Actions

Work Header

And oh, my god...

Work Text:

I.

His third year of college, Wei Wuxian ends up roommates with one Lan Wangji, who might just be the most stoic person he’s ever met. They don’t share an actual room, just a tiny kitchenette and living room between themselves. They have a third roommate too, a freshman named Wen Ning who’s nice and all if not a little shy, but he’s barely ever around.

Lan Wangji, by comparison, is always either in class or at the apartment, with no time for fun in between. At least, that’s what it seems like. And when he’s at the apartment, his bedroom door is always closed. “Studying,” he said the one time Wei Wuxian asked, before once again closing the bedroom door in his face.

In short, Lan Wangji isn’t all that sociable. The few times Wei Wuxian has tried to draw him into conversations in the tight squeeze of their shared kitchenette, Lan Wangji has replied in monosyllables and sometimes just not at all, as though he hadn’t actually realized Wei Wuxian had been talking to him (which is miraculous, because when Wei Wuxian talks, it is always quite loud).

Lan Wangji is… a world apart from the rest of them. He is somewhere else even when he’s right there. Someone most comfortable within himself. Maybe he’s shy? Wei Wuxian doesn’t sense arrogance from him, though, not even when Lan Wangji ignores him, and he spends many long minutes trying to wrap his head around the concept of Lan Wangji not coming off as mean even when he does something as mean as straight up pretending Wei Wuxian doesn’t exist?

In fact, there’s something incredibly calming about Lan Wangji’s presence when he deigns to fill the rest of the apartment with it – when he walks nearly silently into the kitchenette and proceeds to cook with nary a sound; the unhurried way he eats his meals, eyes on the middle distance, undisturbed even by Wei Wuxian clattering away at the stove behind him; his methodical ritual of washing his dishes afterwards.

He exists with serenity, Wei Wuxian finally settles on.

He decides to say this one night during dinner, with meat splattering in the pan behind him and Lan Wangji eating pickled radishes at the table, two at a time, such prim little mouthfuls. But first, he decides to get Lan Wangji to reply to him in more than a single syllable. It’s exceptionally difficult, and whining Lan Wangji’s name over and over just isn’t cutting it.

Wei Wuxian’s brother, Jiang Cheng, likes to regularly remind him that he’s an annoying pain in the ass. Wei Wuxian likes to live up to the titles he’s been given, so he smiles at the back of Lan Wangji’s head and says, “Lan Zhan.”

Lan Wangji’s shoulders stiffen, but just for a moment, before relaxing beneath the knit of his light blue sweater. He even wears things that makes one think of words like ‘serenity’ and ‘peace’ and ‘calm’ – monochrome button-downs during the day, made of either cotton or linen; sometimes thin sweaters in soft shades of blue in the evenings if the air coming through the living room window is cool enough.

Seeing that the name earned him a response, Wei Wuxian is about to repeat it, when Lan Wangj finally breaks his silence.

“What, Wei Ying.”

It isn’t said as a question, but as a statement. A deliverance of Wei Wuxian’s very own, brand new nickname, uttered like a returning challenge. Wei Wuxian cannot stop grinning.

“Lan Zhan, you’re so serene about everything, you know that?”

Lan Wangji replies, as he often does, with a hum. “Hm.”

Noncommittal. Wei Wuxian was really hoping for more, but then again, he supposes he shouldn’t ask for miracles when they’ve only shared a handful of extremely one-sided conversations thus far.

“Do you want some of this meat, Lan Zhan? It’s beef! I have enough to spare.”

“Mm,” Lan Wangji says, with a shake of his head.

Wei Wuxian probably would have understood the hum as a negative regardless. He prides himself on being pretty aware of things, pretty good at reading people, rather intuitive, if you will. From their handful of one-sided conversations, he’s started to pick up on the minute tonal differences in Lan Wangji’s hums and what they mean. He feels kind of like a code breaker.

His eyes slide to Lan Wangji’s meal. The daikon is pickled, but the rest is freshly cooked. Eggplant, carrot, mushrooms, green bell pepper, tofu. The smells rising from Lan Wangji’s dishes are always very mild, and Wei Wuxian can see why, when he once caught Lan Wangji measuring soy sauce with such exactitude that he seemed nearly afraid of seasonings altogether. Wei Wuxian has never seen him eat a single spicy dish!

Actually, on the topic of things he has never seen Lan Wangji eat… Wei Wuxian peers over Lan Wangji’s shoulder, taking a closer look at his dinner. Horror strikes him. “Wait a minute,” he gasps. “Lan Zhan, are you a vegetarian?”

He thinks he hears a soft sigh before Lan Wangji replies with, “Mm.” An affirmative this time.

Wei Wuxian gapes at the back of Lan Wangji’s head, where the top half of his hair has been pulled up into a neat bun so perfect, not a single strand falls out of place. A vegetarian! Wei Wuxian can’t imagine. Meat would add the flavor Lan Wangji’s bland dishes most certainly need! But fair enough. Lan Wangji is entitled to his quirks, and he definitely has a number of them.

Lan Wangji is a neat freak who makes sure the kitchen counters are always clean at the end of the day, and while he is polite enough not to touch Wei Wuxian’s half of the fridge, he does arrange everything in his own half into meticulously neat rows that feel very much like a statement about Wei Wuxian’s inability to arrange much of anything at all. Wei Wuxian wondered for the first week whether this was Lan Wangji being passive aggressive, but then came the fateful day when he observed Lan Wangji measuring the absolute teensiest amount of soy sauce into the veggie dish he was cooking, and he realized that nope, that’s just Lan Wangji.

(The first time he’d run into Wen Ning, he asked how much space he’d need in the fridge, and Wen Ning had just said, “Don’t worry, I only eat takeout,” with a bit of a stammer and an agreement that approximately one square foot at the back of Wei Wuxian’s half was more than enough.)

Lan Wangji’s stringency is endearing, in a way. Should it be intimidating? Lan Wangji does everything so perfectly. He’s like grace and poise personified, whereas Wei Wuxian trips over the chair legs in the kitchen at least once a day and knows his voice is always a little too loud even when he makes an effort to be quieter. He hopes he isn’t driving Lan Wangji insane, because Lan Wangji is actually pretty much the perfect roommate. Neat, quiet, respectful, not outwardly judgmental…

“Okay,” Wei Wuxian says, a little too loudly. “That’s fine. More meat for me!”

Lan Wangji doesn’t respond to this, which means the one-sided conversation is officially over. Wei Wuxian smiles a little to himself as he turns back toward the stove, because this was their most fruitful exchange to date. He’d heard a whole array of different sounding hums.

And, he thinks to himself, nearly dancing with glee, Wei Ying!

II.

He meets up with Jiang Cheng for lunch on campus now and then, and Jiang Cheng gripes about classes and professors and his workload and the one annoying roommate he has who never closes the kitchen cabinets after he opens them. Wei Wuxian listens, usually while stealing spicy noodles off of Jiang Cheng’s plate.

Wei Wuxian was adopted by Jiang Cheng’s family when he was really young so they basically grew up together, but Jiang Cheng had insisted when they both got into the same university that they live separately. Probably for the best, because Jiang Cheng would definitely tell Wei Wuxian off for all his partying. Wei Wuxian is still nursing a slight hangover from the previous night, and he hopes Jiang Cheng doesn’t notice and get all self-righteous about ‘behaving responsibly’ and ‘having fun is fine but there’s such thing as too much fun’.

Things would inevitably turn bitter, and Jiang Cheng would say something like ‘How the hell do you get away with partying your academic life away and still maintaining a perfect GPA while I have to work myself to the bone to pass every exam?’

So yeah, it’s better they live separately so Jiang Cheng is not witness to all of Wei Wuxian’s irresponsible, alcohol-infused life choices, and the way that none of these life choices actually hinder his academics at all. Wei Wuxian can’t help being a genius!

“And you’re too damn loud,” Jiang Cheng said, the first time the topic of living separately came up, when they were still finishing up high school. “Like, I’m gonna need to study and you’ll be deafening the entire apartment with some stupid story about a rock you picked up on the way to class because it looked like a donkey or something.”

That was partially fair, because Wei Wuxian will be the first to admit that he does babble excessively, and does have very many interesting stories to tell; but also partially not fair, because Jiang Cheng is loud too! He always scolds Wei Wuxian at the top of his lungs, and what with how often he scolds Wei Wuxian… another reason that living separately had been a very good idea indeed. Wei Wuxian thinks that partying and telling fun stories are a much better use of his loudness than griping about anything and everything like Jiang Cheng does. But he only says so when he’s willing to receive the smack to the back of the head this will earn him.

“You sure you haven’t driven your roommate crazy yet?” Jiang Cheng asks now, after Wei Wuxian has finished telling him all about the solemn and silent Lan Wangji. “You two sound like total opposites.”

“Lan Zhan loves me! I’m lots of fun.”

“Uh-huh,” Jiang Cheng says, smacking Wei Wuxian’s chopsticks away from his noodles.

“I think I’m gonna teach him how to season his food.”

“Maybe mind your own business instead?”

Wei Wuxian sighs tragically. “That’s so hard.” Then he tells Jiang Cheng about Lan Wangji’s (absolutely insane) nine o’clock bedtime. “Like, how the hell? I swear he’s not a normal person.”

“And you’re qualified to judge that, because…?”

“Um, rude.”

“You know what I think you should do?” Jiang Cheng asks.

Wei Wuxian leans forward eagerly.

“I think you should stop thinking of ways to annoy him, because if he’s disciplined enough to go to bed every night at nine o’clock, he’s disciplined enough to wait for the perfect time to murder you and hide the body.”

Before Wei Wuxian can retort that Lan Wangji would never, they are going to be the best of friends, Jiang Cheng has rummaged a small box out of his backpack and shoves it across the table. It’s a pretty lilac color, wrapped in a shimmery ribbon. Wei Wuxian recognizes Yanli’s writing on the box, and immediately brightens.

Inside are an array of cute little homemade cookies shaped into chubby rabbits. “Jiang Cheng,” he warns, “I’m gonna eat them all.”

“You better. They’re yours.”

“Wait, but you had them?” He pouts. “Why didn’t she send them to me? I gave her my new address.”

Jiang Cheng rolls his eyes. “Because our sister knows you check your mailbox twice a month at best.”

Wei Wuxian sits up straight. “Shit, I have to go! The book I ordered for class was supposed to arrive on Monday!”

Jiang Cheng shakes his head, and lifts a hand in farewell as Wei Wuxian snatches up his box of cookies and sprints away.

III.

One Friday night, Wei Wuxian gets back hours earlier than usual (the party was lame) and hears music coming from Lan Wangji’s room, where the door is left open for a change. Only a faint light trickles out, probably from no more than a desk lamp. After slipping off his shoes, Wei Wuxian follows the trail of quiet notes, their peaceful twangs and – is he hearing this right? – somber reverberations. For once, he makes a conscious effort to tread lightly. He doesn’t want to disturb Lan Wangji, but he really, really wants to see what’s going on.

He tiptoes past the tiny kitchenette and stops at the threshold of Lan Wangji’s bedroom. Lan Wangji’s desk has been cleared off (though it’s likely always clear, neat and tidy with no stray pens or empty chip bags or scattered books), and a guqin sits atop it. Lan Wangji’s fingers moving slowly over the strings, coaxing from them a tune that makes something tighten in Wei Wuxian’s chest. It’s as though Lan Wangji is plucking his heartstrings directly, twisting them into the sorrow and longing that fills their small apartment.

Lan Wangji sways slightly as he plays, and from what Wei Wuxian can see of the side of his face, his expression is serene. As he plucks the last note, his eyes rise and he turns his head slowly to find Wei Wuxian watching him from the door.

“Ah,” Lan Wangji says, the word nearly toneless but for just a moment, his eyes widen the slightest bit.

Was that surprise? Wei Wuxian wonders to himself. The light isn’t very good. It really is only Lan Wangji’s desk lamp that’s on, so shadows play around his face, making it look even more like a mask of stoicism than usual.

The last vibrations fade away, and Wei Wuxian blurts out, “Lan Zhan, that was beautiful.” His voice is too loud, far too loud, breaking the lingering peace. So of course, because he is graceless, he says just as loudly, “You play guqin?”

Lan Wangji doesn’t deign to respond to that. His eyebrows might twitch the slightest degree upward, as if to suggest the words, Did you not just see me playing the guqin?

Wei Wuxian laughs a little, running a hand through his bangs to brush them out of his face, a habit he does in awkward moments. “Right, right, you definitely play the guqin. Wow, that song was so sad though. What was it about?”

“Farewells.”

“Oof. Deep. I totally felt it.” Wei Wuxian realizes he may be coming off sarcastic when he’s being sincere, so he says with much effusion, “You’re really good!”

Lan Wangji nods a polite thanks.

“Okay, well, I’m gonna go. To my room.” Wei Wuxian points with both thumbs unnecessarily. Lan Wangji is well aware of where his bedroom is.

“Goodnight,” Lan Wangji says. Wei Wuxian wonders if he should read into that, if Lan Wangji is trying to politely tell him to go away, but then he remembers the time and realizes Lan Wangji is dressed for bed, feet pushed into cozy slippers under his desk.

“‘Night, Lan Zhan,” he says, managing to drop his voice to a reasonable volume, and with a smile he turns out of the doorway and heads to his room.

Suddenly very tired, feeling strangely affected by the music – weighed down, sad, wanting something but he doesn’t know what – he pitches himself onto his bed. He falls asleep to the melody of mournful strings, unsure if he hears them only in his head, or if they’re still filtering through the apartment from Lan Wangji’s open door.

IV.

Wei Wuxian has been pulling an all-nighter to finish a report he really shouldn’t have procrastinated so much on, and he’d eventually migrated to the living room when he couldn’t stand being in his tiny bedroom anymore, when Lan Wangji’s door opens at… Wei Wuxian squints at the time in the bottom right-hand corner of his computer screen, eyes tired and blurry.

Five in the morning.

He thinks Lan Wangji will just go to the bathroom and then go back to bed, but then Lan Wangji walks not to the bathroom on his side of the apartment but instead right past the tiny slice of a living room where Wei Wuxian is no longer working on his report, but instead gaping at him.

Lan Wangji has a duffel bag slung over his shoulder and is dressed in athletic gear like some sort of Nike model, his long hair completely twisted up into a bun on the back of his head. Wei Wuxian sees all this thanks to the ghostly blue light of his computer, which is also what draws Lan Wangji to stop and stare back at him, though Lan Wangji does not gape. He simply looks down at him without expression, as though waiting for the questions he knows Wei Wuxian must have.

“Where are you going?” Wei Wuxian blurts out, proving once again that he knows neither the meaning of an inside voice nor an ‘It’s way too early to be talking this loud’ voice.

“The gym,” Lan Wangji says, proving that he understands both concepts perfectly.

“At five in the morning?

“Mm.”

“Okay, well.” Wei Wuxian laughs weakly, thinking Lan Wangji has positively lost his mind. “Have fun with that.”

“Mm,” Lan Wangji says with a nod, and then he leaves.

“Five AM,” Wei Wuxian mutters to himself, astounded, horrified. Any sane person who was not procrastinating on important papers would be happily unconscious at five AM. Further proof that Lan Wangji is not a mere mortal like the rest of them.

He’s just finishing up said paper when Lan Wangji returns an hour later. It’s hard to tell if he worked out at all, because he still looks immaculate. Maybe ‘the gym’ is code for ‘the set where I secretly shoot Nike ads’.

Lan Wangji nods politely to Wei Wuxian as he makes his way past him. A couple minutes later, the bathroom door clicks shut and the shower hisses on. Hardly ten minutes after that, the shower is off again, and five minutes later, Lan Wangji emerges only to retreat into his bedroom. All very quick and efficient. Right as Wei Wuxian finishes proofreading his paper, Lan Wangji walks into the kitchen, dressed for the day except his wet hair is twisted up off his back and shoulders, held in place at the back of his head with a long chopstick that has a small silver bell hanging from it.

At six thirty in the morning, with the sky just lightening outside, Lan Wangji starts quietly making himself breakfast. Wei Wuxian watches him open the refrigerator from over the top of his computer screen, feeling kind of like he’s observing some mythical creature that doesn’t know a mere mortal has laid eyes upon it. They’ve been living together for a month and he had no clue Lan Wangji woke up so damn early, and then made breakfast, still so damn early!

Wei Wuxian doesn’t really pay attention to the noises happening in the kitchen as he logs onto the class website to submit his paper, so he’s surprised when he suddenly hears a blow dryer rev up in the alcove outside Lan Wangji’s bathroom. Lan Wangji doesn’t blow dry his hair every morning, does he? Wei Wuxian would definitely hear it if he did!

Roughly fifteen minutes later, the blow dryer turns off, and Lan Wangji returns to the kitchen with his hair loose and slightly damp. Wei Wuxian, who at this point is crashing hard and hadn’t even realized he’d been sitting in a daze with his overheating laptop on his lap and listening to the blow dryer like it was white noise, startles when Lan Wangji steps up beside the couch.

It takes him several more moments to realize Lan Wangji holds a small plate out to him, with a single dumpling and a pair of chopsticks on top.

“For… me?” Wei Wuxian asks dumbly. It definitely isn’t for Wen Ning, who doesn’t appear to have been back for the better part of a week.

“Mm.”

“Thank you,” Wei Wuxian says, taking the plate, noting how Lan Wangji holds it by the very edge, so that their hands don’t touch during the exchange. He stares down at the dumpling, his surprise at having been offered some of Lan Wangji’s homemade breakfast dulled by the fact that his brain is processing everything at the speed of dripping molasses.

He belatedly realizes Lan Wangji is still standing there, and hastily plucks up the dumpling and takes a big bite. It’s fresh out of the steamer, soft and warm, and while the inside is filled with only vegetables… “This is amazing!”

“My brother made them.”

So not quite homemade by Lan Zhan himself, but still. Wei Wuxian shoves the rest of the dumpling into his mouth and says as he chews, “Your brother is an insanely good cook.”

“Don’t speak through a full mouth,” Lan Wangji says, before returning to the kitchenette, his hair wafting a light floral scent as it flutters behind him.

Wei Wuxian snaps his laptop shut, stands and stretches his arms up over his head, his spine popping a few times. Eyes heavy, he shuffles to the bathroom he shares with Wen Ning. As he washes his hands afterwards, his stomach growls, and he blinks at his exhausted reflection, wondering what to feed himself before trying to snatch what couple of hours of sleep he can sneak in before class.

But when he returns to the living room, there are five more dumplings on a plate beside his computer, and Lan Wangji is no longer in the apartment.

V.

From then on, he makes an effort to wake up at seven once a week, so he can mooch off of whatever breakfast Lan Wangji is having that day. Lan Wangji never complains. In fact, after the second time, he sets breakfast out for Wei Wuxian every Wednesday morning, and they eat in companionable silence – one of the few times Wei Wuxian is quiet, since it feels like an actual crime against his body to be conscious so early, but the food helps wake him up. Even though, when it isn’t Lan Wangji’s brother’s food, it’s rather bland. But it isn’t really about the food, not after the first couple of weeks.

He likes eating with Lan Wangji. They sit across the table from each other at a diagonal, the peaceful clinks of chopsticks and spoons like a morning melody. While Wei Wuxian knows he must look like an utter zombie, Lan Wangji always looks perfectly awake, stoic and unruffled as always. His eyes are a light golden color, his lashes long, his chin noble – and Wei Wuxian would have laughed at this last thought, if it wasn’t connected to Lan Wangji. He always smells incredible, shampoo and however many other hair products he must use to keep his hair so sleek and shiny wafting around Wei Wuxian and at once making him feel sleepier and more awake.

“Lan Zhan, you don’t blow dry your hair every morning, do you?”

Lan Wangji’s gaze slides over to him. “I do.”

“But I never hear it!”

“When you’re asleep, I do it in my room.”

“Lan Zhan!” Wei Wuxian is really, truly touched. He should have known, what with Lan Wangji preparing breakfast for him once a week, how kind Lan Wangji is, but he hadn’t expected this. “You’re so thoughtful!”

“Hm.”

When Lan Wangji takes up his post in front of the kitchen sink once they’re both done eating today, Wei Wuxian hip bumps him out of the way. Lan Wangji looks startled, and Wei Wuxian reminds himself that, right, Lan Wangji isn’t really a fan of physical contact. He smiles his apology and says, “I’ll do the dishes, Lan Zhan. You’re so kind and generous and I never do anything for you.”

Lan Wangji still looks a little off-kilter by this turn of events, since this isn’t how their routine usually goes, but he nods and gives Wei Wuxian more space.

They start heading to campus together after breakfast. Since Wei Wuxian isn’t a psycho, he doesn’t actually have any classes that start before ten (and even this one he struggles to get to on time), but he just peels off from Lan Wangji at the library and studies for a bit or finishes any homework he’s been putting off.

