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a garden, a tenderness

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When Wei Ying accepted Nie Huaisang’s invitation to go out for a few drinks to celebrate his new job, he didn’t envision the night ending with him on his knees in a bathroom stall, a stranger’s dick in his mouth. But, well, this stranger is particularly hot, so Wei Ying takes the unexpected development in stride.

He moans around the guy’s length when he feels the fingers in his hair tug at the strands. The guy interprets it as the encouragement it is, pulling harder while Wei Ying takes the cock deeper into his mouth, sucking greedily and sloppily, drool pooling in the corners of his mouth.

The stranger groans under his breath, a controlled sound. Wei Ying looks up, very aware of how he must look: hair disheveled, red lips stretched around the guy’s significant girth, his eyes watering a little. The stranger looks down at him, his face composed but his pupils blown wide with hunger.

If Wei Ying’s mouth was free, his lips would curl up in a satisfied smile. He blinks prettily up at the guy, whose hand slips to the nape of Wei Ying’s neck; he squeezes tight, once, sending a blaze of heat down Wei Ying’s spine. Then his hips start moving, slowly, a suggestion.

Fuck, yes. Wei Ying grabs the guy’s thighs—still covered by the material of his pants—and groans in assent, giving permission. The stranger doesn’t waste any time: his hips pick up a steady rhythm as he fucks Wei Ying’s mouth. His cock is big, so big that Wei Ying’s jaw has already started to ache, and when it hits the back of his throat tears rise in Wei Ying’s eyes.

It feels absolutely amazing, his mouth stretched, the guy’s cock heavy on his tongue. Wei Ying is panting, hard, his own dick leaking in his underwear. He’s aching for friction, so he works a hand inside his tight jeans, cupping his erection, bucking against his palm. The relief that courses through him has him almost going limp, the climax not far away.

“Don’t,” the guy says, his voice low.

Wei Ying looks up, confused.

“Don’t touch yourself,” the stranger clarifies, the command heavy in his tone. Wei Ying whines, frustrated. He’s so close to coming—

The stranger pulls his hair and Wei Ying’s entire body tenses, sparks fizzling through his veins. In any other situation he would have bucked against the command, really, he would have—he’s not a huge fan of being told what to do!—but his brain is foggy from pleasure. Something in the guy’s tone—it just feels right, so Wei Ying stops touching himself. He wants to cry at the loss of friction, but the stranger snaps his hips harder, using Wei Ying’s mouth to get off and says, “Good,” and when he comes down Wei Ying’s throat it almost feels like a reward.

Wei Ying swallows the stranger’s spend, licking the tip clean when he’s done, lapping at the smooth skin. Hands grab him at the shoulders and he’s being tugged into a standing position, his head spinning as the guy presses him against the wall, kissing him harshly. He licks into Wei Ying’s mouth, probably getting a taste of his own come, and when he eases Wei Ying’s cock out from his underwear, jerking him off efficiently, Wei Ying moans happily.

It doesn’t take long for him to come, his muscles knotting before releasing all the tension. The guy is still kissing him, swallowing all the sounds falling from Wei Ying’s mouth. Wei Ying goes limp against the wall, his legs shaking, trying his best to kiss back through the haze of orgasm. Gradually, the lust-filled kisses turn into something gentler, and that’s when Wei Ying finally decides to come up for air. It feels really nice—the guy’s lips are soft and warm against his—but he should get back to his friends. Also, the stall is very cramped.

“So, uh—” he says, his voice raw and cracked. He clears his throat before trying again. “This was fun.”

“Mn.” The guy pulls away, taking all his body heat with him.

“Not a guy of many words, huh?” Wei Ying teases, tucking himself back in and suppressing a wince. Most of his come had ended up on the stranger’s hand, but there’s some stains on his underwear that will not feel good once they dry. At least his jeans were spared.

He tries to fix his hair, but it’s probably a lost cause until he gets to a comb. On the other hand, the guy looks pristine, like this never happened at all. Already tucked back into his pants—when had he even done that?—there’s not even a flush on his face. His long hair, gathered into a braid, is perfectly in place, not a wrinkle on his fancy clothes. He must be older than Wei Ying, although he couldn’t tell by how much. The unnatural perfection is what had attracted Wei Ying to him in the first place: in the flashing lights of the club, he had looked like a jade statue. Nie Huaisang, noticing where Wei Ying’s eyes had drifted to, had dared him to ask the guy to dance and well. The rest is history.

“Is there a need to talk to do this?” the guy asks, deadpan.

“Well, no!” Wei Ying laughs. “But life would be really boring if you talked only when strictly needed, wouldn’t it?”

The guy doesn’t seem very convinced.

“Ah, are you one of those people who requires peace and quiet at all times? You’d probably hate being around me, then. Good thing my mouth was busy,” Wei Ying teases lightheartedly, punching the guy’s shoulder jokingly. The stranger’s eyes darken at his words, his gaze falling to his mouth.

Wei Ying licks his lips, aware of how red and abused his mouth must look. The space between them goes taut with tension as Wei Ying wonders if he has the time and stamina to go for another round. The stranger could be up to it, and when is he going to meet another dick so big on a guy so good-looking? He might as well make the best of it.

“Do you—” he rasps, his body already leaning forward, when the bang of the door opening startles him.

“Wei Ying, are you done?” his brother’s irritated voice floats through the bathroom. “Nie Huaisang threw up all over himself, and I am not dealing with that alone, so hurry the fuck up.”

Wei Ying huffs in annoyance. Leave it to Nie Huaisang to push him towards the best hook up of his life and then ruin it. “I’m coming, I’m coming,” he calls to his brother. “I’m sorry, I—” he starts, looking back at the guy, but Jiang Cheng doesn’t let up.

“Now, Wei Ying!”

“Fine!” Wei Ying snaps. “I gotta go, sorry! It was nice to meet you!”

As he throws himself out of the stall he catches the guy’s eyes following him. Jiang Cheng grimaces at him, probably because of his sorry state.

You interrupted me, so you don’t get to complain,” Wei Ying points out, breezing past Jiang Cheng, who follows him out of the door. Wei Ying glances back one last time, watching the bathroom door swing closed. He tunes out Jiang Cheng’s complaints as they reach their table and a very intoxicated Nie Huaisang.

It’s only later that night, when Wei Ying is already tucked between his sheets, that he realizes he never even got the guy’s name. What a shame.

*

Monday starts bright and early for Wei Ying, who manages to get to his new workplace right on time, even if to do so he had to give up a nice, quiet breakfast with his roommate Wen Ning in favor of shoving youtiao down his throat as he rushed out of the door.

The Lan sect works out of the Cloud Recesses, a compound situated in the outskirts of Suzhou. Wei Ying stops at the huge gate that prevents him from just strolling in and he squints curiously at it. Usually, sects have a lot more protection than just a simple gate, so he has his suspicions. He finds an intercom and buzzes; he’s told to stand by and wait for someone to get him.

As he does just that, Wei Ying looks past the gated entrance, to where his new job—his new life—awaits. He never thought he would work for a cultivation sect again. After he left the Jiangs at nineteen he’d worked as a rogue cultivator for about four years; he’d loved it, but it didn’t pay the bills most months, and he refused to be a burden to the Wens once they’d moved in together. He’d lucked out with the position at the Lan sect; only in recent years they’ve started hiring more cultivators outside the family, and Wei Ying didn’t think he’d get the position. He’d applied on a whim, drunk and sleep-deprived at three in the morning, and gotten a request for an interview the very next day.

The familiar trill of his phone distracts him from his thoughts. He glances at the screen, smiling when he sees a message from his sister wishing him a good first day, and one from Nie Huaisang complaining about the hangover he’s been nursing for the entire weekend.

Rolling his eyes, Wei Ying opens WeChat and messages back: “next time go easier on the hard liquor.”

He taps his fingers on the back of his phone, looking around as he waits for a reply. Out of boredom, he opts to bother Jiang Cheng.

Wei Ying: no ‘good luck’ from you, didi? i’m offended

Jiang Cheng: No

Wei Ying:(;へ:)

Wei Ying: don’t tell me you’re still mad at me for saturday

Jiang Cheng: How would you feel if I left you to deal with a drunk and vomiting Nie Huaisang while I went and hooked up with someone?

Wei Ying: first of all that wouldn’t happen because you never hook up with anyone

Wei Ying: and i would be happy for you!! i’d be outside the bathroom cheering for my didi!!

Jiang Cheng: I regret asking

Wei Ying snickers.

Wei Ying: c’mon stop being so grumpy!! be a good brother and wish me a good first day

Jiang Cheng: Why do you care so much, you know you don’t need it. You’re going to do fine

Wei Ying: awww a-cheng!! does this mean i’m forgiven?

Jiang Cheng: Yeah, whatever

Jiang Cheng: Good luck.

Wei Ying is smiling amusedly at his brother’s bristling attitude when a voice calls his name. He hurriedly pockets his phone and turns around, coming face to face with a young-looking guy dressed in light blue and wearing a forehead ribbon. A Lan, then.

“That’s me,” Wei Ying replies.

The guy smiles, friendly enough. “Hi! I’m Lan Jingyi, I’m supposed to show you around.”

“Sure, sure! Nice to meet you,” Wei Ying replies enthusiastically. Lan Jingyi hands him something, which Wei Ying takes automatically.

“It’s a jade token. You need it to get past the array,” Lan Jingyi explains.

Ah. Wei Ying turns the token over in his hand. It’s delicate, pretty. Something he would expect from the Lan sect.

“Cool,” he says, pocketing it. “I’m honored.”

“Everyone who works here has one,” Lan Jingyi points out cheerily, leading him inside, as if to say you’re not special. Wei Ying sticks his tongue at him behind his back and smiles neutrally when Lan Jingyi turns back around, frowning at him.

“What else does the token give me access to?” Wei Ying asks.

“Almost everywhere in the Cloud Recesses, except some private areas that are for the sect leader only.”

“Cool,” Wei Ying comments as they go on with the tour. The Cloud Recesses is made up of several buildings, and Lan Jingyi points out their purpose—there’s the classrooms, the training rooms, the offices for the cultivators…

It’s all very pretty. There’s a lot of greenery, the paths connecting the buildings decorated by well-maintained gardens filled with flowers. Lan Jingyi takes him to the building where he’s going to work, showing him his desk, and then he leads him back out, walking towards the centermost building that stands out against the rest of the compound.

“Why are we going there?” Wei Ying asks, curious.

“Oh, the boss likes to meet all the new hires,” Lan Jingyi explains.

“The boss...?”

“The sect leader,” Lan Jingyi says serenely. Wei Ying almost chokes on his own saliva. He did not expect to meet one of the Jades of Lan on his first day! Who even does that? Isn’t he busy?

