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Wei Ying is in the fields today. A-Yuan trails behind him, “helping.” Lan Wangji watches them move in the distance with a small smile, the jug of water on his hip heavy and full. As he steps in between the rows of grain, his husband notices him, and drops his tools to wave . Soon, the spring rains will come, and the valley will flood, and they will truly see if they have the skill to sustain the lands. But for now, they are living on hope. They are practically drunk with it. 

“Ah, thank you, Lan Zhan,” Wei Ying murmurs as Lan Wangji meets them. 

He crouches down and produces two cups from his sleeve. He pours a cup for A-Yuan first, then one for his husband. He watches Wei Ying’s throat bob, watches his grin spread when he hands the cup back to him. He seems to be of good spirits today. He seems… alright, compared to the night before. 

Then, his husband carried himself wearily as the evening descended on their home. He folded himself into Lan Wangji’s arms did not speak for a long time, silent and miserable. Lan Wangji held him without questioning, until Wei Ying pulled open his robes and buried himself inside. They did not speak then, either, but he felt Wei Ying’s love all the same. 

He knows grief is not linear—he sat with his own for three years. There were days it was unbearable, and days when he saw a future beyond it. There were times he did not blame himself for the events that lead to Wei Ying’s death, and times he did. There were times he could barely eat, could barely think—where he became an empty shell of a person. And there were other days he longed to return to the world, and face whatever consequences came. 

Wei Ying has been very much the same. The longer they are married, the more Lan Wangji notices the shift in his husband’s feelings. The brief flashes of despair as something reminds him of the people he lost, the silent evenings lost to memories. He does not swallow down those feelings as much anymore. He does not try to hide them.

Lan Wangji refills his husband’s cup, then A-Yuan’s again and again, until they’ve both had their fill. He readjusts A-Yuan’s hat to ensure he’s adequately protected by the sun, and rises to do the same for his husband. 

“Thank you, Lan Zhan,” Wei Ying says with an amused smile as Lan Wangji reties the string on his hat. “Am I sufficiently covered?”

He repositions the hat so it shades his face more evenly. He was wearing it at an angle, leaving the lower part of his beautiful exposed to the elements. “Mn.”

“Are you going to town today?”

“Yes—now.”

Wei Ying grins. “Good. Don’t forget to stop at the tailor.”

“I will not,” he assures him. 

Wei Ying has already begun to make preparations for Lan Wangji’s pregnancy, even though he is barely showing at the moment. He’s ordered him a couple new sets of robes, a binder that will accommodate his eventually large belly. His husband insists it’s better to be overly prepared than be caught unawares. And he supposes he’s right. He could be perfectly capable of fitting in his robes one day, and suddenly incapable the next. It is best to be prepared.

“Good! It’s very important.”

“Yes,” he agrees, indulging his husband in another kiss. Everything to prepare for the baby is important, of course. He would never argue with that.

“A-Yuan, do you want to go with Baba?”

His son scrunches up his mouth thoughtfully, considering the question for a moment, before he shakes his head with conviction.

“Are you sure?” Wei Ying questions, crouching down to be level with him. “You have to stay with me the whole time until Baba gets back, even if you get tired.”

A-Yuan considers this by frowning again, finally nodding in agreement.

“Alright,” Wei Ying says, rising. He deposits a kiss on Lan Wangji’s lips, a hand caressing his lower abdomen. He’s taken a liking to doing that—like he cannot completely believe it. “You keep out of trouble.”

He frowns, knowing it will make his husband laugh. And it does.

“Oh, I know you will,” Wei Ying says with a fond smile. “Even if you didn’t, you’d take care of yourself just fine. I just…” 

He shrugs and kisses him on the cheek, instead of finishing his sentence.

“I know.”

Wei Ying has been cautious since his pregnancy was confirmed. Cautious, but not controlling. It seems there are two parts of him warring within him. He recognizes Lan Wangji’s capability at continuing his daily tasks and taking care of himself, but he also feels apprehensive about the life growing inside him. He hasn’t said anything, but Lan Wangji has caught the way his eyes follow him whenever they are together. He sees the worry, he sees the hesitation. And he sees the flare of possessiveness ignite in his eyes, a flicker of the Yiling Patriarch that makes Lan Wangji burn in a way that is familiar, and for once not forbidden.

He wants his freedom, his autonomy. But seeing his husband stare at him like he owns him makes him feel… 

Something he can’t quite name. Something good.

He wants the baby to resemble Wei Ying. He wants to give the baby the name of Wei. He wants this child to be Wei Ying’s in every way. And he is unsure how to broach the subject. Unsure how Wei Ying will react. The name of Wei Wuxian has been branded forever, twisted into the pure evil he never was. But there are other people with the surname Wei in the world. This child will not be cursed to have it.

“Well,” Wei Ying says, patting his stomach once more. “You should be off, shouldn’t you?”

He nods, blinking away his swirling thoughts. He gives Wei Ying a final kiss, readjusts A-Yuan’s hat, then slowly makes his way back towards their home, towards the road. He leaves   the empty water jug and cups by the well, then sets off towards town.

He visits the tailor first, since Wei Ying specifically reminded him. The tailor gives him an odd smile as she hands him the package of carefully folded robes, already paid by his husband, and tells him he hopes he enjoys his purchases. He bows his head in appreciation and assures her he will, even if the items inside are hardly exciting. He was there with Wei Ying when they ordered the new robes—he knows exactly what he’ll find later. They’re plain, but well-made, in black and grey. Nothing particularly exciting. 

