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We Can See a New Start

Chapter Text

One moment Wei WuXian felt his power crack and turn on him. He felt the rending of his flesh, heard his own screams, felt every broken limb, every moment of agony.

And then blackness.

It was peaceful.

Calm.

And now he had time to regret.

But then the blackness faded and he found himself standing on a familiar wall, though he had not seen it for long long time.

And a familiar person, clad all in white, was standing on the wall with him, looking at him with wide eyes.

“Ah...it’s funny this is the first memory that I saw.” Wei WuXian sat down on the wall, putting down the jars of Emperor’s Smile.

“I wonder why it’s this one? I could see shijie again...but maybe I don’t deserve to.” Wei WuXian turned to smile at Lan WangJi who hadn’t moved a muscle, “But I’m glad it’s this one. I never told Lan Zhan this but this was a happy memory for me. All my time in the Cloud Recesses was happy for me but mostly meeting him.” Wei WuXian laughed as he turned away but it was weird sounding, like he was laughing to avoid crying.

“Do you know Lan Zhan that to the end I was thinking about you? I was thinking how disgusted you must be with me. You were right you know? I should have gone to Gusu with you when you asked.” and now he was crying but what shame was there to cry in a memory, “I think part of me wanted to but I can’t live in a prison and why would you want me there when I’m so disgusting . No wonder you hated me. I’m a fucking monster.”

Lan WangJi’s composure broke and he darted forward to envelop Wei WuXian in a tight embrace.

“No” he answered hoarsely. Wei WuXian didn’t know what to do, his head pressed into Lan WangJi’s chest. His heartbeat was fast and uneven and Wei Ying could swear tears were landing on his neck.

“No what?” he asked quietly.

“Not disgusted. Never hated. Not you” and on hearing that Wei WuXian screwed his eyes up as he sobbed, clutching at the warm body holding him.

“I wish this was real” he whimpered into Lan WangJi’s chest.

“Wei Ying...come with me” Lan WangJi pulled back but entwined his hand with one of Wei Wuxian’s before picking up one of the jars of Emperor’s Smile. Wei WuXian grabbed the other and then they were jumping down and Lan WangJi was pulling Wei WuXian through Cloud Recesses towards the jingshi.

As they entered something was prickling at Wei WuXian’s mind.

He stood in the rooms as it sunk in.

He turned to Lan WangJi.

“I have never been in here before. I have no memory of this place to relive.” he said slowly, looking at Lan WangJi carefully. The other boy was paler than usual and nodded slowly.

“My last memory is lying in my bed, unable to move from the thirty three lashes from the discipline whip.” Lan WangJi’s voice shook slightly, then he swiftly moved past Wei WuXian and dropped to kneel suddenly before moving a floorboard. He retrieved a book from the hidden space underneath and flicking through it quickly he found what he was looking for. He walked back to Wei WuXian’s side and held the book open so that they could look at it together.

“Here. Read.” he pointed. Wei WuXian followed and discovered this was a romance novel but it mentioned a legend…about soulmates and going back in time?!?

Wei WuXian took the book and read the passage more carefully, while also making a note to tease Lan WangJi about the romance novels later.

“If a soulmate dies before confession and acceptance can occur they shall return to the first meeting, for love cannot be denied.” he read outloud.

Wait.

Wait did this mean…

But!

“But you hate me!” Wei WuXian said turning to Lan WangJi who looked confused.

“Not hate. I Love you. Remember?”

“Remember? Of course I don’t remember! I would remember if you told me you loved me!” something else prickled at his mind, “Wait what was that about discipline whips!? Why would you be punished like that? Are you okay?” why would anyone in Cloud Recesses do that to Lan WangJi? And why did it upset him so very much? He paced the floor as he tried to figure out everything.

Lan WangJi stared at him for a long moment.

“What do you remember of the Nightless City?” he asked finally

Wei WuXian winced.

“I remember seeing shijie die. I remember putting together the seal….and I remember waking up in the Burial Mound. Why? What...what happened?” he looked pleadingly at Lan WangJi who was very still.

“It doesn’t matter anymore” Lan WangJi said after a long moment with a note of finality, “What matters is now.”

That wasn’t convincing but Wei WuXian had enough on his plate. He’d get it out of Lan WangJi eventually, so he let it drop.

“Okay right. Sure. So...you’re a cut sleeve.” Lan WangJi’s earlobes turned red but he nodded, “Okay and you’re my soulmate?”

“So it seems.”

“So...if you’re a man and my soulmate does that make me a cut sleeve? Huh.” it had never occurred to him before but now that he thought of it he had always thought Lan WangJi was more beautiful than any girl he had met. In fact he had mentally rejected quite a few because Lan WangJi was much better looking than them.

“Well,” he said eventually, “I have to drastically change what kind of porn I look at.” he looked up and smiled at Lan WangJi’s disapproval.

“What? How am I supposed to make it good for you if I don’t learn?” he asked with a wink before schooling his face to be more serious, “Okay so continuing on...you love me?” he asked making sure to keep eye contact.

Another nod from Lan WangJi, though this time more hesitant.

Wei WuXian was quiet for a long time as he processed all of what had happened. He’d only died a few hours ago and it was a lot to take in.

“Well...I don’t know exactly if I’m in love with you yet” he admitted finally, “but...I’m glad it’s you. I wasn’t lying when I said I thought about you until the end. What you thought of me and everything.”

Lan WangJi clenched his fists and lowered his face to glare at the floor and Wei WuXian couldn’t help but feel his heart melt a bit now that he understood why Lan WangJi reacted like that. Besides, it wasn’t like he was rejecting Lan WangJi. Though maybe he should make that clear.

He walked over and raised Lan WangJi’s chin.

“I may not be able to say I love you yet, but I’m still yours.” he said before bringing their lips together in a kiss.

Lan WangJi froze for a moment before his hands came up quickly to hold Wei WuXian’s face as he deepened the kiss from something innocent to something a lot more dangerous and filthy.

Wei WuXian learned two things with that kiss: 1. He was definitely a cut sleeve and 2. Lan WangJi was a fucking excellent kisser.

They kissed until Wei WuXian was dizzy and weak kneed. Lan WangJi wrapped an arm around his waist to keep him upright, even as their bodies pressed against each other made it clear that they were both maybe getting too excited for the moment.

“Wait wait wait- ow!” Wei WuXian pulled away only to have Lan WangJi immediately bend to bite at his neck.

“Waited long enough” Lan WangJi muttered before pushing Wei WuXian down and following him down to press him into the floor.

“At least stop biting! You’re not a dog!” Wei WuXian complained even as he spread his legs to accommodate Lan WangJi between them.

“No.” Lan WangJi replied but a trace of a smile graced his lips and Wei WuXian felt it like a punch to his gut.

“Really Lan Zhan!” Wei WuXian shook his head but decided he could accommodate the other man for at least a bit.

 

Two hours later and Wei WuXian was laid out flat in Lan WangJi’s bed, naked and covered in bite marks and...fluids, and sore in places he’d never been sore before. He stared up at the ceiling in shock.

They’d really done that .

He didn’t know that’s how two men did it.

Why the fuck didn’t they do that the first time around? Why hadn’t he figured out he liked Lan WangJi back then?!

Lan WangJi on the other hand was practically glowing as he wrapped himself around Wei WuXian.

“Lan Zhan?” Wei WuXian tried as soon as he could piece his brain back together.

“Mn”

“I have to go back to my assigned room”

Lan WangJi hugged Wei WuXian tighter.

“No.”

Wei WuXian smiled gently.

“I have to. If I don’t and your uncle finds out I’ve stayed the night in your room he’ll kick me out immediately.” Wei WuXian took the opportunity to comb his fingers through Lan WangJi’s long silky hair.

“I want to stay.” He continued, “But I want to stay in Cloud Recesses so I can see you everyday more .” Wei Wuxian shifted so he could cradle Lan WangJi’s face in his hands, forcing eye contact.

“I’m not leaving you.” he promised, “But you realise we have the chance to fix more than our relationship right? I can save my family and you can save cloud recesses! We can end the Wens before it all happens! I don’t have Chenqing but I’m sure you can get me a decent flute. I know I don’t have to rely on demonic cultivation now but I got used to using music as my primary weapon. Will you teach me the Lan sect songs?” all of a sudden Wei WuXian froze, his eyes wide before he pushed away to sit bolt upright with a hand pressing against the middle of his torso as realisation hit him.

“It’s back” he whispered then he started laughing hysterically until tears came with the laughter, “It’s back! I have my wide paved road again”

Lan WangJi sat up as well, his eyes concerned as he reached for his lover. He didn’t understand exactly what Wei WuXian was talking about but it was clearly important.

“Wei Ying?” he asked as he stroked Wei WuXian’s back but the other just shook his head as he smiled.

“It’s nothing” but he turned his body towards Lan WangJi accepting his embrace as he shook with emotion.

Once he got himself back under control he pulled back and pressed a quick kiss to Lan WangJi’s lips.

“Now I really do have to get back to Jiang Cheng’s room.”

Lan WangJi very reluctantly let him go, following him around the room with his eyes as Wei WuXian found his clothing and got dressed.

Wei WuXian came back smiled at how morose Lan WangJi looked.

“Come on Lan Zhan, it’s not that bad. You’ll see me tomorrow.” bending down he kissed Lan WangJi again, surprised to find he already didn’t want to leave him.

“I will have to report you” Lan WangJi intoned, his eyes serious.

“Oh? I thought you were put in that class just to catch me. Well that’s fine. I’ll start acting reformed after that and I promise not to spout my nonsense tomorrow.” Wei WuXian promised, but Lan WangJi frowned slightly.

“Wei Ying-”

“It’s fine. I’ll see you tomorrow”

Lan WangJi swung his legs out of bed and grabbed his sleeping robe, throwing it on as he followed Wei WuXian to his door.

Wei WuXian stepped out and turned around kiss Lan WangJi one last time.

“Tomorrow” he whispered.

“Tomorrow.” Lan WangJi agreed solemnly, “Promise.”

“I promise.” Wei WuXian finally tore himself away from the other and snuck off to his room with Jiang Cheng.

He found it with a little trial and error. Jiang Cheng didn’t wake up as Wei WuXian fell back into his bed with a big grin on his face.

Dying had never felt so good.

Chapter Text

The next morning Wei WuXian, despite the busy night, woke up earlier than in the original timeline.

He sat up abruptly surprising Jiang Cheng who was just about to attempt to wake him.

“It wasn’t a dream” he murmured.

Jiang Cheng gave him a weird look which changed to anger and disgust when he got a proper look at Wei WuXian.

“What. Did. You. Do.” he growled.

“Eh?” Wei WuXian did his best not to look guilty.

Jiang Cheng walked over and grabbed his lapel with one hand, gesturing at his neck with the other.

“You’re covered in love bites! When did you even get these? What did you do!

Shit.

“A gentleman doesn’t kiss and tell.” He replied loftily while pushing Jiang Cheng away, “But you could help me hide the evidence.”

Jiang Cheng complained but he helped treat them so they were at least a little less obvious.

Wei WuXian didn't quite know how to feel about this. It was so easy to fall back into the banter and teasing they had between them.

But Wei WuXian could remember Jiang Cheng's face, speckled with blood and twisted with hate.

His heart hurt.

“What kind of maiden would maul you like that?” Jiang Cheng asked as they made their way to class.

“I think technically I was the maiden last night” Wei WuXian thought to himself as he shrugged good naturedly trying to banish the Jiang Cheng who attempted to kill him from his head.

After that the conversation between them and the other students followed the pattern it did last time, Wei WuXian doing his best to lie about what he got up to last night. Jiang Cheng knew he was leaving something out and from the looks of it the bite marks hadn’t gone completely unnoticed by the others but before anyone could ask they were at the classroom and he had to pretend to be surprised to see Lan WangJi.

Except this time he couldn’t help but light up when he saw Lan WangJi in class and he could swear when their eyes met a brief hint of a smile went over other other’s lips.

“He’s after you, good luck.” Jiang Cheng said with a clap to his shoulder and Wei WuXian wanted to laugh.

“If only you knew.”  He immediately took a seat beside Lan WangJi.

This time when Lan QiRen came in and started reading off the rules he raised his hand surprising everyone and drawing their eye.

“Yes?” Lan QiRen asked.

Wei WuXian stood up and bowed respectfully.

“With all due respect I know this is probably aimed at me for admitting I didn’t read the rules. I propose that rather than waste my fellow students time that I should copy out the rules on my own time so I can no longer feign ignorance.”

Jiang Cheng was looking at him like he was possessed and even Lan WangJi’s lips were parted in shock.

Lan QiRen stroked his beard with narrowed eyes.

“A noble suggestion but how do I know you yourself will do the copying? I have heard of you Wei WuXian and I am sure you will nothing but trouble here!”

“Revered teacher if it would calm your mind perhaps set someone to watch over me” at this he glanced over at Lan WangJi whose eyes betrayed that he understood exactly what Wei WuXian was doing, “Perhaps if Lan WangJi could monitor I could learn more from his example.”

“Hmmm...normally I would be against this. I don’t want you corrupting my prize pupil. But! You have taken responsibility and even proposed a punishment a step farther than I myself would have given. Very well. You will meet in the Library Pavilion everyday for an hour after class until you have completed the entirety of the rules. Now sit.”

Wei WuXian grinned and sat down resting his right hand on the ground between him and Lan WangJi who hesitated before reaching out and placing his hand down so his fingers rested over Wei WuXian’s.

The rest of class continued and Wei WuXian did his best to pay attention but it was more fun to turn his hand over and trace the lines of Lan WangJi’s fingers.

As soon as they were dismissed Jiang Cheng grabbed Wei WuXian before he could leave with Lan WangJi who stopped to wait for him a little way away.

“What the hell was that?” Jiang Cheng hissed, “Who are you? What did you do with Wei WuXian?”

Wei WuXian pushed him off with one hand.

“Look I just didn’t want to stay in trouble. Better to take a punishment now and appear reformed then to have the old man breathing down my neck the whole time. It’s fine.” he explained.

“That’s! You’ve never thought like that before! You never think of the future!”

“Maybe I’m growing up. Now I have to go! Don’t want to keep Lan Zhan waiting!” and with that Wei WuXian pushed away to bound up to Lan WangJi who was supposed to be a pillar of ice and frost but as Wei WuXian stood too close to him Jiang Cheng could have sworn that he coloured pink before reaching out and taking Wei WuXian’s hand.

And why did Wei WuXian look so happy!?

Nie HuaiSang, who had been sitting behind Wei WuXian, exchanged a look with Jiang Cheng.

What the fuck was going on!?

 

Ten minutes later in the library Wei WuXian was pressed up against a wall with Lan WangJi’s tongue in his mouth.

“Lan-”

Kiss

“Zhan-”

Kiss

“I have to copy”

“Mm later” Lan WangJi's hand slid inside Wei WuXian's top as his moved his head to mouth at Wei WuXian’s neck before biting down.

“How many fantasies of me in this room did you have?” Wei WuXian demanded breathlessly. Lan WangJi stopped moving but didn't reply, his ears going red again.

“That many huh?” Wei WuXian asked happily as he looped his arms around Lan WangJi’s neck, “Who would have thought the great HanGuang-Jun had such a dirty mind hmm? You should have been forceful like this last time. Tell me Lan Er-Gege what did you do to me in your fantasies? Did you make me beg? Or did you tie me up with your pretty forehead ribbon and just take what you what you wanted?” Lan WangJi glared at him warningly but Wei WuXian was unrepentant.

“You could have had your oh so wicked way, silenced me with that spell of yours so I couldn’t scream…”

Lan WangJi pushed him back against the wall.

“Stop. Talking.”

“Make me.”

So Lan WangJi silenced him in a way Wei WuXian much prefered over that spell, with lips and tongues and biting teeth.

They kissed for quite a lot longer before Wei WuXian pushed back against Lan WangJi.

“Okay, okay seriously though I have to get some copying done or your uncle will get mad”

Lan WangJi didn’t look happy but moved away and they arranged themselves on either side of the table.

The copying still wasn’t fun but seeing Lan WangJi’s kiss swollen lips and his mused hair was much nicer than to see him super angry.

“Lan Zhan were you so angry back then because you didn’t know how to deal with your feelings for me?”

Finger twitch.

Hah.

Wei WuXian was starting to be able to read the other much better.

“Okay okay so while I do this why don’t you write a list of the dates for the events we need to change. Cloud Recesses burning, the attack on Lotus Pier, the “indoctrination” shit. That kind of thing.”

“Mn” Lan WangJi picked up a brush and started working.

 

Jiang Cheng smelt something fishy.

Wei WuXian would rather kneel or get a whipping then copy boring rules. Plus he’d been in the library pavilion for a lot longer than he should have.

Feeling out of sorts he decided to check in with Nie HuaiSang first.

“Okay spill” Jiang Cheng said as he dropped by the other boys room.

“...Spill?”

“You saw something was weird between Wei WuXian and Lan WangJi too didn’t you? What did you see?”

“I’m...not sure. I mean I can’t be sure at all but it looked...it looked a little like they were holding hands in class...but that’s crazy right? Hahahahah ha?”

Jiang Cheng remembered how Lan WangJi had taken Wei WuXian’s hand before they left for the library.

“Hmm...where’s the Library Pavilion?”

“Um...this way.”

It didn’t take long to reach it but as they got close the door opened and acting on instinct Jiang Cheng put his hand over Nie HuaiSang’s mouth and pulled him around a corner so they wouldn’t be seen.

“Don’t be like that Lan Zhan” he could hear Wei WuXian say, “I’ll miss you too but it’s not for too long.”

What.

There was some quiet wet smacking sounds but that couldn’t be…

“Don’t make that face please Lan Zhan. I promise I’ll slip out again tonight when Jiang Cheng is asleep and visit you.”

What.

“I want to stay with you.” Lan WangJi’s voice, sounding weirdly...vulnerable.

“...I want to stay with you too. But this is for us. If we spend too much time visibly together your uncle will definitely kick me out.” Wei WuXian also sounded weird.

Another wet smacking sound.

“I will see you tonight”

“Tonight”  

Then footsteps. Mercifully going in the other direction and the sound of the door closing.

Jiang Cheng waited a moment before poking his head around the corner.

Seeing it clear he let go of Nie HuaiSang.

“Wei WuXian is a cut sleeve?” the other boy asked Jiang Cheng incredulously.

“No! He’s quite famous for liking pretty girls...this...this has to be something else?”

“I...but what could-” Jiang Cheng whirled on Nie HuaiSang.

“Look we don’t know anything and if you let it slip to anyone what we heard I will personally tell your brother about your porn collection” he threatened.

“You wouldn’t!” Nie HuaiSang looked anguished.

“I would!”

“Fine!” Nie HuaiSang pouted, “but it’s not like I have a thing against them being cut sleeves…”

The two boys walked back the way they came slowly as they tried to process what they heard.

They walked aimlessly for a bit before they ran into Wei Wuxian.

“Hey guys! I’ve been looking for you! God that Lan Zhan is super boring isn’t he? Hah. I really shot myself in the foot with this one”

Jiang Cheng and Nie HuaiSang stared.

“Is that-” Jiang Cheng promptly stomped on Nie HuaiSang’s foot.

“What is what?” Wei WuXian asked, his eyebrows wrinkled up in confusion.

“An inkblot on your shirt. What are you five? How are you this messy?” Jiang Cheng quickly replied causing Wei WuXian to laugh and spin on his heels.

Of course it wasn’t that but Jiang Cheng refused to believe that those were fresh hickies and bite marks all over Wei WuXian’s neck. He also refused to acknowledge Wei WuXian’s swollen lips and extra messy hair.

“Are...are you going to follow him tonight?” Nie HuaiSang whispered as Wei WuXian chattered away ahead of them.

“Of course I am!”

 

Wei WuXian made it almost too easy.

Jiang Cheng didn’t know if it was Wei WuXian’s eagerness or his own habit of not trusting Wei WuXian to not get into trouble but he managed to convince the other that he was asleep and almost immediately Wei WuXian slipped from the room.

Jiang Cheng counted to fifteen then got out of bed and followed.

Sure enough Wei WuXian made his way sneakily to the jingshi where he knocked quietly, looking around.

Lan WangJi opened the door and even though part of him knew it was coming Jiang Cheng was still shocked when Wei WuXian looped his arms around Lan WangJi’s neck and kissed him.

Then he was disappearing inside, the door closing behind him.

Jiang Cheng bit his lip and waited for a moment but patience was never one of his virtues. He stole over to the door quietly and pressed his ear against it.

More wet kissing sounds.

“Geez Lan Zhan, you’d think you hadn’t seen me in years rather than a few hours!” Wei WuXian laughed.

“Don’t care. Want you. Love you.”

Jiang Cheng started. Love!? They were in love!? Not just sexually frustrated? Wait was Wei WuXian taking advantage of Lan WangJi’s emotions to get off? Stealing the innocent boy’s virginity? That seemed too far fetched.

“Lan Zhan…” and Jiang Cheng had never ever heard Wei WuXian with that tone of voice and any doubt he had about it being mutual love vanished.

There was rustling sounds along with the wet kissing sounds and then Wei WuXian gasped loudly.

“Lan Zhan you brute! I’m still all sore from when you took me yesterday! My virgin body can’t take your power!”

What.

“Everyday. You said everyday”

“I said see eachother everyday! Not have your dick in my ass everyday!”

What!

“Lan Zhan! Are you pretending you can’t hear what you don’t want to!? Lan Zhan- Oooooohhhh~” Jiang Cheng with his face on fire couldn’t listen anymore and fled as quietly as he could. But he went to Nie HuaiSang because he had to talk to somebody about it.

He honestly never in his life considered that Wei WuXian would be a cut sleeve and even less that he’d be the one to be done.

Though that explained how absolutely mauled he had looked in the morning.

Nie HuaiSang listened to Jiang Cheng rant about this and more as he paced his room.

“But...they’re really in love right?” Nie HuaiSang asked when Jiang Cheng finally took a break to breathe.

“Well it certainly seems that way!”

“Well…” Nie HuaiSang looked determined, “Then we have to help them!”

Jiang Cheng stared at him.

“What?”

“Look it must have been love at first sight! They must be deeply in love if they can’t stay away from each other but if anyone else finds out then the old man will find out and if he thinks Wei WuXian is corrupting his beloved nephew they’d never get to see each other again! He’ll banish Wei WuXian from the Cloud Recesses and lock away Lan WangJi like some sort of princess! We’ve already seen how they aren’t nearly as careful as they should be so we have to cover for them!”  It was the most determined and focused anyone had seen Nie HuaiSang.

Jiang Cheng who hadn’t known what to think past his shock slowly nodded his head. So what if Wei WuXian was a cut sleeve! The boy was still practically his brother! If he and Lan WangJi were happy together then who was he to judge.

“Yeah. Okay. So we’ll say Wei WuXian has...a...a girlfriend in Gusu. We’ll deflect and try to distract or warn them somehow if they are going to get caught.”

“Yeah and keep the adults away from them when they’re in the library!”

The boys continued to plan their cover to help the two lovebirds until Jiang Cheng felt he should get back to his room before Wei WuXian beat him there.

He made it back just in time.

Wei WuXian slipped back into the dark room and threw himself down onto his bed with a sigh that sounded alarmingly lovesick.

What the fuck was his life?

 

Blood. Blood and skin so pale. So much blood. Rage and darkness and sorrow and blood blood blood-

“SHIJIE!” Wei WuXian screamed as he sat bolt upright in bed covered in sweat and his heart racing a mile a minute.

“The fuck!?” Jiang Cheng fell out of bed in response. Sitting up to glare at Wei WuXian, “What are you doing screaming for shijie? Did you dream about a dog?”

Jiang Cheng woke up enough to notice that Wei WuXian was pale and trembling slightly.

“Shit did you really have a nightmare?” Jiang Cheng asked. When Wei WuXian first moved to Lotus Pier he often had nightmares, usually of dogs chasing him and he did use to wake up screaming for his shijie.

“...it’s fine. Ha. It’s been a long time since I last woke you up like that.” it wasn’t a dream about any dog. It was a memory of the worst moment of Wei WuXian’s old life.

But it was fine.

Jiang YanLi was fine.

It hadn’t happened yet.

It wouldn’t happen.

It was fine.

“Forget about it Jiang Cheng. Lets just go back to sleep”

It was fine.

But Wei WuXian couldn’t sleep again that night.

Chapter Text

Lan WangJi frowned slightly as Wei WuXian yawned for the fifth time that afternoon. It wasn’t just today he’d been yawning like this. He’d been tired most days in fact.

“What? Don’t give me that look Lan Zhan. If you didn’t feel the need to fuck me into the ground every night after curfew I could get a full night's sleep. Not even giving you a blowjob here in the library is enough for you to let me off at night.” Wei WuXian said with a wink.

Lan WangJi’s eyes fell on Wei WuXian’s swollen lips and his ears turned red as he hid behind the book he was holding for a bit before hesitating and looking back at Wei WuXian.

“If it is really such a burden…”

“Nope!” Wei WuXian reached across the table and flicked Lan WangJi between the eyes, “Don’t go thinking I’m forcing myself. Again I’m not going to say I’m in love before I’m ready but I’m with you because I like you and enjoy myself not because you or fate are forcing me.”

Lan WangJi touched the place Wei WuXian had flicked and line appeared between his brows as he frowned at the table.

“But...last time. You did not enjoy your time with me”

“Lan Zhan oh my sweet Lan Zhan! Of course I enjoyed my time with you! I mean I didn’t like all the times you put a silencing spell on me but why do you think I kept approaching you after that? Plus I always thought your angry face was super cute!”

Lan WangJi’s expression smoothed out and he went back to work. Wei WuXian twirled his brush and fidgeted.

“Lan Zhan. It’s getting close to when the waterborne abyss happens right?” he asked finally.

“That is correct.”

Wei WuXian sighed and sat up.

“Then I better get my sword skills up again. I haven’t used my sword since...well not since Lotus Pier...anyway I’m rusty. Can you come spar with me in the woods? I...don’t want the others to know.”

Lan WangJi knew there was something Wei WuXian wasn’t telling him but as he gazed into his eyes he knew this was important.

“I will.”

Lan WangJi watched Wei WuXian’s fingers twitch as if to reach for the flute that no longer sat at his waist.

He had noticed that tick for the last few weeks and Wei WuXian’s expressions of loss and frustration at its absence.

But he did not comment. He had already begun working on a solution to that particular problem anyway.

Once Wei WuXian had finished his copying they collected their swords and made their way to a clearing deep in the woods.

