Actions

Work Header

champagne in my cheeks

Work Text:

You
gege, you’re going to shi qingxuan’s new year’s party, aren’t you?

Gege
Yes I am! Are you, San Lang?

You
yes i am. i was wondering if you would like to perhaps go with me

Gege
Oh!
Yes, of course
I’d love to go with you, San Lang!

 

“Fuck,” says Hua Cheng, and then he promptly drops his phone. 

It lands on the floor of his kitchen with a sharp thud, and he does not so much as spare it a glance. Maybe it broke. Maybe it didn’t. Who really cares? Not him. How can he? Xie Lian just—Xie Lian just—

There’s a faint click in the background. Hua Cheng snaps out of his daze and looks back over his shoulder to see the front door of the apartment crack open, bright fluorescent light from the hallway spilling in slices onto the mahogany wood floors. He Xuan waddles in, three plastic bags of groceries swinging from his fingertips as he keeps his head down and shuts the door behind him with the heel of his boot. 

He looks up as he’s slipping his shoes off, and Hua Cheng stares back at him. 

“No,” says He Xuan after approximately a second of eye contact. “Whatever existential crisis you’re going through—no. I want no part in it. Don’t tell me.”

It’s at this moment when Hua Cheng realizes his jaw is currently dropped open. He clicks it shut and swallows. “I just asked gege to—”

“LALALA,” He Xuan screams, tossing the groceries onto the dining table by the entrance and covering his ears with his hands. “LALALALA.”

Hua Cheng lets him go. If he were in a better state of mind, he probably wouldn’t have. He probably would have yanked his good-for-nothing son of a bitch roommate by the collar and forced him to sit with him on their living room couch, talking for hours and hours about every single reason why he is currently having a mental breakdown just for the sake of making He Xuan suffer.

It was a joke. Asking Xie Lian to the party? It was a joke. Well, it was partially a joke. Mostly because Hua Cheng wasn’t actually expecting him to say yes, to say oh, yes, of course, I’d love to go with you, San Lang. Fucking hell. 

Hua Cheng supposes that it does make a little sense. Maybe. Xie Lian is, after all, his best friend. The two of them have known each other since they were barely teenagers, and they’ve done everything together since. They’ve grown up together, all the way from the time when Xie Lian was taller than him. It’s sweet, reminiscing about their history. Sometimes Hua Cheng will open up one of the old photo albums he keeps on the bookshelf in his room and sift through it with a fond smile on his face. 

But that’s all they’ve been. Friends. There’s never been so much as a hint of something more. It isn’t like Hua Cheng hasn’t wanted there to be something more; no, he has a big fat crush on his best friend. And everyone knows. He Xuan knows. Shi Qingxuan knows. Fuck, even Pei Ming knows, probably. Hua Cheng has barely spoken three words to the guy in his life, but He Xuan says that he makes it obvious, whatever the hell that means. Apparently, it’s obvious that Hua Cheng has a crush on Xie Lian. It’s obvious that Hua Cheng is head-over-heels in love with his best friend. Well, if it’s so fucking obvious, why doesn’t Xie Lian get it? Why does everyone know except the one person Hua Cheng actually wants to tell?

And it isn’t like he hasn’t tried—telling Xie Lian, that is. He’s taken him out for dinner plenty of times with the intention of confessing, buying him the prettiest roses the flower store has to offer, sitting him down in the corner of the fanciest restaurant in town…but it’s all fruitless. It never works out. Either Hua Cheng cowards out, or Xie Lian receives a call from one of his stupid asshole friends that they need him back home for something. Fuck them, honestly. Fuck them to the moon and back. Pah. This is why they’ll stay single for the rest of their lives.

“I’m sorry, San Lang,” Xie Lian will say, like the absolute angel that he is. “I’ll treat you to hotpot later this week, I promise.” Then he’ll pack up his things and leave, and Hua Cheng will sit there at the table and think of about three new ways to kill Feng Xin and Mu Qing with his bare hands. 

So, when Shi Qingxuan told him about the party her family’s cool big amazing business was hosting at their enormous mansion, Hua Cheng already had been thinking about maybe asking Xie Lian to be his date. He just needed to, you know, suck it up and ask him. 

They’ve never done anything like this before. Sure, there have been parties before, and sure, they’ve attended together. But they’ve never asked each other. It’s always just been an automatic let’s meet outside and go in together? 

So this is different. It’s very different. Hua Cheng knows it’s different, and he knows Xie Lian knows it’s different too. 

Wait. 

Does he?

 

you
i meant it more as an…i pick you up and we go together kind of thing?
if you’re okay with that

Gege
I know, San Lang! I’d be more than happy to go with you :)

 

“FUCK.”

