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The path to Lan Zhan’s demise begins like this:

On a day where the wintry afternoon sun chases away all the shadows of their small two-bedroom apartment, Lan Zhan glances up from his medical textbook to watch Wei Ying emerge from his room, yawning. 

Wei Ying moments after waking up is always a different Wei Ying than Lan Zhan is used to; he’s quieter, more affectionate. Honest in a way that makes him vulnerable. It’s a rare sight, and Lan Zhan drinks it in, because he is a year and six-some months into a first love that he is rapidly realizing will never go away. 

Then his gaze drifts down, from the beautiful curves of Wei Ying’s cheeks and the tip of his adorable nose, to—a silken shirt slipping off a pale shoulder. It might give Lan Zhan a minor aneurysm. 

“Wei Ying,” he says, feeling like he’s being boiled alive. “Is that my shirt?”

“Hm? Oh.” With sleepy eyes that does— things to Lan Zhan’s heart, he blinks and tugs at the lower hem of the shirt, which is riding just above the curve of his thighs. Does Lan Zhan’s mouth water? Maybe. Yes. Absolutely. “Ah, yeah, sorry. Laundry day caught up to me before I could catch up with it. I saw this shirt left in the washer a few days ago, and—“ He blinks up at Lan Zhan through dark eyelashes that Lan Zhan wants to kiss, maybe, and gives him an uncharacteristically hesitant smile. “Do you mind?”

I mind the fact that we are not married, Lan Zhan thinks. But he can’t say that, and his tongue doesn’t know how to say anything else. So he stays silent. 

“Oh,” Wei Ying says after a moment. “If you—oh, damn, I should’ve known, this is like real silk, must’ve been super expensive. Fuck. Okay, here, uh, I’ll take it off—“

Lan Zhan catches a glimpse of hip bones and stomach and—broad lines of a chest before his executive functions kick back in. “No,” he chokes out, and Wei Ying’s movements to pull the shirt off stop, silk caught halfway around his neck, leaving half of his torso exposed. 

Lan Zhan might be dying. But it is a good death, to be certain. He’s sure his brother would be happy for him. “It is fine. You can leave it.”

“Leave it like—” Wei Ying gestures at his body, still exposed to the air, and Lan Zhan feels the pressing urge to dunk his head into the sink, or die. Death also sounds acceptable. “Or leave it, like, I can wear your clothes?”

Clothes. 

Plural. 

Farewell, Brother.

He makes a note to write his will and plan out his funeral before he takes a deep, bracing breath. “Yes,” he says, meeting Wei Ying’s gaze. “I do not mind if you wear my clothes.”

The sleepy hesitation lifts off Wei Ying’s face like skies after rainfall. 

 

**

 

It’s taken a year and six months as Wei Ying’s roommate and—friend, but Lan Zhan is now at the stage where he’s accepted that his carefully structured life will never recover from the whirlwind that is called Wei Ying. 

Wei Ying isn’t a bad person—far from it. He’s unceasingly kind, tidy despite what his disordered bag suggests, and devoted to his studies and the studies of others, to the point that he puts off his own work to quiz Lan Zhan on terms for an upcoming exam. 

Lan Zhan hasn’t had many roommates, what with living with his brother for his first two years of university before finally seeking out a separate apartment after he moved away for graduate school, but Wei Ying makes Lan Zhan think that all the horror stories about roommates have been greatly exaggerated. 

This, of course, doesn’t mean Wei Ying isn’t without his faults as a roommate. He sleeps at awful hours, for one. On a particularly restless night before an exam, Lan Zhan had wandered out to the kitchen for a glass of water, only to find Wei Ying sprawled in the living room, playing a rerun of an American TV show Lan Zhan didn’t recognize with no less than four textbooks scattered around him on the coffee table. 

“Wei Ying,” Lan Zhan had said. Even after knowing him for a year by that point, he hadn’t yet figured out how to deal with all his Wei Ying emotions, with his careless smiles and unthinking touches and unruly hair. Wei Ying was—new. And so was this. “What are you doing?”

“Oh, cramming, you know how it is,” Wei Ying had mumbled, looking like he barely registered the question and only answered on instinct. 

