Lan Wangji always eats his lunch at the same corner table in the cafeteria. He has one bowl of soup and one plate of vegetables. He brings his own water in a reusable bottle and a single cracker. Sometimes he splurges on a cup of green tea. Today is not one of those days.
No matter how crowded the cafeteria is the seats closest to him always remain empty unless—
"You eat the dullest food of anyone I know."
A tray clatters down next to Lan Wangji's, close enough to knock his out of alignment. He rights it without comment.
"How is that even enough food to sustain a growing man? Lan Zhan, I don't understand you."
"Don't call me that," Lan Wangji chides, as Wei Wuxian drops down into the chair next to him. It's a token protest and one he knows will go unheeded.
Wei Wuxian's tray is loaded with food. Wok and spring rolls. Soda and a chocolate bar. A half-splashed cup of coffee has left brown stains all over his napkins but he doesn't seem to care.
He grabs a spring roll and stuffs it whole into his mouth.
"Hnng mmnnmm mm," he says.
"Don't talk with food in your mouth."
Wei Wuxian makes a show of swallowing and then says: "I said, you should eat more." He grabs one of his spring rolls and drops it on top of Lan Wangji's salad. "It's vegetarian. Go ahead, eat it."
He nudges Lan Wangji's knee under the table and looks at him expectantly.
"Let him be, Wei Ying."
Jiang Wanyin, Wei Wuxian younger brother, has joined them at the table, together with Nie Huaisang, brother to clan leader Nie Mingjue.
"It is fine," Lan Wangji says lowly and picks the spring roll up, biting into it. Flavor bursts across his tongue, salty, sweet, and spicy. The crispy shell crunches between his teeth. It's very good, if a little too spicy for him.
"See, see, that's real food."
Wei Wuxian gives him another one before he turns to demolishing his own plate. He has the worst table manners of anyone Lan Wangji knows.
Lan Wangji eats the second roll as well and then goes back to his soup. His cheeks feel hot. It must be the spice.
"So Jiang Cheng and Nie-xiong were just telling me about when they went to study at Cloud Recesses," Wei Wuxian says, a piece of noodle falling from his mouth onto his plate. "I wish I’d been allowed to come."
Lan Wangji makes a noncommittal sound. Wei Wuxian would have hated Cloud Recesses, and while he's part of the YunmengJiang-clan since Jiang Wanyin’s father, clan-leader Jiang Fengmian, adopted him, he hasn't been initiated and doesn't know anything about the cultivation world.
"You should take me sometime." Wei Wuxian grins at him, wide and happy. Lan Wangji chokes on his soup.
"Lan Zhan," Wei Wuxian says, patting his back. "Be careful."
Lan Wangji manages a nod and reaches for his water bottle.
"Sister says it's beautiful," Wei Wuxian says wistfully. He's still patting Lan Wangji's back. "I love beautiful things."
"Wei Ying," Jiang Wanyin says sharply, and Wei Wuxian lifts his hand from Lan Wangji's back.
Lan Wangji aversion to touch is well known among the cultivation sects, and Lan Wangji knows Jiang Wanyin is trying to be nice to him, or at least trying to make sure Wei Wuxian doesn't cause an incident. He still wants to punch Jiang Wanyin in the nose. It turns out he doesn't mind all touch. Sometimes it is more than welcome.
Wei Wuxian turns back to his food and drops the subject, starting a discussion on brush technique with Nie Huaisang instead. They're both art majors. Lan Wangji is a music major and Jiang Wanyin, surprisingly considering he's almost as tightly laced as Lan Wangji, a drama major.
Lan Wangji finishes his soup in silence and, stupidly, wishes he could show Wei Wuxian Cloud Recesses one day. It is beautiful. He thinks Wei Wuxian would like it very much even if he would surely choke on all the rules.
The next time Lan Wangji sees Wei Wuxian is in the library, where he's sitting at table surrounded by books that Lan Wangji recognizes are for history, one of the two classes they share. He looks tired, reading with his head propped against one of his hands and his hair twisted up into a messy bun. He has adopted the long hairstyle favored among the cultivation students, but his hair is cropped very short on the sides. It suits him very well.
Lan Wangji knows he could go over and say hi. It would be a much more normal thing to do than to lurk behind a bookshelf, but he never knows how to respond to Wei Wuxian's insistent chatter and he imagines it makes him look like a fool most of the time. Wei Wuxian is so funny and lively and people gravitate towards him like moths to a flame. The one time Lan Wangji went on a date, his date had said at the end of the night he would have had more fun with a frozen cod. He's just not a people person.
He turns on his heel and leaves the same way he came, errand forgotten.
It is, of course, impossible to actually avoid Wei Wuxian. They have classes together, after all, and Wei Wuxian seems to think the desk next to Lan Wangji is empty for him and not because no one else wants to sit by Lan Wangji. The cultivation students recognize him as Hanguang-Jun, who's at the top of all their cultivation classes and known, first and foremost, as a stickler for rules. The regular students just think he's weird and boring but it amounts to the same thing. No one wants to be stuck sitting next to him.
"You saved me a seat."
Wei Wuxian shows up at the very last second, as always, dropping his books on the desk next to Lan Wangji's with a clatter. The professor winces at the noise, but like everyone else, she has a soft spot for Wei Wuxian, so his interruption goes unscolded.
Lan Wangji inclines his head. He didn't, but Wei Wuxian doesn't need to know that.
"I made you this." Wei Wuxian drops a drawing on Lan Wangji's desk. "It's a rabbit," he points out, needlessly.
It's a white rabbit, to be exact, with delicate pink watercolor around its eyes and inside its large pointed ears. It's beautiful.
"Thank you," Lan Wangji says quietly, slipping into his notebook.
Wei Wuxian almost always brings him drawings, dropping them onto Lan Wangji's desk as if they're his payment for taking the seat no one else wants. He's very strange, really, but Lan Wangji likes him so much.
Wei Wuxian grins at him and bumps their shoulders together. He's really so very bright. Lan Wangji wants to kiss him. He has kissed all of one person before. It was stiff, awkward and terrible and then he was compared, unfavorably, to a frozen cod, so he thinks it's probably best if he never tries to kiss Wei Wuxian. He'd be very lonely if no one ever sat down next to him. His brother is away most of the time and his uncle is also a very busy man.
That evening he pins the rabbit drawing to the corkboard above his desk and reluctantly removes the last drawing Wei Wuxian gave him, a cherry tree in bloom with tiny pink flowers and bright green leaves. He has a deal with himself that he can only keep two drawings at a time pinned to the corkboard, because two seems like a normal amount, and he's never removing the one Wei Wuxian drew of the four of them: Lan Wangji, Wei Wuxian, Jiang Wanyin, and Nie Huaisang sitting around a table, sharing food.
In the picture Wei Wuxian has his arm draped along the back of Lan Wangji's chair and they're clearly having a meal together, not just eating in the cafeteria. Lan Wangji treasures it the way he treasures his other impossible dreams. Sometimes when he looks at it he lets himself imagine it's real, that it's an actual snapshot of a life he never figured out how to have. One with friends who aren't also his brother and an actual boyfriend, who invades his space not to tease him, but because he wants to be there.
He puts the cherry tree drawing in the box where he keeps the others, and realizes that if Wei Wuxian keep bringing him drawings, he's going to need a bigger box. He pets the tree once, as if to say goodnight, and puts the lid back on, feeding power into the locking charm with the touch of a finger.
Wei Wuxian has never been to his rooms -- why would he, as all the rooms look exactly the same -- but if he ever visits, at least he won't accidentally stumble across Lan Wangji's shameful collection. Lan Wangji doesn't know how to explain why he kept them all aside from "you gave them to me so they're precious", which he doesn't think would go down very well. No one likes a weirdo.
"So what are you doing tonight?"
Lan Wangji startles when Wei Wuxian plops down next to him, he hadn't heard him approach.
"Quiet," he hisses, glancing at the librarian, who is, of course, smiling indulgently at Wei Wuxian and his too-loud voice.
Wei Wuxian rolls his eyes and repeats himself in a much lower tone.
"Studying," Lan Wangji replies. They have a long weekend, four days, ahead of them, and normally he would take the train to Gusu to visit his uncle, but he'll be busy this weekend and Xichen is still overseas on sect business. It's not worth the trip even if he misses his rabbits.
"Boring," Wei Wuxian sighs dramatically, sinking down into an even more obnoxious sprawl. One of his very long legs knocks Lan Wangji's under the table. He's dressed entirely in black today, black jeans, black t-shirt and a black leather jacket that sits very well on his lithe frame. The only spot of color is the red scrunchie that keeps his bun in place. "I'm going to a party," he announces. "It's at Yiling, if you want to come."
Yiling, Lan Wangji knows, is the newest club in town and very popular with the students. He's heard the owner is from a branch of the Wen-clan, which makes him uneasy even though it's been many years since Wen Rouhan was dethroned and the Quishan Wen sect dissolved.
"I don't drink," he says stiffly.
"Lan Zhan, you're so boring," Wei Wuxian whines. It stings even though Lan Wangji, of course, knows it to be true.
"Why are you sitting here then?" he asks, a little sharper than he intended. He has no right to be upset by someone telling the truth when his clan forbids lies.
Wei Wuxian huffs. "Fine, see if I invite you to a party again," he mutters and then he's gone, as quickly as he came.
Lan Wangji stares after him long after he's disappeared from view. Did Wei Wuxian actually want him to come? To a party? It makes no sense.
That night Lan Wangji can't sleep. He knows he would have been miserable if he'd accepted Wei Wuxian's invitation. He doesn't drink, he doesn't like loud music or crowds, and a whole night of watching Wei Wuxian get along with everyone and flirt with strangers would have been hell. He can't stop thinking about it though, about seeing Wei Wuxian like that, carefree, happy and drunk. Flush on his cheeks, maybe, and limbs even looser. Perhaps he'd even let his hair down.
Lan Wangji thinks about wearing Wei Wuxian's scrunchie around his wrist for a moment, deep red and obvious. Then he rolls over and angrily drives his fist into the pillows. He takes a deep breath and tries to center himself, but the scrunchie haunts him. Not the thought of it specifically, but of being the one trusted to hold it. It's a ridiculous thought, useless; Wei Wuxian doesn't even care about his scrunchies. He loses them everywhere. If he gave one to Lan Wangji it would be because he wouldn't care if he walked away with it.
But he still thinks about holding it for him, about handing it back when Wei Wuxian's done dancing and watching him put his hair back up. He thinks about tucking a lose strand of hair in between Wei Wuxian's ear and then, then…
I've met frozen cods with more personality than you.
Then he'd step away and probably bow, because he's that awkward, and Wei Wuxian would turn to whatever new friends he'd made to laugh about his ridiculous acquaintance. No, it's definitely better that he didn't go.
Lan Wangji sighs and lets his eyes fall shut, staying stubbornly still until sleep comes and saves him from himself.
Frantic knocking wakes him up what feels like moments later.
"Lan Zhan. Lan Zhan. Please open." The voice is muffled and clearly shaken but unmistakably Wei Wuxian.
He lurches out of bed, heart pounding, and he's halfway across the floor before he's even pried his eyes open. He doesn't know why Wei Wuxian is at his door in the middle of the night, but it can't be good.
The room is small, four long strides and he's at the door, fumbling with the lock. Wei Wuxian has stopped knocking and Lan Wangji almost expects the hallway to be empty when he swings the door open. It isn't.
"Wei Wuxian, what…" He doesn't have time to finish his question before he has his arms full of sopping wet, icy cold Wei Wuxian.
"Lan Zhan," Wei Wuxian chokes out, wrapping his arms around Lan Wangji's waist. "Lan Zhan, I think I'm going mad."
He starts crying, burying his face into Lan Wangji's shoulder, while his icy fingers tangle into the back of Lan Wangji's pajama shirt. There's a puddle on the floor where he was standing earlier and now what same puddle is spreading onto Lan Wangji's bare feet. The water is cold enough to make him shiver.
"There, there," Lan Wangji says awkwardly. Carefully wrapping one arm around Wei Wuxian's heaving shoulders while the other nudges the door closed. It's dark in the room without the light from the hallway. Somehow that feels safer.
He wraps his other arm around Wei Wuxian's shoulders as well, and now it's a proper hug, if wet and miserably cold. Wei Wuxian is still crying, wet hitching sobs that makes Lan Wangji's chest squeeze painfully, perhaps it's some kind of emotional transference.
"Wei Wuxian," he whispers, the gravity of the situation seems to call for lowered voices. "Did someone hurt you? Are you hurt?"
"Just co-old." Wei Wuxian's teeth clack together, and it really is like holding on to a melting ice cube. Lan Wangji's entire front is soaked through.
"You need a shower," he decides. "And dry clothes."
Wei Wuxian's head moves against his shoulder. It might be a nod, it might be an attempt to wipe his face on Lan Wangji's shirt. Lan Wangji decides it’s a nod and starts tugging a reluctant Wei Wuxian towards the bathroom.
"You can't leave me," Wei Wuxian says when Lan Wangji has managed to both shuffle them into the bathroom and create a tiny bit of space in between them. "Promise."
He's pale under the fluorescent lights of the bathroom and he's holding onto the hem of Lan Wangji's pajama shirt with both hands. The shirt is almost as wet as Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji flushes when he realizes he can see his nipples through the fabric. It says something about Wei Wuxian's state of mind that he has yet to comment on the shirt's design.
"I'll just be in the other room," Lan Wangji assures him.
Wei Wuxian's eyes grow wide and panicked and he yanks Lan Wangji forward into another clinging embrace.
"You can't leave me," he says again. "Promise you'll stay."
Lan Wangji, after a moment's debate, rests his hands on Wei Wuxian's shoulders. He's still wearing his leather jacket, and the leather is slick and spongy under Lan Wangji's palms.
"I'll stay," he promises.
The bathroom is small, but if he sits on the toilet and looks the other way Wei Wuxian will have some privacy.
Wei Wuxian is so cold he's shaking, but he makes no move to let go of Lan Wangji, so once again Lan Wangji has to wriggle out of his embrace to create some space.
"I'll turn my back," he says, making a move to do so but Wei Wuxian grabs his wrist.
"No," he says urgently, eyes shining with panic. "You have to watch me."
"Wei Wuxian," he says, scandalized.
Wei Wuxian eyes fill with tears. "Lan Zhan, you have to."
Lan Wangji can't deal with his tears or his obvious terror. Slowly he nods. "I'll watch you."
"The entire time. Promise me."
"The entire time."
Only then does Wei Wuxian let go of his wrist to start shedding his clothes. The leather jacket goes first and then the t-shirt. His chest is pale and his dusky nipples peaked with cold. Lan Wangji flushes and raises his gaze to stare at the top of Wei Wuxian's head, but he doesn't look away, he promised he wouldn't.
Wei Wuxian kicks off his boots and peels his jeans down his legs. He leaves his socks and boxer briefs for last but then they're gone too and he's standing naked before Lan Wangji. Lan Wangji stares at his hairline.
"Now shower," he says.
Wei Wuxian nods jerkily and steps into the shower cabin. Lan Wangji is relieved when the lower half of him is hidden behind frosted glass. He can still see his feet and the delicate curve of his shoulders, but he no longer has to stand statue stiff to keep his eyes from straying below the waist.
Wei Wuxian gets the water running and Lan Wangji sits down on the toilet lid, uncomfortable in his wet pajamas but unable to leave. He promised.
Slowly the shower cabin fills with steam and Lan Wangji stares unseeingly at the frosted shadow of Wei Wuxian's body. He's using Lan Wangji's shampoo and his shower gel. He's going to come out of the shower smelling like Lan Wangji. Lan Wangji presses his palms against his thighs and diverts his gaze to Wei Wuxian's feet. Surely, it doesn't count as breaking his promise.
Wei Wuxian stays under the spray for a long time, long enough that Lan Wangji almost enters a meditative trance watching his feet move behind the fogged up glass. It's how he doesn't realize something is wrong until he hears Wei Wuxian make a tiny choked noise and looks up to find Wei Wuxian has wrapped the shower hose two times around his neck and is busy pulling it tight with a faraway look in his eyes.
"Wei Wuxian," he shouts, jumping up from the toilet seat.
