Chapter 1: First
A Start on How
Lan Wangji is used to Wei Wuxian being all smiles, all laughs, all teasing. He’ll admit that in the beginning, he found it tremendously annoying that someone could smile and laugh so much even in serious situations, but after months of it, he has in a way gotten used to it. He might even enjoy it at times. Not that he’ll ever admit that, of course.
Wei Wuxian is the essence of lightness and smiles, which is why it is unusual and more than a little troubling to find him sitting underneath a tree late at night and looking so morose it might actually cause Lan Wangji’s breath to catch.
For a moment, he considers his options. He could just walk away. Wei Wuxian is a classmate, but they aren’t really friends, though Wei Wuxian has often been persistently friendly to Lan Wangji, trying to engage him in conversation, sitting next to him while they eat, sending him text messages to invite him to all sorts of social engagements. Wei Wuxian even insists on calling him ‘Lan Zhan’ most of the time, which no one else dares to.
It’s honestly made him wonder if Wei Wuxian wants to be friends, which is silly. No one seriously tries to befriend Lan Wangji, Second Jade of Lan. His years at school and college have seen many trying to earn his respect or avoid his displeasure, but that has always been the extent of it. He has never invited something more himself, but Wei Ying seems to invite himself, and Lan Wangji is… not entirely displeased by that.
He should just walk away. Whatever has caused Wei Wuxian grief, he probably doesn’t want Lan Wangji to even know of it. Perhaps he could find Nie Huaisang – they seem to be friends. Or perhaps Jiang Cheng or Jiang Yanli. They’re family. Surely, they would be good choices – Jiang Yanli the preferable one, as Jiang Cheng has a tendency to yell at Wei Wuxian a lot more than Lan Wangji would care for.
He doesn’t walk away. Instead, he awkwardly walks over, hesitating every few steps, but not turning away. Wei Wuxian opens his eyes as Lan Wangji is about to reach him. His eyes are in shadow, but even so, Lan Wangji gets the distinct impression he has been crying.
He has no idea what to say.
Wei Wuxian saves him that.
“Do I look so pitiful that even Lan Wangji is taking pity on me?” Wei Wuxian asks, and the flat, tired voice makes Lan Wangji almost wince. It is so unlike Wei Wuxian.
“Not pity,” Lan Wangji corrects. “Concern.”
“Am I your concern, Lan Zhan?” Wei Wuxian asks, and Lan Wangji has no idea what to say. He should probably say no – he is not a friend, not family, but that still feels like the wrong answer. He can’t really say yes either. That feels too presumptuous.
He opts for saying nothing, instead leaning slightly against the tree, and after a moment, Wei Wuxian drops his arms to his knees and hugs himself lightly.
“I just wanted to defend my sister,” Wei Wuxian says after a moment, the words rushing out. “Jin Zixuan has no right to treat her so arrogantly no matter who his family is. No right! Only… Only I think I made it worse. Now sister is even sadder, Jiang Cheng refuses to stop yelling at me and Madame Yu is going to murder me in my sleep.”
“Hn,” Lan Wangji says thoughtfully. Wei Wuxian’s affection for his adoptive sister is well established, as is Madame Yu’s displeasure at Wei Wuxian in general.
“I should probably just stay away for the night, “Wei Wuxian goes on. “Jiang Cheng should calm down and Madame Yu should want to murder me a little less painfully tomorrow, don’t you think?”
“Hn,” Lan Wangji offers. They should, but they are both so irritable he’s not entirely convinced they won’t just work themselves up again in the morning.
Wei Wuxian sighs, as if he agrees. “I’ll go beg Nie Huaisang to let me stay on his miserable, too-short couch, I suppose.”
The thought of Wei Wuxian enduring a miserable night after such a miserable evening makes Lan Wangji’s breath catch a little again.
“My couch is spacious and comfortable,” he says, and Wei Wuxian actually turns around to stare at him.
“My couch is spacious and comfortable.”
“Oh-kay,” Wei Wuxian says slowly. “Good for you, Lan Zhan…?”
“If you want,” Lan Wangji says softly, “you can sleep on my couch.”
“Are you sure?” Wei Wuxian asks for the fifth time, glancing around the apartment with a certain amount of awe.
“Hn,” Lan Wangji says, holding out a pillow and several blankets. Wei Wuxian accepts them gratefully, plopping down on the couch and making a happy face as he wriggles experimentally on it.
“When you said comfortable and spacious, you weren’t kidding,” Wei Wuxian observes. He glances up at Lan Wangji. “There’s even room for two!”
Lan Wangji doesn’t comment on that. “The bathroom is down the hall.”
Wei Wuxian nods. “You’re sharing with your brother, right?”
“Hn. Lan Xichen will not mind.”
Wei Wuxian nods slowly. “Lan Zhan? Thank you. You didn’t have to do this.”
“I wanted to do this,” Lan Wangji says. “Good night, Wei Wuxian.”
“Good night, Lan Zhan,” Wei Wuxian says, and his smile is strangely warming, Lan Wangji finds.