Still, when the tailor wags her eyebrows as he turns from her, he can’t help but wonder if there’s something else inside.

He quickly distracts himself from any errant thoughts by pausing in front of a seed vendor. He concentrates on the small bags of vegetables and flowers, reading each label as he half-listens to the conversation the vendor and another customer are having. Something about the rains coming. Something about the price of radishes. He nearly turns after a few moments’ pause—there’s nothing they really need just yet—when a bag of lotus seeds catches his attention. 

Longing digs into his heart as he stares at the small pouch, as he remembers Wei Ying’s excited chatter while he showed him around the Burial Mounds all those years ago. He’d been trying to plant lotuses there. He’d been successful. Lan Wangji recalls the small tug of pride he’d felt as he’d come across the forgotten pond, still flowering as he faced down the elders from his sect.

“A very low price, young master,” the vendor says eagerly, noting his interest in the small sachet. “The climate is perfect. The lotus can bloom year-long!”

He’s unsure how true any of these claims are, but he pays the vendor and takes the seeds anyway. He thinks this gift will be appreciated. Wei Ying will enjoy the challenge of growing them. He doubts it will be as difficult as before. He hopes it will bring him comfort.

His next stop is to the apothecary, to inquire if his message has been received. If there’s a reply waiting for him. He is both longing for and dreading it. When his brother hears of his and A-Yuan’s permanent home, will he want to come visit? What can Lan Wangji tell him? How would his brother interpret his message if he denied him?

The apothecary informs him his son has not returned. Lan Wangji attempts to ignore the wave of relief that brings. That decision will wait for another time. It is best to avoid getting carried away in hypothetical situations that may not even come to pass.

“Hanguang-Jun!”

He glances behind him at the sound of a familiar voice. Luo Qingyang approaches him with various parcels her arms, a grin spreading across her face.

“How nice to see you again,” she says as they bow to one another.

“And you,” he says, and lets her lead him away from the main square to a more secluded street, where they’re less likely to be in people’s way.

He has not seen her since he was first married. Not long after their wedding night, she continued on her way to the next village, after hearing news of some wayward spirits taunting the area. He expects she must have found other places in need along her travels. She has not needed to come back for some time.

“You look well,” she says, giving him a look up and down.

“As do you.”

She raises an eyebrow, her teeth glittering in the late morning sun, and Lan Wangji feels a strange pull to elaborate in a way he never has before. He has always been selective with his words, never had many he would consider a friend. But living here, becoming acquainted with the locals, helping them with their small spiritual problems, has certainly changed him. Being unable to keep his brother informed of his current life has changed him. He does not wish to be as selective as he once was.

“I am with child,” he tells her.

Luo Qingyang’s grin deepens, a small laugh erupting from her throat, and something warm settles inside Lan Wangji’s heart at the sound of it. There’s a certain familiarity, a certain comfort. He could get used to that.

“I thought so,” she says with a mischievous wag of her eyebrow. “You have an aura about you, Hanguang-Jun.”

He elects to take that as a compliment.

“You know what they say about pregnancy,” she says, “it makes you glow like the sunlight on morning dew—or so the village aunties keep telling me.” She rolls her eyes with a laugh. “They’ve always asking when I’ll find myself a husband. But I’m afraid I’m not quite finished running around.”

“Your future husband should run with you.”

Luo Qingyang laughs harder, throwing her head back in amusement. “I agree,” she says. “I suppose your husband is not one to ask you to retire and become a homemaker?”

“No.”

He cannot deny he enjoys making their home, however. He enjoys being the one his husband comes back to after a long day in the fields, or after a journey into town to sell talismans. But he is grateful is husband has not limited him to only that. That he will never limit him to only that.

“Speaking of,” she says, “there is a family a few towns over that has been dealing with quite a few resentful spirits. I believe I may be in need of assistance. That’s why I’ve come back. Would you care to join me?”

He has not left this part of the world since he and Wei Ying first arrived. He had not wanted to in the beginning. After weeks of travel, looking behind their shoulders at every turn, it had felt right to stop for a moment. To settle into one place. He has not yet tired of that—of having a home to build, of having people to build it with. But the prospect of leaving for a brief time is alluring, too. To journey somewhere without fear, without obligation. To help because he can.

It’s quite an easy decision.


In the evening, he packs his qiankun pouch with a few items for the night hunt ahead. He agreed to meet Luo Qingyang first thing at the inn. It will take them half a day by sword to reach their destination, and they will hopefully be back the following morning. It will be easy enough, especially with his qin to placate and guide the spirits. Nothing too dangerous or sinister should occur. 

And yet, as he folds his extra set of robes, he feels his husband’s eyes watching his every move from the desk. His stomach, barely showing signs of the baby, suddenly feels so much bigger. So conspicuous.

When he told Wei Ying of Luo Qingyang’s request for help, he had smiled with warmth and told him he was good to help this family. He had kissed him and said he would be waiting for his return.

And yet…

“Lan Zhan,” Wei Ying says.

He stills his hands, and turns to face his husband. “Yes?”

