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Walk the Circle in the Other Direction

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Being adopted by the Jiangs had improved Wei Wuxian’s life immeasurably. Before, there had always been worry. Worry about food, worry about shelter, worry about the dogs that might steal both. After, there was always food, there was always shelter, and Wei Wuxian had his brother and sister to keep any dogs away. Even if there had been nothing else, just Jiejie, Jiang Cheng, and Uncle Jiang - people who cared about Wei Wuxian and for Wei Wuxian to care about in turn - that would have been enough for him. The rest was almost a bonus.

Of course, there are new worries in Wei Wuxian’s new life - having things meant he could lose them. There was the pressure of proving to Uncle Jiang that Wei Wuxian was worth everything he had been given, and there was Madame Yu’s unwavering certainty that Wei Wuxian wasn’t. There was the way these two things made it nearly impossible for Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng to just be brothers, to not also be competitors in an unwinnable race. 

There was another sort of new challenge, not wholly unrelated. The Jiangs weren’t just rich, they were rich. Wei Wuxian, in his previously life, hadn’t known that there were different kinds of rich. It had seemed to him, then, that there was one kind of rich - the kind that would never have to worry about an empty stomach. But it turned out there were all sorts of rich and the Jiangs were the rarest, if not (confusingly) the wealthiest. The Jiangs were old money rich. The kind of rich that carried innumerable traditions and expectations, all of which were unfamiliar and seemingly also unsuitable to Wei Wuxian. 

One of these expectations, or traditions, or traditional expectations was the Wen Academy. At some unknown point in history, the Wen academy had become the only place in the city for the children of old money to go to school. Attending the Wen Academy was practically a guarantee that a student would get into the university of their choice. Whether this was because of the challenging academics and sterling reputation of the Academy, or because the Wen Academy was not above arranging bribes was left delicately unclear by all. For parents who were merely very rich, or, worse, newly rich trying to get their children into the Wen Academy was nearly a blood-sport and few succeeded. 

Since Wei Wuxian had somehow become the son of old money - a joke he sincerely wished that he could share with his younger self - he was also expected to attend the Wen Academy. Wei Wuxian and the Wen Academy were a poor fit for each other. Not because of the academics, Wei Wuxian was easily one of the smartest students in the school, but because of the culture. It was less the written rules (although, the Wen Academy had many annoying rules about comportment), than the unspoken rules. Wei Wuxian was no good at keeping his shirt buttoned just so, but he was definitely worse at playing nice with his fellow students that acted as if they could still smell the streets on him. 

The Wen Academy had a lot of students who only saw the son of a servant when they looked at Wei Wuxian and clearly felt that speaking with Wei Wuxian was somehow beneath them. The worst of all of these students was Wen Chao. Wen Chao’s father was the current Wen in Wen Academy, and Wen Chao seemed to believe that, because his father owned the school, Wen Chao likewise owned the students. 

Wen Chao was terrible enough that Wei Wuxian suspected that everyone at the school hated him, but the gently bred scions, who looked at Wei Wuxian with the same puzzled disgust someone might reserve for a piece of gum on their shoe, were careful to always be polite to Wen Chao. His father did own the school. Wei Wuxian, on the other hand, was happy to let Wen Chao know how he felt. Wen Chao had a tendency to respond to what he saw as insolence with fists, and Wei Wuxian had been sent home with more than one note for fighting, much to Madame Yu’s frustration. 

Of course it wasn’t all bad. Jiang Yanli was there for Wei Wuxian’s first year, before she graduated and left for college. As gentle as she could be, she was a senior, and she never let anyone speak badly of Wei Wuxian around her. Jiang Cheng, despite his freely expressed annoyance, always had Wei Wuxian’s back if it came to a fight. And of course not all of the other students were terrible. Wei Wuxian found people to talk to, even if they all radiated the calm confidence of someone who’d never even thought about the possibility of being hungry. 

Out of Wei Wuxian’s fellow students there was one who made all the nonsense of the Wen Academy worth it - Lan Wangji. 

Wei Wuxian’s first impression of Lan Wangji had been that Lan Wangji had the same air of monied comfort around him as all the other students, maybe even more so. At first, Wei Wuxian had wanted nothing more than to dent that comfort, just a little, to get a reaction from Lan Wangji. This had turned out to be much more difficult than Wei Wuxian had expected. 

If there was one thing that Wei Wuxian was good at, it was getting reactions - usually negative. Not to brag, but he could be very annoying. And yet, despite Wei Wuxian’s best, most irritating efforts, Lan Wangji seemed impossible to ruffle. Lan Wangji’s insistent calm should have been only frustrating, but Wei Wuxian was drawn to that pool of stillness in the same way he was drawn to an unbroken snowfall. Wei Wuxian had only wanted even more to get a reaction out of Lan Wangji and he was willing to go to almost any length to get it. 

Getting that reaction became the main project of Wei Wuxian’s first week at the Wen Academy. He hardly needed to pay attention to get good grades, so instead, he spent as much time as he could with Lan Wangji - sitting next to him in class, volunteering them to work together on group projects, finding him at lunch. Wei Wuxian came up with all sorts of ways to get a rise out of Lan Wangji - teasing him, invading his personal space, and asking him also sorts of questions. 

Wei Wuxian might have given up eventually, but toward the end of the first week he had his first taste of success. Wei Wuxian had called Lan Wangji over-familiarly “Lan Zhan” and Lan Wangji had glared at Wei Wuxian, a micro second, a flicker of a glare. Anyone who wasn’t watching as closely as Wei Wuxian would have missed it. It was like a secret just between the two of them and it sent a shiver down Wei Wuxian’s spine. It made Wei Wuxian want to see that intensity again and again. 

That’s when Wei Wuxian’s mission truly began. Over the next weeks and then months, Wei Wuxian became an expert in all things Lan Wangji, slowly learning to read his expressions, and to know when Wei Wuxian was sending a ripple through Lan Wangji’s calm, even when no one else could tell. 

Lan Wangji, for his part, seemed to grow to tolerate Wei Wuxian, or perhaps simply resigned himself to Wei Wuxian’s presence. Lan Wangji let Wei Wuxian sit next to him in class and at lunch. He turned to Wei Wuxian when group projects were announced instead of making Wei Wuxian seek him out. It was mysterious, because, according to Wei Wuxian’s close observations, Wei Wuxian was the only one at school who ever managed to break Lan Wangji’s perfect calm. No matter what anyone else said to Lan Wangji, flattery or insult, none of it seemed to bother him. It puzzled Wei Wuxian why Lan Wangji let the most annoying person in his life chatter away at him, but Wei Wuxian was hardly going to ask and bring it to an end. 

After all this time with Lan Wangji, Wei Wuxian had discovered that actually Lan Wangji was quite- Well, he wasn’t what Wei Wuxian had thought at first. Unlike their classmates, who had never been touched by the everyday fears and anxieties of life, Lan Wangji’s calm was earned. Wei Wuxian found out early on that Lan Wangji, much like Wei Wuxian, had been orphaned at a young age. 

And once Wei Wuxian spent enough time with Lan Wangji to see past that impassive outer layer, he found that Lan Wangji wasn’t cold or snobby or whatever people said. Lan Wangji was brilliant, he was kind, and he could actually be very funny. Wei Wuxian dialed back on operation annoying, trying, in his own way, not to upset the balance they had struck, because it turned out that spending time with Lan Wangji was its own reward.

Of course, Wei Wuxian wasn’t alone in trying to get a rise out of Lan Wangji. It only made sense that, as the best person at school, Lan Wangji became the target of Wen Chao, the indisputable worst person. Lan Wangji’s cool indifference seemed to spur Wen Chao on almost as much as it had Wei Wuxian. Wei Wuxian was very careful not to think about what this said about him. However, Wen Chao, unlike Wei Wuxian, couldn’t get a reaction out of Lan Wangji, who hardly seemed to even notice him. Lan Wangji’s indifference and his natural grace usually made Wen Chao look like a total fool, which in turn made Wei Wuxian laugh, causing more than one fight. It was worth it to Wei Wuxian though. It brought him pride to know that he was the only one who could draw a reaction from Lan Wangji and fighting with Wen Chao was no hardship. 

On this particular week, toward the end of their sophomore year, Wen Chao was on a tear. The spring midterm grades had just been posted, and, although grades were private, Wei Wuxian had a pretty good guess as to how well Wen Chao had (not) done based on his dark mood. A teacher had congratulated Lan Wangji on his success in front of the whole class, and since then Wen Chao had been taking his feelings out on Lan Wangji whenever Wen Chao caught sight of him. Wei Wuxian wanted to defend Lan Wangji, but he’d stayed out of it. Not because Jiang Cheng had kept a hand on his arm anytime Wen Chao started talking to Lan Wangji (although he had), but because Lan Wangji was as serenely unmoved as always. 

By Friday, Wen Chao had “accidentally” bumped into Lan Wangji, stolen his lunch, knocked over his books, and managed to rip Lan Wangji’s essay in two. Wen Chao had made fun of Lan Wangji for being an orphan, which had made Wei Wuxian tense under Jiang Cheng’s restraining hand, but not Lan Wangji. Then Wen Chao had made fun of Lan Wangji for not having any friends, and for being boring to absolutely no effect. The week is nearly over and Lan Wangji is still unmoved, but Wen Chao is still determined. Somehow all the teachers have managed not to notice anything, all conveniently blocked from seeing Wen Chao’s bullying by the need to keep their jobs. 

Wen Chao has clearly come up with a plan for the lunch period, and before anyone has taken their first bite, he starts speculating loudly on Lan Wangji’s lack of experience with girls. They’re sixteen, it’s hardly a shocking idea, but Wen Chao’s minions, probably all virgins themselves, laugh anyway. This tactic makes Wei Wuxian nervous, because he himself had some success with this ploy in the past, something he now feels a belated shame about. But Wei Wuxian knows that Lan Wangji doesn’t like being teased about possible crushes and Wei Wuxian doesn’t want to see anyone else, especially not Wen Chao, get under Lan Wangji’s skin. 

Wei Wuxian keeps a close eye on Lan Wangji, even as Jiang Cheng’s fingers tighten on his arm, preventing Wei Wuxian from going over to Lan Wangji, but Lan Wangji continues to eat his lunch calmly without even looking at Wen Chao. Maybe Wei Wuxian’s teasing had acclimated Lan Wangji to this topic?

Wen Chao finally absorbs that he isn’t getting anywhere, no matter how vulgar he gets. He’s undeterred, Wen Chao is not a person who runs out of insults or out of the motivation to use them. He tries a new tack. “Or maybe… Am I being prejudiced, should I be asking about your experience with guys?” Wen Chao’s minions are already laughing as he comes to the inevitable conclusion. “That’s it, isn’t it, Lan Wangji? You’re fucking gay.” 

It’s nothing Wen Chao hasn’t said to other people. It’s nothing other people haven’t said to each other. The Wen Academy is a place where this is a frequently used insult. Where it’s clearly understood that to be called gay is an insult. The Wen Academy is not a place that makes room for anything outside of the vague ‘traditional’ values touted in the promotional materials. It’s not written down, but it’s understood. The school uniform code might as well say ‘all shirts will be neatly buttoned and all students will be heterosexual.’ 

While this rule isn’t written down, the students enforce it anyway. There had been one student, Mo Xuanyu, he’d been a junior when Wei Wuxian had started as a freshman last year. Wei Wuxian wasn’t sure how, but everyone knew that Mo Xuanyu was gay. Not just as a joke or a rumor, but really. Every day he was bullied with words and shoves and fists. The school had done nothing. And then, three months before the end of the school year, he’d just been gone. The rumor was that he’d hurt himself. No one knew exactly how badly, but his mother had pulled him out of the school entirely. The promise of the Wen Academy wouldn’t do Mo Xuanyu any good if he didn’t survive until college. 

Since then, if there are any other kids who might be gay, they’ve kept it to themselves. Except... 

Except Wei Wuxian is watching Lan Wangji closely, because Wei Wuxian is almost always watching Lan Wangji closely. Wei Wuxian has trained himself to read Lan Wangji. Wei Wuxian knows Lan Wangji better than anyone else at this school. And so, Wei Wuxian sees what the rest of them don’t. He sees...

It’s not an expression that Wei Wuxian has seen from Lan Wangji before. It takes Wei Wuxian a moment to understand it, to parse the quick succession of feelings that run across Lan Wangji’s face. There’s fear, anxiety, and then, more familiar to Wei Wuxian, resignation. Together, in reaction to what Wen Chao had said it must mean…

Wei Wuxian’s whole world stops for a moment. Lan Wangji is gay. The knowledge slides into place, the understanding, as clear as if Lan Wangji had said it out loud. 

It shouldn’t matter to Wei Wuxian, but the idea makes something twist in his stomach, makes his breath catch. How despicable of him! Wei Wuxian had never thought of himself as someone who was prejudiced - he’d always tried to give Mo Xuanyu a smile, Wei Wuxian had even once taken a punch for Mo Xuanyu, but somehow it’s different when it’s Lan Wangji. Thinking of Lan Wangji being gay, thinking of him dating a man, thinking of them kissing or- 

Wei Wuxian doesn’t know what to think. He can’t get his thoughts in order at all. 

But. But it doesn’t matter what Wei Wuxian thinks. Lan Wangji, however fleetingly, had looked afraid. Wei Wuxian, whatever inner turmoil he’s feeling, can’t let that stand. Lan Wangji is more important than Wei Wuxian’s apparent hang ups. 

Wei Wuxian pulls himself together to find that, although his whole world had shifted radically, it’s only been a split second. No one else appears to have understood Lan Wangji’s expression, which means that Wei Wuxian has a chance here. Lan Wangji is gay, but Wei Wuxian has the opportunity to save him from going though the hell that Mo Xuanyu had. To prevent even the smallest recurrence of that flicker of fear that Wei Wuxian had seen on Lan Wangji’s face. 

Wei Wuxian stands, pulling away from Jiang Cheng’s restraining grasp and drawing Wen Chao’s attention from Lan Wangji. Drawing it to himself. “Wen Chao, how regressive! Don’t worry, we’ll all accept you no matter who you love, but just because you find Lan Wangji handsome, it doesn’t mean that he’s interested in you.” 

Wei Wuxian barely makes it through the second sentence before Wen Chao is lunging for him. It doesn’t matter though, because the ensuing scuffle doesn’t involve Lan Wangji at all. Wen Chao seems to have entirely forgotten about Lan Wangji, distracted by his intense need to punch Wei Wuxian in the face. It’s a good outcome for Wei Wuxian, even though lunch is so thoroughly disrupted that almost no one gets to eat, which does make Wei Wuxian pretty unpopular for the rest of the day. But, Lan Wangji is just one of the crowd of students escorted out by irritated teachers and there’s no whispers about him, no follow through to Wen Chao’s teasing. Wei Wuxian endures the glares of his hungry peers and Jiang Cheng’s sighs with nothing but satisfaction. 

#

After classes are over, a note to home heavy in his bag, Wei Wuxian looks for Lan Wangji. Wei Wuxian finds him quickly, in one of the music practice rooms where Lan Wangji often goes after class. Lan Wangji plays the guqin - traditional and cultured in a way that Wei Wuxian will never be. Lan Wangji is practicing now, just like it was any other day, like nothing had happened, but when Wei Wuxian comes in, Lan Wangji’s fingers falter and then halt. Lan Wangji doesn’t look at Wei Wuxian, eyes focused only on the, now still, guqin strings. Wei Wuxian hadn’t been certain, in the melee that followed his realization, if Lan Wangji had understood that Wei Wuxian knows. It’s obvious now from the tense line of Lan Wangji’s shoulders that Lan Wangji is aware. Wei Wuxian is distressed to read some of the same fear from earlier in that tension, in the way he’s avoiding meeting Wei Wuxian’s eyes. 

Wei Wuxian settles next to Lan Wangji and places an apple and a bowl of pudding close to him. Food isn’t really allowed in the music rooms, but Lan Wangji hadn’t finished his lunch, cleared out by the teachers with everyone else. Wei Wuxian had seen that much before being swept away with Wen Chao to the administration offices. So, on his way to Lan Wangji, Wei Wuxian had stopped by the kitchens. The staff there likes Wei Wuxian. No matter how nice these rich kids might be, they’ve been trained their whole life to take staff for granted, to let their eyes pass right over them. Wei Wuxian has never managed to do that, always noticing, always making conversation. It only reminds his classmates where he came from, but Wei Wuxian can’t not see people, can’t treat them like nothing, and the staff have noticed. 

Between that, and the fact that the staff probably have even more reasons to hate Wen Chao than his peers, Wei Wuxian had an easy time convincing them to fork over some snacks. They’d fussed over Wei Wuxian’s bruises and even given him some of the highly sought after pudding - a sure sign of esteem, as it’s generally gone before the end of lunch, any leftovers disappearing into staff bags, headed home to children and grandchildren. 

The staff had given the pudding to Wei Wuxian, they’d meant it for him, but Wei Wuxian had meant it for Lan Wangji, and so he pushes it closer to to where Lan Wangji still isn’t looking at him. “Here, you must be hungry.” 

Lan Wangji doesn’t move. 

“Lan Zhan…” Wei Wuxian doesn’t know what to say, doesn’t know how to convey that, whatever this churning feeling in his stomach is, Wei Wuxian would never treat Lan Wangji differently just because he- just because of who Lan Wangji likes. 

“Wen Chao is an idiot.” Well that’s safe territory at least. 

“And- And anyone who would care about something like that, about who you like, they’re an idiot too.” There, Wei Wuxian has said it as clearly as he can manage. 

Lan Wangji finally looks at Wei Wuxian, his eyes wide as if he’d expected something else. Had he expected Wei Wuxian to reject him? Or just to never mention it, to think it too awkward to speak about? Lan Wangji’s expression turns from surprised to concerned as he takes in Wei Wuxian. Lan Wangji reaches out toward Wei Wuxian and then pulls his hand back quickly, like he hadn’t meant to reach out at all. “Your face…” 

Wen Chao had landed one very good hit on Wei Wuxian’s mouth, leaving a vivid bruise and splitting Wei Wuxian’s lower lip between Wen Chao’s knuckles and Wei Wuxian’s own teeth. It had bled profusely - Wei Wuxian had been lucky to have a spare shirt in his locker. Madame Yu is going to have some choice words about Wei Wuxian’s appearance and he’s going to have to take care not to video chat Jiang Yanli at college until it fades, but it’s a small price to pay to defend Lan Wangji. Besides that, Wen Chao had hurt his knuckles against Wei Wuxian’s teeth, and Wei Wuxian would bleed a lot more for the pleasure of hearing Wen Chao howl in pain again. 

Wei Wuxian smiles, even though it tugs at the split, aching and sharp at the same time. “It’s nothing.” 

Lan Wangji looks doubtful, so Wei Wuxian changes the topic, pushing the apple and the pudding another centimeter closer to Lan Wangji. “I’m sorry I interrupted lunch.” 

“No you’re not,” Lan Wangji says, dry and certain. 

It makes Wei Wuxian laugh. “No, I’m not.” 

Wei Wuxian’s lip really hurts now, he probably shouldn’t have laughed or smiled so widely, but Lan Wangji can really be very funny! 

Lan Wangji doesn’t stop himself this time, reaching out and tilting Wei Wuxian’s face back a little, inspecting his lip. “You’re bleeding.” 

Wei Wuxian is about to tell him it’s fine again, when Lan Wangji uses his other hand to take one of the napkins out from under the apple and crumple it, pressing it gently against Wei Wuxian’s mouth. Lan Wangji’s fingers are steady and sure against Wei Wuxian’s jaw and gentle on his bruised lip. 

Wei Wuxian’s stomach is churning again. He distracts himself. “You know Lan Zhan, this is actually pretty good news from my perspective.” 

Lan Wangji’s eyes are wide again, even as his fingers are still steady against Wei Wuxian’s face. “What?” 

Wei Wuxian gestures at Lan Wangji. “I mean, being friends with someone this handsome? Pretty stupid. But now that I know that you won’t be fighting me for girls, I guess I can keep you around.” It’s pretty bold considering Wei Wuxian is almost certain that Lan Wangji does not consider Wei Wuxian to be his friend. But that doesn’t mean that Wei Wuxian can’t be Lan Wangji’s friend.

Lan Wangji’s expression shutters and Wei Wuxian feels bad. Lan Wangji probably doesn’t need to be reminded how much easier other people have it in the romance department. “Ah, don’t worry, Lan Zhan! I can be a good wingman too. I’ll help you find guys.” 

Lan Wangji just shakes his head. “No thank you.” He pulls back the napkin, inspecting Wei Wuxian. He seems satisfied and gets up to dispose of the bloody paper. 

Wei Wuxian’s face feels somehow cold without Lan Wangji’s fingers on it. It must be the bruises somehow. 

Lan Wangji sits next to Wei Wuxian again, pushing the pudding back toward Wei Wuxian and taking the apple for himself. Wei Wuxian considers protesting, but he hadn’t had much lunch either and so he takes the offering. 

