When Lan Wangji wakes, it is from a nightmare.
This is not unusual for him, but still highly unpleasant.
He cannot recall the contents, now that he’s awake, as he rarely can. He only knows that Wei Ying had been there; there had been lots of blood; the stitched-up puncture of his grief wound had been howling like a ghost. Usually, those are the three constants of his nightmares, whether he happens to recollect them or not.
For a long moment, Lan Wangji stares up at the jingshi ceiling, his heart thundering around the acidic, sludgy feeling in his chest. After a moment, he holds up his wrist in the low dawn light, where the red and black threads wrap around his wrist, twins to each other.
Like his scars, he reflects, the black thread is a permanent physical reminder of the loss that preceded this current life of his. While he would, in a heartbeat, take back the years Wei Ying had been gone from the world, he does not regret either of these markings of that period of loss.
His xiongzhang, now in seclusion, also carries the black thread as he mourns Jin Guangyao. Perhaps this grief, the weight of this love, is the Lan curse, passed on from father to sons.
Fortunately, Lan Wangji thinks, as he turns to press a sleepy kiss to the top of Wei Ying’s head, his had not lasted.
It still sometimes feels like a false reality, one precarious breath away from shattering: waking up to Wei Ying tangled up in his arms, or splayed out across his chest and lightly snoring. Right now, Wei Ying is sprawled out naked on top of the covers, the top half of his body a crescent curve toward Lan Wangji. His mouth is slightly ajar, his face slack, lost in a fierce and deep sleep. It is one of Lan Wangji’s favorite assurances, to see Wei Ying resting with such intensity.
Wei Ying’s sexual preferences tend to veer rougher, as do Lan Wangji’s, and tonight’s everyday had been no exception, perhaps lending to Wei Ying’s deep sleep state. Dark marks from Lan Wangji’s teeth are a scattered purple mottling across Wei Ying’s skin in the low gray light. For a moment, Lan Wangji lies there with a hand to Wei Ying’s hair, observing the perfect slim curve of his waist, the endearing dip of his navel, the soft, dark curve of his cock against his thigh. This new body is slightly different than the one he had initially loved, but as equally beautiful as the previous, simply for the fact that it’s a home to Wei Ying.
Lan Wangji leans down to kiss Wei Ying’s collarbone, and Wei Ying makes a snuffling sound as his lips smack a few times, and then he rolls over to burrow closer into Lan Wangji.
Lan Wangji extricates himself with much difficulty, too restless to lie still anymore. His scars twinge, the tight skin pulling as he shrugs on an outer robe — they sometimes do first thing in the morning, stiff after the hours of lying still. Some days, he feels them hardly at all, and some days, they are agonizing — swollen or itchy or tingling, or all at once. Wei Ying never hesitates to offer a massage on the worst of these days, to knead healing ointment or soothing oils into his ridged skin with a gentle and careful attention.
The first time Wei Ying had fucked him — properly fucked him on his cock, not just with his deft fingers and defter mouth — he had kissed along the ruined expanse of Lan Wangji’s back, devoting careful attention to each ugly lash. Thirty-three brushstrokes of his mouth while Lan Wangji had rested his forehead on his forearms and shook apart and choked down tears. He couldn’t feel some of the touches, the nerve damage too complete. Lan Wangji had never thought this part of him could be submitted to any form of loving touch; it was almost beyond his imagining. When Wei Ying slid inside him after, he had never felt...more full. More loved, more fiercely joyful to be alive.
“I thought you would hate them,” Lan Wangji had murmured to Wei Ying, in the flushed and breathless after. He doesn’t simply mean their appearance, but their meaning.
“Ah, you know me, Lan Zhan,” Wei Ying had said, a hand floating up to brush hair off of Lan Wangji’s forehead. “I think scars are hot.”
Then, to Lan Wangji’s wry huff of laughter, more seriously, with a thumb fitted to the corner of Lan Wangji’s mouth: “I’m in love with every part of you.”
An autumn chill has settled across the jingshi like a cold dew. Lan Wangji moves another log on the fire, then crosses back to the bed to wrap Wei Ying in blankets more securely. Wei Ying snuffs, shifts a little, but otherwise doesn’t stir, his mouth still fallen open.
