His legs were wide open, his hands were trembling and yet, they were precise, every movement was smooth and calculated. The entire room was filled with the soft and passionate sounds that he was making. He was close to the end, just a couple of notes more… and the crowd burst into applause.
Zhao Jun Min opened his eyes and stood up to bow at the crowd, his cello already forgotten by his side as he looked around. It was the first time he played for so many people, but he was only looking for one person. His eyes stopped at the first row and smiled the moment he found him: smiling, clapping gently, but quickly, there was Shen Wei.
Jun Min raised one hand at him and waved, blushing softly as he felt his heart speeding up. He felt like he could die right now and he’d be happy, like they were alone in the whole world. But the spell broke sooner than he had expected when he heard a loud whistle. Jun looked at the person standing by Wei’s side: it was Yun Lan, with his fingers in his mouth, making sounds he wasn’t supposed to in a place like this. Jun had to resist the urge to roll his eyes at his brother right there. This was a fine theatre, for god’s sake. And yet, his ape of a brother was yelling and clapping and whistling. But then again, one couldn’t ask Yun Lan to be as refined as Shen Wei. Or even polite at all. But then again, Jun doubted that anyone could be as sophisticated or as smart as Shen Wei. With only twenty five years, he was already a Literature mayor and was about to finish his PhD in Ancient Chinese. Jun felt nothing but respect and admiration for him (and maybe a little more, something he would deny if anyone asked, something he had promised himself to hide). Jun liked to think that, if he could suddenly get blind, he would like Shen Wei to be the last thing he saw.
“What do you think about my little brother? Didn’t I tell you he’d be good for something, someday?”
Jun Min sighed as he heard his brother’s voice. He wouldn’t feel so annoyed about his presence if he wasn’t currently surrounding Wei Ge’s shoulders with his arm.
“Yun Lan, don’t be mean” Shen said, shaking his head, gently pushing his hand away from his shoulder. “Jun Min, you were fantastic. For a moment, I forgot there were other people listening” he said, taking a step forwards to offer him the bouquet of flowers he was holding.
Jun Min blushed lightly at the compliment and took the flowers as carefully as he could. As soon as he got home, he thought, he’d put them in salt, so he could keep them for a long time.
“Let’s go celebrate, shall we?” Shen Wei said, patting his shoulder. Jun Min opened his mouth to say something, but Yun Lan interrupted him.
“Finally you spoke some sense, Professor Shen!” he said, teasing.
Ever since Shen Wei managed to become a part time professor at the Dracon City University, Yun Lan wouldn’t stop calling him that. Jun Min found it distasteful. It was a great honor to become a teacher, but Shen Wei didn’t seem to mind it too much. It had always been like that: whatever Yun Lan did, Wei Ge either fixed or forgave. If Yun Lan came back home late and drunk, Wei Ge would take him to bed and take off his stinky, old shoes. If he was too tired to eat, Shen Wei would cook for him if he didn’t have anything done yet. If Yun Lan came back angry, he would let him yell at him, Shen Wei would wait for him to finish and then he’d help him find a solution. It should be annoying, but that was what made Wei Ge special, after all: his permanent composure, his kind personality.
Jun Min knew his brother didn’t deserve any of that. Shen Wei had the patience of a saint, and if it wasn’t for his useless brother, he wouldn’t have that many troubles.
Jun min knew how to cook for himself, how to control his temper and he never drank –mostly because Shen Wei didn’t like alcohol-. He never caused him troubles, not even when they were young. And yet… and yet he couldn’t help to think that Wei Ge had a soft spot for his brother.
As they walked to the car, Min closed his fists. Yun Lan had always been everyone’s focus: he was always in trouble, always screaming, always fighting. It was unfair, to be the one left in the shadows of a brother who wasn’t even that bright. But in the darkness, there was always Shen Wei to make him company, to tell him he played good, to congratulate him when he had good grades, to pat his head for setting the table. It was like being hit by a subtle, warm light.
As always, Yun Lan ended up drunk. It was almost as if he couldn’t help it, as if he had decided to make Jun Min’s life as miserable as he could at every given chance. And, as always, Shen Wei was worried sick for him, making sure to turn on the heat in the car, covering with his jacket so he wouldn’t get sick, making sure to put on his seat belt. Jun Min almost wished he had gotten drunk as well, but he had to help Shen carry the idiot he had for a brother all the way up the stairs as he made sure his flowers didn’t get messed up in the way.
“I will take care of the rest” Shen Wei told him once the left Yun Lan on his bed, already asleep.
“You shouldn’t worry that much for him, you know? It’s his own fault for drinking that much” Jun Min said, looking at Shen, but he only smiled at him without a reply, probably because he didn’t want to make any unnecessary noise.
Jun Min sighed as he walked through the door and, before he closed it, he could see Shen Wei leaning down to take off Yun Lan’s shoes before covering him with the blanket all the way up to his chin. Jun Min thought he was about to stand up and leave, but instead, he sat down next to the bed without doing anything, just looking at him.
Stupid Lan, he thought, you are making him worry. Min couldn’t stand to look at this anymore, so he went to his own room. He still needed to preserve his flowers if he wanted them to last.
Shen Wei rose up his hand and gently caressed Yun Lan’s hair. It wasn’t the first time he did something like this, but his heart was pounding inside his chest anyway.
After the concert, Zhao’s father had joined them at the restaurant, ready to cheer for his soon. He asked for a bottle of wine and he served four glasses, but Yun Lan stole his glass every time Mr. Zhao filled it. Mr. Zhao was a conservative man with a strong character, the one who thought that a real man needed to know how to do two things: how to drink and how to punch somebody in the face. Shen Wei couldn’t hold his alcohol. He just wasn’t the kind of man who drank, so every time Mr. Zhao filled it, Yun Lan drank it quickly while no one was looking, returning to him his empty glass.
Every time, Shen Wei tried to tell Mr. Zhao he had had enough, but it was useless, his reply was always the same:
“None sense! We are celebrating! Here, have some more”
And the story kept repeating itself until Yun Lan got drunk. He sighed. Yun Lan was like that: always ready to take a bullet for the ones he cared about. Lan knew how much his father’s approval was to him, so he was ready to help him keep it that way.
Maybe, in other time, it would have been easier to fool Mr. Zhao, but after his wife passed… well, a lot of things had changed. He became a colder, harsher man, and Yun Lan was the first one to deal with him.
Slowly, without making a sound, Shen Wei leaned down to press a kiss against Lan’s forehead before standing up. He wanted to stay here for longer, but he still had work to do, so he left a couple of pain killers and a glass of water on his drawer before leaving.
Tomorrow, he’d make sure to prepare something soft for the stomach for breakfast, he told himself, something that would fill him with energy before going to work.