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Promises Laced in Violet.

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Wei Ying sighed and leaned back from the microphone, looking over at Lan Zhan as he hit the stop recording button, nodding to signal he was good to stop. He slid the headphones off and set them on the desk before standing and walking over to Lan Zhan, looking over the arrangement they had set up.

“Was that the last part we needed?” Wei Ying asked softly, accepting the water bottle that was already being handed to him silently. Lan Zhan clicked around on the screen for a couple moments, dragging audio clips to the right area and clipping as necessary.

“Done, you did very well that last run.” Lan Zhan finally spoke, pointing to a certain spot in the harmony clip. He removed one earbud and held it out for Wei Ying to listen. 

Wei Ying put the earbud in and took the mouse to click play for the entire arrangement. He nodded along, gnawing on his lip to ignore his nerves. Lan Zhan was right, he did do well; the whole song sounded exactly like he had wanted.

“Do you think he’ll actually listen?” Wei Ying asked as the song ended, handing the earbud back and leaned down to rest his head on the others shoulder.

Lan Zhan pressed a kiss to the top of his head and saved the file. “I do not know, but he would be an idiot to ignore it.”

Wei Ying laughed and shrugged, standing back up. “Well, no use putting it off. Let’s send it to A-Jie first.”

As Lan Zhan composed the email and the audio file link, Wei Ying fiddled with the small purple bracelet on his wrist. The ends of the strings were frayed and losing pigment, but the silver lotus in the center still gleamed as bright as it had when he first put it on. 

***

Jiang Cheng is not a little kid anymore, he is almost nine years old, thank you very much. He just doesn’t understand why the stupid foster kid his dad insisted on bringing home was so scared of his precious Princess, it was a perfectly reasonable thing to cry over. Especially because instead of getting rid of the stupid kid scared of an innocent puppy, his beloved Princess was the one being sent away.

He sat in his room, now limited in space because of another bed donned in dark blue sheets and empty desk, trying to force the flow of tears from his eyes to stop. Usually, Princess would come over and lick his tears away before his dad could notice and yell at him to toughen up. Now, he had to wipe his own wet face clean every time he heard footsteps coming near the room. Luckily nobody came in, but he couldn’t handle being yelled at again.

Taking a deep breath, Jiang Cheng looked around his room, away from the bed with dark blue sheets, and tried again to calm down. Stupid kid, stupid kid who hated puppies, stupid kid who- still wasn’t back yet.

When Jiang Cheng had found out where his Princess had gone, there had been one heck of a fit. Him yelling first at his parents, his dad standing and not saying anything of value, and his mom glaring at his dad. Every time Jiang Cheng had calmed down enough to look at his dad, all he would say was, “We need to make A-Ying feel safe.”

Eventually, Jiang Cheng swung and stared at this “A-Ying” who had ruined everything and started hurling insults at him too. The stupid kid didn’t even defend himself, just stood and cried, trying to hide a little behind Jiang Cheng’s dad. Finally Jiang Cheng ran out of the room and to his own bedroom, which now had two beds and two desks. One bed with purple sheets, one with dark blue. 

It was afternoon when he had come up here, the sun shining brightly through the window. But now, the room was painted in soft blue hues, the dark blue bed looked black. 

Jiang Cheng wiped his face one more time and hopped off his bed, walking to the door and opening it just a crack. He could hear his mom and dad screaming at each other, hurling bad words as if they were actual weapons. Just listening was enough to make his skin feel bruised and ache. Slowly he opened the door more and crept down the hall to A-Jie’s room.

He knocked very gently, just enough that he knew she would hear. Of course, as always, she opened immediately and smiled sadly down at him.

“Are you alright, A-Cheng?” A-Jie asked softly, letting him in the room and closing the door behind them. It happened a lot; Jiang Cheng would hear their parents fighting and come to his sister, scared of everything he heard. 

Jiang Cheng sniffled and held back the urge to cry again. He was a big boy now, A-Jie said so, and he didn’t have a reason to cry now so he needed to keep his sadness locked up tight. That’s what mama had told him she did when she didn’t have a reason to cry, she locked it up so it wouldn’t get out. 

“I miss Princess.” He finally mumbled and wrapped his arms around his sister, hugging tightly. 

“I know, A-Cheng.” A-Jie said, hugging him back just as tight. “It’ll be okay, I’m sure that’s not what A-Ying wanted to happen. A-Die just…” she trailed off, not wanting to finish her statement. She did that a lot when talking about their dad; Jiang Cheng wasn’t sure why, but A-Jie always had a good reason for things.

Jiang Cheng pulled away and rubbed at his sore eyes, staring down at his feet. “He never came upstairs.”

“Hm?” A-Jie asked, watching him in her careful way that she always did.

“The stupid kid, that ‘A-Ying’.”

A-Jie gasped a tiny bit, immediately turning and grabbing her coat and the lantern off her desk from their last pillow fort night. Jiang Cheng looked back up and watched her, confused why she seemed upset. 

“Where’d he go, A-Jie?” He asked, following her around the room and to the door.

“We thought he was in your room.” A-Jie whispered as she opened the door and snuck down the stairs. Jiang Cheng followed, a bad feeling wrapping around him like a too tight sweater. “If he wasn’t with you, he must have…” she trailed off again, running to the door and grabbing her shoes and sliding them on.

Jiang Cheng followed suit, putting on his big boy shoes, but not the ones with the laces, those took too long and A-Jie was already opening the front door and starting to run outside. Jiang Cheng grabbed his big coat and started to follow but stopped, looking at the other coats on the hangers. He could feel the bitter chill from the night air flowing inside and thought about that stupid kid, and his stupid fear of puppies. What if he was scared of the cold too?

Jiang Cheng grabbed another coat, his big expensive coat from their ski trip last year that was almost too small but still his favorite. He slid the big one on and carried the expensive one, running out after A-Jie to find the stupid kid and make sure he wasn’t scared of the cold, too.

It had taken an hour to find little Wei Ying, apparently the stupid kid’s name as Jiang Cheng was informed, curled up on a park bench and shaking like a leaf. Seeing Jiang Cheng and A-Jie running towards him sent him off crying again, which in turn, made Jiang Cheng cry too.

“Stupid kid, stupid A-Ying!” Jiang Cheng yelled and clumsily wrapped the coat around Wei Ying’s freezing body. “Going outside without a coat is stupid, so is running away! We have to go to bed, stupid A-Ying!” 

A-Jie wrapped her arms around Wei Ying, holding him as he cried, now in confusion rather than being scared.

Jiang Cheng huffed, wiping his tears away and throwing himself into the hug pile. “Scaring us is mean, stupid A-Ying…” he mumbled, holding tight to A-Jie and Wei Ying. They all sat there for a while, holding onto Wei Ying until his cries softened to sniffles, and his arms wrapped around them as well.

“I’m sorry about your puppy, A-Cheng.” Wei Ying said as quietly as he could while hiccuping and sniffling snot away. 

