It was never supposed to become a tradition or anything of the kind, really. It was just Wei Ying, just the first snow, the giddy feeling of it landing on your coat and open palms, melting instantly. But it did. Now, it’s him, the first snow, and the river bank. And the stranger.
Wei Ying has taken to coming to the river to watch the snow land and stifle the city that he has made his home. His, and A-Yuan’s, who is at home now, undeniably plastered to the window of his bedroom with their cat, watching the snow in the headlights of the passing cars. It’s Sunday, the day tellingly gloomy and lead-coloured. Wei Ying’s head knew about the upcoming snow before any forecast did, which still failed. It predicted snow for tomorrow, but it’s happening today already. A-Yuan thought it was ash from the bonfires at first.
Wei Ying is restless against the fencing, the carton tray he brought along is at his knees, resting on the fencing’s platform. It’s nearing five, he can’t feel his hands and nose, but Wei Ying tells himself that he’ll come. If he doesn’t – well. Maybe next year.
He busies himself with watching the snowflakes, or rather graupel, disappear once it reaches the surface. Water to water, stark white into the welcoming darkness of the same kin. It fits the city. It fits Wei Ying. Sometimes he envies the snowflakes. Sometimes he’s the river.
Despite it being the weekend, there’s no one around, because the wind is unforgiving and slashing. The nature invites to join its slumber, and Wei Ying almost did, with A-Yuan and Ghost tucked in on both sides. But he has a plan, a wish, a need to quench. Perhaps the snow will help.
Wei Ying nervously glances at his watch – it’s ten past five, tsks, turns his head and – the stranger is here, watching the snow exactly how Wei Ying’s been for the past hour. He doesn’t fidget – he never does, according to Wei Ying’s scanty data collected over three years. Wei Ying gulps, hands clenching into fists. His palms are clammy and ice-cold, but it doesn’t matter. He won’t disturb the stranger with them, he just wants to say hi.
The man is standing two spans down, the flaps of his grey coat hitting his legs. Wei Ying draws a breath. He wills his hands to cooperate, picks up the tray, and strides up to the stranger. Wei Ying is never shy about meeting new people, approaching them. With this man, it’s different. Wei Ying doesn’t know why, and it makes him quietly unsettled. Perhaps it will end today.
The man doesn’t turn as Wei Ying comes up to his side, and Wei Ying gives himself three hysterical seconds to realise that the man is gorgeous, even just one side of his face, taller than him, and completely expressionless. Still, he looks stern. Cold, like the river.
“Hi, ” Wei Ying manages, and coughs once to clear his stupid throat. “Hi, ” he repeats, brighter. The man turns to him slightly, still expressionless, which is fine, Wei Ying can work with that.
“I, uh, see you here watching the first snow every year, three years, actually. Me too.” Wei Ying’s heart leaps into his throat as the man turns to him with his whole body. Heavens, how can someone be so beautiful. If he fails, Wei Ying can’t even fling himself into the river from embarrassment.
“I am aware, ” the man says, and Wei Ying’s brain screeches to a halt.
“Oh, ” Wei Ying blurts out, and at least his cheeks start thawing from the blush. So the man has been watching him too.
“I’m Wei Ying, not a creep. I just wanted to say hi! And, ” Wei Ying points down with his chin. “I have coffee. And tea! I didn’t know what you like. I got both.”
The man inclines his head, gaze dropping to eye the tray. Wei Ying swears his brows twitch. Is that how he frowns?
“It’s freezing today, so I thought, ” Wei Ying cuts himself off. He didn’t really think that much, he just barreled into the coffee shop and ordered. “There’s a black coffee, a green tea, fruity, also black, and a cappuccino. Deflated, but, ” he shrugs, the warming talismans flapping on the wind. “If you’d like something else, I can get it! Just say the word, it’s not that far away. I just wanted to, ” Wei Ying parrots, desperate.
The man looks up at him, then down at the tray, then at him again. Wei Ying can’t feel his fingers, but he must be maiming the carton.
“Green tea, please, ” the man says, and Wei Ying breaks into a ready grin.
“Sure! I have sugar packets, in case you need them.”
Now, Wei Ying hasn’t thought of the logistics that well, so sue him.
“Ah, can you?” he says, and the man readily takes the tray from him. He’s wearing gloves, Wei Ying feels. “Thank you! Sorry, I can’t do it one-handed, I’d just spill everything.”
Wei Ying blushes violently. He tears the talismans from two cups, snatches the green tea one out of its nest, the cappuccino for himself, and ta-das victoriously. “Sugar?"
The man shakes his head. "Thank you."
Wei Ying smiles at him. Something in him unspools. The snow helps.
Wei Ying takes the tray back, hands the cup to the stranger, and lets the warmth from his cappuccino seep into his skin. He watches the snowflakes land on the man’s coat, on his dark hair, on his nose and lashes, melting. Wei Ying looks away, aware of his indecent staring.
He puts the tray on the platform – A-Yuan will enjoy the tea – and turns to the river. The ripples are soothing, nudged by the wind. The snow is growing stronger, the day darker, his trainers slippery on the wet pavement.
They keep silent, and Wei Ying is okay with that. More than just okay, if he’s being honest.
“Your hands are cold, ” he hears amidst the whirlpool of his thoughts. He turns around.
The stranger is done with tea, it seems, and he watches Wei Ying’s blisteringly red hands. “Your hands. You are cold.”
Wei Ying shrugs. “It’s fine.”
The man inserts his cup into the tray and takes his gloves off, which –
“No, it’s fine, no need! I never carry gloves, and A-Yuan always scolds me for it, but even if I do, I always forget to wear them, or I lose them, so I never even carry gloves."
The man takes Wei Ying’s cup next.
“You can lose them, ” he says, taking Wei Ying by the wrist and shoving his hand into the glove. It’s fuzzy on the inside and treacherously warm. Wei Ying’s stomach lurches from the touch of fingers on his skin.
“Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
It’s first snow again, late this year – it’s December already. It’s Wednesday, past Lan Zhan’s bedtime, but it’s snowing, so he made amendments. Wei Ying unscrews a thermos with tea, while Lan Zhan holds out two cups. The tea steams in the cold. Wei Ying is wearing Lan Zhan’s gloves, ultimately too big for him, but he refuses to wear another pair. Any of the three pairs Lan Zhan had bought him.
“You should have worn a hat, ” Lan Zhan says, ever the worrywart. “Your hair will get wet.”
"If i get sick, you’ll kiss it away."
Lan Zhan hums his assent, and takes the thermos from Wei Ying.
The river is already hidden under a thin layer of ice, almost translucent. The snow is soft and slow, like an early morning kiss.
Lan Zhan hugs him from the back, warm, familiar. The river bank is empty, people getting warm elsewhere, on the night of the first snow.
Wei Ying is shivering in the embrace, overwhelmed and grateful. More snowflakes in the tea, on his gloved hands, on Lan Zhan’s hair.
Wei Ying watches the river. He doesn’t feel like it anymore.