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Butterflies

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        Now this, Lan Xichen thought, this was a sight. His bodyguards doing their duty of blocking incoming fans that decided that Walmart was the place to charge right for him. He thought his hat and glasses would deter their attention from him— but even his (quite lame) disguise was no match for his most obsessed admirers. He had been quite peaceful, rummaging through the cereal aisle when a woman screeched his name from the frozen foods.

        Instantly, as if time froze, all those heads turned. Slowly. Haunting. Xichen tried hard not to let it get to him. He simply stepped back as his underpaid bodyguards tossed bodies as they came running, shouting. In the midst of the chaos, he managed to step back a few steps and bumped into a body. He whirled around, barely catching the man who was stumbling back, a small child in his arms. 

        No, that’s not a child. That’s a baby

        “I’m so sorry,” Lan Xichen apologized sincerely, not realizing that he was in fact still holding the man by the waist. “Is your baby okay?” 

        Fiery eyes met his own. It stunned him. “We’re fine. Watch where you’re going next time, will you? Fuckin’ lanky bastard.” now granted, that last part was grumbled, but Lan Xichen still heard it. And that shocked him more. 

        “Excuse me? Do you know who I am?” he hates using the ‘I’m a celebrity, respect me!’ card, and he usually doesn’t. 

        Because nobody, and he means nobody has ever disrespected him like that. 

        “I don’t care who you are, get the fuck out of my way.” and there it was. The smaller male elbowed him right in his side before storming past him— the baby in his arms now wailing. Xichen winced and rubbed at his side. A bodyguard switched her attention to him, staring after the attacker. 

       “Sir, are you alright?” she asked. 

        Nobody has ever elbowed Lan Xichen in the ribs so hard, he actually lost his breath. In fact, Lan Xichen's never been elbowed in the ribs. Or even elbowed for that matter.

        But he kind of liked it. And he wasn’t sure why. He convinced her to stay put and just escort him out of the store, his appetite for cereal suddenly vanishing as curiosity overruled his hunger. Who was that man? 

        Moreover, why was he so angry?

        Lan Xichen left that walmart a different man. He was rushed to his carpool, and he made his way back home. Lan Xichen assumed because he was shocked, that was why he kept thinking about it all day, He also assumed he’d get over it in the next day or so. But he was wrong. 

        Despite only seeing that man for a few seconds, he remembers his face clearly. His features were unique to him, very strong and broad with downturned brows that made him look angry— yes, an eternal scowl on his face. The most memorable part of him was his abundance of hair. It was gorgeous . Sure, it was tied up in a messy bun, pieces of hair falling around his face— but Xichen found it adorable. The man looked exhausted, and he could tell why. That baby could not have been over two months old.

        Why was he so hung up on him? 

        Not like he had time to really think about it, because he had business to attend to. Like discussing the next design for his new line. It’s a risky project, bringing something new into the fashion industry. He decided (with his brother Lan Wanji— oh he adores that boy so much) to bring his own culture and ancestry into the game. 

        Ah, yes, Cloud was coming out with a modern hanfu line. Lan Xichen had no idea how the public would react to this— but what’s a good business without risks? 

        Lan Xichen wanted to break barriers with this new design. 

        So he sat there, examining a sample on a mannequin. 

        After weeks of picking fabrics, drafting ideas, scratching some and bringing some back from the dead...Xichen was finally satisfied. 

        “This is one of the female samples,” Meng Yao informed. “A white stand up collar shirt with cross design below the breasts to tighten the waist paired with an A-line skirt with a corset design around the waist and floral detailing.” 

 Lan Xichen couldn’t help the small smile that curved his lips. He turned to his brother, who stood right beside him. Although he was quiet, and his expression didn’t really say much, he knew he was in favor of this design in particular. 

        “We like it,” he told him smoothly. Meng Yao gave him a dimpled grin, his fist pumping in a celebration. 

        “Yes! I’ll go tell everyone at the office you approve of this. One step closer to the launch sir, congratulations.” he gave a small bow before leaving the room, a small skip to his step. No wonder. Lan Xichen had turned down every single sample leading up to this one this week. 

        Now finally, something had been approved.

        Lan Xichen was eating his lunch at a local cafe, typing away at his laptop (You know, answering emails, reading over contracts with the factories— the boring parts of designing) when he heard the small bell chime meaning someone had come in. Usually, he spares them a single glance and right back to work he went. But this time, he froze. He could recognize that hair anywhere. It was out today, looked freshly washed and left to dry. He wore a purple sweater that looked way too big on him, black jeans and black ankle boots. 

        No doubt it was him. Lan Xichen suddenly got really excited. He sat in a very secluded area with his two very reliable, very underpaid bodyguards standing just a few feet away, so he doubts he could just slip past simply because he wanted to get a closer look at a guy. So he thought, why not just go and ‘buy’ another coffee? I mean, ignoring the half empty latte he was barely sipping now. 

        He somehow managed to convince them that he really was going to buy another latte despite it being out of his usual routine. But his bodyguards aren’t in any position to question him, right? 

        The cafe is fairly small and local. The customers are regulars here and that included himself. Most were used to seeing him, so he never has to go the extra mile to hide his face. Today he’s dressed in his usual turtleneck under a wool coat, black trousers and black dress shoes.. He’s never been one to dress down, he felt that it didn’t represent him well. 

        By the time he approached, the man was already done ordering “I’ll just have the hot chocolate. Medium. That’s all.” 

        “That’ll be five ninety.”


