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i. february

Wei Ying has always been a ridiculously light sleeper. The primal evolutionary instinct that kept early humans on the alert for predators had been passed down through the millenia, and when it had reached him it was inexplicably cranked up to an eleven. So even the mere sound of feet shuffling down the hallway is enough to startle Wei Ying awake at—he squints at his phone—3:17AM.

He rolls out of bed, hisses “Ow, shit,” under his breath when he stubs his toe on the bed frame in the dark, and fumbles his bedroom door open just in time to hear it:

Zzzp.

Toe still throbbing, Wei Ying follows the noise and turns the corner to the kitchen.

Zzzzp. Zzzzzp. Zzp.

Lan Zhan is illuminated only by the light of the refrigerator, door open behind him as he stands at the little table they’d turned into a makeshift kitchen island when they first moved to this apartment. Some of the groceries he’d picked up earlier that evening are spread out haphazardly in front of him, and in his hands—

Zzp zzp.

A smile spreads across Wei Ying’s face. He has a long and extensive list of Favorite Gifts From Lan Zhan, and at the very top of the list are nights like this. “Lan Zhan? Sleepwalking again, huh?”

Lan Zhan looks up at him, eyes open but unmistakably glassy, and continues methodically peeling stalks of celery. “Mn.” Zzzzzzp go the strings before Lan Zhan places them on the table. Then with one grand, elegant motion, he sweeps all their hard-earned produce onto the floor.

Wei Ying steps over some celery strings to close the refrigerator door. “You know, you’re lucky you’re so handsome. I’ve got a real soft spot for your good looks in particular, Lan Zhan, I hope you can appreciate what an honor that is. I’ve got impeccable taste and impossibly high standards. I’ll let you off with a warning this time, mostly because we both know I’ve done worse things to ruin our food.” He points a finger at the comment that Lan Zhan isn’t awake enough to make. “But that doesn’t include the addition of chili oil!”

“Mn.”

This is the only time Wei Ying can talk to Lan Zhan this way. (“This way” meaning “like a fucking embarrassment,” where the teasing falls away and in its place is, like, actual emotional honesty. Gross.) He doesn’t remember how the habit started, but at some point he had to concede that this was at least slightly healthier than completely repressing all the feelings he’s developed for his best friend over the years. It works out, really. He verbalizes his feelings instead of ignoring them and letting them fester and mutate into something harmful (“Progress!” encourages his therapist), and Lan Zhan remembers exactly none of the details from his sleepwalking adventures when he wakes up in the morning. Not even at a subconscious level; when they became roommates Wei Ying had spent the first few months trying to subliminally convince Lan Zhan that his taste buds were wrong and chili does make everything taste better, but to no avail. Lan Zhan’s spice tolerance remained weak as an overcooked egg noodle, and Wei Ying realized he’d found a safe, harmless outlet for his emotional turmoil.

And so nights like this became weirdly cathartic, in addition to hilarious. With the full confidence that Lan Zhan’s beautiful brain was safe from absolutely everything he heard as long as he was sufficiently deep in the REM cycle, Wei Ying was free to air out all the bullshit in his chest that was too overwhelming to confront in the daylight.

Wei Ying crouches and starts salvaging the floor groceries. “The eggplant probably survived the fall, but the tomatoes—hmm, we’ll save those for further review in the morning. And we’ll just not worry about the celery, we can feed it to the rabbits. Oh thank you for opening the fridge again for me, Lan Zhan, I can put these back now. You’re so considerate, even when you’re not fully conscious. See, this is why I love you. Only one of many reasons.”

He shuts the refrigerator again, smiling. “I hope you’re done. Unless you also wanted to shred the lettuce?”

“Mn.”

“How about we save that for next time? Let’s get you back to bed, you need to wake me up on time to meet Wen Ning for lunch tomorrow. He ran away from grad school to come home for Lunar New Year, won’t it be nice to see him in person after so long? Come on, turn around, let’s go.” He takes Lan Zhan by the shoulders and gently pushes him back down the hallway. “Picking you as my best friend when we were ten was the best decision I’ve ever made, you know. Aren’t you glad you eventually agreed with me? Say ‘mn’ if you mean ‘yes.’”

“Mn.”

“Ahhhh, Lan Zhan, you’re so funny. You always get so concerned the morning after you sleepwalk, asking if you said anything while you were asleep. But most of the time you’re just like this! One ‘mn’ is worth a thousand words with you. What are you worried about, huh? Afraid Zombie Lan Zhan is gonna blurt out your deepest, darkest secrets?”

“Mn.”

Wei Ying laughs, softly kicking the door to Lan Zhan’s bedroom open a little further. “You never believe me when I say you didn’t talk. I’ll have to remember to record you next time.”


ii. april

The sound of the door unlocking makes Wei Ying bolt out of bed before he’s even really aware of it. His hastiness is warranted though, because sure enough, Lan Zhan is halfway out the door. “Lan Zhan!” Wei Ying whisper-shouts, rushing forward. 

He’s wearing a jacket and a beanie, dressed for weather far chillier than the night actually is. The effect is ruined a little by the pale blue pajama bottoms he’s got underneath.

“Lan Zhan, are you awake? Where are you going?”

He blinks slowly. Twice as slow as he normally does when he’s being intentionally obtuse. Definitely sleepwalking. “Ge,” he murmurs eventually.

“Ge? You’re going out to see Lan Huan?”

“Mn. Pick loquats.”

“Ahh you’re going to pick loquats with your brother? That sounds so fun. I wish I could visit jie so easily, but she and the peacock had to move to the middle of Silicon Valley, and now you couldn’t pay me enough money to go within thirty miles of their house. Imagine me in a city full of Tech Bros, Lan Zhan, I’d punch someone within the first hour, I just know it.” Wei Ying hustles out into the hallway and gingerly turns Lan Zhan back towards their door. “You’re lucky Huan-ge is the only person allowed to love you more than I do, or else I’d be extremely jealous. But it’s so early, Lan Zhan, your brother’s loquat tree will still be there in the daytime.” He takes Lan Zhan’s hand—another indulgence allowed only when one of them isn’t fully conscious—and pulls him back into the apartment.

“He was just here to visit us yesterday, don’t you remember? He already gave us a bag full of loquats. Do you want to eat some, Lan Zhan? I’ll let you do it if you promise not to choke by accident. Just sit down right there while I lock the door… thank you.” And Wei Ying can’t help himself, he reaches out and appreciatively pats Lan Zhan’s cheeks. His skin is so soft, and he looks so cute like this: relaxed and unworried. “Okay, let me get Huan-ge’s loquats. We owe him a lot, Lan Zhan, he’s part of the reason we’re friends.” 

