Wei Wuxian wakes with his first heat one sticky summer night - Hot and damp and prickly in strange places - and for a terrible moment thinks he might be dying, or at least cursed. Then he runs all the way to Shijie's room, because even at fifteen there has never been any mishap in the world that his shijie's warm smile has not been able to solve.
Shijie takes one whiff of the heavy, spiced tangerine scent that hangs around him and breaks into a smile, envelops him in a hug that smells of her own plum blossom scent, "Nothing is wrong with you, I promise."
"This just means that A-Xian is like me," Shijie tells him later on, once he's settled back into his room and she's returned with a basket of food and tea to settle his stomach, as she teaches him how to care for himself and how to pile his beddings and clothes in a way that feels safe and right around him, "This means, if he wants, A-Xian can one day grow a little one inside him too."
Wei Wuxian's eyes widens, and his hand flutters down, almost unconsciously, to alight on his belly. Shijie laughs, warm and kind amidst the curling steam of kugua and chrysanthemums she's poured.
Wei Wuxian falls back asleep in a nest of warmth and familiarity and home, and dreams of a seed buried in soil, waiting to grow.
Food is hard to come by, in the Burial Mounds.
The earth is hard and unyielding, and the crops they manage to grow are sold for rice and what day-old vegetables they could get for cheap. The congees Granny makes are watered down, the pickled vegetables cut thin, and whenever they have enough coins for more or on days Third Uncle manages to catch some fishes, Wei Wuxian makes sure most of his portion goes to A-Yuan's bowl. Wei Wuxian had been hungry as a child, and even if there's nothing else he could do with the hollowed-out shell of his body, he wants to make sure that A-Yuan won't have to remember hunger the way he does.
His heats had slowed down during the Sunshot Campaign, which he thinks was something of a blessing, given how dangerous it would be to be so vulnerable amidst a literal battlefield. But upon settling down in the Burial Mounds, he realizes that two seasons had passed without even a hint of the familiar warmth on his belly. Three seasons pass, and in the cold of the cave he now calls home, Wei Wuxian thinks that perhaps, he would never be warm ever again and he thinks, he thinks it might be fine. He walks the single plank bridge, after all. It's not a path one would want to bring anyone else into, even as a distant possibility.
He tries not to remember the scent of sandalwood and pines, tries not to remember how well A-Yuan had fit on Lan Zhan's lap, the day their paths crossed in Yiling. Tries not to remember the sight of his zhiji's retreating figure as he walks back to the broad avenue that's closed to Wei Wuxian forever.
"It's probably for the best, huh?" Wei Wuxian says as he shrugs his robes back on, after Wen Qing's confirmed what he's known all along, "I mean, it's not like I have anyone to make babies with, and we definitely can't afford another mouth around here!"
Wei Wuxian had meant his words to be light, but his voice cracks at the edges, and Wen Qing's gaze has an unreadable sadness to it that he's never seen before.
Later, Wen Ning tells him that his sister has always delighted in delivering life. That amidst the bleakness and fear of serving in Wen Ruohan's court, the birth of every Wen child had been a sliver of hope, a possibility for a better future.
"Jie had hoped that perhaps-" Wen Ning says, then stops, the stiff planes of his face twitching in whatever emotion he could no longer deliver. But Wei Wuxian understands. Understands having that hope, that possibility for something to grow after all the death and losses that have been their lives. Has always cherished that possibility, ever since that night that Shijie had told him - If he wants, A-Xian could grow a little one inside him too.
And oh, he had wanted. Wants still. He thinks of Wen Qing's face back then, the sadness there and he thinks she might have wanted too. Perhaps it's why Wen Qing never berates him much, as he covers A-Yuan in dirt and promises him siblings that would sprout like so many little radishes.
It's nice to think of making life, in a place meant only for death.
In the end, his field of radishes burns down, the earth salted with the ashes of the Wens and his own blood, and then nothing matters anymore.
The first thing Wei Wuxian notices about his new body is how hunger settles, familiar and hollow, in the deepest part of his stomach - More than the dull ache of old bruises and poorly healed bones, more than the blood still caked under his fingernails and the powdered rouge cracking on his cheeks.
There is a bowl of millet porridge next to his cot, dried out and probably a day old. Wei Wuxian eats it to the last grain, and sets out to see the world once again.
