Art by the lovely Ely (chat-noir-chocolat @ tumblr.com)
It starts like this:
Boy meets boy at his first MotoGP World Championship in Malaysia. Boy finds other boy familiar but can't place him. Boy teasingly offers other boy an autograph. Other boy stares at him like he has two heads and leaves. Boy finds out that other boy is some big-shot CEO that owns the very bike he rides on. Boy chases him down after the qualifying rounds, in hopes of offering a glass of wine as an apology. Boy trips. Spills red, red wine all over other boy—all down his snow-white, cost-an-arm-and-a-kidney type suit.
The look other boy gives him is murderous.
“—and then he asks, ‘Can we still be friends?’”
Wei Wuxian shoves at Jiang Cheng, who’s still laughing, undeterred. They’re in Jiang Cheng’s hotel room, stretched out side by side on the bed. On screen, Jiang Yanli is smiling, color high on her cheeks, and bouncing Jin Ling on her thigh. Jin Ling is nearly three now, but he insists on climbing onto Jiang Yanli’s lap when she has Skype chats with them, his father’s trademark glare already evident on his chubby features.
“I’m sure all will be fine once you apologize to this Lan Zhan,” Jiang Yanli says, her voice gentle as a spring breeze. Jin Ling bobs his head in a nod, cheeks puffing. “Apo-llo-giz,” he agrees.
“You don’t even know what that means, brat,” Jiang Cheng snorts. Jin Ling’s cheeks grow rounder in indignation.
“The wine was supposed to be an apology,” Wei Wuxian says, nose scrunching.
Jiang Yanli laughs, a hand covering her mouth. “Then an apology for the apology."
“Why do you care so much about this guy?” Jiang Cheng has righted himself, slinging an arm around Wei Wuxian's shoulder. “He sponsors our equipment, sure, but you don't usually care what people think.”
“Yeah, I don't know. He's…” Wei Wuxian’s sentence trails off as he recalls the way those pale eyes bore into his, the way his own knees trembled under the intensity. He's what? Magnetic? Mysterious? Hilarious when ruffled? (The word beautiful fits, oh yes, but Jiang Cheng will never let him see the end of that.)
“Enough about me,” he says instead, flicking his wrist in the air. “Where’s Jin Zixuan? Not very fatherly of him to leave all the childcare to you.”
“It’s not his fault.” Jiang Yanli frowns, thankfully taking the bait. “He’s had a few late nights, dealing with some trouble in the company.”
“Trouble is good,” Wei Wuxian says, gleefully, before he withers under her gaze, fiercely golden and keen as a knife. No one can make the guilt rise in him better than his sister—sister by adoption, really, though neither Jiang Yanli nor Jiang Cheng appreciate the use of that word.
“He's right, A-Jie,” Jiang Cheng says, with a shrug. “Trouble for the Jin Motor Group equals victory for the Lan Corp Racing Team.”
“Not that we need the help,” Wei Wuxian snorts. “Jiang Cheng and I qualified for third row in the starting grid tomorrow, while Jin Zixun’s way, way, way in the back, all thanks to his own masterful performance in the practice rounds today.”
“Masterful.” Jiang Cheng's hand slaps Wei Wuxian’s in a high-five. “Nice.”
Jiang Yanli shakes her head, a smile touching her lips. It looks as if she might have something to say about Jin Zixun—probably remind them that they're family now—but her eyes dart up and off-screen instead, widening, before flicking back down. “Listen, I’d love to chat more, but—”
“It’s late for A-Ling,” Wei Wuxian finishes for her, and she flashes him a look of gratitude. “Go, go, we’ll talk to you tomorrow.”
“Not late,” Jin Ling pipes up from Jiang Yanli’s lap. His large eyes narrow at the screen, arms folding across his chest. “Not tired.”
“Listen to your mother,” Jiang Cheng tells him, his voice hard and razor sharp. So reminiscent of his own mother that Wei Wuxian almost laughs out loud.
Jin Ling tries to glare back at Jiang Cheng, tries so hard that he practically squints, but in a battle of wills, the one with more years in this life wins by default. Sure enough, Jin Ling’s bottom lip soon begins to tremble, his eyes well with tears, and then he’s whirling around, face burying into Jiang Yanli’s blouse.
“Not tired,” he wails—his final stand—fingers curling into the soft cotton.
“There, there.” Jiang Yanli rocks him gently in her arms. “You want to spend more time with your uncles, isn’t that why you’re upset?”
“Mn,” Jin Ling says after a hiccup.
Wei Wuxian snickers behind a hand as Jiang Cheng’s face crumbles. “Way to go, Jiang Cheng, bullying your own nephew.”
“We’ll be fine,” Jiang Yanli says, her laugh warm and fond, even through the screen. “We’ll talk to you after your big win at the race. Won’t we, A-Ling?”
Jin Ling sniffles, then nods.
After waving goodbye, Wei Wuxian turns to Jiang Cheng, hopeful.
“Think Lan Zhan will be there tomorrow?”
Eyes rolling, Jiang Cheng slaps a palm to his face and shoves him off the bed.
As it turns out, Lan Zhan is there for the race.
Lan Zhan—Lan Wangji—is one half of the Twin Jades of Lan, brothers who single-handedly revived their father’s dying business and nurtured it into a multimillion-dollar corporation. They're the darlings of China, with their business sense, impossible good looks, and monthly volunteer work at local non-profit organizations.
Like his brother, Lan Xichen, Lan Wangji’s face is fair as ivory, his hair dark and well-trimmed if not for the bangs that fall over long—impossibly long—eyelashes. But unlike his brother, there’s no softness to his expression, no curve to his pink lips, and something about that impassive gaze draws Wei Wuxian to him like a moth to the flame.
But his gaze is anything but impassive today.
Dressed in a light grey suit, he traverses the length of the dining room, gliding up to Wei Wuxian with molten eyes that sear straight down to Wei Wuxian’s core. Nie Huaisang, mid-monologue about some erotic poet he had discovered in the archives of his family library, takes a step back from them.
“Lan Zhan,” Wei Wuxian greets cheerily, unfazed by the way Lan Wangji’s brow is twitching. “I was hoping to see you before the race!”
“You—” The word comes out strangled and rough, as though Lan Wangji has forgotten how to use his vocal chords in Wei Wuxian’s presence. He breathes, in and out, then raises a fist in the space between them. (For some reason, Nie Huaisang is the one who flinches.) “What is this?”
Wei Wuxian looks at his fist, then at the papers crushed under the long fingers. “Oh those?” He tilts his head, mouth tipping upward at the corners. “Those are my personal notes to you.”
“Why,” Lan Wangji says through gritted teeth.
“Because I wanted you to know how sorry I was for wrecking your suit last night.”
Lan Wangji stares at him. Then, slowly, he uncurls his fingers, tugs out a piece from the pile on his palm.
“Lan Zhan,” he reads, voice in a dry monotone. “I think you’d look pretty if you smiled.”
A second piece. “Lan Zhan. Let’s be friends.”
Another. “Lan Zhan.” He pauses, then shuddering as if he’s in mortal agony, “Hearts. Just, hearts.”
Nie Huaisang has his fan out, spread open and covering half of his face. Wei Wuxian knows the wily bastard is smiling behind that thing, eyes and ears as open as his fan for this shiny bit of gossip. But it’s mutual, this shared understanding between them. After all, Nie Huaisang—Vice-President of Nie Industrial Solutions and a business partner of Lan Corporation—did provide Wei Wuxian with Lan Wangji’s frequented spots in the VIP Village.
“So,” Wei Wuxian says, drawing his eyes wide. “Are we friends yet?”
There’s a long, drawn-out silence. Then, back ramrod straight, Lan Wangji whips around and stalks out of the dining room.
Nie Huaisang’s fan flutters. “He took your notes with him,” he says.
When Wei Wuxian heads down to the garage, Jiang Cheng is waiting for him, arms crossed and leaning against his motorcycle. Purple and white, his bike is almost as sleek as Wei Wuxian’s ride, a spot of sun on the circuit with its striking sheen of crimson red. The lettering of Lan Corporation shines an azure blue on the side of their bikes, glossy and elegant, while the bulky logo for Nie Industrial Solutions lies plastered near the headlights.
Jiang Cheng scowls at him. “Had your fun, annoying the man who has the power to take away our bikes and tires and all our equipment?”
Wei Wuxian gives a bright grin and two thumbs-up. “I’m all set."
At that, Jiang Cheng’s anger falters, and he elbows Wei Wuxian in the ribs. “Idiot,” he says, without much heat. “Now get out there and do a test run already.”
Wei Wuxian does. Laps the circuit, testing the brakes, the clutch, the maps on each turn. It’s a thrill, it's always a thrill—asphalt rushing up as he rounds a bend, knee scraping the rough surface. There’s a sense of courting death that's hard to find anywhere else, and he's glad that Jiang Cheng introduced him to the sport. (It’s also a distraction, if Wei Wuxian were honest. From skin as smooth as jade and pale eyes that shimmer with ire in the light of the dining hall.)
He takes a couple more laps than necessary, heart pounding and gut clenching, before he returns to the garage. Shares his thoughts with the crew so they can make adjustments for the race.
Jiang Cheng rolls up behind him on his bike, hand lifting to slide his visor open. “Is it just me,” he says, “Or is that Jin Zixun watching us like a hawk?”
Wei Wuxian peers past Jiang Cheng to the garage for the Jin Motor Group. At the entrance, a man stares back at him, the yellow of his racing suit stark and blinding in the sunlight. Wei Wuxian believes that Jin Zixun may have been handsome once, until his curled lip and knitted brows became a permanent fixture, twisting him into some hideous personification of arrogance and condescension.
“He’s watching us all right."
Jiang Cheng snorts. “Still sore about losing the Moto3 races. Fucking nutcase.”
Wei Wuxian agrees.
Especially when the race begins.
While Jiang Cheng chooses a high-powered start to pull away from the pack, Wei Wuxian goes steady and measured, saving his tires and fuel for the last spurt toward the end.
Enter Jin Zixun.
He rides up close on a curve—on several curves—and Wei Wuxian feels the hair on his nape stand on end inside his helmet. There’s something odd about his movements, something that fills Wei Wuxian with alarm. Jin Zixun should have shot past him by now, using the slipstream to propel himself forward. Instead, he sticks like a thorn to Wei Wuxian's side, pushes him to hug the curb on every turn. And it’s when Jin Zixun tips his bike toward Wei Wuxian on an S-curve that the pieces fall into place.
The madman is trying to knock him off the damn track.
As if sensing danger, the other racers give them a wide berth, and Jin Zixun chooses that moment to drop all pretense. Rams the side of his bike against Wei Wuxian’s, hard.
The commentators are yelling something, the crowd is screaming. Just barely three laps on his first MotoGP-class race, and Wei Wuxian already feels like he’s fighting for his life.
Not the kind of thrill he's looking for.
Teeth clenched, Wei Wuxian slams down on a colored engine map, feels the wheels of his bike drag against the tarmac just as Jin Zixun’s bike comes for his again. But it’s Jin Zixun’s fatal error, as Wei Wuxian’s bike slows and slips just inches behind, leaving Jin Zixun to swerve past him into the now-empty space. The momentum is so sudden, so unexpected, that it topples Jin Zixun off his bike, sending him and his machine into the gravel off the circuit.
Striking a different map, Wei Wuxian rips the throttle backward and tears down the track, tires screeching.
The crowd roars.
They don’t get first place, not even second or third. But the crew is ecstatic, and Jiang Cheng claps him repeatedly on the back, howling a stream of compliments and profanities in his ear. As Wei Wuxian makes his way out of the garage, lights flash and hands grab at his, pumping it up and down with vigor. He smiles and waves and basks in the attention, growing more pleased when women come up to offer their phone numbers.
Jin Zixun glowers at them from his garage, joined by a man Wei Wuxian doesn't recognize. But the cold fury in the man's stare, the way his nose turns upward when their eyes meet, tells Wei Wuxian that he's a bird of the same petty feather as Jin Zixun.
Jiang Cheng is saying something into a microphone, something about Jin Zixun deserving a harsher punishment ("Wasn’t intentional, my ass!”), when Wei Wuxian catches a glimpse of dark hair and a familiar shade of grey on the top of the bleachers.
“Lan Zhan,” he calls out. Darts through the throng of people and up the stairs to get to Lan Wangji, ignoring Jiang Cheng’s shout of his name.
Lan Wangji’s gaze is frosty. He doesn’t say a word when Wei Wuxian approaches, his eyes flicking, briefly, to the phone numbers scrawled in black ink across the back of Wei Wuxian's hand.
On the plus side, he’s not leaving, either.
“We didn’t win today,” Wei Wuxian says, feeling strangely buoyed by Lan Wangji’s decision to wait for him. “But we’ll hit a top spot in the next race.”
Lan Wangji makes a quiet noise of surprise, his expression turning considerably less glacial.
“You were fifth,” he says.
Jiang Cheng’s proud of him, the whole stadium is proud of him, but something about the way Lan Wangji says it—as though he thinks it’s an achievement worth celebrating—makes the heat rise to Wei Wuxian’s cheeks.
“Yeah,” he says, eyes dropping to the ground, hand scrubbing the back of his neck. “Yeah, I was.” He feels Lan Wangji’s gaze on him, and oh, that’s not helping him feel any less bashful. (He doesn’t even know why he’s feeling like this to begin with.)
Wei Wuxian’s head jerks up, eyes wide. He didn’t think Lan Wangji had caught his name, much less remembered it.
“Is that normal?”
Wei Wuxian blinks, slowly. “What is?”
“The…” Lan Wangji considers his next word. “…bumping.”
“Oh, that.” Wei Wuxian rubs his chin between his thumb and forefinger. “On accident, maybe. But to dog another racer on every lap, with the sole intention of running him off the track?” He clicks his tongue. “Definitely unusual.”
“He should have been black flagged—taken out of the race,” Wei Wuxian adds when Lan Wangji’s brows needle together in confusion. “But it looks like he just lost points? I'll pull ahead next time, not let him corner me on the turns like he did today.”
“You’re not angry?” Lan Wangji says, quietly.
“Over Jin Zixun?” Wei Wuxian laughs. “I’ve got more important things to worry about. Like what my sister’s cooking for our return tonight.”
The corners of Lan Wangji’s mouth tip upward, just a little.
(He would be pretty if he smiled.
Vehemently, Wei Wuxian shakes the thought out of his head. “You don’t seem to know much about MotoGP."
Lan Wangji nods. “My brother is the one who usually attends.”
“Oh, well.” Wei Wuxian grins. “Lucky me.”
Something flickers in Lan Wangji’s eyes, vanishing as quickly as it appears. He opens his mouth, closes it, then after a pause, tries again. “I wasn’t aware that racing was this dangerous.”
