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be still, my foolish heart

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Lan Zhan knocks on the door to Wei Ying’s apartment, as always, ten minutes before he’s due.

“Just a sec!” Wei Ying calls out from the bathroom, still furiously rubbing cherry-almond scented lotion onto his bare legs. Once his limbs feel sufficiently supple, he heads for the front door to let Lan Zhan in, eyes lighting up at the paper bags of takeout in Lan Zhan’s hands. 

“You’re my favourite person,” Wei Ying says emphatically. “Always bringing me my two favourite things: food and your cock.” 

“Consider expanding your horizons,” Lan Zhan replies. 

He’s a great friend, and possibly the greatest friend-with-benefits Wei Ying could ask for. On a deliciously regular basis, Lan Zhan makes sure Wei Ying is fully fed and watered before destroying him in bed, then provides premium-level aftercare until Wei Ying feels steady enough to walk again. It’s better treatment than Wei Ying has received from most of his actual boyfriends, which he should probably be concerned about, but there’s no use in dwelling on the past when his present situation more than makes up for it. Call it good karma, or the universe finally cutting him some slack in the form of a six-foot-two hunk with back muscles straight out of Men’s Health magazine.

It’s a wonderful—and secret—little arrangement Wei Ying and Lan Zhan fell into not long ago, after being introduced by mutual friends at a party. The timing was tricky; they had both just gotten out of relationships and weren’t looking for anything serious, but a tentative and clumsy friendship grew from their initial attraction to each other. Just when Wei Ying had given up on trying to figure out this reserved, stoic, beautiful man, Lan Zhan had propositioned him in the bathroom of a karaoke bar, and they’d been steadily attached at the dick since.

So they hang out platonically with their shared friend group, and hang out in a decidedly less platonic way when they’re alone. Turns out that spending one-on-one time with someone naked really helps to speed up the process of getting to know them. Lan Zhan has all the markers of an excellent friend; honesty, thoughtfulness, generosity, a dry sense of humour that Wei Ying quickly developed a taste for. And this doesn’t even factor in the points he earns as a fuckbuddy, with model good-looks and the sexual stamina of a wild rhino. 

In terms of rebounds, Wei Ying could be doing a lot worse.

He can wholeheartedly call Lan Zhan one of his closest friends at this point, especially because he remembers all of Wei Ying’s favourite takeout orders. Wei Ying can already smell the warm, spicy Thai food wafting out of the containers that he takes from Lan Zhan, but tucks them away in the kitchen for now. 

“Aren’t you hungry?” Lan Zhan asks from the front door, where he’s still taking his shoes off and putting his slippers on. (He keeps slippers at Wei Ying’s apartment. Wei Ying doesn’t even wear slippers.)

“Yeah, for dick,” he calls back.

He can hear Lan Zhan’s sigh from the other room.

Truthfully, Wei Ying is a little hungry, but work’s been particularly hellish lately, but the knots of tension in his back could probably just be pounded out, so to speak. He wanders out to the living room, hoping to intercept Lan Zhan before he gets to the rabbit cage, but has no such luck; Lan Zhan is already sitting cross-legged in front of the large enclosure with Radish cradled in his arms. 

“Hello, sweet girl,” Lan Zhan says softly, giving her a gentle forehead rub with his fingertips. “How are you?” 

Wei Ying wants to laugh, if only to prevent himself from crying. Lan Zhan does this every time he comes over.

Every. Single. Time.

The first time he’d been invited over and caught sight of the cage, he spent half an hour glancing over at it until Wei Ying realized what he was looking at, and then introduced Lan Zhan to the nervous little ball of white fluff. “She’s only a few months old and I just rescued her. She doesn’t really do well around strangers yet,” Wei Ying had warned him. When Jiang Cheng had visited the day she came home from the animal shelter, Radish pooped directly into his hands and then hid behind the TV for three hours. 

