Meng Yao did not need to look up from where he was wiping down the counter to know who had just walked through the door.
“Wei Wuxian, I am going on my break now,” Meng Yao called out to the other man, nodding in acknowledgement to the tall, well dressed customer who walked up to the counter.
“Lan Zhan!!” Wei Wuxian exclaimed, nearly bouncing in excitement as he ran up behind the register to take Meng Yao’s place. He leaned flirtily against the counter, grinning up at the man who had been frequenting their cozy little cafe for nearly six months now.
“Wei Ying,” Lan Wangji spoke the name with near reverence.
“My dearest Lan Zhan, how are you today? Did you want to try my new special?” Wei Wuxian asked excitedly, eager to share his latest concoction with his favorite customer.
“Great! You’re going to really love it, the secret is…”
Meng Yao hummed in amusement at the other man’s antics. It was well understood amongst the staff at Yiling Cafe that Lan Wangji only wanted Wei Wuxian to make his drinks. He stopped by every day without fail during Wei Wuxian’s shift, and like a butterfly coming out of its cocoon, Wei Wuxian would flit around to the front of the counter to serve Lan Wangji, his most favorite customer.
The only downside to Lan Wangji’s loyal patronage was that he had a bad habit of encouraging Wei Wuxian’s less palatable drink inventions. He would drink anything Wei Wuxian made for him, no matter how vile. The first and only time Lan Wangji had not finished his coffee, some disgusting mixture of espresso and red chili flakes, Wei Wuxian’s face had fallen in disappointment. The sight had bothered Lan Wangji so much, that the man had proceeded to snatch the mug out of Wei Wuxian’s hands, chug the brew down to the very last drop, and demand another one to go. Meng Yao recalled how Wei Wuxian had then lit up with laughter, and how the tips of Lan Wangji’s ears reddened at the sight.
It was good entertainment, until Lan Wangji left the cafe, and Meng Yao was forced to listen to Wei Wuxian go on about the man for the next three to five hours.
For his own sanity, Meng Yao tuned them out as he settled in on one of the large, comfy chairs in the cafe. He took a bite of his pork noodles, before opening up his novel to the page he had bookmarked to continue reading.
Only a couple of minutes had passed when the sound of the door opening had Meng Yao’s eyes shooting up on instinct. But instead of looking back down after a second’s glance, his eyes remained glued on the man who had just entered. He had never seen him in the cafe before, or Meng Yao was certain he would have remembered.
Dressed smartly in a dark wool coat and a blue scarf, he looked like a lawyer or businessman here on his lunch break. Meng Yao followed his movements with his eyes as the man ran a hand through his dark windswept hair, trying to fix the strands that had been blown out of place by the brisk autumn wind. Surrendering himself to his aesthetic admiration, he noted the man’s tall build and the strong curve of his jaw, deciding that this was easily the most attractive customer he had ever seen walk through the cafe’s doors. Of all times to be on break…
Meng Yao subtly watched from the corner of his eyes as the attractive man looked around and surveyed the cafe with an open, curious expression. Looking back to his phone to avoid getting caught staring, Meng Yao listened to his footsteps as the man walked past the register, straight to Lan Wangji. A relative perhaps? They certainly looked similar.
Wei Wuxian could be heard loudly chattering to Lan Wangji as he brewed his coffee, bustling around like a bumblebee amongst the espresso machines. Lan Wangji, to his credit, stood and listened to his stream of consciousness as intently as always, soaking in every word that passed from Wei Wuxian’s lips.
Flipping a page of his book absentmindedly, Meng Yao heard footsteps approach the arrangement of plush chairs and couches that made up the cafe floor. All the furniture was selected to maximize comfort, and their customers often stayed for hours reading or chatting over a cup of coffee and a pastry. To his intrigue, he heard the man settle down in the chair across from him.
“Excuse me, I am sorry to bother you,” a deep, gentle voice spoke, the sound as warm and soothing as a lit fireplace.
Meng Yao looked up and was met by stunning brown eyes looking straight at him.
“I was wondering, do you happen to know if the barista behind the counter is seeing anyone?” He nodded his head towards Wei Wuxian.
“You could always ask him yourself if you are interested in asking him out,” Meng Yao replied in a conspiratorial tone, lips quirked upwards to show he was only teasing.
