Wei Wuxian slides his motorcycle into the last open spot on the street, killing the motor and pulling his helmet off. He’s probably not late, but he still needs to hustle if he’s going to make it to class on time.
A familiar profile passes him as he slips off the bike, and Wei Wuxian feels a smile breaking across his face.
“Lan Zhan! Lan Zhan, wait up!” Lan Wangji doesn’t slow at all, and Wei Wuxian huffs, backpack bouncing as he sprints to catch up.
Lan Wangji continues to look straight ahead even as Wei Wuxian draws abreast. He takes a sip from a steaming travel cup. “Unpunctual.”
“Not today! Since you’re here, I know that I’m not late.” Wei Wuxian peers into Lan Wangji’s face. “Or was that an attempt to drive me off with a ten dollar word? It won’t work; I have one of those word-of-the-day calendars. Jiang Cheng got it for me.”
Lan Wangji’s face doesn’t change at all, but Wei Wuxian doesn’t let that bother him. “Speaking of Jiang Cheng, are you going to be at our place on Saturday? Everyone’s coming, it’s going to be awesome.”
Lan Wangji’s voice is so low that Wei Wuxian almost doesn’t hear it. “I don’t attend parties.”
“I know you don’t, which is why you should come to this one. Defy everyone’s expectations. Make a splash.”
Lan Wangji shoots him a sidelong glance, flat and icy, and he doesn’t respond but Wei Wuxian counts it as a victory anyway.
The younger Lan brother is something of an enigma on campus; while Lan Xichen can sometimes be seen in the company of other graduate students or conducting a seminar, Lan Wangji appears to spend all his time in class or in the library. He doesn’t drink. He doesn’t smoke. He doesn’t attend social events. He doesn’t do anything for fun, as far as Wei Wuxian can tell, and it’s driving Wei Wuxian just a little bit up the wall.
Maybe more than a little bit. Wei Wuxian turns around so he’s walking backwards as they approach the lecture hall. “This is me, personally inviting you. I’ll be sad if I don’t see you, and you wouldn’t want that, right?”
Lan Wangji’s eyes flick toward his and then he’s lifting his hand, reaching for Wei Wuxian’s shoulder -
Reaching over Wei Wuxian’s shoulder to push the door open just as Wei Wuxian’s backpack hits it. Wei Wuxian stumbles backward into the room, regaining his footing just in time to catch the exasperated look Professor Song sends his way. They’ve still got a few minutes before lecture starts though, so technically Wei Wuxian is still in the clear.
Lan Wangji sweeps past him, heading for his customary seat in the front, and luck must be on Wei Wuxian’s side because there’s an empty seat at the same table. Wei Wuxian follows close on Lan Wangji’s heels, sliding in across from him.
“You’ll come, right?” Wei Wuxian whispers as he digs through his bag for a pen. He comes up empty-handed and sheepishly turns to his right. “Do you have a -”
Lan Wangji is already pushing a pen toward him, and Wei Wuxian is about to ask about the party again when Professor Song clears his throat meaningfully. Wei Wuxian sits up straight, turning his eyes front - but not before grabbing the pen and mouthing thank you. Lan Wangji doesn’t react, but Wei Wuxian is used to that, and as Professor Song begins to speak he settles in to pay attention.
Or at least - he pays some attention. He’s done the reading and this lecture doesn’t seem to be expanding much on it, so Wei Wuxian finds himself doodling in the margins of his notebook - trees, bunnies, a series of increasingly detailed geometric shapes. He glances over once but Lan Wangji continues to focus straight ahead, making careful, perfect notes in his unimpeachable handwriting. Wei Wuxian looks down at his own messy notes and sighs, turning over a new page. Maybe a fresh start will help him.
It doesn’t. Fortunately lecture is short today, Professor Song concluding at just past the forty-five minute mark.
“For your next project,” he says, shuffling his papers together. “Your groups will be assigned by the tables you’re sitting at today. The assignment details are on the syllabus - I expect your papers and presentations in two weeks. Class time until then is set aside for this project. Good luck.” With that, he sweeps out the door, and Wei Wuxian thinks he sees Professor Xiao waiting on the other side but he’s already turning to Lan Wangji, grin stretching across his face.
“Lan Zhan! Aren’t you lucky, we get to be partners.” Lan Wangji doesn’t look at him, neatly storing his notes away, and the student sitting next to Wei Wuxian clears his throat.
“We’re here too, you know,” Su Minshan says, and across from him Luo Qingyang nods her head.
Wei Wuxian waves his hands. “Ah, of course, of course! We’re going to crush it, right team?”
No one at his table looks convinced.
“We’ll take the first topic,” Lan Wangji says, in a tone that invites no argument. “Come prepared for the next class with five sources and a potential thesis. We’ll discuss division of work then.” He closes his bag and rises, discussion apparently over.
“Five - okay, fine, five sources, Lan Zhan, wait.” Wei Wuxian scrambles out of his seat, leaving the other two behind as he rushes to catch up with Lan Wangji.
“You have to come now, right? We’re partners,” he says as he follows Lan Wangji out the door.
“We are classmates,” Lan Wangji corrects, sparing him half a glance as he sets off in the direction of the library.
Wei Wuxian falls in beside him. “Yeah, but we could be more.” Lan Wangji stumbles - strange, the paths on campus are usually kept immaculately clean, but there must have been a stray rock. “Just you wait, we’re going to decimate this project and you’re going to regret ever doubting me.”
“...I don’t doubt you.” It’s so quiet that Wei Wuxian doubts he even hears it at first, and when he looks over Lan Wangji is still staring straight ahead but the tips of his ears are turning faintly pink.
Wei Wuxian can feel his grin stretching even wider. “Then you believe me when I say you should come on Saturday, right?” He bumps Lan Wangji’s shoulder with his. “It’ll be fun, I promise.”
“...I will think about it,” is all Lan Wangji says, and that’s not a yes but it’s not a no either, and Wei Wuxian grins for all he’s worth.
It’s somewhere past sunset and Wei Wuxian is well on his way to being drunk. The lower floor of the house he shares with Jiang Cheng and Nie Huaisang is packed with undergrads, the couch and chairs overflowing while the kitchen buzzes with the sound of voices and the refrigerator opening and closing. Jiang Cheng is currently destroying a business major whose name Wei Wuxian can’t remember at beer pong while Nie Huaisang officiates; as Wei Wuxian watches Jiang Cheng executes a masterful shot and claims victory, downing the whiskey Nie Huaisang hands him as his prize in one swallow. Jiang Cheng beckons the next challenger forward, and Wei Wuxian turns away, feeling a smile tug at his mouth.
It fades, though, as he drifts through the dining room to the kitchen and back toward the front room, eyes drifting over the crowd for a face that refuses to appear. He drains his beer and sighs.
“Cheer up, Wei-xiong.” Nie Huaisang appears out of nowhere and exchanges Wei Wuxian’s empty cup for a full one. “Try this, it’ll take your mind off him.”
“I really don’t know what you’re talking about,” Wei Wuxian lies, taking a sip of his drink -
And nearly spits it back up, the fumes hitting the back of his throat as he swallows.
“Holy -” he swallow and coughs. “Holy shit, did you mix this?”
Nie Huaisang beams. “Yep! Qinghe’s famous grain alcohol. Cures what ails you.”
Wei Wuxian takes another cautious sip. “It’s - not bad,” he says approvingly. “Once you get used to the kick.”
“I thought you’d like it.” Nie Huaisang pats him on the shoulder and Wei Wuxian pretends he can’t hear the sympathy in his voice. “I have to get back - try to enjoy yourself.”
“I always enjoy myself!” Wei Wuxian calls after him as Nie Huaisang makes his way back to the beer pong table just as Jiang Cheng crows another victory. Nie Huaisang waves over his shoulder, and Wei Wuxian sniffs, taking a healthy slug of his drink.
Once the initial burn fades, this stuff is really quite good. It’s settling a pleasant, warm glow around Wei Wuxian, one that almost lets him forget why he’d been moping in the first place.
It had been - overly optimistic, probably, to hope Lan Wangji would actually show. He has better things to do than hang around with Wei Wuxian, and Wei Wuxian can’t even blame him, but it would have been...nice. Wei Wuxian is surrounded by friends and friendly faces; he can’t explain even to himself why they’re suddenly not enough, why the only face he wants to see hasn’t bothered to come.
He’s getting despondent again. Wei Wuxian shakes himself. He’s supposed to be having fun, and he’s going to do it with or without Lan Wangji.
The Qinghe alcohol really does have magical properties; by the bottom of the glass Wei Wuxian is feeling much better about life and the world in general, and he extracts the location of the bottle from Nie Huaisang in exchange for a promise to help him study for his organic chemistry final. An easy promise to make, as he was planning on doing it anyway. He’s just refilled his glass and is thinking about going to investigate the progress of the beer pong tournament when he turns and nearly runs face-first into someone behind him. Two hands come up to to steady him as he wavers on his feet, and Wei Wuxian concentrates on stabilizing his drink.
“Shit, sorry man, I didn’t see you -” Drink safely contained, Wei Wuxian looks up and loses the rest of his thought. His face breaks into a grin he can feel stretching the corners of his mouth; this alcohol must have magical powers, because it’s brought him the one thing he was missing.
“Lan Zhan!” Lan Wangji drops his hands from Wei Wuxian’s arms and Wei Wuxian shivers at the sudden loss of contact. “When did you get here?”
“Just now.” Lan Wangji folds his hands behind his back and Wei Wuxian watches them go, vaguely regretful. He shakes himself; where are his manners?
“Let me get you something to drink,” he says, turning toward the fridge. “We’ve got, uh - beer, more beer, beer that’s pretending to be seltzer, actual seltzer - oh, and this. Nie Huaisang brought it from Qinghe. Guaranteed to cure what ails you!” Wei Wuxian waves his cup.
“...I would like a seltzer,” Lan Wangji says after eyeing Wei Wuxian’s cup for a moment.
“Seltzer! No problem, no problem.” Wei Wuxian pulls one from the fridge and straightens. “One seltzer water coming right up,” he says, handing it to Lan Wangji. He goes to take another sip of his own drink - this is really good stuff, he’ll have to thank Nie Huaisang later - but all that happens is a cold can bumping against his lips. He frowns, looking down at the can in his hand - that’s Lan Wangji’s seltzer, but he already gave it to Lan Wangji, what is it doing in his hands -
Long fingers pluck the can out of his hand and replace it with his cup, and Wei Wuxian brightens.
“How much have you had to drink?” Lan Wangji asks, popping open his seltzer water.
“Not enough!” Wei Wuxian replies, slinging his free arm around Lan Wangji’s shoulders. Lan Wangji tenses, but then he relaxes under Wei Wuxian’s touch and that warms Wei Wuxian right down to his toes.
Or maybe that’s the grain alcohol. It’s hard to tell at this point.
“Let me show you around. This is your first time here, you gotta get the tour.” We Wuxian directs Lan Wangji toward the dining room. “First up is Jiang Cheng, beer pong champion, but only when I’m not playing…”
The tour doesn’t take long; the house isn’t that big. Jiang Cheng is wavering on his feet but still standing undefeated, although his eyes widen when he sees Lan Wangji being tugged along under Wei Wuxian’s arm. Nie Huaisang gives Wei Wuxian a cheerful thumbs up and Wei Wuxian speeds Lan Wangji along before either of his housemates can say anything Wei Wuxian will regret. The front room is evolving into an impromptu dance party, the bassline thumping in Wei Wuxian’s ribcage. Wei Wuxian glances over at Lan Wangji, but Lan Wangji just shakes his head, taking a sip of his seltzer.
