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one good honest kiss

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In retrospect, the first time Wei Wuxian asks Lan Wangji out really isn’t one of his better moments. But right now, he’s already opened his mouth, so he thinks, fuck it, and waves down Lan Wangji from across the local coffeeshop.

“Lan Zhan!!!” He shouts. Lan Wangji half-flinches at how loud he is, but Wei Wuxian doesn’t let that deter him. “Do you wanna go out with me? This Saturday, 9 AM, I’ll pick you up?”

Wei Wuxian is vaguely sure Jiang Cheng drops his pen into his freshly made coffee, more than a little sure that every single person including the new barista is staring at them unabashedly, and absolutely sure Nie Huaisang is livestreaming the whole thing, but the world narrows down to Lan Wangji’s shocked (read: slightly raised eyebrows and gorgeously parted lips) face, and the strand of hair that’s fallen out of his half-bun.

Lan Wangji stares at him for a few more seconds. Wei Wuxian gives him his best flirtatious wink, and Lan Wangji’s face turns — hurt?

Wei Wuxian is starting to think that maybe, just maybe, this was in fact a terrible idea and not worth the reward at all, and Lan Wangji did always dislike him after all so it’s really just that Wei Wuxian is incredibly hopeless when it comes to Lan Wangji, when the little crease between Lan Wangji’s eyebrows smooths out and his lips twitch upwards. Just the tiniest bit.

(It’s enough to make Wei Wuxian’s chest feel strangely tight and fizzy, like his insides have turned to a bottle of champagne in a bouncy house. Maybe he should really consider going to a doctor about it, especially since it keeps happening whenever he hangs out with Lan Wangji, and having a sudden heart attack while he’s with Lan Wangji ranks higher on the scale of Absolutely Terrible Things That Could Happen to Wei Wuxian than a goddamn nuclear accident.)

“Lan Zhan?” Wei Wuxian says, quieter this time. He knows Lan Wangji doesn’t like people looking at him unnecessarily, a trait informed both by Lan Wangji’s ridiculously cute, weird aversion of people-related things and his high society upbringing. Ah, he should have thought this through more, why would Lan Wangji want to go on a (fake) date with him now — or ever, really, Lan Wangji doesn’t like people like him after all —

But Lan Wangji sighs, slowly, and Wei Wuxian can’t help but follow the gentle arc of his eyelashes, as hyper-aware of Lan Wangji as he always is. He says, “Yes.”

And Lan Wangji smiles.

Oh.

Oh no. That is so bad for Wei Wuxian’s heart, Lan Wangji cannot ever smile in front of him again or Wei Wuxian thinks he might just spontaneously combust. Wei Wuxian had been aware that Lan Wangji was breathtakingly beautiful, had talked half-drunkenly about that beauty more than a few times — but that was normal. Anyone would feel the same way, looking at Lan Wangji.

This? This is not normal. Wei Wuxian’s veins are sparking under his skin, fireworks crowding his throat, setting off the pounding of his heart. He draws in a shallow breath, tries to remember what the world was like before Lan Wangji’s smile reshaped it, tries to remember how to do something more than shamelessly ogle Lan Wangji.

But. He — he kind of, maybe — he really, really wants to trace the lines of Lan Wangji’s lips with his fingers, watch Lan Wangji’s mouth part around his name. He doesn’t know what it means, only that he wants so much and his heart is shuddering violently like it’s going to burst out of the hollow of his ribs and his thoughts are crumbling around Lan Wangji’s smile. So he pushes it all down and tries to grin half-normally at Lan Wangji.

“Yes?” Wei Wuxian echoes. “Really?”

Yes. I will see you this Saturday, Wei Ying.” Lan Wangji says, still smiling. He takes his tea and sweeps out of the coffeeshop as if their conversation just now didn’t happen. That elegant, handsome bastard, Wei Wuxian wants to see how much his date proposal affected him!!

Well, if he’s being completely honest, he knows Lan Wangji would probably just be irritated by Wei Wuxian’s antics. His head wouldn’t be spinning like Wei Wuxian’s is right now. His legs wouldn’t feel wobbly, and his smile — oh gods, his smile — would be as easy to wipe off his face as a spot of water on a table.

Wei Wuxian collapses into his chair and buries his head in his arms and screams, very quietly, not at all oddly flustered and happy by Lan Wangji accepting his date proposal. Even if it was fake (which it was) and even if Lan Wangji only accepted because turning Wei Wuxian down would be too much trouble, would humiliate them both in front of their audience (and Wei Wuxian knows that’s got to be his only motivation for accepting), he can’t help but go a little !!!!!!! in his head.

Warm liquid soaks into his jacket sleeve. Wei Wuxian realises he’s knocked over his cup of coffee in his little freak-out, and it’s already spreading to the open pages of his organic chemistry textbook. He bites out a curse and throws a few napkins onto it haphazardly, but even that can’t tamper the pleased grin tugging at his lips.

“You’re a goddamn mess,” Jiang Cheng scoffs, throwing another napkin at him. It flutters off Wei Wuxian’s cheeks, now sore from smiling like a fool. Maybe he is a mess, Wei Wuxian reflects, but he can’t help it!! Lan Wangji tends to do that to him, after all!! “Did you have to ask him out in front of everyone? I’m telling A-jie, and she’s gonna disown you out of embarrassment, if I don’t do it first.”

“Shut up, business major,” Wei Wuxian says on reflex.

“Fuck off, biochem engineering major,” Jiang Cheng sneers back, “Pretentious dipshit. How are you an honors student and yet faced with one smile from your stupid crush you go all mushy and sappy??”

“He’s not my crush!!” Wei Wuxian says, unconvincingly. “I don’t — what are you talking about!”

Jiang Cheng has the nerve to laugh right in his face. Nie Huaisang is a more loyal friend and opts for giving him a questioning look.

“You just asked him out!! You swooned at the sight of his smile — which, for your information, looks really weird on his face. You’ve been talking about how beautiful and talented and good and cute your precious Lan er-gege is for — Huaisang, how long has it been?”

“Four years,” Nie Huaisang says, “and you’re right, Lan Wangji’s smile does look rather… odd.” That traitor. See if Wei Wuxian ever talks to him again after insulting Lan Wangji like that!

But he has more important things to confront, like Jiang Cheng somehow believing Wei Wuxian likes Lan Wangji. Wei Wuxian doesn’t like him — not like that! He doesn’t. Lan Wangji is really just that good. He’s only acknowledging how good his friend is. He likes Lan Wangji a perfectly normal amount, which is to say, a lot, because how can anyone not like Lan Wangji? Lan Wangji is kind, and quiet, but not in a bad way, and he’s so sweet and fun once you get to know him, and —

Yeah, no. Wei Wuxian thinks. If he continued that train of thought he would be sitting in this coffeeshop until 10 PM. Anyway. He likes Lan Wangji a lot, but — not in that way.

“Okay, first of all,” Wei Wuxian says, because he’s starting to feel a little too desperate over this whole issue, “He is good, for your information, really really good, and his smile is — it’s the most beautiful thing you’ll ever see, Jiang Cheng! Don’t disrespect it.”

“Not my crush, my ass.” Jiang Cheng rolls his eyes. Nie Huaisang makes a similarly disbelieving face at him.

Wei Wuxian elects to stick his tongue at the both of them like the responsible adult he is, and continues, “Second of all, don’t call him that.”

“What, Lan er-gege?” Nie Huaisang pipes up.

Something sharp and acidic flashes through Wei Wuxian’s chest, the same feeling he’d gotten when Jiang Cheng used the nickname. That’s my nickname for him, not yours, he thinks, quite irrationally.

No way is he jealous, though. This is definitely not jealousy. Wei Wuxian knows what jealousy feels like, and — okay, maybe this feels a hell lot like jealousy but it isn’t. He isn’t pathetic enough that he’d get jealous over a nickname!!

“Yes, that!” Wei Wuxian huffs. “Lan Zhan would hate it if he heard you say that.”

“But he lets you call him that all the time,” Nie Huaisang says, slowly. “It doesn’t seem like he hates it… on the contrary — ”

“Nah, he just can’t be bothered to tell me to stop!! I’ve been annoying him for so long, I’m sure he’s too tired to push me away at this point.” Wei Wuxian pauses. That reality really should not hurt as much as it does, because their relationship has been like that ever since they met. He should be used to this, he should be happy with what he has. He swallows hard and looks at Jiang Cheng imploringly. “Right?”

Jiang Cheng just shakes his head. “Wei Wuxian, I pity you.” He says, sounding like he means every syllable.

“Fuck off,” Wei Wuxian says. “And third of all, I just asked him out because — ” He lowers his voice and drags Jiang Cheng and Nie Huaisang closer. “You know how this coffeeshop is offering a special, free couples-only dessert this Valentine’s Day? The cayenne chocolate parfait?”

Nie Huaisang gets it almost instantly. “Wei-xiong, you did not.”

Well.” Wei Wuxian says, because he did. “I asked him out because I need someone to get that cayenne chocolate parfait with. Not because I — like him, or whatever. And he accepted because he’d lose face if he didn’t.

Jiang Cheng and Nie Huaisang gape at him for a few moments, both of them looking like they want to smack Wei Wuxian upside the head with a table.

“What the fuck,” Jiang Cheng finally hisses, “is wrong with your brain?? Are you stupid? Huaisang, I think he’s stupid. I think he’s lost it.”

“Jiang Cheng!!” Wei Wuxian cries. He’s quite offended that Jiang Cheng would attack his intelligence like that — if anything, this is the perfect plan, because he gets to show Lan Wangji just how charming he can be, and he gets the free dessert.

“You’re right, I think poor Wei-xiong needs a brain transplant, because his current one just does not seem to be working correctly.” Nie Huaisang shakes his head, and the worst thing is that Wei Wuxian can tell he means it. “Gods, Wei-xiong, couldn’t you have picked someone else at least? Like me??”

“Nobody would believe you’d date me,” Wei Wuxian points out. “And Wen Ning is too shy, Lan Xichen and Nie Mingjue are too old, Jin Guangyao has really bad vibes and nobody likes him anyway, Mo Xuanyu has a boyfriend and is also practically a baby, and Mianmian and Wen Qing are both pining idiots for each other. So.”

“Bold of you to talk about Mianmian and Wen Qing like that,” Jiang Cheng says, faintly, “As if you aren’t a pining idiot. And aren't Zewu-jun and Chifeng-zun only two years older than us??”

“The point is that I’m not pining, nor am I an idiot! And two years older is two years too old!” Wei Wuxian snaps. “Catch up, Jiang Cheng.”

Jiang Cheng throws a pen at him and stuffs his laptop into his backpack. “I can’t stand you. I’m going to my dorm room and you are not allowed within a 10 meter radius of me for the next three days.”

“RUDE!! How can you be so rude to your poor older brother?! We’re roommates anyway, so you’ll just have to deal with me!!” Wei Wuxian calls after his receding back. Jiang Cheng just gives him an unimpressed look and storms out of the coffeeshop.

Well. At least Nie Huaisang’s still got his back, and going by his penchant for all things drama, will continue to support him in this fake dating endeavour —

“Um, Wei-xiong, not to burst your bubble or anything… but does Lan Wangji know it’s fake?”

“Fuck,” Wei Wuxian says. He did not think about that. In his defense, he’d assumed Lan Wangji had instantaneously figured out it was fake! After all, why would Lan Wangji of all people accept a date with him? It’s not like Lan Wangji likes him that much, at best they’re acquaintances who have found themselves in best-friend-like situations on occasion. At worst, Wei Wuxian is kidding himself and Lan Wangji is only tolerating him.

“Oh my god.” Nie Huaisang takes a long sip of his tea and sighs. “He doesn’t know. He thinks it’s real. He thinks you asked him out because you like him, and he accepted because he likes you. And it’s not real.”

Wei Wuxian nods.

“Fuck,” Nie Huaisang agrees. “I think you should, maybe, go talk to him. About that. Right now. Even I would not want to see what happens if you let him assume this is real. That’s just too cruel, Wei-xiong.”

Wei Wuxian would not want to see what would happen either. He packs his laptop and textbook quicker than he ever has before, and only stops to tell Nie Huaisang that — “But you’re wrong about him accepting because he likes me! He doesn’t, I told you already that he only accepted because — ”

Nie Huaisang pulls a remarkably Jiang Cheng-like face and pushes Wei Wuxian away from their table. “Yes, yes, so you said. Please just go talk to him so I can commiserate over your idiocy peacefully, before my tea gets cold.”

Wei Wuxian gives him the finger, just because this day has been a constant stream of his friends (save Lan Wangji) bullying him for no good reason. Nie Huaisang shoos him away.

It’ll be fine, he tells himself. Lan Zhan couldn’t really have believed me, and he won’t be that torn up when I tell him the truth. He probably didn’t want to accept anyway.

But Wei Wuxian knows Lan Wangji never agrees to something he doesn’t want to do, not if he has a choice. Lan Wangji is honest, and straightforward, and if he wanted to reject Wei Wuxian he would have done so — maybe not in the coffeeshop, but later, in private, gentle and kind as he always is. Turning Wei Wuxian down, explaining that he’s sorry, but he doesn't date people like Wei Wuxian. He doesn’t like Wei Wuxian.

Wei Wuxian will just have to assume that’s what Lan Wangji is planning to do, then.

(Still — he really, really does not want Lan Wangji to reject him. Even if it is a few days of fake dating for a dessert, he wants… he wants Lan Wangji to like him, even the tiniest bit more. Thinking about Lan Wangji giving him a firm no with the same steady quietness that he does everything else with makes him want to curl up in a ball and hide the splintered pieces of his heart.

So he resolutely doesn’t think about it, and walks on forward.)

 

Wei Wuxian finally finds Lan Wangji slipping out of the grand golden-carved doors of the main campus library. He makes to call out to Lan Wangji, but instead he stops there, in the middle of the path, because it feels like the right thing to do.

Because Lan Wangji’s hair is in a soft, low ponytail and his glasses are slipping down his nose and he looks absolutely perfect framed by the Corinthian columns of the library. Because Lan Wangji is wearing a sky-blue sweater that probably cost three thousand yuan and maybe Lan Wangji’s sense of fashion is weird and old-fashioned, but that’s why Wei Wuxian likes him!

Well, not like like him, Wei Wuxian amends. Ever since that conversation with Nie Huaisang and Jiang Cheng, he’s been… more aware of his thoughts regarding Lan Wangji than he usually is, and it seems that it’s translating to Wei Wuxian not being able to act like a normal person around Lan Wangji either. For god’s sake, can’t he just talk to Lan Wangji without thinking, is this flirting??

(When they had first met, Wei Wuxian had realized with no deficit of shaky embarrassment, he’d flirted with Lan Wangji. A lot. But that’s — that’s fine, right? That’s just a reflex. He didn’t mean it, and you can flirt with people without actually liking them… it doesn’t mean anything. Probably.)

Wei Wuxian stares for a few more seconds, taking note of Lan Wangji’s elegant fingers adjusting his glasses and curling around the textbooks clutched close to his chest, before he takes the marble stairs two at a time to greet Lan Wangji. No use in being captivated by Lan Wangji’s beauty now.

“Lan Zhan!!!” He calls. It has more than a few people staring at him, but most importantly, it has Lan Wangji staring at him. Wei Wuxian gives him his most spectacular grin and skips to a stop in front of Lan Wangji. “Aiyo, I just spent an hour and a half searching for you when I could have been finishing my lab report, won’t you give me another smile?”

Lan Wangji does not give him another smile, but his eyes do crinkle up at the edges in a quintessentially Lan Wangji-ish way and his stiff, elegant posture relaxes the tiniest bit. Wei Wuxian can’t help but grin helplessly up at him.

“Your lab report?” Lan Wangji asks.

“It can be done later, but I really needed to talk to you! You’re more important.” He can’t stop smiling. Fuck. Is this normal? Wei Wuxian is sure he doesn’t smile half as much when he’s talking to Lan Xichen, and ‘everyone’ knows Lan Xichen is prettier and nicer and warmer than Lan Wangji (blatantly false, Wei Wuxian won’t stand for this slander against Lan Wangji).

“Wei Ying,” Lan Wangji says, but he doesn’t sound at all frustrated. Ahhh, did his name always sound like that — quiet and fond and so, so precious — in Lan Wangji’s voice??

...Wei Wuxian resolves to stop helping Jiang Cheng on his requisite math classes for the next semester, as a fuck-you for even suggesting Wei Wuxian could like Lan Wangji. He doesn’t.

They fall into step together, and it feels so natural. Fuck, he thinks again. This isn’t good.

So Wei Wuxian does the only thing he can think of, which is grab Lan Wangji by the hand and tug him to a little-used side path that winds around the back of the library. The winter plum trees are blossoming overhead as he cages Lan Wangji against the wall. Wei Wuxian hasn't let go of Lan Wangji’s hand just yet. He doesn’t really want to either, if he’s being honest, and since he doesn’t need to stop holding his hand, why should he?

“Wei Ying?” Lan Wangji breathes. It occurs to Wei Wuxian that they’re too close to pass it off as just a friendly talk between acquaintances. He can see a red flush creeping over Lan Wangji’s cheekbones. Huh. Must be the wind against his face, right?

But Lan Wangji’s beautiful, soft lips are parted, and his brown eyes are glimmering gold from the sunlight filtering through plum petals, and he’s gazing down at Wei Wuxian in surprise and maybe, just, a little bit of something else, something hotter, and — and —

Wei Wuxian could, hypothetically, lean in and kiss him and find out just how sweet those lips would taste.

Fuck, he thinks a third time, with feeling. This has got to be because of Nie Huaisang and Jiang Cheng’s stupid, delusional teasing. He’s never thought about kissing Lan Wangji before!! ...Or at least, not in such a clear way!!

He wrenches his hand away and paces in front of Lan Wangji to calm his racing heart. “Okay. Okay. So!! Lan Zhan, what were you studying, huh?” He’s drumming his fingers on his thighs, and Lan Wangji’s face shifts minisculely at that. Wei Wuxian gets the distinct feeling that he’s being judged for something he did wrong, but he’s not sure what.

“Domestic laws on the addressment of rural income inequality.”

“Right, right, flex that fancy pre-law program on me…” Wei Wuxian laughs awkwardly. Unbidden, it occurs to him that after they graduate this year, he’ll try for graduate school, and Lan Wangji will definitely get into law school, and they’ll go their separate ways. That is something he doesn’t want to think about now, or ever. He laughs again and sighs, trying not to look Lan Wangji in the eye.

“Wei Ying, what did you need to talk with me about?” Lan Wangji says.

Wei Wuxian readies himself for the annoyance, the anger, the inevitable disappointment from Lan Wangji. He can feel Lan Wangji’s worried eyes on him. He pastes on his best smile and hopes Lan Wangji doesn’t see past it.

“Well, please don’t be too angry, but…”

Lan Wangji’s eyebrows furrow at that. Wei Wuxian musters up the same courage he got when he sauntered into his molecular biology professor’s office 10 minutes before the end of her office hours the day after his final, and continues, “About me asking you on a date, this Saturday, Valentine’s Day… I didn’t really mean it?”