Wei Ying winces, worrying his lower lip with his front teeth. “Well,” he says slowly, laughing with no real mirth. “It’s silly, really, I know. You’re very capable—but I can’t help but feel—”

He laughs again, tapping his fingers along the edge of the desk uncomfortably. 

“I understand,” Lan Wangji says gently, crossing the room in quick, even strides. He sinks to his knees in front of his husband, and reaches across the desk to stroke his cheek. “I will be careful.”

“I know you will,” Wei Ying says with a sigh, leaning into his touch. “I’m being very unreasonable. I want you to go and help people. But…”

Lan Wangji tucks a stray hair behind Wei Ying’s ear. “I know,” he murmurs, caressing its ends.

Wei Ying sighs again, then smiles at him, as though resetting his face. “I’ll miss you so, you know. We haven’t been apart for more than a few hours since—”

He came back from the dead. 

It’s still strange to say that aloud.

“Patience has its rewards,” Lan Wangji reminds him.

His husband flashes him a mischievous smile. “What kind of rewards?”

He feels his cheeks heat in spite of himself, as his mind darts in all directions.

“Will you bring me back a present, Lan-er-gege?” Wei Ying asks, running his tongue along his front teeth.

He breathes, steels himself, wills his mind to not even begin to go down those pathways. “Perhaps,” he says evenly. “If you behave.”

Wei Ying barks out a laugh, slapping the table emphatically. “How will you know? You won’t be here!”

“I will know,” he says, in what he hopes is a mysterious and alluring tone.

Wei Ying lets out a shaky breath, his smile wide and lopsided as he composes himself. “Oh, Lan Zhan,” he murmurs. “I love you so.”

“I love you,” he whispers back, taking Wei Ying’s hand in his. He squeezes it gently in reassurance, hoping somehow Wei Ying will understand with every pulse of his fingers. He will return. He will be alright. The child inside him will grow.

“I bought you something today,” he says, plucking the sachet of lotus seeds from where it still hangs on his belt.

“Did you?” Wei Ying asks, eyes sparkling as Lan Wangji deposits the sachet in his palm. For a moment, he sees the ghost of the boy Wei Ying was—the same curve of the smile, the same unbridled joy. It warms him every time he is able to extract that part of him. To help him feel beyond the pain and grief of the years since they met at Cloud Recesses.

“Yes.”

Wei Ying grins, and pulls at the drawstring to open the small sachet. He pours half its contents into his empty palm, eyes widening with recognition. His lips twitch and part as he attempts to begin several sentences.

“Apparently this climate is good for lotus,” Lan Wangji says to fill the silence. It seems his husband is pleased with his gift, but the doubt creeps in nonetheless. “It can bloom year-long.”

“Probably,” Wei Ying agrees, grinning. “We’re even more southerly than Lotus Pier. It might even be easier here than it was there! Have you ever eaten lotus seeds, Lan Zhan?”

He shakes his head. He has only once had Yunmeng’s renowned lotus root soup. A dull twist of regret settles in his stomach for having never asked Jiang Yanli for the recipe. But why would he have back then? He could not have seen the future. And yet, he can’t help but silently curse himself for his lack of omniscience.

“Ah, I think you’d like them,” Wei Ying says with a glint in his eye. “There’s so many things you can do with lotus! You’ll be sick of it.”

“Never.”

His husband laughs softly, narrowing his eyes. “We’ll have to make a pond, won’t we? And we’ll need…”

Lan Wangji listens with rapt attention as his husband lists off everything they will need to properly host the lotus. His heart is reassured he made the correct decision.

Eventually, Wei Ying returns to his talismans, and Lan Wangji rises to put away his new robes. As he places the first set into a cupboard, he sees Wei Ying sit up straighter in the corner of his eye. Watching him.

He recalls the tailor’s strange smile as he accepted the package. The wish that she hoped he enjoyed his purchases. Enjoyed. It seems hardly necessary for fairly plain, serviceable pregnancy robes. So that must mean…

“Wei Ying?”

His husband stands, making his way towards the bed with the smallest of smiles. There’s a darkness beneath his eyes. A slight danger. “Keep going, Lan Zhan.”

Lan Wangji feels his heart flip as he lifts the next set of robes. There is fabric beneath them, and not the familiar cotton of a new binder. Something light and silken and likely very thin.

He gulps, and puts away the robes in his hands properly before he can get too distracted. Now he understands Wei Ying’s urgency in ordering new robes. It wasn’t so much to be prepared as it was to cover his true intentions. 

“Lan Zhan,” Wei Ying says with a grin. “I got you a little extra something. I hope you don’t mind.”

Were he younger, had Wei Ying never died, he would likely attempt to refuse such a gift. He would say it is unnecessary, too much. But now, he will never deny Wei Ying anything. He will give him all he can in return.

“I do not,” he says with a small smile.

Wei Ying beams back at him. “Give it a look, then.”

Lan Wangji bends over the package the tailor gave him, and takes in the robes carefully folded within. They’re light blue, similar to his old Lan robes, made of thin silk that ripples at even the slightest touch. They are decorated with embroidered white peonies, instead of the signature cloud pattern of the Lan. If he were to attempt to wear them in public, he would need to wear several layers of under-robes—likely six or seven—otherwise they would cling to every line of his body.

That is not their purpose, however. He is quite certain fo that. His ears heat just a little as he strokes the fabric with a finger, catching his husband’s grin in his periphery.

