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Stuck With U

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Written as part of the MDZS Mixtape Exchange 2021
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Song- Stuck With U- Ariana Grande feat. Justin Bieber

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Can be found on Youtube here

And also here on Spotify

 

 

Jingyi was warm. Cozy.

His muscles were infused with a syrupy warmth, and a shaft of early morning light warmed his lower legs. Consciousness was slow to return to him, after a deep, well-rested night.

Except his alarm was beeping, and his phone was buzzing, so something must have happened overnight. He reached over to turn off his alarm, blessed silence commencing as the phone stopped buzzing, only for it to start again.

He groaned, and arms wrapped around his chest, lips pressed against the back of his neck.

“If it’s Zizhen, tell him to fuck off.” Jin Ling mumbled into his back. “’M too tired to deal with his latest drama.” Jingyi rubbed the sleep out of his eyes, and picked up his phone, a hand coming down to gently caress Jin Ling’s knuckles.

Sizhui:

0443

Jingyi, shit’s going down at HQ. Get here ASAP.

0447

Not kidding, hurry up. It’s urgent.

0448

And classified. I can’t tell you over text

0451

Detective Meng is here holy shit get over here this is serious.

0453

Jingyi

Jingyi

JINGYI

LAN JINGYI

0455

If you don’t get here by 0515, I’m telling Commissioner Lan it was you who swapped all the coffee for decaf last week. And Detective Yu.

0500

JINGYI I KNOW YOUR ALARM HAS GONE OFF GET OUT OF BED NOW AND GET YOUR ASS TO HQ THIS INSTANT

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“It’s Sizhui. Some sort of emergency at HQ.”

“Oh?” Jin Ling unwrapped his arms, and pushed Jingyi out of bed. “Hurry up then. Go save the world.”

“You’re kicking me out of my own bed?” Jingyi feigned hurt. “Et tu, Rulan?”

“Don’t call me that.” Jin Ling grumbled. “You’ll miss your briefing if you don’t hurry.”

Jingyi sighed, and grabbed a clean uniform from out of his wardrobe, pulling on the pants quickly.

“I’m sorry, A-Ling.” Jingyi sighed. “I know we had plans today but…”

“I know.” Jin Ling sat up, hair mussed and a hickey on his neck. Jingyi was very proud of that one. Jin Ling would actually have to use makeup to cover it. Or wear that very sexy blue turtleneck sweater.

“Work comes first. It’s what we agreed on.”

“Three years ago.” Jingyi buttoned up his vest, and checked the straps. “Maybe it’s time to re-evaluate our relationship goals. For example, my bed could be our bed, if you get my drift.”

“Oh my god!” Jin Ling flopped back onto the bed. “You have been talking to Zizhen again. What have you been saying?”

“Only how much I adore you, Lingling!” Jingyi swooped forward, and kissed his partner, Jin Ling responding eagerly. It was slow and soft and golden, and everything Jingyi had ever wanted in a morning kiss…

His phone buzzed again, and Jin Ling broke off the kiss, shoving his chest.

Go. Don’t be late. I’ll see you tonight?”

“You’ll definitely see me tonight.” Jingyi waggled his eyebrows in a suggestive manner, and Jin Ling smiled, helpless.

“Get going! Or Sizhui will have my head.”

“Yes yes, little mistress. I’m going!” Jingyi laughed, exiting the bedroom. Grabbing a shake and a banana from the fridge on his way out, he flicked a quick message to Sizhui to let him know he was on his way. The reply was filled with flame emoji’s mixed with the poop ones, and a very scathing message about timeliness, as well as a follow-up about the briefing starting in ten minutes.

Jingyi frowned, and walked faster.

If he was late again, Commissioner Lan would have his head.

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He’d managed to sneak in, sliding into the seat before Commissioner Lan showed up, and tossed back the rest of his shake.

“Sizhui, what the fuck is going on?”

“Commissioner Lan summoned all available officers to a briefing with a very high security level.” Sizhui murmured. “Detective Meng showed up soon after, looking half-dead and fuelled by excessive amounts of coffee. He had so many files, Jingyi.” Sizhui looked haunted.

“So many files. Plus three data sticks. Whatever it is, it’s big news. And very important.”

“Attention!” Came the call as Commissioner Lan entered the room, and strode to the front, uniform immaculate and too tidy for 0515 hours. It had to be magic.

The room stood and saluted, Commissioner Lan returned it.

“At ease. Time is of the essence here, so I will be brief. As at 0246, Detective Meng and an unnamed hacker managed to breach the firewall surrounding the files of the terrorist group, Cackling Blades. Preliminary scans show that their major base of operations is located here, in the southern section of the city, under what was once the Wen Syndicate territories.”

He clicked a button, and the map popped up on the screen, the aforementioned area outlined in red. Jingyi blinked. It was quite a lot of area to cover, especially if they were utilizing all of the Wen Syndicates old assets.

Jingyi was too young to remember the reign of terror, and the subsequent riots and battles that destroyed the drug tycoon, Wen Rouhan, but he remembered the fallout five years ago when the descendants stepped forwards to claim reparations against them. He had been in high school when Wen Qing, an up and coming doctor, and Wen Ning, an aspiring baker, had demanded compensation for the wrongs done to their branch of the Wens. Their family had been primarily healers and honest tradespeople, but many had been arrested, imprisoned or killed in raids for bearing the same last name. It had been messy, drawn out, and the topic of gossip for months afterwards.

“This warehouse is currently being used to store illegal substances and munitions. Detective Meng confirmed with a contact that it was still in use, and heavily guarded. Which is why all non-essential operations will be ceased, and all man-power directed towards a raid. Questions?”

“Today, sir?” Lan Lin queried, grey eyes sharp. Beside her, Lan Mei studied the map, making notes in a small booklet. The two sisters were part of the riot squads, Jingyi remembered. Lan Lin dominated the hand-to-hand in the women’s competition last year.

“Correct. Operations will commence at 0700. We will be co-operating with the Internal Affairs squads, primarily the anti-terrorist squads.”

“Holy shit.” Jingyi murmured under his breath. This was big. Commissioner Lan and Detective Meng had been chasing Cackling Blades for years. And to finally find an opportunity like this? Christmas must have come early.

“I pass onto Detective Meng to further brief you.”

Detective Meng stepped up, and Jingyi blinked. He had hardly ever crossed paths with any Jin Ling’s many uncles (one was an artist, another a barista/web designer, the last the CEO of Jiang Corp.), but he recognized this one no problem. Meng Yao looked very similar to Jin Ling and his father, but had softer features that obviously came from his mother. Everyone knew that Jin Zixuan and Meng Yao were half-brothers, but that was all. Meng Yao had an eidetic memory, a keen sense of when people were lying, and a predilection towards gruesome homicide cases that were ‘unsolvable’. Needless to say, he had a very high success rate and terrified the shit out of Jingyi.

“Thank you, Commissioner Lan. Cackling Blades is an internationally listed terrorist group. Make no mistake. These are fanatics, murderers, rapists; you name it, they’ve done it. They were responsible for the library bombing six months ago, and the museum hostage situation two months ago. Aside from these major incidents, there are many minor ones; robberies, assault, blackmail and intimidation. They are led by this man.”