He told Lan Wangji the first time that the library was his destination (“I’m gonna study! We can walk onto campus together until one of us reaches our building first. I bet it’ll be your first time walking with a friend!” “Hm,” Lan Wangji had said, unimpressed.), but his real, ulterior motive was to see how long Lan Wangji would put up with his company. Plus, he’d only ever hung out with Lan Wangji in their apartment. He thinks they’ve reached the stage in their relationship where they can go outside together.

As it turned out the first time, and as it has continued to turn out every time since, Lan Wangji puts up with him just as patiently and monosyllabically as they walk through campus as he does in the apartment. Wei Wuxian is truly thrilled at how spectacularly their friendship is progressing.

“How long have you played the guqin, Lan Zhan?” he asks one morning, as they’re walking. He’s heard music a few more times from within Lan Wangji’s bedroom. The melodies are always so wistful.

“A while.”

“Are you in any music clubs or anything?”

“Mm.”

“You are? Do you have music shows ever?”

“Mm.”

“Lan Zhan!” He has to resist jamming his shoulder into Lan Wangji’s, has to remind himself to keep a respectable space. “You have to invite me to one!”

“If you’d like.”

“I would! I’d like it a lot!”

“Mm.”

There’s an apple tree outside the library, and while the lower branches are almost always picked clean these days, the higher ones still have some fruit visible in the foliage. Wei Wuxian reaches for one that he thinks he might be able to grab… and his fingers come several inches shy.

A shadow falls over him, and then Lan Wangji is right beside him, reaching for the apple and grabbing it easily. With a twist, it comes off the branch.

“Are you showing off?” Wei Wuxian asks, crossing his arms with a pout.

Lan Wangji raises his eyebrows slightly. “I thought you would ask me to get it for you.”

It’s a fair supposition, as Wei Wuxian does ask Lan Wangji to get him stuff off the top shelves in their kitchen, but still. He dons his most obnoxious grin. “Oh Lan Zhan, so quick to come to my aid. You are trying to impress me!”

“Would you like me to put it back?” Lan Wangji starts to reach back up into the tree. Wei Wuxian gasps in mock outrage and, before he can catch himself, shoves him. He knows that Lan Wangji will deny it until the end of time, but Wei Wuxian swears he smiled for a split second.

Feeling emboldened, Wei Wuxian reaches for the apple, but Lan Wangji steps back, face once again impassive, and says, “No food in the library.” Then he crunches into the apple and walks away. Wei Wuxian can only stare at his retreating back, mouth fallen open, feeling utterly wronged and utterly delighted.

VI.

This Friday night, Wei Wuxian had been so surprised to find Wen Ning in the apartment, he’d completely cancelled his plans to check out a party in the next apartment complex over to hang with his oft-absent roommate instead. Wen Ning’s watching K-pop on the couch, so Wei Wuxian throws some popcorn in the microwave and then joins him in front of the TV.

As shy as Wen Ning is, he’s run into Wei Wuxian enough times to be getting comfortable around him, and Wei Wuxian has discovered a truly delightful streak of mischief in the guy. It takes very little coaxing to convince Wen Ning to join him in imitating the dances the idols are doing on the screen, and soon the two of them are mocking each other outright and bombarding each other with popcorn for poor dance moves.

They both freeze when the apartment door opens.

Lan Wangji takes one step inside, and then he, too, goes still. He’s backlit from the hallway, so it’s hard to see his expression, but Wei Wuxian gets the impression he’s scanning the scene with a truly harrowing scowl. Wen Ning hastily starts scooping up popcorn off the carpet and throwing it back into the bowl.

Wei Wuxian just says, “Lan Zhan! Hey, the three of us are finally all here together!”

Lan Wangji says, “It’s dirty.”

While the statement is very true, Wei Wuxian doesn’t find it very pressing. He brushes some popcorn off the couch, plops down, and pats the cushion beside him. “Lan Zhan, watch the music show with us! Who knows, you might actually experience this thing called ‘fun’.”

Wen Ning’s phone dings. He fishes it out of his pocket, and his expression floods with relief, though there’s a hint of apology when he glances at Wei Wuxian. “Actually, I have to go.”

“What? Wen Ning!” Wei Wuxian throws a handful of popcorn at his back. “You can’t ditch us like this!”

Wen Ning smiles bashfully from the door after awkwardly sidling past Lan Wangji. “Sorry. Maybe next time!” he squeaks, before fleeing.

“Ah well. Lan Zhan, come come.” He waves Lan Wangji over, and to his surprise, Lan Wangji obeys the beckon, removing his shoes and then walking to the end of the couch while sidestepping every popcorn landmine.

Wei Wuxian pats the cushion again. “Sit with me.”

Lan Wangji sighs, loud and heavy, and then, to Wei Wuxian’s absolute shock, sits down, setting his guqin case beside the couch. Wei Wuxian grins, ecstatic.

“So, Lan Zhan, do you listen to this type of music often?” On screen, a girl group is performing a truly exhausting looking routine while looking bright and peppy and sounding perfectly in tune. Young people are inspiring.

“Mm,” Lan Wangji says. Negative.

“D’you wanna try to copy the dance routines with me? Holy shit, her foot just went above her head!”

“Mm.” Another negative.

“Smart thinking. We wouldn’t want to dislocate a hip or anything. Young people can do some crazy stuff to their bodies.”

“You’re young,” Lan Wangji points out.

“Eh, once you reach twenty, it’s all downhill from there,” Wei Wuxian says sagely, waving a hand. Lan Wangji raises both eyebrows but says nothing.

While the next singer belts out a mournful power ballad, Wei Wuxian sneaks sideways glances at Lan Wangji’s face. It’s lit up by the TV, casting a pallid glow over smooth skin, graceful bone structure, thin lips.

Wei Wuxian hastily averts his gaze as Lan Wangji shifts. Lan Wangji deals him his third surprise of the night by reaching into the popcorn bowl and taking out a few pieces. He neatly pops them into his mouth and chews. Wei Wuxian decides the time has passed to remind him that some had landed on the floor. A couple seconds pass…

Lan Wangji coughs. Gruffly, he says, “What did you put on it?”

“Oh, lots of chili oil! Gives it a kick, huh?”

Lan Wangji clears his throat. His voice is still a little raspy when he replies, “A very strong kick.” He doesn’t reach for any more popcorn.

Wei Wuxian slides off the couch and onto the floor where he can let his legs sprawl. He’d been so hyper when Wen Ning had been around, but now that it’s Lan Wangji instead, he feels an inexplicable mellowness settle over him. As another solo singer takes the stage in short shorts and thigh high boots, he says, “Damn, she’s hot. What do you think, Lan Zhan?”

“Hm.” Indifference. Wei Wuxian chuckles softly to himself.

He tries again a couple acts later, during a new solo singer’s debut. “God, he’s hot.”

“Hm.”

Wei Wuxian cranes his head back with what he knows is a shit-eating grin. “Are you agreeing with me, Lan Zhan?”

“Hm,” Lan Wangji says, sounding neither here nor there, staring blandly at the TV screen.

Wei Wuxian stares at Lan Wangji’s lips for a second, then, no stranger to shooting himself in the foot, decides, To hell with it. “You know, the fact that you’re not disagreeing could be considered pretty gay.”

Lan Wangji sighs. “Hm,” he says, this time with a tone that heavily implies a sentiment of, What an inane conversation this is turning out to be.

“Okay, okay, I’m kidding,” Wei Wuxian says. He lays his head back against the couch cushion. “You’re straight.” Half of his brain is screaming at him that he is the biggest fucking idiot and really should just stuff his slipper into his mouth. The other half is admiring the slight downward twitch of Lan Wangji’s perfect lips. Both halves are a mess, so the status quo of his brain is still perfectly in balance. Until Lan Wangji’s eyes move slowly to his, and then both halves of Wei Wuxian’s brain cease to function entirely.

Lan Wangji holds his gaze and says, enunciating each word slowly and clearly, “I don’t recall ever having said such a thing.”

Wei Wuxian swallows dryly and turns back to the TV. “Oh. Okay. Cool.”

So yeah, he can finally admit to himself that he finds Lan Wangji impossibly hot, because maybe Lan Wangji is a little gay and that gives him a little bit of a chance at… something?

Or had he just misinterpreted what Lan Wangji said? Very possible. While Wei Wuxian considers his metaphorical Lan Wangji dictionary to be quite comprehensive, Lan Wangji always finds new ways to be obscure, like he’s just trying to give Wei Wuxian a hard time.

When Wei Wuxian falls into bed later, he tosses and turns for a long while, staring into the darkness and seeing Lan Wangji’s piercing eyes, hearing the low timbre of his voice like the vibrations of a plucked guqin string.

I don’t recall ever having said such a thing.

VII.

Wei Wuxian has mostly forgotten all about those words by the next time he and Jiang Cheng grab lunch together on campus, sitting down with a mountain of spicy fried chicken between them. Then Wei Wuxian is just thinking about how good food is, and how true happiness comes from eating crispy, spicy, sticky chicken.

“Dude, you’re gonna choke,” Jiang Cheng warns as Wei Wuxian shoves a chicken wing into each cheek and works on chewing a third in between them.

“Nah, I’m a pro,” Wei Wuxian says, but it comes out sounding like “Nn, brr. L’Zn!”

He leaps up when he spots Lan Wangji walking by a few tables away. Lan Wangji spots him and gives him a concerned look, but he obliges, albeit warily, as Wei Wuxian waves him enthusiastically over. In the fifteen or so seconds it takes Lan Wangji to navigate the crowded food court, Wei Wuxian chews up all three chicken wings and swallows them.

“Lan Zhan, c’mere! Meet my brother! This is Jiang Cheng.”

Lan Wangji dips his head politely. “Hello.”

“Jiang Cheng, this is Lan Zhan, my roommate!”

“We don’t share a room,” Lan Wangji states.

“Ah yeah,” Jiang Cheng says, “the guy who goes to bed at nine.”

Lan Wangji pins Wei Wuxian with a subtle frown, no doubt wondering why he has been a topic of conversation between the two brothers.

“Sit, sit,” Wei Wuxian says, pulling out the chair beside him and tapping it. Lan Wangji sits, and sets down his tray. He has a bowl of clear broth and veggies, and he dips his spoon in without preamble. “Did you just come from class?” Wei Wuxian asks him.

Lan Wangji’s eyes swivel over to him, a bit of reproach in them, as though Wei Wuxian is being rude somehow. “Yes.”

“Jiang Cheng! Lan Zhan plays the guqin. Did I tell you that already?”

“Ah really? I heard there’s like a traditional music club on campus or something?”

Lan Wangji nods, delicately sipping another small spoonful of soup. Jiang Cheng bites into a chicken wing, giving Wei Wuxian a look like You weren’t kidding, he barely talks.

Wei Wuxian smiles at the side of Lan Wangji’s face. He doesn’t know what he’s so happy about. Introducing his roommate to his brother? Lan Wangji being more social than Wei Wuxian dared to think possible? Lan Wangji has a stray bit of hair falling over his face, and Wei Wuxian almost reaches out to tuck it behind his ear, but then he remembers that Lan Wangji doesn’t like touching, and he refrains.

“Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan,” he sighs instead. Lan Wangji’s gaze swivels his way again. “Eating watery soup and vegetables for lunch. You know what you remind me of? A rabbit.”

“Meals should be eaten in silence.”

Wei Wuxian blinks. Lan Wangji stares at him, a slight crease in the skin between his eyebrows suggesting he’s actually… irritated? Jiang Cheng guffaws at the look on Wei Wuxian’s face and takes a liking to Lan Wangji from that point onward.

“Lan Zhan,” Wei Wuxian pouts as he walks Lan Wangji to his next class afterwards, “you didn’t have to be so mean to me.”

“I wasn’t being mean.”

“You scolded me.”

“You deserved to be scolded.”

“Because I said you’re like a rabbit? Don’t worry, Lan Zhan. You’re the tallest, handsomest, coolest rabbit I’ve ever seen. And you go to the gym every day! You’re the strongest rabbit –” The rest of his words are muffled by Lan Wangji’s hand covering his mouth.

“You talk too much.”

Lan Wangji’s palm is smooth and cool, not too warm, not too cold. Wei Wuxian licks it impulsively. Lan Wangji draws back as though he’d been bitten, and then stares down at his palm like he’s calculating an advanced calculus equation. Ultimately, he tsks and wipes his hand on Wei Wuxian’s shoulder.

It’s stupid how giddy Wei Wuxian is, because all Lan Wangji did was wipe his own spit off on him, but it’s the first time that he can recall Lan Wangji initiating physical contact. Small steps have turned to leaps and bounds.


That night, he comes home from a party early (when have they all gotten so boring?) and finds the apartment filled with the wistful sounds of Lan Wangji’s guqin once again. His heartstrings tremble, and he quietly slips off his shoes and pads to Lan Wangji’s open door.

This time, Lan Wangji looks over at him, then back at his guqin, continuing to play the rest of the song. He’s a picture of serenity, warmed by the glow of his desk light, softened by the melody that comes from his own fingers.

Once the song has come to an end, and Wei Wuxian has let the silence linger an appropriate amount of time, he asks softly, “Am I annoying, Lan Zhan?”

Lan Wangji’s eyebrows furrow, the only display of his surprise. He turns his head to look at Wei Wuxian directly. “Sometimes, but I don’t mind.”

Wei Wuxian leans against the doorframe. A helpless sort of smile lifts his lips as his heart hangs unsatisfied in his chest, but for how shameless he is about most things, the thought of asking Lan Wangji to keep playing gives him pause. So instead he says, “I can’t help teasing you. You’re so teasable.”

“Hm.” Lan Wangji stands. “My brother made more dumplings.”

Wei Wuxian steps aside so Lan Wangji can walk past. As he does, his scent settles into the air he displaces. While in the morning he smells more floral, like his hair products, by the end of the day he has a cooler scent that sits more harmoniously with his character. It’s subtle, woodsy, and Wei Wuxian breathes a little deeper as he follows him to the kitchen.

Lan Wangji is at the steamer, and when he turns around, he holds a plate of dumplings.

“For me?” Wei Wuxian asks.

Lan Wangji nods.

“You’re really kind, you know that?”

Lan Wangji doesn’t respond. He hands Wei Wuxian the plate, but doesn’t let go at first. “You smell like beer.”

Wei Wuxian laughs a little. “Yeah, sorry. Drank some at the party.” He means to step back so Lan Wangji doesn’t have to smell his breath anymore, but Lan Wangji still hasn’t let go of the plate. He stares down into Wei Wuxian’s face, his eyes intense in the half light, but not at all cold.

“You should be careful. You walk home alone.”

Wondering idly how Lan Wangji knows this, Wei Wuxian gives him a reassuring smile and says, “It’s fine, it takes a lot to get me drunk. If anybody tries to mug me, I’ll just kick ‘em in the nuts.”

Lan Wangji lets the plate go with a sigh and a shake of his head.

“Oh, that reminds me.” Wei Wuxian squeezes in beside Lan Wangji so he can open the cabinet. “Want a cookie? My sister just sent me some more.” One handed, he takes out a box, sets it on the table, and opens the lid. “It’s just, you always feed me and I don’t really give you anything in return.”

“I don’t need anything.”

“Still. You should have a cookie.”

Lan Wangji looks down at the chubby bunny cookies, eyebrows lifting.

“I promise no chili oil,” Wei Wuxian says.

Lan Wangji takes one and nibbles on its ear. Wei Wuxian’s cheeks warm, and he’s glad that only the stove light is on so Lan Wangji can’t see. Lan Wangji does give him a questioning look as he lets out a tiny laugh, though.

“Nothing, nothing,” Wei Wuxian says, turning away to eat his dumplings, though he can’t cast away the image of Lan Wangji nibbling on the cookie. A rabbit nibbling on a rabbit. Wei Wuxian’s face heats some more, and he chews around a smile. Lan Wangji is just too cute.

VIII.

This particular Friday, Wei Wuxian doesn’t even go to a party. He gets dinner at a noodle place a couple minutes from campus, then comes home and flips on the TV. Lan Wangji returns shortly after eight, and once again pauses in the doorway, surprised to see him home.

“Do you have practice Friday nights?” Wei Wuxian asks, nodding his chin toward the guqin case Lan Wangji carries.

“Yes,” Lan Wangji says. He removes his shoes and comes further inside, not bothering to turn on the light. He’s begun to dress warmer as the seasons shift, and he unloops the scarf from around his neck to drape over his shoulders.

“Do you know any songs that aren’t sad?” Wei Wuxian asks.

Lan Wangji opens up his guqin case and sets the instrument on the coffee table, then folds himself into a seated position on the floor in front of it, right beside Wei Wuxian’s legs. Wei Wuxian watches all this in awe, then hurriedly mutes the TV. At the first strum of the guqin, his heart shivers in his chest.

The tune is light, bell-like, with the occasional twang. Wei Wuxian watches Lan Wangji’s hands, for the first time paying close attention to the details of how they move. The fingers of one hand plucking and strumming, the fingers of the other sliding, holding. Lan Wangji’s hands flow over the guqin like waves washing ashore at low tide, so incredibly light. Sometimes they are far apart, and sometimes they are close, in near harmony except always moving independently of one another. Wei Wuxian wonders how those hands would feel on him, and his stomach knots.

His eyes dart to what he can see of Lan Wangji’s face, which isn’t much. The high peak of a cheekbone. A pale ear illuminated by the TV screen. His fingertips burn with the desire to trace the shell of that ear, and he sits on his hands.

He tips his head back, letting the melody wash over him like the cool caress of spring water, like the smell of grass on the breeze. The knot in his stomach slowly loosens, and his heart settles as a smile lifts his lips.

“That one’s my favorite,” he sighs when Lan Wangji has finished. And then, eyes still closed, he says, “Ah, I realized that the night we watched the music show together, I kept you up past your bedtime.”

“It’s fine,” Lan Wangji says, voice itself a melody in the dark.

“What about tonight?”

“It’s fine.”

“Then will you play me another song?”

Lan Wangji does. A myriad of images play on the backs of Wei Wuxian’s eyelids – verdant plains, clouds moving peacefully through blue skies, the lazy caress of sunbeams. The taste of flower petals and the smell of damp soil. As much as Wei Wuxian loves to be where the noise and the action are, Lan Wangji’s music makes him want to be someplace quiet, far from the city. Lan Wangji takes him to that place. When he breathes in, he feels like his lungs can take in more air than usual, like more space has opened up inside of himself.

The last note hangs in the air forever. Speaking seems profane at this point, but Wei Wuxian can’t help the hopeful words that drop one by one out of his mouth, into the quiet between himself and Lan Wangji, whose presence he can still sense right beside his knees. “How about this, Lan Zhan? I’ll wake up early for you once a week, and once a week you can let me keep you up past your bedtime while you play me the guqin.”

He’s just revealed his entire game – the fact that he doesn’t wake up early for the food or to go to the library, he simply wakes up early for Lan Wangji – but Lan Wangji doesn’t call him on it.

Instead, Lan Wangji says, “No.”

Wei Wuxian’s smile drops, and his heartstrings screech a misplayed note. He’s finally said too much, pushed for something Lan Wangji isn’t willing to give. He’s about to open his eyes and think of an excuse to head to bed when Lan Wangji says, “Not next week. I’ll be busy.”

“Hm?”

“The music department is holding an event. A dinner with patrons. I have to attend.”

Next week is the week before term ends, which means they’ll only have one more week afterwards, until after the winter break. Wei Wuxian sighs to himself, thinking that he sure wasted a shitload of Friday nights partying when he could have been home with Lan Wangji instead.


They eat breakfast together on Wednesday, and Lan Wangji walks Wei Wuxian to the library, and Wei Wuxian doesn’t say it. He hasn’t worked up the nerve.

On Friday night, Lan Wangji comes out of his room dressed in all white, his blazer buttoned up to the neck, subtle blue clouds stitched into the fabric. A snow white ribbon wraps around his half bun and trails down through his hair. He holds his guqin case in one hand, his dress shoes in the other, and he stops in front of where Wei Wuxian sits on top of the kitchen table as though reporting for inspection.

“Wow,” Wei Wuxian says. He clears his throat, then gives the understatement of the century. “You look good.” There’s a bit of a squeak in his voice that he hopes only he noticed.

Lan Wangji doesn’t smile, but his eyes go warm, and it’s absolutely breathtaking.

“Thank you.”

“And I was thinking,” Wei Wuxian says quickly, before he loses his nerve. He’s already dawdled in the kitchen long enough, having finished dinner a long time ago. “Or I was wondering. If, um, you needed a date? To your fancy dinner thing?”

Lan Wangji’s eyebrows furrow.

“I mean – I just mean – I mean.” Oh my god, Wei Wuxian thinks to himself. Just spit it out! “I mean do you want to be my date? I mean, do you want me to be your date? I’ll be your date. If you want.” He laughs loudly. “As friends, I mean! Like, just so you don’t go alone and I can talk to you and give you someone to talk to so you don’t get bored! If – if you want.”

He finally manages to clamp his jaws shut, lips pressed tight together and stomach completely gone.

“Oh,” Lan Wangji says, and oh god, this is where he says No, or rather, where he says it all polite like No, thank you, or That isn’t necessary, or I don’t want to talk to you or – “I’m not required to bring a date.”

