There are many things in Wei Ying’s life that he did not intend for. That particular list is, in fact, incredibly long and incredibly varied due to the overall state of chaos and tragedy that is occasionally Wei Ying’s life, and also possibly, maybe, due to what Wen Qing calls his “frankly astounding lack of impulse control.”
Still, the topper of the list of things that were not on the list of life plans that Wei Ying made at 12 with Yanli (a list that included such things as ‘be best friends forever and ever,’ and ‘move into a fancy apartment building and start a big garden on the roof’ and ‘annoy Jiang Cheng til we die,’) is being a 28 year old frazzled single dad with an 11 year old son.
He doesn’t regret it. A-Yuan is the apple of his eye, the light of his life, the best thing he’s got going for him, and Wei Ying loves him more than he ever comprehended loving literally anyone or anything before him. He is also, however, a very expensive gift that the girl he lost his virginity to during the Denial/Bargaining stage of his Big Gay Crisis in highschool dropped on his doorstep before she fucked off to college.
He is also- just as everyone warned him when he was a seventeen year old staring at the infant in his arms and trying to figure out what to do- a lot of fucking responsibilty. Beyond the costs (school tuition, fees for soccer, gas for away games, violin practice, clothing, feeding, and just generally raising a child who keeps growing on him no matter how many times Wei Ying begs him to stop because growing up is against the rules, kiddo , all adds up to really put a damper on Wei Ying’s bank account) there is also the importance of time management. Scheduling. Keeping a calendar. A concept that Wei Ying is not always great at but that he tries his damnedest at.
Which is why it’s a surprise when A-Yuan says “Dad,” very seriously, followed by “It’s back to school night.”
“No, it’s not,” Wei Ying says, shaking his head, “If it was back to school night it’d be on the calendar.” He gestures to it. The control center of the home. The peak in scheduling. A masterclass in organization, even. Wei Ying’s masterpiece.
The masterpiece is a Rabbit Of The Month calendar tacked to the wall by the kitchen, a collection of colorful and sometimes even themed post-it notes stuck to it and around it. Next to it is a kitschy, embroidered hanging mail organizer. A-Yuan’s last report card of 5th grade is still stuck to the wall amongst everything else, a large holographic ‘GOOD JOB’ sticker holding it up.
“You covered it up,” A-Yuan points out, with a level of patience that definitely comes from his aunt Yanli despite them not actually being blood related.
“I did not,” Wei Ying insists, even striding to the calendar to prove it. He finds the date, pulls off the fried egg shaped sticky note on top of it and- “Huh. I guess it is back to school night.”
Back To School nights are simultaneously a hellish experience and an absolute joy. On one hand, A-Yuan is somehow one of the sweetest children on the planet. He gets good grades, gets along well with his classmates, and most teachers love him, which means that Wei Ying gets to feel smug in the knowledge that no, he actually isn’t screwing up his poor child for life somehow.
On the other hand, Wei Ying has to pretend to be a competent Real Life Adult, not a 28 year old disaster who was gifted an instant-pot almost a year ago and has left it to gather dust on a high shelf where he can try to forget it’s existence because it’s confusing and mildly terrifying. On that same other hand, inevitably the teacher asks about A-Yuan’s mother, or in the case of A-Yuan’s third grade teacher (an elderly woman who Wei Ying is sure should have retired at least twenty years before getting A-Yuan in her class) tries to set him up with her grand daughter.
He does like meeting A-Yuan’s teachers however. All the books he’d stayed up nights panic reading when A-Yuan was getting ready to start school all said that an open dialogue with the people teaching his son was a good thing. Plus A-Yuan’s starting 6th grade. It’s a big change, according to his son, which means it’s important. So despite all of the Other Hand Things, Wei Ying gladly shows up in his best Kind Of An Adult clothes to make a good impression on all of A-Yuan’s new teachers.
Everything goes great until A-Yuan leads Wei Ying into the last classroom with a “and this is my history teacher’s room. He’s my favorite.” He says the last bit quiet, so that no one but Wei Ying can hear and Wei Ying smiles and ruffles his son’s hair, already curious to meet the teacher who his son is already so fond of.
What he does not expect is to enter the classroom and see the most beautiful man Wei Ying has ever seen in his entire life as his son’s teacher.
“Oh no,” Wei Ying whispers to himself because Wei Ying’s life is tragic. He’s going to die.
Teachers are supposed to be older! Less attractive! They aren’t supposed to have very nice eyes, and arms that are clearly very nice under their dark blue button up shirt, and very soft looking dark hair pulled back into a ponytail with two little wisps that have escaped and frame their very attractive faces. This is cruel.
Why is this his fate?
Who must he have harmed in a past life to deserve this?
His life is a tragedy.
“My life is a tragedy,” Wei Ying says dramatically a few days later when Wen Qing and Wen Ning are over for Movie Night.
They’ve worked their way through far more pizza than four people - one of which is an eleven year old - should be able to eat and two out of the eight Harry Potter movies before A-Yuan had fallen asleep against Wei Ying’s shoulder and Wen Ning had volunteered to carry him to bed.
“How is your life a tragedy this time?” Wen Qing asks, snagging a cold leftover breadstick from the pizza boxes on the coffee table.
