They hold the engagement party at their own apartment. Wei Ying declares, halfway through the night, that it’s the ‘best and worst decision they’ve ever made.’
It is, in fact, neither the best nor the worst of their decisions. But still, Lan Zhan knows what he means. The night is a blur of highs and lows. Jiang Yanli and Lan Huan instantly falling into an easy older sibling camaraderie. Shufu’s barely-concealed disdain at the state of their bookshelves. Little Wen Yuan holding Wei Ying’s nephew with a serious, determined look. Jiang Fengmian and Yu Ziyuan vanishing for ten minutes to have a tense, whispered conversation on the balcony.
Throughout it all, Wei Ying moves with the brisk, watchful efficiency that people tend to forget he possesses. He collects forgotten glasses and plates. He hops conversations, introduces guests. When Nie Huaisang drops a wine glass halfway through the party, Wei Ying has vanished for the dustpan and brush before Lan Zhan can open his mouth to say I’ll get it.
It seems strange to miss Wei Ying when they’ve barely been apart all night. But all the same, Lan Zhan is ready to have his fiancé to himself again.
He’d forgotten, of course, that Wei Ying’s younger brother would be staying overnight.
He had also failed to notice just how much Wei Ying’s younger brother had to drink.
Wei Ying hovers at the doorway as the party winds down, like he’s trying to decide which set of spinning plates will fall first. “Ah, Lan Zhan,” he says. Lan Zhan doesn’t kiss the furrow away from his brow, but barely. “I said I’d drive Jiang-shushu and Yu A-yi back to their hotel, but…”
He’s looking over Lan Zhan’s shoulder at Jiang Cheng, who’s listing sideways on the couch. Lan Zhan closes the distance and gives in to the urge to kiss Wei Ying’s forehead. “Wei Ying. Yes. Of course I’ll watch him.”
It aches sometimes, how much Wei Ying brightens at such a simple favor. “I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
Lan Zhan rubs his thumbs soothingly down Wei Ying’s arms before letting go. Last month, Wei Ying fixed Shufu’s notoriously spotty wireless connection, and kept a smile on his face the entire time. If Wei Ying could bear with that, this would be nothing.
Even if Lan Zhan and Jiang Cheng had never quite – meshed. Which is, presumably, why he’s in this state to begin with.
Jiang Cheng’s watching him by the time Wei Ying has herded his family out the door. Lan Zhan gazes back, impassive. “I’ll make you some tea.”
“Not thirsty,” Jiang Cheng says. Lan Zhan addresses the petulance the same way he would address it in his classroom: he ignores it.
Lan Zhan briefly wonders if he should try to get Jiang Cheng to eat. But by the time he’s re-emerged with a mug of white tea, Jiang Cheng has commandeered a leftover plate of Jiang Yanli’s pork dumplings. So Lan Zhan sets the tea neatly within his space and retreats, perching at the other end of the couch.
“If there is anything else you need—” Lan Zhan starts.
“I don’t,” Jiang Cheng mumbles. Lan Zhan hadn’t noticed him looking so out of sorts during the party. But he certainly looks it now.
Lan Zhan’s phone buzzes against his leg: a text from Wei Ying. Halfway there!! he’d typed. I’m coming, sweetheart!!!!!! And then three running man emojis.
And then, a few seconds later, dw, am at stoplight.
Lan Zhan’s lips curve as he types. Come back safely. There is no rush.
“That’s him?” Jiang Cheng says. When Lan Zhan looks up, he’s staring hazily. “You’re smiling. Didn’t used to think you could do that.”
Lan Zhan meets his eyes. Ignores that last part. “Yes,” he says. “He will be back soon.”
“Hmph.” Jiang Cheng shuts his eyes when he sits back, like he’s woozy. “Then let’s talk. Wei Ying’s always saying we should talk more.”
Lan Zhan folds his hands on his lap, taps at the blank screen of his phone. “You should rest.”
“Don’t wanna rest. Wanna talk.” Jiang Cheng clumsily tips his head back. “Never get to talk to you without Wei Ying clinging to your arm, do I?”
They have, in fact, talked alone once before, during the horrible three months Lan Zhan and Wei Ying were broken up. It is far from Lan Zhan’s worst memory of that time, but it’s well up there. “Later,” Lan Zhan says softly. “You are drunk.”
“I am drunk,” Jiang Cheng says, almost proudly. “You’d be drunk too if you had to listen to your mother talk all night about how your brother’s lucky someone tolerates him.”
Jiang Cheng reaches for his cup of tea without opening his eyes. Reluctantly, Lan Zhan shifts forward, pressing it into his hands. “I did not hear that,” Lan Zhan says.
“Yeah,” Jiang Cheng says. “And neither did your fiancé, thankfully. He believes that too, you know.”
Lan Zhan knows. It’s never something that’s far from his mind. “I have told him otherwise,” he says. “I will tell him as many times as he needs.”
“Good,” Jiang Cheng says, more forcefully than he needs to. “Because if he cries over you—”
“Then I would welcome whatever you had to offer,” Lan Zhan finishes. Jiang Cheng seems almost satisfied at that. “So this is what upset you.”
“Yep.” Jiang Cheng’s eyes open to slits. “Why?”
“I assumed…” Lan Zhan starts. He realizes quickly it’s a thought too immature to finish, but unfortunately, Jiang Cheng does for him.
“… that I was upset about your engagement?” He snorts. “I don’t like you. But he loves you. ‘m not so immature that I can’t accept that.”
Lan Zhan watches him. He loves you. Even here, in this impossible conversation, something in him brightens and lifts.
“Ugh.” At Lan Zhan’s silence, Jiang Cheng has blinked his eyes fully open. “You’re smiling again.”
“I am,” Lan Zhan agrees readily. “Wei Ying has that effect.”
Jiang Cheng buries his face in a cushion and groans, then squirms to straighten out. “Gonna nap,” he mutters. “Tell him not to wake me when he gets back. I’ve seen enough of his face.”
Lan Zhan will never like the way Jiang Cheng talks to Wei Ying, but now, at least, he has had practice with it. It feels nearly natural to read between the lines. They may never be as close as Wei Ying would like. But perhaps they can understand each other.
“Sleep,” he says. “I will have him wake you.”
Lan Zhan sits back on the couch, watches the light glint of the party decorations in the dim light as Jiang Cheng’s breaths ease and slow. And just like that, they wait for Wei Ying’s return.