By the time he's yanking the shower door open Wei Wuxian has already dropped the shower head to the floor, where it wriggles around like a snake until Lan Wangji manages to turn the water off. Then he has his arms full of a crying Wei Wuxian again, but this time he's both warm and naked.
"I told you. I told you," Wei Wuxian cries, digging his fingers into Lan Wangji's back. "I'm mad. Are my feet smoking? Tell me. Are they smoking?"
They are. Thick black curse residue swirls around his feet and curls sinuously around his ankles. Lan Wangji waves it away with a hand behind Wei Wuxian's back and the pressure in his chest eases a little bit. It's a curse. Curses he knows how to deal with.
"They're not smoking anymore," he says. "Look."
He thought it would make Wei Wuxian happy, but it just makes him cry harder, hiding his face into Lan Wangji's shoulder.
"I saw them," he wails. "I saw them smoke."
"Shhhh. You did, but it's okay now," Lan Wangji tries, carefully patting Wei Wuxian's shoulder blades. Wei Wuxian smells like Lan Wangji's sandalwood shower gel, and despite all his worries, he can barely deal.
"Come, let's get you some clothes."
They shuffle into the main room in an awkward simile of a slow dance. Lan Wangji wonders what it would look like if someone could see them through the window: him in his pajamas and Wei Wuxian stark naked, shuffling across the floor. The thought brings heat to his cheeks. He thinks that if it was him, as shameless as that is, he wouldn't be able to look away.
He finds Wei Wuxian pajamas to wear and coaxes him into them, wide plaid pants in dark blue and white and a t-shirt with two rabbits on it. Wei Wuxian looks down on the shirt and smiles for the first time all evening.
"Lan Zhan, do all you pajamas have rabbits on them?"
Lan Wangji thinks about lying, but it would be foolish when Wei Wuxian is standing right next to the proof. He inclines his head slightly.
"I like rabbits," he says.
Wei Wuxian blinks and then he smiles a little wider. It looks so much better on his face than anxiety and anguish.
"You should change your shirt too," Wei Wuxian says, tugging lightly on the hem of Lan Wangji's shirt. "I got you all wet."
"Hn," Lan Wangji agrees.
He waits for Wei Wuxian to look away, but of course he doesn't. He supposes it's only fair; Wei Wuxian did strip down to his bare skin right in front of him. Awkwardly he yanks his shirt over his head and hands it to Wei Wuxian, who is watching him with unabashed curiosity.
"Shameless," he mutters, cheeks hot, and reaches for a new shirt from the wardrobe.
"I told you I like looking at beautiful things," Wei Wuxian says. Lan Wangji can't believe the nerve of him.
"Flattery is the language of an empty mind," he says sharply, diving into his new shirt and pulling it down over his chest violently enough for the collar to dig into his neck. He's acutely aware of the blush spreading down his chest. The embarrassment threatens to choke him.
"You really need to learn how to accept a compliment. A simple thank you would do."
Lan Wangji takes the wet shirt from Wei Wuxian's hands and heads for the bathroom. He needs to do something to give his conflicting emotions an outlet, lest he say something he'll regret. Wei Wuxian follows him, of course he does, watching from the doorway while Lan Wangji hangs both their clothes to dry.
"Can I stay?" he asks.
Standing on the doorstep in Lan Wangji's slightly too big pajamas and his hair wet and loose Wei Wuxian looks all of fifteen, even though Lan Wangji knows he's twenty, like Lan Wangji.
"Of course," Lan Wangji says. Kicking Wei Wuxian out would be shameful and Lan Wangji would never forgive himself if something happened to Wei Wuxian that he could have prevented.
They get into bed together and Wei Wuxian, shameless creature that he is, burrows into Lan Wangji's chest.
"You have to hold on to me," he says. "So I don't get…ideas."
Lan Wangji uncertainly wraps his arms across Wei Wuxian's back. They feel awkward, as if he has too many elbows.
"Can you tell me about it?" he asks, because he needs to think about something that isn't Wei Wuxian warm and heavy in his arms.
"If you relax," Wei Wuxian says, shifting around. "Lan Zhan, you're like a rock."
His hair is getting Lan Wangji wet again, spreading dampness across his shoulder. Lan Wangji forces himself to relax in increments, hands, arms, chest, stomach, thighs.
"Mmmm, that's better," Wei Wuxian murmurs sleepily, tucking an arm in around Lan Wangji's waist.
Lan Wangji stares up at the ceiling and counts slowly backwards from hundred. He gets to forty-two before Wei Wuxian starts speaking.
"I went to the party," he says. "Like I said." His fingers tangle into Lan Wangji's shirt until his wrist brushes the skin of Lan Wangji's stomach. Lan Wangji starts over from hundred.
"I was talking to this creepy dude at the bar when I started feeling weird, a bit like I'd had too much to drink even though I hadn't, so I excused myself to go outside and then…I guess I just starting thinking about all this bullshit. Like Madam Yu told me I couldn't come home this weekend because they were doing family stuff before Shijie's wedding and—" Wei Wuxian's hand tightens on Lan Wangji's waist. "And it hurt, you know. I know I'm not her son, but her husband adopted me and I've been living with them for ten years now. I'm family too."
Lan Wangji's heart aches for him. He knows the YunmengJiang-sect is going on a night-hunt this weekend and that Wei Wuxian can't come because he hasn't been initiated. Couldn't Madam Yu have come up with a better excuse?
Wei Wuxian sucks in a deep breath. "Anyway, I didn't feel like partying anymore so I got on my bike to go home and I just kept thinking all these awful things about how no one really likes me and everyone thinks I'm annoying." He pauses.
It takes a few beats for Lan Wangji to stiffly say: "People like you."
Wei Wuxian chuckles wetly. "Wow, Lan Zhan, don't strain yourself. Anyway, I was biking home and thinking about all these things and then I saw the river and I guess I just…drove right into it? I sort of came to when the water closed over my head and I kicked free of the bike and swam to the nearest ladder. I thought maybe I'd blacked out or something, but then I looked down and my feet were smoking and not like steam, thick black nasty smoke, as if my boots were on fire."
He shudders, somehow managing to drag himself even closer, trapping one of Lan Wangji's thighs under his own.
"I almost jumped into the water again, but then I realized the smoke wasn't even real, so I ran all the way here instead."
"And in the shower?" Lan Wangji asks.
Wei Wuxian's back is very warm under his hands. Is he always this warm or is he running a fever? He wants to touch his wrist to Wei Wuxian's forehead, but that would require moving, and moving, he decides, would be bad.
"Same thing. I started thinking about how I was inconveniencing you and how you were probably just waiting to be rid of me and the next thing I knew you were screaming my name."
"I'm not waiting to be rid of you," Lan Wangji says.
"You're too kind," Wei Wuxian murmurs.
Lan Wangji surreptitiously feeds a little spiritual energy into Wei Wuxian's back. It makes him hum and curl closer, knee dangerously close to the one part of Lan Wangji that refuses to relax. He has definitely been cursed, but the traces of it are so faint now that Lan Wangji can't tell what kind of curse it is.
"Sleep," Lan Wangji orders. "We'll talk more in the morning."
"Mmm'kay," Wei Wuxian mumbles and a breath later he's out like a light.
Lan Wangji thinks he'll have to wait for the merciful embrace of sleep, but he follows Wei Wuxian within minutes.
Lan Wangji wakes up to the pale pink of dawn with Wei Wuxian nearly on top of him. For a moment he lets himself enjoy it, then he begins the painstaking process of extracting himself from Wei Wuxian's warm and sleep heavy limbs. He's a grabber, Lan Wangji realizes, making sleepy protests at the back of his throat and clinging to whatever parts of Lan Wangji he can reach.
"I need to pee," Lan Wangji murmurs, even though that might prove to be a biological impossibility. "I won't leave you."
Wei Wuxian grumbles and pulls himself into the spot Lan Wangji is deserting but he finally relents, letting Lan Wangji slip out of bed. Lan Wangji would love to stop and tuck him in, but if Wei Wuxian opens his eyes it will be very very obvious that a pressing need to pee is the least of Lan Wangji's morning problems. His pajama pants don't hide anything.
He does glance back from the door to the bathroom. Wei Wuxian is sleeping peacefully again with Lan Wangji's pillow clutched to his chest. It's the sort of sight that makes Lan Wangji's chest clench and he hurriedly locks himself inside the bathroom, taking deep calming breaths.
He doesn't dare to stay locked away for long, but in his current state he's just not going to be able to pee or do anything really. He's never been so hard in his life.
He leaves his pajamas in an uncharacteristic heap on the floor and jumps into the shower. The shower head is still on the floor and he returns it to its holder, turning the water on. The first spray is icy cold, but he doesn't even care, curling a hand around his throbbing dick and tugging desperately. He usually likes to take his time and tease himself, pinching his nipples into stiff peaks and maybe even, if he's feeling particularly shameless, fingering himself, but now all it takes are five quick tugs before he's coming all over his hand muffling his almost pained moan into the crook of his elbow.
He cleans off quickly, using liberal amounts of shower gel, and washes his hair with unusual haste. All in all he thinks it takes him less than ten minutes to jerk off, shower, towel off, pee, and get dressed in a pair of clean boxer briefs and a t-shirt. He opens the door and checks on Wei Wuxian, but he's still sleeping, so he takes a little longer drying his hair and putting his pajamas into the clothes hamper.
He twists his hair into a bun and pads barefoot into the main room. His closet is divided into two sections, one is his school clothes, prim grey slacks and button down in shades of white and blue and the other, much smaller section, holds his casual clothes, three pairs of jeans, a few t-shirts and two casual jackets.
He picks a pair of dark blue jeans, a white t-shirt and the black jacket. The jeans are tight, the t-shirt fitted and he's been told the jacket is both fashionable and appropriate for a twenty year-old. He takes out his black boots and puts them by the door. Even he knows better than to wear dress shoes with jeans.
Wei Wuxian is still sleeping when he's done, so he opens up his laptop and gets them both train tickets to Gusu. Wei Wuxian will need to learn about the cultivation world, and while Lan Wangji is the third highest-ranking Lan-disciple and therefore has the right to initiate outsiders, he thinks it's better if Wei Wuxian hears about it from someone with more authority. And also, he's a coward.
Besides, Lan Wangji's affinity for curse breaking is very strong, stronger than Xichen's and Uncle's even, but they both have a lot more practical experience. The quick reading he did on Wei Wuxian last night told him very little about the curse but a curse that leaves such a small trace when not activated is bound to be complex. If he wants to break it he's going to need help.
He gets his phone from where it's charging at the desk and sends two texts: one to his uncle to let him know he's coming home and a short summary of the situation and one to his brother, asking him to call at his earliest convenience. His uncle replies with an acknowledgement of his message; Xichen does not.
He makes breakfast next and then, because there's literally nothing else left for him to do, he wakes Wei Wuxian.
"Lan Zhan?" Wei Wuxian blinks sleepily up at him. "What are you doing here? Wait—" His forehead wrinkles. "Where is here? Oh my god, I'm in your bed."
He goes from prone to sitting curled against the headboard with the covers clutched to his chin in record time.
"Lan Zhan, I'm so sorry. I didn't know where else to go and I—and you—oh my god. I can't believe you—oh my god, I made you watch me shower."
Lan Wangji says nothing. He's not sure what to say. It's all true.
"I only watched a little," he says, because he feels it's important to point that out. He didn't take advantage.
"And then I jumped into your arms naked."
Wei Wuxian is embarrassed, he realizes. Lan Wangji always thought his face was too thick to ever feel shame.
"I didn't look," Lan Wangji says stiffly.
"You didn't have to look," Wei Wuxian wails. "I got my…my dick water on your clothes. Oh my god."
"Dick water," Lan Wangji mouths to himself. He really thinks they are approaching this conversation from vastly different viewpoints. "You were upset," he says. "Rightfully so. I didn't mind."
"You are too good to me," Wei Wuxian says lowly.
"I made breakfast," Lan Wangji says, probably a little too forcefully, because he doesn't know how to be comforting and chipper and he wants to distract Wei Wuxian from his budding dark thoughts. "Also, you need to get up. We're going to Cloud Recesses."
Wei Wuxian blinks at him. "Do you really think this is the right time to take me sightseeing?"
"Oh. Uhm, no, I—uh—think my uncle might be able to help you."
"Is he a psychiatrist?"
Lan Wangji palms are sweating. He's not equipped for this conversation. "Yes," he says, because he actually is, it's just not why Lan Wangji thinks he might be able to help.
Wei Wuxian nods, biting at his lower lip. "Okay."
They make the train with only thirty seconds to spare even though Wei Wuxian was the only one who needed to pack an actual bag, as Lan Wangji keeps spare clothes at Cloud Recesses.
"I've never been to Cloud Recesses," Wei Wuxian says, as if Lan Wangji isn't acutely aware, and plugs in the charger he spent fifteen precious minutes looking for. "What's it like?"
Lan Wangji tries to think of something to say. "It has rabbits."
Wei Wuxian stares at him for a moment. Then he bursts out laughing. Lan Wangji's face is not thick enough for their continued association. He wants to remind Wei Wuxian of the dick water, just to put them on more even footing, but his face is certainly not thick enough to bring that up.
It's hard to put everything he feels for his cool, calm mountain home into words. It's beautiful and peaceful and it's the only place where Lan Wangji has ever felt like he truly fits in. He knows who he is in Cloud Recesses; the rest of the time he's just faking it with varying levels of success.
"I'm just teasing," Wei Wuxian says, knocking their shoulders together. "I think it's cute that you like rabbits."
For a guy who thinks he's being taken to a psychiatrist because he's suddenly developed a mental illness Wei Wuxian is quite calm. Lan Wangji can't help but to wonder if he will feel better or worse when he finds out what is actually going on.
While Wei Wuxian fills his tray table with things -- a sketchbook, pens, his phone, coffee, snacks, and, inexplicably, a plastic unicorn – Lan Wangji takes out his laptop and opens his latest assignment, an essay on the history of healing songs.
“This is Suibian,” Wei Wuxian says, moving the plastic unicorn to Lan Wangji’s tray table. “She’s my lucky charm.”
Lan Wangji stares at it. It’s tiny and white and he thinks the horn and hooves were golden once and the mane and tail rainbow-colored, but it’s well loved and mostly white now. The tip of the tail is missing, and one of the hooves has been painted black with marker.
“It’s the only thing I still have from… before,” Wei Wuxian adds. “Mother gave it to me.”
“Can I touch it?” Lan Wangji asks.
“Sure.” Wei Wuxian picks the unicorn up and drops it into Lan Wangji’s hand. “It’s just a piece of plastic.”
It is not. The protection charm is old and fraying at the edges, but it’s undeniably there. If Lan Wangji was alone he’d feed more power into it, but he doesn’t want anyone to notice the blue glow of his magic.
“You should keep it on you at all times,” he says, carefully putting the unicorn back on Wei Wuxian’s tray-table.
“I do. Well, mostly. It’s sort of weird for a grown man to keep a unicorn in his pocket.” Wei Wuxian laughs.
“I don’t think it’s weird at all,” Lan Wangji says.
“Well, you would think that. All of you is weird.” Wei Wuxian bumps their shoulders together, possibly to indicate that he’s joking, possibly because that’s just what he’s like. “Have I told you yet that you look absolutely stunning today? Because you do. Like, wow, Lan Zhan, who even knew?”
Wei Wuxian truly has a mind like the flight of a butterfly, Lan Wangji never knows where he’s going next.
“That your entire wardrobe was not made up of slacks and button-downs. You’re even wearing proper boots.”
Wei Wuxian knocks their feet together. He’s wearing boots too, but the black ones from last night were still wet, so these are a deep cherry red. They look good to his skinny black jeans, but Wei Wuxian always looks good. Lan Wangji should probably say that, maybe, but he feels as if the moment has passed. Wei Wuxian has already picked up his sketchbook and Lan Wangji is left to stare blindly at his laptop screen, wondering what his life would be like if words came more naturally to him.
They arrive in Caiyi just after noon. Normally Lan Wangji would walk from the station, because he finds the three-mile trek up the mountain calming, but Wei Wuxian brought a bag and under the overcast grey-washed sky the circles under his eyes almost look like bruises.