“What do you think, Lan Zhan?” Wei Ying asks, leaning into him.

He meets his husband’s eager eyes, and presses a kiss to his cheek. “They’re beautiful,” he says. “Thank you, Wei Ying.”

Wei Ying beams—so bright it makes Lan Wangji’s heart stutter.

“Try them on, Lan Zhan. I want to see.”

He lifts the fine, folded pieces one by one, watching his husband’s focused gaze in the corner of his eye. He cannot suppress the smile. These are as much a gift to Wei Ying as they are to him. His husband is very resourceful.

It’s only when he’s lifted the thin inner robe from the package that he notices the black robes folded neatly underneath. Black with accents of red, made of a similarly thin silk, shimmering in the candlelight. Familiar and different, reminiscent of unhappier times. But different enough they send a trill of anticipation down his back.

Wei Ying looked so handsome back then, in spite of everything. Handsome and unreachable. Lan Wangji had never wanted him more. How often had he secretly wished for Wei Ying to steal him away and make him a willing prisoner? How often had he reconciled with himself that while he could never go on his own accord, he would not resist if Wei Ying took him?

He runs a hand along the fabric, imagining his husband in these robes tonight. He would look just as handsome, if not more. 

“I was thinking,” Wei Ying says, mouth curving into a sly smile, “we could play a little game.”

He meets his husband’s eyes, lit with a fire that engulfs him in one glance. His fingers enclose the fabric into a fist. Wei Ying always knows what he wants. Wei Ying knows him.

“Yes,” he agrees.

“Get dressed,” Wei Ying says in a low voice that makes Lan Wangji shiver. “Take your time. Knock on the door when you’re ready for me."

Lan Wangji relaxes, grateful his husband is taking away the possibility of choice. Sometimes, it is really too much, and in this unfamiliar scenario, he’d much rather be told what to do than have to decide. 

“Then,” Wei Ying continues, leaning in closer, lips brushing against his cheek, “the Yiling Patriarch will have his way with you.” He lets out a low laugh, and gives Lan Wangji a gentle kiss on the cheek. “Let’s say Hanguang-Jun has come to see me. You pick why. Regardless, I will ruin you thoroughly.”

He nods, his heart flaming as he imagines all the possibilities. Wei Ying is giving him a choice, but it is easy enough to make. He merely needs to think on what he’d do if he could go back to those days.

“Now, be a good boy and get dressed for me,” Wei Ying murmurs, kissing his cheek

He nods, heart thrumming as Wei Ying collects the robes and takes his leave. He waits until the sounds of Wei Ying’s footsteps fade, as he likely dips into the spare room to change. Lan Wangji lets the silence wash over him, takes a few calming breaths, and stands. Anticipation dances all over him, but as he falls into the familiar act of putting away the new binder, and disposing of the paper, he begins to calm.

He disrobes, folding each layer carefully. For practical reasons, he removes his binder, too—even if in this pretend scenario, Lan Wangji would likely have not done such a thing. He also would not have worn such revealing robes, either, but that is beside the point entirely.

The robes are so light, he can barely feel them resting against his frame. They cling to every curve of his body, every line—and the way the fabric falls on his breasts and accentuates his nipples is practically obscene. The shape of them is very clearly visible beneath the thin silk, already hardening the longer he stares at himself.

His husband will love it.

He opens his lacquered wooden box resting atop a cupboard and picks out one of his pieces. They have sold some of the smaller ones on the road, but are keeping the rest for emergencies. For tonight, he thinks his husband will appreciate to see him in one. He combs his hair and sections the top as he used to, laying the flat, intricate silver piece at its peak. Even after months of wearing his hair much more simply, the motions return to him easily. He can do it entirely by feel alone.

He passes his hands over his hair, testing its security, then over his robes. The panels meet high against his throat, at yet he still feels incredibly bare in them. Their modesty is a mere illusion, a joke in and of itself. He wonders if Wei Ying requested them to be such on purpose, if he saw the humour beneath it, too.

He takes another breath, examines himself one last time as best as he can, and crosses the room to knock softly on the door.

Wei Ying takes his time entering. He can hear him on the other side, feet light against the tiled floor. The shadow of his hand rests against the door, and Lan Wangji watches as he lays talismans over them, humming softly to himself as he works. Finally, his hands still, and Lan Wangji takes a step back to make room for Wei Ying.

The doors slide open, and his husband glides in. Though tonight, he supposes, Wei Ying is not his husband. Not in this scenario they’ve created. Wei Ying is… his enemy? Not exactly. He could never be Lan Wangji’s enemy, even in play. But perhaps Wei Ying views Lan Wangji as one tonight, as he did long ago. 

If Lan Wangji considered his robes to be obscene, his husband’s are even more so. They’re barely tied together, exposing inches upon inches of Wei Ying’s sculpted chest. They rest precariously on his shoulders—one movement, one tug, and they would ripple down his arms onto the floor. Lan Wangji wrings his hands together to stop himself from pulling them down. That is not what he would have done back then.

“Hanguang-Jun,” Wei Ying drawls, raising an eyebrow, “to what do I owe the pleasure?”

He opens his mouth to speak, but his throat is… quite dry. He was not prepared to see his husband like this, in this semi-undressed state that feels even more vulgar than anything he’s experienced before. If Wei Ying had looked like this when Lan Wangji visited the Burial Mounds, he is unsure he would have been able to leave. That he would have been able to contain himself at all.

