When Wei Ying was 21, he almost died.
For a few minutes, he actually did. They had been in the car, Jiang Cheng and him, with Wei Ying driving. There was a sleepy driver speeding in all the wrong lanes. It was about to hit Jiang Cheng’s side, but Wei Ying turns the wheel at the last minute and gets the brunt of it instead.
He was dead for three minutes inside an ambulance. He was unconscious for six months.
And then he woke up, and suddenly he sees things.
They manifest to him differently. Some are quiet and fading, almost translucent beings, fragile as if they’re made of the thinnest silk. Some are just shadows, staring and running around him at different speeds. Some almost look normal, barely any hint of death in them, aside from the fact that it’s only Wei Ying who can see them.
But most of them are gruesome, retaining their exact form when they died, and reflecting the process of decomposition in their material body. The most Wei Ying had seen had an axe to their head with dried blood running across their face, jaw almost dislodged with worms feasting on whatever meat is left on the bone.
Wei Ying thought they hated him, for dying and coming back to life—for being given a chance that they weren’t. Why else would they torture him, if not?
His family definitely did, after that. Uncle Jiang had spent quite an amount of money keeping him alive, through those six months, only for him to come back “broken”.
It was a nice word to describe him, Wei Ying thinks. Broken, like a vase cracked apart, put together too badly for it to be of any use, or to look even remotely close to what it used to be.
He had to quit university, after that. The spirits followed him wherever he went, and Madam Yu had yelled at him enough for him to save them some face.
And then, Lan Zhan.
When Lan Zhan touches him, they disappear. The ghosts disintegrate like they weren’t there at all, and the world turns quiet with nothing but the background noise of the city.
Lan Zhan holds him, and he can breathe.
When the nurse’s station had called him, they asked if he was Lan Zhan’s husband.
Wei Ying had been on a day off, trying to cook dinner for the both of them. Lan Zhan is usually home by 7:00 in the evening, and it might be 7:30, but Wei Ying did not think of that as a reason to worry just yet.
But the nurse tells him there’s been an accident, that his husband is in surgery, and that he might be needed to go through some papers.
Wei Ying doesn’t know how he gets to the hospital, or how he fills up all the things he needs to. He feels cold, and his legs feel numb, and he gives up on standing once the nurses leave and he loses the need to.
And then he’s on the floor, hugging his knees to his chest.
There’s whirring sounds in the background, and a lot of whispers. The hospital is a home for a lot of spirits, but even they seem to know to leave him alone for now.
Except for one.
The first thing Wei Ying notices from the ground are the shoes. He knows them. He polishes them weekly, himself. They’re always by the door of their apartment, neatly placed together next to his.
He doesn’t want to look up. He knows who it would be, but he doesn’t want to see it—see him, like that. He’s always thought he would want to, that it would be the one perk to this curse, seeing his loved ones even after they died—but not Lan Zhan. He’s not ready to see Lan Zhan glowing, or translucent, or fading or bloody.
So he could do nothing but sob, staring at the familiar tips of his shoes.
“No.” His chest hurts. His breaths all come shallowly, and his hands feel like they’ve been submerged in ice. He shakes his head. “No.”
“Wei Ying, look at me.”
He closes his eyes tightly, tears finally spilling on his cheeks as he does. “No. Don’t you fucking dare, Lan Zhan.” There are cold fingers on his chin, feeling like a breath of wind. It tilts his head up, and when he opens his eyes he sees Lan Zhan, looking as beautiful as he did this morning.
This morning, when he was safe inside their home, healthy and warm.
An inhumane noise surfaces from his chest as he sobs. This is wrong. Wei Ying sees ghosts but it shouldn’t be Lan Zhan. “Lan Zhan, go back there. Go back there, Lan Zhan! I swear to god, fucking go back!”
Lan Zhan just stares, looking sad and sorry, and Wei Ying punches him on the chest and pushes at his shoulders, because Lan Zhan shouldn’t be sad, shouldn’t be sorry, he should be alive.
“I’m sorry, Wei Ying.” Lan Zhan reaches out, his cold fingers brushing against the tears on his cheek.