“Let’s take a taxi” Lan Wangji says. “Come.”
Cars are forbidden within Cloud Recesses but there’s a parking lot below the settlement where sect members can park their cars, the taxi can take them that far.
Wei Wuxian follows him from the station platform to the taxi pick up zone in silence, craning his neck back and forth as if he’s trying to take in the sights. Lan Wangji carries his bag for him; it seems like the right thing to do.
It turns out they don’t have to bother with a cab; one of the sleek white electric cars that are used for sect business is waiting for them.
“Hanguang-Jun,” the driver says, bowing deeply.
Lan Wangji returns his bow. “Lan Huiyan.”
Wei Wuxian stares at them both. “You never told me you have a title,” he hisses when they settle into the backseat.
Lan Wangji shrugs, not sure how to explain. Instead he takes the velvet box that holds his forehead ribbon out of his backpack and ties it on with practiced ease. He doesn’t wear it at school because it raises too many questions, but his uncle would have a coronary if he walked into Cloud Recesses without it. It feels good to have the familiar weight of it settle against his forehead.
“What’s that?” Wei Wuxian asks, reaching out to touch.
Lan Wangji leans away. “The forehead ribbon is sacred,” he says stiffly.
“I swear all the old families are like sects,” Wei Wuxian says, rolling his eyes. “Is there anything else I should know? Aside from ‘don’t touch the sacred forehead ribbon.’”
“Cloud Recesses has over three thousand rules,” Lan Wangji responds. “I don’t imagine I’ll have time to teach them all to you before we arrive.”
“Three thousand?!? Are you kidding me? It would probably go faster if you told me what I can do.”
Lan Wangji inclines his head slightly. He’s not wrong.
“We no longer abide all of the rules,” he admits. “The revised edition of the clan rules only has about hundred or so.”
Wei Wuxian doesn’t look any less skeptical but he nods decisively. “Okay, which are the most important ones?”
“Cloud Recesses is a place of peace and tranquility, so running and loud noises are forbidden.”
“Okay, yeah, I’ll remember that.”
Lan Wangji doubts it. Wei Wuxian has a way of being loud with his entire body that will surely grate on his uncle’s nerves, but Wei Wuxian is a guest and will be treated as such.
“Also, we do not talk over meals. There should always be silence at the table.”
“Wow,” Wei Wuxian says. “Bet you guys are a riot on dates.” He grins his infectious grin. “Lan Zhan, your ears are red.”
I’ve met frozen cods with more personality.
As a young boy Lan Wangji found solace in the rules. A world governed by rules made perfect sense to him. There was a rule to guide him through nearly any possible situation and everyone he met responded in the same ritualistic and predictable ways. He never realized the world outside Cloud Recesses moved to a different beat all together, where the stiff formality of his childhood no longer received the predictable responses, but rather odd looks and scorn.
Xichen had tried to prepare him, but Lan Wangji had been homeschooled until he was eighteen and it was hard to change a lifetime of conditioning. He could talk over meals now, but it didn’t come to him easily and he didn’t think he’d ever master the art of small talk.
It’s part of why he appreciates Wei Wuxian so much. He doesn’t require Lan Wangji’s input to hold a conversation. Wei Wuxian laughs in the face of awkward silences and just moves on. Lan Wangji thinks he should probably say something about that too, but he glances at Wei Wuxian and the words stick on his tongue.
I really like you. He mouths the words to himself, letting his lips get familiar with the shape of them.
Wei Wuxian looks at him and for a terrible hopeful moment Lan Wangji thinks he’s been found out but then—
“Do you talk so little you have to do mouth exercises to keep your lips in shape?” Wei Wuxian laughs at his own joke. “You don’t have to worry, Lan Zhan, your lips are fine. Any lady would be so lucky to get a kiss from you.”
Lan Wangji’s ears burn. He’s just so helplessly hopelessly infatuated. “Hn,” he says because he doesn’t know what he’s supposed to say to something like that.
“We talked about this,” Wei Wuxian says brightly. “A simple thank you would do.”
Lan Wangji takes a deep breath and thickens his face. “Thank you,” he manages. He has to force the sounds out between his lips and even his neck feels hot now.
Wei Wuxian laughs and pats his arm. “See. That wasn’t so hard.”
He is such a fool. Lan Wangji likes him so much.
Lan Huiyan drops them off at the parking lot and Lan Wangji leads Wei Wuxian up the narrow path that will take them into Cloud Recesses proper. Everything is quiet and still and Lan Wangji feels like he can breathe properly for the first time in weeks.
“Lan Zhan, look.” Wei Wuxian catches his wrist to get his attention. “Look.”
He points in among the trees to where a white rabbit is watching them with nervously twitching ears.
“It’s a rabbit,” he says breathlessly, obviously struggling to keep his voice down.
“Yes,” Lan Wangji agrees. “There are many rabbits here.”
“There are? Can we pet them?”
At first he thinks that maybe Wei Wuxian is making fun of him, but he seems genuinely enthusiastic, staring at the rabbit with a huge smile on his face.
“I’ll take you to see them later,” Lan Wangji promises. He’s never taken anyone to see the rabbits before. It feels like a big deal.
Lan Wangji glances at Wei Wuxian again, just to make sure he’s not being mocked, but Wei Wuxian seems sincere. He even cranes his neck to look after the rabbit as they climb higher up the hill. Maybe he likes rabbits too.
“Oh wow,” Wei Wuxian says when they finally crest the hill and Cloud Recesses spreads out before them. “Sister was right. It is beautiful. Can I take a picture?”
Wei Wuxian gets his phone out and takes several pictures of the way the buildings climbs up the mountains surrounded by greenery and connected by stairs, bridges and wooden walkways. Then he turns his phone on Lan Wangji.
“Smile for the camera, Lan Zhan.”
Lan Wangji stares at him and certainly doesn’t smile. Wei Wuxian snaps the picture anyway.
“Unfair,” he says. “You always look good.”
Lan Wangji glances at the screen; he looks like he always does, stiff and cold.
“Give me your number,” Wei Wuxian says, tapping on his phone.
“So I have a number to go with the picture.”
Lan Wangji dutifully recites his number. Moments later his phone buzzes.
“And now you have mine,” Wei Wuxian says. He looks smug for some reason. Lan Wangji really doesn’t understand him.
Uncle is waiting for them outside the Orchid Room when they get there, impeccable as always in a light grey suit with a blue button-down underneath.
“Uncle,” Lan Wangji says, bowing deeply.
“This is my uncle, Lan Qiren,” Lan Wangji says to Wei Wuxian. “Uncle, this is Wei Wuxian. Jiang Fengmian’s adopted son.”
Wei Wuxian gives Lan Wangji an odd look, but he offers Uncle a passable bow and Uncle bows back.
“You did well to bring him here,” Uncle says. “A guest room has been prepared.”
Lan Wangji exchanges a look with Wei Wuxian. “I think it would be better if Wei Wuxian stayed with me in the Jingshi,” he says.
Uncle looks surprised for a moment before he inclines his head with a small smile Lan Wangji can’t interpret. “You may take his bags to the Jingshi then.”
Lan Wangji holds his hand out for Wei Wuxian’s backpack, as he’s already carrying his other bag. His ears feel hot again.
“You’re not staying?” Wei Wuxian asks.
Lan Wangji shakes his head minutely. “I will see you after,” he says.
“Right.” Wei Wuxian glances at Uncle, who is now waiting for him by the door to the Orchid Room. Wei Wuxian looks anxious and Lan Wangji would like to soothe him but he doesn’t know how. “I’ll see you in a while, I guess,” Wei Wuxian says, voice devoid of his usual good humor.
Lan Wangji nods.
The Jingshi has always been Lan Wangji’s sanctuary, a place for peace, solitude and introspection. He supposes that to an outsider it looks barren, but he never liked clutter, not even as a child. There’s a side table with fruit and refreshments, a desk, a table for four, and, behind a privacy screen, the bed. A door to the left leads to the spacious bathroom and a large wardrobe of dark wood stands along the wall.
He puts Wei Wuxian’s bags down by the wardrobe and takes his own to the desk. He wonders how Wei Wuxian is doing. It’s no small thing to learn that everything you think you know is wrong and that nearly everyone in your life is already in on the secret. It’s hard to say if he will find it better or worse than thinking he has a mental illness. There is nothing wrong with having a mental illness. There are many things wrong with the way Wei Wuxian has been treated.
He is a cultivator. Yet, for reasons unknown, Jiang Fengmian chose to not initiate him, and he will never be as strong as he could have been if he’d received a proper education. He clearly has an affinity for curses; otherwise he would not have been able to see the curse residue swirling around his feet. But curse breaking is a rare talent almost exclusive to the Lan sect. The last curse breaker of any note that was not born into the Lan-clan or inducted by the Lan-sect was rogue cultivator Baoshan Sanren, and her only child, Cangse Sanren, died during the Sunshot campaign.
Lan Wangji sets up his laptop and opens up the assignment he has yet to actually work on. It’s not due for weeks yet, but it’s not like him to slack off. He’s usually way ahead in all of his classes.
Lan Wangji isn’t sure how much time has passed when he’s startled out of his thought by a loud shout.
He's up and out the door within moments. The Jingshi sits on a height over the main settlement and a few levels below him, Uncle stands on the porch to the Orchid Room, and Wei Wuxian, well, he is sitting in the bushes below it. Lan Wangji doesn't even think before he dives for him.
Up close Wei Wuxian looks more sheepish than hurt despite the black smoke still curling around his lower half.
"I guess I experienced some negative emotions," he says wryly, when Lan Wangji kneels down beside him. His eyebrows pull together and he glances up towards the Jingshi. "Did you fly here?"
"Hn," Lan Wangji says, carefully helping Wei Wuxian to his feet. He seems unharmed. "It was more of a controlled fall."
Wei Wuxian actually laughs at that but then his face falls and he chews thoughtfully on the inside of his lower lip. Lan Wangji wants to pull it out from between his teeth but his face is not thick enough to do so with Uncle looking down on them…or at all.
“Wei Wuxian, are you hurt?” Uncle asks.
“No.” Wei Wuxian somehow manages a smile. “I’m fine.”
Unbidden he reaches for the bottom of the railing and hoists himself up, climbing back onto the porch with an impressive show of upper body strength. Lan Wangji gives himself a boost and easily jumps up onto the porch next to him.
“Cheater,” Wei Wuxian says, but the smile he gives Lan Wangji seems both soft and fond. Nothing at all like the smile he gave to Uncle.
“I would like to do a reading of the curse,” Uncle says. “But for me to see it clearly it seems you have to be experiencing negative emotions. Perhaps you would allow Lan Wangji to hold you so you can’t attempt to harm yourself.”
“I’m not sure that’s going to work,” Wei Wuxian says. “Who could experience negative emotions with Lan Zhan’s arms around them?”
Lan Wangji doesn’t know how he just says these things. His ears are burning and he hasn’t even opened his mouth.
Uncle’s mouth curls up. “Regardless, come with me. Both of you.”
Lan Wangji spent a large part of his childhood in the Orchid Room, where a number of low desks sit before a raised dais. He was always the star pupil, alone and untouchable in the front row while his peers sat scattered behind him. It is strange, he thinks, that he never really realized how lonely he was until Wei Wuxian inserted himself into his life.
This time Uncle doesn’t take his place on the dais. He leads them through a side door into his office. He sits behind his desk and Lan Wangji and Wei Wuxian takes the opulent chairs standing before it. Uncle’s office is a stark contrast to the sparse clean design of most of the settlement. The desk is full sized and the art on the walls Western and modern. He studied in the US, Lan Wangji knows, and ran a practice there before duty called him back to Cloud Recesses after his younger brother’s death.
For the first time Lan Wangji realizes he knows next to nothing about Uncle’s life before he returned, not even why he left to begin with. He looks at the diplomas mounted at the wall, some Chinese, some American, and wonders how much Uncle had to leave behind to take care of his young nephews.
He glances at Wei Wuxian, who is studying the room with obvious interest, the art especially. He looks surprisingly calm for someone who just had the shock of a lifetime.
“Wangji. Wei Wuxian,” Uncle says. “What I am about to tell you must stay in this room. If you have any questions or concerns you may address them only to Jiang Fengmian, Nie Mingjue, Lan Xichen, or myself.”
Lan Wangji frowns, while Wei Wuxian gives Uncle a blank look. “Nie Mingjue, that’s Nie Huaisang’s older brother, right? And Lan Xichen is yours.” He turns to look at Lan Wangji, who nods.
“They’re sect leaders,” he adds. “Of the Yunmeng Jiang, Qinghe Nie, and Gusu Lan sects.”
Wei Wuxian nods. “How many sects are there?”
“Many, but Yunmeng Jiang, Quinghe Nie, Gusu Lan, and Lanling Jin are the largest and most powerful.”
“Wait, you mean the peacock is a cultivator too?”
The peacock, Lan Wangji knows, is Jin Zixuan, fiancé of Wei Wuxian’s sister Jiang Yanli. “Yes,” he says. “His father, Jin Guangshan, is the leader of the Lanling Jin-sect.”
“Worst,” Wei Wuxian mutters.
“Fifteen years ago,” Uncle says, bringing the attention back to him. “There was a great conflict among the cultivator sects. The Chief Cultivator at that time was Wen Rouhan, leader of the Qishan Wen sect, which was at the time the largest and most powerful of the cultivator sects. Wen Rouhan was greedy and cruel and we turned a blind eye to his wrongdoings for too many years, but after he discovered the Yin Metal we could no longer ignore the fact that he had become evil and full of resentment.”
“The Yin Metal?” Wei Wuxian asks.
“A powerful dark talisman,” Lan Wangji explains. “It was split into parts and hidden by the ancients, but somehow Wen Rouhan managed to find all the parts and meld them together.”
“He used it to subjugate the other clans, taking over their territory little by little. Cloud Recesses burned, Lotus Pier was partly destroyed, and many cultivators lost their lives in the battle of the Unclean Realm,” Uncle continues. “We were weakened and outnumbered, yet we gathered at Nightless City, Qishan Wen's stronghold, because we had no other choice. The broken, battered remains of the ruling clans stood against an insurmountable force. We would have lost that day if it wasn’t for Cangse Sanren, your mother.”
“What?” Wei Wuxian squeaks. “My mother was a waitress.”
Uncle shakes his head. “Your mother was a rogue cultivator, which means she was not associated with any sect. She was singularly powerful and strong of will.” Uncle smiles with apparent fondness. “Her method of cultivation was unorthodox, but when it mattered she stood by us. In fact, she won the battle for us. You see, in her travels she had come across an object that was once used to control the Yin Metal, and from it she created something she called the Yin Tiger Seal, a talisman of almost unparalleled power.”
Lan Wangji glances at Wei Wuxian, who’s staring at Uncle, clearly enraptured.
“Without her we would have been lost, but when Wen Rouhan sent his fierce corpses at us, she took them over and made them dance to her will. She was magnificent, but it came with a price. When the battle was over and Nightless City had fallen into our hands, she lay broken and bloodied on the battlefield, mortally wounded.”
Lan Wangji startles when Wei Wuxian gropes for his hand, but he laces their fingers together and holds on tight, giving Wei Wuxian a wary look. He is crying silently, tears rolling down his cheeks and falling from his chin, but there’s no smoke curling around his feet.
“We took her inside, Jiang Fengmian, Nie Mingjue, and I. We did our best to save her but her injuries were too grave. I’m sad to say she died in our care.”
Wei Wuxian’s grip on Lan Wangji’s hand is tight enough to bruise, but Lan Wangji squeezes back just as hard. He’s heard the story before, everyone has, but he never knew it was about Wei Wuxian’s mother. It adds a dimension that makes his heart feel bruised because can see the same headstrong convictions in her son. Wei Wuxian is fearless and righteous in a way that Lan Wangji, despite his upbringing, will never be.
“What happened to…to my mother’s body and the Yin Tiger Seal?” Wei Wuxian asks.
“We kept vigil at your mother’s bedside all night and with the first light of dawn, your grandmother, Baoshan Sanren, came to see us.”
