that. What is actually wrong with you?" Jiang Cheng says.

Jiang Cheng isn't even being nice about Wei Ying being a pile of sadness on the couch. He's not even trying. Wei Ying pouts at him and Jiang Cheng just rolls his eyes. "It didn't work out," he says, mimicking Wei Ying's sad tone, wow, way too meanly. "He is clearly into you. What the fuck do you mean, it didn't work out?"

"He isn't." Wei Ying drags the blanket back into his lap.

Jiang Cheng's nostrils flare. Wei Ying doesn't think he's ever actually seen that happen in real life. "He is," he says flatly. "He looks at you like you're the moon and the stars."

"That's not true," Wei Ying starts, but Jiang Cheng cuts him off.

"He likes you," he says flatly. "He's into you. Five dates, Wei Ying. You don't say yes to five dates with someone you don't like."

Wei Ying drops his gaze miserably to the blanket in his lap. He contemplates pulling it over his head again. Jiang Cheng would probably get mad—madder—if he did that. "Maybe they would," he mutters. "Maybe if they were being nice."

Jiang Cheng rolls his eyes. "No one is five-dates nice."

Lan Zhan is. Even if they were fake dates, five is a lot. Lan Zhan is five-dates nice. "I told you," Wei Ying says, wrapping his hands up in the blanket and tugging it up to his chin. "I told you I'd find someone high-stakes to ask. Lan Zhan was high-stakes. High-stakes doesn't always work out."

Jiang Cheng tugs at the end of the blanket, trying to pull it away. Wei Ying clutches at it. "Don't, I'm cold."

"You're not cold, you're pathetic," Jiang Cheng says, not unkindly.

"I can be both," Wei Ying mutters.

"Wei Ying." Jiang Cheng lets go of the blanket and presses his fingers against his temples, rubbing like he's got a headache. "You're my brother and I need you to listen to me."

Wei Ying looks up at him tentatively.

"You are not right about Lan Zhan." Jiang Cheng drops his hand from his temples, looking sternly over at Wei Ying. "I promise you. Anyone with eyes can see that he's into you."

Wei Ying thinks about the practice kissing. About falling asleep in Lan Zhan's bed. Thinks about Lan Zhan's mouth against his shoulder, his cock between his thighs. Thinks about Lan Zhan's sweater, the one he never gave back, the one he's wearing right now under the blanket. And he thinks about Lan Zhan saying, "I can pretend to date you." Jiang Cheng's right: he is the dumbest smart person ever. Why would he choose someone this high-stakes to fake date?

"You have got to get out of your own way," Jiang Cheng says.

Wei Ying frowns. "Not everyone can fall in love like you have. Not everyone gets that."

Jiang Cheng's expression turns alarmed. "Fuck," he says. "I—I almost forgot. I do. I love her."

Wei Ying looks at him across the couch, at his brother's startled expression and soft, totally-in-love eyes. "You should call her," he says.

"I should call her. I should—I'm going to call her." Jiang Cheng pushes himself off the couch.

Wei Ying lets himself fall over, slumping down against the couch where Jiang Cheng had been sitting. Oh wait, there had, in fact, been another point to the pact. He's pretty sure he knows, but. "Jiang Cheng," he calls out, before Jiang Cheng leaves the room.

"Hmm?" Jiang Cheng has his phone in his hand and is staring down at it distractedly, his thumb poised over the screen.

"Did she wreck you?" Wei Ying asks, propping his chin up on a hand. "Sexually?"

Jiang Cheng's face goes as red as he's ever seen it. His mouth opens and shuts, then opens again. "Shut up," he says, going for gruff, Wei Ying can tell, but missing the mark by miles. He sounds like he's trying to bite back a smile, a grin, possibly even an hysterical laugh. "Just—stop talking forever." He spins on his heel and leaves the room.

"Ah." Wei Ying flops onto his back on the couch. "She did. Good." He tucks his face into Lan Zhan's sweater and goes back to brooding. He's good at brooding. He should have made a pact about brooding.

***

Wei Ying skids into class late on Thursday afternoon with an extra-large coffee clutched against his chest and his bag falling off his shoulder. He'd strongly considered skipping it, but he actually likes this class. He's not going to let an ill-advised decision to fake-date and make out with and hook up with a classmate change that. He's not. So instead, he's his normal amount of late and makes an apologetic face at the professor as he looks around for a seat. He's deliberately not looking at his usual spot by Lan Zhan, because that's a good spot and even though he'd taken it over for a few weeks, for as long as five dates took, that's over. He can't assume it'll be open for him, late as he is.

But when his gaze—inexorably, inescapably—is drawn towards Lan Zhan, the seat next to him is empty. And Lan Zhan is looking at him. Not at the professor, not his usual stern, focused, 'Lan Zhan is In Class and Learning' look, but at Wei Ying. Looking at him, and gesturing delicately to the seat beside him.

Wei Ying takes a breath then slouches over quickly and drops into the seat.

The professor continues lecturing and Wei Ying digs around in his bag, pulling out his laptop, which is—of course—completely dead when he opens it. He rummages around in his bag. He has to have his power cord with him. He has to. Come on, let one thing go right today. He digs deeper, sweeping his hand around. Nothing.

From the corner of his eye, he sees Lan Zhan slide a power cord, neatly wrapped around itself, onto his desk.

Wei Ying glances over at him but Lan Zhan is paying attention to the professor, steadily typing notes in his own laptop.

