Xiu Mei woke up ten minutes before her literature lecture.
“Shit shit shit,” she cursed, glancing at the clock on the wall and rushing out of bed to go brush her teeth.
How had she managed to sleep through her alarm! Even though it was an online class and all she had to do was take out her laptop and turn it on she couldn’t even imagine what Professor Lan’s face would look like if she showed up late (even virtually) or gods forbid, in her pyjamas . (Professor Wei would let her turn up to the lecture in her pyjamas, she thought mournfully, he would probably turn up in pyjamas himself , to be honest).
By the time Xiu Mei had shoved the toast down her throat and chugged her apple juice—because she was not going two hours without eating anything thank you—and gotten herself looking more presentable there were barely two minutes left, so she quickly settled herself at the desk.
Professor Lan was already in the meeting, because of course he was, even in an online class he was early, looking prim as proper as ever in his buttoned cream cardigan and round glasses perched on his delicate nose.
Xiu Mei sighed, while she usually loved her Literature 101 class, what she didn't love was poetry analysis which was (unfortunately) the focus of the semester. Oh well, as much as she hated the topic she couldn't deny it was made more bearable because of their teacher; Professor Lan. While he was firm and strict with marking, he always explained things concisely, and of course she thought—glancing at the screen as he flicked through his materials—he was incredibly handsome which, well, it got her attention at least.
Oh come on , Xiu Mei wasn’t a weirdo or whatever okay, any person with half a brain could appreciate Professor Lan’s handsomeness; he and his brother were literally called the Twin Jades of Gusu for goodness sake. And while Xiu Mei might be in a perfectly happy and content relationship, she wasn’t blind . So yeah, sue her for thinking that her professor was hot, she knew for a fact it was a sentiment shared by other students in her class and even university staff.
(She had definitely seen one of the librarians called Su She flirting with Professor Lan as he checked some books out one day, only to be cooly brushed off as he gathered his things and glanced at his watch.
“I will return them in two weeks,” he said as if he hadn’t heard the invitation for dinner, and walked away.
Damn, it was brutal , but she couldn’t say he didn’t deserve it, no one liked that guy, he always had a stick up his ass for no reason. And no, she wasn’t salty about that time he caught Xiu Mei eating with her girlfriend in the library and kicked them out right before they had a chance to finish their homework. Asshole. (He was probably homophobic too, she would bet on it.))
“Xiu Mei?” Came Professor Lan's gentle baritone. Xiu Mei unconsciously sat up straighter and tried to look like she hadn’t woken up like 10 minutes ago.
“Yes, I’m here.”
“Mn, well it is two minutes past so we will begin, latecomers will not be marked,” he said, adjusting his glasses with an elegant finger.
Xiu Mei winced looking at the list of people in the meeting, her best friend’s name wasn’t there, meaning he had yet to arrive, meaning his already precarious attendance rate was about to be even lower. She tried causally sending him a quick text from her phone underneath the table, not that it would be much help now.
Professor Lan pulled his notes up onto the screen and began.
It was about an hour and a half into the lecture when Professor Lan was answering student questions about the latest poems they were studying, that the door behind him opened a crack and closed again. Xiu Mei glanced at it curiously, okay she definitely hadn’t imagined that, right? Professor Lan hadn’t seemed to have heard anything as he kept talking, her phone buzzed next to the table.
She side-eyed it to see a notification from her class group chat.
Lit 1011: 2 new notifications
YJ: yo did you guys see that the door just opened by itself, spooooooky
WT: it was probably just the wind stop distracting us
But as their teacher moved on to another question, a little head popped up behind him, and what the fuck. There was a small child?
YJ: GUYS U SEE THE KID TOO RIGHT?? TELL ME IM NOT HALUCINATING
JJC: lol yeah wtf i didnt know he had a kid
GC: um how do u know that’s his, professor lans not even married
XY: and pls he’s waaaaay too young to have a kid that’s like idk 7
YJ: 7?? Bitch do u know how children work he looks 3-4 at most.
Xiu Mei took her eyes off the phone screen as the child in question moved around in the background peering up at the bookshelf, clearly looking for something.
You: um is someone gonna tell professor lan or...
CW: wtf no way im not interrupting him u do it.
You: wtf why me??
Xiu Mei was wary to interrupt her teacher even though she knew he wouldn’t yell or anything, (no one’s ever heard him yell but that just makes him more intimidating honestly) but he might give her The Look™ . That one look where she felt like she had just let down her dad or something. But someone had to take one or the team so she hesitantly pressed the ‘raise hand’ button.
Professor Lan glanced up. “Just a minute Xiu Mei, this is an important concept and it will appear in your semester exam so it is best to understand it thoroughly now.”
Wait what , she hadn’t paid attention because of the kid! And now the same kid had managed to get onto a stool and was reaching desperately for a bright red book on the shelf, small fingers wiggling in the air. Xiu Mei bit her lip, maybe the toddler—is that what they're called she has no idea—would leave soon without even alerting his...father? Guardian? Person that was looking after him? Whatever, she hopes so because she doesn’t think she could handle interrupting Professor Lan twice.
