i've spent the last four days thinking about a modern au where wwx lives in a remote village, alone and gardening the hell out of his life because he's dealing with copious amounts of stress, in a house that he bought for like Nothing, and he suddenly gets a neighbour.
the house that said neighbour is going (is already) to occupy is in even worse condition that wwx's. and wwx, well. he talks to humans maybe three times a year. he feeds a stray cat and talks to it every day, and now he has a human across the broken fence.
wwx never fixed because there was no need. he's lived there for five years, there was no one to protect his property from. it makes scary sounds when the wind picks up, but that's it.
the neighbour is a guy. wwx watches him from a slit in the curtains. coughs, because dusty af.
wwx realises he's not being subtle because the guy spots him on round three of shuttling between his car and the house, and gives wwx a nod. wwx startles badly and runs to the second floor and hides.
he is like his stray cat Donkey, who watches her food first.
it's not like he's afraid of the guy, but there was literally no one near him for years. he wanted that. chose that. and now he has a whole ass man across the patch of land.
wwx plays cool and watches him from the window of his bedroom now.
the guy has few possessions, it seems. he's done with boxes and what looks like a mini fridge in twenty minutes. wwx wants to walk to him but knows that people choose places like this for the very opposite to his intentions reason - to be alone.
he's not walking up to him, though. he keeps staring and thinking that he hasn't seen a toolbox among those possessions. hasn't seen a bucket or anything to get water from the spring. no logs for the fire.
wwx worries for him. it's autumn, it's getting dark.
the guy doesn't leave to get these household tidbits, he just locks his car and gets inside. wwx thinks he must be really desperate to finally settle, be away from whatever the hell he left behind. wwx waits for the windows to light up in the house. half an hour later, they do.
"at least he brought lightbulbs," wwx mutters. as a seasoned semi-caveman, he's proud of this city boy.
he waits, and drinks tea. he feeds donkey some fish he cooked for himself, and donkey purrs into his ear. wwx pets her behind her ear. "do you think he'll like us?"
wwx feels generous and lets the guy settle for the first night. wwx just wants to welcome him and tell him everything the guy needs to know, like the way to the spring, about the electricity that's a bitch and can go out at weird times. about the fence.
in the morning, the guy doesn't come out of the house. he has curtains already, which wwx stares at dumbly for approximately five minutes. he got his like, four and a half years later and only because he suddenly felt homely.
anyway, he needs to talk to the man.
wwx collects a basket of goodies. he weaved the basked himself. he puts in apples from his orchard, some grapes, some pickles and jams he made in the summer. he even bakes bread for the man, because bread is vital. and tasty. and gets his toolbox.
wwx knocks on the door with his foot because he's stupid and his hands are full (no, he won't put the basket down, he wants to look horrifyingly welcoming when the guy opens the door).
the guy opens the door and - yeah, wwx is pretty lost at the sight of him.
it's either wwx hasn't seen a Person for too long or some wayward god decided to spend his seclusion slash punishment near wwx's hut, which is, uh, unfortunate.
the guy stares at wwx's arms.
"welcome home?" wwx manages. he shakes the basket. "i'm wei ying. it's for you."
the guy looks unfairly good. he's in jeans, damnit. he has several rags in his hand. the hand is big, dirty.
"i was told the neighbourhood is abandoned," the guy says. he keeps staring.
ungrateful city bitch.
"yeah, well," wwx says, smiling. "it is. it's only me and donkey."
"donkey," the guy says.
wwx grins wider. "my cat. not mine but mine. she'll come to you if she smells food, which, she will."
the guy raises one eyebrow. wwx flexes his fingers. "you named a cat donkey."
wwx's hopes to get it over with are withering like his faith in humans. "i'll assess your own imagination later. help me out?"
the guy's mouth twitches. it looks like he wants to scowl, or laugh, or - whatever. he takes the basket first.
"as i said," wwx says. "it's for you."
the guy looks at the stuff. wwx knows he can smell the bread.
"i won't bother you, but please return the jars when you're done. you can have the basket," wwx continues. "i'll weave some for you if you want."
the man looks up, frowns. "you made it?"
wwx scratches the back of his neck. "yep. got bored and learned it. anyway, there's a path to the spring, it's well-trodden by now, just behind my house. i can lend you a bucket for the water if you don't have it yet. tools are yours if you need them."
the guy now looks at the toolbox. "i cannot use them."
wwx snorts, he can't help it. "i can."
"mn."
wwx will terrorise him, he decides quickly.
"anyway, whistle if you need help."
"i cannot whistle," the man says. wwx rolls his eyes.
"scream, then. you know my name."
wwx's done a good job, he thinks. he didn't hug the guy. didn't pat his shoulder patronisingly, just told the basics and gave him food. he turns around to leave.
"lan zhan."
wwx turns around. "yeah?"
"my name," the man says. "lan zhan. thank you for the housewarming gifts."
wwx grins at him. what a lovely guy, in the end. "stick around and find out where best to fish, lan zhan."
