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Not Afraid to Know

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“So why do you want your regulator broken?” the Yiling Laozu, the most notorious hacker around, asks.

Lan Wangji glares.

The Yiling Laozu puts up his hands. “Hey, now, just some idle chatter while I get you sequenced. You know, most of my clients are looking for someone to explain their life story to.” He looks at Lan Wangji for a moment longer. “Guess you’re not one of them.” He sounds perfectly cheerful to be rebuffed. “Well, come sit down.”

He pats the cracked leather chair in the middle of the room. The lighting is terrible, light from the holographic advertisements outside bleeding colours over the bare white walls. The place could also be considered clinical -- the metal instruments in their chair certainly look surgical enough -- if the chair wasn’t so beaten down. Lan Wangji debates for a moment, but: the books, the knowledge. The Jins want to own everything that made the Cloud Recesses what it was, everything that Lan Wangji had entrusted to his memory banks. He can’t let them have it.

He sits down.

“Good,” the Yiling Laozu says, and kicks at Lan Wangji’s feet. The chair lurches backwards, head going down, feet coming up. “Don’t worry, it doesn’t hurt.”

Pain has never been a consideration for Lan Wangji. Thinking that this hacker cares about assuring him sets off a mini-cascade in Lan Wangji’s processors.

“Lift your hair?” the Yiling Laozu asks.

Lan Wangji does, and the hacker’s fingers skim up the side of his neck gently before pressing two fingers firmly behind Lan Wangji’s ear. Lan Wangji hears, more than feels, the pop and hiss of the panel pulling back, revealing the circuitry.

The Yiling Laozu steps back and puts on a glove. It is black and the fingertips are tipped with small metal filaments. Ah, that is how the man will get inside of him, and play him like a many-stringed instrument.

He keeps up a constant narration while he works. It should be annoying. Lan Wangji values silence and focus on tasks. He cannot see what the hacker is doing but he finds that he never has to wonder, because it is all being described to him in detail. It’s different from the clinical maintenance sweeps that the Lan technicians have done for him, but Lan Wangji finds himself in the same meditative space, falling into a pool of stillness while the Yiling Laozu’s words flow around him.

“Alright, done,” the Yiling Laozu says eventually.

Lan Wangji blinks, indexing the content of his drives. “I don’t feel different,” he says.

“Well, your governor wasn’t doing much in an active way? In terms of telling you what to do. You have a lot of explicit parameters in your code -- which is not how I’d program someone, like what happens if you encounter a situation your programmer didn’t account for? -- but I figured I shouldn’t mess with those. So the only thing is that you might feel a little less watched, but it shouldn’t make a big difference to your day to day.”

Now that he mentions it, Lan Wangji does feel a little less heavy.

“My parameters are perfectly adequate,” is what he says instead.

The Yiling Laozu shrugs again. “Do you want anything else augmented while you’re here? I saw that your pleasure module isn’t integrated.”

Lan Wangji blinks again. He can find no mention of a pleasure module in any of his architecture. “What’s that?”

The Yiling Laozu does a double take. “Oh wow, no, look, it’ll be easier -- let me just,” and his fingers reach out to Lan Wangji’s exposed circuits and suddenly -- oh.

“What are you doing?” Lan Wangji asks, tremulously. He feels -- he feels. It’s like he can feel the movement of every particle of air over his skin. And his clothes, they feel -- soft? -- where they pool and drape on the hollows of his form.

The Yiling Laozu pulls back. “I just stimulated your receptors for a moment.” Lan Wangji stares. The hacker grins back at him, shark sharp. “Do you want me to do it again?”

Lan Wangji nods, blinking rapidly, integrating these new data points into his matrix.

Wei Wuxian touches him again and Lan Wangji can’t help making a small noise, like his inputs are confused and producing the wrong response. He has sensors, he has the ability to know what is going on in the world around him, but the way he’s perceiving it is… different.

He wonders.

He brings his fingers up, rustling them against the cloth on his body. He likes the sensation, the fabric feels cool against the skin of his body, warm against his fingertips where the friction of his fingertips is disturbing it. His fingers keep moving up to the hollows of his throat. Skin on skin feels better, different. He shivers. Does it feel good because he’s touching or being touched? There’s a way to find out.

He reaches out his fingers towards the Yiling Laozu, catching his elbow. The skin is rough there, dry. It pulls at the soft skin of Lan Wangji’s fingertips. Lan Wangji is impervious to the elements, permanently and unnaturally undamageable, but this man is different, harder. But at the same time, the skin has more give to it. Lan Wangji presses more firmly. It’s even more yielding the further up goes towards the bicep.