“You owe me another one, but later.” Jiang Cheng pulled back and wiped his eyes with his sleeve before reaching out and doing the same for A-Jie and Wei Ying. When he was done, he held out his little pinky and stared Wei Ying in the eye. “You gotta promise, we’ll get you un-scared of puppies! And then we get a new one!”

A-Jie laughed a little bit in the way she did when she knew something Jiang Cheng didn’t. The sound was never mean, it just meant he would find out later.

“Can we, A-Ying?” Jiang Cheng asked. Wei Ying nodded a little. “Do you mean it?”

Wei Ying looked between Jiang Cheng’s hand and his face before nodding, shakily looping his pinky with the others.

After a bit, they were able to walk home and get to bed. Wei Ying was too scared to sleep in his own bed with dark blue sheets, and instead was allowed to crawl into Jiang Cheng’s purple sheets with him. The two slept soundly, wrapped in a tight hug until morning. The next day, the two of them had gone to the store with A-Jie and had picked out matching bracelets to remember their promise. A bracelet was much easier to remember because it could be seen, at least that’s what Wei Ying said.

Jiang Cheng didn’t realize until he was much, much older; his parents never even noticed that they were gone.

***

Jiang Cheng was most definitely not a kid anymore, for real this time. He was almost 16, he was practically a fucking adult. A-Jie was in college, his parents were more distant than ever, but Wei Ying still asked to sleep in his bed some nights.

Sharing a bedroom with his best friend and kind of sort of brother was a lot easier than other people thought. Their friend Nei Huaisang always said if he had to share a room with his brother, he would have gotten in so much trouble by now. Especially because of his steadily growing hidden hentai stash under his bed.

But with Wei Ying, it was easy. They hung out, argued about dumb shit, watched movies, talked about girls, fought about who was A-Jie’s favorite. They never mentioned how there were very clear favorites and least favorites with the parents.

Everything was always easy with Wei Ying. At least, until they started high school. 

Suddenly, Wei Ying very clearly had a new favorite thing to talk about instead of the usual Digimon versus Pokemon argument.

Now, there was Lan Zhan.

Jiang Cheng didn’t consider himself to be a bitter person. Bitchy? Sometimes, but not really bitter and hateful. But this fucking Lan Zhan guy…

Wei Ying would go on for hours about his new best friend Lan Zhan who was so cool, who wouldn’t even give him the time of day, who was mean but so hot that Wei Ying didn’t even care. Lan Zhan who probably hated Wei Ying, but Wei Ying was following after him and constantly trying to bother him.

The fucking guy just left a bad taste in Jiang Cheng’s mouth. Who wouldn’t spend time with Wei Ying? Why would some stupid fucking guy think he’s better than the most selfless, funny, charming-

Whatever. Jiang Cheng could at least tell Wei Ying the time. Personally, he liked to think that maybe this oh so amazing Lan Zhan was too stupid to tell time. He laughed a little to himself at the idea.

“Hey- Are you laughing at me?!” Wei Ying whined from where he laid sprawled out on the floor, trying to balance his phone on his forehead without it falling. “I’m going through a crisis, Jiang Cheng! I sent Lan Zhan a ‘hey’ with a winky face twenty three and a half minutes ago and he hasn’t replied!”

“Maybe he’s too fucking stupid to figure out how to reply, he acts like a grandpa anyways.” Jiang Cheng snapped, smile falling away as soon as that stupid bastards name hit his ears. Wei Ying gasped in offense and sat up.

“How dare you!” He yelled, pouting and cradling his phone to his chest gently. “Everybody knows that Lan Zhan is perfect in absolutely every way, don’t be ridiculous.” He looked down at his screen and bit his lip, a nervous habit. “Maybe I scared him and he doesn’t want to be friends…”

“Friends?” Jiang Cheng scoffed and looked away from where Wei Ying was nibbling at his bottom lip. Why was he staring in the first place? Stupid Wei Ying. “You act like you have a crush on the fucking weirdo, not like you wanna be his friend.” Saying that made Jiang Cheng feel like bile was rising in his throat; he decided to lock that feeling up and deal with it later.

“That’s ridiculous, Jiang Cheng!” Wei Ying laughed, pout falling away and bright, oblivious smile taking it’s place. “I had a crush on that one girl last year, I can’t like a boy now, I’m clearly not gay.”

“Yeah and I had a crush on your weird friend’s older sister but I can still admit that Huaisang’s brother is hot as fuck.” Jiang Cheng rolled his eyes. Wei Ying made him roll his eyes so much he could basically describe what his own brain looked like. “It’s called liking both, dumbass.”

“Wen Qing’s face when you could barely say your name was the first time I saw her come close to laughing,” Wei Ying giggled out. “And your face when you found out she was a lesbian-”

“Shut the fuck up, Wei Ying!” Jiang Cheng cut him off, cheeks glowing scarlet. Wei Ying laughed loudly, falling back on the floor and laying out when he could finally calm down. Jiang Cheng looked down at him, holding back a small smile of his own. His eyes trailed over Wei Ying’s blushy cheeks, bright grin, exposed collarbones, hint of abs peeking out from the ridden up hem of his shirt-

“So… liking both….” Wei Ying cut off Jiang Cheng’s thoughts. “Like… Like A-Jie does?” His voice was softer now, smile shrunken a little bit, more hesitant, like when Jiang Cheng’s mother started questioning his grades. He was… upset, scared maybe.

Jiang Cheng sat up properly and slid off the bed, sitting next to his friend on the floor. “Yeah, like A-Jie,” he nodded a little bit, more serious now. Yanli-Jie had come out to Wei Ying and Jiang Cheng only a month after she graduated college. It had honestly been a little bit of an accident. Wen Qing had come to drop off Wen Ning to hang out with Wei Ying and Yanli-Jie had answered the door and said something along the lines of, “Oh, fuck.”

Also the first time anybody had heard her swear; a very full day when it came to surprises.

“Do you think… maybe I like both?” Wei Ying asked softly, looking absolutely anywhere besides at Jiang Cheng.

“Do you want to find out?”

The words slipped out of Jiang Cheng’s mouth before he could possibly stop them or even comprehend them. Wei Ying sat up in a split second and blinked in shock.

“Wh-What I m-meant was, um-” Jiang Cheng tried to cover his steps, face radiating heat from how hard he was blushing.

“Do you mean it?” Wei Ying cut him off, staring into his eyes with the intensity that was only visible when playing sports or playing his stupid fucking flute. 

Jiang Cheng swallowed, his throat feeling like it was closing up. Slowly, he nodded, holding up his pinky, the purple lotus bracelet hanging on his wrist and glinting in the light.

Wei Ying looped his own pinky with the other, nodding as well. His own bracelet gently clinked charms with it’s twin as he readjusted and sat up on his knees, never breaking eye contact.

Jiang Cheng felt like his heart was going to explode out of his chest, that feeling increasing with every centimeter that Wei Ying leaned in.

Jiang Cheng felt warm lips brush against his own. He curled his hands into tight fists so that he wouldn’t reach out and touch the other, scared that if he did then this would all have been an illusion.