Wow. Okay. That feels — not good. Lan Wangji doesn’t bat an eye, but Wei Wuxian can hear a little Lan Wangji-like voice in his head going, lying is forbidden in the Cloud Recesses!

He’s not lying, though. He didn’t mean it. It’s just for the parfait. Really.

“I do not understand. Could you rephrase that?” Lan Wangji says. He is amazingly calm for someone who just got told he was essentially tricked into accepting a date from someone he’ll probably have zero positive thoughts about in a few minutes.

“That coffeeshop has this couples-only, Valentine’s Day-exclusive, free cayenne chocolate parfait? So I thought, I could maybe ask you to. Pretend to date me. For a few days? For the dessert?”

Lan Wangji goes very, very still. He isn’t looking at Wei Wuxian anymore.

“Just, pretend,” Wei Wuxian says, as if he hasn’t dug his grave and laid down in it already. Soon he’ll be asking poor Wen Ning to shovel fresh dirt over him. His death report will read ‘Wei Wuxian, 22, cause of death: ‘not being able to fucking shut up around Lan Wangji’. “Because, you know. I don’t actually like you that way — you’re a great friend!!”

“Oh,’ Lan Wangji says. He still won’t look at Wei Wuxian, and Wei Wuxian might be starting to understand why everyone calls Lan Wangji colder than winter. Except — Lan Wangji has never really been cold to him, ever. Wei Wuxian’s heart is hurting, and he doesn’t know why, but he wants it to stop. He wants Lan Wangji to be happy, he wants to make Lan Wangji happy.

And yet — the words keep tumbling out of Wei Wuxian’s mouth. “And I’m just asking you because you’re the most available person. Still, I know you’re busy… we can ‘pretend’ to break up after our date, so you won’t have to deal with me longer than necessary!”

“Oh,” Lan Wangji says again, so very quiet.

Wei Wuxian takes another glance at Lan Wangji. His face is as perfectly impassive as ever, posture impeccant. The only clues Wei Wuxian has are Lan Wangji’s eyes, downcast and dull — Lan Wangji’s hands, trembling and fisted in the fabric of his pants.

“Are you… mad? I understand if you’re mad, I did trick you back there after all — ” All at once, Wei Wuxian realizes he wouldn’t be able to live with himself if he hurt Lan Wangji over this. Who cares about his pride? Lan Wangji has always been more important. “I’m sorry for tricking you. You can turn me down now, if you really don’t want to — I didn’t mean to make you feel obligated to accept, or anything — ”

“It is fine,” Lan Wangji says, and even he looks surprised at his own briskness. “Saturday. It is fine.”

It doesn’t sound like it’s fine. But Wei Wuxian also doesn’t want to know what lies beyond Lan Wangji’s delicate, trembling facade of calmness, or what he could do if it broke. He nods and tries to smile brightly again. Lan Wangji is still frozen from where Wei Wuxian had originally pinned him against the wall. He still isn’t looking at Wei Wuxian.

“Great!! Great, great, cool, okay, thanks for helping me out — you’re really good, Lan Zhan — ” Lan Wangji’s hands clench even tighter at that. Wei Wuxian figures now would be a good time to run away, before Lan Wangji decides he regrets saying yes to Wei Wuxian. “I’ll text you the details then? Tonight, or tomorrow?”

Lan Wangji doesn’t respond.

“Okay! Great.” Wei Wuxian says, again, like the idiot he is. Maybe Jiang Cheng did have a point. About the idiot thing, not the liking Lan Wangji thing. No way, right? “See you later?” He tries. “Lan Zhan?”

“Goodbye, Wei Ying.” Lan Wangji says. He still has the same forcedly calm expression, but he seems a little more charitable towards Wei Wuxian… and then he spares a glance for Wei Wuxian, and oh, the light is back in Lan Wangji’s eyes and it looks — it looks — wow. Okay.

Okay. Sometimes your heart just gives a little happy shiver when your friend looks particularly stunning. That’s, um. Totally normal.

Wei Wuxian is so very bad at lying to himself.

“Ahh, Lan Zhan, don’t study too hard for the next three days or you’ll tire yourself out before our date!! Bye!!” Wei Wuxian says, and hightails it away from the library like the coward that he is.

Once he’s a safe distance from the library and Lan Wangji’s piercing eyes and his cherry-pink lips, Wei Wuxian collapses against the wall and clutches his chest as if he could stop the frantic beating of his heart just like that.

He can’t stop thinking about — about how something had hurt Lan Wangji in that conversation, and yet at the end Lan Wangji had been as gentle with Wei Wuxian as always. And about the beginning too, and how warm and good Lan Wangji’s hand had been in has. Lan Wangji has musician hands, with fingertips callused from years and years of plucking guqin strings and deceptively thin fingers that always seem to captivate Wei Wuxian in their elegant arcs.

And about how he’d nearly followed his instincts and kissed Lan Wangji and how he thinks he would have liked very much to do it — would have loved to kiss Lan Wangji. And about how despite it all he has a Valentine’s Day date with Lan Wangji. The fact that it’s fake doesn’t seem to matter at all to Wei Wuxian’s traitorous heart.

Ahhhhh… He can’t even pretend to be calm at this point!! Stupid Lan Wangji and his stupid eyes and lips and stupid, stupidly good personality. Wei Wuxian likes him so much!

God. Okay. Get your shit together, Wei Wuxian. He isn’t above Not Admitting Feelings at this moment, seeing as he’s slumped on the side of the engineering building and a couple of students who look distinctly like freshmen are giving him unfairly judgemental looks. One day those students will be on the edge of realizing they just might have more-than-friendly feelings towards someone they can barely call their friend, and then they’ll regret laughing at Wei Wuxian.

In the meantime, all he can do is give them a half-hearted glare and stalk off towards his dorm. Wei Wuxian is going to pass out for five hours and when he wakes up he’s going to yell at Jiang Cheng for throwing him into the melee and laughing as Wei Wuxian gets beat up continuously by his feelings.

And then, what comes after he’s slept and gotten angry at his smug little brother and done everything possible to avoid confronting those feelings —

That’s a problem for future Wei Wuxian.

 

“So, why do you want to borrow money from me?” Jiang Cheng says, six hours later.

Future Wei Wuxian has never regretted anything more. Realizing his feelings while leaning on the wall of the engineering building while freshmen laugh at him like his… romantic crisis is something straight out of a comedian’s dream is infinitely better than explaining to Jiang Cheng why he needs to take Lan Wangji on an apparently very expensive date.

“Because I need to,” Wei Wuxian says. “It’s not my fault aquarium tickets cost so much. Or that the flower viewing is so expensive.”

“It’s called exclusivity, idiot. Fuck off.”

“It’s called hating poor university students in favor of profit,” Wei Wuxian shoots back.

“Just don’t take him to the aquarium and the botanical garden to begin with!!” Jiang Cheng snaps. “I don’t see why you need to take him on this fancy romantic date if you don’t like him and you’re just using him for a free dessert.”

Wei Wuxian winces. “It’s what Lan Zhan deserves! What, you want me to drag him to the cafe and force him to eat dessert with me and then — break up with him because I’ve achieved my goal?? No! At the very least Lan Zhan should have fun.”

“Lan Zhan this, Lan Zhan that, can’t you ever shut up about him?Jiang Cheng says. “And yes, I do expect you to do that, because you don’t like him. Right?”

“Right…” Wei Wuxian agrees, half-out of it. The problem here is — Wei Wuxian, in a moment of what he thinks is amazing self-awareness, knows he likes Lan Wangji. Or at least, likes him more than he’s ever liked any friend before. He can’t even say it’s normal to smile like a smitten fool when you think about dating your friend, not at this point.

Which means. This date isn’t just Wei Wuxian making Lan Wangji pretend with him for a free dessert. It’s also Wei Wuxian using Lan Wangji shamelessly, making them date while Lan Wangji believes Wei Wuxian has zero romantic feelings towards him, when in fact Wei Wuxian is experiencing a terrible surge of lovesickness all because of Lan Wangji.

It’s fine, though. They can ‘break up’ after the date, waiting long enough to make it seem like the relationship just didn’t work out. They can stay… acquaintances, because Wei Wuxian isn’t foolish enough to wish for Lan Wangji’s friendship after this. They can part their ways after graduation, and Wei Wuxian will be satisfied with this memory of the one day he could pretend Lan Wangji wanted him.

“Well then, I’m not giving you money for the aquarium or the botanical garden. Go beg A-jie for it instead! Or have her ask the peacock husband to send you some money over WeChat, god knows he has way too much of it!”

“But Jiang Cheng!!” Wei Wuxian whines. “I do need the money, because I need Lan Zhan to enjoy this date! I’m making him go with me, it’s the least I can do!!”

Jiang Cheng gives him a meaningful look. “Somehow, I think him having to go with you in particular is the least of his problems.”

“What do you mean?? I’m sure he’d rather go wrestle a boa constrictor than go out with me on Valentine’s Day.” A bit of an exaggeration, perhaps, but… “I mean, you didn’t see how he looked when I told him I asked him out because of the free dessert! He probably does hate me now!”

“Say something like that again and I’m disowning you.” Jiang Cheng says. It’s so obviously an empty threat that Wei Wuxian snorts and kicks his shin in retaliation. “You’re such an idiot. I wish Lan Wangji hated you — god knows that’d make our lives easier — but he doesn’t and I don’t think even this could make his feelings change, so shut up, please.”

“No, I don’t think I will,” Wei Wuxian says, just to be a bastard towards Jiang Cheng. His poor little brother must be getting a bit crazy under the stress of his business program. He can’t imagine that Lan Wangji feels any more positively towards Wei Wuxian after the whole fake dating debacle than he did before, and that’s understandable. Who would?

(If Wei Wuxian wishes Lan Wangji would, if he wishes Lan Wangji liked him so much that even getting shoehorned into being his fake boyfriend couldn’t change how he felt about Wei Wuxian — well. That’s only for Wei Wuxian to know.)

“Also, don’t you think Lan Zhan could wrestle a boa constrictor and win?? Have you seen his arms? He’s so built, he’d definitely win! He has so much muscle, after all…”

Jiang Cheng throws one of his shrimp chips at Wei Wuxian’s face. “Gross. I don’t want to hear about your friend’s muscles,” he says, making air quotes around the word ‘friend’.

“That was completely unnecessary and uncalled for,” Wei Wuxian tells him, stealing three more of Jiang Cheng’s shrimp chip as revenge, which elicits a glare from Jiang Cheng. If he didn’t want Wei Wuxian to eat his chips he shouldn’t have thrown them at him!

“I don’t care about Lan Wangji’s muscles either,” Jiang Cheng huffs. “Stop trying to steal my money because you want to take him on a date, you shithead.”

“But I need to!”

Why??”

“Because — because…” Wei Wuxian falters. “Lan Zhan deserves the best. I want him to have fun on this date. I want him to be happy, and remember our date as the best date he’s ever been on, so that when he finally goes on a date with someone he actually he’ll think,” and Wei Wuxian does his best Lan Wangji impression here, “Wei Ying took me on a better date, he was kind of a terrible person but at least he knows how to treat a boy right.

“Pretty sure Lan Wangji’s thoughts don’t sound like that,” Jiang Cheng says. “Also pretty sure Lan Wangji isn’t about to go on a date with anyone but you.”

Yeah, Jiang Cheng is definitely having hallucinations. Wei Wuxian, in a move of shocking intelligence, does not tell his little brother those thoughts and instead says, quietly, “I want to be the one who makes him happy, at least for one day. Lan Zhan is — he’s really good, you know? Beautiful and thoughtful and funny and hardworking. He’s so good, Jiang Cheng, you don’t understand. He — he deserves the best. Maybe I’ll never be the best person for him, but at least for one day I want to try. Because it’s Lan Zhan.”

“Oh my god,” Jiang Cheng breathes. “You do like him.”

“What!” Wei Wuxian says, about to protest as a reflex before he remembers that he. Kind of. Does like Lan Wangji. Wow. The thought sits neatly in his head, as if it’s something his heart has always known, and his brain is catching up only now.

“Wait, no, that doesn’t cover it.” Jiang Cheng squints at his face. “No, you — you actually love him. Double gross.”

“I,” Wei Wuxian stammers. “I don’t — Lan Zhan? He? I don’t? I — I love — ” He can’t even finish the sentence. His face is flushing pathetically, and Jiang Cheng shakes his head.

“Yep, congrats, you’re in love with Lan Wangji. You have been for quite some time,” says Jiang Cheng, like he’s stating a fact and not giving Wei Wuxian a heart attack. “I’m so glad you finally realized it. A-jie will be so proud of you for finally growing a braincell.”

He — he — what?? He loves Lan Wangji?? Does he? Wei Wuxian really, really likes Lan Wangji, he can’t deny that. He has for quite some time. He’s always thought Lan Wangji was good, and fun to tease, and cute, and adorably earnest, and — well. He likes Lan Wangji. He probably has a giant fucking crush on Lan Wangji.

But — love?? Wei Wuxian has had tiny crushes before, so he’d thought crushing on Lan Wangji would be something he could (hopefully) process in the days he had before the date. He figured that how much he liked Lan Wangji (too much, so much he feels his heart go soft and warm and content every time he thinks of Lan Wangji, so much that he wants desperately to be the only one Lan Wangji wants for the rest of their lives, and their next, too — )

...Regardless of that, he’d thought that was what it was like for people to have humongous four-year-long crushes. And anyway, who in their right mind wouldn’t feel that way for Lan Wangji? Lan Wangji is so extraordinarily good, and Wei Wuxian has always loved him so fiercely, and it should be only right that he thinks Lan Wangji deserves the utmost best.

Wait.

Wei Wuxian loves — he — loves Lan Wangji?

Oh.

Oh.

He does. He really, really does. He loves Lan Wangji, adores every bit of him, the courage and the loyalty and the pettiness and the secret humor. He wants Lan Wangji every day, all ways, wants to be the one who Lan Wangji knows he can trust, wants to be the one Lan Wangji gives his heart to. He wants to hold Lan Wangji’s hand for real, press his lips against Lan Wangji’s lips and feel him smile, find out if those muscles are as strong as they look and what he could do to Wei Wuxian with them.

He loves Lan Wangji, and the thought feels right. He loves Lan Wangji, and it feels like he’s stumbling to a stop and finding himself safe and sound after he’s been running for so long, always trying to be two steps ahead of the world, relentlessly pushing an unending brilliance to its breaking point. He loves Lan Wangji, and it feels like he can rest now.

Wei Wuxian loves Lan Wangji, and it feels like coming home.

“Jiang Cheng,” he says. “Don’t freak out.”

Jiang Cheng promptly freaks out. “What did you do, Wei Wuxian, you bastard??”

“I said don’t freak out!! And I didn’t do anything, I, um — I think that, I. Really do love Lan Zhan.”

“Oh, that’s all? You’re so lame. Why are you telling me this?” Jiang Cheng twirls his pen in his hand, and Wei Wuxian is struck momentarily silent by the sheer audacity of Jiang Cheng’s blithe attitude. “I just said you’re in love with Lan Wangji, anyway, why do you need to restate it?”

“Because!! I — I needed to say it out loud. I just realized. I like him so, so much. I love him.” Wei Wuxian whispers, brimming with giddiness at the thought. He loves Lan Wangji!! “I love him!!”

Jiang Cheng groans. “I know. You were so fucking obvious about it that even fucking Nie Mingjue could see it, and it took you asking him out on a fake date to realize it.”

Wei Wuxian decides to Not Think about Nie Mingjue of all people knowing he’s in love with Lan Wangji, and says, “Yeah. Not one of my finest moments, didi, but at least now I know!! I LOVE LAN ZHAN!!!”

“Please never call me didi again,” says Jiang Cheng, looking slightly traumatized. “It took you four fucking years to realize it, for your information. How did you ever win that scholarship??”

Wei Wuxian honestly doesn’t know how he did it either. But he has an idea — when it comes to science, everything is relatively straightforward most of the time, and the times when it’s not and the mysteries of the underlying mechanisms of natural processes are yet to be figured out make Wei Wuxian all the more curious. There are problems to solve, and either you solve it or you experiment until you find the cause and then solve it.

When it comes to loving Lan Wangji — there are feelings, and lovesickness, and coming to terms with the fact that you pretended to ask out someone who never really liked you, and Wei Wuxian simply cannot deal with it. It’s the most un-straightforward thing Wei Wuxian has ever dealt with, and yet, he would gladly choose to fall in love with Lan Wangji in a heartbeat.

Fine, I’ll give you the goddamn money.”

“Really??” Wei Wuxian instantly perks up. Now he can take Lan Wangji on the best date of all time, and even Lan Wangji can’t complain about having to spend time with him because he’s going to be too busy having fun and, in the best case scenarios, thinking about how Wei Wuxian would actually make a pretty good boyfriend.

He’d have to confess to Lan Wangji first to help him realize Wei Wuxian does like him, though, since he did dig his grave a thousand meters into the earth during their talk this afternoon. Oh no. Wei Wuxian specializes in thinking about things later, and so he does.

“Only because you’re slumped over my dorm looking all lovesick and forlorn because you can’t take your Lan Zhan out on a real date,” snaps Jiang Cheng, pulling his phone out. Half a minute later, Wei Wuxian’s phone dings with the notification that Jiang Cheng has sent him 1850 yuan through WeChat Pay. “That should be enough to cover the aquarium tickets and whatever you’re planning at the botanical garden, right?”

Wei Wuxian will never acknowledge this moment ever again, but he tears up, just the littlest bit. “Ah, Jiang Cheng, you were listening to me!! You do care!!”

“I do not!” Jiang Cheng snaps, but he looks significantly less intimidating in his ratty sweatshirt and joggers, and so Wei Wuxian doesn’t stop grinning up at him shamelessly. “I just don’t want to hear you whining about how you can’t take Lan Wangji on a perfect date anymore!!”

Like Wei Wuxian will believe that. His little brother, really! In the end, Jiang Cheng is a tiny, fluffy, barking dog with the soft heart of a rabbit, and even if JIang Cheng will never admit it, Wei Wuxian knows him well enough to see past all his pretend irritation.

Jiang Cheng glares at him. “What do you want?? Stop smiling at me like that, do you want me to take back my money?”

“Nothing, absolutely nothing!” Wei Wuxian says. “I’m gonna text Lan Zhan now with the details, thanks for the money, A-Cheng!!”

“Fuck off!! Who the fuck is A-Cheng, I’ll break your legs and your nose too!!Jiang Cheng roars, but he lets Wei Wuxian collapse onto his bed in peace anyway and doesn’t actually chase Wei Wuxian down with a pitchfork, so Wei Wuxian will consider this a win.

“Really. Thank you, Jiang Cheng.” Wei Wuxian murmurs. “For — for supporting me like this. I mean it. Thank you.”

There’s a long silence, so long Wei Wuxian thinks Jiang Cheng might have elected to ignore him, or didn’t hear him at all.

Then —

“You don’t need to say that. Not to me.” Jiang Cheng says. “What’s there to be grateful for, idiot? I’m your brother.”

Jiang Cheng so rarely acknowledges their relationship like that. Wei Wuxian sighs, and feels a thorny little ball of insecurity in his heart unravel with Jiang Cheng’s words.

Thank you anyway. For being my brother, Wei Wuxian thinks but doesn’t say.

