Wei WuXian is drooling on the pillow.
The immobilization spell has worn off, leaving him free to sprawl across the bed. He takes up space unpredictably, inefficiently, his arms and legs going every direction. His head has dropped sideways, his hair a tangled mass spread out beside him, and a line of drool sliding out of his mouth, turning the pillow damp against his cheek. It isn’t his body, his face, and yet Lan WangJi aches at how FAMILIAR he is. The song is his proof, but he feels that even without it, he would know — this person, the way he speaks, the way he moves, the way he’s taken over the entire bed with his messy sprawling, he KNOWS this person. He sits carefully beside the bed, watching. Wei WuXian sighs in his sleep, another line of drool dribbling down his chin. He looks so blatantly out of place, messy and black like an ink blot in middle of the pristine, orderly white of the Lan sect. He looks peaceful.
He looks peaceful, and it’s the first time in so long that Lan WangJi has seen such a look on his face that it might break his heart. The memories that followed him for thirteen years, the ones that haunted his nightmares, that cut his heart with grief, the images that danced insistently before his eyes as he mourned, they always seemed to cling to their worst encounters. Wei WuXian exhausted, his eyes so bloodshot Lan WangJi worried about qi deviation. Wei WuXian grief-stricken, death mirrored in his gaze. Wei WuXian horrified, Wei WuXian lost. Wei WuXian bloody and battered and outcast, with nothing in his expression but empty hatred. The memory of the carefree, teasing laugh of a boy who handed Lan WangJi a drawing of him with a flower in his hair felt distant and dreamlike, as if it were a story Lan WangJi had believed as a child.
But now he is here and he is safe and peaceful and Lan WangJi has to resist the urge to gather him into his arms where he can hold him close and refuse to let anything hurt him ever again.
It had perhaps been a small bit cruel to force Wei WuXian to lie limp and paralyzed on top of him for half the night, but he can’t make himself regret it. Just once, just once in thirteen years, he had wanted to do something selfish. With Wei WuXian crawling on top of him, in all his teasing, provoking vitality, suddenly memories of cool afternoons in the library pavilion were not so distant anymore. When he felt his warmth, his breath, his pulse, his heart beating out a steady, bold promise beneath his skin — I’m here, I’m alive, I’m here, I’m alive, I’m here, I’m alive — he just wanted so desperately to cling to it, to hold his reassurance and refuse to let it go.
Waking back up to discover it was not a dream was euphoric. It flooded his veins with a peace and happiness so strong that he thought he might cry. Feeling Wei WuXian’s soft breath against his neck and his weight heavy on his chest before he felt anything else, it suddenly felt like every morning he’d woken up cold, alone, to a world where he was gone — none of them mattered. Every moment of pain he’d endured from the scars on his back, every argument with his uncle, he would endure it all again if he could simply stay here, with the heat of Wei WuXian’s breath against his throat. He allowed himself just five more minutes to be selfish, to lie there breathing in tandem with Wei WuXian, to feel his heartbeat.
I’m here, I’m alive, I’m here, I’m alive, I’m here, I’m alive
Only now he’s gotten up and he’s dressed and ready to leave the jingshi but he’s still here, just watching. Watching him breathe, watching him sleep peacefully, watching the expanding wet spot as he drools. Wei WuXian murmurs something in his sleep and rolls his head to the other side. Lan WangJi takes a slow deep breath and stands. There will be time to figure out what comes next. For now, he should not intrude on the rest of his sleep. He holds the memory of the warmth of Wei WuXian’s breath carefully, and of the steady beat in his chest.
I’m here. I’m alive.
He wakes to Wei WuXian tangled around him. He wakes to Wei WuXian naked, tangled around him, his head pillowed on Lan WangJi’s chest, one arm curling around his shoulder, behind his back, the other flung up over their heads and lost in Lan WangJi’s hair, his leg hooked around Lan WangJi’s waist, and his—
Lan WangJi averts his eyes, feeling heat in his ears, but it does nothing to change the fact that he can still feel — that — against his side, or the fact that he’s suddenly very aware of his own nudity. He extricates himself as swiftly as he can without waking Wei WuXian and throws on a robe. After he’s at least covered, he sits back down on the edge of the bed and carefully rearranges Wei WuXian’s limbs into a more comfortable position, pulling the blanket up over him. Wei WuXian sighs, mumbles something, and immediately rolls to his side again. The slightest of smiles tugs at Lan WangJi’s lips, although it vanishes as his gaze falls to Wei Ying’s neck. There is still a red line where the guqin string cut and chafed. Lan WangJi takes one of Wei WuXian’s hands in his own and gently runs a thumb across his knuckles, before he makes himself stand up and move to dress properly.
