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They’ve been friends for years is the thing. The only thing. The very small thing that makes doing the very big thing impossible. Or improbable at the very least. Or, well…

They’ve been friends for years, roommates for even longer than that, and Wei Ying’s just figured out he’s in love. Lan Zhan is crouching down next to a stray cat as they walk back from the store together, one arm wrapped securely around the bag of groceries he’s insisted on carrying so Wei Ying can focus on the cake cradled in his hands, protected only by a cutesy cardboard box, from the bakery next to the market.

They do this every week. There’s usually not a cat, but the rest of it is fantastically, brilliantly, lovingly normal.

And Wei Ying? Wei Ying is in love. Maybe always has been. Clearly hasn’t always realized it.

“Lan Zhan!” he calls, startling the cat into freezing, which just makes Lan Zhan hum gently to calm the skittish little thing. Lan Zhan lifts his head only once he’s certain the cat is comfortable again. It tilts its head into his palm because it’s a shameless creature taking advantage of Lan Zhan’s kindness. Wei Ying’s not jealous of a cat, no, but he deserves to have some of that attention for himself. It’s his right. Because Wei Ying loves him more than a cat ever will. “Lan Zhan, I have the best idea!”

He’s honestly not sure why he didn’t think of it sooner: they are, honestly, the best roommates ever, ideal even, so set in their ways and used to the other’s that they’ve got, like, an actual routine. And it works. Wei Ying hates cooking, but Lan Zhan secretly hates cleaning up the dishes. As long as Lan Zhan will hang out at the counter with him, he loves cleaning up, and Lan Zhan always hangs out at the counter with him. Wei Ying will inevitably forget to take out the trash if left to his own devices, so Lan Zhan takes it with him when he leaves for work in the morning. Because Wei Ying’s work schedule is flexible and self-directed, he’s able to complete errands and calls that would waste a lot of Lan Zhan’s time if he had to deal with them when all the other people with similar working hours also try to do them.

They’re good together is what Wei Ying’s saying—thinking—would say out loud if he can work up the nerve.

And Lan Zhan’s just about the greatest person on the planet. He hums at cats and carries groceries and lets Wei Ying drag him into bakeries.

“What is it?” Lan Zhan asks, still petting the cat, still living in a world where Wei Ying hasn’t confessed. Even so, he’s finally gifted Wei Ying with all that attention Wei Ying craves. Which is great because Wei Ying has the most important question to ask.

Bouncing on the balls of his feet, he inhales. Before common sense can get the better of him, he says, “Go out with me!”

He has no idea what to expect and he tries not to fidget as he waits for the answer. If Lan Zhan says no, that’ll be fine! They can keep being friends and roommates! It’s just a thought, going out! No big deal if they don’t! Haha!

“Go out with you?” Lan Zhan speaks the words so carefully. He also stops petting the cat, who growls and nips at his hand. Sorry, little buddy, Wei Ying thinks, not sorry at all, but that’s not enough to get Lan Zhan back now. He climbs to his feet and, adjusting the bag in his arm like it’s a baby, rests it against his hip. That is not an unenchanting image.

The cat continues to wind itself around Lan Zhan’s legs, relentless, not unlike Wei Ying. When they get home, Wei Ying’s sure he’ll sit down with a lint remover just as soon as the groceries are put away and that just makes Wei Ying love him even more. He’s so careful with everything, even the hem of his trousers. “Like a date?”

Wei Ying rolls his eyes, stomps on the nerves dancing on his stomach. They have no place within Wei Ying now that he’s committed himself to this course. “Is there any other kind of going out?”

“We’re out right now.” Lan Zhan stares at him, just as relentless as this cat that won’t leave him alone. Sadly, Lan Zhan’s not winding himself around Wei Ying’s legs, intent to stay there forever. If only, he’s realizing. Rapid-fire pulses of desire burst within him, a whole firework’s display of need. “Did you mean to ask me out on a date?”

Lan Zhan is the most fussy, pedantic person on the planet and Wei Ying is disgustingly into it. How could he not have noticed it before? Even if it is demoralizing to fail to concisely and accurately ask Lan Zhan out, it’s still kind of hot. There’s enough agonizing anticipation working through him to send him to the emergency room if he doesn’t get relief soon. He might be a little lightheaded at waiting. It takes him a few seconds to formulate his answer, that’s how excited he is. “Yes, Lan Zhan. I want to take you out on a date. Like a date-date. A thing people do sometimes.”

