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The sky has finally opened

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It had been raining in Shanghai for three days straight and still Wei Ying forgot his umbrella. By the time he reached the bus stop he was shivering hard, hoodie and T-shirt soaked through, hair clinging in wet strings to his face, and the stop wasn’t even the kind with a shelter, just a sign with a list of bus numbers. Wei Ying crouched beneath it, arms wrapped around his knees. He watched a muddy river of rainwater rush along the curb into a nearby gutter and thought about his grant proposal for the Jiuduansha Wetlands Reserve and also about how Jiang Cheng had been ignoring his texts for a week now but that was fine, everything was fine, he just had to be freezing and miserable for another hour and then he’d be home heating up a bowl of leftover soup. Also, his phone had died a few hours ago, so maybe Jiang Cheng had texted him back and he just hadn’t seen it yet.

 

Scraps of city trash bobbed like wave-tossed boats toward the gutter, cigarette butts and snack wrappers and a torn corner of notebook paper, the kind with blue lines. Wei Ying turned it into a race—which would tumble into the gutter first, the Shelly Senbei wrapper or the crumpled water bottle? He was silently cheering for a flattened ramen cup when he found himself not-so-silently humming the song that had been stuck in his head for... god, he didn’t even know how long. On and off for about a year. The song felt so familiar, but Wei Ying hadn’t been able to figure out where on earth he’d heard it. He couldn’t remember any lyrics, just a melody, kind of lonely and lilting. He’d even sung a few bars to Jiang Yanli over the phone (‘A-jie, help, do you know this song? Da da daaaa da da da....’ ), but she hadn’t recognized it either.

 

The rain stopped.

 

Wei Ying's humming cut off as he blinked, disoriented. No, it was still pouring, cars crawling by with their windshield wipers working overtime; it was just that all of a sudden he wasn’t getting rained on. He looked up to find someone holding an umbrella over him. He couldn’t see the person’s upper body past the rim of the umbrella, just a pair of expensive-looking rain-flecked boots and long legs in white trousers. The umbrella itself was pale blue, a patch of clear sky on a gray, gloomy street.

 

“Ah, sorry, thank you,” he started, and got to his feet with a wince. His joints were stiff and aching from the cold, his wet jeans sticking to his legs, the same clammy sensation as seaweed wrapping around your ankle. But the person raised the umbrella to keep it over his head as he stood, and then Wei Ying was face-to-face with—okay. Fuck. Okay.

 

This would happen on a day where Wei Ying looked like a drowned cat. A drowned cat who, prior to drowning, had not slept for a week. A drowned cat in a soaking wet knockoff Wookong hoodie so oversized it was practically brushing his knees.

 

The person holding an umbrella over Wei Ying’s head was the kind of beautiful that hurt to look at. Beautiful in a way that felt inhuman, like only the sea or sky was supposed to make you feel like this. He was maybe a demigod. Maybe even a full god. But that was like, fine.

 

“Um,” Wei Ying said. His lips were numb, and it made speaking clumsy. “Um. Thank you. Are you—here for the bus? You don’t have to....” He gestured helplessly at the umbrella. The demigod had a second umbrella over his own head, so at least he wasn’t getting wet for Wei Ying’s sake. But still.

 

The second umbrella was patterned with white bunnies holding tiny orange carrots. Wei Ying never stood a fucking chance, honestly.

 

“I carry an extra,” said the demigod, quiet enough that Wei Ying could barely hear him over the rain and the traffic noises. His eyes were fixed in the general vicinity of Wei Ying’s left ear. “Take it.”

 

Wei Ying was so instantly fascinated with the sentence ‘I carry an extra’ —what did that mean? Had Wei Ying met some sort of benevolent high fashion model who carried an extra umbrella when it rained just in case he stumbled across someone who needed it? Or did he carry two umbrellas at all times because he liked to be prepared for all possible weather scenarios? Why were both options equally sexy?—that it took him a couple seconds to absorb the demigod’s words. “What? No, no way, I can’t take your umbrella.”

 

“It’s an extra. I do not need it.”