Wei Ying gently kissed him, one hand reaching up to cup his cheek, and Jiang Cheng felt himself melt slightly and finally kiss back. For a small while, it was just them and their lips melding together against each other.

A loud phone chime broke them apart, both of their faces glowing red.

Wei Ying was the first to speak. “So… I think… I might be like Yanli-Jie…” He nodded a tiny bit, fumbling around for his phone without looking away until the last second so he could read the message. He immediately broke out into the softest smile Jiang Cheng had ever seen, his entire demeanor glowing with some sort of love struck light.

Jiang Cheng simply nodded and stood up, muttering something about needing to go to the bathroom, quickly leaving the room. Wei Ying didn’t say anything, too absorbed with whatever message he had gotten. Jiang Cheng quickly locked himself in the hall bathroom, trying to calm the outrageously harsh beating in his chest, the feeling like his stomach was trying to wrap itself in knots. 

He leaned over the sink, staring down the drain and trying to calm down. Too many things were adding up all at once and he felt as if the house was coming down on top of him.

The reason he couldn’t stop hating Lan Zhan as much as he tried.

The reason why he always wanted to be around Wei Ying as much as he could.

The reason he still let Wei Ying climb in bed with him whenever he wanted.

The reason he couldn’t stop staring when Wei Ying’s shirt rode up even slightly.

The reason he couldn’t stop staring at Wei Ying.

Oh, fuck.

About ten minutes later, Jiang Cheng at least felt like he could breathe again. He left the bathroom and went back into their room, not looking at Wei Ying from where he was curled up in dark blue sheets, absolutely beaming as he typed away on his phone.

After that, Wei Ying didn’t sleep in Jiang Cheng’s bed again. He stayed wrapped up in dark blue sheets, the only purple left was around his wrist.

***

Jiang Cheng was able to bury his feelings pretty damn well if you ask him. He was bitter and bitchy, but he was content in the idea that this wouldn’t last. Nobody married their first real boyfriend, nobody only had one real love. All he had to do was wait it out, and he had done a really good job. For the first two years at least. 

Wei Ying and Lan Zhan were inseparable, the annoying bastards. They were basically joined at the hip for all of high school, and Jiang Cheng managed to ignore it. He even ignored what he was convinced were smug glares from that stupid fucking Lan Zhan when he and Wei Ying would cuddle on the couch, Jiang Cheng cast aside on his own lonely chair cushion. 

But the summer before they went away to college, Jiang Cheng started to doubt himself a bit. Wei Ying and Lan Zhan of course had arguments, but none that had spiraled into a break up. None that the stupid perfect bastard didn’t immediately run and try to fix. 

Then there was the night that Jiang Cheng had come back from Nie Huaisang’s early instead of spending the night. Huaisang had drank himself silly after thirty minutes, and started puking after two hours. Rather than clean it up himself, Jiang Cheng called Nie Mingjue (who was still crazy attractive) to deal with the mess. A dick move? Possibly. But it was Jiang Cheng who was supposed to be drunk.

That night was some bullshit anniversary that Wei Ying insisted was important to him and Lan Zhan and Jiang Cheng absolutely had to get out of that house if it killed him. But now, it was between dealing with Nie Huaisang’s vomit or his own; he could at least handle his own puke.

When Jiang Cheng got home it was pitch black in the house, and he silently applauded himself for getting back when everybody was either gone or asleep. His parents were on some weekend retreat to salvage their shitty marriage, Yanli-Jie was at her boyfriends place, and hopefully Wei Ying and stupid Lan Zhan were asleep.

Jiang Cheng silently crept through the house and up the stairs to his room. He was at the top step when he finally heard it.

The little broken moan echoed through the house.

Jiang Cheng’s stomach flipped and cold spread through his chest.

Another moan floated through the empty air, the soft slapping sound of skin against skin reverberating around his now empty skull. The door to their bedroom was half open, as if they had tried to close it but were too distracted. Jiang Cheng refused to look.

As silently as he could, Jiang Cheng locked himself in the bathroom across the hall from his room, the little bathroom nightlight the only thing illuminating the space.

He could still hear Wei Ying’s mewls and cries, his sweet begging. That stupid Lan Zhan’s quiet grunts, their skin sliding together.

It was more than the two drinks he had managed to get down at Huaisang’s that now made him feel sick to his stomach, the small room spinning. He was frozen, staring into the barely lit darkness as their moans got louder, the slapping of skin getting faster and more intense.

The more he listened, the more Jiang Cheng could make out the words that Wei Ying was chanting as he was fucked.

“L-Lan Zhan- ah, fuck! Fuck, fuck me, right there, fuck! Fuck, fuck, I-I love- ahhh-! I love you, Lan Zhan-!”

Jiang Cheng stood there for god knows how long, listening to Wei Ying cry out his love for Lan Zhan, praise him for every move he made. Listening to Lan Zhan fuck him sweetly and with just as much love as Wei Ying called out into the supposedly empty house.

An extra loud shout and moan of Wei Ying cumming echoed in the bathroom, Lan Zhan’s low groan following seconds after. Then there was nothing but silence.

Jiang Cheng felt like spilling the contents of his stomach everywhere, but held it back. He didn’t have a reason to, he needed to keep it down. Most of all, he couldn’t let Wei Ying find out he heard. With a long sigh, he tried to push away the nearly unbearable feeling of jealousy and sadness that threatened to suffocate him. 

Slowly, he unlocked the door and opened it, just wanting to go and sleep on the couch. Unfortunately, he was blocked from exiting by an almost completely nude Lan Zhan.

The feeling of sickness grew even more as Jiang Cheng made eye contact with him. Lan Zhan didn’t look surprised, he looked- neutral. As plain as always. But instead of his usual fancy button ups and pretty jewelry adorning his neck, instead he wore a wreath of dark blue love bites, scratches falling from his shoulders around to his back and out of sight.

Jiang Cheng shook his head silently and walked off quietly, pushing Lan Zhan out of the way to go downstairs. 

He walked through the dark until he found the nice couch in the living room, the one that could be laid on and had just enough squish to be a perfect napping spot. Wei Ying used it a lot, as evidenced by the hoodie laying over the side that Jiang Cheng snatched and curled around as he laid down. He buried his face in the hoodie and took deep slow breaths, trying to stifle the aching sobs that threatened to break through. 

Every time he closed his eyes, he could see that stupid fucker Lan Zhan standing there, just staring at him as he left the bathroom. The dark blue bruises making their way from his jaw down his chest. The look in his eye that said that he knew; knew Jiang Cheng was listening, knew that he was in the bathroom, knew that he was in love-

Knew that he was in love with his own best friend, the person that was supposed to be like his family. The person he had spent nearly every day with for nearly ten years. The person who only saw him as a friend, a sibling. Not Lan Zhan. 

The more he thought about that phrase, Jiang Cheng could hear the words of his parents fighting over the years floating around, mixing with his own thoughts. His mothers voice was the most prominent, standing out from the rest in split second intervals.