The kitchen smells of tea and toast when Lan Wangji pads into it in the morning to find his brother there, already making the customary breakfast. He’s even set three plates and three mugs at the counter, and Lan Wangji feels a flush to his ears.
“Wangji,” Lan Xichen greets him. “I did not hear you and Young Master Wei coming in last night.”
Lan Wangji glances into the living room. Wei Wuxian is still asleep on the couch, face buried into a pillow, the blankets twisted around him. Lan Wangji has to fight an urge to walk over and tuck him in properly. Instead, he accepts a mug of tea from his brother, who is smiling pleasantly.
“It was late,” Lan Wangji offers as way of explanation. He feels awkward, as if he’s been caught at something, when really, all he’s done is lend a couch to his classmate. Others probably do that all the time. (Others, not Lan Wangji, which is probably why it feels this awkward.)
Lan Xichen nods.
“You have mentioned Young Master Wei before,” Lan Xichen says in a tone of voice that would probably pass for casual with anyone who didn’t know Lan Xichen as well as Lan Wangji does. There is also something knowing in his eyes that makes Lan Wangji look away.
“He is…” Lan Wangji says, and trails off. Wei Wuxian is… What?
“Awake,” Lan Xichen says, and Lan Wangji looks up to see Wei Wuxian untangling himself from the blankets and look up at them both. He looks slightly nervous, but manages a slight smile as he walks towards them, brushing his fingers through his hair and grimacing when it won’t quite settle.
Lan Wangji finds his unkempt hair rather charming, actually, but fights that thought off sternly.
“Good morning, Wei Ying,” he says after a rather awkward, silent moment. After letting him sleep on the couch for a night, it feels somehow wrong to call him Wei Wuxian. It will have to be Wei Ying now.
Lan Xichen hums. Wei Ying blinks, then smiles more broadly.
“Good morning, Lan Zhan,” Wei Ying replies. He then turns, adopting a more formal tone. “Lan Xichen. I am sorry to intrude on your morning.”
“Not at all,” Lan Xichen says. “Anyone invited by Wangji is welcome by me too. Good morning, Young Master Wei. Coffee or tea?”
Wei Wuxian looks over at Lan Wangji, his expression slightly hesitant, as if trying to figure out if Lan Wangji is all right with it.
“Coffee,” Lan Wangji answers for him. “Or spiced tea.”
Lan Xichen nods, as if he is making a note of that.
“Huh,” Wei Ying says. “How did you know that, Lan Zhan?”
“I noticed,” Lan Wangji says, which is the truth. Wei Ying has sat down to eat many meals next to him. Of course he has noticed what Wei Ying likes.
“Huh,” Wei Ying says again. “Er, I don’t want to intrude any further. I should probably just go…”
“Young Master Wei, please stay for breakfast,” Lan Xichen insists, and Wei Ying gives Lan Wangji another hesitant look. Lan Wangji gives a slight nod, and then Wei Ying smiles brightly, so very brightly.
He stays for breakfast; it is the most pleasant one Wangji can remember having in a long, long time.
Chapter 2: Second
Lan Wangji doesn’t pause, but he does slow his stride enough that Wei Ying can catch up, and fall into step with him. Over the last few weeks, it’s become a rather common occurrence, really – walking with Wei Ying between classes. As has conversations with Wei Ying become, and studying with Wei Ying and sharing meals with Wei Ying.
Always with, now.
“Lan Zhan, brilliant, brilliant Lan Zhan,” Wei Ying says winningly, and offers one of his bright smiles.
“Hn,” Lan Wangji says.
“I heard you got full marks on the essay last week,” Wei Ying goes on.
“So did Wei Ying,” Lan Wangji points out.
“Only because you dragged me to the library and made me actually work at it,” Wei Ying says.
“Hn,” Lan Wangji says. Wei Ying is brilliant and able to grasp complex ideas, Lan Wangji has come to realize, if somewhat inclined to thinking outside the box. However, he does need structure and motivation, too easily distracted and bored on his own. Lan Wangji doesn’t mind structuring and motivating him. In fact, working with Wei Ying challenges Lan Wangji, and he finds himself thinking more sharply, and sometimes, even differently. “What do you need to work on now?”
“Lan Quiren gave me an essay due tomorrow,” Wei Ying says. He pouts at Lan Wangji. “Punishment. Said I had no respect for academic tradition just because I dared to question one of his favorite authors. I know he’s your uncle, but he’s such a stick in the mud and out to make my life miserable.”
His uncle has often complained Wei Ying is out to make his life miserable, so Lan Wangji supposes that even things out. He doesn’t tell Wei Ying that, of course.
“So, brilliant, brilliant Lan Zhan, esteemed Lan Wangji, would you please, please help me write an essay acceptable to your uncle for tomorrow?” Wei Ying asks. He puts his hands together and looks at pleading as he can manage. “Please, Lan Zhan? I am not above falling to my knees and begging.”
Wei Ying on his knees, Lan Wangji thinks, and feels a slight… something, something he doesn’t care to examine too closely.
