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i'm the one for your fire

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Wei Ying spends the next ten minutes staring unseeingly at the ceiling. He’s not really sure what he’s expecting, by waiting around — maybe that Lan Zhan will slip back into the room, unobtrusive, freshly showered or with breakfast in hand.


The minutes tick by, each one a slow, cold drip over Wei Ying’s head. Every passing moment surrounded by Lan Zhan’s absence feels more unbearable, the silence of the apartment a hefty and looming weight.


As he appraises Lan Zhan’s dustless ceiling, an awful thought occurs to him. Maybe Lan Zhan actually had heard Wei Ying’s confession last night, and had been pretending to be asleep last night to give him an out. That’s suddenly the only characteristic explanation Wei Ying can think of, for why Lan Zhan would disappear so abruptly and without a word.


Maybe the confession had made him angry, or...or upset? Wei Ying racks his brain to remember exactly what he’d said, panic clawing its way up and up in his throat. He’d said he didn’t want to be physical, at least not yet, but pretty much also that he didn’t want Lan Zhan to like other people. What kind of shitty, selfish ask is that? Of course Lan Zhan would be upset. Most of Lan Zhan’s fantasies about him up until now have been very physical, because Lan Zhan actually knows who he is and what he wants from a person. Why the hell would he want to waste his time waiting around on a wreck like Wei Ying? On someone who’s still figuring his shit out, but would still be self-interested enough to request that Lan Zhan put his life on hold until he does?


If Wei Ying finds him, he can make things right. He can tell Lan Zhan that he’s sorry, that it had been the liquor talking, that he hadn’t meant any of it after all. Maybe then they can go back to normal — as normal as things can be in their friendship, with mutual feelings trenched between them.


If the apartment had seemed quiet before, it feels barren with Lan Zhan gone. Wei Ying quickly strips out of Lan Zhan’s clothes and picks up his own where they’re heaped on the floor, cold and crumpled and still damp. He folds the borrowed clothes neatly at the foot of the bed, like a good guest would.


And then he leaves.


Sometimes Lan Zhan works weekends — maybe he’s at the office logging some case work, just to distract himself? As Wei Ying heads toward the subway, he sends a couple of texts Lan Zhan’s way:


hey can we talk?


can you let me know youre ok


He bites his lip as he hesitates, his eyes tearing up with the cold, before he types out quickly im sorry and shoves his phone into his pocket.


The subway ride is quick, and, as it turns out, fruitless. When Wei Ying keys into the office, he finds it completely vacant, the lights shuddering on with his steps as he enters. 


For a moment, he stands there in the empty office, reveling in the strangeness of its stillness with his shoulders drooped. Then he turns and leaves there too.


At some point a cold, dreary rain had started up, a thin and spitting mist that toes the edge of snow. Wei Ying hunches his shoulders up by his ears and flips the hood of his sweatshirt up as he walks briskly back to the subway, his hands jammed in his pockets. He could just go home, but the concept of being in his apartment all day is suddenly too anxiety-inducing to consider. He’ll spend all of his time pacing and climbing up walls anyway.


Wei Ying decides, right then and there, that he’s going to sit by Lan Zhan’s door until he comes back from wherever he’d gone. Lan Zhan has to come home at some point, even if a small and unpleasant voice in Wei Ying chimes in that Lan Zhan may not want to see him. But if Lan Zhan is going to vanish and ignore Wei Ying’s texts, then that leaves camping out as the last resort. 


His phone dings while he waits for the subway, and Wei Ying scrambles to fish it out of his pocket, his fingers numb and stiff with damp chill. He squints down at the screen, speckled with mist.


He has two texts, the first from Jiang Cheng.


jiang cheng

you good? you didn’t come home last night


The other is from Lan Zhan. Wei Ying’s heart slams to a halt like it’s hit the concrete, a spike of adrenaline rocketing through him.


lan zhan

Come over.


◈ ◈ ◈


Wei Ying has experienced some truly agonizing subway rides in his time, but not one of them can touch this particular trip. Each stop seems to linger, the seconds unspooling into half-hour spans. He has no service either, so he can’t even text Lan Zhan a confirmation that he’s seen the text and he’s on his way.


Once he’s off the stop, he practically sprints the three blocks to Lan Zhan’s. The rain stings his face, tangling in his eyelashes, and it feels absurdly like a movie scene as he runs, because his life — this entire scenario and how it had come to be — is ridiculous. And no less awful for its ridiculousness, but it is what it is. Once he reaches the familiar building, Wei Ying ducks into the warm shelter of the lobby and makes for the elevator. Eight floors up, off the elevator, down the hall, to the right and then the left, and —


He gets one knock in before the door is swinging open. 


Lan Zhan’s appearance is startling, as it always is, immediately arresting in its handsomeness no matter the circumstance or time of day or the length of time since they’ve seen each other. His attire is somewhat incongruous; he’s dressed as though for work, a familiar dress-shirt and crisp black slacks, but his long hair is loosely braided over his shoulder, like he had been in the middle of dressing down (or up?) before Wei Ying’s arrival.


In spite of himself, looking at him, Wei Ying feels his pounding heart trip over a beat.


For a moment, they both stand there, staring at each other as though petrified into stone, Lan Zhan’s hand still on the door; Wei Ying panting and shivering through his clothes, now dampened twice over.


“Come in,” Lan Zhan says abruptly, then turns away from him without another word.


Not the most promising sign. Wei Ying feels some knot in his stomach twist into a tighter shape, but he follows after Lan Zhan. He stumbles out of his wet shoes.


“Lan Zhan, I’m so sorry,” Wei Ying scrambles to say, just as Lan Zhan begins, “Wei Ying, I —”


They both stop again to stare at each other, the door crunching shut behind them.


“No, me first,” Wei Ying rushes out. “Lan Zhan, everything I said last night, you can just — forget it, it was just the alcohol talking, I — I know you want something physical with someone, and I should never have asked you to even consider — when I’m figuring everything out and I’ve been all over the place, you know, and — we can just start over from scratch, okay?”


Lan Zhan’s face, in real time, muddles by the second as Wei Ying talks, his eyes a little wide and his brows drawing together.


“I’m sorry,” Wei Ying finishes, feeling wretched. He’s sorry for all of it, for leading Lan Zhan on and causing conflict and for taking so long to realize anything, everything.


“Stop apologizing,” Lan Zhan says, sounding frustrated. “Wei Ying.”


Wei Ying waits, twisting his wet hoodie string around and around his finger until the circulation cuts off.


Lan Zhan speaks slowly, with deliberate care. “I have no memory of last night. Of anything that was said or done. I asked you to come so I could apologize.”


All of Wei Ying’s breath leaves him in one dizzy rush. He feels himself sag, pressing his shoulders back against the front door. 


Oh, so — Lan Zhan hadn’t heard any of it. He really hadn’t...when he’d seen Lan Zhan missing, Wei Ying had assumed that...


“I woke up and,” Wei Ying says, in a shrunken voice. He hates how small he sounds. “You were gone, I thought that you were upset —”


“I went for a walk. To clear my head.” Lan Zhan’s jaw works, and he speaks the next words with clear difficulty. “When I woke this morning...I knew something had...that I had...”


Wei Ying pictures the scene Lan Zhan must have woken up to, piecing things together in reverse. Wei Ying in his arms, Wei Ying in his clothes.


Lan Zhan swallows hard. He keeps his gaze lowered, not meeting Wei Ying’s eyes. “Taken advantage.”


“What,” Wei Ying croaks. “No, that’s not. Lan Zhan, nothing happened.”


Lan Zhan does meet his eyes then, a little warily, like he thinks Wei Ying might be lying to him.


“I mean it,” Wei Ying insists, shaking a hand in front of him. “Nothing happened. I mean, you got into the shower with all of your clothes on, but other than that we just — went to sleep, pretty much.”


“Pretty much,” Lan Zhan repeats, like he senses there’s more Wei Ying isn’t saying.


