Wei Wuxian felt like it should have been storming when he showed up at Lan Wangji’s door, like he should have been drenched by rain and the baby in his arms should have been wailing louder than the thunder crashes.
Instead it was sunny and the only thing plastering his hair to his face was sweat. Wen Yuan was sleeping peacefully, drooling on his bare shoulder.
But none of these things expressed Wei Wuxian’s emotional state, hence the wish for a storm.
Wen Yuan shifted against his shoulder and sniffled, and Wei Wuxian pushed the thought aside, instead stepping forward to ring the doorbell.
Not even Lan Wangji could steel his face into impassiveness quickly enough for Wei Wuxian not to catch the surprise on it when he opened the door.
“Wei Wuxian,” he said in lieu of a greeting.
“Hi,” Wei Wuxian said, noting that he sounded just as frazzled as he felt. “Uh, I know this is… sudden, and we haven’t seen each other in forever, and it’s a lot to ask, but I didn’t have anywhere else to go and the kid is sick.” He had thought about going to Jiang Cheng but dismissed the thought just as quickly. Jiang Cheng still blamed him. (Wei Wuxian still blamed himself.) He was still in contact with Jiang Yanli sporadically, but her husband hated him and little Jin Ling was probably not even sleeping through the night yet.
“Come in,” Lan Wangji said and stepped aside. Wei Wuxian could only blink in surprise. There had been no hesitation at all.
“Thank you,” he said as he scurried past Lan Wangji into the house.
Lan Wangji led him into a spacious living room.
“Would you like to put him down for a nap in the guest room?” he asked with a look at Yuan.
Wei Wuxian opened his mouth to say no, then closed it, opened it again to say yes, closed it again. Then he simply shook his head. Chances were Yuan would be fussy anyway and just cling to him; he had been very upset earlier. Plus, Wei Wuxian hated the thought of letting him out of his sight. “I’ll just sit down with him, if that’s alright,” he said.
He settled down on the big sofa along the wall, carefully extracting Wen Yuan’s small hand from his tank top so he could move him into something closer to a lying down position. Yuan snuffled a little, and Wei Wuxian took out a tissue to carefully wipe his little nose, but didn’t wake up. He seemed happy enough to have his head on Wei Wuxian’s lap instead of his shoulder.
“Would you like something to drink?” Lan Wangji asked.
“Just some water would be great,” Wei Wuxian said, looking up at him. “I’ll make some formula for him once he wakes up.”
Lan Wangji only nodded and disappeared for a moment, coming back with a glass of water for Wei Wuxian. He accepted it with thanks and downed it quickly. It really was too warm outside for early September.
“Is he yours?” Lan Wangji asked. It startled Wei Wuxian a little. He hadn’t expected this as the first question from a pragmatic person like Lan Wangji. What did it matter if the child was his when there were more pressing matters at hand?
“Yes,” Wei Wuxian said, looking at him with a challenge in his eyes. Fucking judge me, he dared him.
Lan Wangji looked between Wei Wuxian and Wen Yuan, calculating rather than judging, and when his gaze settled back on Wei Wuxian he looked neutral bordering on questioning.
Wei Wuxian broke into a grin. “I gave birth to him.” Lan Wangji had passed the test.
Now his brow furrowed in confusion. “So… he is not?”
“He is in every way but biological,” Wei Wuxian shrugged. “His mother… entrusted him to me.”
Lan Wangji looked at him, obviously expecting more of an explanation – especially since Wei Wuxian was usually so fond of talking – but Wei Wuxian didn’t know how much more he could say. How much detail did he have to give Lan Wangji? How much detail could he give? Keeping Wen Yuan out of the public eye had been hard enough.
Still, he had barged into the man’s home, so he probably deserved some kind of explanation.
But before he could say anything, Lan Wangji spoke again: “If he’s sick you should take him to a doctor.”
“I did,” Wei Wuxian said. “It’s just a cold, and he’ll be fine, but umm… I spent my last money on the hospital visit, and I kind of… got evicted a couple weeks ago.”
Lan Wangji blinked at him. “Where have you been living?”
“Motels, mostly,” Wei Wuxian said, heat creeping up his neck. “My car for a couple nights. I figure that’s why he got sick.” He didn’t care about people judging him for being homeless, about their pity, even, but he didn’t want them to look at A-Yuan like that. “I didn’t tell the people at the hospital that, of course, they would have taken him away from me.”
“That would be a correct assumption,” Lan Wangji said and immediately, Wei Wuxian was filled with panic and anger. He tampered down the latter emotion, an impulse he had acquired in the last months for Yuan’s sake.
“I know you don’t like me very much, but, please, we just need a place to stay for a couple days until I can get the money to get us somewhere else to stay. Please don’t call child services. His mother… there’s a reason I have him.”
“Get the money how?” Lan Wangji asked, completely ignoring the rest of Wei Wuxian’s plea. “You are not with the SWAT unit anymore, correct?”
Well, at least Lan Wangji knew that. It didn’t surprise Wei Wuxian much, with the Lan’s running one of the most prestigious law firms in the country and his downfall and dismissal being somewhat publicized. He hadn’t wanted to assume, though, that Lan Wangji was too concerned with his fate.
But how he would get money, that Wei Wuxian hadn’t figured out yet. He had sold most of his things ages ago trying to make rent, and then the rest of it to keep Yuan fed. He did still have his gun, though.
“I’m not sure,” he admitted. “Maybe I’ll sell my car.” Truth be told he was ready to do just about anything for this kid.
He didn’t miss the immediate frown on Lan Wangji’s face. “Absolutely not.”
“Alright, okay,” Wei Wuxian said. “This was a mistake. I’ll just…” He made to get up, hindered by Yuan’s small form, but Lan Wangji’s hand on his arm still came as a surprise.
“No, you should stay.”
“Oh,” Wei Wuxian made. “I thought-”
“I simply meant you should not sell your car when it is your only means of transportation and security,” Lan Wangji said. He finally took his hand off Wei Wuxian’s arm. “Instead you should stay here for as long as you would like and find steady employment again. I apologize for the misunderstanding.”
“Oh,” Wei Wuxian repeated. He had been so ready to just drop a few choice words for Lan Wangji and leave, because that was about how all of their few interactions since graduation had gone. He settled back down, stroking Yuan’s hair absent-mindedly.
The kid deserved some stability and a roof over his head, and if that meant Wei Wuxian had to live with Lan Wangji, then so be it. At least here there would be less open animosity directed at him – and the kid, first and foremost – because Lan Wangji knew how to mind his manners.
Lan Wangji tilted his head in acknowledgment. “Of course.”
Wen Yuan woke up shortly after, whining and grabbing at Wei Wuxian’s shirt.
“Hungry, little man?” he asked. Wen Yuan didn’t answer with actual words, of course, but Wei Wuxian knew from experience that he would be hungry after a nap, even more so when he had a cold. “Where’s your kitchen?” he asked Lan Wangji. “I’ll heat him up some formula.”
“Just through there,” Lan Wangji said and got up to show him the way, even though he probably would have found it just fine on his own.
Wei Wuxian walked to the kitchen, bouncing the unhappy Wen Yuan on his hip, the baby bag dangling from his shoulder.
Lan Wangji showed him where the pots were and Wei Wuxian got to work. However, he quickly noticed that while boiling water was easy enough, mixing formula while trying to calm down a fussy, snotty baby was not working as well as he had hoped.
“Let me take him.”
Confused, Wei Wuxian turned, wondering if he had misheard, but Lan Wangji really was standing there, arms outstretched to take the kid.
“Are you sure?” Wei Wuxian asked. He had never taken Lan Wangji for someone who was… well, very good with children. But as already established, Wei Wuxian was ready to try anything. So when Lan Wangji nodded, Wei Wuxian carefully put Wen Yuan into his arms. He whined a little, stretching his arms back for Wei Wuxian. “It’s alright, sweetie. I’m going to make you some food, and Lan Zhan here is going to take care of you for a moment, okay? I’m right here, you can still see me.”
Lan Wangji’s hold on him seemed secure enough, and Yuan quickly got distracted playing with Lan Wangji’s tie, so Wei Wuxian turned back to the stove. He dimly registered that Lan Wangji didn’t tell the kid to stop tugging.
Like this, preparing Yuan’s bottle was much easier, although he kept turning his head to check on Yuan, who now seemed much happier in Lan Wangji’s arms. Soon however, Wei Wuxian was testing the bottle’s temperature against his wrist.
“It’s still a little too hot,” he said. He leaned against the counter to wait and automatically stretched out his hands for Yuan. “I can take him again.” There seemed to be a moment’s hesitation in Lan Wangji handing him over, and when he was safely back in Wei Wuxian’s arms, he held him a little closer than necessary.
For a moment, silence stretched between them, and Wei Wuxian was just about to start racking his brain for something to say when Lan Wangji spoke up again: “Have you eaten?”
“Yeah,” Wei Wuxian said easily. He had eaten a sandwich last night, and that was more than he had had the day before, so it counted. Plus, Lan Wangji hadn’t asked about today.
“Are you sure?” Lan Wangji asked, still looking at him with that scrutinizing gaze that made Wei Wuxian fidget, drumming his fingers against Yuan’s chubby little leg. Yuan kicked him in the stomach in response.
“Honestly, I’m good,” he said, only for his traitorous stomach to rumble loudly. He bit his lip and closed his eyes. Fuck.
“It doesn’t sound like it,” Lan Wangji said.
“Okay, maybe I’m a little hungry,” Wei Wuxian admitted. “Uh, I can… if you have some bread or something, I can-”
Lan Wangji cut him off before he could finish his sentence. “I’ll cook for you.”
“I will cook,” Lan Wangji repeated.
“No, I heard you,” Wei Wuxian said quickly. “But you really don’t have to, I can get my own food.”
“Evidently not,” Lan Wangji said. He stepped closer and gently shouldered Wei Wuxian away from the stove. “Go feed the child, I’ll make dinner.”
Wei Wuxian floundered. “You really don’t have to-” he started, but again, Lan Wangji interrupted him.
So Wei Wuxian went back to the living room, feeling distinctly defeated. This was Lan Wangji’s home, and if he didn’t want Wei Wuxian using his kitchen, so be it.
The formula had finally cooled down enough and Yuan, who at first had been calm enough after being held by Lan Wangji, started getting fussy again, so it was definitely feeding time. Wei Wuxian was glad for the distraction.
Wen Yuan finished his meal in just a few minutes, and with the emptiness of the bottle came Wei Wuxian’s guilt. He was doing his best to give him enough food, but he had thrown up his meal this morning and had not eaten since the hospital. Still, it was probably better to wait and see how he took this bottle before giving him any more.
As if in solidarity, his stomach growled again. The smell of food coming from the kitchen probably didn’t help. He patted it, not too gently, and mumbled “traitor”. He really was fine, and now he was bothering Lan Wangji even more. A skipped meal wouldn’t kill him.
He sighed and repositioned Yuan, then got up to go clean the bottle. He couldn’t let the formula dry in it or it would be a hassle later. For a moment he considered cleaning it in the bathroom to avoid Lan Wangji, but he needed dish soap and for that he would have to go to the kitchen anyway.
Once again rinsing the bottle and running hot water and dish soap into it wasn’t too hard with one hand but when it got the actual cleaning, Wei Wuxian faltered.
“This would be easier if you put him down,” Lan Wangji commented from where he was frying vegetables.
“He might throw up,” Wei Wuxian said, “and I rather he do that on me than all over himself lying down.”
There was an audible sigh from Lan Wangji as he turned down the heat and took Wen Yuan from Wei Wuxian, this time without asking first. “Go on,” he said, “clean it.”
Wen Yuan gurgled happily and immediately started putting his little hands all over Lan Wangji’s tie again. Another traitor, right there. Wei Wuxian stuck out his tongue at the kid and turned to clean the bottle. It took him a moment of rooting around but he procured a bottle brush and managed to clean the bottle in record time. He set it aside to dry, dried his hands on a kitchen towel and then immediately turned to Lan Wangji to take Yuan back. “All done!”
With Lan Wangji free to turn back to dinner preparations, Wei Wuxian had to return to the living room. He did try offering his help, but Lan Wangji pointed out that he was already almost done and Wei Wuxian was holding a baby and thus basically useless as a kitchen assistant.
“Rude,” Wei Wuxian mumbled, “I bet A-Yuan is a great cook. You didn’t even let him try” But he went anyway.
Thankfully, Yuan didn’t throw up his meal. Wei Wuxian sat on the floor with him, playing with one of his stuffed animals – a seal – and occasionally wiped his nose and gave him extra sips of water, until he saw Lan Wangji walk past with a tray.
“Do you need help setting the table?”
“No!” Lan Wangji called back and Wei Wuxian, already halfway on his feet, sank back down. Not helping when he was the reason Lan Wangji was cooking in the first place felt wrong, but helping despite being told no – and leaving Yuan alone for it – would be even worse.
“At least he seems to like you,” Wei Wuxian whispered to the boy. “You have to worm your way into his heart so he won’t make us leave.”
When Lan Wangji’s voice sounded from the dining room again, for a split second Wei Wuxian thought he had heard him. But all he said was: “Dinner is served!” Wei Wuxian let out a breath and picked up Yuan.
“Time for the adults to eat dinner.”
He sat down with Yuan on his lap, which he knew would make eating hard, but this was his life now, and he had gotten used to it. Back at his apartment he had had a high chair, but he had sold it when he got evicted, so now all he had was Yuan’s car seat.
He was rapidly getting used to eating with one hand and keeping a baby in check with the other, though. Soon he would be a champion at it.
“I see you’re still not a fan of spices,” Wei Wuxian teased. At least it was an actual stir-fry and not just steamed veggies.
Lan Wangji only hummed in acknowledgment, and Wei Wuxian was almost surprised when he actually looked up from his food to look up at him. He quickly lowered his eyes under the pretense of having to keep Yuan from reaching for his food. “No, leave that alone, you’re not big enough yet. I bet you have my palate, anyway.”
Apart from that, dinner passed in silence, which felt a little awkward to Wei Wuxian, but he remembered the few times he had shared meals with the Lans during college having been similar, so it was probably just par for the course for Lan Wangji.
After they had finished and brought the dishes back into the kitchen, Lan Wangji eyed the baby bag Wei Wuxian had brought into the house with him. “Is that all that you have?”
“What?” Wei Wuxian looked down at it and flushed a little. “Oh, no, that’s just the essentials for A-Yuan, I have some stuff in my car, but I didn’t want to bring it with me before I, you know, actually asked if we could stay with you.”
“Alright then,” Lan Wangji said, “let’s get the rest of your things. Lead the way.”
Wei Wuxian knew better than to protest at this point and so he slipped his shoes back on and, with the sun already setting, let Lan Wangji follow him to his car.
He felt a hint of embarrassment at letting Lan Wangji see the state of his car, but the other man gracefully did not grimace at the chaos of discarded clothes, blankets and food wrappers, and simply grabbed Wei Wuxian’s duffel bag and the box of memorabilia he had taken from his apartment and not left behind or sold.
“I can-” Wei Wuxian started but Lan Wangji only leveled him with a stare.
“You’re carrying the child, I’ll carry your things.”
“He has a name, you know,” Wei Wuxian mumbled.
“A-Yuan, then. My point still stands.”
Yuan made a happy little babbling noise at hearing his name. Wei Wuxian looked at him and pursed his lips. “I wish you could walk already.”
Lan Wangji left that uncommented, already halfway back to the house, but Wei Wuxian could have sworn he heard a snort as he closed the car door.
Back at the house, Lan Wangji led him up the stairs to a frankly enormous bedroom, where he put down Wei Wuxian’s things on an equally enormous bed. “This will be your room.”
“This is your guest room?” Wei Wuxian gaped.
“One of them, yes,” Lan Wangji said. Wei Wuxian only narrowly kept himself from cursing in front of Yuan. What the hell. Who had – let alone needed – all this space? How many bedrooms did this house have? Before he could voice this, however, Lan Wangji already continued: “You have your own ensuite bathroom. I’m sorry, I can’t provide a bed for t- for A-Yuan.”
“That’s okay,” Wei Wuxian said quickly, “he’s had to share a bed with me for a while now so some more time won’t kill him. Co-sleeping is supposed to be good, anyway.” Frankly, he had expected he would have to sleep on the couch, and he would have been happy about it.
Lan Wangji didn’t reply to that and instead stood in the middle of the room for a moment, looking somehow lost – if lost in his own home, or lost for words, Wei Wuxian didn’t know – before he turned and strode towards the door. “Good night, then.”
It was still a little early for bed for Wei Wuxian himself, but he knew Lan Wangji had really liked his routines in college and probably still did. Plus getting Yuan used to a regular bed time again was probably a good idea.
Wei Wuxian changed the kid’s diaper on the floor of the ensuite bathroom, then brushed his teeth and got both of them ready for bed.
Usually, Yuan would be out like a light by the time his head hit a sufficiently soft horizontal surface – no matter if motel bed, car backseat or Wei Wuxian’s chest – but today he seemed too keyed up from the excitement of the day. So Wei Wuxian held him on his lap and tried to make up a good night story on the spot.
That was the part he had been struggling with. He was great a making up lies, but that didn’t make him a good storyteller. Still, either it was calming or boring enough that Yuan finally fell asleep and Wei Wuxian was able to put him down next to him. He checked his temperature, which had finally gone down a little, even though it was still higher than usual.
Then he crawled further under the covers, pulling them up almost to his chin. He was so tired.
Despite that, sleep wouldn’t come. Of course now that the kid was asleep and he had a moment to himself, he started thinking about their situation again. When he had been kicked out of the apartment, he had thought he would find a different, shittier apartment, and they would be able to move on. But without a job, none of the apartments he looked at would take him, and with a baby on his arm and unwashed clothes none of the places he went to would hire him.
It might have been easiest to give up, to give Yuan to child services, to go back home to a family who hated him but who maybe would still take care of him.
But Wei Wuxian had never been too fond of easy. (Even if his teachers would have sworn differently.) So instead he had gone to Lan Wangji.
A little sliver of moonlight was falling in through a crack in the curtains. Wei Wuxian ran a hand over his face and turned around, facing Wen Yuan’s sleeping form now.
As long as you would like, Lan Wangji had said. Not “as long as necessary”.
He would never be able to repay him.
thank you so much everyone for the comments on chapter 1! the response really has been incredible
When Wei Wuxian woke up the next morning he thought for a moment that he was back in his own apartment. The illusion given by expensive sheets was however quickly shattered by Wen Yuan whining and shifting next to him, and the unfamiliar layout of the room when Wei Wuxian pried his reluctant eyes open.
Light blue curtains were moving slightly in the breeze of the window Wei Wuxian had opened last night. At home, the curtains had been dark grey, blackout curtains for when he needed to sleep at midday due to night missions.
He had woken up in the middle of the night because Wen Yuan had been crying and had gotten up to make him another bottle. He just hoped that Lan Wangji hadn’t woken up from the noise.
Even though he had been miserable during the night, Yuan’s fever seemed to finally have broken. He crawled over to Wei Wuxian and pulled at his hair with his little hands.
