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Shen Yuan positions his phone carefully, trying to get the right angle that will make his fingering look more impressive, but also will not include the pile of dirty laundry moldering in the corner of his apartment. He double-checks the audio connections to his bass guitar, and starts the audio. It’s Luo Binghe’s new hit single, Demon from Heaven, the viral sensation that broke the previous record (also set by Luo Binghe) to nestle at the top of the charts within two hours of its release. 

It isn’t a mystery why. Luo Binghe’s sultry voice and mournful lyrics create a sharp and delightful contrast to the almost upbeat melody, before it crescendos, the instrumentals and lyrics joining and changing to become hopeful, tentative even. The accompanying music video probably didn’t hurt either. In it, a leather-jacket wearing Luo Binghe, jacket artfully arranged to expose daring new tattoos that Shen Yuan is 98% sure are fake, danced provocatively under flashing lights, hips thrusting and head thrown back. About halfway through the video, rain starts to pour down, plastering Luo Binghe’s currently baby-pink hair to his forehead and glistening off his well-muscled chest. 

In Shen Yuan’s opinion, the music video is a tawdry cheapening of Luo Binghe’s talents. He doesn’t need to—to whore himself out to horny teenage girls for fame and fortune! His music speaks for itself! And, according to an April 2019 appearance on a talk show, he is responsible for the bulk of production. Luo Binghe does everything— writes the songs, records the instrumentals, mixes the final. Luo Binghe reportedly plays seven instruments, not counting the erhu pieces he learned for his more experimental album a few years back. He’s a prodigy, a genius even. 

It’s perfectly normal to appreciate genius, even if Luo Binghe is an “idol.” If anything, Shen Yuan’s ability to look past the sex-appeal-laden facade to appreciate the talent beneath is proof of his staunch heterosexuality, no matter what his younger sister might say, or the internet, or his older brothers.

Shen Yuan starts plucking the strings of his bass, creating an echoing rhythmic line to Demon from Heaven. It honestly doesn’t need it, but he’s done it for every song Luo Binghe’s ever released, a sort of love letter. On Douyin, he’ll post it under the caption “ Demon from Heaven— Metal Version'' even though it’s not a strictly accurate description. He plays through the whole song, all two minutes and forty seconds, even though the video has a strict one-minute limit. He finds an almost meditative peace in playing; he’s practiced enough that the notes flow easily, but careful enough that it’s not an entirely mindless task. A few times, he improvises, letting the music guide him to a new riff he hadn’t thought of before. The last notes ring out through the stillness of his apartment. 

He stops the recording on his phone. He doesn’t do anything fancy with it, simply cutting down the length and posting it. Vaguely, he wonders if this one will go viral, as some of them have. Sometimes, others will add on, introducing drums or another guitar, almost obscuring the original audio. 

It makes Shen Yuan’s mouth a little sour. They don’t get it. He’s not trying to remake the song. He’s creating a duet. He’s tried to tell others that, but the resulting “Luo Binghe isn’t going to fuck you bro” had shown that understanding was perhaps beyond most. 

He tosses his phone aside, cracking open his laptop for the larger screen. A new drama is airing, based off of a web-novel he had read and his sister had assured him that he simply needs to see it. This could mean anything. Most likely, the adaptation bashes what makes the novel great into the dirt, and she wants to see him fume. Less likely, it’s a carefully executed adaptation that she thinks he will actually enjoy. 

Halfway through the first episode, his phone buzzes. Shen Yuan looks at it, deciding the distance from where he’s lounged on his bed to the desk is too much effort, and he’s tentatively enjoying himself. Maybe. The female lead has an annoying habit of delivering her lines in a low whine and the wigs are almost distractingly bad, but nothing’s egregious so far. 

His phone buzzes again and Shen Yuan deigns to heave himself over to check. It’s a direct message on Douyin. Shen Yuan flicks his phone open. 

DemonHeart: You’re a pretty good bassist 

DemonHeart: Any interest in joining a band?

As he watches, another message appears. 

DemonHeart: we could use someone like you

Shen Yuan clicks through to their profile. What greets him are still shots of what look like underground concerts, lights dim and space cramped. He clicks on the first video. The sound quality isn’t great, the music interspersed with cheers from the audience all captured on a shitty phone mic, but he can tell the music isn’t bad itself. On the dimly-lit stage are three people, faces painted somewhat like the opera actors his mom likes, pancake-white make-up with dramatic red and black and blue embellishments, especially around the eyes.

One appears to be the front man, his long black hair swaying as he strums his guitar and croons into the microphone, the lyrics hard to make out. Behind him is a slim woman going absolutely wild on the drums, her equally long hair chaotically spilling as she does so. Rounding out the group is a large man with silver hair, calmly strumming his—Shen Yuan squints— what appears to be another electric guitar. 

Every video seems to be roughly the same— a minute of the band playing in dim, intimate venues, the energy of the crowd palpable. In each one, the band members are heavily made-up, but not always the same way. They have a link in their profile to where some of their music is hosted, and out of curiosity, Shen Yuan clicks through. The audio quality is much better than in the videos, and the music is good, even if it does lack the richness a good bass line would provide. It’s familiar, in a way Shen Yuan can’t put his finger on. 

It’s all irrelevant. Shen Yuan isn’t interested in joining a band. Sure, he learned bass guitar against his mother’s wishes, taking piano lessons as a compromise so he’d at least be versed in a proper instrument, but it’s just a side hobby. Committing to anything zaps the joy out of things rather quickly, he’s found. 

PeerlessCucumber: thanks, but no thanks

He flicks his drama back on, idly flipping over to his Weibo account. His secret Weibo account, not the one he uses to rant about his novels and stay connected to friends from University. The one his sister would squeal if she knew about. 

Shen Yuan wouldn’t say he’s the premier Luo Binghe stan account, that dubious honor is likely in the hands of BingBangMi, who manages to get backstage footage of just about every concert, but he’s definitely top ten. Maybe not entirely for the right reasons. He has been described as…controversial. 

His post about Luo Binghe’s rumored romance with pop sensation Ning Yingying has blown up, and not in a good way. 

BingBoi<3: he’s not going to look your way, you bitter old hag  😂   I, for one, am happy he’s found someone as sweet as NYY. He deserves to be happy. 

Shen Yuan frowns, fingers itching to type a reply. All he had said was they didn’t seem particularly well-matched! Sure, Ning Yingying is sweet and has a cute face, but that’s where her good points end. She is, to put it bluntly, a total ditz. Luo Binghe himself is warm and caring, but he’s got an intellectual side that demands an equal, that demands reciprocation. Luo Binghe wouldn’t be happy with her in the long run, he deserves better. He deserves to be seen for who he really is. 

His phone buzzes again and Shen Yuan scoops it up irritably. It’s another message from DemonHeart. 

DemonHeart: you seem to be a Luo Binghe fan

DemonHeart: we can get you access

Shen Yuan scowls. 

PeerlessCucumber: do I look like I was born yesterday? 

The response is instantaneous. A picture pops up on screen. Shen Yuan vaguely recognizes the woman that plays the drums, still in full stage makeup. Next to her, arm slung around her waist, is a face Shen Yuan would know anywhere. Luo Binghe, giving a wry smile to the camera. 

DemonHeart: he’s a fan, you know

Shen Yuan frowns. Luo Binghe has never given any indication he’s into metal music— Shen Yuan would know— but the damning evidence seems to exist. Luo Binghe wears a nondescript hoodie and jeans, green fringe peaks out from his hood, an indication that this photo was likely taken during his Quiet, Peace era, when he experimented with adding erhu and guqin into his pieces to riotous success. 

Shen Yuan hesitates. It’s likely a lie. It could be photoshopped, or maybe she ran into a poor, hassled Binghe just trying to enjoy a night off. There’s a million reasons that this photo could exist, and none of them ‘Luo Binghe is a secret underground metal fan.’

Shen Yuan glances up, right into his signed poster of Luo Binghe. It’s from Luo Binghe’s early days, back when his hair was still black and his fanbase small. Luo Binghe’s mouth is turned into a shy grin, but his eyes seem to burn out from the poster, staring through Shen Yuan. 

He swallows. 

PeerlessCucumber: where exactly would we be meeting 

Dragging his bass case on the subway from where he lived to 798 (how unsurprising) isn’t hard. He had been suspicious, at first. How did they know he was in Beijing? A quick glance at his years-old profile had quickly solved that mystery— his location being on for the world to see. He’s since changed it, but the damage is done.

He walks around 798, phone in hand, peering for the right address. He hasn’t spent a lot of time in the art district, maybe a few shows here and there. It’s charming, he supposes. Quirky. 

The address is tucked down a little alley, out of the public eye from the main road and only visible to those who know where to look. He knocks on the door tentatively, then, more firmly. It swings open to reveal a monster—

Shen Yuan leans forward to inspect the man’s face paint better. It’s a red base, with strong lines curling up his nose and around his cheeks, accenting his dark, fathomless eyes. 

“Your make-up is very well done,” he comments, leaning back. 

The man blinks. “What are you doing here?”

“I’m the bassist,” Shen Yuan says, thumping the case. “You contacted me over Douyin?”

“What the h—”

“Ah, you’re here.” A woman shoves past the man to stand in the door. “Excellent, come in.”

She whirls, beads in her hair clacking. The man who answered the door stands in disbelief. “You went and contacted him—”

What are you bitching for?” the woman snaps. “You follow him religiously, said you thought he had talent, and that we needed a bassist. I took the initiative.”

The man grits his jaw. “People need to be screened—”

The woman huffs and flips her hand. She has ridiculously long nails, almost talons, on every finger but her pointer and middle. “He’s fine,” she assures the man. She casts a sly look at Shen Yuan. “He doesn’t seem the type to spill secrets. Especially yours.”

Shen Yuan internally groans. “Of course you’ve got some sort of shady bullshit going on,” he says, turning around, waving a hand over his shoulder. “Well, it was nice meeting you all—”

“There’s nothing shady about anything,” the man says, exasperated. “I just wish someone had informed me!” Shen Yuan reluctantly turns back around. 

The woman makes a wishy-washy noise and a shaking hand motion. “It sort of is. But it’s fine!” She casts a critical eye over Shen Yuan. “What’s your name, by the way? Or should we just call you Peerless Cucumber?”

The man chokes. “ What?” His eyes travel down to Shen Yuan’s crotch before snapping back to his face. 

“It’s his handle,” the woman says. “Shouldn’t you know that? You’re like, obsessed with him. My name is Sha Hualing. This is Luo—”

“A-Luo is fine,” the man interrupts. 

“Sure,” Sha Hualing says. She gestures deeper into the room. “And Mo Bei should be back there somewhere. Probably screwing his boyfriend or something, who knows.” 

“I am not,” a deep voice says in a heavy Russian accent. A large man steps forward. In person, Shen Yuan can tell that his hair isn’t dyed white, it’s just an incredibly light platinum blond. His eyes are piercingly blue, like ice shards, and he’s a strong contender for one of the largest men Shen Yuan has ever seen. He almost misses the smaller man tucked into his side. 

Shen Yuan squints. “Shang Qinghua?”

Shang Qinghua could have been happier to see him, considering the last time they had met, Shen Yuan did the entirety of their Chemistry lab because Shang Qinghua had some crisis or another, and then had managed to electrocute himself so badly he ended up in the hospital for a week. Shen Yuan had gotten them high marks. 

“Oh, it’s you,” Shang Qinghua says in a tone that says: you piece of shit. 

“Yeah?” Shen Yuan says, confused. “What’s your problem?”

Shang Qinghua sniffs. “I electrocuted myself because of you!” 

“Because of me?” Shen Yuan repeats. “I thought it was because you managed to spill cup noodles on your computer.” Like a dumbass goes unsaid but heavily implied. 

“Yeah, but that was because—” Shang Qinghua starts. Sha Hualing claps her hands. 

“Okay, no one cares!” she announces. 

“I am interested,” Mo Bei says, frowning. 

“I’m not,” A-Luo says, crossing his arms. They’re more bulky than Shen Yuan had originally thought, wiry muscles moving under the skin. He casts a considering look at Shen Yuan, an assessing look in his eye. He seems to have come to a decision. “We should get on to practicing, making sure he’s good enough.”

“How quickly you’ve changed your mind,” Sha Hualing sings, but saunters down a hallway, deeper into the space. Shen Yuan follows, into a room absolutely covered in foam noise insulation. There’s a gleaming cherry-red drum set, and two guitars propped up against the wall. A lonely keyboard squats in the corner, and a shiny Mac sits on a folding table. “Is it because I’ve made your wildest dreams come true?”

“It’s because he looks easy to bully.”

“Liar, ” Sha Hualing cackles as Shen Yuan huffs an affronted, “Excuse me?”

“You should know up front,” A-Luo says, ignoring him, “we don’t do this to go big. We don’t want any record labels, or tours, or any of that.”

“Uh, sure,” Shen Yuan says. A little ambitious, isn’t he? “Has anyone offered you a record deal?”

A-Luo shoots him a look and Sha Hualing snorts. “Oh, plenty. We’ve gotten seven so far.”

“It’s more important that we have control of the music,” A-Luo says. He grins, sharp. “Or at least, that I do.”

“Alright,” Shen Yuan says, cautious. He hefts his bass. “Do you want me to play something or…?”

“We should start with testing your sight reading, then move on to see how well you can improvise.”

A-Luo shuffles over to the folding table, and Shen Yuan notices now a binder sitting slightly behind the laptop. “I have some pieces I’ve written for bass.” He riffles through the binder, settling on one and yanking it out of its protective sleeve, handing it to Shen Yuan. 