“Nothing physical happened,” Wei Ying clarifies. “Really, I promise. I wouldn’t lie to you about this.”


Just about other things. Wei Ying bites down on his lip against the sudden surge of guilt he feels. All of Lan Zhan’s secrets are still just a hand-brush away, all of his thoughts available for Wei Ying’s perusal.


Lan Zhan stares at him for another wordless moment.


“I returned this morning,” Lan Zhan says in a low voice. “And you were gone. I assumed that…”


“No!” Wei Ying interjects. “Lan Zhan, I left to find you, I — I thought you might be at the office. I thought you were mad at me.


The furrow between Lan Zhan’s brow deepens. “Why would I be.”


“Because I —” Wei Ying says, and the sentence stops dead. Because any lesser person would be, with what Wei Ying has put him through recently. Any lesser person would be, when Wei Ying knows Lan Zhan’s feelings and would still request exclusivity without physicality. 


“Wei Ying,” Lan Zhan says. It sounds like a plea. “Whatever you said last night, I didn’t…”


“It wasn’t even important,” Wei Ying says with a stilted laugh. “We can just forget about —”


Lan Zhan takes a step closer to him, so quick that Wei Ying stumbles back and hits the door.


“Tell me everything I said,” Lan Zhan says in a low voice. “Please.”


Ah. Fuck. Shit. Wei Ying had really been hoping to avoid this. But it’s not like he can lie to Lan Zhan, right? Not about this. He deserves to know the details of a conversation he can’t remember.


Wei Ying breathes out slowly, steeling himself. “You didn’t say much, really, haha, um. It was just that when you were falling asleep, you said that you, maybe…that you...”


Lan Zhan’s eyes sear into his, a burn that stakes each of Wei Ying’s limbs into place.


“Liked me,” Wei Ying finishes, each word tailing up into its own question. His voice is almost a whisper, nearly inaudible. 


Lan Zhan’s face hardly shifts at the words, other than the tightening of his mouth. His eyes close in what looks like resignation, or defeat.


“But I mean, you were blackout drunk, Lan Zhan,” Wei Ying says quickly, scrambling to fill in defenses that will make this okay, that will make Lan Zhan feel better. “Everyone says things they don’t mean when they’re —”


“I meant it,” says Lan Zhan. The three words are as clear as the cut of a knife.


Wei Ying is rapidly losing his foothold. He has no fucking clue how to approach this conversation sober. He’s known, for weeks now, that Lan Zhan likes him this way, so it should be a relief that it’s finally dragged into the open between them, but instead all he can feel is a wriggling, slow-mounting dread. He doesn’t want to lose Lan Zhan, he can’t lose him now —


“Lan Zhan,” is all Wei Ying can think to say. It comes out weak, a little strangled.


“I understand the nature of our relationship may change,” Lan Zhan says stiffly. His gaze is focused somewhere beyond Wei Ying, beyond his shoulder. Like he’s shutting down degree by degree. “But you deserve the truth if we continue to spend time together.”


At once, Wei Ying feels awful down to his marrow, like he can feel it leaking out of his pores. Here Lan Zhan is, baring his most vulnerable secrets and talking about truth, when Wei Ying is the liar of the two of them.


“I don’t deserve it,” Wei Ying whispers. 


The response seems to take Lan Zhan off-guard. He blinks at Wei Ying twice, his frown deepening into something perplexed.


Wei Ying rubs at his arm, unable to look Lan Zhan in the eye. He speaks quietly, unevenly. “Lan Zhan, you’re really the best. You deserve someone who can…”


Lan Zhan gives an impatient shake of his head. “Don’t want anyone else.”


“Lan Zhan,” Wei Ying chokes out. His heart races, races, races.


Lan Zhan moves toward him again, closer — more cautious, like he’s stepping out onto a trembling bridge. For once, Wei Ying doesn’t retreat; he holds his ground, letting Lan Zhan into his space even as his knees threaten to cave.


Wei Ying exhales, and the next words pour out of him in a rush, before he even knows what he’s saying.


“I can’t live up.” He swallows hard. “To whatever version of me you have in your head.”


Lan Zhan pauses at this, visibly digesting the words, before he says, slowly, “You are you.”


Wei Ying laughs once, clipped and humorless. “That’s kind of the problem, Lan Zhan.”


Lan Zhan frowns again, clearly not understanding.


Wei Ying shakes his head and squeezes his eyes shut. “I’ll let you down. I’ve already hurt you enough just by hanging around you. I’m just…”


It’s like the words are dragged from him. He doesn’t want to be saying it, doesn’t want to say anything that might make Lan Zhan like him less, that might reveal the truth about him, because he’s selfish. The version of himself that Lan Zhan sees...Wei Ying has greedily allowed himself to profit off of it, has allowed it to self-perpetuate as his own feelings developed. But honesty is the very least of what Lan Zhan deserves — all of it, thorny and ugly and bared.


“Wei Ying,” Lan Zhan says softly. His hand reaches out, and before Wei Ying can flinch away, he’s touching Wei Ying’s shoulder —


A memory settles over Wei Ying like a dropped shroud, a time-faded burst of color. After a couple of disorienting seconds, he realizes he can actually place the scene: an early autumn afternoon within their first few weeks at university. He and Lan Zhan had just barely met. They were certainly nowhere near friends; Lan Zhan had been well on his way to hating him, at that point, and with good reason. By that time, Wei Ying had picked up tormenting Lan Zhan as a fun sport, as a barometer for reactivity.


Wei Ying can remember this day exactly because it had been so beautiful outside and he’d finally had a day free of coursework. He had found Lan Zhan, the shiny new target of his attention span, meditating on a patch of green on campus. Prettier than anything in nature. 


Seeing it through Lan Zhan’s eyes is different. Wei Ying watches his own mischievous smile flickering like the bounce of a flashlight beam as he chatters at an obnoxious cadence. The late afternoon sun spills over both of them in a goldenrod burst. It lights Wei Ying from behind, fracturing over his head. He’s leaning into Lan Zhan’s space in the grass, his delight at being allowed near evident all over his conniving little face. His eyes are bright with warmth as he teases Lan Zhan, smiling with all of his teeth — has he always looked at Lan Zhan that way, Wei Ying wonders? Has it always been so obvious to everyone but him?


Through Lan Zhan’s eyes, Wei Ying sees himself warm and effusive and spilling over with joy, lit with sun.


Oh, Lan Zhan had thought then, with the sensation like the drop from a cliff, he’s beautiful —


Wei Ying snaps back to the present, the back of his head nearly colliding with the door as he gasps. Lan Zhan is watching him closely, so closely that Wei Ying can nearly see himself reflected in the wide dark of his pupils.


If I could kiss him, Lan Zhan is thinking now, the ache of it a plucked chord. If he would let me


The stormwall that Wei Ying had carefully constructed, brick by brick — it crumbles entirely, slides down and crashes into the sea. All that’s left in its wake is a wanting that’s startling in force. 


He doesn’t want to imagine it, he doesn’t want to live it through Lan Zhan’s imagination, he wants —


“Do it,” Wei Ying hears himself say. “Lan Zhan, please, just...”


Lan Zhan’s eyes, flickering over Wei Ying’s features, widen by a sliver. He falters a tiny step, a little shift of weight like he’s been unbalanced.


His voice, when it comes, is low, uneven. “Do not tease.”


“I’m not,” Wei Ying says. His heart is thundering in his chest. “I wouldn’t. Lan Zhan, please, I — I’m asking you to — would you —”


Lan Zhan is suddenly in his space again, closer than before, pressing against every line of him, pushing him back against the door with a loud thud. Wei Ying’s body goes liquid into it, his thoughts emptying out into a pleasant hum. He suddenly feels quiet at being pinned in place, like Lan Zhan won’t let him slip away from himself, like he’s vapor held fast between two immovable objects —


Lan Zhan kisses him. Finally, finally. Wei Ying makes a sound into it, whiny and embarrassing. Lan Zhan’s mouth is warm, lush as fruit, begging to be bitten. Lan Zhan is kissing him. Wei Ying lets his mouth part under Lan Zhan’s on instinct, pushing back into the kiss. For once, everything has gone silent in his head, immersed in how Lan Zhan feels; the sweet, sticky sound of their mouths catching and releasing; the firm, solid warmth of him, his familiar scent.