“Whoa there, friend,” the hacker says. Lan Wangji pulls his fingers back, mortified. He has several parameters that govern the touching of others. His actions are beginning to infringe on the edges of them.

He opens his mouth to apologise, “Yiling Laozu, I--”

“Hey, no worries,” he says. “But if we’re going to get this personal why don’t you call me by name, hm? Wei Wuxian.”

Lan Wangji tastes the shape of it. It’s nice. It suits him. He nods.

“The real question,” Wei Wuxian continues, “is what do you want to do next?”

The options unfold in front of Lan Wangji, too many to pursue to all of their conclusions. He can only see many branches, all of them equally worth pursuing. It sends his logic subroutines into gridlock. “I am unsure.”

He says it with wonder. He can’t recall the last time he was unsure about anything.

“Alright, well I can leave this turned on for you and you can do some exploration.” Wei Wuxian wiggles his eyebrows and makes to withdraw.

Unacceptable. Lan Wangji reaches out his hand to grip Wei Wuxian’s wrist.

“No?” Wei Wuxian asks. Lan Wangji shakes his head. “Are you sure you don’t want some time alone?”

Lan Wangji feels something whirr inside of him. His functions should be completely silent, but the notion of Wei Wuxian leaving him like this is putting undue strain on his systems. They were not built to withstand this much tension. His whole life he has been alone. Built and programmed for the singular function of upholding the standards and legacy of the Lan sect. He does not need any more time spent on his own.

“No,” he says. “If there is more, I want you to show me.”

Wei Wuxian’s eyes widen. “Oh, I don’t know if -- I mean, I’m not.” He rallies. “I could write you a subroutine, it could run through some basic options for you, simulate the effects.”

Lan Wangji eyes him critically. “Is that what you do?” There is colour rising high on Wei Wuxian’s cheeks. “You are augmented.”

This is not a question. Not everyone is, but Wei Wuxian’s facility with technology would be difficult otherwise.

Wei Wuxian raises his chin. “Well, yeah. There’s nothing wrong with a little simulation.”

Lan Wangji checks his parameters and finds no contradicting instruction. “Yes.” he says. “Your subroutine, I would like to try it.” He wants to make sure his meaning is clear. “The one that you do, I want to do that exactly. I want to feel what you feel.”

Wei Wuxian takes in a shaky exhale. “O-okay.” He pulls his hand back, which is not what Lan Wangji wants, but it’s only so he can take off his glove and uncoil a thick cable. Carefully, Wei Wuxian slides the panel on the side of Lan Wangji’s neck closed. Lan Wangji’s access ports are fully closed but something about lying there waiting for what Wei Wuxian is going to do next makes him feel exposed, ready.

Wei Wuxian reaches behind his own neck, pulling his ponytail to the side. Lan Wangji catches a glimpse of the port there, before Wei Wuxian slides the spike in with a shudder. He twists it to lock it into place.

Lan Wangji watches it in fascination. He’s never directly gone port to port with anyone else. There is no filter in a cable to cable connection. It is something all little bots are warned away from -- the easiest way to get malware. This entire scenario has been unacceptably compromising, from heading outside of the surveillance net, to allowing a stranger into his subroutines, now to linking with one.

When Wei Wuxian reaches for the back of Lan Wangji’s neck, he turns his head to help him. The feeling of the spike going in isn’t unpleasant. He doesn’t have any sensors on the inside. But he does feel it when the connection is established. There’s nothing yet, no input, no output, but there is a presence, waiting.

Lan Wangji sends a query. It is well-structured, the headers are complete and correct. Request for upload.

He gets back a whirl of sensation and colour. oh hi

Lan Wangji resists the urge to rush him. Or more accurately, he resists the urge to reach out through the connection and find what he’s looking for. He feels like he has been waiting for subjective eons for the promise of structure for his pleasure. He does not want to wait a moment longer.

Then the package comes through, packets sent so quickly after each other that Lan Wangji can barely acknowledge them quick enough. Finally, he has them all. They sit inside this newly activated container in his systems, nestled between his motivation and personality matrices.

“How do I activate it?”

Instead of answering, Wei Wuxian reaches through their connection, triggers the executable. One moment there was nothing, and now there is a slow wave of warmth spreading from Lan Wangji’s lower abdomen out to his fingers and toes. It’s soothing. His body relaxes, sinking into the chair so well that the leather crinkles beneath him. Lan Wangji understands why this is pleasurable, why someone would want to feel like this.

