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2am on a saturday

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“Can you please,” says Jin Zixuan. He pauses to take a drag from the joint, then passes it to Lan Zhan. “Can you please explain to me the Twitter discourse—” which is absolutely the worst possible way to begin a sentence— “about whether having a cleaner is feminist or not?”

Lan Zhan lifts his eyes to the ceiling. Jin Zixuan always gets like this when he’s high. Far too interested in discourse. It’s very frustrating. It’s not why he and Lan Zhan are friends.

Technically, they are friends because, in their first year of university, Mianmian had sat them both down at her birthday party and said, “Lan Zhan, this is Zixuan. Zixuan, this is Lan Zhan. I am introducing you because I cannot listen to either one of you pathetic idiots pining for a minute longer. Please become friends and from now on, direct all oh why won’t they love mes to each other. Also, you’re both the most pretentious people I know, so you should get on fine.”

“I don’t pine,” Jin Zixuan and Lan Zhan had said in unison. They had exchanged horrified glances.

“Oh, babies,” Mianmian had said, and left them alone.

“Who’s yours?” Jin Zixuan had asked after a moment. Lan Zhan didn’t answer, but his eyes, traitorously, had darted across the room to Wei Ying. Jin Zixuan had said, “Well.”

Lan Zhan couldn’t help but agree with the sentiment.

“Yours?” he had said, to be polite. Jin Zixuan had, subtly, tilted his head towards the door. Lan Zhan had glanced sideways, also subtly. What he had seen made him nearly choke on his drink.

“Jiang… Cheng?” he’d said, trying to keep his voice free of emotion. It wasn’t his place to judge Jin Zixuan’s taste in men.

NO,” Jin Zixuan had nearly shouted. People had turned to look at them. He’d lowered his voice, and hissed, “Not him. Next to him.”

Lan Zhan had obediently looked again and noticed what he hadn’t before—Jiang Yanli, Jiang Cheng and Wei Ying’s very beautiful sister, standing next to Jiang Cheng, laughing.

“Ah,” Lan Zhan had said. Jin Zixuan had slumped down next to him and said, “Yeah.”

So that was how it had started. They had sat in the corner morosely for the rest of the night and afterwards Jin Zixuan had said, “Well, good luck,” and Lan Zhan had said, “You too,” and he had thought that that was that.

But the next week, Lan Wangji had been studying in the university library and Jin Zixuan had silently arrived and taken the seat opposite him. Lan Zhan had looked up. They’d nodded at each other, and gone back to work. The next day, they’d sat together again, by some unspoken agreement. Lan Zhan had quickly learned that Jin Zixuan, like himself, eschewed idle chatter or small talk in favour of silence, which made him an ideal study partner. Soon, Lan Zhan had started automatically saving a seat for Jin Zixuan when he went to the library, and Jin Zixuan would do the same. It had become a nice routine.

Once, they had taken a study break to silently smoke a cigarette outside the library, and Mianmian had found them. “Guys!” she’d said happily. “You actually did make friends! Look at you two!”

Lan Zhan and Jin Zixuan had exchanged a panicked look, but it was already too late: Mianmian had taken out her phone and created a group chat for the three of them. From there, it had been a simple slide into a closer relationship—having lunch and dinner and drinks together, being dragged to various parties and events by Mianmian, playing cards late into the night in Lan Zhan’s tiny shared kitchen.

Towards the end of their first year, Mianmian had asked Lan Zhan if he wanted to share a house with her in second year. Surprised and pleased to be asked, Lan Zhan had said yes. Then he’d asked, “And Zixuan?”

“Nah, his family bought him a fuck-off massive flat in town literally right after he got his acceptance letter,” Mianmian had said, rolling her eyes. “Also, I don’t want to live with a straight man.”

In the end, it hadn’t really mattered, because Jin Zixuan came around to their house all the time: for dinner, to watch Italian Neorealist films, to get high and talk about Twitter discourse, their pathetic, long-standing crushes, or Mianmian’s latest conquest.

Now, Lan Zhan takes a deep drag on the joint. He exhales and tips his head back to say, “Don’t answer him,” to Mianmian, who’s sitting up on the bed behind him, plaiting his hair.

“Yeah, babe, I’m with Lan Zhan on this one,” Mianmian says. She frees one of her hands from Lan Zhan’s hair and makes grabby motions with her fingers at the side of his face. Lan Zhan passes her the joint carefully. “You do not want to know.”

“I do want to know. I want to understand the discourse,” Jin Zixuan says.

Mianmian ignores him. She gives the joint back to Lan Zhan and returns to braiding his hair. The sensation of his hair being played with is very soothing, as is the curl of smoke at the back of his throat, filling his lungs. They’d tried cutting their hash with green tea this time, and it’s made the smoke taste fragrant.

“At least give me back the joint then,” Jin Zixuan says petulantly. He dusts an imaginary piece of lint off his chinos and holds out an imperious hand.

Mianmian ties off the plait and lets it swing gently against Lan Zhan’s neck. She joins him on the floor, curling her feet into her sheepskin rug. They always end up hanging out in Mianmian’s room rather than Lan Zhan’s when Jin Zixuan comes over—it’s warm, bright and comforting, with cosy furnishings draped over polished wooden furniture. Jin Zixuan always complains that Lan Zhan’s room has too many hard surfaces. And obviously Jin Zixuan’s own room is not an option, given that neither Lan Zhan nor Mianmian have any intention of setting foot in his appallingly decorated flat. Mianmian had described it as ‘soulless Airbnb chic’ once.

Jin Zixuan takes another hit and says meditatively, “Don’t you think it’s fucked up that people don’t even care about using the correct wine glass for different types of wine anymore?”

He’s rocking back and forth gently in Mianmian’s rocking chair, which is possibly the main attraction of Mianmian’s room.

“No,” Mianmian says. “Also, shut the fuck up.”

“Well, I do,” Jin Zixuan says, paying her absolutely no attention. “I think it’s extremely fucked up.”

“I do too,” says Lan Zhan. He slides down so he’s lying on the floor, head pillowed on Mianmian’s thigh. “Serving red wine in a white wine glass completely changes the flavour profile.”

“I need new friends,” Mianmian announces. She makes this statement at least once a day. “Preferably ones who will platonically shotgun me. You’re both too repressed.”

“Zixuan is saving himself for Jiang Yanli,” says Lan Zhan. This is true—Jin Zixuan had admitted it to them himself, on an evening remarkably similar to this one. “And I’m gay.”

“So am I, bitch, that’s why I said platonic,” Mianmian says. “What’s a little open-mouthed kissing between friends?”

Jin Zixuan says, “I’ll do it—” he almost certainly won’t—“if you explain to me why people on Twitter were saying that charcuterie is bourgeois.”

Hearing Jin Zixuan say bourgeois is always amusing. He rolls the ‘r’.

“Fine, fine. It all started with this one journalist,” Mianmian begins.

Lan Zhan could not be less interested in Twitter discourse. He opens up Instagram and scrolls idly through the latest posts—a cat picture from Wen Ning, a gym selfie from Nie Mingjue, a fashion photoshoot by Jiang Yanli. He likes that last one. When he scrolls back up, he notices that Wei Ying has posted to his Close Friends story. He clicks on it and drops his phone on his face. It slides onto the carpet.

Mianmian’s still talking, but she picks up his phone and hands it back to him without missing a beat: “And then people were like, don’t you think the working class deserves to have good things, and other people were arguing over what cuts of meat actually count as being charcuterie, like do honey roast ham slices qualify—”

Lan Zhan looks at his screen again. The story has disappeared. He navigates to Wei Ying’s profile and opens the story again. He holds his thumb on the screen so he can look at it properly.