“Dude, relax. He’s not here today, so Hanguang-jun is gonna meet you instead. That’s Lan-zongzhu’s younger brother.” Lan Jingyi’s eyes are practically sparkling.

“I know who Hanguang-jun is.” He grew up in cultivation circles, thank you very much.

“You don’t have to freak out,” Lan Jingyi reassures him as they reach the entrance. “He’s cool. Intimidating, that can be scary sometimes. But he’s mostly cool!”

“Good to know,” Wei Ying says sarcastically. They take an elevator, and during the ride up Wei Ying’s earlier surprise morphs into curiosity. As much as he’s heard about the Twin Jades of Lan, he hasn’t seen as much of a picture of the younger brother, to the point where sometimes Wei Ying wonders whether he’s real or just a legend. He’s about to find out, though, and he hopes to make a good impression. He really does need this job.

They get out of the elevator and Lan Jingyi waves to the secretary sitting outside the office; then he knocks on the door.

“Come in,” a male voice says. Lan Jingyi opens the door and gestures Wei Ying inside; Wei Ying takes a deep, steadying breath, shaking his arms to get out all his jitters before following the other man into a large, airy room with huge windows that overlook the Cloud Recesses beneath them. A man is standing behind the desk, waiting to greet them.

Wei Ying’s brain screeches to a sudden halt, his entire body freezing in shock.

“This is the new hire, Wei Ying,” Lan Jingyi introduces him.

He’s staring right at the guy he hooked up with last Saturday.

Fuck.

He can’t believe he sucked the Second Jade of Lan’s dick. The Lan sect leader’s brother. Nie Huaisang is going to pay for this.

“You! You’re Hanguang-jun?!” Wei Ying splutters, his brain-to-mouth filter completely failing.

While Wei Ying’s surprise must be written all over his face, the only flaw in Hanguang-jun’s otherwise composed demeanor is the thin line of his lips, pressed tightly together.

“You know each other?” Lan Jingyi asks, glancing between the two of them.

“We are acquainted,” Hanguang-jun replies vaguely.

“Acquainted how?” Lan Jingyi asks curiously; his teeth clack soundly when Hanguang-jun stares at him. “Never mind, none of my business!”

“We are happy to have you here, Wei Ying,” Hanguang-jun says politely. “My brother was impressed by your experience.”

After taking a moment to jumpstart his brain, Wei Ying manages a strangled, “Thanks, I’m looking forward to working here.” This is more than a little embarrassing. Still, a small part of Wei Ying can’t help but feel a thrill at meeting him again, especially considering their hook-up was cut short. Shut up, Wei Ying tells himself, this is absolutely not the time.

“If you have any questions or difficulties, my brother or I will be available to answer them at any time.”

“But, Hanguan-jun, you don’t—”

Wei Wuxian accidentally interrupts Jingyi by chiming in, “I’ll keep that in mind, but Jingyi here was so thorough with the tour that I doubt I’ll have any!” He pats Jingyi on the shoulder, and the boy not-so-subtly preens.

Hanguang-jun hums, and an awkward silence falls over the room. Wei Ying fidgets, trying not to stare too much at him.

“The array outside is cool,” Wei Ying offers. “And I like all the...nature here, the flowers are pretty.”

“Thank you,” Hanguang-jun replies, without adding anything.

Right. After another beat of silence, Wei Ying says, “ I’m really excited to get started.” He plasters an enthusiastic smile on his face.

“Yes,” Hanguang-jun says. “Have a good first day.”

“Thank you!” Wei Ying can’t run out of the room fast enough, Lan Jingyi on his heels. He might be cutting the meeting short, but Hanguang-jun is giving him the impression that he wants this meeting to be over anyway. He can only hope that the rest of the day goes smoother.

*

Back at his desk, when he’s finally alone—with the exception of a pile of old night hunt reports he’s supposed to go through to familiarize himself with the Lan sect’s methods—Wei Ying unlocks his phone and searches Hanguang-jun. There’s not much information available except his title, his name—Lan Zhan—and his age, thirty-two years old. Well, at least Wei Ying was right about him being older.

But, really? Not even a bio or a single picture? No Weibo? Everyone is on social media these days! This guy must be intensely, frustratingly private. Wei Ying sighs, throwing his phone on top of the desk and leaning back in his chair, ignoring the looks he gets from his new coworkers.

He grabs a couple of files to at least pretend to do what he’s supposed to be doing; he doesn’t want to make an awful impression on his first day. He even tries to focus on the page, but the characters swim in front of his eyes as his brain keeps thinking about Lan Zhan.

It’s just—he doesn’t want this to cause any issues. He needs this job. It’s a good position with a good sect that will give Wei Ying the chance to keep doing what he enjoys doing, at least in part, with added stability. He hopes that all he will have to suffer for this is a bit of lingering awkwardness around Lan Zhan.

It’s not like he can get fired for having sex, even if it was with the brother of the leader of the sect that is currently employing him. He didn’t know, so he can’t be blamed!

With that thought in mind, he forces himself to focus, succeeding after a few tries. By the time his stomach rumbles, signaling hunger, Wei Ying has managed to lose himself in the surprisingly fascinating reports. When he looks up he notices that everyone else’s desks are empty. Huh, it must be lunch break.

He stretches his back and wanders off, looking for the break room Lan Jingyi showed him. Somehow he manages to get lost in the maze of blue-white hallways, and he curses his bad memory when he realizes he has no idea where he’s supposed to be going.

Whatever, he’ll go back to his desk and just eat at home. It’s not the first time Wei Ying has skipped a meal, after all. Wen Ning is working late, but he can throw something together himself. Unless Wen Qing feels like cooking after her shift at the hospital, which happens almost never.

He lets out a big breath and leans against the wall of the empty corridor, waiting a bit until he has to go back to sitting down. The hallway isn’t that exciting, but he could use a change in scenery while he can. He really hopes they send him out to do field work soon; Wei Ying is not made for paperwork and boring desk jobs, which is why he’d tried to hold on to his rogue cultivation work for as long as he could.

To pass the time, he decides to take his grievances out on Nie Huaisang.

Wei Ying: guess who i met today

Nie Huaisang: no. im too hungover for this

Wei Ying: ugh fine

Wei Ying: remember the guy i hooked up with on sat...

Nie Huaisang: no way!!!

Nie Huaisang: he works for the lans???

Wei Ying snorts.

Wei Ying: he IS a lan

Nie Huaisang: dude please tell me he’s the sect leader

Wei Ying: no!!!

Wei Ying: he’s lan-zongzhu’s brother, hanguang-jun

Nie Huaisang: ohhh. wow.

Nie Huaisang: you didn’t recognize him?

Wei Ying: how was i supposed to do that?? you didn’t recognize him either!!!

Wei Ying: wait. you didn’t, right?

He wouldn’t exactly put it past Nie Huaisang.

Nie Huaisang: i was too drunk, dude

Wei Ying rolls his eyes amusedly as more messages from Nie Huaisang come through rapidfire.

Nie Huaisang: a legit lan! in the flesh! congrats!!!

Nie Huaisang: they’re LOADED

Nie Huaisang: you got yourself a sugar daddy

Wei Ying: as if. it was a one time thing!!!

Nie Huaisang: suuuuuure it was

Wei Ying is about to reply snappily when he realizes he’s not alone. He looks up and then fumbles with his phone when he sees Lan Zhan, of all people, staring at him silently like a particularly sneaky ghost.

“Um, hi?” Wei Ying says. “Did you want something?”

“Wei Ying,” Lan Zhan replies, his lips moving around the shape of Wei Ying's name tentatively, like he's getting used to the sound of it. It really has no right sounding as attractive as it is in Lan Zhan's deep timbre, and, for a second, Wei Ying wishes he'd told Lan Zhan his name that night in the club just so he could have heard him say it as Wei Ying sucked him off.

Wei Ying forces that thought aside. “Yep, that's me,” he chirps, putting his phone away and rocking on his heels. Should he address the elephant in the room, or should he let Lan Zhan go first? Maybe he should bring it up, just to have control on the conversation. He's had too many surprises already.

He opens his mouth, ready to say something, when his eyes catch on the forehead ribbon and what falls out of his lips is, “You weren't wearing that on Saturday.”

Lan Zhan, to his credit, takes the comment in stride. He extends his arm towards Wei Ying, rotating his wrist. “I was, but here. There are occasions where I prefer to remain anonymous.”

Oh. Wei Ying hadn't noticed, but Lan Zhan had been wearing long sleeves, and honestly, he was focused on other parts of his body.

“You meet lots of cultivators on your nights out?” Wei Ying asks, raising an eyebrow. Regular citizens wouldn't know what the forehead ribbon means, they would think it was just a peculiar accessory.

Lan Zhan stares pointedly at him. “It's been known to happen,” he says drily, making Wei Ying throw his head back and laugh. Yeah, he would've immediately clocked him as a Lan if he saw the ribbon.

When he brings his attention back to Lan Zhan he barely catches the tail end of Lan Zhan blinking an undefined emotion away.

“So...that was awkward, earlier,” he comments after a few seconds of silence which Lan Zhan doesn't appear inclined to fill.

“Mn, it was unexpected.”

“And in front of Lan Jingyi too!”

He almost sees a shadow of a smile on Lan Zhan's mouth, but it's gone so fast that Wei Ying is left wondering if he just imagined it. What would a smile look like on Lan Zhan's handsome features? Would it soften his face, sharpen his beauty?

“Wei Ying, I wanted to make sure you are not uncomfortable.”

“Huh?”

“I did not know our sect hired you. I hope, considering my position and what happened between us, that you will not be uncomfortable working for the sect.”

“Oh, well.” Wei Ying scratches his cheek. “No, I don't think so. You're not really my boss, aren’t you?”

“That would be my brother.

“Okay, well! It's fine, then. I mean, I was just surprised.”

“Me, as well,” Lan Zhan admits.

You're not uncomfortable, right?” Wei Ying blurts out.

“No,” Lan Zhan replies easily. Wei Ying lets out a sigh of relief.

“Okay, cool. It was just a hookup, we can forget it ever happened, right?”

Lan Zhan pauses for a brief moment. “Yes.”

“Great! Uh, why don’t we start over then? Let me introduce myself this time,” He proposes, bowing politely to Lan Zhan. “Hi, I'm Wei Ying, former rogue cultivator, employed under the Lan sect as of today.”

When he straightens Lan Zhan appears puzzled, but he plays along. “I'm Lan Zhan, I work as a cultivation teacher,” he says, slightly stilted.

“Nice to meet you, Lan Zhan.” Wei Ying beams at him. Lan Zhan's eyes are glued to him, his golden eyes deep and intense. I could get lost in them if I'm not careful, Wei Ying thinks, fascinated, and then reminds himself he shouldn't have these thoughts anymore. That night belongs to the past, never to be repeated again.

