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Almost Lover

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Wei Ying usually comes over late. Well. Wei Ying usually comes over late for this.

They don't really talk about it. Oh, Wei Ying talks--he talks ceaselessly while in bed: murmurs of approval, breathless requests, exhaled appreciations. But they never talk about why.

Lan Zhan knows why he allows this to continue. He is almost ashamed to admit it. Except you should never hide your own weaknesses from yourself, and so he has to face facts--he allows Wei Ying to come over and tumble him into bed because Lan Zhan is in love with him, and he will take Wei Ying in any way he can get him. Why Wei Ying is doing this is less clear to Lan Zhan. Well, apart from the obvious reason: they are very, very good at it.

"Lan Zhan," Wei Ying breathes against his ear. "Lan Zhan, harder, you can--ah--" Wei Ying moans, setting off a chain reaction of goosebumps all down Lan Zhan's side. Lan Zhan squeezes his eyes shut and obeys, snapping his hips in further, putting more force behind his movements. "Just like that, fuck you're good--"

Lan Zhan, holding himself back as much as can, groans as Wei Ying squeezes around him. Between them, they have worked up quite a sweat, and Lan Zhan ducks his head to lick a stripe up Wei Ying's neck, the way he knows Wei Ying likes, and tastes the salt on his skin. Wei Ying makes another gorgeous noise, tilts his head to give Lan Zhan better access.

Lan Zhan has found a pattern in their rendezvous, and it has not been a difficult connection to make. Wei Ying comes over after he has had a bad day. Whether it's a fight with his brother, or a particularly difficult day at work, Wei Ying will text Lan Zhan with I'm coming over, wait up for me, and all thought of sleep would disappear from Lan Zhan's mind. Even if he is already in bed--especially if he is already in bed--Lan Zhan will allow him in.

It never takes Wei Ying long to get to him, even though he lives across town. Sometimes Lan Zhan wonders if Wei Ying texts him from outside Lan Zhan's apartment and waits a requisite amount of time to ring the bell. If that's the case, Lan Zhan would never expose him--it would be too ungenerous, not to mention impatient. As humiliating it is to admit, as soon as Lan Zhan gets the text from Wei Ying, he starts to get aroused. It's an involuntary response by now, and Lan Zhan is no better than an animal who knows he will be fed a feast at the sound of a bell.

But it doesn't do to dwell on these thoughts, not when he gets to do this. Not when he gets Wei Ying to writhe underneath him, throat exposed, hands clutching his arms, legs wrapped around his back, all that gorgeous skin pressed up closely against him.

And Wei Ying kisses him.

Lan Zhan has had casual assignations before this. Largely they've involved perfunctory acts between two people who wanted pleasure without complications--blowjobs, handjobs, all done with incidental interest, all with one goal in mind. There was never room for kissing, or anything else beyond the fulfilling of need.

It's different with Wei Ying. Wei Ying is different from anyone else.

Wei Ying surges up and catches Lan Zhan's lips with his own, slides his tongue in between them. This, Lan Zhan knows, means he's getting close. Wei Ying tends to get more clingy the closer he is to orgasm. Another conditioned response--Lan Zhan fights a wave of inexplicable sadness. Perhaps not so inexplicable. Wei Ying nearing his completion means that it's almost over. Lan Zhan will allow himself to come and then they will lie next to one another, catching their breath, and Lan Zhan will have to wait, shamefully, for Wei Ying to have another bad day.

But not yet. Right now, Lan Zhan still has him pinned beneath him, squeezing around his cock, kissing him breathless. Lan Zhan kisses him back, grabs one of Wei Ying's hands in his own and brings it up over their heads, pinning him down even more.

"Ah, Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan--fuck, just like that--yes--God--"

Lan Zhan feels like a keeper of intimate knowledge. Whenever they are around their friends, he knows that nobody else has gotten to experience this Wei Ying--the one who falls apart when getting fucked, the one who breathes Lan Zhan's name in ecstasy, the one who needs to kiss the closer he is to coming. Lan Zhan thrusts in once more, then feels it when Wei Ying brings his free hand down in between them and begins to stroke himself, fast and hard. Another wave of disappointment, but then Wei Ying is coming with his tongue in Lan Zhan's mouth, Lan Zhan catching his gasp in his throat, and Lan Zhan feels a fool for being disappointed. Because he gets to experience this.

He lets go of Wei Ying's hand, raises himself up over him and comes as his gaze meets Wei Ying's hot, satisfied eyes.

Afterwards, as in every other situation, Wei Ying tends to babble.

"You wouldn't believe how tense tonight was, Lan Zhan," he says as he rolls over and puts his feet on the ground. Lan Zhan had been idly thinking of walking to the bathroom for a wet washcloth to clean them both off, but Wei Ying is less fastidious than he is. He uses a tissue from the nightstand to scrape the worst of it off, then rummages around for his underwear as he talks. "Thank God for jiejie, or I would have left before dessert. You would think that being a prodigy in structural engineering would be a good thing for your adoptive mother, but no."

Lan Zhan frowns, raising himself up to a reclining position. "What did Madam Yu say to you?"

Wei Ying shoots him a quick look over his shoulder, then gets up and finds his jeans where they had flung them on the chair earlier. He hops up and down as he gets dressed. His jeans are always too tight. Lan Zhan never complains. "You know, the usual--look at how hard your brother works, and you find everything to be a joke. Blah blah, you are too arrogant and willful, you should learn humility, blah blah blah."

Lan Zhan has, more than once, experienced a desire to walk into the Jiang household and have a few choice words with Wei Ying's adoptive parents, but has never acted on it. For one, it would embarrass his uncle, and Lan Zhan would never wish to do that. He also doesn't think Wei Ying would thank him for it. Wei Ying is more than capable of fighting his own battles. That doesn't mean that Lan Zhan has to like it.

"Do you want your pajamas?" Wei Ying asks once he's pulled on his t-shirt. He snatches Lan Zhan's shirt from where it landed on the floor and hands it to him with a grin.

"Thank you." Lan Zhan accepts it, then slips it on over his head. It feels cool against his skin. He looks around for his bottoms, but Wei Ying gets there first, flinging them towards Lan Zhan with a quick gesture.

"Here." Another quick grin. "Wouldn't want you to be cold."

Lan Zhan accepts the teasing with good grace, and is glad when Wei Ying turns around to give him privacy. Once he's dressed, Lan Zhan walks Wei Ying to the door. "I hope that you have a good night, and that tomorrow is free of aggravation for you," he says as Wei Ying is pulling on his shoes.

"Aww, thanks, Lan Zhan. You're sweet." Wei Ying gives him a quick peck on the lips without meeting his eye, then puts a hand on the doorknob. "You too, all right? Hope your kids behave." He pauses, chewing on his lip. "See you at Nie Huaisang's on Friday?"

"I will be there," Lan Zhan nods.

A smile like the skies parting. "Good. See you Friday."

And then he's gone. Lan Zhan stands by the closed door for a handful of seconds, hand on the cool surface of it, then flicks off the light and goes to the bathroom to get ready for bed. It is, after all, way past his bedtime.

~*~

How does someone like Lan Zhan suddenly begin to have a friends-with-benefits relationship with a friend of many years? The answer is still somewhat unclear to Lan Zhan himself, but the chain of events that led up to it went something like this: Wei Ying complained of a long dry spell, Lan Zhan made some sympathetic noises, Wei Ying groaned, bemoaning his fate, Lan Zhan let him know through a series of looks that he was being ridiculous.

"I'm not being ridiculous!" Wei Ying had said. "This is very serious, Lan Zhan! It's been months."

Lan Zhan, who did not have an issue with months of no sex, had said, "Mn."

"You think I'm being too horny," Wei Ying had complained, taking another swig of Emperor's Smile. "But I'm not. I'm just a healthy boy with healthy needs. Not all of us can be happy with repression, Lan Zhan." Lan Zhan had stiffened, and something in his face must have given him away, because Wei Ying sat up from his sprawl on the couch and said, "Or is there something you're not telling me?"

Lan Zhan, irritated, had wiped his face of any expression whatsoever. "I'm not hiding anything."

"No, you are, I know you are! Lan Zhan," he'd said gleefully, "are you a horndog?"

That had earned him an eyeroll and possibly a bit of a scowl. "Wei Ying."

"You are! You so are! Have you been hooking up with people behind my back?"

Another quelling look. "Whatever it is I do or do not do, it is hardly behind your back, Wei Ying." He'd paused, knowing he was opening a can of worms. "It's private."

"Oh my God!" Wei Ying had crowed, sloshing his liquor all over the place. "Lan Zhan, you are hooking up with someone. Is it one person? Multiple people? Not at a time, just, like, you know, random hookups? Or, wait a minute. Lan Zhan, are you in a relationship? A secret relationship nobody knows about?"

"Wei Ying."

"No, no, I have got to know." The look on Wei Ying's face had been nearly maniacal.

Lan Zhan had squirmed under that gaze and decided to turn the tables. "What is stopping you from engaging in, as you say, random hookups?"

The diversion had worked--Wei Ying had frowned and pouted before taking another sip of his drink. "I don't like anyone, Lan Zhan. And I'm not actually into the whole…" He'd waved his hand around. "Hooking up with strangers thing. It's weird. I mean," he'd hurried on, "it's totally fine for others. It's just not for me. I want to, like, know I can have a conversation with someone, you know? Not like I have be in a relationship, but...you know." He'd shrugged. "My ideal situation, outside of an actual relationship, for which I have absolutely no room in my very busy schedule, by the way, is a friends-with-benefits situation."

Lan Zhan had raised a single eyebrow in response.

"What? I've done it before."

Lan Zhan had stiffened. While he'd obviously known about Wei Ying's previous relationships, he had not been aware of any...arrangements Wei Ying might have had. Predictably, his brain had shuffled through various possibilities of who Wei Ying could have been talking about. All he had been able to come up with was not me.

Before he could stop himself, he'd asked, "And how did that go for you?" He had meant for it to be sarcastic, but it came out curious. Too invested.

Wei Ying hadn't noticed. He'd frowned, thinking, then said, "It was good. The other, uh, person, found someone they actually liked, so we called it quits. No muss, no fuss." He'd shrugged. Lan Zhan had simply stared. How could anyone have had Wei Ying in their life, in their bed, and found someone else to be with?

"Mn," was all he had been able to come up with in response to this piece of information.

Lan Zhan had not been drinking. Lan Zhan never drank. He had wished, in that moment, to have his inhibitions stripped enough to say something reckless like, Pick me, or I'll be that friend, for as long as you want me. His inhibitions, however, had remained intact.

And would have, if not for Wei Ying. Wei Ying, who'd taken another swing of his liquor, sat up straight, and said, "Lan Zhan, you're gay, right?"

Lan Zhan had frozen.

"I mean, we don't really talk about it, do we? But you are, I know you are. And that's okay! I mean, it's good. It's good with me, good with everybody. So, you've hooked up with guys before, right? I mean." Wei Ying had raked his gaze over Lan Zhan. "It'd be a shame if you haven't, to be honest, they don't know what they're missing out on, if that's the case, but anyway," he'd waved a hand around, "my point is, I'm an all-genders sort of dude, as you know." Lan Zhan had been aware. Painfully so. He'd still been frozen to the spot. "Would you ever consider a friends-with-benefits situation?"

And something on Wei Ying's face--a vulnerability, maybe--had stopped Lan Zhan in his tracks. Had made him pause and meet Wei Ying's gaze. "Wei Ying." Not a no.

"Lan Zhan," Wei Ying had said in a voice surprisingly careful. "Lan Zhan, what are you thinking?"

Lan Zhan had been thinking a lot of things. Lan Zhan's mind had been utterly blank. Was Wei Ying really, actually proposing that they...that the two of them…

"Lan Zhan," Wei Ying had breathed, and moved closer to him. Close enough that Lan Zhan could smell the liquor on his breath.

It had sobered Lan Zhan enough to pull back and say, "Wei Ying, you're not thinking straight." He still had a sense of self-preservation somewhere, it had turned out.

Wei Ying had smirked. "I'm not. Straight, that is." Then he'd waved his drink around carefully. "I'm not drunk, Lan Zhan. I'm barely tipsy." He'd licked his lips, shamelessly directing his gaze at Lan Zhan's own. "You know how good my tolerance is," he'd said, his voice pitched low. Intimate. A shiver had run down Lan Zhan's spine. He had felt his resolve crumbling. "Lan Zhan. I bet you're an amazing kisser," Wei Ying had said. And then he'd kissed him.

That first time had been a sublime fall off a precipice. Kissing on the couch had led to fumbling on the couch had led to Lan Zhan picking Wei Ying up, Wei Ying clinging to his body like a limpet, and bringing him to the bedroom; had led to Wei Ying's bright laughter echoing off of Lan Zhan's walls as he'd grabbed Lan Zhan and pulled him down.

Afterwards, languid and satisfied, Wei Ying had turned to him and said, "Fuck, that was so fun, Lan Zhan. And not complicated, right? See, it's easy. And perfect: you don't have to hook up with strangers, and I get great sex." He'd paused, eyes growing wide. "I mean. We both do. Obviously. Who needs a relationship? Right, Lan Zhan?"

And Lan Zhan had looked at him--at his pink cheeks and mussed hair, his wide eyes and kiss-bitten lips--and said, "Right."

Wei Ying had beamed.

~*~

Lan Zhan knows it's a mistake. But it's a mistake that keeps Wei Ying coming back to him, again and again. It's been three months, and Lan Zhan would take another twenty before even considering ending the arrangement.

Lan Zhan's one concession is this: he never initiates their encounters. But it always happens at his place. By an unspoken agreement, Wei Ying does not invite him over, and Lan Zhan gets to keep Wei Ying's scent on his pillows.

Pathetic doesn't even begin to describe it.

"Lan Zhan, you made it!" Wei Ying beams at him from Nie Huaisang's couch, beer already in hand. "Come in, come in!"

Nie Huaisang rolls his eyes as he steps away to let Lan Zhan through the door. "Thank God you're here, he's been intolerable." At Lan Zhan's questioning gaze, he simply waves a hand around and shakes his head. "Never mind, never mind, come on in. Oh, lovely, you shouldn't have." He takes the bottle of wine Lan Zhan has brought and shuts the door. "Come on in, Lan Zhan, I'll go grab you your seltzer."

"That's very kind, thank you."

Lan Zhan did not begin joining Friday nights at Nie Huaisang's until a few months ago. Wei Ying had dragged him one night, stating categorically that Lan Zhan couldn't just live with his rabbits, brother, and Wei Ying for company. Lan Zhan had attempted to explain that he was quite satisfied with his existence. "And I do see your friends often enough." "But not like this," Wei Ying had insisted. Lan Zhan could not have denied him.

Now, it is as if he has carved out his own bit of space in this group of people. The space is usually next to Wei Ying. He sits down gingerly on the couch between Wei Ying and Wen Qing, Wen Ning at her feet, as he greets the others. Luo Qingyang beams at him from her perch on the armchair; Jiang Cheng greets him with a nod of his chin, which Lan Zhan returns stiffly. Jiang Yanli and Jin Zixuan are here, as well--they must have found a babysitter. Wei Ying's sister gives Lan Zhan a wide smile, while Jin Zixuan nods. His respect for Lan Zhan is only vaguely grudging, because he appears to be confused as to why Lan Zhan would be friends with Wei Ying, whom he once referred to as an over-the-top chaos muppet. Lan Zhan had spent several entertaining minutes picturing punching him in the face. Overall, he is mildly indifferent to Jin Zixuan.

Wei Ying is the only one drinking beer, everyone else holding their glasses of red wine. Lan Zhan accepts the seltzer that Nie Huaisang gives him with a muted thank you.

"We were just talking about whether or not you can really feel passionate about your job," Wei Ying fills him in. "Or if you should keep your job and passions separate." His cheeks are already flushed from the drink, eyes smiling. It takes Lan Zhan a while to understand Wei Ying's meaning.

"You don't find passion in engineering?" he asks, surprised. Wei Ying usually lights up as he tells him of his latest calculations and models.

Wei Ying shrugs. "I love my job. But I don't live for it."

Jin Zixuan snorts. "Who does?"

"Some people do," Jiang Yanli says gently. "Lan Zhan, what do you think?"

Lan Zhan, who does, in fact, love his job, says carefully, "I have melded the two things together. My job and my passion," he clarifies. "It satisfies me."

"Yeah, but you're a music teacher," Wei Ying says in a reasonable voice. "Music is, like, passion incarnate." He looks like he wants to say more, but Jiang Cheng snorts and Wei Ying gets distracted. "Well, you've never been passionate about anything in your life," he shoots back, to which Jiang Cheng replies, "I've been passionate about kicking your ass," and then they go back and forth until Wen Qing sighs loudly and throws a balled-up tissue in Wei Ying's direction. It hits Lan Zhan’s thigh and she winces.

"Hey, why am I getting shit thrown at me?" Wei Ying complains.

"You started it," Jiang Cheng mutters darkly.

Lan Zhan knows that Wei Ying loves his brother. For the life of him, he cannot understand why. The entire time he's known Jiang Cheng, Lan Zhan has only ever known him to be ornery and unpleasant. He finds himself tense whenever he's in his company, though whether that's from Jiang Cheng's general negativity or his unfair attitude towards Wei Ying, Lan Zhan isn't sure.

Of course, he can understand why Jiang Cheng would be unhappy and wish to take his unhappiness out on Wei Ying. He pales in comparison with Wei Ying's brightness, Wei Ying's openness and goodness. Lan Zhan finds himself staring at Wei Ying taking a long pull of his drink, throat working, then looks quickly away. He doesn't believe anybody has noticed.

"I don't think you should necessarily live for your job," Luo Qingyang says thoughtfully. Lan Zhan likes her, too. "It's a false premise. Would you be working if you didn't have to?"

Lan Zhan, who does exactly that, remains quiet.

"I would make the best man of leisure," Wei Ying says dreamily.

"You would not," Wen Qing says in response. "You would drive yourself and everybody else insane. You'd probably turn into a mad scientist and blow yourself up by accident."

Wei Ying snorts, then shrugs. "Maybe. Maybe not."

"You would," Wen Ning says quietly with a small smile. "You can't sit still, Wei Ying."

He's right. Wei Ying needs tasks or he gets bored and then he gets into trouble. Wei Ying sighs. "Why does everybody think they know me so well? I could surprise you."

"You're an open book," Nie Huaisang says with amusement. Something about his tone makes Lan Zhan bristle, though for the life of him, he doesn't understand why.

Wei Ying mock-gasps. "I could so surprise you, Nie Huaisang!"

A peal of laughter from Luo Qingyang, then a big-eyed look of contrition at Wei Ying's glare. "Sorry, honey. You're right."

"Yeah, surprise us with some stupid stunt, maybe," Jiang Cheng adds, then scowls when Jiang Yanli nudges him with her foot. "Although that wouldn't be a surprise, either."

Wei Ying narrows his eyes. "Lan Zhan, tell them. I've got hidden depths."

Lan Zhan purses his lips on a smile, then says, "Wei Ying is full of surprises."

"There!" Wei Ying beams at the assembled. "And anyway, why is it suddenly dunk on Wei Ying hour? Weren't we talking about jobs or some shit?"

The evening wears on. Lan Zhan largely allows the conversation to bubble around him as he sits, Wei Ying warm by his side, feet tucked under Lan Zhan's thigh, and drinks his seltzer. Nie Huaisang curates music for these evenings, and tonight it's jazz, a low susurrus of sound that suffuses the atmosphere, making things feel dreamy.

He gets sleepy soon enough, but does his best to stay awake for Wei Ying's sake. However, at nine fifteen, Wei Ying slips his feet out from underneath him and leans forward, setting his beer bottle down onto the coffee table. "All right, time for me to turn into a pumpkin."

Lan Zhan looks over at him in some surprise. "You're leaving already?"

Wei Ying gives him an unreadable look. "Sure." Then, lower, "You're tired, right? We can both go, I'll walk you out."

Lan Zhan, who had been ready to stay until much later if Wei Ying required it of him, nods. "All right."

It isn't until after they've left Nie Huaisang's building and walked out into the brisk evening air that Wei Ying turns to him and says, "Can we go to yours?"

Wei Ying is full of surprises. Lan Zhan takes a deep breath.

"Unless you really are tired. Sorry, I just--yeah, it's fine if not, I'll just go home and--"

Lan Zhan shuts him up with a kiss. When he pulls back, Wei Ying smiles and bites his lip. Lan Zhan wants to ask, do you want to tell me about your bad day? but he doesn't dare. That knowledge is secret even from Wei Ying. "We can go to mine," he says instead, and leads Wei Ying to where he parked his car.

They don't touch as they walk, and Wei Ying babbles as Lan Zhan drives. "My boss thought my proposal had merit and he's gonna bring it to committee," he says. "That's fucking exciting, my friend. I think I'm finally getting somewhere with these people."

Wei Ying has always felt out of step with his fellow engineers at his new company, something Lan Zhan had a difficult time understanding. Wei Ying was able to talk to anyone and anything, join any group and bring it together.

"I'm glad," he says now, not taking his eyes off the road. "Please keep me informed."

When he chances a glance over at Wei Ying, Wei Ying is watching him, relaxed and smiling. "Sure thing," he says, then reaches over and puts one hand on Lan Zhan's thigh. Lan Zhan's pulse kicks up. "Fuck, I'm so horny," Wei Ying murmurs, almost as if to himself.

Ah. That explains it. Lan Zhan is more than happy to oblige him. He puts one hand briefly over Wei Ying's and squeezes it before putting it back on the wheel.

"Are you, Lan Zhan?" Wei Ying leans close, his mouth almost at Lan Zhan's ear. It forces a hard shiver all down his body, arousal pooling low in Lan Zhan's belly. He licks his lips. "Mmm, yeah. Good."

Then Wei Ying pulls back and looks out the window silently the rest of the way home. His hand remains on Lan Zhan's thigh.

He turns strangely shy once they're through Lan Zhan's door, scratching the back of his head, hair getting even messier than normal, and toeing off his sneakers. He bounces on his toes a bit as Lan Zhan hangs up his own coat and stows away his shoes. Normally, as soon as Wei Ying is through the door, he is kissing Lan Zhan and walking him backwards towards the bedroom--that's part of what makes it so easy. Right now, though, Lan Zhan isn't sure what to do, where to start. Perhaps he misunderstood and Wei Ying simply wanted to spend some time talking, just the two of them.

Then he remembers the hand on his thigh in the car.

Perhaps, then, Wei Ying has changed his mind. Lan Zhan refuses to let the disappointment of that take over. Wei Ying is a free agent. Lan Zhan would never push the issue.

"Wei Ying?" he asks, as Wei Ying continues to stand in the hallway, playing with the loose bun on top of his head.

"Sorry, sorry, was just--sorry, come here." He reaches out a hand and Lan Zhan takes it. Wei Ying uses it to pull him in and their mouths are a breath apart when Wei Ying says, low, "You want this, right? It's okay?"

Lan Zhan swallows. He can't imagine a time when he won't. "It is," he manages.

Wei Ying chews on his lip for a moment, then chases the last breath between them away. The kiss is strangely hesitant--more hesitant than their first had been. Lan Zhan, hands already straying to wrap around Wei Ying's back, worries at the feeling behind it. He worries for a long moment until Wei Ying takes a deep breath and deepens the kiss, tongue seeking Lan Zhan's, and then they're kissing in a way that feels like a prelude to more. Lan Zhan relaxes into it, breathes in deeply, allows Wei Ying's taste and scent to take over his senses.