Wei WuXian worried at being discovered and mocked but unbeknownst to him Jiang Cheng and Nie HuaiSang were making sure no one discovered what the two got up to and so far had (mostly) succeeded in no one else finding out.

(The few who had walked in on Lan WangJi pinning Wei WuXian to some surface to kiss the life out of him were quickly convinced to join them in keeping it a secret)

But because of their efforts no one followed them into the woods.

Which was good because Wei WuXian was definitely rusty and that first day he had his ass handed to him several times.

However, it wasn’t as bad as he feared because while his mind wasn’t as familiar with his sword as he had been his 15 year old body was very familiar with it. Muscle memory was a wonderful thing and within a quite short period of time he was fighting much more like the Wei WuXian of Lan WangJi’s memories. As the days passed it was a relief to see him like this.

But there was something he was keeping a secret.

Most of the other disciples had no idea. They could only see Wei WuXian’s smiles but Lan WangJi knew something was wrong. Jiang Cheng could see it too, he could tell.

 

-Another night of blood another night of body after body after body of people he loved dying of people he couldn’t save and all he could do was scream scream scream scream-

 

But approaching Wei WuXian directly was never Lan WangJi’s strength and when he eventually attempted to ask Wei WuXian predictably dodged.

“Something wrong? Nothing’s wrong.” Wei WuXian replied to Lan WangJi’s question as he flopped back on the grass of the clearing.

“...Are you sure Wei Ying?”

“Why do you think Jin ZiXuan said what he’s going to say about shijie only to marry her later? Why did he suddenly decide he was in love with her after making her sad and even making her cry?” Wei WuXian asked abruptly, so abruptly Lan WangJi felt sure this wasn’t really the problem.

Lan WangJi looked up towards the bright blue sky as he thought about his answer.

“I think the issue he had was never with Maiden Jiang.” he answered finally, “I think it may have been with freedom. Think of the two arranged marriages that are closest to him.” he turned back to Wei WuXian, “Do they inspire confidence in such an arrangement?”

Realisation dawned on Wei WuXian’s face as he stared up at the sky.

“I should talk to him” he said finally, “For shijie’s sake. Plus I don’t want to punch him and get sent away.”

Lan WangJi just nodded and stood up.

“I will see myself off then. I have work I need to do” he announced as he brushed grass off his robes.

Wei WuXian stood up as well and brushed off his clothes before crossing over and kissing Lan WangJi lightly.

“Of course, I’ll see you tonight” and with that Wei WuXian walked off with a wink.

 

Wei WuXian in his old life had listened to no one much less Lan WangJi. But dying changed a man and with that new found resolve he went to find the person whose death in an alternate reality he had been responsible for.

He found Jin ZiXuan practicing his archery in the training yard. Wei WuXian watched for a while before interrupting.

“Young Master Jin may I please have a word”

Jin ZiXuan was as arrogant as Wei WuXian remembered and snorted dismissively before turning away. Wei WuXian grit his teeth trying to remember that he was doing this for shijie.

“Young Master Jin please. This concerns you greatly.” he tried again.

Jin ZiXuan stopped and looked back and maybe he saw that for once Wei WuXian wasn’t smiling, but he didn’t look like he was going to attack.

“Tch. Fine.” and with that Jin ZiXuan swept past him leading him away from the training ground. They ended up at the side of one of the koi ponds.

“What did you want me for?”

“You don’t like the arranged engagement with my shijie do you”

Jin ZiXuan clearly wasn’t expecting that.

“And so what if I don’t?” he demanded harshly. Wei WuXian regarded him for a long moment before sighing.

“See the thing is I don’t think the problem you have with it is my shijie.” Wei WuXian sat on a nearby bench and looked out at the water, “I know you probably don’t have the best view of arranged marriage. Your parents notoriously hate each other and Uncle Jiang and Madam Yu aren’t much better but I think you’re doing both yourself and my shijie a disservice.”

“What would you have me do then? Marry her anyway only to hate her later? Why can’t I have a choice in love?” Jin ZiXuan spat, his arms wrapped tightly around himself. Wei WuXian smiled briefly and shook his head.

“No. I don’t want that for shijie either. That’s why-” Wei WuXian stood up and turned to face Jin ZiXuan, “I have an idea. Write to Sect Leader Jiang. Ask to stay in Lotus Pier for one year and actually make an effort to get to know and understand my shijie. If in a year you do not love her I am sure Sect Leader Jiang will let you out of the engagement”

Jin ZiXuan eyed him warily.

“What do you get out of this?” he demanded.

“I get to see my shijie happy. Either because her intended fell in love with her or because she was able to marry a man who does love her. She’s my precious older sister and I only want to see her happy.” Wei WuXian replied sincerely.

“Why aren’t you asking to marry her if you care so much?” Jin ZiXuan demanded but more out of puzzlement then a desire to anger.

“Okay 1. She’s my sister so ew 2. I’m already in a committed relationship with someone” that was news to Jin ZiXuan.

“Who?” he demanded but Wei WuXian only winked.

“Secret!” he replied with his normal smile back on, “So? Are you going to do it?”

Jin ZiXuan thought about it. It did seem like a good idea but…

“Would Sect Leader Jiang actually break off the engagement?”

“He would for shijie’s happiness.”

There was a long silence as Jin ZiXuan thought about it.

“I will write to him immediately.” Jin ZiXuan decided then turned and started to walk away before pausing and turning back, “Wei WuXian?”

“Hm?”

“Thanks.”

And then he was gone before Wei WuXian could get over his surprise.

“Huh. How about that.”

 

-Blood blood blood shijie falling, Jiang Cheng’s face twisted in hate, all your fault all your fault all your fault you killed her killed her killed her you’ll never be clean death death Lotus Pier burning-

 

The morning finally came when Nie HuaiSang excitedly told them that classes were dismissed with Lan QiRen away and Lan XiChen came to collect Lan WangJi for the water ghouls and inviting Jiang Cheng and Wei WuXian with him.

Having lived through this before Wei WuXian and Lan WangJi couldn’t give too much away too soon but they could react to things better and faster than the first timeline.

But they didn’t just have to rely on memory.

Wei WuXian and Lan WangJi had fought together a lot during the Sunshot Campaign in the first timeline. Not just against each other but side by side. In fact, when Wei WuXian thought back to that time Lan WangJi always seemed to be by his side when the fighting was the thickest.

They had years of knowing each other’s strengths and weakness. Too know how to trust each other and anticipate the other’s actions. And so this time when the water ghouls clung to the bottom of Lan WangJi’s boat all it took was eye contact and a nod for Lan WangJi to jump upright, twisting in the air as he did so, his sword already free of its sheath as Wei WuXian flipped the boat he’d been on.

With a blue flash the ghouls were brought down and Lan WangJi was landing lightly next to Wei WuXian.

Lan XiChen stared at the two of them.

“How...how did you…”

“Drag.” Wei WuXian interrupted, “For one person the boat was sitting too low in the water.”

“I...how clever.” Lan XiChen replied faintly.

Wei WuXian and Lan WangJi looked out at the water.

“...A compass.” Lan WangJi said for Wei WuXian’s ears alone, “would be extremely helpful right now.”

Wei WuXian tensed beside him.

“Or perhaps a flag that could be used as a lure” Lan WangJi turned his eyes on to Wei WuXian who had paled significantly.

“Those were the ridiculous ideas of a madman.” Wei WuXian replied tersely.

“Not all of his ideas were ridiculous. Or mad”

Wei WuXian looked sharply at Lan WangJi who met his gaze steadily.

“No.” Wei WuXian turned away, “No, I left that behind”

“The net’s moving!” again Wei WuXian and Lan WangJi moved as one, both attacking where they needed, anticipating the other’s every move. The other disciples were frankly astonished at how well they worked together.

“You’re beautiful when you fight you know that?” Wei WuXian muttered as they stood next to each other again.

“Mn. I know someone more beautiful”

“Lan Zhan how bold!”

“It’s coming around again!”

“It’s not a ghoul. Look how it’s shape keeps changing. It’s something different. probably clothing” Wei WuXian said loudly.

“We are being lured.” Lan WangJi backed up.

“Then...if this isn’t water ghouls it’s...everyone move back! Get away from the centre of the lake!” Lan XiChen shouted and once again it was too late. The boats started to sink and everyone mounted their swords but this time there was no swordless disciple to rescue.

But now everyone could see the waterborne abyss.

Lan WangJi and Wei WuXian went through the conversation that happened last time so that everyone was aware it was the Wens who caused the abyss to come to Biling Lake.

But Wei WuXian couldn’t stop himself when they went back through town from flirting to get loquats again. Although his lover glared at him in response to the offered fruit.

“What? It’s not like those girls mean anything to me. There is only one person I want to kiss after all” Wei WuXian said with a wink.

“Shameless!”

Wei WuXian laughed and bumped shoulders with Lan WangJi.

“But I think you like me like that”

“...” Lan WangJi accepted the loquat and looked out at the river, standing shoulder to shoulder with Wei WuXian, their hands brushing against each other.

Lan XiChen looked on but said nothing, just happy that his brother made a friend while also puzzled by how close they were so quickly. Did his brother have a crush? If so that was rather cute.

 

-Blood death pain pain pain pain pain agony screaming she’s dead she’s dead blood on your hands hate hate hate death pain pain pain pain pain -

“Look Wei Ying,” Jiang Cheng said shifting uncomfortably after Wei WuXian woke up screaming again, “Maybe we should tell someone. Lan XiChen could-”

No.” Wei WuXian spat harshly, clenching the sheets in fists so tight that his knuckles turned white, “He can’t- No one can know. Especially not Lan Zhan or his brother.”

“But-”

“No Jiang Cheng! Promise me you won’t tell them!”

“Wei-”

“Promise!”

“...alright alright i promise” Jiang Cheng said reluctantly.

Wei WuXian breathed a sigh of relief.

He couldn’t let Lan WangJi know about this. It would only worry and upset him. This was fine anyway. It was his own fault he was having nightmares.

Jiang Cheng looked at Wei WuXian helplessly, not at all sure what to do about this.

Chapter Text

Blood it always started with blood. Blood on his hands and his clothes. He could taste it in his mouth alongside the black bitterness of resentment and hatred. Lan WangJi was there but his back was too him.

“Lan Zhan!” he cried reaching out but Lan WangJi disappeared and instead he saw Cloud Recesses on fire but instead of the white robes of the Lan Sect there were the bodies of his fellow Jiang disciples. As he walked the streets he kept coming across people dead, caked in blood. He found Madam Yu and Jiang FengMian. He walked on and found Wen Ning, punching a hole through Jin ZiXuan while his shijie and her baby looked on and screamed before they vanished and Wen Ning turned to dust. At the centre of it all he found Jiang Cheng, his face twisted in hate glaring at him while holding the lifeless body of Jiang YanLi. Lan WangJI stood next to them, facing away from him and his back a bloody mess. Lan WangJI turned and looked at him with hatred and disgust in his eyes.

“You should have died” Lan WangJi spat and then frecious corpses and ghosts were ripping ripping ripping and all was pain pain pain pain pain pain but nothing hurt worse than the hatred in their eyes-

Not for the first time over the many weeks since the YunmengJiang disciples arrived did screams rip through the sleeping block of visiting disciples.

Only unlike other times the screaming didn’t stop.

Disoriented, afraid, concerned and angry the rest of the disciples hurried to the room of Wei WuXian and Jiang Cheng only to find Jiang Cheng shaking Wei WuXian.

Wei WuXian who was sat upright in bed screaming and screaming and screaming with his eyes wide open but blank.

“What’s going on?!” Jin ZiXuan demanded.

“I don’t fucking know okay! He’s been having nightmares for some reason but usually he wakes up! This time he’s I don’t know stuck or something and I can’t get him to wake up!” Jiang Cheng shouted back.

“What do we do!?” Someone else shouted but Nie HuaiSang already knew. He ran away from the room and through Cloud Recesses. He had almost made to the jingshi when he ran into Lan XiChen.

“Oh Nie HuaiSang,” he sighed, “What am I going to tell your brother?”

“Bro XiChen! It’s an emergency! I need to get Lan WangJi!” Nie HuaiSang said, his eyes wild.

“Emergency?”

“It’s Wei WuXian! I-I really need to get Lan WangJi!” Nie HuaiSang was fidgeting his eyes darting around wildly.

“What could my broth- nevermind.” Lan XiChen had seen with his own eyes how close his brother had become to the other young man, he would want to be awaken for this. Pulling Nie HuaiSang with him he raced to his brother’s room and knocked on the door.

It didn’t take long for Lan WangJi to answer the door, his eyes wide.

“Brother? Nie HuaiSang?”

“Something-” Lan XiChen started but was interrupted by Nie HuaiSang.

“It’s Wei WuXian! He’s screaming uncontrollably and won’t wake up and we don’t know what to do!”

Lan WangJi paled and took off running out of his rooms, still barefoot and in his sleeping robe.

“WangJi!” Lan XiChen and Nie HuaiSang hurried after him. As they got closer to the rooms they could hear Wei WuXian’s screams of terror and even Lan XiChen paled.

As soon as he got to the rooms Lan WangJi shoved people aside who were shocked to see him like this, distress and pain evident on his face, still in his sleeping robe and with his long hair free of it’s hair ribbon.

He pushed his way to Wei WuXian’s side, almost throwing Jiang Cheng back, and immediately climbed onto the bed to cradle Wei WuXian to his chest as everyone else went silent in disbelief.

“I am here. You are safe. I love you I love you I love you-” Lan WangJi chanted as he rocked Wei WuXian in his arms. Wei WuXian finally stopped screaming but now he was sobbing, a sight that made many look away.  

Lan WangJi just held him tight, whispering endearments.

“I am here. I am here” he kept repeating in his quiet voice over and over. His tone was tender, and the way he looked at Wei WuXian caused some who had not already looked away to do so.

Lan XiChen pushed his way through the crowd of disciples.

“Lan Zhan?” Wei WuXian called out in a shaky voice, quiet now and clearly awake.

Lan WangJi immediately moved so he could reach out and take Wei WuXian’s face in his hands so he could look him in the eye.

“I am here.”

“I...I can’t. They keep dying and-” Lan WangJi pulled Wei WuXian back into an embrace that the other easily returned. In fact Wei WuXian was clinging to Lan WangJi like his life depended on it.

“I am here. You are safe. I love you.” Lan WangJi repeated.

“Don’t leave me”

“I will never”

Lan XiChen stood shocked as he watched the intimacy between the two. Then he turned around and motioned for everyone to leave. Jiang Cheng scrambled as quietly as he could from the floor but the two on the bed hardly seemed to notice or care.

Lan XiChen led the subdued group of boys to Nie HuaiSangs room.

“Sit.” he ordered and the boys all found a place to sit quickly as Lan XiChen closed the door behind him.

There was a long silence.

“...Okay who knew about them?” he asked. Hesitantly Jiang Cheng, Nie HuaiSang and a few others raised their hands, “...How long as this being going on for?”

Another long silence.

“...Since...since Wei WuXian arrived.” Nie HuaiSang finally answered.

“Do they know you know?” all the boys who had known shook their head.

“Why did you keep it a secret?”

“We had to Bro XiChen! It’s true love!” Nie HuaiSang protested.

“But...they’re cut sleeves…” one of the Jin sect disciples said only to be cuffed in the head by Jin ZiXuan.

“So? It doesn’t mean they’re any less in love! Anyone can see that’s real!”

Jiang Cheng was shocked, he didn’t think Jin ZiXuan liked Wei WuXian.

Lan XiChen paced in front of the door.

“Bro XiChen you’re not going to tell your uncle are you?”

“I...I should…” Lan XiChen said though his expression was torn.

“You can’t!”

“They love each other so much!”

“Did you see how they fought together! It’s like they can communicate with their minds!”

“And did you hear how he asked Lan Zhan not to leave him!”

“Bro XiChen!”

“Young Master Lan!”

“Be quiet!...I won’t tell my Uncle. But more importantly Young Master Jiang! What was wrong with Wei WuXian tonight?” Lan XiChen asked.

“I...I don’t know. Since we got here Wei WuXian’s been having nightmares. He used to have them a lot when he first moved to Lotus Pier but that was years ago and this is different. He keeps waking up screaming for different people or things. One night he’s screaming for my sister another night he’s calling out for my parents. Sometimes it’s for people I’ve never even heard of. Sometimes…” Jiang Cheng hesitated.

“Go on.”

“Sometimes...he’s not calling out for people but to them. He’s screamed for me to forgive him a lot for instance but he’s also screamed for Lan Zhan a lot. For Lan Zhan to help him, or for his forgiveness, or to come back and not leave him. I’ve never seen him like this before and I don’t know what’s going on and he refuses to talk to me about it!”

“Why didn’t you tell me sooner?”

“He didn’t want anyone to know. He especially didn’t want Lan WangJi to know. I think he didn’t want to worry him.”

Lan XiChen pressed a hand to his forehead.

“Bro XiChen?”

Lan XiChen sighed and lowered his hand to look at the boys.

“I have to go speak to my brother and Young Master Wei. Jiang Cheng you stay here for the moment, the rest of you return to your rooms. If asked about this in the morning say only that you were aware of Young Master Wei’s disturbed sleep and sent someone for guidance and that I brought my brother along to aid with the issue. None of you are to mention their relationship to anyone else is that clear?”

“Yes Young Master Lan!”

Lan XiChen nodded and made his way back to the room shared by Jiang Cheng and Wei WuXian. Neither Lan WangJi or Wei WuXian noticed as he approached the door. He peered in to make sure they weren’t in a compromising position and found Wei WuXian had calmed down considerably though he was still pale. He was sat practically curled up on Lan WangJi’s lap, his head against the other’s shoulder.

Lan WangJi was stroking his head and humming a melody that Lan XiChen had never heard before.

“Hah...I remember this song. From the cave. I had that fever and you sang this for me. Huh. I wonder if we’ll end up back there or if we can avoid it this time around.” Wei WuXian said quietly.

“Mn...I would at least like to avoid fighting the beast on a broken leg.”

“Yeah, and without swords. Did I ever tell you how absolutely amazing you were doing that? You were truly remarkable but then you always have been.” Wei WuXian said.

“Mn.” Lan WangJi dropped a kiss on Wei WuXian’s head, “As are you”

“Lan Zhan?”

“Mn?”

“I’m scared. I’m scared we’ll fail and they’ll all die again.”

Lan WangJi’s arms tightened around Wei WuXian.

“They will not”

“But what if-”

“They will not.”

Lan XiChen was now beyond shaken and confused as nothing they two of them had said made sense.

He decided the best thing to do would be to ask. Lan WangJi could never lie to him anyway.

Coughing he stepped into the room. The two of them looked up startled but instead of springing apart Lan WangJi held Wei WuXian even tighter to him.

“Brother”

“Young Master Lan. I’m sorry for the problems I’ve caused.”

“What is going on here?” Lan XiChen demanded. The couple exchanged a look and Lan WangJi’s eyes widened at something he saw in Wei WuXian’s face.

Wei WuXian smiled and nodded and turned to Lan XiChen.

“I’m in love with your brother.” he said and Lan WangJi gasped and buried his face against Wei WuXian’s neck, trembling slightly.

“...You hadn’t told him before?” Lan XiChen asked.

Lan WangJi shook his head and Wei WuXian hugged the arms wrapped around him as he smiled fondly at Lan WangJi.

“I wasn’t ready before.” he explained, “and I refused to say it until I knew I was speaking the truth. Though I guess my soul knew before I did.”

“And WangJi? You love him as well don’t you?”

Lan WangJi nodded against Wei WuXian’s neck.

“Okay…” well that wasn’t exactly the most pressing issue at hand, “Can either of please explain what your conversation just now was about?”

Both of them froze and slowly looked at each other, their faces sheet white.

“Caves? Having killed or might kill a beast together in the future? Without swords? Broken leg WangJi? I would know if you had ever had a broken leg! And scared that you’ll fail and “they’ll all die again”? What are you talking about!?”

“Brother...this will take some time. It would be better to return to the jingshi”

Lan XiChen supposed this was better than his little brother being caught in Wei WuXian’s bed by anyone else so he agreed.

The three of them made their way back to Lan WangJi’s rooms and sat down at the table. Lan XiChen on one side and Lan WangJi and Wei WuXian on the other side. They were sat pressed up against each other, their hands tangled together.

“Okay. I would like an explanation now.”

“...” Lan WangJi took a deep breath, “Do you remember the story Mother used to tell us. About soulmates”

“What the old legend that if one dies before-” Lan XiChen’s eyes grew wide.

Lan WangJi nodded solemnly.

“But that’s just a legend! There is no record of it actually happening!” Lan XiChen exclaimed.

“But it has happened. Maybe because our mistakes last time didn’t just impact us.” Wei WuXian replied, “Lan XiChen. The Wens arrogance and oppression is going to grow at an alarming rate. In less than two years time they will burn down the Cloud Recesses and demand all the clans send twenty of their disciples for ‘indoctorination’ then they will destroy the YunmengJiang sect, murdering Madam Yu and Sect Leader Jiang. Only Jiang Cheng, Jiang YanLi and myself will survive the massacre. You and the leaders of the other sects, including Jiang Cheng who worked to rebuild the sect, will lead a revolt against the Wens.”

“I will? What about?” Lan XiChen caught Lan WangJi’s eye and knew, “This is insanity! Did we lose?”

“No. We won but...in doing so…” Wei WuXian faltered for a moment before taking a deep breath and continuing “part of the reason we won was because I turned to demonic cultivation due to losing my golden core.” Lan WangJi looked at Wei WuXian sharply.

“Because I tread that path I developed a weapon called the Stygian Tiger Seal only such a weapon is too dangerous. It was almost too strong for me to wield and anyone else could have used it as well. It is not a thing I am willing to make again. Especially as I succumbed to the darkness of that path. People died at my hands that shouldn’t have before my power backfired and I died a very painful death.” Wei WuXian finished explaining.

“Not all you did in that time was evil.” Lan WangJi objected, “And not every step along that path lead to your end. A lot of your decisions were made out of kindness in order to protect others”

“Ha. Which I failed at”

“Wei Ying...there is a middle path”

Wei WuXian looked down at the table, his face troubled.

“But is there?” he whispered.

Lan WangJi apparently decided to let the matter drop but he lifted their joined hands to press a kiss to Wei WuXian's knuckles.

Lan XiChen coughed to remind them that he was there.

“How is it possible to lose your golden core?” Lan XiChen asked.

“Ah. Wen RuoHan will have at his beck and call a man named Wen ZhuLiu otherwise known as The Core Melting Hand. He has the ability to destroy a person’s golden core so utterly that they will never regain it” Wei WuXian lied.

Lan XiChen nodded, his face troubled.

“So your nightmares?” He finally prompted.

“Based on those memories.” Wei WuXian replied.

There was a silence.

“Brother...do you believe us?” Lan WangJi asked.

Lan XiChen did not respond.

“Brother?”

“...It’s too outlandish but you have never been able to lie to me WangJi and I can’t believe you are doing so this time. I will help you try to prevent these things from happening, but we cannot tell the adults. Young Master Jin and Young Master Jiang should know though as we will need their support.”

Wei WuXian winced.

“...Let’s hold off on that for the moment. In the meantime we’ll fill you in on what we know and what allies you should contact.”

Lan XiChen nodded.

“Very well, let us get you back to your room Young Master Wei”

“No.”

Lan XiChen stared at his little brother in shock.

“He can’t stay here WangJi”

“If he does not stay here than I will return with him to his room and stay there.” Lan WangJi said calmly even as his grip on Wei WuXian tightened.

“WangJi! You can’t sleep in the same place! Uncle will throw a fit!” Lan XiChen attempted to reason with his brother and when Lan WangJi let go of Wei WuXian for a moment he thought he’d won.

But Lan WangJi stormed off to grab something and then came back, sat next to Wei WuXian again, grabbed the other’s hand and then tied their wrists together with his forehead ribbon.

“Where he goes I go.” Lan WangJi told his brother, holding up their joined hands.

“...I will figure out something to tell Uncle.” Lan XiChen knew that look on his brother’s face. Once WangJi had decided something nothing could change his path.

“Thank you Brother.”

Lan XiChen sighed and stood up, the other two stood as well and walked him to the door. Lan XiChen frowned at them and then tried to glare at Wei WuXian.

“Don’t take advantage of my brother” he warned as he stepped out of the jingshi but Wei WuXian only grinned.

“I’m really not the one you should be worried about” Wei WuXian replied with a wink and then Lan XiChen found the door firmly shut in his face.

“...I really truly don’t want to know” Lan XiChen muttered before walking away.

Inside Lan WangJi glared at Wei WuXian.

“What? Am I wrong?” Wei WuXian laughed but Lan WangJi just pulled him by their joined hands into the bedroom where he pushed Wei WuXian down on his back. Quickly he straddled Wei WuXian’s hips and pinned him down by his hands, his gaze intense.

“Wei Ying. What happened to your golden core?”

Chapter Text

Wei WuXian’s smile disappeared.

“Oh. That.” he turned his head so he didn’t have to make eye contact.

“Yes. That. You did not lose it to the Core Melting Hand.” Lan WangJi pressed.

“...You are really far too clever Lan Zhan.” Wei WuXian muttered as he glanced at Lan WangJi and then away.

“What happened?”

Wei WuXian gave a heaving sigh.

“I gave it to Jiang Cheng” he said softly. Lan WangJi breathed in sharply.

“How?”

“Wen Qing. She had come up with the theory. I had noticed papers on it when we she was hiding us and Jiang Cheng was knocked out. He’d already had his core destroyed by the Core Melting Hand. He...you know how competitive he is. He was like a walking corpse. He had no life in him without his core...and it was all my fault anyway.” Wei WuXian refused to look at Lan WangJi.

“Wei Ying…”

“No it was. And I made a promise to Madam Yu and Uncle Jiang. I promised I would protect Jiang Cheng. I promised! And I had already failed him! I didn’t take care of him and he lost his core...So I told him I knew where he could get his core back. I told him I knew where BaoShan SanRen was. I blindfolded him and he took a walk while Wen Qing cut the core out of me while I watched because that was the only way it would come out whole.” Wei WuXian was not crying but his chest was heaving with the restrained sobs.

“...Was it painful?”

“...”

The silence was answer enough.

“How long?”

“Two nights and a day constantly awake and feeling every moment of it.”

Lan WangJi stared at him helplessly before sitting up and pulling Wei WuXian up into a one armed crushing hug

“How can someone so selfless not see how good they are?” Lan WangJi thought wonderingly

“...Now you understand. I didn’t have another way.” Wei Ying said.