"mn."
wwx closes the door after himself and goes back home. he should've complimented the guy's - lan zhan's - curtains, damn.
-- i'm done milking my brain for cottagecore today, i'll continue tomorrow :D
lan zhan doesn't knock on his door to ask for anything that evening - bucket, logs, advice, nothing. wei ying is a little hurt, a little more concerned, a lot more restless.
he missed humans, he realises grudgingly, acutely. lan zhan is sick of them. the potential is not great.
in the following days, lan zhan doesn't really leave the house at all, wei ying doesn't think. decidedly doesn't keep vigil. he sees lan zhan walk behind his house and down the path to the spring. at least he's found it, so he has water in the house.
wei ying studies the lopsided and half-rotten wood of the fence between their patches of land. he likes it - it creates a nice shade over tomatoes in the savage july sun just after midday, doing work for him. he will need to ask lan zhan if he likes tomatoes.
he saw lan zhan leave earlier, the sun was barely out by that time. before wei ying moved here, he was a night owl, or a vampire, friends laughed. friends, wei ying thinks, toeing at the yellish grass and some leaves that he needs to rake.
now, in summer, he wakes up at six because it's too bright and he has to work. he wakes up himself, without an alarm, body long used to the natural rhythm of nature. the first week he got here, he'd sleep for twelve hours a day, broken by gasps and screams at times.
it's better now and he sleep better in colder months anyway, together with nature, one could say.
wei ying feels donkey jump on his shoulder, pats her back, and takes the rake, clearing the orchard and the back yard of pretty fiery leaves and wind-broken twigs.
wei ying checks the birdhouses for seeds and harvests the remaining plums from the trees across the little clearing and his cabbage, fruit and veg wet from the recent rain and morning fog. the weather has been steadily dropping in degrees, promising more snow than rain.
it's past noon when wei ying starts peeking out of the window more often, waiting for lan zhan to come back. not to talk to him, because, in the end, both of them came here for the same reason of solitude, and who wei ying is to deprive him of that.
but - he worries.
he cooks late lunch or early dinner, depending on when you go to bed, and keeps walking around the house and looking out of every window just to check that lan zhan is okay and made it safely home.
it's six pm, and wei ying takes his large flashlight and goes to look for him.
dinner sits heavy in his stomach as he goes to check the spring first and finds no one there, as expected. wei ying will call the services if lan zhan will not return home come morning.
he sees lan zhan's footmarks and curses himself for being so nervous for no reason.
there are no wolves here, at least, but a forest is a forest, so wei ying just keeps going and following the steps. maybe lan zhan felt sick and fainted. maybe he - found another house, other people, talked to them. maybe he got lost.
maybe he wanted to get lost.
what feels like an hour and three streaks of gray hair later, he sees movement not that far away, and stops. the trees are not yet that bare to see clearly, it can be a deer, so he calls quite loudly, "lan zhan, is that you?"
"wei ying?" lan zhan's voice comes.
there's movement, and lan zhan steps out from behind the trees, squints at the light, and covers his eyes with his palm. he has a plastic bag hanging off his wrist.
wei ying's exhale is so thorough it comes from the pit of his stomach.
"did something happen?" lan zhan asks.
yes, wei ying want to yell, i thought you died and got so fucking scared i want to puke my dinner out.
"no, just thought you got lost and went out to find you," he laughs shakily, pointing the light downwards. "got your fresh air, i see?"
the night is clear, so in theory, lan zhan could see his imprints and walk back home. was doing it, wei ying thinks, biting his dry lips to a bloody mess. he still does it, twenty years of habit be damned.
he got terrified of losing a man he doesn't even know. nice.
lan zhan walks up to him, unpertrubed. wei ying wants to shake him and cry a little. he got so fucking scared.
"yes," lan zhan says, and as he got close, he doesn't raise his voice. "i wanted to walk around."
"mn," wei ying allows, mad. "enjoyed your walk?"
lan zhan looks at him at the sparse light of early but still already dark evening. "yes."
"good," wei ying says, and starts walking back home. he hears lan zhan start following him, keeping a respectable distance from wei ying. wei ying turns off the light and sighs.
they make it home much faster, it seems. maybe because wei ying is trying to walk off the adrenaline and have something to drink, and then cry the rest of it out.
"wei ying," lan zhan calls when they can already see the houses not that far away. "wei ying, wait."
wei ying turns around, lan zhan a couple feet away. "what it is?"
he can't see lan zhan's expression that well, but lan zhan doesn't answer immediately. "i have harvested some walnuts, mushrooms, and rosehip. i got on the hill and saw smoke from your chimney and followed it."
wei ying's grip on the flashlight lessens. "so you got lost?"
"no," lan zhan says immediately. "but i walked too far away, and it got dark. i made you worry. i'm sorry."
he talks much more than when he arrived, sounds calmer. maybe he too slept some of his past life off.
wei ying smiles at him, because lan zhan deserves it. he didn't panic and walked home. he saw wei ying's smoke and used it as a beacon.
