Of all the things that would bring down Shen Wei’s carefully crafted persona, it had to be alcohol, of course. Not even his own intake, but rather the fact that his boyfriend, his brother, and his boyfriend had had too much of it the night before and were now truly incapable of doing anything besides being whiny and mopey, slouching at their large breakfast table in shared misery.
Still, none of this would have been a problem, if not for Ye Zun’s new-found, somewhat misguided sense of responsibility. His brother had used the beginning of the new term to throw himself into some university courses – drama, of all things –, and had morphed into, rather late for Shen Wei’s taste, but who was he to complain, a model student with perfect attendance and spotless grades.
So now, on a late Friday morning, Zhao Yunlan had - in a bout of altruism and concern for his team which had absolutely nothing to do with his pounding headache - given the whole SID the day off, and abandoned him and Ye Zun at the table, leaving Shen Wei with the feeling of being the only adult in the house. Zhao Yunlan had gone back to bed without any coherent input, while Da Qing had refused to change into human form in the first place, stating that hangovers were best dealt with while having a smaller head.
Consequently, it had been only him and his slightly dishevelled brother left at the table, Ye Zun with his face in his hands, his hair in a messy ponytail, wrinkly shirt, ripped jeans, and with two different socks. Shen Wei found this a tiny bit endearing, but would rather bite off his own tongue than say it out loud.
Ye Zun groaned softly and squinted at him through his fingers. “We need to get going,” he mumbled, “I have classes in an hour and your office hours start soon, too.”
Shen Wei raised an eyebrow. With a portal, it would take them less than five minutes to get to their respective buildings, and he opened his mouth to remind his brother of that, when the other raised his head. “Did you forget that today is that ominous Spring Cleaning Day they have been talking about? ‘Open doors and open minds’ or some bullshit they called it. There won’t be an unoccupied room in the whole university, so as long as you and your--,” he visibly went through a whole lot of probably rather insulting terms, before he settled on “--lover don’t have any intimate knowledge about a deserted broom closet, we’ll have to drive.”
Shen Wei felt his ears turn red and stubbornly avoided the other’s smirk. He had indeed forgotten, and now it was way too late to take the bus and arrive in time.
Groaning, he buried his face in his hands. “We could portal somewhere close,” he tried, but Ye Zun shook his head. “It’s not a big deal, really,” he said. “My car is here, we don’t even have to take that ridiculous jeep. Just watch out for the gearshift, it tends to jam when it’s cold.”
Shen Wei stared at him, eyes wide in shock. “What do you mean, I need to watch out? Aren’t you driving?”
Ye Zun massaged the bridge of his nose, then pressed his fingers to his eyes. “I don’t think I can see clearly enough to get through traffic,” he said, “but you’ll be fine. I'll just sit there and tell you where to go.”
Shen Wei felt his breath quicken, not able to meet his brother’s gaze. Panicked, he went through a few hopefully believable excuses why he under no circumstances could drive right now, when he felt Ye Zun’s eyes on him. His brother had always been very perceptive, and even with a spectacular hangover noticed Shen Wei’s strange behaviour. Raising an eyebrow he stated, “You are deflecting.” Shen Wei winced while his brother continued matter-of-factly, but with a very audible smirk in his voice, “You don’t want to drive my car and are trying to find excuses, and now I am very curious as to why that is.”
Shen Wei winced and tried to deflect. “I don’t--,” he started, but his brother was not deterred. Sitting up straighter, he fixed Shen Wei with a scrutinizing stare that made him want to fidget. Avoiding his eyes was apparently the wrong thing to do, since his brother cackled and reached over to flick his forehead. Before Shen Wei could bristle indignantly, Ye Zun pointed out, “Gege, I know you better than anyone, and that face you’re making right now tells me that you can’t or won’t do something, but are too stubborn to say it and try to find polite excuses.” Grinning widely, he continued, “And I know for a fact that you like my car more than that absurd red monster, so there are not many reasons why you would refuse to drive me, since I know you have a driver’s license. I, umm, might have...” He broke off, clearing his throat, his stare intensifying. “Anyway, that leaves only one explanation. You can’t drive, for whatever reason.”
Shen Wei, who had been sinking down further into his chair during this reasoning, didn’t look up as he said weakly, “You should work for the SID, you’re a capable investigator.”