“Nice to meet you, Wei Ying,” Lan Zhan replies quietly before just walking away.

Yes, that night is meant to be erased. They will be coworkers and nothing more, and everything will be fine.

*

A week later, Wei Ying gets to go on his first night hunt as an employee of the Lan Sect. It's nothing particularly complicated—a yaoguai, and not a very dangerous one—but for the moment it satisfies the itch for adrenaline that has been lingering under Wei Ying's skin since his last case as a rogue cultivator.

When he gets back to the Cloud Recesses he crosses paths with Lan Zhan at the entrance. They haven't really talked since that conversation in the hallway, even though they've seen each other around. Lan Zhan seems pretty busy, and Wei Ying has had a frazzling week getting used to his new routine. Still, sometimes, in the darkness of his room, Wei Ying has thought about Lan Zhan. His gold irises, the ghost of a smile on his face. I must be pretty lonely, he thinks. None of his—very few—casual encounters have lingered in his mind for this long.

“Hi!” he greets Lan Zhan, catching his attention. Lan Zhan, who’s standing near the gate-array drinking from a to-go cup and typing something on his phone, looks up.

“Wei Ying, hello.” Lan Zhan’s hair is loose today, a waterfall of inky black. He’s wearing a nice-looking white blouse with lace trim at the edges of his cuffs. It would be much easier to move on from any thought of Lan Zhan if the man wasn’t so attractive.

“What’s up?” he asks, forcing himself to ignore his body’s reactions to Lan Zhan. They’ve been intimate, he reminds himself. This is normal. It would happen to anyone.

“I’m teaching a seminar soon,” Lan Zhan says. Oh, yeah. He’s a teacher. Wei Ying tilts his head to the side, interested.

“What about?”

“Musical cultivation.”

“Oh, right! You Lans are famous for that, right?” The information pops into his brain suddenly, like it’d been lurking there waiting for its chance. The Lans are pretty popular in cultivation circles, and though Wei Ying has been out of the loop for a while, at least he remembers that much. “What instrument do you play?”

“The guqin.”

“Hmm, elegant. It definitely fits you,” Wei Ying compliments him sincerely.

“Thank you. Do you play?” Lan Zhan appears genuinely interested, all of his attention tuned to Wei Ying.

“Oh, no. Well, I played the dizi when I was a kid, but I wasn't very talented, so I think it's better I stick with this.” Wei Ying gestures to the sword strapped to his back. Lan Zhan regards Suibian, and then his eyes go back to Wei Ying, glancing at his wind-swept shoulder-length hair, at his black, practical outfit and combat boots. Wei Ying feels his skin warm at the intensity of Lan Zhan's scrutiny. He's not shy, but he would dare anyone to remain indifferent under the weight of Lan Zhan's eyes.

“How was your assignment?” Lan Zhan guesses correctly.

“It was fun.”

“Fun?” Lan Zhan inquires, taken aback.

“Am I not supposed to have fun?”

“We eliminate evil. We help people,” Lan Zhan points out seriously, as if that contradicts what Wei Ying said.

“Sure, but who says we can't have fun in the meantime?” Wei Ying challenges with a smile. “Do you not enjoy night hunting? Or...” He hesitates. “Do you not do that anymore?”

“I do, occasionally,” Lan Zhan says. “I accompany the juniors on their night hunts as they're learning.”

“And...?”

An almost invisible frown creases Lan Zhan's forehead; Wei Ying wouldn't have noticed if he weren't looking intently for Lan Zhan's reactions. “I never thought of it as fun, but I do enjoy helping people,” Lan Zhan replies with honesty.

Wei Ying's teasing grin morphs into something softer, more fond. “Yeah, me too,” he says.

There's a beat of silence after his words where he and Lan Zhan just look at each other, Wei Ying with a smile lingering on his lips. He scrambles for something else to say, but his brain has overheated like an old laptop, whirring endlessly. His mouth parts slightly, his heart galloping in his chest as he finds himself unable to look away from Lan Zhan.

The sound of a car whizzing by in the distance saves him from embarrassing himself further. He jumps and then he laughs like the funniest thing in the world has just happened. Lan Zhan finally looks away, glancing at the empty space behind Wei Ying, and Wei Ying has the chance to catch his breath.

What the hell is wrong with him?

“Well, I should...I have some paperwork to do, and I should clean Suibian,” he mumbles.

“You named your sword Suibian?” Lan Zhan says.

“Hey, don't judge me, I was young!” Wei Ying playfully points his finger at Lan Zhan. “Are you judging me? Stop it.”

The corner of Lan Zhan's mouth twitches. Is that amusement? “I would never.”

“Hm, sure.”

Lan Zhan, nonplussed, steps aside. “I will let you go to your work. My seminar starts soon.”

Oh, yeah. Wei Ying suddenly regrets his attempt at an escape. A part of him is disappointed he can't keep talking to Lan Zhan, but they both have things to do. They part with a wave from Wei Ying and a polite goodbye from Lan Zhan; as Wei Ying walks past the array and towards his building, he looks back at Lan Zhan, who’s going in the opposite direction, his back straight, his posture emanating confidence. There's a strange dip in his gut all the way up to his desk.

*

After that, he and Lan Zhan find more chances to talk. Whenever they run into each other, Wei Ying finds an excuse to stop and reel Lan Zhan into a conversation, and Lan Zhan indulges him every single time, which makes Wei Ying's heart squeeze in his chest.

He finds that Lan Zhan, though economical with his words and inscrutable at times, is really fun to talk to, and Wei Ying very much enjoys teasing him, trying to draw out as many reactions from him as he possibly can with varying degrees of success.

He does wonder sometimes if his behavior could be seen as inappropriate. Lan Zhan is older and he’s way higher up the hierarchy of the sect than Wei Ying. But as the weeks pass no one says anything, least of all Lan Zhan—who is unflinchingly honest—and so Wei Ying isn’t inclined to stop. Nothing wrong with being friends with a coworker, right? Even if that coworker is one of the Jades of Lan.

*

One of the entirely too many days he skips breakfast because he sleeps through five of his alarms after going to bed late, he gets to his desk and finds a cup of coffee and nicely wrapped scallion pancakes, everything kept warm by talismans. He frowns, looking around, but none of the other cultivators are paying attention to him, some of them already working, some of them eating their own food.

“Hey, did we get free breakfast or something? Like...from the sect?” he whispers to the girl who sits next to him. She stares at him weirdly and shakes her head.

Oh, well. He shrugs and picks up the food, wolfing it down with one hand and grabbing his phone with the other. He texts Jingyi first, since he’s formed a friendship with the boy.

Wei Ying: did you get me breakfast?

Lan Jingyi: No why would I do that?

Wei Ying: never mind

Lan Jingyi: Wait why do you ask

Lan Jingyi: ??????

Lan Jingyi: DON’T LEAVE ME HANGING!

Wei Ying chuckles, swiping away the notification and opening the chat of the only other person who he suspects could have done this. Now that he thinks about it, he did complain recently about not having the time to eat before he gets to work.

Wei Ying: so funny story, i get to my desk today and what do i find? a nice, warm breakfast

Lan Zhan: Very funny.

Lan Zhan: Did you eat it?

Wei Ying: of course i did, who do you think i am!!

Wei Ying: you didn’t have to, lan zhan

Lan Zhan: It’s from a very good cafe.

Wei Ying: well, thank you! now i’m all ready to face the day(●^o^●)

Lan Zhan: Mn, no need to thank me. I’m glad.

After that, Wei Ying finds breakfast on his desk more often than not. His coworkers start giving him sly glances, poking fun at him for having a secret admirer. Wei Ying privately wonders how early Lan Zhan must get here to leave him food without anyone noticing.

Wei Ying is conflicted. On one hand, he can’t say he hates the attention. On the other, he feels like he can’t just accept that Lan Zhan is spending money on him so frequently without getting anything out of it, even if Lan Zhan is rich enough that this will probably not make a dent in his finances even if he keeps it up for the rest of his life.

Still, he has to say something, so one day he goes to Lan Zhan’s office after he gets to the Cloud Recesses. “You don't have to do this, you know.” He shakes the empty coffee cup in his hand.

“I know,” Lan Zhan says, calmly organizing the papers in front of him. “I do not mind.”

“But, Lan Zhan!” he protests. “I can’t let you do all these nice things for me without anything in return.”

He only realizes how it sounds after it’s out of his mouth. Lan Zhan raises one perfect eyebrow, which makes Wei Ying burst into laughter.

“Aiya, you pervert, I didn’t mean it like that,” he grumbles.

“Mn. Kindness is not an exchange of favors,” Lan Zhan points out, not letting Wei Ying get a word in before he continues, “But if you want to see it as such, you do something in return.”

“What?”

“You help me with the juniors’ lessons.”

Wei Ying gawks. “Those are just my random thoughts when you talk about the juniors!”

“It still helps me.”

“Fine, fine,” Wei Ying mutters, leaning back against the closed door. He gives in too easily to Lan Zhan, he knows. But deep down he doesn’t actually want all of this to stop. And it does make him feel better that Lan Zhan is getting something out of this as well. “You win.”

He doesn’t miss the hint of smugness in Lan Zhan’s face.

*

Nie Huaisang keeps poking fun at him and his friendship with Lan Zhan; he starts with saying that Wei Ying is grave robbing, and then moves on to call Lan Zhan his sugar daddy when he learns about the frequent breakfast-buying. Wei Ying always responds with an eye-roll, feigning annoyance, even as the words make something squirm deep in his stomach.

Jiang Cheng absolutely hates the sugar daddy jokes and bans them in his presence. He also thinks Wei Ying is exaggerating. “No one is this perfect,” he comments once. “He has to have a flaw. What if he’s a murderer? What if he writes cringy, dirty songs?”

Which leads them to tussle in Jiang Cheng’s living room while Wei Ying squawks indignantly and Jiang Cheng yells at him for almost breaking a vase.

Wen Qing has also started staring at him suspiciously because apparently he talks too much about Lan Zhan every single time the Wen siblings ask him about work, and then Wei Ying has to insist that what’s happening between them is entirely innocent. Wen Qing never seems convinced, tutting knowingly at him.

Wen Ning, the precious sweetheart, doesn’t have the heart to tease Wei Ying. That’s why he’s my favorite Wen, he tells Wen Qing once, but if he was hoping to break her heart or make her feel bad he’s got another thing coming. Wen Qing is way too smart to fall for something like that.

*

One day Wei Ying passes by the classrooms, where Lan Zhan works, on his way out of a meeting, and he can’t help but head inside the building, wondering if Lan Zhan is around. He hears voices drift out of a semi-open door, so naturally he peeks in. Inside, he finds the junior disciples practicing sword forms, overseen by none other than Lan Zhan.