Why don’t you love your own son as much as that- that god damn street rat!?’

‘Is he not good enough for you!? Not worth hardly anything to you?’

Jiang Cheng felt his entire body go lax, everything holding him together melting away. Tears fell from his eyes and into the hoodie, too tired to even bother holding them back anymore. 

Not good enough… seemed to be a trend for him at this point.

The next morning, Jiang Cheng woke up to the sound of Wei Ying’s bright, happy laughter, and sunlight in his eyes. He groaned out of reflex, curling further into a little ball, holding the hoodie as close as possible as if it could block everything out for him.

“Ah- Jiang Cheng?” Wei Ying called, his footsteps quickly padding over to where Jiang Cheng was laying. “Why are you on the couch? Are you hungover from Huaisang’s? He sent a message saying you left early, did you-” He paused to laugh nervously. “Did you come straight here?”

Jiang Cheng shook his head a little bit, hiding his face in the hoodie so his bluff wouldn’t be noticed. Wei Ying sighed a little and rubbed Jiang Cheng’s back gently.

“Ah, you must really be hungover, Jiang Cheng.” He giggled. “Why not go lay in bed instead? It’s comfier than the couch, Lan Zhan and I will stay out here while you rest!”

“Mn.” Lan Zhan’s bullshit grunt in agreement could be heard from across the room. 

Jiang Cheng said nothing as he sat up, slowly stretching out the creases from the hoodie and couch cushion that were now imprinted in his face. He twisted around to look at Wei Ying who was smiling in that sweet, soft way he did when he was worried. His hair was messy, purple and red bruises coating his neck and dipping under the hem of his shirt.

“Were you crying, A-Cheng?” Wei Ying asked softly, his brow furrowing and hands coming up to cup the others cheeks. “Is your hangover that bad? Oh, A-Cheng, you know you can’t handle your liquor as well as I can, you’re hardly better than Lan Zhan in that respect.” Jiang Cheng leaned into the touch for only a second before standing abruptly, realizing what he was doing.

Wei Ying fell backwards onto the floor, shocked by the sudden movement. Jiang Cheng blinked, fighting back the urge to help him up and give him a hug in apology. Instead he walked silently out of the room, still clutching the sweatshirt tightly in his arms.

He went upstairs and into his room, ignoring Wei Ying’s calls after him. He didn’t want to talk to Wei Ying right now. He just wanted to sleep.

Jiang Cheng went into their bed room and flopped onto his bed, looking across the small area at the messy, dark blue sheets. Blankets flipped around, spare pillow tossed onto the floor, two different sets of clothes scattered about. 

Jiang Cheng flipped over, holding tight to the hoodie in his arms. He tried desperately to fall asleep, praying that if he was unconscious, he would forget just for a bit.

***

Going to college helped soothe the ache of constantly being around Wei Ying slightly. Wei Ying, of course, decided to room with his stupid fucking Lan Zhan, but took classes with Jiang Cheng so they could still see each other. 

"Don't want you to forget about me, Jiang Cheng. What if you forget I'm supposed to be your best friend?" Wei Ying had pouted and refused to back down on the issue. As if Jiang Cheng could ever possibly forget about him.

It was one of the days where stupid fucking Lan Zhan had an additional class that Wei Ying and Jiang Cheng didn't, so the two were left alone waiting in Wei Ying's dorm room. Jiang Cheng refused to count it as Lan Zhan's as well, even though it was clear that it was a shared space between the two of them.

Wei Ying's clothes strewn about because the bastard couldn't keep tidy to save his life, but only one bed slept in. The other, with dark blue sheets, peacefully made and never used aside from when Jiang Cheng was forced to come over and he absolutely refused to go near Lan Zhan's bed. Lan Zhan's bed that Wei Ying had taken over anyways. It truly was their space.

Jiang Cheng was nothing but an intruder, the occasional visitor that took up space that belonged to others. The thought always made him more angry than usual, his gruff attitude becoming normal day to day behavior.

"Lan Zhan and I have our three and a half year anniversary coming up and I have no idea what to give him." Wei Ying whined, holding on tight to the ugly ass donkey stuffed animal that Lan Zhan had won him at a carnival. "What if I get him something stupid and he hates me forever? What if he stops eating my ass-?"

"God, shut the fuck up about that." Jiang Cheng growled, throwing a pillow across the room at him. "That's fucking disgusting."

"Actually, it's quite nice, he can do this thing with his tongue-"

"Wei Ying, I will kill you where you fucking stand if you don't shut the fuck up about your stupid piece of shit boyfriend." Jiang Cheng snarled, sitting up and glaring properly at the other. For some reason, today was more of a sensitive day. He could barely stand the thought of Lan Zhan existing, let alone eating Wei Ying out five feet from where he was currently sitting.

Wei Ying, ever oblivious, just giggled and started to chew on his bottom lip. "I just want to do something that he'll love, you know?"

"He'll love whatever you get him, fuckin' idiot. He would be a moron not to."

"And he's not a moron, he's the smartest most wonderful man that's ever graced this stupid space rock." Wei Ying sighed dreamily. "Maybe I can convince Huaisang to do boudoir photos of me and I'll gift them to Lan Zhan in a photo album."

"That's the weirdest fucking thing you've ever tried to convince me is a good idea," Jiang Cheng rubbed his face to hide the blush at the idea of Wei Ying in lingerie and posing sensually, even if it wasn't (and never will be) for him.

"You help Huaisang with his photo shoots, don't you?" Wei Ying asked and sat up, looking at his friend excitedly. "You can ask for me! And you can even help with photos and stuff!"

Jiang Cheng felt his stomach flip in the most uncomfortable way at the idea of having to sit there and watch from the sidelines. "No fucking way."

Wei Ying cackled and shook his head. "I was kidding! I would never ask you to take my nudes for me, that's just weird." Jiang Cheng winced at the words. "Hey, Jiang Cheng, can I ask something?"

"Not if it's about your stupid fucking Lan Zhan or your nudes." Jiang Cheng averted his gaze, not wanting to hear more.

"Do you remember our promise? About your puppy and all that?" Wei Ying asked softly, toying with the strings of his bracelet. Even all these years later, they never took that bracelet off. Both twin lotuses stayed tied in place, matching each other day after day. Jiang Cheng said nothing, only nodding a little.

"When we get home, like- after college is all done and we're babysitting for A-Jie's future kids and we have our own places and everything, we should follow through."

Jiang Cheng blinked in shock and looked back up at him. "You still want to do that? Do you mean it?" he asked softly, taken aback at the idea.

Wei Ying nodded and smiled at him. "I promised, didn't I?"

Jiang Cheng started to smile back, but the door opening interrupted the nice moment they were having. Lan Zhan always seemed to be able to interrupt.

Lan Zhan walked into the room, a soft smile on his face as he stared at Wei Ying. The smile dropped away as he nodded at Jiang Cheng.