It’s a selfie. Wei Ying posts selfies all the time, but this photo is… different. He’s alone, for one, and not making a silly face. The dim lighting makes Wei Ying’s skin look golden, highlighting the sharp contours of his cheekbones. He’s posing with his head tilted back, exposing the long line of his throat, with his eyes half-lidded. Worst of all, his mouth is parted invitingly. Waiting to be kissed, or… or fucked. It’s one of Lan Zhan’s regular rotation fantasies—Wei Ying on his knees, mouth wrapped around Lan Zhan’s cock—meaning that he should be used to thinking about it, but something about the way Wei Ying is posing in the photo makes desire hit him like a freight train.

“Okay, Lan Zhan, you heard what Zixuan said before—he’s gotta shotgun me now,” Mianmian announces, as she finishes her charcuterie explanation. Lan Zhan doesn’t respond, so she jolts his head with her leg. “Hey. Earth to Lan Zhan. What are you looking at?”

Lan Zhan is high, and a little shell-shocked from the picture—fine, very shell-shocked—so he offers no resistance when Mianmian leans over to snag his phone from his hands.

Oh,” she says significantly.

“What is it?” Jin Zixuan says. His voice is slightly whiny. “I want to see.”

“Wei Ying posted a thirst trap,” Mianmian says gleefully, showing the screen to Jin Zixuan.

“He’s so beautiful,” Lan Zhan says, tongue loosened by the weed. Besides, Mianmian’s room is his safe space. He can say what he likes here, so he does. “I want to know what his mouth tastes like. I want him to put his mouth on my—”

“No, no, no, no,” Jin Zixuan says, making an X with his arms. “For the love of Christ, keep it PG-13, please.”

“Stop being homophobic, Zixuan,” Mianmian says. She’s still looking at Lan Zhan’s phone. “Let Lan Zhan talk about gay sex if he wants to.”

“I am not homophobic! I just don’t want to hear Lan Zhan fantasising about Wei Ying… licking his… his bussy, or… or whatever it’s called!”

“Don’t ever use the word bussy again or I’ll kill you,” says Mianmian.

Lan Zhan, ignoring this exchange, whispers to the ceiling, “I don’t know what to do with all these feelings. I like him so much. It’s horrible.”

“We’ve talked about this,” Jin Zixuan says, exasperated. “The only way to deal with a crush is to repress it heavily until it goes away.”

“I’ve been trying that for over a year,” Lan Zhan says miserably. “It’s not going away.”

“Both of you are the absolute worst,” Mianmian says. “You think you’re ever going to get some with that attitude? Here’s how you get some.”

She waves the phone in front of Lan Zhan. The screen is hazy for a second, and then he focuses his eyes, to see that Mianmian has replied to Wei Ying’s story. From Lan Zhan’s account. First with a row of fire emojis and then: what does that mouth do 👀

“No,” Lan Zhan gasps. He sits up and tries to grab at the phone, but Mianmian’s too fast for him. “No! Give it back. I need to tell him it wasn’t me.”

“What did she do?” Jin Zixuan says. Mianmian reads him the message she’d sent. Jin Zixuan is silent for a moment. He exhales a cloud of smoke and rocks back gently in his chair. “Well.”

“Mianmian,” Lan Zhan says desperately. “Please. Give me the phone.”

“Aren’t you curious to see what he says?” Mianmian counters. “This is the perfect opportunity, Lan Zhan. If he takes the bait, excellent. If he doesn’t, you blame it on me and say it was all a joke.”

Lan Zhan covers his face with his hands. He’s not sure he would survive the embarrassment of Wei Ying rejecting his… proposition, but on the other hand, it has been over a year. Repressing the crush has not helped. Perhaps Mianmian is right and it’s time to try a different tactic. Reluctantly, he relinquishes control.

“Please just roll me another joint,” he says from behind his hands.

“I got you, sweetie.”

Two joints and an indeterminate amount of time later, Jin Zixuan has abandoned the rocking chair to lie on the rug alongside Lan Zhan. Lan Zhan doesn’t blame him. The rug is very nice. Mianmian is still holding his phone hostage, but it’s fine. He’s floating a little. His limbs feel very relaxed.

“Has he replied?” Lan Zhan asks Mianmian for the third time. Possibly the fourth time. His grip on reality is a little loose right now.

“I said I would tell you if he replies the last ten times you asked,” Mianmian says.

Lan Zhan groans and puts an arm over his eyes. “He hates me,” he says. “He doesn’t want to put his mouth anywhere near me… It’s such a nice mouth. It looks so… soft. I want to taste it.”

“Please, please, please stop talking,” says Jin Zixuan.

“Oh!” Mianmian says suddenly. “Oh my God, he replied.”

Lan Zhan sits up so fast that he gets dizzy. “What… what did he say?”

Mianmian reads aloud, “why don’t u come over and find out? Oh my God.”

“Oh my God,” Lan Zhan echoes blankly. Then, “You’re making that up.”

“No,” Mianmian says, pushing the phone in front of his face. Lan Zhan takes it and blinks at the screen. It takes him a minute to focus, but there it is, in black and white.

“Are you going to go?” Jin Zixuan says. Lan Zhan hardly hears him over the roaring sound in his ears. Wei Ying had said, why don’t u come over and find out?

Obviously he’s going to go,” Mianmian says. “What kind of question is that?”

Lan Zhan finds his voice. “I’m going to go.”

“Great,” Mianmian says. “Fantastic. We love to see it.” She tugs at Lan Zhan’s arm. “Get up right now. Up. Go into your room and get changed into something sexy.”

“Don’t make it too sexy,” Jin Zixuan advises. “You don’t want to come across as obvious and desperate. So embarrassing.”

“Do not listen to him,” Mianmian says to Lan Zhan. “I’m thinking, hmm, that silver mesh undershirt? And a white blouse over the top. With those crepe black trousers?”

“Okay,” Lan Zhan says and obediently goes to his room to change. He can’t quite think about what it means that he’s going to Wei Ying’s house in the middle of the night, so he focuses on finding the clothes Mianmian had suggested. He gets a little stuck because he forgets how to use his hands for a second, which makes the fiddly buttons on the blouse hard to do up. Eventually he gives up and goes to solicit help.

“Perfect,” Mianmian says. She does up the final few buttons of Lan Zhan’s shirt deftly and then slaps him lightly on both cheeks. “You look perfect. I cannot believe this is happening right now.”

Lan Zhan can’t either.

“I called you an Uber,” Mianmian says. “I think I got Wei Ying’s address right, but check when you get in, okay?”

“Okay,” says Lan Zhan. Mianmian attacks him around the waist, also known as a hug. Over her head, he looks down at Jin Zixuan, who is still laid out on the floor. Jin Zixuan makes a strange motion in the air with his hands.

“What are you doing?” Lan Zhan asks him.

Jin Zixuan huffs. “I’m miming using a cricket bat. The one I’ll hit Wei Ying with if he breaks your stupid heart.”

This threat would probably carry more weight if Jin Zixuan were capable of standing (or even sitting) up right now, which is looking extremely unlikely. Still, Lan Zhan is strangely touched.

“That’s very sweet, Zixuan,” Mianmian tells him kindly. To Lan Zhan she says, “Go!”

Lan Zhan goes.

Lan Zhan had first met Wei Ying at a Decolonising STEM reading group in his second week of university. Wei Ying had turned up five minutes late, wearing a striped jumpsuit and eating a hot dog, with his hair piled in a bun on top of his head, tied with a red velvet scrunchie. He’d taken the chair next to Lan Zhan’s.

The text they had been assigned to read was an article by Sandra Harding called Is Science Multicultural? Postcolonialisms, Feminisms, and Epistemologies; it was an interesting article and Lan Zhan had had several thoughts about it when he’d read it through for the reading group. All of those thoughts had promptly vanished when Wei Ying sat down next to him. Periodically he had found himself stealing glances at Wei Ying, who was absorbed in the discussion, listening intently to whoever was speaking.

