Marriage, Lan Wangji knows, is not about love.
He’d known this, he’d always known this; Uncle had always been very clear on that. Marriage is about duty. Marriage is about allying Gusu Lan with another sect. It is Lan Wangji’s job in this to ensure profitable trade for the disciples of the Cloud Recesses. It might even, one day, require him to move away from his home and into that of his spouse. His father had married for love and look where that had gotten him; Lan Wangji would never succumb to the same fate. So no, marriage was not about liking his spouse and being liked in return.
Though he had steeled his heart to this fate, there is a memory that he holds deeper somewhere that thumps quiet and soft with every beat of his heart. He usually tries not to think about it; it makes an old hurt flash deep in his bones, throbbing from his toes all the way up his spine to settle like a leech at the back of his neck.
He remembers kneeling at his mother’s side, small back straight, resisting the urge to lean fully into her. She had seen him though, she always had even when he hid behind a solemn face and sparse words. And so with a smile and a fond shake of her head, she had gathered him up into her arms, petting the hair out of his face and said, “My love, my light, you are still my baby.”
He hadn’t laughed exactly, but he’d smiled up at her, the corners of his lips tilting up just enough to ball his cheeks. But she had seen it, of course she’d seen it, and she’d rubbed her thumbs gently against his face, leaning down close enough that her lips brushed against his skin when she whispered, “No matter what happens outside of this house, you are loved.”
And then she’d folded him up in her arms as if he actually was a baby, resting his head on her elbow and guiding her arm beneath the hollows of his knees and swug him around sharply, teasing, enough to have him squirming away and she sang, “My baby, my baby, my baby.”
Leaning forward to grab a slice of loquat, cut perfectly to fit the shape of a small, child sized mouth, from the bowl placed gently on the table in front of them, she’d then brought it up to Lan Wangji’s mouth and said, “Open up, darling.”
And he had because she was his mother and he’d do anything for her. So he’d let her feed him tiny chunks of loquats and pet his face until finally she’d said, almost too softly, “I really hope you find someone who loves you a lot one day.”
He’d looked up at her and then relaxed into her arms even more, settling in her embrace and asked, “Enough to cut up loquats for me?”
Her laugh still sounds like music to him when he remembers it; loud and gentle all at the same time, bathing him in a joy he had yet to know, and she had laughed then, leaning down to nuzzle her nose against his and said, “Yes, baobao, exactly.”
By the time he’d wormed his way out of her embrace, she’d turned her wrath onto Lan Xichen, dragging him closer to her and laugh-crying, “My bigger baby!”
He wishes now he could remember more of that day instead of just that flash moment. Had she been sad when they left that night? Where was that night, in the span of time? How much longer did he have with her, even if he didn’t know yet that there would ever be an end in sight?
And what had she meant when she wished that for him? She had to have known what his life was destined to look like, she had to have known what kind of marriage was in his fate. And yet she wished it anyways, giving a voice to his greatest yearning, to his deepest secret. Hadn’t she known that was impossible?
Hadn’t she known it would haunt him?
There was never really any hope of her wish for him coming true.
Even when Lan Wangji was small, he’d been described as cold, frigid; his classmates had been scared of him whether it be because of his skill, his quiet, somber face, or his dedication. His all encompassing grief after his mother’s death had only served to strengthen that.
For them his kneeling, and continued kneeling, at her door had not been an act of love. They could not see the desperate pain in his eyes, the hands that shook, crying out to be held just one last time. They thought it had been a display of duty, of rigidity, of a soulless creature acting as they were meant to.
He remembers once, being fourteen and kneeling outside of his mother’s door. By then, he knew she would not return, would never return, and though his grief had subsided, was now just a throb in his throat instead of cold fire in his veins, he still owed her this. His respect, his sadness, his yearning; he owed her this and so he kneeled in her garden, muscles frozen and lips blue until Lan Xichen had hurried over, crouching in front of him and muttering one quiet, desperate, “Didi.”
He’d stood then and allowed Lan Xichen to walk him to the Jingshi, never once leaning on his brother but glad for his steady presence next to him all the same. His steps never faltered, expression never wavered, even when he heard his fellow disciples whisper his name.
Gossip is forbidden in the Cloud Recesses, of course, but some things cannot be stopped in their entirety and this is one of them. And Lan Wangji knows, even if they would never believe it, how to pick his battles. So when he hears his name called out in the shape of chapped lips and fogged breath he doesn’t flinch.
