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A Lot's Gonna Change

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Wei Ying leans back against the bar, peering out at the suits, the dresses. The glitter of watches that cost more than his college tuition, made visible as shoulders are clapped, toasts made. Glossy hair cut and styled in London or Singapore just hours before the wedding and then flown carefully across countries, oceans, to catch the light here, at stupid Wen Chao's insufferable wedding. It's the marital equivalent of a Cheesecake Factory: an inexplicable combination of vulgar expense and utter cheapassery. Red silk shot through with real gold thread drapes artfully over plastic folding tables. There are goodie bags for guests which include earring-sized Tiffany-blue boxes and also fun-size Snickers bars. Wei Ying is being paid twenty bucks an hour to pour sparkling white wine from their absolute lowest price tier into cut-crystal glasses from the 1920s.

 

"Mianmian," he says thoughtfully, as he watches Wen Chao suck face with Wang Lingjiao across the room. "How long do you give this marriage? A year?"

 

"Save your gossip for after we get paid," Luo Mian advises him. She's polishing glasses again, which she does when her options are Polish Glasses or Lose Her Mind. "Also, I'd give them two kids and a teeny dog before they split up."

 

"Hmmm," Wei Ying says. "That's awfully optimistic."

"He has too much pride to split earlier," she points out, "and she has too little spine. Incoming."

 

Wei Ying grunts and pushes off the bar to go bartend. Tend bar. Whatever. "What can I get for you?" he asks the suit-and-dress that just walked up, and then he flicks his eyes up to their faces and exclaims, "Wen Qing! What in the hell are you doing here?" And then he remembers that, of course, Wen Qing is distantly related to Wen Chao.

 

"Suffering," Wen Qing says darkly. 

 

"Great," Wei Ying says. "Us too. You want a drink?"

 

"As a woman of medicine," Wen Qing begins, "I am familiar with the detrimental effects of excessive alcohol consumption, so I would like to request one glass of champagne."

 

"First of all, it's not champagne," Wei Ying says. "It's sparkling white wine that was seven dollars at Costco. Second of all, I'm sensing a 'but.'"

 

"But," Wen Qing agrees. "As Wen Chao's only young, pretty female relative, I'm in Wang Lingjiao's bridal party and it has taken all of my strength not to poison everyone involved in this farce of a wedding." Luo Mian snorts. "Give me whatever's strong and expensive. It's an open bar, right? Give me their money's worth."

 

"Do we count as involved?" Wei Ying asks, reaching for the nice rum. Nicer rum. The rum that cost more than a dollar an ounce. It still isn't very good. "How do you feel about daiquiris?"

 

"I feel extremely positively about daiquiris. You don't count as involved, you're getting paid to be here," Wen Qing allows. "All the guests, I mean. A-Ning is so lucky he was busy this weekend."

 

Wen Ning is lucky for a lot of reasons, not the least of which being that he plays video games professionally and has recently started making more money at it than Wei Ying makes bartending. He's playing some tournament right now. "Wen Ning ah," Wei Ying sighs, squeezing a lime forlornly into the shaker. "Never forget who first taught you how to do a combo in Smash."

 

"Yes, he owes it all to you," Wen Qing agrees, one eyebrow arched sardonically.

 

"Pshaw," Wei Ying says, uncomfortably aware that Wen Ning does, in fact, believe he owes it all to Wei Ying, because it was Wei Ying's idea for him to get serious about gaming after they were both thrown out of university. Wei Ying thinks that any gaming-related debt should be cancelled out by the fact that it was his fault they got thrown out at all. "Hey, Wen Qing, meet Mianmian, she's cool," he says, and starts shaking the daiquiri shaker loudly. He continues shaking as they introduce themselves, and Wen Qing gestures to her companion and introduces him too, although Wei Ying misses his name because of the ice rattling around in his hands. He's very handsome, which is why Wei Ying has not addressed him yet. He gets annoying when he meets new people, Wei Ying knows, and he gets especially annoying when he meets hot people, and he is trying to make tips here.