Something funny happens to Lan Zhan’s face then. It’s not something he’s never seen before, but it is rare and all the more precious for it: a smile, uninhibited for all that it is very small. Someone who doesn’t know him might think nothing of it, but Wei Ying knows better. It entirely lights up his face, makes his eyes twinkle. It’s gorgeous. Lan Zhan is gorgeous. And Wei Ying might get to go on a date with him!

Lan Zhan just has to say yes.

“Very well,” he says, which is just as good as yes and warm, so warm, mind-meltingly warm. “I would like to be taken on a date.”

Wei Ying’s a genius. This is going to be so good.



Wei Ying, as it turns out, is not a genius. This is going to be such a nightmare. Why the fuck would he ever think he’s qualified to go on a date with Lan Zhan?



The problems start, oh, a good two hours before their date—dinner at Lan Zhan’s favorite restaurant that he never gets to go to because he’s always insisting they go to the restaurant Wei Ying likes and Wei Ying, a certified jerk, hadn’t noticed the pattern until he was sitting down earlier this week to determine what The Best Date™ would be and it took him a solid fifteen minutes to remember Lan Zhan even has a favorite restaurant—when Lan Zhan comes home from work and catches Wei Ying pacing the living room.

That shouldn’t even have happened because Lan Zhan comes home from work at the same time every day. At least he has for the last couple of years. He used to work late when they first moved in together, only arriving in time to make a little dinner for himself before he went to bed. But now he’s settled in his job and has slowly, slowly dialed back the amount of work he does each day.

“Wei Ying?” he asks, looking a little spooked himself as he tracks Wei Ying’s progress, which does nothing to settle Wei Ying’s exponentially proliferating nerves, nothing at all. “Is everything all right?”

“Fine!” Oh, good fucking god, is his voice squeaking now? Is that what’s happening? “Fine,” he repeats, pushing it too far in the other direction. Now he sounds like he’s got a cold or let someone face-fuck him or something. Not the impression he wants to leave Lan Zhan with. “I’m good, Lan Zhan. Just—exercising these old leg muscles of mine. I’ve been spending too long sitting today. Don’t want leg cramps when we go on our… date.” His entire voice shatters on the word date. This must be what glaciers feel like when they finally crack under all that heat and pressure they suffer through. “Anyway. How was your day?”

Lan Zhan’s still rooted in the entryway, body pressed up against the closed door. Is he nervous, too? He can’t be nervous, right? Wei Ying’s not worth getting nervous about. “It was quite slow.”

“Slow, ah. That’s too bad.”

“Mn.” He blinks. “I’m going to…” His gaze won’t settle anywhere, finding first the couch, the television, the short hallway leading to their bedrooms and the bathroom, the kitchen, the tiny, tiny balcony. “I’ll make some tea. Would you like any?”

Maybe that will settle his stomach. “Yeah, that sounds—good. Yes. Thanks, Lan Zhan.” Wei Ying trails after him into the kitchen.

It doesn’t help much, but it is nice to stand near Lan Zhan with a warm mug cupped between his hands. The space, already small, feels even smaller, but it’s on the cozier side of uncomfortable. For a few moments, he is able to relax at least. Once they’re actually out together, he’s sure it’ll be better. Just—waiting. Waiting is hard. Waiting and not asking Lan Zhan how he’s feeling. That’s what’s hard. He’d said yes, but what does that really mean?

It’s a strange sensation, this sense of separation from Lan Zhan when they’re so close, always in one another’s spaces, knowing everything about one another, and now they’ll be even more entangled. Assuming everything goes right, they’ll even be—be…

They’ll be boyfriends. If this date goes well, they could… they could date all the time. They could visit Lan Zhan’s favorite places and hold hands and kiss, kiss a lot maybe? His heart swells at the thought. Lan Zhan’s lips are very kissable, now that he’s thinking about it.

“How was your day?” Lan Zhan asks suddenly.