He dwells inside his new body for a moon, then two, traipsing around to solve a mystery thirteen years in the making, Lan Zhan's sandalwood scent so close Wei Wuxian thinks he carries it on his own skin. And then a full season of wandering comes and goes before he realizes that Mo Xuanyu's body too, have stopped its cycle as his old body had. That the cold on the pit of his stomach and his lack of scent had not been the lingering mark of resentful energy or a soul settling down in a new vessel.
He supposes it's to be expected. Mo Xuanyu had probably spent months, years, in that little shed. Surviving on scraps while bruises bloomed and faded on his skin like the phases of the moon. Again, Wei Wuxian thinks it a kindness, that this body too had salted its own soil, lest it brought life into a world so inhospitable towards its owner.
Grief blooms inside him nevertheless, ash-dry and bitter, and it threatens to spill over as Lan Zhan embraces him home at the end of his journey. And Lan Zhan, who had always been so good, who reads him like a beloved, well-thumbed book, buries his head in the crook of Wei Wuxian's neck, where there is no scent but sweat and cinnabar and the dust of the roads.
"Wei Ying is Wei Ying," Lan Zhan says, as if explains anything, everything. But one look at Lan Zhan's eyes tells him that perhaps, perhaps it does.
He falls into the warm sandalwood and pine of Lan Zhan's embrace, and thinks that even if he were never to be warm again, his beloved is warm enough for the both of them.
Food is plenty, in the Cloud Recesses.
It's nowhere near luxury nor excess, but the rice is fine-grained and the vegetables fresh, everything made with the diligence and care that those of the Gusu Lan implements in all things. Wei Wuxian doesn't admit it out loud, but there is comfort in the simple warmth of plain congee, the rice mushy and sweet and the faint fragrance of silver fishes and chun cai gentle on the otherwise clear broth that comes with his breakfasts.
The dirt is rich here too, dark and moist with veins of spring water lacing its depths. Wei Wuxian claims a small patch of soil along the trail to the Jingshi, and marvels at how quickly, how readily things grow between his fingers.
But love, love is the most plentiful thing - Here in a place Wei Wuxian had always thought to be cold and unfeeling in his youth. Lan Zhan drapes him with care and affection like the six layers of silks Wei Wuxian's still trying to get used to. A-Yuan no longer clings to his leg, but he alights on his side often with an ever-present smile, part Lan Zhan's gentle calm and part his own curiosity, Jingyi's boisterous presence attached on Wei Wuxian's other shoulder. Juniors and the youngest of the Sect swirl around his shoulders and feet, round-cheeked and bright-eyed and eager for attention. Even some of the Elders are amenable towards him, poring over talisman treatises and tea in quiet afternoons that grow steadily in their warmth.
Wei Wuxian has spent most of his life on uneven ground, on dust and bones and ashes. It feels strange, for the ground beneath his feet to be so settled and firm. But he supposes, as with everything in this second life given to him, he could try to learn.
He supposes, an abundance of good things is not a bad thing to learn.
Food is plenty in the cloud Recesses, and sometimes Wei Wuxian feels that the people around him try their damnedest to make sure he knows this.
Do not eat more than three bowls, the rules say. But Wei Wuxian notices the slightly taller heap of rice on his bowl at every meal, the extra pieces of tofu, the small dish of suan cai slipped between the other bowls that's a spot of bright, sharp flavour in the whole spread.
He notices how Auntie Niu always waves him her way whenever he passes the kitchens that is her domain, pushing steamed buns and rice cakes into his hands as if he's one of the ever-hungry juniors under his care, their stomachs a seemingly endless pit from all the growing and cultivating they do on top of being good little Lans.
He notices how the juniors fuss around him as they break for meals during night hunts, only settling down when he's visibly chewing something, how Head Healer Lan tuts and frowns at him whenever he comes into the infirmary and eventually has to strip down his robes, how she raps at his allegedly too-visible ribs.
"Are you all like, trying to fatten me up?" Wei Wuxian complains after Lan Huiqing had yet again been on his case, the healer pinching the admittedly still nonexistent flesh on his waist. Even now, Lan Zhan has produced a handful of tangerines from somewhere inside his sleeve, arranging them primly on a handkerchief as he starts to peel one.