That’s fine. They don’t have to dance. It’s not like they’re -
“Lan Zhan.” Wei Wuxian slides his hand down Lan Wangji’s arm and catches his hand. “Come with me. I want to show you something.”
He drains his drink and sets his cup aside, tugging Lan Wangji up the stairs, the bass following them up to the second floor. Lan Wangji hesitates for a second when Wei Wuxian pushes open the door to his room - maybe Wei Wuxian should have picked up a little more this afternoon? Nah, whatever, it’s fine - but follows when Wei Wuxian turns to look at him. Wei Wuxian pulls Lan Wangji past his messy bed, dropping to his knees in front of the cage tucked into the corner.
“Look,” he says, tugging on Lan Wangji’s hand, and Lan Wangji kneels slowly next to him. “Aren’t they cute?”
“...very cute,” Lan Wangji says as Wei Wuxian lets go of his hand and reaches forward to undo the cage door. Out of the corner of his eye Wei Wuxian sees Lan Wangji’s hand twitch and then settle on his thigh, then Wei Wuxian is busy reaching in to pull out the soft black rabbit that had come forward to investigate. The white one is still against the back of the cage, but he’ll come out in a moment, Wei Wuxian knows.
“They just showed up on our doorstep,” Wei Wuxian says softly, lifting the black rabbit out. It wiggles in his hands but calms as he pets it. “They’re clearly domesticated; Jiang Cheng thinks someone dumped them, and that’s bullshit, don’t you think?” He can hear himself getting angrier and takes a deliberate breath.
“Selfish,” Lan Wangji says, and Wei Wuxian nods emphatically.
“Right. If I knew who they belonged to - well, used to belong to, they’re mine now. Jiang Cheng doesn’t care about them and Nie Huaisang’s only interested in birds. Um. Anyway.” Wei Wuxian frowns, trying to focus. “If I knew who had dumped them I’d uh. I’d. Something.”
“I’m sure you would,” Lan Wangji sounds sincere, reaching out to stroke the rabbit’s ears. Wei Wuxian beams at him.
“I knew you’d understand, Lan Zhan,” he says, settling the black rabbit back in the cage as it starts wiggling again. The white one hops over to be petted, and Wei Wuxian obliges before shutting the cage door again and leaning back against the bed.
“You always understand,” Wei Wuxian continues, leaning back against the bed, and Lan Wangji shifts to sit next to him. “That’s just one of the things I like about you.”
Lan Wangji tenses next to him and Wei Wuxian leans into him to dispel it. “I mean it. Who wouldn’t like the great Lan Wangji, straight-A honors student and second heir to Gusu Lan, tell me that.”
Lan Wangji sighs and shifts as though he’s about to get up and Wei Wuxian puts a frantic hand on his thigh. “Wait, wait.” Lan Wangji stills immediately under his touch, and he’s not quite looking at Wei Wuxian but he’s not moving anymore, and that’s good. “I’m sorry, I say stupid stuff all the time, just ignore me; look, you came all this way - stay with me a while longer?”
Lan Wangji shifts again, but he settles back down next to Wei Wuxian without a word. Wei Wuxian blows out a breath and leans on him again; the room is starting to spin a little bit but Lan Wangji is a warm, grounding presence at his side.
“Do they have names?” Lan Wangji asks, and it takes Wei Wuxian a second to remember the rabbits.
“Not yet,” he says. “I’m waiting for inspiration to strike.”
“...then what do you call them?”
Wei Wuxian grins. “Bun One and Bun Two.”
Lan Wangji doesn’t reply, but the silence this time is less disapproving and more considering.
“I know, I know. I should give them real names! But I haven’t found anything that seems right yet.” Wei Wuxian turns and looks at Lan Wangji, and they are very close like this, but Wei Wuxian can’t make himself back away.
“You know that feeling, right? When something just feels right?” Wei Wuxian can hear his voice dropping, as if he’s imparting secrets; and maybe he is, from the way Lan Wangji hesitates, then slowly nods.
“That’s worth waiting for, don’t you think?” Wei Wuxian says, and how had he ever thought Lan Wangji’s eyes were cold? They’re so warm, just like the warmth Wei Wuxian can feel from where they’re pressed together shoulder to knee.
Lan Wangji nods again, and Wei Wuxian’s cheeks are starting to hurt; he must be smiling like an idiot, but he’s more than willing to be an idiot, especially for Lan Wangji, especially for -
“Oof.” Wei Wuxian comes abruptly back to consciousness as he’s unceremoniously dumped on the floor.
“Ow,” he moans piteously, cradling his head. “Jiang Cheng, have mercy.”
“No,” his brother says, because he is cruel and uncaring. He nudges Wei Wuxian with his foot. “Get up, we have cleaning to do.”
Wei Wuxian sits up, blinking against the bright morning sunlight. It’s - clearly no longer the night of the party. Had he fallen asleep? Had he fallen asleep on -
“Where’s Lan Zhan?” he says, and Jiang Cheng looks at him strangely.
“Obviously not here,” he says, as if explaining things to a small child. “Lan Xichen came and got him last night. Don’t you remember?”
Does he? He remembers bringing Lan Wangji up to his room, remembers showing him his rabbits - and he winces now to think about what that must have looked like, but Lan Wangji had been gracious as always, letting Wei Wuxian ramble on without objection.
Except when Wei Wuxian had called him the second Lan heir. Strange. Wei Wuxian had thought Lan Wangji got along with his brother.
They must, if Lan Xichen had come and collected him last night. Wei Wuxian rubs his forehead one last time and drops his hand. Jiang Cheng had rolled him off the bed - he must have gone right to sleep after Lan Wangji had left.
Hopefully after. Hopefully he hadn’t gone to sleep on Lan Wangji.
He’s distracted from that horrifying prospect by the bottle of painkillers landing in his lap, and when he looks up Jiang Cheng is holding out a water bottle toward him.
“Here.” Jiang Cheng waves the bottle impatiently. “Take these, you’ll feel better. Huaisang’s got coffee going downstairs.”
“Thanks.” The cool water is refreshing, and it will take a bit for the painkillers to kick in but the promise of coffee is doing a lot to get him off the floor and on his feet. “Why are you so cheerful this morning, anyway?”
Jiang Cheng grins and reaches a hand out. “You’re looking at the undefeated champion from last night. No one could stand against me, not even with the victory shots.”
“Ha. That’s just because I wasn’t playing.” Jiang Cheng snorts but pulls Wei Wuxian to his feet.
“Whatever. At least I didn’t disappear with one of the Lan brothers for hours.”
Hours? “I was showing him my rabbits!”
Jiang Cheng rolls his eyes. “Is that what you’re calling it?”
“I was.” Wei Wuxian gestures toward the cage. “Tell him, buns!”
“Sure.” Jiang Cheng gives him a good-natured shove toward the door. “Come on, the house isn’t going to clean itself.”
Wei Wuxian lets himself be propelled down the stairs. Jiang Cheng can believe what he wants; Wei Wuxian knows the truth, and Lan Wangji knows the truth, and Wei Wuxian’s rabbits know the truth, for all that they are traitors who won’t stick up for him. He regrets not being awake enough to say goodbye to Lan Wangji, to see him out the door personally, but there’s always class. And now that Lan Wangji has come over once, there’s no excuse not for him not to come again.
If he discounts the pounding in his temples and Jiang Cheng handing him a trash bag, there’s really no downside to this at all.
Wei Wuxian drops into what he’s starting to think of as his customary seat across from Lan Wangji. “Lan Zhan. Lan Zhan.” Lan Wangji doesn’t look up, sorting through a stack of papers in front of him. A steaming cup sits next to him, from a place Wei Wuxian recognizes near campus, and Wei Wuxian can smell the clean fresh aroma of good green tea.
Wei Wuxian props his head on his hands. “Lan Zhaaaaaan, are you even going to look at me?”
“No.” Lan Wangji hands him a sheet of paper without looking up. Wei Wuxian takes it; it’s a copy of the assignment, boring. He sets it aside.
“Aw, come on,” Wei Wuxian says as Luo Qingyang - MianMian, she’d said to call her - settles in next to Lan Wangji. “I just want to know if you had a good time this weekend. You did, right? You wouldn’t lie to me, I know you wouldn’t.”
Lan Wangji doesn’t look at him, passing out copies of the assignment to MianMian and Su Minshan, who reaches their table just before the clock ticks past the hour. Lan Wangji glances at Su Minshan and irritation flicks across Su Minshan’s face.
“I’m not late,” he says, dropping into his seat. “Not being early is not the same as being late.”
Wei Wuxian tries one more time. “Lan Zhan -”
“Yes,” Lan Wangji says, looking down at the papers in front of him. The tips of his ears are pink. “Yes, I - I had a good time.”
“What -” Su Minshan starts, but Wei Wuxian talks right over him, beaming.
“I knew it! See, you have to trust me in these things, Lan Zhan, I can always show you a good time.”
Su Minshan coughs and Lan Wangji’s ears turn red; he stares fixedly at the papers in front of him and MianMian clears her throat.
“Can we just do this project? Please?”
“Sources,” Lan Wangji says, and Wei Wuxian turns to dig through his bag as the others do the same.
The topic Lan Wangji had selected for them has a couple obvious starting places; after some initial reading, however, Wei Wuxian thinks that they can take this project in a different direction. MianMian seems willing to hear him out, but Su Minshan is being stubbornly argumentative.
“Transducive - what does that even mean. Did you make that up?” Su Minshan demands.
Wei Wuxian rolls his eyes. “Did you even do the reading? ‘From the particular to the particular?’ Here,” Wei Wuxian reaches for a sheet of paper. “It’s like - oh, does anyone have a -”
Lan Wangji pushes a pen across the table, and Wei Wuxian picks it up with a grin. “Thanks. It’s like this,” he continues, drawing out a diagram on the back of the assignment sheet. Su Minshan nods, but the looks on his face says he doesn’t get it. Lan Wangji does, though, Wei Wuxian can tell.
“Unorthodox,” Lan Wangji says when Wei Wuxian is finished explaining.
“Not wrong, though,” Wei Wuxian says, spinning the pen in his fingers. “Go on, tell me where it’s wrong.”
Lan Wangji turns the diagram toward himself, skimming the page again, and Wei Wuxian can see the corner of his mouth turn up.
“See? You can’t. And this is way more interesting than just repeating the textbook, you can’t argue with that.”
“As long as we can defend it, we’ll be fine,” MianMian puts in, pulling the diagram toward herself. “And this looks defensible.”
“It’s decided, then,” Lan Wangji says. Su Minshan huffs but doesn’t argue, which is all Wei Wuxian really wants out of him. “Have your parts ready by Tuesday of next week.”
“Tuesday - but it’s not due until Friday,” Wei Wuxian says, pouting.
Lan Wangji’s tone leaves no room for argument. “Tuesday. Gives us time to review and rewrite.”