Wei Ying grabs a few from the bag in the kitchen and starts peeling off the skins. “It was the middle of summer camp—feel free to interrupt me if you’re tired of hearing this story, Lan Zhan, but it’s one of my favorites—and one night I got woken up because your brother was trying to stop you from leaving the cabin. You managed to climb down the bunk bed without even waking up, do you remember that? Well of course you don’t, you were dead asleep. Anyway, I’d never seen anyone sleepwalk before, so Huan-ge had to explain that your brain could stay asleep but still control your body and do things sometimes. And since it was the first time I’d seen you like this, of course I had to do some scientific investigation.” Wei Ying can’t help but smile as he drops some more loquat seeds onto a paper towel. “I thought it was so cool how you could still see things even if your eyes wouldn’t follow anything when I waved my fingers in front of you. That’s when I started calling you Zombie Lan Zhan, which you didn’t particularly enjoy at the time.”

“Ge,” repeats Lan Zhan, stumbling back to his feet and heading for the door, and Wei Ying has no choice but to leap in front of him again.

“Nope! Don’t do that. Be a good boy for me, won’t you, Lan Zhan? I know you’d rather be with your brother, but if you leave, I can’t give you any food!” He shuffles them backward into the living room again until Lan Zhan sits on the sofa. “Stay right there for me, baobei, just give me one more minute to get these loquats free of choking hazards. Huan-ge trusts me to look after you, and I can’t let him down.”

Wei Ying goes back to peeling fruit in the kitchen, but keeps a watchful eye on Lan Zhan. “He’s the one who showed me that I could talk to you when you’re like this. When we asked what you were trying to do, you just looked at him and said, ‘The rabbits must be obeyed,’ which we figured was your way of saying you were going to the bunny meadow. And at first Huan-ge was trying to get you back to bed, but you were so stubborn that night, Lan Zhan! I had to hold you away from the door.”

Loquat skins and seeds now removed, Wei Ying brings the bowl over to Lan Zhan. “Okay, baby. Say ahhh.” 

Lan Zhan obediently opens his mouth, and Wei Ying gently feeds him, half a loquat at a time. 

“But anyway, back to the story of the night you became my favorite person,” Wei Ying rambles, because if he stops, he might get stuck thinking about Lan Zhan’s lips brushing against his fingertips. (And he is not! ready! to think full thoughts about that yet!)

“Your brother and I were trying to get you back to bed, but then I realized: why shouldn’t we let you go see the bunnies, huh? You were so determined that night, Lan Zhan, I wish you could’ve seen yourself. So I asked Huan-ge what—oh, so you’re just taking the whole bowl now, huh? If that’s what you really want, Lan Zhan. Aiyah, you’re turning me into such a pushover—I asked Huan-ge what the harm could be if we just unleash you into the wild like you so desperately wanted to, and wouldn’t it be better if we go with you to make sure nothing bad happens? Who could blame us? We’re just supervising a wayward sleepwalking zombie who wasn’t doing this on purpose.”

Wei Ying wipes his fingers on another paper towel, then leans over and dabs at some loquat juice that had dripped down Lan Zhan’s chin. “And that’s how we ended up in the bunny field for the best night of ten-year-old me’s life. Even while you were sleeping you were so gentle with the bunnies, Lan Zhan. The picture of serenity.” Wei Ying sighs happily and reaches into his pajama pocket for his phone. “I distinctly remember turning to Huan-ge and saying ‘This should happen all the time. I can’t wait to be with Zombie Lan Zhan next time.’ And you know what he said to me?”

Wei Ying pauses to make sure the camera’s framed the way he wants. “He said, ‘My brother is very lucky to have you as a friend.’” And he hits record on his phone.

It remains one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to Wei Ying. Which is why, after herding Lan Zhan back to bed, Wei Ying sends Lan Huan the video of his baby brother in winter attire, staring vacantly at the camera and eating loquats on their living room floor. I had to lure him back with loquats. He was trying to go see you!

In the morning he sees Lan Huan’s laugh emojis. 

Lan Huan
Today 5:02AM

😂😂😂 Aww, didi. How far did he get this time?

7:14AM

caught him on the way out the door
wasnt so bad

Thank you for always looking after A-Zhan.
We’re very lucky to have you, Wei Ying.

thats what I keep telling him!
especially after I take videos like this and send them to all our friends!


iii. july

“Lan Zhan? Is that you?”

Lan Zhan doesn’t turn, just grunts out an “Mn” that’s three times longer than usual in the living room. Zombie, then. Wei Ying wishes he could be unconscious too, but the sweltering heat in their apartment has kept him tossing and turning all night already, so he might as well kiss his hopes for a good night’s sleep goodbye. At least now he’ll have Zombie Lan Zhan to keep him company.

Their air conditioning unit broke down three days ago, and despite the landlord’s promises, they still haven’t seen any appearance from the maintenance crew to fix it. This, of course, had to happen during the hottest week of the summer so far, and after the second day Wei Ying had, in a fit of (heatstroke-induced?) hubris, declared that he would fix the AC unit himself. “I’m an engineer, I’ll figure it out just fine,” he’d told an unimpressed Lan Zhan, who was not looking nearly as wilted and miserable as Wei Ying thought their apartment’s temperature warranted.

He’d made decent progress, all things considered. He’d popped it open just fine, and even managed to track down some of the relevant manuals and design drawings after some earnest Googling. The thing he’d failed to account for, though, was that he was an electrical engineer, and therefore understood very little about... plumbing and mechanisms and shit.

It took an entire forty minutes of Lan Zhan’s completely silent judgment to convince Wei Ying to admit defeat. 

“Leave it, Wei Ying,” he’d eventually said while neatly wiping sweat from his gleaming and very kissable forehead. “You’re going to prolong the repair if you keep removing parts.” Which is when Wei Ying had laid down on the floor and miserably rolled himself away from his failure, leaving the air conditioner components and tools scattered across their living room rug for the maintenance workers to deal with.

Lan Zhan is sitting in the middle of those scattered parts now, hunched over, a scowl pulling the corners of his lips down in an exaggerated frown as he looks at the useless AC unit.

His face muscles don’t even do that when he’s drunk. Wei Ying diagnoses him with: very asleep, but somehow still grumpy. 

“Ah, the most beautiful man alive is sleepwalking again, huh?” And the thing is, Wei Ying can award that title to Lan Zhan with certifiable proof, now. The lack of air conditioning made the apartment feel excruciating, which meant that both of them spent their time wearing as little as possible. Which really meant that Wei Ying had spent the past three days in his apartment constantly interacting with a usually-shirtless Lan Zhan, with all his long limbs and toned muscles and smooth skin just casually on display and—

And it’s fine. Wei Ying is fine. Wei Ying is… looking… respectfully.

Like right now, with Lan Zhan sitting in front of him wearing only his boxers. Yeah, maybe Wei Ying’s mouth feels a little dry suddenly, but he’s only human. 

Wei Ying changes his mind, he can’t do this after all. He averts his gaze out of both respect and self-preservation. The ceiling is safe, so that’s where he’s looking when he says, “Lan Zhan, where is your sense of decency? Sometimes I think you look like this just to torture me. You’re gonna actually kill me. All the times you call me shameless, but you’re the one who gets to look like an absolute snack so effortlessly? Where is the justice here…”

When he gets no answer, Wei Ying waits a few more seconds before he trusts himself to look directly at Lan Zhan again. His hands are wandering over the open AC unit, his face scrunched up in concentration. It’s the most wrinkles Wei Ying has ever seen on him. He snaps a few photos for the sake of posterity (and also so he can send them to Lan Huan later).

