Wei Ying isn't usually good with faces, which is not a trait one wants to have when working in the service industry, especially in a pet shop. They have a lot of regular customers buying food and toys for their pets, and Wei Ying is usually saved by giving them nicknames. Twintails has the persian cat, baseball boy owns three guinea pigs, and the funny grandpa has a fluffy ferret. As much as he enjoys talking with them, no one really sticks.
"Excuse me," A deep voice calls out to him from the counter, and when he turns around, he nearly drops the cage in his hand.
"Hello, handsome," Wei Ying inwardly winces at the clichéd nickname his mind has supplied, but maintains his easy smile. "What can I do for you?"
The man looks out of place in the store with his crisp suit and tie. A businessman? But not just any businessman, Wei Ying thinks. With his porcelain skin, piercing gold eyes, and strong jawline that could cut through glass, he's nothing short of ethereal.
He also looks a little uncomfortable, but it must have been due to Wei Ying's flirting attempt.
Fortunately, his appraisal of the man ends just as the new customer tells him, "I want to adopt a rabbit."
Wei Ying raises an eyebrow. It's hard to imagine this stern man raising a rabbit. "Sorry, hot stuff. The animals here are exclusively adopted as pets, not for experiments."
"What's a hot stuff, baba?" a soft voice asks, and it takes Wei Ying a moment before he finds a tiny human hidden by the counter in front of him.
Oh fuck. Did he just flirt with a married man? Right in front of his child?
"It's nothing," the man answers the child, before looking back at Wei Ying. "The rabbit is for my son."
"I see that now," Wei Ying says sheepishly. "Sorry for judging you, but I thought you're an evil scientist."
"My baba's not an evil scientist!" The child insists with a puff. "He's rich!"
That firm rebuttal and the look of helplessness on the father's face are enough to send Wei Ying into a laughing fit. "I– I see. Rich, huh? I guess that makes more sense."
Wei Ying continues to laugh, wiping his tears as he tries to compose himself. He knows he shouldn't be laughing at his customers, but he finds himself under the glare of the man, and yet he can't sense any ire behind it.
Wei Ying wonders how long it would take until the customer snaps at his teasing. Too bad, he can't test it out with a child present.
The word 'daddy' pops in his mind, but his mouth miraculously filters itself and gives him a more kid-friendly nickname for once. "So you want a rabbit, Mr. Richie Rich?"
"Lan Zhan," the man says.
Wei Ying cocks his head. "What?"
"You can call me that instead."
"Lan Zhan," he repeats, the name rolling off his tongue easily. "That has a nice ring to it. My name's Wei Ying. Always at your service." He taps on his name tag and winks.
"I'm A-Yuan!" the child chirps, his arms stretched upwards as he tries to reach the counter. His father picks him up.
"Hi, A-Yuan," greets Wei Ying as he holds out a hand to the toddler, who clutches it with both of his fists. Wei Ying practically melts. "I'm sorry for calling your baba an evil scientist."
"S'okay," Lan Yuan shakes his hand. "Can I get my bunny now?"
One hour later, the rabbit Lan Yuan has chosen is dozing off peacefully in his carrier. Wei Ying has taken his time in teaching the parent and child on how to take care of their new pet. Lan Zhan is surprisingly delicate in handling the rabbit, making Wei Ying a little envious when the fluffy creature jumped out of his hold to snuggle inside the other man's arms.
"You might have to replace me, Lan Zhan. You're a better rabbit whisperer than me," he says, watching Lan Yuan coo at the cage while gently poking it.
"I am not."
"A rabbit whisperer?" Lan Yuan asks, looking at the two adults with all the attention a three-year old can hold, his hand not leaving the carrier's railings.
"It's a person who can speak to rabbits," Wei Ying whispers theatrically.
The child's eyes immediately lit up. "My baba can speak to rabbits?"
Lan Zhan inaudibly sighs. "You're giving him unrealistic expectations."
"It's not unrealistic if it's the truth," shoots Wei Ying back with a grin, before giving Lan Yuan a nod. "Yes! So if you listen well to your baba, he'll teach you."
"Can't Wei-gege teach me?" Lan Yuan asks, and Wei Ying thinks he's going to have a hard time denying those doe eyes directed at him.
