Wei Ying can feel Jiang Cheng’s eyerolling fifteen steps away from the café entrance. He grins, waving at his brother, and feels the sleeve slip down to his elbow. Jiang Cheng throws his head back at the sight.
“You look sick in blue,” Jiang Cheng announces in lieu of a greeting as soon as Wei Ying is in the impact zone.
“I love Lan Zhan,” Wei Ying tells him instead of one, too.
“You look ridiculous. It’s at least three sizes up of your normal one.”
Wei Ying smiles wider, “It’s so cosy, though! You should try it, Jiang Cheng. Maybe extra layers will absorb some of your anger and you’ll feel better. Although the weighted blanket we gifted you had little success in that area."
Jiang Cheng lunges to smack him on the arm, but Wei Ying dodges, running to the entrance.
“So,” Wei Ying begins, studying the menu. He’s a little sweaty under two t-shirts and a thick hoodie. Dark blue on white on grey. “How’s it been?”
“I’m not wearing eight layers of oversized clothes, I’m doing great.”
“Jiang Cheng,” Wei Ying placates. He won’t lose it.
“And I’m not sweating so much under all the layers the whole fucking café stinks already.”
Wei Ying puts down the menu, clasps his hands together, making sure not to knock down a little tray with salt and pepper and sugar and napkins, and looks up at his brother. Lan Zhan, their kids, Lan Zhan, their kids.
“Jiang Che– ”
“He’s bossing you around, dressing you in his clothes, you barely leave the house, like–”
“Jiang Cheng,” Wei Ying interrupts, as politely as he can manage, suppressing anger with the image of Lan Zhan’s humongous bump, “if you don’t stop dragging the father of my children, I will bite you right here and now, and then Lan Zhan will come and end you. Lan Zhan is seven months pregnant, almost eight, in case you forgot, I can’t and not going to begrudge him anything. You good?”
Jiang Cheng, beetroot red in the face, opens his mouth, and promptly shuts it. Wei Ying notices that the fork Jiang Cheng has been planting in the polished wood of their table as he spoke is bent in half.
He beams, “Great! Ice cream for breakfast?”
On the way home, he gets a dozen mooncakes, egg tarts, and red bean buns for Lan Zhan. For himself, Wei Ying gets black chocolate with cayenne. This is the only treat Lan Zhan hasn’t stolen from him yet, but it’s only a matter of time and Wei Ying’s withering resistance.
With Sunday fuelling people’s need for carbs and sweets and decent food overall, he spends a bit more time in queues than he had anticipated, which makes him half an hour late than his initial ETA. Lan Zhan hasn’t called once, which is somehow terrifying and relieving at the same time.
Wei Ying doesn’t even have the time to turn the key to lock the door when he feels arms circling his chest and a bump pressing against his back. Warm.
“Home,” Lan Zhan murmurs into his neck, breathing him in, deep and steady.
Wei Ying giggles at the sensation, tilting his hips forward to accommodate the bump, and puts down the bag of treats. “Yeah, love, I’m home. How are the three of my most favourite people doing?”
Lan Zhan doesn’t answer, just holding him and hiding, which means, ah.
“Baobei, where does it hurt?”
“Lan Zhan,” Wei Ying says, and then adds, “Pandji.”
Lan Zhan makes a soft sound against Wei Ying’s back. Yeah, that works every time.
“You won’t tell me because you hurt all over? Your tummy, your back, your head, your cramped legs and feet? That’s why?” Wei Ying asks, and immediately feels Lan Zhan nod against his bare and damp neck.
“Okay, let’s get you and the kids into new clothes and then into our painfully pristine nest, shall we?”
Wei Ying turns around in Lan Zhan’s arms very carefully, blames his jutting hipbones for poking his husband for the millionth time, and presses Lan Zhan’s face into his neck for a brief moment. Lan Zhan leans into the embrace with his whole body, and, of course, draws a deep breath.
Lan Zhan is heavy. He was heavy even before pregnancy, which Wei Ying loves so much, but now, with twins, the swelling, the baked goods Lan Zhan had suddenly recognised as a thing in the world, and all of the love Wei Ying has been showering him with, Lan Zhan is heavy. Which Wei Ying loves even more.
