“Baba, it tickles,” A-Yuan exclaims as the tailor slips her measuring rope underneath his arms.
“Just a little longer,” Lan Wangji assures him, placing a comforting hand on the top of his head. “A-Yuan has been so good.”
He has been extraordinarily well-behaved, standing perfectly still as the tailor flits about him, remaining polite even as she pokes and prods at him. The last time they’d bought new robes for the boy, they’d purchased finished garments that were approximately the correct size. Lan Wangji had altered them himself once they’d arrived home. Similarly, in Gusu, he was given an older disciples’ robes, passed onto him and altered by an instructor. But when A-Yuan grew too big for his current garments, they’d both decided it was time to have a few made for him.
He has grown so tall in the months since he and Wei Ying left everything behind. Soon, he’ll be big enough to begin learning core exercises, to begin cultivating. Before they know it, they will be calling him by his courtesy name, and sending him to Gusu for the guest lectures.
If the Lan will have him.
Of course, they will have him. His brother and uncle will always want him, even if the elders disapprove. Want them—even if the path he’s chosen may have disappointed them.
The mere thought of it pricks at his eyes. He knows he’s loved still by his sect. Knows he could have been punished much more severely for his actions against them. Knows what his uncle said to him that day do not reflect his true feelings. And still, he finds himself questioning. Wondering. It’s become his constant companion in recent days, as his pregnancy becomes more and more obvious.
He exhales slowly and waits for his emotion to pass.
“Lan Zhan—what do you think? Is green my colour?”
He glances away from A-Yuan and the tailor to find his husband pressing the end of a bolt of emerald fabric against his face. He widens his eyes mischievously, puffing out his cheeks in an exaggerated pout as Lan Wangji takes in the scene before him.
His feelings quickly ebb away, seeing his husband behaving in such an undignified manner. Wei Ying in turn giggles, self-satisfied, as though he could sense Lan Wangji’s threatening emotion. As though he’s content to have stilled it, even for a moment.
Perhaps he already knows everything he's feeling. He has become very inept at hiding his emotion as of late. It takes more than a quick breath or a flex of his muscle to keep some feelings at bay. The baby, in their efforts to grow, has left him fatigued and unable to regulate himself in the same ways.
“Put that away.”
Obediently, Wei Ying sets the bolt on the table from where he found it, smoothing out the disturbed edges with his palms.
“Lan Zhan,” he pouts, “that’s no way to speak to your husband.”
His words do not sting as they used to, even when said in jest. Lan Wangji does not feel the shame that once riddled him. Instead, he softens his expression, reaching out to his husband.
“Wei Ying looks good in every colour.”
His husband smiles to himself, laughing at the bolts of fabric in front of him. With an amused tilt, he lifts his head once more.
“Every colour, you say,” he remarks, fingers dancing over the fabrics. “Even… this one?”
He points at a sapphire blue silk, shining and brilliant. It’s a little brighter than the typical Lan shades, but close enough for Lan Wangji to dream. To imagine another life, another time, where their youths weren’t so fraught with war. When their childhoods weren’tso harsh and unkind. Where they meet at the guest lectures and fall in love, and Wei Ying marries into his sect before too much time can pass. He’d wear fabrics like this, he thinks—darker blues, majestic and regal, pairing so excellently with Lan Wangji’s fairer shades. Looking so elegant when standing near his brother and uncle.
His brother, his uncle.
He has tried not to think of them, to set them aside like his ever-complicated memories of Gusu, and once again they return to him today. For a while, he could keep those thoughts at bay. For a while, there were more pressing things. But since he and Wei Ying have begun to make sense of their pasts together, since the baby’s arrival comes closer every day, it becomes more and more difficult to set aside the fact that his child will come into this world in mere months and his family has absolutely no knowledge of them.
There are so many traditions, so many things they will miss. And while the fear of Wei Ying’s safety still hangs above him, the grief of his immediate family missing so much does too. Both feelings are difficult to wrestle with, to find peace within. He does not know what to do… how to reconcile them.
The tide rises within him once again, crushing at his lungs, constricting in his throat. He takes in a deep breath, but it’s not enough. How could it be enough?
“Ah, Lan Zhan,” Wei Ying murmurs. His hands are on his shoulders now—somehow moving without Lan Wangji noticing. “Enough of that one,” he decides firmly, one hand drifting to rest possessively against his stomach. The other moves to the small of his back. His husband’s surrounding touch grounds him, forces him back to the moment. “What about this? Look.”
He forces himself to follow Wei Ying’s hand, which briefly moves from his back to a bolt of fabric, so bright and yellow, it’s nearly garish. It would certainly look appealing on someone, but he has a difficult time envisioning Wei Ying in it. His husband is more pleasing in deeper colours, richer shades.
Wei Ying laughs at whatever face he is making, pinching his cheek as he frowns.
“I agree, my good husband,” Wei Ying says. “Yellow is not my colour. You might be able to do it, though.” He hums thoughtfully, glancing between Lan Wangji and the bolt of fabric. “A true Hanguang-Jun, all decked out like the sun!”
He glares at his husband, the tension in his throat easing with every moment. Wei Ying grins, kisses his cheek, long and emphatic, and guides him back towards the tailor finishing her measurements.
“Maybe we can buy something sweet on our way home,” Wei Ying says, taking A-Yuan’s hand. “What do you say, Lan Zhan?”
“Does it matter what my opinion is?” he questions his husband, smiling as he laughs.
“It does,” Wei Ying insists, placing his free hand on the small of Lan Wangji’s back, guiding him out of the shop and onto the street. “But… I may not listen to it.”
He huffs in amusement, earning another grin from his husband.
“I think,” Wei Ying says, “we should—”
He stops abruptly, frowning up at the sky.
“Did you feel that?” Wei Ying asks. “I thought I felt—”
A clap of thunder drowns out his husband’s voice, and Wei Ying quickly pulls them into a side street to find shelter from the oncoming storm.
The rain pelts onto the pavement, echoing into Lan Wangji’s ears through the open window. A light spray dusts his face, but he pays it no mind. If anything, it cools his achingly hot skin. With the increased humidity from the storm, the heat of summer, and the baby’s persistence to make their presence known, he finds relief in the strangest of places.
“Lan Zhan,” his husband says, piling more fish into his bowl, “have a little more.”
“No more than three bowls,” he reminds him, placing a hand on his wrist to still him. He has certainly not been observing that particular principle since the baby’s growth, but nothing amuses Wei Ying more than being scolded.
His husband gives him a fond glare, shaking off his hand with a wave. “You’re eating for two, Lan Zhan,” he reminds him, throwing more in for good measure. “I think the baby should also get three bowls. It’s only fair.”
He scowls, pretending to consider his husband’s logic. His heart warms when Wei Ying laughs and his pregnant belly a gentle tap.
“Don’t you think you deserve three bowls, little rabbit?” Wei Ying asks, leaning down to address them directly.
