Wei Wuxian does not have much of a memory of his second wedding either— mostly because it wasn’t a proper wedding at all. They had simply eloped instead, not wanting the hassle of an official wedding, and not willing to wait long enough for one to be arranged either. All the memories Wei Wuxian needs from his second wedding are the glow of Lan Zhan’s smile, the way he had looked when they had bowed to each other, the fondness in his eyes every time he had caught Wei Wuxian’s eye. Those are the only memories worth having.
When they arrive at Cloud Recesses, they receive a warm welcome from Lan Xichen and a slightly less warm welcome from Lan Qiren. Wei Wuxian can’t tell if Lan Zhan’s uncle is more offended by the fact that his nephew had eloped without telling anyone— later, Wei Wuxian will learn that Lan Zhan had, in fact, told his family of his intentions, but his uncle had been displeased with the idea of an elopement— or if it was the fact that the person he had eloped with was Wei Wuxian. Either way though, he grudgingly welcomes Wei Wuxian into the sect and the family, scowling as he does so. It gives Wei Wuxian a little hope— he wouldn’t have done that if this was an unforgivable, unacceptable offence to him, would he?
Later in the jingshi, Wei Wuxian curls up to his husband— his husband!— and drinks in his beautiful features.
“Your uncle wasn’t very pleased,” he says softly, absently tracing a pattern on his chest.
“Uncle will come around,” Lan Zhan says with a certainty that is almost shocking to Wei Wuxian when considering the idea of Lan Qiren reconciling himself to the idea of Wei Wuxian as a family member, a certainty that is, perhaps, born partly from knowing Lan Qiren and partly from optimism. He turns and regards Wei Wuxian with a soft look. “How could he not, when Wei Ying makes me so happy?”
Wei Wuxian laughs nervously. “At least Zewu-jun seemed happy?” he offers.
“Mn, brother has known of my feelings for you for a long time,” Lan Zhan replies, his fingers combing through Wei Wuxian’s hair gently. “He is very pleased.”
“Good,” Wei Wuxian says, unable to hide the relief in his voice. “That’s good. At least one person accepts us, then. I haven’t ruined your relationship with your family.”
“Wei Ying,” Lan Zhan says firmly. “Uncle is simply upset that we eloped. He would have much preferred a more traditional wedding.”
He’s pretty sure Lan Zhan’s choice of groom has something to do with it too, but he’s willing to ignore that for a little while at least. “And you? Would you have preferred that too?”
“It does not matter to me. All that matters is that I get to call Wei Ying my husband.”
“Ah, Lan Zhan, you’re too much, where did you learn to talk like this?” Wei Wuxian exclaims. Something about Lan Zhan’s sincerity makes him want to tease. “Didn’t you want to see me in wedding robes?” he asks. “You never got to see my previous ones.”
“I imagine you must have been beautiful,” Lan Zhan replies. “Wei Ying always looks beautiful.”
“I wouldn’t know,” Wei Wuxian pouts dramatically. “A-Xuan never once told me I was pretty. Can you imagine that? Our wedding day, and he didn’t even tell me I looked nice.”
“Wei Ying?” Lan Zhan says, his eyes dark, his mouth set in a slightly displeased line.
“Yes, Lan Zhan?”
“Do not speak about another man when you are in my bed.”
Wei Wuxian laughs. “You didn’t mind when I was talking about Zewu-jun,” he teases.
“You have never been married to my brother,” Lan Zhan replies easily. If Lan Zhan was anyone else, Wei Wuxian suspects he would be pouting in displeasure.
“I thought you weren’t jealous of A-Xuan? What with the two of you teaming up to bully me and all?” he asks, grinning.
Lan Zhan merely glowers.
Wei Wuxian laughs again, and Lan Zhan’s face softens as he does. “Don’t worry Lan Zhan, as far as I'm concerned, you’re already a better husband than he was.” He pats his husband’s shoulder. “For one, I actually wanted to marry you.”
“Wei Ying,” Lan Zhan says, his tone low and warning in an unfairly attractive manner as he reaches up to grab Wei Wuxian’s wrist. “What did I tell you?”
“Jealous, er-gege? If you don’t want me to talk about A-Xuan, why don’t you give me a reason to stop?”
Lan Zhan takes it upon himself to do exactly that, with much enthusiasm.
Two days after they arrive at Cloud Recesses, Wei Wuxian tells Lan Zhan about his golden core. It is a terribly difficult conversation to have. There are times when Wei Wuxian nearly backs out of it, and Lan Zhan’s piercing, earnest gaze is the only thing that keeps him going. There are tears from both of them afterwards, and Lan Zhan holds him tightly and refuses to let him go. He doesn’t complain, he needs it as much as Lan Zhan does. They go to bed like that, dried tear tracks on both their faces, wrapped tightly around one another and never wanting to let go.
The next morning, Wei Wuxian allows Lan Zhan to pamper him. It feels nice to be cared for, and it offers Lan Zhan some peace of mind too. After they have finished their breakfast— in silence, because Wei Wuxian cannot bring himself to disturb the fragility of the day— Lan Zhan sets the dishes aside before meeting Wei Wuxian’s gaze head on.