“She claimed your mother’s body and the Yin Tiger Seal,” Lan Wangji says lowly because there is not a cultivation child who doesn’t know the story of the Sunshot Campaign.
Uncle sighs. “It is true that she claimed Cangse Sanren’s body, but we do not know where the Yin Tiger Seal is. Your mother, knowing she was grievously injured, hid it, and she took her secret to the grave.”
Lan Wangji blinks. “But—”
“It was convenient to let everyone think that the seal was gone. No one would be foolish enough to take on the strongest cultivator of our time, while many would have wasted their lives searching for the Yin Tiger Seal if they knew it was missing. Only the three people in the room at the time knew what had really happened and we took an oath to protect that secret with our lives.”
“But what about me?” Wei Wuxian asks.
It is a fair question. Lan Wangji knows he grew up in an orphanage before Jiang Fengmian adopted him. He speaks of it glib terms, if he speaks of it at all, but Lan Wangji has gotten to know him well enough to read between the lines. Some of it wasn't good.
“Baoshan Sanren made us swear to protect you. Not many people knew Cangse Sanren had a child, so we let you stay in an orphanage for a few years, and when the time was right Jiang Fengmian adopted you, making up a story about having been friends with your father. He chose to not initiate you to keep you safe and I agreed with his choice at the time. It was better to let people think you were just a regular kid.”
Uncle sighs, looking down on his hands. “We were scared,” he admits. To Lan Wangji it felt as if he had just announced that the moon was made of cheese. “Baoshan Sanren said Cangse Sanren’s child held the key to finding the Yin Tiger Seal and—” He shakes his head. “We thought it would be better, safer, if you never realized you had powers.”
Wei Wuxian’s hand is cold and clammy in Lan Wangji’s. Lan Wangji looks nervously at his feet. He sees the curse smoke at the same time as Wei Wuxian dives for the letter opener on Uncle’s desk. The wrestling match that follows is equal parts terrifying and undignified, but it ends with Wei Wuxian flat on the floor and Lan Wangji on top of him. He has his hands around Wei Wuxian’s wrists, keeping them pressed to the floor above his head, and one of his knees pressed in between Wei Wuxian’s thighs.
Wei Wuxian blinks up at him, the faraway look slowly leaving his eyes. He opens his mouth.
“If you say something shameless, I will not be careful when I move my knee,” Lan Wangji says tightly because he will simply die from embarrassment if Wei Wuxian teases him now.
Wei Wuxian stares at him, slack jawed, for a moment. Then he laughs.
“Lan Zhan,” he says brightly. “You are my favorite.”
In Lan Wangji’s opinion that certainly counts as shameless, but he still takes care as he shifts off Wei Wuxian and gets to his feet. Wei Wuxian sits up and promptly hugs Lan Wangji’s knees. He’s still laughing and Lan Wangji feels hot all the way down his chest.
Uncle, standing beside them and now in possession of the letter opener, shakes his head, but Lan Wangji can tell he’s amused. He’s suddenly very, very grateful that Xichen is out of town. Uncle is too polite to ever bring this up again, but Xichen would not be so kind.
Wei Wuxian belatedly clambers to his feet and now at least he has the sense to look sheepish.
“My apologies,” he says, bowing to Uncle.
“No, Wei Wuxian,” Uncle says. “I should apologize to you.”
The moon is made of cheese and the sun is a chocolate coin. Lan Wangji didn't even know Uncle knew how to apologize. Wei Wuxian doesn't seem to realize what an extraordinary event this is. His butterfly brain already on the move.
"Why tell me now?" he asks. "You could have just let me think I was crazy."
Uncle gives Lan Wangji a wry look. "I don't imagine my nephew would have let me."
He's right about that. Obviously.
"Hero," Wei Wuxian says, batting his eyelashes at him.
Lan Wangji ignores him. He's found that sometimes it works.
"I got a partial read of the curse while you were struggling and it's incredibly complex. Whoever cast it is a highly skilled cultivator and I don't believe you were chosen at random. Someone is after either you or the Yin Tiger Seal, possibly both."
"But I don't know anything about the Yin Tiger Seal," Wei Wuxian says. "First time I heard of it was today."
"It might be an attempt to lure you grandmother out of seclusion. She has not been seen since that night during the Sunshot Campaign."
"Do you think she's still alive?" Wei Wuxian asks wistfully.
"I don't know."
Wei Wuxian nods as if he expected as much.
"Why don't you boys take a break," Uncle suggests, not unkindly. "I have some calls to make. I imagine Jiang Fengmian will not be happy with me. I think that for now it's best if you're not alone, Wei Wuxian. I realize this is a lot to process, but—"
"No, that's fine. I have my hero right here," Wei Wuxian says patting Lan Wangji's arm. "He takes his duty very seriously."
Lan Wangji really doesn't know how Wei Wuxian has face to say all these things when Lan Wangji can't even manage to call him by his given name.
"Yes," Uncle says, turning his inscrutable eyes on Lan Wangji. "I can tell that he does."
The floor, Lan Wangji thinks, just never open when you want it to.
Lan Wangji takes Wei Wuxian to see the rabbits, because rabbits are cute and Wei Wuxian probably needs some positive emotions. He's had many shocks in the last twenty-four hours.
"I'm angry," Wei Wuxian says when they reach the small clearing not far from the Jingshi where the rabbits have water and feed. They are free and live in burrows like rabbits do, but they are cared for and revered by the Lan-sect. "I'm really, really angry."
"Okay," Lan Wangji says, glancing at his feet.
"They lied to me. All of them." His voice breaks. "Even Shijie"
"Me too," Lan Wangji points out even though he doesn't want to.
Wei Wuxian looks at him. "That's different."
Lan Wangji guides Wei Wuxian to sit in the middle of the clearing. The grass is soft and fragrant and the sun falls through the trees, painting the ground in golden stripes. It is not a space for anger.
"Well." Wei Wuxian smiles his most impish smile. "I always knew you were magical—Lan Zhan, are you smiling?"
Lan Wangji hides his mouth behind a hand and shakes his head even though he can feel his eyes crinkling and betraying him. He feels light. Happy. It seems rude when Wei Wuxian is so full of misery.
"No, let me see." Wei Wuxian grabs his wrist and pulls his hand away. "You are smiling."
"It was a nice thing you said," Lan Wangji points out.
Wei Wuxian laughs. "Oh, Lan Zhan, never change."
Lan Wangji considers this prospect carefully. He doesn't understand why Wei Wuxian would prefer for him to remain as he is when he should be doing better. Wei Wuxian tells him nice things all the time while Lan Wangji struggles to say, well, anything. He's always been quiet, never one to initiate conversation, but Wei Wuxian makes him want to try.
"When Cloud Recesses burned I hid here," he says. "I was very lucky the fire didn't spread this way."
He looks up at the sky, far above them. "My parents died when I was four, in a car accident of all things. Strong cultivators who have a strong golden core can sustain a lot of damage, but they were killed instantly."
Lan Wangji shakes his head. He doesn't know why he's telling Wei Wuxian sad stories when he should be comforting him, but the way Wei Wuxian watches him, as if he's hanging on every word, makes him continue.
"A week later Uncle arrived from America to take care of us. We had never even met him. He sent cards for birthdays and holidays, but he was just a man in a picture until he became our guardian. He did his best, but I don't think he imagined he'd ever have kids and a lot of the time he treated us like small irrational adults. I was sad a lot and I didn't understand our parents were gone. Every night I sat outside the Jingshi waiting for them to open the door, but they never did."
It hurts to talk about even though he barely remembers it. Somewhere there's a picture of a five-year-old him kneeling in the snow outside the Jingshi and he suspects his own memories of it are highly influenced by the picture. He was so young.
"The night Cloud Recesses burned I was waiting in my usual spot when I heard screaming and saw the flames. I wanted to run to Xichen, but I didn't know where he was, so I ran into the woods and hid in this clearing. I thought I'd run so far but you can almost see the Jingshi from here. I guess it was far for my short legs." He shakes his head. "They didn't find me until morning and when they did I was buried under so many rabbits they thought I was dead. The rabbits have been fed here ever since."
While he talked the rabbits found them and he careful picks one up and puts it in Wei Wuxian's lap. "They're tame," he says. "Just be careful with them. They don't like sudden moves or loud noises."
Wei Wuxian carefully strokes two fingers down the rabbit’s back. "Thank you for keeping Lan Zhan safe, little rabbit," he says, smiling at it.
Lan Wangji almost points out that rabbits don’t live that long, but he thinks better of it and carefully doles out scritches to the rabbits gathered around him instead, making sure they all get their share.
"They really love you," Wei Wuxian says and the look on his face makes Lan Wangji feel like he's melting.
"I come here a lot." Lan Wangji picks a rabbit up, cradling it gently against his chest. "We understand each other."
Wei Wuxian carefully stretches out on the ground, propped up on his side, and gently pets every rabbit that hops up to him. It makes Lan Wangji feel as if his chest is caving in. He wants to take his forehead ribbon off and wrap it around Wei Wuxian's throat so that everyone will know Lan Wangji staked his claim but he hasn't and he can't. Wei Wuxian is his own man and Lan Wangji has no claim on him.
Before dinner a slightly harried-looking Uncle announces that Jiang Fengmian, Nie Mingjue, and Xichen will join them the next day for an emergency conference.
"Jiang Fengmian wishes for you to call him," Uncle says.
"No," Wei Wuxian says simply, turning his chin up as if he expects a fight.
Uncle smiles. "I told him as much."
To Lan Wangji's great surprise, Wei Wuxian doesn't initiate conversation during dinner but Uncle does.
"How long have you known each other?" he asks, as if speaking during meals is a completely normal thing for him to do.
"A little over two years," Wei Wuxian answers, because speaking during meals is definitely normal for him. "I saw Lan Zhan across the hall on our first day and I've been bothering him since."
"You are not a bother," Lan Wangji says stiffly.
"Well, maybe not now but for the first, oh, eighteen months of our acquaintance you certainly thought so."
Wei Wuxian is so lovely and so dense. Lan Wangji even went on a date to practice what it was like to be a real person so he could, maybe, at some point, ask Wei Wuxian out. The fact that the date was an unmitigated disaster put an end to those plans, but still, he had done it, after knowing Wei Wuxian for two weeks.
Uncle looks at Lan Wangji and smiles. Again the floor refuses to open.
“I forgot my pajamas,” Wei Wuxian says, from where he’s kneeling before his bag, half the contents of which have somehow already spread across the floor. “Can I borrow some from you?”
“Of course,” Lan Wangji says.
He takes a pair out of the wardrobe and hands them over. The pants are dark blue with a pattern of white rabbits and the shirt is white with a silhouette of a blue rabbit. It’s one of his favorites.
“Thank you,” Wei Wuxian says and disappears into the bathroom with his toiletries and the pajamas. “It’s okay if I take a shower, right?”
“Of course,” Lan Wangji says again. Then he adds, “There’s a hairdryer in the cabinet under the sink.”
It makes his face feel a bit hot. He’s not sure Wei Wuxian intends to sleep on him again but just in case he’d rather not deal with wet hair.
“Awesome,” Wei Wuxian says. He moves to close the door and then stops. “Maybe I should leave it open, just in case.”
“Yes,” Lan Wangji says. He’s grateful Wei Wuxian is in a better state of mind today. He’s not sure he would be able to handle Wei Wuxian naked and wet a second time without stealing a glance.
Lan Wangji changes into his pajamas and then putters about the room, unsure of what to do with himself. Getting into bed seems awfully presumptuous and sitting down to play his guqin does as well. He takes his phone out of his backpack to charge it and realizes he has a missed call and a text message from Xichen, as well as the message Wei Wuxian sent him earlier.
Xichen’s message informs him he will arrive at Cloud Recesses around 10pm and that they’ll see each other in the morning. Wei Wuxian’s message is a very good picture of his face. Lan Wangji stares at it for a moment and then saves both the picture and the number. He’s not sure how to bring the two together; he doesn’t use his phone much. He’ll have to ask Xichen.
He goes to the bathroom door without looking inside. “Are you okay in there?”
“Yeah,” Wei Wuxian answers. “I’m fine. No resentment in this bathroom.”
Moments later the water cuts off and Lan Wangji sits down on the edge of the bed to wait. Wei Wuxian hums to himself while he gets ready, some pop song, Lan Wangji thinks. He doesn’t recognize it but he finds himself humming along anyway.
“Your voice is so good,” Wei Wuxian says, sticking his head out through the door. He’s not wearing a shirt and Lan Wangji averts his eyes from his well-rounded shoulders. “Sing me something.”
“You won’t hear it over the hairdryer,” Lan Wangji points out.
“Sing me something anyway.”
Lan Wangji does, because this, at least, he can do. He starts out slow, almost unsure, but his voice builds in strength even as his fingers ache for the guqin to play it properly. Wei Wuxian doesn’t start the hairdryer. He doesn’t even leave the doorway.
“That was beautiful,” he says when Lan Wangji finishes. “I never heard it before. Where is it from?”
“Me,” Lan Wangji says. His face feels hot again. Maybe he’s coming down with something.
“You wrote it? Wow. What is it called?”
“It is not.”
“It’s not finished,” Lan Wangji evades. It is true that it has not been finalized, but it does have a title, he just can’t say what it is. It would make his feelings pathetically obvious.
“Ah, Lan Zhan, you must give it a good name. A beautiful song deserves a beautiful name.”
Wei Wuxian laughs at him and disappears back into the bathroom. “Sing it again.”
Lan Wangji does.
Getting into bed together when it is not a dire emergency is awkward; Lan Wangji lies stiffly on one side while Wei Wuxian lies equally stiffly on the other. There is room for two friends in between them.
“You’re not going to notice if I get out of bed like this,” Wei Wuxian points out.
“Mn,” Lan Wangji agrees.
They shuffle closer. Now there’s only room for one friend. They glance at each other and look away. After moment Lan Wangji reaches out and wraps his hand around Wei Wuxian’s wrist. It feels very thin and fragile.
“Okay,” Wei Wuxian says. “This could work. I’ll read for a bit, is that okay?”
Lan Wangji falls asleep while Wei Wuxian reads on his phone, still with Wei Wuxian’s narrow wrist clutched in his hand. When he wakes up, the room is dark and he’s no longer holding on to anything because he’s alone in bed.
He staggers to his feet and screams, “Wei Ying.” It is a proper scream. It leaves his throat feeling raw and his heart pounding.
Wei Wuxian comes around of the edge of the privacy screen. “Lan Zhan,” he says. “I’m here.”
He’s holding a knife in his hand.
“Drop the knife,” Lan Wangji chokes out.
“I was just—”
Wei Wuxian lets the knife clutter to the floor and Lan Wangji takes two steps forward wrapping him up in a bruising embrace. He’s shaking, he realizes, and his heart is in his throat.
“Oh, I scared you,” Wei Wuxian says, as if he realized that just now, as if Lan Wangji has ever made such a loud noise in this life. “It’s okay. I was just getting fruit.”
“You can’t just—” Lan Wangji clutches him a little tighter. It can’t be very comfortable but Wei Wuxian doesn’t complain, he just wraps his arms around Lan Wangji’s waist. “I’m sorry,” he murmurs. “I didn’t think.”
They both jump when the door to the Jingshi bursts open and the lights turn on. It’s Xichen, shirtless and holding his sword. Uncle, Lan Wangji realizes, is just behind him.
Wei Wuxian twists out of his arms to look at them and Lan Wangji, insanely, wants to cover his eyes. Xichen is, and has always been, the older, cooler, much more personable version of Lan Wangji. In nothing but a pair of pinstriped pajama pants holding a sword, he looks every inch the dashing hero.
“Oh,” Xichen says, smiling slightly. “I see all is well.”
“I’m sorry for the disturbance,” Wei Wuxian says. “It was my fault.”
Lan Wangji bends down to pick up the knife, holding it awkwardly in front of him.
“Brother, it is good to see you,” Xichen says, the corners of his mouth twitching. “I see you have this in hand.”
Xichen, Lan Wangji thinks, is a terrible brother.
“Wei Wuxian, it was nice to meet you. Brother speaks of you very fondly,” he continues, because he is truly, objectively, the worst. “Let’s all have breakfast in the Silver Hall tomorrow.”