“There goes the Twin Jades,” one of the voices whispers into the moonlight.
“Jade?” the other snorts back and responds more hushed, “Maybe Lan Xichen, but the younger one? Look at him, he’s made of ice.”
“Brr,” one of them chuckles, pretending to shiver, “So cold even the snow can’t touch him.”
“I feel sorry for whatever poor girl ends up leashed to him,” the second voice continues, “You’d never see a colder marriage bed.”
Lan Wangji’s breath hitches minutely, but his strides never stutter. When he glances over at Lan Xichen from the corner of his eye, he can see the serene and utterly fake smile plastered across his face, the one he wears at meetings and particularly detestful events (and sometimes, just sometimes, when talking to Uncle), so he knows his brother heard as well as he did.
Shame courses through him and he blames the fire under his skin on the cold wind that blows around them. There, that night, he vows never to leash someone to him if he can help it and if he cannot he will remain firm but open and let them have their happiness without any regards or hindrance from himself. He will not be his father.
When they make it to his door, Lan Xichen opens his mouth to say something but Lan Wangji finds he does not have ears to hear it. He bows quickly but perfectly and says, “Goodnight, Brother,” and makes peace with that which he should have years ago.
His mother was wrong.
Wei Wuxian bounces into his life like a bomb.
He yells for Lan Wangji from across rooms and runs to catch up with him on busy walkways and laughs loud enough to hurt Lan Wangji’s ears. He throws loquats through the air and brings pornography into the library and never remembers to bow until someone else does before him and-
And he gives Lan Wangji bunnies and sings to them in silly voices and says things like, “You’re so good, Lan Zhan. Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan, you’re the best!”
The worst part is, Lan Wangji is pretty sure he means it.
“Have you ever thought about getting married?” Wei Wuxian asks him from where he’s lounging ill-mannered next to Lan Wangji.
“I have!” he continues without waiting for Lan Wangji to reply, leg jittering up and down, “She’ll be the prettiest girl out there, I just know it.”
“And she’ll be an excellent cook and be friends with Shijie,” he continues, lolling his head to the side and shooting a lazy grin Lan Wangji’s way, “Obviously I can’t marry anyone my Shijie doesn’t like.
“And I’ll marry for love!” he laughs this time, one of his feet coming very close to nudging at Lan Wangji’s thigh before he moves away steadily, sending a half glare Wei Wuxian’s way, “None of this arranged stuff, uh uh, no good, I’ve seen what it does to people.
“I’ll only marry when someone stops my heart and then restarts it, when they smile and I melt, when their touch is all the warmth I need,” he laughs at the frown on Lan Wangji’s face and tries to kick him again, “Come on, Lan Zhan, I know I’m being mushy but let a guy live, will you?”
Love, Lan Wangji wants to say, does not always solve your problems.
But he says nothing and mourns the loss of his presence when Wei Wuxian stands, brushing off his already dirtied robes.
“Hey, Lan Zhan?” he asks, lip curling up wryly on one side, leaning in close as he whispers, “I think you’re pretty too.”
Wei Wuxian’s laughter can be heard in the courtyard outside as he flees the library pavilion.
“Quick, Lan Zhan!” Wei Wuxian yells and then Lan Wangji is ripping off his headband and tying it around their wrists, joining them together to stop Lan Yi’s guqin from hurting the smaller man further.
It doesn’t mean anything, Lan Wangji thinks to himself even as the handfasting takes place, binding them together, I will not leash him to me.
It’s enough to join them together, not a marriage persay, not a proper one at least, but a promise. I will protect you, the ribbon says for Lan Wangji where it rests, cradled around Wei Wuxian’s wrist, because you are my beloved.
It holds long enough to speak to Lan Yi and spit them out again and as they lay in a heap on the earthen floor, Wei Wuxian smiles down at him, lopsided, bunny teeth in full effect and yanks they’re tied wrists up to see, laughing out, “We’re connected now!”
It has Lan Wangji shoving him off, a cold chill running up his spine that has absolutely nothing to do with the ice water he’d come from, making quick work of yanking the headband off Wei Wuxian’s wrist and cradling it morosely to his chest.
“Not together,” he absolutely does not pout.
