The first thing that Lin Chen sees when he arrives at Su Manor is a tall man with a fabulous goatee all but storming out of Changsu’s room, a frustrated expression marring his handsome face.
Well, strictly, the first thing that Lin Chen sees in Fei Liu, who is also on the roof of the Manor through which Lin Chen first enters, but Lin Chen expected him to be there, so he refuses to count that. The first thing he sees that is out of the ordinary is the man leaving.
Well, even more strictly, Lin Chen has no idea if this is out of the ordinary. He hasn’t seen Changsu in over a year, and if Mei Changsu is good at nothing else he is good at getting people to be utterly loyal to him, and then frustrating them greatly.
(Mei Changsu is, in fact, good at a great many things more than that. It is just that that particular set of skills is, regrettably, the one that Lin Chen has had the most experience on the receiving end of.)
(Regrettably… well maybe not so regrettable. It would be worse to be subject to Mei Changsu’s great skill in tearing people’s lives apart when he needs to succeed in his goals.)
(Lin Chen very carefully doesn’t think about how, when Mei Changsu’s goal to exonerate the Chiyan army is over, then it might well be Lin Chen whose life ends up being torn apart. That is a problem for future Lin Chen.)
“xiao-Fei Liu,” Lin Chen calls over to the boy, who is perched still, watching him like a hawk.
“Mmm?” Fei Liu replies. He does move over to where Lin Chen is watching the goateed man leave, though, so that’s a good sign at least.
“Who is that man who just left?”
Fei Liu cocks his head to one side, silent for a few seconds, and then says, decisively, “da-ge”.
Lin Chen holds back a sigh at the distinct lack of information Fei Liu has given him. It’s a better response than he might have expected from the boy, than he would have received even a few years ago, when any time he spoke to Fei Liu he would have got either a shrug, a glare, or a tongue sticking out.
Then- “Hey! Fei Liu! Aren’t I your da-ge?!”
Fei Liu is already leaping away across the roof. Of course he is.
Lin Chen will just have to ask Changsu. Who is, of course, always forthcoming about information.
This time, Lin Chen actually does sigh, and he slides off the roof.
Lin Chen throws open the doors to Changsu’s room, ignoring all sense of propriety and privacy just as he used to do back at Langya Hall. He gave himself the right to do so thirteen long years ago when Changsu first became his patient, and at no point has Changsu indicated that he was capable of looking after himself to the standard that Lin Chen would like him to. Hence, in fact, this visit.
Mei Changsu is reclining on his bed, eyes closed. “da-ge, you really didn’t need to rush back, I swear I’m fine.”
He was, quite obviously, not fine, not only in the general sense that he had never been fine since Meiling, but also in a more specific way indicated by the fact he was in bed in the middle of the day. Lin Chen ignores his lie for now, though, in favour of his preferred pastime of bullying Changsu.
“Why, Changsu! You’ve never called me da-ge before! To what do I owe the honour?”
Changsu groans, heavily. “I take it back. da-ge, hurry back, I’m having the most frightful vision.” But he cracks open his eyes, and he is smiling.
Lin Chen can’t help but smile back, regardless of Changsu’s current state of clearly not looking after himself. Lin Chen loves Mei Changsu, has missed Mei Changsu, and it’s a weight off his chest to see his smile once again after so long.
He crosses the room quickly and purposefully, sitting down on the edge of the bed and taking Changsu’s pulse. It’s… well, it’s bad, of course it’s bad, but it’s no worse than it could be. He hasn’t caught a fever, or a chill. He’s probably just over-tired himself, which is hardly a change of pace for the chronically hard-working Mei Changsu.
A weight that Lin Chen had forgotten was there, that has been there ever since Mei Changsu left Langya to head down to Jinling, has disappeared from his shoulders. He’s alright. He’s… no. He’s not alright, he’ll never be alright. But he’s no worse. He could be so much worse.
He bows his head, resting his brow against Changsu’s, just breathing in the same air.
He missed him. Oh, he missed him.
Changsu raises an unsteady hand, pressing it against Lin Chen’s cheek. “Lin Chen. Chen-xiong. I’m here. I’m fine.”
Lin Chen pulls back a little to scowl at him. “If you’re fine I must be heavily incompetent, and we both know the opposite is true.” Changsu raises an eyebrow at him, but doesn’t contest the statement. At least he knows something that’s good for him.
He doesn’t bother waiting for a verbal answer from Changsu, instead pushing through to a far more interesting topic. “Anyway, who was it that you thought I was? I don’t suppose your da-ge is a handsome man, fairly tall, nice goatee?”
Changsu ducks his head a little, averting his eyes, and Lin Chen knows that if the blood in his body wasn’t so poisoned, he would be blushing.
It’s. Lin Chen thought he might be jealous, when he was sitting back at Langya Hall, thinking about Changsu far away in Jinling and resting in the arms of other men. They were not to be exclusive lovers, this was a decision they had taken together long before Changsu had all his pieces in place to return to his childhood home. But Lin Chen could not pretend that Changsu had taken a greater part of his heart than he had thought he would.
At the event, however, he finds he’s not jealous at all. Instead, he’s relieved. He’s glad that Changsu hasn’t been alone, that he has someone close by that he cares about and who cares about him. And whoever Changsu’s da-ge is, he must be a good man, or Fei Liu would never allow him to spend time around his Shu-gege.
And then: “xiao-Shu, I’ve brought the – oh!” The goateed man, Changsu’s da-ge who Lin Chen still hasn’t been told the name of, stops abruptly from his unannounced entrance into the room at the sight of Lin Chen. “My apologies, Sir Su, I didn’t realise you had a guest. I’ll… I’ll return later.”
He makes to leave, but Lin Chen stands. “No, no, please stay. Any friend of Mei Changsu’s is a friend of mine.” Changsu’s da-ge’s face is frozen in an expression between worry and alarm.
Behind Lin Chen, Changsu sighs melodramatically. “da-ge, may I introduce you to my dear friend Lin Chen, the young master of Langya Hall. Chen-xiong, this is General Meng Zhi, commander of the imperial guards.”
“Oh, young master Lin!” General Meng sweeps into a formal bow. Lin Chen rushes over to raise him up.
“No need for that, General. I believe we are all more than friends here.”
General Meng blushes rather prettily, Lin Chen cannot help but note. Now that they are close, he takes deeper notice of the intricacies of the man’s face. Meng has the eyes of a man who is incapable of lying. Lin Chen can tell why Changsu likes him.
General Meng is awkwardly looking back at him, before darting his eyes around the room and then back, and then again.
Then he bursts out: “Don’t you dare get up, xiao-Shu. You’ve collapsed once already today.”
Lin Chen turns around to see Changsu, pouting, slouch back down on the bed. He pouts even further when his eyes catch Lin Chen’s, and he sees the smile lighting up his face.
Lin Chen spins back to General Meng, and bows. “Seeing how deeply you care for my dear Changsu, then you certainly have my blessing.”
“He doesn’t need your permission, you menace,” calls Changsu from the other side of the room.
General Meng ignores him, however. “This humble one is grateful for the blessing of Young Master Lin.” His voice and eyes are earnest.
Lin Chen grins. He is sure that they will get along grandly. And, well. Lin Chen was already planning on staying for longer than his official neutrality should allow for. Perhaps they will get along even better than that.