Wei Wuxian got away with it for a while before he got caught.
A lot of (eventually) funny stories in his life started this way. The tale of ‘that one time Wei Ying was homeless for three weeks’ was probably never going to be all that funny, but then again he wasn’t really in a hurry to try and entertain anybody with it.
The good news; his former roommate, Mo Xuanyu, was finally in rehab and had a new court appointed guardian who was capable of keeping his creepy family at bay.
The bad news; it was because their landlord did a property check and found drugs; enough to constitute ‘intent to distribute’, whatever that meant, and they’d all been evicted on the spot.
Wei Wuxian had only just narrowly avoided getting arrested along with Mo Xuanyu and Mo Ziyuan, who shared the room the stuff was found in.
If old Mrs. Wang had found that stash in a communal area then he might not have. If he’d been less willing to talk to the police then he might not have. If he didn’t already have a relationship with the local precinct as one of the few reliable night hunt contractors they could afford then he definitely would not have.
That wasn’t even the end of it. The terrible snowball of Wei Wuxian’s imploding personal life picked up a little speed when he went to meet his former landlady once he finished cleaning out his room.
He hadn’t really expected to get his security deposit back, but when he’d gone to discuss it with Mrs. Wang he found a final ‘fuck you’ from the Mos waiting. Mrs. Wang said ‘his mother’ had already picked it up. When he questioned Mrs. Wang, it turned out ‘his mother’ looked a lot like Mo Xuanyu’s terrible aunt and former legal guardian. She’d shown up for one final cash out before dropping off the face of the planet.
Unfortunately for him and his housing situation, he’d just bought his permanent night hunter’s license.
Night hunting was like flying airplanes -the barrier to entry was heinously expensive. The provisional license, which most cultivators got at around age fifteen, was cheap enough and lasted ten years. The majority of cultivators dropped out or got permanently injured after a few years. If you lasted the full ten years then you could apply for the permanent license, which was good for the rest of your life, however long that was.
Normal cultivators had a sect or a union or a private employer who handled that sort of thing on their behalf through the power of group bargaining or ancient grandfathered-in agreements with the licensing board. Wei Wuxian no longer had any of those things and so he had to shell out for a private license.
He had only just managed to scrape together the $10,000 necessary by running a cam show.
Freelance night hunters didn’t make a whole lot of money, especially the borderline creepy variety who specialized in resentful energy like him. Even more especially when he wasn’t willing to raise zombies for recreational purposes. He’d do it sometimes for estate reasons or criminal investigations, but that was it.
He made enough to pay rent on a shared space in Sheepshead Bay, keep his streaming services on, and eat fresh vegetables every so often. Scraping together any kind of significant savings represented a steeper angle of difficulty.
Wei Wuxian was stuck on that lower middle class treadmill where he could afford basics and the occasional luxury, but an unexpected car repair bill or a trip to the hospital would wreck his budget for months.
So, like a lot of reasonably hot people who were criminally underpaid in their fields, Wei Wuxian had turned to online sexwork. He’d had an OnlyFans page there for a while, but the bulk of his income came from BabyMe; a sugar baby website that sort of split the difference between a matching service and cam site. The focus was more one-on-one than scheduled shows, but everyone had a public channel and did chat shows periodically just to pick up new fans.
As side hustles went, it was better than destroying his back stocking shelves at Walmart or getting roped into an MLM. It filled a void in both his sexlife and his chronic hunger for attention. He probably would have gotten bored or burned out eventually and moved on to some new side project, but then one of his subscribers asked for exclusivity.
Exclusivity was the ‘unique perk’ of BabyMe and the golden snitch that all the performers there were chasing; a dedicated sugar daddy and a consistent income.
Every performer had the option to set their own ‘buyout’ price tag for however much they wanted; either a flat fee or a monthly deal. BabyMe didn’t even take a cut. They made their money off subscription fees. Buying a performer out totally removed their channel from circulation. Wei Wuxian’s alter ego ‘BAEYing’ didn’t even show up in the search algorithms anymore. If any of his old fans tried to DM him through the site they got back an auto-response saying he was no longer available, but if they clicked this link they could be notified when he was no longer under contract.
The performer had to agree to be bought out, sure, but it was usually something that happened with long term fans so they already had a good idea of whether they’d be dealing with a creep or not.
Wei Wuxian had set his ‘buy me out’ option to $2000 a month while setting up his profile because it sounded like an amount that split the difference between life-changing for him and attainable for someone who wasn’t a gazillionaire. Then he forgot about it. For a couple of months anyway --and then Bun found him.
Near as Wei Wuxian could tell, Bun wandered across one of his chat shows, watched it for a little bit, and then bought Wei Wuxian out for the entire year, up front. For that he got four guaranteed private shows a month, all the sexy pictures Wei Wuxian felt like taking, and exclusive access to a very carefully curated Amazon wishlist. He was also granted the privilege of sending Wei Ying periodic cash gifts through the BabyMe app, which he did; $500 every two weeks like clockwork with extra sometimes for no reason Wei Wuxian could ever wheedle out of him.
Thanks to Bun he’d squeaked through the deadline with just enough money to get his permanent NH license and maybe enough for Taco Bell on the way home. He had cleaned out his accounts to do it and he wasn’t looking forward to his tax bill, of course, but that was a problem for Future Wei Wuxian.
The Wei Wuxian of today had his own problems and they mainly consisted of making sure Bun didn’t figure out he was currently living in his car.
Wei Wuxian had figured out the hard way that being a sugar baby was a lot like being a social media influencer; it was all about presenting a very specific fantasy to his subscribers. He only had the one now, but getting too real had cost him viewership in the past. He wasn’t about to make that mistake again when the stakes were so high.
Most of Wei Wuxian’s night hunting business was through the city, but the problem with that was that the city took forever to pay their invoices; net 90 at minimum and usually it took even longer. He’d gotten paid out right before his housing situation crumbled so it’d be a while before he saw another deposit from them. He had a little money in his account, just not enough to pay a deposit on a new place at New York prices and feed himself in the interim.
In the meantime Bun was his only option for turning his situation around and if he went off in a huff then Wei Wuxian’s homelessness would go from a temporary embarrassment to something a lot more difficult to recover from.
It had been hard enough to crawl out of that hole the first time after he’d gotten kicked out of the Jiang sect. He hadn’t done it alone then either so he wasn’t eager to shoot himself in the foot now. BabyMe had received a lump sum from Wei Wuxian’s sugar daddy, but they paid it out to Wei Wuxian like an annuity. Their deposits always hit on the first of the month. It was the nineteenth, so Wei Wuxian knew he just had to make it through the next two weeks.
Thanks to the city cutting him that check, he had money for food and a few hotel room nights when he needed to stretch out or do one of his obligated shows. He just didn’t have enough for a room the entire time that didn’t come with a potential side of bedbugs and unfortunately the building where his lab space was located kicked everybody out at seven every night to cut down on the liability issues that came with people sleeping under their desks. The car was honestly the best of his options. He’d even invested a little of his dwindling funds in some things he saw on someone’s van life YouTube channel that made it downright livable.
He’d played a good game right up until that afternoon.
His most recent session with Bun had been two hours of absolutely filthy mostly one-sided phone sex that left them both shaking for breath afterwards. He even did an entire series of outdoor photoshoots just to keep things sweet. Wei Wuxian and Bun had most kinks in common, but the one they indulged least often was consent play because that would have involved more talking from Bun, so he leaned into that idea for the pics.
None of them were NSFW, but Wei Wuxian had really gotten into his theme of ‘oh look at this poor adorable little lamb in a series of compromising positions; so absorbed in what he’s doing that any terrible, terrible man could come along and take total advantage of him!’
It had been kind of silly, but Bun had been very appreciative.
The thing was, Bun was a fun sugar daddy and sex partner. Wei Wuxian had basically won the lottery despite the fact that he’d never actually seen the guy’s face. Bun left his camera off most of the time in the beginning, but eventually set up a webcam aimed at his lap so Wei Wuxian had something to perform for. The most of his benefactor he’d ever seen was a clothing-covered erection framed by a pair of flawless forearms. If he got real lucky Bun would let a hand rest on one of his thighs, idly brushing the inner seam of his trousers.
He never took anything out no matter how explicit Wei Wuxian got and the most he ever said was ‘good’ , ‘continue’ , and most often ‘mn’ in a variety of tones that Wei Wuxian had learned to read like a second language.
Bun made up for his verbal reticence by being an excellent texter and correspondent. Every video session was ruthlessly scripted in advance right down to the props they’d agreed to use; props Bun often provided in advance.
Wei Wuxian had plans to do their next video call in a reasonably swanky hotel room. He’d already made reservations. It’d take a chunk out of his survival budget, but it was worth it and he needed to keep the illusion going. They’d already scheduled the show and worked out an outline of events that centered around some really cute leather accessories and a custom vibrator with a wifi enabled remote. It was as close as they’d ever gotten to having Bun actually participate in a session and Wei Wuxian was losing his mind about it just a little bit.
He’d worked himself up thinking about one of those broad, capable hands toying with the remote while he did his thing and long story short; friday could not come fast enough.
BabyMe did not allow the performers to give out their home address or even information about what city they lived in. That was how you got dead sexworkers and they were not fucking around with it. So Wei Wuxian had an Amazon Locker and a PO box where he received goodies from his sugar daddy. Bun never sent less than what he said he would, but he frequently padded his promised gifts with little extras like care packages. It wasn’t always sexy stuff either. In fact it was hardly ever sexy stuff beyond whatever prop he’d arranged to send over, but it wasn’t normal sugar baby gifts like designer handbags or shoes either.
Bun sent him things like expensive thermal socks in the winter, snack subscription boxes, and rabbit plushies.
The rabbit plushies were what messed him up the worst. He could handle the sex stuff. Sex was whatever. He liked it plenty. He liked what he did with Bun a lot and losing it would suck beyond measure, but the first time he’d opened one of those care packages to find a black velveteen rabbit inside with a red ribbon around his neck had messed Wei Wuxian up for hours, leaving him curled up on his side on the floor, wrung out like a confused washcloth, and desperately needy to the point where Mo Xuanyu -a nice young man with way too many of his own problems- had petted his hair for half an hour until Wei Wuxian’s eyes stopped watering.
Fortunately Bun had been up for a spontaneous text session that doubled as aftercare even though Wei Wuxian never actually explained that was what he’d been hoping to get out of it.
He didn’t get a bunny every time. His poor little heart probably couldn’t handle that, but he’d amassed a reasonable collection since; seven really nice stuffed animals of the kind that the Jiangs wouldn’t have bought for their own kids much less for him.
Well, Jiang-shushu might have, but correctly predicted that something would have happened to it the first time Madame Yu got upset with him and that would have been worse than never getting a special toy at all.
