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Not Really Sure How to Feel About It

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It’s been a year and so far, it works.

The house is lovely, this beautiful sprawling not-quite-a-home, the west half done in white and gold, the eastern half in black and silver. The gardens out back are worthy of inclusion in a magazine, and a photo tour of the house would make a wonderful layout in any design publication (even if only one of the kitchens ever gets used for cooking.) 

Zhao Yunlan lives in the middle, room a stylishly monochromatic mess: white walls with black trim, two-tone doors, lacquered shelves stuffed with books and sentimental knickknacks that provide the only pops of color. He likes the ensuite with its rainfall shower in white subway tile and sunken bathtub of black marble shot through with gold, the luxury of the heated black and white checkerboard floor. The sinfully comfortable bed with its rotation of black and white linens in solids, stripes, checks of varying thickness, and abstracts among others is like a soft nest to burrow into when he spends the night alone.

He’d woken in that comfortable bed this morning, a rare enough occurrence that he tries to remember why as he stumbles to the shower. Halfway through lazily working the citrusy shampoo through his hair, it hits him: today is the first time he’s been alone in 374 days. And ohhh, what days they have been.

Electing to air dry after he’s clean (not that company in the house would necessarily be a deterrent to nudity) Zhao Yunlan shuffles into his slippers and walks to the western kitchen, continuing his musings as he reheats and enjoys a delicious stew he knows would otherwise have gone uneaten.

It’s been a year, (mostly) good but strange. He spends his days slung between a lovable neurotic and a cuddly iceberg. Days and the occasional night with Shen Wei in the east wing, nights and the supremely rare morning (indeed, any lighted hour) with Ye Zun on the west side. He loves the brothers, but they really are night and day for all their similarities.

Shen Wei cooks for him, brews them tea, reads to him for hours with Zhao Yunlan’s head in his lap, and accompanies him for long walks in the gardens. They play chess or have debates or watch movies, and Yunlan is determined to find a video game that Xiao Wei takes more than a polite interest in. One night they spread a blanket on the grass and stargaze. Sometimes Shen Wei halts the start of their time together by putting Zhao Yunlan to bed after a long (and not always great) night, most often in his own room rather than venturing to the borderland at the house’s center. The time Zhao passes in his bed is typically spent in an overstuffed chair reading books or at his desk proofing articles while Yunlan sleeps, but he allows himself to be periodically tempted to join Zhao Yunlan in the sheets for a snuggle and soft kisses pressed to brow and cheek and closed mouth. Sex is never a factor but it's fine. Good. Nice. He is… comforting, protective rather than possessive, and it makes for a pleasant change.

By nature or design, Ye Zun is much the opposite. He fucks Zhao Yunlan senseless at every opportunity, in every conceivable position, on or against every available surface or weight-bearing structure, giving and receiving in variable measure until they're both spent and exhausted. (They never sleep together.) For the first two weeks, Zhao Yunlan was half-convinced Ye Zun had somehow transcended mere mortality and evolved past the need for such boring things as sleep or food, needing only oxygen and orgasm to survive. (He knows better now.) The western kitchen could never be used to prepare anything edible given the bodily fluids that likely coat each surface, were it not for the rigorous cleaning the house receives twice a week. (Not that it matters; it's never used by Ye Zun to prepare anything besides one of them for sex.) Ye Zun treats him with a strange grasping detachment, needing him constantly and using him thoroughly before shoving him away... only to reel him back again. For all that he doesn’t seem to want to keep Zhao Yunlan for himself so much as not let anyone else have him, he claims not to mind the time his lover spends with his gege. (Sometimes Zhao almost believes him.) Ye Zun cannot be enticed to cuddle nor stay close longer than the scant seconds it takes to catch his breath after they come, and the few times Zhao had tried to hold his face or touch him with softness or kiss without teeth, Ye Zun flinched, ripped out of his arms and fled. Intimacy is apparently not a thing he does, nor is talking about why that is, and he handles Yunlan with all the tenderness and emotional range of a timberwolf. 

Zhao catches Shen Wei staring sometimes, not just at his face or the lines of his body under his clothes but at the lurid bite marks and scratches and bruises sucked into his skin, the shy man trying not to notice - or at least not be caught noticing. He’d even bandaged a particularly brutal bite Ye Zun had left on Zhao Yunlan’s shoulder once, given in a moment so feral he wouldn’t be surprised if there were teeth marks on the bone. But Shen Wei had said nothing, only tended and soothed, eyes huge and dark, hands steady and silent, sealing the medical tape in place with a kiss.

