“Do you know, Fat Cat” Zhao Yunlan mused as he dug into his takeout, “Shen Wei and I have been together for a year and I have no idea when his birthday is.”
Da Qing stole a piece of grilled meat from Zhao Yunlan’s plate. “Well,” he said as he chewed contemplatively, “I suppose it’s because he doesn’t have one. We weren’t big on birthdays ten thousand years ago.”
Zhao Yunlan bolted upright. “Are you saying he’s never had a birthday celebration? You’ve had birthday treats every year.”
Da Qing looked smug. “I give a different birthday to each member of the team. That way I get treats six times.”
Zhao Yunlan snatched his plate out of Da Qings reach as his Second In Command mewed in indignation.
“Focus, you terrible monster. We need to find out if Shen Wei has a birthday, and if so when and if not we have to throw him a birthday party in any case.”
Da Qing yawned. “Just take him home and put a bow on your dick. Happy birthday, Professor Shen.”
Zhao Yunlan smacked him. Da Qing yowled and sat up straight. “Fine.” He said. “Fine. You are a detective aren’t you? Detect.”
Zhao Yunlan pulled out his phone. “We need a plan”
OPERATION ‘BIRTHDAY’: PHASE 1
“So guys, does anyone have a plan?” Zhao Yunlan finished, looking expectantly at his team.
Zhu Hong and Wang Zheng rolled their eyes in unison. Privately, Zhao Yunlan had always found that very creepy.
“Chief Zhao,” Wang Zheng said, speaking very slowly as if to a toddler, “Has it occurred to you that Professor Shen has to have a birthday on record? Both with the University and with us?”
Zhao Yunlan blinked. This, as a matter of fact, had not occurred to him.
“So? When is it?” He asked, making gimme hands at his HR manager.
Wang Zheng glided to her desk and quickly typed in some details. “There we go. 6th November.”
Zhao Yunlan peered over her shoulder and squawked. Wang Zheng winced.
“6th November? That’s only a week away. We need a plan.”
OPERATION ‘BIRTHDAY’: PHASE 2
“Do you think Shen Wei would like a party?” Zhao Yunlan mused. “We could get a lot of delicious food, call all his friends, Li Qian and Dr Chen and maybe JiaJia. Get a few people from the Yashou tribes, make an evening of it.”
Lin Jing, bent over his computer, ignored him. Zhao Yunlan slid forward and poked him with one foot. “Oi, I will use your bonus to pay for the party.”
Lin Jing pushed his glasses to the top of his head with a long-suffering sigh.
“Chief Zhao.” He said patiently “I know you love Professor Shen. Does anything you know about him suggest that he would want a big blowout party?”
Zhao Yunlan had to reluctantly agree that Lin Jing was right. Not that he would give him the satisfaction of knowing that.
“Look,” Lin Jing continued, with the smug self-satisfaction of a man who had been in a relationship with two women for several months, “Professor Shen is a private person and I think he would like a private celebration. Just the two of you. Maybe something intimate. Something romantic. I can ask Sha Ya to set up some mood lighting and Yu Zhu to do some floral arrangements if you’d like.”
“Something small and romantic huh.” Zhao Yunlan thought about it. “That does sound like something Shen Wei would like. Right then. We need a plan.”
OPERATION ‘BIRTHDAY’: PHASE 3
Sang Zhan was very sweet and he meant well, Zhao Yunlan reminded himself as the ghost waxed eloquent about how he had wooed his Ge Lan back in the day.
“A whole boudoir of roses.” He stammered. “Would Professor Shen like that?”
Zhao Yunlan could very honestly reply “No, Professor Shen might be a little overwhelmed by that.”
Sang Zhan nodded earnestly. He really was very sweet.
“Maybe you could cook for him. Ge Lan liked it when I cooked for her. She still does, even though we can’t eat.”
“Tried that on our anniversary” Zhao Yunlan said ruefully. “It did not go well.”
That was an understatement. Zhao Yunlan had nearly set their flat on fire.
Sang Zhan looked horrified and sympathetic. “How about taking him somewhere that is important to both of you. Where you first met, or where you had your first date?”
Zhao Yunlan flipped through a mental calendar. University, university, caves of weirdness, his house, the past, university…oh wait. There was that lovely rooftop where they had defeated Zhu Jiu. It was secluded, romantic and they had really good memories there.
Sang Zhan smiled at him. “You could put together something about things you cherish most about him. That would be nice. Or something that shows how much you know about him.”
Zhao Yunlan could do that. He knew a lot about Shen Wei, and he cherished the parts he didn’t know as well. Except….wait.
“Oh crap” he said out loud. “I need to show him that I love and respect the Dixingren part of him just as much. Shit. I need a plan.”
OPERATION ‘BIRTHDAY’: PHASE 4
“No.” said Chu Shuzhi
“I haven’t even told you what I want.” Zhao Yunlan complained.
Chu Shuzhi rolled his eyes. He did that a lot.
“You want me to tell you how to celebrate the Black Cloak Envoy’s birthday, Dixingren style. And no.”
Zhao Yunlan didn’t want to whine, but he was a man of substance. He could whine if he had to.
“Please Shuzhi. Pleeeease.”
