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After the Final Rose

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Episode 7: The Bachelor Says Goodbye

Lan Wangji arrives late to his own rose ceremony and makes a bombshell announcement: he won’t be offering a rose to any of his remaining suitors. After giving an emotional speech, the Bachelor visits with each of the suitors to say a personal goodbye.

The suitors all reflect on their own time on the show, with some finding that the journey has brought them to unexpected destinations. Luo Qingyang and Wen Qing reckon with the possibility of a future together, while Song Zichen receives some surprising visitors and makes Bachelor history. Wen Xu expresses his frustration with the obstacles on the path to finding love.

With four of the goodbyes complete, the show’s host, Nie Huaisang, leads Lan Wangji down to the lake at sunset. At the end of the pier, his final suitor is waiting …

###

Dailies: Episode 6, Rose Ceremony

(LAN WANGJI stands in front of his final five suitors, who are gathered on a boardwalk that stretches out into Liangzi Lake. Rather than his usual rose ceremony tuxedo, he is wearing the linen slacks and sweater he had on during the bungee jumping date. The sun has just dipped below the horizon; the sky, swimming in crimson and pink, is twinned in the serene waters of the lake below. LAN WANGJI begins to speak with uncharacteristic hesitation, stepping from word to word as if searching for a path through the tangle of his thoughts.)

LWJ: I am not going to give out any roses tonight.

(Mutters and gasps from the suitors.)

LWJ: I have realized, today, that I should have quit my role as the Bachelor weeks ago. Everything I have done since … (he thinks for a moment) almost the very beginning, has been dishonest — fake. I told myself that it was for the best, and that there was no harm in it — and (he glances over at the suitors) perhaps, for many of you, it was true that there was no real harm.

But that is not an excuse. And so I wanted to come here tonight and … explain, I suppose, why I did what I did, and why I have changed my mind now, when we are so close to the end.

(Another pause; he turns away for a moment, touches the four long-stemmed roses lying on the stand behind him, then turns back.) All my life, I have worked to live up to the world’s expectations for me, to be the person I believed that duty and my family required me to be. Over time, I became … (he thinks about the metaphor) a rock, of sorts. I thought an impenetrable exterior would keep my real self safe, protect me from the world. I thought — I was convinced that I was doing so because it was proper, but perhaps … one of you said something to me, a few days ago, that I have been thinking about … (he flicks a glance at LUO QINGYANG)

The truth is that I was afraid. Afraid of what love might do to me, of how it might hurt me. There were reasons for this, perhaps, but … (he trails off, and starts again)

But then I came to film this show, and I met someone. I fell in love.

And it was as if he was a chisel — a hammer — and it only took one blow to break through … (he wipes at his eyes) It feels like I have been cracked open by love, and laid bare.

(Long pause, but all of the suitors are silent, listening.)

I do not know if he loves me in return. (He chokes back some heavy emotion, stiffens himself) But … even if he does not … I will no longer stand here and lie to all of you, just to pay lip service to my obligations. I am still afraid — I am not sure that will ever go away — but I do not want to close myself back up again and retreat from the world.

Continuing with this show to the end would be the easy path. It is the path I would have taken, in the past. But in doing so I would be failing myself, forgetting a duty I owe to myself and to my heart. (A long pause where he looks out over the water; the light has dimmed enough that it isn’t clear if he’s crying or not. Finally he pulls himself together and turns back to the suitors and gives them a low bow.) I apologize for taking you all so far on a futile journey. I hope you can forgive me.

###

After he finishes the speech, Lan Wangji takes off his mic pack, puts it down beside the roses, and goes back to the guest suite. Nobody — not even Yao Zhiqiang — tries to follow him; it’s almost as if his announcement has, in fact, transformed him from the Bachelor, Lan Wangji back into plain old Lan Wangji.

He wonders idly if Meng Yao will come to drag him out of the guest suite (“This suite is only for the Bachelor, and you’re not the Bachelor, are you?”), but that doesn’t happen. Nothing happens, actually, except that Lan Wangji takes off his socks and rolls up his pants so that he can sit on the boardwalk with his feet in the dark water. It’s still warm from the heat of the day; the lotus roots sway softly against his calves. Each of the flowers has curled in on itself, protective; he knows they only open for the sun.