“Feels nice?” Wei Wuxian asks.

With effort, Lan Wangji turns his head to the side to look at him. They’re still jacked together. The next setting activates and this one is different, more acute. The warmth is there but now it feels like it’s coiling under his skin, curling forwards and receding into his core. It doesn’t feel like he’s going to overload. He barely gets used to that setting before the pulses start to come quicker. It feels like something is being pulled out of him and his body draws up, tension causing his knees to lock, his hips to rise.

It feels like...it feels like…

What is this? He sends over their connection. He attaches the relevant sensory information.

Wei Wuxian gasps. He sends back images that don’t mean anything to Lan Wangji: people clutching hands as they prepare to bungee jump, the first bite of custard, holding something very heavy up high above their head.

The sensations continue now, feather feelings along his arms that make them want to shake and roll, pressure on his ribs that makes him want to push back. He feels expansive, so big on the inside that his super-structure can no longer contain it. He wants to move, to push back, to hold everything inside at the same time that he feels like he no longer can. This feeling wants to burst out of him. It’s so much to hold onto all at once.

Too much.

He flings this query, marked urgent, to Wei Wuxian, who knocks back in his chair when he receives it. Lan Wangji repeats the query, adding more information, the way his back feels like it’s floating away from the chair, the way his hands feel empty and heavy. He needs something, he knows he does, and he hopes Wei Wuxian has it. He appends the request for help.

The next moment, Wei Wuxian moves, sliding into Lan Wangji’s lap. The weight of his body immediately quiets the alerts that were going off in Lan Wangji’s mind.

It is hard to integrate the dual sensations though, those coming from the link between them and those his external sensors are picking up.

They complement each other, though, both inputs. Where before he felt empty and weightless, the real presence of Wei Wuxian’s body turns those feelings into something grounded.

His body lifts up to test how well Wei Wuxian’s holds him down. It jostles Wei Wuxian in his lap, threatens to throw him away, which is unacceptable. Lan Wangji reaches out with his hands and pulls Wei Wuxian tight against him, anchored.

Wei Wuxian moans. It’s just a sound, but it seems to reverberate in the newly created hollow parts of Lan Wangji’s body. He drags his fingers down Lan Wangji’s chest, sensors firing off in order like sparks -- but they are grounded.

“What does it feel like, for you?” Lan Wangji asks.

Wei Wuxian shudders and Lan Wangji loosens his grip, wary of causing damage. His firewalls ping -- unnecessary while they are inside each other -- and Lan Wangji accepts the live feed. Lan Wangji has no context for the sensations Wei Wuxian is experiencing but they’re hotter and sharper than the ones in his body, and centred in his lower torso, between where Lan Wangji has his hands gripped. Wei Wuxian moves his hips, experimentally, and the friction is pleasurable for them both, Wei Wuxian because he is experiencing it, Lan Wangji because he feels what Wei Wuxian feels. Lan Wangji sends some of that back, how his body is interpreting the cues that Wei Wuxian’s is sending him, and Wei Wuxian makes a high noise and falls forward onto Lan Wangji. Having him touch so much and so close is a special reward. Lan Wangji thought there was no way to be closer than to get jacked in, but there is something extra to be said about touching in the physical world too. Wei Wuxian is inside of him in all of the ways he can be. Lan Wangji could keep him there too, take up residence in a corner of Wei Wuxian’s mind, see through his eyes.

He tries it for a moment, looking down at himself through Wei Wuxian, at the way his irises are focusing and refocusing, the rings struggling to figure out how much input to let in. He knows what he looks like, though, what he wants to look at is Wei Wuxian. He directs their gaze to his chest, where Wei Wuxian’s blunt fingernails struggle for purchase on the perfect smoothness of Lan Wangji’s Lan-standard synthesised blue robes.

“What are you doing?” Wei Wuxian asks, too overcome to format a communique, closing his eyes and panting. Lan Wangji lets him.

“Watching you feel pleasure.” As he speaks, the simulation program kicks into a new cycle, it feels like rainfall in the back of his skull, maddeningly light. He pulls Wei Wuxian tighter against him, needing a more coherent sensation. “Is this the most you can feel?”

“No.”

Show me.

Wei Wuxian is past words, past communicating. He reaches into Lan Wangji this time and Lan Wangji could stop him but he chooses not to. Chooses to let Wei Wuxian curl bring his hand down between them and into Wei Wuxian’s pants, which helpfully open themselves. His hand curls around Wei Wuxian’s cock and pulls once and then Lan Wangji is back in control, back in his own mind.

