Jiang Cheng rolls his eyes, annoyed, looking at the screen of his computer and trying to focus on the words he's supposed to read instead of the voice coming from the speaker of his phone, on the top of his desk. He's studying, or at least that's what he's supposed to be doing, but Wei Ying is still talking. It's been like half an hour already. Surely he has a lot of free time right now.
"...and they are so cute when munching the carrots Lan Zhan brings them…"
He sighs, changing windows and checking on his brother's account. There's a lot of photos of him and that Lan Zhan. For months it's been nothing but 'Lan Zhan this' and 'Lan Zhan that'. Really, if being in love means becoming a moron, he would rather never fall for anyone. Ever.
"Yeah, yeah. You've told me that already, ugh. You're so sappy, worst even than the peacock"
"I'm offended, a-Cheng! What the hell? I'm nothing like that peacock"
He snorts, going back to the page full of boring information he's been reading, and re reading, without understanding for a couple of hours now.
"You are fucking whipped, Wei Ying. Just like the peacock is for a-Jie", he snickers, listening to his fumbling and hissing over the line. But there's no denying it. If there's anything where his brother and Jin Zixuan are alike, aside from their love for a-Jie, is being completely whipped for their respective 'soulmates'. Ugh, how much he hates that word. It's cute when his a-Jie says it, but everytime Wei Ying uses the term to excuse how fast he and Lan Zhan are moving in their relationship...he feels like puking.
"Whatever, I love Lan Zhan, he is my soulmate, a-Cheng. So what if I'm whipped? He loves me just as much and we are happy"
Puking it is.
"Yeah, I know you love each other so fucking much. Still, isn't it too fast? Even a-Jie is worried you're moving in together so soon."
"It 's soon enough. If he had asked me to move in with him after our third date, I'd done it."
"Like that isn't worrying enough. Really, you met him what...in summer?"
"Spring. Late spring. But time doesn't matter, a-Cheng! I know Lan Zhan, I trust him! And he cares for me like no one else has ever done so before."
"I'm not saying he doesn't love you or that he's secretly a murderer or something. He could be and you wouldn't care. But it's too soon! We're barely in october! A-Jie has been engaged for months and she still lives here."
"Like we'd let her live with Jin Zixuan before their wedding."
"Alright, point. But still." He sighs. "Whatever. Live with him, be annoying together. Just… bring him home for your birthday. A-Jie wants to meet him. Even a-Die and a-Niang are insisting. It's not enough to show some photos or talk over the phone. Shovel talks are more effective face to face."
"Shovel talks?" Wei Ying has to stop to laugh at the thought of their a-Jie doing it. "I was planning to bring him for my birthday, you know? Lan Zhan will take some days from work to go with me. They're gonna love him more than the peacock, trust me."
"Yeah, yeah, whatever. Hey I need to study for my-"
"A-Cheng! I know but I'm still unpacking my things. I get bored! Sooo bored that I get distracted over anything! And I want to finish early so I can surprise Lan Zhan when he gets home with some food-"
"Food poisoning? You're planning a murder this early in your relationship? What happened with 'he's my soulmate'?" He jokes, though the sole memory of his brother's 'spicy' cooking makes his stomach coil in fear.
" Take out food! Fuck, don't say that! I gave him food poisoning on our fifth date. I can't believe he's still with me after that!"
"Because he's just as whipped and a moron too. Congrats, you found each other." He turns off his laptop, giving up for now.
"A handsome moron, the photos don't make him justice, you'll see!"
"Doubt that." He sits for a while, waiting for his brother's chatter to fill the silence like every other time. Wei Ying never shuts up. But he is silent on the other side of the line. Weird. "Wei Ying?" He asks, sighing. "I'm sure he's attractive, and we'll like him enough, don't get offended over that."
The silence stretches for a full minute before Wei Ying talks again.
"Sorry, I'll call you later."
The line dies on him before Jiang Cheng can utter a word. It sounded strange, devoid of his usual cheerfulness. He probably smashed something in Lan Zhan's apartment by accident. Well, their apartment. He'll probably call back to whine about that.