He and Jiang Cheng both know what goes unsaid between them, though, and Wei Wuxian smiles to himself when Jiang Cheng huffs a laugh and goes back to his homework.

 

wei ying: lan zhan

wei ying: lan zhaaaaaan lan zhan lan . zhan!

wei ying: LAN ZHAN AH

wei ying: lan zhan lan zhan lan er gege

🥺💞lan zhan💞🥺: Yes?

wei ying: are u excited for our date 🥺🥺🥺

🥺💞lan zhan💞🥺: ...Mmn.

wei ying: GREAT because i have an entire itinerary for the day! u better be prepared hehehe

wei ying: haha lan zhan arent u proud of me for using such fancy words arent i a good boy

🥺💞lan zhan💞🥺: …

🥺💞lan zhan💞🥺: Good boy, Wei Ying?

wei ying: LAN ZHAN AH U CANNOT JUST CALL A MAN THAT WITHOUT GIVING HIM A WARNING

wei ying: shame on you!!

🥺💞lan zhan💞🥺: You asked me to say so?

wei ying: ...okay but STILL lan er gege u are a menace to my heart!

🥺💞lan zhan💞🥺: Wei Ying what are your plans.

wei ying: oh!! RIGHT.

wei ying: we’re meeting @ 9 am outside ur dorm, and then we take a Didi to the aquarium!

wei ying: do you want to see the penguin show or the special shark exhibit?? i gotta get tickets

🥺💞lan zhan💞🥺: Penguins.

🥺💞lan zhan💞🥺: Wei Ying, do not worry. I will pay.

wei ying: no way i asked u out so i pay… plus u have paid for me too many times! This time im gonna be the responsible one ;)

🥺💞lan zhan💞🥺: …

wei ying: anyway after the aquarium we can go to the cafe around,, uh. 12:30 PM?? i project we’ll spend like 45 minutes there?

wei ying: which is great bc the surprise i booked at the botanical gardens closes at 4 PM!!

🥺💞lan zhan💞🥺: Surprise?

wei ying: o definitely, did u think this would be a NORMAL date?? im not taking THE lan wangji out without treating him to smth special

🥺💞lan zhan💞🥺: You… Did not need to do so. I am fine simply going to the aquarium and the cafe.

🥺💞lan zhan💞🥺: Do not spend your money needlessly.

wei ying: omg lan zhan wdym needlessly?! u deserve to be treated! and i wanted to treat u anyway, i bullied jiang cheng into giving me money

wei ying: so dont think of it as wei wuxian’s money, think of it as the heir to Yunmeng Corp. Jiang Wanyin’s money!

🥺💞lan zhan💞🥺: Oh. Alright.

wei ying: ahhh dont sound so apprehensive, ik you’ll love this date! i will aggressively take u out just u wait :3

🥺💞lan zhan💞🥺: As an assassin or as a romantic partner? I do hope it would be the latter.

wei ying: lan ZHAN

wei ying: jiang cheng just threw a pillow at my head bc i laughed super hard while he was on a phone call with uncle jiang

wei ying: I CANNOT BELIEVE!!!! U SAID THAT SO CASUALLY WHAT HTE FUUUUCK lan zhan ur rly too good, i adore

wei ying: i mean, ahah aa, i adore penguins too. SO.

wei ying: looking forward to seeing them with u!!!

🥺💞lan zhan💞🥺: As am I, Wei Ying.

wei ying: uuuu okay lan zhan i gtg now

wei ying: i still do have a midterm on friday lmao

wei ying: it is SO rude of my bio prof to schedule an exam when i have a date to plan!! These ppl have no consideration for ur romantic life huh :’(

wei ying: *fake romantic life but ya know, the point still stands

🥺💞lan zhan💞🥺: I see.

wei ying: what?

🥺💞lan zhan💞🥺: Never mind. Good luck on your midterm, Wei Ying. Please remember to hydrate yourself and obtain an adequate amount of sleep Thursday night. I will be cheering you on.

wei ying: lan zhan ur the best!!!! I’ll do my best knowing ur by my side

wei ying: like not PHYSICALLY i think you’d die if u had to take this midterm with me bc ur a weirdo who doesnt like stem >:(

wei ying: but you get what i mean right??

🥺💞lan zhan💞🥺: A… weirdo?

🥺💞lan zhan💞🥺: Yes.

wei ying: **good type of weirdo ofc!! Ur weird but thats just part of ur charm, ppl who dont like it are weak and will be weeded out via natural selection

🥺💞lan zhan💞🥺: Oh.

wei ying: dont just ‘Oh.’ me, i KNOW you smiled at that!

🥺💞lan zhan💞🥺: ….

wei ying: YOU DID!!! Lan zhan ur smile is so beautiful, u should do it more! U know what. It is now my mission to make you smile at least three times on our date.

wei ying: is that okay??

🥺💞lan zhan💞🥺: Mmn.

🥺💞lan zhan💞🥺: You should sleep now. It is late.

wei ying: omg no im still studying i’ll sleep in a few hours

🥺💞lan zhan💞🥺: …

wei ying: OKAY FINE I’LL SLEEP IN FIFTEEN MINUTES u cannot just ‘...’ at me either i can FEEL u pulling puppy eyes on me thru text

🥺💞lan zhan💞🥺: Did it work?

wei ying: i am ashamed to admit that yes, yes it did

🥺💞lan zhan💞🥺: Good.

wei ying: oh my god

wei ying: you!!!!!! I cant BELIEVE you!!

wei ying: i really am going to bed now okay?? dont worry anymore!! Goodnight lan zhan!!

🥺💞lan zhan💞🥺: Goodnight, Wei Ying.

🥺💞lan zhan💞🥺: Sweet dreams.

wei ying: aaa hhhhhhhhhhhhh hHh

wei ying: you too!!! <3

 

Perhaps it wasn’t such a good idea to schedule the date at 9 AM, because Wei Wuxian has to, quite literally, drag himself out of bed and force himself under the freezing dorm showers to wake himself up with enough time to do his hair and triple-check his outfit in the mirror. It’s worth it, he tells himself, for Lan Zhan.

He still feels like a walking corpse because of the midterm yesterday, which wasn’t even hard — just unnecessarily long and late at night. Not like that’s going to stop him from showing up 5 minutes early to their date, though. Five minutes early!! Wei Wuxian has never, in his life, considered being early to anything, except maybe that one hellish high society event Madame Yu and Uncle Jiang forced him to attend.

Wei Wuxian spends long enough adjusting miniscule details in his outfit — his nicest black jeans and low-cut boots, paired with a mahogany v-necked t-shirt, a thin black cardigan, and a longer outer coat because it is winter and they are in Shanghai — that Jiang Cheng, back from his morning run, purposefully ruffles his hair as he passes by.

“Stop worrying and go! I don’t want your stupid lovesick fussing filling up my dorm, where I can see it!”

“I live here too, you know,” Wei Wuxian says, too nervous to come up with a proper comeback. “And it’s not stupid! I need to look good. I think I’d rather die than have the usual sleep-deprived, ratty student look on a date with Lan Zhan.”

“He sees you like that literally every other day,” Jiang Cheng points out. “You lost your chance to make him think you were a functioning person a long time ago.”

Wei Wuxian thinks back to all the times Lan Wangji has caught him napping in the library surrounded by his textbooks, and that one time Lan Wangji saw him down four espresso shots on a dare, and oh, that other time he tripped over a tree root and nearly twisted his ankle because he was too busy grinning at Lan Wangji to look where he was going.

It… really is a wonder Lan Wangji hasn’t gotten tired of being around Wei Wuxian yet. The more Wei Wuxian thinks, the more memories he recalls with him generally being terribly inept and un-charming around Lan Wangji. Oh no.

“Stop making that face!” Jiang Cheng snaps. “You are not chickening out on the date now.”

“I wasn’t going to!”

“I could practically hear you going ‘oh my god why does Lan Zhan even hang around me, I expose my idiotic and pathetic side to him on the daily’, how would I know?”

“I — ” It isn’t like Wei Wuxian wasn’t about to think that. He can’t protest that point, unfortunately. Jiang Cheng clicks his tongue and him and practically pushes him out of their dorm.

“If Lan Wangji still willingly hangs out with you after all this time, it’s because he likes you! He’s had plenty of opportunities to decide you’re too annoying and loud to be friends with, and yet you’re going on a date with him now!” Jiang Cheng talks slowly and pointedly, like he’s explaining something to a three year old. Wei Wuxian has just enough time to be offended before Jiang Cheng shoves his phone and wallet at him, along with a scarf.

“I can’t fathom why, but he likes you. A lot.” Jiang Cheng says, unusually gruff. “You know him, you know that if he wanted to get rid of you, he would have done so a long time ago. Now do some critical thinking for once!!”

“Rude!” Wei Wuxian shoots back. The door to their dorm slams in his face as a response, so Wei Wuxian gives it the finger. It opens momentarily to reveal Jiang Cheng’s scowling face, and Wei Wuxian nearly stumbles back in surprise.

“And don’t you dare give me back that scarf, it’s cold today. Don’t you dare lose it either! It’s expensive!!”

The door slams again. Wei Wuxian looks down at the scarf in his hands, thinks about how Jiang Cheng had seemed like he was forcing himself to outline why he thought Lan Wangji liked him (which is, in Wei Wuxian’s opinion, plausible but probably not true, as fantastic as it seems.) The scarf is dark purple and black, soft and knit and quite obviously worn.

“You do care,” Wei Wuxian whispers again, hugging the scarf to his chest.

He and Jiang Cheng haven’t always been able to banter comfortably like this. His sophomore year of college, there had been so many things going on, and Wei Wuxian had ended up pushing everybody who would have supported him away. He doesn’t remember much about his final breakdown, but he knows he’d hurt Jiang Cheng and his jiejie, and nearly lost his scholarship. Even before that, Jiang Cheng had always — Wei Wuxian knows he’s always competed against Wei Wuxian for things he should have be entitled to, things he should have known he had unconditionally. He’d done his best to make it so that Jiang Cheng didn’t have to push himself so hard, but Wei Wuxian had only been a kid. Still —

Wei Wuxian is better now. It had taken a lot of work to start mending the cracks in his relationship with Jiang Cheng, to even reach out to him after everything that had happened. They both are better now, but Wei Wuxian still thinks about the words Jiang Cheng had hurled at him two years ago, how he’d pushed Jiang Cheng away in response.

To have Jiang Cheng’s support in this, to know Jiang Cheng is trying just as hard as Wei Wuxian…

Well. If there’s a happy, relieved little bounce in Wei Wuxian’s steps as he walks to Lan Wangji’s dorm building, he doesn’t have to tell anybody.

 

True to form, Lan Wangji is waiting outside the dorm building when Wei Wuxian arrives. Wei Wuxian has half a mind to ask how long Lan Wangji has been waiting in 37 degree, overcast, and windy weather, but —

His brain shorts out when he sees Lan Wangji’s form-fitting grey coat, and his v-necked white cable sweater, and those pants that make his legs look unfairly long, and —

It takes Lan Wangji nodding and saying, “Good morning, Wei Ying,” to restart his brain.

“Lan Zhan!!” Wei Wuxian says. Fuck, is he speaking too loud? Or too happily? He sure is happy — a lot more than happy — to see such a fashionable, elegant Lan Wangji (not that Lan Wangji isn’t elegant every day, but today he seems especially elegant and coldly beautiful and breathtaking) but maybe Lan Wangji would be annoyed to hear Wei Wuxian obviously panicking over his beauty so early in the morning — “Did you sleep well last night?”

What a stupid question!! Wei Wuxian yells in the privacy of his mind. Ever since he realized the key fact that he’s head over heels for Lan Wangji, he’s been… not a mess. He’s definitely not been a mess. He’s just been panicking the slightest bit whenever he thinks about Lan Wangji because he can’t stop thinking about how good and kind and talented and hot Lan Wangji is, and apparently that transfers to real life.

It’s like the beginnings of a crush four years too late. Wei Wuxian almost wishes he’d realized earlier, so that he wouldn’t be having a continuous heart attack on a fake date with the love of his life. Maybe then he’d just be pining hopelessly, which is a much better alternative to having his heart skip a beat every time Lan Wangji does something particularly cute.

“Mmn.” Lan Wangji waits for Wei Wuxian to be settled by his side before they start walking, and Wei Wuxian’s heart does not clench funnily in his chest. “I called Uncle. He has told me that Brother is adjusting to his position as the head of Lan Industries very well, and is planning to introduce major changes to the way the marketing and development departments operate.”

“You sound really proud of him,” Wei Wuxian notes. The nervous, frantic pounding of his heart has melted into something softer and more content now that Lan Wangji is by his side. “But should you really be telling the ward of the Jiang family this? We’re your biggest competitors, you know!”

“It is alright,” Lan Wangji says, tilting his head. Oh god, oh fuck, is that a braid?? Did Lan Wangji put his hair into a braid?! He definitely did. It’s swept to one side, tied back neatly with his signature cloud-patterned ribbon, and it looks so soft. Wei Wuxian wants to run his hands through Lan Wangji’s hair, feel Lan Wangji lean into his hands, treat Lan Wangji with the reverence he deserves.

He takes a breath through the sudden wave of adoration for Lan Wangji, and another, until the love and devotion have settled into the constant swell and lull of gentle white-sand beach waves, sweeping through Wei Wuxian’s body and reminding him there isn’t a second in which he can’t love Lan Wangji.

“Really?” Wei Wuxian whispers.

Lan Wangji makes a considering face. “Yes,” he says eventually, “I trust you.”

Wei Wuxian kind of wants to run back to his dorm room and roll around on his bed until the familiar rapid beat of his heart calms down. How dare Lan Wangji be so smooth!! How dare he say ‘I trust you’ with that steady, sweet voice?!! Since he’s walking with Lan Wangji, though, he can’t do anything but cover his giddy smile with his scarf and giggle helplessly.

“Ahaha, Lan Zhan, you’re really too much!! Be kinder to my heart and tell me before you decide to say something like that next time, alright?”

That telltale crease of confusion appears between Lan Wangji’s eyebrows. “I meant it.”

Wei Wuxian wants to smooth that crease out, preferably with his lips. He presses a playful finger to it instead, watching as Lan Wangji’s eyelashes flutter at the touch, wondering what would happen if he were brave enough to lean forward and kiss Lan Wangji. He’s certainly close enough to do so — so close he can smell Lan Wangji’s sandalwood shampoo, and see the wondrous shimmer in his eyes, the shaded hollow of his neck.

Wei Wuxian wonders if Lan Wangji would kiss him back. If Lan Wangji would wrap his hands around Wei Wuxian’s waist and hold him close and kiss him long and deep and sweet. Oh, he could kiss Lan Wangji so easily right now, and he wants it so much he doesn’t know what to do with himself.

He doesn’t. He rocks back onto his feet and laughs awkwardly and says, “Then I’m glad! That you trust me. It’s, uh, a big honor. Because it’s you. Um. Yeah.”

Jiang Cheng will laugh at his ineptitude later tonight when he tells him all about the date, but for now Wei Wuxian desperately does not want to talk more about this subject. He thinks Lan Wangji might actually be able to hear how hard his heart is beating already, just because one sentence from him.

Somehow, Lan Wangji can tell that Wei Wuxian is trying to avoid the subject, because he says, “How was your midterm?”

Terrible,” Wei Wuxian says, relishing the feeling of being able to complain and knowing he won’t get a pencil thrown at him (like Jiang Cheng does) or just not be listened to at all (like Nie Huaisang does). “It was at 6:30 PM! And lasted 3.5hours! Who does that?? Professor Qiu, apparently!!”

“Were you cold?”

“I think I was too tired to be cold? Is that a thing? I would say it was a thing but I was also too tired to notice…”

Lan Wangji gazes at him for a few seconds. When he speaks next, he sounds just the slightest bit worried, and Wei Wuxian is pretty sure he physically brightens at Lan Wangji’s worry (!!!!). “Did you rest enough for today?”

“Um.” Wei Wuxian says. He’d gotten 4 hours of sleep. “Yes?”

“Lying is forbidden in the Cloud Recesses,” says Lan Wangji, and Wei Wuxian can’t help but laugh fondly.

“I thought you trusted me! Ah, Lan er-gege, how cruel of you, to go back on your word to poor Xianxian…”

If he isn’t mistaken, Lan Wangji’s ears are turning red. He really is the cutest!! His Lan Zhan is the absolute best!! Wei Wuxian can’t fathom why nobody aside from Lan Xichen seems to recognize how cute Lan Wangji is.

“I do trust you,” Lan Wangji insists. “You… look quite tired. Are you sure you wish to go out today?”

“Yes!! Of course I do!!” Wei Wuxian says, maybe too quickly to be subtle about his feelings. “I mean, because — the parfait is only available today? That’s why we’re here after all. The parfait. Right, yup. Can’t miss this chance.”

Lan Wangji’s eyes abruptly snap away from him, focusing instead on a very uninteresting weed growing up through the pavement. Wei Wuxian will beat himself up later for mourning the loss of Lan Wangji’s gaze. “Right,” Lan Wangji says, even though he doesn’t sound like he agrees.

“Lan Zhan?” Wei Wuxian ventures. Lan Wangji’s shoulders have tensed up, his entire body going rigid and defensive. It makes such a small difference, but to Wei Wuxian, because Lan Wangji is the sun and stars to him, it matters regardless. “Are you okay?”

“I am fine.” Lan Wangji says.

You don’t sound fine, Wei Wuxian thinks about pointing out. But that’s something only someone with zero tact would say, and Wei Wuxian likes to think he has tact around the love of his life — it would be disastrous if he wasn’t, and Lan Wangji didn’t find anything charming or witty about him at all.

Lan Wangji takes a breath, and smooths his hands over the pockets of his coat. Wei Wuxian kind of, really wants to hold them. “I am fine, Wei Ying,” he says again. This time it sounds like he’s reassuring Wei Wuxian more than convincing himself that he’s fine, and Wei Wuxian would reach out and close the gap between them and comfort Lan Wangji until he finds out what’s bothering his love so much, but —

A horn beeps, startling Wei Wuxian out of his thoughts.

“The Didi is here,” Lan Wangji observes dryly.

Lan Wangji opens the door for him and offers his hand for Wei Wuxian to get in like a proper gentleman, and fuck, why does Lan Wangji always manage to get his emotions under control in less than three seconds? Can’t he see Wei Wuxian wants to see those emotions that he probably judged as unnecessary and ugly, can’t he see Wei Wuxian wants to see every side of Lan Wangji and fall even deeper in love?

Good god, Wei Wuxian, please stop thinking. He said this date would be the best Lan Wangji ever would go on, so he’s got to stop getting caught up in his futile pining for Lan Wangji and make sure Lan Wangji is happy.

“Where to?” The Didi driver asks.

“Shanghai Ocean Aquarium!” Wei Wuxian responds. He grabs Lan Wangji’s hand and squeezes it as a last-ditch resort for making Lan Wangji feel better, and smiles helplessly when Lan Wangji squeezes back.

“Are you excited to see the penguins? They’re our colors, you know — black and white! We can find red and blue fish, or — or lobsters, or something, if you think we’re more red and blue?”