“You’ll get used to it,” Wei Wuxian says lightly. “I’ve broken more bones than I can count.”
Lan Wangji looks at him then, gaze soft and worried, lashes dipped low, and Wei Wuxian’s heart trips in his chest. He wants to say he’s fine, that he’ll be fine. Wants to ask if this means that Lan Wangji has forgiven him, if they can finally be—
Jiang Cheng snags an arm around his neck, yanks him in to ruffle at his hair. “Didn’t you hear me calling for you back there? I had to do all your interviews on your behalf, you jerk!”
Laughing, Wei Wuxian pushes Jiang Cheng’s hands away, shoving him off. “You always tell me to stop hogging the limelight! Besides,” he twists around, “I was talking to Lan—”
He stops, smile falling.
Lan Wangji is gone.
Jiang Cheng arches an eyebrow. “Talking to who?”
Wei Wuxian exhales, the pit of his stomach curling in disappointment.
“It’s nothing,” he says.
“Congratulations on fifth and sixth place!”
Jiang Yanli blows into a party horn, the tube uncurling and stretching with a loud blare. Jin Ling adds to the din, puffing into his horn with great enthusiasm. Even Jin Zixuan is sporting a party hat, the plastic triangle sitting lopsided on his head.
It’s nice to be home, Wei Wuxian thinks, watching as Jiang Cheng picks up Jin Ling and swings him about, squeals of laughter joining the blasts of the horn. For the longest time, he didn’t think he had a home—didn’t think he deserved one—until Jiang Fengmian found him searching for scraps in his trash cans and took him in. Now, he can’t imagine anything less than, surrounded by warmth and joy and the lingering scent of his sister’s lotus and pork rib soup.
He startles, the brush of a party hat against his hair pulling his mind to the present.
Jin Zixuan snaps the string around his chin, drops down in the seat next to him. “Never pegged you as a deep thinker,” he says, a slight smirk pulling at his lips.
Wei Wuxian adjusts the hat so it tilts a little. “Never pegged you as a thinker, period,” he counters, and Jin Zixuan huffs out a laugh.
The man’s a looker, Wei Wuxian will give him that. But there’s still some part of him, a large part of him, that’s soured and stayed that way since Jin Zixuan first called Jiang Yanli boring and uncultured. Jin Zixuan’s feelings have changed since then, of course, but the same can’t be said for Wei Wuxian’s.
“Your cousin’s off his pills, by the way,” he says pointedly, satisfied when he sees the grimace on Jin Zixuan’s face.
“We’ve all been on edge these days,” Jin Zixuan sighs. “I’ll have a word with him.”
“Just tell him to, you know, not kill me on the circuit.” Wei Wuxian brings his legs up on the seat, crossing them in a comfortable position. “So, what’s going on in that company of yours?”
For a moment, Jin Zixuan looks torn on whether to divulge his company's secrets. Then, head lowering, he caves, fingers kneading at his temples.
“Someone has been embezzling company funds. Billions, over a span of months.”
Wei Wuxian whistles, “Wow.” Someone tugs at Wei Wuxian’s pants, two quick pulls in succession. Without looking, Wei Wuxian twists around to heave Jin Ling onto his lap.
“It’s only just been discovered,” Jin Zixuan continues, while Jin Ling blows a horn in Wei Wuxian’s face, the paper tube prodding the tip of his nose. “And with our sales down thanks to our President’s latest scandal, a drained account is the last thing we need.”
“Right, uh huh." Wei Wuxian starts to dig his fingers into Jin Ling’s sides, grinning as his nephew giggles and squirms against him. “What’s the plan, then?”
“Unclear, which is part of the problem.” Jin Zixuan’s mouth tilts upward at the corners when Jin Ling reaches for him with a yelp of baba, help! He takes Jin Ling by the waist, shifts him off Wei Wuxian and onto his own lap. “But Guangyao thinks it’s best for Lan Corporation to buy over our company.”
Jin Guangyao, a new addition to the Jin side of their family. Rumor has it that his mother is a prostitute who slept with the President of the Jin Motor Group—Jin Zixuan’s own father, Jin Guangshan. Rumor also has it that Jin Guangyao used this information to make his way to the top of the company, reaching the pinnacle in less than two years. And the Jin Motor Group, as is their way, has neither confirmed nor denied the rumors.
But if Jin Guangyao is proposing a deal like that, there might be some substance to his promotions.
Wei Wuxian grins at Jin Zixuan. “Lan Zhan would take good care of you.”
Jin Zixuan’s brows lift. “I had no idea you were so close to the younger Twin Jade.”
“He just thinks he is.” Jiang Cheng swats at the back of Wei Wuxian’s head, toppling off the party hat. “Lan Wangji hates his guts.”
“Ah,” Jin Zixuan says, with a nod. “That, I believe.” Jin Ling is quick to imitate his father, his head bobbing with a big frown that might have been comical if Wei Wuxian hadn't just been insulted.
“Lan Zhan and I are best buds,” Wei Wuxian huffs.
“So the apology worked,” Jiang Yanli says, slipping her arms around Jin Zixuan.
"Sort of?" Wei Wuxian shrugs, as Jin Zixuan smiles up at Jiang Yanli as though she hung the moon and stars. "At least, he doesn't look at me like I killed his family anymore."
Jiang Cheng rolls his eyes. “You're insane. All those women, and all you can think about is Lan Wangji.”
But Lan Wangji waited for him on the bleachers, Wei Wuxian almost says. Looked at him as if he cared. Worried for Wei Wuxian’s safety, even.
(He took your notes with him.)
Shaking his head, Wei Wuxian leaps to his feet, grabs Jin Ling and swings him up into the air. “Spin, spin,” Jin Ling giggles, little arms and legs flailing about. He listens to his nephew, turning round and round to the sound of the delighted squeals above him. Ignores the knowing look Jiang Yanli shoots at him.
Maybe he is a little mad. But he’s going to keep at it, keep chipping at those walls, because Lan Wangji tugs at something inside him—something that feels like home.
Wei Wuxian finds his neighbors squatting outside the front door of his apartment.
He can’t help but smile as a small boy scrambles over to wrap his arms around Wei Wuxian’s leg in greeting. Wen Yuan is two years older than Jin Ling and far more matured, but there are times when Wei Wuxian is reminded of just how young he really is.
“What are you doing here, A-Yuan?” he says, dropping a hand on Wen Yuan’s head. “Isn’t it past your bedtime?”
“He wouldn’t sleep until he welcomed you back,” says his neighbor—Wen Ning—looking slightly sheepish. He rises up, dusting at his knees. “I heard you ran a good race today, Master Wei."
“Xian-gege is the best racer,” Wen Yuan says, voice muffled in denim.
“You bet I am,” Wei Wuxian says, chest warm. Reaching down, he lifts Wen Yuan into his arms, Wen Yuan’s own arm curving around his neck. Marvels at how much Wen Yuan has grown since the last time he was in China.
The Wen family has been kind to him since he first moved in, helping him and Jiang Cheng carry boxes over boxes from the moving truck downstairs. Even little Wen Yuan pitched in, toddling back and forth with Wei Wuxian’s toy motorcycle collection gathered against his chest. Jiang Cheng was wary of them (“They’re a little too nice"), and to this day, his glare brings Wen Yuan to tears, sends Wen Ning skittering back to their apartment next door, bowing repeatedly. Only Wen Qing meets his gaze, steadfast and even, and it’s always Jiang Cheng who breaks it, looking away with a scowl.
So far, Jiang Cheng’s doubts have remained unfounded—the Wen family continues to be kind, and Wei Wuxian’s home hasn’t been burgled, not once.
“How was Malaysia?” Wen Yuan asks. “Did you buy more toys? Did you make lots of friends? Did Angry-gege yell at you?”
“Angry-gege always yells at me,” Wei Wuxian says, laughing when Wen Yuan wrinkles his nose in disapproval. He likes all the Wens, but he has a special place in his heart for Wen Yuan. It may have something to do with the fact that Wen Yuan, too, had lost his parents at a young age. That Wen Yuan was fortunate enough to be adopted into a family full of love and heart, just like the Jiangs.
Wei Wuxian turns to catch Wen Ning gazing at him, eyes bright and fond.
“So, uh.” He clears his throat, feeling oddly embarrassed. “How’s med school going?”
Wincing, Wen Ning wrings his hands together. “N-Not great... A-Jie thinks I have a long way to go if I want to join her on the MotoGP medical team.”
“She would, with her talents,” Wei Wuxian says, reaching out to pat Wen Ning's shoulder with his free hand. “You’ll get there.”
Wen Yuan nods. “You’ll get there,” he agrees.
Wen Ning’s cheeks stain pink. “Thank you, Master Wei, A-Yuan."
“Speaking of Wen Qing.” Wei Wuxian taps Wen Yuan’s nose with a finger, grinning as Wen Yuan goes cross-eyed in response. “Does she know you’re here?”
“Qing-jie said I can sleep with you tonight,” Wen Yuan says, brightly.
“She did, did she?” Wei Wuxian chuckles. “Does she also know you watch R-rated movies when you sleep with me?”
“Nope,” Wen Yuan says.
“Good lad,” Wei Wuxian tells him, and he beams, small chest puffing in pride at his own secret-keeping abilities.
“We’d love to have you for breakfast tomorrow,” Wen Ning says as Wei Wuxian pulls out his keys, shifting Wen Yuan in his arms for a better hold.
Wei Wuxian winks. “If we can get up in time."
“Bye bye, Ning-ge,” Wen Yuan says, with a wave, when Wei Wuxian finally gets the door open. Wen Ning returns the wave, watching until the door closes behind them.
Wei Wuxian sets down Wen Yuan, who flips on the lights and beelines for the couch. He clambers on, legs first, before he turns to Wei Wuxian and waits, hands folded in his lap. (Wen Qing has taught him well.)
“Wanna hear about a new friend I made in Malaysia?” Wei Wuxian says, tossing his bags to the floor.
Wen Yuan’s face lights up. “Yeah!"
“So, there was this guy, dressed all in white…”
Wei Wuxian’s new friend shows up for all the races, even the qualifying rounds.
Wei Wuxian approaches Lan Wangji despite Jiang Cheng’s reservations, offers him snacks and drawings and paper flowers. Each time, Lan Wangji doesn’t leave; each time, he waits and looks at Wei Wuxian with that unreadable gaze.
And with their extended time together, Wei Wuxian starts to notice the little things. Like the way Lan Wangji’s mouth twitches at the stickman doodles of Jiang Cheng spewing fire, the way Lan Wangji’s face softens as his fingers caress the surface of the paper flowers.
The way he wears the exact same pocket square, no matter the suit.
It’s white, that’s as far as Wei Wuxian can tell. White, with an embroidery of what looks like gentians, peeking out from the line of the pocket.
The wine stains, Wei Wuxian notes with a pang of guilt, are still a dark, angry pink.
“Lan Wangji's pocket square?”
Nie Huaisang gives a contemplative hum. They’re seated in the lounge area of the VIP Village in Silverstone, Wei Wuxian in full racing gear, feet kicked up on the coffee table. “I don’t know, it’s not something Xichen-ge has ever mentioned. I could ask, if you’d like.”
“That’d be great,” Wei Wuxian says, running a hand through his hair. A group of girls in the corner start to titter amongst themselves. “I think there’s something to that handkerchief… it’s the same one he had on when we first met.”
“When you sloshed wine all over him?” Nie Huaisang clarifies. His eyes are wide and innocent when Wei Wuxian turns to stare at him.
The PA system crackles to life above them.
“Racers, to your places.”
“Just find out what you can,” Wei Wuxian says, punching Nie Huaisang in the arm (“Ow!”) as he rises off the couch. He waves at the girls when they wish him luck on the way out.
It’s a good race. Their last round in Phillips Island wasn’t his best—not with the rain and his miscalculation with the maps—but he aced this one. Shot past Jin Zixun, past the lead racers, bike purring with sheer joy as it tore down the track, fully unleashed. Jiang Cheng was right behind him too, the both of them rounding the corners on the last lap together, purple and red, the Lan Corp Racing Team dominating the Silverstone Circuit. With the points they’ve racked up, with two races remaining, they’re close, so close to making the podium on their first MotoGP-level championship.
And when he pulls off his helmet, his eyes seek out the light-colored suit amidst the crowd, the dark hair that falls over fair skin and a stoic gaze.
“Lan Zhan,” Wei Wuxian shouts, waving his arms in the air. “Lan Zhan, we won!”
“God,” Jiang Cheng groans as the cameras flash and the reporters buzz in curiosity. “What is he, your wife?”
But Wei Wuxian can’t bring himself to make a retort. Not when Lan Wangji returns his wave, a slight tilt of his hand.
He forgets, of course, about the tabloids.
The photographs go viral overnight. Of Wei Wuxian’s face lighting up as he runs to Lan Wangji, of Lan Wangji gazing at him, eyes soft and lashes swept down.
Social media explodes with memes, gifs, theories: Lan Wangji and Wei Wuxian are madly in love, Wei Wuxian slept his way into a sponsorship, Lan Wangji is a closet playboy with a penthouse full of Chippendale dancers.
The news is equally relentless over the next few weeks, and it doesn’t take long for Madam Yu to call, his adoptive mother's voice so sharp and harsh over the phone that Wei Wuxian is fairly sure his ears are bleeding by the end of it. Jiang Yanli calls next (“I’m so happy for you!”), then the Wens (“Are you and your new friend married now, Xian-gege?”), then Nie Huaisang (“What’s the truth, exactly, just so I'm clear?”).
And that’s when Wei Wuxian realizes, with a start, that he doesn’t have Lan Wangji’s phone number.
“That’s what you’re worried about, how Lan Wangji is doing?” Jiang Cheng flings a newspaper into Wei Wuxian’s face. “Worry about yourself! How are you going to race like this? How am I supposed to race like this?”
Wei Wuxian peels the paper off, shrugging. “It’s not like they accused you of sleeping with him.”
“I’m your teammate and brother,” Jiang Cheng scoffs, averting his gaze to a point on the far wall. “Whatever affects you affects me, too.”
“Aw, A-Cheng,” Wei Wuxian coos. “Are you worried about me?”
Jiang Cheng’s body goes into an involuntary shudder. “Get the hell out of my room.”
After a pillow to the face, Wei Wuxian leaves. It’s about time for the qualifying rounds anyway.
Silence reigns in their ride to the Valencia track, the air so thick with Jiang Cheng’s irritation that it's almost suffocating. Wei Wuxian himself is on edge; never has he wanted to see Lan Wangji as much as he does now.
