I had a commission made by the incredible Caleb (picture also under the cut), that has Lan and Soji. So this is a little story to say thank you. I hope you also like.
Caleb’s ko-fi tip jar is here.
Soji was already used to Master Lan coming in quietly. He was also used to him sitting at the table farthest from the kitchen and nearest the windows. Thus, when this happened on an afternoon, he readied the coffee maker and ground a cup worth of beans. He also informed the kitchen to start a chicken sandwich.
What he was not used to was Lan just…sitting at the table, not looking outside past the window, not ordering when Rowan came over to confirm the usual order. Lan just sat there, staring at the table.
Soji peeked out again, and found this still true. He sighed.
He prepared two cups of coffee, one of straight black, one of cappuccino.
He brought both mugs with him, and walked nearer to Lan.
But Lan kept staring at the table.
Soji gently lowered the mug of coffee in front of Lan. Lan moved a bit for the mug, and placed his hands around it.
Soji sat across from Lan, with his mug of cappuccino.
Lan did not look up at him. He maintained a deep frown.
“It is alright, Lan,” he said, with a careful, gentle smile. “It is alright. No talking needed.”
Lan nodded, that he heard. He kept looking down at the mug, and the dark pure brew before him.
Soji allowed first their shoes to meet, under the table, moving his own gently beside Lan’s. Lan did not pull away.
He then kindly, slowly, allowed his leg and his knee to meet Lan’s.
Lan looked up for a moment. Soji pulled back.
But Lan looked down again, and nodded.
Soji smiled again, and touched his knee again with Lan’s.
Soji looked up, checking again if Lan was uncomfortable with their shoes and knees together. But Lan did not pull away again, remained silent as he kept his eyes on the mug.
“It is alright to be sad, Master Lan. No talking needed.”
They sat together comfortably, keeping the quiet between them. Sometimes the mug lifted to a mouth, then lowered again. Sometimes eyes looked up at each other, then lowered again.
“I’m no good. As a trainor.”
Soji looked up, making sure he heard Lan speak. “Not true, not true, Lan.”
“I was forced to give very low grades to more than half a class,” Lan explained. He did not pull away from Soji. Soji still felt the touch of the shoes and legs beneath them. “I was called in by the head of faculty. I am no good as a trainor.”
Soji sighed on his behalf. “Not true,” he repeated, “not true, that you do not teach well.”
Lan smiled, very slightly. “You’re biased.”
Soji smiled more widely. “Yes.”
Lan lowered his head again. “Parents and trainees complained. I am no good.”
“Um…Lan,” Soji reached out and held one hand. “I know you well enough. You had good reason.”
“That class, half of them did not practice for their practicals,” Lan said, and yet he told as if he was at fault. “Many were not even in my classes.”
“Not on you, my friend. Not on you.” Soji squeezed the hand he held.
“I should have done something. Earlier. Sooner. Something better.” Lan lowered his head again.
“Lan. Master Lan. You are good person. You are excellent fire programmer. You are good teacher.” Soji kept his warmth close to him. “Other teachers know this. Many trainees know. I know.”
“But I am still in trouble with the faculty.”
Soji squeezed the hand again. “I go with you. To next meeting. Or stay outside and wait. Is alright. But you are not failure. You are good. Not your fault. Not your fault.”
Lan took a deep breath, before he raised his head.
He kept his eyes on Soji’s, searching their depths. Soji felt the warmth of the hand he held, the touch of them together, under the table.
Lan kept his eyes on Soji as he said, “Thank you.”
Soji nodded, and gave him another warm smile. “Always. For you.”