"it's fine, just don't eat the mushrooms until i see them, okay? good job with rosehip, you can make tea for - if you get a cold."
lan zhan nods very seriously at him, and wei ying laughs. his chest doesn't feel like there's a boulder on it anymore.
"alright, lan zhan, go make yourself a hot dinner and a cup of tea. i have mint if you want, and honey."
"thank you," lan zhan says quieter. "please."
so wei ying goes to fetch mint and honey, sees that donkey ate the rest of dinner and even licked the plate clean.
lan zhan is waiting for him on the porch, coat off. he has a light on the porch. wei ying is impressed.
"there you go," wei ying says. "do you need anything else?"
lan zhan shakes his head, takes the pouch with dried mint and the jar with honey. in the light, wei ying sees that lan zhan's fingers are yellow from taking the walnuts out of the shells. "thank you for looking for me."
wei ying tries to shrug. "you'd do the same, wouldn't you?"
lan zhan nods again, just as serious. wei ying wonders how old he is. he looks younger than wei ying is, but that's nothing new. with what wei ying has been through, he looks older than his - sister.
"thank you," lan zhan says again. "i will inform you next time."
wei ying grins, wide and unapologetic. yes, he feels like a park ranger, so sue him. "okay. sleep well, zhanzhan."
it slips out involuntary, and he whirls around faster than he registers lan zhan's expression. good. fine. nicely done, wei ying. pet names for strangers, huh.
wei ying washes the plate and the fork for longer than needed, really. makes tea and doesn't take any alcohol out. he goes outside and sits in the rocking chair.
he sees the light in what has to be lan zhan's kitchen go out a little later, and minutes later, in his bedroom too.
wei ying wraps a blanket around his bent knees and beckons donkey to get up, and she does, purring as soon as wei ying starts petting her. he's aware he hasn't touched another person in years, so he doubles his cat-petting efforts just to feel some comfort from it.
he gives up and cries a little, panic finally catching up with him and then receding at once. he hasn't talked so much in over five years, not with people in real life or in text. he feels ridiculous and small. he wants to be petted and made tea.
donkey butts him into the shoulder when he stops scratching her to wipe at his face, and he laughs, wet and desperate.
"sorry, my lady," he says. the tea is cold on the floor. "got scared of losing people again, didn't i?"
donkey swishes her tail over his face and hops off to catch a mouse, or whatever. wei ying finishes his tea and goes to bed, making sure the fire is not strong enough to cause harm while he sleeps but big enough for some smoke if lan zhan goes out at night and gets lost.
-- that's it for today. got far more emotional and less cottagecore-y than i planned 🤪
"yeah, you can eat them."
lan zhan inclines his head, then nods at the fruit trees wei ying has been pruning all morning. lan zhan didn't even say good morning to him, but that's fine. wei ying didn't talk for days on end, before. lan zhan didn't move here to talk.
wei ying smiles at him anyway. "wanna help?"
lan zhan nods again, and puts down the bowl with the mushrooms, already washed.
"if you want to go foraging again, i can make you a little basket," wei ying says, "and for berries in summer."
if you stay here for this long goes unspoken.
wei ying shows him which branches need chopping off, explains the width of space between them. lan zhan cuts the trees in silence while wei ying talks about how he brought the trees here and they liked the earth,
and he's had apples for two years now. easier with raspberry bushes, he says, and lan zhan glances at the bare sticks that need some love too.
lan zhan leaves just as quietly as he came, and wei ying shouts that he forgot the mushrooms.
lan zhan seems - off.
wei ying is no judge here, so he lets it slide and paints the shed, red this time. he changes the colour every year just because. it was navy, now it's red. maybe yellow next year.
there's not much to do, it's late autumn.
but wei ying has been putting off the ordeal of shovelling for long enough for it to become nearly a problem, so he gets to that, coat off and sleeves rolled above his elbows.
wei ying doesn't see lan zhan much, or at all, in the next few days.
the weather is nice and sunny, the last gentle days of the year are upon them, and he considers suggesting lan zhan and he go for a walk to show him around, no talk if lan zhan doesn't want to.
wei ying knows he's being intrusive by just thinking about that, so he goes for a walk alone mostly - donkey prefers travelling on his shoulder, and she keeps following him because cats get bored too.
it starts raining heavily at the end of the week.
wei ying is choosing which of isaak azimov's books will keep him company today when lan zhan knocks on his door.
lan zhan is, wei ying thinks carefully, is exhausted and wet.
"my roof is leaking," lan zhan announces, hair and shoulders wet.
wei ying beckons him to go inside and fetches a blanket, orders him to sit by the fire.
"which room?"
lan zhan doesn't want to sit and follows him around. "bedroom."
"you stay here, i'll do it."
lan zhan looks like an irritated cat that was bathed. he talks, at least. "no."