“Lan Zhan,” Wei Ying says mutinously.
“Yes. Lan Zhan. One of A-Yuan’s new teachers. My life is a tragedy because of him.”
“Is he treating him badly?” Wen Qing asks, straightening a little, looking a bit like she could track down and murder poor Lan Zhan with only the breadstick in her hand if Wei Ying’s answer isn’t to her satisfaction. Wei Ying doesn’t doubt that she could. Wei Ying doesn’t doubt Wen Qing’s abilities when it comes to anything.
“No, no, no. Of course not! My life is a tragedy because he’s hot,” Wei Ying says dramatically, throwing himself back against the couch with a pout.
Wen Qing sighs like Wei Ying is an extremely cumbersome burden to bear, which, fair, and throws her breadstick at his head.
When A-Yuan was little he’d been filled with questions. He’s still filled with questions, of course, but all his questions seemed so much more frightening when the habit of asking them was so new. Wei Ying had always worried that he wouldn’t have the answer, or that he’d answer too much- that he’d be too honest, or that he’d maybe be not honest enough.
Some of the questions had been simple. What’s that? Why is the sky blue? Why do I have to eat broccoli? When will Aunt Yanli come over again? Can you buy me this toy? Why aren’t there dinosaurs anymore? Can you buy me this other toy?
Some were a little harder. Where do babies come from? Why is Aunt Yanli sick so much? Why don’t I have a mom? Why do you have an Aunt Yu instead of a Mom? Can I have a brother or a sister?
Wei Ying did his best to answer them as they came up, whether the answer was “You have to eat broccoli so you can grow as big and tall as a tree,” or “You can’t have a brother or sister, but we’ll get a fish,” or “You don’t have a mom because I loved you soooooo much that I wrestled her in a pit of jello for you and won.”
What? He never said his answers were all serious.
Thankfully, it’s gotten easier as A-Yuan has gotten older. For one thing, he has access to the magic of google and so Wei Ying is no longer his sole source of all knowledge in the world. However, some of his questions have gotten more pointed and carry with them an air of meddling that Wei Ying would be proud of if he didn’t fear it being unleashed on himself.
“Why don’t you date?” A-Yuan asks partway through the dumb romantic comedy they’re watching to fill a Saturday night. The romantic interest has just stopped the lead on a bridge and is professing his love to her and A-Yuan’s gaze is far too pointed to belong to an eleven year old.
“I date!” Wei Ying protests, “I could be dating. You don’t know my life A-Yuan. I could be going on plenty of dates.” He’s not. He occasionally finds a booty call on tinder or grindr or whatever miscellaneous dating app he has on his phone at the time, but he hasn’t even done that in a while.
“When? You’re pretty much always with me when you’re not at work.”
“Maybe I’m a secret agent, living a double life, raising you nights and weekends and solving crimes with a partner during the day. I could pull it off, you know?”
“Dad,” A-Yuan says seriously.
Wei Ying blinks at him and says “Wei Yuan,” in his best imitation of seriousness.
“I’m just saying,” A-Yuan says, drawing himself up a little, giving his father his most serious look and making Wei Ying suddenly want to cry because of how grown up his kid is getting- seriously when did that happen? “If you want to date. I’d be okay with it.”
“Kiddo, where’s this all coming from?”
“Oh. You know that girl Brittany in my class? I guess her mom started dating and she’s like, really happy I guess. The girlfriend keeps giving her presents so that she’ll like her. She bought her a Nintendo Switch, Dad.”
“Ah-ha!” Wei Ying crows, “I see what this is about. You want gifts. Here I thought you wanted what was best for your dear old dad.”
“Well. Yeah. And, you know, I’m in junior high, Dad. Soon I’ll be in highschool. And then college and then moving out. I don’t want you to be alone with just the fish when I leave.” A-Yuan says, which is a lot of forward thinking for an eleven year old. Soon he’s going to be smarter than Wei Ying.
He really shouldn’t have let him read so many books. Letting him start school at all might have been a bad idea, honestly.
“Oh, honey. That’s sweet. But you were born into a terrible economy. You’re never moving out,” Wei Ying says and A-Yuan gives him one of his newest pre-teen expressions, the one he gives Wei Ying when he thinks that his father is being unbearably weird.
Wei Ying puts the conversation out of his mind entirely, which means he doesn’t even think to be suspicious when A-Yuan comes home from school on an otherwise uneventful day in November and says “My teacher wants to meet with you.”
“They what?” Up until this point in A-Yuan’s life, Wei Ying has never been called into a meeting with a teacher that wasn’t specifically for Parent-Teacher Conferences. He’s a good kid, who pulls in mostly A’s, and once they got past the bout of separation anxiety that plagued the both of them through kindergarten things have been incredibly smooth sailing.
To use a cliche pop culture reference, A-Yuan is the incredibly easy, well adjusted Rory to Wei Ying’s young, scatterbrained Lorelai.
Before Rory started sucking and dropped out of Yale, that is. A-Yuan would never break his poor father’s heart like that. At least Wei Ying hopes and prays he wouldn’t.
The meeting with the teacher turns out to be a meeting with Lan Zhan. Because of fucking course it is.
This is Wei Ying’s fate.