“Oh, you know.” He laughs, awkward. “Same old.”

Lan Zhan’s oh so kissable lips thin as he stares down into the mug. He swirls its contents, contemplative, until Wei Ying’s on tenterhooks waiting for his response. “I see.”

Wei Ying sags.

Talking isn’t normally this agonizing, right? Like, he distinctly remembers a time not so very long ago—yesterday even!—when they had an entire conversation about video games that was totally okay. Or, well, Wei Ying yammered a lot about video games and Lan Zhan listened politely and then offered to play when Wei Ying’s mouth finally ran out of steam. He’d handed Wei Ying’s ass back to him until a yawn cracked his jaw and he went to bed and it was awesome. The best. Wei Ying loves losing to Lan Zhan.

But.

Lan Zhan doesn’t like video games. He likes reading books and spending time with animals and walking in the park by their apartment. He knows this because, while trying to figure out what they’d do on their date, he remembered these things. It’s only now that he’s putting two and two together and coming up with wow, Lan Zhan puts up with a lot of shit on my behalf. It’s only one hop from that to thinking, wow, Lan Zhan’s putting up with me right now, again, like always.

That’s—not a great thought to be having, so he mentally dropkicks it while draining his mug and placing it in the empty sink. “Gonna go get ready,” he says, voice raised, and gets as far as the metal bar between the carpet and the linoleum before he turns back around. “Gonna wash the mug first, ha.”

Lan Zhan’s own mug is nearly full, still steaming a little.

“Not thirsty?”

Lan Zhan looks at it, puzzled, as though remembering it exists only now. “I am.” He takes a very pointed sip from it to illustrate his point. Wei Ying tries very hard not to notice the way Lan Zhan’s Adam’s apple bobs. The elegant line of his neck and jaw and… frankly, his entire profile in general is refined and graceful and much too good for Wei Ying.

And he went and asked this man out? Incredible. It’s a wonder Lan Zhan agreed at all.

Finished with rinsing the mug, he leaves it on the rack next to the sink to dry. “Gonna go take a shower! Unless you want to use the bathroom first?”

“You may have it.”

Of course he can, because Lan Zhan’s obliging like that and would never do anything to inconvenience Wei Ying. Annoyance ruptures inside of him, spills around his insides before the tear patches itself up again. If nothing else, he’s going to give Lan Zhan a nice evening and maybe not entirely ruin their friendship or roommate situation. That would, in fact, be quite terrible if he did. In fact, maybe he should just…

No, he can’t back out now. There are only a handful of ways this can go. He owes it to them both to see this through to the end. If something goes terribly wrong, he’ll just have to fix it.

He’s not terrible at fixing things. His job is fixing things. Maybe it’ll be fine. He can definitely fix it if it goes poorly.

For sure. Yep. Definitely.



There is, Wei Ying realizes, an immediate problem once they make their way to the restaurant—nearby, of course, because Lan Zhan’s a delightful creature of habit who prefers to explore close to home, which makes it easy for things like this since neither of them like to drive—and it’s the fact that he doesn’t know what to do with his hands. They want to wander is the thing. It’s been the thing honestly. For a long time. Another thing he’s noticed since realizing he likes his roommate: he’s wanted to touch him since forever. So as they walk… as they walk and their hands keep brushing, Wei Ying wants to take hold of Lan Zhan’s.

When their knuckles brush, he freezes and tries to think about what someone would do on a first date if they hadn’t lived together for a long, long time. They wouldn’t just jump right into touching, right? Sure, Wei Ying’s taken a lot of advantage over the years, gotten into Lan Zhan’s personal bubble time and time again, but he can’t do that now, not with this new… thing. That they’re doing. Dating. Or going on a date. Yeah, that.

He’s been so busy, uh, worry about this that he’s managed to entirely forget about the other thing. The other very important thing. One of the things he wanted to do to ensure a good date for Lan Zhan.

“Shit.” Ugh. Who wants to go on a date with someone who swears? “I mean—”

He stops and turns around, thinking frantically. They’re only a few blocks from the apartment complex, but they’d decided not to leave too early because Wei Ying got a reservation and the chances of them being delayed were slim. Better to be weird and awkward at home without the chance for an audience.