He’s just put a giant spoonful of pudding in his mouth when Lan Wangji says, voice low, staring intently at the untouched apple in his hand. “It really doesn’t bother you?” 

Wei Wuxian pushes all the strange feelings in his stomach away and manages to swallow down the pudding so he can say, “Of course not, Lan Zhan. How could I lose a friend over something like this? I told you, only an idiot would do that.” 

Lan Wangji looks at Wei Wuxian, a little line between his eyebrows, considering. Wei Wuxian tries to project all his sincere affection, and also tries to seem like someone worth befriending. 

Finally, Lan Wangji nods and says firmly, almost sternly, “Friends.” 

Wei Wuxian smiles again, heart pounding. He only remembers at the last second about his lip. It stings, but he just manages to pull back his smile before it starts to bleed again. Inside he’s grinning as big as he’s ever grinned before - Lan Wangji said they’re friends! Out loud he tries to keep his joy in check with partial success as he cheerfully agrees, “Friends!” 

#

Finding out that Lan Wangji is gay, on the one hand doesn’t change much, on the other hand it changes everything. Not the revelation itself, but being acknowledged as Lan Wangji’s friend in the aftermath. That is the true revelation.

Of course, part of being a good friend to Lan Wangji is stopping Wen Chao and his minions from acting like homophobic assholes. Wei Wuxian lets them say what they want about him, who cares? But when they start to talk about other people, Wei Wuxian always remembers that brief moment of fear on Lan Wangji’s face and he can’t stand it. No one should ever make Lan Wangji afraid, especially not scum like Wen Chao. 

So maybe Wei Wuxian gets in a few more fights. It’s not a lot more fights than it would have been otherwise, Wen Chao already hated Wei Wuxian, this is just one more reason of many for Wen Chao to punch Wei Wuxian. 

Even so, Lan Wangji seems to feel guilty about it. After one particularly raucous fight, fortunately undetected by any authority figures, Lan Wangji is once again fussing over Wei Wuxian. Wei Wuxian is still buzzing with adrenaline. He’s sure that the scrape on his arm isn’t worth worrying about, but Wei Wuxian can’t ever turn away Lan Wangji’s focus or his careful, precise touch, so he’s letting Lan Wangji carefully clean and bandage it. 

“You should stop.” Lan Wangji says, making sure that there isn’t dirt in the wound. 

“Stop what?” Wei Wuxian can barely focus, leftover adrenaline sending a shiver down his spine every time Lan Wangji’s fingers move against his skin. 

Lan Wangji takes a moment, shifting Wei Wuxian’s arm to look at it from another angle. “Stop antagonizing them.” 

“Me? They’re the ones saying all that ignorant bullshit!” 

Lan Wangji looks up from the scrape to glare at Wei Wuxian, equal parts annoyed and fond. “So let them be ignorant.” 

Wei Wuxian feels warmed by that glare. How can Lan Wangji ask him to stop if stopping means losing this? Besides, “No way. If I ignore it then everyone has to listen to it.” 

Lan Wangji turns back to the scrape, spreading antibiotic cream gently over it. Finally he says softly, “I don’t need you to protect me.” 

Wei Wuxian knows that’s true. Lan Wangji is the strongest person Wei Wuxian knows with the possible exception of Jiang Yanli, and yet knowing that doesn’t stop Wei Wuxian from wanting to protect Lan Wangji whenever possible. “There are other people in this school, Lan Zhan. Maybe they’ll learn something.” 

Lan Wangji shakes his head, clearly giving up and pulls a roll of gauze out of his bag. When did he start carrying that around? “You’re going to start sharing tips on how to get rid of blood stains?” 

Wei Wuxian laughs and Lan Wangji gives Wei Wuxian a small smile as he tucks the gauze in place, fingers just barely brushing Wei Wuxian’s arm. 

After that, Lan Wangji gives up on convincing Wei Wuxian not to fight, just backs him up as needed and starts carrying what seems to be a full first aid kit in his backpack. 

Of course, other people notice Wei Wuxian’s new quest too. Jiang Cheng most of all. Jiang Cheng has always had Wei Wuxian’s back and that doesn’t change, even now when they both know that Wei Wuxian could keep his mouth shut, could avoid yet another dust up over Wen Chao’s oh so hilarious gay jokes. Despite Wei Wuxian’s best efforts, Jiang Cheng earns nearly as many bruises as Wei Wuxian and maybe even more of his mother’s harsh words - after all, Madam Yu says, Jiang Cheng should know better. 

After the third time they’ve come home bruised, Madame Yu barely bothers with the lecture, instead sending them off to do yard work and think about their mistakes. Wei Wuxian doesn’t mind too much, raking out the garden plots in preparation for the spring flowers isn’t glamorous, but it’s a necessary part of growing things. Jiang Cheng is not a fan of anything dirt related, but he’s uncharacteristically quiet today, only grumbling slightly, until they are about halfway done, when he stops and says, “You know, Wen Chao and his friends are- are dumb. There’s nothing wrong with…” He trails off, then seems to firm his resolve. “There’s nothing wrong with it.” 

Wei Wuxian is confused, of course he knows that. Why else would he keep ending up in these situations? It is nice that Jiang Cheng actually agrees and isn’t just backing Wei Wuxian up out of loyalty. It’s not like Jiang Cheng is the kind of person who would say the things that Wen Chao says, but it is good to know that Jiang Cheng won’t just sit there and listen either. So, Wei Wuxian says supportively, “Of course not.” 

Jiang Cheng focuses on raking again for a moment. Then he says, even more hesitant than before, “If you… need to talk about anything, I’m here.” 

Wei Wuxian swallows back his first instinct, which is to laugh. Heart-to-hearts are not exactly Jiang Cheng’s strong suit. What could Wei Wuxian need to talk about anyway? Wei Wuxian is pretty sure that his comments to Wen Chao adequately express his frustration with the situation, and if Wei Wuxian has more feelings to get out, there’s always the punching. Still, Jiang Cheng seems worried, so Wei Wuxian says, “I know.” 

Jiang Cheng doesn’t look up from his raking again until he finds a particularly large beetle and has to complain bitterly. The topic doesn’t come up again. 

However, Jiang Cheng apparently does report his concerns to Jiang Yanli, because during her next visit, Wei Wuxian finds himself in the middle of another somewhat confusing conversation on the topic. Wei Wuxian knows the fights don’t look great for the Jiang family, but, honestly, it’s nothing new, and if it is really a problem wouldn’t Uncle Jiang say something? Why are Wei Wuxian’s siblings so worried about a couple of extra fights? Wen Chao isn’t even that good of a fighter! 

Jiang Yanli brings it up when it’s just the two of them in the kitchen. Jiang Yanli is making her delicious lotus root and oxtail soup and Wei Wuxian is helping. It’s an old tradition of theirs from when Wei Wuxian was new to the house and still uncertain of his place. It had comforted him then to be given ways to help out. There had been no person he liked helping more than his new Jiejie and no place he liked to be more than the warm kitchen full of good food. Wei Wuxian and Jiang Yanli had figured out very early on that Wei Wuxian’s help is best kept to the sidelines, so he brings her ingredients, washes the dishes, and sweeps up the scraps, while Jiang Yanli does the important work. 

She’s set the pot to simmer and is sitting at the table while Wei Wuxian dries and puts away the last of the preparation dishes. He’s just finished, when she says, “A-Cheng tells me that you’ve been getting in a lot of fights lately.” 

Wei Wuxian hangs the drying cloth back on its hook. “Not so many more.” 

Jiang Yanli looks at him sincerely. “Is there anything you want to tell me?” 

Wei Wuxian is confused, what could he need to say? “It’s no big deal, some of those guys will just never like someone like me.” It’s nothing new, rich assholes like Wen Chao will always be able to sense the streets on Wei Wuxian - Jiejie has seen how they are, she went to that school. Wei Wuxian supposes, if Jiang Yanli were still there, she would manage without fights, but Wei Wuxian has his own methods.

Her eyes widen slightly and she looks worried. “But, A-Xian, you know that we- that A-Cheng and I, we love you just as you are.” 

Wei Wuxian’s Jiejie is the best. Wei Wuxian doesn’t know why she’s suddenly concerned about this, but she’s always taken care of him, and he supposes she always will. And while Wei Wuxian is not really bothered by the situation, it still warms his heart to hear her reaffirm that his siblings care for him, just as he does them. Wei Wuxian closes the distance between them and leans down to give her a hug. “Of course I know.” 

Jiang Yanli pulls Wei Wuxian close, one hand smoothing over his hair with that motherly touch - the only maternal figure Wei Wuxian can really remember. “Never forget that, A-Xian. No matter what.” 

Wei Wuxian lets himself absorb her affection for a moment, never too old for a hug from his Jiejie. “There’s nothing to worry about, Jiejie.” 

She smiles at him, although some of the worry still lingers for reasons that he can’t understand. Wei Wuxian works the rest of the day to be upbeat and charming, to make her laugh, to show her that there’s no need for concern. 

#

The next couple of years of high school pass in much the same manner. Wen Chao never seems to tire of bullying and Wei Wuxian can never let it pass, so no peace is made there. Wei Wuxian’s tireless crusade to keep Wen Chao and his ilk from being homophobic assholes, especially where Lan Wangji might hear, doesn’t endear Wei Wuxian to everyone. Wei Wuxian knows there are rumors about him - that the reason Wei Wuxian is so determined to stop that kind of talk is that he’s actually gay himself. Wei Wuxian doesn’t let it bother him. He’s hardly going to say that there’s nothing wrong with being gay and then turn around and tell people not to say such a thing about him. Anyway, the girls are still perfectly willing to flirt with him, some even more so, and the ones that don’t never would have anyway. 

Besides, Wei Wuxian starts to notice some of the other students, particularly some of the younger, more timid ones, shooting him careful smiles in the hallways. It occurs to Wei Wuxian belatedly that Lan Wangji can’t be the only person here being hurt by Wen Chao’s loose talk and it only makes Wei Wuxian more determined not to let it go. Maybe Wei Wuxian can make the Wen Academy just a little less awful for a few people, or, at least, let them know that they aren’t totally alone. 

#

Senior year everyone, even Wen Chao, is distracted by the process of applying for college, of receiving acceptances or rejections, and deciding which college to attend. 

Wei Wuxian, unsurprisingly, ends up with a thick stack of acceptance letters. In theory, there’s no decision to make at all. Wei Wuxian had always promised to go to school with Jiang Cheng. From the time they had understood about college, about the possibility of being seperated, they’d made a promise to stay together. Wei Wuxian had been grateful then, he liked being known as Jiang Cheng’s brother everywhere he went - it gave him a sense of belonging that he’d once longed for. 

Over the years, it had become obvious that being Jiang Cheng’s brother carried more than just that belonging, that it wasn’t just having someone at his back, having someone for Wei Wuxian to care for - it also meant comparison. It meant Jiang Cheng always being hurt by Uncle Jiang’s soft favoritism and Madam Yu’s sharp disappointment. With the stack of acceptances, unnaturally heavy in his hand, Wei Wuxian can’t help but wonder if maybe their relationship would be better served by some distance, by taking different, less comparable, paths. 

Jiang Cheng, no matter what comparisons anyone wants to make, is smart and he gets into his first choice school easily. For Jiang Cheng, that settles everything for the both of them. He’s furious when Wei Wuxian suggests otherwise. For Jiang Cheng, a promise is a promise - no matter what changes, no matter how much it hurts to keep. 

It takes three days of Jiang Cheng slowly turning it over in his mind before he accepts the idea, before he gruffly starts planning their joint breaks, a compromise and an acknowledgment that he will miss Wei Wuxian. 

Jiang Cheng’s agreement leaves Wei Wuxian with an unexpected decision to make. Wei Wuxian sorts and resorts his acceptance letters, but he keeps coming back to one of them, printed on a thick, old-fashioned paper. It’s from one of the very best schools, but more than that, most importantly, it’s where Lan Wangji is going. It has one of the top music programs in the country, but it’s a school with a wide range of other offerings as well. Wei Wuxian could major in any number of science specialties. And he could be with Lan Wangji. 

Wei Wuxian isn’t sure though. Is it hypocritical to think about going there, when he’s leaving Jiang Cheng behind? The history Wei Wuxian has with Lan Wangji is so different, but still...

That doesn’t even seem to occur to Jiang Cheng when Wei Wuxian raises the idea with him. Instead, Jiang Cheng looks inexplicably pitying, worried for Wei Wuxian for some unknown reason. “Are you sure you want to do that to yourself?” 

Wei Wuxian doesn’t understand what Jiang Cheng means. “Do what?” 

Jiang Cheng flushes and tries again. “I mean, Lan Wangji is a good friend, but don’t you think you should... move on?” 

Wei Wuxian is both confused and a little hurt. “Move on from being his friend? Why, do you think he won’t want to be my friend anymore after high school?”

Jiang Cheng sighs, but says soothingly, “He’ll still be your friend.” 

“But you think he won’t want to go to the same school as me?” 

Jiang Cheng rolls his eyes, apparently done with the topic. “Just ask him.” 

So the next day at school, Wei Wuxian interrupts Lan Wangji’s guqin practice for what must be the hundredth time. It’s strange to think this could be one of their last moments in this little room, one of the last times Lan Wangji patiently tolerates Wei Wuxian’s chatter, while Wei Wuxian watches Lan Wangji’s capable hands create beautiful music.

Once Wei Wuxian has presented the possibility of going to the same school, Lan Wangji looks shocked. “I thought you were going to go with Jiang Wanyin?” 

Wei Wuxian looks away. “No. We decided to do our own thing.” 

Lan Wangji has known both of them for years and maybe he’s drawn his own conclusions, because his expression turns uncomfortably understanding. 

Wei Wuxian returns to his original question. “So would it bother you if I went to the same school as you?” His mind turns back to Jiang Cheng’s doubts and he makes himself add, “Be honest, I can always go somewhere else if you’re getting tired of me.” 

Lan Wangji shakes his head. “Don’t be ridiculous. I couldn’t be tired of you.” 

Wei Wuxian’s heart lifts and he smiles at Lan Wangji. “So we could go to college together?” 

Lan Wangji smiles one of his small smiles back at Wei Wuxian. “Mm.” 

Wei Wuxian feels like his heart might burst with happiness. It’s going to be so amazing, going to school with Lan Wangji, his best friend. They’ll have so many adventures together! 

A new, wonderful thought occurs to Wei Wuxian. “We could be roommates!” 

Lan Wangji’s smile disappears, the shocked expression returning.

#

In the end, they aren’t roommates. Lan Wangji apologetically explains that his uncle had agreed to pay for a single and Wei Wuxian understands - after growing up in the monastery-like quiet of the Lan household, college dorm life is probably going to be overwhelming enough without adding a roommate to it. Wei Wuxian understands, but he can’t help feeling a little sad to miss out on seeing Lan Wangji first thing in the morning and last thing at night. 

Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji don’t even get assigned to the same building! This means that Wei Wuxian has to get to know two dorms worth of people, quickly adopting all of Lan Wangji’s neighbors as his own. Wei Wuxian is happy to make friends, but really it’s mostly for Lan Wangji’s sake - he’s so quiet and a person should know their own neighbors! But Wei Wuxian can do the talking for Lan Wangji, that’s no problem. 

Wei Wuxian also brings Lan Wangji back to his own dorm often enough that Wei Wuxian’s actual roommate, a theater major named Nie Huaisang, asks Wei Wuxian if he’s dating Lan Wangji. To Wei Wuxian’s shame, the idea makes his stomach churn with that old feeling. His face is hot as he stumbles through trying to explain that they're just friends without actually somehow outing Lan Wangji. 

Wei Wuxian must have done a bad job, because, a few days, later Nie Huaisang casually mentions that there’s an LGBTQ group on campus and that they’re having their first meeting soon. Oops. But, putting aside the implication that Wei Wuxian has failed to keep Lan Wangji’s secret, this is actually good to know. Wei Wuxian thinks it’s obvious that Lan Wangji should go. 

There are a couple of reasons. First, shouldn’t Lan Wangji have some friends who can understand his experience? It had become clear to Wei Wuxian, and maybe to Lan Wangji, that Lan Wangji wasn’t totally alone in high school, but it hadn’t been a good environment for making friends. In college though, Lan Wangji could have that. Lan Wangji has started to make friends of course. Wei Wuxian is very proud of him. Lan Wangji has been carefully bonding with his fellow artsy types, other quiet serious people, but there’s a difference between being able to discuss Bach or whatever and being able to discuss other things. 

Second, Lan Wangji might find someone to date. That idea is somehow more difficult for Wei Wuxian to think about and it’s true that Lan Wangji has always seemed content before, but they’re in college now. Surely, Lan Wangji must be thinking about such things? This is the time in their lives for young romance! Even if it’s just something casual - although Wei Wuxian has a very difficult time imagining Lan Wangji being casual. Or maybe Lan Wangji will find someone serious, someone to turn all that care and attention toward. Certainly Wei Wuxian has thought about dating, now that he’s surrounded by smart, pretty girls. So- So there’s opportunity for both of them. 

Wei Wuxian gets the schedule from Nie Huaisang and brings the idea to Lan Wangji. “Lan Zhan, don’t you think you should go? I could go with you. If you want.” 

Lan Wangji looks at Wei Wuxian for a moment. His gaze soft in the way it gets sometimes and Wei Wuxian’s stomach twists again, but then Lan Wangji just shakes his head. “No need.” 

“No need, because you’re going by yourself? Of course I wouldn’t want to cramp your style!” That makes sense, Lan Wangji doesn’t need Wei Wuxian there to hold his hand while he’s scoping out dates.

But Lan Wangji shakes his head again. “No, I don’t need to go.” 

Wei Wuxian doesn’t understand this, even though somehow it’s a little bit of a relief. Maybe Lan Wangji doesn’t want to focus on dating right now? But what about making friends? “But you can make friends!” 

Lan Wangji looks at him flatly. “I have friends.” 

Wei Wuxian laughs. “Yes, yes, but you can never have too many friends!” 

Lan Wangji looks pained and Wei Wuxian supposes that Lan Wangji might be the kind of person who could have too many friends. Certainly, he hadn’t seemed thrilled when Wei Wuxian had dragged him to that party last week. 

Well, Wei Wuxian doesn’t understand, but it’s Lan Wangji’s choice, so he lets it go, easily moving the conversation on to which dining hall they should eat at tonight. 

That is, Wei Wuxian lets the idea of Lan Wangji attending the meeting go. There’s nothing from stopping Wei Wuxian from going to the meeting and scoping out some friends for Lan Wangji. Nothing stopping Wei Wuxian from checking out the situation, just in case Lan Wangji wants to go next time. 

The meeting is held in a little conference room in the basement of one of the administrative buildings. The lack of windows somehow makes it seem out of the way and private. It feels secret and safe in a way that Wei Wuxian thinks might appeal to Lan Wangji. 

A mix of people drift into this little room. There’s a group of older students, most of whom seem confident in a way that contrasts with the obvious nerves of the first years. The older students chat easily with each other, happy to see one another after the summer break. A few try to draw out the first years, approaching the ones who look particularly nervous with welcoming smiles. 

In contrast to the easy chatter of the older students, the group of first years have instinctively clustered together, not talking to one another, but hovering silently near each other. Wei Wuxian recognizes one of Lan Wangji’s music friends, but somehow the nervousness of the group seems to infect Wei Wuxian too and he doesn’t go up to her. Instead he waits quietly for the meeting to start just like everyone else. 

Eventually, the meeting begins. A few latecomers are still slipping in the door as the president of the group, a senior named Xiao Xingchen, introduces himself. Another senior, Song Lan, sits next to him and something about their constant awareness of each other makes it clear that they’re together, even without anyone saying it. Xiao Xingchen talks for a bit about the group, about their history and goals. His sweet smile and soft voice work to calms the nerves of the first years without any obvious effort. 

Next, Xiao Xingchen has everyone introduce themselves. He prefaces this by saying that no one should feel any pressure to explain why they’re here, that there are many reasons why someone might want to come to their group. This is a relief to Wei Wuxian - he’s not going to out Lan Wangji just to explain that he’s here for a friend. 

However, as they go around the circle, many people do openly talk about their reasons for being there, especially the older, more confident students. After years at the Wen Academy, Wei Wuxian finds it strange, incredible in a way, to meet so many people who are comfortable openly talking about their gender identity and sexuality. The more people who introduce themselves - the more they tell their stories, all different and yet with familiar themes running throughout - the more the first years relax, including Wei Wuxian. Wei Wuxian wishes Lan Wangji had come, he wants Lan Wangji to experience this comfort, this feeling of belonging. 

After the introductions, Song Lan talks about different resources that are available, everything from friendly bars, to classes on LGBTQ history and theory and a list of welcoming professors. The list of professors definitely leans more to the arts than the sciences, but Wei Wuxian makes a note for Lan Wangji’s sake - and is surprised, but pleased, to find his own chemistry professor on the list. 