"It's like that old folktale, isn't it? A kid gets fed all kind of delicious meals by this friendly old auntie in the forest and then gets eaten in the end? Aiyo, Lan Zhan, am I to end up as the centre piece of some secret Lan banquet?"
"Slaughter is forbidden in the Cloud Recesses," Lan Zhan says drily to Wei Wuxian's delight, and graciously gives Wei Wuxian time to finish laughing before he speaks again, fingers running down the knobs of his spine, "They merely worry that Wei Ying is too thin."
There is a jibe, ready on the tip of his tongue, that surely it's an unfair, outdated expectation - That someone like him has to have the soft, cushioned curves fit for bearing children. And then deeper still, unspoken but there - It's not like his body could bear anything anyway.
But Lan Zhan's fingers are gentle on his back, and their warmth burns through his robes like a fond rebuke - reminds him that he could be gentle with himself too.
"I suppose it would make me nicer to hold, won't it Lan er-gege?" He says instead, wiggling himself closer to his husband, "If I have more meat on my bones, hmm?"
"Wei Ying is always nice to hold," Lan Zhan admits quietly, ignoring the small, sputtering sound Wei Wuxian makes at the unabashed honesty in his eyes, "But he should also eat well."
Lan Zhan breaks off a segment of tangerine from his palm, perfectly peeled and pithed, and holds it out gently to Wei Wuxian. Like this, there is contentment in his every gesture, and he is reminded again of how Lan Zhan had looked cradling the rabbits Wei Wuxian had given him, holding little A-Yuan on his hips in Yiling. Like there's something slotting into place, like it was right. Perhaps, Lan Zhan has always needed to hold him as much as Wei Wuxian needed to be held.
"I always eat well, with Lan Zhan around."
He eats the tangerine from Lan Zhan's fingers, and watches his husband's smile bloom like sunrise.
Wei Wuxian travels West on Lan Zhan's behalf, the Chief Cultivator's sigil on his belt and Lan Huiqing's strict warning to at least try having three meals a day still ringing on his ears.
He checks up on some of the small sects that's been flourishing under Lan Zhan's care, then takes the assorted disciples to divest of a bandit ring in Wuhu that's somehow linked to a whole trail of yaoguai infestations. On the way back, he makes a detour to help with a violent haunting somewhere near Xishui, and is served the best reganmian he's ever eaten for all the trouble - Piled high with peanut sauce and chopped chilies and fresh xiangcai. When he rides home, it's with thoughts of his husband's warm embrace and a pouch of xiangcai and chili seeds tucked into his robes.
The pouch of seeds lies on Wei Wuxian's side of the writing desk for a week before Lan Zhan quietly brings it up and Wei Wuxian takes it to the growing patch of dirt that the juniors have taken to calling Senior Wei's garden. He leaves the chili seeds buried in several old dishes filled with soil, snug and warm inside the Jingshi until they sprout and are ready to be planted proper. The xiangcai seeds he sows carefully over freshly-raked soil, taking care to space them properly and not crowd them.
For the first weeks, the two plants do terribly. Nearly half of the chili seeds grow damp and rotten before Wei Wuxian thinks to stick warming talismans on the dishes, and some of the xiangcai sprouts too early, growing flowers that Wei Wuxian knows too late to remove.
Wei Wuxian finds himself fretting over his xiangcais, squatting pensively as he roots out flowers and brushes his fingers over the sad, shivering sprouts - A plant that craves the warm sun, growing in cold mountain soil. It is very good soil, Wei Wuxian knows. Rich and dark and forgiving. Not a trace of rocks nor bones nor resentful energy in sight. And yet.
He must be fretting pretty hard, as the moment he looks up Lan Zhan is already kneeling across him on the ground - Long, elegant fingers emulating his own to uproot flowers and weeds, a small pile of them stacked neatly in a very Lan manner. Wei Wuxian finds a small chuckle in that.
"Ah, Lan Zhan, I might have to sow another batch and see what happens," he sighs, "I don't know if talismans will stick to the soil so maybe a warming array? Or I don't know, it might just be too high up to grow something like this."
It's Lan Zhan's turn to look up, golden eyes gentle and searching before it settles on Wei Wuxian's wavering ones and understands, because Lan Zhan is good like that, surely too good for him.