“Aw, Lan Zhan, it’s okay,” Wei Wuxian waves off, standing up and offering his hand down to Lan Wangji, “It’s just a headband.”
The relief he feels in knowing Wei Wuxian doesn’t know the meaning of what just happened is only half present, mixed with a disappointed, a longing, so intense it has his breath stuttering.
When he stands, he does so gracefully, carefully untying the headband from his own wrist to return it to its rightful place around his forehead.
He does not accept Wei Wuxian’s hand.
“I’ll have to leave you here bunnies,” Lan Wangji can hear Wei Wuxian’s voice, loud as ever, through the trees, “And you have a very important job!”
At this Lan Wangji raises an eyebrow, wondering what possible job Wei Wuxian could have for a rabbit, so instead of making his presence known he listens on as Wei Wuxian whispers conspiratorially, “Without me here to keep him company, I suspect Lan Zhan will get very lonely.”
He’s right, is the thing. Lan Wangji is sure that’s why the statement sends a jolt through him.
“Can you keep him company, little rabbits? Make sure he feels loved,” Wei Wuxian says, holding up a bunny to his face to look it in the eye, “Give him lots of nose kisses for me, okay?”
Lan Wangji turns around and leaves before he can do something stupid like grab Wei Wuxian’s hand or ask him to stay.
“Let me carry you!” Wei Wuxian says to him so earnestly that Lan Wangji is tempted to believe he actually means it. Though his leg pains him, he limps with every step, he steadfastly ignores this request, stopping only to send a familiar glare Wei Wuxian’s way.
The cave they’re stuck in now is so much darker than the previous one. The monster has been slain and Lan Wangji has spit out the bad blood that haunted his veins but all is not well. There is no cold here like there was in Lan Yi’s dwelling, a humid air seeps up from the water below, making Lan Wangji sweat in his robes.
And still, curled up next to him Wei Wuxian’s shivers and moans. His skin is so hot, Lan Wangji can feel it in the air between them and yet the man still moans, “I’m freezing, Lan Zhan, why is it so cold?”
Lan Wangji does not know the answer to this so he gathers Wei Wuxian into his arms, hands stroking slow down his back the way his mother had once done for him and said, “It’s okay, Wei Ying. We are here together.”
And then he hums him a song meant for their ears only and wishes him a peaceful sleep.
There is barely restrained fury in Wei Wuxian’s eyes when he steps forward and says, “Lan Zhan, do me a favor.”
“What’s the matter?” Lan Wangji asks, taking his eyes off the mockery in front of them to rest on Wei Wuxian, changed, sharper, but still Wei Ying.
“Let me borrow your headband,” the man in front of him says, though he doesn’t dignify it with a response. He can’t.
Because he wants to say yes.
Yes, yes, take my headband, Wei Ying, know what it means, Wei Ying, Wei Ying, Wei Ying.
Wei Wuxian is unperturbed without the headband though, he merely steps forward and unwraps his own sleeve, tying it around his eyes. His arrows are shot with the blindfold still held securely in place, each one finding home in the wooden target instead of the Wen Quishan prisoners below.
He plays it off with a smirk and a smile, a grand display of skill, but Lan Wangji can see him. Can see the fury in his gate, can see his goal; even now, in the face of people he does not know, he protects them all, bearing the brunt of ridicule on his own shoulders.
Lan Wangji finds him later, in the mouth of the woods with no one else around. The blindfold still plays around his eyes and a glance around confirms there is no one here but the two of them and Lan Wangji finds his own self control rapidly draining.
I will not leash him to me.
But Wei Wuxian’s eyes are closed and he will never know, so he steps forward, ignoring Wei Wuxian’s “who’s there?” and gently presses the man against the nearest tree, lips finding Wei Wuxian’s fast, pliant and warm. He’s there long enough to swipe his tongue across Wei Wuxian’s bottom lip, to taste the half smile that lingers there and then he’s gone just as quick deeper into the woods, completely missing Wei Wuxian’s little grabby hands and whispered, “Mm, Lan Zhan.”
“This is my A-Yuan,” Wei Wuxian says, laughing at the confused frown on Lan Wangji’s face, only adding to it when he says, “I birthed him from my own body.”
He knows Wei Wuxian is lying obviously but he accepts the child all the same, lets him cling to his leg, buys him play swords and grass butterflies and relishes in watching him play with Wei Wuxian.