SQ: omfg hes so cute look at his little bunny shirt i am gonna c r y
LLY: yeah but like what if he falls or smth someone tell the prof.
But now the child has managed to grab the book and is slowly pulling it out, he doesn’t seem to realise that there are things in the way, things that are definitely gonna fall once the book is far out enough, maybe even on top of him and oh shit she’s gonna have to do it. She rushes it out in a breath.
But it’s too late and the kid’s finally pulled the book free, Xiu Mei feels like she’s watching the scene in slow motion as he tugs it too hard and swings it to the left. It knocks into the wooden globe that's displayed there which tips and lands onto the floor with a resounding crash.
Professor Lan turns around faster than she can blink.
“A-Yuan!” He doesn’t yell, but there's concern in his voice, and he’s already moving out of his chair to the child.
A-Yuan looks at him with wide eyes for a second, started by the loud noise until his face slowly scrunches up and he starts crying the way kids do when they think they're going to be in big trouble. Oh no.
His little chest heaves and his cries grow, “P-papa,” he stutters out with great sobs that seem to be somehow coming from his tiny body, it’s kind of impressive in a way Xiu Mei thinks. Then she registers what he had just said, wait what.
WHC: DID HE SAY PAPA
SQ: pa?? pa??
FX: oh my god that was close??
YJ: excuse me, are you gonna ignore the fact that professor lan has a kid or??
FX: yeah yeah i get it, we all heard it. and?
YJ: and???? Um?? wtf?
Professor Lan is kneeling by his son, murmuring to him soothingly as he wipes his cheeks. It’s strange to see their usually stoic teacher act this way but somehow it’s not surprising either, Professor Lan is a kind teacher too, that much they all know.
But then the door flies open and someone comes rushing in dressed in a loose black shirt and shorts. She can't see their face from this angle but their unbound hair is hanging around their shoulder, tied back with a red ribbon, an almost familiar red ribbon. And wait, she thinks as the person turns around fully, it’s not just someone, it’s Professor Wei —but surely this is not Professor Wei, just another person who happens to look exactly like him and is holding a wooden spoon in his hand.
“Lan Zhan! A-Yuan! Wha— I heard a crash,” he says, quickly taking in the scene in front of him. His shoulders visibly relax as soon as he sees that no one is in any immediate danger.
A-Yuan startles long enough from his sudden entrance to stop crying and run to Professor Wei, he clutches his leg and immediately buries his face there.
CW: [beyonce meme] professor wei????
Professor Wei glances down to the child clinging to his leg and then back to Professor Lan, they look at each other apparently having a whole conversation with their eyes and a few tilts of the head. Professor Lan shakes his head, standing up and putting the globe back in the same spot it was before. Xiu Mei is so confused.
Lit 1011: 30 new notifications
Professor Wei gently runs his hand through A-Yuan’s hair. “What’s wrong baby, why are you crying?” he asks softly.
A-Yuan looks up at Professor Wei with his lower lip jutted out and the guiltiest expression Xiu Mei has ever seen on a 3-something-year-old.
“Baba, Baba! A-Yuan is sorry! It was an acc-accident really!” he cries tugging on Professor Wei’s shirt.
Wait, pause. Xiu Mei thinks her brain just stopped working. No. Way.
GC: excuse me what
XW: wait so you're telling me that apparently PROFESSOR WEI AND PROFESSOR LAN ARE MARRIED? AND THEY HAVE A SON??
Professor Wei crouches down to his son's level, “It's okay, A-Yuan I believe you, but you know you're not supposed to be here when your papa is working, hmm?”
He doesn't sound angry but there is gentle scolding in his tone as he looks at his son, waiting for him to answer. A-Yuan fidgets with his hands, eyes downcast. And his face is screwing up again.
No one in the zoom class says a word, waiting with bated breath.
Professor Wei just shakes his head and tuts. “Ah ah ah none of that, come on, look at me,” he says as he gently kneels down to look at him.
“Wei Ying, he didn't mean it,” Professor Lan finally speaks, voice placating.
A-Yuan nods furiously, “I was getting my book, I was quiet like a mouse!”
Trust the three-year-old kid of a literature teacher to already be using similes.
“Hmm, but you still did something wrong, didn’t you?” Professor Wei asks his son, waiting for an affirmation. Suddenly Xiu Mei understands how he manages to tame their unruly physics class so effectively.
“... yes,” comes the little voice.
“So, my little mouse,” Professor Wei says, tapping his son's nose, “what do you need to say to your papa?”
“I am very sorry papa.”
He does look extremely sorry, thinks Xiu Mei. Maybe—and she didn't think she'd ever say this—Professor Wei was being too harsh.
Professor Lan nods as he comes across the room and kisses his son's forehead, “It’s alright A-Yuan, but please, next time ask your baba or I.”
Xiu Mei can see the gobsmacked faces of her classmates on the screen, some of them even have their mouth hanging open comically. She doesn't doubt that she is in a similar state herself.