Lan Wangji’s lips quirk up for only a millisecond. Wei Wuxian’s stupid heart leaps happily anyway. “Mmn. We can see both,” he says. He doesn’t let go of Wei Wuxian’s hand.

At this rate Wei Wuxian might not make it to the aquarium in one piece. Lan Wangji keeps doing these things, like making Wei Wuxian breathless and giddy with one tiny smile, and — ahhh, Wei Wuxian likes him so very much!!

“Wei Ying?”

“Both it is! I’ll hold you to that promise, you know.”

Lan Wangji nods at him. His eyes are clear and bright again. Wei Wuxian isn’t sure what he’d done to make Lan Wangji look sad in the first place, but now that he’s succeeded in making Lan Wangji smile once — he won’t do it again.

Lan Wangji deserves to be happy. If all Wei Wuxian can give him is this one day, if this is the only chance he gets — unrequited pining or not, it doesn’t matter. If today is he gets, he swears he’ll make Lan Wangji happy every second of the day.

 

As it turns out, it doesn’t take much to make Lan Wangji happy.

Wei Wuxian keeps doing the smallest things — grabbing Lan Wangji’s hand to drag him to look at a particularly large spider crab, or shifting closer to him as they watch the spotted seal feeding session, or literally just grinning at him as Wei Wuxian takes a selfie of them next to a red lobster and a blue lobster — and Lan Wangji. He...

He looks… he keeps giving Wei Wuxian the gentlest, most contented looks, and Wei Wuxian doesn’t know if Lan Wangji is really, really good at pretending they’re dating, or if Lan Wangji just likes marine life more than expected.

Either way, it’s bad for Wei Wuxian’s heart, and his brain. He can’t stop thinking about how they held hands throughout the penguin show, and how Lan Wangji had whispered “Our colors” very seriously into Wei Wuxian’s ear, and about how Lan Wangji looked so ethereal under the shifting blue lights of the aquarium, and about how Lan Wangji’s hair is unbelievably soft and glossy in his braid.

It’s Valentine’s Day, and a Saturday, so of course there are couples all around them. Wei Wuxian doesn’t want to think about how much he and Lan Wangji look like a couple, especially in this environment, doesn’t want to think about how happy and relaxed Lan Wangji looks right now, because it would just remind him of what comes after today ends.

He won’t get something like this with Lan Wangji ever again.

“ — Ying? Wei Ying?”

“Ah! Sorry, sorry, I’m fine, I was just — ” Wei Wuxian casts his gaze around. They’re in the Africa section of the aquarium right now, so he says, “I was just looking at the cichlids over there, one of them is blue and silver and kind of reminded me of you!”

Lan Wangji’s face does that thing again, where it goes briefly surprised and melts into a quiet, pleased expression. It’s got to be because of the fish, Wei Wuxian thinks. Why would it be me? But maybe, for today, he can pretend that it is him. That he’s the one who makes Lan Wangji’s heart beat faster, that he’s the one who puts the oh-so-elusive smile on Lan Wangji’s face, that he’s the one who Lan Wangji wants by his side for the rest of his life.

“Oh, and over there, they have an entire exhibit for jellyfish!” Wei Wuxian makes to grab Lan Wangji’s hand, but they’re already holding hands. They haven’t let go, he realizes, since the penguin show. Before Wei Wuxian can let himself think too much on that, he drags a willing Lan Wangji to the jellyfish exhibit, hoping he can’t see the blush staining Wei Wuxian’s cheeks.

Wei Wuxian doesn’t let go of his hand once they arrive; Lan Wangji doesn’t either. And Lan Wangji has been continuously stealing Wei Wuxian’s breaths from his lungs today, but now — oh, he is glorious, immersed in the pulsing light, his slender yet strong frame haloed by the swaying movement of the jellyfish. Lan Wangji reaches out a hand, traces a stray jellyfish’s hypnotizing undulations. His eyes are dark, deep pools of gold, and Wei Wuxian…

He laughs softly. It’s definitely on the breathless side, but he can’t help it. Right now, he thinks he can be forgiven for falling even further in love with Lan Wangji, because Lan Wangji is — he’s —

Lan Wangji is all things beautiful and good and gentle and strong, and Wei Wuxian is struck dizzy with the familiar thought of how much he loves this man.

“Hm?” Lan Wangji has torn his attention away from the jellyfish, and now he’s looking at Wei Wuxian expectantly, and Wei Wuxian spends a whole five seconds staring in wonder at Lan Wangji before he realizes Lan Wangji is curious as to why he laughed.

“Nothing!!” Wei Wuxian says, which might just be the biggest lie he’s ever told. “Well, um. Actually, remember how I told you I’d make you smile at least three times on this date?”

“Mmn.”

“Well, you smiled once, in the Didi!”

Lan Wangji sighs. “I did not.”

“You did, you really did! I saw your lips curve up, don’t deny it!!”

“Wei Ying,” Lan Wangji says, and it sounds like he’s struggling not to laugh. They’re still in the jellyfish exhibit, in front of a swarm of gently glowing, purple jellyfish, so Wei Wuxian hums a little and decides to lean his head on Lan Wangji’s shoulder before he can think better of it. “Wei Ying, I did not.”

“You did. Don’t you even try to deny it, Lan! Wang! Ji!” Wei Wuxian punctuates each syllable with a squeeze of their (stil!!!!) intertwined hands. Lan Wangji shakes his head and sighs again, fondness and well-worn exasperation mixed into one beautiful sound.

“You must have seen it wrong.”

“Noooo way.” Wei Wuxian moves to stand in front of Lan Wangji, and with no shortage of regret drops Lan Wangji’s hand so that he can cup Lan Wangji’s face with both hands instead. In his best imitation of Lan Qiren, he says, “Lying is forbidden in the Cloud Recesses, Wangji,” and it’s so over-the-top and ridiculous that Lan Wangji does actually give an undignified laugh.

Words can’t describe how happy Wei Wuxian is at that moment, for having made Lan Wangji smile — and laugh!! — again, for being the one Lan Wangji laughs with. So he breaks into laughter too, pinches both of Lan Wangji’s cheeks and lets his hands fall. Lan Wangji is still smiling!! It feels so good, to know you’re the reason the love of your life is happy, for once. Wei Wuxian wants this to last forever.

He knows it won’t. He knows at the end of this day, Lan Wangji will go this way and Wei Wuxian will go that way, and they’ll be back to being sort-of-maybe-friends.

But Lan Wangji shakes his head, and Wei Wuxian tracks the movement of his hand as it tucks a stray lock of hair behind his ear and glides down to lace his fingers with Wei Wuxian’s again.

“Perhaps I did,” Lan Wangji admits. There’s something shining in his eyes, something that isn’t due to the jellyfish and the swirling aquarium lights. Wei Wuxian so badly wants to believe that it is love and care and adoration that he sees — for a second he actually does think it is, because Lan Wangji is looking at him in such a funny, warm way and Wei Wuxian is only so strong.

“Great!!” Wei Wuxian says. He can’t take this tension! If he has to endure Lan Wangji looking at him like that for one more second, he’s either going to go batshit crazy and run up to the roof to profess his love for Lan Wangji to the entire city, or launch himself at Lan Wangji and kiss him silly. “That’s two smiles for me, zero smiles for you!”

“You have been smiling this whole time.” Lan Wangji observes, a note of amusement in his voice.

“Ahh, let me rest, will you? How can I not smile when I’m with you?” Wei Wuxian says, too flustered to watch his words. A second later, he sees Lan Wangji’s breath hitch and his face goes through a litany of expressions too complex for even Wei Wuxian to decode.

“Lan Zhan?? Did I say something — wrong? Are you okay? I’m sorry — ”

Lan Wangji brushes his thumb over the back of Wei Wuxian’s hand and squeezes it again. That gets him to shut up embarrassingly quickly.

“No, Wei Ying.” Lan Wangji murmurs. “Do not apologize. You… I — I am glad that you are smiling. When you are with me. I am glad you are happy.”

“Oh yeah?” Wei Wuxian says. He sways closer to Lan Wangji, painfully aware of how dry his throat suddenly is.

“Mmn. You should always smile.” Lan Wangji is whispering now. They’re so close, and Lan Wangji’s face is doing this lovely little thing that it does when he’s considering very carefully what to say, and Wei Wuxian rocks forward on instinct. “Your smile is — it is beautiful,” he says, like it’s the most precious secret to him.

Wei Wuxian sucks in a breath. Lan Wangji thinks his smile is beautiful? Lan Wangji thinks his smile is beautiful?????! Lan Wangji is holding his hand and complimenting him and allowing Wei Wuxian to inch closer and closer to him?? Wei Wuxian knows what the rapid pounding of his heart means. He knows why he can’t help but smile in the face of a simple compliment from Lan Wangji, now.

He doesn’t know if Lan Wangji knows what this means, to him. But Lan Wangji is probably pretending anyway. Maybe he’d seen someone they knew over Wei Wuxian’s shoulder, so he had acted like he was completely and utterly smitten for Wei Wuxian to convince. Maybe he’s just so dedicated to the role of fake boyfriend, treating this task like he does a particularly tough essay. Organized and methodical and covering all his bases to leave no room for question.

Yet Wei Wuxian finds himself rising up on his toes and brushing his lips against Lan Wangji’s cheek, his blood rushing in his ears, desperate love and want driving him forward.

Lan Wangji’s hand tightens. His skin is so, so soft, and like this Wei Wuxian can feel Lan Wangji’s bangs tickling his skin, the scent of sandalwood shampoo wreathed around him, the alluring warmth of his body.

Wei Wuxian draws back, and immediately wishes he hadn’t. He wants to kiss Lan Wangji again, a real kiss this time, lips on lips and hands on skin. There is a proper blush steadily making its way down Lan Wangji’s cheeks and something new and not at all unwelcome dawning in Lan Wangji’s eyes, and Wei Wuxian wants to kiss him until those beautiful eyes are foggy and those plush lips can only say his name.

But he can’t.

“Wei Ying?” Lan Wangji says, gloriously soft and shocked. “You — ”

Wei Wuxian forces down his love for Lan Wangji until he feels nauseous with the conscious effort of pretending he meant nothing by the kiss. He doesn’t get this with Lan Wangji, he reminds himself. One day someone else will kiss his cheek on a date and will be able to smile at him freely, and Lan Wangji will smile back, and Wei Wuxian has resigned himself to that already.

So he says — “Ahaha, Lan Zhan, you’re really great at pretending to be my boyfriend! For a moment I nearly believed you — did you see someone we know? Is that why you complimented me? Sorry about the kiss, I had to be careful just in case we weren’t believable enough, ya know?”

Lan Wangji’s face, warm and open just seconds ago, shutters abruptly. His hand goes slack in Wei Wuxian’s grip. “Pretending?” He says, quietly.

“Yeah, your acting is super good!” Wei Wuxian says, because this date has proven entirely terrible for his self-control.

“Acting.” Lan Wangji says. “Of course.”

Wei Wuxian aches to reach out to him, to kiss his cheek again and ask him what he keeps doing wrong, why Lan Wangji keeps flinching away from him. Lan Wangji may think he’s being subtle about being hurt by something Wei Wuxian has said, but Wei Wuxian has the advantage of four years of friendship and a great deal of time spent openly staring at Lan Wangji’s face.

He really, really cannot afford to kiss Lan Wangji again. Maybe it was the kiss that made Lan Wangji’s defenses shoot up so quickly, like a porcupine curling into a spiky ball. Maybe it was Wei Wuxian’s fault, for imposing his feelings upon the two of them.

“Lan Zhan?” Wei Wuxian whispers. He doesn’t try to squeeze Lan Wangji’s hand again. Oh, he’d been so foolish, thinking he would make this the best date ever for Lan Wangji and not even wondering if Lan Wangji would be uncomfortable with any romantic overtures Wei Wuxian made towards him. “Are you… did I make you uncomfortable? With the — the kiss? We don’t have to if you don’t want to, and anyway we’ll ‘break up’ after today so you won’t have to worry about keeping the pretense up — ”

Lan Wangji’s jaw tightens, but he stays quiet, watching the jellyfish sway peacefully. It is a good minute before he sighs, noticeably gathers his composure, and says, “I am okay. We should… go soon. To get the parfait you wish to have before it runs out.”

It’s an obvious change of topic, but Wei Wuxian can’t challenge it. Not if Lan Wangji is so overtly trying to avoid the subject, not if Lan Wangji is drawing in on himself — shutting Wei Wuxian out again — all because of Wei Wuxian’s stupid, split-second decision.

“Right, right, of course, definitely. Don’t wanna miss it, huh?” Wei Wuxian drops Lan Wangji’s hand tentatively, and Lan Wangji makes no attempt to take it back. He’d expected that, but still — it hurts so much to have Lan Wangji clearly uncomfortable on their date. Isn’t there any way he can do better? Can’t he, for once, be the kind of person Lan Wangji deserves?

“Right,” Lan Wangji echoes.

Wei Wuxian is adrift in this conversation. Every word and gesture Lan Wangji makes just shoves another piece of gold-stained glass into his heart, until he’s bleeding out, splitting at the seams. So much love with nowhere to go. How can one person be allowed to carry the amount of love Wei Wuxian has? How can he hide it, so that he doesn’t make Lan Wangji uncomfortable again? How could he, when all he wants is to make Lan Wangji happy with his love?

He has to. For Lan Wangji. Half an hour ago, Lan Wangji had been practically glowing with happiness. He had smiled, twice. He had let Wei Wuxian hold his hand and pull him around the aquarium and point out inane details in crab shells and penguin feathers, with no complaint. One way or the other, Wei Wuxian has to do something to get Lan Wangji back to that contented state.

So he turns to what he does best: tease Lan Wangji. “Lan Zhan ah,” he says, making to lean into Lan Wangji’s space for a moment until he realizes he can’t do that anymore, for his own sake. “You want to go to get the parfait so soon? Do you like spice so much that you’d even abandon these jellyfish for the parfait? Look how sad they are!”

To top the act off, Wei Wuxian scrunches his shoulders, squishes his face up, and tries his utmost best to look just like one of the purple jellyfish. “Ooohhh noooo, Second Young Master Lan, don’t leave us for that roguish parfait!!” He cries. He’s sure he gets a few weird looks, but if it’s for Lan Wangji, it’s more than worth it. He’s also sure they both know just what Wei Wuxian is trying to do, but he continues anyway. “Ah, we’re so sad, we can’t even sting you!! Please go already if you only mean to break our maiden hearts so cruelly!”

Lan Wangji frowns at him in his sweet, strange Lan Wangji way. Wei Wuxian keeps on swaying about like a jellyfish, taking care never to lean too far into Lan Wangji’s space no matter how much he wants to curl himself around Lan Wangji and bask in his warmth.

“Wei Ying,” Lan Wangji says eventually. He sounds better — less scarily calm, less forcedly in-control — and Wei Wuxian perks up even more when he grabs Wei Wuxian’s upper arm briefly but gently, stilling Wei Wuxian via Lan Wangji-induced heart attack, and continues, “Do not sway around like that. You may fall and injure yourself. The floors here are quite slippery.”

“Aw, does Lan er-gege care that much?” Wei Wuxian responds, grinning up at Lan Wangji before he can slip out of teasing mode.

Lan Wangji’s eyes slide to the jellyfish once again. “...Yes.” He mutters, so quiet Wei Wuxian thinks about leaning his head on Lan Wangji’s shoulder to hear him better. “Of course, Wei Ying.”

“Ah?? Really?!” Wei Wuxian cheers. He’s too thrilled about Lan Wangji admitting that he cares to even think that Lan Wangji might be trying to pass it off as another genius fake dating move. Lan Wangji cares!! The way he says it makes it sound like it’s the truest truth Lan Wangji could ever tell! “Well, uh! I also care. About you. And your safety and happiness, you know… it’s just what you deserve, okay? Now let’s go to the cafe already before the jellyfish attack me for imitating them so poorly!!”

Oh gods, his feelings are probably so obvious to Lan Wangji. Wei Wuxian can’t help but spill them all over the place — when he speaks to Lan Wangji, when he looks at him, sometimes his heart feels so full that it could burst. Already he keeps saying stupidly flirtatious and romantic stuff to Lan Wangji, giving him looks he knows are openly adoring and fond, but how can he stop?

It’s Lan Wangji, after all. Wei Wuxian never stood a chance, and if he could go back in time, he thinks all he would do is help himself realize his feelings earlier, so that he wouldn’t spend so long wondering why someone like Lan Wangji made him so unspeakable happy.

Lan Wangji ‘mmn’s and keeps pace with Wei Wuxian all through the exit and lets Wei Wuxian buy him a little jellyfish-shaped hat at the gift shop that he dutifully wears all through their Didi ride to the cafe, and Wei Wuxian feels his heart swell a little bigger. Lan Wangji is so good.

Logically, Wei Wuxian knows he has almost no chance of obtaining Lan Wangji’s affections. He isn’t — Lan Wangji doesn’t fall for people like him.

But he thinks of Lan Wangji letting Wei Wuxian put the jellyfish hat on him and adjust it with no complaint, even though Lan Wangji famously hates physical contact. He thinks of Lan Wangji’s hand in his, heavy with what Wei Wuxian wants to believe is the steady warmth of Lan Wangji’s love. He thinks of how Lan Wangji had looked at him under the flickering water-filtered light of the aquarium, and —

Wei Wuxian can’t help but hope anyway.

 

Lan Wangji ends up keeping the jellyfish hat on as they walk into the cafe. It’s bright orange, with dangly tentacles that flop and jiggle about Lan Wangji’s face as he walks, and the incongruity of the cold and elegant Lan Wangji expressionlessly wearing a floppy jellyfish hat is so bad that half the people in the cafe do a double take when Lan Wangji walks in.

Poor Wen Ning, who was apparently put in charge of admitting the couples for the free parfait, has to blink up at them for several long seconds before he politely tries not to look pained at the orange jellyfish hat. “Ah, is that you, Wei-xiong?” He says.

“Hi, Wen Ning!” Wei Wuxian kind of feels bad for tricking Wen Ning like this, but ah — he’s already come this far. But before he can grab Lan Wangji’s hand or kiss his cheek or do something indulgently stupid to prove they’re a couple, Wen Ning smiles nervously at Lan Wangji.

“This must be Lan Wangji, then?”

Lan Wangji nods, unusually terse and sharp. Wei Wuxian tugs on one of the jellyfish hat’s tentacles, hoping it would get him to relax.

“Ah, I heard that you started dating!” Wen Ning says. “Jiejie told me, she said she heard it from friends who heard it from friends who heard it from Nie Huaisang — and she also said that she’s glad you two finally, uh — “ Wen Ning flushes a bright red, and Wei Wuxian wonders what exactly Wen Qing said. That woman, he swears! One day he’ll get his revenge. “That you two finally got together? She was so tired of watching you two pine…”

“Right, ahaha, definitely!!” Wei Wuxian says, rather panicky, because apparently his love for Lan Wangji was obvious to literally everyone he knew, which means — if Lan Wangji somehow hasn’t noticed by now, it’s only a matter of time. “Well, you know, it just — happened. We’re together now! No more pining, yup, yeah.”

Wen Ning gives him a strange look but otherwise doesn’t question it, and gives them a ticket for the parfait like the good, tactful man he is.