Even now, Wei Wuxian grins so easily, so beautifully, it astounds him, stops Lan Wangji in his place and leaves him breathless.
“Ah, A-Yuan, don’t bother Lan Zhan,” Wei Wuxian complains when A-Yuan climbs into Lan Wangji’s lap uninvited, giving Lan Wangji a half embarrassed look as if Lan Wangji might really be bothered by this.
Instead he snakes his arms around the child’s waist, ignoring how right it feels, how easy it would be to imagine them at a family lunch and says, “He is fine.”
A-Yuan holds a grass butterfly up to Lan Wangji’s face and says in an obnoxiously high voice, “I like you” and then uses the butterfly to kiss Lan Wangji on the cheek, snorting with laughter as he does so.
“See?” Lan Wangji nods, hoisting the boy further into his lap, “Everything is fine.”
Wei Wuxian doesn’t say anything for once, just shakes his head and gifts Lan Wangji with the softest smile he’s ever seen.
“Wei Ying,” he pleads from the other side of the roof, “It’s time to stop fighting.”
But Wei Wuxian doesn’t stop; he plays his flute and dances across the field and ignores Lan Wangji as he skitters around him, stopping every sword meant for Wei Wuxian from finding home.
Lan Wangji fights and fights and pleads and prays with anyone listening to stop this, to help Wei Wuxian. Mother, he screams in his mind, afraid to look at the sky where he knows she must be watching over this for fear of missing even one second of Wei Ying, who carries no sword at his side to protect himself, one moment is all one would need to- Mother, I love him, help, help-
But there is no help. Wei Wuxian smiles up at him with blood stained teeth and says, “Lan Zhan, let go, it’s time to let me go,” and he’s slippery and heavy but Lan Wangji won’t, he won’t-
The decision is made for him.
Jiang Cheng’s blade digs into the mountain next to Wei Wuxian’s hand, hard enough to crack the Earth around them. When it breaks and falls, Lan Wangji knows he will fall with it. He makes his peace with it in the millisecond it takes for him to realize this. But Wei Wuxian, kind and beautiful Wei Wuxian rips his hand away hard enough to startle Lan Wangji backwards and falls alone.
Lan Wangji watches, yells his name and clenches his fists at his side, looks around at the chaos around him and knows he’s been saved.
He looks at the space where Wei Wuxian had been, now lost in darkness and destruction and rubble and thinks, I’ve been saved, but for what, Wei Ying? For what?
The child is heavy in his arms as he carries him up the steps to the Cloud Recesses. He’s heavy and sick and too warm and Lan Wangji vows with everything in his being to make this boy better, to make him happy. He is Wei Wuxian’s child but Wei Wuxian is gone, the Wen clan are gone, and so Lan Wangji will protect him the way he failed to protect Wei Wuxian.
“Rich gege,” the boy mumbles into his shoulder, little hands making fists in his robes. Lan Wangji uses one hand to support him, the other to pet down the boy’s back, to comb through his hair.
“It will be okay,” he says into the air, hoping one of them will believe it.
A-Yuan, Lan Sizhui, keeps him company while he recovers. He lays flat on his stomach, ignores the ache in his chest, the sting of his back and smiles ever so slightly when Sizhui finger dances up his arm, careful to steer clear of his wounds.
“Will you be okay, Rich gege?” he asks, laying down on the bed next to Lan Wangji and kicking his feet in the air.
Sizhui rolls over on his stomach, resting his chin on his hands and kicking his feet out behind him, “Okay, enough to take care of A-Yuan?”
“Will always take care of A-Yuan,” Lan Wangji says and tries not to think about how nice it would have been to have help with this, to take care of the boy with Wei Wuxian, to do this together.
“Of course he’s going to take care of you,” Lan Xichen says as he walks inside the Jingshi, carrying medicine and bandages in his arms, “But remember what we promised? You’re Sizhui now.”
“Yes,” A-Yuan nods, head bouncing seriously as he does, “I promise, BoBo.”
The look of delight on Lan Xichen’s face is almost enough to forget the loss in the room.
Lan Wangji presents Lan Sizhui as his son to the elders. He looks at his brother and thinks, Look I have a son, I have an heir, I have brought an heir for the Cloud Recesses, I have done my part, marrying me off will bring you nothing now.
