Mo Ran had believed at some point that he had learned all there was to know about Chu Wanning.
It is something that came with the territory of having lived two lives.
He knows how Chu Wanning lies in bed, what time he wakes up, how he spends his days when neither of them have anything else to do. He knows the smaller things about Chu Wanning, too— just how much sweetness to put into his candies so that they won’t be too much, how to get him to wake up when he trembles from nightmares in the middle of the night, the way he mumbles under his breath quietly when he’s in the middle of his work.
The last one, Mo Ran wouldn’t dare bring up for fear of Chu Wanning becoming self-conscious of it and stopping it from happening again.
For lack of better words, he is Mo Ran’s life.
Needless to say, if Mo Ran were to be asked, he would say there are extremely few things about Chu Wanning that Mo Ran doesn’t know.
He looks down at the man in his arms.
This apparently, is one of those things.
Because, Chu Wanning, his life, his reason for being, is curled up in his arms and sleeptalking.
Mo Ran knows for a fact that this is something that didn’t happen in his first life. He would have known if it did, and knowing the kind of man he used to be, he wouldn’t have forgotten about it so easily.
It’s a bittersweet thought, strong enough to nearly sour the peaceful and quiet atmosphere created by his husband asleep beside him. Mo Ran has resolved, as much as possible, to leave the past where it was, and focus on the life ahead of him. The guilt will never really go away, of that he’s certain, but right now, and everyday following it, there are better, Chu Wanning-shaped things to focus on.
Which brings him back to this: his husband, soft and warm, relaxed in the midst of sleep, and mumbling away to his heart’s content with no regard to what he’s doing to Mo Ran’s heart. He’s curled up facing the wall, back to Mo Ran’s chest, pulled in close by Mo Ran’s arm around his waist.
“Mmnng,” Chu Wanning mumbles out again.
Mo Ran huffs out a laugh. He has no clue how long it’s been since it started. His brain had already started going to mush when he had gone into bed half-asleep, and an already asleep Chu Wanning had started to mutter about the vegetable garden they didn’t have.
“Mo Ran,” Chu Wanning breathes.
“I’m here,” Mo Ran says softly. He tries not to get too sentimental about it, about just how true the statement is.
Chu Wanning shifts a little. “Mo Ran.”
“Shizun, I’m right here.”
Chu Wanning doesn’t answer for a long while.
Mo Ran holds his breath. For a moment, it looks like the talking is done for the night. He almost relaxes.
“Mo Ran... don’t do that to him.”
Ah. No more vegetable garden talk it seems. “Wanning, what are you dreaming about now?”
He has half a mind to flip Chu Wanning over to see what his expression looks like right now, if his face is pinched up like he’s deep in thought or relaxed like he’s tipsy.
“I love you,” Mo Ran says before he can stop himself.
“Don’t change th’subject,” Chu Wanning practically slurs out. “Listen... listen to Shizun.”
“Mm, okay,” Mo Ran agrees easily. He kisses the back of Chu Wanning’s head. “Tell me what I’m doing. Who am I doing it to?”
“Mo Ran,” Chu Wanning says again.
His arm over Chu Wanning’s waist tightens. “I’m listening. What is it?”
“Don’t feed Xue Meng leaves anymore.”
Laughter bubbles up in Mo Ran’s chest. “What?”
“‘M not repeating it,” Chu Wanning says, as haughtily as he can for a person not currently conscious.
“Ah, of course,” Mo Ran says. “ Am I being mean to him in your dreams?”
“Yes,” Chu Wanning murmurs petulantly.
Mo Ran half-whispers, half-laughs out dutifully, “Alright then. I won’t... haha, I won’t feed him leaves anymore. Whatever Shizun says.”
“Mm, good boy,” Chu Wanning says, body going impossibly more relaxed in Mo Ran’s hold.
Mo Ran’s agreement must be enough for Chu Wanning to completely fall asleep, because he goes silent after that. Soon enough, the only sounds coming from Chu Wanning are his soft exhales.
“Wanning’s dreams must be an interesting place, huh,” Mo Ran mumbles into the silence.
In his defense, he does try to go to sleep after that. He stays up a little purposefully to see if Chu Wanning might speak up again. He doesn’t, but Mo Ran’s heart is feeling a bit too full and his mind a bit too restless to fully settle down.