“I knew that your spiritual energy was somehow low.” Lan WangJi said before pulling back. Carefully he untied their hands before tying the ribbon back around Wei WuXian’s wrist and kissing his palm.

“But I didn’t know how far you went to help your shidi” Lan WangJi finished as he pushed some of Wei WuXian’s hair behind his ear.

“...What’s up with the forehead ribbon by the way? It seems a big deal? But I thought it was just a ribbon.” Wei WuXian was both genuinely curious and desperate to change the subject.

Now it was Lan WangJi’s turn to avoid eye contact.

“Lan Zhan?”

“...We can only let go of our restraint and regulation with the person we love. So our ribbons are only meant to be touched by or tied on our fated one.” Lan WangJi explained.

Wei WuXian’s eyes widened in growing horror.

“But I messed with it or asked for it so many times!” he cried.

Lan WangJi looked back at him.

“I am aware.”

“No wonder you were so mad! Oh fuck! And I asked for it at Phoenix mountain for my blindfold! You must have been so hurt by that!” Wei WuXian said with a great deal of distress.

“It’s fine”

“No it’s not! I have to make it up to you!”

“No you don’t”

“Why?” Wei WuXian asked and Lan WangJi managed to look even more uncomfortable.

“Because I was the one who kissed you that day.” Lan WangJi admitted, his ears very red.

Wei WuXian froze and Lan WangJi shifted uncomfortably.

“I...knew I was wrong. Very wrong…”

“Holy shit you were my first kiss in both timelines!” Wei WuXian didn’t sound mad. In fact he sounded incredibly happy.

“First kiss? But you said-”

Wei WuXian looked at him blankly for a moment before laughing.

“Oh Lan Zhan that was all talk and bluster! And I’m glad you kissed me then. I don’t want to ever kiss anyone else.” Wei WuXian told him with a smile.

“...”

“Anyway we should sleep now. With all the excitement I’m rather tired.” Wei WuXian yawned as if to emphasis the point.

“Mn”

They got under the covers and lay down to sleep, Lan WangJi putting out the lights with a wave of his hand.

“Lan Zhan?”

“Mn”

“Why are you so insistent that I sleep with you? Not that I’m not grateful.” Wei WuXian asked in the darkness.

There was a long pause and Wei WuXian wondered if Lan WangJi had already fallen asleep when Lan WangJi’s voice finally broke the quiet.

“You are not the only one with nightmares”

“...We need to get better at talking.”

“Mn”

 

Wei WuXian woke up late into the next day. The exhaustion from the night terror and the talks with the Twin Jades had taken their toll.

When he woke up it was to a familiar hand sliding through this hair.

“Lan Zhan?”

“Mn”

“What time is it?” Wei WuXian sat up slowly rubbing his eyes. Lan WangJi was dressed and his forehead ribbon back on his head.

“Ten. Brother came by earlier.” Lan WangJi replied as he stood up and picked up a small bundle and brought it over. It was Wei WuXian’s clothing from his room. Wei WuXian bet the rest of his stuff was around as well.

“Oh? Was your uncle back and ready to kick me out?”

“Brother managed to convince Uncle that you’re having some kind of disturbed and potentially prophetic dreams.” Lan WangJi explained as Wei WuXian got ready.

“And the old man fell for it? Your brother could talk the hind end off a donkey” Wei WuXian replied with a laugh as he pulled on his outer clothing.

“Mn”

“And I get to stay here because?”

“Guqin” it was one word but it explained everything. Of course Lan WangJi could play the guqin to calm the nightmares.

“Makes sense!” They finally left the jingshi together, walking towards the library.

“I’m pretty sure all the guys know we’re a thing now so we don’t have to hide it from them!” Wei WuXian said with a bounce “Did your brother have to threaten them to keep quiet?”

“Actually most of them begged him not to tell the old man” a dry voice said as Jiang Cheng joined them and punched Wei WuXian in the arm.

“You idiots have any idea how hard Nie HuaiSang and I have been working to keep you guys from being caught!? Did you ever wonder why we were outside the library announcing loudly that we’ll take that book in for whoever? Or why we would loudly greet people who were walking your way whenever you were making out? Or why no one found you in the forest? It was fucking exhausting!” Jiang Cheng ranted, “Don’t make out anymore over every goddamn stretch of this place! Otherwise the old man will find out and will skin you alive Wei Wuxian!”

“...Really? You guys were covering for us? Aw you care!” Wei WuXian hugged Jiang Cheng who fought him off, “Though how did you find out?”

“Fuck off! I care about what a fucking disgrace you are! And I knew because you fucking suck at keeping it a secret!” Jiang Cheng hissed as he flailed.

“I have the best shidi ever!” Wei WuXian finally released Jiang Cheng and then ruffled his hair, “But seriously thank you.”

“Whatever. Just stop screwing around and I mean that literally.”

“Tell that to Lan Zhan”

“I’m telling both of you!”

“Yeah yeah. You hear that Lan Zhan? You can only mess me up in the jingshi” Wei WuXian said as he grabbed Lan WangJi’s arm.

“Mn.”

“Hey seriously though. Lan XiChen said your dreams were something serious. Are you okay now?” Jiang Cheng asked with a frown.

“...Yeah. Sorry for the trouble. But I think Lan Zhan can help me with them.” Wei WuXian said smiling at his lover.

“Mn”

Jiang Cheng wasn’t quite sure how he should feel about this. He wasn’t interested in men but he was jealous of how Lan WangJi was the person Wei WuXian turned to for help and support. That Lan WangJi was the one who could wake Wei WuXian from that terrible nightmare. That Jiang Cheng who used to be the one always at Wei WuXian’s side was now looking on from a distance.

It felt like a loss.

Like rejection.  

And Jiang Cheng when he met an emotion he couldn’t handle defaulted to anger.

“Stop being so sticky to your boyfriend idiot” he said smacking Wei WuXian over the head.

“Ow!”

“Come on, the old man canceled class because no one got sleep last night thanks to you. Everyone is waiting for you.” Jiang Cheng said with a wave of his hand.

“Eh!? Fine fine! Come on Lan Zhan we should thank our protectors!” Wei WuXian held tightly to Lan WangJi's arm as they followed Jiang Cheng.

They found the rest of the disciples killing time in a clearing in the woods. They immediately jumped up and surrounded the couple.

“Wei WuXian you okay?”

“What the fuck were you on last night!”

“Did the old man find out?”

“We promise no one said anything to the adults!”

“Don't worry! We got your back!”

“Yeah we won't let anyone split you up!”

“You guys are the ideal of love!”

Wei WuXian was thrown by the outpouring of support from the others. He expected some people to be okay with it but this was beyond what he had ever imagined.

He was completely overwhelmed. These were faces that in another life has stood against him but now they were clapping him on the back and promising to protect him.

He gripped Lan WangJi's arm tightly.

“Wow! I really don't know what to say but thank you! It's good to know Lan Zhan and I have your support.” Wei WuXian was smiling but Lan WangJi knew how on edge he was really feeling.

So when the other boys backed off and sat back down to continue chatting and hanging out Lan WangJi sat down as well and pulled Wei WuXian into his lap.

Wei WuXian tensed at first and everyone else went quiet for a moment before they started talking again.

Wei WuXian relaxed against Lan WangJi's chest and smiled a much more real smile.

This felt good.

 

After that the days took a new routine. Wei WuXian had long ago finished copying the rules so rather than spend all their time in the library making out Wei WuXian, who enjoyed being social, would drag Lan WangJi with him to hang out with the other boys.

At first some of the boys were uncomfortable with the couple, especially as Wei WuXian was absolutely shameless and stuck to Lan WangJi like glue and demanded attention and kisses from him often.

But they got used to and it was worth it both for Wei WuXian’s antics and jokes and for the times when he was flustered or thrown off by Lan WangJi.

Jiang Cheng was the only one who seemed to actively hate the public displays of affection and his mood just seemed to be getting worse.

It wasn’t even relieved when he and Wei WuXian were walking the halls of Cloud Recesses without Lan WangJi for once.

“I still can’t believe you get to shack up with your boyfriend.” Jiang Cheng growled.

“What’s the big deal? It’s not like I can get pregnant.” Wei WuXian replied with a shrug, “Though hah I did get the old man holding me up by my lapels and growling at me to not taint his precious nephew.”

“Of course he did.”

“This story is so romantic! Which of the girls from the clans do you think are the most beautiful? What about you Jin ZiXuan?” a voice was heard up ahead.

“Don’t ask him, he’s engaged already so he’ll have to say her.”

“...I don’t know Maiden Jiang enough to have an opinion on her” Jin ZiXuan said calmly.

“That pompous-” Jiang Cheng started.

“Wait” Wei WuXian told him quietly, his hand on Jiang Cheng’s arm.

“But I have asked her father if I could stay in Lotus Pier for a year when I’m done with my studies here so I can properly court and come to know her so perhaps I’ll have an answer then.” Jin ZiXuan finished answering the question with a brief smile.

“Oh! Uncle agreed?” Wei WuXian asked eagerly leaving Jiang Cheng to approach the group.

“Yes. Father did as well.” Jin ZiXuan answered with an incline of his head.

“What the actual fuck?” Jiang Cheng said as he watched Wei WuXian talk all friendly and everything with Jin ZiXuan of all people. They said a few more words before parting and then Wei WuXian was back beside Jiang Cheng.

“What. The. Fuck.” Jiang Cheng gritted out from clenched teeth.

“Oh that? I noticed he wasn’t keen on the engagement and suggested it was because he hadn’t bothered to get to know shijie. He took my advice of taking a year to really get to know her and is going to decide after that. Seems better for shijie then him resenting her” Wei WuXian explained.

“..Why didn’t you tell me? Where did you get this idea anyway?” Jiang Cheng asked.

“Hmm? I must have forgot, and Lan Zhan pointed out what the issue most likely was, the suggestion to Jin ZiXuan though was all mine.” Wei WuXian seemed completely unaware of how the very mention of Lan WangJi’s name caused Jiang Cheng’s hands to clench with rage.

“Ahhhh I miss Lan Zhan! I wonder if he’s done with his work yet!” Wei WuXian complained and Jiang Cheng had had enough.

He grabbed Wei WuXian by the collar and pulled him out of the hall.

“Jiang Cheng? What’s up with you?” Wei WuXian asked, too curious to pull away.

The rounded a corner into a place far more private and Jiang Cheng let go of Wei WuXian to stand with his back to him, his fists clenched so tight the knuckles were white.

“Jiang Cheng?”

“Lan Zhan this! Lan Zhan that! Can you not mention him for one fucking second!?” Jiang Cheng spat out.

“...Well...he’s important to me.” Wei WuXian said quietly as he rubbed the back of his head in confusion. Jiang Cheng spun around, glaring at him.

“Is he the only one who’s fucking important to you now?” Jiang Cheng demanded, “How about me! Wasn’t I there to comfort you after every nightmare? Haven’t I always chased away dogs from you? Never revealed your fear to anyone? Haven’t we been like brothers? Then we come here and you’re what? Instantly in love and no one else matters?” Jiang Cheng finished his rant, his expression dark.

“You know that’s not true Jiang Cheng! Yes I love Lan Zhan but that doesn’t mean I don’t care about my brother anymore! It’s just exciting to be in love!” Wei WuXian moved and put his hands on Jiang Cheng’s shoulders, “You and shijie have always been the two people I trust and love the most. It’s just now there’s a third on that list. Lan Zhan is very important to me so I talk about him a lot. But I talk about you a lot to him! I tell him stories of what we’ve gotten up to at Lotus Pier! I want to show him all the places I love there and tell him about the memories I made with you in those places!”

Jiang Cheng’s shoulders slumped.

“I just-”

“I know. But you are my brother and that’s not going to change.” Wei WuXian paused and then took his hands away and turned partly away.

“Look Jiang Cheng,” Wei WuXian started “Things are going to change. I am going to have to make choices and go down paths that may seem like they are taking me apart from you. But I will always make my choices with loyalty to you and Lotus Pier in mind.”

“What are you-”

“You won’t understand at first but you will. Someday I’ll explain everything but not yet. When I do you’ll understand why I had to wait.”

“Wei Ying?”

Wei WuXian turned back to look at Jiang Cheng and something in his eyes hit Jiang Cheng hard.

“...Is this to do with your nightmares?” he asked, his jealousy forgotten. Wei WuXian nodded solemnly.

“Things are going to get bad. Real bad. But the choices I make now are to protect those who I love the most and that will always be my family. It’s just now my family includes Lan Zhan.”

Jiang Cheng was silent for a long time before he took a deep breath and walked forward to clap Wei WuXian on the shoulder.

“Sorry for being a dick” he said and Wei WuXian smiled.

“Good. I’m sorry for being too loved up” Wei WuXian replied with a laugh.

“Shut up” Jiang Cheng shoved Wei WuXian with a laugh and soon they were laughing and play wrestling like they usually do.

“Wei Ying” Lan WangJi interrupted them causing the two to look at him.

“Lan Zhan! Everything okay?” Wei WuXian asked with a grin.

“Brother wishes to speak to us.”

“Alright! See you later Jiang Cheng!” Wei WuXian waved and ran off to join Lan WangJi.

The pair of them walked off and as soon as they were out of hearing range Wei WuXian's smile dropped.

“Do you think he'll forgive me when he learns the truth?”

“Mn”

“...I really hope you're right.”

Chapter Text

The months passed and while Lan QiRen never stopped regarding Wei WuXian as suspicious he could never quite catch him out with all the boys running interference.

They were still developing a plan for avoiding the disasters from the last timeline with Lan XiChen when the disciples were sent out on a night hunt.

At first it seemed a basic hunt with simple corpses that didn’t didn’t seem too difficult but it quickly proved to be more dangerous with a force that was attracting far to many corpses and filling them with far too much aggression.

Lan XiChen and Lan QiRen came to deal with source but they left the disciples with waves of frecious corpses that were flooding the area.

Lan WangJi and Wei WuXian, as they had on all night hunts, were side by side eliminating the corpses with practiced ease, trusting the other to watch their back.

While they were fighting off the crowd around them Wei WuXian saw two foreign disciples of the Lan clan struggling with the corpses around them. They were struggling to the point that they didn’t see the ones coming from behind and even if they noticed they were unlikely to be able to deal with them.

Wei WuXian couldn’t abandon his place to help them (the corpses weren't difficult just many) and he needed Suibian with him so moving on instinct he whistled.

High and sharp his whistle carried and the corpses coming up behind the two disciples changed trajectory and fell upon the other corpses.

As Wei WuXian fought he whistled and clicked simple commands. At his command the corpses he controlled aided the two disciples before surrendering themselves.

It was only after all the corpses were dealt with that he realised what he’d done. He collapsed to his knees staring at the ground, his mind a million miles away.

“Wei Ying? You okay?” Jiang Cheng reached out a hand to shake his shoulder but Wei WuXian slapped it away.

“Don’t touch me!” Wei WuXian snapped.

Jiang Cheng drew his hand back in shock.

“Wei Ying” Lan WangJi took a step toward him but Wei WuXian scrambled up and away from him, his face white and filled with self loathing.

“I-” he looked at both of them before drawing his sword and fleeing.

“Wei Ying!” Lan WangJi mounted his blade and followed.

Jiang Cheng moved to follow as well but Lan XiChen who had seen the exchange put his hand on his arm to stop him.

“Let WangJi handle this”

Reluctantly Jiang Cheng stood down, but his face betrayed his worry.

 

Wei WuXian came to a stumbling stop in a clearing, unable to continue he fell to his knees and started retching uncontrollably. He heard someone land behind him and put an arm out behind him, his palm out towards them to clearly say stay away even though his hand shook.

When there was nothing left to come up he wiped his mouth before forcing himself to his feet and walking away from the mess before collapsing to the ground again. At no point did he allow himself to look at the other person in the clearing.

“...I swore I would never touch it again.” and though he spoke barely above a whisper his voice carried, filling the space between them. His hands clenched at the grass.

“I swore to myself that I would never use it. I knew it was still there. All the knowledge, all the power I had gained in my old life. It’s the same soul as back then and it carries it all...or maybe I was tainted and doomed from my birth.” Wei WuXian leaned forward and pressed his forehead against the grass, “What’s worse is it felt right. Like I had been missing a piece of myself. I had missed the fucking thing that ruined my life! Am I that much of a fucking masochist? Or am I that irredeemable?”

The silence between them lay heavy, the air thick with tension.

Then a sigh.

“Wei Ying, do you wish to know what happened on this night hunt last time?”

There was a silence.

“Last time the disciples were badly injured. You protected them”

Another pause.

“...Did you set it up so I’d have to use it?” Wei WuXian asked, his voice tight.

Silence.

“Did you!?” Wei WuXian whipped his head up and around to glare at Lan WangJi, “You knew it was going to happen! You were there last time! Did you know and set it up so I’d use it?” he shouted.

“Is that really what you think of me?”

Wei WuXian instantly deflated, all the anger flowing out of him as he turned his eyes back to his fists clutching the dark grass.

“No. You would never endanger others on purpose...Then why?”

“I knew you would protect them. I guessed you might use it but I thought you also might find another way.” Lan WangJi explained.

The heavy silence filled the clearing again.

“Wei Ying it is a part of you. But it doesn’t have to own you.” Lan WangJi said finally breaking the silence.

“Ha. Wasn’t it you that always tried to get me to abandon it? Told me that it would damage my body and my heart? Told me not to spend so much time with ghosts?”

“Last time you drowned in it. This time you have a chance to stay on the surface.”

Wei WuXian threw himself on his feet, finally facing Lan WangJi who was glowing softly under the moonlight.

“What the fuck is this Lan Zhan? Weren’t you always the one who was so fucking self righteous? Always so fucking sure that everything I was was evil beyond redemption?!” Wei WuXian shouted.

Lan WangJi’s eyes went hard.

“I did not save you from the Nightless City, hide you from enemies, fight my own clan and receive thirty-three lashes from a discipline whip because I felt you and your path and actions were evil beyond redemption.” his voice was even and controlled but Wei WuXian understood he was seeing Lan WangJi truly angry for the first time even as the impact of his words stabbed him in the heart.

“...What?” Wei WuXian’s eyes were wide with horror, “...why? For me? Why? All I did was kill them. I killed them all.” he landed on his knees again.

“I killed them. Shijie, Madam Yu, Uncle, Jin ZiXuan. Wen Ning and Wen Qing died for me, you were punished so severely and why!? What about me means I carry death and pain in my wake? Why would you stand by me after all that?” Wei WuXian wept, his voice cracking as tears streamed down his face.

Lan WangJi finally walked over and knelt in front of him.

“You did not kill them” he took out a handkerchief and wiped Wei WuXian’s face, “and I love you because of who you are.”

“...I hate that I know I’m going to do it again the most.” Wei WuXian admitted in the space between them.

“It will not take you this time.” Lan WangJi promised.

“How do you know?” Wei WuXian’s eyes were dull as he stared at the ground. Lan WangJi placed his fingertips under Wei WuXian’s chin and lifted his head so they could look eye to eye.

“Because you are not alone”

Slowly life came back into Wei WuXian’s eyes and he licked his lips nervously.

“You don’t hate me for using it?” he asked.

“I do not”

“...How did you know I couldn’t let it go?” Wei WuXian asked.

“Because you cannot be caged” Lan WangJi took an object wrapped in white cloth from his waist and unwrapped it before holding out the object for Wei Ying to take.

It was a flute.

Not of white jade like the ones favoured by the Lan Sect. Instead it was of dark wood though not black of night like Chenqing. It was finely crafted and it bore two tassels, one of crimson and one of blue.

“There is a middle path” Lan WangJi said, “and I will walk it beside you”

Still gazing at the flute Wei Ying reached out a shaking hand and took it. It felt so right in his hand, and he felt complete for the first time since he’d been reborn.

He brought his gaze up to Lan WangJi’s clear eyes.

“You will walk this path with me?” he asked.

“Mn.”

In reality they both knew Lan WangJi would never use demonic cultivation himself. What he meant was that he would stand by Wei WuXian and help keep him from falling too deep into darkness.

Wei WuXian collapsed into Lan WangJi’s arms and allowed himself to be gathered close.

“I can’t believe that fate would give someone like me someone so good” Wei WuXian mumbled and Lan WangJi’s arms tightened around him.

They stayed like that for a long moment before Wei WuXian felt secure enough to pull away.

“I will walk this path with you” Wei WuXian promised, his eyes now dry and his gaze steady, “I will be true to who I am. But I will not drown or fall like I did before. Because I cannot risk my heart being damaged when I have given it to you”

Lan WangJi nodded and Wei WuXian’s smiled and the world was a little brighter.

They both knew this wouldn’t be the last time the horror of his death and what happened last time would overcome Wei WuXian but some healing had happened. He wasn’t alone this time.

 

They made it back to the Cloud Recesses where Jiang Cheng, Lan XiChen and Lan QiRen were waiting for them.  

“Wei Ying! Are you okay?” Jiang Cheng asked.

Wei WuXian was still pale but he nodded.

“It had to do with my nightmares. Lan Zhan was able to calm me down.” he replied as he smiled gently at Lan WangJi.

“Is this the case WangJi?” Lan XiChen asked probably for the benefit of Lan QiRen.

“Mn”

“That’s good then. Since you still look a bit pale it’s best if you go back to the jingshi. Young Master Jiang can you escort him back?” Lan XiChen was smiling but there was an edge to it.

Wei WuXian shared a glance with Lan WangJi.

“Not that I’m complaining about Jiang Cheng’s company but why not Lan Zhan?” Wei WuXian asked.

“Our father would like to see WangJi”

Lan WangJi stiffened beside him. Wei WuXian didn’t exactly know how Lan WangJi felt about his father but he had learned the story of the house off in the woods from Lan XiChen. So when Lan WangJi looked over at him he smiled and nodded.

“You go talk to your dad, I’ll be fine with Jiang Cheng.” Wei WuXian assured him.

He walked over to Jiang Cheng and the two of them started walking to the jingshi. He looked back once to see Lan WangJi following his uncle and brother and wondered how he was feeling.

 

Lan WangJi hadn’t expected to actually get to talk to his father about this.

It wasn’t that he never saw his father but it usually took something big for him to leave his secluded meditation and Lan WangJi rarely saw the need to impose on his father with his presence.

It was different for his brother.

As the heir to the sect he had more reason to speak to their father, and it was his duty to make sure their father was informed of sect business even though he invariably left it to Uncle to handle.

What little time he’d had with his father had given Lan WangJi the impression that he was kind but sad. He wasn’t as bad at expressing himself as Lan WangJi but he wasn’t as warm to be around as his brother was or Mother had been.

But he was kind.

Lan WangJi hoped that kindness would be enough to get what he wanted.

Lan WangJi entered the building and saluted respectfully.

“Father”

“A-Zhan” His father said with his sad sad smile.

Lan WangJi never knew how to feel about being called A-Zhan. The only other people to have done that were his brother when they were little and their mother. After their mother’s death his brother had seen his discomfort with being called A-Zhan and had taken to calling him WangJi. His father didn’t know how to see the discomfort though and Lan WangJi didn’t tell him.

“I have to say I was surprised by your request. Though I have heard from A-Huan that you are close to the Jiang sect’s head disciple.” his father continued, he looked at the letter Lan WangJi had written him as he sat at his table.

“...”

His father looked up and waved him over.

“Come sit A-Zhan there is no need to stand”

Lan WangJi walked over and sat across from his father.

“...I have heard a lot about this Wei WuXian since he came. A-Huan seems to think he is a good person. A strong cultivator with a strong moral centre. While on the other hand your uncle seems to view him with deep suspicion and has asked me several time for permission to remove him from your rooms. A decision by the way that A-Huan has defended several times on the grounds of Young Master Wei’s ‘prophetic dreams’ it’s been quite exciting for me honestly.” his father said putting down the paper to gaze at Lan WangJi.

“...”

His father’s gaze laid on him for quite a long time.

“What do you want from me A-Zhan” he asked and Lan WangJi wasn't sure how to answer. Not because he didn't know what he wanted but because asking for things was difficult.

Words were difficult.

But he had promised himself this time that he would try harder. For him .

“I want permission to follow Wei WuXian to Lotus Pier to court and marry him”

Silence.

“That's a big ask. Your uncle will never approve” his Father finally replied.

“With all due respect to Uncle technically he isn't Sect Leader”

That “technically” must have hit home.

“Do you not approve of my seclusion?” His father asked.

Silence

“I know your uncle doesn't and your brother tries to hide his frustration but I see it. Tell me, what would you have done in my place” and his voice wasn't angry but it was so so sad.

Lan WangJi should apologize and say he was fine.

But Lan WangJi had never been a good liar.

“I do not know how else you would have saved Mother. But I do know she has been dead for a long time and yet you still keep yourself isolated to hide your grief and guilt and that's not fair to your sect or your family.” It was the most words Lan WangJi had ever spoke to his father..

It felt uncomfortable.

“Guilt?” his father asked.

“For caging a wild bird” Lan WangJi replied without hesitation.

There was another long silence.

“I cannot cage him. If I cannot cage him then I must follow him.” Lan WangJi finally said breaking the silence “and I will with your permission or not”

“Then why are you asking for it?”

Lan WangJi tilted his head to the side in confusion. Wasn't it obvious?

“You are my father.”

“...Father…..You're asking me as your father rather than as your sect leader?”

Lan WangJi was even more confused by this question and why it was being asked.

“Mn”

“Even though I have never acted as a father should you still hold that title in higher regard than sect leader?”

“Mn”

“Why?”

This made Lan WangJi pause. Why did he hold that in higher regard? Didn’t his father know? But then why would he know?

Lan WangJi frowned as he struggled with his words, a line appearing between his brows.

“... Whatever I think of your choices” he answered slowly, “you are still my father. You are still my family. I want you to lead the sect properly for Brother's sake and I wish you to come out of seclusion for all of our sakes. But whatever my feelings you are still my father and…” Lan WangJi took a deep breath and pushed through his discomfort “I still love you.”

He had never had the chance to tell his father this last time. It had taken him honestly a long time to realise he regretted not saying it. But that didn't mean that regret made it easy for him to say it now.

His father stared at him with wide eyes, his mouth parted with shock.

Lan WangJi didn't say anything else. He had run out of words.

Slowly his father recovered himself.

“You may go to Lotus Pier” he finally replied.

“Thank you Father.” Lan WangJi stood up and saluted respectfully before taking his leave.