Wei Ying shuffles them down the hallway to Lan Zhan's dark bedroom, where he flicks on the bedside lamp with a practiced hand without breaking the kiss. His hands are everywhere--tugging at the hem of Lan Zhan's sweater, undoing the button of his trousers. They have to break the kiss in order to disrobe. Lan Zhan sinks to his knees as soon as Wei Ying's jeans hit the floor, ridding him of his final article of clothing. Above him, Wei Ying is breathing hard, hand already moving to hold Lan Zhan by the back of his head. He cards his fingers through Lan Zhan's hair and pulls just enough to let him know he's there. Lan Zhan shuts his eyes and takes him in his mouth.

Wei Ying tastes good. Sharp, strong, masculine--the way sex should taste. Lan Zhan relaxes his throat and goes almost all the way down, inhaling the scent around him. Wei Ying's high exhalation makes him shiver. Wei Ying is loud in bed, and Lan Zhan loves wringing sounds and words from him that barely make sense, but fill him with arousal.

"Lan Zhan, fuck, I wasn't--wasn't gonna ask--fuck, you're so good at that, so fucking good--"

Lan Zhan allows Wei Ying's voice to carry him through the act as he sucks him hard and slow, taking him in deep. It's messy, undignified--Lan Zhan revels in it, hard and wanton. His mouth waters more from the anticipation of whatever might come next. He doesn't fuck Wei Ying every time--they're not always in the mood. He's in the mood tonight. The quiet, intimate atmosphere at Nie Huaisang's somehow misfired and translated in his brain to wanting a good, slow fuck. If he can get Wei Ying off now, he might be relaxed, pliant.

Lan Zhan loves it when he's pliant.

He pulls off, still stroking him, and looks up, meeting Wei Ying's eye. "Are you in a rush tonight?" he asks, tense despite himself. His voice is already hoarse.

"Fuck no," Wei Ying breathes, hand tightening in Lan Zhan's hair. Lan Zhan feels his shoulders relaxing. "Why, you got something in mind?"

Lan Zhan doesn't respond with words, but takes him back into his mouth. He sucks Wei Ying off with a single-minded intensity, as if wanting to memorize each moment, imprint his taste onto his tongue and throat. Wei Ying's gasps turn high and stuttered, an occasional moan breaking through. Lan Zhan strains to hear each note of it, not wanting to miss a thing.

Wei Ying is close now, Lan Zhan can taste it. He redoubles his efforts, stroking him firmly with one hand where his mouth doesn't reach, giving him the steady rhythm he needs. He slides his tongue inside the slit on every upstroke, drinking in the taste.

"Lan Zhan, ah--fuck--"

Lan Zhan hums and doesn't pause. He's so hard, he aches with it. His cock feels heavy, need pounding through him like the beat of his heart. Wei Ying clenches his hand harder in Lan Zhan's hair and starts to make little staccato noises that sound ripped from his chest, short little grunts. Lan Zhan feels the rush under his hand and pulls up just enough to keep the head of Wei Ying's cock in his mouth. Wei Ying comes with a high, keening sound, and floods Lan Zhan with his taste. Lan Zhan takes what he can before pulling off. The rest, he licks up as Wei Ying starts to go soft, lapping it up with his tongue.

Wei Ying hisses and runs his hand down Lan Zhan's neck. "Fuck me, that's-- that's a lot, Lan Zhan, I--"

Reluctant, Lan Zhan pulls away. He looks up to find Wei Ying watching him with a complicated look in his eyes. Lan Zhan doesn't know what it means. He hopes it means Wei Ying will stay a while, but of course, now that he has come, he may change his mind.

Lan Zhan remains on his knees, his hands resting on his thighs, and waits.

"What…" Wei Ying stops, breathing hard. He licks his lips. "What about you, Lan Zhan? What do you want?"

Lan Zhan shuts his eyes momentarily, then opens them and simply looks at Wei Ying. Use your words, Lan Zhan, Wei Ying had teased him once. But Lan Zhan can't, not when they could betray him. He lets Wei Ying set the expectations, lets Wei Ying do the talking.

Wei Ying doesn't disappoint--he could never disappoint--and says, "Okay. You should take off your clothes, then."

Then he steps back, turns, glances over his shoulder at Lan Zhan, and bends down to open the bedside drawer. Lan Zhan's breath comes in a little faster. He takes in a deep breath, but it doesn't help. His heart stutters in his chest.

Wei Ying throws the condoms and lube onto the bed, then turns around. He tilts his head as he looks at Lan Zhan. Deliberately, he takes hold of his own cock and begins to stroke in loose motions, almost matter-of-fact. "You gonna get up?"

Lan Zhan rises to his feet the next moment. Through the pounding in his ears, he rids himself of his button-down, undoing the cuffs first, then popping each button one by one. He watches Wei Ying the entire time--or, rather, the way Wei Ying is already getting himself prepared for Lan Zhan. It dizzies him. He becomes clumsier the more he undresses until he gets nearly tangled in his trousers trying to step out of them. Wei Ying bites his lip, but it doesn't suppress the wide smile spreading across his face. "Eager, Lan Zhan?"

Lan Zhan does not dignify that with an answer.

"Come here," Wei Ying says and pulls back the covers. He settles on the bed, one leg drawn up, arm draped across the knee. He looks like a painting. He is a work of art. He pats the spot next to him and looks open and turned on as Lan Zhan throws his trousers in the general direction of the chair and advances on him.

Wei Ying is half-hard by the time Lan Zhan sprawls out next to him and catches his mouth with his own. The kiss is slow, heavy, a simulation of other acts. Lan Zhan's entire body is a string pulled taut, only needing the slightest of nudges to vibrate.

"Lan Zhan," Wei Ying whispers. "How do you want me?"

What a question. Lan Zhan swallows down the first five answers that come to mind, then kisses him again, pushing Wei Ying onto his back. He breaks off the kiss, then rolls him onto his stomach and spreads his legs. Wei Ying's laugh is breathless.

"Good thinking," he says and Lan Zhan watches as his hand makes a fist in the sheets. Wei Ying raises his hips. Lan Zhan fishes around for the lube and gets to work.

If the situation were different--if the arrangement was not an arrangement at all--Lan Zhan would spend hours simply kissing Wei Ying's back. He would open him up slowly, meticulously, the act being of importance in itself rather than as a means to an end. He would lick every single part of him, every bit of his skin he could see. He would nuzzle his armpits, run his teeth over his ribs, use his fingers to take Wei Ying apart.

If only he had the chance.

Living as he is on borrowed time, Lan Zhan wastes none of it. Wei Ying--just as pliant as Lan Zhan had hoped--pushes back onto his fingers, moaning. "Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan, come on… I'm ready, just--"

Lan Zhan allows himself a single indulgence and kisses Wei Ying's shoulder blade, his lips lingering. "All right," he says against his skin. "One moment."

His hands shake only slightly as he slides the condom on. He shuffles his way down the bed until he's situated in between Wei Ying's legs. He takes a moment to compose himself. He will never tire of this sight. Knowing that it could be taken from him at any moment, he has committed it to memory already: that doesn't mean he isn't left breathless every single time he's here. Wei Ying is breathing hard, his back rising and falling with it. With his hips raised, Lan Zhan gets to see just how open he is for him, how ready. Without thinking about it, Lan Zhan leans in and slides one thumb inside Wei Ying, forcing a gasp from him.

"Lan Zhan, that's--"

Lan Zhan slips his thumb out, then runs it roughly over the rim where Wei Ying is shiny with lube, hearing Wei Ying hiss. He feels the slickness under his thumb, spreads it around. He pulls away. More lube goes onto his cock until he's gagging to be inside Wei Ying already, and then he grabs him by the hips and pulls him up in one rough move.

"Fuck. Yes." Wei Ying sounds pleased, and when he turns his head, he's got a satisfied smile playing on his lips, like the cat that got the cream. Lan Zhan takes a deep breath, lines himself up, and pushes in.

With so little resistance, he bottoms out on the first thrust. Wei Ying's gasp is still ringing in his ears when he pulls back and sinks back in. He circles his hips, grinding against Wei Ying's ass. Wei Ying's high gasps and Lan Zhan's own heavy breathing are the only sounds in the room. The silence is short-lived, as Wei Ying begins to babble.

"Oh, fuck, that's good. Just...move, Lan Zhan, I need you to--"

Lan Zhan pulls back a bit, then slams back in.

"--yeah, just like that, fuck, that's good--"

Lan Zhan, hands tight as vises around Wei Ying's hips, pulls back again before thrusting back in. The tight heat of Wei Ying around him is incredible, the lack of resistance addictive.

"--God, you're--just like that, don't stop, all right, don't fucking stop--"

Lan Zhan takes one hand and runs it up Wei Ying's back, slick with sweat already. He presses down against his shoulders until Wei Ying bends under his touch and raises his ass even more, opening up to him like a flower.

"Fuck, fuck, Lan Zhan--"

"Wei Ying."

"Hnghhh." Wei Ying moves his face so it's hidden from Lan Zhan by the pillow, and Lan Zhan hates that, wants to see him. This isn't what he had been picturing, it isn't quite what he'd been hoping for. Without giving Wei Ying warning, he pulls out completely. "Lan Zhan? What--"

"Turn over, Wei Ying." His voice is rough from holding back.

It takes Wei Ying a few beats to move. Once he's on his back, he gives Lan Zhan a confused look, chewing on his lip. "Everything all right?"

"Yes." He shifts until he's parallel to Wei Ying on the bed, his back to the headboard. "Come up here."

It takes Wei Ying another long moment to comprehend, but then he's scrambling up and throwing one leg over Lan Zhan's lap, scooting closer. Yes. "This what you had in mind?" he asks, his eyes half-lidded and smoldering. Lan Zhan grabs his hips and lifts him up onto his cock in one swift motion. "Fuck." Wei Ying throws back his head and grabs onto Lan Zhan's shoulders. "Fuck, Lan Zhan…"

Lan Zhan shifts underneath him and rolls his hips. Wei Ying's face goes slack, a smile tugging up the corners of his mouth. His eyes are closed. He looks blissed out. He starts to move, slow, small motions at first. Lan Zhan makes a noise at the back of his throat, he can't help it. Wei Ying feels too good. He can't not react, cannot contain what is longing to burst forth.

"Wei Ying…"

Wei Ying's smile grows. He slings his arms around Lan Zhan's neck and continues to move in a slow slide up and down Lan Zhan's cock. "This was a good idea," he says, voice mellow and filled with pleasure. "You have such good ideas about this stuff, Lan Zhan, who--mmm--knew. Well, I knew," he continues, still moving slowly on Lan Zhan's cock, his own erection bouncing against his stomach, "sort of only recently, but--ah, that's good--no one else does." He bites his lip. Lan Zhan can feel how tight a grip he has on Wei Ying's hips, is dimly aware that he should loosen his hold lest he leave bruises, but he cannot make himself. He swallows thickly and allows Wei Ying the room to talk. His voice drips like honey. "Not a single one of our friends knows how good you are in bed, Lan Zhan, and, like, not that it's--mmm--any of their business, but I'm so glad I know." Another slow grind of his hips as he seats himself fully in Lan Zhan's lap. "I'm so fucking glad I know…" He peters out after that, his face looking lost to pleasure, and Lan Zhan finds himself leaning forward and licking a stripe up his neck, tasting his sweat and skin. Wei Ying makes a choked-off sound and shifts just enough to offer himself up more fully.

Lan Zhan loves that Wei Ying loves this. It means that maybe they won't have to stop anytime soon. Every time could be their last, Wei Ying could change his mind at any point, but maybe. Maybe not just yet.

Lan Zhan licks up his jaw line, then kisses his way towards Wei Ying's smiling mouth. He kisses the smile away, brings his head up for a better angle. Wei Ying lets him, kisses him back. They're fucking so slowly, almost languidly, and the need that had been pounding through Lan Zhan before begins to return, bit by bit. The itch that had been somewhat satisfied by the slow pace rears up, demanding to be scratched. Lan Zhan begins to thrust up harder, going deeper, faster. Wei Ying, sensing his impatience, says, "Yeah, fuck, yeah--" and speeds up. They work together to build up a different rhythm now. Wei Ying begins to make those gorgeous, choked off sounds, the kind that go straight through Lan Zhan, and his babbling returns.

"You should really fuck me, Lan Zhan," he says as Lan Zhan runs a hand up his thigh to feel how hard he's working. The shift of muscle beneath his fingers sends him reeling, as do Wei Ying's words. "I like it slow, but fast is good, fast is great."

Lan Zhan grinds up faster, harder, but it's becoming not enough. Wei Ying's words spur him on, sending shivers down his spine. His stomach swoops, arousal reaching its peak. "Wei Ying."

"Yeah," Wei Ying sighs, speeding up. "Harder, Lan Zhan, come on--"

Lan Zhan tries, but still, it's not enough, it's never enough. He grabs Wei Ying's hips and lifts him up and off before all but throwing him down onto the bed and climbing over him. He grabs his thigh and throws it over his own shoulder before lining up and slamming back in. Wei Ying makes a gorgeous, desperate noise. With his pale arms thrown over his head, his eyes shut, and mouth open, he looks incandescent. He looks like everything Lan Zhan has ever wanted. He fucks him fast, now, and hard, as hard as Wei Ying begins to demand--with his mouth and his hips and his whole body. Lan Zhan leans down, bites at the juncture of Wei Ying's shoulder and neck, and Wei Ying comes with a cry, untouched. Lan Zhan stutters in his movements from surprise and from the way Wei Ying has clenched around him. He becomes uncoordinated, chasing his own release in Wei Ying's body with shameless abandon. He doesn't let go of Wei Ying's neck, not even when Wei Ying begins to whine and writhe beneath him, mumbling his name and don't and, then, don't stop.

"Fuck, Lan Zhan, fuck, fuck, that--yes, yes, like that, just like that--"

Lan Zhan comes with Wei Ying's voice in his ear and Wei Ying's arms around his neck. He trembles his way through it, emptying himself out so deep inside Wei Ying, he thinks he might never find his way back.

Once he's come down, panting into Wei Ying's skin, he realizes they've fucked their way to the edge of the bed. Sideways. A little bit more and Wei Ying's head would be hanging off. Lan Zhan makes an incoherent noise but can't bring himself to do anything about it.

Afterwards, once they've separated and righted themselves, once Wei Ying has made a cursory attempt to clean himself up and Lan Zhan has gotten rid of the condom, Wei Ying says, "Well." He's still breathing hard. "Glad we weren't in a hurry tonight."

"Mn." Lan Zhan thinks that, if he smoked, he would need a cigarette right about now. He thinks he understands the impulse. As it is, he stares up at the ceiling, no part of him touching any part of Wei Ying, and attempts to catch his breath.

"Just give me a few minutes and I'll get out of your hair," Wei Ying says.

Lan Zhan frowns. "You are not a bother. Stay as long as you need."

A pause. "Aww, Lan Zhan. You're sweet. I know you're tired and it's time for you to sleep. And I'm wide awake."

Lan Zhan turns his head to look at Wei Ying, but Wei Ying is watching the ceiling. "I'm not that tired," he lies.

Wei Ying huffs out a laugh. "Sure, Mr. I Wake Up At Five Every Morning. You just wrecked me, you must be exhausted." He turns his face and flashes a grin at Lan Zhan. "Thanks for the hard work. That was really good."

Lan Zhan takes in a steadying breath. "It was good for me, as well."

"Well, that works out then." Another quicksilver grin, and then Wei Ying is sitting up with a slight wince. "All right. Time to go."

Lan Zhan watches in silence as Wei Ying finds every article of clothing and begins to dress himself. He babbles about his plans for the weekend, asks Lan Zhan about his. Lan Zhan, who has no particular plans and only vague hopes of possibly spending some time with Wei Ying, merely shrugs.

"You should come shopping with me," Wei Ying tells him. "I'm looking for a present for jiejie and it'll be more fun with you there."

Lan Zhan swallows and says, "All right."

It's the last thing he says to Wei Ying that night, as Wei Ying doesn't let him get up and see him out. "I know the way, Lan Zhan. You just rest." A small hesitation, and then he leans down and gives Lan Zhan a quick kiss on the mouth. "Good night."

Lan Zhan's eyes follow him until he's out of sight.

~*~

Wei Ying and he are not dating. Wei Ying does not wish to date--he has made that abundantly clear. The only words of promise that have been exchanged are, just friends, doing the dirty whenever the mood strikes (Wei Ying), and just friends, then (Lan Zhan).

They're not dating, but sometimes--rarely; but sometimes--it can be easy to forget. It's times like these, when he and Wei Ying are wandering the streets of Caiyi several weeks later, Wei Ying searching for a specific book he does not wish to purchase online and exchanging easy conversation, that it becomes harder to remember that this is just friendship with certain benefits.

Of course, even without the sex, it would be a beneficial friendship--has been, since the first time they met back at university. Sure, at first Wei Ying had befuddled Lan Zhan with his nearly manic energy and bizarre insistence that they do everything together despite only knowing each other a week, but Wei Ying was easy to get lost in. After a while, Lan Zhan lost himself completely.

Now, as Wei Ying tells him about his plans for the new project at work, excitement bubbling out of him like water, Lan Zhan thinks, this is worth it. Wei Ying burns bright and Lan Zhan warms himself on his glow, gets so close, he's liable to burn himself.

"What do you think, Lan Zhan?" Wei Ying is practically skipping.

Lan Zhan says, "I think that it's probably a good idea, even though I don't understand half of the words you just said."

Wei Ying's laugh is high and sudden. "Well, trust me, it's a great idea, and I'm basically a genius."

Lan Zhan fights a smile. "Mn."

"See, I knew you'd agree with me." Wei Ying bumps his shoulder against Lan Zhan's. "Oh, hey, this is the place I told you about! Wanna get some lunch?"

Lan Zhan looks up. Yiling Teahouse looks warm and inviting even from the outside. Wei Ying had mentioned it as the only vegetarian restaurant he would ever consider frequenting after Wen Qing had taken him there.

"Yes."

They sit at a table by the window and Lan Zhan people watches while Wei Ying goes up to order--something he'd insisted on doing in order to surprise Lan Zhan with his lunch. Lan Zhan, who does not particularly enjoy surprises, had allowed this.

His phone vibrates in his pocket and he fishes it out.

Lan Huan: Good afternoon, brother. How are you?

Lan Zhan quickly types out a response. I am well, thank you. And you?

Lan Huan's response comes back fairly quickly. I am well, also. Would you like to have breakfast with Uncle and myself tomorrow?

Lan Zhan quickly agrees, then shoves his phone back in his pocket just as Wei Ying bounds up to the table with two bubble teas in hand and noisily collapses onto his chair. "I think you'll really like this, Lan Zhan." He pushes the yellow bubble tea towards Lan Zhan. "It's mango. Try it."

Lan Zhan does, the sweetness coating his tongue immediately before stopping. He frowns and looks down at the bottom of his plastic cup. Ah, of course. A tapioca bead has entered his straw. He lifts the straw minutely then sucks as hard as he can until it makes its way up and into his mouth. He chews thoughtfully, enjoying the texture of it, before looking up. Wei Ying is watching him with an odd look on his face. "What is it?"

Wei Ying smiles, shaking his head. "Nothing, nothing. You just--that was kind of cute."

Lan Zhan frowns again. "What was?"

"Never mind," Wei Ying laughs and takes a big sip of his own drink. "What do you think?" he asks, nodding towards Lan Zhan's cup.

"It's delicious," Lan Zhan tells him. "Thank you."

The food is good, too--Wei Ying ordered several mild dishes along with one that is red enough to make Lan Zhan wonder how Wei Ying has managed to not develop heartburn yet. Wei Ying talks in between bites, telling Lan Zhan about his nephew ("His cheeks, Lan Zhan, I want to bite them.") and his sister ("She's just the best mom. I always knew she would be.") and his brother ("I know he's annoying, but he's doing really well. I'm proud of him"). Lan Zhan listens, letting the words wash over him like a piece of music.

Sometimes he thinks, I need to tell him. It feels almost clandestine, wrong to know that he is taking advantage of Wei Ying's parameters. They're only friends--but Lan Zhan wants more.

The trouble is, he is too weak to risk losing all of it. Too weak to risk any of it. So he stays silent.

They part afterwards, Lan Zhan needing to return for his first private lesson of the day: a young woman who's fulfilling her childhood dream of learning the piano. Lan Zhan likes her. She's serious and dedicated. Outside the restaurant, Wei Ying looks at him with his head tilted and a smile on his face, looking beautiful in the afternoon sun, and says, "Well, see you, Lan Zhan." In his words there is an implication. It makes Lan Zhan's mouth water in anticipation.

"See you soon, Wei Ying."

As if on impulse, Wei Ying catches Lan Zhan in a quick hug, and then he's gone, crossing the street to where his car is parked. Lan Zhan prefers to walk home, and Wei Ying has stopped pushing the issue. He watches Wei Ying disappear from view, and turns towards home.

He's in the middle of his third lesson when his phone vibrates. Lan Zhan frowns--strange that he forgot to set it to Do Not Disturb. He ignores it--it's just a text, and it can wait--and indicates for his student to continue. He does, running through yet another exercise that Lan Zhan should be tired of, but really isn't. Every exercise sounds different under different hands. This young man makes it sound melodic and somehow efficient.

His phone vibrates again, then stops, then vibrates again. Lan Zhan finds himself irrationally irritated with whoever it is. It’s most likely Wei Ying. Really, it's his own fault for not turning the phone off. "Excuse me." He gets up from the bench and walks towards his phone, ready to silence it, when the name on the text messages arrests him. Jiang Cheng. Lan Zhan frowns and swipes the phone open, aware that he is being unforgivably rude towards his student.

At first, the words don't make sense.

Wei Ying in car accident.

It's bad.

Come to the hospital. 8th floor.

My sister thought you should know.

Then the words sink in and a sort of white noise fills Lan Zhan's head. Wei Ying in car accident. It's bad. The room sways around him--is there a heatwave?--then rights itself. Something clatters to the floor. Lan Zhan looks at his empty hands and thinks, oh. The music stops.

"Lan-laoshi? Is everything all right?"

Lan Zhan should respond. He doesn't know how. Get a hold of yourself says a voice in his head. Snap out of it.

Slowly, like swimming through seaweed, Lan Zhan begins to resurface. The world comes back in a rush of traffic noise and his own harsh breathing. "Duyi," he says, then makes sure his face is set to neutral as he turns back towards his student. "I apologize. We have to cut our lesson short. No need for payment. I will see you next week."

"Oh, uh." Duyi licks his lips and nods, then gets up awkwardly. "I hope everything is all right, Lan-laoshi. I'll see you next week."

Then Lan Zhan is alone in his own apartment. His brain comes back fully online and he grabs his car keys, shoves his feet into his shoes, and runs out.

He doesn't remember the ride over to the hospital. He gets stopped by hospital security on his way to the elevators. "Excuse me, sir? You have to sign in. I need to see some ID."

"I have--"

"All visitors have to sign in, sir. You can't go up without a pass."

Lan Zhan's throat dry-clicks. In a daze, he extracts his ID and hands it to the security guard behind the desk. Just as silently, he accepts it back, then listens to the whir of the printer as it coughs up his pass. "Here you go, sir."