“I heard your speech,” a voice says, from the water. A few splashes, and then the boat bumps against the boardwalk again. “I rowed over and hid in the reeds and listened.”

“And?” The moonlight shows Jiang Cheng in the boat, now wearing a t-shirt and jeans.

“And I hope Wei Wuxian gets to hear it, someday. Sometimes I think he’s got it in his head that what he does doesn’t matter to anyone, because he thinks he doesn’t really matter … but you stood up there and said …” Jiang Cheng pauses, and then snorts. “Well, I don’t really know exactly what you said, but it seemed really thoughtful. And like it might shut up that part of Wei Wuxian that’s always convinced that he’s the only one who’s going to get hurt by the shit he pulls, because he’s too disposable for anyone to really mourn the loss of him.”

The tone of Jiang Cheng’s voice suggests a personal acquaintance with this feeling. It also suggests that questions on the topic would be quite unwelcome, so Lan Wangji doesn’t reply. “Anyway,” Jiang Cheng continues, “maybe he’ll see it when it airs on TV, or something.”

“I hope to tell him myself.”

“You’re going to look for him, then?”

Jiang Yanli had found Wei Ying, once, when he’d run away; Lan Wangji thinks he can be as dogged, in searching, if only to tell him that he deserves to be loved. Even if Wei Ying doesn’t want his love, Lan Wangji still wants to tell him that. “Mn. I hope it does not take another three years to find him, but I will wait, if necessary. I would wait longer.”

“Ugh, don’t tell me you’re the romantic type,” Jiang Cheng says. Lan Wangji can almost hear his eyes rolling. “But … uh. Yeah. I think you might actually be good for him, so if you want some help, let me know.”

“Thank you. The offer is appreciated.”

“No problem.” He pauses, and then adds, uncertain, “I actually came to ask if you wanted to come out for a row. Wei Wuxian loves the lake at night, so I thought … I thought you might like it, too.”

Lan Wangji swings his legs over the edge of the boat and climbs in. He is not sure why he is doing it; five weeks ago, he would have politely declined an invitation to go boating with a near-stranger. Maybe that’s reason enough. Jiang Cheng uses an oar to push them away from the boardwalk, then begins rowing, with strong, steady strokes that carry them out into the lake. The wood of the boat scratches against the bottoms of Lan Wangji’s bare feet, the gunwale curving around him like an embrace.

“So. You’ll just forgive him, then, when you find him?” Jiang Cheng asks, as he pulls.

“Mn.” His feelings for Wei Ying are, in some ways, terrifying. Too large to encompass, to control. If Wei Ying does feel something for him, Lan Wangji can understand why, in the chaos of that night at Cloud Recesses, he might have felt the need to run. Why he might have given in to the instinct towards self-preservation. “Didn’t you?”

There’s a slight hesitation, and then, drily: “It took a while.”

“Do you still have the flask?” He had refused to partake, earlier, but something about the surreal dark of the lake, punctured only by the moon and clouds of lightning bugs, leaves Lan Wangji wanting to feel unmoored. As if he’s gone out past all known navigation markers, off the edge of the map, to a place where he’ll have to forge a new route. Alcohol seems like it might help with that.

“Yeah.” Jiang Cheng passes it over, and Lan Wangji takes in a gulp of something that tastes vaguely like the bottom of an old campfire. It’s not pleasant, and then, after a minute, it is. He takes one sip, then another. Jiang Cheng has shipped the oars, so that the boat bobs, gently, on the water. The lights of the resort are strung out along the shore like a constellation.

“Why’d you go on the show?” Jiang Cheng asks, after a stretch of companionable silence. “You don’t really strike me as the type.”

“My brother talked me into it.” The cool metal of the flask beneath his fingers feels nice. Grounding. “He likes the show. Also, he is dating Meng Yao, and Meng Yao was desperate to find someone to replace the man who was supposed to do it.”

“Your brother’s dating Meng Yao?” Jiang Cheng says, dubious. “Really?”

“I said something similar when they started dating,” Lan Wangji admits. “But he is not so bad. I will not stand up and object at their wedding, at very least.”

Jiang Cheng huffs a laugh. “A real testament to his character.”

“Wei Ying told me” — Lan Wangji pauses, for a polite hiccup — “that you have been single for a while now?”

“Did he? That fucker. Give me the flask.”

He passes it back. “By choice?”