Use your anger, Lan Zhan. Only then can you harness the power of the Dark Side. It’s a good thing you never remember anything when you’re like this, people might accuse me of actually trying to seduce you to the side of evil.” Wei Ying feels a drop of sweat slide down the back of his neck. “But if turning to the Dark Side gives you the secret to fixing our air conditioning, it might be worth it. I’d fucking kiss you. I’d propose marriage and we’d elope the same night before anyone could question us, and our whole honeymoon would be spent in our freezing cold apartment making sweet, sweet love to stay warm.”

Wei Ying shakes the thought out of his head. Smacks his forehead a couple times. He’s been looking at Lan Zhan’s arms for too long. The heat is getting to him; he might need to go stick his head in the freezer for a time out.

Even asleep, Lan Zhan seems to agree, because he suddenly shouts, “It’s too damn hot!” 

“Okay,” Wei Ying whispers around his giggles. “Okay, so clearly this is one of the talky nights for you. Yes my love, you are correct, but Lan Zhan, we should be using our nighttime voices. It’s 1AM and you’re like four levels above Nighttime Voice right now. You can be as mad as you want and you can tell me all about it, as long as you’re quiet. Can you do that?”

Lan Zhan scowls and says scathingly, but obligingly quieter, “The cafe where I ordered lunch does not wash their produce. There were rocks in the salad. I almost broke a tooth.”

“Yes, you told me about this already,” Wei Ying says, nodding. “Let it out, Lan Zhan. I love it when you actually complain. This is healthy, right?” he wonders out loud. “This probably counts as a healthy expression of anger. Or is this only beneficial if you’re doing it fully conscious?”

The conundrum doesn’t seem to bother Lan Zhan, who continues detailing his list of grievances. “Wen Chao is a nightmare to work with. Speaking to him is like talking to a goldfish. I’ve met toddlers with better memory retention than him.”

Wei Ying just keeps nodding while he crawls over and starts putting all the stray parts back into some semblance of a pile. REM cycle or no REM cycle, Lan Zhan’s frustrations deserve to be validated. “Drag him, honey. Roast him alive. Ruin his reputation forever.”

“Su She came into the office with a cold again. What kind of rat-licker manages to get a cold in the middle of summer? On average he sniffled once every thirty-six seconds for the entire day. I wanted to reach over the cubicle divider and strangle him with his own hideous tie.”

Wei Ying is putting so much effort into keeping his laughter silent that he may have cracked a few ribs.  “Ahhh, Lan Zhan. Most people think you’re so admirable, but for all the wrong reasons. They think you’re virtuous and magnanimous and unshakably polite, but I know the truth: my best friend’s a bitch, and I like him so much. Angry Lan Zhan is your truest and most powerful form. Just go apeshit, babe, I’ll support you no matter what.”

“I do not know what version of reality Jin Guangshaun is participating in, but I can only assume it’s a pleasant one for him. That man has his head shoved so far up his own ass, it’s astounding to me that he’s even aware of the passage of time.”

Wei Ying’s hands are shaking now, and they refuse to grasp the wrenches and screwdrivers. He can feel tears starting to fall down his face. He’s curled into the fetal position and his stomach hurts too much to move. He has never felt so alive. “Lan Zhan, you’re my favorite person in the entire fucking world. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for you.”

“And why do the neighbors have to be so LOUD when they’re FUCKING.” And Lan Zhan picks up one of the other wrenches and throws it at the opposite wall, hard.

Wei Ying gasps before he can stop himself, and immediately has to bite down on his own fingers. He dives for a couch cushion to muffle the howls of laughter he can’t control—and if the night keeps heading the way it’s going, also to use as a shield, if proven necessary. 

“Lan Zhan,” he says breathlessly when he can speak again, “no throwing. Please, no more throwing. We don’t have access to tons of lawyers ready to sue for tenant rights like Nie Huaisang does out in New York City, if you punch a hole in the wall we might end up living with it for months. If you won’t do it for me, do it for the rabbits. Look how badly you scared our children!” He points to the rabbit hutch, where Suibian and Bichen are skittering around each other frantically.

“Why do we have to be subjected to this? Can’t they just bone quietly?” Lan Zhan rages on, and he reaches for one of the other wrenches.

“No! No throwing!”

Wei Ying doesn't think. He just lurches forward and throws his arms around Lan Zhan, pinning his arms down to his sides. But maybe Wei Ying should just let Lan Zhan destroy their apartment, because the alternative is kneeling here with Lan Zhan’s back pressed against Wei Ying’s bare chest, and now he’s content to stay here until he dies. He can smell Lan Zhan’s body wash, and he takes a deep, slow inhale of the sandalwood scent from his skin. It takes Wei Ying a few seconds to realize that he’s started nuzzling Lan Zhan’s neck.

Okay, stopping that immediately,” declares Wei Ying, jerking backwards. “That’s a deeply inappropriate violation of boundaries if I’ve ever seen one. You know I’d never do that to you if you were awake, sweetie, I’m sorry for making it weird.” Wei Ying lets out a slow, shaky breath and carefully backs away. He moves his hands to Lan Zhan’s shoulders, which are probably the safest option (as long as he keeps them arm’s-length away and avoids thinking about the muscles he can feel under his fingers). “All Right. Lan Zhan, this has been fun—and also a real test of my self-control, which I have failed miserably—but now we’re going to sleep before I do something incredibly stupid and wind up getting sent to horny jail. Let’s get you back to bed, it’s very difficult to focus when I can see your whole chest like this.” 

He clumsily hauls Lan Zhan back to his feet and pushes him back to his bedroom. “But I promise: if the AC isn’t fixed by tomorrow night, all bets are off. I’ll get you a sledgehammer and a helmet and goggles and everything, and I’ll help you raze this whole fucking building.”


iv. september

Wei Ying has to take a couple deep, calming breaths before he can speak. “Lan Zhan. My dude. My beloved, most treasured roommate. Man of my dreams and occasionally of my nightmares.” One more breath, so he doesn’t completely lose it. “Are you really, truly, reorganizing the kitchen cabinets at 4AM entirely asleep?

Lan Zhan is too busy pulling down the bottle of five spice powder from the cabinet to answer. Wei Ying can’t see his face, but he doesn’t need to: Lan Zhan’s shoulders are too relaxed, slouched in a way he would usually never hold himself. Sleeping.

“You’re going to be so irritated in the morning, Lan Zhan. You’ll wake up and start cooking and you’re gonna see that nothing’s where it’s supposed to be, and you’ll frown and get that little wrinkle between your eyebrows. I don’t even know why it annoys you so much, you put labels on every container. It really takes away the mystery when you’re cooking, and isn’t that half the fun?”