He is working on writing out an account of Jing GuangYao’s actions last night — whether or not it will be needed with the other three clan leaders as witnesses, it is a good habit to maintain — when he hears a mumbled “Lan Zhan?” from across the room. In a moment, he has put the brush down and is beside the bed.
“Mn.” Wei WuXian rolls over, blinking away the sleep in his eyes, and anxiety dissipates from his expression as he sees Lan WangJi, so he adds, “I am here.”
Wei WuXian moves to sit up, and groans. “I’m sore,” he says.
“Your throat?” Lan WangJi’s eyes dart across him. “Or your stomach?” Wei WuXian flushes.
“Not that!” he yelps. He seems to realize he is naked and reaches for a robe beside the bed. “My throat is fine,” he insists. “HanGuang-Jun is just a more enthusiastic lover than I ever could have guessed.” A lazy, flirtatious grin spreads across his face. “Who knows if I’ll even be able to walk?” he says.
“If you cannot walk, then I will carry you,” Lan WangJi replies, and Wei WuXian flushes again. He laughs and shakes his head.
“And you always call me shameless,” he says. He climbs to his feet, and then without warning, throws his arms around Lan WangJi. He kisses him, long and slow. When they break for air, he leans upward to whisper into Lan WangJi’s ear. “I’m happy,” he says. “Lan Zhan, I’m happy.”
The inn where they stayed for the night-hunt was substandard at best. They wouldn’t have chosen it, except that the only other option within ten miles was a brothel or sleeping outdoors, and it was pouring rain. It is still raining when Lan WangJi wakes in the morning, the pounding against the roof and the pitter-patter of a leak in the corner of the room a constant wash of background noise. Wei WuXian had rolled to the side of the bed at some point in the night, curled into an awkward position in an attempt to relieve his spine from the poorly constructed bed. Lan WangJi sighs. It is unlikely they will be able to go out night-hunting in this rain — he can hardly even see out the window. So there will probably be at least one more night in this inn until they can resolve the issue of the beast that has been terrorizing the farmers nearby. At least the juniors are not with them this time — the Lan Sect disciples should know to hold their tongues, but Jin Ling would be sure to complain.
He shifts himself closer to Wei WuXian, enough to press a kiss to his neck that makes him mumble and shift but does not wake him. He runs his fingers lightly up one of Wei WuXian’s arms.
He delays in the morning, sometimes, just to soak him in, to convince himself he isn’t dreaming. He revels in the details: the way Wei WuXian’s fingers curl softly and lazily around his arm, the way his eyes flicker beneath his eyelids when Lan WangJi unwraps himself from his embrace, the strands of hair that fall across his face, the little barely-awake sigh he makes when Lan WangJi kisses his forehead.
The rain plops loudly into the growing puddle in the corner of the room and Lan WangJi sighs. He stands up from the bed, picks up the wash basin, and sets it under the leak. A stop-gap, but at least the floor will not get any more soaked. He fetches his guqin, ensuring it is still wrapped and dry, and does the same for Bichen. He looks at the bed, and Wei WuXian still sleeping soundly, and carefully crawls back into it. Wei WuXian shifts, eyes coming half-open.
“Hm? Lan Zhan?” he mumbles.
“It’s raining. Go back to sleep.” Wei WuXian’s forehead creases for a moment, but the desire to sleep wins out and he rolls towards Lan WangJi, cuddling against him, eyes falling closed again with a sigh. Lan WangJi wraps his arms around him, sighs, and buries his face into Wei WuXian’s shoulder.
He could stay like this, he thinks. He could sleep more, no matter how uncomfortable the bed, or how persistent the plip-plop of the leaking roof. Or he could simply lie here, breathing and touching and holding. With Wei WuXian sleeping beside him, he could stay here forever.
Winter brings a cold bite to the air in the Cloud Recesses, and turns the grass white with frost. Lan WangJi wakes on his side, with his chest pressed along Wei WuXian’s back, one arm thrown loosely across his stomach. It takes him a moment, as he blinks sleep from his eyes, to realize what has woken him is Wei WuXian twitching slightly in his arms, whimpering and mumbling something unintelligible. Lan WangJi’s hand tightens slightly against his stomach, pulling Wei WuXian closer to him. He lifts his head to speak softly into his ear.
“Wei Ying,” he says. Wei WuXian jerks.
“Don’t leave!” he calls out. “I’ll go with you, don’t leave, don’t—“ He comes awake with a gasp, his fingers scrabbling at the sheets. He finds Lan WangJi’s hand and grabs at it, dragging it up to his chest and holding it close, curling around it. He heaves for breath. Lan WangJi pushes up on his elbow, and presses a gentle kiss to Wei WuXian’s temple.
