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THE BOSS WANTS TO DATE ME?!

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Shang Qinghua doesn’t sign up for a lot of stupid things.

Instead, stupid things are thrust upon him, often in the form of his friends throwing them at him or his manager coming up to him and sunnily telling him that his name has been put forward to participate in one of the company’s charity events. Shang Qinghua thinks nothing of it at first. Chances are, they’ll have a fair again and he’ll end up being placed in the dunk tank like last year—that had been actually kind of fun, even though he had caught a cold afterwards. 

Sadly, that is not the case. The manager informs him that this year, they’re holding a charity date auction. Shang Qinghua stares at his manager for a moment and asks if he’s supposed to be the emcee or the one who’s tabulates the finances, but his manager simply gives him a strange smile and tells him that his name’s been put forward by Shen Jiu, whom Shang Qinghua had grilled on department expenses last week. The pit of Shang Qinghua’s stomach falls out, and he gets a bad feeling about it.

But he takes it in stride; at the end of the day, it’s not that big a deal. It’s for charity and anyways, Shang Qinghua is no stranger to suffering social indignities.

When he takes the stage at the banquet hall the company’s rented for their event, there’s not much he expects. The emcee introduces him as one of the senior internal auditors from the accounting department, and he gives a genial-enough wave to the polite applause. He’s not been placed first or second, to warm up the crowd, nor is he special enough to warrant one of the later slots where all the truly attractive people go. Shang Qinghua’s been placed square in the unmemorable fourth place out of the twelve people getting auctioned, which he’s fine with.

He’s got a plan all ready anyways. What will happen, most likely, is that after the emcee finishes the spiel based off Shang Qinghua’s hastily filled out participant card, where he wrote down things like “Will take you on a nice walk” and “Knows most cost-effective and delicious noodle house in the city” and “Has a passable taste in movies”, there will most likely be a five minute intermission of utter silence as they try to encourage someone to bid on a date with Shang Qinghua. Followed by that silence, Shen Yuan will politely cough and offer the lowest bid possible, which absolutely no one will contest. He’ll win, the two of them will get a paid day off, the company will give him some money for his “date” which they’ll spend on excessive amounts of takeout food, and Shang Qinghua won’t have to go through the effort of actually planning a date for anyone.

And that’s what happens.

Almost.

Shen Yuan does place the lowest bid possible, and the emcee does make it to the “last chance” part of their speech. Yet instead of Shen Yuan winning a date with Shang Qinghua for the price of a couple of new video games, a second voice cuts through, clear as a bell.

Shang Qinghua, who had been vaguely zoning out in the direction of one of the buffet tables, wondering what to eat next, suddenly snaps to attention. He almost jumps out of his shoes when he tracks the origin of the voice to one very bored-looking chief marketing officer, Sha Hualing. She’s sitting at the most important table in the hall, sandwiched between the president and the chief executive officer, holding up a paddle and calling out the automatic bid amount. It throws both Shang Qinghua and the emcee into a coughing fit out of surprise. Not that the automatic bid amount is high compared to the others, but it had been nothing to scoff at.

“O-okay,” The emcee says, clearly not expecting this sharp competitor. “Going once…”

When it’s clear there’s going to be no competition, including Shen Yuan who’s got a look of both apology and shock on the face, the emcee is about to declare a winner. However, Sha Hualing passes back the bidding paddle to the true owner, and points to him. 

The emcee calls out the name of the president of the company without hiding the disbelief in their voice, the audience breaks out into a surprised but enthusiastic applause, and Shang Qinghua near faints on the spot.

 

 


 

 

It’s not that Shang Qinghua is terrified of his boss.

It’s that he’s absolutely petrified of his boss’ boss’ boss. He had actually met Mobei Jun when he started at the company almost eight years ago; at that time, Mobei Jun had merely been an intern, still in university. He was however also the prodigal son of the ever-smiling and incredibly terrifying man who ran the company, and inherited the position of president after his mother vacated it within the last year. It was something that happened five years too early, but Mobei Jun has been doing a good enough job that the board has decided that maybe nepotism isn’t the most terrible thing.

Or something like that. Shang Qinghua is vaguely aware of all of this, but what he’s more aware of is this:

The general nature of their relationship is that Mobei Jun looks at Shang Qinghua like he’d like to do nothing more than to squash him under his patent-leather shoes. It had started during Mobei Jun’s internship, and the four months he spent working alongside Shang Qinghua, bossing him around and bullying him for no reason in particular, despite the fact that they were both incredibly new at the time and technically, Shang Qinghua had been his senior at the time. 

That look has grown more fierce over the past couple of years, ever since Shang Qinghua had that once cursed project where he had to represent the auditing department to the company board, and had to spend a lot of time presenting to both Mobei Jun and his father. Shang Qinghua realizes that the look is reserved particularly for him, despite the fact that he’s not done anything wrong.

He thinks.

He’s pretty sure.

Sadly, the second part to his conundrum is that Mobei Jun is rather eye-catching. Shang Qinghua is not immune to a tall man with a defined jaw, piercing blue eyes, and a powerful build. It’s made him realize that being looked at like he’s dirt by a man like that might actually be a turn-on, and it’s an uncomfortable truth that Shang Qinghua has had to live with.

At any rate, Shang Qinghua feels dread as he stares at his ceiling in a drunken stupor. The rest of the charity event had passed in a haze, and Shang Qinghua had tried to drink enough to forget it even happened, to the point where he had to get his cab to pull over early so that he could vomit in an alley before stumbling over to his apartment.

Last year the charity auction was a day fair for employees to bring their friends and family. Shang Qinghua had volunteered to be the victim of a dunk tank and it had been fun up until Mobei Jun approached and proceeded to spend an exorbitant amount of money making sure Shang Qinghua had gotten soaked through. By the end of it, Shang Qinghua had looked like a drowned rat and Mobei Jun had flashed a brief and incredibly rare smile at the sight.

And now, Shang Qinghua has to think about what kind of date he has to take Mobei Jun out on. The company gives an allowance for the date but he’s supposed to plan it and provide an experience. Shang Qinghua is sure the social committee of the company had been absolutely plastered when they thought of this idea, and hadn’t sobered up since.

How the hell was he supposed to take a man like Mobei Jun out on a date? And why the hell did Mobei Jun bid on him in the first place? He couldn’t be holding a grudge from all the way back, could he?

(Or technically, why did he let a board member place a bid on his behalf?! What the hell inspired it to be  Sha Hualing, someone who’s only interaction with Shang Qinghua has been to complain about him!)

Shang Qinghua starts to roll over, intending to bury his face in his pillow and groan. But a wave of nausea rolls over him, and he stays on his side, feeling incredibly green.

He’s past the point of no return now. Shang Qinghua has no other choice, than to take his looming, intimidating, surly, and stupidly hot boss out on a date.