Or he isn’t required to bring a date.

“Oh, great! That solves that problem!” Wei Wuxian laughs again, hoping his face isn’t bright red but figuring it is because he can feel it radiating.

“I wasn’t aware there was a problem to solve.”

Wei Wuxian holds back an absolutely hysterical laugh. “You are so right about that, Lan Zhan. No problem at all! I was just thinking that maybe you’d like a friend to talk to at this fancy shindig, but like, you’re you so you probably weren’t planning to talk at all anyway.”

“I will probably have to talk a little bit. But I don’t plan to talk very much.”

“Yeah, you don’t strike me as the mingling type.”

“Definitely not.”

“And I’d be a total blabbermouth! I’d make you look bad in front of all the fancy people! We so don’t want that.” Wei Wuxian nods in what he hopes is a sage way to his own statement, and not like a bobblehead whose neck is about to snap in half. “Okay, well, bye! Have fun!”

He hops off the table and heads toward his room, but Lan Wangji says, “Wait.”

Wei Wuxian’s heart pangs a single time in his chest. He turns back around and is surprised to see Lan Wangji’s hand – still holding his shoes – lowering quickly back to his side, as though he’d actually been reaching toward him. Wei Wuxian’s heart pangs a second time in his chest.

“Would you like to go with me?” Lan Wangji asks.

Wei Wuxian lets out a squeak. He tries again. “What?”

“As a friend,” Lan Wangji clarifies. His voice is the same deep, measured timbre as it always is, which means he hasn’t the faintest clue about the storm raging inside of Wei Wuxian’s head, and chest, and stomach.

No no no, Wei Wuxian tells himself sternly. You’re… you’re you! You don’t get flustered like this! Get your shit together! You can’t embarrass yourself in front of Lan Zhan! He dons his trademark flirtatious grin and leans his weight onto one hip. “Aw, Lan Zhan, are you saying you don’t want me to go as your date?”

Lan Wangji just blinks. “If I asked you to be my date, would you?”

Wei Wuxian nearly falls over. The storm in his body turns into an absolute hurricane, but nowhere more than in his head, where he hears a million tiny Wei Wuxians running around screaming, clanging open the filing cabinets that represent his brain function, and scattering the papers that represent his thoughts.

But there is one thought that flutters down and lands on top of all the others. When Lan Zhan says ‘date’ does he mean an actual date? Because I’m pretty sure he implied that one time that he isn’t straight and he knows I’m not either so is he asking all this in a gay way or in a friend way?

Certain he will get no answer, and possibly have the invitation revoked, should he voice said question aloud, Wei Wuxian swallows loudly and says, “Yeah, I would.”

“In that case,” Lan Wangji says, “would you be my date?”

“Yes,” Wei Wuxian says, with several enthusiastic nods. “I totally would.”

“Then go change.”

“Huh?”

“Your clothes. The dress code is semi-formal.”

Wei Wuxian looks down at himself, noting the very obvious hot sauce stain on his shirt, and dashes to his room. Halfway to his closet, he realizes – what the hell is he supposed to wear? All he has are jeans and t-shirts! And sneakers! “Lan Zhan!” he calls. “I’m screwed!”

He manages to find a plain black button down at the way back of his closet, which he wears with his darkest pair of jeans. The shoes are a lost cause – sneakers – but at least they, too, are black. He glumly inspects his reflection in the mirrored closet door. “Lan Zhan, I so don’t look good enough.”

“You look good,” Lan Wangji says from outside his room. “Come, we have to go.”

Wei Wuxian is barely conscious of what he babbles about during the fifteen minute walk across campus. Lan Wangji hums monosyllabic replies beside him. The winter night is frigid, enough that his breath billows from his mouth in a steady stream, so he’s beyond relieved when they make it to the building and find the heating system on full blast. They drop their jackets at the coat check, then enter the ballroom proper.

“Lan Zhan,” he says slowly, taking in the sight that greets him, “are we the last ones here?”

Round tables covered in various bottles and flower arrangements fill the center of the ballroom, while a couple hundred people mill around in between and at the perimeter, talking and laughing and looking their best. Wei Wuxian feels exceptionally shabby in his sneakers, but Lan Wangji puts a hand on his back to steer him farther inside.

“There was a cocktail hour beforehand. I skipped it.” He drops his hand as some other students from the music department come over and greet him. Wei Wuxian waits to see how he’ll act with them, but Lan Wangji just nods his greetings, as curt as always. When they ask who his friend is, Lan Wangji introduces him as “Wei Ying,” in his low, cool voice that makes a shiver zip up Wei Wuxian’s spine.

Wei Wuxian thinks it was a very good thing he came along when the event photographer sidles up and asks to take a picture of Lan Wangji, who nearly turns on his heel and strides away. Wei Wuxian catches him by the elbow, loops their arms together, and grins for the camera as he forces Lan Wangji to stay in place. Afterwards, Lan Wangji excuses himself to do something or other, Wei Wuxian doesn’t exactly catch what (hopefully not track down the cameraman and throttle him), but Lan Wangji’s music classmates are friendly and pull him into a conversation about mobile games, and by the time Lan Wangji returns, they’re casually debating who the best character is in the new drama about reanimated corpses.

“Wei Ying.”

He half turns and finds Lan Wangji standing behind him, looking uncertainly at the circle of people Wei Wuxian is a part of. “Lan Zhan! You can tell us who your favorite character is. Oh, do you even watch dramas?” Wei Wuxian grabs his wrist to pull him into the conversation, but just then a finely dressed gentleman steps onto the stage and announces that dinner is about to be served.

A procession of waiters carries trays to the buffet station at the back of the room, and a line quickly forms. Wei Wuxian tightens his grip on Lan Wangji’s wrist and promptly starts dragging him toward the line. “Lan Zhan, hurry, before all the good stuff is gone!” If there’s one thing Wei Wuxian will never be late for, it’s free food.

He piles his plate with a little bit of everything, then looks around at the tables. Lan Wangji’s elbow gently bumps into his. “It’s free seating. Follow me.”

They head to an empty table near the door, and when they take their seats, Wei Wuxian glances at Lan Wangji’s plate. He can’t help snorting. Lan Wangji gives him a sour look.

“Lan Zhan, you really are a rabbit. That’s all?” There are maybe seven bites of food on Lan Wangji’s plate, if someone were to take exceptionally small, Lan-Wangji-sized bites.

“I already ate.”

“You ate dinner before a dinner party?”

“I don’t like to eat so late. It isn’t good for digestion.”

The tips of Lan Wangji’s ears are pink. Wei Wuxian sighs fondly. He can’t help noting that Lan Wangji seems more relaxed than he had been around his classmates, more expressive. The table gradually fills in groups of twos and threes. Wei Wuxian would have liked to have sat with Lan Wangji’s classmates, but they’re joined by patrons instead, and none spare the two of them much attention.

As Wei Wuxian shovels food into his mouth, Lan Wangji plucks the spicy peppers off of his plate and places them on Wei Wuxian’s. Wei Wuxian can’t stifle his grin, not even when he plucks up the peppers and places them in his mouth. Then he just smiles around his chopsticks.

Because he’s a human trash compactor, he’s done before everyone else at the table, even Lan Wangji, who’s managing to stretch his seven bites into twice as many and is very slowly chewing on the final one. Wei Wuxian starts tracing designs into the condensation on his water glass. He jolts as Lan Wangji takes his hand and places it onto the table.

“Don’t play.”

Wei Wuxian tries not to feel disappointed as Lan Wangji quickly retracts his hand. “Lan Zhan, I’m bored.”

“Do you regret coming?”

He nearly misses the minuscule hint of concern in Lan Wangji’s voice. The only reason he catches it is because Lan Wangji’s fingers stiffen nearly imperceptivity over the tablecloth.

“Of course not. Your company’s all I need.” Lan Wangji relaxes, and his gaze becomes charged. Starting to grin, Wei Wuxian says, “But I’d like your company even more if you talked to me. We’re both done eating so there’s no reason for that ‘meals are best eaten in silence’ stuff.”

“I told you I didn’t expect to talk much tonight.”

“Yeah, but could you make an exception for me?” Wei Wuxian leans his cheek into his palm and bats his eyelashes.

“Hm.”

“Lan Zhan, you aren’t supposed to start talking less.”

Lan Wangji shakes his head, but his eyes don’t leave Wei Wuxian’s. “I’m not good at talking.” He takes a second, then parts his lips, then hesitates a second longer. “Tell me about the drama you were talking about earlier.”

Wei Wuxian perks up. “Will you watch it with me?”

“Not necessarily.”

Wei Wuxian laughs, then jumps headfirst into a detailed explanation of the drama’s plot. Lan Wangji soaks up every word, his eyes never straying from Wei Wuxian’s, the intensity of his gaze charging a current beneath Wei Wuxian’s skin.

At some point, Lan Wangji turns his chair to face him. At some point, Lan Wangji starts commenting on the various characters and their motives. At some point, it turns into a discussion, Lan Wangji’s steady tone weaving through the rises and falls of Wei Wuxian’s. Wei Wuxian is just about to reach for the end of the ribbon that has fallen over Lan Wangji’s shoulder when the finely dressed gentleman from earlier steps onto the stage again.

Wei Wuxian doesn’t listen to his announcement, too busy taking in Lan Wangji’s profile, still trying to catalogue every change in expression he just witnessed. The upward flicker of eyebrows followed by their immediate bunching together as Lan Wangji criticized a character’s decision. A mellowing of his mouth as he scoffed through his nose. The sideways flicker of his eyes as he thought something through, with the subtlest tension forming on his forehead.

Wei Wuxian lifts his cheek out of his palm as Lan Wangji rises from the table.

“Lan Zhan?”

He watches, nonplussed, as Lan Wangji makes his way to the stage, and then climbs the steps onto it. At the center of the stage, atop a wooden table, sits Lan Wangji’s guqin. Wei Wuxian finally understands what’s going on, and he holds his breath along with the rest of the ballroom as Lan Wangji sits down. He hates that Lan Wangji made them sit so far away, but as Lan Wangji plucks the first note, Wei Wuxian is transported back to their apartment, Lan Wangji playing right beside him in their tiny living room.

Lan Wangji plays the melody that’s spring water and grass in the breeze. The one Wei Wuxian said was his favorite. Wei Wuxian’s chest squeezes so tight, he thinks his heart will sport a permanent bruise. He can’t even clap as applause breaks out when Lan Wangji is finished, can’t clap as Lan Wangji rises and gives a bow, can’t clap as Lan Wangji descends the stage and returns to his side at the far back of the room.

“Lan Zhan,” he says weakly as Lan Wangji sits back beside him, “you didn’t play something sad.”

Lan Wangji looks at him sidelong. “I enjoy that one better.” The gentleman announces dessert being served, but Lan Wangji leans a little closer to Wei Wuxian and says, “I’m not required to stay any longer.”

Wei Wuxian nods. As people once again line up at the buffet table, Lan Wangji retrieves his guqin. Together, they retrieve their coats.

Wei Wuxian doesn’t babble as they make their way back through campus. He burrows his chin into his coat, watching out of the corner of his eye as Lan Wangji’s breath billows up white into the sky. The song lingers beneath his skin, just like Lan Wangji’s heated gaze had.

Did it mean anything, that Lan Wangji played that song tonight? Or would he have played it, even if Wei Wuxian wasn’t there?

Wei Wuxian barely registers returning to their apartment complex. It’s only when the kitchen lights flicker on that he flinches at the sudden brightness, and processes Lan Wangji setting his guqin case down to unlace his dress shoes. Wei Wuxian kicks off his sneakers absently.

“Did you enjoy yourself?”

“Hm?” He blinks at the low voice, and has to think back to Lan Wangji’s question. “Yeah, it was nice.” He pulls a grin onto his face. “You never told me you’re the star of the entire music department.”

“I’m not the star.”

“Pfft, you obviously are. A special stage? You’re obviously the favorite. The most talented. The prodigy.”

Lan Wangji sighs, still bent over unlacing his second shoe, but his ears are pink.

Wei Wuxian grins. “Don’t take this the wrong way, but you were really hot up there.”

Lan Wangji straightens up. “In what way should I take it?”

Wei Wuxian realizes then how close together they’re standing in the narrow entranceway. Lan Wangji’s eyes are locked on his. He hadn’t been expecting Lan Wangji to respond, had assumed he’d brush it off with something monosyllabic and unamused.

“Wei Ying?”

Wei Wuxian’s heart races. Lan Wangji steps closer, close enough that Wei Wuxian can make out his individual eyelashes, the pores on his nose, the very faint stubble above his lip. Wei Wuxian wants to know what he tastes like, wants to learn the feel of him beneath his hands, in his arms. And when he meets Lan Wangji’s eyes again, he can tell that Lan Wangji sees all of this in his own, but he can’t tell what’s lurking in Lan Wangji’s golden irises.

Fuck it, he thinks. He played my song.

Wei Wuxian kisses him.

Lan Wangji kisses him back at once, and not at all gently.

He moans as Lan Wangji buries his fingers into his hair, as Lan Wangji bites his lip and tangles their tongues. He throws his arms around Lan Wangji’s neck, anything to anchor them together. His blood boils in his veins, as hot as the inside of Lan Wangji’s mouth, as hot as the little bursts of pain where his hair tugs at his scalp.

Lan Wangji pulls him a few steps into the apartment, then backs into the wall and pulls Wei Wuxian against him. Wei Wuxian gasps at the feeling of Lan Wangji’s erection against his own.

“Oh shit, Lan Zhan. Oh shit.”

He can’t help rubbing against him, weeks and weeks of pent up want shredding any semblance of self-control. Lan Wangji grabs his hips, holding him in place as he rolls forward against Wei Wuxian in turn.

“Oh shit,” Wei Wuxian murmurs, and then Lan Wangji bites his lower lip and sucks it into his mouth, and Wei Wuxian loses complete control of his hands. They go from where they’re burrowed deep in Lan Wangji’s hair to shooting downwards, one to Lan Wangji’s waist and the other directly over the bulge in his pants. He palms him without reservation, exhilarated as Lan Wangji presses into the touch.

“Lan Zhan, can I?”

Lan Wangji growls, which sounds very much like encouragement.

Wei Wuxian undoes Lan Wangji’s belt blindly, mouth caught up with Lan Wangji’s again. He fumbles with the button, fumbles with the zipper, shoves Lan Wangji’s pants down, and then a pair of skintight boxer briefs. He closes his hand around Lan Wangji’s cock and gives one firm tug, thrilling at the way it jumps and fills more at his touch. Lan Wangji ducks to bite his neck, and Wei Wuxian is absolutely desperate.

“Can I blow you?”

Lan Wangji sinks his teeth into his shoulder, and Wei Wuxian curses and drops to his knees. He sucks Lan Wangji off right there, against the wall just inside their apartment, only feet from the kitchen table. Lan Wangji manages to stay mostly silent, half-stifled moans stuck in his throat, and when Wei Wuxian glances up, he catches Lan Wangji’s teeth buried so deep in his bottom lip, he might accidentally bite it off.

Wei Wuxian, by comparison, has never been quiet and doesn’t start now. It’s been a while since he last gave head, but he takes Lan Wangji to the back of his throat like a champ, realizing absently that Lan Wangji isn’t thrusting. A perfect gentleman, he thinks, and he almost laughs, but then Lan Wangji grabs his hair so tightly it burns, and he moans instead. He sucks on the upstroke, and laps at Lan Wangji’s cockhead, savoring the heady taste of him in a way that might actually be obscene.

“Wei Ying,” Lan Wangji manages, with a tug on his hair that Wei Wuxian takes to be a warning, but instead of backing off he takes Lan Wangji right back down his throat. He only chokes a little bit as Lan Wangji comes in a strangled grunt of surprise. He lets Lan Wangji out of his mouth, swallows, then thunks his head against Lan Wangji’s thigh as he undoes his own pants to reach inside and get himself off in two firm strokes. A personal record.

For a while, they both pant into the silence. The reality of the situation slowly dawns on Wei Wuxian, and when he finally catches his breath, he can’t help laughing. Hoarsely, he says, “Imagine if Wen Ning came home right now.”

The only warning he gets is Lan Wangji’s thigh tensing beneath his forehead. Lan Wangji steps hastily aside and Wei Wuxian’s head collides with the wall. He winces and claps his clean hand to it, blinking back tears and hissing a few curses between his teeth.

He hears water running.

“Lan Zhan?” he says, too quiet for the sound to travel.

There’s a splashing sound, like Lan Wangji is washing his face. With a twinge of unease, Wei Wuxian stands and heads to the faucet outside his and Wen Ning’s shared bathroom. He washes his hands, but he can still taste Lan Wangji in his mouth. Cheeks heating, he takes in his reflection, his swollen lips, his messy hair. He pulls aside the collar of his shirt and sees the bright red mark where Lan Wangji had sunk his teeth into his neck. Undoing a few buttons, he moves the fabric aside further and finds another vivid bite mark on his shoulder.

The water still gushes at full blast on the other side of the apartment, but Lan Wangji himself is being worrying silent.

Does he regret it?

Did I go too far?

Lan Wangji, who doesn’t touch people, who took months before he would touch Wei Wuxian’s hand for a few seconds to take it off his water glass, just let Wei Wuxian suck him off in their kitchen. He hadn’t seemed unwilling, but Wei Wuxian had started everything, each step along the way.

A heavy weight settles in his stomach.

Lan Wangji’s faucet finally turns off, and Wei Wuxian hears him… brushing his teeth?

He tries to make sense of it. It’s well past Lan Wangji’s bedtime, after all. He’s a stickler for routine. He’s probably shaken by what just happened and needs to settle himself back into his habits. The last thing he needs is Wei Wuxian intruding.

Still, Wei Wuxian can’t say nothing. The knot of anxiety in his chest won’t let him.

“Goodnight, Lan Zhan,” he calls softly across the apartment. He holds his breath.

There’s a long pause, before Lan Wangji calls back just as softly, “Goodnight, Wei Ying.”

Wei Wuxian exhales. Still, he lies in bed for what feels like hours, replaying everything and hating that the more times he does, the more he’s afraid it was all a huge mistake.

IX.

He tells Jiang Cheng all about it the next day, but he buries his worry underneath a thick layer of obnoxiousness. Jiang Cheng looks kind of like he wants to die, but he looks like that a lot around Wei Wuxian, who takes no pity and proceeds to detail how big Lan Wangji’s dick is. Jiang Cheng howls and tries to strangle him.

Wei Wuxian sits back with a smile. “No need to be so prude, Jiang Cheng!”

Jiang Cheng hangs his head, puts his face in his hands, and suffers silently for a minute. “What’s the point of all this?” he finally asks.

“Huh?”

Jiang Cheng gives him a long-suffering look through his fingers. “The point of the story?”

Wei Wuxian blinks. “I dunno.”

Jiang Cheng slams his hands down on the rickety table they sit at in the dining hall and roars, with a vein pulsing in his temple, “THEN WHY DID YOU TELL ME ALL ABOUT –” He quickly reigns in his volume and finishes in a strangled whisper, “sucking off your damn roommate?!

“I had to tell someone! And I always tell you stuff. You’re a good listener.”

“I want to die,” Jiang Cheng announces. Wei Wuxian laughs, because he’s heard that one before. Jiang Cheng gives him a pained look and asks, “So what, you’re dating now?”

Wei Wuxian’s heart constricts, but he says breezily, “Mm, no, I don’t think so.”

“Fuck buddies?”

“Huh.” Wei Wuxian thinks about it for a second. “I don’t really know. We haven’t, like –” He makes a crude hand gesture and Jiang Cheng hides his face in his hands again. A second later, Jiang Cheng shoves his plate of sweet and spicy pork aside, appetite apparently lost. But storytelling always whets Wei Wuxian’s appetite, at least it usually does, so he drags the plate to his side of the table and finishes it off for appearances.

He hardly tastes it, though, instead wondering if Lan Wangji will no longer want to have breakfast with him on Wednesday mornings, or walk onto campus together afterwards, or play him the guqin on Friday nights.

X.

It’s with utmost trepidation that he peeks his head out of his bedroom at 7:05 on Wednesday morning. He’s run into Lan Wangji a few times in the apartment since last Friday, and things have been… normal. Lan Wangji had made no indication that he’d been sucked off by Wei Wuxian. He’d helped Wei Wuxian get the spare soy sauce down from the topmost shelf, and answered Wei Wuxian’s effusive thanks with a monosyllable.

So things seem fine. But breakfast, Wei Wuxian knows, will be the true test.

When he sees Lan Wangji dishing up two bowls of watery porridge, he grins and walks into the kitchen, sitting in his chair diagonal to Lan Wangji’s. Lan Wangji sets his bowl in front of him, as well as a container. Wei Wuxian makes a questioning sound and peers at the label. “Spicy roasted peanuts?”

“So you don’t complain.”

Wei Wuxian bursts into laughter, spirits lifting. “Have I ever told you how thoughtful you are, Lan Zhan?”