Lan Zhan accepts his visitor's pass and mindlessly attaches it to his shirt. Then his feet take him to the elevator.

There are too many people on the elevator with him. He looks up at the number display and tries to count his own breaths.

The doors ding open on the eighth floor and Lan Zhan fights his way to the exit, the air cooling his skin as soon as he's out. Surgical Unit.

Surgical Unit. Wei Ying is--Lan Zhan looks at the arrows helplessly. Finally, two words--Waiting Room--swim into awareness. He follows the arrow down the hall.

Through the glass door he sees them--Jiang Yanli, Jiang Cheng. An older couple he knows to be Wei Ying's adoptive parents. Lan Zhan hasn't seen them in a while. There's nobody else. He realizes he'd been expecting to see Wei Ying.

He shuts his eyes for a moment, then pushes through the doorway. Jiang Yanli whips around and sees him. Her face is red, her eyes puffy. She all but runs towards him and then he's got an armful of Wei Ying's sister crying against his chest.

"Lan Zhan, I'm sorry," she says, her voice thick and wet. "I'm sorry, I just…"

He pats her on the back stiffly, his mind strangely empty. Wei Ying isn't here. Wei Ying is in the Surgical Unit. Wei Ying has been in a car accident. Wei Ying could die.

Lan Zhan's gaze lands on Jiang Cheng, who looks pale and angry--neither of which is a new look on him--and they make eye contact. Jiang Cheng clenches his jaw, nods at Lan Zhan. Then he turns away. Neither Jiang Fengmian nor Madam Yu pay him any attention, their heads bent towards each other, hands twisted together.

"God, I'm sorry, Lan Zhan, I'm so sorry." Jiang Yanli sniffs and pulls away. His shirt is wet where her eyes had been. She wipes fruitlessly at her face, then looks up at him with a tremulous smile. "I just. I knew you should be here." She sniffs, then says, "I should tell you what happened."

It isn't complicated. A drunk driver blew a red light and t-boned Wei Ying's car on the driver's side. Wei Ying's car got slammed against a pole. Nobody else was hurt. The other driver walked away with cuts and bruises.

"They're working on him now, but we have no idea how long it will be. They--they haven't told us exactly how bad it is." She runs a hand over her face. "But we know it's bad. He--it's bad, Lan Zhan. They told us he punctured a lung."

Lan Zhan becomes aware of a tightness in his chest. Oh. He should probably try to breathe. He marshals every single technique he’s learned through the years. He pictures a balloon expanding and retracting in his stomach. He does his best. He breathes. "I see."

"I...I should go to my mother."

Lan Zhan looks up to where Madam Yu is sitting next to her husband, her hand clenched around his, pale as a sheet. He experiences the strangest sense of resentment. You don't get to feel this way. He chides himself. He knows that isn't fair.

Wei Ying has been in a car accident. Lan Zhan doesn't feel like being fair.

Jiang Yanli squeezes his lifeless hand, then walks away. Lan Zhan sits down where he was standing. He looks down at his shoes. He only looks up when another pair of feet enters his vision. He meets Jiang Cheng's eyes. Then his vision zooms out and he notices that Jiang Cheng is holding a cup of steaming tea. "Here. You look like you need it."

Absently, Lan Zhan takes it and thanks him. When Jiang Cheng doesn't leave, he looks at him with a question in his eyes.

"You were with him before, weren't you?" Jiang Cheng asks. It isn't said as a challenge, but Lan Zhan hears one, anyway. "You're lucky you weren't in the car with him."

Lan Zhan doesn't feel particularly lucky. He thinks back to the early afternoon. To Wei Ying's sun-dappled smile as he bid him goodbye. See you, Lan Zhan.

He forces himself to breathe.

"Mn."

He doesn't have to look at Jiang Cheng to know that he's scowling. "Idiot," he mutters.

Lan Zhan stiffens.

"I know, I know. He's not at fault. That's what the cops said the people who saw the accident told them." A pause. "A drunk driver." Jiang Cheng curses, then abruptly stands up and stalks out of the waiting room.

Lan Zhan wants to follow him, if only to escape this sterile room with its rows of hospital chairs, its wall-mounted television set to a children's program, and its distressed occupants.

He remembers he still has two more lessons lined up for the afternoon. He texts his students to cancel. I apologize. We will meet next week.

Next week. He has no idea what will be happening next week. He has no idea how he's going to get through today.

On hospital tea and fumes, it turns out. Wei Ying is in surgery for hours. In that time, Wen Qing unexpectedly walks in in her scrubs and lab coat. That's right, he thinks. She is a resident at this hospital. He watches her make her way to Jiang Yanli and take her by the shoulders. She doesn't cry, but he can see the tight clench of her jaw. He wonders if she knows anything.

She doesn't, but she promises to find out.

When Lan Zhan goes for a walk around the hospital just to have something to do, he is surprised to find that it's grown dark outside. He looks at his watch. It's eight pm. It occurs to him that if Wei Ying had been in the mood, he would have been at Lan Zhan's already.

Lan Zhan has done his best not to think ahead, but it's impossible not to think in parallel.

I would have been kissing him comes to mind as he puts one foot in front of the other. He might have been laughing.

He makes his way back to the waiting room, unable to bear missing any news that might come in. When he returns, there is no news. Wen Qing is gone, as are Wei Ying's parents.

"They went to the cafeteria," Jiang Yanli explains. "Dad thought they should try to eat."

"And you?"

"Not hungry." She's got her hand over her stomach. It occurs to Lan Zhan that Jin Zixuan isn't here. He must be with their child. As if reading his mind, she says, "I will have to go home soon. Zixuan has been holding down the fort."

Lan Zhan nods. He's going nowhere. His home will only be filled with ghosts.

"I had A-Cheng tell everyone what happened. Would you...if I'm not here when they come back to tell us, will you call me?"

Lan Zhan wonders why she doesn't ask her brother or her parents. He agrees.

"Thank you." Her face is pale now, her eyes still puffy and red. She sounds distracted when she says, "You were with him before, weren't you?"

Throat constricted, Lan Zhan nods.

"It's lucky you weren't in the car with him."

~*~

The surgeon comes through a different door than Lan Zhan expects. Lan Zhan's first instinct is to get up, which he does, and then run towards him, which he doesn't. He allows the family to gather around the doctor first, then makes his slow way towards them. He's standing behind everyone when he hears that Wei Ying will be in recovery for quite some time. The surgery to save his lungs was successful, but it's impossible to tell anything else until he wakes up. If he wakes up.

Lan Zhan should go home. There's nothing he can do here, and visiting hours are long over. The family are told they have to wait until he's in the ICU to be able to see him. Lan Zhan isn't family.

Jiang Yanli turns to him after the doctor leaves and the family begin to pick up their belongings. "Lan Zhan, I…"

Lan Zhan's back teeth ache and he makes it a point of relaxing his jaw.

She says, "I'm not sure if--"

"Will you allow me to come back in the morning?"

She breathes out what is clearly a sigh of relief. Then she gives him a small smile. "Yes. Absolutely. I'll get your number from Jiang Cheng."

It occurs to Lan Zhan that he has no idea where any of Wei Ying's things are. Not that he needs to. Not that it matters.

"Thank you." He gives a small bow, then leaves without saying goodbye to anybody else.

The drive home is automatic. His apartment is predictably dark and quiet when he enters, and he doesn't turn on any lights as he goes to the bathroom, undresses, and takes a shower in the dark. It's cold and it feels good. He's felt like he's been running a fever for the last few hours. He allows the water to beat down on his downturned neck as he braces his hands on the tiles. He loses track of time. His head is filled with images he can't turn off and can't escape. Wei Ying's car, twisted metal and shattered glass, with Wei Ying still inside, unconscious. His mind supplies him with thought after thought: what went through Wei Ying's mind as it happened; did he scream or did he clench his teeth; Is Wei Ying awake yet; will he wake up.

Lan Zhan turns the shower off, steps out gingerly, then reaches for where he knows the towel to be. He dries off. He goes to check on the rabbits, who are both asleep, leaning against one another. Wei Ying always liked that ("I think they're in love," he declared once. "Bunny love.") and would watch them for minutes at a time with a small smile on his face.

Lan Zhan goes into the kitchen to get a drink of water. He drinks three glasses, one after another. His stomach growls--he never had dinner--but he ignores it.

It's bedtime. He goes to the bathroom, he pees, he brushes his teeth. He doesn't bother putting on pajamas and slides into bed naked. When he turns his head, Wei Ying's scent surrounds him. Lan Zhan takes a pillow, pulls it towards himself, and wraps his arms around it. He shuts his eyes.

He doesn't sleep.

~*~

Lan Zhan wakes up disoriented, and for one blissful moment, he's forgotten. Then it all comes slamming back in and he gasps as he throws himself out of bed, as if being chased. What time is it? He looks at the bedside clock. Six o’clock.

He's overslept, but it's Sunday. He wonders if it's too early to go back to the hospital. He wonders if it's too early to call Jiang Yanli. He wonders if he's allowed.

Lan Zhan forces himself to breathe and think. He has to get ready first, so he goes through the motions--quick shower; brushing his teeth; picking out his clothes for the day. He feeds the rabbits, watching them munch on their lettuce with vigor, then makes himself a cup of tea. He forces himself to make and eat congee, because it's the right thing to do. He burns the congee and underbrews the tea, then consumes both without tasting a thing.

Then he looks at his phone. He has multiple texts from multiple people. He swipes it open and looks at the texts under a number he doesn't recognize first.

He's in the ICU but not awake

Then, under a different timestamp: Come at seven, I will bring you up

Lan Zhan takes a shaky breath, then glances at the time displayed on his screen. Six forty. Good.

He goes through the rest of the texts.

Nie Huaisang: Lan Zhan, I heard what happened. Let me know what I can do.

Lan Zhan frowns. What could Nie Huaisang possibly do that the doctors cannot? He supposes this is his way of saying he is sorry. He wonders why Nie Huaisang reached out to him at all.

Luo Qingyang: we're here for whatever you need, Lan Zhan.

Wen Qing: he's in the ICU, I'm visiting as much as I can. If you have trouble getting past security, just text me. No change in status.

It's the last one that makes Lan Zhan move. He dumps his burnt pot, cup of tea, and bowl into the sink, splashes some dish soap into the pot and runs water over it. Then he checks on the rabbits one more time, grabs his keys and jacket, and spends several frustrating seconds shoving his feet into his shoes. He leaves.

He's at the hospital at seven ten, holding two cups of tea to go, and when he looks around, he spots a small figure huddled on a bench across from him. As he watches, she unfolds herself and hurries towards him: Jiang Yanli. She's got dark bags under her eyes, her face looking pinched. He wonders if she managed to sleep at all the night before.

"Lan Zhan, I'm glad you're here." She must see something on his face, because she hurries on, "There's been no change, but he's stable." He thinks there's more to it, but she doesn't elaborate and his throat closes up, so he doesn't ask. He silently hands her one of the cups of tea. "Oh, thank you. That's so thoughtful. Come, I'll take you up."

It's the fifth floor this time, and there's nobody in the elevator but the two of them. Lan Zhan has known Jiang Yanli for nearly as long as he's known Wei Ying, but they have only ever been friendly and civil. He even attended her wedding, wondering the entire time why Wei Ying brought him instead of a real date. Wei Ying had been dating someone at the time, in fact, but he had waved his hand around and said, "We're casual. This would be too weird." Lan Zhan hadn't wanted to question it further.

He has never known Jiang Yanli to be ill, but that's how she looks now. Ill and older, a line sitting between her eyebrows that won't disappear. He wonders what he looks like.

"I'm glad you're here," she repeats abruptly, breaking the silence between them. "When he wakes up, he will--he will be happy to see you."

The elevator doors open, thus precluding him from responding. She walks out with purpose, taking a sharp left. Lan Zhan follows. He looks at his shaking cup and frowns, then clenches his hand around it. It stops shaking.

The hospital smell here is somehow sharper than it had been on the eighth floor. Sterile, bitter, with a slight aftertaste of watery coffee. They walk past the nurses' station, past glass walls with occupied hospital beds on display behind them. Lan Zhan makes sure not to look. It's not for him to see.

Then they round another corner and there, in a room directly ahead, he sees a dark figure hunched over itself in a chair holding a small cup in his hands. Jiang Cheng. There's nobody else in the room besides…

"Lan Zhan?" Jiang Yanli turns around. "Are you all right?"

Lan Zhan swallows, then meets her gaze. "Mn?"

Jiang Yanli is frowning. Then she steps towards him and--Lan Zhan's breath hitches--takes his hand. She looks at him with too much kindness in her eyes. "It's all right. Let's go in."

Lan Zhan nods shakily, hating himself for trembling, and she doesn't let go of his hand as she leads him towards the open door. He doesn't look up until they're in the room.

For a moment, Lan Zhan does not recognize Wei Ying. His head is wrapped up so no hair is visible. He's on a ventilator. He's hooked up to a million sensors, wires and cords running out of his chest as if he is a cyborg. The only recognizable feature Lan Zhan can see are his hands, lying still on top of the blanket. One of them is hooked up to an IV drip. Lan Zhan can't look away.

He forces himself to look back at Wei Ying's face. It's a ridiculous thing, the hope he had nursed that it had all been one big mistake. That it hadn't been Wei Ying at all, that someone somewhere had messed up.

Wei Ying's eyes are closed, and there's a cut across one eyebrow with a butterfly bandage over it. His forehead is dotted with tiny cuts that were probably too small to bother with.

Lan Zhan becomes aware of his tongue sticking to the roof of his mouth. He makes it a point of relaxing his jaw, then takes a long, deep breath. Jiang Yanli is still holding his hand.

"Morning." It's a croak more than anything else.

Lan Zhan looks at Jiang Cheng and says, "Good morning, Jiang Cheng." His voice comes out even. It's the first thing he's said all day.

"I don't know why you want to be here," Jiang Cheng goes on, sliding his gaze away. "They're saying it may be a long fucking time till he wakes up." Then, quieter, "My parents aren't even here yet."

"A-Cheng." There's a steely note to Jiang Yanli's voice that Lan Zhan has never heard before.

"I do not have to wait here," Lan Zhan suggests. There's a hollow space beneath his ribs. He can't remember what occupied it before.

"No. You are welcome to wait with us," Jiang Yanli says, and finally lets go of his hand. She walks over to Jiang Cheng and Jiang Cheng turns his head and buries his face in her stomach. Lan Zhan quickly looks away, but the only other thing to see in this room is Wei Ying.

Wei Ying.

Was it only yesterday that Lan Zhan had sat across from him and ate his lunch? It was three nights ago that Lan Zhan had his cock in Wei Ying's mouth, hand gentle as he played with his hair.

What is Lan Zhan doing here?

"I'm sorry." An unfamiliar voice. Lan Zhan whips around. A nurse is watching them with unbearable kindness. "Only two people are allowed in this room at a time."

"I'll go." Lan Zhan doesn't look back at the Jiang siblings as he follows the nurse out. She leads him towards a smaller waiting room, offering him tea like it's penance. He refuses with a thank you. She leaves him alone.

Lan Zhan sits down, stretches out his legs and thumps his head against the wall. He should leave. There's no sense in him being here. It won't bring Wei Ying back to the surface any quicker. Lan Zhan isn't family. He should let them have their privacy.

The door opens and he looks up. Wen Qing enters, a determined look on her face, and heads straight for him. Out of her pocket, she produces a granola bar and tosses it into Lan Zhan's lap. "I'm guessing you've probably had breakfast, but just in case."

Lan Zhan thanks her, bewildered. She sits down next to him, then takes a deep breath, and says, "How are you holding up?"

"I'm fine."

She narrows her eyes and pinches her mouth. "Okay. Sure." A pause. "His leg was a clean break. It should heal fine." Then she sighs and leans her head against the wall. "We have to think that he will come out of it."

Lan Zhan shuts his eyes. "Yes."

"But there are no guarantees."

Lan Zhan opens his eyes, and he looks straight ahead at the door. In the narrow window, he sees nursing bustling. He must make some sort of a noise, because Wen Qing continues. "I'm a doctor, I can't make promises. I know too much."

"Mn."

"You don't have to be okay, you know. I'm worried, and I'm not even dating him."

Lan Zhan freezes. He opens his mouth to contradict her, but all that comes is a croak. He clears his throat, then tries again. "We are not...dating. We are...friends." It's as if there's a fishbone stuck at the back of his throat, scraping it raw.

He feels her gaze turn towards him. "But you are sleeping together, aren't you?"

Lan Zhan swallows.

"I know him, Lan Zhan. I know when he's getting regular sex, and I know him well enough to know there are no other candidates but you." She pauses, then continues, "I know this because I used to be you."

A high-pitched noise starts emanating from somewhere and it pierces Lan Zhan's skull. He tries to take a deep breath. The first thing out of his mouth once he's gathered his senses is, "How long?"

"A couple of months, about a year ago. Then I met someone else."

"I see." He clears his throat. "I...did not know."

"That's because, contrary to what others may think," she says, her voice sharp, "Wei Ying is very discreet."

Something whines inside his chest. It fills his veins with ice, then shudders through him in a wave of heat. "Yes," he says.

There's a long pause, and Lan Zhan wonders when he can be alone again. Wen Qing says, "I'm here if you need anything. I basically live at the hospital, so as soon as I know something, you will, too."

Lan Zhan shuts his eyes. "Thank you."

He hears a rustling, and when he opens his eyes, she's standing up. "I have to go. You have my number." Her voice sounds more gentle than he's ever heard it. He isn't sure he likes it.

"Thank you again."

For a second, she stands still, then she reaches out, touches his shoulder briefly, turns around, and walks out.

Lan Zhan lets out a long shuddering breath.

~*~

He doesn't know how long he has been sitting there when his phone rings. It's Lan Huan.

Oh.

"Brother," he says as he picks up.

"Zhan-er, where are you? Is everything all right? Uncle is concerned."

Lan Zhan's throat closes up. He swallows deliberately. The phone is slippery in his hand. "I am at the hospital--"

"The hospital?"

"I am all right. Wei--" He clears his throat. "Wei Ying was in a car accident yesterday afternoon. He is--he is in a coma."

There's a silence on the other end of the line. Then, "Oh, Lan Zhan."

There's far too much understanding in his brother's voice, and Lan Zhan finds himself irrationally annoyed. He does his best to tamp it down, but why is everybody concerned for him? They should be concerned for Wei Ying. "I am sorry I cannot join you for breakfast."

"Of course." Another silence that Lan Zhan breathes through. "What...what have the doctors said?"

Lan Zhan doesn't actually know the details. Perhaps, since he's been sitting here, something has changed and he has not been informed. Then he remembers Wen Qing's words. "The outcome is unknown. He is...stable, however." He thinks back to the previous day, lining information up in his mind. "He has broken ribs and a broken leg. He needed an operation to repair his lungs." He looks like he's sleeping. He looks too pale.

His brother makes a noise, but doesn't say anything further.

"I…" Lan Zhan sighs, then says, "I am superfluous here. Perhaps I should go home."

"Would that help?"

Lan Zhan squeezes his eyes shut and runs his hand over his face. "I don't know. I don't know what would help."

"Shall I come over?"

Lan Zhan considers it briefly. All he can picture is the two of them sitting across from one another, his brother's face too knowing and too kind. "It is all right. I will manage."

Another silence, longer this time. Lan Zhan thinks he knows what his brother looks like right now. Then he hears their uncle's voice rumble indistinctly. "Zhan-er, I should go and inform Uncle. I will speak to you soon." There is a pause. "Please call me anytime."

"I will," he says, uncertain that it is the truth. Then he hangs up.

~*~

Jiang Yanli finds him in the waiting room shortly after. She walks in silently, making no noise at all, and her eyes are kind. "There's been no change. My parents are here for a bit, so I was going to go for a walk. Join me?"

And, just like with Wei Ying, Lan Zhan finds that he cannot say no to her.

It's another beautiful sunny day. They walk around the hospital building in silence, finding a nice garden in the back, and Jiang Yanli pulls him down to one of the benches to sit under the shade of a magnolia tree. Lan Zhan wonders who they make the garden so beautiful for--those who can't leave the hospital because they're recovering, or those who are waiting for them?

"The doctor visited this morning," she says in her gentle voice. "Wei Ying is stable, but…" She sniffs and turns away, blinking rapidly. "But he's still not awake. The good news is, is…" Another pause. She swallows audibly, then turns back to Lan Zhan. He experiences the strangest desire to wipe her tears. He squeezes his hand over his knee. "There's...he's got...ugh, the brain activity is...there. He's."

"He isn't gone." His voice comes out hoarse.

She shakes her head. "Right."

They sit in silence after that. Lan Zhan notices her wedding ring as she squeezes a crumpled tissue in her hand. It's beautiful--elegant and understated. Wei Ying must have gotten to him, because Lan Zhan thinks, despite the Jins being ostentatious peacocks. He feels his lips twitching. Wei Ying would be proud. Abruptly, he doesn't feel like laughing.

She turns to him quickly and says, "Please forgive A-Cheng his rudeness."

Lan Zhan, who hasn't thought of Jiang Cheng since he saw him, says, "There's nothing to forgive. I understand."

"He and Wei Ying, they...they love each other, and it's hard for A-Cheng to always be compared to his brother. But he loves him. He's very worried."

Lan Zhan realizes that she's watching him and waiting for a reaction. Not everybody can read his silences the way Wei Ying can. He says, "I understand. Please, do not worry yourself. I didn't take offense. Wei Ying is his brother." His traitorous voice breaks on Wei Ying's name. "Of course he is concerned. I will...stay out of the way."

"No!" Her eyes open wide. "No, don't--don't do that. We'll take turns, it will work. Besides, I will have to go home sooner or later. Zixuan is home today, but he has to return to work tomorrow."

So does Lan Zhan. He feels like he cannot breathe. He hates the hospital, but he hates the idea of not being here more. "Mn."

"Will you stay today?" she asks, and it's a plea. For the life of him, Lan Zhan cannot understand why she would want him here.

"Of course," he says, glad to have the decision taken out of his hands for once.

They return just as the Jiangs are leaving Wei Ying's rooms. Madam Yu gives him a curt nod, while Jiang Fengmian makes a sympathetic sort of face. "We're going to the cafeteria," he tells his daughter. "A-Cheng is already down there." He pauses in the hallway, then moves his gaze to Lan Zhan. "Take your time."

Lan Zhan and Jiang Yanli sit side by side on the two available chairs. The waiting room had been depressing, but this might be worse. Lan Zhan can't decide. The machines beep steadily, the monitor displaying everything that's going on inside of Wei Ying. Apart from one thing, and no monitor can tell him that. He realizes he is a cliche as he wonders what Wei Ying is dreaming about; if he's dreaming at all.

"I keep thinking of how scared he would have been," Jiang Yanli whispers, and then when Lan Zhan looks at her, blushes and drops her face. "It's silly, but I can't get it out of my mind. He's a grown man, I know, but I've known him since he was six."

Lan Zhan wants to know everything. He wants to say, what was he like as a child? and do you have pictures? Tell me stories about him. He feels unaccountably hungry for it. What a strange desire to have.

Instead of saying any of that, he nods.

It is a long day. He stays until the Jiangs return, then promptly goes back to his spot in the waiting room. Wen Qing finds him there once more, ducking her head in and shaking it at his silent question. He reads on his phone. He's almost at the end of the book when Jiang Yanli finds him and gently lets him know it's time to go--visiting hours are over.