“Because you are going to monumentally mess it up in some way and I don’t want to get blamed.”
Zhao Yunlan narrowed his eyes. Okay. No more whining.
“Shen Wei has sacrificed his whole life for Dixing. Given up more than any one man should have. The least we…I…can do is incorporate the traditions of his people in the first birthday celebration that he will ever have. His birthday should be a national holiday in Dixing. And the fact that it isn’t is a shame. And I am going to make An Bai sign a proclamation. Eventually. Until then, I will not let him think that Dixing has forgotten him.”
Chu Shuzhi hunched his magnificent shoulders just a little bit. Success.
“Fine.” Chu Shuzhi said grumpily. “I don’t know how much the customs have changed since Hei Pao Shi’s day but I can tell you what we do now.”
“Great.” Zhao Yunlan replied cheerily. “And then I just need to put all the things together. I have a plan.”
OPERATION ‘BIRTHDAY’: PHASE 5
“You have some cheek asking the leader of the Yashou to put together a dinner for your boyfriend.” Zhu Hong said
“But Hong-er you are the smartest most competent person I know.” Zhao Yunlan wheedled.
“Sweet talk won’t get you anywhere.”
“I’ll buy two pairs of fuck me heels as payment.”
“Three and two leather jackets.”
“Two and one jacket.”
“Deal. I also want a minion to do the fetching and carrying. I have three tribes to run.”
“Guo Chang Cheng!!!! You are on secondment to the Yashou until further notice.”
“Yes Chief Zhao. I hope you and Professor Shen have a wonderful time.”
“Oh don’t worry, we will.”
Zhu Hong glared. “Stop leering you creep. There are children watching.”
“Oh little Chang Cheng knows what I am talking about, don’t you? Or has Chu Shuzhi taught you nothing. Guo Chang Cheng, come back. Come back, I said.”
OPERATION ‘BIRTHDAY’: THE MISSION
“Flowers check, candles check, food check, special minerals from Dixing check, cake check, silken robes check, non-alcoholic Dixing wine check.” Zhu Hong ticked them off on her fingers. “Da Qing will have Shen Wei here at 7.30 on the dot. So I suggest you be ready before that.”
Zhao Yunlan hugged her. “You are the best friend anyone could ever have.”
Zhu Hong blushed but shrugged him off. “Shoo. Go and have a wonderful time with your boyfriend, you goose. Give him a birthday to remember.”
Zhao Yunlan could tell how sappy he sounded when he said “The first of many” but he didn’t care. Zhu Hong shoved him lightly before tapping away in her new (very expensive) heels.
Zhao Yunlan looked around him. The team had gone above and beyond. The terrace had been converted into a little wonderland, with dim candles studding the walls, reflecting off the Dixing minerals that were supposed to bring good luck. Yu Zhu’s exquisite arrangements made from blossoms donated from different flower Yashou framed the small table. Sha Ya had set up a mysterious system that piped music around them. Lin Jing and Da Qing had worked together to put together a meal that had both Haixing and Dixing specialities. It was romantic and wonderful and something that Shen Wei would (hopefully) love. Zhao Yunlan now had two hours to go home, get dressed in the birthday appropriate robes that Chu Shuzhi had procured (from somewhere, don’t ask him where) and be back before Shen Wei arrived.
An hour later, Zhao Yunlan concluded that silken robes were confusing and unnecessary but if that’s what Shen Wei deserved, that’s what Shen Wei would get. Finally dressed and his hair tamed, he made his way back to the terrace and as he walked in, he stopped short.
Standing there, silhouetted against the setting sun in his black robes was Hei Pao Shi. Who was not supposed to be there for another half an hour.
“Xiao Wei.” He stammered
The Black Cloak Envoy turned around, his face impassive beneath the mask and reached out a hand. Zhao Yunlan took it and was pulled against a firm chest as a portal opened around them and they found themselves on an oddly familiar mountain top.
Shen Wei reached up and slowly, deliberately pulled off the mask. He then slowly lowered his hood, and Zhao Yunlan gasped as long waves of dark hair cascaded down his shoulder. As Zhao Yunlan watched, Shen Wei reached into his robes and pulled out a lollipop which he slowly peeled opened and offered to Zhao Yunlan.
Zhao Yunlan took it and put it in his mouth, hollowing his cheeks as he tried to gather his thoughts, but before he could say anything, Shen Wei sank to one knee and Zhao Yunlan nearly choked on the lollipop.
“Kunlun, Yunlan, would you do me the honour of becoming my husband.” He asked peeping up at him through long dark eyelashes.
The lollipop wrapper had been deftly fashioned into a ring that matched the one that hung from Shen Wei’s neck.
“YES!” Zhao Yunlan choked. “Yes. Absolutely yes.”
Shen Wei got up and drew him close and they sank into each other for what seemed like hours.
When they finally returned to the roof, Zhao Yunlan pouted. “Couldn’t you have waited a few days for the proposal? I wanted your birthday to be all about you!”
Shen Wei smiled. “Zhao Yunlan, do you know why I choose 6th November as my birthday? It was the closest date that corresponded to when I met you in the past. The day I truly came alive. My birthday will never just be about me. Always and forever now, it will be about us.”