“Yes, thank you,” Lan Wangji says tightly, making a shooing motion with his hand.
Xichen laughs, but he thankfully leaves and takes Uncle with him, closing the door to the Jingshi behind them. Lan Wangji can hear them talking outside and he’s very grateful he can’t make out what they’re saying. Sometimes ignorance is truly a bliss.
“I’m sorry I caused such a fuss,” Wei Wuxian says, looking unusually shamefaced. He takes the knife out of Lan Wangji's hands, but he seems to have given up on the fruit because he just puts it aside on the table. Lan Wangji checks his feet, just to be sure, but there’s no curse residue curling around them.
“It was my fault,” Lan Wangji says. “You are not to blame for my lack of control.”
“I should have told you I was getting up,” Wei Wuxian says stubbornly. “It was careless of me.”
“We can share the blame equally then,” Lan Wangji allows.
“You look a lot like your brother,” Wei Wuxian says. “Do you also have a sword?”
Lan Wangji blinks at the change of subject. “Yes.”
“Can I see it?”
“Hn.” Lan Wangji fetches Bichen from its stand by the wall and hands it to Wei Wuxian.
“Wow,” Wei Wuxian says, eyes widening.
After a quick look, as if to make sure it's okay, Wei Wuxian wraps his hand around the handle and pulls Bichen from the sheath. The blade glows faintly blue, which is embarrassing. Bichen should recognize no hand but its master’s.
“It’s beautiful,” Wei Wuxian says, turning the sword this way and that. “Does it always glow like this?”
Wei Wuxian slides Bichen back into the sheath with exaggerated care. “Thank you for showing me,” he says lowly. Lan Wangji looks at his feet again, just to be sure. Wei Wuxian wriggles his toes and when Lan Wangji looks up he’s smiling, painfully beautiful in the golden light of the Jingshi.
“Your mind is like a butterfly,” Lan Wangji tells him and then because he’s suddenly in a good mood, and, perhaps also looking to erase the image of shirtless Xichen from Wei Wuxian’s mind, he draws a butterfly into the palm of his hand and breathes life into it, sending it flying around Wei Wuxian’s head. It trails golden sparks behind its delicately crafted wings and Wei Wuxian laughs with joy, spinning around to follow its flight.
Lan Wangji takes Bichen back from him when he twirls past and returns it to its stand. Then he calls the butterfly to his hand and captures a laughing Wei Wuxian around the waist. He only means to stop his forward motion but ends up clutching him to his chest.
"Smooth." Wei Wuxian grins at him with his palms flat against Lan Wangji's pecs.
Lan Wangji is at loss for what to do next. He has one hand planted at the small of Wei Wuxian back while the other hangs useless at his side. Wei Wuxian's back is very warm.
"I wish you could see your face right now." Wei Wuxian laughs and pulls away. "Come on, let's go back to bed."
Lan Wangji ignores the first comment but obediently follows Wei Wuxian back to bed. It's easier this time because Wei Wuxian doesn't stay on his side. He curls up close and plops his head down on Lan Wangji's shoulder.
"You better hold on to me," he says.
Lan Wangji's palms are getting very familiar with the peaks and valleys of Wei Wuxian's back. Wei Wuxian's arm is a welcome weight across his midriff. Wei Wuxian won't get up without him noticing now.
"We forgot the lights," Wei Wuxian sighs.
Lan Wangji turns them off with a wave of his hand.
"Show off," Wei Wuxian chuckles, but his hand tightens around Lan Wangji's waist.
For the second morning in a row, Lan Wangji wakes up with his arms full of Wei Wuxian and idly thinks that any other way of waking up will seem very pale and lifeless in comparison. If he had let himself think about it, he wouldn't have imagined that he'd be much of a cuddler if given the chance, but he would have been wrong. He never wants to be out from under Wei Wuxian's sleep-heavy limbs.
He starts the process of detangling himself regardless, easing out from under Wei Wuxian's warm weight in increments. Wei Wuxian, of course, grabs and clings, making sleepy noises of protest at the back of his throat and it's so adorable Lan Wangji doesn’t even know how to deal with it. Nothing in his previous life has prepared him for being in this type of situation.
In the end he has to sacrifice his pajama shirt to Wei Wuxian's determined grip and he feels both exposed and foolish as he staggers to his feet at the side of the bed, shirtless, and, once again, so very obviously hard.
"Lan Zhan," Wei Wuxian murmurs sleepily and Lan Wangji freezes with his back turned to the bed. What if Wei Wuxian saw? What does he say then?
He chances a glance over his shoulder, but Wei Wuxian is not looking at him, he has curled up on his side with Lan Wangji's shirt pressed to his face. Lan Wangji looks for a moment longer, but Wei Wuxian seems to have settled into peaceful sleep so he crosses the floor to the bathroom and locks himself inside.
He takes a deep breath and then another one, heart pounding. He’s achingly hard, the near miss that wasn’t actually near making his cock throb. He looks up and catches sight of himself in the mirror. With his shoulders against the door and his hips tilted forward he looks obscene, shameless, cheeks flushed and cock tenting the front of his pajama pants.
He reaches down and cups himself, and he doesn’t want to look, but he can’t stop. Sometimes he fantasizes about being found out, about Wei Wuxian finding him out. He imagines Wei Wuxian would tease him because he teases about everything, but at the same time he’d reach over and touch, exploring the obvious ridge of Lan Wangji's cock with his nimble fingers.
He’d lean in close, breath hot against Lan Wangji's ear, and Lan Wangji wouldn’t be able to do anything. They’re always somewhere semi-public when Lan Wangji thinks about this, somewhere they could be found out, and Lan Wangji can’t as much as make a single noise while Wei Wuxian works his hand in his lap until Lan Wangji's so close to coming his pants are stained dark with precome.
Only then would Wei Wuxian let up and maybe laugh at him, but not meanly. Then Wei Wuxian would take him somewhere private and ask Lan Wangji to suck him and he would, eagerly, still hard and throbbing in his pants, and he wouldn’t stop until Wei Wuxian came on his tongue.
He looks up and meets his own gaze in the mirror, pushing his pajamas down enough to get a proper grip on his cock. It’s decent sized, he thinks, and it curves nicely upwards. It’s such a shameless thought the flush on his cheeks travels down to his chest, but he can’t stop looking.
His mouth falls open to let out his hard breaths and his hips jerk forward minutely to meet his shamelessly working hand. He rubs his thumb over the slick head and swallows a helpless noise.
He doesn’t have time to tease himself, not properly, so he works himself to the brink of orgasm and then lets go, watching the way his neglected cock twitches and his stomach clenches, almost, almost there.
He kicks of his pants and steps into the shower, cleaning himself and his hair without touching his blood thick cock until he’s otherwise ready. Only then does he wrap his fingers around the head, bringing himself off with a few rapid strokes, swallowing his groan of completion.
He washes the come off and then steps out of the shower. He’s still flushed and embarrassment lingers at the back of his mind.
He towels off quickly and puts on a clean pair of boxer briefs and a white t-shirt, happy now for his habit of keeping clean underwear in the bathroom. He checks on Wei Wuxian, but he’s still sleeping so he takes the time to blow dry his hair and shave before walking to the wardrobe. He’s still embarrassed and somehow his cock still feels swollen and obvious. He’s sure that if Wei Wuxian looks at him now he will somehow be able to tell what he’s been up to.
Thankfully, he’s already pulled his jeans up his legs when Wei Wuxian stirs and says,
“Lan Zhan, why do I have your shirt?”
Lan Wangji schools his face into what he hopes is his normal cool composure before he turns around.
“You refused to let go of it,” he says.
Wei Wuxian has turned over on his back and the shirt in question is draped over his chest while the covers are twisted up around his waist.
“Sorry,” he says, holding the shirt out. “I guess I can’t keep from bothering you even in sleep.”
“You don’t bother me.” Lan Wangji takes the shirt from Wei Wuxian's hand and hangs it over the back of a chair.
Wei Wuxian smiles but it doesn’t reach his eyes. “You don’t have to be nice to me just because of the curse. I mean, I guess you do, a little bit, but not like all the time. You can tell me to fuck off when I annoy you.”
“Hn,” Lan Wangji says, mostly because he can’t figure out how to address all that’s wrong with that statement without digging a hole for himself. Then he adds, “You don’t annoy me.”
Wei Wuxian stares at him for a moment and Lan Wangji wonders if he’s aware what kind of picture he paints with his hair spread across the pillows and the covers tangled around his waist. Lan Wangji has never seen anything more beautiful. Just looking at Wei Wuxian makes his stomach feel funny.
“It’s okay. I know you don’t like me very much,” Wei Wuxian says and gives Lan Wangji another sad smile.
Lan Wangji stares incredulously at him for a moment and then he says: “Fuck off.”
Wei Wuxian burst out laughing. “Does that mean you like me?” he asks brightly, now smiling with his entire face.
“Mn,” Lan Wangji replies, but he thinks he’s smiling too.
At breakfast, Wei Wuxian talks to Xichen and Uncle while Lan Wangji eats his congee mostly in silence and avoids meeting Xichen’s eyes. Uncle tells them the other clan leaders will arrive before lunch and that they would like to attempt a proper reading of the curse after it.
“I’m afraid we’d have to provoke you into having negative thoughts,” Uncle says. “And I believe it would be safest for you if you’d agree to be restrained.”
“Okay,” Wei Wuxian says amiably. “Lan Zhan will be there right?”
Uncle gives Lan Wangji a look he can’t read. “I believe it would be for the best if Wangji waited outside. We’ll call for him when it’s time to bring you back.”
Lan Wangji opens his mouth to protest but Uncle ignores him.
“I believe,” he continues. “That it would be very hard for my nephew to stand by and watch you suffer.”
Lan Wangji's ears burn and he stares down into his empty bowl.
“Ah, Lan Zhan, your ears are red,” Wei Wuxian says, knocking their shoulders together.
Xichen laughs and somehow the ground still doesn’t open.
After breakfast they visit the rabbits again and Lan Wangji can’t help but to feel Wei Wuxian fits in his quiet clearing. He’s loud and bright with movement, but he doesn’t take from the tranquility of the place. He brings a sorely needed touch of life to it, as golden and vital as the sun striping the ground. Lan Wangji considers himself blessed to bask in his presence.
“You were pretty lonely, weren’t you, as a child?” Wei Wuxian asks as they make their way back towards the Jingshi.
Lan Wangji considers his answer carefully. “I had brother,” he says. “And I thought that was enough.”
“I was pretty lonely too,” Wei Wuxian admits. “Before Jiang Fengmian took me in. That’s why I can’t be too mad at him. He’s been good to me.”
“You are allowed to be angry,” Lan Wangji says, because he’s plenty angry on Wei Wuxian’s behalf.
Wei Wuxian gives him a wry smile. “Maybe not right now, though,” he says.
Lan Wangji nods in agreement. The fewer times he has to save Wei Wuxian from himself the better.
“Can all curses be broken?” Wei Wuxian asks as they step up onto the porch outside the Jingshi.
“Yes,” Lan Wangji says. “No one has ever constructed an unbreakable curse, though many have tried.”
“And your sect is good at this stuff, right? That’s what your uncle said.”
Wei Wuxian nods, but it seems to be mostly to himself, as if he’s squaring himself for something unpleasant. He opens his mouth, but whatever he’s about to say dies out when there’s a commotion further down the slope. The clan leaders have arrived and with them—
“Shijie, Jiang Cheng, Nie-Xiong,” Wei Wuxian shouts and then he’s off running. He seems to remember himself halfway down, slowing to a somewhat more sedate pace but he still reaches the entrance and his friends well ahead of Lan Wangji, who follows him only reluctantly.
He stands to the side while Wei Wuxian greets everyone, swallowing down something suspiciously like disappointment. He wants Wei Wuxian to be happy and surrounded by friends, he tells himself sternly. Wei Wuxian’s happiness is essential. Now more so than ever.
Jiang Yanli, Wei Wuxian's senior sister, comes over to stand beside him. Lan Wangji always liked her— she’s cool, calm and competent, a pride to her clan—but when she thanks him for taking such good care of Wei Wuxian, he feels flustered and uncomfortable, as if she can see right through him to where his heart has synced itself to Wei Wuxian's smile.
“You are a good friend,” she says. There is so much warmth in her. She may not be Wei Wuxian’s sister by blood, but they are so much alike.
“I try,” Lan Wangji says truthfully. He’s fairly certain he’s a terrible friend. He’s never been good at the social niceties that come so naturally to other people. Wei Wuxian doesn’t even think Lan Wangji likes him when in truth Lan Wangji likes him so much he doesn’t know what to do with himself.
“You do so much more than that,” Jiang Yanli says, resting her delicate hand against Lan Wangji's wrist for a moment.
Lan Wangji’s ears heat up but he inclines his head slightly to acknowledge her.
While the younger guests are shown to their rooms to settle in, Uncle takes the clan leaders with Lan Wangji and Wei Wuxian trailing behind them to a private room behind the Orchid Room where he explains what they have found out so far.
They task Wei Wuxian with writing down everything he can remember about the day he was first cursed and then a detailed report on each incident since then. Lan Wangji is told to do the same for each incident he’s been present for and then they are dismissed for the time being.
“Homework,” Wei Wuxian groans, settling down behind one of the desks in the Orchid Room. “My life’s at stake and they want me to do homework.”
“Hn,” Lan Wangji agrees but he picks up his brush regardless. He suspects that the clan leaders’ main concern is not the curse, but the whereabouts of the Yin Tiger Seal.
“Hey, do you think that weird guy I talked to at Yiling put the curse on me? He was asking all kinds of questions, but kind of like he already knew the answers.” Wei Wuxian taps the end of his brush against the paper thoughtfully. “Maybe he was making sure I was who he thought I was.”
“If he was weird why did you talk to him?” Lan Wangji asks, which he knows is perhaps not the part of the statement he should be reacting to.
“Well.” Wei Wuxian grins. “He was really hot. Super intense but hot.”
“Oh.” Lan Wangji tries very hard to not feel anything.
“I mean, weird and hot is kind of my thing, in case you haven’t noticed.” He has the audacity to wink.
“Shameless,” Lan Wangji says stiffly, ears burning, but he can feel his heart opening up like a flower unfurling towards the sun.
“You already knew that,” Wei Wuxian says, unbothered.
By the time Xichen comes to fetch Wei Wuxian, they have both managed to write down their reports, Lan Wangji's being longer by far, despite him being present for fewer episodes, and have eaten a simple lunch. Xichen takes the reports without comment and instructs Lan Wangji to wait by the door, telling him they’ll call for him when it’s time. He tries to send Lan Wangji a message with his expression, but Lan Wangji can’t tell what it might be, too consumed nerves. He’s always been terrible at reading facial expressions anyway.
“You’ll wait, right,” Wei Wuxian says as if he hadn’t listened to anything Xichen had just said. He grabs hold of the sleeve of Lan Wangji's jacket. "You'll be here."
"I'll be here," Lan Wangji confirms. Wild horses couldn't drag him away.
Wei Wuxian doesn't let go of his jacket. "Promise," he says.
Only then does Wei Wuxian let go, visibly squaring his shoulders. "I'm ready," he says.
Xichen gives Lan Wangji another one of those looks but Lan Wangji ignores it. If Xichen wants to tell him something, he can use his words.
It takes hours. Lan Wangji should have expected it; it’s hard to get a good read on an entirely unfamiliar curse and Uncle and Xichen are both very thorough. It doesn't make it any easier to bear. He can't hear the words that are being said, but he can hear Wei Wuxian's occasional shout or growl as he's caught in the destructive spiral of the curse. Several times he reaches for the door, but he knows that if he interrupts now, they will just have to do it again at a later date and Wei Wuxian certainly wouldn’t thank him for that.
Then finally the door opens and Xichen motions him inside. Wei Wuxian is laid out on a table with padded leather cuffs securing his wrist and ankles, while other leather straps keeps his head, chest, waist and knees pinned to the table. He's twisting back and forth with black smoke rising from his skin like mist from a puddle on a hot day, clearly lost in the throes of the curse.
