A-Qing propped her head on top of her fist as she stared across the counter. Her eyes were set in a soft glare, though she didn’t really mean any anger from it. Song Lan was pointed ignoring her.
“Isn’t it lonely?” A-Qing asked.
Song Lan turned away from the back counter, leaving A-Qing’s drink only half finished. “What?”
“Is it lonely, Song Lan? Living and working all by yourself?” A-Qing asked, and the glare over her face disappeared as she lifted her head. She almost looked completely innocent.
“I have the customers for company.” He replied, turning away as a small smile took over his lips.
“Mn.” A-Qing hummed, before standing on her toes and leaning forward. “Do you have tapioca today?”
Song Lan nodded, and a soft alarm went off in the back of the store. He disappeared behind a curtain before coming back out with a small box. He slid it across the table, where A-Qing eagerly opened it. Song Lan lightly tapped the girl’s wrist.
“Wait until you get home, I put some extra in for your brother.”
“Thank you, Song Lan!” A-Qing grinned, her eyes almost closing from how big her mouth stretched. “He’s working late and was worried he wouldn’t be able to cook for us tonight. Now he doesn’t have to worry.”
“It’s no problem, A-Qing.” Song Lan said, passing her a tea with extra tapioca pearl in it. “You have a good night.”
“Mhm! It tastes amazing! How much tonight?” The girl reached into her pocket, grabbing a small white wallet.
“This one’s on the house. You should get home before it gets dark.”
“As if anyone could take me!”
“But then the buns would be cold.”
“We can microwave them.”
“Won’t this brother of yours be worried if you’re not home soon?”
A-Qing scrunched her nose before nodding. She dropped a five in the tip jar with a big grin as Song Lan opened his mouth to protest before she ran out the door. “See you tomorrow!”
A-Qing was laughing when she walked into the store, and Song Lan raised an eyebrow with an almost look of disbelief. She was with a group of boys. One of them wore a gold shirt, and looked quite grumpy as A-Qing bumped shoulders with him.
“Is this the place?” One of the boys asked, and Song Lan immediately knew he was the only one with any control.
A-Qing turned to Song Lan and playful stuck her tongue out at him. The man smiled softly and simply walked into the back, setting a large plate of dumplings to steam for the group. He had a feeling A-Qing was gloating about some fight or another when the group of teens burst into laughter and she yelled an obscenity at them.
“Shut UP, A-Yi!” The girl yelled as the third boy with a seemingly constantly smiling face danced away from her playful slap.
“So you do like her!”
“A-Yi!” A-Qing said, though the whole group paused as Song Lan slid two plates of dumplings and bun across the counter.
“Extra tapioca?” He asked, and A-Qing grinned widely with an eager nod as she took the plates from him.
Later, when the three boys had left, A-Qing came into the back of the shop. Song Lan raised an eyebrow at her, but she pointedly ignored him and got to work scrubbing the plates she and her friends had used in the sink.
“A-Yuan liked the veggie buns.” She said after a moment, placing the clean plates onto a drying rack and turning to Song Lan.
“I’m glad.” He replied, his fingers nimbly closing a pork dumpling.
“How do you do that so fast?” A-Qing asked, leaning over the table as Song Lan continued.
“Practice. Control.” Song Lan said, before pausing and sliding a bowl towards her. “The dough is all cut. Scoop a bit of filling into each one.”
A-Qing’s eyes lit up and she eagerly began to do so, passing Song Lan each one carefully. “A-Chen used to let me help him cook.”
Song Lan was silent, not pushing A-Qing for any information she did not wish to share.
“You remind me of him, Song Lan.” A-Qing said. “I miss him.”
Song Lan stopped, putting a dumpling down and turning fully to look at A-Qing. “I thought you still lived with him.”
“I do.” A-Qing said. “But- But A-Chen doesn’t have as much free time anymore. He’s always working, and he comes home really late at night. I try to leave food for him, but I don’t think he eats it.”
A-Qing froze for a second, before snapping her head up at Song Lan. “Ah, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have shared so much.”
“Do not worry, A-Qing.” Song Lan said. “I will never judge you for being worried.”
A-Qing smiled and handed the older man a poorly folded dumpling. Song Lan smiled, and slowed down his own folding so that A-Qing could watch. They continued in silence.
I was going to have Song Lan and A-Qing's discussion at the end be about the boys and her friendship, but then I decided to just be sad today so sorry!