"Wei-gege will teach you too!" he promises cheerfully, unable to stop himself from patting the child’s cheek. Then, with a smug look, he faces Lan Zhan. "It seems your son has a new favorite."
"It seems so," Lan Zhan responds, tone light and mildly amused.
It's faint, but Wei Ying sees it. Lan Zhan's smile. It catches him off-guard— not because he doesn't expect it, but with how the way his heart suddenly flutters at the sight.
"Thank you. A-Yuan looks so happy with his rabbit." And before Wei Ying can even recover, Lan Zhan attacks him with his sincere words.
"No need to thank me!” Wei Ying waves his hands in an attempt to hide his embarrassment. “It's my job."
Fortunately, any further awkwardness is avoided as Lan Yuan tugs on his father's arm. "Baba, I'm hungry."
Almost startled, Lan Zhan looks at his watch and frowns. "We have to go."
Wei Ying hasn't noticed the time, and when he looks at the wall clock, he understands why his customer has that reaction. It's almost 8 PM.
"I hope to see you soon, Lan Zhan," Wei Ying says, before bending down to meet Lan Yuan's eyes. "And you, too."
When Lan Zhan utters a yes, Wei Ying has expected the elation he feels this time, and grins at the thought of seeing the two again.
Watching the two walk out of the store hand in hand, Wei Ying somehow suspects he won't be forgetting certain names this time.
Lan Zhan has found himself again in front of the pet store, with his son by his side, a tiny fist gripping on his pant leg. Breaking a routine is hard, he thinks, mostly to comfort himself. He has visited the shop three times this month already, not that anyone is counting. They still have stock of pet food at home, and he might have also bought every variation of rabbit toys the store has to offer. But even though he has no more reason to be here (accidentally missing a turn because he got distracted) it doesn't constitute a crime.
Maybe he can still leave. The man behind the counter has yet to notice the odd pair standing frozen in front of the shop, and Lan Zhan knows that he won't be able to walk away once he sees his smile.
"Lan Zhan! A-Yuan!" He hears a muffled shout calling out to them, and his eyes immediately catch the curled lips of the shop owner beckoning them to go inside.
"My favorite customers, good afternoon!" Wei Ying greets once the two enter the store. He gets out of the counter just in time for Lan Yuan to jump and cling on his leg.
"Wei-gege!" cries the child enthusiastically, before looking up at Wei Ying with a toothy grin. "Me and baba are back!"
"I can see that," Wei Ying laughs as he lifts Lan Yuan in his arms. "Did you miss me?"
Lan Yuan is a sociable child, but it still surprises Lan Zhan how friendly and comfortable his son is with a relative stranger. However, Wei Ying does seem good at dealing with children, probably even more so than him.
"Baba misses you too!" Lan Zhan is pulled out from his thoughts when he hears his son exposing him.
Wei Ying pats Lan Yuan's cheek, before eyeing Lan Zhan. "Does he now?"
Lan Zhan clears his throat, and forces himself to look at the rack of pet food behind Wei Ying, avoiding the full impact of the smirk that is currently being sent to him. "Good morning," he greets back, and ignores the question. Plausible deniability.
Warm laughter fills the whole store, and Lan Zhan can't help but watch the amusement in Wei Ying's eyes at his expense, wondering what the pet store owner's reaction would be if he tells him the truth.
"What can I do for you? Are you looking for something? You should tell me now before A-Yuan takes my whole attention."
"I want to adopt a rabbit," Lan Zhan quickly says.
Wei Ying tilts his head. "Another one?"
Lan Zhan answers with a nod. "A-Yuan loves them."
"A-Yuan loves bunnies!" The child mimics. "Bunny!" he screams, then laughs, trying to squirm his way out of Wei Ying's hold as he gets tickled.
"A-Yuan, oh A-Yuan," Wei Ying relents on his tickling, and asks, "Why do you love bunnies so much?"
Lan Yuan smiles at him, cheeks puffy and red from laughing too much. It's Lan Zhan's favorite look on his son, and his heart warms at how Wei Ying can bring it out with ease. "Baba says bunnies delivered me to him, so now we're repaying the bunnies and giving them a home!"
