Senior Wei promised pizza, beer, and extra credit to any of his students that helped him move. Naturally, Jingyi signed up immediately. All three of those things were needed in his life.
Jin Ling's text tone blooped (screeched) from across the room.
JRL: I can't believe you're helping my idiot uncle move.
LJY: y 👀
JRL: Because you barely know him? He didn't even ask ME to help, and I'm his supposed nephew.
LJY: he made promises & my gpa needs help
LJY: u'll be there?
JRL: Yeah, bright and early.
LJY: c u 2morro babe 😉 😘
JRL: You are so embarrassing.
JRL: I'm breaking up with you.
Things were in full swing and absolute chaos by the time Jingyi rolled up to Wei Wuxian's apartment. He saw a few of his classmates, a U-Haul, and a shitton of cultivators.
Jin Ling stood next to his dad, both observing some of the extra-credit hunters putting boxes in the U-Haul. Jin Zixuan and Jin Ling looked like mirror images of each other with their sunglasses reflecting the sun to block their expression to the crossed arms to the one foot tapping impatiently. Jingyi held in a snort as he slid to a stop and kicked his skateboard into his hand.
"What's up?" Jingyi said, throwing an arm around Jin Ling's shoulders and smacking a loud kiss on his cheek.
Jin Ling flushed a bright, satisfying red and grumbled. Jingyi grinned. Flustered Jin Ling was the best Jin Ling. And he absolutely guessed right about them already being un-broken up. Nice.
He heard a soft tutting, and he saw Jin Zixuan frowning at him. But Jin Zixuan always frowned at him, so Jingyi elected to ignore it.
"You're late, Lan Jingyi," Jin Ling told him imperiously as he pushed his sunglasses up onto his head. Jingyi resisted the urge to mess up his hair even more (he deserved a medal, honestly). "Guess you're not that worried about your GPA after all."
Jingyi snatched the sunglasses of Jin Ling's head and put them on. Raybans, nice. "Thanks for these," he said, amused at the way Jin Ling tossed his hair back. "And not really, I've got a 3.6, but it'd get Lan Qiren off my back if it was higher, you know? Besides, Senior Wei said he wouldn't be here till later anyway."
"I see, I see, definitely slacking."
"Hey! I don't see you doing anything helpful, young mistress."
"Mhmm," Jingyi rolled his eyes. "Need both you and your dad for that, huh?"
"Yes," both Jins said at the same time. Jin Zixuan continued, his gold aviators flashing at Jingyi. "Go be useful and get something out of the house."
Jingyi passed his skateboard off to Jin Ling and saluted Jin Zixuan. "Yessir!" He pressed one more loud smooch to Jin Ling's forehead this time and walked off.
Jin Ling grabbed the back of his shirt, his chin stuck out and clearly expectant. Well, he was trying to be cool in front of Jin Ling's dad but if he didn't care, then neither did Jingyi. So he stepped back into his space and kissed him properly. It never failed to make his toes curl even if this kiss was a short one. When he pulled back, Jin Ling's face had softened into a small smile.
Vaguely, he noticed Jin Zixuan's frown had graduated to a full-blown scowl. Jingyi decided he'd tested his luck long enough, maybe it was time to actually help with the moving things. He gave Jin Ling a wink and trotted up the porch steps and up the rest of the stairs into Senior Wei's third-floor walk-up.
Inside the apartment redefined mayhem. Boxes, trash bags, shitty furniture, plastic storage tubs -- it was everywhere. Jingyi even saw a hole in the wall in the kitchen. Which definitely had a story behind it. But knowing Senior Wei like he did outside of class...maybe that was a story he didn't need to know.
"Hey, Lan boy!" A grouchy voice hollered at him from down the hall. So Sandu Shengshou was here, too, it seemed. Great.
"I have a name," he grumbled to himself as he entered the bedroom. Jiang Cheng stood there with his hands on his hips in a ratty tank top that he'd already sweat through. Definitely in a bitchy mood. But then again, when wasn't he?
Jiang Cheng flapped a hand at him. "Take the mattress down."
"Anything else?" Jingyi asked as he started to drag the mattress by the handle with one hand. "Got an extra arm after all."
His scowl deepened. "No. Come back up quick, there's more heavy shit and the other students are fucking useless."