He was exhausted. Why were words so hard? Everyone else managed. Wei Ying had more words then most. Maybe that's why he struggled so. Maybe Wei Ying had his words. He guessed he didn't mind that.

He was willing give Wei Ying everything, including all his words.

He walked back to the jingshi. Glad to be away from other people.

He found Wei Ying sitting at the table inside and when he turned and grinned at Lan WangJi who felt his exhaustion slip away at the sight. This was what he needed.

He walked over and draped himself over Wei Ying's back.

“Lan Zhan? Are you okay?”

A shrug. No he wasn’t. He had used up his words and his father kept calling him A-Zhan and his Wei Ying was still haunted by the blood of a past that wouldn’t happen anymore.

It had been a rough day.

Wei Ying patted his arm.

“Do you want to talk about it?”

Lan WangJi shook his head. He couldn’t talk about it even if he wanted to. He wished sometimes he could speak the language of the guqin to people. Music was easier than words. Much easier than touch in most cases. But touching Wei Ying wasn’t difficult. Wei Ying was warm and comforting.

“Okay. Eat something at least.”

Lan WangJi just hugged Wei WuXian tighter. He wasn’t hungry. He just needed Wei Ying. To know there was someone who would be there for him even when he didn’t have his words. To know that Wei Ying would be there for him when he had lost his words.

“...Do you want to stay like this?”

A nod into Wei WuXian’s neck. He wanted to spend the rest of his life like this. Safe and secure in his rooms. Away from messy humans and all these expectations. Safe and wrapped around Wei Ying’s brightness and warmth.

“...Okay. Take as long as you need.”

Could he have forever?

 

A week after the night hunt the disciples were all out on the training ground. Lan XiChen was monitoring the training at the moment and was using a sparring session between Lan WangJi and Wei WuXian as an example.

Partway through the session though he glanced at the far side of the grounds and his eyes widened in shock.

“Father?” his voice carried and both Wei WuXian and Lan WangJi came to a halt as everyone turned their eyes to the spot Lan XiChen was staring at.

It only took a glance to recognise this was Sect Leader Lan. He looked so much like his sons his identity couldn’t be questioned. He smiled though it didn’t reach his eyes and walked over.

“I didn’t mean to interrupt the training. I just came to see how it was going.” he assured them in a calm voice.

“Is something wrong?” Lan XiChen asked, his face pale.

“No no nothing’s wrong”

“Then why?” Lan XiChen’s eyes darted around the busy training grounds and then dropped, not finishing his question.

The sect leader stopped next to where Lan WangJi and Wei WuXian were stood together and his eyes glanced at Lan WangJi before looking back at his eldest son.

“Why have I left my secluded meditation?” he finished for Lan XiChen, “I have thought perhaps...perhaps it’s time to leave that behind.”

Lan XiChen looked up at him with wide eyes, filled with hope or at least the desire to hope, his lower lip quivering.

The sect leader lowered his eyes briefly before turning to Wei WuXian.

“You must be Wei WuXian.” He said with a smile that was more sorrowful then any frown.

“Yes Sect Leader” Wei WuXian replied saluting him properly.

The sect leader huffed out an almost laugh and then reached out and gripped him on the shoulder.

“Take care of him please” he said softly enough that only Wei WuXian and Lan WangJi were likely to hear.

Startled Wei WuXian looked up and met his eyes.

“I will.” he promised.

“Good...that’s good.” the sect leader dropped his hand and turned back to his eldest son.

“A-Huan could you tell me where your uncle is? I have much to discuss with him.”

“I- I think he’s in the ancestral hall.” Lan XiChen replied his eyes still betraying a mixture of shock and desperate hope.

“I will look for him there. Please continue with your work, you’re doing very well.” he started to walk off before he stopped and looked back at his son.

“I will see you and your uncle for dinner. A-Zhan?” The sect leader looked back at his youngest, “You and your guest are welcome as well.”

Wei WuXian looked at the two brothers and particularly the war of emotions in Lan XiChen’s eyes.

“I thank you for the offer Sect Leader but I have to decline. I have already agreed to dine with my shidi tonight. I accept on behalf of Lan Zhan however.”

“Of course, another time then. A-Zhan, A-Huan, Wei WuXian.” the sect leader nodded at his sons and the wayward boy in their midst and they saluted him respectfully back before he walked off

Lan XiChen let out a shaking breath after their father disappeared. Lan WangJi stood still as a statue besides Wei WuXian.

“...I’m guessing that didn’t happen last time” Wei WuXian muttered quietly.

Lan WangJi slowly shook his head.

Things just got very interesting indeed.

Chapter Text

“Ah! I can’t believe we’ll be at Lotus Pier soon!” Wei WuXian had been practically vibrating from a combination of excitement and nerves the whole trip. The closer they got the more Jiang Cheng worried he was going to vibrate to pieces.

Unlike the trip to Gusu Wei WuXian and Jiang Cheng had two extra people traveling with them.

It was weird enough for Jiang Cheng traveling with Jin ZiXuan and knowing he was going to stay a year at Lotus Pier with them but it was even weirder to have one of the Twin Jades of Gusu with them following around Wei WuXian as if they were tied together with rope.

Jiang FengMian had been surprised when Sect Leader Lan requested that Lan WangJi spend a year at Lotus Pier but no one had been more surprised then Lan QiRen.

But then Sect Leader Lan had done a lot of surprising things recently. He hadn’t directly approached the group of disciples again but he had been seen around the Cloud Recesses quite often in the last few months of their stay in Gusu and Lan QiRen seemed to be simultaneously deeply relieved and infruitated beyond belief.

The fact that the sect leader had offered to include Wei WuXian in numerous family meals had particularly rankled him.

The sect leader said it was because “A-Zhan has a close friendship and that should be honored” but Wei WuXian only went a few times. Most of the time he begged off saying that while Lan WangJi spent time with his family Wei WuXian should spend time with his own.

Even so Lan QiRen had been very much looking forward to Wei WuXian leaving so he could undo whatever corruption Wei WuXian had tainted his precious nephew with.

Because in his eyes the fact that Lan WangJi spent more and more time in the company of the visiting disciples then he did on recording texts and meditating meant that Wei WuXian was a menace and Not To Be Trusted.

So he was not at all happy when the sect leader announced that Lan WangJi would be accompanying Wei WuXian to Lotus Pier.

But happy or not Lan WangJi left and Lan QiRen could only grind his teeth and take his temper out on Nie HuaiSang who was still floundering about in his care.

As they docked at Lotus Pier though only Lan WangJi understood why Wei WuXian was vibrating or why he had gotten so quiet when Jiang FengMian originally picked them up from Gusu.

Lan WangJi put a hand on the small of Wei WuXian’s back as they got closer. A silent reminder that Wei WuXian wasn’t alone and would never be again.

And that things could and would change.

Jiang YanLi was waiting for them on the dock and she greeted her father respectfully and then Jin ZiXuan and Lan WangJi before her mild but pleasant face broke out in a dazzling smile as she turned to her brothers.

“A-Cheng! A-Xian! How are you! Did you enjoy Gusu?”

Jiang Cheng smiled and gave his sister a hug.

“Hey sis, and yeah...it’s been eventful.” he stepped back to let Wei WuXian approach but he just stared at Jiang YanLi, his expression strange.

“A-Xian? Are you alright?” Jiang YanLi asked, her expression concerned as she reached up to check his forehead.

He shook himself and nodded.

“I’m okay I just…” he suddenly hugged her tight, “I just really missed shijie”

Jiang YanLi laughed and patted him on the back.

“I missed you as well. Come on! Let’s go home, I made your favourite”

Wei WuXian finally let go and smiled at her strangely.

“Yeah.” He then turned and grabbed Lan WangJi’s arm, “Lan Zhan! You finally get to try shijie’s soup! It’s the best thing ever and you’re going to love it!”

Jiang YanLi looked surprised but quickly smiled, a rosy blush on her face.

“Where’s your mother A-Li?” her father asked.

“In the training yard” she answered.

“I see, then I will leave our guests in your care.”

“Of course”

Jiang FengMian went ahead and Jiang YanLi with Jiang Cheng on one side and Jin ZiXuan on the other walked on with Lan WangJi and Wei WuXian taking up the rear.

“Are you okay?” Lan WangJi asked for their ears only.

“...It’s harder than I thought, seeing her again. The guilt eats away at me. Not just seeing her but seeing Lotus pier like I remember it from my childhood rather then how it became...I really hope they took your father’s recommendation on board and put us together” They had roomed together on the way over but that was with Jiang FengMian. Things were always up in the air when Madam Yu came into it.

“Mn”

They had all just finished their soup when Madam Yu and Jiang FengMian walked in.

(Wei WuXian had been pleased by the look of surprise and appreciation on Jin ZiXuan’s face in reaction to the soup but he had been delighted by the smile he saw on Lan WangJi’s)

They hurried to stand and salute respectfully.

Madam Yu greeted Jin ZiXuan warmly before asking Jiang YanLi to show him his room. Once he had left though her face turned hard as she regarded the other three.

“Why Wei WuXian did we receive a letter from Sect Leader Lan himself requesting not only for Young Master Lan here to stay with us for a year but to request that you share a room? What is this absolute garbage about you having prophetic dreams that need one of the Twin Jades of Gusu to tame?” she demanded.

“My Lady,” Jiang FengMian said hoping to calm her down but she ignored him.

“Lan QiRen made it clear that he felt you were up to no good so what are you up to? How are you going to disgrace us further!” She demanded of Wei WuXian.

“Mom it’s not garbage-” Jiang Cheng tried to argue but she shot him a withering look that cut him dead.

“Did I ask you?” she demanded, “No? Then shut up”

“Are you saying that Sect Leader Lan is mistaken? Or that I am able to fake that kind of dream well enough to fool him? Or that I have such a thick face I can bear to fake uncontrollable screams of terror and sobbing in front of all my fellow disciples just to pretend to have prophetic nightmares?” Wei WuXian asked with a sharp smile.

Wei WuXian often spoke from the heart first and thought second. That was what was happening here.

As much guilt as Wei WuXian carried about her death in the previous timeline he also couldn't forget that the last moment he shared with her was her snarling about how much she hated him. Nor could he forget the whipping she gave him and how close she came to cutting off his hand.

Because of that he spoke not with the respect he should and without any of the laughing carelessness of his first pass with youth.

Instead his words had a bite and Madam Yu was not prepared for that.

“...” she didn’t have a response to that seemingly other than an angry glare.

“I do not wish to have these dreams and they are frightening and unclear.” He continued mercilessly “But I do know that the visions all say the same thing: the Wens will be a larger and larger threat as time goes on and if you insist on burying your head in the sand only ruin will follow.” His eyes burned fire as he met her gaze.

Lan WangJi reached out to hold his hand and he blinked, the room suddenly seeming lighter like a darkness they hadn’t noticed building suddenly dissipated.

“These dreams are only controllable and readable thanks to Lan Zhan’s guqin playing. Sect Leader Lan has been kind enough to send Lan Zhan to help me and had even treated me with much kindness thanks to my friendship with Lan Zhan.” he added, his tone shifting to something much more respectful.

“I also know” Wei WuXian continued, “That Jiang Cheng was Lan QiRen’s favourite student and that he excelled at his time in Gusu. I was lucky enough through my friendship with Lan Zhan to simply avoid being sent home in disgrace”

Both Jiang Cheng and Lan WangJi looked like they wanted to say something but Wei WuXian stepped on Lan WangJi’s foot and shot Jiang Cheng a look that clearly said to not interfere.

“Lan QiRen did say you did well A-Cheng” Madam Yu acknowledged after a moment.

“I am honored he said so” Jiang Cheng replied glancing at Wei WuXian.

“Now that that is covered I will show Lan Zhan to our room.” Wei WuXian said with a respectful nod.

“Your room only has one bed” Madam Yu snapped.

“It’s better if we share a bed anyway. My dreams can be quite violent and it can become necessary for Lan Zhan to pin me to the bed until the dream passes” not a lie. That had actually happened on several occasions.

“You can’t-” Madam Yu started to object.

“It is fine.” she snapped her mouth shut as Lan WangJi finally spoke.

“It is fine” he repeated “I am used to sharing with Wei Ying and I am sure his family can understand the need for him to receive the help he needs.” he assured solemnly but his eyes had a cold glare at Madam Yu that she wasn’t used to seeing from anyone much less a sixteen year old boy.

Both boys were regarding her in a way she didn't know how to react to.

“May we take our leave then?” Wei WuXian asked slyly, grinning at her stunned face. Madam Yu snapped out of it and lifted her chin imperiously.

“Of course. We hope you are happy here Young Master Lan” Jiang FengMian cut in with a smile.

They saluted and then Wei WuXian was dragging Lan WangJi away by his arm.

“I have so much I want to show you!” Wei WuXian said they walked to his room “You never saw Lotus Pier at its heyday and it’s so much fun!”

“Mn”

“Just wait! We’re going everywhere .” Wei WuXian told him with a grin.

“Mn”

When they arrived at Wei WuXian’s room and he felt a wave of nostalgia that made his chest ache but more urgent was how he felt about seeing Lan WangJi in his room.

That was an ache in a very different part of his body.

“Come on! Let's put down our stuff and then I can show you the bed!” he said with a bounce and a smile as he put down his sword.

“I can see the bed?”

“Oh Lan Zhan I love you so much!” Wei WuXian laughed before pulling Lan WangJi down to the bed on top of him.

“You’ve had me all over the Cloud Recesses now you need to have me all over Lotus Pier. Starting with my bed” Wei WuXian teased before pulling Lan WangJi into a deep kiss.

They emerged from the bedroom much later. Lan WangJi straightening his hair ribbon and Wei WuXian looking both very rumpled and very satisfied.

“Come on! I have things to show you!”

Lan WangJi dutifully followed behind Wei WuXian has they walked around Lotus Pier. He sampled the food Wei WuXian pressed on him even though the other ate more and listened contently as Wei Wuxian chattered endlessly about his memories and the antics he’d gotten up to.

“When the weather is a bit warmer we’ll take a boat out and look for lotus pods and water chestnuts! And we’ll go pheasant hunting! And I’ll cook for you something! And and...oh we’re here!”

Lan WangJi looked away from Wei WuXian to see where ‘here’ was. They were at a base of a tree.

“When Uncle first brought me to Lotus Pier I climbed this tree in the middle of the night. It was the first one I ever climbed here. Shijie came out to find to me and I was too scared to come down so she waited for me to fall and tried to catch me but she had such little arms and I broke my leg anyway.” Wei WuXian explained as he climbed the tree, “Hah. At the time I thought it was so very high but it’s not that bad at all is it?” he asked with a smile as he looked down.

“Mn”

“Hey Lan Zhan? Catch!” and Wei WuXian let go, Lan WangJi darted forward and caught him, swaying but not falling. He opened his mouth likely to tell off Wei WuXian but his words were lost in Wei WuXian’s mouth as he was kissed.

He closed his eyes and held Wei WuXian close to him, his tongue sliding into the other’s mouth. Everytime they kissed was like the first time and he could never get enough of Wei WuXian.

“Nope! None of that now!”

Lan WangJi tightened his grip on Wei WuXian as a tug on the back of the other man’s robe broke their kiss and threatened to pull the other man from his arms. He glared over Wei WuXian’s shoulder at Jiang Cheng who gave him a very unamused look in return.

“Look I’m very happy you two are so in love but if you don’t stop fucking my brother in public Lan WangJi I’m going to break your legs.”

Lan WangJi’s ears went pink.

He did have a tendency to forget time and place when Wei WuXian started kissing him.

(Or looked like he might be open for a kiss)

(Or breathed)

(He blamed it on being a teenager again)

“Fine Fine! I’ll make him wait to mess me up then. What’s up?” Wei WuXian stopped hugging Lan WangJi fully but he still clung to the other’s arm.

“It’s time to get back. After pissing off mom she went and tortured the others a bit more in the training yard but it’s time you got back. Go reassure Sis that you’re not dying since you were a fucking weirdo when you arrived” Jiang Cheng said with a shove “Plus she’s heard about your nightmares so go make her not feel so bad”

“Fine! Come on Lan Zhan!” he tugged on Lan WangJi’s arm but Jiang Cheng stopped him.

“You go ahead. Me and Lan WangJi will catch up”

Wei WuXian looked unsure for a moment but knowing his shijie was worrying about him was enough to get him to move.

“Be nice to him!” he warned Jiang Cheng before kissing Lan WangJi’s cheek, “I’ll see you soon Lan Zhan!” then he ran off.

The two people outside of Jiang YanLi who were closest to Wei WuXian’s heart stared at each other for a moment.

“Come take a walk with me Second Young Master Lan” Jiang Cheng said with a serious expression.

Lan WangJi nodded his head. He knew that Jiang Cheng didn’t like feeling second to Lan WangJi when it came to Wei WuXian so he was prepared to be threatened or to have Jiang Cheng attempt to intimidate him as they started a slow walk back. However...

“He’s scared of dogs”

That was not what he got.

Lan WangJi shot Jiang Cheng a confused look.

“Wei Ying.” Jiang Cheng clarified, “He’s deathly afraid of dogs. It’s because when Uncle found him he’d been living on the streets and had to fight packs of wild dogs for scraps of food. He can’t cook at all. He thinks he can but he can’t resist putting in as much spice as possible. Even I can’t eat it without cursing. He’s thoughtless but loyal and he’s got a goddamn hero complex that means he’ll try to protect anyone no matter what the cost to himself. He’s brave but reckless and he cares more about his reputation then he lets on.”

A lot of this Lan WangJi already knew but Jiang Cheng had no way of knowing that.

“He can’t remember much about his parents and that bothers him more than he’s willing to admit. He’s not ashamed of his father but it rankles him when he’s dismissed as a mere servant when we’re the only family he’s ever known. He’s never spoken to mom that way before and I don’t know why he did today but she’s never forgiven him for being his mother’s son.” Jiang Cheng kept talking and Lan WangJi had no idea where he was going with this.

“When Dad brought Wei Ying to live with us I had a bunch of puppies. Dad made me get rid of them because Wei Ying was afraid. At first I was angry with him but eventually I realised I got a brother out of it and I decided it was worth it.” Jiang Cheng stopped and turned to face Lan WangJi who also stopped and turned to face him.

“Lan WangJi, Wei Ying is bright and capable but he has zero survival instincts. He can fight and fight well and he lived on the streets for a long time but if it’s a choice between himself and someone else he will always step forward and put himself at risk. No matter what. No matter if it costs him his life. He’s a genius who is also a fucking moron. So I’m entrusting him to you. Please take care of my idiot brother.” Jiang Cheng asked.

Whatever Lan WangJi expected from Jiang Cheng it wasn’t this.

But there was only one answer.

“I will. With everything I have.”

“Good. Good. Now let’s hurry up before he comes running back because he thinks I’m bullying you. Also stop fucking him everywhere please? I don’t want my sister to walk in on that”

Pink ears again.

“I will try”

“Frankly with you two that’s all I ask”

“Mn”

 

Back at the house Wei WuXian found Jiang YanLi waiting for him outside his room.

“A-Xian! How are you feeling?” She asked as he approached.

“I’m better now I can see shijie again! Jiang Cheng said you were worried about me?”

“Mn. I heard Jiang Cheng and Dad talking about your dreams. Jiang Cheng said you at one point you wouldn’t stop screaming until Lan WangJi played the guqin for you and that after that you moved in with Lan WangJi! Is that true?” she asked.

“Ah...unfortunately yes. Lan Zhan has been helping me though. Lan XiChen as well, they’ve been very good to me. It’s not been unbearable since.” he assured her as they walked to a bench and sat down.

“I’m so relieved to hear that!” Jiang YanLi said before she smiled knowingly “Lan WangJi is very kind isn’t he?”

“Mn, the most kind and the most beautiful” Wei WuXian replied without thinking, “He’s so smart and disciplined! He doesn’t talk much but he always listens to me. He pretends not to hear things that he doesn’t like but he does listen. He’s stubborn but gentle and he’s always there for me.”

“Hmm is that so?” Jiang YanLi said with a grin, “It’s nice that the one taking care of you is the one you’re in love with”

Wei WuXian immediately blushed and slunk down on the bench.

“Shijie!” he whined, embarrassed at being caught out.  

She laughed with delight.

“Does he love you too?” she asked and Wei WuXian couldn’t help smiling stupidly.

“He does. So much more than I deserve to be.”

“A-Xian! Don’t sell yourself short like that! You deserve all the love!” Jiang YanLi pinched his cheek lightly, “Does Dad know? I’m assuming you don’t want Mom to know.”

“Yeah and no Uncle doesn’t know, only his dad knows though I have no idea how he figured it out. Outside of that his brother knows and so does well...every other disciple from other clans that were being tutored with us? Including Jiang Cheng and your man.” Wei WuXian hoped how that came out wouldn’t come up.

“A-Xian were you not being discreet?”

“Um…”

“Oh A-Xian!” she laughed and ruffled his hair, “Well, as long as he treats you well you two have my blessing!”

“Thank you shijie!” he gave her a quick hug and she laughed again.

“Is this why you were so strange? Did you think I wouldn’t be happy for my precious younger brother? Silly A-Xian”

“Yeah. Yeah I was being silly.” He gave her a tight squeeze before letting her go and smiling. Finally he felt he could look at her properly, “I think I’ll be okay now.”

Chapter Text

“I’m thinking about speaking to Sect Leader Jiang about leaving” Jin ZiXuan unexpectedly announced when he found Wei WuXian.

“What? Why? It’s only been a month since you arrived! You promised you’d really give it a go!” Wei WuXian objected from where he was sat in Lan WangJi’s lap.

“I know but nothing’s happening! I don’t know how to talk to her and she doesn’t really talk to me and she appears all meek and mild but with her mother? They say look at the mother to see what the daughter will become” and Jin ZiXuan made a face like he’d just eaten something that tasted drastically differently then he expected.

“I-” Lan WangJi squeezed Wei WuXian gently and he stopped and took a deep breath before finishing his thought, “Okay shijie will be coming by in a minute and- Look just follow my lead okay!?”

“...Okay?” Jin ZiXuan agreed.

Sure enough a few minutes later Jiang YanLi came walking over, stopping briefly with a blush as she spied Jin ZiXuan.

She approached and saluted both himself and Lan WangJi.

“Young Master Jin, Young Master Lan.” she had manners he had to give her that. She then turned to Wei WuXian.

“A-Xian will you come and help me on my rounds?” she asked quietly.

“I would love to shijie but I promised I’d take Lan Zhan out to hunt pheasants this afternoon but Young Master Jin has said he’d go in my place”

Wait what!

“Oh...you don’t have to Young Master Jin, I’m sure I can get someone else to help.” she said looking away.

Wei WuXian shot him a look.

He better have a plan.

“I’d love to help” Jin ZiXuan said and he had to admit Maiden Jiang did look quite pretty when she smiled. Her mild features tended to light up a bit.

“Then thank you Young Master Jin. If you’ll please come with me.”

“Of course” he shot one last look at Wei WuXian who was looking disturbingly smug before he turned back to the young woman beside him.

With an awkward silence between them they walked back to the main house where she let them into the kitchen. There on the table was a large basket.

“Could you please take the basket and follow me? I’m afraid I have quite a few stops today”

“Of course” he was surprised at how heavy the basket was when he picked it up. No wonder she needed help.

To his surprise she led them out of Lotus Pier onto the streets of Yunmeng. She ignored the bright, high traffic, nice areas and walked straight into the darker, poorer areas.

She knocked on the door of a house that was little more than a shack.

“Madam? It’s me”

An elderly voice called to say they could come in and they entered the hovel to find an old lady laying in a little bed.

“Maiden Jiang” the wrinkled woman on the bed greeted.

“Ah Madam! You’re looking so much better today! I’m so glad. I brought you some more of your medicine”

Jin ZiXuan looked on speechless as Jiang YanLi helped the old woman sit up, take her medicine and cleaned her face.

And that was only one stop.

All afternoon they went from poor home to poor home. Dispensing medicine and food alongside Jiang YanLi’s gentle kindness.

The street children flocked to her and she passed out food and items of clothing. She even knew most of them by name.

The children ran off when they reached the finer streets and began walking back to Lotus Pier and Jin ZiXuan tried to sort through what just happened.

“Maiden Jiang…” he finally asked “How often do you make these rounds?”

“Two to three times a week.” she replied and she smiled and why was she so gentle and kind?

“...Why?” he asked.

They walked in silence for a bit longer before she answered.

“You and A-Cheng and A-Xian and Mom and Dad help so many people by fighting such terrible things. I know my own cultivation isn’t high. I could never go on night hunts and help people like that. But there are other ways I can help people! So I started making medicine and food and bringing it to the poor around Yunmeng. I know it’s not as great as what you are able to do for people Young Master Jin but I like to do what I can in my own small way.”

Jin ZiXuan felt both humbled and deeply ashamed.

True by eliminating monsters and exorcising ghosts he was helping people but he wasn’t doing it for that reason. He, like most of his peers, did it for the glory of it.

Never before in his life had Jin ZiXuan felt shame before. He was a strong cultivator from a proud and rich family but contrasted to the quiet goodness of this girl who was willingly tending to the sick and the elderly without any expectation of fame or attention...well he felt like he came up very short.

He was working out how to respond when a commotion came from a food stall up ahead.

“HEY! I’M GOING TO CUT YOUR HAND OFF YOU THIEVING BRAT!”

Their attention was pulled to a food stall where one of the street children was cowering in fear and pain from the man running it who had the child’s arm in a firm grip.

Jin ZiXuan put his hand on his sword but Jiang YanLi stopped him with a touch of her hand before striding forward.

“What seems to be the problem good sir?” she asked as she walked forward and taking the boys hand.

The food stall owner was so surprised to see her that he let go of the boy who darted behind Jiang YanLi, clutching the back of her dress.

“The brat stole a bun from me Maiden Jiang! Really is it too much to ask for that the riffraff like him stay in their gutters to die rather than stealing from honest folk!?” the owner accused.

“I see. It is indeed wrong to steal. I apologise to you good sir on behalf of this boy” she said with a bow. The owner looked smug.

“Hmph. A hard lashing is what the boy deserves” he muttered and Jin ZiXuan’s hand tightened on the hilt of his sword but Maiden shot him a look from where she was bowed and shook her head minutely.

She straightened, her back strong and straight and her hands clasped in front of her.

“But,” she began causing the stall owner to look surprised, “is it not true that charity is one of the perfections?” the stall owner’s smile fell.