"Deliver…?" It doesn't take long for the realization to appear in Wei Ying's features. "Oh."
It's an old story Lan Zhan would tell to Lan Yuan, and it's what made the child to be fixated on rabbits. They have two fluffy creatures in their home now, and he does feel a little guilty knowing that his reason isn't as pure as his son.
Wei Ying returns Lan Yuan's smile, eyes soft and bright. "The bunny will definitely be happy. I guarantee it."
Lan Yuan giggles in delight. "Really?"
Once he settles Lan Yuan on the ground, the child dashes somewhere inside the store, leaving his father alone with the handsome store owner.
"About before," Wei Ying begins, looking already apologetic. "I'm sorry. I didn't know."
Lan Zhan shakes his head. "There's no need for apologies. A-Yuan knows his situation." He has never hidden anything from Lan Yuan, so when his son asks him questions, he tries to answer him as truthfully as he can, adding something fantastical once in a while.
The rabbit story isn't his best work, Lan Zhan knows, but it's what led them to Wei Ying, so he can't deny that it has its merits.
"That's impressive for his age," Wei Ying compliments, his eyes following Lan Yuan darting around the displays. "He also acts more mature than a three year old."
Lan Zhan raises an eyebrow. "Do you know any three year olds?"
"Yes. In fact, I do," Wei Ying proudly answers. "I have a nephew. Although he's smart and cute, he's a spoiled brat. He can use a friend like your son."
"A-Yuan would like a new friend," Lan Zhan says as he watches Lan Yuan gawking at one of the aquariums, hands bunched on his shirt as if stopping himself from reaching out. Even with his excitement, the child remembers not to cause a ruckus. "He's good to me."
Lan Yuan throws tantrums just like any kid. He has plenty of food he doesn't like, and he is terrified of cling wraps for some reason. However, Lan Zhan sees the understanding in his son's eyes whenever he tries to talk him into not being picky about what's on his plate. He sees how Lan Yuan listens to him whenever he hushes him from sudden outbursts. He knows that his son has the level of comprehension and awareness that is rare to see in a child his age.
"And you're a great dad to him, Lan Zhan." A warm hand pats his arm comfortingly. "A-Yuan is lucky to have you as family."
"I'm the lucky one," he corrects, and Wei Ying chuckles, hand retracting from his sleeve. Lan Zhan wishes it lingered longer.
"I guess it's just you choosing the rabbit?" Wei Ying asks, straightening up from the counter and grabbing the keys hanging on the wall.
"A big responsibility," Lan Zhan notes.
"That it is," Wei Ying plays along, nodding his head somberly. "Do you want the cuddly and sleepy type? The cuddly and easygoing type? The cuddly and maternal?"
"What do you recommend?"
"Well," Wei Ying starts to walk towards the door at the back leading to the animal shelter, beckoning Lan Zhan to follow. "You look like you need a little challenge. How about the cuddly and playful type? We just rescued one a week ago and he's been knocking over everything. We thought he was just being anxious, but he just wants attention."
"Like someone we know." Lan Zhan doesn't mean to say that out loud, and when it dawns to him, Wei Ying is already looking at him with a complicated expression.
"Are you teasing me, Lan Zhan?"
“No,” he lies. "I meant my son."
"Oh," Wei Ying laughs. “I think I’m the cuddly and playful type, too. No one to cuddle with these days, though. Do you want to?”
Lan Zhan nearly trips over his own foot. “Excuse me?”
“I’m asking if you want the cuddly and playful type to be your pet rabbit,” clarifies Wei Ying, his smile seemingly suggesting something else, and Lan Zhan suddenly feels his temperature rise a few degrees.
Wei Ying nearly gets a heart attack when he suddenly sees something squished against the store's glass.
Taking a closer look, he finally figures out the shape to be that of a face, and a familiar one at that.
He walks towards the front of the store and taps the glass from the inside, catching the attention of the child fixated on the rabbits displayed in front.
Lan Yuan beams at him, giving the rabbits one last wave before pulling away to enter the pet store. Wei Ying sees the mark of a hideous looking face on the glass and laughs.
"Where's your baba?" Wei Ying asks as he leads the child further inside.
"Baba's parking the car," he grasps Wei Ying's hand and tugs him towards the counter. "He says I can go first."
