Gao Yingjie has worked himself into a panic.
It is a long time since An Wenyi has seen his friend like this— since before they were friends, really, back when all their interactions had been filtered through Qiao Yifan. He’d seen Gao Yingjie like this a few times, though, in those early days, ashen-faced after matches, no matter their outcome, looking ill and overwhelmed as though he’d managed to wait until it was all over before the pressure dragged him under.
Tonight, Gao Yingjie seems to have surrendered between one pressure and the next. An Wenyi watches as he walks the hotel room. His steps track shapes across the floor— backwards, forwards, around again. His fingers are fussing at his sleeves, at the hem of his Team China shirt, at the soft-looking mess of his hair. His words are a mumbled storm of stress, low enough for An Wenyi to only catch snatches here and there of what he’s actually saying. He’s not quite having a full-blown attack, but he’s very firmly locked up inside his head, and An Wenyi’s attempts to nudge him out of it haven’t done squat.
An Wenyi drags a hand through his own hair as Gao Yingjie stalks past him yet again. It’s unsettling to see his really very competent — god, so ridiculously competent — friend succumbing to something so like the crushing anxiety of his younger days. It’s upsetting not to have an easy fix. To be honest, the whole thing is a lot, on top of the jet-lag and the foreign surroundings and bloody Qiao Yifan falling back to sleep whenever An Wenyi prods him awake.
Qiao Yifan really should be the one making this better. Qiao Yifan is the one who excels at this kind of thing. And it’s Qiao Yifan’s room. It’s Qiao Yifan’s fiancé. An Wenyi had only stopped by to give Qiao Yifan one of his notebooks, incorrectly slid into An Wenyi’s bag on the plane. He isn’t even part of their team right now. He’s only a tourist. He’s only here to cheer his friends on. He’s not equipped for this.
They are friends, though, is the thing. Good ones. It’s not like An Wenyi can’t make rational guesses about the roots of Gao Yingjie’s anxiety. There’s the simple exhaustion. There’s the more complex stress of Tiny Herb having just lost the previous championship — something that Gao Yingjie is clearly carrying far too heavily on his shoulders — followed so closely by Gao Yingjie’s debut in Team China. (Team Happy had been knocked out a little earlier in the season, which, while shitty and disappointing, had at least given Qiao Yifan a clear space in which to consider his upcoming additional responsibilities). There’s the fact that Gao Yingjie has been handling far more than his fair share of interviews, simply because he looks pretty on screen and yet, unlike Zhou Zekai, has been trained to feel obliged to provide clear and considered answers. There are the smaller things, too: that Gao Yingjie drank coffee too late in the day, and that they’d been cornered by fans eager to have things signed, and that an asshole at the airport had said something stupid when he’d seen Gao Yingjie and Qiao Yifan holding hands.
Knowing just… doesn’t help An Wenyi fix any of it.
Gao Yingjie’s muttering is growing louder.
An Wenyi shakes Qiao Yifan awake for the third time. This time, Qiao Yifan manages to get as far as blinking, as far as actually focusing on An Wenyi. ‘Wenyi,’ he says, voice slurred with sleep. ‘You okay?’
‘No,’ An Wenyi says, steadfastly ignoring the urge to brush the hair from Qiao Yifan’s sleepy face. ‘You need to stop Yingjie spiralling. The things I do with you aren’t working on him.’
An Wenyi and Qiao Yifan have been through a lot when it comes to anxiety and self-doubt and the all bullshit lies that brains tell.
Qiao Yifan stares across the room, his eyes alternating between squinting and falling closed. His look of concern is cut off by the biggest yawn An Wenyi has seen since his college cramming days. ‘Just kiss him,’ Qiao Yifan says, rubbing at his face and wriggling deeper beneath the blankets An Wenyi had draped over him earlier. ‘Good kiss. Thorough kiss. Brings him back to earth. Switches stressed for horny.’
An Wenyi stares. ‘Uh. Yifan. That’s a… that’s a you solution. I’m not the one engaged to him here.’
Qiao Yifan is obliterated by another yawn. ‘Just do it. He’ll like it. We’ve been trying to work out how to ask you to date us for months anyway.’ He rolls over and nuzzles his face into his pillow.
The room falls close to silent. There’s the soft sound of Qiao Yifan snoring. The soft sound of Gao Yingjie pacing and muttering. The hushed but constant hum of the unfamiliar city outside.
An Wenyi stares at Qiao Yifan’s sleeping form for a long time. He considers prodding him awake again. Then he looks back to Gao Yingjie— a man he’s wanted for years now, the fiancé of a man he’s carefully not made a move on for even longer. Gao Yingjie and Qiao Yifan are so good for each other. They’re so good together. If An Wenyi has fantasised about them — if An Wenyi has imagined them asking him for help with a threesome fantasy of their own, if An Wenyi has daydreamed about making some dumb fucking bet just so he can lose and go down on them as a consequence — well. An Wenyi has also known better than to mess with his friends’ happiness. He’s been perfectly content to enjoy the affection they share with him so generously; he’s been perfectly capable of finding less complicated orgasms elsewhere.
Now — jet-lagged, stressed, overseas, the two of them poised on the cusp of Worlds — is absolutely not the right moment to get into the fact that An Wenyi is stupidly in love with them.