It’s not a difficult piece, very rhythmic. It reminds him of something he himself might have written. 

He unlatches his bass from the case. It’s nothing fancy, but it is a quality instrument. It’s certainly not painted in a riot of colors like the two electric guitars against the wall, and he hopes that’s not a requirement. Shen Yuan is pretty laid back, but he also considers himself pretty subdued, and isn’t really inclined to paint screaming demons on his instruments. 

Shen Yuan plugs his bass into one of the amps without asking, making sure the journey hasn’t jostled anything and everything is still in tune. Satisfied, he sets the sheet music into one of the stands and begins to play. 

For a first play through, he thinks he does a decent job. Sure, he stumbles twice, but it’s minor and he recovers quickly enough, smoothing his hiccups into the melody. 

When he’s done, A-Luo looks considering, Sha Hualing and Mo Bei look bored, and Shang Qinghua is on his phone. 

“You’re not awful,” A-Luo admits. He walks over and picks an electric guitar off the wall, strums a cord and nods. “Alright, try to follow my lead.”

He starts in on a pretty basic chord progression. Shen Yuan didn’t sit through grueling hours of music theory in his teens for nothing, he matches the harmony easily. A-Luo changes to something that might resemble a tune, and Shen Yuan follows, the soothing sounds of the bass a nice counterpoint to the high-pitched wails of the guitar. A-Luo’s music grows more complex, more nuanced. It reminds Shen Yuan of Luo Binghe’s music style, something he’s spent hours analyzing to create just the right bass line, something he considers himself an expert in. He keeps up easily, but A-Luo doesn’t stop until he’s shredding his guitar in lightning fast licks. Shen Yuan would think that he’s totally abandoned Shen Yuan’s “test” in favor of screwing around, but his eyes are lit in challenge. 

Shen Yuan keeps the bass line steady. He’s a firm believer that bass isn’t an instrument to take the spotlight, but to accent the others. Guitars and drums are the flashy instruments, he’s just there to make them shine. 

Soon, A-Luo’s guitar trails off into silence, and Shen Yuan dampens his strings.The others have scattered to who-knows-where, it’s only A-Luo and him in the room. He is looking at him intensely, a small smile playing on his face. It’s a little frightening. The room isn’t very well lit, and the shadows and elaborate makeup make him look ghoulish and otherworldly. 

“I think you’ll be an okay fit,” A-Luo declares, picking absently at one of his guitar strings. It rings through the room. “How do you feel about makeup?”

Shen Yuan wrinkles his nose. “Must I?”

A-Luo’s grin is wolfish. “Come on, think of it like cosplay!”

“Do I look like I cosplay?” Shen Yuan snaps, offended. 

“Yes, you look exactly the type.”

Shen Yuan looks down at himself. He’s wearing a plain t-shirt, nothing on it remotely fannish, and a pair of jeans, and sneakers. Nothing unusual. Nothing that screams ‘massive fucking nerd.’ He doesn’t even wear glasses. 

A-Luo gestures in the air. “You look like you’re passionate about things, in defiance of social conventions, sometimes. Like you love... unconventionally.”

Shen Yuan gives him a look. “Whatever that means.” It sounds like an insult. 

Something flashes across A-Luo’s face, but Shen Yuan can’t tell what.

“Our schedule can be erratic,” A-Luo says, tugging the guitar strap over his head. “My job is pretty demanding, but we practice when we can. We try to do shows once or twice a month, depending if I’m in town or not.”

“Oh,” Shen Yuan says, tugging his own bass off. “What do you do?”

“I work in the entertainment industry,” A-Luo says. He gives Shen Yuan a pointed look. “I’m guessing working around your schedule won’t be an issue?”

“What, do I also have the air of the unemployed?” 

“Oh yeah. Can smell those second-gens from a mile away.” A-Luo taps his nose, a pointed smile. 

Shen Yuan bristles, sort of wishing that he had a job just to throw in his face, but he’s faced this sort of criticism a thousand times from sources he cares more about. “Someone has to live the life of indolence and hedonism,” he says instead. 

A-Luo laughs at that, a clear, bright sound. “And it might as well be you, eh?” 

Shen Yuan shrugs. “I don’t see why not.” He gestures broadly around the room. “After all, it gives me the opportunity to join sketchy bands that contact me on Douyin.”

A-Luo shakes his head, but he’s smiling. “You seemed like you’d be more…” A-Luo trails off.

“More what?”

A-Luo lifts a hand in the air, as if he can grab the word he’s looking for out of it. “Hm, uptight? No, I think you’re probably still that.” A-Luo puts on a pondering face. “You seemed more....untouchable in your videos.” 

Shen Yuan blinks. “How so?” Shen Yuan is the most down-to-earth person he knows.

A-Luo shakes his head. “Nevermind.” He walks to the edge of the door. “Hualing!” he calls. “Get back here, we have to practice!”

A-Luo didn’t lie. The practice schedule truly is all over the place. Setting aside days of the week, he’s been texted at two am, alerting him that practice would be in two hours. 

Seriously?? He texts back, disgruntled. 

Oh, sorry. Did you have something better to do? A-Luo texts back. 

Sleep??? Some of us require it

Sleep is for the weak, A-Luo assures him. Shen Yuan had hoped that his WeChat profile would give him more information as to his name, but his profile picture is of a black rabbit with angry eyebrows drawn over it and his username Icy_River gives no clues. And don’t lie to me and pretend you were sleeping.

Shen Yuan grumbles, but goes to every band practice anyway. Sha Hualing seems to flit between being kind to him and the nastiest woman he’s ever met, Mo Bei treats him like he might as well be furniture, and Shang Qinghua (purpose unknown) spends more of his time glaring at him when he’s not locking lips with Mo Bei. But Shen Yuan finds himself enjoying himself regardless, almost in spite of himself. 

It’s hard. He plays until the strings leave little grooves in his fingers, and then plays more, until the skin starts to sting. He plays until some of the songs are burned into his muscles, his mind, until he starts to hear snatches of them in his dreams. 

He has to practice at home, late into the evening when he gets a knock on his door that the walls are thick, but not that thick, and could he please keep it to more reasonable hours? One of his closets becomes a practice room with the thick noise insulating foam taped around it. 

It does mean his pile of Luo Binghe memorabilia gets temporarily relocated to a corner of his apartment, but he finds it likes it. A lot of it is Luo Binghe’s older merch, timeline delineated by his hair. It had started off a deep, rich black. The first sign of trouble had come, a portend of doom, when he bleached it, turning it the odd off-yellow black hair became. Then he dyed it yellow-yellow, bright as a bee. Then blue, red, turquoise, purple, green, finally to land on a charming shade of baby-pink. Shen Yuan is of the opinion Luo Binghe is attractive to the blind, but he has admitted mixed feelings about the hair colors. 

He’s in the process of reshuffling the merch pile to other parts of his apartment, displaying this on his bookshelf, that on the wall. Sometimes, he catches himself. The closet, the practices, the group chat with his bandmates. It’s more work than he’s done in his life, almost more work than his university degree, and he wonders why he’s trying so hard. He longs for the days he spent parked in front of his laptop in his extremely cushy office chair, reading the latest web novel, or watching the latest drama, slowly wasting his life away. 

But then he’ll show up at practice. A-Luo will be wearing his horrible face paint, at total odds with his relaxed t-shirt and jeans. They’ll play for hours, perfecting their harmonies and bringing Sha Hualing’s enthusiastic drumming in line. They’ll go for so long, A-Luo’s crooning voice will start to go hoarse.

“You did well,” A-Luo will rasp at him at the end. “You’ve been putting in a lot of effort, I can tell.”

“How do you know I’m not just naturally talented?” Shen Yuan will say in mock outrage.

A-Luo’s smile will twist, a little teasing. “Oh, forgive me, I didn’t realize I stood in the presence of such talent .”

Shen Yuan sniffs, nose high. “See that you don’t forget it again.”

And then, after months of practicing, they have a show.

“I managed to book us at a club,” A-Luo announces one practice. Sha Hualing whoops, twirling her drums sticks above her head. 

“Where is it?” Mo Bei rumbles. 


Sha Hualing groans. “In Beijing again?”

A-Luo shrugs. “I don’t have time to travel anywhere else right now. It’s that or nothing.”

Sha Hualing is still pouting. “ Bastard ,” she mumbles, but A-Luo ignores her. 

“Everyone be on time.”

The venue isn’t small. It’s not an arena, of course, but the space is larger than he expected. There’s more people than expected. 

A hand on his shoulder startles him, and he whips around, dropping the curtain separating the backstage. 

A-Luo looks at him with what Shen Yuan thinks is sympathy, but it disappears in a flash. “Come on, newbie, not afraid, are you?” A challenging smile blooms on his face. 

“Of course not.”

The hand on his shoulder tightens. “Come get your make-up on, we’re going out soon.”

It’s not just them backstage, a few stagehands loiter, a harassed looking manager comes by periodically to see that everything is progressing smoothly.A-Luo shoves him down onto a chair, not very kindly, and starts slathering paint on Shen Yuan’s face. It feels cool at first, but as it starts to dry it makes his skin feel tacky and stiff, and Shen Yuan fights the urge to squirm. A-Luo starts in on the details, leaning in close. His breath fans over Shen Yuan’s face, warm and smelling of green tea. His glimmering black eyes stare so fixedly at Shen Yuan’s face that ants start to crawl up his spine. He has to shift his gaze away, darting around. A-Luo notices. 

“Can’t handle a little eye contact?” he smirks. And is it Shen Yuan’s imagination, or does he move closer?

Shen Yuan’s eyes snap back to his. A-Luo’s eyes are so dark it’s hard to tell where the pupil and iris begin and end. Bad e-novel metaphors start to come to mind: onyx, starless nights, churning waters, obsidian. Depthless voids. 

“Your eyes are pretty,” Shen Yuan says honestly. Two can play gay chicken. Those eyes blink.

“Only my eyes?” A-Luo teases. His long guitarist fingers wipe a spot of paint off of Shen Yuan’s check. 

“Fishing for compliments, are you? I’m sure you can find a girl in the crowd to give you some.”

“Maybe,” A-Luo admits. “But I want to hear them from you.” Those black eyes have a wicked gleam. 

Shen Yuan is saved from answering by the harassed manager hovering near A-Luo’s elbow. “Um, sir, are you--”

“Did I say you could speak?” A-Luo snaps, not looking up from Shen Yuan’s face. 

“No, but, um,” the manager stammers. 

“Then why are you bothering me when I’m clearly in the middle of something delicate?” The ire in A-Luo’s tone is not a match for the quiet concentration in his face.

“But, your set--”

“Will start when I’m ready,” A-Luo says, leaning away from Shen Yuan’s face. He pursues his lips. “It’ll do.”

“We close at--” the manager tries again. A-Luo whorls on him. 

“I said,” A-Luo says lowly, “we start when we start.”

A-Luo swaggers off, the bob of his ponytail tickling his back. Shen Yuan stares after him. What the fuck is his problem?

Shen Yuan doesn’t get to ask. His bass is shoved into his hand, and before he knows it, he’s standing in a mess of colored lights, looking over a sea of people, screaming and undulating. It’s loud, louder than anything, the screams of the crowds reverberating off the walls. 

Oh, he notes dimly, I didn’t know Demon Heart had t-shirts. 

A-Luo swaggers on stage, gripping the mic in one hand. The crowd goes wild, its volume increasing more than Shen Yuan thought possible. 

“Are you ready?” A-Luo growls. The crowd screams their assent. One girl in the front passes out, toppling back into the crowd. 

Then, they’re off. Shen Yuan has practiced the songs so much that they feel etched into his bones, and suddenly he’s glad for it. His makeup feels like paste glued to his skin, the noise makes his eardrums feel like they might shatter, the lights— the lights. The lights are blinding, and he feels like he’s baking from the inside out. Sweat drips down into his eyes, stinging and burning no matter how furiously he blinks. 

And the crowd. Shen Yuan has never considered himself one afraid of crowds, he’s never had reason to. He’s not afraid now, but he does feel the weight of their gaze, and he’s not even the one the majority of their focus is on. A-Luo struts across the stage like he owns it, his energy high, fingers flying across the frets of his guitar. 

Shen Yuan can only see his back and he can tell A-Luo thrives on this sort of energy. He doesn’t seem to flag in the slightest. On the contrary, A-Luo seems to only get more intense as the night goes on, as the crowd cheers; as Shen Yuan nears his limit, A-Luo doesn’t seem to have one at all. 

Shen Yuan is trying his level best to stay upright when A-Luo finally says, “thank you, goodnight!” to a tsunami-like roar from the crowd. 

It doesn’t register that it’s over until Sha Hualing stands from her stool, twirling her sticks and heading towards the back, Mo Bei trailing after. 

Shen Yuan dumbly follows, blinking as his eyes adjust to the sudden dimness. A sweaty arm slings around his neck, dragging his creaking shoulders down, his back protesting the sudden stretch. 

“Not a bad show,” A-Luo’s familiar, scratchy voice says in his ear. 

“Your boy looks ragged,” Sha Hualing notes, cracking open a water bottle. “Past your bedtime, little boy?”

Shen Yuan gives her a flat look. “I’m older than you, infant.”

Sha Hualing pretends to inspect him. “Now that I look, you do seem pretty ancient. Crotchety too.”

“I can’t believe I’m being insulted by a fetus not old enough to know you need to wear clothes in public.”

Sha Hualing looks down. “It’s called fashion, geezer.”

