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life, uh, finds a way

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"Lan Zhan," Wei Ying said, and then, "Wait, is that Sci-Hub? Do you have Sci-Hub open?"

Lan Zhan did not look up from his journal article. "Was that your question?"

"No, but-- this is shaking my worldview, Lan Zhan! My understanding of your psyche--"

Something really did shake the building then, which startled Lan Zhan enough that he made the foolish decision to look up at Wei Ying and Wei Ying's equally foolish face. He caught a glimpse of what was behind Wei Ying and his eyes kept going up, and up.

"That was an exhibit," Lan Zhan said after a moment. Tarbosaurus bataar, the gem of the Cloud Recesses University Museum of Natural History's collection.

"It was," Wei Ying said smugly. "And now it has feathers!"

Lan Zhan was more focused on the teeth.

They resumed their conversation from the distance of the second floor walkway over the main exhibit hall, watching as the dinosaur Wei Ying had awakened smashed its way through the worn fiberglass display on rock strata. Lan Zhan had never sat on the floor in the museum before; Wei Ying did it constantly. The carpet was faintly crunchy.

Wei Ying pressed his face against the glass balustrade, which was definitely going to leave a mark. He was recording on his phone. "It's kind of cool, right?"

"Destroying years of work and endangering our colleagues?"

"Seeing my dissertation in real life," Wei Ying said dreamily. "They look way cooler than the specimens in amber."

Ah, the feathers.

Lan Zhan's area of study was more mundane. Before he had followed in his family's footsteps by moving into museum studies, he'd focused on relative dating in fossil deposits in northern China. He'd advocated for adding the rock strata exhibit while he was still an undergraduate; he wanted something that children could see and touch. To bring the past closer than fossils in a lighted case that a parent might have to hold them up to see.

"Shit, A-Yuan loves that exhibit," Wei Ying said, after a moment. "Is that, like, insured?"


"Maybe I can console him with this video. He loves dinosaurs with tiny arms."

Lan Zhan gave in to the strangeness of the day and joined Wei Ying at the balustrade. The glass was cool against his cheek. Beneath them, the tarbosaurus was discovering the vicissitudes of the rack of educational pamphlets. Its arms were indeed quite small.

Cultivation was largely ceremonial in the modern era. When they were teenagers, Lan Zhan and Wei Ying had met in the after-school and weekend cultivation classes that children of major sects still endured on top of relentless preparation for the gaokao. Even a weak golden core was an achievement for most, so Wei Ying had stuck out like a sore thumb. Lan Zhan couldn't look away from him. For the first time, he'd found an equal.

Even worse, Wei Ying was also really into paleontology.

They'd weathered an undergraduate program and years of summer digs together before Wei Ying accepted that they were friends; he had not yet figured out that Lan Zhan was in love with him. That was fine. Lan Zhan could wait. Like he was waiting right now for the tarbosaurus that Wei Ying had awakened by messing around on his flute at work to calm down.

Perhaps that was the wrong approach.

"I'm going to play Rest." Lan Zhan reached into the qiankun pocket in his jacket for his guqin.

Wei Ying frowned. "In the name of scientific inquiry--"

"How long do you think it will be before someone opens that door?" Lan Zhan said.

"It's just after lunchtime on a Tuesday."

"My brother could come in."

"Fair," Wei Ying said. "Well, I can always wake it up again, right?"

Lan Zhan paused with his hands over the strings. "Wei Ying. Do not."

Wei Ying huffed and slumped down against the glass.

The tarbosaurus had finally determined that there was nothing to suit its taste in the museum gift area. It roared disconsolately and batted at the cash register. Lan Zhan began to play, with some regret. Even though he'd lied to Wei Ying about it multiple times, he'd seen Jurassic Park; he knew what it was like to wish to bring something dead to life. The difference between them was only in Wei Ying's ability to do so.

Rest solved but one of their problems.

"So what you're saying," Lan Zhan's uncle said flatly. "Is that you brought a skeleton to life using resentful energy?"

Wei Ying gestured to the tarborsaurus, which was discovering whether or not a contemporary pig appealed to its palate. "Lan Zhan neutralized the resentful energy. It's fine now."

"It is a tyrannosaur. In a museum."

"Where's your sense of fun?"

Lan Zhan had been focused on whether or not the dinosaur was keeping the pig on the tiled entryway at a safe distance from the carpet, but he knew that tone in Wei Ying's voice. "Uncle," he said. "I think we should remain focused on the welfare of the dinosaur."

The tarbosaurus dug into the pig's entrails and settled in, slickly chomping.

"I'm calling your brother," Lan Qiren said.

A team of zoologists from Suzhou took on the task of dealing with a hungry, disoriented predator newly awakened from millions of years asleep. Lan Zhan and Wei Ying had to sneak out through the loading dock to avoid the press and wait for Wen Ning to pick them up. Wei Ying's pants were stiff with pig blood; there was no way they could inconspicuously take the train.

As soon as they sat down, Wei Ying slumped onto Lan Zhan's shoulder. He was too tall for it, really; Lan Zhan had to put his arm around Wei Ying's back to steady him. Wei Ying yawned. "Hey, Lan Zhan," he said. "Were you really looking at Sci-Hub earlier? Did I imagine that?"

Lan Zhan cleared his throat. "Academic research should be accessible to all."

"This is going to take me some time to process. Full offense."

Lan Zhan stroked Wei Ying's hip until Wei Ying snuggled closer. "Take your time," he said.

For a few minutes, he didn't think about the dinosaur Wei Ying had reanimated at all.