 

When the daiquiri is mixed, he pours it through a strainer into one of the ridiculous fancy glasses, throws a candied lime peel on, and slides it over to Wen Qing, who takes it and drinks half of it in one go.

 

"Good heavens," Wei Ying says.

 

"You're not driving, are you?" Luo Mian checks.

 

Wen Qing swallows and says, "No, Lan Zhan is driving for the night," indicating her companion.

 

"You want any juice?" Wei Ying offers to him. "Soda?"

 

Lan Zhan looks at him. His eyes are such a light shade of brown as to be almost amber. "No, thank you," he says. "Just ice water, if you please."

 

Wei Ying raises his eyebrows. So polite! "One artisanal ice water, coming right up," he says. "Just kidding. It's tap water. You want a lemon? A lime?"

 

"No, thank you," Lan Zhan repeats.

 

"Ah, so boring!" Wei Ying cries, but he gives Lan Zhan his water in a fancy glass anyway. "So, Wen-jiejie, who's this dreadful young man you've brought to meet me, huh? Where did you find him? A library?"

 

"Yes," Wen Qing says, and doesn't elaborate.

 

"Are you each other's beards?" Wei Ying guesses, mostly joking.

 

Lan Zhan says, "I don't know what that means."

 

Wen Qing says, "Yes." Then, to Lan Zhan, she says, "It's what we're doing."

 

"Hn," Lan Zhan says, with a cautious look at Wei Ying and then Luo Mian.

 

"Dude, don't worry, we're cool," Wei Ying says quickly. "Wen Qing and I have bearded for each other too. Hey, maybe we should be bitter exes," he adds to Wen Qing. "Wow. Wen Qing. I can't believe you've brought your new boyfriend. I'm devastated."

 

"I am equally hurt that you've brought your new girlfriend," Wen Qing says. "I feel replaced."

 

"Leave me out of this," Luo Mian says with a grimace. "I didn't cut all ties with my family just to pretend to date a man."

 

"You date men," Wei Ying points out. "You're dating a man right now."

 

"Yeah, but not you," Luo Mian says.

 

"Ouch."

 

"It's nothing personal. Your role in my life is to validate me when I whine," Luo Mian says. "It's a very important role and you perform it excellently."

 

"Thank you," Wei Ying says, touched.

 

"Interestingly, that's my role in his life," Wen Qing observes.

 

"Yeah, except you do less validating and more telling me to start taking better notes," Wei Ying says. To be fair, taking better notes would solve a lot of the problems that he whines about to Wen Qing. "Hey, if Wen Qing whines to Mianmian, we'll have a nice little ecosystem."

 

"No, no, I complain to Lan Zhan," Wen Qing says. Lan Zhan makes a little sound of agreement. Across the room Wen Chao and Wang Lingjiao have started making out. There's a lot of visible tongue.

 

"Alright, well, Lan Zhan can complain to Mianmian," Wei Ying decides.

 

"Lan Zhan doesn't complain about anything," Wen Qing dismisses him. "He keeps all his irritation right here —" She gestures at Lan Zhan's chest. "— and then someday, he'll die."

 

"If nothing is to be done about the problem, it's useless to complain," Lan Zhan says, his eyes on his glass of water.

 

"Right, obviously, but there's a difference between complaining about stuff that matters, which sucks, and stuff that doesn't matter, which rocks," Wei Ying tells him. "Complaining about being forced to perform heterosexuality for your parents and their peers sucks, but complaining about this asinine wedding rocks."

 

"Hm," Lan Zhan says. 

 

Wei Ying gives him his very best Applying Peer Pressure expression. "Do it, Lan Zhan. Say this wedding is tacky and awful and they're both terrible people. You're friends with Wen Qing, I know you're thinking it. Here, here, you don't even need to say it aloud, you can just wink if I'm right."

 

Lan Zhan looks at him with a blank expression. He's not a very expressive person, apparently. Wei Ying holds his gaze and decides that he wants to make him crack.

