Months spent in seclusion have helped. Lan Xichen’s mind isn’t calm, but it’s calmer. He isn’t doing well, but he is better. That’s all he can hope for at the moment. He still has a long way to go, but knowing everything is alright in the Cloud Recesses will be reassuring and help him focus. And so he decides to leave seclusion, if only for a few hours ...
At first he doesn’t notice. The Cloud Recesses are peaceful and in order. Except for one very noticeable addition that is. A very distracting addition, one that is always breaking at least ten different rules without even trying. Most importantly, an addition that makes his younger brother radiate bliss and happiness unlike anything he’s ever seen before.
He remembers Wei Wuxian as someone who's always sprawling rather than sitting, both lazy and full of life. This Wei Wuxian still isn’t sitting properly, he squirms and moves and then winces and Lan Xichen doesn’t think anything of it.
Uncle Qiren told him about the night hunts he takes the juniors on. There was anger and annoyance on his face and Lan Xichen understood that Wei Wuxian is helping with the education of the junior disciples and is teaching them well.
But then he pokes Wangji in the ribs, makes an inaudible comment, throws his head back and laughs, and Lan Xichen barely has the time to notice his brother’s embarrassment and satisfaction before he sees Wei Wuxian’s neck. Are those actual bite marks?
He blinks. They are still there. Lan Xichen has known about how intimacy between men works since he realized that Wangji has more than a mere crush or a passing obsession with Wei Wuxian. He tried his best to help and support his stoic younger brother. He even did research, so he could point Wangji in the right direction when the time came.
Intimacy should never be painful, not even the first time. By now, Wangji and Wei Wuxian have been together for months. They should be past virginal missteps stemming from youthful ignorance and enthusiasm, and experienced enough to be able to avoid accidental harm. Especially bite marks. Lan Xichen remembers Wei Wuxian's fear of dogs well. He remembers everything that happened that day well.
Wei Wuxian shouldn’t be in pain or have lasting marks on him. Nobody should, but Wei Wuxian is a powerful cultivator. Even in Mo Xuanyu’s body he should be free of any marks by early afternoon.
Yet he is marked. Blindingly so. He’s also smiling and playful, all but sitting in Wangji’s lap. He does not know how to react, so Lan Xichen decides to be discreet and continue walking. Wangji is so very happy and it’s not his place to interfere.
The disciples are pleased to see him and bow in greeting. The elders tell him of their progress. The rabbits are still on their patch of grass as well. Fluffy and fruitful as ever. He visits the cold spring and for a while his mind is at peace.
Evening comes and Lan Xichen checks the wards, talks with the disciples on guard duty. Everything is fine. It’s past nine and he is reassured that he can go back into seclusion without worry.
He walks past uncle Qiren’s residence and he thinks he hears something. Then he knows he heard something.
There is a scream. Loud and without restraint.
It comes from further down the path. There are words now, what sounds like begging. As he starts to pick up his pace Lan Xichen realizes the noise is not coming from the trees but from the Jingshi.
There is a crash and wailing and another scream. By the time he gets to the door he can make out the pleas to stop, hears the slap of flesh against flesh, the whimpers and someone begging for mercy.
He realizes just in time what it is he’s hearing. There’s only one voice, Wei Wuxian’s, and the silent attacker denying him mercy and taking him so roughly is clearly no stranger but -
Lan Xichen breathes deeply. Once. Twice. This is his younger brother’s home. Where he is currently being intimate with his husband. Him making sure that everything is alright would lead to everyone being embarrassed and loosing face. It's not his place to interfere.
Wei Wuxian is screaming in the background. He hears pain in his voice and hesitates.
Wangji was so happy and in love when he saw him this afternoon. Right now he is still loving Wei Wuxian very much, but also not complying with his husband’s loudly voiced begs to slow down.
Lan Xichen is torn. Then there is a shriek followed by silence, and for a while Lan Xichen can hear nothing but the continuous pounding of flesh against flesh.
He has to leave. This is not a place where he can formulate coherent thoughts.
The wailing starts up again just as he decides that he’ll have to wait another day or two before he goes back into seclusion.
Uncle Qiren is pleasantly surprised when he sees him still there the following morning. They talk about what his uncle is planning to teach that day and everything is fine. Lan Xichen doesn’t mention the Jin clan or the outside world and uncle Qiren doesn’t complain about Wei Wuxian. Lan Xichen doesn’t know if he should be surprised or not.
When Wangji joins them he is as pleased as his uncle to see him. Wangji is perfectly put together as always and there is no sign that anything untoward has happened the night before. There are no marks on the skin that he can see and when he asks after Wei Wuxian his younger brother softens and there is a hint of a smile on his expressionless face. Apparently Wei Wuxian has not yet adjusted to their sect’s sleeping schedule and is bound to sleep for at least a few more hours.
Uncle Qiren neither scowls nor comments. He seems more resigned than anything. Lan Xichen understands. Wei Wuxian is a disturbance and not an example the juniors should follow, but he makes Wangji smile and isn’t that all that matters?
