BY THE TIME ZHEN YAN arrives at Wang Jus the party is already in full swing. Thats what Zhen Yan gets for making sure Zhen Ma was tucked happily into bed before allowing himself to leave and join his friends. His friends whom he notices are scattered amongst a crowd of other people Zhen Yan doesn recognize, all of them obviously having enjoyed at least a few rounds.

Zhen Yan shakes his head in amusement watching as his friend, Mo Ning leaps from the couch onto Gao Jungs back. Rather than join them, Zhen Yan moves to the bar, leaning against the counter as he scans the space for Sun Ning.

”Oh! So, he decides to visit me. I thought he forgot all about me! ”

Zhen Yan turns back to the bar with a wide smile, not at all surprised to see Wang Ju behind it doing her best to give him a reproving look.

”Ive been busy. New job and all. You know I love you best, Wang Ju. ”

She tuts but accepts the kiss he bestows on her hand. ”New job you left me for. ” Shed never held it against him, but Zhen Yan knows there was some truth to the sadness imbued in her tone.

”No one could ever replace you. You know that. ”

She gives in immediately, as Zhen Yan knew she would, smiling and laughing as she pulls away her hand and lightly smacks him on the cheek – a love tap more than anything else. ”Ok, ok. What do you want then? Before your friends drink me out of house and home. ”

Zhen Yan grins, putting a little extra cheek into it. ”Whatever they
e having. Get me caught up. ” She sighs but with a smile and affectionate shake of her head goes about setting down an assortment of shots.

”For your friend too? ”

Zhen Yan looks at her confused to see that her attention is no longer focused on him.

”If you don mind, ” Song Tao answers from Zhen Yans side, offering Wang Ju a charming smile. She responds in kind, giggling as she prepares the shots before shes called away to the other end of the bar and disappears with a twirl.

Zhen Yan stares at Song Taos profile agape, utterly and totally bewildered.

”What are you doing here? ”

Song Tao reaches for a shot glass, spinning it slowly in his fingers, before he turns his head to Zhen Yan with an eyebrow raised.

”Am I not allowed to be? ”

Zhen Yan huffs. That wasn an answer and they both know it. ”How do you even know about Wang Jus? ”

Song Tao looks away for a moment, back down to the shot glass he fiddles with. He reaches to push another until it sits more directly in front of Zhen Yan.

”All the assistants talk about it. Thought Id check it out for myself. ”

Zhen Yan highly doubts Wang Jus has been the talk of the office the way Song Tao implies, but the explanation does somewhat hold up. Sun Ning, Pol, and Arm have all enjoyed the messy fun that is Zhen Yans former workplace, and with the latter two being the biggest loudmouths of the office, it stands to reason the subject of Wang Jus has made it to the bosss own ears. And yet…

”Haven seen you party with the assistants before… ”

Song Tao looks back to Zhen Yan, his mouth pulling up in a slanted smile. ”Been looking for me? ”

Zhen Yan rolls his eyes, turning back to the bar. He reaches for the shot glass Song Tao has set in front of him. Bringing it to his mouth, he tips his head back and downs it quickly. He concentrates on the familiar burn of the alcohol making its way down his throat before he looks back to Song Tao.

”So? ”

Song Taos focus is caught somewhere on Zhen Yans throat, and it takes a second before his eyes trail back up. He raises an eyebrow in question.

Zhen Yan tips his chin to indicate the shot glass held but otherwise untouched between Song Taos fingers.

”Partying with us, or not? ”

Song Tao glances around Zhen Yan like hes searching the bar, though his eyes don stray far enough to do so. ”Us? ”

Zhen Yan shrugs, not taking his eyes off Song Tao. ”The others are around. ”

Song Taos eyebrows jump. ”Not sure theyll want to party with the boss. ”

e still here, ” Zhen Yan points out. With me, he doesn say, not entirely sure why it is Song Tao has sought him out.

”Guess I am. ” Song Tao backs the shot, placing the empty glass back on the bar top with a thunk.