Uncle stands at the head of the table, feeding Wei Wuxian a thin line of spiritual energy, both, Lan Wangji knows, to read the curse and to keep Wei Wuxian's core, such as it might be, steady. Qi deviation is always a worry with strong curses.
Jiang Fengmian stands to the side, looking pale and unhappy, with Nie Mingjue at his shoulder. They're as casually dressed as Lan Wangji has ever seen them. Nie Mingjue is wearing ripped jeans and a haphazardly tucked in t-shirt. Clearly, they rushed here without thought of propriety.
"Wangji," Uncle says, sounding strained. "Bring him out of it."
Lan Wangji approaches the table on weak knees. Wei Wuxian twists his head back and forth, trying, Lan Wangji thinks, to bite his own shoulder. Perhaps Jiang Yanli would have been better suited for this task, or even Jiang Wanyin. Wei Wuxian is infinitely special to Lan Wangji, but he is not at all certain the same thing is true in reverse. What if he can’t reach him?
"Wei Ying," he says softly, incredibly aware of the four pairs of eyes following his every move. "Wei Ying, come back."
Wei Wuxian's cheeks are flushed and there are red marks on his forehead from where he's strained against the strap holding his head down. He doesn’t react.
"Wei Ying," he says again, reaching out to cup Wei Wuxian's flushed cheeks between his cold, clammy hands. He imagines it might feel good. "Wei Ying, calm down." He runs his thumbs along the sharp cut of Wei Wuxian's cheekbones. "Please, come back to me."
Wei Wuxian stops struggling and after a moment he blinks his eyes open, focusing on Lan Wangji's face.
"Lan Zhan?" His eyes fly around the room quickly, taking in the people standing around them, before landing back on Lan Wangji's face. "He said…" Wei Wuxian blinks again, as if struggling to clear his head. "You're here?"
"Always," Lan Wangji promises, fully aware that both Uncle and Xichen know he'd never make a promise he doesn't intend to keep.
Wei Wuxian's lips pull into a weak smile, barely a shade of his usual brilliance. "Good," he says, turning his face into one of Lan Wangji's palms. "That's good."
Lan Wangji's ribcage is too small to contain the sudden growth of his heart. He feels as if he's been cracked open and all of his emotions are pouring onto the table, in full view of everyone. His hands are shaking and his eyes feel wet, and he has no idea what this means, if it even means anything. Wei Wuxian is naturally affectionate; he'd probably nuzzle anyone's palm.
Across the table Xichen starts removing the ties. As soon as his head is free, Wei Wuxian puts his face fully into the cup of Lan Wangji's hand, his breath fanning wet and hot over Lan Wangji's wrist. Wei Wuxian's face is small and pointy and Lan Wangji's hand is very large, and it's an almost perfect match. Lan Wangji uses his other hand to stroke the sweat-damp tangle of Wei Wuxian’s hair away from his forehead.
Wei Wuxian's left hand and chest are freed next and Wei Wuxian brings the hand up to curl around Lan Wangji's wrist, keeping his hand firmly in place against his face. Xichen makes quick work of the rest of the straps until the only limb still pinned is Wei Wuxian's right hand, hidden by Lan Wangji's body. It's not until he looks down that he realizes Wei Wuxian has gotten hold of the edge of his t-shirt and is holding onto it with a white-knuckled grip.
"Let's leave them for a moment," Uncle says. "We have much to discuss."
There's a murmur of ascent and then the clan leaders troop out behind Uncle, leaving Lan Wangji alone with Wei Wuxian.
"Wei Ying," he says softly. "Let me free your hand."
Wei Wuxian makes a wordless noise of protest, but he still lets Lan Wangji pull the t-shirt from his fingers and undo the cuff. Despite the padding, his wrist is an angry red underneath. Lan Wangji thinks it might bruise.
"I like it when you say my name," Wei Wuxian says, finally looking up from behind Lan Wangji's hand. "You should do it more often."
"Wei Ying," Lan Wangji says obediently and Wei Wuxian answering smile makes his heart surge.
"Like that," Wei Wuxian says and clumsily pushes himself up to sit. "You should say it like that every day."
Lan Wangji feels bereft now that his hands are no longer full of Wei Wuxian and he flexes his fingers at his sides.
"I will use it from now on," he promises.
"And I can use yours?"
"You always do," Lan Wangji points out. Wei Wuxian has been using it since their second day of mutual classes.
"Yeah, but you protest." Wei Wuxian looks very put upon. You might even call it a pout.
Lan Wangji's ears feel hot. "You never asked," he says stiffly. He always had a vision where Wei Wuxian asked and he said yes and it was a whole thing. It’s embarrassing because he knows it doesn't matter to Wei Wuxian like it does to him. Wei Wuxian is friends with everyone and he isn't a square peg trying to fit into a round hole like Lan Wangji.
"Lan Wangji," Wei Wuxian says, reaching out to grab the sleeve of Lan Wangji's jacket. "May I call you by your given name?
Lan Wangji swallows. Wei Wuxian's eyes are big and earnest; his request doesn't sound like mockery.
"Yes," he says.
Wei Wuxian grins, bright like the sun. "Lan Zhan," he says. He might have said something more, but Xichen appears in the doorway and interrupts them.
"Young Master Wei, do you feel better?" he asks.
"Much better," Wei Wuxian says.
"Would it be okay for me to borrow Wangji? I could use his expertise regarding the curse."
"Of course," Wei Wuxian says, but the hand that is still holding onto Lan Wangji's sleeve doesn't relinquish its grip.
"Excellent. Lan Youran will show you to your siblings."
Lan Wangji inclines his head in a slight bow to Lan Youran, who shows up behind Xichen. Lan Youran respectfully bows back.
"I will see you later," Lan Wangji promises, touching his fingers to the back of Wei Wuxian's hand for a moment.
Wei Wuxian seems to realize he's still holding Lan Wangji's sleeve and hurriedly lets go. "Okay," he says, looking up at Lan Wangji for moment like he wants to say more, but then he visibly squares his shoulders and slides off the table. "Lead the way, Lan Youran."
Lan Wangji watches him leave and doesn't even care that his face is probably embarrassingly obvious.
"He'll be fine with his siblings," Xichen says.
"I know," Lan Wangji says, turning to face his brother fully.
"But they're not you," Xichen says knowingly.
Lan Wangji inclines his head in agreement.
The curse is, as they'd already ascertained, incredibly complex. It doesn't look like any other curse Lan Wangji has ever come across.
"As soon as he was back to himself, I could barely feel a trace of it," Uncle says. "And there's no curse mark on him."
"What does that mean?" Jiang Fengmian asks.
"That it'll be very hard to break without a much better understanding on how it's triggered," Xichen answers. "It clearly reacts to negative emotions, but not all negative emotions."
Lan Wangji has seen Wei Wuxian be sad, angry, and embarrassed without the curse being triggered. In his limited experience it seems that the true trigger is negative emotions that turn inwards, the kind that makes Wei Wuxian feel bad about himself.
"I think it targets his confidence," he says lowly. "The episodes I know of have evoked in him a sense of worthlessness or rejection, which in turn has triggered the curse."
They all look at him for a moment and then turn to discuss this theory with each other in low murmurs. Lan Wangji might be the greatest cultivator of his generation, but to most of the clan-leaders he's still a child. It irks him that Nie Mingjue's and Jiang Fengmian's opinions are more valued than his, especially since neither of them has an affinity for curse breaking, but it’s just how sect politics work.
He's lucky Jin Guangshan isn't involved because then no one would get a say. At least Uncle and Xichen can be relied upon to respect his expertise and he doesn't think Jiang Fengmian or Nie Mingjue actively dislike him.
It's already dark outside when they adjourn for the night. In the morning they will start the painstaking task of going through the scriptures where Lan cultivators have recorded every curse they've encountered and how it was broken since ancient time. The earliest records have been digitalized in recent years, but it's an ongoing process made slow by the frailty of some of the early manuscripts and the fact that the full scripture is only available to the highest-ranked cultivators of the Lan-clan, significantly limiting the number of people who can work on the project.
"Our guests are in the Lily Pavilion," Xichen says as they part ways outside the Orchid Room, as if it isn't obvious that the Lily Pavilion is the only building fully lit up this long after sun down. The sect no longer abides by the strict curfew rules of old, but life at Cloud Recesses for the most part follows the ancient rhythm of rising with dawn and turning in with the fall of darkness.
"Thank you, brother," Lan Wangji says.
"You should go see your friends."
Xichen smiles and, once again, Lan Wangji wishes he was better at reading facial expressions.
"Good night, brother," Xichen says.
Lan Wangji fully intends to join the others in the Lily Pavilion – he thinks that if he ever gets lucky enough to be more to Wei Wuxian than just a friend it's the sort of thing that would be expected of him – dinners, parties, evenings with friends and family – but he finds himself frozen on the porch outside. There is music coming from inside, pop music he couldn't name if he tried, happy laughter, and the murmur of riotous conversation, the kind he could never keep up with. He doesn't want to open the door and be the reason it all dies down.
He stays for a moment longer, listening to Wei Wuxian's laugh and Jiang Wanyin's indignant sputter, before he continues past the door and up the next walkway towards the Jingshi. Wei Wuxian is happy; that is all that matters.
It is late when the door to the Jingshi opens and closes. Lan Wangji has already been in bed for an hour, maybe more, utterly failing to fall asleep. Wei Wuxian tries to be silent, Lan Wangji can tell, but the room is unfamiliar to him and he stumbles over something, possibly a chair, and swears lowly under his breath.
"Wei Ying," Lan Wangji says.
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry. Stubbed my toe."
"Your pajamas are at the foot of the bed."
"Oh, excellent. Excellent."
Wei Wuxian bumps into the bed and fumbles around until he finds the pajamas. Lan Wangji wants to ask if he's drunk, but he thinks that might be rude.
"Emperor's Smile is the best wine I ever had," Wei Wuxian says, solving that dilemma. "It's really strong though. I usually don't really get drunk. Hey, sister thinks it's because I burn off the excess alcohol with my golden core when I think I'm getting too drunk. Do you think that's true? Like, can you have a core and not even know? Jiang Uncle thinks I have one because mother taught me qi meditation when I was little and I've been doing it all my life, but I don't know; maybe he was just humoring me. Oh, could you tell?"
"Could you tell if I have a golden core. Like sense it?"
Wei Wuxian abandons his attempts to get changed and crawls onto the bed dressed in Lan Wangji's pajama shirt, boxer briefs and socks. Lan Wangji doesn't know where to look. He has been staring at the ceiling for so long his eyes has become accustomed to the dark and he can see Wei Wuxian much better than he thinks Wei Wuxian can see him. There's way too much thigh on display.
Wei Wuxian flops over on his back next to Lan Wangji, close enough that their shoulders are touching.
"I would have to put my hand over your lower dantian," Lan Wangji says, wondering if he sounds as awkward as he feels. His cheeks are burning.
"It's late," Lan Wangji tries.
"Oh, will it take long?"
Lan Wangji is sweating. He's not equipped to deal with this. "No," he admits.
"We can wait until tomorrow if you want," Wei Wuxian says but he sounds disappointed and Lan Wangji knows that if he can't touch Wei Wuxian’s lower dantian in the dark, he certainly won't be able to do it in broad daylight.
Lan Wangji awkwardly rolls over on his side and props himself up on an elbow. It's too dark for him to make out the finely crafted features of Wei Wuxian's face, but he can see the long elegant lines of his body just fine. He reaches out and hopes Wei Wuxian can't see the way his hand is shaking.
He puts his hand down on Wei Wuxian's stomach, just below the ribs. At the last instant he had lost his nerve and thought for sure he would accidentally grab Wei Wuxian dick if he put it lower. This, of course, means that he has to slide his hand down to actually cover Wei Wuxian lower dantian. It's only a few inches, but it might as well be miles with how flushed and awkward Lan Wangji feels.
"I'm just going to, uh, move my hand," he says. "It needs to be lower."
"Right," Wei Wuxian squeaks, stomach tensing under Lan Wangji's hand.
Lan Wangji has large hands. It's not something he thinks about very often but right now it feels as if he's trying to maneuver a rice pot lid across Wei Wuxian stomach. He finds Wei Wuxian's navel with his fingers and carefully counts out three fingers widths, letting his hand come to a rest, finally in position. He can feel the crinkle of Wei Wuxian's pubes through the boxer briefs against the edge of his palm and he's blushing all the way down to his chest. This was a terrible idea.
He tries to gather his scattered mind enough to channel spiritual energy, but before he gets the chance Wei Wuxian pushes his hand away and rolls over on his side with his back to Lan Wangji.
"Changed my mind," he says, sounding breathless. "Let's do this never. Who even cares, right?"
Lan Wangji swallows and presses his still trembling hand against the sheets. Did he overstep?
"I'm sorry," he says.
Wei Wuxian lets out a startlingly loud laugh that doesn’t sound happy at all. "Oh, believe me, it's not you, and hey, fuck everything, you still have to hold me."
Lan Wangji stares at Wei Wuxian's back, white as a glacier and about as inviting. He scoots a little closer and very tentatively puts his hand on Wei Wuxian's ribs, his hand still shaking minutely and his palm clammy. It's an awkward angle and he knows his hand won’t stay if he falls asleep. Wei Wuxian seems to realize it too, wriggling back until his back connects with Lan Wangji's chest.
"Like this," he says, pulling Lan Wangji's hand down to rest against his chest. "And your other arm goes under my neck—yeah, like that."
It's different. Lan Wangji always sleeps on his back, always, but this is—it's perfect. Wei Wuxian is warm and safe, cradled in his arms, and he hates himself a bit for liking it so much when it's not Wei Wuxian's choice, when he'd probably rather be just about anywhere else.
Wei Wuxian sighs, covering the hand Lan Wangji has on his chest with his own, running his fingers over Lan Wangji's knuckles. "Why do you have to be so perfect?" he mumbles, low enough that Lan Wangji is not sure he heard him correctly, but it makes him feel slightly more relaxed about the situation. At least Wei Wuxian doesn't seem to actively hate their forced closeness.
Lan Wangji wakes up to a face full of Wei Wuxian's hair and an elbow to the ribs. The first pale light of dawn seeps in through the windows, much like curse smoke seeps from Wei Wuxian's skin.
"Wei Ying," he says, capturing Wei Wuxian's wrists and holding them firmly to his chest to stop his trashing. "Wei Ying, wake up."
Wei Wuxian bites down on the inside of the arm Lan Wangji has under his head, hard enough to bruise.
Wei Wuxian wakes up with a startled gasp, Lan Wangji can feel his heart thundering where he's keeping his wrists clasped to his chest.
"Lan Zhan?" Wei Wuxian croaks.
The curse smoke slowly dissipates and Lan Wangji relaxes his hold on Wei Wuxian's wrist. Wei Wuxian uses this relative freedom to break free of Lan Wangji's hold all together and twist around clumsily within the circle of his arms. It's almost unbearably intimate.
"I dreamt—" He cuts himself off and frowns. "Did I bite you?"
Wei Wuxian scoots back to look at Lan Wangji's inner arm, where the marks of his teeth are still clearly visible. "Lan Zhan," he whispers. "I'm so sorry."
He rubs his fingers over the mark, perhaps wiping away imaginary moisture.
"It's fine," Lan Wangji says. The thought of having Wei Wuxian's mark on him makes him feel squirmy inside.
"I always thought that if I bit you it'd be in a much more—pleasant context." Wei Wuxian looks up, eyes glittering with mischief.
"Wei Ying," Lan Wangji chides, scandalized.
"Aww, Lan Zhan, are you blushing?"
Wei Wuxian's clever fingers abandon the bite mark in favor of cupping one of Lan Wangji's burning cheeks. It doesn't exactly help.
"Surely you too think of naughty things sometimes. I don't believe you are entirely made of ice."
Lan Wangji wants to laugh at the gall of that statement. Ice? When he's entirely made up of conflicting emotions, embarrassment and arousal.
"I do," he admits, not quite meeting Wei Wuxian's glittering eyes.
"Oh no, why did I ask?" Wei Wuxian dramatically flings himself over onto his back and covers his face with his hands. "Lan Zhan, you are too much for me." He peeks out between his fingers, and even though his hands are still covering most of his face, Lan Wangji can tell he's beaming.