"Sure, sure, Sect Leader Jiang."
He distinctly heard him mutter something about Lans and show-offs. Once again, Jingyi elected to ignore it (someone needed to give him a medal for all of the damn high roads he was taking).
Jingyi wrestled the mattress down the switchbacking stairs and out onto the lawn.
"Hey Jin Ling, where's this go?" He called out.
Jin Ling pointed at the back of the Uhaul. "In there, to the left."
To get the mattress into the truck meant he couldn't just drag it. Also, that was probably rude and disrespectful of Senior Wei's things. One of his classmates made a vague gesture like they wanted to help and Jingyi waved them off. This was easy, just unwieldy. He took a second to shove his sleeves up over his shoulders. After a steadying breath, Jingyi grabbed the sides of the mattress and hoisted it up over is back, easily carrying it up the ramp to put it in the spot reserved against the wall. It landed on the floor with a hollow thud that echoed.
Jingyi wiped his hands off on his shorts as he ambled out of the truck. Jin Zixuan waved him off back toward the apartment door. Jingyi decided to head back slowly, Jin Ling had moved from mirroring his dad to lounging in a lawn chair with...Nie Huaisang of all people. Jin Ling met his eyes and Jingyi felt something zip up his spine, letting him know Jin Ling had absolutely been watching him, and had absolutely enjoyed himself.
For a hot second, Jingyi thinks about casually doing a handstand walk just to watch Jin Ling's reaction. He dumbly runs into another student who'd been carrying three stacked boxes, too distracted by the idea of Jin Ling dragging him off behind the truck to make out.
"Dude," the kid said.
Jingyi fumbled to keep the boxes from toppling over. "Sorry, sorry!"
"No kidding, ugh."
He decided to ignore them. He stepped out of their way and flashed a grin over at Jin Ling. Jin Ling tossed his hair and slurped down some lemonade with a smirk. So Jingyi pulled out the big guns, pushing back his sleeves again before not-so-subtly flexing his arms. Jin Ling's whole face burned red. Nice.
"Shoo," Jin Zixuan hissed in his ear, startling the shit out of Jingyi. Jin Zixuan poked his shoulder roughly to push him back towards the apartment.
Jingyi giggled a little hysterically and high-tailed it back upstairs.
After a few hours, all that's left are the heavy things. The U-Haul is nearly packed to the gills with the boxes and trash bags, leaving neat little spots for Senior Wei's antique desk and his large, surprisingly comfortable, and extremely shitty sofa.
The other students had left after Jin Zixuan promised to use his brother-in-law status to make sure he knew they'd been there and actually helping. So now it was just Jingyi and Jiang Cheng remaining to wrangle the last bits. Clearly, the Jins and Nie Huaisang weren't going to help, seeing as they'd had all morning to start and if they hadn't already, then they wouldn't begin now that the sun blazed down from a cloudless sky.
Jin Ling had taken to leaning against the truck to hide in its scant shade while sipping on whatever lemonade Nie Huaisang provided. Judging by the flush that Jin Ling wore high on his cheeks, it was clearly a spiked lemonade, so Jingyi made a mental note to avoid any beverages offered by him until they were done. Last thing he needed to be was drunk and messy from one Mike's Hard in front of Jin Ling's dad and judgy uncle.
Speaking of, all the adults had clustered around Nie Huaisang, each drinking their own lemonades. Jiang Cheng chugged the last of his down, and Jingyi noticed that both Nie Huaisang and Jin Zixuan seemed a little dumbstruck by the feat. Which was interesting.
He slid the last box from the stack by the curb onto the floor of the truck and went to go nudge Jin Ling. Jin Ling scooted over to give him some shade and offered his lemonade in a rare moment of unasked for generosity. Jingyi shook his head, pulling a much-used plastic water bottle out of his shorts pocket instead.
"What's going on with that, you think?" He asked, gesturing at the adults.
Jin Ling grimaced. "Ugh, you do not want to know."
"Well now I really want to know."
He patted Jingyi's cheek fondly. "Trust me, gege, you don't."
Jingyi swallowed involuntarily, suddenly not caring at all about whatever was going on over in the circle of middle-aged-ness. Jin Ling's hand dropped to his shoulder, fingers absentmindedly scritching at the nape of his neck and making Jingyi's spine turn to goo. All of his bones for that matter. He was a boneless wonder whenever Jin Ling did that.