“What do you wish to do?” he asks. When Wei Wuxian looks confused, he clarifies, “About your golden core.”
“Ah,” Wei Wuxian sighs. “I don’t really have a choice, do I? No one has ever re-formed a golden core after losing it. It’s impossible.”
Lan Zhan raises an eyebrow. “Transfering a golden core is also impossible. Leaving the Burial Mounds is also impossible.”
Wei Wuxian’s responding laugh is more brittle than he intends it to be. “I suppose that’s true.” he stretches his arms over his head, then slumps in place. “I don’t know what I want to do,” he admits. “Part of me wants to try, but I don’t want to get my hopes up. And now that you know…” he hesitates for long enough that Lan Zhan reaches over and holds his hand. “I don’t want to disappoint you.”
Lan Zhan squeezes his wrist. “I could never be disappointed by you,” he says.
“Even if I never manage to form a golden core again? Even if I am forever core-less and mediocre? Even if I am never your equal again?”
“Wei Ying is still my equal,” Lan Zhan replies, lifting his hand and gently kissing the inside of Wei Wuxian’s wrist. “But even if you were not, I would not be disappointed.”
Wei Wuxian sighs softly. “Either way, Lan Zhan… you know I won’t stop demonic cultivation don’t you? It’s part of who I am now, and there is still so much I need to work out. I can’t stop.”
He has made this clear even before, but he does not want to give Lan Zhan a false impression, doesn’t want him to think that if he does manage to form a golden core again, he will put aside his flute and only use his sword. He might use it less, maybe, but he will not stop completely. This is his path now— he has created it, and he needs to ensure that if anyone ever follows in his footsteps, they will do so safely. Even if he refuses to teach it, he is not arrogant enough to believe that no one else will ever learn by themselves, and he would prefer it if someone did not hurt themselves or others by making mistakes he can guide them away from.
“Wei Ying,” Lan Zhan replies evenly, “As long as you promise to seek my help if you have need of it, I have no complaints about your cultivation.”
Wei Wuxian’s eyes widen. To know in his own mind that Lan Zhan accepted his cultivation method is one thing. To hear him declare it is another thing altogether. “Really? You won’t even tell me it’s bad for my temperament? Or my heart?”
Lan Zhan closes his eyes momentarily, then meets Wei Wuxian’s gaze again. “Wei Ying’s heart is still unchanged. My worries have proven to be unfounded so far. Perhaps I misattributed the changes in your temperament.”
“More than anything, I trust you, Wei Ying,” he adds.
“I will try to be worthy of those words, Lan Zhan.”
Lan Zhan smiles, the smile only Wei Wuxian gets to see. “Wei Ying is always worthy of them,” he says. “And Wei Ying will always have my support, for any course of action.”
Three days later, they talk to Wen Qing about the possibility of him forming a new core. Wei Wuxian sees the benefits of it, now that he has allowed himself to contemplate the possibility instead of thinking of it as a foregone conclusion. The lack of a golden core makes him more vulnerable to illness and injury and Wei Wuxian does have a tendency to get injured pretty frequently. He thinks it is prudent in other ways too— in some more years, he will start to get wrinkles and in a few years after that, his hair will start greying, and then there will be no way to hide the loss of a golden core. If he intends to keep the secret from everyone, he needs to find some way of not aging so quickly, and if it would be possible, forming a new core would be helpful indeed. He is certain he could devise a way to do it with demonic cultivation, but that would take time to devise— perhaps longer than he has before the changes become noticeable.
(He thinks of Lan Zhan too, Lan Zhan who has a strong core, Lan Zhan who will outlive him if things stay as they are, and Wei Wuxian will spare him any heartbreak he possibly can. The possibility of death doesn’t scare Wei Wuxian— hasn’t scared him in a long time when there are so many worse things in the world— but the thought of leaving Lan Zhan to mourn for him is not one he enjoys.)
Wen Qing is skeptical, but admits that it could be possible— after all, Wei Wuxian doesn’t have any of the damage to his meridians that Wen Zhuliu’s victims do. His core was extracted with care, not ripped out. There was a possibility, slim as it may be, that he could form a core again. The three of them decide to research it and try various tactics, explore their possibilities. Wen Qing assigns him meditation, procures obscure scrolls that detail adjacent techniques that are meant to stimulate the process, and even restructures his meals to include the foods that are usually part of the diet of children who are beginning to form their cores. Wei Wuxian had found that he doesn’t precisely remember how he formed a core in the first place, but the muscle memory remains, and that, combined with a better knowledge of the theory and Wen Qing and Lan Zhan’s freely offered guidance— not that he requires too much of it— helps him create a schedule for himself, tailored specifically to his own requirements in a way he had lacked the knowledge to do as a child.
After a good four months of hardly any progress— Wei Wuxian is better able to sense spiritual energy, but he is still unable to form a core— Lan Zhan suggests asking his uncle for help. Lan Qiren is highly knowledgeable on such matters, but Wei Wuxian is reluctant to share his secret with another person. It takes a lot of convincing, a lot of assurances that Lan Qiren would not tell anyone to convince Wei Wuxian. He doesn’t like the idea— too many people already know his secret— but Lan Zhan and Wen Qing both think it has merit, and if there are two people in the world who have proven worthy of Wei Wuxian’s trust, it is the two of them. He agrees, even if reluctantly.