“Aw, come on, Lan Zhan. Are you saying you don’t trust us to do the assignment well? Are you saying you don’t trust me?” Wei Wuxian gives Lan Wangji his most winning smile.
Lan Wangji eyes him flatly and MianMian clears her throat.
“Tuesday. Got it. No problem,” she says, closing her laptop and gathering up her papers. “I think we’re done here?”
Lan Wangji nods and Wei Wuxian sighs, leaning back in his chair as MianMian and Su Minshan push back their chairs and head for the doorway. They seem in a hurry to get out of here; admittedly their group is the last to have finished up, the classroom otherwise empty. Wei Wuxian wonders if there’s something happening on campus that he missed.
“Review and rewrite, huh?” Wei Wuxian taps his pen against his mouth as the door swings shut. “MianMian will be fine, but - you’re worried about Su Minshan?”
Lan Wangji glances at Wei Wuxian, eyes flicking to the pen and away. He nods briefly, gathering up his notes.
“You think we’re going to have to write his part for him?” Wei Wuxian stretches. “Wouldn’t be the first time, I guess.”
“We will rewrite until all sections are acceptable,” Lan Wangji says, settling his bag over his shoulder and standing. “All of us.”
Wei Wuxian huffs. “There you go doubting me again. It hurts, Lan Zhan, it really does.” He splays a hand over his chest. “Have I ever led you astray?”
Lan Wangji pauses, glancing at him sideways. His gaze is thoughtful, evaluative, and Wei Wuxian straightens underneath it. He knows what Lan Wangji thinks of him: irresponsible, flighty, too distractible. But it’s important, suddenly, that Lan Wangji know that Wei Wuxian would never let him down, not when it counted.
Lan Wangji shakes his head, glancing away again, and Wei Wuxian relaxes, unaccountably relieved.
“We’re going to be great together, Lan Zhan.” Wei Wuxian tips his chair back so it’s leaning on the rear two legs. “You’ll see.”
Lan Wangji looks at him, really looks at him for the first time since class had started; his lips part like he’s going to say something, and maybe Wei Wuxian is just getting better at reading him but it looks a lot like Lan Wangji is suddenly uncertain.
Then Lan Wangji purses his lips together and turns away, shifting his bag higher on his shoulder.
“Okay bye!” Wei Wuxian calls as Lan Wangji stalks away. “See you on Wednesday?”
Lan Wangji hesitates. He nods briefly over his shoulder, then pushes through the door and is gone. Wei Wuxian lets the chair thump back down to the floor. He gathers up his own belongings slowly, sticking the pen behind his ear. He finds himself replaying the look on Lan Wangji’s face right before he had left; Wei Wuxian’s never seen Lan Wangji look anything less than flatly confident, and he finds that he doesn’t like it much. He doesn’t know what Lan Wangji has to be uncertain about, here. Certainly not Wei Wuxian. Maybe he’s more worried about Su Minshan than he’s letting on?
Well, Wei Wuxian won’t be the reason this project fails, and he’ll do his best to make sure Su Minshan isn’t, either. Time to get to work.
Wei Wuxian has his laptop, three books, and seven articles spread over the coffee table when Jiang Cheng stops behind the couch, still covered in sweat and grass stains from rugby practice.
“You’re working hard,” he says. “Is this Professor Song’s class?”
“Yeah,” Wei Wuxian says, muffled. He takes the highlighter out from between his teeth and tosses it on the table, leaning back so he can grin at Jiang Cheng upside down. “Gotta impress Lan Zhan. Did I tell you we’re in the same group?”
“Who’d be impressed by you? Also you did. Repeatedly.” Jiang Cheng flicks him on the forehead and Wei Wuxian bats his hand away. Jiang Cheng snorts and turns away, heading for the stairs; Wei Wuxian sits back up, reaching for his highlighter.
“Are you -” Wei Wuxian looks up and around; Jiang Cheng is paused with his foot on the bottom stair, face creased like he’s getting the words out against his own will. “Are you two - and believe me, I do not want any details - but are you like…”
“Like what?” Wei Wuxian shifts so he’s facing Jiang Cheng, unfolding and refolding his legs. They’re cramping a bit; maybe he’s been sitting too long?
Jiang Cheng glares. “You know.”
“I don’t know, unless -” Jiang Cheng glares harder. Wei Wuxian’s eyes widen.
“Me? And Lan Zhan? Jiang Cheng, did you get kicked in the head or what, how could you - Lan Zhan?” Wei Wuxian laughs, although he’s surprised at the edge of wistfulness it carries. “I’m working on him, but honestly I’m lucky he tolerates me.”
Jiang Cheng’s face does something strange and he throws his hands up into the air. “Fine,” he says, turning away. “But don’t come crying to me when this comes crashing down around you.”
That seems overly dramatic, even for Jiang Cheng. “Everything’s fine,” Wei Wuxian calls as Jiang Cheng heads up the stairs. “Nothing to worry about!” Jiang Cheng flips him off as he disappears upstairs.
Wei Wuxian sticks his tongue out, even though he can already hear the shower starting on the second floor, and settles back against the couch. He surveys his mess of papers and notes, and the half-started essay on his computer.
Him and Lan Wangji? Wei Wuxian laughs again just thinking about it. It’s not that Lan Wangji isn’t handsome - he is, extremely so. Wei Wuxian can objectively say that. It’s not that Wei Wuxian objects to Lan Wangji, in any aspect. If anything, Lan Wangji objects to him; he’s coming around, after much hard work on Wei Wuxian’s part, but Wei Wuxian is too wild, too improper, too much to be for someone like Lan Wangji.
Wei Wuxian shakes his head. Rugby practice must have gotten rough, for Jiang Cheng to be thinking like that. Maybe he should check for a concussion when Jiang Cheng gets out of the shower; in the meantime, he has a paper to write.
Tuesday morning arrives and with it an email from Lan Wangji with his section of the paper attached. Wei Wuxian grins and responds with his, and a notification from MianMian comes in only a few minutes later. Su Minshan doesn’t respond for most of the day; in fact, his section only comes in a few hours before midnight. Wei Wuxian briefly skims it and makes a face. Looks like they’ll be rewriting after all.
He’s up late thinking about it and manages to oversleep the next morning, only waking up when Jiang Cheng slams open his door.
“You’re going to be late if you don’t leave now,” Jiang Cheng snaps, flinging something at Wei Wuxian. His motorcycle keys hit Wei Wuxian’s chest as he blearily pushes himself up.
“Wha - aw fuck,” he says as he checks the time, suddenly a lot more awake. He slides out of bed, catching his keys before they can fall and scrambling for a decent shirt.
“I owe you one, Jiang Cheng,” he says breathlessly as he tugs on clothing that’s not too wrinkled. At least it’s clean. Jiang Cheng sniffs and sweeps away, disapproval writ large across his face - but he could have let Wei Wuxian sleep through class, and Wei Wuxian grins at his retreating back.
A quick trip to the bathroom later and he’s taking the stairs two at a time, flinging his backpack over his shoulder as he skids through the kitchen. Nie Huaisang holds out a thermos of coffee as he sips from his own cup - really, he’d been the smart one to only sign up for afternoon classes - and Wei Wuxian grabs it on his way out, tossing a heartfelt “thank you!” over his shoulder.
It’s only a short ride to school, at least; he slides his motorcycle into a miraculously available parking slot and sprints up the path toward class, sliding into his seat just a hair’s breadth ahead of Su Minshan and the clock. He sets his coffee thermos down triumphantly across from Lan Wangji’s customary cup of tea; Lan Wangji glances up from the stack of papers in front of him and Wei Wuxian grins, still catching his breath.
“Made it!” He eyes the stack in front of Lan Wangji. “Man, you must really like killing trees, Lan Zhan.”
Lan Wangji’s lips press together briefly. “Peer review,” he says, dividing the stack into four and passing them around the table. Wei Wuxian flips through his; it’s a copy of each of their essay pieces.
“Great idea,” he says, leaning down toward his bag. After a minute of searching he straightens again. “Does anyone have -”
He stops when he sees the pen sitting on the table in front of him. MianMian and Su Minshan are exchanging some sort of glance, and Lan Wangji is studying the papers in front of him, his own pen in hand, although the tips of his ears are turning pink.
Wei Wuxian smiles, watching the color travel down the curve of Lan Wangji’s ear. “Thanks, Lan Zhan.” He picks up the pen and sorts through the papers. “Who’s first?”
MianMian’s section goes quickly. There are a few clarifications, a few sentences that could use some expansion, but overall the introduction is clearly written and well thought out. MianMian makes notes and promises to have the revisions done by the next day. Su Minshan’s section is more difficult; by the time they’ve combed through the literature review, the paper in front of him is covered in corrective marks and his face is tight with irritation.
“Finally,” he snaps when Lan Wangji suggests they turn to Wei Wuxian’s section. Lan Wangji glances at him impassively and Su Minshan looks down at his papers, scowling. Wei Wuxian shrugs, flipping to his section.
The table reads through Wei Wuxian’s analysis in silence, and Wei Wuxian pretends to skim his own words while watching Lan Wangji over the top of the paper. He knows this section backwards and forwards; he can take constructive criticism, and in fact he looks forward to seeing what Lan Wangji has to say about his argument.
Lan Wangji is not cooperating, however, circling something here and there but otherwise holding his silence. The other two seem unwilling to break it, either, gaze fixed on their papers, and Wei Wuxian can’t take it anymore.
“Well?” He leans forward, trying to see what Lan Wangji is writing. “How is it?”
“Mn,” is what he gets in response. “Adequate.”
Wei Wuxian feels the grin spreading across his face. “Adequate! That’s high praise, Lan Zhan.” He leans back in his chair. “Did you hear that, guys? I’m adequate, you’re all my witnesses.”
Lan Wangji sighs, and pushes Wei Wuxian’s marked up paper across the table. His ears are pink again, and the sight warms something in Wei Wuxian’s chest. “Your citations are inconsistent,” Lan Wangji says calmly. “We’re using APA. Stick with it.”
Wei Wuxian salutes, sitting up. “Will do, will do. Is that it?”
“I don’t have anything to add,” MianMian says, and Su Minshan reluctantly agrees.
That leaves only Lan Wangji’s section, which predictably goes quickly. The writing is clear and concise, the conclusion strong and straightforward. Wei Wuxian underlines a few sentences as he reads through it as notes to himself; Lan Wangji has a way with the written word that is utterly unlike the reserved front he presents to the world, and Wei Wuxian always appreciates a good turn of phrase.
There’s only one thing - Wei Wuxian taps his mouth with his pen. “To be honest, I think we could be pushing this conclusion further.”
“Please god no,” Su Minshan says next to him. Wei Wuxian ignores him, looking at Lan Wangji.
“How so?” Lan Wangji says calmly, folding his hands. His face is neutral but his eyes are interested, and Wei Wuxian grins.
“Like -” Wei Wuxian leans forward and sketches a brief outline. “It’s pretty theoretical, but there’s more we could do here, don’t you think?”
“Save it for a project I’m not on,” Su Minshan mutters, folding his arms, and MianMian frowns as she looks over what Wei Wuxian’s proposing.
“It’s interesting,” she says, and Wei Wuxian can hear the but coming. “But we just don’t have time for that,” she says, confirming his suspicions.