He’s nothing, just a racer, but Lan Wangji is one half of the Twin Jades and the co-President of a multimillion-dollar corporation. Scandals are bad for business, if the President of Jin Motor Group is anything to go by, and Wei Wuxian would hate to be the cause of Lan Wangji’s struggles.
The second they arrive at the circuit, Wei Wuxian heads straight for the light blue suit he sees in the corner of the VIP lounge with Nie Huaisang, shrugging off Jiang Cheng’s grab for his shoulder.
The next word catches in Wei Wuxian’s throat. On closer look, the man standing with Nie Huaisang has hair that’s slicked back, eyes that are filled with natural warmth, lips that are tugged in a gentle smile.
“President Lan, Vice-President Nie,” Jiang Cheng greets.
Lan Xichen, the older half of the Twin Jades.
If he’s here, then that must mean—
Wei Wuxian’s heart sinks to his knees.
“Master Wei,” Lan Xichen says. (Even his voice is different. Strange.) “I’ve heard so much about you.”
Wei Wuxian sucks in a breath. “You have? From Lan Zhan? How is he, is he okay?”
“Wangji is just fine,” Lan Xichen says, gently. Next to him, Nie Huaisang is studying Wei Wuxian, fingers trailing down the edge of his fan. “He has a meeting to attend today, but he looks forward to watching you race tomorrow.”
“So he’s not bothered by the crazy things people are saying about us?”
Lan Xichen chuckles, a quiet huff of amusement. “Quite the opposite, actually.”
Why the opposite? What reason would Lan Wangji have to be happy about this turn of events? Unless… he really does own a penthouse filled with male strippers.
Wei Wuxian snickers at the image of an impassive Lan Wangji surrounded by half-naked men in bow ties and spandex.
Clearing his throat, Nie Huaisang taps the end of his fan on Lan Xichen’s shoulder. “Xichen-ge, if I might remind you…?”
“Ah, yes.” Lan Xichen’s pale eyes shift with mirth. “Huaisang informed me that you’d like to learn about Wangji’s pocket square.”
“Pocket square?” Jiang Cheng says, incredulous, just as Wei Wuxian nods, “I would.”
Lan Xichen's smile deepens. “Have you considered asking Wangji?”
“Well no,” Wei Wuxian says, head tilting. “I get the sense that it’s a private matter, and it doesn’t seem like he’d want to—”
“If you ask,” Lan Xichen says, “He will tell you.”
“Oh,” Wei Wuxian says. Lan Wangji’s words are few as it is; he can’t imagine the man sharing his innermost thoughts and feelings. Feels like a miracle, already, that Lan Wangji entertains his presence.
So he could ask, he could, but then there’s Nie Huaisang, who’s smiling in a way that suggests he knows more than he’s letting on.
Beating it out of his friend just feels like the easier choice.
“Anyway,” Jiang Cheng says into the silence, as if he’s forcing the word through his teeth. “I’m sorry for all the trouble my brother has caused your company, President Lan, but I’m afraid we must do our test runs if we’re to showcase the best of your motorcycles today.”
“No trouble at all, Master Jiang.” The corners of Lan Xichen’s eyes crinkle in a smile. “I wish you both the best.”
“Good luck, Wei-xiong, Jiang-xiong,” Nie Huaisang chimes in.
Jiang Cheng lectures him all the way down to the garage. The words reputation and propriety and focus are thrown in there somewhere, and all Wei Wuxian can think is, like mother, like son. He listens, barely, his mind wandering to Lan Wangji with his silken hair, Lan Wangji with his pale eyes. Lan Wangji with his smile, small and imperceptible and shown, only, to Wei Wuxian.
He looks forward to watching you race tomorrow, Lan Xichen had said.
All right, Wei Wuxian thinks as he tugs on his suit, flexes his fingers in the thick gloves. If the world thinks he slept his way into a sponsorship, then he'll give the world a race worth watching.
For his sake, and for Lan Wangji's.
In the qualifying rounds at the Circuit Ricardo Tomo, Wei Wuxian sets the best time and takes first place on the starting grid for tomorrow’s race.
Wei Wuxian recounts the race on Skype, complete with extravagant gestures and bike noises. Jin Ling is riveted, his eyes large and sparkling, leaning so forward on Jiang Yanli’s lap that he nearly bumps his nose against the screen. (Wei Wuxian makes a mental note to tell his story in this exact fashion when he facetimes with Wen Yuan later.)
“—and then, just when I think I’m about to fall, the turn is over, and I pull myself right back up, like this, then I’m blasting off, like a rocket, like—”
“So you got first place,” Jiang Cheng grumbles behind him. “Won’t mean a thing if you can’t maintain that spot tomorrow.”
“A-Cheng,” Jiang Yanli says, gentle but firm. “You also did well placing eighth.”
Jiang Cheng is silent, his bottom lip sticking out further.
Wei Wuxian turns to him, uneasy. It’s not a competition, Jiang Fengmian would always say, but it is and always was. Especially to someone like Jiang Cheng, whose pride could fill an entire river. Jiang Cheng can tolerate a few losses here and there, but after an accumulation—after a massive one like today—his ego crumbles, taken over by the bitter child who’s had to restrain his needs and wants since Wei Wuxian’s arrival.
“Why is Cheng-jiujiu angry?” Jin Ling asks.
There’s a pause, then, “I’m not angry,” Jiang Cheng says in a voice that clearly indicates otherwise.
“Remember how you cried when baba beat you five times in rock-paper-scissors?” Jiang Yanli’s fingers card through Jin Ling’s hair. “That’s how Cheng-jiujiu feels right now.”
“What am I, a child?” Jiang Cheng snaps.
“I never said that,” Jiang Yanli says serenely.
“It’s okay, jiujiu,” Jin Ling pipes up. “Jin Ling win next time. Jiujiu will too.”
Jiang Cheng opens his mouth, closes it. Scoots back further in the pillows, face bright red and twisted in a scowl.
“You’ve matured more than your uncle, A-Ling,” Wei Wuxian says, and Jin Ling giggles, making Jiang Cheng scowl even harder.
“Your performance today should put those ugly rumors to rest,” Jiang Yanli points out. “How is your Lan Zhan dealing with all this?”
‘Your’ Lan Zhan has a nice ring to it.
Wei Wuxian hopes his sister doesn’t notice the heat prickling his cheeks.
“He’s, uh, he’s fine, apparently. According to his brother, that is. He didn't seem too worried about the company when we were talking to him.”
“Of course he didn’t,” Jiang Cheng scoffs. “You can’t expect Lan Xichen to show any kind of concern, the media will eat it up."
Wei Wuxian twists around, frowning. “So you think they might actually be in trouble?”
“Maybe not,” Jiang Yanli says, pulling Wei Wuxian’s gaze back to the screen. She looks pensive, brows furrowed slightly. “A-Xuan said his company is still keen to be a part of Lan Corporation. Surely they’d rescind the deal if the company were in dire straits.”
“Or maybe they’re just that desperate,” Wei Wuxian hums. “Have they caught the embezzler yet?"
“Not yet, last I heard. It's a scramble just trying to quell the rumors and lawsuits their President continues to bring on...”
Wei Wuxian clicks his tongue. Even he can’t help but feel sorry for Jin Zixuan, whose absence from their chats suggests long, unpaid hours at the office. And to clean up his own father's mess, of all things.
“What’s ‘em-bezz-la’?” Jin Ling says, looking up at Jiang Yanli, then back at Wei Wuxian on the screen.
“A bad man who takes people’s money,” Wei Wuxian tells him.
At that, Jin Ling’s cheeks puff out big and round. “Like Jin Chan,” he says.
“Who?” says Wei Wuxian.
“Jin Chan’s the boy who picks on A-Ling at Tiny Tumble Tots,” Jiang Yanli sighs, a soft huff of air. “They got into a terrible fight the other day, didn’t you, A-Ling?”
Instantly, Jiang Cheng crawls up to the screen, while Wei Wuxian leans back, crossing his arms with a frown.
“Did you win?” they ask in unison.
“Boys,” Jiang Yanli says, a tinge of exasperation in her voice.
Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng turn to each other, eyes locking, before the tension cracks and they burst into laughter. Jiang Cheng cuffs him across the head, Wei Wuxian socks him in the shoulder, and just like that, all is well again.
It warms Wei Wuxian, the way they’d talk and laugh and jostle after a fight, the way everything is forgiven because they’re family, and that’s what families do.
And he wonders, a fleeting thought, if it’d work the same way with Lan Wangji.
It’s strange, starting first. Exhilarating, of course, to have nothing before him but blue skies and the stretch of tarmac. The view is enough to send a tremor down Wei Wuxian’s spine, make his fingers itch to turn the throttle back, far as it can go.
But he also feels the stares of his competitors, the heat of their determination burning into his back. Jin Zixun goes without saying, his rigid back practically radiating envy, but Jiang Cheng’s one of them too—Wei Wuxian sees it when he looks back to where Jiang Cheng sits on his bike, eyes narrowed fiercely behind the visor.
We’re on the same team, Wei Wuxian wants to say. Wants to, but doesn’t.
Because in Jiang Cheng’s position, he’d feel the same way.
Breathing deep, Wei Wuxian steps on the pedal, swings his other leg over the bike seat. Lan Wangji had congratulated him when they met before the race. Had shown no signs of distress, no anger, over the rumors still circulating the internet.
(“So Lan Corporation wasn’t affected?”
Lan Wangji shakes his head. “A dip in profits in the local market, but our international sales have steadily increased. If that keeps up, we can expect a substantial profit margin despite the loss."
Ah. That would explain Lan Xichen's cryptic response—Lan Wangji is pleased about his company's gains.
“Great. Great. It hasn’t been a complete disaster, then.” Wei Wuxian studies him, eyes roaming his face, hard and perfect as a jade stone, in search for the slightest muscle twitch. “And how are you doing?”
Lan Wangji’s eyes soften.
“I am fine,” he says.)
It brought Wei Wuxian relief, sent him out on the race with a light heart. His stomach churns at the thought of Lan Wangji leaving him, Wei Wuxian realizes, and he isn’t sure why.
But Lan Wangji is here, Lan Wangji is well. And Wei Wuxian sees him in the VIP box, observing the line-up with a sweeping gaze, hands folded neatly on his lap.
Right, he wanted to give the world a race worth watching. For Lan Wangji.
Wei Wuxian leans forward, lifts a hand to slide his visor down.
“Watch me, Lan Zhan,” he whispers.
The start lights go off, and the race begins.
“—look at Jiang, coming up second right up from eighth, real brilliant moves there from Jiang—”
“And we’ve got Wei still leading the charge, bit shaky there on that last turn, but what a move from Jiang, I mean, can you believe these two? First time in this class, and they’re riding those Chinese machines like monsters on the track—”
“They can’t let their guards down just yet, with Russo moving up to third now, pushing García down to fourth. Nakaguchi can’t seem to get past Abbasi, and what about Jin, Jin’s not doing so well, dropped from sixth to tenth place, he’s sluggish today, real sluggish—”
“There, right there, Jiang’s moving in for the kill again, oh that’s going to be tight, oh but Wei’s got the inside line, he’s holding, just holding it—”
“Looks like it’s Wei, still Wei, and the crowd’s going to go nuts, with number 39 still leading the way toward the line of the final lap—”
“He just never uses those brakes, that Wei, and that’s how he does it really, just speeds right through the back straight, brave thing that he is, maintaining that massive gap on every lap—”
“—but what a race from these two, what a breathtaking lap from Jiang, and there it is—he’s done it, he’s done it! Wei Wuxian wins his second MotoGP race here in Valencia, followed by Jiang coming in second, Russo third, and García fourth...”
“Look at Wei, really celebrating his win there. And is that the President of Lan Corp he’s running to? ”
“They’re close, that much is clear, they’re close. President Lan has got to be pleased, with two Lan team racers on the podium yet again, proving the power of those bikes produced by their partner, Nie Industrial.”
“Really puts those rumors to rest too, about Wei’s skills on the track. What a race, what a race… I think I’m going to need a bit of a lie-down after that race...”
They spend the night celebrating with Lan Wangji’s credit card.
Nie Huaisang excuses himself after the sixth round of drinks, claiming that his brother will have his head if he shows up hungover at the airport. But Lan Wangji stays. Sits in the corner and refuses every offer of a drink, watching as the crew sings along with Jiang Cheng’s off-key rendition of We Are the Champions in heavily accented English.
Wei Wuxian flops onto the empty seat next to Lan Wangji, presses in until they’re hip to hip. “One drink,” he says, holding up a glass of Kaoliang wine. “I won’t tell a soul.”
Lan Wangji exhales, but doesn’t shift away. “I don’t drink.”
“Fine,” Wei Wuxian huffs. He downs the contents and slams the glass on the table, cackling when Jiang Cheng starts dancing on the next table over. The silence between them is comfortable, warm.
“Lan Zhan,” he singsongs a minute later, bumping his hip against Lan Wangji’s.
“Mm,” Lan Wangji says.
“Did you watch me during the race?”
“I did,” Lan Wangji says, without hesitation, and Wei Wuxian smiles up at him. Colored lights from the disco ball dance across Lan Wangji's long eyelashes, down to his finely sculptured cheekbones. A path that Wei Wuxian itches to trace, to feel the soft skin beneath his fingertips. The wine is giving him a delightful tingling sensation too, and Wei Wuxian’s heart feels too big in his chest for all the joy he feels right now, here, with Lan Wangji by his side. So the next question passes his lips before he can catch it.
“Why do you carry that pocket square around?”
This time, there’s a pause. “Not important,” Lan Wangji murmurs.
“Seems important,” Wei Wuxian says, leaning in, hand on Lan Wangji’s knee.
“Not important,” Lan Wangji says again, his voice gone tight.
Wei Wuxian pulls back with a pout, eyes flicking down to the white edge poking out of Lan Wangji’s jacket pocket. Seems like the mystery of the pocket square isn’t as easily solved as Lan Xichen had suggested.
He should’ve beat the answer out of Nie Huaisang when he had the chance.
Reaching over, Wei Wuxian grabs a bottle, pours himself another glass of wine. Steals a glance at Lan Wangji, who’s looking at him with a faint hint of disapproval. All traces of his earlier embarrassment gone. Lan Wangji is always so proper, so perfect, with his fine-pressed suits and his refined mannerisms and his generous, chivalrous ways. For once, he’d like to see a few creases on that suit, maybe even a laugh or two slipping past those perfect pink lips.
A thought strikes him then, swift as lightning, and he leaps to his feet, swaying once before Lan Wangji steadies him with a hand on his back. It's a stroke of brilliance, something he should have thought of a long time ago. Something that might have circumvented the whole red wine fiasco.