“Good morning, A-Yuan,” Wei Wuxian said, carefully extricating his hair from the small fingers. “Please don’t pull my hair.” He had never been a morning person, but taking care of an infant had turned him into one.
He picked up Yuan, changed his diaper and his clothes and then got himself ready for the day. Finally he shuffled downstairs so the baby could have breakfast. Lan Wangji was nowhere to be seen, so Wei Wuxian got to work in the kitchen.
That was where Lan Wangji found him half an hour later, sterilizing clean baby bottles on his stove while Wen Yuan sat on his play mat on the kitchen floor and chewed on his fingers.
“Good morning,” he greeted.
“Good morning,” Wei Wuxian chirped back. “Did you have breakfast already?”
“I did,” Lan Wangji said. “You?”
“Yeah, I had some toast. I hope that was okay.” Wei Wuxian carefully put the bottles down on the counter so they could dry. “I put away the clean dishes from the dishwasher, too.”
“You didn’t have to do that.” It almost sounded like Lan Wangji was frowning, even though his face was eerily neutral.
“I wanted to, though.” Wei Wuxian washed his hands again and then went to pick up Yuan and clean his nose. “I’m going to have to leave these out for a moment to dry, is that okay?”
“You’re being too agreeable.”
“I have work to do,” Lan Wangji said and left the kitchen, effectively ending the conversation.
Wei Wuxian was royally confused. And Lan Wangji hadn’t even answered his question.
After the bottles were dry and Wei Wuxian had put them away, he went back to his room with Yuan, who looked like he already wanted to fall asleep again. Wei Wuxian managed to keep him entertained for another hour, before the boy fell asleep clutching his blankie and Wei Wuxian put him up on the bed with a sigh.
He then paced the room a couple times and finally grabbed his phone. He barely used it anymore for its intended purpose – who would he call? – but scrolling through social media was entertaining, while slightly tortuous. Finally, when he had had enough, he settled on an old ebook he had already read twice.
Much of the first day was spent like that, with Wei Wuxian basically shut in Lan Wangji’s guest room so he and Yuan could stay out of the way. He felt like Lan Wangji hadn’t appreciated him touching his dishes earlier, so he wanted to avoid further missteps. Once Yuan woke up again, coughing and wheezing because he was congested, Wei Wuxian sat in the bathroom with him for a while with the shower running so the steam could clear his airways. But after that – and a diaper change – he had nothing to do, again.
That was, until Lan Wangji knocked at their door and announced that it was lunch time.
“You didn’t have to cook for me again,” Wei Wuxian protested.
“I was cooking anyway,” Lan Wangji said. “It doesn’t matter if I add one more portion or not.”
There was no arguing with that, so Wei Wuxian followed him into the dining room with a sleepy Yuan, who had just woken up again. To his surprise he found that Lan Wangji had spread out Wen Yuan’s play mat on the floor so Wei Wuxian wouldn’t have to have him sit on his lap for the entirety of the meal. He smiled a little and put the boy down on it with his seal.
“How is he?” Lan Wangji asked.
“Much better,” Wei Wuxian said, seating himself with one more look at Yuan. “No more fever and just a little sniffly. He did get a lot of snot on your good sheets though, I’m sorry.”
Lan Wangji only took his chopsticks. “That’s what washing machines are for.”
Lunch passed in silence, again, which had Wei Wuxian fidgeting in his seat by the end of it. He really wasn’t made to be quiet. But the moment Lan Wangji had put down his chopsticks, he spoke again: “How long until he can start eating solids?”
Wei Wuxian cocked his head a little. Why the sudden interest in Yuan’s diet? Was Lan Wangji already getting sick of all the baby bottles in his kitchen? “Another couple months. I’ll keep feeding him mostly formula until he’s a year old.”
“Ah,” Lan Wangji made. Nothing more.
Wei Wuxian really couldn’t figure him out.
He helped Lan Wangji clear the table after lunch and, since he didn’t protest, put the dishes into the dishwasher. Then he got too anxious leaving Yuan alone in the dining room for too long, though, and hurried back to get him.
“I’m going to make lunch for him too now, if that’s okay,” he said when he came back into the kitchen.
Lan Wangji finished rinsing out the pot he had used for lunch and then disappeared from the kitchen again. Like a ghost. A moment later, Wei Wuxian heard a door close somewhere in the house.
“He’s a weird one, huh?” he asked Wen Yuan.
Yuan only gurgled a little and tried reaching for Wei Wuxian’s collar.
Back in the room, Wei Wuxian opened the windows wide because it was too nice outside not to enjoy a little of the warm sunshine. He had considered taking a walk, but he didn’t have a stroller for Yuan and he knew from experience that carrying a baby around for over two hours was harder than any workout at the police gym. Plus, he had no clean clothes left.
That was how he arrived at the decision to do laundry.
The only two issues? He didn’t know where Lan Wangji’s hid his washing machine, because it definitely wasn’t in the kitchen, and he had no idea where Lan Wangji was so he could ask him.
“Do you want to go for a little adventure?” Wei Wuxian asked Yuan as he picked him up. “Do you want to find Uncle Wangji?” The boy made an affirmative sounding sound and put his little hand on Wei Wuxian’s arm. He laughed. “Alright, let’s go then.”
Lan Wangji was not in the living room or kitchen, and Wei Wuxian figured he must be either in his office or study or whatever he must have or his own bedroom. Trouble was, he didn’t know where those were, either. He went back up to the first floor and put Wen Yuan down so he could crawl down the hall. “Okay, you start at the back, I’ll start here.”
There were four doors on the first floor, one of which was Wei Wuxian’s room, so he figured one of the other three must be Lan Wangji’s room.
The first one he opened was actually a bathroom, which had another door leading to the next room. That must be his bedroom. He carefully knocked on the next door, after having checked that Wen Yuan hadn’t gone too far. The door wasn’t locked, but the room behind it didn’t look like someone was living there, either. Either Lan Wangji was even more spartan than Wei Wuxian had thought, or this was another one of his guest bedrooms.
The third room was what looked like a small library. There even was a little window seat, and Wei Wuxian almost got distracted by reading the titles on the book’s spines until he remembered Yuan. He hurried back outside and picked up the boy. “Come on, little man, there’s a third floor. That’s where he’s gotta be.”
Another flight up, the landing seemed to be smaller, and there were only two doors. Wei Wuxian shared a look with Wen Yuan and then knocked on the right.
“Yes?” Lan Wangji’s voice sounded from inside.
Wei Wuxian let out a breath and opened the door to stick his head inside. “Hey, sorry to bother you.” It was clearly a study. Lan Wangji was sitting behind a desk, facing a door leading out to a small balcony, but he turned to look at Wei Wuxian when he entered.
“What is it?”
“Um, two questions. Where’s your laundry room? And would it be okay if I used your washing machine?”
Lan Wangji blinked. “Of course,” he said and rose from his office chair.
“Please, just tell me where it is, I can find it on my own.”
“No, I should have showed you around yesterday, I apologize.”
“You really don’t have to give me a tour,” Wei Wuxian protested. “I’ve already looked into almost all of the rooms now!” But Lan Wangji was already walking over, and Wen Yuan babbled excitedly and reached out for him. To Wei Wuxian’s surprise, Lan Wangji took him without hesitation.
He sighed and followed the man out of the study and back downstairs. All the way downstairs.
“You have a basement,” he said incredulously when Lan Wangji opened a door to another set of stairs.
At the bottom of the stairs there were indeed another storage room, the boiler, a laundry room and another closed door that Lan Wangji didn’t comment on. He flicked the light switch on and gestured at the washing machine.
“You’re free to use whichever detergent and fabric softener you want, they’re in the cupboard over there,” he said.
“You use fabric softener?” Wei Wuxian asked, delighted.
“When the washing instructions call for it, certainly.”
Probably barely scented, or with some natural scent, Wei Wuxian figured. “Thank you,” he said. “I think I’ve got it from here.”
“Would you like me to watch A-Yuan while you do laundry?” Lan Wangji asked, bouncing Wen Yuan slightly in his arms.
Wei Wuxian shook his head and took the child from him quickly. “No, thanks, I’ve got him.”
They walked back upstairs together, so Wei Wuxian could get his dirty laundry, and separated on the first floor. He was almost back in the guest room, when Lan Wangji called after him. “You don’t have to stay in your room. You’re free to move about the house.”
He turned to see the man standing at the foot of the stairs leading to what was basically his own floor. “I don’t want to get into your way.”
“You couldn’t,” Lan Wangji said, “the house is too big for just one person, anyway.”
Wei Wuxian’s eyebrows shot up immediately. “Why did you buy it, then?”
Lan Wangji stayed quiet for a moment. Then: “If you need any more help with anything, you know where I am.”
Something warm spread in Wei Wuxian’s chest, a feeling he was wholly unused to associating with Lan Wangji. “Thank you.” He didn’t know what else to say.
“Alright, I’ll get back to work then,” Lan Wangji said, turning to walk away.
“Sorry again for bothering you.”
Lan Wangji stopped, looking back. “It wasn’t a bother. Please stop apologizing.” Then he shut his mouth rather quickly, and Wei Wuxian wondered if his jaw had locked. He looked after him as he walked back up the stairs with a confused frown, but when Yuan babbled and hit his arm, he focused back on the child.
“Let’s get some laundry done, then.”
He had a load running in no time, and then wandered around the house with Yuan, showing him random things. Now that he had already seen most of it and also knew where Lan Wangji was, so he could stay out of his way, his curiosity was piqued.
There was a piano in the living room that he had already noticed the day before, and Yuan seemed fascinated by the wood. Its white color made it look like it belonged in a church rather than in a home and Wei Wuxian was reminded of the classic black piano they had had back home growing up. Wei Wuxian sat down on the low bench, settling Yuan on his lap, and opened the lid, ghosting his fingers over the keys.
He wondered if Lan Wangji still played the guqin or if he had given it up after college in favor of his career.
His thoughts were rudely interrupted by Yuan hitting on the keys with force, creating a dissonant sound. Wei Wuxian quickly caught his hand. “No, A-Yuan, that’s not how we treat musical instruments. Here, let me show you.” He played a few chords and then positioned Yuan’s small fingers over the keys, gently pressing down. “There, see?”
He himself didn’t have an issue with Yuan banging on the keys and making all the noise he wanted, but this was an expensive piano, and Lan Wangji’s, so he figured teaching the baby a little bit of caution was in order.
Together, they carefully played a few scales, Wei Wuxian holding Yuan’s little hand and when Yuan tugged his hand out of Wei Wuxian’s, he went to play some of the simple songs he still remembered.
It had been years since he had last played, even longer since he had taken lessons, but some things stayed with you. After he had moved out he had kept playing the flute, but he didn’t even know where that was now. He had left it in a storage unit before he had moved to the apartment he had now gotten kicked out of, and he hadn’t paid rent on that unit in forever. Chances were the contents had already been auctioned off.
He went through a rendition of the accompaniment of a lullaby he had learned in his early lessons and by the end of it, Yuan’s small head was drooping against his chest. Wei Wuxian took his fingers off the keys and chuckled slightly. “Nap time again, huh?”
He rose from the piano bench, holding Yuan against him. When he turned, he saw Lan Wangji standing in the doorway and flinched slightly.
“How long have you been standing there?”
“I heard you play,” Lan Wangji said. It was answer enough.
Wei Wuxian opened his mouth to apologize for using the piano without asking, but remembering Lan Wangji’s earlier words he closed it again. It wasn’t his style, anyway. He was just overly cautious and didn’t want to land back on the street for destroying something expensive.
“Figured I’d get A-Yuan started early,” he said instead.
“He does seem drawn to it,” Lan Wangji said. Then: “I came downstairs to make dinner.”
“Can I help?” Wei Wuxian asked immediately.
“No, just relax, please.”
“Then… do you have a laptop or a tablet I could use to get started on applications?” Wei Wuxian really didn’t like the thought of sitting idle even longer.
A hint of something flashed across Lan Wangji’s face, but it was gone too quickly for Wei Wuxian to gauge. “You can use mine, it’s upstairs.”
“Don’t you need that for work?” Wei Wuxian asked.
Lan Wangji shook his head. “I use my desktop computer in the office.”
“Cool,” Wei Wuxian said and headed for the stairs.
“Actually,” Lan Wangji said, and Wei Wuxian stopped to look back at him. Had he changed his mind? “Maybe you would like to take a shower before dinner?”
Suddenly Wei Wuxian very much felt like a scolded child. “Are you saying I smell?”
“Not particularly,” Lan Wangji said, making Wei Wuxian raise both eyebrows. “But I feel like a shower would be beneficial in your job search, as well as a haircut.”
“Well, I’m not going out to apply in person right this second,” Wei Wuxian said and he cradled Yuan a little closer. He could feel himself getting defensive, but he couldn’t help it. Actually, he really would like to take a shower – he hated how greasy his hair was – but even with the ensuite bathroom he couldn’t supervise Yuan while he was showering. So the best he had been able to do was quick washes from the sink. “I don’t have to shower.”
As if he could read his mind, Lan Wangji continued. “I can watch him for you.”
Wei Wuxian grimaced. “Look, I really appreciate that, but I can’t… I can’t let him go.”
“That’s not healthy,” Lan Wangji said.
“You think I don’t know that?” Wei Wuxian snapped. “Do you think I like being greasy?” Yuan whined in his arms, rudely awoken from his drowsy state, and strained against his hold. Wei Wuxian shut his mouth with an audible click and took a step back. He didn’t want to upset Yuan. And he couldn’t yell at Lan Wangji. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s alright,” Lan Wangji said. “But I still think both of you would benefit.” He hesitated for a moment, took a breath. “I’m not going to call any authorities. I will just watch him and make dinner.” The unspoken I promise hung in the air.
Wei Wuxian warred with himself for a moment. He had come here and asked Lan Wangji to take them in. Now Lan Wangji was asking him for something – however small and reasonable – and, what was even worse, was asking Wei Wuxian to trust him. Once upon a time, Wei Wuxian would have.
“Fine,” he said finally. He had to grit his teeth but, well, he couldn’t afford Lan Wangji throwing them out. Besides, being clean sounded good. He carefully handed him Wen Yuan and hoped the Lan Wangji knew how precious he was.
“Thank you,” Lan Wangji said.
It was still the shortest shower of Wei Wuxian’s life. He was in and out in under five minutes, and it only took that long because he scrubbed his hair vigorously.
He didn’t have any clean clothes left, so he just put back on what he had been wearing. It would have to do until the laundry was done. At least he felt marginally cleaner now.
When he came back downstairs, his hair still wet, Lan Wangji was just turning on the rice cooker in the kitchen. Yuan was happily looking up at him from his play mat at his feet and Wei Wuxian rushed in immediately to pick him up and press a kiss to his forehead.
“You really love him,” Lan Wangji said.
“Yes,” Wei Wuxian said.
He again offered to help with dinner but Lan Wangji shooed him out of the kitchen, so Wei Wuxian returned to the living room. He settled on the couch with Yuan and pointed out different colored things in the room for him until the boy got bored.
Then he went back to the kitchen to watch what Lan Wangji was doing – quietly. That was, until he started narrating Lan Wangji's actions in a whisper, making the different vegetables speak in funny voices, only to stop abruptly when A-Yuan's loud, squeaky laughter had Lan Wangji turn and give them an odd sort of look. Wei Wuxian gave him an apologetic grin and made Yuan wave at him before backing out of the kitchen again.
Dinner promised to be quiet again, and this time Wei Wuxian was able to take it for about five minutes before he broke. Without Yuan on his lap to hold onto he started bouncing his leg and that would probably annoy Lan Wangji even more than talking.
“How’s work?” he asked. At least he didn’t speak with his mouth full! He had some manners!
“It’s fine,” Lan Wangji said, expressive as ever.
“I hope you’re not staying at home from the firm for my sake,” Wei Wuxian said.
“Actually,” Lan Wangji said, “I retired from Gusu Lan Law a few months ago.”
Wei Wuxian gaped at him. “You did what?”
“I retired,” Lan Wangji repeated.
“Yes, but why?” Wei Wuxian asked. “Wasn’t this job what you always wanted?” As far as he knew, Lan Wangji had only ever had one goal – take over his family’s law firm and run it together with his brother. What the fuck had happened over the years they hadn’t seen each other?
“To be a lawyer, yes,” Lan Wangji said. “But I simply needed… a change of pace.”
Wei Wuxian narrowed his eyes at him. It sounded evasive and like half-truths, and if he knew something about the Lans it was that they were honest. Something about this felt off. But he knew he wasn’t going to get any more details out of Lan Wangji, so he changed tactics. “If you don’t work there anymore, why are you still wearing your tie?” He reached across the table to tug at the Lan firm’s signature tie.
Lan Wangji straightened up a little so the silky fabric slipped through Wei Wuxian’s hands, but deflated again just as quickly. “Force of habit, I must admit.”
“Not that you don’t look good with it, but it does make you look like you’re constantly at work and not at home,” Wei Wuxian said, pouting slightly. “You should relax a little.”
The corner of Lan Wangji’s mouth twitched. “Eat,” he said.
And Wei Wuxian did, but he was still mulling over the situation. Lan Wangji was too young to suddenly retire from the job he had studied for and never voiced any issues with.
But Wei Wuxian hadn’t shared every detail about his own situation, and Lan Wangji certainly wasn’t obligated to do so.
(And maybe he didn’t really know him well enough, either.)
a short note: commenter C made me aware that reading A-Yuan's one syllable name like that was rather awkward, so he's going to be mostly A-Yuan from now on and I might go back and edit it in the earlier chapters
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
As promised, Wei Wuxian started working on applying to places the next day. He wasn’t presumptuous enough to think he could get a job with the local police force, but he figured working retail was a good a way as any to get back on his feet. Maybe he could work his way up to private security or something. He had worked enough retail and food service jobs in high school and college to know that it sucked, but he was ready to do just about anything for A-Yuan.
By mid-afternoon he was just about ready to chuck Lan Wangji’s laptop out of the window. Instead he got up to do another load of laundry and then trudged upstairs to carefully knock at Lan Wangji’s office door.
“Is it okay if I make dinner today? I’m about to go stir crazy, and I should put that energy somewhere.” He held A-Yuan before him like a shield, because Lan Wangji liked the kid, and maybe that way his refusal wouldn’t be as harsh.
“You don’t have to,” Lan Wangji said.
“Yes, but I want to. I can also just… cook for myself or something, if you had plans. I just don’t want to use the kitchen if you don’t want me to,” Wei Wuxian rushed out.
“You can always use the kitchen,” Lan Wangji said, and there was a miniscule frown on his face.
“Okay, but are y-”
“Wei Wuxian,” Lan Wangji said, rather forcefully. Wei Wuxian had only ever heard him speak like that outside of a courtroom twice, as a college freshman. He shivered a little. “You are allowed to touch anything in this house.”
“Alright, I got it,” he said and tried to mask how flustered he was by plastering a grin on his face. “I’ll get started on dinner then.” He shuffled out of the room and was already back at the stairs when he remembered something.
He stuck his head back inside. “You’re still a vegetarian, right?”
Lan Wangji looked at him for a moment, as if he couldn’t even comprehend the question. “Yes.”