“But… congratulations, really! I’m very happy you finally realized each other’s feelings,” Wen Ning says. Wei Wuxian’s consideration of him as a good, tactful man is rapidly becoming shaky. “I — I mean! Because you both have been pining for so long… you make a good couple! Thank you for coming bye!” Wen Ning squeaks out his last words with a rising blush, as if he can’t believe his audacity. For the record, Wei Wuxian also cannot believe his audacity.

He sneaks a glance at Lan Wangji, who looks as beautifully impassive as ever — except there’s a strained placidity to the arch of his eyebrows and the set of his mouth. Ah, he’s really screwed himself over, hasn’t he? First failing to reign in his feelings and acting like he truly did love Lan Wangji on their aquarium date, and now Wen Ning’s comments…

Wei Wuxian knows Lan Wangji isn’t the type of person to cut someone he’s known for four years off simply because of unrequited feelings. But the problem is: Wei Wuxian wants so much more from Lan Wangji than being awkward, forced friends, an uncrossable chasm between them filled with Wei Wuxian’s feelings. He doesn’t want to lose Lan Wangji like this.

“Thank you, Wen Ning,” Lan Wangji murmurs, and Wei Wuxian snaps his head to stare at Lan Wangji’s face for clues so hard he hears his spine crack unpleasantly. “I am… unspeakably glad to have this chance. With Wei Ying.”

Wen Ning nods approvingly and waves them towards the counter so that the next couple can gain entrance. Wei Wuxian is, pathetically enough, too busy processing this new information to do much more than follow Lan Wangji to the counter and stare at him as he orders — the parfait, a cup of black coffee, and one tea.

“Coffee?” Wei Wuxian asks, just so that he has something else to think about than Lan Wangji lying that he’s glad — unspeakably glad!!! — to be able to date him.

“Mmn. For you. So that you may rest before we go to the botanical gardens.”

“Ah, Lan Zhan…” Wei Wuxian slumps back against the booth and shoves down the urge to lean his head against Lan Wangji’s shoulder, because of course they’re sitting right next to each other in a booth meant for four people, because Wei Wuxian consistently has the stupidest ideas. “You really didn’t need to! I’m absolutely fine — ”

Wei Wuxian’s voice cracks in the middle of his sentence with a trembling yawn.

“‘Absolutely fine’, Wei Ying?” Lan Wangji says, dry and quiet and endearing.

Wei Wuxian flops over dramatically and does end up resting his head on Lan Wangji’s shoulder. Lan Wangji stiffens for one terrible moment, but does nothing else to dissuade Wei Wuxian from snuggling up to him. “Oh, shut up! I am fine. Just — just tired because of that exam. And anyway, I would have drank coffee after our date… I asked you out and yet you’re the one taking care of me! How unfortunate!!”

“Not unfortunate,” Lan Wangji says. “I would consider it very fortunate.”

“Why??”

“I can make sure you are being cared for,” Lan Wangji points out. “And you receive relaxation and peace. It is…” Wei Wuxian can practically hear his frown as he tries to sort through the pile of words available to him. “Mutually beneficial?”

Wei Wuxian snorts. “I don’t see how you’re benefiting from this — unless you want to care for me?? And I can care for myself, anyway. You don’t need to waste your time caring for me!”

Lan Wangji gives him a Look that makes Wei Wuxian feel something suspiciously akin to guilt. “You are not a waste of time, Wei Ying.”

That’s what he’s so suddenly serious about?? Wei Wuxian was just joking! ...Kind of. He didn’t really mean it. He thinks.

Wei Wuxian fidgets with the edge of his shirt and says, hoping Lan Wangji won’t pick up on the little quiver in his voice, “So… you do want to care for me?”

“The coffee is here,” Lan Wangji says in lieu of a proper answer, passing Wei Wuxian the cup and keeping the tea for himself. He’s staying silent about Wei Wuxian’s question, and so Wei Wuxian struggles to squash down the sapling of hope in his heart in favor of downing the coffee.

It’s hot and bitter and as black as Wei Wuxian’s childhood pet cat, just the way Wei Wuxian likes it. Wei Wuxian stares into the glossy surface of the coffee and thinks that he was rather foolish for believing for a moment that maybe, just maybe, if he looked hard enough, he could see undeniable proof of Lan Wangji wanting to care for him.

He peels himself off Lan Wangji’s side, not at all willingly. But Lan Wangji doesn’t make any attempt to get him to stay like that. He sips his green tea serenely and makes the perfect picture of an accomplished young gentleman and it is — so, so frustrating, how Wei Wuxian keeps tripping all over the place in his attempts to get his love under control and Lan Wangji doesn’t even respond half of the time.

He really, really wants to mess Lan Wangji up. He’s always wanted to crack that polished, perfect exterior of Lan Wangji’s, to get under his skin until he can’t help but look at Wei Wuxian, ever since they met as freshmen, but now — now Wei Wuxian wants so much, wants to see just what he does to Lan Wangji, to know what Lan Wangji thinks of him, if he has the slimmest chance of earning Lan Wangji’s love.

The parfait arrives before Wei Wuxian can wrestle his feelings back into his heart. It’s big enough for two people — comes with two spoons, too, nestled neatly in a heart-shaped cup. Wei Wuxian stares at it for a few seconds before he thinks, fuck it, and takes a scoop of the parfait.

“Lan Zhan!” He says, and then pauses, because going ‘say aah!’ is both extremely obvious and extremely embarrassing, and just… shoving the spoon at Lan Wangji doesn’t seem like a good idea. “Um. Want some?”

Lan Wangji makes to take the spoon, and Wei Wuxian jerks it out of his reach. “No, since we’re here, in front of everyone, I’m gonna feed you!”

That earns him a distinctly skeptical look.

“Seriously, didn’t you know this is a thing couples do?” Wei Wuxian says. “You gotta get with the program! Do this with me and we’ll look so believable that even Jiang Cheng will have a hard time saying it’s fake!”

Of course the point is to make the two of them look like a real couple who happen to be extremely sappy and lovestruck. But it also gives Wei Wuxian a chance to feed Lan Wangji, so really, he’s getting double benefits out of this arrangement.

That being said, the way the knowledge that this is all necessitated because of the fakeness of it all stabs Wei Wuxian right in the heart every time he brings it up is, for the most part, consequence large enough to negate the benefits.

Lan Wangji gives the perfectly innocuous parfait another skeptical look. He doesn’t close his eyes as Wei Wuxian guides the spoon towards his mouth — has Lan Wangji really never seen this happening in movies?? Does he even watch romantic movies? Wei Wuxian will just have to take initiative for all romance-related things, then, since Lan Wangji seems so inexperienced.

Wei Wuxian waits as Lan Wangji swallows, stays terrifying still for three seconds as his ears turn steadily redder, and sighs.

“How is it?” Wei Wuxian says. That didn’t seem like a particularly… good reaction.

“Good,” says Lan Wangji, staring far into the distance. He reaches for his tea the next second and takes a sip that is far longer than usual.

Ah, ah, Lan Wangji really is — he’s the best, Wei Wuxian thinks with vehemence. It’s so obvious that he wants to go jump in the Arctic Sea to burn off the heat of the parfait, but he’s sitting here with his hands folded neatly in his lap and his face carefully blank, enduring it for Wei Wuxian’s sake! He’s so fucking cute, Wei Wuxian adores this man so much!!

Wei Wuxian takes a big bite of the parfait for himself. It’s sweet at first, but as the cream melts on his tongue the flecks of cayenne start tingling through his mouth. Spicy, but not that spicy — although Wei Wuxian’s standards might be the tiniest bit skewed — and yet chilly enough to satisfy a craving for ice cream on a hot summer day. He relaxes into the booth as he savors the taste and tries not to lean on Lan Wangji again.

“Do you enjoy it?” Lan Wangji says abruptly after several quiet moments of eating.

“Yeah?” says Wei Wuxian, through a mouthful of parfait.

“Are you… enjoying yourself?” Lan Wangji says, quieter this time. He’s staring very intently at his hands. “On this — this date.”

“Of course!” Wei Wuxian says quickly. He nearly says because it’s with you, or I don’t think I would ever enjoy a date if it isn’t you, but Wei Wuxian has had time to learn the art of holding one’s tongue at inopportune times. “Why wouldn’t I be?”

Lan Wangji’s face softens almost imperceptibly. “I thought you would not enjoy having to pretend with me,” he says.

Oh. Oh. Is that what’s been bothering Lan Wangji?? That he thinks Wei Wuxian is forcing himself to pretend for the goddamn dessert?? The dessert is good, of course, but — but being able to do this with Lan Wangji even for a day is infinitely better.

Now that he thinks back, Lan Wangji had flinched away and shut Wei Wuxian out for a second every time Wei Wuxian mentioned the date being a pretense. Perhaps Wei Wuxian really did make him unhappy by making him think Wei Wuxian would rather be elsewhere, or doing this with anyone but Lan Wangji.

In that case…

Wei Wuxian rests his hand on top of Lan Wangji’s hand, and, when Lan Wangji doesn’t make a move to stop Wei Wuxian, flips it over to entwine their fingers.

“Lan Zhan, look at me.”

Lan Wangji does.

“Do you really think I don’t enjoy being around you?” Before Lan Wangji can say the inevitable “No, Wei Ying,” because he’s just infuriatingly polite like that, he adds, “Remember, lying is forbidden in the Cloud Recesses!”

Lan Wangji gives him a very pitiful look. Wei Wuxian is not going to fold on this, not even to Lan Wangji’s adorable puppy eyes.

“No — ”

“Lan Zhan.”

“No, but… I did not understand why you would ask me to do this if you do not like me,” Lan Wangji says.

“What!!” Wei Wuxian says, mildly offended. “But I do like you!! You’re my friend!! I would hope that you like me too?? I mean, you’ve never said anything of that sort to my face, but — I kind of just assumed, you know?”

“Yes, I know, and I do, but not like that — ” Lan Wangji takes a deep breath and visibly composes himself. “Never mind. It is not important. You are — you are my friend.”

“I think it is very important,” Wei Wuxian counters. “Lan Zhan, you must understand! I wouldn’t have asked you to do this with me if I didn’t already like spending time with you!! For me, you’re one of the best friends I’ve ever had, I like you a lot, okay?” That’s… perhaps the biggest understatement of all time. Wei Wuxian doesn’t just like Lan Wangji a lot. He likes Lan Wangji in all the ways he knows possible, so much he thinks he’ll either keel over from it or let it all spill out in front of Lan Wangji one day. “We are best friends, right?” He asks, just to confirm.

Lan Wangji nods, hesitant. “Best friends,” he says, and nods again, like he’s resigned himself to a fate out of his control. “That would be… good.”

Wei Wuxian beams at him, and can’t bring himself to feel any less than exuberant even when Lan Wangji rather ungracefully shovels a couple of spoonfuls of parfait into his mouth after tearing his gaze away from Wei Wuxian. Even when Wen Ning stops by their table to personally congratulate them again and inadvertently reminds Wei Wuxian that he’ll never be any more than best friends with Lan Wangji. Even when Lan Wangji pays the bill before Wei Wuxian can reach for his phone.

He’s fine with best friends. He really is. If there were a chance of Lan Wangji liking him back, Wei Wuxian would run through fire to grasp it. But one way or another, Wei Wuxian has the strange feeling that he could never be the person to catch Lan Wangji’s eye.

So he’ll accept his place as Lan Wangji’s friend, love Lan Wangji messily and fiercely but never force it upon him, and be satisfied that he could be close to Lan Wangji at all.

 

The problem with taking your fake dating partner that you may or may not be madly in love with on a very romantic and specialized date, Wei Wuxian thinks, is that said fake dating partner’s probability of realizing you actually like them increases exponentially.

 

Case in point: he is standing outside the entrance to the botanical garden, paying for their tickets, while the very glaring sign about the special couple’s exhibit is swinging merrily in the wind and laughing at Wei Wuxian. The ticket lady asks him whether he’s here with his boyfriend, and helpfully says, “Tickets for couples are 50 percent off today!” Wei Wuxian resolves to travel back in time and kick past Wei Wuxian in the balls, and says with a stupid grin, “Yeah, I — he’s — yeah. He’s my partner.”

 

Because putting a word to what they’re doing — even saying it out loud, as a pretense, to save money— it feels dangerous. It feels like Wei Wuxian is grasping at the ends of a passing comet. It feels —

Lan Wangji steps up and grabs his hand with a funny, determined expression on his face, like he needs to prove that he and Wei Wuxian are dating. The ticket lady gives them an indulgent smile and ushers them in.

It feels real, and that is what scares Wei Wuxian the most. That he’ll forget just where he is and what he’s doing and who he’s doing it with. That he’ll take it too far and make Lan Wangji truly uncomfortable.

But he and Lan Wangji amble along the winding paths of the gardens, and Wei Wuxian stops to take pictures of particularly weird-looking flowers every now and then, and Lan Wangji waits patiently and doesn’t complain even when Wei Wuxian forces him to pose for a picture among a grove of dark blue flowers. He follows Wei Wuxian around obediently and lets Wei Wuxian swing their hands together happily and Wei Wuxian is sure they look real to everybody else here.

Why can’t this be real?

(Wei Wuxian knows why. He knows Lan Wangji can’t and shouldn’t love someone like him. He knows Lan Wangji has never felt anything more than friendship towards him, and that is pushing the limits. And yet he wants it so much he thinks that every time Lan Wangji looks at him, it’ll all come bursting out in a raw, ugly, messy confession.)

They’ve wandered over to a display of cacti from the western South American coast growing in a greenhouse near the end of the botanical garden when Wei Wuxian realizes it’s already almost three, and the surprise he booked for their date will close soon.

On second thought, it is… probably not a good idea to take Lan Wangji to a private part of the garden with a display chosen with Lan Wangji in mind. It would be ridiculously romantic even for a real date, and there’s no way Lan Wangji isn’t going to figure out Wei Wuxian has feelings for him if he takes Lan Wangji there.

But it had been super expensive to book only half a week in advance. And Wei Wuxian did say he’d take Lan Wangji there, and Lan Wangji has been looking quite expectantly at Wei Wuxian for the past thirty minutes or so, and Wei Wuxian does want to see how Lan Wangji would look surrounded by beautiful, rare flowers…

And this is the only chance Wei Wuxian will ever get, to do something like this with Lan Wangji, to pretend once again that they could be more than friends.

“Lan Zhan?” Wei Wuxian says. “Do you… still want to go see the surprise? I don’t know if you’ll like it, or if you’re tired, or if — if this is too much for you…”

Lan Wangji shakes his head resolutely. “I will like it. It is something you planned for me,” he says, like the two things have any sort of correlation at all.

“I mean — ” Wei Wuxian starts. Lan Wangji holds his gaze steadily, daring Wei Wuxian to say no, you might not like it after all with the same conviction he attacks everything else with. “Like I said, if this is too much — if, you know, the pretending feels too real… you don’t have to do it? Not if you’re uncomfortable with it. I don’t want to make you do it.”

Lan Wangji gives him an incredulous stare. “I would not be doing this if I did not want to, Wei Ying.”

“I know!! I know, I know you, I know you wouldn’t… I just.” Wei Wuxian fidgets. “I just don’t want you to be uncomfortable. With anything. With me.”

“I will never be uncomfortable with you, Wei Ying,” Lan Wangji states. How can you be so sure? Wei Wuxian wants to ask, but he doesn’t think he’s ready to know the answer to that. “And I am not being made to do — to do this, with you. I enjoy spending time with you. Today has been… delightful.”

“I — you do? It has??” Wei Wuxian says. He’d never really thought of himself as the type of person Lan Wangji would want to hang out with. But apparently. Lan Wangji. Likes Wei Wuxian’s company. A lot.

Lan Wangji likes his company!!! It really is rather pathetic how two sentences from Lan Wangji clear the clouds of doubt and worry that have been hanging over Wei Wuxian’s head since this morning, but — Lan Wangji has always made him so marvelously happy. Hearing that Lan Wangji likes to be with him, has truly enjoyed the date Wei Wuxian set up…

Wei Wuxian thinks even a catastrophic impact event couldn’t wipe the smile off his face.

Lan Wangji gives him a strange look, as if what he had just said was more obvious than Wei Wuxian’s love for him. “You are ridiculous,” he says, but he sounds so goddamn fond that Wei Wuxian ends up smiling even more. “Wei Ying, of course I do. I always have.”

“Really!!” Wei Wuxian says, and he doesn’t mean for it to sound like he’s questioning Lan Wangji’s feelings but Lan Wangji stares at him plaintively, so Wei Wuxian says again, “Really, Lan Zhan, I believe you! I never thought someone like you could want to willingly spend time with me — did I win you over with my charming personality? My astonishing talent?” Wei Wuxian wiggles his eyebrows. “Or… my ravishing looks?”

Lan Wangji’s attention slides to an unusually colorful cactus on their left. His ears are flushing red again, and the urge to poke and prod at Lan Wangji until he snaps hits Wei Wuxian suddenly.

“Could it have been… all three?? Ah, Lan er-gege, I can’t blame you for not being able to resist such an attractive combo!” Wei Wuxian leans into Lan Wangji’s space and bumps his head against Lan Wangji’s shoulder not-so-accidentally. “Though, I probably just annoyed you into being my friend in the end, right? One day you realized it would be better to be grudgingly endeared by me pestering you than ignoring me all the time, that sort of thing?”

“Not annoyed,” Lan Wangji corrects, leaning back into him. Wei Wuxian’s brain goes utterly blank for a second, except for the feeling of Lan Wangji’s warmth, but he resolutely does not make the undignified squeak that his brain so helpfully has supplied him with instead of proper words. “I… I always wanted to be your friend. I know I did not express it well.”

“That’s an understatement,” Wei Wuxian says thoughtlessly. Lan Wangji just nods.

“You were — for me,” he says, as if he’s choosing every word like it could be his last, “you were the difference. You made me think about the world in a new and forbidding way. I was… scared.”

“Is that a good thing?? It doesn’t sound like a good thing!” Wei Wuxian says. Obviously Lan Wangji is not done with telling Wei Wuxian the story of how that placid face had always held the burning desire to be Wei Wuxian’s friend, but Wei Wuxian has never been particularly good at holding his tongue, and hearing about how he scared Lan Wangji when they met is not a good incentive. “Lan er-gege, ah, how could you be scared of me?? Was I too loud? Too… much??”

Lan Wangji shakes his head, more noticeable than he normally would. “No. No. I was simply unaccustomed to change, and I was scared by how — how much I wanted to be closer to the source of change. I had always been taught that my family’s ways were traditional, and true, and unshakeable. You made me want to question them.”

“So I was the bad influence Lan Qiren always said I was!!” Wei Wuxian crows. “Well, I always knew I was, but… I can’t believe you wanted to make friends with the absolute worst student Lan Qiren had seen in his decades of teaching! When did you become such a rebel?”

“Since I met you,” Lan Wangji says simply. Wei Wuxian should feel more guilty about tarnishing the brilliant Lan Wangji’s virtue, but… Lan Wangji is still good and hardworking and respectful and devotes an impossible amount of time to helping people any way and all ways, and Wei Wuxian knows Lan Wangji never considered himself in calculations of happiness, that he’s never had a real friend before college. A little bit of rebellion in the form of wanting to make a friend is a good thing! “But you were never a bad influence.”