Not only is Professor Lan apparently married , he's married to Professor Wei, and they also have a kid together. Literally, no one could've seen that coming. Xiu Mei tries to think back on the few interactions she had seen of them back on campus, not that there were many since the english and science departments were almost a ten minute walk from each other.
Not to mention that their personalities were almost completely the opposite, and being in both of their classes neither of them had mentioned the other even once, or accidentally said something about a kid! At all!
Sure they were seen together sometimes grabbing lunch at one of the shops on campus or walking towards the car park together but no one thought much of it. All the teaching staff probably knew each other and besides, Professor Wei was literally friends with every other staff member at Gusu University. Well mostly, apart from that Su She, he always seemed annoyed whenever he was arou— oh .
They’re still reeling from the shock of processing this information and then Professor Lan smiles, it's small but it’s there. Xiu Mei stares, she wants to cry, she doesn't deserve to see such an intimate thing, she hates poetry with a passion but suddenly she has an urge to wax poetic on how beautiful Professor Lan’s smile is.
LIT 1011: 103 new messages
“Now that's all sorted let's go finish lunch little radish,” and suddenly the stern parent mode switch is flipped off and Professor Wei picks A-Yuan up and blows a loud raspberry on his cheek.
“Baba!” A-Yuan squeals and hides his face in his father's neck, giggling. Xiu Mei's heart is seriously gonna burst, she wants a baby too, maybe if she asks her girlfriend really nicely….
Professor Lan is looking at his family with such a fond expression that Xiu Mei does look away this time.
“Well then, that was eventful,” he grins at Professor Lan, “bye sweetheart we’ll see you soon,” and with a brief kiss on his cheek, he’s out the door. Xiu Mei thinks that they’ve forgotten that there’s a whole class here.
Professor Lan just stands there awkwardly for a second, because it would seem, he actually had forgotten about them for a few minutes. He comes back to his chair and clears his throat. Xiu Mei peers at her screen, are his ears red ?
“I am sorry for the... interruption, the time will, of course, be made up after class,” it had barely been 10 minutes but there are choruses of ‘it’s fine’ and ‘okay’ from everyone else. No one brings up Professor Wei’s appearance.
He brings up the next slide. “Now, moving on to the third section of the anthology; ‘Slips and Atmospherics’...”
The rest of the class passes as if nothing has happened at all.
CZY: !!! xiu mei omg remember that one time that professor wei came in wearing that blue turtle neck i told u it looked like prof lans and WHAT did you say “maybe they got it at the same place” lmaooooooo yeah right
Indeed Xiu Mei does remember that incident; which had only happened weeks ago.
Professor Wei had come rushing in for their lecture 10 minutes late which, to be honest, wasn’t that strange, even his students were usually in the lecture hall before him. The reason he probably hadn’t gotten fired by the Dean, Lan Qiren, yet was the fact that he was undoubtedly one of their best teachers and even Lan Qiren (who everyone knew didn’t get along well with Professor Wei at all ) knew that.
What was strange was his outfit, first of all; he was wearing a turtleneck, and it was the middle of spring. Even though it could get chilly in the mornings it usually warmed up by around noon, and right now at one in the afternoon, it was decidedly not sweater weather. Especially for someone who had probably run from the car park to the physics buildings.
And on top of that, it didn't even look like something Professor Wei would wear. After having him for more than half a year they all knew their instructor’s wardrobe consisted mostly of dark colours, black, red, gray, sometimes a bit of purple. Certainly not that soft blue which almost looked like—
Her friend Chen Ziyi elbowed her in the side, leaning over to whisper. “Hey, Meimei, haven’t we seen that exact sweater on Professor Lan before?”
Ohhh that's where she had seen it before, of course; he wore it often enough, especially in winter. It really was a nice sweater, probably made from cashmere from how expensive looking it was.
Okay, so maybe she and her friend paid more attention to what their professor wore than the class sometimes, and really can you blame them? Professor Lan always looked like he got his clothes straight from some extremely high-end, tasteful fashion magazine. Maybe he did, they wouldn’t be surprised.
Damn, she wondered how much her university paid their professors. Probably a lot considering their stupidly high tuition fees.
“Yeah so? They probably got it at the same place, I don’t know,” she shrugged, not thinking much of it and losing interest in the conversation as Professor Wei started up the PowerPoint.
“But looks it’s a biiiit big for him don’t you think? Maybe—” she stopped herself as Professor Wei glanced towards them, raising a brow.
They both turned to their laptops, ready to start typing notes and the conversation was over.
MH: lol can u believe that professor wei is the strict dad
YL: now THAT was a plot twist
MYH: @ whoevers in prof weis physics class u better bring the tea afterwards
SW: i think the real plot twist is the fact that prof wei kept this hidden for so long when he literally can not shut up about anything.
HHS: lmaooo its true tho
CZY: don't worry guys i got u
When Xiu Mei’s best friend Li Jun calls her later, (2 hours after the lecture is over) he sounds like he’s just woken up.
“Xiu Mei fuck, I know I missed professor Lan's class– I was too hungover, why do I have like 400 messages in the group chat, there's not a test coming up is there?”
Xiu Mei grins, “oh Li Jun, you are not gonna believe this.”