“No. Go back. Please go back.” He could do nothing but hold on to the cold hand tightly, his chest heaving. “Lan Zhan. Lan Zhan, you have to go back. Go back to your body, hm?”
Lan Zhan smiles at him, dejected. “You do glow from here.”
Wei Ying pushes him again. “I’m your husband! I should fucking glow whenever you look at me! Now fucking go back before I get mad!” There are arms around him, cold but familiar, and Wei Ying hates the feel of them but he can never hate Lan Zhan.
“Lan Zhan please. You’re all I have.” It comes out broken and small, and Wei Ying wants to curl in on his chest.
“And you will always have me.” He feels cold lips on his temple, and Wei Ying feels out of breath, his eyes and chest flaring in pain.
He shakes his head. This is wrong. “You’re cold. You’re never cold. My husband is warm. Please.”
They both end up on the floor, Lan Zhan whispering I love yous to him and wiping his tears away like he’s alive. Wei Ying doesn’t know how long they stay like that, until Wen Qing steps out of the operating room.
He stares at her, feeling completely empty yet unprepared for whatever news she will deliver.
Wen Qing walks straight over to where he’s on the floor, leaning onto the ghost of his husband.
“All the procedures were successful. He’s stable. You can stop crying.”
Wei Ying just stares at her, unbelieving. “His body is okay? He can go back?”
Wen Qing’s eyes widen. “What do you mean he can ‘go back’? He left? Is he here?”
Wei Ying glares at the soul of his husband beside him. “I fucking told you, Lan Zhan! Go back! You fucking scared me.”
Lan Zhan’s soul blinks at him. “I tried. But I couldn’t.”
“What do you mean you couldn’t?! You just need to let your body reabsorb you!” Wei Ying says, his voice hoarse from all the crying.
“Do you know anyone who has a reason to curse you recently?” Wen Qing interrupts, looking serious. “It doesn’t have to be anything serious. It could be something as minor as “I hope you choke.””
Lan Zhan blinks, and Wei Ying groans as he watches his husband’s soul. “It’s Su She, isn’t it? Fucking Su She?” Lan Zhan had won a case last week, against one of his bitchy colleagues. Wei Ying is sure it’s Su She. Wei Ying hopes he fucking chokes.
“It might be that. It usually wears off in a few days. You might want to talk to granny about it.” Wen Qing says.
Wei Ying looks back at his husband, and then back to Wen Qing. “So his body is okay?”
Wen Qing sighs. “Just a couple of stitches. And bruises. I’ll check the CT again just in case, but I think he should be fine.”
Wei Ying nods. Wen Qing is a good doctor, and she understands soul stuff. She knows what she’s talking about.
Wei Ying can work with that.
They take the bus to Granny Wen’s house once Lan Huan gets to the hospital to watch over Lan Zhan’s material body. Wei Ying had explained to him as best as he could, that Lan Zhan is alright and is actually here, that they’d just go to a soul expert just in case. His husband’s soul stays beside him through it all, holding his hand. It’s almost normal, except the hand is cold, and Wei Ying feels exhausted from all the crying.
“Wei Ying.” Lan Zhan calls, halfway through the quiet ride. “It will be alright.”
Wei Ying glares at him, and pretends it isn’t funny when an old lady sits on his husband’s lap before he could stand up.
“You’re enjoying this.” Wei Ying says, glaring again at his husband’s soul, who’s only staring at him from the kitchen table.
Lan Zhan shrugs, a small movement of his shoulder and a small smile on his face. “It is nice, doing nothing but watching you all day.”
Granny Wen just confirmed what Wen Qing already told them. It was probably just a minor curse, or a minor incompatibility between Lan Zhan’s soul and his body. Lan Zhan should be able to come back once his body has recovered.
Wei Ying rolls his eyes, goes back to slicing vegetables for their rabbits. “You just liked watching me take a shower.”
Lan Zhan had been excited. They're kinky, but Wei Ying had to draw the line at ghost sex.
It’s the second day, when Lan Zhan sees just how popular Wei Ying is with ghosts.