The quiet peels back, Lan Zhan’s voice flooding in: Adore adore adore him


The intrusion of Lan Zhan’s voice, his thoughts, hits Wei Ying like a douse of cold water. 


He shouldn’t know this. Any of this. He never should have known — invading Lan Zhan’s privacy is the only reason he’s here at all, being kissed by the boy he likes. 


Before Wei Ying knows what he’s doing, he’s shoving Lan Zhan away, panicked at the thought of hearing anything else he shouldn’t. The thump of his hands against Lan Zhan’s chest is audible.


“Don’t touch me,” he says, quick and shrill and awful.


Lan Zhan stumbles two steps back; not because Wei Ying is particularly strong, but because he’s been disarmed. 


The silence after rings out like a slap, like something cruel. Lan Zhan stares at him with his mouth still parted and kiss-red, his expression as stunned and hurt as if Wei Ying had struck him. Wei Ying has gone frozen with horror, his hands suspended.


Lan Zhan takes another wide step back, putting more distance between them as his familiar guard slides up. His face smoothes over.


“Wait,” Wei Ying says weakly. He’s still breathing hard, his head spinning from the kiss. “L-Lan Zhan, I didn’t mean.”


Lan Zhan presses out a wrinkle in his shirt, dispassionate. Wei Ying can see that his hands are shaking.


“I understand,” Lan Zhan says quietly. He won’t look at Wei Ying.


“No, it’s just that I,” Wei Ying says. “I can’t.”


“Because you are straight,” Lan Zhan replies in an empty tone of voice. Still not looking at him.


“What?” Wei Ying protests. “No.” That revelation had been so yesterday evening. “No, it’s just that —”


“You don’t like me that way,” Lan Zhan finishes, with a curt nod, and — when the hell did Lan Zhan get in the habit of interrupting?


“No!” Wei Ying repeats, louder, feeling wilder by the second. “That’s not it at all, I just —” He rakes an agitated hand through his wet hair. “You — you wouldn’t want this, if you knew what I —”


He can hear the unraveling in his own voice, and he must look the part equally, because concern starts to creep into Lan Zhan’s expression, melting the mask of frost that had formed.


“Wei Ying,” he says, more gently. “Slow down. Explain.”


“I can’t,” Wei Ying whispers, his hands clenched tight by his sides. He can feel his shoulders are trembling. “I can’t —”


“Wei Ying,” Lan Zhan repeats. He steps toward him as if to touch him again. Wei Ying flinches, and Lan Zhan’s hand stills and retreats, and that’s enough to propel Wei Ying into finally talking.


“God, I’m going to sound insane,” Wei Ying says, burying his face in his hands. “You’re going to think I’m certifiably insane, but I swear I’m telling you the truth, okay?” He swallows and steadies himself, trying to line the words up correctly in his head. “Okay, there’s this — stupid urban legend that if you’re a thirty-year-old man, and you haven’t, ah — you’ve never...had sex with someone, then you…” He struggles. “Then you…”


“Are cursed,” Lan Zhan finishes, nodding along with Wei Ying.


“What the fuck,” Wei Ying says. Apparently everyone knows this is a thing. Whatever. “Yes, that. So of course I thought it was a bunch of bullshit, but then I woke up after I turned 30, the morning after my birthday party, and I could — I found out I could —”


There’s naked worry in Lan Zhan’s face now, like he thinks Wei Ying’s been hurt. God, if only. An injury would be so much easier.


“I can hear people’s thoughts,” Wei Ying says miserably. “When I touch them. I’ve been trying to keep my distance from you so I could — so I wouldn’t intrude on your privacy, but it got really hard to stay away, but I can’t, like, in good conscience do this with you if you don’t know, when I’ve been so dishonest with you, when the only reason I…”


Lan Zhan is just...staring at him. A little disbelievingly, like he thinks Wei Ying may be pulling some elaborate prank. But Wei Ying’s despair must seem genuine enough, because he sobers after another moment, fathomless as he watches Wei Ying.


“I’m sorry,” Wei Ying whispers, hunching his shoulders. “I never meant to — to know anything you thought about me, but then when I found out you didn’t hate me like I thought, I actually started to like you, and then I just wanted to hang out with you and be your friend, but — but then yesterday I realized that I don’t want to be friends, I want to be…”


“Wei Ying,” Lan Zhan interrupts. He sounds unsteady. He sounds panicked, for Lan Zhan. “Do not say anything you do not mean. Please.” He inhales. The sound is tremulous. “I can’t…”


“I’m not messing with you,” Wei Ying scrambles to say; he practically lunges forward as he speaks, he’s so emphatic. He feels like he might start crying, which would be humiliating, but the words pour out of him before he can stop it. “I like you; I really, really like you, I think I might —”


Lan Zhan is in his space again so quickly that Wei Ying’s vision blurs, and he finds himself being crowded against the door and kissed again, Lan Zhan’s hands cupping his face. Wei Ying’s eyes flutter shut as he makes a tiny, hurt sound into Lan Zhan’s mouth, surrendering to the force of it — yes, this is what he needed, this is what he’d been missing before —


He’s been all over the place, he’s yanked them both around this way and that, but suddenly, with Lan Zhan before him — Lan Zhan, here, after he’d thought he lost him — Wei Ying has never been more certain of anything. His surety, the clear-cut shape it takes inside him, is startling, new. It hooks into him with teeth, it settles in for a long stay. Yes, Wei Ying thinks, this is it, it’s him, it’s him. He’s been waiting long months and months, years to become this person, to become someone who wants and is wanted. He’s taken his time, the scenic route and its detours, but he’s finally arrived at his destination; he’s stepped out into the sun, into this light of who he’s supposed to be. Loving Lan Zhan had brought him all this way.


When Lan Zhan finally pulls away, they’re both breathing loudly. Wei Ying is panting like a spent racehorse. 


Lan Zhan’s hand slides further up his cheek as he looks in his eyes and thinks, a little tentatively, Wei Ying. 


“Yeah,” Wei Ying whispers, and Lan Zhan’s eyes widen.


You can really hear me?


Wei Ying nods.


Lan Zhan goes quiet even in his head, his thoughts an indecipherable hum. Then he thinks, more clearly, You have heard all of it?


“Only when we touched,” Wei Ying says quietly. “Lan Zhan, I’m so sorry. I never meant for it to go this far, and I understand if you don’t —”


“Wei Ying.” Lan Zhan’s voice, spoken aloud now, is sudden. His eyes are dark, intent. “Do you want this?”


Wei Ying’s mouth hangs open, then snaps shut. Opens again.


“Yeah,” Wei Ying says. “Fuck, I really do. But I totally understand if you —”


Lan Zhan doesn’t let him finish. Wei Ying claws frantically at Lan Zhan’s shoulders under the force of the next kiss, the nice fabric of Lan Zhan’s shirt bunching under his fingertips.


I adore you, Lan Zhan’s voice rings out in his head, the words as clear as the peal of a bell, and Wei Ying sucks in a breath, almost choking — he’s never been addressed like this directly, never been spoken to like this, never —


Wei Ying, I adore you, Lan Zhan thinks to him, louder and surer, even as his mouth is otherwise occupied, prying open Wei Ying’s with his tongue.


Wei Ying slides his hands up the nape of Lan Zhan’s neck, overwhelmed. He feels like he might break down in tears, which would be. Absolutely mortifying.