Within him, the baby stirs, as they always do when Wei Ying acknowledges them. They have become more insistent in their movements, the bigger they get. But still, Wei Ying has not been able to feel them. The physician told him it would take time for the baby to move enough for Wei Ying to experience it, especially as it’s his first pregnancy, but he’s fears he’s grown quite impatient. It’s been more than six months since their child was first conceived. He wants his husband to feel them.
“Lan Zhan?” Wei Ying prompts, piling vegetables into his bowl now. “Are you well?”
He blinks, rubs his stomach, and gives his husband a reassuring smile. Their child stirs once again when he smiles back. “I am.”
Wei Ying beams back at him and turns to place more chicken into A-Yuan’s bowl. It’s smothered in oyster sauce, vinegar, and garlic, its aroma pleasant, wafting towards Lan Wangji on the breeze from the open window. In the past, he’d often found the smell of meat dishes unappealing, but something about it now stirs… interest in Lan Wangji. Intrigue, even. He’s never eaten meat before, even when traveling outside of Cloud Recesses—even at other cultivation conferences and events. He’d never felt a strong desire to reach towards the dishes laid out in front of them and give them a taste, as his brother did now and again. He was perfectly content to remain following the Lan practices, even those only specific to Cloud Recesses, wherever he went.
Now, he watches Wei Ying break the chicken into smaller pieces—the meat separating so easily, giving way and falling apart as his husband presses against it with the side of his chopstick. Steam rises into the air, filling the small space between them, and Lan Wangji breathes it in slowly, letting the scents permeate in his mouth, letting his mind imagine how it would taste.
His mouth waters.
He would like… to try…
Wei Ying serves himself a different chicken dish, more red than brown, heavily spiced and scented. It’s a cacophony of scents Lan Wangji cannot recognize, far too strong for his usual tastes, and yet… he still breathes it in. Still tries to imagine how it would feel against his tongue. If he would be able to stand it.
If Wei Ying enjoys it, it can’t be so bad. Just different.
His eyes snap up to Wei Ying’s, gazing at him with concern, then flickering down to the bowl still resting in his palm, untouched.
“Is there something wrong with the food?” he asks, leaning in. “Is it cold? I can order another!”
Lan Wangji shakes his head, lips twitching into a small smile. “It is fine. I am just… distracted,” he explains, and lifts a piece of fish to his mouth. It’s very good, steamed and bathed in ginger, scallion, and soy. As flavourful as he imagines the chicken dishes must be—in a different way, of course.
And yet within him, the child stirs impatiently, as though bored with more of the same flavours. As though craving something more. Lan Wangji rests a reproachful hand on his middle as the child fusses about.
He breathes deeply, tapping fingers against his round, taut stomach.
Behave, he thinks to himself. Were they alone, he would whisper it. He would caress his middle and hum soft comforts until the baby eased their movements. But for now, he doesn’t wish to worry his husband. Hess already been so diligent and so concerned since Lan Wangji’s pregnancy has become more obvious.
He picks at the fish in his bowl and takes a small bite. It’s certainly the most exciting meal he’s been able to stomach all week. Until today, he has awoken with an unsettled stomach every morning, bile barely kept at bay. The two of them have eaten much plain congee and drunk an ocean’s worth of ginger tea. They have tasted meals upon meals of bland vegetables, plain tofu, and too-soft rice—and clearly their baby has grown tired of it. Lan Wangji has also grown tired of it himself, which is why this meal was, until moments before, ultimately satisfying. Now, he casts sideways glances at his husband’s chicken all over again, sniffing at its scent wafting towards him.
This discomfort will not be forever. His body will adjust again, and he will be able to taste a much more flavourful palate. The baby has simply grown quite a bit in the last few weeks, seemingly all at once, and his body has not had a chance to grow accustomed to it. What used to be a little, nearly invisible bump, has transformed into a round, plump thing. He is unsure when it exactly became so noticeable. One day, his everyday robes fit, and the next he couldn’t extend them any longer.
Today, he’s wearing a midnight blue pregnancy robe, made of loose, light fabric that breathes overtop endless seas of red inner robes. They are Wei Ying’s colours, but they have become his. He can’t see himself in anything less now.
Wei Ying catches his eyes on his bowl once again, and frowns.
“Is something wrong, Lan Zhan?”
“How is it?” he asks instead of answering. There is nothing objectively wrong, after all. He’s merely… increasingly intrigued by the food in Wei Ying’s bowl. The baby, now so much bigger, could likely use the extra protein. It’s a worthy sacrifice to make.
His mouth waters again. If he were to simply reach for Wei Ying’s bowl, would his husband think he’d lost his mind?
Wei Ying knits his brows together in confusion—at the question, at the lack of an answer—and glances back at the food. “Oh, it’s good,” he says distractedly. “It reminds me a little of Yunmeng. The spices, I mean—it’s similar. Not the same, though, but… close.”
“Is that good?”
Wei Ying smiles, his lips pushed upwards with the smallest of laughs. “It is good, Lan Zhan,” he assures him. “There is much I do not miss… but the food… sometimes I do.”
He will have to inquire about the spices before they leave. Perhaps he can attempt to recreate a similar blend at home. To bring Wei Ying quiet reminders of the life he had, the pieces he misses. To build a home with him out of these fragments is all he ever wishes to do.
Wei Ying freezes, mouth mid-chew, eyes widening. “May you—”
“Try.” He nods towards Wei Ying’s bowl, and gestures at it with his free hand.
His husband pulls his bowl towards him, hunching over it, as though he were protecting it. “Lan Zhan! Are you sure you’re well?”
At this point, he is not.
“The baby would like it,” he says instead.
“The baby,” Wei Ying repeats with an amused smirk. “Have you two been having telepathic conversations? Without telling me? Lan Zhan!”
He shakes his head. “I just… know.”
His husband huffs out a laugh. “You know. Lan Zhan—you’ve never eaten meat before! Not even a little! And spices?” He gives Lan Wangji’s forehead ribbon a teasing tap, right at the centre of the Lan pattern. “Husband of mine, even if the baby really wanted it, I don’t think it’d agree with your stomach. There’s no need to get your body all upset.”
He sighs and glances at his own bowl. His husband is likely correct. Even if he craves this food he has never eaten, the fact he has never eaten it could upset him even more than his current pregnancy symptoms.
“Ah, Lan Zhan,” Wei Ying laughs. He bends forward to give him a swift kiss. “Don’t pout. When we get home, I can make you something with meat in it. Nothing spicy… just herbs. Alright?”
He nods. It seems like a fair enough compromise. With resignation, he takes another bite of fish. The baby thumps against him even more aggressively, and Lan Wangji’s heartbeat quickens. Today, the baby has been far more active than usual. Is it possible…
He places a hand against his stomach and takes a sip of tea. Perhaps the baby will respond to that. Perhaps they will pound against his palm. Perhaps if Wei Ying were to lay a hand against his stomach, he would finally be able to feel them.