“Wei Ying?”

“Shit, just—go on ahead. I’ll be right back.”

Lan Zhan is so handsome when he worries, it’s unreal. A perfect, beautiful furrow forms between his eyebrows and his mouth twists into something that is definitely a pout. Wei Ying’s not sure he’s going to survive this. If he keeps messing up, he might not. “Is everything okay?”

“Yes! It’s fine. I just… I forgot—” But it’s meant to be a surprise. It’s not even anything great, but he’d gotten it as a way to distinguish tonight as The Best Date™ and not just any other evening when they might go out for dinner together. It’s little more than a token, but he knows Lan Zhan well enough to understand that tokens mean something to him. He hoards shit. He’s sentimental. He’ll pretend up and down he doesn’t care about gifts, but he likes them anyway. “Seriously. It’ll only be a minute.”

Lan Zhan nods and smiles, boosting Wei Ying’s confidence. “I’ll see you shortly then.”

He waits until Lan Zhan resumes his walk before sprinting back to their apartment, taking the stairs because with his luck he’d get stuck in the elevator or something and theirs is only a few stories up anyway. Though it only takes a few minutes to grab the small, wrapped package from his room, it feels like years before he reaches the restaurant and finds himself led to the small table where Lan Zhan’s waiting patiently for him.

Sitting, still gasping for breath, he places the gift—just a blank journal, nothing special really, wrapped in plain paper of the sort Lan Zhan likes to draw on occasionally—in the middle of the table and slides it across. Sweat slips down his spine and his hair falls into his eyes. There’s a menu balanced on the edge of the table that Lan Zhan won’t need to look at to know what he wants. Wei Ying swipes it up, barely looks at the colorful pictures before he decides it doesn’t matter what he gets.

“Are you going to open it?” Wei Ying asks. He leans onto his elbows, flutters his eyelashes. “Should I have gotten you flowers instead?”

With a swallow and a shake of his head, Lan Zhan says, “No. This is—Wei Ying, you didn’t have to…”

“I know I didn’t have to. I don’t have to do a lot of things! I wanted to.”

Lan Zhan sighs such a dejected little sigh that Wei Ying’s heart starts pounding like he’s still sprinting around their neighborhood.

“What is it?” Wei Ying gestures toward the package. “You haven’t even opened it yet. How can you sigh at it like that?”

“That’s not—”

“Then what? Should I not have?” When he tries to reach for it, Lan Zhan pulls it toward himself.

“Wei Ying,” Lan Zhan says, steady. He takes careful hold of the gift and turns it in his hands. “Be calm. You may do as you wish for me.”

Perhaps he’d be calmer if he bought flowers. Now that he thinks about it, Lan Zhan does like flowers, too, doesn’t he? He could have taken one and pressed it between a book the way he likes to do. Or—or he could have been really good and bought flowers and the journal.

Why didn’t he think of it? It’s not like he wouldn’t do that and more for Lan Zhan.

He’s half out of his chair before he realizes it would be incredibly ridiculous of him to bolt from the table just to get flowers. They could always—there’s a florist nearby. They could stop on their way back maybe?

“I’m calm,” Wei Ying replies. He is, one-hundred percent, not calm in the slightest. He’s gotten Lan Zhan somehow to agree to go on a date with him and if he keeps embarrassing himself, he will perish.

By the time Lan Zhan finally opens it—careful, deft fingers catching on the bunny-themed washi tape he’d bought at the same time and intends to also sneak into Lan Zhan’s stash of supplies—Wei Ying’s ready to throw himself across the table and rip the wrapping paper to shreds. His endurance has frayed beyond repair.

“I like the tape,” Lan Zhan says as he peels the paper back. His mouth opens in a small ‘o’ as he looks down at the journal. Is it shabby? It’s a little shabby. “Wei Ying, it’s very nice.”

Nice. Of course it’s nice. Lan Zhan wouldn’t say anything unkind about it. It’s just that the color of the cover, a pale, meandering blue, not quite solid, not quite patterned, reminds him of Lan Zhan. At first glance, it may seem to be sedate, but it contains so much more than that. Maybe Lan Zhan finds it boring.