“Fuck! What is this, an interrogation on my relationship status?”

“No,” Lan Wangji says. He had some other reason for asking, he is certain, but it takes a minute for him to chase the thought, which is lazily swimming away from him, just out of reach. When he looks up at the sky, the newborn moon is a sleepy curve against the cheek of the distant hills. “Oh! I remember, now. You were very helpful, earlier today. You gave me hope. And so I thought that if I could help you, in some way …”

“Do not suggest that I should be the next Bachelor. Seriously. Do not.

“A ridiculous suggestion,” Lan Wangji says. “I would never.”

“And I’m doing fine, whatever Wei Wuxian wants to say about it, okay? If I’m going to meet someone, it’s going to be in some normal, everyday way, that doesn’t involve cameras and roses and whatever other shit this has attached to it. A chance meeting. A coincidence. A friend of a friend, you know? And it’ll be someone who’s too low-key to ever want to pursue romance on television.”

“Mn. Very smart.” The flask reappears, and he upends it over his mouth, but only a few burning drops come out. Lan Wangji drags a hand in the water and considers the multiplying stars, the double span of the Silver River arcing through the sky. “I think I may be quite drunk.”

Jiang Cheng laughs and picks up the oars again. “Great. Time to get you back before someone decides I’ve taken you out here to drown you.”

“Oh.” Another hiccup. “I did not think of that. You are not intending to throw me overboard, are you? You were very angry earlier.”

“Of course not.” A pause, and the boat surges ahead, gliding over the water. “It’d be terrible for the resort’s reputation.”

“You are not half as bad as Wei Ying made you out to be,” Lan Wangji says, eyes drifting closed. Jiang Cheng seems quite nice, in fact, now that he is not yelling and is instead lulling Lan Wangji to sleep with the sound of the oars shushing into the water. “If I am ever lucky enough to get married to Wei Ying, I hope you are his best man. I would like that very much.”

“God, you really are a sap, aren’t you? I should have known. Only a sap could fall in love with Wei Wuxian.”

###

Dailies: Episode 7

(A shot of LUO QINGYANG and WEN QING, walking along the shore of Liangzi Lake at night. Each of them is sneaking glances at the other when they think they won’t be seen. Silence, for a bit, and then:)

WQ: Earlier — when you said you wanted to apologize — was that … (she falters) was that all you wanted to do, when you came on the show?

LQY: No … (shy) I wanted to win you back. (hasty) But even if that’s not possible, I still owe you an apology, okay? Because I know I fucked up. I should — (getting emotional) I should have called you months ago and told you I was a fool.

I thought I wanted this big grand romance and that you being practical and steady meant you didn’t really love me, but it only took me a week after we broke up — after I said all those horrible things to you, too — to realize that I’d screwed up. It was my first performance after you left, and I realized I didn’t know what was in the throat-soothing tea you used to make for me. It was always just there when I needed it, perfect … like you. And right then I had the desperate thought that I couldn’t live without that tea and then I knew — I knew — that really what that meant was that I couldn’t live without you. But I couldn’t … I was afraid to just call and tell you …

So … yeah. I’m sorry. I fucked up, and coming on the show was fucked up, too, I just —

(WEN QING shuts her up with a kiss. They cling to each other, totally unaware of the cameras. Finally they break apart and LUO QINGYANG leans her forehead against WEN QING’s.)

LQY: (very soft) God. I love you. I’m so sorry. You know that, right?

WQ: (tender) I know.
________

(A talking-head interview. WEN QING, 31, internal medicine resident.)

Offscreen voice: Why did you go on the show if you were still in love with Luo Qingyang?

WQ: I didn’t think there was any hope for us. When Mianmian didn’t call … if she’d called me and said I’m sorry, I was wrong … I would have taken her back right away. But she didn’t and I thought, fine, you’ve moved on? I’ll show you that I can move on too. (a rueful grin) I wanted to make her jealous, I guess.

Offscreen voice: Is it fair to say that in the end she was the one who made a big romantic gesture, by applying to the show so she could win you back?