 

“I’m already very wet,” Wei Ying argued. “Umbrellas are to prevent you from getting wet, but I literally could not be more wet than I already am.”

 

“Umbrellas are to prevent you from getting rained on,” said the real life guardian angel/functional human being, and gave the pale blue umbrella a significant look. It was, in fact, preventing Wei Ying from getting rained on.

 

“Well—,” Wei Ying said, but didn’t actually have a follow-up. “Well. Are you here for the bus?”

 

The demigod nodded.

 

“Alright. I’ll borrow it until my bus comes. Then I’m giving it back!”

 

“Hm,” said the demigod, sounding a bit disapproving, but offered the umbrella anyway. Wei Ying took it, their fingers brushed, and—

 

 

Red.

 

Gold, the haze of candlelight and paper lanterns.

 

Hands on his waist, hot even through the layers of red silk, a forehead pressed to his own, the musky scent of incense smoke, night-blooming jasmine, and it was night, above the lanterns, above the flowering trees, a crescent moon and music somewhere, and somewhere else Jiang Yanli’s laugh, the shriek of a small child, the hum of many conversations happening at once, all around them—lips brushing his cheekbone, hands tightening on his waist, and Wei Ying looked up at his husband, his husband, and said, We did it, and his husband smiled in the particular way he only ever did for Wei Ying, his eyes bright, and said yes, and Wei Ying was kissed on his forehead and mouth, and when his husband leaned back again he was blurry, either because Wei Ying was crying again or because he was grinning too wide, he couldn’t tell, maybe both.

 

And Wei Ying said—

 

 

Lan Zhan.

 

“Are you alright?”

 

Lan Zhan.

 

Wei Ying surfaced to rain, a cold, gray afternoon, the face of a stranger—not a stranger—not a stranger anymore—close to his own, peering at him with dark, worried eyes.

 

This happened sometimes. It always had. Flashes of what was to come. Like peeking out from behind a curtain, catching a glimpse of a show already on its third act. Part of a scene, a few lines of dialogue, nothing more.  

 

Never this intense. Wei Ying could still smell sandalwood and jasmine. The heat of those hands on his waist, the shape of that name on his tongue.

 

He took a deep breath, cold air sharp in his lungs, clearing his head. “I’m fine,” he said to—Lan Zhan. God, Lan Zhan. “Sorry. Head rush.”

 

“You’re....” Lan Zhan hesitated, eyes flicking over Wei Ying’s face. He’d lowered his own umbrella, the two of them sharing the one he’d offered Wei Ying. He’d probably thought Wei Ying was about to keel over. “You’re crying.”

 

“Ah,” said Wei Ying, blinking hard. “Yeah. Don’t worry about it, I just get lightheaded sometimes. It happens.” He gave Lan Zhan a shaky smile. Then, because he couldn’t resist, “Which bus are you waiting for?”

 

“The 619.” Lan Zhan really could have retreated back under his own umbrella by now. He had not. Wei Ying’s heart was the faint ringing in the air after the strike of a bell, high and clear. Of course it was the 619.

 

“Me too,” he said, sounding relieved even to his own ears. “Do you wanna wait together?”

 

“Yes,” said Lan Zhan. Then his eyebrows twitched, as if he’d startled himself. In the pale blue light reflecting off the underside of the umbrella, Wei Ying could see his ears turning pink.

 

The thing about visions was that even if you knew where you were headed, you didn’t know the path you’d take to get there. It could be scary, sometimes: staring out the window of a train at the downed bridge up ahead. Hurtling toward the chasm, knowing you couldn’t avoid it. The inevitable freefall, then impact, then flames.

 

But today it was like this. Rain and traffic and wet jeans and a white peacoat. A bunny-patterned umbrella. A low, gentle voice. The promise of a night, at some point in the future, that Wei Ying had never once thought possible. Red and gold and hands.

 

It occurred to him that he may not be walking alone. On the path to that night.

 

He shivered. Lan Zhan took a short breath, like he was about to say something, then pressed his lips together and looked away, almost shy. Wei Ying smiled, and it didn’t feel like the sun breaking through clouds. It felt like a crescent moon.

 



END.