Zhao Yunlan sits awkwardly on the side of their bed, his back to Ye Zun, who's sitting on the other side of the bed. He can feel Ye Zun's eyes at the back of his neck. Instead of turning to look he looks down at his hands, awkwardly rubbing them together because he needs to do something with them.
He doesn't think he's felt this awkward about the thought of getting into bed with someone since he was a teenager, back when he wasn't actually sleeping with anyone, neither literally nor otherwise. Not that he and Ye Zun are at the stage of doing anything else but sleeping, if they can even manage that much.
So far the closest they've come to anything involving both of them is watching the other with Shen Wei, which granted is hot as fuck. Zhao Yunlan grins slightly at the thought, and is instantly grateful that he isn't actually facing Ye Zun, because Ye Zun doesn't need to know what Zhao Yunlan was just thinking about.
It's not like Zhao Yunlan doesn't want have sex with Ye Zun. He very much wants to. He's pretty sure Ye Zun wants it too, and Zhao Yunlan is not just flattering himself with that thought. But what he wants a whole lot more is for Ye Zun to be comfortable around Zhao Yunlan and that… Well, that's still kind of a work in progress.
Most of the time, Ye Zun isn't comfortable with touching anyone but Shen Wei, so at least it's not just Zhao Yunlan. Actually, Zhao Yunlan is doing a whole lot better than most people on that front. Hell, with Shen Wei there between them they're all perfectly fine sleeping in the same bed. And that… that had taken work too.
So they're doing just fine. They'll get there eventually. They're in no hurry these days.
But right now, Shen Wei isn't here. He's at a symposium out of town and both Zhao Yunlan and Ye Zun had assured him they'd be fine on their own. Hell, they're both grown-ups, they can manage to feed and water themselves while Shen Wei is gone for a handful of days.
They just hadn't really thought about sleeping.
"I don't need to sleep," Ye Zun says tersely. He can hear Ye Zun standing up. The mattress moves slightly under him.
He turns his head quickly. "A-Ye," he says, before having any idea what he's actually going to say.
Technically, Ye Zun is right, he doesn't need to sleep every night. In fact, Zhao Yunlan thinks some nights he just clings to Shen Wei and doesn't sleep, but since Zhao Yunlan definitely does sleep, he's not entirely sure about that. Mostly both of the twins are gone when he wakes up, which is a shame, but Zhao Yunlan is used to it.
Ye Zun stops, maybe like he wants Zhao Yunlan to talk him out of leaving. He lifts a condescending eyebrow at Zhao Yunlan, a small sneer on his lips. And Zhao Yunlan is sure he can see the uncertainty behind that look.
He quickly discards the idea of telling Ye Zun he'll be all cranky if he doesn't get any sleep. He will be, after a few nights at least, Zhao Yunlan and everyone else living in this house are painfully aware of that fact.
"Is there anything I can do to make things… more comfortable for you?" Zhao Yunlan asks quietly. They've talked about it before. They'd had to put words to some of it, to figure out what they can and can't do. It hadn't been easy for anyone, but far worse for Ye Zun than anyone else.
The sneer on Ye Zun's lips softens for a moment, before his expression tightens again, frustration and anger written all over his face. "No," Ye Zun spits out like the word itself leaves a bad taste in his mouth.
But Ye Zun still doesn't move any further away, just stands there looking at Zhao Yunlan. Zhao Yunlan hesitates. He opens his mouth for a second about to say something before changing his mind and shutting it again. Indecision twists at his insides, keeping him silent.
He's not sure if he should say what he's thinking. He's thought about it before, but he's never quite gotten around to mentioning it to either of the twins. It might be a terrible idea, and he probably shouldn't suggest it when Shen Wei isn't here.
He looks at Ye Zun, at the frustration on his face. At the quiet longing just underneath it, that Ye Zun doesn't quite hide as well as he thinks. Zhao Yunlan's heart shudders, and he wants so much to just reach out and touch Ye Zun, to hug him and tell him that it's all going to be okay. Except he can't, all it would do is make things worse.