In the morning, Chu Wanning wakes up to a Mo Ran that hasn’t slept at all, and Mo Ran has no excuses on hand to explain why.
“Sleep now,” Chu Wanning snaps, voice hoarse with residual sleep.
“Ah, Wanning? I’ve slept, don’t worry about me.”
“Liar.” Chu Wanning sits up. “Sleep.”
Mo Ran sighs. “Alright, Shizun. I’ll take a quick nap now.” He approaches the next topic slowly, sitting up on his forearms. “Do you... remember anything from last night?”
Chu Wanning squints. “What are you talking about?”
Mo Ran sighs and falls back against the sheet. He smiles. “Nevermind. I must be hallucinating things.”
Chu Wanning looks at him suspiciously for a moment more. He sighs. “I’ll feed Goutou,” he says, and that’s that.
It’s several weeks before it happens again.
Truthfully, Mo Ran had nearly forgotten about it in the midst of all the other everyday happenings in their life. Not completely, though. The memory of it had only receded to the back of his mind, hazy enough that Mo Ran isn’t completely sure whether or not it was some sleep deprivation-induced hallucination.
Even so, he is barely able to hold back his surprise when, in the dead of night, Mo Ran snaps awake just as Chu Wanning starts to talk to him about Goutou.
“He is very kind,” Chu Wanning is saying, voice light and happy the way it goes whenever Goutou is involved.
Because Chu Wanning is asleep, and Mo Ran is a very kind-hearted husband, he does not say anything about how the last time Goutou bit him was only a handful of hours ago.
“Sure,” Mo Ran says. He changes the subject. “Who else do you like?”
It takes a moment for Chu Wanning to answer. “Mo Ran.”
Mo Ran grins. “You like him?”
“Hm, okay. What is Mo Ran to you?”
“Really? Only that?”
“Mn...” Chu Wanning breaks into unintelligible noises.
“Shizun,” Mo Ran prods. “Wanning... Is that all Mo Ran is to you? Your disciple?”
Chu Wanning’s mumbles something Mo Ran can’t hear, brows furrowing.
“What was that, Shizun?”
“Be quiet,” Chu Wanning says finally.
Mo Ran sighs, but a smile is already pulling at his lips. It really isn’t fair that even in sleep, Chu Wanning manages to be so cute. “Alright, if Shizun insists. Then... which one do you think is better? Mo Ran or Goutou?”
“One?” Chu Wanning asks, brows twitching.
Mo Ran hums. “Only one.”
Chu Wanning murmurs without hesitation. “Goutou.”
Mo Ran stills. He is decidedly not jealous of a dog. “What?”
Chu Wanning sighs, eyelashes fluttering.
“Shizun, are you sure you don’t want to change your mind? What about... who is more handsome? Mo Ran, right?”
Chu Wanning’s eyebrow twitches. “Gotou.”
Chu Wanning’s lips smack. “Let me sleep.”
Chu Wanning rolls over, back in the throes of sleep completely.
Mo Ran sighs.
He rolls Chu Wanning back and holds him closer until Mo Ran can feel a soft mouth against his collarbone and soft exhales on his neck. His sleep that night is a tumultuous one.
“Shizun,” Mo Ran asks the next morning.
Chu Wanning looks up from where he had been eating his breakfast quietly. He swallows the bite he’s on before he speaks. “What is it?”
Mo Ran gives him the most innocent smile he can muster. “Do you think Goutou is more handsome than me?”
“Mo Ran,” Chu Wanning says incredulously. “Are you stupid?”
Mo Ran grins sheepishly, suddenly feeling much like he’s a disciple on Sisheng Peak who had just gotten caught committing wrongdoing. “Wanning doesn’t have to answer. I was just wondering.”
Chu Wanning gives him a look. “You were wondering... if a dog was more handsome than you or not.”
Mo Ran laughs again, weaker this time. “Haha, something like that. Wanning shouldn’t worry about it.”
Chu Wanning squints. “...Okay.”
Mo Ran bends down to kiss Chu Wanning, quick enough that he can’t say anything about it, and long enough that he manages to get Chu Wanning to forget about the topic at hand.