Instinct seemed to be a significant part of Wei Ying’s character, from what Lan Zhan had observed—the way he picked up his rabbits like he couldn’t stop himself from snuggling into their fur and cooing at their pink noses, or the way he elbowed his brother in greeting, or even how he wiggled to music in the time it took to microwave his possibly radioactive instant food. 

Everything about Wei Ying was like that. Like being happy was something he breathed. 

“I wouldn’t know,” Lan Zhan had replied after a long moment. It was shocking how often it happened with Wei Ying; one glance. That was it. He averted his eyes to the sagging couch Wei Ying had dragged in from a yard sale one weekend, and exhaled. “You should sleep soon. It is late.”

“Mm-hmm,” Wei Ying had said. “See you in the morning.”

“See you in the morning, Wei Ying.”

A year and six months of this. Adjusting to the constant heat in his ears, the feeling that he would burst apart like a string drawn too taut when Wei Ying just looked at him. 

Lan Zhan thinks he’s adapted. No one has even noticed despite all of his initial panic that told him everyone must have known the way he felt about Wei Ying. 

Fortunately this is not the case. 

With one exception, of course.

“You seem happy,” his brother tells him during one of their weekend lunches, eyes curving over his smile. Lan Huan—their entire family, for that matter—is not the type to revel in the feeling of smugness, but looking at him now, Lan Zhan feels that this is as close as his brother will get.

He’s all but grinning at Lan Zhan from across the table, really. It’s…

Lan Zhan splits the tofu between them, just a little sharper than necessary. “No talking while eating,” he says instead. 

“We are not under Uncle’s roof right now, A-Zhan.”

“Ge.”

“Okay, okay.”

The sound of clicking chopsticks fills the silence for the rest of the meal, but just when Lan Zhan thinks he’s navigated safely out of dangerous territory and into neutral subjects like academia, the door clicks. 

As always, Wei Ying’s voice comes before the rest of him. “Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan! Tell me you’ll play Super Smash Bros with me today—I know you’re awful at it, but that’s okay, we can get better together, and I need to practice so I can make A-Cheng lose his will to live. God, anyways, my China Empires professor was so hard on me today. Like, just because I’m Chinese doesn’t mean I know everything about Neo-Confucianism in the Song Dyna—” 

A pause. 

The dining table is hidden partially by the wall, and from where Lan Zhan is sitting, he can’t see the door, but he imagines Wei Ying has stopped dead in his tracks after shedding off all his layers as he is prone to do in winter, as if coats and scarves are too confining for him. 

“Oh,” Wei Ying says after a second. “Hi, Lan Zhan’s brother.”

“Ah, we’ve seen each other so many times by now. Feel free to call me ge,” his brother offers, in a certain tone. In a certain inflection. 

“No,” Lan Zhan hisses. He doesn’t kick his brother under the table, like he’s seen Wei Ying do, but he comes close to it for the very first time in his life. 

“What?” Lan Huan asks, blinking at him. “I’m simply extending the offer.”

Lan Zhan looks at his brother, considers a restraining order, and thinks: You have betrayed me for the last time. 

He has heard stories of Wei Ying’s fraught relationship with his own brother, stories involving toilet water and bleach and, on one memorable occasion, eyebrow hair. “I can’t believe you two don’t share the same Cain instinct,” Wei Ying had complained after listening to Lan Zhan talk about his family. 

Lan Zhan felt bland in every way compared to his colorful life, but that was generally the case when talking to Wei Ying.

“Lan Zhan, ah Lan Zhan. Are you seriously saying you’ve never felt the urge to kill your brother? Like obviously you’d never do it, ‘cause”—A gesture at him that he didn’t know how to interpret—“but come on. Just once? Like this is the last straw, you’ve eaten the last dumpling for the last thousandth fucking time, I’m going to square down with you at the back of Denny’s parking lot, just you, me, and a butter knife. Nothing?”

“A butter knife seems ineffective,” said Lan Zhan, because surely if you wanted to cause harm, it would be better to bring a kitchen knife instead, and then he startled when Wei Ying burst into laughter.

“That’s your focus?” Wei Ying choked out. “The butter knife?”