His words startled a charming huff of laughter out of the other man, who graced him with a smile, as if he was pleased with Meng Yao. Meng Yao found himself wishing he could paint his image, but the best he could manage was mediocre latte art.
“I am asking on behalf of my brother. He seems to be quite taken with him, but I think he is too shy to make a move,” the man explained. Brothers, that made sense. They certainly had a strong resemblance, but where Lan Wangji was cool and impassive, this man was warm and expressive, which made him appear much more approachable.
“Well you do not have to worry, Wei Wuxian is just as enamored with your brother, he is just far too oblivious to realize it,” said Meng Yao with a knowing smile, letting him in on the worst kept secret of Yiling Cafe. Even their regulars knew about the ongoing pining love affair.
“That is good to hear. I hope they figure it out soon. Wangji always looks so happy, staring at his coffee when he comes back to the office after his break,” the man spoke, fondness clear in his voice when talking about his brother. He suddenly seemed to realize what he had said to a complete stranger.
“Ah, how rude of me. I am interrupting your lunch, I apologize,” the man sounded embarrassed, and made to get up.
Meng Yao shut his book and gestured for him to stay seated.
“Not at all! I find myself wishing the same for them,” Meng Yao said, smiling shyly while he internally kicked himself for bothering the man with more conversation. He got his answer and wants to go now, Meng Yao, do not annoy him further.
“Perhaps we could play matchmaker for them together,” the man said, sitting back down. Meng Yao felt his heart skip a beat. Is he flirting with me? He tried to quell the warmth rising to his face. Don’t be ridiculous.
“My name is Lan Xichen,” the man, Lan Xichen, introduced himself, finally gifting Meng Yao his name.
“Meng Yao,” he said, resisting the urge to fix his hair that had started to fall out of its messy bun. How common he must look, sitting in his black apron and white collared shirt, while this man looked immaculate dressed in such fine clothes.
“Do you work as a barista here as well?” Lan Xichen asked, looking to the apron that had Yiling Cafe’s logo emblazoned in the middle.
“I do. I also help Wei Wuxian with the accounting,” Meng Yao added, as if that would impress the other man who was no doubt leagues more successful than he.
“Really? You both do the accounting together, too?” Lan Xichen asked curiously. That was an unusual workload for two baristas.
“Well Wei Wuxian is the owner, so he does a bit of everything,” Meng Yao said. And it was true, Wei Wuxian jumped into every aspect of the cafe’s inner workings, managing schedules and budgets, brewing coffee, taste testing pastries with Mo Xuanyu, conducting inventory with Xue Yang…
“The owner? Wangji never mentioned that,” Lan Xichen said as he looked over to the pair.
“I suspect that might be because he does not know,” Meng Yao offered. After all, every time Lan Wangji stopped by, Wei Wuxian shifted into coffee-making mode to impress him. With how forgetful Wei Wuxian was, he might not have even realized that he had failed to mention the full extent of his role in the cafe to Lan Wangji.
Lan Xichen shook his head in amazement.
“Brother.” Lan Wangji walked up to where they were sitting, a coffee in each hand, and Lan Xichen stood to take the one his brother held out for him.
Meng Yao could not help but notice Lan Xichen’s hands, the way those long fingers wrapped around the red takeaway cup. He tried his best not to imagine how it would feel to hold his hand, the fit and gentle squeeze of it over his own smaller one.
“It was a pleasure to meet you, Meng Yao,” Lan Xichen said, inclining his head with grace.
Meng Yao stood now too, forgetting that his book was still in his lap. It fell onto the floor with a thump , and he flushed in embarrassment, immediately bending down to pick it up. He was not normally so clumsy. To his surprise, Lan Xichen also bent down at the same moment, scarf brushing the floor, and picked the book up where it had landed closer to his feet.
“Thank you,” Meng Yao said a touch breathlessly once he stood back up.
He had known that there would be a height difference. Meng Yao was shorter than just about every man he met, but this…this was just obscene.
He looked up at Lan Xichen, who towered over him, and then bowed his head demurely to accept the book back. Their fingertips grazed slightly and Meng Yao dared to hope it was on purpose.
“The pleasure was all mine,” Meng Yao dimpled at him, peering up from under long lashes.
Lan Xichen seemed to stop and stare for a few seconds, as if his mind had short-circuited and needed a minute to reboot itself. Lan Wangji looked between the two of them, a slight frown pulling on his lips at his brother’s strange behavior.
