“Lan Qiren!” Wei Wuxian makes a hasty salute, stepping back and trying to pretend he’s not angling Lan Wangji between them. “Fancy meeting you here.”
“Wei Wuxian. Nephew,” Lan Qiren says stiffly and then slightly less stiffly as Lan Wangji makes a respectful salute. “This is the Could Recesses. I live here.”
“Of course, of course. Well, we’re just passing through, and I’m sure you two have lots to discuss, so I’ll just -” Wei Wuxian tugs on Lan Wangji’s sleeve and Lan Wangji turns obligingly, enough for Wei Wuxian to lift on his toes to brush his lips over Lan Wangji’s cheek. “I’ll catch up with you later, okay?”
“Mn,” is what he gets in response, but Lan Wangji’s eyes are warm as he straightens.
Lan Qiren clears his throat, and when Wei Wuxian looks over Lan Qiren’s face is dark.
“What?” It’s not like their relationship is a secret, and surely Lan Qiren of all people isn’t the last to know -
“Excessive physical displays of affection are -” Lan Qiren starts and suddenly Wei Wuxian knows what this is about.
“Forbidden in the Cloud Recesses,” he finishes. “Sorry. It’s, uh -” He glances at Lan Wangji’s face and changes course. “You know what? I’ll just wait for you in the jingshi.”
He takes the long way back, though, wandering the perfectly paved stone pathways at a lazy stroll. The trees are blooming, just as he remembers them. He picks a just-opened blossom and twirls the stem in his fingers as his feet carry on on their own.
Habit, is what he’d been about to say, what he had swallowed at the last minute. Now that he’s thinking about it, Wei Wuxian isn’t sure that both hands would be enough to count the number of times he absently kisses Lan Wangji over the course of a day. He wakes up nearly every day to firm lips moving against his; to press a kiss against Lan Wangji’s temple as he reads, to lift Lan Wangji’s hand to his mouth as they walk, to brush his lips against Lan Wangji’s cheek when they part has become natural as breathing and just as necessary. His fingers itch at the thought of not being able to touch Lan Wangji, and he sighs and sticks the flower in his hair.
He winds up sitting on the front steps of the jingshi, waiting for Lan Wangji to finish his affairs. He’d gone inside earlier, but he’d forgotten that he’d long since drunk all of the alcohol secreted under floorboards, and whiling away the time indoors without it felt too much like hiding. So he’d settled on the front steps, propped back on his elbows and watching the clouds move.
A tall figure backlit by the sun looms over him, and Wei Wuxian squints before brightening. “Lan Zhan!”
Wei Wuxian has become something of a connoisseur of Lan Wangji’s facial expressions, and what he’s wearing right now might count as a smile only on the barest of technicalities, but it warms Wei Wuxian down to his toes. Lan Wangji extends a hand and Wei Wuxian meets him halfway, letting Lan Wangji pull him up.
“How was Lan Qiren? Is he going to chase me out for breaking the rules?” Wei Wuxian rocks on his heels, folding his hands behind his back to keep them from instinctively reaching out to pull Lan Wangji closer. This is Lan Wangji’s home; the least Wei Wuxian can do is make an effort. When he remembers.
“Uncle is well.” Lan Wangji pauses. “He’s been reminded of an - alternate interpretation of that particular proscription.”
Wei Wuxian feels his eyebrows climb. “I wasn’t aware the Lan Sect rules were open to interpretation.”
“They are not,” Lan Wangji agrees. “But there is an argument to be made nonetheless.”
“What kind of argummph.” Wei Wuxian stumbles as a strong hand closes around his bicep and firm lips press against his own. Lan Wangji’s other arm curls around his back, pulling Wei Wuxian close and bending him backward, until Wei Wuxian loses his footing and has to cling to Lan Wangji’s shoulders to stay upright. Lan Wangji’s mouth is hot and fierce and everything Wei Wuxian has come to expect behind closed doors or out in a deserted meadow - not in the middle of the Cloud Recesses, in front of the place he calls home, after being chastised by a respected elder.
“Wh- what -” Wei Wuxian pants when Lan Wangji breaks off to nose at his neck. “What happened to ‘excessive displays of physical affection are forbidden?’”
“The argument lies in the word ‘excessive,’” Lan Wangji replies, voice even and calm. He still hasn’t let Wei Wuxian go, and Wei Wuxian shivers at the puff of breath against his skin. “It implies a disparity, that the feelings expressed exceed their true nature.”
Wei Wuxian blinks. “Are you saying -”
Lan Wangji pulls back, steadying Wei Wuxian against him as he regains his footing. “There is no physical display that could exceed my feelings for you,” Lan Wangji murmurs.
Wei Wuxian stares, and then bursts into laughter.
“I can’t believe you argued with your uncle over your right to kiss me in public,” he marvels.
“I would do far more for less,” Lan Wangji replies simply, and Wei Wuxian feels his face heat.
“As would I,” he murmurs, leaning in because he wants to, because he can, because he’d risk Lan Qiren’s displeasure a thousand times over to feel Lan Wangji’s arms tighten around him and the firm movement of his mouth against Wei Wuxian’s own.
“You set a dangerous precedent, Lan Zhan,” he murmurs against Lan Wangji’s lips, his own curling up wickedly. “My affection for you far exceeds any physical display I could put on. But for you, I will try: in the bathing pools, in the Library Pavilion, on the bank of the river, underneath the blooming trees -”
“Ridiculous,” Lan Wangji says, but Wei Wuxian can feel his smile against his own.
“Always,” he agrees, and closes the final distance between them.