“But,” his brother now sounded confused, “why do you have a driver’s license when you can’t drive?”
Shen Wei shifted uncomfortably. “When I first began teaching here, Dixing assumed it was a cover for being the Envoy and issued me some documents… I don’t think that was very legal to begin with.” He gave his brother a pained grimace. ”They probably didn’t even know what most of them were for, and I didn’t tell them.” Inhaling deeply, he finished his explanation. “That is why I do have a license, but I have never driven a car in my life. I’m afraid you will need to take care of that if we want to get to work in time.”
After Ye Zun had overcome his laughing fit, he agreed to drive them himself, despite the state he was in. It took them a while to get to the university, Ye Zun cursing and muttering under his breath, but they managed in time. When they parted in the parking lot, Shen Wei noticed a dangerous sparkle in his brother’s eyes as he regarded him for a second. It made him shiver slightly, but he didn’t comment, resolutely turning towards his office building.
He didn’t wait for Ye Zun in the late afternoon, quite familiar with the other’s schedule he knew that he had a rehearsal to attend and wouldn’t be home until dinner. Thus, he quietly locked his office door and portalled home, after making sure nobody saw him.
At home, he didn’t have time to think about the day’s unfortunate events, since Da Qing loudly requested tuna for dinner, while Zhao Yunlan equally loudly demanded attention. Sighing inwardly, he patted both of them on the head on his way to the kitchen, once more feeling like a babysitter for a group of unruly toddlers. The missing toddler turned up an hour later, just when the rice cooker made a final noise. Shen Wei purposefully filled all four bowls with vegetables, ignoring the various protests, and ushered his flock to the table. When all of them were seated, immersed in their dinner, he allowed himself to relax a little. Having all of them here, feeding them, taking care of them, still came as a surprise on some days, and he was infinitely grateful for it every day.
He felt slightly less grateful, though, when Ye Zun pushed his bowl aside and fixed him with a pointed look, a wide smirk on his face.
“Gege,” he began and, sensing that the situation would soon turn interesting, the other two slowly lowered their bowls as well, looking expectantly between Shen Wei and his brother.
“Yes,” the former replied, feeling uneasy under the other’s gaze.
“Gege,” Ye Zun repeated, drawing out the syllables, “I thought about your problem.”
Shen Wei winced, but stayed silent. Zhao Yunlan perked up. “Problem?”, he asked, raising an eyebrow at him. Biting his lip, Shen Wei tried to deny everything, when Da Qing piped up, “The fact that he can’t drive a car, despite having a license, I suppose.”
Shen Wei’s head whipped around. “How….?” he began, but Da Qing just shrugged. Of course Ye Zun had told him.
Zhao Yunlan cleared his throat. “Yeah, I know, that driver’s license is fake, I assume they gave it to you as a cover. And you’re so lost when it comes to any kind of technology, cars are surely not the one thing you managed.”
Shen Wei kept staring, not able to reply. His insensitive boyfriend chuckled. “I’m a police officer, you moron, what did you think? That thing is such a bad fake, I’m surprised Ye Zun could use it all this time without getting busted.” Ye Zun choked on his tea. Now both brothers stared incredulously at Zhao Yunlan, who just snorted and took a sip of his own tea. “I figured you’d tell me one day, or maybe ask to drive the jeep so I could show you, but you never did, and I never…” He trailed off, then inhaled deeply. “Well, anyway, would you want to learn?”
Shen Wei was still staring at him, unseeing.
“Would you want to learn?”
Kunlun smiles at him, all teeth and sunshine. “You would want to teach me how to ride a horse?”, he asks, mirth in his voice. “That poor beast.”
He can’t look away from that smile. “I think..,” he starts and has to clear his throat, “I think you’d be good at it.”
Shen Wei managed to enforce two conditions before he agreed to Zhao Yunlan’s offer: Only one person would teach him, and he wouldn’t drive the jeep. Which only left Ye Zun’s car, since he also vehemently refused to learn how to drive Zhao Yunlan’s beloved bike.
