“Lan Zhan?” Wei Wuxian breaks the unusual silence that had consumed the room whilst they ate - usually he would be rambling about his day by now, saying nothing of true importance but basking in the way Lan Wangji paid attention to his every word just the same. Instead, he had been silent for most of their dinner, thinking over how to phrase his request.
The slight tilt of his partner’s head was enough for Wei Wuxian to know Lan Wangji was once again listening to him. Lan Wangji would still rarely outright break his sect’s rules but nothing stopped him from helping Wei Wuxian break them over and over again.
“Do you think I could meet with your brother?” His face was uncharacteristically serious and it brought a small crease to Lan Wangji’s forehead as he realised there was something wrong.
“Brother is in seclusion.”
At least that wasn’t an outright no.
“I know and I swear I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t important.” Wei Wuxian looked down at the food in front of him, carefully avoiding looking at Lan Wangji. “I understand that I have done enough to harm your family but I promise you that no more harm will come to him because of me.”
“Wei Ying. Jin Guangyao was not your fault.” Lan Wangji’s voice was gentle but strong - as if there was nothing that could possibly change his mind. Wei Wuxian wondered how he’d ended up with someone so incredible.
“Wasn’t it?” Wei Wuxian hurried to carry on before Lan Wangji could try to convince him once more. “Anyway, that doesn’t matter Lan Zhan. I really need to speak to your brother but I can’t tell you what it’s about, okay?”
There was no hesitation or consideration before Lan Wangji replied, once more filling Wei Wuxian with an unbelievable amount of love and adoration for the person sitting across from him.
“Mn. Trust Wei Ying.”
The fact that this man, this incredible, beautiful man, trusted him with no pause in his voice, with faith in his eyes and love in his gaze made Wei Wuxian want to tear up. Knowing that would only worry his partner more, he settled for the biggest grin he could manage and grabbed Lan Wangji’s free hand in both of his own.
His voice was genuine and overjoyed as he gripped the hand tightly. “Thank you.”
The soft smile he got in return was more than enough to make his heart stutter. Really, this man was going to be the death of him.
Despite his assertiveness and claim for importance the night before, Wei Wuxian stilled upon reaching the door that would take him to Lan Xichen. Though there was no doubt that what he wanted to discuss was important, at least to him, it didn’t necessarily require any sense of urgency. He could always come back in a week or two, maybe in a few years?
But no. He had troubled Lan Wangji with his request. Lan Xichen was waiting for him inside and backing out now would do little to aid his relationship with Lan Wangji’s brother. He had delayed long enough.
There were a long few seconds in which he considered running away but instead he squared his shoulders and placed a polite smile on his face. Lan Xichen had been in seclusion for over half a year now but Wei Wuxian knew that Lan Wangji still made visits to make sure that Lan Xichen was healthy.
After the events at Guanyin Temple, Wei Wuxian noticed the odd tenseness between the two brothers that he realised he had simply been too occupied to notice before. Though he did not know what had caused such a rift between the Twin Jades, it broke Wei Wuxian’s heart to see yet another pair of brothers in the midst of falling apart. He knew how close the two had been when they had all been younger, over a year ago now and couldn’t imagine what had brought them apart. Even if a small, dark corner of his mind whispered all he needed to know.
When he had learnt of Lan Xichen’s self-imposed seclusion he had feared that the gap between the two would only widen and so he had forced Lan Wangji to visit his brother, despite the rather confused look Lan Wangji had sent him. The first time he had gone, Lan Wangji had come back tense with a mixture of anger and concern. Still, Wei Wuxian had forced him to go again and again until he started coming back with a small lift to his mouth instead of the crease between his brows.
Lan Wangji no longer needed Wei Wuxian to encourage him to visit his brother, despite the fact that Lan Xichen was supposed to be in seclusion, away from everyone - including silent little brothers.