But then Wei Ying watches Lan Zhan twist off the cap for the bottle of five spice before setting it down on the counter, and he realizes that Lan Zhan has opened every container he’d pulled out. Wei Ying can see little sprinkles of everything on the countertop, little accidental spills. All in all, it’s entirely harmless, but for some reason it’s getting under Wei Ying’s skin tonight. He’s been like this all day, honestly, feeling like a vat of something gross and putrid that’s been simmering for too long, about to boil over and permanently stain anything he touches. He’s stretched too thin, all ready to snap, and apparently this is shaping up to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

“You know, maybe Wen Qing had the right idea: no roommates. Go to Johns Hopkins’ stupid-expensive med school and just live by yourself in the cheapest studio apartment you can find. Fuck engineering, should’ve been pre-med with her in undergrad, then I could’ve followed her.”

Lan Zhan doesn’t provide comment, he opens up their pepper grinder and pours the peppercorns all over the counter.

“Just can’t catch a fucking break this week, can I?” Wei Ying mutters, tugging at his own hair. “First that godawful motorcycle parade, then the yowling cat upstairs, then the car alarm that was going off for a full fucking hour. Fucking wish I was normal. I hate that I’m like this. And I can’t even do the normal thing of, like, earplugs and an eyemask to let me stay the fuck asleep, because I’m the only one who can make sure you don’t do something dangerous when you get like this. It’s all down to me, right? Always my job to save everybody.” He can feel the humorless smile twisting his face. “That’s all this is fucking good for, making me the only obstacle between my sleepwalking roommate trying to walk off the balcony or drive a fucking car or—”

Wei Ying stops. Hisses out a harsh breath through his teeth. Presses the heels of his palms into his eyes.

“I’m sorry. That was all so shitty, I didn’t actually mean that. It’s not like you’re doing this on purpose either, I’m sorry,” he says, even though Lan Zhan won’t remember this—and even if he did, he’d never begrudge Wei Ying, he’d just look at him with unbearably understanding eyes and say, “No apologies,” in that quiet way of his.

“I’m just. So fucking tired.” Wei Ying swipes a hand down his face. “I’ve got a PDR tomorrow and it’s gonna be the same shit it always is: ’Why’d you do this?’ ‘Are you sure you can’t find a way to meet our requirements?’ ‘Did you know that this design choice is wrong and you’re a fucking moron?’ And I just have to smile and nod at dumbass customers who rip my design to shreds, even though they sprung the project on us two fucking weeks ago and made us throw something together just to hit this made-up deadline, only for the goalposts to be moved again right afterward. There’s no fucking way to win, the game is rigged. Reminds me of growing up with Mrs. Yu—”

Wei Ying bites the inside of his cheek. He’s starting to get a headache, right between his eyes. “Ugh. Okay, we’re gonna... schedule that emotion for a later date. Tuesdays at six o’clock, with my trusted mental health professional. Yeah.” Wei Ying scrubs at his face, blowing out a long, slow exhale. “All right, I’ve got an awful day ahead of me, I should probably sleep a little more before it starts. Let’s put all this shit back.” He steps up to the counter and starts replacing the lids on the bottle of MSG (his) and the container of rice flour (Lan Zhan’s), only for Lan Zhan to slap his hands. 

“Ow! Lan Zhan, what the fuck.”

“Stop touching. This is not your food.”

“It’s me, Lan Zhan. We agreed that the kitchen fell under the ‘what’s mine is yours’ rule when we moved in together.”

“The osmanthus cake must be ready.”

Wei Ying stares. “A cake? You’re here because you’re sleep-baking?” He starts laughing, because he’s three seconds away from screaming. He’s so tired, and his roommate is spilling the contents of their entire kitchen at 4AM, and there’s no way Wei Ying is about to clean this shit up for him. He laughs harder when Lan Zhan turns to glare at him, still dreaming. 

“It’s for Wei Ying. Tomorrow is the anniversary,” Lan Zhan says clearly, and the air gets punched out of Wei Ying’s chest. 

That can’t be right, can it? Had the day really snuck up on him like this? 

“Oh.” Wei Ying stumbles back and catches himself on their kitchen table. “That’s right,” he says weakly. Fragile. His head falls back until he’s staring blankly at the ceiling. “It’s already September, isn’t it.”

September, when he waved goodbye to his parents for what turned out to be the last time. September, when Uncle Jiang arrived to pick him up from school and hugged him tight. September, when he was told very, very gently that there had been a car accident, and that Uncle Jiang and his family were going to take care of him from now on.

“Lan Zhan, how… Why would you remember that?”

“It’s painful for him, even if he pretends it isn’t.” He’s still glaring, outraged on behalf of the person right in front of him. It’s stirring up something deep in Wei Ying’s chest. “Wei Ying would sooner let himself bleed to death than admit that he is hurting.”

“Okay, that was one time in college, and the doctor said it was a minor concussion.”

Wei Ying feels the urge to lie down, and possibly cry a little bit. Instead, he steps in front of the refrigerator and grabs Lan Zhan’s hands. “You know, I was trying so hard to hide it, but of course you noticed anyway. Should’ve known nothing could get past you. God, I’m an asshole. You’re so good to me, I really don’t deserve you.” And since there’s no reason to stop himself, Wei Ying brings Lan Zhan’s hands to his mouth and brushes a kiss to his knuckles. 

He smiles when he speaks again, even though his audience won’t really see it. “Ah, wonderful Lan Zhan, you’ve worked so hard, and you’re going to wake up soon. You need to go back to bed.”

Lan Zhan emphatically shakes his head. “I have to make him something. It must be perfect, he deserves—” He shakes his head again, agitated. “He is so good, he doesn’t think he should get good things, but he does. I will give him good things.”

“I can—” Wei Ying coughs a little. There’s a lump in his throat, and he wonders if he’ll ever get used to this. All these reminders of how good Lan Zhan really is. How good Lan Zhan is to him. “I can make the cake for Wei Ying. You need to go rest, Lan Zhan. I promise I’ll make him the best osmanthus cake in the world, I just need you to go back to bed.”

“If it’s not good, I will kill you,” he says, deathly serious.

Wei Ying carefully breathes around the sensation in his chest that feels like it’s being filled by an expanding balloon. “I’ll keep that in mind,” says Wei Ying, and he gently tugs Lan Zhan back to his room to put him to bed.


v. november

Wei Ying is still riding a second wave of productivity when he catches movement in his peripheral vision, and he slides off his noise-canceling headphones. (A birthday gift from Lan Zhan, one that had instantly made the Top Five on the list of best gifts Wei Ying has ever received. Wei Ying had almost kissed him.) 

(To show his gratitude. Obviously.)

“Lan Zhan, I told you already, I’ll go to sleep soon. Right after I finish—oh. Shit, it’s 2AM already? Oh god, Jiang Cheng’s birthday dim sum is at 10. I gotta go to bed, Mrs. Yu will kill me if I show up late looking all scruffy. What are you doing up so—ah.” Wei Ying looks up where Lan Zhan is standing beside their sofa, perfectly relaxed. He’s looking right at Wei Ying, but a little beyond him, eyes just a little out-of-focus. “I see. Another sleepytime stroll?”