WQ: (stares at the person offscreen for fifteen seconds) Oh my god. Oh my god, she did, didn’t she? (overcome by a fit of giggles) That’s amazing …
________

(A shot from a distance of two people in a boat on Liangzi Lake, in the early morning: NIE HUAISANG, host, and MO XUANYU. There are no cameras in the boat, and no microphones; only a private conversation. The camera zooms in to show that NIE HUAISANG is talking, and that MO XUANYU is nodding in apparent agreement.)
________

(A shot of a tablet, held in someone’s hands. The camera doesn’t show the person’s face. The tablet is playing footage of LAN WANGJI’s speech to his suitors. When that clip reaches its end, the footage switches to a close-up of LAN WANGJI’s face while he dangles on the end of his bungee jump cord, as captured by his head-mount camera.)

LWJ: (on the tablet, whispering, tears in his eyes) I wanted to make you laugh, Wei Ying. That was new, you know … and I wanted to you to really know me. That was new, too … (When the cord retracts, towing him upward, he is humming a song.)

Offscreen voice: (very shaky) I’ve fucked everything up so badly, though …what do you want me to do?

###

Lan Wangji wakes up to the vicious stab of sunlight in his eyes and a bitter taste on his tongue. He takes a cautious inventory of his body — all there, though his stomach wishes it was not — and recalls, with a twinge, how he got into this state. It has been some two decades since Lan Wangji was last hungover, and he is surprised to find that the experience has not improved with age.

“Rise and shine,” Meng Yao says, in an aggressively loud voice, from a chair beside Lan Wangji’s bed. Judging from the two empty plates beside him and the half-finished book in his hand — a romance novel, which Lan Wangji knows the man peruses for inspiration when crafting Bachelor storylines — he has been waiting there for some time.

“I fail to see why I should get up,” Lan Wangji says. His stomach and head growl protests when he shifts in the bed. “I have quit the show. Perhaps you did not notice?”

“Well, I noticed you saying you weren’t going to give out any roses to your suitors, and that you should have quit weeks ago, and also that you weren’t going to lie anymore — yes, thank you, I did notice all that, it is kind of you to ask — but you didn’t actually say you wouldn’t film any more footage.”

“Why would I?” Lan Wangji manages to sit up. The room, which he only half-remembers returning to — brief flickers of Jiang Cheng heaving him out of the boat, grumbling as he dragged Lan Wangji across the suite and then dumping him, fully-clothed, in the bed — spins woozily around him for a moment, then settles. Meng Yao pours a cup of tea and passes it to him.

“Because I need footage to finish up storylines. I’m not going to complain about you torpedoing the show without any warning, even though I asked you whether you wanted to leave a week ago, and you told me you were fine to continue, but the least you can do is work with me by shooting personal goodbyes with the remaining suitors. You won’t have to lie to them, anyway. You’ve already told the whole truth.”

Lan Wangji sighs, and takes a sip of the tea. It is oversteeped, but when his stomach doesn’t immediately object to it, he drinks a little more. “That is all? You simply want me to meet with each of them and say goodbye?”

“I want you to say a little more than just the word goodbye, but that’s the gist of it, yeah. Like — Luo Qingyang, I think you might have something to say to her. Or she might have something to say to you, really. She and Wen Qing got back together last night and I gather, from what she said, that you were somehow involved in that.”

“Ah. I am glad for her. Were you not already aware that she and I were faking?”

Meng Yao has the decency to blush a little. “Maybe I had my suspicions.”

“And when you cast Luo Qingyang, did you know she had previously dated Wen Qing?”

“That’s none of your business,” he says, re-opening the romance novel. “We were talking about you.”

Lan Wangji raises an eyebrow. That, at least, does not have the effect of making him nauseous. “Actually, you were talking about Luo Qingyang and Wen Qing.”

“Fine, whatever, yes, I did know. So will you do it?”

“No more lies?” It will delay his plan to search for Wei Ying, but he is not entirely sure where to begin, and admittedly there will be some sense of closure in this. Besides, if he refuses to do it, Meng Yao is entirely capable of taking footage from the season so far and editing it to make Lan Wangji look ridiculous.

“No.”

“Will this be enough for your storyline with Wen Xu? Will I need to be particularly cutting with him, in order to create drama?” He considers the thought. “I believe I could be, if necessary.”

“What? Oh, that. No, it doesn’t matter now, the deal with Wen Productions fell through. I’ve got other plans for next season anyway.”

“Alright. And you promise this is the last thing you will ask me to film?”

“I promise it’ll be the last thing you film for the show, unless you decide for yourself that you want to film more.”