“And is it not important to have compassion for all life?” Jiang YanLi pressed, “Surely a wealthy, hard working individual such as yourself can spare a bun for a poor starving boy? So I ask you! Please have compassion!”

The crowd who had gathered the watch the spectacle had begun on the side of the stall owner but hearing Jiang YanLi’s words they started to mutter that the stall owner was too rash, too violent. It was only a bun after all. And the boy was clearly starving.

Turning purple the man held the bun out to Jiang YanLi.

“He can keep it” he managed to say through gritted teeth.

“Thank you good sir. I will be sure to impress upon him to ask nicely in future and not to resort to stealing.” Jiang YanLi answered with a smile as she accepted the bun on the boys behalf.

She then led the boy away with Jin ZiXuan following. Once they were out of the crowd she knelt down and gave the boy the bun.

“Ah now do not steal!” She admonished gently, “There won’t always be someone there to help you!” she then proceeded to give him the address of a home where he could go when he’s hungry as the boy ate the bun.

“I will miss! I’ll be good”

She ruffled his hair and smiled at him.

“That’s a good boy! Now get on with you”

The boy ran off and Jiang YanLi stood up and smiled after him before turning to Jin ZiXuan. A smile still on her lips and the sun shining behind her.

He felt it like an arrow in his heart.

“Oh” he thought, “This is what love feels like”

 

When they got back to house Jiang YanLi excused herself and Jin ZiXuan sighed after she left, leaning against the wall with a dumb smile on his face as he stared at where she had disappeared off to.

“Hah” a voice broke him out of his lovesick sighing and he turned to find Wei WuXian smiling at him smugly, the ever present Lan WangJi at his back.

“I knew you’d fall for her” Wei WuXian continued and Jin ZiXuan felt his face heat up as he pushed himself off the wall.

“Okay yes your shijie is incredible and I was wrong.” Jin ZiXuan admitted as he turned away to walk to his room, but a thought occurred to him and he stopped and walked back to Wei WuXian and grabbed his shoulders eagerly.

“What would she like as a gift? I need her to love me too” he was not above begging when it came to this because he was pretty sure ‘expensive’ wasn’t going to be enough for such an angel. It had to be meaningful.

Wei WuXian was irritating enough to look even more smug before he patted Jin ZiXuan on the head condescendingly.

“Don’t worry! Big Brother Wei will help you”

“...I hate that I need your help so much.”

Chapter Text

Jiang FengMian’s day was going very strange.

It had been several months since his son and Wei WuXian had returned from Gusu with Jin ZiXuan and Lan WangJi.

The fact Jin ZiXuan not only asked for a chance to really court his daughter but had also taken to doing so with what could only be described as extreme enthusiasm was a surprise in itself. The boy had suggested it clearly hoping to get out of the engagement but several months into the year trial and he was mooning over Jiang YanLi like they were a love match from the beginning.

Don’t get Jiang FengMian wrong he’s happy for his daughter but it  was making his wife unbearably smug.

The main surprise though was the unlikely friendship and bond between Wei WuXian and Lan WangJi. It was like fire and water had become friends. Yet now if you needed one you looked for the other. They were rarely apart and people had become used to Wei WuXian’s silent shadow. What’s more Lan WangJi willing went out and played with Wei WuXian on the water or in the woods surrounding Yunmeng.

It was not at all what he’d expected from one of the Twin Jades.

It was good that Lan WangJi was there though as Wei WuXian’s nightmares were terrible. The screams were alarming when they ripped through the night but they were always followed by the sounds of the guqin, calming the terrible dreams.

That led to the third surprise: Wei WuXian’s insistence that if things didn’t change the Wens were going to massacre the YunmengJiang sect.

Madam Yu scoffed but Jiang FengMian was getting increasingly worried.

So with all that on his plate Jiang FengMian’s base level of strangeness was already high when he received three high level guests that he had not expected.

“Sect Leader Lan, Lan QiRen, and of course Young Master Lan! It’s so nice of you to visit but I was very surprised to receive you” Jiang FengMian said with a tight smile.

It was definitely a surprise to see Sect Leader Lan QingHeng-Jun as he was known to rarely come out of secluded meditation.

“Sect Leader Jiang” the sect leader who looked so like his sons replied with a bow, “I assumed you knew we were coming as the request for us to come was sent by my son.”

Jiang FengMian raised an eyebrow.

“I was not aware he had asked you to come. Have we in some way offended the young master? As far as I knew he was getting along quite well with my lead disciple.”

At this Lan QiRen snorted disapprovingly but the sect leader held up his hand to silence him.

“I’m sure all will be made clear. Won’t it A-Zhan?” Lan QingHeng-Jun said with a smile as he looked past Jiang FengMian’s shoulder.

Jiang FengMian turned around to see Wei WuXian with Lan WangJi as always at his side.

“Yes Father.” Lan WangJi said with a respectful salute to the others.

“We have an important request of Lan Zhan’s family and of you Uncle” Wei WuXian added with a respectful salute of his own.

“...I see. Shall we move inside then?”

“If it okay with Uncle I have also asked that Madam Yu and my shidi and shijie join us. They are already gathered in the hall.”

It was unnerving to see Wei WuXian so serious.

“Of course. Please let us head that way.”

As soon as the visiting Lan guests had been made comfortable and sat with tea and the Jiang family was also sat Wei WuXian and Lan WangJi kneeled in unison in front of both families. For once Wei WuXian was kneeling properly, his face serious.

“Uncle, Madam Yu, Sect Leader Lan, Lan QiRen and Young Master Lan we have a request.” Wei WuXian lead.

“We wish to be married.” Lan WangJi finished.

There was dead silence in the hall with Jiang Cheng and Lan XiChen sharing a quick glance. Only Jiang YanLi smiled.

“WHAT!” Lan QiRen exploded finally his face red.

“QiRen! Let them speak!” Lan QingHeng-Jun said with a raised hand.

“Why do you wish to be married?” Jiang FengMian asked feeling slightly bewildered.

The two of them reached out to entwine their hands.

“We’re in love. We know we want to be together forever. The thought of being seperated is...not something we can bear.” Wei WuXian explained.

“Why now?” Lan QingHeng-Jun asked.

“Frankly it has to be now. Our relationship is...quite well known among our generation. If it carries on rumours will spread and it will damage both sects if we went to the conference. The Wen’s won’t hesitate to use our relationship against you”

Madam Yu and Lan QiRen shot looks at their son and nephew respectfully but both boys were studiously looking ahead and refusing to make eye contact.

“Forgive me, but wouldn’t your marriage also spread rumours that could damage both sects? I have no problems with my son loving another man but I am not ignorant to the scandal that will arise.” Lan QingHeng-Jun smiled but his eyes were a bit sad.

“That is true...but we have a solution for that as well. Once we are married we intend to travel as rogue cultivators.” Wei WuXian replied.

“What!” Jiang Cheng cried out this time.

“Be still!” his mother snapped causing Jiang Cheng to flinch and lower his head.

“We know there will still be rumours and it won’t look good on either sect still but at least then the sects won’t be seen as supporting our union.” Wei WuXian continued.

Lan QingHeng-Jun looked unsurprised by this chain of events as did Lan XiChen and Jiang YanLi. Lan QiRen on the other hand was almost purple with rage.

“To be honest we’re not asking for permission. We will do this with your consent or not, but we would prefer our families to be there when we are wed.” Wei WuXian finished.

“You intend to destroy everything Lan WangJi has worked for! To ruin his life you-”

Lan QiRen was cut off by Lan WangJi dropping Wei WuXian’s hand long enough to take off his hair ribbon and tie it around their joined hands.

“Where he goes I go.”

“Aw it’s cute you keep doing that Lan Zhan” Wei WuXian said to his partner with a smile causing Lan QiRen to splutter incoherently.

“This would mean at least superficially you’d be evicted from both sects.” Jiang FengMian pointed out after a moment though he had no inclination to actually remove his support from Wei WuXian and doubted that the Lan sect would truly abandon Lan WangJi.

“We know and are ready for that.” Wei Ying answered.

Jiang FengMian laughed with a mix of sorrow and delight.

“You remind me so much of your father Wei Ying. He was much the same as you when he asked me for permission to marry your mother and to take his leave of my service. I couldn’t deny him then and I cannot deny you now.” Jiang FengMian replied with a smile.

To his side Madam Yu was looking at the table in shock. When Jiang FengMian had said ‘You remind me’ she had expected it to be followed by mother not father.

All these years she had hated Wei WuXian because she thought he reminded her husband of his ex lover.

She had forgotten that his other parent was Jiang FengMian’s closest friend.

“To deny the path of love no matter how difficult that path may be would make me a hypocrite. I cannot stand in your way A-Zhan.” Lan QingHeng-Jun added.

Both of the teenagers lit up with joy.

“Well I object!” Lan QiRen couldn’t let it go, “WangJi was without fault! He was a shining example to all! And now his life is to be ruined by this this son of a servant! I won’t have it!”

“Uncle!” Lan XiChen exclaimed shocked as Jiang FengMian’s face grew dark.

“QiRen his life is not going to be ruined. Not when he’s free to be with the person he loves and from what A-Huan has told me son of a servant or not Wei WuXian is a powerful cultivator of great intelligence and strong moral character.” Lan QingHeng-Jun replied calmly, “If you cannot stand by the nephew you raised on the happiest day of his life you may return to the Cloud Recesses and wait for A-Huan and myself to return.”

Lan QiRen’s face was still twisted in anger but he finally sighed and looked away.

“Uncle. I know you may not understand but my life is Wei Ying.” Lan WangJi said as he tightened his grip on their joined hands.

“How long has this been going on for?” Lan QiRen asked through clenched teeth.

“We have been together since the moment we first met” Wei WuXian admitted and if Lan QiRen ground his teeth any harder they were going to fall out.

“I cannot believe you came to our sect and seduced and defiled my nephew!” Lan QiRen’s hand was shaking as he pointed an accusing finger at Wei WuXian

“To be fair I don’t think that’s entirely accurate. I may have have kissed him first but Lan Zhan was the one doing the defiling.” Wei WuXian’s grin was huge as Lan QiRen spluttered.

“Shameless” Lan WangJi muttered, his ears red.

“Am I lying? Didn’t you tell me you couldn’t wait and held me down and-”

Lan WangJi’s ears got even redder.

Lan XiChen coughed lightly interrupting Wei WuXian before it got too explicit.

“Wei Ying I would prefer my uncle not to die of heart failure so could you refrain from making that sort of comment?” he asked with a raised eyebrow.

“Sorry Young Master Lan!” he did not look sorry.

“QiRen it’s really up to you if you want to stay or if you want to return first. The wedding will have to be a very quiet affair. Is that alright with you two?” Lan QingHeng-Jun said, directing the last question to the two boys.

The boys nodded.

“We expected that would be the case. We really just want our families to be present.” Wei WuXian explained.

“I understand.” Lan QingHeng-Jun replied before turning to Jiang FengMian, “If myself and my sons could impose on you until the wedding it would be much appreciated. We will of course help plan and pay for the ceremony.”

“Of course, and Lan QiRen? Will you stay?”

Lan QiRen glared at the two sect leaders and then looked out at his nephew. As much as he was opposed to this union and what he saw as the destruction of his favourite nephew he could not bear to not be there at his nephew’s wedding.

“I will stay.” he spat out gruffly.

“The question is...with two men who exactly is the bride?” Madam Yu asked no one particular.

“Wei Ying.” Lan WangJi answered immediately. Wei WuXian turned bright red.

“HEY! I could be the husband!”

“No.”

“But!-”

“You are my bride.”

“Lan Zhan!-”

“No.”

We WuXian gave a sigh of defeat and pouted.

“Fine. I’m your bride I guess.”

“Yes you are.” Lan Zhan answered placidly causing Wei WuXian to stick his tongue out at his lover.

“Ah. I get it now” Jiang FengMian said with a smile as the two boys finally stood up and left the room. Lan QingHeng-Jun gave him a curious look.

“I had been wondering how they fell in love since on the surface they seem to be fire and water” Jiang FengMian explained, “but I get it now. In all my time knowing Wei Ying I have never seen him lose out in an argument like that. He has someone who listens to him but won’t get just pulled along with his plans.”

“It’s much the same with WangJi.” Lan XiChen offered, “He is stubborn and seems cold and distant but in reality feels deeply. Wei Ying brings out his real feelings and also teases him when someone needs to. They do well together”

“Ah that reminds me A-Huan.” Lan QiRen said darkly causing Lan XiChen to jump, “They mentioned that their relationship was quite well known among the young people care to elaborate?”

“Yes A-Cheng” Madam Yu added, causing Jiang Cheng to wince, “Would you like fill us in?”

The two young heirs locked eyes across the room.

“We should go and help to plan the wedding!” Jiang Cheng said standing up quickly.

“Yes! Yes we absolutely should!” Lan XiChen agreed also standing up and then two of them fled from the hall with Madam Yu and Lan QiRen yelling after them to get back and explain.

Chapter Text

Lan XiChen and Jiang Cheng ran until they couldn't hear their relatives and then ran some more laughing the whole time.

Because this was the first time Lan XiChen had been to Lotus Pier he had no idea where they were running to. His heart skipped a beat though when Jiang Cheng grabbed his hand as they ran.

Eventually they stopped in a quiet square. Lan XiChen looked around curiously and was surprised to see it was a small but well maintained garden.

Jiang Cheng dropped his hand and dropped down on the grass among the flowers panting for breath as he leaned back on his hands.

Lan XiChen sat down next to him more slowly but his breathing no less laboured.

“We shouldn't be found here” Jiang Cheng assured him as they sat shoulder to shoulder “no one else knows about this place. I found it when I was a kid and it's where I come when I'm sick of everything”

Lan XiChen looked at Jiang Cheng with new eyes.

“...I'm honoured you chose to share this with me. It's beautiful here” he eventually replied, “Do you maintain this garden yourself?”

Jiang Cheng turned red and looked away.

“Cute” the thought rose unbidden in Lan XiChen's mind and he quickly looked away as well.

“I...it helps calm me down” Jiang Cheng finally admitted, “Here with the garden there aren't any expectations...or comparisons”

Lan XiChen looked back at Jiang Cheng who was still looking at the flowers. He turned forward to gaze at the well maintained garden as well. Seeing the love and care that went into it.

“I... understand. The burden of being an heir is great. The burden of not being as great as your brother is also...troublesome” Lan XiChen reached out a hand to gently caress a blossom.

“You are as respected and renowned as your brother” Jiang Cheng pointed out and Lan XiChen smiled a bit sadly.

“And yet all I hear is how perfect WangJi is. How pure, how restrained, how perfect” Lan XiChen let the bitterness he hides so well in his heart hiss out just a little as he clenched his free hand into a fist.

“Did you know” he went on “my uncle refers to WangJi as his favourite nephew in front of me? All the time?” Lan XiChen pulled away the hand he'd been touching the flower with and placed it in his lap.

“I'm happy for WangJi to have true love but selfishly I am also glad that he will no longer be flaunted as perfect in front of me. That Wei WuXian is a black mark on his purity” Lan XiChen said, admitting words he thought he had locked away in his heart forever.

He froze as Jiang Cheng's head landed on his shoulder with a sigh.

“I don't want Wei WuXian to abandon me. I want him as my right hand man. My best friend and brother.” Jiang Cheng murmured “but I also want him gone so that maybe my dad can grow to love me in his stead”

Lan XiChen relaxed and rested his head against Jiang Cheng's.

They sat like that for a long time. Just sharing a moment between two young men with many burdens on their hearts. Burdens that, for a little while, they could put aside.

They stayed until the sky turned purple and they grew hungry. Until they could no longer put off the lectures and punishments that were surely to come.

But for an afternoon they were just two young men who shared a moment in a garden.

Chapter Text

Wei WuXian walked through the streets of Yiling, a familiar person at his side. The last time they had walked these streets together their lives had been very different.

He’d been the feared Yiling Patriarch. Wrapped in darkness and slowly but surely losing control of his abilities, but so relieved that Lan WangJi didn’t hate him. That Lan WangJi was willing to meet with him as a friend.

“I should have figured it out then.” Wei WuXian laughed quietly. Lan WangJi looked at him with a raised eyebrow and Wei WuXian grinned at him.

“Just remembering the last time we were here. Do I technically owe you for a meal when the one you paid for last time is in the future of a different timeline?” Wei Wuxian mused, “Ahhh I miss A-Yuan. I suppose he’s not even born yet is he? I hope I get to meet him when he is. I hope his parents survive this time...it’s hard being an orphan.”

“Mn”

“Ah here’s the inn. The others should be here already.” Wei WuXian pulled on Lan WangJi’s arm.

Ostensibly they were in Yiling to have a break from the wedding planning for a night hunt and to buy supplies for their life as rogue cultivators. In reality it was time to put plans in motion.

They walked into the planned inn where Lan XiChen was waiting. He led them to the private room where Jin ZiXuan and Jiang Cheng were before excusing himself.

“What’s all the secrecy about Wei Ying?” Jiang Cheng demanded already irritated at having to wait so long with Jin ZiXuan.

“We have some information to reveal and plans to discuss with you but first Lan XiChen has gone to get our other allies. Before they come I need to...give you a heads up. First of all one of the allies is...well he’s the son of difficult parentage but I ask that you treat him well. We’ll very much need him and he’s too valuable.” Wei WuXian made sure to lock eyes with Jin ZiXuan as he said it but the man just nodded and Wei WuXian nodded to himself as well, “Okay the second set of allies are brother and sister and believe me when I say they are allies.”

Lan XiChen came back at that point with three people Wei WuXian was far too familiar with, two of which made his heart ache to see.

“This is Wen Qing and her brother Wen Ning” Wei WuXian began the introductions, “And Meng Yao. They will be indispensable to our plans”

“What’s this about? I only agreed to come because someone seems to know details about theoretical research I have not yet told anyone about” Wen Qing snapped, her bearing as proud as he remembered.

“Please sit and Lan WangJi and I will explain” with some grumbling everyone did though Meng Yao curled up in on himself, looking overwhelmed by the company he was keeping. Jin ZiXuan eyed him carefully and seemed to recognise something that the others hadn’t yet. He pointed at the young man, his face betraying mild distaste.

“What the fuck did that disgusting old man do this time?” he demanded “and why exactly are you waving the evidence of it in my face”

Meng Yao jumped in surprise and Jin ZiXuan gave him a cold look.

“Don’t worry I don’t blame you for being that man’s bastard. God knows he can’t keep it in his fucking trousers but that doesn’t mean I like being reminded of the fact that my father is a creep. Don’t expect much from him by the way. He doesn’t care about his women and he doesn’t care about his children.” In the other timeline Jin ZiXuan was more of a dick to Meng Yao when they first met because he thought his privilege made him special.

He only started to realise how his much of an asshole his father was when he fell in love with Jiang YanLi and realised his father never cared for his family no matter who he bedded.

As it was Jiang YanLi’s gentle kindness and love and Jin ZiXuan’s own desires to treasure her made him realise how utterly reprehensible his father’s actions were to the women he gave false love to and the children he abandoned. Especially since he started helping Jiang YanLi on her rounds and he saw the lives of the poor children abandoned by parents.

He was starting to realise that money wasn’t a substitute for affection and his father was an awful awful person.

“He may be one of your father’s bastards but trust me. We need him more than we need anyone. He’s beyond clever and without him we’ll fail. Trust me” Wei WuXian reminded him.

And so far Wei WuXian hadn’t steered him wrong so he grudgingly agreed and Meng Yao relaxed.

“Okay,” Wei WuXian continued, “What we’re about to tell you cannot leave this room. It is of the utmost secrecy.” when everyone agreed he took a deep breath.

“Some of you are aware of my ‘prophetic dreams’” he began, “That’s...not quite the truth. The truth is through a process we don’t quite understand except for that it has to do with us being soulmates myself and Lan WangJi were transported back in time to our first meeting after I died a horrible death. My dreams aren’t just dreams. They’re memories.”

There was a silence before Wen Ning laughed nervously.

“You don’t believe us yet but trust me you should. The Wens will fall further into tyranny and oppression, with the exception of Wen Qing and Wen Ning and their branch of the family, and many people will die unless we stop them. We’ve already caused some changes but more has to be done” Wei WuXian continued.

“This is nonsense!” Jiang Cheng blustered but he was pale.

“I want to call bullshit but I can’t think how else you’d know about my research. Also how did you know I fucking hate my uncle?” Wen Qing added.

“I know a lot about you...but I better start from the beginning.”

So Wei WuXian told them.

He told them about how he’d been kicked out of Gusu after three months in the original timeline. How the archery contest had earned them ire but also earned him the admiration of Wen Ning. He explained about The Cloud Recesses burning and the death of Lan QingHeng-Jun and Lan XiChen going into hiding. Of the indoctrination and the tortoise of slaughter.

“Then the Wen’s came to Lotus Pier because of me. To get revenge on the humiliation I made them feel. They murdered Madam Yu and Jiang FengMian and everyone else. Because of me. Only Jiang Cheng, Myself and Jiang YanLi survived. Jiang YanLi because she wasn't at home when it happened and Jiang Cheng and I survived because of Wen Ning and Wen Qing hiding us and treating our injuries” Wei WuXian said in a shaky voice.

“You aren’t responsible” Lan WangJi said to Wei WuXian quietly, “The Wens would have attacked Lotus Pier eventually”

“...Maybe”

Wei WuXian continued on. He lied a little about how he lost his golden core while shooting Wen Qing a look to keep her mouth shut. He told about coming back as a demonic cultivator. Of Lan XiChen leading the rebellion in the Sunshot campaign with Jiang Cheng and the others. Of Meng Yao’s important work behind the enemy lines as a spy. He told of the tiger seal and why he would not create it again though he refused to give details of where he found the material to make it in the first place.

He talked and talked about the Sunshot Campaign and all they went through.

“S-so...if you won...how did you die?” Wen Ning asked.

There was a silence as Wei WuXian stared at the table.

“Wei Ying” Lan WangJi murmured softly, his hand on Wei WuXian’s back.

“No...no I should be honest. They deserve to know” Wei WuXian took a deep breath and let it out slowly “During the Sunshot campaign I was...steeped in the demonic path. I murdered thousands with it and often kept ghosts around me, treating them like pets. Despite that I was admired for how many Wen’s I defeated and how I helped with the campaign. Afterwards that admiration turned to disdain. I was too proud...” Wei WuXian trailed off briefly before shaking himself.

“First Jin ZiXuan your cousin what’s his face. The rude one. He took Wen Ning and all his family except for Wen Qing and left them to be punished with the rest of the Wens despite not having committed any crime against us. They were abused violently and Wen Ning died before I could get to them. I then raised him as a ferocious corpse to take revenge on those who killed him.” Wei WuXian didn’t look at anyone as he talked and pretended he couldn’t hear the gasp from Wen Ning.

“I then was able to restore Wen Ning’s consciousness but by that time I had escaped with Wen Ning and Wen Qing and the last of the Wen Sect remnant to the Burial Mound just outside of here. The rest of the cultivation world had turned against me and Jiang Cheng had to pretend to disown me…” Wei WuXian continued, “Then Jin ZiXuan you and my shijie got married and had a baby. You were kind enough to invite me to the one month celebration but...your cousin ambushed me on the way.”

Jin ZiXuan took a sharp breath in.

“You didn’t know about it beforehand! You arrived to stop it and put things to rights but...I had Wen Ning with me and I...lost control.” Wei WuXian’s hands clenched into tight fists and Lan WangJi stroked his back soothingly

“I killed you” Wei WuXian whispered.

“Wen Ning killed him” Lan WangJi interjected but Wei WuXian just laughed hollowly.

“Wen Ning was the knife. It wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t disliked Jin ZiXuan so obviously and lost control.” Wei WuXian countered, he flicked his eyes up towards Jin ZiXuan once before looking away.

“I know you won’t do it in this timeline but in the last one you made shijie cry. I couldn’t get over that” Wei WuXian explained He still thought Jin ZiXuan was a peacock and arrogant but he was good to Jiang YanLi this time around.

“So is that-” someone prompted but Wei WuXian shook his head.

“No. It got worse. Wen Qing and Wen Ning went and sacrificed themselves for me. Wen Qing hit me and laid me out for three days and once I could move they had already been destroyed and the sects had gathered in the ruins of the Nightless City to vow to destroy me and the rest of the Wen Sect remnant. I...lost it completely. I started calling up corpses and then…” Wei WuXian trailed off.

“What happened” and that growl could only be Jiang Cheng.

“...Shijie turned up. I tried to call the corpses back but I wasn’t in control anymore and she got injured and then...I killed her” Wei WuXian whispered.

“You did not” Lan WangJi insisted before turning to the others, “Another cultivator tried to kill Wei WuXian and Maiden Jiang shoved him out of the way and was killed instead.” he turned back to Wei WuXian, “You did not kill her” Lan WangJi was firm.

“...Either way she was dead due to my actions.” Wei WuXian replied quietly, “Then I used the Tiger Seal. I murdered…. so many cultivators. Jiang Cheng you led the siege at the Burial Mound against me but before you could kill me my power snapped and I was destroyed by the backlash. An evil death for an evil man.”

“You were not evil” Lan WangJi was quick to interject “You did many useful things and made choices based on kindness”

There was a dead silence around them.

“Are you still using it?” Jiang Cheng grit out from clenched teeth.

Wei WuXian just stared at the table.

“Are you!” Jiang Cheng shouted.

“...Yes”

Jiang Cheng laughed without mirth at the admission.

“I fucking knew it. You killed my entire family in a previous timeline and you’re still fucking with with the thing that caused my sister’s death!”

“...It’s different this time” Wei WuXian said softly not realising that Lan WangJi was glaring at Jiang Cheng.

“How is it different!? Because you still have your core? Because you’re fucking Lan WangJi? How is it fucking different!?” Jiang Cheng demanded, rising to his feet in in his rage.

Wei WuXian didn’t move, still staring at the table.

“...It’s different” was all he could respond.

“You selfish stupid son of a bitch!” Jiang Cheng yelled down at Wei WuXian but Lan WangJi was on his feet now as well his hands in tight fists.

Wei WuXian grabbed Lan WangJi's arm.

“Leave it Lan Zhan” Wei WuXian said “I deserve it”

“No. You don't.” Lan WangJi's voice was shaking very slightly.

“I do.” Wei WuXian argued before looking at Jiang Cheng “I won't ask you for forgiveness but it's not like last time. I'm not...in so deep and Lan Zhan...it's different.”

Jiang Cheng stared down at him for a moment.

“FUCK!” he shouted and started heading to the door.