”Little pedestrian. ” He looks back to Zhen Yan. ”Shots, ” he clarifies. ”Thought you were a bartender.

Can say Im impressed. ”

”Was, ” Zhen Yan points out. ”And Im not here to impress you. ” Its only as hes saying the words that Zhen Yan realizes he just might want to impress Song Tao. Its an odd impulse he refuses to give much thought to.

”Make me a drink. ” Its not a question, not quite a demand either. Caught somewhere in the middle, it leaves Zhen Yans response just as mixed.

”Im not working… ”

”Are you refusing? ” Theres nothing but the challenge in Song Taos eyes and it lights a fire in Zhen Yans gut, as though someone has taken a match to the alcohol hes consumed. Hes never felt anything like it.

Zhen Yan turns back to the bar, quickly downing the two additional shots left by Wang Ju, though more alcohol is unlikely to do anything to stem the fire, before he moves to round the bar, placing himself behind it and opposite Song Tao.

Song Tao grins as he watches, looking far too smug for Zhen Yans liking.

”You should be careful who you order around, ” Zhen Yan points out as he begins mixing Song Taos drink, hoping Song Tao doesn notice hes being overly generous with the amount of liquor. ”You
e not the boss in here. ”

Song Tao looks pointedly down at the drink Zhen Yan is preparing. ”You sure? ”

Zhen Yan exhales a slight laugh, nodding his head just slightly in acknowledgment as he sets the drink down in front of Song Tao.

”Not sure this is the example you want to set as a boss, ” Zhen Yan points out. ”Drinking in front of employees… ”

Song Tao raises the glass to his lips, holding eye contact with Zhen Yan as he takes a generous sip, rolling it in his mouth before he swallows. ”You called me a shithead on your first day. Not sure youve ever seen me as a boss. ”

Zhen Yans eyes widen with surprise. ”You remember that? ”

Song Taos eyebrows bounce in answer. He takes another sip of his drink. ”Some employees might apologize if they found out theyd called their boss a shithead. ”

Zhen Yan shrugs, the thrum of alcohol in his bloodstream lending confidence that doesn feel entirely false. ”Some bosses deserve to be called a shithead. ”

Song Tao laughs, a burst of sound on a breath before he drops his eyes back to his drink, the crinkle of humor around them still visible. Zhen Yan presses his lips together to hide his own smile, reaching for the vodka and refilling two shot glasses for them both.

”Hi. ” A woman appeared next to Song Tao. She stares brazenly at Zhen Yan, biting her lower lip as she smiles. Shes attractive, the sort of woman Zhen Yan would have gladly enjoyed in the back alley of this very bar. His own take on a smoke break. ”We were wondering if you could serve us. ” She indicates where a couple of her friends openly watch the exchange at the other end of the bar, giggling amongst themselves. Nothing about the way she speaks leaves anything left unsaid. Its as blatant a proposition as Zhen Yan has ever gotten.

”No. ”

Its not Zhen Yan whos spoken. Its Song Tao.

Both Zhen Yan and the woman look at him surprised. Song Tao doesn look up from his drink as he speaks, swirling the alcohol in the glass. His words ring with an authority that brooks no argument.

”Hes not working. ”

”But… ” The beginning of the womans attempt to clarify cuts off as Song Tao looks up. It takes little more than that: Song Tao looks at her, his eyes steely and with a quality that dares her to argue with him because hes already certain of the outcome. She bows to him awkwardly and with a quick apology, turns and hurries off to rejoin her friends.

”That was rude, ” Zhen Yan points out after a moment of ringing silence between them. He doesn sound like he minds in the least.

Song Tao doesn acknowledge the comment, reaching for the shot glass. He indicates that Zhen Yan do the same.

”Drinking with employees now? ” Zhen Yan teases as he reaches for his glass. ”You sure thats a good idea? ”

Song Tao watches him for a moment, something contemplative but unreadable in his eyes. ”No. ” He tips his head back, downing the shot in one gulp. Zhen Yan watches the way his throat bobs as he swallows before he brings his own glass to his mouth and does the same.

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