“Mn.”

“It’s good to see you again, Zombie Lan Zhan. As always,” Wei Ying says, smiling. He props his face up on his hand. “What are we trying to do tonight, huh? Petty theft? Scavenger hunt? Ooh, a re-creation of Nailed It in the kitchen?”

“Mn.”

“None of those tonight, huh? That’s a shame. Are you looking for something?”

“Mn.”

“One of the ‘yes’ noises, okay. Maybe I can help you find it. What are you looking for?”

“Wei Ying.”

“Yes, that’s me. Your roommate, your best friend, and your… D&D dungeon master, if you ever agree to play with us.”

“Mn,” Lan Zhan says. One of the ‘no’ noises. “Find Wei Ying.”

“You’re talking to me, bud. Have you forgotten me already? How cruel of you, Lan Zhan. Casting me aside after all the sleepwalking episodes I’ve mercilessly teased you about during our long years of friendship. Does my constant mockery mean nothing to you? You didn’t recognize me last time either, I’m starting to think you’ve subconsciously been wanting to get rid of me this whole time. And if that’s true, then I might as well die.”

Lan Zhan’s face does something Wei Ying hasn’t seen in literal years—he pouts. Bottom lip pushed out. Big, sad eyes. “No dying,” he says plaintively.

“Oh no, oh honey, I’m sorry,” Wei Ying is quick to say, waving his hands frantically. “That was a joke, Lan Zhan, a bad joke! I’m sorry baobei, please don’t be sad, I promise I won’t die. I’ll become the first person to live forever, just for you.”

He’s still got that unbelievably adorable forlorn look on his face when he repeats back, “Promise?”

“Yes, promise. I’d do anything for you, darling, you know that. Please stop looking so sad, you’re gonna break my heart.” He continues looking sad, which makes Wei Ying feel like an asshole, so Wei Ying gets to his feet and wraps Lan Zhan into a hug.

“Mn.” Lan Zhan puts his arms around Wei Ying’s ribcage and squeezes. And then he slumps forward, pressing all his weight onto Wei Ying.

“Ahh, Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan no, you’re gonna make us fall—”

His roommate is a big person, is the thing, so Wei Ying never really stood a chance. His knees buckle under Lan Zhan’s stubborn, sleepy insistence, and Wei Ying has no choice but to carefully maneuver their fall backwards onto the sofa. He ends up flat on his back, hands automatically cradling the back of Lan Zhan’s head while he takes the bulk of the impact onto the couch cushions, with Lan Zhan sprawled on top of him—still asleep, and still refusing to let go of Wei Ying.

“Ahh, I tried to tell you, gege. Don’t you feel silly? Your Wei Ying can’t hold you up when you do that.”

“Mn,” hums Lan Zhan. Then he hooks one of his legs around Wei Ying’s, and Wei Ying tries his best not to die immediately. 

“Oh, I see. You were really just looking for a little spoon. Am I nothing more than a teddy bear to you, Lan Zhan?”

Lan Zhan pushes his face into the crook of Wei Ying’s neck. “Warm.”

“Well that doesn’t make any sense, you’re hotter than me in every sense of the word.” And if Wei Ying’s voice is a little high when he says it, that’s nobody’s business.

“Keep Wei Ying warm,” Lan Zhan mumbles into his collarbone.

Wei Ying’s next exhale is a little shaky. Lan Zhan is going to be the death of him. “Are you sure about this, Lan Zhan? Don’t you wanna go back to sleep in your bed? It’ll be much more comfortable.”

“Mn,” he says, and then promptly closes his eyes.

Man. And Wei Ying thought he was trapped when the bunnies fell asleep on top of him. This is a whole new level. But now he’s starting to understand the appeal of those weighted blankets he keeps hearing about, because Wei Ying’s pretty damn content.

It’s not about Wei Ying, though. He tilts his head to try and get a better look at Lan Zhan’s face. “You’re sure you don’t wanna move, Lan Zhan? I know you outgrew the snoring, but I didn’t. What if my snoring’s so loud and obnoxious that you never want to speak to me again?”

No answer. 

“Really, dear? Out for the count, just when I want to talk to you most? Well I guess you’d never really know the difference, I always wanna talk to you. Those are kind of the default settings.”

Wei Ying gazes blankly up at the ceiling, weighing his options. He’s stuck. With Lan Zhan. Mostly underneath Lan Zhan. He’s gotta finagle his way out of this, because he can’t just—stay here, underneath Lan Zhan, his best friend and probably the love of his life, all night long.

Right?

Wei Ying flattens one hand on the small of Lan Zhan’s back. He can feel his heartbeat, steady and slow. “I should wake you up,” he says softly. “Usually I let you stay asleep because it’s always so fun to watch, but—this feels like a mistake. This isn’t something you really want, it’s just the sleepwalking. You do all sorts of weird shit when you’re like this, Lan Zhan, why would this be any different? If I shake you awake right now we can just... make a joke and go back to normal and move on.”

He does not shake Lan Zhan awake. Wei Ying stays very still and listens to the cadence of his breathing instead. The moment feels fragile in his hands, like any sudden movements or loud noises would make his whole body shatter like glass. It feels like stealing , like he’s got a masterpiece lying around in his shitty, cluttered bedroom when it ought to be on display in a museum.

Wei Ying rearranges Lan Zhan’s arms so his blood circulation doesn’t get cut off. Rolls Lan Zhan’s head just a little bit so he won’t get a crick in his neck. Murmurs into their quiet living room, “Scoot a little closer, Lan Zhan, I don’t want you to fall off the couch.”

So he’s selfish. Nothing Wei Ying didn’t know before. He’ll grapple with his conscience in the morning, when Lan Zhan wakes up and has to untangle their arms and legs, which will definitely be enough to startle Wei Ying awake too. Wei Ying will tease him for being such a clingy zombie, then maybe go cry in the shower for a little while before he leaves for dim sum with the Jiangs, and that will be that. 

Yes. Great plan, easy to execute.

Wei Ying pulls out his phone and opens the app that controls their appliances (“Listen, I know smart homes are just the normalization of bringing surveillance equipment into your house, but sometimes it really is convenient, Lan Zhan!”) to turn off the lights. The apartment goes dark, but beams of moonlight streak in through the blinds, draping both of them with the softest glow. 

It knocks the wind out of him, honestly. Wei Ying finds himself staring: at the curve of Lan Zhan’s eyelashes, the soft lines of his mouth. Breathtaking. Perfect. His wonderful Lan Zhan.

Wei Ying loves him so completely, he doesn’t know what to do with all of it. He’s a dam holding back a flood, but the walls are starting to give, and then it will be—

Then it will be… disaster, most likely.

Maybe if he releases some of the pressure, it will start to feel bearable. As long as he’s careful. As long as he can stop again.