Wei Wuxian knew that Lan Xichen hated him but Wei Wuxian held no such feelings for his partner’s brother. Lan Wangji deserved all of the happiness in the world and Wei Wuxian refused to come in the way of that.
So when a quiet voice called out to him from inside the Hanshi, telling him to come in, Wei Wuxian did as requested and closed the door behind him.
Lan Xichen was standing in front of him, on the other side of the room. From where he was still standing next to the door, Wei Wuxian bowed deeply.
“Young Master Wei.”
Wei Wuxian finally looked up, taking in the appearance of Lan Xichen. He was slightly thinner than Wei Wuxian remembered but still looked healthy - Lan Wangji would be pleased. Gentle eyes took him in similarly, as if evaluating his very soul. After a tense few moments, Lan Xichen seemed to find what he was looking for and gestured to the tea set in between them.
Once they were both sat with full cups in their hands, Wei Wuxian decided it was time to speak. “I apologise for interrupting your seclusion.”
“Wangji insisted that you had something important to discuss with me.”
“I do. Well two things, really, if you don’t mind?” As much as Wei Wuxian wanted to discuss them with Lan Xichen, he had meant what he had said to Lan Wangji, he would not harm Lan Xichen in any way.
“I see no reason not to.” Wei Wuxian held back retorts of ‘really, you see no reason not to’, believing that that might be a bit counterproductive. Lan Wangji should be proud of his restraint.
The second thing would be easy to ask, if only because he was so sure of what he wanted to say and knew that in the long run, Lan Xichen’s response would do little to prevent him from doing what he wanted. The first, however, was more difficult, it wasn’t that he didn’t know what to say, but that he wasn’t sure how welcome his words would be. Still, he was here now and he couldn’t ask the second without saying the first.
He placed his cup on the table before bowing as low as he could whilst sitting - missing the startled look that temporarily took over Lan Xichen’s face.
“I wish to apologise for my role in the recent events that have troubled you. I understand that there is nothing I can do to earn your forgiveness but I vow to spend the rest of my life trying to make it up to you. I continue to cause you and your family immeasurable pain and will accept any punishment that you see fit.”
There was a long time after his words where nothing happened, where the world stopped and Wei Wuxian was left to drown in his guilt and despair. Where all he could hear was the memory of Lan Xichen telling him he was the only mistake that his brother had made, over and over again, tearing at his mind. He did not deserve Lan Wangji, did not deserve this peaceful life in Gusu, did not deserve -
His arms were lifted out of their bow, startling him out of his thoughts. He carefully arranged his face to ensure that none of his inner turmoil could be seen but couldn’t quite stop the confused tilt of his eyebrows as he was forced out of his bow. What on earth was Lan Xichen doing?
“Young Master Wei. I fear that I am the one that should be apologising.”
Honestly, these Lan brothers were going to be the death of him. What was Lan Xichen talking about now?
His confusion must have been evident as Lan Xichen went on to explain what he meant.
“I… have said some harsh and untrue things to you. Things that you did not deserve. I treated you with cruelty because I could not accept my own shortcomings.”
Wei Wuxian was filled with an almost unbearable fondness for this family.
“Zewu-Jun, I deserved everything you said to me. You were not wrong with what you said. I suspect that if I had left Lan Zhan alone all those years ago, I would have saved everyone a lot of pain. I know little of what you call your shortcomings, but I doubt they are as grievous and unforgivable as you believe them to be.”
He met Lan Xichen’s eyes, needing him to know that Wei Wuxian meant every single one of his words. He was much easier to read than his brother and it pained Wei Wuxian to see the pain and regret filling his face. The concern he saw confused him but perhaps he was just interpreting what he saw incorrectly.
“It is because you accept my words so easily as truth that I know I made a mistake in saying them. The world has not been kind to you Young Master Wei, but you continue to take responsibility for things that are not your fault and spread happiness instead of cruelty. Wangji loves you and I am starting to see why.”