The rest of the meeting is just mingling, eating cheap snacks and meeting new people. Wei Wuxian is pretty good at that, he talks to just about everyone in the room and finds something interesting about all of them. He’s equally fascinated by the older students with their calm confidence and by the new students, all of them just starting out here, just getting the chance to be themselves, just like Lan Wangji, just like him. 

#

Wei Wuxian gives an enthusiastic report on the meeting and the group to Lan Wangji, but, although Lan Wangji seems charmed that Wei Wuxian did the legwork of checking out the situation for him, he still doesn’t seem interested in attending the next meeting. Wei Wuxian doesn’t understand it, but he doesn’t push. Wei Wuxian does go the next meeting on his own, and the next after that. Wei Wuxian doesn’t feel like he has anything to add to the formal meeting, but he chats easily in the time before and after. In that way, he gets to know the other members, all of the people who could be Lan Wangji’s friends or- or dates.

At the third meeting, Wei Wuxian finds himself talking with Mianmian. At that first meeting, she’d introduced herself as Luo Qingyang, and then, in a tone that made it seem like she was admitting something awful, said she went by Mianmian. She’d been much more matter of fact when she’d gone on to say that she was bisexual. Wei Wuxian has talked with her at every meeting, and once when he ran into her at the cafeteria. And, well, he has a crush. She’s so funny, and she’s obviously smart, and obviously brave - one of the very few first years who had explicitly come out at that first meeting. She’d said bisexual, so that means he has a chance, right? She’s laughed at his jokes and made him laugh helplessly at hers, so Wei Wuxian gives it a shot, asking her out for a coffee. 

Mianmian’s first reaction is to say, “Oh.” Wei Wuxian doesn’t find that to be very promising, but she doesn’t say no. Instead, she looks at him assessingly, as if considering the idea for the first time. Still not promising, but also still not a no. Then she says, “I wasn’t sure if you… liked girls.” 

It’s Wei Wuxian’s turn to say, “Oh.” Because, of course, given the context, it’s a fair assumption to make. “I do like girls.” 

She assesses him again. “I like girls too,” she says, as if he might have missed that. 

Wei Wuxian smiles at her, his best most charming smile. “So that’s something we have in common.” 

Her gaze turns thoughtful. “True.” She looks him over one more time. “Sure. Why not? Let’s get coffee.” 

And that’s how Wei Wuxian and Mianmian start dating.

#

On their first date, in the middle of a crowded coffee shop, Mianmian makes it clear that she’s not looking for anything serious. Wei Wuxian swallows a tiny slip of regret and agrees that casual is, of course, fine. 

On their second date, Mianmian tells Wei Wuxian that she doesn’t have any use for outmoded dating timelines and invites him back to her room. This, Wei Wuxian accepts with enthusiasm. Mianmian has done this before, which is more than Wei Wuxian can say, but, still, between the two of them they don’t have much experience at all. They stumble through it together - awkward and strange and wonderful all at once. 

They spend the entirety of their third date in Mianmian’s bed.

After three dates, Wei Wuxian has to tell Lan Wangji that he’s seeing someone. He’s put it off, feeling awkward and a little guilty about the whole thing. Wei Wuxian had only started attending the LGBTQ alliance meetings for Lan Wangji, it seems wrong that Wei Wuxian has used it to pick up a girlfriend, especially when he can meet girls so much easier than Lan Wangji can meet guys. 

Lan Wangji accepts the news with his usual quiet reserve. It turns out that he already knows Mianmian, or Luo Qingyang as he insists on calling her. They have a class together and they get along. Lan Wangji says he likes her. Any yet, he’s quieter than normal when she’s around. Nie Huaisang is incredulous at this claim, but Wei Wuxian can tell. Maybe Lan Wangji is thinking of his own datelessness, or more likely he’s feeling wronged by Wei Wuxian’s selfishness in turning something that was supposed to be about their friendship into his own dating service. 

For his part, Nie Huaisang seems to like Mianmian well enough and he even lets them have the room without much complaint, but even though he claimed not to notice Lan Wangji’s reserve around Mianmian, Nie Huaisang starts pointedly spending more time with Lan Wangji. It’s as if Nie Huaisang believes Wei Wuxian has somehow abandoned Lan Wangji by getting a girlfriend. Wei Wuxian is sure that plenty of people manage to have a significant other and friends at the same time! 

Jiang Cheng, when Wei Wuxian tells him about Mianmian over the phone, is silent for a long moment. “Oh.” he says, “I wasn’t sure if-” Jiang Cheng never says what he wasn’t sure about but Wei Wuxian is distracted by the next thing he says. “I’m glad that you’re not just spending all your time with Lan Wangji.” Wei Wuxian is offended by this in two contradictory ways. Of course Wei Wuxian has other friends, he doesn’t only spend time with Lan Wangji. And, at the same time, so what! What’s wrong with Lan Wangji? If Wei Wuxian had to pick a person to be shipwrecked with on a deserted island, it would be Lan Wangji without question! (Wei Wuxian would obviously never put Jiang Yanli through being shipwrecked.)

Despite all this, Wei Wuxian has a good time with Mianmian. Most of their interactions take place in the bedroom, far away from the judgmental gaze of anyone else, locked together in a little world the size of a twin mattress. Their private world is one of racing hearts, frantic touch, and breathlessness. Afterward, they linger together in bed. Wei Wuxian likes this part nearly as much - the low, whispered conversation, the way Mianmian’s body presses against his when she laughs, the warmth as they fall asleep together. Mianmian teases Wei Wuxian about being a cuddler, but Wei Wuxian doesn’t think she really minds. Or at least he doesn’t until, in the middle of breaking up with him, she presents it as a piece of evidence in her case for why they don’t belong together. 

It’s not that getting dumped breaks Wei Wuxian’s heart. Mianmian had made it clear from the beginning that she didn’t want anything long-term and Wei Wuxian had never expected her to change her mind. It’s not that. It’s the way she tells him, serious as if she’s doing him a favor, that she doesn’t think he’s really meant for casual. She has her evidence lined up - the cuddling included - and she presents a fairly compelling case.

The problem is, Wei Wuxian suspects that Mianmian is right. Wei Wuxian likes to think of himself as inherently cool. A guy who might casually flirt with a girl or maybe a few girls. Not in a cruel way, but just someone chill. Cool. Other cold temperature words. But. 

It’s not that Wei Wuxian misses Mianmian exactly. At the next LGBTQ alliance meeting he tries to make it clear that he’s not heartbroken, that he’s not going to make things difficult for her. A little tension leaves her posture and he knows that she was worried about it, afraid that he couldn’t be chill. It’s not that. They part with easy smiles and Wei Wuxian is hopeful that they might even be friends someday soon, not so different from how she is with Lan Wangji. 

But it’s not Mianmian that Wei Wuxian misses, not in that way. What Wei Wuxian already misses is just having someone. He finds himself watching Xiao Xingchen and Song Lan and feeling an ache in his chest. The two of them aren’t even doing anything obvious, just standing close together talking softly. Song Lan’s eyes are lifted in a smile and Xiao Xingchen moves just a little closer. And Wei Wuxian wants that. That kind of closeness, familiarity, intimacy. He and Mianmian never had more than a shadow of it, but she’s right - Wei Wuxian wants it. 

It’s something that Wei Wuxian remembers, one of the only things that he remembers from before his parents died. He can’t remember their faces, or what they talked about, or the sound of their laughter, but Wei Wuxian remembers that feeling of comfortable, well-worn love. He remembers it and he wants it, he wants someone who loves him like that, someone that he can love in turn. He wants intimate whispered conversations and casual touches. He wants people to look at him with that person and just know. Without Mianmian, Wei Wuxian no longer has even a shadow of that dream. 

Wei Wuxian isn’t one to brood too much on what he doesn’t have, and anyway there’s no time. The last week of classes are on them and finals chasing close behind. It’s tradition for the music performance students to put on an end-of-year concert and Lan Wangji is performing. His brother and uncle can’t be there, so Wei Wuxian throws himself into being supportive in their stead. Lan Wangji is one of only two first years to have a solo and when he plays it takes all of Wei Wuxian’s self-control to keep his applause within the bounds of decorum. 

Even if he is a little bit loud, Wei Wuxian imagines that everyone else here must understand his enthusiasm. Lan Wangji’s playing is as assured and emotional as always. Precise and yet passionate. Everyone who performs is very skilled of course, but Lan Wangji shines the brightest, looking almost ethereal under the colored stage lights. 

Afterward, Wei Wuxian offers Lan Wangji a bouquet of flowers. Wei Wuxian had debated this gesture, but isn’t it traditional? And Lan Wangji likes flowers, so why not? Lan Wangji gives Wei Wuxian one of his small smiles and holds the flowers close. Nie Huaisang makes a small frustrated noise. It startles Wei Wuxian who had forgotten Nie Huaisang was even there, but when Wei Wuxian manages to look away from Lan Wangji, magnificent in his formal clothes, Nie Huaisang’s face is blank. Maybe he tripped on something?

Wei Wuxian turns back and proceeds to tell Lan Wangji in great detail how wonderfully he’d played. It takes Wei Wuxian a while to run out of compliments, but eventually Wei Wuxian remembers that he knows at least one other person here and he should probably say hello. Xiao Xingchen, Song Lan by his side, isn’t too hard to spot in the crowd and Wei Wuxian maneuvers through the maze of people to congratulate him as well. Lan Wangji trails after Wei Wuxian and Xiao Xingchen introduces Song Lan. 

The four of them chat for a moment, Nie Huaisang off somewhere else, talking to one of the many other people he knows here. Wei Wuxian and Xiao Xingchen do most of the talking, Lan Wangji quiet as always, and Song Lan apparently observing Lan Wangji. Wei Wuxian isn’t sure what he’s looking for. Wei Wuxian casually shifts just a bit in front of Lan Wangji, shielding him, and Song Lan looks amused. Xiao Xingchen shoots him a slightly chiding look and Song Lan smothers the smile. Wei Wuxian doesn’t understand any of it, but he feels another twist of longing at their easy, silent communication. When they part, Wei Wuxian thinks he glimpses a hint of the same yearning on Lan Wangji’s face and Wei Wuxian resolves to redouble his efforts to get Lan Wangji a date next semester. 

It will have to wait until then though, because their first college semester is wrapping up and that means finals. Wei Wuxian is a categorically bad studier. He remembers the readings and the lectures well enough from the first time and going over it all over again seems pointless to him. However, Lan Wangji and Nie Huaisang both take studying very seriously, so Wei Wuxian joins them in the library. Mostly he provides snacks and answers Nie Huaisang’s questions about the sociology class they’re both taking. Wei Wuxian keeps falling asleep on one book or another. The library tables aren’t a very good bed, but there’s something comforting about waking up to see Lan Wangji there, still steadily editing his final papers, so Wei Wuxian stays. 

Final tests come and go, final papers get turned in, and Lan Wangji and Wei Wuxian take a train back home together. It’s a long trip, but they pass the time easily as they always do. Wei Wuxian needs to get in his Lan Wangji time now, because Lan Wangji and his family will be traveling over the break - some dull Lan tradition involving meditation and retreat. Maybe next winter Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji can plan something on their own. When they have to go their separate ways, on impulse, Wei Wuxian gives Lan Wangji a hug. Lan Wangji isn’t one for casual touching, but this time, as so many times in the past, he makes an exception for Wei Wuxian. 

Wei Wuxian has not really been looking forward to going home for break. There was something exhilaratingly free about college, about never having to answer directly to Madam Yu or even Uncle Jiang. So Wei Wuxian had been ready to feel a little stifled by his childhood home, but it’s even worse than he thought it would be. Somehow only a few months away from home has left Wei Wuxian feeling like he’s grown into a shape that doesn’t fit in his childhood home at all. Every room feels like a box closing around him. Madam Yu’s impatient jibes and Uncle Jiang’s indulgence both fall on Wei Wuxian like a weight that he’s no longer used to carrying. Something his old self had hardly felt, but now is unbearably heavy.

The saving grace is Jiang Cheng and Jiang Yanli - the three of them slip back together easily, sharing and re-sharing stories from the semester apart and teasing each other as if no time at all has passed. Wei Wuxian is pretty sure that Jiang Cheng is feeling some of the same confinement that he feels and Wei Wuxian tries to distract his brother whenever he can. Jiang Yanli, of course, had been to college and moved out many years before and that experience shows as she plans them excursion after excursion that takes the three of them out of the house, away from a life that pinches like an outgrown shoe. 

Wei Wuxian is grateful to her, but they still have to go home at the end of the day. Wei Wuxian still has to hold his tongue when Madam Yu needles him or when Uncle Jiang seems to look right through Jiang Cheng. It’s all more difficult than Wei Wuxian remembers it being before, and he finds himself longing to be back in his little dorm room or eating subpar cafeteria food with Lan Wangji.

Wei Wuxian almost manages to avoid any major confrontations. He makes it all the way to the end of the break, even through the extended family gatherings where Madam Yu’s family subtly makes it clear that they disapprove of Wei Wuxian as much as she does. Wei Wuxian tries not to consider what she must say about him in private. 

It’s the small New Year’s Eve party that ruins his streak. It’s not even a large gathering, Madam Yu’s family is there, but Uncle Jiang and Jiang Yanli are both off at work events. It goes much like any other Yu family event, a mixture of boring and infuriating, little daggers tucked into seemingly innocent questions about Wei Wuxian’s choice of college, of major, his lack of girlfriend, anything and everything. 

Wei Wuxian’s patience is fraying and Jiang Cheng is starting to look alarmed, jumping in to answer questions for Wei Wuxian whenever he can, giving Wei Wuxian the space to catch his breath, to remember that in just a few days he’ll be far away from these petty people. Just when Wei Wuxian is about to say something he’ll definitely regret, all the attention is pulled elsewhere. One of Madam Yu’s nieces shows up with her partner. Her female partner. Suddenly, Wei Wuxian isn’t worth the effort, all the sharp tongues turned on the new arrivals. 

Wei Wuxian feels a rush of relief as eyes turn away from him. He takes advantage of the distraction to take a few deep breaths, to drink a cup of wine without anyone speculating on if his parents were drunks. His relief is short lived though, he recognizes the hunted expressions on the women’s faces, sees the way that everyone is watching them. This is the first time that this cousin has brought home a woman, she’s always been considered a model daughter before, and she’s not used to being the subject of this kind of feeding frenzy. 

Wei Wuxian isn’t close with this cousin, she’s never paid Wei Wuxian much attention one way or the other in the past, but Wei Wuxian can’t just let her be eaten alive. In her hurt expression Wei Wuxian sees the members of the LGBTQ alliance, he sees Lan Wangji, and Wei Wuxian can’t just stand by. 

There’s not much he can really do. The best he can offer is some friendly conversation, but her overwhelming relief when she realizes that none of his questions have hidden meanings is obvious. It’s almost worth the renewed weight of everyone’s eyes on his back. And actually, although Wei Wuxian had started this conversation as a kind gesture, he finds that the woman his cousin brought is a very interesting person, no doubt the best conversationalist here. Wei Wuxian and a reluctant Jiang Cheng end up spending much of the night chatting with the couple. Once or twice, they even manage to forget the rest of the guests for whole minutes at a time. 

Madam Yu had been frosty to Wei Wuxian on the way home, but that was nothing new and Wei Wuxian had hoped that was the end of it. It is a wish that is not granted. The next day over dinner, Madam Yu muses at length about what a disappointment her niece must be to her poor mother. In theory, Madam Yu is talking to Uncle Jiang, but as always, when she turns to an unpleasant topic, Uncle Jiang lets his mind obviously drift away, leaving her talking to no one in particular. It’s a cruel habit of his and it always makes Madam Yu even sharper. 

Madam Yu is theoretically explaining the situation to Uncle Jiang, but Wei Wuxian feels that her commentary is actually directed at him. That she’s sanctioning Wei Wuxian for his audacity in talking to his adopted cousin, that Madam Yu is taking out her dislike of Wei Wuxian on her niece, and on her niece’s partner, on two people brave enough to be themselves in front of the family who is supposed to love them. 

Wei Wuxian tries to keep his mouth shut, but he can’t help remembering how nervous they’d looked when they walked in and how some of their fears had immediately been confirmed. Wei Wuxian can’t help thinking about Lan Wangji - what if he’d been at that party with Wei Wuxian? What if Lan Wangji was here now, having to listen to this? Wei Wuxian doesn’t ever want Lan Wangji to be uncomfortable, not because of who he loves, not in Wei Wuxian’s own home, with Wei Wuxian. 

Madam Yu is still going. “She should have have thought about her mother before she made such a decision. What a disappointment.” 

Wei Wuxian’s patience has been worn thin by weeks of keeping his mouth shut and by years before that of letting barbs bounce off of him with a smile. Before he knows what’s happening, he’s snapping, “It’s not a decision she made. It’s who she is. We don’t just decide who we are.” 

Madam Yu’s eyebrow goes up, and Wei Wuxian can already feel the sting of whatever snide thing she’s going to say about who Wei Wuxian is, but, in the very same moment, Jiang Cheng takes a sharp breath beside Wei Wuxian. 

The sound draws Madam Yu’s gaze to Jiang Cheng. She glances at him and then looks again more intently. Wei Wuxian is too focused on her to look away, to see what she sees, but whatever it is surprises her. Madam Yu turns to Jiang Yanli further down the table and this time Wei Wuxian follows her gaze to see a surprisingly fierce look on his sister’s face. 

“Oh,” Madam Yu says. She puts down her chopsticks and looks at Wei Wuxian, a long, uncomfortable evaluation. It seems that, for once, she’s seen something new in Wei Wuxian, albeit something freshly dissatisfying. “I should have known that you would be a disappointment in this too. Can’t even provide grandchildren. Really...” 

She thinks- 

Wei Wuxian’s whole body reacts, his heart pounding, his face hot and his shirt suddenly sticking to his back. 

She thinks that Wei Wuxian meant- Well, he supposes it did sound a bit like he was saying- But the nerve of her to act like she’d ever treat Wei Wuxian’s children like her own grandchildren! He should correct her and say- he shouldn’t- But he… 

Before Wei Wuxian can pull himself together, Jiang Yanli snaps, in a tone that Wei Wuxian has never heard from her before and certainly not directed to her parents, “Mother!” 

Everyone at the table looks at her, startled. That is, everyone except for Jiang Cheng who is glaring at his mother just as fiercely as Jiang Yanli. Wei Wuxian can feel his own pulse pounding in his throat, a quick drumbeat. They’re both- They both think that Wei Wuxian is- Neither of them seem at all surprised. And they’re defending him. Against their own mother. 

Jiang Yanli’s unexpected sharpness has finally pulled Uncle Jiang from wherever his mind had wandered. He quickly takes in the scene, the defensive expression on his two children’s faces, whatever he reads from Wei Wuxian’s wide eyes, and the implications of what Madam Yu had said. 

Uncle Jiang’s expression turns surprised and Wei Wuxian’s whole chest feels tight. They all know- They all think they know this thing about him. Should Wei Wuxian say it was a mistake, back down in front of Madam Yu and reject the unexpected, but wholly welcome, support of his siblings? Wei Wuxian could say that he didn’t mean it like that. It’s only the truth, but he- He can’t. What’s more awful, rejecting the support of his siblings or waiting to hear what Uncle Jiang will say if Wei Wuxian doesn’t? Will this be the final straw? The thing about Wei Wuxian that disappoints Uncle Jiang at last? That makes him see that it wasn’t worth plucking Wei Wuxian from the streets? 

If Wei Wuxian is going to burn his bridges, he might as well get the last word in. He raises his chin, trying to hide the fear pulsing through him and looks right at Madam Yu. “Some people like both you know.” 

It’s not a denial and it’s not quite a false confession, but it is a fuck you. 

Madam Yu narrows her eyes at him, but it’s Uncle Jiang’s slow, careful voice that says, “A-Xian, of course we will be happy with whoever you bring home.” 

Wei Wuxian’s heart only pounds faster for a moment, racing until he feels dizzy with it. Oh. 

He- 

Oh. 

Jiang Cheng leans over to nudge Wei Wuxian with his shoulder. “Gender aside, anyone who would put up with you is a saint.” Somehow that gentle tease is enough to allow Wei Wuxian to take a deep breath for the first time in what feels like an age and has probably been less than a minute. 

“A-Cheng.” Jiang Yanli chides, her usual soft tones returned. She smiles at Wei Wuxian. “Of course we will love anyone who loves you, A-Xian.” Wei Wuxian smiles back, his heart finally starting to slow down. 

Madam Yu sighs, clearly seeing that she’s outnumbered. She picks up her chopsticks again and says, sounding like she’s telling herself a darkly bitter joke, “Well, you can always adopt.” 

Uncle Jiang frowns at her and then deliberately turns the conversation to something lighter. Wei Wuxian doesn’t follow it, his mind seems filled with static. He can’t finish his dinner either, excusing himself as soon as he can. 