“Mm.”

The door to Wen Ning’s room opens, and he sticks his head out, rubbing sleep from his eyes. “What’s so funny?”

“Wen Ning!” Wei Wuxian crows. “Want to have some porridge with us?”

“Can I?” Wen Ning comes out, looking a mix of nervous and hopeful and, thanks to the serious bags under his eyes, sleep deprived.

“Lan Zhan, Wen Ning can eat with us, right?”

Lan Wangji has already ladled up another bowl, and sets it next to Wei Wuxian’s place at the table. Wen Ning sits with a bashful smile, and meets Lan Wangji’s eyes with a bit of difficulty as Lan Wangji sits directly across from him. “Thanks,” he says.

“Mm.”

Wei Wuxian pours a mountain of spicy peanuts onto his porridge, then pushes the container toward Wen Ning, who pours the rest onto his. The three of them eat, Lan Wangji primly, Wei Wuxian like he hasn’t eaten for three days straight, and Wen Ning with his eyes on his bowl, but with sporadic glances at Lan Wangji, who stares fixedly at a spot over his left shoulder.

Wei Wuxian smiles the entire time.

“Lan Zhan,” he says later, as Lan Wangji walks him to the library, “you shouldn’t have stared over Wen Wing’s shoulder all breakfast like that. The poor guy was trying not to have a heart attack!”

Lan Wangji frowns. “Why would he have a heart attack?”

“Because your stare is so intimidating!”

“I wasn’t staring at him.”

“Still, you should’ve had him sit next to you.”

“I don’t like sitting next to people.”

“You should’ve sat across from me, then.”

“I sat where I always do.”

Wei Wuxian sighs. They come to a stop at the library steps, and Wei Wuxian climbs two before turning around, so that he can be a few inches taller than Lan Wangji for once. Lan Wangji’s eyes trail up and hold his.

“Lan Zhan, tell the truth. You just like making people nervous, don’t you?”

“Do I make you nervous?”

Wei Wuxian doesn’t know how to say Yes and no in a hundred different ways, so he snorts and says, “As if. Do I make you nervous?”

“When you don’t chew your food before swallowing, yes.”

The bell tower tolls, giving Lan Wangji ten minutes to get to class. He starts to turn, and Wei Wuxian calls after him, “Good luck on your exam! I know you’ll do great!”

“Mm,” Lan Wangji says, which could either mean Thank you or I know.

As he watches Lan Wangji walk away, Wei Wuxian thinks, Lan Zhan, you don’t like sitting next to people, but then what about when you play me the guqin? What about at your fancy dinner, when you were sitting so close, our knees almost touched the entire time?

XI.

He sits on the couch with his back ramrod straight and his feet planted firmly on the ground that Friday night, eyes on the TV but not focusing on the screen. When he hears the door handle start to turn, he flings himself haphazardly over the couch, and tips his head back over the armrest to see Lan Wangji come inside with his guqin case. He tries to grin like his heart isn’t currently in his throat.

“Lan Zhan! I figured you were still here since you hadn’t said goodbye, but…” But I wasn’t sure if you just left without saying anything.

“I’m still here.”

“Your music club seriously met on the last Friday night of the entire term?”

Lan Wangji nods.

“Are you going home for the winter break?”

“Tomorrow morning,” Lan Wangji says. He unwinds his scarf from around his neck, then hesitates in the kitchen.

Wei Wuxian straightens up, setting his feet back down on the floor, and pats the cushion beside him. “Wanna watch this scary movie I found on TV? There’s this ghost haunting the woods and ever since a family cut down some of the trees to build a house some seriously freaky stuff has been happening to them.”

Lan Wangji sets down his guqin case and walks over. He sits where Wei Wuxian indicated and stares at the TV screen while Wei Wuxian grins at the side of his face. Lan Wangji calmly reaches over, pinches Wei Wuxian’s chin between his thumb and forefinger, and turns his head straight.

Wei Wuxian stares at the screen, but all he can think about is how cold Lan Wangji’s fingers had been from walking across campus, and how close they’re sitting despite not touching, and how Lan Wangji isn’t acting very bothered at all.

“So Lan Zhan,” he says after a few minutes. “I think it’s the kid being possessed, because it’s always the kid, but sometimes it seems like it’s the old granny. She’s always watching in the background. Look, look! Even now, you see her in the back there?”

“Mm.”

“So what do you think? Little kid, or old granny?”

“I haven’t gathered enough information to make a decision. But the grandmother is behaving suspiciously.”

And as if heralded by Lan Wangji’s words themselves, the camera focuses on the old granny in the background right as her head snaps off and a billowing cloud of evil leaps out of her skin. Wei Wuxian screams and buries his face in Lan Wangji’s shoulder. He gets a whiff of Lan Wangji’s cool scent before Lan Wangji pushes him away.

“Sit still.”

“But Lan Zhan, I’m scared!”

“You were watching this alone.”

“Yeah, and no demons were exploding out of grannies! Besides, I was already scared! I asked you to watch with me so I would feel safer.”

“Ridiculous,” Lan Wangji mutters under his breath.

Wei Wuxian pouts, but he shifts another few inches away from Lan Wangji, to make up for throwing himself on him just now. Lan Wangji frowns sidelong at him.

“You really aren’t gonna comfort me?” Wei Wuxian asks.

“No.”

Screams of bloody murder filter from the television, where the picture flickers erratically, illuminating Lan Wangji’s profile in a million different ways. Lan Wangji watches whatever’s happening unblinkingly, face a picture of serenity.

“Lan Zhan,” Wei Wuxian drawls, “you’re so brave. You don’t even flinch.”

“I thought you wanted to watch the movie.”

“Hmm, I’m watching something more interesting right now.”

He holds his breath, feeling like a fool, like a total pain in the ass, and Lan Wangji could seriously stand up and leave right now and he’d deserve it. Lan Wangji’s eyes flicker sideways, not all the way to his face, his serenity fracturing with the slightest bunching of his eyebrows.

“Lan Zhan,” Wei Wuxian says slowly, a smile making his voice richer. He brings one leg up onto the couch, folding it under himself so he can face Lan Wangji directly. “You really don’t mind sitting beside me, do you?”

Lan Wangji’s gaze flickers to his, then away.

Wei Wuxian lowers his voice, leaning in closer. “And you didn’t mind when I kissed you, did you?”

Lan Wangji is taut as a guqin string. Wei Wuxian’s pulse hammers in his throat, but he forces himself to appear calm as he ducks his head and touches his lips to the corner of Lan Wangji’s mouth. Lan Wangji jerks away.

“Did you mind that, Lan Zhan?” Wei Wuxian whispers.

Bloody murder is still happening on the television screen, but all Wei Wuxian can watch is the way Lan Wangji’s throat bobs, followed by the way Lan Wangji’s gaze makes a slow trek to his face, eyes finally latching onto his with a force that hooks Wei Wuxian behind the navel.

Lan Wangji’s eyes snap to his lips a split second before he grabs Wei Wuxian’s head and crashes their mouths together. Unbalanced, Wei Wuxian falls forward, sprawling over Lan Wangji. Their teeth click together painfully, but neither of them breaks the kiss. He tries to right himself on top of Lan Wangji, but only manages to squeeze a knee between the back of the couch and Lan Wangji’s hip before Lan Wangji presses him back down with a hand on his lower back.

Wei Wuxian gasps, rolling their hips together. He lets out a sharp cry as Lan Wangji drags his teeth to his neck and bites down.

“Lan Zhan,” he breathes, “Please.”

Lan Wangji pushes him away abruptly. Wei Wuxian falls back against the other end of the couch, head spinning as Lan Wangji stares at him with wide eyes that are one part panic, two parts blazing. He can see Lan Wangji looking for every trick, every joke he may be hiding, but for once, he has none.

“Only if you want to,” Wei Wuxian croaks.

Lan Wangji bolts to his feet. Wei Wuxian is about to call out, to apologize, to do anything to fix this, but Lan Wangji grabs his wrist and drags him off the couch. Wei Wuxian can only stumble after him, straight into Lan Wangji’s room.

Lan Wangji kicks the door shut and pushes him again it. And then Lan Wangji’s mouth descends upon his in the darkness, and Wei Wuxian can only cling to him, gasping and panting and then outright moaning as Lan Wangji presses a thigh between his legs and gives him something to rut against.

“Lan Zhan, oh my god.”

Lan Wangji follows the trail he mapped the previous time, planting rough bites and kisses down Wei Wuxian’s neck. Breath short, Wei Wuxian pulls frantically at Lan Wangji’s sweater. Lan Wangji bats away his hands and removes his sweater himself, before yanking Wei Wuxian’s shirt over his head and throwing it into some unknown corner of the room. Wei Wuxian’s laugh turns into a yelp as Lan Wangji’s teeth descend on his shoulder, the exact same spot he bit a week ago.

How Lan Wangji manages all this in the dark, Wei Wuxian doesn’t know. Just like he didn’t know Lan Wangji – quiet, courteous, respectable Lan Wangji – had this beast pent up within him. Wei Wuxian rubs shamelessly against Lan Wangji’s thigh, hands splayed wide over Lan Wangji’s back.

Just as it occurs to him that he could very easily come like this, Lan Wangji pulls him off the door. Wei Wuxian is seized by vertigo, feeling himself being spun around in the dark before being guided steadily backwards. He trods on Lan Wangji’s feet every other step, which earns him a tsk.

Bursting into a sudden laugh, Wei Wuxian says, “So, um, Jiang Cheng did make a joke about you murdering me a little while back and this seems like the perfect time to do it.”

“Ridiculous,” Lan Wangji murmurs against his neck. There’s a fumbling sound, something clatters to the ground, and then Lan Wangji turns on his desk light.

“Phew, okay,” Wei Wuxian says, grinning into Lan Wangji’s face. “I was a little scared you’d turned into a demon or something when I couldn’t see you.”

Lan Wangji’s eyes are even more golden than usual in the glow of the desk light. He gets halfway through rolling them, before aborting the motion. He brings his lips back to Wei Wuxian’s, murmuring, “Always so ridiculous.”

Wei Wuxian hums his agreement, wrapping his arms around Lan Wangji to pull them together, chest to chest, skin to skin. He lets Lan Wangji back him up a few more paces, until he bumps into the bed frame.

“Get up,” Lan Wangji says.

To fit as much storage space into the small rooms as possible, the bedframes are higher off the ground than usual, so that drawers can fit underneath. This means having to hoist oneself into bed, and in Wei Wuxian’s case, suffering from a few jarred hips and elbows the first few times he rolled out during the night, before his body adjusted to both the narrowness of the bed and its perilous height.

He loops his arms more securely around Lan Wangji’s neck and says, “Help me?” Lan Wangji takes hold of his waist. As he hops, Lan Wangji lifts, and he might as well be feather-light with how easily Lan Wangji sets him onto the bed. A condom and a small bottle of lube land beside him a moment later, and Wei Wuxian thinks, So he is experienced after all?

And then he thinks very little, when Lan Wangji joins him, pushes him down, and kisses him.

Lan Wangji’s fingertips are calloused from the guqin strings, and Wei Wuxian arches into the touch as Lan Wangji’s hand trails down his abdomen. He lifts his hips to help Lan Wangji divest him of his jeans and boxers, whimpers as Lan Wangji fists his dick.

Lan Wangji keeps his strokes light as he takes his time mapping Wei Wuxian’s shoulders and chest with his mouth. The more Wei Wuxian tries to thrust, the looser Lan Wangji’s grip becomes, until he lets go altogether to cup Wei Wuxian’s balls. Wei Wuxian ruts desperately, a guttural sound escaping him. He sucks in a sharp breath as one of Lan Wangji’s fingers trails lower.

Voice cracking, he says, “Lan Zhan, please!

The hand disappears. His eyes fly open to find Lan Wangji looming above him.

“Lan Zhan?”

“How long –” Lan Wangji starts, and cuts himself off. His hair tickles Wei Wuxian’s chest. If the lighting was better, Wei Wuxian swears there might actually be a blush on his face.

“How long since I’ve last taken it up the ass?”

Lan Wangji looks pained at his vulgarity, and Wei Wuxian bursts into laughter, warmth spreading through him until he feels like he’s floating. “Sorry, sorry,” he says. Lan Wangji waits all too patiently for him to regain his composure. He grows a bit more serious. “It’s been kind of a long time.” He pulls Lan Wangji down so he can whisper into his ear, “Lan Zhan, be gentle with me.”

Lan Wangji is. He’s slow and methodical, letting Wei Wuxian adjust to each finger, lapping at his cock when the third finger makes him tense and squeeze his eyes shut. Wei Wuxian clenches his jaw, half from the burn of being stretched, half in an effort not to thrust into Lan Wangji’s mouth. The discomfort inside him tempers as the pleasure outside builds, and soon his body feels loose, expertly tended to by Lan Wangji’s ministrations.

He’s definitely done this before, he thinks to himself, as the first shallow “Ah…” escapes him.

He meets Lan Wangji’s eyes, and his hips jerk involuntarily at the sight of Lan Wangji’s lips taut around his cock, at Lan Wangji staring ravenously into his flushed face. Lan Wangji’s fingers brush against his prostate, and he flings his head back, a moan ripping its way out of his throat. Lan Wangji’s mouth slides off of him as he repeats the motion, and Wei Wuxian pushes back against his fingers, gasping, “There, Lan Zhan! There!”

Lan Wangji fingers him until Wei Wuxian is writhing, so close to coming his body is about to shake apart, and then he’s suddenly empty. Staring dazedly at the ceiling, he hears Lan Wangji tear the condom wrapper open. A few seconds later, he feels a hand at the back of his knee. Lan Wangji moves his leg out and open, spreading him wide. Lan Wangji’s cock settles at his entrance, and a thrill shoots through his gut before he’s hit with the push, the give, and the burn.

Oh,” he breathes. His body clenches tight, and he shakes with the effort of taking a steady breath and loosening up.

“Wei Wing.”

Lan Wangji’s voice reaches him like the reverberations of a guqin string. He finds Lan Wangji’s eyes, feels a slow swirl in his gut at Lan Wangji’s steady stare. Lan Wangji still has a hand at the back of his knee, and he strokes Wei Wuxian’s thigh with his thumb.

“Wei Ying, breathe.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Wei Wuxian says. “Breathing.” He shuts his eyes and focuses on timing his breaths to the slow brush of Lan Wangji’s thumb. His muscles relax a little more, and Lan Wangji sinks a few inches deeper. “Jesus, Lan Zhan, you’re so big.” Lan Wangji twitches inside of him, and Wei Wuxian lets out a soft moan. “Just, like, start slow, please? I’ll be fine but just – just start slow.”

Lan Wangji takes his cock and strokes him, more firmly this time, drawing Wei Wuxian’s mind away from the stretch below. It doesn’t take long for him to settle into the feeling of being spread open. The burn doesn’t go away, not entirely, but being connected to Lan Wangji is worth whatever pains come with it.

“Wei Ying,” Lan Wangji says again, this time like a question.

Wei Wuxian nods. His legs part wider as Lan Wangji pushes all the way in. Lan Wangji is so hot inside of him, it tempers the ache of being filled, and he sighs as Lan Wangji’s mouth returns to his neck, as Lan Wangji releases his cock to bracket his elbows on either side of his head. The new position forces his hips a little higher, lets Lan Wangji a little deeper. He can tell Lan Wangji is going to move, so he grabs onto Lan Wangji’s shoulders to steady himself.

He drags in a breath on the outstroke, and it’s pushed out of him in a groan as Lan Wangji thrusts slowly back in. The pressure is immense, dizzying. His thoughts scatter, and for a while he’s just sensation. Lan Wangji’s broad shoulders shifting beneath his palms. His heels against Lan Wangji’s back. The pulsing heat of their union.

Gradually, he becomes aware of Lan Wangji’s heavy breaths against his neck. Even during sex, Lan Wangji is quiet, as though he must maintain an image of perfect self-control. But Wei Wuxian knows better, can feel it. Excitement jolts down into his toes at the way Lan Wangji pleasures himself with measured thrusts in and out.

“Do you feel good, Lan Zhan?”

Lan Wangji shudders against him, and replies in a voice that is the most fractured Wei Wuxian has ever heard. “I feel good, Wei Ying.”

Wei Wuxian’s cock jumps between them, and he moans as the first tingles of pleasure loosen him up. “Yeah, m’starting to feel good too,” he mumbles, as another bout of pleasure shivers through him. He tangles his fingers into Lan Wangji’s hair as Lan Wangji quickens his pace a little. When Lan Wangji’s cock rubs against his prostate, he pulls Lan Wangji’s hair hard enough to make Lan Wangji hiss.

“There. Again, Lan Zhan, just like that.”

Lan Wangji complies, and Wei Wuxian’s hands falls to his sides to fist in the blankets. He can feel it stealing over his body, the blissed out lethargy that always possesses him before a good fuck is even over. He’s always been a glutton for pleasure in one way or another – too much sleep, too much food; when he keeps Lan Wangji awake past his bedtime Friday nights, too much music and too much of Lan Wangji’s company. When it comes to sex, when he’s receiving and when it’s really good, he’ll go limp to fully enjoy it, almost completely submissive, hardly bothering to put in any work.

He does put in some work now, chasing his release to try to reach it before Lan Wangji does, so he can let Lan Wangji use him to his heart’s content afterwards. Soon he’s rocking to meet every one of Lan Wangji’s thrusts, gasping encouragements, howling as Lan Wangji pounds into him. He ruts against Lan Wangji until his entire body starts twitching, muscles locking and ass clamping tight around Lan Wangji’s cock. “Lan Zhan – I – I can’t –”

Lan Wangji hitches Wei Wuxian’s hips up higher, and Wei Wuxian moans and moans, body absolutely boneless with pleasure. He comes all over his stomach, and he’s still shaking from his orgasm as Lan Wangji breaks rhythm to snap forward once, twice, and then a third time, a low grunt held in his throat before he collapses on top of Wei Wuxian, hips rolling slowly a few more times before going still.

Lan Wangji is heavy and sweat-damp, but Wei Wuxian has never felt more blissed out as his body spirals back down from its high. Lan Wangji pants against his neck, and Wei Wuxian rubs his back, fingers tangling in his hair. He could fall asleep beneath the heat and press of Lan Wangji’s body, and his consciousness starts to bleed out of him, only to reverse flow as Lan Wangji shifts and pulls out. Wei Wuxian shivers, eyes snapping open. He swallows dryly a few times.

“Would you like some water?” Lan Wangji asks.

Wei Wuxian nods. He stares blearily at the ceiling, hearing rather than seeing as Lan Wangji hops off the bed, then shuffles around a bit, then opens his bedroom door. Sounds from the TV trickle inside. A faucet turns on, then off. Footsteps trail into the kitchen. The refrigerator opens and closes. The television goes silent.

Wei Wuxian sits up, pulling his hair tie out of his hair and running his fingers through the tangles. Footsteps again, then Lan Wangji pauses for a moment in the doorway before coming the rest of the way inside. He twists the cap off the water bottle before handing it over, eyes on the wall a few centimeters from Wei Wuxian’s face. Wei Wuxian guzzles down half the bottle before choking. Lan Wangji thumps his back, alarmed.

“Thanks, Lan Zhan,” he rasps, wiping his watery eyes as Lan Wangji backs off. He offers Lan Wangji the bottle, but Lan Wangji shakes his head. As Wei Wuxian takes another couple of sips, slower this time, he catalogues a few things.

Lan Wangji has definitely had sex before. Which means Wei Wuxian isn’t the first person he’s been intimate with. Which means he does this, and yet…

Things aren’t awkward, but there isn’t any cuddling, no warm fuzzies, no romantic nothings. Lan Wangji stands in the middle of his room, looking like he won’t get back onto his bed until Wei Wuxian gets off. The sex was fantastic, but the act is over. Lan Wangji had been in the moment last week too, and then as soon as it had ended, he had been out of it.

Wei Wuxian thinks about Lan Wangji’s hesitation before kissing him back on the couch earlier, and ties this into what else he knows of Lan Wangji as well. Lan Wangji likes routine and not spontaneity. He values his personal space, as well as maintaining boundaries. He isn’t as cold as people think, but even with Wei Wuxian there is a careful distance at most times, at least emotionally, and oftentimes physically as well. Lan Wangji clearly doesn’t mind a good fuck, but his behavior afterwards suggests he isn’t looking for anything deeper than that.

And honestly, as long as they can keep being friends, Wei Wuxian is cool with that. The friendship he has with Lan Wangji feels special, like something he couldn’t have with anyone else. And if they fuck once in a while, hell, that makes it a pretty sweet arrangement any way Wei Wuxian looks at it.

He glances at the digital clock on Lan Wangji’s desk. “Ah, Lan Zhan, it’s past your bedtime.”

Lan Wangji follows his gaze, then looks back. “Yes.”

“Well, I wouldn’t want to be a rude guest.” Wei Wuxian throws his legs over the side of the bed and hops down. He gathers his clothes, pulls on his boxers, wipes off his stomach with his shirt. Lan Wangji steps aside so he can walk to the door.