He turns around fully, instead of just twisting his head to the side. He lifts his feet up on the bed, folding them under himself, his hands pressing down against his thighs. He knows he's just trying to buy himself time. Zhao Yunlan swallows, his mouth feeling dry.
"A-Ye," he says, and the name comes out hoarse. He swallows again before continuing. "Could you… control me? My mind? Like you…?" It's all that Zhao Yunlan manages to get out before the words just fade into nothing. There are some things they don't talk about much.
Ye Zun is staring at him, his face oddly blank. Ye Zun is usually pretty expressive, and Zhao Yunlan's stomach twists at that emptiness. He curses himself for bringing it up at all. And then forces himself to stay on the bed.
He wants to explain his reasoning; that maybe Ye Zun wouldn't feel so uncomfortable if he's the one calling the shots, quite literally. Zhao Yunlan can't do anything to Ye Zun if Ye Zun is controlling him. Not if Ye Zun doesn't want him to.
The thoughts twist at Zhao Yunlan's insides. He's not sure if it's the thought that Ye Zun still feels like Zhao Yunlan might… hurt him. (It's not Ye Zun's fault and it's not some kind of lack of trust, Zhao Yunlan reminds himself.) Or because the thought of being controlled like that makes Zhao Yunlan feel vaguely nauseous. (He knows Ye Zun won't hurt him, not on purpose. And he just wants to tell that anxious part of himself to take a long hike and preferably never come back.)
"You're not easy to control," Ye Zun says woodenly. Zhao Yunlan's insides twist again, the reminder of things that happened in the past, clearly, not sitting easily with either of them.
He should say it was all a stupid idea. To tell Ye Zun to forget it. Or maybe ask if Ye Zun is alright. Or at least say anything but, "What if I let you?" His voice croaks, and Zhao Yunlan swallows dryly.
Ye Zun startles visibly, his eyes going wide for a moment before he quickly gets himself under control. Had he actually thought that Zhao Yunlan was asking him to… to force him? Well, that's kind of what mind control implies—being controlled and all—but it's not… He didn't mean…
Zhao Yunlan rubs a hand over his face. "I'd let you A-Ye. Of course, I'd let you," he says plaintively. His heart aches in his chest. He shrugs a bit. "If I can figure out how, anyway."
It's not like Zhao Yunlan knows what exactly makes mind control not stick with him, but he figures if he's not trying to resist that'll probably help.
Ye Zun takes a step closer to the bed, seemingly despite himself. "Lanlan," he says, his voice falling somewhere between shaky and angry. Zhao Yunlan almost smiles at the nickname. He knows Ye Zun had started using it to annoy him, but these days, more often than not, it just comes out fond whenever Ye Zun says it. "Do you have any idea what you're asking?"
Zhao Yunlan grins slightly, despite how that question makes his belly want to tie itself into knots again. "No, probably not," he admits wryly.
Ye Zun looks at him for a moment and then huffs. That comes out kind of shaky too. But at least the anger seems gone. Ye Zun sits down on the bed heavily, and then reaches out to press a hand against Zhao Yunlan's cheek. Zhao Yunlan has to remind himself to keep breathing.
"You're an idiot," Ye Zun tells him, still a bit shaky and if Zhao Yunlan isn't entirely wrong, maybe just a bit fond too.
Zhao Yunlan smiles just a little bit. "Probably," he says.
"Oh, good. At least you realise," Ye Zun says faintly. He looks into Zhao Yunlan's eyes, and maybe Zhao Yunlan is just imagining it, but he feels something slowly pushing against his mind. He's not even sure that's how it works and how does he feel his mind anyway? Ye Zun frowns slightly and… Oh, is Zhao Yunlan still somehow keeping him out? He should… relax his mind or something. Except how do you do that?
