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The morning was already well on its way when Wei Wuxian woke, sunlight dappling the floor of the Jingshi. He stretched languidly under the blankets, still feeling pleasantly sore from last night's early birthday present from his husband, listening to the bird songs outside the window. He rolled onto his side and spotted the tray of breakfast, steaming a little in the chill air and grinned. If the bite in his nose was any indication, Lan Wangji had seasoned his congee appropriately this morning. The only downside was that his husband couldn't be there to serve him breakfast in bed.

Still, it was nice to be able to lounge about in the warm bed until his hunger forced his hand. Lan Qiren had informed him that Lan Zhifu would be teaching his classes today for practice, which was closer to a birthday present than he had expected from his uncle-in-law, and it meant the whole day stretched out ahead of him, free and open.

The rice congee, bright red with spice, didn't warm him nearly as much as the note Lan Wangji had left beside the bowl, informing him that he loved him, and that Lan Sizhui would be arriving with supper that evening, and that there were letters and packages for him on the desk, and that he loved him. He shook his head a little over the note – Lans! Hopeless romantics, every one of them, no matter how much they tried to hide it – and tucked it into the book by his side of the bed for safekeeping.

The letters and packages were mostly what he expected: birthday greetings and gifts from his brother and nephew. There was a letter there from Wen Ning too, who was travelling on his own for a while after returning Sizhui safe to the Cloud Recesses. Under those was the grading he'd been putting off for his novices, which he hastily pushed aside. Tomorrow would be for real work, and besides, he'd already taken this long to return them. One more day wouldn't hurt.

The afternoon sun was warm as he wandered the paths, accepting greetings from the various disciples as they passed him. Several of his novices spotted him and rushed forward at a run (at least, until a nearby Senior cleared his throat meaningfully, causing several shame-faced bows of apology and a more sedate pace) to swarm him and excitedly chatter about their morning and the fascinating lesson that Lan Zhifu had taught them and now they were going to practice meditation and would he come with them for that?

Wei Wuxian laughed. "Oh, you certainly don't want this Senior's help with meditation, I'll be the worst distraction for all of you. Even the very best, most experienced, most senior Lans lose focus when I'm being a bother at them! Baby Lans don't stand a chance."

A few of the children gave token protests at being called babies, but one fixed him with a surprisingly serious stare, for a six-year-old. "I bet Hanguang-Jun doesn't get distracted by you. Lying is forbidden, Senior Wei."

He had to hastily choke down his snort of laughter. "I suppose you're right, but either way, none of you are at Hanguang-Jun's level yet. And you won't get there with a troublesome senior in the way." He swept them a bow just to hear the laughter, then shooed them in the direction of their next classroom with a bright smile.

The library was calm and still, perfect for quiet research on refining his latest talisman idea, one that would spin a web around any ghost that came too near. It was nice to work without urgency, to absorb the soft susurrus of paper and brush and soft voices, to hop between books and scrolls and his own work and sometimes take a break to walk around and see what the other patrons were up to. Sometimes he offered advice to juniors working on essays for their teachers, or just listened to a verbal report, or let an excited novice explain the sword forms she had just learned. It still surprised him sometimes, the simple joy he got from teaching younger disciples.

Eventually, though, the library emptied out as the dinner hour drew closer, and Wei Wuxian put away most of the things he'd spread over his little table, keeping a scroll for later perusal. He had his own supper to get to, after all, and if he knew his A-Yuan, it was going to be delicious. He wasn't sure when Sizhui had learned to be such a capable cook, but he certainly wasn't going to turn away a chance for excellent food instead of bland soup and greens.

The sunset lit the sky on fire, reds and oranges and purples painted across the horizon and dotted with golden clouds. The Jingshi was lit from within, sounds of soft chatter – he could pick out his husband's and son's voices, and the loud laugh that rang out had to mean that Lan Jingyi had been invited, too – spilling from the open door. Wei Wuxian breathed deep, smelling the braised pork and roasted carrot scent wafting from the Jingshi's kitchen, and felt the warmth blossom in his chest. His son, his husband, his home... all the things he'd dreamed of in his first life and never once thought he could really have.

He walked the last few feet up the path and into the home he shared with the ones he loved the most.