At some point, someone had passed around a punnet of grapes. Lan Zhan had taken some and then leaned over to tap Wei Ying gently on the shoulder. Wei Ying had turned in surprise. He’d accepted the grapes from Lan Zhan. Then he’d smiled.

Embarrassingly, that was all it had taken.

Of course, it had helped that Wei Ying had leaned over to him afterwards to ask what he studied.

“History and Philosophy of Science,” Lan Zhan had said, and Wei Ying had said, “Cool! I do Physics! I guess that makes us, like, two sides of the same coin!”

“Mm,” Lan Zhan had said. Wei Ying’s jumpsuit had a low-cut neck, exposing a vee of smooth golden skin. He’d found himself wanting to bite it, which was just awful.

“What’d you think of the reading group? I feel like, I dunno, it was an interesting article and I’m glad there’s a space now where we can discuss this kind of stuff, but I’m unsure what we can really do to materially decolonise from our position inside the academy, don’t you think?” Wei Ying had said, his hands fluttering everywhere as he was speaking. “Like, until the whole rotten capitalist system is torn down, we’re not going to get a decolonised physics curriculum.”

“I don’t disagree,” Lan Zhan had said slowly. “But I don’t think that that should mean we shouldn’t try to make changes from within. There are material changes that can be made—like educating people through endeavours such as this reading group. I don’t think we should wait until the fall of global capitalism to try and make the university a more just place.”

He had paused, surprised at himself for talking so much. It must have been something to do with the way Wei Ying was looking at him: focused and intent, like what Lan Zhan had to say mattered to him.

“Hmmm,” Wei Ying had said, bouncing on his toes. “Good point. But it can’t stop at education, right? Otherwise we just sit around talking and nothing actually gets done.” Then he had looked down at his phone and clicked his tongue. “Ah, shit, I’ve got to run. But, hey, we should discuss this properly another time. I’m always knocking around campus, I’m sure I’ll run into you, uh…”

“Lan Zhan.”

“Lan Zhan,” Wei Ying had repeated, rolling the name off his tongue. He had grinned. “Cool. I’m Wei Ying.”

After that, he’d started to notice Wei Ying everywhere. Typing away at his laptop in the social sciences library (why was he even there? Did the physics department not have a library of its own?); buying drinks for his friends at the students’ union bar; careening around campus, calling Hi Lan Zhan! over his shoulder; and of course, at other Decolonising STEM events, leaning forward in his seat, always ready with a pertinent question. Wei Ying was like a bright spark, moving so fast that you’d miss him if you weren’t watching, but Lan Zhan was always watching. For him, Wei Ying was impossible to miss.

Asian social circles were insular at their university, so of course it had turned out that they had mutual friends: Wei Ying’s best friend, Nie Huaisang was the younger brother of Lan Huan’s boyfriend, and Mianmian (at the time, Lan Zhan’s only friend) was getting close with another one of Wei Ying’s friends, Wen Qing. Lan Zhan had found himself being dragged to group events: parties and board game nights and open mic nights and brunches where, inevitably, he’d spend the whole time watching Wei Ying across the room. Or, worse, Wei Ying would notice Lan Zhan and flirt outrageously with him, and Lan Zhan, tongue-tied and horrified, would think furiously to himself, This doesn’t mean anything, Wei Ying flirts with everyone, he was kissing Wen Qing on the cheek only a moment ago.

Things had gone on like that. Lan Zhan had become used to it, the strange ache in his chest when he caught sight of Wei Ying and his ever-present red scrunchie, or when he looked at his phone to find a new text from Wei Ying (always a 50-50 chance on whether it would be an incomprehensible meme or an academic article on the compatibility of feminism with physics). He’d never thought he could have anything more from Wei Ying. It was enough just to be around him; circling like a planet in orbit, unable to escape but never coming close enough to touch.

The address the Uber driver has is correct. Lan Zhan gets in the back and leans his head against the window. It feels deliciously cool against his cheek. Suddenly, he remembers that he’d never responded to Wei Ying’s message.

He enters his passcode wrong twice before he manages to open Instagram.

ok, he sends to Wei Ying. It seems unenthusiastic. He looks at it for a moment, then sends, *Okay!

The little ‘Seen’ appears at the bottom. Then three dots. Then nothing. If Lan Zhan hadn’t been in a moving vehicle, he probably would have turned around and gone home. As it is, all he can do is sit tight. Sit tight and—oh, Wei Ying has replied. He says, cool see u soon!!

Lan Zhan takes a screenshot and sends it to his group chat. is this a good sign?

YES OBVIOUSLY, Mianmian says instantaneously. She follows it up with, Zixuan unable to work his phone rn, he made the cricket bat motion again & told me to tell u lol

The cab pulls up outside Wei Ying’s house. He lives with his brother and Nie Huaisang, Lan Zhan knows––he’s been here a few times before. Once for Nie Huaisang’s birthday party, when Lan Zhan had done three ill-advised tequila shots (Wei Ying had been wearing a crop top; he’d been heavily provoked) and Jin Zixuan had had to carry him home. Another time he’d gone over with Lan Huan and Nie Mingjue to watch a movie, and Wei Ying had curled up against Lan Zhan’s side, nestling his head on Lan Zhan’s shoulder. Lan Zhan had sat rigidly, hardly breathing, not daring to move. He doesn’t even remember what movie they’d been watching.

But today will be different to those other visits—at least, Lan Zhan hopes so. He tells the driver to have a good night and gets out of the cab. He feels off-balance, not from the weed but from the fact that this is actually happening, after months and months of yearning for it, wanting it so badly that it made him feel sick. Is a stupid Instagram DM all it takes?

He lingers outside on the pavement for a moment, looking up at the windows. Which room is Wei Ying’s? Is it the one at the front, without curtains? His heart is beating very, very fast at the thought that he is about to find out the answer to that question.

Lan Zhan thinks of Mianmian telling him he looks perfect. He thinks of Jin Zixuan threatening to beat Wei Ying with a cricket bat. He takes a deep breath, and rings the doorbell.

“Hey?” Wei Ying says when he opens the door. His hair is loose around his shoulders and he’s wearing a t-shirt which has, bizarrely, both the Coca-Cola and the Subway logos on it. In between the logos, it says: YOU LOOK REALLY THIRSTY. The shirt is old—the loose neckline stretches across his chest, showing the hollow of his clavicle. “Oh… Lan Zhan?”

“Yes,” Lan Zhan says, because that is his name.

“You’re here,” Wei Ying says. He sounds slightly stunned. “At my house.”

“Yes,” Lan Zhan says, because he is.

“Um,” says Wei Ying.

They stare at each other for a moment. Wei Ying looks as beautiful as he did in the selfie. More, even, because that had been 2D, a flat image, whereas here, in front of Lan Zhan, he’s a real person. Alive, gorgeously so. Lan Zhan has to resist the urge to sway forwards, put his hands on Wei Ying’s shoulders and press their mouths together. But—does he have to hold back? Have the rules changed since he and Wei Ying exchanged those Instagram messages? Is he allowed to—

Before Lan Zhan can follow that thought to its conclusion, Wei Ying clears his throat and steps back. He says brightly, “Oh! Come in. It’s cold out, you must be cold.”

Lan Zhan has not registered the temperature. He follows Wei Ying into the house. In the entrance hallway, he removes his shoes and places them neatly beside the chaos of trainers at the door. Wei Ying and his housemates obviously do not know what a shoe rack is or where to purchase one.

“So,” Wei Ying says, crossing his arms, then uncrossing them again. “Uh. Do you want a beer or something?”