There is nothing, even as he takes another sip. The tea is jasmine. Perhaps that is different enough to satisfy this little one.
“Maybe it’s better we stay the night,” Wei Ying suggests, glancing behind Lan Wangji at the open window. The rain is still beating down, just as aggressively as it was earlier. “It’ll take us longer to get back with the rain. And if you catch a cold…” He shrugs, and chews on his lower lip. “I know you’re very capable, Lan Zhan. I just—”
“We can stay,” Lan Wangji decides. It’s getting late, anyhow. He is tired, the rain is wild, and they have the money to spare. The sooner he can lie down, perhaps the better he will feel. This restlessness will pass, and he will no longer crave what he has never known.
He awakens to midnight pooling into their room, his face dripping in sweat. Wei Ying is sprawled onto the mattress beside him, having rolled over from his embrace sometime in the night. Even though he is not touching Lan Wangji, the heat radiating from his body still cuts through his thin inner robe. And still, he’s not close enough. He could never be close enough, but now especially he is too far away. There are too many layers separating them. Too many actions left undone.
The baby stirs restlessly as his own mounts. Neither of them can be satisfied, it seems.
Lan Wangji sighs, gently pulling the covers away from himself. Caressing the baby, he wanders towards the closed window. The rain is no longer pelting against it, as it was when they first went to bed. There is barely any sound coming from beyond the walls at all. He chances to open the window, nearly doubling over in relief when a breeze blows against his too-warm face.
He pats his stomach chidingly, leaning his forehead against the window frame. Its cool surface relieves the mounting heat upon his forehead. He breathes slowly, letting the breeze seep through his sweat-dampened robes. Letting his hands wander over the ever-growing expanse of his stomach.
He hums softly, barely audible, its message hopefully heard.
The baby turns, doing the exact opposite of the what the melody is meant to do—
And kicks against Lan Wangji’s hands.
His heart nearly stops beating.
It was faint, but strong. Unmistakable. He has never felt it before, and yet he is sure. His baby is saying hello.
“Hello,” he whispers back, his eyes stinging as he caresses his stomach once again. The baby kicked for him. The baby responded to his voice with more than a restless rustle. The baby heard his song and responded.
“Hello,” he whispers again, cradling his stomach. “I am here.”
He waits for more acknowledgement, for confirmation it wasn’t just by chance, but the baby goes still. Perhaps “Rest” truly worked.
“Lan Zhan?” Wei Ying calls out in a harsh whisper from their bed. Sheets rustle at an alarmingly fast rate, and Wei Ying lands on the floor with a soft thump. “Lan Zhan, where—”
“Here,” he murmurs, unmoving. It is so much cooler here than in their bed—he does not want to go back just yet, even though Wei Ying is there. He wants to show Wei Ying his new discovery—if the baby will allow it. But he simply needs another moment. Another puff of breeze, another shudder, and he will be ready.
Soft footsteps pad around the privacy screen. Wei Ying lets out a soft laugh, sighing with a gentle hum.
“My poor husband,” Wei Ying murmurs, resting his hands against Lan Wangji’s shoulders. He gives them a squeeze, humming again. “You’re sweating quite a bit. Are you alright, Lan Zhan?”
He nods, keeping his forehead against the window pane. “Just hot.”
“Ah,” Wei Ying sighs, squeezing his shoulders again. “They did warn us about that. The baby just seemed so well-behaved until recently.”
“Mn,” he agrees. “They are rebelling.”
His husband laughs softly, rubbing his arms. “I suppose we should’ve known,” he murmurs, “they have me as a father.”
Lan Wangji hums in approval. “I am glad.”
Wei Ying lets out a soft giggle, rubbing his arms more firmly. “Of course you are.”
He doesn’t answer his husband, rubbing his stomach once again. Wordlessly encouraging the child to kick. To let Wei Ying feel them.
“They are very… active,” he says. The news curls within him, begging to be said, but Lan Wangji keeps it. He does not want to get Wei Ying’s hopes up. To watch him wait with bright eyes for the sign of their child acknowledging him—and for nothing to happen. It would be better to wait until it happens again.
“Are they?” Wei Ying sighs. He lowers his hands, snaking them around Lan Wangji’s middle, resting them on the crest of his bump. “‘Let me out, Baba,’” he murmurs, pitching his voice high to poorly imitate that of a child’s. “‘Let me out!’”
Lan Wangji huffs out a laugh as Wei Ying rubs his stomach, resting his chest against Lan Wangji’s back. Reflexively, he relaxes into his husband’s chest, rolling his head back into his shoulder.
“Our little rabbit will need to wait a little longer,” Wei Ying whispers. “As much as I would love to meet them now—I think they need more time.”
“Mn,” he agrees, letting his husband cradle him. His hands are so gentle as they support him, his arms so strong. When the baby is born, he will be so good to them.
“They kicked,” he admits.
It turns out, there is very little he can keep from his husband. Very little he wishes to keep from him. His heartbeat quickens as Wei Ying lets in a sharp breath, his grip on Lan Wangji tightening.
“They did?” His voice still a whisper, but pitches high with excitement.
His husband presses his lips against his shoulder, sighing deeply. If he could see his face, he surely would be smiling. “Ah, little one,” he whispers, rubbing Lan Wangji’s belly, “promise to be good for your baba."
The baby stirs within him, encouraged by the sound of Wei Ying’s voice, but their movements are less distinct. Less present. They do not seem to make any kind of movement his husband can detect.
“They’re moving,” Lan Wangji tells him, “but only a little.”
“Of course,” Wei Ying murmurs with a laugh, “our little rabbit’s a free spirit. They won’t move when we want them to.”
“Yes,” he agrees, “like Wei Ying.”
His husband lets in another sharp breath, burying his face into his dampened robe. A laugh becomes a sob, then a laugh again. “Lan Zhan…”
“It is true,” he protests.
“If you say so, Lan Zhan.”
“I do,” he insists, relaxing more into his husband’s embrace, in spite of the warmth bleeding into him. Being near Wei Ying always makes him feel better, even as the sweat begins to gather upon his brow.
“Come on,” Wei Ying murmurs, picking at the fabric of his inner robe. “You’ll catch a cold if you stay in these robes.”
“There are no others,” Lan Wangji reminds him, as he allows himself to be led towards the privacy screen in front of their bed. His outer robes need to be presentable for the journey home, and the middle layers are too thick to be comfortable for sleep.
“We can share,” Wei Ying suggests, peeling the robe off Lan Wangji’s shoulders. “On the off-chance A-Yuan comes to wake us.”
It seems unlikely, given how well he sleeps on his own now. But they are not home, and given that it is the first night in months that A-Yuan has slept in a different bed, it seems prudent to remain relatively covered.