Wei Ying sits up with a soft sigh and plugs in his laptop.

The professor is talking about the chapter that Wei Ying had honestly meant to read last night, but he had, instead, fallen asleep on the couch and woken up at 1:27 in the morning and wretchedly not been able to go back to sleep after. He tries to pay attention, typing a phrase she says here or there, but mostly jittering in place and trying to figure out how normal breathing works.

He jumps a little when something brushes against his foot. His heart is beating a mile a minute when he glances down to where Lan Zhan has slid his own foot across the space between their seats and is nudging it against his. Wei Ying looks up in surprise—he hadn't meant to look at Lan Zhan again, definitely wasn't going to look at Lan Zhan again—and Lan Zhan doesn't have his eyes on the professor this time. He's looking at Wei Ying.

Wei Ying goes hot all over and he drops his gaze back to his notes. His incomprehensible notes. He grabs his coffee and takes a gulp, but caffeine can't help him with this. He has no idea what's going on here. They're done. He knows they're done. He spent all week telling himself they're done, that he's got to be done with this. Is this a friendship thing? Friends lend each other power cords. Friends, maybe, nudge you in class when you look like you're vibrating into another plane of existence.

"Mr. Wei," comes the professor's voice. He looks up at her over the rim of his coffee cup. "Can you tell us your thoughts on this?"

Wei Ying sifts through the background noise of his brain to what she'd been lecturing about. "Right. Right. Urbanization. Listen, I've been thinking about it and the thing is, economic development is all well and good, but..." He looks at her and rolls the dice. "Like you said, the stresses on existing social services mean that the bad usually ends up outweighing the good." He's...pretty sure she said that.

"Hmm," she says, raising an eyebrow. "Yes. Anyone else?"

Her attention turns back to the rest of the class. Wei Ying sighs in relief and glances over at Lan Zhan without meaning to.

Lan Zhan is looking at him again. Lan Zhan's face itself is expressionless, but if you know him—and Wei Ying thinks that he may know him better than most—he's giving off pure heat in how he's looking at Wei Ying. His eyes flicker, dark and intense. His mouth does that soft thing it does just when he's about to kiss Wei Ying, and then he takes a breath and looks away.

Wei Ying drags his gaze back down to his laptop. Do friends look at you the way Lan Zhan was just looking at him?

Class finally ends, and Wei Ying is up like a shot the second they're dismissed. "Thanks, Lan Zhan," he says, unplugging the charger and shoving it towards him. "Ha, who comes to class without a dead laptop? I'm such an idiot, thanks for saving me." He stuffs his laptop into his bag and drags his coat off the back of the chair. "Anyway, okay, bye!"

"Wei Ying." Lan Zhan is keeping pace with him as he hurries out of the classroom. "Can you—do you have a moment?"

Lan Zhan rarely stumbles over his words, he always has the words lined up in his head before he says them, it seems like. For him to fumble there, even for a moment—even Wei Ying's sense of self-preservation won't let him say no. "Yeah," he says instead, after a long second. "I mean. Of course."

Lan Zhan pulls him into the same nearby classroom where he'd kissed him before—kissed him because he'd seen Jiang Cheng, Wei Ying desperately reminds himself. Kissed him because he'd agreed to the favor. The pact.

The sounds of the hallway fall away as Lan Zhan closes the door behind them. He looks at Wei Ying. "I texted," he says quietly. "You did not text back."

"Oh," Wei Ying says brightly. "Did you? I didn't get it. My phone does that sometimes. I really need to restart it, I keep not letting it run the update, and it does things like that." He'd read Lan Zhan's text over and over again, trying to make himself delete it. It wasn't much; it wasn't anything. It wasn't even anything you could read anything into. It was just his name. Just Wei Ying. But every time he looked at it, he could hear it in Lan Zhan's voice.

"I called," Lan Zhan says then.

"I'm bad at phone calls," Wei YIng says. He's got sweat pooling at the small of his back, even though the classroom is chilly. His voice echoes in the room.

"Wei Ying." Lan Zhan's moving closer to him and he's putting his hand on Wei Ying's arm.

Wei Ying is going to spontaneously combust in this classroom which, hey, might solve his problems, actually. His throat is too dry to say anything. All he can do is look at Lan Zhan.

"On Saturday," Lan Zhan says slowly.

Wei Ying so very desperately, with all of his heart and his soul, does not want to talk about Saturday.

"You left quickly." Lan Zhan looks at him. "I hope that you do not regret what...we did." There's the smallest of pauses there, something you might not even notice, but Wei Ying hears it. Wei Ying sees the light pink blush rising in Lan Zhan's cheeks. It's cute, he thinks miserably. It's so cute.

"I don't regret it!" He's going for cheerful but it comes out...insane. "I don't," he says again, more quietly, less manically. "I appreciate it."

Lan Zhan's eyes flicker up to his. "You...appreciate it."

"Not the—" Wei Ying stops, flustered. "I meant the...you know. The help you gave me. The fifth date. Five whole dates. That's a lot of dates with someone you don't even like! Jiang Cheng said no one is five-dates nice, but you are. You really are."

How many things, Wei Ying wonders, would be better in his life if he could ever just figure out how to stop talking?

"Five-dates nice," Lan Zhan echoes. He's studying Wei Ying. "I don't understand what that means."