Lan Zhan has cheeks now, which Wei Ying hasn’t seen on him for over ten years, and he wants to poke them and rub his face on them and pinch them so much he has to shove his hands into the pockets to avoid upsetting his heavily pregnant husband. Lan Zhan looks much younger and so cute with them people won’t stop commenting on it. But Lan Zhan hates his cheeks, and hearing people notice and praise them makes him quietly distressed. Wei Ying can smell the cheeks issue from another room, if one emerges when he’s in the kitchen, fussing over tea and whatnot. At first, he tried to politely divert the conversation from the topic, but now he just tells people to shut the hell up. Lan Zhan emanates gratefulness stronger than anger, which is good for both him and the twins.
“My love,” Wei Ying croaks, when Lan Zhan pulls him closer, a tad suffocating, “let’s get us into the bedroom, mm? I will carry you.”
Lan Zhan withdraws, a frown marring his gorgeous, tired face. “You will drop us.”
“Never,” Wei Ying says, kissing his husband’s forehead.
He’s been working out like a diligent dada-to-be for six month now, focusing on heavy lifting (to lift them all up, obviously) and endurance training (to carry them all for long distances, of course.) For Lan Zhan, they go to pregnant yoga together, too. Wei Ying’s presence is not required, not really welcomed, even, in the room full of other pregnant omegas, but he’ll do everything to make pregnancy as stress-free and partner-heavy for Lan Zhan.
Wei Ying loves Lan Zhan. He will do everything and anything for him, even if it requires stretching and being still for more than he can mentally bear.
“I wish I could take the pain from you,” Wei Ying says, carrying Lan Zhan to the bedroom. Lan Zhan is nuzzling against his collarbone, eyes closed, arms thrown loosely around Wei Ying’s neck. Trust. Wei Ying is indescribably relieved that this far into pregnancy, he is trusted with Lan Zhan’s body. By Lan Zhan himself.
Lan Zhan shakes his head, “No. If Wei Ying hurts, he won’t be able to carry us.”
In the bedroom, everything smells like them and fabric conditioner. Lan Zhan has been frantically washing all the baby clothes, then sitting on the floor and arranging them in colour and size and season and purpose piles. Wei Ying knows that neatness won’t last long after the birth, but it keeps Lan Zhan occupied and at ease. Wei Ying is sometimes allowed to participate, so he folds socks and hats and bibs and other tiny things that Lan Zhan will refold and redo later anyway. Lan Zhan lets him touch other baby clothes, too – for the kids to get used to his scent. It is potent, much stronger than Lan Zhan’s, so Wei Ying agrees. In short, he agrees with everything Lan Zhan tells him to do. There’s so much of pleasant submitting in his life now.
“Here you go,” Wei Ying says, lowering Lan Zhan onto the bed. Lan Zhan clings to him, tugging Wei Ying down. Wei Ying kisses the crown of Lan Zhan’s head. “Let me get you tea and all the yummy things I brought, get changed, get you changed, and then we will snuggle, okay?”
A stiff nod. The closer to the due date, the less Lan Zhan needs and wants to be alone, so he tries to get up, supporting himself on the headboard. “I will make tea.”
“You must rest,” Wei Ying reminds him, “you are living for three people. I’ll bring everything.”
Lan Zhan tugs on his sleeve insistently, baring the shoulder. “Wei Ying. I’m pregnant, not sick. Please.”
Wei Ying looks down, and his heart sinks. Lan Zhan is so big and so tiny at the same time Wei Ying wants to cup him and the kids in his palms and never let them out or show anyone.
“Okay,” he says, sinking to his knees in front of Lan Zhan. “Okay, you’re right, how about a massage and snuggle first? Okay, baobei?”
“Okay,” Lan Zhan echoes, eyes huge and pleading. He looks like he’s fifteen again, like when Wei Ying suggested they go to the cinema alone for an evening show for the first time. Wei Ying’s heart had throbbed when he reached out and found Lan Zhan’s hand in the noisy darkness. Lan Zhan had been gripping the armrest between them, and relaxed the second Wei Ying touched his hand, lacing their fingers in a rush of rare selfishness.