He doesn’t know what Lan Xichen is thinking, but he smiles a small, sincere smile as he always does when he’s looking at his younger brother. He nods and says, “Seeing as I have no children to call my own, I accept Lan Sizhui as the resident heir to the Cloud Recesses.”
He bows perfectly to the child who stands in front of him and delights when the child bows back.
Sometimes, not often but often enough, A-Yuan has nightmares so violent they leave him trembling in his bed. The first time it had happened, he’d been too scared to get up from his cot, only feet away from Lan Wangji’s own, so he’d simply called out into the night through chattering teeth, “Baba? Baba!”
And Lan Wangji had been there to scoop him up and carry him back to his bed, holding him tight in his arms, tight enough to will the shivers away and had said, “It’s okay, I am here.”
He holds A-Yuan against his body as his mother had once held him and begins to tell him the story of Wei Ying. Not the Yiling Patriarch or even Wei Wuxian. He tells him about a boy scared of dogs, a boy who loved his brother and sister with his whole being, who held everything close to his heart, and laughed sun rays into existence.
A-Yuan no longer remembers Xian gege, which is probably for the best. But he knows Wei Ying.
“Where did he go?” he asks one night, leaning against Lan Wangji even though he is now far too big for this; Lan Wangji wraps an arm around him anyways, pulls him in closer.
“He had to go away,” Lan Wangji replies, looking out at the full moon, “But he would’ve loved you.”
Lan Sizhui settles into sleep for the night and Lan Wangji only feels marginally bad for changing the would’ve from did.
He did love you, A-Yuan, Lan Wangji thinks, but knows enough not to say, And from wherever he is now, he loves you still.
Uncle brings up the topic of marriage once.
He reminds Lan Wangji of his duty. Reminds him of what he should be doing. But throughout the entirety of the conversation, Lan Wangji is reminded of the hole in his heart held steadily in the shape of doe eyes and a smiling mouth and a little mole. He knows he will never be able to look anyone else in the eye and call them husband or wife. There is no point.
“I have a son,” he says instead, meeting his Uncle’s eyes as he shoots down his plan, “I have brought an heir to the Cloud Recesses. I have stood for this sect and I have stood against it and paid my dues. I have nothing more to give.”
He turns away before Uncle can respond without so much as a bow. He lets his robes ripple in the air as he storms away. He wishes he had been nicer to Wei Wuxian when they were kids, when they were happy, wishes he’d let the boy hover in close.
Uncle is not always right.
He knows it's him the second he hears the song.
Wei Wuxian, Wei Ying, stands in a clearing playing their song to control Wen Ning. He wears black robes and a red hair ribbon and though his stature is different Lan Wangji knows it is him and his heart calls out to get closer, to listen more.
Wei Wuxian hides from him but that is okay. He smiles at the man’s antics, pretending to be wild to keep up with appearances, Lan Wangji lets him do whatever he wants this time, he’ll let him do anything.
But when they are alone, he pulls the mask off with gentle fingers and caresses this face, a new face to house the same soul, and says, “Wei Ying, you are back.”
And just like that Wei Wuxian’s eyes crinkle damp with tears, fingers twisting hard into the fabric of Lan Wangji’s robes as he cries, too soft to have ever come from his mouth, “Lan Zhan.”
The events at the temple are – a mess to say the least and the bolt of fear that had run a course through Lan Wangji when Jin Guangyao had held Wei Wuxian by the throat still has him feeling shaky, lost, the idea of losing Wei Wuxian again to the same cause too much for him to handle.
But he stands here now, berating their son with a smile on his face, hip cocked out to the side.
“You see that pit? You see it?” Wei Wuxian laughs, trying despite himself to look stern. Lan Sizhui’s head whips back and forth between the pit and Wei Wuxian’s pointer finger, waving around wildly in front of him. But Lan Wangji can see the grin growing on the boy’s face as he realizes what is to come next, just in time for Wei Wuxian to say, “I’ll bury you again, my little radish, don’t think I won’t!”
Lan Sizhui smiles and laughs a half sob and throws himself down against Wei Wuxian’s leg, clinging on like he’s afraid the man will disappear. Wei Wuxian steadies himself in this new hold and then reaches a hand down to comb through the top of Sizhui’s hair and says, “Oh, you silly boy. I’ve missed you so much, my A-Yuan.”