“Good to know.” Wei Wuxian gave him a finger gun with his right - still holding A-Yuan with the left - and then left the room for good.
Wei Wuxian hadn’t cooked from scratch in a while. Most of his meals in recent weeks had been instant food, or sandwiches, or – on a few rare occasions – baby food when he had tried giving A-Yuan something other than what he was used to and he hadn’t liked it.
That did give him an idea for what to make, though. Maybe A-Yuan could even try some, too. He got a pot and some rice and set that to simmer before he started rooting through Lan Wangji's fridge for vegetables.
He found some carrots, tomatoes, cabbage and some canned corn and set to work. It was time for Lan Wangji to learn that just because he didn’t eat meat, his meals didn’t have to be flavorless sludge. (Not that Lan Wangji’s cooking was bad , it just seemed like he hadn’t used a spice in his life.)
As if to prove him right, the contents of Lan Wangji's spice cabinet were even sparser than Wei Wuxian had expected. Definitely not as well stocked as his pantry.
“How do you live ,” Wei Wuxian mumbled, pulling salt, pepper and paprika from the shelf. He would just have to make do.
He sighed and put them down for now, instead turning to chop the vegetables. One of the peeled carrots went to A-Yuan so he could chew on it with his baby teeth (god, that had been an ordeal), while Wei Wuxian chopped the others.
It took a while, but dinner came together eventually, and Wei Wuxian was about to go upstairs to fetch Lan Wangji, when the man himself turned up in the kitchen. As if he could read minds. Creepy.
“Almost done,” Wei Wuxian promised. “I was just about to set the table.”
“I’ll do it,” Lan Wangji said, already reaching for the cabinet.
Wei Wuxian slapped his hand away before he could think better of it. “Nope! You go and relax.”
Lan Wangji stared at his hand for a moment, but before Wei Wuxian could apologize he went over to A-Yuan, picked him and his playmat up and left.
“Oops,” Wei Wuxian mumbled, grimacing a little. Well, he would just have to apologize later then.
Five minutes later they sat down for dinner properly, and Wei Wuxian heaped a generous amount of rice congee into Lan Wangji’s bowl before filling his own.
“This was the best I could do,” he said with an apologetic look, picking up his spoon. “The spiciest thing you had was paprika, so I used a lot of garlic.” He shoved a big spoonful into his mouth.
“It's fine” Lan Wangji said.
“Are you sure?” Wei Wuxian swallowed. “I can come with you the next time you go grocery shopping.”
Lan Wangji carefully put down his spoon and looked at his bowl of congee for a long moment. His face seemed a little on the red side. “If you...insist,” he finally said.
Wei Wuxian beamed at him. “Great!”
They managed to spend most of dinner in Lan Wangji’s customary silence, mostly because Wei Wuxian was too hungry and eating too fast to eat much, and Lan Wangji looked kind of constipated for the whole meal. It took Wei Wuxian until he was finished to remember why.
“Oh, sorry for hitting you earlier, by the way,” he said sheepishly. “I didn’t mean to, it was a reflex I got back home. I’m not gonna do it again.”
“Mh,” Lan Wangji made, and then, after a long moment: “It’s fine.”
Like that, several days passed. A-Yuan started sleeping through the nights again with his cold finally calming down, and by the time the both of them woke up in the morning, Lan Wangji had already had breakfast and shut himself in his office.
Wei Wuxian spent his mornings applying to places and playing with A-Yuan and then cooked lunch – now that Lan Wangji seemed comfortable with letting him have control of the kitchen, things were easier. In the afternoon, Wei Wuxian would clean a little – even though Lan Wangji had said he didn’t have to, that there was a cleaner who came every weekend – and then sit on the couch and read a book from Lan Wangji’s library while little Yuan napped. Until dinnertime, when Lan Wangji came downstairs and claimed the kitchen again.
Wei Wuxian hadn’t noticed himself falling into a routine until he came downstairs on the fifth morning after first arriving at Lan Wangji’s house and found the patio door open and Lan Wangji sitting outside reading a book. Carefully he approached, forgetting all about breakfast.
“You’re not wearing your tie,” Wei Wuxian said stupidly.
Lan Wangji looked up from his book. “No. It’s Sunday.”
“Oh,” Wei Wuxian said. A-Yuan wiggled in his arm, trying to get to Lan Wangji. “I think he wants to play with you.” Deflection had always worked best.
Lan Wangji closed the book and put it aside, taking Wen Yuan from Wei Wuxian with ease. A-Yuan babbled happily and pulled at the collar of Lan Wangji’s shirt. His short-sleeved t-shirt. Wei Wuxian had never seen him look so casual, and he had known him in college . Button downs had been the most casual he had ever gotten.
“What do you do then now that you don’t work at Gusu Lan Law anymore?” Wei Wuxian asked. He just couldn’t help himself. He was a curious person.
“I do some consulting with other firms,” Lan Wangji said, completely engrossed with A-Yuan. The kid seemed to miss the tie, but Lan Wangji didn’t stop him from playing with his shirt, either.
“I bet you get constant offers.”
“Hmm,” Lan Wangji made, and that seemed to be that on this topic.
Wei Wuxian held his face into the sun and contemplated sitting down on one of the lawn chairs. “It’s nice out here,” he said.
“You should leave the house more often,” Lan Wangji said.
Wei Wuxian grimaced. He still didn’t like leaving Wen Yuan alone, and even though he had taken some walks around the neighborhood it got tiresome quickly. “I’m outside right now,” he said. He took a few steps off the patio onto the lawn, when something at the fence caught his eye. He wandered closer, eyeing the small enclosure with confusion. Several little noses peeked up at him from behind the low fence.
“You kept them,” Wei Wuxian said, voice filled with wonder. He carefully reached down and picked up the dark bunny standing on its hind legs to look at him. Its color had changed a little, and it didn’t seem as energetic anymore, but this was definitely one of the bunnies he had given to Lan Wangji.
“Of course,” Lan Wangji replied from his seat on the patio.
Wei Wuxian had given the pair of abandoned bunnies he had found on the side of the road to him during the time they had studied together, because his dorm didn’t allow pets and Wangji had lived off campus. He hadn’t expected him to keep them once Wei Wuxian had moved away, had figured he would give them to a shelter or someone else.
The even more amazing thing was that it had been over ten years . These were some damn old rabbits.
“Where did the others come from?” he asked. There were five bunnies in total, and he was sure both of the ones he had found had been male.
“Shelters,” Lan Wangji said. “I volunteered for a while after I had just joined Gusu Lan.”
This time, Lan Wangji didn’t seem inclined to repeat his sentence. Maybe he was also just too engrossed in explaining the cover of his book to A-Yuan, who was laughing, to notice. He wasn’t even looking at Wei Wuxian.
And as Wei Wuxian watched them, stroking the bunny’s coat, he realised something: Lan Wangji really had a thing for taking in strays.
Two days later, Wei Wuxian was almost elbow-deep in soap bubbles cleaning dishes and baby bottles when the doorbell rang.
“Lan Zhan! There’s someone at the door!”
Thank god Lan Wangji was in the living room entertaining Wen Yuan while Wei Wuxian cleaned or he definitely wouldn’t have heard the bell. Wei Wuxian was ready to bet his life that it didn’t reach all the way upstairs.
Lan Wangji didn’t reply, but a moment later he walked past the kitchen towards the door, which Wei Wuxian heard open a moment later.
He rinsed the last dish and over the noise of the water only heard the faint hint of people talking, then Lan Wangji saying: “Thank you, just leave it here.” Then the door closed again.
Curious, Wei Wuxian dried his hands and then stepped out into the hall. Lan Wangji stood facing him and behind him there was a box in the entryway, blocking most of it.
“Oh, good,” Lan Wangji said. “Could you hold him for a moment?”
Wei Wuxian took A-Yuan from him and tried to get a good look at the package. “What’s that?”
“You’ll see in a moment,” Lan Wangji said, picking up the package.
“Ohhh, a surprise. I love surprises.” Wei Wuxian blew a raspberry at A-Yuan and then followed Lan Wangji into the living room. He then tried helping open the big box but Lan Wangji only gave him a pointed look and Wei Wuxian rolled his eyes but backed off. Of course Lan Wangji could manage perfectly fine on his own.
In the end, Wei Wuxian was kind of glad he hadn’t gotten his hands on the cardboard, because if he had been holding A-Yuan one-handed when he was pulling back one of the flaps, he might have dropped him. Turned out this surprise was a little much.
Lan Wangji had bought him a stroller.
“You’re kidding me,” Wei Wuxian said as Lan Wangji got the marginally smaller box out of the bigger box.
Lan Wangji looked up at him. “I assure you I am not.”
“You didn’t have to do that.” His voice almost broke on the last word.
Lan Wangji looked almost guilty. “I’m sorry, I’ll involve you in the decision next time.”
“That’s not what I mean,” Wei Wuxian said. He breathed in to collect himself. “This is expensive. You can’t just… buy things for me.”
“It’s not for you, it’s for A-Yuan.”
Wei Wuxian huffed. “Okay, but still, this is too much.”
“You need to be able to go outside with him without having to carry him all the time,” Lan Wangji said. “It’s not a luxury item, it’s a necessity, and only practical.”
“Yes, but you didn’t have to buy literally the most expensive stroller out there,” Wei Wuxian whined. Even if he found a decent job, he would never be able to pay Lan Wangji back. “That is a luxury item.”
“It had the best reviews,” Lan Wangji said. “Like I said, I will consult about it with you next time.”
Wei Wuxian was ready to scream. He didn’t want there to be a next time.
(Maybe he also wanted to cry a little.)
Despite Wei Wuxian’s half-hearted attempts to convince him to send the stroller back, Lan Wangji unboxed it right there in the living room. Wei Wuxian could only sit on the floor, holding A-Yuan on his lap so he didn’t get too close and got his little hands caught on anything, and watch as Lan Wangji pulled out the frame and seat and then started testing the mechanism.
“It unfolds on its own?!” Wei Wuxian almost-screeched.
“Yes, I thought that would be the most convenient.”
Once again, Wei Wuxian came very, very close to swearing in front of the baby.
Lan Wangji attached the wheels, clipped in the seat and then straightened up. “A-Yuan, what do you think?”
A-Yuan strained against Wei Wuxian’s hold so now that all small pieces were out of the way, Wei Wuxian let him go so he could crawl over to the stroller. “Dada!”
“Great, now he thinks you’re his dad.” Wei Wuxian snorted. Lan Wangji looked at him a little wide-eyed, and now he really had to laugh. “Don’t worry, it’s just noises. He’s testing out his syllables. He probably means the stroller, anyway.”
“Do you want to try it?” Lan Wangji asked A-Yuan, and when the baby stretched out his arms for him, he picked him up and placed him in the stroller, buckling him in.
They spent the next ten minutes wheeling A-Yuan around the living room, accompanied by his delighted laughter, until Wei Wuxian opened the patio door and Lan Wangji tested out the stroller on the lawn, too.
“Would you like to go for a walk?”
Wei Wuxian stopped short. Then, before he could stop himself, he nodded. “Sure, why not.”
So they put proper little shoes on A-Yuan, Wei Wuxian packed the baby bag – which fit very comfortably in the storage compartment beneath the stroller seat, thank you Lan Wangji – and then they were out the door.
It didn’t occur to Wei Wuxian how weird this was until they were halfway down the street.
He hadn’t actually left the house together with Lan Wangji, despite his promise to buy him real food the next time he went grocery shopping, and doing it now for no purpose than trying out the new stroller that Lan Wangji had bought him felt… odd. The feeling was hard to place, until they rounded the corner and he spotted a young couple with a stroller themselves.
It felt domestic. Lan Wangji, despite his cooking and his working from home, just didn’t seem like the domestic type. But then again neither had Wei Wuxian, until Wen Yuan had shown up.
Before he could dare to voice any of that though, Lan Wangji spoke up: “We should go to the park.”
“Yes, good idea!” It had always been just a little too far to walk to with A-Yuan before, and Wei Wuxian hadn’t seen real nature beyond Lan Wangji’s backyard in ages. It may be a townhouse but it wasn’t in a suburb – probably because the commute would have been too long – and there were only a few green spaces around. Thankfully with the stroller they made it to the park in less than twenty minutes.
It wasn’t too full, lunch time had passed so people were back at work or at home, and they got to enjoy empty paths.
“I hope I’m not keeping you from any important work,” Wei Wuxian said as they walked.
“You aren’t. I get to keep my own hours now,” Lan Wangji said.
Maybe the freedom of that had been the reason why he quit? But Wei Wuxian remembered Lan Wangji being very into strict routines, and he still kept to his bedtime from college, so it didn’t seem like that could be it.
So they continued walking, and his thoughts continued turning.
After a while his feet started getting tired, and A-Yuan was nodding off, so they decided to sit down. Wei Wuxian was almost sad they hadn’t brought a blanket, but sitting in the shade of a large tree on one of the benches and gently rocking the stroller for a napping A-Yuan was enough for now.
Light was falling through the leaves of the tree, dancing over the canopy of the stroller, Lan Wangji’s hair and Wei Wuxian’s face. And as he looked at the small bright dots speckling Lan Wangji’s black hair, Wei Wuxian realised that he was happy. For the first time in a while it felt like he wasn’t just surviving.
“You know,” he said to Lan Wangji, “this isn’t how I thought my life was going to be like. Kicked out of SWAT with a baby, here with you, but… I think I’m okay.”
Lan Wangji turned his head to look at him. “I’m glad,” he said, and there was something in his expression that was new. Something that looked kind of sad, but the corners of his mouth were curving upward.
It was almost four by the time they started heading back home. A-Yuan had woken up again and it would be time to start dinner for all of them soon.
They had just left the park and rounded a corner when Wei Wuxian heard music. The jingle made him look up, and he spotted the ice cream truck down the street almost immediately.
“Oh, Lan Zhan! Let’s have some ice cream!”
He hadn’t eaten ice cream all summer, and the season would be over soon.
Lan Wangji followed Wei Wuxian’s line of sight. “It’s almost dinner time,” he said.
“Come on,” Wei Wuxian whined. “One little cone won’t kill us. We can push dinner back a few minutes. Pleaseee?”
For a moment, Lan Wangji only looked at him. “Alright,” he said then.
Wei Wuxian clapped his hands excitedly. “Do you hear that, A-Yuan?” he asked, leaning down towards the stroller. “We’re getting ice cream!” Well, he and Lan Wangji would. The baby was still too small.
Wei Wuxian started pushing the stroller faster, skipping towards the ice cream truck that had stopped at a corner where a few kids and their parents were already waiting to order.
Wei Wuxian chose some raspberry sorbet, and Lan Wangji – after careful consideration – went for vanilla soft serve with strawberry sauce. Honestly, Wei Wuxian would have called him boring if not for the sauce and the fact that he was already allowing dessert before dinner.
“Anything for the little one?” the woman asked with a smile when she handed them their ice cream.
“No, thank you. He can taste some of mine.” Having A-Yuan get used to traditional baby food had been hard enough, and even if the sorbet didn’t contain any dairy it would still be too cold for him to eat the entirety of even the smallest serving. Maybe next year.
They walked a little further until they found a small bench where they could sit and eat.
“God, this is so good,” Wei Wuxian groaned after his first spoon. When he looked over at Lan Wangji, he hadn’t even touched his ice cream yet, instead studying Wei Wuxian with an odd expression.
“Eat, Lan Zhan,” Wei Wuxian said, pushing more sorbet into his mouth. “It’s going to start dripping soon.”
Lan Wangji blinked at him, zoning back in as if he had been miles away with his thoughts, and then looked away quickly to eat his ice cream in silence. Wei Wuxian laughed – too loudly – before offering A-Yuan some of his sorbet.
They finished their ice cream and then pushed on towards home. A-Yuan was getting cranky because he was hungry and so was Wei Wuxian, if he was honest – despite the sorbet. He wondered if he should cook tonight or if Lan Wangji would.
Apparently it was Lan Wangji’s turn in the kitchen, because that was where he disappeared to once they got home. Wei Wuxian busied himself with getting A-Yuan out of the stroller and then his jacket and shoes before he followed.
“Hey, where should I put the stroller?”
Lan Wangji, in the process of peeling potatoes, turned to him. “Just leave it in the living room for now.” Wei Wuxian nodded but Lan Wangji looked like he wanted to say something else so he stayed put, waiting. “Are you still upset about it?” Lan Wangji finally asked.
Wei Wuxian shook his head. “Not anymore, no.” He did still feel guilty – and what if the damn thing broke! – but in the end, this had been Lan Wangji’s decision. If tomorrow he decided to send the stroller back, oh well. They had had such a nice day with it, and it was providing a freedom Wei Wuxian hadn’t had before. He would feel weird about it forever probably, but he wasn’t upset anymore. “Thank you.”
“Good,” Lan Wangji said. And there was the hint of a smile. “You’re welcome.”
there's probably not going to be a chapter until after the 15th because i'll be sitting for my final exams to finish my degree! after that things i'll have time to write again and things should resume as normal though
thank you all SO MUCH for the good luck wishes. i think i did well on my exams and now i have a month until graduation where hopefully i'll get to write A Lot
It took a week for Wei Wuxian to get impatient. The job search definitely wasn’t working out, he hadn’t gotten any responses - not even rejections! - and Yuan was growing out of most of his clothes, so he needed money stat.
“I think I’ll start and go apply to places in person like I’m 16 again,” he said over dinner that night. “Supermarkets and clothing stores and stuff.”
“Mh,” Lan Wangji made, which Wei Wuxian had learned meant he was listening and agreeing with what was said.
“Remember when I worked at that Boba store in college that you hated?”
Lan Wangji looked up from his plate. “I didn’t hate it,” he said. “I do have a suggestion about your current job search, however.”
Wei Wuxian was also slowly getting used to the abrupt changes of subject. “Hit me,” he said.
“You should get a haircut.”
Wei Wuxian went a little cross-eyed trying to look at the hair falling into his forehead, then ran his hand over the grown-out fade over his ears. Lan Wangji was right. With first no money, then no time and no clippers, to maintain the haircut he had had when he was in the force, his hair had started looking wild.
“Well, I don’t have money to do that,” he said. “But if you want to lend me some, I can definitely pay you back once I actually find a job.” He hated asking for money, but at least a haircut was more affordable than an extremely expensive high-end stroller.
“There’s no need,” Lan Wangji said. “Of course I could give you the money, but… if you would let me, I can also cut your hair.”
Wei Wuxian raised his eyebrows. “You? Can cut hair?”
“You surprise me every day,” Wei Wuxian said. “I hope this isn’t a pet grooming skill you learned at the shelter, though. I’m not a dog, you know?”
“Of course not,” Lan Wangji said.
Wei Wuxian tilted his head to the side a little bit, contemplating the offer. It did have the upside of not having to leave the house, which meant not having to either take A-Yuan with him and find a hairdresser that would entertain both his kid and him for half an hour or having to leave him with Lan Wangji. Also not paying money. Though he didn’t understand why Lan Wangji would rather do it himself than pay someone else to do it, when that meant less effort for him. He certainly did have enough money. Maybe he thought Wei Wuxian’s hair wasn’t worth paying a professional barber, which he himself definitely understood.