“Like I believe that!” Wei Wuxian will not talk about the mistakes of his 18-year-old self, but he can at least recognize he was more than a bit of a little shit back then. “Look, Lan Zhan ah, I’m in a good enough place to know I wasn’t exactly a paragon of exemplary behavior back then.”

“You were not a bad influence, and not a bad student.” It seems like Lan Wangji is dead set on insisting on this. Ah, maybe Wei Wuxian has tarnished him more than he thought, if Lan Wangji is suddenly defending him like this? “Only unconventional. Uncle is… even more adverse to change than I. Your mind was brilliant, but too…” Lan Wangji frowns momentarily. “Too surprising for Uncle.”

“And for you?” Wei Wuxian says, against his better interests. “Lan Zhan, what did you think of me?”

He tactfully does not ask would I be the kind of person you like? Or I know you don’t make friends with many people, so I hope I’m special to you, but am I really?

“I thought… this boy will change me forever. And I thought… I wouldn’t have minded, if that was so.” A second later, Lan Wangji’s ears turn a fiery red and he looks like he’s considering jumping headfirst into the pots of cacti. Wei Wuxian is… much too flustered to add a tally to his Wei Wuxian’s Amazing Ability to Make Lan Wangji Talk vs Lan Wangji’s Self-Control scoreboard. As it is now, he just gapes up at Lan Wangji and hopes Lan Wangji doesn’t notice his openly smitten look.

“Good change or bad change?” Wei Wuxian says, a little bit breathless. It comes out low and silky, and Lan Wangji gives a miniscule shudder. Wei Wuxian inches closer, and closer, and Lan Wangji doesn’t push him away. “I couldn’t possibly have been good for you… could I?”

Lan Wangji nods, and has the gall to look surprised at how much of himself he’s revealing to Wei Wuxian. “You were a good change, Wei Ying.” He says this with the conviction that he might attack an unjust ruling with, which Wei Wuxian thinks is both absolutely adorable and very, very bad for his heart.

As it is now, he can’t really look Lan Wangji in the eye, so he settles for letting a giddy laugh bubble out of him and pretending to be invested in how a ladybug is trying to crawl up one of the cacti.

“I… I was? But… Wei Wuxian says slowly. He probably shouldn’t be looking a gift horse in his mouth, but asking questions is in his nature! Plus, Lan Wangji is in a rather good mood right now, Wei Wuxian can just tell. Perhaps he’ll indulge Wei Wuxian, answer more of his questions, raise his hopes word by word… “But I made you question your family. And it kind of sounds like you had an identity crisis, or — or something along those lines. Are you sure I was good??”

Lan Wangji just blinks at him. “Identity crisis notwithstanding, I do believe questioning values you have been told are right simply because they are for as long as you have been alive has merit to it. Family or not, it is good to examine one’s own opinions of the world around them.”

“Yeah, but — ” Wei Wuxian stops at Lan Wangji’s very slightly crestfallen look. Ah, fine, he’ll believe Lan Wangji!! As if that was hard in the first place. Wei Wuxian is just very bad at accepting he can be… good for people. Sometimes. “Well, I guess it does develop critical thinking skills. And it did make you into my wonderful, honorable Lan Zhan!”

Lan Wangji is devastatingly quiet.

Ah. Did he just — he did just call Lan Wangji “my Lan Zhan.” Ahhhhhhh. Wei Wuxian compartmentalizes that into the growing list of things he needs to process after this date, because god knows he doesn’t have the mental facilities to deal with Lan Wangji’s shocked gaze on him and that stupid slip of tongue, and continues, “And it probably gave Lan Qiren a heart attack the first time you questioned the enshrined Lan family rules!!”

“Perhaps,” Lan Wangji allows, with an elegant tilt of his head. Why the fuck does everything Lan Wangji do look so good? Who let this man be so perfect?? “It was two years ago. I remember he told me to carefully reflect upon my thoughts and value the rules more highly.”

Wei Wuxian coughs. “Bold of him to say that to you. Remind me to piss him off next time I see him?”

Lan Wangji gives him a very pointed look. Wei Wuxian knows consistently offending your crush’s uncle whom he respects very much for reasons you can’t comprehend is not one of the better ideas he’s had, but sometimes Lan Qiren is just asking for that raised blood pressure.

“Ah, anyway, what did you say??”

“I told him rule numbers 650 and 2401 were created to encourage greater freedom of thought and contribute to a deeper understanding of our morality, and perhaps he should review the rules if he had forgotten to reflect upon those sections like I had.”

“You quoted the rules at him back at him??” Wei Wuxian hoots. “Lan er-gege, the man you’ve become!! He can’t even argue with that, because you were just giving him advice and following the rules!!” He pretends to wipe a tear from his eye. “Aiyo, Xianxian is so proud of you and your critical thinking skills! This teacher really has been such a good influence!”

At first, when Wei Wuxian hears it, he thinks he might have slipped into a parallel dimension. But he turns to look at Lan Wangji, and nearly stumbles to a stop, because —

Lan Wangji is laughing. It’s melodic and restrained and so obviously unintentional that it should be incongruous with the practical, organized Lan Wangji that Wei Wuxian knows, and yet. And yet… Wei Wuxian’s heart is a shooting star, blazing molten hot in his chest.

Lan Wangji’s lips are curved up into a delicate smile. His eyes crinkle at the edges in a way that is intimately familiar to Wei Wuxian, the one he knows means Lan Wangji is too happy to rein in his emotions. His hair is swaying, soft and entrancing, around his face as he giggles quietly.

Oh, Wei Wuxian thinks, and his heart feels distinctly like a thicket of bioluminescent crystals lighting up at the first sound of Lan Wangji’s laugh. I really do love this man.

There’s a tickle of the initial teenage-ish thrill that had accompanied Wei Wuxian’s earlier revelations of this fact, but now, more than that, it’s warm and true and powerful and all-encompassing. He could get drunk off it, subsiding on nothing but it for the rest of his years.

He loves Lan Wangji. He always has.

“Wei Ying,” Lan Wangji says. He’s not laughing anymore. Wei Wuxian misses the sound already, because it’s Lan Wangji’s laugh, because it means he was the one to make Lan Wangji so unspeakably happy. But Lan Wangji is still smiling, and he makes no effort to conceal it as he says, again, “Wei Ying, you…”

“Me?” Wei Wuxian ventures, and he’s sure something of his unbearable upwelling of affection for Lan Wangji must be showing in his eyes or the tremor of his voice or the way his smile grows, helpless and altogether too fond. At this point, Wei Wuxian doesn’t bother thinking about hiding it. “Lan Zhan, what is it?”

Lan Wangji doesn’t tear his gaze away from Wei Wuxian as he says, “Nothing. Wei Ying is simply very good.” HIs face flashes with surprise, as if he hadn’t planned for that sentence to be voiced, but it sets with endearing stubbornness a second later. He holds his head high, holds Wei Wuxian’s gaze with steady confidence.

And oh, he’s so — Lan Wangji is, without a doubt, the most important person in Wei Wuxian’s life, the one he knows his heart will never beat quite the same again without. He’s so, so —

Wei Wuxian is either too thoughtless or too in love to stop the way the words tumble out of his mouth — if he were younger he would have thought the two were the same, but Lan Wangji makes him want to be softer, kinder, better — and so he says, all at once, “Lan Zhan, oh, my Lan Zhan, you’re so good, I like you so much!”

To his credit, Lan Wangji barely falters. All Wei Wuxian gets out of him is — well, Wei Wuxian gets a lot out of him, actually. Lan Wangji’s eyes flicker first with surprise, then terrible hope that makes Wei Wuxian wonder what exactly he’s done to make Lan Wangji doubt him so. His sweet plum-petal lips part around a silent exhale of Wei Wuxian’s name, and his profile grows tense.

Wei Wuxian… doesn’t know what to make of that. He’s never seen Lan Wangji so visibly disoriented, and — he’s scared. For the first time in what must be months, he can’t see anything familiar in Lan Wangji’s expression, and they’re so close, and Lan Wangji is staring at him like Wei Wuxian has tamed the flames of the sun.

Which is why he says, without skipping a beat, “Ah — obviously you know which type of ‘like’ I mean, right? You’ve always been such a good friend to me, and now you’re saying all these straightforward, charming things to me…” He trails off to fiddle with a lock of hair falling into his face, and doesn’t dare look Lan Wangji in the eye. “How could anyone not want you to be their friend? I can’t see why nobody likes you!”

There. Now Lan Wangji knows, hopefully, what kind of ‘like’ Wei Wuxian means. He gets asked out maybe two or three times every month (and he always rejects them, thinks Wei Wuxian with a shameful sense of glee), Lan Wangji can’t pretend that nobody likes him like that. But he has a great sparsity of people wanting to be his friend for reasons aside from kissing a Lan family member’s ass, so.

Perhaps Wei Wuxian’s excuse went a bit too much overboard, because he can practically feel the waves of forced calmness flowing from Lan Wangji. When he looks over to Lan Wangji, that thrilling glimmer of hope in his eyes is gone.

Wei Wuxian used to think he was fluent in Lan Wangji’s language of quiet sighs and mild frowns and straightforward actions, able to read Lan Wangji when everyone else but Lan Xichen and Lan Qiren couldn’t. But now that he sees Lan Wangji in front of him, retreating back into his shell like a threatened hermit crab, he almost wishes he couldn’t.

But — “Lan Zhan,” he says, intent on doing right by Lan Wangji. If his presence and his disrespectful attempt at playing boyfriend to Lan Wangji is what is making Lan Wangji so noticeably uncomfortable — Wei Wuxian doesn’t know what he’ll do. But he needs to make sure, so he doesn’t hurt Lan Wangji more.

Lan Wangji looks at him. Really looks at him, mellow golden eyes blinking steadily at Wei Wuxian. The quiet devastation Wei Wuxian had seen a millisecond ago is wiped clean from Lan Wangji’s face, instead replaced by warm, firm trust and — Wei Wuxian squints. He swears he sees a crackle of mournful acceptance in the set of Lan Wangji’s mouth, but the next moment it is gone again.

“Wei Ying,” Lan Wangji responds. His voice is smooth and rich and layered with strength, and this is the usual Lan Wangji that Wei Wuxian loves and admires so much.

“Hmm?” Wei Wuxian hums, altogether too happy about Lan Wangji being back to normal — no forced quietness or sadness anymore, only soft trust and true comfort in the curve of his lips. “Lan Zhan, what is it?”

“I like you too,” Lan Wangji says. His ears burn red against the forest green of the cacti, and — and —

Wei Wuxian knows all too well that Lan Wangji means it as a friend. He’s reciprocating the feelings of friendship Wei Wuxian had used to cover up his very romantic intentions, and this is Wei Wuxian being attacked by his own foolishness.

But each word had been said so directly, with tenfold the amount of carefulness Lan Wangji usually puts into his speech. And Lan Wangji is still looking at him, like he sees Wei Wuxian’s heart etched into his face and adores it twice as much because of the messy, thorny edges and scarred gashes and everything Wei Wuxian normally tries to not think about at all.

His gaze is startlingly soft yet heavy. Another person would go so far as to call it protective, call it fond and familiar and intimate. Wei Wuxian should know better, and yet…

Wei Wuxian has always been told he was born with a smile on his face — with an excess of hope and good spirits, was the implication, whenever Madame Yu said it. He’d never seen why hope could be a bad thing.

Grinning helplessly up at Lan Wangji, standing there as Lan Wangji’s gaze makes the cavern of his chest feel filled with glowing red lanterns — now he realizes. Hoping when Lan Wangji is involved, when he can’t help but believe Lan Wangji might feel the same way after all… when those hopes are shattered, Wei Wuxian will shatter along with them.

Wei Wuxian is vaguely aware that his cheeks are steadily flushing under Lan Wangji’s scrutiny. You idiot, he thinks, you absolute moron, do you even know how you make me feel? Do you know, how you make me want to toss aside all logic and hope for the impossible? Or does Lan Wangji not realize how he’s looking at Wei Wuxian — in the way that only a lover could look at their partner?

“Really?” Wei Wuxian manages to croak out. Gods. He needs to get his thoughts under control. Four years of watching the epitome of self-control, and he absorbed none of it? “Lan Zhan, you do?”

But — Lan Wangji makes him feel seen. Wei Wuxian is quite sure nobody has ever been more in love than him. How can he hope to pretend he doesn’t love Lan Wangji?

“Really,” Lan Wangji confirms. “I do.”

Oh, how Wei Wuxian wishes he could hear Lan Wangji say that in a different situation. He shoves away those thoughts before they lead to any concrete image.

Lan Wangji is — still looking. It’s infuriating. It really is! The weight of his eyes on Wei Wuxian is tangible. It’s a velvet-lined winter cloak, a wool blanket around his shoulders and hot coffee in his hands during a snowstorm. Wei Wuxian wants to reach towards that gaze and hold it forever and never have Lan Wangji look at anyone else.

He can’t do that. Lan Wangji isn’t his.

So he presses a fist to his lips briefly, to disperse the desperate heat flooding his face under Lan Wangji’s gentle, protective gaze, and grabs Lan Wangji’s hand before he can think twice.

“Ah, I’m really so glad! You’ll never get rid of me now that I know you like me, so be prepared!”

Lan Wangji’s gaze turns unreadable for a moment, before he’s smiling back at Wei Wuxian, faint and beautiful in its understatement.

“Come on, Lan Zhan, I still need to take you to see your surprise — you’re gonna love it.” He winks at Lan Wangji, which… is maybe a reflex that Wei Wuxian should get rid of.

But Lan Wangji nods, and lets Wei Wuxian tug him out of the cacti greenhouse, and his hand is solid and lovely in Wei Wuxian’s.

Wei Wuxian thinks about how Lan Wangji had looked, when he had said I like it. How it has sounded… like he meant I love you. Like he meant, I like you so much my heart hurts with it, I like you the way you want me to, I love you, Wei Ying.

Wei Wuxian thinks about how he knows Lan Wangji would never allow himself to be so open with another person. How, outside of his family, Wei Wuxian is the only one Lan Wangji trusts — has only ever been the only one.

Lan Wangji’s smile had been so sweet. Wei Wuxian had wanted to kiss him so, so much.

And Lan Wangji had looked like he would have let Wei Wuxian kiss him. Like he would have kissed back.

For the first time, Wei Wuxian lets himself wonder if he really is alone in his feelings.

 

Their guide for the special winter-blue flowers garden looks at Wei Wuxian with the most judgemental look he’s gotten since he saw Lan Qiren three weeks ago, but she sees Lan Wangji standing tall and proud by Wei Wuxian’s side and seems to decide showing the elegant, rich-looking man around is worth having the smelly, tired-looking science student in her garden.

“Follow me,” she says, and Lan Wangji doesn’t stray from Wei Wuxian’s side as they make their way through the backs of the botanical garden.

Lan Wangji gives him a quizzical look as they pass the third display of South American jungle flowers — these are mostly untrodden paths, Wei Wuxian speculates it’s both because where the reservation-only gardens are and because the South American jungle flowers, are, honestly, eye-killing. Wei Wuxian grins at him nervously and gets another look, presumably for his uncharacteristic silence.

Well, if you were on a date with the love of your life and you booked a very expensive tour based purely off him saying something about gentians two years ago, wouldn’t you be nervous too???!

It isn’t that he thinks Lan Wangji would hate it. Lan Wangji’s hatred capacity is reserved mostly for assholes who don’t deserve to even be thought about by Lan Wangji, and on the occasion that he does hate a poor species of plant, it wouldn’t be gentians.

Wei Wuxian still remembers that quiet moment between them two years ago — it had been the anniversary of Lan Wangji’s mother’s death, but Wei Wuxian hadn’t known it then. He had just sat down next to Lan Wangji and talked aimlessly so Lan Wangji wouldn’t have to sit there looking lonely and sad, and without prompting, Lan Wangji had laid his head on Wei Wuxian’s shoulder. Had trusted him enough to tell him, in short, quivering sentences, about his mother, and his father, and how she hated his father but loved Lan Wangji so. About the gentians she’d given him on his birthday, a week before her death.

He wonders if Lan Wangji would still do that with him. If he were sad — would he go to Wei Wuxian, would he let himself be vulnerable with Wei Wuxian and Wei Wuxian alone? Would he snuggle close to Wei Wuxian and let himself be held and comforted with soft whispers and gentle touches —

Wei Wuxian shakes his head as if he could physically dispel these thoughts. The point is, he knows Lan Wangji would love it. He knows Lan Wangji would know Wei Wuxian remembered one sentence from one moment years ago, and chose to do something special for Lan Wangji based off of it.

The point is: this is yet another obvious sign of Wei Wuxian being in love with Lan Wangji. No friend takes another friend to an exclusive flower garden specifically booked because the flowers have a familial connection to said friend.

“Please watch your step, and don’t touch the flowers, they’re delicate,” says the guide, jolting Wei Wuxian out of his spiral of thoughts. She sends Wei Wuxian a pointed look. Wei Wuxian, being the adult that he is, barely restrains himself from saying, ‘who, me?’ with a faked angelic smile.

She ushers them inside and immediately launches into a monotone explanation of the origin, history, and current specimens of the garden. Wei Wuxian, on his part, has experience on tuning boring un-scientific lectures out, and clearly, watching Lan Wangji’s reaction is what he paid 1300 yuan for. He stares at the beloved features of Lan Wangji’s face and wonders if it’s possible to die from anxiety.

Wei Wuxian doesn’t have to wait very long. As soon as Lan Wangji’s eyes land on the exhibit of blooming gentians, he inhales sharply, something familiar and forlorn rearing on his face. But — this doesn’t go according to Wei Wuxian’s plan. Lan Wangji whips around, gaze locked on Wei Wuxian, and —

“Wei Ying,” he whispers. His ears are delightfully scarlet, his lips parted just so (Wei Wuxian wants to kiss him so much). “You…”

“Me!” Wei Wuxian agrees, easily. He knows Lan Wangji. That’s a good look. A very good look. Wei Wuxian hasn’t seen it more than twice — when he hugged Lan Wangji at their last end-of-the-year ceremony, and when he’d called out to Lan Wangji the first day of their junior spring quarter, after his foggy breakdown in winter quarter.

It means Lan Wangji is so fucking happy it shows on his face, in an adorable mixture of surprise and fondness and joy.

It means Wei Wuxian has succeeded in his make-Lan-Wangji-smile-three-times mission, because Lan Wangji is indeed smiling, thrice as warm and soft as he had looked at Wei Wuxian earlier.

“Do you like it?” Wei Wuxian asks quietly, attaching himself to Lan Wangji’s arm so that he doesn’t fall too behind the guide. And also because he can, and Lan Wangji doesn’t seem to mind at all, and they are on a date right now.

“Wei Ying,” says Lan Wangji. Oooh, is he so overwhelmed he can’t say anything but Wei Wuxian’s name? That is… hm, Wei Wuxian thinks, abruptly feeling himself blush. “Wei Ying.”

“Me? You like me?” Wei Wuxian teases. Lan Wangji’s expression turns briefly panicked, but it is regrettably overshadowed by his endearing shock.