“What?” Wei Ying sneers, stepping closer. “Who sent you?”

“No one,” he manages to rasp out. He did not realize how much he’d be affected by this. How much seeing Wei Ying with his old resentment, bared in this way, would render him nearly speechless. “Wei Ying—I have come for you.”

“For me?” he repeats with a laugh. “What? To take me back to Gusu? To purify me? To imprison me?”

“No,” he says, gulping. “I am here—for you. To remain by your side.”

Wei Ying considers this, eyes flickering up and down his body—like he’s only noticing it now. Noticing how the fabric clings to him.

“And do what?” he challenges. “What would I need you for?”

“Whatever you want,” Lan Wangji replies, unable to contain his desperation. It isn’t real, but it also is. All his feelings from the past come swirling back as Wei Ying’s cruel gaze meets his. All the words he never said the first time ensnare his heart. “Whatever you need—I am yours.”

Wei Ying narrows his eyes, tilting his mouth into a lopsided smile. “Whatever I want,” he repeats, grabbing Lan Wangji by the waist and pulling him in. There is still some space between them, but barely. If Lan Wangji were to step forward, they’d be pressed against one another. “Are you sure?”

He meets Wei Ying’s eyes with determination, squaring his jaw. “Yes.”

Wei Ying’s eyes flicker downwards, taking him in for a second time. “What if what I want…” He lets out a hollow laugh. “Well… perhaps you already know. Do you want it, too, Lan Zhan? Coming here, dressed like this, tits out…” He clicks his tongue and shakes his head. “You’d call me shameless.”

He stares at Wei Ying, at a complete loss for words. Much like he would have been back then. He supposes the accuracy merely heightens this experience.

“Ah, you do want it—don’t you?” Wei Ying teases, pulling him closer. Lan Wangji feels the outline of his cock against his hip, and he barely restrains himself from grinding against it. His younger self would not have been so bold, even if he had showed up to the Burial Mounds dressed as he is. 

“How far will you let me go?” he muses aloud, untying Lan Wangji’s belt in one fluid motion. “Would you stop me here?” He parts his robes impatiently, not bothering to properly untie them. Lan Wangji thinks he hears the soft sound of the ties ripping as he tears both layers open. 

“Or here?” Wei Ying raises an eyebrow as he takes in the small strip of bared skin peeking out from the parted layers. He raises his hands to Lan Wangji’s shoulders, and pushes away the fabric. It falls to the floor noiselessly, leaving Lan Wangji entirely bare from the waist up. 

Wei Ying pauses, taking him in, his eyes alight with both want and mischief. “You really are going to let me do anything,” he muses, arms snaking around his waist. “Am I right, Lan Zhan?”

There is nowhere to look but directly into Wei Ying’s eyes. Into the fury and desire that burns within them. How can this be so real? Why does his heart race, as though Wei Ying would really deny him?

“If that is what you want,” he whispers.

Wei Ying lets out a dark laugh, tightening his grip. “Oh, Hanguang-Jun,” he murmurs. “You never cease to surprise me.”

His lips descend upon Lan Wangji’s with bruising force, a wild mix of tongue and teeth that leave Lan Wangji breathless. He lets out a desperate whimper, gasping against Wei Ying’s lips. His breath is so hot, so uneven, as he kisses him back.

Wei Ying hands trail up his back, caressing his scars, fingertips tracing patterns into him. Writing characters Lan Wangji is too distracted to understand. He sucks on Lan Wangji’s lower lip, lacing into his hair, caressing it, combing through it. 

Wei Ying takes a handful and pulls. Sharp, without warning.

Lan Wangji lets out a scry in surprise, sinking his teeth into Wei Ying’s lip. The pain is only brief, replaced with heavy waves of pleasure that roll in as Wei Ying pulls a little harder. He knows what he likes, what he can take. He knows he wants this, even without him having to voice it. He cranes his neck for more, bites him again in a silent plea.

Wei Ying pulls his hair again, less forcefully, and pulls back enough to look Lan Wangji in the eye. He smirks, laughing to himself at whatever he finds, and releases his hair. “Lan Zhan,” he says, raising an eyebrow, “it’s good to know you have some fight in you.” He leans in to kiss his cheek, much gentler now. “But I don’t want to fight you,” he decides. “We’ve done that enough, haven’t we?”

He nods, a hundred emotions churning within him. He does not want to fight Wei Ying. And he does at the same time. He wants his cruelty, his danger. He wants to feel weak. He can barely explain it to himself. He can barely understand. But he wants it.

Wei Ying’s lips spread into a grin, and he gives Lan Wangji’s hair another playful tug. “Unless,” he says, running his tongue along his abused lip, “you want that. Want me to be mean.”

His heart drops and races at the same time. Yes, he wants that. He didn’t realize how disappointed he was in not having it, until Wei Ying suggested it again. Always one step ahead of him. Always reading him before he can read himself.

“Is that a yes?”

“Yes,” he breathes.

Wei Ying smiles, fondly without edge, and pats his hair again. Then, his smile fades, twists, as his eyes grow dark again. “Get on your knees,” he says.