"Wei Ying is very good at growing things," Lan Zhan says and takes his hands, uncaring of the dirt. Wei Wuxian knows enough now to let him, knows enough that it is something Lan Zhan wants, almost needs, to stain his hands with Wei Wuxian like this.
"Wei Ying grew things even when it's hard. So he can also learn to grow things when it's easier."
Wei Wuxian looks at the expanse of fledgling sprouts between them, looks at their joined hands, stained with dirt, and wonders, wonders if it is truly that easy.
Wei Wuxian wakes with heat between his legs and a warmth in his belly that he hasn't felt for a long, long time. The Jingshi is blanketed in darkness still, early even before Lan Zhan would rise with the sun, and he shifts on his place atop Lan Zhan's chest - Feeling every brush of fabric and skin against skin like a deep, thrumming thing that unfurls the warmth a little more.
"Wei Ying?" Lan Zhan's voice, when he wakes, is soft and sleep-worn, arm shifting around Wei Wuxian before he stills and draws a sharp breath. Even in the darkness, Wei Wuxian could feel the flicker of Lan Zhan's golden eyes, feel them latch unerringly on his own wide, wild gaze.
Fingers scrabble along his body before they find purchase on his waist, devoid of Lan Zhan's usual grace. Wei Wuxian finds himself flipped gently unto his back, fingers replaced by the equally familiar contours of Lan Zhan's lips and the line of his nose as his husband chases the line of his thrumming pulse, breathes in the secret corners beneath his jaw, on his wrists, between the dip of his collarbones. The scent of lotus flowers and spices blooms in the close space between them, bright and new yet startlingly familiar all at once.
And then Lan Zhan stops. Raises himself on his forearms, as if conscious not to touch him and Wei Wuxian can't possibly have that. Not now. He whines, high and needy, and surges up to nip beneath Lan Zhan's jaw, where his pulse and his musk is the strongest. Lan Zhan's breath hitches, his own pine-sandalwood scent spiking before he plants a quelling hand against Wei Wuxian's chest.
"Wei Ying," the reprimand is much lessened by the way Lan Zhan's body bows towards him, like a bough of willow towards the surface of a lake. But then unfairly, impossibly, he untangles his limbs from Wei Wuxian's greedy ones, drawing himself gracefully to his feet. Wei Wuxian whines again.
"I'll have to inform someone that we'll be indisposed for the next few days," Lan Zhan soothes, fingers brushing over Wei Wuxian's sweat-damp hair, "It will be just a moment, I promise."
Lan Zhan is true to his words, barely taking three incense sticks worth of time before he comes back, because he is Hanguang-Jun, the venerated Xiandu. But perhaps, Wei Wuxian thinks, also because Lan Zhan's hands are as fevered as his own as they map each other's bodies anew the moment the Jingshi's door closes behind him, his golden eyes as hungry as the flames licking its way from Wei Wuxian's belly to the rest of his being.
Wei Ying is Wei Ying, Lan Zhan had said, atop that mountain ridge where they had finally held each other the way they wanted, and Wei Ying had been fine with it - Had accepted that Lan Zhan would always want to have him. But Wei Wuxian has dreamed of this in stolen fits and snatches, has wanted this for so long and now, now that he is warm and open like he never thought he'd ever again be, he is thankful that Lan Zhan gets to have him this way too, the way Wei Wuxian had always wanted him to.
The frantic pull of his heat eventually simmers down for a while, and by then the sky has cycled back into darkness and Wei Wuxian's body is loose and heavy, cocooned in a nest of sheets and robes and their mingled scents. Lan Zhan disentangles himself in his lull, and comes back with a basin of water and a tray of food and tea that he props at the edge of the bed.
Wei Wuxian lets Lan Zhan clean him, hands careful and the water just the right warmth, watches steam from the tea curl slowly towards the familiar ceiling of the Jingshi. Like this, he remembers Shijie, remembers her gentle smile and the pot of tea she placed near his door whenever his heat came, the sheer feeling of safety and warmth that she gave him.
Lan Zhan coaxes him into sitting, props him up on a veritable mountain of pillows before he offers him the tea, pale gold on blue Gusu porcelain. It's just the right warmth, as it is with everything Lan Zhan ever gives him, and much more bitter than Shijie's tea - the kugua switched with mugworts - but the feeling that settles in Wei Wuxian's stomach is the same. Like this, Wei Wuxian feels warm and embraced and safe. Like a seed finally planted, after being blown around by the wind for so long.