Whatever the reasons, he did need a haircut, and Lan Wangji had offered, so finally he shrugged. “Sure, let’s do it.”
“After dinner?” Lan Wangji asked.
“Sounds good. I’ll just have to put A-Yuan to bed first.” He had been putting him down for his nap in the bed during the day while he did dishes after lunch, so he figured leaving him for half an hour after bedtime while he got his hair cut wouldn’t be too big of an issue.
So when they had finished dinner, Lan Wangji cleared the table and Wei Wuxian got A-Yuan ready for bed and then sat with him for a while until he fell asleep. Then he went into the bathroom and rinsed his hair. He had just washed it this morning but he knew from experience that hairdressers liked cutting his hair wet when it was just messy, without the unruly part.
Then he went downstairs, his hair still dripping on his shirt, to find Lan Wangji had dragged one of the chairs from the dining room into the kitchen and had set out a comb, a pair of scissors and some clippers on the kitchen counter.
“The guest bathroom down here is too small to do it there,” he explained, “and I didn’t want us to potentially disturb A-Yuan upstairs, so I hope this is alright.”
“That’s good thinking,” Wei Wuxian said. Then he pulled his shirt over his head and sat down.
“What,” Lan Wangji said, “are you doing?” The light in the kitchen made his face look pinker than his skin actually was. Wei Wuxian wondered if the light bulb needed changing.
“You don’t have one of those fancy hairdresser capes,” Wei Wuxian explained, “and I don’t want shaved off hairs in my shirt that are impossible to wash out.”
Lan Wangji was quiet for a long time, and just when Wei Wuxian started wondering if he was even breathing, he said: “Very well.”
“Alright so,” Wei Wuxian said, “I know you haven’t seen me for a while, but I basically had a pretty standard fade up until a couple months ago. Think military buzz-cut, but with more hair on top.”
“I’ve seen pictures,” Lan Wangji said. “I know what I am doing.”
Of course Wei Wuxian had assumed that Lan Wangji knew what a fade looked like, he had just figured that sometimes the guy could be a little removed from society because of his family’s status.
Still, his input didn’t seem wanted so he tried to keep his mouth shut and sit still.
However, that went out the window the moment Lan Wangji ran his hand through Wei Wuxian’s hair and he found himself unconsciously leaning into the touch. A second later, he very abruptly realised what he was doing and straightened up again. But every time Lan Wangji’s fingers touched his scalp he had to suppress shivers. It had been a long, long time since someone had touched him in any significant way.
He knew Lan Wangji was just trying to get a feel for his hair and what to do with it, but it seemed strangely… tender.
Finally the feeling of clips being put into his hair and the harsh sound of the clippers being turned on was almost a relief. At least this way Wei Wuxian could barely hear himself think anymore, even though the steady pressure of Lan Wangji’s hand on the side of his head to keep him still and the feeling of his hair being shaved off still made goosebumps form on his back. Now he regretted taking off his shirt.
Hopefully Lan Wangji would be too preoccupied with his hair to notice.
Lan Wangji made quick work of most of his outgrown fade, straightening out the edges after he had gone over once, and then switched to the scissors for the top hair.
“Are you sure you know what you’re doing?” Wei Wuxian asked, because it felt like he had cut most of the hair on the side of his head with the same 3 millimeter length.
“Trust me,” Lan Wangji only said and Wei Wuxian, feeling guilty, shut his mouth again.
The snip of the scissors sounded harsh, but Lan Wangji’s hands, using the comb to brush through Wei Wuxian’s hair and hold it even, were gentle.
Somehow, Lan Wangji seemed to sense when Wei Wuxian got bored and fidgety. Unfortunately his choice of topic did nothing to calm his nervous energy.
“Your brother is worried about you,” Lan Wangji said.
Wei Wuxian had to try very hard not to flinch away. “How do you know?”
“My brother,” Lan Wangji said.
“Wait, they know I’m with staying with you?” Wei Wuxian couldn’t help but frown.
“Xichen does,” Lan Wangji said, “I’m not very good at keeping secrets from my brother.”
Wei Wuxian opened his mouth to say that Lan Wangji wasn’t very good at keeping secrets in general, but he quickly focused on the topic at hand again. “But then how does Jiang Cheng know I’m here?”
“He doesn’t. But Jin Zixuan called Xichen because your sister voiced concerns about your whereabouts, thinking he might be able to help, since we-” He broke off, but Wei Wuxian perked up a little anyway at the mention of Jiang Yanli.
“Shijie said Jiang Cheng is worried?”
Lan Wangji seemed to carefully consider his next words. “Maybe you should contact them.”
Wei Wuxian hummed noncommittally. He had been to see his sister exactly once, before he had lost his apartment, just after she had given birth. Jiang Cheng however he hadn’t seen since he had gotten dismissed from the force months and months ago.
A gentle hand brushing some hair from Wei Wuxian’s shoulder momentarily halted his train of thought. Jesus, he really needed to get it together, he was the one who was always clinging to everyone, he couldn’t be freaked out by a little physical contact.
“Maybe,” he echoed after a moment.
He did miss them, and he was sure he had missed ridiculous amounts of growth from his nephew (although he had been checking Jiang Yanli’s social media). But he was convinced that Jiang Cheng didn’t want to see him ever again, and he hadn’t wanted to burden Jiang Yanli.
“I’m sure they want to see you,” Lan Wangji said, accompanied by another snip of the scissors, more hair falling onto Wei Wuxian’s back. “And you don’t have anything to be ashamed of.”
Wei Wuxian couldn’t help but laugh morosely at that. “You don’t know the half of it.”
“Listen to me,” Lan Wangji said, and the comb disappeared from his hair. A moment later, Wei Wuxian had to look up at Lan Wangji, who was now standing in front of him. “I know enough to be aware that your dismissal from your SWAT team was not solely because you made a mistake, but rather to cover up a bigger issue. Jiang Cheng is your brother, and if he is anything like mine, he will have to forgive you.”
For five solid seconds, all Wei Wuxian could do was stare at Lan Wangji, jaw slack. “Damn, Lan Zhan,” he finally said, “you do know how to express yourself after all.”
Lan Wangji scoffed. “I’m a lawyer,” he only said, before returning to cutting Wei Wuxian’s hair.
It didn’t take much longer, and finally Lan Wangji was brushing Wei Wuxian’s hair out and dusting fallen hair off his shoulders.
“Can I go look at myself now?” Wei Wuxian asked.
Wei Wuxian jumped up from the chair, careful not to step into any hair with his bare feet, and made his way to the guest bathroom.
He looked… well. Different. It was like he was looking at a picture of himself from ten years ago. He had what was basically a full undercut now, and Lan Wangji had left the hair on top of his head almost untouched except for trimming the tips a little.
“You cut my hair the way it looked in college!” he called, half-accusatory, half-amazed.
“Your hair was much longer in college,” Lan Wangji said, appearing behind him. Wei Wuxian startled.
“Well,” he said after a moment of running his hand through his hair appreciatively, “you did the best you could with what you had. Or I had, I guess.”
“You don’t like it?”
Wei Wuxian turned around. “What? No! I like it a lot, it’s just different from what I’m used to now. But much better than it was before. More me.”
A small smile stole its way onto Lan Wangji’s face. “I’m glad.”
Wei Wuxian had to smile back.
A-Yuan chose that moment to start crying so badly that they could hear him all the way downstairs.
“Oh no,” Wei Wuxian mumbled and his face fell. He pushed past Lan Wangji. “I really need a damn baby monitor.”
By the time he had calmed A-Yuan down, changed his diaper and gotten him back to sleep, Lan Wangji had cleaned up downstairs and was nowhere to be seen. A look at the time told Wei Wuxian that it was just barely past half past nine. Going back upstairs, he felt vaguely disappointed that he hadn’t been able to thank Lan Wangji. Or wish him a good night.
So all he could do was get himself ready for bed and then read one of the few fiction books Lan Wangji had in his collection, with the light of the lamp on the bedside table turned away so A-Yuan wouldn’t wake up again.
Finally, Wei Wuxian’s eyes started drooping and with a yawn, he put the book aside and switched the light off, hoping he would be able to fall asleep quickly.
But in the dark, the back of his freshly shaved neck wouldn’t stop tingling. He sighed, scratching at it, and then rolled onto his back. He wondered why exactly Lan Wangji had offered to cut his hair, and if he thought Wei Wuxian was rude for just running off and not thanking him properly. And again he felt the memory of a hand ghosting over his shoulder.
So he lay awake, staring at the ceiling, and sleep just wouldn’t come.
When he opened his eyes next, he was in his apartment, Wen Yazhu sobbing on the couch, Wen Yuan equally squalling held tightly in her arms, and someone was pounding at the door.
Wei Wuxian, feeling an echo of desperation, turned away from trying to console the crying mother and opened the door to find Jiang Cheng standing there, his gun in his hand.
“Give him to me,” he said.
“He’s a baby,” he said. Everything seemed kind of far away. Nonsensical.
“You killed. He has to pay for it.”
“It wasn’t his fault,” Wei Wuxian said. “How could it be? He wasn’t even born! Let them go. They’re victims, you know they are.”
Jiang Cheng pushed past him. “You allied with Wens. Now you’ll all pay the price.” He raised his gun at Wen Yuan and his mother. Wei Wuxian didn’t think twice. He threw himself forward as he saw Jiang Cheng pulling the trigger. Thankfully, the bullet seemed to move in slow motion, and he didn’t, standing in front of the couch just in time for the bullet to hit him square in the chest.
He went down hard, and the last thing he saw was not Wen Yazhu, but Lan Wangji holding Wen Yuan.
Awaking from his dream with a gasp, Wei Wuxian immediately started patting the mattress next to him to make sure that A-Yuan was alright. But the baby wasn’t next to him.
Before he had even fully opened his eyes, he threw first the covers and then himself off the bed to check every possible corner of the room for the boy. He wasn’t there.
With his heart pounding in his chest, Wei Wuxian wrenched the door open. “A-Yuan?!” he called out into the hallway. Of course he didn’t get an answer, and all the doors down the hall were closed.
He stumbled down the stairs and into the living room and came face to face with Lan Wangji bouncing a giggling Wen Yuan on his lap. Lan Wangji looked up. “Good morning, I’ve already fed him, so-”
“Oh my fucking god,” he breathed and was at the couch in three steps, scooping A-Yuan up unceremoniously, holding him close. Then he zeroed in on Lan Wangji. “What the fuck ?” Lan Wangji looked at him with something odd in his eyes, but Wei Wuxian was too angry right now to even try to decipher it. “Why did you just take him ?”
“I went past your room this morning and heard him getting fussy,” Lan Wangji said, unerringly calm, “and it wasn’t even six yet, so I figured it would be best to let you sleep and take him down with me.”
Wei Wuxian ground his teeth and was about to spit back something, but A-Yuan on his arm started whining. Immediately, he went back into dad mode, reeling in his emotions. “Aw, I’m sorry. It’s okay, A-Yuan, I won’t yell again.” He took a deep breath and looked at Lan Wangji again. “Okay,” he said. Another deep breath. Then again: “Okay. Give me five minutes to cool off and then we’ll talk about this again.”
He was still upset, and angry, and he wanted to be all up in Lan Wangji’s face about how this wasn’t okay, but he also didn’t want to make A-Yuan cry and he really needed to check his emotions. So he turned around and walked towards the patio door, opening it one handed and then striding it across the lawn towards the small rabbit enclosure.
“Look, A-Yuan,” Wei Wuxian said, crouching down and perching the baby on his lap. “Look at the rabbits. I’m not mad at you, I just got upset because I was worried, but I shouldn’t have yelled. I’m sorry.”
One of the bunnies came up to the fence, sticking its curious nose right up against the mesh.
“You’re a brave one, huh, little buddy?” Wei Wuxian asked. A-Yuan stretched out his little hands for the bunny but with the fence in the way he could only touch its nose once before it hopped away.
Wei Wuxian looked at the small door in the fence and then back at the house. He startled when he found Lan Wangji leaning against the patio door. Immediately, his annoyance returned and he narrowed his eyes.
Lan Wangji, catching his gaze, raised his hand. “You can go in and play with them,” he said. Then he pushed off the door and disappeared into the house.
Letting out a breath, Wei Wuxian opened the door in the fence and carried A-Yuan through it before carefully closing it again to make sure that none of the bunnies escaped.
“Now remember,” he told A-Yuan, “they’re much smaller than you. You have to be gentle. No pulling on their fur.” The same rabbit from before slowly approached them, and Wei Wuxian took A-Yuan’s hand in his, holding it out to the rabbit. “Let him sniff you a little first so he knows you’re not a bad person or an animal that wants to hurt him.”
They waited until the bunny had wriggled its nose at their fingers and then Wei Wuxian turned their hands around. “Now we can pet it. Gently. Like this.” He slowly brushed their hands over the back of the bunny’s head.
Slowly, as he sat there and let A-Yuan babble at the bunnies and taught him how to pet them, his anger dissipated. His hang ups weren’t Lan Wangji’s fault. He had just wanted to help.
His anxiety however was still there, buzzing under his skin. He hated what his subconscious had turned Jiang Cheng into. Yes, he was undoubtedly still angry, maybe he even hated Wei Wuxian, but he would never kill an innocent child. And he had never pointed his gun at Wei Wuxian.
He stayed out there until his stomach started grumbling with hunger. With a sigh he straightened up and made his way into the kitchen, where he found Lan Wangji making some tea. Wei Wuxian put A-Yuan down on his playmat and stepped up to the other man.
Lan Wangji handed him a cup of tea and Wei Wuxian accepted it, confused. “I feel like I have to apologize for earlier,” he said.
“I heard what you said to A-Yuan in the garden. It’s alright. I shouldn’t have taken him without asking you first. It’s only natural that you would be worried when you woke up and found him gone.”
“Thank you,” Wei Wuxian said. “I just… I really appreciate what you’re doing for us here, but I don’t… I can’t have him just be gone suddenly. You can’t just take him. He has a place, and that’s with me.”
Again, something very conflicted passed over Lan Wangji’s features but it was gone within a fraction of a second. “It won’t happen again,” he said. Then he went to leave the kitchen, but Wei Wuxian, rubbing the back of his head, suddenly remembered his haircut.
“Wait! I still have to thank you for last night!”
Lan Wangji turned around for a moment. “I believe you just did.”
Somehow, that made Wei Wuxian feel even guiltier.
welcome back everyone! this one's a little longer than usual, and i just... kept adding stuff :3
also there's so much food in this fic, i really don't know how that happened
The next morning, after feeding A-Yuan and only barely being able to dress him in his biggest clothes, Wei Wuxian decided he should go to a few stores and inquire about open positions in person.
He put the baby on the bed and dug his only pair of slacks and a button up out of his dresser and put them on. Then he tried taming his hair in the bathroom mirror, but despite the fresh haircut it wouldn’t stay put. He really needed some product.
With a sigh he gave up and took A-Yuan to go back downstairs. On the stairs he changed his mind and turned around. Might as well…
He trudged up the stairs to Lan Wangji’s office and, before he could hesitate too much, knocked on the door.
“Hey,” Wei Wuxian said and stepped through the door, bouncing A-Yuan lightly on his hip. “I’ve got a question, do you have-”
A-Yuan chose that moment to spit up part of his breakfast over Wei Wuxian’s side.
“Nooo,” Wei Wuxian whined and quickly took a step back so nothing would get on the carpet in the office rather than the hard-wood of the landing. It wasn’t enough to drip, but still. “Aw, baby.”
“Is he alright?” Lan Wangji asked, and Wei Wuxian blinked up at him. He hadn’t even noticed him coming over from his desk.
“He doesn’t seem upset, so I think I just jostled him too much,” he sighed. “He’ll be fine once I clean him up.” He sighed and hoisted A-Yuan up a little higher. There went his morning.
“What were you going to ask?” Lan Wangji asked.
“Oh, uh… I was going to ask if you have any hair products, so I don’t look like a wet dog when I go ask for jobs, but that’s not important now since my only clean dress shirt isn’t actually clean anymore.” He motioned down his chest with his free side. “I’ll just go tomorrow.”
Lan Wangji studied him for a moment, looking him up and down - almost as if he was sizing him up. “Hm,” he made then, “I can help.”
Wei Wuxian blinked and stepped aside as Lan Wangji passed him. Then he just shrugged and went back downstairs while Lan Wangji disappeared behind the second door.
He spent the next ten minutes cleaning himself and A-Yuan up and then went into the basement to start a load of laundry, now in a ratty t-shirt.
Lan Wangji was waiting in front of his room, some neatly folded clothing in his arms as well as a pot of hair wax. “Try this on.”
“Oh,” Wei Wuxian made, dumbfounded, and accepted the bundle. “Are you sure? I can’t just wear your things…”
“They might be a bit large, yes,” Lan Wangji said. “Go on, try them on.”
Wei Wuxian stood there for a moment longer, frozen in his indecision. He wasn’t worried about the fit, but these shirts probably cost more than his car was worth. But before he could voice this concern, a gentle but insistent hand pushed him into his room. Thankfully Wei Wuxian caught himself before he could stumble and embarrass himself, but he still felt his skin burning when he closed the door behind himself. What the fuck.
He tried on the white shirt first, but it was too big to still seem professional, although it would probably do in a pinch. The light blue shirt fit much better, except for a little give in the shoulders, but he had always known that Lan Wangji had wider shoulders than him. He turned a little, eyeing himself in the bathroom mirror. He looked good. Thankfully none of the formula had gotten onto his slacks, either.
“What do you think?” he asked A-Yuan, who was sitting on the bed.
The baby gave a happy gurgle and Wei Wuxian shrugged. That was good enough for him.
Then a knock sounded at the door. “Have you tried them on?” Lan Wangji asked. Wei Wuxian had expected him to go back upstairs, but apparently he had waited for him to finish changing instead.
He opened the door again and was immediately met by Lan Wangji’s intense gaze, raking him up and down, making him have to try very hard not to squirm.
“It fits well,” Lan Wangji said after a moment. “It suits you, as well.”
Wei Wuxian crinkled his nose a little. “I guess,” he said. “Thank you.”
“You don’t like it?” Lan Wangji asked, just like he had after the haircut.
“No, I do, it just feels weird wearing your clothes,” Wei Wuxian said quickly, “this has to be so expensive.”
“I don’t care,” Lan Wangji said, and he sounded so serious it made Wei Wuxian shiver. “It’s yours now, if you want it.”
All Wei Wuxian could do was swallow and say “Okay.”
Lan Wangji nodded. “Then let’s go.”
“Wait, you’re coming with me?”
“Of course,” Lan Wangji said, “you need someone to watch A-Yuan, and you won’t want to be away from him for several hours.”
Wei Wuxian could only stare at him, stunned by his foresight. Who knew Lan Wangji could be this perceptive to other people’s needs…
Maybe he could also use the moral support.