Then, like the flip of a switch, Lan Zhan is dragging him by the front of his hoodie, bullying Wei Ying through the open door of his bedroom. Wei Ying stumbles a few times as he’s pulled, unwilling to disconnect their mouths even with the sideways jagging of their steps. They keep going blindly until the back of Lan Zhan’s knees hit the mattress and he’s sinking to the edge of the bed, tugging Wei Ying so that he straddles his lap.


Wei Ying has never been on a lap before. Not as an adult — or if he has, it’s been in jest and probably not while sober. A shiver works through him at how it feels, inarticulate. It makes him feel small. Held. He’s on Lan Zhan’s lap and kissing him with better leverage now, his knees sunken into the bed on either side of Lan Zhan’s thighs, Lan Zhan’s large hands anchored on his hips. 


It’s so good that he loses time. When Wei Ying has made out with people in the past, with women, he’s always at least semi-aware of the artifice of it, the objective awkwardness of it — conscious of the movement of his mouth and his hands and his breathing and the taste of the other person’s spit. Top lip, then bottom lip, then top lip again. Making out, up until this point, has always been something generally enjoyable but entirely mechanical.


There’s nothing about making out with Lan Zhan that’s governed, or controlled. His body is like its own animal, his greedy hands roaming with a will of their own, his tongue halfway into Lan Zhan’s mouth before he can think it through. The sounds bitten out of him are equally involuntary. He suddenly needs him everywhere, rapacious and impatient, his mouth insufficient to cover the surface area he wants. He can hear the background hum of Lan Zhan’s thoughts, desire and sensation mirrored back at him, through him.


When Wei Ying finally pulls back for air, he’s breathing so hard that he’s lightheaded. One of Lan Zhan’s ungentlemanly hands is cupped on his ass, his teeth to Wei Ying’s neck. Fuck.


“What you said before,” Lan Zhan murmurs, low against his throat. Wei Ying’s breath is shallow, so loud, almost whistling as he gasps for breath.


“What I said when I,” Wei Ying says unintelligibly. “What?”


“About the curse,” Lan Zhan says, then pulls back to survey him closely. “You have this magic because you…”


“Yes, I’m a virgin,” Wei Ying says, pelting out the words quickly in his embarrassment. He glares at Lan Zhan’s shoulder so he won’t have to look him in the eye, and squares his jaw. Then he shuts his eyes. “I know given how irresistible and sexy I am that this must come as a shock. But yes, I have never felt the tender touch of a woman, or whatever, you can make fun of me for it if you want.”


The expected teasing never comes. Wei Ying cracks an eye open to peek a look at Lan Zhan’s face. Lan Zhan is watching him silently, and there’s a strange light to his features. His eyes are very dark. Wolfish. 


“You have never...” Lan Zhan says, his voice three shades huskier than before.


“Yes! That has been! So firmly established by now!” Wei Ying wriggles on Lan Zhan’s lap as if he can curl up and away from view. He feels excruciatingly self-conscious to have his inexperience suddenly under a spotlight. “I mean, okay, fine, I tried, a girl gave me a handjob once and it was fine — like, technique-wise — it was just that I didn’t…” He trails off, his face suddenly too hot.


Lan Zhan nods slowly, as though contemplative. “You did not finish.”


Wei Ying makes an undignified sound, scandalized. “Lan Zhan! You can’t — you can’t say it like that.”


“Why not?” Lan Zhan asks. The question could be directed at any number of things, so Wei Ying takes a guess at which one he thinks Lan Zhan means.


“I wasn’t really sure if I was — if I was able to,” Wei Ying says. He can’t believe he’s having this conversation with Lan Zhan. Regardless of the events of the last fifteen minutes. “With...another person.”


Lan Zhan nods thoughtfully again. “I see.” Then he reaches out, with one hand, to grind the heel of his palm against the bulge in Wei Ying’s jeans, straining against the crotch of his jeans zipper.


Wei Ying makes a high-pitched sound and squirms again, even as his hips rock up into the pressure, seeking friction.


“Mean,” he whines. “Lan Zhan, you’re so —”


You like mean, Lan Zhan observes, his voice suddenly everywhere in Wei Ying’s head, and Wei Ying truly feels something melt and give way in his brain, a crack of heat that splits through him, white-hot. Okay, so it had taken Lan Zhan approximately three seconds to start using this newfound ability for evil.


“I don’t,” he protests, even as he hardens further against the circular rhythm of Lan Zhan’s hand. He hears himself whine, some wounded animal sound. Everything below the waist feels alarmingly sticky; he wonders for a slightly unhinged moment if Lan Zhan can feel the wetness of him even through two layers, through denim and cotton. He takes another fleeting second to reflect on whether it’s possible to die from sexual humiliation, and then another to conclude that if so, it’s probably one of the better ways to go, all things considered.


Lan Zhan is watching him like he wants to eat him alive — through his lashes, the ring of color in his eyes thinned to black. His lips are slightly parted. Wei Ying watches him back, his own mouth open around his panting, his face so warm that he can feel his pulse in his cheeks.


Fuck, he could get off like this. From almost nothing at all, from sitting fully clothed on Lan Zhan’s lap and rubbing against his hand. The realization of it is a little unmooring; in a split second, Wei Ying realizes he’s not the person he thought he was at all, impotent and tense and awkward in bed. He is a thing that wants, that runs hot, that comes easy under the right touch.


He could come like this, Lan Zhan observes at the same time, and Wei Ying says “hnnghhh” or something else to the same effect and tries to still the mindless motion of his hips.


“You’re,” Wei Ying tries to stammer out. “I’m not, I don’t usually —” 


Lan Zhan lifts him by the back of the thighs — effortlessly, it should be noted — and Wei Ying makes another unintelligible sound as he clings tight with his elbows and knees. Lan Zhan moves to deposit him on the bed, and Wei Ying bounces once at the rough landing before he’s pinned down again, his hands pressed above his head into the mattress and Lan Zhan’s mouth under his jaw. His head goes floaty and pleasant again, just from being held down like this. Sounds smooth out, even as his own ragged breathing fills his ears. 


Then Lan Zhan is working at the hem of his damp hoodie, and they struggle together to peel it off, the world going briefly dark as it’s yanked over Wei Ying’s head. Then it’s gone, thrown somewhere else in the room, and Lan Zhan’s mouth is back, kissing down the column of his neck to his chest.


“Yes,” Wei Ying hears himself saying, “yes, yes, yeah, yes —”


Yes, yes, Lan Zhan’s thinking, nearly just as mindless, I want him everywhere 


Wei Ying needs his pants off, now. The pressure of the fabric has gone from restrictive to downright painful, and he wriggles his hips against Lan Zhan to let him know what he wants. Lan Zhan doesn’t hesitate; he pops the button with a twist of his knuckle, then hooks his thumbs into both waistbands to yank Wei Ying’s jeans and boxers down his thighs. Wei Ying makes a small nghhh sound in his throat again as his cock bobs against his belly, already fully hard. Lan Zhan slows his motions, lets his gaze hover, runs a thumb through the smear of precome that glistens around his navel.


So wet, just from this, Lan Zhan muses. The color in his eyes has gone dark, nearly red at the corners.


Wei Ying makes a hitched, embarrassed sound and covers his blazing face with his hands. “Lan Zhan.


“How do you want it, Wei Ying?” Lan Zhan murmurs. His breath ghosts over Wei Ying’s cock as Wei Ying’s face burns and burns — Lan Zhan’s mouth is so close, he really shouldn’t —


Lan Zhan presses a kiss to his belly, just above the head of his dick; a tease, not quite touching him where he’s aching for it. Wei Ying’s cock jerks, a blurt of precome that Lan Zhan laps up with his tongue.


The temperature of Wei Ying’s face could rival the surface of the sun’s. He practically squeaks. “Lan Zhan, don’t, you can’t —


“Can’t what?” Lan Zhan says in a low voice, then dips lower to tongue the head of his cock, the barest kitten-lick. Wei Ying’s back arches, his fingers frantically clawing into the sheets as he moans.