The two of them are in bed when Chu Wanning finally whispers to him, quiet enough that Mo Ran wouldn’t have been able to pick it up if it wasn’t for the fact that they were pressed up against each other: “Mo Ran is more handsome.”
Immediately after, he pushes away from Mo Ran and flips over to face the wall, taking the blanket with him.
Mo Ran blinks for a moment, confused, until the conversation from that morning comes rushing back to him. He gasps happily. “Wanning!”
He curls his body around Chu Wanning’s and noses the back of his neck. “I think Wanning is very handsome too. Even more handsome than me! The handsomest in the entire world!”
“Go to sleep,” Chu Wanning says stiffly, but even in the dark Mo Ran can make out the way his ears and neck color.
Mo Ran laughs gently. “Whatever Shizun says.”
There’s no rhyme or rhythm to it.
Some nights, Chu Wanning sleeps completely through, and only a disturbance short of an earthquake will be able to wake him. On others, Mo Ran spends a good portion of the night making conversation with Chu Wanning, talking about everything under the moon. Or rather, whatever Chu Wanning’s mind happens to conjure up that night.
The only common factor amongst them all is that Mo Ran barely gets sleep through any of it, desperate to stay awake in the off chance that tonight will be one of the talking nights.
Those hours awake were completely worth it, Mo Ran thinks. If the price of listening to Chu Wanning sleepily calling for him is a little bit of sleep deprivation, Mo Ran will pay that price a hundred times over.
He knows it’s getting painfully obvious. He’s exhausted trying to keep up, falling asleep in the most random times of day, most notably when Chu Wanning had found him passed out leaning against a tree outside when he had stopped his work for the day to take a break out in the sun.
It’s not long until Chu Wanning notices.
“Are you getting nightmares?” Chu Wanning asks him one day. They’re both staying at home today, Chu Wanning sitting at his work table and working on his equipment and Mo Ran reading some books on the other side of the room.
Mo Ran shakes his head. “What makes you think that?”
Chu Wanning stares at him for a moment longer. “Don’t lie to me,” he says, his voice tight with frustration.
“I’m not lying, Shizun,” he says, mildly confused. Mo Ran isn’t particularly loud when he has nightmares, but from what he gathers he isn’t very quiet either. If he did have a nightmare, Chu Wanning would have surely woken up to it, even if Mo Ran didn’t. “What makes you think that?”
Chu Wanning doesn’t quite stomp over, but his feet hit just a bit heavier on the ground in a very cute way as he walks over to where Mo Ran stands. He reaches up to brush under Mo Ran’s eyes.
“You're not sleeping.”
“It’s nothing,” Mo Ran promises, if only to assuage the veiled worry in Chu Wanning’s expression. “Do my eyebags look very bad?”
Chu Wanning’s responding silence is enough of an answer.
Mo Ran continues, “I’ve just been waking up early, Wanning. Nothing to be concerned about.”
Chu Wanning looks away. “If you aren’t going to tell me, nevermind.”
Mo Ran leans over to drop his head onto Chu Wanning’s shoulder. “It’s not that. If it was nightmares, I would tell you immediately. You are usually the one who wakes me up from them, you know.”
“If I’m not awake, you have to wake me up,” Chu Wanning says. His arms come around to hug Mo Ran.
“En. Of course,” Mo Ran soothes, returning the hug. “I know Wanning will always be here for me.”
“Who said that,” Chu Wanning mumbles. Neither of them mentions that Chu Wanning hasn’t denied it.
Mo Ran really is not planning on bringing it up. He is perfectly content with taking this little tidbit of Chu Wanning information and locking it away in his heart for the rest of his life, only letting it crawl out on those rare nights where Chu Wanning’s mouth uttered those quiet unintelligible sentences.
He really is, until Chu Wanning retaliates first.
They’re sitting outside on the steps to their home, Mo Ran holding a plate of cut fruit. Chu Wanning refuses to let Mo Ran feed him, but he’s not complaining. Sitting here with him is enough.
“Mo Ran’s bedroom ability is rather interesting,” Chu Wanning says off-handedly, lips quirked up on the verge of a smile.