“Hey, husband.” Wei Ying calls as they walk down the sidewalk, hand in hand. “Don’t you think it’s weird that I haven’t had spirits asking for help the last few days?” His eyes are trained on the ground, where his footsteps are just beside his husband’s. “Not that I’m complaining, since I can’t really accommodate them at the moment. But they usually bother me every second-”
Wei Ying looks up, only to find Lan Zhan’s soul glaring at the corner of the street.
“Lan Zhan? What are you-” Wei Ying sees it, then. There’s a spirit, just behind the tree, looking to be in his 30s or 40s. It’s staring at them.
Wei Ying looks back at his husband, who was still glaring on the spirit. “Why are you glaring at him? Is he bad? Do souls sense those things?”
Lan Zhan looks at him with a frown. “He had been staring inappropriately.”
He blinks. “Lan Zhan, he’s at least five meters away.”
Wei Ying doesn’t know how, but the soul of his husband’s ears can still blush. “The ghosts-They all stare at you, even when they don’t show themselves. Even when you don’t see them.”
Wei Ying smiles. It’s seldom that Lan Zhan is the one who’s jealous. “Sweetheart, I told you. The ghosts are just automatically attracted to me because I glow. Remember? Even you told me I glow.”
Lan Zhan frowns. “I do not like it.”
Wei Ying laughs. “And you still manage to send them away, even when you’re a spirit. Is it still your magic power at work, husband? Or do you just glare at them now until they go away?”
Lan Zhan looks ahead, his ears still red. “I glare.”
Wei Ying laughs all the way home. Lan Zhan basks in the sound of it. Wei Ying has not laughed since the hospital.
Wei Ying had to go grocery shopping a few days later, after Lan Zhan’s soul had lectured him out of eating instant noodles five consecutive times.
“It’s extremely unhealthy.” Lan Zhan says, examining the vegetables on the stand.
“It’s quick food, Lan Zhan.” Wei Ying says, putting the lettuce Lan Zhan points at onto their cart. “I don’t think now is the right time to test my cooking skills. Besides, this is your half of house chores, remember?” They had listed chores and divided them accordingly, when they got married. Lan Zhan is in charge of everything in the kitchen. Wei Ying is in charge of everything that is not that.
Lan Zhan just shakes his head. “You should know how to cook. What would you do if I’m gone?”
Lan Zhan immediately knows it’s the wrong thing to say, a cold hand ready on Wei Ying’s waist pulling him close. Cold lips press onto Wei Ying’s temple in apology.
Wei Ying sniffs, feeling ridiculously emotional staring at a row of raw fish. “Come back and do your half. Or your poor husband might just starve himself to death because he’s petty like that.”
The next morning, Lan Zhan watches from the other side of the room as Wei Ying gives his material body a towel bath. Wei Ying does it with utmost care, making sure the water is just the right warmth, reaching out for all the spots he can without jostling him too much. Wei Ying places a kiss on the warm cheek when he’s done, holding a solid hand in his.
“You love me.” Lan Zhan says, staring at him from where he’s seated across the room.
Wei Ying almost startles, looking up. “Of course I do.” He says, feeling mildly offended.
But Lan Zhan just looks at him with wide eyes, almost teary, and Wei Ying is beside him in a heartbeat.
“Oh sweetheart, are you going to cry? It’s okay.” He cradles his husband’s cold face, pressing another kiss on his temple. “This must be scary for you too, huh? This husband is sorry.”
There are arms around his waist, cold, but his husband’s. “You love me so much.” Lan Zhan whispers, and Wei Ying can feel cold tears on his chest, right where his cold husband’s face is currently hiding.
“Mhm. I do. Cold or warm or awake or not.” He hears Lan Zhan sniff, the sound adorable, and when Lan Zhan looks up at him, it feels like the first time he ever did.
“I love you too. So much. Cold and warm, awake and asleep.”
Wei Ying’s eyes blur, and that’s how he finds out that he, too, is crying. “Okay.”
Lan Zhan presses a kiss on wherever he can reach.