Lan Zhan is just as beautiful as he was the first time Wei Ying saw him, in a pale blue flouncy shirt with a large bow tied at the neck and his hair tied into a neat ponytail at the back of his neck.
The shirt looks very soft, and so does Lan Zhan’s hair, and Wei Ying’s fingers itch with the urge to touch them both.
This is A-Yuan’s teacher, he mentally scolds himself. A-Yuan . His son. Whose life Wei Ying refuses to complicate by going and getting a hard on (metaphorically, literally, or emotionally) for his teacher.
“As you’ve probably guessed, I invited you in to talk about A-Yuan,” Lan Zhan says, his expression still, giving nothing away.
“Ah,” Wei Ying says, “What- Uh, what did he do?” He imagines, briefly, that this must have been what his uncle felt like when he was called to the school about Wei Ying when he was a child. He reminds himself, once again, to apologize to the poor man the next time he sees him.
“Do?” Lan Zhan asks, a slight furrow between his brows, “Oh. No. He hasn’t done anything wrong. I’m just. Concerned.”
Wei Ying tries not to let the worry at those words swallow him whole. He sees his son every day. He would surely know if something was wrong more so than a man who A-Yuan sees for less than an hour on weekdays. But at the same time, Wei Ying knows that it’s possible to slip and miss something.
Maybe A-Yuan is going through something and he’s hiding it from his father.
Maybe children at school are being mean to him.
Maybe Wei Ying will have to go fight their parents and end up having to call Yanli for bail.
“His grades,” Lan Zhan continues, pulling Wei Yings thoughts up short.
“Yes. They’ve been uncharacteristically low recently.”
“He hasn’t-” told me he’s struggling, Wei Ying doesn’t finish, swallowing down his very much wounded pride over this revelation.
“I would normally assume that he’s just struggling and needs some extra attention to properly understand the coursework,” Lan Zhan says.
“But the subject matter is no more difficult than it was earlier in the year when his grades were above average, and in class discussions he seems to understand perfectly. It’s just…”
“Assignments,” Wei Ying finishes, puffing his cheeks out with a little sigh.
Wei Ying had purposefully failed assignments before when he was younger. Hell, he’d done a lot worse than that at times. He’d been a kid desperately pushing his boundaries though, trying to see how far he could blow past them before his aunt and uncle got so fed up that they shoved him back into the foster system. They never had, of course. Even after everything.
A-Yuan, however, has been raised his entire life by Wei Ying. Doesn’t remember a time when Wei Ying wasn’t there to tuck him into bed, or to help him with homework, or to meet a scraped knee with neosporin and a fun bandaid. There are no boundaries to Wei Ying’s love for his son and he knows A-Yuan knows that.
Which means that A-Yuan isn’t doing this for the same reasons Wei Ying had.
“Sometimes when things like this are happening it can be,” Lan Zhan pauses, seeming to consider his words carefully, “A cry for help.”
“Yeah,” Wei Ying mutters, thinking about how this is mysteriously the only class of A-Yuan’s that this is happening in, “it’s a cry for help alright.”
“Dad,” A-Yuan says, poking at Wei Ying where he’s half asleep on the couch, a book on his chest.
“Whatever it is, no. I’m retired. Officially. You’re an orphan now A-Yuan I’m sorry,” Wei Ying says, tugging his son in close and ruffling his hair obnoxiously, “I’ll miss you dearly, but I’m afraid this is just how it has to be.”
“I was just thinking-”
“Oh no, never a good sign.”
“That maybe my grade might improve if we invited Mr. Lan over for dinner.”
A-Yuan looks so innocent and unassuming that Wei Ying narrows his eyes at his only child, the light of his life, the absolute scheming menace that is his son as a pre-teen. People warned him about the terrible twos, they did not warn him about the pre-teen years.
“What’s your endgame here, kid?”
“A better grade and a comprehensive knowledge of history,” A-Yuan says promptly.
A-Yuan brings it up seven more times over the next four days. He thinks he’s being casual, asking things like “Maybe you could ask him about tutoring me,” or “You like history too dad, don’t you? Wouldn’t it be cool to talk to a real life history teacher about it,” or “we’re having a field trip soon and you should be a chaperone. Mr Lan will be there.”
It’s not very subtle.
It’s even less subtle when A-Yuan uses his emergency cell phone that is strictly for emergencies to call Wei Ying and insists he desperately needs his jacket because he lost his hoodie and Wei Ying needs to bring it to his history class right now.
The subtleness is practically a shrieking air horn directly in Wei Ying’s ears when Wei Ying arrives and his son’s sweater is hung over the back of his chair.
Here’s the thing: Wei Ying is many things, but stupid has never been one of them. He knows what his child is doing. He has carefully kept track of the amount of times his son has mentioned his beloved history teacher and he can practically see the machinations born from a child who has watched too many movies featuring plucky young children who set their loveless parents up.
Which is why he shows up at Lan Zhan’s classroom during his lunch break and says “I regret to inform you that my son is trying to set us up.”
“What.” The intonation holds no question mark, despite it arguably being a question, and the only way to tell Lan Zhan is in any way surprised by this new knowledge is the slightest twitch of his eyebrows and the way he sets down a, quite frankly, incredibly boring looking sandwich onto his desk to look more intently at Wei Ying.