When he first reveals that he has no golden core, Lan Qiren makes the assumption that he had lost it due to his experimentation with demonic cultivation, and berates him for it. Wei Wuxian is prepared to go through with this belief, to allow him to continue thinking that, if it means he will not have to reveal his secret to another person. He stands silently as he is scolded, as he is told that there is a price to pay for demonic cultivation, that this is why his path is evil, because it takes from people more than what they wish to give.
This lecture is stopped by Lan Zhan and Wen Qing’s interference, both glaring at him for allowing this false belief to be propagated. Tell him, or we will, their expressions said, and if Wei Wuxian hadn’t been in such a situation, he would have found great humor in it. Be as it is, Wei Wuxian only gulps and does as he is told. Wen Qing is truly the most terrifying person he has ever met, and Lan Zhan’s disappointment is a heartbreaking thing, and both of them clearly disapprove. Wen Qing had not explained her reasons for doing so, but Lan Zhan had said it hurt him to hear of Wei Wuxian talked about as though he was arrogant and foolhardy on the basis of what has been his most selfless act.
And so, Wei Wuxian does tell the truth. Lan Qiren is shocked speechless when he hears it. He almost doesn’t believe Wei Wuxian, only to do so when Wen Qing assures him that it is true. He protests for a few moments about how it is impossible to do such a thing, only admitting otherwise when Wen Qing shows him her theories. They do not tell him the details— the time it had taken, the pain, the chances— but he is shocked, nonetheless.
(Later, much later, when things are less fraught, he tells Wei Wuxian that it wasnt that he had disbelieved Wei Wuxian in particular, or because of who he was. It is only that he finds it shocking that anyone would make such a sacrifice, that anyone would give up something as important and precious as a golden core.
To him, it is an unthinkable act of sacrifice, one that is not made easily— but all Wei Wuxian knew was that it had needed to be done. No one would think to do it even if they knew it was possible— which was why no one had suspected anything like it. Wei Wuxian understands, knows it is hard to believe at first, for everyone except Lan Zhan who had known that he was telling the truth just like he had known that Wei Wuxian had tried to lie and say it hadn’t been very painful.)
Lan Qiren does soften towards Wei Wuxian substantially after that, which Wei Wuxian is immensely grateful for, if a little confused by. He knows Lan Zhan greatly values his uncle’s opinion, and having his uncle intensely dislike his husband couldn’t be easy for him. Even still, it is incredibly hard to get used to Lan Qiren actually engaging him in conversation instead of glaring every time Wei Wuxian so much as opened his mouth, or brusquely telling him to get more sleep when he turns up to one of their meetings with circles under his eyes. He still complains about Wei Wuxian’s habits, still glares at him for breaking a rule or two, but underneath the bitterness, Wei Wuxian thinks that if he squints hard enough, he can see the slightest hints of something greater than just acknowledgement. It does make him a bit self-conscious though, when he catches Lan Qiren looking at him sometimes, with an expression of grudging respect.
The four of them spend quite some time together, looking through old Lan scrolls and records for even more obscure techniques that haven’t been tried yet. They continue the old routine, but add suggestions that might work, vary it now and then. They even try energy transfers from a number of donors, but find that Wei Wuxian is unable to retain the energy long enough for it to take any effect. Wei Wuxian does everything he can without a single complaint. He spends most of the time carefully not getting his hopes up. Nobody has ever reformed a golden core, not after losing their own, even if it had been removed carefully and not melted. Even if it was possible to reform one, nobody had ever done it at an age as old as Wei Wuxian currently was. He did attempt the impossible, but this might be a bit too much, even for him.
After a few more months of being unable to proceed past the elementary stages no matter how hard he tries, Wei Wuxian decides to take a new approach. Not wanting to leave everything up to the slim possibility that he might be able to progress further, he begins looking into the possibility of using demonic cultivation to slow down the aging process, to heal. This is even more slow-going— he has no frame of reference, no previous methods or experience to fall back on, just sheer unbridled optimism, and his natural refusal to accept defeat. Any reference there is to such a thing comes from the invulnerability of ghosts nor fierce corpses, but they are both undead, and the change in state or lack thereof is more likely to be attributed to death than resentful energy, but he keeps digging anyway, keeps trying to figure things out. If he ever gave up on a goal, he wouldn’t be Wei Wuxian after all. He will do this. He refuses to fail.
One unremarkable day in the dead of winter, Wei Wuxian wakes in the warmth of his husband’s embrace— his husband, who has been by his side for close to a year now— and asks, idly wondering more than seeking reassurance, “What if it never happens? What if I never form another core? Are you sure you’ll never be disappointed? What if I can’t do it with demonic cultivation either?”
Lan Zhan only smiles at him, pulls him closer. “Wei Ying is Wei Ying. No matter what.”
“But you still think I can do it? One way or the other?”
Lan Zhan’s voice is barely above a whisper, right in Wei Wuxian’s ear, “I have every faith in you, Wei Ying. Do not doubt yourself.”
