Lan Zhan stared incredulously at the box in his hands. The set of drawing pencils Wei Ying got him for his birthday, the set he barely ever used for fear of wearing it down… it was completely worn down.
All of the pencils were used up until they were barely long enough to hold, the sharpener was god knows where and the less was said of the now pitch black kneaded eraser the better.
How did this happen? Lan Zhan always took good care of his things, and the things Wei Ying gave him were specially precious to him. He barely touched this and he never let anyone else touch-
Lan Zhan was sitting at his desk, eyes focused on his laptop screen as he replied to Wei Ying’s rapid fire texting as quickly as he could. It took all his concentration to keep up with him, but he welcomed these exchanges, exchanges that came to him far easier than speaking face to face, when having Wei Ying sending him those blinding smiles of his left him breathless, and every time he said “Lan Zhan!” in that cheerful tone of his tied his tongue in knots.
Texting was so much better, it let him think and, even if words failed, there was a seemingly infinite amount of emojis he could use to convey his thoughts and emotions in ways Wei Ying understood.
He was so focused he barely heard the knock on the door, but he knew only him and his brother were home so he replied with an absent minded hum as he kept his eyes glued to the screen.
“A-Zhan, can I borrow your drawing pencils? I gave A-Yao mine and he hasn’t returned them yet.”
“Thanks. Say hi to Wei Ying for me.”
His brother had left then and Lan Zhan couldn’t remember at which point he returned the pencils but he had obviously returned them if in less than ideal conditions.
He marched down to the living room, where his mother and brother were reading books and his father was filling up a crossword puzzle.
“Brother, you used my pencils!” he accused as he stood in front of his elder brother, the worn out pencils spread in his hands.
Lan Huan looked up with surprised eyes and then looked down at his hands.
“You said I could!” he reminded him, indignation showing on his face and Lan Zhan tightened his jaw.
“Not like this! I can’t use them anymore!”
His brother frowned.
“Don’t be spoiled! You can still use them!”
“They’re too short!”
“That’s enough!” their father raised his voice slightly and they quieted down. “There’s no need for this. A-Zhan, you don’t need to be so cross with your brother. It’s only pencils; I will give you money to buy new ones.”
Lan Zhan gritted his teeth tightly, biting down on the childish “I don’t want new ones!” that threatened to come out of his throat.
“Fine!” he said with a huff and walked away with his chin high and his grip on the pencils tight.
Fine, it was fine. If his brother wanted to use up his things then he couldn’t complain if Lan Zhan did the same.
It had taken nearly a week, but he was finally alone at home. His father had accompanied his mother to a doctor’s appointment, his brother was at a friend’s house working on a school project and Lan Zhan had invited Wei Ying, Jiang Cheng, Wen Ning and Nie Huaisang to do the same here.
He opened the kitchen cabinet and pushed the can of tea leaves he prefered to the side, taking the one his brother liked, wrinkling his nose in distaste.
With a sniff, he prepared several pitchers of iced tea with honey and readied himself to drink the disgusting concoction. Then he placed the almost empty can exactly where it had been before and closed the cabinet, confident that there was no sign that would betray what just happened.
The doorbell rang, and rang and rang, several times as if playing a little song. Lan Zhan’s lips twitched in amusement and he hurried to open the door to Wei Ying and their friends.
Five growing and energetic boys during a hot afternoon demolished all the tea Lan Zhan had prepared in almost no time. If anyone noticed Lan Zhan making a face every time he drank his own barely touched glass, they were too polite to make a comment.
Wei Ying seemed to enjoy it in particular and Lan Zhan grew very… distracted… every time Wei Ying drank big, long gulps from his glass, throwing his head back and exposing the elegant arch of his beautiful neck.
Pain shot up his arm, making him inhale sharply and he forced his eyes away from Wei Ying to look down and see that he had gotten a rather deep paper cut on the tip of his finger, a drop of blood growing outwards, the red color too bright against his white skin.
“Lan Zhan, your hand!” Wei Ying grabbed his hand and pulled to look at it closely.
Lan Zhan stopped thinking. Hand, Wei Ying, holding it soft, hand, his hand, Wei Ying’s hands were warm, touching, his hand, Wei Ying, he was touching him, Wei Ying was...
“Ouch, that’s deep,” Wei Ying’s beautiful face made a grimace and then he smiled at him, bright and reassuring. “No worries, I have bandaids!” he let go of his hand, which felt awfully cold without Wei Ying’s warm and gentle touch, and dove under the table for his backpack.
“You can’t give him those!” Jiang Cheng interrupted, diving down as well and trying to pull the bag away from Wei Ying’s grip. “They’re ridiculous! You’re going to offend him and he’ll throw us out!”
“They’re cute! And no, he won’t!”
“How old are you?! Five?”