A smile curled slowly on Jin Ling's lips. He tossed his empty lemonade bottle onto the lawn to step closer and drape his other arm over his other shoulder and hummed low in his throat before pulling himself up to kiss him. He tasted like lemonade and that overripe edge of cheap alcohol, and Jingyi thought maybe that would be enough to send him off the deep-end.
Okay, so not total boneless goo. At least one bone. Figuratively.
"Gege, let's go," Jin Ling murmured as he tugged at the collar of his shirt. Jingyi nodded and easily followed him away toward the far end of the truck. His hands found their way to Jin Ling's waist to keep him close—
A hand yanked his ponytail, pulling Jingyi sharply away from Jin Ling with a yelp.
"Jiujiu, what the fuck!" Jin Ling shouted.
"Get your hands off my nephew," Jiang Cheng hissed. "There's still shit to move."
Jingyi shot him an unimpressed glare and took a second to readjust his ponytail before replying. "I was busy. Some of us have things to do after this, you know."
Jin Ling crossed his arms with a huff, nodding to make clear it was him, he was things. Jingyi's stomach gave a dumb swoop of fondness.
Jiang Cheng narrowed his eyes, equally unimpressed. "Clearly. Now get your ass upstairs."
"Jiujiu, he already did enough, we're going." Jin Ling scowled at his uncle over Jingyi's shoulder.
The expression on Jiang Cheng's face told Jingyi that there was probably never enough he could do ever for anything, in his sect leadery opinion. Because he was a Lan, and it's well known that Jiang Cheng barely tolerated any of them to begin with, with only Zewu-jun as the exception because it was impossible to not tolerate Zewu-jun.
"Jeez louise," Jingyi groaned and made a show of popping his back and stretching his arms. "Guess the great Sect Leader Jiang needs help with a sofa. What kind of Lan would I be to turn down his plea for help?"
"Hey—You!" Jiang Cheng spluttered.
Jingyi winked at Jin Ling, who snorted and waved him off. He booped his nose and whistled as he jogged back into the apartment stairwell. He heard Nie Huaisang laughing.
"You need to stay away from my nephew," Jiang Cheng grouched at him as soon as they were both in the mostly empty apartment again.
Jingyi raised an eyebrow. "Why?"
"If you don't, I'll break your—"
"My legs, yes, you say that a lot about a lot of things."
Jiang Cheng looked murderous, teeth clenched and at least three muscle tics twitching at his jaw and neck. "Stay. Away. From him."
Jingyi actually worried about the future of his leg bones for a minute. But as usual, that message didn't make it to his mouth in time. "No. I'm marrying him."
He wondered if Jiang Cheng's eyes were going to pop out of their sockets. He wondered if his own eyes were going to pop out of their sockets. It felt like they were. Where the hell had that come from, and why, of all people, did he blurt it out to Sandu Shengshou, who hated him and disliked his whole family on principal because Wei Wuxian married Hanguang-jun.
Sure, did Jingyi love Jin Ling and want to keep him around forever? Absolutely. Had Jin Ling talked at length, multiple times about what his wedding would look like to Jingyi? Definitely, he's even seen the Pinterest board. But had they ever broached the topic of marrying one another? Right now? When Jin Ling was a college freshman and he was a junior who'd yet to pick a major? Nope, undoubtedly not.
He swallowed his panic. "Y-Yup! Keep that up and you'll be uninvited!"
And before Jiang Cheng could put hands on him to break all of his bones, strangle him, or commit murder upon his humble person, Jingyi grabbed one side of the antique desk and dragged it out of the apartment by himself. That shit was heavy because they don't make things out of solid walnut anymore for a reason, but Jingyi managed to control its fall down all of the stairs without breaking anything major.
So that was a victory.
With a surge of panicked energy, he heaved the whole thing up in his arms and wobbled across the lawn and up the ramp into the truck to dump it inside.
Stepping back into the sunshine, he nearly got ran over by one very furious Jiang Wanyin, who in a fit of pique, had manhandled one half of the sofa down the stairs by himself. Also in a fit of pique, Jiang Cheng had thrown his back out doing so. He shoved past Jingyi and immediately keeled over huffing and puffing in the hot grass. Nie Huaisang crowded over him, flapping his fan around, while Jin Zixuan pushed down his sunglasses with a small frown.