Tell me what you want, Lan Zhan says in his head.


Wei Ying wants everything, anything, but he’s gasping too hard to put any request into words. The thought of asking for it, begging for that, kills his voice in his throat. It’s too much, too much, he can’t—


Lan Zhan pinches his bare hip, a small sting of pain that recenters his focus. Wei Ying jolts and yelps, hardening further against Lan Zhan’s lips.


“You,” he wheezes, a little incredulous. He never expected Lan Zhan could be like this, who could have known Lan Zhan would be like this? “I can’t —”


Tell me, Lan Zhan says, in a voice that cannot be refused, and along Wei Ying’s cock, he drags his tongue from root to tip.


“Ffffffuck,” Wei Ying babbles as hips tilt up again, chasing Lan Zhan’s mouth, “your hands, your fingers, your mouth, please, anything, I don’t care, just — Lan Zhan —


Anything? Lan Zhan asks, and all at once, a barrage of images crashes through Wei Ying’s head — Wei Ying on his knees, deep-throating Lan Zhan’s cock with tears in his eyes; Lan Zhan’s tongue licking open the deepest parts of him, messy and wet, while Wei Ying buries his face in his forearms and falls apart with loud keens; Wei Ying tied to a bedpost and blindfolded, and then —


Before Wei Ying can even catch his breath, Lan Zhan’s moving away, his large hands gripping Wei Ying’s hips to flip him over onto his knees. Wei Ying lets himself be guided into a new placement, a little dazed, a little anxious, so hard that the pain of it has narrowed into a pointed throb. He’s hobbled by the rain-damp jeans still halfway down his thighs, unable to spread his knees for balance, which leaves him face-first in the mattress, his head whirling.


There’s something especially vulnerable about this position, where he can’t see Lan Zhan or anything he’s doing, but then Lan Zhan touches him again and suddenly, Wei Ying can see himself through Lan Zhan’s eyes. He watches as well as feels it when Lan Zhan grips one of his cheeks and squeezes it, massages the muscle of it in his palm.


Perfect, Lan Zhan thinks, and Wei Ying hides his face in the sheets and smarts with heat, with his own embarrassment and the breathless, unfamiliar burn of this kind of desire.


Lan Zhan strips off Wei Ying’s pants and underwear the rest of the way, rolling them down the back of his thighs until they’re gone. Wei Ying lets himself be shifted this way and that, obediently following Lan Zhan’s lead even as a sudden uncertainty hollows out at the center of him, a drop in his stomach.


“Lan Zhan,” he says, his voice embarrassingly small.


I’m here, Lan Zhan thinks immediately, and brushes a kiss against the arch of his shoulder, and just like that, the knot of fear in his chest loosens. Lan Zhan wouldn’t hurt him, not in any real way, not in a way he doesn’t want.


“Is this okay?” Lan Zhan asks aloud, clearly sensing Wei Ying’s trepidation.


“Yeah,” Wei Ying whispers, shifting so that he sinks deeper into his hip flexors, an unfamiliar stretch. “Just — nervous.”


“I will make it good,” Lan Zhan promises, the gentleness in his voice so at odds with his curt commands just a moment ago. Wei Ying shifts, breathes deep into his belly; he feels so exposed like this, the cool air of the room brushing against the deepest parts of himself. He’s never been naked like this in front of another person, let alone in such a position, waiting for — for — 


Sounds are heightened when he’s unable to see Lan Zhan — there’s the crinkle of a packet in Lan Zhan’s hands, his own cock dripping onto the sheets with an audible tap, tap, tap like rain on a sill. They haven’t even done anything yet.


Wei Ying starts a little when Lan Zhan’s hand cups his backside again. Wei Ying tries to tune into his thoughts, but they’re incoherent flashes of images now, an underwater-sort of distant. Wei Ying jerks harder and makes an unintelligible noise when the pad of Lan Zhan’s finger, wet with an unknown substance, circles his entrance. The sensation is as strange as it is electrifying. Wei Ying has fingered himself before on rare occasions when he’d been feeling adventurous, but the oddity of watching himself through Lan Zhan’s eyes while the actual sensation courses through him produces an odd sense of vertigo.


Tight, Lan Zhan notes. Assured, nearly clinical. But not enough that he can’t take me. He will be easy for it.


Wei Ying splutters in indignation — the degradation of it all, of the implication that he’s, he’s — that he’s like some slut for this, or something —


“Lan Zhan,” he whines, petulant even as his cock hardens with a sharp throb.


“Do I lie,” Lan Zhan returns in a low voice.


With surprising confidence, Lan Zhan works the first finger inside him, up to the top knuckle. Wei Ying tenses, clenching down around it as Lan Zhan slides it in and out, spreading the wetness inside him. 


It feels — weird. Uncomfortable, a little arousing, but mostly just weird.


“L-Lan Zhan,” Wei Ying tries. He can feel he’s red from his forehead to his chest. “Are you — are you sure that’s really right?”


Lan Zhan doesn’t say anything in response. His thoughts have become some horny tangle that Wei Ying can’t unpick, intensifying when Lan Zhan works a second finger inside him. The stretch is suddenly a little terrifying, too much at once in its foreignness. 


Wei Ying squirms around the intrusion, his breaths hitching and deepening. “Lan Zhan, I’m not sure that you — it feels a little —”


Then Lan Zhan crooks his fingers and Wei Ying comes, just like that, all over himself and the sheets. 


It takes a handful of hazy, faraway seconds to realize what’s happened. His mind is still floaty and blank even in the moments after, dandelion-soft. 


Lan Zhan freezes behind him, the fingers inside Wei Ying going still.


“Did you just,” Lan Zhan says, then reaches around him to get his other hand on Wei Ying’s cock, which is rapidly softening between his legs. Wei Ying bats his hand away, mortification stinging through him from his head to his toes, so overpowering he can’t even speak. He buries his hot face into the sheets, still panting and reeling.


“I —” Wei Ying says nonsensically, too dazed to defend himself. “I didn’t —”


Lan Zhan leans forward, his fingers still buried inside Wei Ying up to the second knuckle, to bite kisses along the column of Wei Ying’s spine, along his shoulders and the nape of his neck. 


As he rearranges his cognitive abilities, it takes a couple additional moments of these touches for Wei Ying to realize Lan Zhan’s silence is too resolute, while he’s touching him skin-to-skin like this. That all of a sudden, he can’t —


Wei Ying jolts up in a panic, the back of his head almost crashing into Lan Zhan. “Lan Zhan — my magic, it’s —”


Gone. It’s gone. That orgasm must have counted, by the magic’s standards, as lost virginity. 


How is he supposed to know what Lan Zhan’s thinking now? What if he doesn’t — what if he changes his mind, and Wei Ying will have no way of knowing —


“Wei Ying,” Lan Zhan shushes him. “With or without magic, I will stay.”


“Oh,” Wei Ying chokes out. “I — okay.”


Lan Zhan hesitates, then his fingers slip out of him completely. Wei Ying almost whines at the loss, wriggling his hips — it feels weirder without them now, too empty.


“Is this still something you want?” Lan Zhan asks him, and Wei Ying twists, presses his cheek into the mattress to look at him sideways. Lan Zhan is still fully dressed, his clothes rumpled and his cheeks and ears flushed. He’s so gorgeous that Wei Ying’s breath catches in his throat. It should feel stranger than it does, that Wei Ying is sprawled out beneath him totally naked, having just come all over himself, but it’s — it’s not, somehow.


“Without the magic,” Lan Zhan clarifies, watching Wei Ying’s face closely.


Wei Ying nods. He’s sure about this, at least. “You’ll just have to — to talk me through it. Okay, gege?”


Lan Zhan visibly softens at the pet name.