Lan Wangji obeys, heart thundering in his ears as he sinks to the floor. His robes are pooled beneath him, cushioning him somewhat. Not that he needs that. He has knelt for most of his life. This is nothing in comparison.

Wei Ying fiddles with the drawstring of his trousers, humming to himself. Lan Wangji cannot help but stare at the tenting in the front, at the lines so clearly visible through the thin fabric. 

“Do you know what I want you to do like this?”

He lifts his eyes to meet Wei Ying’s. “Yes.”

“Have you done it before?”

“No.”

Wei Ying lets out an amused snort, and turns his face away to compose himself. Lan Wangji has never been good at lying—or rather acting, as it is now. It is very obvious.

“Ah well,” Wei Ying says, barely suppressing a laugh. “You’ll learn.”

Wei Ying steps closer to him, as he breathes deeply to calm himself. Fingers rest at the base of Lan Wangji’s neck, curling into his hair, while his free hand loosens the drawstring enough to free his cock.

“Open your mouth,” Wei Ying instructs. 

Lan Wangji obeys, surrendering himself completely to Wei Ying’s grip. Slowly, he guides Lan Wangji’s head closer, placing the tip inside his open mouth, and waiting to see what he’ll do with it. Lan Wangji runs his tongue along the slit, as he’s done many times before, his touch light and teasing. His husband gently laughs above him.

“There we go,” he murmurs, pushing him closer. Lan Wangji accepts the intrusion, breathing deeply the farther he goes. “Very good.”

Before he can even anticipate it, before he can prepare, Wei Ying thrusts into his mouth, the fingers in his hair tightening their grip. Lan Wangji lets out a surprised moan, gagging as the tip hits the back of his throat with sudden force.

“What?” Wei Ying teases, thrusting into him again. “You wanted me to be mean.”

“Mn,” he moans, nodding his head aggressively This is what he wanted. Wei Ying is so good to give it to him.

“Good,” his husband appraises. “I know Hanguang-Jun can take whatever I give him.”

He closes his eyes, leans into the cradle of Wei Ying’s hand on the back of his neck, and loses himself to the feeling of Wei Ying’s cock inside his mouth. He relaxes into the rhythm Wei Ying establishes, lets his jaw go lax the longer Wei Ying uses him. Behind his eyelids are soft bursts of colour, soft reminders of the world he’s left behind. Everything is amplified like this—Wei Ying’s fingers in his hair, Lan Wangji’s hands on his thighs, and the place between them pooling with desire. And when his husband comes with a grunt, he swallows every last drop. 

Wei Ying does not move away as he slowly softens. Instead, he pats Lan Wangji’s hair and murmurs quiet praises. How good he’s being, how good he feels. He barely hears them all. It’s good, being here, holding his husband like this. Being nothing more than a device for his amusement.

Eventually, even he tires, swaying forward the longer Wei Ying goes on. He’s unsure how much time has passed since they’ve been like this, but he’s begun to feel the ache in his knees, the heaviness of his head. He could go on, if Wei Ying wanted. He could do anything, if Wei Ying wanted. But he’s still…

“Hm,” Wei Ying murmurs. “Are you getting tired, Lan Zhan?”

He blinks, the candlelight in their room blinding in comparison to the darkness of his eyelids. He shakes his head, even as he sinks further into his husband, even as he registers the slight ache in his jaw from keeping his mouth open.

“Lan Zhan,” Wei Ying scolds, gently pulling at his hair, “lying is forbidden.”

He attempts to speak, momentarily forgetting about the cock in his mouth. All that comes out are garbled syllables even he doesn’t recognize. Wei Ying laughs and gently retreats, wiping away the trail of spit and come that follow its exit.

“What were you trying to say?” he asks, thumb over his lower lip.

“I am,” he says, throat hoarse from Wei Ying’s ministrations. He swallows and tries again. “I am not in Cloud Recesses.”

“Oh?” Wei Ying exclaims with delight, his teeth bright in the darkness. “Never took you to be so flighty on such righteous matters! Even Hanguang-Jun can break, is that it?”

“For you,” he agrees, his voice still hoarse, “yes.”

“For me,” Wei Ying repeats, pushing his thumb between Lan Wangji’s parted lips. He obediently sucks on it, tongue laving over the pad. There’s a small cut there, from cutting down weeds. The healing skin is sharp against his tongue. “Well,” Wei Ying decides, pulling away his hand to rest it on top of Lan Wangji’s head. “I suppose you’ve broken enough rules as it is. What’s lying in comparison? Come—let me help you stand.”

Wei Ying bends down, grasps him beneath his arms, and hauls him to his feet. His knees buckle at the sudden movement, numb from kneeling on the cold tile, and Wei Ying solves the issue by picking him up, and crossing the short distance to the bed.

He is so much better than when they were first reunited. No longer starving, now so strong from working in their fields, he can even lift Lan Wangji without too much of a struggle. Wei Ying’s arms are solid around him, and Lan Wangji nuzzles his face against the crook of his neck. He’s warm. Not as warm as he would be with a core, but still pleasant. Still present. 

His husband holds him closer, gripping hard on his hips and shoulders, and tosses him onto the bed without ceremony. Lan Wangji lets out a pitiful whine at the unfairness of it all, reaching up to grab at him. But Wei Ying’s reflexes have also improved since recovering from… everything. He quickly evades his grasp with an amused smile.