“I will be gentle,” Lan Zhan reassured. He didn’t even pick her up, just poked his fingers into the cage and gave her soft pets when she came close enough. He carried that on for a few more visits until she began to acclimatize to him and sniff him out. Soon after that, she would accept being hand-fed some sliced vegetables by him, and eventually, she sat timidly in his lap and tolerated some light petting. Lan Zhan’s patience and persistence paid off in the end, because they were playing and snuggling like lifelong friends before Wei Ying even got the courage to ask Lan Zhan to tie him up in bed. Figures.

“You know, I could call someone else to have sex with me, if you’re busy over there,” Wei Ying had (half) joked once. Lan Zhan had looked up at him then, eyes blazing, bent Wei Ying over the coffee table, and fucked his soul into the astral plane. 

Regardless, Lan Zhan definitely paid special attention to Radish. He even called her princess once. (He doesn’t call Wei Ying that. Maybe Wei Ying would like to be a princess, too.) But he’s not going to deny Lan Zhan a nice cuddle with his rabbit, because Lan Zhan grew up without pets, and that’s just awful. On the upside, Lan Zhan is always happy to pet-sit, so Wei Ying had presented him with the spare key to his apartment and blanket permission to come by anytime for hangouts, of the animal and/or human variety. 

Now it’s Wei Ying’s turn to wait patiently while Lan Zhan has a little quality time with Radish, and Wei Ying can admit that it’s sweet, even if he’s a teensy bit jealous. He gets his phone out and snaps a picture of the soft, serene look on Lan Zhan’s face while Radish nuzzles into his chest, and reminds himself to text it to Lan Zhan later. 

Thankfully, Lan Zhan gets his fill of bunny kisses after just a few minutes, then hauls Wei Ying into the bedroom.

Afterwards, they dig into the food Lan Zhan brought over as they chat about their respective weeks while Radish gets another cuddle. Lan Zhan says goodbye for the night, leaving Wei Ying with a bruising kiss in the doorway, and Wei Ying finds himself squatting in front of the rabbit cage for a cuddle of his own until his heart stops pounding out of his chest.

The usual.

 

 

They see each other again the following week at Lan Zhan’s, but the subsequent hookup gets cancelled when Wei Ying comes down with a brief bout of food poisoning, and the one after that gets put on hold when Lan Zhan unexpectedly has to fly out on a business trip. It’s the first time they’ve spent two entire weeks apart, which is a bummer, because phone sex is not half as fulfilling as the real thing, and Wei Ying’s dildos don’t kiss him on the forehead after forcing him to come three times in two hours. 

“If you want to,” Lan Zhan says carefully over the phone. “You could find someone else for now.”

“Nah,” Wei Ying replies quickly, then finds himself having to come up with an excuse. “Too much work to make a new dating profile, and my exes aren’t worth the baggage. I’m not gonna die without sex. I can definitely wait. Anyway, it could be really bad with someone else! You’ve spoiled me, you know?” he rambles, tacking on a weak laugh at the end. 

Lan Zhan just hums on the other end of the line, and Wei Ying can’t decipher the meaning, so he blurts out, “but you could find someone else, too, if you want?” then smacks himself on the forehead for phrasing it like a nosy question. 

“I’m fine,” Lan Zhan says, and Wei Ying has to hold his phone away from his face to exhale in relief. “I’ll see you when I return.”

Which is in two days, not that Wei Ying is keeping track. He steers the conversation elsewhere before he says anything else weird and clingy. 

“Wanna say hi to Radish?” he asks instead, and Lan Zhan startles a laugh out of him when he says a polite yes please so fervently in response. They switch from an audio call to a video call as Wei Ying lays on the floor in front of Radish’s red bunny bed, where she is peacefully flopped, to try and get both of their faces in the shot. “Hey! Hey, look at the camera before I roast you in the oven at 350°,” he tells her. 

“Wei Ying,” Lan Zhan scolds, but at the sound of his voice, Radish perks up and sniffs inquisitively at the phone. Wei Ying rolls his eyes.

“Relax, Lan Zhan, she’s still too small to eat.”

Ignoring Wei Ying now, Lan Zhan gives Radish a warm smile. “Hello, little one,” he murmurs. “Did you miss me?”  

Wei Ying feels his face heat up. He sucks his bottom lip into his mouth and bites down, hard.

“I missed you, too.”