✧✧✧

“Why the fuck are we even doing this,” He Xuan mutters as he fixes his tie and smooths out the creases on his white shirt. “Why is Qingxuan so fucking weird. Who the fuck hosts a formal business party just because the year number is changing?”

“I think it’s an American thing,” Hua Cheng hums from a little ways away, eyeing himself in the mirror.

He Xuan grunts, “Well I know that, dipshit.”

“I just think,” says Hua Cheng, “that that is an excellent rebuttal to stupid questions.”

“What? That it’s an American thing?”

“You can usually blame strange things on them being American.”

He Xuan seems to consider this. “Fair enough.”

They get ready in silence, because of course they do. Hua Cheng and He Xuan have always been in the weird spot between friends and enemies. Sometimes they get along, most of the time they don’t. They never talk to each other in the apartment. They ignore each other. It’s great. It’s peaceful. It’s exactly how it should be.

Well, Hua Cheng would have liked it much more if Xie Lian was his roommate, but unfortunately Hua Cheng moved away for a few years for school while Xie Lian moved in with Feng Xin and Mu Qing. When Hua Cheng returned, he obviously couldn’t live with Xie Lian, and He Xuan was coincidentally looking for a roommate at the time, so. He unfortunately had to settle.

“It isn’t even like it’s going to be a fun party,” He Xuan mutters. 

“You’re just saying that because Shi Qingxuan is going to be too busy mingling with the guests to suck face with you.”

“Fuck off. We don’t suck face.”

“Uh huh.”

“We have more class than that,” He Xuan retorts sourly. “Ugh, stop talking. Stop existing. Even the sight of you makes me sick. When are you leaving to go and pick up your stupid date again?”

“Call him stupid ever again and I will switch that disgusting mint chocolate smoothie you always keep in the kitchen for toothpaste,” says Hua Cheng sweetly in return. “Not that it would make a difference, anyways.”

“Fuck you—”

“I’m off!” Hua Cheng butts in, scurrying over to the door and flicking his keyring on his index finger. “Also, fix your stupid pants. You’re wearing them backwards, idiot. See you later, maybe.”

“Hopefully not,” He Xuan manages to squeeze in before Hua Cheng is gone. 

The one and only good thing about his living arrangement is that Xie Lian’s apartment is just a few blocks away. Hua Cheng often meets up with him after dinner, and the two go for long walks around the neighborhood, chatting away about their respective days. It’s easy to see Xie Lian pretty frequently, and Hua Cheng thinks that’s really all that matters at the end of the day. Sure, they don’t live together, but that honestly might just be a blessing in disguise. Hua Cheng doesn’t know what he would do if Xie Lian caught him on a bad morning, with knotted hair and frizz galore. God, that would be so embarrassing. It’s happened twice before already and both times it made Hua Cheng want to kill himself.

But, thankfully, today Hua Cheng put extra care into his hair. It’s a self-worth thing, maybe. That’s what one of his therapists told him, back when he had one—that he places his worth in his hair. If his hair doesn’t look good, he doesn’t feel good. Simple as that.

Xie Lian looks stunning as usual, wearing a sparkly ivory sweater and clean black slacks. He’s done his makeup for the occasion; his eyes are lined and his lips are even fuller than they usually are. Hua Cheng tries not to let his gaze linger on them for too long, swallowing and pressing his own lips together to stop himself from saying something dumb. 

“Gege,” he says in greeting after he’s somehow managed to collect himself, because what the fuck. Xie Lian is gorgeous. He’s actually the most perfect human being to ever grace this hell of a planet. Maybe he’s not even human. That would make more sense, anyways, because there’s no way an actual human being looks like this. “You look wonderful tonight.”

Xie Lian smiles, and then he laughs, and then it hits Hua Cheng that he’s on a date. With Xie Lian. He’s on a date with Xie Lian. The love of his life. 

Xie Lian.

Fuck.

“Fuck,” he says out loud, and then promptly considers stabbing himself with his car keys. 

Xie Lian quirks an eyebrow up at him. “What?”

“Nothing,” says Hua Cheng quickly. “Nothing. I said nothing.”

“Are you sure, San Lang? Because it sounded like you just swore?”

“Nope,” says Hua Cheng, popping the P. “I’ve actually never sworn in my life, gege. Not a big swearer myself.” Fuck. What the fuck is he saying. Is he fucking dumb? Fuck. “Ah. Would you like to go?”

Xie Lian nods and takes his hand, and Hua Cheng’s chest swells with the feeling of it against his own.