It's Ye Zun, he tries telling himself. He doesn't mind having Ye Zun in there. He's not entirely sure if that does anything at all. Maybe he should be thinking inviting thoughts… Well, no that's just sounds—
"Please, think less, Lanlan," Ye Zun says, sounding exasperated.
Suddenly, Zhao Yunlan's frantic thoughts just… fall away. His brain seems very quiet. Oh, that's nice, he thinks.
Ye Zun keeps looking at him like he doesn't quite know what to make of Zhao Yunlan. It's definitely not the first time Zhao Yunlan has made him look like that. He moves his hand from Zhao Yunlan's cheek to run his fingers through Zhao Yunlan's hair.
That's nice too, Zhao Yunlan thinks distantly.
"I'm not sure I'll ever figure you out," Ye Zun says, petting Zhao Yunlan's hair one last time before pulling his hand away. He tilts his head slightly as he keeps looking at Zhao Yunlan.
"Lie down," Ye Zun tells him and Zhao Yunlan does.
Ye Zun blinks and then swallows and Zhao Yunlan can feel him pulling away. In his head, not physically, he's still sitting right there looking at Zhao Yunlan with an almost… frightened look on his face.
"Fuck," Zhao Yunlan says. Ye Zun flinches, and Zhao Yunlan curses himself, quietly this time. "It's fine. I'm fine. Everything is fine," Zhao Yunlan says quickly, the words tumbling out of his mouth and nearly tripping over each other.
Once again he has to stop himself from pushing himself up and flinging his arms around Ye Zun in some misguided attempt at reassurance.
"Are you okay?" Zhao Yunlan asks, a bit more normally.
Ye Zun reaches out, almost touching Zhao Yunlan before stopping. Zhao Yunlan shifts slightly and then turns over on his side, propping his head up on his arm.
"Fine," Ye Zun says shortly, after what feels like a long time. His jaw tightens for a moment, and he looks very much like he might want to ask Zhao Yunlan that same question, and then stays quiet anyway.
"You made my head quiet," Zhao Yunlan says slowly. He thinks about it for a moment. "It was actually kind of nice. It doesn't tend to be very quiet up there," he adds, grinning slightly.
Ye Zun huffs quietly. "It seems pretty empty most of the time," he says, his sneer just a bit weak.
Zhao Yunlan smiles in return. "Nah, just too noisy for me to think," he says.
And then they're both quiet for a while. Zhao Yunlan can't quite tell if the silence is uncomfortable or not.
"Does it work?" he asks, at last, looking questioningly at Ye Zun. "Do you…?" he says, gesturing with his free hand slightly, not entirely sure what words to use not to make Ye Zun baulk.
Another second of silence ticks by as Zhao Yunlan's words fade into nothing.
Ye Zun's eyes narrow slightly. "I could make you do so many things," he says in a low voice, his teeth glinting in a sharp grin.
Once, that definitely would have unsettled Zhao Yunlan. He kind of expects it to do that now, considering what they're talking about, but no matter how he pokes at his own feelings Zhao Yunlan just doesn't feel anything of the sort.
"Yes, you could," he agrees, his smile turning gentle. But you won't, he doesn't say.
The sharp grin falls away, and Ye Zun shakes his head once. And it's Ye Zun that looks faintly unsettled, instead of Zhao Yunlan. Maybe he doesn't trust himself quite as much as Zhao Yunlan does.
"It's late. I'm getting tired. Are you staying?" Zhao Yunlan asks.
He doesn't get an answer in words, only that feeling of something inside his head again. It's so much easier to let Ye Zun in this time.
The world seems just a bit distant as Ye Zun tells him to turn around, before lying down next to Zhao Yunlan and wrapping his arms tightly around him, throwing his leg over Zhao Yunlan's legs too, like he wants to make sure Zhao Yunlan isn't going anywhere.
A few moments later, a blanket settles over both of them.
"Sleep, Lanlan," Ye Zun whispers at him, so Zhao Yunlan does.