“I will not leave,” he murmurs. Wei WuXian’s fingers tighten around his hand.
“Er-gege,” he mumbles, sleep still slurring his words with a note of confusion. They stay there for a long moment, neither of them moving, until Wei WuXian’s breathing has slowed. Without warning, he suddenly shifts, turning to face Lan WangJi, and buries his face into his chest with a sigh. “Er-gege,” he repeats, only this time it sounds relieved.
“I am here,” Lan WangJi tells him, and he nods against his chest. “Are you alright?”
Wei WuXian shakes his head slightly— a dismissal, not a denial. He lifts his head off of Lan WangJi’s chest. “I was dreaming of old things,” he says. “It doesn’t matter.” Lan WangJi cups his jaw and carefully wipes away the tears tracking down his cheeks with his thumb. Wei WuXian turns his head slightly, pressing his lips lightly against Lan WangJi’s palm. His hands find their way to wind around Lan WangJi’s hips, pulling them close. His eyes slip closed again as Lan WangJi watches, a last tear seeping out. Wei WuXian rubs a hand slowly and gently up Lan WangJi’s back, fingers dancing across the whip scars with hesitant tenderness. Lan WangJi’s hand drifts from his jaw behind his head, threading through his hair. He lifts Wei WuXian’s face to his and presses a butterfly kiss to each of his eyelids, earning a small quirk of a smile. Wei WuXian snuggles into him.
“Let’s not get up,” Wei WuXian murmurs. “It’s cold and you’re warm and cozy. Let’s just stay here all day.”
“Mn.” Lan WangJi hums his consideration. “If that is what Wei Ying wants.” Wei WuXian laughs, eyes opening.
“Doesn’t Lan SiZhui have a guqin lesson today? Are you going to skip class for me, Lan Zhan?” Lan WangJi takes a moment before he answers, stroking Wei WuXian’s hair. It is silky between his fingers. Wei WuXian’s fingers explore his back quietly, dipping between the scars and curves of muscles with a sort of reverence. The winter air nips at them, chilly and uninviting compared to the warmth of the bed.
“I said I would not leave,” he says eventually.
“Ahh, Lan Zhan, it was just a dream,” Wei WuXian says, half a laugh in his voice. Lan WangJi does not reply, only continues to stroke his hair, and a moment later Wei WuXian buries his face in his chest again, his hand tightening its grip on his back.
“Just an hour,” he whispers. “Not all day. Just stay here with me for an hour.”
Wei WuXian squeezes him tightly for a moment, before he sighs and relaxes, his fingers resuming their dancing journey up and down Lan WangJi’s back. Lan WangJi kisses his head lightly, breathing him in — he smells like spice, and earth, and home.
Sometimes he wakes to a different world for a moment. Sometimes, before he has fully woken up, for a minute it is ten years ago, when Wei WuXian is gone, the bed is cold, the Cloud Recesses too quiet, and the scars on his back ache with phantom pains. Mourning Wei WuXian seems like a mountain he can never finish climbing, and there is something empty where his heart should be.
And then he feels the shift beside him, and an arm that flops across his chest, and the sleep-talk mumble of “‘an Zhan, ‘an Zhan”, and the warmth of the relief that floods him is so intense and immediate that it almost overwhelms him. He shifts, turning on his side so he can find Wei WuXian’s lips with his own. He hardly even kisses him, no more than a ghost’s whisper-touch, but stays there to feel him breathing, the gentle heat of his breaths better than even a frenzied, passionate kiss.
“Lan Zhan.” The murmur comes again, slightly more coherent this time, Wei WuXian’s mouth moving against Lan WangJi’s lips. Wei WuXian’s eyes have slid half-open, hazy with sleep. Lan WangJi closes the gap of breath between them, pressing a real kiss that Wei WuXian melts into, the hand thrown over Lan WangJi moving to slide up his spine, fingers tangling lazily in his hair as they move.
“Wei Ying,” Lan WangJi says.
“Love you,” Wei WuXian sighs. He presses closer, one leg hooking over Lan WangJi’s calf. “Love Lan er-gege.”
“Love Wei Ying,” he replies. He gently brushes the hair out of Wei WuXian’s face and kisses the corner of his eye.
“Every day,” Wei WuXian says. “Love you every single day.”