"Good boy," Wei Ying praises, chuckling as Lan Yuan goes behind the counter with him, acting like a tiny employee. "Weren't you scared to walk alone?"
"No," Lan Yuan shakes his head, clambers up to Wei Ying's lap, then stares at him with a look of awareness that a three-year old shouldn't possibly possess. "Baba loves your smile."
The beating in his chest immediately stutters at those words. Wei Ying must have misheard him. "What?"
"Baba loves your smile," the child repeats. "A-Yuan loves it too!"
"Really?" Wei Ying says, trying to contain his racing heartbeat. "Why do you think so?"
Lan Yuan shrugs. "It's obvious!" He wiggles out of Wei Ying's hold, and reaches out on the empty chair as if he's in an obstacle course. "Just like how you like baba."
Wei Ying sighs, burying the echoes of his woes in his hands. He's quite aware of how smitten he is with his customer, but even a toddler can tell? "Please don't tell your baba that."
"Don't tell me what?"
"Shit!" Wei Ying exclaims and jumps from his seat, nearly falling off his stool. Lan Yuan seems to be surprised at his outburst and pushes his head against Wei Ying's arm in an attempt to help him.
"Language," Lan Zhan admonishes, giving him a look he can only describe as somewhere between reprimanding and enticing. Wei Ying gulps, and watches as Lan Zhan reaches over the counter to get his son. "Wei-gege is busy, don't bother him too much."
The nickname shouldn't be special– he's been called Wei-gege by numerous people throughout his life, but when the name escapes Lan Zhan's lips, his heart flickers playfully in his chest.
"Lan er gege," Wei Ying begins, not missing the way Lan Zhan freezes at the honorific. He smirks. "It's your fault for sneaking up on me."
"I'm in front of you."
"Well," Wei Ying huffs, crossing his arms. "I didn't see you." Then, he throws Lan Yuan the best pitiful look he can muster. "See? Your baba is bullying me."
The child tuts as he shakes his head. It's so endearing, but then again every little thing Lan Yuan does is endearing. "Bad baba!"
Those words are accompanied by a chiding pat on the shoulder, and the dejected look on Lan Zhan's face is enough to put Wei Ying in a laughing fit.
"My teacher says that when you bully someone you like them very much," Lan Yuan suddenly says, and Wei Ying's laughter turns into a series of coughs.
"I don't understand," he continues. "Why bully someone you really like?"
"I don't know," Lan Zhan answers in response, and turns to Wei Ying who's unable to look him straight in the eye. "Maybe your Wei-gege can tell you?"
His cough gets worse, and he nearly chokes at Lan Zhan's claim. Why would he put him on the spot like that? Unless–
His usually straight-laced customer is teasing him, and the pleased look on Lan Zhan's face says it all.
Not that Lan Zhan looks obviously pleased, but Wei Ying likes to think he can read his customer's stone-cold facade easier now.
Still, he can't let Lan Zhan get away with it unscathed. After all, he considers himself an expert in teasing the person he likes.
"I can't answer you, either," Wei Ying shrugs. "I don't bully the person I like."
Lan Yuan tilts his head, and Wei Ying is definitely hurt at the blatant disbelief plastered on his face. "Really?"
"Of course!" he insists, grinning at the child, then at Lan Zhan. "I don't bully them. I just usually befriend their son."
Wei Ying watches in amusement as Lan Zhan clears his throat, the tips of his ears slowly turning bright red.
Lan Zhan has officially adopted eight rabbits in the course of three months.
Their weekly routine of going to the store has increased to twice a week– his excuse is the more rabbits they have, the more pet food they have to buy on a regular basis. Wei Ying has yet to call him out on it, so he thinks that excuse is working well.
Lan Zhan watches his son rocking back in Wei Ying's hold, feet balanced on the store owner's thighs, then starts to bounce up and down. "I wanna fly!"
"You're heavy," Wei Ying says, but he's lifting Lan Yuan anyway, making the child squeal. They just finished filling up the adoption papers, and Lan Zhan is internally praising his son for making them stay in the store a little longer.