“Come with me,” he says, fingers curling around Lan Wangji’s wrist. With just a slight lift of an eyebrow, Lan Wangji lets Wei Wuxian tug him out of the bar and down the stairs, right down to the garages by the edge of the circuit.
The crew has loaded their equipment into giant transport boxes, which now rest in a row at the front of their garage. Wei Wuxian sets about opening the boxes, peering into each of them with deliberate movements.
“What are you looking for?” Lan Wangji asks after a moment.
“This,” Wei Wuxian crows. He drags his motorcycle out of a box, along with the paddock stand attached to the rear wheels.
“Why,” Lan Wangji says, as Wei Wuxian rolls both bike and stand onto the tarmac.
Wei Wuxian gestures to his bike with a flourish.
“So we can go for a ride."
Lan Wangji’s right eye twitches. His gaze flicks from Wei Wuxian to the bike, then back to Wei Wuxian again.
“You’re drunk,” he deadpans.
“I’m tipsy,” Wei Wuxian corrects, wagging a finger. “I’ll have you know that I once went on a practice round after polishing off a bottle of sake.” He grins. “That’s when I learnt what all those air fences on the sides are for.”
Lan Wangji draws in a deep breath, lets it go in a long exhale. Then, wordlessly, he clasps the handlebars and starts to maneuver the bike off the track.
“Hey, hey, whoa!” Wei Wuxian wraps his hands over Lan Wangji’s in a tight grip. “I haven’t taken you on a ride yet!”
Lan Wangji glares at him, lips pressed together. “Wei Ying.”
“Lan Zhan,” Wei Wuxian says, eyes narrowing into the fiercest glare he can muster.
Lan Wangji huffs out another breath. “It seats one.”
“I’ll drive slow,” Wei Wuxian counters.
“It’s not safe.”
“I’ll drive really slow.”
"You cannot drive slow on this motorcycle."
“Why are you being so stubborn?”
“Why won’t you have some fun for once?”
For a moment, they stare at each other, the air crackling between them.
It's the best idea ever, Wei Wuxian thinks. He's nearly going cross-eyed from all the glaring he's doing, willing Lan Wangji to see it his way, to give in and climb on. To wrap those strong arms around Wei Wuxian's waist, heat radiating beneath the layers of extravagant fabric.
That's when Wei Wuxian realizes that Lan Wangji’s hands are beneath his, hot and smooth. That they’re standing so close, close enough for Wei Wuxian to see the way Lan Wangji’s eyelashes shadow his cheeks, the way the stadium lights play off of his cheekbones. The way his eyes glow a bright gold in the darkness.
And Lan Wangji must have realized it too, because he stiffens, breath catching, and yet—Wei Wuxian’s heart sings—and yet he’s not drawing back, not pulling away. Not leaving.
The air becomes charged with something different.
“Wei Ying,” Lan Wangji says, voice deep and rich as earth.
Wei Wuxian shivers, fingers tightening over Lan Wangji’s. Leans in, slowly, heart pounding, eyes flicking down to Lan Wangji’s lips—
“What the hell are you two doing?”
It's Jin Zixun, dressed in ripped jeans and some ridiculous branded shirt.
Hastily, they pull apart as if burned, with Wei Wuxian scrubbing at the still-warm sensation on his palms.
“What are you doing here?” he bites out.
“We are checking the loading of our equipment,” says a reedy voice. Another man joins Jin Zixun, the same man Wei Wuxian locked eyes with at the Jin Motor Group garage in Malaysia. His nose is still turned up, his eyes narrowed into slits, roving up and down Lan Wangji. “A menial task I never thought the great Lan Wangji would ever lower himself to do.”
Wei Wuxian leans up to Lan Wangji. “You know this guy?” he says in a loud whisper.
Lan Wangji nods. “Personal assistant to Director Jin Guangyao.”
“Su She,” the man hisses. “My name is Su She. And it's this haughty attitude that made me leave Lan Corporation for the Jin Motor Group, where my talents are respected.”
“As a PA?” Wei Wuxian tosses his head back in a laugh. “What are you respected for over there, serving tea to the big brass?”
Su She's face turns a blotchy red. “You—”
“Besides,” Wei Wuxian continues, “You think Lan Wangji's haughty? The man who donates to children's charities and volunteers at domestic abuse shelters on the weekends? His face looks cold, sure, but that's just his face. Which is actually pretty damn hot, if you think about it.”
“Wei Ying,” Lan Wangji says.
Funny how it changes, the way Lan Wangji says his name. From exasperated, to sweet, to… whatever that was before they were interrupted. Wei Wuxian will never get tired of hearing his name on that tongue.
Jin Zixun makes a noise that sounds like a cat regurgitating a hairball. “Forget them, Su She. Wei Wuxian loves riling people up for no reason.”
Wei Wuxian snorts. “Says the asshole who tried to kill me on our first race."
Jin Zixun shoots him one last glare before he stalks off, Su She flouncing after him.
Without a pause, Lan Wangji reaches for the bike handles again.
“Again?” Wei Wuxian whines, but he doesn’t stop Lan Wangji from rolling the bike back into the transport box this time. (His palms still tingle with Lan Wangji’s warmth.) “Don’t you trust me?”
Lan Wangji shuts the door of the box, turns his head to look at Wei Wuxian. “When you’re sober.”
Wei Wuxian perks up. Steps in closer with wide eyes and parted lips. “You mean it?”
Lan Wangji swallows, throat working just above the starched collar of his cream-colored suit—hard and firm, a stark contrast to the softness in his gaze.
“One lap,” he says, finally. “With helmets, on a two-seater bike.”
The tips of his ears have gone pink.
Wei Wuxian thinks he’s perfect, just like that.
Wei Wuxian doesn’t remember much of last night.
He might have drunk-dialed someone, maybe threw up on some random stranger on the way to his hotel room. All he knows when he opens his eyes again is that he’s somehow back in his own apartment, on his bed, with shadows and lights flitting back and forth above him.
“H-...” His throat clenches, but he forces out the rest of the question. “How’d I get here?”
“Oh, shut up.” Jiang Cheng’s voice penetrates through the haze. “The last thing my hangover needs is your stupid voice.”
“You can both shut up,” says a woman, sharp and hard.
Wei Wuxian is tugged into a sitting position, before a cold glass is pressed to his lips.
Instinctively, he obeys, parting his lips for a refreshing stream of water. It clears his mind just enough for him to recognize that the woman is Wen Qing, a volunteer doctor on the MotoGP medical team and Wen Ning’s older sister.
She takes the glass from him after he’s finished drinking, her movements gentler than her voice.
“Wei Wuxian, you’d best give President Lan a call. He carried your sorry ass all the way from the airport last night. Yours, and your brother’s,” she adds, glancing over at Jiang Cheng, who’s propped up against the wall and looking utterly miserable.
Wei Wuxian breathes, sweeps his hair out of his face. Recalls the deep blue of Lan Wangji’s eyes, the warmth of Lan Wangji’s skin. Their promise, made in the dark, for one ride together around the racetrack.
“I don’t have his number,” Wei Wuxian rasps, heart clenching.
“You do now." Wen Qing tosses over his phone, only for the device to bounce off his chest when he misses the catch. “I asked for it, so you can contact him personally.”
Wei Wuxian could have kissed her.
It takes half a ring before the click, and the familiar tenor resonates through the receiver, low and tender.
Wei Wuxian’s pulse leaps—definitely not sick of it yet.
“I’m alive,” he says. At the wall, Jiang Cheng lets out a feeble laugh.
“Good,” Lan Wangji says.
“Did I uh… did I do anything weird last night?”
“You stole bread off a room service tray, called Jin Zixuan just to hang up on him several times, then threw up on one of the guests two rooms down.”
Wei Wuxian turns over the information in his head. “So nothing out of the ordinary, then.”
A huff of air that sounds suspiciously like a laugh.
“Great. So. Um.” Wei Wuxian chews on his lower lip, fingers digging into his cellphone. His head is pounding and his teeth feel mossy, but he’s regaining his voice, and he wants to keep the conversation going, wants to hear more of Lan Wangji. “Did you get home okay?”
"Cool. How's home?"
"Anything changed since you've been back?"
“...how's your brother doing?”
God, it was like pulling teeth.
Wracking his brain, Wei Wuxian searches for something that might encourage a few more words from Lan Wangji. More than three words, at least. Racing isn't the best choice; Lan Wangji's knowledge of racing is as limited as his interest in the sport. He'd ask more about home but all his attempts so far have gotten him nothing but monosyllabic responses. So maybe a topic related to Lan Wangji's work, then. Something to do with business, Lan Wangji's business, the business he runs with Lan Xichen.
Ah, there is one thing he can ask about.
“What are your plans with the Jin Motor Group?”
Jiang Cheng raises an eyebrow at him.
“You’ve heard about the buyout,” Lan Wangji says after a moment.
“Perks of being related to one of the directors,” Wei Wuxian chirps.
Lan Wangji’s silence seems to indicate that he doesn't want to talk, not about business. It draws out long enough that Wei Wuxian is just about to change the subject when Lan Wangji speaks again.
“My brother is keen.”
Wei Wuxian lets out a breath he hadn’t realized he was holding. “Even with all the embezzlement nonsense?”
“He wants to help Jin Guangyao.” A pause. “Our partners, like President Nie, are not as keen.”
“Huaisang’s brother? Why isn’t he keen?”
“He doesn’t trust the Jins.”
“Can’t say I blame him,” Wei Wuxian hums. “What do you want to do?”
“Observe what happens,” Lan Wangji says, decisively.
“Are you still on the phone?” Wen Qing snaps. She’s crouching down with a tray, handing a bowl of steaming congee to Jiang Cheng. “Get off and rest before I make you eat the damn thing.”
“You hear that, Lan Zhan,” Wei Wuxian moans. “I’m being tortured in my own home.”
Another soft huff. “I will see you next week.”
Insane, Jiang Cheng mouths, cheeks stuffed with congee. Wei Wuxian sticks his tongue out at Jiang Cheng as he accepts his bowl from Wen Qing. Blanches as soon as he drops his gaze to find a sea of white in the bowl, bland-looking and tasteless.
“No spices?” he asks, forlornly.
Wen Qing rolls her eyes and marches out of the room, tray tucked under her arm.
The final race is in Japan, close enough to home that Jiang Yanli decides to watch the race live with Jin Ling. Their Skype is filled with excitement that night, with Jiang Yanli and Jin Ling waving self-made banners of Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng’s names in giant neon font. Jin Zixuan joins in later, cheering and laughing with them, and Wei Wuxian almost forgives him for his youthful transgressions. Almost.
Turns out, his sister isn’t the only one who has chosen to attend the final race.
Wei Wuxian laughs out loud when he finds Lan Wangji standing frozen in the middle of the VIP dining room, the figure of a small boy clinging to his left leg. The rumors of their sordid relationship are just beginning to fade, buried by yet another slew of sexual harassment lawsuits against Jin Guangshan, but this new development will surely send Lan Wangji onto the front pages of the tabloids again.
“A-Yuan,” he calls as he jogs over to them.
Instantly, like an octopus, the boy unfolds from Lan Wangji’s leg to wrap his body around Wei Wuxian’s instead. “Mama,” he cries into the thick layer of racing suit.
Lan Wangji’s expression grows flustered around the edges. “This child—”
“My neighbor’s son,” Wei Wuxian says, grinning when Lan Wangji exhales, shoulders falling in relief. “He calls everyone ‘mama’ when he’s scared.” He sinks his hand into Wen Yuan’s hair, ruffling it gently. “Isn’t that right, A-Yuan?”
“Ning-ge went to find Qing-jie,” Wen Yuan manages between sobs and hiccups. “He said to stay here, that you’d come by the dining room…”
“But I didn't, so you clung to the Rich-gege I told you about?”
“Mn,” Wen Yuan says, grip tightening around Wei Wuxian’s leg.
Lan Wangji’s brows inch upwards. “Rich-gege?”
Wei Wuxian shrugs as he pries Wen Yuan off, heaves the boy up into his arms. “He has a thing for nicknames. Jiang Cheng’s is Angry-gege and my sister’s is Kind-jiejie.” He swipes at the tear stains on Wen Yuan’s cheeks with the pad of his thumb. “Wanna go on a tour, see where your Xian-gege works?”
Wen Yuan nods, brightening.
Wei Wuxian turns to Lan Wangji. His suit is an off-white today, complimenting his hair, the dark smudge of his eyelashes. It’s not all that different from his usual wear, but something about it makes Wei Wuxian’s heart do a little flip, and he blurts out without thought, “Come with?”
Lan Wangji’s quiet “Mm” fills Wei Wuxian with warmth.
He takes Wen Yuan through the VIP Village, pointing out the lounge areas, the conference rooms, the open terrace bar. Lan Wangji matches his pace, dutifully sharing his thoughts on each venue when Wei Wuxian asks him to expand on them. They meet Nie Huaisang along the way, who looks a little too gleeful when he greets them, smile concealed behind his fan.
With the VIP area done, all that’s left is the garage.
Jiang Cheng isn’t pleased when they show up, his scowl dark enough to chase the sun away. “Today is a practice round for the qualifiers,” he growls. “You should be out there right now.”
“We’ve still got time,” Wei Wuxian says, cheerily. “A-Yuan, say hello to Angry-gege.”
Head shaking, Wen Yuan buries his face into Wei Wuxian’s neck, just as Jiang Cheng hisses, “Who are you calling Angry-gege?"
“Who else,” Wei Wuxian laughs.
“Ah, we’re all here.”
The crew part, whispering, as Jin Guangyao drifts up to them, Su She trailing behind him like a shadow. Wei Wuxian has never met the man in person, but he has seen Jin Guangyao in the media. Slender and handsome, he keeps his long hair tied in a high ponytail, his outfits casual but chic—the look of a man who’s effortlessly rich. Su She’s loud pinstripe suit, on the other hand, reeks of a desperate attempt to match the worth of his superior.
“President Lan,” Jin Guangyao says, his voice smooth as silk.
Lan Wangji nods. “Director Jin.”
Turning, he smiles at Wei Wuxian. “I am here to wish you all the best for your race, Master Wei and Master Jiang. We will, after all, become one team.”
“With Jin Zixun?” Wei Wuxian scoffs. “I’d rather not.”
Su She bristles. “Wei Wuxian! Director Jin is lowering himself for the likes of you. Show more gratitude!”
“Director Jin,” Wei Wuxian says, ignoring Su She and knowing full well the blow it would make to Su She's fragile ego. “From what I understand, the buyout is still up in the air. What makes you so sure it will happen?”
Jin Guangyao tilts his head, eyes darting to Lan Wangji. “You're well informed,” he says, smiling.
“He's nosy and disrespectful, Director Jin,” Su She spits out.
“You’re the one waltzing into our garage, unannounced,” Wei Wuxian says with a shrug.
