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Small Surprises

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Ye Zun likes to make his visits a surprise, which is increasingly difficult when they've given him a room of his own and sort of seem to assume that Ye Zun lives there, in the same way that the cat does, coming and going when it pleases him. Lately, he's even caught Zhao Yunlan looking happy at his presence, so Ye Zun has had to put more effort into surprising everyone.

What he doesn't expect when he portals into the kitchen is to find neither gege nor Zhao Yunlan there (the kitchen wouldn't normally be a place to find Zhao Yunlan in any case, but this is the time Shen Wei will usually be making dinner and Ye Zun knows exactly how much Zhao Yunlan likes to bother gege while he's cooking). Instead what Ye Zun manages to do is startle the woman who for some reason is cooking in their kitchen.

She gasps and drops the pot lid she was holding. Ye Zun grimaces and moves quickly enough to catch it because gege wouldn't like his things dropped. Of course, doing that manages to startle the woman even worse and Ye Zun ends up holding the lid in one hand, his other arm around the woman's waist, steadying her. Whoever she is, she wouldn't be in their kitchen without gege's approval and gege would probably not like her falling to the floor any more than he would his possibly breakable pot lid.

"I'm sorry," Ye Zun says, not because he is—he hadn't startled her on purpose after all—but because it seems like the gege accepted response to his current situation.

"Shen Wei?" she asks hesitantly, which under the circumstances is probably not an unreasonable conclusion to draw.

Ye Zun huffs and says, "No." Then, after making sure she's standing firmly on her own legs, he pulls his arm away, taking a step back until he's a more reasonable distance away. He looks at the pot lid he's still holding and hands it back to her.

She takes it, thanks him and sets it in its place on the pot. Then she looks at Ye Zun again, her lips pursing in slight disapproval. Ye Zun looks right back at her, feeling a flare of indignation. It's not his fault there's a stranger in their kitchen!

But what she says is, "A-Lan hasn't told me he has a brother-in-law." There's a whole lot of disapproval in that voice, and it takes a heartbeat for Ye Zun to grasp the fact that none of it is aimed at him.

Ye Zun blinks and then smiles slowly, trying not to flash his teeth at her. Apparently, that makes his smiles… threatening. Or so Da Qing tells him, which might be a bit suspect since Da Qing is a cat and any show of teeth is considered a threat. Ye Zun has tried being a cat, and it's a lot more complicated than Da Qing makes it seem.

Being a dragon makes so much more sense. But at least he understands Da Qing a bit better now, so maybe it was worth the effort anyway.

"I can't see why he wouldn't have," he tells the woman, who he's quite strongly suspecting has to be Zhao Yunlan's mother. Zhao Yunlan has mentioned her, and Ye Zun can't think of anyone else who'd be allowed inside their home like this. Besides, now that he thinks about it, she does kind of remind him of Zhao Yunlan. "I'm Ye Zun," he introduces himself.

It gets him a rather warm smile, which does remind him a whole lot of the welcoming smile he's seen on Zhao Yunlan's face lately. It makes Ye Zun feel… unsettled.

Quite suddenly, she turns around to poke at her cooking, saying, "It's good to meet you, Ye Zun. I'm Shen Xi and Zhao Yunlan is my son, so you can just call me mom."

Ye Zun is kind of grateful she's not looking at him at the moment, because he's not quite sure what his face does before he manages to get control of it. He's not… She wants Ye Zun to call her… to call her that?

By the time she glances back at him, he's managed to smooth his face out, even though he still doesn't quite know what to say. She only looks at him for a brief moment before the food seems to take most of her attention again.

"I didn't mean to startle you," Ye Zun says because it seems like a safe thing to say. It's true, he hadn't known she'd be there after all. "Where is gege and…" Ye Zun cuts himself off awkwardly, remembering just in time that this is Zhao Yunlan's mother. And her current disapproval of Zhao Yunlan aside, she probably doesn't want to hear Ye Zun insulting her son. "...Zhao Yunlan?" he concludes. It leaves him feeling weird, he's not used to curbing his words for anyone's sake.

