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To be loved

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“Und doch, welch Glück, geliebt zu werden,
Und lieben, Götter, welch ein Glück.”
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Willkommen und Abschied

 

It was the bottle of soy sauce that had led to Zhao Yunlan’s revelation.

Not quite awake and his eyes still half closed, he had blindly reached for it and dumped some over his congee, when he suddenly startled. Frozen, opened bottle in hand, eyes wide, he looked around the breakfast table, taking in the sight as if for the first time. Opposite him, a bowl of steaming congee, topped with tuna bites, behind it a sleepy Da Qing who absent-mindedly stirred in his coffee pot with a chopstick. Next to the drowsy cat, Ye Zun with his newest weird obsession: a vegetable smoothie of sorts, a questionable bright green concoction in a tall glass. His own congee in his favourite red bowl, with chopped scallions and the soy sauce within easy reach.

Zhao Yunlan looked at the man next to him in wonder, blinking slowly. Shen Wei, perceptive as ever – and significantly more awake than the rest of them – noticed his pause and glanced back at him with a slight raise of one eyebrow. “What is it?”

Zhao Yunlan shook his head, not quite sure how to put his thoughts into words. 

Since they all had moved into the new house together, Shen Wei had taken command of everything concerning food - which wasn’t really surprising, given what had happened to the apartment’s kitchen and the following very thorough lecture on things that absolutely could not go into a microwave. Thus he had taken over everything from buying food to preparing it, making sure they all ate regular and healthy meals.

Being his usual attentive and considerate self, he somehow had also quietly managed, between being Hei Pao Shi and Professor Shen and SID Consultant, to make sure they ate their meals together, to cook their favourite foods - and to always place the soy sauce next to Zhao Yunlan’s bowl because he knew he would want it. Zhao Yunlan knew that he also bought all their vegetables from the small stall with the overly friendly owner, because Ye Zun had mentioned he especially liked their fresh scallions. Da Qing would bug him for dried fish snacks every time he went out, and even though he always scolded the cat, sure enough there would be fish snacks the next day. Zhao Yunlan never ran out of lollipops these days, no matter how many he lost in coats and between sofa cushions.

Shen Wei didn’t just cook for them - he cared for them, and the enormity of it all, the magnitude of this love made Zhao Yunlan’s breath catch.

Slightly alarmed, Shen Wei turned fully in his chair to face him, placing a warm hand on Zhao Yunlan’s. “Ah-Lan, what is it?”

Still feeling a bit overwhelmed by his revelation, Zhao Yunlan just blinked at him, then inhaled deeply. “It's just,” he began, then cleared his dry throat, failing to translate his feelings into words. “I just realised I never sat with someone at a breakfast table,” he said instead. “Like a family, I mean.” Shen Wei looked even more concerned, glancing at Da Qing. “But, Zhao Xinci--,” he began, but Zhao Yunlan cut him off with a snort. “My dad stopped being part of the family even before my mum died,” he shrugged. “It was just Fat Cat and me,” he winked at Da Qing, “but we never really… Anyway!” Inhaling deeply, trying to hide how emotional he felt, he gave Shen Wei a wobbly smile. Before the other could respond to that, Ye Zun said quietly, “He’s right.” When all of them turned towards him, he looked up, shrugging slightly. “We never had that either, gege. I can’t even remember if we ever ate at a table before… Well. Before.” He gestured vaguely. Da Qing subtly put his hand on Ye Zun’s thigh under the table, then leaned his head on his shoulder, purring softly. The other smiled and pressed a kiss to his temple.

Shen Wei tightened his grip on Zhao Yunlan’s hand. “I see,” he said, still sounding concerned. The other intertwined their fingers, giving him a gentle look. “I just never thought I’d have that, you know?” He gestured with his free hand. “Someone to care for me. To care for us. I just realised how much you do for us, how much you love us. All of us.” He winked slyly at Ye Zun, who scoffed in reply but couldn’t quite hide the fond smile as he regarded his brother. “He’s right,” he agreed. “You made us a family, gege.” The tips of Shen Wei’s ears had turned red and he lowered his gaze, smiling softly. Shaking his head, he tried to refute the praise, when Da Qing added, “It’s what you do, what you always have done.” At the other’s questioning gaze, he chuckled. “Don’t you remember when…,” Zhao Yunlan noticed the slight hitch in his breathing before he continued, “Kunlun was gone, and it was just the two of us… You would cook for me and we’d eat together.” He smiled. “Every time, you declared I was too scrawny and you had to make sure I’d eat enough. You always gave me the best pieces. Don’t you remember?” 

“I remember,” Shen Wei replied quietly, eyes still lowered, but now with the hint of a smile on his lips. Zhao Yunlan reached for him, wrapping his arms around him, pulling him into a tight embrace. Kissing the other’s cheek, he whispered, “Thank you. For everything.” Looking up at the other two, he grinned and added, “We love you too, you know.” Shen Wei buried his face in Zhao Yunlan’s neck and nodded, letting himself be held.