In the doorway, he turns around and sends Lan Wangji a cheeky grin. “G’night, Lan Zhan.”

As he pads across the quiet apartment, he hears Lan Wangji’s voice trail after him. “Goodnight, Wei Ying.”

XII.

The next day, Wei Wuxian sleeps until noon. The first thing he does, when he drags his achy body out of bed, is poke his head out of his room and listen. The apartment is silent.

Lan Wangji’s dishes have dried on the rack beside the sink, so Wei Wuxian places them back in the cabinet. He opens the refrigerator to be sure, and finds Lan Wangji’s side empty, which is a reminder for Wei Wuxian to clear out his perishables as well.

He and Jiang Cheng are planning to catch the train together later for the trip home, but Wei Wuxian absolutely needs to meet him for lunch first. He has to text and call Jiang Cheng incessantly until Jiang Cheng’s groggy voice answers the phone, and then he tells Jiang Cheng to meet him at the café outside the train station in an hour.

When Jiang Cheng sits across from him with a steaming cup of coffee, he says, “So I think me and Lan Zhan are friends with benefits.”

“Oh, you fucked,” Jiang Cheng says flatly, too asleep to even feel beleaguered. “Congratulations.”

“Thanks,” Wei Wuxian sighs, and as he shifts in his seat he still feels a soreness deep inside of him, where Lan Wangji had been last night. “It was incredible.”

XIII.

But the time winter break has ended, Wei Wuxian has put on about ten pounds from Yanli’s incredible cooking, and he’s already mourning the return to school food which, while not bad, isn’t Yanli’s and also isn’t free. He cradles the box of Yanli’s cookies against his chest as he fumbles with the apartment key. When he finally gets inside, he realizes he isn’t alone.

Lan Wangji stands in the kitchen with a man who looks remarkably like him, if not slightly older.

“Wei Ying,” Lan Wangji says. Wei Wuxian feels a little shiver at the sound of Lan Wangji’s low voice, which he has missed more than he will admit. “This is my brother.”

Wei Wuxian kicks off his shoes and hurries inside. “As in the guy who makes the amazing dumplings?”

Lan Xichen is soft-spoken and handsome, but the similarities diverge from there. While his brother’s eyes are cool, Lan Xichen’s are warm and open. While Lan Wangji’s mouth knows neutrality more than anything else, Lan Xichen’s curve easily into a smile.

“You must be the Wei Ying I’ve heard so much about,” he says, clearly pleased to be meeting him.

Lan Wangji makes some sort of aborted move at that. When Wei Wuxian looks his way, he’s staring fixedly at the sink, stubbornly avoiding Wei Wuxian’s grin. So Wei Wuxian grins at his brother instead. “Lan Zhan’s been talking about me?”

“I’m glad he’s made a friend,” Lan Xichen says, but there’s something cryptic about his smile, and Wei Wuxian wonders how much he knows.

Remembering his manners, Wei Wuxian says, “Ah, would either of you like a cookie? Homemade! My sister sent me off with a bunch.”

He opens up the box, revealing three layers of cookies, some iced, some baked with sprinkles, and others baked with chocolate to give the rabbits mottled fur.

“How lovely,” Lan Xichen says, choosing a cookie and taking a bite. His eyes light up, and he glances at his brother. “And delicious. Did you know that Wangji’s favorite animal are rabbits?”

“Xichen.”

The tips of Lan Wangji’s ears are pink. Wei Wuxian fights back a wave of giggles and manages to say, “Is that why he eats like one?”

“Wei Ying!”

Lan Xichen gracefully stifles a laugh behind his hand. Wei Wuxian likes him a lot. But not quite as much as he likes the fact that Lan Wangji likes rabbits.

Before either of them can torment his brother any further, Lan Xichen announces that he should leave. He took the morning off to accompany his brother back to school, but he still has the second half of his shift to return to. He places his hand on his brother’s shoulder, and they share a few unspoken words. Lan Wangji nods, and Lan Xichen gives his shoulder a little shake before letting go.

“A pleasure meeting you,” he says, waving his cookie at Wei Wuxian, and then he pops the rest in his mouth and makes his exit.

Lan Wangji sighs once his brother is out the door.

“Lan Zhan, you really told your brother about me?”

Lan Wangji gives him a level stare in response, and oh how he missed that perfect, judgmental face.

They spend the next few hours with their own busywork. Wei Wuxian needs to go grocery shopping, and then he washes the mountain of dirty laundry he left in his closet all break. When he returns later with an overflowing laundry basket of clean but unfolded clothes, Lan Wangji has just begun to cook himself dinner. Wei Wuxian joins him, the two of them quickly reacquainting themselves with the choreography of sharing the tiny stove.

Wei Wuxian babbles through dinner, and Lan Wangji answers monosyllabically. Wei Wuxian slurps up his noodles, and Lan Wangji determinedly doesn’t look at the splatters of sauce that land on the table, though he hands Wei Wuxian a paper napkin to wipe his mouth with. When Wei Wuxian shoots the crumpled napkin toward the garbage can and misses, Lan Wangji says, “Don’t play at the meal table.” It warms Wei Wuxian’s heart that Lan Wangji missed him too.

After dinner, Lan Wangji collects their dishes, but before he can turn on the tap, Wei Wuxian bumps him aside with his hip.

“Lan Zhan, let me.”

He’s in a good mood, humming as he washes their dishes. Lan Wangji watches him inscrutably the whole time. When he finishes, he dries his hands and turns to face him. “What is it, Lan Zhan? Do you want another cookie?”

“No.” Lan Wangji’s voice is always deep, but this time it hits some rock bottom, some gravelly timbre that makes Wei Wuxian’s dick stir to attention.

He bites his lip, but his smile slips through anyway. “Do you want…” He pretends to think, and when he drapes his arms over Lan Wangji’s shoulders, Lan Wangji doesn’t push him away, so he moves closer. “Me? I know you don’t usually have dessert, but you’ll be burning the calories off…” He trails off, bringing his lips centimeters from Lan Wangji’s.

Lan Wangji takes his waist, and they reacquaint themselves with the choreography of their lips and tongues sliding together. Wei Wuxian grabs Lan Wangji by the belt loops and tugs him to his room, where he hastily divests himself of his own shirt. He gasps as Lan Wangji sucks on his neck. “Bite me, Lan Zhan,” he says, and he shudders when Lan Wangji does.

And so, the night before term even starts, they fuck on Wei Wuxian’s bed, Wei Wuxian on his knees with his cheek pressed into the mattress, moaning so loudly they probably hear him three doors in every direction. He doesn’t know what feels better – Lan Wangji’s dick inside him, or the fiery trail of Lan Wangji’s touches, hands running up and down his body before finally settling on his hips, gripping so hard Wei Wuxian spends ten minutes admiring the bruises later, long after Lan Wangji has gone to bed in his own room.

XIV.

“The spicy noodles look so good. And the pork buns! But the soup too, it’s been so cold lately. Lan Zhan, I can’t decide.”

Wei Wuxian whines in a way not at all befitting his age as he and Lan Wangji inch their way forward in line. It’s lunchtime at the dining hall, and Wei Wuxian is starving, and everything on the menu looks delicious. But after finally managing to goad Lan Wangji into eating with him, he knows better than to order too much food and risk wasting any. Lan Wangji wouldn’t fuck him for a month straight out of pure spite!

“Don’t think too hard about it,” Lan Wangji says, which is the worst advice ever. The only people who don’t think hard about what they want to eat are fools. Wei Wuxian tells him so, and Lan Wangji simply sighs and motions Wei Wuxian forward as the line moves.

Wei Wuxian gets the noodles and the soup, and as he waits for Lan Wangji to pay for his own meal, he spots an arm waving by the windows. “Jiang Cheng!”

Lan Wangji looks even less enthused about lunch than he already did, but Wei Wuxian knocks their shoulders together – which almost capsizes his soup bowl – and murmurs as they walk over, “Don’t worry, Jiang Cheng’s liked you ever since you told me to shut up during lunch last time.” He throws himself into the chair beside Jiang Cheng. Lan Wangji eyes the two chairs left, and picks the one across from Wei Wuxian.

“Still putting up with this fool?” Jiang Cheng asks him, jerking his thumb sideways.

“Lan Zhan isn’t putting up with me. We’re best friends!” Wei Wuxian grins across the table. “Right, Lan Zhan?”

Jiang Cheng snorts. Wei Wuxian elbows him. Lan Wangji already seems to be regretting sitting with them, but he still transfers two steamed buns from his tray to Wei Wuxian’s.

“Lan Zhan! You got me the pork buns?”

“Mm.”

“Have I ever told you you’re the best –”

“Don’t speak during mealtime.”

Jiang Cheng grins, probably thinking of all the times he’s tried to get Wei Wuxian to shut up, only to have Wei Wuxian speak right over him. Wei Wuxian quietly eats a grand total of one pork bun before being silent becomes too excruciating.

“Have you guys heard? Apparently one of the nerdy clubs on campus is planning to fill the pool with Jell-O to do some sort of experiment about surface tension in a couple weeks? And they’re looking for volunteers to jump into the Jell-O? I’m thinking of asking Wen Ning to do it with me.”

“By all means,” Jiang Cheng says. “Maybe you’ll drown and my perpetual migraine will finally go away.”

Wei Wuxian slings an arm over his shoulders and says cheerily, “Then I’ll just haunt you for the rest of your life. Jiang Cheng, you really don’t think these things through.”

Jiang Cheng tsks and shrugs him off. Wei Wuxian slurps up a mouthful of spicy noodles, ponders for a few seconds, and says, “D’you think I’d just bounce off? What if I bounced over the wall and into the parking lot and broke my legs?” He laughs. “That’d be hilarious.”

“I don’t even know how to tell you how stupid you are,” Jiang Cheng says.

“Ah, I know how to make sure that doesn’t happen! I’ll tell Wen Ning to bring a net, and we can put it up around the pool so nobody bounces out! That way if we bounce, we just splat back onto the Jell-O! It’s foolproof.” He takes out his phone. “I hope Wen Ning’s free that night. I don’t know where that kid is all the time.”

“I can’t believe you want to do this stupid thing with a freshman and not with me!” Jiang Cheng blurts out. He realizes what he’s said a second later and crosses his arms, face going red. Wei Wuxian grins and slings his arm over his shoulders again.

“I knew you wanted to hang out with me more! Of course you can come, Jiang Cheng.” He looks across the table at Lan Wangji, who serenely eats his eggplant as though he hasn’t heard a word of the ridiculous conversation he’s been subjected to. Wei Wuxian leans his head sideways, forcing Lan Wangji to meet his eyes. “Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan, want to come with us? You don’t have to jump in the Jell-O. You can just take pictures or something. You know, so we always have memories to look back on.”

Lan Wangji slowly closes his eyes and continues eating.

“Wow,” Jiang Cheng says. “That is such a mood.”


When Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji walk back to their apartment after lunch, Wei Wuxian hobbles along beside Lan Wangji, holding his belly and whining, “Lan Zhan, I’m so full. I think my stomach’s gonna burst. Carry me?”

“Don’t be so shameless.”

“Lan Zhan, I’m always shameless. Why would I stop now? Except this is so serious. What if I throw up? Huh? What if I literally throw up because I’m so full? And you can’t even blame me because you got me the extra pork buns!” He gasps. “Lan Zhan, did you make me sick on purpose? Was it something I said? Was it because I made you eat lunch with me? Wait – Lan Zhan – Lan Zhan, slow down!”

Lan Wangji does not slow down, but rather continues his (somehow extremely elegant, unhurried-looking) power walk back to their apartment. Wei Wuxian puts on an extra burst of speed to catch up, and links his arm through Lan Wangji’s.

“I’m sorry, Lan Zhan. I don’t blame you. I’m glad you got me those pork buns. You can slow down now.”

Lan Wangji gives him some serious side-eye, but then obliges, not bothering to unlink their arms. “Don’t jump in Jell-O.”

“Huh? Why? It sounds so fun.”

“You’ll hurt yourself.”

“What? No way! How would I hurt myself?”

Lan Wangji huffs out a breath that seems to communicate the entire sentence: Because you’re a hazard to yourself and you still trip over the kitchen chair legs every day. Wei Wuxian thinks it’s pretty incredible that he can read him so well now that Lan Wangji doesn’t even have to say words for Wei Wuxian to understand him.

“Sorry, Lan Zhan, but I’m gonna jump in that Jell-O, and there’s gonna be a safety net and everything, and nothing you can say will stop me.”

“Ridiculous,” Lan Wangji sighs.

“If I break both my legs, I’ll let you sign my casts first.” They enter the lobby of their apartment complex, and Lan Wangji swiftly steers them toward the stairs. “Lan Zhan, no, I can’t climb the stairs right now! We have to take the elevator.”

“The elevator is slower.”

“No it isn’t, you just take the stairs five at a time like some fucking spider monster.” Wei Wuxian starts laughing at the mental image he’s conjured, then abruptly stops when Lan Wangji doesn’t change their course. “Lan Zhan, just this once, have pity on me. My stomach.”

Suddenly, his feet are swept out from under him, and he’s falling, and his stomach swoops, and he most definitely screams…

And then there’s an arm at his back, as well as under his knees. He’s held against a sturdy chest. When his stomach resettles where it’s supposed to be, he realizes Lan Wangji is carrying him up the stairs (one at a time, like a regular human being).

“Wow,” he says in wonder, “I almost threw up for a second.”

Lan Wangji rolls his eyes.

Wei Wuxian smiles up at him, looping his arms around his neck. “So you won’t carry me on flat ground but you’ll carry me up the stairs. Someone’s a showoff.”

“Would you like to climb the rest of the way yourself?”

“Nope! I’m great here. Very comfortable.” Wei Wuxian snuggles his face into Lan Wangji’s shoulder to make a point. Lan Wangji’s sweater is as soft as down feathers. As soft as… As soft as rabbit’s fur. Wei Wuxian smiles to himself.

“Lan Zhan, what do you smell like? You always smell so good.”

Lan Wangji’s answer rumbles beneath his cheek. “Sandalwood.”

Sandalwood. How mature, Wei Wuxian thinks, rubbing his cheek against Lan Wangji’s shoulder and taking another hearty whiff. It isn’t even a bumpy ride. Much better than the elevator.

He expects Lan Wangji to put him down when they reach their apartment, and Lan Wangji does retract the arm cradling his knees, only to lift a leg and support Wei Wuxian’s knees that way as he digs in his pocket for the key.

“Are you… are you standing on one foot, Lan Zhan?”

“Mm.”

“Let me get my key out! You’re going to fall over!”

“It’s fine.”

Lan Wangji sticks his key in the lock, turns it, swoops up Wei Wuxian’s knees again, and shoulders the door open. He edges them in sideways, making certain that Wei Wuxian’s head doesn’t clonk against the doorframe. Then he transports Wei Wuxian straight to his bedroom, navigates around the few books and pieces of clothing on the floor, and deposits him on his bed. Before he can back away, Wei Wuxian grabs his wrist.

“Lan Zhan, don’t go.”

He rolls onto his side and plucks at the neckline of Lan Wangji’s sweater, revealing a graceful collar bone. He traces the bone with a fingertip, letting his eyes slip partway shut so he can peer at Lan Wangji from beneath his lashes. “I finished all my homework, and I’m done with classes for the day. That means I have the whole afternoon free with nothing to do.” He pouts. “So maybe you should do me so I don’t get too bored.”

“I thought your stomach hurt.”

Wei Wuxian grins. “I just wanted you to carry me.” He twirls a finger into a lock of Lan Wangji’s hair and pulls him down until their lips brush together. “You can sweep me off my feet any day, Lan Zhan.” He shivers as Lan Wangji’s tongue parts his lips and finds his own. It’s a languid kiss, over when Lan Wangji gives his lip a reproachful nip.

“You lied,” Lan Wangji says.

Wei Wuxian laughs softly, feeling slow and silly and shameless as Lan Wangji stares intensely into his eyes. “I know. And I enjoyed the outcome immensely. Are you going to punish me?” He bites his lip, chuckling as Lan Wangji’s eyes are drawn to the motion. “Are you going to rip all my clothes off and make me beg for sweet, sweet release?”

“If that’s what you want, how would it be a punishment?”

“Lan Zhan, stop being so smart,” Wei Wuxian scolds, tapping his finger to Lan Wangji’s lips. Lan Wangji holds his gaze steadily, and Wei Wuxian feels his pulse begin to quicken. He replaces his finger with his mouth, and says through a smile, “But if you left now, wouldn’t you be punishing yourself?”

“Such a bother,” Lan Wangji sighs, but he hoists himself up, pins Wei Wuxian’s hands above his head, and kisses him thoroughly before doing exactly as Wei Wuxian wanted – ripping his clothes off and making him beg so loudly, the downstairs neighbor pounds against the ceiling for Wei Wuxian to shut up.

XV.

Wei Wuxian did not get hurt jumping into the Jell-O pool.

He got hurt running around the pool afterwards, slipping on some splattered Jell-O, and skinning his knee open on the concrete.

“I’m so sorry,” Wen Ning stammered the entire way back to the apartment, as he helped Wei Wuxian hobble along. He’d rushed to his room after settling Wei Wuxian on the couch, and rushes back out now, still stammering, “I’m sorry!”

He drops an enormous first aid kit onto the coffee table beside Wei Wuxian’s propped-up, paper-towel-covered knee. “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry.”

“Jesus, Wen Ning, for what?” Wei Wuxian asks, peeling the paper towels off his knee and grimacing at the sight. The bleeding has slowed down, but his entire knee is very red and very raw.

“For laughing at you when you fell.” Wen Ning pauses, fingers under the latches of the first aid kit. His voice wobbles. “Are you mad?”

“Wen Ning,” Wei Wuxian says seriously. “If you didn’t laugh, I would’ve thought there was something wrong with you. It was fucking hilarious! Jiang Cheng almost peed himself.”

“Still, I feel bad,” Wen Ning says, undoing the latches and letting the kit fall open with a crash. The contents look like they could supply an entire medical center. “My sister’s a doctor,” he explains, and he brightens a bit. “I can’t wait to tell her the first aid kit finally came in handy!”

“You know this isn’t necessary, right?” Wei Wuxian says, warily eying the various tubes of ointments and whatnot that Wen Ning carefully selects. “I washed it off with water. The bleeding’s almost stopped. I can just tape some paper towels to it overnight and it’ll be fine.”

Wen Ning gives him a smile that is both apologetic and a wee bit pitying. “Let’s both pretend you didn’t say that. Sorry!” he exclaims as Wei Wuxian lets out a yelp.

Wei Wuxian glowers and presses his lips tightly together as Wen Ning disinfects the wound and examines it closely, but he relaxes when Wen Ning smoothes on some sort of soothing ointment afterwards. Before he knows it, his knee is wrapped up in gauze and Wen Ning is smiling triumphantly.

“There. How does it feel?”

Wei Wuxian pats his cheek. “It feels great. Tell your sister you did a good job.”

Wen Ning positively beams at that. He packs up his first aid kit and returns it to his room, nearly skipping. Wei Wuxian is going to propose ordering a pizza and watching a movie, but when Wen Ning comes back out of his room, he’s firing off a text on his phone and says, “Sorry, gotta go.”

“What? Wen Ning! We were bonding!”

“Oh.” Wen Ning hesitates halfway to the door, looking suddenly guilty. “I thought we did that at the Jell-O pool?”

Wei Wuxian waves him off. “Yeah, yeah, go ahead, it’s fine. I’m not on my deathbed or anything. Are you ever going to tell me where you are all the time, though?”

Wen Ning shrugs. “Nowhere really. I’ll be staying at my friend’s for a few days. Have fun.” He winks and is out the door before Wei Wuxian can even begin to parse what that means.

He’s dozing later, stomach full of greasy pizza and a thriller playing on the TV, when Lan Wangji returns home.

“Wei Ying!” There’s a hitch in Lan Wangji’s voice, and then he’s crossing the kitchen in four long strides. “What did you do?”

“Oh, my knee? Okay, so funny story, Lan Zhan. First of all, you do not bounce on Jell-O. You just kind of splat into it. Gross but tasty –”

“Wei Ying.”

Wei Wuxian’s stomach twists itself into tight little knots. There’s a fierceness in Lan Wangji’s gaze, and he has to look away. “I slipped when I was running around the pool and scraped my knee. But it’s fine! Wen Ning patched it up. His sister’s a doctor so he knows all about first aid stuff.”

Lan Wangji is silent. Wei Wuxian doesn’t know why he feels so guilty. He does stupid stuff all the time and he gets hurt all the time – small injuries, like stubbed toes, or bruises on his hips from banging into doorframes, or cuts on his fingers now and then when he’s preparing food. A scraped up knee is still a small injury, by his standards. But with the way Lan Wangji looks down at him, he might as well have thrown himself in front of a moving truck.

“Are you mad, Lan Zhan?”

“No.”

“Are you disappointed in me?”

“I’m glad you’re okay, Wei Ying.”

Wei Wuxian’s head snaps up. “Huh? You… you were worried?”