Lan Zhan goes home. He sits on the floor in front of the open cage and lets his rabbits crawl all over him, nipping at his fingers. Wei Ying had named them. They're Double and Trouble, and for a while, Wei Ying himself could not figure out which one was which. It was a collective name, until Lan Zhan resolutely decided that the black one was Double and the white one was Trouble.

Right now, Trouble crawls onto his open palm and promptly falls asleep. Double hops up onto his knee and settles in. Lan Zhan is immobilized, so he sits there, allowing himself to enjoy their softness. After a while, his back begins to protest and he gently resettles them into the cage, shutting it soundlessly. They lean on each other as they continue to sleep.

He makes himself dinner and can barely remember what it was he had eaten. He gets himself ready for the day ahead--packs his briefcase with the new music he will be teaching, his notebooks, his gradebook because he prefers paper to digital. He sits at the piano and plucks out random notes, listening to the way they reverberate in his quiet apartment. Then he plays. He's barely paying attention to what he is playing, only half-listening. His fingers are doing the work for him, a mindless exercise that settles him. Once done, he closes the piano and gets ready for bed.

~*~


Jiang Yanli:
no change this morning. I will keep you informed, Lan Zhan.

Lan Zhan rereads the text several times for no good reason at all. Thank you, I would appreciate that. Her kindness threatens to undo the careful work he has done of compartmentalizing as he had driven in to work. He breathes, then adds, I will be there in the afternoon.

Her response comes just as he's about to head to his first class of the day. Wonderful. I will see you then.

Lan Zhan manages to abstract himself as he works. He wrangles his students into silence despite it being their first class of the day and everybody wanting to babble and catch up. He stands as he explains basic time signatures and wonders if anybody is actually paying attention to him. He finds that he does not care.

There is no orchestra on Mondays, and he gets out of a staff outing by explaining that he has a family situation to see to, and knows that nobody believes him. Then he drives directly to the hospital.

Jiang Yanli meets him outside of Wei Ying's room, and the first thing she does is shake her head. No change. Lan Zhan nods in understanding.

She's holding a child in her arms--Wei Ying's nephew. He does, in fact, have huge cheeks which hang down towards his round shoulders as though filled with sand. Lan Zhan understands that the proper etiquette would be to coo over the child, but all of his reserves are going towards standing upright in the face of bitter disappointment. He realizes that he had been hoping.

"I'm taking Jin Ling outside--so much hospital isn't good for him. Would you join us? I'll wait here."

She's letting him look in on Wei Ying. Despite knowing there will be no change, Lan Zhan does.

Wei Ying is still laid out on the bed covered in various trappings. His cuts stand out prominently against his pale skin. He has a bruise on the side of his forehead that Lan Zhan had somehow missed the day before. It's dark purple, livid. Lan Zhan can't look away. Absurdly, he thinks that maybe the bruise is a good sign. Wei Ying's body is working to save him. Maybe Wei Ying is fighting.

He doesn't look like he's fighting.

Lan Zhan turns away and walks out. "Shall we?"

They end up in the garden again, Jin Ling strapped into his stroller, mouthing soundlessly and drooling as he watches a toy attached to the roof of his stroller. Jiang Yanli looks at him indulgently, then turns to Lan Zhan. "I think I remember when A-Cheng was this age, but maybe it's just that I've seen pictures."

Lan Zhan, understanding that he is expected to compliment the baby, thinks back to all the times Wei Ying had gushed at him. "He is very cute," he says in a wooden voice. "Big cheeks."

Jiang Yanli gives him an amused look and nods. "Yes. Those are a family trait. I had them, too."

It's hard to imagine slim and delicate Jiang Yanli with cheeks that size, but Lan Zhan nods.

"How was your day?" She sounds tentative, like she is uncertain if she is allowed to ask.

Lan Zhan, who isn't sure how much honesty she is looking for, says, "It was fine."

"I took the next few days off," she tells him. Lan Zhan, relieved he isn't asked for more, listens. "I just can't imagine being at work right now. I just know I wouldn't be able to concentrate, you know?"

Lan Zhan nods.

"Oh, but! I didn't mean to imply that you-- that is--"

Lan Zhan shakes his head. "You didn't. I find that I am...able to separate myself." A reprieve of sorts. "I have been, since I was a child." He wonders why he said that.

She tilts her head. "Really? As a child?"

Lan Zhan nods. "Mn. I…" Oh. Is he about to talk about it? "I lost my mother when I was very young. Then I lost my father." He clears his throat. Mercifully, she doesn't interrupt or even change her expression. "It became second nature to push certain things to the back of my mind." He realizes he has never articulated this out loud, to anyone. Not even to Lan Huan.

"I'm sorry, Lan Zhan," she says. Then she takes her hand and fits it over his, squeezing. "This...this must be extra hard for you, then."

He feels himself flinch. Wei Ying has not yet been lost. All he can say is, "Mn."

They don't talk after that, but he realizes it feels good to have someone there. Someone who loves Wei Ying just as much. Someone who, to a certain extent, understands.

Of course, nobody fully knows what Wei Ying means to Lan Zhan. Not even Wei Ying. And Wei Ying is currently...indisposed. Lan Zhan clears his throat. "Shall we?"

Jiang Yanli nods and they walk back to the hospital accompanied by Jin Ling's cooing.

~*~

It becomes a routine of sorts. Every morning, he will get the same report from Jiang Yanli--"No change"--and get ready for work. He will teach, throwing himself into music and his students. Then, every other day, he will lead the orchestra in rehearsal. The wind section needs more help than most, and he makes them stay afterwards and practice.

After that, he drives to the hospital. Jiang Yanli isn't always there, and on those days, Lan Zhan finds himself sharing Wei Ying's room with Jiang Cheng. They do not talk.

Wei Ying is moved out of the ICU to make room, and more than two people can now sit in his room and wait.

Five days in, he does not wake up.

Lan Zhan goes home, sits down at the piano, and begins to compose. He doesn't make a conscious decision to. Instead, it's a flow of a melody that he has not heard before escaping his fingers.

At first, it's a simple tune, tinkled out with one hand. The next night, it grows into something more. With each day that Wei Ying does not wake up, Lan Zhan adds to the music. He begins to think in bargains: if he wakes up, I will finish the song and play it for him.

If he wakes up, I will take on that committee at work.

If he wakes up, I will tell him that I love him.

He stops, fingers pausing over the keyboard. He swallows. A regret so deep, it feels borne of his bones, takes over.

Because, the truth is, Wei Ying may never wake up. It has been given to them as a possibility by a team of doctors. It is unclear what is preventing him from regaining consciousness. And if he never wakes up…

Lan Zhan slams the lid of the piano. The noise echoes in the quiet room.

He goes to bed.

~*~

It's day nine, and Lan Zhan is rounding the corner with two cups of tea--one for Jiang Yanli, one for himself--when he hears his own name spoken. He stops. He was raised not to eavesdrop, but he's frozen to the spot. Despite himself, he listens.

"--Zhan is here every day?" Nie Huaisang. He has been by a couple of times and brought not only flowers but also a bottle of wine. When they had looked at him, he had simply shrugged and said, "It's what I can do."

"Yep, like clockwork." Wen Qing.

"Soooo...are we not supposed to know about the two of them? 'Cause I gotta tell you…"

A pause, and then Wen Qing's wry voice says, "I have no idea what you're talking about."

A huff of laughter from Nie Huaisang. "All right. Keep it to yourself, then."

Lan Zhan can hear his heart beating in his chest. He waits a second, then two. Then he makes himself move and turns the corner. Wen Qing notices him first.

"Lan Zhan!" She says it a bit too loudly.

"Wen Qing. Nie Huaisang."

"Lan Zhan." Nie Huaisang gives him a nod, the tips of his ears going slightly pink.

An awkward silence ensues. Lan Zhan, never one to break such pauses, waits. Finally, Wen Qing laughs and says, "It's good to see you, Lan Zhan. How are you?"

"I am fine." This has been his answer for the past week and a half. He is fine. He is, as his brother says, coping--whatever that means. For the past week and a half, his life has narrowed down to work and hospital, hospital and work. Every morning, he viciously stamps out any hopeful anticipation he may have before Jiang Yanli's text comes through--No change--and every day he makes himself eat, and drink, and go to work. His teaching doesn't suffer. Nobody at work notices anything, which means he is doing a good job hiding. Then he goes to the hospital where, apparently, people are noticing, but Lan Zhan--Lan Zhan has stopped caring.

He knows what this looks like. He understands that his pathetic need to be close to Wei Ying no matter what is like a beacon. He is fine with that. He knows that it is of no use hiding. If only there was anything to hide.

He nods at Wen Qing and Nie Huaisang before walking into Wei Ying's room and offering Jiang Yanli her tea, which she takes with a wan smile. "Thank you, Lan Zhan." She takes a cautious sip. "How were your kids today?"

Lan Zhan tells her about work. He tells her about the first violin, whose work is so impressive that she's being scouted by the city orchestra for an internship. He tells her about the second violin, whose talent is raw and obvious but who would rather joke around and play games than practice.

She laughs. "He sounds like Wei Ying. He played the flute in school, you know."

Lan Zhan nods. He knows.

"He was always getting into trouble for talking. My mother...well." Jiang Yanli lowers her eyes and fidgets with the hem of her skirt. "She was never very happy about that, of course. He would get in trouble at school, and then again at home."

Lan Zhan sets his jaw. He knows that it's irrational--it makes sense that Wei Ying would get in trouble for talking. It's practically inevitable. However, he can well imagine what sorts of things Madam Yu might have said to Wei Ying on such occasions.

"He was irrepressible, though," Jiang Yanli goes on, lips tilting in a smile. "You know our Wei Ying. Never down for long." Her voice breaks on the last word and she turns away from him, clutching a crumpled tissue to her mouth.

Lan Zhan thinks he might be sick. He bends with the force of it, attempting to breathe. Next to them, Wei Ying continues to sleep to the beeping of the monitors.

~*~

It's day thirteen. Jiang Yanli and her parents have been and gone. Jiang Cheng has not been by for two days. It's past visiting hours, but the evening nurse knows Lan Zhan by now and doesn't say anything when he simply ignores the time and stays.

Thirteen days without Wei Ying. Thirteen days of waking up hopeful despite himself, thirteen days of the same texts. No change. Thirteen days of spending time with Wei Ying's family in tense silences or largely silent walks. The last one is always with Jiang Yanli. Sometimes her husband and son join. Sometimes it's just the two of them.

Thirteen days of enduring his own brother's kind, inquiring phone calls; thirteen days of losing himself in his job for hours, only to emerge to no news, see you soon.

Thirteen days and twelve nights without Wei Ying.

It is a persistent whine in his chest, this emptiness, like a whistling of the wind through a crack in the door. Lan Zhan sits and watches Wei Ying in the semi-dark of his room, and he begins to talk.

"Wei Ying," he says, and takes his hand. "Wei Ying, wake up." He takes a deep breath, lets it out. "You have to wake up. I--we need you. Your sister needs you. Your...your brother, your friends." He squeezes his eyes shut, tries to stop himself, but he can't, there's no more stopping this tide. "I need you, Wei Ying. I need you here, with me. I can't do this without you." Life has lost all color. It's lost wry smiles and bright, laughing eyes. "Come back to me, sweetheart," he whispers and squeezes Wei Ying's warm, pliant hand. "Come back to me." And then, "I love you."

Lan Zhan bends until his forehead is resting on Wei Ying's hand. He sits there in the semi-dark listening to the beating of his heart and the beeping of Wei Ying's, and he begs, because he's got nothing left to lose.

~*~

The next day, Lan Zhan walks down the corridor to Wei Ying's room, takes a step inside, and freezes. There are too many people clustered around Wei Ying's bed, a mixture of doctors and family, and he can hear crying. Lan Zhan thinks he can feel it when his heart stops.

No.

No, no, no.

He had begged for change, but this isn't what he had meant. Please, no. His knees nearly give out. Not like this, I can't lose him like this. He isn't ready.

And then, the crowd parts--he thinks he sees Wen Qing's and Jiang Yanli's faces--and he's looking into Wei Ying's eyes. And Wei Ying is looking back.

Lan Zhan can't move. He can't feel his hands. He's frozen to the spot. Everything narrows down to Wei Ying's face--which, Lan Zhan notices sort of absently, is devoid of any tubes--and then, like the clouds parting, Wei Ying smiles. It's soft, tremulous, ephemeral, but it's there, and it's directed at Lan Zhan.

"Lan Zhan!" Jiang Yanli. She bounds over to him and grabs his hands. He has no choice but to look down at her beaming, crying face. "I'm sorry I didn't text, but I thought maybe a text...a text wouldn't be enough." He looks at the face that has become as familiar to him as his own, and he nods. "He's back," she says, and again, all he can manage is a nod. He thinks he might be trembling.

"Lan Zhan." Wei Ying. Lan Zhan's head snaps up. Wei Ying sounds hoarse, thready. "Lan Zhan, come here."

Lan Zhan moves swiftly to his bedside, not taking his eyes off of Wei Ying's face. Wei Ying has bags under his eyes; he is still pale. The bruise from the accident has faded, the cuts have nearly healed. Lan Zhan wants to push Wei Ying's hair back, just to feel how warm he is, but stops himself. He is surrounded by Wei Ying's family and his heart has been displayed enough for one lifetime.

"Well," says someone and when Lan Zhan looks, it's a doctor he thinks he recognizes. "This is a happy outcome. We will monitor him for the next few days, but if all goes well…"

Lan Zhan swallows, looks back down at Wei Ying. Wei Ying, who's still watching him back. "I'm sorry," Wei Ying whispers, then winces. His ribs would not have healed yet. It must be agony to breathe. "I'm sorry that I scared you."

Lan Zhan can't help it and he takes Wei Ying's hand, careful not to dislodge the IV line. "Don't be silly," he says. "I am...happy that you're back."

He feels people retreating, murmuring happily, but he can't look away from Wei Ying. Wei Ying, who is alive and talking and watching him back with a look that Lan Zhan can't read.

Lan Zhan clears his throat. "You have been missed."

Wei Ying sighs and attempts a laugh. It plainly hurts. "I've been something, all right." He's still whispering. Lan Zhan strains to hear his voice. "Was it really thirteen days?"

"Mn. Two weeks today."

"Fucking hell."

"Indeed." Lan Zhan can feel it when his lips begin to stretch into a smile. It feels unfamiliar on his face. "Wei Ying." This time, he doesn't stop himself from reaching out and gently sweeping Wei Ying's hair off his forehead.

Wei Ying sinks into his pillow, smiles, and says, "Hey, Lan Zhan."

This is it, Lan Zhan thinks. This is the moment. Lan Zhan takes a deep breath, lets it out, and says, "Wei Ying--"

"I'm sorry to interrupt," says a voice behind them, "but we need to take his vitals."

Lan Zhan twists around. He knows this nurse and she is perfectly unobjectionable. Lan Zhan finds himself irrationally angry and has to tap into his reserves to calm himself. It isn't her fault. And Wei Ying's vitals are important.

Lan Zhan lets go of his hand and steps back. He allows the nurse to work as he watches Wei Ying be pricked and prodded. Wei Ying looks exhausted for someone who hasn't left their bed in two weeks. Lan Zhan wonders what comes next. Surely, there is a long road to recovery after something like this. Wei Ying still has cracked ribs and a broken leg. He will require quite a bit of care.

"Thank you," the nurse says, sending them each a smile. "Everything looks good," she says, sounding almost surprised. "You really scared everyone," she says to Wei Ying with some amusement. "We're all on quite an informal basis by now."

"What can I say," Wei Ying says in a hoarse voice. "I like bringing people together."

She laughs and exits. It's just the two of them again, and Lan Zhan can feel his courage retreating, a turtle returning to its shell. Now is not his moment, after all. Wei Ying needs to rest. There's no sense in imposing Lan Zhan's selfish desires onto him, not when he just woke up. In fact, he wonders at himself for having been so audacious. He has Wei Ying back now. Surely, that is enough.

"You should rest," he says, watching Wei Ying's face again. He cannot look away.

"I've rested quite enough, thank you," Wei Ying tells him. "Get over here and tell me all about how you cried at my bedside."

Wei Ying doesn't mean to be cruel, Lan Zhan knows. Still, he has to fight a wave of slight nausea as he thinks of the night before. Of his confession.

"Or, like, my sister. You guys looked comfortable together. Lan Zhan, are you stealing my sister away?"

Lan Zhan takes in a shuddering breath and forces himself to smile. "Yes. We are engaged. I hope to have your blessing."

Wei Ying gaffaws and winces, hand going to his side. "Ow, Lan Zhan, you can't be funny right now, I can't take it." He's got a smile on his face, though. It's small and brittle, but it's his smile. "Seriously, was the peacock here, too?"

"Mn. And Nie Huaisang." And Luo Qingyang. And Wen Ning. All of Wei Ying's friends had come by at least once.

"Wow." Wei Ying frowns, then looks around, clearly noticing all the balloons and flowers for the first time. "Shit, is that all for me?"

"Mn."

"What the hell am I gonna do with twenty balloons?" He sounds pleased. "Is that a bottle of wine?"

"Nie Huaisang," Lan Zhan says by way of explanation.

Wei Ying whistles, winces again. "Fuck, that's gonna get old. Anyway, looks expensive."

"Nie Huaisang," Lan Zhan repeats. It has the desired effect of making Wei Ying's eyes crinkle at the corners.

"I told you, you can't be funny right now," he says with a pout. "I'm still recovering."

That sobers Lan Zhan, and he pulls his chair close enough to be able to take Wei Ying's hand. "Wei Ying." He doesn't know how to phrase his question. He marshals his thoughts. "Are you...that is. Are you all right?" He recalls Jiang Yanli's words that first, awful day. "The accident… It sounded...quite terrifying."

Wei Ying scrunches up his nose. "I genuinely don't remember. I mean, one moment, I was driving, the next I was waking up in the hospital." He swallows visibly. "I'm not the one who was scared." He looks at Lan Zhan seriously, then squeezes his hand. Lan Zhan nearly gasps from how good it feels. "I'm sorry I scared you all."

Lan Zhan shakes his head. "Wei Ying has nothing to be sorry about."

Wei Ying opens his mouth, and then--

"You did say you would surprise us one day." Jiang Cheng's sharp voice enters the room before he does. He's striding over to the bed, Jiang Yanli on his heels. She catches Lan Zhan's eye and mouths so sorry to him. He shakes his head.

Wei Ying's brother has every right to be here.

"Jiang Cheng," Wei Ying says, directing his smile away from Lan Zhan. "See, you should remember I'm always right."

Jiang Cheng scoffs and then abruptly bursts into tears. Lan Zhan averts his eyes, gently takes his hand back, and stands up. He leaves the room to the siblings and then he stands by the wall and he breathes and he breathes and he breathes.

~*~

"Nope. Absolutely not." Wei Ying's voice has a steely note in it one rarely hears from him.

The doctor lucky enough to be on the receiving end of it doesn't flinch. "Rehab is what's needed in your case. You will require a lot of physical therapy to get back to baseline."

"I can do that outpatient. I am not going into rehab."

"You will need quite a bit of care for a while, you will need to be monitored--"

"I'm fine. It's just a few broken ribs and a broken leg. I've had those before."

"Mr. Wei--"

Wei Ying holds up a hand. "You can't force me into it, is that right? It's my decision?"

The doctor looks reluctant as he nods.

"Great. I'm leaving. Where are my things?"

His name erupts on everybody's lips, some shocked, some pleading.

"Wei Ying, please, you need recovery, honey, you can't just--"

"Jiejie," Wei Ying says gently. "The doctor himself said that all the tests came back fine. I'm fine. I'm not letting myself get stuck in rehab for weeks. I've had enough of hospitals."

"But rehab isn't--"

"It's close enough," Wei Ying says decisively and levers himself up to a sitting position. With his leg in a cast, he really can't do much more than that. Lan Zhan tamps down his increasing worries. "All I need are crutches and some painkillers."

The doctor sighs, then turns to Jiang Yanli. "He'll need care at any time of day or night. Is anyone able to provide him with that?"

"I will." It's out of Lan Zhan's mouth before he can stop himself. Everybody turns to him, including Wei Ying. He ignores them and looks at the doctor. "I am best equipped, as I have the space and," he turns to Jiang Yanli, "nobody else to care for."

"I can absolutely do it," Jiang Yanli says, turning from Lan Zhan to the doctor. "He'll come home with us."

Lan Zhan feels the disappointment of it like a kick in the gut.

"Jiejie--"

"You're my brother," she says, turning to Wei Ying. "Of course I'm going to take care of you."

When Lan Zhan looks at Jin Zixuan, holding a fussing Jin Ling in his arms, he sees a hesitation there. He takes his chance. "Jiang Yanli," he says softly. She turns to him, looking stubborn. "You have a child and a husband, and while I know you would do an admirable job, I am more than happy to do this."

"But--"

"What the fuck," Wei Ying says, but neither one of them is paying him any attention. Lan Zhan simply looks at Jiang Yanli and pleads with her silently, let me do this for him. Please give me this. Her face turns uncertain, and then she catches her husband's eye. That is when Jin Ling begins to cry for no good reason that Lan Zhan can discern, and Jiang Yanli lets out a huff--the first time that Lan Zhan has ever heard her sound frustrated--and reaches for her son. As she attempts to soothe him, Lan Zhan says, quietly, "You can trust me."

Jiang Yanli looks over at her husband, who nods--looking, Lan Zhan thinks, a bit frustrated himself--then back to Lan Zhan. "He's my brother," she says, but she sounds less sure now. "It should be me."

"It's not gonna be anyone," Wei Ying says, but is, once again, ignored.

"It would make the most sense," Lan Zhan says over Jin Ling's cries. Besides, Wei Ying and Jin Zixuan living in close quarters for any length of time would not be a good situation for anyone. He wishes he could say that out loud.

"Honey…" Jin Zixuan appears to be thinking the same thing. "Perhaps Lan Zhan is right."

"Is anyone going to listen to me?" Wei Ying asks from his perch on the bed.

"No," say Jiang Yanli and Madam Yu, who has, up until now, been eloquently silent.

"Fine. All right." Jiang Yanli looks pained as she says it. Lan Zhan glances over at Jin Zixuan, who's looking as relieved as Lan Zhan is feeling. A prickle of irritation on Wei Ying's behalf, there and gone.

"Thank you," Lan Zhan says, inclining his head.

"Lan Zhan, fucking hell," Wei Ying says. "I absolutely cannot ask that of you."

"You did not ask. I offered."

Wei Ying shakes his head. "You have a job, you have a life." Lan Zhan really doesn't, as he has learned in the past two weeks. "This is too much. I can take care of myself."

"It's that or rehab," the doctor says, and this time, he sounds quite serious. "These are your options, Mr. Wei. And may I suggest that a...friend's house...will be a much more pleasant stay."

Wei Ying drops back into the bed with a gusty sigh and winces. Again. "Why can't I just go home?" he whines. Lan Zhan sees Madam Yu roll her eyes. For once, he is in agreement.

"Wei Ying," he says reasonably. "Your entire leg is in a cast."

Wei Ying scrunches up his face and puffs out his lower lip.

"A-Ying." Jiang Yanli sounds plaintive. "Please let Lan Zhan do this. It will make all of us feel so much better." She pauses, then gives him a look. "For me."

