Zhao Yunlan slammed the door behind himself and let a stifled exhale out into the darkness as stomps and cheers spoke to the crowd rushing past his hiding place. Park a block from the venue, he’d thought. Avoid the paparazzi, he’d thought. Get a couple minutes to himself, he’d thought.
He’d thought so, so wrong.
Park a couple blocks from the venue...and get mobbed by the fans gathered around the police barriers there to protect the Ceremony attendees. Avoid the paparazzi...and instead get asked at least 56,000 times if he’d pose for a selfie. Get a couple minutes to himself? Maybe when he was dead.
Or, for that matter, right now. Sure, those minutes to himself were in a shed, muggy and pungent with the smell of cut grass, but at least he was solo. It’s not like the locale was beneath his dignity.
As if his dignity hadn’t gone out the window the first time a billboard had gone up outside Dragon City Central Station of him modeling boxer-briefs. Not only had he been just this side of buck-ass naked - his nipples had even been erect.
“For effect,” the photographer had said, lowering the AC in the studio another five degrees.
Though, come to think, Zhao Yunlan might finally understand what “for effect” meant.
“Maybe he went this way!” someone called outside, and Zhao Yunlan tensed, back to the door, anticipating the moment when it was thrown open and his location was revealed. This was the effect of flaunting his six-pack to the masses. The footsteps mercifully passed by, and Zhao Yunlan allowed himself another hesitant breath. The fangirls and fanboys and fanenbys and whoever the heck else was out there weren’t the only effect - so was getting to wear this tux, and having the opportunity to attend the Ruby Awards, and making seven figures, and, and, and.
Most of the effects were good.
“Don’t listen to her - I think he’s over here!”
Most, but not all.
Fumbling at his pocket, Zhao Yunlan got out his phone and lit the screen. The backlight was eye-searing in the darkness; he adjusted it to a more modest level, then tapped out a message to Zhu Hong - fanz found me. stuck in shed. send help and roses no seriously i forgot a corsage - hit send, and pressed an ear to the door.
He couldn’t hear them prowling outside anymore.
That was promising.
But...there was a strange sound that he thought might be coming from inside the shed.
That was not promising.
The phone screen brightened again as Zhu Hong replied, and by the faint illumination, he could see vague outlines of what was around him - a garbage can, a lawnmower (maybe?), some plant pots, a misshapen something-or-other, and--
--fucking eyes? And glasses ? A face ? There was another person in here?
“Holy shit !” Zhao Yunlan exclaimed, dropping his phone. His heart, already pounding too hard from fleeing the zealots outside, kicked into full panic mode, racing and choking at his throat.
“Apologies,” murmured a pleasant, masculine voice. “I didn’t want to alarm you.”
“Then why the fuck are you hiding in the fucking darkness ?” Hell, Zhao Yunlan sounded shrill, but he couldn’t help it. Fucking hell , how was he not alone in there? What the actual fuck?
“If I may point out, I was here before you.”
“ Is that supposed to be an explanation ?”
“As to why...I suspect I’m here for the same reason you are.”
That brought Zhao Yunlan up short. Blinking - as if he could see jackshit in the darkness now that his phone was lying face down on the floor - Zhao Yunlan frowned, then dug into his pocket again until he found his lighter. He’d promised Zhu Hong he’d quit smoking...and he mostly had...but the weight of his pants hanging from his hips felt all wrong without the Zippo there, and right now he was glad of it. Flipping the lid open, he sparked the flint wheel until the wick caught and a single bobbing flame illuminated the shed interior.
Oh, it had been a lawnmower.
Oh, the misshapen something-or-other was a jug of weed killer.
Oh, his companion was, hands down, one of the hottest damn people Zhao Yunlan had ever seen.
Black hair, artfully dishevelled, curled around his ears and over his forehead. At first glance, his attire didn’t seem red carpet appropriate...but it wasn’t normal day wear, either - a tailored vest showed his slim form to perfection, and weird ringlets encircled his upper arms that was inexplicable yet sexy. Dark, unfocused eyes framed by round glasses set off a slim face that was no less attractive for the brow furrowed with uncertainty and concern. A breathless moment passed between them, tense and unpleasant, and then the stranger broke into a dazzling smile.
Zhao Yunlan had no idea who he was, but with grin, and those eyes, and that sex hair, and those arm thingies? Zhao Yunlan could absolutely believe he was a superstar.
And, unless Zhao Yunlan was much mistaken, the slow up-and-down gaze that accompanied the man’s growing used to the light and taking in Zhao Yunlan’s appearance was equally appreciative.
“No, but seriously - why are you hiding a shed?” asked Zhao Yunlan.
“...you don’t recognize me?” the man asked, as if the novelty of anonymity was a wonder in and of itself. Zhao Yunlan shook his head. “Then I suppose I’m less embarrassed to admit I don’t recognize you, either.”
“Me?” shrugged Zhao Yunlan. “I’m no one.”
“I’m Shen Wei,” said tall, fair, and gorgeous. “And I... vehemently ...contest your assertion that you’re nobody.”
“Zhao Yunlan,” he offered in reply, holding out a hand to shake.