(pls don't mind misspelled asimov, i cannot see i'm legally blind 🤪)
"yes," wei ying refutes, throwing on his raincoat. he needs to get the ladder and, well, everything. he's not sure he's got the wood at the ready. "you stay here and make tea, i'll fix it."
lan zhan shakes the blanket off. "i will help."
there are shadows under his eyes, not horrible but still there. wei ying bites his lips and instructs him to get the toolbox ready - it's still at lan zhan's house.
it's raining hellishly, unfortunately, so wei ying can't even imagine how bad it is if lan zhan came to him.
he wants to hold his breath before he enters the house, and he doesn't know why. there are houses in the area, not many, but wei ying never explored them.
not because of the lack of curiosity but because people lived there, and he was determined not to borrow or stick his nose where he wasn't welcome, even if it's just an abandoned house.
lan zhan's house is exactly like his in terms of planning, but it does look ascetic. wei ying's looks like a modern witch lives there, with drying herbs and socks and whatnot.
lan zhan's is clean and smells of something pine-y.
wei ying guesses lan zhan brought and made all the furniture himself and did, in the end, use the screw gun to make the bed - it's new, low, with a few plastic buckets on it. they're full of water, and lan zhan empties them into the open window.
it's bad.
wei ying gets on the roof, rain slashing across his face and back. he prays he doesn't break through the broken tiles and the old wood, because that's what happened to him the first time he tried to fix his own.
lan zhan, looks out of the window. "bad?"
"nah," wei ying yells cheerfully, wiping at his face with zero effect. lan zhan, too, is getting soaked, and his cute curtains with little blue flowers on them. "a couple of hours of work."
it takes him five hours and lan zhan on the roof to be done with it.
wei ying did yell at him not to get up, because the roof might collapse, but lan zhan was stubborn enough not to care about it, perhaps content with falling down along with wei ying in case the roof breaks.
wei ying has used up all his spare tiles and wood to cover the holes where the wood has rotten, the long nails almost impossible to tap in because the wood that's fine is now hard to work with because of water.
"nice," wei ying grins, leaving puddles on lan zhan's bedroom floor. the leakage has stopped and the bed is saved. lan zhan is saved. lan zhan's puddles are just as big as wei ying's.
lan zhan looks at the ceiling that keeps dripping a little.
"mn."
"right," wei ying says, feeling extremely out of place. he doesn't look around, not really. there's a desk in the bedroom, a small chest of drawers, a mirror - all old but in a decent condition. lan zhan's slippers under the bed. "i'll go get changed. go home, i mean."
"mn."
wei ying tries not to walk to vigorously to leave less of a trace, but - well. he and lan zhan have spent the better part of the day on the roof. they will come down with something, wei ying sighs. "i'll see myself out."
against his better judgment, wei ying is not by the fire or in bed, but outside, in the rocking chair and an almost empty bottle of booze to keep him company. it's dark and it's still raining. it smells of leaves. he smells of lan zhan's house a little.
he still hasn't changed.
"wei ying?"
he startles. not severely, just enough to make lan zhan's fingers curl around whatever he's holding. it looks like a saucepan.
"i knocked," lan zhan explains, hovering by the doorway. "you didn't open."
wei ying taps his fingers on the bottle and points at the rain with his chin. "didn't hear."
lan zhan steps forward. he did change. he looks soft and warm. "i made mushroom soup."
"good boy," wei ying smiles at him genuinely. "wanna sit?"
lan zhan doesn't say anything, just turns around and goes back into the house, then comes back with two bowls of soup.
"thank you," lan zhan says. he's sat on the low bench. wei ying thinks he will get cold, so he drags the blanket onto lan zhan's knees. "mm?"
lan zhan eats half of the soup before he speaks. "for everything."
wei ying eats everything and doesn't say anything. lan zhan's cooking is delicious. he hopes a fixed roof covers the mental expenses of feeding a stranger.
wei ying offers lan zhan the rest of the booze, but lan zhan shakes his head. instead, he takes out a pack of cigarettes, offers them to wei ying.
"you smoke?" wei ying asks dumbly.
lan zhan lights one, covering the fire from the wind. "picked up when my brother went missing."
wei ying stomach twists hard, but he sobers up in moments. lan zhan doesn't look at him.
"lan zhan, i-"
"he was returned to us," lan zhan interrupts him, shaking off the ash. "half a year later. whole. alive."
wei ying bows his head.
his exhale is inaudible in the rain. "but?"
"uncle died two days later," lan zhan says simply. he lights up another cigarette. "heart."
wei ying nods into his knees. "i'm sorry."
"mn."
lan zhan is calm, but it doesn't mean anything. wei ying offers him alcohol once more.
"i don't want to sleep," lan zhan says, and wei ying understands.
he finishes the bottle off and puts it down.
"picked up knitting, too," lan zhan says randomly. he lets out the smoke, strong and without finesse. "made my hands busy, not mind."
"i moved here five years ago, give or take," wei ying says. he doesn't feel like sharing, but it's only fair.
"give or take?"