On the projector, a picture popped up, featuring a man with strong angular features and a maniac smile. He wore his hair long, tied back in a high tail, and something about the set of his nose indicated that it had been broken a few times.

“Meet Xue Yang. One of Wen Ruohan’s men that survived the purge, and decided to continue his ‘glorious’ work. Also an absolute psychopath.”

“Fuck.” Whispered Ouyang Duan, leaning forward to whisper into Sizhui’s ear. “That’s the fucker that blinded Xiao Xingchen and almost killed his partner, Song Lan.”

“No shit.” Sizhui blinked at Jingyi’s reply, before frowning.

“He also implicated my father in several murders.”

“Lan Wangji?” Duan frowned. “The composer, right? He left the force after the Wen Rouhan stuff.”

“No.” Sizhui bit out. “Wei Wuxian.”

Ouyang Duan fell silent, and sat back in his seat. Jingyi reached under the table to squeeze Sizhui’s hand. Both of Sizhui’s dad’s had left the force, as well as his uncle, after the Wen Ruohan business. He didn’t know why Lan Xichen had left, but the man was now a counsellor. Lan Wangji composed music (and was very successful about it) and Wei Wuxian now owed a bakery, working as a barista. Three very different career paths from military police or even just police. He focused back on the briefing.

“Xue Yang is an extremely dangerous man. He can be charismatic, but tends to lead through fear and blackmail instead. None of you are to engage him.” Detective Meng paused.

“You are to kill him. Without hesitation. The orders have come from high up in the command chain.”

“Holy shit.” Jingyi whispered, clutching Sizhui’s hand tighter. Sizhui’s face was pale. There was dead silence in the pit. Detective Meng looked pale as well, after delivering that news.

“You must understand this.” Meng Yao continued, voice soft. “Xue Yang cannot be allowed to live. In terms of threat…the higher-ups have declared him the same level as Wen Ruohan. The government does not want a repeat of ten years ago. Commissioner Lan will give you your assignments. Please, be careful, and do not take unnecessary risks in the field.”

Detective Meng bowed, and left the front, sitting down next to Sergeant Lai, from forensics.

“I will not repeat myself, this is a complete communications blackout. Nothing goes out. Your assignments are non-negotiable. Teams Delta through to India will be on perimeter, along with Team Beta. K-9 units Foxtrot and Sierra will joined by those from Internal Affairs; you may go collect your dogs now. There will be strike teams deployed; try not to get in each other’s way. Team assignments are as follows. Team Beta: Li, Lai, Ouyang, Jin, Xue, Xiao….”

Jingyi zoned out, standing as Sizhui did, to head towards the kennels.

“We need to head to the quartermaster to get heavier equipment.” Sizhui stated. “Plus armour for the dogs.”

“Yeah, I’m not headed in there with a taser.” Jingyi joked. Sizhui cracked a smile, before opening the door to the kennels.

“Kuai missed you last night. I hoped whatever it was you were doing was important.”

“Jin Ling is always important.” Jingyi replied, whistling a quick three-tone to grab Kuai’s attention. The German Shepherd bounded over, happy to see him and cover him in saliva as usual.

“So you were with Jin Ling?” Sizhui had an odd tone to his voice, and Jingyi paused in his spoiling of his dog. “I didn’t know it was your day off.”

“It’s fine, Sizhui.”

“But…”

“A-Yuan.” Jingyi resorted to the childhood nickname. “It’s fine. Jin Ling understood. I’d do the same if he had an emergency at work as well. We’re both adults.”

“I know that.” Sizhui sighed, releasing his own dog, Chong, who merely butted against Sizhui’s hand before curling over his feet. “I just…if I had known, I wouldn’t have called you in.”

“And left you with the incredibly useless Chi Le? Come on, what kind of partner would I be if I left you with him?”

“If you’re sure…”

“Sizhui, I’m sure.” Jingyi stood up, and stretched. “Come on. We need to beat everyone to the quartermaster today, if we want anything good.”

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Team Delta on site, entrance through north side commencing.”

“Team Golf, northern perimeter secure.”

“Strike Team Echo, set to move to 4-3-0 on Home Base’s mark.”

“Team India, western perimeter secure.”

“You ready?” Jingyi asked Sizhui, double checking his partner’s body armour straps. Sizhui always tied them slightly looser than was recommended. The only thing he tied tightly was his boot laces.

Strike Team Romeo, all set on southern side. No hostiles in sight.”

“Team Beta, eastern perimeter secure.”

“Are you?” Sizhui replied in lieu of answering the question, and Jingyi gave him a tight grin, and a slap on the shoulder. At his feet, Kuai and Chong sat obediently, both dogs already in their protective gear. Sizhui reached down to give Chong a quick pat, and tapped his comm.

“K-9 Unit Foxtrot, ready to enter on mark.”

K-9 Unit Sierra, ready to enter on mark.”

“Strike Team Zulu, ready to enter west side on mark.”

Copy that. All teams, ready to commence operations on my mark. Three.”

Jingyi unleashed Kuai, tapping him on the shoulder to keep him there. Kuai sniffed, ears pricked forward.

Two.” Sizhui moved towards the door, handgun at the ready, Chong at alert next to him. Jingyi took a deep breath, shouldering his rifle and aiming it at the entrance.

One.”

Sizhui unlatched the door quietly.

Jingyi took another steadying breath.

Commence.”

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The door flew open with a bang, encouraged by Jingyi’s foot, and Kuai shot in, latching onto the arm of a hostile. Mid-40’s, Caucasian male, tribal tattoos on left arm and a swastika on the back of the hand Kuai was hanging on. A gun was raised, and fell just as instantly, Jingyi’s bullet getting him in the hand, then the shoulder. He fell, and Kuai let go, content to pace beside Jingyi for the time being.

Chatter exploded across the comms as the other strike teams entered, and just as rapidly, the sound of shots echoed across the warehouse. Sizhui was behind him, covering his six, and two shots rang out, accompanied by two bodies hitting the floor.

Foxtrot 1 to Home base, 3 hostiles in sector 0-3-5.” Jingyi frowned at Sizhui’s report. There should have been more for an operation of this size. Beside him, Kuai whined, sniffing at a box, before tapping at it with his paw.

Foxtrot 2 to HQ, found suspected goods in sector 0-3-5, requesting requisitions once warehouse is cleared.”

Copy that, Foxtrot 2.”

“Sierra 3 to Foxtrot 1, K-9’s are acting unusual.”

“Copy that, Sierra 3. Foxtrot units operational.”

Sizhui shot him a concerned look that Jingyi mirrored, eyes falling to a silently snarling Chong. Jingyi looked back up, and immediately fired off two shots, returning fire hitting the steel columns next to him. One bullet hit, the other missed. Jingyi swore, and formed a claw with three fingers as he dove behind a crate for cover.

Kuai shot off, and there was a yell of pain.

Strike Team Zulu, west side clear, eight hostiles accounted for. No sign of Big Shark Xue.”

Zulu 2 to Delta 4, do you have eyes on Sierra 2? Sierra squad not responding to comms.”

Negative. Romeo 6, do you copy?”