Wei Wuxian thinks that if Lan Zhan is, in fact, right, he will never live it down for all of eternity. He can tell that if he does succeed, Lan Zhan, would be too dignified to look triumphant, but he would give Wei Wuxian a pointed look every time he deems it necessary. Wei Wuxian would grumble every time, but he would secretly like it. He only hopes that Lan Zhan’s belief is not unfounded.
(He finds out, not much longer after that, that it is not unfounded in the slightest.)
Three Years Later:
Wei Wuxian slips his hand into Lan Zhan’s as he catches up to him, smiling slightly when Lan Zhan easily intertwines their fingers together. Lan Zhan is a private person, but when it comes to reciprocating Wei Wuxian’s little gestures of affection, he never hesitates, no matter who he is with. Even now, when they are climbing the steps of Koi Tower, he does not hesitate to use their joined hands to pull Wei Wuxian closer. He squeezes his fingers around Wei Wuxians gently in greeting.
“Oh, what’s this, Lan Zhan? Do you perhaps want to hear what I learnt from that long conversation?” Wei Wuxian asks, smiling teasingly up at his husband even as he is tugged closer.
“Gossip is forbidden,” Lan Zhan replies primly. He takes great pleasure in reminding Wei Wuxian of the rules, even though he has shown a willingness to break them— the small ones, at least— when his husband is involved.
“Lan Zhaaan,” Wei Wuxian pouts. “We’re not in the Cloud Recesses anymore. And it wasn’t gossip. Think of it as… information gathering!”
Lan Zhan huffs in amusement but doesn’t argue again, so Wei Wuxian takes that as tacit permission to continue.
“You remember the last time you represented Gusu Lan at Koi Tower? When Xichen-ge couldn’t?”
“And you remember how you and Jin Zixuan had a disagreement about the tea shipments?”
Lan Zhan nods.
“Apparently, it wasn’t really about tea.”
“No?” Lan Zhan’s eyes when he turns to face Wei Wuxian are fond, and his eyebrow is raised slightly in a faux inquisitive manner— a teasing expression that is only recognizable to Wei Wuxian, Lan Xichen, and very recently, A-Yuan.
“Oh no, it was actually about me! See, when Jin Zixuan said that there was greater demand for the blend in Lanling, what he was really saying was that he missed me and couldn’t live without me. And when you replied that the tea grew better in Gusu, you were really saying that you took better care of me than he did!”
“How interesting,” Lan Zhan’s voice is low and amused.
“Oh and that isn’t even getting to the other rumours Lan Zhan! Do you know people are heatedly debating whether my next husband will be Nie Huaisang or Nie Mingjue?”
Lan Zhan frowns at that. His jaw clenches slightly. “Neither of them.”
Wei Wuxian laughs. “Aiya, I won’t actually marry anyone else, but don’t you think it’s a funny rumour?”
Lan Zhan gives him an unimpressed look. “No.”
Wei Wuxian laughs again. “Ah, Lan Zhan, no need to be jealous,” he says teasingly. “Do you want to start a rumour or two with me instead?”
“Gossip is forbidden,” he repeats.
“Oh, so you don’t want to hear about how you seduced me away from my husband, and shijie had to heal his poor, broken heart?”
Lan Zhan sighs.
“That one’s almost true! Well, if you disregard the broken heart part. And the seduction part.”
“Mn, I did nothing untoward while Wei Ying was still married.”
“Nothing untow— Lan Zhan! Do you not remember shamelessly flirting with me and sending my heart aflutter? How could you forget that, er-gege?”
“That was not flirting,” Lan Zhan replies, but his eyes twinkle with mischief, in the way no one believes when Wei Wuxian tells them about it.
“No? What would you call it then, hmmm?”
Lan Zhan turns towards him properly, tucks a loose strand of Wei Wuxian’s hair behind his ear with his free hand, then leans in slightly. “Honesty,” he says.
A corner of his mouth twitches up into a self-satisfied smirk when Wei Wuxian squawks and nearly misses a step.
“Lan Zhan! Lan er-gege! Husband! How can you be so cruel? Do you want me to perish from your words?”
Lan Zhan merely looks amused. “Wei Ying has had years to get used to my words,” he says.
“And yet, your words nearly caused me to topple down these stairs! Take responsibility!”
Lan Zhan sighs fondly, then lightly rests his hand on the small of Wei Wuxian’s back, gently guiding him. “It would be my pleasure to take responsibility for my husband,” he says, easily supporting Wei Wuxian when he nearly misses a step again.
“A-Xian!” his shijie calls excitedly as soon as she sees them. “Come, come, meet your nephew!”
His breath hitches a little bit at that, at the word ‘nephew’, but he doesn’t let it show, eagerly approaching his shijie instead. He takes in her appearance— she looks tired, but happy, almost glowing with it. In her arms, she holds a little bundle swaddled in golden cloth.
“Second Young Master Lan,” she greets as soon as Lan Zhan is within her earshot. “We are so glad to have you here. Come, meet A-Ling. A-Xuan will be here soon, he was just called away by Sect Leader Ouyang.” Only the tightness in her voice reveals her disapproval at the idea that someone might use a celebration for her son to discuss politics.
“Madam Jin,” Lan Zhan greets, bowing as shijie smiles at him.