They left twenty minutes later, in Lan Wangji’s car instead of Wei Wuxian’s - after having transferred A-Yuan’s car seat, of course. They drove to the department store closest to Lan Wangji’s house first, because Wei Wuxian could walk there within twenty minutes and bus in bad weather, which meant he would save on gas. If he actually ended up working there, that was.
Lan Wangji parked, and looked over at him. “I’ll wait out here with A-Yuan.”
Wei Wuxian nodded and took a deep breath before he turned around to A-Yuan in the backseat.
“Be a good boy with Lan Zhan now, okay? I’ll be right back.”
He had taken some of his printed out resumes. This shouldn’t take too long, honestly.
He got out of the car and went into the store, going straight for the first employee he saw.
“Hey, can you point me to your manager, I have a question about open positions.”
The man stocking produce hummed a little. “She’s not in today, but you can go to the girl at the service register, she’s the shift lead.”
Wei Wuxian made his way to the service register, behind which a woman was filling out forms.
“Hi,” he said, to get her attention, reading the name tag on her shirt. “Wang Qiu? The guy in the produce section told me you’re shift lead and would know how to go about applying for open positions.”
She looked up and her expression of mild confusion quickly morphed into a smile. “Sure. Depends on what you want to apply for,” she said.
Wei Wuxian leaned on the counter a little, flashing a smile at her. “Anything entry-level you have, really. Ideally I would do security, because that’s closest to my old job, but I can also stock things or work the register, I did that in college and I’m really not picky.”
“Actually,” she said, rummaging for something on the desk, “one of our security guys just quit so we’ve got an open position. Do you have a resume?” She looked up again.
He nodded, opening his backpack to take out the sheet of paper. “Yeah, here you go.”
“Awesome. Then all you need to do is fill out this form.” She had finally found what she was looking for and handed him a piece of paper. “And we should get back to you in a couple days.”
“Cool.” Wei Wuxian grabbed the pen that was stationed on the counter - probably for signing up for rewards programs, filing complaints and moments like these - and took a look at the form. It was mostly standard stuff, asking for contact information, the kind of job one wanted to do, availability, and education. Wuxian filled it out quickly, until he got to the bottom of the page where he checked the question of disability with no, and his eyes caught on “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?”
For a moment, his hand hovered over the page, then he checked “no.” Hopefully a smaller store like this wouldn’t do a background check. Usually they only wanted to know about things like shoplifting, anyway.
He signed at the bottom and then handed the sheet back. Wang Qiu took a quick glance at the form while stapling it to his resume. “Oh, that’s a beautiful name.”
“Thanks.” He grinned. “My parents chose well.”
“They really did.” She looked over his shoulder, and her face fell a little. “Uh, do you know that guy?”
When he looked over, Lan Wangji was standing a couple meters away, holding A-Yuan and looking at Wei Wuxian with an odd, intense expression.
He sighed. “Yeah, that’s my… roommate.” No wonder Wang Qiu looked so freaked out. Lan Wangji’s face seemed a little like he wanted to murder both of them. Wei Wuxian turned back to her and rolled his eyes a little. “Don’t mind him. Do you need me to do anything else?”
She shook her head. “Nope, that’s it. You’ll hear back from us in a couple of days, my manager might want you to come in for an interview.”
“Awesome, thank you,” Wei Wuxian said. “I’ll get going then.” He waved his hand in parting and turned around to walk towards Lan Wangji and the baby.
“I thought you were going to wait in the car,” he said.
“A-Yuan got fussy,” Lan Wangji said. “It seems neither of you take separation too well.”
“Awww, baby,” Wei Wuxian cooed and took A-Yuan from him. “It’s okay. I’m not leaving. But we have to get used to that, you know? Soon I’ll have to work, because you just won’t stop growing.” A-Yuan appeased with playing with the collar of Wei Wuxian’s shirt, he turned his attention back to Lan Wangji. “You didn’t have to stare at poor Wang Qiu like that, though. She was just doing her job.”
“She was flirting with you,” Lan Wangji said.
Wei Wuxian stopped dead in his tracks. “What? No.”
“She was. I heard her complimenting your name.”
“Oh my god, Lan Zhan.” Wei Wuxian really wanted to facepalm but he was still holding a more fussy than usual A-Yuan. “She wasn’t. People compliment my name all the time. Maybe I was playing up my charm a little, but I really want a job, that’s not a crime.”
Lan Wangji honest to god huffed . “Well, you should not, either way.”
Wei Wuxian could only stare at him. Was he being serious? What was going on today… A-Yuan tugged at his collar, effectively pulling him out of his stupor, but before he could start walking again on his own, Lan Wangji put his hand on the small of his back and started guiding him out of the store.
For a moment, Wei Wuxian didn’t know what to do. His first instinct was to tease Lan Wangji, his second to protest, but when he opened his mouth, nothing would come out. He could feel Lan Wangji’s broad hand on the dip of his back, pushing him forward just the slightest bit, his fingers digging in ever so slightly.
They walked back to the car in silence, Wei Wuxian’s back burning even after Lan Wangji took his hand away to open the car door so Wei Wuxian could strap A-Yuan into his car seat.
Only when Wei Wuxian had gotten into the passenger seat and buckled his seatbelt did Lan Wangji speak again: “Where to now?”
“Uh… Maybe that mall you were talking about?” Mall security seemed like a long shot, but single stores sometimes also had security, and again: Wei Wuxian would take any job he could, so he would also inquire about regular open positions.
The drive promised to be quiet, too, but thankfully Wei Wuxian had prepared for this and taken one of the three kids’ CDs he owned from his car to play for A-Yuan in case he got bored. It was mostly little audio plays and nonsense songs, a little educational, but it did the job in bridging the awkward silence.
Unfortunately, the mall was mostly a bust. He was outright rejected at the security office when he stated his name - probably for the better - and only a handful of the stores were taking applications for floor employees. The milk tea place seemed like his best option, and he had left his contact info there and at a few other places, but somehow his hopes weren’t high.
By the time they got out, A-Yuan was ready for an irregular nap in the car.
“Let’s go back to the house,” Wei Wuxian sighed.
“Are you hungry?” Lan Wangji asked, as he pulled out of the parking lot.
“Not really. A-Yuan will need his bottle when he wakes up, though.”
Lan Wangji looked over at him for a moment before redirecting his eyes at the road. “You have some formula with you, have you not?”
“I do.” Wei Wuxian squinted at him. What was he planning?
“Then we have one more place to go.”
Somehow that sentence made Wei Wuxian even more nervous, but he busied himself with counting cars of different colours and making sure A-Yuan was comfortable, until they reached their destination.
A baby store.
“Lan Zhan,” Wei Wuxian warned. “What are we doing here?”
“I said I would consult with you next time I was going to buy something, and obviously there’s a need for things. You just said you need a baby monitor, and I agree. And both of you need new clothes.”
“Well, we’re not going to get anything for me here,” Wei Wuxian joked.
“It’s not your turn right now,” Lan Wangji said. “We’ll buy attire for you tomorrow.”
Wei Wuxian could only stare at him. He really needed a drink. Unfortunately that didn’t seem to be on Lan Wangji’s agenda, because he was already getting out of the car. Wei Wuxian groaned, unbuckled his seatbelt and followed him; but by the time he had shut the car door behind himself, Lan Wangji was already lifting A-Yuan out of his car seat.
“So that’s why you insisted on taking the stroller with us,” Wei Wuxian said and hurried to take it out of the trunk. “I thought we were going to take a walk or something after we were done.”
Lan Wangji gently lowered A-Yuan into the stroller and buckled him in, without saying anything. He still seemed a little… off, after the earlier incident, or whatever that had been.
Wei Wuxian only rolled his eyes. “I still need to feed him,” he said. A-Yuan was still groggy from his nap, but by the time he was fully awake he would start whining for food. Thankfully Wei Wuxian had taken some hot water in a thermos bottle and formula powder with him that he could mix - he was always ready for A-Yuan to get snacky. Ready-made formula was more convenient, of course, but also more expensive and A-Yuan wasn’t always a fan of room temperature milk.
“Over there seems like a good place,” Lan Wangji said and Wei Wuxian followed his line of sight to a line of benches under the shade of the store’s roof overhang.
“Yeah, sure, let’s go.”
They headed over to the benches, Lan Wangji pushing the stroller and Wei Wuxian carrying the baby bag - even though it would have fit into the storage compartment under the stroller no problem. Once sitting down, Wei Wuxian started mixing the formula, while A-Yuan was allowed to wake up fully in the stroller. Before he could even start whining, Wei Wuxian took him out and offered him the bottle.
After feeding him, they finally headed inside. A-Yuan was now fully awake and satisfied, but went wide-eyed at the selection of things inside the store. There really were a lot of toys…
“So… baby monitors?” Wei Wuxian offered, in an attempt to get Lan Wangji to talk. “Anything else you were thinking about?”
“A high chair,” Lan Wangji said immediately, “a play pen. New clothes in a few sizes so he has room to grow. Gates to baby-proof the house.”
“Wow, you’ve really thought about this,” Wei Wuxian said, amazed. These were all smart, actually needed choices. He would probably have to talk him down from the more expensive options, but that would come later.
Lan Wangji however, didn’t seem to be done yet: “And he will need his own bed soon, you cannot co-sleep forever.”
With a huff, Wei Wuxian zeroed in on him, hissing but in a muted voice so A-Yuan wouldn’t hear: “Historically, co-sleeping is really important on a psychological and developmental level, not just because of a lack of room. Just because I started out of necessity doesn’t mean I have to stop.”
Lan Wangji looked at him for a moment and then, miraculously, seemed to decide to drop the topic.
They took a shopping cart and then started heading down the aisles. Baby monitors were located quickly and Wei Wuxian selected some of the ones with a screen to watch the child from the lower price range that he had seen online before, while looking Lan Wangji directly into the eye. He didn’t protest, so Wei Wuxian decided to count that as a win.
The clothes were a little harder. Lan Wangji seemed to be drawn towards the more solid coloured clothes - although most of them were still pastells - while Wei Wuxian wanted to dress A-Yuan in polka dots and stripes and funny prints, but if Lan Wangji was paying, they would need to arrive at a compromise. Somehow even here he seemed to give Wei Wuxian whatever he wanted. When Wei Wuxian remarked that A-Yuan couldn’t possibly need that many clothes - the cart was almost full - he only looked at him for a moment before starting to walk further down the aisle. Wei Wuxian hurried after him, pushing the stroller, guilt and a little bit of excitement coiling in his stomach.
Finally they moved on to the bigger items. Lan Wangji stopped in front of the wooden high chairs, turning to Wei Wuxian. “I researched the Tripp Trapp and it’s very durable and can be used for his entire childhood, not just as a high chair.”
Wei Wuxian grimaced. “Are you sure? It’s so big and heavy though, that wouldn’t be practical if I move again, especially in a smaller space…”
Lan Wangji looked at him with an indiscernible gaze for a moment. “Do not worry about that,” he then said, and simply took the package out of the shelf.
“Hey!” Wei Wuxian called after him. “What if I wanted a different one? Or a foldable one!”
“Then we will buy one when the need arises,” Lan Wangji said.
Wei Wuxian’s mind was reeling. What did that even mean? Why was Lan Wangji buying him expensive things like this, things that were meant to last, things that you bought for a household that planned on having more than one child? He couldn’t even protest anymore. Instead he followed Lan Wangji to the baby gates, and since it was his house and he seemed to have done his research, Wei Wuxian just watched as he selected a number of baby gates. He also put some latches for cabinet doors and covers for outlets into the cart.
They were mostly done now, but to get to the check-out, they had to go past some clearance bins with toys and stuffed animals again and A-Yuan somehow managed to pick a stuffed bunny out of one of them. Damn these stores for putting things at kid height.
He held it up at Wei Wuxian proudly when he stopped to take it from him and put it back. “Baaa!” he made.
“Yes, A-Yuan, a bunny! Very well done.” Wei Wuxian crouched down and smiled at him. “But we have to put that back now, okay?”
“Why not buy it for him?” Lan Wangji asked.
“I can’t just buy everything he grabs,” Wei Wuxian protested. “Plus he already has his seal, a different toy would be better.”
“I’ll buy it for him then. And something else that you pick out.”
Wei Wuxian really wanted to scream, but all he could do was yell internally. That was the opposite of what he had wanted to achieve!
He picked out a toy where A-Yuan would have to match shapes and colours to make the toy play a melody, and two picture books - one of which had integrated little parts where he could feel different textures. And A-Yuan was still holding onto the bunny.
Then they finally made it to the check-out. Wei Wuxian bit his lip as he watched the price on the display go up with every item scanned and couldn’t help but speak up when Lan Wangji took out his credit card. “Are you sure?”
Lan Wangji only looked at him for a moment and then scanned his card.
Loading up the car took a while and not for the first time, Wei Wuxian found himself silently thanking Lan Wangji for not owning a sleek sports car but a compact SUV. With the amount things they had bought the trunk was filling up quickly, but they managed to make it all fit, where if they had taken Wei Wuxian’s car they definitely would not have been able to fit everything.
Finally back on the road homeward, Lan Wangji asked once again: “Are you hungry now?”
Wei Wuxian sighed. “I could eat, yeah.” Lan Wangji probably wouldn’t be content with a no anyways, and if he was being honest he was too tired to cook tonight.
Lan Wangji hummed in acknowledgement, apparently satisfied. “We will go out for dinner then.”
They pulled into a restaurant parking lot twenty minutes later. Surprisingly it didn’t seem like an overly fancy place, and Wei Wuxian followed Lan Wangji inside with less worries than previously. The moment they stepped inside, he could smell the scent of spices from the kitchen and his mouth started to water. Now this seemed like a restaurant suited to his taste.
The waiter who showed them to their table also brought over a high chair and Wei Wuxian placed A-Yuan into it carefully. Once he was secured he turned his attention to the card, and that seemed even more promising than the heavenly smell. He flipped through it for a moment before his eyes lit up.
“Oh, Lan Zhan! Can we have fried squid? I haven’t had squid in so long!”
Lan Wangji, watching him attentively, only nodded. He seemed to have recovered from his earlier bout of bad mood.
When the waiter came back, Lan Wangji ordered the squid for Wei Wuxian and some tofu dish for himself. Then he looked at Wuxian. “Would you like some wine? I have to drive, but that should not limit you.”
“Oh,” Wei Wuxian made. Hadn’t he just been wishing for a drink earlier? “Uh, yeah, some red wine would be great.”
The waiter slightly inclined his head. “Certainly but if I may be so bold, a rosé goes better with the squid.”
“I’ll take that then,” Wei Wuxian smiled.
While they were waiting for their food, the weight of guilt returned to Wei Wuxian’s stomach and he was desperate to get rid of it so it wouldn’t ruin his appetite.
“Hey,” he said, “thank you for uh… all of this, really. You don’t have to do any of this, buy us clothes and baby stuff and food. I really appreciate it.”
There was that complicated expression on Lan Wangji’s face again but even worse it quickly disappeared, melting into his features and turning them soft somehow. Wei Wuxian leaned back a little in surprise. “It is no problem.”
Their food came shortly after and for the first time in his life Wei Wuxian was glad for the excuse to not have to talk. He dug into his squid excitedly, and the moment the first bite reached his taste buds, he closed his eyes in bliss. It was just spicy enough for him, and he hadn’t tasted something this great in way too long.
“Is it good?” Lan Wangji asked after about five minutes.
Wei Wuxian nodded enthusiastically. “So good! Do you want to try?”
Lan Wangji shook his head. “I couldn’t.”
“Oh, of course, sorry.” Wei Wuxian wanted to slap himself. Fish was meat, too.
A-Yuan made grabby hands for Wei Wuxian’s food but Wei Wuxian caught his tiny hands in his and shook his head. “I’m sorry, you can’t have that yet. It’s way too spicy for your little mouth.”
“Would he like some of my rice?” Lan Wangji asked.
“Yeah, I think he could try that.”
Lan Wangji waved their waiter over and asked for a tea spoon. When the waiter returned with it a minute later, he hovered by their table uncertainly for a moment. Wei Wuxian was already bent over the table to take some of Lan Wangji’s food, but Lan Wangji looked up at the waiter expectantly. “Yes?”
“Forgive me if I’m being rude, but I just wanted to tell you that you seem like great parents.” Wei Wuxian was now also looking up at him and opened his mouth to protest, but the man kept talking: “You’re the first gay couple with a child that’s come in since I’ve been working here and it just… made me really happy?”
Seeing the man’s shy smile, Wei Wuxian didn’t have the heart to correct him. This obviously meant a lot to him, and it gave Wei Wuxian a little kick to be someone’s good example for once.
“Thank you,” he said at the same time as Lan Wangji, and they looked at each other in surprise. Wei Wuxian laughed a little.
Their water gave a small bow and then scurried off. Wei Wuxian looked after him for a moment, wondering if they really looked that much like they were co-parenting. (To be fair, he was wearing Lan Wangji’s shirt, but he hadn’t thought that it was that obvious.)
Then A-Yuan regained his attention by giving a little gurgle and soon Wei Wuxian was holding out a small spoon full of rice and peas for him. He seemed a little skeptical at first - apparently Wei Wuxian’s dinner had looked much more appealing - but finally opened his mouth and accepted the food.
Seeing him chew was still fun for Wei Wuxian. Plus, he had to see if he would choke on anything. It all went down well, however, and soon A-Yuan opened his mouth again. Wei Wuxian laughed. “One more?” He looked at Lan Wangji.
“Certainly,” Lan Wangji said. He took the spoon back from him and scooped up some more rice, but then instead of handing it back he came around the table, offering the spoon to A-Yuan.
Wei Wuxian watched with bated breath. A-Yuan accepted the spoon from Lan Wangji just as well as he had from him and then chewed happily. Something warm blossomed in Wei Wuxian’s chest, like a tree putting forth its first buds in the spring.
Lan Wangji put the spoon down. For a moment their eyes met and somehow, Wei Wuxian couldn’t look away. He had never known Lan Wangji’s caring side like this, and having him treat A-Yuan and himself with such warmth made Wei Wuxian look at him in a completely different light.
The spell was only broken when behind them, some people clinked glasses.
Wei Wuxian looked back down at his food and hastily took a sip of his wine.
After dinner, they drove home in amicable silence, with only A-Yuan squealing happily in the back seat as he played with his new stuffed bunny.
At home, Wei Wuxian quickly excused himself after they had unloaded their purchases of the day. He wanted to give A-Yuan a bath with the new baby friendly bath stuff they had bought.
Lan Wangji nodded, understanding. “I’ll start installing the baby gates.”
“Sounds great,” Wei Wuxian said and went up the stairs. Somehow, for once, he was looking forward to the solitude of his own room. Seeing not only the car’s trunk but also Lan Wangji’s living room full of baby things had been slightly overwhelming.
He had barely closed the door behind himself however when his phone rang. He quickly dug it out of his pocket, hoping that it was someone calling back about a job.
Instead, the display read Jiang Yanli .
ahhh i'm so sorry for the long wait, everyone. i went to ireland for 6 weeks for an internship and got only about half of this chapter written there... but now im BACK, ready to devastate you once again with domestic fluff
Wei Wuxian stared at his phone for a moment, his mouth dry, his thumb hovering over the Decline Call button.