“You’re gonna give her a complex,” Wei Ying complains.

“Impossible.”

“Well, she’ll like you more than me!”

Lan Zhan huffs a little; more or less a laugh. “More impossible.”

Eventually, he has to go, leaving Wei Ying to eat cold leftovers and fall asleep in a cold bed. 

 

— 

 

When Lan Zhan is finally back in the city, he asks to spend the weekend at Wei Ying’s. It’s not something they usually do, what with their varying work schedules and Lan Zhan’s preference for an earlier bedtime, but he shows up with his overnight bag and saves Wei Ying the trouble of sneakily wearing him out until he has no choice but to pass out on the freshly laundered sheets. 

Lan Zhan has a funny way of knowing exactly what Wei Ying wants, without him having to ask. It’s terrible and wonderful in equal measure. 

Staying the night typically means splitting up their time between sex and other fun, non-sexual activites, like watching a movie or bickering over board games, so they play Ticket to Ride while Radish snoozes in Lan Zhan’s lap. Maybe she missed him as much as Wei Ying did, since she completely tired herself out running circles around Lan Zhan’s feet, and then tried to burrow under his shirt. It could be the most precious thing Wei Ying has ever seen, if he wasn’t wishing he was in Lan Zhan’s lap, too. 

Wei Ying takes a sip of his wine and gets to his feet. “I’m gonna shower,” he announces. 

Lan Zhan barely looks up. “Mn.”

As Wei Ying heads out of the living room, he strips out of his jeans and t-shirt, leaving a trail of clothes in his wake. Before he disappears down the hallway, he balls up his underwear and tosses it at Lan Zhan’s head.

Wei Ying doesn’t stick around to wait for a reaction, cackling as he dashes towards the bathroom and slamming the door shut behind him. He doesn’t lock it, of course—and only just gets under the spray of hot water when he hears the door creak open and the sound of clothes rustling before hitting the floor.

“Oh, what’s up, Lan Zhan? Did you need help with something?” Wei Ying asks nonchalantly, poking his head out from behind the shower curtain. 

Lan Zhan shoves him back as he steps into the shower and crowds Wei Ying up against the freezing tiles, making him hiss. “Yes, actually,” Lan Zhan says, one hand in Wei Ying’s wet hair, the other clutching Wei Ying’s hip. Lan Zhan pulls him into a kiss, parting his lips with his tongue to lick deeper into his mouth at the same time that he pulls Wei Ying’s thigh up to wrap his leg around Lan Zhan’s waist.

Wei Ying shivers, caught between the cold wall at his back and the searing press of Lan Zhan’s body against his front. After Lan Zhan breaks the kiss, leaving Wei Ying’s chest heaving for breath, Lan Zhan attaches his lips and teeth to the skin just under Wei Ying’s jaw.

“You could help me with this,” he says as he rolls his hips forward, sliding his hardening cock into the crease of Wei Ying’s groin. “It’s a pressing issue.

“O-oh,” Wei Ying says, voice cracking. “I see. Maybe I could—”

“Yes, you could,” Lan Zhan murmurs, slipping two fingers into Wei Ying’s open mouth. 

Predictably, he grins and moans around them. 

By now, Lan Zhan knows how to push every single one of Wei Ying’s buttons, which is fucking wonderful (in hindsight) and painfully frustrating (in the moment). Lan Zhan’s other hand travels across Wei Ying’s chest, roughly tweaking his nipples until they perk up, then heading south and getting a firm grip around Wei Ying’s dick.

Wei Ying whimpers and whines, not sucking on the fingers in his mouth as much as simply drooling around them, more focused on thrusting into Lan Zhan’s tight fist. 

“My hand or mouth?” Lan Zhan asks, to which Wei Ying’s eyes widen and he weakly grabs at Lan Zhan’s wet shoulders to push him downward. Generously, Lan Zhan pulls his fingers out of Wei Ying’s mouth and slides to his knees, then looks up at him while he licks up the underside of his length.

“Oh, fuck, A-Zhan,” Wei Ying whispers, tangling his fingers in Lan Zhan’s hair as he swallows Wei Ying down. 