The next day, A-Qing was alone when she entered the shop. She was abnormally quiet, merely watching Song Lan as he bustled through the store instead of talking his ear off. The man realized he missed her constant chatter. She hadn’t even asked for extra tapioca.
Song Lan slid the drink toward the girl, who smiled softly, but it didn’t reach her eyes.
“Song Lan,” A-Qing said, staring down at her drink. “Am- Am I selfish for wanting my brother home?”
“Have you talked to your brother about this?” Song Lan asked.
A-Qing shook her head. “I know he loves his work, but-“
The doorbell chimed as a customer walked in. Song Lan watched as A-Qing began to rebuild her walls. “A-Qing, why don’t you wait in the back room for me, there’s some buns on the steamer. You can eat them when the timer goes off.”
The teen nodded, and practically ran to the back room. Song Lan smiled at the customer, trying to keep from checking on A-Qing as he made another tea. The doorbell chimed again.
“Hi, I’ll be with you in a moment.” Song Lan said, his back still turned away from the door as he added strawberry bubbles to the rose tea in his hands.
“It’s quite alright. I’m actually looking for my sister.” A voice said, his tone soft as Song Lan froze.
The man passed the completed tea to a customer before turning towards the newcomer. He wore a white button up and had a soft looking cloth tied over his eyes. He’s blind, Song Lan realized.
“Your sister?” He asked, unable to look away from the man’s delicate features.
“Yes, A-Qing said she likes to come here after school. I hoped to meet her here as a surprise.” The man said, and a soft tinge of pink graced his cheeks.
Song Lan nodded, before he realized his mistake. “Oh, yes. I’ll let her know you’re here.”
“Thank you.” A-Qing’s brother said with a smile, and Song Lan blinked in a dazed way before he mentally slapped himself.
“A-Qing,” Song Lan said, finding the girl sitting on the table in the back room munching quietly on a steamed beef bun. “You have a visitor.”
“If it’s Jin Ling, tell him to fuck right off and that I hate him.” A-Qing said, before looking at Song Lan’s confused face. “I came in with him, remember? He wears a lot of gold, always angry?”
Song Lan thought for a second before nodding. He leaned against the table next to A-Qing, and looked up at the ceiling. “I will not pretend to truly understand what’s going on at home, A-Qing. But I know you and your brother love each other very much. You need to tell him what you’re feeling. Even if you can’t change his work hours, he needs to know.”
A-Qing put the bun in her hands down and turned to face Song Lan. “How do you know?”
“Because I never told my family a lot of things.” Song Lan said simply. “And everyday I wish I could go back and change that.”
A-Qing’s face softened, and she nodded.
“Now, there’s a very nicely dressed man in my lobby asking for you.” Song Lan said, and A-Qing’s eyes lit up. “And if he’s not your brother, I’m calling the cops.”
“A-Chen!” The girl said, and rushed from the back room. There was the sound of a soft laugh, and Song Lan smiled down at the ground. There was a rustling from the front before A-Qing’s face popped around the corner. “Do you think you can help me with something, Song Lan?”
When she put her mind to it, A-Qing was a quick learner. She watched Song Lan stir a drink for himself before copying his movements with her brother’s drink. Song Lan nodded, and passed her a jar of honey.
“How sweet do you want it?” A-Qing asked, turning to look at her brother, who was calmly sat in the lobby.
“Hmm.” A-Qing’s brother hummed. “What do you think would taste best?”
“Less sweetener for sure.” A-Qing said, turning back to Song Lan with a wide grin.
“Use the 1/4th measuring spoon, then.” Song Lan said softly, using a clean one to demonstrate how to stir in the honey.
“Do you not put any sweetener in your tea?” A-Qing asked, and Song Lan hummed softly in agreement. “Does it taste weird, then?”
A-Qing’s brother shifted as if to tell his sister off, but Song Lan just laughed. “Not at all. Tapioca?”
A-Qing greedily took the bowl from Song Lan, scooping tapioca pearls into her brother’s cup. “What are you gonna put in your drink, Song Lan?”
The man squinted slightly at the girl before looking around the store. He pressed a finger to his lips, and A-Qing’s eyes widened as he pulled out a tub of bubbles. Her mouthed opened, but Song Lan shook his head.
“What flavor are they?” A-Qing whispered, glancing over at her brother secretly.
“Chocolate.” Song Lan whispered back, and A-Qing’s jaw dropped.
“Can I try some?”