Wei Ying can't believe it.
It's been hours since he found them, the photos, and he can't believe it yet. A part of him has been telling him to run, to pack his things again and go back to Yunmeng as soon as he can, however he can. Putting as much distance between himself and Lan Zhan. But he's been unable to move except for looking around Lan Zhan's study, almost afraid to find more photos, more evidence of this. And he's found more, obviously hidden from him.
He looks up, finally noticing how the light has dimmed, leaving him almost in the dark of the evening. He's still sitting on the floor of the office, in the same fluffy and white carpet Lan Zhan fucked him the day he proposed to move in together. He's been here a lot of times before but he never suspected. Not this. Not the things Lan Zhan has been keeping from him.
"A-Ying?", his voice sounds so close, almost by the door of the study.
He stands, slowly, still shaking in dread. He was so happy this morning, unpacking his things, leaving his clothes into Lan Zhan's wardrobe, his towels in his bathroom, his own mugs into his cupboards, weaving his presence into Lan Zhan's space. Their space, their apartment, their home…
He's unable to find that happiness within him right now. He's not sure if he's afraid, angry or worried. All or none of them. There's too much turmoil coiling inside his stomach to know exactly what he's feeling.
"A-Ying...why didn't you turn on the lights? Were you sleepi-?" Lan Zhan's voice dies in his throat the moment he turns on the light and sees him surrounded by photographs and trinkets familiar for the both of them. Things he shouldn't have in his possession. Things that completely shattered Wei Ying's beliefs in him. "What did you do?" He asks, slow, gravelly, his words full of edges Wei Ying has never heard from him.
"That's what I want to know, Lan Zhan", he's trembling, looking up at him with reproach in his eyes. "What the fuck, Lan Zhan?"
"Wei Ying, why did you look into my -?"
"No, you can't turn it around like that! I was looking for scissors and found this!", he crouches, taking the first photos he can reach. "What is this?! Did you take them? Lan Zhan, you've been stalking me?!", there's photos of him. At least hundreds of them lying around him. Candids taken from the other side of the street, from outside his window, a few from his own room years before he even met Lan Zhan. "What is this?!"
Lan Zhan remains silent, but he sits next to him, ignoring the evidence, the hundreds of photos taken for at least a couple of years. Wei Ying only knows so for the old hairstyles or clothes he doesn't own anymore. Lan Zhan takes his wrists, careful but firmly guiding them away from the photos, the evidence that their life might be nothing but a dangerous lie carefully threaded around him.
"I love Wei Ying. And Wei Ying loves me. Isn't that enough?"
"We are soulmates, aren't we?", he's calm again, soft, the same Lan Zhan he's always known, looking at him like there's nothing else that matters more in the world than him. The same way that makes his heart beat wildly and his cheeks burn. But it doesn't happen, not the same way as always. They are surrounded by hundreds of photographs, of stuff he's been losing over the years, before the time they collided against each other in that park. Before he fell for Lan Zhan on their first date.
"We are. We love each other. I...I've been in love for way longer. Before Wei Ying met me, before he even gave me a glance. Is it wrong? Do you love me less now?", he asks, kissing his forehead, so sweetly, distracting him as ever.
"I've been loving you since you walked into that restaurant. I've been loving you since I saw you being nice to the kids, since I saw you being so selfless… Does that make me a monster in your eyes?"
Lan Zhan is kissing his eyelids, the crease between his brows, his cheeks…
"I wanted to meet you. To see you more. I couldn't handle this love. You sparked something inside me. I needed Wei Ying, but you were someone else's at the time. I've always been late until I wasn't. Does that make me the villain?"
No. It doesn't. He knows Lan Zhan loves him deeply. He's seen it in his eyes, in the way he acts with him, softer than with anyone else, comfortable, free from the restraints he has outside their bubble. He knows it even after the lie came to light. He's sure of it, he can feel it as strong as ever, embracing him as always.