“Really? It looks more like--”

A-Luo gives him a strong clap on the back, cutting off the rest of his words. “As fun as this is, we should get going.”

Sha Hualing gives him a meaningful look. “Looking to catch one of your groupies before the crowd clears out?”

A-Luo’s grin is wolfish. “But of course. You’ll take my guitar home, right?”

“What am I, your errand girl? What if I want to pull, hm?” Sha Hualing pouts. A-Luo laughs. 

“You’re far too much of a golddigger to sleep with just anybody,” he says, grin nasty. 

“Shut up, slut, ” Sha Hualing hisses. 

Shen Yuan decides he’s not going to engage with A-Luo’s women problems, and slithers off to the side, carefully packing his bass away. He wants nothing more than to go home and take a long, long shower and collapse into bed. He’s not built for a life of high effort. His muscles ache, his eyes are watering. His fingertips are bleeding, and he’s going to have to clean blood off the strings when he gets home.

He tries his best to clean the makeup off, but all he succeeds in doing is smearing it and he gives up, hoping it’ll come off in the shower. Mo Bei and Shang Qinghua have disappeared, and A-Luo and Sha Hualing are still arguing when he slips out the backdoor. He wishes he could say that the evening is cool, but Beijing is muggy hot all through the night in the summer, and his clothes just stick miserably to his skin. 

He checks his phone. Three am means no subway, but if he’s lucky, he might be able to get a taxi. He taps at his phone. Luckily, there’s a Didi not far away, and he can be home within the hour. 

A prickling at the back of his neck has him whirling, but it’s just A-Luo. He’s mussed from the concert, but in an artful way that looks like it’s staged instead of natural, like he walked from a perfume ad. Instead of tangled, his hair is tousled, and his sweat on his collarbones and arms glistens in an attractive way, highlighting the curve of his muscle. He doesn’t even smell bad, musky instead of malodorous. 

“Running off so soon?”

“I’m tired,” Shen Yuan says. “I want to shower and then sleep for a year.”

“I remember my first concert,” A-Luo says, and he doesn’t sound wistful. “I almost puked into the audience during the last set.”

“Really.” Shen Yuan is unconvinced. A-Luo doesn’t seem like the type of person to have limits.

“Truly,” A-Luo confirms. 

Shen Yuan’s Didi pulls to the curb. “Well this is me. I’ll see you when I see you.”

Shen Yuan scoots in, but A-Luo shoves his way in after. “I’ll see you home.”

“You shouldn’t,” Shen Yuan says as A-Luo pulls the door shut. “Get out.”

“No,” A-Luo says pleasantly as the car pulls away from the curb. 

“Didn’t you want to,” Shen Yuan waves a hand, “pull?”

“Are you jealous?” A-Luo asks, sounding gleeful. 

“Why would I be?” Shen Yuan says, honestly baffled. 

“I don’t know, I thought you might be upset.”

Why?” Shen Yuan says. This man is nonsensical. Shen Yuan could get laid if he wanted to, he’s managed in the past just fine. Other men getting laid is, frankly, not his concern. “Is this some sort of macho thing? Are you posturing?”

A-Luo blinks. “Posturing?”

“Are you trying to assert your dominance by proving you can get laid? Like a wolf or some shit?”

“Like wolves?” Now it’s A-Luo’s turn to sound baffled. “What do wolves have to do with anything?”

Shen Yuan nods sagely. “Wolves, hierarchies. I saw it in a documentary. Is your position feeling threatened? Do you no longer feel like an alpha male?”


“I thought so,” Shen Yuan says. “It’s alright, I still think you’re an alpha male. Very much full of testosterone.” He pats A-Luo’s hand consolingly. “You don’t need to prove to me that your dick works.”

A-Luo is silent for a moment. “You’re fucking with me, aren’t you.”

“Oh, yes.”

At this time of night, Beijing’s traffic isn’t the gridlock it tends to in the daylight hours, and they pull up in front of Shen Yuan’s apartment complex in no time flat. To Shen Yuan’s dismay, A-Luo climbs out of the taxi with him.

“Nice place,” A-Luo says, eyeing up the building. Shen Yuan grunts. 

“I’m assuming you’d like to be invited up?” Shen Yuan sighs. 

“Oh, A- Yuan, how forward of you!” A-Luo says, blinking his thick eyelashes at Shen Yuan and tilting his head. 

“Nevermind,” Shen Yuan says, punching in the code for the front door. “Have a nice night, brat.”

But A-Luo muscles his way through the door with Shen Yuan anyway, and follows Shen Yuan into the elevator. Shen Yuan tries to hit him with his bass case, but A-Luo is more nimble than he might have thought and avoids it neatly. 

“I just want to get closer to Yuan-ge,” A-Luo wails. “Why is he being so mean to me?”

Shen Yuan shoots him a tired look. “If you wanted to play sleepover like little girls, you could have chosen a night I’m not exhausted.

“Yuan-ge wants me to stay the night?” A-Luo says with a grin. “We’re progressing in our relationship so fast.”

“What, do you also want me to braid your hair?”

“If Yuan-ge wants to,” A-Luo says diplomatically. Finally, the elevator dings, and Shen Yuan makes a beeline to his front door, fumbling with his keys. A-Luo hovers over his shoulder and muscles in the second the door is unlocked. 

“Wow, this place is nice,” A-Luo whistles. “You did well for yourself, second-gen.” He pokes his head around. “It’s less messy than I expected.”

“I’m not a slob,” Shen Yuan lies, deciding not to mention that a maid comes twice a week. A-Luo wanders in and Shen Yuan trails behind. A-Luo stops in front of his mound of Luo Binghe merch, home to be determined. He crouches, picking a plush off the floor. 

“Decided you didn’t want this anymore?” he asks, squishing plush bingbing’s tummy. It looks comical in his hand, a cutesy plush clutched in the paw of a demon. “End of an era?”

Shen Yuan should say ‘yes,’ to defend his masculine pride. Except.... it’s perfectly masculine to like an idol, okay??

“No,” Shen Yuan says. “I just had to move stuff out of the closet. I don’t know what to do with it yet.”

A-Luo takes in his room, eyes darting from the Luo Binghe posters, to the pile of merch. Shen Yuan waits for the comments to come, a thousand poisonous barbs on his tongue.  

A-Luo says, “How long have you been a fan?”

“Since his first album came out,” Shen Yuan admits. 

“That was a long time ago,” A-Luo replies. “He wasn’t very popular then.”

“No,” Shen Yuan agrees. “But he’s very talented, and it showed.” Shen Yuan shrugs. “It’s been nice to see him grow in popularity over the years, as more people come to appreciate his music.”

A-Luo’s eyes glimmer. “And what do you think about him?”

“About Luo Binghe?” 

A-Luo nods. 

“I’ve never met him,” Shen Yuan says. 

“But you must have some impression,” A-Luo insists. He gestures at the pile of merch. “A fan like you?”

“What does it matter?” Shen Yuan frowns. 

“Just curious,” A-Luo replies. 

“Well,” Shen Yuan starts, “I think he’s pretty intelligent.”

A-Luo smirks. “I’m not sure that’s a word I’d apply to a pretty-boy idol.”

“He’s not just a pretty boy idol,” Shen Yuan snaps. “He’s a musical genius!”

He raises his hands in surrender, looking sly. “Okay, okay. You know, I’ve heard from coworkers that he’s not actually as nice as he tries to pretend. I hear he’s a real piece of work.”

“What of it?” Shen Yuan says. “I don’t like Luo Binghe because he’s nice. If he’s really a huge bastard and manages to hide it, good for him. That takes some real acting skills, to do that for years.”

“Alright, alright,” A-Luo concedes. His gaze settles on some of Shen Yuan’s other interests. “Is that a replica sword?”

“Yeah,” Shen Yuan confirms. “It’s from a novel I’m reading. Make yourself at home, I’m gonna take a shower?”

“Can I join you?” A-Luo says. “It’ll be more efficient.”

“I’m not that hard up on hot water,” Shen Yuan says. “You can go after.”

Shen Yuan disappears into the bathroom before A-Luo can say otherwise, turning the water as hot as it can go. It’s a relief to his aching shoulder, still not used to bearing the weight of his bass for hours on end. He tries his best to scrub the paint off, not sure how well he succeeds without a mirror to guide him.

He steps out, wrapping a towel around his waist, and inspects his face in the mirror. He’s still tinged a light blue, but it’s nothing horrendous. Shrugging, he picks up his dirty clothes and steps out of the bathroom. 

A-Luo stands in the center of the room, hands behind his back, looking like the picture of innocence itself.

“What were you doing?” Shen Yuan asks suspiciously. 

“Nothing,” A-Luo says easily. “Admiring your Fullmetal Alchemist nendo collection.”

“Have you seen it?” Shen Yuan says, brightening. Since he has a guest, he takes care to put his dirty clothes in the laundry basket, where they belong. 

“No,” A-Luo admits. “But I’ve heard good things.” 

A-Luo’s gaze doesn’t seem quite able to meet his face, glancing down instead. 

“We can watch it in the morning,” Shen Yuan decides. A-Luo blinks, a small smile breaking onto his face. 

“Maybe some other time.”

“You don’t want to stay the night?” 

A-Luo looks surprised, then predatory. His eyes are on the floor again in an instant, though. “Of course.”

Shen Yuan rummages around in a drawer. “I think I have a spare towel, maybe even some sleeping pants that’ll fit you.” Shen Yuan casts a critical eye at A-Luo’s waist. “You’re pretty slim, though. They might be too big.”

“I’m no slimmer than you,” A-Luo challenges. Shen Yuan pulls a pair of soft pants and a towel out of his drawers, and tucks them under his arm. He encircles A-Luo’s waist in his hands. His fingertips don’t touch, but they’re not far apart either. He squeezes slightly, trying to see if they’ll connect, but A-Luo’s waist has absolutely no give.

“You’re an absolute beanpole,” Shen Yuan says, dropping his hands. He shoves the towel and pants into A-Luo’s arms. “Go shower, I want to go to bed.”

A-Luo is staring at him. “You have no idea what you’re doing, do you?”

“I’ve had sleepovers before,” Shen Yuan retorts. “Go shower.” Shen Yuan drops his towel, walking back over to his drawers to get his own set of sleeping pants. It’s not until he’s pulled a pair on that he realizes A-Luo hasn’t moved. “Well, what are you waiting for? Go!”

A-Luo swallows and scurries into the bathroom, closing the door behind him.

Shen Yuan collapses into bed. He’ll just rest his eyes for a moment, until A-Luo comes back. 

He startles awake what must be a mere moment later. The lights are off, but he can see the mere outline of a silhouette in the dark. “A-Luo?” he calls. 

“Ah,” a soft voice replies. “I didn’t mean to wake you.”

“You didn’t,” Shen Yuan says mutinously. Shen Yuan graciously turns down the covers. “But you better get into bed fast, I’m tired.”

Cautiously, A-Luo lowers himself into the bed. The mattress dips beneath his weight, but settles as he seems to find a position to sleep in. Shen Yuan closes his eyes, relaxing in the soft sounds of someone else’s breath. It’s been a long time since someone slept over, since he’d outgrown the clubbing scene he didn’t even like and moved away from Wudaokou. He didn’t realize he missed it. 

The mattress wiggles, a warm chest presses against his bare back. A-Luo’s arm slings around his waist. Shen Yuan’s eye cracks. Luo-ge, really? If you wanna cuddle, go find some girl to do it, I believe in you!Though, it does feel nice to be a little spoon, and he decides he’ll permit it.

But A-Luo’s hand drifts a little too low, and Shen Yuan grunts. “Watch it.”

The hand retreats to lay on his stomach. There’s a gusty sigh on the back of his neck. Shen Yuan is floating in the space between wake and sleep when A-Luo rumbles a question.

“Would you fuck Luo Binghe?”

Shen Yuan’s eyes snap open, suddenly awake. “ What?

“If given the opportunity, would you sleep with Luo Binghe?”

Shen Yuan tries to roll over, but A-Luo’s arm is a band of iron across his waist. “What kind of question is that?” Shen Yuan groans. 

“A curious one.”

“It’s stupid.”

“It’s not.”

“Go to sleep.”

“Yuan- ge,” A-Luo whines. 

Shen Yuan groans. “No, I wouldn’t. Go to sleep.”

“Really?” A-Luo sounds incredulous. “You wouldn’t?”

“Really, I wouldn’t.”

“Why not?” 

“Because.” Shen Yuan tries to shove his face in a pillow. “Can we just go to sleep?”

“No, I’m intrigued. Why wouldn’t you do the nasty with the man you call a genius and have plastered his visage around your home?”

“Maybe because I’m straight?” Shen Yuan offers, acridly. 

A-Luo’s snicker resonates through his back, and A-Luo pats Shen Yuan’s stomach with his hand. “Okay, and what’s the real reason?”

That is the real reason, Shen Yuan wants to snap. But it’s not, not really, because even the straightest of straight men could be convinced to make an exception for Luo Binghe. His body is poetry in motion, his voice sweet as honey, his eyes fathomless. Shen Yuan can feel the sexual magnetism of his music videos through the screen. In person? He’d stand no chance. No one would. 

“What’s the point?” Shen Yuan says, quietly. 

“What do you mean, what’s the point?” A-Luo says wryly. “The point is getting off.”

“I just don’t think it’s worth it,” Shen Yuan grumbles. 

“Not worth it?” A-Luo repeats quietly. “Oh my god. Oh my god.” A-Luo sounds thrilled, squeezing Shen Yuan’s waist. “You’re a romantic.”

“I am not!” Shen Yuan hisses.