Yeah, they’re getting flowers after this. The biggest, most ridiculous bouquet Wei Ying can get on short notice.

The waiter interrupts long enough to give Wei Ying time to rebound and then disappears just as quickly. At least now there’s a teapot between them and several small ceramic cups with which Wei Ying can distract himself.

His hand shakes a little when he picks up the pot and pours for Lan Zhan and then himself; it’s only good luck that keeps him from spilling.

And, as though summoned by the mere thought, he manages to splash hot tea across the back of his hand. “Shi…ow.” He can’t keep swearing while on a date with Lan Zhan. What’s the matter with him?

“Wei Ying?” Lan Zhan’s already in action, dipping a napkin into his lukewarm glass of water, as though that’ll be of any use at all.

“It’s fine.” It hurts in that annoying way that small burns always hurt, not especially painful, but determined to throb until all of your attention is on it. “I’m just clumsy.”

He pats the back of his hand with his own napkin and waves Lan Zhan off.

This has to be the most exhausting date of all time.

Taking a minute to lean back and breathe, he thinks about how he got here, how excited he was by the possibility of being here right now. Instead, instead… he’s not entirely sure he’ll be able to eat the food that is suddenly laid out before him, three dishes full of the delicate flavors Lan Zhan prefers and a slightly spicier one for Wei Ying.

It all smells incredibly good, but neither he nor Lan Zhan make any move on any of the plates, nor do they get any of the rice. Lan Zhan is staring at it and Wei Ying is staring at him and he’s pretty sure—

“Here,” Wei Ying says finally, awkward, dishing up Lan Zhan’s bowl with his favorite. This is where he should say something about how happy he is to be here, but Lan Zhan’s ears are red and he won’t lift his eyes from the table suddenly and Wei Ying’s pretty sure he’d pay money for a hole to open in the ground.

This was a bad idea. Why would he tip the cart this way? And on a selfish whim? Lan Zhan’s the best roommate-slash-friend-slash-unrequited-crush a man could ask for. Why would he be greedy?

Why would Lan Zhan say yes if he’s this uncomfortable?

Probably because he didn’t want to hurt your feelings, Wei Ying realizes. He doesn’t let himself feel horror at this possibility—maybe just a soupçon of mortification for flavor—because he’s fairly sure any embarrassment he incurs can be weathered, but it pains him to think Lan Zhan would go so far out of his way just for Wei Ying.

Perhaps… perhaps he’d come on too strong. Maybe he should have treated this more like a normal outing so as not to weird Lan Zhan out.

“Thank you,” Lan Zhan says, formal enough to make Wei Ying’s stomach turn when he finally places Lan Zhan’s bowl back in front of him.

He fills his own bowl. Stares at it. Tries to eat and fails to do more than chew through a few noodles before he loses interest again. Lan Zhan’s so focused on strategically stabbing his mound of rice that he’s not paying much attention either.

It doesn’t make sense. They should at least be able to talk about something. They’ve never been short on conversation before.

Rather… Rather, Wei Ying talks a lot and doesn’t really let Lan Zhan get a word in edgewise.

He sighs. Of course, Lan Zhan says nothing, eats properly and mechanically, eyes cast toward the center of the table. It’s not so different from how he is normally, but even on normal nights, he’s not this tense. Sure, he’s never been loquacious during meals, but he’s eased up a lot in the years they’ve known one another. He’ll usually say something.

He knows, knows that Lan Zhan doesn’t hate him, but it desperately reminds him of those early days when he thought Lan Zhan did. Back then, he’d remained so, so quiet all the time. Quiet and watchful. Features blank. It’s hard not to want to run screaming in the face of that.

He won’t, but he really wants to. Just—throw himself through the nearest window. Which happens to be right next to him. Convenient.

He asks, “How’s your day?” What he really means is oh dear god, I’m reaching.

Lan Zhan, right in the middle of a bite, chews the requisite number of times before putting Wei Ying out of his misery. “It was fine.”

Fine. It was fine. Fine is a lot to hang a conversation on. Fine is fine. Fine… gets Wei Ying nowhere.

“How—” Lan Zhan quickly snaps his mouth shut. In a murmur that almost can’t be heard over the rest of the noise, he admits, “I already asked about your day, didn’t I?”