“Lan Zhan. Come on. Indulge me. We could bang this out, you and me, right?” Wei Wuxian coaxes. “You two wouldn’t even have to do any of the work,” he adds toward MianMian and Su Minshan.
Lan Wangji regards him evenly, but Wei Wuxian can practically feel him thinking about it. It would be more work than they were asked to do, yeah, but it’s interesting, and Wei Wuxian is pretty sure Lan Wangji thinks so as well.
Lan Wangji shakes his head minutely, and Su Minshan lets out an explosive sigh of relief.
“We are supposed to share in the work equally,” Lan Wangji says, and Wei Wuxian huffs, leaning back. “What we have will suffice.”
“It’s already more than we were asked for,” MianMian puts in comfortingly, and Wei Wuxian sighs.
“Fine. I see you all don’t appreciate my genius,” he says loftily, sticking the pen behind his ear and folding his arms across his chest. “In that case, you have to let me pick the bar we hit after we present.”
“Deal,” MianMian laughs. Wei Wuxian half expects Lan Wangji to protest, or to refuse to come, but he slowly nods.
Wei Wuxian beams. Hanging out with Lan Wangji outside of class twice in two weeks? This is a new record, and that’s definitely worth celebrating.
“Lan Zhan. Lan Zhan. Lan Zhan.” Lan Wangji doesn’t move when Wei WuXian drops a heavy arm around his shoulders, and maybe he miscalculates the angle a bit, falling briefly into Lan Wangji’s side, but he catches himself on the table and it’s fine. It’s all fine. Almost as fine as -
“Lan Zhan.” Lan Wangji turns and Wei Wuxian grins into his face; it’s a really nice face, even nicer up close.
“Wei Ying,” Lan Wangji replies solemnly, and Wei Wuxian beams.
“We should have another round,” he announces, turning toward MianMian and Su Minshan. “Don’t you guys -”
He blinks when he’s confronted with empty chairs.
“Lan Zhan.” Wei Wuxian frowns. “Where’d they go?”
“Luo Qingyang and Su Minshan left,” Lan Wangji says, stating the obvious.
“Jeez.” Wei Wuxian leans a little harder on Lan Wangji. “I step away for one minute…”
“I would not take it personally,” Lan Wangji says. He’s warm against Wei Wuxian’s side, even through the heat of the crowded bar.
“Didn’t plan on it,” Wei Wuxian says, grinning down at him. “You’re still here.”
“I am,” Lan Wangji agrees. He looks down at the glass in his hands - water, of course - turning it in those long fingers.
It’s suddenly really hot in here. “One more drink, then, you and me? Well, me.” Wei Wuxian says, sliding into his own seat.
Lan Wangji hesitates, and then nods. “One more,” he agrees, and Wei Wuxian grins, flagging down their server.
One more turns into two more turns into it’s already dark by the time Wei Wuxian settles his tab and follows Lan Wangji out into the cool night air. Lan Wangji pulls his phone out at the same time Wei Wuxian reaches for his keys, and Lan Wangji glances over, brow creasing.
“Yeah.” Wei Wuxian attempts to spin the keys around his finger and ends up flinging them on the sidewalk. “Oh. Um. Maybe I should -”
“You should not drive,” Lan Wangji says, leaning down to scoop the keys off the sidewalk. He hefts them in his palm for a moment, and then, “Where are you parked?”
Wei Wuxian points. “That way - Lan Zhan, wait,” he hurries to catch up as Lan Wangji sets off.
“You have a spare helmet?” Lan Wangji asks as they approach Wei Wuxian’s motorcycle.
“Yeah, in the tail case, why -” Wei Wuxian stops and steadies himself against a streetlamp as Lan Wangji sorts through the keys and unlocks the storage case. “Lan Zhan. What are you -”
“I will take you home,” Lan Wangji says as he pulls out Wei Wuxian’s spare helmet, like it’s no big deal, like the thought isn’t setting Wei Wuxian’s head spinning.
“I don’t - do you even know how to drive this?” Wei Wuxian’s voice sounds faint even to his own ears, caught by the sight of Lan Wangji professionally settling the helmet over his head.
“I’ve had lessons,” Lan Wangji says, sliding onto Wei Wuxian’s bike like he knows what he’s doing. He turns to look over his shoulder. “Coming?”
Maybe later, Wei Wuxian thinks, and that’s - that’s wildly inappropriate, but so is the way Lan Wangji’s pants are stretched over his thighs.
“Wei Ying?” Lan Wangji says, and Wei Wuxian shakes himself.
“Okay, okay.” He swings a leg over the back of the bike and settles in behind Lan Wangji. The second seat is small, and he has to press himself close up against Lan Wangji’s back - for safety, Wei Wuxian tells himself as he puts his own helmet on and slides his arms around Lan Wangji’s waist. Can’t go falling off of his own bike, even if he’s not driving.
Lan Wangji starts the motor and pulls away from the curb with more grace than Wei Wuxian had frankly been expecting. Lan Wangji steers them away from the noise and clamor of the crowded bars, the wind catching at Wei Wuxian’s clothing as they pick up speed. Lan Wangji handles the bike with the same calm surety that he does everything else. He takes a sharp corner and Wei Wuxian laughs against his shoulder as the bike leans low; with the purr of the bike between his legs and Lan Wangji pressed warm and solid against him, Wei Wuxian can’t feel anything but safe.
They pull up in front of the house before Wei Wuxian really expects it. Lan Wangji kills the motor and rests the bike; Wei Wuxian unpeels his arms and slides off, taking off his helmet and shivering as the night air sets in. It seems cooler here than it had at the bar. Lan Wangji removes his helmet as well, and Wei Wuxian grins at the mess it’s made of his perfect hair. Wei Wuxian pats his pockets, and Lan Wangji hands him the motorcycle keys.
“Thanks,” Wei Wuxian says absently, “but I usually keep my house keys...separate…”
Did he take his house keys with him when he left this morning? He must have. Didn’t he? He has a sense memory of picking them up on his way out the door, but he can’t remember now if that was this morning, or all the other mornings he’s done it.
They’re not in his pockets. Wei Wuxian glances at the darkened house with a sinking feeling. Nie Huaisang sleeps like the dead...but Jiang Cheng is usually easy to wake.
“Do you -” Lan Wangji starts and Wei Wuxian waves a hand.
“It’s fine! It’s totally fine. Jiang Cheng will let me in. Probably.” Wei Wuxian bounds up the steps to the front door, pulling out his phone. Lan Wangji follows close behind.
Jiang Cheng answers just as it’s about to go to voicemail. “What,” he snaps, voice groggy from sleep.
“Jiang Cheng! I, uh. I left my house keys somewhere. Probably on my dresser. Let me in, plea- oh. He hung up,” he says, lowering the phone. “Don’t worry, Lan Zhan, I’ve got this.”
He knocks on the door. “Jiang Cheng! Come on, you wouldn’t let me be homeless, would you? Jiang Cheng!”
A light flicks on from one of the upstairs windows, and the door that leads to the tiny balcony outside Jiang Cheng’s room slides open. Wei Wuxian brightens.
“I knew you’d -” he starts, but Jiang Cheng’s voice cuts him off.
“Fuck. Off,” he snarls, and Wei Wuxian can see Lan Wangji’s unimpressed face clearly in the headlights of a passing car.
The door slams shut above them.
“Jiang Cheng. Jiang Cheng!” Wei Wuxian shouts. This is a little harsh, even for his brother.
“Well. Uh. This is awkward,” Wei Wuxian says, rubbing the back of his head. “But you don’t have to stay, Lan Zhan - you’ve already done so much for me, you don’t have to -” he wavers a little on his feet. Maybe he’s still a little more drunk than he thought.
Lan Wangji turns to glance toward the street, probably trying to figure out how to escape the situation. He must want to get home; it’s already late, and only politeness and his genuine goodness could have kept him here this long. Wei Wuxian feels a wave of affection wash over him as he lets his bag slide off his shoulder, moving to sit on the top step.
“I mean it,” he says, digging through his bag in one last vain search for his keys. “You should head home. I’ll just -”
“You’ll what?” Lan Wangji says from behind him, and Wei Wuxian turns to look at him.
“I’ll just. Stay here until someone gets up?” Wei Wuxian tries a smile. “It’s not that cold, it’s fine.”
A breeze gusts along and makes a liar out of him as he shivers. Lan Wangji frowns.
“Don’t worry about it, Lan Zhan, will you just - call an Uber or whatever? It’s late. You should get some sleep tonight.”
Lan Wangji glances toward the street again, still frowning. He takes a hesitant step down the stairs and Wei Wuxian relaxes. Finally. Who’d have thought Lan Wangji would be this stubborn -
A strong hand slips under his elbow, hauling him to his feet.
“Lan Zhan, what -” Wei Wuxian sputters, scrambling to get his feet underneath him as Lan Wangji pulls him down the stairs. He makes a grab for his bag, snagging it just before it gets out of reach. “Lan Zhan -”
“Give me your keys,” Lan Wangji says flatly.
“O- Okay, but if you want to take my bike home I’ll just have to come get it tomorrow,” Wei Wuxian says slowly. He’d be happy to offer Lan Wangji the use of his motorcycle, but that doesn’t explain why Lan Wangji is dragging him along.
“You can drive it home,” Lan Wangji says. “Tomorrow. You can stay with me tonight.”
“I - what.” Another passing car illuminates the scene briefly; Lan Wangji’s face is impassive as usual, but the tips of his ears are pink. “Wait. Really? You’re not joking?”
“No.” Lan Wangji finally lets go of him, turning to face him. “I wouldn’t joke about this.”
Wei Wuxian grins, laughter bubbling up in his chest. “Nah, you’re right - you’re too nice to joke about something like that, I - wow, really?”
“Really,” Lan Wangji confirms, turning away. He trips almost immediately, going down on one knee, but he steadies himself on the ground and straightens again, heading for the motorcycle. Unusual, for someone so graceful; but then again, the path isn’t particularly even and Wei Wuxian is in no position to comment on anyone’s coordination right now. He must have done something right in a previous life, Wei Wuxian thinks as he slides onto the motorcycle behind Lan Wangji for the second time, to know someone as upstanding as Lan Wangji. Taking Wei Wuxian home with him! He’ll really owe Lan Wangji after this…
Lan Wangji revs the engine as he pulls away from the curb, and Wei Wuxian laughs, tucking his head down against Lan Wangji’s shoulder. He’s somewhat sheltered from the wind like this, and maybe it’s the last drink still buzzing in his veins but it’s easy, so easy to just hold on and let Lan Wangji navigate them through the night.
The bike finally coasts to a stop in front of a very nice building in a much more sedate part of town than the one Wei Wuxian lives in. He follows Lan Wangji through the secured access entryway and up the elevator, trying to ignore the growing tension in his stomach.
“Lan Zhan, is this really okay?” he says quietly as he follows Lan Wangji down the hallway toward a corner apartment. “I mean - is your brother gonna be okay with me staying the night?” Or with me in general, he doesn’t say - the last time Lan Xichen had seen him, after all, had been that night at the house party.
Or - maybe he hadn’t. Jiang Cheng had just said he had come to collect his brother - maybe he hadn’t even seen Wei Wuxian passed out like a lightweight. Optimism, Wei Wuxian tells himself.
Lan Wangji glances at him as he fishes his own keys out. “My brother is asleep,” he says, unlocking the door and pushing it open. “He will not mind.”