He doesn’t really mean to linger, but he finds himself fascinated by seeing Lan Zhan doing his job. He’s focused on his students, keeping an eye on all of them; when he notices a mistake he gently but firmly corrects the juniors, his voice low and confident. There’s a sparkle in the kids’ eyes even as any wrongdoings are pointed out. It’s clear they look up to Lan Zhan; it’s adorable.

And he’s sure Lan Zhan cares about them. It’s apparent in the way he gives them all of his undivided attention, in the lack of cruelty even when he corrects them, in the proud nod he gives when they fix their mistakes. Wei Ying can’t help but smile fondly, warmth suffusing him.

“I don’t think we pay you to moon over Hanguang-jun.”

The voice startles him badly, and he barely avoids hitting the door with his arm. He steps away from it, his heart racing, and scowls at the source of his fright.

“Aren’t you supposed to be in there?” he tells Lan Jingyi grumpily.

Lan Jingyi splutters, offended. “Those lessons are for the younger disciples. What do you think I am, a baby?”

“Yes,” Wei Ying says serenely. “You are, in fact, a baby.” He pats Lan Jingyi on the head.

“We’re almost the same age,” Lan Jingyi points out, swatting Wei Ying’s hand away. It’s true, Lan Jingyi is only three years younger than him, but Wei Ying ignores that fact.

“Are you calling me a baby?” Wei Ying gasps. “I’ll have you know I’m a hard-working adult! I have a real job and everything!”

“Adult,” Lan Jingyi scoffs. “Weren’t you the one who spilled coffee all over your desk, and the floor, and ruined all of your night hunt reports the other day because you were trying to balance the cup on your nose?”

“Hey, you can’t prove that!” Wei Ying yells. At that moment, the door next to them slides open and a stream of disciples walk out, all of them waving hello to Wei Ying and Lan Jingyi. Ah, Lans. Always so polite, with the one exception standing right beside him.

“Hey, Lan Zhan,” Wei Ying says cheerily when Lan Zhan walks out behind his students. He stops when he hears Wei Ying’s voice and walks over to him. He doesn’t smile, not like Wei Ying does, but there’s something tender in his voice when he says, “Wei Ying.”

It makes his guts twist over on themselves. Lan Zhan greets Lan Jingyi as well, and then asks Wei Ying, “How did the meeting go?”

Wei Ying beams. “I got a new assignment. Apparently there’s some trouble in Wujiang, sounds like a resentful spirit. The locals are pretty freaked out so I’m going to head there tonight.”

“Would you like some company?”

Wei Ying frowns. “I can do it on my own.”

“You mentioned that you would like to see me on a night hunt someday,” Lan Zhan points out. Him and his perfect memory.

“Oh!” Wei Ying had said that. And it still holds true. He doesn’t know if he will survive the sight of Lan Zhan fighting and wielding a sword, his fierce glare and his strong body on display. He hasn’t been very successful in suppressing his physical attraction to Lan Zhan, but Wei Ying has always had a self-destructive streak after all. “Well, I don’t mind if you’re up for it.”

“I am up for it.”

Wei Ying smiles at Lan Zhan, quickly warming up to the idea. It’ll be fun to share the adrenaline of a night hunt with Lan Zhan, and he’s excited to actually work with him, like a team.

“Tonight, then?” he confirms, his voice now eager.

“Tonight,” Lan Zhan replies softly.

“Ugh,” Lan Jingyi mutters, shaking his head. “Unbelievable.”

Wei Ying herds him away from Lan Zhan before he can say anything more embarrassing.

*

He was right. Lan Zhan looks absolutely deadly when he fights, every movement precise and elegant. The image of him is burnt into Wei Ying’s brain, possibly forever, and he only has himself to blame. They’re powerful cultivators on their own, but together they’re an unstoppable force, and the rush of it leaves Wei Ying giddy for hours.

*

Sometimes Lan Zhan invites Wei Ying to have lunch in his office instead of the noisy break room, and although Wei Ying doesn’t mind eating with the other cultivators, he will take any extra time he can spend with Lan Zhan. He gets there earlier than they’d agreed on for once, and he doesn’t hear the music coming from inside the room until he knocks and opens the door without waiting for a reply.

He finds Lan Zhan sitting at the low table in front of the couch—yes, his office is that big and fancy—playing his guqin. His fingers still on the string when he hears Wei Ying barge in, the song coming to an abrupt stop.

“Oops!” Wei Ying waves his hands at Lan Zhan. “My bad! Keep going, keep going, don’t stop on my account.”

“Wei Ying. I apologize, I must have forgotten to check the time.”

“No, no, I’m early,” Wei Ying says, plopping down in front of Lan Zhan. “Finish the song? I want to hear it,” he pleads, curious. He’s only heard Lan Zhan play Wangji during their night hunt, and the situation was too frenetic to truly enjoy it.

Lan Zhan hesitates before nodding once. “All right.”

His hands come up to touch the strings again, his long fingers plucking at them. The melody flows from the instrument, smooth like water. It’s a pretty song, slow and clear, threaded with an undercurrent that sounds almost...haunted. Wei Ying is enraptured, lost in the music, in the way Lan Zhan plays. His face is relaxed, open, more vulnerable than Wei Ying has even seen it. It takes his breath away as his heart squeezes painfully in his chest.

The thought comes to him like a bolt of lightning, startling him with its intensity. I like him. I like him so much. There’s no way Wei Ying can deny this feeling, and he can’t chalk it up to simple physical attraction. Somewhere along the way, in the past few months, he started developing feelings for Lan Zhan; this kind, beautiful man who’s become a steady presence in Wei Ying’s life.

Fuck. Fuck, fuck.

“Is everything okay?”

“Yes!” Wei Ying hadn’t realized Lan Zhan had stopped playing. Deal with this later, he thinks. He swallows the storm of feelings crashing through his body, pasting a smile on his face. “It’s very beautiful, Lan Zhan, you’re so talented.”

“Mn. Thank you.” Lan Zhan’s fingers are still resting on the strings, his thumb moving almost imperceptibly across them. He looks like he wants to say something, and this kind of uncertainty is unfamiliar to Wei Ying coming from Lan Zhan, so he makes an effort to shut up and let him think.

“My mother composed it,” Lan Zhan finally adds, his shoulders gaining a bit of tension.

Wei Ying knows little about Lan Zhan’s family; there’s his brother, the Lan sect leader, and his uncle, Lan Qiren, an esteemed teacher. He has never heard anything about Lan Zhan’s parents, though. No one talks about them, even though their sons are the widely-known and admired Twin Jades of Lan. There must be a reason for this shroud of silence, and Wei Ying can’t imagine it’s anything positive.

“She’s really talented.” Wei Ying can tread carefully when necessary. “Did she teach you to play?”

“Mn.” Lan Zhan looks up at him, putting his hands in his lap, his back ramrod straight. “This is the last piece she taught me before she passed.”

Lan Zhan’s expression is as put-together as ever, but Wei Ying doesn’t miss how the gold of his eyes is a bit duller than usual. Oh, Lan Zhan.

“She left you a beautiful legacy,” Wei Ying observes. “I wish I had something like this from my mother too.”

Lan Zhan tilts his head.

“Yeah. My parents are dead, both of them. I was adopted by the Jiangs, they were old family friends—anyway! Not trying to make this about me. I was just trying to—” Wei Ying huffs. He feels discombobulated; his realization about his feelings for Lan Zhan is still swirling in the back of his mind as he processes the fact that Lan Zhan trusted him enough with something so personal. “I know what it feels like to lose a parent, that’s all.”

Lan Zhan thankfully doesn’t appear offended. He nods understandingly. “My father is dead as well,” he confesses. “I’m sorry you don’t have anything to remember your parents by.”

“It’s fine!” Wei Ying smiles reassuringly. He does have one memory—distant, faded like an old photograph, worn by the many times Wei Ying has gone back to it. His mother, swinging him in her arms, laughing, happy and carefree. His father, standing beside her, his hand on his mother’s back, a content look on his face. He has no idea if it’s an actual memory or wishful thinking, and he doesn’t want to know. He’d rather pretend it’s real. “It’s not the same, but I have a lot of happy memories with my siblings. So, yeah.”

“You must be close,” Lan Zhan says softly.

“We are.” Wei Ying smiles a little. Having Jiang Yanli and Jiang Cheng in his life is a privilege. “You know how it is, right? You have your brother.”

“Yes.” Lan Zhan’s mouth curves a bit at the corners. “We were fortunate to not be alone.”

Wei Ying nods, touched. He only notices now that he’s leaning forward, as if trying to reach Lan Zhan across the table, his eyes caught on Lan Zhan’s. Lan Zhan is not—he’s still sitting straight, but his posture has loosened. He’s gazing softly at Wei Ying, whose heartbeat is pulsing in his ears, and—

He jumps back with a laugh. “Anyway! Enough with the gloom and doom, right? We should eat. I have dumplings today, which I’m probably gonna eat for the rest of the week because my roommate made a ton. What did you bring?”

Lan Zhan blinks, startled, but he stands up slowly. “Noodles. I have some for you as well.”

“Spicy?” Wei Ying asks.

“Of course.”

Wei Ying cheers, delighted, and forces himself to focus on their lunch. He can have his own little breakdown about how much he likes Lan Zhan later, in the privacy of his own home. Or maybe in one of the washrooms here. He’ll see.

*

He has a mini-crisis in a washroom stall at work. Afterward he calls his sister, because he knows just hearing her voice will make him feel better.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” Jiang Yanli asks after she and Wei Ying talk for several minutes about their respective jobs; she lets Wei Ying ramble on for a good while.

“I’m okay, jiejie. You don’t have to worry.” His sister is pregnant, and busy with her career and husband. He doesn’t want to unload his problems on her right now.

“If you need to talk about something…”

“What would I need to talk about?” Wei Ying jokes. “Xianxian is three. Xianxian has no problems to speak of.”

Jiang Yanli laughs softly. “Xianxian knows his jiejie loves him.”

Wei Ying smiles a little, playing with a loose thread on his shirt. “Xianxian loves her, too.”

The soothing effect of the call with Jiang Yanli carries him through the rest of his work day. But when he gets home he’s transitioned into feeling grumpy. Why couldn’t his stupid feeling just behave for once?

“And what’s gotten into you?” Wen Qing asks when she gets home and finds Wei Ying sulking on the couch. She’s still in her scrubs from the hospital; she’s a cultivator too, but after a big scandal with her family she and Wen Ning abandoned the cultivation world to find some peace.

“Nothing,” he mumbles.

Wen Qing sits down, raising an eyebrow. “Doesn’t look like ‘nothing.’ Did you have a fight with Jiang Cheng?”

“No, we’re fine.”