"i don't count the days." the days i've spent without family. "makes it easier sometimes."
donkey emerges from the house and leaps onto lan zhan's lap.
lan zhan pets her with a single-minded focus, and wei ying watches him. watches them. lan zhan's hands that made soup and held the tiles, not petting a half-bald old cat. his own hands, warm from the alcohol, rough from the work.
"is your house warm?"
lan zhan looks up at him. "yes."
wei ying doesn't believe him. "good."
lan zhan goes home, and donkey follows him because she smells soup on him. wei ying is a little jealous, but only because he thought she'd sleep on his chest tonight.
lan zhan doesn't leave the house in the next few days. wei ying keeps coming to his front door, fingers hovering over the handle. neither of them locks the house.
"i brought you bread," wei ying shouts. "and cherry jam." he bites his lips. "my rocking chair is at your disposal."
the morning of the first snow is crisp, sky leaden. wei ying opens the door to go to the spring, and smiles stupidly.
on his porch, there's the basket he gave lan zhan the second day. in it are his empty jars and a pair of knitted socks.
red, like the shed.
-- done for today 🙃
from the top: https://twitter.com/lanerjie/status/1355574924778332165?s=20
wei ying has never been a patient person, which mostly resulted in burnt fingertips and tongue, wrong moves in some games, typos, several jobs that he was fired at because he was too blunt with jerks at the top, harsh words with his brother - nothing he's not used to.
so fishing was something he never thought he'd enjoy. and he doesn't, generally speaking, because this hunt is idle, requires time and him watching and waiting.
wei ying thinks if it wasn't for the view and his undying love of water, he'd give up on it after the first try.
he doesn't have to fish, but he wants to. he doesn't need to sit on the bank, chewing on some grass in summer or freezing his toes off in winter, but - he likes that he can do it. learnt it. he knows the place and the fish. he has a soft spot for fishing, now.
he has a designated stump that he rolls up to the bank and sits on it, posture horrible and knees up to his chest, but it's old enough to be soft and comfortable at any time of the year.
wei ying makes a hole in the thin ice with an axe and casts the rod into the water.
donkey refused to follow him today, but he didn't ask lan zhan if he'd like to go. wei ying tries to give him space and time. he also tries to think about his first year here, ponders if he'd have liked if there was someone to help him out at that time.
to help with the roof and the vegetable patches that grew to exist only by the end of summer and produced almost nothing because it was too late and he knew nothing about it, he just wanted to get away and did so as far as was possible.
and he doesn't know the answer.
he just knows that he'll catch enough fish to offer to lan zhan. loneliness can be necessary and healing, but you need to eat. lan zhan can stay secluded for as long as he requires, wei ying will just... make it easier not to worry about a grumbling stomach.
wei ying looks up from the ice that is thin enough to crack it with an axe but not enough to walk on it and sit in the middle. it's windy, unpleasantly so, but he doesn't mind it, and shoves his hands into thick mittens. after years spent here, he minds few things, if any.
he hears lan zhan before he sees him. lan zhan's gait is weirdly heavy, like he makes a statement with each step. the snow and twigs crunch under his boots. he'd make a bad hunter, wei ying thinks.
wei ying waves at him for several seconds before lan zhan notices him.
"more exploratory walks?" wei ying beams. lan zhan looks well-rested, but it doesn't mean anything. his coat is not buttoned. he still wears jeans. wei ying abandoned his two weeks into his stay here, at best. "or you got lost?"
lan zhan nods at the rod. "are you out of food?"
wei ying's giggle comes out with little puffs of warm air. "no, just enjoying being self-sufficient."
"mn."
wei ying scooches on the stump to make room for him, patting the warm wood. "care to join?"
lan zhan shakes his head. "i am going to the city. do you need anything?"
"no," wei ying smiles. he barely goes into the city. "have fun, buy some treats for yourself. you're doing so well here, alone in the wilderness."
lan zhan tilts his head. "i'm not alone. wei ying is here."
wei ying laughs, slightly abashed. "i guess. and donkey."
"mn."
wei ying tries to look busy by probing the rod, which is the opposite of what he has to do. he clears his throat. "anyway."
"i will return," lan zhan says, like he owes this to wei ying. wei ying doesn't look at him. he can't. still, he says, "be careful."
lan zhan looms over him for a couple more seconds, then starts walking away. wei ying thinks that if it was sunny, lan zhan's shadow would make him shiver from cold.
"i brought water for you," lan zhan throws over his shoulder. "while i was at the spring."
wei ying flaps his hand ungratefully, and disturbs the rod once again. shadows can be cast differently. if lan zhan stood by his right shoulder, both of them would be warm.
but it's cold today, wei ying's joints ache. he knows it'll snow. he hopes lan zhan is careful on the road.
wei ying catches not nearly enough to save for later, because the ice'd be thick and most of the fish'd be asleep, but enough for the both of them to have for dinner, if lan zhan comes back.
wei ying is fiddling with pollinating his chillies when he hears lan zhan's car.
his hand jerks traitorously and one of the flowers falls. minus one chilli pepper, wei ying thinks. plus one lan zhan.
wei ying resists checking himself in the mirror. instead, he goes to the window just to see, not to spy, if lan zhan brought anyone along. his brother, maybe.
as soon as wei ying peeks through the curtain (yes, he left the light on the porch on for lan zhan, in case he gets scared in the dark), he sees lan zhan walking not to his house, but to wei ying's, and wei ying scrambles to hide in the kitchen like he's been there all afternoon.
lan zhan knocks, because he's polite and he thinks wei ying is busy.