It was the hand holding the Zippo.
The flame extinguished in the rush of air generated by his sudden movement.
Wow, but he was off to an awesome start.
“Do you know if there’s a--” A rush of movement and a sudden collision of a body against his pressed Zhao Yunlan against the door, and then lips were on his, ungentle and rough. “What the--” With another twist, Shen Wei covered Zhao Yunlan’s mouth with his cheek, and Zhao Yunlan’s mind raced.
Did he recognize me? Did he kiss me? What the hell is going on? More importantly...do I mind? And what about--?
“This way!” someone outside bellowed, and the tromp of the throngs feet rushed by the shed door again.
“Apologies,” Shen Wei breathed, sultry air blowing over Zhao Yunlan’s ear. “I was afraid they’d hear you.”
“Oh, is that all,” muttered Zhao Yunlan. He thought he should be embarrassed, but instead he felt mildly disappointed.
Maybe...maybe more than mildly disappointed.
What could he say? Shen Wei was hot as sin, and apparently in the same situation as himself, and the press of that lithe body against his own was superb, and he could almost imagine that his fingers were the reason Shen Wei’s hair was a mess, and…
...and, come to think of it, Shen Wei hadn’t actually moved yet.
Even though the patter of footsteps and calls of their pursuers had definitely faded away.
“So...about, ya know...this…” said Zhao Yunlan with a suggestive shimmy of his shoulders.
“Right - oh dear, my apologies.” Shen Wei’s presence drew back, leaving a chill in his wake. “I shouldn’t have…” Zhao Yunlan should have kept his fucking mouth shut. “...that is to say…” He’d much rather have Shen Wei crowding him against the door, kissing him senseless, whispering in his ear - red carpet be damned. “...that was...you know...just completely …” He could imagine Shen Wei’s cheeks prettily flushed, his lips pink and moist from eager kisses, his tight vest unbuttoned, his arm thingies pulled down like bracelets. “...I didn’t mean…”
And what are those arm things called?
Not the moment!
“You didn’t?” Zhao Yunlan brought all his considerable acting chops to bear to ensure he sounded profoundly disappointed.
“Didn’t what?” asked Shen Wei blankly.
“Because, if you had meant it...that would be alright with me.”
“Well, Shen Wei? Would it be alright with you ?”
Maybe I’m coming on too strong...maybe I’m being inappropriate...maybe I should have tried to retain at least a shred of the dignity I’ve discarded so enthusiastically...but I’m sure I saw interest in his gaze, and he did kiss me, even if it was an accident...like...straight dudes with no interest don’t silence other men by tackling them, there are way easier ways to shut someone up...and the novelty of meeting someone so attractive, who at least claims to be in the same walk of life, who faces the same challenges...like, this is someone I could actually date.
Hell, am I really considering dating strange shed guy that I met five minutes ago and have never had an actual conversation with?
In my defense...strange shed guy is sexy as hell. I mean, arm thingies! And I should remember to ask him what those are called.
Strange shed guy is also...very quiet.
With a shake of his head, Zhao Yunlan pulled himself from his thoughts and realized at least a minute had passed.
Zhao Yunlan was definitely more than mildly disappointed.
“Or not,” he allowed, trying not to sound disgruntled. So much for his acting chops. “No worries if you’d rather--”
“Yes,” whispered Shen Wei.
Zhao Yunlan nearly bit his tongue, he snapped his mouth shut so fast. “Yes...what?”
“ It ...that...I mean...what we did--”
“It’s called kissing , Shen Wei.”
“--would be very alright with me, if it was alright with me.”
“It’s alright with me.”
“And it’s alright with me.”
“So that means…?”
The question trembled heavy in the air between them.
Ya know, if you wanted to slam me into the door again, that’d also be alright…
But neither moved.
And neither moved.
And shrieks of “ oh my god, it’s HIM ” in the distance spoke to the crazed fans finding a new target for their adulation.
And neither moved.
And then a soft sound suggested expensive shoes scuffing over the shed floor.
And neither moved.
And then-- “Screw it,” Zhao Yunlan muttered.
With a single step, he closed the distance between them, wrapped an arm around Shen Wei’s neck - no, wait, he misjudged the height, it was around Shen Wei’s shoulder instead - and pulled him into a kiss - tried to pull him into a kiss, fuck he was strong , and fuck that was hot - and then their mouths met. Tentative exploration backed up a single soft kiss that ended with a quiet pop . A heart passed, another, another...and then Shen Wei shifted forward to bring their mouths together once more. The first brush of hot flesh on hot flesh was as shy as the first kiss had been, but that changed as Shen Wei’s tongue teased at Zhao Yunlan’s lips, and Zhao Yunlan’s arm slid down to encircle Shen Wei’s oh-so-fine waist, and Shen Wei embraced Zhao Yunlan and settled a hand between his shoulder blades. They shifted to change the angle of the kiss, shifted again, shifted again, neither drawing away, both drawing huffing inhales through their noses to keep from having to pull apart long enough to breath, and oh, it was good.
It was good.
It was so good.
First kisses...or, technically, third kisses...were never this good.