Wei Wuxian could feel a blush trying to creep up his neck. What was it with this clan and not warning him before saying awfully kind things? He had come here to apologise and yet instead he was being tortured with compliments.
“You’re just like Lan Zhan.” He whined before wincing, oops, that hadn’t been what he had meant to say. “What I mean to say is, you both give me too much credit. I know I have done good things, I have done things that others have condemned and still I stand by my decisions because I know that it was the right thing to do.” He swallowed against the memories of finding a new family, only for them to be murdered because of his mistakes. At least A-Yuan had lived. He had had thirteen years to stew in darkness and think about all he could have done differently.
“But that does not mean that I should be forgiven. There are still many things that I could have done differently, moments when I was so caught up in myself that I forgot my place in the world. Surely you know this? I am not asking you to forgive me but to acknowledge that I know I have done wrong and wish to repent.”
In front of him, Lan Xichen sighed. It was a sound of defeat and resignation and maybe a hint of fondness? Still, it worried Wei Wuxian to hear it from such a strong and powerful person. Had he really interrupted Lan Xichen’s seclusion only to make things worse? Wei Wuxian had wanted to ease his mind, not stir up negative feelings.
“It seems you are just as stubborn as you were in your youth.”
Wei Wuxian grinned unashamedly.
“There is one more thing I must apologise for.”
His grin fell as he groaned and buried his head in his hands.
“No. I should have begged for forgiveness for this the very first time that I realised you were alive once more.”
Huh? So it must have been from the past, but surely there was nothing Lan Xichen had done back then that he felt he had to apologise for?
“Back then, at the Burial Mounds, I stood against you.”
Oh. So they were going to talk about this. Wei Wuxian hadn’t known for sure if Lan Xichen had fought him, but everyone else had so he had presumed that Lan Xichen had as well. Well, everyone but Lan Wangji who had fought on his side, against his own clan all because he loved Wei Wuxian. The very thought still fills him with a confusing mixture of guilt and relief. He was the reason that Lan Wangji had been punished so harshly by his own clan but at the same time, Lan Wangji had fought for him, for him. During a time that Wei Wuxian had believed no one would be on his side ever again, Lan Wangji had been standing next to him and Wei Wuxian couldn’t even remember it.
He did not blame Lan Xichen. How could he? It was his own actions that had led to the siege on the Burial Mounds. There was nothing that Lan Xichen could have done to stop it.
“It doesn’t matter.”
Lan Xichen looked determined now.
“Yes, it does. My family could have died.”
“Lan Zhan? He can protect himself.”
“I do not mean Wangji. Lan Sizhui was there.”
Wei Wuxian laughed nervously, did Lan Xichen know about A-Yuan’s background? But then how was he still alive?
“Sizhui is a little young to have been fighting at the Burial Mounds isn’t he?”
“He was not fighting.”
Panic filled Wei Wuxian. Lan Xichen knew. He knew. What was he going to do to little A-Yuan now? It was like he was back at Burial Mounds again, desperately trying to find somewhere to hide a child. Not just any child, a child that he had helped raise. He had been given one job, to protect the youngest of them, to make sure that Wen Yuan at least survived. They could kill Wei Wuxian but A-Yuan? A child? His son?
“Young Master Wei!”
He would protect A-Yuan at all costs. A-Yuan would not die. He could not let that happen.
He stood clumsily, distantly realising that his whole body was shaking. It didn’t matter, all that mattered was that the last of his family was kept safe.
For the third time that day, he bowed to Lan Xichen. Only this time it was lower than he had ever bowed to anyone before, filled with desperation and love and fear. He would do anything to keep his son safe.
“Zewu-Jun, please, don’t hurt him, please. You can have my life, anything. Please, I’m begging you. Please, please, not A-Yuan too.”
Lan Xichen’s heart crumpled at the broken man in front of him. Of course, this was the conclusion Lan Xichen’s cryptic words would bring him to. Why should Wei Wuxian have trust in anyone when the world had only betrayed him?