Then his fingers slide inside Wei Ying again, the texture of them different from having already been inside him for so long. That’s — embarrassing. It’s all systems go now, though; Wei Ying exhales as Lan Zhan opens him up, his head ducked against his forearms. He breathes through the strangeness and the occasional discomfort, and the unexpected spikes of pleasure that make him seize up, still twitchy with oversensitivity.


After a few more minutes, Wei Ying hears a rustle of fabric, the metallic shing of Lan Zhan’s zipper splaying open, although Lan Zhan’s fingers remain inside him. He peeks a look through the gap under his arm. Lan Zhan’s seen all of the most private parts of him now, so it’s only fair that Wei Ying can finally see what his dick looks like, after years of secret wondering, after having felt the shape of it through his pants.


Lan Zhan’s apparently not wearing any underwear, which — he knew it, but part of Wei Ying fizzles out anyway, at the hotness of that. But when Lan Zhan reaches into his pants and pulls out his cock, all other thoughts fly out of his head.


Wei Ying had always known he would be big — simply something about Lan Zhan’s energy had lent him that idea — but he hadn’t expected. 






“Fuck,” Wei Ying hears himself say, and Lan Zhan locks eyes with him, his mouth parting slightly.


Wei Ying feels a semi-hysterical laugh bubbling up in his throat, mostly because. What the fuck. “Are you sure that’s going to — uh. Fit?”


“It will fit,” Lan Zhan replies, the confidence in his voice so assured that Wei Ying’s dick gives a responding twitch.


“That’s going to break me,” Wei Ying says, blood thumping in his face. He doesn’t miss the way Lan Zhan’s eyes flash at this, and — oh. “Lan Zhan, have you ever considered doing porn?”


He sees Lan Zhan’s mouth twitch, but Wei Ying’s focus hasn’t wavered from his cock. The way Lan Zhan absently strokes himself with a large hand, from the base all the way to the flushed head. Wei Ying’s mouth waters; he wants to get his mouth on it. The thought of sucking dick has always seemed vaguely repulsive to him, in the abstract way in which all sex was, but with Lan Zhan, it’s...different. Presented with the real prospect, Wei Ying’s stance wavers. It definitely won’t taste great, but it would probably feel good if Lan Zhan just — used him that way, fucked his mouth open until he couldn’t breathe or swallow, until he was gagging around it —


“No,” Lan Zhan says in answer to his question.


“Well, you should consider it,” Wei Ying says. He’s babbling now to distract himself. Maybe he could offer to suck Lan Zhan’s cock to distract him from wanting to put it inside him. It would probably work, even. “You’d make a killing at it. Not all of us are so naturally endowed, hahaha —”


“Wei Ying,” Lan Zhan says, a line forming between his eyebrows. “Breathe.”


He should do that, shouldn’t he. Wei Ying takes a deep breath, lets it settle into his lungs and each of his limbs. This will only hurt more if he doesn’t relax. Regardless of the inevitable pain, he does still want it. It surprises him, how much he wants it. 


Lan Zhan’s hand rests on his bare hip, and Wei Ying flinches a bit, squeezes his eyes shut and bites his lip.


“If you ever need me to stop,” Lan Zhan says. “Say so.”


Wei Ying nods twice in quick succession, and holds his breath.


Lan Zhan knee-walks forward on the mattress. His large hand slides further up Wei Ying’s thigh, tugging him backward along the sheets with ease, like Wei Ying is putty in his hands. Shit. Maybe he is, maybe he really is. Lan Zhan could snap him in half without even trying.


There’s the rustling sound of Lan Zhan adjusting, and then Lan Zhan taps the head of his cock to Wei Ying’s hole. Wei Ying full-body jerks at the sensation with a wheezy sound. He can hear Lan Zhan’s breathing has staggered, can feel his gaze on him like a paperweight, a smooth and rounded pressure pinning him in place. Lan Zhan’s hand finds his hip, big enough to splay over the entire width of it. Then he pushes in.


It hurts. It would hurt in any scenario, but Lan Zhan’s size makes it impossible that it wouldn’t. Wei Ying had never imagined in his life, ever, that he would be taken by a man this way, and the reality of it, of a cock inside him, is suddenly as surreal as the fact that Lan Zhan is the owner of it. Wei Ying pants into the hollow of his arms as Lan Zhan sinks into him in painfully slow increments. His fingers clench and unclench in the sheets around the onslaught of sensation; the slide is still a little too dry in spite of the lube, and Wei Ying clenches his teeth around it. He feels completely split open, speared straight through to his spine.


Lan Zhan pauses when Wei Ying’s breath goes shallow, too high and loud in his throat. He runs a soothing hand up Wei Ying’s side, tracing along his hip and outer thigh.


“Is it in yet?” Wei Ying asks. He barely recognizes his own voice. It’s reedy, nasal, a little hysterical.


“Halfway,” Lan Zhan says, and Wei Ying whines, shudders in disbelief. That’s half? How can he possibly be expected to take more? 


“Should I pull out?” Lan Zhan asks, oh-so-kindly despite the strained note in his voice, and Wei Ying gives a quick, emphatic shake of his head. As much as he can’t imagine taking the rest of it, the idea of being suddenly empty is somehow far worse. Besides, Wei Ying’s no fucking quitter.


“I’m good,” he says, keeping his tone as light as he can. “You can keep going.”


Lan Zhan hesitates. His breathing cadence has shifted, steepened from before. So it’s not just Wei Ying — he’s having an effect on Lan Zhan, after all. Wei Ying suddenly wishes he could see him, the red tips of his ears and the expressions he’d make, maybe the way his mouth would fall open and his eyes would scrunch shut with his pleasure. He wants to watch Lan Zhan come undone in front of him, because of him.


Next time, Wei Ying thinks, with a rush of conviction. They have time to try everything, in all of the ways.


Lan Zhan shifts, inching in deeper — he has so much restraint, taking him so slowly when surely the feeling of being inside him is maddening.


“You can,” Wei Ying mumbles, feeling magnanimous and grandly sympathetic. “Take what you need from me, Lan Zhan, you don’t have to hold back, I can take it — take you —”


Wei Ying clenches as he speaks, so tight that Lan Zhan makes a muffled, moaned sound. Then he slides the rest of the way in, and Wei Ying knows it’s the end of it because he can feel, with an absurd shock of heat, the scratchy fabric of his bunched slacks against the backs of his thighs.


There. He’d done it, he’d taken all of it. Wei Ying is at once crisply aware of every sensation in his body, each vying for his attention; the sweat quickly cooling in the dip of his back, the twinge of his hips and thighs stretched in this unfamiliar position, the arch of his bowed spine aching. Lan Zhan, pressed against every nerve ending inside of him, a push-pull of pleasure-pain. There’s something indescribably heady about his body’s ability to open for Lan Zhan this way, like maybe he was made for this, made for him —


“Wei Ying,” Lan Zhan says, an uneven hitch in his voice. He sounds discomposed for the first time, halfway to wrecked. A tremor works through them both, and Wei Ying can’t tell if it’s his own muscles shaking at the strain of holding his position, or if it’s Lan Zhan trembling against him.


Wei Ying reaches back, blindly fumbling, to squeeze Lan Zhan’s thigh, to say I’m good, to anchor himself. Lan Zhan wraps one hand around Wei Ying’s and squeezes, the other still fitted along the crease between his hipbone and upper thigh.


Lan Zhan keeps their hands joined as he rocks forward, a shallow grind. It hurts until it doesn’t, until the pain smoothes out into a sensation that’s sparky and molten, a heavy simmer in the deepest parts of him. Different from the pleasure of when he’d come on Lan Zhan’s fingers, or from when he touches himself. Wei Ying realizes, somewhat distantly, that at some point during this he’s gotten hard again, a pointed ache between his legs.