Wei Ying hasn’t let go of Lan Zhan’s hand ever since.
It’s only a few weeks till the due date, and it’s taking its toll. Lan Zhan’s body is on its home stretch. Wei Ying rubs Lan Zhan’s calves, running firms circles with his thumbs over strained muscle, and hears Lan Zhan groan.
“Not too much? Good?” Wei Ying asks needlessly. Lan Zhan rests his hands on his shoulders, squeezing them lightly in affirmation.
Lan Zhan is wearing maternity leggings, grey with a white cloud pattern on them (because maternity jeans are too tight and suffocating, he’d complained), pristine white socks, and a matching grey sweatshirt. Wei Ying had suggested Lan Zhan wear dresses, at least at home, because they are comfortable and not straining, but Lan Zhan was displeased by literally every dress in any maternity section they viewed. He, however, found the onesie section appealing enough to order three – two bunny ones – one black and one white, and a panda onesie all of a sudden. He wears it only when he rearranges the stuff in his hospital bag, which happens twice a week now. Lan Zhan does look like a panda in it, hunched over the bag, with ears flipping up and down as he nods to the items and puts them in and out like tetris figures. Wei Ying had called him Pangji the first time he saw Lan Zhan in it, aiming at the whole deal being a joke, but Lan Zhan had looked at him with his honey-coloured saucers of the eyes and said a tiny, Oh.
“How are the kids?” Wei Ying asks, “More Braxton-Hicks while I was away, maybe?”
“Fighting,” Lan Zhan says, leaning back on his palms now to accommodate his perpetually aching back. “Try, at least. There’s not much space anymore for that. And no.”
Wei Ying hums, smiling to himself. The first time Lan Zhan told him he felt something, like bubbles of air that fish let out in the aquarium – these were his exact words – and pressed both Wei Ying’s palms to his small bump, Wei Ying cried, feeling nothing but knowing that he would soon. He still does cry at each scan session, but fortunately he’s stopped bawling every time he feels their children mostly fight for no reason other than to kick each other. Wei Ying bets that their daughter will be the first one to be born. At this, Lan Zhan looks at him, and shakes his head.
“What,” Wei Ying says, “having a big sister is awesome! Speaking from experience here.”
“She will have an older brother,” Lan Zhan refutes, like he is determined to push the boy out first no matter what come labour.
“But she’s the one who fights more! She’ll beat him to it, I know it.”
“More fighting doesn’t ensure victory.”
“But the chances are – ”
And that’s usually that.
Wei Ying gets to his feet, commands, “Up,” and Lan Zhan raises his arms.
“Exceptionally good boy,” Wei Ying praises, tugging the sweatshirt off of Lan Zhan, who is very, very warm when Wei Ying leans down and kisses every centimetre of bare skin in record speed, before Lan Zhan gets cold.
"Love you, love you, love you," Wei Ying whispers into Lan Zhan's chest, a little swollen, ready to feed and comfort their babies. For now, however, it comforts Wei Ying.
Lan Zhan is covered in goosebumps by the time Wei Ying gets to his neck, which is his wake-up call to stop and dress his husband in freshly worn clothes.
Pretty early into the pregnancy Lan Zhan discovered that wearing his own clothes that Wei Ying would customarily steal from him worked better for his nausea than ginger biscuits or frozen grapes, and later calmed the kids down when they kicked each other or Lan Zhan's insides quite viciously.
Wei Ying takes off his – Lan Zhan's – hoodie and puts it on Lan Zhan.
Wei Ying shakes up his arms a bit. He misses being bare-armed ninety percent of the time. "Lie down," he instructs, and helps Lan Zhan get his legs onto the bed. He climbs up from the other side, aiming straight at the bump, and kisses it through the fabric.
“Itchy,” Lan Zhan complains. Wei Ying nods and tugs the hoodie up to Lan Zhan’s chest and the leggings down the bump.