The fabric parts from his skin slowly as Wei Ying drags it away, and Lan Wangji shudders when the cool air makes contact with his damp skin. The robe makes a heavy sound as it falls to the floor, weighed down by his sweat. Wei Ying unties his trousers, letting them drop to the floor with an equally heavy thump.
“There we are,” Wei Ying says, heaving the articles up into his arms. “Just go sit on the bed. I’ll clean you up.”
He’s not in the mood to protest, even though he’s perfectly capable of washing himself. It’s too late, he's too hot, and his skin thrums for his husband’s touch. For any touch. The ache burns within him, becoming more apparent as the thought surfaces and sinks into his skin. As he allows himself to think it. Now is not the time, not the place, but the want still swirls within him. Still pushes and pushes. He parts his legs unconsciously, and quickly clamps them shut once more as his husband spreads the robes across the privacy screen to dry them.
“Fidgety,” Wei Ying comments.
He picks up the shallow washbasin and carefully brings it to the bed. Every step is slow and measured, testing the weight of every muscle before moving the next. It’s mesmerizing, watching the minuscule movements of his legs and arm muscles as he crosses the distance. Lan Wangji cannot help but stare.
Wei Ying laughs softly, setting the washbasin on the floor. “What’re you looking at?” he teases, settling onto his knees. Leaning into him.
Lan Wangji’s body betrays him, pulsing at this familiar position, at what it generally signifies. He breathes to steady himself, pushing his knees even closer together than they already are.
Wei Ying laughs once more, as though he can sense his thoughts, and dips a cloth into the water. He squeezes out the excess, the elegant veins upon the back of his hand flexing. Lan Wangji forces his eyes upwards to the ceiling to keep all inappropriate thoughts at bay. He focuses on the coolness of the cloth pressed against his calves, on the pattern of the tiles upon the ceiling. Feels the cold cloth wrap around his ankles and brush against his knees.
Palms move to rest upon them, nudging his legs apart to wash in between. His body fights to respond, to lean into him, encourage his lips to press against the warmest places. He tenses the muscle in his thighs, focuses on the squeeze of them beneath his skin as desire continues to flare in Lan Wangji’s gut. He bites his lips as Wei Ying presses the damp cloth against his inner thighs, dancing far too close to where he wants those hands. He closes his eyes to distract himself until Wei Ying’s hand rises, washing his stomach and the small of his back. When Wei Ying passes the cloth over his breasts, he fights to keep his posture perfectly straight, to not succumb to the urge to lean into the touch and demand more.
“Almost done,” his husband assures him, his voice light and amused. Lan Wangji bites back the sigh of relief as he gathers his hair to one side of his shoulder so he can wash his shoulder blades and back of his neck. “So needy, aren’t you?”
He presses his lips against the side of his neck, his lips barely lingering, merely brushing against the sensitive skin. Teasing him.
“Wei Ying,” he warns, clenching his hands into fists.
His husband laughs softly, drawing away with widened eyes. “What? Can I not give my husband a kiss?”
He glares back. Clearly, Wei Ying is well aware of the fire crawling beneath his skin. Clearly, he wishes to test it.
Wei Ying smiles, his whole face coming alight, and Lan Wangji’s heart beats with fondness, betraying him. “Here,” he says, removing his own inner robe, “you wear this… sleep on the inside.”
He nods, letting his husband slip the robe over his shoulders. He can’t tie it properly, but it still covers most of his body. Enough for some semblance of modesty.
“Be good and wait, Lan Zhan,” Wei Ying murmurs as they settle back into bed. His husband pulls away the blanket, on Lan Wangji’s side of the bed, folding it in half to double on his own. “You know your gege will give you what you need.”
“Yes,” he whispers. He can always rely on Wei Ying for that. Even if he makes him wait for it this one time.
“Try to sleep, my love,” Wei Ying says, pressing himself against Lan Wangji’s back. He kisses him on the cheek, on the back of his head, at the top of his spine—as though to make up for what contact they can’t have. Hands stroke his round belly, patting a gentle rhythm. Lulling him into sleep.
He is almost there with Wei Ying’s hand creeps up beyond his stomach to cup his breast, giving it a firm squeeze before he promptly dives away from him.
“Wei Ying,” he hisses, as the dormant sparks of arousal reawaken.
His husband merely giggles and rolls onto his other side, back facing him “Go to sleep, Lan Zhan.”
He sighs heavily, rolling onto his back into his most familiar sleeping position. His husband is absolutely cruel and a menace. And still, he loves him so.
In the morning, he rises somewhere close to dawn. His internal clock from his days of living in Cloud Recesses is gradually shifting. Between the pregnancy keeping him awake at all hours, and his husband’s sleeping patterns, he’s no longer as precise as he used to be. He still rises before Wei Ying, but not by much. Not anymore.
Still, he will have enough time for the task ahead of him. His husband will not wake just yet. He will descend to inquire with the innkeeper about the spices used in that dish, and he will buy them. When they return home, he will do his best to emulate what has been lost. He will give Wei Ying a small taste of home.
Not home, exactly. That name does not belong to Yunmeng any longer. Home is here, now. Home is him.
Instead, he’ll give Wei Ying a taste of the past.
By the time Lan Wangji has finished grinding the spices into a fine powder, the rain is pelting on the rooftop. It’s just as loud as it was the night before, just as unrelenting with spray drifting in from the open window. Lan Wangji breathes in the cool air, revelling in the mist that brushes against his cheek.
It’s another day of unsettled stomachs and plain congee. Another day of heat and sweat gathering beneath his robes from the humid air. Another day of restless energy thrumming inside him, begging to be released. To be taken.
Wei Ying promised him.
It has only occurred to him now he did not ask when. Normally, he asks when. To give himself reassurance when he feels the desire too impossibly. To remind himself to be patient for his eventual relief.
Surely, his husband will take pity on him. He is pregnant, after all. And miserable. And tired. Wei Ying is always kind to him.
Lan Wangji sighs to himself as he grinds the spices with renewed vigour. Did his mother suffer similarly when he was growing within her? Was he as determined to make his presence known? There must still be parts of her he has not yet discovered. There must be pieces he can hold close, even now. Pieces hidden away in his brother’s memories.
He has half a mind to write to him and ask. But he shouldn’t. The loss of their mother hurt Lan Xichen too. He should not ask him to unbury something that could bring him pain. As much as he longs for answers, as much as he longs for connection. He can’t be the cause of his brother’s suffering.
He supposes he already has been that. In defending Wei Ying, in leaving the sect. What’s one more thing? One more slight against him? This pregnancy is one of the only ways he can find his mother now, and still she remains unreachable. Lan Xichen remains unreachable too.
A gentle breeze blows through the open window, and some stray powder wafts up to his face. It makes his nose itch, from the intensity of the blend, but after the initial burn, what’s left behind is…
Just as it was last night, smothering Wei Ying’s chicken.