Even while leaning back against a wall for support, his knees are still always in danger of giving out under him whenever Lan Zhan has his mouth on him. The sight of it alone is dizzying, but to feel every flick of Lan Zhan’s tongue, every syrupy swallow, Wei Ying feels utterly worshipped . Lan Zhan drapes one of Wei Ying’s legs over his shoulders, opening him up enough for Lan Zhan to be able to shove a spit-slick finger into his hole.

Wei Ying scratches at Lan Zhan’s scalp and yowls like a cat, nearly sobbing when Lan Zhan starts bobbing his head in time with each thrust of his finger. 

“There’s lube in the medicine cabinet,” he complains breathlessly.

Lan Zhan hums in response, taking Wei Ying in deeper and drawing a desperate moan out of him. 

With only a limited range of motion left, Wei Ying can only pant and squirm while enduring a second finger stretching him open. Between the pounding hot water and the warmth of Lan Zhan’s mouth, he can barely breathe, like he’s being consumed by wildfire, inside and out. Lan Zhan is steady and solid beneath him, and every precise thrust of his fingers has Wei Ying keening and gasping for air.

He glances down and sees Lan Zhan stroking himself, with his eyes shut and brows furrowed determinedly; the very picture of focus. Wei Ying could watch him like this for hours, taking in the sweet pink flush of Lan Zhan’s skin, feeling the way his throat tightens and flutters around him—but then Lan Zhan moans as his come splatters across the shower floor, and Wei Ying promptly loses it. His whole body flexes, toes curling, back arching as he follows Lan Zhan over the edge. Wei Ying’s dick pulses in the soft clutch of Lan Zhan’s lips, and Wei Ying shivers as Lan Zhan continues to tongue at the head to coax the last few drops out. 

Wei Ying manages two full breaths before Lan Zhan rises gracefully to his feet and shoves him back up against the wall again. He takes Wei Ying’s jaw in his unyielding grip and kisses him deeply, pushing all the come out of his own mouth and into Wei Ying’s. 

Wei Ying groans and swallows until it’s gone, letting Lan Zhan lick into his molars until he’s satisfied and pulls away.

“You threw your underwear at me,” he admonishes. Wei Ying delights in the slight rasp of his voice. 

“Worth it.”

Lan Zhan snorts. “You would think so.”

Wei Ying wraps his arms around Lan Zhan’s waist, not quite ready to untangle himself just yet, and Lan Zhan indulges him. He always does. He’s ridiculously dependable like that. 

“Are you mad at me for using dirty, underhanded tricks to get your attention?” Wei Ying asks, tilting his face upwards to rub his nose against Lan Zhan’s cheekbone. 

“Of course not,” Lan Zhan says, giving him a comforting squeeze. “Are you mad at me for not giving you more attention?”

There’s no point in lying. Wei Ying ducks his head down. “Nah. Not mad. Just...” he trails off with a tiny sigh. 

“Hm.” Lan Zhan drops kisses into Wei Ying’s hairline, squeezing him again. “I will be more mindful. Thank you for telling me.”

It takes a moment for Wei Ying to finally look up at him, and when he does, he suddenly feels something a little too big for his chest to contain. 

“You’re a really great friend, Lan Zhan,” Wei Ying says softly, reminding himself that that’s all they are, then leans up and kisses Lan Zhan before he can say anything back. 

They do, eventually, let go of each other to finish their shower. They don’t touch again, not like that, but Lan Zhan stays close and helps Wei Ying scrub his back, and it warms him all the way through, even after they shut the water off. 

 

— 

 

It wouldn’t be entirely accurate to say Wei Ying is unsettled by the revelations about his… potential feelings towards Lan Zhan, but it gets him thinking.

When they first started hooking up, they had only vaguely discussed the terms for ending the arrangement, and most of them had to do with lacking time or interest, or finding other romantic partners they were serious about. Those conditions suited Wei Ying fine back then, but now he realizes that he never factored in how things would change if Lan Zhan became the romantic partner he was serious about. 