 

Then he jumps about a foot in the air as someone crashes into the bar and slurs, "Give me — oh, fuck, what's she drinking? Give me one of those." It's Wang Lingjiao, who has somehow separated herself from her new husband and wobbled her way over to sprawl across the bar. They've already given her four glasses of wine, one for each time Wen Chao publicly groped someone other than her.

 

And… She's insufferable, but no one deserves Wen Chao. Maybe he can find it in his heart to feel, perhaps, a crumb of sympathy for her. "Long day, huh," Wei Ying says. 

 

"Am I paying you to chat, or to give me drinks?" she says. Ah, there goes the crumb.

 

"Right," Wei Ying says, and reaches for the rum again. The cheap rum this time. Cheaper. The four of them are silent as he makes the daiquiri. Wang Lingjiao slumps on her stool, blowing air through her lips occasionally. If she were his friend, he would make her drink some water before giving her any more alcohol; she'll have a killer hangover tomorrow either way, but water would mitigate it.

 

She is not his friend. He gives her the daiquiri. 

 

"Took you long enough," she says, grabbing the drink, and stumbles away.


Wei Ying sucks on his teeth in disgust. Luo Mian mutters, "Bitch." 

 

Wen Qing curls her lip and says, "She'll have a horrible morning."

 

Lan Zhan just meets Wei Ying's gaze. One of his finely shaped eyebrows twitches, minuscule and damning. His expression is completely blank when he winks, serious and deliberate, at Wei Ying.

 

Shocked laughter bubbles up Wei Ying's throat and out of his mouth, fizzes along his shoulders and out through his fingertips. He can feel his ears turning red with the pleasure of being winked at, even under such circumstances and with such an expression, by a beautiful man.

 

"What are you laughing at?" Luo Mian wonders.

 

"Nothing! Nothing." Wei Ying makes grabby hands at the polishing cloth. "Give me that, it's my turn to polish some glasses."

 

"Uh huh," Luo Mian says, sounding like she knows exactly why he wants to keep his hands busy. But she hands over the cloth and lets him polish, so she's forgiven for perceiving him. "How do you two know each other?" she asks, and at first he thinks she means Wen Qing and Lan Zhan, which he's also curious about, but then she adds, "My condolences, by the way," which means she's asking Wen Qing about him.

 

"We went to the same high school," Wen Qing says. "He was nice to my brother so he's the only person I still talk to. Also we were lab partners for a semester and Wei Ying let me do all the dissections."

 

Wei Ying grimaces. The previous semester he had been paired with some jerk whose name he doesn't even remember anymore who made Wei Ying do all the dissecting because it was gross, and then refused to help write the report about it because, of course, he didn't do any of the dissection. Then the guy got busted for trying to take the lens from the cow eyeball home in his pocket. 

 

Wei Ying was more than happy to let Wen Qing do all the dissections after that, and she was happy to let him write the reports. By the end of the semester they had the highest grades in the class. Then Wen Qing graduated and went to university, and then the year after that Wei Ying graduated and went to university, and then the year after that he and Wen Ning both got thrown out. 

 

Wei Ying clears his throat, then turns it into a scoff. "Hey, I'm still nice to your brother."

 

Wen Qing leans across the bar to pat his head. "Yeah, you are. Good boy. I know where you live. How do you know each other?" she asks Luo Mian.

 

"College," Luo Mian says. She hadn't been kicked out, but her family had pulled all their financial support and she'd had to drop out and finish her degree at a community college.

 

"We almost dated," Wei Ying chirps.

 

"We did not almost date," Luo Mian says. "You flirted with me one time and then I was mean to you about it forever."

 

"Uh, yeah," Wei Ying says, "I love when people are mean to me."

 

Luo Mian rolls her eyes. "You want another daiquiri?" she offers to Wen Qing.

 

"Please," Wen Qing says with feeling, handing her empty glass over. "Less sugar, more rum this time, please."