“Impossible,” Lan Wangji says promptly. “But, on those terms, I will do it. Not today, though.”

“Why not?” Meng Yao starts to do the little pout, catches himself, and gives Lan Wangji a genuine, pissed-off glare.

“Because today I am going back to sleep.”

###

Dailies: Episode 7

(A wide shot of SONG ZICHEN, standing on the slopes of a tiny green islet flowering in the middle of Liangzi Lake. LAN WANGJI, who has just finished speaking with him, gives him a polite bow and climbs down the rocks to a waiting boat. SONG ZICHEN tries to follow, but someone on the crew waves him back.)

CREWMEMBER: We’re not quite done with you, okay?

(Visibly confused, SONG ZICHEN sits down on the slope and waits.)
________

(A shot of SONG ZICHEN from behind, looking out at a small powerboat approaching the islet. There are three people onboard, one of whom is driving the boat. One of the other two figures, tall and graceful, is calmly watching the islet as the boat approaches. The last figures appears to examining the boat for anything he might discreetly pocket. The boat reaches the shore, and the first man — now close enough to identify as XIAO XINGCHEN — disembarks smoothly, while the second, XUE CHENGMEI, jumps into the water with a big splash. XIAO XINGCHEN laughs. SONG ZICHEN begins to descend the slope, the camera following.)

XCM: (smirking) Hey, Zichen. Got all the punching out of your system?

SZC: (stiffly) I am very sorry about that. It wasn’t your fault at all — I lost control, and there’s no excuse —

XCM: (annoyed that he’s losing credit for provoking chaos) Pretty sure it was mostly my fault, actually.

SZC: You — (uncertain) why did you come here?

XCM: (shrugs) Because I want you? And I want him. (he jabs a thumb at XIAO XINGCHEN) And if he’s telling the truth, you want that, too. Which would be nice because I, uh … (he feels a feeling, notices it, and immediately tries to cover up for his vulnerability by making a joke of it) Well, you know. A guy likes to feel wanted, every now and then.

XXC: (cheerful, to SONG ZICHEN) See? I told you he’d be into it.
________

(A talking-head interview. SONG ZICHEN, 38, physiotherapist. He is sitting on a chair in one of the Lotus Pier suites, with XUE CHENGMEI on his lap. XIAO XINGCHEN is sitting beside him, head lying on SONG ZICHEN’s shoulder, one hand holding XUE CHENGMEI’s.)

Offscreen voice: So I think this is the first time the show has produced a throuple? A bit of a historic moment. Do you feel good about that?

XCM: (grinding his ass down into SONG ZICHEN’s lap) No, he feels good about this.

SZC: (voice rough) Stop it, brat.

XCM (challenge accepted) Oh, yeah? Make me.

(XIAO XINGCHEN appears to find this interaction extremely interesting.)

Offscreen voice: Yeah, uh, okay. Maybe we’ll film the interviews later?
________

(A talking-head interview. LAN WANGJI, 35, author, and LUO QINGYANG, 30, opera singer. Lakeside, mid-day, both of them dressed casually.)

Offscreen voice: So. Your kisses. All fake?

LWJ: Luo Qingyang and I agreed that we would pretend to kiss for reasons that, at the time, seemed to make sense.

LQY: (laughing, ebullient) Actually, he really surprised me when he suggested that we kiss — when we went swimming that day I thought for sure he’d just send me home, once he knew that I was here for all the wrong reasons.

Offscreen voice: Do you regret it?

LQY: (before LAN WANGJI can respond) I probably should, but … I don’t think so, actually. I mean, totally a terrible idea? Obviously, if I’d been thinking about it at all, the idea of trying to make someone jealous through a fake relationship … but then it really worked out for me. So, thank you, Lan Wangji, for having a spectacularly bad idea that ended up turning out just fine.

(LAN WANGJI inclines his head graciously.)

LQY: (in a cagey tone that suggests she may know more than she’s saying) And I hope you can still find your happy ending, too.

###

“I do not understand why you had to leave Mo Xuanyu for last,” Lan Wangji says, as a crew member fusses with his hair. “He is the only one that might actually be interested in me. It seems … cruel.” He is also not certain why he has been stuffed into his tuxedo again — a new one, rather than the one that had been battered by the elements in Cloud Recesses — or why they are taking so much care with his hair, given that he had gone to say goodbye to Song Zichen wearing a windbreaker and jeans.