“Hm? Oh yes, let’s go,” Lan Xichen sounded as if he had been startled out of a pleasant dream. With a final charming smile directed towards Meng Yao, and a wave towards Wei Wuxian, he following his brother out of the cafe.
Meng Yao finished the rest of his lunch quickly before joining Wei Wuxian back behind the counter. A customer asked for a refill, and as Meng Yao poured the cup, he looked at Wei Wuxian who was doodling Lan Wangji’s name on a napkin.
“Hm? What is it, Meng Yao?”
“Has Lan Wangji ever talked to you about his brother?”
Wei Wuxian did not have to be asked twice.
Lan Wangji and Wei Wuxian were one thing, but there was no excuse for this.
It was the second time that morning that Meng Yao had caught Xue Yang and Mo Xuanyu whispering into each other’s ears and snickering into their hands like a pair of schoolgirls. Since when had they become so close, anyway? While he had originally hoped Xuanyu might be a good influence on Xue Yang, he was beginning to worry that Xue Yang was actually turning out to be a bad influence on his brother.
Meng Yao knew they were up to something, but so long as it did not affect him, he wasn’t going to get involved. He had enough on his plate as it was.
The customers, for one, were acting especially strange today.
Now, Meng Yao did not consider himself to be an unattractive man per se. He knew there were people who appreciated his delicate features, dimpled smiles, and petite body. But there was nothing about him that warranted the sheer volume of phone numbers he had received throughout the course of his shift today!
A napkin slid across the counter, a business card placed into his hands, all accompanied by a wink or a blushing stutter.
He had never been so popular in all his life.
Meng Yao gathered the numbers in a small pile to dispose of them at the end of the day. Truth be told, he had no intention of calling a single one of them. There was only one man whose phone number he wanted, but he doubted he would ever receive.
It had been weeks now since they first met, and Lan Xichen had become a regular at Yiling Cafe – same as his brother.
Meng Yao could not help but like Lan Xichen. Whenever he came in to the cafe, he always smiled at Meng Yao like he was genuinely excited to see him. He lingered by the counter while Meng Yao prepared his drink - asking him questions about anything and everything: the book Meng Yao was currently reading, what he liked to do on his days off, how he was managing Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji’s ongoing oblivious love affair.
It was enough to make Meng Yao think that Lan Xichen might, might just like him back.
He was so lost in thoughts of Lan Xichen, he hardly noticed when the man himself actually stood in front of him.
“Meng Yao?” Lan Xichen called his name gently.
Meng Yao’s head turned so fast he felt his neck crack. “Oh, I’m sorry, Lan Xichen,” he apologized, cursing himself for being so distracted.
“What can I get for you today?”
To himself Meng Yao thought, small vanilla latte.
“I’ll have a small vanilla latte, please.”
Meng Yao smiled and grabbed a takeaway cup.
“How has your day been?” Lan Xichen asked, watching the other’s hands as he methodically steamed milk and measured out the coffee for Xichen’s drink.
“It’s been...interesting. Customers have been very friendly today,” Meng Yao answered neutrally, not so sure he wanted to tell Xichen just how friendly they’d been.
From his peripheral vision, Meng Yao noticed Xue Yang dragging Mo Xuanyu out of the back room. The two plopped down on the large couch that faced the barista counter. He did not want to give them the satisfaction of looking their way to see what they were up to. The foreboding sense that crept up his spine told him it was not anything good.
“Oh..,” Lan Xichen said, and Meng Yao thought he almost sounded disappointed. Which didn’t really make sense given the context.
“Is everything alright, Xichen?” Meng Yao asked, not trying at all to mask the concern in his voice.
“Yes, of course,” Lan Xichen said quickly, which did not help his words sound any more convincing to Meng Yao’s ears.
He was a little disappointed that the man did not want to share what was bothering him, but he wasn’t too surprised by it either. Lan Xichen was so kind and wonderful, he probably had dozens of friends he was close to, who knew him outside these cafe walls, who he could share his deepest feelings to and be comforted by in return.
A surge of possessiveness flared in Meng Yao’s heart. He wished he could be one of those friends. No. Not one of them. The closest friend of all. The boyfriend. Okay, fine, he wanted to marry Lan Xichen, but that was nobody’s business but his own.