Lan Zhan’s lower belly is vined with purple stretch marks. Oils do help soften the skin, but with twins and first pregnancy – Wei Ying unsuccessfully tries to banish this thought – it’s still inevitable. Lan Zhan is not ashamed of them, now, but he gets uneasy when he sees them anyway. They hurt, too. At first, he even tried to hide them from Wei Ying’s eyes, worried that they would look disgusting and extremely unappealing to him, but ended up being kissed within an inch of his life and hard-working body. And gently scolded for even allowing such a thought. Stretch marks mean life, Wei Ying had told him, peppering Lan Zhan’s already evident bump with feather-light kisses, growing, moving, painful, but worth every tingle and patch of affected skin. Beautiful.
There is more, now, of course there is. Wei Ying leans down and kisses the top of the bump, the poking belly button, stray hormonal hairs tickling his face. Lan Zhan is conscious of them as well. Wei Ying feels like he’s doing a distressingly bad job of proving to his husband that he loves Lan Zhan and his body unconditionally and with all the changes – past, current, upcoming – like wrinkles, any amount of gained or lost weight, stretch marks, hairs, widened hips, loose skin, his dry and scratchy knuckles whenever they are on a vacation and Lan Zhan’s hands react to the new water. Wei Ying needs to work harder on this.
“Wei Ying,” Lan Zhan calls, “they are going to punch you in the face if you are this close.”
“Looking forward to it,” Wei Ying says cheerfully.
He scratches Lan Zhan’s belly only with his fingertips, because he wants to catch the slightest movements their children still have to offer, when Lan Zhan makes a demanding noise. Wei Ying surrenders instantly, obediently adding some pressure. Lan Zhan moves, rubbing his tummy against the hand to get more friction, and Wei Ying laughs out loud.
“I love you,” he says, turning his head to face Lan Zhan, who is concentrating on Wei Ying’s hand with a single-minded commitment, and Wei Ying bursts out laughing, scooching up and pulling Lan Zhan into his arms. “You’re so cute."
“Wei Ying,” Lan Zhan grumbles.
Wei Ying has one hand on the bare bump, another on Lan Zhan's head, massaging his scalp lazily. It's early afternoon, and their bedroom is airy and bright. It's spring. It's time for new life.
“What did you feel?”
Wei Ying hums, half-asleep, for some elaboration. Lan Zhan’s hand is on his heart, resting, counting the steady beat.
“When you first… Saw me. After.”
“When I smelled you for the first time after you’d presented, you mean?” Wei Ying yawns, huge and distressingly impolite.
“Which version do you want to hear? Cute and polished, or creepy and realistic?”
Lan Zhan shifts, nuzzling against his jaw. “Both.”
Wei Ying sighs. He lowers his hand, reaching between Lan Zhan's shoulder blades, and kisses Lan Zhan's forehead.
“The cute one is that I wanted to protect you from something – everything, anything, but didn’t know from what, or how. Comfort you. Like, you were obviously fine, but stressed as fuck, which, I can’t even imagine how you managed. And I wanted to protect you from it, like I always feel with a-jie, like family, you know?”
A nod. “And the realistic?”
“Mine,” Wei Ying admits immediately, chewing on the inside of his cheek. “The second I smelled you, I thought, mine. You are mine, want to make you mine and mine alone.”
"Oh," Lan Zhan exhales.
"Yeah," Wei Ying says, "it's creepy. Although jie said it's romantic. Jiang Cheng said it's sick, which, it is."
Lan Zhan runs mindless circles with his thumb on Wei Ying stomach, and Wei Ying is about to apologise for being a creep when Lan Zhan says, quietly, "I wanted to be."
Wei Ying feels his face and back of the neck grow embarrassingly hot in seconds. "Did you?"
"Mn. I remember when you came to our house when my first heat happened."
Wei Ying laughs weakly. Not his best performance. "I wanted to help. Not like, help-help, just, you know."
"I know," Lan Zhan says, ever the most understanding. "Those herbs helped."
"Jie was so happy to share, you should've seen her," Wei Ying grins at the ceiling. "She was ready to give you her whole box of things, but I asked her to narrow it down to something I could fit into two pockets. And your uncle still yelled at me."
Wei Ying will never forget Lan Qiren's face when he'd come to their family mansion and said he wanted to help Lan Zhan.