 

 


 

 

A week comes and goes, and Shang Qinghua manages to get a vague idea of what he can do to take Mobei Jun out on a date. Specifically, what kind of date they can go on where the distance between them is the safest. Shang Qinghua is still unsure as to why Mobei Jun didn’t rescind the bid Sha Hualing placed on his behalf but he assumes it’s because Mobei Jun wants to both save him face and bully him in person. 

Maybe a bit of both, so as enticing as it is to spend a whole day — paid! — with a very handsome if aggressive looking man, Shang Qinghua plans their day around keeping as much polite distance between them as he can. The company had stipulated that Shang Qinghua’s only obligated to spend so much time on the date, so Shang Qinghua has picked something that’ll take up a good chunk of it without him having to face Mobei Jun’s stony gaze.

He pre-orders the tickets, maps out the closest restaurants near Mobei Jun’s address that fit within the budget of what the company gave him, and makes sure he saves his nicest sweater and jeans for the date so that Mobei Jun has one less thing to cast a displeased look over. Shang Qinghua’s palms sweat the entire subway ride over to the district where Mobei Jun lives, all the way till he reaches the main lobby of the ostentatious apartment building where the man lives.

There, the concierge gives him a once-over with a bland expression before picking up the phone. A nerve-wracking ten minutes later, when Shang Qinghua’s sitting on one of the couches in the lounger, tapping his feet in a nervous rhythm as he goes through his phone, someone places their hand on his shoulder.

Shang Qinghua startles and looks up, only to see an extremely familiar and extremely menacing figure looking down at him.

“Are you ready to go?” Mobei Jun asks and wow, if there was ever a picture of joy, he’d be the direct opposite of it. It would terrify Shang Qinghua, if Mobei Jun didn’t also look like he walked off a magazine shoot. He’s in what looks like an incredibly soft and incredibly snug black sweater, and dark jeans. It’s a simple look, tied together with an incredibly expensive watch, and it succeeds in making Shang Qinghua feel like he’s severely underdressed.

Shang Qinghua looks away before his face can heat up, gulps and nods.

It’s okay, he tells himself. You’ve got this.



The first thing on his agenda is to take Mobei Jun out for lunch. Shang Qinghua would do the movies first, but he’s not impolite, so he suggests they take the subway to a tiny but crowded restaurant that Shang Qinghua likes to frequent. The food is good but more importantly, the tables are long and you have to share them, and Shang Qinghua figures that Mobei Jun can’t kill him if he’s flanked by strangers.

Mobei Jun doesn’t look too displeased at the choice of restaurant; in fact, he very amicably lets Shang Qinghua order for the both of them. Though it does make Shang Qinghua sweat a little, because the last thing he wants to do is go against his boss’ tastes. He tries to rack his brain and figure out what kind of dishes Mobei Jun would like and ends up ordering a selection of dishes that are half spicy and half non-spicy. 

Surprisingly, the big boss isn’t too put out by the cramped space either. Despite the fact the tables are so narrow that Shang Qinghua accidentally brushes Mobei Jun’s obscenely long legs once or twice, Mobei Jun’s face even settles into something neutral, which Shang Qinghua assumes is the closest the man will come to a smile. If it was a real date, Shang Qinghua would let their legs rest against each other, would maybe even playfully brush his calf against Mobei Jun’s. However, Shang Qinghua would very much like to keep all his limbs, so he tries to keep his legs clamped shut as much as possible. 

“I haven’t been here in a while,” Shang Qinghua says, trying to stick to a safe conversation topic. “Almost a full year. I really love this place though, I used to come here all the time with some of my seniors.”

“Mm,” Mobei Jun says, and they lapse into silence while they wait for their food. Mobei Jun doesn’t seem bothered; he scrolls through his phone, tapping out emails, not looking up once. Shang Qinghua for his part fidgets in his seat, telling himself to not take advantage of the fact that Mobei Jun isn’t paying attention to him by openly staring at the man, and failing to heed his own advice. 

It’s not his fault! As scary as he is, Mobei Jun is insanely attractive in a piercing way. This may be Shang Qinghua’s only opportunity to look at him without the lingering fear of getting eviscerated. Though sometimes that fear just makes him want to look more…

The food comes quickly, and Shang Qinghua tries to make conversation with Mobei Jun, who at most gives monosyllabic replies as he taps away on his phone with one hand and idly eats with the others. He must be busy, Shang Qinghua realizes, so Shang Qinghua strikes up a conversation with the two people beside him, a couple that are visiting from across the country for the first time. They’re more than happy to chat with him, something Shang Qinghua is thankful for, because silently watching Mobei Jun eat is a little too awkward, even for Shang Qinghua’s tastes. It also gives Mobei Jun less of an opportunity to send him any death glares. 

The lunch is brisk but delicious, and Shang Qinghua unloads a wealth of knowledge into his temporary companions about what to visit when they’re in town. It’s not until the food has cleared and Shang Qinghua settles the bill that Mobei Jun finally looks up. 

If they’re going to keep this distance the whole date, Shang Qinghua thinks he can work with it and more importantly, not embarrass himself. 

“What’s next?” Mobei Jun asks, and Shang Qinghua eagerly pulls up his phone.

“I’ve got us two tickets for a movie,” Shang Qinghua says, brandishing his phone. “One of my co-workers recommended it to me, she said it had a lot of action in it. It’s called the Resentment of Chun—”

“No,” Mobei Jun cuts in, without even looking at the poster Shang Qinghua had pulled up on his screen. Shang Qinghua pauses, and Mobei Jun just pops one of the mango-flavoured sweets into his mouth.

“No?” Shang Qinghua blinks, and Mobei Jun raises an eyebrow like it should be obvious. Another moment of silence passes between them, so Shang Qinghua tries to encourage him to communicate by saying, “You don’t want to see this movie?”

“I don’t like movies,” Mobei Jun says primly, and locks his gaze squarely with Shang Qinghua’s. It’s confrontational, and Shang Qinghua tries not to shiver under the weight of it.

Who the hell doesn’t like movies?!

“Me,” Mobei Jun replies and Shang Qinghua immediately clamps his hand over his mouth in horror. “It’s a waste of time, sitting in the dark for three hours. Pick something else to do.”

Shang Qinghua tries to give Mobei Jun a pleading look but the other man simply looks bored. There’s a tinny ringtone that sounds more like an alarm that pierces through the awkwardness, and Mobei Jun looks at his phone.

“I have to take this,” Mobei Jun says, pushing back from the table. “Pick something else to do.”

Shang Qinghua stares as Mobei Jun leaves the cramped restaurant, picking up the phone. It’s hypnotic at first-- Mobei Jun stands a head above most, and his back is broad. He cuts an impressive figure and his large hands dwarf his phone.