Wei Ying knew that the two didn't get along, but he still tried so hard to get them to like each other. But every time, it would end in a fight. Wei Ying wasn't sure why, but Jiang Cheng and Lan Zhan knew.

As far as he knew, Lan Zhan seemed to keep Jiang Cheng's secret from Wei Ying. For why, Jiang Cheng had no clue. What he did know was that while he may keep that hush hush, he still took every opportunity to smugly kiss Wei Ying as deeply as socially allowed whenever Jiang Cheng could see, including right now.

Lan Zhan held Wei Ying close, hands roaming innocently as Wei Ying giggled into the kiss.

"You two are fucking disgusting, I hope you know that," Jiang Cheng spat, trying so hard to look away from where Lan Zhan had pushed Wei Ying's shirt up to expose his stomach slightly.

"Don't be jealous," Wei Ying joked, not realizing how close he hit to being accurate. "Ah, but we shouldn't get so rowdy in front of him, Lan Zhan." He chastised gently, pulling away enough to smile at his boyfriend who pouted in return.

"God, you're the worst." Jiang Cheng rolled his eyes and flopped down again onto the dark blue sheets.

"Shut up, you love me!" Yeah, he does. "Anyways, what should we do for dinner? I wanted to go get noodles from that one place by Lan Zhan's favorite tea shop, the one that had the super spicy chili oil." Wei Ying stood up and kissed Lan Zhan's cheek, already going to get his shoes.

"Get whatever, I'm not standing up." Jiang Cheng grumbled, laying back down.

"Ah- okay then, Lan Zhan, keep Jiang Cheng company while I go!" Wei Ying was already out the door before both of them could try and interject.

Silence filled the room, the two tensely turning to look at each other.

"Jiang Cheng." Lan Zhan's tone held no emotion, his face completely blank.

"Lan Zhan." Jiang Cheng outright glared at him, wrinkling his nose in disgust. "You don't have to bother speaking to me, I wouldn't want to hear whatever bullshit you have to say anyways."

"I have a question." Lan Zhan ignored what he said, moving to sit at his desk, pulling out some notebook to write in. Fucker wasn't even decent enough to look him in the eye and speak?

"Spit it out then."

"Why have you not told Wei Ying?" he didn't need to elaborate anymore than that. They both knew what he meant.

"Shut the fuck up, Lan Zhan." Jiang Cheng growled. "You know damn well why."

"I do not believe you would do it, even if I were not here."

Jiang Cheng barely held back a gasp, cold filling his chest. An old, familiar feeling at this point. "What makes you say that, stupid bastard?"

"You are a coward." Lan Zhan said simply, still not bothering to turn. Jiang Cheng felt the cold melt away and boiling heat and rage took it's place.

"You think I'm a fucking coward?" Jiang Cheng scoffed, jumping off the bed. "If you think that, ask him who his first kiss was."

It was hardly anything, but Jiang Cheng couldn't help but lash it out and hurl it as if it had actual weight. He must have done something, since Lan Zhan turned in his seat and stared up at him, surprised.

Jiang Cheng liked that look; it was like he finally had something that Lan Zhan didn't.

"He may have kissed you once, but that doesn't matter to me." Lan Zhan's voice didn't raise, didn't show any emotion. "He spends his days with me and I know he loves me, it does not matter that there was a before as long as there is a now. It is not like that with you, is it?"

Jiang Cheng blinked, the rage fading as quickly as it had raised up.

"He doesn't love you as anything more than a brother, a friend, and that hurts you." Lan Zhan stood, staring down at the other.

"Then you fucking tell him!" Jiang Cheng lashed out, the cold bitter pain clawing at his chest. "Why don't you fucking tell him then!? Tell him everything you know!"

"No." Lan Zhan shook his head. "It would hurt him to know he hurt you, even accidentally."

Jiang Cheng had nothing to say to that, he was right, again. Stupid fucking Lan Zhan was right. It would tear Wei Ying apart to know that he had caused anybody pain, let alone his best friend.

"You need to get over this."

Jiang Cheng knew he was right, but he couldn't stand to hear it. Without thinking, Jiang Cheng balled up his fist and swung, hitting Lan Zhan as hard as he could in the face.

Lan Zhan fell back into his desk then onto the floor, things clattering all over the floor. The next instant, the door swung open and Jiang Cheng turned to see-

Wei Ying, standing there without any food, his face coiled in shock and pain.

He had heard. He had heard everything.

Jiang Cheng looked from Wei Ying to his quickly swelling fist, to Lan Zhan sitting on the floor holding his bloody nose.

Without a word Jiang Cheng pushed past Wei Ying and ran out of the room, sprinting down the hallway to just get away, anywhere that wasn't there. He ran fast and hard, not looking back once, just going as far as his legs could take him.

Jiang Cheng doesn't know how long he had been running when he finally collapses on the side of the road. Trees surrounded him, none of the signs looked familiar. He was lost. He had lost. Wei Ying knew. He hit Lan Zhan and Wei Ying knew

Shakily Jiang Cheng pulled out his phone and ignored the missed called and texts from Wei Ying and dialed his sister's number.

He held his phone to his ear in his swollen and bruised hand, shaking like a leaf while he waited for her to answer.

"Hello?" Yanli's soft voice answered the phone.

Jiang Cheng felt the ice in his chest crack and he gasped out a sob, unable to say anything.

"A-Cheng? A-Cheng, what's wrong?" Yanli tried to comfort him and console him as he sobbed, hot tears spilling down his face. He cried himself dry, eventually a hiccuping mess on the side of the road. "A-Cheng, tell me where you are, I'm coming to get you."

"A-Jie...." Jiang Cheng's voice sounded like gravel in a blender.

"Yes, it's me, it's JieJie, tell JieJie where you are so I can come get you." Yanli sounded more firm, making him listen.

"I-I don't know, I just..." Jiang Cheng choked out.

"Send me your location, A-Cheng, I'm on my way."

Jiang Cheng nodded and hung up, sending his location and dropping his phone beside him.

Time didn't seem to be moving; the leaves still swirled around him in the breeze, clouds passed overhead, but nothing changed. He was still in that moment, alone.

Wei Ying knew.

***

Jiang Cheng stopped speaking to Wei Ying completely after that. He ignored him every class they had for the rest of the semester and transferred to a different major so they wouldn't interact at all. He couldn't bear it.

Even then, he would occasionally see Wei Ying and Lan Zhan holding hands while walking around campus, smiling and laughing like nothing had changed. Like he didn't matter even after he left.

Jiang Cheng spent the next few years burying away every feeling he had, that nagging pain always sat in it's place in his chest though, regardless of what he did.

Yanli-Jie tried her best to help. That night she had picked him up, he told her everything. She had listened calmly, driving them back home silently and letting Jiang Cheng vent out everything that he had bottled up over the years. She couldn't do much, there isn't much that can be done to mend somebody else's broken heart. But she did make him his favorite foods for dinner, poured him a small glass of the good wine that they used to steal from their parents when they were younger, and let him be sad for a while.