“Lan Zhan, then?”

Wei Ying chuckles way too loudly. “What? Why would I fight with Lan Zhan? We don’t fight.”

Wen Qing stares at him in silence. Wei Ying crosses his arms, huffing loudly. “You’re such a meanie, Qing-jie.”

“I didn’t say anything.”

“It’s all in the look,” Wei Ying complains. Wen Qing rolls her eyes.

“Fine, then.” She grabs the remote and turns on the television; they lapse into silence as they both stare at the screen. Wei Ying doesn’t even register what Wen Qing is watching.

He hesitates for a little bit and then blurts out, “I like Lan Zhan.”

He didn’t realize until now how much he wanted to say it out loud, to feel the shape of the words in his mouth.

Wen Qing mutes the television, focusing on him. She doesn’t seem very surprised. “You mean…”

“Yeah.” Wei Ying scratches his nose. “I just—he’s—” He sighs. “I just like him. I thought I was attracted to him because we hooked up, you know, but it’s not just that. Not anymore, at least.”

He expects Wen Qing to make fun of him for not realizing it sooner, for denying it when everyone kept teasing him about it, but it doesn’t come. When he looks at her Wen Qing is staring at him with something almost like sympathy in her eyes.

“Wow, I look that pathetic, huh?”

“A bit,” Wen Qing says ruthlessly. “I don’t really wanna kick you when you’re down.”

“Wow, thanks.”

Wen Qing sighs. “Wei Ying, it’s not a bad thing to like someone.”

“It just wasn’t supposed to happen,” Wei Ying mutters.

“Because he’s older?”

“I don’t really mind that! Or that he’s a Lan. Of course, I don’t know if it’d be a problem, but besides that...we agreed to be friends, and I don’t know if he—I’m not sure how he feels.”

“There’s a solution to that.”

Wei Ying throws his head back, looking at the ceiling. “Absolutely not.”

“Wei Ying.” Wen Qing sounds frustrated.

“Wen Qing,” Wei Ying says back sweetly.

“Do you think he doesn’t like you back?”

Wei Ying shrugs. Sometimes...sometimes Lan Zhan looks at him a certain way, and he thinks...but he can’t be certain. “I don’t know if it’s just me projecting my feelings or seeing what I want to see, and I don’t really want to pour my heart out and get rejected, you know?”

To think about going to Lan Zhan and laying all of his feelings bare seems impossible. He can’t have them denied, rejected or pitied. It would feel like a slap in the face.

Wen Qing huffs in disbelief. “Okay, well, take it from me, an unbiased party. If you didn’t keep denying it, I’d think you and Lan Zhan were dating.”

Wei Ying shoots up straight, jostling Wen Qing, who almost drops the remote. “What? Why?”

“Where should I start? He gets you food almost every day, you always talk about him and how amazing he is, he plays music for you…”

“Those things can be platonic,” Wei Ying protests.

“Sure, but…” Wen Qing sighs. “They’re not, for you. And maybe they’re not platonic for him, either.”

Wei Ying slumps back against the couch, his mind whirring. Is Wen Qing right? Is Lan Zhan doing all those things because...he likes Wei Ying? Because he wants them to date?

But still, he would have to ask him if he wanted to know. And that means stepping out of the boundaries of friendship and changing everything.

After a moment of silence, Wen Qing pats his shoulder—probably aiming to be consoling and landing on awkward instead. “I’m not saying you have to talk to him right now. Just think about what I said.”

Wei Ying forces a smile. “Are you worried about me, Qing-jie?”

Wen Qing promptly pinches his arm. “I just don’t want to see you mope around all evening! Come on, watch this drama with me.”

“Ow, ow! Okay, you don’t have to bully me into it!” Wei Ying lets out a sincere laugh, and settles down with Wen Qing to watch one of her beloved historical dramas. Wen Qing deserves to have a nice evening, after all.

He even feels less grumpy when he goes to bed, but even though the conversation with her is still echoing in his head, that night Wei Ying decides that he’s just not ready to ask. At least for now. He has no idea how he could approach Lan Zhan with something like this, and he won’t risk their friendship, not when it’s so precious to him. What if he makes everything awkward and embarrassing between them, causing some irreparable crack in what they have? He knows all too well what it’s like to cause the problem, to make relationships difficult, to create fissures that he doesn’t know how to repair.

He doesn’t know if he could handle doing that to his friendship with Lan Zhan.

No, he absolutely can’t do that. He’ll...he’ll just wait, and in the meantime...he still gets to be friends with Lan Zhan, that can be enough.

*

Wei Ying groans when he finally reaches his desk, his hand pressed to his bleeding side, fingers slick with blood. It’s late, the sky outside dark and speckled with stars, so there’s no one around, which Wei Ying is thankful for. He just needs to patch himself up and then he can go home.

The wound is not even that bad, it just hurts like a bitch. One of the fierce corpses he’d stumbled upon during his night hunt had gotten its claws in him. He can’t even ask Wen Qing to fix it up because she’s working a night shift, and besides she would kill him if he showed up at home, bleeding all over, asking once again to be patched up.

He makes his way to the empty infirmary, thankful that the door has been left unlocked. He squints at the annoying neon lights that wash over the space. There’s a few beds separated by curtains and a door at the opposite side of the room that probably leads into a private office.

As he rummages through the metal drawers, looking for anything useful, his hand meets something soft. He pulls out some white gauze and tape. That’ll do. He heaves himself on the bed, lifting his shirt and pressing the gauze against the wound, the material soaking up the blood.

He wonders if he could sleep here. The bed doesn’t feel that uncomfortable, and he’s kind of too tired to make his way back home. Maybe if he leaves early enough no one will even notice he was here.

He’s seriously considering it when the sound of footsteps distracts him. He looks up, startled, and finds Lan Zhan in the doorway.

“Wei Ying?” Lan Zhan asks demandingly, striding towards him. “What happened?”

“Oh, um.” Wei Ying laughs awkwardly, hand stuck pressing the gauze to his injury. If he lets go, blood might come gushing out. He supposes he can’t pretend nothing happened. “How did you know I was here?”

“I saw the light on,” Lan Zhan explains, his gaze sharp and intent on Wei Ying’s side. “You’re hurt,” he says, his voice sounding odd to Wei Ying’s ears. He’s never heard Lan Zhan sound like that.

“It’s nothing,” Wei Ying says dismissively, waving his free hand around. “I just need some sleep, I’ll go home right now.”

He makes to jump off the bed, but Lan Zhan stops him with a gentle hand to his arm. “How did it happen?”

“Lan Zhan, come on…”

“Wei Ying.” Lan Zhan’s tone leaves no room for protest. Wei Ying bites his lower lip, torn. He’ll truly be fine but he doubts that Lan Zhan will let it go now.

“A fierce corpse got me,” he admits. “But it’s fine.”

Lan Zhan glances down at Wei Ying’s hand, slick with blood. “It’s fine,” he repeats, his voice flat.

“I will be fine, I’ve had worse, really.” At least his guts aren’t hanging out. That hadn’t been a fun one.

Lan Zhan’s jaw clenches. “Wei Ying. I’ll call the next doctor on shift and tell them to come in early,” he snaps, slipping his hand down to circle Wei Ying’s wrist.

“What—no! Lan Zhan, no. Don’t bother them!”

Lan Zhan stares at him in stubborn silence.

“It’s not that serious, no need to make it such a big deal! My core will heal this by tomorrow so it won’t even need stitches, and anything I would need to patch this up is here anyway, I can figure it out by myself,” Wei Ying continues stubbornly.

Lan Zhan considers him silently and then glares judgingly at the gauze. “Will you let me check it out, at least?”

Wei Ying sighs. “Only because it’s you asking, Lan Zhan.” He gingerly pulls the gauze away just enough so Lan Zhan can see the wound; four gashes starting from just over the ribcage and ending at his hip.

“See?”

Lan Zhan doesn’t appear very relieved. He breathes out sharply and then says, “Gauze isn’t enough, Wei Ying.”

He moves towards the metal drawer near the bed, looking through the contents methodically and pulling some things out.

“Hah, Lan Zhan, since when are you a doctor?”

When he’s met with huffy silence, he adds, “All right, just give me what I need and I’ll do it, then. It’s late, shouldn’t you be home? It’s definitely past your curfew.”

Lan Zhan suddenly goes still like a statue. “Wei Ying, please,” he pleads, and something cracks in his voice, a splinter from which genuine concern shines through. Oh. Lan Zhan is worried. Wei Ying’s stomach drops to his feet.

Well. If Lan Zhan is just going to feel bad because of him, Wei Ying might as well indulge him. If it will make Lan Zhan feel better.

“Of course. Sorry,” Wei Ying mutters, giving in.

“Thank you.” Lan Zhan sets a bunch of stuff on the bed. He drags a stool in front of Wei Ying, sitting down and pulling gloves on. Wei Ying has the sudden urge to giggle, maybe from the tension, but he swallows it down. He doesn’t want to aggravate Lan Zhan any further.

He does squeak when Lan Zhan grabs a pair of scissors.

“To cut your shirt off,” Lan Zhan explains.

“You want to see me naked, Lan Zhan?” Wei Ying accuses, scandalized.

Lan Zhan blinks at him, unimpressed. “It’s more practical.”

Wei Ying huffs. “I can just take it off.”

“No,” Lan Zhan doesn’t even give him a chance to try, he just starts cutting the shirt from the bottom. “If you raise your arms you could put strain on the injury.”

“I—okay. Goodbye shirt, I guess. It was one of my favorites.” Wei Ying pouts. It was probably already ruined because of all the blood and the gashes, but still.

“I will buy you a new one.” Lan Zhan carefully slides the torn fabric off Wei Ying’s body. Wei Ying coughs lightly, feeling slightly exposed, hyper aware of Lan Zhan’s fingertips brushing against his skin. Is Lan Zhan lingering? Wei Ying feels like his blood has caught on fire.

But then the moment is over and Lan Zhan efficiently grabs a bottle of clear liquid and soaks some clean gauze; Wei Ying assumes it’s some sort of saline solution. Then Lan Zhan gently wipes the gauze over his skin, cleaning away all the blood.

“Does it hurt?” Lan Zhan quietly asks, voice carefully neutral.

“No, it’s fine.” It does, a bit, but he can handle it. Lan Zhan is being very delicate, anyway.

“Hm.” Lan Zhan appears wholly focused on the task, which gives Wei Ying a rare chance to just...look at him without reservation.

His conversation with Wen Qing pops back up in his brain, and his stomach clenches nervously. Would Lan Zhan do this for anyone else? Is this just a friendly gesture, or an indication of something more?

Wei Ying bites the inside of his cheek in frustration. Why is this so confusing and hard?

