TO ZHEN YANS SURPRISE – and mild alarm – this does not result in censure or a firm telling off from Song Tao. Instead, Zhen Yans boss smiles… again. And its not the subtle, small smile from before. He smiles with teeth. It wide, bright, genuinely joyful… and its gone as quickly as it appeared, disappearing behind the hand Song Taos brings to his mouth, blocking the expression from view before he redirects his eyes, looking back in the direction of the man speaking.
Zhen Yan blinks.
Did that… happen? Theres no Yan Wuhan to consider the strange moment. Zhen Yan does one final wipe of the table, keeping his head low as he straightens to his full height. He risks one last glance at Song Tao, eyes lingering on the sharp cut of the other mans jaw before he turns and flees from the room.
He manages to stay relatively unnoticed for the rest of the morning, tucked into his corner cubicle, filing paperwork Chan had asked him to complete last week. Its not like the Office Manager ever checks Zhen Yans work anyways, preferring to remain as hands-off as possible, but it gives Zhen Yan something to do that doesn involve potentially running into their boss.
Up until today, Zhen Yan had been quite successful in avoiding all contact with the upper partners and their boss since he began work at the firm nearly two months ago. Minus that initial encounter with Song Tao on his very first day, when Zhen Yan had accidentally taken the elevators reserved for senior partners and management (because of course there was a separate **ing elevator) and hed mistaken Song Tao for one of the asshole lawyers Sun Ning always complained about who occupied the lower floors of the high-rise. It hadn been Zhen Yans finest moment, but in his defense (and yes, he had used this defense when explaining the situation later to Sun Nings very obvious horror) Song Tao had hardly endeared himself. Sure, Zhen Yan had gotten in the wrong elevator, but that didn mean Song Tao needed to be such a shithead about it. And ok, so maybe those had been Zhen Yans exact words, and maybe hes still not sure how he wasn fired before ever stepping foot in the office, but hed chalked it up to Song Tao not knowing who he was – the fake name Zhen Yan had provided bolstering this theory. Hed been riding the high of that anonymity until this very morning, in fact.
He can help himself when he hears Sun Ning has returned, however, and risks venturing across the length of their offices to the staff kitchen to find him. A very colorful retelling of the mornings disaster later, a few choice threats should Sun Ning ever decide to leave tasks of importance in Zhen Yans hands again, and their conversation has sunk back into its usual comfort and banter.
”Wang Jus tonight then? ” Sun Ning asks, smiling widely as he leans against the counter opposite Zhen Yan.
”You can drink until you forget. ”
Zhen Yan raises an eyebrow. ”Who said you were invited? ” ”Wang Ju. ” Sun Nings smile widens. If thats even possible.
Zhen Yan sighs. He normally loves the way his friends from work have been adopted by his friends from Wang Jus, except when it leaves him absent his go-to threat of exclusion.
”Fine. But you
e buying me a drink. Or five. ”
Sun Ning laughs but doesn disagree. ”I don know how you haven been fired. I don know how I haven been fired. I recommended you. ”
”Must be the looks, ” Zhen Yan responds with a wiggle of his eyebrows that makes Sun Ning laugh again. ”Anyways, would it be the worse thing? We could say, Fuck it. You could help me open my bar on the beach. Finally. ”
”Right, ” Sun Ning snorts. ”With what money? ”
Having no appropriate response or solution to the question, Zhen Yan veers towards a different tactic.
”What do you care, anyways? You
e the favourite. They don even know who I am. ” And thank ** for that, Zhen Yan adds silently.
”Thought you said he smiled at you? ” Sun Ning asks, his own smile taking on just a touch of mischief.
Theres no need to clarify who he is. Zhen Yan keeps his voice as disinterested as he can manage when being baited so obviously. ”Probably just did it to mess with me. ” It doesn sound quite like the right reason, the memory of Song Taos smile, genuine and maybe even a little cute flashing through Zhen Yans mind, but its the best explanation he has. ”Whatever. He can smile all he likes, hes still a dick. ”
”Zhen Yan… ” Sun Nings tone serves as a warning but its hardly the first Yan Wuhan its been directed at Zhen Yan. Sun Nings been with the firm far longer and hes known for his professionalism. Telling off the boss on the first day of work and spilling hot coffee on him two months into the job, are not things Sun Ning has any experience doing.
”Come on Sun Ning,
” Zhen Yan sighs, rolling his eyes for good measure.
”You know Im right. They
e all like that. Egos gotta be big cause their dicks are so small. ”
It doesn get the laugh Zhen Yan expects. Instead, Sun Nings eyes widen. And hes not looking at Zhen Yan. Hes looking just beyond Zhen Yans shoulder.