Wei Ying reaches up and runs a hand through Lan Zhan’s hair. “I wish you were awake for this,” he whispers, the truth heavy in his mouth. “I wish you meant it. Doesn’t this feel nice, Lan Zhan? We could do this every night, if you wanted to. I think I’d like that a lot. I’m afraid to ask you, in case you say no and you never look at me the same way again. I don’t ever want to chase you away, Lan Zhan, I don’t think I’d be able to live with myself.”

He wants to take this moment in time and save it forever. Crystallize it, put it in a bottle to preserve and treasure. Press it between pages of a book and keep it tucked inside his heart. Turn it into a pearl that he can hold in his mouth, hide it safe under his tongue for as long as he lives. He wants…

He wants. Is that such a bad thing?

But Wei Ying looks at Lan Zhan, the best person he knows—good, steady, constant Lan Zhan, ridiculous, secretly hilarious—and imagines it all going wrong. Because Wei Ying will fuck things up, he always does, and it’ll be all the reason Lan Zhan needs to leave.

Tinkering is for electronics, not friendships. Why probe a board if it’s not broken? Why rock the boat if you’re already sailing smoothly? If there’s nothing broken, don’t fix it.

No. Wei Ying is already cutting it close with this cuddling, the aftermath of this is sure to be enough of a shitshow. Lan Zhan is going to wake him up tomorrow, and Wei Ying is going to laugh and pretend this wasn’t the best night of his life, and they’ll go on with their lives, just like normal. 

Maybe it really isn’t good for him, all these previews of what they could be in Wei Ying’s fantasies, only to be harshly brought back to reality. That’s fine by Wei Ying. There’s nothing he wouldn’t endure if it meant keeping Lan Zhan in his life. If all Wei Ying gets for the rest of his days are scraps—glimpses of everything he wants most, stolen in the night with no one else around to see—then so be it. He just has to savor these stolen moments while they last.

Wei Ying’s last indulgence before settling in to sleep is a kiss to Lan Zhan’s forehead. 

“Good night, Lan Zhan.” He closes his eyes. “See you tomorrow.”


+i. early december

Wei Ying stumbles through their front door just before 1AM. Did the long day have something to do with all the feelings he was very determined not to think about?

Maybe.

Because Jiang Cheng is leaving.

Because the real reason he’d made a big stink about jiejie coming to visit for his birthday and Wei Ying showing up on time for dim sum was so he could tell his family all at once: Jiang Cheng had been offered a promotion—a big one—overseeing the completion of a three-year project, start to finish, out in his company’s Singapore office.

Jiang Cheng had been offered a promotion, and he’d taken it. He’s moving after the Lunar New Year.

Singapore. Three years. Singapore.

Jiang Cheng is leaving.

Wei Ying’s brother is leaving.

He has been… less than okay about it. But he’s been making up for it by doing things. So many things! Never been more dedicated at work, goes out for drinks with his colleagues almost every day. And on the rare days where he’s somehow not busy, Wei Ying just. Stays out. Doesn’t really matter where.

He knows he’s not handling this well, of course he knows. Wei Ying should be calling jiejie and asking if she’s as sad as he is. He should be getting dinner with Jiang Cheng twice, three times a week, soaking up his brother’s presence as much as he can before he leaves for Singapore. He should be setting up more therapy sessions, not sending half-assed excuses to cancel every week. He should be at home in his apartment, lying on the floor of the living room and letting Lan Zhan put the bunnies on top of him until he stops feeling like a massive pile of shit. He should be doing things to convince Lan Zhan to stay—pick up dinner from Lan Zhan’s favorite restaurant. Clean the kitchen floors. Look him in the eye when they’re talking, stop trying to find the fastest way to exit the conversation and bolt out of the room. Wei Ying ought to be getting his act together for Lan Zhan, like a good best friend, giving at least some feeble attempt at reassuring Lan Zhan that he’s doing all right. But Wei Ying really can’t find it in him. 

Because the thing is: they haven’t talked about it. When Lan Zhan had half-consciously bullied Wei Ying into cuddling until they’d both fallen asleep, Wei Ying had woken up on the couch the next morning alone. Which made no sense, because a) Lan Zhan’s internal clock is faultless and gets him awake at 5AM every single day, and b) given how entangled they’d been when they’d fallen asleep there’s no way Wei Ying and his neolithic sense for danger could’ve stayed asleep during Lan Zhan’s disentanglement. (Unless the real key was the sense of danger. Unless the honest-to-god secret ingredient to soundless, deep, uninterrupted slumber was the sensation of safety that had come when Lan Zhan wrapped his arms around him and refused to let go. And there really isn’t time to unpack all of that.)

But he’d been alone, and he hadn’t seen Lan Zhan again until later that night, when he was still reeling from Jiang Cheng’s announcement and—yeah, okay, crying about it. And Lan Zhan had just… stayed there, and hugged Wei Ying and let him ramble and cry, offered to compose a text to Wei Ying’s therapist.

And the cuddling from the previous night just… never came up. Never mentioned, not once. Lan Zhan was being so polite about it, never alluding to the incident or even acknowledging there was an elephant in the room, so.

Wei Ying can take a hint. He can respect this unspoken decision, he really can. It was just Zombie Lan Zhan doing what Zombie Lan Zhan does, and it probably embarrassed the hell out of him when he woke up, so Wei Ying’s not gonna be a dick about it. So what if it made being in the same room as Lan Zhan fucking excruciating for the past month, huh? At least Wei Ying still has that privilege. It’s better than never seeing him at all.

But now, when Wei Ying comes back home in the middle of the night and sees Lan Zhan sitting in front of the rabbit hutch, the tightness in his chest finally unfurls, relaxes. Finally, something familiar. (“Finally, an opportunity to microdose on emotional honesty,” he’s unwilling to admit to himself.) Everyone else might be walking out of his life one by one, but at least Wei Ying can rely on this: Zombie Lan Zhan needs his help, and Wei Ying will always be there to provide.

“Well if it isn’t the most handsome zombie known to man,” Wei Ying says. “I’ve hardly seen you the past few weeks, Lan Zhan, what’s a poor lovesick fool to do? I’ve missed you so much, babe, you’ll have to make it up to me. Whatever we end up doing tonight, you have to hold my hand the whole time, okay? That sounds fair, right?”

Tonight Zombie Lan Zhan has let the bunnies out of their hutch; Suibian is lazily nibbling at some leftover hay sticking out of the cage, but Bichen is laying across Lan Zhan’s crossed legs all ready for pets, like a good boy. Wei Ying can’t help but smile.

“Quality time with the bunnies, huh? Just like when we met, AKA the best night of my life. Well—it was until you cuddled me to sleep, I don’t think anything’s ever gonna beat that.” Wei Ying bends down and absently places a kiss on the top of Lan Zhan’s head before plopping himself down on the carpet behind him. “You’re such an attentive bunny father, Lan Zhan, I bet you’d be great with a real baby. Let’s get a baby, sweetheart. Two babies. Multiple babies. We can spoil them rotten and kiss all their little cheekies. We can live in domestic bliss until we’re old and gray and complaining that our grandchildren have grown up too fast.”