But more importantly, Shang Qinghua suddenly has a few hours of free time that he hadn’t planned for. And as bizarrely normal as their lunch had been, he can’t help but feel trepidation rise within him.

“Uh…” he starts, trying to scrape his brain for the last place he went that could be date-worthy. Specifically, take-your-boss-out-on-your-paid-date worthy. Maybe a café, but they just ate... or maybe one of the botanical parks that have hedges shaped like animals, or even one of the historical gardens where there’s always crowds large enough that Shang Qinghua gets lost from time to time. Yeah, either of those options sound ideal.

Sadly for Shang Qinghua, that’s not what comes out of his mouth. Instead, he remembers where he was with Shen Yuan three nights ago, and remembers that it’s somewhat close to here. So without thinking, he blurts out, “What about an arcade?” 

 

 


 

 

Oddly enough, Mobei Jun did not immediately shoot down the suggestion with great disdain, not like Shang Qinghua thought he would. He had simply shrugged and told Shang Qinghua to lead the way and so Shang Qinghua did, up four blocks, through an alley, past the doorway of a brightly lit bar and down the stairs to the arcade.

Previously, the whole building had been an arcade that Shang Qinghua used to frequent when he was in university. Each floor’s been bought out by something else since then, but the basement is still sizable and extremely lively. The arcade is brightly lit and hasn’t updated any of it’s machines in the past twenty years, meaning Shang Qinghua still has to drag them up to a counter where a bored looking cashier drops a bag of coins. 

Shang Qinghua splits them in half and passes Mobei Jun’s share to him. There’s still leftover money from what the company had given him, but Shang Qinghua’s hoping that they spend all their time here and he doesn’t have to think of where to take them next. Maybe he can even convince Mobei Jun to stay here till their date is done, and Shang Qinghua can abscond to safety.

“Where do you want to go first?” Mobei Jun asks before Shang Qinghua can suggest splitting up, and Shang Qinghua internally winces.

“Where are you planning to go first?” Shang Qinghua tries to turn it around, and under the blue light of the arcade, Mobei Jun levels him with a flat look before he looks around.

“I think we,” Mobei Jun says, placing an emphasis that tells Shang Qinghua that his plans are coming to a halt. “Should go over there first.”

There ends up being a two-player fighting game that Mobei Jun absolutely blows at during their first go. He’s so atrocious that Shang Qinghua almost feels like it’s a waste of money, having spent a token for a game where it took his character less than thirty seconds to obliterate Mobei Jun’s.

“Hah!” he exclaims anyways as the screen declares him the winner, and when he turns with a fist in the air, he freezes when he sees Mobei Jun’s stony face.

“Teach me,” Mobei Jun demands and if Shang Qinghua had less of a sense of self-preservation, he would think that the man’s voice is petulant.

Not wanting to get any more on his bad side, Shang Qinghua humours him and walks him through the game once more, trying to put some logic behind the trickery he’s been executing since he was a university freshman.  Mobei Jun pays attention, a frown on his face and a pinch in his brow that would almost look cute, if Shang Qinghua was delusional enough to look at his boss that way.

Well, maybe he is. Just a little. Just enough to admire the way that Mobei Jun bites his lower lip in concentration as they go again, and he wins because Shang Qinghua’s a great teacher and definitely wasn’t distracted by the way Mobei Jun looks when he’s committed to working something.

Like that, Mobei Jun drags him towards as many two player games as possible, never spending more than three rounds at any single one. And he doesn’t need more than that— despite the inexperience he shows initially, Mobei Jun seems to be a quick learner in that by the fifth game they try out, he absolutely decimates Shang Qinghua in their second try.

“Are you sure you’ve never played this before?” Shang Qinghua narrows his eyes at Mobei Jun, trying to level him with the same glare that Mobei Jun seems to freely give to him. “I feel like you’re playing a joke on me.”

“What would be the point of that?” Mobei Jun asks in a matter-of-fact way. “Don’t blame your incompetencies on others.”

“Hey! Give some respect to your teacher!” Shang Qinghua protests, resisting the urge to stick out his tongue like a grade-schooler. “Who are you calling incompetent!”

“You,” Mobei Jun says simply before dragging Shang Qinghua by the elbow to another game. “This one next, Shang-laoshi.”

This time, Shang Qinghua does stick his tongue out, but he waits till Mobei Jun’s looking away. Sneaking in that tiny gesture fills him with sort of inexplicable giddiness. 

As much as he doesn’t want to say it out loud, and as much as he complains that Mobei Jun is secretly lying about not having played any of these games before, Shang Qinghua isn’t having the worst time. In fact, one may even categorize it as a good time; he mostly just drags Shen Yuan to this place, and while the bickering is fun, it’s neat to see the place through a fresh set of eyes. No matter how condescending those eyes can get as their owner keeps beating Shang Qinghua at various games.

There is one game where Shang Qinghua seems to finally have the upper hand. It’s a shooter game, and Mobei Jun can’t seem to aim the little plastic gun at the screen well enough to defeat Shang Qinghua. They spend three rounds at this before Mobei Jun barks at Shang Qinghua to teach him properly.

“So demanding,” Shang Qinghua scolds without thinking, but sets his own gun back in the slot before shuffling over to where Mobei Jun is standing. “Why are you so tense? We’re at an arcade, not a shooting range.”

He should have probably asked first before touching Mobei Jun, Shang Qinghua realizes, but he’s too smug at having finally found a game that the big boss is bad at. It’s not like Mobei Jun complains anyways, when Shang Qinghua puts one hand on his elbow and another on what feels like an unfairly muscular bicep and levels his arm properly.

This close, Shang Qinghua can smell Mobei Jun’s cologne. It’s expensive for sure, something luxurious with smoked cedar and bergamot that makes Mobei Jun smell like money. Shang Qinghua tries not to think about it, or about the heat of Mobei Jun’s arm under his palms, as he tries to position the taller man the proper way to take down pixelated zombies.

Mobei Jun doesn’t miraculously succeed at this game, so he gets fed up and throws the toy gun back down in the container. It’s such a spoiled action that Shang Qinghua can’t help but laugh at it, louder than he intends to. He receives the death glare he expects at first, but then Mobei Jun’s expression falls away into something that looks a lot more neutral.

“Finally learned some humility?” Shang Qinghua says, still huffing out a laugh, and Mobei Jun rolls his eyes. This makes Shang Qinghua chuckles again, and for a moment he forgets that he’s standing with the president of the company where he works. “Here, let Shang-laoshi win you a consolation prize.”

Shang Qinghua is typically really good at the claw machine; however, having Mobei Jun hover over him while he puts the coins in the key master to win an actual prize instead of just decimating his partner, gives Shang Qinghua some performance anxiety.

He doesn’t win anything the first two tries, and mutters something about the machine being rigged. Mobei Jun huffs and Shang Qinghua first thinks it's in annoyance, and then realizes it’s in amusement. And also, that it’s at him.