“You are too,” A-Luo sings. “You want sex to mean something.”

“So what if I do!” Shen Yuan can feel his cheeks flaming, and he tries once more to wiggle to freedom, but A-Luo holds him tight.

“It’s very cute,” A-Luo assures him. “I feel the same.”

“Don’t patronize me.”

“I’m not!” A-Luo insists. He tugs Shen Yuan in, and he can feel A-Luo’s breath fan across the back of his neck, feeling the warmth where his arm is pressed into his stomach. “I’m sorry, I’m done, you can go to sleep now.”

In the morning, A-Luo is gone. 

If their sleepover had meant anything to A-Luo he doesn’t show it. Well, maybe a slight increase in his attempts to get Shen Yuan to some noodle bar. 

“Are you always wearing face paint?” Shen Yuan says one evening, strumming his E string idly. 

“Oh, here we go,” Sha Hualing cackles. 

“Just for practice,” A-Luo replies. “It can be really distracting if you’re not used to the sensation, I find it better to practice with it on when I can.”

“Oh,” Shen Yuan says. “Makes sense.”

“I can’t believe you’re going to accept that,” Shang Qinghua mumbles. “I can’t believe the man that graduated top of the class is a total goddamn moron.”

Shen Yuan shoots him a glare. “Did you even graduate?”

Shang Qinghua straightens indignatly. “ I am an accomplished author!”

“So, no.” Shen Yuan idly plays a chord. “Accomplished author. Did you write a trash novel on the internet or something? Is that it? Did you write porn on the internet?”

Shang Qinghua is silent. Shen Yuan cackles. “You did!”

“Qinghua is a talented author,” Mo Bei says, which is the most he’s ever said to Shen Yuan. 

“I want to read it,” Shen Yuan declares. “Send me it. I’ll pay real human money.”

Shang Qinghua looks triumphant. “You already have.”

Shen Yuan blinks. “Have I?”

“Yeah. Might not want to use the same handle across every website, PeerlessCucumber.” 

Shen Yuan thinks. “I read some serious trash. It’s not exactly an endorsement that I’ve read something.” 

“You said you liked it.”

Shen Yuan scoffs. “I don’t like anything.”

“And I think practice is over,” A-Luo says, swinging his guitar strap off from around his head. “You all suck, but I don’t think we’re going to be productive.”

Shen Yuan puts away his own instrument, and then Sha Hualing drags him off to a corner. 

“I’ve been instructed to give these to you,” Sha Hualing says. “He said to say, ‘he was really impressed with you at the concert’. Message delivered, I’m out.” Sha Hualing swaggers away, and Shen Yuan looks down at what she had shoved into his hand. They’re concert tickets, but not just any tickets.Tickets to Luo Binghe’s entirely sold-out Rebirth tour. And it’s not tickets, it’s ticket and a special laminated backstage pass. 

Luo Binghe had told her to give this to him? Shen Yuan carefully tucks them into his pocket. Luo Binghe had been at their concert? He’d almost forgotten about the lure of access to Luo Binghe that had drawn him to the make-shift studio in the first place. 

“Hey, A-Yuan,” A-Luo calls, and beckons him over. “Do you have experience with digital music programs?”

“No,” Shen Yuan says flatly.

A-Luo grins, “well, I guess it’s time to learn.”

They sit on the floor, A-Luo’s Mac balanced on their laps as A-Luo explains the ins and outs of the program. His arm presses into Shen Yuan’s, and when he leans over to point at something, his silky hair tumbles over Shen Yuan’s shoulder. 

“I think that’s enough for now,” A-Luo says when Shen Yuan’s ears are buzzing with terms and drop-down menus, his eyes watering from looking at a bright screen for too long. A-Luo resolutely shuts the lid, but doesn’t move from where they’re sitting. Instead, he leans so his cheek is resting on Shen Yuan’s shoulder. 

“I’m almost done with the songs for the next album,” A-Luo says. “I want you to help me record and mix it.”

“Aren’t there professionals to do that?”

“I am a professional,” A-Luo retorts. 

I’m not.”

“Everyone starts somewhere,” A-Luo replies. “Besides, you’re a professional musician now. You should show at least some interest in the tools of the trade.”

“Aren’t professionals paid?” Shen Yuan says dryly. 

“I pay you.”

“Do you?”

A-Luo lifts his head from Shen Yuan’s shoulder to give him a look. “ Yes. You got money from our last show, it’s in your account.”

“Ah.” Shen Yuan hadn’t noticed. Maybe he should be more careful. 

A-Luo hefts himself to his feet. “Plan to stay after the next practice too, I’ll teach you how to write a song.”

“I know how to write songs.” A-Luo laughs. “No, really. I didn’t take years of music theory for nothing.”

“Prove me wrong,” A-Luo says. “Write me a song. You have a good amount of time, I’ll be busy for a while.”

“Oh, what will you be doing?” Shen Yuan says, wobbling to his feet, stamping them to get sensation back. 

“Working,” A-Luo says. “Some of us have to.”

“Yes, yes, but what exactly ?”

A-Luo makes a dismissive hand gesture. “This and that. Whenever a big artist does something, the whole place becomes chaotic. You wouldn’t believe how much work goes into an album, or a tour, or even an appearance on the talk-show circuit.” 

“When do you think you’ll be done?”

A-Luo lifts a shoulder. “We should be back to regular practices in December.”

December?” Shen Yuan gapes. “But it’s August!”

“It’s not that long,” A-Luo says dismissively. He grins. “You can channel your pining into writing me a love ballad.”

“I’m not going to pine for you!” Shen Yuan says. What does he look like, some maiden? 

“We’ll see,” A-Luo says smugly. 

Shen Yuan resolves to not contact A-Luo for the entire four months, just to prove that A-Luo is an asshole. Shen Yuan thrives without his presence, that he is most certainly not pining, and is not engaged in any activity that could be mistaken as such. 

That he’s started to feel his heart race when his phone buzzes is unrelated and has nothing to do with the fact that A-Luo has started messaging him semi-regularly. 

He picks up his phone, ensuring to do so casually and lazily so that any observers inside his empty apartment would not mistake him as eager. 

A-Luo has sent him a picture of a little cheese bunny, rendered in such exquisite detail that it almost looks real. 

PeerlessCucumber: looks good

Icy_River: do you think so? I could do better

PeerlessCucumber: you cook?

Icy_River: of course

Icy_River: don’t you?

PeerlessCucumber: that’s a joke right

Icy_River: I think the joke here is you

Icy_River: cooking is a basic life skill 

PeerlessCucumber: why should i learn when i have u to do it for me

Icy_River: how remiss of me, to leave my wife unfed 

PeerlessCucumber: don’t be weird 

Icy_River: 😘

Shen Yuan tosses his phone aside, rolling his eyes. He turns back to his web novel pulled up on his laptop. It’s some sort of political drama, but has rather quickly dissolved into harem in-fighting; so-and-so calling whatsherface a whore, that wife having a mysterious miscarriage, that concubine not being able to find her special hairpin with the poison etc etc etc. Shen Yuan’s eyes are starting to glaze over, but he valiantly fights on, hoping for a glimpse of the male lead. 

He still hasn’t appeared when his phone buzzes again. 

Icy_River: go outside 😘

PeerlessCucumber: why?

Icy_River: surprise

Shen Yuan rolls his eyes, but slips on a pair of flip flops and takes the ride down the elevator. It’s sundown, and the air isn’t quite cool yet. It feels hotter after the air conditioned coolness of his apartment. 

PeerlessCucumber: i don’t see you??

Icy_River: missing me already? That’s so sweet!

Shen Yuan scowls at his phone. 

PeerlessCucumber: then why did you want me to come outside???

There’s a tap on his shoulder, and Shen Yuan turns to see a  sweaty-looking delivery man. “You’re Shen Yuan?” he says. “I have a delivery for you.”

He hands Shen Yuan three bulging bags, stuffed with containers of food. Shen Yuan is struggling to balance them all when the delivery driver scoots away, not turning back. He manages to get everything into his apartment without spilling anything, but just barely, using all the luck and grace he possesses, but it’s a close call. He unpacks the bags, popping open the containers as he goes. It’s an amazing spread of food, spanning regions and cuisines and price points. 

And every single dish is one Shen Yuan might have considered a favorite. 

He pulls out his phone to see he has a new message from A-Luo.

Icy_River: my wife was hungry. I hope it’s enough to tide you over until i come home 

PeerlessCucumber: stop being weird!!!!

And then, begrudgingly. PeerlessCucumber: thanks for the food

Icy_River:  😘

Icy_River: i’ll cook for you when i get back, dw

Communicating with A-Luo becomes a daily occurrence, no matter what Shen Yuan feels about it. He had assumed A-Luo would be in the city, at the very least, just cramped in some office like a vampire, churning out… whatever work he does. But A-Luo sends him pictures of the waterways of Suzhou, the skyscrapers of Shanghai, the Wild Goose Pagoda of Xi’an. Interspersed with: One day I’ll take you traveling. 

Shen Yuan has typed out: stop calling me wife! so many times he’s considered making it a shortcut in his phone. 

All he ever gets in response is : Icy_River: dw, i treat my wives with respect

PeerlessCucumber: you have more than one wife???

Icy_River: jealous? ;)

PeerlessCucumber: if you think i’m gonna fight for your affections in a harem, you are SORELY mistaken

Icy_River: that’s right, you’re a romantic, probably believe in the concept of soulmates 

PeerlessCucumber: i don’t!

Icy_River: i don’t believe you 

Icy_River: the last three novels you’ve told me about have it as a central theme 

Icy_River: dw, you’re #1 wife 💕def my soulmate, if there are such things

PeerlessCucumber: i don’t want to be a wife at all!

Shen Yuan flips over to his super-secret Weibo page. Luo Binghe’s tour seems to be going well, and his timeline is going crazy over the gifs from the Suzhou performance. 

He winked!!! HE WINKED!!! It’s the most PROFOUNDLY EROTIC gesture i’ve ever seen! 

Shen Yuan glances at the gif and finds he has to agree. 

Weaseled in between the fancams and rave reviews of his performances are the equally juicy candids from behind the scenes. Luo Binghe smiling at his phone as his makeup is applied. Luo Binghe smiling at his phone as he drinks coffee. Luo Binghe smiling at his phone as he leaves his hotel. Luo Binghe smiling at his phone as he leaves the venue. 

Speculation runs wild. Who could she be? The consensus seems to run toward Ning Yingying, but a few stalwart fans have a solid theory that it might be Liu Mingyan. Shen Yuan hopes it’s Liu Mingyan, the elegant piano player known for her moving ballads and excellence in traditional dance styles. They seem like a good match. 

One post catches his eye. 

Is it just me or does he sound A LOT like Luo Binghe? 🤔 Attached is an audio clip, and curious, Shen Yuan hits play. 

The song is instantly familiar. Of course it is, he’s been practicing the bass line for weeks, heard it all come together in practice, and listened to it blasted over amps in the concert venue. A-Luo’s voice croons out of the speakers.

The comments underneath are in agreement. 

It sounds EXACTLY like him!

Does Luo Binghe have another band???

OMG OMG OMG what if it IS Luo Binghe??

Shen Yuan snorts. Sure, they sound similar, but you’d have to be a moron to think they sound the same. A-Luo’s voice is deeper than Luo Binghe’s. Not by much, but it’s there. 

Shen Yuan closes his phone and puts it out of his mind. 

November in Beijing is cold, but the arena is warm, and absolutely packed with people. Most of them are women, but Shen Yuan makes very manly eye contact with some men, and a moment of mutual understanding passes between them, before they resolutely pretend it didn’t happen. He hasn’t ever actually been to a Luo Binghe concert before, despite his wealth and stannish ways. It’s novel, for certain, but he’s not entirely sure he’s enjoying himself yet. 

Shen Yuan’s ticket has him pressed right up against the stage, close to the action. He pulls out his phone, idly flipping through his apps. He feels like he should be taking pictures for his Weibo if nothing else,but he’s feeling oddly irritable. Without thought, he thumbs open his conversation with A-Luo. 

PeerlessCucumber: have you ever been to a concert?

Icy_River: i’ve been known to attend a few in my life, yes

Icy_River: you might remember, but i’ve even performed in one

Icy_River: why, have you not?

PeerlessCucumber: i have 

Icy_River: i sense there’s a ‘but’

PeerlessCucumber: no but, i have been 

Icy_River: going to see the orchestra doesn’t count

PeerlessCucumber: first of all, yes it does. Second, that’s not the only sort of concert i’ve been to

Icy_River: i knew it

Icy_River: you strike me as the type to get hot and bothered over violin players

Icy_River: i play violin, by the way

Icy_River: btw how’s the song you’re writing for me coming along 

PeerlessCucumber: it’s going

Icy_River: you haven’t even started, have you

Icy_River: i wrote a song for you

Icy_River: i feel our relationship is unbalanced 

PeerlessCucumber: oh yeah and what song is that

Icy_River: you haven’t heard it yet

Icy_River: but u will soon

Icy_River: brb gotta work so i can keep you in the lifestyle to which you are accustomed, etc etc  

Shen Yuan rolls his eyes and slips his phone back into his pocket. The lights are starting to dim, the anticipation builds in the audience as a startling hush falls around the room.

Then the stage explodes with lights and sound. Luo Binghe skips onto the stage to a thunderous roar. He lifts his arm, and his black leather jacket swings to reveal nothing underneath. His silver earrings glimmer in the spotlight. 