He gets up anyway. He has a delirious thought about just feeding Gao Yingjie a sleeping pill. He’s too tired for this.
He wraps a hand around Gao Yingjie’s upper arm, hauling him to a standstill. Date us, Qiao Yifan had said.
‘Wenyi,’ Gao Yingjie mumbles. His eyes are bright with stress and ringed with shadows. He’s still not properly focused, though, is still busy thinking about something else.
‘Feel free to hit me,’ An Wenyi says. He leans in slowly, cupping a hand against Gao Yingjie’s jaw, and kisses him.
Gao Yingjie goes very still and very silent— and then surges in against him, making an aching noise against An Wenyi’s lips, pressing his hands in against An Wenyi’s lower back, and returning the kiss.
‘Wenyi,’ he breathes out, when they stop for air, his shock palpable.
An Wenyi expects him to step away. He steps closer instead, squeezing his hands in against An Wenyi’s back and sighing against An Wenyi’s lips.
An Wenyi’s skin feels too tight. His brain is sharp with the awareness that everything is going off the rails, and he’s letting it. His fingers flex against Gao Yingjie’s jaw; he settles his other hand at the nape of Gao Yingjie’s neck. Gao Yingjie’s hair is as soft as An Wenyi has imagined. Gao Yingjie is watching him, his expression heavy with longing and his lips parted, and An Wenyi just moves right back in and kisses him a second time— slowly and thoroughly, like Qiao Yifan had told him to.
Gao Yingjie’s mouth warm and pliant. He kisses wonderfully, not demanding control, but still shaping the way they move together until An Wenyi is caught on the dizzy edge of moaning. He slides a hand up and along An Wenyi’s side. He slips the other hand lower, fingertips catching at a belt-loop on An Wenyi’s jeans. The weight of it has An Wenyi pushing forwards against him, has him dropping his own hands to wrap at Gao Yingjie’s waist.
They’re pressed so close that An Wenyi can properly feel when Gao Yingjie’s body relaxes and then, slowly but steadily, with shifting lips and stroking hands, collects a different kind of tension.
An Wenyi has tried not to look at his friends’ dicks over the years. He cannot stop himself, now, from cataloguing the length and press of Gao Yingjie’s boner where it’s hard against him. It’s only the concern undercutting his arousal that stops him from rutting their hips together, that holds him back from pushing Gao Yingjie up against a wall or dropping to his knees.
It’s a long time since An Wenyi has done something as objectively self-destructive as make out with someone he wants while the person who actually has him snores not a metre away.
(Date us, whispers Qiao Yifan’s voice in his mind. An Wenyi kisses deeper.)
An Wenyi pulls back when the insistent demands of his dick get a bit too much. Gao Yingjie sighs out, long and steady, and lets his forehead drop down against An Wenyi’s shoulder.
‘How’re you feeling?’ An Wenyi asks carefully.
Gao Yingjie raises his head and smiles. ‘Better,’ he says. ‘That was— I feel much better.’
‘I—’ An Wenyi finds himself at a loss, finds himself unable to explain what he’s just done. It seems impossible to say “I kissed you therapeutically”. It feels even more impossible to admit that he’d done it because he’d wanted to.
‘Thank you for snapping me out of it,’ Gao Yingjie says, getting far more easily to the point.
An Wenyi smiles. ‘Yifan’s idea,’ he says.
‘Yifan’s so good,’ Gao Yingjie murmurs, glancing at the bed. He moves one of his hands to An Wenyi’s chest.
An Wenyi has to bite down a pleading noise as Gao Yingjie’s palm slides across his shirt, across his collar, around to rest, warmly, at the side of his neck. He thumbs a circle below An Wenyi’s ear. An Wenyi suddenly doesn’t know where to look. ‘Yifan really likes you, you know,’ Gao Yingjie says. ‘He likes you so much. He’s liked you for years.’
An Wenyi wonders at how Gao Yingjie can talk about his fiancé like this, while An Wenyi’s hands are on him (Date us, loops Qiao Yifan’s voice in his mind). He marvels as Gao Yingjie sighs again— the kind of pleased, heady sigh that makes An Wenyi want to throw away everything that’s stopping him from simply asking if he can please get Gao Yingjie off.
There’s pink on Gao Yingjie’s cheeks when he steps back — far enough to make easier eye contact, not far enough to shift away from An Wenyi’s hands on his waist — when he says, softly but clearly, ‘You’re our exception, you know. You’re the exception for both of us.’
An Wenyi thinks he does know, now. ‘Your exception?’ he asks anyway.
‘Mm. The person we both want to kiss, apart from each other. The person we can love. The person we can…’ Gao Yingjie shifts his hips back in against An Wenyi’s, just for a moment, just for the briefest, rushing push. It’s still long enough for An Wenyi to have no doubt what he means. It’s still long enough for An Wenyi to feel the sweet drag of his hard-on again, pushing with extremely clear intent against his own.
‘I’ve wanted that,’ An Wenyi admits, the word love ringing in his ears. ‘I’ve wanted that for years.’
Gao Yingjie’s smile is beautiful.
‘Take me to bed, Wenyi,’ Gao Yingjie says. ‘Not for that,’ he adds, laughing softly when An Wenyi freezes. ‘We can talk about that when we’re all three of us awake and actually functioning. Just— take me to bed? Stay the night?’
An Wenyi does.