"Go back to sleep," Lan Wangji tells him. He wonders if he sounds as fond as he feels.
"How could I sleep when you're not holding me?"
Lan Wangji sighs, scooting closer and draping his arm over Wei Wuxian's chest. "Better?"
He's thrumming with a curious mix of nerves and excitement. He feels light. Happy.
"Much better, almost perfect."
Wei Wuxian squirms around and pulls on Lan Wangji's arms until Lan Wangji is the one resting with his head on Wei Wuxian's shoulder in a reverse of their usual sleeping arrangement. It feels so perfect Lan Wangji's first instinct is to pull away.
"Relax," Wei Wuxian chides. "You're all made of angles when you tense up like that."
Lan Wangji wants to admit it feels too good and he also wants to bury his face in Wei Wuxian's chest and hide from the world all together. He does neither of those things, of course, but he really wants to.
Wei Wuxian, who is completely without shame and has no clue how he rearranges Lan Wangji's insides with his very presence, slides a hand into Lan Wangji's hair.
"Go to sleep, Lan Zhan."
Lan Wangji doesn't. He lies awake, awkward, hard and happy, enjoying the way his head moves minutely with Wei Wuxian's even breaths and the warm hand cradling his scalp. It's an illicit pleasure, but an acceptable one. Wei Wuxian did invite him to lie like this after all.
The next day is spent doing copious amounts of research to little or no gain. Lan disciples have been curse breakers for thousands of years, yet no one seems to have encountered anything like the curse currently affecting Wei Wuxian. It shares traits with many different types of curses, but all attempts made at breaking it just trigger another episode.
Thankfully, it is getting easier to break Wei Wuxian out of them. Lan Wangji just has to grab onto him and call his name for Wei Wuxian to return and treat Lan Wangji to one of his lovely smiles.
"It's curious," Nie Mingjue points out. "The way you can get through to him."
"It is, isn't it?" Xichen adds.
They both tilt their heads to the side and stare at Lan Wangji in a way he's sure is supposed to mean something, possibly that they're constipated.
"It's because Lan Zhan is my hero," Wei Wuxian says, barreling into Lan Wangji from behind and wrapping his arms around Lan Wangji's waist. "Look at him, so regal. He'd be anyone's knight."
"Ridiculous," Lan Wangji says. Xichen looks like he's barely concealing a laugh, the corners of his mouth struggling to not lift.
"Oh no, I got your forehead thing all crooked." Wei Wuxian, who doesn't only think like a butterfly but moves like one too, is now somehow in front of Lan Wangji with his hands hovering about Lan Wangji's forehead. Lan Wangji just can't keep up with him. He feels, most of the time, as if he's been caught in a benevolent tornado.
Lan Wangji stiffens his back and pointedly doesn't look at anyone before he says, "You may straighten it."
Wei Wuxian's fingers are quick and nimble and Lan Wangji wants to tuck the smile he makes when he gets it just right into his chest and keep it forever.
"There," Wei Wuxian says, smoothing his thumbs along the ribbon to make sure it stays put. "Now it's straight."
"Nothing about this is straight," Nie Mingjue wheezes, and then both he and Xichen break down into cackling laughter.
"Is your brother okay?" Wei Wuxian asks. He sounds genuinely concerned.
It is indeed unusual to see Xichen anything less than perfectly composed.
"I think the strain is getting to them," Lan Wangji responds, but he can feel his ears burning. He's not so oblivious he doesn't realize they're having a laugh at his expense. To anyone who knows him well his crush is visible from the moon. It is his narrow salvation that for someone so clever and bright Wei Wuxian can also be quite dense.
"I think it's getting to all of us." Wei Wuxian stretches his arms above his head and arches his back. Lan Wangji pointedly does not look at the way his t-shirt rides up. "Are you sure all curses can be broken?"
It is not a lie. It's just that the means of breaking them can be very diverse. Some are broken with talismans, others with potions, some with spells; a select few only die with the curse maker, and then there's the true love curse that can only be broken by true love's kiss. It sounds romantic, but there's no guarantee you're even born on the same continent as your one true love and the roughly eight billion people in the world are lot of people to kiss, especially if you happen to be comatose, the most common side-effect of the curse.
Thankfully, the recipe for a perfectly executed true love curse has been lost to the tides of time and at most, would-be curse makers manage to make the intended curse receivers ill-tempered and prone to naps.
"Okay." Wei Wuxian sighs wearily and leans against Lan Wangji's shoulder. "I trust you."
They retire to the Jingshi that evening after dinner with the Jiang siblings and Nie Huaisang, no closer to a solution then they were when they got up. Wei Wuxian put up a good show at dinner, but Lan Wangji can tell he's getting tired of the whole curse business. The episodes, however short, take a lot out of him.
They get ready for bed in silence, taking turns in the bathroom and changing into their pajamas. It's strange how getting into bed with Wei Wuxian already feels normal, as if it's been happening for a lot longer than three days.
"Lan Zhan, your arm." Wei Wuxian exclaims suddenly, grabbing hold of Lan Wangji's left arm. "Oh no."
Lan Wangji looks down. On the inside of his left bicep there's a clearly visible bruise left by Wei Wuxian's mouth. He almost wishes he hadn't seen it because it makes him feel like he needs to lock himself in the bathroom for a while.
"I'm sorry," Wei Wuxian says, rubbing his thumb over the bruise as if that will erase it. Lan Wangji shivers and it takes every ounce of his self-control to not make a noise. People don't touch him like this, so freely, so intimately. Wei Wuxian might as well have reached into his pants.
"Okay." Wei Wuxian drops Lan Wangji's arm and holds out his own. "You need to bite me back."
"You need to bite me back," Wei Wuxian repeats, as if his words in any way made sense the first time. "Right here." He points to the inside of his bicep.
Lan Wangji wants to, is the thing. It's possible he's never wanted anything more, which is exactly why he shouldn't have it.
"I can't bite you. It—it wouldn't be proper."
"Pfft. Who cares? I demand it."
The inside of Wei Wuxian's arm is pale from lack of sunlight and his skin looks like the finest silk. Lan Wangji might spontaneously combust if he puts his mouth to it.
"Come on." Wei Wuxian tugs on a strand of Lan Wangji's hair, which certainly doesn't help. "Bite me."
Lan Wangji does. He's caught in the tornado again and helpless to resist. Wei Wuxian's skin is every bit as soft as he imagined and then it's against his tongue and his brain just short circuits. When he pulls back his mouth has left a deep red mark on Wei Wuxian's arm, more a hickey than a bite. He can't look away.
"I have such terrible ideas," Wei Wuxian chokes out. "Wow."
"Did I hurt you?" Lan Wangji asks worriedly, looking up from his handiwork. Wei Wuxian's face is bright red. Lan Wangji's not sure he's ever seen him blush before.
"No, no. not at all. That was. Good. I mean fair. Yes. Let's sleep, yeah. Sleep is great. Like last night, yeah? That was good. I promise not to bite you again. Ha ha."
He sounds slightly hysterical, but considering Lan Wangji feels pretty hysterical himself he doesn't call him on it. Instead he waits until Wei Wuxian has curled up with his back to him before he carefully arranges himself behind him, keeping his hips well away from Wei Wuxian's backside. Keeping his boxer briefs on under his pajama pants was clearly the best decision ever. It's not as comfortable but it's also not as obvious that he's really, really hard. He had his mouth on Wei Wuxian’s skin.
He has only just settled when Wei Wuxian squirms out of his arms. "Actually now that I'm lying down I really have to pee. Hate when then that happens. But you can go to sleep if you want! I promise to wriggle back into your embrace and there's, uh, no resentment here, you don't have to worry."
Wei Wuxian practically bolts for the bathroom, leaving Lan Wangji alone in bed.
Lan Wangji is getting used to waking up with his arms full of Wei Wuxian. They’ve shifted around during the night so that Wei Wuxian is sprawled across Lan Wangji’s chest with his hands tucked in under Lan Wangji’s ribs and it’s surprisingly comfortable. Lan Wangji pets Wei Wuxian’s hair absently and tries to muster the will to get up.
Lan Wangji sighs and starts the painstaking process of freeing himself from Wei Wuxian's clinging embrace, doing his best not to think about how it might one of the last times. If they have to do this long term, Wei Wuxian might choose to do it with someone else. He only turned to Lan Wangji because he was the only available option.
“Don’t go,” Wei Wuxian mumbles, fingers tangling into Lan Wangji's pajama shirt.
“It’s morning,” Lan Wangji responds, gently freeing his shirt from Wei Wuxian's grasp.
“You get up too early.”
“Or maybe you sleep too late.”
Wei Wuxian opens one of his eyes at that. “No.”
Lan Wangji can’t help it: he smiles. Wei Wuxian's other eye pops open and then he smiles too, or well, grins—beams—a facial expression Lan Wangji can’t deal with at all. Then Wei Wuxian ruins all Lan Wangji's hard work by crawling back onto his chest.
“You can’t go now,” he says. “You smiled.”
He digs his pointy chin into Lan Wangji's breastbone. His hair is a mess, sticking up in odd tufts, and Lan Wangji can’t stop himself from trying to put it into some semblance of order. Wei Wuxian grins at him.
“Lan Zhan,” he says. “Some girl will be so lucky to have you as her boyfriend. So caring. So gentle.”
“Ridiculous,” Lan Wangji says, running his fingers through an especially stubborn tangle. As if Lan Wangji has ever looked twice at a girl in his life or anyone besides Wei Wuxian.
Wei Wuxian's grin fades into something gentler and after a moment his eyes flutter shut. Lan Wangji takes his time, running his fingers through Wei Wuxian's hair until it falls around his face in gentle waves. His hair is shorter than Lan Wangji's, barely shoulder length, and when it hangs down like this the cropped sides are hidden, but Lan Wangji can still feel the short silky-soft hair on the sides of his head against his fingertips.
Lan Wangji wonders if maybe it’s time he cut his own hair. He’s worn it waist length, like his brother, since he was old enough to grow it out. Maybe he should try something different.
Wei Wuxian shifts around. He’s not very good at staying still.
“So what’s the deal with this anyway?” He’s holding the forehead ribbon, Lan Wangji realizes. He must have grabbed it from the nightstand. “You don’t wear it at school.”
“No,” Lan Wangji admits. His mouth feels dry. “It used to be that disciples of the Lan clan wore them at all times but now they’re only obligatory within Cloud Recesses. At school I only wear it in the morning, when I meditate.”
“But what does it mean?”
“It’s a reminder to conduct oneself well.” Lan Wangji needs many such reminders with the way Wei Wuxian is running his slender fingers along the ribbon.
“You said it was sacred,” Wei Wuxian reminds him.
“Mn. It may only be touched by close family—or significant others.”
“Oh.” Wei Wuxian drops the ribbon onto Lan Wangji's chest, clearly flustered, but after a moment he picks it up again as if he can't resist. “You let me touch it yesterday,” he points out, not quite meeting Lan Wangji's eyes.
“Mn,” Lan Wangji agrees. He wonders if Wei Wuxian can feel the way his heart flutters like a trapped bird in his chest.
Whatever Wei Wuxian is about to say is interrupted by a loud noise outside. It sounds as if someone directed a school orchestra to play a fanfare but gave each section a different score.
“What the—“ Wei Wuxian's elbow digs into Lan Wangji's ribs when he shifts to look toward the door. “What is that?”
“I don’t know.”
The noise continues and they both scramble to get out of bed and head for the door.
The noise, it turns out, is made by a single man, dressed in all black, standing in the open space before the Orchid Room and banging a drum.
“Wake up, wake up,” he sing songs, voice carrying the same way the unholy cacophony does. “I have an announcement to make.”
“It’s him,” Wei Wuxian says, tugging on Lan Wangji's shirt. “They guy from Yiling.”
Lan Wangji realizes that in attempt to stop each other from getting closer they’ve both reached out and grabbed each other’s shirts. Now they’re standing at the railing holding onto each other’s shirts with their arms crossed at the elbow. Lan Wangji considers letting go, then thinks better of it, Wei Wuxian is not to be trusted with his own health and safety. Wei Wuxian seems to feel the same way, which is preposterous, Lan Wangji thinks; he’s very careful.
“Nice pajamas,” the guy shouts up at them. He cackles inanely at his own joke and bangs the drum with renewed vigor.
By now people are peeking out from rooms all around Cloud Recesses. Uncle and Xichen has stepped out of the Orchid Room, flanked by Jiang Fengmian and Nie Mingjue. They’re not visibly armed but it doesn’t make them look any less deadly.
“What’s going on?” Jiang Wanyin shouts, looking up at Lan Wangji and Wei Wuxian from the porch outside the Lily Pavilion. Jiang Yanli stands beside him and Nie Huaisang cowers behind them. Unlike Lan Wangji and Wei Wuxian, they all took the time to get dressed. Wei Wuxian is not even wearing pants.
“No idea,” Wei Wuxian shouts back. He tugs on Lan Wangji's shirt. “Come.”
Lan Wangji stops him. “Clothes first,” he says.
Wei Wuxian looks as if he’s going to protest, but then he looks down at himself and seems to think better of it. “Okay,” he says.
Neither of them bother to change shirts, pulling on jeans and sticking their feet into their boots without lacing them.
“Bunny Bop,” Wei Wuxian says, bumping Lan Wangji's shoulder as they leave the Jingshi.
“It’s the name of our boyband.” He gestures at their rabbit pajama shirts.
He’s ridiculous, is the thing. Lan Wangji likes him so much.
They gather on the porch before the Orchid Room, standing in two uneven rows with Uncle and Xichen standing on the steps before them. The guy stops playing his drum and the sudden silence is nearly as oppressive as the music was. He’s twirling one of the drumsticks around and smiling at them in a very self-satisfied way.
“Xue Yang,” Uncle says sharply. “What is the meaning of all this?”
“I had to get your attention somehow.” The man, Xue Yang, shrugs and removes the drum from around his neck, dropping it on the ground with a great clatter. “Did you like my song? I wrote it myself.”
“Your uncle knows him?” Wei Wuxian hisses.
“Apparently,” Lan Wangji hisses back. It’s certainly news to him.
“I thought for sure you’d figured it out,” Xue Yang says, taking a few casual steps closer. “I mean, how many students have you had with—what was it you said?—an untoward interest in the whereabouts of the Yin Tiger Seal?”
“I had my suspicions,” Uncle says curtly. Lan Wangji notes that none of the clan leaders look surprised, not to see Xue Yang and not by Uncle’s admission. Sometimes he hates being the youngest.
Wei Wuxian grabs for his hand and Lan Wangji lets him take it, even going as far as twining their fingers together. He figures it will be a good way to stop Wei Wuxian from doing something stupid and, also, it’s nice.
“But I bet you haven’t figured out how I did it.” Xue Yang grins. “It’s really very clever.” He takes a deep breath, mostly, Lan Wangji suspects, to create suspense. “It’s a true love curse.”
“Nonsense,” Uncle spits. “No one’s crafted a true love curse since ancient times.”
Wei Wuxian tugs on Lan Wangji's hand. “What’s a true love curse?”
“A curse that can only be broken by true love’s kiss,” Lan Wangji murmurs back.
Wei Wuxian's eyes narrow. “Like Sleeping Beauty?”
“Actually,” Nie Huaisang hisses from behind them. ”Sleeping Beauty makes it look easy. Your true love could literally be anyone. The chances of you having been born even on the same continent as your true love are very slim. In fact, your true love might not even have been born yet.”
“Eww,” Wei Wuxian says, wrinkling his nose.
“Check my notes if you don’t believe me,” Xue Yang says, holding out a leather bound journal for Uncle to take. “It’s amazing the things you can find if you’re prone to wandering and have a—let’s say inquisitive—mind. I tweaked it, of course. If he’d just fallen asleep, it would have taken you ages to figure it out.”
Uncle and Xichen bend over the journal while Xue Yang wanders the length of their lineup from one end to the other.
“Wei Wuxian,” he says, when he reaches the end where Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji are standing. He looks down on their clasped hands. “You didn’t tell me you had a boyfriend. Out looking for trouble, eh?”
Lan Wangji tightens his hold on Wei Wuxian's hand, in case he gets ideas, but Wei Wuxian doesn’t move.