Wei Ying wonders if this is just Lan Zhan’s natural personality or if teaching eleven year olds 5 days a week for however long he’s been doing it has turned him into this.
“He’s frighteningly precocious,” Wei Ying says, perching himself atop a student’s desk. “He is, however, still very much eleven and likes you very much and has possibly, unfortunately, developed a scenario in mind where you fall madly in love with me and we ride off merrily into the sunset while he turns towards a camera and winks as the credits roll.”
“Ah,” Lan Zhan says, giving away nothing, “I see.”
“I know you’re just his teacher, and you’re under no obligation to help my poor, poor beleaguered, desperate soul,” Wei Ying says, widening his eyes, clasping his hands in front of his chest, really just laying it on thick, “But I’d really appreciate it if you could help me think of a solution to this that doesn’t break my poor kid’s heart.”
Lan Zhan blinks, and then he says something that Wei Ying truly hadn’t expected. “We could go along with it.”
Wei Ying considers it, twisting a strand of dark hair that’s fallen from his messy ponytail around his finger, one leg swinging back and forth from where it’s hung over the desk he’s commandeered as a seat.
“Genius,” He says finally, delighted to have a plan, “You’re a genius. We can go on a couple ‘dates’-” Wei Ying makes air quotes around the word, “and then explain to A-Yuan that it just didn’t work out! These things happen. You never know how you’ll feel about someone. Yadayada these are adult matters and they’re complicated. Perfect.”
“Yes,” Lan Zhan says, slowly, “That’s exactly what I meant.”
There’s something strange about the way he says it, but Wei Ying doesn’t know him well enough to pinpoint exactly what.
Maybe it’s just that going on a fake date with his student’s father so that they can fake break the news to said student about how it isn’t going to work out is probably, undeniably, an awkward situation for a teacher to be in.
Clearly that’s all it is.
It’s not a warm day, per say, considering they’re technically heading straight into winter at this rate, but it never really gets that cold where they live, and to Wei Ying the weather is perfect. And Yanli has brought A-Ling over so that he and A-Yuan can play while she and Wei Ying talk (or rather, gossip.)
So, in celebration of the warmth, Wei Ying drags his table top grill out onto the fire escape to make him and his sister and their children a feast.
Technically, Yanli and her jerkface of a husband have a nice townhouse with a great (by Wei Ying’s standards) yard where it would be easier, and much safer to grill, but that would mean dealing with his beloved sister’s husband.
Plus, Wei Ying’s way is so much more fun.
It’s a little cramped on the fire escape, so Wei Ying stands out on it manning the grill while Yanli sits in the open window and chats with him while the shrieking sounds of A-Yuan and A-Ling come from further inside the apartment.
“A-Yuan has told me some very interesting information,” Yanli says, teasing.
“A-Yuan is not to be trusted, jiejie,” Wei Ying says mutinously, poking at the ribs with his barbecue tongs.
“Oh?” Yanli asks, feigning obliviousness.
“The date is a fake one,” Wei Ying says, cutting to the chase. “So that A-Yuan can stop scheming about Parent Trapping his teacher and I. I’ve heard it’s supposedly bad to lie and scheme against your children, but I think in this case it’s for a worthy cause.”
“I’m sure that will go very well Wei Ying,” Yanli says, patting at Wei Ying’s shoulder. She sounds like she’s fighting very hard not to laugh.
Everyone is so terribly rude to him, even his beloved sister, a thing that Wei Ying tells her with an exaggerated pout.
“My poor Wei Ying,” Yanli says, all sweetness and sympathy, “Your life is so very hard.”
“It is,” Wei Ying says, dramatically slumping forward through the window so that he can rest his head in Yanli’s lap and she can pet at his hair the way he likes, “Thank you for recognizing my pain.”
At some point Wei Ying texts Lan Zhan and then suddenly they’ve got a time and a day and a place all picked out for their “date,” and if Wei Ying is a little surprised that his sons very attractive teacher is actually going along with Wei Ying’s hairbrained scheme then well, that’s Wei Ying’s prerogative. On the outside he acts like this is clearly a very well thought out scheme, even while Wen Qing questions his judgement while helping him get ready for his “date.”
Wen Qing questions his judgement frequently, so Wei Ying has reached a point of blissfully being able to tune it out unless it’s something he very secretly knows he needs to hear.
“A-Yuan, A-Yuan, come see your poor father- who you’ve badgered relentlessly into pursuing romance- off for his date,” Wei Ying demands when he’s ready and Wen Qing has already bolted out the door for her shift at the hospital, a sure sign that it’s time for Wei Ying to leave. (He is, technically, already running late.)
He tugs A-Yuan into a hug, ruffling his hair and then smoothing it back into place. “Be good for your uncle. Don’t let him let you stay up playing video games too late,” He tells A-Yuan, shooting a look at Wen Ning.
Wen Ning has the audacity to look unashamed for all the times he’s done just that and Wei Ying has come home to find his son and his dear friend blurry eyed on the couch, playing Mario Kart when A-Yuan should be in bed.
(He would be more upset about it, but 1. he himself isn’t the best at enforcing any sort of strict bedtime on his child, so he can’t judge that much and 2. he has some very cute pictures he’s taken of those moments, printed out and then pasted into the scrapbook of A-Yuan memories that he will be showing to anyone his son decides to date when he’s much, much older.)