He looks at her questioningly. Now that he's had a moment to think about it, it doesn't really make sense for them to leave Zhao Yunlan's mother alone in their house. Unless Da Qing is around somewhere, but even so, it seems a bit strange.

"I sent them to the store," she answers easily. "I would have asked A-Lan to go, but who knows what he would have bought." She huffs and shakes her head, with what looks like amused disappointment.

"Ah, yes. Gege is definitely the better choice," Ye Zun agrees a bit inanely. He's feeling a bit off-balance, and maybe that's just the surprise of a stranger in his home. He takes a step back. This is the perfect time to take his leave. He might usually try to annoy Zhao Yunlan as much as he can, but he's pretty sure his mother is off-limits. That's probably one line gege doesn't want him to cross.

She hums a small agreement and then turns to look at him fully, her eyes suddenly seeming to pin Ye Zun in place.

"You are staying for dinner, now that you're here," she says. It doesn't really sound like a question.

"I live here," Ye Zun says, mostly because the non-question might have taken him a little bit by surprise. And because he does. Even if Zhao Yunlan might actually want him there these days, and where's the fun in that?

She blinks, huffs in annoyance and says, "A-Lan didn't tell me that either."

Clearly, neither had gege, Ye Zun thinks, but Shen Wei isn't getting blamed for it. Possibly, maybe, Ye Zun might like Zhao Yunlan's mother just a little bit.

"Well then, it won't be any trouble for you to stay," she says briskly and a small moment later she adds, "You look even thinner than your brother."

Ye Zun blinks and then automatically looks down on himself. He is probably a bit skinnier than gege because he doesn't keep working out the way gege does. But you can hardly tell with the oversized sweater he's wearing.

"Ah, you look very handsome," she says, like she thinks Ye Zun needs the reassurance. "You just need to eat a bit more."

"That's what gege always says. Sometimes I think he still thinks we're children and there isn't enough food," Ye Zun finds himself saying. Then he snaps his mouth shut and takes a step back. He needs to get away before he says more things he doesn't mean to.

Her face does something a bit complicated as she looks at Ye Zun and then she turns to fiddle with all the… food again.

"Are you just as small as him as a dragon too?" she asks the pan as she puts something in it. There's a whole lot of sizzling.

Ye Zun lifts his eyebrows, which is entirely useless since she isn't even looking at him. He didn't expect gege to have told her about being a dragon.

Well, then again, all of the SID know, so why not Zhao Yunlan's mother too?

"There's nothing wrong with my size." He realises it's an absolutely ridiculous thing to say right about when the words leave his mouth, at which point it's already too late. So he just smirks, then realises that that's probably not appropriate and before he manages to quite decide if he cares or not, she's turned her head to look at him.

She laughs slightly and shakes her head a bit. "I'm sure there isn't, dear. But Shen Wei was tiny as a dragon." She sounds both amused and like she might be genuinely worried.

Well, she's not wrong about gege's size, he supposes. They usually are small, there's no point in being bigger when you don't need to. Ye Zun huffs dryly to himself and then turns into a dragon slightly bigger than a human—anything larger than that and he'd just risk breaking gege's kitchen.

He's not sure he expects the startled yell when she looks his way. He feels smug for about a heartbeat and then notices the way she's gripping the kitchen counter hard enough to turn her knuckles white, her breath coming in small quick gasps. And okay, Ye Zun didn't mean to actually scare her.

Certain people will not be happy if they hear about Ye Zun scaring Zhao Yunlan's mother. Not if he arguably did it on purpose.

Ye Zun hesitates for a second and then lets himself revert to his smallest form. He darts restlessly in the air, unsure if he should get closer or not. She takes a long, somewhat shaky breath.