“I’m holding you to that,” Wei Wuxian whispers as he follows Lan Wangji inside.
The apartment is large and tastefully appointed in muted blues and whites, leather and steel. Shining appliances glint at him from the kitchen and the city itself blinks peacefully from the large bay windows on the far side of the living area.
“Whoa,” Wei Wuxian murmurs, dropping his bag by the couch and drifting over. He folds his hands behind himself so he won’t touch the glass as he leans forward, taking it in. “This is a hell of a view, Lan Zhan.”
“Mn,” Lan Wangji says somewhere behind him, and Wei Wuxian glances back to see him lifting a stack of linens down from a closet.
“Oh - here, let me get that,” he says, hurrying over. He reaches out to take the stack away from Lan Wangji, but Lan Wangji pulls the blankets and pillow back toward himself.
“You are a guest,” he says, frowning.
“I’m an interloper,” Wei Wuxian says, tugging on the stack. “I was ready to crash on your couch as it is, Lan Zhan. I can make it up myself.”
Lan Wangji frowns harder, but he relinquishes the blankets and pillow. He follows Wei Wuxian back over as Wei Wuxian shakes the linens out and starts making up the couch. He shifts from one foot to the other, and then back again, and Wei Wuxian looks up as he plumps the pillow.
“What?” he says, and Lan Wangji shuts his mouth with an almost audible snap.
“Nothing,” he says stiffly, turning as if to leave, and Wei Wuxian reaches out to grab his arm.
“Lan Zhan, wait.” Lan Wangji stills almost instantly when Wei Wuxian touches him. “What were you going to say?”
Lan Wangji doesn’t quite look at him. “It’s nothing. The bathroom is down the hall,” he says, pointing. “There should be a spare toothbrush in the drawer. My room is that one. If - if you need anything,” he says in a rush.
Wei Wuxian beams. “Thanks, Lan Zhan, you’re the best.” He flops down on the couch, craning his head back to look up at Lan Wangji. “Have I told you lately that you’re the best? Because you are.” Lan Wangji’s mouth ghosts up for a second - but it’s gone almost as soon as Wei Wuxian sees it, and he loses several seconds trying to figure out if this upside-down angle means that was a smile or not.
“Good night, Wei Ying,” Lan Wangji says solemnly, and heads off down the hallway.
“Night!” Wei Wuxian calls as he disappears from view - but quietly, because the last things he wants to do is wake Lan Xichen. The morning will be awkward enough - but maybe he can be out of here before Lan Xichen ever notices.
Wei Wuxian closes his eyes and breathes deep, listening to the brief sounds of running water and gently closing doors as Lan Wangji gets ready for bed. He can feel tiredness tugging at his bones but his muscles are filled with a strange, restless energy. Wei Wuxian sits up, shrugging out of his jacket and draping it over the back of the couch. He lays back down, but his eyes won’t stay closed, popping open to stare at the gentle play of the city lights over the ceiling.
He blows out a breath. Maybe a trip to the bathroom will help.
He settles a little bit in the bathroom, following familiar rituals even in an unfamiliar space. He brushes his teeth and washes his face, selecting one of the myriad of skin products on the counter and patting his face dry on a towel he hopes is Lan Wangji’s. He stares at himself in the mirror for a moment before his own face gets to be too much and he shakes his head, turning off the light and padding back to the couch.
He lies on his left side, but despite the fact that he’s not sure anyone’s ever actually sat on this couch he can’t get comfortable. He turns over but that’s no better. He rolls onto his back and stares at the soft lights dancing on the ceiling. He knows he’s tired, he can feel it in the back of his eyes but they just won’t stay closed.
Wei Wuxian turns his head, staring down the hall at Lan Wangji’s closed door. If you need anything, he had said, and maybe this doesn’t count as need but it surely falls into the category of want -
Before he can think too much more about it he kicks off the blanket and heads toward the hallway, footfalls quiet on the hardwood floors. He speedwalks past the bathroom and pushes through Lan Wangji’s door. Lan Wangji starts, pushing himself halfway up and squinting in the light from the hallway as Wei Wuxian marches up to the bed and flops down next to him.
“Wh-” he starts, but Wei Wuxian is already talking.
“It’s okay - oh wow, your bed is super comfy, way comfier than the couch; man, how do you ever get out of bed in the morning? What thread count are these sheets? Oh,” he says, remembering. “Oh, no, it’s okay, Jiang Cheng lets me sleep in his bed when -”
Wei Wuxian stops as Lan Wangji’s jaw tightens, suddenly aware of what he was about to say, and - maybe this was a bad idea.
“What,” Lan Wangji says into the silence. “What, when you’re drunk off your ass?”
“Wow,” Wei Wuxian says thoughtfully. “I didn’t know you knew words like that. Even ‘ass’ sounds dignified when you say it, Lan Zhan - but no, no, I meant -”
“What?” Lan Wangji says when he stops again - but it’s softer this time.
This was a bad idea. It had seemed like a good idea but it was actually a bad idea, who knew -
“I -” It’s suddenly difficult to lie with Lan Wangji looking at him like that, and this is a terrible time to be learning this but Wei Wuxian’s life is full of difficulties, isn’t it.
“I can’t sleep, sometimes. I know it’s fine, I know I’m safe, but I can’t - I still can’t sleep, and it - it helps. To have someone else around,” he says in a rush. “But you know what, that’s my problem and not yours and I’ll just - I’ll just -”
He pushes himself up, swinging his legs over the side of the bed. What had he been thinking -
Except he knows exactly what he’d been thinking: that nowhere felt as safe as next to Lan Wangji. He had been hoping to borrow a little more of that, that’s all; but he’ll just go back to the couch and even if he doesn’t sleep a wink at least he won’t be bothering Lan Wangji anymore -
A hand grabs his wrist and Wei Wuxian freezes.
“Stay,” Lan Wangji says, and Wei Wuxian turns to look at him because he can’t not. He sounds - Lan Wangji sounds serious, but he can’t be serious, because this was too much, Wei Wuxian is always too much -
“Stay,” Lan Wangji repeats, as quietly sincere as if he’s not turning Wei Wuxian’s world upside down. “If it helps.”
“I -” Wei Wuxian always knows what to say, it’s one of his strengths, but he doesn’t know what to say to this, to Lan Wangji tugging at the covers until there’s room for Wei Wuxian to slip in beside him; and maybe there’s nothing to say, nothing to do except accept the invitation and crawl into Lan Wangji’s bed, to settle his head on one of Lan Wangji’s pillows and soak up the warmth Lan Wangji radiates. Wei Wuxian draws in a breath, letting the warm scent of Lan Wangji’s bed settle deep in his lungs. He lets it out slowly, and raises his eyes to where Lan Wangji is watching him steadily.
“Better?” Lan Wangji says. His eyes are warm even in the hushed dimness of his bedroom, and Wei Wuxian nods.
“Good. Go to sleep,” Lan Wangji orders, closing his eyes and settling further into his pillow. Wei Wuxian watches, fascinated by the sweep of lashes across Lan Wangji’s cheek, tucking his hand under his own cheek. Lan Wangji appears to have the enviable ability to fall instantly asleep, or else he’s very good at faking it; his breaths even out as Wei Wuxian watches, and Wei Wuxian thinks that even if he never gets to sleep tonight that it wouldn’t be a bad trade, to be able to watch this instead.
He can feel exhaustion pulling at him, though, and it would be poor repayment to Lan Wangji to not even attempt to sleep. Wei Wuxian searches Lan Wangji’s face one more time, and then closes his eyes.
Wei Wuxian comes back to wakefulness slowly, reluctant to let go of the lingering remnants of a pleasant dream. He’s extremely comfortable where he is, limbs heavy with a leaden contentment that says he slept deeply and well. It’s the weekend and he has nowhere to be; he can linger here in bed as long as he likes. He goes to roll on his side, but there’s something stopping him - did he tangle himself in the blankets again?
He blinks his eyes open and is confronted with Lan Wangji’s face, centimeters from his own, slack with sleep and half-hidden by the pillow. It’s Lan Wangji’s arm that’s wrapped solidly around Wei Wuxian’s stomach, Lan Wangji pressed up against his side and preventing him from moving.
Wei Wuxian holds himself very still, counting the panicked beat of his heart in his chest. He remembers now; he’d barged into Lan Wangji’s room like he had any right to be there and instead of immediately kicking him to the curb as he’d deserved, Lan Wangji had let him stay. Had made room for him.
Had latched onto him during the night, apparently, without ever waking Wei Wuxian up.
Wei Wuxian lets out a soft breath. It’s - incredibly intimate, this small warm space in the diffused morning light. Wei Wuxian is pretty sure the world begins and ends right here, filled with a curious lightness in his chest and the soft hush of Lan Wangji’s breathing. It’s utterly unlike waking up in Jiang Cheng’s bed, the mornings after he lets insomnia drive him there; for one thing, Jiang Cheng is an abominably early riser and Wei Wuxian always wakes alone.
He’d joked about how adequate he was to Lan Wangji’s face but now, with that face softened in sleep and one of his legs tangled with Wei Wuxian’s own, Wei Wuxian doesn’t feel adequate at all, doesn’t feel worthy of this kind of feeling.
“I never thanked you for the ride,” he hears himself say quietly. “Or for taking me home, or for - for any of it, really. So thank you, Lan Zhan.” For everything. For putting up with me. For being you.
Lan Wangji’s brow creases, and he curls in on himself for a moment, like he’s resisting waking up. Wei Wuxian watches, fascinated, as Lan Wangji’s eyes blink open and focus. The corner of his mouth lifts for a moment, and Wei Wuxian has to swallow down something rising in his chest that’s too big, too much for this moment.
“Did you sleep well?” Lan Wangji says, voice deep with sleep but still quiet, carrying no further than this fractional space between them.
“Yeah, I did,” Wei Wuxian says just as quietly. “Thanks.”
“It was my pleasure,” Lan Wangji says solemnly, and he is so polite, even this rote phrase sounds sincere when he says it.
“Is that where the octopus impression is coming from? I didn’t know that about you, Lan Zhan,” Wei Wuxian says, because if he doesn’t say something smart-assed he’s going to say something real, like mine too or can I stay.
If he asks to stay, Lan Wangji might ask for how long, and Wei Wuxian is very afraid that the answer might be for as long as you’ll let me.
He’s saved the embarrassing confession, at least for now; Lan Wangji’s eyes fly wide as if he’s just realized the position they’re in. He sits up abruptly, ears reddening. He doesn’t actually blush, Wei Wuxian realizes, but the ears give him away, if you know to look for it. Wei Wuxian feels an affectionate pang in his chest as he pushes himself up as well.
“I should shower,” Lan Wangji says abruptly. He swings his legs off the side of the bed and is out the door before Wei Wuxian can even apologize.
Oh. Well. He’d thought they were having a moment, but it wouldn’t be the first time Wei Wuxian had ruined one of those.
Still, he thinks as he slides out of Lan Wangji’s bed and shakes himself out. There had definitely been - something, in the way Lan Wangji had looked at him before Wei Wuxian had opened his big mouth. Wei Wuxian feels his own lips curving up at the thought of Lan Wangji’s dopey half-smile before he’d come fully awake. The memory settles heavily somewhere behind his ribs, and Wei Wuxian rubs his chest absently.