The day goes by faster than Lan Xichen wants. Now that the initial relief at his return has passed, his sect comes to him for advice and approval. Lan Xichen helps and guides however he can. Even if the voice in his head questioning his wisdom and judgement is still ever present, he will do his best.
It takes another day for him to find Wei Wuxian. He stands among a gaggle of avidly listening junior disciples, gesticulating wildly while telling a tale.
Lan Xichen steps closer to listen. He is pleased to hear that it’s not heroic bragging but instead quick witted and educational. Although he doubts all of the disciples are realizing this, most are either staring in amazement or laughing.
Then Wei Wuxian’s movements slow and Lan Xichen sees that there are bruises on his wrists. They could be something else, but combined with what he heard outside the Jingshi and the other things he’s noticed - his neck is still marked and he does not want to know what else is hidden beneath those robes - his mind immediately jumps to rope burns. Wei Wuxian shouldn’t have rope burns. Cultivators heal fast. For them to still be visible now they must have, they must have -
Too many things come to mind all at once, none of them good. Lan Xichen can’t deny it anymore. Won’t deny it anymore. His younger brother is rough and forceful in his eagerness. He leaves his husband with new bruises every day and won’t stop or slow down when asked.
Lan Xichen has also never seen his younger brother happier than he is now. Every time he sees him he’s practically glowing. Lan Xichen loves his younger brother and to see him so full of joy is all he’s ever wanted for him and hasn’t dared to hope for.
But Wei Wuxian has new marks, new injuries, and while he appears to be alright, Lan Xichen has learned the hard way not to take people who are too free with their smiles at face value.
What if Wei Wuxian isn’t alright? What if Wangji is hurting him in his passion, however unintentional? Where else could Wei Wuxian even go? It’s not like he has anyone else left to turn to.
Wei Wuxian is married to his younger brother. He is the love of Wangji’s life. Thus he is irrevocably part of the Lan clan. Whether the elders - or even the rule-hating Wei Wuxian - like it or not. Wei Wuxian is family.
Lan Xichen is the leader of his sect, the head of his clan. Wei Wuxian is part of his family and Lan Xichen has a responsibility. Wei Wuxian is Wangji’s, but they are also his and he can’t help but care for both of their wellbeing.
Lan Xichen has been blinded before, has learned that even brothers can do wrong. Wangji might be righteous and well-intentioned, the farthest from him in all ways, but he won’t let his emotions get the better of him now.
There is only one thing he can do. He has to talk to Wei Wuxian in private.
When Wei Wuxian finishes his tale Lan Xichen asks him to walk with him. As he leads him to a secluded place, he is reminded that his brother-in-law, despite his parentage, despite his disclaim for studying and rules, despite his former pride and tendency to brag, was ranked fourth on the list of young masters and first among all the Yunmeng disciples.
One does not make it to the top five among hundreds, ahead of even clan heirs, on talent alone. Not that Wei Wuxian isn’t talented, there is a reason he founded an entire cultivation path when he was little more than a teenager, but one needs more than just talent to get a good ranking.
Gossiping old cultivators making lists deem nothing more important in the younger generation than gentlemanly behavior. Had it not been for his ungentlemanly parentage, Lan Xichen is sure he would have been ranked even higher.
Being the Yiling Patriarch, combined with his usually outspoken behavior might lead some to forget this, but when he wants to, Wei Wuxian is very much capable of gentlemanly behavior and cultured conversation. Something which he is proving to Lan Xichen right now.
Lan Xichen isn’t surprised, he knows his brother has chosen well. He is only surprised that the formality and politeness is directed at him. There is no need. He is already family. Wei Wuxian doesn’t need to change himself or try to make Lan Xichen like him. He is still flattered at the effort though.
And reassured. It proves that he wants to stay for good.
Lan Xichen fully admits that he had some not so friendly thoughts towards Wei Wuxian back when he thought that he was just stringing Wangji along and using him.
That however changed the moment he realized Wei Wuxian did not know his brother was head over heels in love with him. When he himself had to spell it out to the boy, for that’s what he was, despite everything. A boy who responded by announcing in front of Jiang Wanyin, his nephew and that person of all people his desire to sleep with Wangji every day. That Wangji could do to him whatever he w -
He isn’t sure if this makes a talk more or less necessary.
He sits down and invites Wei Wuxian to do the same. Wei Wuxian does so, carefully, neither fidgeting nor wincing, just looking at him curiously.
Lan Xichen is sure Wei Wuxian can read the worry on his face, yet he remains polite and silent.
"You will always have a place here." He starts. "If you find ... some things to be less than pleasant, you do not have to endure. Wangji loves you, that will never change."
Wei Wuxian stares at him. This was obviously not what he’d expected of this talk and he looks like he desperately wants to say something but doesn’t know how to do so without being rude.
"You can speak up."
"I did speak up, those past few months. A lot. Lan Qiren has only added more rules."