"yeah?" wei ying yells. he sounds like an excited pet. he surges to water his herbs.
lan zhan opens the door and stomps his feet to get rid of snow, wei ying hears, and overwaters thyme.
"wei ying, i am home."
wei ying spills water on the shelf with herbs. "great! how was it?"
lan zhan doesn't move, doesn't go further into the house. "semi-successful. snowy. the roads are full. i saw accidents."
wei ying drops his little watering pot and curses.
the water gets on his clothes and the wooden floor, no major damage, but wei ying's hands shake so much he lifts the thing only on the third try. he sees lan zhan's hand over his, over the pot, and shouts, "don't touch me!" before lan zhan can - touch him.
lan zhan jerks his hand away as if burnt and stumbles a little, and wei ying curls on himself, protective, wheezing, scared. his whole front is wet and his eyes are shut. his chest hurts from how strong he presses his hand to his body.
lan zhan is motionless behind him.
"wei ying," lan zhan calls, and wei ying hears how scared he is. "did i hurt you?"
"no," wei ying says, voice muffled by his knees. "it's alright."
"wei ying, i'm sorry if i-"
"it's alright," wei ying says again, because lan zhan did nothing. "please, just. come over for dinner."
lan zhan waits, because wei ying scared the hell out of him. because wei ying, what, hasn't touch anyone in years? because he feels like he'd spread the curse of misfortune if he does? it's not like lan zhan needs any more. it's not like lan zhan is here to touch someone.
lan zhan stands up - he was on the floor, nice, wei ying, made your neighbour fall over - and says nothing, just leaves the house and shuts the door after himself. wei ying waits until his knees get sore and then gets up, and wipes his face from tears.
he has work to do.
he guts and cleans the fish mindlessly, shoos donkey away at least a hundred times, because if he gives her anything, she'll happily drag raw fish across the whole house, and it will stink until wei ying cleans the place five times. maybe eight.
lan zhan knocks again.
"come in!" wei ying yells. he doesn't know why lan zhan knocks every time. lan zhan steps inside, holding the bottles of something in both hands.
"you brought me treats?" wei ying grins, washing his hands and scrubbing them with lemon. lan zhan toes off his boots.
"yes."
"aw, you shouldn't have."
lan zhan doesn't say anything to that, just puts the bottles on the dinner table and dodges the mind hanging off the ceiling beam. he's taller than wei ying.
"it's nothing. how can i help?"
"make the fire outside. i want to roast the fish."
wordlessly, lan zhan goes to make a fire outside, and wei ying doesn't even question if he knows how to do that, or cares. if lan zhan fails, he'll stick the fish in the oven. he just wants to sit by the fire today.
wei ying busies himself with rice and dressing for the fish.
lan zhan didn't even put his coat on, which wei ying shouldn't fixate on, but does. he shoos donkey off once again and goes to check on lan zhan.
lan zhan's done a splendid job. wei ying whistles, and warms his hands by the fire. lan zhan adds more wood.
"how's the city?"
"loud," lan zhan says immediately, and wei ying laughs sympathetically. "didn't think i would get used to silence so quickly."
wei ying flexes his fingers. "every time i go there, i spend like, half a day in the forest once i come back. don't know how i lived there before."
"do you go there often?"
"three or four times a year."
lan zhan hums, rubbing his palms together. "i will need your guidance regarding the seeds, trees, and overall gardening regime."
"you're going to stay?" wei ying blurts, and winces.
lan zhan turns to him. he frowns, and because of the shadows cast by the fire, the frown looks deeper than it actually is. he looks older.
"how old are you, lan zhan?" wei ying asks before lan zhan says anything else.
"thirty-three. thirty-four in january."
wei ying nods. "i'm thirty-six. the best years, huh."
"depends," lan zhan says, and wei ying snickers despite himself.
"get the chairs, i'll get the fish," wei ying says, and goes back to the house to do exactly that.
"yes," lan zhan says suddenly, and wei ying tears his gaze from the crisping skin.
"what?"
"the answer to your question," lan zhan says, "is yes, i'm planning to stay."
wei ying bounces the skewer in his palm. "oh."
"i would like to learn how to fish, too."
wei ying ducks his head, because the smile on his face is uncontrollably, stupidly big. "i don't trade corporate secrets."
lan zhan lights a cigarette from the fire and takes a long draw. "i do."
wei ying bites the inside of his cheek.