"Wei Ying is thinking of something," Lan Zhan notes, noncommittal as he offers a date to Wei Wuxian's lips. The tray between them bears bowls of light fares, easy to pick up with one's fingers - Dried peaches and lotus seeds, walnuts and berries and glutinous rice rolled into balls, sticky with sugar and sesame seeds that linger on the lips.
"I-" Wei Wuxian bites and swallows, the sweetness heavy on his tongue, much like his next words, "If this is not a one-time thing, if my cycle returns to me. Would you, would you want to-"
He stutters, stops, feeling heat of another kind flush his face. And it's laughable, really, after everything they've done ever since that day on that mountain ridge, after everything they've done for the whole of today, to still be bashful about it. But Wei Wuxian has wanted this for so long, the want a soft, fragile thing too tender to the touch.
"Anything Wei Ying wants," Lan Zhan says, quick to meet the unfinished end of Wei Wuxian's question, "I would want too, together."
The magnitude of Lan Zhan's assent would have staggered him once, overwhelmed him with its unwavering readiness. It still does, he thinks. But now, now that he is safe, now that he's planted, it's easier to accept.
When they fall back into the sheets, Lan Zhan's hand cradles his stomach, fingers gentle yet firm like a reminder. Like a promise.
Lan Huiqing tsks at the still very visible marks all across Wei Wuxian's skin, imprints of his husband's fingers built up over three days of relentless touching. But there is also a soft, indulgent thing in her eyes as she runs her fingers along Wei Wuxian's meridians.
"I hope you'll allow me to observe this further as you go on. There had been cases of bodies regaining their cycles after some period of time, but none of them were well-documented enough to ever reach a conclusive reason," she taps both his wrists before she nods, drawing back from the examination cot, "Some assume that it depends on outside factors - Such as sleeping patterns and dietary habits, but some assume that it's also internal, that the body retracts itself from a regular cycle to recover during inhospitable conditions."
"Like fields," Wei Wuxian murmurs, tying back his sash to brush at his own stomach, "When you leave them fallow for a season?"
Amusement flickers at the edge of the healer's lips, "Quite so. In any case, your body seem to be running on a regular cycle, and as such, certain precautions might have to be taken," she places a pouch on the table between them, the bitter, herbal scent familiar from the ones he took in his youth.
"Only if you need it," she says gently, and Wei Wuxian thinks of seeds, buried in soil. Of Lan Zhan's hands, and little A-Yuan's laughter. He shakes his head.
"Um. We were thinking, actually. We're not in a rush or anything but -" Wei Wuxian ducks his head, and for a moment he wants to laugh, if only Lan Zhan could see him now - would he still call him so shameless? "But now that we can, Lan Zhan and I would like to try."
Lan Huiqing's smile when he raises his head again is quiet and kind, crinkles at the edges like Zewu Jun's does, and Wei Wuxian thinks it's such a strange, delightful privilege, to see a Lan smile this way - Like a gentle, hidden sunrise. And Wei Wuxian thinks that it would be so good if with time, perhaps he'll see other Lans around him smile this way too.
The food on his tray slowly changes. Walnuts and dates sprinkled over his morning congee and slices of ginger on his broth. Fresh greens replaced by darker leaves and earthy mushrooms. Eggs and fishes with skin glistening with fat, sweet potatoes and dumplings stuffed with garlic and mutton that Jingyi sometimes steals off his lunch.
Lan Zhan plies him with warmth, wraps him in layers of dark blues that echoes the pale azure of his own robes - draping the claim he's laid on his skin with claims of another kind despite their scents now practically being one and the same.
Some of the changes are infuriating, if still delightful and bewildering for his poor, confused self - Scrabbling to catch up with so much love, so much good things peppering his days. If the people around him were adamant about his meal schedules before, then now they take upon it with a Gusu Lan brand of single-mindedness that is frankly rather terrifying. Wei Wuxian is ambushed on peaceful walkways and Night Hunts alike with food that appears mysteriously from everyone's sleeves, and feels absolutely betrayed when Lan Zhan, his own husband, switches his Emperor's Smile with osmanthus tea.