"Oh," Wei Ying says, "you know, it's just—"

"I like you." Lan Zhan cuts him off. He says it firmly, with quiet intensity.

Wei Ying feels dizzy. Is he going to faint? Is this what it feels like when you're going to faint? He might faint. "Ha ha," he says weakly. "I like you, too."

"You said that's a lot of dates." Lan Zhan is advancing on him, moving closer.

Wei Ying holds his ground. "It is," he says. "Five dates is objectively a lot of dates."

"You said that's a lot of dates with someone I don't even like." Lan Zhan is very close to him now.

If Wei Ying backs away, he feels like he'd be admitting something so he just...stands there. Lifts his chin a little. Smiles, the best he knows how. "Right!"

"I like you." Lan Zhan really, really needs to stop saying that. "I like you. I would not go on five dates with someone I don't like."

"Five fake dates," Wei Ying corrects. "For a favor."

"Five dates," Lan Zhan says again, and fuck, when his voice gets like that, all deep and intense, Wei Ying feels it in his knees. "Not a favor."

"It was a favor." Wei Ying can't move, can't back away, not with Lan Zhan looming over him like this, looking at him like this. "You said."

"I lied." Wei Ying's brain can't process what's more shocking, the concept of Lan Zhan lying, or the fact that Lan Zhan kisses him right after he says it. Kisses him hard, one arm going around the small of Wei Ying's back, crushing him against Lan Zhan even as he brings his hand up to Wei Ying's face, cupping his cheek and tracing his thumb over it the way Wei Ying has definitely not been thinking about for days.

He makes a small sound in his throat and lets his knees go weak. Lan Zhan holds him. Lan Zhan holds him up, won't let him fall. "It was a pact," he says against Lan Zhan's lips. "That's all it was."

"I know about the pact." Lan Zhan kisses him again, softer this time but no less intense. "The pact is over now, correct?"

"Yeah." Wei Ying trembles a little as Lan Zhan kisses the corner of his mouth. "I—yeah, five dates. That was all."

"Mm." Lan Zhan moves up, kissing his cheek where it's burning so hotly, then the corner of his eye. Wei Ying's knees are shaking. "Well, then." Lan Zhan pulls back, just a little bit, looking at Wei Ying. "Will you go out with me?"

"You want me to go out with you," Wei Ying repeats dumbly.

Lan Zhan gives a short, careful nod. His hand is still tracing slowly over Wei Ying's cheekbone.

"You want me to go out with you," Wei Ying says again, because his brain has gone entirely offline, just offering him staticy noises when he tries to comprehend Lan Zhan's words. "On a date."

"Yes," Lan Zhan says, then pauses. "Well, actually, no."

Wei Ying's heart drops. "Oh, yeah, I mean, I didn't—"

"Could we stay in, perhaps?" Lan Zhan's voice is—there isn't another word for it, Wei Ying's brain won't give him another word for it—smoky. "On our date. In lieu of...going out?"

Wei Ying thinks his mouth is open a bit. He thinks he must look like a carp, stunned by a fisherman on the dock. He closes it, but it falls open again. "I—" he manages after a moment, "I—yes. I would like that. Yes."

Lan Zhan is smiling now, a pleased look on his face. Wei Ying doesn't care. Lan Zhan can think he's ridiculous. He's fine with it. Lan Zhan likes him. He wants to go out—stay in on a date with him. He— "Not a fake date," Wei Ying says then, just making sure. "A real one."

"A real date," Lan Zhan assures him. "I bought a bottle of wine." He kisses Wei Ying, lingering. "We can order food." He kisses him again, like he can't stop himself. "We can...continue this, but with privacy." He moves his mouth down to kiss Wei Ying's jaw, hot and damp, then moves up a little higher. "I have it on good authority," he murmurs against Wei Ying's ear, "that these are the things that make up the pertinent aspects of a date." He draws Wei Ying's earlobe into his mouth.

"Hahhh," Wei Ying pants out intelligently. His breath comes out in a gasp when Lan Zhan releases his ear, finally. "You've gotten good dating advice."

"Mm." Lan Zhan lifts his head, looking at him. "Wei Ying," he says. "Can we have our date now?"

"Yes," Wei Ying says fervently.

"Good." Lan Zhan kisses his forehead then, which absolutely should not send a shudder down Wei Ying's spine and absolutely does. "Let's go."

Wei Ying lets Lan Zhan take his hand and pull him, stumbling, out of the classroom, towards their first—sixth?—date.

***

"Then what happened?" Nie Huaisang demands.

Wei Ying shrugs a little, pulling his hoodie sleeves down over his hands. "I mean, you know."

"I very much do not know," Nie Huaisang responds. "That's why I'm asking."

"We went back to his place." Wei Ying tucks his grin into the neck of his hoodie. "We...hung out."

"You hung out," Nie Huaisang says flatly, and then makes a buzzing noise. "Sorry, friend, the judges have ruled we're going to need more of an answer than that."

Wei Ying keeps his face tucked into his hoodie. He can't hide his smile, he just can't. He thinks about Lan Zhan, resolutely tugging him across campus to his dorm, growling a little every time Wei Ying had tried to drag him to a stop and kiss him. "Inside," he'd kept saying. "When we're there, I'll—" He'd cut himself off every time and Wei Ying had been burning up with ideas about what Lan Zhan had been planning to do.