He expects Lan Wangji to reply monosyllabically or not at all. Instead he’s met with a flutter of emotion on Lan Wangji’s face – eyebrows pulling in, lips thinning, gaze darting away for a second before returning. Slowly, Lan Wangji parts his lips. Just as slowly, he says, “Is that so hard to believe?”

Wei Wuxian swallows. He pats the spot beside him on the couch and Lan Wangji obediently sits down. “I’m fine, Lan Zhan. I even walked the whole way back. I’m resilient like that.”

“Hm,” Lan Wangji says, staring into his eyes, trying to determine if Wei Wuxian is withholding a lie. Wei Wuxian ducks his head to hide his smile. His stomach is still in knots, but they’re pleasant ones this time.

Really, Lan Zhan. Everything’s okay.”

“Good,” Lan Wangji says, and there is no anger in his tone, no disappointment. Only relief.

XVI.

It’s raining outside, the cold kind of rain, as Lan Wangji cooks dinner and Wei Wuxian sits on top of the table watching him. The rain patters steadily against the window, and wrapped up in a blanket, Wei Wuxian listens to this and to the sounds of food bubbling and crackling, and his eyelids grow heavy.

“Wei Ying.” Lan Wangji touches his side to get his attention. Wei Wuxian blinks several times before Lan Wangji comes into focus in front of him, holding up a spoon with a hand beneath it to catch the drips. “Taste it.”

Wei Wuxian smiles and inclines his head forward, parting his lips as Lan Wangji brings the spoon to them. The broth is hot and fragrant and deliciously salty, but… “Just a little more chili paste. Please?”

Lan Wangji huffs quietly, but returns to the stove and does as Wei Wuxian asks of him. Wei Wuxian hadn’t expected Lan Wangji to actually cook him dinner. It had been a stupid request he’d made that morning, after bumping Lan Wangji aside to wash both of their dishes from breakfast. “Lan Zhan,” he’d said with a cheeky grin, “I’ll wash your dishes, so tonight, make me dinner too.” Lan Wangji hadn’t said anything, so Wei Wuxian had just assumed he’d been ignored. But now the kitchen is muggy with heat and smells of spice.

Lan Wangji corrals him off the table and into a chair to eat. Wei Wuxian digs in, grinning as his tongue tingles and his nose runs. “Lan Zhan, this is even better than I make it,” he says with a teasing lilt, trying to catch Lan Wangji’s eye. “Have you been paying attention when I cook?”

“Hm,” Lan Wangji says, focusing on his own dinner. Wei Wuxian chuckles and brings the bowl to his lips, gulping down several mouthfuls of broth. He smacks his lips and sets the bowl down, and is about to reach for his spoon again, when Lan Wangji’s hand right beside his face makes him flinch.

Lan Wangji falters for a moment, but then tucks a lock of hair behind Wei Wuxian’s ear. Their eyes meet, and Lan Wangji retracts his hand, his fingertips barely brushing against Wei Wuxian’s cheek. “Don’t drag your hair into your food.”

Wei Wuxian can’t formulate a sentence for ten whole minutes. It’s the quietest meal he’s ever had.

Afterwards, while Lan Wangji washes the dishes, Wei Wuxian gets back up on the table, pulling his blanket around himself once again. He plants his feet on a chair and, chin burrowed in the blanket, watches Lan Wangji work. A good meal and good company. What more could he ask for? He cups his palm against his cheek, still feeling a tingle where Lan Wangji’s fingers had brushed. Nothing more, he tells himself, but his heartstrings tremble like an uncertain guqin note.

When the dishes are all on the drying rack, Lan Wangji takes off the dish gloves and thoroughly washes his hands. Then he retrieves a sterile bandage and a clean cloth from his room. He pushes the chair aside so he can kneel in front of Wei Wuxian and roll his sweatpants up above his knee.

Lan Wangji changes Wei Wuxian’s bandage every day, and Wei Wuxian lets him, since it’s an excuse to see Lan Wangji nightly and pester him a little bit. The pestering comes with a bit of effort tonight, with the sleepy feeling in the air from the rain and the meal sitting heavy in his stomach, with the echo of Lan Wangji’s touch against his face.

“Lan Zhan, you take such good care of me,” he sighs as Lan Wangji carefully removes yesterday’s bandage, revealing a thick scab. “Look at how fast it’s healing. It’s all thanks to you.”

“And Wen Ning,” Lan Wangji reminds him, tossing the bandage into the waste basket.

“And Wen Ning,” Wei Wuxian relents. Lan Wangji wets the cloth and kneels back down. “But you’ve taken care of me more. And you’re gentler.”

Lan Wangji dabs the cloth to Wei Wuxian’s scab with infinite care. Personally, Wei Wuxian isn’t even sure this step is necessary, since it’s just one ugly crust on his knee, no blood or infection, but he isn’t going to complain. He reaches for Lan Wangji’s head and undoes the half bun, letting his hair tumble down his back with the rest of it.

“Wei Ying,” Lan Wangji admonishes without any heat.

“Sorry, sorry. My hand slipped.” Wei Wuxian’s voice is as soft as Lan Wangji’s touch. He places a hand on top of Lan Wangji’s head, and gets no further admonishment. Heart beating up into his throat, he says, “Lan Zhan, you’re going to make someone very lucky one day, you know that? You’re already such a good friend to me.”

Lan Wangji stills.

“Only if you want that,” Wei Wuxian remedies, realizing that maybe Lan Wangji will never want to make someone lucky in the way Wei Wuxian is thinking, which is also fine. It has no bearing on Lan Wangji being his friend, which is what he cares about most of all.

Lan Wangji resumes his work with a “Hm.” He pats Wei Wuxian’s knee with a dry section of the cloth, then opens the bandage and places it on.

When Lan Wangji stands, Wei Wuxian’s hand slides down to his shoulder. He doesn’t retract it, and Lan Wangji doesn’t step away. Wei Wuxian takes a lock of Lan Wangji’s hair and twirls it around his finger, wondering how far Lan Wangji will let him push this. Where is the line between touches that don’t lead to sex, and touches that do? That’s still something he’s trying to figure out.

He doesn’t think he wants to have sex with Lan Wangji right now, despite playing with his hair, despite the hopeful feeling in his chest that’s a result of Lan Wangji cooking for him, taking care of him, tucking his own hair behind his ear and touching his cheek.

No, he doesn’t want to have sex with Lan Wangji, which is insane because there’s never a time when he thinks to himself ‘Having Lan Zhan fuck me seems like a bad idea.’ But right now… right now…

His heartstrings continue to strum uncertainly, and he lets out a heavy sigh, hand curling into a loose fist with Lan Wangji’s hair still twined through it.

“Wei Ying?”

He can’t handle the concern in Lan Wangji’s voice, the weight of it in Lan Wangji’s steady gaze. He drops his eyes to Lan Wangji’s lips and says despite himself, “Lan Zhan.” He leans in, and with each centimeter that the space between them lessens, the tightness in his chest grows exponentially.

He hears the jingle of keys a moment too late. The door is already open by the time Wei Wuxian sits back, letting Lan Wangji’s hair go.

“Oh, hey guys,” Wen Ning says, kicking off his shoes. He hums a tune as he heads to his room, and he comes back out thirty seconds later with a skateboard and a soccer ball, the latter of which he juggles in the crook of one arm so he can wave cheerily at them. “Sorry for interrupting. Congratulations!” He steps back into his shoes, waves once more, and leaves.

Wei Wuxian slowly looks at Lan Wangji, and his heart goes jagged at the raw panic on Lan Wangji’s face. He forces out a laugh to ease the tension, and is pretty sure he fails miserably. He claps Lan Wangji on the shoulder, and Lan Wangji’s body takes the impact like a rag doll.

“That Wen Ning. So ridiculous!” Wei Wuxian says, in a voice pitched too high, belatedly realizing he’s borrowed one of Lan Wangji’s favorite words. How ridiculous! echoes around in his head, all those tiny little Wei Wuxians opening the filing cabinets that represent his brain function, scattering the papers that represent his thoughts. How ridiculous! all those papers say, in big blocky letters.

Along with Oh my god, Wen Ning thought –

And, most hysterical of all: No way, we’re only friends!

XVII.

Wei Wuxian drops like a stone into the chair across from Jiang Cheng. The dining hall is deafening with the sounds of people catching a bite to eat in between classes, but Wei Wuxian has skipped the lines entirely and sat down without any food. Jiang Cheng looks very, very concerned, slowly lowering his chopsticks, which were halfway to his mouth, back to his plate.

“I think I like him,” Wei Wuxian says.

Jiang Cheng rubs a hand over his face and mutters something that sounds like “… would have happily died…” Then he plants both palms on the table with an air of ‘Let’s get this over with’ and says, “You think?”

Wei Wuxian bobs his head. Then shakes it. Then says, “I know. I like him. Like, really like him. Oh my god, I’m so fucked. And not even literally. Metaphorically, I am so –”

“Just –” Jiang Cheng raises both hands. “Just stop. What the hell’s the problem?”

“Uh, hello? I like Lan Zhan.”

“And don’t you two, like –” Jiang Cheng pinches the bridge of his nose and says through a wince, “Fuck all the time?”

“It’s been a couple of weeks since the last time. Since I realized I like like him. I think he can tell.”

“Oh, damn. I guess he’s just not that into you.”

Wei Wuxian’s entire soul vacates his body, leaving him but a husk of his former self.

“I’m kidding!” Jiang Cheng says. “Holy shit, you really like him that much?”

Wei Wuxian gives a pathetic little nod.

“Okay, so how the hell do you know he doesn’t like you back? Like, I barely know the dude, but I’m pretty sure you’re his only friend –”

“Jiang Cheng!” Wei Wuxian blubbers.

“Hold up! I’m not done yet! You’re his only friend, which means you’re the only person he has this –” Jiang Cheng waves his arms around “– this connection with. I’ve listened to enough stories about your little guqin nights and your weekly breakfasts. Oh, and him changing your knee bandage every day!” Jiang Cheng makes a sour face. “Christ, are you sure you two aren’t already dating?”

Wei Wuxian’s heart patters out a hopeful rhythm even as his mind instantly shuts the idea down. “Lan Zhan’s just nice to me. He lets me pester him into doing stuff.”

“For you. Stuff for you.”

“Uh, yeah, because I’m his only friend. Who the hell else is he gonna inconvenience himself for?”

Jiang Cheng looks up at the ceiling as though waiting for a lightning bolt to strike him down, but alas, they aren’t even outside, and it’s a clear blue day anyway. “You know who it would actually make sense for you to talk to about this? Lan Wangji.”

“And destroy everything?

“You don’t even know how he feels!”

“I can guess!”

“Oh my god!

“I can infer! It’s an educated reading of Lan Zhan’s character, which I happen to know very well, thanks.”

“You are such a fucking idiot. Mark my words.” Jiang Cheng brandishes his chopsticks at Wei Wuxian. “You are being such a fucking idiot about this whole thing and you’re gonna realize it and I’ll get to say ‘I told you so’.”

Wei Wuxian lays his head down on the table. “Maybe I should talk to him. If he just wants to be friends with benefits, I don’t think I can nurse this stupid heartache for the rest of forever.” He rubs his chest, then lets out a whimper. “But what if saying it makes it too awkward and then he won’t even want to be friends anymore? This is so hard. Why is he so stupidly perfect? He’s literally just…” He sighs. “I like him so much.”

“Just –” Jiang Cheng tsks and shoves his half-eaten lunch across the table. “Just eat some food, for crying out loud. Looking at you being so pathetic is giving me a migraine.”

XVIII.

If there’s one thing Wei Wuxian prides himself on (and, okay, there’s a lot, but anyway), it’s his ability to compartmentalize. So even though he’s angsting over his feelings for Lan Wangji, he’s also majorly kicking ass at getting his essay in on time. He lets out a whoop of victory just as the door opens, and says, “Lan Zhan, I just submitted my essay with four hours to spare! I’m killing it here!”

Lan Wangji laughs softly and says, “Congratulations.” He undoes his shoes, then comes inside, stopping beside the couch and looking down at Wei Wuxian. There’s a patient sort of silence, like Lan Wangji is waiting for Wei Wuxian to say what comes next. Usually, when Lan Wangji comes home and Wei Wuxian is on the couch, they’ll watch TV together, or Wei Wuxian will mute it as Lan Wangji practices his guqin, but the TV is off today, so now what?

Wei Wuxian closes his laptop and places it on the coffee table. Even though his head says ‘Tell him, you fool, just tell him already,’ his mouth says, “This calls for a beer!” He slaps his hands against his thighs and gets to his feet, then sidles past Lan Wangji to head toward the refrigerator. He just bought a six-pack, and as he reaches in for a can, he hears Lan Wangji walk to his room.

He pops the tab and chugs down several mouthfuls, but it’s with a small bit of disappointment that he resigns himself to picking up his laptop and retreating to his own room.

Then Lan Wangji comes back out, a plate in hand, and says, “You shouldn’t drink on an empty stomach.”

Wei Wuxian frowns. It isn’t, in fact, one plate, but two paper plates taped together to form a sort of take-out box. Lan Wangji cuts the tape with a knife, lifts off the makeshift lid, and places the other half on the table.

“One of my classmates brought food to practice tonight,” he explains. “They’re cold now, but I thought you would like them.”

There are two savory pancakes on the plate, full of vegetables and smelling delightful. Wei Wuxian raises his eyes to Lan Wangji’s. “For me?”

Without breaking eye contact, Lan Wangji opens a drawer and pulls out a pair of chopsticks, then hands them to Wei Wuxian. “For you. You’re always hungry.”

“You know me too well,” Wei Wuxian says through a laugh, and his stomach does indeed grumble. He’s about to dig in, but stops himself, meeting Lan Wangji’s eyes once more. “Lan Zhan, there are two. You should have one too.”

Lan Wangji turns to grab another pair of chopsticks, but not before Wei Wuxian thinks he glimpses a secret smile. Clearly, Lan Wangji had been hoping for the invitation.

“Lan Zhan, I thought it wasn’t good to eat so late,” he teases, carrying the plate back to the living room. He pushes his computer aside and sets the plate on the coffee table, before returning to the refrigerator for the rest of the beer.

“Exceptions can be made, occasionally,” Lan Wangji allows, sitting down.

“In that case…” Wei Wuxian takes an unopened can from the pack and holds it out to Lan Wangji, but Lan Wangji shakes his head.

“One exception at a time.”

“Fair, fair,” Wei Wuxian says, setting the beer down and then flopping onto the couch beside Lan Wangji. He snatches up his opened can and swallows a few more mouthfuls, before digging into his pancake. “Oh my god. This is so good it’s criminal.”

“Speak after you’ve swallowed.”

“No can do, Lan Zhan. I’m just too overcome by the deliciousness of this pancake that I just have to compliment it the entire time I’m eating it.”

Lan Wangji allows him the indecency, this time. He also allows Wei Wuxian to drink his way through three cans of beer while talking about nothing in particular, which eventually works its way around to the topic of the paper he just submitted.

“Philosophy’s so hard. Like, how am I supposed to know whether I would try something if I wasn’t one hundred percent certain I would succeed at it? There’s so many dependencies! What’s the thing? What would happen if I failed?”

“Hm.”

Wei Wuxian sighs, then cracks open a fourth can and guzzles half of it down. The pancakes are long since finished, and even with food in his belly, a happy buzz flows through his system. “You know what this essay really got me thinking about?” He knocks his elbow against Lan Wangji’s and grins slowly. “If I wasn’t one hundred percent certain I would have bounced off the Jell-O, would I have jumped in?”

“Were you truly that certain?”

“Lan Zhan! I really thought I’d bounce!”

“You thought, but were you certain?” At Wei Wuxian’s puzzled look, Lan Wangji says, with a surprising amount of firmness, “You couldn’t have been one hundred percent certain.”

“Huh? Why not?” Wei Wuxian raises his eyebrows, noticing that the mood in the room has shifted strangely. “Seriously, Lan Zhan, what makes you say that?”

“No one can be one hundred percent certain of anything.”

“That doesn’t sound like you.” Wei Wuxian leans closer, inspecting Lan Wangji’s face, looking for some sort of sign as to what has made the unshakable Lan Wangji admit to always being at least a little bit shaken. “You seem to always be certain of the things you’re certain in.”

Lan Wangji backs away, and Wei Wuxian remembers his booze breath and does the same.

“It’s my intention to emote certainty in most things,” Lan Wangji says, and then, slower, “though there are times when I’m uncertain.”

“Like when?”

“Like when deciding what course of action to take.”

“That’s very vague, Lan Zhan.”

“Yes.” Lan Wangji’s eyes lock on his. “Purposely so.”

Wei Wuxian blinks, certain that he’s missing something. Then he chuckles. “You’re talking a lot tonight, yet I’m the one getting drunk. How does that make sense?”

“Perhaps the mood of your drunkenness is rubbing off on me,” Lan Wangji says.

“Whoa. Are you saying you’re getting drunk off of me getting drunk?”

Lan Wangji just exhales the quietest of laughs.

“Still, Lan Zhan. You said there are times when you’re uncertain. That still means you’re certain all the time.”

“You seem insistent that I always be sure of myself,” Lan Wangji says. His gaze is intense again. Wei Wuxian is trying to understand what’s going on.

Belatedly, Wei Wuxian realizes he’s starting to lean in again, like the eye contact is pulling him closer, like Lan Wangji is a force he is powerless to resist. He swallows, working up a shallow laugh. “It’s just how I see you. I guess it just feels right. I’m the one who’s a mess and can never make up my mind. You’re the one who knows exactly what he wants. There’s balance in the universe that way.”

“The universe,” Lan Wangji repeats.

“Lan Zhan.” Wei Wuxian pouts. “Don’t make fun of me. I’m drunk.”

Some of the intensity in Lan Wangji’s gaze softens. He takes the can out of Wei Wuxian’s hand, and because he’s drunk, Wei Wuxian allows himself the full pleasure of the butterflies in his stomach as Lan Wangji’s fingers collide with his.

“Lan Zhan.” He pouts some more. “I was one hundred percent certain that I wanted to finish that.”

“You’ve had enough,” Lan Wangji says, setting the can on the coffee table.

“Boo, you’re such a buzzkill. Literally!” When Lan Wangji looks not bothered by the fact, but rather righteously satisfied, Wei Wuxian says, “You have to make it up to me somehow.”

“It depends on how.”

Wei Wuxian blows a noisy breath out through his lips, pitching himself sideways so that he’s slumped against Lan Wangji. “Lan Zhan,” he whines, waiting for Lan Wangji to push him away. When Lan Wangji doesn’t, Wei Wuxian turns his face into the side of Lan Wangji’s neck, and whines again, muffled this time, “Lan Zhan.”

Lan Wangji says nothing, and doesn’t move.

Wei Wuxian parts his lips, letting the tip of his tongue dart out, swiping it against Lan Wangji’s skin. When he still gets no response, he seals his lips to Lan Wangji’s neck, sucking gently at first, then harder after Lan Wangji’s throat bobs.

“How about like this, Lan Zhan?” he breathes, his chest fully pressed against Lan Wangji’s arm between them. Lan Wangji tips his head, either to move away or to give Wei Wuxian more space to kiss. Wei Wuxian goes with the latter, and pinches the skin between his teeth.

His heart thuds in his chest as he pushes Lan Wangji down against the armrest, as he kisses and nips his way up the graceful column of Lan Wangji’s neck, as he presses his nose to the place where Lan Wangji’s pulse beats warm and rapid at the back of his jaw. “Lan Zhan, say something.”

Eyes closed, he traverses Lan Wangji’s jawline with a series of feather-light kisses. He’s just caught Lan Wangji’s lower lip with his teeth when two palms push gently but firmly against his chest, forcing him up and away. He processes this belatedly, and opens his eyes to find Lan Wangji staring intensely at him.

“Not when you’re drunk,” Lan Wangji says.

Wei Wuxian swallows down a maelstrom of disappointment. “That’s fine. We can just talk or whatever.”

He hates that Lan Wangji can see something on his face right then, and that he can see that Lan Wangji sees it. There’s a concerned furrow to Lan Wangji’s brow, like what he’s observing unsettles him, but of course he’s too kind to actually bring it up.

Lan Wangji brings his hand around the back of Wei Wuxian’s neck and pulls him down instead. Their lips touch. He licks his way into Wei Wuxian’s mouth, and Wei Wuxian moans, hands burying themselves in Lan Wangji’s hair, body pressing impossibly closer as Lan Wangji shifts on the couch to accommodate him. The sounds of their kissing fill up the quiet apartment like something magical.

Until Lan Wangji’s lips still, and he says, “No more.” He takes Wei Wuxian’s head and thunks it down against his chest.

Wei Wuxian’s heartstrings are a helpless web of metal, sharp enough to shred anything that dares try to untangle them. So he doesn’t try. He lets the ache linger as he listens to Lan Wangji’s heart beating beneath his ear, a steady rhythm not at all matched by his own frenzied pulse. And he knows Lan Wangji can feel this, too, but is too kind to bring it up.