Wei Ying heaves a sigh. "He spit out 'unbonded alpha' like I was going to chase you around the house with a single purpose to bite the life out of you and then fuck you into the mattress to help. I was fourteen!"
Lan Zhan hums, considering his past self's options. "Wasn't it your purpose?"
"Later, yes. Lan Zhan!"
"Later," Lan Zhan echoes, sounding unbearably smug. The pregnant bastard. "It helped."
Wei Ying sputters, but still smiles so wide his cheeks hurt.
They cuddle until Lan Zhan's hand stops moving and his breath becomes deeper and more measured.
"Sleep, sweetheart," Wei Ying whispers, slipping from Lan Zhan's embrace in tiny increments. "I'll wake you up."
Lan Zhan grumbles in his slumber, protesting as always, but calms down as soon as Wei Ying gently shoves the pregnancy pillow into his arms and between his knees. Wei Ying envies it badly. He does, however, want one for himself.
"Right," Wei Ying mouths, grabs both their phones, and goes to make lunch.
It's week 37, and Wei Ying can't sleep. It's three in the morning, and he's pacing around the living room, flipping the phone in his hand. Lan Zhan smells different. His scent is now heavy, thick like late autumn fog, almost alarmingly so. Wei Ying knows it's almost time, hence the pacing.
He stops dead when he hears something from their bedroom, where Lan Zhan is supposed to be sleeping.
Wei Ying tiptoes there, in case he misheard, but his heart leaps into his throat when he distinguishes Lan Zhan's heavy breathing.
"Honey?" he calls quietly, "What happened? Do you need help?"
In the darkness, Wei Ying can see very little, but he can clearly identify Lan Zhan trying to get out of bed.
"My waters," Lan Zhan pants, "Wei Ying."
"Oh my god," Wei Ying says in full volume, "Broke?"
Wei Ying runs to the bed, flips the light on, and sees Lan Zhan wince from it.
"Sorry, sorry, sorry," Wei Ying parrots, hoisting Lan Zhan up into his arms. "Can you walk?"
"Yes," Lan Zhan says, a bit breathless but still even, "call Doctor Wen."
A full 24 hours later, with an armful of babies and eyes so puffy from crying Wei Ying avoids the bathroom mirror like a plague, he watches Lan Zhan sleep in the dim light of their ward. It's very warm in here. Wei Ying rocks back and forth in his chair a bit, more out of habit than to lull the kids – their kids! – to sleep, and cries again. He can't stop it, but he didn't really try, if he's being honest with himself. He thinks about a fourteen-year-old Lan Zhan, who had cried into his shoulder, and Wei Ying had no idea why. He'd just presented as omega. He smelled like everything Wei Ying had never thought he wanted.
This was the first time Lan Zhan hugged him first – almost crushing, arms looped around Wei Ying's whole torso.
"Lan Zhan ah, why are you crying?" Wei Ying had tried, feeling lost and fiercely protective at the same time. "Is it painful? Can I get you anything?"
"I have everything I want and need, now," Lan Zhan had said, small and a bit nasal. Wei Ying had hugged him closer, trying very, very hard not to kiss him then and there.
It's still dark out when Lan Zhan wakes up, and reaches to his right the next instant. Wei Ying hands him babies one by one, silent, and almost sobs when Lan Zhan lingers, kissing their foreheads.
Their daughter smells like Wei Ying. Their son smells like Lan Zhan. They weigh nothing, warm bundles or shared life and love. Wei Ying wants to get them all home and watch them all for millennia. His heart feels too small for his body from all the love he tries to fit in it. He wants to yell and scream from it.
"Told you she'd be first," Wei Ying teases in whispers. "She's my girl."
Lan Zhan says nothing, just observing the children. He smells of milk, of blood, of babies, of hospital and medicines. Of Lan Zhan. Wei Ying's brain is short-circuiting a bit, but that's fine. It's the best brain short-circuiting he's ever experienced.
"We will name her after your mother," Lan Zhan says eventually, and Wei Ying fumes.
"No," he hiss-whispers, "after your mother. We talked about it, Lan Zhan!"