“Young Master Wei. I would never hurt Lan Sizhui.”
The words were simple but unwavering and Wei Wuxian’s knees buckled from the pure relief they brought him. He was barely saved from hitting the ground by Lan Xichen’s arms, holding him up when he was no longer able to support himself.
“You swear it?”
“I swear it. He is my nephew just as Wangji is my brother. I helped raise him and I have always known about his background. I would protect him with my life.” Perhaps it shouldn’t be so surprising to learn that Wei Wuxian would do the same. He knew little about the exact relationship between Lan Sizhui and Wei Wuxian but if the grief-filled looks Lan Wangji used to send the child were any indication, he had seen a part of Wei Wuxian in his nephew, so they must have been close. Hadn’t Wei Wuxian already lost the rest of his family? It should come as no surprise that he would offer his life for the safety of a teenager he considered to be the last of his family.
And yet Lan Xichen continued to be surprised by Wei Wuxian’s actions. The man in front of him held no resemblance to the fearsome Yiling Patriarch. The man in front of him was shaking, was terrified for his family, had only good intentions. Was this the man that Lan Wangji had seen all those years ago? The man that even Jiang Wanyin had refused to acknowledge?
The very thought made him want to fall apart.
They stayed like that for a while - Lan Xichen holding his shoulders firmly, ensuring Wei Wuxian wouldn’t fall. Gradually, the shaking stopped but Wei Wuxian would still not meet his eyes. He watched as a large grin suddenly took over Wei Wuxian’s face, obviously fake only in that Lan Xichen could still feel the slight tremors in the shoulders under his hands. It made him wonder how many people had fallen for the fake happiness before, how many times he himself had fallen for Wei Wuxian’s easygoing act.
When Wei Wuxian tried to pull away with a laugh from the hands holding him steady, he found that Lan Wangji was not the only one in the family with unbelievable arm strength.
He laughed again. “Let go Zewu-Jun! Lan Zhan would be upset if he saw this, you know how ridiculous he is when it comes to me.”
“I think Wangji would want someone to comfort you when you are upset. Besides, he trusts you as you trust him.”
Wei Wuxian sputtered. Perhaps he should be thankful that Lan Wangji speaks so little if this sort of frankness was what the Lan family was used to.
“I’m not upset, Zewu-Jun.”
Was he going to pretend the last conversation, if it could even be called that, hadn’t happened?
“I can see why Wangji gets so frustrated with you.” He kept a hold of Wei Wuxian’s shoulders.
“That’s mean. Lan Zhan never gets frustrated with me.”
Lan Xichen raised a single eyebrow.
“...Maybe once or twice.”
Lan Xichen laughed briefly before his smile dropped.
“Will you let me apologise now?”
“I am going to anyway.”
Wei Wuxian huffed. Of course, this was a Lan he was speaking to, they were equally matched in stubbornness.
“I won’t listen.”
Lan Xichen frowned at him, considering his words carefully. “That would make me sad.”
“Fine! Do you have a class for guilt-tripping in Cloud Recesses or something? I swear all of you are too good at it.”
“Thank you.” He breathed deeply, he had to get this right, he had upset Wei Wuxian enough today. “At the Burial Mounds, I was on the wrong side. I knew at the time that the people you were protecting had committed no crimes except for having the wrong family name. That should have been enough to stop me from helping them destroy your home and your family. If not that, then that Wangji was fighting for you - I should have trusted my brother’s judgement. There is nothing I can do to undo the crimes I helped commit, I can only beg for your forgiveness.”
Apology finished, Lan Xichen let go of Wei Wuxian’s shoulders, allowing him to take a few steps back and turn around. At first, he thought that Wei Wuxian was escaping but he soon realised it was just to hide tears as Wei Wuxian’s arm reached up as if to wipe something off his face.