“I copy, Zulu 2. No eyes on Sierra K-9.”

Sizhui peeked around from behind his own crate, and fired once. The sound of a body hitting the floor reached his ears. Sizhui held up 5 fingers. 5 hostiles. 8 from Zulu. Only 13. Jingyi had a very bad feeling. Where were the rest? Intel said at least forty.

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It was proven correct when bullets started flying towards their position, Kuai scrambling behind the crate with Jingyi, mouth wet with blood.

Foxtrot 2, does anyone copy? Under heavy fire at 0-3-5, requesting backup. Pinned behind crates.”

“Romeo 4 to Foxtrot 2, en route to position. How many hostiles?” Sizhui nodded, and held up 6 fingers, then a sign for “question”.

Six hostiles, maybe more. Hard to tell. Fire coming from catwalks, northwest of our position.”

Copy that, Foxtrot 2. En route.”

“Romeo 2, got eyes on 3 hostiles. Romeo 1, you take left. Romeo 4 take middle.”

“Copy that.”

Three shots. 16 hostiles.

“Kuai.” Jingyi called. “Seek.” Kuai whined, and huddled closer to Jingyi. Jingyi frowned. Was this was Sierra Unit meant when they said the dogs were acting funny?

“Kuai. Seek.” Jingyi insisted, but Kuai only put his ears back, backing away from the path forward. Jingyi chanced a glance at the bare concrete, but saw nothing out of the ordinary.

Foxtrot 1 to Foxtrot 2, what the situation?”

“Foxtrot 2 to Foxtrot 1, K-9 unit acting odd. Cover me?”

“Copy that.”

Jingyi stepped forward, rifle at the ready, footsteps slow and light.

Romeo 5, last hostiles cleared. Foxtrot Team, all clear to advance.”

Foxtrot 1, I copy.”

Jingyi looked up, catching the flash of the Strike team above him, and offered a small salute. It was returned, and Jingyi put his eyes forward, scanning the stacks of crates and pallets that contained the arms and illegal substances that were reported.

One more step.

No hostiles, no fire. The body of the man Sizhui had gotten, Kuai’s teeth marks around his leg.

Foxtrot 2 to Foxtrot 1.”

“I copy. Go ahead.”

“It’s too fucking quiet.”

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One more step.

His hands were sweating. He could feel his heart beating.

Another step.

He swallowed.

A step slightly to the left.

The concrete shifted under his foot.

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Wrong wrong wrong wrong WRONG!!

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Kuai’s teeth grabbed his pant legs and pulled.

Jingyi stumbled back.

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The world exploded into white and red, chased by black.

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Oh. I didn’t say goodbye to Jin Ling this morning.’

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Jin Ling resisted the urge to yawn, catching his father’s eye and sharing a commiserating look. Song Ya was trying her best to make the latest environmental report interesting, but…Jin Ling already knew. The results from the sustainability committee had been promising, but the financial report had been dismal. They had been blocked at every turn by Jin Guangshuan, of Jin Inc., and no matter what their marketing strategy, Jin Inc. always managed to stay one step ahead.

It was a devastating blow for his father, who had excised himself from Jin Inc. after he had married Jiang Yanli, Jin Ling’s mother. There had been other issues at play, but from what rumours Jin Ling had heard, and what his uncles had told him, Jin Guangshuan was an asshole who should have been jailed for malpractice years ago. But he had airtight finances and the company had a long history in dealing in many industries.

Golden Lotus Ltd., however, was a relatively new company, whose primary focus was on new business support, sustainability practises and alternative energy sources. They had many new businesses under their wings, so to speak, but it would be a while before any of them started to turn profit after break-even point. Jin Ling eyed the energy report. The wind turbine farm in the northern mountains showed a lot of promise; already providing clean energy for six medium-sized cities and many smaller towns; perhaps a further investment into more turbines? See if they could expand their reach to the next three towns over?

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His phone rang.

 He felt his face burn. He had been sure that he had put it on silent before this meeting, oh god this was so embarrassing. His dad was giving him a look, and Song Ya was eyeing him with barely concealed annoyance. He drew out his work phone, only to frown at the black screen. If this one wasn’t ringing, and his personal one was on silent except….

“My apologies, Song Ya. This is a personal call.” Jin Ling stood, eyeing the contact with narrowed eyes as he made a speedy exit. He hadn’t interacted much with Lan Sizhui recently, but he seemed like a nice enough guy. Technically one of his cousins, but they didn’t run into each other often. He was on duty though, so why would….

“Jin Rulan.” He answered, barely wincing at the use of his given name, shutting the door behind him. He could feel his father’s glare from through the glass.

Jin Ling? It’s Sizhui, I mean…um…you probably have caller ID so you already know…but um…”

“Sizhui, are you…okay?” Jin Ling tried to interact, he really did. “You sound…off.” It wasn’t like Sizhui to ramble, that much Jin Ling knew was true. Sizhui preferred to weigh his words. There was a deep breath.

It shook.

And Jin Ling knew that something was wrong.

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“It’s about Jingyi.”

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He was so still.

Jin Ling froze in the doorway, taking note of a rather battered looking Sizhui, still in armour and covered in blood. Blood that he knew to be Jingyi’s. Jingyi himself was hooked up to so many monitors and wrapped in so many bandages that Jin Ling couldn’t see any skin.

“Rulan.” His father gently pushed him forward, a steady presence at his back. “Go to him.”

He fairly teleported over to Jingyi, startling Sizhui from his half-dozing state.

“Jingyi. Oh, Jingyi.” Jin Ling breathed, taking in the damage. There were signs of multiple surgeries, burns, small lacerations…

“What happened?” He turned to Sizhui, only taking in how miserable the other man looked.

“Warehouse raid.” He sounded so empty. “I can’t tell you more than that. Only that there was an explosion, and Jingyi was very lucky to have lived. His dog saved his life.”

“Oh my god.” Jin Ling breathed, legs suddenly very weak. He sat down in the uncomfortable chair, hands automatically reaching for Jingyi’s. What had been the last thing he’d said to Jingyi? Had he said goodbye? Did he tell Jingyi that he loved him? Or was it a complaint about the hickey that he’d had to hide under a turtleneck today? Had he all but shoved Jingyi out the door, worried that he was going to be late?

“Kuai?” That was the name of the dog, right? Everything was fuzzy, and he was having trouble focusing.

“At the vets, in surgery. Also very lucky to be alive.” Sizhui looked up, and his eyes….

“Lan Sizhui.” His father spoke up. “I’ve called your father. He’s coming to pick you up.”

“Which one?” Sizhui sounded so very, very tired.

“Lan Wangji, who else?” His father sounded amused. “Wei Wuxian has me blacklisted since I married his sister.”

Sizhui let out a snort, which quickly turned into a sob. Jin Ling stood quickly, making his way around the other side of the bed, tugging Sizhui into a hug.

“It was my fault!” Sizhui sobbed. “I should have checked. I knew the dogs were acting funny, I should have told him to stay after Kuai refused to go forward. I should have…”

“Sizhui.” Jin Ling started, voice starting to crack already. “Jingyi knew the risks when he answered his phone this morning, whenever he goes into work. I don’t think he’d want you to shoulder the blame for this.”