“Missed you too, Xian gege,” Lan Sizhui mumbles into the fabric of Wei Wuxian’s leg, one hand reaching up blindly to hold onto Wei Wuxian’s own. His family stands in front of him, whole and laughing and happy.
Lan Wangji has never felt more content.
It doesn’t end there, as much as Lan Wangji may wish it did.
He accepts the position of Chief Cultivator and Sect Leader in the interim that Lan Xichen remains in seclusion. He sends Sizhui, his son, off with Wen Ning to reclaim his roots. And Wei Wuxian...
Wei Wuxian looks at him one day, restless as ever, and says, “Well I should really get going.”
“Going?” Lan Wangji had asked, one eyebrow raising in question.
Wei Wuxian plays with his own fingers, bites his lip, and then looks up at Lan Wangji with a grin, “I’m on my second life, Lan Zhan! I’ve got to see the world. It’s not like I have anything holding me here, right?”
He wants to pull Wei Wuxian into his chest and hold him there for safekeeping. He wants to wrap Wei Wuxian up in all of his best blankets and say, Remember when I held you in the cave? I can take care of you now, better than I could then. He wants to comb Wei Wuxian’s hair and thread soothing oils into it and say, See? You deserve gentleness, let me be soft with you, let me, let me.
But he sees the antsy way Wei Wuxian taps his foot, the way his eyes keep flickering to the door like he’s ready to leave at this very instant. All of his belongings are already packed and lay neatly, ready to be taken up at any time. The only thing left is Lil Apple but she never needed much and Lan Wangji knows if he really wanted, Wei Wuxian could be out and into the world in half a day, Cloud Recesses a forgotten dream.
I will not be a leash, I will not be a leash, I will not be a leash.
“If you wish to see the world,” Lan Wangji says, keeping his words careful. He does not lie but he neither spills the truth, “Then nothing would please me more than to see you off. All I’ve ever wanted for you was your happiness.”
“Ah, Lan Zhan, so nice,” Wei Wuxian laughs and falls onto the bed behind him, “You really are the best.”
“I’ll leave tomorrow morning,” Wei Wuxian says to the ceiling, “Get out of your hair for once.”
“Mn,” he says again and bites his tongue to keep the don’t go at bay.
When Wei Wuxian is gone the world is quiet again.
Lan Wangji used to relish in silence, used to bathe in it. Now the neverending quiet is suffocating, it itches his skin and leaves him irritable. He navigates political meetings and handles his sect and waits and waits and waits for news from his son and from Wei Wuxian.
The last he’d heard from either of them, Lan Sizhui had been happy in Yiling with Wen Ning and Wei Wuxian had been enjoying tea (though from the looks of the water stained letter and sloppily painted characters, they had been drinking more than just tea) with Nie Huiasang.
He tries to tell himself not to let it bother him. Wei Wuxian had left to see the world, to explore. And if he wanted to explore places he’d already been and spend his time with people he already knew then that was. That was fine.
He just wishes, maybe one day, he might want to explore Cloud Recesses and spend his time with Lan Wangji again.
The monotony of it all is only broken when Lan Xichen comes out of seclusion.
Lan Wangji is proud to say he is relieved Lan Xichen is out of seclusion and feeling okay with the world again; he is ashamed to say he is relieved he does not have to deal with sect duties anymore.
Lan Xichen’s first act as returning Sect Leader is to pull Lan Wangji into the Hanshi for a meeting.
“I think,” his brother starts, sucking his tongue to the roof of his mouth, “It is time for you to get married.”
Lan Wangji is quiet for too long; shocked mostly, the rest filled with utter defiance even if this is an order from his beloved brother. His silence, though, is apparently enough to encourage Lan Xichen to continue as he pours tea for the both of them.
“I want to create an alliance with Yunmeng Jiang,” Lan Xichen smiles up at him, looking pointedly at the seat across from him, waiting for Lan Wangji to sit. He does, again shocked, “What better way than through a marriage?”
There is a brief and horrific moment where Lan Wangji genuinely believes his brother plans to marry him off to Jiang Cheng. He will not, he cannot even entertain this, he would defect before he allowed that to take place. But surely Lan Xichen would know this, would never marry him off to that grape of a man.