Telling somebody to get over it or offering solutions wasn't always the answer, sometimes they just need to be sad, and that's okay.

Jiang Cheng was almost done with his second year when Yanli-Jie told him she was pregnant. It was the happiest he had been in a while.

Jiang Cheng went into excited uncle mode, constantly bickering with Jin Zixuan, Yanli-Jie's stupid ass husband, about what would be best for the soon to be baby.

"I don't give a fuck if it's a boy or a girl, or neither, I'm teaching them how to fight as soon as they can lift a glove!"

"You're not teaching my child violence, they need to be as sweet as their mother!"

"They'll be sweet and a powerful child that runs the kindergarten as soon as they step foot in the classroom!"

When the baby was born and they found out he was a little boy, Jiang Cheng cried. He also cried the first time he held little Jin Ling in his arms.

It wasn't for a while that Jiang Cheng found out that it was Wei Ying who had named him.

The two had managed to avoid each other, mostly due to Jiang Cheng hiding rather than Wei Ying doing anything. It was just... easier. Easier to pretend that he couldn't feel that ache in his chest every time he thought about his laugh or smile. Easier to just, pretend it never happened.

Sometimes he still dreams; of course he dreams about Wei Ying, but not just him. Sometimes it's him and Wei Ying taking care of Jin Ling, sometimes it was everybody together again. Jiang Cheng, Wei Ying, Yanli-Jie, her stupid husband, even fucking Lan Zhan was there. They were just a family again, they were whole. But every time, Jiang Cheng would wake up again, alone in his bedroom, the only hint that somebody else existed in that place were the framed paintings that Jin Ling had 'made'.

Jiang Cheng was alone.

***

"A-Cheng, it's going to be my birthday this weekend..." Yanli-Jie said softly, handing Jiang Cheng a cup of tea as she did. Oh god, she's giving treats when she brings something up, this is gonna be something he won't enjoy.

"I'm aware, JieJie..." Jiang Cheng said suspiciously, taking the tea regardless. "Why are we bringing it up? Do I need to babysit? You know I have no issue doing that."

"No, no it's not that A-Cheng." Yanli-Jie smiled sweetly and sat across from him. "We're actually having a party, so there's no need for that."

"So, what is it?" Jiang Cheng frowned, taking a sip of his tea.

"Well, we're inviting a bunch of friends," Yanli-Jie began, looking at her hands. "And family, too."

Ah, that's what it was. Jiang Cheng sat his cup down and sighed heavily. "JieJie..."

"A-Cheng, it's been so many years, and it's my birthday." Yanli-Jie looked up at him, close to pleading with him. "All I want for my birthday is to have you two in the same room again, happy."

Jiang Cheng looked away from her, trying his best to not scowl at his sister. She was the only one who knew everything that had gone on between him and Wei Ying and Lan Zhan. Possibly even more, considering she still reached out to Wei Ying and talked to him. Jiang Cheng often had to hold back asking how he was, if he was happy and taking care of himself.

"JieJie, I don't know if I can..." Jiang Cheng started, taking a deep breath. "But...for you, I'll try."

Yanli-Jie clapped her hands and pulled her little brother into a tight hug, babbling how thankful and happy she was. Jiang Cheng just tried to not think about what could possibly happen after facing Wei Ying all these years later.

They were due to graduate a month later, so it's not like Jiang Cheng wouldn't see him then too. He might as well do this favor for his sister.

When the day actually arrived, Jiang Cheng tried to spend as much time as he could just playing with Jin Ling instead of socializing. He had never been as popular as his siblings had, so the whole party was just... not his kind of scene. Occasionally people he recognized came over, both Nie brothers came and said hello (only Nie Mingjue played with Jin Ling though, Nie Huaisang thought babies were gross).

For a while, Jiang Cheng and Nie Mingjue sat in amicable silence and let Jin Ling babble happily between them, enjoying having attention from people while everybody else wandered about the room. It was nice, for the first time since Yanli-Jie mentioned the party, Jiang Cheng felt relaxed. However, it only lasted a moment.

The door opened, happy yelling filling the room.

"JieJie!! A-Ying is here!"

Jiang Cheng tensed up, his face already forming into a tight scowl. Both Nie Mingjue and baby Jin Ling noticed, the latter mimicking his expression.

"A-Ying, hello! And hello to you too, A-Zhan." Yanli-Jie's warm voice did little to soothe the cold ache that spread through his chest at hearing that stupid fucking Lan Zhan was there as well. Of course he was, of fucking course. "What's that I see, A-Ying?"

Jiang Cheng turned just enough to see out of the corner of his eye Wei Ying with his arm looped in Lan Zhan's, his other hand laying on his chest.

The hand that had their matching bracelet on after all these years, the hand that now had a silver band adorning one of his fingers.

"Well, haha..." Wei Ying laughed nervously. "Lan Zhan and I are engaged!"

Jiang Cheng stopped breathing. Everything froze in that moment, even Jin Ling seemed to stop trying to grab onto Nie Mingjue's tie to chew on it. Jiang Cheng looked at them fully, unable to look away from Wei Ying's glowing smile as he held onto Lan Zhan's arm. Yanli-Jie pulled Wei Ying and Lan Zhan into a tight hug, excitedly sharing her congratulations. A few others joined in, patting them on the back and offering well wishes.

The world wasn't frozen, only Jiang Cheng was. That hole in his chest seemed to completely freeze over, sure to never thaw. He said nothing, turning back to look at Jin Ling as he slobbered all over Nie Mingjue's tie. The baby looked up at him, tilting his head a little bit. Jin Ling giggled and reached up for his uncle, not letting go of the tie he had designated as his new pacifier.

Jiang Cheng obliged and picked up his nephew, gently prying the tie out of his grasp. Nie Mingjue grunted his appreciation, staring dubiously at the massive spit stain, but it went unnoticed by Jiang Cheng. Silently he walked out of the room, holding Jin Ling close and ignoring the happy crowd of people. Even his brother in law that Wei Ying had previously sworn to beat into a pulp one day was over and congratulating the happy couple.

Jiang Cheng went into Jin Ling's room and sat in the rocking chair by his changing table, sighing as he sat. He wasn't surprised at all. He knew this day was going to come soon, he just didn't expect it to happen today, the same day he would actually see Wei Ying again for the first time in years.

The thing that hurt most of all was how happy Wei Ying looked as he shared the news. He looked like he was full of life, shining so happily that he lit up the entire room. It was as if Jiang Cheng being out of his life had absolutely no affect. While Jiang Cheng had spent the last few years refusing to look at anything stained dark blue and couldn't bear to be around others without feeling terribly out of place, Wei Ying was fine. He was whole, complete, happy. Happy without him around.

Jiang Cheng didn't realize a tear had managed to slip out until a nearly asleep Jin Ling whined at the feeling of something wet hitting his cheek. Muttering out a curse he wiped the tear away and sniffled lightly.

"Jiang Cheng?"

A voice broke him out of his thoughts, startling him so much he clutched Jin Ling to his chest as he looked up, eyes wild and rimmed red.