Wei Wuxian had wanted nothing more than to get away from everyone, to be perfectly unseen for a moment, but when Jiang Yanli follows him into the kitchen and sets both of their plates to the side before pulling him into a hug, he leans into it gratefully. 

Wei Wuxian is shaking. He doesn’t know why. He can’t understand why couldn’t just say he’s not- Why it was so important that they accept something that’s not even really- 

Jiang Yanli must be able to feel how he’s trembling, but she just whispers reassurances, telling him that nothing will stop her from loving her little brother. Wei Wuxian leans down to hide his face against her shoulder, wishing that he was still shorter than her, wishing that she could wrap him up in a hug the way she used to when he was small. 

Eventually, the trembling stops. Wei Wuxian straightens up to his full height and wipes his face, surprised to find it dry. 

Jiang Yanli looks at him with gentle concern. “Are you okay?” 

Wei Wuxian considers this and reaches no conclusions. He’s not sure, but he smiles for her anyway. “I’m okay. Thank you.” 

She smiles back. “There’s no need to thank me, A-Xian.” 

#

Wei Wuxian is exhausted. He claims that he was up late the night before and goes to bed early. He ignores the worried look on Jiang Cheng’s face, and avoids looking at Jiang Yanli altogether. 

Fatigue seems to weigh down his limbs. Just changing his clothes and getting under the covers feels like a nearly impossible mission. He gives up on brushing his teeth entirely - skipping one night isn’t going to cause cavities. 

But Wei Wuxian can’t fall asleep. Instead, his mind keeps returning to the moment when Madam Yu had looked at Jiang Cheng and seen...what? Because that’s when she’d come to her conclusion. It hadn’t been what Wei Wuxian said, it had been the reaction of his siblings. Madam Yu had seen that Jiang Cheng and Jiang Yanli had been ready to defend Wei Wuxian. It was as if they had been waiting. As if they had already known. Maybe as if they had discussed it in advance. 

Why would they- 

More importantly, why didn’t Wei Wuxian deny it? Wei Wuxian had let the assholes in high school think whatever they wanted. He’d let the LGBTQ alliance members come to their own conclusions too. But his own family should know who he really is. Why had the very idea of saying “that’s not me, you’ve misunderstood” choked him? Why had it felt like such a relief to know that the important people in his life, the people that loved him, that they wouldn’t stop loving him over this? Wei Wuxian wasn’t really- Why did it matter that they had accepted it? 

He- 

Wei Wuxian tries to stop thinking about it. So he let his family think that he’s- That he likes- So what? He can just date women for now, that still fits, and later he can sheepishly confess that it had all been a misunderstanding. Someday. Far in the future. When Wei Wuxian is married to some woman with a good sense of humor. She’ll laugh when she hears the story. 

Wei Wuxian tries to imagine it. It’s twenty years or so from now, he and his wife are both firmly established in their careers, they have children of their own, and Wei Wuxian will say…

The picture won’t quite develop. He can almost see his wife and he can just barely imagine the children, although the number keeps changing - two? four? Wei Wuxian can imagine Jiang Cheng and Jiang Yanli clearly - Jiejie with soft smile lines and Jiang Cheng’s scowl permanently etched in his forehead. Wei Wuxian can’t quite picture himself, maybe because he doesn’t know what his own parents had looked like at that age. No matter, he doesn’t need to know what he’d look like, instead he imagines looking at these people that he loves and saying…

Nothing. Even in this imaginary future the words won’t come. 

What if-

The sheets are twisted around Wei Wuxian in a knot. He’s no closer to sleep. It’s late now and the house is silent. 

Wei Wuxian tries to be quiet as he wiggles out of the tangled sheets and rearranges them into something neater, carefully layering the sheets and blankets over his legs. 

He lays back down. 

Wei Wuxian stares up at the ceiling, dim and uninteresting in the darkness. He makes himself breathe slowly, deeply. It doesn’t make him sleepy, but his heart slows enough for him to allow the thought to rise to the surface of his mind. 

What if. 

What if there was a reason that Wei Wuxian’s brother and sister were so sure. What if there was a reason that Wei Wuxian hadn’t been able to deny it. What if. What if they had seen something in Wei Wuxian that he hadn’t been able to see in himself. 

What if?

Wei Wuxian’s heart is beating quickly again, but he makes himself go on. Could he be attracted to men? Wei Wuxian has never- That is, he’s always been attracted to women. He has always flirted easily with girls and been drawn to their smiles, their curves. His relationship with Mianmian, there’d been nothing forced about that. Wei Wuxian liked her, he had liked having sex with her, if it had been an option, maybe Wei Wuxian could have even fallen in love with her. But he’d said it himself - some people like both. Is Wei Wuxian one of those people? 

Wei Wuxian slowly breathes in and out, once, twice, and then makes himself consider it. Does he notice if other men are handsome? Of course. Doesn’t everyone? A person doesn’t need to want someone to see that they’re attractive. It’s not so different from knowing a sunset is beautiful. Anyone can see it. 

But is he… is he attracted? Wei Wuxian is a scientist in training, he can think through this logically. He searches his mind for a handsome celebrity, a man with that kind of indisputable sunset beauty. A few jump to mind, but Wei Wuxian picks just one. Then laying very still under his layers of newly neatened sheets, Wei Wuxian makes himself imagine meeting the man on the street someday. The man smiles at Wei Wuxian, steps just a little too close, somehow one thing leads to another and they’re somewhere private together. Then the man kisses Wei Wuxian, first chaste, and then insistent. He presses them together, his lips hot against Wei Wuxian’s neck, his body muscular against Wei Wuxian. His shoulders are so broad where Wei Wuxian’s fingers are holding on as the man starts to rock into Wei Wuxian, hard against him, and Wei Wuxian-

Oh. 

Wei Wuxian’s heart is racing again, but for another reason. His face feels hot and he’s- he’s hard. Wei Wuxian could have gotten himself off to that little fantasy. Easily. He would- He is- 

Oh. 

Wei Wuxian lays still until the blush leaves his face, until the sparks of arousal clear, until his heart stops pounding. 

So he’s- He’s bisexual. Wei Wuxian thinks it and nothing breaks. 

It is embarrassing to be nearly the last to know about his own sexuality, but Wei Wuxian remembers sixteen year-old Lan Wangji’s carefully hidden fear. The way Lan Wangji had worried that Wei Wuxian wouldn’t want to be his friend anymore. Somehow Wei Wuxian has been lucky enough to skip right past that kind of worry. Wei Wuxian’s family had understood him better than he’d understood himself and so Wei Wuxian already knows that they accept him. 

It does confuse Wei Wuxian though. It’s good to be accepted of course, but how had everyone else known when Wei Wuxian himself hadn’t figured it out? Was it the fights in high school? The LGBTQ alliance? Those things were both for Lan Wangji, although only Lan Wangji would know that. Was that it? It didn’t seem like simply believing in gay rights should be enough to lead Wei Wuxian’s siblings to the conclusion they’d apparently reached. 

Wei Wuxian puzzles over it some more, but he can’t figure it out. He rolls on his side and tries to fall asleep, but he keeps getting hit by memories that take on a new meaning in light of his revelation. There was the intense friendship Wei Wuxian had in middle school that had ended when the boy and his shy smile had moved away. How sad Wei Wuxian had been afterward. There was the frisson of delight that Wei Wuxian had felt last semester when his handsome chemistry professor had complimented his work, granting Wei Wuxian one of his rare smiles. There was the teasing way Wei Wuxian talked with Wu Yiming, one of the guys from the LGBTQ alliance, no different at all from how Wei Wuxian used to talk to Mianmian before he asked her out. 

God, Wei Wuxian is an idiot. 

Wei Wuxian only manages to fall asleep as the pale dawn light starts to fill the room.

Jiang Cheng wakes Wei Wuxian only a few hours after he falls asleep. “I just wanted to make sure you weren’t dead.” 

Wei Wuxian groans, but forces himself out of bed. 

Luckily, Madam Yu and Uncle Jiang are both out of the house, so only Jiang Cheng and Jiang Yanli are there to see Wei Wuxian refuse to abandon his warm blankets. He drapes the best one around himself and wears it to the kitchen where Jiang Yanli offers him a bowl of cereal. 

The lack of sleep has left Wei Wuxian with a pounding headache, which in turn has stolen his appetite, but he smiles at Jiang Yanli when she presses a hand to his forehead. “I’m fine. I’m just still waking up.” 

She smiles back but radiates concern. “You didn’t sleep well?” 

Wei Wuxian slowly chews and swallows another bite of cereal, giving himself a moment to think. It would be ridiculous to confess that he’d come out to his family before himself, right? “I just didn’t, uh, expect to have this conversation over break.” That’s more true than they can possibly know! 

Jiang Cheng says, irritation a thin mask for his own worry, “Oh, because you’re so good at following a plan.” 

Wei Wuxian can’t help laughing at that. “True!” 

His laughter reassures them enough that Wei Wuxian feels like he can give up on the cereal. He pushes the half empty bowl away. 

Tactical mistake. Jiang Yanli frowns again. “We meant what we said last night, A-Xian. This doesn’t change anything. We’ll always love you, no matter who you love.” 

Jiang Cheng scowls, but grudgingly nods. 

Wei Wuxian smiles again, genuinely touched. “Thank you.” He lets his smile turn to a smirk and looks at Jiang Cheng. “Same to you.” 

Jiang Cheng doesn’t even get annoyed, only rolling his eyes impatiently. Wow. Wei Wuxian had really thought- Well, he hadn’t expected Jiang Cheng to be comfortable enough to handle any dig at his own sexuality. Tolerating a troublesome brother is one thing, but maybe Jiang Cheng really doesn’t see anything wrong with it? 

“When did you know?” Wei Wuxian finds himself blurting. And why not? He’d wondered and there probably won’t be a better time to ask. 

Jiang Cheng’s brow furrows a little, but he answers easily enough. “When you started getting in all those fights I knew for sure.” 

Jiang Yanli nods in agreement. 

“Oh.” That’s what Wei Wuxian had guessed, but- Wait... knew for sure? “So you suspected before?” 

Jiang Cheng rolls his eyes again. “Your need to constantly point out how handsome you find Lan Wangji was also a clue.” 

Wei Wuxian can feel himself flushing. That’s just- He’s not going to think about that. Anyone with eyes can see that Lan Wangji is handsome. The sunset principle. 

Jiang Yanli smothers a little laugh, but quickly manages to redirect them, pulling their old favorite board game out from storage. Soon they are absorbed in a familiar, childish argument about what constitutes cheating and what is merely good strategy. Eventually, Wei Wuxian even wakes up enough to abandon the blanket. 

That night when Wei Wuxian goes to bed early he actually falls asleep. 

#

There’s only one more day left in the break and then Wei Wuxian is taking the train back to campus. He’s alone this time, Lan Wangji had gone directly from his family trip to school. It gives Wei Wuxian some time to think, some time to consider how things might change now.

Wei Wuxian will have to tell Lan Wangji about his new revelation of course. It will be the first time Wei Wuxian has actually told someone, instead of them telling him. But Wei Wuxian is pretty sure that Lan Wangji hasn’t figured it out. Actually, Lan Wangji might be the only person who hasn’t. Nie Huaisang’s casual mention of the LGBTQ alliance and Mianmian’s honest surprise about Wei Wuxian liking girls comes to mind. 

If everyone else knows, it seems like Lan Wangji should as well, but Wei Wuxian supposes it makes a kind of sense for Lan Wangji not to realize. After all, Lan Wangji probably thinks if Wei Wuxian hasn’t said anything by now, there’s nothing to say. Wei Wuxian wouldn’t have any reason to keep this secret from Lan Wangji - the one person Wei Wuxian has to know will understand. Lan Wangji, in all his generosity, probably hasn’t considered how dumb Wei Wuxian can be. 

#

When Wei Wuxian gets back to campus he stops by his own room just long enough to drop off his bags and note that Nie Huaisang isn’t back yet, before heading over to Lan Wangji’s room. There’s no point in delaying and besides it’s been far too long since Wei Wuxian has seen Lan Wangji. 

Lan Wangji opens the door right away, he always insists that he can tell Wei Wuxian’s knock from anyone else. Wei Wuxian had once tested this, recruiting one of Lan Wangji’s hall-mates and training her to mimic Wei Wuxian’s knock. Lan Wangji had still known. Next time, Wei Wuxian is going to get someone whose hands are the same size as his own. 

Lan Wangji smiles at Wei Wuxian, that sweet, small smile, rare enough that it makes Wei Wuxian feel warm every time he manages to elicit it. 

Oh no. 

Wei Wuxian’s heart is pounding almost as fast as it had been when he was waiting for Uncle Jiang’s reaction to his accidental coming out. 

Oh no. 

Wei Wuxian knows that Lan Wangji is attractive. That doesn’t mean anything. Lan Wangji is sunset attractive. Everyone knows it. 

When they had been in high school, some of the girls had kept a ranking of the top ten most handsome guys in the school. It was a pretty thoughtful list as such things go. They said they only ranked the top ten because they weren’t in the business of calling people ugly, only in highlighting beauty. And the ranking wasn’t purely physical - brains, talents, and personality all featured in the complicated scoring system. Wei Wuxian had been, as far he knows, the only male student to be given a glimpse of this ever-evolving and deeply secret document. Wei Wuxian had even been allowed to offer his opinion, with the caveat that he couldn’t argue about his own placement. And okay, that’s going on the list of reasons that Wei Wuxian probably should have figured out that he’s bi a long time ago. In any case, the first person on the list was always Lan Wangji. Even with the personality demerits! So it’s just a fact, everyone can see how handsome Lan Wangji is. 

That was high school, but Wei Wuxian imagines that if college students had enough time on their hands the result would be the same. Just a few weeks ago, during finals, Wei Wuxian had the misfortune of having two finals back-to-back. Lan Wangji had been kind enough to bring him a coffee and a snack, bravely venturing down to the unfamiliar science section of campus. 

Wei Wuxian had managed to finish early, just seconds behind his chemistry nemesis, Wang Wenting, who regularly inched him out in test scores. She looked like she’d slept in her clothes before wearing them to the test, but We Wuxian had been considering asking her out next semester, until she’d walked out of the test, just ahead of Wei Wuxian, and caught sight of Lan Wangji waiting patiently, coffee in hand. Her mouth had dropped open in sleep deprived shock and she’d actually turned around so she that was walking backward, to keep staring at Lan Wangji. She’d muttered to herself, (out loud!), “That’s too much.” 

Lan Wangji hadn’t noticed any of it, but Wei Wuxian had felt awfully smug that Lan Wangji was there for him, even if Wei Wuxian obviously had no chance with Wang Wenting after all. Wei Wuxian had given her a smirk before turning back to Lan Wangji to properly thank him for his thoughtfulness. Even chemistry geniuses can see Lan Wangji’s handsomeness! 

However, it is one thing to know objectively that Lan Wangji is handsome, but it is quite another thing to think about what that means to Wei Wuxian. His stomach is churning and it occurs to Wei Wuxian that the feeling is familiar. That this is the same ache, the same butterflies, he’s had since the very first time he met Lan Wangji. Since the first day of high school, when Wei Wuxian had seen that perfect face, that calm like an untouched snowfield, and Wei Wuxian had wanted to touch its icy perfection… He’d wanted… Oh god. That was it. End of sentence. Wei Wuxian had seen Lan Wangji, and without understanding, young enough that he hadn’t even really known what it meant to want someone, Wei Wuxian had wanted Lan Wangji. 

Looking back, it’s so clear. The way Wei Wuxian had always wanted a reaction from Lan Wangji. Had always wanted Lan Wangji’s eyes on him, had always wanted Lan Wangji’s attention at any cost, even if it meant annoying Lan Wangji. Wanted, wanted, wanted. The way Wei Wuxian’s stomach had twisted when he’d found out that Lan Wangji liked men. The way Wei Wuxian had provoked fights, just to feel Lan Wangji’s steady hands on him afterward. They way he’d followed Lan Wangji to college. They way he’d wanted to be roommates, wanted to see Lan Wangji warm and sleepy in the mornings. Wei Wuxian is- 

Oh no. 

Jiang Cheng’s comment about Wei Wuxian talking about Lan Wangji’s beauty, a flood of Jiang Cheng’s other gripes from over the years, they all come back to Wei Wuxian. No wonder Jiang Cheng had been so sure about Wei Wuxian for so long. Wei Wuxian has been so obvious. Wei Wuxian has been and is so, so- 

“Wei Ying?” Wei Wuxian’s personal crisis has apparently gone on a bit too long because Lan Wangji’s soft smile has faded.

Oh god. Wei Wuxian can’t tell Lan Wangji that he likes guys now. Wei Wuxian still has hope that Lan Wangji hasn’t noticed that Wei Wuxian is- That Wei Wuxian has a crush on him. If Wei Wuxian admits that he isn’t straight, it’s going to be too obvious, even to someone as trusting as Lan Wangji. Lan Wangji shouldn’t have to worry about his best friend being- drooling over him. Wei Wuxian will just have to get over it first, then he can be honest with Lan Wangji. 

Wei Wuxian pastes on a smile. “Lan Zhan!” 

Lan Wangji looks unconvinced. Probably because Wei Wuxian is hovering in the doorway like a stranger instead of bounding in the room like he usually would. 

But Wei Wuxian can’t get any closer. His sudden awareness is making every little thing about Lan Wangji seem erotic. Even from the safety of the doorway, Wei Wuxian can barely keep his eyes from straying, from focusing on the way one of Lan Wangji’s sweatshirt sleeves has gotten pushed up, showing the fine bones of his wrist, or from tracing the breadth of Lan Wangji’s shoulders, or noting that Lan Wangji is wearing his glasses. Lan Wangji is careful with his appearance and he only wears the glasses when he’s in for the night or first thing in the morning. It’s always made Wei Wuxian unbearably fond to be allowed to see them. Now Wei Wuxian is having other feelings. Are glasses hot? Apparently they are when Lan Wangji is wearing them. 

It’s like years of unacknowledged and unrealized attraction are hitting Wei Wuxian all at once. He feels warm, flushed and slow. The churning in his stomach is coalescing into something heated, something lower. Oh god. Wei Wuxian is not going to get an erection just from seeing Lan Wangji’s wrist, is he? 

Fuck. 

“Wei Ying, are you all right?” 

Wei Wuxian hates himself for making Lan Wangji worry and hates himself more for what he’s about to do, but he can’t stay here. Wei Wuxian can’t go into that tiny single with the one chair - the one chair that means that, more often than not, they sit together in Lan Wangji’s bed. Oh fuck. Wei Wuxian can’t think about Lan Wangji and a bed. Especially not Lan Wangji’s bed, not the bed whose sheets probably smell like Lan Wangji. “Um, I’m just a little tired. It was a long trip. I wanted to say hi, but I think I’m going to go to bed early.” 

“Oh.” Lan Wangji looks worried, which obviously. It’s not even seven. “Do you feel sick?” 

Wei Wuxian smiles as sincerely as he can. He has his doubts about the success of it. “No, just tired!” 

Lan Wangji doesn’t look convinced and Wei Wuxian has a horrible vision of him wanting to check for a fever. 

Fuck!

Lan Wangji’s broad hands on any part of Wei Wuxian, even his forehead, will definitely move an erection from the ‘real possibility’ zone to the ‘oh this is happening’ category. Actually, just thinking about the possibility is making it imperative that Wei Wuxian leaves now. 

“Good night, Lan Zhan!” he calls, already fleeing back to his dorm like the coward that he is. 

#

Wei Wuxian makes it back to his dorm without embarrassing himself. He collapses into his bed to stare hopelessly at nothing and to think unsexy thoughts. 

Without Lan Wangji actually there the whole problem is fairly unsexy. Wei Wuxian’s mind is whirring like an overheated computer, trying to figure out a way out of this and instead thinking of everything that’s going to go wrong. 

It’s just- Lan Wangji is Wei Wuxian’s best friend and Wei Wuxian is pretty sure he’s Lan Wangji’s best friend too. Wei Wuxian makes friends easily enough, especially now that he’s no longer constantly surrounded by the children of the most elite assholes. But, no matter how many friends Wei Wuxian makes, Lan Wangji is special. Wei Wuxian can’t replace Lan Wangji and he wouldn’t want to. 

Lan Wangji isn’t as quick with making friends, but he’s been doing well here at college. There’s a whole group of people that he spends time with. But, even so, Wei Wuxian knows that Lan Wangji doesn’t let just anyone close. Wei Wuxian knows that he’s Lan Wangji’s oldest friend, probably the person closest to Lan Wangji aside from his brother. If Wei Wuxian doesn’t get this under control, if he ruins their friendship because he can’t keep himself from being- from wanting something that isn’t his, it’s going to hurt both of them. 

So Wei Wuxian has to get over it. He’s just not sure how to do that. 