“I should have been in his place.” Sizhui snapped. “Out of the two of us, I was more equipped to advance forward. Multiple surgeries were needed, A-Ling. Multiple, as in plural, as in more than one. They almost lost him on the operating table twice.

“Then you’d be in the bed and Jingyi would still be in the hospital because he wouldn’t let you go forward alone.” Jin Ling argued, before taking a calming breath and not thinking about how bad it must’ve been for multiple surgeries to have been needed.

“Go home, Sizhui. Take a shower, rest. I’ll text you if there’s any change.”

“You promise?”

“Promise.” Jin Ling gave him a wobbly smile, and Sizhui slumped forward.

“Thanks.” He breathed. Jin Ling smiled awkwardly.

“We’re family, Sizhui.” Oh god, he’d made it awkward. “Isn’t this what we’re supposed to do?” Sizhui gave a wet chuckle, and leaned back, eyes flicking towards the door.

Baba!”

“Sizhui.” Lan Wangji stepped into the room, eyes falling on Jingyi’s body. There was a look of pain, for a moment, before he composed himself. “Come. Wei Ying has food ready.”

“Is it edible?” Sizhui joked, wiping stray tears aside.

“Wen Ning was supervising. Possibly.”

“Yeah, just let me…” Sizhui shucked off his body armour, shoving it into his go bag that sat at his feet. Jin Ling hadn’t noticed that. Without it, his cousin looked so much smaller; less 27 and more 23. Lan Wangji moved then, sweeping off his trench coat and wrapping it around Sizhui’s shoulders.

“Come.”

“You’ll text me, right? If anything changes?”

“Yes, Sizhui, I will text you. Go.

“Take care, Jin Ling.” Lan Wangji intoned, and Jin Ling nodded at him. The two Lan’s left, and then there was a hand on his shoulder.

“I have to get back to the company, A-Ling. Will you be fine here?”

“Yes, Dad. I’ll be okay. Can you let a-niang know that I won’t be coming to dinner tonight? And about Jingyi?”

“Of course.” Jin Zixuan hesistated, before he squeezed Jin Ling’s shoulder.

“Take care of yourself, A-Ling. Don’t be afraid to call me or your uncles if you need anything.”

“I will, dad. See you later.”

Jin Zixuan got to the door, before Jin Ling called out to him, trying to fight back tears.

“Dad!” Zixuan turned around.

“Yes?”

“I love you. Please…stay safe.” Zixuan smiled at him, and nodded.

“I will.”

The door shut behind him, and Jin Ling was left with the beeping of the machines that were keeping his partner alive.

“I love you, Jingyi. Please, wake up soon.”

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1 week post-explosion

There was a steady beeping somewhere. Jingyi was very familiar with the sound, considering that he, more often than not, ended up in hospital. Granted, most of the time it was when he was waiting for someone (the time Jin Ling had ended up in a car crash still terrified him), or his own hospital stays, but this time he knew he was lucky to be alive.

What had happened?

There had been something in the warehouse, something that had frightened Kuai, so he’d advanced. Sierra K-9 had responded? Or did they have issues as well? Something about Delta 3? Was that the section they had been working in, or had they used numbers?

His legs ached; a dull, persistent throbbing that beat in time with his heart. His left leg in particular felt like it was on fire, and his face felt numb. Had he been hit by a car? Did he get shot in the knee? There was a weight pressing against his right arm, and there were tingles in his hand that indicated a loss of feeling. He tried to move, and immediately lightning shot through his veins, causing him to groan. The weight on his arm vanished, and something soft brushed his cheek.

“Jingyi? A-Yi?”

Jingyi couldn’t answer; his mouth felt like sandpaper. But he managed to lift his hand….oh, ow. His shoulder. He groaned again, and there was something plastic pressing at his lips.

“Little sips, A-Yi. Try not to move too much.” That was Jiang Yanli’s voice. Why was Jin Ling’s mother here? Cool water slid down his throat; there was something stuck in his nose and pressed against the side of his face. It was uncomfortable. The straw left, and then something shifted back into place. The air was a little easier to breathe, so...he must be on oxygen. It must have been serious, whatever it was. Did he get into a fight? Thrown out a window? Sizhui would know. Was Sizhui alright? Sizhui had been with him, Sizhui had covered him as he went forward to investigate….

“Sizhui?” He croaked out.

“I’m here.” Something squeezed his left hand, sending tingles all down his arm.

“Ok?” There was a choking sob, and something wet landed on the back of his hand.

“I’m okay.”

“Good.” Jingyi relaxed a little. Sizhui was safe. It was good.

“I’ll get the nurse, I’ll be back soon, boys.”

“Thank you, gūmā.” There was a rustling of cloth, and a presence left. His legs felt heavy, like Kuai was sleeping on them. Kuai had been there, Kuai hadn’t wanted to go forward ad seek, so Jingyi advanced. Kuai had tugged him back from…something.

“Kuai?”

“Kuai is okay as well. He’s currently at Sizhui’s.” Oh, good. Kuai was okay.

“A-Ling.” Jingyi tried for a smile, something pulling at his face uncomfortably. It burned, a little. His eyes were sore, but he didn’t have them open. Someone squeezed his hand, and fingers combed through his hair. He liked it when Jin Ling did that. It felt nice.

“I’m here.” Jin Ling whispered, and soft lips were pressed to his forehead.

“’M sorry. Didn’t say goodbye to you this morning. Love you. And Sizhui. But love you differently than Sizhui. That’s important.”

There was a wet-sounding laugh on his left, and a soft chuckle on his right. The fingers combed through his hair again, and Jingyi smiled. It felt a little lopsided. He was tired.

“Go back to sleep, A-Yi.” Jin Ling whispered. Jingyi hummed, and took a deep breath of oxygen. He was very tired. As he drifted off, he heard Sizhui say something about blood tests, and a different voice replying. Then there was something about an explosion.

Did he get caught in an explosion?

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No. He’d be dead if he had.

And Jin Ling’s fingers combing through his hair was too real.

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3 weeks post explosion

Jin Ling stood in the doorway, watching Jingyi smile at the nurse as she adjusted his bed for him. His shoulder was still giving him trouble, but that was superficial compared to the mess that was his left knee. Jin Ling had read the report, had done research as to what most of the terms meant, but even then he couldn’t grasp the sheer scope of the damage that the blast had done. Jingyi’s entire knee had to have been reconstructed. There was a plate in place, and months, even years of physical therapy ahead to help Jingyi regain the mobility he had before…before the accident. The explosion. That Jingyi thankfully remembered very little of.

Weakened cardiovascular and respiratory systems.

That one stuck out more, mostly because his friend, Zizhen, had the same problem. Well, the cardiovascular system. There had been a reason Zizhen had not joined the others in the police academy, and that was because his heart, despite having a lot of room for love, was very weak; limited exercise, no surprises, no alcohol, and a very, very strict diet plan to follow. Jingyi would be following Zizhen in that regard, until the doctors cleared him.