Wei Ying had been utterly relieved to let Lan Zhan plan their fake date. Wei Ying came up with this scheme after all, so he shouldn’t have to do all the planning. It means, however, that Wei Ying is not entirely sure where he’s going as he follows the directions that Lan Zhan had very clearly laid out via text.
He feels, strangely enough, a little bit nervous. It’s bizarre. Completely unexplainable considering this isn’t actually a real date. But, in his defense, it’s been a long time since he had a night out that didn’t involve something like him sitting in a crowded room with other parents while their kids put on disastrous performances with violins, or cellos, or whatever else.
It’s not like he’s completely bereft of adult interaction. He has friends, of course. He has a routine with things like movie nights with Wen Ning and Wen Qing, and he sees Yanli all the time, and whenever Huaisang is in town they do lunch. He does plenty. Really.
He’s just also 99% positive that the last time he got dressed up in any way for a night out was when they all went out when Wen Qing finished med school.
Three years ago.
God, his life is sad.
Okay, no it’s not. Not really.
Wei Ying loves his life in the sort of deep, satisfying way that he wasn’t always sure was possible. He wouldn’t trade any of it for the world. He is, however, starting to think that maybe A-Yuan has been right and if he doesn’t do something he’s going to end up dying alone with only the fish for company. And not even their current fish, Balboa, who Wei Ying loves, because it’s not like those fuckers live that long. It’ll be with a fish who’s practically a stranger.
He nearly misses his stop, he’s so focused on the tragedy that will be his life once A-Yuan is grown, but he manages to stumble off the bus in time and then it’s a short walk to the…
“You brought me to a strip mall?” He asks Lan Zhan when he finds him, looking unruffled and perfect in the mediocrity of a strip mall.
“I didn’t,” Lan Zhan says.
“I am literally staring at a strip mall in front of us, Lan Zhan.”
“I brought you to a place inside of the strip mall,” Lan Zhan clarifies.
“There’s literally no difference between what I said and you just said,” Wei Ying says, following Lan Zhan as he wordlessly leads them down the row of shops and into a… pottery painting studio?
“You brought me to paint pottery?” Wei Ying asks. He’s not upset by any means. It actually sounds kind of fun. It’s just not exactly the standard for first fake dates. He had maybe expected a boring dinner and a movie type scenario.
“Your son told me not to be boring,” Lan Zhan says, like that explains the entire thought process that would lead to this. “He also says you’re an artist.”
“He exaggerates,” Wei Ying says, waving it away. He does art, he guesses, when he’s bored, or restless, or listening to an annoying client at his soul sucking job at a call center and he has a pen and a spare piece of paper with space to be filled, but he wouldn’t say he’s an artist.
“Mn,” Lan Zhan says, instead of replying like a human being. It doesn’t seem like an agreement, somehow. It seems more like Lan Zhan is just very politely not arguing with the man he’s taking out on a fake date.
When they’re inside Lan Zhan pays for them both before Wei Ying can even reach for his wallet and then they’re standing in front of shelves and shelves of white, unpainted ceramics.
Wei Ying contemplates the choices in front of him, hemming and hawing over the options until he snatches up a couple and dumps them down (semi carefully) at their workspace.
There had been a sign in the front, advertising that it was an adult’s only night, and they’re surrounded by other people who are chit-chatting with each other, and painting, and drinking wine.
“Lan Zhan, you should have told me it’s byob. I would have brought wine. Good wine! Expensive wine!” Wei Ying says, “Well, okay, I actually would have just picked up whatever bottle at Trader Joe’s cost more than 5 bucks and had a fancy looking bottle, but it would have been good.”
“Mn,” Lan Zhan says, seeming to carefully consider his color options for the ceramic rabbit coin bank he’d picked, “I can get you wine after if you’d like.”
“Already extending our date, Lan Zhan? Scandalous.” Wei Ying teases, inspecting the options he’d picked before him. He settles on a set of two bowls to start. If he has time maybe he’ll paint more of the pieces he picked out as possibilities, but bowls are always useful. He and A-Yuan do eat a lot of soup.
Lan Zhan doesn’t respond, but Wei Ying thinks that if he looks close enough, he can see the very tips of his ears turn red.
Lan Zhan is, surprisingly (or maybe, unfortunately for Wei Ying and his stupid emotional boner for his son’s teacher, very unsurprisingly) a good date.
He doesn’t talk all that much, but he seems content to listen to Wei Ying talk as much as he wants. He doesn’t, Wei Ying suspects, even tune Wei Ying out like some people do when Wei Ying really gets going, instead seeming to pay enough attention that he occasionally asks for clarifications on certain bits, or circles Wei Ying back to previous topics when he derails himself and goes on an unrelated tangent mid story.
Well, it’s nice is what it is. Wei Ying is enjoying himself. Wei Ying is enjoying himself so much that he’s almost disappointed when they’ve finished and are leaving the pottery studio, Lan Zhan with a card with a date when he can pick up their pottery after it’s been glazed and fired.
“Wine,” Lan Zhan says, when they’re standing on the sidewalk outside of the studio and Wei Ying is flipping through his phone until he finds the uber app.