“Jiang Cheng! Where are you-” Lan XiChen started.

“I’m going for a walk! I need to clear my head!” Jiang Cheng snapped before storming out and slamming the door behind him.

“I’ll go after him” Lan XiChen said rising quickly and following Jiang Cheng out.

There was a silence for a moment before Lan WangJi sat down and put his arm around Wei WuXian.

“...I’m not pleased to hear you killed me and Maiden Jiang but...things are different now. Since that future is gone we won’t speak of it again” Jin ZiXuan finally said “However I think I should take a walk with my brother. There are things I want to talk to him about that should remain within the family. You stay, we’ll be back in a bit. Meng Yao? Will you walk with me?” Jin ZiXuan asked and Meng Yao looked surprised but he nodded.

“Yes thank you...brother” Meng Yao looked uncomfortable saying that but he got up with Jin ZiXuan and left, leaving the Wen siblings and Lan WangJi with Wei WuXian who hadn’t moved.

Chapter Text

Lan XiChen caught up with Jiang Cheng fairly quickly.

“I’m not ready to go back yet” he warned Lan XiChen who paused.

“That’s fine, maybe we should take a walk in the woods to cool off?” Lan XiChen suggested with a tight smile.

Jiang Cheng grunted but nodded his head in agreement.

The two of them walked in silence, the anger radiating off Jiang Cheng was so strong you could cook an egg on it.

The walked until they were far enough into the woods they weren't likely to be overheard.

Jiang Cheng gathered his spiritual energy and punched a tree with all his strength, splitting it up the middle.

“FUCK!” he shouted again.

Lan XiChen just watched silently as Jiang Cheng cursed and raged.

“How much did you know?” Jiang Cheng asked once he had calmed down some. He was breathing heavily, his back to his companion.

“...I knew they had come back. That the Cloud Recesses and Lotus Pier had burned and our parents killed. I knew in his past life he had walked that crooked path. I knew it had led to his death. But I did not know the details. I really didn't know he was still using it.” Lan XiChen answered.

“...how am I supposed to trust him when he's still willing to use that kind of….how can your brother stand by him?” Jiang Cheng put a hand to his forehead, “how am I supposed to move on from this?” his heart was in turmoil.

There was silence for a long moment.

“I do not know.” Lan XiChen finally answered, “I am...not happy that he's still using demonic cultivation. I am not happy my brother seems to be supporting such a decision.”

Jiang Cheng snorted and finally turned to face Lan XiChen.

“By ‘not happy’ do you mean angry?” he asked.

Lan XiChen looked at a point on the ground, a line appearing between his brows as he frowned.

Finally he looked up.

“Yes! Yes I'm angry! He's fooling around with forces he knows are dangerous and WangJi is what? Encouraging it? And they hid it from me! Lied to me! Yes I'm fucking angry!” Lan XiChen's voice rose steadily as he ranted until he was shouting. He finished his rant with his hands in fists and panting for breath with two pink spots of color on his cheeks.

Jiang Cheng found it strangely attractive.

Lan XiChen and Jiang Cheng stared at each other until Lan XiChen gathered his calm around himself again like a shield.

“...But they are our best chance at keeping our people safe.” Lan XiChen said much more quietly, “I...don't agree with their methods but their plan is sound. Becoming rogue cultivators before the conference does mean there will be less focus on Lotus Pier and hopefully Cloud Recesses. And we have knowledge and time to prepare...We don't have to like it. We can be angry. But we need to work with them.”

“...I know.” Jiang Cheng admitted, “and stupid assholes they may be they are still our brothers which is why I'm so fucking angry”

“Hah...me too.”

Silence fell between them again and Lan XiChen hesitated for a moment before walking closer.

He hesitated again one hand raised.

“...What?” Jiang Cheng asked as he looked into Lan XiChen's eyes.

Lan XiChen must have seen something in his eyes because he suddenly pulled Jiang Cheng into a hug.

It was awkward, both of them stiff, unused to being touched like this. But slowly Jiang Cheng relaxed and put his arms around Lan XiChen in return who also relaxed.

Hugs were not something Jiang Cheng was used to. His parents didn’t hug him, his sister was more likely to pat his head and make him soup and Wei WuXian would casually throw his arm over Jiang Cheng’s shoulders but a real hug? That wasn’t something that happened very often to him.

It was nice.

Lan XiChen’s arms were strong but comforting and he smelled nice.

It was good and it calmed the fire raging in his heart.

They stayed like that in an embrace for what felt like a long time.

“We don't have to forgive them, but we need to work with them” Lan XiChen said again and felt Jiang Cheng nod against him.

“...Are you ready to go back?” Lan XiChen asked after a moment.

Jiang Cheng's arms tightened around Lan XiChen briefly before he nodded and pulled away reluctantly.

“Yeah, I think I can get through it without killing anyone now” Jiang Cheng gave a smile that was more of a grimace but Lan XiChen appreciated it anyway.

“Okay, let's go back then” Lan XiChen said taking Jiang Cheng's hand and both of them tried not to think about how that made them feel.

 

Back at the Inn Jin ZiXuan led Meng Yao on a walk through the streets of Yiling. They saw the direction Jiang Cheng and Lan XiChen had gone in and wisely chose a different route.

They walked in silence for awhile before Jin ZiXuan sighed.

“Honestly? I don’t have much to say. I just wanted to get out of that room for a little.”

“...Oh.” Meng Yao looked down at the floor and Jin ZiXuan resisted the urge to make a snide comment.

What would Jiang YanLi do?

“...So was your mother a servant, the daughter of a cultivator or a prostitute?” he asked, luckily they weren’t in populated area anymore.

“I...she’s…” Meng Yao looked conflicted.

“So a prostitute. That’s good. That means he didn’t force her at least.” Jin ZiXuan breathed a sigh of relief until he remembered a woman who Jiang YanLi brought medicine to. One with a ruined face.

“I bet he promised to save her from that life huh? Probably gave her some sort of crappy token too. God sometimes I wish I could cut his dick off.” Jin ZiXuan ranted.

“...So what you’re saying is that I don’t have a chance at being accepted?” Meng Yao sounded both disappointed and frustrated, “So why did I even come here? I have a sick mother I need to be taking care of!”

That brought Jin ZiXuan to a halt.

He could clearly hear in his mind Jiang YanLi’s voice telling him what he should do.

“...Can she be moved?” he asked gruffly.

“...What?” Meng Yao who had also stopped looked surprised and Jin ZiXuan shifted uncomfortably.

“Our father is never going to help her or treat you with respect but that doesn’t mean I can’t or won’t. If she can be moved I’ll buy her a house here and treatment from a doctor. If not I’ll pay for a doctor to attend to her where she is. Our father will never accept you fully. Even if he recognises you you’ll be treated poorly. But once I’m sect leader I’ll recognise you and give you a place of respect in my household.” it would make his mom very angry but Jin ZiXuan knew it was the right thing to do.

“Why?” Meng Yao asked, standing as tall as his short stature let him, “What do you get out of it?” he asked perhaps rightly suspicious but Jin ZiXuan just shrugged.

“Wei WuXian says you’re indispensable and so far he has yet to steer me wrong. Also…” Jin ZiXuan hesitated for only a moment, “My betrothed would be disappointed in me if I did anything less and I want to be the kind of man she deserves.”

Meng Yao looked surprised again but looked away.

“She sounds like a very kind woman”

“She’s an angel...come on let's head back. The tension should be a bit less oppressive.”   

“...yeah okay” there was a pause, “...I want to believe in you Young Master Jin. Please don’t let me down” Meng Yao finally said.

“...I won’t.” Jin ZiXuan promised, tamping down on his temper. Meng Yao had reasons to lack trust. Meng Yao nodded in response and they walked the rest of the way back in silence.

 

Inside the inn silence hung over the four who still remained. Lan WangJi held Wei WuXian close to him, his hand soothingly rubbing Wei WuXian’s back.

“...I know you don’t know me this time and you have no reason to trust me. But I really just want to protect you and the best way I know how to do that is to bring you on our side early.” Wei WuXian finally said.

“...I removed your core didn’t I? Who did you give it to?” Wen Qing asked and Wei WuXian laughed.

“As clever as always Wen Qing! I gave it to Jiang Cheng after the Core-Melting Hand destroyed his.” Wei WuXian replied.

“That prick?!” she asked kind of astounded, “the one who just yelled at you?”

“Hey now I think his reaction was fair” Wei WuXian argued.

“It was not”

“Lan Zhan…” Wei WuXian sighed and looked across to Wen Ning who was staring at the table, “Hey...it won’t happen this time Wen Ning. I won’t let them kill you. I’ll do whatever I can to protect your branch of the Wens.”

“...Why?” Wen Ning asked quietly, “Why go so far for us?”

Wei WuXian was silent for a moment, just wrapped in Lan WangJi’s arms as he tried to be honest. All this honesty and directness was exhausting but for just this once he wanted to be open. He felt he owed it to them.

“...Living with you guys on Burial Mound was some of the best times of my life. It was like having a family of my own. Uncles and Aunts and cousins...we ate meals together. Wen Qing bullied me into taking care of myself and Wen Ning put up with my teasing and A-...anyway. You might not remember me but I remember all of you.”

Lan WangJi kissed Wei WuXian’s hair in an expression of comfort.

“...You know we could turn you all in” Wen Qing pointed out.

“But you won’t.”

“How do you know?” she demanded.

“Because I know you Wen Qing and you’d do anything to protect your brother and you agree that your uncle is a dick.” Wei WuXian pushed himself up and away from Lan WangJi and smiled.

“How do you feel about Wen Chao coming down with a horrible illness?” he suggested changing the subject with a wink as he reached over to pour himself some wine. He knew Wen Qing very well and knew how much she really hated her cousin.

Wen Qing jolted but seemed to get what he was suggesting and laughed and poured herself some wine as well.

“Make it one that’s disfiguring and I’m with you.” they held up their drinks in salute and downed them together.

By the time the others had come back Wen Qing and Wei WuXian were deep in discussion of what “illnesses” could be faked by poison and spread around the Wens fighting over a piece of paper to scribble on. Meng Yao frowned and then came and sat down next to Wen Qing and grabbed the paper.

“If you really want to cause a panic then make it have these symptoms. They’ll think they’re getting it from their women and it will cripple them. You can’t fight with a rotten dick” he offered.

“Hmmm I see. That’s a good idea. The question is spreading the infection without being caught.” Wen Qing pointed out.

“If we do this-” Meng Yao wrote quickly on the paper and he and Wen Qing quickly got deep into technical details, quickly losing Wei WuXian who hadn't studied medicine.

“How do you know all this?” she asked Meng Yao during a break in the conversation.

“Hm? There are books about medicines and poisons at the library. I’ve read through them once” Meng Yao explained.

“Just once?”

“Ah. I remember everything I’ve seen even if I’ve only seen it once. It’s a special...talent I have.” Meng Yao explained.

Wen Qing was suitably impressed.

“Very useful! I can see why you did so well as a spy.” Wen Qing praised and Meng Yao smiled at her shyly before a thought seemed to catch him.

“By the way. Doesn’t the GusuLan sect have songs that can be used for healing?” Meng Yao asked Lan XiChen.

“Yes” Lan XiChen replied from where he had sat down a good ways away from Lan WangJi and Wei WuXian. Jiang Cheng was sat next to him.

“Couldn’t music be used to harm people as well?”

“Yes, there is the executioner’s chord-” Lan XiChen began but Meng Yao waved him off.

“No I mean more sneakily, over time.”

Lan XiChen and Lan WangJi shared a look.

“I...do not know of one.” Lan XiChen said eventually, “But I know where I could look for such a thing. I will let you know.”

“Good.”

“...I’m assuming everyone is on board then?” Wei WuXian asked and even though not everyone made eye contact everyone nodded.

“Okay. Now for our plans that we have confirmed…”

They talked long into the night until finally separating after making various plans and promises.

Meng Yao walked off with Wen Qing, discussing some of her theories in greater depth. It was good they were getting on so well as it had been agreed he’d go back to her base as a foreign disciple after his mother was moved and helped to begin cultivating while also getting his foot in the door with the Wens.

Wen Ning listened earnestly to Wei WuXian who encouraged him to believe in himself more and have more confidence before they separated as friends.

Jin ZiXuan left first out of those left claiming he had to make some sort of arrangements for Meng Yao but in truth he just didn’t want to be alone with the other four.

As soon as everyone else left the tension in the air was palpable.

“...I don’t expect either of you to forgive me.” Wei WuXian said finally, “I don’t expect you to understand or believe me either but...I tried not to. I really truly did. I tried to stop inventing devices like my phantom lure flag or my compass but I can’t. I tried not to use my ability to command and control corpses and I can’t . And if you’re angry with me then you have no idea how I felt about it. But I’m not keeping ghosts and spirits around me and treating them like they’re pets. I’m not...living in it. And I have Lan Zhan now who stops me before it gets too far...It...it won’t be like it was that time. And I would die before I would let shijie get hurt at my hands again.”

“...I don’t care about your excuses.” Jiang Cheng said after a long moment of silence, “But I care about my people. We will work together. But if you go too far I will not protect you. Come on Lan XiChen, lets go.” Jiang Cheng walked away, not looking behind him.

Lan XiChen hesitated for a moment before nodding.

“We’ll go first” he started to walk after Jiang Cheng before pausing

“Wangji” he said looking a little over his shoulder at his brother, “I won’t pick up the pieces if you’re wrong.” and then he walked off leaving the two alone in the woods around Yiling.

“...Well that could have gone worse” Wei WuXian said with false cheer.

“Mn”

Chapter Text

“I can’t believe you’re getting married before me” Jiang YanLi said with a smile as she helped Wei WuXian do his hair. For once he wanted it to be something other than an unruly mess.

“Yeah I can say for sure that this is not what I expected for my future!” Wei WuXian replied with a laugh, “But...I’m really happy”

Jiang YanLi smiled.

“I know you are A-Xian.” Jiang YanLi said with a smile as she fixed a particularly beautiful jade hair pin carved with a lotus “don't tell anyone but Mom gave me this specially to put in your hair for today. She told me to tell you it's from me.”

“Really?” Wei WuXian was surprised, he was sure Madam Yu hated him.

“Don't get too excited she's just happy you're leaving, which she should be.” a familiar sarcastic voice came from the door but without malice.

Wei WuXian tensed, things had been...rough since Jiang Cheng learned the truth. There hadn't been anymore fights but both Jiang Cheng and Lan XiChen avoided being alone with Wei WuXian.

“Don’t listen to him A-Xian. He's the one who insisted we needed better quality silk for your wedding robes.” Jiang YanLi told Wei WuXian placidly. She had of course noticed the difference between her brothers but assumed it was due to Jiang Cheng's sadness that Wei WuXian was leaving.

“Sis the Peacock's looking for you. Are you done trying to make the idiot look a little less ugly.” Jiang Cheng said.

“Be nice A-Cheng. But yes I'm done. Have you finished your part?” She asked.

“Well as much as we can. Because we can't parade this idiot about some parts are being cut a bit short” Jiang Cheng replied.

“That doesn't matter as long as I can have some of your lotus and pork rib soup for my wedding banquet shijie!” Wei WuXian said with a smile.

“Of course A-Xian, now you must excuse me” Jiang YanLi mouthed 'be nice’ at Jiang Cheng before leaving.

“If you've come to yell at me on my wedding day I warn you Lan Zhan won't let you off easily if you ruin my pretty face with tears” Wei WuXian said with a grin as he turned to face Jiang Cheng.

“Don't be an idiot. Even I'm not so mean to yell at someone who's about to be married” Jiang Cheng scoffed, “besides it's not like you even get why I'm angry.” he muttered under his breath.

Wei WuXian's smile grew a bit more fixed.

“Isn't it because you see me as a danger to your family?” he asked with his head tilted to the side, “so isn't it better that I'm leaving?”

Jiang Cheng stared at him.

“What? No you moron I'm angry because you're a danger to yourself! If you leave how am I supposed to keep an eye on you!? Yeah you have Lan WangJi but we both know he's a pushover when it comes to you. I'm your brother and I know you're older than me but God do i feel like the older one.” Jiang Cheng ranted before coming and sitting next to Wei WuXian who looked a little stunned.

Breaking out of his surprise Wei WuXian hit him gently with his shoulder.

“That's because you were born a cranky old man!” he teased “sometimes I wonder if you and Lan QiRen share a soul considering how you both love to chase and berate me!”

Jiang Cheng made a face.

“I really hope Lan QiRen doesn't think of Lan XiChen like that.” they both froze as they realised what Jiang Cheng said.

Wei WuXian nearly fell off the bench they were sitting on from laughing.

“OH MY GOD! I can't believe you fell for my brother in law! Is it mutual? I bet it is! You two keep disappearing! Is it off to smooch? Hey hey does he bite?” Wei WuXian laughed harder as Jiang Cheng grew red.

“Nothing's happened! I don't think he likes me like that but even if he did nothing would happen because I don't like him! I mean I like him but as a friend! He's my friend!” Jiang Cheng was completely red.

“You like~ him you love ~ him!” Wei WuXian teased pressing his pointer finger into Jiang Cheng's cheek “you wanna smooch~ him!”

Jiang Cheng batted his hand away.

“Do you want to die!?”

“Now now you can't kill me! I'm getting married and if you kill me you will make Lan Zhan sad and if you make Lan Zhan sad that will make Lan XiChen sad and you wouldn't want to do that because then you wouldn't get kissed” Wei WuXian said straightening his clothes.

“I hate you so fucking much.” Jiang Cheng groaned, “Just so you know if you do get yourself killed through your own idiocy I will somehow resurrect you just to say I told you so before murdering you myself” he added and this was Jiang Cheng's way of saying he was going to try to let it go.

The thing was he wanted to stay angry and he still kinda was. But he wasn't angry over the things Wei WuXian thought he was. He wasn't mad at him for what happened in the other timeline except for the fact that it meant that Wei WuXian knew demonic cultivation was dangerous and still did it.

Jiang Cheng just didn't understand why.

When he got to the root of it he was just scared for his brother and that meant it made it hard to hold on to the anger.

Especially with Lan XiChen around.

Whose ability to calm him down may be why he wanted to change the subject at the moment.

“Ah but you'd have to catch me first and someone just doesn't want to talk about how he wants to smooch the oldest Lan brother!” Wei WuXian made obnoxious kissy sounds and Jiang Cheng buried his face in his hands and groaned deeply.

“I don't want to kiss him!” he protested before hesitating.

It's not like he had anyone else to talk to about this.

“Probably not? Maybe? It's just...you know how I disappear off when I can't deal with all the bullshit? I took him to...where I go-”

“Hey!” Wei WuXian interrupted with a pout, “you've never even taken me there!”

“Because you're some of the bullshit I'm trying to escape! Anyway, we just like sat in silence together but for some reason I put my head on his shoulder and he put his head on mine? And it was nice? And we've now done that a few times?” Jiang Cheng explained “and then when I got mad at you in Yiling and stormed off and he came after me he hugged me? And, I don't know, it felt weird. Good but weird”

“Jiang Cheng I am so sorry” Wei WuXian said seriously gripping his brothers shoulders to meet his eyes. He held the serious face for a full 30 seconds before a smirk broke out.

“I am so sorry but you are a cut sleeve for Lan XiChen and I am going to tease you forever.”

“If this wasn't your wedding day I would knock all your teeth out” Jiang Cheng growled as Wei WuXian started laughing again.

“Oh fuck,” Wei WuXian managed to gasp as he got his laughter under control, “I can't breathe. I hope you didn't ruin shijie’s hard work” he checked his reflection. Jiang Cheng, who had just looked to the ceiling and regretted his birth while his brother laughed at his expense, looked over.

“You look fine. Sis obviously made adjustments in case you had one of your laughing fits”

“Hmmm…seems so”

“You know I'm really happy for you right? Not everyone gets true love and it sounds like your last life sucked so..I’m happy for you.” Jiang Cheng said a bit uncomfortably but as honestly as he could.

“Awww isn't A-Cheng a cutie!” Wei WuXian pinched Jiang Cheng's cheek.

“Fuck off!” Jiang Cheng snapped slapping the hand away.

“Hahaha!” Wei WuXian forced himself to calm down, coughing slightly and schooling his face, “seriously though thanks Jiang Cheng I needed to hear that.”

“Whatever” Jiang Cheng said fondly as he bumped Wei WuXian's shoulder with his own.

There was a pause.

“Lan QiRen is totally going to ban all future YunmengJiang sect disciples from the Cloud Recesses”

“... Probably.”

 

“WangJi are you nervous?” Lan XiChen asked as he waited with his brother.

Lan WangJi shook his head.

He wasn’t nervous. He was just excited but he guessed his brother knew that and was asking for the sake of something to say.

“...Are you still angry with me?” Lan WangJi asked. He’d be leaving with Wei Ying tomorrow and he didn’t want to leave things with his brother like this.

“Hmmm no. I’m just worried. Both Jiang Cheng and I are worried about the two of you. But that’s our job as brothers. But that doesn’t matter today because today I’m just happy for you. It sounds like you and Young Master Wei went through a lot last time and you deserve your happiness.” Lan XiChen replied with a smile.

Lan WangJi nodded.

“...You seem close to Young Master Jiang” Lan Wangji said after a moment.

“Do I? I suppose we’ve gotten closer recently. It gets...stressful sometimes being the heir to a sect and he understands. There’s a...place he goes when it gets to much. Much like mother’s home is for us, and he’s invited me along there a few times.” Lan XiChen smiled to himself, “It’s very beautiful there and it’s nice to just sit in silence with someone for an hour or two. Jiang Cheng is really quite good company.”

Lan WangJi quietly observed his brother.

“Thank you for supporting my relationship with Wei Ying” Lan WangJi finally said turning away, his face expressionless.

“Of course I support you Wangji!”

“And I will also support you and Young Master Jiang.” Lan WangJi said taking secret joy in his brother’s mouth falling open in shock and his cheeks turning pink.

“I’m not- It’s not- We’re not like that!” Lan XiChen protested. Lan WangJi just looked at his brother knowing that Lan XiChen would be able to read his thoughts just fine.

Lan XiChen blushed even harder.

“Its! He’s!” Lan XiChen ducked his head, “...even if I did like him like that it’s not like he likes me in that way” Lan XiChen protested a little sadly.

Lan WangJi thought about how Jiang Cheng had almost always been at his brother’s side since the other had arrived at Lotus Pier.

“Brother”

Lan XiChen looked up at Lan WangJi again and the blush spread to his ears.

“No he doesn’t!” he protested immediately.

“Who doesn’t what?” their father asked as he came to join them. Lan XiChen immediately looked away.

“WangJi is imagining things” he muttered.

“If it makes you happy to tell yourself that Brother you can continue” Lan WangJi said out loud for benefit of their father.

“...Is this about you and Young Master Jiang?” their Father asked and Lan XiChen tensed up.

“We’re just friends!” Lan XiChen protested.

“Hmm...alright if you say so.” their father sounded amused and Lan WangJi had to agree it was quite a funny situation.

It was still strange being around his father but Lan WangJi was glad to see him and his brother get along better. Which made sense since they almost had a year together before Lan WangJi sent his request for them to come to Lotus Pier.

He had appreciated his father’s letters through the last year though he kind of wished he could still communicate with him via letter. Writing was much simpler.

“Brother is still in denial” he explained to his father anyway just to watch his brother squirm.

“Ah I see. That’s fine. I’m sure they’ll figure it out soon. Is Young Master Jiang aware yet?” his father asked him with a smile.

Lan WangJi shook his head.

“Maiden Jiang said he hasn’t realised his feelings yet.” Lan WangJi was going to miss Maiden Jiang. She was nice and also a lot more aware of things then her brothers.

“WangJi! Father!” Lan XiChen’s voice was a little anguished so Lan WangJi patted him awkwardly on the shoulder.

“...If Uncle finds out he’s going to ban YunmengJiang from ever sending disciples to Cloud Recesses again.” Lan XiChen pointed out finally.

“Hmmm...I’m already worried about his heart. We’ll wait for a bit before we tell him” their father agreed.

 

The wedding itself, as it does for most couples, seemed to pass in a blur around them. Lan WangJi couldn’t take his eyes off of Wei WuXian, whose hair was silky and properly combed for once. He wore it half down, beautiful, and pinned in place with lovely jade hair pins. He looked ravishing and for Lan WangJi, who had dreamed of this day for so long but never thought it would be a reality…

Well he was awestruck and close to tears from pure happiness.

Wei WuXian similarly was struck at how gorgeous Lan WangJi was in bright red and gold with his lips curved into a very slight smile and his eyes shining brightly.

He had wasted so much time, a lifetime, not realising the depth of his feelings for Lan WangJi and he mentally cursed those wasted days. When he looked back on his old life his joy at seeing Lan WangJi, his deep seated need for the other’s attention made it so obvious to him how he really felt.

He was blessed to have a second chance. To have someone as wonderful as Lan WangJi at his side.

It was only when they were sat down together for the modest wedding feast, the only guests their families and Jin ZiXuan, that they realised this was it.

They were married.

“Is it allowed for me to be this happy Lan Zhan?” Wei WuXian asked.

“Mn.”

Lan WangJi reached between them to entwine their fingers together.

“I am also happy” he added quietly.

They got lost staring at each other for a little while before turning back to their families and Wei WuXian laughed a little and leaned into his husband.

“I see my brother is sitting very close to your brother” he said in a whisper.

“Mn...has Jiang Cheng realised?” Lan WangJi asked.

“Oh? Did you know already Lan Zhan? And you didn’t tell me! I’m hurt! As your husband you must tell me immediately when there is a teasing opportunity that I didn’t catch! But as for your question he’s not quite there yet but he’s aware there’s something. I laughed so hard I almost ruined my beauty. Good thing shijie is ruthless when it comes to hair styling. So is your brother into it?”

“Mn. He’s still a little in denial” Lan WangJi admitted.

“Hahaha! That’s brilliant! We’ll be coming back for their wedding someday won’t we? The Twin Jades married off to the Two Heroes! It’ll make the best kind of splash but you know the truth?” Wei WuXian asked with a mischievous grin.

“What?”

“It’s all the YunmengJiang sect’s big con to get our hands on all the Emperor’s Smile!” Wei WuXian teased.

“Wei Ying”

“Yes?”

“No talking while eating” there was a line between Lan WangJi’s brows and Wei WuXian smiled and nuzzled his cheek lightly with the tip of his nose.