“I swear to god I’ll win something,” Shang Qinghua says, and Mobei Jun raises one thick, dark eyebrow.

“Finally learned some humility?” He says, and Shang Qinghua just barely resists making a rude gesture back at him. Eventually, he wins a keychain with the last coin they have, a little thing in the shape of a dark brown puppy. Mobei Jun gives the keychain an assessing look and Shang Qinghua assumes it’s either going to come back to him or go into the bin.

Instead, Mobei Jun tucks it inside his jacket pocket and asks, “What’s next?”

There’s still a healthy amount of the allotted time left in their date, and Shang Qinghua doesn’t feel the urge to run away as soon as he can either. In fact, he kind of has the urge to do something else. He can feel himself start to loosen up and if he believes, maybe Mobei Jun is warming up to him slightly.

Not to say the ever present fear of getting eaten has gone away; but it has kind of diminished. The time they’ve spent so far at the arcade has actually been fun, and he’s less bent on making sure they kill all their time in one place now; he doesn’t want things to get boring either. He’s not quite sure where this train of thought came from but decides to examine that change of heart later, and racks his brain to think of where to go next.

“Are you hungry?” Shang Qinghua asks, and Mobei Jun gives an ambivalent look. “There’s— um, there’s a nice bakery around here if you want something sweet.”

Mobei Jun stares down Shang Qinghua for a moment, quite visibly thinking whether it’d be worth their time or not. 

“Sure,” comes the reply, and Shang Qinghua ignores how he feels kind of relieved.

 

 


 

 

The bakery is crowded, but Mobei Jun is tall enough that Shang Qinghua can use him to part the crowd and make their way towards the line. 

There are rows and rows of delicious and colourful baked goods, and Shang Qinghua’s eyes dance all over the display, trying to figure out which one would be best. He does a quick mental tally of how much money he has left — a lot more than he expected, since he barely had to pay at the arcade — and orders a box of egg tarts, lotus cakes, and a rosewater and lemon spongecake split in half and covered in raspberries, dusted sugar and drizzled chocolate. He gets two coffees for them, and learns that Mobei Jun prefers surprisingly sweet lattes over black Americanos.

Mobei Jun also decides to hold all of this for them; Shang Qinghua insists that he’s not actually going to drop anything but Mobei Jun refuses to give him the box or the tray with the drinks, even when Shang Qinghua tries to tease him with a pineapple bun he buys on a whim from the front counter. Mobei Jun simply gives Shang Qinghua one commanding look, and Shang Qinghua grumbles as he breaks off a piece and hand-feeds it to Mobei Jun as they look for a place to sit. 

Mobei Jun pretends to nip at Shang Qinghua’s fingers and Shang Qinghua makes an affronted sound, ears turning a little pink. Before he can say something stupid, Mobei Jun tips his chin towards a small strip of grass between two building that the city’s repurposed for a tiny park. Mobei Jun only lets go of the boxes once they find a tiny table to sit at, and plucks the rest of the pineapple bun from Shang Qinghua’s hand.

“Hey!” Shang Qinghua protests as Mobei Jun pops the rest of it into his mouth, “I was going to eat that.”

“If you finish all this, I’ll go back and get you another,” Mobei Jun says, his eyes flickering towards the box of pastries and Shang Qinghua huffs as he opens the box.

“What do you want to do next?” He asks as he plucks up his half of the spongecake and Mobei Jun shrugs. Shang Qinghua expects him to dismiss them early— after all, they’ve got maybe an hour left for the mandatory date time, and Shang Qinghua doubts anyone’s actually going to audit him for this.

“Whatever you feel like doing,” Mobei Jun says, taking a sip of his drink. “No movies.”

“I know, I know,” Shang Qinghua says. “Did you like the arcade?”

“Yes,” Mobei Jun replies, and pauses for a moment. “But we aren’t going back.”

“What, you got tired of kicking my ass?” Shang Qinghua asks, and Mobei Jun snorts. “C’mon, I thought you wouldn’t pass up a new way to bully me.”

He doesn’t get any kind of reply at that, and when Shang Qinghua turns to Mobei Jun, he sees that the other man is looking at him strangely.

“What?”

“You think I bully you?” Mobei Jun asks, and while his voice doesn’t ever not sound serious, it is a little funny now.

Ah, he’s probably a little concerned Shang Qinghua’s got an employee complaint. Shang Qinghua waves him off; Mobei Jun may be intimidating as hell, but he’s not the most annoying person at the company. That honour is taken by Shang Qinghua’s old manager, Lao-Gongzhu, an annoying old man too quick to harshly shout down an employee in front of the whole office at any given time, then followed by Shen Jiu, who got him into this predicament.

“What are you looking so hurt for?” Shang Qinghua jokes, and he doesn’t think it’s appropriate to kick his boss’ boss’ boss’ ankle, but he does poke him in the elbow. “You didn’t have to get dropped into a tank of water repeatedly just because your boss decided it was amusing.”

Something funny crosses Mobei Jun’s face, so Shang Qinghua holds up one of the lotus pastries in a  peace offering. 

“I didn’t know that bothered you,” Mobei Jun says, and Shang Qinghua laughs, part in appeasement and part in a little bit of self-satisfaction.

“We made more money than the mailroom department because of that,” Shang Qinghua says placatingly anyways. “They always like to hold it over our heads how they always raise more than us, so it didn’t bother me.”

Mobei Jun doesn’t reply to that, but he does take the pastry from Shang Qinghua’s hand. They eat, Mobei Jun humming as Shang Qinghua watches the people that drift by on the sidewalk in front of them and runs a commentary. Mobei Jun even lets out a huff of what’s presumably laughter every time Shang Qinghua says something especially dry and once or twice, adds in his own commentary that’s surprisingly funny.

They actually do manage to finish all the pastries they bought, though Shang Qinghua’s teeth feel a little sensitive by the end of it. He looks on his phone to see what else they can do, and sees that there’s a small day festival happening near his old university. It’s a bit of a subway ride away but still within the city, and is running late enough that they can still see some things if they leave in the next half hour.

It’ll take them over the remaining hour they have left though, and Shang Qinghua wonders whether to suggest it. But Mobei Jun leans over to see what Shang Qinghua’s looking at, and suddenly Shang Qinghua can smell his crisp cologne and is extremely aware of his presence.

“A festival?” Mobei Jun asks, and Shang Qinghua nods. “Sure. I think it’s still early enough that we can call a car with little traffic.”

That’s out of my budget, Shang Qinghua wants to say, but there’s something about Mobei Jun that doesn’t allow him to do anything but acquiesce to the man’s request. That’s probably part of the reason Shang Qinghua finds himself readily agreeing.