Shaking the thoughts away to focus on the task at hand, he decorated Lan Xichen’s latte with careful precision, until he had created the image of a mildly intricate lotus flower in the foam.
Before handing it over to him, he also bagged a muffin from the window of baked goods.
“Here you go. Vanilla latte and a blueberry muffin.” Meng Yao said, with one of his special smiles he reserved just for Lan Xichen. The kind that reached his eyes.
Lan Xichen smiled right back, bright and beautiful, eyes lit with amusement. “I don’t recall ordering a muffin."
“I know. It’s on me. You seem like you could use it.”
Lan Xichen huffed out a small laugh, seeming pleased by the gesture.
“Thank you, Meng Yao.”
When he accepted the coffee and pastry, Lan Xichen’s hands, as always, almost seemed to linger deliberately over Meng Yao’s own.
Looking down at the unlidded cup, he noticed the artwork Meng Yao had decorated his drink with, and his expression shifted into one of wonder.
“This is beautiful!” Lan Xichen praised, admiring the design with genuine amazement.
“Thank you, Lan Xichen. It is nothing, but you are kind to say so,” Meng Yao said modestly, internally awash with both embarrassment and happiness at receiving any sort of validation from the man. It was just latte art, but with the way Lan Xichen was looking at him, one would think Meng Yao had handed him a long lost Rembrandt painting.
“It is not nothing if you made it for me, A-Yao,” Lan Xichen insisted sincerely, staring warmly at Meng Yao.
Meng Yao's heart fluttered, heat rising to his cheeks. He wanted to kiss Lan Xichen more than anything in that moment. But that would hardly be appropriate. Or welcome.
Lan Xichen, thankfully, did not seem to notice his fluster over the comment. He took the coffee and muffin in hand, and made to leave the cafe. But he only made it a couple steps before he abruptly stopped, and returned to place both items down on the counter again.
“Is something wrong?” Meng Yao asked.
Lan Xichen shook his head, and if Meng Yao did not know any better he would say Xichen looked almost nervous. “No, nothing is wrong. But there is something else you could give me, that I would appreciate even more than the muffin.”
Meng Yao looked at their assortment of pastries again. He was usually quite good at guessing people’s preferences, but he supposed he was not infallible.
“Well, we have chocolate chip. The scones are excellent as well. Pick anything you like.”
He heard Lan Xichen chuckle.
Meng Yao looked up from the pastry window and – oh.
Lan Xichen was holding something out for him.
Meng Yao accepted it, and was surprised to see it was a business card. Lan Xichen’s business card. White with dark blue lettering, and a small logo that resembled a cloud in the corner. He flipped it over, and on the back was a second phone number, this one handwritten, with the words “cell phone” below.
Lan Xichen was...giving him his phone number. Meng Yao felt his heart begin to race, adrenaline coursing through his veins.
“I would very much like if you would give me a call sometime. I saw the sign outside and...well, I didn’t want to miss my chance,” Lan Xichen said, finishing with a tentative smile.
Meng Yao held the card tightly in his fingers. He could hardly believe it, he was right! Lan Xichen did have feelings for him!
He was about to open his mouth to accept. But the strangeness of Lan Xichen’s last words suddenly registered in his mind.
“What sign?” Meng Yao asked instead.
Lan Xichen, whose ears had started to go red halfway through his confession, now blinked in confusion, smile slowly disappearing. He pointed outside, to where Meng Yao could see an easel chalkboard stood right outside the door, where there had not been one before.
Meng Yao felt a distinct sinking in his stomach as he walked outside. And lo and behold, what he saw made him want to crawl into a hole and die.
Written on the chalkboard in a very familiar, very messy scrawl:
Today your barista is:
- Hella fuckin bi
- Desperately single
For your drink today today I recommend:
You give me your number
A stick figure, that would look positively ordinary were it not for the two dots made to resemble dimples on its face, was drawn underneath.
Meng Yao was going to murder Xue Yang.
He reentered the cafe with a forced calm, and approached Lan Xichen, who was still standing by the counter. Luckily, there was no one else waiting in line, and enough chatter from the customers to cover up the drama occurring.
Xue Yang had also gotten up at this point, and opened his mouth to try to speak to Meng Yao, but the icy glare Meng Yao shot him had him snapping his jaw shut and scurrying to the backroom. If he knew what was good for him, Xue Yang wouldn’t emerge from there for the rest of the day. Possibly for the next week.