“Shijie!” Wei Wuxian cries happily, in complete opposition to the dignified, polite greeting the two of them have just exchanged. “It’s so good to see you! I missed you!”
She laughs warmly. “I missed you too, A-Xian,” she replies. “Do you want to hold A-Ling?”
Wei Wuxian nods eagerly, and before he knows it, his hands are full of a sleeping baby. His heart fills with warmth at the sight of little Jin Ling, his tiny fist curled over the edge of his blanket. He knows immediately that he would do anything for this child. Jin Ling squirms a little bit, but settles comfortably in Wei Wuxian’s arms, sighing contentedly in his sleep.
“Oh, he’s a beautiful baby, shijie,” Wei Wuxian says. “Should I assume he takes after you?”
“A-Xian!” she laughs, “I actually think he resembles A-Xuan very much.”
In all honesty, she is right. Jin Ling looks quite similar to Jin Zixuan. Those Jin features are very strong— there is a reason Jin Zixuan, Jin Guangyao, and Mo Xuanyu resemble each other quite a bit. Still, he has to oppose that statement, even if purely on principle. Before he can say anything though, a tiny smile appears on Jin Ling’s face.
“Oh look, Lan Zhan, he’s smiling!” Wei Wuxian whispers, his voice filled with delight. He turns to see Lan Zhan looking at him with his eyes full of love, and can’t help but smile in return. “Shijie,” he continues, still whispering so as to not wake his nephew— his nephew!— “We brought A-Ling a gift. Lan Zhan has it.”
Lan Zhan dutifully presents the box to his shijie, watching as she opens it to reveal the bracelet.
“It’ll protect him from ghosts, evil spirits, fierce corpses, anything that might harm him,” Wei Wuxian says. “And it’ll grow with him, so it will help him when he’s older and going out on night hunts.”
“Wei Ying made it himself,” Lan Zhan adds, the pride in his voice unmistakable.
“Oh, A-Xian,” shijie sighs with a delighted smile. “Thank you! It is a very valuable gift. I’m sure A-Ling will treasure it.”
“He definitely will,” a familiar voice comes from behind them, and Wei Wuxian turns to see Jin Zixuan approaching from behind him.
Wei Wuxian raises an eyebrow, schooling his face to look as impassive as possible. “Peacock,” he nods.
Jin Zixuan sighs. “Wei Wuxian,” he returns.
The two of them stay staring at each other for a moment, before promptly breaking into simultaneous wide grins.
“Look at you! You’re a father now!” Wei Wuxian says, still whispering in concern for the baby in his arms.
“I’d say the same to you, but you practically adopted A-Yuan before he even left Koi Tower,” Jin Zixuan says, before turning to greet Lan Zhan. “Second Young Master Lan,” he bows.
“Sect Leader Jin.”
At that very moment, Jin Ling decides to open his eyes. For an instant, he stiffens, and Wei Wuxian stiffens with him, terrified that upon realizing that he is not in the arms of either parent, Jin Ling will begin to cry, but Jin Ling merely relaxes before reaching to grab at a strand of hair that had fallen forward onto Wei Wuxian’s shoulder. He clenches his fist, Wei Wuxian’s hair held in his tiny palm, but he doesn’t pull, just stares at his hand in abject curiosity.
“Hello, A-Ling,” he says softly, his voice thick with emotion. “I’m your da-jiu.”
Jin Ling continues his exploration, his adorably chubby fingers clutching the hair tightly. Then, he turns his gaze back to Wei Wuxian’s face, seemingly scrutinizes him for a second, then smiles.
“Oh look at that, a waking smile!” Wei Wuxian crows in a whisper. “I’m clearly on my way to becoming his favourite uncle! Isn’t that right, A-Ling?” he coos at the baby who lets out a little yawn.
“I’m pretty sure A-Yao will fight you for that privilege,” Jin Zixuan says, a smile on his own face from watching his son, as Jin Ling closes his eyes once again. Apparently, he had decided that he had stayed awake long enough. He settles and goes right back to sleep.
“Ouch, tough competition indeed!” Wei Wuxian agrees as he rocks his nephew gently from side to side. From shijie’s letters, it seems as though Jin Guangyao is very good with A-Ling. “It isn’t fair though,” Wei Wuxian complains. “He has the advantage of permanently living in the same place as A-Ling!”
Jin Zixuan snorts. “That doesn’t stop me from being A-Yuan’s favourite, does it?”
Wei Wuxian scoffs. “Please, A-Yuan’s favourite uncle is either Zewu-jun or Wen Ning, depending on the day. Peacock-shushu is firmly in third place.”
“I can’t believe you make him call me that,” Jin Zixuan sighs.
“I know, I know,” Wei Wuxian replies in fake commiseration. “We’ve been trying to get him to switch to ‘Peacock-gufu’, but he doesn’t see why he should call you something different just because you got married. Kids, you know?” he shrugs his shoulders, carefully not jostling the sleeping Jin Ling as he does so.
Jin Zixuan rolls his eyes, but his lip twitches a little. “That’s not what I was talking about and you know it,” he says.
“No? What else could you possibly have been talking about?”