“You should always be prepared.”

“Are you telling me that the one problem you have with my Denny’s parking lot scenario is the butter knife?”

“Yes,” said Lan Zhan, and then he considered it. “Perhaps the location as well. A parking lot seems conspicuous.”

Wei Ying’s laughter was a shock to his system in the best way. Like all his senses that were dulled and numb, coming alive one by one. Letting him feel his toes, his fingers, the heat under his skin. 

It brings him out of his thoughts now, as Wei Ying lets out a laugh. “Sure, ge,” he teases, “anything for my favorite Lan Zhan’s brother.”

“Oh?” says Lan Huan, at the same moment Lan Zhan tries not to kill himself via inhaled tofu. “Your favorite Lan Zhan?” 

“Of course he’s my favorite Lan Zhan,” says Wei Ying. Only months of exposure therapy lets him stay still at the way Wei Ying’s arm slings around his shoulders, the sharp point of his chin digging into the top of his head, and the warmth of his chest, radiating heat across Lan Zhan’s back. 

Please let us get married, Lan Zhan pleads to any deity who may be listening. 

“No other Lan Zhan will do, ge. Look at him. He’s ruined me for every other Lan Zhan out there in the world, he’s so perfect. Kind, smart, and handsome. And he eats my food! My absolute favorite. Unrivalled. So precious.” A pause, and then, soft, “Baobei.” 

A noise escapes him. He isn’t fully sure what it is, only that it comes out desperate, dragged out from somewhere around his right ventricle.

“I see,” says Lan Huan. 

A hum that Lan Zhan feels vibrate from the top of his head to his toes, like the sting of sudden blood flow. “Yeah,” says Wei Ying. “If that’s okay.”

“It is more than okay with me.”

“Oh.” Another pause. “I. Okay. Are you—you’re sure?”

“I told you to call me ge,” says Lan Huan, and Lan Zhan is understanding approximately zero sentences of this conversation ever since Wei Ying called him baobei. “Was that not clue enough?”

“Oh,” says Wei Ying again. 

“I just ask,” Lan Huan continues with a voice that sends a jolt of instinctive fear down Lan Zhan’s spine, “that you be kind.”

That makes Lan Zhan’s attention snap back into focus. “Wei Ying is kind,” Lan Zhan bites out. He meets his brother’s gaze and holds it, trying to make Lan Huan understand just how kind through the weight of their eye contact.

But is it even possible to let Lan Huan know? The depth of Wei Ying’s consideration, his gentleness, his easy affection. How Wei Ying does Lan Zhan’s chores without being asked on the days leading up to his big tests, or how he drops by the lab twenty minutes across campus in the evenings through blizzards, just to give him homemade food. His warm hugs, the comfort of his weight across Lan Zhan’s lap on the slow weekends, the feeling of his hands toying with Lan Zhan’s violin-calloused fingers, as if every part of him is precious and treasured. 

How is it possible to let Lan Huan understand the worth of everything that Wei Ying has given him, without ever asking for anything in return? How?

But he tries, because it’s Wei Ying, and at this point—at any point, really, even from the very start—he would do anything for Wei Ying. 

“Ge,” Lan Zhan says softly. “If anyone has to be kinder, it should be me.”

He feels Wei Ying startle. “Lan Zhan?” 

Lan Zhan doesn’t respond. He just looks at Lan Huan, steady. 

Eventually Lan Huan breaks into a smile. Genuine, this time. “Alright, alright,” he says. Then, “You should send your regards to Uncle soon, A-Zhan.” 

“Mm.”

“Well, I have no idea what you guys are talking about, so I’m gonna go take a nap,” Wei Ying announces, before he gives this tiny nuzzle to Lan Zhan’s hair that might make him ascend to a higher realm, a little. “Lan Zhan, I’m borrowing your hoodie again, okay?”

“Okay.”

After Wei Ying retreats to his room, Lan Zhan turns back to his food and ignores the weight of his brother’s gaze as best as he can. 

Then: “You have hoodies?” 

Lan Zhan takes a moment to indulge in the satisfaction of knowing that his brother doesn’t know everything about him. It’s petty, but—immensely satisfying. 