If asked, Wei Wuxian would have sworn on any religious object required that he didn’t have any issues lingering over from growing up in foster care followed by the hot and cold environment of the Jiang sect, but apparently that would have been a lie.
Anyway, he lost it a little when he took his boxes back to the car and the first one he opened contained a stuffed pygmy rabbit with an adoption certificate from World Wildlife, a picture of the pygmy rabbit Bun had adopted in his honor, and a ridiculous little hinged frame to put the certificate and picture in.
Wei Wuxian was past the sudden onset crying jag response to being given a cute toy, but the warmth spreading through his entire body demanded action: he had to take a picture with it right away.
Selfies were not a spontaneous event when you were a sugar baby, but Wei Wuxian had gotten really good at the ‘I definitely slept last night’ level of makeup. Some of his subscribers had been more into the ‘dudes in makeup’ thing, but Bun was more of a hair man. He liked elaborate braids, wispy buns, and anything that emphasised the fact that Wei Wuxian had hair down to the back of his knees.
He was so excited that snapped a picture in the backseat of his car with the pygmy bunny cuddled into his shoulder and sent it straight to Bun. Usually he sat on a pic for thirty minutes or so in order to look at it again with a more critical eye so he could spot flaws or potentially compromising background elements --like the sort of things demonic cultivators usually had laying around.
This time he didn’t and that’s where he fucked up.
BAEYing: Look at this little friend who showed up in my PO box today!
BAEYing: I think I’m gonna keep him.
BAEYing: Who’s cuter?
BAEYING: No wrong answers!
BAEYING: Or ARE there?
HGBun: I’m glad it arrived safely.
BAEYing: I see my adopted rabbit is named Bae. Coincidence?
HGBun: No. I paid extra to name it in your honor.
The writing bubble popped, vanished, popped again for a long while, and then vanished. Wei Wuxian frowned at it. That wasn’t usual. Bun didn’t usually hesitate over what he wanted to say in chat. He might take a minute to respond sometimes, but once he started typing he didn’t really dither over it.
Finally he found what he wanted to say and Wei Wuxian felt his entire body go cold.
HGBun: Is something wrong?
HGBun: Are you alright?
Wei Wuxian froze and then frantically scrolled up to see what it was he’d said, what he’d done, whatever he’d let slip.
“Fuck!” He hissed after he found it.
It was the picture.
Bun was very familiar with Wei Wuxian’s old bedroom. It had been his primary stage for most of the time they’d been fooling around. He didn’t take his sugar baby business into the rest of the apartment where Mo Ziyuan could see it and interfere. Keeping it to the bedroom hadn’t necessarily stopped him, but it cut way down on the drama and coitus interruptus.
The point was that Bun knew perfectly well that Wei Wuxian kept his bunny collection on a floating shelf over his bed because he liked to look at them and also kinda liked to make Bun look at them when they were doing sexy stuff. That hadn’t changed just because Wei Wuxian was sleeping in his car. He’d lined them up along the rear view window so it would feel a little cozier and so they’d appeared in his picture in a cute little line right behind his head.
Worse still he’d forgotten to take down the reflective blackout panels he’d made for the car windows to keep his vehicle from becoming an oven when the AC wasn’t running.
BAEYing: I’m good!
BAEYing: esp with my new bunny friend to keep me company <3
BAEYing: it’s not as good as having my big strong Gege with me
‘Distract him.’ Wei Wuxian told himself. Sure he was falling back on old coping techniques, but whatever. It was a technique. It worked. ‘Distract, distract, distract.’
HGBun: You have not taken pictures in your apartment for a week and a half.
Shit. Distract better!
BAEYing: Is this rejection?!
BAEYing: does Gege not want A-Ying anymore?
BAEYing: how cruel!
BAEYing: Jail for Gege! Jail for ONE THOUSAND YEARS!
HGBun: You’ve only taken pictures in public areas or your vehicle since the tenth.
Wei Wuxian groaned and sprawled as melodramatically as he could sprawl despite the fact that he was six feet tall and crammed into the back of a Nissan. He ended up clonking his head on the window and pouted as he rubbed out the pain in his forehead.
HGBun: Did something happen with your living arrangements?
HGBun: Are you somewhere safe?
That warm feeling came back and Wei Wuxian sagged, defeated. He should have realized Bun couldn’t be distracted. He’d already had way too many examples of the man’s superhuman focus. Mo Ziyuan had once stormed into his room while he was in the middle of a private show bellowing about some crap that Wei Wuxian honestly forgot about as soon he stopped shouting.
The problem was that getting rid of Ziyuan was a twenty minute affair at minimum. Wei Wuxian had gone back to his computer convinced that Bun had signed off and was never going to schedule another show with him, but all he’d said was ‘continue’ and ‘do it properly’ and ‘yes’. Within five minutes Wei Wuxian forgot his roommates even existed.
BAEYing: Ugh, ok. I’m… not at the apartment anymore. I’m safe, but I have to find a new place.
HGBun: Are you sleeping in your car?
BAEYing: Just for tonight. I’ve been couch surfing, but there’s no free couches right now.
That was a lie. He had not been couch surfing.
There was no one left in the city he knew who’d let Wei Wuxian crash on their couch. Shijie and probably the Peacock would have, but they’d moved out of state shortly after they got married and Wei Wuxian wasn’t about to fly out to North Carolina just to sleep in their guest room. Jiang Cheng didn’t know he was in New York and wouldn’t be an option anyway even if he was for a whole host of reasons. Wen Qing lived in an all-girls apartment and they had a ‘no male overnight visitors’ pact that he knew better than to ask her to violate on his behalf. Wen Ning would probably let him move in, but he had so many roommates that there was barely room to stand up in and they’d definitely object.
Wei Wuxian’s app dinged with an alert.
HGBun has transferred $1000 to your account.
HGBun: Please check into a hotel.
HGBun: May I come to you?
Wei Wuxian stared at his screen until it went to sleep on him.
BAEYing: Yeah, I can get a hotel.
HGBun: Please send me a video of the room.
Sheesh, he sounded like Shijie. It wasn’t that Wei Wuxian hadn’t been thinking of booking a room in a Motel 6 or something to stretch that windfall as far as it would go. It was just annoying that Bun had him figured out so well when Wei Wuxian -again- had never even seen his face.
BAEYing: yes, Gege <3
Wei Wuxian nodded to himself. Time to get this relationship back into sexy territory before they veered too far into the realm of dreary reality.
HGBun: You didn’t answer my question.
“Well yeah, because it was weird and I was pretending you didn’t ask.” Wei Wuxian groused to his phone.
HGBun: May I come to you?
BAEYing: You don’t know where I am.
HGBun: You were sitting on a stone fence in Riverside Park during your last photoshoot. I am in Manhattan.
HGBun: I am concerned.
“Hello, dreary reality, my old friend.” Wei Wuxian muttered and wrapped himself up aggressively in his blanket so as to better deal with this shit. He’d had to set fans straight before. That was the drawback to the sugar daddy types. None of them really believed that rules applied to them.
It’d be fine. They’d just have a little ‘come to Jesus’ talk and forget about it.
BAEYing: You know I’m supposed to report you if you say stuff like that, right?
BAEYing: Like you could lose your membership over it.
HGBun: You know I would support you directly if you allowed it.
HGBun: Let me come to you.
Wei Wuxian’s throat tensed and his heart ached for no real reason.
Bun had intimated before that he’d be happy to forgo the app. Wei Wuxian responded to that suggestion by ignoring it, but he thought about it sometimes. If he thought there was any possibility that Bun could handle it, he might have even gone for it. They were super compatible so far and it’d be worth exploring except that just wasn’t a practical solution for him.
He couldn’t do the sugar baby thing 24/7 despite certain aspects of it being real appealing to Wei Wuxian personally. It was a fun hobby, but the full reality of who he was and what he did was a bit too ugly to make such a lifestyle achievable. Anyone who wanted BAEYing for sure wouldn’t be able to handle everything that was Wei Wuxian.
He was a for real necromancer, exorcist, and cultivation researcher. Those were all messy, dangerous, and not even a little bit sexy. Coming home with other people’s blood on his face was a real thing that happened more than once. The level of access a full time, committed, non-remote sugar daddy would expect would make it impossible to keep that part of his life isolated.
BAEYing: I’ll send you a video clip from the hotel room.
“Stupid,” he told himself as he threw his phone into the passenger seat. He had no idea whether he was talking about Bun for offering that or himself for wanting it so bad.
It didn’t stop him from thinking about having those hands everywhere on him.
Wei Ying let himself out of the backseat rather than try to wiggle in between the front seats --aaand walked right into the barrel of a gun.
The mugger waiting outside his car, who’d apparently been quietly trying to look into his blocked windows, smiled. “Hey.” He -a middle aged white guy with a snaggletooth and neck beard- said. “How ‘bout them keys?”
Wei Wuxian sighed and snapped. The guy froze in place; eyes wide and panicked.
“You are the last thing I needed tonight.” Wei Wuxian informed him as he let himself back into the driver’s seat to retrieve his phone. He dialled the only person he knew for sure who’d pick up this late at night.
Detective Zhou didn’t even have the energy to threaten him when he picked up. He just rasped “Hello” like he was praying for death. It sounded like he was still in his office. Poor guy.
“Guess who just got mugged outside his car?” Wei Wuxian pumped a little extra energy into his voice because he it made Zhou Zhuliu want to die a little extra. He empathised a little bit with the horrible slog of being a cultivator in law enforcement and all, but Zhou Zhuliu had volunteered to become a state core melter so they were never going to be more to each other than uneasy allies.
“Ffff…” He heard the smack of a palm against a face and shuffling papers. “...I’ll call it in. Where are you?”
Wei Wuxian rattled off the nearest intersection and settled in to wait.
He didn’t get loose until well after 1 AM. He wasn’t in trouble or anything. He was well known enough to the NYPD that they trusted he wasn’t using demonic cultivation on strangers just for giggles and the guy turned out to have a record of similar incidents, but that didn’t mean there wasn’t paperwork.
Bun messaged him a few times, but Wei Wuxian couldn’t check his phone until the cops let him go because they always got an attitude about him looking at his phone even if he wasn’t billing them for his time.
HGBun: I’ve overstepped.
HGBun: I apologize.
HGBun: Please answer.
HGBun: I am becoming concerned.
HGBun: I have booked you a room at the Mandarin Oriental. They have not told me the room number. Your privacy is still secure.
The most recent message came an hour after the others.
HGBun: Please let me know you’re alright.
Wei Wuxian’s heart broke right in half for no good reason.