Jingyi had been on oxygen since he had woken, in order to protect his lungs from any dust or diseases that may have been floating around (Jin Ling doubted it, this was a hospital), but Jingyi had admitted to Jin Ling, after he had woken up, that he was having some trouble breathing normally. Although, that may have been the several broken ribs he had been sporting.

Optical damage.

Jingyi would need glasses for the rest of his life; driving, reading, exercise, anything. He had been very lucky not to lose an eye; some shrapnel had instead carved a long line down the side of his face, snapping the protective eyewear Jingyi had been wearing into pieces. His eyelid had to be stitched back together, and the scar would bisect his eyebrow.

But, it could have been a lot worse.

Jingyi could have died in that warehouse.

And Jin Ling wouldn’t have known.

.

Jingyi caught his eye, and his face lit up into a smile.

“Rulan! Lingling! My sweet little mantou!” Jin Ling grimaced.

“Don’t call me that.”

“Oh? You don’t like that one? How about…my elegant orchid flower? Sugarplum?”

“Jingyi.”

“No, I can’t call you that, that’s my name!”

The nurse laughed, and Jin Ling found himself smiling. Gods, Jingyi was such an idiot sometimes.

“Are you on painkillers?” Jin Ling asked, moving towards the bed as the nurse was called into another room.

“No, just bored. I’m sitting here with nothing but terrible TV and shitty soap operas, and only your beautiful face when you come visit.”

“I would have brought you books, if you’d asked.”

“A-Ling.” Jingyi stared at him, eyes narrowed. “You ready poetry in your spare time. I am a man of action, and I know that you have no thrillers on your bookshelf.”

“Oh no, I would have brought you that economics textbook that you dropped on your foot.” Jin Ling teased, and Jingyi poked out his tongue.

“At least tell me some good news, if you’re not bringing good food.”

“You are still on liquids, Jingyi.” Jin Ling smiled at Jingyi’s pout, before taking a moment to gather his thoughts.

“Nurse told me I was getting discharged soon.” Jingyi started, nose crinkling. “But she said there were ‘terms and conditions’, whatever that was supposed to mean. Not gonna lie, not looking forward to returning to my apartment.”

“You could move in with me?” Jin Ling crossed his arms, leaning against the end of the bed. “I know you like your apartment, and that you wanted your space when we first started dating, but one of the conditions of your discharge was that someone kept an eye on you and your apartment complex has no elevator and well….”

“Jin Rulan.” Jingyi interrupted, eyes wide. “Are you finally asking me to move in with you? After three years of keeping your distance?”

“I kept my distance because I thought you wanted space!”

“I didn’t say anything because I thought you wanted space!”

They both looked at each other, confused.

“I thought…with my erratic hours and the chance that I could be called in at any time that you wouldn’t want me to wake you up in the middle of the night.” Jingyi started slowly. “It would inconvenience you too greatly.”

“You…” Jin Ling took a deep breath, trying to gather his thoughts. What the actual fuck? Yes, sometimes they kept vastly different hours, and it was difficult to schedule anything without booking 3 months in advance, but….

“You are never an inconvenience, Jingyi.” He finally settled on. “Not to me.” Oh, he knew about Jingyi’s mostly-absent parents, the bouncing around relative’s homes until he ended up staying with Sizhui and Lan Wangji until he graduated high-school (he’d even lived with Commissioner Lan for a few years as a pre-teen). He knew that Jingyi, despite seeing a counsellor for most of the issues that his childhood left him with, still struggled with a few key things; identity, self-worth, and being unwanted. He was better now than he had been in high-school, but…some of it still lingered.

“I thought that you didn’t want to move in because you thought Kuai would take up too much space.” Jin Ling finally stated. “I know we discussed it last year, after the Christmas season, but we never really…restarted that conversation. So I left it, thinking we would get back to it sooner.”

“Also your uncles would have my head.” Jingyi grinned, and Jin Ling felt something loosen in his chest, despite the small, silvery scar that sliced across Jingyi’s cheek making itself known again. That one had healed quickly, but badly.

Jiujiu would have loved to watch Kuai for you.” Jin Ling admitted. “His next question after I told him that you were alright was ‘who was watching the dog?’”

Jingyi outright laughed, wincing a little at his still tender ribs.

“Jiang Wanyin is more than welcome to take Kuai for any walks. Once he’s cleared for light exercise.”

“Sizhui has it covered, but I’ll let him know.” Jin Ling made a mental note to text both Sizhui and his uncle about it. Uncle Jiang had always wanted a dog, but never really had time for one, nor the space, until Jin Ling’s mother and Uncle Wei made him move out of his old shitty apartment from above that hot pot place he liked. It had been odd, for a CEO to have such a crappy place (and oh, Jin Ling remembered visiting often, simply to escape whenever his grandfather decided to visit), but jiujiu had seemed comfortable in his space, if not a little sad. There had been other reasons, Jin Ling was sure, but it had taken Uncle Wei months to convince him to move into a better studio; one that wasn’t failing all the building standards at any rate.

Maybe he should ask Dajiu and his mother to see about getting Uncle Jiang a dog for his birthday? It would be a good present, maybe. A rescue?

“But…do you want me to move in with you?” Jingyi asked, fiddling with his fingers. “You’re not just…asking to be polite?”

“If I didn’t want you to move in with me, I wouldn’t have asked.” Jin Ling perched on the side of the bed, taking Jingyi’s hands in his own. “I’ve been thinking about it for a while now, and, well…”

“Now is probably a good time.” Jingyi finished wryly. “You didn’t ask Xue Yang to blow up the specific warehouse we were busting just so you could orchestrate a move-in date?”

Jin Ling grimaced. This was not how he wanted to break the news that Sizhui had told him.

“Xue Yang is dead.” He settled on. “Detective Yu shot him.”

“Ouch.” Jingyi winced. “She’ll face censure for that. At least publically. She was…”

“My grandmother’s niece, I know. She’s currently on ‘probation’, but really she was given time off to see her family.”  Jin Ling sighed, running a hand through his hair. “Shushu got an accomplice; his name was Su She. Apparently they went way back; shushu is on personal leave. Something about school friends who parted ways, not wanting to kill him, and an accident. He’s staying with Nie Mingjue.”

The name left an odd taste in his mouth. Shushu (who couldn’t stand being called Uncle Meng, so shushu it was) had an on-off friendship with the once-bodyguard, who had retired to become a butcher. Nie Mingjue was loud, and terrifying to Jin Ling, but he knew the man was kind. Anyone who was involved with Lan Xichen had to be. He didn’t ask the about the relationship between the three of them, and he didn’t really want to know. Ignorance is bliss, and all that.

“Ugh.” Jingyi groaned. “What a mess. Poor Sizhui, having to do the report for it. Any other news?”

“Sizhui is going to tell you some things himself; things he couldn’t tell me, for obvious reasons. Security risk and all that.”

“I see.” Jingyi sighed. “But you still didn’t answer my question.” Jin Ling rolled his eyes.

“No, I did not collaborate with a psychopath in order to get you to move in with me. But will you move in anyway?”

“Duh.” Jingyi leaned forward, a bruised hand coming up to tug gently on a piece of Jin Ling’s hair. “You’re stuck with me now.”

“Oh.” Jin Ling deadpanned. “What a tragedy.”