This was just supposed to be a little healthy stress relief between friends. Surely it would be unwise for them to keep fucking if it began to mean anything more to Wei Ying. Unethical, even. He would only be hurting himself if he continued this kind of relationship while harbouring a one-sided crush that threatens to ruin everything they’re doing. Worst of all, Lan Zhan might not want to abandon their close friendship, and then Wei Ying would have to deal with having him around but not being able to kiss him and touch him whenever the mood strikes—and, frankly, that mood strikes constantly. Wei Ying can just about control himself when they’re in public, but once they’re alone together, he can barely make it ten minutes before getting his greedy little hands on Lan Zhan somehow. 

Unfortunately, this isn’t something Wei Ying can discuss with their other friends without revealing that they’ve been secretly hooking up for months. It’s not that Wei Ying is ashamed of having a fuckbuddy, nor is he ashamed of it being Lan Zhan. It’s just that he knows how private of a person Lan Zhan is. He only opens up when you’ve earned it, and it took Wei Ying weeks to even get his phone number. Wei Ying definitely doesn’t want to invite everyone into Lan Zhan’s personal business, so this is a cross he must bear alone. At least, this way, none of their friends would be able to pass any judgements on them. They’re both grown, consenting adults, agreeing to have some fun until they stop having fun. Which could be soon, to Wei Ying’s distress.

But Lan Zhan has become the first person Wei Ying goes to when he needs advice on something, and he’s grown used to that comfort, that safety blanket of Lan Zhan having his back and guiding him through tough situations with a clear head and a reasonable outlook. Without that, Wei Ying feels a bit like he’s floundering.

Frankly, this whole thing started because he’s somehow grown jealous of his own pet rabbit, which makes it even more embarrassing to admit to himself, let alone say aloud to someone else. If it all goes south, Radish would lose Lan Zhan, too, and she’d never forgive Wei Ying for the rest of her tiny, furry life. She’ll die with bitterness and resentment in her heart, betrayed and alone, and then come back to haunt Wei Ying as a ghost who chews through all of his TV wires. For her sake, this matter has to be handled delicately.

Wei Ying mulls it over further one evening as he lays on the floor, watching Radish explore the living room as she pleases. He takes his phone out and scrolls through the recent photos, finding the one he took a few weeks ago of Lan Zhan holding Radish in the cradle of his arms. Does he even realize he rocks her like a newborn?

Now Wei Ying is imagining Lan Zhan with a newborn.

He could cry. 

“Look at this! Look at you two,” Wei Ying sniffs. “Is this how mothers feel?” 

He reaches for Radish and pats her tenderly on the butt, which startles her. “You’re just a little, tiny baby, you know. Of course he loves you. Who wouldn’t?”

Wei Ying rolls over onto his side. The movement is too quick for her liking, so she safely retreats to the shadowy underbelly of the coffee table. “And you love him too. Maybe you love him more than you love me. What do you think?”

When she doesn’t dignify his question with a response, he sighs, reaches for the plate of bok choy placed on top of the table and tempts her out with a snack, luring her closer and closer.

“Mhm, that’s what I thought,” he mutters as she wanders back out. “You’re lucky you’re so cute. Little freeloader. Hey, let’s make a deal; I won’t be jealous of you as long as you always be nice to Lan Zhan. Make him happy and I’ll be happy, too, okay?”

As an afterthought, he adds, “but you also have to stop hopping into his lap when we’re making out. That lap is mine. You can have it afterwards.” 

Wei Ying takes it as tacit agreement when Radish tucks herself against his shoulder to enjoy the leafy treat. He coos at her, sneaks some kisses, and grabs a few selfies with her before she darts off again. They aren’t the most flattering on his part, with his long hair tangled and spread out across the floor, but Radish looks especially soft and round, and he knows exactly who would appreciate seeing her like this.

Wei Ying rolls onto his back, selects the picture where he looks the least disheveled, and texts it to Lan Zhan.

 

WY: [1 attachment]

WY: CHONKY 

 

The response comes almost immediately.

 

LZ: Would die for her <3

WY: What about me?? :(

LZ: I can’t die for you. Need to be alive to avenge your death

WY: Ok… That’s kinda sweet I guess...