“I, I cannot,” he begins and then stops himself with the shake of his head, “Brother, have I not given enough?”
Lan Xichen just smiles at him, gentle and fond, and continues on like he hadn’t heard a word, “I’ve already written to them, we are to begin arranging the ceremony soon.”
Then with an edge of annoyance Lan Wangji so rarely sees on his brother he says, “Though there are considerable debates as to where the ceremony should take place.”
“Brother,” Lan Wangji says again, desperate.
“There is a letter which should answer all your concerns waiting for you in the Jingshi,” Lan Xichen explains, “It will address the terms, what is expected of you and the like. You’re free to go look at it whenever you please.”
Lan Wangji leaves without another word and makes his way to his home throat closed entirely and hands shaking. He doesn’t want this but if the talks have already begun there is no turning back. The only thing left for him to do is leave. But go where?
He’s lost in thought when he enters the Jingshi; he blames this on why he doesn’t immediately notice another presence in his home. But when he takes a breath and opens his eyes, there stands the man he’s been longing to see, smiling that little real smile he only keeps for special occasions, eyes already watering.
“I considered writing a letter,” Wei Wuxian says, keeping his eyes focused on Lan Wangji, “But I thought it would be more effective in person.”
There is a beat of silence, it lasts one heartbeat, two, three, four–and then they are both moving, meeting in the middle as they slam into each other. Lan Wangji’s arms go around Wei Wuxian’s waist in an instant, holding firm, tight, too tight, he tells himself to calm down but he can’t, Wei Wuxian is here. It seems the feeling has overcome Wei Wuxian as well, if the way his fingers alternate between bruising Lan Wangji’s shoulders and yanking his hair to pull him in even closer is anything to go by. Lan Wangji doesn’t complain.
“Did you talk to Xichen gege, Lan Zhan, did you agree, did you,” Wei Wuxian is crying into his neck, words coming out rapid fire, “Will you marry me, Lan Zhan? I was gone but I wasn’t because I left myself here with you, you’re the most important part of me, I love you, I love, I promise to love you forever, let me take care of you, Lan Zhan, let me hold you, I’ll tell you everyday, please say yes.”
“Wei Ying,” Lan Wangji cries, somehow dragging him in even closer, face darting over the other man’s, pressing his lips and nose against every patch of skin he can reach, “Wei Ying, yes.”
“Lan Zhan!” Wei Wuxian wails as if he’s just said something monumental, which he supposes he has, “Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan, I had a whole speech, it was so romantic, I promise. But then you came in and you looked upset and I missed you, I missed you so much, it was terrible without you and I didn’t know if you’d want me back, Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan, I’m so glad you said yes, I want to wake up with you everyday, I want to be yours, I want to be yours-”
“You are mine, Wei Ying,” Lan Zhan interrupts Wei Wuxian’s babbling, “And I am yours. I do not need romance as long as I have Wei Ying.”
“Lan Zhan!” he cries, pulling back to smile blearily at the man in front of him, “Be careful with your Wei Ying, his heart can’t take it!”
“I know this heart,” Lan Zhan says, worming a hand up between them to rest over Wei Wuxian’s chest, “I know you can handle it.”
“I can’t wait to see you in red,” Wei Wuxian whispers, when he’s finally calmed down, looking up at Lan Wangji with the brightest smile he’s ever seen.
“And I you, Wei Ying.”
Wei Wuxian is still in red where he sits across from Lan Wangji in their shared boat. To be fair, Lan Wangji himself is still adorned in wedding colors as well, having just snuck out of his own reception hosted lavishly, much to the chagrin of one Lan Xichen, in Lotus Pier.
Wei Wuxian is talking, babbling happy nonsense that Lan Wangji listens to with one ear. He can’t stop watching the other man, the delicate twists in his hair, the way he keeps scrunching his nose and laughing big, like he’s trying to give all his joy and hopes to Lan Wangji. They share them now, afterall.
“Lan Zhan, while we’re here you have to let me,” Wei Wuxian begins, already rolling up his sleeve and grinning mischievously, “I know you don’t like stealing, but really stealing from Jiang Cheng, it’s nothing. Besides, he insisted we have the wedding here, really it’s his fault if you think about it.”
Before Lan Wangji has the chance to reply, Wei Wuxian is already half launching over the side of the boat, arm digging out in search of the best lotus pods. He inspects them carefully, placing some on the floor of the boat, tossing others back out into the lake.