“Zewu-Jun.” Wei Wuxian’s voice was quiet and serious. “Thank you.”
Briefly, Lan Xichen wondered how many people had apologised for their actions against Wei Wuxian. He suspected the answer was just one other.
“Come sit. Let’s have tea.”
Wei Wuxian stood for a few seconds more as Lan Xichen moved to his side of the table and sat down. It wasn’t long until they were facing each other again, cups in their hands.
“I believe there was something else you wanted to talk about?”
“Yes! Well, I wanted to ask you something. You’re allowed to say no but if you do then I’m just going to pretend that I didn’t ask you, okay?”
Lan Xichen nodded and Wei Wuxian’s nervousness increased. Despite his words, he knew that if Lan Xichen was truly opposed to it then Lan Wangji might not even want to, which would be awful. Still, he straightened his back and looked Lan Xichen in the eyes.
“Good! Lan Zhan is an important person to both us and I love him very much.” This much Lan Xichen knew already, having been there as Wei Wuxian confessed. “He deserves everything in the world and I vow to make sure he is never sad or troubled. Zewu-Jun, may I have your permission to marry him?”
Easily the biggest smile Wei Wuxian had ever seen on a Lan overtook Lan Xichen’s face. Was he happy? Or did he simply think the idea was that laughable? Lan Xichen did not leave him waiting for long.
“Of course you have my permission. Wangji is happiest when he is with you. I truly believe that sticking by you was the best decision he has ever made.” Nevermind the fact that on his last visit, Lan Wangji had informed him in a no-nonsense tone that he would be asking Wei Wuxian to marry him and that there was nothing Lan Xichen could do about it. At the time Lan Xichen hadn’t necessarily been opposed to the idea but after today he wanted nothing more than for Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji to be happy together.
His words had seemed to make Wei Wuxian cheerful as well. He wore a true, genuine smile now as relief filled his face, clearly happy he would not have to fight for Lan Wangji. They really were perfect for each other.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you! I promise I will treat Lan Zhan as he deserves to be treated.”
“I know you will.”
Wei Wuxian sent him a bright grin, basking in the feeling of being accepted into the family. Not wanting his visit to end just yet, he began to update Lan Xichen of all the smaller things going on that he doubted Lan Wangji would have told him about. Like how surprised Lan Wangji had looked the other day when a rabbit had hopped right on top of his head.
Eventually, it was time for him to leave and Lan Xichen escorted him to the door.
“You are welcome to come back whenever you like.”
Wei Wuxian could not hide his surprise.
“But aren’t you…”
“In seclusion? I had thought so too, yet I seem to keep getting visitors nonetheless.”
Wei Wuxian rubbed his nose sheepishly, that was his fault after all. Lan Xichen noticed the gesture and sighed.
“You force Wangji to visit me.” When would he stop being surprised by Wei Wuxian’s good deeds?
“Not anymore! I mean. I never did. I wouldn’t. Lan Zhan visited without any me convincing him at all. Lan Zhan loves you very much and simply wishes to see if you’re still healthy.”
“It seems I have yet another thing to thank you for. I’m sure you noticed that our relationship was strained when you returned from the dead. As of late our relationship has only been getting better, due to Wangji visiting me in seclusion, which I believe is because of you.”
He didn’t wait for Wei Wuxian to try and deny it but simply stepped forward and wrapped his arms around the man. Wei Wuxian stiffened at first, no longer used to physical contact with anyone but Lan Wangji and Lan Sizhui, but slowly his arms raised to hug Lan Xichen back.
Lan Xichen was reminded of the young boy who would casually sling an arm over anyone unfortunate enough to be standing near him.
His arms tightened around the smaller man. Soon enough, Wei Wuxian would officially be family.
Lan Xichen vowed that no more harm would come to his family.
There was little protection he could offer stuck inside a single building. He would take a week more, he decided, to mourn what could have been. Then he would finally start to appreciate what he had left.