Lan Zhan hates beer, so it’s a mystery to him why he agrees. He finds himself in Wei Ying’s kitchen, holding a can (not even a bottle) of Stella. He drinks the whole thing in one go.

When he sets down the empty can on the counter, Wei Ying is staring at him. “Um, Lan Zhan, are you… okay?”

“Fine,” Lan Zhan says. Then, because Lan Qiren raised him to be polite, he asks, “How are you?”

“I’m good, I’m good,” Wei Ying says. He opens his own beer can and drinks from it. Lan Zhan watches his long throat bob as he swallows. Half of the kitchen lights are blown out so the lighting is dim. Wei Ying’s face is half in shadow when he says, “Lan Zhan. Why… are you here?”

Lan Zhan feels like he’s gone insane. Surely Wei Ying knows why he is here. Did he hallucinate the messages? He knows that smoking weed can do that to you. It’s never happened to him before, but maybe it was the green tea that did it. Maybe he and Mianmian and Jin Zixuan have all been under some kind of mass delusion.

He says slowly, “You asked me to. On Instagram.”

Wei Ying goes very red. “Oh!” He drinks from his beer again, wipes his mouth with the back of his hand. “I, um, I thought that maybe that was a joke. That you were joking. Making a joke. The way people do. To, uh, be funny.”

Lan Zhan feels abruptly like he might cry. To stop himself, he blurts out the first thing that comes to mind, “Mianmian sent the message. From my phone.”

Wei Ying doesn’t say anything for a while. His face is too shadowy for Lan Zhan to see his expression properly. Then he says brightly, “Oh. Okay! Cool! That makes more sense. I thought—well, never mind.”

Lan Zhan has no idea what to do now. This is a disaster. Should he go home? The beer sits in his stomach, heavy and fizzy. He looks at Wei Ying, who is not meeting his eyes.

Wei Ying says without looking up, “Uh, do you want another beer or something? We can, ah, hang out here for a little while if you want? Since you’re here!”

He’s probably saying it to be polite. Lan Zhan should decline, and leave, and crawl into bed, and never get out again.

“Okay,” he says.

Lan Zhan leans against the wall outside Wei Ying’s room as he drinks his second beer. A small voice at the back of his mind suggests taking it slowly, but it tastes so disgusting that he’s left with no choice but to chug it all in one go. When he finishes, he feels appalling. Why do people drink this stuff?

Wei Ying had dragged him up the stairs—Let’s go to my room, Lan Zhan!—and then, when they’d arrived at his door, he’d gone red and said, “Uh, can you just—I’ll—Wait—” and disappeared into his room.

From behind the closed door, there comes a crash and a scraping sound, and then Wei Ying, slightly breathless, pokes his head out.

“Come in!”

Lan Zhan enters Wei Ying’s bedroom—it is the one without curtains—and looks around briefly. As he does so, Wei Ying kicks a hoodie under the bed. Lan Zhan is desperately trying not to think about how he is in Wei Ying’s bedroom; the beer helps with that. His brain is sort of fuzzy, but he manages to notice details like how Wei Ying’s bed looks hastily made, with one of the pillows almost falling off the side; and that the duvet cover is patterned with small Starfleet insignias. The desk is covered with empty mugs and scraps of paper with calculations on, but they’ve all been shoved to the side in a semblance of order.

Lan Zhan realises he needs to say something. “It’s nice.”

“Ah, thanks, thanks,” Wei Ying says. “Do you, uh, do you wanna sit on the bed?”

Lan Zhan sits on the bed. It’s soft. He crosses his legs and leans back against the wall, which helps to steady him. Wei Ying hovers in the centre of the room, like he’s unsure what to do with himself. Lan Zhan isn’t sure what to do with himself either. Have he and Wei Ying ever been alone together—properly alone—before? He can’t remember.

Wei Ying’s tolerance for awkward silences is far, far below Lan Zhan’s. He bounces on his toes a little and somehow produces conversation out of nowhere.

“Ah, Lan Zhan, it’s so nice to hang out with you! We hardly ever do this, just us two, do we? We should do it more often! Hey, wanna see what I got the other day? Jiang Cheng and Sangsang hate it, but I’m obsessed, and I’m getting so much better at it, fuck whatever Jiang Cheng says—”

Lan Zhan watches with vague horror as Wei Ying scrambles for his desk drawer and unearths a small plastic case. He gets onto the bed and sits cross-legged opposite Lan Zhan, mirroring his posture. Their knees are almost touching.

Then Wei Ying opens the case and brandishes a harmonica. “Look!” he says, gleeful. “I got it from a charity shop for a fiver! Isn’t it amazing!”

So that’s how Lan Zhan ends up listening to Wei Ying play a very poor rendition of the Crazy Frog song on the harmonica at God-knows-what-time in the morning. The Crazy Frog tune is terrible enough on its own, and it is not improved by the harmonica. It cannot be put into words how appallingly bad he is at it. It should be illegal for him to be this incompetent at an activity and yet manage to make Lan Zhan still like him so much.

Is bad harmonica playing worth an assault by cricket bat from Jin Zixuan? Lan Zhan doesn’t know. He feels like he has completely departed from reality, and not just because of the weed. For the first time in his life, he wishes he had another beer.

“Well?” Wei Ying says. He toots an enthusiastic few notes on the harmonica to finish. “What’d you think?”

How is Lan Zhan possibly supposed to answer that? His head is spinning, or maybe the room is spinning—he can’t tell.

He is suddenly consumed by an intense, overwhelming need to be horizontal, right now. He sees no reason not to give into this desire, so he does, collapsing to the side, away from Wei Ying. The bed bounces lightly beneath him.

“Lan Zhan?” Wei Ying says. Lan Zhan feels the bed shift, and then Wei Ying has a hand on his arm. “Are you okay?”

Lan Zhan is not okay, neither in the physical nor the mental sense. “Mm.”

“You seem kind of out of it,” Wei Ying says. He sounds worried. “Um, let me get you some water.”

“No,” Lan Zhan says. He reaches out a hand and grabs Wei Ying’s wrist firmly. “Don’t go.”

“Okay,” Wei Ying says. “Okay, okay, I’m not going anywhere.” He places his hand on Lan Zhan’s. Lan Zhan relaxes his grip, but he doesn’t let go.

Wei Ying strokes a thumb over the back of his hand. “Wow, you’re really wasted right now, huh? I shouldn’t have given you that second beer, I feel totally responsible for this.”

“Not just the beer,” Lan Zhan says. His tongue feels thick and heavy in his mouth. “I was… smoking. Earlier.”

Oh,” Wei Ying says. He laughs. Wei Ying has such a nice laugh. Lan Zhan is happy that he made Wei Ying laugh. “Oh, Jesus Christ. Oh, Lan Zhan. That explains a lot.”

“What does it explain,” Lan Zhan says.

“Um, the fact that you let Mianmian send that DM? The fact that you’re here at my house in the middle of the night?” Wei Ying says. It sounds like he’s teasing. He strokes the back of Lan Zhan’s hand again.

Lan Zhan is, abruptly, sick of it. He can’t take it any more. And he’s already made a fool of himself in front of Wei Ying by turning up to his house in the middle of the night, high, so what else does he have to lose? He thinks about sitting up but even the idea of that makes his head spin, so he stays where he is, curled on his side on Wei Ying’s bed. He gazes up at Wei Ying and enunciates as clearly as he can: “Not because I was high.”

“Wh—what do you mean?” Wei Ying says.

“Coming here,” Lan Zhan says. Why is language so hard? Suddenly, he can’t look at Wei Ying. “Came here because I wanted to see what your mouth could do. To me.” Then, because he’s not sure if he’s been specific enough, “Sexually.”

“Lan Zhan,” Wei Ying says. There’s a strange note in his voice. “Lan Zhan, look at me.”

Lan Zhan looks.