“I said I would get you wine,” Lan Zhan says, “And it would be… impolite, if I sent you home without feeding you.”
Which is how Wei Ying’s fake date with Lan Zhan at a pottery studio turns into his fake date with Lan Zhan at a restaurant that is a lot nicer than Wei Ying expects out of a fake date.
It’s nice. The whole night is nice. Lan Zhan doesn’t drink, but he orders Wei Ying several glasses of wine, and he lets Wei Ying steal the last piece of free bread, and when he smiles at something Wei Ying says, a closed mouth, small little thing, Wei Ying feels flushed from more than just the wine.
When Wei Ying gets home it’s later than he planned.
The apartment is mostly dark, the only light coming from the kitchen and the glow of the tv where Wen Ning is playing video games, A-Yuan passed out snoring against his shoulder.
“Hi,” Wei Ying whispers, dropping his keys onto the table next to the door and toeing off his shoes.
“How was your date?” Wen Ning asks, and Wei Ying says “so fucking good, oh my god,” quiet so that he doesn’t wake up A-Yuan, and leans his head back against his front door and internally shrieks in dismay at the universe for a solid ten seconds.
Wen Ning is Wei Ying’s best bro right now, because, where Yanli would be laughing at him with her eyes because she’s happy for him and his like, emotional growth or something, and Wen Qing or Huaisang would be laughing at them with their entire fucking souls because they’re mean, Wen Ning looks concerned and apologetic to Wei Ying’s plight.
“A good date is bad?” Wen Ning asks.
“Yes. Yes! Because it was a fake date, and I was having real date feelings and the poor guy absolutely did not sign up for my real date feelings so now I have to somehow get rid of them and pretend it didn’t work out, and- and he’s just my kid’s teacher, and that I don’t just like, want to shove him down and suck his dick and then just get like, absolutely railed by this guy who’s good with my kid and who was such a fucking gentlemen he paid for my uber. There was surge pricing, Wen Ning.”
Wei Ying’s tangent is a whispered one, but Wen Ning still sets his game controller down and covers the sleeping A-Yuan’s ears at the word ‘dick.’ It’s sweet. Wei Ying would be a lot more focused on how cute it is if he wasn’t stuck in the misery that is his life.
“Maybe,” Wen Ning says, seeming to consider his words, “Maybe he’s having real date feelings too?”
“I’m gonna put A-Yuan to bed,” Wei Ying says, instead of answering, and crosses over to the couch, scooping his kid up with an arm under his knees and the other around his back. He’s heavy as fuck, and technically, probably too big for Wei Ying to still be doing this but Wei Ying manages it even if he suspects his back is going to ache like hell tomorrow and he’ll be cursing the fact that he’s so much closer to 30 than he is to 20 these days. “It seemed like a good plan, you know? It seemed better than A-Yuan worrying about me, and trying to play some sort of matchmaker when he needs to be focused on school and being a kid.” Wei Ying adds softly, aware of how easy it would be to wake up A-Yuan now.
He crosses his apartment, turning into A-Yuan’s room and gently as possibly, sets his kid down into his bed.
A-Yuan stirs, mumbling “Baba?” as Wei Ying frets with his blankets, tugging them up over him properly and tucking him in.
“Yeah sweetheart, it’s me. Go back to sleep, okay?” Wei Ying says, bending down to press a kiss to his forehead.
“How was your date?” A-Yuan asks, cracking his eyes open, rubbing at them with his fists.
“Mmmh, terribly boring,” Wei Ying says, with his best over dramatic sigh, “I don’t know how you don’t fall asleep in history class every day.”
“Liar,” A-Yuan accuses sleepily and Wei Ying laughs at him.
“I would never lie,” Wei Ying says, “Never ever.”
“Your nose is gonna grow if you keep lying,” A-Yuan says, shoving his hand into Wei Ying’s face, patting at his nose. “Like Pinocchio.”
“I’ll still look incredibly handsome, it’s okay.” Wei Ying says, and then, a little more firmly while tucking A-Yuan in one more time, “Goodnight, A-Yuan.”
It is a truth universally acknowledged that when one wants to squash their feelings for someone, the someone who is the subject for their feelings will suddenly pop up fucking everywhere.
Over the next two weeks he runs into Lan Zhan at the grocery store, at the atm, at A-Yuan’s school, and even, somehow at the little street vendor on his way home from work that always gives Wei Ying extra jalapenos on his hot dog.
“Are you stalking me?” Wei Ying asks when he runs into Lan Zhan in the Trader Joe’s vegetable section for the second time in as many weeks.
“Can I take you to lunch?” Lan Zhan asks instead of anything reasonable like ‘no’ or even ‘hi Wei Ying’, taking Wei Ying by surprise.
“I-” Wei Ying says, and “Uh?” and “What?”
“Lunch,” Lan Zhan repeats, “A meal most people eat midday. Can I take you?”
Wei Ying glances at the groceries in his cart, and at Lan Zhan, looking somehow very comfortable in a soft looking black turtleneck, the sleeves pushed up to expose what looks like the edge of a tattoo, (a tattoo! Wei Ying is going to fucking faint.) doing his shopping midday on a Saturday and- well- A-Yuan is at Yanli’s, and his place isn't far, so they can drop his groceries off on the way to wherever they go. Besides, it’s not like Wei Ying has anything to do really. He can’t see how it would hurt, exactly, to take Lan Zhan up on his offer.