Whatever. He needed to get out of here. Like, right now. Before Jiang Cheng blabbed to Jin Zixuan where Jin Ling could hear. Jin Ling absolutely did not need to hear his uncle bitching about Jingyi wanting to marry him when he hadn't even heard it from Jingyi first.
Adrenaline pushed Jingyi down the ramp, over to Nie Huaisang's cooler to grab the last lemonade bottle before he threw an arm around Jin Ling's waist to drag him away from the cluster of adults.
"JIngyi?" Jin Ling elbowed him gently but allowed himself to be led away. "What's going on?"
Jingyi laughed a little too loud and high, making Jin Ling's brow furrow deeper. "Nothing, nothing it's—"
"A-Ling! Lan Jingyi!" Wei Wuxian crowed right into his ear, making Jingyi jump and drop the lemonade bottle, which cracked on the sidewalk and spilled all of its precious brain-rotting contents. Jingyi mourned it.
"Dajiu!" Jin Ling yelped, equally startled bouncing away from him. "Where the fuck have you been?"
The two of them started bickering as Hanguang-jun made his appearance at Wei Wuxian's side, placing a gentle hand on the small of his back to receive a sunshine smile for a split second before Wei Wuxian went back to needling Jin Ling. Jingyi gave a wobble of a bow, receiving a nod more gracious than he deserved in return.
Watching the two of them always made something ache inside of Jingyi. He used to think maybe it was the onset of a yet-to-be-discovered type of diabetes, but now he knows it's not. It was something closer to wanting that ease, that absolute trust they had with each other.
Jingyi sighed and rubbed a hand down his face. He felt Jin Ling tuck his hand in his, flashing him a confused look before going back to his uncle.
"Well it's done, no thanks to you!" Jin Ling said, lifting his chin up to look down his nose at Wei Wuxian. "Lan Jingyi did all the work!"
Wei Wuxian raised an eyebrow. "Oh, is that so?"
"Not all of it, Senior Wei," Jingyi replied with a shrug, feeling himself settle back to where the pieces of him should be as Jin Ling twined their fingers together. "Patrick and Cynthia came, too, and your brother and Jin Ling's dad."
A devious look crossed Wei Wuxian's face. "Jiang Cheng and Jin Zixuan, too? That's pretty great, huh, Lan Zhan?"
Hanguang-jun nodded with a hum.
"Guess we'll have to go survey their handiwork!" Wei Wuxian laughed bright and loud as he danced past them.
"Dajiu!" Jin Ling hollered after him. "Where's the PBR you promised?"
"In the back of Lil Apple!"
Jin Ling nodded and squeezed Jingyi's hand. He and Hanguang-jun exchanged nods, and then he proceeded to be the one to drag Jingyi this time, headed toward the beat up grey Ford parked across the street to fetch the beer.
"You're quiet," Jin Ling said, setting down his empty PBR can among the roots of the tree they're both sitting against.
Jingyi took a long swallow of his. "It's been known to happen."
Jin Ling raised an eyebrow and poked him hard in the shoulder. "Has it really?"
"Yup, definitely." He crunched the empty can and tossed it over near Jin Ling's empty one. He tugged at the blue ribbon around his wrist and contemplated a lot of things.
He felt Jin Ling drop his head on his shoulder and nuzzle around a bit before settling comfortably. His hand slithered between Jingyi's with a soft sigh. The day was hot, and Jin Ling was very warm pressed to him like that, but Jingyi found he didn't mind all that much. He leaned down and pressed a kiss to Jin Ling's hair, earning a happy hum. Jingyi stayed there, cheek smooshed against the top of Jin Ling's head and felt himself smiling.
"Tell me what you did to piss off Jiujiu so much," Jin Ling said.
"You mean besides you making out with me in front of him?"
"Obviously, Lan Jingyi."
"Hmm, I don't know, young mistress." He grinned to himself as he carefully extricated his hand from Jin Ling's to untie the ribbon on his left wrist.
"But I asked so nicely, gege," Jin Ling blinked innocently at him, clearly an act.