        From Jiang Cheng’s perspective, it was honestly a normal day. Hectic, but normal. The very brief time to himself he had, he spent at a cafe. Same routine, honestly. He wakes up, the neighbor comes over to watch after Ling while he goes out and enjoys a drink at the nearby cafe. He goes home, (so does the neighbor) spends the day taking care of the baby before he goes to work at night. At that time, the neighbor usually volunteers to come over and watch after him (bless that poor lady’s heart), and if not...he just doesn’t go to work. 

        Yeah, fun. 

        Jiang Cheng was reaching out to hand the cashier a ten dollar bill when another arm shot out and beat him to it. He jumped, the cashier jumped and hell even the stranger jumped as well. 

        “It’s on me,” the stranger said with a warm smile. Yes, that smile was nice, but Jiang Cheng did not appreciate the gesture. Like, at all. He reigned in his temper for the time being and just waited for that fucking hot chocolate to get here. Once he was given it, he nodded his thanks and spun around to throw it at whoever the fuck decided to make a charity case out of him— but he stopped when he heard them speak. 

        “Would you like to sit down?” he asked. 

        He couldn’t help the breathless chuckle that he gave. “Sit down?”

        “I believe that was what I asked,” the stranger who looked more and more familiar by the second said. “Please, we’re holding up the line.” Jiang Cheng opened his mouth to tell this lanky bastard (yes, he remembers now) to fuck right off. But he was right, the line was getting longer and longer. So he just stood to the side, why the fuck did he need to sit down with the dude from Walmart? 

        “Listen here, stay the fuck away from me.” he snapped.

        "Stay away from you? I could say the same to you. Are you following me?” the dude shot right back at him. Excuse me? Jiang Cheng thought. 

        “Me? Following you? I don’t even know who you are!” he reminded him. 

        “Let’s finish this at the table, shall we? Let’s not cause a scene—” 

        Jiang Cheng’s big ears were red at this point. “I’m not going anywhere with you. And take your fucking hot chocolate, since you paid for it.”

        “But I bought it for you,” 

        “I didn’t ask you to, and I refuse to owe you. So take it.”

        The man wagged his finger, right in his fucking face. “I’ll take it if you sit down with me. What’s the big deal? You sit down with me, give me the drink, and then you can leave.” 

        While Jiang Cheng wanted to sock this lanky lard in the face, he didn’t want to cause a scene...nor did he want to sit down. But like he said, owing this motherfucker is the last thing he wants. So, after a long death stare, he gave a stiff nod— and followed the stranger back to his table.

Chapter Text

        “Here. Can I go now?” 

        “I thought I told you to sit,” 

        “Are you serious?” 

        “Yes. Please sit down,” one glance behind him at the pair in all black made Jiang Cheng think twice about getting violent. So he— very slowly—lowered himself into the booth, the cup of hot chocolate in his grip. 

        Lan Xichen couldn’t help but smile. “Was that so hard?” 

        “Shut up—“ he snapped.

        “What’s your name?” 

        “What’s it to ya?” 

        “Aw, don’t be like that…” 

        “Can you please just take this? I have somewhere to be..and tell your bodyguards to lay off they’re making my leg nervous. What kind of person brings fuckin’ bodyguards to a cafe— which reminds me. Who the fuck are you?” Lan Xichen was amazed by this man. And it thrilled him more that he lived under a rock. He was relieved that, for once, someone didn’t know who he was. It was a refreshing feeling, meeting someone for the first time and them not telling you everything about yourself. 

        This man brought back the fun in meeting people.

        “If I tell you who I am, will you do the same?” 

        He squinted. “Yeah.” 

        “I’m Lan— uhm Lan Huan. And you are?” 

        “Jiang Cheng,” Lan Xichen was actually surprised he answered (what he hoped was honestly) and leaned in closer— just to get a really good look at the guy. Jiang Cheng looked severely uncomfortable— so he leaned back. One glance at his watch and he was shooting out of his seat...but only until he was forced to sit back down. 

        Lan Xichen frowned. “Where are you going?” 

        “I need to go home. Not everyone has the luxury of sitting at a cafe and waste time.” he paused to shake the hand off his shoulder, glaring holes into the bodyguard’s face before he continued. “Take the cup.” 

        “Will I see you again?” Lan Xichen asked before he could stop himself. “I wanna get to know you, Jiang Cheng.” he said sincerely, resisting the urge to reach across the table and grab his hand. If Jiang Cheng wasn’t weirded out (and pissed off) before, he definitely was now. 

        “You better hope I don’t fucking see you again, fucker..” his threat was received by a man who was batting his eyes at him— almost made him shiver. He’d given up on asking to leave. So he slid the cup away from him and stood, making his way out of the booth. One of the bodyguards moved to stop him again, but goddamn, the slim man was strong enough to shove him to the side, actually managing to make the big man stumble. 

        Jiang Cheng was happy to be out of there. It was like his rage immediately vanished the moment he stepped into the cool air. 

        Or at least, for a second. Not even a minute out the door and this lanky bastard was calling his name. He tried so hard to ignore him, making his way to his car in silence. But the man— or Lan Huan— was painfully persistent. 

        “Jiang Cheng, at least give me a way to contact you!”

        “Jiang Cheng, I want to see you again!” 

        “Jiang Cheng, don’t be like this!” 

        “Jiang Cheng, please!” 

        “Jiang—”

        “Holy fuck! Do you ever shut the fuck up?” Jiang Cheng had whirled around, just a few steps from his car to see that the lanky bastard wasn’t far behind him. He could feel the warmth in his cheeks, in his ears— fucking everywhere! God, this man was so annoying! 

        “Ji—”

        “Stop saying my name.” 

        “...okay. Can I have your number?”

        “No! Now leave me alone!” 

        “How often do you come to this cafe?” Xichen asked.