The first song starts, and backup dancers rush from the wings. The audience is thunderous. Lights on the stage glitter and gleam, the energy so high that Shen Yuan first feels awkward, but then caught up in the current. Luo Binghe sings song after song, dancing sinuously in time to the music. It’s a spectacle, it’s a feast for the eyes. It’s overwhelming and not enough. 

Then, the lights dim. Luo Binghe comes back out in a simple t-shirt and jeans and holding an acoustic guitar. The crowd holds its breath. Luo Binghe settles on a stool, leaning into a microphone. 

“I’ve been working on a new song,” Luo Binghe says, with a smile. It’s a small smile, but enlarged on the jumbotrons on either side of the screen, it’s writ large. “No one’s heard it before, but I’m going to share it with you guys tonight.” He winks. “Hope you guys like it.”

An expectant hush falls across the arena, and Luo Binghe strums his guitar. His fathomless eyes look across the crowd. He leans in, and starts to sing. 

I feel the fingertips that stop in my hair, how a moment freezes in time, I see the pair of eyes looking steadily at me, maybe there already is no tomorrow. I never thought that for your sake, I would go insane to the point of landslides, tidal waves, without you I don’t want to escape. My own mind, for your sake, I’ve already gone insane to the point of feeling like my pulse and heartbeat are unimportant without you.”

Luo Binghe’s voice is enchanting, like nothing Shen Yuan has ever heard. If he was inclined to poetry, he might call it celestial. It reaches into his heartstrings, and tugs. 

The last notes ring out through the arena, and Luo Binghe gives a shy smile.

The arena erupts. Screams and cries and yells so loud that Shen Yuan flinches, covering his ears with his hands. Luo Binghe just leans into the microphone. 

“I’m glad you liked it,” he says, barely audible over the roar. Luo Binghe gives a wave, then disappears into the side wing. The lights start to rise and the crowd starts to whisper.

“Do you think it was about someone?” Shen Yuan hears a girl whisper to her friend. “I would die if someone wrote me a song like that.”

It’s a good question, Shen Yuan thinks as he walks towards the destistination his backstage pass indicates. He hopes that whoever she is, she’s making Luo Binghe happy. Shen Yuan follows the directions on his backstage pass, flashing it at beefy men who nod and let him pass, until he’s intercepted by a harried-looking woman. 

“Backstage pass?” she asks, and when Shen Yuan nods, she leads him past chatting backup dancers and frazzled stagehands to a quiet room with a few couches and chairs. A few women sit anxiously, talking to each other quietly. Shen Yuan settles in on one of the empty couches, pulling out his phone again. A-Luo hasn’t messaged him again. He scowls, put out and annoyed. A-Luo rarely takes more than three hours to respond, even in the night hours when it’s just Shen Yuan and the moths awake. He’s even more irritated than usual, his palms sweaty and his stomach churning, feeling like a jigsaw peice trying to be shoved into the wrong puzzle, ends snagging instead of clicking into place. He shoves his phone back into his pocket as the door opens. 

Luo Binghe swaggers in, smile on his face. He hasn’t changed his clothes, only thrown a light jacket over his t-shirt. Pink strands of hair cling to his forehead, and his earrings still glisten in his ear. 

“It’s nice to meet you all,” Luo Binghe says with a smile. “I hope you enjoyed the show.”

“You were amazing,” one of the women gushes, then closes her mouth with a snap. Luo Binghe gives her a gentle smile.

“Thank you,” he says. Then, he settles right next to Shen Yuan on the couch, slinging his arm around the back. 

Another woman leans forward. “That last song,” she says. “Was it about anyone? It was amazing!”

Luo Binghe gives a chuckle. “Of course it was, I find the best art comes from the heart.”

“Who was it about?” another woman asks. Luo Binghe winks at her, and Shen Yuan remembers the Weibo post he saw. Profoundly erotic, indeed. 

“That’s a secret,” Luo Binghe says easily. He looks at Shen Yuan, giving a grin. “You can’t just kiss and tell, right? 

Shen Yuan nods, which seems to be all the confirmation Luo Binghe needs. Luo Binghe turns back to the gaggle of women, answering questions with an easy grace, even when they veer towards the inappropriate. Shen Yuan doesn’t say much, he doesn’t know what to say. It’s enough to soak in the peace of the green room, the charm Luo Binghe comes with, how he easily commands the room.

The same assistant that led Shen Yuan back pokes her head in the room. “Alright, everyone, it’s time to call it a night.”

Everyone rises from their seats, muttering “good night”s and “it’s so nice to meet you”s. A light touch on Shen Yuan’s lower back stops him. He turns to find Luo Binghe hovering. “Shen Yuan, right?”

Surprise must show on Shen Yuan’s face because Luo Binghe laughs. “No need to look so startled, I’m the one who gave Sha Hualing the tickets, after all.”

“Ah,” Shen Yuan says, throat tight, not knowing what to say. 

“I saw your concert,” Luo Binghe continues. “You played well. How long have you played bass?”

The assistant clears her throat. “Sir, you have to leave.”

“I’ll just take him to my dressing room,” Luo Binghe tells her with a smile. He puts a palm on Shen Yuan’s lower back, steering him out the door. Shen Yuan is hyper-aware of it, of just how large Luo Binghe’s hand is. 

“So, how long?”

“Since I was in middle school,” Shen Yuan answers. “Twelve years now, or thereabouts?”

Luo Binghe blinks. “Wait, how old are you?”

“Twenty-seven,” Shen Yuan answers. “Why?”

“You’re a bit baby-faced,” Luo Binghe admits, wryly. “I thought you were my age. It just startled me a bit.”

Shen Yuan blinks, remembering that Luo Binghe is twenty-two now, having started his career at the tender age of seventeen. Luo Binghe steers him into a room. It’s about the same size as the green room, the only differences being the large mirror dominating one wall, and the makeup and costume detritus scattered around the room. 

“I didn’t think of you as a metal fan,” Shen Yuan admits, glancing about the room. 

“Why not?” Luo Binghe says, cocking his head. 

Shen Yuan spreads his hands helplessly. “Vibes?”

“It’s the pink hair, isn’t it?” Luo Binghe says, a smile tugging at the edges of his mouth. 

“A little,” Shen Yuan admits. 

“I will admit, I wasn’t always into it. I did get into it in part because of your Duoyins,” Luo Binghe says, spreading his hands, and Shen Yuan stiffens in surprise. “It was amazing how you changed the sound of the song with just the addition of some bass, but I didn’t know what you meant by ‘metal version.’ I started listening to some metal bands to get some idea and, well,” he makes a twirling hand gesture. “The rest was history.”

“I didn’t realize you watched those,” Shen Yuan says stiffly. 

“Of course!” Luo Binghe says, eyes twinkling. “You were one of my very first fans, you know? Not many people listened to my first album, they still don’t. But you loved it enough to try and make a duet, with every single song.” Luo Binghe smiles, soft. Shen Yuan can feel his heart thump in his chest. “I’d love to hear the full versions one day, if you have them.”

“Oh, sure,” Shen Yuan says. “I can send them to you, if you want.”

“I’d love that,” Luo Binghe says. Shen Yuan meets Luo Binghe’s eyes, and there’s no photo or poster on earth that could have prepared him for the experience. Luo Binghe’s eyes are a fathomless river, glittering with the light of thousands of stars. Shen Yuan feels like he could get lost in them, like if he leaned in a little closer, he just might. 

He turns his head away, unable to take it, casting his eyes down. His stomach feels fluttery, something like nausea, but not quite. Something warm. 

Shen Yuan clears his throat, looking back up. Luo Binghe is looking straight at him, eyes dancing with something like mirth. 

“Can I read your palm?” Luo Binghe says suddenly. Shen Yuan holds his hand out automatically, then flushes. Luo Binghe uses one hand to cup his, running fingers softly over his with the other.

“You read palms?”

“No,” Luo Binghe admits. “I just wanted to see if your hands are bigger than mine.” He turns Shen Yuan’s hand until they’re flush between them. Luo Binghe’s hand is warm, and he can feel the calluses on his fingertips. Their hands are about the same size, the barest tips of Luo Binghe’s fingers peeking over his. Slowly, Luo Binghe’s hand moves, his fingers filling the spaces between Shen Yuan’s. Then they close, until Luo Binghe is holding his hand. 

Confused, Shen Yuan lightly curls his fingers, mimicking the gesture. Luo Binghe’s free hand comes up, lightly resting against Shen Yuan’s neck, then curling up into his hair. 

It takes Shen Yuan a moment to process what happens next. Partly because Luo Binghe moves like lightning, drawing Shen Yuan in and his own face closer. Partly because he’s not being kissed as much as he’s being mauled, Luo Binghe chewing on his lips like they’re bubblegum.

He tries to move back, but Luo Binghe tightens the grip on his hair, chewing with more fervor. Shen Yuan feels his lip split, the taste of copper flooding his mouth, and it spurs him to action. He uses his free hand to push on Luo Binghe’s chest, the other locked in Luo Binghe’s deathgrip, joints protesting under the pressure. 

He finally manages to shove Luo Binghe off, getting a few inches of breathing room. 

Luo Binghe has a smear of Shen Yuan’s blood on his lips, and his eyes look a little wild, huge and glistening. His grip on Shen Yuan’s hand gets a little tighter. 

Luo Binghe looks like he might cry, tears gathering at the corners of his eyes. All the anger whooshes out of Shen Yuan like a popped balloon; he’s never been able to stand seeing people cry. 

“Hey, now,” Shen Yuan says helplessly, lifting his free hand up to wipe tears away with his thumb. “Don’t cry. There’s no need for tears.”

“You didn’t like it,” Luo Binghe says helplessly, squeezing Shen Yuan’s hand. He looks devastated. Shen Yuan made Luo Binghe look devastated. Luo Binghe is a horrible kisser, clearly unpractised and sloppy. It might have even been his first kiss, and Shen Yuan’s heart cracks a little. 

“You startled me,” Shen Yuan admits, dropping his free hand. “And you need to be more gentle.”

Luo Binghe bites his lip. “Can you show me?”


“To be more gentle?”

“Just—” Shen Yuan waves his free hand. “Just use your lips and not your teeth.” 

Luo Binghe leans in and smashes his lips against Shen Yuan’s. It’s vaguely reminiscent of being punched in the face, but wetter.

Shen Yuan gently pushes him back again. Luo Binghe goes, eyes wet. Shen Yuan fortifies his heart. He grasps Luo Binghe’s chin in his hand, and pulls him in. 

“Follow my lead,” Shen Yuan says against his lips. He slots their lips together carefully, moving his gently against Luo Binghe’s own. Luo Binghe makes cautious moves of his own, but then starts to get into it, moving enthusiastically, but with more grace than his previous attempts. Luo Binghe’s hand once again comes to rest on the back of Shen Yuan’s neck, warm and large. 

Shen Yuan... may have started this out of some misguided sense of sympathy, but... Luo Binghe’s wet pants and lips moving against his make his stomach do that warm-twisty thing, and he finds himself slipping his tongue between Luo Binghe’s parted lips, eliciting a startled moan from Luo Binghe. 

Shen Yuan moves his hand from Luo Binghe’s chin to grip in his hair, tugging for slightly better access. Luo Binghe goes easily, pressing his body so it’s flush against Shen Yuan’s. It’s... nice, Shen Yuan decides. Different. It’s certainly no chore to kiss the world’s most attractive man. 

Shen Yuan unlaces their fingers, and Luo Binghe makes a displeased sound, but Shen Yuan loops his now-free hand around to press against the small of Luo Binghe’s back, and it turns into a hum of contentment. Luo Binghe presses closer, shifting so a thigh presses against Shen Yuan, and sparks shoot up his spine as his dick starts to swell. Shen Yuan isn’t too proud of a man to not return the favor, shifting his leg so that Luo Binghe makes a tiny whine. 

The kiss grows messier, Luo Binghe using his tongue to twine with Shen Yuan’s, moving his hand to creep up Shen Yuan’s shirt, up the skin of his back, leaving goosebumps in its wake. Shen Yuan tugs on Luo Binghe’s hair and— 

And it comes loose.

Shen Yuan pulls back to stare at the mass of pink in one hand, mind uncomprehending. Oh my god, he thinks hysterically, I’ve made him bald.

But when he looks at Luo Binghe, what he sees is a riot of silky black hair tumbling down around his face, long enough to hit his shoulders. Luo Binghe looks startled, black eyes round and lips parted— and more than that, he looks a little guilty. 

“Surprise?” he says. He bites his lip. The move is incredibly alluring. “Are you angry?”

“Why would I be mad that you wear a wig?” Shen Yuan asks, bewildered. If anything, he’s relieved that Luo Binghe doesn’t truly live his life with baby pink hair. He tosses the wig aside and smoothes Luo Binghe’s hair with his hands. It’s incredibly soft, and Luo Binghe lets him put it in some semblance of order.

When he’s done, Shen Yuan steps away, and Luo Binghe’s arms fall to the side. There’s an assessing look in Luo Binghe’s eyes, reminiscent of someone, but who dances just out of reach. 

“You remind me of A-Luo,” Shen Yuan declares. Luo Binghe blinks. Then does it again.

“Oh?” Luo Binghe says at last, a small smile on his face. “Is that a good thing or a bad thing?”

Shen Yuan shrugs. “Just an observation.”

Luo Binghe shakes his head. “They’ll kick us out of the room soon, the arena closes. Do you maybe... want to head to my place? Pick up where we left off? I live close by.”

“I,” Shen Yuan starts, and doesn’t know what to say. Luo Binghe is looking at him with a hopeful expression, the most attractive human in the world has invited him to possibly have sex, or at least make-out, his dark hair tumbling around his face, his t-shirt and jeans delightfully rumpled.