The goodbye scenes with the other suitors went almost exactly as Lan Wangji expected, right down to Wen Xu’s extremely petulant tirade when he realized he wasn’t getting a next-Bachelor edit. But Mo Xuanyu and his potential feelings have been a storm cloud on the horizon for some time — Lan Wangji had wanted to send the man home on the sword-making date in order to avoid stringing him along, but Qin Su had snatched that option away — and he finds he is reluctant to to film this particular farewell.

Meng Yao, on the other side of the suite, looks up sharply. He seems almost nervous, drumming his fingers repeatedly against the edge of the table where he’s sitting. No, it can’t be nerves, Lan Wangji thinks; Meng Yao doesn’t get nervous, not about things involving the show. Perhaps he is impatient. “Yeah, I can see how you’d think that,” he says, “but can you just trust me that it’s not?”

Lan Wangji considers this. “I cannot. Huaisang?”

The host — who is also in a tuxedo, oddly, despite the fact that he, too, had dressed casually for the other goodbyes — jerks his head up from where he’s busy texting someone. “Ah, Wangji-xiong, there’s nothing cruel about this. I spoke with Mo Xuanyu yesterday, and I can promise you that everyone is on the same page about what is happening tonight.”

Nie Huaisang seems more trustworthy than Meng Yao, so Lan Wangji allows himself to relax, fractionally. It is possible that he has misread Mo Xuanyu; after all, he is hardly an expert in other people’s feelings.

“Alright,” he says, to Nie Huaisang. “I will trust you, then.”

“Everything ready?” Meng Yao says. The crew member gives Lan Wangji’s hair a final pat and nods. When Lan Wangji casts a glance at himself in the mirror, he looks calm, almost serene. The makeup artists have erased the dark circles that the last week left under his eyes. “Let’s go, then.”

When the three of them leave the suite, the sun has just slipped below the horizon, chased by a scarlet afterglow. Yao Zhiqiang, who was waiting outside, begins walking backwards down the winding boardwalk that parallels the shore, camera trained on Lan Wangji’s steady progress. The wind off the lake is fresh, carrying the scent of open water.

As the pier grows visible through the gaps in the trees, Lan Wangji can see Mo Xuanyu standing at the end of it, staring out at the water, a camera operator crouched at his feet, plus a few other members of the crew milling around. “You are certain this isn’t cruel?” he says, stopping.

“I’m certain. Even Yao-xiong doesn’t go in for cruelty.” (“Even Yao-xiong?” Meng Yao mutters. “Eat dirt, Huaisang.”) Nie Huaisang takes Lan Wangji by the elbow and tugs him along. “Come on, we’ll miss the sunset lighting.”

At the foot of the pier Lan Wangji stops, adjusts his tuxedo, steels himself. He has the strangest feeling, like everything that came before this is narrowing down to this moment, pinprick sharp.

Foolish. He will not let Meng Yao’s strange mood infect him. A final goodbye, and then this will all be over, and he will be free to start his life over again. Lan Wangji’s season as the Bachelor was marked by much drama, but he ended the season alone. A fine ending. He does not think he will want to watch the show when it airs, to see his own feelings reflected back at him during every interview where he answers Wei Ying’s questions.

“Wait,” Nie Huaisang says, catching Lan Wangji’s arm just before he starts to walk forward. “I think you might need this.” He shoves something — it feels like a silk handkerchief, wrapped around something small and hard — into Lan Wangji’s hand.

“Thank you,” he says, absently, not looking at it. Mo Xuanyu, at the end of the pier, still hasn’t turned around, as if he’s waiting for Lan Wangji’s invitation. Just a few more steps … he feels oddly nervous, now, but it’s just the tuxedo and the sunset and is that a rose on the stand at the end of the pier, and the other man is wearing a tuxedo, too, which — “Mo Xuanyu?” he says, almost a gasp.

The man turns around. “Lan Zhan.”

It’s Wei Ying.

###

Dailies: Episode 7

(A talking-head interview. WEN NING, a young man who happens to be WEN QING’s brother, although that is not the context in which he is filming footage for the show.)

Offscreen voice: And how do you two know each other?