“… Meet me at my place after class,” he says.
“Lan Zhan! You’re too good to me!” Wei Ying says happily. “I’ll bring dinner!”
Wei Ying brings far too much food, and most of it is not very spicy, which Lan Wangji finds touching, knowing how much Wei Ying likes his spice (and Lan Wangji doesn’t). Lan Xichen is out, which Lan Wangji appreciates, imagining all too well the sort of smiles his brother would send them as they ate and Wei Ying kept drawing him into a debate about citation styles.
Last time Wei Ying was here, he only saw the kitchen, living room and bathroom, so Lan Wangji feels strangely conscious as he leads Wei Ying to his own room. It is also his study with his computer and printer, so it is the most logical place to work, but even so…
Wei Ying takes in the room with a certain amount of awe. “How do you keep everything so tidy, Lan Zhan?”
“I clean,” Lan Wangji says simply. Wei Ying chuckles, and gives his guqin an appreciating glance. He tilts his head as he watches the bookshelf, which is properly organized by author and subjects. When he notices the only framed picture in the room, he immediately steps closer.
It feels oddly intimate to have Wei Ying look at a picture of himself as young, himself and Lan Xichen as children, being held by mother and surrounded by the rabbits at a petting zoo, one of the few happy memories of his mother Lan Wangji has.
Wei Ying’s face softens. He too, has lost a father and a mother, Lan Wangji remembers.
“She is beautiful,” Wei Ying says. “She looks kind too.”
“Hn,” Lan Wangji says. “Was yours?”
Wei Ying looks down. “I don’t remember. I think so. My only real memory of her is the sound of her laughter. I think she liked to laugh.”
Like Wei Ying, Lan Wangji thinks. “My mother liked rabbits.”
Wei Ying looks delighted. “I like rabbits too! I’ve always wanted one, but Madame Yu hates them, and Jiang Cheng claims they’re stupid. Do you like rabbits, Lan Zhan?”
“Hn,” Lan Wangji says. “I do.”
Wei Ying beams, as if that simple answer tells him just how much Lan Wangji likes rabbits. “Lan Zhan, what sort of rabbits do you like the most?”
“Essay now,” Lan Wangji reminds him. “Rabbits another time.”
Wei Ying sighs, then plops down on Lan Wangji’s bed with all the lack of grace of a penguin out of water.
Lan Wangji gives him a look. Wei Ying immediately sits up straight.
They set to work.
It is dark by the time Lan Wangji finishes reading the last draft. Wei Ying looks up at him, stifling a yawn.
“This will be acceptable to Uncle,” Lan Wangji says, and Wei Ying lets out a sigh of relief, leaning back against the wall.
“You’re the best, Lan Zhan,” he murmurs sleepily. “The bestest best best. I mean it.”
“Hn,” Lan Wangji says, but the words make something in his chest flutter. “You did well too.”
“I do better with you,” Wei Ying says. He yawns, his eyes sliding shut for a moment before he forces them open. “Sorry. Tired. Lan Zhan, if you make me some coffee I’ll be out of here in a flash, I promise.”
Lan Wangji says nothing. He merely puts together all the sheets of the final draft, stapling them together, putting them on the desk. He puts all the textbooks back onto the bookshelf in their proper place and turns the computer off.
When he turns his attention back to the bed, Wei Ying has drifted off again, as he suspected. Gently, very gently as to not wake him, he eases Wei Ying onto the bed properly, gets an extra blanket and tucks Wei Ying into it, and makes sure Wei Ying’s head is resting comfortably on the pillow.
“Mmm,” Wei Ying murmurs without opening his eyes. “You’re too good to me, Lan Zhan.”
“Hn,” Lan Wangji says softly. “Sleep, Wei Ying.”
“Okay,” Wei Ying says, voice thick with sleep. “If you want me to. Whatever you want me to. I mean it. I like you that much, Lan Zhan.”
Lan Wangji feels himself going very, very still, but Wei Ying has already drifted off again, letting out one soft, almost adorable snore.
Like me how much, Lan Wangji wonders.
Lan Wangji focuses on making breakfast. It is something to do, something to keep his mind on, to brew the tea right, to cook the pancakes just right, to make coffee sharp enough for Wei Ying, to get the toasts just the right amount of crunchy but not burned.
He isn’t sure how long Lan Xichen has been watching him by the time he notices, but he suspects it may have been a while judging by Lan Xichen’s faint smile.
“Brother,” he says evenly.
“Wangji, why is Young Master Wei asleep in your bed?” Lan Xichen asks softly. There might even be a hint of amusement in his eyes, but Lan Wangji refuses to meet his gaze.
“I took the couch.”
“I see,” Lan Xichen says, and he even sounds amused this time. “You’re making pancakes for breakfast, Wangji?”
Lan Wangji is spared from a reply as Wei Ying practically bolts into the room, nearly tripping over his own feet. “Lan Zhan! Oh, hi, Lan Xichen. Lan Zhan, I am so sorry, I don’t even remember falling asleep last night!”