Zhao Yunlan lost himself in it - no fan to espy them, no camera to record them, no script to adhere to - just a gorgeous man in his arms, kissing like their lives depended on it, and honestly, if Zhao Yunlan never made it to the Ruby Awards and spent the whole night making out with this virtual stranger in a shed two blocks away...he’d consider it time well spent.
Really, truly, he never wanted this to end.
Which was maybe a little crazy, but if it was crazy, he was pretty sure they were being crazy together, because there was something possessive in the way Shen Wei crowded against him, something determined in the way Shen Wei’s tongue invaded his mouth, something precious in the small, vulnerable sounds that intimacy teased from Shen Wei’s lungs.
And Zhao Yunlan--
A burst of cold air and a dazzling sweep of light flooded the room as the door swung open. Zhao Yunlan tried to leap back, but he and Shen Wei were too entangled, and Shen Wei’s own flailing attempts at a retreat hindered Zhao Yunlan. Shit , they were found. Shit , they were busted. Shit , they were caught, making out, and if a fan posted this to a gossip mag - if a paparazzi got a shot for a tabloid - if word got out that Zhao Yunlan had stolen a couple minutes for himself, very much not by himself...
“I thought you said you were stuck in the shed , not in the closet …” a familiar voice said acidly.
“It’s not what it looks--”
“Oh, thank God, Zhu Hong,” Zhao Yunlan said with an explosive, relieved exhale. He rounded to see her standing, framed in the door, a slinky satin gown clinging to her hips as she raised a judging eyebrow his way. “You found us.”
“I found something ,” she agreed. “So tell, me...if it’s not what it looks like...then what is it?”
“It’s exactly what it looks like,” said Zhao Yunlan. “Shen Wei - this is Zhu Hong, my agent. And Zhu Hong, this is Shen Wei, my…” Fuck, he shouldn’t have put a my on that statement. Shen Wei was in no way his. Shen Wei was...Shen Wei was looking at him, bemused and shocked, flushed and gorgeous, licking his lips and slowly closing his eyes as if he savored the flavor he found there, and...fuck it. “My boyfriend.”
“Your what ?” exclaimed Zhu Hong.
“I am?” Shen Wei asked, dazed.
“You saying you’re not?” Zhao Yunlan challenged.
“I mean...I don’t...um…” Shen Wei was adorably flustered. I did that to him . “Maybe we should have talked about that first?”
“...good point. Hey, Shen Wei, would you like to be my boyfriend?”
Blinking, Shen Wei stared at him, and then slid into a slow smile, making a show of thinking about it, and for the first time Zhao Yunlan could see the performer in him - a very different kind of performance than that which Zhao Yunlan favored, but still a performance. Zhao Yunlan was known for his theatrics, his ability to chew the scenery. Shen Wei represented the opposite end of the spectrum, communicating a million subtleties with the least lift of an eyebrow, the slightest quirk of a lip, the exact timing of a head tilt.
Oh, man, do I want him to be my boyfriend...please say yes, please say yes, please say yes, please say yes, please say--
“Perhaps you’d care to skip the Award’s after parties and join me coffee instead?” asked Shen Wei.
“Coffee, with my boyfriend ?”
“Yes,” Shen Wei smiled. “Coffee with my boyfriend.”
“ Score .”
“For fuck’s sake,” Zhu Hong grumbled.
“What, worried about the PR dynamics of having a gay client?” teased Zhao Yunlan.
“Don’t be an idiot,” she said. “ The Zhao Yunlan, dating the Shen Wei? You boys just made my year. But you know what won’t play well?”
“No - what?”
“Other than your determination to be unhappy about literally everything?”
“Missing the Ruby Awards.”
...okay, fair enough, Zhu Hong wasn’t wrong.
“Fine, let’s go. But I’m sitting next to him,” said Zhao Yunlan, pouting.
“I’m afraid I’m expected to sit with the ensemble cast for A Liaison Lost ...we’re up for a Ruby…”
“Excellent work with that,” Zhu Hong said, “by the way, if you were looking for new representation…”
“Oh, yeah - that’s a great idea! Zhu Hong is fantastic! She--”
“Having the same agent as my boyfriend could potentially cause problems.”
...okay, fair enough, Shen Wei wasn’t wrong.
“Well - fine then. But I’m holding your hand as we walk over there!”
“Trust me,” Zhu Hong interrupted, head tilted conspiratorially toward Shen Wei even as her eyes bored through Zhao Yunlan. “Just let him have this one.”
“...the two of you... already ...oh come on, that’s just unfair, and--”
Shen Wei’s hand slid into his.
Oh, that felt nice.
“...fine,” Zhao Yunlan muttered.
Fine, he’d let them humor him this time.
With Shen Wei’s hand in his...Zhao Yunlan was prepared to face way worse than the fans, or the paparazzi, or the red carpet.
Who needed a Ruby to gather dust on a shelf?
The Shen Wei had agreed to date him.
Zhao Yunlan had already won the only award that mattered.
(Though, one of these days...he should really find out who Shen Wei actually was .)
(But, it could wait.)
(They had time.)