Holding hands is easy. It’s always been easy. They’ve always been touchy like this, so it’s fine. It’s good. Xie Lian begins chatting idly about his roommates like he always does, and Hua Cheng listens just as intently. They get into Hua Cheng’s car and drive off, their conversation not coming to a stop even for a second. It’s smooth and it’s nice, and Hua Cheng thinks he might explode any second. They’re smiling and it’s perfect. A perfect start to a perfect night.

The party itself is, unsurprisingly, boring. 

This has never really been Hua Cheng’s scene, the glittering ballroom with the stuck-up rich folk in fancy suits and ties, talking about deals between their companies and whatever the fuck else goes on in those awkward, stilted conversations. Xie Lian is from a family very similar in importance to the Shi’s, so he’s a natural at all of this. He greets everyone who recognizes him with a gentle little smile, exchanging small talk and general pleasantries like it’s his second nature. 

Hua Cheng sticks by his side and glares at every single person who stops to talk to Xie Lian. Fucking annoying assholes, ruining his special night with his beloved. 

But it’s fine, because Xie Lian nudges him later and the two exchange a little look, one that clearly screams this place is so pretentious why are we here, and then another right after that says ah, Shi Qingxuan. 

“A-Lian! A-Cheng!”

Hua Cheng whips his head around at the sound of that god-awful nickname, something only one very specific person would dare to call him. Sure enough, Shi Qingxuan is walking up to the two of them in all her glory, a brilliant blue dress falling off her body in waves. The way it flutters as she walks closer to them gives an impression of wind, Hua Cheng thinks briefly.

“Don’t call me that,” he says in lieu of greeting, and Shi Qingxuan completely ignores him in favor of looping her arm around Xie Lian’s and pulling him close to her. Xie Lian yelps in surprise at the sudden shift, but smiles fondly down at his friend when she waves hello. 

“A-Xuan,” he greets. “Ah. Nice party you’ve got going here.”

“Please,” Shi Qingxuan rolls her eyes. “I know you hate it. I hate it too, ugh. I’ll never know why my ge likes these kinds of events. But anyways! Come with me, A-Lian, I have some people I want you to meet.”

“Aha?” Xie Lian says, his eyes widening. “Me? Really?”

“Sure! You are quite big in this scene. You do know that, right?”

“Um. I guess?”

Shi Qingxuan nods, then smiles up at Hua Cheng. “You don’t mind, do you, A-Cheng?”

Hua Cheng very much does mind, in fact. “Actually—”

“Great!” Shi Qingxuan exclaims, and then she grabs onto Xie Lian more firmly and tugs him away. “I’ll send him back to you later! Enjoy the party! There are some private rooms you can wait in off in the east hallway if you get bored!”

Xie Lian has just enough time to smile apologetically back at Hua Cheng before he disappears into the crowd, and once he’s out of sight, Hua Cheng is left standing there in the middle of the room, blankly looking in the direction Xie Lian left in.

What the fuck?

“What the fuck?”

“Ugh. It’s you,” comes yet another very familiar voice, and Hua Cheng doesn’t have to turn to know it’s He Xuan. “I was doing so well, avoiding you.”

Hua Cheng snorts, unimpressed. He Xuan is holding a quarter-full flute of champagne, however, and man could Hua Cheng go for one of those right about now. 

He Xuan raises an eyebrow. “What?”

“Give me that,” Hua Cheng mutters, and then he quickly snatches the glass away and downs it in one go. He Xuan rolls his eyes at this, turning his head away from Hua Cheng. Hua Cheng follows suit, taking a second to glance around the room. The party goes on around him, people talking to each other, laughing, drinking. He frowns deeply at nothing, staring up at the ceiling of the venue. The golden, artificial light from above reflects off the glass, and the rim twinkles as he twirls the stem between his fingers. 

This is fucking ridiculous. 

“I’m leaving,” Hua Cheng says, turning to He Xuan and thrusting the glass back into his hands. Shi Qingxuan did say something about private rooms. “Tell your goddamn partner that I’m in the east hallway or whatever, and that she should send gege to me as soon as possible.”

He Xuan looks like he absolutely does not want to do that, but Hua Cheng doesn’t really give him much of a choice, so. Fuck that. And fuck this. He has a few choice words for Shi Qingxuan right about now, but he’ll send those to her in a text tomorrow morning. Or maybe a voice message. People have always told him he has a bit of an intimidating voice. 

“Go away then,” He Xuan replies flatly. “And good riddance.”

Well that’s just rude.

Hua Cheng thankfully does manage to find an empty room; there’s a few plush blue couches and a connecting bathroom, so it’s nice. He sits down on the couch and stares off at the wall and simmers in the fact that he’s bored out of his mind and all he wants to do is spend time with Xie Lian, his date. Maybe if he had told Shi Qingxuan about it before, she would have realized just how important this night was for him, but then again, the thought of telling Shi Qingxuan anything about his personal life makes Hua Cheng want to punch his own teeth out. 