A feeling of dread seeps into Zhen Yans every pore just as a voice speaks from behind him.
”You wouldn be talking about me, would you? ”
Zhen Yan turns slowly. He keeps his eyes low, fixing them first on the shoes, perfectly polished and gleaming in the artificial light of the kitchen, before, with a steadying breath, he raises them to meet the eyes of the man standing before him.
Because of course, it is.
”No, ” Zhen Yan answers immediately, tipping his chin up in a way he knows mimics how he looked at Song Tao in the boardroom. A challenge. Theres a sound behind him, a mumbled apology and excuse, and he doesn need to look to know Sun Ning has deserted him. And well… if Zhen Yan is about to be fired, he doesn plan to go out meekly. ”Little self-centered, isn it? ” Zhen Yan hopes Sun Ning is listening and hes just managed to give him a heart attack. All he deserves for abandoning Zhen Yan. Again. The traitor.
Song Tao exhales an amused sound, a faint smile appearing. Its not what Zhen Yan expects. But then, he supposes Song Tao hasn at all been what he expected at any point on this bizarre day. ”Not when I own the place. ” Ok… maybe that is what Zhen Yan expected.
He rolls his eyes, not hiding the gesture from Song Tao. ”Doesn mean everyone is talking about you. ”
Song Taos eyebrow twitches.
”No, I suppose you
e right. ” Theres a mirrored challenge in his own eyes. ”Theyd know better. ”
Zhen Yan just barely represses the urge to roll his eyes again.
e the boss? ”
Song Tao doesn pause in providing his answer. ”Because my dick is totally proportionate to my ego. ”
Theres a ringing silence in Zhen Yans ears as his brain takes in the words that have just come out of Song Taos mouth. Hes fairly certain his mouth has dropped open. Song Tao tips his chin slightly in suggestion as he turns, nothing about his expression indicating hes said anything unusual. ”Follow me. ”
Too stunned to come up with a witty retort, Zhen Yan finds his feet following as hes led out of the kitchen and in the direction of Song Taos office. Maybe Song Tao wants to fire him in private? It would seem likely if Song Tao hadn just made a dick joke.
Song Tao walks to his desk as they enter. Lifting a folder found there, he holds it out to Zhen Yan. ”I need this agreement signed by the end of the day. Take it to the minor firm yourself. See that its done. ”
Zhen Yan raises an eyebrow. ”Why are you asking me? ” He means it more in the context of being fairly certain Song Tao should be firing him instead, but once the words are out its clear just how insolent they sound.
Song Taos eyebrows rise with genuine surprise. He doesn look put off though. Nor does he look particularly angry to be faced with Zhen Yans impertinence.
e free. ”
”Who says? ” Zhen Yan is playing with fire. He knows. But he can help himself. The slack Song Tao gives, the more Zhen Yan wants to take. Theres something – something he doesn quite understand – driving him to see how far he can push Song Tao, something delighting in the way Song Tao seems to enjoy Zhen Yans total lack of appropriate deference and formality.
”You have better things to do? ”
”Maybe, ” Zhen Yan sniffs, falsely haughty, and sees Song Taos lips twitch. ”My jobs important. ” It is absolutely not. ”I have all kinds of things to do. ” He absolutely does not.
”Mmm, ” Song Tao hums, whats coming to be a familiar look of amusement written across his face.
”More coffee to spill in laps? ”
”You making a request? ”
And Song Tao laughs. Its quick. An exhale more than anything else but its genuine, and it sends a flurry of feeling through Zhen Yans chest, leaving him feeling unusually warm and more than a little discomfited. Its over just as quickly as it happens, Song Taos attention dropping back down to the folder on his desk as he clears his throat.
”Don let him make any changes to the contract and – ” Hes interrupted by a knock on the door.
Its opened before Song Tao has a chance to beckon the person in and a young man appears.
He smiles at Song Tao before he notices Zhen Yan. His smile falters, his eyes narrowing. He looks Zhen Yan up and down before his attention returns to Song Tao, his smile just a little false now. ”You ready, Song Tao? Youve kept me waiting. ” Theres a teasing quality to the way he speaks. Familiar.
Song Tao smiles, closed-lipped but warm. ”Yes. Of course. ” He barely glances at Zhen Yan as he moves around his desk. ”Get it done, ” he directs as he passes. He presses a hand to the lower back of the young man as he meets him in the doorway to his office, directing him out. He spares a glance back over his shoulder at Zhen Yan. Their eyes lock, only for a split second, before hes gone.
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