 

"You got it."

 

"A-Qing? Is that you over there?"

 

Wen Qing straightens and turns, a real smile blooming over her face. "Popo ah! Where have you been all evening, I thought you must have gone home," she says in Mandarin to the approaching Madam Wen, who is approximately ten thousand years old and one of Wei Ying's favorite people on the fucking planet.

 

"I've been hiding in the ladies' room," Madam Wen admits in her creaky old lady voice. Wen Qing takes her hand and tugs her close. "What a shame, my little nephew, what a shame. What sort of wedding! Is that little Wei Ying back here? A-Ying, come here and let Popo see you."

 

Wei Ying grins and leans across the bar so that Madam Wen can cup his face in her hands, which are soft and wrinkly and smell of soap and powder. He lets her squish his cheeks and inspect his eyes and tongue, just in case. "First Wen Qing and now Popo is here," he remarks cheerfully when she pats his cheeks in satisfaction. "My day just keeps getting better!"

 

"You're still too skinny," Madam Wen tells him. "When will you marry a nice girl who'll fatten you up? A-Qing, you too, you're too too skinny by far. Who is this handsome young man? Are you A-Qing's boyfriend?" She peers up at Lan Zhan, who is probably a full foot and a half taller than she is.

 

"He sure is," Wen Qing lies through a wide smile. "This is Lan Zhan, Popo. He's in library studies. Are you enjoying the wedding?"

 

Madam Wen scoffs. "The wedding! Hah! What a joke! Neither of those children have spoken to me once. If my brother were still alive he would be ashamed. A-Ying, be a good boy and make your Popo a hot water."

 

"Yes ma'am," Wei Ying says, and puts the kettle on.

 

Madam Wen squints at Lan Zhan. "Young man, do you speak Mandarin?"

 

"I do," Lan Zhan replies. "I grew up in Shanghai."

 

"Shanghai! What are they teaching young people in Shanghai these days? Ice water! Pah! You'll fill up with phlegm!" She pokes his belly, which is approximately the level of her shoulders. "A-Ying, give this boy some hot water, you're poisoning him."

 

Wei Ying meets Lan Zhan's eyes and shrugs cheerfully. "Gotta do what Popo tells me," he says, and pours two steaming bowls of hot water. When he hands the second bowl to Lan Zhan, their fingers brush. "This Wei Ying apologizes for poisoning Wen Qing's dashing young man."

 

Lan Zhan hums. He maintains eye contact as he tips the water into his mouth. Wen Qing says in English, "Oh my god."

 

Wei Ying has no idea what she's talking about.



*



Madam Wen dodders away eventually, possibly back to the ladies' room to avoid having to congratulate her utter disappointment of a great-nephew on his wedding, but Wen Qing and Lan Zhan continue to loiter around the bar for the rest of the evening. Wei Ying is absolutely fucking delighted to realize that actually Wen Chao seems to be a little afraid of Lan Zhan or Wen Qing or both, a fact which becomes clear when Wei Ying and Luo Mian watch him tip his empty glass upside-down into his mouth, slide a longing glance over to the bar, and then turn hastily away on four separate occasions.

 

"Wow," Wei Ying says the fourth time it happens. "This is great, actually. This wedding rocks. Which one of you is he afraid of, do you think?"

 

"Probably both of us," Wen Qing says, "but especially Lan Zhan. He knows I can't kick his ass in the presence of my family."

 

Wei Ying raises his eyebrows. "And Lan Zhan can?"

 

"I would not," Lan Zhan says, which is a bummer. But then, after a slight pause, he adds, "He doesn't need to know that."

 

"Lan Zhan, you sly fox," Wei Ying says admiringly. "What on earth have you done to him?"

 

"He is quick to anger, quick to fight, and quick to lose," Lan Zhan says, which is code for, I beat his ass. "He's decided it is easier to pretend that I am particularly intimidating than to acknowledge that he is particularly pathetic."