So, instead, he sits in the empty room in the east hallway while the party goes on in full swing a few doors down. He imagines Xie Lian is chatting animatedly with the guests at this point, and well, maybe this was stupid. Maybe all of this was stupid. Maybe he never should have asked Xie Lian to be his date to this party in the first place. He should have fucking known shit like this was going to happen. God. Fucking hell. He misses Xie Lian. He needs a drink. He needs to lie down. He needs—

“San Laaaaaang!” comes a muffled voice.

Hua Cheng’s head snaps up as he hears the doorknob rustle. He immediately shoots out of his seat and lunges for the door, clicking it unlocked and swinging it open. There’s a flurry of white, and then there’s a weight in his arms, heavy and sinking and leaning into him, launching him back a few steps as the door slams shut.

“Gege?” Hua Cheng breathes. He looks down to see Xie Lian’s silky brown hair rustled up against his chest, his heart falling into his throat when Xie Lian looks up with rosy, burning cheeks. Realization dawns on him. “Gege, did you drink?”

“Yes,” Xie Lian says softly, and then he buries his face into Hua Cheng’s neck. It’s warm. He’s so warm. “Can we go home?”

“Of course,” Hua Cheng answers instantly. “Do you have all your things with you?”

“Mhmmm.”

“Okay,” says Hua Cheng. He slips his hands beneath Xie Lian’s arms and hoists him up. Xie Lian is pouting, his bottom lip puckering out, and oh, Hua Cheng needs to look away. He needs to look away before he starts thinking. “Okay, yes. Let’s go home.”

Thinking is definitely not a good idea right now. The alcohol from earlier didn’t do anything, but for some reason he feels like he’s six shots under.

“Mmm,” Xie Lian murmurs against Hua Cheng’s collarbone. His breath tickles a bit, but Hua Cheng remains perfectly still, not moving a single muscle. “My place. We can go to my place. Feng Xin and Mu Qing…went home. To their homes. Their families. For the holidays.”

“All right,” Hua Cheng nods. “Let’s go to your place, then.”

The thing is, Hua Cheng has never seen Xie Lian drunk. Xie Lian doesn’t get drunk. He doesn’t drink, period. He told him about it once, a long time ago, when his college friends were out drinking and partying every weekend. It’s not really my scene, he had said. I don’t like drinking. I don’t think I’ll ever do it. So seeing him now, stumbling and blushing, giggling quietly when he trips over his feet as he leans heavier than usual on Hua Cheng, well, it’s something. It’s a lot. Hua Cheng doesn’t know what he’s supposed to do. But Xie Lian has taken care of him plenty of times before, when he’s sick, drunk—anything. Everything. So this should be easy.

It isn’t.

They get halfway to Xie Lian’s apartment building before he passes out, and that’s when Hua Cheng realizes just how drunk Xie Lian truly is. He slumps against Hua Cheng, completely limp, his head lolling forward onto his shoulder. One hand falls against Hua Cheng’s arm, the other stays clasped tightly in Hua Cheng’s. Hua Cheng presses his lips together and says nothing; he thought Xie Lian had fallen asleep, but instead, he hears soft mumbles coming through his lips. 

“San Lang. San Lang. San Lang,” Xie Lian is whispering. 

“I’m here,” Hua Cheng responds quietly as he gently guides the two towards the apartment. “I’m here, gege.”

“San Lang,” Xie Lian repeats, and then he laughs a little. “San Lang. I think I’m drunk.”

“Yeah,” Hua Cheng agrees, managing a small smile. “You are, but you’re fine. I’ve got you, gege, don’t worry.”

“Don’t worry,” Xie Lian repeats. “I’m not worrying! I’m fine.”

Hua Cheng smiles wider. “I’m not too sure about that, gege.”

“Noooo, ‘m fine,” Xie Lian says, his words slurring together, “I’m fine, San Lang, really!” His eyes open slightly as he enters the elevator, gently tugging on Hua Cheng’s sleeve to make him follow. 

As if Hua Cheng would do literally anything else. 

They make it up and into Xie Lian’s apartment, and just as he said, it’s completely barren. Feng Xin and Mu Qing probably left a while ago, judging by the pots and pans littering the kitchen counter and the few lone socks lying on random pieces of furniture. Hua Cheng leads them over to the couch and takes a seat, making sure Xie Lian comfortably sits down next to him.

“There we go,” he says, angling himself when he sees how Xie Lian immediately drops his head onto his shoulder. “Gege, do you want me to take you to your room? Is this okay?”