"Nothing," he says to Nie Huaisang. "Nothing, we just..." They hadn't just anything. He'd say it was all a blur, but he'd been tracing over every detail since the day it had happened. Lan Zhan kissing him the second they were in his room, lifting him up and carrying him to the bed. The shocking drop onto the bed that took Wei Ying's breath away, but not as much as when Lan Zhan crawled on top of him.

How Lan Zhan had gotten them both naked, with an economy of movement that makes Wei Ying feel like Lan Zhan could do anything to him that he wants. Shoving the covers back and getting Wei Ying spread out on his bed. How his fingers had felt as he'd opened Wei Ying up, god, god, is he ever going to be the same again? He doesn't think so. Even now, in the well-known, easy comfort of Nie Huaisang's bedroom, he feels the echo of the ache as Lan Zhan had pressed inside him. It had felt like Wei Ying's body had been made for this, made for taking Lan Zhan.

"What did you do?" Nie Huaisang demands. "To make you blush this bad, it must have been truly something."

Wei Ying shakes his head, but his brain puts the memory of them rolling over, of him climbing on top of Lan Zhan, of riding him, his dick leaking a puddle down onto Lan Zhan's stomach, sinking back onto Lan Zhan again, and again, and—

"Holy fuck, look at your face," Nie Huaisang says, staring at him. "What didn't you do?"

Wei Ying leans down to bury his face in his hands. "My friend," he says, muffled against his own palms. "We did everything."

He peeks through his fingers. Nie Huaisang is making a 'keep going' gesture.

"I let him fuck me," Wei Ying confesses, dropping his hands to his lap.

"Good boy," Nie Huaisang says. "And?"

"Fuck." Wei Ying slumps back against Nie Huaisang's pillows. "It was so good. It was so good." Lan Zhan had let him come all over his hand and he'd fucked him through it, Wei Ying a mess of dizzying, aching pulses of coming, over and over and over again.

"Lan Zhan's a good boy, too," Nie Huaisang says decisively.

"You're not wrong." Wei Ying looks down at his phone as it buzzes. It's a text from Lan Zhan.

"Stop doing that," Nie Huaisang orders.

"What?" Wei Ying looks up at him, then back down at his phone. He can't believe he gets to see Lan Zhan tonight, finally. He'd been pulled away on a family thing on Sunday and Wei Ying hasn't seen him since they— Well, he hasn't seen him all week.

"You're overflowing with affection," Nie Huaisang says. "It's gross. Stop doing it on my bed."

Wei Ying grins up at him and rolls over, pressing his face against the pillow. "Not stopping," he says. "I can't." I love him, Wei Ying thinks, the smell of Nie Huaisang's hair product surrounding him. I love Lan Zhan. Fuck. Fuck. He really can't stop it.

"Oh my god, my pillow." Nie Huaisang sounds dismayed. "Why am I even friends with you?"

Wei Ying lifts his face. "Because I'm awesome."

"You're a disaster," Nie Huaisang nudges him with his foot.

"An awesome disaster," Wei Ying corrects. "Okay." He rolls to his feet. "I have to go."

"Booty call?" Nie Huaisang asks.

"No!" Well. "I mean. Sort of. Well. Yes. But we planned it." It's Jiang Cheng's late class night. He won't be home until after nine. "Lan Zhan's meeting me at my place in twenty minutes."

"Ah." Nie Huaisang nods sadly. "Forsaking your friend for dick. I see how it is."

"I'm glad." Wei Ying drops a quick, smacking kiss on Nie Huaisang's cheek. "Bye!"

He gets to his place a full five minutes early, but of course Lan Zhan is already outside. "Hi," Wei Ying says with what he's pretty sure is a goofy smile.

"Wei Ying." Lan Zhan is wearing snug white pants that make his legs look a thousand feet long. He's got a flowy white winter coat over it that sort of wraps around him? It has a long scarf-type thing, too, and he looks like a prince from a fairy tale. Wei Ying just likes him (loves, his brain reminds him) so much.

Lan Zhan is looking at him like he wants to eat him. Wei Ying would kiss him right here, but Lan Zhan has that guarded look that says don't start anything right here or I absolutely won't be able to hold back. Instead, Wei Ying brushes his fingers against Lan Zhan's shoulder as he lets them into the building. Lan Zhan follows close behind him as they make their way up to his apartment.

He lets them in, toeing off his shoes in the hallway. Lan Zhan has to bend down to unzip his calf-length boots—also white, a bold choice in a city in the winter. When he stands up, Wei Ying captures his hand in his own and tugs him in for a kiss. Lan Zhan makes a small sound in his throat as Wei Ying crowds him up against the door. "I couldn't wait another second," he explains as he comes up for air. "It's been a long week."

Lan Zhan nods and kisses him again. "Since Thursday. I missed you."

Wei Ying flushes. Lan Zhan just says things like that, without any embarrassment or self-preservation instincts. "So," he says. "Here we are. Our sixth date."

"Thursday was our sixth date." Lan Zhan says it gravely, his hands winding around Wei Ying's waist, bringing him even closer.

"That wasn't so much a date as..." Wei Ying doesn't know if he can say 'sex fest' out loud to Lan Zhan.

"It was a date." Lan Zhan's voice is low, and he bends in, tracing his lips up Wei Ying's neck, sending a shudder down his spine. "And after six dates, I can say with fair confidence that we're...dating." He takes Wei Ying's earlobe into his mouth, digs his teeth in just a little. "Don't you agree?"