“Tell me you’re not joking,” Wei Ying says. He’s the one gripping Lan Zhan’s hand now. His eyes are slightly wild.

“Not joking,” Lan Zhan says. He tries to reach out for Wei Ying’s face with his other arm, but forgets that it’s pinned underneath his own body-weight. There’s nothing for it: he has to sit up. The motion makes him feel incredibly dizzy, but at least now he can look Wei Ying in the eye properly, reach out to put a hand on his cheek, run his thumb over Wei Ying’s full lower lip.

Wei Ying’s mouth parts slightly. “Lan Zhan…”

“Want you to kiss me,” Lan Zhan says.

The room is very silent and also spinning wildly. Lan Zhan can’t quite focus on Wei Ying’s face, but he’s gone this far; he may as well go for broke. He leans in, slightly. Wei Ying swallows.

“Oh,” Lan Zhan says, horrified, “I need to throw up. Right now.”

Wei Ying scrambles up and somehow hustles him down the corridor to the bathroom, Lan Zhan’s hand clamped over his mouth the whole time. They burst through the bathroom door and then Lan Zhan is leaning over and vomiting into Wei Ying’s toilet. Wei Ying lowers them both down onto the floor and places the flat of his hand between Lan Zhan’s shoulder blades, rubbing his back in firm but gentle circles.

“Sorry,” Lan Zhan manages to say when he raises his head. “Wei Ying, I—”

“Hey, don’t apologise,” Wei Ying says. “It’s all good, you’re good, baby. Don’t worry.”

His voice is so soft and kind that it makes Lan Zhan want to cry. Instead, he throws up again. Wei Ying shifts so he’s sitting slightly behind Lan Zhan, one hand holding his shoulder, while his other hand is still stroking over Lan Zhan’s back. He’s murmuring, That’s it, yeah, you’re okay, get it out, you’re good. It makes the world feel a little less awful.

“Want some water?” Wei Ying says. Lan Zhan lifts his head and nods. He must look absolutely awful, but Wei Ying still smiles at him, for some reason. In the bright fluorescent light of the bathroom, his smile is dazzling. He reaches out and tucks a loose strand of hair behind Lan Zhan’s ear. “Be right back, okay?”

It feels like years go by before Wei Ying comes back with a glass of water. He gives it to Lan Zhan and helps guide the glass to his mouth, tilting it gently so Lan Zhan can drink. When Lan Zhan finishes the glass, Wei Ying reaches out, dabs at the corner of his mouth lightly with the back of his wrist.

“How’re we feeling?” Wei Ying says, and Lan Zhan says, thickly, “Terrible.”

Wei Ying laughs. “Yeah, I bet. You think you’re gonna throw up again?”

Lan Zhan shakes his head. His vision is still a bit blurry at the edges, but the room has stopped spinning so violently. The bathroom tiles feel cold through his thin trousers.

“Sorry,” he says.

Wei Ying frowns. “You don’t need to be sorry. What are you sorry for?”

“Ruined your evening,” Lan Zhan says, and Wei Ying’s face softens. He brushes Lan Zhan’s cheek lightly with his knuckles.

“Lan Zhan,” he says, “there’s no one else I’d rather spend an evening with.”

Lan Zhan blinks at him.

“Uh,” Wei Ying says. He clears his throat. “Do you… do you want to go home? I can call you a cab.” He looks away and says quickly, “Or, or—you could stay here, if you want.”

Lan Zhan does want to go home. But home is far, and he doesn’t think he could survive an Uber journey without doing critical damage to the cab.

“Stay here,” he decides.

“Okay, babe,” Wei Ying says. He’s smiling. “Cool. Let’s get you cleaned up a bit and then you can go to bed, hmm?”

“Mm,” Lan Zhan says. He feels exhausted, wrung out, still a bit dizzy. Wei Ying helps Lan Zhan to his feet, lifting him under the armpits like he’s a child. He puts down the toilet seat and deposits Lan Zhan on top. Lan Zhan slumps to the side and leans against the wall. Wei Ying swears softly under his breath and steadies him with one hand.

“Don’t move,” he says to Lan Zhan. “I’ll—give me one second.”

He leans his head out of the door and bellows, “SANGSANG!”

YEAH,” comes back a slightly muffled voice. Lan Zhan remembers with a start that other people live in Wei Ying’s house.

“D’YOU HAVE ANY MAKEUP REMOVER WIPES?”

“YEAH, UNDER THE SINK.”

“THANKS, LOVE YOU!”

There’s the sound of a door opening, and Jiang Cheng’s extremely aggrieved voice issues forth: “If both of you don’t shut the fuck up right now I will burn this house down in the night.

Wei Ying closes the bathroom door on the sound of Nie Huaisang’s high cackle of laughter. “I love my housemates,” he says fondly to Lan Zhan as he crouches to reach the cupboard beneath the sink. He emerges with a pack of wipes. When he leans in, Lan Zhan’s breath catches in his throat, but all Wei Ying does is wipe over his face, around his eyes, tilting his chin between finger and thumb. The wipe is damp and cool on his skin.

“Okay, you’re good,” Wei Ying says. “Oh, you gotta do your teeth now.” He disposes of the wipe and opens the cupboard again. “Ah, jackpot!”

He rips open the toothbrush pack with his teeth and hands it to Lan Zhan. Lan Zhan looks at the toothbrush blankly for a moment. Then he remembers that toothbrushes need to go in your mouth. He puts it in his mouth.

Wei Ying cracks up laughing. “Oh no, Lan Zhan, you—hold on, let me—”

He removes the toothbrush from Lan Zhan’s mouth and puts toothpaste on it, wetting it with water afterwards. Wei Ying presents the toothbrush to Lan Zhan, but Lan Zhan is sick of toothbrushes now.

“No,” he says, batting it aside. “No teeth. Just bed.”

“Yes teeth, Lan Zhan,” Wei Ying says. He moves the toothbrush closer to Lan Zhan’s mouth. “I’m not letting you sleep without brushing your teeth—you’ll thank me in the morning. Open up.”

Lan Zhan has no resistance left. He opens his mouth and lets Wei Ying brush his teeth for him.

“This isn’t how I expected this night to go,” Wei Ying says conversationally. “Like, at all.”

Lan Zhan tries to say Sorry and ends up dribbling toothpaste foam out of his mouth. Wei Ying says, “I know you want to apologise, but tough shit, you can’t. I said no sorrys and I meant it.”

He steadies Lan Zhan’s face with a gentle hand, angling his chin up so he can reach the back molars. “Anyway, I didn’t mean it like that. I meant—like, I kind of feel like when you’re looking at a leaf or something on the road and then you maybe move your head a little and realise it’s not actually a leaf, it’s a bird. Like, the scene itself hasn’t changed, but your perspective shifts and it looks completely different.”

Lan Zhan has absolutely no idea what Wei Ying is talking about. He tries to nod, but he can’t because Wei Ying is holding his chin.

“Okay, I think that’s good enough,” Wei Ying decides. He helps Lan Zhan spit into the sink and rinse his mouth. Afterwards, he pats at Lan Zhan’s face with a hand towel and says, “Good, you’re doing so well.”

“Bed?” Lan Zhan says hopefully.

“Yeah, babe. Bed,” Wei Ying says. He drapes Lan Zhan’s arm over his shoulder and half-carries him down the corridor.

Once they’re back in his bedroom, Wei Ying says, “I don’t, like, have the self-control to undress you right now, so I’m sorry, but you’re gonna have to sleep in your clothes.”

This sounds fine to Lan Zhan. He lets Wei Ying help him into bed, draw the duvet up and over him. It’s only then that he realises—he’s in Wei Ying’s bed.

“What about you?” he says. It comes out slightly slurred, the words blurring together.

