Here’s when Lan Zhan knew he was going to get married: nighttime, on a bridge, windows down to suck in lungfuls of the briny bay air. The coastal marshes always smelled the way sleep did after a long night of alcohol and kissing—sweet and wet.
Lan Zhan never drove with the windows down.
He barely ever even drove with the windows cracked. Wei Ying had asked, first, if he could—“Would you prefer to keep them up? She’s a smelly one today.”—but something in Lan Zhan had said yes. Yes, yes. Like he was answering a question that neither of them would ask for years.
So Wei Ying rolled them down over the bridge, some cheek-pounding pop song that Lan Zhan had heard playing in three different department stores and a cafe blasting from the stereo, and stuck his face out into the wind. His hair whipped around his head. Lan Zhan had expected him to shout, or laugh, or do whatever obnoxious thing people did when they drove with the windows down, but he’d just closed his eyes and breathed in.
“I’ll drive sometime,” Wei Ying had said after their car descended the bridge, one in just hundreds of cars passing through. “And you can try it when I do.”
“Makes you feel like you’re on the edge of the sky. And what better place to be than there, with the most beautiful person in the world?”
And then Wei Ying had laughed, and the music ended, and for a moment the car had just been that: the buzz of nothing else except traffic, the sky’s edge, and oh, I’m going to marry this boy one day.
Lan Zhan shuts off the water before it can start getting cold, because Wei Ying still needs to take one. Any other day, Wei Ying would have slunk in, pretending to be annoyed that Lan Zhan started without him, and neither of them would have want for hot water, but Wei Ying is still asleep.
Afternoon tumbles in the sheets take a lot out of you.
He is awake by the time Lan Zhan steps out, steam rushing after him with a towel. Wei Ying is rolled over on his belly, sheet riding so low on his waist that the curve of his ass peeks through, composing a text with lightning speed. He looks away from his screen like his gaze had been torn away, then throws his phone facedown into the bed so his Brown case stares up at them both.
“You abandoned me,” he says sullenly, but he’s already begun to smile.
“I had to.” Lan Zhan crosses the bathroom into their bedroom, the cool, dry air chilling the rivulets that drip from his hair. “You were sleeping.”
Wei Ying makes an affronted noise. “As if sleeping takes precedence over sucking my boyfriend’s cock in the shower? Or him kissing me in the shower?”
He cranes up for a kiss as Lan Zhan bends down, sweeping his hair back so he doesn’t drip on their bed, and for a long moment the only sound is the cloudy whir of the bathroom fan and the sounds of them kissing—teeth and lips. Lan Zhan has to pull away when Wei Ying starts searching for the tucked corner of his towel, or else they’ll never even make it out of this room. They have a date.
“I seem to recall someone telling me that if he fell asleep before I finished, with me still inside him,” Lan Zhan says, “then I had permission to do whatever I wanted.”
“How obscene,” Wei Ying says, dropping one last kiss to Lan Zhan’s jaw before he sweeps his legs out of the blankets. He yawns. “How long do I have?”
“As long as you want.”
“Oh? Not a time sensitive date night, then.”
Lan Zhan shrugs neither in confirmation nor denial. “It’s a surprise.”
Wei Ying eyes him curiously, then figures he won’t be getting a better answer, and crosses their room plucking a change of clothes with him for the bathroom. There’s a moment of silence, a flush of the toilet, and then the shower begins to run. Wei Ying hums over the soft white noise of running water, a tune that’s less music and more pulse. Then the smell of spearmint.
Wei Ying had leaned over him that night in the car after they’d descended the bridge, and Lan Zhan had grappled with the quiet realization that he was already at the edge of his sky, with Wei Ying in the passenger seat. He wouldn’t have to stick his face out of a wind-shot window to know. It was practical, then—“Can you reach into my pocket?”
“Huh? This one?” Wei Ying’s hand tunneled into the pocket of Lan Zhan’s jacket closest to him.