Wei Wuxian thinks and he thinks, but no amount of puzzling solves it. Eventually, he falls asleep musing on a completely unworkable plan to get Lan Wangji a boyfriend so that- so that what? So that Wei Wuxian can be completely jealous? So that Lan Wangji can find out in the worst way, when Wei Wuxian does something awful in his envy?

Wei Wuxian wakes abruptly in the middle of the night, uncomfortably warm under the covers and uncomfortably hard from a dream about Lan Wangji. It takes every ounce of Wei Wuxian’s willpower not to groan out loud in frustration at waking.

In Wei Wuxian’s dream, he hadn’t run away from Lan Wangji. Instead he’d gone into Lan Wangji’s room. They’d sat on the bed, a polite distance between them, but then Lan Wangji had kept moving closer. He’d inched over to Wei Wuxian, until they were pressed together all along one side - shoulder to shoulder, thigh to thigh. 

In the dream, Wei Wuxian had been hard just from that. At first, Wei Wuxian had hoped that Lan Wangji hadn’t noticed. Wei Wuxian had tried to sit still, to act normally, even as Lan Wangji’s thigh shifted against him and Wei Wuxian’s breathing grew ragged. Wei Wuxian knew he had to stay still, but his cock ached to be touched. He was sweating. Wei Wuxian almost gave in and touched himself, just managing to redirect his wayward hand at the last minute to clutch his own thigh instead. 

In the dream, Wei Wuxian hadn’t been able to stifle a moan at the feeling of his own hand so close to where he really wanted to be touched. Lan Wangji must have heard, he must have understood, he must be horrified, but when Wei Wuxian got the courage to meet his eyes, Lan Wangji had only smirked at him. 

In the dream, Lan Wangji was suddenly on top of Wei Wuxian and they were grinding into each other, Lan Wangji was just as hard as Wei Wuxian. It was so good and yet not enough. Lan Wangji was panting against Wei Wuxian’s neck, but no matter how they pushed together Wei Wuxian couldn’t quite get there. Wei Wuxian just needed- he needed- he-

Wei Wuxian had woken up still needing, still aching. 

Nie Huaisang is in the bed across from Wei Wuxian. He must have gotten in late, after Wei Wuxian had finally managed to fall asleep. Nie Huaisang’s breath is steady and deep. Wei Wuxian is almost certain that he’s asleep. 

Wei Wuxian shifts, turning away from Nie Huaisang’s side of the room and slipping a hand into his sleep pants. He stifles a gasp of relief as his hand closes around his cock. He’s so close already. 

Wei Wuxian’s mind is full of the dreamed feeling of Lan Wangji’s hot breath against his neck, of his cock grinding into Wei Wuxian. There’s no need for teasing, for build up, Wei Wuxian had awoken already on the edge of coming. Fuck, Nie Huaisang better be asleep, there’s no mistaking the rhythmic sound of Wei Wuxian’s hand moving under the covers or the harsh sound of his breathing. 

Wei Wuxian makes himself stop, it seems almost impossible, he’s so damned close. He shifts, moving his legs to create space in the sheets so they won’t rustle. Then he strokes himself again. His cock is already leaking and he uses that to slick the way, hand moving quickly. He can’t tell if he’s managed to eliminate the noise or if the blood pounding in his ears is drowning it out. 

Wei Wuxian lets the dream drift back over him - Lan Wangji above Wei Wuxian, hard against him. The little sounds Lan Wangji had made in the dream. Wei Wuxian can hear his own cut off gasps now, mingling with the remembered dream. He turns his face, trying to muffle the sounds in his pillow. He can hear the slick sound of his hand moving faster and faster, the creak of the ancient dorm mattress as his hips push up, seeking just a little more, just like he had in the dream, grinding up against Lan Wangji. Wei Wuxian is so close. He just needs- He’s- He’s-

Wei Wuxian comes with a barely muffled grunt. He lays there panting, sweat coating his skin, come cooling in his underwear, and guilt growing in his heart. 

At least Nie Huaisang’s breathing is still deep and undisturbed, but wasn’t Wei Wuxian going to avoid ruining his friendship with Lan Wangji? Is this how he’s going to do it? Jerking off to fantasies of his own best friend like some sort of perv? 

#

It takes Wei Wuxian almost the first two weeks of the semester to get himself under control enough to be around Lan Wangji without embarrassing himself. It’s like going through puberty all over again, except that all of Wei Wuxian’s awkward erections, torrid dreams, and wayward thoughts are about Lan Wangji and only Lan Wangji. 

For those two weeks, Wei Wuxian finds himself making excuse after excuse to avoid Lan Wangji, or to make his escape after Lan Wangji does something unforgivably sexy like breathe. It’s awful. Not just the shame of being so out of control and not just the guilt about repeatedly getting off to fantasies of Lan Wangji, even as Wei Wuxian always promises himself that this is the last time, but because Wei Wuxian misses Lan Wangji. Misses his best friend. Wei Wuxian’s own stupid libido is making it impossible for him to be around the person he likes most and it’s horrible. 

Even worse than that, Lan Wangji notices. Of course he notices his best friend suddenly doing anything to avoid him. By some miracle, Wei Wuxian doesn’t think Lan Wangji has figured out the reason behind Wei Wuxian’s sudden avoidance, but that just means that Lan Wangji looks puzzled and hurt every time Wei Wuxian once again comes up with some ridiculous excuse for why he has to leave right now. 

Hurting Lan Wangji is absolutely the last thing Wei Wuxian wants to do. And so, barely, just barely, Wei Wuxian manages to get himself under control. To be able to act like an adult around Lan Wangji and not a horny teenager. There are trade-offs. Wei Wuxian has to give up on trying to suppress his fantasies about Lan Wangji and he ends up taking a lot of showers. A lot. Nie Huaisang definitely notices. 

When he’s not careful, Wei Wuxian still finds himself staring at Lan Wangji, finding himself freshly charmed by the curve of Lan Wangji’s lips, the delicate swoop of his eyelashes, the veins on the back of his hands - by everything about Lan Wangji. 

And there’s the other part. The part beyond the physical. The part Wei Wuxian really doesn’t want to think about. Lan Wangji has long been Wei Wuxian’s favorite person (aside from his Jiejie of course) and now Wei Wuxian can’t help think that he’s- That is, that Wei Wuxian might be- 

Wei Wuxian can’t let himself think about it. Lan Wangji being Wei Wuxian’s best friend is enough, it has to be enough. It’s just because Wei Wuxian had been oblivious for so long, all these feelings have built up over time and it’s just a lot to take all at once. 

But of course Wei Wuxian has had crushes before! He knows that they fade with time. Just like Mianmian or the boy with the shy smile in middle school. This isn’t any different. It can’t be. 

#

The first LGBTQ alliance meeting of the year is both completely different and completely unchanged now that Wei Wuxian realizes how very much he belongs here. The conversation revolves around the difficulty of going home for break, some people talk about the strained relationship they have with their parents and some talk about not getting to go home at all. 

For once, Wei Wuxian feels like he could contribute, but he stays quiet - all too aware that Lan Wangji’s music major friend is here, and actually, isn’t that another girl from Lan Wangji’s little circle of friends? Holding Mianmian’s hand no less! Wei Wuxian trusts the members of the alliance, but Wei Wuxian can’t risk coming out to Lan Wangji until they can be in the same room without Wei Wuxian being hit with a wave of longing. 

In the quiet conversation after the formal meeting ends, no one treats Wei Wuxian any differently. Just as they had before, they treat him like one of them. Wei Wuxian finds himself casually flirting with Wu Yiming, the same bantering as always, only now Wei Wuxian actually understands what he’s doing. It occurs to Wei Wuxian that Wu Yiming might be amenable to some no strings attached fun, something like what Wei Wuxian had with Mianmian. Wei Wuxian could ask Wu Yiming out for coffee, or maybe just back to his room. It would be a distraction from Lan Wangji. It could help Wei Wuxian forget. 

Wei Wuxian doesn’t do it. 

The meeting ends and Wei Wuxian goes back to his dorm by himself. The problem of wanting Lan Wangji is no closer to being solved, but it does give Wei Wuxian some comfort to know that there’s a community of people out there like him, that, no matter what else is happening, he’s not alone. 

Nie Huaisang has noticed that something is off with Wei Wuxian, something beyond Wei Wuxian’s need to shower twice a day. Nie Huaisang gently asks about it, looking nervous, as if he’s afraid of Wei Wuxian actually telling him what’s wrong. Wei Wuxian smiles and says there’s nothing to tell. Nie Huaisang looks torn, relieved at not having problems dumped on him, but also clearly skeptical that this is the truth. 

Nie Huaisang’s next strategy is to invite Wei Wuxian along on his various outings, to theater productions, dinner with his fellow arts majors, and even shopping. These invitation are kindly meant, but they do little to address the problem because Nie Huaisang’s group of friends, art and theater majors mostly, overlaps quite a bit with Lan Wangji’s circle of friends. Wei Wuxian never knows when Lan Wangji might be there too. Wei Wuxian can hardly avoid Lan Wangji, avoid thinking about Lan Wangji, if they’re at the same event. 

But then Nie Huaisang invites Wei Wuxian to a party, a real college party at a house someone has rented, jammed full of people and cheap liquor. Wei Wuxian likes parties. In his first semester of college, he hadn’t gone to as many of them as he imagined he would, but he likes them. It was just that Lan Wangji didn’t much care for big parties. Lan Wangji didn’t like drinking, he got drunk easily, and didn’t enjoy loud, large crowds. Lan Wangji had gone with Wei Wuxian when Wei Wuxian asked him to, but Wei Wuxian knew he’d rather not. So, Wei Wuxian had only gone to the best parties, the ones worth dragging Lan Wangji to, or worth spending an evening without Lan Wangji.

But now, surrounded by strangers and already well on his way to drunk, it occurs to Wei Wuxian that Lan Wangji not liking parties makes them the perfect place for Wei Wuxian to catch his breath. He can’t be avoiding Lan Wangji if he’s merely doing something that Lan Wangji wouldn’t enjoy, right? It can’t be obvious to Lan Wangji like those other excuses, it won’t make Lan Wangji wonder, it won’t make him hurt. 

And parties are filled with interesting people, loud music, and, most importantly, alcohol. Exactly what Wei Wuxian needs to distract himself from thinking about Lan Wangji. He lets the booze wash away any thoughts about being- about- about Lan Wangji. Wei Wuxian meets new people, he learns new songs, he has fun! 

Wei Wuxian goes to bed, alcohol soothing him to sleep, still chuckling softly about the ridiculous dance-off that had broken out in the middle of the party. 

Wei Wuxian dreams that he can’t find Lan Wangji. It’s an old dream actually, a faded memory of the day his parents hadn’t come home, but his small self is replaced with his current self and it’s Lan Wangji who has just disappeared, never to return, no matter how Wei Wuxian searches.

When he wakes, Wei Wuxian’s head is pounding and yet he’s still a little drunk. He breathes carefully, slowly, one hand holding onto the sheets so tightly that his fingers start to cramp. He doesn’t cry. Eventually, Wei Wuxian falls asleep again. 

In the morning, Wei Wuxian pushes aside the lingering memory of the dream and instead focuses on the earlier success of the party. For a few, beer-soaked hours, Wei Wuxian hadn’t been tempted to think about wanting things he can’t have. 

It’s almost surprising how easy it is for Wei Wuxian to make those parties a regular part of his life. Nie Huaisang somehow always knows where the best keggers are and once Wei Wuxian attends a few, once he shows himself to be a bright, willing addition to any group, he starts to receive his own invitations. 

It’s enough to distract Wei Wuxian for a handful of precious hours a few times a week. To drift along, buoyed by the foam on his beer and the ever-changing faces of the crowd. To not think about the things he can’t let himself think about.

Lan Wangji, when they see each other, worries about Wei Wuxian’s grades, about his health. Wei Wuxian isn’t concerned though. He had skimmed through the first semester without studying, he’s sure he can for the second as well. As for his health, he’s always held his alcohol well, from the very first party he and Jiang Cheng had lied their way into at sixteen. Jiang Cheng had spent the next day completely hungover, but Wei Wuxian had been fine. At nineteen, Wei Wuxian’s drinking constitution seems to be holding strong. He’s tired, but that’s just from getting less sleep. 

These parties don’t really get rolling until late at night and so Wei Wuxian spend his sleeping time chasing after those few hours of careless laughter and distracting dancing. When Wei Wuxian does finally fall asleep, the dreams come for him. He dreams of tragedies both big and small - Lan Wangji forgetting Wei Wuxian as if they’d never met, Lan Wangji transferring away or disappearing entirely, Lan Wangji showing up one day with a new best friend, or maybe a boyfriend, it’s not totally clear, but Wei Wuxian’s hopeless jealousy is obvious to everyone in the dream. 

These dreams wake Wei Wuxian up in the early morning, in the gray time, undecided between night or day and he lays in his bed trying not to think about them, or about Lan Wangji, or about how much Wei Wuxian- 

Not one to be deterred, Wei Wuxian tries drinking more. He tries drinking faster. It doesn’t work. 

Wei Wuxian only tries harder and the unfortunate result is a long night, some of which disappears from his memory altogether. Wei Wuxian wishes he didn’t remember the rest of the night either, because it’s just him throwing up for hours, while Nie Huaisang flits around him, threatening to call Lan Wangji or maybe an ambulance. 

The next day, Wei Wuxian doesn’t even get out of bed, sure that if he did his head would split open. He survives the day on water and some plain rice that Nie Huaisang grudgingly brings him, along with the comforting words, “Do it again and I’ll let you die!” 

#

With that warning ringing in his ears, not to mention the sheer humiliation of the little bits of the night that he can remember, Wei Wuxian decides that he needs a new plan. He just hasn’t quite come up with one yet. Before he can, Wang Wenting invites him to another party. Now that they are no longer competing for the top chemistry grade, and, Wei Wuxian suspects, now that she knows he hangs out with Lan Wangji, she’s a lot friendlier.

Wei Wuxian initially declines, he likes her well enough, but he’s pretty sure he needs at least a week before he so much as looks at alcohol again. Wang Wenting doesn’t give up hope though, assuring Wei Wuxian that it’s not really a drinking party and casually letting him know that he can bring as many friends as he wants. 

Despite this enticement, Wei Wuxian is still not going to go, but then Lan Wangji suggests they watch a movie together. Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji have watched a hundred movies together. Wei Wuxian likes anything with explosions, realistic or not, and Lan Wangji is almost always more interested in the musical score than the plot, ranking films by their use of leitmotifs rather than plot twists. But Wei Wuxian can’t, can’t watch a movie with Lan Wangji right now. All their old, easy closeness will be ruined by Wei Wuxian’s new awareness. Wei Wuxian panics and claims he promised Wang Wenting that he’d go to her party. 

Wei Wuxian has to go then. If he doesn’t go, he’ll be lying to Lan Wangji again. It’s one thing to keep how he- to keep things from Lan Wangji, it’s another to start outright dodging him with false excuses again, to invoke that quickly hidden hurt. So Wei Wuxian goes to the party. 

It takes Wei Wuxian almost five minutes to figure out why there isn’t a lot of drinking at the party. The third time he sees someone covertly swallow a pill though the flashes of colored lights, he gets it. The bass heavy music thuds through the room as Wei Wuxian tries to decide if he should just go, but then Wang Wenting sweeps up to him. 

She looks happy and flushed, her bangs sticking to her forehead a little, but her smile wide. She greets Wei Wuxian cheerfully and even takes it in stride when he confesses that he didn’t bring any friends. He should say no when she offers him one of the little pills (“It’s pure, I tested it myself!”), but she looks so carefree. She wants and cannot have Lan Wangji and yet, unlike Wei Wuxian, she seems totally unbothered right now. Alcohol hasn’t worked for him, but maybe he just hasn’t tried the right mind altering substance. Everyone here seems happy, why shouldn’t Wei Wuxian be happy too? 

At first, Wei Wuxian doesn’t feel any different. That’s a little disappointing, but also a little bit of a relief. It’s no matter, he can still lose himself in the music for a while before he goes home. 

Wei Wuxian dances, mostly by himself and then with a stranger or two. The music is pretty good and then, a few songs in, Wei Wuxian starts to notice that actually the music is really, really good. Actually, it’s great and Wei Wuxian never wants to stop dancing. It’s filling him with warmth, with benevolence, with sunshine. So what that Lan Zhan won’t ever look at Wei Wuxian the way he looks at Lan Zhan? So what? The music is pulsing through Wei Wuxian and everyone is smiling, everything is wonderful. 

It belatedly occurs to Wei Wuxian that it’s not the music that’s creating this feeling, it’s the pill he took. It’s whatever was in that little pill that makes it feel like everything is moving just a little faster than normal, like the world is finally catching up with the speed of Wei Wuxian’s thoughts. 

Wei Wuxian wants to thank Wang Wenting for inviting him, for giving him whatever it was and he starts to look for her in the crowd. There are so many people and everything is so fast! It’s hard to move through the crush. The music is pounding into Wei Wuxian’s bones. He can’t find Wang Wenting. He doesn’t recognize anyone at all. The laughing faces that had been comforting a moment ago all seem strange now, the smiles overly large, frightening. It’s all so much. Wei Wuxian’s breath is coming too fast, racing to meet the speed of the world around him. 

Wei Wuxian manages to locate the exit, to stumble outside where it’s quieter. It seems cold compared to the warm room he had just been in. The music is muffled, there’s no one near him, and yet Wei Wuxian is overwhelmed with the feeling that something terrible is going to happen or maybe is already happening. He’s panicking. He knows he’s panicking, but he can’t seem to stop. The world is crashing down and it’s all crashing in on him. 

Wei Wuxian is not even thinking when he calls Lan Wangji. It’s just instinct, when things are bad, there are two people Wei Wuxian knows for sure he can turn to and Jiang Yanli is hundreds of miles away. 

Wei Wuxian’s explanation is hopelessly disjointed, but Lan Wangji is carefully calm. Just the sound of Lan Wangji’s voice helps soothe Wei Wuxian enough to answer his questions. Lan Wangji reassures Wei Wuxian that he’ll be there soon. He doesn’t hang up, but Wei Wuxian can tell from the background noise that he’s walking, that he’s on his way. Knowing that is almost enough to make Wei Wuxian believe that nothing terrible could happen after all. 

Even though Wei Wuxian knows that Lan Wangji is on his way, his actual arrival takes Wei Wuxian by surprise. It seemed like Wei Wuxian might always be here, far from everything he knows, with only Lan Wangji’s voice to hold on to. But then Lan Wangji is actually there, kneeling on the concrete next to Wei Wuxian, asking something that Wei Wuxian misses because Wei Wuxian is too busy throwing himself into Lan Wangji’s arms. It feels like Wei Wuxian was lost at sea, adrift on choppy waters and sure he had come to the edge of the world, but then miraculously he’s home. 

Wei Wuxian knows he’s holding on too tight, but Lan Wangji just holds Wei Wuxian even closer, murmuring an uncharacteristic stream of words, comforting nonsense, so unlike Lan Wangji’s usual precise succinctness. The low rumble of his voice makes the crashing of the world recede a bit more. 

Even so, things remain a blur. Wei Wuxian knows he tries to apologize, but Lan Wangji dismisses it, more concerned about the practical questions - figuring out what Wei Wuxian took, if he’s in serious danger, how they’ll get back to the dorm. Wei Wuxian just clings to Lan Wangji, answering Lan Wangji’s questions to the best of his ability, following Lan Wangji’s directions obediently. 

They walk back to the dorms with Wei Wuxian still pressed close to Lan Wangji. Lan Wangji wraps an arm around Wei Wuxian’s shoulders, holding him tight. Wei Wuxian lets Lan Wangji’s warmth, the familiar scent of him, drive away whatever nightmares are lurking in his mind. He doesn’t even notice that Lan Wangji has brought Wei Wuxian back to Lan Wangji’s own room until they’re already there. 

Wei Wuxian ended up in this situation because he was avoiding this room, this warm bed. He was avoiding time alone with Lan Wangji and his feelings for Lan Wangji, but now Wei Wuxian is too tired to fight it. He lets Lan Wangji take his shoes and help him lay back in the bed. Lan Wangji is saying something, but Wei Wuxian only registers the timbre of that beloved voice soothing him to sleep. 

#

Wei Wuxian wakes up. Without opening his eyes, he can tell that it’s morning by the warm sun on his face. His mind is strangely clear, without any of the haziness that tends to follow a night of drinking. He remembers moments from the night before in unfortunately pristine detail - the way he’d grasped Lan Wangji, refusing to let go even when they were trying to walk, his panic and Lan Wangji’s concern, taking the stupid pill in the first place. Wei Wuxian remembers that he’s in Lan Wangji’s bed, that Lan Wangji had brought Wei Wuxian here, had taken care of Wei Wuxian even after all of that.