 

 


 

 

They end up taking a car after all, one that Mobei Jun thankfully pays for. They get dropped down a block from where the event is taking place, and the tiny square is already swarming with people.The place is loud and a lot more colourful than Shang Qinghua expected, and though they just ate, the smell of barbecue makes Shang Qinghua’s mouth water.

“Where do you want to go first?” Shang Qinghua asks, craning his head. When he doesn’t get a reply, he turns to look at him and startles at how close Mobei Jun is standing to him. “Woah, did I do something wrong?”

“Did I say that?” Mobei Jun says and Shang Qinghua gives him a sheepish grin. 

“Well you do look kind of…” Shang Qinghua makes a vague gesture towards his own face with his hand, unsure himself of what kind of expression he’s going for. Mobei Jun simply stares him down and Shang Qinghua thinks that at this point he has to be doing it on purpose, because no one can look this attractively scary naturally, right? “Nevermind, why don’t we try one of the games first? Since you learned so much from me this afternoon.”

“You’re very quick to flatter yourself,” Mobei Jun says dryly, but when Shang Qinghua tugs his elbow, he goes readily.

“Well if you suck at this one, it’s easier to scare a person into giving you a prize than it is a machine,” Shang Qinghua says. 

“You think I’m scary?” Mobei Jun asks, and Shang Qinghua laughs.

“Who doesn’t?” Shang Qinghua says, though at this moment Mobei Jun is looking anything but scary. He looks more like a petulant teenager, in a way that makes Shang Qinghua want to pinch his cheek. Shang Qinghua very dutifully resists the urge. “Even when you were an intern, everyone was terrified of you.”

“Were you?” Mobei Jun asks, and Shang Qinghua nods.

“Still am,” he only half-jokes, elbowing Mobei Jun in the side. “Hey, don't look so sour, that’s a good skill to have in your position, right?”

Mobei Jun doesn’t say anything, not till they get to the first game Shang Qinghua sees. It’s another row of toy water guns, one that Mobei Jun eyes with some distrust. 

To pacify him, Shang Qinghua goes first, trying and cheerfully failing to hit the target. It’s definitely a farce and not because the area is so crowded that just as Shang Qinghua takes aim, a group of friends jostle by the narrow space between stalls, forcing Mobei Jun to move closer to Shang Qinghua. His presence is large and looming behind Shang Qinghua, and he makes a derisive noise when Shang Qinghua raises the water gun again.

“You’re not going to get it this way,” Mobei Jun’s voice comes from behind him, and Shang Qinghua doesn’t dare turn around to look to give him a petulant look just in case they end up too close again. 

Shang Qinghua is going to develop a complex having spent so much time in close proximity with someone as attractive as Mobei Jun. Shang Qinghua finds himself enjoying his presence more and more, as phlegmatic as the man is. It’s not that he wasn’t aware of the man before— Shang Qinghua has eyes — but now, there’s less fear soaked in the attraction.

“I think I’ll be fine,” Shang Qinghua says and hears a huff behind him. “What—“

One large hand wraps around Shang Qinghua’s elbow while the other settles on his shoulder. Mobei Jun moves him despite his protests and repositions Shang Qinghua so that he can aim better. Shang Qinghua laughs hysterically on the inside, both at the contact and at the memory of Mobei Jun absolutely tanking at something similar in the arcade.

Wasn’t this like the second last in class teaching the last in class?!

Sure enough, Shang Qinghua doesn’t succeed, missing the target completely. The person running the game gives him a pack of gum as a consolation prize, and Mobei Jun plucks it out of his hand before Shang Qinghua can thank the person.

“Hey!” Shang Qinghua exclaims. “My hard work went into that!”

But Mobei Jun seems to want to hoard all the things they’re getting during this date, and he’s already left Shang Qinghua standing alone at the stall, having drifted off to someone who’s selling candied hawthorns. Shang Qinghua mentally calculates how much money they have left for today but by the time he catches up to Mobei Jun, he’s already bought two sticks and is holding one out to Shang Qinghua. He’s also got a small paper bag and when he passes it to Shang Qinghua, he doesn’t quite make eye contact with them.

“Are these sunflower seeds?” Shang Qinghua peers into the bag. He pops one into his mouth, tastes the sprinkling of salt and dusted spice on the seeds. 

“I remember you used to eat them all the time,” Mobei Jun says and Shang Qinghua blinks— he did, when he had first started as a junior auditor and was living off a shoestring budget. The pack of sunflower seeds had been the cheapest thing in the vending machine so he had bought a lot of them and he was surprised that Mobei Jun remembered.

“Thanks,” Shang Qinghua grins, slightly giddy as he pops another into his mouth. 

They roam around more, Shang Qinghua happily taking in the sights and sounds of music and people laughing and yelling at each other as they make their way through the crowd. Shang Qinghua tucks away his seeds for later and tries not to make too much of a mess when eats his tanghulu.

Despite all his reservations when they began their date, Shang Qinghua’s grown comfortable enough to chatter aimlessly with Mobei Jun as they wander around. He talks about everything again, from how he went to university nearby, how the experience was, to how he met one of the company’s lawyers there when they were still in their undergrad and how the two of them are still friends, despite the fact that Shen Yuan’s older cousin keeps harassing Shang Qinghua. 

Shang Qinghua is about to use Shen Jiu signing him up for this as an example, but he realizes that this date may just have been one of the rare kind things the man has done for him. Every now and then he sneaks a glance over to Mobei Jun, only to find the man looking back at him. It makes his ears go warm and he frequently has to remind himself that this is a paid date.

The surprising part is that Mobei Jun actually seems to be listening when Shang Qinghua rattles on. Shang Qinghua artfully circumvents complaining about work itself, unless it comes to tentatively poking fun at the big boss. Even that he does gently, and only with a fraction of the crudeness he normally uses to complain about the higher-ups in the break room. 

By now, it’s gotten dark but Shang Qinghua’s barely noticed with how brightly lit the square is. They’ve also gone over the amount of time that Shang Qinghua was obligated to spend, but Shang Qinghua isn’t going to bother pointing it out. It’s nice to hang out with someone not part of his regular circle, and it doesn’t hurt that it’s a man like Mobei Jun.

Eventually, they drift over to the row of vendors selling souvenirs. A lot of them seem to be directed towards either couples or young kids, and Mobei Jun guides them — as in, he takes a sharp turn and Shang Qinghua scrambles after him — towards a stall that’s selling little trinkets oriented towards the latter.

There’s a family with a young daughter at one end of the table and a couple on the other, looking at the glittery chains and other novelty items. The couple are wrapped around each other, and Shang Qinghua looks away as Mobei Jun clears his throat so that they can make space at the table for him.

“You’re ruining their date,” Shang Qinghua whispers as the couple scurries away, and Mobei Jun looks at him with a raised eyebrow and something that could pass as a half-grin. It looks terrifying and Shang Qinghua quickly rescinds any wish he had to see Mobei Jun loosen up a little. “But that’s fine! Not that I’m complaining!”