He had, but Wei Ying’s just so happy that Lan Zhan’s engaging with him that he leans forward. “You can ask me again if you’d like. I’ll give you a better answer this time!”

He is rather pathetically clutching at straws here, but as long as they don’t fall, it’s okay.

This is, as they say, interminable though. Just—devastatingly awkward, even by Wei Ying’s standards. If Lan Zhan is floundering, a man who, despite speaking far less frequently than the average, always knows exactly what to say, then it must be bad. Before Lan Zhan can reply, Wei Ying taps his fingertip against his chin and hums. “Let’s see. I did actually manage to finish that project I was working on for Wen Chao, so that’s good. Now I can, you know, go back to my normal routine of not getting stuck fixing projects that I hate with people who are incompetent.”

A small smile tugs at the corner of Lan Zhan’s mouth. “That’s good.”

He runs out of steam again immediately because that’s really the only thing that happened. Working remotely isn’t exactly great for drama on the best days. There’s way, way less flavor in the inter-office IMs and e-mails he deals with and the rest of his life is pretty much, uh, on display for Lan Zhan whenever he comes home.

“I, uh, kicked ass playing Overwatch?” Wei Ying scratches the back of his head. “Only for a little while, but—” Yes, because beating children at video games is cool. Overwatch isn’t even popular anymore. Wei Ying’s just too lazy to learn another game. “Yeah.”

Okay, enough of that, too. At least Lan Zhan goes out and does things, sees the outside world and could report back on what he finds. If asked, Lan Zhan could probably give the world’s cutest rundown on all the cats he’s run into today. Wei Ying just sleeps in and complains about having to be up and then works in his pajamas and only considers getting dressed after lunch rolls around.

Lan Zhan gets dressed first thing in the morning no matter what day of the week it is.

“Did you enjoy yourself?” Lan Zhan asks, feigning way, way more interest than such an admission deserves.

He thinks about it. “Not really.” It had just been something to fill the time. “Doesn’t make sense, does it? Doing a thing even though you’re not enjoying yourself.”

“Mn, no. I understand.”

“Ahaha, what are you doing that isn’t enjoyable, Lan Zhan?” Perhaps this date qualifies. “Besides being stuck with me all the time?”

Shit. Why would he say something like that?

“Is that what you think?” The words crack like ice left in sunlight as they spill from his mouth or maybe they’re a glacier dying thanks to climate change. That’s how consequential this moment feels. It certainly feels hotter in here than before, but not in the sexy way, just in the haha I’ve embarrassed myself e-fucking-nough sort of way. “That I’m stuck with you?”

Well, whatever was left of his appetite is entirely gone now. Well done, Wei Ying. Gold medal for worst date of all time and all for a bad joke that Lan Zhan’s clearly not into. He gets like that sometimes, doesn’t understand that Wei Ying’s just teasing. Of course he knows Lan Zhan could walk away at any point in time he wishes. “No, that’s not—”

With careful, clipped precision, Lan Zhan places his chopsticks on his bowl and carefully sets aside his spoon. He says nothing for a long time, merely stares across the table at Wei Ying. A complicated expression crosses his face. “Why did you ask me out?”

Why would Lan Zhan ask him that? Why does anyone ask anyone out? It’s obvious. What’s not obvious is what Lan Zhan gets out of this whole deal. “Why would you say yes?”

Lan Zhan sighs in exasperation, no, genuine annoyance and frustration. It’s not a sound Wei Ying’s ever heard before and he doesn’t particularly want to hear it again. For a moment, it looks as though Lan Zhan intends to answer, but instead he pushes himself to his feet. He’s pulling his phone from his pocket and already has his hand half-lifted to get a waiter over. “Perhaps this was a mistake. Waiter!”

A mistake. Right. Yes. Of course. Wei Ying draws in a deep breath and wills his stomach to settle. Lan Zhan doesn’t mean it cruelly—and he’s likely very, very right—but it still stings.

Regardless of how foolish Wei Ying feels, Lan Zhan deserves the truth. It can’t possibly piss him off more and might make him feel a little better about having to turn Wei Ying down. It’ll be awkward and weird and Wei Ying’ll have to skulk around in his room until the end of time, but that’s okay. He likes Lan Zhan just the way he is, even if he doesn’t like Wei Ying back.

“Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan, I really like you,” Wei Ying answers. “That’s why I asked you out. It was just—I don’t know. I know I blurted it out and, like, didn’t think it all through, but I like you. I asked you because I want to date you. That’s all.” It sounds like nothing when he says it. I like you and I want to date you. Lan Zhan would find something poetic to say or something so fundamentally lovely in its simplicity that Wei Ying would be bowled over entirely by it. His face heats even considering it. “You’re kind of really attractive also.”

“Kind of really attractive?”

He can’t lie and say it’s not easier to couch the truth in a grandiose statement, so he couches it in a grandiose statement. The only other option is not telling him at all. Lan Zhan will know, at least, that he means it. “You’re the single most attractive person I’ve ever seen in my life. You leave behind soul-destroying loveliness every time you and I cross paths. It’s a privilege to see you every day.” Wei Ying clutches his hands to his heart. “I like you so much. I just want you to be happy. I would very much like the privilege of being the one to make you happy, but I’m me and you’re you and—”

Lan Zhan’s hip connects with the edge of the table as he leans his weight against it. When he reaches out to steady himself, he nearly knocks over one of the plates. His eyes widen and then he grimaces slightly when he lifts his hand away, now covered in the remnants of the dish in question. “Wei Ying, you already do.” He feels around for a napkin, never taking his eyes off of Wei Ying’s face. Wei Ying hands one over to save him from the endearing red of his ears. He wipes his hand off, only then lowering his gaze. “Thank you.”

It’s only once he thinks about what Lan Zhan’s actually said that he realizes: “I already make you happy?”

“Always.”

Ugh. See. This is why Lan Zhan’s the best and Wei Ying’s a chump in comparison. One word and he’s already got Wei Ying weak in the fucking knees even though Wei Ying’s still sitting. That takes skill. “I wasn’t even on my best behavior before though.”

“I like all of your behavior.”

Wei Ying might be developing a cardiac problem right here and now.

“Perhaps I would prefer it if you would treat yourself more kindly,” Lan Zhan continues, “and eat better when I’m not prodding you to do so. You should rest more often. But I like you. All of you.” His gaze settles like a caress on Wei Ying’s body, gentle, but determined. “Everything about you.”

A laugh bubbles up within him at the small frown Lan Zhan makes at his admission. It’s very cute. He stifles it as best he can, feels lighter than he’s been in ages, a balloon cut free and floating carelessly through the air. At this moment, it doesn’t matter to him if he never comes back down.

“But I cared for you from the beginning even though I’ve never been demonstrative enough. I sometimes considered asking you, but—but I’m glad you asked me despite your… your apparent fears that I don’t also care for you.”

There’s nothing Wei Ying can do about it: he covers his face with his hands and shakes his head. “Lan Zhan, has anyone told you how much you are?”

Though Lan Zhan hesitates when Wei Ying lifts his head, he smiles a little bit. He ducks his head, shy, and hums. His hand opens and closes where it was sticky and this time, there’s a perfectly fine use for that lukewarm water of Lan Zhan’s.

Wei Ying grabs it, takes up his own napkin, and drenches it in the water. At this point, it’s merely an excuse to touch, but given how even this sends a thrum of wow, Lan Zhan likes me through him, he feels like that’s an entirely good enough reason to do so.

“Lan Zhan, you really like me?”

Sighing yet again, exasperated, he nods, closes his hand over Wei Ying’s, accidentally or perhaps unvaryingly wringing the napkin, too. Water drips onto the table. “How is that so surprising to you?”

In truth, he doesn’t know. Retrospectively speaking, it is sort of silly. Even Lan Zhan wouldn’t sacrifice himself on the altar of a date if he felt nothing for Wei Ying. “Will you tell me again anyway?”

“Wei Ying, I like you,” he repeats, plain spoken, but lovely all the same and Wei Ying sears the tone of his affection into his memory, into his heart. He’ll never forget it if he has any say in the matter.

Leaning in, Lan Zhan says, “I like you.”

Leaning in, he brushes his no-longer sticky knuckles over Wei Ying’s cheek.