“Tell me, how disappointed are you that pretty boy here isn’t your true love? Terrible way to end a relationship, don’t you think?” He laughs.
“What do you want?” Wei Wuxian asks. “I’m no one. I know nothing. Why me?”
“Oh, child.” Xue Yang laughs again. “Why don’t you ask those fine gentlemen over there?” He twirls around and indicates Uncle and the clan leaders before he turns back. “There’s not a single recorded case of anyone ever having found their true love. Did you know that? Love is an illusion. The Yin Tiger Seal, however, is real.” He grins. It looks—unhinged.
"The Yin what now?" Wei Wuxian asks. He sells it very well; he could have majored in drama.
"They didn’t tell you?" Xue Yang's eyes go wide. "How delightful. You see—"
"That's enough," Uncle says sharply.
Xue Yang opens his mouth but no sound comes out. Lan Wangji thinks Uncle must have used the silencing spell on him.
"It was very kind of you to bring us your notes," Uncle continues, ignoring the way Xue Yang is clearly trying to shout at him. He makes a sharp gesture with his hands and a rope materializes, knotting itself tight around Xue Yang's wrists. "You will be held in custody here until your case can be heard by the Chief Cultivator."
"Well," Uncle says drily. "You did just admit to using an unforgivable curse for personal gain in front of three clan leaders. Even if I thought you were in the right, I'd have to take you into custody, and you are clearly not."
Uncle gestures at Lan Youran and Lan Siyi, who come over and grab Xue Yang by the upper arms and lead him away. Despite the silencing spell, Xue Yang's muted protests can be heard for a long time.
"Let's take a moment to compose ourselves," Uncle says, glancing pointedly at Lan Wangji and Wei Wuxian. Well, probably mostly at Lan Wangji. "And then we'll meet in the Silver Hall for breakfast."
"Yes, Uncle," Lan Wangji murmurs, inclining his head. He's suddenly acutely aware of his unbound hair, lack of forehead ribbon, pajama shirt, and the fact that he's still holding Wei Wuxian's hand. One of those things could be easily rectified, but he doesn't want to. He'll hold Wei Wuxian’s hand for as long as he's allowed no matter what Uncle might think of it.
"Real life should be more like the movies," Wei Wuxian says sullenly, hours later, when they've retreated to the Jingshi for the night.
"What do you mean?" Lan Wangji asks. To him these last few days have been very much like a movie.
"If this was a movie we'd have all the answers by now. The whole plot tied up neatly with a bow on top." Wei Wuxian demonstrates with the end of Lan Wangji's forehead ribbon, wrapping it tight around his hand.
Lan Wangji swallows thickly. The pale blue of the ribbon looks good against Wei Wuxian's tan hand.
Wei Wuxian sighs and lets the ribbon go, the corners of his mouth downturned. Lan Wangji watches his feet nervously. Xue Yang is in custody and they've all sworn an oath to not pursue the whereabouts of the Yin Tiger Seal, but while they know the nature of the curse now, they are no closer to breaking it.
Lan Wangji understands Wei Wuxian's frustration. He might be looking at a very long stay in Cloud Recesses until they at least figure out a way to manage the episodes, but the rest of them will have to go back to school.
"We should go to bed," Wei Wuxian says, stretching his arms over his head and yawning. He still looks subdued. "Can't believe I'm already getting tired. What kind of sorcery are you using on me, Lan Zhan?"
"It's my tedious personality," Lan Wangji responds. "Spending time with me is better than sleeping pills."
"Was that a joke?" Wei Wuxian grins. "It was, wasn't it? I'm rubbing off on you."
"Hn," Lan Wangji says. He wishes he had a face thick enough to make the obvious rubbing off joke.
"I am. When this is all over no one's going to recognize you, they'll be like—who is that social butterfly? Lan Wangji? Impossible."
Wei Wuxian crawls into bed first. He's wearing one of this own t-shirts tonight. The collar is stretched and frayed, falling down over his shoulder in a way that shouldn't be provocative. Lan Wangji can't look away from the exposed dip of his collarbone.
He hesitates at the edge of the bed but Wei Wuxian laughs and pulls Lan Wangji down with him, arranging their limbs to his liking.
"Is this okay?" he asks. He's reclining on his back with his head on Lan Wangji's shoulder and one of Lan Wangji's arms wrapped around his waist. "If I read like this, will it disturb you?"
"It's okay," Lan Wangji says, trying to not think about how his hand is resting against Wei Wuxian's stomach. It feels infinitely more intimate than touching his back, for some reason. Maybe because he's touched Wei Wuxian’s back a whole lot more.
"You really have gigantic hands," Wei Wuxian says, covering the back of Lan Wangji's hand with his own, as if he's comparing their sizes. He taps Lan Wangji's knuckles with his fingertips. "Do you know what they say about guys with big hands, Lan Zhan?"
He so shameless. Lan Wangji loves him.
"They also have big feet." Wei Wuxian laughs at his own joke and kicks lightly at one of Lan Wangji's feet under the covers.
Lan Wangji gathers every scrap of face he has at his disposal and says, "That's not all they say."
"Lan Zhan," Wei Wuxian gasps and then he laughs delightedly. "I really am rubbing off on you."
He twists around in Lan Wangji's arms to look at him. It’s terrible, because now he can see how red Lan Wangji's face is.
"You're blushing." Wei Wuxian makes it sound like it's something precious. "Oh, look at you."
He cups Lan Wangji's flaming face between his hands.
"Is it true?" he asks. "Are you—you know—big all over?"
Lan Wangji couldn't possibly answer that. He'd rather die.
"I bet you are. Life's just unfair like that. All of this and that too. Perfect specimen."
"I'm not perfect," Lan Wangji manages. His chest is caving in. Wei Wuxian must be leaning more weight on him than he first thought.
"Eh, you know what they say. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder."
Lan Wangji can't believe that this is happening to him. He wants to tell Wei Wuxian how incredible he looks with his hair in disarray and his beautiful eyes sparkling with mischief, but he doesn't have the words. His eyes drop to Wei Wuxian's perfect mouth, maybe—
"Don't kiss me," Wei Wuxian says, words tumbling over each other. "We can—whatever you want, but don't kiss me."
"I'll just—it'll just—" He shakes his head, biting at his lower lip. "I mean—you do want to, right? It's not just me. "
Lan Wangji manages a jerky nod. He can't believe they're even having this conversation.
"Have you ever—with anyone?" Wei Wuxian asks. His cheeks are red too now.
Lan Wangji shakes his head.
"Me neither." He leans in close, until his lips are brushing Lan Wangji's ear. "But I really want to. With you."
“Oh,” Lan Wangji says. He doesn’t have a lot of words at the best of times and now it seems they have deserted him completely. What could he possibly even say to that?
Wei Wuxian pulls back and grins at him. “Hey, you could check if I have a golden core.”
Lan Wangji blinks several times at the change of subject. “Okay?”
Wei Wuxian shifts off of him and lies down on his back next to Lan Wangji. With how close to the edge they are it’s a very tight fit until Lan Wangji rolls over on his side.
Lan Wangji swallows and hesitantly puts his hand on Wei Wuxian's stomach. It clenches under his hand.
“If I come from this, you’re not going to hold it against me, right?” Wei Wuxian asks, cheeks flaming. “It’s just—your hand is really big and hot. Physically, but also, like, mentally.”
“Oh,” Lan Wangji says.
"Okay, okay, let's do this." Wei Wuxian grabs Lan Wangji's wrists and carelessly slides his hand into position. Lan Wangji realizes he can feel Wei Wuxian's pubes under his pinky again and promptly wants to die.
"I'm sorry about the erection," Wei Wuxian says. "Can't really help it. Did I mention I really like your hands?"
How is Lan Wangji supposed to channel spiritual energy when all his blood has run south and he can't even remember his own name? He takes a deep breath, struggling to center himself. He sends the thinnest tendril of spiritual energy into Wei Wuxian. He feels it travel along Wei Wuxian's meridians until, yes, it gathers in his golden core. It's larger than Lan Wangji would have expected; he would have been able to feel it just taking his pulse. It makes him feel a bit silly.
He pulls his energy back and opens his eyes. Wei Wuxian is watching him, eyes dark and mouth slightly open.
"Do you have any idea," he asks hoarsely, "how much willpower it's taking to not just shove your hand down my pants right now?"
"You wouldn't have to shove it," Lan Wangji says.
Then, because he is the most contradictory creature Lan Wangji has ever met, Wei Wuxian surges up and kisses Lan Wangji square on the mouth. It’s hot and wet, hard and clumsy. Their noses bump and their teeth clack but then Wei Wuxian angles his head just so and it’s perfect.
“Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan—” Wei Wuxian gasps. “Don’t stop kissing me.”
Lan Wangji doesn’t; he couldn’t if he wanted to. He doesn’t stop when black smoke erupts form Wei Wuxian’s skin. He doesn’t stop when the smoke turns gray, then white and then disappears all together with an audible pop. He’s wild, out of control, hungry. He can’t get enough of Wei Wuxian’s mouth, the sounds he make, or the way his hands clutch at Lan Wangji’s hair. He wants to kiss Wei Wuxian for the rest of his life, which will be very short if he doesn’t figure out how to breathe while kissing.
Wei Wuxian is the one who breaks the kiss to suck in a huge gulping breath only to immediately say, “Why did you stop?”
The gall of him. Lan Wangji kisses him again, and again, and again. He kisses him until his lips feel raw and his breath comes in short hard gasps. He kisses his mouth and his cheek, his chin, the hinge of his jaw, and then, once more, his mouth.
“Holy shit, Lan Zhan,” Wei Wuxian gasps when Lan Wangji pulls back to give them a moment to catch their breath. “You are so good at this.”
Wei Wuxian laughs, tugging lightly on Lan Wangji’s hair. He looks—indecent, eyes half-lidded and mouth red from kissing.
“Talk to me, babe,” he says. “I know you have words.”
Oh. Oh. Lan Wangji can feel his face turn bright red and he shakes his head minutely. He doesn’t have any words, not for this.
Wei Wuxian laughs again and pulls Lan Wangji down to kiss first his forehead and then his temple.
“It’s okay,” he says. “We both know I have enough words for the both of us.” He kisses Lan Wangji on the mouth again. “Can you at least tell me if we broke the curse? I think we did, but I don’t really know about these things. Not like you.” He twines his fingers into Lan Wangji’s hair. “I hope we did.” He lifts himself up to brush his lips over Lan Wangji’s. “I wanted it to be you.”
Lan Wangji doesn’t know how he has breath, or brain, to talk this much. Lan Wangji’s heart is beating a thunderous gallop and all of his blood has travelled south. He takes a few deep breaths, attempting to calm himself, but his heart keeps tripping over True Love and his breath sticks useless in his throat.
“Mn,” he says. Another breath and he tries again. “Yes.”
Wei Wuxian’s smile is like the sun; if Lan Wangji looks at it too directly it will burn his eyes.
“Good,” he says, pulling Lan Wangji more fully on top of him. “You’re stuck with me now. Always did want to marry my high school sweetheart.”
“We’re not in high school,” Lan Wangji points out.
“Oh, now he can talk.” Wei Wuxian laughs and slings one of his legs over Lan Wangji’s hips. “My first love, then, does that pass muster?”
Lan Wangji has to kiss him then and he doesn’t stop for a very long time.
Their first time is, in the end, messy and over really fast. When Lan Wangji thought about it, which was often, he always imagined he would have some restraint. In reality, he has none. Wei Wuxian only has to wrap one of his fine-fingered hands around Lan Wangji’s cock and thumb at the foreskin for him to come all over Wei Wuxian’s stomach with a heartfelt groan.
Out of utter embarrassment, he only gives Wei Wuxian a few seconds to look surprised before he slithers down the bed and wraps his lips around Wei Wuxian’s cock. He barely has time to hollow his cheeks before Wei Wuxian spills across his tongue. He swallows some of it, but most of it dribbles out over Wei Wuxian’s cock, balls, and thighs, making even more of a mess.
Wei Wuxian, of course, bursts out laughing and then tugs Lan Wangji up his body to kiss his messy mouth.
“Not bad for a first try,” he says, brushing Lan Wangji’s hair back from his face. “Maybe next time we’ll last past the one minute mark.”
He laughs again and Lan Wangji gathers him up in his arms, squeezing him tight. He’s so lovely, is the thing. Lan Wangji will never let him go.
Their second time happens right after their first time and it lasts longer, but not much.
"Your cock is huge, you know that, right?"
Wei Wuxian has his head on Lan Wangji's chest and his fingers wrapped around Lan Wangji's cock and Lan Wangji really hopes he doesn't expect an answer to that.
"I want to put it in my mouth," Wei Wuxian rubs his thumb over the already wet head and then heaves himself up to crawl down the bed. "I'm going to put it in my mouth.
The visual is almost too much, Wei Wuxian poised over Lan Wangji's cock, with his hair hanging free and his mouth open, ready to take him in.
"Oh god," Lan Wangji groans and reaches down to pinch his fingers hard around the base, staving off the inevitable.
Wei Wuxian grins at him and leans forward to lick across Lan Wangji's fingers. "Come on, Lan Zhan, let me have it," he murmurs.
Lan Wangji slides his hand up to hold his cock steady, not that it needs help, and Wei Wuxian follows parting his lips over the head. Lan Wangji can't help the noise he lets out or the reflexive way he settles into the rhythm Wei Wuxian sets, chasing his stretched lips with his hand.
It feels incredible, Wei Wuxian hot mouth, his own tight grip, the way they work him over together. Lan Wangji shakes and sweats, stomach jumping and thighs twitching against Wei Wuxian's sides. It's a struggle to not moan out loud, but he thinks that if he starts he won't be able to stop.
"Wei Ying," he chokes out. A warning.
Wei Wuxian just hollows his cheeks and grips his hips harder and Lan Wangji spills across his tongue, helpless to hold back. Wei Wuxian swallows some and then pulls back, watching intently as Lan Wangji works himself through the aftershocks, unable to stop the movement of his hand.
"Wow," Wei Wuxian breathes and then he's crawling up Lan Wangji's body to kiss his mouth and Lan Wangji feels dizzy with how wonderful and unfamiliar it all is.
Wei Wuxian rubs up against Lan Wangji's hip, cock hard and hot, and his tiny noises of pleasure escapes between their lips. Lan Wangji wants to grab Wei Wuxian's cock and bring him over the edge, but at the same time the tiny noises and the desperate hitch of Wei Wuxian's hips easily make top three of the hottest things that ever happened to him.
He pushes his thigh in between Wei Wuxian's and lifts up to meet Wei Wuxian's working hips, giving him something to really rub up against.
"Lan Zhan," Wei Wuxian groans, his thrusts growing more insistent. The space where their bodies meet is slick with sweat and precome and Wei Wuxian is making a nearly continuous noise, lips lax against Lan Wangji's.
"I'm so close," he breathes. "Just…."
Lan Wangji grabs Wei Wuxian's perfect ass, pushing him down while he lifts up and Wei Wuxian lets out a choked moan, adding to the wetness between their bodies, his hips working desperately.
"Fuck," he says reverently, after he's stopped shaking and settled down on top of Lan Wangji in a boneless sprawl. "No, don't move your hand."
Lan Wangji keeps his hand on Wei Wuxian's ass and tries to not blush about it. It fits very nicely into his hand, he thinks, almost as if they were made for each other.
"Mmmm," Wei Wuxian sighs and wriggles into a more comfortable position.
It's indecent, Lan Wangji thinks, the way he can feel Wei Wuxian's pubes and his softening cock against his hip, but he never wants him to move.
"Maybe, next time, we'll last past the five minute mark," Wei Wuxian says, drawing a heart around one of Lan Wangji's nipples that makes his skin pebble helplessly.
"We can try," Lan Wangji promises. He never wants to stop trying if he's honest. He wants to try every day as many times as they can manage.
Wei Wuxian sighs contentedly and presses a kiss to Lan Wangji's breastbone. "I have the best soulmate," he says smugly. "No one has a soulmate better than mine."
"Ridiculous," Lan Wangji mutters.
"It is not."
"It is too." Lan Wangji squeezes him a little tighter. "Because I have you."