Wei Ying whimpers a little. In agreement. He does. He really, really does.

"Hey," he says, after some more kissing—fuck, Lan Zhan is good at kissing. "Hey, hey, come in. I promised to show you the rest of the apartment. Look, I cleaned up!" He had. He'd cleaned and set mood lighting and everything, and then immediately left to hang out at Nie Huaisang's so he wouldn't mess everything up. He draws Lan Zhan down the hall to the living room. He'd straightened all the piles of books, tucking most of them into corners or under the coffee table. The blanket is folded neatly and hanging over the back of the couch like they're in a catalogue or something. He'd turned on the side lamps, even replacing the bulb in the one that had blown out weeks ago.

Lan Zhan is, in fact, looking around with interest. He paces into the room, his eyes running over the over-packed bookshelf in the corner, the television (the whole stand still messy with controllers and games and boxes, but hey, at least they're not scattered across the coffee table the way they usually are), and his finger running down the spines of a couple of stacks of books, his neck tilting as he reads the titles.

"You're so cute," Wei Ying says, bursting out with it. If Lan Zhan can say true stuff, so can he. "I can't take it. I can't believe you're here."

Lan Zhan looks over at him. His smile is small and tender and Wei Ying wants to kiss it so badly. "I've been here before."

"Yeah, but not here-here," Wei Ying says. "Just my bedroom." He flushes, then, remembering that day of practice in the bedroom, like they haven't done a dozen filthier things than that since.

"Mm," Lan Zhan says, like he's remembering it too.

"Sit down, sit down." Wei Ying says it too quickly, trying to stick to his plan for the night. He was going to make it a real date, a nice, normal, at-home date. "Here, do you want something to drink?"

Lan Zhan shakes his head, sitting neatly on the couch where Wei Ying has indicated. "You sit as well," he says, his hand resting on the couch beside him.

Wei Ying does, sinking down next to him. "Hi," he says, his mouth going dry, because Lan Zhan is just looking at him, that hot, wanting look that Wei Ying recognizes so well because he'd seen it, oh, so many times over their fake dates. Which were real dates. Apparently. "Hi, I like you."

Lan Zhan's lips curve into a smile, a real smile. "And I, you," he says, and draws Wei Ying into his arms.

The thing about Lan Zhan is that he kisses with his whole body. This is maybe why he doesn't generally want to start things in public: it swiftly goes from them trading kisses curled up next to each other on the couch to Lan Zhan making a sort of growling noise and tugging Wei Ying into his lap so he's straddling him. "You really like me on top, huh?" Wei Ying says. The escalation is perfect—Wei Ying slides forward against him and it doesn't matter that he's hard, that he's been halfway there since Lan Zhan had given him that look in front of the building. Lan Zhan makes a pleased noise of agreement and rocks up against him, his hands on Wei Ying's hips, and he's hard as well. It's becoming startlingly clear to Wei Ying that somehow Lan Zhan is stealth-horny pretty much all the time. He doesn't know how he missed that for so long.

They kiss until Wei Ying is breathless, so hard, aching, frantically wondering if they could just rub up against each other here on the couch until they both come, thinking he'd be okay with that, he'd be so okay with that. Only—wait, fuck, he'd had a plan.

He pulls his mouth away from Lan Zhan, tries to sit back a little. Lan Zhan moves a hand up his back to drag him closer again. "Wait," Wei Ying says. "Hang on, just a second, wait."

Lan Zhan does so. He's still holding Wei Ying close, but he's looking up at him expectantly.

Fuck, he's gorgeous. He's so—

Focus up, Wei Ying. "Do you want something to eat? We should order dinner. I had this whole plan. I've got, like, menus and..."

Lan Zhan is shaking his head slowly. "Later," he says, giving Wei Ying another honey-rich kiss, short this time. He sits back again afterwards, looking at Wei Ying.

"Oh," Wei Ying says, caught up in the heat in Lan Zhan's eyes. "Oh, right, later. So. Now, do you want..."

Lan Zhan just looks at him.

"Okay, bedroom." Wei Ying scrambles off his lap, almost falling as he does so. "Fuck, bedroom, now."

Lan Zhan, it turns out, had plans as well. In the bedroom—Wei Ying had cleaned up in there, too, and changed the sheets and everything—he takes Wei Ying apart, piece by piece. He gets them onto the bed, shoving the covers back, and he's kissing Wei Ying again even as he's undoing his jeans, getting his hand in around his dick like it's been something he'd been thinking about for days, for weeks. Wei Ying is hard as a rock and leaking nearly as much as Lan Zhan does. It should be embarrassing, how slick he is just from making out, but Lan Zhan's gaze has dropped down, is staring at his dick as he lets it slide in and out of his hand, so maybe...not embarrassing.

They make short work of their clothes, because they can, because they're dating, and this isn't a short, frantic session, this is more than that.

"I want to see you," Wei Ying pants. "Come here, please, I never got to really see you, I want—" Even last time, even the sex fest, that had still been frantic and he hadn't been able to slow it down, hadn't been able to linger.

Lan Zhan is making agreeable noises, but he doesn't seem to be able to stop touching Wei Ying, running his mouth down his chest, over his stomach, pausing to lick the drop welling up at the tip of his dick, and then doing it again, and again, until Wei Ying is shuddering underneath him. "You will," Lan Zhan murmurs distractedly. "You can see me, I'm right here. I just want to..."