More likely than not, Bun was just some rich dude with too much time on his hands, a savior complex, and some deep-seated control issues. Wei Wuxian knew he wasn’t special or anything. This was just part of the guy’s kink.
It was just that it had been so long since anyone had cared whether or not Wei Wuxian was safe without having been wheedled into friendship first that he was tempted to clutch at any spar.
BAEYing: I’m alright. Just ran into some trouble outside my car. I had to give a statement to the police and it took forever. I’m heading to the hotel now.
BAEYing: FYI this night has sucked and I will require three new rabbits to deal with it.
The writing bubble popped again. Vanished. Popped. Vanished. Popped. Vanished.
Wei Wuxian knew what was coming and moved to head it off at the pass.
BAEYing: No, you can’t come. You will get us both banned from the site.
BAEYing: I really am fine. I know we’re not supposed to discuss any other jobs we have, but if it makes you feel better; I’m a fully licensed night hunter and certified badass. It would take a lot more than one crackhead mugger who didn’t even remember to take the safety off his gun to put a scratch on me.
He waited a bit, but no reply.
BAEYing: I actually thought I fit the mold pretty well; unnaturally pretty asian dude with miles of hair?
HGBun: I did know.
HGBun: You have had talismans laid out to dry sometimes when we’re on a call. You had custom wards that clearly did not come with your apartment and as they seem to be tailored towards your former roommate, I assumed you wrote them yourself. A professional couldn’t be so detailed about a stranger.
Wei Wuxian frowned as he realized something.
BAEYing: You can read my wards?
HGBun: I am also a cultivator.
A good one, apparently. Reading ward language was advanced shit. He’d known Bun was intelligent, but this was something else.
He squirmed a little, feeling weirdly hot. He realized he was blushing.
They had something in common and it wasn’t kinky stuff. That knowledge settled in underneath Wei Wuxian’s ribs and radiated out through his entire body. He probably shouldn’t be excited about it, but he was.
BAEYing: Okay, then don’t judge me for my calligraphy. I was pissed off when I wrote those.
BAEYing: Like, it’s never that great, but it’s worse when I’m mad.
HGBun: Are you texting and driving?
Wei Wuxian had in fact been sitting behind the wheel of his car not turning the key in the ignition because he’d gotten involved in his conversation.
BAEYing: No, sorry. Got distracted. Heading out now. Don’t wait up.
HGBun: I am waiting on my video.
Wei Wuxian chuckled and started his car.
The Mandarin Oriental was one of those places with valet parking, but the driver didn’t bat an eyelash at the giant reserve battery on Wei Wuxian’s center console, the shoe organizer full of neatly organized toiletries hanging over the back of the driver’s seat, or the folded pillows and blankets in the backseat. In the 21st century there were two kinds of people who lived in their vehicle and Wei Wuxian had made sure he fell on the ‘Instagram model’ side of that line before pulling into the Mandarin’s drop off lane.
His first hint that Bun had gone overboard was when the night manager came out to escort him up the elevator herself. The second hint came when she informed him which elevators would and would not take him to his room; the answer was ‘just this one here at the end that has a card lock on it.’ The confirmation arrived when she politely let him know which number to call when he’d decided to conclude his stay.
“My friend didn’t tell me how long I have the room for,” Wei Wuxian hinted.
The night manager didn’t even blink. Odds were good she had more experience with these scenarios than he did. “It’s an open ended booking, sir. Please take your time.”
So it wasn’t a total surprise when she showed him into one of the luxury suites and Wei Wuxian had the unwelcome realization that he’d lived in smaller apartments than this. It had a dining room.
The night manager excused herself and Wei Wuxian let his bag fall from his suddenly nerveless fingers.
Every room in the suite was immaculate, comfortable in every aspect, and beautiful. It was as far away from how he’d been living as was possible for both states to still exist on the same planet. He wandered into the living room, ignoring the biggest TV he’d seen since leaving Lotus Pier, to look out the window at a priceless nighttime view of the Hudson river.
The room tilted around him as he stepped away from the window and Wei Wuxian had to clutch at the nearest chair for support.
He realized he was having one of those rabbit plush moments in a fleeting instance of clarity a few seconds that arrived right before a wave of huge emotion crashed over him leaving him feeling exposed and frighteningly vulnerable. Swallowing hard, he got out his phone and started to record a short little video. His voice sounded like crap when he tried to talk so he ended up having to re-shoot the whole thing and ended it with a view of himself in one of the gratuitous mirrors as he waved and mouthed the words ‘night night, Gege.’
Then he set his phone aside to go take advantage of the palatial bathroom. The tub felt like it was the size of a swimming pool compared to what he was used to and the bathroom came equipped with a little basket of bath bombs. Wei Wuxian took one look at it and knew he was going to use every single one of them.
He squinted at the contents again and wondered if the suite actually did come equipped with bath bombs. The basket only contained his favorite varieties from Lush, which usually featured less popular scents like amber resin, vetiver, and musk; deep, rich, and complicated herbal smells.
Bun knew the ones he liked. They showed up frequently on his wishlist when the man was bullying him to add stuff to it.
Wei Wuxian noted that he was going to have to do something nice for the man in the morning. He’d never personally been on the business end of a sugar daddy guilt trip before, but this was shaping up to look an awful lot like one.
In the meantime he dropped one of the Deep Sleep bombs into the tub and then another one when the bathwater ended up a little pale due to the sheer size of the tub. He shucked his pants, sat on the edge of the tub, put his feet into the water, and snapped a picture of his knees surrounded by pink-streaked violet water.
BAEYing: Feeling better already
BAEYing: Thank you, Gege.
There was no reply, but Wei Wuxian hadn’t expected one. He was frankly amazed that Bun had stayed up as late as he had. He kept old man hours, which maybe made sense now that he knew Bun was a cultivator. Even mid-grade cultivators aged very slowly. Wei Wuxian was in his mid twenties, but could easily pass for a teenager still. Bun could very well be an old man in a beautiful young-looking body. It would explain his eye-watering amounts of disposable income.
Here’s hoping he hadn’t accidentally hopped into bed with a Jin.
A soothing aromatherapy bath did a lot to settle Wei Wuxian’s sudden inexplicable subdrop, but he still took it easy as he wrapped himself up in a fluffy hotel robe and went to see if he had such a thing as a minibar with anything edible in it. The kitchens were surely closed this late at night even for a suite this nice.
He was interrupted by a quiet tap at the door.
The concierge had left by the time Wei Wuxian opened it, but they’d left behind a gift box.
It was rectangular and wrapped with a sky blue silk ribbon, but not terribly heavy when Wei Wuxian picked it up.
A wary cultivator would have checked it for curses or something, but Wei Wuxian was still in a weird headspace that actively rejected the idea that Bun could have bad intentions towards him despite the way he’d shot down the man’s request to meet in person earlier.
He wasn’t going to be stupid about it, but he’d also let himself get a little conditioned to associate Bun with care and safety so he took the box to his bed to snap a picture of it.
The ribbon slid open with ease and Wei Wuxian lifted the lid of the box to reveal a frothy layer of gold flecked tissue paper. He wondered for a moment if Bun had felt guilty enough over asking to meet in person that he’d actually shelled out for a designer handbag, but when he cleared away the tissue paper he had to bite back a wounded little noise.
Inside the box were three new lop-eared rabbit plushies. One was white, one was black, and the last was a light fawn color. They were soft, a little shapeless, and made for cuddling unlike the ones he’d received before. Those were almost more objets d’art. They had internal structures and would show wear instantaneously if handled too often. These ones were actual children’s toys; expensive ones for sure, but they belonged in a bed not on a shelf.
Wei Wuxian tried and failed to take stock of his feelings as he lifted the white bunny out of the box. It had been weighted a little in the paws and seat, presumably so it could be positioned and stay that way. He liked the way it hung in his arms.
“I could have done without discovering this about myself.” He commented to the empty room as he crouched down where he was standing, wrapped around the stupid squishy and comforting rabbit with his cheek pillowed on its soft crown.
Wei Wuxian didn’t get around to doing a photoshoot with the new bunnies until he woke up the following morning, very nearly the following afternoon. He’d gone to bed with all three of them tucked in around him because, fuck it, he was allowed to regress a little bit after all the things that had gone wrong for him recently. He wasn’t about to try and reverse parent himself -or even let Bun do it- but he was allowed to baby himself through a perfectly normal downswing.
At least that was what he kept telling himself.
He took a soft focus picture of himself amongst the plushies with his hair artfully mussed and sent it to Bun with a little caption of ‘good morning.’
HGBun: Do you like them?
Wei Wuxian rolled over in bed with the black one shamelessly draped over his elbow to reply.
BAEYing: Gege spoils me.
BAEYing: I do. Thank you.
HGBun: Have you eaten yet?
HGBun: Please order room service if not.
BAEYing: Will they serve it in the dining room if I do?
HGBun: They will likely leave a cart and allow you the privacy to serve yourself.
HGBun: Afterwards, I would like it if you called me.
Wei Wuxian frowned. That was not sounding like Bun requesting sexy times. He was a bossy top. If he wanted a sexy video call then he’d have told Wei Wuxian to block out time for it today. To be honest, this sounded like Bun getting ready to ask for something he knew BAEYing had to say no to.
BAEYing: Please don’t make me have to remind you about the terms and services again, Bun.
BAEYing: Srsly please.
HGBun: I would like to introduce you to a facilitator.
HGBun: They will find you a new apartment. You have my word that they will not disclose to me where it is.
He was going to try and pay for it. Wei Wuxian could tell already. Nevermind that there was no plausible way for him to rent an apartment whose location he didn’t even know. There’d be paperwork with an address on it that he’d have to see and sign.
Fortunately, Wei Wuxian had to shoot him down for different reasons.
BAEYing: Sorry, that won’t work.
BAEYing: I appreciate it, but I can’t live alone. Like, legally I can’t. I have to find roommates.
Bun’s writing bubble did the thing where it popped and faded for a while. That was getting to be slightly less weird now that he could identify it as ‘Bun in a Real Conversation’ as opposed to ‘Bun in Dom Mode.’
Wei Wuxian hauled all his rabbits in and buried his face under them. It was fine. He was fine. It wasn’t a weird question. Who even had restrictions on them like that? It had been a weird thing to say and Bun was allowed to think it was weird.
BAEYing: I was a core donor.
There, it was out.
Bun didn’t need the whole messy story, but if he was a cultivator then he’d know what that meant.
BAEYing: It’s not forever. This was years ago and the surgeons did a really clean extraction. I didn’t lose my foundation so I’ve pretty much formed a new one. I just haven’t built it up enough to do much with it yet.