But it disappears the second a smile begins to spread across Lan Huan’s face. It’s the same smile that Lan Huan wore when he reassured their uncle in his senior year that no, of course he would never throw a party while Uncle was gone, Nie Mingjue was just a friend, it’d be a quiet night with just studying and practicing violin, Uncle, travel safely. 

To be fair, it was a quiet night. It just wasn’t a quiet night alone. 

Lan Zhan had to watch his brother kiss someone else—lock lips, body parts, physical anatomy with someone else—before he fled to his own bedroom. It was a trying affair, and now Lan Huan’s engaged to Nie Mingjue. 

Needless to say, it’s a smile that Lan Zhan doesn’t trust. For several reasons. 

“Brother,” Lan Zhan begins, only to be interrupted when Lan Huan says, “Why, I never knew you liked hoodies, A-Zhan, I would’ve bought you plenty! Mingjue likes them too, you know.” 

He beams at Lan Zhan. In response, Lan Zhan’s ears heat, which is mortifying enough, and then his brother goes on, “I’m so glad you found your roommate. Was that your shirt I saw under his coat?”

His temper snaps. He pushes the tofu to Lan Huan and hisses, “No talking while eating.”

“Does that apply when you and your roommate eat as well?” 

Deep breaths, Lan Zhan. Deep breaths.

 

**

 

They met for the first time in their first semester of sophomore year, as classmates in a prerequisite English class that was demanded of everyone regardless of major. If it was up to Lan Zhan—as it had been all of freshman year—he was absolutely fine with never talking to anyone new. He preferred to do his work silently and efficiently, and most importantly, alone. 

Wei Ying was not. 

“Hi,” said Wei Ying, sliding into the seat beside him. “I think we’re gonna be partners for the presentation at the end of the semester.”

His dissatisfaction rolled off in waves at the way Wei Ying slouched in his seat, shoved papers into his bag without any folders or binders, tore paper from his beaten notebook all jagged and messy. “It seems so.”

But Wei Ying was nothing like what his first impression suggested. It wasn’t the first time that Lan Zhan had been wrong about someone, but it was the first time Lan Zhan had been so completely off the mark. After the first class, they exchanged phone numbers, and any day Lan Zhan expected the flood of messages and memes to stop when Wei Ying doubtlessly tired of his curt texts. 

He didn’t.

Wei Ying texted every day, and despite everything Lan Zhan found himself—liking Wei Ying’s attention, the way he remembered every word that Lan Zhan said, how he found Lan Zhan funny. Wei Ying talked to him before class, after class, and three weeks after the day they first met, he heard the rumble of Lan Zhan’s starved stomach and hooked their arms together and said, “Okay, we’re definitely grabbing food now, I know you said you don’t have any classes. Don’t worry, my treat.”

Wei Ying discovered his favorite boba order a month into the semester, and at the start of every class, brought him a cup along with his own with an impish grin, his smile dimpling at the corners. They both had only an hour for break, just barely enough time to drop by the dining hall and grab lunch, but when Lan Zhan got sick, he found Wei Ying standing at his door, cheeks and ears flushed with cold, shoving a bag of homemade soup and Gatorade and three different types of medicine into his chest, saying, “Just in case you needed it,” and Lan Zhan—

On the day before their final presentation, they were sitting together in the library, curled up against the wall because the chairs are too stiff, Lan Zhan, we can do our work just as well down here. Lan Zhan had gotten maybe four hours of sleep over the past week from final exams, and between one breath and the next, he’d nodded off to sleep.

When he woke up some twenty minutes later, he found Wei Ying still typing away on his laptop, trembling. The library’s heater broke down quite often, and it was December in New York, the snow swirling brutal and icy outside. They’d both packed their winter coats, knowing about the library’s quirks after weeks of meeting up there for their presentation.

But Lan Zhan didn’t wake up cold. He woke up warm, with two thick winter coats piled around his shoulders, Wei Ying’s tattered red scarf looped around his neck, his ear warm against Wei Ying’s shoulder. 

That was the first time. 

Except it wasn’t. The truth is that Lan Zhan fell in love with Wei Ying at first sight. He fell deeper at second sight, at third sight, and at every single sight since. He was gone from the beginning.