It takes a moment to process just what kind of words had just come out of Chu Wanning’s mouth. And how... humorously the line was delivered. Is sex... funny for Chu Wanning now?
Mo Ran wonders for a brief moment if he had fallen asleep again, and this is some very detailed dream. He furrows his brows. “Wanning, what are you talking about? Did I hurt you? Is something sore?”
He sets the fruit plate down. Before his hands can reach Chu Wanning’s waist, the man in question hastily takes a step back.
“Not that!” Chu Wanning says venomously.
Mo Ran blinks. What other bedroom ability could Chu Wanning be talking about?
“Could Wanning explain a little?” He asks weakly.
Chu Wanning’s rage melts in an instant. He blinks in surprise. “You don’t know?”
Mo Ran frowns. “Know what?”
Chu Wanning hums. “You snore.”
What? “I don’t snore,” Mo Ran responds. Despite himself, he can feel his cheeks growing warm.
Chu Wanning gives him a small smile. “You do. It’s very loud.”
“Wanning... don't tease. Is it true? Have I woken you up from it?
“Mm. Many times.”
“Are you joking?”
Chu Wanning raises an eyebrow. “Does it look like I am?”
Mo Ran sighs and shakes his head. “No, Shizun is always truthful. I know he’s not fooling me.” He leans back on his palms. “Aah, how can this be? I feel like an old man.”
Chu Wanning raises an eyebrow. “You’re not old.”
“I am,” Mo Ran insists. He grins as he says, “But it’s fine if it’s with you. And besides, I’m not the only one with interesting sleeping habits.”
“...What are you talking about?”
Mo Ran’s grin gets wider. “You sleeptalk, Wanning. Did you know that?”
Chu Wanning chokes. “What.”
“Chu Wanning is very honest when he sleeps,” Mo Ran laughs out. “He tells me so many interesting things, like not to feed Xue Meng leaves, and how much he loves Goutou.”
A myriad of expressions flash across Chu Wanning’s face. Just as Mo Ran expects, it finally settles on a mix of embarrassment and anger. “Is that why you haven’t been getting sleep?”
Mo Ran winces, smile still on his face. “Maybe?”
Chu Wanning stalks off before Mo Ran can get another word in.
“Wait, Wanning! Don’t go.” He gets up, plucking a piece of melon off the plate and jogging towards Chu Wanning. “Let’s eat now. Don’t be mad, okay?” He holds the melon close to Chu Wanning’s mouth.
Chu Wanning looks at him balefully and takes the fruit into his own hand.
Mo Ran smiles.
Chu Wanning doesn’t remember the dream that makes his eyes snap open. His heart beats rapidly against his chest, and he’s breathing heavily, the only signs that the dream must not have been a good one.
It’s dark, but not enough that Chu Wanning can’t make out the state of the room. He looks around the room. Nothing seems out of place. Mo Ran is still next to him. Gotou is asleep on his own bed. Everything is where it is supposed to be.
Another thing registers in Chu Wanning’s brain now that his heartbeat has calmed down a little: It’s not quiet.
Other than the sounds of his own breathing, there is the sound of...
And it’s coming from Mo Ran.
Mo Ran is snoring.
Now that Chu Wanning is properly hearing it, he’s surprised he hadn’t awoken from his dream earlier. It’s loud and unattractive, and most definitely shouldn’t be as endearing to Chu Wanning as it is.
Has it always been like this and Chu Wanning was just never awake to hear it? Or is this a new development of a Mo Ran so perfectly relaxed in his home.
He doesn’t know.
He shuffles a little so that he is facing Mo Ran, and can lean his forehead on Mo Ran’s chest. If he ignores the noises, it almost feels like a cat purring.
The movement is enough to stir Mo Ran into semi-awakeness. The rumbling cuts to a stop as he mumbles, “Wanning.” His voice is thick and deep with sleep.
Chu Wanning watches his expression relax and his arms shift to press Chu Wanning closer to his chest.
Mo Ran mumbles, eyes still closed, “Mm, are you cold? Come here.” He buries his head into the top of Chu Wanning’s head. “Still cold?”
“No,” Chu Wanning says, his heart as warm as the rest of him. “I’m not cold. Go back to sleep.”
Mo Ran snores in lieu of a response.