He silently steeps in his own despair until he notices that Lan Zhan is done cleaning the injury and is now carefully laying butterfly strips across the gashes.

“Ah, you know those are going to be useless anyway, right?” he points out.

Lan Zhan hums and keeps doing what he’s doing. Wei Ying sighs dramatically, which sends a lance of pain through his side. Ow.

“You said you had worse,” Lan Zhan prompts once he’s done, sorting through the various sterile packets.

“Well, yeah, I guess. Perks of being a rogue cultivator,” Wei Ying jokes. Lan Zhan’s hands go still before he starts tearing open the packaging with a bit more force than necessary.

“No one looked out for you?”

“Wen Qing—my roommate—will patch me up sometimes. She’s a doctor,” Wei Ying replies, resisting the urge to fidget and ruin all of Lan Zhan’s hard work. “I got hurt with the Jiangs, too. Maybe less, though. Jiang Cheng was there to pull me out of trouble a lot of the time.”

He’s already mentioned Jiang Cheng a few times, without elaborating. Lan Zhan lays a few pieces of gauze, damp with sterile solution, across his injury, his fingertips brushing against Wei Ying’s skin. It makes him shiver.

Lan Zhan doesn’t ask, he never really does, but he can see Lan Zhan’s throat working, maybe stopping himself from asking questions, as he covers the first layer of gauzes with dry ones.

He can trust Lan Zhan. He wants to tell him. He just doesn’t really talk all that often about the Jiangs, Lotus Pier, and his past; he would feel less vulnerable if Lan Zhan had his bare guts in his hands.

But Lan Zhan is patching him up, wasting precious time that he could be spending at home, or doing literally anything else, and Wei Ying can’t even offer him this piece of his past?

“But then I left, so...” he continues, forcing his voice to remain light. “Me, the Jiang sect leader’s adopted kid, running away from Lotus Pier, slumming it as a rogue cultivator.” He lets out a laugh that sounds more like a croak. “You must think I did something terrible.”

“If you want to tell me the truth, I will listen.” Lan Zhan places a big, rectangular bandage over all the gauze. He keeps everything in place with his hands, looking up at Wei Ying. “But know that no matter what, I could never think negatively of you. Your work as a rogue cultivator is as honorable as your work with the Jiang sect, or mine. ”

Wei Ying’s poor heart skips a beat. “It wasn’t a singular event,” he keeps going, hesitantly. This would be easier if Lan Zhan wasn't looking at him. He stares down at his lap, letting his eyelids close halfway, his vision going blurry. “The Jiangs—I made things difficult,” he admits; it comes out weak and cracked and Wei Ying hates it.

“Why do you think that?”

Wei Ying shrugs minutely. “When my parents died, Jiang-shushu took me in. But his wife...Yu-ayi never wanted me. Which, I can't really blame her, you know? There were rumors about my...true parentage, because Jiang-shushu and my mother knew each other. Growing up, I ignored it. I figured if I could make myself useful, at least I'd—but I made myself too useful. She didn't like that I was better than Jiang Cheng, and she took it out on both of us. It was hard for him.”

Wei Ying swallows the lump in his throat, remembering the fights, Yu-ayi’s rage, Jiang-shushu's silence, Jiang Cheng’s pain, and Jiang Yanli's tears. All of it coalescing into one simple truth: you are the problem.

“It was tearing them apart, and I was the cause. So I just took myself out of the equation, it was better for everyone. And now it's—fine. I still talk to my siblings.” Although that hadn't been true for the first few months. “Jiang Cheng gets to shine at Lotus Pier. And I ended up here!” Wei Ying smiles at Lan Zhan. “And we became friends, so it all worked out, right?”

“Wei Ying. That was not fair to you,” Lan Zhan says tersely.

Wei Ying sniffles. “You can't say that. You weren't there.”

“What you told me is enough.”

“You—Lan Zhan, I—it was complicated,” Wei Ying insists.

“No.” Lan Zhan leaves no room to argue.

“You are so stubborn, you know that?” Wei Ying sighs.

“Mn.” Lan Zhan doesn’t seem sorry. He reaches for a roll of tape, tearing off some strips. Wei Ying watches as Lan Zhan tapes down the bandage, his big hands smoothing the tape over his skin. He wishes he wasn’t wearing gloves so he could feel the warmth of Lan Zhan’s skin on his. He remembers how Lan Zhan’s hands felt on him that time in the bathroom, months ago, and he wants it again with an intensity that burns bright in his chest.

He wants Lan Zhan’s touch, and his attention, and his affection, and he just really, really wants to kiss him. He finds himself staring at Lan Zhan’s soft lips, pink and alluring. He’s so distracted that he doesn’t notice that Lan Zhan is finally done patching him up, which means that when he looks up at Wei Ying he catches him staring like a creep. Wei Ying averts his gaze immediately, but that just means he ends up looking into Lan Zhan’s golden eyes. Something charged passes between them, an electric shock that goes all the way up Wei Ying’s spine.

He wants...they could...Lan Zhan is just looking at him, so sincere and earnest, and Wei Ying just wants…

He must move weirdly without realizing, because a flash of pain startles him. “Ow, fuck,” he curses without thinking, and Lan Zhan immediately reacts with concern.

“Are you okay?” he asks, and Wei Ying waves him off.

“Fine, just stings,” he says morosely, feeling a bit thrown off. Was that...were they going to…?

Lan Zhan walks away, and Wei Ying panics for a moment until he comes back with a bottle of water. He gives it to Wei Ying, along with some pills. “Take these, for the pain.”

Wei Ying obeys automatically, still out of sorts, but he definitely starts squirming when Lan Zhan takes his wrist and starts giving him spiritual energy!

“Lan Zhan!” he protests.

Lan Zhan places his free hand on his shoulder, a frown creasing his forehead. “Don’t mess around. Stay still.”

“You!” Wei Ying does stop moving because he doesn’t want to ruin Lan Zhan’s work already, but he still attempts to yank his wrist from Lan Zhan’s grip unsuccessfully. A spike of panic surges in him. Lan Zhan already did so much, he can’t—he can’t accept this too. “It’s not necessary, come on.”

“It will help.” Lan Zhan insists. “Wei Ying, allow me.”

Wei Ying wants to keep protesting, but Lan Zhan is so genuine. He just—how can he accept this, too, after taking Lan Zhan’s time and kindness?

“Just for a minute,” he says, uncomfortable with taking advantage of this. “I’ll tell you when to stop.”

“All right,” Lan Zhan agrees, and, a short while later, when Wei Ying says stop, he does.

“Thank you,” he mutters. He does feel a little bit better, his core replenished. But that was still unnecessary.

“Mn. Did you drive here?”

“I took the bus.”

“Can you walk?”

Wei Ying gingerly gets on his feet; his legs are a tiny bit wobbly and he’s beginning to feel woozy, but that’s probably the pain meds and late hour.

“I can walk, but I’m probably gonna need a shirt,” Wei Ying points out. Lan Zhan nods briskly and he finds a shirt in the room; it looks like it comes from a set of scrubs.

“Careful,” Lan Zhan says as Wei Ying slides it on, pulling the shirt closed and wrapping the ties around his waist. After cleaning up all the used supplies and trashing Wei Ying’s ruined shirt, they make their way to the parking lot where Lan Zhan’s car is. There are no more buses at this hour and even if he wanted to use Suibian—ignoring the regulations on flying swords in cities—he would be straining his core, which is busy healing his injury, and he figures Lan Zhan wouldn’t be very cool with that.

Which is why he accepts the ride home. Lan Zhan’s car is really nice, white and sleek with smooth leather seats; Wei Ying lets himself melt against the backrest a little bit, his limbs feeling like lead, his eyelids heavy.

They pull out of the parking lot and into the road, and Wei Ying watches the world outside go by.

“I’m tired, Lan Zhan,” he complains.

“The medication is probably kicking in, and your body needs rest for your injury to heal,” Lan Zhan explains. He’s so serious. It makes Wei Ying chuckle fondly.

“It was good stuff,” Wei Ying mumbles. “Those pills. I could take on a hundred fierce corpses and I wouldn’t feel a thing, ha.”

“I wouldn’t try that,” Lan Zhan says wryly.

“Well, not right now. Another time.”

Lan Zhan huffs. Wei Ying smiles and closes his eyes, letting the movement of the car soothe him into a light doze. He opens his eyes when he feels the car stop, and he’s met by an unfamiliar sight.

“Where are we?” Wei Ying asks, straightening up.

“My apartment,” Lan Zhan says, getting out of the car and opening Wei Ying’s door.

“Your...wait, I thought we were going back to mine.” He realizes now that Lan Zhan never asked for his address.

“I thought you could spend the night.”

Wei Ying stares up at Lan Zhan, and then at the apartment complex behind him, his mouth dry. It looks nice, expensive. It’s not that he minds spending more time with Lan Zhan, but...he’s already done so much, and Wei Ying is loopy and confused by everything that happened tonight, the weight of his own feelings heavy on his shoulders.

Still, he would have to make Lan Zhan get back in the car and drive all the way to his place. And if Lan Zhan is still worried…

He gets out of the car, Lan Zhan keeping an eye on him.

“Okay, but you have to let me buy you food for at least a month,” Wei Ying threatens.

“Hm.”

“I’m serious, Lan Zhan.”

“Fine.”

Mildly satisfied, they make their way to Lan Zhan’s apartment; Wei Ying sends a quick text to Wen Ning to let him know he’s not coming home tonight during the elevator ride. Lan Zhan’s apartment is definitely fancy, without appearing ostentatious, big and clean and tidy with far more plants than he expected. Lan Zhan shows him to a nicely-furnished guest bedroom and gives him a clean pair of deep blue pajamas, the kind with a buttoned shirt. They feel very soft, and Wei Ying spends a little too much time standing there, caressing the fabric. It’s so nice. Everything Lan Zhan owns must be this nice.

When Lan Zhan comes back with a glass of water, setting it on the nightstand, Wei Ying is already in the guest bed, in Lan Zhan’s borrowed clothes, feeling floaty and sleepy. The bed is comfortable, the sheets silky. They even smell good; he should ask Lan Zhan what kind of detergent he uses.

“Wei Ying?”

“Hm?”

“If you need anything, I’m across the hall.”

Wei Ying buries the side of his face in the pillow. “Mh, Lan Zhan...why are you so nice, huh?”

Lan Zhan is silent for a beat. “Not many people would say that about me.”

“Well, they’re wrong. You’re so great, Lan Zhan,” Wei Ying slurs, offended on his behalf. The world doesn’t feel quite real around him, as if he’s already slipped in a dream, one where he can be honest. “You’re...funny, kind, and cute. You’re a really great friend. Because that’s what we are. Friends. But—I like you so much, Lan Zhan, I really do. I like you a lot.”