For once it isn’t a nightmare that stirs Wei WuXian awake too early, the sky just barely pearlescent in the pre-dawn hours. He isn’t sure what it is — perhaps Lil’ Apple made a sound outside the jingshi, perhaps he shifted and the warmth in the bed startled him after a week spent apart with Lan WangJi off night-hunting, perhaps he was dreaming and he’s simply forgotten. Regardless, Lan WangJi is still asleep, in his perfect posture with slow even breaths, which means it is far too early for Wei WuXian to be awake. He buries his head in the pillow and lets out a soft groan. He reaches blindly over and grabs at Lan WangJi’s hand. He feels floppy with sleep, still, his fingers loose and uncoordinated as they pull Lan WangJi’s hand off his chest and close to him, curling around his forearm. After a moment, Lan WangJi’s fingers twitch and respond, interlacing with his. Wei WuXian turns his head to see Lan WangJi’s eyes just barely parted, watching him.
“Lan Zhaaaaaaaan,” he groans. “Kiss me back to sleep.”
“Why are you awake?” Lan WangJi asks. Wei WuXian makes a mumbled, incoherent noise in response, shrugging slightly against the sheets. His buries his face back into the pillow with a whine. He feels a shift, and then Lan WangJi is close enough beside him to brush the hair off the back of his neck with his free hand, and press careful kisses down his spine. Wei WuXian sighs his contentment at the gentle warmth of the lips against his skin. His fingers tighten, and he shifts abruptly, flipping over to straddle Lan WangJi, still holding his hand, now crushed between their chests. He drops, laying flat and boneless on top of Lan WangJi, who carefully frees his hand, bringing it up to cup Wei WuXian’s cheek.
“Were you dreaming?” he asks. Wei WuXian shakes his head, a small smile pulling at his face. He leans down to kiss Lan WangJi, chaste and gentle.
“I woke up to see your face,” he teases. “When Hanguang-Jun is away, Cloud Recesses has no one so pretty to look at.”
“There is Wei Ying,” Lan Zhan answers, and Wei WuXian feels heat burn in his ears.
“Lan Zhan,” he complains. He buries his face into Lan WangJi’s shoulder. One of Lan WangJi’s hands trails gently across his hips. He can feel the rise and fall of Lan WangJi’s chest, his breathing even against Wei WuXian’s weight. “Even if that were true, how am I supposed to look at myself? You’re no help.” The hand cupping his cheek moves under his chin and sharply tilts his face up, startling an arrested gasp from Wei WuXian.
“If you want to see, then look,” Lan WangJi says seriously. “Do not say things you do not mean.” Wei WuXian is lost for a moment, still bleary with sleep, staring at the sloping jade planes of Lan WangJi’s face, its shape altered without his headband and hair fanning loose onto the pillow behind him. Wei WuXian lets out a laugh.
“Ah, Lan Zhan, you know I can only talk nonsense this early in the morning,” he says. Lan WangJi’s finger is steady beneath his chin.
“Is it nonsense?” he asks. Wei WuXian smiles again and opts not to answer, instead moving forward to press his lips to Lan WangJi’s. His legs shift, pressing closer to the hips they straddle, more purposeful in their touch. The scent of sandalwood fills his nose. A finger is laid against his lips, stopping his kisses.
“It is morning,” Lan WangJi says. Wei WuXian laughs.
“The Cloud Recesses even has rules for things like this?” he asks incredulously. Lan WangJi doesn’t answer, only looks at him. “Okay, okay, my bad,” he says, waving one hand in a slight apology. Lan WangJi takes the finger off his lips. “Although,” Wei WuXian continues, “it’s not time to get up yet.”
“It is still only 4,” Lan WangJi agrees.
“And, if it’s too early to get up, that means it’s not morning. Which means it’s still night. Right, Lan Zhan? Lan Zhan??”
“So as long as it’s still night, I can do whatever I want,” Wei WuXian laughs. He reaches a hand between them to slide gently down Lan WangJi’s chest. Lan WangJi’s hand moves to the back of Wei WuXian’s head and pulls him closer abruptly, kissing him, his breath faster now. Wei WuXian cants his hips up to rub against what he most wants to touch. Wei WuXian’s breath is hot and uneven in his lungs as his fingers curl against Lan WangJi’s chest. He rubs a thumb over one of Lan WangJi’s nipples, and in response Lan WangJi’s hands abruptly find his hips and yank them downward, pressing as close against him as possible.
He sinks into Lan WangJi, into the heat and the scent of sandalwood and the rush of quickened breaths. He could fall back asleep here, wrapped in the safest embrace in the world. Lan WangJi opens his mouth to bite gently at Wei WuXian’s lower lip, nibbling at it possessively. He half-opens his eyes again and meets Lan WangJi’s gaze. As long as he is already awake, he doesn’t want to look away.