"i'm sorry."
both lan zhan's hands are busy now, his movements of turning the fish over the fire with his left hand a bit clumsy. wei ying swallows hard. he hasn't talked with anyone about it, and there wasn't anyone to begin with. not his family, obviously. none of his friends. he just fled.
"when my brother and my sister got in the accident, jie suffered the most. when i tried to get her out of the smashed car, when i touched her stomach," he balks for a second, takes a breath. "she was bleeding heavily. a-cheng yelled "don't touch her" and then "don't touch me"
when i reached out to check the wound on left side. i could get her out of the car, but he was too scared that i'd make it worse than it already was. he was right."
lan zhan ashed his cigarette. "i'm sorry."
wei ying laughs. he sounds pathetic. it doesn't stop him from turning his soul inside out.
"her heart stopped twice on the operating table. then she was in a coma for a couple of months. a-cheng is fine, one scar. me, a couple scratches. i left once she was brought home."
"before my brother was kidnapped," lan zhan says, and takes out another cigarette "we had a fight."
"i was driving," wei ying says. "would you believe me if i told you that i don't even remember what a-cheng and i were yelling at each other about when that car hit us?"
lan zhan nods. "brother got married last summer. his best friend from high school. they think of adopting, moving house, and i-" lan zhan cuts himself off, staring at the fire, then bows his head.
"can't move on from his abduction," wei ying says, and lan zhan's shoulders sag.
they drop their skewers almost simultaneously, and the fish sizzles violently in the fire. wei ying darts forward and, biting his tongue, kneels in front of lan zhan. lan zhan's whole body trembles almost imperceptibly, but wei ying doesn't need to look at his face. he is crying.
"lan zhan," he calls. lan zhan winces from the sound of his voice. wei ying's knees dig hard into the frozen soil, nails into his palm. "lan zhan, he is alive, he is fine, you made it through, both of you."
wei ying takes the cigarette from between lan zhan's fingers
and throws it into the snow. he takes a breath and touches lan zhan's hand.
"wei ying, you - can't." lan zhan whispers, and tries to take his hand away, but wei ying holds it, and shudders from the feeling. both of their hands are cold despite the fire.
wei ying takes lan zhan's other hand and puts it on his waist. lan zhan's inhales so much cold air he coughs from it, and then buries his head in wei ying's shoulder, pulling him close. wei ying's own throat hurts so much he wants to sob.
"it's okay," wei ying says quietly, carding through lan zhan's hair. it's soft even in the cold, and smells of smoke and something woody. their dinner is being destroyed both in the fire and in the kitchen. "there are things we never move on from."
wei ying's own body is trying to register so much contact and fails, and he trembles in lan zhan's arms uncontrollably, his teeth almost clattering from the adrenaline. lan zhan's hands rest on the small of his back and between his shoulder blades. wei ying doesn't cry, not now.
lan zhan may be taller than him, but wei ying hasn't been chopping all this wood and carrying water and shovelling for years for nothing. he lifts lan zhan from the little chair and carries him inside the house that smells of burnt rice and fish that donkey stole.
wei ying manages to grab a bottle of something lan zhan bought for him and drag them both upstairs, lan zhan clutching the back of his neck, grip vice-like and painful. wei ying doesn't turn the light on in his bedroom, just deposits lan zhan on the bed and opens the bottle.
"no," lan zhan says, voice low from crying. "i don't want to sleep. wei ying, i can't."
"i will wake you up, i'll be here," wei ying says, and drinks himself, throat burning. he takes lan zhan's shoes off and his fish-smelling sweater, and pulls the duvet over him.
he climbs onto the bed and wraps lan zhan in the duvet, then presses lan zhan flush to himself, back to chest, and holds him until both of them stop shivering.
"the fire," lan zhan says quietly.
wei ying kisses the top of his head. "i'll deal with it later. sleep."
lan zhan doesn't move a muscle, but wei ying hears how his breath evens out at some point. his own eyes sting, and wei ying buries his face in the duvet that separates him from lan zhan's nape and squeezes his eyes shut so hard he sees white dots.
wei ying goes downstairs and puts out the fire, scoops dry snow and rubs it all over his face.
fish is just two charcoal pieces among the wood. the saucepan with rice is black, donkey is munching on something under the table with the most disgusting sound.
lan zhan's nightmares are not like wei ying's, where he wakes up from the screech of metal from the hit, from his brother's yelling, from his own screams. lan zhan makes the smallest and most devastating sounds.
wei ying cups his face and strokes his cheeks. "lan zhan."
lan zhan opens his eyes and grabs his wrists with such force wei ying almost makes a sound about it.
"good boy," wei ying smiles meekly at him. he doesn't think lan zhan can see it. "you're safe."
"it doesn't matter," lan zhan rasps.
"of course it does," wei ying says.
lan zhan exhales into his face, lets go of wei ying's wrists. wei ying keeps stroking his face carefully, how jie did it for him when he was little and couldn't sleep. runs his forefinger between lan zhan's eyebrows.