Ah, Lan Wangji thinks, and swallows the strange sense of disappointment, shoving it deep, deep down.
“It is fine,” he says when he trusts his voice. “You were tired. I texted Jiang Yanli last night to let her know you would be staying over. You have ample time before your first class to have breakfast and get home to change. It is fine.”
Lan Xichen is looking at him again, Lan Wangji notices, but he very pointedly does not look back. He meets Wei Ying’s gaze instead, and Wei Ying smiles gratefully at him.
“You’re the best. You even know my class schedule better than me, Lan Zhan,” Wei Ying observes. He sits down by the counter, accepting the plate of pancakes Wangji hands him.
“I take it you love pancakes for breakfast, Young Master Wei,” Lan Xichen says, and Wei Ying nods happily, biting into one with pure, unbridled joy.
His brother is going to smile knowingly at him for days, Lan Wangji knows, but somehow, it still feels worth it.
Chapter 3: Third
It is raining outside when Lan Zhan opens the door to see Wei Ying there, looking every inch drenched and miserable, a very ugly bruise at his temple.
Lan Wangji feels an urge to ball his fists at that. Someone has hurt Wei Ying. Not just physically, judging by his expression. What did Wei Ying say he was doing tonight? Going out with Jiang Cheng, wasn’t it?
“I’m sorry,” Wei Ying says, shivering. “I couldn’t think of where else to go. Can I…”
Lan Wangji lets him in, finds several towels and a change of clothes (his clothes, as he has nothing else to offer), and lets Wei Ying borrow the bathroom to change. He makes a strong coffee while he waits, trying to calm himself, but can’t quite manage it.
“I’m sorry,” Wei Ying says again as he walks out. The faint blue and white of Lan Wangji’s clothes make Wei Ying seem slightly paler in the faint light, but it’s not unbecoming.
“Don’t be sorry to me,” Lan Wangji stresses. He holds out the cup of coffee, and Wei Ying accepts gratefully.
Wei Ying nods. “Thank you, then.”
Wei Ying curls up on the couch. Lan Wangji sits down carefully next to him. He waits. If Wei Ying wants to tell him, Wei Ying will tell him. If he doesn’t, then Lan Wangji will accept that too, and simply be here.
“They were going to beat him up,” Wei Ying says after a while. “The Wen gang, I mean. I think Jiang Cheng smiled at one of their sisters or something.”
“Hn,” Lan Wangji says. He knows the Wens. Everyone knows the Wens. The Wens make sure of that.
“They would have left him half-dead,” Wei Ying says. “I know them. I know him. I…I knew I could handle them better. Before my uncle took me in, I lived in foster homes. There were a lot of fights. I got used to it.”
Lan Wangji glances over at him. Wei Ying looks lost in memory, and not pleasant ones, he can tell. “Wei Ying?”
“Right,” Wei Ying says, returning to the present. “I got them to have a go at me instead.”
“How?” Lan Wangji asks. He is careful to keep his voice even despite his own mounting anger.
“It’s really easy to aggravate people when you’re me, Lan Zhan,” Wei Ying says, trying for a smile and almost, almost managing. “I am master of aggravating, a disciple of annoying, a diligent student of ruffling.”
Wei Ying shakes his head. “I know. ‘Do not joke’, right?”
Lan Wangji pauses. “Does it make you feel better?”
“To joke?” Wei Ying sighs, rubbing his forehead lightly. “I guess. Sometimes.”
“Then joke,” Lan Wangji offers, and Wei Ying looks touched, smiling faintly. “Did they hurt you?”
“Not seriously,” Wei Ying says. He touches his bruise gently, wincing slightly as he does. “I got two of them to fight each other in the end. They forgot about me after that.”
“Hn,” Lan Wangji says. He watches Wei Ying’s face carefully. “Jiang Cheng was not happy with your intervention.”
Wei Ying swallows. “No.”
Jiang Cheng is proud, Lan Wangji knows. He is also not quite as good as Wei Ying at his studies (at least when Wei Ying makes an effort), not quite as fast as Wei Ying on the track team, not quite as promising, not quite… Not quite and proud is not a good combination, Lan Wangji knows, remembering Su She.
“If I hadn’t protected him, Madame Yu would be unhappy,” Wei Ying says after a moment. He closes his eyes. “If I do well at my studies, uncle is happy and Madame Yu is unhappy. If I do poorly, uncle is unhappy and Madam Yu is happier – she’s never really happy with me. If Madame Yu or Jiang Cheng is unhappy, I make shijie unhappy too. Whatever I do, I make someone unhappy.”
Lan Wangji wonders how he ever thought Wei Ying was all light, all smiles. Wei Ying is light and smiles, yes, but despite his grief, his pain, his concern. It makes his light and smiles all the more admirable, all the more precious.
Lan Wangji wants him to be all light, all smiles.
“Wei Ying,” he says, and Wei Ying looks at him, eyes dark. “You don’t make me unhappy.”
Wei Ying looks at him, swallowing. “Not even when I make you help me with my studies?”