Wei Ying sighs loudly. Lan Zhan knows that they have won.

~*~

Wei Ying is lying across the back seat, whining. "This is so stupid. I can't believe how stupid this is."

Lan Zhan, while worried about Wei Ying, feels like somebody has opened the door and let fresh air in. He feels lighter than he has in years; perhaps ever.

Wei Ying didn't fit into the front seat, being unable to bend his leg. Now he's in the back, groaning. Lan Zhan wishes he could see his face to tell just how much pain he's in. His ribs have yet to heal. Perhaps he is all right for now, having been given medication at the hospital. Which he left against medical advice a day early. "What am I going to get here that I won't get at Lan Zhan's? Worse food?"

Jiang Yanli had wanted to help Lan Zhan settle Wei Ying in, but Jin Ling had spiked a fever and, frustrated, she had extracted from Lan Zhan a promise to let her know every single detail of Wei Ying's progress. Lan Zhan had let her know that she was always welcome to come over and visit. Lan Zhan has no intention of cutting off access to Wei Ying. He simply needs to know that he is all right. And he will do everything in his power to make sure of it.

Getting Wei Ying out of the car is another challenge. Lan Zhan goes as gently as possible, but he doesn't miss Wei Ying's wincing anytime something jars him. By the time they get upstairs to his apartment, Wei Ying is pale and sweating. Lan Zhan experiences a moment of extreme doubt that he is up for this job. What was he thinking, taking on the care of Wei Ying without thought? Surely, Wei Ying would have been better served by being with his sister, if not the rehab he so adamantly refused.

Wei Ying slowly hobbles through the doorway on his crutches and stops in the middle of the hallway. When Lan Zhan makes an inquiring noise behind him as he shuffles Wei Ying's bag in, Wei Ying twists around on his good leg and the smile on his face makes Lan Zhan's breath catch in his throat. "I know I was asleep for it, but I feel like I've really missed your place."

Lan Zhan swallows before he can trust himself to speak. Seeing Wei Ying in his apartment--whole, upright, and smiling--has his pulse kicking up. It is midday and Lan Zhan's apartment is flooded with light. He looks at Wei Ying bathed in that light and he takes a deep breath for the first time in two weeks. "I am happy you're here," he says.

Wei Ying grins, then starts to move towards the living room, then stops again.

"Wei Ying?" Lan Zhan walks around to face him.

Wei Ying is balancing the crutches under his arms, scratching his head, not meeting his eye. "I just realized that I'm not sure where I should go."

Lan Zhan frowns. "What do you mean?"

"Where I'll be less in your way. I mean...I hate to say it, but I'll be parked somewhere for a while. What would be least annoying to you?"

Lan Zhan does his best to relax his shoulders. "Wei Ying. You will not be in my way wherever you are."

Wei Ying scrunches up his face in a way that plainly states he doesn't believe it, then sighs. "So where should I be?"

Lan Zhan looks towards the living room and assesses. The couch would be the best place for Wei Ying to stretch out and elevate his leg, and he tells him so.

"What about all my shit? I should put it...somewhere."

"Wei Ying, you have one bag. I'll take care of it."

"Ughhhhhh." Wei Ying manages to hobble over to the couch and gingerly lower himself, wincing. Lan Zhan thinks back to when Wei Ying last took his medication and when he can possibly have it again. "This sucks."

Lan Zhan nods, then grabs a couple of throw pillows and has Wei Ying lower his leg carefully onto them. He grabs Wei Ying's bag and brings it into the bedroom.

Then he stops.

They have never actually slept together before. Lan Zhan technically has a guest room with a daybed, despite never inviting anyone to stay overnight. He's being presumptuous again.

After much deliberation, he takes Wei Ying's bag and leaves it in the hall between the two rooms. They can decide this later.

He walks into the kitchen and goes through the motions of making tea and a light lunch. Wei Ying, he knows, forgets to eat at the best of times. Lan Zhan will have to remember this. While the water is boiling, he sends an email to his principal, requesting a temporary leave of absence. He promised Wei Ying around the clock care and he will not renege on that promise. Once this is done, he feels lighter. He can hand the orchestra over to Wang Chunhua as he has done before when he's been ill. He feels fine with his decision.

By the time he enters the living room with the tray, Wei Ying has fallen asleep, his crutches lying on the floor next to him. His mouth is slightly open, one hand thrown over his middle, the other hanging off the couch, touching the metal of one crutch. The leg that isn't broken is bent at the knee.

He is beautiful. Lan Zhan sets the tray down quietly, then takes the chair across from the couch, and watches him sleep.

~*~

Wei Ying sleeps for a long time. In that time, Lan Zhan visits and feeds the rabbits, cleans the kitchen, and realizes that Wei Ying may be uncomfortable in Lan Zhan’s bed. It is best, he decides, for Wei Ying to take the guest room, where he can toss and turn and not feel like an imposition, the way Lan Zhan knows he would. Resolutely, he brings Wei Ying's bag into the guest room and unpacks it. There isn't much--toiletries, clothes, his laptop and phone, some books. All the things that Jiang Yanli had hastily packed for him.

Lan Zhan sets the laptop on the desk; his phone he brings into the living room.

Wei Ying stirs and opens his eyes, looking disoriented before his eyes land on Lan Zhan. Then he smiles. "Lan Zhan, ah. How long was I out for?"

"A few hours." He sets Wei Ying's phone on the coffee table. "Here. I have unpacked your things."

Wei Ying chews on his lip, taking the phone absently. "You didn't have to do that."

"I did not mind, Wei Ying."

Wei Ying looks down at his phone and whatever he sees there makes him wince. "Shit, I have to talk to my boss."

"You've only just left the hospital," Lan Zhan points out.

Wei Ying shakes his head. "Yeah, but I've been out for two weeks. God knows what sort of nonsense has taken place over there."

He taps something out, then brings the phone to his ear. Lan Zhan can hear it ringing. He leaves, giving Wei Ying his privacy.

In the kitchen, he dials his brother's number. "Brother."

"Zhan-er. How is it going?"

Lan Zhan tells him about getting Wei Ying home and settling him in. "He has slept."

"Good." His brother's warm voice no longer feels like being sliced open. It is a relief. "I'm happy for you, Lan Zhan."

"Thank you, Brother. I am...relieved."

"Of course." A silence between them. "And...how is he holding up overall?"

Lan Zhan feels himself smiling. "Annoyed. His leg is giving him trouble. It is...unwieldy."

"I should imagine. Have the doctors said anything about how long it will take?"

"About five to seven weeks, now." He requested two weeks of absence from work. He may need to extend it.

"Hmm."

Lan Zhan does not inquire as to what is behind that thoughtful hum.

~*~

Wei Ying stands in the entrance to the guest room and rubs his hand over his face. "Lan Zhan...are you totally sure this is okay with you? That I won't be in the way?" He looks anxious. Lan Zhan doesn't want that.

"Wei Ying, of course I am." He doesn't wish to unbalance him, but he longs to take Wei Ying by the elbow and bring him fully into the room. To say, what's mine is yours. You can stay as long as you like. You can stay forever.

A part of him wonders what Wei Ying's reaction would have been had Lan Zhan installed him in his own bedroom. He is glad not to know.

"All right…" Wei Ying limps fully into the room and his gaze lands on the rabbit cage. His face clears. "Hey, babies. We're gonna be roomies for a while. Hope that's all right." The rabbits continue rustling around mindlessly. "Good. Glad that's settled." He lifts his gaze to Lan Zhan's. "I can help care for them while I'm here."

"Wei Ying. You can't get down on the floor."

Wei Ying pouts. "I could try."

"Rest. That's what you're here to do. Just rest."

He leaves Wei Ying to get situated fully, despite the fact that he has already redistributed his things throughout the room--clothes hung up in the wardrobe, toiletries laid out on the nightstand. All Wei Ying has to do is make use of them and rest.

Lan Zhan goes to make dinner. They eat in silence in the living room, where Wei Ying can stretch out, and they do something Lan Zhan never does: they watch television. Wei Ying is the reason he has a television set in the first place, and Lan Zhan is grateful for it now. It means Wei Ying doesn't have to be bored.

It's barely eight o'clock when Wei Ying starts listing on the couch, eyes slowly blinking. "We should get you ready for bed," Lan Zhan says.

"'M awake," Wei Ying protests, but not much. He allows Lan Zhan to lever him up off the couch, head lolling against Lan Zhan's shoulder a bit. He smells a bit stale, like the hospital. Abruptly, Lan Zhan realizes he will need to help Wei Ying bathe. He has a tub. They will be able to come up with a solution for his leg. He doesn't think further than that.

He stands in the doorway of the bathroom as Wei Ying brushes his teeth. He must be tired--he doesn't make comments or even speak much.

Afterwards, Lan Zhan helps him undress. Wei Ying is wearing a t-shirt and loose sweatpants to fit over his cast, so it is not a matter of difficulty. Seeing his bruised torso, however, makes Lan Zhan's breath catch in his throat. Seeing the just-healed scar from his operation marring his skin makes Lan Zhan want to whine. Wei Ying has gotten thinner. He looks down at himself as Lan Zhan helps him out of his sweatpants and winces. "Yeah, I know. Won't be pretty for a while."

Wei Ying is always beautiful. Lan Zhan does not say this out loud.

"Lie back," he says, instead, and Wei Ying obeys with a sigh. Lan Zhan can't help himself as he tucks him in, fluffs up the extra pillows needed to elevate Wei Ying's leg, then plugs his phone into the cord he had prepared earlier. "Sleep well, Wei Ying." He has left his medication and a glass of water on the nightstand. "Please call me if you need anything. I'm just next door."

Wei Ying bites his lip, and then darts out his hand and grabs the collar of Lan Zhan's t-shirt, stilling him. "Thank you for this," he whispers, and brings Lan Zhan in for a kiss. Lan Zhan makes a noise of surprise--he had honestly not been expecting any physical intimacy at all. He doesn't pull away. It isn't a deep kiss, but it sears him anyway. Wei Ying tastes minty from his toothpaste. Lan Zhan wonders if this kiss is simply one of gratitude. He hopes Wei Ying doesn't feel like he must kiss him to make up for the stay.

Wei Ying's hold on him relaxes and he drops back into the bed. "Good night, Lan Zhan."

"Good night, Wei Ying." He moves away from the bed. "Should I hit the light?"

"Please."

Lan Zhan does, closing the door behind him.

~*~

Lan Zhan wakes abruptly. It's dark and he isn't certain what woke him until--

"Fuck."

Wei Ying. Lan Zhan throws himself out of bed and runs out of the bedroom. He hits the hallway light. Wei Ying is lying sprawled half on the floor, half against the wall, his crutches fallen on top of him. His face is screwed up. Lan Zhan drops down next to him. "Wei Ying--"

Wei Ying makes a noise and doesn't open his eyes. "Give me a second." He breathes hard through his mouth. "Goddammit." He thumps the floor with the hand holding him up and slides down further down the wall. "Fuck," he says quieter. "I'm useless."

"Wei Ying…"

"I just had to pee. I can't even do that."

Lan Zhan says, "I will get nightlights."

Wei Ying laughs. It sounds humorless. It sounds unlike him. Lan Zhan watches him swallow, and finally, Wei Ying opens his eyes. "Help me up?"

Lan Zhan does. He does it gingerly, as carefully as he can manage, for both of them. His back strains from the effort--it's harder than he would have imagined. He feels like an ogre anytime Wei Ying winces. They will have to get better at this. Or Wei Ying will have to not fall.

Lan Zhan waits outside the bathroom door, then escorts Wei Ying back to bed, taking on his weight. Wei Ying is flushed, avoiding his eye. He doesn't say anything. He's very unlike Wei Ying.

"Sorry," Wei Ying mumbles as he lies back down. "It's so late. Or early. I'm sorry, Lan Zhan."

"You do not have to be," Lan Zhan assures him. "It is not a bother." Wei Ying scoffs, but doesn't say anything. "Good night, Wei Ying."

Wei Ying nods and shuts his eyes. Lan Zhan leaves. He doesn't turn off the hallway light.

~*~

"Lan Zhan, why aren't you at work?"

Wei Ying emerges at nine o'clock, having mercifully not had any more night time misadventures. Lan Zhan bids him good morning from his chair, where he has been reading, then says, "I have taken a temporary leave of absence. It was approved this morning. I will have to go in shortly to sign some papers and redistribute my work, but I am at your disposal."

"What the fuck?!"

Lan Zhan frowns. "Are you all right?"

"Lan Zhan, you can't put your life on hold for this, I'll be fine! You love your job, why would you do this?" Wei Ying looks almost angry, which is confusing.

"Because," Lan Zhan responds, "I told you I would help care for you. It's a twenty-four hour job."

"You already have a job."

Lan Zhan realizes that Wei Ying is still standing when he should be off his feet. He is also nearly naked, wearing only boxers. Lan Zhan ignores this as he stands up and walks towards him. "I do not mind, Wei Ying. Please, sit down, and I will bring you breakfast."

Wei Ying eyes him with some distrust, but allows himself to be herded toward the couch. Lan Zhan makes sure he's comfortable, then goes into the kitchen to prepare him breakfast. He stands over the congee, stirring, and thinks of the day ahead. Wei Ying will need to take his medication regularly. He will also need a shower. Lan Zhan swallows, stirring more. Lan Zhan will have to leave him for a few hours and hope that nothing happens. Perhaps he'll call Jiang Yanli and ask her to come over while he's gone. If she isn't at work, of course.

This could get somewhat tricky.

He brings Wei Ying breakfast, and, uncertain as to what would make Wei Ying more comfortable, hovers just long enough for Wei Ying to shake his head and say, "Lan Zhan, sit. I know you already ate, it's all right."

Lan Zhan settles himself on the other end of the couch. Wei Ying eats in silence, which feels strange and all wrong, and doesn't finish his bowl. "Is it all right?" Lan Zhan asks tentatively.

"Mmm? Oh, the congee? It's fine! It's great." He pauses, then shuts his eyes momentarily and gives Lan Zhan a tight smile. "I'm sorry I'm being a moody asshole. It's this whole…" He waves his hands around, nearly dislodging the tray on his lap. "Thing. It sucks."

"It does," Lan Zhan agrees. He chews over other things he could say, such as I hope to make it as comfortable for you as possible, and I'll do anything to make it easier, and discards the very notion.

Wei Ying sighs and runs a hand through his hair. It's loose, falling around his shoulders, and, Lan Zhan will admit, quite greasy. As if echoing his thoughts, Wei Ying wrinkles his nose and makes a show of sniffing himself. "I'm ripe as hell. Uh…"

"I have a plan," Lan Zhan tells him.

~*~

"This is your plan? Garbage bags?"

Lan Zhan rips one of the bags across the bottom and nods. "It's to protect the cast. And I," he adds, his voice not actually shaking, "will help you bathe."

Wei Ying's eyes grow huge and he shakes his head. "Uh-uh. No way. I am not suffering indignities. I will wear the stupid garbage bags, but I'm not letting you sponge me down. I'm not an old man or a kid, Lan Zhan, I can wash myself."

Lan Zhan hears him out, then says, "Wei Ying."

"No! Lan Zhan, no. I am not letting you--no."

Lan Zhan swallows. Wei Ying finding the idea of Lan Zhan helping him so abhorrent stings, the smallest bit, but he has to allow him his autonomy. "Will you allow me to help you into and out of the tub?"

Wei Ying doesn't want to, that much is clear. Lan Zhan watches his expressive face go through every possibility until finally he sighs and says, "Fine."

Wei Ying blushes as Lan Zhan helps him into the tub, which is filled with a small amount of water so as to avoid getting the cast wet. Lan Zhan has his arm around Wei Ying's middle, Wei Ying's arm over his shoulders, and he's kneeling down slowly as Wei Ying bends his good leg. As always in uncomfortable situations, Wei Ying also jokes. "It's a good thing you've seen all of this already, eh, Lan Zhan? Otherwise, this would be truly embarrassing."

It is Lan Zhan's turn to blush. He can feel it as his ears grow hot. He clears his throat. "Nothing is embarrassing, Wei Ying. You are fine."

Wei Ying's legs are too long. Lan Zhan's tub is wide, but it is not long enough to accommodate Wei Ying's needs. In order to fit, he must lift his broken leg out of the tub, which unbalances him and makes bathing nearly impossible.

Lan Zhan sees the realization on his face and he wishes he could wipe the look of naked frustration from Wei Ying's face.

"Wei Ying," he says gently, looking down at where Wei Ying is holding himself up in a sitting position by grabbing the sides of the tub. "Please let me help."

Wei Ying says nothing for a moment, then finally, he swallows visibly and nods.

Lan Zhan breathes out. Then he proceeds to strip down to his underwear. He grabs a washcloth from its holder, then kneels down by the tub. "May I?" he asks.

Wei Ying nods. He is clearly uncomfortable physically, and the grip he has on the tub is white-knuckled. His broken leg is sticking out of the tub at an awkward angle. Lan Zhan drags the washcloth through the water, then takes his soap and rubs it on the washcloth to get it sudsy. Trying to use as few movements as possible, he runs it up and down Wei Ying's arm, then underneath it. He washes his shoulders and his chest, then goes lower, to his stomach. He washes his sides, his hips. He gets up on his knees and he washes Wei Ying's good leg, then his foot. Catching Wei Ying's eye, he washes his crotch. He loses himself in the motions of it, sluicing water carefully over Wei Ying with a pitcher once he's all soaped up, being sure to avoid the bad leg.

Wei Ying doesn't talk, but his breathing is even. Lan Zhan can see it in the rise and fall of his chest.

He is too thin. Lan Zhan can feel his ribs, the bumps of his spine when he gently moves him forward to wash his back. The bruises on his body are not yet gone, a reminder of just how close Lan Zhan had come to losing him.

He thinks that even if they never have sex again, he will be content enough knowing that Wei Ying is here, alive, with him. He licks his lips and says, "May I wash your hair?"

Wei Ying nods, not catching his eye, then tips his head back. Lan Zhan uses the pitcher to gently pour water over his hair, then takes his time shampooing. He gathers Wei Ying's long, dark hair on top of his head and massages his scalp. The scent of lemon fills the room. When Lan Zhan glances at Wei Ying's face, he finds his eyes are closed. He looks peaceful this way. Accepting.

Lan Zhan stands up and grabs the shower head, brings it down. He turns on the water and Wei Ying hisses from the change in temperature--it takes a little while for it to warm up. "I'm sorry," Lan Zhan murmurs. Wei Ying shakes his head.

He rinses the shampoo off, watching as the foam slides down Wei Ying's pale back and into the water. Once it's all rinsed out, he takes a lock of Wei Ying's hair between his fingers and checks that it squeaks. It does. He shuts the shower off.

"If I get you up to rinse you, will you be able to stand?"

Wei Ying nods. "I think so."

"Good."

Lan Zhan slides his arm underneath Wei Ying's and slowly, they begin to rise. It is ungainly and Wei Ying swears more than once, but finally, he is up, leaning his weight against the wall, panting. He does catch Lan Zhan's eye then and gives him a rueful smile. "So much fucking trouble just from one leg."

"Mn." Lan Zhan grabs the shower head from where it's hanging down and turns the water back on. This time he can test the temperature before using it on Wei Ying. He rinses him clean, his motions as cursory as he can make them. He gets a little lost in Wei Ying's body--the lines of his stomach, the cut of his hips. Lan Zhan hopes that the steam in the room covers his flushed cheeks. It is unbecoming, thinking about Wei Ying this way while he's all but incapacitated, yet it is difficult to avoid. He is beautiful. Lan Zhan can't stop the memories of their nights together from clamoring for his attention, can't help but cast back to when Wei Ying would laugh beneath him as Lan Zhan gave him as much pleasure as he could. "All right." He clears his throat and turns off the water. "Let's get you out of here."

"Thanks, Lan Zhan."

Again, Lan Zhan is struck by how unnatural it is for Wei Ying to be this quiet and subdued. He wants to shake him. To tell him, you are not a burden. None of this is a burden. I want to do everything for you. Always.

He imagines it would be a cold comfort.

He helps Wei Ying out of the tub, then, while still holding on, grabs his crutches where they'd left them leaning up against the wall and allows Wei Ying to take his own weight as he dries him. He dries his back last, standing behind him, making sure no droplets remain. Then he wraps the towel around his shoulders, leans in, and leaves a kiss behind his ear.

He hadn't meant to do that. It had been a crazy impulse, and he freezes as Wei Ying startles. Then Lan Zhan throws caution to the wind, sweeps Wei Ying's wet hair away from his neck, and kisses him there as well, before stepping back and saying, "There. All set."

Wei Ying clears his throat, then says, "Thank you." A pause, then, "Sorry."

"Wei Ying." Lan Zhan grabs his own clothes from where he'd left them on top of the laundry basket. "You have nothing to be sorry for."

Wei Ying scoffs, then shakes his head. When Lan Zhan comes around and looks at him, however, a small smile is playing on Wei Ying's lips. "You're a full service operation, huh?"

"We aim to please," Lan Zhan says seriously.

Wei Ying laughs, then makes a pained face. "You still can't be funny, Lan Zhan. It hurts to laugh."

Lan Zhan helps Wei Ying back to his room, then undoes the garbage bag rig he had created for his cast. It looks dry--it worked--and he nods, satisfied. Then he realizes that he is on a level with Wei Ying's crotch, and Wei Ying is fully nude.

His mouth floods with want, and he steps back quickly. He feels...unsavory. Wei Ying is recovering, after all. It was different when he was helping Wei Ying bathe.

Wei Ying coughs. "Thanks, Lan Zhan, I think I can take it from here."

Lan Zhan eyes Wei Ying's extended leg. Then he sighs. "Wei Ying. Allow me to help you dress."

"Ugh!" Wei Ying waves an arm around. "Lan Zhan, this sucks. I can't fucking do anything on my own."

Lan Zhan grabs Wei Ying's sweatpants from the floor and drops down to his haunches. "I know. I'm sorry."

He helps Wei Ying into his pants, then hands him his t-shirt as Wei Ying grumbles about being only half impaired. He leaves Wei Ying on the couch, settled with water, drugs, and remote, before leaving. "Please feel free to invite anyone," he tells him. He weighs his next words carefully before he says, "I would like for you to feel like this is your home, too."

Wei Ying bites his lip and looks away. "Thanks," he mumbles. Then he looks down at his phone and Lan Zhan feels like he has been dismissed.

He goes to work, where he dodges curious glances and outright questions about his sudden leave of absence as he goes about taking care of things. He speaks with Wang Chunhua about orchestra, then spends quite a bit of time sifting through lesson plans to leave for the substitute, knowing full well that no studying will take place in his absence. He must accept this.

When he returns home two hours later, it is to find Wei Ying exactly where he'd left him, fast asleep. Lan Zhan toes off his shoes, then tiptoes into the kitchen. He's turned on the kettle when he hears a sleepy, "Lan Zhan? Is that you?"

He returns to the living room. Wei Ying is stretching, looking almost back to his own self. Lan Zhan wonders what the difference is. Ah. Wei Ying is smiling. Lan Zhan can't help smiling back. "Hello, Wei Ying."

Wei Ying ends his stretch with a satisfied moan, then says, "C'mere." Lan Zhan obeys, padding over to Wei Ying's side. Wei Ying catches his shirt in his grasp and pulls him down. Then he kisses him. It isn't the simple kiss of the previous night. It's deep and slow; it has intent behind it. Lan Zhan responds automatically, kissing Wei Ying with an awakening hunger. It has been three weeks. It should not feel like a lifetime.