Lan Xichen watched the coworkers' interaction with a look of bemusement on his face, before sudden understanding seemed to wash over it.
“I’m sorry, Lan Xichen–” Meng Yao started to apologize, feeling incredibly rude for just leaving the man standing there alone without an answer.
But Lan Xichen put a hand up to stop him, and Meng Yao’s words died in his throat.
“There is no need for you to apologize. It was a prank. I assumed you– never mind. I deeply apologize, Meng Yao. Please forget I said anything.” Lan Xichen said quickly, small smile practically pained. The redness from Lan Xichen's ears had intensified and traveled down to heat his cheeks as well.
Meng Yao, on the other hand, felt himself go pale. A prank? He held the card numbly in his hand. Understanding suddenly clicked. Lan Xichen wasn't trying to hit on him just now, he was just teasing because he saw the sign outside, and expected Meng Yao to understand and play along.
And honestly, Meng Yao should have known better. He had not missed the title on the business card. 'CEO and Chairman' it had said. What would someone so successful, who could have anyone he wanted in the world, want with someone like Meng Yao? Liking him well enough to banter with him at the cafe was one thing, but he was a fool for letting himself get caught up in the fantasy that Lan Xichen might ever want him as anything more than that.
“It’s...it’s alright,” Meng Yao said quietly, heart breaking. He plastered on a fake smile. “There is no need to apologize, Lan Xichen. I understand.”
Lan Xichen seemed to notice the difference in his smile, and winced slightly. He bowed his head in apology, and walked briskly out of the store. His coffee and muffin forgotten on the counter.
Meng Yao could do nothing but watch him go.
That evening before closing, Meng Yao threw the scraps of phone numbers and business cards into the trash. He took Lan Xichen’s card in hand, hand hovering over the bin. But...he couldn’t bring himself to throw it out.
He slipped the card into his pocket and somehow managed to keep his tears at bay throughout the rest of his shift.
Lan Xichen did not come into the cafe the next day. Nor the day after that. Nor the day after that .
Weeks went by, and Meng Yao had begun to accept that he was never going to see Lan Xichen again.
Xue Yang was feeling a bit guilty, likely for the first time in his delinquent life. Good, Meng Yao thought bitterly.
As for Mo Xuanyu, well, Meng Yao couldn’t stay mad at Xuanyu for long. He knew the boy was not truly to blame for the prank that had gone terribly awry. And if he stopped to think past his bitterness, he would realize that even Xue Yang’s intentions had not been malicious.
it wasn’t their faults Lan Xichen wasn’t interested in him. That Lan Xichen had seen the naked desire on his face. That Lan Xichen had decided it would be easier to step out of Meng Yao’s life completely rather than deal with the messy complication Meng Yao’s unrequited love brought into their otherwise simple barista-patron relationship.
At the cafe, Meng Yao went through the motions. He refused to let his personal problems affect the quality of his work. Wei Wuxian watched him carefully, but thankfully did not try to push him to talk. Wei Wuxian knew Meng Yao well enough by now to understand that this was his way of coping. It was easy to recognize, as Wei Wuxian’s own methods were quite similar. They both pushed their feelings deep, deep down, into a small box in the back of their minds, then carried on with their lives as though nothing was wrong.
And it was working (mostly) fine, until one rainy Wednesday afternoon, three weeks to the day since Meng Yao had seen Lan Xichen last.
The door opened with a violent gust of wind, and a man stomped in, looking for all intents and purposes like a general charging into a battlefield. Tall, broad-chested, dressed in black slacks and a black blazer over a white button up shirt.
The man locked eyes with Meng Yao and marched up to the counter, face stern, evaluating the short barista from head to toe. Meng Yao straightened his back, refusing to be cowed by a complete stranger.
“Can I help you sir?” he asked, plastering on customer service smile #22, the one he used when dealing with his most difficult customers.
“Are you Meng Yao?” the man demanded.
Meng Yao felt a bit nervous now, but he did not let it show on his face. “Yes sir, and who might you be?”
“Nie Mingjue. I am a friend of Lan Xichen,” the man said, crossing his arms over his chest in a show of intimidation.
Meng Yao’s customer service mask slipped.
“Is he alright?” Meng Yao asked immediately.