        “I won’t come here again,” 

        “Will you at least take your hot chocolate? I’m afraid it’s cold now, but you can easily heat it up—” smack ! There went the cup, and there went the delicious brown liquid inside, all over the ground now. Xichen flinched when the beverage was smacked from his hands— but he didn’t have time to worry about it. Jiang Cheng was gonna leave, and that’ll be it! He flinched again when he blocked Jiang Cheng’s car door from opening all the way. Okay, yes, Xichen was probably risking his life right now. But he was so intrigued, so curious and so interested in this individual. 

        He really didn’t know what it was.

        “I swear to the Gods I’m this close to breaking your nose. Get. The Fuck. Off. My. Car.” Xichen picked up on the slight shaking of his voice, and the tremble in his hands. Jiang Cheng was beyond pissed now, and Xichen got the message that he’d taken it to far. 

        So was he surprised when he was headbutted in the face? No, not really. But it still hurt like hell. It was hard enough to make him bleed, but thank god he didn’t keep his promise of breaking it. In the brief disorientation, Jiang Cheng used that as his window to get the fuck out of there— leaving a poor groaning man in the parking lot, pinching his leaking nose. 

        Xichen dragged his feet back inside. Well, he got away. And that alone just sucked. When he came back in, he caught the attention of everyone in the cafe. Staff rushed to get him tissues, and his bodyguards helped him sit down. 

        “Sir, are you alright?” one of them asked. He just nodded, waving a hand dismissively. He was feeling dejected, already missing the excitement of being yelled and cursed at. Was he a masochist? 

        “Sir, if this helps…” a small black pouch was placed on the table. Xichen frowned in confusion, picking it up to examine it. A wallet. And inside was a few cards, some pictures and an ID. 

       His heart punched within his chest as he scanned over it. 

        Jiang Cheng’s ID was in his hand. How did he lose his wallet? How long had this been sitting here?

        It didn’t matter. Xichen wants to see that man again. 

        Now he has a reason. Why was luck on his side today?

Chapter Text

        Jiang Cheng woke up the next morning with a bruise right between the brows and a hangover. It was ugly, gross and hideous and part of him wishes he hadn’t attempted to break someone’s nose with his head, of all things. Honestly, that part of his day was a blur— truly. He’d been so mad, he could only see red. It didn’t take much to irritate Jiang Cheng, but it took some effort to make him violent. 

        Or so he thinks. 

        He spent the next few days heated about the whole thing. The drink, the flirting, the annoying persistence— all of it. He didn’t go to that cafe for days, and he loves that place. It’s his favorite. 

        Not anymore, that’s for damn sure. He vowed to never go back to that place in a fit of anger— until he realized he left his wallet there. He realized he never put it back in his satchel (call it a fucking purse and he’ll punch you. It’s a satchel.) when he sat at the table.

        His mother chewed him out. She called his behavior barbaric, immature, idiotic, degenerate (etc) and the main reason why she didn’t trust him with the family business and blah blah blah. But he doesn’t need the family business, or her money.

        Again, or so he thinks.

        After a session of self reflection, discipline and loathing, he realized he felt really bad about the whole thing. It was uncalled for, but definitely needed...if that makes sense. Still, he had full intentions to apologize to the lanky bas— his therapist told him he needs to stop swearing so often— so, Lan Huan. He had full intentions to apologize to Lan Huan. 

        But that was it. 

        He was softly rocking Jin Ling softly when he heard a soft knock on his door. He made his way through the small apartment to look through the glass peephole. A familiar mass of grey hairs relieved his building anxiety. The neighbor— thank god. He let her in with a small smile.

        “Good morning,” she greeted, her blue eyes already trained on the baby in his arms. “Has he ate?” 

        Jiang Cheng nodded. “He ate, I was just putting him to sleep.” 

        “Where are you going? Down to that cafe again?” she asked. Jiang Cheng sighed. It was about time he got out of this place for something other than work. He gave her a nod and that was the end of that exchange. 

        He arrived at the cafe with a sense of shame. God, he was embarrassed! His mother was right— he is an idiot, a barbarian, a degenerate a whatever the fuck else she called him. 

        He really needs some coffee in his system. 

        He entered, and everything was going normal. The atmosphere was the same as before: calm, warm, welcoming. Nothing was out of place. As soon as he got to the register he asked about his wallet. 

        “Has anyone seen a black wallet around here? I left it here a few days ago…” 

        The barista tilted her head. “I can ask, I’ll be right back sir.” she spun and disappeared from his vision. He sighed, running a shaky hand through his hair (that he forgot to tame, so it looked like a lion’s mane) and clicked the heel of his boot on the floor, focusing in on the sound. 

        What if his wallet isn’t here? What if someone already stole it and was buying God knows what with the very little money he had? That would be bad. 

        Like, very bad. 

        He had high hopes when the barista came back out, her ponytail swinging as she walked back. But her frown, and a shake of her head made Jiang Cheng sigh, again. 

        “I’m sorry sir, nobody’s seen your wallet…”

        “It’s fine,” Jiang Cheng replied, his voice tight. “Thanks anyway.” he didn’t let her say another word, he was out the door kicking rocks in hopes they’d bleed...or something to make him feel better. 

        Now he has to pause all his credit cards, get a new ID, and goddamn it— get a new fucking MVP card. He lives off discounts. It’s sad, but true. He was sitting on a nearby bench, waiting for his bank to answer his call when a shadow loomed over him. He looked up…

        And basically paled. 

        “Looking for this?” a very familiar voice said, and an even more familiar smile graced the most familiar face as he held out a black wallet. His wallet. 