.

.

Six weeks, post-explosion

“Commissioner Lan.” Jingyi saluted as well as he could, considering he was still in crutches.

“Lan Jingyi.” Commissioner Lan Qiren nodded to him, and gestured to the soft seat in front of his desk. “Please, sit. I know you haven’t been out of hospital for long.” Jingyi sat, awkwardly manoeuvring his crutches to rest against the side of the chair.

“Tea?”

“No, thank you, Commissioner. I’ve had enough of fluids for a long while yet.” Commissioner Lan cracked a small smile at the dig towards the heavily-liquid Jingyi had been on for the past 5 weeks.

“I trust everything is in good order, regarding your recovery? Sizhui was quite anxious about your wellbeing.” Oh, that’s right. Sizhui was the Commissioner’s grandnephew. Well, adopted anyway, but details.

“Actually, Commissioner Lan…” Jingyi trailed off, rummaging around in his pocket for the hospital discharge and the medical examination papers. “I…wanted to speak with you about that.”

“Oh?”

Finally finding the damn things, he slid them towards the Commissioner, folding his fingers nervously as the Commissioner scanned them.

“Optical damage.” Jingyi started, nervous. “Intensive surgeries required on left knee. Weakened cardiovascular and respiratory systems.”

“What are you asking of me, Lan Jingyi?” The Commissioner sounded tired. Jingyi couldn’t blame him.

“I am resigning, sir.” Jingyi managed to get out, after a short while. “I…will be out of action for some time, and by the time I get back into shape, I’m…not sure I can…go out into the field again, sir. It…I….”

“Jingyi.” Lan Qiren sighed, folding his hands together. “Do you know why both my nephews retired from the force?”

“No sir. Only rumours.”

“Xichen was tired. Tired of strapping a gun to his hip every morning, tired of being worried for his younger brother, tired of arresting people only to see them go back out on the street as soon as someone paid enough money. He had always wanted to do good, but what was the point if offenders were set free? So he decided to help people in a different way.”

“I…didn’t know, sir.” But Jingyi could understand. Had been in that position. It was something that had played on his mind often, when he thought about leaving.

“Wangji, ah Wangji.” The Commissioner sighed.

“Wangji fell in love. He fell in love with the brilliant, talented and quick-witted Wei Wuxian, whose record was a little shaded, but still bright. When the Wen Ruohan business started, and conflicting results from the forensics labs came out, Wei Wuxian was placed under a lot of suspicion. Eventually, when Xue Yang accused him of murder, of killing bystanders, many people thought he was a double agent. Wei Wuxian has a temper, but it floated closer to the surface in those days than it does now. It wasn’t hard to accuse him. Only Wangji believed him, and in the end, when Wei Wuxian left, Wangji followed.”

“Sir, I’m not sure….”

“I will be sorry to see you go, Jingyi. You were a good handler, and a dedicated officer.”

“That’s it?” Jingyi was flummoxed.

“Lan Jingyi.” Commissioner Lan stared down at him. “I have seen you struggle with this job for months now. Everyone one, at some point, has to make the decision whether to move forward, or continue in a job that makes them unhappy.”

Jingyi blinked. Leaving had been on his mind, for some time. The more difficult missions, the more injuries that piled up and he didn’t allow to heal properly before he was called back into work, the increasing nature of competitive promotions…and the fact that people he helped arrest would end up back on the streets within 3 months. He was working for a broken system, and he didn’t know how much more of it he could take.

“Thank you, sir.”

Commissioner Lan stood, and offered his hand.

“Thank you, Lan Jingyi, for your service. You’re a good man.” Jingyi took it, shaking it firmly, before he cracked a small grin.

“I’ll see you at the next family gathering?”

“Don’t be a brat.” Lan Qiren sighed. “But yes, I will see you. Until then, take care.”

“Oh, always.” Jingyi tried for a blithe smile, but it came out more like a grimace.

“Do you have someone to stay with?”

“My partner, Jin Rulan, sir. He’s…offered. I moved there last week. After I was discharged.”

Commissioner Lan opened the door for him, and Jingyi manoeuvred his crutches through them. His shoulder was starting to ache, maybe he should ask Sizhui for a ride.

“I will ask Sizhui to clean out your desk, if that is alright. It will save you the trip with the crutches.”

“Thank you, sir.” Oh god, Sizhui. He had to tell Sizhui that he was resigning. Then he’d have to find a job that enabled him to work short hours, or with limited standing up. He was good at bookkeeping, and reasonable with his accounts, maybe he could help out Jin Ling’s uncle?

No. Little steps. Get out of HQ first. Commissioner Lan held the doors open on the way out, and Jingyi spotted Jin Ling leaning against his car, checking his phone. In the back, Kuai was sitting patiently, head poked out the window. Jingyi paused, just to take in the sight. He could get used to being picked up, if Jin Ling in tight jeans and a turtleneck was what greeted him every time. And Kuai. Kuai was also important.

Jin Ling looked up from his phone, and caught his gaze, lips curling into a small smile. Jingyi’s next breath caught in his throat. He was so fucked. Well, not really- the doctor said no strenuous activities for at least three weeks, and even then it was a limited list. Which meant that Jin Ling would be taking Kuai for slow walks, until Jingyi could walk normally.

“Good luck, Jingyi.” Commissioner Lan farewelled, and Jingyi saluted as best as he could.

“Thank you again, sir, for your understanding.” He move slowly, reaching the car at a snail’s pace, shoulders aching at the weight he put on them. Jin Ling met him halfway, arm curling around his waist and a hand coming up to cup his jaw, pressing a light kiss to his lips.

“You okay?” He asked, when they broke apart. Jingyi smiled at him.

“I am now.” Jin Ling raised an eyebrow, and Jingyi sighed, smile fading into something wearier. “I handed in my resignation, my shoulders hurt and I would happily murder for a coffee. How was Kuai this morning?”

“Energetic.” Jin Ling deadpanned. “I had to remind him that he was still injured and that chasing a ball around a park was not a good idea. But he seemed happy enough to go for a long walk.”

“Thanks.” Jingyi kissed him again, gentle, and tapped Jin Ling on the shoulder. “I need to sit down.” Jin Ling leapt into action, pulling him towards the car, opening the door at the same time as divesting Jingyi of his crutches, and before Jingyi knew it, they were driving back to the apartment, windows down to enjoy the fresh autumn air.  

“It went well, then?” Jin Ling asked, hand inching off the steering wheel to cover one of Jingyi’s.

“As well as could be expected.” Jingyi sighed, looking out the window. “I’m officially unemployed, now. Good pay-out, though. Lots of holiday leave I haven’t taken.”

“Jingyi…”

“Plus I’m not paying rent on my own apartment anymore, so…”

“Jingyi.” Jin Ling squeezed his hand, glancing over at him. “You are always welcome at mine.”

“I should hope so.” Jingyi chuckled. “I just moved in.”

.

.