Whenever they visit, they would at least spend thirty minutes in the store. Longer, if the two were to adopt another rabbit, which occurs almost every time. Other customers come and go, and Lan Zhan feels guilty for taking most of Wei Ying's time, but the latter has assured him that all of their patrons are not being neglected, and that he isn't the only one who mans the store.
During their time in the shop, Lan Yuan usually talks about his day, and Wei Ying always listens. Wei Ying also teases him without holding back, but he's always ears when it comes to Lan Yuan, and not an ounce of dismissiveness has ever appeared on his face as he does so.
If for some reason Lan Zhan is suddenly unable to watch his son, he knows that he will be comfortable in leaving Lan Yuan in Wei Ying's care. It might be irresponsible of him as a parent, willing to entrust their child to someone he has just met recently, but something tells him that Wei Ying's feelings for Lan Yuan is genuine, and that he would protect Lan Yuan as much as Lan Zhan would protect him.
Two months ago, the only personal thing Lan Zhan knew about Wei Ying is that he has a nephew the same age as his son. Now, Lan Zhan has already met his siblings, knows his favorite food, and has his number saved in his phone.
He knows that this level of familiarity isn't normal between a store owner and his mere customers, but Lan Zhan doesn't know how to categorize their relationship. Acquaintances? Friends? Something else?
"So," Wei Ying begins, and the way he slyly looks at him startles his heart into missing a beat. "You're not really doing experiments on the rabbits, are you?”
“Of course not.”
“Are you eating them, then?”
“I'm vegan,” he reminds him.
"Still?" Wei Ying asks as if it has an expiration date. Lan Zhan is now starting to envy people who can effortlessly roll their eyes.
"Okay. Not gonna comment on that," Wei Ying shakes his head, and mutters something about missing out. He continues, "They're delicious. The meat can be tough if not roasted thoroughly–"
Lan Zhan immediately presses his hands against Lan Yuan's ears, who turns his head back and forth in confusion. Wei Ying shuts his mouth for a second, before bursting into giggles.
"I'm kidding! I don't eat our rabbits here. But I did try–"
"Wei Ying," Lan Zhan warns, and the man laughs again.
"Sorry, I'll stop, I'll stop," he promises, and gently pries Lan Zhan's fingers from Lan Yuan's ears. The skin where Wei Ying has touched him remains tingling even after he lets go.
"What happened?" Lan Yuan looks up at them. "Is baba in trouble?"
"No," Wei Ying pauses, and Lan Zhan knows he's going to say something ridiculous. With an exaggerated frown, he says, "But he might be."
Lan Yuan gasps, tiny hands flying towards Wei Ying's face in an attempt to get a quick answer. "But why? Baba is kind to me and the rabbits! He gives people lots of money too!"
It doesn't take time for Wei Ying to shed tears and disturb the whole store with his loud cackle, and Lan Zhan can only let out a helpless sigh.
He gets worried for a minute since Wei Ying starts to wheeze and cough from laughing too much, but he knows the man can survive a minute of labored breathing. At least he's not the one being embarrassed by his own son in front of his crush.
"Is he, really?" Wei Ying says the next words with difficulty as he tries to make a serious face in front of Lan Yuan. "It's your words against mine. I think I have to visit your house and check myself."
"Then visit," Lan Zhan says before his mind can catch up.
"Okay– what?" Wei Ying looks at him in shock, and Lan Zhan tries to save the situation with a heavy heart.
"Unless you don't want to?"
Shaking his head, Wei Ying quickly rejects the idea. "No! I mean– I'd love to go!"
Lan Yuan's face turns into delight. "We're gonna bring Wei-gege home?"
Lan Zhan nearly panics at his son's choice of words. "It's–"
"Yes," Wei Ying cuts him off, giving him a soft smile, one that is devoid of any mischief for a change. "Won't you, Lan Zhan?"
Wei Ying stumbles upon Lan Yuan being attacked by rabbits.
Attack is probably a strong word, but he doesn't know how to make sense of the sight that greets him as he enters the Lan residence.
Lan Yuan is sitting on grass a few meters away from the bricked path, with bunnies trying to climb on him simultaneously. He giggles, and Wei Ying sees the carrot stick in his raised hand.
Before Wei Ying can call out to him, Lan Yuan sees him first and squeals, startling most of the bunnies into hopping down. He slaps his mouth shut as if realizing what he's done, before standing up and whisper-shouting, "Wei-gege!"