He presses his finger into the powder, gathering a thin layer on the pad of his finger. Lifting it to his face, he sniffs again—deliberately, this time. Despite his lack of knowledge, it must be a good blend of spices. Otherwise, why would it smell appealing to him? He has never had the stomach for them, and has never felt particularly drawn to the dangerously red food his husband sometimes brings home from the market.
Perhaps, before, they were simply not the right spices. Perhaps these specific ones, in this specific configuration, are much more digestible. He will have to investigate.
Cautiously, he opens his mouth, breathes deeply to steel himself for whatever consequences he may face, sniffs the air one more time—
And feels warm lips clamp around his spice-coated finger.
“Hm,” Wei Ying hums, flicking his tongue along the pad of Lan Wangji’s finger, awakening barely-dormant desires from a night of waiting. The hot coal brand of desire pulses between his legs, threatening to make flame as Wei Ying drags his tongue along the length of his digit.
Wei Ying moans softly, either from being pleased from the taste or simply aroused—or perhaps exaggerating as a way of teasing him. Lan Wangji cannot tell, nor does he care at this precise moment. It takes every ounce of restraint to take it, to remain still. To resist the urge to grab hold of his husband and drag him towards their bedroom.
But that’s not the game they are playing. That’s not the part he must play.
Wei Ying gives his finger a final lick, drawing back to release it. As a small trail of spit connects his lips to the tip of Lan Wangji’s finger, he leans in and gives his fingernail a kiss.
“Well,” he says, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, “that’s very good. Not too spicy, but nice. When’d you pick those up?”
Lan Wangji stares helplessly at his husband, now crossing the kitchen to inspect their evening meal on the stove, as though the past moments never happened. As though Lan Wangji’s finger is not still midair, helplessly coated in spit.
“Today?” Wei Ying guesses, eyes bright with mischief. “When I was sleeping? Lan Zhan!”
He lets his hand fall to his side. The breeze whispers against it.
“You remembered that dish reminded me of Yunmeng, didn’t you?”
He barely manages a nod.
“You asked the innkeeper about the spices.”
“Ah, Lan Zhan,” Wei Ying sighs, rushing over to embrace him from behind. He kisses his cheek several times, emphatically, lips wet and hot. “What an excellent husband I have! So thoughtful.”
His husband’s praise encourages Lan Wangji to pull a smile from his lips, nuzzling his cheek against Wei Ying’s. Hands rest upon his belly, clasped together to hold the crest of it, and Lan Wangji leans into it. Here, in the stillness of the evening with the rain beating down a relentless rhythm, he feels the tension within himself give way. The fire once threatening to rage dims.
Until his husband takes the opportunity to bite his earlobe, dragging his teeth downwards with slow precision.
“Wei Ying,” he hisses as his husband’s teeth reawaken his skin.
“What?” Wei Ying challenges, reaching upwards to palm his chest. Even with layers of robes and the compression of his binder, the nerves in his breasts twist and tangle, demanding his husband’s attention.
Unconsciously, he covers his husband’s hands with his palms, pressing them down, arching his own back to demand more friction. Demand touch.
“Ah,” Wei Ying chides, stepping away from Lan Wangji. Extracting his hands from Lan Wangji’s grasp, he wags a chiding finger at him. “You better behave, Lan Zhan! Otherwise…” He clicks his tongue reproachfully, sauntering over to the stove to inspect it once again.
He suppresses a sigh, smoothing his robes beneath his palms. “Wei Ying…”
“Lan Zhan,” Wei Ying answers, his voice a song. The right corner of his mouth tips upward into a wicked smile. “Just because you’re pregnant doesn’t mean I’ll give you whatever you want.”
“Does it not?” he challenges.
His husband’s eyes widen with delight. Searing, hot pleasure tightens in Lan Wangji’s chest, reverberating in his ribs. He’s getting better a playing these games with him.
“Ha—I’ve only let you think that, Lan Zhan. But at the end of the day…” He raises his eyebrows, waggling them playfully. “I will have you on your knees Hanguang-Jun.”
The heat rushes to his face as his mind conjures up the possibilities. All the ways he could beg Wei Ying, could succumb to him. All the ways his husband could so lovingly torture him.
“Mark your words.”
Wei Ying’s laugh echo in the room long after he has left, and Lan Wangji loses himself in the familiar motions of preparing their dinner. The routine makes it easier to ignore his mounting need and the emptiness of being without. It’s both welcome and a curse to forget for a few moments.
He ladles out each dish into serving bowls, steam rising into his face. Sweat gathers beneath his layers, burrowing into his binder. He will likely have to go without it if the baby continues to grow and play with his internal temperature at this rate. Will likely have to shed several layers for the sake of comfort over modesty. Just the way his husband likes him.
He takes a small portion of fried noodles into a smaller bowl for Wei Ying, and adds a pinch of the spice blend. Swirling the noodles, he watches them adopt a deeper colour as the spice coats them. Considering how how spiced his husband tends to like his food when they eat elsewhere, he adds a little more, breathing in the changes in its aroma. The scent from the blend of herbs and sauce he’d prepared for himself and A-Yuan mingling with the Yunmeng-style spices makes his mouth water. Makes the baby kick restlessly.
He chances a glance behind him. He is completely alone.
Quickly, he gathers a bite of noodles and shoves it in his mouth. He presses them against his tongue, bracing himself for the initial shock. But there’s no clear indicator it’s too much, no sudden heat in his face or in his mouth. It’s just…
Difficult to describe.
He chews thoughtfully, letting the mixture of flavours cling to his tongue. It doesn’t burn like he expected. It stings somewhat, and pulsates in his ears of all places, but not unpleasantly. He has become used to a good pain, after all. This is similar. Just… a pleasant sting that leaves behind… something… in the back of his throat. A pull for more. A need to be sated.
And most importantly, he doesn’t have to fight bile in his throat as he swallows. He doesn’t feel restless movement within.
Another bite would be prudent. To confirm his assessment.
“Lan Zhan, are you—”
Wei Ying’s words die away as Lan Wangji freezes, noodles hanging from his mouth, mid-bite. His husband’s eyes widen as Lan Wangji gulps it down, placing the bowl onto the counter guiltily. He will have to add more for Wei Ying.
“Are you alright, Lan Zhan?” Wei Ying demands, rushing for him. Anxious hands pat him down, concerned eyes surveying his face, darting all over the place. “Your ears are so red.”
“M’fine,” he huffs as the remaining noodles slide down his throat. “Tasted good.”
Wei Ying stares at the bowl, half-emptied, then back at Lan Wangji’s face, then back at the bowl. Cautiously, he picks up the chopsticks Lan Wangji had been using to test the dish for himself. He chews thoughtfully, forehead creasing as he assesses the situation. Lan Wangji’s mouth tingles, the lack of more spice emphasizing what came before. It’s more intense than it was when he had noodles to chew alongside it, but not so bad. Much different than he expected.
“It’s nice,” Wei Ying agrees, “not very spicy for me—but for you Lan Zhan? You’re not… suffering?”