8 weeks post-explosion

Jingyi hummed as he washed the dishes, crutches resting against the bench and his glasses fogging a little from the heat of the water. Jin Ling was in his office, getting his proposal ready and probably trying to find his laptop underneath the mess of paper. Kuai was sleeping on the couch (Jin Ling was surprisingly lax about the whole “no animals on the furniture” thing, but that was most likely due to Kuai wanting cuddles as much as Jin Ling did), stitches almost healed and the shaved areas growing back slowly. He’d walk with a limp for the rest of his life (he’d match Jingyi, hah), and had been officially retired, but apparently Sizhui had managed to get Commissioner Lan to agree to Kuai staying with Jingyi.

The last plate was placed in the rack to air dry, and Jingyi wiped his hands on his pants, feeling satisfied with himself. Granted, most of his weight was balanced on his right leg, but his left wasn’t hurting too much. The PT sessions had begun, and they were absolutely brutal. Even if he had no intention of returning to the force, his therapist had decreed that he would not have misshapen legs, and demanded the same amount of muscle that was present on the other one. But still, there was progress! He’d managed to stand for an hour while he cleaned up today. Yesterday he hadn’t managed 25 mins before he had to sit down.

He stepped away from the sink, and turned to enter the lounge.

The second he put weight on his left leg, his knee buckled, and white-hot pain shot up his spine. He let out a pained grunt as he dropped to the floor, turning it into a break fall easily enough, trying to avoid a broken wrist.

“Jingyi? You okay?” Jin Ling called from the next room, footsteps heralding his approach.

“I’m fine, just dropped something.” My pride. Jingyi added bitterly, his forearms aching at the sudden contact with the floor. He had been lucky that he hadn’t hit his head on the way down; his face was right next to the table leg. Hopefully his reply would dissuade Jin Ling from coming…

Jingyi.

Shit.

“I’m fine.” He repeated testily, pushing himself up to sit cross-legged on the floor. He looked up to see Jin Ling scrunch his face in a way that suggested that he was biting back a retort, and scowled.

“Did you fall? Is it your knee?”

“I said, I’m fine.” Jingyi snapped. God, couldn’t he just take the hint? Couldn’t his partner see that he wanted to be left alone?

“I’m only trying to help.” Jin Ling snapped back, bending down to pick up the glasses that had clattered to the doorway.

“I don’t need your help!” Jingyi exploded, lurching to his feet, only to stumble as his knee protested at the sudden weight.

“Jingyi…”

“Just leave! I don’t want your help or your pity!”

“It’s not pity.” Jin Ling argued hotly. “I care about you. Or am I not allowed to anymore?”

“If you care then just go away.” Jingyi growled. “Just leave me alone, for fucks sake. Can’t you get that through your stupid, thick head? I’m sick of your incessant hovering.”

“Fine! If you’re going to be difficult about it, then be that way!” Jin Ling snapped, spinning around and stalking back to his office. There was the jangle of keys, and an enquiring whine from Kuai, before the front door slammed with all the force of a thunderbolt.

Jingyi’s knee protested again, and he dropped to the floor, leaning against the kitchen cupboards. Kuai padded into the kitchen, and pressed a cold nose against Jingyi’s arm. Jingyi pulled him into a hug, and finally let the hot damning tears fall into the thick fur.

“Please, stay.” He whispered.

.

.

“I just….don’t understand him, uncle!” Jin Ling stared into his coffee, hoping to divine something from the curls in the steam. Across from him, Jiang Cheng, owner of Jiang Corp. (and, sadly, ranked 3rd on the list of World’s Hottest Bachelor’s, much to Jin Ling’s embarrassment), took a sip of his own coffee, slate grey eyes focused on him.

“I ask him to move in with me and he agreed, because he needed help to move around and it made sense, because my apartment is way bigger than his and can fit Kuai and him in it no problem, but now he doesn’t want my help? He told me, essentially, to fuck off. Me! I had to leave my own fucking apartment because Jingyi was throwing a hissy fit!”

“Mm.”

“I don’t know what to do? He was fine at the start of it, but now he just yells at me and all we ever seem to do is argue all the time! What have I done wrong?”

“Oi.” Jiang Cheng leaned across the table, grabbing Jin Ling’s hand. “A-Ling.”

“What? It’s true. I’m such a shit partner, I can’t even figure out what is going wrong!”

“A-Ling, it’s not your fault.” Jiang Cheng interrupted, squeezing his hand tightly.

“What Jingyi has gone through is horrific. For both of you. Jingyi is probably having a hard time adjusting. You said he can’t stand for very long, or walk much; for someone who was, up until a month or so ago, living a very active life, the contrast can be jarring.”

“You sound like you’re speaking from experience, uncle.” Jin Ling leaned back, eyeing his uncle with suspicion.

“There was an explosion…at Jiang Corp., ten…no eleven years ago.” Jiang Cheng started, eyes vacant. “It was the same one that killed your grandfather, orchestrated by Wen Ruohan. A-die was killed instantly, but there were five other people in that room.” Jin Ling stared, pieces coming together.

“You…”

“I broke my femur in three places.” Jiang Cheng told him. “I couldn’t walk for a week, I was on crutches for months, and I had so much physical therapy to complete, as well as trying to finish my final semester at university. Additionally, I had to take over a company that I had only just started learning the ropes for. I was stressed, tired, grieving. I lashed out at anyone and everyone, your uncle most of all. Like you and Jingyi now, there were times when we both had to just leave each other alone to cool off for a while. But, in the end, what is important is that you go back to them. No matter how much you annoy each other, if you love them enough, you should try to make up, apologise, and move on.”

“Did you ever…did you ever want to…”

“Leave for good?” Jiang Cheng laughed. “Oh god yes. Wei Ying drove me up the wall with his incessant mother-henning. I could hardly sneeze and he was there with a box of tissues and some cold medicine, trying to take my temperature and tell me to lie down and get some rest.”

“So…why didn’t you?” Jin Ling asked, desperate to know. “Why didn’t you just…go?”

“People do things for the people they love, even if it one of the most difficult choices you will ever have to make.” Jiang wasn’t looking at him, no. He was looking at the till, where Uncle Wei was laughing with an elderly women, the lady blushing and laughing. Uncle Wei was flirting, then. Beside him, Wen Ning looked up from the coffee machine, and made eye contact with Jiang Cheng, smiling softly.

Oh. Oh.

Suddenly a lot more things made sense.

“The question is, A-Ling.” Jiang Cheng began, fixing him with a look. “How far are you willing to go for Jingyi?”

“To the stars and beyond.” Jin Ling answered automatically, before catching what he said, and the mischievous look in Uncle Jiang’s eyes. He groaned.

“No.”

“Have you been reading your father’s poetry books again?” Uncle Jiang leaned forward, a smirk pulling at his lips. “Specifically, the one with the red dustcover and the black spine?”

“Oh my god, uncle, stop.

“Wei Wuxian!” Jiang Cheng hollered. “A-Ling has been reading shitty poetry again!”

“Blasphemy!” Uncle Wei yelled back, face horrified. “This calls for alcohol! You’d better not be busy tonight!!”

“Actually….” Jin Ling hedged, making to escape, only to be stopped by Uncle Jiang’s iron grip on his arm.

“Oh no, A-Ling.” His smile was equal parts terrifying and ecstatic. “You are going to come out and get shit-faced, then go back to your man and grovel. I’m sure he’s stewed enough.”