“No,” Lan Wangji says solemnly. “Happy to.”
“Not even when I convinced you to attend Nie Huaisang’s party only to drag you into the basement and made you investigate the ant colony with me because I thought they were cute?”
“Not even when I spent a whole class making drawings in your notebook?”
“No,” Lan Wangji says. He still has those drawings. He likes them very much. “They made me happy.”
Wei Ying blinks, staring down at the mug in his hand, then up at Lan Wangji again. “You really mean that, don’t you?”
Wei Ying lets out a choked laugh. “Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan. You’re making it very hard for me to feel sorry for myself here.”
“Good,” Lan Wangji says, and Wei Ying’s laughter is genuine this time.
“Teasing me, Lan Zhan? I am rubbing off on you.”
Lan Wangji finds himself smiling, and Wei Ying smiles back at him, looking far less miserable now. It makes Lan Wangji feel almost proud – he cheered Wei Ying up. He.
“I will apologize to Jiang Cheng tomorrow,” Wei Ying says, nodding to himself. “He’ll yell at me for a few days and then forgive me. He always does.”
Does Jiang Cheng ever apologize to Wei Ying, Lan Wangji finds himself wondering.
“Tomorrow,” Wei Ying repeats. He chews his lip thoughtfully. “Lan Zhan, tonight, could I…”
“Yes,” Lan Wangji says. “The answer is always yes, Wei Ying.”
Wei Ying beams at him again, taking his hand and squeezing it affectionately, and Lan Wangji finds himself wishing he’d never let go.
Lan Wangji wakes up to the faint smell of burnt toast. He is used to the smell of toast and tea in the morning, but not burnt.
He dresses quickly, and as he walks into the hallway, he hears two familiar voices.
“Young Master Wei,” Lan Xichen says pleasantly. “Are you… Making breakfast?”
“Yes!” Wei Ying exclaims. “To thank Lan Zhan. He’s just the best, you know, Lan Xichen?”
Lan Wangji can practically hear Lan Xichen’s smile. “Yes. I know.”
Lan Wangji takes a moment to make sure his face is as even as he can manage it before he walks into the kitchen. Wei Ying immediately smiles at him.
“Lan Zhan! I am making you breakfast,” Wei Ying declares. “Toast? Tea? Pancake?”
“Yes,” Lan Wangji says, and Wei Ying beams, his light and smile returned.
The toast is slightly burnt. The pancakes are slightly undercooked. The tea has too much sugar in it. Lan Wangji still enjoys it more than any other breakfast he can remember.
After all, it’s a breakfast Wei Ying made for him.
Chapter 4: Fourth
His arms feel like they’re on fire, but the rest of him feels like winter, cold and chilling, bones of ice and veins of snow. It’s all painful, but Lan Wangji has never let pain rule him and he’s not about to do so now.
It is worth it, Lan Wangji considers. He has accepted his punishment, but he doesn’t regret his actions. It is worth the punishment.
“Lan Zhan!” he hears Wei Ying call, distant at first, but coming closer rather quickly. “Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan, get out of the fucking pool right now! You’ll catch your death! Lan Zhan!”
Lan Wangji looks up to see Wei Ying standing by the edge of the pool, breathless and angry and worried, and feels… He’s not exactly sure, but something. When Wei Ying holds out a hand, he accepts it, even if he could pull himself out without the help.
At least he thinks he could. He feels strangely heavy and light-headed at once, and the cold is shaking him tremble slightly.
“Lan Zhan,” Wei Ying says again, tearing his own coat off and wrapping it around Lan Wangji. “What the hell are you doing? I couldn’t believe it when some of the juniors said they’d seen you out here.”
We Ying’s coat smells of him, Lan Wangji notes. “Punishment.”
Wei Ying shakes his head in disbelief. “You? You’re getting punished? You, Lan Wangji, star student?”
“Hn,” Lan Wangji says. He shivers again, and Wei Ying curses, running his hands up and down Lan Wangji’s arms. “Uncle said thirty-three laps in the pool.”
“Outside?” Wei Ying hisses. “Is he trying to kill you?”
“Indoor pool closed,” Lan Wangji says. He closes his eyes as Wei Ying puts a hand on his forehead and then curses again. “Wangji accepted punishment. Thirty-three laps in the pool. Only pool I could access.”
“You…” Wei Ying begins, then shakes his head. “Lan Zhan, why were you punished? You?”
Lan Wangji swallows. If he tells Wei Ying, Wei Ying will feel guilty. Maybe even sad. He doesn’t want that.
He says nothing.
Wei Ying looks at him, frowning. “Lan Zhan?”
Lan Wangji still says nothing.
“What could possibly…” Wei Ying says, then cuts off the rest of the sentence as Lan Wangji stumbles slightly, and immediately, Wei Ying is there, steadying him, putting an arm around his waist.
“I’m going to call a cab and get you home, all right?” Wei Ying says. He growls slightly as he taps a number furiously into his phone with his one free hand, the other keeping a firm grip on Lan Wangji, who listens to him ordering a cab a touch distantly, watching the snow fall around them.