Wei Ying stood in the door way, arms crossed over his chest as he looked in. He was smiling in the same scared way he had when he had come out, like everything could crumble in seconds if he said another word.

Jiang Cheng glared and looked away, focusing on his half asleep nephew instead. "What do you want?" he snapped, keeping his voice low enough that it wouldn't wake the baby. The last thing he needed was for Jin Ling to start crying in the middle of whatever this was.

Jiang Cheng heard the sound of the door closing, soft footsteps padding closer and stopping right in front of him. "I was hoping to see my nephew... and his uncle as well."

Wei Ying's voice didn't sound right. It was sad, strained; like he was yelling from down a long hallway. It didn't have the same life it usually- well, used to always have.

"Maybe they didn't want to have to see you." Jiang Cheng spat, immediately regretting it when he saw Wei Ying wince and take a step back. "Maybe you should just fucking leave me alone, you seem to have no issue turning your back on me." He couldn't stop the words from spilling out, years of pent up anger lashing out now that one of the causes of all that hurt was right in front of him.

"Fuck you." Wei Ying shot back, his smile completely gone. Any trace of happiness that had been in those eyes before was missing and replaced with the same ice that had been lodged inside Jiang Cheng's chest all these years. "You were the one that left, and I don't even fucking know why and-"

Jiang Cheng nearly left out of his seat. "You do fucking know why! You and your stupid fucking saint of a fiancé knowwhy!"

"I don't even know what your stupid fucking fight was about!" Wei Ying yelled, hands running through his hair in frustration. "All I know is that you fucking hit Lan Zhan and then you ran out!! He wouldn't even say what had fucking happened!"

Jin Ling had enough of the yelling and started to cry, his face turning bright red as he wailed in Jiang Cheng's arms. Jiang Cheng couldn't hear him over the static in his ears.

"You..." The anger melted away. "You- you don't know?" Jiang Cheng asked softly, muscle memory alone keeping him from dropping Jin Ling all together.

"How could I know?" Wei Ying scoffed, the hard glare softening a little bit. "You ran away and didn't talk to me for three years- what the fuck, by the way- and Lan Zhan refused to say what had happened! That was the biggest fight we ever had, and he still hasn't told me what it was all about to this day!" Wei Ying sighed and walked over, snatching Jin Ling out of Jiang Cheng's arms and soothing him gently.

Jiang Cheng stood there silently and just watched as Jin Ling started to settle back down a bit, cooing about being held by someone else.

"He never told you..." Jiang Cheng mumbled, sitting back in the rocking chair. All these years of hiding, of being angry and hateful towards somebody who kept his biggest secret from the person he told everything to. All these years of wondering if Wei Ying hated him now, if that was why it was so easy to stay away.

"I didn't want to just leave you alone," Wei Ying grumbled as if reading his thoughts. "But you- god, you're so fucking difficult sometimes? And it's easier to just, let you cool off and come back on your own rather than try and force you to talk. But... you never came back."

Jiang Cheng shook his head and sighed. "I thought you knew and..." he trailed off. "If you knew, you would never have wanted to speak to me anyways. It was easier to just leave first before you had the chance."

Wei Ying scoffed out a laugh, pacing a little bit as he gently rocked Jin Ling in his arms. "I caught you jacking off in our shared bedroom to the idea of our best friends brother while you were wearing one of my t-shirts, your reason being, you didn't want cum on your own clothes."

Jiang Cheng huffed out a small laugh at the memory. "It was an ugly shirt anyways, it needed to be burned regardless of what it was used for."

"That was my favorite band shirt, it was a legendary misprinted Wiggles shirt where all the faces were printed upside down! And without eyes!" Wei Ying defended, laughing more normally than he had since coming in. "Jiang Cheng, if I didn't hate you for that, I doubt you could make me hate you at all."

Jiang Cheng sighed and stood up, walking over to Wei Ying and Jin Ling, smiling a bit at them. He said nothing for a bit, just enjoying the calm energy that surrounded him for the first time in years.

Wei Ying looked down at Jin Ling and beamed. "Thank god he looks more like A-Jie than her stupid peacock of a husband, am I right?"

Jiang Cheng snorted out a laugh and nodded. "He has his fathers attitude already though, little brat thinks he can have whatever he wants and that he's always right. Hasn't even turned two yet and thinks he's the one in charge."

"He's a baby, Jiang Cheng." Wei Ying scoffed. "Of course he's the one in charge." The two stood in silence, simply staring down at their nephew with twin smiles. "Lan Zhan and I are planning on getting one of these things." Wei Ying whispered as if he were more speaking to himself than out loud.

Jiang Cheng pushed away the same familiar sour feeling for a moment, enjoying this long past due bonding moment. "Congrats on being engaged." he mumbled.

Wei Ying looked over at him, eyes glowing with happiness like before. "Thank you."

Jiang Cheng nodded and shrugged a little bit, unable to look at that smile for too long.

"Hey, Jiang Cheng, before I forget..." Wei Ying carefully situated Jin Ling in one arm and reached into his pocket, pulling out his phone. Jiang Cheng stared in confusion as he fumbled around with it for a bit before handing it over. "Just hit play, I'm gonna take Jin Ling to meet his other uncles."

Jin Ling knew all of his uncles perfectly well, Lan Zhan included. Jiang Cheng knew he must just not want to be around for whatever would happen after he pressed play. He took the phone and without another word, Wei Ying slid out of the room and closed the door behind him.

Jiang Cheng hit play on the phone and listened to the song play, not moving a muscle until it was finished. Only when the final notes faded out and the screen turned off, Jiang Cheng stood and walked out of the nursery. 

Wei Ying was nervously gripping Lan Zhan's arm, smiling just a tiny bit, just enough to keep Jin Ling calm as he was held by a very stiff, very new to children Lan Zhan. At the sound of the nursery door opening, they both turned.

Without saying a word, Jiang Cheng walked up to them both quickly and pulled Wei Ying into a tight hug, holding him close. Hardly a second of hesitation passed before Wei Ying also looped his arms around Jiang Cheng, holding on just as tightly.

The two stood there, hugging each other for the first time in so many years, tears threatening to fall from both of their squeezed shut eyes. Wei Ying pulled back first, sniffling a little bit.

"Are we okay?" He asked softly, his voice threatening to crack.

Jiang Cheng nodded, smiling a little bit.

"Do you mean it?" Wei Ying asked, holding up his pinky between them.

Jiang Cheng looped his pinky with the others, nodding again. He turned to look at Lan Zhan who was staring with an almost expression.

"Us too." Jiang Cheng nodded at him and patted him on the back with his free hand. Lan Zhan gave a very crooked, very small smile in return, handing Jin Ling back over.

The rest of the party went by happily, both Wei Ying and Jiang Cheng sat on either side of Yanli-Jie while she opened gifts (her husband stood over her shoulder so he could run and grab anything if needed, happy to do whatever his beloved wished).