Shen Yuan, as a red-blooded male, should jump on the offer, should jump on Luo Binghe. When will this opportunity present itself again?

“I…” Shen Yuan starts, and Luo Binghe brightens. “Alright.”

Luo Binghe gives him a beautific grin. 

Luo Binghe’s apartment is not what he expected. 

Granted, he could have been led to almost any apartment and said ‘this is unexpected,’ but he’s truly surprised by the interior. It’s shaped in the style he associates with old, traditional buildings, bamboo motifs and circular cut-outs, low tables and sofas, but also distinctively modern. 

It’s also incredibly sterile. There are no personal effects, no pictures, no posters. Shen Yuan feels a little as though he wandered into an Ikea showroom instead of a place someone actually lives. 

Luo Binghe watches him look around. Shen Yuan kind of expected to be pinned to the apartment door, the life sucked out of his lips. He doesn’t know what to do with his hands. 

“You have a nice place,” Shen Yuan says eventually. 

Luo Binghe hums. “I’m going to take a shower,” he announces. Shen Yuan looks at him. 

“Alright,” Shen Yuan says. There’s a moment of silence, Luo Binghe looking at him expectantly, waiting for what, Shen Yuan doesn’t know. 

“You should join me,” Luo Binghe says, walking forward and grabbing Shen Yuan’s wrist, tugging him along. 

“Oh, okay.”

Luo Binghe leads him through his massive apartment to an equally massive bathroom. It’s got everything one might dream of cramming into one space— a shower, a bath, a veritable jungle of plants. 

Shen Yuan has always known he lives his life in the lap of luxury, but being confronted with Luo Binghe’s home makes him realize that luxury could go a lot farther than he thought. 

Luo Binghe is already stripping, shirt coming off to reveal a well-muscled chest, pants coming off to reveal— 

“Holy fucking shit,” Shen Yuan gasps. 

Luo Binghe looks up at him, befuddled. “You’re supposed to take your clothes off to shower?”

Shen Yuan gapes at the biggest dick he’s ever seen in his whole entire life. It’s twenty centimeters at least, maybe only slightly less thick than Shen Yuan’s arm. 

Without thinking, Shen Yuan reaches out to grasp it. It’s solid and warm in his hand, and gives a slight twitch when Shen Yuan moves his hand to inspect it. He runs his thumb across the silky skin, marveling at how even his fairly large hand can’t grasp the whole thing.

A whine from Luo Binghe has Shen Yuan’s eyes snapping up to his face. Luo Binghe is a charming shade of pink, eyes huge. Remembering himself, Shen Yuan lets go of Luo Binghe’s dick. 

“Erm, sorry,” Shen Yuan says. 

“You can touch if you want,” Luo Binghe says, a smirk appearing on his still-pink face. “It’s alright.”

Shen Yuan doesn’t know how to answer, so he starts stripping himself. Of course it’s alright! He’s having a one-night stand with nationally beloved idol Luo Binghe! That’s what you’re supposed to do, touch each other’s dicks! 

His mind screeches to a halt. Luo Binghe has turned on the water and is beckoning him in, hand outstretched. And what is Shen Yuan supposed to do, say no? He accompanies Luo Binghe into the spray. 

Shen Yuan hasn’t showered with anyone his whole life. He’s not aware of the etiquette, or rules, or what have you. Is he supposed to wash Luo Binghe? Is that right? Even his dick? Should he focus on the dick, considering he’ll be touching it later?

Luo Binghe doesn’t seem to have any hang-ups. He hums as he works shampoo through his hair, passing the bottle off to Shen Yuan. It’s lavender scented. Shen Yuan remembers that Luo Binghe once said that it was his favorite smell, reminding him of home. Shen Yuan works his way through this shower like he has every other shower in his life, except with the addition of the world’s sexiest man in it with him. Shen Yuan goes through the motions, stealing looks at Luo Binghe. All the porn he’s ever read his whole life has taught him that one of them should be pressed up against the showertiles, leg hitched as the other fucks into him using conditioner as lube, panting as the water spills over their bodies. What’s the hold up? 

Instead, Luo Binghe hums as he turns off the water. The bathroom is steamy when they step out, swirling through the air. Luo Binghe accosts him with a towel, rubbing it over his hair and letting it drape. Shen Yuan slings it around his waist, watching Luo Binghe try his level best to dry his mass of hair with a towel and then pull a brush through it.

“Let me,” Shen Yuan says, gently taking the brush. He tries to drag it through, but Luo Binghe is slightly taller than him and he has to crane his arm at a weird angle. “Maybe it would be easier if you sat down?” He remembers vaguely brushing his younger sister’s hair when she was young, before his older brothers gave him so much shit for it that he had to stop. “Maybe we could sit on your bed?”

“If that’s easier,” Luo Binghe agrees. He pulls Shen Yuan through a door he didn’t notice before, flicking on the lights. 

Shen Yuan looks around. It has the same modern-ancient feel as the rest of the apartment, the same chill of a barely used room. 

“This whole place feels like no one lives here,” Shen Yuan says, settling on the bed on his knees, arranging his towel primly. 

“I sort of don’t,” Luo Binghe admits, dropping before Shen Yuan, legs crossed. “I spend a lot of time on tour. And even when I’m in Beijing, I’m never here.”

Shen Yuan carefully brushes through Luo Binghe’s hair, separating thick strands with his hand. Luo Binghe has so much hair it borders on ludicrous. Shen Yuan has no earthly idea how he manages to shove it all under a wig. 

“Then where are you?” 

Luo Binghe shrugs. “A lot of the time, I’m at the studio, or doing talk shows, or doing a photoshoot, or having a dance rehearsal. And when I’m not doing that I’m sulking around Beijing.”

“I’d thought for sure you’d be recognized.”

Luo Binghe laughs, harder than Shen Yuan really thinks his observation deserves. 

“What?” he snaps.

“Nothing,” Luo Binghe says quickly. “Just, you’d be surprised. If people don’t expect to see you, then they won’t.”

“I think I’d recognize you,” Shen Yuan says on another stroke of the brush.

“I’m sure you would,” Luo Binghe says, sounding a little strangled. Shen Yuan raps him lightly in the ribs with the brush. 

“I would!”

“Mhm,” Luo Binghe responds. He turns to face Shen Yuan. “And what if A-Yuan doesn’t?”

“If I don’t recognize you?”

“Mm,” Luo Binghe nods. “If I see you, but you don’t see me, I think I should get a prize.” Luo Binghe’s eyes glitter.

“You think you could pick me out of a crowd?”

“I’m sure of it,” Luo Binghe says. “If I see you, but you don’t see me, you have to go on a date with me.”

Shen Yuan laughs. “Is it a once-per-sighting thing or do you win the prize the first time?”

“Both,” Luo Binghe says, pushing to his knees. He grabs Shen Yuan around the shoulders and flops them onto their sides, readjusting so their legs are tangled. “Maybe after I’ve successfully seduced you, we can change the terms.”

Shen Yuan, wearing a mere towel in Luo Binghe’s bed, having arrived for the purpose of having sex, wonders what would count as a ‘successful seduction’ in Luo Binghe’s mind. 

“To what?” Shen Yuan says as Luo Binghe flings their towels to the far corners of the room. Luo Binghe resettles, their bodies pressed close together, chest to hip. Luo Binghe’s body is a hard line of muscle, warm still from the shower. A thigh cants up between Shen Yuan’s, putting pressure on his dick in the most delightful way. 

“We’ll figure it out,” Luo Binghe assures him, and leans in to kiss him. He’s obviously learned from Shen Yuan’s impromptu lesson, and is gentle, taking his time and moving his lips softly. His hands move all over Shen Yuan’s body, stroking and caressing.

Shen Yuan feels a warmth start to stoke in his belly, spreading to all his limbs. He shivers as Luo Binghe drags fingers up his back, his pulse starts to thump as Luo Binghe moves to mouth at it. 

His hands move across Luo Binghe’s body in turn, marveling at the way muscle moves under his skin, at the gasps he receives when he bites at Luo Binghe’s ear, at the way Luo Binghe’s hips make helpless stuttering motions when he grabs fistfuls of his ass. 

Luo Binghe rolls them, pressing Shen Yuan down into the mattress. He rolls his hips sinuously down, and his dick slides against Shen Yuan’s. Shen Yuan spreads his legs to give him better access, kissing along Luo Binghe’s jawline. A hand snakes between their bodies to palm at Shen Yuan’s dick has him accidentally biting the column of Luo Binghe’s neck. Luo Binghe moans loudly, sound reverberating through his chest. Shen Yuan doesn’t know what the spurt of warmth between their bodies is until it starts dripping down his thigh. 

He blinks. He rather thought...nevermind. 

Luo Binghe pulls away, and Shen Yuan starts to sit up, but Luo Binghe pushes him back down, scooting down Shen Yuan’s body.

“What are you— holy fuck,” Shen Yuan gasps, as Luo Binghe sucks him into his mouth, straight down his throat with no preamble. Luo Binghe bobs his head once, twice, then comes all the way off, gasping for breath, then dives right back down, licking at the head, swirling his tongue. Then Shen Yuan is back down his throat again and— 

Shen Yuan moans, long and low, as he comes down the throat of the man he’s admired for years. Luo Binghe sits back on his heels, licking his lips, as Shen Yuan catches his breath. Then, Luo Binghe leans down and starts to lick his own cum off Shen Yuan’s thighs.

“Binghe!” Shen Yuan yelps, both from how sensitivity and disgust. Luo Binghe sits up.


“Use-use a towel,” Shen Yuan gasps. Luo Binghe complies, grabbing one of the towels he flung to the side to gently wipe Shen Yuan down. 

“When you’re ready,” Luo Binghe says, “I have some lube, the internet said the best time to prepare is when you’re relaxed.”

Shen Yuan had been prepared for this possibility. All the way back in Luo Binghe’s dressing room, he had kissed the sanctity of his ass goodbye. That was, of course, before he knew Luo Binghe had a third arm in place of a normal dick, but it doesn’t change his resolve and he lights a candle for his ass. 

Shen Yuan casts his eyes over Luo Binghe’s body, from his graceful neck, down his well-defined chest, to his slim waist; electricity plays in his veins. If that is the price, he will pay it. 

“Alright,” Shen Yuan says.

Luo Binghe scampers to the side of his truly massive bed, rummaging around in the side table and returning triumphantly with a bottle. He presses it into Shen Yuan’s hand, and Shen Yuan lifts it to inspect. It has some sort of numbing agent, and is apparently made with silicone. Great! He has no idea what that means. 

“I have no experience with this,” Shen Yuan admits. A flash of delight crosses Luo Binghe’s face so quickly Shen Yuan is almost certain he’s imagined it, before it settles into warmth. 

“It’s alright,” Luo Binghe says, gently. “We can explore together.” Luo Binghe lies next to Shen Yuan. “Though, I would appreciate if you go slow.”

Shen Yuan turns that request over in his mind. Luo Binghe wants….Shen go slow?

“You want me to do you?” Shen Yuan yelps, sitting bolt upright and looking down at Luo Binghe. Luo Binghe peers up at him.


“No way!” Shen Yuan gapes. “What if I hurt you? I’ve never done this before!” If Shen Yuan hurts Luo Binghe while trying to stick his dick in him, Shen Yuan might actually die from the guilt. It would eat him alive!

“You won’t,” Luo Binghe assures him. He reaches up to cup Shen Yuan’s face. “Please. I want this.”

Shen Yuan bites his lip, considering. He hefts the bottle in his hand. He has a theory for how this works, what man with an internet connection doesn’t, but in practice?

“You’ll tell me if it hurts?” Shen Yuan says, tentative. The look on Luo Binghe’s face is extremely soft, tender in a way that Shen Yuan doesn’t think he deserves. 

“You’re extremely sweet, you know that?” Luo Binghe says. He shakes his head. “I’ll tell you if it hurts.”

Shen Yuan repositions himself between Luo Binghe’s legs, a place he never dreamed he’d be in his whole life. He squirts lube onto his fingers, too much, and some of it drips down onto the bedding. 

Shen Yuan steels his heart, looking down at where he’ll be placing his fingers. Luo Binghe spreads his legs in invitation. He rubs carefully around the entrance, before slipping the first finger in gently, looking up at Luo Binghe’s face. There doesn’t seem to be any discomfort, in fact, he cocks an eyebrow at Shen Yuan. 

“It’s not going to snap your finger off,” he says, amused. “You don’t have to look so scared.”

Shen Yuan scowls, sliding in another finger. Truthfully, it’s fine. It’s not as weird as he thought it would be. Luo Binghe is warm around his fingers, and Shen Yuan starts to relax, becoming intrigued with the way his fingers feel inside Luo Binghe’s body, how they look sliding in and out. 

Until he does something that makes Luo Binghe gasp, and his eyes shoot to his face. 

“No, do that again,” Luo Binghe urges, and Shen Yuan complies. Luo Binghe groans this time, and Shen Yuan sees his dick twitch. Intrigued, Shen Yuan massages that spot and it makes Luo Binghe writhe, his hands grasping the sheets, face screwing in open pleasure. His dick comes to full hardness, rising proudly and flushing.  

“A- Yuan,” Luo Binghe gasps. “A-Yuan, I’m ready.”

Shen Yuan hesitates, but withdraws his fingers from Luo Binghe. 

“I hear…” Shen Yuan starts. “I hear it’s easier from the back?”

“I want to do it like this,” Luo Binghe says firmly. 