Wei Ying doesn’t just get him home. Wei Ying leads him home, never loosening his grip, steering him straight into the bathroom. He draws a hot bath while Lan Wangji watches, and helps him undress when Lan Wangji’s fingers feel stiff and clumsy. He tries very hard not to look as well, Lan Wangji notes, but even so, Wei Ying’s cheeks seem flushed by the time Wangji settles into the bathtub.
“I’ll make you some tea,” Wei Ying mutters awkwardly.
Lan Wangji watches him leave, then closes his eyes. The water is heated almost to the point of steam, and his body begins to itch as the chill slowly begins to leave him. His head still feels funny in a way he can’t quite put to words. It is as if it is hard to think, yet he has too many thoughts at once.
He thinks about Wei Ying in the bathtub with him, for one thing. Wei Ying isn’t cold. When Wei Ying touches him, he feels warm. He would heat up much faster with Wei Ying in the hot water with him.
Wei Ying is warmth, he concludes, and feels very proud of that conclusion.
“Lan Zhan?” he hears after a while, and Wei Ying is standing in the door. “Can you… Um… Do you need help to… Get up?”
Lan Wangji tries to stand up. He manages for a brief second, then his head swims, and he stumbles, and within seconds, Wei Ying is there, supporting him.
“Okay,” Wei Ying says, swallowing. He has an odd expression on his face, Wangji notices, and he can’t quite decide where to look as he helps Lan Wangji out of the tub, towels his body very gently, wraps him in a bathrobe and then towels and combs his hair.
It’s all very gently, all very caring, and Lan Wangji thinks faintly of his mother.
“You need to take better care of yourself,” Wei Ying says sternly as he tucks the last few strands of hair behind Lan Wangji’s ear. “You don’t want me taking care of you again, do you? I’m no good at this.”
Lan Wangji thinks about that. “Wei Ying is always good.”
Wei Ying splutters slightly. “Um, Lan Zhan. I’m really not. Ask Madame Yu. Ask your uncle. You can even ask Jiang Cheng, he’ll be very happy to tell you I’m not.”
“Wei Ying is good,” Lan Wangji insists. Wei Ying needs to know that. “No need to ask. I know.”
Wei Ying closes his eyes, and for a moment, he looks pained. Then he smiles very softly, and a touch sadly. “You actually think that, don’t you, Lan Zhan?”
“Hn,” Lan Wangji says.
Wei Ying smiles again, then takes Lan Wangji’s wrist and leads him into the kitchen. It smells of soup and tea, and indeed, Wei Ying has made both. Gently, he spoon-feeds Lan Wangji the soup and then helps him drink a full cup of tea. He even wipes Lan Wangji’s chin lightly when he spills a little, and then leads Lan Wangji slowly and surely into the bedroom.
The bed is soft, but doesn’t feel warm to Lan Wangji. Only Wei Ying does, and he holds Wei Ying’s hand to his cheek. Wei Ying makes a soft noise, but says nothing, tucking him in gently, tenderly.
Lan Wangji doesn’t let go of his hand.
“Cold,” Lan Wangji murmurs. “Warmer with Wei Ying.”
He can’t see Wei Ying’s expression, but he can hear the slow exhale, feel the bed move as Wei Ying eases himself into it, feel Wei Ying’s warmth next to him.
“Wei Ying,” he murmurs happily, pressing his head into Wei Ying’s shoulder, Wei Ying slowly easing his arms around Lan Wangji and holding on.
Slowly, Lan Wangji becomes aware of being wonderfully, wonderfully warm, almost as if he is resting in the sunlight of a summer’s day. It is morning, his brain reminds him, but his body seems to want to stay warm, wants to stay just where it is.
He sighs, and hears a soft exhale.
He opens his eyes abruptly. Wei Ying is in bed with him. Wei Ying is in bed with him, opening his eyes, and Lan Wangji feels his heart quicken. Their foreheads are almost touching, and their hands are linked, pressed against Wei Ying’s chest.
Last night comes back in a rush, and Lan Wangji can feel himself flush. His heart seems to be thundering, and his breath sounds ragged even to him.
There is a long, loaded silence.
Wei Ying swallows and leans in, his breath tickling Lan Wangji’s lips as Lan Wangji holds his own breath. Wei Ying, he thinks painfully, longingly.
Wei Ying doesn’t kiss him.
“Fuck!” Wei Ying exclaims, bolting upwards, rolling out of bed and falling to his knees ungracefully. Lan Wangji feels cold again. “Sorry. Sorry.”
“Sorry?” Lan Wangji repeats.
“I know you don’t feel that way about me,” Wei Ying whispers, voice small. He gets up, but doesn’t look at Lan Wangji. “You’ve been… You’ve been everything to me for months and I have to fucking ruin it.”
“Wei Ying,” Lan Wangji says. His heart is racing. “Wei Ying, look at me.”
Wei Ying pauses at the door and closes his eyes, so Lan Wangji gets out of bed, walks up to him, turns him around and pins him against the door.