"Looks like the rabbits are having a good time," Wei Ying greets, bending down to meet Lan Yuan with open arms as he crashes into him.
"Oof." Wei Ying nearly falls onto his butt at the amount of force the child has used to hug him. "Wow. You're pretty strong."
Lan Yuan laughs sheepishly as he pulls away to look at Wei Ying. "You're finally here!"
"Yup," Wei Ying grins, and lifts Lan Yuan off the ground. "I'm here for bunny inspection."
Lan Yuan gives him a salute. Then with a serious look, reports, "All bunnies discounted for!"
"I think you mean accounted for."
"That's what I said!"
Lan Zhan is getting ready for dinner when the two enter the house. It's spacious for a two-member household, but it's not as extravagant or posh as Wei Ying had imagined.
It slowly sinks in that he is in their home, finally crossing the line of their vague-at-best customer and employee relationship.
Lan Yuan made a beeline for his father, bumping his head against the back of Lan Zhan's thigh.
"Baba! Wei-gege is here!"
Before making it his mission to find a secret lair, he greets Lan Zhan and asks, "Can I help with anything?"
"I'm almost done," Lan Zhan answers as he places a delicious smelling dish on the dining table along with different types of mouth-watering food. "Have a seat."
"Did you cook all of these?" He spots some cubes of pork in the soup. "I thought you're vegan."
"I am," Lan Zhan says. "But you're not."
"Oh," replies Wei Ying eloquently, his mouth working its way through various emotions its owner is currently feeling. "Wow."
"Is it too much?"
"No!" Wei Ying shakes his head, grabbing his spoon. "This makes me so happy. And hungry," he laughs. "Thanks, Lan Zhan."
"No need," Lan Zhan says in response as he helps Lan Yuan climb on the seat beside him. "You always take care of us. It's our turn."
The dinner is nice, as expected. Of course, Lan Zhan won't let Wei Ying talk too much, but the silence between them is comfortable, and Lan Yuan trying to eat without spilling anything is enough entertainment for him.
Despite not being able to taste test anything, Lan Zhan was able to make a mean spicy spareribs. Every bite was a treat to Wei Ying's mouth, every swallow made its way to his stomach and unsurprisingly, to his heart.
After all, Wei Ying likes Lan Zhan. Loves him even, if he's being more honest. And the way the ascetic man treats him as if he's someone important isn't making his case any better.
They're both adults, and the best way to deal with whatever they have to deal with is to have a discussion about it. Despite being aware of this, however, Wei Ying still chooses to act like a lovestruck young teen around Lan Zhan.
Instead of addressing it directly, Wei Ying has been constantly flirting with his customer every chance he gets, slipping in words that can still be considered rated G, yet can also be suggestive depending on the person who hears them.
Lan Zhan flirts with him, too. Or takes his shamelessness in stride. Either way, Wei Ying knows that he tolerates him– which really isn't helpful when it comes to understanding Lan Zhan's real feelings for him.
Wei Ying thinks Lan Zhan is not ready to pursue any relationship because of Lan Yuan. Not that the child is any burden– Wei Ying adores him as much as his father– but raising a child single-handedly is no joke, and Wei Ying can only imagine the responsibilities Lan Zhan has with his son.
But on the off chance that Lan Zhan would ask him if he would want to raise Lan Yuan together, Wei Ying would have accepted in a heartbeat.
The idea of domesticity puts a smile on Wei Ying's lips. He imagines waking Lan Yuan up for school, preparing him a boxed lunch that Lan Zhan would sometimes criticize for being too spicy. Together, Lan Zhan would send them off in the doorway, reciting every item they needed to see if the two didn't miss anything. Once he's satisfied, he would plant a kiss on Lan Yuan's forehead, then a more thorough kiss on Wei Ying's lips–
"You don't have to do this," Lan Zhan abruptly cuts off his fantasy.
But Wei Ying's reality isn't that far off from his daydream, he realizes, as the two of them are doing the dishes together while Lan Yuan watches the television in the living room. Kissing is still off the table, unfortunately.