"Mmm." Wei Ying pulls back but does not allow Lan Zhan to move away. "Hey, Lan Zhan. How about a quickie?"

Lan Zhan's body betrays his mind. His blood heats up, he can feel himself becoming aroused at the very thought. However… "Wei Ying, you are injured."

Wei Ying shrugs. "It's just a few cracked ribs and this stupid leg. It's not like I'm bleeding internally." He licks his lips and looks at Lan Zhan from under his lashes. "I can still get it up. Don't worry, I checked."

Lan Zhan feels his ears flushing. The idea of Wei Ying… He has to get a hold of himself. "Wei Ying." Gently, he extricates his shirt from Wei Ying's grasp, then leans in and kisses Wei Ying's forehead. "It is not a good idea."

When he pulls back, Wei Ying is pouting. "You're no fun," he tells him, but Lan Zhan can tell that he is letting the idea go. A part of him is almost disappointed. "Then at least give me another kiss." Somewhat confused, Lan Zhan does. It is soft, but lingers--Wei Ying keeps him in place with a hand to the back of his neck. Then he breaks the kiss off and gives Lan Zhan a smile. "Thanks, Lan Zhan. You're sweet."

Lan Zhan isn't feeling very sweet. He clears his throat and straightens back up. Wei Ying's hand falls to his lap. "Can I make you some tea?"

When Wei Ying agrees, Lan Zhan escapes to the kitchen, where he spends several minutes staring at the kettle and trying to make sense of his own thoughts.

Wei Ying must have woken up from an arousing dream. Last night and this morning, he had been the furthest thing from interested in any sort of...interaction. In fact, it had seemed as though the last place he had wanted to be was Lan Zhan's apartment. The last thing he wanted was to be waited on by Lan Zhan.

Oh. Of course. Wei Ying is having a bad day. Perhaps for him, it is just as conditioned a response as for Lan Zhan.

Either that, or... Lan Zhan's stomach sours at the mere thought. Either that or he believes that he owes Lan Zhan something for his stay. It is an abhorrent idea. Lan Zhan startles when the kettle whistles.

He brings Wei Ying tea, having made himself a cup, as well. Wei Ying accepts more or less graciously, then says, "Did you mean it?"

"What?"

"That I could have people over?"

"Wei Ying." Lan Zhan sets his cup down. "Of course."

Wei Ying flushes and looks down, then wiggles his phone. "Jiejie asked if she could visit after work today."

"She is more than welcome," Lan Zhan tells him. And it is true--Jiang Yanli will always be welcome in Lan Zhan's home.

She comes over in the late afternoon with her son. She gives Lan Zhan a beaming smile when he opens the door, then says, "Would you mind--?" as she unloads the baby into Lan Zhan's arms, drops her large bag on the floor, and runs over to her brother's side. "A-Ying!"

Lan Zhan looks at the child in his arms, who's eyeing him with a healthy dose of distrust that Lan Zhan finds justifiable, then back to the brother and sister. Jiang Yanli sits down on the floor as she runs her fingers over Wei Ying's face. As he gets closer, Lan Zhan notices a tear running down her cheek. Abruptly, he stops, looks at Jin Ling, and says, "Would you like to see some rabbits?"

He does not wait for a response--he does not believe that Jin Ling can give him any yet--and heads for the guest room. Wei Ying's room, now. He sets Jin Ling down on the floor in front of the cage, then settles down next to him, and pops open the cage. Double and Trouble take no time in their escape, nuzzling up to his knees and demanding attention. Jin Ling laughs, sounding delighted--sounding like his uncle--and waves his arms around in what Lan Zhan assumes to be excitement.

"Would you like to pet them?" he asks.

Jin Ling looks at him without much comprehension. Lan Zhan picks up Trouble, who is less easily spooked, and pets him, showing Jin Ling how. "You must be very gentle," he explains, not knowing whether Jin Ling can grasp his instructions. "Like this." As gently as he can, he caresses Trouble's soft white fur. Jin Ling looks at him inquiringly, then reaches out a hand and pats Trouble on the head. Trouble retreats a bit, but stays in Lan Zhan's palm. "Good," he says. "That's good. Here…" He takes Jin Ling's tiny hand in his own and begins to pet the rabbit with it. Jin Ling's cooing sounds happy, so Lan Zhan allows him to take over on his own. He looks like he is concentrating very hard as he does it, tongue slipping out. Lan Zhan watches for signs of any distress, but both the rabbit and the child appear to be satisfied.

"Lan Zhan, you'll give me a toothache."

Lan Zhan twists around. Wei Ying and Jiang Yanli are standing in the doorway, watching them. Wei Ying has a small smile playing on his lips. He looks almost uncertain. There is something else lurking in his expression, though Lan Zhan cannot quite catch hold of what. He should be off his feet. "I wanted to give the two of you privacy," Lan Zhan says.

Jiang Yanli beams at him, then wipes at her eyes. "Thank you, Lan Zhan. That's very thoughtful. But we didn't mean to take over your living room."

"It is Wei Ying's living room now, as well," he tells her. Wei Ying blushes and ducks his head. He looks uncomfortable, though that is easily explained by Lan Zhan's presence in what is now his room. Lan Zhan takes the rabbits one by one and puts them back in the cage, then lifts Jin Ling and transfers him to his mother. "Would you like some tea?"

They have tea, and then Jiang Yanli demands to know if Wei Ying got a call from the hospital. "I know you'll need follow-ups, A-Ying," she says. "Didn't the doctor mention something about physical therapy?"

Wei Ying waves her off. "I'm still in a cast, what possible physical therapy could there be?"

"A check-up, then."

Wei Ying shrugs. "I don't think anyone called. I just got out yesterday."

"You don't think or you don't know?" She evades Jin Ling's hands as they come close to smacking her in the face.

"Jiejieeee," Wei Ying whines, then pouts, sending her a pleading look that is patented Wei Ying. "You just got here, can't we talk about nice things? I'm fine! See?"

"You're on pain meds, is what you are," she says, then turns to Lan Zhan. "He is, right?"

"He has taken pain relievers, yes," Lan Zhan confirms.

"What's your point?" Wei Ying scowls. "I'm allowed, I've broken myself."

Jiang Yanli looks torn between more talkings-to and giving in. She gives in. "Fine. Let's talk about something else. Lan Zhan, how was work today?"

"Oh," Lan Zhan says. "I have taken a temporary leave of absence."

Her eyebrows go up. "You have? Is that allowed?"

"I have the time, yes," Lan Zhan says, by way of explanation.

"Can you believe him? I don't actually need a nanny," Wei Ying says, shooting Lan Zhan a dark look. "I'm perfectly capable of taking care of my basic needs for a few hours."

Lan Zhan pictures all the ways Wei Ying could hurt himself while alone and says, "I feel fine with my decision."

Jiang Yanli shoots him a grateful look. "Thank you, Lan Zhan. That will make my parents feel better. They send their love, by the way," she adds, turning to Wei Ying. "Dad wasn't sure if he should call or if you were sleeping."

"Thanks," Wei Ying grumbles. "Now give me my nephew, I need a dose of cuteness."

Jiang Yanli stays long enough to feed Jin Ling and have another cup of tea with them. "I should run, Zixuan is waiting."

"Tell the peacock I said hello," Wei Ying says with a beatific smile.

She shoots him an amused look. "He sends his love, too."

Wei Ying scrunches up his face, then sticks out his tongue. Lan Zhan exchanges a look with Jiang Yanli, feeling himself smiling. She shakes her head, then gathers up her things. He walks her to the door. "Thank you for the tea, Lan Zhan. And," she adds, lowering her voice, "for everything you've done for Wei Ying. I know it isn't easy." She chews on her lip. "I would take him in, but--"

"There is no need. I am happy to care for him," Lan Zhan interjects.

She gives him another smile. "I know. Thank you."

Afterwards, Wei Ying makes several phone calls to his family while Lan Zhan goes to make the two of them dinner. Wei Ying crutches in halfway through and stands leaning against the doorway, watching him.

"You should sit," Lan Zhan suggests as he turns around. "Take the weight off your leg."

Wei Ying gives a gusty sigh, then does as asked, extending his leg out in front of him. "What are you making?"

"Baked tofu and cabbage stir fry," Lan Zhan tells him, then turns back to the chopping board. "I hope that is acceptable."

"Dinner accepted."

Lan Zhan turns around when he hears Wei Ying's crutches clatter to the floor.

"Oh, fuck, they slipped. Hang on, I can get them, wait, I--"

Lan Zhan straightens up with the crutches in hand, then sets them to lean against the wall. Wei Ying is pouting. "I could have gotten that."

"It was unnecessary," Lan Zhan says, then hesitates. "Wei Ying, it...it gives me pleasure to help. To be useful."

Wei Ying looks up at him. Lan Zhan can't tell what he's thinking. "Thanks, Lan Zhan," he says quietly. "It's just. It's not easy."

Lan Zhan touches a hand to Wei Ying's shoulder and says, "I know."

Then he returns to making them dinner. Wei Ying talks a little as they eat, which eases something in Lan Zhan. Wei Ying tells him about talking to his boss earlier. "It sucks. I hate that I've been out of the loop for two weeks, you know?"

"Mn."

"I mean, he was nice about it, it isn't like...it's not my fault, but it feels shitty. I know I can run circles around everyone else, and now… I mean, I can work from home, but it isn't the same and I'm already behind." He pushes his bowl away. It's half full. He sighs. "This was good. Thanks, Lan Zhan."

Lan Zhan frowns. "You haven't finished." Normally, Wei Ying can put away three times this amount and ask for more.

"Not hungry." Wei Ying leans back and takes a sip of his water, then scrunches up his face. "Lan Zhan, you don't have anything stronger, do you?"

Lan Zhan does. Wei Ying, however, has been taking pain relievers. Lan Zhan considers this, then gets up and goes to the cupboard where he keeps Emperor's Smile. Wei Ying's face when he returns with the bottle and a tumbler could shame the sun. "I wasn't actually expecting you to," he breathes. "Lan Zhan, you beautiful soul, I could kiss you!"

Lan Zhan flushes as he pours some into the glass, then hands it to him. "No need. You can have one drink."

When he looks up at Wei Ying, Wei Ying is pouting. "You're no fun."

"You've always said I am the most fun," Lan Zhan says, earning himself a snigger, just as he had hoped. He flushes with pleasure at this return to normalcy.

Wei Ying takes a sip of his liquor and his face lights up. "You are," he says, "you're the most fun." His expression changes to something sly. His good foot finds Lan Zhan's under the table and knocks against it. "Lan Zhan. We could have the most fun." He pauses, as if for dramatic effect. "Naked fun."

Lan Zhan shivers, then shakes his head. "Wei Ying." The idea of hurting Wei Ying, however inadvertently, is too awful to contemplate. "I do not wish to slow down your recovery. You are having a difficult enough time as it is."

Wei Ying pouts. "How could it possibly slow down my recovery?"

"Your ribs, for one," Lan Zhan explains. "They are not nearly healed. Any movement…"

Wei Ying takes another swig of Emperor's Smile, makes a face, and turns away. His foot retreats under the table. "Fine."

Again, Lan Zhan fights a wave of disappointment despite himself. Again, he wonders what is behind Wei Ying's insistence. A true desire for sex or a misguided idea about paying Lan Zhan back?

"Then come watch something stupid with me," Wei Ying says, turning back to him.

"All right," says Lan Zhan.

Wei Ying falls asleep with his feet in Lan Zhan's lap about half an hour into the program. Lan Zhan allows him to sleep for a while as he meditates, attempting to relax before bed. Then he wakes him gently with a hand on his good shin. Wei Ying jerks awake, wiping away drool. "Shit. Fuck, I fell asleep again, didn't I? I'm turning into you."

Lan Zhan gives him a smile he fears is rather indulgent. "Let's get you to bed."

They're both quiet as they go about it. Wei Ying winces as he hops on his crutches, and doesn't even object when Lan Zhan stands in the bathroom doorway as he brushes his teeth. Then Wei Ying shuts the door and Lan Zhan walks away, giving him privacy.

Wei Ying emerges, and Lan Zhan meets him by the doorway to his room. He helps Wei Ying settle on the bed, then helps him out of his sweatpants. Wei Ying takes care of his t-shirt. Wearing just his boxers, he reaches for the pills on his nightstand and takes them, washing them down with the water Lan Zhan had gotten him a few minutes ago.

Then he lies down and Lan Zhan pulls the covers over him. In the quiet room, the rabbits rustle inside their cage. "They aren't a disturbance, are they?" Lan Zhan asks. "I could move them to my room temporarily."

"No!" Wei Ying exclaims, then gives him a rueful smile. "I like them being here. Let them stay."

"All right." Unable to stop himself, Lan Zhan runs a hand through Wei Ying's hair, sweeping it away. He leans down intending to kiss Wei Ying's forehead but Wei Ying moves at the last minute and their mouths touch. Another shallow, sweet kiss. Lan Zhan makes an inadvertent noise. It sounds nakedly pleased; it gives him away. Flustered, he pulls away and swallows. "Good night, Wei Ying," he says, then turns and walks out of the room.

He turns on all the nightlights in the hallway, then gets himself ready for bed. If he finds sleep elusive, he has many things he can blame that on. But his mouth still feels the ghost of that kiss, and his hands are still tingling from the touch of Wei Ying's skin against his fingers.

~*~

They fall into a routine. Lan Zhan wakes up, as always, at five o'clock and goes for a jog. He comes back at six while Wei Ying is still asleep and showers, then has breakfast. Then he reads in his chair until Wei Ying emerges from his room and Lan Zhan assists him with getting dressed, then makes him breakfast. Afterwards, Wei Ying reclines on the couch with his laptop and works. Lan Zhan checks in with Wang Chunhua about orchestra. A part of him longs to return just to work with the kids, but Wei Ying still needs him. He needs to be with Wei Ying.

On the weekend, Wei Ying retreats to his room while Lan Zhan gives private lessons.

They talk--or, rather, Wei Ying talks; Lan Zhan listens and occasionally reacts. The strain around Wei Ying's eyes refuses to leave, and every day that it is still there makes Lan Zhan's stomach churn with worry. Wei Ying continues to be in pain, which Lan Zhan knows despite Wei Ying not saying anything. Wei Ying complains of being bored.

They entertain Wei Ying's various family members and friends, with Lan Zhan often giving them their privacy and sometimes joining in. Lan Zhan drives him to his check-up, Wei Ying grumbling the whole way there. "I'm fine, what are they gonna say? It's not like they can make the bones knit together any faster." Still, he goes, then tells Lan Zhan about it on the way back. "See, I told you--I'm fine."

"What else?" Lan Zhan knows when Wei Ying is holding something back.

"Ugh." When Lan Zhan glances into the rearview mirror, Wei Ying is rubbing his eyes. "Less movement, apparently. Which is impossible, I'm already a fucking lump on the couch."

Lan Zhan files this away, grateful to have been told. "Mn."

"Yeah, mn. Fuck, this sucks."

Wei Ying spends the rest of the ride in silence.

On day four, Wei Ying gets hard in the bath. It takes Lan Zhan a bit of time to notice, and he mostly does so because Wei Ying's eyes grow huge and he ducks his head. Lan Zhan's gaze drops down automatically and it takes him a long moment to comprehend what he is seeing. Wei Ying, noticing him watching, lifts his head and meets Lan Zhan's eyes with a challenge. "I'm a healthy boy with healthy needs," he says. His usual line.

Lan Zhan, flustered, does not respond. He thinks that, if Wei Ying asks, he won't have the strength to deny him yet again.

Wei Ying turns his head and their mouths are close enough that one movement from Lan Zhan could bring them together. It is Wei Ying who does it. Just before he closes the distance between them, he says, "Help me out, Lan Zhan?"

Lan Zhan feels frozen to the spot as everything in him clamors to get closer, to deepen the kiss, to never let Wei Ying's lips go. When Wei Ying takes Lan Zhan's hand and guides it to his cock, Lan Zhan does not pull away. In his weakness, he takes hold of Wei Ying and relishes the noise that he makes against his lips. Wei Ying pulls away just enough to gasp against Lan Zhan's mouth. They are a breath apart and Lan Zhan feels his every exhalation as if it were his own. He strokes Wei Ying, forgetting every objection, every rational reason why he shouldn't. Wei Ying closes his eyes and Lan Zhan watches his face greedily, not wanting to miss a thing. Wei Ying, he notices, stays entirely still, hands clenched tight around the edges of the tub. Good boy, he thinks in a haze. Wei Ying also stays entirely silent.

He himself is hard as a rock but with no plans to take care of it anytime soon. This is about Wei Ying and his pleasure.

It does not take long. Wei Ying makes a desperate noise at the back of his throat, hands spasming, screws up his face, and comes, pulsing over Lan Zhan's hand. He's breathing hard when Lan Zhan pulls away. His face clears, and finally, he opens his eyes. They flicker to Lan Zhan's mouth but he doesn't make a move. He says, instead, "Thanks, Lan Zhan. I needed that." And then, "What about you?"

"I am fine," Lan Zhan assures him. He doesn't squirm. Soon enough, he will no longer be aroused.

"But--"

"Let's get you cleaned up," Lan Zhan says quietly, and Wei Ying stops talking.

As always, Wei Ying catches his lips in a good night kiss that evening, and Lan Zhan still feels the tingle of it as he takes care of himself in his own bed, shutting his mind off to anything more complicated than the pleasure that he gives himself.

~*~

On day six--or, rather, late that evening--Lan Zhan cannot sleep. He tosses and turns and then he gives up. He pads to the living room, takes out his headphones and plugs them into his piano. He double-checks that the piano won't disturb Wei Ying, then he begins to play.

The melody he had composed when Wei Ying was in the hospital comes easily enough. He begins by plucking the tune out with one hand, then adds the second and keeps going until he has played the entire thing twice over. When he looks up in a daze, he blinks. Wei Ying is standing, leaning on the doorway, and he is watching Lan Zhan with a thoughtful sort of expression on his face. When he notices that he's being observed, he quirks a smile. "Couldn't sleep?"

Lan Zhan, still feeling dreamy and not quite himself, blinks again, then shakes his head.

"What were you playing?" Wei Ying's voice is quiet. It feels like the middle of the night, even though it is barely ten o'clock.

Lan Zhan bites his lip. "Just something I have been practicing." He takes hold of his headphones and takes them off.

"Play it for me," Wei Ying says, advancing into the room. He moves extremely slowly, hobbling on his crutches. He is a week into his recovery.

Lan Zhan feels himself flushing. There is no reason to--Wei Ying cannot possibly know that the song is for him unless Lan Zhan tells him. But it feels exposing, thinking about playing it for him. He hesitates.

"Please?" Wei Ying lowers himself gingerly on the couch, resting his crutches next to it. "I can't sleep, either."

It would be too early for Wei Ying, even with the recovery making him tired. Lan Zhan nods before he can change his mind. He unplugs his headphones, then positions his fingers over the keys. He takes a deep breath. Out of the corner of his eye, he can see Wei Ying watching him expectantly. He begins to play.

He plays with his eyes closed, allowing the melody to take him where he needs to go. Into his playing he puts everything that he cannot put into words. He pours it all out through his fingers, measure by measure, movement by movement. He thinks back to the dark days when this melody was first coming into being and he feels a sort of peace wash over him. This is enough. This is more than enough. All he needs is for Wei Ying to recover. That is all he will ever need.

A voice niggles at the back of his head, telling him that this isn't strictly true. Strangely, it sounds like his brother. He dismisses it easily.

The music ends. For a while, they sit in total silence, Lan Zhan with his hands in his lap, looking at the keyboard. Then Wei Ying says, "That was beautiful." Something about his voice makes Lan Zhan look up, and their gazes meet. Wei Ying looks torn open. Lan Zhan startles, feeling his hands twitch.

"Wei Ying--"

Wei Ying shakes his head, then closes his eyes. When he opens them again, he looks different. Normal. The way Wei Ying usually looks these days: sad, but dealing with it. Maybe a little bit frustrated. "Thanks, Lan Zhan." Another silence. "You wrote it, didn't you?"

He hesitates. Then, "Mn."

Wei Ying's lips quirk up in half a smile. "Yeah. It sounded like you."

Lan Zhan doesn't know what that means. He stays silent.

~*~

It's day nine, and Wei Ying is swearing up a storm as he bangs into the living room doorway on his way back from the bathroom.

"Wei Ying!" Lan Zhan starts to get up, but Wei Ying raises his hand.

He says, "Don't, Lan Zhan. You don't have to--you don't have to jump up every time something like this happens, I promise."

"I just want to--"

"I'm fine."

"Wei Ying--"

"I'm fine!"

Lan Zhan shuts his mouth with a click. He feels himself flushing from head to toe and averts his eye, attempting to settle back down into the chair.

There is a ringing silence, then Wei Ying says, his voice quiet, "Fuck. Lan Zhan, I'm sorry."

"No need," Lan Zhan says. His voice comes out wooden.

"There is though," Wei Ying says, louder this time. "I'm being a fucking asshole."

"Wei Ying--"

"And I'm sick and tired of this." Lan Zhan's gaze flies back up to Wei Ying. Wei Ying catches his eye, then looks away. "I'm tired of feeling like shit, I'm tired of being incapable of, of, of fucking dressing myself, or taking a fucking shower, and I am so fucking tired of being a burden on you."

Lan Zhan is on his feet before he can process the movement. "You are not a burden, Wei Ying, please stop saying that--"

"I am! I've disrupted your life for weeks now, Lan Zhan! First, when I was--when I was in the hospital, and now, with this, where you can't even read without me interrupting you. I'm a goddamn pathetic mess."

"You are not, Wei Ying." Lan Zhan takes a step forward, then another. He is a foot away from him, and he can feel his heart beating hard inside his chest. "Don't ever say that. You are not a burden, you could never be a burden, this is fine--"

"How can this be fine, Lan Zhan?" Wei Ying explodes and nearly overbalances. Lan Zhan darts out his hand to catch him but Wei Ying manages to regain his balance and twists away, avoiding him. Lan Zhan swallows down the stab of hurt. "Look, I can barely hold myself up, I'm in your face all the time, I can't even--"

"Wei Ying, please," Lan Zhan says, mortified to hear the pleading in his voice. "I want nothing more than to be able to help--"

"That's because you're too fucking good a person," Wei Ying snarls. "I can't do anything like this, I can't even--I can't even have sex, for fuck's sake--"

"I don't care about that," Lan Zhan says, feeling himself go cold, then hot. "Wei Ying, I don't--"

"Oh, what, you just don't want it anymore?" Wei Ying looks at him with an expression that tears through Lan Zhan. "See, I'm so pathetic, you don't even want to fuck me--"

"Wei Ying!"

"Don't, Lan Zhan, I can tell you don't--"

"Of course I do, I always want you!" Lan Zhan bursts out, then stops. He watches, as if from far away, Wei Ying's eyes grow big. He hears, in the ringing silence, his last words. He swallows. His heart hammers inside his ribcage like a trapped animal.

"Lan Zhan, don't…" It's a whisper, and in Wei Ying's eyes is such distrust, such confusion, that Lan Zhan can't take it anymore.