This surprises Lan Wangji not, Wei Wuxian loves lotus seeds and he’d fully expected his husband to indulge while they were here. He watches on fondly as Wei Wuxian curses and resolutely doesn't notice the growing mud-cased mess that is his wedding sleeve. Lan Wangji does not feel bad; the robes are beautiful, yes, but they are for Wei Wuxian and Wei Wuxian alone to enjoy himself in on the day he marries. Even if that means fishing around in muddy water in them.
Wei Wuxian continues to chatter, all the while making quick work of peeling seeds. When he has a neat and sizable pile, he looks up at Lan Wangji with a smile so big it dimples his cheeks and says, “Lan Zhan! Hold out your hand!”
“These are,” Lan Zhan begins, confused but holding out his hand all the same, allowing each of the seeds, carefully peeled and ready to be eaten to fall into the palm of his hand, “Not for Wei Ying?”
“Oh, I’ll peel some for me, don’t worry,” Wei Wuxian waves away, now crawling across the boat to seat himself in Lan Wangji’s lap. His head lolls on Lan Wangji’s shoulder and he smiles up at the man, leaning forward to kiss the underside of his jaw, “But I wanted my Lan Zhan to have some too. I promised you, didn’t I? All those years ago, I swore if you came to Lotus Pier with me I’d pick the best seeds just for you.”
“Wei Ying,” Lan Wangji says, suddenly feeling choked in a good way, a happy way.
Wei Wuxian just smiles at him and pats his jaw lightly, “Eat your seeds, Husband.”
Lan Wangji does, crunching down on a seed, leaning forward to press an upside down kiss to the corner of Wei Wuxian’s mouth, whispering, “My mother would have loved you.”
“Lan, Lan Zhan?” Wei Wuxian asks, eyes big and doey as he keeps watch.
“This was all she ever wanted for me,” Lan Wangji explains, “She told me once, she wanted me to find someone who loves me very much. Enough to peel my seeds for me.”
“That’s a noble wish,” Wei Wuxian sighs, smile soft and warm as he pulls Lan Wangji down to kiss him again, “I promise to peel your seeds everyday. I promise to love you that much and more.”
There is mist rising from the water around, climbing over their boat to cover them like a blanket. The moon shines bright overhead and maybe they should be cold, with only wedding robes and the night sky around them but Lan Wangji has never felt warmer. He could stay like this forever; with Wei Ying in his arms, beautiful in red, the moon watching over them and seeds that taste like love in his mouth.
He thinks maybe, wherever his mom is, she’s smiling down on them.
“You thought what?” Wei Wuxian laughs, rolling around in Lan Wangji’s lap so raucously the boat tips precariously with him.
“It did not, you had been gone so long,” Lan Wangji tries to explain himself, “I did not wish to presume you would ever...have me.”
“Oh, Lan Zhan,” Wei Wuxian says, still laughing only softer now. He reaches one hand up to cradle Lan Wangji’s face, eye shining when he says, “Wait till I tell Jiang Cheng you thought you were to be married.”
“Please do not.”
“Could you imagine?” Wei Wuxian asks, pressing his laughs into the pit of Lan Wangji’s stomach, “What a marriage that would be.”
“I’d rather not,” Lan Wangji replies, rolling Wei Wuxian over and climbing on top of him, “Can only imagine one marriage, will only marry Wei Ying, only want Wei Ying.”
“Lan Zhan,” Wei Wuxian asks, a grin on his face and voice low, fingers stroking gently down Lan Wangji’s jaw, “A marriage bed doesn’t have to strictly be a bed does it?”
Jiang Cheng is silenced by a scream that races over to him from the top of the lake. He looks over, sees the quiet waters, lit up by the rippling moon and sighs angrily.
"What?" Jin Ling asks him, looking up with big worried eyes, "What is it? What's out there?"
"They tipped the fucking boat," Jiang Cheng snorts surredly and picks his drink up once again, rolling his eyes and muttering to himself, "I bet they were trying to fuck in the fucking boat."
Lan Xichen nods serenely next to them, though his eyes are pained, "I have lived next to them in these last few months of wedding planning."
He looks Jiang Cheng dead in the eye and says in the flattest voice he can manage, "They were definitely trying to fuck in the boat.