Okay, Wei Ying thinks, this isn’t so bad. It’s starting to feel good, even —


And then Lan Zhan starts to properly fuck him. Those first few minutes, Wei Ying now understands, had been experimental, gentle, considerately letting Wei Ying get adjusted to the feeling of him. At the first real thrust, Wei Ying’s mind whites out, empties itself. And then it just — doesn’t stop, this inescapable fullness. It’s sort of like the drop off a roller coaster, the zero-to-hundred sensation, and all he can do is ride it all the way through, until the end —


Somewhere through the daze of incoherence, he realizes, not quite in full words, that he enjoys it. He likes being used this way, to feel good at doing it, to feel wanted and desired and claimed. The physical pain of it is secondary to that deep-space sensation. 


“Harder,” he hears himself say, even as he wheezes for breath, even as his limbs shake and shake. “L-Lan Zhan, more, please, harder —”


Lan Zhan seals one hand to the back of his neck and pushes so that Wei Ying’s face is pressed tight into the sheets. It makes it nearly impossible to breathe, his windpipe sealing tight. His thoughts space again at the sensation, rolling away from him like marbles on glass. His breaths rattle, through the mindlessness of pleasure like this, as Lan Zhan heeds his request. Wei Ying can hear the noises he’s making, the harsh wheeze of his breathing whistling through his teeth, his mouth open around his gasps; he can feel spit trailing down his cheek, but he’s too far gone to close his mouth, too gone to do anything except take what he’s given, to try to process sensation. He’s got his fingers bunched in the sheets, a mindless flexing and loosening.


This would usually be an exchange where Wei Ying talks, where he teases and taunts and shoots his mouth off to fill space, but it’s like his motor functions have frazzled straight through. He can't utter a single thing, other than some of the inhuman noises he's making. Lan Zhan is still mostly silent, other than his own frayed breathing and the rhythmic smack of his hips against the back of Wei Ying’s thighs. Too quiet, quiet for the first time in days, Wei Ying needs to...


It takes him a few attempts to form words. They come out slurred, a little mangled.


“L-Lh — Lan Zha’,” he tries, and Lan Zhan slows his pace, maybe concerned that Wei Ying’s hurt. “Can you — t-tell me? What you, you’re thinking?”


He butchers the question, but Lan Zhan seems to understand his intent, his pace picking up again with a sharp drive of his hips.


“I’m thinking,” Lan Zhan huffs, each breath punctuated by another thrust, “that Wei Ying is as good as I imagined.” He grinds his cock deeper into him, the deepest thrust yet. Stars pop in Wei Ying’s vision, and he cries out, wordless and wild. “That you’re beautiful.” Lan Zhan leans across Wei Ying’s back, the angle pressing different and strange inside him, to bite the back of Wei Ying’s neck. “That you’re mine.”


Wei Ying’s second orgasm hits with the next thrust; he shakes silently through it, open-mouthed around a soundless cry, tears from oversensitivity spilling from the corners of his eyes as Lan Zhan fucks him through it. He can feel Lan Zhan when follows him just seconds later with a grunt, gripping Wei Ying’s hips tight enough to bruise as a burst of wet heat pulses inside him.


For a moment, they breathe together, Lan Zhan slowly going half-soft inside him — Wei Ying can feel he’s still coming, just a little bit — Wei Ying trembling so hard that it feels like his bones are rattling. They're suspended, shaking. 


And then Lan Zhan slides out of him. Wei Ying makes a sound of protest, squirming at the sudden hollowness, at the uncomfortable trickle of wet that seeps out of him. It trails down his perineum and the insides of his thighs. Lan Zhan’s thumb spreads him open, as though surveying his handiwork, and Wei Ying’s too hazy to react with the appropriate shame that he should, that he usually would. Lan Zhan can do whatever he wants to him, so long as Wei Ying can float in this pool of white-edged silence, each of his thoughts blissfully quiet and distant for the first time he can remember.


Wei Ying stays quiet as Lan Zhan lies down to pull him tight against his chest, showering kisses along his sweat-damp hair and the back of his neck and his ears. The material of Lan Zhan’s work-clothes is kind of scratchy against Wei Ying’s flushed skin. Every sensation feels heightened, in this state,  but it’s soothing, anchoring to be held so tightly, to be kissed and coddled and caressed with such care. He feels wine-drunk, or like a cat stretched out in the sun. 


“Wei Ying,” Lan Zhan says after another breathless moment. His voice is low, a little choked. “Thank you.”


This finally prompts Wei Ying to move, to muster up the last dregs of his energy. He twists in Lan Zhan’s arms so that they’re level with each other, so that Wei Ying can finally see his face. He’s still flushed, aglow, his eyes bright like he’s been illuminated from within. Lan Zhan’s eyes skim over his features in turn, flickering to take in each detail.


“Was it as good as your fantasies?” Wei Ying asks, a little apprehensive. He thinks he knows the answer, but the performance pressure had been high, after all.


“Better,” Lan Zhan assures him, and kisses him between the eyebrows. “Far better.”


Wei Ying nods once in satisfaction, smug to have that over his imaginary self, and burrows deeper into Lan Zhan’s chest with a sigh. Lan Zhan’s heart is still thrumming quickly, rabbiting against his cheek.


“Here, can you,” Wei Ying mumbles. His words are all soupy. “Can you take this off?” Between his finger and thumb, he twists one of the small resin buttons digging into his cheek.


Lan Zhan makes an assenting sound in his throat before he sits up and slides out of his shirt, then he kicks off his pants the rest of the way. He lies back down again, and they’re skin to skin for the first time, Lan Zhan’s hand stroking along Wei Ying’s back with an intimacy that feels so oddly familiar already. Wei Ying drowses into it as he catches his breath, endorphins still singing through him.


“I can finally touch you without feeling guilty about it,” Wei Ying admits a moment later. He presses his cheek against Lan Zhan’s chest. He feels strangely shy in a way he’s never experienced before.


“Guilty?” Lan Zhan asks.


“The magic,” Wei Ying says. “It felt wrong to know what you were thinking all the time, especially when it was...I tried to not intrude where I could.” He pauses to think for a moment, although he keeps getting distracted by the lull of Lan Zhan’s fingers along his skin, a soothing rhythm. “You took that really well, by the way. The whole mind-reading thing, I mean. Most people would have called me a nutcase and kicked me out the door.”


“You would not lie,” Lan Zhan says simply. “And stranger things have happened.”


Given their choice in career, that’s a true statement.


“Still,” Wei Ying says. “Are you sure, you’re...okay about all of it? I know it’s a lot to take in.”


“I have nothing to hide from you,” Lan Zhan replies. He hesitates, then continues, more haltingly, “I am not skilled with words, on subjects like this. Perhaps it was fortunate.”


Wei Ying keeps his face hidden in Lan Zhan’s chest, his voice muffled. “Would you have ever told me?”


Lan Zhan pauses again, then admits, “I don’t know.”


“It doesn’t matter,” Wei Ying hurries to say. “The hypotheticals of what would have happened. I’m just really glad it did.”


“Mn,” Lan Zhan murmurs, then presses his lips to the top of Wei Ying’s head. Wei Ying closes his eyes, drifting again for a moment. He can already feel a deep soreness settling in, both in unspeakable places and in muscles he didn’t know he had.


“You’ll have to carry me around tomorrow, gege,” he says, sniffing for dramatic effect. “I won’t be able to walk.”


“Hm,” Lan Zhan says, in a tone that demonstrates zero penitence.


Wei Ying thinks hard for another moment, Lan Zhan’s chest rising and falling beneath him. It’s difficult to herd coherent thoughts when all he wants to do is sleep, but the belated shock of the last hour’s events is still primary. His first time. His first...everything, really. He’d always expected that losing his virginity would be perfunctory, an uncomfortable but necessary rite of passage. He had certainly never imagined, at least consciously, losing it to Lan Zhan. To have enjoyed it so much comes as something of a small shock. It’s becoming more and more evident that he might be a person who actually enjoys sex. All of its inherent discomforts and intimacies and messiness.