He takes a step forward, taking advantage of Wei Ying's stunned stillness, grasps his chin, and kisses him. Wei Ying makes a noise and then Lan Zhan hears the clatter of a crutch falling to the floor. Instinctively he grabs Wei Ying around the middle and brings him in before he can fall. Wei Ying moans and opens his mouth and then they're kissing in a way they haven't kissed in weeks. Into this kiss, Lan Zhan pours all of the frustration that he has stored up over months, over years. He imbues it with all the need that he has, pathetic and ceaseless. He fills it with understanding.

When he begins to get light-headed, he breaks off and rests his forehead against Wei Ying's as he pants. "Wei Ying," he says, a whine in his voice that horrifies him. "I want you," he whispers, in case his voice betrays him again. "I will always want you." He started this. He may as well finish now, and deal with the consequences as they come. "I want you in any way I can get you."

"I…"

Lan Zhan pulls back just enough to be able to look Wei Ying in the eye. "Tell me you understand," he says, urgent. "Tell me you know what I am saying."

"Lan Zhan, I don't--"

"Please. Look at me."

Wei Ying does. He looks at Lan Zhan with confusion, his eyes darting from his eyes to his mouth and back again. Lan Zhan bites his lip.

"I know you do not feel the same way about me, Wei Ying. I am all right with that." It mostly isn't a lie. He has resigned himself to this, although not a small part of him mourns the loss of the physical that is surely to come. Wei Ying is not a cruel man. He would never want to hurt Lan Zhan now that he knows just how much he is capable of doing so. Their friendship will return to normal--no more benefits. Lan Zhan will learn to live with that.

"Lan Zhan," Wei Ying whispers and looks down. Lan Zhan studies every single one of his lashes as he waits. "I thought you were smarter than this."

Lan Zhan frowns. He never thought so. "I am not. I should never have gotten involved in our...arrangement. But I wanted you too much to tell you no. I am sorry that I have taken advantage of it, knowing the entire time that what I was feeling was more than friendship." He swallows and looks away. "I apologize, Wei Ying. It was unbecoming. It was unfair."

And Wei Ying begins to laugh. His laughter fills the space between them, fills the whole room. It slices through Lan Zhan, makes him rear back, though he cannot go far, as he is keeping Wei Ying from falling. He makes himself stay and endure it. Finally, after what feels like forever, Wei Ying makes one last noise--a sort of whine that sounds ripped from his chest--and says, "You haven't been taking advantage of me, Lan Zhan. I've been taking advantage of you."

Lan Zhan frowns. He had, of course, assumed as much. He says, "Yes, I understand that, Wei Ying, you were the one to ask for this arrangement in the first place, but--"

"Oh, Lan Zhan," Wei Ying breathes, cutting him off. "You are an idiot, if you don't realize that I've been in love with you this whole entire time."

Lan Zhan has never been struck by lightning, but he imagines that this is what it would feel like. A pure jolt of electricity that runs through his entire body, lighting up every single cell. He jerks, hands spasming around Wei Ying. In his head, there is only white noise.

"Lan Zhan," Wei Ying breathes. He raises one hand and cups Lan Zhan's cheek, his thumb caressing the skin there. "Lan Zhan."

And then Wei Ying kisses him. In a reversal from earlier, it is Wei Ying who takes the lead, who opens up his lips and deepens the kiss. Wei Ying who moans into Lan Zhan's mouth and slides his tongue against his. Lan Zhan's mind slowly comes back online, a sort of joy growing in his chest like a fern uncoiling. A hunger takes over that he cannot contain. A small part of him remains mindful of Wei Ying's injuries, of the need to be gentle, but it is hard to adhere to when all he wants is to grab Wei Ying by the collar and haul him to him; to pick him up and throw him on the bed. Wei Ying makes a noise against him and it reverberates in Lan Zhan's throat. He answers with his entire chest, with his entire body. When the need to breathe becomes too much, he pulls back and says, helplessly, "Wei Ying." His mind supplies him with memories and he says, unable to stop himself, "You left after every time we... You said...you said that this was friendship, nothing more. That you didn't have time for a relationship." His voice is hoarse. He clears his throat. "You only...you sought me out when you were unhappy," he adds quietly.

"Lan Zhan." Wei Ying shuts his eyes and tips his head back. "Lan Zhan, I was fucking terrified. I was the one who suggested we sleep together, wasn't I?" Wei Ying opens his eyes and Lan Zhan feels like he couldn't move if he wanted to.

"Yes, but--"

"I left every time because I knew you were tired. Because I didn't think you wanted me to stick around. I didn't want you to get tired of me."

"Wei Ying--"

Wei Ying shakes his head. "No, listen. I had to say those things, set those parameters or I would never leave. I knew you didn't want me--"

Lan Zhan makes a noise, but Wei Ying shushes him.

"No, wait. I didn't know you wanted me," he amends, "so I kept myself away from you. As much as I could. Which wasn't a lot. Lan Zhan, I was the one who came over, every time. You never--you never asked. I figured you were, like...indulging me. That for you, it really was just sex."

Lan Zhan shuts his eyes and huffs out a humorless laugh.

He feels Wei Ying's breath ghost over his cheek, then a small kiss to his jaw. "You are so good in bed, Lan Zhan," Wei Ying whispers. "Every time I thought I needed to stop, I couldn't. I had to keep coming back for more."

"Wei Ying," he breathes. "Wei Ying."

"Lan Zhan."

They stand there until Lan Zhan notices the tightness in Wei Ying's jaw. He is in pain. He has been standing for too long, and the doctor had told him…

"Come here," Lan Zhan urges, and gently extricates himself. "Come over to the couch."

"I'd rather be on a bed," Wei Ying tells him as he looks at him from under his lashes. "If it's all the same to you."

Lan Zhan wants to whine. What he really wants they cannot do, not with Wei Ying in the shape that he is at the moment. But…

"Yes," he says.

They walk down the hall, Lan Zhan going slowly to accommodate Wei Ying's pace, and then Wei Ying stops, looking uncertain. "Where--"

"My room," Lan Zhan cuts in. He realizes he can say what comes to mind, now. He doesn't have to hide. He takes Wei Ying's hand and tells him, "I want you in my bed."

Wei Ying bites his lip but it does nothing to suppress the smile growing on his face. "I didn't think you did," he says quietly, then follows Lan Zhan into Lan Zhan's bedroom. "You put me in the guest room…"

Lan Zhan pauses, turns around. "I thought you would be more comfortable having your own space. I wanted to...give you privacy."

Wei Ying appears to roll this over in his mind. "That's...not how I had interpreted it."

Lan Zhan gets the feeling they will need to clear a lot of air in the coming days. For now, though… "Come here, Wei Ying," he says, and Wei Ying does his step-and-hop towards him. "Sit, please." He helps Wei Ying lower himself onto the bed, then takes his crutches and props them up against the wall. He goes down to his knees. He hears Wei Ying's intake of breath and meets his eye. He feels his lips stretching into a small smile that he tries to hide, but fails.

They kiss. Lan Zhan never wants to stop kissing Wei Ying now that he knows he can do it anytime. The knowledge of that has yet to sink in, and the kiss turns desperate. What stops it is the pained noise Wei Ying makes as Lan Zhan bends him nearly backwards.

"Oh, God, I'm sorry--"

"No, no… Fuck." Wei Ying winces as he sits back up. "Fuck, this sucks." He sounds less upset and more frustrated. "I want you to fuck my brains out," he murmurs against Lan Zhan's mouth, "but I can't even get through a makeout session like this."

Lan Zhan, his entire body responding to Wei Ying like a flower opening towards the sun, swallows thickly. "Perhaps we can get you more comfortable," he suggests, then reaches for the hem of Wei Ying's t-shirt.

Wei Ying, eyes shining, helps. Then he raises up his hips with a wince and Lan Zhan swiftly removes his sweatpants. "Boxers, too," Wei Ying pants, raising his hips again with another wince. Before he can question it, Lan Zhan does as Wei Ying asked, revealing Wei Ying's half-hard cock. His mouth waters. He slides the clothes off, leaving Wei Ying naked apart from the ever-present cast.

"Sexy," Wei Ying notes, gesturing towards it. "I hate this fucking thing."

"Endure it for a few more weeks," Lan Zhan tells him. "It will be off eventually."

Wei Ying wrinkles his nose, then lets it go. "Now, you. I haven't seen you naked in weeks, Lan Zhan. I've got needs."

Lan Zhan flushes with pleasure, then makes quick work of his own shirt. He stands up and rids himself of his trousers, his socks. He slips out of his underwear, his cock already filled out, and when he looks back at Wei Ying, Wei Ying is watching him with a naked sort of hunger. "Fuck, you're so fucking gorgeous. Come here."

Wei Ying has never told him that before. He'd told him, the first time they had sex, that Lan Zhan was "cut as hell," but as that had been more fact than flattery, Lan Zhan had not given it much significance. Now he feels a swoop of pleasure in his belly at Wei Ying's words and ducks his head. He should respond in kind. "Wei Ying is beautiful also," he says.

Wei Ying throws back his head and laughs. "Yeah, normally, I'm all right. Right now, though? C'mon."

Lan Zhan returns to his side and looks down at Wei Ying, forcing Wei Ying to look up at him. "Beautiful," he says more urgently.

Wei Ying bites his lip and, for a while, a silence falls between them. Wei Ying doesn't look away. Lan Zhan never could. Then Wei Ying says, "Come down here," and, between them, they situate him under Lan Zhan's covers. Lan Zhan stretches out beside Wei Ying and reaches for him. Wei Ying, lying on his back, turns his head and, once again, they're kissing. Deep and slow, they explore each other in ways Lan Zhan had never allowed himself to, before.

He is allowed to now. He runs a gentle hand down Wei Ying's chest, across his too-prominent ribs. Down his belly, over the cut of his hips. He takes a loose hold of Wei Ying's cock and relishes the hiss that earns him. "I do not wish to hurt you," he murmurs. "What can I do?"

"That," Wei Ying says emphatically. "A handjob won't hurt me, Lan Zhan." He hesitates. "Or a blowjob." He gives Lan Zhan a sideways glance. "If you felt like it."

Lan Zhan gives him a kiss. Then another one. Then he slides down lower and kisses the side of his neck, feeling Wei Ying squirm against him. He shifts and kisses Wei Ying's chest, stopping to take a nipple gently between his teeth. Wei Ying makes a gorgeous ah sound. Lan Zhan has missed the noises that he makes in bed.

"Lan Zhan, fuck…"

"Keep talking, Wei Ying," he asks. "Please. I wish to hear you."

Wei Ying touches his hand to Lan Zhan's head, then threads his fingers through his hair. "You don't think I babble too much?" he asks, and Lan Zhan wonders where he might have gotten that idea, and from who.

"No," he says emphatically, then licks a stripe down Wei Ying's stomach to his navel. "Wei Ying is never too much," he adds quietly.

Wei Ying's hand tightens in his hair. "Lan Zhan," he says with a sigh. "Fuck."

Lan Zhan does not believe Wei Ying requires a response, so he simply goes about kissing whatever skin he finds, attempting to be gentle around his ribs. He feels ungainly, weighed down by his desires. He hopes he isn't hurting Wei Ying.

When Wei Ying begins to whine and calls him a tease, Lan Zhan takes him in his mouth. God, he has missed this. He has missed Wei Ying's taste, the feel of him so heavy on his tongue. It is an awkward angle, one he is unused to, but he makes do. He sucks him off with a single-minded determination, allowing his mouth to adjust as he goes. It has been a while.

Wei Ying is leaking and his taste is heady, dizzying. Lan Zhan pulls off to take a breath and licks his cock all around, tonguing at the slit. Wei Ying is gasping above him, the effort of staying still clearly costing him. Lan Zhan looks up and rasps, "You can fuck my mouth, Wei Ying."

Wei Ying covers his face with his hands and groans. "Fucking hell," he mumbles. "You can't just say shit like that, Lan Zhan, I can't...hnghhh."

Lan Zhan licks his lips, then goes back down. Wei Ying lets go. He pumps his hips as Lan Zhan relaxes his throat and swallows around him. He wishes he could moan, let out some of what he's feeling, but all he can do is take it. Eyes shut, hands gentle on Wei Ying's hips, Lan Zhan lives in this moment of pure, unadulterated bliss.

Wei Ying does not take long. His voice pitches higher as he gets closer, his taste growing sharp and bitter. Lan Zhan bobs his head, sucks harder, and then when he feels the rushing beneath the thin skin of Wei Ying's cock, he pulls up and swallows around the head. Wei Ying cries out, hands tight in Lan Zhan's hair, holding him in place as he thrusts in one more time.

Lan Zhan extricates himself gently and swallows, his breath heavy and loud to his own ears. He's so hard, he aches. Wei Ying looks wrecked--wisps of hair escaping his ponytail, forehead dotted with sweat, eyes closed, smile a wandering thing on his face. He licks his lips and finally opens his eyes, pinning Lan Zhan in place with his gaze. "I've missed your mouth," he says, voice like a purr. "C'mere."

Lan Zhan goes. He stretches out next to Wei Ying and gives him his own taste back, tongues sliding against one another languidly. Wei Ying's hand sweeps down Lan Zhan's front and lands just short of his cock, low on his belly. "I want your cock in my mouth," he breathes. Then he gives him a loose stroke as Lan Zhan shudders.

"Wei Ying, you can't…"

"I have a plan," Wei Ying tells him, sounding smug. "Come up here." He rolls onto his back and indicates his chest. "I can do you from here."

Lan Zhan flushes. The image is...heady. But… "Your ribs."

Wei Ying rolls his eyes, still smiling. "It'll be fine, I promise. I just really fucking missed your cock."

Lan Zhan feels his objections melting away into nothing as desperation takes over. He bites his lip, tries once more, "Wei Ying, are you sure--"

"Get over here, Lan Zhan."

Lan Zhan sits up, then as carefully as he can manage, he hikes one leg high up over Wei Ying's chest, his cock bobbing obscenely close to Wei Ying's face. It shouldn't be possible, but he gets even harder. Wei Ying, for his part, licks his lips and gives Lan Zhan a look from under his lashes. "Yeah. Gonna suck you off so good."

Lan Zhan is trembling. He holds onto the headboard as Wei Ying grabs him around the hips and swallows him down incrementally, the heat of his mouth undoing Lan Zhan bit by bit. He attempts to stifle his cries, but Wei Ying pulls off and echoes his own words back to him. "Let me hear you, Lan Zhan. I want to hear you."

Then he takes Lan Zhan in his mouth once more. Lan Zhan doesn't stop himself from crying out. It's been too long, and this feels too good--and Wei Ying looks good doing it. It's filthy; it's beautiful. Wei Ying's clever mouth sucks him off hungry and wet and tight. Lan Zhan can't stop himself from wrapping one hand around Wei Ying's bobbing head, clutching his hair between his shaky fingers; can't stop himself from thrusting gently into him. Wei Ying.

Wei Ying is moaning around his cock, and shiver after shiver goes up and down Lan Zhan’s spine. Wei Ying appears to be loving this, loving Lan Zhan feeding him his cock. Lan Zhan doesn't stop himself from gasping, from letting his moans spill from his lips. The thought that Wei Ying is not just slaking a need as he goes down on Lan Zhan is overwhelming. The tight, wet heat of him, the joyful enthusiasm with which he's working Lan Zhan--it all goes to Lan Zhan's head and he feels it when he gets to the point of inevitability. Everything heightens--pleasure, heat, his shivers--and then he's clutching Wei Ying's head and coming down his throat with a punched-out gasp. He trembles uncontrollably, pleasure taking over every cell of his body for one bright, brilliant moment before subsiding and leaving him breathless.

As gently as he can manage, Lan Zhan pulls out and sags only slightly, wary of crushing Wei Ying. Wei Ying tips his head back against the headboard, swallowing. A bit of Lan Zhan's come is spilling from his lips and Lan Zhan wipes it away with his thumb before he can think twice about it. Wordlessly, Wei Ying opens his mouth and looks up at him. Just as wordlessly, Lan Zhan gives him his thumb to suck on. Wei Ying hums as he does it, eyes sliding closed. Lan Zhan can't look away.

A few long moments later, Wei Ying pulls back and smiles, then opens his eyes. "Missed this. Missed you."

Lan Zhan feels the pleasure of it in his belly. He swings off of Wei Ying and settles next to him, stretching out until their feet brush together. "I've missed you, too," he says, low. He leans in and Wei Ying meets him halfway. They kiss, Lan Zhan's taste shared between them.

Afterwards, Wei Ying whines that it is too difficult to cuddle. "I've never gotten to do this part before, and Lan Zhan, I have to warn you, I'm a giant cuddler. You'll have to get used to…" Then he trails off.

Lan Zhan, watching his face carefully, says, "Wei Ying? What is it?"

Wei Ying wrinkles his face, then sighs. "In the interest of full disclosure or whatever, I...should tell you that I basically want to be with you all the time. I just...don't want you to get sick of me. Because that would really suck. Like, a lot. I would so much rather not try having a relationship if there's even a possibility of losing the friendship and--"

"Wei Ying." Lan Zhan can feel himself smiling. He can't remember the last time he has smiled as much. He may never have smiled this much in his life. "There is no danger of that. Believe me."

Wei Ying smiles back a little shakily, then looks back up at the ceiling. He takes Lan Zhan's hand in his and squeezes. "I wish I wasn't so useless right now--no, like, physically," he adds when Lan Zhan begins to disagree. "But I think I'll be better about the bathing now." He says it with a bit of a leer, which surprises Lan Zhan into a laugh. "Maybe you can be fully naked, instead of just in your underwear. You have no idea how hard it's been keeping a neutral face, Lan Zhan."

Lan Zhan makes a surprised sound. He had not noticed.

"Think you'd fit in the tub with me?" Wei Ying continues. "Nah, probably not, not with my leg like this." He hums thoughtfully. "I have two requests, then."

"Yes?"

"One, whenever I get this fucking cast off, you are going to rail me through the mattress. Possibly for days."

Lan Zhan's throat dries up at the mere thought. He feels his skin prickle with want, feeling, for the first time, impatient for Wei Ying's full recovery. "And your second request?" To his surprise, his voice comes out fairly even.

Wei Ying turns to him with a crooked smile on his face. "Bath sex."

Lan Zhan's mouth twitches. "Technically, we've already done that." It doesn't sting to mention, now. In fact, it feels freeing.

"Doesn't count," Wei Ying says immediately. "I never got to touch you and you never came."

Lan Zhan kisses him. He runs his hand over Wei Ying's heated skin--over his chest and shoulder, then down his arm, until he can intertwine their fingers together. He says, "Wei Ying." It buzzes against Wei Ying's lips.

"Lan Zhan," Wei Ying responds, and for a while, they simply lie there, trading kisses.

Later, Wei Ying insists on keeping them where they are, even if neither one of them is up for another round quite yet. Then he takes Lan Zhan's hand in his once more and he says, "Tell me about it."

"Hmm? Tell you about what?"

Wei Ying turns his head and his gaze is intense. Lan Zhan feels his eyebrows drawing together.

"Wei Ying, what is it?"

Wei Ying takes a visible breath, then says, "Tell me what it was like for you when I was in the hospital." A pause hangs between them, heavy and loaded. "Please."

Lan Zhan shuts his eyes, then lies back. When he opens his eyes again, he's staring at the ceiling. They're still holding hands. "There is no need," he says carefully.

"There is, though." Wei Ying's voice is quiet but insistent. "Jiejie told me some of it, Lan Zhan. I want to hear it from you."

Lan Zhan squirms. "Why?" he asks.

"Because...because you're important to me. And...look, I know that everyone was worried, but you basically lived at the hospital with my family. And I can't imagine they were very pleasant to be around."

"It was fine," Lan Zhan says automatically.

"Lan Zhan." Wei Ying's voice is sharp. Lan Zhan turns his head in surprise. "You don't have to be all stoic all the time. You can tell me when things are shitty." Wei Ying has a line between his brows that Lan Zhan wants to smooth out with his thumb. "You can trust me to hear you," Wei Ying adds quietly.

It takes Lan Zhan a long time to talk. In halting words, he tells Wei Ying about finding out about the accident. About rushing over to the hospital. He tells him about each morning's feeble hope as he woke up, and the bitter disappointment of every text from Wei Ying's sister. He tells him about taking walks; about going home to his apartment and finding himself sitting in the dark because turning on lights had felt too difficult of a task.

"Wei Ying, I was...not myself...without you," he confesses. Wei Ying is watching him with wide eyes. In his gaze, Lan Zhan can see a sliver of doubt still lurking. An uncertainty that Lan Zhan wishes to dispel. "When you agreed to come here, I…" He pauses, attempting to line up the words. "Having you here. It has been bliss."

Wei Ying's eyelashes flutter as he lowers his gaze. "Lan Zhan...I've been a nightmare."

Lan Zhan catches his chin on his finger and lifts up his face so Wei Ying is forced to look at him. "It has been a dream." He wills Wei Ying to believe him. To understand. "I need you here," he says, heedless of how pathetic it might make him sound. "I need you with me."

Wei Ying takes in a shuddering breath. His eyes look huge as he says, "I need you back. So much, Lan Zhan."

Lan Zhan kisses him.

"I bargained for you," he says quietly. "I bargained with whatever is out there for you to come out of it."

Wei Ying's eyebrows draw together. "You...what do you mean?"

Lan Zhan shrugs, then lies back and looks up at the ceiling. "I promised that if you were to recover, I would tell you that I loved you."

Wei Ying's breath hitches. After a moment, he says, "But you didn't."

"No," Lan Zhan says, shaking his head. "I didn't." Except that he had, while Wei Ying had been unconscious. "I was a coward. Besides...it felt like having you back was enough."

"Lan Zhan--"

"The piece of music I played." Now that he's started, he doesn't appear to be able to stop, words tumbling out of him without much input. His mind races. "It was for you." It was all for you.

"Lan Zhan," Wei Ying breathes. Lan Zhan can feel his heavy gaze on him, but he can't quite make himself meet it. Not yet. Wei Ying squeezes his hand and Lan Zhan squeezes back. "Will you...will you play it for me again sometime?"

Lan Zhan finally turns and meets his eye. "If you wish."

Wei Ying leans in closer and breathes, "I wish."

Lan Zhan kisses him.

~*~

Three weeks later, Lan Zhan is serving finger foods to their friends. Wei Ying, feeling markedly better, had decided that he was tired of seeing people in snatches and had asked Lan Zhan if they could just have a gathering of everyone. "I'll host, I promise," he'd said, and Lan Zhan had, obviously, told him there was no need. He was more than happy to help.

Now, he sits on the floor, Wei Ying sprawled out above him on the couch, and watches their friends exchange easy conversations. Wen Qing had given him a bottle of wine and a meaningful look upon entering, and then surprised Lan Zhan by walking up to Luo Qingyang and giving her a kiss hello. Luo Qingyang had smiled at Wen Qing as if there was nobody else there, and Lan Zhan had looked away, not wishing to intrude.

Jiang Yanli had shown up with her husband and a tureen of lotus root and pork rib soup. "I know it's not exactly party food, but…"

"Wei Ying will be very happy," Lan Zhan had said. "Thank you." Then he had put out bowls and spoons.

"Wen Qing, you knew, didn't you?" Nie Huaisang says after giving Lan Zhan and Wei Ying a meaningful look.

"Knew what?" she asks from her perch on the arm of Luo Qingyang's chair. Lan Zhan catches her amused glance as she takes a sip of her wine.