There was no way Wei Ying wasn’t going to fall for him. He was doomed from the very start, from the moment their eyes met across a crowded club. Lan Zhan is it for him, he thinks. How could he ever like someone else? How could anyone compare to Lan Zhan?

“Wei Ying.” Lan Zhan’s voice seems a little different, hoarser, but he’s too tired to parse it out. His eyes are already closed, and he’s almost completely drifted off. He feels something warm pressing lightly against his cheek, a soft “goodnight,” and then he’s asleep.

*

Sunlight shining directly into his eyes wakes him up. Wei Ying turns his face into the pillow, groaning. Did he not close the blinds last night? Ugh. He wonders what time it is. It's his day off, but he should still get up at a decent time, it's his turn to go grocery shopping. He tries to roll to his other side, but a sharp pull makes him jolt.

Wait—last night—

His eyes fly open. Immediately, a blinding amount of white assaults his vision. And it’s not just the light flickering through the gauzy curtains, it’s the bedroom he's in, painted in shades of white and light blue. Definitely not his.

It doesn’t take a lot to understand. Hurt and exhausted, he must’ve fallen asleep soon after they’d gotten here from the Cloud Recesses. He pulls the sheets down, which only reminds him of the fact that he’s wearing Lan Zhan’s borrowed clothes. Wei Ying flushes from head to toe.

At least he feels better. The skin under his bandages aches and throbs, but it doesn’t hurt as bad, and he hasn’t bled through them. His core has probably healed the worst of the wound. He might not even end up with scars, even though Wei Ying wouldn’t really care.

Still. He slept in Lan Zhan’s guest bed, the whole night. He’d let Lan Zhan care for him. He’d told him about the Jiangs. “I like you so much, Lan Zhan.” A wave of embarrassment washes over Wei Ying. Did Lan Zhan understand the true meaning of Wei Ying’s words? And if he did, is Wei Ying about to walk into a really, really embarrassing situation, or even worse, a rejection?

He shouldn’t have taken those pain meds. Or he should’ve gagged himself or something. He buries his face in his hands and groans.

He should go. He’s already taken enough from Lan Zhan disrupting his rest, sleeping in his home, unloading his burdens on him, and taking his spiritual energy. And still, he wants more. He longs too much for it—to be in Lan Zhan’s place, in his bed, not just one night when he’s hurt, but always. To be—Lan Zhan’s to take care of. To touch. To break apart and pull back together.

He should’ve just gone home. Getting a taste of what he doesn’t have—it hurts, like starving for weeks and finding yourself in front of a feast, unable to eat.

What if he liked you back? A tiny voice in his mind wonders. What if he’s liked you this whole time? The only way he’ll find out is if he faces Lan Zhan, and even the slight possibility that he could have changed their friendship for the worse makes that idea a bit terrifying.

Faint noises coming from outside the room clue him in to the fact that Lan Zan must be home, maybe waiting for him to wake up. Wei Ying gives himself time by going into the bathroom; he pees and brushes his teeth with his fingers, then he carefully peels off all the bandages. At least one thing is going right: the gashes have mostly healed, leaving behind four pink, shiny lines.

He goes outside into the living room, taking in the front door for a moment. He could just—

No, it wouldn’t be fair to Lan Zhan, which is why he forces himself to go into the kitchen, where he finds Lan Zhan with his back to him. Before he can announce himself Lan Zhan turns around.

“Wei Ying.”

“Hey, Lan Zhan,” Wei Ying says, his voice raspy from sleep. He coughs awkwardly, his eyes lingering on the counter behind Lan Zhan. “You’re making breakfast? Isn’t it kind of late? You must have woken up ages ago.”

“It’s for you,” Lan Zhan explains. “How are you feeling?”

“I’m amazing,” Wei Ying says with a cheer he doesn’t really feel. He lifts his shirt, showing Lan Zhan his stomach. “See?”

“Mn.” Lan Zhan’s stares at his bare skin for a beat too long. Wei Ying’s fingers spasm around the shirt and then he lets the fabric fall down. Lan Zhan’s eyes drift back to his face.

“Sit,” he says, tilting his head towards the table. “You should eat.”

“Ah, Lan Zhan,” Wei Ying scratches his nose, caught between the desire to stay and the urge to go. “You’ve already done so much, I should—leave.”

Lan Zhan blinks slowly. “Do you have prior commitments?”

“No, but…” Wei Ying sighs.

“Then sit. It’s only breakfast.”

“But it’s not!” Wei Ying yells, agitation rising in him so suddenly it almost makes him nauseous. “You—patched me up, you listened to me, and let me sleep in your home. Seriously, you...thank you so much, Lan Zhan, but I can’t take more.”

“Why not?” Lan Zhan challenges him, his chin titled stubbornly.

“Because!” Wei Ying protests. He mouths soundlessly, trying to come up with a good reason, he has them, but Lan Zhan is quicker.

“I did not mind taking care of you. I did not mind letting you sleep here. I did not mind making you breakfast.” Lan Zhan abruptly closes the distance between them “Wei Ying, I should be the one thanking you.”

Wei Ying gapes at him. There’s so little space between them, and it’s hard to focus when his body wants to sway forward into Lan Zhan’s arms. “For what?!”

“For trusting me to help. With your wound and your past.”

Wei Ying feels a tremor go through him like an earthquake. “I—Lan Zhan, what has gotten into you this morning?” he mumbles. His head is spinning. He can’t take Lan Zhan like this, at his most honest, his kindest. How could he ever survive it?

Lan Zhan is not deterred. “You said the Jiangs did not want you,” he observes, gentleness threaded into the determined tone of his voice.

Wei Ying swallows. “Well, not Yu-ayi. But Jiang-shushu…” He shrugs.

“They are wrong.”

“Lan Zhan!” Wei Ying is shocked.

“Wei Ying.” Lan Zhan takes his hands, his thumbs stroking over clammy skin. “I do not know how anyone could know you, and not want you.”

Wei Ying’s eyes prickle with unshed tears. Something like hope is rising like the morning sun in his chest, encouraged by Lan Zhan’s words. He can’t believe this is happening. It must be a dream. He must still be sleeping.

“Do you?” he whispers. Do you want me?

“Yes,” Lan Zhan says, easy as breathing.

Lan Zhan’s eyes are burning, molten gold. Wei Ying needs him, tugs him closer by their joined hands and kisses him, stomach flipping with nervous excitement. Lan Zhan doesn’t even hesitate in kissing him back, his lips moving hungrily against Wei Ying’s.

He wants me, he wants me, he wants me. Wei Ying’s chest could burst wide open, his ribs cracking to make room for the elation that suddenly fills him.

“Lan Zhan—” Wei Ying breathes, and Lan Zhan takes the chance to slip his tongue into Wei Ying’s mouth. Wei Ying lets himself be taken, lets himself be held, wrapping his arms around Lan Zhan’s shoulders.

They kiss, and kiss, and kiss, and somehow Wei Ying ends up against the wall, caged, safe. Lan Zhan kisses his mouth, his cheek, the line of his jaw. He sucks at Wei Ying’s neck. Wei Ying stutters out a moan, his head falling back against the wall.

“I want you, too,” he says frantically. “I’ve—always. Always wanted you.”

Lan Zhan looks at him, his lips red. “You said...that you liked me, last night.”

Wei Ying nods. “I want you, I like you, you’re the best. I was a little out of it, but I meant it.”

Did his silly, loopy confessions cause this? He almost laughs in disbelief.

Lan Zhan kisses him in response, and Wei Ying gladly lets it happen, until he says with a hint of uncertainty between kisses, “Fuck, I never want to stop kissing you. I want to be with you every day.”

“Never. Every day.,” Lan Zhan says firmly, pulling back enough for Wei Ying to see his besotted expression.

“Good,” Wei Ying breathes out with relief, hugging Lan Zhan closer. “Then why'd you stop kissing me? Don’t stop.”

Lan Zhan smirks before pressing their mouths together again, and then proceeds to push Wei Ying backwards. Wei Ying goes happily, giggling the entire way, even when he is released to land gently onto an incredibly soft mattress. Lan Zhan kneels over Wei Ying’s legs, trapping them together, and their mouths find each other easily while their hips press against each other. They’re both already half-hard.

Wei Ying instinctively tries to roll his hips to get friction against his erection, waves of intense need washing through him, but Lan Zhan stills him easily. “Wei Ying, your wound.”

“I don’t give a shit about that, Lan Zhan, please,” bursts out of Wei Ying.

But Lan Zhan, the absolute monster, sits up on his haunches to create space between them. Despite the hungry look in his eyes, a concerned frown appears between his brows. “I care. We should stop.”

“We should not. It’s basically healed!” Wei Ying begs desperately.

Lan Zhan still hesitates,“I don’t want to hurt you.” He’s so sweet, Wei Ying thinks even through his frustration.

“You won’t,” he reassures Lan Zhan, pouting up at him. “I’ll just lay here and you can do all the work, hm?”

Lan Zhan considers him quietly. He can be swayed, Wei Ying is sure. He’s not the only one sporting a raging erection, if the tent in Lan Zhan’s pants is anything to go by.

“Lan Zhaaan,” Wei Ying whines, trying over and over to get some friction between them and always failing. All right, fine, time to bring out the big guns. He bites his lower lip, blinking sweetly up at Lan Zhan. “You’re just going to leave me like this? You would do this to poor, young, innocent me, after you kidnapped me into your bed—”

Lan Zhan shamelessly interrupts to grind their erections together. Wei Ying’s mouth falls open around a moan.

“Not kidnapped,” Lan Zhan declares, eyes dark and pupils blown.

“And what could I do against you?” Wei Ying keeps teasing him, his voice breathy. “You’re so much bigger and older and I’m so helpless.” As if Wei Ying’s wasn’t a strong cultivator in his own right. But riling Lan Zhan up is too fun and very rewarding.

Lan Zhan leans down and kisses him, fast and dirty. “If you are in pain, you will tell me.”

“Always, gege,” Wei Ying agrees breathlessly, rutting against Lan Zhan. His side smarts a bit, but it’s faint and unworthy of note in comparison.

Hands grab Wei Ying’s waistband and shove both his pants and underwear down, before wrapping fingers around his dick. Lan Zhan thumbs at the slit and uses the slickness there to smooth the slide. Wei Ying’s breath stutters, but when he tries to fuck into Lan Zhan’s hold he’s stopped by a hand pressing gently but implacably on his chest.

“Don’t move,” Lan Zhan orders.

“Mean,” Wei Ying complains, panting hard. “So cruel, Lan Zhan. How could you be so heartless?”

“If you want me to keep touching you, you will obey.”