Is he supposed to be grateful for that kiss? Was it meant to appease him? His heart throbs in a bittersweet way. Lan Wangji is so good to him. Too kind. He indulges him too much – bringing him food, carrying him up the stairs, making him breakfast, playing him the guqin, letting him lie on top of him on the too-small couch even though it can’t be comfortable.

He knows Lan Wangji doesn’t treat other people this way. He knows Lan Wangji doesn’t have other friends. He knows he’s special. It should be enough, to be special to Lan Wangji…

When Lan Wangji’s fingers start carding through his hair, Wei Wuxian shifts, a garbled sound of question getting caught in his throat. The fingers go still, and he lifts his head groggily, realizing he must have dozed off for a moment. “Lan Zhan?”

Lan Wangji pushes his head back down. “You’re tired.”

“But Lan Zhan, you’re all squished.”

“It’s fine.”

Lan Wangji starts petting his hair again, and Wei Wuxian smiles despite himself, snuggling his cheek more comfortably against Lan Wangji’s chest. Through a yawn, he says, “Lan Zhan, your bedtime.”

“It’s fine,” Lan Wangji says again. His voice is deep and low, a melody Wei Wuxian could easily fall asleep to, and his body is warm beneath Wei Wuxian, heating him through. The smell of sandalwood envelops him until he feels like he’s floating in some dream of everything he wants and won’t be granted.

In the precarious place between wakefulness and sleep, he almost says something incredibly selfish. But he already asks for too much from Lan Wangji, so at the last moment he mumbles instead, “You’re a good friend, Lan Zhan. The best.”

It’s as much to reassure Lan Wangji, as it is to remind himself to be grateful for what he has.


He wakes up later, still on the couch but with a blanket over him and Lan Wangji sitting on the floor near his feet. He can’t help a smile at the sight of Lan Wangji’s sleeping face, but there’s a pinch of sadness within him too.

“Lan Zhan,” he whispers, sitting up. He touches Lan Wangji’s shoulder, and Lan Wangji’s eyes blink open, bleary at first, then find Wei Wuxian.

“You fell asleep,” he replies to the question on Wei Wuxian’s face.

So did you, Wei Wuxian almost says, and he doesn’t know whether he should be incredibly happy that Lan Wangji stayed with him, or incredibly sad that Lan Wangji moved away. “How long was I out?” he asks.

Lan Wangji checks his watch. “Roughly an hour.”

“Oh.” Wei Wuxian yawns, his eyes lidding of their own accord. “M’sorry.”

“It’s fine.”

They both stand. The blanket smells like Lan Wangji, and Wei Wuxian pulls it snug around himself as he makes his way to his room, Lan Wangji a few steps behind. He can tell Lan Wangji won’t be joining him inside. There is no urgency, just a sleepiness pervading the whole apartment.

In the doorway, he turns around to bid Lan Wangji goodnight, but forgets his words at once. His blinds are open, so moonlight streams through his window, traversing the room to reach Lan Wangji in front of him. Wei Wuxian almost says it then, with Lan Wangji gilded by moonlight, looking tired and soft-edged, but he chickens out.

Instead, he whispers, “Goodnight, Lan Zhan.”

Lan Wangji pulls the blanket a little tighter around him, tucks it beneath his chin, before turning him around and giving him a gentle push into his room. “Goodnight, Wei Ying.”

XIX.

It’s Friday night, and Wei Wuxian returns home late. He’d tried to enjoy the party. Perhaps it was cruel of him – not the act of partying, nor of wanting to enjoy himself while doing so, but of not telling Lan Wangji about it beforehand. Lan Wangji probably returned from his music practice expecting to find Wei Wuxian in the living room, as has become their routine. Wei Wuxian just didn’t think he could handle being around Lan Wangji this evening.

He doesn’t know how much longer he’ll be able to handle being around Lan Wangji at all, without spilling his heart out and then having it broken.

He hadn’t been able to enjoy himself at the party, because all he’d been able to think about was Lan Wangji, and those thoughts had eventually led him home. He steps into the apartment now, a mess of nerves. The living room is dark and silent, which is a small relief and a larger disappointment, but Lan Wangji’s bedroom door is open, and music filters out. Wei Wuxian shuts his eyes, lets out a heartsick breath in the entranceway, then leans his umbrella against the wall and kicks off his shoes.

He follows the sound to Lan Wangji’s doorway, where he rests his head against the doorframe and watches. As Lan Wangji plucks and caresses the strings, he smiles nearly imperceptibly down at his guqin, as though he’s as enchanted with his own music as Wei Wuxian is.

Wei Wuxian huffs out a laugh, one he thinks is inaudible, except Lan Wangji looks over at him then, fingers stilling. Seeing it head-on, Wei Wuxian realizes that smile is bittersweet, and his own falls off his face.

“Wei Ying?”

“Hey, Lan Zhan. Sorry I didn’t tell you. I was at a party.”

“There’s nothing to apologize for,” Lan Wangji says. His face has regained its usual stoicism, but his eyebrows knit together just enough for Wei Wuxian to see that something isn’t fine. Lan Wangji likes routine, and Wei Wuxian broke theirs without warning. It really wasn’t very kind of him.

Why did I even bother going, Wei Wuxian thinks, wishing Lan Wangji could read his mind to make things that much easier, when all I want is to be here with you?

He forces a smile back onto his lips. “Lan Zhan,” he says, digging his grave like the masochist he is, resigned to laying in it no matter how much it hurts, “come watch a movie with me. More zombies.”

Lan Wangji nods. “As long as you don’t scream in my ear.”

“No promises,” Wei Wuxian says. And really, all it takes is a moment of Lan Wangji teasing him, and he’s smiling so much easier. He can’t risk losing this, not ever. “Oh, we need snacks though! We’re out of popcorn. Let me borrow your wallet so I can run down to the mart?”

Lan Wangji tosses him his wallet without question, though he does say, “Don’t buy too much junk.”

“They have veggie chips. That counts as healthy, right?” Wei Wuxian sticks his tongue out at Lan Wangji’s disapproving glare and hurries away before Lan Wangji can demand his wallet back.

He forgets his umbrella this time, and although the mart is just beneath their apartment complex, he has to take an outdoor flight of stairs to get there. He lifts an arm above his head, which does little to block the rain, and soon the threads of his sweater darken with water. He runs down the steps, flings himself around the turn, jumps the puddle in front of the door, and races inside, splattering water everywhere.

“Sorry, sorry,” he says to the student behind the cash register, who barely looks up from the comic she’s reading.

His shoes squeak along the floor as he makes a beeline straight for the junk food aisle. He grabs a few bags with the brightest, most obnoxiously colored labels he can find, then brings them up front, where the cashier scans them with one eye still on the comic. She doesn’t even check to make sure Wei Wuxian pays with his own student card – which he doesn’t, and he grins as the unhealthiest charge ever is made right to Lan Wangji’s account.

The cashier does have the grace to bag his purchase, and Wei Wuxian gives her a bright thanks as he snatches up the plastic bag before plunging back out into the rain. He sticks close to the side of the stairs on his way back up, where there’s a little bit more cover, as well as more light provided by the building above. He examines Lan Wangji’s student ID photo greedily. Not even a hint of a smile on that handsome face. Eyes piercing despite their indifference. The photographer must have been sweating.

He sticks his finger underneath the plastic flap to take the ID card out and examine it closer, but he’s met with a surprise. Beneath his student ID, Lan Wangji keeps another picture.

Wei Wuxian staggers into the wall, plastic bag slipping from his fingers.

It’s himself and Lan Wangji from the night of the music department dinner, Lan Wangji dressed gloriously all in white, himself as best as he could all in black. His arm is looped through Lan Wangji’s and he’s grinning like a fool at the camera, while Lan Wangji stands stiffly, looking like he’d rather be anywhere else.

It’s a hilarious photo.

They look good together.

Wei Wuxian’s throat tightens.

He clears it, quickly slides Lan Wangji’s student ID back into his wallet, grabs the plastic bag off the step, and makes it the rest of the way up the stairs. He shakes his dripping bangs out of his face as he shoulders his way into the building, and he takes a steadying breath as he approaches their door.

Pasting on a smile, he lets himself in. “Phew, it’s wet out there!” he says, crossing to the living room, where Lan Wangji waits patiently on the couch. “So they didn’t have those weird vegetables chips, but they had lime and chili peanuts, which is peanut based and peanuts are healthy, so I got those, and –” His voice breaks. That’s when he realizes that some of the raindrops on his cheeks are in fact tears.

“Ah!” He drops the bag and Lan Wangji’s wallet, and claps his hands to his face.

“Wei Ying!”

Lan Wangji bolts to his feet, but Wei Wuxian can’t bear to look at him, hastily scrubbing his knuckles underneath his eyes. The stream is steady, though, and grows stronger. “It’s – It’s nothing, Lan Zhan.”

Lan Wangji grabs his hand. “Wei Ying, what’s wrong?”

Wei Wuxian stares at Lan Wangji’s hand around his, the insistent way Lan Wangji squeezes his fingers. His lip trembles. “I… you…”

“Wei Ying.” Lan Wangji sounds desperate, and afraid. “What happened?”

“I can’t keep doing this with you,” Wei Wuxian whispers.

“Wei…”

“I know you feel differently for me than I feel for you.”

He hears Lan Wangji’s intake of breath, watches the way Lan Wangji almost lets him go, before clinging tight to his hand once more. “Please,” Lan Wangji says, “let me explain.”

A bolt of cold shoots through him. The last thing he wants is an explanation of how Lan Wangji hadn’t wanted to hurt him, how Lan Wangji had played along because he values Wei Wuxian’s friendship or something equally heartbreaking.

He yanks his hand out of Lan Wangji’s. “Just don’t – don’t say it, Lan Zhan. I don’t want to hear it.”

He turns, and he runs.

He makes it to the bottom of the stairs when he hears Lan Wangji calling after him over the rain. “Wei Ying!”

“Lan Zhan – just – go away!”

Wei Wuxian runs across the parking lot and through the property on the other side, another cluster of apartment complexes with neat pathways twining between them.

“Wei Ying!”

He curses Lan Wangji’s superior physique as the sound of feet slapping across wet pavement and through puddles grows louder and louder behind him. He can barely see where he’s going, and has just stumbled through a swampy patch of grass when Lan Wangji grabs his wrist and pulls. Wei Wuxian tries to pull the other way, but the motion jars his shoulder, and he spins around with a sharp cry.

Lan Wangji’s grip loosens for a moment, but then tightens again when Wei Wuxian tries to slip free.

“Wei Ying, I’m sorry –”

“Let me go!”

“I won’t!”

Wei Wuxian is stunned by the refusal. He can only pull helplessly for another few seconds, eyes anywhere but Lan Wangji’s face. His vision is blurry, and he can tell from the heat in his eyes that it’s mostly tears. His hair is sodden, clinging to his face, and his clothes fare no better, hanging heavily off his frame. He catches a glimpse of Lan Wangji’s feet in the light of the nearest lamppost.

“Lan Zhan, you idiot! You aren’t wearing shoes!” Wei Wuxian had been too preoccupied to take his off when he’d returned with the snacks, though he supposes it makes no difference. His are soaked through, as are the socks underneath.

“Wei Ying, look at me,” Lan Wangji begs.

“Please, Lan Zhan, I can’t do this right now.”

“Wei Ying.”

“Please,” Wei Wuxian begs, voice breaking.

“Look at me!”

Wei Ying shoves his free hand against Lan Wangji’s chest. In his shock, Lan Wangji lets him go, but the hurt on his face cleaves Wei Wuxian’s heart in two and freezes him in place. Fresh tears spill down his face, and he can only yell, “Lan Zhan, just let me go! It’s all my fault!”

“Wei Ying!” Lan Wangji shouts back, voice raw. “I don’t understand! How is this your fault?”

“I have the biggest fucking crush on you and I don’t know what to do with it!”

The fight leaves him at once. He slumps, letting the rain pummel his body. Lan Wangji stands before him, fists clenched tight and trembling at his sides. Even with every inch of him soaked to the bone, even with his teeth gritted and his eyes swimming with a pain Wei Wuxian hates himself for being the cause of, Lan Wangji is still magnificent.

“Wei Ying.” It sounds like Lan Wangji is forcing his jaws apart to speak, each word grating its way through his teeth. “I don’t understand the problem.”

“The problem is I like you. I like like you, Lan Zhan.”

Wei Ying.” Too many emotions war on Lan Wangji’s face. Ones that Wei Wuxian cannot even begin to understand the cause for – such as relief, such as elation – as well as ones that make more sense – such as regret, such as frustration. He is utterly unprepared when Lan Wangji says, “I feel the same way.”

“You…” The rain pounds against the buildings, against the ground, against the two of them. Wei Wuxian wonders if this is why he heard what he did. “What?” he says helplessly.

“I like you, Wei Ying. In your words, I have the biggest fucking crush on you.”

Wei Wuxian’s lips part at the profanity. Lan Wangji’s eyes pierce into him, fiercer than the storm.

“You… like… me?” Wei Wuxian manages. He stares hard at Lan Wangji’s lips, so that even if the rain twist Lan Wangji’s words into something other than what they are, he will at least be able to read the truth on them.

Lan Wangji says, “Yes.”

For a second, Wei Wuxian thinks Lan Wangji just punched him. Then he realizes it’s his heart, which has once again remembered how to beat. But it’s going too fast, racing so quickly he feels lightheaded. “But I thought…” A shaky laugh works its way free. “I thought you wanted to be friends.” He almost chokes on the next words. “Fuck buddies.”

Lan Wangji grimaces. “I thought that you were the one who wished to only be friends. To keep our intimacy something separate.”

“But…” Wei Wuxian’s heart hammers all the way up against his eardrums. He blows water off his lips and wonders, faintly, if he’s going to drown out here. “You don’t stay after we fuck in my room.”

“You don’t stay after we do the same in mine,” Lan Wangji replies. “You were the one who began this tradition.”

Wei Wuxian cannot refute this. “You…” He swallows. “When I was drunk...”

“I stopped myself, because I didn’t want to take advantage of you when you were impaired, and for you to do something you would regret later.”

“But,” Wei Wuxian stammers, “but you’re the one who’s been putting more distance between us lately. Haven’t you?”

A flash of pain on Lan Wangji’s face. “Because you’ve repeatedly made a point of telling me you enjoy my friendship. My friendship, Wei Ying. I know I may not be the most worldly when it comes to intimacy of any kind, but I understand a message when it is beaten into my skull.”

“Oh,” Wei Wuxian breathes.

Lan Wangji steps closer. “I thought you had figured out my feelings, and were rejecting them kindly.”

Everything clicks.

“Oh my god,” Wei Wuxian wails. “Jiang Cheng was right! I’m the biggest fucking idiot!”

“You,” Lan Wangji says, taking his face and pressing their foreheads together, “are a fool, Wei Ying. How could you think – How could I make it any clearer – Did you really not see?”

Wei Wuxian laughs through a sob, or sobs through a laugh, he doesn’t know anymore. He clearly knows next to nothing, for he really is every bit the fool Lan Wangji just called him. “I thought you were just being nice to me, because you’re Lan Zhan.”

Lan Wangji shakes his head, grinding their foreheads together. “I’m nice – I try to be nice to you, because you’re Wei Ying. Because I like it when you’re happy.”

Wei Wuxian is amazed he still has tears to shed, but more do indeed spill down his cheeks. “Breakfast on Wednesday morning?” he blubbers.

“Because I want to have breakfast with you every Wednesday morning. More, but you sleep too late and need your rest.”

“Walking me to the library?”

“Because your company is always the most fulfilling part of my day.”

“But…” Wei Wuxian squeaks out a sob. “You don’t like eating lunch in the dining hall together.”

“It’s loud. But if it’s what you want, then I will do it for you occasionally.”

“But you already do so much other stuff for me!”

“Because,” Lan Wangji says, with an edge that clearly warns ‘Wei Ying, you had better listen very carefully this time,’ “I like you.”

“I thought –” Wei Wuxian’s voice chokes out. He’s clutching Lan Wangji’s sodden sweater so tightly, his fingers are numb. Though maybe that’s from the cold, because his teeth chatter as he tries again. “I really thought you just wanted to be friends.”

“What I want is so much more.”

“I thought – friends with benefits –”

“So. Much. More.”

Wei Wuxian pulls back just far enough to look into Lan Wangji’s eyes. They are no less fierce for all the tenderness in them now, because that tenderness is stubborn, is resolute. Wei Wuxian is mesmerized. “Lan Zhan, really?”

“I want everything with you, Wei Ying.”

It’s like a punch to the gut, if punches to the gut felt like everything Wei Wuxian wants and is finally, finally being granted. “Just… just one more question.” Lan Wangji nods, which rubs their noses together. Lan Wangji’s is cold. “That first night, after I gave you a blowjob in the entranceway, you ran away afterwards.”

“I…” Lan Wangji’s eyes flicker away. Wei Wuxian brings his numb fingers to feel Lan Wangji’s ears – they’re burning hot. “You had mentioned Wen Ning returning then, and the thought made me anxious.”

“But then I heard you brushing your teeth like you were getting ready for bed.” Wei Wuxian rubs Lan Wangji’s ears between his fingertips, feeling some heat return to them. “Lan Zhan,” he coaxes, and Lan Wangji meets his gaze.

“I… was hoping we could… continue. I did not want my breath to be unpleasant… should we kiss more.”

“Oh my god, Lan Zhan.” Wei Wuxian releases Lan Wangji’s ears to cup Lan Wangji’s face in his numb, surely unpleasantly frigid hands. “Oh my god, I like you so much.”

Lan Wangji pulls him into an alcove out of the rain and kisses him until he’s gasping for breath.

“Then –” Wei Wuxian says, turning his face aside, so that Lan Wangji’s lips collide with his cheek. “Lan Zhan, one more question, I promise this is the last.” He grabs Lan Wangji’s face again. “Then, the picture of us in your wallet, the one you keep under your student ID.” Lan Wangji’s eyes widen, but Wei Wuxian plows on. “It isn’t just a friendship photo?”

“A friendship photo,” Lan Wangji repeats, clearly finding those to be the most asinine words he has ever heard.

Wei Wuxian laughs. He throws his arms around Lan Wangji and laughs and laughs and laughs, until they’re kissing again. This time, he breaks away because he can no longer keep his teeth from chattering, and he doesn’t want to bite off Lan Wangji’s tongue on accident.

“Lan Zhan, I’m cold.”

Lan Wangji takes his hand and steers him all the way back to their apartment. He only gives Wei Wuxian enough time to kick off his shoes before steering him some more, this time to his – Lan Wangji’s – room.

Wei Wuxian is shivering bodily now. Lan Wangji pulls several towels out of his closet and tosses all but one onto his desk. Then he says, “Give me your clothes.”

Wei Wuxian strips, not at all self-conscious, but clumsy due to his half-frozen fingers. Lan Wangji scoops up his discarded clothing one by one, and when he’s bare, he hands Wei Wuxian the towel.

“Dry off,” Lan Wangji says, turning to go deposit the sodden clothing in the sink.

Though it’s warm inside the apartment, he’s still too frigid to do much more than wrap the towel tightly around himself and shiver. “Lan Zhan, you too,” he says as Lan Wangji comes back, still dripping all over his own carpet.

Lan Wangji peels off his sweater and tosses it into the hall, but then he walks behind Wei Wuxian and works his wet hair out from beneath the towel. He twists it up off of Wei Wuxian’s neck and fastens it in place somehow, before coming around front and rubbing Wei Wuxian’s shoulders and arms through the towel.

“Lan Zhan,” Wei Wuxian says, teeth clicking. “Lan Zhan, get dry.”

“You first.”

Only when Wei Wuxian stops shivering does Lan Wangji leave him to his own devices. Lan Wangji peels off his pants, his underwear, his socks, and tosses them all into the hall as well. He unties his half bun, then knots all his hair up again before grabbing a towel and drying himself quickly. He opens a couple of drawers and pulls out two pairs of sweatpants and two thin sweaters. He changes into one pair, then leaves his room to pick up his pile of wet laundry on the floor.

One by one, he wrings each article of clothing out over the sink, then goes to hang them over the top of the shower stall in the bathroom, doing the same for Wei Wuxian’s clothes as well. Wei Wuxian watches him for a while, still huddled in his towel in the middle of Lan Wangji’s room, then focuses on drying himself the rest of the way off. He pulls on the sweatpants and sweater still sitting on Lan Wangji’s bed. Both are impossibly soft against his skin.

Lan Wangji pauses in the doorway at the sight of him, and seems to be fighting a smile for a moment, before he realizes there’s no need to hide his feelings. So he smiles, and takes Wei Wuxian’s hand, and leads him to the alcove outside the bathroom. He plants Wei Wuxian in front of the mirror, then drapes a dry towel over his shoulders.

He pulls the hair chopstick, the one with the silver bell hanging off the end, out of Wei Wuxian’s hair, letting it tumble down. “Beautiful,” he murmurs, like he’s speaking to himself. Wei Wuxian’s heart races.