Then he swiped the other side, taking the call instead. He was done being a coward. He let out a breath and lifted the phone to his ear. “Hello?”
“Oh my god, you actually picked up!”, a breathless voice sounded in his ear.
“Hey shijie,” Wei Wuxian said, and he suddenly felt like he was going to cry at hearing her voice. It was like he was seven years old again and she was checking up on him because he couldn’t sleep. Her voice sounded like home. Like safety.
“You finally answered your phone again!” She sounded somewhere between exasperated and relieved.
“I did,” he said, “sorry about that…” He was about to explain, but after opening and closing his mouth a couple times he still wasn’t sure what to say.
“Nevermind about that. You’re staying with Lan Wangji now?”
Wei Wuxian hunched his shoulders a little, even though her tone had been anything but accusatory. He was acutely aware that he had very suddenly vanished off the face of the earth a while ago, except for the occasional text – until he had stopped those, too. Sure, he had been ashamed of his situation but he knew his family must have been concerned. Well, at least Jiang Yanli had been, evidently.
“I am,” he finally confirmed.
“Oh, that’s great, I was so worried.”
“I’m sorry for worrying you,” he blurted out. “I just… everything was so chaotic, and I didn’t want to be a burden, and for a while I was fine so I figured I could do it on my own.” And it had been okay, really, until he had run out of money and had ended up with a sick kid.
“You wouldn’t have been a burden,” Jiang Yanli said.
Wei Wuxian scoffed. “I’m a burden now ,” he said, “just not to you.”
“Have you ever heard Lan Wangji say that you’re bothering or burdening him in any way?”
He could almost see her roll her eyes fondly. “There you go.”
“He’s just too polite to say it! I have to be inconveniencing him! He’s buying food and clothes and kid shit for me and driving me to job interviews and stuff.”
“A-Xian,” Jiang Yanli said, amusement in her voice. “That sounds like the opposite of being bothered. If he didn’t want to do it, he wouldn’t, you know him.”
Wei Wuxian couldn’t really say anything against that, even though he knew it couldn’t be true . Plus, he didn’t want to fight with his shijie, so he stayed silent.
It was her who broke the silence again: “So, how’s your little boy?”
He hadn’t told her about him, even when he had visited her that one time, but he wasn’t surprised she knew. If Lan Wangji had told Lan Xichen and it had gotten to the Jin family, her husband obviously would have told her. He was just scared of the wrong people finding out.
“He’s good,” he said, “growing well now that he has a proper home and bed and everything. He has almost all his teeth now! How’s little A-Ling?”
“Not starting to teeth yet, thank god. But he sleeps through the night, and he’s getting so big.”
Once they had started, it was surprisingly easy to keep talking. It was like they had never stopped at all. They shared details about their children, and there was no distance, no coldness in Jiang Yanli’s voice at all.
It was almost a disappointment when they had to hang up to go to bed, but Wei Wuxian didn’t want to keep his sister from a full night’s sleep.
There was a little bubble in Wei Wuxian’s chest, and as much as he wanted to keep it to himself, so it wouldn’t burst, it also pushed to be let out, to be expressed. He slept well that night, but was still up before sunrise, before Lan Wangji even.
He washed and changed both A-Yuan and himself and then went downstairs to prepare breakfast. On his way he had to open the newly installed baby gates at the top and bottom of the stairs. When he peeked into the dining room, he found that he had already assembled the high chair, too.
“Seems like Uncle Wangji was busy last night,” he whispered to A-Yuan conspiratory before he headed into the kitchen. If he was honest, he was almost a little disappointed - he had been looking forward to building the highchair together.
Lan Wangji seemed surprised when he came down to find him setting the table with both rice and veggies and pancakes. Wei Wuxian searched his face nervously, and saw the confusion vanish, replaced by his usual expressionless face. Although Wei Wuxian could have sworn he saw just the barest hint of a smile…
“I went kind of overboard,” he said apologetically, “I haven’t had pancakes in so long, and I was going to let A-Yuan try a little, it seems like a kid friendly breakfast, but I wasn’t sure if you preferred a heartier breakfast, so I just made both.”
“Wei Ying,” Lan Wangji said, effectively shutting him up, “this looks good.”
Wei Wuxian let out a breath. “Ah, thanks,” he said. A-Yuan gave an impatient squeak from his seat in the high chair and Wei Wuxian was effectively freed from his frozen state. “Sit down, sit down,” he said.
Lan Wangji sat, graceful as always, and picked up his chopsticks, waiting for Wei Wuxian to sit, too.
Wei Wuxian took one of the pancakes and cut a tiny piece out of it, spooned it up and moved it towards A-Yuan. “Hey, little guy, you wanna try this? It’s really yummy.”
A-Yuan, the perfect child that he was, didn’t even hesitate and opened his mouth wide. He munched on the pancake piece for a moment before his face split into a huge smile.
“Theeere you go,” Wei Wuxian laughed. “Tasty, huh?” A-Yuan gave a happy babble and stretched out his hands for more of the pancake. “Okay, alright, one more and then I have to eat, too, okay? You already had your bottle this morning.”
After a moment, Wei Wuxian looked up to see Lan Wangji watching him. He hadn’t touched any of the food yet, instead looking at him with a strange gaze.
“You should eat,” Wei Wuxian said. The further question if there was something on his face died on his tongue when he watched Lan Wangji push aside his bowl of rice and actually reach for the pancakes, too. Wei Wuxian watched in surprise – and something akin to wonder – as Lan Wangji cut a piece and put it gracefully between his lips.
Wei Wuxian’s eyes stayed on Lan Wangji’s mouth as he chewed, the tiny movements of his sharp jaw. He kept looking at his lips, almost hypnotized.
“These really are good,” Lan Wangji said after a moment, and Wei Wuxian, seeing his lips move, finally blinked and looked up. This was unfortunately also the moment he realized what he had been doing for the past twenty or so seconds and he immediately felt his face heat up. What was wrong with him?
“Oh,” Wei Wuxian cleared his throat, “uh, thank you.”
Lan Wangji inclined his head. “No, thank you .”
Wei Wuxian gave a wobbly smile and then ducked his head and began cramming an entire pancake into his mouth. Couldn’t do or say stupid things when he was looking down at his plate with his mouth full!
Unfortunately, something wasn’t quite right. He couldn’t eat without the words in his throat pushing against it, making him choke. He swallowed his pancake, almost tearing up in the process because he definitely hadn’t chewed properly, and put down his fork. Then he said the first thing that came to his mind: “My sister called me last night.”
Lan Wangji looked up at him and put down his chopsticks as well, almost mirroring him. “That’s good,” he said.
“Yeah,” Wei Wuxian said. “Yeah, I guess it is. But… I don’t know. It’s weird…”
“I haven’t been in her life in so long. And I miss her. But I feel like I can’t be honest with her anymore. I’m not the same person I used to be, not the person she wants me to be.” He sighed. “I’m a disappointment.”
“Wei Ying,” Lan Wangji said, and he was frowning. “You are not a disappointment.”
Wei Wuxian laughed. “Lan Zhan, what I did–”
“It doesn’t matter,” Lan Wangji said.
“Were you there? Because I was, so I figure I’m the one who knows what happened and was matters or doesn’t.”
“You feel guilty. But you are not. They are different things.” Wei Wuxian opened his mouth to give a heated retort, but Lan Wangji cut him off: “I do not want to fight with you. The point is, your sister called you because she wants to be in contact with you. She loves you, regardless of what you did or did not do. You have to trust her to know you. Give her that.”
Wei Wuxian blinked at him, a little stunned. He opened and closed his mouth several times, trying to find something to say and coming up empty. “Okay,” he finally mumbled, “okay, I’ll try.”
He had thought his past actions had been the cause of the tension he had felt. He hadn’t considered that his attitude – his core – might be the problem.
Lan Wangji gave a nod and then went back to eating.
They continued their breakfast in silence, except for A-Yuan loudly demanding more of the pancake. Wei Wuxian fed him some more and then returned to his own food, now finding it a little easier to eat, even if he wasn’t wolfing it down as quickly as usual.
He was just gathering the dishes to bring them into the kitchen when Lan Wangji spoke again: “We should go out after we’ve cleaned up. Do you still run?”
“I guess, but A-Yuan–“
“He can come with us, we have the stroller now.” Apparently today was the day of Lan Wangji interrupting Wei Wuxian.
“Alright, yeah, let’s do that.” Wei Wuxian shrugged. His running shoes were falling apart, but they would survive one more workout, hopefully, and he could really use the exercise.
So they did the dishes together and then Wei Wuxian went upstairs to get changed.
Coming back downstairs, he found Lan Wangji already waiting for him. Lan Wangji was wearing a pair of skin tight running pants. Wei Wuxian hadn’t even known that he owned anything that tight, his usual slacks or even the occasional pair of jeans were not hugging him that… obscenely.
He swallowed and looked away. Suddenly his old workout clothes seemed even rattier than they already were. A t-shirt from college times that the print had washed off of and some track pants that were almost a decade old.
“God, Lan Zhan, even your running pants are Gucci, huh?”
“They are not,” Lan Wangji said. “They’re Nike.”
“Well, that’s basically the Gucci of sportswear,” Wei Wuxian mumbled. “Uh, anyway, let’s go?”
At least they weren’t shorts, he told himself as he strapped A-Yuan into the stroller.
They started off by walking towards the park where they had taken A-Yuan for the first outing with the stroller, just to warm up. A few blocks from the house, they broke into a light jog. Running while pushing the stroller felt odd at first but after a few minutes Wei Wuxian started getting used to it.
“This reminds me of university,” Wei Wuxian panted after they had run in total silence for a while, almost completing their first lap of the park.
“I was running at dawn,” Lan Wangji said, “you were running at midnight… When you weren’t drinking.”
“Hey! No need to drag me… I remember a handful of times when I ran at dawn, too.” He grinned. “Insomnia!”
Lan Wangji only gave him a look and increased the tempo. Wei Wuxian huffed, kept up and tried not to think about what he had done wrong now.
After their second lap, Lan Wangji wordlessly took the stroller from Wei Wuxian. He thought about protesting, but his arms had started cramping from holding onto the handles for too long and this way he could make bigger steps, resulting in a better pace.
Not sure if he should thank Lan Wangji, he started talking again: “Do you remember when you scraped your knee? And it really wasn’t that bad but it wouldn’t stop bleeding, so I dragged you to my dorm to clean you up.” Lan Wangji gave an affirmative hum but didn’t look at him. “That’s the first time you seemed really… human to me. Not like the aloof law student with the big family name.”
“Other people think my family name makes me approachable. I am not.”
Wei Wuxian snorted. “Other people are gold diggers.”
It sounded just a hint exasperated, and Wei Wuxian counted it as a win as he passed Lan Wangji with a grin. “Race you back!”
Lan Wangji made a noise that Wei Wuxian barely heard because he was already three steps ahead, but chose to interpret as affirmation, and he sprinted further, laughing. Lan Wangji was still pushing A-Yuan and would therefore never be able to catch him.
The truth was, he had always liked running. He had to have a goal, just running circles on a track had gotten extremely boring very quickly, even with listening to music and counting his steps and trying to shave seconds off his time.
Running away had been a different thing. Running away from the neighbor he had stolen apples from, running away from his annoyed brother (or running away with him), running when something had gone wrong and he needed to clear his head.
But running away wasn’t an option anymore.
He reached the house first, but he knew Lan Wangji would have been hot on his heels had it not been for the stroller. That didn’t stop him from gloating though. He had even had enough time to unlock the front door already!
“Ha! I beat you! Right, A-Yuan? I beat him!”
A-Yuan giggled happily. Wei Wuxian bent down to pick him out. “Now, I’m gonna take a shower when we’re inside and you’re going to play with your seal, how does that sound?” A-Yuan, hearing and recognizing the word seal, squealed and kicked his little legs. Wei Wuxian laughed. “Alright, someone’s excited.”
He kicked off his shoes in the doorway and turned, just to see Lan Wangji still standing in the same spot behind the stroller, looking at him.
“Lan Zhan? Are you okay?”
Lan Wangji blinked. “Fine,” he said, and then followed Wei Wuxian into the house.
Wei Wuxian really wondered how Lan Wangji, as a successful lawyer, had never grown out of his habit of just shutting down sometimes. But he himself had encountered that habit often enough that he had learned to just try and ignore it.
So instead of asking again – it would be fruitless anyway – he toed off his shoes and- Fuck. He looked down at the sole of his running shoe peeling off the heel. “Dammit.”
“What is it?” Lan Wangji immediately asked.
“Ah, nothing, just broke my shoe. That’s okay, I’ll just glue it back together tomorrow morning.” He looked up to find Lan Wangji watching him with a slight frown, but he quickly lifted his finger and kicked his shoes to the side. “Not tonight, Lan Zhan, I’m too tired to argue.”
Lan Wangji just reached down and lined up their shoes neatly.
Wei Wuxian carried A-Yuan upstairs and put him down on the bed with his stuffed seal before he headed into the bathroom. He didn’t leave the door entirely open like he had when he had showered the first few times, but it did remain open a crack, just in case A-Yuan started crying.
He stepped out of the bathroom ten minutes later and his first instinct when he saw someone sitting on the bed next to A-Yuan was to stride over to protect his child. Then his brain caught up and he recognized Lan Wangji playing peacefully with A-Yuan and his seal and new stuffed bunny.
Lan Wangji looked up, blinked, and dropped the stuffed toy.
“Ah, sorry,” Wei Wuxian said, looking down at himself and the towel wrapped around his waist. “I didn’t expect you’d be in here, I’m gonna put some clothes on…”
“It’s fine,” Lan Wangji – notoriously uncomfortable with any kind of nudity – said, sounding very much like it wasn’t fine. Wei Wuxian hurried over to the dresser to grab some underwear and a shirt so he could get dressed. “I just looked in on my way up and saw that the seal had fallen to the floor and he was trying to reach for it.”
Wei Wuxian looked over his shoulder and smiled at him. “Thank you. Is he okay?”
“Completely fine,” Lan Wangji said. “Are you not, A-Yuan?”
A-Yuan made a noise that could have meant anything, looked up at Lan Wangji and held out his seal for him. Wei Wuxian laughed. “I think that means yes.”
He finally retrieved his clothes from the drawer and hurried back to the bathroom. “I’ll be right out again. Can you watch him for five more minutes?”
Lan Wangji nodded and then, just as Wei Wuxian was about to close the door, said: “I’m proud of you.”
Wei Wuxian turned around again and blinked, perplexed. “What for?”
Lan Wangji looked at him for a moment, then motioned at A-Yuan, and Wei Wuxian understood. He smiled.
Maybe he was doing better.
That night, Wei Wuxian was the one to call his sister.
“Hey,” she greeted him, and there was a little squeak in the background that Wei Wuxian knew all too well could only come from a baby.
“Am I interrupting?” he asked.
“No,” she said with a laugh, “A-Ling just took a bath and A-Xuan is putting him back into his diaper.”
“Impressive. He seems…” He tried to find a word that didn’t sound like he hated the guy. Which he didn’t. He just hadn’t pegged him for the type of man who would willingly get his hands dirty and change diapers. “Dedicated.”
Jiang Yanli laughed. “He loves his son. Of course he’ll change his diaper.” Then: “Did any of the places you sent your resume to call you back yet?”
Wei Wuxian sighed. “Not yet, and I’m not very hopeful, honestly. Even mall security requires a clean criminal record,” he said.
“A-Xian… you were never convicted of anything,” Jiang Yanli said gently.
“I guess… But when they run a background check they’ll see that there’s a lot of locked shit and red tape. And they just have to look me up on the Internet…” He sighed again. He didn’t feel like talking about this. “It’s okay, really. I’ll be fine, now–” Now that I have Lan Zhan . Fuck. What was he thinking ?
“You know you can come back, right?” Jiang Yanli asked. “You can work with me, and–”
“I don’t think so,” Wei Wuxian said. “I don’t think your husband would be too happy about seeing me.”
“My husband helped track you down when our brother refused to,” she said. “He’ll be fine.”
“I’m sorry.” He was so stupid, constantly insulting people who were better than him. Who were trying to fix what he had broken. Who were there when he wasn’t.
“There is nothing you have to be sorry for. Stop apologizing.”
It sounded scarily familiar. “Lan Wangji said the same thing,” he said. He looked over at A-Yuan, who was pushing around his building blocks on the floor. Maybe he should stop, for his sake. Jiang Fengmian had taught him the same thing when he had been young, after all.
Jiang Yanli chuckled. “I knew he was a good man.”
A “He really is” lay on the tip of Wei Wuxian’s tongue, but he swallowed it back. Instead, he let himself fall back onto his bed, and whined: “He’s cool, but I really miss your cooking, shijie.”
“Oh, I see how it is.” She laughed. “Is his food that bland?”
“It’s gotten better, honestly, but there’s no meat,” he said. “I miss your lotus root pork rib soup.” Just thinking about it made his mouth water.
“Well, I guess then I will have to come visit to cook for you.” Her tone was milder again now.
“Hmm,” he made. “Maybe?” He would have to ask Lan Wangji, of course, but he did miss his sister, and her stew. Maybe she could make a vegetarian version for Lan Wangji. And she was much better mannered than Jiang Cheng – or even Wei Wuxian – so there was very little argument against having her as a guest.
“We can talk about it tomorrow,” Jiang Yanli said. “I’ll call you again, I have to put A-Ling to bed now.”
“That sounds nice,” Wei Wuxian said and pulled his phone away from his ear to look at the time. It really was getting late. Bedtime for the two babies. “Do that. And give little Jin Ling a kiss from me.”
“I will.” The smile was evident in her voice. “Do the same for A-Yuan, will you? Tell him I’m excited to meet him.”
“I will,” he echoed.
“Good night, A-Xian.”
Then she hung up, because he couldn’t bring himself to. He just looked at his phone for another minute, a half-smile on his face, until A-Yuan’s hands were slapping on his knee, demanding attention. Wei Wuxian picked him up, held him close.
“Okay, little man, time for bed.”
He brought him into the bathroom and brushed both their teeth, changed him into his sleep onesie and then put him into bed.
A-Yuan wiggled deeper under the blanket and Wei Wuxian had to laugh. “Don’t get lost down there.” He booped A-Yuan’s nose and then walked around the bed to change into his sleep shorts and crawl under the covers himself.
A-Yuan was already half-falling asleep so Wei Wuxian decided to forego reading to him tonight and just lay there watching him, his little eyelids drooping and finally sliding shut.
“You know what? Your aunt is going to come visit us,” Wei Wuxian told him quietly, and gently kissed his forehead. “You have a family.”
But looking at the ceiling when sleep evaded him once again, he couldn’t help but wonder why all these people believed in him, when he so clearly didn’t deserve it.
A-Yuan was getting the family he deserved. But did Wei Wuxian?
new chapter in a timely manner? who am i
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
When Wei Wuxian came downstairs the next morning – significantly later than usual, he had fallen asleep again after waking up at 6am and gotten a much needed additional three hours of sleep – Lan Wangji was waiting for him and A-Yuan in the kitchen.
“I prepared his bottle already,” he said, motioning at the counter.