Song Lan stared across the counter at A-Qing’s brother. The man was quietly sat at a table, a book in his hands as he passed him fingers over it. He was beautiful. The two siblings had taken to meeting each other at the shop once a week after A-Qing got out of school, but Song Lan had yet to hold a full conversation with the other man. Hell, he didn’t even know his name.
“Do you work here alone?” The man said, carefully closing his book and turning his head slightly towards Song Lan. Today, he realized, the man was wearing a black ribbon across his eyes that matched his outfit.
“Mn.” Song Lan hummed in agreement, and the man smiled.
God, Song Lan thought, he’s beautiful.
The doorbell chimed as A-Qing burst into the store. “A-Chen! I’m filing a restraining order against A-Yi!”
“What has he done?” The man said, tilting his head to the side.
“He and A-Ling have started dating! And now A-Yuan and I have to suffer through it.” A-Qing said, launching into how terrible it was that they were finally dating and gave each other doe eyes. “It was bad when they were just pining, but now somehow it’s worse. Like, almost Uncle Wei bad!”
“That just means they truly care for each other.” A-Qing’s brother said. “Don’t you want your friends to be happy?”
A-Qing paused and frowned. “Of course I do! What kind of friend would I be if I didn’t? But it’s still naseuating how- how- how infatuated they are!”
Song Lan looked away from the pair, and slowly made his way into the back of the store. He thought of a sister from a lifetime ago, who clung to his legs every time he tried to leave for school.
“Song Lan!” A-Qing called, and the man mentally shook himself. The girl was poking her head in, and staring at the man with curious eyes. “I’m heading out to meet A-Yuan and the others. Are you gonna be open tomorrow?”
“I’m afraid not.” Song Lan smiled softly. “I have family business to attend to and no one to look after the store.”
“But it’s a Saturday, and you get the most customers!” A-Qing said, her eyes wide.
“I have to go to this event, A-Qing.” Song Lan said, and his eyes were sadder than the girl had every thought possible.
“I know.” She said, before looking back at her brother. “What if we watched the store?”
Song Lan stared at her.
“A-Chen has the day off, and you’ve taught me how to make drinks and heat the food!” The girl said, before nervously clearing her throat. “But, I understand if you don’t want-“
“Thank you, A-Qing.” Song Lan said. “I appreciate it, but you and your brother should enjoy your day off together.”
A-Qing nodded, before tilting her head. She looked so much like her brother when she did. “Song Lan, do you know my brother’s name?”
Song Lan’s ears turned red, and his eyes widened slightly.
A-Qing gasped, and grabbed for the man’s sleeve, dragging him towards her brother. “I’m such a terrible friend! A-Chen! I never introduced you two!”
Her brother was smiling and carefully stood, facing towards Song Lan. “My name is Xiao Xingchen.”
“Song Zichen.” The store owner breathed out before he realized what he said, clapping a hand over his mouth. A-Qing raised an eyebrow.
“A-Lan, are you flirting with my brother?”
“If you’re looking to seduce my brother, I can help you.” A-Qing said, passing Song Lan an almost perfectly folded dumpling.
“What?” He said, his eyes wide.
“Oh come on, A-Zi!” The girl said, rolling her eyes. “You’re smitten!”
“A-Qing.” Song Lan said, taking the dumpling from her.
“Don’t argue with me over that.” She said. “And he likes you, too, you know.”
Song Lan put down the dumpling he had begun to work on. “You shouldn’t be meddling in my or your brother’s love lives.”
“Why not? It’s not like you’re going to do anything about it.” A-Qing said, and the two stared at each other for a moment.
Song Lan turned his head away and A-Qing let out a frustrated huff.
“A-Chen, make a move!” A-Qing said, poking at her rice dejectedly. “You’re almost as bad as A-Ying.”
Wei Ying, having been calmly enjoying a dinner with his cousins, looked up with a frown. “Hey!”
“Am I wrong?” A-Qing said, and Wei Ying wrinkled his nose.
“So, A-Chen has feelings for someone?” Wei Ying said, turning to the man in question. But Xingchen simply continued to eat.
“He does! It’s the owner of the bubble tea shop I like! Song Lan!” A-Qing said.
“A-Qing.” Xingchen said softly, and the girl closed her mouth. “Please.”
A-Qing dropped her head onto the table with more force than necessary.
It wasn’t that Song Lan was terrified. It was just that Song Lan was terrified. Xiao Xingchen was seated just across the room from him, and Song Lan was frozen in place. The man wasn’t wearing a ribbon across his face, and Song Lan couldn’t help but stare. But, sat directly across the man, and making Xingchen laugh, was a young woman. It wasn’t A-Qing, definatly, as this woman had her hair done perfectly and wore a suit. Song Lan smiled almost sadly, and turned to leave the restaurant.