Wei Wuxian lays perfectly still for a moment, irrationally wishing he could sleep just a little bit longer, could put off dealing with Lan Wangji’s inevitable disappointment, his equally inevitable worry. Wei Wuxian’s one consolation is that he hadn’t actually said any of the things he’s been trying not to say. Maybe Lan Wangji won’t understand, won’t know why Wei Wuxian pressed so close, why Lan Wangji’s presence was enough to chase away Wei Wuxian’s shadows. 

Wei Wuxian reluctantly opens his eyes. He’s expecting Lan Wangji to be awake, face already set in that disapproving frown that he’d given Wei Wuxian so often when they first met and less and less since. 

But no. Lan Wangji is asleep. 

At some point, Lan Wangji had set himself up at Wei Wuxian’s bedside, sitting in the uncomfortable desk chair. He’s fallen asleep, slumped awkwardly on the bed, head near Wei Wuxian’s hip. Lan Wangji’s hand is wrapped around Wei Wuxian’s wrist, first two fingers pressed gently against Wei Wuxian’s pulse point, as if Lan Wangji had needed to reassure himself that Wei Wuxian’s heart was still steadily beating, even when Wei Wuxian was peacefully sleeping. Normally, Lan Wangji would be up long before now, squeezing in a couple of hours of music practice before the day begins. Lan Wangji must have been up very late to still be asleep. 

The scene fills Wei Wuxian’s heart with every feeling he’s been trying not to acknowledge. It’s too much. It actually hurts, sharp want and bruised longing filling his chest. It takes Wei Wuxian a few minutes to quietly swallow back the tears that want to well up, to choke back the urge to just turn over, curl himself around Lan Wangji, and confess it all. 

He manages it eventually, manages to tamp it all down, to remember that Lan Wangji isn’t his to have. Then, Wei Wuxian tries to get up slowly, softly, to let Lan Wangji sleep, but the minute Wei Wuxian’s wrist shifts under Lan Wangji’s fingers, Lan Wangji wakes up, looking adorably ruffled and unfortunately tired. 

“I’m sorry,” Wei Wuxian says in a rush, before Lan Wangji can say anything. 

Lan Wangji just shakes his head. “Don’t be. I’m glad you called me.” 

Wei Wuxian looks away, trying not to think about Lan Wangji’s kindness even after Wei Wuxian has spent weeks pushing Lan Wangji away. 

“How do you feel?” 

Wei Wuxian tries to assess himself, trying to register any feelings beyond guilt, embarrassment and the ever-present longing. “Fine.” 

Lan Wangji doesn’t seem to believe him. “From what I was reading, it’s not uncommon to feel down the next day.” 

“Down?” 

Lan Wangji looks unsure, but still worried. “Depressed or sad.” 

Like Wei Wuxian needs any help with that these days. “Don’t be silly, I feel fine.” 

“Maybe you should stay here.” 

Wei Wuxian shakes his head, slipping out from under the covers. He finds his shoes and starts to pull them on. “No, that’s okay, I should probably get started on that paper I have due.” 

Wei Wuxian doesn’t let himself look at Lan Wangji’s face, doesn’t let himself read whatever small expression Lan Wangji is making. 

Wei Wuxian pauses at the door, eyes still on the floor. “Thank you. For- Thank you.” 

“You don’t have to thank me.” Lan Wangji sounds resigned.

#

Wei Wuxian makes it back to his dorm and its showers before the tears hit him. Once again he has reason to be grateful for the endless supply of hot water in the dorms. The spray washes away his tears, but he’s not sure the sound of the water is enough to drown out the noise he’s making. At least it’s too early on a Saturday for anyone else to be awake yet.

Wei Wuxian cries until he’s out of tears, until his throat hurts with it and his face is swollen. When he’s sure that he’s done, he dries off, puts on his softest, oldest, most comfortable sleeping clothes and wraps himself in his blankets. He makes sure that his face is hidden by the covers and pretends to be asleep until Nie Huaisang dresses and leaves. Then Wei Wuxian finds that he has a few more tears left, silent now. They drip onto his pillow while he lays perfectly still, as if he can escape the thought that’s trying to find him, as if by being careful enough it won’t see him, like a mouse trying not to attract the attention of a hawk. 

But that’s not how thoughts work and this thought has been stalking him since the moment he came back from break and saw Lan Wangji. Wei Wuxian has been trying not to think it since then, avoiding it by avoiding Lan Wangji, drinking to drown it, anything not to let it settle in his mind. Now here Wei Wuxian is, forced to confront it after all, laid low by a drug he took to avoid it. How perfectly him. How perfectly disastrous. 

Wei Wuxian is in love with Lan Wangji. 

It’s almost a relief to let himself think it, even if it’s quickly followed by the next obvious thought, the reason Wei Wuxian has avoided it. 

Lan Wangji doesn’t love him that way. 

Oh, Lan Wangji is his best friend and he’s Lan Wangji’s, but Lan Wangji has never once shown that kind of interest in Wei Wuxian. Someday Lan Wangji will find someone who does grab his interest. Someone as refined as him. Someone who Lan Wangji can bring home to his family. Someone less annoying. Someone who didn’t have to bully their way into being his friend. 

Wei Wuxian should move on, should accept this and think about making a life with his own someone else. It’s just that Lan Wangji, in one way or another, has been a part of Wei Wuxian for so long. Wei Wuxian has loved him for so long. 

Free to think about it for the first time, Wei Wuxian tries to pinpoint the moment he fell in love with Lan Wangji. Was it when Lan Wangji let Wei Wuxian follow him to college? Was it in high school, when Lan Wangji became the person Wei Wuxian always sought out? Was it when Wei Wuxian saw that moment of panic on Lan Wangji’s face and knew what it meant? Since Wei Wuxian took that first punch for Lan Wangji rather than let him be scared for one second longer? 

Wei Wuxian doesn’t know and the answer doesn’t really matter. However it started, his love for Lan Wangji feels eternal - like Wei Wuxian has always been in love with Lan Wangji and like he always will be. And yet, it feels hopelessly fleeting, because at any moment Lan Wangji will figure Wei Wuxian out and that will be it. Wei Wuxian will be out of Lan Wangji’s life for good. 

The next day, with the effects of the drug faded, Wei Wuxian is embarrassed by his own dramatic thoughts. Lan Wangji might not love him in the same way he loves Lan Wangji, but Lan Wangji is far too good a person to stop being Wei Wuxian’s friend over it. And Wei Wuxian has survived deeper tragedies than getting to be friends with someone he loves so dearly. As long as Lan Wangji is happy, Wei Wuxian will be too. 

At least, that’s what Wei Wuxian tells himself. He stops trying to avoid Lan Wangji. He lets the longing settle into the background, a constant, low-grade ache in his chest. It’s just a part of him now and it’s not impossible to bear. It’s better than spending his time drunk and lonely. 

Wei Wuxian is worried that Lan Wangji has noticed that something isn’t quite right. Lan Wangji’s initial relief when Wei Wuxian had stopped avoiding him seems to fade, and that worried little line appears between his brows too often. Wei Wuxian tries to compensate with his brightest smiles, but Lan Wangji knows him well enough to see through that. 

When spring break rolls around, Wei Wuxian is grateful for the chance to escape it all for a bit. He and Jiang Cheng had made plans for the break long ago. Originally, Wei Wuxian had been going to join Nie Huaisang at some lake house of his brother’s. It was going to be Nie Huaisang and some other friends, Lan Wangji included. Then, a couple of weeks later, when Jiang Cheng’s school had their break, Jiang Cheng would visit Wei Wuxian. Wei Wuxian would get to show his brother off to all his friends and take Jiang Cheng to the best parties. They’d had it all set, but now the idea of spending a week watching Lan Wangji swimming, spending all day with him in some beautiful landscape, is just- it’s too much. Wei Wuxian doesn’t want to fall back on avoiding Lan Wangji, but he just needs a little more time.

Wei Wuxian arranges to use his break to visit Jiang Cheng instead, freeing Jiang Cheng to spend his own break on a hiking trip he’d been grumpy about missing. It’s a good enough excuse that Lan Wangji only gives Wei Wuxian one searching look before seeming to accept it. Nie Huaisang pouts a bit, but Wei Wuxian promises to join the next trip and Nie Huaisang forgives Wei Wuxian quickly. 

Seeing Jiang Cheng is a great distraction. Wei Wuxian spends a day charming Jiang Cheng’s friends and letting Jiang Cheng show off the advantages of his campus. Wei Wuxian defends his own university’s honor playfully, and he thinks he does a good job of tucking away the lingering sadness. That is, Wei Wuxian thinks he’s done a good job until that night, comfortably nestled in a cocoon of sleeping bag and blankets on the floor of Jiang Cheng’s dorm with Jiang Cheng’s roommate generously absent. Until, Jiang Cheng says into the dark, “So are you going to tell me what’s wrong?” 

Wei Wuxian’s heart sinks. Since when is Jiang Cheng that observant! 

Jiang Cheng glares down at him from his bed, scowl clearly visible in the light pouring in from the curtainless windows. Wei Wuxian is an expert in Jiang Cheng’s scowls and this is definitely his worried one. His brother’s ill-concealed concern tugs at Wei Wuxian’s heart and so he gives up the hope escaping some sort of confession, instead admitting, “You’re going to make fun of me.” 

Jiang Cheng relaxes a little and implacably says, “No promises.” 

“It’s Lan Zhan.” 

Jiang Cheng tenses again. “Did he- You told him?” 

“No… I couldn’t. I’m in love with him.” It’s the first time Wei Wuxian has said it out loud. So bluntly too! It seems like it should hurt to say, like the words should bruise on their way out, but it’s just a sentence like any other. 

Jiang Cheng sighs. “I told you following him to college wasn’t going to help.” 

Wei Wuxian opens his mouth, ready to protest, but Jiang Cheng had said that, hadn’t he? Jiang Cheng had been trying to save Wei Wuxian from himself long before Wei Wuxian had realized he needed saving. 

Wei Wuxian forces himself to admit, mumbling, “I only just realized.” 

There’s a silence and when Wei Wuxian looks up at Jiang Cheng, Jiang Cheng looks torn between surprise and laughter. 

“I told you you’d make fun of me.” 

Jiang Cheng tries to contain the laughter and then gives up. “ Please tell me I can tell A-jie about this conversation.” 

Wei Wuxian turns his hot face into his pillow. “Like I can stop you two from talking about me.” 

Jiang Cheng laughs once more, an agreement, and then sobers. “Are you going to tell him?” 

Wei Wuxian rolls to the side so he can breath again. “I don’t know. I don’t want to make things awkward between us.” 

Jiang Cheng seems to be choosing his words carefully. “Is it- Do you think he’ll have a problem with- with you liking guys?” 

Wei Wuxian is torn between amusement and frustration with the whole situation. “Are you asking if I’m worried that Lan Zhan will be homophobic?” 

Jiang Cheng shrugs. “You know him better than I do.” 

Of course, Wei Wuxian does know Lan Wangji. Wei Wuxian knows Lan Wangji well enough to know why it’s a ridiculous question. Wei Wuxian has never thought about sharing Lan Wangji’s secrets before, but Wei Wuxian knows he can trust Jiang Cheng, who has apparently been protecting Wei Wuxian’s secrets for longer than Wei Wuxian. Besides, how can Wei Wuxian even explain the problem otherwise? 

Wei Wuxian sits up, so that he’s at eye level with Jiang Cheng. “If I tell you a secret, do you promise to keep it?” 

Jiang Cheng looks apprehensive, but nods. 

Wei Wuxian takes a breath and then says, “Lan Zhan is gay.” 

Jiang Cheng sits up in his bed. “What?” 

Wei Wuxian doesn’t answer, because obviously Jiang Cheng heard him. 

Jiang Cheng blinks and then starts to scowl thoughtfully. “Wait. How long have you known this?” 

“Uh, since sophomore year of high school.” 

Jiang Cheng gapes at Wei Wuxian. “Don’t tell me…” 

Wei Wuxian isn’t sure what that means. “Don’t tell you what?” 

“Wei Wuxian… when did you figure out that you like guys?” 

“Um. Last semester.” That’s not a lie, right? A semester probably doesn’t end until the next one starts, right? There’s no need to explain to Jiang Cheng, and no doubt Jiejie in turn, that Wei Wuxian had accidentally managed to come out to his family before himself. 

Jiang Cheng stares at him disbelieving for a moment. “Wow. Just wow. So all those fights in high school weren’t even about you, they were really about Lan Wangji?” 

Wei Wuxian feels somehow defensive. “I mean, it was the right thing to do!” 

Jiang Cheng just stares at him until Wei Wuxian admits, sulkily, “Yes.” 

Jiang Cheng blinks at him for a moment, before finally saying, “You are really amazing.” 

Wei Wuxian can hear the omitted, “-ly stupid” and just glares, still sulky. 

Jiang Cheng’s expression turns considering. “So wait. Lan Wangji tell you he’s gay. Then, for the next, oh, rest of your life you become his devoted defender and you’re sure he doesn’t know you’re into him?” 

Wei Wuxian can feel himself flushing again. What a horrible conversation. “I’m sure.” 

Jiang Cheng only looks more thoughtful. “He thinks you’re straight?” 

Yes.”

Jiang Cheng thinks for a moment, his expression shifting, before he finally says in a rush, “Are you sure he’s not into you?” 

And that- that- where did Jiang Cheng come up with that? “What?” 

Jiang Cheng still looks considering. “I mean, it would explain why he puts up with you.” 

“Very much, hey!” 

Jiang Cheng waves that off. “So he comes out to you when he’s like sixteen and you become his tragically straight knight in shining armor for, again, years. He lets you follow him around high school. He lets you follow him to college. The way he looks at you… Oh my god.” 

“Jiang Cheng…” Jiang Cheng is losing track of the plot. 

Jiang Cheng looks at Wei Wuxian with the same expression Jiang Cheng had worn at thirteen when he finally figured out how to defeat the boss in his favorite video game. “No. This is so obvious. I would say I’m surprised that you didn’t notice, but, let’s be honest, the evidence suggests that you’ve missed more obvious things.” 

Wei Wuxian shakes his head, “Jiang Cheng, Lan Zhan wouldn’t-” 

Jiang Cheng glares, his protective scowl. “Why?” 

Wei Wuxian opens his mouth to point out that someone like Lan Wangji, someone who could have anyone, wouldn’t pick Wei Wuxian, but Jiang Cheng’s scowl dries the words up. 

Jiang Cheng nods. “Of course he would. Of course he does. Wow, you two are hopeless.” 

Jiang Cheng flops back down on his bed and then says, surprisingly cheerful, “At least I know that you’ve found a true match. The two of you definitely deserve one another.” 

Wei Wuxian lays back down too, thinking it over. It can’t be. Jiang Cheng is his brother, he sees things from Wei Wuxian’s side, of course he thinks that Lan Wangji could want Wei Wuxian. “So you think I should tell him?” 

“Only if you want to be that soppy couple that everyone hates.” 

That sounds like exactly what Wei Wuxian wants, but he can’t say it. He’s pretty sure that Jiang Cheng knows anyway. “You really think he…” 

Jiang Cheng sighs. “I really, really think.” 

Wei Wuxian muses on that idea, only to have his thoughts interrupted. “Are you sure I can’t tell Jiejie about this?” 

#

For the rest of the trip, Wei Wuxian tries to forget about the conversation, to focus on spending time with his brother, but, at the end of the break, Jiang Cheng’s parting words are, “Just tell him. And then also text me about how extremely right I was.” 

On the trip back to school, Wei Wuxian imagines what it would be like to confess his feelings to Lan Wangji. He thinks about different ways to say it, different times and places. Wei Wuxian can just about envision what he’d say, but his mind draws a blank when he tries to imagine Lan Wangji’s response. Jiang Cheng had seemed so sure, but Wei Wuxian isn’t sure at all, and doesn’t he know Lan Wangji best? Wei Wuxian decides to wait, to see if he can catch a glimpse of what Jiang Cheng thinks he sees. 

When Wei Wuxian gets back, Lan Wangji is happy to see him. Of course he is, they’re friends. But is it the same bubbling happiness that runs through Wei Wuxian at the sight of Lan Wangji? The same warm joy Wei Wuxian feels just seeing Lan Wangji’s smile? Hearing his summary of the trip, short and to the point, and yet dryly funny, as he relates how Nie Huaisang drifted out to the middle of the lake after falling asleep on his raft. Wei Wuxian tells his own stories, watching Lan Wangji closely for some sign of even a measure of the fondness he feels toward Lan Wangji. It’s like being back in high school, trying to learn how to read Lan Wangji all over again. 

No matter how he looks, Wei Wuxian doesn’t see anything beyond friendship in Lan Wangji’s subtle expressions. 

#

Wei Wuxian keeps observing over the next couple of weeks, but he still doesn’t see anything he hasn’t seen before.

It’s true that Lan Wangji is a thoughtful friend. Lan Wangji brings Wei Wuxian coffee the morning after Wei Wuxian stays up all night catching up on the reading he didn’t do when he was drinking away his feelings. Lan Wangji lets Wei Wuxian fall asleep on his floor the next day, when Wei Wuxian tries to read just one more article, sure he can finish his catch-up that night. Wei Wuxian wakes to find one of Lan Wangji’s pillows under his head, and two blankets draped over him. Lan Wangji returns the smile Wei Wuxian gives him on waking, filled with hopeless affection at seeing Lan Wangji first thing in the morning. Later, Lan Wangji lets Wei Wuxian sit close enough that their shoulders brush at breakfast. He’s a good friend! 

Maybe Jiang Cheng would say all these things are evidence of Lan Wangji’s affection, but Lan Wangji has always been thoughtful, has always been a good friend. To suddenly read something beyond friendship into Lan Wangji’s kindness feels like wishful thinking. 

Wei Wuxian is a scientist in training and he decides that if mere observation cannot answer his question, he will have to try an experiment. He will have to flirt with Lan Wangji. 

It’s a solid plan. Wei Wuxian will flirt with Lan Wangji and then he’ll observe Lan Wangji’s reaction. The problem comes in the execution. Wei Wuxian tries acting the way he had done with Mianmian or the way he does with Wu Yiming - compliments, teasing, sitting a little too close - but Wei Wuxian realizes that he has treated Lan Wangji this way from the first moment he saw Lan Wangji. 

Wei Wuxian is retrospectively embarrassed for his high school self. No wonder Jiang Cheng said he was obvious. No wonder the girls at school invited Wei Wuxian to see the secret list. The only wonder is that Lan Wangji hasn’t noticed. 

Wei Wuxian’s first experiment is a failure, but Wei Wuxian is not one to give up easily. He tries to think of other ways to show Lan Wangji affection without outright confessing. Wei Wuxian could...what? Bring Lan Wangji snacks at the practice hall? Attend his concerts? Bring him flowers? Fight bullies for him? Try to help him make friends? Wei Wuxian already does all of these things! 

Wei Wuxian has to abandon the experiment temporarily, overcome with the panicked certainty that Lan Wangji must know exactly how Wei Wuxian feels and is gently ignoring it. However, after closely observing Lan Wangji over one very awkward dinner, Wei Wuxian decides that’s not true either. Lan Wangji doesn’t show any signs of pitying Wei Wuxian, and as little as Lan Wangji likes talking about his feelings, he is also fairly direct. Wei Wuxian doesn’t think Lan Wangji would lead Wei Wuxian on - if Lan Wangji knew how Wei Wuxian felt, he’d make his disinterest known, kindly no doubt, but clearly. 

Wei Wuxian is at a bit of a loss on how to proceed until, a week later at the LGBTQ alliance meeting, Song Lan invites all the members to a party he’s throwing for Xiao Xingchen’s birthday. If nothing else, Wei Wuxian can take Lan Wangji somewhere safe, somewhere they can be comfortable, surrounded by other people like them. Wei Wuxian thinks, in that context, he could maybe try something just a little more obvious. Maybe, just maybe, Wei Wuxian will be able to convince Lan Wangji to dance with him. Dancing is certainly something they’ve never done before. Wei Wuxian isn’t a particularly good dancer, but the idea of getting to hold Lan Wangji close like that makes Wei Wuxian’s face feel hot and his chest ache with fresh longing. 

#

Lan Wangji easily agrees when Wei Wuxian says they should attend the party. Wei Wuxian was expecting to have to persuade him, but Lan Wangji just off-handedly mentions that several of his music friends will be there as well. So that’s step one achieved.

For step two, Wei Wuxian picks out his party clothes carefully. He’s not sure he has any clothing up to Lan Wangji’s impeccable standards, but he wears his tightest jeans and his least scuffed boots. It’s still too cold to get all that sexy with the top, but Wei Wuxian picks a dark sweater, that’s thick but soft to the touch. 

When Wei Wuxian meets Lan Wangji at his dorm, it’s difficult not to stare. Lan Wangji always looks good of course, but it seems he’s also dressed for a party, and everything clings just a bit more than usual, showing off the curve of his bicep, the planes of his chest, the shape of his thighs. Wei Wuxian manages to keep his commentary to, “You look really good!” It’s not at all an adequate description, but Wei Wuxian doesn’t want to scare Lan Wangji off before they even get to the party. 