“Oh god, thank you so much,” Wei Wuxian said. He was still bleary eyed and there was a headache sitting behind his temples that he couldn’t shake.
Lan Wangji gave a low noise. Then: “Would you like rice and eggs or pancakes?”
Wei Wuxian blinked at him, hand already outstretched for the bottle so he could start feeding A-Yuan. “What?”
“For breakfast,” Lan Wangji said. “Which one would you prefer?”
“You don’t have to–”
Wei Wuxian scrunched his nose a little and for a split second weighed the pros and cons of lying so breakfast would be what Lan Wangji liked to eat versus Lan Wangji looking right through him and calling him out on his dishonesty. “Pancakes,” he finally mumbled.
“Pancakes it is,” Lan Wangji said.
Wei Wuxian, feeling reprimanded even though not another word had been said, scurried out of the kitchen with A-Yuan and his bottle to feed him in the living room, where he would be safe from Lan Wangji and the smell of domestic pancake cooking.
“He wants to torture me,” he whispered to A-Yuan as he was giving him his bottle. “I don’t know why he’s doing this. Why is he being so nice ?” But he did stop himself there because the baby should trust Lan Wangji, not inherit Wei Wuxian’s self-doubts.
Unfortunately he had to go back after A-Yuan was done eating to clean out the bottle, and by that time Lan Wangji was already plating the pancakes. All Wei Wuxian could do was follow him into the dining room.
There were strawberries on the table, and syrup that definitely hadn’t been there yesterday, and all Wei Wuxian could do was stare at it with his mouth hanging open before finally tearing himself away to put A-Yuan into his high chair.
“You did all this?”
“Yes,” Lan Wangji nodded.
Lan Wangji only looked at him. “You like pancakes,” he said.
That didn’t answer Wei Wuxian’s question, but he sat down anyway.
He felt apprehensive about touching the pancakes, as if he was about to sign his soul to the fairies, but Lan Wangji had made the food, so it would be rude not to eat. Before he could think about it further and get lost in his own thoughts, Lan Wangji put one of the pancakes onto his plate. A-Yuan, recognizing the form, immediately stretched out his hands for it.
“You already had breakfast,” Wei Wuxian said gently, “Let me eat now, okay?” Of course, after taking a bite himself, he couldn’t resist and gave A-Yuan a piece, too. He sighed and looked at Lan Wangji. “You’re spoiling us! Look at him.” Then he put the rest of the pancake into his mouth. It really was amazing. Apparently Lan Wangji could cook with flavour after all, and the flavour was sweet.
“How was your talk last night?” Lan Wangji asked.
Wei Wuxian, immediately forgetting about his discomfort, broke into a smile and hastily swallowed his bite of pancake so he could answer. “It was great. You know she has a son, too, right? So she really wants to meet A-Yuan and we hope they can be friends. And I really miss her cooking, so she thought she might come over sometime, if that’s okay with you.”
They continued eating for a few minutes, before Lan Wangji put his utensils to the side and looked at Wei Wuxian. “I wanted to talk to you about something.”
Oh fuck. There it was. Lan Wangji was going to ask him to move out. And he had just been rambling on about his shijie coming to visit, too. He was such an idiot.
“You should have new shoes.”
Lan Wangji made a pained expression. “Let me rephrase: How would you feel about me buying you new shoes?”
Wei Wuxian reeling from fucking emotional whiplash, just stared at him. “Uh… I don’t know?” He tried buying time by taking another bite of pancake. Finally, once he had swallowed and Lan Wangji was still looking at him expectantly, he had to formulate an answer.
“See, the thing is, I don’t really need new running shoes but I would need shoes for work if I get a job, and that would involve a lot of walking and standing. So, if you want to take me shopping… Okay, I guess.”
“Alright,” Lan Wangji said. “This afternoon?”
Wei Wuxian shrugged. “I’ve got nothing better to do. What about your work?”
“I guess we’re going out after A-Yuan’s nap then,” Wei Wuxian said. So Lan Wangji hummed in affirmation and got back to his breakfast.
Meanwhile Wei Wuxian was still trying to wrap his head around this turn of events and to calm his heartbeat. He rubbed his temples and tried to finish his food. He really needed to get it together.
After they had cleared the table, Wei Wuxian took A-Yuan outside to feed and play with the bunnies a little. They had taken a liking to the little boy quickly, but all of them except the oldest were still wary around Wei Wuxian. He however was content to sit with the one who would come near him on his lap, feed it dandelion leaves, and supervise as A-Yuan pet the other bunnies in turn. The fresh air also helped with his persistent headache.
It was October now, and when the sun disappeared behind a cloud it got chilly quickly, so Wei Wuxian made A-Yuan say goodbye to the rabbits and went back inside, despite A-Yuan’s unhappy calls.
“We can go visit them again later,” Wei Wuxian promised. “I’ll read you a story about a bunny now instead, okay?”
They settled down on the sofa and Wei Wuxian read to A-Yuan from one of the children’s books he and Lan Wangji had bought. Soon though he had to stop because his headache returned. Thankfully, A-Yuan seemed happy enough to play on his own, and Wei Wuxian lay down on his back to look at the ceiling.
The next time he opened his eyes, he turned his head to see A-Yuan on Lan Wangji’s lap on the other section of the sofa. Lan Wangji was showing him a picture book, talking about animals in a low voice. Wei Wuxian had to smile.
Lan Wangji, noticing that he had woken up, looked over. “Do you feel better?”
“Hmm, yeah,” he said. The headache was completely gone now. “How long was I out?”
“A little over an hour,” Lan Wangji said, carefully shutting the picture book as A-Yuan had lost interest now and was attempting to crawl over to Wei Wuxian. He straightened up and pulled the boy into his lap.
“Did you have fun with Uncle Lan Zhan?” Wei Wuxian asked and A-Yuan babbled excitedly, making him laugh. When he looked up, Lan Wangji was still looking at him with concern.
“Did you not sleep enough?”
“Not worse than usual,” Wei Wuxian said and then quickly backpedaled: “Definitely enough, I just had a headache. I hope I’m not coming down with something.” If he got sick, A-Yuan would also get sick again, and going to the doctor was always a gamble. He had been almost out of his mind with fear the last time they had gone.
“Would you like some tea?” Lan Wangji asked.
Wei Wuxian, a no on the tip of his tongue, looked from Lan Wangji’s earnest face down to A-Yuan playing with a loose thread on his shirt. “Sure.”
“Alright. I’ll be right back.”
Wei Wuxian just sat there, but he somehow still felt sleepy, so he slid back down into a lying position with A-Yuan on his chest. Then he listened to Lan Wangji bustle around in the kitchen, and gently breathed in the smell of the baby. He didn’t have that newborn smell anymore – and Wei Wuxian counted himself glad to have been there for that – but he still smelled like his boy, and he took great comfort in that.
Lan Wangji returned two minutes later, setting a mug down on the coffee table, and Wei Wuxian was met with the smell of green tea.
“Should I take him again?,” Lan Wangji asked.
“Sure,” Wei Wuxian mumbled, feeling half-asleep again. A moment later, A-Yuan was lifted from his chest and Wei Wuxian pushed himself up on his elbows. Before he could fully right himself, there was a hand on his back, steadying him – helping him up – and Wei Wuxian looked at Lan Wangji, now sitting next to him and holding A-Yuan with his other arm, in surprise.
Before he could say anything – or even get his facial expression under control – Lan Wangji had let go of him and was picking up the mug to hand it to him.
Wei Wuxian, acting on autopilot, carefully accepted the mug, his fingertips brushing against Lan Wangji’s. “Thank you,” he said, and it came out rather croaky. His fingers were tingling, and not just from the heat of the cup, he thought. To cover up any awkwardness, he said the first thing that popped into his mind: “You’re really turning into the perfect housewife, huh, Lan Zhan?”
Lan Wangji only leveled him with an unimpressed stare. “Are you sure you would like to go out later?” he then asked.
Wei Wuxian, now panicking about having made things more awkward and wondering if Lan Wangji didn’t want to go shopping with him anymore, blurted: “I’m fine. I just need a moment to wake up again.” After a moment, he added: “We can’t all be perfectly alert the moment we open our eyes.” For someone who had ended up joining the police force, he had never been very fond of rigid schedules. Asleep late at night, up by noon some days. Most of his university classes had not started before midday, let alone 10am. Night missions had always suited him best, and he was only sticking to a regular sleep schedule now because A-Yuan needed the stability.
“I suppose it does have to do with nature, not nurture.”
Wei Wuxian only sighed. Of course the man who had been getting up at 5am his entire life would say that. But he sipped his tea and kept quiet, because Lan Wangji wasn’t technically wrong, and it wasn’t his fault that their sense of humor was different. Plus he had probably done enough damage for one conversation.
The small of his back and his hands were still warm.
Later, after lunch, Wei Wuxian put A-Yuan down for his nap and then sat down with Lan Wangji to discuss where they would go shopping, the baby monitor always next to him. They did decide on the mall closest to his home rather quickly and lapsed into silence, just sitting around and waiting for A-Yuan to wake up. It wasn’t an uncomfortable silence, even after his earlier misstep, but it was rather boring for Wei Wuxian, and he went upstairs for a moment to grab a book. When he returned, Lan Wangji was gone too, but he just shrugged and pushed open the door to the patio to sit outside in the sun and read.
Five minutes later he heard Lan Wangji step out onto the patio too and, already engrossed in his book, he didn’t look up until Lan Wangji settled onto the little bench that was standing longways to the Wei Wuxian’s chair. Lan Wangji was just balancing his Guqin on his lap, and Wei Wuxian let out a little gasp. “You still play!”
Lan Wangji didn’t look up from his instrument. “Hm,” he made.
“Thought you would have given that up, with your busy career and all. I haven’t seen you play the piano, either…”
Lan Wangji drew a note from the guqin, testing its tune. “It is… relaxing,” he said then.
“Good,” Wei Wuxian said, “yeah, I can imagine. You’d need that creative outlet.” God knows he had needed it.
He turned back to his book, not because he wasn't interested in Lan Wangji's playing, but because he felt like Lan Wangji was an innately private person and he didn't want to spook him with his curiosity.
Soon the first notes of a song floated through the air, and Wei Wuxian started having an even harder time focusing on his book. The melody was vaguely familiar, probably something he had heard Lan Wangji play in passing during college, and it gave him a sense of… warmth, and longing. Wei Wuxian put the book down page open on his lap and tipped his head back, eyes closed, focusing fully on the music.
When Lan Wangji was done, Wei Wuxian opened his eyes again and looked over, speaking quickly before Lan Wangji could transition into another piece: “That was beautiful.”
Lan Wangji blinked up at him from under his long lashes, the autumn sun breaking on his cheekbones. “Thank you.”
He played a few more songs, and Wei Wuxian abandoned all thoughts about his book, basking in the sunlight and watching Lan Wangji play instead. It was almost hypnotizing. Wei Wuxian had been so full of energy in college, he had never let himself stop, never let himself look, and it seemed like Lan Wangji was giving him permission now, so he could give himself permission, too.
Eventually, Lan Wangji’s fingers stilled on the chords. For a moment there were only the birds, and the sounds of the city rushing in the distance. Then: “The piano was my mother’s.”
“Oh,” Wei Wuxian made. And he had just been playing on it like it was nothing…
“She would be glad someone is using it.” Somehow, Lan Wangji seemed to have read his mind. Again.
He smiled a little. “I’ll keep that in mind.” Before he could anything, A-Yuan started fussing, audible – and visible, thank you technology – through the baby monitor, and Wei Wuxian got up. “I’ll go get him ready,” he said.
Lan Wangji nodded. “Fifteen minutes?” he asked.
“Make it twenty, he’ll need a diaper change.”
It ended up being exactly nineteen minutes, and Wei Wuxian congratulated himself on his accurate estimate. He came downstairs to Lan Wangji already being in shoes and coat, they strapped A-Yuan into his car seat, put the stroller into the trunk and off they went.
Thankfully, the mall wasn’t too full yet, making it easy for Wei Wuxian to push the stroller through the shops. Lan Wangji let him take the lead, not trying to get him to go to any of the higher end stores, so Wei Wuxian immediately steered towards one of his trusted shoe stores.
True to his character, he immediately got distracted.
“Wouldn’t these be adorable on A-Yuan?” He held up a pair of the cutest baby shoes he had ever seen. God, he couldn’t wait until he had a job and would be able to afford to buy frivolous things for his little boy.
“We are here to buy shoes for you for you,” Lan Wangji reminded him. Wei Wuxian pouted and raised the shoes at him. “But yes, they would be.”
Satisfied, Wei Wuxian put the shoes back onto the shelf. Another time.
He finally gave in and went to look at shoes he would actually need. They needed to be functional, but also suitable for work. He finally settled on a pair of black sneakers with insoles that would allow in him to stand in them for hours – but his eyes kept drifting to the more expensive running shoes.
Lan Wangji gently nudged his side. “Go on, try them.”
“I don’t need them, though…”
“Your shoes are falling apart.”
Wei Wuxian opened his mouth to protest again, but Lan Wangji gave him another nudge, and finally, he went. It didn’t have to be brand shoes, after all, something less expensive that would last him a year of going for a run maybe once a week would be fine, too. He had used the same shoes for all of college, too, so that shouldn’t be a problem.
He had forgotten how much fun it was to try on shoes. But the uncomfortable feeling in his stomach was still there, even when he finally settled on a pair of shoes that not so long ago wouldn’t have been out of his budget. Before he could change his mind and put them back on the shelf, Lan Wangji took the carton from his hands and put it on top of the one already in his arms. Wei Wuxian swallowed his protest.
His uneasiness grew as they were walking towards the checkout, until he couldn’t ignore it anymore. Stopping, he let go of the stroller’s handles and gently tugged on Lan Wangji’s sleeve. “I don’t think this is a good idea. I don’t–”
“We are here for you,” Lan Wangji reminded him. “You need new shoes.”
“I know,” Wei Wuxian said, “and I know I agreed, just…”
“Wei Ying. Let me do this.”
Wei Wuxian squirmed, but finally he let Lan Wangji get in line.
A few days passed, and thankfully, Wei Wuxian didn’t get sick, even with his sleep as erratic as it was. They fell into a new routine.
They would have breakfast together and then go out for a run, before Lan Wangji did whatever mysterious work he did in his office upstairs – Wei Wuxian really didn’t know how consulting worked in the law sector – and Wei Wuxian either did chores or played with A-Yuan. Usually he would cook lunch and then put A-Yuan down for his nap while he read yet another book from Lan Wangji’s library and sent his resume to another few companies. In the evening, Lan Wangji would prepare dinner and afterwards Wei Wuxian would call Jiang Yanli. Their plans for a visit were getting more concrete – his shijie had just gone back to work, but said she should be free to visit the weekend after the next.
They had just gotten back from grocery shopping – Wei Wuxian had finally gotten Lan Wangji to buy some actual spices – and while Lan Wangji unloaded the car, he had sent Wei Wuxian upstairs to change A-Yuan’s diaper.
“I can’t wait for you to be potty trained,” Wei Wuxian told A-Yuan as he was putting on the new diaper. “You’re cute, but I’ve seen enough baby butt for a lifetime.”
He closed A-Yuan’s onesie back up and was putting his tiny pair of jeans on him when his phone rang, a number on the display that he didn’t recognize. With a sigh he sat A-Yuan up and then answered his phone.
“Wei Wuxian? Hi, this is Wang Qiu. You came into our store a couple days ago to ask about open positions.”
Wei Wuxian made big eyes at A-Yuan and, when the baby giggled, held his finger to his lips. A-Yuan didn’t understand the gesture yet, but that was fine. “Hi! Yes, I did.”
“I talked to my manager and she would be happy to take you on a trial basis, if you’d meet with her again next week.”
Wei Wuxian let out a breath. “Of course! Yes! Thank you.”
Wang Qiu laughed. “No problem. Does Monday at nine work for you?”
“That should be perfectly fine, yes.”
“See you Monday then.”
He waited until the call was disconnected before letting out a squeal and picking up A-Yuan to twirl around with him. “I did it!” He wrenched open his door and flew down the stairs into the kitchen where Lan Wangji was still putting away groceries.
“Lan Zhan!” Lan Wangji, startled by his sudden shout, looked at him in alarm, but Wei Wuxian just pulled him into a hug, grinning from ear to ear, A-Yuan sandwiched between them. “I got the job!”
“Congratulations,” Lan Wangji said quietly, directly next to his ear, barely above a whisper, and Wei Wuxian shivered a little. Suddenly realising what he was doing, he stepped back. He knew Lan Wangji didn’t like being touched, let alone getting hugged.
“Oh no, I’m sorry, I got excited, and–”
“It’s fine,” Lan Wangji said. “You should be.”
“I’ll let you get back to… the fridge,” Wei Wuxian said, already half on his way out of the kitchen.
“No, stay.” Lan Wangji grabbed a head of broccoli out of his grocery bags. “When do you start?”
Wei Wuxian recovered from his confusion and a hint of embarrassment quickly and hopped up on the kitchen table, A-Yuan on his lap. “Not sure yet, I’m going in on Monday to talk to the manager and hopefully sign my contract and stuff.”
“Hm,” Lan Wangji made.
“What is it?” Wei Wuxian asked quietly. By now he knew the sound of Lan Wangji’s voice when he had more to say but didn’t want to be impolite, or was still looking for the right words. He brushed A-Yuan’s hair out of his face as he waited.
Lan Wangji took his time putting the bread away and then turned around. “You will have to practice.” Wei Wuxian blinked at him in confusion and opened his mouth to ask for clarification, but then Lan Wangji continued: “Leaving him alone.”
“Oh,” Wei Wuxian made, looking down at the baby. “I have, haven’t I? With the baby monitors.”
“Never for more than ninety minutes,” Lan Wangji said. “Do not get me wrong, you’ve taken great steps since you came here, but I… I am worried it won’t be enough.” His lips twitched, a miniscule grimace.
Wei Wuxian sighed, a pit in his stomach that wouldn’t even go away with a deep breath. “No, I get it, I know, I just…”
“It will be hard. But you know he is safe here.”
He looked up at Lan Wangji now, and felt something shift inside him. It wasn’t the excitement from earlier, but lighter, like relief. The anxiety of starting something knew but also knowing that someone had your back.
“Yes, he is,” he mumbled.
Practicing didn’t sound so bad.
wwx and i got jobs at the same time, what a coinkidink
Practice was excruciating.
Wei Wuxian had been through a lot of painful training regimens in his life, not the least of which had been joining special forces, but trying to stay away from A-Yuan when every fiber in his body was screaming to go check on him was worse. It was like he was going through withdrawal.
The worst part? Lan Wangji had started giving him tasks, and while he did them he was not allowed to look at the baby monitor.
So he would do laundry, or dishes, or play the piano, or take a run around the neighborhood, and his fingers would be itching and his ears would be ringing with the overwhelming urge to take out his phone and ask Lan Wangji if A-Yuan was alright. But he wasn’t allowed to do that, either.
They had less than a week until Monday, and even if Wei Wuxian didn’t start work then already, he would have to be away from A-Yuan without being able to check on him. It made sense. It still sucked.