"I want to," Wei Ying assures him as he scrubs a plate with a soapy sponge. "Your food is just too delicious, I need to do something in return."
"Lan Zhan, you're just repeating yourself," Wei Wuxian flicks soap suds in his direction. "And isn't it nice to have someone to wash dishes with once a while? I don't give out my home skills just to anyone."
When Lan Zhan doesn't answer, Wei Ying casts him a sideways glance, and sees the faintest hint of a smile pulling his lips.
The sight makes Wei Ying more aware of their close proximity with each other, their arms brushing more times than not. If he tilts his head just a bit more, he can easily reach Lan Zhan's lips.
Wei Ying moves, as if in a trance, as if just being in Lan Zhan's orbit is enough to draw him in. He licks his lips unconsciously, inwardly wincing as he feels how dry his lips are.
Suddenly, Lan Zhan's eyes are on him, golden orbs alluring more than ever. Wei Ying stops, and watches Lan Zhan inch closer to him until their breaths are intermingling, half-washed plates entirely forgotten.
"Doggy!" Lan Yuan suddenly screams from the living room, and Wei Ying immediately shoves Lan Zhan away, head darting left and right in horror. The feeling of excitement is easily replaced by panic, which isn't that different when he thinks about it, considering his heart has yet to stop punching his chest.
"Where? Where is it?" he screams frantically, pulling Lan Zhan in front of him. "Hide me, please!"
Lan Zhan instinctively shields Wei Ying with his arm.
"Doggy!" Lan Yuan shouts again, and Wei Ying hugs Lan Zhan from behind, burying his face against his back. He thinks of climbing the man, but he suddenly feels self-conscious. His screaming is embarrassing enough.
Wei Ying's eyes remain shut, the ringing in his ears making it hard to hear anything. Then, he feels a gentle hand on his arm, and a soothing voice enters his ears.
"It's just Goofy."
Wei Ying lifts his head. "What?"
"It's Goofy on TV. He's A-Yuan's favorite."
"There's no dog?"
"Oh. Hahaha…" Wei Ying sheepishly extracts himself away from Lan Zhan, rubbing his nose to hide his flustered state.
He can feel Lan Zhan's eyes on him, as if waiting for an explanation to his sudden outburst.
"I have an… antagonistic relationship with those beasts," Wei Ying shares, eyeing the wet prints his hands have made on Lan Zhan's clothes. "Sorry 'bout your shirt."
"You manage a pet shop and an animal shelter," Lan Zhan says instead.
Wei Ying crosses his arms. "So what? Don't you know how dangerous those creatures are?"
Lan Zhan shakes his head and covers his mouth. He turns around and mutters something that suspiciously sounds like "cute", and Wei Ying wants to make him say it again.
"Wei-gege is scared of dogs?" Lan Yuan suddenly materializes in the kitchen, and looks at him worriedly.
"No. I'm just... intimidated," Wei Ying admits, then at Lan Zhan, "My brother handles the dog and cat rescues."
Lan Zhan nods his head in understanding, and proceeds to clean the remaining plates. Wei Ying is about to help him, when the hem of his shirt is tugged by a small hand.
"Baba will protect you from the doggies," Lan Yuan promises. "Right, baba?"
"Mn," Lan Zhan answers, his back facing them still. There doesn't seem to be any hesitation in his voice as he says that, and Wei Ying tries not to swoon so much because of it.
Wei Ying feels himself floating on cloud nine the whole time after that, and before he can settle himself back on the ground, he is already on his way home.
There's something he seems to be forgetting. He tries to recall what happened after dinner. He and Lan Zhan washed the dishes, then Lan Yuan suddenly screamed–
Wei Ying stops in his tracks, and his heart kicks back into an accelerated pace.
Did Lan Zhan try to kiss me?
The shop's door makes a noise at his entry, and Wei Ying looks up to greet him.
"Lan Zhan! Good afternoon," Wei Ying smiles, his voice soft and throaty, as if he just woke up from a nap. The sound makes Lan Zhan's skin tingle, and his ears feel like they're burning. "A-Yuan isn't with you?"
"He's at his grandparents' house."
This is the first time Lan Zhan comes to the pet shop by himself. It's not a coincidence that Lan Yuan isn't with him this visit. He has planned on doing so, since he doesn't want his son to be anywhere near if he ends up embarrassing himself.