WN: (soft-spoken, and somewhat nervous on camera) I … um. I did an internship on Wild China in my final semester? Consulting on bird behaviour patterns during the shoot. Wei-xiong and I became friends.

Offscreen voice: Did you know he was working on the show your sister was filming?

WN: No. Not until he showed up at my door last week and asked if he could sleep on my couch for a while. (apologetic) He also told me to keep it a secret that he was there but I thought I’d better tell jiejie about it in case she liked Lan Wangji. And then I guess she told someone else?

Offscreen voice: Yeah, well, we’re very grateful to you. And I think Wei Wuxian will be, too, when everything’s said and done.

WN: I would like him to be happy. He is a very nice man, although I think he is not always very nice to himself.

Offscreen voice: Okay, that’s good for now, thanks. We might want to shoot a bit more later, though, so if you could stick around the area …

WN: (standing and fumbling with his mic pack) Do you know if there is somewhere I could rent a boat? I thought I saw a red-crowned crane out on the lake …

Offscreen voice (muffled) Try up at the resort offices, they’ve got rowboats —
________

(A talking-head interview. WEI WUXIAN, 34, camera operator. He is fiddling with the bow tie on his tuxedo.)

Offscreen voice: Do you think he’ll forgive you?

WWX: I hope so. I — (the words catch in his throat, and he swallows) I really hope so.

Offscreen voice: Why did you leave, if you were in love with him too?

WWX: (soft, looking into the distance) I think … well. Loving is easy, you know? It’s being loved that’s hard.

###

Wei Ying. Here — his Wei Ying — smiling, yes, but cautious, eyes too big and the usual laughing edge of him buried in uncertainty, but — here. Lan Wangji feels his heart unfurling, petals before the sun.

“Wei Ying,” he says, a breath. There doesn’t seem to be anything else to say. He can feel tears prickling at his eyes. “Wei Ying.”

“Aiya, Lan Zhan, don’t cry,” Wei Ying says, stricken. “Don’t cry, if you cry I won’t be able to tell you all the things I need to say, I won’t be able to get my apology out, okay?”

“You came back.”

“Of course I came back, Lan Zhan.” Wei Ying steps closer and wipes futilely at the tears on Lan Wangji’s cheeks, ignoring those trickling down his own face. “They showed me your speech, sweetheart — they showed me the footage of you on the bungee-jump. It’s not fair that you can look so beautiful when you’re upside-down and crying, did you know that? I bet you don’t know that, so I had to come and tell you. And I had to come and tell you that I want to laugh with you, and I want to know you — ah, zhiyin, of course I want to know you. And I had to come and tell you that I love you, and …” he sighs, and closes his eyes, then opens them again. Lan Wangji, reaching out to take Wei Ying’s hand, finds it is shaking. In the press of their palms he can feel the contents of the handkerchief, and realizes what Nie Huaisang has given him. “I’m so sorry, Lan Zhan. Can you forgive me?”

“There is nothing to forgive,” he says.

“No,” Wei Ying says, stubborn, stepping back. “Lan Zhan, I hurt you. You can’t just let me off the hook for that.”

“You were scared.”

“Yeah, but who isn’t? You were scared, too, that’s no excuse. I owe you a big apology and I want you to hear it, okay? And then you can decide if you can forgive me.”

“Mn. Alright.” He pulls Wei Ying in close, though, unable to resist any longer. Wei Ying drops his head to Lan Wangji’s shoulder.

“I didn’t really believe you,” Wei Ying murmurs into his jacket. “When you said you loved me. I know, Jiang Cheng tells me all the time that I need to stop thinking people aren’t telling me how they really feel, but I thought … I thought maybe it was just the situation. Because we were spending all that time together, you know? It’s not like real life. And so I thought you’d wake up after it was all over and think, it was all just a fantasy …”

Lan Wangji buries his free hand in Wei Ying’s hair, breathes in the pine wood scent of him. “Never.”

“I’m not done, Lan Zhan,” Wei Ying protests, and Lan Wangji nods for him to continue. “When the door opened that night, all I could think was I’ve screwed everything up for him and then I thought if I refused to be on TV and just left, maybe it would be okay. You’d realize that it wasn’t real, and go back to your happy life. But then, your speech … you …” he almost chokes on his words, and Lan Wangji realizes that the shoulder of his tuxedo jacket is soaked through.