He spent a lot of time just sitting, but having something to do made it easier. He wished he could have gotten here more naturally, slower, without the prerequisite of his impending job. But maybe he had needed the incentive, and he looked forward to being more independent, and having money, and to his sister visiting.
That was what was getting him through this.
Monday finally came – too quick and not fast enough – and he put on the shirt Lan Wangji had given him again, instead of his freshly laundered own one. It gave him a strange kind of comfort, like A-Yuan and Lan Wangji were there with him. He also insisted on taking the bus to the store, both as additional practice and to prove that he could.
It was distracting enough that he didn’t think about the baby every five seconds.
He immediately went up to the info desk when he came in, happy to see that Wang Qiu was working again. She looked up as he approached and smiled. “Hey there, welcome back.”
“Glad to be back,” he grinned.
She walked around the counter. “Follow me, let’s get you introduced to the manager.” He followed her, his nerves finally deciding to make an appearance. But he knew he could be charming when he wanted to, and he had the skills for this job. Plus from what Wang Qiu had said, he basically already had it in the bag and this was only a formality.
She led him through the storage area to an office and knocked at the door, patiently waiting for an answer before letting them both in. He was introduced to the manager – a woman in her forties who seemed nice enough – and Wang Qiu left with a cheery wave.
He sat down and went through his proper introduction, eager to get to the real questions.
“So, you worked for the police force before?”
Wei Wuxian tried not to grimace. Of course she had to start off with a tough one. He had been intentionally vague on his resume, and had just prayed that they wouldn’t look him up. “I did,” he said.
“Why did you decide to leave?”
“Well, I had to move because of personal reasons, and decided not to pursue a new position in a different precinct,” he offered. It wasn’t technically a lie. “I wanted a change of pace, something where I could apply myself… more directly.”
She nodded and made a little note on her sheet of paper. “Alright. Why did you decide to apply at our store, then?”
“Truth be told, the vicinity to my new house,” he said, shrugging. Here, honesty really couldn’t hurt that much. “Plus, I knew I would be very flexible in what I can offer you, and your company’s image is very approachable.”
She asked him a few more questions, but they seemed perfunctory at best, until finally she seemed to have gone through all of them and took out a different list from her papers. “So the position we would have you on is store security. It’s pretty basic, really. Keep an eye out for disturbances and potential shoplifters, you’d have to deal with police matters in the case of theft, sometimes we might ask you to give us a hand with cleaning up if we’re short staffed. We could start your training tomorrow, our head of security can go over all the details with you then– he couldn’t make it today, unfortunately.”
“That sounds good to me,” Wei Wuxian said.
She gave him a slight smile. “Do you have any more questions?”
He hesitated for a moment, not wanting to be seen as an unreliable employee, but it was a common, reasonable question after all: “I know I checked part time on the form, but what would my hours look like?”
“It really depends on how flexible you are,” she said. “No night shifts, we haven’t had any break-ins so the alarm system is doing its job just fine, and some of the others on your team are also part-timers who work in the afternoons, so mornings and early afternoons would be best for us, but we can work with you.”
“No, that’s perfectly fine,” Wei Wuxian said. He would have to talk to Lan Wangji again, but for now this sounded good. Lan Wangji had said that he could watch A-Yuan for a few hours a day no problem, and that he wanted to cut back on his remaining work anyway, but Wei Wuxian didn’t quite believe him.
They agreed he would be back at the same time tomorrow and then said their goodbyes.
When Wei Wuxian walked out of the store, happy about the opportunities this would open for him but also happy to get back home to his son, he was surprised to find Lan Wangji leaning against his car, A-Yuan in his arms.
“What are you doing here?” he asked, more relieved than annoyed about Lan Wangji following him to work. Lan Wangji handed A-Yuan to him and he cradled the baby close.
“How did it go?” Lan Wangji asked.
“It went great, I start tomorrow,” Wei Wuxian said, half to Lan Wangji, half to A-Yuan while wiping his nose. Then he looked back at Lan Wangji, narrowing his eyes. “Wait, you’re trying to distract me. Why are you here?”
“I am not,” Lan Wangji said. Wei Wuxian kept staring at him until he sighed a little. “I thought you would want to see him right away. You’ve been doing well. And you needed a ride.”
“I could’ve taken the bus,” Wei Wuxian pointed out.
“Yes,” Lan Wangji said and opened the door for him so could put A-Yuan into his car seat, “you could have.”
Work the next day was… well, not exciting, because there really wasn’t a lot to the job, but Wei Wuxian enjoyed the mental stimulation of having a new environment to get used to, new tasks to learn and new people to meet. He even got a fancy polo shirt to wear – and a jacket for when it would get even colder – so he wouldn’t have to go and buy new clothes in excess.
Mostly he just followed his new coworker around so she could show him the layout of the store and the items that people would steal most often. Apparently those were smaller electronics, toiletries and snacks.
“We’ve got cameras, too, so most of our job is just listening to what whoever sits in the back says and guarding exits. And sometimes wiping up spilled stuff. The fun part is breaking up fights, honestly. You won’t believe how often people get into arguments about the last reduced item in the bin.”
“Sounds wild,” Wei Wuxian said. But calm, for the most part, which was what he needed. Lowkey and under the radar.
He spent most of his shift at the entrance, telling people that they couldn’t bring their dog into the store unless it was small enough for them to carry. He did another lap around the store with his colleague just before lunch.
But at the end of the day, he was glad to get home to… well, his boys. He idly wondered how that thought had snuck in as he walked across the parking lot through the light drizzle, only to get out of the way as a car pulled in. He looked up and stopped in his tracks. He knew that car.
Lan Wangji raised his hand at him through the windows as he came to a stop next to him.
Wei Wuxian rolled his eyes and opened the door. “Again, Lan Zhan?”
“It’s raining,” Lan Wangji said.
“Barely.” He got in anyway.
He could have sworn he saw Lan Wangji’s lips twitch up as he pulled out of the parking lot again, but he got distracted by turning around to greet the baby on the backseat. “Hellooo A-Yuan. Were you good for Uncle Wangji? Did you miss me?” A-Yuan stretched out his hands for him and babbled excitedly, and Wei Wuxian took his small fingers into his own. “Yes, I missed you too!”
Lan Wangji made a disapproving noise. “Buckle your seatbelt.”
Wei Wuxian turned around and stuck out his tongue at him, but obliged.
“How was your first day?”
“Eh,” Wei Wuxian shrugged. “It was okay, the work isn’t very demanding. My coworkers seem nice. But I’ll be happy to be back home.”
Next to him Lan Wangji stiffened for a split second – Wei Wuxian wouldn’t even have noticed if he hadn’t been looking at him directly. Then: “I’m glad.”
For an excruciating fifteen minutes Wei Wuxian wondered if he’d offended him somehow – not knowing how, he had barely said three sentences! – but when they got home Lan Wangji told him to take A-Yuan out to feed the bunnies while he made dinner, and if he wanted him interacting with the bunnies, things couldn’t be so bad.
It was good that Wei Wuxian didn’t have to get used to a very demanding job, since his sister was going to visit on the weekend and they only had limited time to prepare. Since Jiang Yanli was going to cook, Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji had agreed to take care of dessert. That was how they found themselves in the grocery store on Thursday, Wei Wuxian half-hanging off the cart and half pushing it and Lan Wangji with the stroller.
“I want to make chocolate filled Tangyuan,” Wei Wuxian said.
“You could just buy them,” Lan Wangji said drily.
Wei Wuxian ignored him and just continued talking. “And lotus seed buns! Oh and maybe mango pudding.”
He kicked his feet and rolled another meter forward. “I know, I know, I’m going overboard, it’s too ambitious, yadda yadda, but this is the first time I’ve seen shijie in months, you know? I want it to be nice and tasty.”
“You do not have to bribe her with food.”
“But I want to.”
They looked at each other for a moment, a silent battle, Wei Wuxian filled with enthusiasm and Lan Wangji with quiet exasperation. “Alright,” Lan Wangji finally said, “but I am preparing the pudding.”
“Yes!” Wei Wuxian triumphantly wheeled away to get rice flour.
When he turned around, Lan Wangji had trailed after him and picked up cocoa powder, sugar and agar. He gently put them into the shopping cart now that Wei Wuxian had stopped. “What else?”
“I want to make the lotus paste myself, so lotus seeds. Man, I wish I could use lotus seeds from home, they really are the best, plus local so I could get them… cheaper.” He had rambled until they stood in front of the item in question and god, he had forgotten how expensive lotus seeds could get. “On second thought, maybe the tangyuan would be enough,” he said.
“No,” Lan Wangji said and reached past him to get at the lotus seeds. “You wanted to make lotus seed buns.”
Wei Wuxian stared at the lotus seeds in the cart for a moment, his chest filled with quiet gratitude instead of loud protest. Lan Wangji was right, this was important to him. He would just have to pay him back from his first paycheck.
He spent the morning before his sister was supposed to arrive first cleaning (including every window in the house except on Lan Wangji’s floor. And there were a lot of windows.) and then finishing up his extravagant dessert food prep. First he was elbow deep in flour, then he tried deep frying things without burning himself before Lan Wangji took over and he was put on clean-up duty. Not a minute too late, as it turned out.
The doorbell rang and Wei Wuxian was sliding across the tiles towards the front door before the note had stopped resonating. He knew he looked like a mess and had flour on his forehead but he didn’t care. His sister was here!
He wrenched the door open maybe a little too forcefully, causing Jiang Yanli to take a step back on the other side. When she saw him, her face split into a wide smile, anyway.
“Shijie!” He was hugging her before he could think better of it, a reflex of a childhood full of touch, and not an unwanted one at that. “Where’s my nephew?”
She pulled back, laughing. “Right here. Where is my nephew?”
Wei Wuxian immediately dropped down in front of the stroller and was met with a round face with two curious eyes. “Hey, little man. Oh my gosh, you look so much like your mom!” He looked up at Jiang Yanli and – seeing her hide a smile behind her hand – caught himself. “Oh no, I’m being a bad host. Come in, come in!”
He ushered Jiang Yanli inside and she handed him the containers and bags she had come with, as well as her jacket to hang up while she unbuckled Jin Ling from the stroller. When he stepped away from the coat rack, he saw Lan Wangji standing in the door to the kitchen, having come out to greet their guests.
“Shijie, you remember Lan Wangji.”
Lan Wangji inclined his head, Jiang Yanli smiled and shifted Jin Ling to one arm so she could shake his hand. “Thank you for having us. And thank you for taking care of my brother.”
“Ahhh, shijie,” Wei Wuxian whined. He really didn’t need Lan Wangji to be reminded of his burden. To deflect, he quickly shoved the soup base and remaining ingredients into Lan Wangji’s arms for him to take into the kitchen.
“Don’t be embarrassed,” she chided, “I’m your older sister, this is my job.”
“It is my pleasure,” Lan Wangji said, to both their surprise, judging by how Jiang Yanli’s mouth fell slightly open. “Please, go sit in the living room, I will finish up in the kitchen.”
Wei Wuxian shepherded his sister and her son along, hoping that Lan Wangji would get the kitchen into a presentable state very quickly.
“Now, where is your baby boy?” she asked.
“He’s just napping, but he should wake up soon.” He let himself fall onto the sofa and she followed suit, albeit more gracefully.
“So, how’s work?”
He shrugged. “Not terribly exciting, but I’m happy to be there, and to be busy, and to be making money.” That was the point, anyway.
They chatted until Wei Wuxian saw and heard A-Yuan fussing over the baby monitor and stood up. “I’ll go get him.”
“You do that, I’ll start getting things ready in the kitchen.”
She bustled off with Jin Ling on her hip before Wei Wuxian could say anything and he shrugged and went upstairs to retrieve his own baby. A-Yuan needed his diaper changed, too, but Wei Wuxian hurried, worrying if Jiang Yanli would get along with Lan Wangji. When he finally had A-Yuan dressed to go back downstairs, he turned to find someone standing in the doorway, watching him. He startled a little and instinctively shielded A-Yuan, until his brain caught up. It was just Lan Wangji, holding Jin Ling, who was curiously blinking at the other baby.
“Jeez, Lan Zhan. Warn a guy.” Why the hell did this guy behave like a ghost in his own home? Was he always this quiet?
“I’m sorry,” Lan Wangji said. Then, after a moment: “Your sister has commandeered my kitchen.”
Wei Wuxian laughed. “Yeah, she’s good at that.” He bounced A-Yuan a little, amazed that his sister would just hand her own son off to Lan Wangji like that. “A-Yuan, this is your cousin Jin Ling. Do you want to play with him?”
A-Yuan babbled something that Wei Wuxian took as affirmation.
They took the babies downstairs and sat them down on A-Yuan’s play mat with some stuffed toys and building blocks. A-Yuan seemed to be getting along well with the younger boy – as well as two infants could get along, really. For a while, Wei Wuxian was content just watching them, but his eyes kept straying towards the kitchen. He didn’t want to neglect his sister and leave her alone in an unfamiliar house.
“Go,” Lan Wangji finally said. “I will watch them.”
Wei Wuxian shot him a grateful look and was immediately up on his feet and on his way to the kitchen. Jiang Yanli looked over at him when he entered. “There you are. Are the boys alright?”
He nodded. “Playing in the living room. Can I help you with anything?”
“I prepped most of the ingredients at home already,” she said with a shrug. “But if you could get one of the bowls down for me from there that would be great.” She motioned at the shelves.
Wei Wuxian complied happily and then hopped up on the counter while she finished her food prep, and he was all too happy to tell her where things were when she asked, only watching her curiously apart from that.
“This one is for us,” she said, pointing at one of the pots simmering on the stove. “And I made a vegetarian variant for Lan Wangji, like you asked.”
Wei Wuxian beamed at her. “Thank you! Ahhh, I hope he likes it.”
“Yeah, me too,” she said, but it carried no snide, only amusement.
“Go set the table,” she finally told him. “Be useful.”
“I am,” he told her with a grin. “I’m entertaining you.” She shot him a look that said that he was bothering her, but there was fondness behind it. He laughed and slid out of her way. “Alright, I’m going.”
He met Lan Wangji in the living room, who was entertaining the babies and immediately offered to help, too, but Wei Wuxian told him to stay put. “You have the very important job of keeping
little boys happy now.” Plus the sight of Lan Wangji explaining shapes to two babies was too good.
“I thought you were going to set the table,” his sister said from behind him, but her teasing remark petered off as she looked at A-Yuan. “Is that him?”
“The one and only,” Wei Wuxian said.
She approached the three on the floor carefully – that Lan Wangji would even deign to sit on the floor was still baffling – and crouched down. “Hey you three,” she said. Jin Ling looked up at her and swayed a little where he sat, dropping the soft toy in his tiny hand. Before she could, Lan Wangji carefully put it up and offered it back to him. She turned to A-Yuan. “You must be A-Yuan. I’m your aunt Yanli. Look how big you are already!”
A-Yuan watched her for a moment with a very concentrated expression as she spoke, then he pointed at her: “Aaaah!”
Jiang Yanli and Wei Wuxian laughed. “That’s right! Aunt!”
Within two minutes, A-Yuan had crawled into Jiang Yanli’s lap, which made getting up for dinner hard.
“You should stay with them,” Lan Wangji told her. “We will set the table.” He sent Wei Wuxian a pointed look as if to say he shouldn’t have said he would do it if he wasn’t actually going to do it. Wei Wuxian raised his hands in mock defense and got up from his kneeling position on the floor.
Together they had the dining room ready and dinner served within five minutes. Now they did arrive at the issue that they only had one high chair but Jiang Yanli, when asked, only waved in dismissal and picked up her son. “He’ll be perfectly fine on the playmat on the floor with a toy.”
“Then A-Yuan should stay down there, too,” Wei Wuxian said, picking up A-Yuan and the playmat, “otherwise it’s unfair.”
Jiang Yanli laughed from where she was walking into the dining room already. “You don’t even have him in daycare yet and you still sound exactly like you’re a parent there.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment.”
He put down the playmat in the corner of the dining room and they sat down the babies next to each other with some soft toys and A-Yuan’s seal. They’d get their own food later, Wei Wuxian had been starting to introduce more solid baby food into A-Yuan’s diet, but lotus root pork rib soup was maybe a step too far yet.
When he straightened up, Lan Wangji was behind him, hands on his shoulders to guide him to his seat.
Jiang Yanli looked between them, and cocked her head a little as if she was trying to figure something out. It only lasted a second, though, then she sat down, too.
“Let’s eat!” Wei Wuxian said, clapping his hands together and surveying the table. “This looks really great.” Then he reached for the ladle to serve the soup at the same time as Jiang Yanli did. He laughed. “Please, go ahead.” He handed her Lan Wangji’s bowl first and she switched to the ladle in the other pot with the vegetarian soup, pouring a generous amount and handing the bowl back to Lan Wangji. Then she did the same for Wei Wuxian and finally herself, only theirs had pork ribs, of course.
Wei Wuxian really tried to hold back and took his first bite slowly, to savor the meal. He had really missed his shijie’s cooking. But once he had tasted it, he started shoveling it down like a starving man. When he finally looked up and extended his bowl for seconds, his sister looked at him with imperceptibly raised eyebrows.
“What?” he asked. “It’s just so good, I couldn’t help myself. Right, Lan Zhan?”
Lan Wangji, still only halfway through his first bowl, looked up at him, then at Jiang Yanli. “It really is amazing.” High praise from someone who rarely expressed anything, Wei Wuxian thought. “Thank you for making a vegetarian version of the dish, too, it is very considerate.”
“It was really no effort,” Jiang Yanli said. She handed Wei Wuxian his bowl back, filled once again.
“Thanks.” He beamed at her and dug in again.
He was glad that he could finally taste her cooking again, and share it with Lan Wangji; to combine his two homes, old and new.
Much later – after they had finished dinner, cleaned up and fed the children; after Jiang Yanli had said her goodbyes and left to drive back home – Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji were sitting on the sofa, exhausted from the day. A-Yuan was already asleep and Wei Wuxian had wanted to use the time to read but had put the book down quickly, too tired to concentrate. Lan Wangji had been typing away on his phone, but finally the soothing tapping of his fingers ceased.
“You are… different. With her.”
Wei Wuxian gave a slight hum and lifted his head off the backrest. “She’s my family. She’s known me since I was five years old.” He didn’t remember much from his early days with the Jiang family, only bits and pieces, but most of all that Jiang Yanli had been kind to him from the get-go. She had never given him the feeling that he would be sent away if he didn’t behave, in stark contrast to her mother. She had treated him exactly the same as her real brother. “She put up with me as a teenager, so I can get away with more than with anyone else.”
Lan Wangji didn’t say anything for a while, until: “It’s nice. The trust you have in her.”
“Yeah,” Wei Wuxian said and then pushed himself up from the couch. “I think I’m going to head to bed.”
“Good night,” Lan Wangji said, and Wei Wuxian looked back at him, sure he was leaving something unsaid. But he knew better than to probe.
“Good night, Lan Zhan.”
chapters miiight come a little slowly for the next couple weeks while i'm getting used to my job