“No, other one. My phone is ringing.”
“Oh.” And then Wei Ying had leaned right over into Lan Zhan’s lap, and for a dizzying moment it was the top of Wei Ying’s head, the highway, and the curious smell of spearmint on his skin, before he pulled away with Lan Zhan’s phone. “It’s your brother.”
“Yes, can you answer?”
It hadn’t been urgent, but in the ensuing silence of the call, Wei Ying had fiddled with Lan Zhan’s phone and said nothing.
In time, Wei Ying would learn that Lan Zhan always keeps his phone in his left pocket. In time, Lan Zhan would learn that Wei Ying smelled like spearmint because his body wash was all mint and lavender, and in time Wei Ying would admit he only used it because the soap was the same blue that Lan Zhan always wore.
A lot of things about them had been surprises.
By the time Wei Ying has gotten out of his shower, Lan Zhan’s hair has dried enough for him to start brushing it out for the hair dryer. They stand side by side in front of the bathroom mirror, with Wei Ying barely concealed by his towel—he’s just clutching one corner under one arm, with the rest hanging down the length of him—and typing at his phone furiously.
“Is it Nie Huaisang?” Lan Zhan asks, fiddling with the heat setting of the dryer and rooting around their drawers for a round brush.
“No, I just had an excellent idea in the shower. If I don’t write it down, I’ll forget.”
“Idea about what?”
Wei Ying’s gaze flickers up to Lan Zhan’s in the mirror. He wrinkles his nose when he smiles. Wouldn’t you like to know? I’m not telling you. “It’s a surprise,” he says.
Two surprises. Lan Zhan switches his hair dryer on, and the warm roar of it drowns out all noise. Wei Ying spends another minute at the mirror before hanging up his towel, hair still wet, and wandering into their room in search of pants. Eventually he returns with something high-waisted, lovely and flowing, cinched just under his ribs with a belt. He’s still not wearing a shirt.
“What are you going to wear?”
“Unfortunate,” Wei Ying sighs. “I was hoping for a better answer than that, Zhanzhan.”
Lan Zhan smiles. Some of his hair sticks to his cheeks with static, and he smooths it out of his face. “What should I have said.”
“Nothing, of course.” Wei Ying laughs. “But if you must, you should wear that high-necked velvet shirt you wore to that art showing once, that place with the really harsh lighting that I said made us all look like bones, but you looked amazing in. Obviously.”
“I will do your hair first. Would you like me to?”
“Please,” Wei Ying says, gathering his wet, tangled hair in an inky handful and tossing it over his shoulder. “I was going to beg you to do it.”
“Save that for later tonight.”
“Obscene,” Wei Ying repeats, shivering delightfully when Lan Zhan gathers his hair to towel it down more before blow-drying. His fingers brush against the back of Wei Ying’s neck, soft as the underside of his knees and the inside of his thighs. “I love you.”
“I love you,” Lan Zhan replies. He twists Wei Ying’s wet hair and piles it on the crown of his head with an alligator clips, then begins blow-drying his hair in sections. Stray droplets race down the curve of Wei Ying’s back. Wei Ying stands obediently still, busying himself with his phone, screen brightness turned almost all the way down.
“You always make it look so much better than I can,” Wei Ying says when Lan Zhan finishes with him. He shimmies his shoulders back and forth so that the cascade of his hair glides against his bare skin, and Lan Zhan gathers it all in his fist to brush out one more time, dropping a kiss to Wei Ying’s bare shoulder. There’s a fading hickey there. “Are we going to be extra fancy tonight? Should you curl it?”
“Would you like me to?”
Wei Ying pauses long enough for Lan Zhan to realize that he was going to say yes, then stopped himself to weigh out his favorite question and Lan Zhan’s least favorite question—will it trouble you?
“I like doing it,” Lan Zhan says definitively, fishing out his flat iron from the bathroom drawer. “Waves are faster than curls.”