He should - he’s not even sure what time it is, he realizes. His phone is out with his jacket, on the couch. It’s probably best if he’s not here when Lan Wangji comes back, anyway; Lan Wangji will need to get dressed, and -
Phone. Couch. Wei Wuxian firmly redirects his thoughts, and determinedly opens Lan Wangji’s door.
His jacket is where he’d left it, draped over the back of the sofa, as is his phone; although upon further inspection, the battery appears to have died during the night. Wei Wuxian pokes at it mournfully, as if he can will it to turn on, when there’s the clink of ceramic behind him.
“Coffee?” says a voice that is distinctly not Lan Wangji’s. Wei Wuxian swallows and turns around.
Lan Wangji’s brother smiles serenely at him from the kitchen, holding a coffee mug in one hand and a steaming carafe in the other. He doesn’t look at all perturbed to find Wei Wuxian in his apartment, even disheveled and wearing yesterday’s clothes. He hefts the mug in a question, and this may be a trap but it’s coffee, and Wei Wuxian has endured more for less.
“Please,” he says, approaching the kitchen bar and sliding onto a stool. “And thank you,” he says belatedly as Lan Xichen slides a small cream and sugar set toward him.
“I trust you slept well?” Lan Xichen says mildly and Wei Wuxian nearly dumps sugar all over the counter.
“I, uh.” He did, is the thing, but before he can formulate an answer that doesn’t sound like he totally banged Lan Xichen’s brother last night the door to the hall bathroom opens and Wei Wuxian turns instinctively toward the noise.
Lan Wangji crosses the hall to his bedroom in nothing but a towel wrapped firmly around his hips and Wei Wuxian’s brain short circuits.
Were Lan Wangji’s shoulders always that broad? Had his chest always been that defined? His legs that long? Hadn’t Lan Xichen asked him a question? Shit. What was it again - something about sleeping?
“Very good,” he hears himself say as Lan Wangji’s door shuts behind him. “I. Yes. I slept. Um.”
Lan Xichen chuckles faintly and Wei Wuxian forces himself to turn around, putting on one of his most trustworthy smiles.
“I appreciate your hospitality, Lan Xichen,” he says, to prove that he can in fact string words together to form sentences. “And I really appreciate Lan Wangji taking care of me last night - oh god. Not like that. Not that I don’t -” He manages to stop talking before he can dig himself any deeper, but Lan Xichen just smiles and leans his forearms on the counter, cradling his own mug in his hands.
“You don’t what?” he says with that mild, gentle smile that is going to haunt Wei Wuxian’s dreams.
“I don’t -” want you to get the wrong idea, but Wei Wuxian isn’t sure what the right idea is, here; only that he can’t remember the last time he slept this well, and that he hadn’t wanted that hazy early morning moment to end.
“Our apartment doesn’t see many visitors,” Lan Xichen says thoughtfully, turning his mug in his hands. “It would be a shame, I think, if it did not see you again.”
Lan Xichen calmly lifts his mug and takes a sip as Wei Wuxian stares. That - that sounds almost like a threat, except those words don’t add up to one. They don’t add up to any kind of message that Wei Wuxian can make sense of; surely Lan Xichen doesn’t want to see Wei Wuxian bothering his brother, and surely Lan Wangji himself doesn’t -
Lan Wangji’s door opens again, cutting off that train of thought, and he emerges looking perfectly pressed and neat, like he’d stepped out of the pages of a catalog. It’s unfair, really, Wei Wuxian thinks despairingly, to go around looking like that. Gives people ideas. It puts Wei Wuxian, anyway, in mind of how different Lan Wangji had looked his morning, hair disheveled and sleepy-eyed in a soft shirt and -
Does he. Does Wei Wuxian. Have.
For Lan Wangji?
Lan Wangji looks at him expectantly and Wei Wuxian realizes belatedly that he’d been asked a question.
“I - sorry, what?” He shakes his head and determinedly does not look at Lan Xichen.
“I said, I’ll walk you down. If you’re ready?” Lan Wangji looks patient, like he can wait as long as Wei Wuxian wants.
“Yeah, I -” Wei Wuxian glances at his untouched coffee and up into Lan Xichen’s smiling face and decides that discretion is almost certainly the better part of valor, here.
“I’m ready,” he says, sliding off the stool. “Thank you for the coffee, Lan Xichen.”
“Anytime,” Lan Xichen says, amused. Wei Wuxian scoops up his bag and jacket and follows closely on Lan Wangji’s heels as he leads the way.
Outside the morning is clear and bright, and Wei Wuxian feels like he can breathe easier when the building’s door swings shut behind him. His motorcycle is right where Lan Wangji had left it, and Lan Wangji hands him the keys as they walk over.
“Thanks,” Wei Wuxian says, taking them absently. His fingers curl around the keys; they’re warm from the heat of Lan Wangji’s body, the little rabbit keychain bouncing as he walks. “And thank you for letting me stay - I know it probably wasn’t your first choice, but it sure beat the porch at my place.” He slides one leg over the bike, settling into place, and is about to put his helmet on when Lan Wangji clears his throat.
“You’ll need these,” he says, holding out -
Holding out -
A second set of keys, unremarkable except that Wei Wuxian knows that the little braided charm hanging off of them is unique. Jiang Yanli had braided it herself.
He also knows that he hadn’t had them on him last night.
“Okay,” he says slowly. He reaches out and Lan Wangji hands him his house keys; Wei Wuxian weighs them carefully in his palm like they’ll disappear at any moment.
“Okay,” he repeats. “I know I was drunk but I wasn’t that drunk; where…”
“Jiang Cheng,” Lan Wangji offers, like that explains anything at all. “Threw them. Out into the yard.”
Wei Wuxian stares, but he’s not really seeing Lan Wangji’s face. Instead he’s seeing all the times Jiang Cheng has tossed something at him that Wei Wuxian had forgotten: his jacket, a water bottle, a bottle of painkillers.
Jiang Cheng had - Jiang Cheng had thrown his keys down into the yard, and instead of picking them up and handing them to Wei Wuxian like a normal person Lan Wangji had -
Had taken him home. Had let him sleep in his bed. Had made sure he was taken care of.
Wei Wuxian is very smart, and he knows it; but he doesn’t know what on earth to do with this information.
“Thank you,” he hears himself say very faintly, and he doesn’t know at all what his face is doing but Lan Wangji rocks forward on his toes for a moment, and Wei Wuxian holds his breath -
Then Lan Wangji folds his hand behind his back, and steps back. His ears are red.
“Drive safely,” he says, nodding, and then heads back into his building. Wei Wuxian watches him until he disappears inside. He doesn’t know how long he sits there, staring at the door to Lan Wangji’s building, before he shakes himself and starts the bike with fingers that barely tremble at all.
He puts his helmet on. He needs - he needs to figure this out. But first, he needs to shower.
Wei Wuxian pulls up next to the curb in front of his house. He kills the motor and just sits for a moment, thinking.
The ride back home has brought little clarity, so Wei Wuxian repeats what he knows. Jiang Cheng had thrown Wei Wuxian’s house keys down to him. Even if Wei Wuxian hadn’t seen them, Lan Wangji could have picked them up, handed them to Wei Wuxian, and been on his way, no longer burdened with a messy classmate. Wei Wuxian could have slept in his own bed last night. Instead he had slept in Lan Wangji’s.
Lan Wangji had been given repeated opportunities to rid himself of Wei Wuxian, and he had passed by every single one.
Wei Wuxian pulls off his helmet and looks down at his keys. They glint innocently at him in the morning sunlight, looking far less weighty than they suddenly feel.
He slides off the bike and takes the steps up to the house slowly, but before he can use the keys on the front door it flies open. Jiang Cheng glares at him.
“Oh, so now you show up,” he snaps, even as he steps aside to let Wei Wuxian in. “You wake me up in the middle of the night to let you in and then you disappear and you don’t answer your phone - where were you?”
“I was -” Wei Wuxian says, hanging his keys carefully on the hook by the door where they belong. They feel precious now, in a way they have never before. “I was at Lan Wangji’s.”
It doesn’t feel real, to say it out loud, and judging by the look on Jiang Cheng’s face it doesn’t sound real either. “Sure,” he snorts, disbelief writ large across his face. “Look, if you’re going to lie to me at least come up with something believable -”
“It’s true,” Wei Wuxian says, and it comes out a little sharper than he’d intended. “I spent the night at the Lan’s apartment. Lan Wangji picked up my keys and then took me home with him. Lan Xichen served me coffee this morning. Their couch probably cost more than my bike. Their -”
Wei Wuxian stops as Jiang Cheng’s face does something strange and complicated. Nie Huaisang appears in the doorway to the kitchen, his own mug of coffee in hand, apparently tired of pretending not to listen.
“What kind of coffee does Lan Xichen drink?” Nie Huaisang asks. “I bet it’s something good.”
“I don’t know, I didn’t get the chance to actually taste it. I was too busy fearing for my life - have you ever had Lan Xichen smile directly at you?” Wei Wuxian shudders. “I don’t know how he got the reputation as the nice one, Lan Zhan is way nicer -”
“I thought you said there was nothing between you two,” Jiang Cheng interrupts, and Wei Wuxian throws up his hands.
“There wasn’t! There isn’t,” he insists as Jiang Cheng and Nie Huaisang both give him deeply skeptical looks. “But. Maybe...there could be?”
The possibility seems terrifying to even voice out loud, but Wei Wuxian can’t stop thinking about the way Lan Wangji had looked at him this morning, soft and sleepy and open the way he never is anywhere else. He wants to see that again, Wei Wuxian realizes. There’s a lot he’d do, a lot of ribbing from his brother and friends that he’d endure, if he could have that. If he could keep it.
“Well.” Jiang Cheng clears his throat. “Congratulations. I guess.”
“Nothing happened -” Wei Wuxian starts and Jiang Cheng holds up his hand.
“I do not want any details,” he insists, then shakes his head. “You’d better not screw this up.”
Wei Wuxian wholeheartedly agrees.
For once, class on Monday can’t come soon enough, and Wei Wuxian actually ends up in his seat early enough that Professor Song does a double-take. Wei Wuxian’s barely paying attention, though, setting his bag solidly in the seat across from him and only lifting it when Lan Wangji walks through the door. The corner of Lan Wangji’s mouth twitches up as he settles into his chair, and Wei Wuxian tries to stomp on the way his stomach flips over. A smile! Out of Lan Wangji! A small one but it was there, and Wei Wuxian can’t help the way his own grin stretches wide in response.
Lecture is - well, it’s lecture. Wei Wuxian straightens from digging fruitlessly in his bag to find a pen waiting for him on his notebook, and flashes a grateful grin across the table. They’re nice pens, and Lan Wangji never asks for them back; one of these days Wei Wuxian will have to round them all up and return them, but he honestly has no idea where they get to.
Professor Song goes later than usual today, late enough that Wei Wuxian is eyeing the clock and mentally calculating if he still has time to stop for coffee on the way to his next class. Not if this goes on for too much longer, he concludes with an internal sigh, and then jumps as a sheet of paper lands on the table in front of him.
“Full marks,” Professor Song says approvingly. “Well done.”
Ah. Apparently the lecture has concluded.