Wei Ying leans forward and hooks his chin over Lan Zhan’s shoulder. “Wouldn’t it be nice, Lan Zhan?” he sighs, reaching around to scratch Bichen between the ears. “Not that it’ll ever happen. Nobody could ever put up with me for that long, not even you. And besides, it would mean that one of these days I’d have to say to your face that you’re the love of my life, and there’s no way that’s… happening…”

He trails off. Wei Ying has been talking for an unnervingly long time. Usually by now he’d have made at least some progress guiding the half-conscious Lan Zhan through whatever sleepwalking mission the night had in store. 

Except Lan Zhan hasn’t actually been responding to his ramblings this time. He is in fact very, very quiet. 

He’s hardly even breathing, actually.

And his whole body is rigid. 

And now that Wei Ying stops talking long enough to fucking look, Lan Zhan’s ears have turned a bright red.

Fuck. Oh fuck.

There’s a choking sound, which turns out to be coming from Wei Ying. It makes Lan Zhan slowly, slowly turn his head to look at him with wide, bewildered, extremely-awake eyes. “Wei Ying?” he says hoarsely.

“Ngh—Lan Zh—wha—I—” Words. Where are the words. He lets go of Lan Zhan and starts backing away, but Lan Zhan grabs his wrist, keeping him in place. 

“Wei Ying.”

“It’s past your bedtime,” is what squeaks out of his throat first. There’s some hysterical laughter he’s trying to keep in his chest, and he wonders if suppressing it too long would make him explode. Hyperventilating seems to be keeping it at bay, so he keeps doing it. “It’s so late, I thought—you’re always sleepwalking around—the hutch—”

“I woke to get water, and you weren’t home. I was worried about you.” Lan Zhan’s face is still frozen in the same wide-eyed stare. He looks shell-shocked, uncomprehending.

For a second Wei Ying wonders if he could bring himself to try to laugh this off. Just go full denial, no holds barred. But no, this is Lan Zhan, and Lan Zhan can read him better than anybody. He’s been able to see right through Wei Ying’s attempts at lying since high school.

Another wild second later, Wei Ying wonders if he could leap off the balcony instead. Anything to get away from this.

But since his big, stupid mouth seems determined to keep digging himself deeper, he hears himself say, “Why didn’t you say anything? Why did you let me keep talking?”

“You just kept going,” Lan Zhan says helplessly. As if Wei Ying needed a reminder of how he accidentally blurted out his most important and disastrous secret.

Maybe Wei Ying is the one who’s asleep. Maybe this is just a vivid, lurid nightmare of all his greatest fears coming to pass. This could just be the worst and most-detailed anxiety dream of his entire life. But he’s not sure his imagination could conjure up the lost, imploring look on Lan Zhan’s face—it’s the most devastating thing Wei Ying has ever seen. It’s what makes Wei Ying scramble forward, clutch at Lan Zhan’s hands, kneel in front of his best friend in the world, and beg.

“Ahh Lan Zhan, just forget about it. Just don’t even think about it, we can pretend it never happened. It didn’t mean anything, okay? It was just me being—I was—it doesn’t have to mean anything, nothing has to change.”

“No,” says Lan Zhan, plain as day. 

And oh, there it is: the last broken pieces of Wei Ying, crumbling to nothing.

“Wei Ying,” says Lan Zhan, but Wei Ying frantically shakes his head. Lan Zhan didn’t let him finish. It’s so unlike him, but it makes sense: Wei Ying must’ve put him in a state of shock.

“I’ll do anything to make it up to you, I promise I will,” Wei Ying babbles as fast as he can. “I’ll cook you dinner every day and I’ll clean all the dishes and the whole apartment until the end of time and—and I’ll take the bunnies to the vet whenever they get sick so they get angry at me instead of you—I’ll turn myself into the best roommate in the world, I’ll be the greatest best friend you’ve ever dreamed of, Lan Zhan—anything, please, I’ll do anything to make this go away, just please don’t hate me, please stay, please don’t—”

Leave me, he can’t bring himself to say, because it hurts, and because his lungs are overrun with harsh, ragged gasps he can’t control. Please don’t leave me.

Lan Zhan’s mouth has dropped open, a quiet kind of horror flooding into his face, and damn it, damn it, that’s exactly what Wei Ying was trying to avoid. He needs to talk faster, he needs to explain, but there is so much he needs to say and his mouth won’t work and he doesn’t know which words are going to tumble out next.

“I’m sorry,” Wei Ying chokes out. “I’m sorry I ruined it, please let me fix this Lan Zhan, I’ll do anything.”

“Wei Ying. There is nothing to fix. Nothing is ruined.” But Lan Zhan pulls at Wei Ying’s fingers, trying to get him to let go, to stop clinging so goddamn much so that he can get away. And wasn’t that the problem? Wasn’t that always, always the problem? 

Wei Ying lets go of Lan Zhan’s hands, feels his body shrink and start to cave in. “I’m sorry I ruined it,” whispers Wei Ying, his voice breaking, hot tears about to spill over. “Now you’re gonna leave, everyone keeps leaving.”

Lan Zhan moves Bichen off of his lap so, so carefully, but his eyes are burning into Wei Ying as he crawls forward and says, “I will never leave you, Wei Ying. Not ever.”

Wei Ying’s head starts to swim. It’s getting so hard to breathe. “You’ll change your mind.”

“I won’t.”

“You’ll find something better.”

“No. There is nothing better. Not to me.”

“Someday you’ll find something you actually want, Lan Zhan.” And Wei Ying smiles, because he’ll be so happy for Lan Zhan when it happens. “You’ll get promoted or you’ll find a new job or you’ll go back to school or you’ll move in with your brother or Mianmian instead—you’ll leave, and it’ll make you so happy, and then I’ll be—”

Alone, he doesn’t say, because his throat closes up.

Alone, he doesn’t say, because instead Lan Zhan says—

“Wei Ying. Listen to me.” His hands come up to hold Wei Ying’s face. “Everything I want is right here. Do you understand?”

Lan Zhan’s fingers press against Wei Ying’s skin so softly, the pads of his thumbs brushing across Wei Ying’s cheeks. The touches help ground him, pull Wei Ying back into the present long enough to start processing what he’s hearing. “What?”

“You must know—you can’t possibly not know, after all this time—but perhaps it’s hypocritical, it’s not as if I could say the same—”

He’s broken Lan Zhan to a state of incoherence. He isn’t making any sense, none of this makes sense. This is turning into the most confusing night of Wei Ying’s life. “Lan Zhan, what are you saying?”

Lan Zhan takes a deep breath, shutting his eyes. “I am saying that this is ridiculous.”

And Lan Zhan leans forward and kisses him.

The chaos in Wei Ying loses momentum, slows and quiets to a complete standstill. Peaceful. Blissfully blank. The only thing left is Lan Zhan’s mouth, warm and soft and wonderful. 