"do you want to call your brother?"
lan zhan shakes his head. "it's late."
"i'm sure he wouldn't mind."
lan zhan shakes his head again, but not so resolutely. "i will wake up his husband."
wei ying grins. "i'm sure he won't mind, either. where's your phone?"
"in my coat."
"okay," wei ying says, and slides his hands off lan zhan's sleep-warm face. lan zhan makes an indecipherable noise, and lifts his head a little, as if chasing the sensation. wei ying climbs off the bed. "is your house open?"
"wei ying."
wei ying laughs, strangled. "i know."
wei ying tries to be quick and stuffs his feet in wrong boots, one his and one lan zhan's, both left, but he pays it zero attention and runs to lan zhan's house, door open. it's fortunate they don't have bears here.
lan zhan's coat is hung neatly by the door.
wei ying pats it and takes the phone out, then rushes back, breathing out harshly in the cold night. the distance between their houses is not big, but he jogs anyway.
lan zhan is sitting in the bed, propped against the headboard.
"okay," wei ying says, "two a.m. not bad."
"he goes to sleep at ten," lan zhan says, and unlocks the phone.
"a disaster for a married life," wei ying teases.
lan zhan turns to him. "i go to bed at nine,"
wei ying smacks his arm and laughs. "okay, go on."
lan zhan takes a breath, then another one, staring at his phone, fingers hovering over the icon of his brother's number. wei ying distantly registers how similar they are. he also thinks he prefers lan zhan's unsmiling face.
wei ying presses lan zhan's finger to the screen.
lan zhan probably shoots him a look, but obediently raises the phone to his ear. wei ying waits until lan zhan's breath hitches and he says, "brother."
wei ying smiles quietly to himself.
"nothing," lan zhan says a few seconds after. "i am sorry i woke you up. i-"
wei ying gets out of the bed once again, but lan zhan grabs his hand.
"i wanted to hear you," lan zhan says. "that is all."
wei ying shakes his head - talk alone, i'll be downstairs. he can't hear what lan zhan's brother is saying, but lan zhan does let him go.
wei ying slips out of the bedroom. no matter what lan zhan thinks, wei ying is not needed there.
he slowly boils water that lan zhan brought earlier, makes tea for both of them, finds a chocolate bar that's still alright to eat, and waits for the herbs to steep a little.
the whole thing takes him about fifteen minutes. wei ying goes upstairs, milk chocolate in the pocket of his sweats. lan zhan is silent. he wonders if it's his brother still talking or lan zhan has fallen asleep.
lan zhan sits on the edge of the bed like he was about to stand up.
"better?" wei ying asks. the tea is still too hot to drink, so he puts the mugs on the bedside table. lan zhan nods, small.
"did your brother's husband tell you off for calling?"
"no," lan zhan says. he climbs back into bed. "they both were happy to hear me."
"told you," wei ying grins. none of them bothers with light here.
"mn."
"better? in the mood for some tea?"
"wei ying, i'm sorry."
wei ying props a small pillow under his back, because lan zhan took the big one. "what for?"
"i touched you. so much."
wei ying pats his hand. "when i have nightmares about it, don't you dare call my family."
lan zhan says nothing, but the silence doesn't seem heavy. wei ying talks regardless. "what else did he say?"
"mingjue-ge asked me if i needed help with the house."
wei ying hums questioningly.
"i said i have you."
wei ying makes some sort of choked sound. "did you."
"yes."
"do you."
lan zhan touches his hand, lightly, almost apologetic. "wei ying has me, too."
wei ying feeds lan zhan the whole chocolate bar, which lan zhan deems acceptable in terms of stale. says he likes sweets and drove to the city and bought mostly chocolate and some homely bits.
"you don't strike me as a nesting person," wei ying confesses. "your curtains are cute, by the way."
lan zhan is already finished with his tea. he traces his index finger over the rim of the mug. "i never had the time to be one."
"ah," wei ying offers intelligently, scratching his chin. "did you get a table cloth?"
he means it as a joke, but lan zhan says yes, and wei ying laughs at him.
lan zhan falls asleep almost mid-sentence, talking about the flowers he wants to plant in the spring.
wei ying gently pries the mug from his hands and makes lan zhan shuffle down the bed. wei ying tucks him in and then climbs out of the bed. it's too small for two people anyway, and lan zhan -
wei ying closes the door. mornings are different. mornings are hard to admit.
he lies on the sofa, limbs heavy and unruly. he is hungry and feels a little sick with it, even sicker within his own itching skin.
he hugged a person today. carried a crying man to his bed and didn't fall apart from it.
wei ying pulls his knees up to his chest and closes his eyes. the curse of misfortune has no expiration date like the chocolate bars do.
wei ying only hopes lan zhan will deem him acceptable, too.
-- did i have to write so much today? no. did i have to make it overdramatic and make wwx take care of a crying lwj? absolutely yes.
sorry for today's overload, uuh.
ten k she says..........................................................
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