“This is good,” comes Xie Lian’s voice, quiet and muffled. 

“Okay. Do you need water? Are you hungry?”

“Noooo.”

Hua Cheng humphs. “I’m getting you water. Hold on.”

He moves to stand up, but Xie Lian’s hand flies up, catching onto his sleeve and pulling. “No.”

Hua Cheng blinks and turns back to look at him. “Gege—”

Xie Lian makes an impatient noise and whines, his grip on Hua Cheng’s shirt tightening. “No water.”

Hua Cheng frowns. “Are you sure?”

In response, Xie Lian tugs hard on Hua Cheng till he’s sitting down on the couch again, and then he spins around in his spot and falls backwards till he’s looking up at him. Hua Cheng inhales sharply as the two make eye contact.

“San Laaaang,” Xie Lian drawls, lying in Hua Cheng’s lap. His cheeks are flushed and his eyes are half-shut. “Was this…a date?”

Hua Cheng freezes. “You…didn’t know?”

“Because,” Xie Lian continues, ignoring him. He hiccups, his entire body jerking up. “It felt like a date. You know? Not that I’ve ever been on one. A date. I’ve never been on a date.” He giggles, and the sound is absolutely melodic. “Isn’t that pathetic? Hahaha…” He mutters something under his breath before fumbling around with his hands for a moment, hoisting himself up so that he’s straddling Hua Cheng’s waist.

Hua Cheng’s hands come around to Xie Lian’s middle, and he lets them linger there. “It’s not pathetic,” he says softly. “Why would it be pathetic?”

“Becauuuuse,” Xie Lian slurs. He swallows and shifts his position. “Everyone I knoooow has been on a date before. You too! You’ve probably been on a date.” Hua Cheng freezes. “Loads of dates.” There’s a pause, then, and Xie Lian sniffles. “Makes me sad.”

This is bad. This is terrible. This shouldn’t be happening. 

Hua Cheng’s fingers tighten their hold around Xie Lian’s waist. “Why does it make you sad?”

“Because!” Xie Lian exclaims. Hua Cheng presses his lips together, waiting for him to continue. But he doesn’t. Xie Lian stops talking after that, busying himself with a loose thread on Hua Cheng’s suit. He threads it between his fingers and mumbles gibberish quietly to himself, and in any other context, Hua Cheng would be completely endeared.

But his mind is still replaying Xie Lian’s words. Makes me sad, he said. Why would Hua Cheng going on dates make him sad? And how did he not know that this was a date? Was Hua Cheng not clear enough? Probably. Fuck. Fucking hell.

“Gege,” he whispers.

“Hmm?” Xie Lian hums.

“I need you to tell me why it makes you sad.” Hua Cheng’s voice cracks as the words leave his throat, a fragile thing, tiptoeing on thin ice.

Xie Lian straightens his back, and with this angle, he’s taller than Hua Cheng, looking down at him with a blank stare. It’s almost scary how quickly his expression shifted from mopey to seemingly completely disinterested. Hua Cheng holds his breath and stays still, not daring to say a single word. 

Xie Lian lifts his hands, and Hua Cheng inhales as he loops them around his neck and leans impossibly closer. “This night,” Xie Lian says, voice lower than Hua Cheng has ever heard it, “felt like a date. And I know—I know it wasn’t one. But it felt like it was. And I was so sad, San Lang, because—because—” He cuts himself off. His eyes crinkle and his cheeks rise. 

Hua Cheng shakes his head. “No,” he says, bringing his thumb up to the corner of one of his eyes, “no crying.”

“Because,” Xie Lian continues, and he’s drunk. He’s so drunk. He’s so drunk and it’s ripping at Hua Cheng’s insides. He’s so drunk and he’s so sad. Because of Hua Cheng. Because Hua Cheng is a fucking idiot who wasn’t clear enough about his intentions. “Because I know I’ll never get that. I know I’ll never get a date with you, even though it’s the only thing I want.”

The entire world seems to stop around them.

“And that made me—it made me so sad,” Xie Lian is blubbering, his eyes glossing over as his fingers dig deeper into the back of Hua Cheng’s neck. Hua Cheng isn’t breathing. He feels like he’s never taken a breath before in his life. He feels like he’s died three times. He feels—he feels everything, all at once, in a single sweep. 

“Oh, gege,” he whispers, and it comes out like a sigh between his teeth. There’s so much he wants to say, so much he needs to say, but he can’t right now. Not like this. Not when Xie Lian is drunk and half out of his mind, because Hua Cheng knows that if it weren’t for the alcohol, he would never say this out loud to him. “Gege, I think you need to sleep.”