Wei Ying is methodically spooning chili oil onto his food when Lan Zhan interrupts what had so far been a fairly casual conversation involving Wei Ying telling him all about the soap opera level drama some of his coworkers had gotten involved into the past week with a seemingly serious proclamation.
“I do not want to trick your son, Wei Ying.”
Wei Ying stops, the spoonful of chili oil in his hand hovering over his plate until he swallows, and rallies. “Oh! Yeah, no, that’s totally understandable.” He says, hoping he sounds casual and worried he sounds the very opposite, “ You’re his teacher. You shouldn’t be involved in this kind of thing. I shouldn’t have even started this in the first place, honestly. It was kind of crazy. Who do I think I am, attempting to fake date my way out of a problem? And with you! I’m sure you’ve got like, stuff to do, or someone else to-”
“You misunderstand,” Lan Zhan says, interrupting Wei Ying’s babbling.
“I want to take you out on a date. A real date, not a fake one.”
“Oh,” Wei Ying says, focusing on putting the spoon back into the little pot of chili oil and then setting it very carefully back down with the rest of the condiments instead of the sudden and absolutely outrageous beating of his heart. “Wouldn’t it be, I don’t know, improper? To date one of your student’s parents.”
“Maybe,” Lan Zhan says with a shrug, like he simply does not care. It’s kind of hot, to be honest. “But not against the rules, technically. I can handle some impropriety.”
“You can? You iron your jeans, Lan Zhan. I mean, I don’t have proof, but you seem like the type.”
“Let me take you out,” Lan Zhan says, which Wei Ying would like to point out is not an answer to the question of whether or not he irons his jeans. He probably does. Wei Ying read in some magazine at A-Yuan’s doctor that it’s bad to put jeans in the dryer. That seems like the kind of knowledge Lan Zhan would have without having to read it in a two year old magazine in a sticky seat at a doctor’s office surrounded by sick children.
“Isn’t this technically you taking me out?” Wei Ying asks, gesturing between the two of them, at a restaurant, eating food together, like it’s a date. “ This could totally be a date.”
Lan Zhan seems to consider that for a moment before nodding. “It is if you want it to be.”
“Good,” Wei Ying says, and smiles. “But if you break my heart, therefore breaking my son’s heart, I will get my friends to help me hunt you down and murder you. I don’t care how hot you are or how sad it’ll make 30 or so eleven year olds.”
“That sounds acceptable,” Lan Zhan says, and then smiles and it looks so good on him that it makes Wei Ying kind of want to melt into his seat.
After their date Lan Zhan delivers Wei Ying home to his door like an absolute fucking gentleman and Wei Ying is not ashamed to say it makes him a little weak in the knees.
He is also not ashamed to say that it makes him a lot weak in the knees when Lan Zhan’s hand curls over Wei Ying’s jaw, tilting his face up so that Lan Zhan can kiss the breath out of him.
Wei Ying curls his arms around Lan Zhan’s neck and makes what is maybe an embarrassing noise and then says, mostly against Lan Zhan’s lips, “You should- You should come inside. Yanli won’t be bringing A-Yuan back til after dinner. You could come in and have a drink. I’ve got tea,” There’s a kiss, “And coffee,” Another kiss, leaving Wei Ying just a little bit breathless, “And juice boxes.”
He would like to pretend that he’s actually inviting Lan Zhan in just for a drink. But he knows himself. He knows that he’s a busy single dad who hasn’t dated in years and hasn’t had time for a tinder hook up in just, a fucking while, so he’s absolutely inviting Lan Zhan inside his house after their second date- their first real one- for mutually assured orgasms. He’s an honest man. He knows what he wants.
“I like juice boxes,” Lan Zhan says and Wei Ying lets out a puff of laughter while turning to unlock his door as Lan Zhan’s arms curl around his waist from behind.
Once inside Wei Ying glances at the couch, which is close, and the door to his bedroom, which is not as close, and then shows what he thinks is a commendable amount of restraint by dragging Lan Zhan towards his bedroom.
“I thought there was going to be juice boxes,” Lan Zhan says, teasing.
“I’ll show you juice.”
“That makes no sense.”
“It would if you were here,” Wei Ying says, grinning a little as he taps his temple.
“A terrifying place to be,” Lan Zhan says and Wei Ying gasps, because Lan Zhan is teasing him.
“You’re so mean. I can’t believe you’re so mean. You hook a guy in with fake dates and pottery painting, and your general-” Wei Ying waves a hand at Lan Zhan vaguely, “being polite thing, and your nice arms, and! And the fact that you pay! And then as soon as they agree to date you you’re mean. I can’t believe it,” Wei Ying says, feeling delighted by this development.
“Sorry,” Lan Zhan says, sounding in no way apologetic as he lets Wei Ying shove him backwards until he falls backwards into Wei Ying’s bed.
“No, you’re not,” Wei Ying says and joins him on the bed, his legs on either side of Lan Zhan’s, hands on what Wei Ying is sure will prove to be a very firm chest once he gets Lan Zhan out of these pesky clothes.