“I think that man knows you.” Jiang Yanli said, glancing at Song Lan from the corner of her eyes. “Tall, dark, handsome. He’s wearing a sweater.”
“Can you get his attention?” Xingchen asked, before a soft blush spread across his cheeks. Yanli grinned like a cheshire cat.
“Excuse me.” Jiang Yanli said, stopping Song Lan in his tracks. “My name’s Jiang Yanli, my cousin thinks he might know you?”
“Cousin?” Song Lan asked, a soft yet dumbfounded expression on his face.
“Yes, Xingchen?” The woman said, pointing over to where the man was sat quietly at a table.
“Uhm,” Song Lan said, his voice almost stuck in his throat. “Yes. I’m Song Lan.”
“Oh! The bubble tea owner!” Yanli said, and Song Lan blushed. “A-Qing talk about you a lot! She’s very happy you’ve taught her how to make dumplings. Come, have lunch with us. We’ve just ordered and don’t mind waiting.”
“It’s not necessary-“ Song Lan started, but Jiang Yanli had already grabbed his arm and dragged him to the table.
“A-Chen, I hope you don’t mind, but I’ve invited Song Lan to eat with us.” She said, pointing Song Lan to a chair.
“Of course not.” Xingchen said, and any protest died on Song Lan’s lips as he stared at the other man. “How are you today?”
“I’m great, thank you.” Song Lan all but whispered.
Jiang Yanli smiled into her coffee.
Xiao Xingchen’s face was completely red. Wei Wuxian and Jiang Yanli sat across from him with wide smiles on their faces, and their brother Jiang Cheng simply raised an eyebrow.
“You really do like him, huh?” Wei Wuxian said, and leaned his hand in his hand.
Xingchen turned his head away from them.
“Be nice, A-Xian.” Yanli smiled, and Xingchen could practically hear the smile in her voice. “He’s shy.”
“He’s a coward.” Cheng said, and there was the loud sound of Wuxian hitting him. “He is! You’ve gotta tell him how you feel, man!”
“How many times have you chickened out of telling Huaisang how you feel, huh? Do you think it’s any easier for A-Chen?” Wuxian hissed, and there was another sound as Jiang Cheng hit his brother.
“I could not risk the friendship between A-Qing-“ Xingchen started, but Wuxian let out a loud groan.
“Oh my god.”
“A-Chen, don’t you deserve to be happy, too? I’m sure that if A-Qing and Song Lan are truly close that any feelings between you two won’t change that.” Yanli said, though Xingchen shook his head. “You’re afraid of rejection, and that’s okay. But doesn’t Song Lan at least deserve to know?”
“You say it like it’s easy, Yanli.” Xingchen sighed, his head slouching down. “But whenever he’s nearby, my tongue gets all tied up. You had it easy.”
“Easy?” Yanli said, as Wuxian scoffed.
“The only easy thing about that peacock is-“ Yanli slapped her hand over Wuxian’s mouth.
“Love will never be easy, Xingchen.” Yanli said, her voice firmer than before. “But that’s what make it worthwhile.”
“What are you making?” Song Lan asked, leaning across the counter as he watched Xingchen knit quietly. The other man jumped, his knees clicking together softly as he turned his head towards Song Lan, who frowned. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to frighten you.”
“No, I just didn’t think you were paying attention.” Xingchen smiled, and Song Lan felt a little faint. “I’m knitting A-Qing a new scarf. She’s worn her’s into the ground.”
Song Lan hummed in agreement as Xingchen continued to move his hands. With no witnesses, it wasn’t against Song Lan to quietly admire the other man. His eyes weren’t covered today, and he wore a soft grey shirt and jeans. He looked comfortable. Happy. Song Lan smiled.
A-Qing burst into the door, “You’re staring.”
Song Lan blushed heavily, but Xingchen simply turned towards her with a warm smile. “I can’t exactly do anything else.”
A-Qing’s jaw dropped as she looked between the two before shaking her head. “Can I make dumplings, A-Lan?”
Song Lan nodded and the girl rushed into the back loudly.
“Thank you.” Xingchen said, and Song Lan glanced at him in confusion. “A-Qing really enjoys coming here. She- She’s happier helping.”
“I don’t know what I’d do without her.” Song Lan said, walking around the counter with two teas in his hands. He placed one in front of Xingchen, before sitting across from him. “She’s a fast learner.”