That doesn't mean it's not fucked up. All of this is wrong. He knows that and can't shake the feeling, the fear of knowing he's been watched and followed for some time, that Lan Zhan managed to get so close to him without leaving a trace. That he could do it again if Wei Ying decided to leave.
"No, but Lan Zhan! Why? Couldn't you just...talk to me? I've loved you almost since we met. I'm sure I would've done it anyway! I'd choose you over anyone!"
"Then do it. Now. Over all of this, a-Ying." He smiles, sweetly, caressing his cheeks, leaving his hands free, but not him, never him. "I'm sorry I never told you. Never approached you. I wanted you to look at me first."
"Lan Zhan...Who does this? You...you even broke into my apartment! You took things from me…"
"I wanted so bad to be with a-Ying…" He can't even deny what he did. Lan Zhan embraces him, sitting him on his lap and leaving a trail of soft kisses on his face. "I wanted to come into your bed, to sleep next to you, to fuck you in front of your boyfriend at the time so he's know you could only be mine… but I wanted you to want me before taking you."
His heart is beating like crazy, filled with fear, with anger, with excitement… He knows he'd hate Lan Zhan if he had tried to do any of that...but the thought of belonging to him without knowing him yet… He's done those things and more with Lan Zhan, he knows he enjoys the fantasy too of taking him against his will, marking him for an invisible audience… But to know he actually considered it… It's too much, it sparks all kinds of feelings inside him. It 's wrong. All wrong. He's afraid of Lan Zhan, but he can't stop the love that fuels him. Lan Zhan wanted him to actually want that. He stopped himself from doing more than photos, more than stealing trinkets and keeping them like prizes. It should matter more.
"I've always known we are soulmates. That a-Ying's love would belong to me once we met. So I waited for you to see me."
"...And I did… I… saw you and ran straight against you… But that's different! I...how can I live knowing you did this?", knowing you can do it again if I decide to leave you, he doesn't say.
"You can, Wei Ying. You know I only love you. I've never felt inclined to do something like this for anyone else but you. I fell completely in love the moment I saw you. I needed to see you more, to know you more… My love for you is that deep, that vast. I can't think of a life without you by my side", he strokes his hair away from his face, looking intently at him with golden eyes, like he wants to hypnotize him, to convince him of his love, his devotion. That his past doesn't matter anymore. They are together, they love each other. What else is there to care, right? As long as Lan Zhan wants him, as long as he can pretend they are back to how they were that morning, happy and blissfully ignorant of Lan Zhan's secret. He desperately wants to cling to that feeling, to be unaware of all of this, to love Lan Zhan without fear. He wants nothing but to go crawl back into his former ignorant self.
"I...Lan Zhan… you've never done it for anyone else...right? You only love me, right?", he asks, ignoring the part of him that begs him to run away. That screams that Lan Zhan is dangerous. He broke into his apartment multiple times without leaving a trace! He followed him on his day by day, from Gusu's University to his apartment, to his former lovers' places, even when he accompanied his elderly neighbour to pick up a-Yuan or he spent some time with the Wen siblings! He should be leaving him, filing a restraining order, moving back to Yunmeng, going further away, putting as much distance as he can. Something.
Not melting in his embrace, not hugging him back, not letting him touch him, caress the small of his back, kiss his neck softly…
It's wrong, and he's afraid, because he knows he'll never be able to escape. He loves Lan Zhan. And he can't think of leaving him now. Not when he loves him as deeply as he does, not when he knows it's futile. Lan Zhan will find him wherever he goes. He just knows it. There's a hint of warning in his eyes, in his movements. His fingers touch him softly, but firm. He'll never let him go.
"Mn. Only for a-Ying", he promises.
It's enough to reassure him, but not to make him forget. He eyes the evidence once more, before closing his eyes and burying his face in the crook of Lan Zhan's neck, desperately clinging to the normalcy that was his life until that morning.
For his sake, for their sake...he won't see it again. He will try to forget anything but their love.
For him, he chooses to unsee the darkest parts of Lan Zhan and accept his love.