Wei Ying whines a bit, his stomach twisting pleasantly at the words. He doesn’t want this to stop so he actually tries to comply, laying there as Lan Zhan jerks him off, his gaze fixed on Wei Ying’s face. Wei Ying grows embarrassed, his cheeks heating, and he tries to turn his head into the pillow. Lan Zhan looks like he wants to devour him; he can feel his dick leaking harder, knowing that Lan Zhan is hyper-focused on Wei Ying, pinned and helpless under him.

As good as this is, soon it doesn’t feel like enough. He craves more, has wanted more since he got his mouth on Lan Zhan all those months ago.

“Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan,” he whimpers. “Please.”

Lan Zhan leans over him, kissing his cheek, deceptively sweet. “Please what?”

“Fuck me,” Wei Ying cries out, all of his shame thrown out of the window. He has been reduced to a puddle of want under Lan Zhan’s touch, and so easily too.

Lan Zhan latches onto his neck, bites. Wei Ying yelps, the sting mixing with the pleasure, becoming one. “Gege,” he breathes. “Is that a yes?”

“Are you gonna be good for me?”

“Haven’t I been good already?” Wei Ying croons.

“Mn.” Lan Zhan grabs his shirt, basically tearing it off Wei Ying. He has to let go of Wei Ying’s dick to do it, which is bad, but he gets them both undressed in record time, which is good. “You have. You deserve a reward.” He rubs a hand over Wei Ying’s bare stomach, up to his chest, a thumb flicking his nipple.

“Lan Zhaaan,” he complains. “Are you just gonna tease me?”

Lan Zhan hums thoughtfully before he turns Wei Ying on his stomach, still kneeling over his thighs. “Remember,” he warns, “to stay still.” Then he spits on his fingers and slips two of them into Wei Ying’s hole.

“Fuck!” Wei Ying moans, loud and broken. The intrusion hurts, but it feels good to be filled, and he tries to arch against Lan Zhan’s fingers, jostling his healing side.

“Wei Ying,” Lan Zhan says darkly, pressing his free hand against Wei Ying’s back.

“Sorry, sorry, gege,” Wei Ying mumbles, blinking tears away from his eyes.

Lan Zhan traces the line of his spine, stroking the delicate skin softly. “Is this good?” he checks, gentling his voice, pumping his fingers in and out slowly.

“Yes,” Wei Ying says, squeezing his eyes shut. He loves this, loves feeling Lan Zhan inside of him, loves the way his hole keeps catching on his knuckles, as if trying to keep Lan Zhan inside. “Rough me up, Lan Zhan. I love it.”

Lan Zhan hums, not without humor. “I’d gathered,” he murmurs, scissoring his fingers. Wei Ying’s breath hitches, all his nerves aflame.

“Am I that—ah—obvious?” he asks.

“To me, yes,” Lan Zhan says, slipping a third finger in. The spit doesn’t entirely slick the way, but Lan Zhan forces it in, spreading Wei Ying open, making space inside. Wei Ying is growing increasingly hotter, sweat beading at his hairline. He wants to fuck back on Lan Zhan’s fingers, but he can’t, because he wants to be good for Lan Zhan, wants to show he can obey.

When he glances back at Lan Zhan through his lust-filled haze, Lan Zhan is silent, but staring hotly at him, plush lips parted. Wei Ying grins happily.

Lan Zhan finally slips his fingers out; he leans to the side and grabs something out of the nightstand. He taps Wei Ying’s uninjured side meaningfully, and flips Wei Ying onto his back. As Lan Zhan lubes himself up, Wei Ying, curious, slides a hand between his legs, touching his sore entrance. He can’t help but see the heft of Lan Zhan’s erection and helplessly wonders if Lan Zhan is gonna break him. Even stretched, it feels so small. Wei Ying chuckles, a bit hysterically.

“All open and pretty for me,” Lan Zhan murmurs, noticing what Wei Ying is doing. He kneels between Wei Ying’s legs, knocking them open, and grabs Wei Ying's thigh, spreading him.

“Only I get to touch now,” he says in a rumbling tone, kissing the side of Wei Ying’s knee as he lines himself up, the head pressing against Wei Ying’s hole.

“Lan Zha—an,” Wei Ying mewls, trapped, Lan Zhan all over him, almost inside of him. “It’s so big, is it going to fit, you’re going to break me!” Not that he would truly mind.

“It will fit,” Lan Zhan says firmly, and starts pushing in. “Be good.”

Wei Ying whimpers. It stings, even after taking three fingers, but he loves it.

“Gege,” Wei Ying keens. Lan Zhan pushes and pushes and pushes, the slide getting easier. Wei Ying can’t stop talking, can’t stop pleading for more and protesting about the size dramatically, even though he was the one who begged for this. When Lan Zhan finally bottoms out he releases his thigh, so Wei Ying can wrap both legs around Lan Zhan’s waist, his eyes watering.

“Move,” he says brokenly. “Move, move, Lan Zhan, ah.”

Lan Zhan sets a slow pace, grinding against Wei Ying in short, deep strokes; through the haze of pleasure Wei Ying notices he’s trying to keep his weight off Wei Ying’s bad side. He’s so good, he thinks, I don’t deserve him.

They’re all wrapped up in each other, Wei Ying’s arms and legs around Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan pinning him down on the bed with his body, with his teeth set to the juncture of his neck and shoulder. Wei Ying almost screams when Lan Zhan finds his prostate, hitting that spot with relentless focus. His cock is caught between their bodies, rubbing against Lan Zhan’s stomach.

“So good, so good, right there,” he babbles, unable to keep his mouth shut. “Lan Zhan, I—” he almost sobs as the pleasure builds and builds and builds, overwhelmed and needy. “I wanted to do—this that night at the club, when I saw your dick.”

“Wanted to be inside you as soon as I saw you,” Lan Zhan whispers into his ear.

“I would have let—you,” Wei Ying confesses. He’s almost there, the combined stimulation inside him and against his cock pushing him to the edge.

“I know you would have. My Wei Ying,” Lan Zhan observes fondly, and Wei Ying comes between them, painting both of their stomachs white. Lan Zhan kisses him through it, his sharp thrusts not faltering once. He keeps fucking Wei Ying even when Wei Ying has stopped coming, lying limp on the bed, spasms rippling throughout his limbs.

“Hm, like that,” he mumbles encouragingly as Lan Zhan chases his own release, using Wei Ying’s body to do so. “C’mon, Lan Zhan,” he slurs. Lan Zhan peppers kisses under his wet eyes. Oh, I’m crying, Wei Ying thinks distantly.

“Wei Ying,” Lan Zhan grunts, squeezing his wrists, sucking at his neck. His hips lose their rhythm, pumping into him frantically.

“Come inside me,” Wei Ying breathes, and Lan Zhan makes a small noise as he comes for a long time, burying his head on Wei Ying’s shoulder.

When it’s over, Lan Zhan lets his weight fall to the side of Wei Ying’s body, slipping out of him. He doesn’t go far, keeping an arm around Wei Ying’s chest, heedless of the mess, but Wei Ying immediately misses the feeling of him inside.

They both spend a good while catching their breaths; Wei Ying eventually rolls on his good side, slotting a leg between Lan Zhan’s thighs. Lan Zhan tugs him closer, stroking his hair, sweeping a thumb over his damp cheeks; he whispers praises between them in that soothing timbre of his. Wei Ying lets all of it wash over him, closing his eyes, relaxing in Lan Zhan’s arms. He’s okay. He’s safe.

*

He wakes from his doze when he feels something press between his legs; he mumbles something incoherent, automatically spreading his legs, and he hears a sharp huff behind him.

He rolls onto his back, squinting at Lan Zhan, who’s holding a towel. Oh. He does feel a lot less tacky.

“Were you laughing at me, Lan Zhan?” he rasps. Lan Zhan huffs again, folding the towel neatly and laying it at the food of the bed.

“I would not dare,” Lan Zhan says wryly. “Can you sit up?”

Wei Ying makes his best effort, his backside twinging. When he’s settled against the headboard, Lan Zhan hands him something from the nightstand and climbs back into the bed with him.

“Eat,” he tells Wei Ying, sitting down next to him. Wei Ying stares down at the food he’s been handed—it looks like breakfast—and right at that moment his stomach chooses to rumble.

“Thank you,” he murmurs, scarfing it down. When he’s done he slumps sideways, resting his head on Lan Zhan’s shoulder. Wei Ying is naked under the sheets, but Lan Zhan has put on underwear. He wonders if he could convince him to go for another round.

Lan Zhan hums and takes the empty plate, replacing it with a bottle of water. Wei Ying laughs and takes a few sips without moving, even though it makes the whole thing harder.

“You’re such a mother hen,” he accuses Lan Zhan jokingly.

“You like it,” Lan Zhan says, wrapping an arm around Wei Ying.

“I like you,” Wei Ying whispers into Lan Zhan’s shoulder. He can’t help but repeat it now that he can.

He feels Lan Zhan’s mouth press to the top of his head. “I like you, too.”

Wei Ying chuckles. “I didn’t think my loopy confession would be this effective.” He finally looks up, glancing at Lan Zhan.

Lan Zhan unwinds his arm from around Wei Ying and takes his hand, lacing their fingers together. He looks down at their joined hands thoughtfully before replying, “It gave me hope.” Lan Zhan hesitates, stroking a thumb over the inside of Wei Ying’s wrist. “Seeing you in my home, wearing my clothes, waking up here.” The words come out haltingly, and it’s so unlike Lan Zhan that it makes a lump form in Wei Ying’s throat. “All of it gave me the push I needed. You deserve to know how I feel for you.”

Wei Ying decides they aren’t touching enough. He climbs into Lan Zhan’s lap, wrapping himself around him like a limpet; Lan Zhan accepts it easily, slipping his arms around Wei Ying’s waist and holding him close.

“Ah, Lan Zhan, you’re so sweet. I should’ve said something sooner about how I felt,” Wei Ying complains. “I just—” He trails off.

“What?” Lan Zhan inquires.

“I mean, you’re you. I didn't think I stood a chance.”

“You were wrong.”

“I know that now.” He kisses Lan Zhan’s cheek. Lan Zhan turns his head and catches Wei Ying’s lips in a slow, loving kiss. Wei Ying smiles into it.

“Lan Zhan,” he says against the other man’s mouth. “Can I ask you something?”

“Anything,” Lan Zhan murmurs.

Wei Ying’s stomach swoops. This man, he will be the death of him. “Can we go on a date? I really want to go on a date with you.”

“Yes,” Lan Zhan says, pecking his nose. “As many as you want.”

He beams at Lan Zhan, and gets another kiss for it. He never thought that a casual night of fun in a bathroom could lead to having someone as extraordinary as Lan Zhan by his side, to falling in love—but he’s not complaining. He’s overwhelmingly, incandescently happy, and he suspects that, with Lan Zhan in his life, that feeling will not go away anytime soon.