“Ah, Lan Zhan,” Wei Ying sighs, sinking onto the mattress beside him. “I now understand why you came to me.” He tucks away a stray hair from Lan Wangji’s face, eyes traveling up to his forehead, where is ribbon is still tied. Will he dare to remove it? Would he have, back then?

“I bet you’ve never had a good fuck in your life.”

“Yes,” he agrees, as convincingly as he can manage.

Wei Ying’s smile turns wolfish, and a small laugh bursts from his husband’s lips—like a bark. Lan Wangji purses his own lips to keep himself from smiling, to at least attempt to preserve the illusion. His husband’s hands trail up to Lan Wangji’s stomach, acknowledging the gentle softness of the growing baby, and bites his lip—pulled from fantasy to their reality. Lan Wangji meets his husband’s eyes, lets the warmth of them reassure him, and allows him to break for a moment.

Once his laughter has faded, Wei Ying clears his throat, resets his face, and looks to him with that old intensity. “You need it, don’t you?” he asks. "Need me.”

“Yes,” he breathes, and Wei Ying kisses him again.

He pushes him onto his back, pressing his fingers into his wrists. He rises up, over Lan Wangji, straddling his hips, overpowering him in every way. He’s keenly aware of his husband’s weight pushing into him, keenly aware that while Lan Wangji could surely challenge him if needed, he would put up an excellent fight. The thought of that alone, of resisting, of having Wei Ying chase after him, is quite intoxicating. For another time, maybe. Another scenario. Just now, he doesn’t wish to fight him. He wishes to surrender.

“Just look at you,” Wei Ying murmurs, brushing their noses together. “So perfect.”

He would have been back then. Unblemished. Perhaps the scars on his back and the Wen iron on his chest would have felt like nothing in comparison, if they’d done this back then. Nothing compared to the brand inside him, to places Wei Ying would have mapped out and made a home within.

“Ah—don’t look so scared, Lan Zhan. It won’t hurt.” 

He knows it wouldn’t. Wei Ying knows how to loosen him, so even the harshest strokes are bearable. But he wouldn’t have known that back then. He wouldn’t have known anything. Would he have wanted it to be painless? Or would that pain have proven it had really happened?

“Unless,” Wei Ying says in a low voice, “you want it to.”

He already knows the answer. They both do.

“Ah, of course,” his husband murmurs, pushing down on his wrists even harder. “You want more than the memory, don’t you?” His nails push into the flesh of his arm, and Lan Wangji moans in both pleasure and pain as he doesn’t loosen his hold. “But you have that core. Can I really leave a mark?”

“Try,” Lan Wangji grits out, flexing against Wei Ying’s fingernails, encouraging him to dig deeper.

His husband’s eyes widen, his mouth spreading into a cruel grin. “Very well,” he says, squeezing harder. “If you insist.”

Lan Wangji gives into the pain, gasping as Wei Ying tightens his hold, as his mouth descends onto his nipple. He sinks his teeth into the hardened peak, harder and longer than he ever normally would. It burns with sharp intensity at first, and slowly dulls with the pleasure that comes after, with the gentle tingle of his nerves and arousal distracting him. Wei Ying licks his teeth marks as an apology, tongue circling around them over and over, until Lan Wangji has nearly forgotten about what came before. Then, he bites again without warning. Lan Wangji cannot contain the wail building in the back of his throat, his eyes filling with tears.

“Good, Lan Zhan,” Wei Ying encourages him, kissing where his teeth have made their mark. “Keep making those pretty sounds for me.”

He shifts to kiss Lan Wangji’s lips, relaxing his hold on his wrists to dry his tears. He kisses his face, threads fingers through hair, strokes his cheek.

“Alright?” Wei Ying whispers, eyes wide and without pretence.

“Alright,” he confirms.

Wei Ying grins, then returns to work on his other nipple, abusing it just as thoroughly. The longer he goes on, the more Lan Wangji’s restraint wears thin, until he is practically screaming from impact.

Encouraged, his husband quickly divests him of his trousers. His own robes, having fallen from his shoulders, now rest precariously on his elbows. He quickly shrugs them off, shrugs off his own trousers, and shoves himself into Lan Wangji without a moment’s pause. 

The pain is unmistakable at first, without any kind of preparation. He’s wet, but not wet enough, and Wei Ying’s cock feel impossible inside him. It takes the breath right out of his lungs, makes his heart race impossibly fast. And it’s just what he wanted. Just the right ache, the right punch to his gut. 

“Do you like that?” Wei Ying whispers, pushing into him.

He nods, thrusting upwards to deepen Wei Ying’s reach. His body adjusts to his husband’s presence, his cock leaving a less pressing ache the longer it rests inside him.

“You Lan,” Wei Ying scolds, “even in bed, you want to be punished, hm?”

“Perhaps.” 

His husband lets out a deep laugh. “If that’s what you want. You know, the Yiling Patriarch lives to serve his people.”

Was Lan Wangji one of his people back then? Would he really have taken him, if he’d only asked?

“Am I—”

“Of course,” Wei Ying assures him. “You’ve always been one of mine, Hanguang-Jun. Even if you didn’t know it.”

“I—” He gasps as Wei Ying lowers his hand to play with his clit, “have known it.”