He shakes his head, offering his husband a smile. “The baby likes it.”
The creases in Wei Ying’s forehead ease as his lips spread into a grin. “Do they now?”
His husband giggles, kneeling to the floor to rest his face against Lan Wangji’s baby bump. “Do you like the spices, little rabbit?”
The baby rustles in Lan Wangji’s stomach, fluttering with happiness at the sound of his husband’s voice. At first, it seems that’s all they’ll do, when Lan Wangji feels a swift kick against his navel, strong and unmistakable.
Wei Ying startles glancing up at Lan Wangji. His mouth drops open in a hopeful half-smile as he lays his hands on Lan Wangji’s stomach.
“Did you just—”
The baby kicks again.
Wei Ying stares at his hands splayed out on Lan Wangji’s stomach, eyes turning glassy. His shoulders shake as he leans into Lan Wangji once again, resting his cheek against the baby. Closing his eyes, he lets the tears fall, the ghost of a smile on his face.
“Oh,” Wei Ying whispers, shuddering, “you’re perfect already.”
“They are,” Lan Wangji agrees, stroking his husband’s hair. “Wei Ying is their father.”
His husband laughs softly, reverberating against the baby. “And Lan Zhan is their other father,” Wei Ying reminds him. “How could they not be perfect?”
His heart glows as Wei Ying holds onto him. As A-Yuan comes running into the room, looking for dinner. As Wei Ying helps him place his small hands on Lan Wangji’s stomach and wait to feel the baby’s kick. A-Yuan’s smile is so bright when the baby responds to Wei Ying’s voice again, eyes wide and eager for the future.
“When are they coming?” A-Yuan demands as Wei Ying fills his bowl.
“Not for a few more months, my dear,” Wei Ying tells him, pouting.
A-Yuan mirrors his husband’s face perfectly. “Why?”
“They are too small,” Lan Wangji tells him, smoothing his palm over A-Yuan’s forehead. “They need more time to grow.”
Their son stares down at his stomach, raising a skeptical eyebrow, “They seem big.”
“Aiyah!” Wei Ying exclaims, tickling A-Yuan’s side. “Are you calling your baba fat?”
“No!” A-Yuan giggles, helplessly swatting at Wei Ying’s fingers. “No—Xian-gege!”
His husband relents, giving A-Yuan his bowl with a fond smile. “Your baba has never looked better.”
Lan Wangji meets his husband’s eyes with an appreciative smile, his heart so full of love he can barely take it. “But I am bigger,” he says to A-Yuan.
“Bigger,” Wei Ying agrees, grinning, “but better.”
The soft melody of Wei Ying’s dizi floats through the open door in their bedroom as Lan Wangji combs his hair. It’s soft, lilting, meandering through intriguing chord patterns and melodic progressions. Lan Wangji would be interested in writing it down, in attempting to analyze it, were he not in his current… predicament.
The persistent restlessness coursing through him has become more and more apparent as the day has worn on, and even more difficult to ignore as night approaches. Impatience riddles his every movement, pricking at his skin and wearing on what little patience he has left. He has become unaccustomed to going without. Unaccustomed to resistance. Every note Wei Ying plays pokes and jibes. Every lingering beat cuts, as though purposeful.
He’s certain it is not. And yet, he doesn’t feel the most reasonable at the moment. As he works out the knots in his hair, his mood darkens. His husband is not an unjust man, and still he finds himself growing more sullen at being ignored.
By the time Wei Ying has reappeared, closing the doors to their room behind him, his lips have dipped downwards into a petulant scowl. He attempts to reset his face, to appear impassive, but he’s no longer capable of shielding his emotions. Ever since Wei Ying reappeared, he’s been ripped open—unfurled seam by seam, the process so slow, he can’t begin to remember when it started. Only, now that it’s done, there’s no way to go back. No way to hide what was once so skillfully masked.
“Ah,” Wei Ying laughs, floating towards Lan Wangji. He sinks to the floor behind him, wrapping his arms around his middle, resting his head on his shoulder. Lan Wangji’s body instantly responds, sinking back into him, hopeful and waiting. “My poor husband. Did I take too long?”
He huffs out a breath instead of responding. At this point, he’s unsure what he would say.
“I’m sorry,” Wei Ying murmurs, laughing softly against his hair. “A-Yuan wanted another song. How could I ever resist that face?”
Even though he can’t see his husband’s face, the pout is unmistakable in his voice. Lan Wangji smiles.
“You could not.”
His husband’s grip around him tightens as he kisses his cheek once more. “Ah well,” he sighs, loosening his belt, “I’m here now. Just think… it’ll feel so good now that you’ve waited.”
“Mn,” he murmurs rolling his head back to rest it on his husband’s shoulder. Already, the relief of his husband’s touch is overwhelming. To finally be able to really feel him, without any other tasks or situations keeping them apart. To know this gnawing anticipation and discomfort will be sated. Just the two of them, finally together. He can’t begin to express how much he needs it.
Wei Ying loosens the tie of his outer robe, and pushes the panels open. His hands caress the trim on the collar, fingers tracing the patterns from the ribbon thoughtfully.
“Though…” he says slowly, “won’t it feel even better if you wait more?”
More? His heart sinks, low in his gut. How much more? Knowing Wei Ying, it could be minutes or days. He can’t live with that sort of uncertainty. Not after the past week, not after an unsatisfying last evening.
Were it any other day, any other time, he would want to wait. He would want to be good for Wei Ying, give him what he wants. But today and the night before has been too impossible. Too many feelings, too many new sensations. He feels too… raw to indulge in his husband’s teasing. Too…
“Never mind,” Wei Ying murmurs, kissing his cheek once again, his lips gentle. “I think you’ve waited enough, haven’t you?”
He exhales deeply as Wei Ying loosens his remaining layers. The breaths caught in his chest release easily. The tension he’d barely noticed knotting in his back fades away.
“Oh, Lan Zhan,” Wei Ying sighs, unfastening his binder with quick hands. “You’ve been so patient for me. What will I do with you?”
Palms cup his breasts. Sensitive, aching skin relaxes to his husband’s touch. Fingers trace around his nipples. All familiar actions, and yet so different—every touch magnified from the too-long wait. Every nerve danceing from so much less. Perhaps it would have felt even better to wait a little longer. Perhaps such simple touches would take even more from him, would make him gasp deeper, make his pussy grow wetter. Make everything… more.
Another time. He doesn’t want to go back now, not that they’ve begun.
“Look at you,” his husband murmurs, rubbing his nipples with his thumb and forefinger. Lips graze the side of his neck, quick and fleeting as Wei Ying rubs and pinches. “How could I ever resist? I’d give you the whole world if I could.”
You have, he wants to say, but his husband twists just so, and the only sound that comes from his mouth is a pitiful moan. Wei Ying laughs softly, smoothing over his handiwork with his palms—both comforting and unsatisfying all at once. He wants to feel that sweet pain. Wants to be ripped open anew.