Su She sneers, “And you’re the one whose parents left to the streets like the trash that you are.”
”Minshan,” Jin Guangyao snaps, too late.
The temperature plunges around them, and Wei Wuxian feels Lan Wangji shift, moving forward to stand before him. In seconds, Jiang Cheng closes the distance between him and Su She, one hand reaching out to jerk Su She up by the collar.
“Who are you to speak to my brother this way?” Jiang Cheng says, a little too quiet, while Su She quivers in his grasp. “You’re nothing to us. You hear me? Nothing.” He gives Su She a shake, teeth bared. “You want to know what you are, you arrogant bastard? Hm? Here’s what I think you really are.”
Wei Wuxian sees it coming, the insult brewing like a storm in a teacup. Even Wen Yuan, sensing danger, trembles in his hold. “Jiang Cheng,” he starts, but his brother’s temper has gone unfettered, the sound of his snarl rippling through the garage.
“—nothing but a secretary to the son of a whore.”
Su She’s reaction is instantaneous. He gasps and flails, chokes on his own spit in his rage and shock.
But it’s Jin Guangyao that Wei Wuxian is watching. Jin Guangyao, whose smile doesn’t falter, whose chest rises and falls in a steady breath. Who simply straightens his cuffs, and nods, once, to Lan Wangji.
“I see that this was a fruitless endeavor. Give my regards to your brother, President Lan.”
And then he’s gone, Su She jolting out of Jiang Cheng’s grip and scrambling after him.
“You’ll regret this,” Su She yells on his way out.
A long, drawn-out pause. Then the crew recovers, gradually, filling the silence with chatter as they gravitate to their assorted tasks.
Wen Yuan's fingers are curled tight into Wei Wuxian's race suit. “I don't like this place,” he says, in a soft whine. “It's scary.”
Wei Wuxian brushes Wen Yuan's cheek with a knuckle. “Only because Angry-gege lost his temper.”
“Shut up and get your damn bike on the track,” Jiang Cheng snaps, before he whirls around and stalks to his own bike.
The back of Jiang Cheng's neck burns red, and Wei Wuxian’s heart can’t help but surge at Jiang Cheng's blustery form of affection. Even driven by anger, it means so much for Jiang Cheng to throw out his principles of reputation and face for the likes of him.
The least he can do is create less trouble for his brother.
Turning to Lan Wangji, he holds Wen Yuan out toward him. “Look after A-Yuan for me?”
Lan Wangji nods, pulling Wen Yuan into his arms as if it’s the most natural thing in the world. On his part, Wen Yuan doesn’t protest, little hands sliding around Lan Wangji’s neck. Wei Wuxian smiles as he climbs onto his bike, as the crew wheels off the paddock stand behind him. Outside, it’s pouring, rain turning the tracks slick and wet. He’ll have to work the brakes right, pay close attention to traction control.
“I’m off,” he says, sliding the visor shut on his helmet.
“Drive safe,” Lan Wangji says, while Wen Yuan waves at him, eyes bright with unshed tears.
For a second, seeing Lan Wangji hold Wen Yuan in his arms, Wei Wuxian wonders—just for a second—what Lan Wangji would be like as a father. A husband. Remembers the way Lan Wangji stood between him and Su She, steady and solid and safe.
And when he pulls out of the garage, with Lan Wangji’s gaze warm on his back, his heart thumps with something more than adrenaline, something he can’t quite define.
“That fucking Jin Zixun!”
Jiang Cheng slams his helmet to the ground, water droplets flying, just as Wei Wuxian pulls up behind him in the garage.
His anger is understandable. Jin Zixun was up to his tricks again, with Jiang Cheng as his target this time. On the round, he veered toward Jiang Cheng and cornered him on a turn—once, twice, three times. He hasn’t done anything, not yet, but Wei Wuxian knows how small moves like that can put a racer on edge, spike their anxiety to dangerous heights and throw them off their game.
“I bet Su She put him up to it,” Jiang Cheng says, in a low hiss.
“Su She wasn’t the only you insulted,” Wei Wuxian points out, tugging off his helmet. He ignores Jiang Cheng’s heated glare, turns to smile at Lan Wangji as he approaches. Wen Yuan, he notes, is absent.
“Wen Ning came,” Lan Wangji says.
Short, succinct, and all Wei Wuxian needs to know.
“Mn. You set a good time,” Lan Wangji adds, softly.
Lan Wangji was watching him.
Wei Wuxian’s chest floods with warmth. “Wasn't my best,” he says, mouth tugging into a shy smile.
Jiang Cheng clears his throat, pulling Wei Wuxian’s gaze from Lan Wangji.
“What are we going to do about Jin Zixun?”
Wei Wuxian shrugs. “He’s not doing anything that could be black flagged. Either speed up and maintain a gap between the two of you, or slow down the way I did and throw him off."
“Easier said than done,” Jiang Cheng snaps.
"What other choice do we have? Stab a butter knife in Jin Zixun's eye?"
Wei Wuxian doesn't like the pause Jiang Cheng takes, as if he's actually considering the suggestion.
“I can talk to Jin Guangyao,” Lan Wangji offers.
Trust Lan Wangji to be the voice of sanity.
“Will you?” Wei Wuxian slides a hand through his hair, Lan Wangji’s eyes following the motion. “I don’t know how much good that would do. He seems... slippery. Like an eel.”
Lan Wangji lifts his chin.
"I have caught eels before," he says. "On a fishing expedition."
It's such an absurd statement, said with such a stoic expression, that Wei Wuxian bursts out laughing. And as Wei Wuxian clutches at his stomach, tears forming in his eyes, he catches a glimpse of Lan Wangji's lips tip up slightly at the corners.
Just like that, the tension evaporates.
Rolling his eyes, Jiang Cheng bends over to retrieve his helmet. “My brother's a bad influence on you, President Lan."
"Mm," Lan Wangji says. The small noise sounds almost fond.
Jin Zixun strikes in the second practice round.
On hindsight, Wei Wuxian should have known that Jin Zixun would make one last-ditch attempt at ruining their chances of winning. Whether he’s following orders or not, it’s a fact that the man has been on a losing streak since the first race in Malaysia. Wei Wuxian has kept a distance between him and Jin Zixun for that reason, sliding quickly to the outside lane the second he feels Jin Zixun’s presence beside him. But today is the qualifying rounds for the final race—the last chance to shine, to do their sponsors proud.
With the Jin Motor Group on the brink of failure, Jin Zixun has nothing to lose.
But there’s nothing that Wei Wuxian can do—absolutely nothing—when Jin Zixun reaches over to grab the brake on Jiang Cheng’s bike—one quick move, so sudden that the cameras may not have caught it.
Everything moves in slow motion then:
From Jiang Cheng’s bike tipping over, to both bike and rider careening across the lanes, right in the path of upcoming racers.
Right in the path of Wei Wuxian’s own bike.
The rain has slowed to a drizzle, but the track is smooth and slick, and Jiang Cheng’s curled figure is skidding up fast.
It's a split-second decision.
Swearing, Wei Wuxian jerks his handles to the right, bike swerving around Jiang Cheng as it flies off the track and through the gravel path. The machine shakes and vibrates in protest. Speeds straight toward the air fence at the edge of the circuit, a wall of white in Wei Wuxian’s field of vision.
In panic, his fingers pull at the brakes.
There’s a flash of sky as he’s thrown into the air. The first bounce against the hard ground inflates the airbags in his suit, the second sends him rolling into the air fence. He feels a throb of pain, just once, before he looks up to see his bike rushing up to meet him, wheels still spinning.
Something crunches, and the last thing he registers is a distant cry, breathless and full of undiluted terror.
When Wei Wuxian wakes up, the first thing he notices is that he can’t move his right hand.
The second, replacing the alarm from the first, is that Lan Wangji is dozing on the side of his bed, one hand holding his in a crushing grip.
He’s in a hospital, Wei Wuxian realizes.
And he’s not alone.
The sight of Lan Wangji sends a surge of heat through his chest, but one he welcomes more than the burn that hits when he tries to draw a breath. His fingers curl in pain, reflexively, the squeeze causing Lan Wangji to stir, long lashes fluttering as he awakens.
Lan Wangji’s eyes meet his, blinking once, before he jolts up, breath hitching.
Wei Wuxian tries to call for him, tell him not to worry, but all he can manage is the first syllable of Lan Wangji’s name. It's a pathetic little sound at the edge of his throat, and for the first time, Lan Wangji’s perfect mask shatters. Wei Wuxian feels him shake as he lifts Wei Wuxian’s hand, presses soft lips to his knuckles.
Two simple words that make Wei Wuxian’s chest burn in an entirely different way.
Heart thudding, he takes in the mess of Lan Wangji’s hair, the dark bruises beneath his eyes. His shirt is rumpled in places and his suit jacket hangs over the back of the plastic chair and oh, it’s off-white, the same color he was wearing before the crash.
By the looks of it, Lan Wangji has been here forever.
“How,” Wei Wuxian croaks, and Lan Wangji’s grip tightens. “How long?”
“Don’t talk,” Lan Wangji scolds, gently. Then, he shifts his gaze, and Wei Wuxian follows it to find a mountain of paper flowers on the bedside table, crafted in the shape that Wei Wuxian often gave to Lan Wangji. The top ones are perfect, edges sharp and finely pressed, but others have creases all across the surface—evidence of having been folded over and over and over again.
“Three days,” Lan Wangji tells him.
Wei Wuxian stares at the flowers, barely registering the last response. “You did this?” he asks after a moment. “For me?”
Lan Wangji’s brows pinch together—what did I just say about talking, his frown all but screams—but then he sighs, and nods.
“Mn,” he says.
Three days of waiting and folding, never leaving his side.
Right there, Wei Wuxian wants to reach out, wants to pull Lan Wangji in and hold him and tell him—tell him… what, exactly?
He hasn’t put a name to this feeling, to the way Lan Wangji pulls him in, makes his cheeks color and his heart perform calisthenics in his chest. It has only grown stronger since their first meeting. Lan Wangji’s soft gaze and softer call of his name lights an ember that he wants to carry with him, something warm to cradle against his heart and call his own.
He must be making a strange face; Lan Wangji lets out a soft huff of air, the closest to a chuckle from him.
“What is it?”
Flushing, Wei Wuxian shakes his head as much as he can. “Nothing.” He swallows past the scratch in his throat. “I… I just…”
Lan Wangji leans in, lashes sweeping down, pale eyes shimmering, and Wei Wuxian’s breath ceases.
God, he’s beautiful.
Wei Wuxian chokes down his words and turns his head to the doorway.
Jiang Cheng is there, his arm wrapped in a sling, the other connected to an IV drip on a stand. He’s heaving, eyes wild, and there’s a nurse behind him, talking to him in soothing tones, coaxing him to return to his room. But he pays her no heed. Wheels his stand into the room instead, voice rising as he storms toward the bed.
“You bastard, you asshole, you fucking idiot—”
For a second, all Wei Wuxian can see is Lan Wangji's back as Lan Wangji shifts to hide him from Jiang Cheng's view.
Right before Jiang Cheng bursts into tears.
There’s a long pause, the room filled with his harsh sobs.
“Nice to see you too,” Wei Wuxian manages as the nurse, head shaking, comes in to check on his vitals.
“I thought you were dead!” Jiang Cheng swipes furiously at his eyes with one hand. “No one would tell me anything when I woke up. All I saw were doctors and nurses running down the hallways, yelling your name and some stupid code…”
Wei Wuxian frowns. “What code?”
Lan Wangji squeezes his hand. “Your heart stopped,” he says, through pain, like it hurts him just to think about it.
Wei Wuxian’s eyes go wide. “It—It did?”
“For 20 minutes after you arrived at the hospital.”
No wonder Jiang Cheng is acting the way he is; no wonder Lan Wangji has kept an iron grip on his hand, as if he’d fade away the second Lan Wangji lets go.
Wei Wuxian breathes. He can’t imagine being in their place. Having to hear that Jiang Cheng has stopped breathing, that Lan Wangji is gone from this world—his heart lurches.
No, he can’t. Can't think about it, can't stomach it, can't live through it.
And yet, they had. For him.
Wei Wuxian's chest aches.
“Oh, Master Jiang is here too…”
As one, they look up to find Wen Ning stepping into the room, hesitant. He’s wearing blue scrubs with a stethoscope draped around his neck, looking every inch a professional if it weren’t for the terrified look on his face. The nurse gives him a quick update before she leaves, looking relieved.
“A-Jie can’t leave the circuit, so she’s left me in charge,” Wen Ning says, taking a wide berth around Jiang Cheng as he makes his way to the bed. “How are you feeling, Master Wei?”
“Been better,” Wei Wuxian says, as brightly as he can.
Wen Ning smiles, some of the tension flowing from his face. “I, I’ll bet. A-Jie left strict instructions to keep you under surveillance here for at least a week or two.”
He then proceeds to elaborate on why 'a week or two' was recommended.
“Messed up” is the way Wei Wuxian would have described his current state, but Wen Ning is kind. He uses words like “extensive” and “significant,” pausing at each juncture to gauge Wei Wuxian's reaction, before moving on to the next broken piece in his body.
The entire time, Lan Wangji’s thumb strokes circles on the back of his hand, gentle and soothing. Wei Wuxian zeroes in on the sensation, lets it ground him and the panic that threatens to rise inside him. From the way Wen Ning is talking, it feels like he'll never have use of his limbs again, never mind…
Wei Wuxian cuts off the thought, jaw clenched.
“Any questions?” Wen Ning tacks on at the end.
“Just... just one.” Wei Wuxian’s throat bobs. “Can I… you know, after everything? Can I…”
Lan Wangji glances at him, grip tightening on his hand. Then, softly, as Wei Wuxian flounders for the words, Lan Wangji asks it for him.
“Can he ride again?”
Heart warm, Wei Wuxian shoots Lan Wangji a look of gratitude.
Wen Ning pauses for what feels like an eternity, before he nods. “With good care and rehabilitation, it's not impossible.”
The confidence is in his voice is a balm on Wei Wuxian's fears.
Seeing the relief on Wei Wuxian’s face, Wen Ning squares his shoulders and turns to Jiang Cheng. “Master Jiang, you should be resting, too.”
Jiang Cheng scowls at him, his bloodshot eyes making Wen Ning take a step back. But his voice is quiet, devoid of anger. “If you’re here, who’s looking after that kid of yours?”
The realization hits Wei Wuxian like a ton of bricks.
He had forgotten about Wen Yuan.
He jerks up, half-rising, before pain crackles through his chest and Lan Wangji’s right there, gently folding him back down. “A-Yuan,” he gasps. “Did he—”
Wen Ning swallows, then nods.