“No, I — Wei Ying, you booked this for us.” Lan Wangji says slowly, a funny note in his voice. “You spent money on this for me. You remembered what I said about Mother’s gentians.”

“Uh… yeah?” Isn’t it obvious?? Wei Wuxian has always tried to remember everything concerning Lan Wangji. Even before he knew what it meant, Lan Wangji had been… impossible for Wei Wuxian to not want to remember.

“You remembered,” Lan Wangji says again. His eyes are suspiciously bright. Wei Wuxian has the distinct feeling that Lan Wangji is either going to cry, or pull him into a passionate kiss. “The gentians — you really…”

Neither of them are paying attention to the guide by now, though Lan Wangji is doing a very good job at feigning interest while looking at Wei Wuxian with that hungry expression. It’s… it’s not at all good for Wei Wuxian’s wellbeing. He wants Lan Wangji, here and now.

“I really what, Lan er-gege?” Wei Wuxian whispers, flirtatious and cajoling. The flowers are a perfect blue halo for Lan Wangji. Maybe it’s the sweet scent of their petals drifting with Lan Wangji’s sandalwood smell, or maybe it’s the way Lan Wangji seems to be barely holding himself back from doing something —

Either way, Wei Wuxian doesn’t think he could have stopped himself from swaying forward, too close to possibly be mistaken as just friendly.

“Was it the perfect surprise?” He continues.

Lan Wangji’s Adam’s apple bobs as he swallows. Suddenly, Wei Wuxian feels hyper-aware of himself — the slant of his shoulders and the tilt of his head and the drape of his ponytail over his shoulders — and of Lan Wangji’s gaze, sliding over him.

“Yes,” Lan Wangji says, and his voice is startlingly rough. “More — more than perfect.”

Wei Wuxian shivers. He steps forward; Lan Wangji blinks down at him with an equal amount of surprise and anticipation, and a dark tinge of what Wei Wuxian desperately wants to interpret as desire.

“Good,” Wei Wuxian murmurs. He’s more than a little sure that Lan Wangji is looking more at his lips than his eyes. Gods, he wants this so much. It’s so easy to believe Lan Wangji does, too. “It’s what you deserve. I wanted to make this perfect for you.”

Lan Wangji’s lips part for a moment and surprise flashes in his eyes, as if he can’t believe Wei Wuxian would go so far for someone like him. Joke’s on him, because he’s exactly the type of person Wei Wuxian would sacrifice his heart and soul for. It had just taken Wei Wuxian a couple of years to process the fact, that’s all.

“You didn’t need to,” Lan Wangji says. Another lie. Wei Wuxian thinks he would have literally died if he didn’t do this at least, for Lan Wangji. But strangely, nobody seems to like jokes about him dying — least of all Lan Wangji — so he stays quiet. “Wei Ying.”

His name comes out like a sigh. Wei Wuxian says, “Lan Zhan,” and it comes out strange, warm and sweet with mellow honey. He tries again. “Lan Zhan, you deserve this much. More. If you would let me — ”

If Lan Wangji would let him, Wei Wuxian would love him openly and unabashedly with the entirety of his heart. If Lan Wangji would let him, Wei Wuxian would make a permanent place for himself by Lan Wangji’s side, so he never has to quietly suffer his sadness alone again. If Lan Wangji wanted…

He gulps. Lan Wangji’s eyes steal downwards, too slow to be disguised as anything else, sliding over the smooth skin of Wei Wuxian’s neck and catching on the v-neck of his shirt, where his collarbone peeks out.

Maybe, Wei Wuxian allows himself to concede, Lan Zhan wants this too…

It would be so easy to find out. All Wei Wuxian has to do is close the gap between them and kiss Lan Wangji long and proper, even if his intentions are, for the most part, not all that proper. He wouldn’t have the excuse of convincing their guide that they’re dating — who would she tell, anyway?

Lan Wangji’s gaze flicks back to his face. “If you would let me…?”He prompts. He’s letting Wei Wuxian inch closer, sidle up to Lan Wangji at a distance that would earn anybody aside from Lan Xichen a terrifying glare and a few choice words for their impropriety.

“I — ” Wei Wuxian takes in Lan Wangji’s expectant look, his beloved face, his soft lips. Fuck it, he thinks. “I would give you so much more. If, if we could — do something like this…” he is so close to shutting up and throwing himself out the window in embarrassment, but Lan Wangji — he’s worth it. He’s worth everything. “I would give you the world, and more. Anything. Everything. Myself.”

Too late, Wei Wuxian tries to stop speaking. That cannot be interpreted as anything but a confession. If Wei Wuxian’s earlier behaviors hadn’t been enough… well, no friend says shit like ‘I would give you myself, if you wanted’. This is it, this is what will make Lan Wangji know Wei Wuxian is in love with him, and the sunrise of realization is already brightening Lan Wangji’s eyes —

Lan Wangji reaches for him. Wei Wuxian sees his lips part, hears the first syllable of his name, lets himself be pulled towards Lan Wangji.

Does he really, Wei Wuxian thinks, and then he does not think at all, because Lan Wangji is leaning down as an intense, unreadable fire melts the golden-brown of his eyes, and Wei Wuxian is either going to be kissed or killed —

Excuse me,” the guide cuts in. Lan Wangji lets go of Wei Wuxian’s waist and somehow makes himself look put-together and cold in the span of a millisecond. “Please follow behind me during this tour, gentlemen, since it is not permitted for visitors to wander this garden unsupervised. It does house delicate and rare flowers.”

She glares at Wei Wuxian once more, as if he would be the one to devastate the flower garden if left alone, when obviously Lan Wangji is the one hiding a metric ton of passion behind his cold, refined facade.

Then again, his heart is a hurricane battering the confines of his ribcage, longing to escape so it can howl its messy, dizzying love where everyone can hear, so everyone will know. Without Lan Wangji and the promise of time alone after this tour to anchor him, Wei Wuxian would have been consumed by the storm long ago.

“Sorry, sorry,” Wei Wuxian says, putting a normal, friendly amount of space between him and Lan Wangji. “I, um.” Almost kissed my best friend on a fake date? Almost fucked up majorly? “Got a little sidetracked?”

The guide, thankfully enough, opts to give him a doubtful look and gestures for them to follow her, instead of commenting on Wei Wuxian’s flustered state or how she had definitely found him and Lan Wangji in a rather compromising position.

Maybe he will give this garden a good rating after all.

 

The Didi ride back is near unbearable.

Wei Wuxian can’t stop thinking about Lan Wangji’s lips. The way he’d grabbed Wei Wuxian’s waist, so gentle yet so strong. The cliffside feeling that had grasped Wei Wuxian’s heart, the way he had wanted to push that fire in Lan Wangji’s eyes until it consumed them both. Lan Wangji, in general.

And Lan Wangji is sitting half a meter away from him.

This is totally, completely alright. Wei Wuxian is 22 years old. He can deal with a little horniness. He just has to think about Lan Qiren’s mind-numbing literature lectures. And the slow but steady conveyor belt towards death that this universe is on.

But it only takes Lan Wangji touching his shoulder lightly and saying, “Wei Ying, we are at the dorms,” to undo all of Wei Wuxian’s mental progress, and Wei Wuxian does seriously consider kissing him right here and now, Didi ride fees be damned.

Somehow, he makes it out of the car and into the dorm building without going crazy. Lan Wangji’s self-control skills must be rubbing off on him.

Bad choice of words, Wei Wuxian thinks, and grudgingly starts the Suppression of Thoughts About Lan Zhan protocol once again.

“Wei Ying,” Lan Wangji starts, once they’ve made it to his dorm room, and Wei Wuxian nearly jumps out of his skin. “I… I — ” He’s so shy, and bashful, and cute, and Wei Wuxian is going to die from loving Lan Wangji. “I hope you enjoyed yourself.”

Unbelievable. Wei Wuxian is the one who should be saying that to Lan Wangji, given that he’s the one who so brazenly asked him out. Wei Wuxian nods anyway, to make Lan Wangji happy. “Of course I did,” he says. To clarify: “How could I not, if I was with you?”

Lan Wangji turns, ears burning red even as he stares at the opposing dorm room. He’s silent for a terrifying moment, before he mutters, “Do not say things you don’t mean.”

“What don’t I mean??” Wei Wuxian says. Can he get any more clear about his intentions?? He’s been flirting with Lan Wangji this whole day — hell, the four years they’ve known each other — and Lan Wangji has never pushed him away. Adoration makes him dizzy, affection uncoordinated, and he can’t help but spill his love out every time he sees Lan Wangji.

“What, Lan er-gege,” he says again, quieter. Wei Wuxian can’t see past the caring gazes and soft smiles and sweet, strong words of Lan Wangji anymore. If he’s wrong, he’ll lose Lan Wangji forever. But oh, he cannot bear another second of Lan Wangji treating him like this. Either he gets a love he doesn’t deserve or he loses a friendship he was lucky to have. “What don’t I mean?”

Wei Wuxian has never been known for good decisions, or for cowardice. He can’t turn back, and he won’t.

“That — you are… because of me, you are the happiest I have seen you in a year.” Lan Wangji says. “That you want this. That you want…”

He trails off.

Wei Wuxian thinks he knows exactly what Lan Wangji wants to say. He’s brave enough — or stupid enough, but at some point the two blur into one — to say, “That I want you?”

Every line of Lan Wangji’s body crackles into frosty stillness, so brittle and beautiful that Wei Wuxian can’t help but reach out and flatten his palm against Lan Wangji’s chest.

“That I feel my heart beat, and I know it is for you?”

Closer.

Lan Wangji is breathing shallow and sharp, like waves frantically battering rocks. Wei Wuxian shakes his head fondly and leans closer. The tips of his boots are almost touching Lan Wangji’s shoes.

“That I see you, and my world begins and ends with you?”

Lan Wangji’s eyes flutter closed. His lashes are delicate and dark against his pearl-pale skin. Wei Wuxian grins, and slips fully into Lan Wangji’s space, and Lan Wangji lets him with nary but a trembling sigh.

“Lan Zhan, ah… you really have no idea just how you make me feel.” Lan Wangji makes to say something that is probably stupid and contrary and disbelieving, so Wei Wuxian presses a playful finger to his lips. Gods. They’re so soft. “So don’t tell me I don’t mean it, Lan Zhan, when I’ve meant every word — every smile, every touch — since the moment I met you.”

He removes his finger, and apparently Lan Wangji takes it as a signal to sneak his arm around Wei Wuxian’s waist and maneuver them into the position they’d been in earlier, in the garden.

Wei Wuxian’s heart thrills. He slides his hand up to cup Lan Wangji’s face; Lan Wangji watches him intently, bright and focused in a way that makes Wei Wuxian want to abandon all propriety and make out with him for half of the day.

Maybe he could. Maybe he should.

Lan Wangji still shakes his head. “You — you cannot,” he whispers. It sounds weak even to Wei Wuxian. Grasping at straws for why Wei Wuxian cannot love him.

There are more reasons for Wei Wuxian to love Lan Wangji than there are molecules of water in the Yangtze. But at the delta where his love crashes into a bottomless ocean is the truth of it: Lan Wangji is good in every sense of the word, and Wei Wuxian was born to love this wonderfully good man.

“I can,” Wei Wuxian says. He rocks up onto his toes. His forehead brushes against Lan Wangji’s, and Lan Wangji’s arms are strong and safe around him. The simple tenderness of it makes Wei Wuxian push forward still, until he can count Lan Wangji’s eyelashes.

Again: “I can. I do. I have always meant it, Lan Zhan. And — and, I mean this too.” He feels Lan Wangji shiver against him, feels the rhythm of his soul singing Lan Wangji’s name.

And he asks, “Can I kiss you?”

Lan Wangji goes brittle again. Then he’s gasping out Wei Wuxian’s name — a little, broken, fluttering “Wei Ying” — and —

Wei Wuxian soars over the canyon between their bodies, and they’re kissing. He doesn’t know who moved first. Maybe it was him, maybe it was Lan Wangji — maybe it was a little bit of them both, their hearts pushing them together.

But Lan Wangji’s lips are soft and hot on his, and his hands are grabbing at Wei Wuxian’s waist — his hips — clutching at the edges of his coat and skimming up and down his body — and Wei Wuxian is helpless to do anything but cling to Lan Wangji and kiss him breathless.

Then Lan Wangji is nudging forward and his tongue makes its way into Wei Wuxian’s mouth — oh, Lan Wangji is so bold, thinks Wei Wuxian with a dizzying rush of desire — Wei Wuxian can’t help but moan at the contact. He tangles his hands in Lan Wangji’s hair, tugs once, then twice when Lan Wangji sighs into his mouth at that, lets Lan Wangji work at his mouth studiously.

It seems to be Lan Wangji’s mission to kiss Wei Wuxian until he’s whimpering openly, turned to stardust and nebulae marked by Lan Wangji’s perfect rosebud lips, and Wei Wuxian wholeheartedly approves. Because it means getting crowded against the door and kissed hungrily, messily. Because it means Lan Wangji’s lips chasing his when he pulls away for air and Lan Wangji’s hands slipping into the back pockets of his jeans and Lan Wangji gasping quietly into Wei Wuxian’s mouth at the wet heat and desperate kisses.

Because it means Lan Wangji wants him, is letting Wei Wuxian do this with him, might even like him, judging by the way he is kissing Wei Wuxian thoroughly and dutifully.

When he pulls away to catch his breath for a simmering moment, Lan Wangji is brave enough to squeeze at his ass and say, “Wei Ying,” in a low voice that makes Wei Wuxian seriously reconsider ever letting go of Lan Wangji again.

Lan Wangji blinks at him when Wei Wuxian doesn’t kiss him back immediately. His lips are slick and crimson-red from being kissed and bitten and licked at by Wei Wuxian (he did that, he made Lan Wangji lose his control.) His cheeks are flushed, graceful and high on his cheekbones, and his hair is finally mussed, and the sight sends Wei Wuxian reeling for another few seconds.

He looks positively indecent, and it is because of Wei Wuxian.

Oh.

Oh, Wei Wuxian thinks. Generally, Wei Wuxian thinking has not led to anything good, but once his mind hits the ground it can’t stop running. Oh. This is my fault.

He’s so stupid. Who said he could do this to Lan Wangji? Lan Wangji seemed like he had wanted it, when he kissed Wei Wuxian, when he accepted Wei Wuxian asking him out. But — he hadn’t known that Wei Wuxian liked him. And perhaps he was just losing himself, when he kissed Wei Wuxian.

The point still stands: Wei Wuxian essentially tricked Lan Wangji into a date that he wouldn’t have accepted if he knew Wei Wuxian loved him, and if that wasn’t bad enough, Wei Wuxian kissed him.

If Lan Wangji really wanted him — well, Wei Wuxian should have controlled himself. He shouldn’t have pressured Lan Wangji. He shouldn’t have —

It doesn’t matter what he shouldn’t have done, because the end result is the same. Lan Wangji in his arms, Lan Wangji’s lips tainted with Wei Wuxian’s kisses, Lan Wangji looking at him unaware of what he’s been forced into.

“Wei Ying? Are you okay?” Lan Wangji says. “Do you wish to rest?”

“Ahaha, Lan Zhan, I’m fine! You’re a very good kisser, you know?” Wei Wuxian tips his head to rest on Lan Wangji’s shoulder, before remembering he probably shouldn’t do that anymore. Not if Lan Wangji doesn’t know. “I just… I was thinking.”

“Mmn?” Lan Wangji hums, sounding like he wants to indulge Wei Wuxian’s thoughts for the rest of their lives. This is so, so terrible. How can Wei Wuxian bear to let him down like this?

“I, I… You know today is Valentine’s Day, right?”

“Yes.”

“A day for people. To spend time. With other people, that they like. Romantically.” Wei Wuxian has nowhere to run, because Lan Wangji had pushed him against the door to kiss him and hasn’t moved since, but he manages to avoid Lan Wangji’s eyes all throughout this anyway.

“Yes?”

“And you’re with me.”

The slightest hint of hesitation. Then, another “yes.” Softer. Fonder. Wei Wuxian doesn’t deserve this.

“Then… like I said. I was thinking.” Wei Wuxian digs his nails into his palms to keep from breaking. “Don’t you have someone else you’d rather be with?”

Lan Wangji is silent at that. He hasn’t pushed Wei Wuxian away, which is a good sign, but still. He doesn’t expect much more of Lan Wangji’s graciousness after this.

“I know you agreed to this date, but — if your feelings have changed, if you wanted to ask someone else to spend time with you, that’s fine! Thank you for being with me today.” That gets a visceral flinch out of Lan Wangji, and Wei Wuxian steps a little to the side in case Lan Wangji decides to do something drastic. “And, sorry for… everything just now.”

He’s digging himself into a hole and he knows it. Lan Wangji’s warmth is curdling beneath his palms. He slowly unwinds himself from around Lan Wangji, doesn’t even try to muster up a nervous grin. Lan Wangji is staring at him, pale and still, which is still better than him running away or breaking off their friendship.

And still, he says, “Nothing has to change between us! We can still be best friends. But, you know, to thank you for doing this with me — if there’s anyone you like, I’ll help you get together with them!”

Lan Wangji is looking at him like he doesn’t know which is more reprehensible: the concept of him liking someone or him remaining best friends with Wei Wuxian. He is still worryingly silent. Still devoid of warmth.

“Lan Zhan?” Wei Wuxian tries. Oh, he’d thought about this outcome — Lan Wangji is so proper and upstanding, after all, he might not like Wei Wuxian trying to trick him like this then offering to set him up with someone else — but he never thought it would hurt like this.

But Wei Wuxian knows the backstreets and cobblestones of the grimy city called pain, has called it a companion for years. He pushes further. “Do you… not like anyone?”

“Unbelievable.” Lan Wangji snaps abruptly. He steps away from Wei Wuxian and makes to open the dorm room door. He will not look at Wei Wuxian.

That’s probably what he deserves. Wei Wuxian wills himself not to show any signs of heartbreak until he’s safely within his own dorm.

Before he can disappear, though, Lan Wangji pins him in place, gaze brimming with forced coldness and — hurt? Raw, oozing pain?

Why is Lan Zhan hurt? What did he do —

“Wei Ying, you… you really are a cruel person,” Lan Wangji murmurs. He sweeps inside his dorm room like he’s been burned by looking at Wei Wuxian for a second too long.

The door closes in Wei Wuxian’s face. It isn’t even a slam — it’s quiet and careful and the click echoes through the corridor.

Somehow, that, more than anything else — more than Lan Wangji’s wounded look, more than the way he’d brushed by Wei Wuxian in the end, more than being called cruel — that is what shoots the final arrow into Wei Wuxian’s heart.

 

Wei Wuxian gets exactly one day to mope around before classes resume, which he thinks is very rude of his university and the world in general. Give a man a week to sit around and cry over the best friend he’s ever had and lament over lost love!

But no. Jiang Cheng dragged his sorry ass out of bed in the morning on Sunday and threw enough energy bars at him to feed 10 people for a week. He snatched his scarf back, but didn’t make any attempt to get Wei Wuxian out of his dorm room.