BAEYing: I’m still a practicing cultivator, but I can only use resentful energy for now. It can have side effects and one of the terms of renewing my NH license was demonstrating that I have a management plan in place. I told the board I have a roommate who’ll play Cleansing or something whenever my mood starts to go off, but they do spot checks so I need to have a roommate whenever they get around to it.
Mo Xuanyu was kind of a cultivator. His deadbeat dad had paid for foundational classes when he was a kid, anyway. He wasn’t licensed and didn’t belong to a sect so he couldn’t practice, but he could pop a CD into the stereo whenever Wei Wuxian was having a bitch fit and it helped. Moreover, he’d been extraordinarily sensitive to mood and had often picked up on Wei Wuxian heading towards a bad patch long before Wei Wuxian himself did.
Not gonna lie, Wei Wuxian was going to miss that kid. He was glad that the courts had decided to separate him from the Mos, but he could also be sad that Xuanyu’s new court appointed guardian -a real one and not one of those creeps that stole houses out from under senior citizens- had flat-out refused to allow him to continue to associate with a full-time necromancer/part-time sexworker.
BAEYing: If I suddenly get an apartment on my own then they’ll find out about it and probably revoke my card.
Bun didn’t reply for a long while.
Wei Wuxian didn’t necessarily blame him. Core donation was a rough topic for anyone who understood what was involved. Few cultivators could even stand to discuss it. It was a brutal procedure that had to be done sans anesthesia with the fully informed and enthusiastic consent of the donor, otherwise there was no point in even trying. If the donor hesitated even for a second then the donation would fail. Even then there was a 70% rejection rate.
Every single cultivator who’d ever learned that Wei Wuxian was a donor -all two of them, now three- had to go sit down about it for a while after so he gave Bun some time.
He ordered lunch, got dressed, and made his bed with the new trio of bunnies lined up in front of the pillows. He made coffee and drank it while looking at the river. When his food showed up he set a place at the dining table and ate it slowly. Then he went to his car to get the rest of his bunnies and the other bag with his clothes in it.
Bun messaged him as he was hanging up some of his clothes in the closet. He didn’t expect to stay that long, but it’d be good for some of his nicer stuff if it had a chance to hang for a bit.
HGBun: I have found a solution.
HGBun: My contact with the Cultivators Licensing Board has confirmed for me that management plans may be updated as circumstances change.
Wei Wuxian blinked. That was the first he’d heard of it. The agent in charge of his case -some asshole from Jin sect going by his forehead paint- had actually been kind of threatening about it. Hardly anyone liked rogue cultivators, much less demonic rogue cultivators. There was a reason the barrier to apply was so hard to scale. Maybe it should have stood to reason that the board would want to create as many opportunities for him to fail as possible.
He blew out his breath and set his frustration aside for later when he was ghost hunting.
HGBun: There are monitoring services that also provide therapeutic support. A biweekly session of Cleansing is considered sufficient to deter the most detrimental effects of demonic cultivation. Weekly sessions would be preferable.
HGBun: With your permission, I would like to arrange it for you.
The boundaries were starting to blur. Wei Wuxian suddenly wondered what would have happened if he’d let any of his difficulties in getting his license renewed slip to Bun who had a contact on the board, what even. Would he have sailed in to solve that problem too?
Having the freedom to live alone would be really helpful. He could have loud phone sex with his sugar daddy for one. He could have a social life again that involved letting people see where he lived for another.
The list of people willing to live with a demonic cultivator was real short and mostly consisted of personalities like Mo Ziyuan. There was a reason his cop buddies were willing to believe he wasn’t involved in the drugs thing. He didn’t exactly have better housing options.
At the same time, rent in New York was insane. That viral ‘I pay $3000 a month to live in a repurposed closet’ story was a real thing that people did. He’d be fine if Bun was in it for the long haul, but people -even the best people like Shijie- couldn’t stick around forever. He couldn’t make plans that were contingent on a sugar daddy or even a series of them.
Still, letting Bun hire a monitoring service wasn’t a huge commitment --was it? He could give it a try. To be honest, Wei Wuxian was struggling already. Using resentful energy made it hard to shed the bad feels even if he wasn’t actively practicing at the moment. It had taken real effort not to hurt that mugger worse than he had.
If it worked and kept the licensing board off his back then he could probably find a cheaper one later when things with Bun cooled off.
He took a breath.
HGBun: Thank you.
Wei Wuxian smacked his own cheeks a couple of times and rolled his shoulders. Time to get back to work and in all honesty, a few orgasms would do him a world of good.
BAEYing: however can I thank you, Gege? <3
The response was instantaneous and Wei Wuxian found himself right back to being aggravated.
HGBun: Add five things to your wishlist.
BAEYing: I was thinking more along the lines of sexual acrobatics or a roleplay.
HGBun: We have plans for Friday night. I am looking forward to them.
HGBun: Right now what I want is for you to add five things to your wishlist.
That stupid wishlist was a constant source of stress for Wei Wuxian these days.
He’d gone all out on it in the beginning with the intention of not having to think about it again for months, possibly ever.
It had contained a careful selection of big things, little things, and medium things; all fun and sexy stuff he could show off on his channel or via selfie. A few of his subscribers bought stuff off it and he’d shown off his new toys accordingly while calling out the username of whoever had gotten it for him. It was a fun game and he always raked in the tips after those shows. There was nothing a potential sugar daddy loved more than an unboxing video even if it wasn’t their box.
Then Bun came along.
Wei Wuxian had naively thought that a forty item wishlist would keep his new exclusive sugar daddy in gift ideas for the rest of their acquaintance, but no. Bun bought out the entire thing in one sitting and Wei Wuxian hadn’t even realized before he got a call from the company managing his Amazon locker complaining that it was overfull and he needed to empty it out so they could cram more stuff in.
After that, Wei Wuxian had to be a lot more careful about what he put on there because if he added something to his wishlist then Bun bought it within the day. He’d had to put Bun on an honest to goodness gift budget; one thing a week or else Wei Wuxian was pretty sure he’d have ended up dying under a tidal wave of boxes.
The wishlist felt different than Bun’s spontaneous care packages and sex toy shipments. Wei Wuxian liked those because 1. he liked sex and 2. the unprompted nature of those thoughtfully-selected care packages made him feel --well, cared for. He liked seeing what kind of things Bun wanted him to have or thought he might like.
Meanwhile the wishlist felt like asking and like any former-foster kid Wei Wuxian had a complicated, uncomfortable relationship with asking. That was probably a weird problem for a sugar baby to have, but this was only ever supposed to have been a side hustle. He hadn’t expected it to balloon on him the way it did.
Bun took pity on him.
HGBun: You may include three practical items for your cultivation.
Wei Wuxian perked up. That was different.
Professional cultivation was an expensive business. Everything from talisman paper to spiritual tools cost a boatload of cash. He always needed stuff.
Wei Wuxian threw himself onto the couch and dropped a ream of talisman paper, cinnabar pigments, and a set of ceramic laboratory jars that had been in his shopping cart for the past four months into the BabyMe wishlist app.
He was about to drop out of the Xianxia suppliers page when one of the sidebar ads flipped to an item he’d been mooning over for… well, years.
It was an authentic spiritual tool supply company named Aerophone that specialized in the woodwind variety of musical cultivation. They had an excellent reputation among the sects and at another more innocent time in his life, he’d planned to ask his adopted parents for a dizi from there as a graduation present. That was back when he still thought he was going to college on Jiang’s dime.
Even their lowest end dizi cost --well, it was a lot, but was it expensive compared to an open-ended stay at the Mandarin Oriental?
BAEYing: What if I put four things on it and one of them is just very expensive? Could that count as five, Gege?
HGBun: Add it and I’ll decide.
An errant shiver chased its way down Wei Wuxian’s spine.
‘Fuck it.’ He told himself and put a top of the line, limited edition black jade dizi onto his wishlist. They were made to order so he added a series of customizations that would surely make even Bun agree that it should count as two things and that his poor BAEYing deserved a break from these impossible demands.
Wei Wuxian flushed, weirdly pleased for no reason whatsoever.
HGBun: It is still one item.
God damn it.
HGBun: Pick out an appropriate stand for it.
Wei Wuxian reached for a couch cushion to scream into.
Wei Wuxian hadn’t expected to end up recognizing Bun’s real estate agent. He was also not expected to see Mianmian moonlighting as a rental agent.
He and Luo Qingyang went way back from their inauspicious beginnings at cultivator camp as teenagers when Wei Wuxian tried to flirt with anything that moved but got heart palpitations if anyone ever tried to take him up on it.
He heard about his old friends periodically through the grapevine. Mianmian had been with the Jin sect there for a while, but left shortly ahead of a massive sexual misconduct scandal that rocked Jinlintai for years to come. He knew she was still night hunting because he’d heard her name come up in various complimentary ways so he was surprised to see her waiting in the Starbucks where Bun had arranged for them to meet with an honest-to-god markerboard that read ‘Bae Ying.’
“Mianmian!” He perked up and waved to get her attention.
“Why am I not surprised?” She asked the room in general and put her markerboard face down on the table she was sitting at. When she got up Wei Wuxian realized there was a good reason for her to be taking a break from night hunting.
“Wow, okay, you can sit back down if you want.” He blurted out.
She was enormous; eight months along if she was a day. In fact Wei Wuxian wasn’t entirely sure there was just one baby in there.
“I’m fine, dork.” She held up the markerboard. “Bae Ying? Really? What was wrong with giving your real name?”
“It’s complicated.” Wei Wuxian stuck his hands in his pockets. “Someone set this up on my behalf and he’s not allowed to know my real name. Did he explain it?”
“My regional manager explained it. That doesn’t make it make sense.” Mianmian looked him over. “Based on what she said, I was honestly expecting someone… different. I wouldn’t have guessed you’d be into that sort of thing.”
“I said it was complicated.” Wei Wuxian repeated himself, feeling a little on the spot. “It was casual fun stuff until I lost my apartment.” He sighed and decided he might as well own it, “He wanted to get me a new place and I said no, but I did let him put me up in a hotel. Then I made the mistake of looking up what my room costs per night.” That had been a real bad moment. “I think I must have had a stress-based dissociative episode because I was already here by the time I came to.”
“I’m surprised you need the help.” Mianmian rocked back on one heel, arms crossed, and judgey-looking. “The Jiang Sect never hurts for money. Don’t you have a trust fund or something?”
Well, this was going swell.
The first happy flush he’d felt at seeing an old friend was fading as he realized that old friends came with old baggage. Still, it wasn’t her fault. She’d come up from a very small cultivation family who’d gone into steep debt just to get her trained and licensed. Being adopted into the Jiangs must have seemed like a golden ticket to her; one he’d wasted.
He smiled. “No. I don’t.” That sounded okay, right? Not too bitter? “I haven’t been with Jiang sect since I was eighteen.”