        “Of course,” Jiang Cheng thought aloud. “Of fucking course you’d have it.” he hung up on that poor lady who answered and stuffed his phone safely in his pocket before he reached for his wallet. Only to have it yanked out of reach. 

        “Not too hasty now, Jiang Cheng.” Lan Huan said, making Jiang Cheng wish he’d never told him his name. “How about we go inside and have a drink together?” 

        “What is with you and trying to talk to me, huh? Give me my f—” he hesitated to finish that sentence. Uh, hello! Weren’t you supposed to be apologizing to this man? Say sorry, he’ll give back the wallet, and you’ll never see him again! 

        “—y’know what? Sure. Let’s go have a drink.” 


        Now, Lan Xichen was shocked his agreed so easily. He thought he’d have to do a bit more persuading. He was even prepared for it (he totally didn’t have people waiting to force Jiang Cheng to sit with him...he’s not a monster). 

        “This is certainly better than last time, right?” he tried making conversation, but Jiang Cheng was already prepared to bombard him with insults, questions and accusations. 

        “Were you waiting for me to show up? No, better yet, how the hell did you get my wallet? Did one of your dogs pickpocket me? Because I swear if I find out it was you who stole it— I might have to really break your nose. Like who—”

        “Is that what you take me for? I can guarantee you, I didn’t have time to simply wait around for you. I do have a life, I can promise you that.” okay, maybe a life is exaggerating. He had a schedule outside of Jiang Cheng. Doesn’t matter if he was totally interested and invested in this man, he still had shit to do. This week alone was pretty exhausting itself. 

        Planning for his new line, meetings, fabric picking, sampling, tv appearances and etc. Being a stalker was more of a hobby. Did he say stalker? Oops.

        “Besides. You left this here. Meaning this is your fault. Oh, and under this concealer is a hideous bruise. Compensate me.” 

        The man across the table actually looked guilty despite his tangent earlier. “Right. About that, I wanted to apologize for that…” 

        Xichen waited, his foot tapping at the floor. “I’m waiting.” 

        “That was it.” 

        “That was it?” Xichen asked for confirmation. Jiang Cheng’s glare said it all, so Xichen sighed. 

        “You suck at apologizing. But I accept...mm actually, no I don’t. I’ll accept it if you agree to—” 

        “Don’t push your fucking luck, lanky bastard.” 

        “—go on a date with me.” his request flew into the atmosphere and vanished. The silence that followed almost made him think he didn’t say it loud enough. “Why are you looking at me like that?” 

        “I don’t know if I heard you right.” was the delayed response. 

        “With those ears? You heard me.” Lan Xichen reassured.

        “Excuse me?” 

        Lan Xichen figured it was a good time to move this along before he really gets killed. “Look. It’s such a simple task for you. Go out to dinner with me— be nice— I drop you off at home, give you your wallet back and done. I won’t sue you.” 

       “You were planning on suing me? Wait a second, I’m not getting my wallet back until then? What the fuck?” 

        “Well, yeah, that was what I said. Listen, if you do this one thing, you’ll never see me again.” 


        Yeah maybe going through all that trouble was suddenly worth it. Going on a date? With him? A man? The amount of questions going in his head right now: Why a date, first of all? He still doesn’t know how this bastard got his wallet. Why is he so intent on becoming close with him? Was he a serial killer? Is this how he got his victims? 

        His anxiety was going through the roof, and Lan Xichen’s staring wasn’t helping. Why was he staring at him so much? Can he see how freaked out he is right now?

        “Jiang Cheng? Is everything okay?” 

        “I’m fine.” his answer was clipped, his voice having a slight wave to it. Lan Xichen frowned, leaning in a tad bit closer. Jiang Cheng seemed alright from a distance, but up close, it was very easy to spot his anxiety. He sat back in the booth, arms crossed over his chest, one leg over the other— which looks normal. But his leg was trembling, and his eyes didn’t move from his lap. 

        Xichen thought he’d come on too strong, his playful mood flying out the window and concern doused him in cold water. “If I’m scaring you, I’m sorry. Here, you can take the wallet— forget about everything.”

       Jiang Cheng took that as pity. There was nothing he hated more than pity. His nostrils flared. “Scared? Who’s scared? Keep the fucking wallet, I’ll go on the stupid date. After that, I better not see you again, alright? Since you’re so busy right?” with a huff, he left the cafe, not even once touching the hot chocolate Lan Xichen had bought for him. 

        Still, Lan Xichen couldn’t help the smile that cracked his frown.

Chapter Text

        Lan Xichen was sunshine all day. He couldn’t wipe off that ridiculous smile on his face, it was like his bone structure was forever frozen. 

        And a lot of people noticed. While his instagram was filled with plenty of photos of him smiling— it was a gentle, soft grin that warmed up the photo (minus the ones of him flexing in his bathroom, men need a confidence boost too). All of his fans and admirers could see the change, and many commented things like: 

        You look so happy today!

        You’re glowing! Yes king!

        Who’s the lucky lady...or man. No judgement here. 

        Link me to your dentist, fool.

        To which Xichen took the time to respond to with thankful responses. He hadn’t noticed it was that transparent until his brother was beginning to shift uncomfortably in his own office chair, while his husband sat sloppily in his lap. 

       “You’re smiling so much today— did you get laid?” Wei Ying took a moment to gasp in excitement, bouncing in Wanji’s lap completely forgetting the male genitalia he sat upon. “Did you really? Please tell me you did!” 

        “Are you implying that I need to get laid?” Lan Xichen challenged, an eyebrow raised. 