 

**

 

Life goes on. Wei Ying continues to borrow his clothes. Lan Zhan continues to let him. 

Yet somehow, the situation escalates. There is the situation with the clothes, for one, and for another, there is the growing issue of Wei Ying’s sudden oral fixation. It starts small enough that Lan Zhan can make himself forget about it after a restless night. Simple things, like keeping the spoon in his mouth for too long, or rolling a pencil between his pink lips. 

And then. 

“Hey,” says Wei Ying one day, when Lan Zhan emerges from the kitchen after washing the dishes. He’s unwrapping a watermelon-flavored popsicle with a crinkle of the wrapper, balling it up and tossing it on the coffee table to clear later. “Finished?”

“Yes,” Lan Zhan intends to say, only to stop and have a minor breakdown when Wei Ying swallows the whole popsicle in one go.

He has no gag reflex, a rational part of Lan Zhan’s mind observes, while the rest of his mind immediately thinks about pushing Wei Ying down to his knees on the carpet and—

“So,” says Wei Ying after pulling out the popsicle out of his throat with a faint pop, “what are your plans for tonight?”

Tonight. Tonight? The concept of time is no longer something Lan Zhan understands. 

“Studying,” says the rational part of Lan Zhan’s brain. The rest of it, of course, is still fixated on the idea of marching over and divesting Wei Ying of every single article of clothing on his body. “What about you?”

“Oh, you know.” Wei Ying tosses him a wink, swallows the popsicle again, all the while maintaining eye contact. 

Lan Zhan feels his ears burn from a very long distance away.

Another pop as the popsicle comes back out, gleaming with Wei Ying’s spit. “Dessert sounds nice,” he says, grinning. His lips are dyed red with the watermelon-flavor. “Don’t you think, Lan Zhan?”

“I think,” says Lan Zhan calmly, “I will wash up. Good night, Wei Ying.”

So, the oral fixation. 

The third situation is the bed. 

When Lan Zhan comes home late one night, tired from working late at the lab and wanting nothing more than to shower before sliding under his covers, he finds Wei Ying there. On Lan Zhan’s bed. Sleeping. 

“Ah,” Lan Zhan says aloud. The sound of his own bland voice surprises him, because he thought that if any sound would have exited his mouth without his will, it would have been an expression of unadulterated… emotion. He isn’t sure what emotion it would be, exactly, but he’s certain that it would have been loud. Sometimes his self-control surprises him. 

It’s also good that it is the only sound he makes, since Wei Ying twitches at the noise in a way that shows he is at least partially awake. Lan Zhan approaches with great caution, as if Wei Ying will bite the moment he comes too close. 

It says much about Lan Zhan’s state that this is something he deeply desires. Regardless. 

“Wei Ying,” he calls, and when Wei Ying doesn’t twitch again, he folds his legs under him, kneeling beside the bed. Every part of him aches to touch, to tuck the loose strand of hair behind his ears, to settle under the blankets next to him, press his face into the pale curve of his neck. He doesn’t. Instead he keeps his hands in his lap. “Wei Ying. This is not your bed.”

He’s also wearing only one of Lan Zhan’s dress shirts for whatever reason and likely little else, judging by the sliver of bare skin peeking out from under the scrunch of the blankets that cover his hips. 

Lan Zhan closes his eyes and does not allow himself to think about that fact for long. His uncle’s beard. His brother’s cooking. Rabbits. 

Once the heat under his skin has simmered down to more acceptable levels, he opens his eyes again and fixes them firmly on Wei Ying’s sleeping face. It is—still dangerous, but less so. 

“Wei Ying,” he murmurs when it’s clear that Wei Ying is determined to feign sleep, or at least spend the night in Lan Zhan’s bed. “Are you asleep?”

No response. 

Six months as Wei Ying’s roommate, however, has taught Lan Zhan a few tricks. His uncle would have a conniption at the thought of it, but Lan Zhan needs to survive somehow. 