Jingyi ignored the answering stutter in his heartbeat at the pet name, determined to not be sucked into an obvious trap this time. He kept carefully unraveling the loops of the ribbon until it was a small, slightly sweaty pile in his hand. Probably not the best thing, but it was what he had, and it held a lot of symbolic meaning after all, so it should be fine. It's the symbolism that counted most for this sort of thing anyway.
Jin Ling pressed a kiss to his jaw and whispered "gege" just so in his ear several times. Jingyi bit the tip of his tongue to keep focused. He deserved a goddamn medal for not immediately pressing him into the ground.
"You can't just do that," he groaned without bothering to pull away in the slightest. "You'll get me arrested."
Jin Ling snorted against his neck. "Is that how it works?"
"Yes, and you know that, which is why you do it."
He craned his neck back to look down his nose at Jingyi with a smirk curling at the corners of his mouth. "Maybe so."
"'Maybe so'?" He leaned toward him. "You're impossible."
"I am, one hundred percent." And Jin Ling looked so fucking smug about it, too, with that toothy grin of his.
Jingyi pulled him back and kissed him, laughing. Jin Ling went easily, hands steadying himself on Jingyi's shoulders stopping just shy of crawling directly into his lap. They stayed like that, trading easy, lazy kisses which remained surprisingly chaste. Jingyi finally felt like the world had evened back out to where it should be, to where it was this morning, before all of the moving fiasco and his too-fast mouth got him in trouble.
He drew back to press their foreheads together, unable to resist rubbing their noses just so to make Jin Ling scrunch his whole face up. Jingyi smiled like a doofus. "I love you."
"Good, you should," Jin Ling answered without missing a beat. "I'm adorable."
"You are. One hundred percent."
With a small toss of his hair, Jin Ling reached up to kiss him again, firm and sweet and everything good. He gave him a very serious look. "I love you, too, you know."
And he did know, so as his heart thudded too loud in his chest like it always did when they were this close, Jingyi pressed a tiny kiss to the tip Jin Ling's nose. "Marry me then."
"Duh," Jin Ling scoffed. "Who else would I marry?"
Jingyi smiled so wide he felt his lips crack. "Really?"
And Jin Ling gave him a look that was somewhere between fond, exasperated, and slightly pained. "Really really."
"Oh my god, I can't believe I'm Donkey, I thought I was Fiona!"
"No, no way are we gonna go down the Shrek rabbit hole when we just got engaged, Lan Jingyi." Jin Ling flicked his nose. "Besides, he says that to Fiona, too."
"I fucking love y—mmf!"
Jin Ling shut him up before he could try to make another Shrek reference.
When the giggling and kissing had mostly subsided, he takes Jin Ling's left hand in his and gave it a squeeze. He started to wrap his blue ribbon around Jin Ling's wrist, murmuring the words he'd been taught at Lan Qiren's cultivational cram school.
A promise to love him always, to stand by him, to care for him, to cultivate with him, to face life's challenges together, to be patient and compassionate, to be righteous and virtuous, and to hold him as his equal and partner in all things.
He tied it in a careful knot after eight loops around Jin Ling's wrist and sent a small bit of his spiritual energy into the knot to keep it there, no matter how much it got knocked around. Jingyi stared at it for a moment, feeling like his chest was too small for how his heart was banging around and growing with each second.
Two hot tears landed on his hand. Jingyi looked up to find Jin Ling's face red and blotchy and straight up sobbing.
"Aw, babe," Jingyi said softly, wiping Jin Ling's tearstained face gently.
Jin Ling threw himself forward to hide his face in Jingyi's neck, tucking his be-ribboned arm carefully against his chest. "Shut up."
Jingyi snorted, but otherwise stayed quiet, gently running his fingers through Jin Ling's hair. Subtly wiping at the corners of his own eyes. Jin Ling was an ugly crier, but Jingyi still found it kind of cute that he was so overwhelmed by having Jingyi's ribbon on his wrist.
"You like me, how embarrassing for you," Jingyi whispered with a little giggle.
Jin Ling weakly batted at his chest, hiccuping.
"That's okay, I love you, so we can be embarrassing together."
"Oh my god, I take everything back, we're breaking up."
Jingyi smacked a kiss to the top of Jin Ling's head. "Sure, sure, whatever you say, young mistress."