They go to Lanling for a Night Hunt, and amidst the bustling marketplace Wei Wuxian picks up a xigualao, bright and glistening on the small leaf container on his palm. He pokes at the jiggly surface with delight, can already taste sweet watermelon on his tongue, the tartness of the cherries atop it, swimming in cloying syrup.
Instead, Wei Wuxian yelps when Sizhui materializes beside him and plucks the xigualao neatly from his hand, passing it easily to Jin Ling who plops the whole thing into his mouth like a heathen. Wei Wuxian stares. His Shijie's own son.
"Head Healer said more warming foods, Xian-gege," Sizhui smiles at him apologetically, even as his eyes scan the stalls around them, finally landing on a row of piping hot shaobing that he quickly purchases. There's a cute little frown on Sizhui's brows - Barely perceptible to the untrained eye - much like the one Lan Zhan has when he tries to remember something.
"Yes," he says, seemingly more to himself rather than to Wei Wuxian as he hands over the warm cake, "Sesame is especially good, I think."
Wei Wuxian has to laugh at that, reaching over to ruffle Sizhui's hair even as the boy flushes lightly, "Look at my little radish, hmm? Big enough to feed his poor old mother now!"
The boy's flush deepens, but he leans into his hands nevertheless, a smile blooming on his lips - His Sizhui, his son - and it warms Wei Wuxian more than any meal ever could.
He brings back honey from Guilin, and one too many pears that the villagers there plied upon his arms after Wei Wuxian rids the nearby woods of a haunting. In the kitchens, Auntie Niu inspects his offerings with an approving nod and sends him away with a parcel of pear syrup candies a few days later, waggling her fingers at him with a warning not to spoil his appetite by having too much of them.
Wei Wuxian does her one better, and sneaks the sweets into his introduction to talismans class, pressing the wrapped candies into the palms of each his students after two gruelling sichen of learning to activate and direct talismans. The juniors titter and cheer, in that subdued way the Lans do where it seems they're vibrating a bit with carefully contained glee.
Little Yangyang immediately crams the sizeable piece of confection in his mouth before his eyes widen and he looks at Wei Wuxian, voice small around the candy puffing his cheeks, "Wei Laoshi, is this okay?"
Wei Wuxian wants to laugh, but several of the other children are now also looking at him, eyes wide and uncertain, some halfway in the process of unwrapping their sweets.
"Of course it's okay, A-Yang, you all worked so hard and did well today! So you'll let your Laoshi be easy on you and treat you to some sweets, won't you?"
"Be strict on yourself," Yangyang murmurs, his tone taking on the cadence of memorized things, and Wei Wuxian smiles down at him, nodding in encouragement.
"But be easy on others!" Lan Yizhou finishes for him, around her own mouthful of candy with a grin that would make Lan Jingyi proud. "Thank you for being easy on us, Wei Laoshi! We'll be easy on you the next time you wake up late for class!"
Wei Wuxian can't not laugh at that, and he reaches out to ruffle Lan Yizhou's already-collapsing hair bun as others too bow their goodbyes to him, filing out neatly from the small clearing to their next class. He stretches his arms and back with a satisfying crack, and turns around to tidy up his talisman papers only to find them already stacked neatly on Lan Zhan lap, his husband watching him serenely from his seat beneath the shade of the tree they've been using for target practice.
"Aiyo, Lan Zhan, how long have you been there? Alas, the nefarious deeds of the Yiling Patriarch has been found out-" he throws an arm dramatically atop his forehead, and swoons in the direction of his husband, who catches him all too readily, settling Wei Wuxian on the ground next to him, "Doling out sweets to corrupt the youth! Whatever will your Uncle and the Elders say!"
Lan Zhan lets out a gentle huff of laughter, a sound he is most fond of in the whole of the world. Wei Wuxian all but falls atop his husband's lap, nosing his way on the familiar crook of Lan Zhan's shoulder before pulling out the last of the parcels from his sleeves, unwrapping the oiled paper that crinkles beneath his fingers.
Lan Zhan's lips part easily around the candy, and he bites off exactly half of the brittle confection before he takes the remaining half and feeds it between Wei Wuxian's own lips. It's fragrant and sweet, made sweeter still with the knowledge that the people who harvested them are safe and thriving in their homes. That they helped make it happen and pears would continue to flourish and grow, in that safety and warmth they fought for.
