Originally a twitter thread (because I was too tired to open a laptop) and thanks to a prompt from luckychan, copied over here for posterity. I hope you like.
He has not spoken since he arrived, as if even opening his mouth was exhausting. He just sat at the far end of the shop.
Soji was getting familiar with this sequence of events, but it never got easy,coming over and asking quietly,’Master Lan, what is wrong?’ Or ‘How can I help?’.
Often the response was ‘It’s nothing’ when he was better, a voiceless head-shaking or a head on the table if worse.
It was one of those worse days.
Soji searched for the nearest hand and clasped it. ‘Lan,come with me,’ he whispered.
Lan silently followed upstairs, to Soji’s living quarters. He silently sat on the bed as he was brought to it.
Soji took up the hands again,to kiss them,but Lan shook his head. He tried reaching up to kiss the forehead, but again Lan shook his head.
There was one thing he had not tried. Soji reached out to him from behind, his chest behind Lan’s back as he brought his arms around him.
‘Better?’ he asked.
Lan rested his head on the shoulder, and released some of the tightness in his frame, his way of saying yes.
And so they silently held each other for the many quiet moments, Soji not asking further, until Lan was ready to answer.
But what Lan said was, ‘Why do you keep doing this?’
Soji said, ‘I love you. You are loved. Big reason, yes?’
‘No one needs to. Love me,’ Lan said, with a sigh.
‘But you need love, bigger than you,’ Soji said, taking up a hand and kissing it, ‘For you.’
‘For me?’ Lan repeated.
‘For when you cannot bear pain or hurt or sadness anymore,’ Soji said.
‘But I don’t want to burden anyone about me…’
‘You are not being burden,’ Soji repeated, another of the many times he had already said it for him. ‘You are loved. Just accept.’
Lan chuckled weakly as he rested further into Soji. ‘Thank you.’
‘Just tired. Sorry.’
‘Tell me later?’
‘I’m just very awful at this, but thank you. And I do, um…I do love you.’
Lan stiffened. ‘See? Very awful…’
‘No, NO!’ Soji wrapped his arms tightly around him. ‘Is good. Is good. I promise.’
Lan sighed the familiar sigh of still feeling a failure.
‘Love just needs practice, is all,’ Soji told him. ‘You are loved. Alright?’
Lan squeezed the hand in reply, as he rested on him again, slowly relaxing again.
Soji told him again: ‘You are loved.’
‘Soj. You are loved, too,’ Lan said.
Soji held him close. ‘Is good.’