“Oh?” She searched his face and whatever she found there convinced her not to ask for details. Mianmian just sighed after a bit, like she got it. “Well, then no wonder you’re sugaring if you had to go freelance. I was living in a van until I met my husband and he made me move in with him. Come on, my car’s this way. Let’s get you an apartment.”
As predicted, Wei Wuxian did not like any part of apartment hunting.
The apartments themselves were great; beautiful, spacious, safe, and clean. He could see himself living in any one of them. The problem was that he knew he wouldn’t be able to afford any of them on his own. He hadn’t even dared ask Mianmian what any of them cost. He wasn’t ready to know.
On the other hand, he was currently staying in a hotel room that cost $800 a night. A. Night.
Miamian let him get away with finding invisible faults in the first two places. He’d been hoping that her advanced pregnancy meant that she wouldn’t make him look at too many, but he’d forgotten that cultivator women have bulletproof pregnancies. By the time they got done with the third place he was flagging and her feet hadn’t even swollen yet. Unfair.
He’d figured out around apartment #2 that Mianmian wasn’t actually a real estate agent. She had just arranged the viewings so he didn’t really know what she was doing for a living now, but he was glad that it was less likely that she’d retired from her cultivation to accommodate motherhood.
“Okay, what’s your problem?” she asked once they let themselves out of the third place. “You’ve been making heart eyes at every single place we’ve seen, but when it comes time to make a decision you lie and say you don’t like it. I’m willing to go as long as you need, but if you’re trying to wait me out it’s gonna take longer than you have to invest in the project.”
Wei Wuxian sighed. “Mianmian, I can’t afford any of the places we looked at on my own. I was afraid to even ask you what the rent was.”
She cocked her head at him, confused. “I haven’t shown you any rentals.”
Wei Wuxian turned on her like a storm cloud or somebody possessed by a demon. He was a demonic cultivator so the effect was pretty good. She actually blinked, nearly looking intimidated for a whole second. “You. What?”
“I’ve been instructed to buy whatever place you like.” Mianmian softened as she looked him over. “Wow, you really had no idea. They explained to me, but not to you. This is so sad and so cute at the same time. You poor confused baby.”
“Excuse me, I need…” Wei Wuxian was already fumbling for his phone to lay into Bun, but Mianmian took it away from him.
“Hold on.” She held it behind her back. “I’m going to do you a solid and prevent you from doing whatever it is you're about to do.”
“Mianmian, come on. He can’t buy me an apartment.” Wei Wuxian protested. “It’d just be a whole new problem: me waiting for him to get bored and kick me out. At least with a rental, I can take over the payments.”
“I’ve got a lot of money in escrow right now that says he can.” She replied, ducking his attempt to get his phone back. “Also, I’ve been instructed to purchase it in your name. At worst you’d be liable for the property taxes and that’s steep, sure, but cheaper than rent.” She punched him in the shoulder. “I’ve been in your shoes. You can’t afford to be proud.”
It was true; humiliating, but true.
“Can we stop for lunch or something?” he asked, unable to reconcile it right away.
Mianmian patted his cheek. “Sure we can.” she said. “You still into chicken nuggets?”
Bless her, Mianmian didn’t make him talk while they went to the nearest McDonalds except to ask if he wanted some of the hot sauce packets in her purse. He did.
He thought about his life while he ate. He thought about his circumstances. He thought about Bun.
Wei Wuxian had never had the luxury of thinking long-term. His future had always been filled with too many variables for him to easily predict or prepare for its twists or turns. He’d certainly never pictured himself as the sort of sultry courtesan who could reasonably expect the gift of a townhouse in Manhattan from his admirers, but here he was.
Actually, none of the properties were in Manhattan --or were they?
“Hey, can I look at your list for a sec?” He leaned over as Mianmian tilted her tablet in his direction. Most of the places they were looking at were close to his old place, just nicer. A few of them, though…
He had that weird feeling again.
...a few were in Manhattan.
‘I’m in Manhattan.’ Bun had said.
It would be stupid to place himself closer to the man when he’d already refused to meet up, but Wei Wuxian’s heart and his head were in completely different corners.
Mianmian noticed the listings he was hovering over. “Oh, that’s a good idea. We haven’t been looking in amazing areas. There’s a chance you’d lose out on some money on the property if the neighborhood continues to slide, but a place in Manhattan would set you up really well if you ever need to sell.” She was clearly all for Wei Wuxian taking Bun for everything he could with an eye towards the future. She really had been in his shoes even with a golden core. Maybe he ought to listen.
The first two places didn’t actually appeal to him; lots of white cabinets and white carpet for him to ruin and get annoyed by. The last place they looked at was… it was…
“Oh that’s a good face.” Mianmian observed to Wei Wuxian as he set foot on the parquet floor of the front hall.
It wasn’t a huge place by anyone’s standards except a Manhattanite’s. It had started out clearly as one big room, but someone put in a wall at some point that angled out to enclose a small bedroom and created a long dressing area between that and the only bathroom.
“Storage,” he breathed. Beautiful, beautiful storage away from the living area where he could hide his now enormous (thanks to Bun) collection of kinky shit, but still have it easily accessible. There was even a built in vanity back there that he hadn’t known he wanted until it stood before him.
“Sounds to me like we’re putting in an offer.” Mianmian interpreted. “I’ll take care of it.” She offered him a high five. Wei Wuxian took it, only shaking a little bit.
He shot a little non-sexy video of the place for Bun, but didn’t send it until he was back at the hotel wrapped up to his eyeballs in a blanket and wondering just what the hell he was going to do about furniture. His last place had come furnished, but he’d had to get rid of most of what he had accumulated living there.
Wei Wuxian nerved himself up with a ghostpepper cheeseburger from the room service menu, took two shots of Baiju, and hit ‘send.’
HGBun usually responded pretty quickly in the early evening. This time was no exception.
HGBun: I approve.
HGBun: Will you be alright so far away from your territory?
Wei Wuxian snorted at the idea of having ‘territory’ anymore. Territory was a sect thing. He’d been wondering if Bun was a sect boy, though. and now he had his answer.
BAEYing: At the risk of boring you with my day job, NYPD doesn’t really care about territory. Wherever they’re having problems is my territory so far as they’re concerned and they don’t give a single damn about stepping on the local family’s toes when I’m the lowest bidder who still gets results. I get loaned out to surrounding areas too.
BAEYing: There’s a reason I’m crazy enough to try and own a car in the city. I get sent places public transit doesn’t go.
HGBun: I had wondered. Very few of my acquaintances in the city bother to keep a vehicle.
Ok, not that sheltered. Wei Wuxian quirked a smile.
BAEYing: I really like my new place, Gege.
BAEYing: A-Ying would like to say thank you properly.
He squirmed in place. It was Wednesday. Their sex date was Friday. Bun was easily as sexual as Wei Wuxian himself was, but sometimes he liked to make Wei Wuxian wait for no reason other than he knew waiting turned Wei Wuxian into a desperate mess once they finally did something fun.
Like, he knew Bun was a low-key sadist and usually he was all for it except when he wanted sexytimes right away and his best (only) play partner said things like:
HGBun: I’m looking forward to Friday as well.
BAEYing: Is that Gege’s final answer?
He stripped down to a pair of lacy red briefs -another habit he hadn’t gotten into until Bun discovered men’s lingerie- and took a picture from behind in the bedroom’s full length mirror and sent it just in case Bun didn’t get the hint.
Wei Wuxian felt a brief flash of victory, but then:
HGBun: Wear those for our call.
HGBun: You should get a mirror like that for your new room. I am enjoying this angle.
BAEYing: I am attempting a seduction here.
BAEYing: I am finding you to be very uncooperative in this endeavor.
BAEYing: Must this A-Ying amuse himself? All by his lonesome? With no lovely Gege to tell him what to do?
HGBun: Not at all.
“Yes, finally!” Wei Wuxian started toward the bed to clear his bunnies off the pillows and maybe make them face the wall before they saw something they shouldn’t.
HGBun: Because A-Ying understands that I do not wish him to touch himself until Friday, as previously arranged.
“NO!” Wei Wuxian hit his knees and stared at his phone in dismay. “We did not agree to that! You made it up just now!”
He was absolutely going to do it because that was the kind of control stuff he liked best, but he hated having the script changed on him without warning.
BAEYing: A-Ying knows no such thing and has the emails to prove it.
UGH. When was the last time Bun had done a color check on him? He kind of hated that they’d synced so well that he couldn’t remember.
Wei Wuxian took a moment to really think about it.
BAEYing: We didn’t talk about chastity control and I’m into it, but not super happy about having it sprung on me.
HGBun: Forgive me.
HGBun: You are correct. We have flirted with the edges of the idea, but not so explicitly. I should not have proceeded without talking it out with you first.
HGBun: What are your reservations?
Since he wasn’t getting laid that night, Wei Wuxian took a moment to change into some pajama bottoms and a rude t-shirt. Thus equipped he shut down the lights, put his rabbits back on the bed, and tucked himself in. This was going to be a Kink Negotiation talk and he always needed maximum comfort because it involved talking about his needs and boundaries and that always made him feel like a basketcase.
BAEYing: I’m not feeling great about the possibility of failure.
BAEYing: Things have been a lot recently and I’ve spent a lot of time hanging outside of my comfort zone. The side effect is that I’m needy and horny all the time.
BAEYing: BUT I also like it when you have your dom pants on and I feel like I’d be cheating myself out of an amazing friday evening by insisting on something now if that’s where you’re going with this.
HGBun: These are valid concerns.
HGBun: Would it be appealing to you if I removed the possibility of failure?
That would be … okay.
Wei Wuxian squirmed down into the covers as his face heated up. That would be more than okay.
BAEYing: Are you talking about a chastity device?
HGBun: If I can find one that I’m satisfied won’t hurt you to wear long term.
HGBun: Preferably one I can operate remotely.
Oh no. That was really good. He liked that idea a lot.
HGBun: Can you be good for me until tomorrow evening?
HGBun: If I can’t find anything or get it to you in time then I’ll take care of you.
Wei Wuxian hadn’t actually been interested in his own company right up until that moment. Seeing the words ‘I’ll take care of you’ lit little fireworks up his spine and he had to get out of bed to dash cold water on his face before his pulse slowed down a little.
BAEYing: Green. Green, green, green.
BAEYing: Unless you’re thinking about anything that requires a piercing then we will translocate into red territory.
HGBun: There is such a thing?
BAEYing: Don’t google it.
HGBun: I am not interested in gential piercings or alterations beyond any gratification you would get from the act.
HGBun: You do not like needles?