Shen Yuan pulls the bottle back, lubing his dick up. He shuffles further between Luo Binghe’s legs. He looks up at Luo Binghe’s face again, then back down. It’s okay. He can do this! It’s fine. He can just fuck Luo Binghe, nationally beloved icon and superstar, sex idol to millions. 

He aligns himself and slides in, carefully watching Luo Binghe’s face. Luo Binghe doesn’t look troubled, in fact he looks very pleased, with some sort of smug look on his face like he’s the one getting exactly what he wanted. Luo Binghe loops his arms around Shen Yuan’s shoulders, tugging him down. 

“You feel so nice,” Luo Binghe moans almost pornographically. “I feel so full.”

“Don’t say that!” Shen Yuan snaps, face flaming.

“Why not?” Luo Binghe grins. “It’s true.” Luo Binghe wiggles his eyebrows. “Unless you think you can get me to stop talking?”

Shen Yuan, doing the only thing he can think to do, pulls out his hips and snaps forward. Luo Binghe lets out a pleased hum. Shen Yuan does it again, and again. He sets a rhythm, losing his anxiety at Luo Binghe’s obvious enjoyment, and starts to enjoy it himself. 

Luo Binghe’s body is hot and tight around him, his breathy moans spurring Shen Yuan on. Remembering earlier, Shen Yuan leans down and gently sinks his teeth into Luo Binghe’s neck, and Luo Binghe’s hands claw at his back, blunt nails leaving stinging traces. 

Feeling presumptions, Shen Yuan sucks a hickey into Luo Binghe’s neck while he’s there, and Luo Binghe mewls. Encouraged, Shen Yuan leaves a few more, Luo Binghe gasping and clawing at his back, until he comes, face twisted in pleasure and his hole seemingly sucking him in with a vice grip . Black eyes blink up at him hazily, a small smile playing on Luo Binghe’s face. Shen Yuan is slammed with a wave of lust so intense, he comes soon after with a gasp. 

He gingerly pulls out, and watches with horror as his cum leaks out of Luo Binghe. He scrambles for a towel, carefully wiping it up. Luo Binghe is looking up at him with hazy eyes, displaying the same energy of Shen Yuan’s childhood cat, lazy and satisfied. 

“Are you feeling alright?” Shen Yuan asks tentatively, just to be sure. 

Luo Binghe gives him a warm smile. “Amazing. You did a good job.”

Shen Yuan goes red. “Don’t say that!”

“Why not?” Luo Binghe says, stretching his arms out and pulling Shen Yuan down. He maneuvers and manipulates until Shen Yuan is flat on his back, Luo Binghe curled around his side with his head on Shen Yuan’s chest. “I liked it. I want to do it again. I want you to do it again.”

Shen Yuan sets a tentative hand on Luo Binghe’s back, starting to stroke when he’s not rejected. He can’t fathom a single reason why Luo Binghe wanted to sleep with him the first time, let alone do it again, but he’ll take it as it comes, he supposes. 

Luo Binghe is all but purring into Shen Yuan’s chest as he plays with the ends of his hair. Luo Binghe falls asleep like this, huffing soft breaths across Shen Yuan’s chest. Shen Yuan isn't sure of the etiquette; part of him wants to scoot out from underneath Luo Binghe and make it to the door before he wakes up. That’s what one-night stands do, yes? On the other hand, Luo Binghe looks so peaceful, Shen Yuan doesn’t want to risk disturbing him. Luo Binghe would have said something if he wanted him gone, right? He wouldn’t have fallen asleep on top of him?

Shen Yuan mulls it over, until the pull of sleep starts to tug hard at the edges of his consciousness. Fuck it, he thinks as he closes his eyes, letting sleep overtake him.

Shen Yuan wakes alone in Luo Binghe’s large bed, sunlight streaming through a large window. Was that open last night? Shen Yuan thinks hysterically. It’s large enough that just about anyone could have had a show, if they had happened to glance in the right direction. 

He decides not to think about it, as doing so makes panic start to bubble in his chest like a volcano, threatening to overtake him. He’s about to head into the bathroom to pick his clothes off the floor, but instead finds them folded neatly on the edge of the bed. They smell vaguely floral, as if they’d been washed. 

Shrugging, Shen Yuan slips them on. He pads from the bedroom into the rest of the apartment, torn between two almost equally strong drives. ‘See how Luo Binghe lives’ says one wolf. ‘Get the hell out of here!’ screams the other. 

Shen Yuan’s self-preservation instincts had never truly been the strongest, and he pokes around the apartment, finding only more of the same modern-sterile aesthetic and a music room for his troubles. Suddenly, he stops and sniffs. The unmistakable smell of food is in the air, and Shen Yuan follows it to a massive kitchen, housing one shirtless Luo Binghe humming over the stove. 

Luo Binghe looks over his shoulder as Shen Yuan enters, and gives him a sunny smile. “You’re up!” he exclaims. “I’m making lunch.”

“You mean breakfast?”

Luo Binghe gives him a look. “It’s one in the afternoon. Lunch.”

Shen Yuan blinks, and then scrambles for his phone. It’s not in either of his pockets, and he can’t even begin to fathom where he might have left it. 

“Are you looking for your phone?” Luo Binghe asks. He gestures with his cooking utensil. “It’s on the counter. I wanted to charge it for you.”

 Shen Yuan picks his phone off the counter, and sure enough, it has a full battery. He unlocks it, and it pops right open to his secret Weibo page. Shen Yuan blinks, near certain that the last thing he had done on his phone was text A-Luo before the concert, but shrugs and slips it into his pocket. It doesn’t really matter.

“What’s for lunch, then?” Shen Yuan says, coming closer to Luo Binghe, peering over his shoulder into the pan. 

Luo Binghe takes a step back, bumping into Shen Yuan’s chest. He makes an oomf of surprise, and Shen Yuan puts a hand on his hip to steady him. Luo Binghe doesn’t move away, slouching into Shen Yuan instead. 

“It’s eggplant,” Luo Binghe says. He gestures at a pot sitting on the back burner. “And congee too. I thought you might be up earlier.” Luo Binghe gives Shen Yuan a sly look. “You must have really tired yourself out.”

“Shut up,” Shen Yuan grumbles as Luo Binghe snickers, the laugh reverberating through Shen Yuan’s chest. 

“It’s cute,” Luo Binghe says, sounding like he means something else, and Shen Yuan grumbles as he retreats. 

“You seem like the sort that functions on three hours of sleep and coffee fumes,” Shen Yuan retorts. 

“At peak human efficiency, you don’t need sleep,” Luo Binghe says, poking at the eggplant. “It’s a weakness I look to exercise in myself.”

“That sounds like some rich and famous bullshit you sell to the masses,” Shen Yuan comments. “Are you gonna write a book?”

Luo Binghe laughs, rich and deep. “It was a joke, but that’s a good idea.” He pulls a plate out of a cabinet for the food. “What do you think chapter one should be? ‘The secret to success lies in my proprietary protein powder’?”

“No, that’s overdone,” Shen Yuan says. “Go wild. ‘My musical talent can probably be traced to the perfect peony my mother gave as an offering when I was just a babe.’”

“It was a lotus, actually,” Luo Binghe says drily. “And you call yourself a fan.”

Luo Binghe turns to serve the food, and Shen Yuan gets a good look at his chest and neck for the first time that morning, and his throat goes dry. He has hazy memories of biting at Luo Binghe’s chest, maybe sucking a few hickies here and there, but in the light of day, Luo Binghe’s neck is a mottled purple mess, bite marks with clear indents in his chest. It makes Shen Yuan feel a certain sort of way, a sort of possessiveness he didn’t know he was capable of clawing its way up out of the depths of his chest. Just as soon it’s crushed in a massive tidal wave of guilt, drowned out till nothing remains. The marks look like they hurt.

“What’s wrong?” Luo Binghe says. He follows Shen Yuan’s gaze down to his body. “Oh, are you admiring your handiwork?”

Shen Yuan swallows, and looks away. Is he allowed to do that to a pop idol? Are the police going to come for him and drag him away for defiling a national icon?

“Why do you look guilty?” Luo Binghe asks. He sets the food down on the table. 

“Doesn’t it hurt?” Shen Yuan says, looking back at Luo Binghe, gesturing at his own throat and chest. 

“No,” Luo Binghe says. Shen Yuan gives him a dubious look. “I’ll show you,” Luo Binghe says mischievously, and that’s all the warning he gets before he’s pounced on, back shoved into the counter. 

Luo Binghe chews at his neck like a dog with a bone, before vacuuming a spot just below Shen Yuan’s jaw. Contrary to Luo Binghe’s assertion, it does hurt, but Shen Yuan suspects that Luo Binghe could also be in need of some skill. The thought feels traitorous. Evidence has pointed to Luo Binghe being with dozens of women! There shouldn’t be a single faucet of his life in which he doesn’t excel! And yet…

As Luo Binghe gnaws on his neck like a dog with a chew toy, Shen Yuan is forced to contend with Luo Binghe’s ‘I haven’t done this either’ and truly horrendous kisses not referring to experience with men, but experience in general. As soon as the thought bubbles its way to the surface, he shoves it back down to drown. Shen Yuan doesn’t want to have taken Luo Binghe’s virginity, and he’s not going to think about it, thank you. That weird, quasi-tender feeling has no place in his life. 

Luo Binghe pulls away from Shen Yuan’s neck with a smug look, using his fingers to probe the tender skin. “See?” he says. “Doesn’t hurt.”

Shen Yuan hums in non-commital agreement. Luo Binghe’s face starts to do something weird, so Shen Yuan kisses him to distract before declaring, “let’s eat before your food goes cold.”

He expects the food to be good. Despite the revelation that Luo Binghe might not be an expert in every single part of his life, he still believes that Luo Binghe is more talented than any single average man, and Luo Binghe has mentioned cooking as a hobby in more than a few interviews. 

He did not expect the food to be divine, sent from the heavens themselves, probably the single greatest thing he’s ever put in his mouth. 

“Is it alright?” Luo Binghe asks. “I didn’t have a whole lot of food that hadn’t gone bad, or I would have made more.”

“It’s amazing,” Shen Yuan says in between shoveling food into his mouth. Luo Binghe beams, about to say something, before a shrill ringtone blasts through the air. Shen Yuan instinctively puts his hand on his phone, but it’s not ringing. Looking sour, Luo Binghe fishes his phone out of his pocket. 

“Yeah?” he says into the receiver. Luo Binghe listens for a while, face growing progressively more stormy. “Fine,” he eventually snaps, hanging up. He looks apologetically at Shen Yuan. “I have to go,” he says. “You can stay here if you want.”

“It’s fine,” Shen Yuan says, rising to his feet, looking regretfully at the food. 

“Here, give me your phone,” Luo Binghe says. “I’ll give you my number.”

Shen Yuan hands it over, and Luo Binghe fiddles with it a moment before handing it back. “I’ll see you soon, yeah?” Luo Binghe says, before he’s racing off. Shen Yuan hears the front door opening and closing, and then it’s just him. 

When the tabloid splashes Luo Binghe’s hickeys all over the front page, Shen Yuan has a… feeling. He’s not sure what it is— it feels mildly like indigestion, but that might just be the mildly expired buns he ate that morning. 

But the exclusive interview with the woman that put them there makes him want to laugh so hard he ruptures something. 

Qin Wanrong is an up-and-coming TV actress, receiving mostly minor roles in low-budget dramas. She’s pretty enough, Shen Yuan supposes, but her interview is sending him. “I’m not really the sort to kiss and tell,” Qin Wanrong says, a pretty blush rising in her cheeks. “But Luo Binghe more than lives up to his reputation. I don’t think ‘sex god’ is an inaccurate term,” she laughs. 

Shen Yuan reads her interview over and over again, like some sort of habit. He gets messages on his secret Weibo: still think it’s Liu Mingyan?

A text message pops up on his screen, from…. the love of my life💖💖🌟🌟?

He flicks it open. It’s a picture of Luo Binghe, hickies still fading, impishly grinning at the camera. He’s holding a copy of Qin Wanrong’s interview in one hand. A-yuan did you see this?

Another message bubbles up as he watches. Are you going to let her steal your man like this????

She hasn’t stolen my man, Shen Yuan texts back. 

Didn’t you read??? Luo Binghe shoots back. We’re meeting for another hot tryst in a few days 

Shen Yuan had read. How are you going to lure me back into your bed?? Luo Binghe writes.

What do you want me to do? Shen Yuan replies. 

I want you to fuck me backstage, Luo Binghe writes, bubble popping up instantly.  right before i go out, everyone wanting me but no one knowing i’m yours. I want your cum dripping out of me as i perform, no one the wiser

I have another Beijing show tonight, Luo Binghe writes. You should come ;)

And that’s how Shen Yuan finds himself back in Luo Binghe’s dressing room, pressing Luo Binghe into a wall as he fucks into him, snapping his hips hard. Luo Binghe’s hands claw at the wallpaper, and he makes helplessly slutty sounds— cut off moans and whimpers, small little mewls when Shen Yuan’s hand brushes over his chest. It makes Shen Yuan’s face heat, going what he’s sure is a brilliant shade of red. 

They have to be careful, Luo Binghe’s wig and makeup have been done for the show, fading hickeys carefully covered in a layer of concealer. It’s the only thing stopping Shen Yuan from burying his teeth into the gentle curve of Luo Binghe’s neck, remembering the helpless sounds he had made when Shen Yuan had done so. 