“Let’s get you on the bed,” Wei Ying suggests. “Alright?”
He nods, allowing his husband to help him stand. The loosened layers fall to the floor, left sprawled in a sea of dark blue and red as they make their way to the bed. Wei Ying ignores them in favour of helping Lan Wangji sit on the mattress, back against the wall, spread out for the taking.
His husband’s eyes are warm as he stares at him, sweeping over his changed body. Lingering on his round middle, on his swelling breasts. Heat pulsates, deep and low, as a slow grin spreads across Wei Ying’s face.
“Lan Zhan,” he sighs, curling up beside Lan Wangji on the bed, still clothed. He wraps his arms around him, crouching down to rest his head upon his middle. “How beautiful you are.” He presses an ear against his stomach with a content sigh, stroking the stretched skin with tenderness. “So big and strong and full.” He laughs to himself lifting his face to gaze up at him. “Is it bad I prefer you like this?”
The blood rushes in his ears as he shakes his head. He can’t deny he also prefers himself this way. A little vulnerable, a little unsteady, and so noticeably claimed. So noticeably Wei Ying’s.
“So pretty,” Wei Ying murmurs, brushing his fingers against his stomach, “all mine.”
“Yes,” he agrees, stroking his husband’s hair. Always Wei Ying’s. Always his to come home to, to care for. “Yours.”
His husband’s laugh is sweet and light as he lifts his face to lick his nipple, his tongue wet and hot, soothing the once-pinched skin, the once tense nerves. With a grin, Wei Ying’s mouth latches onto it. Teeth grab hold, lips mouth against skin, and Lan Wangji loses himself to finally being touched. His splintered nerves fuse and pulse as Wei Ying moans against his skin. His pussy softly contracts as his nipples are stimulated.
Wei Ying bites, harder than Lan Wangji is accustomed to, and not hard enough. Nothing feels like enough, after going without. He pushes his husband’s face into him, wraps him in his arms so fiercely, wordlessly beginning Wei Ying to give him everything.
And he does. He always does.
Teeth grind flesh together, rubbing and scraping relentlessly as a hand reaches for his other side, mirroring the motion in some way. Nails sink into flesh, rubbing and pinching like his teeth. Fingers press into his nipple, swirling and encircling like his tongue. It burns in a similar fashion to his mouth, in some ways even more so. And Lan Wangji loves it. Loves the clear proof his husband is here with him, the evidence of his presence undeniable on his flesh. He will never tire of it, never want anything else.
When the pain outweighs the pleasure, when his moans build into sobs, his husband licks away the marks left behind, palm kneading into the tender flesh as a gentle apology.
“Missed you,” Wei Ying murmurs, resting his face in between his breasts. “Missed you like this.”
He hums in affirmation as he strokes his husband’s hair. He missed him this way, too. Missed how close they could be. This time to curl within one another, to leave behind all responsibilities and just be. He will never take it for granted again.
“Your heart’s beating so fast,” Wei Ying sighs, resting a hand against his hip. He taps out the rhythm of his heart, pulsing it through him until he becomes his own heartbeat. Ringing in his ears, echoing in his chest, tapping against his skin. “Do you really love me that much?”
“Yes,” he whispers, stroking his husband’s hair. “I do.”
He knows his husband knows this. Knows he will always believe. Only yhat sometimes, he just needs to hear it again. To be reassured nothing has changed.
Nothing will ever change. Not for him.
“I love Wei Ying.”
Wei Ying. Not the feared Yiling Patriarch, not the disgraced Wei Wuxian of Yunmeng Jiang. Just his Wei Ying—the father of his children, the only one who knows his heart as though it were his own. The only one he will ever love in this way.
He leaves those feelings suspended in the silence, unvoiced but known, and his husband smiles back at him. Some things don’t need to be said to be understood.
“My Lan Zhan,” Wei Ying murmurs, shifting to settle in between Lan Wangji’s legs. He laughs when Lan Wangji lets out a soft moan, pulsating with desire. “Ah… I love you so much. You know.”
He knows. Of course he does.
Raising an eyebrow, he brings three fingers to Lan Wangji’s mouth. His lips part instinctively, always anticipating his husband, always ready to make space for him inside. He relishes in the feeling of the salt of Wei Ying’s skin on his tongue, dragging it along the length of his strong, elegant fingers. They take more space in Lan Wangji’s mouth than they used to, when his husband was still underfed and waspish. Now, they fill him so well, stretching deeper to push against the back of his throat. He gags against the sudden motion, tears blurring his vision as Wei Ying lazily works his fingers and out. His cunt throbs with every stroke, aching to be touched.
“Good,” Wei Ying murmurs, kissing his cheek as he pulls his fingers away. Lan Wangji shifts his hips, silently begging. He smiles as Lan Wangji attempts to repeat the gesture again, tracing the curve of his lips with painful, slow precision. “Kiss me?”
He meets his husband’s open mouth eagerly. Their tongues flick against one another, warm and wanting, and Wei Ying lowers his slicked fingers to the one place he wants them.
His cry catches in Wei Ying’s throat as fingers enter without preparation. All three burrow their way inside, burning in spite of the slick pooling between his legs. He’s tight, far too tight, barely stretched enough to fit Wei Ying. And still, he would not want it any other way. He has never wanted easy when it comes to loving his husband.
He breathes into his husband’s wanting mouth, slumping backwards as he slowly relaxes into it. As his body remembers the feel of him, shifting minutely with his Wei Ying’s subtle pushes. His thumb stretches to push against his clit, encircling it as his fingers slowly stretch him. Every push sparks against his folds—growing wetter the more he rubs and slides against him.
Wei Ying moans softly as he begins to pump into his cunt, crouching down for a better view himself. A slow grin spreads on his face as watches. Eyes shine bright as they blink rapidly. Lan Wangji knows that look so well—the small expressions that grow into the smile as a new idea forms.
His husband takes in a deep breath, exhaling slowly to form a a soft, cold stream against Lan Wangji’s slit. It’s barely there, barely felt against the warmth of his pussy—so small and yet so much. Such a tease of a touch, promising nothing.
“Wei Ying,” he moans as his husband blows on his clit, thumb never ceasing. He spreads his legs further apart, angling his hips to push his husband further inside.
“What?” Wei Ying asks, innocent as ever. “You don’t want my mouth?”
Wei Ying hooks his fingers inside Lan Wangji’s cunt, laughing when Lan Wangji’s thighs twitch from the new sensation.
“What?” his husband asks. “Tell me, Lan Zhan.”
He shudders as Wei Ying slips a fourth finger inside him, gripping into him. Every thought in his mind slips and falls away as he pushes against his most sensitive place. Again, again—unrelenting. There is nothing he can say, nothing when his husband is so present.