Wei Ying brushes a thumb down his cheek. “I’ll go get in with Sangsang or Jiang Cheng or something,” he says.

Lan Zhan frowns. That doesn’t make sense to him. He says, “More than enough room in here.” He tries to move up but it’s too much effort, so instead he grabs Wei Ying’s wrist and jerks him closer.

Wei Ying, who isn’t expecting it, lets out a yelp of surprise. He ends up half-sprawled on top of Lan Zhan on the bed.

“Oh, Lan Zhan, baby, no,” he breathes. Lan Zhan can feel it, Wei Ying’s breath on his cheek. Their mouths are so, so close together. Wei Ying closes his eyes very tightly and then opens them.

“Fuck,” he says. “I can’t—we’re not doing this right now. Oh my God. You—”

“What aren’t we doing,” Lan Zhan says. He doesn’t understand Wei Ying’s behaviour at all. “Kiss me.”

“I—” Wei Ying says, blinking very hard again.

“You don’t want to,” Lan Zhan says. He turns his face to the side. “Because I’m a mess.”

“No!” Wei Ying says. “No. Shut up. You—God. Lan Zhan. You’re—ugh, you’re not a mess, you’re the hottest person I’ve ever seen. At any time, in any situation.” He reaches out and strokes Lan Zhan’s cheek. “It’s not—it’s not that I don’t want to, okay? I just think maybe we should wait until you’ve slept it off a bit. Hmm? You need to rest, sweetheart.”

“Boring,” Lan Zhan mumbles, but the thought of rest makes him yawn despite himself.

Wei Ying gently removes his arm from Lan Zhan’s grasp. He leans down—Lan Zhan can’t breathe, suddenly—and presses a kiss to Lan Zhan’s forehead, his cheek, right by the corner of his mouth.

When he pulls back, his eyes are soft. “Ah, you’ll probably have forgotten all this by tomorrow.”

“I won’t,” says Lan Zhan. His eyes are already closing. “I’d never forget Wei Ying.”

Lan Zhan wakes up the next morning to bright, clear sunlight streaming through the window. He sits bolt upright, and immediately regrets it when his head starts pounding. His mouth tastes like something died in it. For a moment he has no idea where he is. Then, in bits and pieces, memories from last night filter back to him. He’d gone to Wei Ying’s house in the middle of the night. He’d listened to Wei Ying play him terrible songs on the harmonica. He’d thrown up in Wei Ying’s bathroom. He’d passed out in Wei Ying’s bed.

He covers his mouth with a hand and tries to overcome the waves of nausea that sweep over him. He looks around desperately for his phone and spots it on the bedside table. Next to it is a glass of water with a packet of paracetamol and a note. Lan Zhan ignores all three and unlocks his phone. He’s missed about three hundred texts from his group chat with Jin Zixuan and Mianmian. The last one was from Mianmian at 3:46am. It says, Wei Ying let me know what happened & said that you’re staying there tonight, hope you’re ok!!! Call me when you’re on your way home, love you x

Fantastic. All—both—of his friends already know what an idiot he’d made of himself yesterday. Lan Zhan pinches the bridge of his nose and sighs deeply. He types out a text to Mianmian: just woke up. back soon.

Finally he gets up the courage to look at the note on the bedside table. In scrawled, messy handwriting, it says: MORNING LAN ZHAN!!! drink water and take painkillers please. xx Wei Ying

Lan Zhan takes the pills and forces himself to drink the entire glass of water. His mouth still tastes awful—he remembers the feeling of having his teeth brushed by Wei Ying last night, but the minty taste is completely gone. Slowly, he gets out of bed, registering that he’s still wearing the same clothes he arrived in. How embarrassing, having to do a wholly unearned walk of shame home.

Standing rigidly in the middle of the room, Lan Zhan assesses his options. He’s on the second floor, so the window is not feasible. That leaves the door, which leads to the stairs, and the rest of Wei Ying’s house. And somewhere out there is Wei Ying and, worse, Wei Ying’s housemates.

The only way out is through, Lan Zhan tells himself. He breathes in through his nose and picks up his phone. Did he bring anything else with him? Wallet, keys? He’s too anxious to check whether he’s leaving behind anything other than his dignity.

Quietly, so quietly, he opens the door. The house is silent. He tiptoes out, and goes down the stairs, pressing himself against the wall so he treads as lightly as possible.

When he gets to the bottom, an amused voice says, “Lan Zhan?” and Lan Zhan nearly jumps out of his skin.

It’s only Wei Ying, thank God. Meeting Jiang Cheng while he’s in this state would be unthinkably awful; Nie Huaisang would not be much better.

Wei Ying is shirtless, wearing a pair of pyjama bottoms with the Batman symbol on, and he’s got two mugs in one hand and a plate in the other.

“What are you doing?” Wei Ying asks, still amused. Lan Zhan realises that he’s still pressed up against the wall like an amateur spy in an action movie and rapidly detaches himself.

“I am… leaving,” he says, determinedly not looking at Wei Ying’s bare chest.

“So soon?” Wei Ying says. He sets foot on the bottom stair; Lan Zhan, involuntarily, climbs backwards. “But I just made you tea! And toast! I won’t let you leave without caffeine, Lan Zhan, and you really have to eat something, I should have made you eat last night but—anyway, at least eat this or you’ll collapse on the way home from low blood sugar—”

As Wei Ying is talking, he comes up the stairs, herding Lan Zhan back into his room, back onto the bed, where he’d been sitting last night. He gives Lan Zhan the plate of toast. Lan Zhan takes it.

“Uh, I didn’t know what toppings you wanted,” Wei Ying says, “so I just buttered it. I hope that’s okay? I can go down and put, like, jam or Nutella on it if you want?”

“Thank you. Plain toast is fine,” Lan Zhan says and means it. The bread is white, fluffy, thick, processed to within an inch of its life—the kind of bread Lan Zhan never buys for himself, but it tastes good.

He’s halfway through his first slice before he realises. “Wei Ying… you aren’t having any breakfast?”

Wei Ying is drinking his tea, leaning against his desk. He’s still shirtless, which is awful and very difficult to avoid thinking about. The Batman pyjamas are too short for him, exposing several inches of slender ankle. Lan Zhan fixes his gaze on Wei Ying’s face, which feels like the safest place for his eyes right now.

“I think you need it more than I do,” Wei Ying says, grinning over the rim of the mug, but that is not acceptable to Lan Zhan.

“Wei Ying, eat,” he says, keeping Wei Ying’s gaze. He holds out the plate.

“If you’re sure?” Wei Ying says. Lan Zhan nods, and Wei Ying clambers onto the bed. He keeps a careful distance from Lan Zhan, sitting with his legs dangling over the side. Lan Zhan places the plate between them and they share the rest of the toast.

When all that’s left is crumbs, Wei Ying pushes a mug of tea into Lan Zhan’s hands. Lan Zhan is about to decline—he doesn’t particularly like black tea, especially not with milk and sugar, which is how he assumes Wei Ying takes his—but then he looks down and sees that it’s a green tea.

“I thought you were probably a green tea kinda guy,” Wei Ying admits. “I didn’t have any myself but I found some in Jiang Cheng’s cupboard, he’s been on some nutso health kick recently—uh, not that drinking green tea is nutso or anything! I just, personally, am not a fan, but obviously you guys do you—”

Lan Zhan drinks the tea. The sunlight from the window warms his back. He must look completely awful; his hair is falling out of Mianmian’s neat plait, and he feels sweaty and sticky in last night’s clothes. Still, Wei Ying had been right: the tea and toast do help.

“Wei Ying,” he says, “about last night…”

He trails off, not knowing how to finish the sentence. Please can we forget everything I said or did? Can we still be friends after this? Wei Ying looks at him for a long moment, not rushing to fill the silence for once. His hands twitch restlessly in his lap.