"I'm sorry, I really didn't mean to…" Ye Zun says awkwardly. He thinks he's offered more apologies to this one woman than he has altogether since he got out of that accursed pillar. Zhao Yunlan better appreciate his efforts here.

She lifts her eyebrows in a look of disbelief that he's seen on Zhao Yunlan's face more than a few times. It's instinct really, for Ye Zun to chuff and smirk back.

She shakes her head and gives him a somewhat critical once over, which considering his size doesn't take very long. "You're even tinier than your brother," she declares. And okay, Ye Zun might deserve that.

He flies down to the kitchen counter with a huff.

"You really need to eat more," she tells him disapprovingly. Ye Zun doesn't tell her that he always eats more than his fair share. Now that he's here, he's not going to say no to food. He deserves some compensation for all the trouble.


"Mom! We're back!" Zhao Yunlan yells the moment he gets the door open. It makes Shen Wei frown at him slightly. Zhao Yunlan just grins back.

"In the kitchen!" he hears his mom yell out faintly.

Zhao Yunlan holds out a hand towards Shen Wei and looks pleadingly at him. "Please, Xiao Wei, let me carry one bag at least," he says under his breath. "Mom will be angry at me for making you carry everything."

He can see Shen Wei about to protest that Zhao Yunlan didn't make him do anything, but it's not like his mom will care about that. She'll take one look at Shen Wei carrying all the bags—and Zhao Yunlan isn't entirely sure why they have so many, he's pretty sure his mom didn't send them out for this much stuff—and declare it Zhao Yunlan's fault.

"I know you're stronger than me," Zhao Yunlan says quietly before Shen Wei can get a word out. "But she won't care." He blinks charmingly at Shen Wei, who gets this mildly exasperated but fond look and then holds out the smallest bag to Zhao Yunlan.

He takes it with a grin and then leans in to press a quick kiss to Shen Wei's cheek. "I love you," he mouths before taking off towards the kitchen.

And then stops so abruptly in the doorway that Shen Wei almost walks into him and ends up wrapping an arm around his waist to keep both of them upright.

"Xiao Wei…?" Zhao Yunlan hisses under his breath. Shen Wei squeezes his waist tighter and Zhao Yunlan should probably step away because his mom is right there, but he's too busy staring at the sight in front of him.

Because his mom is standing there, adding pieces of meat into a bowl, which, okay, not that shocking. But there's a very small white dragon, delicately picking up a piece in his jaws, claws held gently against the edge of the bowl. Zhao Yunlan watches Ye Zun neatly fit the whole piece, which suddenly looks a lot bigger when the tiny dragon is holding it, into his mouth, and then lets go of the bowl and turns his head to the side as he chews and swallows. And then he repeats the process.

"Didi…" Shen Wei whispers very quietly. Zhao Yunlan glances at him. His eyes are glittering with unshed tears and… maybe Zhao Yunlan is just not going to ruin whatever is going on here.

He squeezes Shen Wei's arm briefly before stepping away. "Mom, I see you've met my brother-in-law," he says.

Both his mom and the tiny white dragon look at him, and somehow he could swear both looks are equally disparaging. Zhao Yunlan wonders if he can hide behind Shen Wei, they both like Shen Wei.

"I didn't know Ye Zun would be home, or I would definitely have told you," he says quickly and tries smiling at his mom. He's pretty sure smiling at Ye Zun will have no effect whatsoever.

His mom makes a disapproving noise, but doesn't say anything. Zhao Yunlan holds out the bag he's holding defensively.

"We got what you wanted," he declares. He's not entirely sure what she'd wanted, but he's very sure Shen Wei will have gotten it whatever it is.

Ye Zun thrills demandingly and his mom looks down at the tiny white dragon with a smile. "Oh, here, have some more," she says and adds another piece of meat into his bowl.

Zhao Yunlan sighs. Well, he supposes he's happy that Ye Zun likes his mom.