“If you are tired,” he continues in that soft murmur, “then I will sleep on the couch.” He moves, slow—not to startle Wei Ying, but to stop any sense of temptation before it can strike, to force his movements into something he can control. He pulls the blankets up to Wei Ying’s shoulders, nudges the pillow under his neck more securely. He hesitates, swallowing, then allows himself one touch. Just a brief brush of Wei Ying’s hair against his fingers before tucking it behind his ear. Wei Ying’s skin is warm, almost verging on feverish. Lan Zhan breathes out. One, two. He stands. 

“Sleep well, Wei Ying.”

He makes it halfway to the door before a sleepy whine stops him in his tracks. “Lan Zhaaan,” Wei Ying’s muffled voice says, and again Lan Zhan has to close his eyes, repeat his mantra of uncle-brother-rabbits. “Where’re you going? ‘s cold.”

Another noise exits Lan Zhan’s throat. It is also not a loud expression of unadulterated emotion, although it is closer to a groan than he would like. He sticks to his script when his mind whites out. “If you are tired, sleep. I will take the couch.”

“Don’t wanna kick you outta your bed,” Wei Ying mumbles. 

“Why not sleep in your room?”

“Yours is closer.” Another second. “Missed you.”

It is a miracle that Lan Zhan doesn’t collapse right then and there. “Mm,” he manages to get out, strangled. He clears his throat. “Lab occupied more of my time than I thought. I apologize for missing our dinner.”

“‘s okay. As long as you’re back.”

“Sleep,” Lan Zhan just repeats, because what else can he say?

“Don’t go to the couch.”

Generally Wei Ying’s room is a scientific study in organized chaos. “I cannot take your bed.”

“Sleep here then,” Wei Ying says. Lan Zhan is whirling to face Wei Ying before he knows it, and finds Wei Ying already gazing at him through eyes half-lidded with sleep. Something about Lan Zhan’s expression must startle him though, because Wei Ying jolts and begins to push himself up. “Oh. If you don’t—I’m totally kicking you out of your bed, huh? That’s. Yeah, no. Not gonna do that. I’ll move—”

“Stay,” Lan Zhan blurts. He recoils, but—he’s already said it. He can’t take it back now. “Stay,” he says again, fixing his eyes on Wei Ying’s figure before the sight becomes too much. “I will sleep on the couch.”

There’s a choked laugh from Wei Ying. “I said I’m not kicking you out of your own bed, Lan Zhan.”

“It is no trouble—“

“No,” Wei Ying snaps, making Lan Zhan startle, “I’m not kicking you out of your bed because I’m—“ He cuts himself off with an audible sigh, slides his bare legs out from under the covers and onto the floor. 

Legs. Bare. 

There is no doubt that Lan Zhan wants to mark up Wei Ying’s inner thighs like no tomorrow, but more importantly, he wants to get rid of that miserable look that has abruptly appeared on his face. 

The heat under his skin simmers down, fades to the background. 

“Wei Ying?” Lan Zhan asks softly, not wanting to spook him. “What is wrong?”

“There’s nothing wrong.”

A blatant lie. “Wei Ying.” 

“I’m serious.”

“As am I.”

“No, I mean it, I’m just—“ He buries his face in his hands, and now Lan Zhan is really concerned, and then Wei Ying says, voice tiny and muffled, “Am I not hot?”

…What?

“Like, I get it if it’s because I’m not hot,” Wei Ying goes on, paying no mind to the way Lan Zhan’s mind has turned into a series of long, furious question marks, “but sometimes you stare and I think that means you’re interested, probably, and the other day when I was, you know, really going to town on that popsicle, you were in the shower for like half an hour, so I think that means you’re interested, but you don’t do anything and you’re not, like, the type of guy who avoids what he wants, so it’s—am I not hot? Is that it?” 

What? 

“Or,” Wei Ying says, words coming out thick and despairing in a way that Lan Zhan has never heard him sound before, “is it that I’m annoying? ‘Cause I am, I get that, I’m super annoying. Or maybe it’s that I’m reading this whole thing wrong. I don’t know.”

There’s… a lot of things here that aren’t making sense to Lan Zhan, but first and foremost: “You did all of that on purpose?”

“Did what on purpose? Because I did a lot of things on purpose, Lan Zhan. I don’t even know if you noticed.”