“Wei Ying, I am very sorry,” Lan Zhan says eventually. “I behaved completely inappropriately.”

“Lan Zhan,” Wei Ying says. He sounds fond. “You didn’t. It’s totally fine. You’re a really cute drunk. Stubborn, but cute. But, ah, how much do you remember?”

“Too much,” says Lan Zhan, trying to ignore the desperate leap of his heart at Wei Ying calling him cute. Wei Ying laughs, a little too loudly to be casual.

“Do you, um, remember anything you said? Anything I said?”

Lan Zhan remembers being in Wei Ying’s room, while he played the harmonica. He remembers Wei Ying half-carrying him down the hallway to the bathroom. He remembers Wei Ying stroking his back; Wei Ying calling him good and baby and sweetheart too; Wei Ying offering to let him stay; Wei Ying brushing his teeth, saying something about a leaf and a bird and perspective. After the teeth-brushing, his memory, blessedly, goes blank.

“Do you remember, uh,” Wei Ying says. He clears his throat. “Do you remember saying you wanted me to kiss you.”

The room is very silent. Lan Zhan winces—his mind has been tiptoeing around that memory, of being on the bed, asking Wei Ying to kiss him before promptly realising he was about to be really, really sick. He recognises the out that Wei Ying is giving him: the offer that they could spin this off as a drunken mistake, and Lan Zhan could go home and they would never have to mention it again.

Or—

Or he could, finally, be honest about what he wants. Sober, in the daylight.

Lan Zhan makes himself look Wei Ying in the eye. Wei Ying is looking back: gaze open and warm. It gives him the bravery to say—

“Yes. I remember.”

Wei Ying says haltingly, “Do you still… Do you—”

“Yes,” Lan Zhan says. “Wei Ying, yes.”

Wei Ying licks his lips, and that’s the last straw for Lan Zhan. He moves over the bed and kisses Wei Ying, cupping his face with both hands.

It’s soft and gentle at first, but Wei Ying tilts his head and Lan Zhan mirrors him, and their mouths open and then the kiss isn’t gentle at all. Lan Zhan slides his tongue into Wei Ying’s mouth, kisses him hungrily. Wei Ying tastes sweet and milky like the tea he’s been drinking, and Lan Zhan forgets about his disastrous hangover, forgets everything except Wei Ying, the feel of him, his soft mouth pliant and open for Lan Zhan to take and take and take.

Despite the fact that this is the closest they’ve ever been, they’re hardly touching, apart from Lan Zhan’s hands on Wei Ying’s face and the desperate hold Wei Ying has on his elbow. Lan Zhan moves closer, wanting more, and pulls Wei Ying down onto the bed with him. Wei Ying says, breathlessly and a little indignantly, “Lan Zhan—” and then Lan Zhan captures his mouth again, revelling in the feel of Wei Ying pinned beneath him. He’s thought about doing this so many times, holding Wei Ying down and kissing the breath out of him.

When Lan Zhan leans down to kiss Wei Ying’s jaw, he doesn’t mean to start biting, but Wei Ying starts making these little ah ah ah sounds, and Lan Zhan can’t help it. He sinks his teeth into the soft skin of Wei Ying’s throat, licking and sucking at the skin. Wei Ying’s noises get a lot louder and he’s moaning Lan Zhan’s name too, threading his hands through Lan Zhan’s hair, destroying the last of his plait, then moving them down over Lan Zhan’s shoulders, his back, gripping at his clothes frantically.

Wei Ying gasps out, “Get your clothes off, Lan Zhan, I want to touch you, please—” and Lan Zhan sits back, struggles out of his trousers and underwear and then his blouse and then the undershirt (why did Mianmian pick an outfit with layers?). In his hurry, his head gets stuck in his shirt, and he flails around for a bit before managing to tear it off. He looks at Wei Ying afterwards, embarrassed, but Wei Ying is struggling with his own pyjama bottoms, wriggling out of them. As he meets Lan Zhan’s eyes, Wei Ying laughs a little, like he can’t help it, and suddenly it’s no longer awkward but intimate and a little funny, too—how they’re so eager to get their clothes off, to touch each other. Lan Zhan smiles back and Wei Ying’s face softens.

“God, you’re hot,” he sighs, finally freeing himself from the pyjama bottoms. His cock bounces against his stomach. The sight of it sends a jolt through Lan Zhan like electricity. Wei Ying leans back on his elbows and says, “Come here.”

Lan Zhan crawls up the bed and they’re kissing again, more urgently now, hungry for each other. Wei Ying shifts a little and suddenly Lan Zhan can feel Wei Ying’s cock pressing against his hip, hard and hot. Wei Ying rolls them over and they kiss like that, bare legs tangled together, Lan Zhan’s hands moving up and down Wei Ying’s back, all the way over the curve of his ass. He can’t believe that he’s finally allowed to do this, allowed to reach out and touch Wei Ying everywhere he can. Their cocks are brushing together, trapped between the press of their bodies, and Lan Zhan’s brain almost short-circuits from how good it feels.

Wei Ying pulls back and says, breathlessly, “Lan Zhan, I—I really want to suck you off, can I?”

Lan Zhan nods, a little too eagerly, and Wei Ying grins and darts in for a kiss before wriggling down the bed, settling between Lan Zhan’s legs. He leans down, kisses Lan Zhan’s hip, the crease of his thigh, bites a little at the soft skin there, and then wraps a hand around Lan Zhan’s cock. Lan Zhan’s eyes roll back into his skull a little.

“You’re so wet, sweetheart,” Wei Ying murmurs, “it’s so fucking hot,” and Lan Zhan makes an involuntary noise that gets louder when Wei Ying sucks at the head of his cock, swirling his tongue over the tip.

Wei Ying pulls off with a slick noise and then he presses his whole open mouth against Lan Zhan’s cock, wet and hot, running it down from the tip right up to his balls. When he takes Lan Zhan’s cock into his mouth properly, Lan Zhan’s toes curl into the mattress.

Wei Ying pulls off and says, “You can fuck my mouth if you want.” His voice slightly hoarse, mouth red and spit-slick. “I like it.”

Lan Zhan gasps out, “Yes, Wei Ying, yes,” and threads his hands through Wei Ying’s hair, holding the back of his head.

Wei Ying hums and goes down again. Lan Zhan lifts his hips, thrusting slowly into the wet heat of Wei Ying’s mouth, as deep as he dares, and then out again.

“Wei Ying,” he manages to say, “is that—is it—”

“You can go faster if you want,” Wei Ying says, putting a hand over one of Lan Zhan’s, showing Lan Zhan how to push his head down onto his cock as he thrusts in again.

Fucking Wei Ying’s mouth feels indescribable. Lan Zhan slides into his throat over and over and Wei Ying takes him all the way each time, pliant and open for whatever Lan Zhan wants from him. It’s exactly what Lan Zhan has been dreaming of, all these months; his hands tangled in Wei Ying’s hair, thrusting deep into his throat, the press of Wei Ying’s hands anchoring him to the bed. He tries to set a steady rhythm, but as he gets closer to the edge, it’s difficult to stay controlled; his thrusts get rougher, more impatient.

“Wei Ying,” he says eventually, tugging a little at Wei Ying’s hair as a warning. Wei Ying closes his eyes and sucks all the way down, letting Lan Zhan fill his mouth, his throat. His hands tighten around Lan Zhan’s hips, like he’s saying, Go on, and Lan Zhan arches his spine off the bed, electrified by feeling, and comes.

Wei Ying slides off him gently, swallowing as he does so. He looks up at Lan Zhan, pupils blown huge, hair in disarray; like every lurid fantasy Lan Zhan’s had over the last year, but better, because this is real. “Lan Zhan,” he says, breathlessly.