Jin Zixuan huffs and turns his face away, trying to hide how close he is to laughing, but Wei Wuxian sees it anyway. Jin Ling starts fussing a little, and making grabbing gestures towards his mother even with his eyes closed, so Wei Wuxian grants Jin Zixuan the dignity of being able to laugh in private as he returns Jin Ling to his mother’s arms as she talks to Lan Zhan.
“I don’t make him do anything, A-Xuan,” he says when he returns. “He chose himself to call you that! Who am I to deny my son?”
“And who could he have possibly learnt that from?”
“Mmm, that is a good question. I have no clue. Lan Zhan,” he calls, just loud enough to be heard, “You wouldn’t happen to know how A-Yuan learnt to call Jin Zixuan his ‘Peacock-shushu’, would you?”
Lan Zhan looks over at him from where he has been conversing with his shijie, a fondly exasperated look on his face. Then, he says in an even tone, “I do not.”
Wei Wuxian smiles in victory. Jin Zixuan’s mouth drops open. Lan Zhan goes back to conversing with shijie, who is remarkably unphased by this, even as she rocks a sleeping baby.
“You— you— you have Hanguang-jun lying for you now?” Jin Zixuan splutters.
“Now, now, peacock, you know Hanguang-jun is an upstanding man who never lies. Clearly, he must be telling you the truth.”
“I think it’s been well established that he would do anything for you,” Jin Zixuan replies, rolling his eyes. “Including, apparently lie for you.”
“What can I say, I’m a lucky man,” Wei Wuxian says. “My husband is so devoted to me. Truly the best husband in the world.” Then, with a pointed look, because he just can’t resist the chance, he adds, “Definitely the best husband I’ve ever had.”
Jin Zixuan snorts at the obvious provocation, but doesn’t respond.
“Do you know,” Wei Wuxian continues, “Lan Zhan bought me this very set of robes I’m currently wearing?” They’re nice robes too. His usual reds and blacks and greys, but the material is fine and comfortable, the embroidery is clearly expensive. They look very much like the robes he has worn ever since the Burial Mounds, but there is no mistaking the quality of these ones.
“I’m pretty sure I bought you robes too,” Jin Zixuan points out. He’s not wrong either. Wei Wuxian had refused to give any gifts from Lanling Jin any consideration, but there were definitely robes.
“But did you pick them out yourself?” he asks instead. “Did you spend time agonizing over whether I would like the pattern or if the cut would suit me? Did you look at me and feel the overwhelming need to buy me something that would complement my beauty?”
“And you call me spoilt?” Jin Zixuan’s voice is incredulous.
“Spoiling a child and spoiling your spouse are very different things, A-Xuan,” Wei Wuxian says in a sage whisper. “Children need to be taught limits, otherwise they’ll grow up to be entitled and they won’t know the value of money. Adults have already learnt that, so it’s different.” Then he considers, remembering how gaudy and gold everything in Koi Tower used to be, how it is less gaudy now, but there is still an abundance of gold. "Well, most adults have, anyway."
“Oh?” Jin Zixuan says, now clearly amused. “Are you teaching me what you’ve learnt from your parenting experience now?”
“Of course! I’ve been a father for almost five years now, so listen to my wisdom,” he replies. “See, if you buy A-Ling ten ponies because he asked for one, he will grow up to be entitled. If you buy shijie ten ponies, she will be flattered. And then she will possibly demand to manage your finances because you clearly can’t do it on your own.”
“Why do I get the feeling somehow that you’ll be the one buying A-Ling ten ponies?”
“I’m sure that won't be true, but even if it is, I'm his uncle, not his father, it’s expected for me to spoil him. The discipline is your job!”
“Really?” Jin Zixuan raises an eyebrow.
“Really! Do you want your son to be a teenager who acts like he owns the world?” It’s not easy to say no to your child. He knows, because saying no to A-Yuan breaks his heart, and he is constantly amazed by the fact that he has to be the strict one because Lan Zhan is so indulgent. “Don't get me wrong, I won't be spoiling A-Ling excessively, but he does have many, many uncles. Who's to say one of them wouldn't spoil him?”
As he looks over, he sees shijie pass Jin Ling to Lan Zhan who cradles him gently and easily shifts his hands to hold him securely. He feels his heart stutter at the sight of Lan Zhan holding a baby. It is too adorable for him to bear, and suddenly, every time he had seen Lan Zhan with a child in the past floods his mind as an idea that has been ruminating in the back of his mind takes a more solid shape. He wonders how much of his adoration shows on his face.
Clearly, something must have shown, because Jin Zixuan lowers his voice, his tone suddenly becoming incredibly sincere. “You’re… you’re happy, though?” he asks.
Wei Wuxian tears his eyes away from Lan Zhan to smile at him, equally sincere. “I am,” he admits. “I am so happy. He makes me happy.”
“Good,” Jin Zixuan says firmly. “That’s… that’s good.”
“Are you?” Wei Wuxian asks in return. “Happy, that is?”
When he smiles in response, his face practically glows. “I didn’t realize it was possible to be this happy,” he says. “A-Li is perfect. She’s so amazing.”
“I’m glad you came to see that,” Wei Wuxian says. A younger him would have said took you long enough, but he can’t quite bring himself to be that harsh.