Wei Wuxian has timed it carefully and they arrive late enough that the party is already started, but not so late that it’s had a chance to get out of control. At first glance, they don’t see Lan Wangji’s other friends, so Wei Wuxian settles Lan Wangji in a quiet corner while he braves the crowd in the kitchen to find them some drinks, before they start seriously mingling. 

When Wei Wuxian returns, a beer for himself in one hand and a water for Lan Wangji in the other, Wu Yiming is talking to Lan Wangji. Wei Wuxian is briefly confused, do they know each other? How did they start talking? And then Wu Yiming leans into Lan Wangji’s space and Wei Wuxian realizes that he’s- he’s hitting on Lan Wangji. Wei Wuxian recognizes Wu Yiming’s teasing smile, which only last week had been aimed at Wei Wuxian!

It’s no surprise that someone would flirt with Lan Wangji. Actually, Wei Wuxian should probably just be relieved that a whole crowd hasn’t formed or maybe a polite queue. Wei Wuxian has seen plenty of bolder girls try their best at past parties or even just in the library, or the dining hall, or walking down the street. Wei Wuxian has seen plenty of people shoot their shot. But this is the first time that Wei Wuxian has seen someone try that Lan Wangji might actually be interested in. 

While Wei Wuxian is frozen to the spot, working through that revelation, Wu Yiming leans a little bit closer and Lan Wangji- Lan Wangji looks. It’s fleeting, it’s not quite interest, but it’s definitely evaluation and Wei Wuxian is struck with his second realization in less than a minute. Wei Wuxian has never actually seen Lan Wangji show interest in a man. Is that strange? In four years has Lan Wangji never had a crush or even bothered with the kind of fleeting assessment that Wei Wuxian had just witnessed? 

Is Lan Wangji uncomfortable around Wei Wuxian? Wei Wuxian has though that he’d made it clear, all those years ago, that he didn’t have a problem with Lan Wangji’s sexuality, but is Lan Wangji still not sure? The idea of Lan Wangji stifling himself around Wei Wuxian is painful. Wei Wuxian wants Lan Wangji to be comfortable. Wei Wuxian wants Lan Wangji to feel free to be himself. If that means not being around Wei Wuxian, okay. Wei Wuxian can go. He can come up with a good excuse to leave the party and let Lan Wangji find someone. Wei Wuxian just wants Lan Zhan to be happy, even if it’s without him. Maybe it will be with Wu Yiming. That’s fine. Wu Yiming is a nice guy. Wei Wuxian will just have to- 

Wei Wuxian puts on an easy smile, ready to walk back over. But before he can, Lan Wangji catches sight of Wei Wuxian and turns (away from Wu Yiming!) to smile at Wei Wuxian, that small private smile that he- that he rarely shares with other people…

What if...

Wei Wuxian suddenly feels a sliver of hope as he makes his way over. Lan Wangji had looked at Wu Yiming, but Lan Wangji is always looking at Wei Wuxian. And- And Jiang Cheng has been so sure... What if the reason that Wei Wuxian has never seen Lan Wangji show interest in some random man is because- 

“Hey, Wei Wuxian,” Wu Yiming says. “I take it you two know each other.” 

Wei Wuxian drags his gaze away from Lan Wangji long enough to see that Wu Yiming looks strangely amused and a little bit disappointed. “Hey. Uh yeah. Lan Zhan and I went to high school together.” 

Wu Yiming still sounds amused for some reason. “Fair enough.” 

Wei Wuxian tilts his head, not sure how to respond to that. Wu Yiming just laughs. “I think I’m going to go see if I can find a drink. Nice to meet you, Lan Wangji.” 

“See you.” Wei Wuxian offers, while Lan Wangji just nods his acknowledgement. 

There’s a pause, Wei Wuxian still holding a bottle in each hand trying to tell if Lan Wangji is disappointed to see Wu Yiming go. “I didn’t meant to interrupt.” 

Lan Wangji just looks puzzled. “Interrupt?” 

Wei Wuxian can feel condensation dripping onto his fingers from the cold bottles. He’s suddenly tired of himself, of his own cowardice. (And what if?) They can stay here, Wei Wuxian can drink a beer for courage and try teasing a reaction out of Lan Wangji or Wei Wuxian can simply be honest with Lan Wangji, with this person that Wei Wuxian loves so much. This kind man who is watching Wei Wuxian now with the same patience he’s shown Wei Wuxian for the last few months, no matter how Wei Wuxian has spiraled and flailed and done everything but maturely explain the situation. (And what if?)

Wei Wuxian puts the bottles down on a nearby bookshelf decisively. “Lan Zhan, let’s go.” 

“Wei Ying?” 

Of course Lan Wangji is confused, Wei Wuxian wanted to come to this party and now he wants to leave before they even see anyone they know. Well, aside from Wu Yiming. It’s selfish, but what if? Wei Wuxian is too filled with hope and belated courage to stay here now. But...

Wei Wuxian pauses, “Do you- do you want to stay?” If Lan Wangji does… Or after, if- Wei Wuxian can send him back to the party, back to Wu Yiming’s waiting arms. If- If. 

Lan Wangji studies Wei Wuxian, that worried tilt to his brow, but after a moment he shakes his head.

Wei Wuxian nods in turn and leads the way out of the house, into the night. Outside, the wind is picking up as colder weather moves in. Wei Wuxian hesitates, the breeze ruffling his hair as he tries to decide where to go next - somehow their dorm rooms don’t seem neutral enough and he doesn’t want to be interrupted. 

Lan Wangji touches his arm softly. “Did something happen?” 

Wei Wuxian smiles at Lan Wangji, trying to reassure him. “No. I just- I changed my mind.” 

Unsurprisingly that doesn’t seem to work, but Lan Wangji still follows when Wei Wuxian decides on a destination. 

Lan Wangji follows Wei Wuxian through the empty campus and into the hollow, echoing hallways of the main science building, dark at first, lights only flickering on in small pools of illumination as they move under the motion sensors. Wei Wuxian leads them away from the big glass doorways to a little nook where he’s waited in-between classes before. There, they are hidden from the outside world, but visible to each other in the circle of light they’ve created. The corridor stretches out darkly beyond them. 

Wei Wuxian looks for the words to explain, leaning against the wall. 

Lan Wangji still looks worried, watching Wei Wuxian cautiously, eyebrows pulled together creating that almost imperceptible distressed line between them. Or at least, imperceptible to someone who isn’t Wei Wuxian, someone who hasn’t spent the last four years looking for that small sign and trying to soothe it one way or another. Wei Wuxian is all too aware that he’s failed in his self-assigned mission, that he’s the one that put that line there now. Wei Wuxian can’t help reaching up and offering the most direct solution he can, running his thumb along Lan Wangji’s brow, smoothing out that little line with his touch. 

Lan Wangji freezes under Wei Wuxian’s hand. Wei Wuxian is doing this all backward. 

The line is gone, but only because Lan Wangji’s eyebrows have gone up in shock instead. “Wei Ying, have you been drinking?” 

Wei Wuxian swallows, nearly overcome by this small touch, by the way that Lan Wangji hasn’t moved away. “No.” Wei Wuxian hasn’t, not even one drink. The beer he’d abandoned in his haste to take Lan Wangji away, to tell him, that had been the first and Wei Wuxian hadn’t even opened it. 

Wei Wuxian follows the line of Lan Wangji’s brow, skimming over the delicate skin of Lan Wangji’s temple and letting his fingers come to rest in Lan Wangji’s hair. “Lan Zhan, I need to tell you something.” 

Lan Wangji nods, gentle enough that he doesn’t dislodge Wei Wuxian’s fingers. 

“Lan Zhan, I’ll just say it and you can- we can figure it out from there. Even you don’t-” 

Wei Wuxian stops, takes a deep breath and begins again with what he really means. “I trust you.” 

Lan Wangji’s eyes are large and solemn. “I trust you too, Wei Ying.” 

Wei Wuxian pulls his hand away. It doesn’t feel right to touch Lan Wangji in this moment, not when Lan Wangji doesn’t yet know what it means to Wei Wuxian. “Lan Zhan, I... I really, really like you. No. I mean. I’m in love with you.” 

There. Wei Wuxian has done it. Whatever happens next, he’s done it. 

Lan Wangji’s eyes grow wider, to the point that even someone who’s not an expert in reading Lan Wangji could see that he’s shocked. Otherwise he’s still, seeming like he’s waiting for more. Like he’s waiting for Wei Wuxian to reveal that it’s a joke or to qualify it in some way. 

Wei Wuxian doesn’t do that. He stares at Lan Wangji, trying to project his sincerity and to hide the absolute terror of this moment at the same time. Wei Wuxian hopes he’s doing the first and he’s pretty sure that he’s failing at the second. 

Lan Wangji’s expression shifts from outright shock to something like hope. Or maybe Wei Wuxian is merely hoping it’s hope... 

Lan Wangji reaches out, touching Wei Wuxian’s face with his fingers, calloused from years of playing the guqin. It’s a mirror of how Wei Wuxian had caressed him a moment ago and Wei Wuxian’s eyes flutter shut at the barely there touch. Does this mean... 

Wei Wuxian’s heart is pounding and he keeps his eyes shut as those fingers’s move over his face. He can’t open his eyes, what if he’s misunderstood? What if this is just- But then Lan Wangji is carefully brushing away the tear that Wei Wuxian had been trying to pretend wasn’t there and Wei Wuxian’s eyes fly open. Lan Zhan is looking at him with a fondness that’s both a revelation and terribly familiar, something Wei Wuxian has seen glimpses of many times over the years. 

Oh. 

Wei Wuxian doesn’t know who moves first, but they end up wrapped together. Lan Zhan hides his open expression in the crook of Wei Wuxian’s neck, whispering there, a perfect secret between the two of them, “I love you too, Wei Ying.” 

Wei Wuxian’s knees feel weak with relief, his heart light with joy, like he might collapse to the floor and also float away at any moment. He lets the rest of his tears fall into Lan Wangji’s hair as they cling to each other, in the empty hallway. They stand there together until they’ve both stopped shaking, until Wei Wuxian has stopped murmuring, “Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan,” in affectionate disbelief.

Just when Wei Wuxian is feeling like his heart might not beat right out of his chest, Lan Wangji turns his face a little further into Wei Wuxian’s neck and places a kiss there. Wei Wuxian can’t help the sharp breath he takes, the feeling of Lan Wangji’s lips reverberating from the sensitive skin of his neck all the way to his fingertips. 

Lan Wangji freezes, as if, after everything, maybe he’s misunderstood the situation, maybe Wei Wuxian doesn’t want him like this after all. Wei Wuxian can’t stand the idea of Lan Wangji doubting this even for a moment, so he leans away, catches Lan Wangji’s eyes, lets him see all of Wei Wuxian’s pent up desire, all of his wanting and says, “Kiss me?” 

Lan Wangji’s expression smooths and he does, leaning forward to press their lips together softly. Wei Wuxian shivers at the feeling, at the idea that he actually gets to kiss Lan Wangji.

They kiss carefully at first, learning each other. Wei Wuxian has wondered, idly and in, uh, more heated moments how much experience Lan Wangji has with such things. Wei Wuxian had thought that it was possible that Lan Wangji had never kissed anyone before. Now, Wei Wuxian thinks he was probably right, but it doesn't matter at all. Wei Wuxian is honored to be Lan Wangji’s first kiss and Wei Wuxian is hardly that much more experienced, Lan Wangji is only the fifth person he’s ever kissed - three girls in high school (two of them during drinking games), Mianmian and now Lan Wangji. Lan Wangji is a quick study, with good instincts, and it seems like no time at all before Wei Wuxian forgets that Lan Wangji hasn’t done this before. 

The kisses grow less careful and they kiss until Wei Wuxian feels hot all over, until his breath is coming fast and hard, until- 

Until the motion sensing lights decide no one is there and silently turn off, leaving them in the dark. 

Wei Wuxian laughs and, although Wei Wuxian can’t see him, Wei Wuxian can feel Lan Wangji’s smile against his cheek. In the dark, Lan Wangji’s lips return to Wei Wuxian’s neck, back to where he started. It’s all Wei Wuxian can do to cling to Lan Wangji and moan as Lan Wangji ruthlessly finds every sensitive place on Wei Wuxian’s neck, his jaw, his ears. 

Wei Wuxian is so hard. He’s being carefully polite, trying not to brush up against Lan Wangji, who is after all only moments from his first kiss. In contrast, Lan Wangji has been slightly less careful and it only makes Wei Wuxian more desperate every time he feels Lan Wangji’s hardness against him. Combined with the way Lan Wangji is working all the sensitive spots on Wei Wuxian’s neck, and Lan Wangji’s big hands stroking over Wei Wuxian’s back under the edge of his sweater, Wei Wuxian can feel his control quickly slipping away. He makes himself step back. 

The lights snap back on, and, oh fuck, the sight of Lan Wangji, eyes dark, mouth red and wet, hair mussed, only pushes Wei Wuxian closer to the edge. Especially since Lan Wangji is watching him with an expression that does nothing to conceal how much he wants Wei Wuxian in turn. 

“Lan Zhan…” Wei Wuxian was going to say something. He was going to ask something, but it feels like the only word he has left is Lan Zhan’s name. 

“Wei Ying,” Lan Wangji replies, his voice rough with desire. Fuck. 

Wei Wuxian makes himself swallow, makes himself remember that there’s no rush. Makes himself remember that Lan Wangji is not the kind of person who should have his first time in the empty hallway of a school building. 

“Do you want...” Wei Wuxian loses focus, realizing that he can see how obviously hard Lan Wangji is through the fabric of his pants. Wei Wuxian swallows again and starts over. “We don’t have to rush, if you…” 

Lan Wangji’s expression turns more focused, gaze moving from Wei Wuxian’s mouth to his eyes. “Do you want to wait?” 

Wei Wuxian almost laughs. Want to wait? Wei Wuxian wants to get on his knees right now on this cold tile, he wants Lan Wangji’s hand on his dick, obscene in the fluorescent light, he wants to press Lan Wangji into that wall, press their bodies together until- And most of all, Wei Wuxian wants to make Lan Wangji feel good, whether that means an orgasm or chaste hand holding. 

“I don’t want to do anything you’re not ready for. Whatever that means.” 

 Lan Wangji nods, watching him closely and then asks, “Come back to my room?” 

Wei Wuxian nods in turn and then can’t help darting forward, pressing a quick kiss to Lan Wangji’s cheek, then another on the corner of his mouth. “Take me back to your room.” 

Lan Wangji somehow still blushes, even after what they’ve just been doing. They pull apart enough to rearrange their clothing, trying to look a little less debauched before they go out in the open. It’s gotten even colder outside, the wind taking on a sharp edge. Wei Wuxian is almost grateful for the cold, it’s distracting enough that he’s no longer hard and it’s a good excuse to huddle close to Lan Wangji as they walk. 

#

Lan Wangji’s room is as neat as always. The bed, which has so recently featured in so many of Wei Wuxian’s fantasies, is even made - unlike the one back in Wei Wuxian’s room. Just the sight of that old dorm twin is enough to send a rush of warmth through Wei Wuxian, chasing away the last of the outdoor chill. 

Lan Wangji closes the door behind them, but hovers there, seemingly uncertain about what to do next. 

Wei Wuxian takes his hand. “Whatever you want, Lan Zhan.” 

Lan Wangji laces their fingers together. “Kiss me again?” 

Wei Wuxian laughs, a little breathless at the sweetness of it. “Always.” 

They kiss there, standing in the middle of Lan Wangji’s little dorm room, holding hands. The frantic edge has been blunted by their walk in the cold. Still, Wei Wuxian can’t help reaching up to bury the fingers of his free hand in Lan Wangji’s perfect hair, and then Lan Wangji’s broad hand is on his waist again. Wei Wuxian leans into it, liking the feeling of Lan Wangji’s strong fingers even through his sweater. 

Lan Wangji pulls away slightly, but he’s only using their joined hands to tug Wei Wuxian over to the bed. Lan Wangji sits down on the edge and looks up at Wei Wuxian, asking a question without words. 

The answer is obviously yes. Wei Wuxian sits next to Lan Wangji on the bed, as close as he can manage. They kiss again and Lan Wangji’s hands are on Wei Wuxian’s waist once more, then under Wei Wuxian’s sweater, warm against Wei Wuxian’s skin. Wei Wuxian returns the favor, running his hands over Lan Wangji’s muscled back, his chest, and, daringly, his thigh. 

Sitting like this, side-by-side, it’s impossible to be as close to Lan Wangji as Wei Wuxian wants. Lan Wangji eventually, shyly solves the problem by laying down in the bed and pulling Wei Wuxian over him. Wei Wuxian goes eagerly, taking advantage of the position to tangle their legs together, to press Lan Wangji into the pillows with deep kisses. It’s heady to be over Lan Zhan like this, like Wei Wuxian could cover him entirely, shield Lan Zhan from the world if he needed it. And yet, Wei Wuxian knows that it would take only a second to switch, for Lan Zhan to shield him just as completely. 

The feeling of Lan Wangji underneath Wei Wuxian is more intoxicating than any drink or any drug, but Wei Wuxian is trying to let Lan Wangji set the pace. Wei Wuxian angles his hips just so, still avoiding pressing his erection into Lan Wangji, even as they kiss deeper and deeper, even as Lan Wangji’s arms wrap around Wei Wuxian’s shoulders, bringing them together, chest to chest. 

It’s almost too much. Wei Wuxian pulls away from the kiss, needing a breath, but is immediately distracted by Lan Zhan’s beautiful face. “Lan Zhan...” 

Wei Wuxian still can’t quite believe that he gets to see Lan Zhan like this, even to touch! Wei Wuxian can’t help dropping a flurry of kisses. One for Lan Zhan’s cheek, slightly soft in a way that will no doubt fade with age. One on his perfect chin. Two on his forehead where his hair has fallen from it’s usual precise styling - one for that fallen lock, and another on the exposed skin after Wei Wuxian has pushed the hair back into place. Then Lan Zhan is laughing at Wei Wuxian, fond and warm, so Wei Wuxian has to kiss the smiling corner of his eye, then his mouth trying to feel that huff of laughter. It’s not quite a success, Wei Wuxian catching Lan Zhan’s teeth as much as his lips, but Lan Zhan only laughs again and kisses Wei Wuxian properly once more. 

Then Lan Wangji pulls Wei Wuxian down into a hug, his face against Wei Wuxian’s collar. “Wei Ying.” 

Wei Wuxian goes along easily, letting Lan Wangji hide there until he pulls back, seemingly having gathered his courage. “Can I see you without this?” Lan Wangji touches the heavy sweater Wei Wuxian is wearing. 

“Yes,” Wei Wuxian says firmly and immediately so that Lan Wangji will know that it’s not dependant on what he asks next. “Can I see you?” 

Lan Wangji looks surprised for a split second, as if he still doubts, even now, that Wei Wuxian is as hungry for him as he is for Wei Wuxian, but he nods. 

Wei Wuxian levers himself off Lan Wangji, kneeling next to him on the bed to pull his thick sweater off. Lan Wangji sits up too. He’s only wearing a light sweater, how he wasn’t cold is beyond Wei Wuxian. Lan Wangji pulls it most of the way off, but gets distracted when his head emerges to the sight of shirtless Wei Wuxian, leaving it hanging off one arm as he takes in the view. 

Wei Wuxian’s heart feels almost too full as he reaches down to pull the sweater the rest of the way off Lan Zhan’s arm for him. It seems impossible that Lan Wangji could be that interested in Wei Wuxian, who is sure that he’ll fill out a bit more someday, but is nevertheless rangy compared to the smooth muscle that Lan Wangji has just revealed. And yet, Lan Wangji’s eyes are roaming over him hungrily. 

Wei Wuxian understands hunger, wanting nothing more in this moment then to touch Lan Wangji. He leans forward pressing an open mouthed kiss to the firmness of Lan Wangji’s shoulder, then his bicep and then over to his chest. “God, you are so hot.” 

Wei Wuxian is delighted to see a pleased flush on Lan Wangji’s face at that. Lan Wangji shifts, pulling himself up to kneel next to Wei Wuxian and then he’s sliding his own hands over Wei Wuxian’s chest, over his shoulders and then back to his chest. Lan Wangji seems especially fascinated by the comparatively thick trail of hair on Wei Wuxian’s stomach, gently scratching his fingers through the widening line of it until he hits the waistband of Wei Wuxian’s jeans. 

Lan Wangji looks up, a question, and Wei Wuxian nods. Lan Wangji swallows, carefully unbuttons Wei Wuxian’s jeans, and then slowly unzips them. Wei Wuxian clutches Lan Wangji’s shoulder, trying not to thrust into Lan Wangji’s hand as he pushes the fly open and then slips his fingers into Wei Wuxian’s underwear. 