It was, evidently, the wrong question to ask.
“Is he alright?! You think you can just toy with my friend’s feelings, then ask if he's alright?” Nie Mingjue snapped, hands slamming down on the countertop.
Meng Yao’s jaw dropped. “Excuse me?” he asked, offended and more than a little confused.
“Don’t act innocent! You flirted with him for weeks. Then you put up that stupid sign as a joke and embarrassed Lan Xichen right after he confessed his feelings for you. Do you have any idea how badly he feels?”
Meng Yao had no idea what was happening, but he was slowly losing his composure.
“His feelings? Lan Xichen only gave me his number as a joke because of a sign my coworker put up without my knowledge. He said so himself,” Meng Yao explained with forced patience, aching at the memory. But alongside that pain was a creeping sensation of doubt. A feeling that maybe he had missed something.
Nie Mingjue paused, now looking a bit unsure. His body language slowly lost some of its aggression, shoulders dropping, indignation fading from his eyes.
“A joke? What are you talking about?” Nie Mingjue frowned down at him.
“What are you talking about?” Meng Yao strained the limits of his self-control to keep his voice down. It was not easy when this man showed up and started tearing into his wounds. “I would never hurt Lan Xichen the way you claim! I care for him very much.”
Nie Mingjue was taken aback by the vehemence of his words. Lan Xichen had not shared all the details of what had happened between himself and the barista, but he thought he had gotten enough information to fill in the blanks himself. Now though, with this small teary-eyed man glaring up at him, he was beginning to think he had made a terrible mistake.
“You...care for him,” Nie Mingjue repeated. He looked at Meng Yao as if he was seeing him with new eyes.
“Yes,” Meng Yao said firmly, hand slipping into his pocket to thumb at the business card he carried with him. Its edges had started to wear.
Nie Mingjue sighed deeply, a hand reaching up to massage his temple.
“I may have misjudged you and the situation,” Nie Mingjue said, and Meng Yao guessed that was as close to an apology as he was going to get out of the man.
Not that it really mattered. He didn't care about this Nie Mingjue, or his half-assed apologies. He just wished Lan Xichen was here.
“I can speak with Xichen. Ask him to come here and talk with you,” Nie Mingjue offered, now feeling a bit guilty for having thrown his accusations so hastily.
“No, it’s alright. I will call him.” If Meng Yao had hurt Lan Xichen unintentionally, then he needed to apologize and make things right. And what's more – if Nie Mingjue was to be believed – Lan Xichen had been genuine in asking him out! And Meng Yao had gone ahead and ruined it.
Nie Mingjue nodded and left the cafe.
The rest of Meng Yao's shift went by in a blur. By the time he was closing up shop, he had gone through a hundred simulated conversations in his head, before settling on the perfect script that would explain his intents and feelings perfectly.
Alone in the empty cafe, he sat on the same chair he had been sitting in when Lan Xichen had first walked into the cafe. Slowly, fingers lingering over each digit, he dialed the number on the smooth white business card, brushing a thumb fondly over the ink where Lan Xichen had handwritten his number. He took in a deep breath and hit the call symbol before he could talk himself out of it.
Lan Xichen picked up on the second ring.
“Hello?” Lan Xichen asked, and Meng Yao promptly forgot every single word he had planned to say.
“L-Lan Xichen?” he stuttered. That was not in the script.
“Meng Yao?” Lan Xichen asked hesitantly.
Meng Yao wished he could see the other man’s face. Was that anxiety or hope he detected in his voice?
“Yes, it’s me.” Now that he had the other man on the phone, Meng Yao’s throat had closed up, his normally witty personality shriveled up and left to die.
“Is something wrong? Are you ok?” Lan Xichen sounded worried about him. It gave him the courage to speak up.
“I’m sorry!” Meng Yao said at once, eyes closed in shame, even though Lan Xichen was not physically there to see him do so.
“What? Why, what’s wrong?” He definitely sounded worried now.
“The sign – I didn’t know it was there. I wasn't trying to lead you on or embarrass you, Xichen, I wouldn’t do that,” Meng Yao choked out in a rush, stumbling over his words. Believe me, please.
“I didn’t think you were trying to embarrass me,” Lan Xichen assured gently.
Meng Yao froze.
“You...didn’t?” he asked dumbly. But Nie Mingjue said…
Lan Xichen sighed into the phone, and Meng Yao held his breath in anticipation.