“Wei Ying,” he says again. “How do I feel about you?”
Wei Ying opens his eyes, and his gaze turns from sad to hopeful as he takes in Lan Wangji’s ragged breath, his parted lips, the flush to his ears, the look in his eyes.
“How,” Lan Wangji says again, and kisses Wei Ying against his bedroom door until Wei Ying is good and kissed; lips flushed, breath stolen, cheeks flushed, eyes wide.
That’s a start on how, Lan Wangji thinks.
Chapter 5: Fifth
Wei Ying is barely inside when Lan Wangji presses him against the wall and kisses him, and Wei Ying laughs into his mouth, delighted and teasing at the same time. Lan Wangji has loved his laughter for a long time, but to kiss it, to feel it reverberate into his mouth, is something Lan Wangji is learning to love even more.
Wei Ying tastes of spring and warmth and Wei Ying when kissed, and of heat when kissed deeply and thoroughly, Lan Wangji has learned, yet he never tires of reminding himself.
He thinks he might never.
“Lan Zhan! You missed me!” Wei Ying exclaims breathlessly when Lan Wangji shifts his mouth to Wei Ying’s throat to press a kiss there.
“Hn,” Lan Wangji says. He puts his hands on Wei Ying’s waist, half guiding him, half twirling him towards the couch.
“You saw me in class this morning,” Wei Ying teases, but he sounds pleased, far too pleased.
“This morning,” Lan Wangji says. Wei Ying laughs again as Lan Wangji sits down, pulling Wei Ying onto his lap. “Too long.”
Wei Ying hums in agreement, lacing his fingers in Lan Wangji’s hair and kissing his nose. “Is your brother home?”
“No,” Lan Wangji says. “He won’t be home until tomorrow.”
Wei Ying hums again. “Has he forgiven me yet for walking in on me necking his younger brother against the fridge?”
“Brother is very forgiving,” Lan Wangji says, and Wei Ying dips his head down to kiss the spot where Lan Wangji still bears the mark of his teeth. “Jiang Cheng is less forgiving.”
“Jiang Cheng should know better than to barge into a lecture hall after the lecture is done,” Wei Ying says. He runs his hands down Lan Wangji’s chest. “Hmm. You think if I sneak you into my room, Madame Yu will murder me for sure?”
“Hn,” Lan Wangji says. He runs his tongue along the shell of Wei Ying’s ear, and Wei Ying shudders.
“Would be worth it,” Wei Ying gasps. “Lan Zhan, if your brother isn’t home until tomorrow, do you want me to…”
He trails off, biting his lower lip slightly. He hasn’t stayed over since they first kissed. It’s been days of kissing, of touching, of being together, but staying over has suddenly become something more, something new, and Wei Ying hasn’t asked before now, waiting, and Lan Wangji hasn’t offered before now, also waiting.
“If Wei Ying wants,” Lan Wangji says softly.
Wei Ying kisses him, and it’s all want.
Kissing Wei Ying was a start on how. Taking Wei Ying to bed is a good continuation, Lan Wangji finds.
Wei Ying writhes and shifts and moans when Lan Wangji kisses his skin, traces his curves, caresses his lines. His lashes seem darker whenever he closes his eyes in delight, and his eyes brighter whenever he looks up in pleasure. He whimpers when Lan Wangji strokes his cock, and pleads when Lan Wangji continues, begging for something he seems to trust Lan Wangji to know.
Lan Wangji learns. He studies Wei Ying’s reactions – his expressions, his sounds, his breathing – and adjusts accordingly, and soon, Wei Ying makes a strangled attempt at his name and comes apart in his hands.
Lan Wangji is rather pleased with himself over that.
Wei Ying drags him to the bathroom afterwards, cleaning him, and then kneels down on the white tiles and takes Lan Wangji in his mouth, watching his reaction with bright, bright eyes. It’s all Lan Wangji can do to steady himself against the wall, unable to keep silent as Wei Ying quickly demonstrates he is as good a learner as Lan Wangji when it comes to pleasing. It is almost too much pleasure, overwhelming everything, and Lan Wangji can’t even remain upright when the orgasm seems to slam into him with a whimper of Wei Ying’s name.
They crawl into bed together after, and Wei Ying clings to Lan Wangji as if he is relished, and Lan Wangji holds Wei Ying as if he is precious. Wei Ying talks for a while, then drifts off, then sleepily demands being kissed awake, so Lan Wangji does.
Wei Ying hums happily into his mouth, then kisses Lan Wangji back, hard yet teasingly, kisses him hard, in fact, and Lan Wangji groans into the kiss and can’t help the slight thrust of his hips.
Wei Ying pulls back to look at him, eyes bright with mischief. “If you’re going to fuck me, Lan Zhan, you better feed me first. I’m starving.”
Lan Zhan does. He makes Wei Ying midnight waffles and spicy tea, licking the taste of it from his lips afterwards, and carries him to bed to be fucked.