“I know,” Wei Ying murmurs, patting his thigh with his free hand. “Just let your Wei-gege do the work, hm?”
He nods, rolling his head against the wall as Wei Ying leans into him to swirl his clever tongue against his clit. It’s just enough to push him over the edge, to bring forth the rolling wave of climax as his husband never relents, pushing against his pulsating muscles, drinking in his slick. His nerves fray and reassemble, losing all sense of time as Wei Ying coaxes him down the ledge of release and brings him back far too quickly. His vision blurs with tears when Wei Ying picks up his previous pace, sucking against Lan Wangji’s clit until he’s sobbing from overstimulation, until every nerve is too wrung to feel.
Wei Ying sighs, slowly withdrawing. It’s both relieving and devastating to be without, to feel air where Wei Ying’s fingers used to be, to feel his pussy clench around nothing. Lan Wangji closes his eyes, breaths slow and shallow as his cunt weeps at the loss. And still, he is unsure he could take any more. Already, he is melting into the pillow, against the wall, the glow of orgasm washing over him.
Fabric rustles below him and Lan Wangji opens his eyes to watch his husband part his robes enough to free his cock, fingers dragging against his lips. Wei Ying moans as he grasps his cock, tongue laving over his slicked fingers. He works them in and out of his mouth as he pumps his cock in near-perfect synchronization. Lan Wangji can only stare in amazement as his fingers expertly work himself to completion, as his tongue washes away all traces of Lan Wangji’s pussy.
He leans into the spray of his husband’s seed, opening his mouth to catch whatever he can. Wei Ying laughs softly at his eagerness, shifting his stance to give him what he wants. The warmth spatters on his face and chest, some catching on his open mouth, on his tongue. He sinks into his husband’s taste, closing his eyes once again. Drifting away.
Now, he is content. He has everything he could want.
His husband laughs once more, guiding him to lie down with strong, sure hands. “See?” he coos. “It felt so good after waiting, didn’t it?”
He nods numbly, accepting the warm lips that kiss his own. They taste of the two of them. A perfect harmony of bitter and sweet.
“Felt good for me, too,” Wei Ying murmurs, patting his arms. “You have no idea how hard you are to resist, Lan Zhan. All the time, out there looking like that.” He giggles, kissing the corner of his mouth. “Always feels so good when I finally get to fuck you.”
He hums as Wei Ying kisses him again, his heart so full. As long as Wei Ying is satisfied, he’s happy. As long as he can give in return for all Wei Ying has given, he will be never be wanting.
Lan Wangji portions the chicken Wei Ying brought from town, sniffing at it cautiously. It’s been a week since his initial craving began, and while it’s lessened somewhat, lingering thoughts of what could be still tease his subconscious. He adds a little of the Yunmeng spice blend to a smaller bowl for himself and Wei Ying, watching it change the colour of the dish. The taste is becoming more familiar to him over the past week, the flavours seemingly pleasing to the baby. He hasn’t had nearly as many mornings of illness, hardly any afternoons nursing ginger tea while the rabbits do their best to comfort him.
“How is it coming along?” Wei Ying asks, A-Yuan trailing close behind. Their smallest fingers are hooked together as Wei Ying pulls him into the room. His heart nearly shatters at the sight of it. They’re so sweet together. They belong.
Even now, after months of this, he isn’t quite used to this. This dream he once mourned, finally alive.
“Ready,” he says, gulping down his emotions.
They gather around the table, Wei Ying chattering away about the state of their crops and the ever-changing growth in their flowerbeds. Lan Wangji fills A-Yuan’s bowl, his husband’s voice music amidst their silence. It’s only when he reaches for the mild chicken that A-Yuan touches his wrist, hesitant fingers curling over bone.
“Yes?” he asks, glancing down at A-Yuan.
“May I try the—the other one?”
Wei Ying raises an eyebrow, but doesn’t stop Lan Wangji from breaking up a piece of spiced chicken, gathering the smallest bit with his chopsticks.
“It is different from the food in Gusu,” he warns him. “It may burn.”
A-Yuan nods solemnly, hands folded perfectly in his lap. Even months after leaving Cloud Recesses, that remains the same. His posture is near-perfect, little hands joined together in wait.
They are both different from when they left, and still parts of them remain the same. He believes his family would find comfort in that. That even if Lan Wangji were now married to the evil Yiling Patriarch, he had not abandoned all of himself. Perhaps they would even come to understand Wei Ying was never truly evil, had never had any intentions of upending the cultivation world as he did. Had only ever wanted this sort of life with him, hidden away from everything that hurt them.
He blinks, and offers A-Yuan the piece of chicken. The child chews it thoughtfully, his cheeks flushing as he politely chews and swallows it. When he finishes, he lifts a cup of water to his mouth and downs its contents, sighing in relief once he’s emptied it.
“What do you think, A-Yuan?” Wei Ying asks him, leaning in. “Would you like more?”
A-Yuan shakes his head, lip pouting as he does. “No, thank you.”
His husband howls with laughter as the colour fades from A-Yuan’s cheeks, as Lan Wangji fills his bowl with mild meat and they eat in relative silence.
In their room, a new letter from his brother weighs heavily on his heart. There is only one reply he wishes to send. Only one thing that could make this paradise perfect.
It is only once they’ve eaten, once they’re seated in the courtyard with sleeping rabbits in their laps that he dares voice it.
His husband glances up, attention redirected from scratching in between the rabbit’s ears. “Yes, Lan Zhan?”
His heart does not accelerate as he forms the words. His nerves do not fray. Wei Ying’s anticipated response already rings in his ears, the smile already plays across his face.
“I would like to write to xiongzhang,” he says, “and see if he or shufu would come.”
Wei Ying’s lips turn up into a smile, teeth poking out beneath his lower lip. “Of course you would, Lan Zhan,” he says. “Will you tell them about…” He gestures vaguely to himself with a half-laugh.
“I am unsure,” he admits.
It would be prudent to keep his message vague, should it be intercepted, but he also doesn’t wish to deceive his family at the same time. To entrap them into visiting under false pretences, only for them to find him incredibly pregnant with a husband they may disapprove of. But if he is too vague, it’s possible his brother or uncle wouldn’t both come—or even worse, they would decline due to sect matters. He doesn’t wish to risk them missing anything, not when they’ve missed so much.
There’s no way to approach this without risking something.
“Ah well,” Wei Ying sighs, patting his hair reassuringly. “You’ll find a way to say it all. If they don’t like that I’m…” He shrugs, and the laugh that comes from his lips is hollow. “I think, at least, they’ll be happy about the baby.”
“They will learn to be happy,” Lan Wangji assures him. “I will make sure of it.”
The next time Wei Ying laughs, he knows it’s real.
“I know you will, Lan Zhan,” he says. “You’ll always protect me, Lan-er-gege.”
“I will,” he promises.
Wei Ying’s smile is wide when he reaches over to pinch Lan Wangji’s cheeks.