LZ: Would you mind if I made this picture my phone background?

 

Wei Ying instantly drops his phone directly onto his face.

“Ow,” he hisses, rubbing at his sore nose. He catches the phone before it falls to the floor and quickly types back why? , erases it, then types out why do you think I would mind?? and deletes that as well. 

 

WY: We wouldn’t mind at all :) !

WY: Can I send a cuter one later tho? I didn’t even brush my hair yet skdhgsjskf

LZ: If you’d like, but you already look cute here

 

Wei Ying grabs a throw pillow off the couch and shrieks into it. Distantly, he hears Radish skitter away from the offensive sound. 

 

WY: Cuter than Radish?

LZ: I will not choose favourites. You are both cute 

WY: Omg Lan Zhan, such a boring, diplomatic answer :/

LZ: :-)

 

He doesn’t text back, but he does change his own phone wallpaper to the picture of Lan Zhan with Radish, before brushing his hair. 

 

 

Wei Ying breaks.

He can’t shoulder this burden alone anymore. He has to tell someone . And it ends up being nearly everyone in their little friend group, because Lan Zhan misses the next night out for some family thing. So Wei Ying slams several beers, eats two entire orders of dive bar nachos to himself, and announces to the entire booth that he thinks he’s fallen in love.

If he were any less drunk, he’d take serious offence at everyone’s lack of surprise.

“What do you mean?” Wei Ying demands, bits of tortilla chip flying out of his mouth. “How was it obvious?”

“How was it not ? ” Wen Qing rolls her eyes. “You always look at him like you’re about to crawl into his lap.” 

Mianmian snorts. “I’ve known Lan Zhan for years, and when I first introduced you two, I honestly didn’t know if you’d get along, but you actually got along too well.”

“And you touch him a lot,” Wen Ning points out. “No offense.”

“I touch everyone a lot!” Wei Ying protests. “I am naturally tactile with little regard for personal boundaries.”

“You touch him the most, though,” Nie Huaisang says gently as he pats Wei Ying on the shoulder. “It’s okay, A-Ying. If it helps, he’s also clearly in love with you, since he lets you rub yourself all over him like a cat in heat.”

“Well, I thought that, too,” Mianmian says with a sad twist to her mouth. “But Lan Zhan might already be seeing someone, or at least fucking them. I swear I saw a hickey on him the other day.”

“You know, we went to reformer pilates together last week, and I feel like I saw him almost-smile at his phone wallpaper. It was definitely a picture of someone,” Wen Qing adds.

Wei Ying blushes up to the roots of his hair. “Nevermind, let’s just drop it.”

“I think Wei Ying still has a chance,” Wen Ning argues. “Remember when we tried to have a potluck picnic at the park and Lan Zhan bridal-carried him to his car when a dog showed up? You don’t bridal-carry people you don’t like.” 

“I can find out who he’s sleeping with, if you want,” Nie Huaisang offers gravely. “My brother knows his brother, it’ll take me two hours, tops—”

“No! No, it’s fine,” Wei Ying interrupts, settling back into his seat. “I’ll handle it. Somehow.”

None of them know that they’re sleeping together.

None of them know, and yet they knew.

That has to count for something, right?

 

 

In the end, he really breaks.

There’s very little he can keep from Lan Zhan, who knows him inside and out, so this was bound to come to light eventually. This is what Wei Ying tells himself when the words fall out of his mouth as they’re curled up on the couch, watching some c-drama about esports with Radish nestled between them, and he feels so fucking content with life that he can’t help but impulsively sabotage the entire evening.

“So, like. Hypothetically speaking. What would you do if the way you felt about someone changed drastically?”

Lan Zhan freezes, and it’s only then that Wei Ying realizes Lan Zhan had his hand curled around the back of Wei Ying’s head, and was tenderly scratching through the buzzed hair of his undercut until just now. Wei Ying wants him to keep going, but doesn’t know how to ask for it. 

“I’m not sure what you mean,” Lan Zhan says eventually. 

Wei Ying chews on his bottom lip, keeping his eyes trained on the TV. “Well, let’s say you felt one way about a person, and your entire relationship with them was built on that. But then you realized you actually feel differently . And it makes everything feel…” he sighs. “Like you’re lying.”