 

"He's being humble," Wen Qing tells Wei Ying. "Lan Zhan teaches Chen tai chi. He knows how to throw a punch."

 

"Cool," Wei Ying says, looking at the ceiling and thinking about biceps. "Great. Awesome. I love that for you, Lan Zhan."

 

"It's traditional," Lan Zhan says, "and I wouldn't fight for no reason," as if he maybe thinks it was disapproval that caught in Wei Ying's throat instead of pure gay energy.

 

"Believe me, I trust you had reason," Wei Ying reassures him. "He went to our high school too."

 

"Hm," Lan Zhan says, his eyes narrowed in a delicate grimace. "My condolences." Wei Ying snorts, delighted.

 

"Remember how I told you about the kid who punched Wen Chao on behalf of A-Ning?" Wen Qing says to Lan Zhan. "That was Wei Ying."

 

"I broke my thumb," Wei Ying says mournfully. Then, less mournfully, "And his nose. Now I can write with my left hand too and he's got ten thousand dollars of plastic in his face."

 

"How are either of you even here??" Luo Mian wonders.

 

"I'm not sure Wen Chao remembers who exactly I am," Wei Ying admits. "Since apparently getting punched out by hot people is a frequent occurrence for him."

 

"The wedding invitation said I could bring a plus-one and no one ever asked who I was going to bring," Wen Qing says. "I was prepared to lie if they did, though."

 

"I like it," Luo Mian says.

 

"Would you like to learn how to throw a punch without breaking your thumb?" Lan Zhan asks.

 

Wei Ying learned how to throw a proper punch shortly after the thumb break incident, and has punched more than one person since then without disaster. He's dabbled in bagua zhang and a couple different schools of kung fu and even American kickboxing. He knows how to throw a punch.

 

"Please," he says, offering his hand across the bar. He can see Luo Mian and Wen Qing rolling their eyes at each other out of the corner of his eye, but Lan Zhan is a good sport, so he takes Wei Ying's hand and curls it into a fist.

 

"Your thumb goes outside your fingers," Lan Zhan tells him seriously. He holds Wei Ying's fist in his hand and brushes his fingers along the back of it. "Align your hand and forearm so that the line from your knuckles to your elbow is straight. Like this the force from the punch travels up your arm." He gestures with his hand up Wei Ying's forearm, all the way up to the crumple of his rolled-up sleeve at his elbow.

 

Wei Ying's mouth is pretty dry just about now.

 

"You need to start with correct posture," Lan Zhan continues. "Feet apart. Your body should be at an angle to your opponent." He reaches across the bar and taps two fingers against Wei Ying's left shoulder. "Your right hand is dominant, so your left shoulder faces me." 

 

Wei Ying shifts to obey. "You're my opponent now?" he asks.

 

"For the purposes of this exercise," Lan Zhan says, stepping to one side to mirror Wei Ying's posture.

 

"I bet you could teach him even better if you were standing behind him," says Luo Mian, who is a bro.

 

"Oh my god," says Wen Qing, who is not a bro. "Lan Zhan, he's fucking with you, Wei Ying knows how to throw a punch."

 

Lan Zhan looks to him for confirmation, and Wei Ying kind of smiles guiltily and gives Lan Zhan's shoulder a gentle tap with a perfectly-formed fist. "I thought I'd touch up on my skills," he says, instead of I thought you might hold my hand a little.

 

"I see," Lan Zhan says flatly. His face, which is already not particularly expressive, has gone even more blank than it has been. 

 

"Ahh," Wei Ying says, feeling his heart fall. "I wasn't — I'm not making fun of you," he says. "I was just... playing around. I guess."

 

"Oh man. You want another drink?" Luo Mian asks Wen Qing.

 

"Yes, please. This is painful," Wen Qing says.

 

All at once Wei Ying runs out of patience with himself. "This is stupid," he decides. "Oh my god. I'm really not getting any younger. Lan Zhan, I wasn't making fun of you and I wasn't really playing around either. I was flirting with you. Is that okay?"