Lan Zhan can't forget what happened when Wei Ying visited their home last week. They didn't get a chance to talk after the false alarm with Lan Yuan, and days have passed before he can set aside some to go to the pet shop.
He has thought of calling Wei Ying to talk about it, but decides that it's better to have it in person, despite knowing how unnerving it's going to be. His timing seems to be perfect as there's also no customer in sight, limiting his audience to one.
"So, what can I do for you today?" Wei Ying asks as he flits behind the counter, arranging some boxes of supplies on the shelves.
"I need to tell you something."
"Hm? What is it?"
"It's about last week."
Wei Ying continues to shove some items on the rack, a distracted look on his usual cheery face. Lan Zhan figures he's busy and offers to help him, but a sad sigh escapes Wei Ying's lips, and for some reason Lan Zhan knows it isn't about work.
"Wei Ying," he calls out, and this time the man turns to him in surprise.
"Oh, sorry," Wei Ying smiles apologetically, wiping his hands against his apron as he moves closer to the counter. “What were you saying?”
The curl on Wei Ying's lips falters, and he sighs again. "There aren't any more rabbits to adopt."
"That's good news," Lan Zhan says, but the forlorn look on Wei Ying's face says otherwise. "Isn't it?"
"But then you won't be coming by anymore," Wei Ying points out, as if it's the only explanation.
There's a long pause, and Lan Zhan watches as Wei Ying's own words finally hits him.
"Lan Zhan, I–"
"I'm not here for that," he interrupts him, a sudden surge of confidence spurring Lan Zhan on.
Wei Ying's breath hitches. "You're not?"
Lan Zhan thinks if he just leans over the counter for a bit he can reach Wei Ying's lips, but before he can act on it, he feels something soft pressing against his.
Wei Ying pulls away just as fast as he presses in. He can't discern the look Lan Zhan is giving him, making him regret his actions.
“Did I read wrong? I'm–"
His next words are swallowed by Lan Zhan kissing him back.
He wraps his arms around his neck, the uncomfortable feeling of his stomach digging against the edge of the counter is nothing compared to the pleasant warmth running through his body.
Lan Zhan pulls him closer, and without breaking the kiss, Wei Ying climbs over the counter, surprising Lan Zhan enough to almost stop their liplock.
"S'fine," Wei Ying assures him, lips still brushing against each other as Lan Zhan steadies him on his feet. Something crashes behind Wei Ying, but he knows there are no animals near their vicinity, so he couldn't care less. Lan Zhan seems to have the same thought as him as he pushes forward, eagerly licking into his mouth, and breathing in his low moans.
After some time, both of them eventually run out of breath, and reluctantly pull away from each other, chests heaving from the activity. Wei Ying settles his hands against Lan Zhan's chest, and feels the man's warm palms on his hips. He notices that what fell are the bags of cat food behind the counter, and two empty bird cages near his feet.
"I need to tell you something," Lan Zhan starts, the nervousness in his voice easily picked up.
Wei Ying suddenly feels dread rising in his stomach, but before it festers into something worse, Lan Zhan opens his mouth.
"Please go out with me," he says in earnest.
Wei Ying stares at him for a moment, before laughing, relief washing over him. He stops as he catches Lan Zhan looking at him in confusion.
"I jumped over the counter for you, isn't that good enough for an answer?"
Wei Ying laughs again, the sound so happy and light, and Lan Zhan's heart feels it has grown three sizes in his chest, the feeling of love and warmth flooding his body.
"Yes," Wei Ying finally answers him properly, breathlessly, and this time, Lan Zhan covers his giggles with his mouth.
Wei Ying locks the store, and the remainder of his shift is used for making out and cleaning the mess they made.
The next day, Lan Yuan goes to visit the pet store with his father, who tells him the news.
The child's face immediately brightens, and he rushes to jump in Wei Ying's arms. He peppers him with kisses, then looks at Lan Zhan expectantly. "Does that mean we can keep Wei-gege too?"
Wei Ying snorts, and Lan Zhan feels his ears grow hot. "He's not a pet," he reminds his son.
"I know," Lan Yuan says, beaming at the two adults. "He's family."