        His brother in law was absolutely shameless in his response. “Yes,” he quickly recovered once he saw the playful glare coming from Xichen. “Maybe not particularly need to— but you’ve been so stressed out lately. I mean, that’s how Lan Zhan deals with his stress. He practically drills me—” his oversharing was cut short when a hand clapped over his mouth, but the damage was done. Lan Xichen’s image of his uptight, innocent little brother was out the window. He couldn’t help but laugh. 

        So Wanji isn’t as uptight as he thought. 

        Instead, it was Wei Ying. Bad joke? Yeah, bad joke. 

        “While I do appreciate you sharing some helpful stress relief, erm, activities. There’s no need. I would much rather get to know them before I— as you say— ‘drill them’.”

        “So there is someone? Who?” even Lan Wanji was interested, leaning in slightly to listen. Xichen hesitated. Should he give it away so quickly? 

        “I’ll tell you if tonight goes well,” he decided on saying instead. The couple deflated. But Wei Ying wasn’t done interrogating. 

        “So you’re going on a date? Tonight? Where are you taking them? Wait, you said them— so male or female? Oh, oh Lan Huan, where did you meet them—” Jesus, Lan Xichen thought, he asks a lot of questions…

        Aw, just like Jiang Cheng.

        “Wei Ying.” 

        “...Lan Zhan?”

        “Enough.” 

       “What do you mean by that? Aren’t you also curious? Don’t choose now to be quiet!” Xichen thought it best to tune out the very one sided banter and focused on the drafts that laid in front of him on his desk. He tried so hard to focus, but all he could think about was Jiang Cheng! 

        He was so adorable the other night, the way he huffed and puffed, agreeing to the date before storming out (thank god he already had his number, because jiang cheng didn’t even think to give it to him). He reminded Xichen of a kitten honestly, and he planned on telling him that tonight, 

        He might get hit for it. But he doesn’t care. 

        While Lan Xichen had a taste of that rough, rigid exterior wall Jiang Cheng built around him, he also got a glimpse at the insecure, anxious, softy he was on the inside. He’s just so cute, he just wants to hug him. 

        Which he also will do tonight. Even if he leaves bloody. 

        Was it unhealthy to want to show love to someone who has obviously never been shown it? Lan Xichen didn’t think so.

        Yes, while “stalking” (since that’s what everyone may call this behavior, Xichen thinks it’s just research) was a hobby of his, he figured he’d tone it down. Because he didn’t want to scare the kitten away, and he wanted to find out all of those things the better way. The less he knew, the more Jiang Cheng could share. 

        “So what time is this date?” Xichen’s thoughts were bulldozed by Wei Ying, who thought he’d make himself comfortable by putting his— rather flat— ass on his desk. Lan Xichen passed him a glance before nudging at his hip. 

        “Six,” 

       “Are you picking him up?”

        “Yes.”

        “You’re such a gentleman!” in the middle of his celebratory wiggle, Lan Wanji came to the rescue by grabbing his husband’s arm and guiding him off the desk. “Lan Zhan I’m not finished talking to— I hope your date goes well! Tell me all about it later!” 

         The pair disappeared from the office, much to Xichen’s relief. 

        While Wei Ying was truly a beam of light in his and his brother’s lives, it was quite hard being a private person around him. Nonetheless, he loved Wei Ying like a second younger brother. 

        Lan Xichen took a moment to check the time. It was four o’clock. He had about two hours to work, then he’ll go home, get ready and pick up his beloved. That thought made him giddy, so giddy he just had to revisit the conversation him and Jiang Cheng had earlier over text. 

Good morning, Jiang Cheng. I can’t wait to see you tonight ♥

 

Kitten

Who’s this? 

Is this Lan Huan?

 

Who else would it be? Are you seeing someone else? You’re breaking my heart..

Kitten

How’d you get my number? And who said we’d meet tonight?

Are you the type who makes plans but doesn’t follow through?

You’re the worst type of person Q___Q

Kitten

Don’t give me that shit.

I work tonight, asshole.

What time? Things can be arranged.

Kitten

Shouldn’t you already know, Mr. Stalker?

I work at 9.

Perfect. I’ll pick you up at 6, and bring you back by 8. Does that sound okay?

Kitten

I didn’t say I was meeting up with you.

Don’t you want your wallet back? It sure is taking up a lot of space in my pocket..

Kitten

I really hate you. 

Pick me up at 6 then you lanky bastard.

[address]



       Something about that conversation really lit a fire in Xichen. Almost as if he’d been able to finally capture a troubling prey. He loved that Jiang Cheng was hard to get, he loved that Jiang Cheng wasn’t an easy person to talk to, he loved that he had to find different ways to get him to agree to something. 

        Jiang Cheng is indeed a complicated individual. 

         And Lan Xichen loved it. 


        Jiang Cheng has been nervous since he got that text from Lan Xichen this morning. He stayed inside all day taking care of Jin Ling, who was taking a peaceful nap in his arms while Jiang Cheng swayed slowly to the hum of the lullaby he had playing in the small living room. He was already dressed in his usual oversized sweater, jeans and ankle boots— but he actually did something with his hair. Not much, but he did run a hot comb through it to tame the mess he had. 

        And that was the best he could do for tonight. Not like he cared much about tonight, right?

        Right. He doesn’t care, at all. 

        Six o’clock came faster than he wanted it to. He heard a knock on the door, but it wasn’t as soft as the neighbor, so he knew it was that dumb fuck— Lan Huan. 

        It’s Lan Huan. Stop calling him names.

        If his anxiety wasn’t already boiling, it sure as hell was now. Lan Huan has already seen him with a baby, so why was he so conscious of it now?

        Still, he opened the door to see in was indeed Lan Xichen that stood outside, dressed in a black casual suit with a tie that had little silver clouds printed on it. Jiang Cheng didn’t say anything, just stepped back to let the man inside. He watched Lan Xichen take a good look at his apartment before he looked down at him with a smile. 