Ever so carefully, Lan Wangji pulls a comb through his tangles, so gently he doesn’t feel a single tug against his scalp. He watches Lan Wangji in the mirror, the quiet focus on his face. He shuts his eyes as Lan Wangji draws wet strands of hair off his cheeks and forehead. His eyelashes grow wet, and when he opens them, his vision has blurred again.

“Wei Ying?”

“I’m happy, Lan Zhan, promise.” He swipes the tears away. “It’s just, you’re so good to me.”

Lan Wangji’s expression is impossibly fond, but also impossibly sad at the sight of Wei Wuxian’s tears. “I always want to be good to you.”

Wei Wuxian bites his lip as another few tears dribble out. “Thank you.”

“You don’t need to thank me.”

“But I want to, so let me.”

Lan Wangji ducks to kiss his shoulder. Then he plugs in the blow dryer, sets it to the lowest setting, and slowly dries Wei Wuxian’s hair, pulling the comb through it all the while. Wei Wuxian can’t look at his own reflection any longer, embarrassed by how red his eyes are, how blotchy his cheeks and nose are. He lowers his gaze, and his eyelids grow heavy as the blow dryer hums, as Lan Wangji relinquishes the comb to draw his fingers through his hair instead, as his scalp tingles pleasantly.

He’s in a daze by the time Lan Wangji finishes. Lan Wangji steers him a couple steps to the side, then works on his own hair with greater speed and less concern. Whatever products he usually puts into his hair, he doesn’t bother with now, but it’s still a beautiful process to watch, one Wei Wuxian has never gotten the opportunity to. Bit by bit, the strands become glossy and straight, and as they dry they start fluttering in the stream of air.

Finishing up, Lan Wangji meets Wei Wuxian’s eyes in the mirror. He sets down the blow dryer, turns around, and takes Wei Wuxian’s face in his hands. “I like you, Wei Ying.”

Wei Wuxian smiles. His heart hasn’t felt this light in weeks, maybe even months. “I like you, Lan Zhan.”

Lan Wangji nods, and kisses him softly. Against his lips, he murmurs, “Are you warm?”

“Mm. Very warm.”

“Good.” Lan Wangji’s lips travel up to kiss his nose, then between his eyebrows. He tucks Wei Wuxian’s hair behind his ears, then cups his face again and kisses his lips once more. “Is there anything you need?”

“Um.” Wei Wuxian laughs a little, embarrassed. “I’m kind of hungry.”

He feels Lan Wangji’s lips quirk into a smile against his own. “I’ll cook for you.”

“Okay, but.” Wei Wuxian tilts his head for a better angle. “But this first?”

The way Lan Wangji’s arms wrap around him and hold him close, the way Lan Wangji kisses him like they have all the time in the world, is all the answer he needs. But this first.

XX.

Wei Wuxian wakes up on the wrong side of the room. He’s disoriented for a second, until he sees the shadowy impression of the guqin case against the wall. Then he realizes how tidy the room is. And how flat the pillow beneath his head is.

Turning his face into said pillow, he breathes in the smell of Lan Wangji and grins like an utter fool.

The door creaks open, spilling light into the room.

“Wei Ying. You’re awake.”

Wei Wuxian peeks out from the pillow. Lan Wangji stands in the doorway, dressed in his workout gear, hair in a bun.

“Hi,” Wei Wuxian croaks, voice gravelly. “You look sexy.”

Lan Wangji’s expression, somehow, manages to soften even further. He doesn’t move from the door, gazing at Wei Wuxian tangled up in his bed like he intends to never look away.

Wei Wuxian smiles. “Like what you see?”

“Very much.”

Wei Wuxian’s laughter is all air, no sound. He rolls onto his back and stretches, knuckles colliding with the wall, sheets twisting even more helplessly around him. The sweater he’s wearing rides up, revealing ample inches of his stomach.

He opens his eyes as a hand settles on his hip. “I’m going to shower,” Lan Wangji says. It’s clearly an invitation.

Wei Wuxian tangles his fingers with Lan Wangji’s and says, words slow and still very sleepy, “Me too. But you might have to drag me there.”

Lan Wangji does not drag him. He coaxes him out of bed, leads him into the bathroom, and closes the door. Then he pulls Wei Wuxian’s sweater off.

“Lan Zhan,” Wei Wuxian says, eyes half-lidded, liking very much the feeling of being taken care of. “What time is it?”

“A little after six.”

Wei Wuxian groans, eyes sliding the rest of the way shut, but as soon as Lan Wangji’s lips descend upon his, he quits his complaining.

“You went to bed the same time I did,” Lan Wangji reminds him.

“Yeah, but still. The principle of it is insane.”

“Principle?”

“Of being awake at the ass crack of dawn.”

Lan Wangji chuckles and moves away. Wei Wuxian hears him unzipping his track jacket, hears a whump as it falls to the floor, then several more whumps that must mean the rest of Lan Wangji’s clothing has been discarded as well. Wei Wuxian opens an eye to check, and is met with a glorious sight indeed. With Lan Wangji’s hair still tied up, he gets a full view of the muscles in Lan Wangji’s shoulders and upper back shifting as he leans into the shower stall to turn the knobs.

“Get undressed,” Lan Wangji says, looking back at him.

Wei Wuxian kicks off the sweatpants, which are all he’s still dressed in anyway, and Lan Wangji picks them off the floor and folds them neatly onto the counter, along with his workout gear, next to the matching pair of clean lounge clothes he already brought in for them. Lan Wangji’s bathroom is larger than the one that Wei Wuxian and Wen Ning share, with an actual sink and counter inside of it instead of just in the alcove outside. Personally, Wei Wuxian thinks this isn’t very fair, but now that he sees himself using this half of the apartment more anyway… he supposes he lucked out.

When the water is warm, Lan Wangji takes his hand and pulls him inside. Steam is already beginning to fog up the glass, and with the door closed, Wei Wuxian becomes very aware of their proximity. He isn’t nervous, per se, but things with Lan Wangji suddenly feel very new, and his stomach flutters in anticipation.

Lan Wangji lets his hand go to pull the showerhead off its holder, and he starts wetting Wei Wuxian’s hair.

“Are you gonna be taking care of me like this from now on?” Wei Wuxian asks.

“Yes,” Lan Wangji says, not missing a beat.

“You sure know how to make a guy feel special, Lan Zhan.”

“Mm.” Lan Wangji shields Wei Wuxian’s face with his hand as he wets the top of his hair, and then the sides. Eyes falling shut, Wei Wuxian once again lets himself enjoy the experience of being cared for, and also of Lan Wangji brushing kisses against his cheeks every now and then, like he just can’t help himself. It makes Wei Wuxian’s smile grow wider each time.

The sound of the showerhead resettling on its holder stirs him from his reverie. As Lan Wangji reaches for the shampoo bottle, Wei Wuxian notes another bottle off to the side. He bites back a grin. Either Lan Wangji has shower lube, or he’d put it there expressly for today.

Lan Wangji catches him looking. Wei Wuxian says nothing. Lan Wangji appears not the least bit embarrassed, and begins massaging shampoo into Wei Wuxian’s hair.

“Lan Zhan.”

“Mm.”

“Please don’t make fun of me for crying so much last night.”

“It was cute.”

“It was embarrassing! And the way I ran out into the rain and everything?” His face heats up with mortification. “God, it was like a scene out of every bad romance drama ever.”

“You are dramatic,” Lan Wangji agrees. He turns Wei Wuxian around to work the shampoo into the back of his head.

Wei Wuxian sighs as Lan Wangji massages his scalp, his head lolling at the blissful sensation. “Lan Zhan,” he mumbles.

“Mm.”

“When did you decide I wanted to just be fuck buddies?”

It takes several beats for Lan Wangji to reply. “After the first time in my room, and you found a reason to leave.”

“Ah, yeah,” Wei Wuxian says, cheeks heating even more. He wonders how many more mortifying memories he will have to relive this morning.

“You said it was my bedtime.”

Please don’t remind me. God, past me was so embarrassing.” He lets the silence steal back until Lan Wangji has finished washing the suds from his hair. “That’s when I thought it too. I thought, because you didn’t want to cuddle or anything afterwards, you didn’t want to… be anything.”

Lan Wangji’s lips descend upon his shoulder. “I wanted to cuddle.”

“Then why didn’t you?” Wei Wuxian exclaims.

“I was already uncertain about how you felt. After… after the time in the kitchen, you didn’t bring it up. I thought you would, if it meant something to you.”

“What? Why me?”

Lan Wangji’s lips travel up the swoop of his shoulder, pause at the curve of his neck. “Because you’re the one who’s good at talking.”

“Lan Zhan, that’s not fair! I was all messed up because you ran away right after I gave you head!”

“Wei Ying,” Lan Wangji says, face still against Wei Wuxian’s neck, and it sounds remarkably close to a whine.

“We both made grave mistakes,” Wei Wuxian allows. “But still, you can’t always count on me to be the one to start all the important conversations. As we have both gathered from this experience, I’m very prone to idiocy.”

“Not idiocy,” Lan Wangji says, arms wrapping around Wei Wuxian’s middle. “Unless I, too, get to be an idiot.”

“I mean, if that’s what you want…” A thought occurs to Wei Wuxian, and he laughs, snuggling back against Lan Wangji’s chest. “Lan Zhan, did you already like me when I gave you that blowjob?”

“Yes. A lot.”

“Oh really?” Wei Wuxian says cheekily. He trails his fingers down Lan Wangji’s arms. “So when I asked to be your date to your music thingy, did you want me to be your date date?”

“Yes. But you insisted then, too, that we were just going as friends.”

“My idiocy strikes again.” Lan Wangji nips his shoulder, as though scolding him for the self-insult. Wei Wuxian doesn’t mind one bit, and says with a flutter in his stomach, “You know, I already thought you were insanely hot back then.”

“I always think that about you.”

“Psh, no way.”

Lan Wangji bites him harder this time. All the touching was already turning him on, but he feels himself become fully hard now, and he bites back a moan as Lan Wangji’s hands slide downward. "Lan Zhan, I knew you had ulterior motives.”

“Not ulterior,” Lan Wangji says. His own hardness is evident against Wei Wuxian’s ass, and Wei Wuxian turns around, looping his arms around Lan Wangji’s neck and bringing their erections together.

Lan Wangji grabs his hips to pull Wei Wuxian tight to him, but he’s unhurried, leisurely rubbing his cock against Wei Wuxian’s. It’s incredibly erotic and does nothing to slow the progress of Wei Wuxian’s arousal. He shudders, pushing his groin more insistently against Lan Wangji’s, but Lan Wangji continues his languid pace.

“Lan Zhan, are you teasing me?”

“Savoring you,” Lan Wangji says. Wei Wuxian moans, dropping his chin onto Lan Wangji’s shoulder. He grabs Lan Wangji’s ass and squeezes, and it earns him one sharp rut. Laughing breathlessly, he massages Lan Wangji’s ass, kneading the globes, shivering as Lan Wangji’s cock slides against his, hot and hard and slick at the tip.

“Wei Ying,” Lan Wangji sighs, and something fiery hot runs through Wei Wuxian. He slips a finger between Lan Wangji’s cheeks. Lan Wangji stills his grinding in response.

“Lan Zhan, can I?”

“Yes,” Lan Wangji says, instantly and with feeling. “Please.”

Wei Wuxian grabs the lube and coats his fingers, then slides his finger back into the cleft of Lan Wangji’s ass. Lan Wangji’s cock twitches against his abdomen as Wei Wuxian slowly circles his entrance.

“Just tell me if you don’t like anything,” Wei Wuxian says, suddenly and incredibly nervous.

“I’ll like it,” Lan Wangji says. He doesn’t make a sound as Wei Wuxian’s finger breaches him. He breathes a little bit harder, but his erection doesn’t flag, so Wei Wuxian takes his reaction to be one of excitement.

“Okay?” he asks, checking anyway.

“Yes. Keep going.”

Wei Wuxian’s own cock twitches at the request, and he complies. Lan Wangji is very good with one finger, and he only tightens up briefly at the second. He pants against Wei Wuxian’s shoulder, hands sliding down Wei Wuxian’s sides, around his back, down to cup his ass and grind their hips together, all in steady rotation. All that, combined with the way he’s soon rocking back to meet Wei Wuxian’s fingers, has Wei Wuxian quickly forgetting his worry. He slides his fingers in and out, mesmerized by the feeling of being taken inside, of Lan Wangji welcoming him to the last knuckle and still pushing back like he wants even more.

“Can I do another?” Wei Wuxian asks.

“Yes,” Lan Wangji demands.

This one takes more coaxing, but he reaches between them and pumps Lan Wangji a few times, and Lan Wangji loosens. It’s an out of body experience, feeling that resistance soften into acceptance. In that moment, Wei Wuxian feels both more firmly rooted in reality than he ever has before, and like he’s floating somewhere outside of himself, observing everything like a bystander.

It nearly bowls him over when he realizes what they’re doing, and he never really thought about it with Lan Wangji fucking him because he was always chasing his own pleasure, but here, breaching Lan Wangji with his fingers, it truly hits him how intimate an act it is. How significant, to be trusted through the discomfort in order to bring pleasure. How profound, to be allowed to touch a person this way. More profound, if you like them as much as he likes Lan Wangji.

“Still okay, Lan Zhan?”

Lan Wangji responds by turning his face into his neck and breathing out, “Wei Ying.”

Wei Wuxian fucks him with his fingers. Lan Wangji doesn’t vocalize his pleasure outright the way Wei Wuxian does, but he can’t stifle the little grunts in his throat, can’t hold back the gasps he lets out against Wei Wuxian’s neck, accompanied by sharp nips timed perfectly with the moments he clenches tight. Wei Wuxian crooks his fingers slightly and searches, wanting to hear Lan Wangji fall apart, wanting to feel it.

Lan Wangji grabs his arms as he clamps around his fingers. His moan is almost enough to make Wei Wuxian come.

“Lan Zhan. Lan Zhan, I want to be inside you.”

“Yes.” Lan Wangji turns around on wobbly legs and braces his hands on the tile wall, dislodging Wei Wuxian’s fingers in the process. “Want it.”

Wei Wuxian fumbles and nearly drops the lube, but he manages to squeeze some into his hand and rub it over his cock. He spreads Lan Wangji’s cheeks with one hand, lines himself up, and pushes in.

“Oh,” he groans, head dropping against Lan Wangji’s neck. It’s tight, and Lan Wangji resists, but Wei Wuxian reaches around and finds him hard still. For his part, Wei Wuxian needs the pause to collect himself, because even barely inside, he’s almost at his limit.

He pumps Lan Wangji’s cock a few times, muttering the first things that come to mind. “You’re doing amazing, Lan Zhan. You’re doing so good. You feel so good. You’re still so hard.” Lan Wangji loosens, and he sinks a few inches deeper. They both groan in unison.

Wei Wuxian doesn’t stop pumping him, and soon Lan Wangji is thrusting into his fist, which means he also thrusts back onto his cock, little by little. Wei Wuxian tries to remain still, tries to let Lan Wangji adjust all he needs, but every little shift and squeeze around him is blissful, and on one of Lan Wangji’s shallow backstrokes, he can’t help grabbing Lan Wangji’s hips and thrusting to meet him.

“Sorry, sorry,” he says.

“Wei Ying,” Lan Wangji growls. “More.”

Wei Wuxian gasps and does just that, pulling back a bit before snapping forward. His entire awareness narrows to the feeling of Lan Wangji’s heat around him, how slick, how sublime it feels tightening around him.

“Oh, fuck,” he breathes. His orgasm rushes up to meet him with the force of a semi-truck, and he practically drapes himself over Lan Wangji as he comes, buried deep, letting out gasp after gasp until he’s done emptying himself. He has just enough presence of mind left to reach for Lan Wangji’s cock. Lan Wangji’s hand covers his, and together they jerk him to completion. Still inside him, Wei Wuxian feels Lan Wangji clamp around him one last time, and then Lan Wangji is coming in both of their hands.

They pant for a very long time. Eventually, once his legs stop trembling, Wei Wuxian becomes aware of the fact that he has Lan Wangji sandwiched between himself and the wall. He steps back, rubbing Lan Wangji’s hips.

“Lan Zhan, are you okay?”

“Yes,” Lan Wangji says. His voice is hoarse. Wei Wuxian wonders if he had shouted, if it had gotten lost in the rushing of Wei Wuxian’s pulse in his ears.

Wei Wuxian coaxes Lan Wangji away from the wall. He turns him around, kisses him, smiles as Lan Wangji lazily kisses back. Lan Wangji’s hair is still up in a bun, and he lets Wei Wuxian undo it, only wincing slightly as a few strands snag in the process. “Sorry, sorry,” Wei Wuxian says, kissing all over his face in apology.

“Wei Ying,” Lan Wangji says, and it sounds like a You’re being silly, which is very true.

Wei Wuxian grabs the showerhead. Gently, he cleans the insides of Lan Wangji’s thighs, then between his cheeks. He glances into Lan Wangji’s face to check his reaction. Lan Wangji’s eyes are closed. His ears are slightly pink, but he seems relaxed.

Wei Wuxian washes his hair next. It’s always a process he hurries through for himself, but he takes extra care to be gentle as he massages the shampoo into Lan Wangji’s hair, trying to replicate what Lan Wangji did for him. They wash their own faces, the rest of themselves. Afterwards, Wei Wuxian watches as Lan Wangji applies conditioner, then a leave-in treatment, both of which make the shower steam smell like a bouquet of flowers.

“Can’t you just get one of those two-in-one shampoos?” Wei Wuxian says. “Makes things a whole lot faster.”

“Mm,” Lan Wangji says. A dismissive sound. Then he conditions Wei Wuxian’s hair, a process Wei Wuxian enjoys far more than he admits. Perhaps he’ll have to toss out his two-in-one and take every shower with Lan Wangji from now on.

As they’re drying off a little while later, the front door opens. They both freeze, listening hard. Wen Ning’s footsteps can be heard receding to his bedroom, and his door clicks shut softly. Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji look at each other.

“He already thinks we’re together anyway,” Wei Wuxian whispers.

“I’d rather not give him reason to assume –” Lan Wangji cuts himself off, ears turning from pink to red.

“Assuming we were having sex in your shower?” Wei Wuxian says with a lewd grin. Lan Wangji takes the sweatpants off the counter and shoves them into his face.

They finish drying and get dressed quietly, though Wei Wuxian is only quiet for Lan Wangji’s sake. Personally, he doesn’t really care if Wen Ning thinks they were just fucking because Wen Ning doesn’t seem to have a single problem with them being together. Things would only be bad if Wen Ning ever happened to be home while they were fucking. They’ll definitely have to come up with a system to avoid any traumatizing incidents.

Lan Wangji knots his hair up, and gives Wei Wuxian a hair tie to do the same. They step out of the bathroom together, in matching clothes, with matching wet hair, right as Wen Ning comes out of his room, which is directly across the apartment. Lan Wangji freezes. Wei Wuxian opens his mouth and says, “Uh…”

And Wen Ning, bless him, just raises a hand and says brightly, “Hey guys!”

XXI.

Lan Wangji did not agree that they should continue wearing their matching outfits to the café later. He had also said, with great bemusement, “He already knows who I am.”

“Yeah, but,” Wei Wuxian had replied, midway through changing into his own clothes, and left it at that.

Jiang Cheng is huddled into a corner table, looking absolutely irate at being awake before noon on a Saturday. Wei Wuxian’s earlier tiredness, however, has completely evaporated, and he prances over gleefully, tugging a resolutely not-prancing Lan Wangji after him.

Jiang Cheng takes one look at their linked hands and says, “Oh good god.”

“Hey Jiang Cheng! I just wanted to introduce you to my boyfriend.”

The entire café turns to look at who, exactly, possesses the vocal projection of a megaphone. Jiang Cheng sits absolutely still for the first five seconds. For the next five seconds, he brings both hands up to his head and presses an index and middle finger to each temple, eyes clenched shut like he’s either trying to do some major telekinesis, or like he’s been struck by a sudden and powerful migraine. The rest of the café patrons quickly grow bored and return to their previous business.

With a grin, Wei Wuxian sits across from his brother and pulls Lan Wangji down into the chair beside him. Lan Wangji winces a little. It’s a good thing Jiang Cheng’s eyes are still closed.

“You,” Jiang Cheng says, very clearly meaning Wei Wuxian, “Are the biggest. Idiot I have ever had to know.”

Lan Wangji opens his mouth to dole out a rebuke, but Wei Wuxian shakes his head. This is Jiang Cheng trying to be nice.

A waitress comes by with Jiang Cheng’s coffee, and he’s forced to open his eyes. Before she can turn away, he orders two more. “For these headaches,” he says, waving a hand dismissively at the two men across the table from him. When the waitress is gone, he pins Wei Wuxian with a glare and says, “I fucking told you so.”

“Yeah,” Wei Wuxian says. He smiles at Lan Wangji, whose ears are pink, and who squeezes his hand beneath the table. “You did.”