“Wei Ying. You do not have to tell me now. I will listen whenever you wish to speak.”

“No, I …” he leans back, looks into Lan Wangji’s eyes. His face is a snotty mess, tears tangled in his eyelashes, eyes red. Lan Wangji thinks he’s beautiful.“That’s it. I just want to say that I’m sorry, okay?”

“Alright. I have heard you, and now I forgive you. And I am glad the speech helped you believe in my feelings. Your brother said it might.”

“Lan Zhan, have you met Jiang Cheng? What did he say about me?”

“Only good things.” He thinks about it, and amends. “Well, some of the things did not seem like good things on the surface, but I think they really mean that he loves you. And he came and yelled at me very loudly when he thought I had hurt you.”

“What? He can’t yell at you! I’ll yell at him!”

“Wei Ying …”

And then, because Wei Ying is still shaking, his breath still coming in nervous gasps, Lan Wangji leans forward and kisses him. He can hear Yao Zhiqiang’s footsteps on the wooden pier, trying to get the right angle, the movements of the other crew shifting around them, but it doesn’t matter; nothing matters but their lips, meeting warm and soft.

When they break apart, Lan Wangji fumbles the handkerchief open, and drops to his knees.

“Ah, baobei, what are you doing? You can’t — everyone will think you’re going to — ”

By then Lan Wangji has the rings out, cloud patterns glittering in the dusk. Someone — Huaisang, he suspects — has moved the rose from the stand to the pier beside him, and he picks that up, too. “Mn. I am. Unless you do not want me to. If you think it is too soon, I will wait, Wei Ying.”

“No,” Wei Ying says, and then, flustered, “wait, that’s not what I mean, I meant it’s not too soon. Oh, shit, Lan Zhan, I’m messing this up too — your perfect moment — ”

“Wei Ying. You are not,” Lan Wangji says, fond. “The moment is perfect because you are in it.”

Wei Ying drags Lan Wangji up from his knees, so that they are standing face to face. The rose falls between them, forgotten. “Okay. Can you ask me again?”

“Wei Ying — will you — ”

Before he can get the words out, though, Wei Ying says, “Yes,” as if it’s been punched out of him. Hands trembling, Lan Wangji takes the rings and slides one onto Wei Ying’s finger — it looks perfect, just as he’d imagined — before letting Wei Ying slide the other onto Lan Wangji’s finger. When Wei Ying looks up, the light Lan Wangji had thought snuffed out is shining in Wei Ying’s eyes again, like the brightest star in the firmament. Lan Wangji thinks he could look at that sight every day for the rest of his life and never grow tired of it.

And now, he thinks, leaning in to kiss Wei Ying again, he can.

###

Dailies: Episode 7

(A talking-head interview. LAN WANGJI, 35, author, and his fiancé, WEI WUXIAN, 34, camera operator. The sun has completely set and they are sitting on the dock where the proposal took place. WEI WUXIAN is leaning against LAN WANGJI, who has an arm tight around his shoulders. The night air must be chilly, because someone has draped a blanket around the two of them.)

Offscreen voice: … when did you know you were in love with him?

WWX: (shy) You want me to answer that on camera?

Offscreen voice: (amused) That’s the idea, yes.

WWX: (not bothering to answer, he turns to LAN WANGJI) Aiya, it’s so strange to be on the other side of the camera! I don’t know how you put up with it for so long, Lan Zhan.

LWJ: (serious) I only managed because it was you, xingan.

WWX: (ducking into his shoulder, overwhelmed) My heart! Lan Zhan, you can’t just say things like that, okay? Give me a little warning next time …

###

Teaser — The Bachelor — 15-second spot

NHS: (voiceover) Next time on the Bachelor, Lan Wangji takes his fiancé to meet his family …

(A shot of LAN SIZHUI, the Bachelor’s son, happily embracing WEI WUXIAN while LAN XICHEN glowers in the background.)

NHS: (voiceover) and to the Fantasy Suite.

(A shot of LAN WANGJI sliding a door closed in the camera’s face, grinning widely.)

NHS: (voiceover) Then it’s time for the live taping of After the Final Rose, where we look back on the many surprises from this season …

(A shot of two people from behind, in silhouette, each holding a rose.)

NHS: (voiceover) and introduce our next Bachelor … and Bachelorette.