“When I realized you didn’t know about the sign outside, I saw that you were trying to let me down gently. I embarrassed myself. I ruined our friendship by asking you out when you weren’t interested, so I thought it best to put some distance between us. I’m the one who is sorry for taking your friend’s prank seriously.”
Asking me out.
“No, Lan Xichen, I want to go out on a date with you!” The mental script was in the trash at this point. “I should have told you right when you gave me your number, but I thought...I thought you were playing a prank on me.” Now that he said the words out loud, he realized how ridiculous he sounded. Lan Xichen was too kind to ever do something so mean-spirited like ask someone out as a joke. Why couldn’t he have realized that sooner? Was Meng Yao really that insecure?
There was silence on the other end, and Meng Yao feared for a moment that Xichen had hung up on him.
“A-Yao. Are you at the cafe?” Lan Xichen asked calmly.
“I am, yes,” Meng Yao said, choosing to omit the fact that technically the cafe was closed.
“Please wait there. I will be there in ten minutes,” Lan Xichen promised, before he hung up the phone. He's coming here? Meng Yao stood and started cleaning the cafe as if it were his own apartment, pushing in the chairs, wiping the tables down a second time.
Seven and a half minutes later, the door opened and there he was. Beautiful, kind, gentle Lan Xichen. How had Meng Yao survived these weeks in the absence of his light.
Meng Yao stared at him hopefully, waiting to see what Lan Xichen would do before making any sudden moves.
“A-Yao,” Lan Xichen said the name fondly, face awash in relief, as though Meng Yao was an oasis in a barren desert.
Five steps forward, and Lan Xichen pulled Meng Yao into an embrace. Arms wrapped around the smaller man’s back, forehead pressed to Meng Yao’s hair, he held him tightly, as though he never wanted to let go. Through his shock, Meng Yao slowly brought his arms up to hug Lan Xichen back. They fit perfectly together.
“We’re really bad at this, aren’t we?” Meng Yao mumbled into Lan Xichen’s white button down shirt. Lan Xichen must have still been in the office working late when Meng Yao had called.
And he dropped everything to come and see me.
Lan Xichen laughed, the sound like silver bells chiming in the wind. He pressed a soft kiss on the top of Meng Yao’s head, and Meng Yao was grateful Lan Xichen could not see his face in that moment.
“It could be worse. We could be Wangji and Wei Wuxian,” Lan Xichen teased, drawing a laugh out of the smaller man in his arms. They stayed like that for a few minutes longer, before Lan Xichen spoke again.
“A-Yao?” he asked, fingers threading softly through his hair.
“Yes?” Meng Yao asked. He could hear Lan Xichen’s heartbeat where it pounded against his ear, wondered what it would be like to fall asleep to the sound.
“Would you like to go on a date with me?”
Meng Yao pulled back to look Lan Xichen directly in the eyes, declaring quite clearly and without any room for interpretation, “Yes. I would like that very much.”
Smiling softly, Lan Xichen cradled Meng Yao’s face in both hands, and leaned down to capture his lips in a kiss.
Extra: Two Days Later
“I can’t believe that’s what happened. How embarrassing for you, Yao-xiong!” Wei Wuxian teased, relieved to see his friend was smiling again. He really was genuinely amazed that two people who so obviously liked each other could ever be so bad at communicating how they feel!
Meng Yao restrained the urge to throw a croissant at his obnoxious employer. Mo Xuanyu would not be happy with the waste of his hard work, even though Meng Yao would maintain it was for a good cause.
Wei Wuxian continued chattering on, switching gears to his favorite topic of conversation.
“By the way, I think Lan Wangji wants us to cater for a company breakfast soon. He gave me his number yesterday while you were out, and asked me to call him! We’re getting dinner tonight to talk over the details.”
Meng Yao paused, and prayed he was just being paranoid when he asked, “Did you...happen to get a lot of people giving you their phone numbers yesterday, by any chance?”
“Hmm...I guess so, now that you mention it,” Wei Wuxian answered, twirling a pencil between his fingers absentmindedly.
“I see. Excuse me,” Meng Yao said, and Wei Wuxian nodded as he watched Meng Yao walk calmly into the backroom.
Moments later, the cafe filled with the sounds of Xue Yang’s shrieking.