Lan Zhan grabs him by the back of the neck and hauls him up the bed to kiss him, kiss that perfect, wrecked mouth. He licks the taste of himself out of Wei Ying’s mouth and Wei Ying moans into the kiss and ruts up against him, hands gripping Lan Zhan’s biceps, fingernails digging in. It’s so unimaginably hot, how desperate Wei Ying is. His cock is a hard warmth against Lan Zhan’s stomach; Lan Zhan reaches down and circles his thumb over the slick wetness at the head.

“Fuck, Lan Zhan, fuck,” Wei Ying says and his hips jerk as he tries to thrust into Lan Zhan’s hand. “If you don’t touch me I’m gonna fucking die—”

Lan Zhan recovers his presence of mind enough to say, “Lube—” and Wei Ying says, “Holy shit, yes, oh my God—” and flails an arm towards the bedside table, which is way too far away for him to reach, because Lan Zhan is in between him and the side of the bed. He gives up and laughs helplessly into Lan Zhan’s neck, saying, “You get it, babe.”

Lan Zhan twists over, roots through the drawer to find the bottle. He flips open the cap, drizzles it over his hand and takes Wei Ying’s cock in hand properly. Wei Ying shudders and buries his face in Lan Zhan’s shoulder, pressing wet open-mouthed kisses there as Lan Zhan jerks him off, fast and smooth with the lube and Wei Ying’s own slick wetness. Wei Ying lifts his head, pupils blown, skin flushed, and says, “Fuck, Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan,” and Lan Zhan kisses him hard, bites at his bottom lip. Wei Ying thrusts into his hand desperately, and Lan Zhan feels a hot flush of pleasure at the fact that this is actually happening; that he’s here, making Wei Ying come undone like this.

“Oh, fuck, fuck, I’m gonna—” Wei Ying says and then he cries out and comes, spilling hot and wet over Lan Zhan’s hand, all over the bed. His hands are threaded through Lan Zhan’s hair, pulling just hard enough to hurt. Lan Zhan strokes him through it, pulling the orgasm out of him relentlessly. A litany of oh, Lan Zhan, oh my God, you’re so hot, Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan spills out of Wei Ying like he can’t help it, and it’s completely ridiculous and unbelievably sexy and Lan Zhan likes him so, so much.

They collapse on the bed, facing each other. Wei Ying is haloed in the sunlight streaming through the curtainless windows. Lan Zhan feels shaky and unsteady, like he’s been taken apart and clumsily, beautifully put back together. The sequence of events that has taken him from being stoned in Mianmian’s room last night to here, tangled up with Wei Ying after sex, feels almost unreal. Perhaps he should feel a little more shame at what happened in between, but right now, he can’t bring himself to care.

Involuntarily, Lan Zhan reaches out with his clean hand to touch Wei Ying’s face, just to reassure himself that this hasn’t all been a dream. Wei Ying turns his head and kisses Lan Zhan’s palm, and the easy affection of it takes Lan Zhan’s breath away.

Wei Ying looks back at him, eyes wide, like he’s feeling as unmoored as Lan Zhan is right now. “Lan Zhan. Oh my God. That was so—God, you’re amazing.”

Lan Zhan feels his face go hot. “You too,” he says. He slides his hand around to the nape of Wei Ying’s neck, stroking at the soft hair there.

Wei Ying shivers a little. He says quietly, “Can I ask you something?”

“Yes,” Lan Zhan says. He lowers his hand, draws it over Wei Ying’s shoulder blades. Wei Ying moves closer, tucking himself into the circle of Lan Zhan’s arms.

“Did, uh,” he says to Lan Zhan’s chest. “Did Mianmian actually send that message?”

Lan Zhan sighs. He has to be honest, so he says, “Yes.” Before Wei Ying can say anything else, he adds, “But… I’m glad that she did.”

“Oh, I bet you are,” Wei Ying says, teasingly.

“I am,” Lan Zhan says, and, daringly, leans over to kiss the top of Wei Ying’s head. Wei Ying makes a little mm of pleasure and laughs lightly.

“Hey. Lan Zhan. Just so you know, I don’t usually put out before the first date.”

“I’m flattered,” says Lan Zhan.

“You should be,” Wei Ying says. He pauses for so long that Lan Zhan is considering whether it’s too soon to go for round two, but then Wei Ying says, “But, jokes aside… Can I ask… What do you want from this? Sorry, I just wanted to ask because… if you just wanted to be, like, friends with benefits or fuck buddies or whatever, that’d be okay. Totally fine! But… but do you also maybe want to go on a date with me sometime?”

The idea that Lan Zhan would want anything less than everything Wei Ying is willing to give him is absurd. It’s absurd that Wei Ying doesn’t know that. Lan Zhan thinks, I have time to show him, and the thought fills him with an unreasonable, ridiculous joy. He’s brimming over with it. He tilts Wei Ying’s head up and kisses him, deep and openmouthed, stroking their tongues together. When he finally pulls back, Wei Ying’s eyes are a little unfocused. He’s the most beautiful thing Lan Zhan has ever seen.

“Wei Ying,” Lan Zhan says. He runs a thumb gently over Wei Ying’s bottom lip. “Of course I want to go on a date with you.”

Wei Ying exhales with relief and says, “Oh, thank God. I have way too big a crush on you to be satisfied with only being friends with benefits.” Then he winces. “Oh fuck, I can’t believe I just said that! That’s literally so embarrassing.”

Lan Zhan is completely stunned. Wei Ying likes him back? It feels too unbelievable to be true and yet he knows he didn’t mishear. Wei Ying’s words echo around his brain: I have way too big a crush on you. He manages to choke out, “It’s… it’s not embarrassing.”

Wei Ying makes a face. He’s blushing, which is charming. “It’s a little embarrassing. I’m talking serious pining here, Lan Zhan. Really dramatic stuff. ‘Often I sit and yearn’, and all that. Ask Sangsang and Jiang Cheng—actually, don’t do that, I don’t want you to lose all respect for me.”

Lan Zhan resolves to never, ever let Nie Huaisang, Jiang Cheng, Mianmian and Jin Zixuan be alone together. The thought of the stories they might exchange about him and Wei Ying is horrifying.

“If you spoke to Mianmian and Zixuan, you would probably lose all respect for me too,” he says. At Wei Ying’s confused face, he clarifies, “I have also been… yearning.”

The smile that Wei Ying gives him—shocked, relieved, a little hopeful—is worth a whole year of yearning and more. “Wait, what? Lan Zhan! Since when?” Wei Ying demands. He pokes Lan Zhan’s shoulder, then reaches down for his hand to tangle their fingers together.

“Since we first met,” Lan Zhan admits.

“What? Lan Zhan,” Wei Ying says fondly. He’s still beaming. “You never said anything!”

“Neither did you,” Lan Zhan points out.

“Fair,” Wei Ying says, laughing a little. “I guess we’re both pining fools, huh?” He pauses, bringing Lan Zhan’s hand to his mouth and kissing his knuckles. “Thank fuck for Mianmian and her Instagram DM, I guess.”

“Maybe we can all agree to forget that that message is what started everything,” Lan Zhan says, without much hope. Mianmian, for one, will never let him live this down.

“Hey, no,” Wei Ying says. His eyes are soft. In the sunlight, his skin looks golden. “I don’t want us to forget anything about this. No regrets, okay?”

Wei Ying is right, Lan Zhan decides suddenly. He wants to remember everything, even the things that make him cringe with shame—even the horrific harmonica playing. Because all of it has led here, to the look on Wei Ying’s face right now: clear-eyed and a little shy, gazing at Lan Zhan with something like wonder. Lan Zhan reaches out and brushes a thumb over Wei Ying’s soft cheekbone, and smiles back, overcome.

“No regrets,” he says, and he means it.