He didn’t ask what happened, either. He’d let Wei Wuxian crawl into bed last night and hold his tears back by the sheer virtue of repeating terribly long and mind-numbing chemical formulas over the memories of Lan Wangji and the reverberation of his warmth on Wei Wuxian’s lips.

When his sniffles had died down, he had sat by Wei Wuxian and studied his boring business terminology in silence.

The best brother Wei Wuxian could ask for, and he can’t even repay Jiang Cheng because every time he tries to be a functional human being he thinks of Lan Wangji, the epitome of a functional human being, and inevitably starts wanting to bury his face in a pillow and sleep for 36 hours to not think of Lan Wangji.

Classes on Monday are mundane and completely, utterly devoid of the usual curiosity Wei Wuxian feels towards most of his subjects, even if they do kick his ass mercilessly half of the time. He can’t tell whether his professors are glad he’s stopped asking question after question for 50% of the class or worried that he’s finally shut the fuck up.

He himself can’t decide whether to be sad, that Lan Wangji has pushed him away, or glad, because Lan Wangji has realized that it is a bad idea to be just friends with someone who’s in love with you.

But — whatever.

Wei Wuxian will just have to not think about this. He throws himself into his studies over the next few days, at a rate that is borderline unhealthy. Wei Wuxian has learned not to push himself too far, to recognize his limits and ask for help when needed as to not repeat the breakdown of his sophomore year, but there’s still something recklessly alluring about skimming the limit.

He doesn’t think about Lan Wangji.

Wei Wuxian drinks coffee after coffee and passes it off as an early gearing up for finals in May. His eyes hurt when he wakes up, so he stares into the distance and dutifully thinks about whatever is furthest from the concept of Lan Wangji.

He does not let himself think about their kiss.

But — Wei Wuxian still doesn’t know why Lan Wangji called him cruel. The echo of Lan Wangji’s broken voice keeps him tossing and turning at night for a week straight, and on Friday night Jiang Cheng snaps and physically pushes him into his bed, taking away all coffee privileges until he gets over Lan Wangji.

I won’t ever, Wei Wuxian thinks about telling him. I’m in love with him, and I will always be, and I don’t know how to stop, Wei Wuxian considers saying. I love him, and please don’t murder him because it’s my fault I got my heart broken.

He says, “Thank you, Jiang Cheng,” and fakes deep breaths until Jiang Cheng has gone to bed.

Then he curls into himself and waits until his trembling not-sobs even out.

This steadfast ignorance of all things Lan Wangji via unhealthy studying habits and a caffeine addiction works for a week.

 

In retrospect, Wei Wuxian is surprised it worked that long. He attributes it to having not gone anywhere but his classrooms, labs, and the occasional walk around his dorm, because that way, he hasn’t talked to anyone but his professors, his lab mates, and Jiang Cheng, and definitely not Lan Xichen.

But the elder Lan brother corners him on a day that has no business being so temperate and pretty, outside the library that Lan Wangji likes to frequent. If he’s being honest, Wei Wuxian is… not consciously, but not completely on accident either, trying to never see the Lan brothers again. He has half a mind to run away when he sees Lan Xichen’s face.

Lan Wangji called him cruel. That’s basically Lan Wangji-code for I fucking hate your guts and I’ve known you for too long and am too polite to tell you to never come within 2 meters of me again. Wei Wuxian thinks he’s being perfectly reasonable.

When Lan Xichen approaches him, it’s with a small and amazingly passive-aggressive smile that rouses Wei Wuxian’s fight-or-flight instincts. “You know,” he says, like he’s discussing the weather, “Wangji tells me he hasn’t seen you in a week.”

“Is that so,” Wei Wuxian mutters. He’s not prepared to talk about Lan Wangji. He probably will never be prepared, but his reasoning is, old wounds may hurt when you press them, but new wounds still bleed.

“That is so.” Lan Xichen’s smile grows colder. “Wei Wuxian, if I may ask — just what do you think you’re doing with my brother?”

“What does it look like?” Wei Wuxian scoffs. Then, because Lan Xichen is older than him, and a respected grad student, and Lan Wangji’s brother, he says swiftly, “Sorry, Zewu-jun. I… I don’t know. But I know I hurt him, didn’t I?”

It isn’t a question. Lan Xichen indulges him with an answer anyway. “Yes. You of all people should know that what you did was incredibly cruel at best.”

Wei Wuxian flinches. “Lan Zhan called me that too. I — I didn’t understand. I still don’t. That — that doesn’t really matter, though. Is there any chance you could — ”

Lan Xichen interrupts him with a low, dangerous, “You’ve spent four years with him, and yet you still don’t understand? You really pretend to know nothing of his feelings?”

“Zewu-jun, I — ”

Feelings?

Lan Zhan’s feelings?

“Feelings?” Wei Wuxian questions. That… coming from anyone else, he would have laughed in their face. But this is Lan Wangji’s older brother, the only person who knows Lan Wangji better than Wei Wuxian does. He can’t just ignore it. “His feelings? Zewu-jun, please, please explain, what do you mean by his feelings? Do you really mean…”

“Have you forgotten his 33-day suspension? The article in the school paper? Did you think it was out of nothing, Wei Wuxian?” Lan Xichen scoffs. He’s obviously fighting with his Lan genes of politeness and courtesy, and his urge to dismember Wei Wuxian. “How could he have gotten those, if it was not for you?!”

There are students stopping to stare at Zewu-jun openly berating Wei Wuxian on the library stairs, but Wei Wuxian can’t bring himself to care. This — Lan Zhan’s feelings — the suspension he’d been so confused about in junior year — Lan Xichen’s simmering anger, reserved only for those who truly hurt his little brother —

And all through it, the slow, steady realization that Wei Wuxian has made a terrible mistake.

“You — you do not remember? Your memory is truly damaged?” Lan Xichen sounds like he has found the final piece of evidence to complete his thesis. And that the piece of evidence is the most reprehensible thing in the world. Great.

“My memory? I — I remember… I don’t think so — “

But that isn’t true, is it? In his sophomore year, he’d broken down in January. It had been the culmination of three semesters’ worth of drinking to cope and cramming before exams and getting increasingly close to losing his scholarship and not knowing how to stop. His jiejie, sweet and kind and gentle Jiang Yanli, had gotten into a car crash while going to pick up Wei Wuxian at a club.

She was in critical condition for a day, a coma for two. Jiang Cheng blamed Wei Wuxian.

The first day, Wei Wuxian hadn’t left the hospital. Jiang Cheng wouldn’t talk to him and Wei Wuxian wouldn’t leave. Those memories are tinged, hazy with remnant drunkenness and the monstrous beeping of her vitals.

The second day, Wei Wuxian went drinking.

There — he remembers staggering down the street. He remembers a club called the Nightless City. He remembers shots, and more shots, and dancing, and music so loud he thought his ears would rupture. He remembers Jiang Cheng confronting him, yelling at him about Jiang Yanli.

He remembers snapping.

A flash of white.

Soft skin under his knuckles.

Alcohol souring on his tongue.

The shape of a word being spat out, a kind hand on his back, fury and frustration rearing its head.

Then, black.

In comparison to that, the white sheets of his hospital bed that he’d woken up on the next day were bright and sweet-smelling and altogether too much for Wei Wuxian, who had rolled over and promptly thrown up. He’d been there for four days, and suspended for two weeks.

“Yes,” Wei Wuxian whispers. “At Nightless City, two years ago, I…” He thinks he knows where this is going.

He thinks, Lan Zhan. He thinks, please, tell me you didn’t.

“You don’t remember that? Very well! I will tell you, since Wangji will never say it and you will never ask that of him.” Lan Xichen is glaring at him now. “Wei Wuxian, that night, you got into a fight with Jiang Wanyin and the bartender of that club. Lan Wangji arrived after being called by Nie Huaisang, who was also in attendance that night. He got swept up in the fight too, and by the time he could assist you he was barely in a better shape than you.”

Wei Wuxian can do nothing but goggle at Lan Xichen. Lan Wangji went to a bar for him? Lan Wangji fought for him?

“I came with him. He hurt people that night, Wei Wuxian. All for you. And when he was done, he hid you in a side room. By the time I could find where you were sitting, Wangji was kneeling in front of you and holding your hand.” Lan Xichen pauses, as if to gather his bearings before continuing. “Do you know what he was telling you? My little brother, who had never once fought without being provoked, who never before had hurt anyone — do you know what he said to you?”

Before Wei Wuxian can tell him to stop, or not break his heart like this, Lan Xichen continues cruelly, “He was telling you he loved you. That he was here. That he would not leave you, that he would protect you, that he would help you, if you let him.”

Wei Wuxian staggers back a step. Lan Xichen gives him a positively murderous look. “And do you know what you said to him? You told him to get lost, Wei Wuxian. Get lost. Get lost. Again and again.”

“I — I didn’t mean — “ It doesn’t matter what he meant and what he didn’t. He hurt Lan Wangji. He told Lan Wangji to get lost. He rejected Lan Wangji.

“Uncle had arrived by then too. We asked Wangji to explain himself; he told us there was nothing to be explained. He raised a hand against us when Uncle attempted to drag him away.” Now Lan Xichen is listing the events of the night tonelessly, like he’s reading them off a list and not stabbing into Wei Wuxian’s heart with each word. “Only when the ambulance arrived did he relent. He told us he was willing to withstand the consequences beside you, later.”

“Imagine that,” Lan Xichen murmurs. “Wangji had always been perfect. Rule-abiding. He had always been righteous and honest and upstanding! Yet for you, he stood against us. He was suspended, willingly. You were the only mistake he ever made! And you dared flirt with him after — you kissed him last week, after asking him out on a date — imagine that, Wei Wuxian.”

Wei Wuxian can imagine it very well.

Suddenly, Lan Wangji’s behaviors on their date make sense. How he turned away from Wei Wuxian, shutting down whenever Wei Wuxian mentioned their fake date, calling Wei Wuxian cruel… he must have thought Wei Wuxian remembered.

And if he thought Wei Wuxian remembered… just how horrible did he seem to Lan Wangji, to do such a thing and ask that they remain only friends afterward? How many times did he crush Lan Wangji’s heart to droplets of blood these past two years?

“Zewu-jun, I… I really didn’t remember, if I did I would have — I would have made sure Lan Zhan knew I didn’t mean to reject him!”

“But you hurt him anyway,” Lan Xichen says mercilessly. “I do expect you to make amends if you truly mean your feelings towards Wangji.”

Well, then.

It’s a very good thing that Lan Wangji had chosen that moment to walk out the library doors.

His face brightens when he sees Lan Xichen, then immediately goes pale when he sees Wei Wuxian standing next to him, which would be hilarious in another situation, but right now all Wei Wuxian can think about is Lan Wangji and confessing and making this right, making him happy at last.

Before Lan Wangji can hightail it back into the library, Wei Wuxian shoots an apologetic look at Lan Xichen and musters up all the air in his lungs.

“Lan Zhan!! Lan Wangji!! Hanguang-jun!! Back then, I — I really did want to kiss you!!”

Lan Wangji’s ears go red, and he fumbles with his book, catching it before it can drop on the stone stairs. He’s sure he turned a lot of heads both outside and inside the library with his shout, but — he can’t regret it, now or ever.

If it’s for Lan Wangji, if it’s to make Lan Wangji happy, he could never regret anything.

“Did you hear me, Lan Zhan?”

“You… you said — ”

“I said I really wanted to,” Wei Wuxian begins, since Lan Wangji doesn’t seem capable of finishing sentences right now (he’s so fucking cute, Wei Wuxian loves this awkward, quiet man and missed him so unbelievably much — )

Lan Xichen clears his throat. “Wei Wuxian, Wangji, if you must do this now, here is not the best place to say these words.” He gestures to the secluded path behind the library.

Wei Wuxian brightens instantly and says, without any sincerity, “Sorry, Zewu-jun! I really couldn’t wait to say it…”

He thinks he gets the slimmest indulgent smile from Lan Xichen before he’s too preoccupied with pulling a shell-shocked Lan Wangji behind the library. Once they’ve out of sight, Wei Wuxian squeezes Lan Wangji’s hand and doesn’t let it go.

He won’t ever have Lan Wangji thinking his love is unreciprocated again.

“Lan Zhan, you heard me, right?”

“...Mmn,” Lan Wangji says. There are dark circles under his eyes, and Wei Wuxian’s chest constricts upon itself again. He really hurt Lan Wangji that much…

“Lan Zhan, look at me.”

Lan Wangji does.

Wei Wuxian takes a breath. Focuses on Lan Wangji’s warmth in front of him, his beloved, beautiful face. “I… I have a bad memory. I don’t remember what happened that time at the Nightless City two years ago.”

Lan Wangji’s gasp is loud enough for Wei Wuxian to hear it over the chirps of spring-coming birds.

“But… but from now on, I won’t forget a single thing you say to me, or do to me! Lan Zhan, you’re especially good — I like you.” Lan Wangji gulps at this, and Wei Wuxian pushes on. “I love you, I fancy you, I adore you, I can’t leave you, I want to go to grad school with you and help you study your confusing legal terms and study my awesome biochem terms with you!”

Lan Wangji’s breaths are coming quicker and quicker, and he is still looking at Wei Wuxian — out of surprise and confusion more than anything else, probably. This doesn’t deter Wei Wuxian. Nothing can.

If he has the slimmest chance of loving and being loved by Lan Wangji… if this is his chance, he has to take it.

“And I want to go on a date with you again, and kiss you in front of your dorm room in the ugly corridor, and see you smile! I really, really love you. I always have, Lan Zhan, my good Lan Zhan.” He brings one hand up to cup Lan Wangji’s face, and watches as Lan Wangji slowly processes everything he’s saying.

Wei Wuxian smiles up at Lan Wangji, and continues, “If you want me, I would go to bed with you every day, and wake up with you in the mornings, and kiss you before we leave for class, and raise a thousand rabbits together. If you want, you can have me, all of me, any way you like — it can’t be anyone but you, I don’t want anyone but you! And I’ll accept anything, because it’s from you, as long as you want me — ”

And then Lan Wangji’s lips are on his, and Wei Wuxian is melting into them. When Lan Wangji pulls away, it is to the great concern of Wei Wuxian, who thought things were going well for a chance — Lan Wangji kissed him! Of his own volition!

“Like you,” Lan Wangji murmurs.

“Yes.”

“Love you, fancy you — adore you.”

“Yes!”

“Want to go to grad school with you — want you, want to be with you, go to bed and wake up with you — “

“Yes! Lan Zhan, yes, a thousand times, yes!”

Lan Wangji hugs him tighter, tighter still, like this is a dream he’s scared he’ll wake up from.

But it isn’t a dream. Never again will Lan Wangji wake up alone and trembling from dreams of Wei Wuxian loving him, because Wei Wuxian will be there for him. Always. Always.

“Can’t be anyone but you!”

“Yes, nobody but you — only you, it’s always been you, gods,” and Wei Wuxian makes his point known with a squeeze of Lan Wangji’s chest, a brush of lips against his neck, “Could only ever have been you.”

“For me, too.” Lan Wangji says, pulling back again. At Wei Wuxian’s quizzical look, he elaborates, “You have always been the only one I want. You, Wei Ying, and no one else.” And as if that isn’t enough to send Wei Wuxian six feet under the ground with a deadly swell of adoration, he says, “I love you. Wei Ying.”

Lan Wangji smiles.

Wei Wuxian has to admit, he is starstruck every time he sees that smile. Now that he knows that smile is for him, and his eyes only… that it is because of him, that he is the only one who can make Lan Wangji that effusively happy — it wipes Wei Wuxian’s mind blank for a good five seconds.

When it restarts, he’s already tugging at Lan Wangji’s neck and chasing his lips for fleeting, desperate kisses. “Lan Zhan, I love you. I love you, always have, always will — would give you the universe, would give you the stars and the galaxies and tame the black holes for you — ”

Lan Wangji kisses him, longer this time, slow and sweet, everything that was missing in their first kiss last week. That gets him to shut up embarrassingly quickly.

“Wei Ying,” he says, smiling. “Wei Ying, I already have the universe.”

“What? What do you mean??” Has Lan Wangji suddenly become an astrophysics major??

“I have you,” Lan Wangji explains. His ears are adorably red, so Wei Wuxian kisses them both, because he can. “You are my universe.”

That — he really —

Well, what can Wei Wuxian do except pull Lan Wangji into another kiss? He’s just a poor, simple man after all, and if Lan Wangji flirts with him like that… he’s afraid he’ll have to kiss Lan Wangji more, good and honest and right.

And if Lan Wangji sighs into their kiss, slides one hand into Wei Wuxian’s hair and the other around his waist, kisses Wei Wuxian until he’s laughing and giddy and breathless…

That just means Wei Wuxian has found his own universe in Lan Wangji.

 

An hour later, their mouths are both red and sore, but a trace of a smile remains on Lan Wangji’s lips, and that’s what matters.

So when Lan Wangji disentangles himself from Wei Wuxian and asks, softly, “Does your offer still stand? For helping me date the person I like?” Wei Wuxian just nuzzles his head into Lan Wangji’s shoulder and says, very wisely, “Mmmhhh? Uhm, yeah, sure?”

“Then, I will take you up on it.”

“Wait, what?” Wei Wuxian says, effectively jolted out of his kiss-addled state. Does Lan Wangji mean —

“To help, you could…” Oh, Lan Wangji’s ears are blushing again, this ought to be good. “You could go on a date with me. For lunch. At the new Hunanese place.”

Wei Wuxian just stares at Lan Wangji for a few seconds. Fuck. Fuck. That is so, fucking, goddamn, cute. Oh my god.

“Wei Ying?”

“I, uh.” Wei Wuxian clears his throat. “Lan Zhan, is that your own funny way of asking me on a date??! You!! Come here, let me kiss you — ” And Lan Wangji does let Wei Wuxian kiss him, that’s… that’s really good, Wei Wuxian is still processing this, “I really do love you!”

Lan Wangji gives him an expectant look.

“Buuut,” Wei Wuxian continues, “I’m afraid I have to turn you down. You see, I think there’s a better way I could help!”

“...Yes?” Lan Wangji prompts, quite obviously eager to see what Wei Wuxian is turning him down for.

Wei Wuxian squeezes Lan Wangji’s hand, just to prepare himself mentally, and says, “I could be your boyfriend!”

He can practically see the little computer that keeps Lan Wangji’s brain running in an impossibly organized fashion crash at Wei Wuxian’s words.

“Lan Zhan? You okay there, love?” Then, teasingly, because if there’s one thing that makes Lan Wangji reboot it is Wei Wuxian teasing him, “Do you not want to be boyfriends? Ah, Xianxian is so sad — ”

Yes,” Lan Wangji interrupts, not even looking scandalized at having broken rules. But he’s smiling, helpless and fond and bright. Wei Wuxian wants to make him smile every day for the rest of their lives. “Yes, Wei Ying, yes. Boyfriends. That… that sounds good.”

And this time, when Lan Wangji says that, he sounds like he truly means it.

Wei Wuxian grins up at him. Boyfriends. Good god, Lan Wangji is his now, and he Lan Wangji’s…

(Perhaps one day in the future, he could call Lan Wangji husband instead, ring glinting on his finger.)

But for now, he just leans up to give Lan Wangji one good honest kiss.