Under the soft sounds of the episode playing, he hears Lan Zhan take a few measured breaths. “I… don’t know what you want me to say.”

Wei Ying slips one of his knuckles into his mouth and gnaws on it, giving himself something else to focus on that isn’t the feeling of dread swirling like a whirlpool in his chest, threatening to collapse everything in it. “I don’t know. Forget it,” he mumbles, drawing his shoulders up to his ears. “Just ignore me.”

But Lan Zhan just turns to face him, which startles Radish enough for her to regally hop to the floor, then takes Wei Ying’s hand out of his mouth and holds it firmly in his. 

“Wei Ying,” he says, pleads , searching Wei Ying’s face with an intensity that he’s never seen before. “I need you to be direct. Are you breaking up with me?”

“Break—am I—you think—” Wei Ying stammers, eyes wide. “Lan Zhan! What are you saying?”

“But do you truly feel differently about me now?” he asks, with a waver in his voice that sounds close to shattering.

Yes ,” Wei Ying says emphatically, grabbing a fistful of Lan Zhan’s sweater and giving him a hearty shake. “As in—god, Lan Zhan, I’m in love with you. That’s the different feeling.”

Lan Zhan doesn’t respond, doesn’t move, doesn’t even blink, so Wei Ying gives him another fierce shake. “Break up with you? I didn’t even know there was something to break! Are we dating? You never asked me out!”

Lan Zhan seems to remember himself at that point, his ears going pink.

“And another thing,” Wei Ying barrels on, getting to his knees on the couch so he can tower over Lan Zhan and give him a proper dressing-down. “Even if we were dating, you think I would dump you through a hypothetical question while we’re cuddling on my couch? We just ordered pizza! And it hasn’t even arrived yet!” He jabs Lan Zhan in the chest with a finger. “I can’t believe you think so little of me!”

Lan Zhan’s ears are flaming red now. He grabs Wei Ying’s hand before he can poke him again, and presses an apologetic kiss to his wrist. “I love Wei Ying, too.”

“You—!” Wei Ying starts, before catching himself and lowering his voice. “Are you just saying that so I’m not embarrassed?” he demands. 

“Please sit so we can talk,” Lan Zhan urges gently.

Wei Ying slowly, warily sinks back down onto the couch. “You first.”

Lan Zhan nods, but takes a few moments to speak. “I believed that the nature of our relationship had changed. Had become… real. Something more. We started seeing each other regularly and exclusively, and I thought our feelings were mutual and reciprocated. I see now that I could have communicated that better,” he finishes, looking away.

“Zhanzhan,” Wei Ying says with a frown. “If you thought we were dating, why didn’t you ever mention it to any of our friends? Nobody even knows about us.”

“I was following your lead. I thought things were going slowly because you wanted to remain discreet,” Lan Zhan confesses in a murmur. “I know it’s not easy for you to discuss your emotions.”

Wei Ying doesn’t even have it in him to get upset about that extremely accurate assessment.

“Please believe me when I say that I would never shut up about it if you were my boyfriend,” he declares firmly. “How long have you even felt this way about me? I thought…” he pauses, scrubbing a hand down his face. “Well. I thought you weren’t looking for anything serious.”

“Wei Ying. I have been in love with you since you trusted me enough to give me a key to your apartment,” Lan Zhan says with conviction. He doesn’t even hesitate. “It was less than a month after we began sleeping together. I should have told you then, but I was afraid of ruining the friendship we had. Later, I believed you already knew, and eventually felt the same.”

Wei Ying could have sworn he wasn’t crying, but Lan Zhan reaches out to brush his thumb against the corner of Wei Ying’s eye, and it comes away wet.

“How did you figure out I was in love with you before I did?” he grumbles, leaning forward until his face is squished against Lan Zhan’s chest. 

“I felt it,” Lan Zhan says softly. He settles his hand around the nape of Wei Ying’s neck again, resuming the tender, comforting scratching of his shaved hair. Wei Ying shivers at the feeling. “As we got to know each other and grew closer as friends, I saw it in the little things you did for me. You value your independence, but you made me a priority in your life anyway. I was not just allowed in it, but part of it.”