        “You look beautiful,” Xichen said, seeming to be sincere.

         Jiang Cheng grimaced, taking a few more steps back, still rocking the infant in his arms. That’s what made Xichen switch his attention. “And who is this bundle of joy in your arms? He’s bigger than he was when we first met.” 

        “Jin Ling. My nephew.” was the response. Nothing more though, and Xichen caught onto the vague answer as a means to keep it just that— meaning there was something more to the story. Lan Xichen really meant it when he said Jiang Cheng looked beautiful tonight, because he looked no different than the other times they had met. Aside from his hair being neater (oh how he loved the lion’s mane he usually had), he was still wearing his sweaters and ankle boots. The style was uniquely Jiang Cheng. 

         His brain was going faster than his body. He was already thinking about how he wanted to protect not just Jiang Cheng, but also Jin Ling. He couldn’t wait to get to know Jin Ling as well. Watching his kitten take care of a baby made his heart swell— so much he was in his own world, thinking about the progression of their relationship. How he would spoil them two with love and everything they needed. He would support them both financially, and make sure their lives were easy from here on out….

        He didn’t know he was this much of a romantic.  

       “We have to wait,” 

        “For?”

         “The neighbor. She usually watches Ling when I’m not around. Once she’s here we can go.” 

         Lan Xichen smiled. “Sounds good.”

Chapter Text

        This “date” was going worse than Jiang Cheng expected, and they just entered the fucking restauraunt. 

        This date was going wonderfully, and Lan Xichen couldn’t stop smiling. 

        Despite the differing opinions on how this arrangement was going, they could both agree that the food was amazing. Courtesy to Lan Xichen, who had ordered the food for the two of them. Jiang Cheng thought it would be a lot simpler than it was— eat dinner together in silence, then go their separate ways. 

        But no, instead, Lan Huan was trying to talk to him, and trying to get to know him. Which that in itself was new and bizarre for Jiang Cheng, because nobody in his life was patient enough to deal with his coarse personality and raging anxiety. Nobody stuck around for that long. 

        Damn, he thought, that’s so fucking depressing. 

        “How about we do this?” Lan Xichen said suddenly, catching Jiang Cheng’s attention. “This must be so uncomfortable for you— so I will allow you to ask me any question you like. I will answer honestly—” 

        “How’d you get my phone number? You still haven’t told me that.” 

        Lan Xichen sighed, almost looking defeated. “You ask such easy questions. I had your ID, it was easy to find that out.” 

        “So you had this planned from the beginning? I fucking knew it...” 

       “Sh. There you go again, assuming.” Lan Xichen soothed, “my intention was to contact you and tell you about your wallet.” he explained, and while that was part of the reason— ah, nevermind that. He watched in relief as Jiang Cheng seemed to relax at that, his posture becoming more and more relaxed as he slowly chewed on another piece of steak. 

      “Anything else?”

      Kitten was quiet for a moment, seeming to be in deep thought. “Why are you so interested in me?” 

      “I thought I was a creep who wanted to murder you,” Lan Xichen joked, and to his surprise, Jiang Cheng scoffed. He was expecting some verbal abuse. 

      “I still think you are. But why do you wanna murder me? What’s so special about me ?”

       It was too early to go on some type of tangent, so Lan Xichen kept his answer simple. “Something about you draws me in. I’m not sure what it is yet. I just find myself wanting to be around you, and your tough guy act only makes you all the more appealing to me.” he watched in delight as his kitten stiffened, the slightest hint of red filling his cheeks before he looked down, almost shyly. “Am I coming on too strong?” 

      “You ask that now ? This is probably the most tame way you’ve ever approached me,” Jiang Cheng grumbled, stabbing at his food. “And who says this is an act, anyway.” 

       “You’re being so cute right now, stop it. C’mon, next question.” Lan Xichen urged, not wanting to lose this moment of peace. Jiang Cheng thought for a bit. 

       “What do you do for a living?” 

       That question shocked Xichen. He raised a brow. “I design clothes.” maybe he could be vague about this. Part of him still didn’t want to expose him true identity, he felt like that would ruin things. And knowing Jiang Cheng, even if he knows very little, he knew that Jiang Cheng would get skeptical about— everything. 

       Do people know about this? 

       Are you doing this because you feel bad for me?

       Do you enjoy picking on poor people?

        It was something he’d rather avoid. 

        “Did you design that ugly ass tie you’re wearing?” Xichen paused to look down at his sweater, almost pouting. This was the first tie he’d ever design. It was ugly? 

        “I did, yes.”

        “What else do you design?”

        “I’ve done just about everything besides jeans.” 

        “Why?” 

        “Have you ever seen me in jeans? Jeans aren’t my thing.” Jiang Cheng made a face at the statement, and Xichen noticed the way he looked down at his lap. That made him smile. “But I can always make you a  pair of jeans, if you’d like.” 

        His kitten scoffed. “No need.” 

        “Offer’s always on the table, my love. What do you do?”

        “Retail.” ah, back to the short answers. That won’t do. 

        “What do you do in retail?” 

        Jiang Cheng narrowed his eyes, chewing quite harshly on a piece of steak. “You’ve never worked retail?” 

       Xichen shrugged. “Never needed to. I was a rather privileged child, I won’t lie.” he admitted. “I don’t know a lot about the real world and its struggles.” 

       “I didn’t know about them either until I was forced to live it.” Jiang Cheng grumbled. 

       That made Xichen tilt his head, intrigued. “Your family’s wealthy?” he guessed his question struck a nerve by the way his date tensed, his eyes darkening as he gripped his fork tighter in his hand. Xichen considered dropping the subject.