“Aw did my poor husband take my joke too seriously? Of course I’m teasing! I have the most beautiful and kind husband in the whole world. I would never trade that for even the most delicious of wines.” Wei WuXian’s hand left his husband’s hold and started to slide up his thigh.

Lan WangJi shot him a warning look but Wei WuXian was not one to stop in the middle of teasing.

“What’s the matter Lan Er-Gege? Don’t you know your wife finds you more delicious than any wine?” Wei WuXian fluttered his lashes but Lan WangJi grabbed his hand before it went any further and moved it between them.

“Later.” Lan WangJi warned.

“Is that a promise or a threat?” Wei WuXian asked with a grin.

“It is both. Now eat.”

Wei WuXian laughed with delight but sat down properly and ate his food one handed, the other still captured in his husband’s hand.

Later, once they were able to escape and retire to their room Lan WangJi made good on his promise and his threat and the only complaint Wei WuXian had was the usual pretend ones that his husband didn’t know when to stop.

Chapter Text

They were all packed up the next day in the courtyard. A sturdy little donkey carrying packs of supplies for living on the go. This time instead of dressed in the sect clothing they were dressed for their new life. Wei WuXian wore grey robes with hints of red, and Lan WangJi wore blue robes of a much more simple make and cloth then his Lan sect robes.

Both still carried their sect robes but as rogue cultivators they needed clothing to reflect that. It felt a bit strange to see Lan WangJi dressed in his new blue robes, his forehead ribbon tied discreetly around Wei WuXian’s wrist, hidden by his sleeve.

“Before you leave may I have a moment of your time A-Ying?” Jiang FengMian asked as he approached the couple.

“Of course Uncle.” Wei WuXian was quick to reply, exchanging a look with Lan WangJi.

Wei WuXian followed Jiang FengMian through Lotus Pier to his office. Once inside Jiang FengMian turned around and faced Wei WuXian with the same kind of sad smile.

“I know I haven’t told you much about your parents. This was because I knew my wife would not understand but if you are leaving then you deserve to know a little more about them.” he began.

“Your father gifted to you your quick and agile mind that’s always bursting with ideas and your tongue that doesn’t seem to know when not to speak. Your mother gifted to you your bright smile, your laughter and your ability to make friends wherever you are and your mischievous nature. From them both you were gifted your kindness and your thirst for adventure. However, your selfless attitude and your big heart are all yours. I see both of your parents in you but you are your own man and they would be so proud of you.” Jiang FengMian continued and Wei WuXian’s heart felt tight in his chest. This was the most he’d ever heard anyone speak about his parents and he didn’t know how to describe his feelings.

“I know you have nothing of your parents and please forgive me for not giving these to you before but I was afraid of my wife’s reaction and I was also selfish, wanting to hold on to the last pieces of my dearest friends.” Jiang FengMian said.

“Uncle?” Wei WuXian asked his heart pounding in his chest and feeling like he couldn’t breathe.

“I have two items left, one that belonged to your father and one that belonged to your mother and you deserve to have them both.” Jiang FengMian said as he reached into his sleeve.

The first item he pulled out was a small wooden box. He opened it and extracted a Jiang sect bell.

“This bell was your fathers. He left it in my keeping when he left the sect. He said he wanted me to remember that even though he didn’t wear the bell any longer that he was loyal to me and our sect.” Jiang FengMian said as he passed the bell to Wei WuXian who accepted it with shaking hands.

Jiang FengMian put the box down on his desk and reached inside his sleeve and pulled out a red tassel with a jade carving of a maple leaf.

“It was a gift from your mother, meant to tease me about my name when she married your father. She said it was a gift to remember that we were still friends.” Jiang FengMian explained with a smile as he handed it over the Wei Wuxian.

Wei WuXian held both objects and stared at them. They were items his parents had held. Had given to Jiang FengMian out of friendship and loyalty and he was now giving them to his friends only child.

“Thank you” was the only response Wei WuXian could force himself to say.

“I did love your mother but I also loved Wei Changze. If I had been braver I would have asked them both to stay even though they married. But I wasn’t brave and I let them leave. I want you and your husband to stay but even if I ask you won’t will you?” Jiang FengMian said and Wei WuXian looked up then and shook his head.

“I-”

“You are trying to prevent your dreams from becoming a reality aren’t you?” he asked and Wei WuXian’s mouth snapped shut. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath before opening them and meeting Jiang FengMian’s gaze.

“We are. The Wens will ask for twenty disciples from every clan and we will make our move then. Please don’t ask for more details.” Wei WuXian replied.

“...I will not. But perhaps when the future is changed you will come home?” Jiang FengMian asked.

“Well I’m the wife so if we live anywhere it will probably be Gusu but we will visit often. This is still where I grew up. I love it here and your family is my family. Nothing will change that.” Wei WuXian replied.

“Good. Now put those away and let us go back to your husband” Jiang FengMian said with a smile.

Wei WuXian smiled briefly and attached both items to his belt.

“Thank you” he said again and then walked back to the yard where his husband was waiting for him.

They turned to face their families who had come to see them off.

Lan XiChen had a hand on Jiang Cheng’s shoulder and both of them looked conflicted. Jiang YanLi was crying and Jin ZiXuan, who had come out simply to offer her comfort, was patting her back gently.

Lan QiRen looked angry but Wei WuXian didn’t know how his face looked when he wasn’t angry. QingHeng-Jun looked a little sad but happy for them.

Madam Yu looked calm but Jiang FengMian had a sad smile.

“Uncle, thank you for everything” Wei WuXian said with a bow, “If you hadn’t taken me in I would probably be dead by now. That is something I can never repay. Madam Yu, thank you for the lessons you gave. I may have been a pain in the backside but I still learned a lot from you.”

Then Wei WuXian turned to Jiang YanLi and smiled.

“Ahhh shijie! I’m going to miss you so much! You’re the best big sister anyone could ask for you and you deserve all the happiness in the world. If the Peacock makes you cry let me know and I’ll come beat him up!” Wei WuXian said as he hugged his shijie.

“I’m right here!” Jin ZiXuan said sourly.

“Yes you are. Why?” Wei WuXian said sticking out his tongue at him.

“Because right now you’re making your shijie cry!”

“Ah shijie! Don’t cry! I’ll visit I promise!” Wei WuXian gave her one last squeeze before pulling away and she sniffed but smiled at him.

“I packed you lots of snacks but you must take care of yourself.” she said with a watery smile.

“I promise” Wei WuXian assured her.

While Wei WuXian was saying his goodbyes Lan WangJi was saying his.

“Father.” he started, “...I will write often.” he said after a pause, not sure what else to say.

“Please do. I’m only starting to understand you A-Zhan and I would like to continue to do so.” QingHeng-Jun replied with a smile.

“...Take the dreams seriously.” Lan WangJi warned after a moment, “Move the library to a hidden location and if the Wens come do not fight them. Let them burn it down.”

“I will take that advice on board.” QingHeng-Jun assured and Lan WangJi felt himself relax minutely before turning to his uncle.

“Uncle.” he said with an incline of his head, “Please do not be angry.”

“When you’ve finished whatever you feel you need to do come home. Bring the brat. The Cloud Recesses will always be your home” Lan QiRen said gruffly and Lan WangJi didn’t smile but he brightened slightly. It was good to know that his Uncle would eventually allow Wei WuXian into Cloud Recesses.

They both reached their brothers at the same time.

The four stared at each other before Jiang Cheng pulled Wei WuXian into a hug and Lan XiChen after a moment did the same to Lan WangJi.

“Don’t get yourself killed idiot. I’ve decided to trust you when you say you’ll be fine so prove my first reaction wrong. Please prove me wrong. I want you to be okay. No matter what you’re still my brother” Jiang Cheng whispered for Wei WuXian’s ears only.

“I will. I’ll be okay. We’ll see you when you get taken by the Wens if not before” Wei WuXian replied just as quietly as he squeezed Jiang Cheng tightly, “We’ll stay in touch.” he added before letting go.

“Be safe and I’m sorry about what I said. You’re my brother and I love you and I will always be there for you” Lan XiChen whispered to Lan WangJi.

“I know. I will be safe.” Lan WangJi promised before pulling away.

“So we’re off now! We’ll be in touch!” Wei WuXian said with a smile and then they were leaving. They were young, in love, and had their whole lives ahead of them.

As long as everything went according to plan.

Chapter Text

Time passed and the conference came and went with the Wens making snide and rude remarks to the YunmengJiang sect and the GusuLan sect about how two of their finest ran off together to be cut sleeves.

Surprisingly it was Nie HuaiSang who almost got into a fist fight with a Wen who was being derogatory about the relationship between Lan WangJi and Wei WuXian whose elopement was the talk of the cultivation world.

His brother had never been more proud.

Still things moved on and like the two vanished cultivators (who still sent letters home) predicted the Wens insisted on the clans sending twenty of their disciples to be “properly taught”.

 

It did not go down well in Lotus Pier.

“If he was here would you make him go?” Madam Yu demanded.

“...It would be his choice” Jiang FengMian said with a sigh.

“Oh so he would have had a choice but your own son has to go! You know what people say! It’s a good thing that brat isn’t here then!”

“My Lady”

Madam Yu just stormed out and Jiang FengMian sighed before turning to his children.

“A-Li can you please go talk to your mother?” he asked softly. Jiang YanLi nodded before following her mother out to calm her down leaving Jiang Cheng alone with his father.

“A-Cheng you look like you have something to say.” Jiang FengMian said finally, a letter from Wei WuXian weighing on his mind.

“It’s fine.”

“...Do you agree with your mother? Do you think I don’t care about you?” Jiang FengMian asked and Jiang Cheng looked away.

“It’s fine. I understand. You don’t like Mother so you don’t like me. Everyone knows I’m just like her” Jiang Cheng said and Jiang FengMian shook his head and sighed.

“You are like your mother but you aren’t your mother. Also I don’t dislike your mother. We don’t get along very well but I don’t dislike her and I certainly don’t dislike you.” Jiang FengMian explained.

“Then why…” Jiang Cheng took a deep breath and let it out slowly “Why do you praise Wei WuXian so much but keep saying I don’t get our sect motto? I’m trying! I know I don’t embody it the way Wei WuXian does but I’m trying my best to be the heir you want but I can’t change who I am!”

“Then stop trying to!”

That got Jiang Cheng to look at his father, his face twisted in confusion.

Jiang FengMian sighed and walked over to his son.

“A-Cheng,” he started in a calmer voice, “Let's say you’re in a situation where a person is in danger. You can help them but in doing so you could bring dangerous attention to your sect. What do you do?” Jiang FengMian asked.

Jiang Cheng bit his lip.

“I would do nothing so as to protect my sect?”

“That’s your mother’s answer. What would you do?” Jiang FengMian pressed.

“...Play the hero while ignoring the risk?” he tried again, wanting to please his father but Jiang FengMian just shook his head.

“That is A-Ying’s answer, I want to hear what Jiang Cheng would do.”

There was a pause while Jiang Cheng looked deep within and asked himself what he would actually do.

“I...I would try to help but I would try to help while not calling attention to myself. I would try to do it so no one knew I was helping. So that way I could protect my sect and the person.” Jiang Cheng answered honestly and was surprised when his father beamed at him.

That A-Cheng sounds almost impossible doesn’t it? And yet it’s what you would attempt. Deep down you understand your sect and it’s motto. You are like your mother in both your fine looks and your fiery temper. But while she is actually angry you hide behind anger like a mask. You so want to be a good future sect leader and that’s admirable, and you want to stop being compared to Wei WuXian which is understandable...but somehow you’ve lost who you are with all of that.” Jiang FengMian explained.

“Forget about being future sect leader. Forget about Wei WuXian. Be Jiang Cheng. Be a seventeen year old cultivator with a crafty mind and just let yourself be” Jiang FengMian explained.

“...Really?” Jiang Cheng asked, “Is it really that easy?”

“I never said it was easy. Is being yourself something you find easy?” Jiang FengMian asked not unkindly.

“...No it really isn’t.” Jiang Cheng admitted.

Jiang FengMian reached out and gripped Jiang Cheng’s shoulder.

“You are my son. I have never forgotten that. I was harder than you then I was on Wei WuXian because you are my son and because I felt guilty over his parents deaths. But I have always loved you. I am proud of you. I know you’re involved with whatever Wei WuXian is doing to prevent his visions of the future and I know you will make me even prouder with what you will do. Just remember to be A-Cheng. To be yourself. Do not lose yourself in comparison with others.” Jiang FengMian said quietly and seriously.

Jiang Cheng’s throat was tight and he didn’t know what to say.

“...I promise” he managed to choke out and Jiang FengMian hesitated before pulling his son into a hug.

“I do love you” Jiang FengMian said one more time.

Jiang Cheng was wide eyed and shocked in his father’s arms but hesitantly reached up and hugged his father back.

And as they hugged it was like ice melted from his heart releasing a pain that flared up briefly before dissipating.

For once Jiang Cheng felt his father's love.

 

Nie MingJue paced back and forth, rage boiling off him.

“Who the Wen-dogs think they are! Ordering the QingheNie sect to send them disciples!” he raged.

“I suspect they think they are in charge” a voice replied. Nie MingJue turned to find his brother standing meekly beside two young men, one dressed in grey and red and one dressed in blue.

“Who are you?” he demanded.

“The answer to the Wens.” the boy in grey replied.

“He’s...he’s my friend Wei WuXian…” his brother replied.

“The one you nearly fist fought a Wen-dog about?” Nie MingJue asked.

“Did you really Nie HuaiSang?” Wei WuXian asked in delight, “I’m pleasantly surprised”

His brother hid behind his fan and Nie MingJue wanted to shake him.

“We have a plan Sect Leader Nie.” Wei WuXian continued turning back to him, “Send your disciples and your brother. They won’t be under the Wen-dogs control for long but they also won’t return. You need to start quietly preparing your forces for battle.”

“If the Wen-dogs won’t have them who will?” Nie MingJue demanded and Wei WuXian smiled like a wolf.

“We will. We have allies on the inside who are willing to help us take down the current Wen leadership. They will hide us and we will become a secret force. One that can waylay and harm the Wens from behind their own lines.”

Nie MingJue liked the sound of that, but he glanced at his brother.

His brother who was weak.

Dangerously weak.

He was hard on his brother, always pushing him to fight, to cultivate, to become strong.

He had to.

He knew his brother wasn’t interested in fighting but Nie MingJue wouldn’t always be there to protect him.

Lan WangJi (who had to be the person in blue) seemed to understand his concerns.

“Nie HuaiSang will be safe.” he assured Nie MingJue.

“Yeah of course he will! He’s essential to our plan” Wei WuXian added ruffling Nie HuaiSang’s hair.

“In what way? He’s useless in a fight” Nie MingJue pointed out.

“It’s not his skills as a fighter we need. We need his skills as an artist.” Wei WuXian explained.

Nie MingJue raised his eyebrow but nodded. He didn’t understand how his brother’s useless skills could be useful but if it kept him safe he could relax.

“Good. Now let’s sit down and tell you who you should not target before we move onto our next stop…” Wei WuXian continued stepping closer.

 

The Wens did not send just a letter with their orders to the Cloud Recesses.

A large force of Wens came with the eldest of Wen RuoHan’s sons; Wen Xu.

He was met by QingHeng-Jun and Lan XiChen in the Hanshi.

“It’s an honor for you to visit us.” QingHeng-Jun said respectfully as Wen Xu entered.

“You say it’s an honor now? When you’ve been so treasonous as to accuse the Wen clan of pushing a waterborne abyss into your territory instead of properly destroying it?” Wen Xu accused throwing a letter on the table.

QingHeng-Jun put on a puzzled face as he picked up the letter and read it.

“Ah...I see. I dictated this letter to another and they must have misinterpreted what I said. Of course I would never accuse the mighty Wen clan of such a thing. Of course you are not responsible for our waterborne abyss. I simply was asking for guidance from the esteemed Wen Clan for such a dreadful problem.” QingHeng-Jun said respectfully.

Wen Xu was only a little mollified.

“Despite your claims it was accidental the truth is the GusuLan clan has insulted the QishanWen clan. Therefore there must be punishment!” Wen Xu said arrogantly, his nose high in the air.

“Of course there must. We at GusuLan accept that it must be so. What is the will of Wen RuoHan?” QingHeng-Jun appeared calm and at peace but Lan XiChen saw his father’s hand twitch slightly.

“Burn down the Cloud Recesses.” Wen Xu said with a vicious smile.

There was a pause.

“Would you like us to ourselves or will your people.” QingHeng-Jun asked, not showing a moment of anger.

“You will of course! Why should we do the work for you?!”

“Of course. Please let me gather my people and we will do as you have asked.” QingHeng-Jun turned to his son, “A-Huan could you please make sure the orders from the esteemed QishanWen sect are carried out properly.”

“Of course Father.” Lan XiChen wisely saluted Wen Xu first and then his father before leaving. A number of disciples and his Uncle had gathered outside already.

“It’s time” Lan XiChen told the others quietly before raising his voice.

“You lot, go and make sure everyone is outside, you lot burn down the buildings after people have left.” Lan XiChen ordered in a voice loud enough to be heard by the Wen sect people behind them.

“Yes ZeWu-Jun” the disciples said saluting before leaving.

“Did they finish in time?” Lan XiChen asked his uncle quietly as they moved to follow.

“Mn. The crossed the barrier into the woods right before the Wen Sect was spotted.” Lan QiRen replied just as quietly, his lips not even moving.

QingHeng-Jun waited with Wen Xu in the Hanshi drinking tea as he waited for his son returned. It took a great deal of self control not to lash out at the insults directed at him and his sect and his family.

“Hmph. It’s no wonder that the GusuLan sect has fallen into disgrace. Hah. If my brother or son were a cut sleeve I would have cut off their head myself rather than to allow him to live and sully my name.” Wen Xu sneered.

QingHeng-Jun’s hand tightened on his tea cup but forced himself to keep his face neutral.

“Ah the Wen clan is wise” he said in response even as he imagined stabbing the pompous asshole in the head. But he had promised his youngest that he would not fight so he would not.

“Father? All the other buildings are on fire now” Lan XiChen said and QingHeng-Jun forced himself to relax his hand and stand up.

“Ah then will you please step outside with me Wen Xu. I will set fire to this building myself.” QingHeng-Jun said with a smile.

Wen Xu grunted but stepped outside, Lan XiChen standing back to let him pass and saluting respectfully.

QingHeng-Jun stepped out as well and taking a torch from one of the disciples set the Hanshi aflame.

Wen Xu looked at Cloud Recesses burning in front of him with delight.

“Very good! The GusuLan sect is cleansed! To be reborn from the flame!” he said with a laugh, “Now I will take your son and 19 of your other disciples back to the QishanWen sect where they will learn properly.”

QingHeng-Jun pretended to look shocked but then smoothed out his face and saluted.

“Of course. Lan XiChen, please gather 19 of the disciples and prepare to leave with the QishanWen sect. It will be an honor to be taught by them.”

After that was done he gave his son one last hug.

“I know you will make me proud” he said for his sons ears only.

Lan QiRen hugged Lan XiChen after him.

“You were born to lead and I know you will lead your fellow disciples. I trust you like no one else.” Lan QiRen whispered.

Lan XiChen swallowed under the weight of their belief but let their words warm his heart before he nodded and left into the unknown with a hostile force.

QingHeng-Jun watched his son disappear off with the Wen-dogs and as soon as they were far enough away his smile fell.

“Did we succeed?” he asked Lan QiRen.

“WangJi and Wei Ying got the last of the books and treasures out with a handful of our people right before the Wen Sect was spotted.” Lan QiRen promised.

“Good.” QingHeng-Jun turned to the rest of his sect, “From now on the GusuLan sect is going underground” he announced.

“War is coming and we must make preparations. This time they burned, next time they will kill. I have already set group leaders who know what to do. They will gather you together and we will disperse until we can rise again and take our revenge. The Sun Will Fall.” QingHeng-Jun promised.

“Yes sect-leader!” his people replied before going into motion.

QingHeng-Jun nodded and looked out at where his eldest had disappeared off too.

“It is in their hands now QiRen. We have to trust them.”

Lan QiRen stood next to him and nodded.

“I know.”

Chapter Text

“How are you Mother?” Meng Yao had finally found time to visit his mother in the house Jin ZiXuan had bought her in Yiling. He was grateful that the house was nice and comfortable. It was also clean and bright.

He felt a swell of gratitude and relief that Jin ZiXuan was true to his word.

“I’m doing fine love. How are you doing? The nice girl who comes to treat me tells me a little about what you’re up to but it’s not the same as seeing you.” Meng Shi said with a smile from her bed. She was dressed in comfortable and clean clothing of a fine make and her smile should have made Meng Yao happy but instead he felt his heart drop.

“Girl?” he asked already fearing the answer.

“Yes little Wen Qing! She’s a good girl and so nice . She has lots of praise for you as well! She says you’re developing a golden core nicely and so smart. She says she can trust you with a lot more than she can most.” and at that Meng Yao blushed not expecting to hear that Wen Qing praised him like that.

Wen Qing wasn’t especially mean to him by any means but she was a strict person and had a fiery personality that made him worried about pleasing her. She didn’t hesitate to yell at someone who was screwing up, but then again she also didn’t teach people she didn’t think had potential.

Yet she had taught everything to Meng Yao directly. She even asked his opinion on some of her theories. She treated him with respect...but that’s why he was worried about her finding out about his past.

Not that he was ashamed of his mother but he didn’t want Wen Qing to treat him any different because of it.

“She is nice. She treats me well” Meng Yao said honestly patting his mother’s hand.

“We’re back Auntie!” a young voice shouted from the doorway. Meng Yao’s head snapped around to see a little boy of about four enter the house.

“Ah A-Yu! Where is your mother?” Meng Shi said smiling as she answered the boy.

“I’m here sister” a woman replied following her son inside, “And look who we found in the market!”

Meng Yao whose mouth was open felt even more shocked as Jin ZiXuan entered the house.

“Hello Auntie,” he greeted before seeing Meng Yao, “Brother” he said respectfully.

“...Brother” Meng Yao greeted.

“Is he my brother too Gege?” the little boy asked Jin ZiXuan pointing at Meng Yao.

“He is! He’s your Meng-Gege” Jin ZiXuan replied smiling at the boy who grinned before throwing himself at Meng Yao, hugging his knees.

“Hi Gege!” he was a cute child but Meng Yao was going through something at the moment. Still he smiled at the child and gently pried him off his legs.

“Hello A-Yu was it? It’s nice to meet you but I need to have a word with your Jin-Gege. Outside.” Meng Yao glared at Jin ZiXuan as he said the last but it was more out of feeling off footed than anything else.

“Of course. Please excuse us” Jin ZiXuan said respectfully to the two women.

Meng Yao followed his half brother out.

“What the hell is going on!?” he hissed at Jin ZiXuan once it was just the two of them.

“Ah. I would have asked but I didn’t have a lot of time.” Jin ZiXuan said apologetically.

“Didn’t have much time for what?” Meng Yao pressed.

“Mo XuanYu is another one of father’s bastards. I found out about him and his mother while passing by on a nighthunt. I was worried about them getting caught up in the war and I thought the safest place was with your mother. Also A-Yu’s mother could help with your mother’s care. She agreed. Apparently she didn't have a nice home life...A-Yu was being beaten by her sister” Jin ZiXuan explained.

A part of Meng Yao was angry. Why did A-Yu get a brother and safety as a child when he didn’t? But he was born on the same day that Jin ZiXuan was and only a few years before. His brother couldn’t have helped him as a child.

But at least he was doing right by A-Yu.

“I can’t change the past. We can’t change who our father is. But we can be better than he was.” Jin ZiXuan said with a hand on Meng Yao’s shoulder, apparently reading too much into Meng Yao’s expression.

Fuck.

When did he get so weak?

“You’re my brother. I said I would stand by you and I mean it.” Jin ZiXuan continued and it would be so easy to believe that. To just accept those words.

“...Did you have to get Wen Qing involved?” Meng Yao finally pushed on the main issue, bitter that someone who treated him as an equal would learn where he came from and change.

“She insisted.” Jin ZiXuan said with surprise, “I thought you knew. She’s been here a few times since we got your mother settled.”

“She’s been coming since then?” Meng Yao didn’t know how to feel about that.

“Yes? If that’s a problem you should really take it up with her.” Jin ZiXuan was right but that made it worse.

“Why are you here?” Meng Yao demanded instead.

“I came to make sure your mother and and A-Yu’s mother were getting along and they were both happy. I am trying to be better.” Jin ZiXuan promised.

“...Right.”

Seriously. When did he get so weak? When did he start trusting others?

Meng Yao made his excuses and returned to the Wen side branch family estate where Wen Qing ruled over everything.

“There you are Meng Yao! I need you to make up a batch of this medicine. A-Ning is useless at it.” Wen Qing said, barely looking at him as she worked, pushing a recipe at him.

Meng Yao walked over so he was stood next to her, picking up the paper but not really seeing it.

“...When did you find out my mother was a whore?” he asked quietly.

Wen Qing paused briefly but then went back to work.

“It doesn’t matter.” she replied.

“...It does to me.”

“Why?” Wen Qing asked, “Your mother sold her body to survive and provide for you. My uncle tortures people for fun, for the sick thrill of it. Tell me. Which of us should be ashamed?”

Meng Yao stared at her and Wen Qing finally looked at him, meeting his gaze calmly.

“Do you really mean that?” he asked.

“Of course I do. I don’t know why you’re so conscious of it. You are smart, capable, and were lucky to be raised by a parent who loved you.” she pointed out and he snorted.

“In a whore house where myself and my mother were treated like less than dirt while my father apparently didn’t care about us at all.” yes Meng Yao was bitter.

This is why he didn’t trust people. Everyone was looking out for themselves.

Wen Qing fixed him with a steely glare.

“My father sold my mother to Wen RuoHan.” Wen Qing told him, “Wen RuoHan wanted her and my father sold his wife, his wife , to Wen RuoHan. She made it two months before she killed herself. Then my father beat my brother for crying about it. I was 9. I could do nothing. I decided then that I would never be like either of my parents or like my uncle. I would not let them break me like they did her, though I don’t blame her, but I would also rise above and have the morals my father and uncle lacked. I would gain power and destroy them by using my intellect and morality. And I can and will avenge my mother by being the best, by being better than those who hurt me. Both physically and morally. So can you.”

Meng Yao knew his eyes were wide, he hadn’t expected this.

Wen Qing finally looked away, her hands continuing her task.

“You were treated like less than dirt by people who couldn’t see that you were a diamond. Your mother saw your shine and...so do I.” her cheeks went a tad pink and Meng Yao was fascinated by how beautiful that splash of color made her.