“He was in shock, for a while. Especially when your bike—” Wen Ning stops, his fingers curling around the length of his stethoscope, knuckles gone white. “A-Anyway. He’s with A-Jie now.”
“He’s not the only kid you’ve traumatized,” Jiang Cheng snaps. “Jin Ling saw the whole thing, too.”
Wen Yuan and Jin Ling. And if Jin Ling had seen it, then that means Jiang Yanli—...
Wei Wuxian wants to sink into the earth and never come back out.
Scoffing, Jiang Cheng rolls his IV stand to the bed. “Just had to be the big damn hero, didn’t you?”
Up close, Wei Wuxian sees that all the crying has clouded the veins in Jiang Cheng's eyes into a frightening, crimson red. His stomach roils even harder.
“I…” He draws in a wavering breath. “I never meant for…”
“Not your fault,” Lan Wangji cuts in, his glare icy enough that Jiang Cheng shifts his to the floor, looking almost chastised.
“No it’s not.” There's far less tremor in Wen Ning's voice when he utters his next words. “It’s Jin Zixun’s.”
At the name, expressions turn dark, Lan Wangji’s hand quivering with barely controlled fury over Wei Wuxian’s. It calms when Wei Wuxian offers Lan Wangji a soft look of it’s all right, I’m all right.
“Bastard deserves more than just a disqualification,” Jiang Cheng bites out.
Wei Wuxian rolls his eyes. It’s no surprise that Jin Zixun got away with such a light punishment; the organizers are ever so cautious for some reason. He should have let Jiang Cheng loose with a butter knife. “Did he act alone?” he asks.
“Jin Guangyao claims ignorance,” Lan Wangji says. “Insists that Jin Zixun was acting on his own accord, just as he did in the first race.”
Jiang Cheng snorts. “And you believe him?”
Lan Wangji meets Wei Wuxian's gaze, eyes hard as steel.
He has spoken to his brother, Lan Wangji says. Highlighted the sudden visit, the ugliness that went on in the garage before the qualifying rounds. That it made no sense for Jin Zixun to self-destruct in that manner, desperate as he may have been. And Lan Xichen has agreed, albeit reluctantly, to investigate Jin Guangyao's motives.
Jiang Cheng chimes in, then, tossing out ideas and accusations, suggesting that they include Jin Zixuan in the investigation. Wei Wuxian is only half-listening; he starts to drift off, exhausted from having his emotions on a rollercoaster the second he woke up. Their voices are lulling, Lan Wangji’s grip on his hand warm and tight. As sleep enveloped him, he feels fingers on the curve of his cheek, soft lips against the rise of his wrist.
“Rest,” someone murmurs. “I will be here.”
Wei Wuxian dreams of sunlit meadows filled with blue sky, butterflies, and swaying gentians.
Jiang Yanli and Jin Ling are the first to arrive.
Jin Ling is a blur, arms flung around Wei Wuxian in seconds, tear-stained cheeks colliding into his chest at full speed. Jiang Yanli remains more composed, though her lips tremble, her hands shake, when she reaches out to push the hair back from the bandage on his forehead.
Wei Wuxian is prepared for this. His hands stroke Jin Ling’s back as he tells Jiang Yanli that he’s fine, he’ll soon be back on his feet.
But he isn't ready for Wen Yuan to shoot through the doorway and leap forward, joining in the hug and bawling his little eyes out.
“Popular with the kids, I see,” Wen Qing says, wryly. She’s still in her white doctor’s coat, hands shoved in the pockets as she strides into the room.
Lan Wangji treads in shortly after, having gone home to shower and change after a long phone conversation with his brother. After Wei Wuxian tells him to go home, teasing him for smelling a little.
(“He hasn’t left the hospital for days,” Lan Xichen says to Wei Wuxian over the phone, his voice strained in a way that is rarely heard from the Twin Jade. “Please. He’ll listen to you.”)
Lan Wangji was only gone for an hour, tops, but Wei Wuxian feels his heart surge with warmth at the sight of him returning, so naturally, to his side.
There’s a round of introductions among the adults, with Jiang Yanli’s face lighting up when she shakes hands with Lan Wangji.
“You’re the ‘perfect Lan Zhan’ that A-Xian keeps talking about.”
Lan Wangji’s eyes snap to Wei Wuxian, the tips of his ears turning a visible, bright red.
Adorable, Wei Wuxian thinks. Lan Wangji is adorable.
Jin Ling rears up without warning and slaps his palms onto Wei Wuxian’s cheeks, his own cheeks puffing out as he fixes Wei Wuxian with his fiercest glare.
“No more racing,” he says, like a command from an army general.
Wen Yuan’s head bobs up and down. “No more racing,” he agrees, fingers clinging to the thin layer of Wei Wuxian's hospital wear.
Wen Qing chuckles. “From the mouth of babes.”
It's so sudden that Wei Wuxian can only stare into the wide, innocent eyes, guilt churning in his stomach. He knows where this is coming from, understands the shock of seeing a loved one crash and roll and bounce off the ground like a limp doll. So he’s at a loss, unsure of how to explain to a pair of scared kids that this is his passion, his livelihood, and he can’t imagine doing anything else other than.
Even if it might kill him.
“He enjoys it,” Lan Wangji says.
Surprised, Wei Wuxian turns to find Lan Wangji gazing at him, a slight frown between his eyebrows.
“Racing is a ridiculous, dangerous sport. I have never understood it. I will never understand it. But...” He breathes deep, as if bracing himself for the madness of his next line. “...Wei Ying enjoys it.”
Wei Wuxian’s chest goes hot and tight.
There’s so much left unspoken—of Lan Wangji’s wish for him to stop, of Lan Wangji’s thoughtfulness and decision to support him no matter what—but Wei Wuxian hears it, and so do the women, judging by the looks they exchange with each other.
The unnamed feeling returns, so hard and fast that it takes all of Wei Wuxian not to leap off the bed and fling his arms around Lan Wangji. Hold him tight and never let go.
Wen Yuan's brows furrow. “I enjoy running but Qing-jie tells me not to run a lot.”
“That’s different.” Wen Qing’s lips tilt up at one corner. “I won’t stop you from running if you make a career out of it.”
“But Xian-jiujiu ’s bike tried to kill him,” Jin Ling says, forehead creasing, eyes turning watery. “And Cheng-jiujiu broke his arm.”
Jiang Yanli sits on the edge of the bed, runs her fingers through Jin Ling’s hair. “What Uncle Lan is trying to say is, sometimes, we have to let our loved ones do what they enjoy because it makes them happy. Aren’t you happy when your uncles are happy?”
Sniffling, Jin Ling considers the question. “Mn,” he concedes after a moment.
“Then it’s only right to let them race, because racing makes them happy.”
Jin Ling’s chin drops to his chest, large gobs of tears rolling down his cheeks. “Mn,” he says again.
Wen Yuan glances at Jin Ling, concern in his eyes. “I know how you feel! I don’t like it, either. But…” He turns back to Wei Wuxian with a trembling smile. “But I’m happy when Xian-gege is happy too.”
Grinning, Wei Wuxian gathers the boys in another embrace. Mouths a thank you to Lan Wangji, whose lips curve, ever so slightly. A thank you for helping him out of this fix, for being here by his side. For letting him be him.
There’s so much he has to thank Lan Wangji for, and he doesn’t know where to start and how.
“Now then,” Wen Qing says, dropping down to sit on the other side of the bed. “As warm and fuzzy as this is, I’m also here to discuss your post-discharge plans. You can’t live alone with those injuries, not for a while.”
Wen Yuan beams. “Qing-jie, we can—”
“No,” Wen Qing cuts in, and Wen Yuan wilts, huddling against Wei Wuxian’s side. “I’m barely home, A-Ning has med school to worry about, and A-Yuan’s too young to even care for himself.”
Jiang Yanli lifts a hand. “Oh, I’m more than happy to…” She pauses, eyes flicking to Lan Wangji, before she turns a beatific smile on Wei Wuxian. “But now that I think about it, A-Xuan might be having some extended relatives over to visit.”
Wei Wuxian arches an eyebrow. “What extended relatives? The Mos? They all live in the same area as—”
“I wonder if I could trouble you to care for my brother, President Lan?” Jiang Yanli says, sweetly.
“I will take him home,” Lan Wangji says.
Wei Wuxian’s heart thrills.
Lan Wangji’s home is a penthouse suite in a towering thirty-storey building. The chauffeur—the chauffeur—stops right at the front entrance, where Lan Wangji slides out of the backseat first, before he reaches over for Wei Wuxian.
“Wait, what are you—”
Wei Wuxian lets out a yelp as he’s hoisted out of the car, warm hands sliding under his knees and around his back. The chauffeur doesn’t bat an eyelid when Lan Wangji goes on to princess-carry Wei Wuxian through the automatic doors. Dutifully, the man follows after them, stoic and silent, Wei Wuxian’s bags in hand.
The lady at the front desk definitely puts a hand to her mouth, though.
“Lan Zhan,” Wei Wuxian hisses, mortified. “I have the wheelchair for a reason!”
When Lan Wangji doesn’t respond, he squirms about in an attempt to get Lan Wangji to give up and let him down. It only succeeds in Lan Wangji tightening his hold.
“Stop moving,” Lan Wangji says, like a teacher berating a six-year-old.
With a sigh, Wei Wuxian obeys, head falling to Lan Wangji’s shoulder as they glide into the elevator.
(He'd be lying if he said he wasn't enjoying any part of this.)
It’s huge, the suite. Huge and ridiculous, with the carpeted floors, paintings, modern furniture, and floor-to-ceiling windows that offer a stunning view of the city skyline and the green park below.
And Wei Wuxian is afraid to touch anything, especially the couch that Lan Wangji settles him on.
The whole thing is a mad shade of white that Wei Wuxian would have soiled within minutes. Even the cushions are a deep blue dirt-will-never-come-off-me satin. He keeps his hands on his knees, watches as Lan Wangji thanks the chauffeur for his help with the bags.
“How can you live like this?” Wei Wuxian huffs in mock-anger when Lan Wangji takes a seat next to him. “You’re going to have food stains all over this thing by the time I’m done with it.”
It’s cloudy outside, cool, grey light streaming through the windows. But Lan Wangji’s eyes shift with warmth as he looks down at Wei Wuxian.
“I don’t mind,” he says.
The unknown feeling returns, tenfold, and Wei Wuxian swallows.
Maybe, just maybe, by living with Lan Wangji, he’ll figure out just what this is.
Silently, he thanks his sister for her meddling.
For the next few weeks, Wei Wuxian is pampered beyond belief.
Lan Wangji cooks for him, bathes him, changes his bandages, cleans up after him—all of it done efficiently, gently, and without complaint. He’s a good listener too, nodding as Wei Wuxian fills the air with chatter, giving a quiet “Mm” every so often to Wei Wuxian’s words.
The more Lan Wangji listens, the more Wei Wuxian talks. About his childhood, his adoptive parents, the first fight he had with Jiang Cheng, broken up by Jiang Yanli tossing a pail of water over their heads. In turn, Lan Wangji shares too, bits and pieces of his past, of a little Lan Wangji who followed his mother around and did all he could to please his father. Who looked up to his brother with eyes and heart full of admiration.
At night, they share the same bed—big enough to fit four—and Wei Wuxian has to restrain the urge to reach across the sheets. Touch his fingers, his mouth, to Lan Wangji’s parted, pink lips. Instead, he settles for gazing at the box of paper flowers next to the bedside table—a combination of his and Lan Wangji's efforts.
He’s attracted to Lan Wangji; who wouldn’t be? Yet, attraction isn’t enough to explain the emptiness Wei Wuxian feels when Lan Wangji leaves to run errands, the joy that surges when Lan Wangji prepares his favorite spicy dishes. The way his chest aches when Lan Wangji looks at him, eyes soft, mouth tipping upward at the corners.
Wei Wuxian has never felt this way with anyone else. What started out as an eagerness to gain an intriguing new friend has morphed into something else.
Even now, Wei Wuxian watches as Lan Wangji bends down to test the water in the tub. His back is a sight in a plain shirt, but it’s the loose sweatpants that catches Wei Wuxian’s eye as it pulls over the muscle there, accentuating the sweet curves.
Forget suits, Lan Wangji should wear his home clothes all day.
He tells Lan Wangji as much when Lan Wangji comes to him, hands reaching down to pull at the hem of his shirt. Obediently, he raises his arms, catching the slight twitch in Lan Wangji’s mouth as the shirt comes off.
“Inappropriate,” Lan Wangji says.
Wei Wuxian assumes he’s referring to the idea of wearing home clothes to work, because those long fingers make fast work of the drawstring on Wei Wuxian’s sweatpants, drawing them over his ass and down his legs without pause. He’s not wearing underwear; they’d agreed early on that the additional layer is nothing but a hindrance to bathtime and assorted undressings. Still, there’s enough decency left in Wei Wuxian to feel a hint of embarrassment as Lan Wangji helps him to the tub, palm burning into the small of his very bare back.
The water is perfect—it always is. Wei Wuxian sighs, sinking in while Lan Wangji watches, eyes inspecting for open wounds. With Lan Wangji’s care, his bones have finally mended and settled, the abrasions on his skin long healed into scabs. In fact, he could probably manage on his own by this point, really.
“Close your eyes,” Lan Wangji says, scooping water into a bath ladle.
Wei Wuxian obeys, leaning forward to give Lan Wangji better access. His head is doused, a gentle stream of water that’s just enough to wet his hair, before he feels the familiar sensation of hands sinking in, massaging shampoo into his scalp.
“Lan Zhan,” he hums after a while, looking up at Lan Wangji through his lashes.
“Don’t you want to go back to work?” The hands pause for a second, before resuming their ministrations. “It’s been weeks since—”
Wei Wuxian closes his eyes as water sloshes over his head, fingers carding through his hair. “As I was saying,” he continues, “It’s been weeks since you started caring for me, and I thought you might—”
“Do you want me to go back?”
Wei Wuxian’s gaze snaps up. Lan Wangji has pulled back to look at him, face impassive, one hand still clutching the ladle.
“Well…” Wei Wuxian falters under the intense stare. His own eyes flick to the ladle, as though expecting it to come down on his head. “I just thought, surely, your brother would want you back at work…?”
“He doesn’t,” Lan Wangji says, far too quietly. “Do you?”
Wei Wuxian swallows. Despite sitting stark naked in a tub for the last ten minutes, he feels more exposed than ever. Does he want Lan Wangji to go back to work? He knows he doesn’t need Lan Wangji’s care 24-7. Not anymore. He also knows that Lan Wangji returning to work would mean less time together. Might even lead to him moving back to his own apartment, with the Wens coming by to check on him every few hours.