“Is that so?” he teases, flicking his fingers along it. Lan Wangji cries out from the burst of feeling as he does. He’s spread open by Wei Ying’s cock, pulled closer by his fingers on his slit. It’s absolutely maddening. Lan Wangji writhes against him.

His husband lets out an amused laugh. “Glad we’ve cleared that up, then.”

Lan Wangji pitches his hips upwards, silently begging. He wants to feel him in the days to come when they’ll be separated. Even if he leaves behind no traces come morning, he wants to somehow feel it.

Wei Ying simply rubs him in response, making no signs he’ll move any further, that he’ll fuck him like he wants.

“Wei Ying—”

“Yes?”

“Fuck me.”

His husband laughs, pushing deeper inside him with infuriating slowness. “I am.”

He lets out a frustrated grunt, thrusting his hips forward in desperation. That’s not what he meant. Wei Ying knows that’s not what he meant. “Faster.”

“Ah, Hanguang-Jun,” Wei Ying tuts, licking his fingers that were playing with his clit, “that’s not very polite, is it?”

“Wei Ying,” he groans. His eyes brim with tears again, his body aching from being teased for so long. “Please.” 

Wei Ying considers him for a moment, taking in his tears, his swollen nipples, the indentations on his wrists, and smiles down at him. “It’s a good thing you’re pretty, Lan Zhan,” he tells him. “That pout is so persuasive.”

And with that, he snaps his hips, and gives Lan Wangji exactly what he wants. Fast, brutal, and unyielding. Wei Ying grips his hips as he fucks him, firmly holding at just the right angle to hit the places he craves. Lan Wangji lets the pleasure overtake him, slumping into the mattress, whining when his inner walls shake and he comes with his husband inside him. Wei Ying doesn’t relent—he never does—and Lan Wangji shakes with him, every nerve awake and unforgiving. 

It isn’t long before Wei Ying comes with a cry of his own, his thrusts slowing, but not stopping—not until he begins to soften. Lan Wangji sobs when he leaves him, at the sudden emptiness inside. He feels too open, too exposed. He needs Wei Ying to hold him together.

His husband doesn’t leave him alone for long. He wraps Lan Wangji in his arms and kisses every tear on is face. Gently, he removes the silver piece from his hair, loosens the tie holding it back. He massages his fingers into his scalp, alleviates the pressure that had built atop his head. It’s been a while since he’s worn his hair in such a way—his body has forgotten.

“Was that what you wanted?” Wei Ying asks, his voice quiet and tentative. He loosens the forehead ribbon and sets it down beside him on the bed. “Did I push you too far?”

“No.”

He never could.

“I thought so,” he whispers, stroking his hair. “Just want to be sure.”

“Hm.”

He does not quite have the words just now—he’s too wrung out for that. But sometime soon, he will tell him exactly how it feels for him. Why he needs it. He supposes Wei Ying already knows. He’s always understood him, even when he didn’t.

“Can you imagine,” Wei Ying whispers, laughing softly, “if that had really happened? The honourable Hanguang-Jun abandoning his sect to fuck the Yiling Patriarch?”

“Didn’t it?” he asks him, glancing up at his husband. “Is that not what I’ve done?”

Wei Ying laughs, more heartily this time, holding him closer. “I suppose it is,” he says. “And it’s so much more. If only we’d done it sooner.”

Sometimes, he thinks about that, too. If he’d really gone to the Burial Mounds to give himself up, what would have changed? Would Wei Ying have lost control on the Qiongqi Path? Would Jin Zixuan have died then? Would the confrontation at Nightless City have ever happened?

“Now is good enough,” he decides.

Wei Ying hums to himself, considering his words. “I suppose you’re right, Lan Zhan,” he whispers. “The past… it’s happened. And we can’t change it. So we may as well carry on in spite of it.”

“Yes,” he agrees, stroking his husband’s cheek. “We must.”


In the morning, he wakes to unblemished skin. There’s a slight ache around his nipples as he washes himself, but he supposes that’s from the pregnancy more than anything else. He does not feel the ache of Wei Ying’s presence in his abdomen, or the harshness in his throat where he fucked him. Yet, he feels him still. The ghost of him. A shadow of the night and what they’ve done. He’ll let it carry him through the days they’ll be apart.

When he’s dressed, with his qiankun pouch secured to his belt, and Bichen in his hand, he returns to the bed for one last look at his husband. Wei Ying is asleep, sprawled out over the entirety of the mattress, now that Lan Wangji has vacated it. His face is pushed into a pillow, his arms outstretched. His sleeping robe is lopsided, exposing a shoulder to the cool morning air. Lan Wangji presses his lips against it.

“Hmph,” Wei Ying murmurs, readjusting himself. “Lan Zhan.”

“A-Yuan will wake soon,” he reminds him, brushing his hair over one shoulder.

Wei Ying sighs heavily, mutters something about Cloud Recesses and routine, and begrudgingly rises to a sitting position.

“Lan Zhan,” he pouts, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. “Don’t leave.”

“Behave,” he chides, kissing his husband’s pouted lip. “I will return.”

“With a present?” he asks, brightening at the thought. 

“Perhaps.”

“Perhaps,” Wei Ying repeats with a laugh.

“You will see.”

He leaves as the sun begins to rise. As he starts down the path towards town, the soft laughter of his husband a son drifts towards him in the wind. He hears it long after their home is out of sight, replaying in his mind again and again.