“We will be diamonds Meng Yao and we will shine with righteousness even though we rose from the darkness and filth.” she promised quietly and then paused before continuing softer “I know you want to return to your father’s sect but I want to change my entire sect. To change the meaning of who we are but I can’t do it alone. If you ever want a home you’ll have it with us. You’ll have it with me.”

“...Wen Qing” he reached out an put a hand over one of hers. She paused and smiled to herself.

“Make the medicine” she reminded him gently.

“Yes Wen Qing” he agreed taking his hand back and getting work.

They worked side by side in comfortable silence.

Meng Yao glanced at Wen Qing briefly and thought of how Jin ZiXuan greeted him, how his mother was safe and healthy. Of little A-Yu calling him Gege.

He thought of Wen Qing’s fierce support.

Her offer of a home.

He could do it.

He could be a diamond.

For her...no for them... he would shine.

Chapter Text

It was dark.

Jiang Cheng was hungry and tired but the rest of the disciples were asleep in their dorm room and it was time.

Meng Yao had made contact with Lan XiChen who had passed the message to Jiang Cheng.

Jiang Cheng had read it before destroying the evidence.

Now he removed the needles he had hidden in the lining of his robes and slipped behind the guard outside their dorm space.

Wen Qing had been right, it only took one hit of a needle and the man was down. Jiang Cheng caught him before he fell and leaned him up against the wall.

There was another guard further down the hall and Jiang Cheng took him down in the same way. If Wen Qing was right they wouldn’t even remember it happening.

He met up with Lan XiChen outside of the sleeping area and followed him noiselessly to where their swords were hidden.

They had to get them out and hidden outside as quietly as possible and get back before morning.

It felt impossible but they had to succeed.

Lan XiChen led them through the compound both of them on edge, the tension between them palpable.

They were almost to the storage rooms when Lan XiChen suddenly pushed Jiang Cheng up against the wall in a shadowed recess. He placed hand over the Jiang Cheng’s mouth and pressed his body against Jiang Cheng’s.

Jiang Cheng’s breath caught and his eyes widened and he had to concentrate on keeping himself calm. It was difficult with the warm press of Lan XiChen leaning into his body. There wasn’t a great difference in height between them but the strength and power in Lan XiChen’s body was unnervingly exciting.

Lan XiChen was staring intensely off into the darkness with an expression that fascinated Jiang Cheng. It was rare to see Lan XiChen without a smile on his face but his serious face while concentrating was something to behold.

Jiang Cheng’s heart was beating too fast.

Lan XiChen finally removed his hand from Jiang Cheng’s mouth, placing it on his shoulder instead, and turned to face him. His lips parted as if he was about to speak but he instead stopped. He stared at Jiang Cheng for a good moment but he was too close! Far too close!

Lan XiChen smiled a bit smugly and leaned in so his lips were against Jiang Cheng’s ear.

“What an amazing face you’re making Jiang Cheng” Lan XiChen said softly and oh god what kind of face was he making to make Lan XiChen sound so smug and for his voice to be so low.

Lan XiChen’s hand slid from Jiang Cheng’s shoulder down to the middle of his chest.

“Your heart beat is so fast A-Cheng” and shit, being called A-Cheng was affecting Jiang Cheng far too much.

“We-we need to go” Jiang Cheng cursed how shaky his voice sounded.

“Mn we do. We’ll continue this later.” Lan XiChen’s voice was so soft and alluring. His lips brushing against the shell of Jiang Cheng’s ear.

“Later!? What later!?” Jiang Cheng thought in a panic.

Then a soft warmth bloomed against Jiang Cheng’s cheek and he froze as he realised Lan XiChen had kissed his cheek!

What.

The.

Fuck.

A tug on his arm brought him back to the present though and they continued to the rooms where Meng Yao had told them the swords were being kept.

Two people in Wen sect uniforms were already there but Jiang Cheng relaxed when he recognised Wen Ning and Meng Yao.

They approached, no time for discussion, and the four of them managed to bundle up all the swords and secret them out of the compound.

They had just finished passing the swords to their Wen sect allies out in the woods when someone jumped on Jiang Cheng from behind.

“FUCK!”

“HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!” Fucking Wei WuXian!

His brother was bent over clutching his stomach with one arm and holding onto the a straight faced Lan WangJi with the other.

“You should have seen your face! Priceless!”

This was their grand strategist.

They were fucked.

“We’re trying to be covert you donkey brained moron!” Jiang Cheng hissed.

“But your faceeee!!” Wei WuXian laughed.

“My face only shows how much I hate you!”

“Ah come on! Is angry and surprised the only faces my brother can make?” Wei WuXian teased but he didn’t seem to be addressing Jiang Cheng.

“No” Lan XiChen answered with a smile.

Immediately Jiang Cheng’s face was so hot it was probably possible to grill fish on it.

“LAN HUAN!” he protested.

“Ah you finally called me by my name! I wondered what would finally get you to do that” and fuck why did Lan XiChen have to look so happy about that.

“That! That- You could have just asked!”

“Huh? So it already happened?” Wei WuXian asked.

“What happened? Nothing happened!” Jiang Cheng denied quickly.

“Not yet.” Lan XiChen answered calmly causing Jiang Cheng to bury his face in his hands. Whatever they were talking about he didn’t want to think about.

“Why are you harassing us Wei WuXian?” he asked instead.

“Eh? Why? We just missed you two! You’re our brothers! Plus we wanted to make sure you had these” Wei WuXian reached into the bag Lan WangJi was carrying and passed them a stack of talismans, his face suddenly serious.

“Now as long as you do exactly as I say none of you will get hurt” Jiang Cheng felt a chill go up his spine but he took the stack of talismans, ready to hear his brother’s plan.

 

The prisoners, for that’s what they were, trudged forward tired and hungry through the night.

“Hurry up!” Wen Chao’s lips curled in an arrogant sneer as the Wen Sect members pushed the tired disciples around.

“We don’t even have weapons.” Jin ZiXuan snapped irritably unable to hold back, “What will we do if we find something?”

“This is why you’re here! That sort of insolence! What will you do? You are all so useless!” Wen Chao strode through the woods, eyeing some of the female disciples unpleasantly.

Jin ZiXuan grit his teeth but turned forward when the sound of a flute cut through the forest.

Everyone paused and all at least seemed confused.

The flute continued, the tune eerie and off putting. The disciples huddled closer together, their faces unsure.

“What are you all stopping for!? It’s just some idiot with a flute!” Wen Chao snapped.

Jin ZiXuan, Jiang Cheng, Lan XiChen and Nie HuaiSang had been waiting for just this sound.

They quietly gave signals to their sect members and instantly GusuLan and YunmengJiang sects moved closer to the Wen Sect members and the LanlingJin and QingheNie members spread out among the other disciples to make sure everyone followed instructions.

Just in time for the fog to arrive.

It was thick and oozed out of the trees quickly engulfing the disciples and their escort.

As soon as could be done a talisman was activated and slapped onto the back of each of the Wen sect members guarding them.

Almost as soon as they were activated the sound of the flute became quick and menacing. Roars of fierce corpses could be heard from all around.

Throughout the group of disciples quiet orders to keep still kept the disciples in place.

Then the corpses attacked.

They came rushing out of the trees, overwhelming the Wen Sect members who fought back with wild swings and swearing.

And not one corpse moved to attack the prisoners.

Soon after the attack was underway two things happened.

First; the fog cleared enough in the front for a figure to be seen.

He was clothed in robes of deep black with red details. His hair was long and flowed behind him, a red ribbon trailing in the breeze.

He was stood at the top of a tree with the flute to his lips and a strange dark aura around him.

He stopped playing and saluted mockingly.

“I thought the Wen Sect should fight something off equal intelligence so I have sent some mindless corpses to play with you. Are you having fun? Or are brainless corpses outwitting the great Wen sect?” and with that the man leapt away, laughing mockingly.

“I’ll make the fucker pay!” Wen Chao shouted and tore off after the man with Wen ZhuLiu close behind, trying to play catch up to his master.

Secondly as soon as Wen Chao and Wen ZhuLiu disappeared the disciples, following the lead of the main four, called for their swords and were answered.

Some of the disciples were ready to fight the corpses and the Wen sect members but instead all followed the clear leaders out of the battle and to the river where Wen Ning and his people were waiting for them.

“Hurry! We have to go now while Master Wei has them distracted!” Wen Ning said and with that the disciples made their escape.

Jiang Cheng paused before mounting his sword, looking out into the forest but Lan XiChen pulled lightly on his arm.

“Come on A-Cheng, we have to trust them to handle it” Lan XiChen said calmly.

“Stop calling me that” Jiang Cheng grumbled with a red face, but he mounted his sword and fled with Lan XiChen.

 

Back in the woods the figure in black retreated, his mocking laugh drawing Wen Chao forward with his rage.

Wen Chao ran into a clearing, his sword drawn to see the strange man cloaked in black smiling at him and twirling a flute his hand.

“Were you not entertained by the little party I threw you?” the man asked.

“No one mocks the Wen sect!” Wen Chao snarled, “By the time I’m done with you your own mother won’t recognise you!”

“Are you sure about that?”

Wen Chao was done talking. Who the fuck did this guy think he was!?

He lunged forward, his sword aimed to kill but the man easily dodged out of the way. Wen Chao bellowed in rage and kept attacking. The man in black seemed almost bored, his own sword easily parrying what he didn’t dodge. Wen Chao was even more enraged at how careless the man fought. Like he didn’t even consider Wen Chao a threat.

“Ah! Your friend finally arrived.” Wen ZhuLiu must have caught up with them. He was good but Wen Chao was faster than him. Something Wen Chao should have remembered.

Before Wen Chao could react to that his sword was knocked out of his hand and he was pinned to the ground with a sword at this throat.

“Ah pause there Core-Melting Hand.” the man said with a smile.

Wen ZhuLiu didn’t bother to speak as he stopped but the man in black just smiled more.

“Ah I see you’re not one to waste time arguing or pleading for your life. That’s good. You see with me you’d have to. I’d draw out your agony and pain and maybe you’d have a chance to get away. But you see. I’m not the one you have to worry about”

Just as the man in black said that another figure stepped out of the trees. This man was dressed in robes of similar cut and style of the man in black but he was dressed in blue where the other man was black and white where the other man was red. He was inhumanly beautiful and expressionless.

Wen Chao was far more terrified of him then the man holding a sword to his throat.

Almost invisible in the darkness of the woods was the thin wire held in the hand of the man in blue and extending to the neck of Wen ZhuLiu.

Wen Chao managed to take this all in as time seemed to slow and seconds felt like minutes.

But in reality almost as soon as the man in blue made an appearance his fingers flew over the wire in his hands and a loud sound rang in the clearing and Wen Chao was sprayed with Wen ZhuLiu’s blood.

He couldn’t even scream as he watched his bodyguards headless body fall to the ground.

“I told him I wasn’t the one he should be worried about” the man in black said gleefully.

“Stop playing” the man in blue admonished from where he stood.

“I suppose I must considering we are on a time limit.” the man in black smiled down at Wen Chao who shrank back in horror. The man’s smile was vicious and something in his eyes made him want to beg for mercy but he was too afraid to speak. A whimper escaped his lips and the man’s grin somehow became even more cruel.

“Be thankful Wen Chao” the man in black told him, “In another life you didn’t get off so easy” and then a moment of agony and Wen Chao was gone.

 

Wei WuXian wiped his sword clean as he stepped away from Wen Chao’s body.

“Wei Ying, you’re almost at the limit” Lan WangJi warned.

“Mn” Wei WuXian nodded as he sheathed his sword before taking out his flute again, “I can just about take care of the bodies and send them back. We’ll have to balance me when we get back though”

“Mn”

Wei WuXian smiled and walked over, turned so his back was resting against Lan WangJi’s chest.

“Maybe hold me while I finish up just in case?” Wei WuXian asked as he rested his head against the other man’s shoulder.

“Mn” Lan WangJi obliged easily, wrapping his arms around Wei WuXian’s waist and pulling him close.

Wei WuXian brought the flute to his lips and played a quick melody. It returned the majority of the corpses but he played an extra tune and a handful of corpses lurched into the clearing and attacked the bodies.

Not for long, just long enough to obscure how exactly Wen Chao and the Core-Melting Hand died. Then Wei WuXian banished those corpses as well.

Lan WangJi frowned.

“Ride with me on Bichen”

“Mmm yeah you’re right. I’m over the limit. It’s better if I do.” Wei WuXian agreed after a moment.

Lan WangJi nodded to himself before mounting his sword, Wei WuXian held against his chest.

They reached the Yiling supervision office quickly. Their brothers were waiting with them in the courtyard.

They dismounted and crossed over to their brothers, all with Lan WangJi carefully keeping an arm around Wei WuXian.

Jiang Cheng made a face of disgust.

“Is the public display of affection really necessary?” he asked, his arms folded over his chest.

“It is actually” Wei WuXian replied with a smile.

“Why?” Jiang Cheng clearly thought Wei WuXian was spouting bullshit again. But Wei WuXian only smiled bigger, clearly smug over a new theory being proven right.

“Because Lan WangJi is my anchor.”

Chapter Text

Wei WuXian played a cheerful melody as he lay on a branch that overhung the camp he was sharing with Lan WangJi.

They’d only been married a month and already it was the happiest month of either of his lives.

Still with an impending war and deaths to avert they weren’t as free as they’d like to be.

Plus Wei WuXian was aware of a problem he had.

Mainly that he couldn’t tell when the resentment he used for demonic cultivation was too high. Nor did he have a way of regulating it once it got too high.

Despite his promises that it was different this time and Lan WangJi’s promises that he would help at the moment Wei WuXian was still a liability as much as he was an asset.

But he had an idea to fix that.

It’s just a matter of trying it.

See the issue with resentful energy was that it didn’t follow nice clean lines like a spiritual energy. Nor did it gather in anything as simple to sense as a golden core.

Resentful energy was a wild untamable beast and Wei WuXian didn’t know how to get a clear reading on it.

Yet.

All he could tell at the moment was that the power of the resentful energy was stronger or weaker from time to time but he didn’t know why.

Maybe he should keep his experiments quiet for the moment.

Lan WangJi came back into the clearing and Wei WuXian started to play their song causing his husband to pause and smile slightly.

“Lan Zhan! I missed you so much!” Wei WuXian swept his arms out dramatically as he grinned at his husband, “Did you miss me?”

“Mn” Lan WangJi put down the gathered wood before coming to stand under the branch and look up at Wei WuXian who grinned and shifted so he could dangle an arm and a leg down. He propped up his chin with his other hand.

“You’re so good Lan Zhan. Did the tailor in town agree to make the robes?”

Lan WangJi reached up and gently took Wei WuXian’s hand in his own.

“Mn.” there was a pause as a line appeared between his perfect brows, “I do not understand”

“Hmm? You don’t understand why I wanted new robes?” Wei WuXian slid his hand out of his husband’s grasp and sat up, “Catch me and I’ll explain”

Lan WangJi obligingly opened his arms and let Wei WuXian drop into his arms despite the short distance.

“Oof! You’re so strong Lan Zhan! Okay okay put me down! I caught some pheasants and already cooked them! Don’t give me that look! I caught two so we can have one with flavour and one without!” Wei WuXian went fussing about getting their food and settled down next to his husband.

“Okay so the robes! See it’s all part of my genius plan!” Wei WuXian continued on once they were sat down.

“No talking while eating”

“Then don’t talk but I’m afraid you can’t shut me up! Besides we’re not in Cloud Recesses” when Lan WangJi didn’t voice any more objections, possibly because he was still eating, Wei WuXian continued.

“Okay so my genius plan! We want to get rid of the core-melting hand and that pig Wen Chao” Wei WuXian ignored the pulse of pain in his heart and the vague sense that maybe his resentful energy had risen, “but we don’t want any focus to go to either of our sects. So we don’t want to be identified as ourselves. But if I’m dressed like the Yiling Patriarch and you’re dressed in a similar style but in Lan WangJi appropriate colours then no one will immediately guess who we are! Genius right? I know I know I’m too clever by half!” somehow even though he was talking Wei WuXian’s food disappeared in record time.

Lan WangJi seemingly couldn’t fault the logic so he just nodded.

“Where should we go too first?”

“In the last timeline brother said the QingheNie sect got their orders before Gusu or Lotus Pier.” Lan WangJi supplied helpfully once he finished his food.

“And we really need Nie MingJue on side. Okay we’ll head that way once the conference is over. First I want to head over to where Wen Ning and the others are. I want to see if I can make friends with them again.” that’s something he longed for more than anything. A relationship with his Wens, with the only family that he ever felt he truly belonged with.

As much as he loved the Jiangs and considered them family he also never felt like he belonged there.

For a moment there was a flash of something in Lan WangJi’s eyes.

“What?”

“Nothing”

Wei WuXian looked at him suspiciously but then smiled as realisation hit.

“Really?” Wei Wuxian moved over and slid his way into Lan WangJi’s lap, his arms wrapping around his lover’s shoulders.

“Lan Zhan~ Lan Er-Gege~ you shouldn’t lie to to your husband” Wei WuXian grinned at the way Lan WangJi’s jaw clenched briefly. Wei WuXian leaned in, kissing up Lan WangJi’s jawline to his ear.

“Lan Er-Gege are you drinking vinegar?” Wei WuXian whispered into his ear.

Lan WangJi’s hands which had been resting lightly on Wei WuXian’s waist suddenly tightened their grip.

Bingo.

Wei WuXian grinned before pressing a kiss behind Lan WangJi’s ear.

“Oh my Lan Zhan. What am I to do with you? Are you even jealous of little Wen Ning?” hands tightened on Wei WuXian’s waist again and he laughed breathlessly, “Oh Lan Zhan he’s just like a little brother to me. Only one man has ever made me distracted with his beauty to the point where I rejected a beautiful woman because she couldn’t hold a candle to him.”

Lan WangJi pushed him back slightly so that he could pin Wei WuXian with a doubtful look.

“Don’t look at me like that Lan Zhan! Of course it’s the truth! Why would I lie about something like that? She was very beautiful but when she propositioned me I thought about how while beautiful she didn’t hold a candle to your looks and fine figure and was put off. So I declined.” Wei WuXian explained.

“When?”

“Hmm? Oh when I was hiding in a brothel after getting injured during the last sunshot campaign. They had surprisingly good food”

Lan WangJi’s brows drew in again.

“Now now none of that. I rejected her remember? Because I couldn’t stop thinking about you. You should be honoured! You’re the only one I’m willing to admit something so embarrassing to! Not even Wen Ning or Jiang Cheng know about that story!”

Lan WangJi’s forehead smoothed out.

“It’s just me?” he asked.

“It’s just you.” Wei WuXian assured pressing kisses to Lan WangJi’s face, “It’s always been you. Long before I understood my own heart it was just you.”

“Wei Ying..”

Whatever Lan WangJi was going to say was lost in a deep kiss. Then Wei WuXian found himself laid out on the soft grass, his robes pulled away to give his husband access.

Much later when the sweat was drying on his skin and the joyful afterglow was still surrounding them Wei WuXian realised that the resentful energy within him had tamed a bit.

Interesting.

 

Lan WangJi had been a married man for several months now.

He had never been happier.

He had somehow gotten everything he had dreamed about in his last life and he was quite content to follow after Wei Ying and make sure he was safe and cared for.

Even if that meant watching his husband drape himself over someone else.

He tried very hard to swallow down his jealousy as Wei Ying wrapped his arms around Wen Ning in order to help him perfect his archery.

“Wait! What am I doing! Lan Zhan! You’re better than me! You should be teaching Wen Ning!” that made his heart feel better as his husband waved him over, letting got of Wen Ning in the process.

“I-I-I w-w-would be honored to learn from you Hanguang-Jun.” Wen Ning stuttered out nervously.

“Of course you would!” Wei Ying clapped Wen Ning firmly on the back, “My Hanguang-Jun is the best!” and that did a lot to help the jealousy.

Lan WangJi chose not to comment as he joined them and held out his hands for the bow.

Wen Ning handed it over and Lan WangJi inspected it carefully. It was well made and the string was the right tightness and he nodded approvingly. He then held out a hand and accepted the arrow Wei Ying put in it.

He carefully raised the bow, aimed and let go with one smooth motion, hitting the bullseye dead on.

“See? I told you he was the best!” Wei Ying cheered, “But that’s enough practice. We need to take some more supplies up the burial mound. Wen Ning are you coming?”

“S-sure”

Wen Ning and Lan WangJi followed behind Wei Ying who chattered endlessly about what supplies they needed and that he needed to set up stronger talismans.

When they got to the demon slaughtering cave however Wei Ying dug through the packs they brought and made a dissatisfied sound.

“Lan Zhan can you take Wen Ning into Yiling and get me this stuff?” Wei Ying whined as he passed a list over, “I thought we had it already but apparently we don’t”.

“Mn” Lan WangJi agreed and even though he knew he was being ridiculous he was glad Wen Ning was going with him and not staying with Wei Ying.

The unlikely duo made their way back into town to do the shopping.

Wen Ning fidgeted nervously while Lan WangJi was his normal blank slate.

“H-Hanguang-Jun?” Wen Ning nervously broke the silence.

“...Mn?” Lan WangJi was not going to be rude just because he was stupid and jealous.

“Young Master Wei is a very good and kind person.”

“Mn” well that was true.

“...Do you know why he’d be friends with someone like me?” and that made Lan WangJi feel even worse. He’d forgotten how shy and timid Wen Ning was.

“You are also a good person” which was true which was why Lan WangJi got so jealous.

“But I’m not brave like Young Master Jiang and of course I’m nothing like you but then no one will compare with Second Young Master Lan in Young Master Wei’s eyes”

Oh?

That was good to know.

But Lan WangJi had to give credit where it was due.

“You are brave”

“Me?” Wen Ning squeaked and Lan WangJi nodded.

“In the last timeline you risked your life to save Wei Ying. You died trying to protect your people. You turned yourself in to try and protect Wei Ying a second time and died a second time. Even though I tried to speak in your defense.” Lan WangJi explained. He still remembered trying to get people to understand but it all falling on deaf ears.

“R-really? Th-thank you. I’m glad I have both of you as friends” oh? Was he friends with Wen Ning now?

Lan WangJi thought about it. He didn’t dislike the idea and it would make Wei Ying happy…

“Mn” he agreed finally.

Wen Ning smiled and opened his mouth to say something when Lan WangJi stopped abruptly and took out a talisman that was already burning to ash.

Lan WangJi immediately turned and fled back towards the burial mound with his heart in his mouth and cold terror flowing down his spine.

Something had gone terribly wrong.

 

Once Lan WangJi and Wen Ning were out of sight Wei WuXian dropped and started drawing an array.

He had been practicing mapping his resentful energy. It didn’t flow smoothly but it spun around the lines of spiritual energy and then tended to gather in an orbit around the golden core. It was still like trying to track smoke but he’d learned to read it by figuring out how to control it with his spiritual energy.

Well actually Lan WangJi’s.

Dual cultivation had helped him realise that Lan WangJi’s spiritual energy could repress and lower the resentful energy inside him.

Now he just wanted to try and use his own to control it better.

It was dangerous.

Resentful energy was unpredictable and volatile at the best of times. However because it was also like smoke to successfully map and tie his spiritual energy to it he needed it high enough to see it clearly.

That meant raising his resentful energy.

There were two ways to do that he’d figured out.

The first way was to think of things and people that caused him to feel resentful on a personal level. So Wen Chao and the destruction of Lotus Pier for instance.

However the second way was easier.

Find a place full of resentful energy and channel  him.

So that was the plan.

The first part of the ritual was to raise his resentful energy and the second half was to tie spiritual energy to it in order to reign it in.

The ritual was complex and it took a good time before he finally completed the array and started.

What could go wrong?

He realised what could go wrong almost immediately after he activated the array.

The burial mound was far too full of resentful energy and he fell to his knees, his hands clutching his chest as he tried to breathe.

His eyesight was blurry when a figure shining brightly appeared and yelled something that sounded like his name.

He tried to warn them away but nothing would leave his throat. Then the figure stepped forward into the array and the array lit up blindingly and Wei WuXian dropped his arms as he was speared with something bright and warm directly into his heart.

He screamed before losing consciousness.

 

Lan WangJi’s heart clenched tightly in his chest as he almost fell off of sword outside the cave where in another life Wei WuXian had lived.

There was a frightening amount of resentful energy coming out of that cave.

He ran inside Wen Ning at his heels and almost collapsed when he saw Wei Ying.

He was kneeling and clutching his chest, his head down and right in the middle of a bloody array, the resentful energy so thick around him it was almost a haze.

“Wei Ying!” he yelled but got no response.

In desperation even though he knew it was stupid, he didn’t even know what the array was for, he stepped into the array to retrieve his husband.

The moment he stepped into the array though he was stuck frozen as the it lit up brightly. He felt his spiritual energy pulled from him and slammed into Wei Ying who screamed and collapsed.

Suddenly he could feel Wei Ying.

He could feel his spiritual energy and golden core.

He could feel and map the resentful energy flowing through him.

He could affect it.

It was almost instinctual that he stepped forward, knelt and gathered Wei Ying into his arms. He then used his own spiritual energy to quiet the resentful energy and then reaching deeper and cutting off the flow from the array into his lover.

The array flared one last time before going dark and dead.

But the connection between him and Wei Ying didn’t end.

“Wei Ying...what did you do ?” Lan WangJi asked fruitlessly.

 

The Present

“And that’s how we ended up with Lan WangJi as my anchor. The higher my resentful energy the closer he has to be to counteract it.” Wei WuXian explained to the others from where he sat perched in Lan WangJi’s lap as they ate, “There’s also a limit to how far we can be apart. We haven’t fully tested that though.”

“Only you” Jiang Cheng was barely keeping himself from banging his head against the table, “What else do we need to know?”

“Nothing else! We just got Nie MingJue on board and saved the library at Cloud Recesses but we haven’t done anything else!”

“Young Master Wei?” Wen Ning walked over carrying a baby, “He’s being fussy. I think he wants you.”

Wei WuXian smiled and held out his arms.

“Aw did you miss your dad? Dad missed you! So did your father!” Wei Wuxian cooed as he took the baby from Wen Ning.

The baby made a little fussy sound but settled quickly against Wei WuXian who looked up to see Lan XiChen, Jiang Cheng, Jin ZiXuan and Nie HuaiSang staring at him.

“Oh. Right. There is one more thing that happened…”