        But what’s the fun in that?  He waited patiently for Jiang Cheng’s answered, which he gave in a tight voice. 

        “My mom is wealthy. Business owner.”

        “Ooh, business runs in the family, huh. What’s her name?” 

         A short pause. “Madame Yu,” 

        “Madame Yu...as in…” the very, very, very popular lingerie company? He didn’t let the last words come out of his mouth when he saw the grim nod from his kitten. Wow. He never would have thought he’d come from…”Sorry if this is intruding, but shouldn’t you be a more…” he should pick his words carefully. “Are you and your mother on bad terms?”

        Jiang Cheng tsked. “Bad terms? That’s an understatement. I hate her.”

        “You don’t mean that,” 

       “I don’t? Says who?” 

       “Says me,” 

       “And who are you?” 

        I’m Lan Xichen, goddamn it. “I’m your date.” he decided to say instead, which made Jiang Cheng cringe in the more adorable way. One quick look at his watch and Xichen realized it was almost time to take his date back. Aw man, he thought, he was having so much fun. 

        “It seems it’s time to head back.” 


        The ride back was surprisingly not awkward. Sure that creep kept trying to talk to him, but Jiang Cheng didn’t feel like leaping out the window, so that was nice...he guessed? Anyway, he was back home, and that was the thing that made him relax— until he realized Lan Huan was literally following him all the way up to the elevator.. 

        “Is there a reason why you’re following me?” he hissed, but Lan Huan took that with grace. 

        “The date isn’t over until you’re inside your house.” ugh, so fucking cringy. They made it to the 5th floor by elevator (it was honestly a game of ‘lets see how much I can invade Jiang Cheng personal space without getting socked). Even when they reached his door, he still stood there! And too close for comfort, might he add. 

        “You can go now,” Jiang Cheng reminded as calmly as he could, fishing his pockets for his keys, ignoring the very annoying ‘noooope’ that came from a grown ass man.

        As soon as he went to unlock the door, it swung open. Suddenly, before either could really process what was happening, a blur of black rushed out of the apartment, shoving Jiang Cheng right into Lan Huan. The intruder stumbled, but caught his balance and made a run for the stairs.

        “What the fuck was—” when it dawned on him, Jiang Cheng was flying into his apartment, only to see it had been completely..

        and utterly...

        Destroyed. 

        Whoever the fuck that was, had no fucking mercy. Anything that had value was in bags, anything they deemed useless was torn, smashed, or shattered. Family pictures, Jin Ling’s toys, his clothes, his laptop— everything he had worked for was discarded in a second. He trembled as he walked around his home— feeling so violated and disrespected. 

        Who the fuck did this?

        “Holy…” honestly, he forgot Lan Huan was still here, slowly walking into the apartment, eyes scanning over the damage. Jiang Cheng didn’t even realize he had been in tears until he felt Lan Huan gently wipe them away. He stood there, simmering in his rage. 

        Who? 

        Who, who, who, who, who?

        He completely blocked out all sounds, his anxiety, paranoia and rage taking over all his senses. What would have happened if he hadn’t left the house? If he didn’t leave Ling with the neighbor? Where’s Ling? Is he okay? He can’t be hurt, can he? Was the fucking neighbor in on this? He’d kill the bitch if she was? Are they even next door? Why hadn’t this been noticed?

       When he finally tuned back in with reality, he noticed a calming warmth around him. 

        He was being hugged. 

       His initial thought was to scream, honestly. Scream and beat the shit out of the fucker who dared to touch him at a time like this. But the whispers in his ears were...working.

       “It’s okay, you’re okay, Jin Ling is okay.” how did he know he was worrying about his nephew?  “He’s alright, love. Everything will be alright.”

        It was scary, but Jiang Cheng felt his defenses melt away. 

        He just let himself be held, for once.

Chapter Text

       If you thought Lan Xichen was overbearing before. 

       Get a look at him now. 

       Much to Jiang Cheng’s dismay, Lan Xichen dropped in after work literally everyday. Literally. He made sure to make time to check in on his kitten, who was pretty good at hiding the fact that he was scared of being home alone. He noticed right away that he was at home at night— meaning he made some arrangements with his job. He could tell Jiang Cheng was still shaken up.

       When the police got to his apartment, he was completely zoned out. He stared into space, barely being able to give a proper report to the officer, so Xichen had to fill in for him. The neighbor, whose name is Ms. Wen he found out, offered to let him stay with her for the time being (old lady beat Xichen to it). 

        Oh how he wanted to bring him home. Not in a ‘let’s get married’ kind of way (well..) but more of a ‘I want to protect you with everything in me’ kind of way. But at that moment, he wasn’t really worried about it because he somehow managed to get his kitten to sit in his lap while he gave the police a description of the intruder. It was quite the sight (and feeling) and he enjoyed that very brief moment of vulnerability. 

       But when Jiang Cheng finally got to see Jin Ling again, Xichen mayhaps fallen in love. The mixture of relief and anxiety showing on Jiang Cheng’s face as he grabbed his nephew from the neighbor was beautiful. The way to rocked him, kissed at his small cheeks, rubbed his back, whispered his name over and over again. Xichen’s heart melted. He had a chance to get a good look at the little guy. He looked nothing like his kitten, which is to be expected. He was slightly underweight, he noticed. Meaning Jiang Cheng really is doing the best he can to feed Jin Ling— and that he sacrifices his own nutrition to provide for him. 

       That brought Xichen back to their date. Jiang Cheng was taking small bites, and chewing for long periods of time as if to make it seem like he was eating more than he actually was. He’s always wearing large sweaters, and while Xichen found it cute...it just confirmed his suspicion. He wanted to keep his kitten all to himself, and give him the best life he could. 