It’s the night of Day 6, when Wei Ying stares at his husband’s soul, refusing to sleep.
Lan Zhan should have been able to go back, by now. Granny Wen had said a few days. It has almost been a week, but Lan Zhan still can't go back to his body.
Granny Wen said she would visit, if Lan Zhan couldn’t go back by tomorrow.
Granny Wen has been chronically ill, with backaches and rheumatism. She hates leaving the house, and only offers to visit when things are bad.
Wei Ying would like to just stare at his husband.
“You should rest.” Lan Zhan says from above him, Wei Ying lying down on his lap.
Ghosts don’t need sleep, so Lan Zhan had watched him barely get any the whole week.
“Lan Zhan,” He calls out through the lump on his throat.
“If.. If you can’t go back..” His voice breaks before he can finish, and he sees Lan Zhan frown with worry. He clears his throat and shakes his head. He needs to say this. Lan Zhan has to know.
“If you can’t go back.. you can cross.” Warm tears flow across his cheeks, Lan Zhan chasing them away with his cold fingers. He clutches the hand and keeps it on his face. “You don’t have to worry about us, hm? We’ll be fine.” He sniffs, the heaviness on his chest making it hard to breathe. “I’ll take care of the bunnies. I’ll get dinner with Lan Huan every Saturday so I can check on him. I’ll get brunch with your uncle every two weeks just because I don’t think he can handle seeing me too often.”
“I’m not telling you to go, okay?” He sobs more than says, and he can barely see anything through his tears at this point. “Just in case.. just in case you can’t go back. I want you to cross and be happy and at peace or whatever, okay?” Wei Ying thinks he’s doing a good enough job, up until he sobs really ugly at the end and has to hide his face on his husband’s soul’s stomach.
There’s a cold hand brushing through his hair, and Wei Ying feels guilty and heavy because he had spent a whole week trying to get used to it, but it still feels wrong.
Lan Zhan should be warm. Lan Zhan should hold his hand and keep ghosts away. Lan Zhan should be growing old with him, counting white hairs and getting gout.
Lan Zhan should be alive.
“Happiness is with you.” Lan Zhan says, brushing his hair. “Watching you is the most peace I know.”
There are cold lips on his hair, and then “I don’t know what the across has, but I’m sure it doesn’t have you.”
Wei Ying falls asleep like that.
When Wei Ying wakes, there are warm fingers combing through his hair.
He burrows further into the warm lap, his nose searching for the comforting sandalwood scent of his husband, only to find the smell of unfamiliar detergent and antiseptic.
He opens his eyes.
The hospital bed is empty, but when he looks up in panic, he sees his husband’s face.
His head is bandaged, and he's wearing an ugly hospital gown, but it's Wei Ying's husband, warm and alive.
“Warm husband?” He asks wetly, already sitting up and wanting to cry.
“Good morning, warm husband.” Lan Zhan says with a small smile, and Wei Ying tackles him into a hug so tight he can’t feel his arms.
“You’re awake.” He pulls back just to stare as his husband’s eyes, open and gold and alive, before crushing him into a hug again. “You’re awake.”
Lan Zhan nods against his shoulder, burying his nose on his neck.
“Oh my god, I’m putting you in bubble wrap. I’m not letting you outside the house anymore. I’m now your sole provider and you’re my in-house sugar baby.”
Lan Zhan huffs out a laugh, and Wei Ying feels like everything is alright again.
“Wait, why are you on the couch? Go the fuck back to your bed, Lan Zhan!”
They stay a few more days in the hospital, just to make sure everything’s okay, before going home. Lan Huan stays over for dinner the first day.
And then Wei Ying gives Lan Zhan a full bath, his warm husband sleepy by the end of it all.
“Wei Ying,” Lan Zhan calls, after he’s tucked in bed and Wei Ying is on the floor, arranging the last of the things from the hospital bag.
Wei Ying looks up from where he's folding a clean pair of underwear. “Hm?”
“Please cuddle this warm husband.”
Wei Ying leaves whatever he’s doing on the floor, to cuddle his warm husband to sleep.