“Full marks?” MianMian says, grabbing the paper as Professor Song moves on to the next group. She scans the grading rubric, grinning and angling it toward Lan Wangji as he leans over to see.
“See?” Wei Wuxian says, leaning back in his chair and grinning. “I told you we’d crush it.”
“A good effort,” Lan Wangji says approvingly as Su Minshan grabs the paper away.
“‘Unorthodox but effectively argued,’” he reads, then snorts. “We got lucky.”
“Not lucky,” Lan Wangji says, taking the rubric back before Wei Wuxian can say anything about how lucky Su Minshan has been. His gaze flicks up to Wei Wuxian’s and back down to the rubric. “Diligent,” he says, and Wei Wuxian lets his chair thump back down to the floor, leading forward.
“That’s right. Hey, we should celebrate our hard work, don’t you think? What about -”
“I can’t,” MianMian says just as Su Minshan says “I’m busy.” They glance awkwardly at each other, and Wei Wuxian lays a dramatic hand over his chest.
“I’m wounded, I really am. I see how it is - but you’re free tonight, right Lan Zhan? Tell me you’re free.”
Lan Wangji hesitates for a long moment. “I do not have plans,” he says slowly.
The minute hand ticks over to the hour, cueing a general pushing back of chairs and gathering of bags, and Professor Song reminding them that the readings for the entire semester are listed on the syllabus, please stop emailing the TA to ask about them. Wei Wuxian glances at the clock and swears, gathering up his notes.
“I’ve got to go, but - I’ll pick you up at six?” he says, stuffing his things into his bag. If he runs, he just might be able to make coffee and the next class on time.
The pause this time is even longer. “...All right.”
“Great!” Wei Wuxian beams, straightening and slinging his bag over his shoulder. “I’ll see you then, Lan Zhan.”
It’s not until he’s swiping his card at the coffee stand in the basement of the engineering building that Wei Wuxian realizes what he’s done. I’ll pick you up at six echoes through his head, and he stares at the card reader as if it will tell him if this was a date, did he accidentally ask Lan Wangji on a date? Did Lan Wangji accept?!
“I said, did you want your receipt?” the barista says testily, and Wei Wuxian jumps. Charge Approved, the card reader blinks at him, which is no help at all.
“No, I - uh, no thanks.” He steps aside so the next person can order, collecting his iced coffee from the end of the bar in a daze.
Fuck. Is this a date? It’s just a celebratory dinner, right? That’s what he’d proposed. That’s what this is. Yeah. He’s cool. He’ll just. Be cool about this.
Four hours later, Wei Wuxian is the furthest thing from cool about this.
He can’t concentrate at all in his afternoon class. The seconds seem to drag on, but at the same time it’s no time at all before he’s packing up and spilling out into the sunshine with the other students. He spins his keys around his finger as he heads back to his bike. He should have time to go home, shower, and change; normally he wouldn’t bother, but Lan Wangji deserves the effort.
It’s not a date. He keeps reminding himself of that, but he still goes through what feels like half his closet trying to find something suitable to wear and spends entirely too long on his hair.
“We’re ordering in, what do you want?” Jiang Cheng’s voice floats down the hall, and then he appears in the bathroom doorway. He pauses. “What’s the occasion?”
“I’m meeting Lan Zhan,” he says, turning and throwing a hand towel at his brother. “Don’t start.”
“Start what?” Jiang Cheng snatches the towel out of midair and throws it back, but his grin is just this side of shit-eating. “I still can’t believe you two are dating; never would have thought the Lan standards were so low.”
“We’re not dating,” Wei Wuxian insists, ignoring the little voice that says he might very much like to. He tosses the towel on the counter. “This is just - a friendly dinner. We’re friends.”
“Sure.” Jiang Cheng leans in the doorway. “You wear that shirt for all your friends.”
Wei Wuxian looks down and smooths a hand over the soft fabric. “What’s wrong with this shirt?”
Jiang Cheng snorts, and pushes off the doorjamb. “Nothing. Don’t wake me up when you get home this time.” He pauses. “Are you coming home tonight?”
“Yes.” Wei Wuxian fishes out his house keys from his pocket and jangles them in front of Jiang Cheng’s face. “See? I’m not a complete moron.”
Jiang Cheng bats his hand away. “Debatable.” He rolls his shoulders uncomfortably. “Well. Good luck.”
“It’s not a date.” Jiang Cheng huffs and waves him off, turning and heading downstairs. “It’s not!” Wei Wuxian calls after him.
Except it feels very much like one, as he texts Lan Wangji that he’s on his way. The drive isn’t long, but it still gives Wei Wuxian plenty of time to wonder what exactly it is he thinks he’s doing. Does he really not wear this shirt that often? What’s wrong with this shirt? Is he showing too much collarbone? What does he do if Lan Xichen answers the door? I’m here to pick up your brother is both technically true and seems like way, way too much.
When he pulls up in front of Lan Wangji’s building, however, Lan Wangji is already waiting for him, pressed and neat as if nothing as pedestrian as dust or humidity dare bother him. He looks up from his phone as Wei Wuxian rolls to a stop. A small half-smile flits across his lips and something in Wei Wuxian settles; it’s easy, suddenly, to grin and wave as Lan Wangji pockets his phone and approaches.
“Lan Zhan! I hope you’re hungry. How do you feel about curry? I know a good place. Wait, wait,” he says as Lan Wangji dons the spare helmet and slides on behind him. “I should let you choose, Lan Zhan, what do you feel like?”
“Mn,” Lan Wangji folds his arms around Wei Wuxian’s waist and settles close behind him. “Curry is fine.”
“Great!” Wei Wuxian forces himself to breathe normally as Lan Wangji presses warm and solid against his spine. “Curry it is. You won’t regret this, Lan Zhan.”
“Mn.” It sounds amused, this time. Wei Wuxian grins and pulls away from the curb.
The curry place is on the edge of town where the hills start rolling up in earnest, but worth the drive, in Wei Wuxian’s opinion. It seems to take less time to get there than usual. It’s with a vague sense of regret that Wei Wuxian rolls the bike to a stop, feeling Lan Wangji’s arms loosen around him. Wei Wuxian takes off his helmet and shakes out his hair - so much for spending time on it - and slides off the bike.
“This place is great, you’re going to love it.” He reaches out and changes his mind at the last minute, grabbing Lan Wangji’s wrist. “Jiang Cheng refuses to come anymore after the extra-spicy special made him cry.”
“...I see.” Lan Wangji doesn’t seem to object to being towed, and Wei Wuxian tosses a grin over his shoulder as he pulls the door open.
“I told him it was fine, but would he listen? Two please,” Wei Wuxian tells the hostess. “Now I’m stuck coming here by myself,” he continues as she leads them to a table by the large bay windows. “So I’m glad you’re here, Lan Zhan.”
“Mn,” is all Lan Wangji says in reply, sitting and picking up the menu, but Wei Wuxian is delighted to note that the tips of his ears are faintly pink.
Wei Wuxian helpfully points out the items on the menu that are extra spicy and Lan Wangji nods studiously and orders none of them. Fine; his loss. Despite his taciturn performance in class, Lan Wangji turns out to be surprisingly easy to talk to. Well, he lets Wei Wuxian do most of the talking, but he looks interested. Wei Wuxian knows how he can be: too loud, too fast, too much but Lan Wangji never looks like he’s bored or trying to cut in or just not listening. He “mn”’s thoughtfully and gives concise, measured replies, and once or twice delivers a line so dry Wei Wuxian tips his head back and laughs, loud and heedless of the other diners around them.
“Oh man, oh man, Lan Zhan,” he says, miming wiping away a tear. “I’m crying. Who would have thought the second heir of Lan had it in him.”
He knows it’s a mistake as soon as he says it; Lan Wangji’s face tightens and he looks down at his food, poking at a stray bit of tofu.
Shit. “I’m sorry - that’s the second time I’ve done that. Lan Zhan,” Wei Wuxian says, leaning forward. He almost reaches out but folds his hand flat on the table instead.
“I’m sorry. It was a stupid joke. You don’t have to tell me why it bothers you but I can see that it does. I won’t call you that anymore, I promise.” Wei Wuxian’s stomach slowly sinks and he stirs his own dish; Lan Wangji still isn’t looking at him, gazing into his curry like it will explain to him why Wei Wuxian is such an idiot.
“Is that what you see when you look at me?” Lan Wangji says quietly, so quietly Wei Wuxian almost misses it. “The second heir of Lan?”
“What? No,” Wei Wuxian says immediately, instinctively. Lan Wangji’s eyes flick up to his and Wei Wuxian knows that’s the right answer.
“Hey. Lan Zhan. Listen.” Wei Wuxian gives in and reaches out across the table, resting his hand on Lan Wangji’s. Lan Wangji’s eyes dart down and back up; Wei Wuxian squeezes his hand to make sure he’s listening.
“I like you, not your Lan empire or your family influence or any of that,” he says earnestly. “You, Lan Zhan.”
Lan Wangji’s eyes widen and Wei Wuxian realizes what he’s said.
“Oh. And. Um.” Wei Wuxian swallows, hoping he’s not about to ruin everything. “And this might be a bad time, but since I’ve already said it I. Um. Like you. Also.”
Lan Wangji stares for the longest three seconds of Wei Wuxian’s life -
Then he looks down into his food again, but there’s a smile growing on his face that sets Wei Wuxian’s heart singing.
“Not a bad time,” Lan Wangji says, looking up, and Wei Wuxian feels like he could do backflips, could fly, could do anything as long as Lan Wangji keeps looking at him like that.
“Like you, too,” Lan Wangji says softly, and Wei Wuxian’s cheeks are hurting with how hard he’s smiling but he never ever wants to stop.
He doesn’t know how long they might have sat there, grinning stupidly at each other; their waiter tries to slip the check unobtrusively on to their table but it still makes Wei Wuxian look up, look away, and he laughs, taking his hand back and reaching for it.
“Let me - hey, Lan Zhan, what are you doing,” he says as Lan Wangji plucks the check out of his hands.
“Paying,” Lan Wangji says. The corners of his mouth are still turned up as he hands his card to the waiter.
“Hang on, this was supposed to be my treat,” Wei Wuxian makes a grab for the check but the waiter beats a hasty retreat and he scowls.
“You drove,” Lan Wangji says placidly, folding his hands in front of him.
“Yeah, but -” Lan Wangji just looks at him and Wei Wuxian concedes, lifting his hands. “All right, all right, but next time it’s on me.” Something thrills in his chest when Lan Wangji doesn’t say anything about next time, just gives him a small, smug smile.
The sun has set sometime while they were talking, and stepping into the cool evening air feels a bit like waking from a dream. Except this isn’t a dream; Wei Wuxian’s dreams are never this good, never as good as the look on Lan Wangji’s face when Wei Wuxian glances over, as Lan Wangji’s arms sliding around his stomach as they get settled on the bike.
Wei Wuxian hesitates before putting his helmet on. “Hey, Lan Zhan,” he says, looking back over his shoulder. “You mind if we take the long way back?”
Lan Wangji shakes his head minutely, settling further against him. “Don’t mind.”
Wei Wuxian takes a deep breath, trying to force his heartbeat back down into a normal rhythm, and puts his helmet on. “Okay.” He grins as he starts the bike up. “Okay.”