“They should pick a better place,” Mobei Jun says, and turns towards the table as he inspects the goods.

Having picked this place for their date-not-date, Shang Qinghua feels affronted.

“Hey!” He protests. “This is a perfectly good place to take a date.”

“Is it now?” Mobei Jun asks, not looking up.

“Of course,” Shang Qinghua replies, too busy with saving his pride to think through what he’s saying. “Anything where you can get a lot of one-on-one time with the person you’re seeing. Festivals are a great place for a date, followed by movies — yes, that is a fun date, go back to looking at your trinkets — “

“A movie is not a good date,” Mobei Jun says and Shang Qinghua rolls his eyes. “You’re staring at a screen for three hours.”

“Well then, what would your ideal date be?” Shang Qinghua prods, and Mobei Jun doesn’t tear his gaze away from the table full of charms and keychains. 

“Depends,” Mobei Jun says absent-mindedly, picking up a charm. Shang Qinghua can’t tell whether it’s supposed to be a steamed bun or an onion with a surprised face, but Mobei Jun holds it up in front of Shang Qinghua’s face. Shang Qinghua gets the vague feeling he’s being compared, and he’s not sure whether to be affronted or not. 

“On what?” Shang Qinghua asks, and Mobei Jun hums.

“On what they like,” Mobei Jun says, and it’s such a non-answer that Shang Qinghua tries not to roll his eyes as Mobei Jun pays for the keychain. He’s about to call it contradictory, before he realizes he’d be comparing it to his own ideal date and that would probably fall on the side of a little too presumptuous. “Here.”

“What am I going to do with this?” Shang Qinghua asks, squishing the little steamed bun, making its eyes bulge out and look more comical. 

“In return for the one you won me,” Mobei Jun says, and before his brain catches up, Shang Qinghua’s face brightens up at it. Mobei Jun opens his mouth to say something, but something else visibly catches his eye.

“What are you looking at?” Shang Qinghua asks, peering in the direction of Mobei Jun’s gaze, and sees that a photobooth has been erected in between two stalls. There’s a small line of people waiting for it, and Shang Qinghua sees a flicker of interest in Mobei Jun’s eyes. “What, you wanna go get your passport photo taken?”

“It’ll be a memento,” Mobei Jun says in a tone that begets no argument and he circles his hand around Shang Qinghua’s wrist. 

Shang Qinghua stares at the action for a moment but quickly realizes it’s for Mobei Jun to easily haul him towards the booth. Shang Qinghua puts up only a half-hearted protest, asking Mobei Jun if he thinks Shang Qinghua is made out of money, but he’s secretly kind of excited that he’s going to be able to get a souvenir from this day. When they get to the line, Shang Qinghua grumbles and tries to pat his own hair down, hoping that it doesn’t look as much like a bird’s nest.

The booth itself is really small. Shang Qinghua realizes this when it's their turn and Mobei Jun goes in first, taking up a healthy portion of the bench. It’s also because he’s sitting with his legs spread and when Shang Qinghua ducks in and tries to enter the booth, Mobei Jun doesn’t make space for him.

Shang Qinghua tries his best to squeeze into the tiny space Mobei Jun’s left behind, but it proves to be hard to maneuver in the cramped space and he accidentally ends up bumping his head against the wall. Mobei Jun rolls his eyes and grabs his waist and Shang Qinghua yelps at the sudden movement. Mobei Jun moves to make space but it’s too late and Shang Qinghua’s already stumbling and—

Suddenly, Shang Qinghua has a place to sit. Specifically, a warm and solid place to sit. Super specifically, Mobei Jun’s lap.

“Uh…” Shang Qinghua says, and turns his head to see Mobei Jun suddenly very close. Mobei Jun doesn’t look too angry at the fact that Shang Qinghua accidentally fell on him, but Shang Qinghua still feels a healthy amount of fear. No matter how secretly thrilling it is to land in an insanely hot guy’s lap. “...Sorry?”

He thinks that Mobei Jun is going to push him off, but he just grunts and leans forward, Shang Qinghua still on his lap, and taps the keypad screen of the photobooth. The upper screen blinks to life and cheerily tells them that the countdown is beginning, and Shang Qinghua is still on Mobei Jun’s lap.

(It’s not quite a terrible place to be. Mobei Jun’s chest is warm and solid and he smells nice, and Shang Qinghua can tell when Mobei Jun’s grip loosens and he pulls his legs together, allowing some space for Shang Qinghua to slide off when he wants to. Shang Qinghua pretends he doesn’t notice.)

“Stop squirming,” Mobei Jun commands as the countdown grows closer, and Shang Qinghua immediately does as he’s told. 

He feels himself going red, and god, it’s going to be memorialized in about 3...2...1….

The pictures don’t look as awful as Shang Qinghua thought they would. They’re a strip of three in total, and while he kind of looks like a startled lemur in the first one, he’s thrown up a peace sign by the second and is giving a large but nervous grin by the last one. Mobei Jun in turn looks like an attractive demonic spectre in each one, and wears a neutral face that Shang Qinghua assumes is his version of smiling.

Two copies of the photos are printed, and Mobei Jun tucks one into the same pocket he had stuck Shang Qinghua’s keychain. Shang Qinghua stares at the strip of photos for a good minute, and the something warm that had planted its seed in his chest at the arcade is blooming fully at the pictures.

Suddenly, Shang Qinghua is sort of desperate for them to continue hanging out, even if it's only for today. 

“What next?” Mobei Jun asks, and Shang Qinghua looks up at him. Mobei Jun is giving him an expectant look, face illuminated by the colourful lights hanging on the candy stall next to the photobooth. 

Technically, Shang Qinghua can wrap up the night at any moment he chooses now; he’s fulfilled his obligations and is entitled to scram if he wants to. He’s allowed to tell Mobei Jun this too. But there’s also an opportunity dangling in front of Shang Qinghua, one he can’t quite name.

“Want to get dinner?” he asks tentatively, and when Mobei Jun’s eyes narrow again it looks less like a glare and more...pleased.

 

 


 

 

Shang Qinghua knows they’ve gone over the allotted amount of time he’s supposed to spend on the date, but Mobei Jun doesn’t bring it up so neither does he. Shang Qinghua doesn’t mind at all; he’s had a lot more fun than he expected on this date, almost as if it was a real one. Part of him kind of wishes it was, so he could do something corny like sneak his hand around Mobei Jun’s, and part of him mourns for the loss of his survival instinct.

Mobei Jun lets Shang Qinghua pick the dinner place, so Shang Qinghua takes him to his favourite noodle house. It’s a little more spacious from where they had their lunch, and they’re able to get a table to themselves on the second floor. The entire place smells like smoke, garlic, and spice, and it makes Shang Qinghua’s mouth water just being there. 