“Noooo,” Xie Lian says immediately. He fists his hand in the back of Hua Cheng’s shirt, and Hua Cheng feels the hem rise above belly. “No sleep. I’m not sleeping. I don’t want to.”

“Gege…” Hua Cheng trails off.

“I wanna stay up with you and talk to you,” says Xie Lian, and oh, he’s pouting again. Hua Cheng wants to kill himself, because what the fuck is happening. “San Lang, I have soooo much to tell you, and I don’t know if I’ll still tell you all of it when I’m sober.”

Hua Cheng’s next smile comes softer, a faint little wisp at the corners of his mouth. A prickling, swelling sensation finds comfort in his chest. “We’ll talk tomorrow morning, I promise.”

“But that’s so far,” Xie Lian sulks, sour expression overtaking his features. He’s beautiful like this. He’s beautiful all the time, but Hua Cheng’s never seen him like this before—foggy and dizzy and red. His face is the color of a kiss, one that’s chaste against a smooth cheek, lipstick smudged like a bruise. Hua Cheng wants to cup it, hold it gently between his palms, brush his thumb across the pink haze.

“Come,” he says, pulling away slightly. It pains him to do so. He wants to stay with Xie Lian, wants to be by his side throughout the entirety of the night. 

Xie Lian frowns deeply, squinting up at him as he moves to stand up. “Not fair,” he mutters, and then he’s standing too, leaning against Hua Cheng’s side and closing his eyes. “Okaaay then, San Lang. To bed!”

Hua Cheng laughs as Xie Lian begins marching over to the hallway where his bedroom is located, and his toes barely graze the hardwood surface of the floor as he makes his way over as well. He watches from the doorway as Xie Lian flops down face-first onto his bed, his knees dragging against the haphazardly thrown blankets all the way up to his chest. He hugs them there, rocking back and forth, head barely touching his pillow as he curls in on himself. It’s adorable. It’s Xie Lian. 

“San Lang,” Xie Lian calls, just as Hua Cheng is about to turn around and head back to the living room. 

Hua Cheng pauses, looking back at Xie Lian lying in his bed. “Gege?”

“Don’t leave tonight,” he says. There’s no hesitation in his tone, and the request doesn’t sound half-hearted at all. It’s natural; it’s easy.

So Hua Cheng smiles, and he nods. Natural and easy. “I won’t, gege. I promise. I’ll be right outside when you wake up.”

“Okay,” says Xie Lian, and then he yawns. He stretches himself out like a little stray cat, his sweater riding up to the middle of his stomach. “Okay, San Lang. Mm, good night. See you tomorrow.”

“Good night, gege,” Hua Cheng says, fingertips finding the edge of the door and letting it slide closed. “See you tomorrow.”

✧✧✧

Fish
i saw u and xie lian leaving together so i assume ur not coming back tonight
congrats or whatever
if u give me even the slightest detail of anything that happened i will fucking murder u in ur sleep don’t think i won’t i’ve thought about it in extensive detail hua cheng

you
kill yourself

Fish
believe me i want to

✧✧✧

“San Lang.”

Xie Lian is standing in the entrance to the hallway, sleep dripping off of his body. His shoulders are sagging and his eyes are lidded and wet. His hair is frazzled, a few strands sticking up in random directions, and he looks like a mess. 

Hua Cheng thinks he’s beautiful.

“Gege,” he says, sitting up. He took refuge on the couch last night, and there’s a crick in his neck from the thousands of positions he tried to make himself comfortable in. He’s perhaps a bit too tall for sleeping on such a small thing, but he was out of his mind last night and didn’t think to just give up and lie on the floor, Xie Lian’s words replaying over and over and over again. God. He should have stolen a few more champagnes. 

Xie Lian looks lost, standing there. He’s staring down at Hua Cheng as if he’s seen a ghost, as if…as if…

“You’re still here,” he says, and it’s a quiet thing. It’s a wonder how Hua Cheng even hears it.

And that—that’s not right. Of course Hua Cheng is still here. Xie Lian had asked him to stay, had he not? And even if he hadn’t asked, there’s no way Hua Cheng would have left him alone just like that. Drunkness aside, there was so much—so much to say. So much to do. So many unspoken things that needed to be spoken.

“I am,” he says, instead of any of that. “Gege, how are you feeling?”

“I’m fine,” says Xie Lian. He lifts his hand and rubs the ball of his palm against his eyes. “I’m fine, I’m fine, don’t worry.”

Hua Cheng swallows. “Do you…remember?” 

Xie Lian doesn’t respond. Instead, he adopts a hard look in his eyes, his entire body going frigid still for a ghostly few seconds. Hua Cheng holds his breath, steady still, and he watches Xie Lian as he suddenly relaxes his shoulders and starts walking up to him.