       “You can go now,” Jiang Cheng grumbled, swiping the fifth packaged meal Lan Xichen bought for him this week. “And stop buying me food. Oh, and when I said you could stop by, I meant within reason, asshole.”

       "I think I'm well within reason," 

       "Of course your crazy ass thinks so."

       "Besides, I like wasting my precious hard earned cash on someone so ungrateful." while anybody would have taken that as a jab, Jiang Cheng was used to his borderline insulting humor. " Would you rather me buy you clothes? Shoes? Ah, I get it.” 

       “Don’t you dare—” Jiang Cheng snapped, before he caught himself and rolled his eyes, stuffing the package in the fridge. “Don’t.” 

       Lan Xichen’s smile was glowing. “Food it is. Has Jin Ling ate?” he asked, his eyes sliding over to the new baby blue bassinet (Lan Xichen bought it, of course) where Jin Ling was currently very awake, kicking his tiny legs into the air as he made a noise of pure joy behind the pacifier in his mouth. His heart was complete liquid. 

       “Not yet, let me make him a bottle.” 

       “I should have guessed he doesn’t breast feed.” Lan Xichen said quite playfully, leaning down and capturing a tiny foot in his hand so he could playfully nibble at it. 

       “Well, no. I don’t have breasts.” 

       “You’d look so cute with breasts—” 

       “Do you wanna get kicked out?” 

       “That reminds me,” Lan Xichen said suddenly, gently plucking the infant from his bassinet to cradle in his arms, kissing at his cheeks. “We need to talk about something.” 

        Jiang Cheng gave him a curious stare as he shook the baby blue bottle in his hand. “About?” 

        “Us, of course.” 

       “Not this again…” 

       “For real this time. I know last time was…” 

       “Let’s date,” he had said, reaching out quite boldly to grasp Jiang Cheng’s hand, who snatched it away. “I wanna try it.” 

       “Get away from me,” 

       “Don’t be like that…”  

       "There is no us , you psychopath.” Jiang Cheng spat, shoving the bottle of warm formula into Lan Xichen’s hand. “Make yourself useful. Feed him.” 

       Xichen couldn’t help but pout. “I like you. I think we both know this much. So why not?” 

       “Doesn’t the other person have to like you too?” 

       “Is that how that works?” 

        “You’re worse than a virgin. What kind of privileged life have you lived where simply liking someone guarantees a date?” 

       Xichen twitched “ My privileged life wasn’t very perfect. I had many struggles of my own, and those struggles stick to me ‘til this day.” Jiang Cheng snorted. “Really, though. Why do you think I’m so clingy? So persistent?”

       “Because you’re a creep?”

       “If only,” Xichen sighed, debating whether or not he should really reveal something like this so early. “My parents weren’t really parents to me. My father was the former owner of...uh, a popular clothing line. My mother was more of a mistress than anything. My father had another family in another country that he visited quite often. So I didn’t see him that much. Every time I saw him I’d beg for hours for him to play with me. Begged so much he’d either cave him, or smack me.” 

        Xichen took a moment to adjust the bottle in Jin Ling’s mouth, glancing up at a very uncomfortable Jiang Cheng. 

        “You don’t have to contin—” a stern stare from Lan Xichen kept Jiang Cheng quiet. 

        “I clung to my mother too, but she wasn’t very motherly. So bothering her didn’t get me anywhere. I was thirteen when they both died in a car accident. My way of coping was to cling to people, including my little brother. I’ve improved over the years, but instances like this remind me that I’m still very much a little boy.” 

        “Instances like what?” 

        “I’ve never liked anyone like this before.” Xichen confessed. “Nobody has ever made my heart flutter like you do. And the funny part is, I don’t know what it is about you I like so much.” the silence that carried into the room was suffocating  Jiang Cheng, personally, wanted to flee the room. He did not expect Lan Huan to share his life story, but he was moved by the story. His perspective of him changed, just a bit. 

      Suddenly, everything started to— not be justified— but to make sense.

       He cleared his throat, watching how Lan Huan gently plucked the bottle from his nephew’s mouth before giving him a kiss on the forehead, then boldly leaning forward to press one on his own. That did something to Jiang Cheng. 

       He didn’t really know why. 

       Suddenly, there was an obnoxiously loud knock on the door, making the couple frown in confusion. Not long before Jiang Cheng rolled his eyes. 

       “Who’s that?” 

       “I hope it’s not who I think it is.” Jiang Cheng left Lan Huan to watch as he walked over to the door and opened, only to be tackled in a crushing hug that made him grunt. He knew right away his assumption was correct— also, he didn’t miss the way Lan Zhan slid into the apartment, silent as a mouse.

       “Jiang Wanyin, why am I finding out now that your place was robbed! What the hell I thought we told each other everything!” before Jiang Cheng could snap at Wei Ying for using his formal name, he noticed the widening of his eyes— and they way he stared at something behind him. 

       “Hey, why is Lan Xichen here?” he asked. Jiang Cheng frowned. 

        “Who? That’s Lan Huan.” he turned to man of the moment to confirm this, but he only saw a weird expression on his face. “Right?” 

        “How do you know Jiang Cheng?” Lan Huan said.

        “How do you know Jiang Cheng?” Wei Ying shot right back. “And why aren’t you at the office like you said you’d be, hmm?” 

        “Uhm, neither are you.” he pointed out.

        “...That’s not the point!” the two went back and forth, with an occasional word or two from Lan Zhan. All the while this was happening, Jiang Cheng stared, not knowing whether to feel confusion, or dumb bitch confusion. 

        What the hell was going on?