He leans down and kisses Lan Zhan. It’s rushed at first, heated, until it turns lazy and Wei Ying feels a little like a teenager again. Making out just to make out, filled with that same rush of lust and adrenaline, but minus the existential horror of being an actual teenager.
“Do you know how hot you are? Fuck- When I first saw you? All buttoned up at back to school night? It should be illegal to look that good.” Wei Ying says and grazes his teeth over the line of Lan Zhan’s jawbone.
Lan Zhan makes a noise, low in his throat, and then fists a hand in Wei Ying’s hair hard and Wei Ying whines and loses track of anything other than Lan Zhan for the couple hours.
Lan Zhan has yet to leave when Yanli drops A-Yuan off. Wei Ying is using him as his personal pillow and they’re watching some documentary about like, tombs in the sahara or something that Wei Ying isn’t paying that much attention to but that Lan Zhan had put on with a look in his eye that let Wei Ying know that yes, he has just agreed to date an absolute fucking nerd.
Yanli is not so impolite as to blatantly point out what’s going on when she uses her key to open the door and finds her brother snuggling on the couch with a strange man, but there is a sparkle in her eye when she asks “Did you have a nice day A-Ying?” and sets a container full of food on Wei Ying’s counter.
A-Yuan looks a little torn between a general christmas came early expression and what must be the sudden awkward realization that his teacher is in his home and is snuggling his father.
Wei Ying wishes his phone wasn’t all the way over on the coffee table where Wei Ying can’t reach it without leaving the comfort of his new living, breathing pillow because he thinks it would be great to document that specific expression. For posterity’s sake. It would look so good in the scrapbook.
“I had a fantastic day, thank you,” Wei Ying says, patting at Lan Zhan’s arm where it’s draped over his stomach as if to say ‘ see? how could it not be great?’ , “Is that food? What’d you bring me? Soup? I hope it’s soup.”
“Soup!” Yanli confirms, smiling sunnily, her eyes crinkling with the strength of it.
“You should bring me some,” Wei Ying says, pouting theatrically, “I’ve suddenly discovered I can’t walk and soup is the only cure.”
Lan Zhan snorts, the movement of it shaking Wei Ying where he’s leaned back against him.
“Wei Ying,” He says, and Wei Ying smiles because they’ve been dating for a mere few hours and Lan Zhan already sounds fondly exasperated. Good.
“You could always carry me to the soup,” Wei Ying says, tipping his head back to look at Lan Zhan and fluttering his eyelashes.
Lan Zhan moves like he’s going to do just that and Wei Ying squeaks and rolls off the couch with a “Nevermind! I can do it! I can suddenly walk again, I’ve been cured! It’s a miracle!”
He’s not necessarily opposed to the idea of Lan Zhan carrying him. In fact, he is very into the idea. Just, at another time. When they’re alone again. He thinks, maybe, that he’s gotten very lucky and will have at least a few more chances for the opportunity to arise.
Yeah, he thinks, watching Lan Zhan pick himself up off of Wei Ying’s couch, and A-Yuan helping Yanli dish out soup, he’s gotten incredibly lucky.
It’s the time of year when it feels like summer, but school is still dragging slowly to a close and Jingyi and Zizhen are at Wei Yuan’s house where they’re sprawled out on Wei Yuan’s living room floor. They’re supposedly working on their homework, but mostly they’re just pretending to look busy when Wei Yuan’s father peeks his head out of the kitchen and then returning to talking the moment he’s gone.
“I can’t believe all your scheming worked, A-Yuan” Jingyi says, when there’s the low murmur of their history teacher’s voice followed by the bright, pleased laughter of Wei Yuan’s father from the kitchen.
“It wasn’t scheming,” Wei Yuan insists, “It was for his own good.” He feels a little bad about having deceived his dad, though mostly he feels guilty for not feeling as guilty as he probably should. But, in his defense, it all worked out! And in the end, even his history grade recovered completely.
“It was very obvious they’re soulmates,” Zizhen says, sighing, a little dreamy, “We all saw it.”
“I think you’ve been reading too many of those sappy books you like,” Jingyi says.
“I have not!” Zizhen starts, defensive, but before it can turn into a real argument Wei Yuan’s father is leaning out of the kitchen again, speaking this time instead of just checking on them.
“A-Yuan, are your friends staying for dinner? Lan Zhan needs to know before he starts cooking. He needs to know if he’s cooking for an army, or if he’s cooking for an army plus two extra mutant children who can eat twice their body weight in food.”
Wei Yuan looks between his friends and they both nod quickly.
“Great. Call your mom’s and let them know so they don’t think I kidnapped you both.”
“Dad, you’re being weird,” Wei Yuan says, using what his dad has started calling his ‘oh my god you’re almost a fucking teenager, stop that shit right now’ voice. He loves his father very much, but in this case he knows he’s correct. His dad is weird.
“ A-Yuan,” Wei Ying says in the same tone, “I’m your dad. Being weird is my job.”
“So what’s next? Plotting to get them married?” Jingyi asks, when Wei Yuan’s dad has disappeared back into the kitchen.
“Jingyi, we can’t scheme that much,” Wei Yuan says.
It would be wrong to meddle that much.
And, well, it’s not like it would be a bad thing.
Wei Yuan thinks he’ll be excused for one last scheme.