“I noticed,” Lan Zhan manages to say, because he did. “The clothes borrowing was on purpose then?” Wei Ying nods. “Sleeping on my bed?” Another nod. “And the popsicle?” 

A final nod, before Wei Ying lets out a wail and buries his head in his hands again, burrowing his head in his lap. Lan Zhan’s heart squeezes. “I’m sorry,” Wei Ying is saying, “I—fuck, I did read this whole thing wrong, I just—”

He cuts off again. Slowly the pieces are adding up, and Lan Zhan wants to set himself on fire, maybe, if it’s creating the picture that he thinks it’s creating.

“Wei Ying,” Lan Zhan says quietly, approaching him to kneel by his feet and his very naked legs, “why did you do all of this?”

A sound like a high-pitched tea kettle. “Are you being mean to me? Is that what this is? I didn’t think you were such a mean person, Lan Zhan.”

“I’m not. Please answer me.”

“How about,” says Wei Ying, “you kill me instead.”

Lan Zhan can’t help the small huff of exasperated laughter. “Wei Ying.” When that doesn’t get Wei Ying’s attention, he takes a moment to brace himself and sets his hand on Wei Ying’s knee. 

A keening noise. There. 

“Wei Ying,” he says again, because he needs to be sure, “why did you do this?”

“I don’t know why everyone thinks you’re so nice,” says Wei Ying instead of answering. “You’re clearly the meanest motherfucker out there. You’re such a rude bitch sometimes, Lan Zhan, because I am dying and you won’t kill me.” 

Lan Zhan recognizes this as the type of rambling speech that Wei Ying does sometimes to meander his way around to the main point. He’s heard it enough times from when Wei Ying drops surprises on him, from moments before he peeks through the lab door to give him food, from that time he threw a surprise birthday party for him consisting of homemade cake—chocolate, two-tiered, pale buttercream frosting decorated with shakily drawn bunnies—and a pile of small presents spilling over the coffee table. He knows that at times like these, it’s best to wait Wei Ying out until he gives in and confesses. 

For someone who is so fond of surprises, he is terrible at keeping them secret.

“Alright,” says Wei Ying after a few moments of silence. “So. About the clothes.”

“Mm.”

“I was never actually behind on laundry day,” says Wei Ying, to Lan Zhan’s… honestly, to his utter lack of surprise. “‘Cause I’m generally pretty good about that stuff. I’m like, the best househusband you can get. House-boyfriend. Whatever.”

This is true. “Mm.”

“And,” Wei Ying goes on valiantly, his cheeks reddening in a way that makes Lan Zhan want to kiss him all over his perfect face, “the bed was because. Well. I did miss you. That part was true. I mean, I didn’t really plan on sleeping in your bed like I did with the—the clothes, but I passed by your room and. Not to be weird or anything, but you smell good, and I just really, really missed you, and the next thing I knew I was in your bed, and I was like, hey, this could.” A bob of his throat as he swallows. “This could be a good idea.”

“I see.” When Wei Ying doesn’t continue, Lan Zhan squeezes his knee and prods, “The popsicle?”

A loud whine that goes on for perhaps twenty seconds. Wei Ying has excellent lung capacity.

“Wei Ying,” Lan Zhan starts when the sound stops, but then Wei Ying is wailing, “I’m horny, okay? I’m so fucking horny, like all the time, and you don’t make it better.”

Lan Zhan’s lungs might have collapsed. “Ah.”

“You’re hot, okay,” Wei Ying says, making the collapsed lung problem somehow worse, “and the other day you walked out of the shower shirtless with—with those sweatpants that don’t do much to hide the glorious shape of your dick, I don’t know if you know that—“

Lan Zhan, in fact, did not know that.

“—and for like, two days, all I could think about was dropping to my knees and, you know—“

This, Lan Zhan might know.

“—and I don’t even know if you did it on purpose because you probably have no idea what a thirst trap is, except that you’re a walking thirst trap, Lan Zhan, but either way I was like, fuck, I want to suck your dick, and then I saw the popsicle, and you were there, and I was being petty, and.” A near-rabid inhale. 

“And you performed fellatio on it,” says Lan Zhan, mind spinning.