Luo Binghe comes with a low groan almost the minute Shen Yuan wraps his hand around his monster cock, tightening around Shen Yuan’s dick in a way that has him following. He draws out gently, and Luo Binghe pulls his pants up and over his reddened entrance before Shen Yuan can really question the wisdom of performing without cleaning himself up.

Luo Binghe spins around and gives Shen Yuan a kiss. “Are you going to watch me?” Luo Binghe says when he pulls back. “You should watch. I’ll look for you.”

Luo Binghe is out the door before Shen Yuan can respond. Shen Yuan hadn’t planned on staying for the concert, but he does, worming himself into roughly the same spot he was the last time. Luo Binghe is as amazing the second time as he was the first, and when he catches sight of Shen Yuan in the crowd, he breaks into a wide smile. Shen Yuan’s heart goes thump.

Shen Yuan was basically finds himself all but living in Luo Binghe’s apartment for a week, taking and taking and taking. Just when he’s thought Luo Binghe has had to have reached his limit, Luo Binghe reaches out and wants more. 

This has to be Luo Binghe’s limit, Shen Yuan thinks as Luo Binghe slams himself down on Shen Yuan’s cock, hands braced on Shen Yuan’s chest. His face is hungry, dark eyes sucking in all the light and Shen Yuan’s gaze, riding a  punishing pace , harder than Shen Yuan would dare to go. Luo Binghe’s cock bounces obscenely between them, but he hisses and smacks Shen Yuan’s hand away when he reaches for it. 

This has to be Luo Binghe’s limit, Shen Yuan thinks when they’re once again in Luo Binghe’s shower, water sluicing around them as Shen Yuan fucks Luo Binghe up against the tiled wall. Even wet, Luo Binghe manages to look divine, water clinging to his eyelashes and highlighting the muscles moving in his back. 

This has to be Luo Binghe’s limit, Shen Yuan thinks when he looks down on Luo Binghe, tied up at Luo Binghe’s own behest with the aid of several online tutorials. Red ropes criss-cross his chest in an elaborate pattern, snake up his arms, loop around his legs. Shen Yuan runs fingers delicately under one of the ropes on Luo Binghe’s chest and he shudders. A-Yuan could do anything to me, Luo Binghe says, eyes dark as temptation, anything at all. 

He learns things about Luo Binghe too. Some of them Luo Binghe tells him: about his mother, about his favorite food, about finding music as his passion. Some he notices: Luo Binghe likes to fall asleep listening to a heart beat, doesn’t like to be barefoot, likes green tea. He finds Luo Binghe remarkably easy to talk to, the song of their conversation in harmony, easily picking off each other’s beats. Luo Binghe will let Shen Yuan tell him about the web novels he’s read, the university degree he achieved but never uses, absorbing it all with a smile on his face and a curious glimmer in his eyes.

 But the tour doesn’t end in Beijing, and Luo Binghe gives him a sloppy kiss as he tells him goodbye, off to his next destination. 

“I’ll be back before you know it,” Luo Binghe promises. “Try not to miss me too much.”

Shen Yuan kisses him back and gives him a smile. They’re very kind words, but Shen Yuan is aware he’s a fling, that he’s never going to see Luo Binghe again, no matter how much of Luo Binghe he’s seen in the past week. 

Luo Binghe, however, doesn’t seem to get the memo. He texts as often as A-Luo messages him, and Shen Yuan finds himself juggling two different conversations almost constantly. 

the love of my life💖💖🌟🌟: i used to read a lot when i was younger, but i don’t have as much time these days

the love of my life💖💖🌟🌟: what are your favorite books?

Icy_River: if u srsly think that Bleach had a good ending ur a goddamn moron

It’s fine, Shen Yuan is a master of multitasking. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t risk.

the love of my life💖💖🌟🌟: next time u fuck me before a show i’m gonna wear a plug to keep it in

the love of my life💖💖🌟🌟: or you know what would be fun is a remote vibrator 

the love of my life💖💖🌟🌟: you could turn it on whenever you wanted, watch me squirm

Icy_River: geese ARE mean bastards, but you honestly deserved it

Icy_River: i can’t think of a single other face that would draw as much aggro 

Nothing tops the time he agreed to meet his little baby sister in a bougie coffee shop in Wudaokou. He sips his coffee and flicks open a media message, coming face-to-face with a picture of Luo Binghe, naked, his face screwed in pleasure as grips his monster cock. Thinking of you 💙 the caption reads. Shen Yuan chokes on his mouthful of coffee. 

“What?” his sister says, trying to get a look at his phone screen. “Come on, let me see! I have to know what made you make that face!”

Shen Yuan valiantly keeps it away, managing to make it through the rest of their meeting and all the way home before letting out a stream of curses. 

Binghe!!! he sends back. 

the love of my life💖💖🌟🌟: what? :3

the love of my life💖💖🌟🌟: did you like it?

the love of my life💖💖🌟🌟: send me one back, i miss you

Shen Yuan, grumbling, throws his phone aside. He’s not sending dirty pictures! He’s not! He’s better than that! 

the love of my life💖💖🌟🌟: please?

Goddamn it. 

Luo Binghe comes back from his tour, and invites Shen Yuan over to his apartment almost the second his plane touches down. 

the love of my life💖💖🌟🌟: a-yuan come over, i missed you

Shen Yuan, against his better judgment, does. Luo Binghe cooks him an elaborate meal, then spreads his legs wide for him, nails scratching down his back. 

“I missed you,” Luo Binghe pants, looking up at Shen Yuan with his fathomless black eyes. “A-Yuan, show me how much you missed me.”

Shen Yuan, at Luo Binghe’s behest, covers him with marks. Some intentional: hickies on his neck, his thighs, down his spine. Some not: bruises on his hips, on his thighs, from where Shen Yuan accidentally gripped a little too hard. 

He still feels bad, come morning, with how Luo Binghe looks like he’d been loaded in a tumble dryer with a bunch of rocks. It’s tempered only a little with how Luo Binghe pokes at them with obvious glee. 

A-Luo also returns in December, and calls a band practice, just as he said he would. Shen Yuan slouches into practice, amazed at how everyone simply picks up right where they left off. Sha Hualing and Mo Bei ignore him as they always do, Shang Qinghua zaps him with what he probably thinks are biting comments. A-Luo is as cool as ever, focused on the music and perfection, and covered in face paint and a huge smattering of love bites down his neck. 

Shen Yuan blinks, but politely doesn’t mention it. Sha Hualing smirks, casting Shen Yuan an amused gaze. Mo Bei continues to look like he couldn’t give less of a fuck. 

Practice ends, and the others shuffle out, leaving only A-Luo and him in the room.

“Did you write me a song?” A-Luo says. 


“You said you were going to write me a song,” A-Luo reminds him. “To prove that you could.”

“Oh.” Truthfully, Shen Yuan had tried. But... nothing felt right to him. He’d be sure that this riff was perfect, but wake up the next morning hating it. A whole drawer in his desk is filled with attempts at melodies, forget lyrics. “No, I forgot.”

“I wrote you a song,” A-Luo says. “Let me show you how it’s done.” A-Luo strums his guitar. Immediately, the song sounds familiar, tickling at some region of Shen Yuan’s mind. But it’s not until A-Luo croons the lyrics when he places it. 

I feel the fingertips that stop in my hair, how a moment freezes in time, I see the pair of eyes looking steadily at me, maybe there already is no tomorrow. I never thought that for your sake, I would go insane to the point of landslides, tidal waves, without you I don’t want to escape. My own mind, for your sake, I’ve already gone insane to the point of feeling like my pulse and heartbeat are unimportant without you.”

It’s the song Luo Binghe had sung at the concert, the one he swore was for someone special. 

Shen Yuan freezes, not sure what to do. A-Luo stops, looking at Shen Yuan. But Shen Yuan doesn’t know what he wants from him, what he’s looking for.

“I’ve heard that song before,” Shen Yuan starts, accusatory. 

A-Luo nods. “I know.”

“Did you write it for Luo Binghe?”

A-Luo sighs. “Not exactly.” A-Luo starts scrubbing at his face paint with a cloth. It comes off in bright colored smears, and not very easily, stubbornly sticking to his skin. It takes a while, but soon A-Luo is peering at him with a face Shen Yuan would recognize anywhere, fringed by his long black locks. 

“Oh my god,” Shen Yuan says, shocked, “you got plastic surgery to look like Luo Binghe? Is that why you were gone for four months? To recover?”

A-Luo blinks. “What? No. I am Luo Binghe!”

Shen Yuan... blinks.

“Oh,” he says, nodding, pieces clicking into place, things that he didn't want to acknowledge making themselves known. “That makes sense.”

Luo Binghe looks at him, wary. “Is that it? You’re not mad?”

“Why would I be mad?” Shen Yuan says. 

“I wasn’t honest with you,” Luo Binghe says tentatively. “I should have been.”

Shen Yuan shrugs. “Maybe?” He taps his fingers on his thigh. “I can understand wanting a hobby that you don’t want others to know about.”

Luo Binghe looks relieved, tension leaving his shoulders. He comes forward to grasp Shen Yuan’s hands, kissing each one. 

“I’ll be honest with you in the future,” he promises. His guitar hits Shen Yuan in the stomach as he leans in to kiss his neck. 

“But why would you pretend to be a virgin?” Shen Yuan says, as Luo Binghe bites up to his ear. “Did you think I was into that?”

Luo Binghe pulls back, blinking. “What?”

“The first time we slept together,” Shen Yuan, “you said you didn’t have experience. Why would you say that?”

“Because I didn’t?” Luo Binghe says. “I was a virgin.”

“But, you told me you had experience? At the night of the concert you said you were looking to pull!”

“I thought,” Luo Binghe bites his lip. “I thought you might have been into that? But it didn’t work, you didn’t seem receptive so I. I changed tactics.”

Shen Yuan blinks. “Seem receptive to what?”

“My advances!” A-Luo says. 

“You didn’t make any,” Shen Yuan says, confused. 

Luo Binghe gapes at him. “I was in your bed and reached for your dick!”

“So?” Shen Yuan says. 

“That’s an advance!”

“Oh,” Shen Yuan says. “You should have made that clear.”

Luo Binghe looks chagrined. “I— yes. I should have made that clear. My apologies.” He looks at Shen Yuan, assessing. Then looks him dead in the eyes. “I would like to make it clear that my intention is to date you.”

Shen Yuan blinks. “Okay?”

“Romantically and sexually,” Luo Binghe continues. “Seriously. In a monogamous fashion.”

“Alright,” Shen Yuan says. His heart is stuttering in his chest, his stomach doing a warm belly flop. He feels warm all over. No, he realizes. He feels happy .  “If you want.”

“I do,” Luo Binghe tells him. “I want a serious gay romantic relationship.”

That’s fine, but. “I’m not gay,” Shen Yuan says, exasperated. 

“Oh, um, bi then?” Luo Binghe tries.

“I’m straight,” Shen Yuan says with a frown. 

Luo Binghe blinks. “You. You are aware I’m not a woman, correct? I am the same person you fucked last night. When we had gay sex.”

“I know ,” Shen Yuan says, crossing his arms. 

“Then, why… ?”

“Have you looked in a mirror?” Shen Yuan snaps. “Anyone would want to date you.”

Luo Binghe blinks, then he smiles. “No, A-Yuan. Could you be a little more clear?”

“You’ve been voted the sexiest man in China,” Shen Yuan says. “Surely you know you could have anyone?”

“Right, of course,” Luo Binghe agrees, nodding. “You’re not gay, but I’m so hot it doesn’t matter.”

“Exactly,” Shen Yuan says, relieved. Finally, someone gets it!

“You’re so cute,” Luo Binghe declares, smiling. 

“Yeah, whatever,” Shen Yuan grumbles. “I wanna go home, I’m hungry.”

“Come to my place,” Luo Binghe suggests. “I’ll make you something.”

“Well, if you insist,” Shen Yuan says. 

“I do,” Luo Binghe says. They pack up, heading out the door into the evening. It’s cold, snow laying on the ground in random patches. It looks like it might snow again, clouds heavy. 

Luo Binghe reaches his free hand out to tangle in Shen Yuan’s. Worrying Luo Binghe’s fingers might get cold, Shen Yuan tucks their joined hands into his coat pocket. Luo Binghe smiles at him, his dark eyes glittering in the light of the street lamps. Shen Yuan’s heart flutters, and he smiles back. Looking around to make sure no one sees, Shen Yuan leans in and presses a quick kiss to Luo Binghe’s lips. The smile he gets in return is beautiful and Shen Yuan’s heart does a funny flip-flop.

Then, cold reality crashes over him, and he remembers Luo Binghe has been to his apartment. He’s seen his merch! He’s seen the veritable shrine Shen Yuan has for him!

“Oh my god,” Shen Yuan yelps. “I can’t believe I let you-- you were in my apartment!”

Luo Binghe looks confused, then hurt, then the expression clears, a wicked smile on his face. “Ah, A-Yuan, it’s fine. Who doesn’t want to be worshiped by their boyfriend?”


“I like your blog, too,” Luo Binghe says, gleeful. “It’s very nice, A-Yuan. I find your defense of me touching.”

Shen Yuan howls, trying to pull his hand out of Luo Binghe’s grasp, but the demon is unrelenting, smirking and smiling and pulling him into his arms. 

“It’s too late!” Luo Binghe cackles. “You already agreed! There’s no backing out now! You’re mine forever!”

Shen Yuan sniffs, pouting. But Luo Binghe’s twinkling eyes have him biting back a smile. “I guess so,” he agrees. 

Luo Binghe kisses Shen Yuan, and in Luo Binghe’s deep black eyes, Shen Yuan truly can see forever.