 

Lan Zhan blinks. His expression hardly changes at all, but his ears get steadily pinker. "... Yes," he says at last, after waiting just long enough to make Wei Ying start to sweat. "You can flirt with me."

 

"Great," Wei Ying says, feeling suddenly breathless. "Great. I like — hey, do you want to dance with me?" He gestures at the dance floor, which is notably free of the horrible happy couple and populated mostly by various uncles and aunts instead.

 

Lan Zhan looks at him seriously. Then he nods. Wei Ying blinks. "What, really?"

 

"Mn," Lan Zhan says. "I'll dance with you."

 

Wei Ying laughs nervously. "Even though you're here as Wen Qing's beard?"

 

Lan Zhan casts a thoughtful look around. "I believe those who would care are either drunk or gone for the night."

 

"Go for it, boys," Wen Qing says. "You have my blessing."

 

"We barely even needed two bartenders to begin with," Luo Mian agrees.

 

"Okay, yeah," Wei Ying says. "Um, here's the stupid part. Do you even know how to dance like that? Because I don't." He and Jiang Cheng did both dragon and lion dancing as high schoolers; Wei Ying was the pearl in dragon dancing and the butt end of the lion. He's pretty sure the only friend he has who might really know how to slow dance in the European style is Nie Huaisang, and that's a big maybe.

 

"I do not," Lan Zhan admits. Then, with a look out at the crowd, he remarks, "It seems to involve mostly swaying in time. I think we can manage that." 

 

He's right; most of the people here are just stepping or swaying from side to side, their hands clasped at shoulder height or looped around each other's bodies. There's a live string quartet (!) playing something slow and unfamiliar.

 

Yeah, Wei Ying could do that. He could do that with Lan Zhan. He clears his throat. "Um, let me put my apron up."

 

Lan Zhan waits patiently as he ducks out of the apron and folds it on a stool, then wriggles out from behind the bar. "You don't have to," Wei Ying tells him, just in case. "I didn't really —"

 

"Were you joking, when you asked?" Lan Zhan interrupts.

 

Wei Ying looks at him. He looks handsome and serious and a little nervous. "No," he says. "No, I wasn't."

 

Lan Zhan offers his hand.

 

Wei Ying takes it and lets himself be led a little way away from the bar. The gold-draped tables are still scattered between them and the rest of the dance floor when Lan Zhan stops and steps closer. Wei Ying drifts in towards him. "Not dancing with everyone else?" he wonders.

 

"We're not everyone else," Lan Zhan tells him.

 

Wei Ying laughs incredulously, his heart a nervous bird in his chest. "Alright," he agrees.

 

Lan Zhan considers their clasped hands, then releases his hold on Wei Ying in favor of doing hoverhands over his waist. "May I —" he begins, and Wei Ying puts his own hands firmly over Lan Zhan's so that he's solidly held.

 

"Yes," Wei Ying says belatedly. Wow, Lan Zhan's hands are warm, even through his dress shirt. Wei Ying releases him and slings his hands up to loop his arms around Lan Zhan's neck, and it brings their faces close together. Wei Ying couldn't quite tell from behind the bar, but they're almost the same height; Lan Zhan is maybe an inch or two taller than him, and a little wider. He's so fucking pretty, and this close he smells like some sort of dizzyingly sexy expensive cologne. They sway into each other, find the beat of the music. Wei Ying likes that Lan Zhan knows how to fight. That he teaches kids how to fight, teaches friendly strangers at awful weddings. That he drinks plain ice water except when someone else's granny orders him to drink hot water instead.

 

Wei Ying tilts his head down to rest his temple against Lan Zhan's shoulder. Lan Zhan makes a sound like, "Mmh," and pulls him a little closer.

 

"You're cute," Wei Ying tells his throat. "I don't usually do this." Which isn't precisely true: he flirts all the time, and sometimes he even gets somewhere with it. But he's never really meant it. Something about Lan Zhan makes him want to mean it.