The thought alone makes Wei Wuxian’s heart wrench. Not the Wens checking on him, but of him living in his own. Away from Lan Wangji.
“No,” he mumbles. “No, I don’t.”
A smile flickers across Lan Wangji’s face and vanishes as quickly as it appeared—full and warm and bright. It’s enough to catch Wei Wuxian off-guard, send heat rising to his cheeks.
“Lan Zhan. Did you just—”
Lan Wangji is already reaching for the loofah.
The rest of the bath settles into comfortable silence as Lan Wangji scrubs soap into Wei Wuxian’s skin, a touch that melts all tension in Wei Wuxian’s body. Lulled by the hot water and Lan Wangji’s hands, he’s half-asleep when Lan Wangji lifts him out of the tub and carries him to the bedroom, cocooned in a towel.
Honestly, Wei Wuxian thinks, after Lan Wangji sets him down on the sheets and starts to dry him off with the towel.
He never wants this to end.
Wei Wuxian’s mind is so preoccupied with Lan Wangji that the rest of the world just melts away.
He has had visitors, of course. From his siblings to the Wens and Nie Huaisang, all of whom looked around Lan Wangji’s penthouse with wide-eyed awe. Even his parents dropped by, Jiang Fengmian’s face lined with worry, Madam Yu looking as if she swallowed a lemon when Lan Wangji insisted on blowing a spoonful of soup for him.
But as far as Wei Wuxian is concerned, nothing exists past Lan Wangji and their domestic life, not even the disaster that is the Jin Motor Group.
Until the arrival of Jin Guangyao.
Thank you for coming on this ride with me, friends. <3
Wei Wuxian wakes with an arm slung over his waist and warm breath against the back of his neck. His sleep-fogged brain prevents him, for a moment, to realize what is happening, right before it hits him like a runaway train.
Lan Wangji is holding him in bed.
Cuddling him, even.
Wei Wuxian goes rigid, breath held, as if the mere act of inhaling would wake up Lan Wangji. It’s not like they haven’t touched before. There has been endless touching, in fact, with bathtime and wound cleaning and all the princess-carrying around the apartment. Wei Wuxian might have even dozed off with his head pillowed on Lan Wangji’s thigh a few times.
But having Lan Wangji curled around him, in their shared room, on their bed—that’s new. A new touch. A new and exhilarating kind of touch. Lan Wangji has always kept to his side of the impossibly giant bed, face up and sleeping on his back, very careful not to encroach on Wei Wuxian’s space.
Now, warm and snug against Lan Wangji’s chest, Wei Wuxian wonders why they haven't done this sooner.
He starts to relax, fingers lightly tracing up Lan Wangji’s arm. Marvels at how soft his arm feels, how the muscles shift beneath the smooth skin. It’s freakishly hot the way Lan Wangji can lift him as though he weighs no more than a feather. Carry him up and down stairs without breaking a sweat.
(“You do realize walking is a necessary part of physical rehabilitation,” Wen Qing says, brows raised, when Lan Wangji carries Wei Wuxian into her office.)
Lan Wangji lets out a small huff, pressing his face into the back of Wei Wuxian’s neck.
Wei Wuxian freezes. Just when he thinks it’s over, the arm around his waist tightens too, pulling him closer.
“Wei Ying,” Lan Wangji sighs, and Wei Wuxian’s pulse leaps.
It's his name that spilled past Lan Wangji's lips. His, and no one else's. Something about that thought makes Wei Wuxian's chest clench, that same unnamed feeling trickle down his ribs, one by one.
Heart hammering, he draws in a breath. “Lan Zh—”
The intercom buzzes, loud and piercing.
“President Lan, you have a visitor.”
Wei Wuxian claps a hand over his mouth as Lan Wangji stirs. Pulls back his arm and shifts away, leaving a space of cold air between them on the mattress. (Wei Wuxian’s chest twinges, again, with something that feels like disappointment.)
The intercom buzzes again.
“Mn,” Lan Wangji grunts behind Wei Wuxian, his voice rough from sleep. “Who is it?”
“Director Jin Guangyao from the Jin Motor Group.”
The temperature in the room plunges several degrees. Slowly, Lan Wangji sits up, eyes narrowed at the intercom as if he were glaring at Jin Guangyao through the machine. His hair, somehow, falls perfectly across his forehead. “Tell him he is not welcome—”
“President Lan will see him,” Wei Wuxian interjects.
Lan Wangji’s eyes dart to him, widening.
“Very good, Master Wei.”
“Are you sure?” Lan Wangji asks, quietly, after the intercom shuts off with a click .
Wei Wuxian shrugs as he rolls up into a sitting position. “He’s here. Might as well see what he has to say.”
Lan Wangji makes a pensive noise. “Stay close.”
What, like Jin Guangyao is going to stab him with a hidden dagger?
But Lan Wangji is looking at him expectantly, and Wei Wuxian feels obliged to nod.
“I won’t leave your side,” he says.
The creases between Lan Wangji’s brows ease at once. As he slips out of bed, movements graceful, Wei Wuxian chooses not to bring up the spooning.
A one-time occurence, that's all it was.
Jin Guangyao is smiling, his hands in the pockets of a trim leather jacket. Shoes off, he steps into the living room and glances about, taking in the light-colored furniture, the large windows, the paintings on the walls. There’s no surprise in his gaze, no awe, and it’s clear that he has seen and lived in spaces similar to the penthouse. Extravagant, luxurious, decadent spaces.
“How are you, Master Wei?” he asks, voice soft.
Wei Wuxian offers a smile in return, Lan Wangji radiating tension by his side. “Healing, no thanks to your cousin.” He gestures at the couch. “Please, have a seat.”
Jin Guangyao holds up a palm. “No need. I am only here to express my sincerest apologies for Zixun’s reckless actions.” A pause. “And to let you know that he is no longer a member of our racing team.”
“You fired him?” Wei Wuxian’s brows shoot upwards. “But he’s your only racer.”
“There will be others.” Jin Guangyao flashes white teeth. “In addition to you and Master Jiang.”
The implication sinks into the silence that follows.
“Lan Corporation has not agreed to a buyout,” Lan Wangji says, with a frown.
“Not yet, President Lan,” Jin Guangyao says, lips curling. “Not with Xichen-ge’s rather odd insistence on looking through the books a second time.” His head tilts to the side. “Almost as if he suspects foul play.”
Wei Wuxian feels Lan Wangji stiffen, though the porcelain face betrays none of his agitation. “My brother likes to err on the side of caution.”
“Oh?” Jin Guangyao’s smile turns sharp. “He has never felt the need to do that with me.”
“In personal matters, perhaps,” Lan Wangji replies, smoothly.
Jin Guangyao studies Lan Wangji for a moment. Then, gaze shifting, he tips his head toward Wei Wuxian. “Seeing that you’re well, Master Wei, I shan’t overstay my welcome. Thank you for having me, President Lan.”
Lan Wangji nods. “Director Jin.”
Arms crossed, Wei Wuxian stares at the front door long after it closes behind Jin Guangyao. It’s a simple, courteous visit. But Wei Wuxian can’t shake off the feeling that they were being tested within the brief interaction. Probed for answers that Jin Guangyao was hoping to find.
From everything Lan Wangji shared, Lan Xichen is probably the last person Jin Guangyao expects to turn on him. So, for that same man to dig into the Jin Motor Group’s accounts, Jin Guangyao must believe that someone has poisoned Lan Xichen’s mind, made Lan Xichen doubt his motives. And who better to do that than the other half of the Twin Jades?
Good thing Lan Wangji has the world’s best poker face.
“Sounds like your brother hasn’t had much luck,” Wei Wuxian muses.
“He hasn’t found anything,” Lan Wangji agrees.
And yet, Jin Guangyao felt the need to drop by. Revealed his anxieties, maybe even some desperation. That means they’re close, so close, to unraveling the threads of whatever intricate web Jin Guangyao is spinning behind the scenes.
Maybe Lan Xichen, with his soft spot for Jin Guangyao, is not the best option here.
Maybe a person who’s on the inside but doesn’t care as much for Jin Guangyao might be more willing to poke around. Pry a little more. Especially if that person is directly affected by the struggles of the Jin Motor Group.
“Fancy a visit with my brother-in-law?”
It’s a Saturday, and for once, Jin Zixuan is home.
Wei Wuxian grins when the man himself opens the door to Jin Ling’s delighted cry of Xian-jiujiu! He slips past Jin Zixuan, hobbles to the living room on his crutches like some sort of wounded three-legged animal. On the way, Jin Ling’s chubby hands reach up to clutch at Wei Wuxian’s pants, moving slow and careful as if he’s guiding Wei Wuxian onto the couch.
Wordless, Lan Wangji glides in and drops down next to Wei Wuxian.
“This is a nice surprise,” Jin Zixuan says, smiling as he sinks into the armchair across from the couch. “But A-Li is out with Jiang Cheng right now, looking for—”
“We’re here to see you,” Wei Wuxian says. Beside him, Jin Ling is holding onto one of his crutches, gaze fixed on it with rapt fascination.
Jin Zixuan arches an eyebrow. “Me? Why?”
“Because Jin Guangyao’s up to something, and you’re the man to figure out what he’s planning.”
Jin Zixuan’s eyes flick to Lan Wangji. “Last I heard, President Lan Xichen is on the case.”
“He’s compromised. You, on the other hand—” Wei Wuxian stops mid-sentence, barely dodging the end of his crutch as Jin Ling swings it around. Lan Wangji pins a hard stare on Jin Ling, who shrinks, trembling, into Wei Wuxian’s side. “A-Ling, could you play with that somewhere else? Before you knock the brains out of your Xian-jiujiu?”
“You can play right next to us,” Jin Zixuan suggests, pointing to a spot near the couch.
Jin Ling nods, the length of the crutch clutched against his tiny chest. “Can Jin Ling have the other stick?” he ventures.
Wei Wuxian laughs and hands him the other crutch. “Go nuts.”
As Jin Ling slides to the floor, dragging the crutches down with him, Wei Wuxian turns back to find Jin Zixuan gazing at him, lips pressed together.
“So,” Jin Zixuan says. “You want me prying into my half-brother’s affairs.”
“Yep.” Wei Wuxian shrugs. “Don’t you have questions? Like why he’s so keen on the buyout?”
“Given what’s happening with the company, we’d all be grateful to have—”
Wei Wuxian flicks his wrist. “Yes, yes, you’re failing, you’re hemorrhaging money, we get all that.” He leans forward, eyes glinting. “Who manages the money in Jin Motor Group?”
Jin Zixuan frowns. “Our accounting department, of course.”
“And it was an accountant who reported the missing funds?”
“How did Jin Guangyao find out?”
“I’d imagine an accountant told him.”
“What is he, Director of Finance?”
“No, Public Relations.”
“Then why would an accountant report an embezzlement to him?”
There’s a pause in the rapid-fire dialogue, with Jin Zixuan’s mouth opening, then closing, and then opening again, hesitant.
“It… it might have been a late night and no one else was around…”
Mouth curved, Wei Wuxian flops back against the couch.
“See, here’s the problem. President Lan Xichen is checking the numbers. But no one’s checking the people involved. Who’s this accountant who managed to discover the missing funds? Why’d they choose to tell a Director completely unrelated to their own department? Did they tell anyone else? Does this supposed accountant even exist?”
Another pause. Then Jin Zixuan exhales, head shaking. “Fine. I can’t deny that the circumstances around the embezzlement are highly suspicious. But what would any of this have to do with Guangyao’s enthusiasm for the buyout?”
“They are connected,” Lan Wangji points out.
“Exactly.” Wei Wuxian tilts his head to give Lan Wangji a soft smile. “No embezzlement, no missing funds. No missing funds, no bankruptcy. No bankruptcy, no buyout. So,” he draws a curved line in the air with his forefinger, “It all goes back in one lovely circle to my very first question: why is Jin Guangyao so keen on a buyout?”
Silence falls again, with Jin Zixuan’s brows needling together in a fierce glare. On the floor, Jin Ling glances at each of them in turn, wondering why the adults are no longer speaking.
This might be hard for Jin Zixuan, Wei Wuxian realizes, then. Harder than he thought it would be. After all, Jin Guangyao is still family.
But it's Jin Zixuan who breaks the silence first. “I will speak with the accounting department,” he says, quietly. “Though I'd need a reason for why the head of Research and Development is approaching them.”
Wei Wuxian grins, relieved. “Just say something about salaries. Someone's getting paid late. Their bonuses weren't included. Then slip in a casual, 'So this embezzlement business, huh? Must be stressful'."
Jin Zixuan clicks his tongue. "You're far too adept at this."
“Baba,” Jin Ling calls out. “Can Jin Ling have walk-sticks, too?”
“No,” Jin Zixuan says, ignoring Jin Ling’s pout.
“Aww.” Wei Wuxian reaches out, ruffles Jin Ling’s hair. “He can have mine after I’m done with them.”
“There are crutches for children,” Lan Wangji supplies.
Wei Wuxian holds back a laugh as Jin Zixuan's face twists in horror at the thought.
On their next visit, Wen Qing certifies Wei Wuxian physically able to live on his own.
The announcement is so unexpected, so sudden, that it makes panic cling to Wei Wuxian's throat. Makes his legs shake, restless, on the car ride back to Lan Wangji’s penthouse.
Weeks ago, naked and vulnerable in a tub, he asked Lan Wangji not to return to work, made it clear that he wanted Lan Wangji to stay with him. But that was when he was under doctor’s orders to receive constant care. When he needed Lan Wangji by his side.
Now, he has no reason to stay.
Lan Wangji has no reason to stay.
And he still hasn’t put a name to that strange feeling that won't go away.
Sighing, Wei Wuxian glances out the window, seconds before he does a double-take. “This isn’t the route ho—back to your place,” he amends hastily.
Lan Wangji doesn’t appear to notice his slip. “We are going to a Nie Industrial Solutions factory.”
“Oh,” Wei Wuxian says. He searches Lan Wangji’s face for a sign, something that might provide an explanation for the detour. Finding none, he turns back to the scenery outside, fingers drumming on his knees. There must be a business meeting that Lan Wangji had neglected to tell him. One of the Nie brothers will probably escort them to a conference room with a big round table lined with dark leather chairs, and he'd have to tolerate some boring business talk for god knows how long.
Irritation gnaws at Wei Wuxian's gut. Weeks of living together, of intimate conversations and physical touches, and this is how it all ends—Lan Wangji returning to his old life like it never happened.
Maybe this was all just an act of obligation, Wei Wuxian thinks, hands curling into fists on his knees. Just something Lan Wangji had to do to make sure his racer returned to top form.
But no one shows up to receive them at the entrance.
Instead, they traverse the factory grounds relatively ignored, save for a few polite greetings directed toward Lan Wangji.