He trails off, because his mouth is busy. He's mouthing at the line where Wei Ying's thigh meets his body, running his tongue down it after, and Wei Ying sure as hell has never been touched there. It's like Lan Zhan is waking up new zones in his body that have never mattered before but seem really fucking important now. He keeps moving, leaning in to suck at the inside of Wei Ying's thigh, softly at first and then harder, then harder still, until Wei Ying is keening above him and scrambling at the sheets, for something to hold onto.

"Fuuuuck," he breathes out when Lan Zhan releases him. "That's going to leave a mark." Fuck. He can't wait to see it.

"Mm," Lan Zhan says, his gaze flickering up to Wei Ying's before he brings his mouth to suck at the base of Wei Ying's dick.

Wei Ying makes a strangled sound. He's going to die, right here, and he's pretty okay with it.

When Lan Zhan moves again, Wei Ying's breath is caught in his chest. What's next runs through his brain to the pace of the beating of his heart. What's next.

Lan Zhan rolls him over, his strong hands maneuvering him easily, and before Wei Ying can react with more than a flail, he's spreading Wei Ying open and his tongue is.

His tongue. Is.

Wei Ying's hands are fisted in the sheets and his eyes are screwed shut and his body is suffused with heat and wet and he can't stop rocking back against Lan Zhan's mouth where he's licking him with what feels like great concentration. "Fuck," Wei Ying pants. "Fuck, you're. You."

Lan Zhan rumbles something deep in his throat, and Wei Ying's breath comes out as a squeak. He is definitely going to die here. Or maybe come. Is he going to come? He can feel it mounting, his whole body on fire, even before Lan Zhan's tongue changes the rhythm, pauses, works its way in, just the tip.

Wei Ying's hips do move back then as he curses against his pillow, his breath coming in near-sobs as he—fuck, he's going to—

Lan Zhan pulls back slowly, lingering just a little. He gives one more lap against Wei Ying, right...there, and then he moves back. Wei Ying feels his lips press against the curve of his ass, right where it meets his thighs. Then Lan Zhan's hands are on his hips, turning him back over.

Wei Ying gapes up at him, his hand moving to his dick without his volition. "Fuck," he moans. "That was so filthy, Lan Zhan, that was—I was so close, I am so close, I might—fuck, stop looking at me, you'll make me come, you'll—" He wants to fling his arm over his face, hide from the look Lan Zhan is giving him. He looks soft and turned on and his mouth is wet and red and he'd just been...

"Wei Ying." Lan Zhan is straddling him, sitting back on his heels. His dick is so hard, harder even than before, just from doing...that to Wei Ying. Wei Ying can't stop himself from rolling Lan Zhan over—he has some moves, too. Lan Zhan is so beautiful like this, as he's coming undone. His hair is messy and his lips are still so red—he has his teeth sunk into one corner of his mouth, and it makes him look younger than he is.

"I thought about coming on you," Wei Ying says without meaning to. "I thought about pushing up your shirt and jerking off on you. How it would feel. How it would look, your stomach spattered with my come." His accidental honesty when he's horny is problematic. "I thought about it a lot," he confesses. He has. So many times.

Lan Zhan's gaze goes sharp. He moves his hands to Wei Ying's hips.

Wei Ying takes a breath. He wraps a hand around his dick. "I thought about how I wouldn't be able to hold back," he says, looking down at Lan Zhan, spread out before him. At the cut of his abs, at the line of his waist, at the curve of his cock, hard and flushed dark, the head of it resting nearly against his stomach: fuck, it's so hot. "Looking down at you," he manages, moving his hand over himself. Jerking himself off. "Watching you like that, just, how it would be so much." He's breathing hard and he's close, fuck, that's fast, that's so fast. "About how I'd need to just—" He groans, working his hand up over the head of his dick, and back down. "I'd try to take it slow but I'd have to—fuck." He breathes out hard, leaning back, resting his free hand on his thigh. Lan Zhan's eyes are riveted to Wei Ying's dick and that's not helping, fuck, he doesn't want to come yet.

"You'd have to..." Lan Zhan prompts him, his voice thick and heated.

"I'd—" Wei Ying swallows, trying to slow his strokes. "I'd have to just, fuck, go for it, like. Hard." He groans, his thigh tense under his palm. "Like this, with me just so close to losing it, so close to just coming all over you, so close, I—"

Lan Zhan's hands are tight on Wei Ying's hips and Wei Ying is stroking himself fast and hard. Lan Zhan's cock has leaked a slick puddle onto his belly and Wei Ying can't stop watching as it gives a little jerk, more precome welling up on the tip. "Do you know what you look like?" he pants out. "It's pornographic, you can't blame me for losing it, you can't blame me for having to—fuck." He's going to come. "For having to just, oh fuck, I'm—"

He can't stop it, can't hold back, and it hits him like a punch, as he spills all over Lan Zhan's stomach, nearly up to his chest, shooting again and again. Did he ever come this much, this hard before Lan Zhan, when he was by himself? He doesn't think so; he thinks this is another way Lan Zhan has reworked him, made him more than he had been.

When he's finished, finally, he slumps back on his heels. "Fuck," he says, with feeling, and watches as Lan Zhan moves his fingers through Wei Ying's come on his stomach, rubbing it over his skin. "Lan Zhan, I—"

Lan Zhan pushes him backwards onto his back, moving so smoothly that Wei Ying doesn't even know how he does it, doesn't actually care. "Wei Ying," Lan Zhan growls. His fingers are already between Wei Ying's legs, pressing against where he's still wet from Lan Zhan's tongue.