 

"I don't either," Lan Zhan says. Wei Ying takes the liberty of pulling himself closer, this time, until their chests are pressed together. He can feel Lan Zhan's heart pounding against him. Lan Zhan squeezes his waist, slides his hands in to lie flat over Wei Ying's spine. One of their friends wolf-whistles. "Is this okay?" Lan Zhan asks, his voice quiet over Wei Ying's ear.

 

Wei Ying laughs shakily. "Uh, yeah. I think you could do just about anything and it would be okay, frankly."

 

"Mmh," Lan Zhan says again, and brushes his mouth over Wei Ying's ear.

 

"Fuck," Wei Ying mutters. "Okay, um, maybe not that. Or anything else that's gonna make me have to hide my boner when we go back. But, like, anything else."

 

"Noted," Lan Zhan says, sounding a little strangled.

 

"Sorry," Wei Ying says. "I'm too into you to know how to be subtle right now."

 

"No apologies necessary," Lan Zhan tells him graciously. "You don't need to be subtle. It's… a reasonable concern."

 

Wei Ying breathes in and lets himself think about that response for approximately half a second before shutting that train of thought right the fuck back down. "Great," he creaks. "So… Wen Qing said you're in library science?" he asks, instead of, What are you doing immediately after this and do you want to come home with me instead?

 

"Mn," Lan Zhan says, changing tack gracefully. "My goal is to be an archivist. So much of our history is so easily lost; I'd like to help recover it."

 

"Which 'our' is that?" Wei Ying asks.

 

"Anyone," Lan Zhan says. "Everyone. I have specific interests. But all paper burns."

 

"... Wow," Wei Ying says. "I mean, yeah. That's intense. That's really cool, though."

 

"I think so," Lan Zhan agrees, then prompts, "You said you take notes."

 

"Oh, yeah. I'm not in school for anything, I just do citizen science. Like, bartender by night, guy who goes out to the sticks and counts bugs by day, sort of thing," Wei Ying says. "Sometimes I see a coyote or something and that's cool. It just feels good to be doing something that might actually matter. You'd think it wouldn't — like, it's just bugs, right — but any data is good data. Which kinds, how many, that sort of thing. You know we think Western science has only identified a little over half the bugs in the US?"

 

"I did not," Lan Zhan admits.

 

"Well. Western science has only identified a little over half the bugs in the US, probably," Wei Ying informs him very seriously. Lan Zhan's mouth ticks up at one corner.

 

"Have you ever identified a new species?" he asks.

 

Wei Ying blows air out through his lips. "Oh, like, maybe? Probably not? It's hard to tell — and speciation is, like, looking increasingly fake anyway —" He glances up at Lan Zhan, who looks a little lost. "That's not the sexy answer, is it," Wei Ying guesses. "I revise: I haven't, but when I do I'll name my new bug species after you."

 

"Consider me seduced," Lan Zhan tells him, and Wei Ying wails and thunks his forehead back into Lan Zhan's shoulder.

 

After a moment he says, "Me too. You can consider me seduced too."

 

"Hm," Lan Zhan says. "That's good."

 

"Yeah," Wei Ying breathes, and then, "I think we need to stop talking about seduction or else," and so for the rest of the piece they stand there quietly leaning into each other, swaying together to the music. When the song ends they pull reluctantly apart, and Wei Ying wants to kiss him, but they're in public and at least in theory Lan Zhan is being discreet here and Wei Ying doesn't want to make it weird. Weirder. He clears his throat and steps away. Boner status: manageable. He says, "I should get back to work."

 

"Mn," Lan Zhan agrees, and they return to the bar, where Wen Qing is writing on one of four napkins in front of her.

 

"We're all exchanging numbers," she informs them as Wei Ying slithers behind the bar and ducks back into his apron. "If you dorks lose track of each other after tonight I will kill you with my hands. Also, Mianmian and I are friends now."