BAEYing: Not near my junk, no. I had some in my ears when I was younger, but I had to stop wearing earrings in order to get NYPD to take me seriously. They’d probably ignore it now given all the times I’ve shown up to a crime scene in eyeliner and glitter, but I’d probably need to get re-pierced at this point.
He found an old picture of himself in highschool with all his helix studs in, cropped out his unfortunate hairstyle and acne, and sent it to Bun for an illustrative example.
BAEYing: Like that.
HGBun: If you are interested in resuming then I would enjoy selecting jewelry for you.
Hoo boy. Wei Wuxian closed his eyes and thought about baseball, then he thought about spell mathematics when he remembered he didn’t know anything about baseball.
BAEYing: Time out on jewelry until you find us that wifi enabled chastity belt.
HGBun: I look forward to revisiting this topic later.
Wei Wuxian received another package from the concierge the next day in the early afternoon.
Bun had not found a wifi enabled cock cage. He had found a regular one made out of stainless steel with the brand name ‘Bird Cage’, which Wei Wuxian found to be mildly hilarious. It arrived supplemented with the lightest, smallest wifi enabled padlock Wei Wuxian had ever encountered. The metal on the bar was light enough that he could probably cut it off himself with wire snips if they got into an emergency scenario.
He’d known Bun was onto something when he randomly received several very intimate questions that morning from his sugar daddy that required the use of a tape measure to answer, but he was so pleased with the results that he had to go take a cold shower before trying it on.
Wei Wuxian sent a picture of himself in the toy without the lock engaged. He wanted to make sure Bun could unlock it before he shut himself in for the duration.
BAEYing: You like?
HGBun: Very fetching.
HGBun: Did you check it for sharp edges or rough spots? I did not find any flaws, but I would prefer it if you checked personally.
Wei Wuxian took it off so he could truthfully say he had. The metal was satiny smooth and he couldn’t find any seams or joins that might cause an eventual problem.
BAEYing: Looks good so far. Do you mind testing the lock before I use it?
HGBun: Of course.
The lock chirped happily when he clicked it shut, which was something he was very glad to have discovered in private. It unlocked again a few seconds later with a triumphant little ‘doo-da-doo’ noise.
BAEYing: Seems to be working. Please don’t unlock me unless I give you the word that I’m in private if you can’t mute that.
HGBun: Of that you may rest assured.
He struggled to lock himself down before Bun could say anything else that would end with him having to take another cold shower.
BAEYing: All done.
BAEYing: Thank you, btw, Gege for not putting me into the one people install ransomware onto.
Wei Wuxian had done his own Google-fu the night before to some distressing results.
Wifi enabled chastity devices existed, as it turned out, but there only seemed to be one currently on the market and it hadn’t taken hackers long to realize they could permanently sabotage the cage to the point where it had to be cut off with giant-ass bolt cutters or a reciprocating saw; neither of which Wei Wuxian was willing to entertain the possibility of anywhere near his private business, thank you.
Bun’s solution seemed neater.
HGBun: I did extensive research on the security of the digital lock.
BAEYing: That is good.
BAEYing: Because if my dick gets hacked I will throw a hissy fit on a scale that not even Hanguang-jun has seen before.
Bun was quiet for a moment and in that silence Wei Wuxian made a connection.
“Oh this is too good.” He snickered to himself and tucked that knowledge away in his back pocket for another day. “Gege is a fanboy.”
Well, who wouldn’t be? According to rumor, Hanguang-jun was unbearably hot. Wei Wuxian had never seen a picture, but everyone he knew who had got a little dreamy just thinking about it, even the straights.
Bun all but confirmed it with his response.
HGBun: Is there a reason you chose that particular example?
BAEYing: He’s one of the oldest immortals I can think of.
BAEYing: Given the kind of sect drama I’ve witnessed in my short life? He’s served as Xiandu eleven times. I can only imagine that he’s Seen Things.
There was a pause.
HGBun: I would like to return to the subject of jewelry.
Awww. Shy boy.
Bun sent him a picture of a pair of sapphire chandelier earrings.
BAEYing: In private yes with matching lingerie, but otherwise they look a little heavy. My lobes stretch easily.
HGBun: Thank you.
HGBun: I will bear that in mind.
HGBun: Are you willing to have your piercings replaced?
Ok, apparently Bun had decided he was into it. They were doing this.
BAEYing: For Gege, anything. It’ll be six months before I can change my jewelry. Longer for the cartilage.
HGBun: I see.
HGBun: In that case, would you allow me to book a session and choose the starter jewelry?
Someone had been doing some extracurricular research. Wei Wuxian was here for it.
BAEYing: I’m curious to know where you can find any place that does anything more exciting than barbells, but willing to follow your lead.
HGBun: Please send me another picture, if convenient.
Wei Wuxian blinked. He hadn’t bothered to get dressed again. He was getting used to the way the cage felt before he tried to put his briefs on over them.
Bun didn’t often request pictures. Wei Wuxian hardly ever gave him the chance to get lonely, to be honest. He’d never say so right away, but when he wanted it enough to ask he always wanted a nude.
Wei Wuxian took a glance at the big mirror leaned against his bedroom wall; the one Bun had commented on earlier. Then he took his hair down, mussed it up some with a little product so it looked a little like he had sex hair, slipped on a pair of trashy black satin panties with peekaboo panels on the hips, and took a full length picture of himself posed like Michelangelo’s David taking a selfie.
Then he took some more as he slowly slipped his underwear off and then another one of his parted thighs in bed. Only the last one was a straight up groin shot. He’d witnessed way too many sad boners washed out by flash and getting roasted on ‘Critique my Dick Pic’ to want to send Bun anything less than a stellar, sexy, well lit picture of Wei Ying Junior.
Still, he wasn’t an amazing photographer so he fudged things by turning it into the conclusion of a process.
Wei Wuxian was fully dressed again by the time he started sending them with a pause in between each.
HGBun: Thank you.
HGBun: Comfort so far?
BAEYing: Haven’t noticed anything pinching or cutting. It breathes.
He’d been kind of hoping for this. Bun was a very involved sort of dom already, but chastity control demanded lots of extra attention.
BAEYing: Does Gege have any new rules for me?
He did, as it turned out. Most of them were health and safety things, which Wei Wuxian liked to hear. His sugar daddy had clearly been on an intense research binge and now had extensive opinions about responsible chastity play. Wei Wuxian had been prepared to stay in the cage until Friday. He hadn’t been lying when he said he felt comfortable in it, but Bun had other plans. That said, not all the rules were boring.
BAEYing: A picture every time I change clothes sounds like an awful lot, Gege.
BAEYing: Won’t it be embarrassing if someone sees a picture of me on your phone like that? All naked and exposed.
HGBun: For them perhaps.
HGBun: Every time, please.
Wei Wuxian let it wash over him and revelled in the feeling of being lovingly bossed around.
Thursday ended up being the day when Wei Wuxian’s cute sugar fantasy vacation came to -if not an end- a brief and ugly pause.
He woke up to a cranky Detective Zhou on his work phone. There’d been a murder in the Bronx. No witnesses. The Lans weren’t donating work to the NYPD at the moment so someone needed to question the victim and Wei Wuxian was the level of spiritualist their budget could accommodate.
Mianmian emailed him to set up an appointment to close on his new place. Apparently the homebuying process flew by when you were paying in full with cash. He wrote her back to nail down a window in the late afternoon.
He almost forgot his good morning picture and had to undress a little to get something good; him sitting on the edge of the bed with the fly of his semi-professional pants unzipped and his legs parted enough that the top edge of the cage was peeking out.
BAEYing: Gotta rush out the door this morning, but I always have time for Gege.
BAEYing: Dead guy in the Bronx. Gonna go have a chat with him on behalf of the city’s finest.
HGBun: Have you eaten?
Alas, the bad thing about a place as nice as the Mandarin was that they didn’t serve a continental breakfast so he couldn’t snag a bagel on his way out of the lobby.
BAEYing: I’ll grab something.
HGBun: I will be checking in later.
Wei Wuxian wanted to know what the consequences were if he didn’t, but he was pretty sure what would happen was that Bun would make him add more stuff to the fucking wishlist. He legitimately did not want to do that so he bought coffee and a tiropita at the first breakfast cart he spotted, took a picture for Bun to prove he’d done it, and tried not to obsessively check his phone for words of praise afterwards.
He ended up glad that he did eat because the dead guy was a massive pain in the tail.Wei Wuxian was not a Lan so he couldn’t force the guy to answer anything or speak truthfully, so the detectives had to question the spirit like any other aggressive witness. You’d think the guy’d want his murder solved, but it turned out he hated cops more than being dead.
The officers cut him loose just in time to make it to closing, but he skidded in the door right on the dot.
Mianmian, at least, wasn’t fussed. She knew how the NYPD was, but the sellers and the notary gave him the stink eye.
It didn’t matter because he walked out of there with his very own keys to his very own place.
Mianmian took him to coffee and, he’d thought, to celebrate. Instead she got out her tablet and started showing him mood boards.
“Don’t Mianmian me.” She said when he confessed to his truly reasonable levels of confusion after she started talking about sofa beds. All he wanted to do was go back to the hotel and start packing in order to check out. “You said your last place was furnished. What do you think you’re going to sleep on if you move straight in?”
“The floor?” Wei Wuxian guessed.
“Ugh, you are such a boy.” She groaned, burying her face in her hands. “I haven’t had to put this much work into anyone since Jin Zixuan finally got married. Look.” She made him look her in the eye like he was a misbehaving toddler. “We came in under budget on the property. You get to keep the rest to spend on furniture. Since I know better than to cut you a check and expect you’ll spend it on chairs, I’ve requested soft pitches from a few interior designers I know. Point at one and tell me what you do or don’t like so I can give them feedback.”
It was like the wishlist, except worse. Mianmian wasn’t Bun. She had no mercy in her tiny body or tinier heart. She pointed at stuff. She asked a million questions. She took notes. She was going to be a terrifying tiger mom and he told her so to her face.
“Flattery won’t save you.” She replied. “Now, storage sofa or sofa bed? Pick now.”
The only reason he got away with his soul intact was because Detective Zhou called him again about another dead body, probably unrelated to the first because they were genuinely unsure whether it was foul play and the officers on site were tired of fighting about it.
Unfortunately, it was murder.
The victim had been a sweet little old lady who made cookies for her neighbors on the weekends, but was also in the way of a big property development deal. Wei Wuxian didn’t know for certain that the weird developer who’d been alternately threatening and trying to sweet talk her into selling her townhouse at a loss was responsible for her death or if it was her one squirrelly grandkid who was the sole recipient of her large life insurance policy, but he knew somebody had killed her because she’d come back like something from Ju-on over it.
Repressed people who died badly made the worst ghosts. Everything they’d been keeping inside all their lives came screaming out and looking for blood.