“I can’t believe we really did that,” Wei Ying murmurs, and Lan Zhan tenses ever so slightly, so he’s quick to add, “I’m happy we did. It’s just — I never would have thought.”


“Nor I,” Lan Zhan says softly.


“I have plenty of evidence to the contrary on that one,” Wei Ying teases him.


Lan Zhan huffs into his hair but gives a small shake of his head. “But I — I never thought you would really…that we could…”


“I’m sorry,” Wei Ying murmurs. “For putting you through hell over this. For taking so long.”


“No apologies,” Lan Zhan says softly, and strokes a hand through his drying hair. “I did not mind the wait. It meant knowing you more.”


Wei Ying turns his face into Lan Zhan’s chest and stays buried there for a couple moments.


“Lan Zhan,” he mumbles, when he’s halfway recovered. “I really like you too much. I can’t believe it took thinking you wanted to fuck Su She for me to come around.”


Lan Zhan makes a dark, revolted sound in his throat. “I do not want to owe him anything.”


“Fine,” Wei Ying concedes with a laugh. “I liked you earlier than that, okay? I’ve always really actually liked you, you know. Even when we were supposed to hate each other.”


“I never hated you,” Lan Zhan protests.


Wei Ying taps his nose in admonishment, a gentle bop. “Not true. Remember that day you found out I was messing around with alternate cultivation? God, I thought you were going to wring my neck. I literally saw my life flash before my eyes.”


“I worried for you,” Lan Zhan says, and a breath presses slowly out of him, a heavy sound. “You weren’t eating or sleeping. I could see the toll it was taking. I did not know how to voice it, then.”


Wei Ying blinks, then says blankly, “Oh.”


“I never hated you,” Lan Zhan repeats, quieter than before.


Wei Ying goes quiet for another moment, digesting this, before he says, “So if we both never really hated each other, I guess that means we’ve both always...kind of liked each other? Actually?”


Lan Zhan’s silence speaks volumes. It feels a little long-suffering.


Wei Ying reflects on this for another moment, turning through some of their earlier days with this new perspective. It also means that...more recently...


“Lan Zhan,” Wei Ying murmurs, distracted by the memory. “That time when you, ah. When you.” How can he possibly still blush, after everything they just did to each other? His skin feels like a lit stovetop. “When you thought about gagging me, and tying me up.”


“Which time,” Lan Zhan says, completely serious.


“The — you —” Wei Ying mouth flops open, then shut as he flusters more by the second. “The time in the — in the break room, the day after my birthday, when I was on your nerves and you —”


“Hmmm,” Lan Zhan says in a comprehending tone, as though pulling that mental file from the archives.


“At the time, I freaked out,” Wei Ying admits. “I didn’t really know what it meant. But now that I...that we’ve…” He swallows. Just say it, Wei Ying, you idiot, just say it. “I think I…”


He goes quiet, struggling with how to voice this foreign thing, this new shape of want. 


“Wei Ying,” Lan Zhan prompts, a low murmur. He sounds intrigued.


“I think I might like it,” Wei Ying says finally, unable to look Lan Zhan in the eye. “If we tried that. I think it good.”


There. He’d said it. His skin is so warm. He feels like he’s just confessed to something he doesn’t know the full gravity of.


Lan Zhan shifts against him, pulling Wei Ying tighter to his chest.


“Then we will try it,” Lan Zhan says. 


We. We will try it. We will. Wei Ying turns over the implicit comfort of the words, that built-in structure of promise. 


“I’d like that,” Wei Ying says, relaxing at Lan Zhan’s assurance. “I think. I don’t know.”


“Neither of us have to know,” Lan Zhan says reasonably. “We have time.”


Time. Yeah, they do. There’s the promise of so much time with Lan Zhan, now. The thought fills Wei Ying with a bubbly, soda-water feeling, buoyant and exhilarating. 


“Lan Zhan,” he murmurs, and shifts with a wince. God, he’s sore everywhere. And he could really use a cleanup. But he’s too tired to even lift a finger; he can only move his mouth and mumble out nonsense. “I hope you know that I’m not going to leave you alone now. I hope you know what you’re getting yourself into.”


“Hm,” Lan Zhan says, and the sound is strangely choked. He pauses a moment, then says, softer, “Good.”


“Good,” Wei Ying murmurs. He’s listing toward a nap, or maybe some deeper sleep, and then he’s slipping.


His last words are a whisper. “It’s really good.”











◈ ◈ ◈



So. Some notable things have changed. 


Wei Ying is two months past thirty. He’s no longer a virgin, at least fifteen (and a half) times over. 


He’s also no longer a heterosexual. Both status changes had developed surprisingly quickly, but he’s not complaining about either of them.


Nor the other one. 


Which is the fact that he has a boyfriend.


A boyfriend who’s extremely evil and unexpectedly misbehaved, who has him against an alcove wall — in their place of business — that’s not nearly as hidden as it should be for what he’s doing to Wei Ying. They’ve already been threatened with a restraining order by Jiang Cheng for such acts of public indecency. Huaisang would probably just gloat, even more than he’s already been doing. Mianmian might send a fruit basket.


“Lan Zhan,” Wei Ying says breathlessly, as Lan Zhan lightly sucks a linear trail of hickies down his collarbone, just beneath his shirt. “Lan Zhaaan.”


Lan Zhan pulls back, his ears flushed and his mouth dark, and waits.


Wei Ying flutters a look at him from under his eyelashes. “Lan Zhan. Can you tell me what you’re thinking?”


The question has become sort of an ongoing joke between them, one that Lan Zhan usually indulges unless he’s feeling especially mean. As miserable as the magic had often made him, Wei Ying does miss it, sometimes — hearing what Lan Zhan’s thinking under the mask. But he enjoys the challenge of having to guess at Lan Zhan’s silences now, which he’s getting better and better at decrypting.


“Why does Wei Ying ask what he already knows?” Lan Zhan wonders.


Wei Ying’s eyes widen in mock affront. “I don’t know anything at all. I’ve never had a single thought, in fact.”


“Hm,” Lan Zhan says. He leans in again, his large hand sliding into Wei Ying’s back pocket to reel him in closer, then answers Wei Ying’s question, low in his ear. “Like you.”


It’s his bedroom voice. Unquestionably. Wei Ying’s toes curl in his shoes, blood rushing helplessly to his face.


“That’s,” he says faintly. Lan Zhan brushes his lips over the frantically pounding pulse on Wei Ying’s neck, the barest kiss. “Th-that’s cheating.”


Lan Zhan tracks his reaction with thinly veiled amusement, eyeing his blush. “You already knew.”


“Yeah, but it’s different when you say it out loud, ” Wei Ying whines, and claps a feeble hand to Lan Zhan’s chest. “Lan Zhan, I’m feeling very faint all of a sudden. Would you catch me if I swooned right here?”


Lan Zhan’s hand tightens in Wei Ying’s back pocket, a firm squeeze as he trails his mouth up Wei Ying’s neck. “Like you,” he murmurs, then with a nip to his jaw, repeats, “Like you.”


Just from the two words, Wei Ying feels a giddy bolt of satisfaction. He’s been had several times by now, in several and continuously evolving ways, but, like. Lan Zhan has a crush on him. The rush of it hasn’t worn off yet, to like someone so much and be liked back.


“And what is Wei Ying thinking?” Lan Zhan asks. His eyes are strangely soft, honeyed. Under the full brunt of that gaze, Wei Ying has to wonder, again, how he’d missed it, all of those times before. Lan Zhan has never been as loud as this.


“You know what I think of you,” Wei Ying teases, and tiptoes into Lan Zhan’s space so he can hook his arms around his neck. “Are you so insatiable that you’ll make me say it out loud, er-gege?”


Lan Zhan catches him around the waist, his voice dropping to a hum. “Mn.”


Wei Ying could fill a book with what he thinks of Lan Zhan. Several books. Maybe one day, he will. For now, it’s enough just to tell him. 


Wei Ying opens his mouth, and he begins.