When he puts it like that, it sounds so simple. So easy. 

“This is awful,” Wei Ying complains into Lan Zhan’s shirt. “What I said was bad, and everything you’re saying is perfect. I ruined everything.”

“You prompted an important conversation. One that was long-overdue.” 

“Yeah, but I did it poorly. Shittily.”

Lan Zhan snorts, conceding. “It could have gone better.”

“I scared you,” Wei Ying whines, sitting back up to look him in the eye. “You thought we were breaking up.”

Lan Zhan draws him in closer and kisses the pout off his lips. “I think we did the opposite.”

“Huh. I guess we did.” 

Maybe Lan Zhan is feeling indulgent, because he kisses Wei Ying a little more in that slow, melting way he likes to reserve for when they’re procrastinating on cleaning up after sex. 

“You were right,” Lan Zhan says as he gathers Wei Ying up in his arms and hauls him into his lap. “I wasn’t looking for anything serious, but I became serious about you. I hope you’ll forgive me for assuming the rest of it.”

“Only if you can forgive me for not realizing,” Wei Ying says. “I can’t believe I was worrying about how much I wanted to date you, while we were literally on dates.”

“Not entirely your fault,” Lan Zhan says reassuringly, stroking a hand up and down Wei Ying’s back. “Communication is a two-way street.”

Wei Ying nods, then barks out a pitiful laugh. “Hey, you wanna know how I realized I liked you? Radish. Fuckin’ Radish.”

Lan Zhan makes a noise of curiosity, and Wei Ying laughs a little harder.

“You were always so sweet and cute and loving to her, and I was like, why doesn’t he treat me like that? I wanted you to treat me like that, Lan Zhan. You made me jealous of my own rabbit!”

Lan Zhan frowns a little, still rubbing Wei Ying’s back as he shakes from giggling. “I told you I will not choose favourites.”

Wei Ying’s laughs die down. “I know, I know. I guess I was just looking for something to blame my feelings on. An excuse.”

“No need. I can love both Wei Ying and Radish. It’s not a hardship.”

“Yeah, but,” Wei Ying sits back and walks his fingers up Lan Zhan’s chest, stopping at his lips. “Love me more, right?”

Lan Zhan bites at Wei Ying’s fingertips, capturing one and holding it between his teeth. “Still jealous?”

Hunkering down into himself, Wei Ying pouts. “No. Yes. Maybe a little,” he admits, feeling foolish. “I was in unspeakable turmoil about hiding my feelings for you and you called her princess , how was I supposed to handle that?”

Lan Zhan blinks, then huffs a laugh, himself. “I have only ever called her that once.”

When Wei Ying scowls, Lan Zhan gets an arm under his knees and manhandles Wei Ying into a bridal-carry as he gets to his feet. “Let me show this princess that she doesn’t need to worry anymore.” 

Wei Ying yelps, slinging an arm around Lan Zhan’s neck, shrieking the entire walk from the couch to bedroom. “What about the pizza!” he cries as Lan Zhan throws him onto the bed. 

“I can get you off before it arrives. Maybe twice. It doesn’t take you long at all.”

“You’re so mean, and now I’m stuck with you,” Wei Ying laments, legs falling open as Lan Zhan settles over his body. 

“Yes,” Lan Zhan confirms. “Very mean. Very stuck.”

Wei Ying grabs him by the shirt collar and pulls him down into a kiss. It’s messy and hungry, on the edge of desperation, and most of all, honest. Now, Wei Ying can kiss without fear of giving himself away, without holding back. Something swells in his chest, bright and warm, like it’s making room for something. For someone .

“Did I ever tell you that you’re my favourite person?” he whispers against Lan Zhan’s lips.

“Every time I came over,” Lan Zhan whispers back, then adds after a pause, “Even without the food and sex, I wanted it to be true.”

Feeling very much like he’s in danger of crying again, Wei Ying wraps his arms and legs around Lan Zhan and holds him there, secure. “It was. It is.”