Xingchen slowly felt the drink in front of him and smiled. “She always has been. She learned to run before she could crawl.”
Song Lan laughed, and Xingchen’s heart shuttered for a moment before he joined in.
A-Qing poked her head around the corner to yell at them, but she paused. The two were talking, even sitting at the same table and sharing a drink. Who would she be to interrupt the moment? She softened her gaze at them, and pulled her phone out. Snapping a picture of the two, she went to turn away.
The doorbell rang.
“I’m gonna kill you.” A-Qing whispered to Wuxian from over the counter.
Song Lan had attempted to stand to help A-Qing, but she loudly protested that she could handle herself.
“I’m gonna rip your eyeballs out and make you wish you never left Lan Wanji’s house this morning.” She seethed as she wrote down her cousin’s order.
“What the hell did I do to deserve it?” Wuxian whispered back hotly.
“They were bonding!” The girl snapped, her eyes flickering to where her brother and Song Lan sat silently together. “Having a moment and you ruined it!”
“I didn’t know!”
“Can’t you read a room, Wei Ying?!”
“We can hear you, A-Qing.” Xingchen said, and Song Lan cleared his throat uncomfortably.
The girl laughed, and punched her cousin’s shoulder. “Haha! We’re just joking around! You know how cousins are!”
Wuxian sent a pleading look in the direction of Xingchen, but both men ignored the two.
A-Qing practically threw Wei Ying out of the store after she finished his drink in record time, yelling something about loitering laws. She scurried into the backroom with the dirty dishes.
Xingchen let out a breathy laugh. “I think my sister’s trying to play matchmaker.”
Song Lan turned bright red, turning his head to where A-Qing was peeping around the corner. Her eyes went wide and she ducked out of sight once again as Song Lan made a face.
“It would appear so. She doesn’t mean any harm though.” Song Lan said, turning to carefully watch Xingchen’s face. “I almost appreciate it.”
Xingchen smiled, but his cheeks grew pink. “No, I don’t suppose I mind it either.”
Song Lan cleared his throat, and leaned forward slightly. “I’ve been meaning to ask-“
The doorbell rang again, and A-Qing let out a muffled scream before calmly walking back to the counter. She finished the customer’s order, and smiled as he left before running back to the sink.
“You’ve been meaning to ask?” Xingchen asked quietly, as the door shut.
Song Lan found it hard to breathe, the word heavy on his tongue.
“Zichen?” Xingchen said, tilting his head to the side.
“Yes?” Song Lan replied, then blinked a few times. “I mean, yes. I- Would you- We could- I mean-“
“Do you want to get dinner, Zichen?” Xingchen laughed, and every word rushing from Song Lan’s mouth died.
“Yes,” Song Lan said, relief spreading through him. “I’d like that a lot.”
A-Qing hung up the sign in the window.
We will be closed for the holidays.
“I don’t get why I can’t just take care of the store.” She huffed, turning to where Song Lan was emptying the cash register into the safe. “I know how to do everything, A-Lan.”
“Don’t you want to spend Christmas with us?” Xingchen said, his chin was resting on Song Lan’s shoulder, and his arms lightly wrapped around the other man’s waist. “The whole family’s coming.”
“And watching everyone be all in love?” A-Qing scoffed. “No thank you. It was bad enough with A-Ying getting a boyfriend. But now? You two, A-Yi and A-Ling. Even Wen Qing has a girlfriend! I’m sick of it!”
“Don’t feel too bad, A-Yuan is still single, too.” Xingchen laughed.
“But for how long? How long until I’m the only one left? I don’t want to be the spinster of the family, A-Chen!”
“You’re not going to be a spinster.”
“Yeah, they don’t use that word anymore, A-Qing.” Song Lan said. “Now they’re called cougars.”
A-Qing let out a cry as Xingchen laughed. Outside, snow fell heavy as the wind raced through the streets, but inside it was warm as Song Lan leaned back into Xingchen’s arms. How could he ever be lonely again?
This is the end, though I may revisit this chapter to lengthen or edit it. I had a few places where I thought of adding in some conflict and lengthening the fic, but decided that these boys had been through enough hurt. I may upload the deleted scenes of angst if there's any interest, but they are definatly rough and may not fit completely into the story because they were scrapped in the end.
Thank you for reading this, everyone's support, kudos, and comments warmed my heart beyond belief. This has been one of the best experiences I've had writing fanfiction, and I wish this type of experience on everyone I can.