Leaning in, he kisses Wei Ying right on the mouth, right where anyone could see it, more affectionately demonstrative than Lan Zhan’s ever been before. His lips are soft as they, of course, would be and taste vaguely of the remnants of their meal.

It’s the best kiss Wei Ying’s ever had. Lan Zhan is diligent and lovely about it the whole time, exactly how Wei Ying would have expected him to kiss if he’d allowed himself to think about it. His hand continues to squeeze Wei Ying’s and the fingers of his other wander over his temple, into his hair, tease at the back of Wei Ying’s neck, reeling him closer until he has no breath left to give and has to pull away. Wei Ying can only grab for Lan Zhan’s shirt, fist the fabric between his fingers.

Lan Zhan chases after him, greedy, plants one more kiss on his lips for good measure, a little harder, promising more later when they’re no longer in public, while a soft smile blooms on his lips. It is possibly the best expression Lan Zhan’s ever given him and all because of something so simple.

Incredible.

They should have been doing this years ago. They should be doing this again right now.

“I’m gonna pay,” Wei Ying insists, frenetically impatient. He tries to right Lan Zhan’s clothing, but it’s a wasted effort. Even just the little bit of pawing he’s done has wrinkled it. Lan Zhan doesn’t seem to care though, so neither will Wei Ying. “I’m gonna pay and you’re going to—”

Lan Zhan says, breathless, “I will. Whatever you want.”

“Ahaha. You’re going to kill me if you keep saying such sweet things to me.”

“I don’t think I will be able to stop,” Lan Zhan says, “now that you’re allowing it.”

Wei Ying’s heart isn’t used to this. He really is going to die and it’ll be so embarrassing. Can someone die of happiness? If so, that’ll be Wei Ying. He supposes there are worse ways to go. “How have you not gotten swooped up yet and married off to someone smarter than me? Lan Zhan, take me home already.”

“Mn.” His hands drift down Wei Ying’s side as Wei Ying fumbles his phone from his pocket so he can actually pay for this meal instead of losing every brain cell he has. It would be just like him to accidentally eat and run.

“Waiter!” He clears his throat, calls again until the nearest waiter acknowledges his frantically waved cell phone. “Waiter. Waiterwaiterwaiter. Come on…”

Blessedly, the waiter winds his way over to them rather quickly and has their check ready on a scanner. Wei Ying barely pays it any mind and then drags Lan Zhan out of the building.

They are going to just—catch up on so many things. All the things. Every last thing that Wei Ying can think of and probably every additional thing locked away in Lan Zhan’s massive, beautiful brain. They’re going to do it all. Dates, making out, more dates, so many dates, every x-rated thing Wei Ying has ever thought of, another date or two… it’s going to be so great. The best. Lan Zhan will see.

They’ll get to sleep together! In the same bed! And maybe they’ll be able to turn the spare room into a shared office space for them and that’ll be great, too. Everything will be perfect.

Only…

Lan Zhan’s got Wei Ying backed into the door of their apartment when Wei Ying thinks of it. One of his thighs is insinuated between Wei Ying’s legs—did you know Lan Zhan’s got amazing thighs—and it comes to him, unexpected. “Lan Zhan!” he says, through a very incredible gasp as Lan Zhan sucks a mark into his collarbone. Scrabbling for purchase, Wei Ying digs his fingers into Lan Zhan’s shoulders. “Lan Zhan! I was going to get you flowers!”

He is definitely not wailing, nope. That’s not a thing he does. Except for how that’s exactly what he’s doing and they both know it and Lan Zhan’s a menace who doesn’t stop mouthing at his throat. Mumbling against Wei Ying’s neck, he says, “Next time,” which just serves to remind Wei Ying that, oh yeah, there’s going to be a next time. So many next times.

Gasping at Lan Zhan’s renewed attack on his poor, delicate skin, he sinks into Lan Zhan’s hold, lets the door shore him up because his legs sure as hell won’t manage it, not when he loves everything about this. It’s going to be so great. It’s already great. Wei Ying doesn’t even have to worry about it, he’s that certain about it now.

He’ll buy out the florist’s entire stock, that’s how many next times they’ll have. That’s how sure of this he is.