I haven’t thought this through, he thought, as he adjusted the driver’s seat and fiddled with the mirror. Ye Zun had adapted to his new surroundings the same way he did everything: by inhaling it, just not as literal as he used to. He always bought the newest gadgets, had the trendiest clothes and used all the apps Shen Wei couldn’t even guess the use of. The only exception to that lifestyle was his car. Shen Wei wasn’t sure how he had gotten it or why, but that he was very fond of it, and endured Zhao Yunlan’s regular teasing with the grandeur of a wounded martyr. The car was tiny, even Shen Wei understood that, didn’t have a lot of extras, and most curiously, had a foreign flag painted on the roof. Da Qing didn’t have any opinions about cars, he was only interested in the compartments that could potentially hold snacks, and Shen Wei didn’t care as long as it got him to work and back safely.
But now that he sat behind the steering wheel, he couldn’t help but think that using the jeep might have been a better idea. It was higher off the ground, he mused, and also provided a lot of help to the driver, as Zhao Yunlan had shown him more than once. In Ye Zun’s tiny vehicle he suddenly felt very vulnerable.
Taking a deep breath, he shook himself out of his spiraling thoughts. This was, after all, something that could be learned, and he had yet to find something he wasn’t able to master. Determined, he reached for the key, when Zhao Yunlan next to him blurted, “Stop!” Startled, he let his hand sink, looking warily at the other. Zhao Yunlan fixated him. “Where are your feet?”
“Err,” Shen Wei replied wisely, resisting the impulse to look down. “At the end of my legs, I suppose?”
Zhao Yunlan gave him an unimpressed glare. “Very funny. When driving a car with gearshift, you have to put your left foot on the clutch.” Seeing the other’s forlorn look, he amended. “The pedal on the left. Left is clutch, middle is brake, right is gas.” Shen Wei felt even more confused. “How am I supposed to step on three pedals with two feet?” His boyfriend laughed at him. “You’re not. Don’t think of using brake and gas at the same time, that’ll kill the engine. You need to keep your left foot on the left pedal, then alternate the right between the two. Try it,” he nodded encouragingly. With a deep breath, Shen Wei stepped firmly on the left pedal while turning the key. The engine started and he smiled somewhat relieved. “Alright,” Zhao Yunlan commanded, “now slowly let the clutch go and step on the gas.” Shen Wei did, and with an offended howl, the engine died. He looked uncertainly at the other. “Yeah, that can happen,” Zhao Yunlan sounded unperturbed. “Try again.”
It took a few tries, but in the end Shen Wei managed to move the car forward a bit. (Only to get excited and accelerate too much, forcing Zhao Yunlan to pull the handbrake, but that didn’t dampen his spirits much.) With a slight grin, he turned. “Alright, what is next?”
Zhao Yunlan gave him a look. “Well, we could keep practising here in the parking lot,” he said slowly, “or we could try the road. There's not that much traffic at this hour,” he added, “you should be fine.”
“It’s a calm horse, you should be fine.”
“When I fall off, will you take care of me, Hei Pao Shi?”
That grin again, Shen Wei thinks. He has no defenses against that grin.
He just nods.
In the end, the road really wasn’t that crowded. Which made it easier for the police unit to notice a tiny foreign car whose driver was obviously drunk, oscillating in the lane, speeding up at random intervals. It took all of Zhao Yunlan’s silken persuasion skill, his SID badge and Shen Wei looking utterly helpless behind his glasses to convince the two officers to let them go, but when they had unsteadily turned a corner and Shen Wei had once more throttled the poor engine, Zhao Yunlan couldn’t keep a straight face anymore. He leaned back in his seat, eyes closed, clutching his middle as he dissolved in giggles. Shen Wei pouted for a bit, but then joined in.
After he had found his breathing again, Zhao Yunlan wheezed, “I should have told them what happens when you drink.” Wiping his eyes he added, a fond note to the teasing tone, “You are such a lightweight.”
Shen Wei smiled back. “I should have told them that all this started because you drank too much. That would have confused them even more, I think.”
Zhao Yunlan snorted, then added, reaching over to put his hand over Shen Wei’s, “Do you remember how you tried to teach me how to ride a horse?” Shen Wei made a soft noise, he was very fond of that particular memory. “I fell off, and really hoped that I would fall into a hole in the ground, but then you picked me up and said you’d take care of me…” He trailed off and regarded the other with a warm smile, which Shen Wei returned. “I promised, did I not?” “You did, and you have,” Zhao Yunlan agreed, leaning in for a kiss.