He’s blown past his company-allocated budget for this date too, but it’s definitely worth it to come eat here. By the time the waiter’s setting down their dishes, Shang Qinghua’s already rubbing his hands together and looking greedily at the food.

“If you were so hungry before, you should have said something,” Mobei Jun says, lifting up a piece of scallop from his own bowl and dropping it on top of Shang Qinghua’s noodles. He steals some chicken from Shang Qinghua’s own dish, and pours out the cheap peach wine for the two of them. 

“This place just makes me hungrier when I walk in,” Shang Qinghua says, and tries not to let the giddiness over both the food and being waited on by Mobei Jun show. He must fail, because Mobei Jun gives him a bit of an exasperated look, but Shang Qinghua’s too busy trying to figure out where to stick his chopsticks in first. “Plus, weren’t we having a good time? It’d be rude to interrupt.”

He says that part without thinking, and proceeds to shove an unholy amount of noodles and vegetables into his mouth before looking up. Mobei Jun’s just staring back at him as he eats a scallop, eyes as unnerving as ever but the corners of his lips twitching up, almost like he’s smiling.

Ha! Mobei Jun must love the food here as well. Of all his talents, Shang Qinghua’s ability to find good places to eat is the one he treasures the most. Noticing that he hasn’t tried it yet, Shang Qinghua picks up a grilled eggplant from one of their side dishes and brandishes it towards Mobei Jun.

Instead of letting Shang Qinghua drop it onto his plate, Mobei Jun leans in to take a bite of it, dark lashes fluttering shut for a moment. It’s oddly hypnotic, and Shang Qinghua shakes his head as Mobei Jun chews and looks thoughtfully at Shang Qinghua.

“Good choice,” Mobei Jun says, and Shang Qinghua’s ears are definitely going pink at the compliment and not at the moment that they just shared.

The idle conversation they make this time travels both ways, in stark contrast to the first meal they shared today. Mobei Jun tells Shang Qinghua about a few of his hobbies that seem normal, like reading and cooking, and some that seem less so, like taking expensive sport motorcycles across places that, from the pictures Mobei Jun shows Shang Qinghua, really don’t look like places where any sane human would take a vehicle. 

Shang Qinghua doesn’t bother voicing it though, too distracted by the photos of Mobei Jun straddling a sleek black motorcycle with blue accents, helmet off and glaring at the camera with his hair messed up, looking less like a stoic businessman than the person sitting across from Shang Qinghua.

“Do you ever take anyone with you?” Shang Qinghua asks absent-mindedly as he swipes through to another picture, and he thinks he sees a familiar face in the background, one grinning CEO that looks a lot more devilish than what Shang Qinghua’s seen in the office. 

“Why, you want to come?” Mobei Jun asks, and Shang Qinghua makes a non-committal noise. “I’ll take you once.”

“Really?” Shang Qinghua raises his eyebrows, because he can’t think of anywhere he’d be more out of place. The corner of Mobei Jun’s mouth twitches up in a smirk and Shang Qinghua realizes he’s probably teasing him, but he shrugs it off good-naturedly.

They keep sharing each other’s food, and Mobei Jun orders them another half-sized bottle of wine. Their legs still brush against each other under the table, just because Mobei Jun’s legs are freakishly long, but this time Shang Qinghua doesn’t feel the urge to try to avoid the touch. It’s pleasant enough and Shang Qinghua’s rather pleased with how the day turned out.

Idly, he wonders if this is how a real date would go between them too, in an alternate universe where someone like Shang Qinghua appeals to someone like Mobei Jun. Maybe there would be less glaring from the offset, though Shang Qinghua thinks he’d get pulled around by the ear just as much.

Embarrassingly, when it comes time to pay, Shang Qinghua’s phone’s screen stays blissfully black, the battery dead. He fumbles around for his wallet and by the time he fishes out a card, Mobei Jun’s already waved the waiter off, having paid the bill.

“I was supposed to get that,” Shang Qinghua says, and Mobei Jun just gives a pointed look to the table, where Shang Qinghua’s dead phone and the contents of his wallet lay scattered.

“Finish eating,” Mobei Jun says instead and Shang Qinghua dutifully ducks his head and obeys. He finishes his meal and complains about how subway construction keeps getting him delayed for work, no matter how early he leaves, an inane topic that somehow Mobei Jun pays attention to.

By the time they’re done, Shang Qinghua’s kind of sad their night is coming to a close because he’s actually enjoyed the time they’ve spent together. He’s out of ideas to make it drag out though, ideas that are appropriate for dates raffled off in a charity auction with your boss at least. Which reminds him though…. 

“I have a question,” Shang Qinghua says, downing the last dregs of his wine. His tolerance is good, but the alcohol and the food (and maybe even the company) still make him feel warm down till his toes.

“Yes?” Mobei Jun asks, patting his mouth with a napkin. It’s so prim and proper that Shang Qinghua almost forgets what he’s going to say next. 

But he doesn’t fully forget, because the question has been burning in him all day. It’s been burning in him from before today too, from the moment that Mobei Jun was announced the charity auction winner.

“How come you bid on me?” Shang Qinghua asks, and Mobei Jun freezes. “Or actually, why didn’t you take back Miss Sha’s bid? Was it a bet? You can tell me if it was, it’d be kind of funny.”

Shang Qinghua rambles a little at the end there, because he watches as Mobei Jun’s face gets frostier and frostier with his words. By the time his sentence tapers off, his voice is an octave higher than where it started, and Mobei Jun looks as cold and unyielding as he did at the beginning of the day.

He doesn’t get an answer. Instead, Mobei Jun’s face closes off completely, and Shang Qinghua has a vague feeling that he’s done something wrong. He can’t quite figure out what though, and Mobei Jun doesn’t bother illuminating anything further when he says, “Did I say something wrong?”

“It’s getting late,” Mobei Jun says instead, and Shang Qinghua nods, taking the rejection for what it is. It’s probably something embarrassing for Mobei Jun, and Mobei Jun’s probably just realizing who exactly he spent the day with. Shang Qinghua watches as the reality of it makes itself known in sharp relief on Mobei Jun’s face. 

He guesses he’ll never know now. For some reason, that makes Shang Qinghua just a little bit sad.

Ah, he knew better than to get his hopes up anyways. 

 

 


 

 

The roads are too crowded to call a car like Mobei Jun wants to, so they take the subway instead. The whole ride back, Mobei Jun remains rigidly silent, ignoring any attempt of Shang Qinghua’s to make conversation. Perplexed, Shang Qinghua wonders why his bad mood has persisted after dinner. He thought that the night had gone well and up until they left the restaurant, but the sudden radio silence is unnerving. 

Maybe Mobei Jun is just tired.