By the end of the night, Jiang Cheng and Wei Ying were joking and messing around like they had before. Jiang Cheng even poked light fun at Lan Zhan, enjoying anytime he could manage to make the other huff and hide a smile.

When Wei Ying and Lan Zhan had to leave, Jiang Cheng felt that chill rise up in his chest once again, but he squashed it as quickly as it rose. He had his best friend back, his best friend was happy and still cared for him. That could be good enough.

***

Jiang Cheng huffily adjusted Jin Ling's little bowtie, adjusting his bib where it had shifted. "We can't get your clothes messy, A-Ling, help JiuJiu out here..." he grumbled. Jin Ling giggled and kicked his feet around, perfectly fine with getting baby food on his nice clothing.

"ShuShu, why is A-Ling getting messy?" Little Lan Yuan questioned, standing on his toes to lean over the baby carriage and stare down at his cousin. "BaBa said that we can't get our clothes messy and we gotta sit poperly."

"Properly, A-Yuan." Yanli-Jie corrected kindly. "A-Ling doesn't know to keep clean yet, he's still a baby."

This answer didn't satisfy Lan Yuan who huffed a little bit. "But we gotta teach him GuGu! If A-Ling don't learn then he can't go to the moon! Moon is clean and A-Ling has to be clean as the moon."

Jiang Cheng nodded, trying his best to understand the logic behind A-Yuan's statement. "He will learn, it just takes time," he assured his nephew. "Where's your BaBa? It's his wedding, he should be saying hi to his family." The words still had a slight bitter taste, but he was able to ignore it more often than not.

"BaBa and A-Die said somethin' about the bathroom and to stay with ShuShu for fit-een minutes!" Lan Yuan held up his hands to count to fifteen on his fingers right as his fathers walked back into the room, adjusting their suits discreetly.

"Oh, A-Ying..." Yanli-Jie sighed heavily, laughing a little bit.

"At your own fucking wedding..." Jiang Cheng was a little less entertained by the idea, especially knowing that his poor nephew had to deal with them full time now.

"Hi guys!" Wei Ying greeted, a flush still high on his cheeks and a small bruise forming under his ear. Lan Zhan looked completely normal, as if he hadn't just been fucking his new husband in the public bathroom. The only thing different was the small smile he hadn't been spotted without all day long.

"Wei Ying! Don't be disgusting in front of my nephews!" Jiang Cheng snapped, defensively pulling A-Yuan and A-Ling's baby carrier a little closer.

"A-Ying, maybe don't use your son to explain your..." Yanli-Jie sighed, pulling out her handbag to dig through it. She pulled out a small tube of concealer and stared pointedly. "Disappearances."

Wei Ying had the gall to blush and hide his face in his hands, laughing a little bit. "JieJie, will you help A-Ying with that?" He asked, looking back up and smiling innocently.

Yanli-Jie sighed and nodded with a smile, standing up and walking towards the side hallway, Wei Ying following happily.

"A-Yuan, are you being nice to your uncle?" Lan Zhan asked, crouching down to be at eye level with his son. Lan Yuan nodded excitedly, blindly reaching out for Jiang Cheng's leg and hugging him tightly.

"ShuShu and I are gonna teach A-Ling to be clean!" He told his father, beaming brightly.

Lan Zhan nodded. "That is a good thing to teach, very good, A-Yuan."

Lan Yuan kept off of his uncle and threw his arms around his father at the praise, now starting to babble about the moon and the cleanliness habits of aliens that he and his best friend had discovered and had to teach to baby Jin Ling when he got older. Lan Zhan nodded along, listening intently. He looked away for a moment to look and Jiang Cheng and offer a small nod before walking away, carrying his son across the floor.

Jiang Cheng sighed a little, smiling in spite of himself at his sweet nephew. He turned to look over at his other nephew but saw that Jin Zixuan was already playing with him. Seeing his options for speaking to people had been limited back down to zero, he stood up and headed over to the bar.

He nodded to the bartender who had been oh so kindly giving him glasses of whiskey all evening, another placed in his hand before he even sat the bar. Only one other person was sitting at the bar, everybody else was mingling about or dancing. Jiang Cheng turned to face the open room, sipping at his drink before speaking.

"Enjoying the wedding?" He asked, not looking over just in case he was ignored.

"It's a lot of people, nice though." Nie Mingjue replied, sighing a little and turning to face the room as well. "You?"

"Would be better if the only people who enjoy speaking to me are under the age of five." Jiang Cheng scoffed, taking another sip of his drink. "As long as they're all having fun, guess it's fine." he shrugged and glanced over.

Looking at Nie Mingjue now, as an adult, it was completely obvious why he had a crush on him as a kid. 

"Huaisang told me about you liking me." Nie Mingjue said as if he read his mind. "Something about ruining a shirt?" He grinned as if it were perfectly fine and acceptable to poke fun at a very embarrassing secret while in public.

"I'm going to kill Huaisang." Jiang Cheng downed the rest of his drink and turned to face the bar, unable to look at the other. "That was the only secret I ever told him and he couldn't even keep that." He grumbled a little more to himself than out loud.

"In his defense, I think he waited a whole day to tell me." Nie Mingjue laughed over his words. "And you were the the one who thought you could tell my brother something and not have other people find out. You should know how much of a gossip he is."

Jiang Cheng laughed a little bit, rubbing a hand over his face. "Oh trust me, I know. The last time we hung out he gave me an entire run down of his former-best-friend-now-turned-enemy almost becoming a full blown enemy of the state."

"Ah, A-Yao." Nie Mingjue sighed a little, finishing off his drink and placing his glass by Jiang Cheng's. "After we broke up, A-Sang was, well, a little bitter. If the evidence that A-Yao thought he destroyed wasn't actually ditched, A-Sang never admitted to knowing anything about it."

Jiang Cheng laughed again, turning to face him. "Wait, you dated the enemy of the state? The one currently on the run for fraud and god knows what else?"

Nie Mingjue nodded with a sigh. "He was a lot nicer when we first met, I swear."

Jiang Cheng hadn't laughed this much in a while, the smiling hurting his face a little bit. He held back the urge to push his face back into it's usual scowl. This was nice. Not to mention, he dated a guy, which means... His mind unhelpfully added in.

"So, what do you do when you're not dating possible criminals?" Jiang Cheng asked, nodding to the bartender to fill his glass.

"Typically, just working." Nie Mingjue did the same, taking his glass once it was filled. "Though, finding a non-criminal could be something I look into."

Jiang Cheng took his glass as well, turning to look out at the ball room. Wei Ying was holding his son close, spinning around with him and Lan Zhan to the music. His smile lit up the entire room, as it should on the happiest day of his life. Lan Yuan was giggling loudly, squealing every time that his fathers would spin with him. Even Lan Zhan was as close as he could be to full on beaming. The song that Wei Ying had written for him played over head softly as he spent time with his new family. The cold that had been so rooted in place over the years thawed away a little more.

Jiang Cheng spun back to face Nie Mingjue, smiling a little bit. "Do you mean it?"