"I believe it's not so nefarious," Lan Zhan says after some time, after the candies have dissolved in their tongues and only the stickiness remains, pear and honey and the faint hint of flowers.
"Mother used to give us sweets, every time we visited," he says quietly, like he does whenever he talks about people long gone, then inclines his head a fraction, as if to present Wei Wuxian with the intricate headpiece of the Chief Cultivator - glinting even now in the dappled sunlight, "I would like to think that I turned out quite fine."
Wei Wuxian snorts with laughter, but Lan Zhan is apparently not done.
"Wei Ying gives them sweets," Lan Zhan takes the crumpled wrapper from Wei Wuxian's hand, smooths it out before folding it, tight and neat and small in his long fingers, "But he also gives them assurance, knowledge that they will be loved whatever they do, even if they make mistakes. That is important too. That is why Wei Ying is so good, with the little ones."
"Lan Zhan!" He wails, doesn't know whether to laugh or cry, something that's becoming increasingly familiar the more he spends time with this incorrigible husband of his. So he buries his face on Lan Zhan's shoulder, takes refuge in his calm sandalwood musk, "How can you say these things with a straight face?"
Lan Zhan's reply is a mere smile, a finger hooked beneath his chin as his lips seeks his. Wei Wuxian is content to silently answer in kind, and chases the honey on his husband's lips.
His chilies bear fruit by the end of summer, a dotting of red amongst the sedate green and whites around them. The juniors peer curiously at the hanging bulbs, crouching beside Wei Wuxian as he makes sure the soil is warm enough, rich enough for it and all of the other things that shares the patch to grow healthy and strong.
"Does it help heal people?" Little Lan Yue asks, chubby fingers gentle as he pokes at one fruit, watching as the bright red bulb sways gently on its stalk.
Wei Wuxian stifles a laugh, and barely gets by with a grin. He supposes the children of Cloud Recesses are used to the herb gardens that the healers keep, every plant the cure of a different ailment. Everything growing with a purpose.
"No, but it makes a really nice sauce, and then the sauce makes people who eat them very happy!"
"That's good too," the child nods solemnly, "Hanguang-Jun said that being happy is good," his brows scrunch up in concentration, "Im-portant."
Wei Wuxian is only saved from laughter by Hanguang-Jun himself looking at him, gentle and fond, across the swaying of the chilies.
Autumn sees his xiangcais in full bloom, a veritable forest of green fronds, their scent sharp and fresh as he plucks them from their stems and into a small basket together with the now fully ripe chilies. Lan Zhan takes the basket from him, and comes back with a feast of reganmian and mapo tofu - Steaming hot and fragrant with spices in the cool air of the Cloud Recesses.
They gather round a table set outside the Jingshi after Wei Wuxian's afternoon class, rice bowls heaped full and elbows jostling together in silent conversations. Jingyi and most of the juniors choke on the spice and Lan Yue looks deeply betrayed by the chilies he helped look after - But is mollified when he sees how widely Wei Wuxian grins at his first spoonful of flaming-red mapo tofu, because his little Lans are simply good like that.
Lan Zhan smiles at him and offers a bowl of noodles, heaped with chilies and the fresh green of his own xiangcais, and it's the best thing that Wei Wuxian has ever eaten.
The next time Wei Wuxian wakes up with his heat, the world outside is blanketed with a light dusting of snow - Falling early in the peaks of Gusu's mountains. Despite the chill he went to bed with, he wakes up warm and sweat-damp, the heat now settling deeper inside him than his first time, a season ago.
This time, Lan Zhan is quick to wake with him, bodies aligning seamlessly in the dark, their scents already mingled even before his blooms and fills the familiar space of their home. There is time yet until Mao shi, and Lan Zhan's body falls into his readily, skin sliding against heated skin, his weight pinning him down, grounding him, placing him exactly where he belongs. And beneath him, Wei Wuxian feels himself bloom.
He has been fallow for so long, he forgets what it feels to be like this - Open and warm and thrumming with the possibility of life, a field awaiting seeds to be sown.
This time, Lan Zhan takes his time - Opens him up slow and steady, fingers raking down his skin gently, as if he is new land to be tilled, stirred until he's ready, so ready he could burst.