One of the officers didn’t make it. He was dead before Wei Wuxian got there and the other one was in a coma. Wei Wuxian put her down and scattered her spirit to keep her from coming back. The ones like that didn’t care about justice. They just wanted someone else to hurt along with them; to not be alone in their agony. Even so, it’d be a while before that townhouse was safe to live in. Grudge ghosts could come back from almost nothing.
Wei Wuxian, meanwhile, ended up dragging himself back to the hotel late, late, late. His phone had been dead for hours and lit up with missed messages as soon as it had been plugged in long enough to power up.
HGBun: What is the pastry?
HGBun: Luo confirmed the closing went well. Congratulations.
HGBun: Please don’t fight her about furnishing it. It would please me to know you’re comfortable.
HGBun: Please call me when you see this.
HGBun: I received word from a friend that a freelance demonic cultivator was injured in the line of duty this evening. Please confirm for me that it was not you.
Wei Wuxian paused to sigh about the gossipy ass nature of cultivator society. They’d probably been crowing to Bun about it. ‘See, this is why the freelancers should just settle into a sect or retire. They can’t handle it.’
BAEYing: Sorry. It was me. I just got back to the hotel.
HGBun: Why are you not in the hospital?
BAEYing: The EMTs looked me over. I just got banged around a little. The officers weren’t so lucky.
BAEYing: It was a Grudge ghost. If that contact of yours on the licensing board is one of the socially responsible types, I know of a townhouse that needs to be put under containment for the next five years. It’ll probably stay down, but I don’t take risks with Grudges and that one was fresher than fresh. It’s got a one in three chance of coming back if enough people hang around the spot it’s tethered to and some douche canoe wants to build offices there.
HGBun: Email me the address. I’ll forward it along.
HGBun: I would like to initiate a video call.
BAEYing: ngl, I am not pretty right now.
HGBun: All the more reason.
Wei Wuxian accepted the call when it popped up on his screen and propped his phone up on some folded towels so his torso took up the shot. Bun’s screen was blank and his mic was muted.
“Tell me how the back is?” He joked as he turned a slow circle.
The mic icon went green.
“You were thrown.” Bun observed. His voice always did weird things to Wei Wuxian and doubly so this time. It was deep and low, subtly angry on his behalf.
“Yeah, into some cabinets while it was thrashing towards the end.” Wei Wuxian agreed. He’d taken the brunt of it on his shoulder and the right side of his back. “How bad?”
“We will need to reschedule tomorrow.” Bun had the decency to sound as disappointed as Wei Wuxian felt. “You may not have broken a rib, but they are likely bruised. Our planned activities could put you at risk. Show me your face.”
He had, up until that point, been keeping his face out of the shot for a reason.
Bun did not make a sound or kept the mic muted if he did when Wei Wuxian tilted the camera up to show him the spectacular shiner he was in the process of developing. The EMT who worked on him was able to feed him some spiritual energy so it didn’t swell shut, but in doing so had sped up the bruising.
“It looks worse than it is.” Wei Wuxian said into the silence. “You know how spiritually-supplemented first aid goes.”
“I do.” Bun’s tone said he didn’t care and was going to be angry anyway, but it didn’t seem like he was angry at Wei Wuxian and that was all that mattered at the moment.
If he asked to come over again then Wei Wuxian wasn’t sure he was strong enough to say no. He hurt. A lot. He really wanted to be taken care of. He was irrationally certain Bun wanted to take care of him equally as bad. He couldn’t quite remember at the moment why that was something to be discouraged.
“May I order dinner for you?” Bun asked instead of what Wei Wuxian had feared he would.
“Oh, man. That would be great.” Making choices even about food sounded like the worst thing ever. “Can I skip the picture tonight? I’m going to change into some softer clothes and crawl into bed.”
“Mn.” Bun gave no sign that he planned to end the call so Wei Wuxian took the phone into the bedroom with him and let him watch. He was missing out on a promised nude, after all, and he’d only just gotten comfortable enough to ask for them.
Dinner arrived as he was putting socks on; a giant steak that was practically still mooing with the barest suggestion of mixed vegetables on the side and a slice of chocolate pie. That was some serious business aftercare food there. Heat and pressure built behind his eyes and he had to spend a minute breathing carefully before he could talk again.
“Gege is so sweet.” Wei Wuxian hummed in sleepy pleasure as he set up the phone in front of the open seat next to him at the dining room table. “Do you want to keep me company?”
“Mn.” It sounded like yes and he didn’t end the call, so Wei Wuxian talked about ...something. He didn’t remember what, just that it sounded like table conversation. Unless you were a Lan then no conversation was table conversation. Bun was probably not a Lan. No one who spent that much money on sex toys could be a member of the notoriously unmaterialistic Lan sect.
Food didn’t help.
Usually eating something helped when he felt his emotions get enormous like this. It didn’t feel like subdrop. Well, it felt a little like subdrop, but two steps to the left of how it usually hit him. He felt random little spikes of aggression, like frustration with his own swinging mood only amped up to seventeen, but then it all got subsumed by another roil of sorrow that seemed to come on with no warning or reason.
“Bun…” Wei Wuxian wet his lips. “...I think something is wrong.”
Bun didn’t hesitate. “When was the last time you had a Cleansing session?”
Wei Wuxian couldn’t remember and that was bad. Memory was tied into emotion and a leakier than usual memory was a warning sign. “I usually get more aggressive. I say mean things. This feels different. I think Mo Xuanyu played the CD for me a couple of weeks ago?”
“Your living situation and stressors have changed.” Bun observed. “There’s no enemy in your home now.”
‘Except me’ Wei Wuxian managed not to say.
He was not expecting the next thing to come of Bun’s mouth to be: “Let me play for you.”
Maybe Bun was a Lan after all. He didn’t know anyone else who did musical cultivation except MolingSu and Wei Wuxian knew enough about them that he’d rather take his chances with the CD. At least that one had been recorded by Zewu-jun himself.
If Bun was a Lan then it might explain why he liked the strict definition and control of a sugaring relationship. Wei Wuxian had never met a Lan cultivator who wasn’t so deeply repressed that they needed explicit instructions to relax.
‘Fuck, any port in a storm.’ He told himself. “Yeah.” He said out loud and took himself to the living room where there was carpet. Cleansing, even via CD, was one of those things you had to lay down for and if he was by himself then he couldn’t risk falling off anything, not even a bed. “Ok, I’m settled.”
Bun did not agree. “Place a pillow under your head. Another under your thighs.” He directed and Wei Wuxian was conditioned to obey him when he used that voice.
Wei Wuxian was glad of the extra support when the sound of a guqin rolled through his phone speakers like thunder. His reflective, “Oh f…” was swallowed by the sound.
Definitely a Lan. Maybe one of the elder Lan. He could not imagine anyone else aside from the earthbound immortals who’d be able to transmit that level of spiritual effect through electronics. He could practically see the inky smoke of resentful energy boiling off his skin. When he exhaled it came as a thin charcoal colored cloud that was immediately scattered.
Bun played Cleansing three times through. By the end of the last round, Wei Wuxian had no bones left in his body. He felt like an eggshell that had been blown clean of its contents; light and empty.
“I may not actually be able to get up from here.” Wei Wuxian realized aloud as he tried to move and found he couldn’t. He didn’t feel bad, exactly, just wiped out. His limbs felt like they were made of lead.
“That has been known to happen when I play.” Bun sounded a bit apologetic. “I specialize in Cleansing. It’s my strongest song. You should not be alone right now.” He paused, clearly knowing not to ask.
“I…” Wei Wuxian tried to think of anyone who would --he blinked. Well, of course there was someone who would. The clarity he always felt in the aftermath of Cleansing paid dividends in that moment. “...I’ll call some friends to come over. They know about my core.”
Stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid. He knew that demonic buildup fucked with his head and made him forget about his support network if he didn’t see them regularly, but it still got him every single time.
When was the last time he’d called Shijie? When was the last time he’d liked something embarrassing on Jiang Cheng’s facebook so that he’d know his brother was still around? When was the last time he’d texted Wen Ning or Wen Qing?
He reassured himself that it can’t have been too long. The Wens knew to start bothering him if he went out of contact for more than a week or so; Wen Qing especially.
“Good.” Bun said, quietly relieved. “I will stay on the line until their arrival.”
He opened up his group chat with Wen Qing and Wen Ning. The last message he’d sent was a week and a half earlier so he was just squeaking in under the limit.
WWX: I liiiiiive!
Qing-jie: you mother fucker I was about to kick down the door of that crack den you live in
WWX: Funny you should mention that
WWX: So, good news first
WWX: Mo Xuanyu is in rehab.
Qing-jie: … ok, i’m listening
WWX: Mo Ziyuan is probably in prison unless the harpy bailed him out.
Qing-jie: well thank fuck for that
Qing-jie: wait, if assface is in jail about drugs
Qing-jie: If I have to bail you out of prison, I swear to god I am calling your sister.
WWX: I am not in prison, out on bail, or otherwise in trouble with the law. Scout’s honor.
Qing-jie: Then what’s wrong?
Qing-jie: There’s always something wrong when you come back after a disappearing act.
WWX: Oh, that.
WWX: Someone did Cleansing for me just now and that thing happened where I remembered I have friends again.
BestBoi: Oh no
BestBoi: I was gonna come over yesterday to make sure you weren’t having Brain Monsters, but I fell asleep on the couch. I should have. I’m sorry. :(
Qing-jie: Real Cleansing or your stupid CD again?
WWX: Pretty close to real Cleansing.
WWX: My friend played for me over the phone and no word of a lie I don’t think I could handle his playing IRL
WWX: All my bones are gone
Qing-jie: ...where are you?
WWX: So, funny story
Qing-jie: are you on the floor
WWX: He made me get a pillow for my legs and head first. I’m all good where I am. Not gonna move.
Qing-jie: … alright
Qing-jie: that is barely within the boundaries of acceptable
Qing-jie: I will take it
Qing-jie: I am coming over
Qing-jie: A-Ning, meet me at the station.
BestBoi: Oh, I’ll order a pizza! We can have a sleepover!
Qing-jie: Where is your ‘friend’ right now?
WWX: He’s staying on the video call until you get here.
WWX: Then he’s probably going to turn into a pumpkin because it’s getting late and he goes to bed at, get this, NINE
Qing-jie: Nine, huh? And he turned you into pudding over a phone line? How in hell did you make friends with a Lan?
Oh hey, Wei Wuxian should have twigged to that.
Qing-jie: You know what, I’m not questioning it. Tell him I’m leaving now.