Lan Zhan does not normally enjoy others knowing, much less discussing, his personal business. He finds that he does not care at this moment. It turns out, Wei Ying's affection and happiness rate higher than privacy. And Wei Ying has been very affectionate. For weeks now, they have greeted each morning with a kiss—and sometimes more—Wei Ying hiding his pleased smiles against Lan Zhan's skin. The easy physicality with which he had approached their friendship has changed shape, become more intimate. A touch to Lan Zhan's lower back here, a kiss on the cheek there. Lan Zhan has found himself being just as physical back. Helping Wei Ying wash has gone from a tense, silent chore to a joyful partnership.

Lan Zhan still finds himself needing to be careful with Wei Ying--but Wei Ying is healing.

It no longer hurts him to laugh, and he does, frequently. He still hates being unable to do things for himself, but allows Lan Zhan to assist him with a modicum of grace. He demands cuddles when he's feeling up to it, pouting when he isn't.

And Wei Ying kisses him.

All the time.

They kiss first thing in the morning, and as the last act of the day. They kiss when Lan Zhan brings him a cup of tea or a bottle of Emperor's Smile and a tumbler. They kiss when Wei Ying sends Lan Zhan off to work. They kiss when Lan Zhan returns.

Wei Ying has begun physical therapy, after which he returns glum and tired. He stretches out on the couch between Lan Zhan's knees and Lan Zhan massages his shoulders until Wei Ying relaxes and allows the tension to recede. Later, he demands that Lan Zhan play for him. Happily, Lan Zhan obliges.

Wei Ying's laughter brings Lan Zhan back to his living room. "He did not!" he says, voice bright and clear. "Wen Ning, you didn't!"

"Hand to God," Wen Qing responds, eyes filled with laughter. "I'm sorry, sweetie," she says to her brother, who is blushing furiously. "But you have to admit it was funny."

Lan Zhan allows the story to pass him by. He looks around and sees that he needs to replenish people's drinks. He gets up and goes to the kitchen. He's grabbing another two bottles of wine when he hears someone walk in and turns around, putting on a neutral face. It is Wen Qing.

"So," she says as she takes one of the bottles from his hands. "More than friends, then."

Lan Zhan ducks his head. "Yes," he says. "More than friends."

"Good. Because he's been pining for you for years." There is affectionate amusement in her voice. Lan Zhan lifts his gaze to hers. "Don't look at me all surprised, it's not my fault the two of you circled each other without any success for ages." Then her face grows serious. "I'm relieved, Lan Zhan. He deserves to be happy."

Lan Zhan feels his ears growing hot. Her candidness should be reciprocated. "I hope to make him so."

She cocks her head and gives him a curious look. "You know you already have, don't you?"

She leaves with the bottle of wine and Lan Zhan knows he must compose himself before going back out. He doesn't get a chance, because the next person to walk into the kitchen is Jiang Yanli. "Lan Zhan!" she says with a smile, then grabs the other bottle from his hands. He is left standing empty-handed. "We haven't really had a chance to talk without Wei Ying." That's all the warning he gets. "You and my brother," she says and gives him a piercing look.

Lan Zhan, not actually knowing how much Wei Ying has told his sister, says, "Mn."

She gives him a smile and takes a step closer. She has a remarkable presence for a small woman. He watches her face carefully. "I know that you love him, Lan Zhan," she says in a gentle voice. "Anybody can tell." Lan Zhan takes a careful breath in and out. "Wei Ying clearly adores you." Another breath. "I hope," she goes on, her voice carefully neutral, "that you continue to love him." Lan Zhan feels his jaw clenching and loosens it. "Because Wei Ying means the world to me. I've seen him hurt before. I don't ever want to see that again."

Lan Zhan bites his lip hard enough that it jolts him. He lets it go, then says, carefully, "I understand."

That is when Jin Zixuan walks into the kitchen and breaks into a grin. "I see the shovel talk is happening," he says cheerfully, then wraps an arm around his wife's shoulders. "Am I right, honey?"

"Nonsense," she says, playfully hip-checking him. "We were just talking about how much Wei Ying means to both of us."

Her husband purses his lips, but the laugh still escapes. "All right. Well," he says, turning to Lan Zhan. "He seems to be happy with you, which makes Yanli happy. So let's all just stay happy."

Then he leads his protesting wife out of the kitchen. Lan Zhan breathes out. If Jiang Cheng walks in next, he's leaving his own party.

It is not Jiang Cheng. Wei Ying walk-hops into the kitchen on his crutches and tilts his head, laughter plain on his face. "Are you all right? You've been in here for a while." He comes closer, then backs Lan Zhan up against the counter. "I missed you."

Lan Zhan feels tension drain from his shoulders. He wraps his hands around Wei Ying's waist, bringing him closer. "Your sister was talking to me," he tells him.

"Ah." Wei Ying leans his crutches next to Lan Zhan and slings his arms around his neck. "The shovel talk?"

"The shovel talk."

"I really thought that was going to come from Jiang Cheng," Wei Ying muses. "I didn't think she was scary enough for it."

Lan Zhan, lips twitching, says, "She is."

Wei Ying lets out a snorting, sniggering sort of laugh. Lan Zhan loves his laugh. "Well, I wouldn't worry too much about it. You can take her."

"Wei Ying."

"Yes?"

"Come here," he breathes, and Wei Ying does. They're close enough for Lan Zhan to move his face incrementally and catch Wei Ying's lips with his own. They kiss slowly, exploring one another all over again. It is remarkable how many times Lan Zhan can kiss Wei Ying and never tire of it. Wei Ying makes a humming noise, the sound of his pleasure, and Lan Zhan tightens his hold on him.

"Hey, Wei Ying, are there any more of those dump-- oh, for the love of God, can't you act like teenagers when we're not here?"

Lan Zhan breaks the kiss, looking beyond Wei Ying's shoulders at Jiang Cheng's scowling face. "There are more dumplings in the steamer," he says evenly. "I will get them in a moment."

Jiang Cheng rolls his eyes and vacates the kitchen, muttering.

Wei Ying is laughing when Lan Zhan turns back to him. "You're a troll. I can't believe more people don't know this about you."

"Mn." Lan Zhan feels his lips stretching into a smile. "We should return to our guests."

Wei Ying gives a dramatic sigh, then drops his arms to his sides. "I guess." Then he gives Lan Zhan a serious look. "How are you holding up? I know you would normally want to escape by now."

Lan Zhan does not point out the fact that he is currently hiding in the kitchen at his own party. Instead, he smooths a hand over Wei Ying's cheek and brushes some hair from his forehead. "I am doing well." It is not a lie.

"Good." Wei Ying's smile is blinding. He is radiating joy. "Let's get back, everybody was mocking the peacock. That's how much I care about you and your well-being that I chose to miss it, Lan Zhan."

"I am truly honored."

Wei Ying grabs his crutches and tilts his head in the direction of the door. "If we hurry, we might catch Jiang Cheng complaining about our PDAs."

"We were not in public," Lan Zhan points out.

"Yeah, but Jiang Cheng doesn't care." Wei Ying takes his hand and tugs. "Come onnnnn, we're missing the party."

Obediently, Lan Zhan pushes off the counter. "I need to get the dumplings for your brother."

"Fuck the dumplings, he had, like, half the plate."

"Wei Ying."

"Ugh, fine." Wei Ying leans on a crutch and blows hair from his face.

Lan Zhan goes about getting the rest of the dumplings and putting them on a platter. He decants more dipping sauce into a bowl and puts that in the middle. Once finished, he says, "We may go."

Instead of moving, Wei Ying waits for Lan Zhan to reach him and grabs him by the front of his shirt. "When everyone is gone, I am sucking your dick for a full hour," he says.

Lan Zhan nearly drops the platter. "Wei Ying," he says, his voice pained. He fights his own arousal.

Unashamed, Wei Ying licks his lips and gives him a grin. "An hour, Lan Zhan. No less."

Lan Zhan clears his throat and nods towards the door. "We should go."

Wei Ying gives him a quick kiss, throws him a grin, lets go, and makes his way out of the kitchen. Lan Zhan follows.

~*~

Several weeks later

"It's done! I've got the green light!" Wei Ying crows as he hops into the car. He's holding up a piece of paper. "Here, in case you don't believe me." He shoves the piece of paper towards Lan Zhan.

Lan Zhan unfolds it, then reads the contents. His ears grow hot. "Wei Ying, you didn't."

"What? He's a doctor, and this was a health-related question."

The letter says, Mr. Wei has been medically cleared to resume all sexual activity. It is signed.

"Let's go home, Lan Zhan," Wei Ying breathes, hand going to Lan Zhan's thigh. "I'm not waiting any more than I have to."

Lan Zhan, arousal pooling low in his belly, clears his throat and starts the car.

The ride feels interminable, and not just because Wei Ying spends the majority of it squeezing Lan Zhan's leg and kissing behind his ear. Lan Zhan attempts to abstract himself from the sensory assault, but it is not easy.

Wei Ying is on him as soon as they fall through the door. "C'mere, c'mere, c'mere," he chants as he chucks his shoes and pulls Lan Zhan towards the bedroom. There's still a bit of a stiffness to his gait since getting his cast off, but he has healed. Against all odds, he is still attending physical therapy, which Lan Zhan believes might have something to do with the note he'd extracted from his doctor.

Wei Ying doesn't wait until they're in the bedroom to start ridding Lan Zhan of his clothes. Lan Zhan allows this, only just stopping himself from going for Wei Ying's jeans button. He is already hard, need pounding through him. Wei Ying is not the only one who has been impatient for this particular medical clearance. Taking their clothes off is impeded by their need to kiss, Wei Ying devouring Lan Zhan like a man dying of thirst. Lan Zhan moans and manages to still his wandering hands. He breaks the kiss. "Let me," he pants. He gets rid of his own clothes first, then reaches for Wei Ying's jeans. Wei Ying has already lost his shirt somewhere in the hallway.

It still fills him with wonder, seeing Wei Ying free of his cast. He has regained the weight he'd lost in the hospital, and he looks back to his old self, apart from the scar running down the middle of his chest. Wei Ying occasionally complains about it, but Lan Zhan likes to kiss the place that reminds him that Wei Ying had lived.

Once they are both naked, Wei Ying pushes Lan Zhan down onto the bed, straddling him. Then he reaches into the nightstand and grabs the lube. He gives Lan Zhan a look. "We don't need condoms, do we?"

Lan Zhan goes hot all over, grabs onto Wei Ying's hips. His voice sounds alien to his own ears when he says, "We do not."

Wei Ying rewards him with a bright grin.

Lan Zhan flips them over. If Wei Ying wants a railing, Lan Zhan will oblige. Wei Ying yelps and laughs as he lands on his back. "Fuck yeah, manhandle me, gege," he says, then throws his arms out above his head and grabs onto the headboard. He spreads his legs before Lan Zhan can ask. "Get me ready."

Lan Zhan wants to devour him whole. His heart beats a wild rhythm as he uncaps the lube and squeezes it out onto his fingers. It has been months since they've found themselves here. They've had sex--of course they have. But Lan Zhan has been holding himself back, heedless of Wei Ying's pleas to stop treating him like he's made of porcelain. Lan Zhan could not bring himself to, however. Now, seeing Wei Ying throwing his head back with joyful abandon as he pleads to be fucked, Lan Zhan lets all of his worries recede.

He circles Wei Ying's rim with slick fingers, then slips the first finger up to the first knuckle. Wei Ying makes a gorgeous noise, then bears down, pushing back. He is beautiful like this. "More, Lan Zhan, come on."

Lan Zhan obeys, sliding in further, brushing his prostate as he goes. Wei Ying moans, smile slipping from his face to be replaced by the look of ecstasy.

"Yeah, fuck, I've missed this. I've wanted you inside me for months, Lan Zhan," he breathes. "More."

Lan Zhan fingers and stretches him out for several long minutes, punctuated by Wei Ying's impatient pleas and his own heartbeat. Lan Zhan doesn't want to rush this; he has waited too long. He takes Wei Ying apart with two fingers, then three. He thrusts them in and out, watching himself work, then leans down and takes Wei Ying's hard cock in his mouth. Wei Ying's cry is high and breathy, his moans ecstatic. Lan Zhan doesn't want him to come yet, but he does want to make him feel good. He pulls off and kisses the jut of Wei Ying's hip, grazes it with his teeth. He licks whatever skin he finds, he mouths at his inner thigh, licks at his balls. He fingerfucks him until Wei Ying is nearly delirious with it, his words turning incoherent, and all that is left on his tongue is Lan Zhan's name.

Then Lan Zhan pulls out his fingers. Wei Ying opens his eyes and meets Lan Zhan's gaze. Lan Zhan thinks he might burn up under Wei Ying's scrutiny. "Get inside me, Lan Zhan," Wei Ying rasps.

He wraps a leg around Lan Zhan's hips and yanks him in. Lan Zhan teeters a bit, then regains his balance at the last minute and lands with his hands on either side of Wei Ying's face. There's laughter in Wei Ying's eyes, a joy in his smile. Lan Zhan leans down and kisses the smile away. Wei Ying opens up to him. He wraps his arms around Lan Zhan's neck, his legs around Lan Zhan's hips. In the circle of his embrace, Lan Zhan loses himself. They kiss for what feels like a very long time, Wei Ying's mouth hot and insistent, his tongue soft against Lan Zhan's.

Wei Ying is a wonderful kisser.

Lan Zhan breaks away and runs a gentle hand over Wei Ying's forehead, sweeping a lock of hair away. "Wei Ying," he says.

"Lan Zhan." Wei Ying undulates beneath him as he runs a hand down Lan Zhan's back. "What did I say?" He bumps his hips against Lan Zhan's, erections brushing.

"Get inside you," Lan Zhan says, raising an eyebrow. "So impatient."

"Been waiting for months," Wei Ying whines. "And now you're denying me. What kind of a boyfriend are you?"

Lan Zhan feels a wave of possessiveness crash over him. He leans down and claims Wei Ying in another kiss, deep and slow and imbued with everything he doesn't know how to say. Wei Ying moans against him, then hikes his legs high around Lan Zhan's back. Lan Zhan pulls out of the circle of his arms and looks down. His cock is nudging Wei Ying's opening already. He looks back up at Wei Ying's face. Whatever Wei Ying sees on his face has him sliding his eyes closed and a smile growing on his lips. He stretches beneath Lan Zhan and hums. "Do it, gege."

Lan Zhan considers slicking up his cock, but he knows Wei Ying is already wet and ready for him. Besides, if his memory serves, Wei Ying enjoys the aching drag of it, too.

Lan Zhan takes a hold of himself, lines up, and pushes in, bottoming out. Wei Ying cries out, then hisses as Lan Zhan pulls back and slams back in. Yes. Wei Ying loves the drag. Without a condom, Lan Zhan can feel everything tenfold, and he tries to catch his breath, but it is difficult. Not with the way Wei Ying is squeezing around him, with the way he's throwing his head back and keening with every thrust.

Lan Zhan loves it; it is not enough. He leans back, grabs Wei Ying's unharmed leg and throws it over his shoulder, slamming back in.

"Oh, fuck, yes." Wei Ying moans, his neck exposed, sweat already pooling at the hollow spot beneath it. "Fuck," he says on another thrust, and throws his arm back to brace himself on the headboard. Lan Zhan feels him trying to push back, but Lan Zhan has him pinned in--Wei Ying can't move much. Lan Zhan moves for him. He grabs Wei Ying's hands above his head, lowers himself, and bites down on Wei Ying's neck. That earns him a gorgeous, high, needy noise. "Oh, fuck, harder, harder."

Lan Zhan obeys, biting down more as he speeds up, his hips snapping, Wei Ying hot and tight around him. He wants to keep fucking him forever. He wants to bend him in half and absolutely wreck him, make Wei Ying feel him long after they're done.

He's rock hard and only Wei Ying's demands are stopping him from getting close. He tries to hold himself back.

"Keep going, Lan Zhan, don't stop, don't--fuck--don't stop, fuck, you're so good, you're so fucking hot, Lan Zhan--"

Lan Zhan is burning up from the praise, from the animalistic pleasure of it all. In some corner of his mind not currently taken over by need, he wonders at himself for the possessiveness, the absolute ownership he wants over Wei Ying when Wei Ying is like this. No one else's. Wei Ying is his; Lan Zhan is the only one who will get to see him this way.

He licks Wei Ying's neck, then sucks on a tendon, hard and punishing. Wei Ying sounds ecstatic as he writhes beneath him, hands squeezing Lan Zhan's. "Yes, fucking yes, harder--"

Lan Zhan obeys, then pulls back just enough to see a vivid red spot appear where his mouth has just been. He hopes it fills out purple, hopes Wei Ying wears it for days. He leans down until his lips are pressed up against Wei Ying's ear, still thrusting in and out of him, and whispers, "You're mine, Wei Ying."

Wei Ying cries out and squeezes his hands. "Lan Zhan, you--fuck--" He breaks off to moan, and Lan Zhan drinks it in, finds Wei Ying's mouth with his own and practically fucks him with his tongue. He does not regret his words, and he especially can't regret them when Wei Ying pulls away from the kiss long enough to say, "I fucking love you," and then, haltingly, between shuddering breaths, "I kept having to stop myself from saying that every time we fucked."

Lan Zhan makes a noise in the back of his throat, two warring reactions getting stuck on their way out, a sob and a laugh, all together. "Wei Ying," he finally says, and kisses him again.

Wei Ying moans into it, then twists one hand out of Lan Zhan's grip and runs it down Lan Zhan's back, nails scratching. Lan Zhan shudders as Wei Ying's hand grips his ass and moves along with Lan Zhan. When he catches Wei Ying's eye, Wei Ying is watching him with so much heat, Lan Zhan could melt into the bed. "Keep going," Wei Ying rasps. "Keep fucking me, don't stop--don't stop fucking me--"

Lan Zhan has no intention of stopping. He's close, but he holds himself back, calling on all of his reserves of patience, because he never wants to stop giving Wei Ying pleasure, never wants to stop being inside him like this with no barriers, nothing between them at all. Wei Ying's pleasure is everything Lan Zhan has ever wanted.

With his freed hand, he brushes Wei Ying's hair from his forehead, then threads his fingers through his hair, squeezes, and pulls Wei Ying's head back to expose his throat. Wei Ying makes a choked sound and gasps as Lan Zhan licks his neck and bites down at the tendon. He sucks a twin of the other bruise into the spot until Wei Ying is all but sobbing beneath him, sounding nearly delirious.

"Wei Ying," he mumbles against his skin, nose pressed up against the hollow of Wei Ying's throat. "Wei Ying, I'm--" He is about to say he's close when he feels hot pulses against his stomach and Wei Ying is crying out, clutching Lan Zhan to his trembling body.

Oh.

Lan Zhan rears up and catches sight of Wei Ying's face in the throes of ecstasy. He will never tire of that, nor will he ever tire of the way Wei Ying looks afterwards, his eyes liquid, satisfied, with a trace of laughter in the corners.

Lan Zhan comes with a groan while pinned in by that gaze and trembles his way through the apex of his pleasure.

For a while afterwards, they attempt to catch their breath. Lan Zhan feels like he's just run several kilometers in the rain.

"Fucking hell," Wei Ying breathes. "Hngnhhh."

His head lolls to the side, his hand goes slack in Lan Zhan's grip while his other hand drops off Lan Zhan's body, and he sort of sinks into the bed. Lan Zhan manages to let go and slowly lower Wei Ying's leg. Wei Ying winces, then says with a trace of a smile, "I'm gonna be so sore in a minute." He looks happy enough about it.

Lan Zhan bites his lip as he begins growing soft inside him. No condoms means quite a mess, and he murmurs an apology as he pulls out as carefully as he can manage. Wei Ying waves it off.

"I love it," he says, cat-like smile on his face. "Maybe we can shower in a bit."

Lan Zhan falls onto his back next to Wei Ying and feels his hammering heart. "Maybe in a bit." He doesn't know when next he'll be able to move, if he is honest.

"Mmm, yeah. Maybe a nap first."

Lan Zhan turns to look at him. Wei Ying is watching him back with an open expression, blinking slowly. "We should clean you up," Lan Zhan says.

Wei Ying grabs his hand and brings it to his lips. "You're so nice, Lan Zhan."

Lan Zhan's laugh is an exhalation. "Practical."

Wei Ying squirms, then wrinkles his nose. "Maybe you're right." Then he turns onto his side and shuffles close enough to catch Lan Zhan's lips in a kiss. "That was quite the railing," he says afterwards. Despite his words, his gaze looks almost serious. "Gonna be feeling that for days."

Lan Zhan's gaze gets pulled towards Wei Ying's neck, where two hickeys now bloom. He takes their clasped hands and runs his knuckles over the first one, then the second. Wei Ying's eyes flutter closed. "Good," he manages to say.

Wei Ying opens his eyes and catches Lan Zhan's gaze. Lan Zhan falls into it head-first. He never wants to climb back out.

"You're so fucking good," Wei Ying says and buries his head against Lan Zhan's neck. Lan Zhan sighs. "We're making a weekend of it," Wei Ying announces as he pulls back.

"Wei Ying, it's Thursday."

Wei Ying looks like he's about to protest, then relaxes. "Fine. Starting with tomorrow night, I'm not letting you out of bed for anything but food and showers until Monday morning."

He thinks to this future, the one where he gets Wei Ying all to himself like this--pliant and joyful and needy--and he feels a smile slowly stretching his lips. "I am at your disposal," he says. For as long as Wei Ying will want him.

Wei Ying grins and gives his shoulder a warm, lingering kiss. "I have a list, actually."

"A list?"

"A sex list," Wei Ying clarifies. "We're gonna go through at least half of it this weekend."

Lan Zhan can feel laughter bubbling up in his belly. "Sounds like an extensive list."

"Oh, it is. It is, Lan Zhan. It's extremely extensive." He pauses. "What we just did was definitely on it."

Lan Zhan makes a check gesture in the air. Wei Ying snuffles out a laugh. "Done and done. Although," he adds, "there can be repeats. A greatest hits remix, if you will."

Lan Zhan laughs, feeling soft and free. Wei Ying. "What else is on the list?" he inquires, curious.

Wei Ying makes a thoughtful face. "Let's see...me on top of you--a classic. Missed that one. You fucking me from behind--another excellent standby. You eating me out. We've never done that. Want to?" Lan Zhan can only hum in agreement, his throat going dry. "Me eating you out for, like, hours." This time, Lan Zhan shivers. Wei Ying's fingers draw patterns on Lan Zhan's chest. "Me sucking you off for hours, too. Like, deepthroating until I'm wrecked." His hand goes lower, down, until he splays his fingers across Lan Zhan's stomach. "I know you can last, Lan Zhan." He gives Lan Zhan a meaningful look. "So can I."

Lan Zhan clears his throat. "Happy to oblige."

"There's more, but I'll save that for a surprise." Wei Ying's face is luminous as he smiles. Lan Zhan can't help himself when he leans in and kisses his grinning lips.

And then he yawns, surprising himself. Despite the heat of Wei Ying's words, he finds himself nearly dropping off to sleep. He shouldn't. He should help Wei Ying clean up.

"It's okay, baby," Wei Ying whispers. "I'll be here."

Lan Zhan's chest squeezes, but he's too sleepy to react in any outward way. "Mmph."

Wei Ying's quiet laughter is the last thing he hears before he drops off to sleep.

~*~*~