“I don’t want to hear that from someone that sleeps with aghk!” a yelp and a scuffling noise could be heard under the table and Lan Zhan exchanged a concerned look with Nie Huaisang and Wen Ning.
After a moment, there was a yelp and a triumphant arm shot up, clutching a long strip of bandaids, followed by Wei Ying’s messy hair and grinning face.
“Tah-dah!” he said happily as he sat back on his chair, Jiang Cheng coming up to his own while rubbing his head and glaring daggers at his brother. “Let me put it on you!” Wei Ying ignored the glare and scuttled his chair closer to Lan Zhan.
He inhaled deeply without meaning to, getting a lungful of a cologne that he knew was actually a brand popular among boys their age but on Wei Ying smelled far more intoxicating than it should. As Wei Ying took his right hand again, fiddling with the bandaid, his other hand clenched into a tight fist under the table, reminding him to contain himself.
A small, pink tongue darted out and wetted Wei Ying’s lips and made Lan Zhan’s clenched teeth clench even tighter. He had never wanted anything as much as he wanted to lean in and have a taste of those lips as well.
“There!” Wei Ying smiled, pleased with the now bandaged finger. His twinkling grey eyes darted up to give him a mischievous look, Lan Zhan’s heart stuttered in his chest. “And now the final touch!” he said and before he could even react, he leaned down and pressed his lips over the covered wound.
Lan Zhan snatched his hand away, cradling it to his chest as his entire body felt like it was on fire.
He just! He! His lips!!! Hand!! He!!!
“Ahahahaha! What’s with that face Lan Zhan?!” Wei Ying laughed with his head thrown back, beautiful and carefree.
“Oh my god, you can’t just kiss people!” Jiang Cheng snapped and made Wei Ying laugh again.
“Why? It’s effective! Sister said so!”
“Just because you like being babied does not mean you should treat others like that!”
While the two of them argued with Wen Ning fruitlessly trying to play peacekeeper, Nie Huaisang leaned in, hiding behind the whirl of his hand fan to whisper at Lan Zhan.
“Congratulations,” he said with a knowing smile and it took all of Lan Zhan’s lifetime of good mannered behaviour to not kick him under the table.
Instead he looked down at his hand and the shockingly purple bandaid covered in bright yellow stars with smiling faces. It was utterly adorable and utterly Wei Ying.
He was never washing his hand again.
With all the fuss that happened yesterday, he forgot about his revenge on his brother, but early that morning, he was quickly reminded.
“Where’s my tea?” Lan Huan asked confusedly as he stared down at the almost empty tea can.
“Did you drink it all?” their mother said over her shoulder as she prepared her coffee. She was the only coffee drinker in the house, with all the men preferring wildly different blends of tea.
“How could I have drank it all? I bought this can the day before yesterday! ” His brother huffed in frustration and crossed his arms, glaring at the empty can that sat on the counter.
“Perhaps it was another can? Have you looked deeper in the cabinet?” their father said as he gently blew on his own steaming cup.
“There’s nothing in there but yours and A-Zhan’s. And these few leaves aren’t enough for even one cup!” his brother answered with a pout.
“Don’t be spoiled, you can still use them,” Lan Zhan commented in between bites of food, lips twitching as his brother turned and glared at him.
“You!” he said, voice betrayed and eyes narrowed. “You drank all my tea!”
“I didn’t,” Lan Zhan said truthfully, he had only drank a glass after all, his friends had done all the work for him.
“A-Huan don’t be silly, A-Zhan hates your tea,” their mother interrupted, taking his shoulders and turning him around, marching him to the table. “Now calm down and have breakfast before it gets cold. You can live without your tea for today, I will give you money to buy more.”
But his brother kept throwing him annoyed looks over the food and Lan Zhan kept throwing him smug looks back. This was what he deserved for wasting Wei Ying’s gift.
He knew his brother would retaliate, that was the unspoken rule between them, this would keep escalating until either their parents got involved or more pressing matters stopped them. He did not, however, expect it to happen the very next day.
He stood in his room, staring at his empty sock drawer, well, almost empty. There was a single pair of socks inside, a baby blue with white bunnies pair that a kind but far too old and ditzy auntie had bought for him. They were cute and he really liked bunnies, so he kept them instead of donating them, but he had never intended to actually wear them.
With a sigh, he conceded defeat for now and put them on, all his other pairs were currently in the long cycle of the washing machine after all, they would never be done in time for school.
It was fine, Lan Zhan never wore shorts at school so no one would see them. This was entirely psychological, just his own knowledge and the hyper awareness of his childish socks to work against him.
He ignored Lan Huan’s satisfied smile over his cup of newly-bought tea and pretended nothing was wrong.
At school, the day went as usual, his classmates chatted and complained about lessons, Wei Ying and Jiang Cheng argued about random things and made up within seconds, Nie Huaisang and Wen Ning both asked for his help with some chemistry work, all in all a normal day.