 

"Oh good," Wei Ying says. Wen Qing hands him a napkin that says LAN ZHAN and then a phone number. Lan Zhan gets a napkin that says WEI YING and LUO MIAN. "There's still hope for our ecosystem," Wei Ying mumbles, folding his napkin up and putting it in his pocket. Then he reaches over and draws some hearts around his own name and number on Lan Zhan's napkin for good measure, singing absently, "All my friends should be friends with my friends." Then he folds it up and leans over to tuck it into Lan Zhan's breast pocket.

 

When he looks up, Lan Zhan is staring at him. Wei Ying pats his chest once and leans away. 

 

After a moment Wen Qing clears her throat. "So, we should go," she says. "We both have work early tomorrow."

 

"Ah? You're leaving before the lights turn off? What a betrayal!" Wei Ying cries. "Mianmian and I have to be here till ten."

 

"Sorry, kid," Wen Qing says. "At least you get to sleep in tomorrow." Wei Ying makes a face like Yeah okay.

 

"It was good to meet you," Lan Zhan says to Luo Mian and Wei Ying.

 

"You too," Luo Mian says. "Both of you. We'll start a groupchat."

 

"Yeah," Wei Ying says quickly, "Yeah, we'll text. Like not right now because we're on the job, technically. But later."

 

Lan Zhan nods firmly. "Later," he agrees.

 

And then they say their goodbyes, and then Wen Qing and Lan Zhan retrieve their things from the table where they were sitting, and then they leave. And Luo Mian and Wei Ying just sort of sit there listening to the quartet for a full thirty seconds of loneliness.

 

And then Luo Mian says, "What the fuck are you waiting for? Go!" and Wei Ying says "Yep!" and leaps over the bar and dashes out through the lobby into the dark parking lot, where Lan Zhan has just shut the trunk of his car. Wei Ying shouts, "Hey!" and Wen Qing and Lan Zhan both turn, their faces turned orange with black smudges by the outdoor lighting.

 

"Wei Ying," Lan Zhan says, concerned. "Are you alright? Did we forget —"

 

Wei Ying catches him by the lapels of his jacket. "Yeah," he gasps, "Yeah, you forgot something, oh my god. Can I kiss you?"

 

Lan Zhan stares at him. Then he reaches up to cup Wei Ying's face in his hands, and tilts his head a little, and pulls him into a kiss. His mouth is soft and firm and warm, and that faint smell of fine cologne is back.

 

"Holy shit," Wei Ying mumbles into his mouth. Lan Zhan pulls him closer, lets himself be pressed back against the car. Wei Ying kisses him again, once, twice, manages, "You guys have to go. I have to go. Text me when you get home —"

 

"I will," Lan Zhan tells him, and kisses him again. Wei Ying whimpers, opens his mouth for Lan Zhan's tongue, sucks on it a little before they both draw back.

 

Wei Ying drops his head to Lan Zhan's shoulder again. Lan Zhan releases his face in favor of holding the back of his head, the nape of his neck. Wei Ying presses into him and says pathetically, "Sorry Wen Qing."

 

"It's fine," she says, her voice amused. "Kinda saw this coming."

 

"Oh," Wei Ying says. "I love that. Love that for us."

 

"You should go," Lan Zhan tells him quietly. "I'll text."

 

"Yeah," Wei Ying says, swallowing. He darts in for one last kiss, then pushes himself away. "Yeah. Goodnight, Lan Zhan. Wen Qing."

 

"Night," Wen Qing says.

 

"Goodnight, Wei Ying."

 

They climb into the car and pull out. Wei Ying watches the taillights until they're out of view.



*



The next wedding Wei Ying attends — well, the next one is another bartending gig. But the one after that is his sister's, and Lan Zhan is his plus-one that time. After that is Luo Mian and her boyfriend, and then Lan Zhan's brother's friend, and then all at once Wen Qing has a wife, and then —

 

"My husband," Lan Zhan says for the very first time, three years later, and Wei Ying just can't help but to kiss him.