Lan Wangji slips out to the front porch, leaving the jingshi’s sliding door open a crack behind him. There, he silently inhales, watches his breath leave him in a thin cloud. He lets the cold settle into the deepest places of his lungs as the world slowly rustles awake around him.
The flowers he and Wei Ying had gardened over the summer have started to die from the early frosts, but the lotus pond that they have painstakingly cultivated is in proper season. Soon, there will be seeds to harvest, to shell and to feed each other with their hands. Soon, the mountain winter will slither in from the north and freeze the pond solid, and then the spring rains will thaw it, and then summer will return again, where Wei Ying will roll up his trousers and stick his feet into the cool muddy water and beam at Lan Wangji on the porch with a sunlit and carefree joy. It is all ahead of them.
Suddenly there’s a press of warmth against his back, two arms slipping around his waist to hug his front. Wei Ying hooks his chin onto Lan Wangji’s shoulder, sighing sleepily into his neck.
Lan Wangji closes his eyes and murmurs, “It is early,” even as his own arms drift up to hug Wei Ying’s closer.
“Not tired,” Wei Ying says around an obvious yawn, the pop of his jawbone against Lan Wangji’s shoulder. “Wanna spend the morning with you.”
Lan Wangji rubs his thumbs in circles on Wei Ying’s hands. “You should sleep, love.”
“I’m all good, I promise,” Wei Ying says stubbornly, and kisses the side of Lan Wangji’s neck. “What good is a bed without Lan Zhan in it, anyway?”
For a long time, they remain silent in this position, swaying lightly in place as ashen light breaks apart into color over the mountain. It’s possible Wei Ying has fallen asleep standing up, but his body warmth is a welcome shield against the dawn chill.
“Lan Zhan,” Wei Ying murmurs into his skin. Ah, so he is awake. “You know how much I love you, right?”
A thick emotion gathers in Lan Wangji’s throat. Wei Ying has said it countless times by now, since that first time in Guanyin Temple — he has shown it in countless ways, in countless contexts, spoken and unspoken, but each time seems to flatten him anew.
“Mn,” Lan Wangji says, suddenly afraid to say more.
“Okay, well, it bears repeating,” Wei Ying says. “So: I love you, I love you, I love you.”
Lan Wangji brings Wei Ying’s knuckles up to his mouth to brush his lips against them before he turns and buries his cold nose into Wei Ying’s neck. Since they married three years ago, they are often open with physical affection like this, but Lan Wangji is not usually so demonstratively...demanding about it. Wei Ying takes the cue as though nothing is unusual, bundling him up tight in his arms and breathing out a contented little sigh.
Again, they remain like this for some time, until the rising sun grows warm against Lan Wangji’s back, the taut skin around his scars untensing. Wei Ying breathes into his hair with his eyes closed, then after another long moment, kisses Lan Wangji’s temple.
“I’m going to fight whatever is in your dreams,” he says, so serious and threatening about it that it almost startles a puff of laughter from Lan Wangji. “I mean it. I can find a way.”
“Will not be necessary,” Lan Wangji says, and then, for the sole purpose of flustering his husband, finishes, “Wei Ying is in my dreams.”
“Sweet talker,” Wei Ying grumbles even as he pinks and hugs Lan Wangji tighter. “And anyway, you say that as if I wouldn’t fight myself.”
“Mm,” Lan Wangji says.
“Although two Wei Yings fighting each other probably would be a certain dream of Hanguang-jun’s, eh?” Wei Ying teases, apparently awake enough to flirt.
Lan Wangji lightly thumps Wei Ying’s back but doesn’t deny it, warming into the sound of Wei Ying’s delighted laughter against his ear. To think he had ever gone without it, and for so long, is unfathomable; it feels like a life that happened to someone else.
But this is his life, now. His and Wei Ying’s — as it was always meant to be, since the day the red thread first appeared on their wrists.
He thinks they deserve it, after everything.
“Okay, sweetheart,” Wei Ying says with a sleepy sound, and pulls Lan Wangji back toward the jingshi with a tug of their thread. It catches the dawn light as fervidly as a lit coal. “Let’s get ready for the day, yeah?”
Softly, Lan Wangji says, “Okay,” and he tugs back. After another moment, he follows Wei Ying inside.