"Lube," Wei Ying pants, flinging his arm towards the bedside table.

Lan Zhan finds the lube, and the condoms. Lan Zhan opens him up, shockingly fast, easy as anything. Lan Zhan pushes his thighs back and looms over him like a god, sinking inside him like he belongs there. Maybe he does; Wei Ying's body opens for him like he's made for this.

Lan Zhan fucks him hard and fast and nearly graceless, chasing his own orgasm, lost in the need for it in a way that makes Wei Ying's toes curl, makes him dig his teeth against Lan Zhan's shoulder and mutter filthy, senseless things as he fucks into him. "Please," and "You're so fucking hot" and "I want it, I want it, do it, you've got to—I need you to—I need you to." And as Lan Zhan slams home and stays there, shuddering so hard that it feels like a little earthquake in Wei Ying's bones, he says, "I love it, this, you, I—"

Lan Zhan collapses on top of him and Wei Ying clutches him close. His heart is pounding, or maybe that's Lan Zhan's, maybe both. He doesn't know, or care, he's dizzy with happiness, dizzy and fucked out. He... Oh shit, what has he just said. Out loud. While Lan Zhan was coming inside him?

Lan Zhan's weight on top of him is a perfect, heady thing, even as his heart beats in his ears and he presses his hot cheek against Lan Zhan's shoulder. When Lan Zhan takes a breath and eases back, pulling out carefully, Wei Ying has to make a concerted effort not to cling and try to keep him there.

He rolls over on his side as Lan Zhan deals with the condom. His head is at the foot of the bed, his feet tangled with the pillows, and his breath is still coming fast. "Hi," he says, as Lan Zhan slides back into bed with him. He goes in right side up, so Wei Ying has no choice but to scramble sideways, making it far enough that he can rest his head on Lan Zhan's hip. It's a little bony, and his face is pretty close to Lan Zhan's dick, but he likes it, likes seeing how it rests, soft against Lan Zhan's thigh.

"Hello," Lan Zhan replies. He's not even breathing hard anymore, though he's still flushed, all the way down to his chest. He's relaxed, comfortable in his nudity, lounging on Wei Ying's bed.

"If you had told Wei Ying of two weeks ago that I'd have you here, like this, all to myself, he'd have told you you were crazy." He's gazing at Lan Zhan as he says it and he's grinning. He thinks, sometimes, he's never going to stop grinning. He can't stop it from sliding across his face, even as he wonders if Lan Zhan had heard him, had heard what he'd said while Lan Zhan had been...

"You could have had me here," Lan Zhan says. "All to yourself. Two weeks ago."

"Shut up." Wei Ying presses his face against Lan Zhan's thigh, his own cheeks going hot. "That's not true, there's no way that's true."

"Had we shed the pretense of fake-dating," Lan Zhan says. "It very much would have been true."

"Two weeks ago?" Wei Ying starts to sit up, but Lan Zhan reaches for him and draws him down next to him, right-side up this time, tangling together in the bed.

"Two weeks ago," Lan Zhan confirmed, drawing one warm hand down Wei Ying's side. "I knew then."

"You knew...what, then?" Wei Ying shivers, even though Lan Zhan's hand is so warm, and Lan Zhan wraps himself more fully around him, pulls him closer.

"How I felt," Lan Zhan says against his neck. "How I felt about you."

Wei Ying's fingers tingle. "How you..."

"Mn." Lan Zhan kisses his neck, then moves up to kiss his cheek, so sweetly that Wei Ying's breath gets caught in his throat. "I was waiting for you to catch up."

Wei Ying's heart bangs in his chest and he presses his grin against Lan Zhan's shoulder, feeling like he could crack in two from it all. "Oh," he says, muffled against Lan Zhan.

Lan Zhan strokes his shoulder. "Mn," he says again, sounding deeply amused.

Wei Ying presses closer, trying to bury himself against Lan Zhan so he doesn't have to look at him. Lan Zhan rolls him over with ease, capturing his wrists and pinning them against the bed, gazing down at him.

Wei Ying looks up at him, his cheeks still burning, that grin still not shutting down even a little bit.

"You mentioned something about dinner, I believe," Lan Zhan says conversationally, his thumbs stroking over the inside of Wei Ying's wrists.

"Oh, now you're hungry?" Wei Ying says. "I guess you did work up quite the appetite."

"We both did," Lan Zhan murmurs, kissing the corner of his mouth. His stomach grumbles just then.

Wei Ying can't help but dissolve into giggles. "Okay, okay." He sits up, pulling out his hair elastic, trying to finger comb his hair back into a ponytail. "I guess I'm going to order us some food."

"I have been told," Lan Zhan says gravely, "that it is required in order for this to be a real date."

Wei Ying smacks his beautiful face with a pillow. He can't help it. Lan Zhan definitely deserves it.

***

Wei Ying is on the couch when Jiang Cheng comes home. Wei Ying had, in fact, ordered food, and after they'd eaten (at the kitchen table, like a real date) they'd gone back to Wei Ying's room, watching some dumb show on his laptop while wrapped up together in his blankets. They'd snuggled—and again, had you told Wei Ying of two weeks ago he'd be snuggling with Lan Zhan, he can't even imagine what he'd have done—and made it maybe halfway through the second episode before Lan Zhan's hand started tracing the waistline of Wei Ying's sweatpants. "Oh," Wei Ying had said, "Hello."