“It’s so much choreography.” Wei Ying watches with fascination as Lan Zhan dispenses hair oil into his palms, warms it in his fingers, and trails them through the ends of Wei Ying’s hair where his split ends stand out like pine needles against his back.
Wei Ying stands there, quietly, without looking at his phone. Lan Zhan can feel his gaze on him in the mirror as he works—working gentle waves into the ends of Wei Ying’s hair, just enough that they look like he’d been salted by the ocean wind and warmed by its sun. “I would have thought you’d be tired of doing this.”
“You touch and style hair all day at work, it would be a natural extension of logic that you wouldn’t want to bother at home.”
Lan Zhan raises his eyebrows as he lets down another section of Wei Ying’s hair. “Do you hate kids outside of your work, then?”
Wei Ying smiles wryly. “Point taken. I’m just a kept—kept boyfriend, aren’t I?”
“Mm.” To Lan Zhan’s utmost pleasure.
Later, Wei Ying shrugs on a high-necked sweater in pigeon grey and a red satin duster that falls to his knees, long enough to be lost in and so soft that it’s all Lan Zhan can do not to be hugging him every step they take around their apartment. He finds his own sheer silk drape that hugs him around his shoulders. Two pockets. Once, before they’d begun dating and Lan Zhan had been doing everything in his power to
seduce catch Wei Ying’s eye, he’d leaned over an open window wearing this drape, until the light had caught all the lines of his body. Wei Ying had just stared.
Now Wei Ying is in the living room, gathering his wallet, humming his song that’s all chest and pulse.
I’m going to marry this boy one day.
It’s been hidden in the underside of the drawer where Lan Zhan keeps their facemasks—all the cucumber ones Wei Ying likes, and the aloe ones he likes, all the way in the corner so that Lan Zhan has to get down on his knees and reach deep inside to reach it. It’s a tiny box. It’s so easy to miss.
“Zhanzhan, I’m ready when you are!”
Wei Ying is in his shoes at the door already, tucking his phone into his pants when Lan Zhan toes his boots out of the shelf and slips his feet inside. He zips up, and then they face each other on a doormat with two bicycles whose front wheels are kissing.
“You look so handsome,” Wei Ying says, smiling.
“And you look so beautiful,” Lan Zhan says. “Always.”
Wei Ying slots his hands between their mouths when Lan Zhan leans in, and then laughs when Lan Zhan narrows his eyes at him. “You said we’re never going to make it out of here yourself!” he insists.
Unfortunately, he’s right.
They drive into the evening in the last strains of dusk, when the sun is all but a narrow strip of gold on the horizon, and Wei Ying leans over for the aux cord as soon as they hit the highway. He plays something half-quiet, mostly thoughtful, and then glances sideways at Lan Zhan when he takes the merge towards the bridge across the inlet.
“I know you said where we’re going is a surprise,” he says, “but you know that I have to wonder.”
“Then wonder,” Lan Zhan says. Wei Ying makes a plaintive noise.
“You know, I have my surprise, too,” says Wei Ying. “So you can wonder, too.”
“Then we’re even, aren’t we?”
Their car sprints with the traffic towards the ascending swell towards the bridge. In the evening, it’s lit up blue and green over the harbor, like the skeleton of something once living, stretching the arc of its body across the land for tiny things to cross.
Lan Zhan rolls the windows down until their hair dances.
“I told you you’d like it,” Wei Ying says triumphantly.
“I do,” says Lan Zhan. “Wei Ying, could you get my phone?”
“Oh, is your brother calling?”
He leans over, hair tickling Lan Zhan’s cheek. Wei Ying’s hand slips into Lan Zhan’s left pocket, where his phone definitely won’t be.
“There’s something I want to ask you,” says Lan Zhan.
And Wei Ying laughs his favorite laugh. It’s the one that’s buttery-golden around the edges and tastes like sleep and alcohol and kissing and the edge of the sky, and Lan Zhan has never been more certain about anything else.