The tranquility stays even after Lan Zhan pulls back. “Oh,” is all Wei Ying is able to say. 

Then, “What?” 

And then, just to check, Wei Ying pinches his own forearm. “Ow.”

“Not a dream, Wei Ying,” whispers Lan Zhan with the kind of light in his eyes that means he’s laughing at him. “You’re awake. Both of us are.”

“Yeah,” Wei Ying says with wonder. And then he surges forward to kiss his best friend like he’s always dreamed of doing, like he fucking means it. 

There’s very little finesse to it, Wei Ying is willing to admit it. They’re clumsy with each other, desperate and enthusiastic in equal measure, because for all their years of friendship there are still things Wei Ying gets to learn about Lan Zhan: the feel of his mouth, the contented sighs that leave his lips, the way threading fingers through his hair makes him pull Wei Ying closer, impossibly closer. Wei Ying feels out of his mind, distantly aware that he’s making all sorts of embarrassing sounds, but it doesn’t matter. He’s wrapped up in Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan is wrapped up in him. They want this, they both want this, and they’re in this together.

Wei Ying can’t believe this is happening. He never dreamed that anything could be this good.

At some point Suibian ends up hopping over Wei Ying’s feet, which startles him enough to draw back from Lan Zhan’s mouth and come up for air. For a few moments all they do is breathe, chests heaving.

“Wow,” Wei Ying whispers. So that’s what it’s like to kiss Lan Zhan. To be kissed by Lan Zhan.

“Mn,” agrees Lan Zhan as he dips his head to give more quick, feather-light kisses to Wei Ying’s cheek, his jaw, his neck.

Wei Ying blinks, his brain coming back online little by little. “Lan Zhan, I think we’re both morons.”

“It appears so, yes.” 

And oh, Wei Ying can feel that smile pressed against his neck, but he wants to see it. “Lan Zhan,” he says giddily, because he can’t think of anything else to say. And when he meets Wei Ying’s eyes Lan Zhan’s face is full of such quiet, honest adoration, so fond and downright tender that Wei Ying blurts out, “Oh my god. You’re in love with me.”

“I thought I had made that clear.” Lan Zhan leans forward until their foreheads knock together. “For the absence of doubt: Wei Ying, you should know. I’m very in love with you.”

“Wow, what the fuck,” Wei Ying says dazedly.

“For the record, I do not remember a time I was not in love with you.”

“What the fuck.” Wei Ying flails and ends up swatting Lan Zhan’s shoulder. “What am I supposed to do with that? Lan Zhan, you’ve gotta be joking.”

“I would not joke about this. It has only ever been you.”

“Well that doesn’t—make any sense.”

“Wei Ying.” He brushes the tips of his fingers over the back of Wei Ying’s neck. “We cannot pretend I’m an easy person to share a living space with. I used to believe only my brother would tolerate cohabitation with me, until I met you. It is work to supervise the zombie.”

“No it’s not,” says Wei Ying, immediately affronted. “It’s—it’s you.”

Lan Zhan blinks at him slowly, that unrelenting fondness still on his face. “Still. Even if I weren’t constantly disrupting your sleep, anyone would grow tired of living with a person who frequently ruins the kitchen. Daring to hope this arrangement would continue indefinitely seemed… foolish.”

Wei Ying squeezes Lan Zhan extra tight. “What, you thought I was gonna leave you? And miss out on all of Zombie Lan Zhan’s late night adventures?” He drops a kiss onto Lan Zhan’s shoulder. “Not a chance.”

“I didn’t want you to feel obligated to stay,” Lan Zhan says quietly. “In case you also found something you wanted to pursue.”

“Well that’s fucking stupid,” Wei Ying scoffs. “I’ve been fully in love with you for eons, Lan Zhan. How could I want anything other than this?” Which makes Lan Zhan tug Wei Ying into another searing kiss, and they make out about it for a while longer.

“Wait, so…” Wei Ying pulls back. “If you’ve always felt this way, why’d it take so long for Zombie You to attack me with cuddles? We’ve been living together for years. Years, Lan Zhan! Plural!”

Lan Zhan clears his throat. “There have been times where I’ve taken some precautionary measures.”

“Precautionary measures. Like what? Were you taking anti-sleepwalking pills or something? Barricading your bedroom door?”

He’s looking Wei Ying directly in the eye, the tips of his ears bright red, when he says, “I tied myself to the bed.”

Wei Ying’s brain is momentarily filled with nothing but white noise. 

“Ah,” is what he says out loud. “I see.” Wei Ying gestures vaguely with his hands, completely at a loss. “So, uh… tying… you’re good at… tying those knots, then?”

Lan Zhan squeezes Wei Ying’s hip and presses a kiss to his temple. “We will discuss this in much greater detail tomorrow. We should sleep.”

Still reeling from the sheer volume of Things To Process, Wei Ying simply says, “Okay.”

Lan Zhan stoops down to pick up Suibian. “There are still things we need to talk about,” he says gently as he places Suibian back into the hutch. “Your brother’s departure, for one. And your therapy attendance, for another.”

“Yeah. Yeah, I know.” Wei Ying bends down and clicks his tongue at Bichen until he hops into his arms. “For what it’s worth, I’m sorry.”

“No apologies, Wei Ying,” Lan Zhan reminds him. “You are not going through this alone.”

“Yeah,” says Wei Ying thickly. He deposits Bichen inside the hutch and gives his little bunny head one last pat. “I’m starting to get that now.”

Lan Zhan secures the hutch door closed and winds his arms around Wei Ying again, then says matter-of-factly, “I was not awake to enjoy the cuddling last time. I’d like to rectify that now.”

Wei Ying nods, caught off guard by a yawn so wide that it makes his jaw pop. “Sure, sure, sounds good. Couch again?”

The arm wrapped around Wei Ying’s waist tightens. “No. You will be coming to my room.”

“But why! This won’t be a faithful re-creation of the best night of my life.”

“You won’t need a re-creation.” Lan Zhan gets to his feet, pulling Wei Ying up with him. “I can assure you that any night spent in my bed will render your previous ‘best nights of your life’ completely obsolete. I’ll make sure of it.”

Wei Ying’s knees give out, and he starts to sway—but Lan Zhan is there to catch him, just like he always is. “Lan Zhan! You can’t just say things like that!”

Lan Zhan gives him a deeply unimpressed look. “You’ve been planning our future of domestic bliss while I was asleep. I don’t see why I’m not allowed to share my plans as well.”

Wei Ying hides his face in his hands. “All these years, I’ve been wrong. You’re not a zombie, you’re a menace. A monster.”

“Your menace. Your monster.” He bats Wei Ying’s hands away and presses a gentle, lingering kiss to Wei Ying’s lips before saying softly, “Come to bed.”

“Okay.” Then, “When my brain cells come back, do you promise to show me how you tied yourself to the bed?”

“Mn,” hums Lan Zhan with a smile—one of the ‘yes’ noises, full of promise—and then leans in to kiss him again.