He’s still wearing his clothes from last night, the sweater falling off his shoulders and the pants crumpled and creased. Hua Cheng wonders if he should have maybe helped him out of his clothes last night, but that—that would have been too much. It would have been too much.

And so.

Xie Lian stops right in front of him, right so that they’re facing each other, up and down. Hua Cheng stares, and Xie Lian stares back. It’s not tense; it’s never tense between them. But it’s heavy. 

“I didn’t mean to drink last night,” is the first thing Xie Lian says after a few minutes.

“I know,” Hua Cheng responds. 

“I wasn’t going to,” Xie Lian continues. “I don’t. Do that. You know that.”

“I know.”

“But—but everything just hit me. All at once.”

“I know,” says Hua Cheng. 

Xie Lian closes his mouth and sighs, dropping down to sit next to him on the couch. Hua Cheng shifts to give him more space, but Xie Lian stops him, grabs onto his knee and holds him in place. “San Lang.”

Hua Cheng freezes. “Yes?”

“I didn’t know,” says Xie Lian, and then he looks up till the two are making eye contact and Hua Cheng isn’t sure what he’s supposed to do. “That you had asked me to be your date. To the party yesterday. I’m sorry.”

“Oh,” Hua Cheng breathes, because oh, yes, that. “It’s all right, gege. You don’t need to apologize.”

Xie Lian lets go of his knee, shakes his head, and falls back on the couch with a groan. “I thought—I thought we were just doing what we always do. You know. We always go to these kinds of events together, as friends.”

“We do,” Hua Cheng nods, because they do.

“And I didn’t think that…” Xie Lian leans forward and buries his face in his hands. “Ugh, this is so embarrassing.”

“It’s not,” says Hua Cheng immediately. “Don’t be embarrassed, gege.”

“Because,” says Xie Lian, and this time he looks up and straight back at him, “if I knew that you were asking me to be your date, like a real date, I would have—I don’t know, it would have been a really big deal! To me! And this…this must have been a really big deal to you. And I ruined it. I’m so sorry, San Lang.”

Hua Cheng blinks. What? “What?” 

“What?” Xie Lian asks.

“You didn’t ruin anything,” says Hua Cheng. He feels his eyebrows furrowing atop his forehead. “Gege, you didn’t ruin anything, what?”

“But I spent most of the party with Shi Qingxuan,” says Xie Lian, frowning. “And then I got drunk and forced you to take care of me.”

“You didn’t force me to do anything,” says Hua Cheng immediately. “I took care of you because I wanted to.”

Xie Lian says nothing, and then: “Really?”

Hua Cheng nods. He can feel something bubbling up inside of him, something soft and warm and sticky and alive in its own way. He wants to scream. He wants to—he wants to—“Really, gege.”

“I see,” says Xie Lian, and then he’s turning away from him again, nibbling at his bottom lip and averting his gaze. “Why?”

And, well, that’s what it comes down to, right? 

This absolutely was not supposed to happen like this. Fucking hell. Hua Cheng was supposed to do this in the most romantic way possible, take Xie Lian out and confess his decades of pining to him over dinner, and maybe then after he was faced with rejection he would go back to his apartment and lock himself in his room for the rest of his life. No biggie.

He swallows. “If gege already knows…then why ask?”

He looks away, and Xie Lian is silent for a few long seconds. 

“I see,” he says, finally, and Hua Cheng feels his soul leave his body. “So I didn’t misunderstand you, then.”

Hua Cheng doesn’t dare say a word. This all feels like a rolling snowball, one that started small and innocent and is now a raging threat to mankind. 

And then, after a moment, Xie Lian is speaking again. “You…don’t want to know how I feel about all of this?”

“Don’t tell me,” says Hua Cheng. His voice is quiet, a little plea. He shuts his eyes and looks away. He thought he could do this. He thought he could go in and confess and take the rejection in full stride. But the truth is, he can’t. He can’t bear the thought of losing Xie Lian, can’t bear the thought of losing his best friend just because he had to fuck up and go and fall in love with him. It’s stupid. It’s so stupid. If he could just fucking control himself. How dare he, anyways? How dare he consider a life with someone as amazing as Xie Lian? Someone so good and flawless and perfect? Who even is Hua Cheng, really? He’s watched Xie Lian reject countless people before, people of better caliber than him, people who no sensible person would say no to. But Xie Lian has never been interested, not even once. 

He asked him about it once, a long time ago. Gege, why don’t you date? He remembered Xie Lian had smiled softly in return, his response a simple I’ll date when I find someone I really like, San Lang.

And how—how could Hua Cheng think that someone could be him? How dare he?