"Mm." Lan Zhan had tugged him closer, his eyes still on the laptop screen even as his hand was easing its way into Wei Ying's pants, slowly and surely, wrapping it around Wei Ying's dick. He'd stroked him to hardness, saying, "No, I'm watching," every time Wei Ying breathlessly suggested that they pause the show.

He'd nudged Wei Ying's waistband down lower, after a while, easing it over Wei Ying's desperately hard dick, while Wei Ying tried to keep paying attention to the show. When Lan Zhan had moved, pushing back the covers, sidling down so he could kiss Wei Ying's hip, soft and wet, Wei Ying had said, "Okay, I'm going to just hit pause, we can come back to it, we—"

Lan Zhan had taken his dick in his mouth before Wei Ying could reach the laptop. He'd sucked him off, moving his mouth slowly over his dick, taking him down deep, his hand wrapped around the base, going so slow that Wei Ying hadn't been able to help whimpering, spreading his legs as far as they can go and trying not to kick the laptop off the bed.

Lan Zhan had kept him there, bringing him to the edge again, and again, Wei Ying tense as a bowstring on the bed. He'd sucked him until Wei Ying had been begging, his hand wrapped desperately in Lan Zhan's hair.

Lan Zhan had pulled off, and Wei Ying had nearly sobbed; he'd been close, he'd been so close, he'd— Lan Zhan had been sucking two fingers into his mouth, then pulling them out, and when he'd taken Wei Ying in again, he'd pressed his fingers into his ass at the same time. Wei Ying had come immediately, clenching around Lan Zhan's fingers and bucking up into his mouth and making so much noise he wasn't going to be able to look his neighbors in the eye for a week.

He'd had nothing left afterwards, just lay there dazed, a spent puddle on the bed, as Lan Zhan had jerked off onto his thighs with a look of intense satisfaction on his face.

It had been late then, for Lan Zhan—fuck, he had been sucking Wei Ying off for so long, and he'd started blinking sleepily. He'd gone to brush his teeth and slid into bed right afterwards, falling asleep almost immediately. It had been so cute. And if Wei Ying had watched him sleeping for a minute or two, well, who could blame him?

Wei Ying had made his way out to the couch then—'late' for Lan Zhan was still 'nine-fifteen at night' for everyone else. He'd meant to flip the television on but he'd wrapped himself in the blanket instead, so it's not until he hears Jiang Cheng come in that he realizes he's just been staring into space for this whole time, thinking about Lan Zhan. And how they...how they're...

"Hey," Jiang Cheng says from the hallway. Wei Ying hears him tossing his keys down, toeing his shoes off. He pads into the living room. "How was your—what the hell happened to you?"

Wei Ying looks at him, reaching up as he realizes he still has sex hair, all messed up in the back and tumbling down over his shoulders. His cheeks are still hot, too, and he thinks he must look moony-eyed, he can't help it, he hasn't come back down to earth yet, and kind of doesn't want to.

"Nothing," he says, but fuck, there goes that grin again, sliding across his face, he really needs to get that under control. "I'm fine."

Jiang Cheng drops down to the couch beside him. "You look like you've been freshly fucked in a field," he says.

Wei Ying does his best to bury his grin in the blanket. He'd let Lan Zhan fuck him in a field. He would. It would be like a romance novel. He's get dirt in his hair and Lan Zhan would press him against the grass and he'd—

"You have to stop that," Jiang Cheng demands. "Stop looking like that. All soft and...horny."

Wei Ying shakes his head. "I wish I could promise you that I'll stop," he says. "But I really don't think I can." He can feel the stupid, sexed-out look on his face. "I'm sorry?"

"You are not."

"I'm really not." Wei Ying pokes at Jiang Cheng with his foot. "I told you he's staying over, right?"

"You did. And if you wake me up with your...activities, I will murder both of you."

"You can't murder Lan Zhan," Wei Ying says reasonably. "He'd definitely win that fight."

Jiang Cheng looks at him. "Just don't do it," he says. "I'm asking nicely."

"I'll try." Wei Ying pokes Jiang Cheng with his foot again. "I promise."

Jiang Cheng blows his breath out. "I'm just glad you're not dragging yourself all over the house like a sad clown anymore. You figured it out?"

Wei Ying nods. "We did. We...figured it out."

"Well, good, I guess." Jiang Cheng pushes himself to standing. "I'm getting a beer. Do you want a beer?"

"I do." Wei Ying pulls the blanket closer.

"If I get you a beer, you have to play Super Smash Brothers with me," Jiang Cheng says.

"I'm terrible at Super Smash Brothers," Wei Ying protests.

"I know." Jiang Cheng heads towards the kitchen, then pauses, looking back at Wei Ying. "I think I know the answer to this, but I have to ask. Did he wreck you?" He looks at Wei Ying. "Sexually?"

Wei Ying feels himself blush all the way to the roots of his hair.

Jiang Cheng shakes his head at him, but he has a small smile playing around his lips as he does so. "I'm getting beer," he says. "Let's never speak of this again."

Wei Ying wriggles to a more comfortable position on the couch. "No promises," he calls after his brother.

"I hate you," Jiang Cheng calls back.

"Liar," Wei Ying says softly to himself, grinning once more as he reaches for the controllers.