He forgot it was gym day.
He had to get his pants and shoes off to change onto gym clothes. In the changing room with all the other boys.
Perhaps, if he waited until most of the boys were done and gone, and he changed fast enough, no one would notice?
Coming to this decision, he waited for his chance and then hurried to do it. Quick and efficient, like ripping off a bandaid.
Then he heard a gasp.
“Lan Zhan! Your socks!” Wei Ying’s voice resounded on his ears and he felt the shame and embarrassment rise up his neck, cloying and uncomfortably warm. He swallowed thickly and hurried to stuff his feet into his tennis shoes. But then Wei Ying spoke once again. “Let me see! Let me see!”
Having no sense of personal space, Wei Ying dropped on his knees right in front of him, grabbed his shoe and tried to pull it off.
“WEI YING!” he gasped, desperately trying to take it back with hands that shook too badly, barely able to breathe as Wei Ying laughed and avoided him.
“No, no! Let me look! Awww, so cute!” he grinned wide as the bunnies were revealed and Lan Zhan dearly wished for a lighting bolt from heaven to strike him right then. “I never took you for a bunny guy!”
He was going to murder his brother for this.
“You should’ve told me, I have bunny bandaids too!”
His eyes felt hot, was he going to cry? Please, not in front of Wei Ying! He took a deep breath, trying to swallow back the humiliation he was feeling.
“Where did you buy them? I want some too!”
He was never again going to show his face in front of- wait...
“What?” he said dumbly and Wei Ying smiled, bright and excited, making Lan Zhan’s heart jump in his chest.
“I love bunnies! They’re soft and cute! And I love these socks! I want, like, a dozen. Where did you buy them?” he asked again, tilting his head in adorable curiosity and Lan Zhan’s hand itched to hold his soft looking face. He resolutely did not think about Wei Ying’s hands still clasping his ankle, fingers tracing the outline of the bunnies, the touch electrifying and addictive.
He swallowed and clenched his fists.
“A relative bought them for me, I can… I can ask where they got them from.”
“You’ll do that for me?” Wei Ying clapped his shoulder, eyes curved into beautiful silver moons as his wide smile brightened his entire face. “Thanks, Lan Zhan! I’ll owe you one!”
“No owing between us,” he said automatically. He’d never hold anything at all against Wei Ying, not when he was already so generous and kind and selfless and brightened Lan Zhan’s entire life just by existing .
“Ah,” Wei Ying blinked in surprise and his smile turned soft, his cheeks adopting the most enchanting red hue that Lan Zhan greedily memorized and promised himself to draw in exquisite detail later. Wei Ying was beautiful always, but right now he looked gentle and delicate in a way that was so unlike normal that it made Lan Zhan’s heart do things inside his chest. “You’re really great, Lan Zhan. Seriously amazing.”
He was going to set himself on fire.
Lan Huan was going to go insane. A-Zhan had done nothing, nothing at all since the sock drawer incident two weeks ago. He was probably preparing something big, something he wouldn’t be expecting, but what?
Feeling paranoid, he snuck into A-Zhan’s bedroom and snooped around. Not too deeply, he didn’t want to invade his privacy too much, he just wanted to figure out what kind of preparations for revenge he was doing.
Not finding anything in any obvious places, he opened the sock drawer, trying to see if anything was hidden in it.
He blinked again.
He rubbed his eyes.
“What in the world?” he asked incredulously, half of A-Zhan’s neutral-color socks had been replaced by bunny socks of all patterns and colors.
This… couldn’t be his revenge, right?
Feeling utterly confused, he didn’t hear the door open behind him.
“What are you doing in my room?” his little brother’s annoyed tone snapped him out of his thoughts and he turned to give him a smile.
A-Zhan’s eyes narrowed at him and Lan Huan lifted his hands in a placating manner. Then he looked down, blinking at the bunny socks that his brother was clearly wearing. They were at home and not in public but still…
“Bunny socks?” he asked, a little incredulous, and watched as his normally pale face acquired very faint but still obvious blush. “Ohhh?” he stretched the sound in a teasing tone and almost laughed when A-Zhan glared even harder.
“Not a word,” he hissed and walked past Lan Huan to slam his drawer close.
“My lips are sealed,” he lied shamelessly and his brother’s eyes shifted to his pillow, clearly debating whether he should throw it at Lan Huan or not. He prepared himself for anything but still asked first. “Does this mean we are at a truce?”
A-Zhan closed his eyes and took a deep breath before nodding.
“Good,” he gave a sigh of relief and started leaving, but paused at the door and looked over his shoulder. “Tell your Wei Ying that I approve of his taste in socks.” He quickly closed the door and snickered when it rattled with the strength of the pillow thrown at it.
Ah, young love. He couldn't wait to tell A-Yao and Mingjue all about this!