“No,” Xie Lian says suddenly, snapping him out of his thoughts. Hua Cheng whips around to look at him. “I’m sorry, San Lang, but something like this needs to be made clear.”

Hua Cheng sucks in a deep breath, rich and rattling to his very core. “I…that’s true. Okay.”

He feels like a criminal on death row, awaiting his final moments. He closes his eyes, because everything is a lot right now. Everything is too much. And he thinks that maybe if he sees Xie Lian right now, sees what kind of expression he’s making, he’ll burst into thousands of tiny little silver butterflies. 

But none of that happens. 

Instead, Hua Cheng feels a soft pressure against his mouth, just barely there, and by the time he opens his eyes, it’s already gone. 

Xie Lian is staring at him, his entire face a deep crimson red. He’s blinking rapidly, which—okay. That’s fine. This is fine. He’s looking away and his leg is bouncing in place, up down up down up down.

“I—um,” Xie Lian stutters, “I’m—uhh, I’m—”

“Gege,” Hua Cheng breathes, and just like that, it becomes easy. “You really will be the death of me.”

And then he kisses him.

He’s daydreamed about this before, kissing Xie Lian. Many times before. Not that he’d ever admit that out loud, but, well, yes. He’s thought about it, maybe a few times. Maybe more. Who knows, really? Not him. Never him.

Kissing is—wet. A little. Though that’s probably because he accidentally caught Xie Lian in a bit of a lip-lock, their mouths sandwiched together. It’s a bit awkward, in retrospect, but Hua Cheng has never kissed anyone before, so all of this is very new to him. Xie Lian has also, similarly, never kissed anyone before, so. It starts like a little slow dance; at first, they barely move, like they’re just holding hands in the middle of an empty ballroom. 

But then, but then, the dance starts. The locking of hands around the other’s waist, the deep eye contact as they begin to sweep across the floor. Hua Cheng leans closer to Xie Lian, tilting his head to deepen the kiss, not breaking away. He opens his mouth and kisses again, softly, experimentally, and he waits. He waits for Xie Lian to catch up, because the last thing he wants to do is scare him away. 

But Xie Lian is kissing him back, fumbling with his hands as they find their way to the front of Hua Cheng’s shirt. He pulls him closer, pressing their lips together, again and again and again. Hua Cheng feels himself smiling, grinning widely into the kiss, and Xie Lian laughs, a giddy little sound that makes Hua Cheng feel warm all over. 

It’s bruising and it’s warm and it’s sweet. Confidence rolls in slowly, like a blooming bud of a flower, and then all of a sudden Xie Lian is in his lap and they’re kissing and it’s harder this time, with a rushed kind of urgency that makes Hua Cheng’s toes curl. Xie Lian’s hands are in his hair and he’s peppering kisses to the corners of his mouth, trailing them all over his face and down to his neck. Hua Cheng’s fingers dig deep into Xie Lian’s waist, and he bucks his hips forward for closer proximity. Xie Lian breathes into his mouth and oh, oh. Fucking hell. Fucking hell. 

“Gege,” he manages to get out, shakily, while Xie Lian is making work of a tender spot on his collarbone. “We should stop.”

Xie Lian immediately backs away, looping his arms around Hua Cheng’s shoulders and straightening up to look at him. “Oh! Oh, I—I’m so sorry, San Lang, I don’t know what came over me, I—I should have asked, I—”

“Gege,” Hua Cheng interrupts, and Xie Lian shuts up almost instantly. “It’s not that, trust me.”

Xie Lian blinks down at him in confusion. His lips are swollen and red, and Hua Cheng doesn’t think twice before leaning up to peck them softly. “I’d like to take you on a date first,” he says, feeling himself smile when he sees the way Xie Lian’s eyes widen in surprise. “A real date. Where both of us know it’s a date.” Then he clears his throat and swallows. “So. Uh. Gege, I’ve been wanting to ask you this for a very long time, but would you like to go on a date with me?”

“Yes,” comes Xie Lian’s response, barely a second later. “Yes, San Lang, I would like to go on a date with you. Yes.” 

“Okay,” says Hua Cheng. He’s smiling hard enough to hurt. “Okay, then let's go on a date.”

“Right now,” says Xie Lian.

Hua Cheng raises an eyebrow. “Right now?”

“Yes,” Xie Lian nods. “Right now. I want to go on a date with you right now.”

Hua Cheng is on cloud fucking nine. He wraps his arms around Xie Lian’s body and brings him impossibly closer, planting a kiss to his nose and another to his lips when he hears the laugh he gets in response. “Okay, then. Let’s go on a date right now.”

“Okay,” says Xie Lian.

“Okay,” says Hua Cheng.

And so they go.