Even a brave and well-meaning prod to the shoulder gets Shang Qinghua a death glare in return, and he keeps his hands to himself after. When the subway announces their stop, Mobei Jun is striding out fast and Shang Qinghua has to jog to keep up.

Technically, they can part ways here, but Shang Qinghua feels like it’d be a little too cowardly to turn tail and run at this point. So he follows Mobei Jun as they exit the subway station and make their way down the busy sidewalk, till they reach his apartment building. Mobei Jun finally comes to a halt near the door and Shang Qinghua almost crashes into him before he skids to a stop.

“Well,” Shang Qinghua digs his hands into his pockets and looks wearily at Mobei Jun. Had he been reading him wrong all evening? “Here we are.”

Mobei Jun looks at him, glares at him even, and Shang Qinghua feels every little drop of hope he had that they’d at least be friends after this evaporate. God, and he was stupid enough to believe that they were having fun in a romantic way too— Shang Qinghua must have hit his head or something, to be that delusional.

It’s weighing on him. He can’t lie. This sort of mood swing makes him kind of nervous, and this time his mouth and his desire to know take precedence over his desire to shrink into the shadows. 

“Was the date...not good?” Shang Qinghua says, grimacing internally. He thought they had been getting along well, but the tense silence during the past twenty minutes they spent getting home and Mobei Jun’s current expression says otherwise. 

Wait, was this going to reflect on his upcoming performance review? Shang Qinghua internally curses himself a hundred times over for messing this up, then curses Mobei Jun a few times for not telling him how.

“It was fine,” Mobei Jun replies in a tone that sounds awfully like it wasn’t. Without any further goodbyes, Mobei Jun turns on his heel and strides towards the front door of the building entrance. He pauses for a moment when he pulls his keycard out, and looks over his shoulder at Shang Qinghua.

“It was good,” Mobei Jun says briskly. “Until you mentioned it, I forgot the real reason we went out.”

“Oh…” Shang Qinghua stares, his mouth parting. “I’m glad it was good.”

More silence passes between them. Mobei Jun’s eyes narrow, before he rolls them and presses his keycard against the black box. The door automatically swings open, and it’s not till they’re closed that the words sink into Shang Qinghua’s brain, one by one. It takes another second after that for the two wires in his brain to connect and spark and realize the implication of Mobei Jun’s words.

...Was he implying that he forgot the date wasn’t a real one? 

For a moment, Shang Qinghua stays rooted to the spot as all the day’s actions coalesce into his brain, forming a short film of all the moments they shared over the past few hours. Retrospectively, things like sharing food and sitting on Mobei Jun’s lap in the photo booth may be considered above and beyond what was expected of Shang Qinghua today.

A voice in the back of his head tells him that it’s reasonable that there’s a chance that Mobei Jun did not mean what he said but— Shang Qinghua is also a man of action. He figures it’ll be better to have a crisis over it once he confirms what Mobei Jun’s actual intentions were. In this moment though, time is of the essence. If Shang Qinghua doesn’t act now, there’s a chance that he’ll have to spend the rest of his life a single dog, with only that one strip of pictures from the photobooth to keep him company.

He jogs towards the door but it’s already swung shut by the time he reaches. He sees Mobei Jun’s back retreating towards the elevators, and bangs on the  glass door. Mobei Jun seems to ignore him but the concierge sees him, and Shang Qinghua frantically points towards Mobei Jun.

The concierge gives him a weird look but seems to call out to Mobei Jun, because he’s turning around to see Shang Qinghua plastered against the glass of the front door. Mobei Jun’s normally stoic face looks shocked for a moment before it settles back into its normal state, and Shang Qinghua briefly thinks that yeah, maybe he does have it wrong and it’s time for him to start thinking up a resignation letter.

Mobei Jun approaches him thankfully, instead of pretending he’s never seen him before, and opens the door. Shang Qinghua steps back as Mobei Jun steps back out, and looks at Shang Qinghua.

“Yes?” he asks, and before Shang Qinghua’s nerves or common sense get the better of him, he blurts out, “Do you want to go out with me on a real date?”

Mobei Jun gives him that icy stare again, one that Shang Qinghua’s seen many times. If the blue of his eyes weren’t so arresting, Shang Qinghua would have turned tail and ran just now. As it is, he thinks he’s used up his quota for both shamelessness and proactivity this year.

“You want to go on a real date?” Mobei Jun parrots back, and Shang Qinghua moves his head in a way that looks more like a violent twitch than a nod. Somehow, it works, and Mobei Jun looks like he’s contemplating it.

Mobei Jun doesn’t give a reply for an excruciating twenty seconds, and Shang Qinghua is close to retracting the offer, just to spare his dignity.  

Just as he’s trying to figure out how he’ll say that, Mobei Jun suddenly draws close. He frowns down at Shang Qinghua, and Shang Qinghua doesn’t think this exactly bodes well for him. He raises his hands in a placating manner and tries to step back, but Mobei Jun loops an arm around his waist before he does so, causing Shang Qinghua’s palms to land on the flat of his chest.

“Let me plan it this time,” Mobei Jun says, and Shang Qinghua’s eyes go wide.

He said yes? He said yes. Wow, Mobei Jun really said yes?

Wait and— Mobei Jun is holding onto him too. This is too much information at once for Shang Qinghua. 

“Sure,” Shang Qinghua says, voice half-disbelieving. And then the least expected thing of the night happens— Mobei Jun, for all his dour-faced expression, dips his head down and presses his lips against Shang Qinghua’s.

A dozen air horns go off in Shang Qinghua’s head and he flails a little, trying to find a new place to put his hands. They land on Mobei Jun’s shoulders as Mobei Jun holds him tight and— right, Shang Qinghua should probably kiss back. He feels Mobei Jun pulling back after his unresponsiveness so he frantically presses forward to tell him that yes, he’s here and very, very much onboard.

The loud noises in his head finally meld together before fettering out into a low, pleasant hum, allowing him to snap back into the moment. 

Thankfully, Shang Qinghua has it on somewhat good authority that he isn’t the worst kisser, and Mobei Jun seems to like it too. He tilts his head and tastes some of the mint from the restaurant, and feels Mobei Jun suck lightly on his bottom lip. Mobei Jun’s other hand lands on Shang Qinghua’s jaw and squeezes lightly, holding him steady as he licks against the seam of his mouth.

When they finally break apart, Shang Qinghua feels like butterflies are flitting around in his chest. 

“When do you wanna go on that second date?” Shang Qinghua asks, sort of breathless, and only because he doesn’t want to let go of Mobei Jun yet. He’s still trying to comprehend that he kissed Mobei Jun of all people, and that it was reciprocal.

“Right now,” Mobei Jun says, and starts to tug them towards the door, twining their fingers together. Shang Qinghua tries to not be too overeager as he follows him in through the entrance, but even if he does appear like that it’s fine. 

He’s no stranger to social indignities.