“If…” Jin Zixuan says hesitantly. “If you ever aren’t happy though, you know that you can talk to me too, don’t you? Not just A-Li, I’m here for you too.”
Wei Wuxian smiles softly at him, warmth unfurling in his chest. “I know, A-Xuan,” he says, “And I’m here for you too.” He clears his throat. “Now let’s go, I want to hold my nephew again.”
Wei Wuxian is making his way through Koi Tower, once again with his husband by his side, only his husband this time is Lan Zhan, and he cannot stop himself from smiling when he thinks that. Gone are the days when he was wishing for just one more glimpse of Lan Zhan’s face, when he was wishing for just a few more undisturbed moments. Lan Zhan is his now, for all of eternity. He will never let him go.
Even now, Lan Zhan listens attentively as he talks, as he tells a story about Mo Xuanyu. His lack of response might make another person wonder if he is listening at all, but Wei Wuxian can tell, by the look on his face, by the occasional hums, by his knowledge of Lan Zhan, that he is listening to every word.
“And this is where he—” he cuts himself off as they turn around a corner and come face to face with Jiang Cheng. The smile slips off his face as he feels the tension in the air.
Lan Zhan stiffens immediately, the previously indulgent, fond expression on his face melting into a wary vigilance. He shifts slightly— it is imperceptible, but he is between Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng. Thankfully, Jiang Cheng doesn’t notice this.
“Wei Wuxian,” Jiang Cheng says. He is scowling slightly, but that is a common expression for him. Or perhaps, it is only a common expression when it is directed at Wei Wuxian.
“Jiang Cheng,” he replies in a subdued voice.
Jiang Cheng’s gaze shifts to Lan Zhan. “Second Young Master Lan,” he sneers.
Lan Zhan’s voice is frosty when he replies, “Jiang Wanyin.”
They had had a… Wei Wuxian was loath to call it an argument— a disagreement, perhaps— when they had last met. When Wei Wuxian and Lan Zhan had gone to inform Jiang Cheng of their intention to marry, Jiang Cheng had quickly snapped, “So you’re leaving again?”
It had taken effort for Wei Wuxian to bite back the immediate retort that Jiang Cheng had been the one to marry him off in the first place, and that he really shouldn’t act like Wei Wuxian asked for that, but he had stayed silent, not wanting to start a fight. Lan Zhan, on the other hand, had no such compunctions, and wasted no time in making it evident.
Many things had been said during the ensuing… disagreement, and the reason Jiang Cheng was angry came out fairly quickly. His problem wasn’t with Wei Wuxian marrying out— which Wei Wuxian would have understood, it would have been a concern he could have assuaged, if Jiang Cheng had simply not wanted to lose him— but that wasn’t what Jiang Cheng had been mad about. No, he seemed to be specifically angry that it was Lan Zhan he was marrying. And that was the one thing Wei Wuxian would not compromise on.
It had lasted until Jiang Cheng had snapped something unbelievably cruel at Lan Zhan and Wei Wuxian had stepped in and defended him, made it clear that he had married once at Jiang Cheng’s behest, that he would not forsake his happiness and more importantly, Lan Zhan’s happiness again.
It had been the last time he had talked to Jiang Cheng in person.
He had updates from shijie’s letters, of course, an occasional mention of Jiang Cheng was in them. He had no doubt Jiang Cheng was also receiving letters with mentions of Wei Wuxian in them. They just… weren't talking to each other. Wei Wuxian was still annoyed that Jiang Cheng, who’d had no problems marrying off to Jin Zixuan— a marriage that was meant to be permanent and only wasn’t because the Jin sect’s treatment of the Wen prisoners came to light— somehow only now had a problem with Wei Wuxian marrying out. He had already married for the sect once; he deserved to marry for love and happiness. Until Jiang Cheng acknowledged that, acknowledged that Wei Wuxian would have been gone from Yunmeng Jiang anyway, and that the only difference between his two marriages was that he had actually asked for this one, things were going to be strained between them.
Including currently, as they stand across from each other, Lan Zhan and Jiang Cheng caught in a heated staring match, with Wei Wuxian in the middle, not knowing what to do without angering Jiang Cheng.
There is no understating the feeling of relief that envelops him when Mo Xuanyu appears from somewhere, his face brightening as he sees Wei Wuxian. He hurries towards them quickly, followed by Jin Guangyao.
“Shifu, you’re here!” Mo Xuanyu exclaims, before hurriedly sketching a bow. “Hanguang-jun, Sect Leader Jiang” he greets, nervously. Despite making regular journeys to Cloud Recesses, Mo Xuanyu has continued to be incredibly intimidated by Lan Zhan, even when Wei Wuxian assures him that Lan Zhan is not scary in the slightest. Jiang Cheng’s scowl probably isn’t helping his nerves either.
“Mo Xuanyu,” Lan Zhan acknowledges, his gaze softening, though Wei Wuxian can’t tell if Mo Xuanyu sees the difference or not. His husband is a hard man to read, after all.
Jiang Cheng on the other hand, merely nods irritably. His angry gaze stays fixed on Lan Zhan, even when Jin Guangyao addresses him.
“Sect Leader Jiang,” he says politely, “Your sister asked me to bring you to her. Please follow me.”