Lan Xichen realizes that he was maybe a bit too vague. They are clearly talking about two different things entirely. He raises his hand to his mouth and clears his throat.
"If Wangji is ever too ardent ..."
He helplessly gestures toward Wei Wuxian’s wrists and neck.
Flickers of disbelief start to appear in Wei Wuxian’s gaze. At the topic? Lan Xichen doesn’t know how they got here either. Or he does, too well in fact.
"Loving someone doesn’t mean you can’t say no. Wangji is - he should listen to you."
"Uh, Lan Zhan always listens," Wei Wuxian quickly adds. "He usually listens too much."
Lan Xichen takes a deep breath. How was he ever naive enough to think that subtlety would work?
"Listening to each other is important. In some situations especially. Consent has to be given anew each time. Agreeing today does not mean agreeing tomorrow. One can always change one's mind. No matter the endowment, receiving intimacy should never be painful. No means no, slow down means slow down -"
By now Wei Wuxian is beet red and spluttering. Lan Xichen is not yet sure he has made himself fully understood. He’d rather not have this conversation again.
"Wangji loves you, but that doesn’t mean he can’t do wrong. Your love does not mean he can hurt you or do whatever he wants. You can always say no."
"Sex. You’re talking about sex. Fucking. Us fucking. Wangji fucking me." Lan Xichen is surprised to see a situation in which Wei Wuxian can’t form a coherent sentence.
"I walked by the Jingshi at night. I heard ... you were very vocal in your disapproval." This should finally get the point across.
"No, no. No, no, no. I -. There was no disapproval. I mean I always beg him to stop, but that’s just for fun. I’m enthusiastic. Very enthusiastic. I'm enthusiastically consenting everyday."
Now he’s forming halfway coherent sentences. Lan Xichen just isn’t sure how believable they are.
"By asking him to slow down and being ignored."
"He knows what I like! And he does listen, like when I swore I’d let him do anything if only he’d never hit me again -"
What. "Wangji hit you?"
"No, no. No. I mean, yes. Kind of. I mean, it was only a dream and he never did it again once I begged him not to."
"Wangji dreams of hitting you?"
"Please Zewu-jun, let’s forget this ever happened and never talk of it again."
He’d like nothing better, but he can’t. Not yet. "Nobody has the right to hurt you Wei Wuxian. Not even Wangji."
"Lan Zhan would never hurt me!" Wei Wuxian looks both offended and embarrassed. "I mean ... That’s not hurting. I like it. We like it."
Obviously Wangji is liking it. But what about Wei Wuxian? He appears to be happy, but is he truly? Can he even be? "He marks you."
"We like that, too ..."
Lan Xichen sighs, then focuses on Wei Wuxian. Perhaps he's making this too complicated. "Are you happy?"
Wei Wuxian looks like this is the last thing he’d expect anyone to ask him. "Of course!"
"Does he make you happy? I have never seen Wangji happier than when he is with you, but does he make you happy as well?"
The brilliant smile is all the answer Lan Xichen needs.
"Yes. Lan Zhan is the best. He brings me emperor’s smile whenever I want and cooks me pork rib and lotus soup and does me every -. Yes. Yes he makes me happy. And he does treat me well. The uh, intimacy thing ... I want that. That way."
"Good." It is good. As long as they are both happy ... Wei Wuxian is relieved, too.
"Wei Wuxian - Wei Ying. You are now my brother as well. If there is ever anything, if Wangji ever makes you unhappy, know that you can come to me."
He knows how his younger brother is when it comes to communicating anything. He also knows Wei Wuxian sometimes still has trouble reading Wangji. Or rather, he suspects, trouble accepting that what he thinks he’s seeing is actually the truth and not just him projecting his own hopes.
Everyone but him has trouble reading his younger brother, but if there is one thing Wei Wuxian should be sure of it’s that nothing and no one makes him happier than he does. Who knows where the two of them would be if Lan Xichen hadn’t explained his younger brother’s feelings to Wei Wuxian in detail. He did not enjoy doing it, but he will do it again if needed. He does not want any more miscommunication.
"I ... - I. Many thanks, Zewu-jun."
"One last thing." Just to make sure. It’s probably too obvious a thing to worry about, but then again ... "You are aware that receiving does not have to hurt? Are you using enough and the right kind of oils?"
"Oils?" Wei Wuxian’s face has morphed into one of confusion.
Oh, no. No. He is not explaining the benefits of proper lubrication to his younger brother and the Yiling Patriarch. Just no.
Talking to Wangji about sometimes reigning in his strength and making sure he doesn't hurt his husband more than intended with his roughness will be hard enough.
Someone however has to, because if they don’t know about this, then they clearly have no clue what they are doing at all.
He sighs. He’ll order them samples and assign them a reading list from the research he did so long ago. Wangji was always a diligent student and perhaps this topic will make Wei Wuxian one as well.
And then, finally, he’ll return to seclusion and focus on himself and not come out until - well ...