It is slightly nervous at first, but it is their first time at this, after all. He has bought far too many bottles of lube after Wei Ying mentioned wanting to try this - unsure which would be best, and he still remembers the look the shop keeper gave him, speculative and amused – but Wei Ying seems to find that adorable, kissing him and picking one at random.
Nervous becomes confident as he learns how to move his fingers to have Wei Ying part his lips, becomes assured as he finds the spot that makes Wei Ying buck, becomes bold as he pushes into Wei Ying and feels Wei Ying press his forehead against his.
“Lan Zhan,” Wei Ying whispers. “Lan Zhan.”
“Wei Ying,” Lan Wangji breathes. He kisses Wei Ying lovingly, tenderly and then spends a long, long time learning very well how to fuck Wei Ying.
Lan Wangji wakes up alone.
His bed still smells of Wei Ying, and the sheets are still crumbled from the last night. A quick glance at the clock tells Lan Wangji it is actually almost noon. He has never slept this long, but then again, he has never had a night like that before.
Perhaps Wei Ying is getting them lunch, he considers.
Putting on clothes, he walks into the kitchen to see his brother there, looking… Odd.
Lan Wangji gets the horrible feeling that something is wrong. “Brother?”
“Wangji,” Lan Xichen says. He looks apologetic. “Wangji, you didn’t tell Wei Ying why uncle punished you?”
“No,” Lan Wangji says, his mind racing.
“I thought you had,” Lan Xichen says, sighing. “I thought that was why you two had finally realized how you felt about each other. I’m sorry, Wangji.”
“Where is he?” Lan Wangji asks, feeling his heart ache. Wei Ying wasn’t meant to find out. “Brother, where is he?”
“He left,” Lan Xichen says. He winces. “He didn’t tell me where he was going.”
Lan Wangji turns around, practically bolting for the door. He doesn’t care he’s only in a t-shirt and pajamas bottoms, doesn’t care about anything but finding Wei Ying, finding Wei Ying and convincing him it’s not his fault, it’s not…
He slams the door open, runs outside and nearly runs down Wei Ying, who makes a startled noise, clutching a box. Before he can fall over, Lan Wangji pulls him against his chest, taking the fall himself.
Wei Ying stares down at him, eyes wide. “Lan Zhan?”
“Wei Ying,” Lan Wangji manages to say. He doesn’t care he’s on his ass in the grass. He only cares that he has his arms around Wei Ying. “Not your fault.”
Wei Ying sighs. He looks a little sad, but still manages a slight smile. “You interrupted your uncle thirty-three times to defend me, Lan Zhan.”
“Worth it,” Lan Wangji insists. “You’re worth it, Wei Ying.”
“You actually feel like that, don’t you, Lan Zhan?” Wei Ying says, but it’s not really a question. He swallows, then smiles softly.
Lan Wangji nods. “How I feel about Wei Ying.”
“I… I know. I do know now, Lan Zhan. You should know too. I went home to get something I’ve been meaning to give you,” Wei Ying says, holding out the box. “A start on how I feel about you.”
Lan Wangji looks inside. A white rabbit and a back rabbit look up at him, and this time, the ache in his heart is a good one. Rabbits. Wei Ying is giving him rabbits because Wei Ying knows Lan Wangji likes rabbits. As simple as that. As wonderful as that. He looks up to see Wei Ying smiling at him, nodding at him.
“A start on how,” Wei Ying repeats, and kisses him lovingly, so very lovingly.
Chapter 6: Last
Wei Ying sighs and shifts slightly, and Lan Wangji tightens his arms around him, kissing his shoulder. It is early morning, another early morning waking up with Wei Ying, and Lan Wangji wants thousands, millions more.
He is greedy when it comes to Wei Ying, he has realized, but he feels no shame in it. Not when Wei Ying wants him just as much, loves him as much.
Just how much, Wei Ying has spent many creative days showing, and even that, Lan Wangji wants more of.
“I should go,” Wei Ying murmurs, but his voice is reluctant. “I haven’t been back for like five days and I’ve run out of change of clothes and I am not wearing yours again unless I want to give Jiang Cheng an aneurism. I’ll be back tonight.”
“Hn,” Lan Wangji says. He watches Wei Ying get up with a frown. “Stop staying over, Wei Ying.”
Wei Ying goes still. “Stop staying over?”
“Hn. Move in,” Lan Wangji says, and Wei Ying stares at him, then slowly, slowly, smiles.
“Won’t your brother mind?”
“No. He threatened to move out if you didn’t move in.”
Lan Xichen is not just a forgiving brother, Lan Wangji thinks. Lan Xichen is encouraging brother, far too happy to see his younger brother happy at last to mind whatever affection he might witness. Customary breakfast to Lan Xichen is now three plates, three mugs, toast, tea, pancakes and coffee.
Wei Ying laughs at that, and laughs again when Lan Wangji pulls him into an embrace and back into bed, and laughs into the kiss as Lan Wangji kisses him lovingly, happily, greedily.
“Yes,” Wei Ying says brightly, all smiles, all light. “I’ll stop staying over and just stay, Lan Zhan.”