Don’t hide, he sends to Wei Wuxian, who opens his feed again and Lan Wangji dips in. He repeats the motion that Wei Wuxian showed him. It feels incandescent, like new connections are forming within his positronic matrix, blinking into life behind his eyes.

He shares the feeling with Wei Wuxian who can only groan and move his hips. Lan Wangji doesn’t have to do anything. Doesn’t have to do anything at all except feel.

Feel the way Wei Wuxian moves in his fist, feel the way he is slowly unravelling in Lan Wangji’s hands, unable to think, to speak, to swallow. It feels like something is building, a slow roll of electricity behind Wei Wuxian’s spine. He wants to know where that is going so he chases it, holding harder and pushing his awareness in deeper until he permeates all of Wei Wuxian from the tips of his fingers to the dance of his neurons. Wei Wuxian jolts like a live wire but it’s Lan Wangji’s brain that whites out.

He loses contact with all of his functioning for a fraction of a nanosecond. During that time, infinitesimal and endless, he does not truly exist. Then systems begin to reboot. The basic ones first, power, timekeeping. Then memory, consciousness. Finally, awareness. His sensors come online.

He opens his eyes. He is laying on the chair, Wei Wuxian is above him, sweat beading at the corners of his hairline. His hand is inside of Wei Wuxian’s pants, sticky and cold. His subroutine is still cycling through settings, back at the general sensation of warmth. He kills it, but leaves the pleasure principle in place.

Wei Wuxian, for his part, is still shaking, hips jerking in Lan Wangji’s hold. He considers tapping back in to Wei Wuxian’s feed, but his brush with overload has left him feeling wary, sensitive.

Wei Wuxian begins speaking. “Wow,” he says. “I didn’t know that it… was it good for you?”

Lan Wangji doesn’t say anything for a long moment, struggling to encapsulate the experience. “It was fulfilling,” he manages. Perhaps words cannot convey.

“Oh,” Wei Wuxian says and sneaks out a tendril of awareness towards Lan Wangji: query? What is fulfilling?

Lan Wangji prepares a packet, horribly aware that it can be condensed to ‘I want to do that again’ and ‘I want to live inside of your mind.’ He is at peace with the first and not proud of the second. It skirts close to several parameters that proscribe greediness. He prepares for Wei Wuxian’s disgust as he sends it over. Perhaps his memories of this encounter will be enough to satisfy him in future.

Wei Wuxian hums as he accesses the packet. It takes him time to process it. Lan Wangji reminds himself to be patient. Wei Wuxian’s mind is organic and slow and yet still capable of creating such beautiful sensations. Wei Wuxian sends back a confirmation when he has received it, but Lan Wangji can tell because his face blooms into the widest smile. For some reason, looking at that smile replicates the feeling of warmth from the pleasure simulation.

“We should detach,” Wei Wuxian says.

Lan Wangji finds that he does not want to. He hums.

Wei Wuxian laughs, delighted. “Hm,” Wei Wuxian says and his eyes are dancing. Lan Wangji wonders if his legs are uncomfortable pressing against the arms of the chair like that. “How about I make you a deal?” Lan Wangji looks at him suspiciously. “We separate now, but you come back in -- how about a week? -- and show me exactly what you’ve learned about your own subroutines.”

The thought is intriguing to Lan Wangji. He has the power now, after all, to hack all of his systems. The program Wei Wuxian created was fun, but Lan Wangji believes he can improve on it. He has many data points to investigate in his memory banks. The image of Wei Wuxian panting above him, in particular, could be very productive.

He nods. “Acceptable.”

“Well, if you say so,” Wei Wuxian says, and leans forward to help ease the jack out of Lan Wangji’s neck. His lips brush against Lan Wangji’s cheek as he does so. They’re soft. It feels...nice.

The jack slides out smoothly and Lan Wangji notes the loss of potential for connection with some regret. Wei Wuxian reaches behind his own neck next, but Lan Wangji leans up instead, gently working his fingers around the port.

“Is this correct?” he asks, mouth close to Wei Wuxian’s ear. Wei Wuxian swallows.

“Yes.”

Very carefully, Lan Wangji detaches them.

After they both straighten themselves, Lan Wangji turns to him. “I will return,” he confirms. “In three days.”

Wei Wuxian’s laughter follows him out into the promenade.