"Lan Zhan," he keens, beyond words, his beloved's name the only thing that makes sense anymore, "Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan." Fill me up, he wants to say, bury yourself deep inside me and let me carry it with me, let me carry you forever.
Lan Zhan lets out a deep, almost choked sound, the echo of it a rumbling thing between their joined chest as he buries himself deep inside him, and Wei Wuxian thinks, that like this, he doesn't even have to say anything for Lan Zhan to understand him.
They lie together until the first, faint ray of sunlight filters through the slats of their window, limbs hopelessly tangled together and their heartbeats thrumming against each other, separated only by cooling skin.
Wei Wuxian thinks of their mingled scents and thinks how it's like a place where the mountains meet water, like gentle shores at the end of a slope. Like this, he feels safe and free all at the same time, a tree rooted deep in the soil, one with the water and boulders of its landscape, instead of a wayward leaf carried by the wind.
"Lan Zhan," he says, and his husband turns to him so readily, so seamlessly that Wei Wuxian fancies they are but branches of the same tree - Separate but rooted together, ever rooted together. "I think I'm home now."
In the spring, Sizhui brings them a surprise, a steaming pot of soup that smells like a home long gone, but still so dear to Wei Wuxian. Jin Ling found the recipe in a box of his Mother's old things, he says proudly, and Sizhui tinkered with it until Sect Leader Jiang grudgingly admitted that it tastes just like the ones his sister used to make.
Wei Wuxian cries, naturally, because surely his little radish is just too good. Spends an embarrassingly long time simply holding the boy in his arms, breathing in the gentle rain scent of his hair. And then he opens the lid to the pot, and promptly runs out of the Jingshi to throw up all over his own vegetable patch.
"Wei Ying," Lan Zhan's fingers are familiar and warm as they card through his hair, voice thick with worry as he pulls his ponytail back and massages the nape of his neck. Hazily, he feels Sizhui pick up his wrist from where it's clenched against the dirt - smaller, softer fingers probing into the flow of his meridians.
"Oh," Sizhui gasps, eyes wide as he turns toward them and Wei Wuxian's heart stutters, almost stops with fluttering hope "Hanguang-Jun, I might be mistaken but- But I think-"
Lan Zhan's fingers take Wei Wuxian's other wrists, settles him into his lap as the warm blue of Lan Zhan's energy teases at the edges of his own. He feels his husband draw a sharp breath, feels his fingers tighten a fraction around his hand.
"We'll have to confirm with Head Healer Lan, when Wei Ying feels a little better," Lan Zhan finally says, composed and unwavering as ever. But there is a terrible tenderness in his eyes Wei Wuxian's never seen before, the slightest tremble on his fingers as he gently sets Wei Wuxian's hand back down.
Oh, he thinks, feeling his own hand tremble, looks at their joined hands atop his stomach. Oh.
"See, little radish?" Wei Wuxian whispers, not trusting himself to look at his son, lest he breaks, lest he simply bursts with all the things this body seems insistent to carry, "Didn't I say I'd grow you more siblings?"
Sizhui laughs, and it's a wet, delighted thing. Wei Wuxian reaches out blindly, gathering the boy into his arms, half into Lan Zhan's lap with him. He's a mess, they're all a mess, and Heavens, Wei Wuxian thinks it's fine. He's home and he's really fine.
"Wei Ying is very good at growing things," Lan Zhan's smile is small and secret, even as his fingers spread, gentle and warm and secure, to span across his belly. Beside him, Sizhui has started to look back at their breakfast tray, muttering something about continuing with warming foods and ginger to balance out the Qi in his spleen. Wei Wuxian wants laugh, but honestly, he just wants to sink unto Lan Zhan's lap and sleep until Wei Shi.
Lan Zhan ends up feeding him a bowl of plain congee, Sizhui hovering beside him with ginger tea and sweet potatoes before he runs off, presumably to tell Lan Huiqing and if Jingyi is somehow involved, probably the whole of the Cloud Recesses. Wei Wuxian thinks that later, he'll have to write to Lanling, perhaps coax Lan Zhan for a visit to Lotus Pier, so he could kneel in the Ancestral Hall and tell Shijie himself.
But right now, Wei Wuxian is safe and warm on Lan Zhan's lap, enveloped and planted and home. He falls asleep in his husband's arms, and dreams of green buds peeking out from the dirt, reaching for the sun.