When Jiang Cheng follows him, only sparing a single dark glare for him and Lan Zhan, Wei Wuxian nearly sighs in relief. Not having to argue is… he is thankful for it. It is almost a step forward for them, or at least, it isn't a step backwards.
“A-Yu, it’s good to see you,” Wei Wuxian says, turning to his student. “Have you been working on that idea of yours?”
Mo Xuanyu nods eagerly. “I have questions, Shifu,” he says.
Wei Wuxian lets out a cheerful laugh. “Ah, don’t worry! I’ll be here for a few more days, I’ll answer them all. But,” he lowers his voice to a conspiratorial whisper, “You don’t mind if I spend the rest of today showing my husband around, do you?”
Mo Xuanyu agrees easily. “We can meet tomorrow?” he suggests instead.
“I will see you at wu shi,” Wei Wuxian agrees.
When Mo Xuanyu is gone, leaving them behind, Wei Wuxian turns to Lan Zhan who has a complicated expression on his face. “Lan Zhan?” he calls.
Immediately, the look vanishes as Lan Zhan turns to him again. “Wei Ying,” he answers.
“Are you alright?” he asks tentatively.
Lan Zhan pauses to scrutinize his face, and whatever he sees must mean something to him, because he nods once, firmly. “There is no cause for worry,” he replies. “I am alright now.”
The next morning sees them sitting by the lotus pond that Jin Zixuan had built for his shijie as a courting gift. It is early enough in the morning that no one will disturb them. Cloud Recesses becomes a hub of activity— if very quiet, peaceful activity— in the early hours of the day, but Koi Tower is very much the opposite of that. There was a banquet last night, so it is especially an assurance that no one will wake early enough to see them here. It is only Lan Zhan’s inability to sleep in and Wei Wuxian’s inability to sleep well without his husband that has them here.
He is resting his head in Lan Zhan’s lap as he absently plays with the outer layer of Lan Zhan’s robe where it drapes on the ground next to them. His husband is staring into the distance, watching the sun make its way up the sky, watching as it paints the sky in riotous colours. His face is as beautiful as a jade statue, but it is not cold— never cold. Lan Zhan is many things, but to Wei Wuxian, he will never be cold and unreachable. Not anymore.
“We should bring A-Yuan next time,” Wei Wuxian says. They had been wary of bringing him to such a high profile event, not knowing if someone might say or do something about his Wen heritage, not knowing if A-Yuan would have painful memories of Koi Tower or of being around the Jin sect. Still, he should probably meet his cousin at some point. As a sect leader and his wife, Jin Zixuan and shijie would not be able to leave long enough to visit them at Cloud Recesses.
“Mn,” Lan Zhan agrees.
“Lan Zhan,” he says, considering something that has been in the back of his mind for some time now.
Lan Zhan makes an inquisitive noise.
“I just… you know, when I saw you holding A-Ling yesterday, I thought…”
“You thought?” Lan Zhan prompts.
“Do you want to have more kids?” he blurts out. Then immediately sits up to look at Lan Zhan properly. “I’m not just saying this because I saw A-Ling,” he assures his husband. “I actually think about it quite frequently. It’s just fresh in my mind now, that’s all.”
“I have also thought about it many times,” Lan Zhan says, looking fondly at Wei Wuxian. “Wei Ying is very good with the younger disciples.”
“Oh,” he says, and something slots into place in his heart. “So you would want that too?”
“So should we ask how A-Yuan feels about a sibling when we get back?”
Wei Wuxian feels a slow smile spread across his face at that. Quickly, he darts forward and presses his lips to Lan Zhan’s soft cheek.
“Ah, we’re truly meant for each other, aren’t we Lan Zhan?”
“Mn,” his husband replies, before pulling him closer to kiss him properly with a firm hand at the back of his neck.
They trade lazy kisses for a while as the sun rises, and Wei Wuxian feels something warm and content uncoiling in his chest. He looks at Lan Zhan with hazy eyes, then moves around until he can rest his head on Lan Zhan’s shoulder at a comfortable angle. It had taken them a while to work it out, a few tries before they could fit together like that without their heads crashing together or Wei Wuxian’s neck cramping from tilting his head too far downwards, but now that they have learnt each other’s bodies so well, they fit like they were made for each other.
Just as Wei Wuxian gets comfortable, the sun shifts in the sky and the harsh sunlight glares into his eyes. He shuts one eye to escape it, but frowns when he still feels the uncomfortable heat on his face.
“Lan Zhan,” he whines dramatically, “The way the sunlight reflects off of the pond is so pretty and I want to sit and watch it, but the sun seems to be plotting to make that impossible.” He pouts, discontentedly, expecting Lan Zhan to huff in amusement as he does, perhaps even say that the sun does no such thing.
Instead, Lan Zhan moves his arm slightly— the one Wei Wuxian isn’t leaning on— and positions it so that the drape of his sleeve shields Wei Wuxian from the sun. He doesn’t quite smile but his eyes are soft, and Wei Wuxian feels warm again, but this time, it is a welcoming warmth.
“Wei Ying,” he says, and his voice makes the name sound like it is something precious, “We can stay for as long as you want.”