The motorcycle rides heavier with two people on it, their own momentum leaning the bike low around corners and tightening Lan Wangji’s arms around Wei Wuxian’s stomach. Lan Wangji is a warm, solid weight against his back as the evening air whistles past them, and Wei Wuxian never wants to leave this moment, never wants it to end.
But even the long way home eventually ends, and as Wei Wuxian coasts to a stop outside Lan Wangji’s building he wonders if he could have gotten away with circling the block a few times. Probably not, he thinks as Lan Wangji takes off his helmet and slides off the bike; but then again Lan Wangji has already let him get away with far more than Wei Wuxian had ever expected.
Wei Wuxian pulls off his own helmet, reaching out and catching Lan Wangji’s hand. Before he can think too hard about it he tugs Lan Wangji close, stretching up and catching the soft startled inhale from Lan Wangji’s mouth with his own.
At first it’s a soft press of lips, gentle and sweet and everything Wei Wuxian could have hoped for; then Lan Wangji leans into it and Wei Wuxian forgets to think entirely for several moments. He can feel the smile sitting on his own lips when he pulls back, and he takes extreme satisfaction in the way Lan Wangji blinks slowly before meeting his eyes again.
“Mmm,” Wei Wuxian says, because he can’t help himself. “Curry.”
Lan Wangji’s face turns exasperated but Wei Wuxian can see the amusement around the edges. He loves that he can see that, that Lan Wangji lets him see that.
“Sorry, sorry,” Wei Wuxian says, grinning cheekily. “I’ll try not to ruin our first kiss.”
Lan Wangji’s face abruptly goes flat and neutral and Wei Wuxian feels the ground drop away from underneath him.
Lan Wangji straightens and disentangles his hand from Wei Wuxian’s. “I should go,” he says shortly, turning and heading for the front door of his building.
Wei Wuxian stares after him. “Wait - Lan Zhan, wait. I don’t - what did I say? Was it the curry?” He scrambles off the bike, hurrying after Lan Wangji. “It was a dumb joke, all my jokes are dumb, don’t -”
Lan Wangji turns just, halfway through the door. “That was not our first kiss,” is all he says before shutting it firmly behind him, leaving Wei Wuxian gaping at his own reflection in the glass.
“Jiang Cheng.” Wei Wuxian slams the door to Jiang Cheng’s bedroom open. “Jiang Cheng, wake up.”
Jiang Cheng rolls away from the light spilling in from the hallway, flipping Wei Wuxian off over his shoulder. “Fuck off, I’m sleeping.”
“Oh good, you’re awake.” Wei Wuxian bounds in, letting the door close behind him. He flops down heavily on his back next to Jiang Cheng, who mutters something uncomplimentary.
“I told you not to wake me up,” he grouses, curling in on himself. “What is it that can’t wait?”
“I.” Wei Wuxian stares at the ceiling. He’d spent the entire ride back from Lan Wangji’s building trying to figure out what had happened, and he could only come to one conclusion. “I need you to tell me what happened with Lan Zhan at the party two weeks ago.”
“What do you mean, ‘what happened,’ you were there,” Jiang Cheng says, rolling on his back so he can look at Wei Wuxian. His eyes widen. “Oh my god. You don’t remember.”
“No,” Wei Wuxian says wretchedly. “What happened.”
Jiang Cheng pushes himself up on his elbows, sitting up so he can look down at Wei Wuxian. “What happened is that Lan Xichen and I had to bodily lift you off of Lan Wangji’s lap so he could leave. The next time you pass out try not to do it on someone, okay?”
“Oh my god.” Wei Wuxian stares blindly at the ceiling, pressing a hand over his mouth where he can still feel the press of Lan Wangji’s lips against his. “We kissed. We kissed and I don’t remember it.”
“I think ‘made out like teenagers’ is more accurate, but yeah.” Jiang Cheng pauses. “Wait, if you don’t remember how do you - oh.”
Wei Wuxian covers his face with his hands. “I fucked this up,” he moans. “What do I do?”
“Have you considered using your words?” Jiang Cheng says unsympathetically, nudging Wei Wuxian with his knee. “Or getting out of my bed?”
“Shut up.” Wei Wuxian lifts his hands from his face. “Wait. Jiang Cheng, you’re a genius.”
Jiang Cheng eyes him warily. “What are you -”
“No, no, I’ve got this.” Wei Wuxian uses Jiang Cheng’s shoulder to pull himself up, squeezing it before letting go. “Thanks, Jiang Cheng, you’re the best.”
“No, seriously,” Jiang Cheng insists. “What are you planning?”
“Go back to sleep,” Wei Wuxian says, bouncing off the bed. “I’ll let you know how it works out.”
“Don’t do anything stupid!” Jiang Cheng calls as Wei Wuxian lets himself out of Jiang Cheng’s room; but Wei Wuxian has already done the stupid thing, he’s done several stupid things. What’s one more in the name of making things right?
A familiar figure is making his way toward the undergrad library and Wei Wuxian sprints - carefully, cautious of what he’s carrying - across the quad to catch up.
“Lan Zhan!” Lan Wangji doesn’t turn.
“Okay, I deserved that,” Wei Wuxian pants as he draws close. He steps around in front of Lan Wangji, turning so Lan Wangji is forced to stop walking or run him over. “Lan Zhan, let me explain.”
“No need,” Lan Wangji says, gaze fixed somewhere over Wei Wuxian’s shoulder.
“Yes, there is,” Wei Wuxian insists. “I fucked up, all right? I freely admit that. But listen,” he says, taking a step backward as Lan Wangji takes one forward. “Just - give me five minutes, okay?”
Lan Wangji finally looks at him, face flat and expressionless, but at least he’s meeting Wei Wuxian’s eyes. That’s something.
Wei Wuxian takes a deep breath
“Qinghe grain alcohol,” he says, and Lan Wangji blinks. “‘Guaranteed to cure what ails you,’ is what Nie Huaisang told me, and you know why he got it out in the first place? I was moping because in a house full of people, the one person I really wanted to see wasn’t there.”
“And then you walked through the door,” Wei Wuxian continues, and Lan Wangji’s eyes widen; minutely, but Wei Wuxian sees it, and it gives him hope. “And I didn’t realize that when Nie Huaisang had said ‘what ails you’ he had meant ‘consciousness.’”
“I didn’t forget,” Wei Wuxian says slowly and clearly, because it’s important that Lan Wangji hear this. “I didn’t know. And I will regret for the rest of my life that I don’t remember that night, because I want to remember everything about you: your perfect handwriting and the sense of humor you don’t let on about and especially, especially what it’s like to kiss you.”
Lan Wangji blinks slowly. He still hasn’t said anything, but the tips of his ears are dusted in pink.
“Anyway. I got you these.” Wei Wuxian extends his hands out and Lan Wangji looks down. His brow draws down the smallest fraction and Wei Wuxian figures he’d better explain.
“These are all the pens you’ve given me,” he says, waving the bunch clutched in his right fist. They’re tied in an awkward bunch with a red ribbon he’d found under his bed. “They were in the bottom of my bag, in my jacket pocket, all over my room. I’ll miss them -” and you “- but if you don’t want anything more to do with me, I get it.”
“In the other hand,” Wei Wuxian says, pausing and swallowing through a suddenly dry mouth. “Is the tea you like. You know, from that place off-campus.”
Lan Wangji reaches out and lifts the square piece of paper taped to the cup in Wei Wuxian’s left hand.
“‘Expiation,’” Wei Wuxian says, as if Lan Wangji can’t read it himself. “‘The act of atoning for a sin or wrongdoing.’ You remember how I told you I had a calendar? Well, this is today’s word. And tomorrow’s. And as many days after that as you’ll let me.”
Warm fingers brush his as Lan Wangji studies the torn-off calendar page, and Wei Wuxian tries to breathe through the churning in his stomach. If this doesn’t work, well - Wei Wuxian wouldn’t, could never blame Lan Wangji. If this brief time is all he gets, it’s already more than he deserves.
He can’t stop the hope that curls through his chest, though, when Lan Wangji reaches out and lifts the cup out of his trembling fingers.
“No need,” Lan Wangji says, only the phrase has a very different ring to it than it did a few moments ago. The corner of Lan Wangji’s mouth quirks up ever so slightly. “It is already forgotten.”
“Okay.” Wei Wuxian takes a breath, extending the fistful of pens out toward Lan Wangji again. “Do you -”
Lan Wangji’s fingers curl around his again, but this time he pushes the fistful of pens back into Wei Wuxian’s chest. “Keep them. They were all for you. And -” he withdraws his hand slowly, the curve of his ears darkening. “There will always be more where they came from.”
Wei Wuxian lets out a shaky laugh, wavering a little on his feet, and Lan Wangji looks at him sharply. “Have you slept?”
“Not really.” Wei Wuxian says, suddenly acutely aware of just how gritty his eyes feel. He clutches the pens to his chest. “It took a while to find all of these. One of them was under my pillow, can you believe it?”
“I have seen your room,” Lan Wangji says solemnly. “I can.”
Wei Wuxian gasps dramatically. “Teasing me! I must be forgiven,” he says hopefully.
“You are. You always were,” Lan Wangji admits softly, and Wei Wuxian grins, relief singing through his veins as he steps closer.
“I don’t remember the first kiss and I fucked up the second,” he says, reaching out with his free hand. Lan Wangji meets him halfway, tangling their fingers together and pulling Wei Wuxian in that last half-step.
“I think we should try a third time,” Wei Wuxian says quietly, for Lan Wangji’s ears only. “We can only get better with practice, right?”
A smile, small and warm and wondering turns Lan Wangji’s mouth up and he nods, leaning forward to close the gap between them.
Wei Wuxian hasn’t slept. He’s running on adrenaline and relief and the largest coffee the corner store would sell him, but all of that melts away when Lan Wangji’s lips meet his, soft and warm and nothing Wei Wuxian ever wants to leave. Wei Wuxian tilts his head and good becomes great, rocking him forward onto his toes so he can lean into Lan Wangji’s warm, solid chest. Even when they need to pull back to breathe Wei Wuxian doesn’t go far, leaning into Lan Wangji’s side and soaking up the warmth he radiates.
“I do have one question,” Lan Wangji says thoughtfully and Wei Wuxian braces himself.
Lan Wangji lifts the cup with the torn-off calendar page taped to it. “This word is from November.”
Wei Wuxian looks at it. “Yeah?”
“It is April,” Lan Wangji says.
“Yeah, well.” Wei Wuxian gives a half-shrug, resting his head on Lan Wangji’s shoulder, stifling a yawn. “I needed the right word, and that’s how far I had to go.”
Lan Wangji turns his head, and warm lips ghost over Wei Wuxian’s temple. Wei Wuxian shivers.
“You need to sleep,” Lan Wangji says. Wei Wuxian tries to protest but it turns into another yawn.
“Possibly,” he says grudgingly.
“You probably shouldn’t drive in your condition,” Lan Wangji continues, and Wei Wuxian lifts his head.
“Are you offering?” he asks, and Lan Wangji gives him that small, soft smile that does things to Wei Wuxian’s heart.
“I am,” Lan Wangji says, and Wei Wuxian has to kiss him again, and it thrills him down to his toes to think that he can.
“Then the answer,” Wei Wuxian murmurs as he leans in. “Is yes. Always.”