Before replacing it with the cologne of sweat and sex, Ye Zun always seems to register the scent of tea on Zhao Yunlan, of congee or spicy beef and noodles, or the infrequent jasmine shampoo in his hair and the fabric softener that cocoons him. Ye Zun does not cook (can, but doesn’t) and perpetually spurns any carefully packed leftovers in the fridge in favor of junk food and takeaways ordered out of spite, the rare fancy dinner or diner special in the wee hours when he grabs Zhao Yunlan by the hand and dresses him up and takes him out on the town for a night. Even if they have fun sampling new cuisine or dancing and gambling in the Dragon City district, the novelty hardly outweighs the odd distress that comes with being away from home. (He tells himself it's not because they don't know how to spend that much time around each other without screwing themselves into the ground.)

Aiyo, that's enough. Breakfast accomplished, he gives his brain a shake and scrubs his thoughts along with the dishes. The day is beautiful, lazy and beckoning, and Yunlan allows himself to wander outside still shamelessly nude and sink into the plump cushions of the garden bench, grateful for the lack of close neighbors (and high hedges, just in case) as he sprawls in a puddle of sunlight.

He sometimes daydreams about smiling at Ye Zun in the bathroom mirror as they brush their teeth, of sharing breakfast in bed, a movie ignored as they cuddle on the sofa in their pajamas. Sporadic nights on the town notwithstanding, clothes basically stop existing on the west side of the house, unless a costume is on the menu - and even then it’s an item that will be stripped or shredded off him and replaced some other time.

Sometimes he drifts off to sleep (or gets himself off in the shower) to the thought of pushing Shen Wei to his limit until they cross the line they've never crossed. Imagines being tackled in the garden, bruising kisses gently flavored with tea, serving as a living desk, undoing those damn arm garters with his teeth and being tied to Shen Wei’s bed - even if he’d happily stay of his own volition.

In moments of true madness, Zhao Yunlan dreams of a blessed triad, the banishment of these perpetual two halves of a life never making a complete whole, of loving and making love with these two beautiful men forever, and being loved back.

He knows he shouldn’t; he lets himself do it anyway, despite the danger of foolish hopes. He already lets the two of them treat him thus, lets them fuck him and take care of him in turn, lets himself be an acceptable stand-in for who they really want: each other. It’s still a relationship of sorts and more than most people ever get, but damn it Zhao Yunlan knows they could have it all if the brothers could just manage to be in the same room for more than 10 seconds at a push. If they could open their mouths and ask. If they could accept how identically different they are, and how perfectly their edges fit.

And in his heart, Zhao knows he wants that for them as much as he wants them. For his beloveds to have their hearts’ true desire, even as he fervently prays in the darkest moments that he’d still have a place with them in it.

He sees Ye Zun embraced on both sides, held close as his walls come down and the deep wounds he keeps hidden begin to heal, the savage perspective softly shifted from his outlook. He sees Shen Wei unbound by three pairs of hands, his self-imposed restraints loosened and all the facets of his nature allowed a place in the light, freed from the burdens he feels he must bear alone.

He sees the three of them, bonded together in sunshine and moonlight: teasing over games and orbiting one another in the kitchen, good mornings, nights in comfortable silence and sharing laughter over movies and silly moments, falling into a large bed at the end of another day spent with each other in a tangle of limbs and hearts and sleepy kisses. Another year or ten or ten thousand to simply be , and be together.

But this thing they have now, fascinating and all-encompassing as it is? Is not sustainable. Eventually will come the breaking point. They will give in, whereupon the sad likelihood is that he will no longer be needed, or they will give up, unable to keep up the distance and pretense and convinced it can never be overcome, and he will be made to choose a side or be left behind. And he dreads being without them, the thought of losing this, the all and not quite nothing of their bizarre existence.

With a sigh, he stretches and flop-rolls onto his front, letting the warmth spread over his back like syrup on pancakes. The day is too nice for this shit. Existential crises are a real mindfuck, and one hell of a downer. A solution is a problem for Future Zhao. 

For now, he ignores the dark clouds on the horizon and soaks up the sunlight, wishing and dreaming until the men he loves come back to him.