Wei Wuxian sneaks a peek at Lan Wangji, who’s keeping pace with him despite his painfully slow gait.
They soon arrive at what looks like a showroom, the spotlights turned toward a single platform in the middle of the large space. Something big sits on the platform, its body covered by a black cloth. Stepping up to the object, Lan Wangji rests a hand on the cloth, his face gone warm and soft.
“Close your eyes,” he says.
Instantly, any lingering trace of anger dissipates within Wei Wuxian.
It’s a surprise.
Lan Wangji prepared a surprise for him.
Wei Wuxian isn’t sure why his heart is racing, but it is, and his weak knees have already started to tremble. Swallowing, he does as Lan Wangji says.
A rustle of fabric, before he feels Lan Wangji’s fingers on his elbow, gently guiding him forward. Step by step, the warmth of Lan Wangji’s touch slips through the layer of his jacket sleeve, sends heat to his cheeks. Then, slowly, Lan Wangji moves Wei Wuxian’s arm, presses his palm against something cold and smooth. Hard.
Something that feels like metal.
Wei Wuxian’s eyes snap open.
It's a brand-new MotoGP-class motorcycle, the fresh paint a bright sheen of red in the lights. But what holds Wei Wuxian's gaze is the second seat on the back of the bike, the footholds affixed to the top of the back wheels.
A two-seater, as promised—despite Lan Wangji’s distaste for racing, despite watching Wei Wuxian crash and die for twenty minutes on the hospital bed.
Wei Ying enjoys it, Lan Wangji once said.
Wei Wuxian feels his heart swell to three times its size.
“It's not fit for the tracks yet,” Lan Wangji says. “But since you have recovered enough to return to your apartment, I thought it was time—”
“I don’t want to go back,” Wei Wuxian blurts out.
Lan Wangji pauses.
“I want to stay.” Like a broken dam, the words flood past Wei Wuxian’s lips, unrestrained. “I’ve grown used to living with you, and I also like living with you, so I... I want to stay. Until you get really, really sick of me and kick me out on the curb. But, you know. Until then.”
For a moment, Lan Wangji doesn’t respond.
Then, he smiles, face lighting up for the briefest of moments.
“Stay,” he says, softly. “As long as you want.”
The odd feeling pushes Wei Wuxian to throw his arms around Lan Wangji’s neck, crutches falling to the ground with a clatter. Lan Wangji is firm against him, hands spreading against the small of his back to keep him steady, safe. The way he always feels when he's with Lan Wangji.
The next day, the Wens help Wei Wuxian to move the rest of his belongings into the penthouse, with Wei Wuxian promising to visit Wen Yuan and Wen Ning every weekend. (Wen Qing looks decidedly smug about the whole affair.)
“Are you happy?”
Jiang Yanli’s smile is knowing. They’re on the bleachers of the Shanghai stadium, where Jiang Cheng is testing his repaired bike on the track. On the row below, Jin Ling and Wen Yuan are engaged in conversation, heads pressed together, bouts of giggles drifting in the air every few minutes.
Wei Wuxian shrugs. “Wish I was fit enough to ride with Jiang Cheng, but otherwise... yeah.” He thinks of Lan Wangji, of the worry in those pale eyes and his incessant fussing before he finally lets Wei Wuxian step out the front door with Jiang Yanli. A smile tugs at his lips. “I’m happy.”
“You look very happy,” Wen Ning points out. He’s seated on Wei Wuxian’s other side, watching over Wen Yuan with a warm gaze.
Jiang Yanli leans back, directing her smile at Wen Ning. “I think he’s a little unhappy that Lan Zhan isn’t here.”
“I think so, too,” Wen Ning says, smiling right back.
“Hello?” Wei Wuxian huffs between them. “I’m right here?”
After his move, the Wens and the Jiangs started to hang out more often, arranging playdates for the boys and meeting at each other’s homes for steamboat dinners. Wei Wuxian is pleased to see his two families get along, but he has a nagging suspicion that his relationship with Lan Wangji is all they ever talk about.
“Have you gone steady yet?” Jiang Yanli asks.
Wei Wuxian’s head whips around so fast, his neck cracks with the motion. “What?”
“I don’t think they’re dating,” Wen Ning says, with a contemplative expression.
“How can they not be dating? They’re practically living together.”
“Again,” Wei Wuxian says, slowly. “I’m right here. And what does our living together have anything to do with dating?”
Jiang Yanli stares at him, wide-eyed. “A-Xian…”
“Are you…” She puts a hand to her mouth. “...actually thicker than my A-Xuan?”
Wei Wuxian blinks. Next to him, Wen Ning lets out a small noise that sounds like a snort. What exactly is he being thick about? He and Lan Wangji are living together because they enjoy each other’s company. That, and it’s Lan Wangji, with his warm eyes and his soft smile reserved just for Wei Wuxian. Lan Wangji with his scent of sandalwood from the incense that he burns every night, a smell that follows him everywhere.
Well all right, Wei Wuxian concedes. He might be a tiny bit puzzled about that unnamed feeling bubbling up inside his chest.
But other than that.
“Hey,” Jiang Cheng yells from the track. “Is anyone watching me up there?”
“No,” Jin Ling hollers, before he and Wen Yuan dissolve into laughter.
Someone’s phone drowns out Jiang Cheng’s swearing.
Jiang Yanli tugs out her cellphone and smiles at the scrolling text on the screen. “Speak of the devil,” she giggles, sliding the call button to one side. “Hello? A-Xuan?”
Wei Wuxian chortles as Jiang Cheng engages the children in an argument that is clearly beneath his maturity level. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
He's swinging his leg over a plastic seat, just about to join in the fun ("Qing-jie'll wash your mouth out with soap!" "You think I'm afraid of a girl?!" "Qing-jie'll beat you for calling her a girl!"), when Jiang Yanli taps his shoulder. “He has something important to tell you,” she says, handing him the phone.
"That I’ve got thicker brains than he does?” Wei Wuxian says, still grinning as he presses the phone to his ear.
His face hardens as soon as Jin Zixuan’s voice cuts through the receiver.
“We got him.”
Jiang Cheng declines to join the meeting, snorting that there's no point if he doesn't get the satisfaction of watching the bastard's face contort in front of him. (A-Cheng, Jiang Yanli says, sharply, her hands on Jin Ling's ears.) "Tell me all about it at dinner," he calls out.
The Lan Corporation tower is so tall that Wei Wuxian’s ears pop repeatedly on the elevator up. Lan Wangji is waiting for him in his office, rising to his feet the instant Wei Wuxian walks through the heavy doors. It makes Wei Wuxian smile, the way Lan Wangji treats him like a revered guest, in and outside their home.
“They’re coming,” Lan Wangji informs him, just as Jin Zixuan enters with a grim expression.
Lan Xichen arrives soon after Jin Zixuan. He’s still smiling as he greets Lan Wangji, but Wei Wuxian sees how his smile is sad and tight around the edges. How it flickers, imperceptibly, when Jin Zixuan dives straight into the crux of the matter, impatient as ever.
“Guangyao was the embezzler.”
Carefully, Wei Wuxian schools his face into a neutral expression. “How’d you find out?” he asks.
“The accountant does exist,” Jin Zixuan says, voice hard. “But it's one that was working for Guangyao, creating multiple payments that the department had written off as human error. That we all wrote off as human error. Poor fool was promised a share of the funds, so the last thing he expected was for Guangyao to blow the whistle. Practically cracked and confessed everything after we cornered him. After that, all it took was to trace the flow of funds to fake accounts that belong to relatives of Su She.”
Wei Wuxian holds back a snort; naturally, Su She is involved. “What was he planning to do with the money?”
“Divide it between him and Su She,” Lan Xichen says. “But his main motive was to force the Jin Motor Group to near bankruptcy so the Lan Corporation will buy the company, where he can then join the board of directors and, ultimately, strip Jin Guangshan of his title.”
“So he did all of that, endangering people's jobs and livelihoods, just to get back at his lecherous dad?” Wei Wuxian says, incredulous.
Lan Xichen’s face turns more pinched. “Unfortunately, yes.”
“The Jin Motor Group has filed a lawsuit against him,” Jin Zixuan says. “Him and Su She.”
“And Jin Zixun?” Lan Wangji asks, eyes narrowed.
Jin Zixuan sighs, a heavy exhale. “That was Su She, all of it. Guangyao isn’t foolish enough to show his hand with such a bold move.”
“Wonder why he came down to the garage, then.” Wei Wuxian leans back against the couch, kicks his legs up on the coffee table. “He might have gotten away with all this, if he hadn’t shown his face there with Su She.”
Lan Xichen frowns. “From what i understand, Huaisang was the one who had suggested it.”
Of course, Wei Wuxian thinks. Nie Huaisang, the information hub of the MotoGP VIP Village, who brought him and Lan Wangji closer together, who fanned his fascination of Lan Wangji from the very start. Who sent Jin Guangyao down to the Lan Corp Racing garage, knowing fully well that the lethal combination of Jiang Cheng and Su She’s temper would be witnessed by one half of the Twin Jades, maybe even push Jin Guangyao or Su She to extremes.
Wei Wuxian makes a mental note to give his wily friend a call. (“I don’t know,” Nie Huaisang says later, his calm voice failing to convey the confusion in his words. “I don’t a thing about this.")
Their guests don’t stay for long after that, Jin Zixuan dropping a hand on Wei Wuxian’s shoulder as he leaves (“A-Li hopes you’ll see the light soon” ), Lan Xichen stopping to exchange a few words with Lan Wangji by the door.
Wei Wuxian doesn’t understand the cryptic message from his sister, but it does make a thought pop into Wei Wuxian’s head—one that he had put on the backburner for too long. He waits until the brothers are finished with their conversation, before he calls out to Lan Xichen.
“It’s a secret,” he tells Lan Wangji, hands on his back, shoving him in the direction of his desk on the other side of the office.
Lan Wangji sends a dark stare over his shoulder, but moves away from the door nonetheless.
Wei Wuxian turns back to Lan Xichen, who tilts his head, gaze sharp.
“How can I help you, Master Wei?”
“It’s about the pocket square,” Wei Wuxian says, seeing no reason to beat about the bush. “I tried asking Lan Zhan, but he wouldn’t tell me.”
“I see.” Lan Xichen looks over to Lan Wangji, who’s making a great show of flipping through a stack of papers. “One thing you should know, Master Wei, is that we were raised by our uncle. Our parents died when we were young, and Wangji… Wangji was most distressed by our mother’s death. It angered him, the way she liked to tease him, folding him all manners of paper flowers and putting them in his hair. But he refused to leave her bedside when she fell ill. Wouldn’t leave for days after she succumbed. So you can imagine how much she meant to him.”
Wei Wuxian nods. No wonder Lan Wangji reacted the way he did to his paper gifts, why Lan Wangji took to filling his bedside table with flowers in the hospital.
“Now, Wangji’s pocket square...” Lan Xichen touches his lapel, fingers pressing on a golden brooch of a gentian at the corner. “...and this brooch.”
He pauses, locks eyes with Wei Wuxian.
“They were gifts from our mother.”
Wei Wuxian’s stomach twists with guilt. If he had a keepsake from his parents, any keepsake, he would have wanted nothing to do with the fool who was careless enough to wreck it. Much less a parent who meant the world the way Lan Wangji’s mother did to Lan Wangji.
He glances at Lan Wangji. After such a heinous mistake, why on earth would Lan Wangji forgive him? Especially with the wine-stained pocket square in his suit pocket, a constant reminder of Wei Wuxian’s crime.
“One more thing,” Lan Xichen says, tugging him out of his thoughts. “I had recommended a service that would help Wangji with the more persistent stains on his pocket square. Offered, even, to collect it for him when it's ready. But he refused.”
Wei Wuxian blinks. “Why?”
This time, Lan Xichen’s smile turns uncharacteristically wry.
“Think, Master Wei. What reason would Wangji have to keep blood-red stains on his most precious treasure?”
Wei Wuxian stares at Lan Xichen. “Because he… because he wants the reminder. Because the stains remind him of… wine. Of… of the time we met…? Of…”
Wei Wuxian sucks in a breath.
Something clicks, like a jigsaw piece slotting into place.
God, Jiang Yanli’s right. He’s actually thicker than Jin Zixuan.
Wei Wuxian whirls around to run to Lan Wangji. Tackles him so hard that Lan Wangji’s back hits the wall, Wei Wuxian’s arms around his waist. The door closes, signalling Lan Xichen’s quiet departure.
“Dangerous,” Lan Wangji chides, hands skating over him in concern.
Wei Wuxian leans, instinctively, into the touch. “Lan Zhan,” he murmurs, voice low and trembling. Bursting with need to pour his heart open. “Lan Zhan, Lan Wangji, Lan Er-Gege .”
Lan Wangji looks up at him, eyes gone paler, ears pink. “What are you—”
“I want you.”
Lan Wangji freezes.
“I want you,” Wei Wuxian says again. “Want you, love you, am attracted to you. Have been attracted to you, since the day we met. I can give you more paper flowers, the way your mother did. Bury you in a whole mountain of them. And you don’t have to keep the stains on your pocket square as a reminder of me, or our time together, because I’m finding you something else you can keep, something that won’t ruin the memories of your mo—”
Wei Wuxian’s words turn muffled as Lan Wangji crushes him into a tight embrace. He feels Lan Wangji shake against him, hears his breath grow harsher, more rapid.
“Not ruined,” Lan Wangji whispers. “Brought back memories. Good memories. And I... I..." A quivering exhale. "I want you, too. Want everything and anything that is you.” He pushes his face into Wei Wuxian’s neck, something hot and wet trickling down Wei Wuxian's skin. “Can't lose you again.”
Wei Wuxian sighs, fingers curling into dark hair.
“Then kiss me?”
Lan Wangji does, mouth capturing his. Lan Wangji smells like earth and sandalwood and grass after a light rain. Tastes of salt from his tears and something incredibly, unbelievably, sweet.
It took them months; they had squandered so much of their time together. But they got there, wherever there was—with Lan Wangji’s hand stroking his lower back, Lan Wangji’s mouth pressing soft kisses up his jaw—and Wei Wuxian wants nothing more than this, now, always.
It ends like this:
Boy meets boy at his first MotoGP World Championship. They fall in love. Other boy calls a press conference to officially announce their relationship. Boy tries to stay on his best behavior, but it’s other boy who pulls him in and kisses him in front of all the cameras.
They ride out into the sunset later—one boy wearing a black helmet with red lightning bolts and Lan Corp MotoGP stickers plastered over the top; the other, a white helmet, covered in patterns of clouds and gentians and a little message scrawled in black on the side:
From wy to lz. Let's go for a ride. ♡