“I,” says Wei Ying, before he lets out another keening whimper. “Yeah. That.”

“Okay,” says Lan Zhan, trying to process this, “but why?”

“What do you mean, why? I just said I want to suck your dick, Lan Zhan, I think that should give you a pretty good clue as to why.”

It does, but not the whole picture. Just one last piece, to make sure Lan Zhan isn’t seeing things where he shouldn’t. “Wei Ying,” he says, “I am interested. But I am not certain that you are interested in the same way—“ He closes his eyes and tries not to think about it. “In the same way that I am interested.” 

“What, like—“ There’s an incredulous laugh. “Lan Zhan, do you think I want to be—Lan Zhan, no.”

Oh.

But before Lan Zhan can bring himself to stand and walk out of the room, there are warm hands cupping his face, a forehead pressed against his, warm breaths fanning across his mouth like a kiss. 

Oh.

“Lan Zhan,” says Wei Ying, so soft and quiet that Lan Zhan has to strain to hear him even this close, “I like you. Okay? I like you so much that it’s unreal. I don’t want to like, fuck you and then leave, because that’s boring and friends with benefits are for emotionally repressed fratboys who don’t have a sense of commitment.” Lan Zhan feels himself inhale. “But I, me, Wei Ying, okay, Wei Ying wants commitment, alright? I want, like, to make food for you when you get back too late, and I want you to kiss me on the cheek before you leave for class, and I want everything that we’ve basically been doing plus the sex because frankly, I think we would have some pretty spectacular sex.”

An excellent point. “Mm.”

“And,” Wei Ying continues, “I like you. I like you so much that it’s unreal, and if you want me to say it a thousand times, I will, okay? I want to date you. Like a lot. Because again. I like you. So. That’s how I’m interested in you.”

It’s possible that Lan Zhan has died and ascended to a realm where everything he wants is coming true. “Oh,” he manages to say. “Good.”

A gentle laugh. “Just good?”

Marry me, Lan Zhan thinks, but that is a question for later. For now, he says back, “I like you. I want to date you. I want to kiss you on the cheek before you leave for class and enjoy the food you make for me and I also want,” he clears his throat, “to have spectacular sex with you. As you said.”

There’s a thumb tracing circles on his cheek. “That so?” Wei Ying breathes.

“Mm,” Lan Zhan agrees, and he closes the distance between them. 

For a long moment, all Lan Zhan knows is this: Wei Ying’s soft mouth yielding below his, his warm fingers slipping into Lan Zhan’s hair, his quiet groans against Lan Zhan’s lips. The way he picks at the buttons of Lan Zhan’s shirt, mumbling, “Off, off,” impatient and whiny. The palpable frustration in his voice makes Lan Zhan hide a smile against Wei Ying’s skin, kiss the corner of his mouth, trail down to his jaw, his neck. 

“Lan Zhan,” Wei Ying gasps, as Lan Zhan nips a mark into the hollow of Wei Ying’s throat, “oh, fuck, do you even how”—a bitten-off groan—“how unfair it is, ah, you’re so hot, fuck, can we please get on that spectacular sex that you promised now, I’m dying, please please please, Lan-er-gege, oh my god.”

Lan Zhan pulls back to study his work. Wei Ying’s mouth is kiss-swollen red, cheeks flushed, pupils blown wide. He looks like everything Lan Zhan has wanted for almost two years now. “That can be arranged,” Lan Zhan agrees, viciously satisfied, and goes back in. 

The popsicle hadn’t lied, as it turns out. Wei Ying doesn’t have a gag reflex.

In the morning, Lan Zhan wakes up to Wei Ying’s sleepy murmurs in his ear, their fingers threaded together. He kisses the tip of Wei Ying’s ear, feeling the corners of his lips curve up when Wei Ying lets out a sleepy whine.

“Baobei,” Wei Ying mumbles, burrowing his face into Lan Zhan’s bare chest, “it is so early. Sleep. Sleep.”

He is wearing Lan Zhan’s shirt from yesterday, and it slips off his shoulder that’s littered in marks and bruises, as he wraps his arms around Lan Zhan’s waist. Lan Zhan kisses his forehead and closes his eyes again, content.

Just as it should be.