Fuck. Lan Zhan’s elegant fingers on his dick.

Lan Wangji pushes the underwear aside, revealing Wei Wuxian’s cock. He seems fascinated both by the sight of it in the light shed by the cheap dorm lamp and the feeling of it as he runs an experimental thumb over the head where there’s already pre-come. 

Wei Wuxian is trying to be good, trying to let Lan Wangji explore without interference, but that pulls a groan out of him and his fingers tighten on Lan Wangji’s shoulder. 

Lan Wangji glances up at the groan, at first looking surprised and then slyly pleased. That smug expression alone might be enough to send Wei Wuxian over the edge in the right circumstance. 

Lan Wangji moves his hand over Wei Wuxian again, further down, a complete stroke this time, watching Wei Wuxian’s face for his reaction. It’s a little too gentle and yet Wei Wuxian can’t help the way his hips buck this time, chasing the pressure. “Lan Zhan…” he says, helpless with longing. 

Lan Wangji repeats the motion and then again, stroking Wei Wuxian in earnest now as Wei Wuxian can only cling to him. They’re still kneeling together in what was once Lan Wangji’s neatly made bed, Wei Wuxian’s jeans just pushed aside enough to make room for Lan Wangji’s hand. 

Lan Wangji is still experimenting, but it’s no longer a test of how Wei Wuxian feels in his hand, it’s a test of what will make Wei Wuxian gasp the loudest - tighter, faster, slower, twisting his thumb over the head. Wei Wuxian wonders if these are all ways that Lan Wangji touches himself and the thought only makes each stroke that much sweeter. 

This is going to be over so fast. Wei Wuxian has been dancing on the edge since Lan Wangji’s hand touched his cock, since Lan Wangji’s lips touched his neck in that empty hallway, since Wei Wuxian came home from break and saw Lan Wangji with new eyes. Lan Wangji’s strong fingers, calloused from the strings of the guqin moving over him, it’s- Fuck, it’s so good. 

Wei Wuxian is losing himself to the sensation, leaning further and further into Lan Wangji. He braces his arms around Lan Wangji’s shoulders, clutching at Lan Wangji’s hair with one hand, and Lan Wangji’s back with the other, just keeping himself from falling over, even as he pants into Lan Wangji’s shoulder. “Lan Zhan, god you’re so good. You’re really the… Uh. Fuck, Lan Zhan.” 

Words fail as Lan Wangji's hand starts moving faster. Wei Wuxian mouths at the juncture of Lan Wangji’s shoulder and neck, sloppy and wet, but needing to feel Lan Wangji, needing to do something with his mouth. Wei Wuxian is so close, it’s so- And then Wei Wuxian can’t even manage even that, now just panting against Lan Wangji, just holding on as, oh fuck- As- 

He’s coming, thrusting into Lan Wangji’s hand, come hitting Lan Wangji’s stomach. Everything disappears under the pleasure of it. When Wei Wuxian returns to himself he’s completely slumped against Lan Wangji, who’s holding him up without complaint, and pressing kisses into Wei Wuxian’s hair. 

“Mm,” Wei Wuxian says, words temporarily lost. He tilts his head back for a soft, sated kiss. Lan Wangji obliges and then guides Wei Wuxian back into the pillows. 

Lan Wangji pushes Wei Wuxian’s, now slightly sticky, jeans down and tries to tug them off. It’s not easy, given how tight Wei Wuxian’s jeans are, and it takes Lan Wangji some serious effort to get them off, even with Wei Wuxian assisting through his giggles. 

Finally Lan Wangji manages, and drops them off the end of the bed onto the floor, uncharacteristically messy. Wei Wuxian pokes him on the hip gently with one bare foot. “You too?” 

Lan Wangji’s pants, flattering as they definitely had been, come off rather more easily. Wei Wuxian wonders if he could convince Lan Wangji to try something skinnier. Wei Wuxian thinks he might be able to… 

That thought fades into irrelevance as Lan Wangji climbs back into the bed, now totally naked. His erection had flagged slightly in the fight with the jeans, but the sight of Wei Wuxian openly admiring him seems to be all Lan Wangji needs to get back into it. 

“Come here,” Wei Wuxian says and Lan Wangji settles next to him on the bed. 

Wei Wuxian kisses Lan Wangji and teasingly runs a hand down Lan Wangji’s side, over the bare line of his hip, up his thigh, and then away, starting at his chest again, until Lan Wangji gets frustrated. Lan Wangji rolls closer to Wei Wuxian, grinding his hard cock against Wei Wuxian’s hip. Wei Wuxian laughs into the kiss and takes the unsubtle hint, moving his hand over Lan Wangji’s cock. “Can I?” 

“Yes,” Lan Wangji says with no hint of doubt. 

Lan Wangji feels good in Wei Wuxian’s hand, hot and wanting. Wei Wuxian strokes Lan Wangji, trying to remember what Lan Wangji had done for him, how tight, how fast. Wei Wuxian must do all right because he feels Lan Wangji’s breath catch in the kiss. 

It doesn’t take too long before Lan Wangji pulls entirely out of the kiss with a gasp and buries his face in the crook of Wei Wuxian’s neck, back where he’d placed that very first kiss. Wei Wuxian pulls Lan Wangji close with his free hand and presses kiss after kiss in Lan Wangji’s thick hair as he strokes him. Lan Wangji’s breath grows more and more uneven as Lan Wangji gets closer to the edge. 

Someday, when they’re used to each other, Wei Wuxian is going to do this with Lan Wangji laid out in front of him. Wei Wuxian wants to see every little expression that crosses Lan Wangji’s face, but, for now, it’s enough to feel the way that Lan Wangji presses his forehead against Wei Wuxian’s shoulder and to hear his little noises, the soft double hitch of his breath as he finally comes. 

Wei Wuxian holds Lan Wangji close, running a soothing hand down Lan Wangji’s side as he shudders through his orgasm and then lays still, dazed for a moment against Wei Wuxian. Wei Wuxian’s heart almost hurts with how much he loves Lan Zhan in this vulnerable moment, how much he wants to protect Lan Zhan, and also to see him like this a hundred hundred more times. 

Lan Zhan stirs, leaning up to kiss Wei Wuxian again, this time the urgency has been drained, leaving only a sort of soft reverence. Lan Zhan reaches up to touch Wei Wuxian’s face, careful enough that Wei Wuxian thinks that even if Lan Zhan hadn’t already said he loved Wei Wuxian, Wei Wuxian might have known just from that touch. 

“Stay,” Lan Zhan says. 

“Yes.” Lan Zhan doesn’t even need to ask. Wei Wuxian can’t imagine wanting to be anywhere else, now or in the future. 

They fall asleep, pressed together tightly in Lan Wangji’s narrow dorm bed. 

#

In the morning, Wei Wuxian wakes to find himself still tangled together with Lan Wangji, pressed close out of both desire and necessity. 

Lan Wangji is already awake. He’s watching Wei Wuxian, a shadow of worry in his eyes and a tinge of doubt still lingering in the curve of his mouth, apparently waiting for Wei Wuxian to wake up and realize that he doesn’t want to be here after all. Wei Wuxian leans even closer and kisses that doubt away. He tries to use the kiss to convey his actual realization, which is that he never wants to wake up without Lan Wangji ever again. 

Lan Wangji must have already been up, his mouth tastes like fresh toothpaste, no doubt a contrast to Wei Wuxian’s morning breath, but Lan Wangji doesn’t seem to mind so Wei Wuxian kisses him for a few more moments until Wei Wuxian needs to get up. 

Out in the quiet dorm hallway, it occurs to Wei Wuxian that they haven’t really talked at all, especially about if they plan to tell other people. Is Wei Wuxian supposed to be stealthy out here? Wei Wuxian isn’t even sure if Lan Wangji is out to anyone else! Lan Xichen must know, surely? The two of them can read each other so well they might as well have telepathy. But beyond that, is Lan Wangji out to his new college friends? Wei Wuxian just doesn’t know, and he doesn’t want to push for anything that Lan Wangji isn’t comfortable with. Luckily, Wei Wuxian makes it back to Lan Wangji’s room without running into anyone and so doesn’t have to decide if he’s going to lie.

It’s Saturday, so in theory they have a whole day to themselves, but, in reality, Lan Wangji has orchestra practice and Wei Wuxian is supposed to be going to a study group that some of his physics classmates begged him to join. However, neither of these activities take place in the morning, so when Wei Wuxian returns, now tasting of borrowed toothpaste, he crawls right back into bed with Lan Wangji. 

They spend time exploring each other in the clear morning light, touching with less urgency than the night before, at least at first. Wei Wuxian explores not only Lan Wangji, but the drawers next to his bed. Wei Wuxian is hoping for some illicit hand lotion, something to up his hand job game, but is surprised to find a small bottle of actual lube, already half empty. Lan Wangji blushes ever so slightly, but doesn’t say anything. Wei Wuxian’s mind almost whites out entirely, crowded with all the implications of things Lan Wangji might have done alone and the things they might do together. 

Today, once Wei Wuxian manages to pull himself together, Wei Wuxian just uses it to slick the way when he takes them both in hand, jerking them off together. Actually, there’s really no ‘just’ to the the exquisite sensation of Lan Wangji hard against him, and of the both of them in Wei Wuxian’s hand. This time, Wei Wuxian manages to get Lan Wangji off first. As Wei Wuxian had suspected, the sight of Lan Wangji coming is one of the hottest things Wei Wuxian has ever seen and he follows only seconds later. 

Afterward, Lan Wangji feeds Wei Wuxian breakfast. Lan Wangji has a box of exactly the breakfast bars that Wei Wuxian likes best. In high school, in the months when it seemed like Wei Wuxian was growing inches every week, Wei Wuxian used to hide them in his school bag to eat during class. He had always been hungry in those days and it had reminded him too much of another time in his life when his stomach was always empty. Lan Wangji had started carrying the snacks too, always ready with a replacement when one of the stricter teachers confiscated one. Wei Wuxian is absurdly touched to find that Lan Wangji still keeps a box of them around. 

The campus begins bustling with slowly moving hungover people and the bright relentlessness of the non-drinkers. Wei Wuxian shimmies back into his jeans to make his way to his own dorm. He and Lan Wangji get a little distracted at the door, but Wei Wuxian eventually has to leave. It’s cold outdoors, but the wind has died down and the sun is so bright, reflecting the cheer in Wei Wuxian’s heart.

It’s almost a disappointment when Nie Huaisang isn’t there to ask where Wei Wuxian had been. Although... Wei Wuxian had gotten so distracted by asking for just one more (and one more and one more) kiss that he had forgotten to ask Lan Wangji about sharing that kind of information. After an uncertain number of kisses, Lan Wangji had finally insisted that he absolutely needed to shower before orchestra practice and they’d parted before any serious discussions could take place. 

However, Wei Wuxian reasons that it can’t hurt to tell Jiang Cheng. Jiang Cheng can keep a secret and, anyway, he’s miles and miles away. It’s basically like not telling anyone and Wei Wuxian feels like he might just start telling strangers if he can’t tell someone

Wei Wuxian texts Jiang Cheng, ‘ You were right!!!!’ 

‘(THIS TIME)’

And then belatedly, ‘ Top secret tho, don’t tell anyone’

Jiang Cheng’s response is uncharacteristically buoyant, presumably riding the high of Wei Wuxian admitting that Jiang Cheng was right about something. ‘ That I was right? I don’t need to tell people that. They already know.’

‘But about Lan Wangji, right?’

‘Congratulations!!’

And then immediately, ‘NO SEX DETIALS!!!!!!!’

Wei Wuxian laughs and briefly considers traumatizing his brother, just for fun, but, for the sake of Lan Wangji’s dignity, Wei Wuxian keeps his response to, ‘ Yes, about Lan Zhan!!!! <3’

For the rest of the day Jiang Cheng periodically texts Wei Wuxian a screen-cap that just says “Wei Wuxian: You were right!!!!” It makes Wei Wuxian laugh every time. 

Jiang Cheng also, despite the top secret warning, tells Jiang Yanli. Wei Wuxian figures this out when he gets a series of congratulatory texts, filled with emojis and excited punctuation. Maybe Wei Wuxian should be offended at this breach of confidence, but his sibling’s happiness and their easy acceptance, fills him with too much warmth to care. 

Wei Wuxian is in such a good mood that he’s hardly bothered at being the only one in the study group who appears to remember anything about the subject. He finds himself giving an impromptu refresher on physics and, afterward, one of the guys says, “You’re really good at that! Maybe you should be a teacher.” 

Wei Wuxian laughs again, still filled with a bubbling joy, even after figuring out that they’d invited him less as a group member and more as a free tutor. “Thanks!” Anyway, it’s one way to study. Wei Wuxian certainly won’t be able to forget the concepts after having to explain each one in three different ways.

#

At dinner time, Wei Wuxian finds Lan Wangji, as agreed, in the dining hall between their two dorms. It’s the largest cafeteria on campus, and it’s full for the dinner rush. Nie Huaisang and a bunch of his theater friends take up two long tables shoved together. Conscious of the crowd, Wei Wuxian just manages to stop himself from rushing into Lan Wangji’s arms, instead pulling up just shy of touching. Lan Wangji smiles at him and Wei Wuxian feels himself blushing, even as he smiles back. It only makes Lan Wangji’s smile brighter. 

They get dinner and sit at one of the smaller tables together. Wei Wuxian spends the whole meal shifting between talking a mile a minute and staring dreamily at Lan Wangji. It takes all of Wei Wuxian’s fractured concentration to keep from just pressing himself into Lan Wangji’s side, from touching Lan Wangji’s face, from kissing Lan Wangji right here in front of everyone. 

No matter how much Wei Wuxian reminds himself to be discreet, he keeps slipping up. He pushes back a loose lock of Lan Wangji’s hair - charmed by the very existence of hair out of place, a sure sign that Wei Wuxian’s kisses had eaten into Lan Wangji’s usual, meticulous morning routine. Wei Wuxian reaches out to touch Lan Wangji’s hand when he’s trying to make a point. He lets their shoulders brush when he leans over to whisper a piece of gossip. Each time, Wei Wuxian remembers a second too late, pulling back quickly and causing a puzzled look from Lan Wangji who is no doubt mystified by Wei Wuxian’s terrible memory or by his insistent need to touch. 

The third time that Wei Wuxian pulls his fingers back from the soft skin of Lan Wangji’s wrist, he has to apologize. “I’m sorry.” 

Lan Wangji looks both puzzled and worried. “For what?” 

Wei Wuxian is still all too aware that they’re in public. He drops his voice. “We, um, never talked about- about if you want people to know.” 

Lan Wangji’s expression is so neutral that, even after years of study, Wei Wuxian can’t read anything there. “We didn’t talk about a lot of things.” 

Wei Wuxian’s heart sinks. What does that mean? “No…” 

“I want to be with you. I love you,” Lan Wangji says clearly, although matching Wei Wuxian’s quiet tone.

Wei Wuxian’s heart lifts twice as fast as it had fallen and he can’t help smiling at Lan Wangji, reaching out for him again, before pulling back at the last second once more. “I love you too.” 

Lan Wangji had clearly noticed the quick motion of Wei Wuxian’s hand, toward and then away from him. “You don’t want people to know?” 

Wei Wuxian wants what Lan Wangji can give him, whatever that is. “I want you to be comfortable.” 

Lan Wangji’s expression is still too neutral when he asks, “And what are you comfortable with?” 

Wei Wuxian can’t tell what Lan Wangji wants. Wei Wuxian doesn’t want to pressure Lan Wangji of course, but neither does he want Lan Wangji to think for a second that Wei Wuxian is ashamed of him. “If you wanted it, Lan Zhan, of course I would hold your hand in public. I would let everyone know that you picked me. I’d finally drag you to an alliance meeting and make them all jealous.” 

Well, that’s more than Wei Wuxian had meant to say, but Lan Wangji’s posture relaxes, and there’s something pleased chasing away the painful neutrality, so Wei Wuxian continues. 

“I would take you home to Uncle Jiang and Madam Yu.” Wei Wuxian laughs, imagining it. “You’re such a good catch, maybe she’ll forgive me for not being straight. She’s not very pleased about that.” 

Wei Wuxian has more to say, has a hundred other places he’d take Lan Wangji, but Lan Wangji actually interrupts him, expression strange. “You came out to your family?” 

“Oh! Yes. Over the winter break. That’s how I-” Oops. But if Wei Wuxian can’t tell Lan Zhan, who can he tell? Wei Wuxian completes the sentence reluctantly, “That’s how I figured out that I like guys.” 

Lan Wangji looks confused but also amused. “You came out to your family before you figured it out?” 

Wei Wuxian pouts. “Please don’t tell Jiang Cheng. It’s so embarrassing, I sort of implied it was the other way around. And he and Jiejie knew before me! Can you believe that?” 

“Mm.” Lan Wangji seems to be trying not to laugh. Well...at least he’s polite enough to hold it in, unlike Jiang Cheng. 

A thought occurs to Wei Wuxian, another confession he should make. “I told Jiang Cheng. About us. He won’t tell anyone!” Wei Wuxian rushes to reassure Lan Wangji. “Well, I mean he told Jiejie, but not after that.” 

Lan Wangji’s expression is strained. Wei Wuxian hopes he hasn’t messed things up so soon. Maybe a full day without fucking things up was too much to hope for him... 

Wei Wuxian tries to do some damage control. “They’re both very happy for us!” 

Lan Wangji laughs. Wei Wuxian’s reserved, sunset over unbroken snow, Lan Zhan laughs. Out loud. Right there in the middle of the dining hall. In front of everyone. While Wei Wuxian is trying to process that, Lan Wangji leans forward and kisses Wei Wuxian on the forehead. Also in front of everyone. 

Oh. 

“Oh,” Wei Wuxian says out loud. He pulls his chair closer to Lan Wangji’s and darts in to press a kiss into Lan Wangji’s cheek. Lan Wangji wraps an arm around Wei Wuxian’s waist, keeping him close. 

Oh. 

“Finally!” Nie Huaisang shouts from across the room. 

It’s Wei Wuxian’s turn to laugh, happiness fizzing through him, as he settles against Lan Wangji. Finally. 

#

Wei Wuxian watches the crowd through a happy haze of expensive alcohol - the Jin’s money finally coming through for him. Wei Wuxian had cried a little when Jiang Yanli and her new husband had their first dance, but now the dance floor is filled with all sorts of couples and he’s watching the crowd idly. He’d been out there himself a couple of times, once with Jiang Yanli and once at the insistence of some of the youngest cousins, in an energetic, if uncoordinated, circle of dancers, of which he’d been the tallest by far. Otherwise he’s been sticking close to Lan Wangji, making sure that none of the sharper tongued relatives get Lan Wangji alone. Not that Lan Wangji needs any protection at all. Wei Wuxian can still see the shocked face of the cousin who’d said something rude about Wei Wuxian in front of Lan Wangji and had learned how cutting Lan Wangji could be in turn. 

“Would you like to dance?” Lan Wangji’s voice breaks into Wei Wuxian’s meandering thoughts. 

Wei Wuxian smiles at Lan Wangji. “Of course.” 

Lan Wangji is a good dancer, too attuned to the music to be anything else. Wei Wuxian isn’t, but somehow with Lan Wangji leading him, he’s not quite as bad. 

They sway together slowly, Lan Wangji keeping it simple for Wei Wuxian’s sake. Around them the reception goes on. Madam Yu looks displeased to see them dancing together, but Jiang Yanli smiles fondly at them, and Wei Wuxian catches a thumbs up from his fellow black sheep of a cousin.

The song slides into another slow song and Wei Wuxian has no desire to be anywhere else. He moves closer to Lan Wangji’s familiar warmth and lets himself imagine a day in the future - his own wedding day. A little smaller than a Jin wedding, but with all the important people there. Lan Wangji will be so handsome and Wei Wuxian will cry, he knows it already, but only because he’ll be so very happy. 

Just the thought of it is enough to make Wei Wuxian smile. 

“Someday,” Lan Wangji says and Wei Wuxian laughs. Lan Wangji knows him too well! 

Wei Wuxian gazes sappily at Lan Wangji, asking in a faux breathless voice, “Lan Zhan, are you proposing?” 

Lan Wangji only looks back seriously. “Not yet.” 

And Wei Wuxian has no answer for that, tears threatening at the certainty in that ‘yet.’ In self-defense, Wei Wuxian teases Lan Wangji some more. “What if I propose first?” 

Lan Wangji’s eyes narrow a little at that, his competitive side coming through, but he only says calmly, “Then I will say yes.” 

Wei Wuxian shakes his head. When Lan Wangji is sincere there’s no beating him with teasing, only reciprocal sincerity works. “So will I,” promises Wei Wuxian. 

Lan Wangji’s expression softens. 

Wei Wuxian smiles at him. “Someday soon. Okay, Lan Zhan?” 

Lan Wangji smiles back, as the music plays sweetly on. “Soon,” he promises in turn. 

Wei Wuxian can’t wait.