“But I…”

“No buts, A-Ling!!” Uncle Wei draped an arm around his shoulder, feeling more like a constrictor than a hug. “You’ve been avoiding your dear uncles, it’s about time we all got together. Without your father hovering in the background. Mo Xuanyu is free, I know that much.”

“I’ll ask Meng Yao, I guess.” Uncle Jiang sounded put out, before lighting up. “Is Lan Wangji going to sober drive?”

“Probably. You know he can’t hold his alcohol.” Uncle Wei laughed.

“Excellent.” Uncle Jiang looked very pleased. “I’ve been meaning to get shit-faced for a while. You wouldn’t believe the bullshit Song Lan has been pushing at me recently.”

“Oh, I can imagine.” Uncle Wei grinned. “I used to work with him too, remember?”

“Relax, A-Ling.” Uncle Jiang stood up, shrugging his jacket on. “We’ll get you back to Jingyi in one piece, we promise.”

Somehow, that statement didn’t sound promising.

.

.

There was a knock on the door, and Jingyi looked up from his book, frowning. He wasn’t expecting anyone, and it was too late at night for any visitors, so...who? No one had messaged him.

Not even Jin Ling.

The knocks came again, more insistent.

“Lan Jingyi!! We have a gift for you!” That was Wei Wuxian. How did he know that he was staying with Jin Ling? They hadn’t really told anyone, had they?

Carefully, mindful of Kuai sleeping on the floor beside the couch, Jingyi hopped his way over to the door, unlatching it and pulling it open slowly.

“Jingyi!” Wei Wuxian exclaimed, drunk. “You look like shit! How have you been?”

“Wei Wuxian, you moron.” Jiang Wanyin cuffed his brother over the head, stumbling a little. Jin Ling hung between them, smiling dopily up at Jingyi.

“Hi.” Was all he said. Jingyi blinked, amused.

“Are you going to invite us in, Lan Jingyi?” Wei Wuxian pressed. Jingyi hid a smile.

“It’s Jin Ling’s apartment, why do you need to be invited in?”

“I’m a secret vampire.”

“Holy shit, you’re so stupid.” Jiang Wanyin groaned.

“It’s our apartment.” Jin Ling corrected, still staring at Jingyi. “You’re really cute, you know that?”

Oh fuck. He wasn’t blushing. He wasn’t.

“Aww, young love.”

“Get the fuck through the door, idiot.”

Jingyi stepped aside, allowing the three men to stumble into the apartment.

“Kuai is here, Wei Wuxian. Fair warning.” Wei Wuxian shuddered, but squared his shoulders.

“Why is it always dogs? What’s wrong with bunnies?”

“Bunnies can’t sniff out bombs.” Jingyi commented dryly, and all three winced.

“Right.” Jiang Cheng deposited Jin Ling onto the couch, and staggered upright. “I’m leaving this idiot with you, and taking the other one with me. Try to stay out of trouble, boys. Wei Ying, hurry up.”

“Always in a hurry, Cheng-Cheng. Is that why all your girlfriends left?”

“Get in the fucking car and leave them to it.”

“Nice to see you, Jingyi!” Wei Wuxian called out, even as he was manhandled out the door. It shut behind them, the sounds of their bickering eventually fading. Which left him alone with Jin Ling, after their argument this morning.

“Jin Ling, I…”

“Jingyi!” Jin Ling interrupted, patting the space next to him. “Come!” Jingyi sat down, amused. As soon as he did so, Jin Ling was in his space, wrapping his arms around Jingyi and clinging tightly.

“Have I ever told you how much I love you? Like, I love you much that it hurts sometimes.”

Jingyi choked on whatever words he was going to say, and fell silent as Jin Ling continued to ramble.

“Like, I love your face, and those freckles on your nose that you get in summer because they’re so cute and when you laugh it’s adorable and I wished you’d do it more often. And I’m so sorry that I yelled at you when you probably didn’t want my help, but I love you so much and I don’t want to you to be in pain, and it hurt me so much to see you in the hospital, because I love you. I love you and I didn’t say it that day because I thought that I’d see you that night but I didn’t.”

Jin Ling looked up at him.

“So can you stay? Forever? I would like you to?”

“You…want me to stay?” Jingyi choked out, struggling to comprehend all that Jin Ling had just thrown at him.

“Duh.” Jin Ling pressed a sloppy kiss to his collarbone.

“Forever?”

“I want to be stuck with you forever.” Jin Ling announced. “I don’t have a ring yet, but that can be arranged.”

“A-Ling.” Jingyi flushed, eyes wide. “Are you asking me to marry you?” Jin Ling sat up straight, fixing Jingyi with an intense look.

“I was out of line this morning, I’m sorry. But I do love you, and there is no one else I’d rather have by my side for the rest of my life. You irritate me sometimes, you can never keep the kitchen clean and your socks are always on the floor, but I’d rather be stuck with you than be without you.”

“A-Ling.” Jingyi kissed Jin Ling, his partner responding eagerly, hands moving up to cradle his jaw as the kiss deepened. It was broken by a yawn, and Jingyi laughed, pushing Jin Ling to stand.

“I will. But first, bed, A-Ling.”

“Only if you come with me.” Jin Ling pouted, and Jingyi laughed, wrapping an arm around Jin Ling’s shoulder to better guide him. Also to balance, because goddamn did his knee hurt. He was grateful, then, when Jin Ling immediately took some of his weight.

“I just wanna help, A-Yi.” He mumbled. “Don’t like seeing you hurt, or in pain. Jiujiu said that it may have come across as excessive mother-henning. ‘M sorry.”

“Your jiujiu is a wise man.” Jingyi hid a smile in Jin Ling’s hair, opening the door with ease and guiding them to the unmade bed. Jin Ling whined under his breath, tugging at his shirt.

“’M too hot.” Jingyi laughed again, pushing aside clumsy hands to grab the hem of Rulan’s shirt for him and pull it up.

“You never could sleep with a shirt on. Come on, arms up.” Jin Ling obeyed, staring at him.

“I’m so lucky.” Jingyi smiled at him, stealthily undoing the belt and slacks.

“Pants, A-Ling.”

“Only if you’ll take them off me.” Jin Ling made a face that was supposed to be seductive, Jingyi thought, but ended up looking like he was, well, wasted. Jingyi sighed, and shook his head.

“You are ridiculous sometimes, you know that? You’re lucky you’re handsome.” He teased his partner, encouraging him to step out of the very nice dress slacks he wore to the office.

“I am handsome, thank you.”

“Well then, Mr Handsome, time to go to bed.” Jin Ling protested, but lay down anyway, pressing as close as possible to Jingyi when he slid in next to him.

“I love you, Jingyi.” Jin Ling hummed into his skin. “You’re stuck with me now.”

“I love you too.” Jingyi choked out, pressing a kiss to Jin Ling’s forehead.

Jin Ling was still humming, under his breath, the vibrations rumbling in his chest, and Jingyi ducked his head to hide a smile, pressing his nose into Jin Ling’s neck.

“I’m stuck with you, yeah. You’re stuck with me too.”

.

.

.

.

I’m stuck with you, stuck with you, stuck with you.