WWX: <has shared his location>
WWX: Ask the concierge for a pass through the elevator
WWX: I can open the door for you with my cellphone
Qing-jie: HOW ARE YOU
BestBoi: Oh, fancy!
BestBoi: Maybe we shouldn’t order pizza. Then they’ll know we’re middle class.
WWX: pretty sure rich people eat pizza and don’t care what the front desk thinks about it
Qing-jie: I am leaving now. Tell your Lan friend we’re on our way.
WWX: Will do
Wei Wuxian flipped back to his video call. “Friends incoming.” He reported. “One of them is bringing pizza and now it’s all I can think about. Why am I hungry? Gege just fed me.”
“It’s not uncommon.” Bun told him. “Your body has been working harder than you realize. Eat as much as you comfortably can. Have room service bring something up that can go in the mini fridge as well. You’ll be hungry again later.”
Huh. That had never happened with his CD. Maybe Wen Qing was onto something with her irrational hatred of it.
He ended up drifting for a while, not really able to talk about it, but Bun didn’t seem surprised. Maybe it was normal because he started playing music again; just music not Music. Wei Wuxian floated on the sounds of a lullabye until he heard someone knock on the door.
“They’re here.” Wei Wuxian lifted up his phone.
“Then I will say goodnight.” was Bun’s soft reply. “I will text you in the morning to discuss new plans.”
Wei Wuxian was feeling good enough to get a little thrill off that. “Okay. Night, Gege.”
He unlocked the door as soon as Bun was off the line and Wen Qing sailed in with a convenience store bag on her elbow and Wen Ning in her wake.
She knelt by his side and took a box of those weird pre-workout energy jellies out of her bag. She held one up to his mouth. “Eat it. The whole box. You will feel mildly less like garbage.”
“My friend made me eat a whole steak and dessert.” Wei Wuxian protested. He was pretty sure he was good no matter what Bun said.
“It’s a start,” Wen Qing agreed. “We can do this the easy way or the hard way. Try me.”
The hard way involved acupuncture needles so he ate the jellies. Then he let Wen Ning and his ridiculous biceps put him onto the couch.
“Can I put my head in your lap?” Wei Wuxian asked Wen Ning, surprising even himself. He was still feeling weird and the physical contact had been grounding.
Wen Ning brightened like Wei Wuxian told him he was getting two birthdays that year. “Sure!” Then he went the extra mile of helping him lower slowly down so he didn’t fall and patted Wei Wuxian’s hair once he was settled. “Wow, your friend is really good. I can’t even smell it on you anymore.”
“You could smell it before?” Wei Wuxian asked. He had not been aware that resentful energy even had an odor.
“Well, it’s me.” Wen Ning admitted. He’d been attacked as a child by a malicious spirit pretending to be a Peri and it ate part of his spirit. It grew back --just a little different. He had an odd form of synesthesia where spiritual input presented in his brain as sight and smell or other things than the more usual haptic feedback.
“Fair.” Wei Wuxian agreed.
“So who is your ‘friend’?” Wen Qing asked, going to sit on the floor next to where they were on the couch. “I know you can’t afford this place on your own.”
Wei Wuxian turned incriminatingly red.
“Wow, a boyfriend?” She whistled, seeming honestly impressed. “Ok, now I really need to know his name for background check purposes. If he’s a Lan he’s probably got some sort of embarrassing sexual fetish I can use to blackmail him into marrying you.”
Wei Wuxian was pretty sure he WAS Bun’s embarrassing sexual fetish so he needed to shut this down quick.
“Ugh, he’s not my boyfriend.” Wei Wuxian turned his face into Wen Ning’s hip. Wen Ning continued to pat his head. His only real friend.
“Sugar daddy?” She guessed and whistled again when Wei Wuxian froze. “Huh. I didn’t know that was a real thing. So what’s his name? I can still blackmail him.”
“We used a service. No real names.” Wei Wuxian glared. “Apparently because of people like you.”
She smoothed his hair out of his eyes. “I like him for you.” She said out of nowhere.
“You haven’t even met him.”
“True.” She nodded. “Ridiculous hotel room aside, you asked for help without hitting rock bottom or acting like you expect to be kicked instead of hugged when we show up. If he’s responsible for that then I’ll walk you down the aisle myself. If not him then tell me who and I’ll go get them instead.”
Wei Wuxian covered his face and stopped denying it.
The jellies worked magic on him though and within fifteen minutes he was good enough to sit up by himself. In fact, he felt so good he voluntarily put a bulk order of them on his wishlist right before everyone all piled into his enormous squishy hotel bed and was amused to see it vanish right away despite the fact that it was after 10 pm.
He fell asleep that night to the feel of Wen Qing alternating between petting his hair and petting Wen Ning’s. For once it didn’t make him miss Shijie with an ache so acute he was always surprised he didn’t start spontaneously bleeding.
“How do you think we knew each other before?” He asked drowsily.
Wen Qing’s hand stilled in his hair. They hadn’t really discussed it before; the way they’d both started spontaneously crying the first time they -as total strangers- met. It happened to cultivators sometimes. Having a golden core made you more sensitive to your past lives. Sometimes you met important people from those lives again and part of you just knew.
Actually remembering the details was rarer, but it happened. He and the Wens didn’t remember each other like that, but they knew how they felt.
“We were probably related.” She said. “You, me, and A-Ning. You feel like my brother. A-Ning thinks so too. It would explain why you have such terrible middle child syndrome.”
“I always wondered why you let me call you ‘Jie,’” Wei Wuxian sounded drowsy even to himself.
“Go to sleep, didi.” She almost sounded fond so he did.
They ordered breakfast the next morning. Wei Wuxian dragged himself aching out of bed with Wen Ning’s help. Wen Qing wrote him a prescription for some painkillers and filled it for him. Being good siblings from a previous life, they loaded him down with snacks before they had to leave for work because post-Cleansing munchies apparently stuck around for a while.
“Text me at lunch.” Wen Qing threatened him. “If the NYPD calls tell them to fuck off.”
“Xianxian promises.” Wei Wuxian held up three fingers in utter sincerity.
“Xianxian will get my foot up his ass if he doesn’t.” She told him and not for the first time he thought she and Jiang Cheng were soulmates-in-waiting.
He took his phone out as soon as he was alone.
BAEYing: Friends have left for work. A-Ying is all by himself and ready to listen to any ideas Gege is willing to share about date night.
HGBun: Good morning.
HGBun: How are you feeling?
BAEYing: Qing-jie worked her doctor magic on me.
HGBun: Is that what the energy supplements were for? I was unfamiliar with that use for them.
BAEYing: m a g i c
BAEYing: I could get to the bedroom all by myself after
HGBun: That is a significant achievement
HGBun: Will they return tonight?
BAEYing: No, they both have stuff to do tonight and Qing-jie said I should be fine if I don’t push it today.
HGBun: I am uncomfortable with you being by yourself tonight.
HGBun: Is there anything that might persuade one of them to return?
BAEYing: I don’t think so. Pretty sure they’ve got commitments they can’t weasel out of or they would have.
He considered the phone, turning over an idea that had been brewing in the back of his mind from the moment Wen Qing gave Bun her seal of boyfriend material approval, and in the post-Cleansing moments where everything in his mind was sharp-edged and defined, he’d come to the realization that maybe pushing for a little bit more wasn’t all that crazy.
Bun had seen him way worse than this and had only leaned in. He wasn’t going to scare off or get bored. Maybe they weren’t gonna get married, but they could do more than they had been and it’d be safe.
BAEYing: do you want to come over instead?
BAEYing: we don’t have to do anything
HGBun: I do, but your earlier concerns were valid. I do not want to jeopardize our access to one another.
Ok. Wow. Yeah, they were gonna do this.
BAEYing: ok, so Mianmian sent me a huge email this morning. I picked out some bedroom furniture yesterday and she’s having it delivered tomorrow so tonight’s my last night in the hotel room
BAEYing: You’re not allowed to know about my primary residence, but this isn’t my primary residence anymore
BAEYing: so you could visit
BAEYing: if you want
BAEYing: I’d even wear a blindfold if you don’t want me to see you
No hesitation. He felt a flush of pleasant heat ripple over him.
BAEYing: Yes to coming over or blindfolds?
HGBun: If acceptable, both.
Ok. Ok, ok, ok. Wow. Ok.
Wei Wuxian had kind of just thrown the blindfold thing out there to either sweeten the pot or give Bun a chance to stay in his anonymous comfort zone, whichever worked.
Now, though, as a scenario started to roll behind his eyes he realized the idea could be incandescently hot.
BAEYing: Gosh, maybe I’ll be so tired tonight that I forget to lock my door tonight and some terrible man could just come inside and do whatever he wanted to me.
HGBun: You will lock your door.
Whoops, he’d triggered Jealous Dom!Bun. That could be fun, but only if he was in a position to take immediate advantage of it.
BAEYing: What if a terrible man messages me from the elevator and I’m in my bed by the time he gets to my door?
BAEYing: I’m not married to the idea of consent play tonight FYI. I’m just taking the blindfold and running with it.
HGBun: I am… interested.
HGBun: Given your injuries, I have a specific scenario in mind. There would be minimal sexual contact.
Well, no, he supposed not. Wei Wuxian did get ‘service top’ vibes off Bun every so often. That could be fun too.
BAEYing: What if I was really good and stayed very still for Gege?
Wei Wuxian didn’t believe for a second that he could, but it didn’t count as lying to your dom if you were speaking in hypotheticals. If Bun hadn’t noticed Wei Wuxian was a power bottom by this point then there was no help for him.
HGBun: Your discipline is commendable.
HGBun: Mine is in question.
BAEYing: We don’t have to do anything you don’t want.
He got the impression sometimes that Bun didn’t always remember that, but the response was gratifying in it’s immediate arrival.
HGBun: I want this.
HGBun: What I would like to do may be harder for you than intercourse.
Uh oh. That didn’t sound good. Wei Wuxian’s shoulders hunched up. He suspected he knew where this was going.
HGBun: Let me take care of you.
BAEYing: ...what I’m hearing is ‘no orgasms.’
HGBun: I wouldn’t go so far as to say that. I did promise.
Bun took his promises seriously too, especially the sexy ones.
BAEYing: What would ‘taking care of me’ look like?
Maybe if he pictured it he’d be less likely to crawl out of his own skin.
HGBun: I would touch you and maybe pass you spiritual energy. It is the second for which I would like your specific permission.
That was a big ask. Technically he’d received some from the EMT, but that was medical cultivation and a lot more controlled than what Bun was asking. Sharing spiritual energy was super intimate if you didn’t know how to keep yourself separate from it. It hadn’t always been something kept strictly between families or lovers, but that was back before non-spiritual medicine was quite so advanced and sometimes you needed to save a stranger from dying the only way you could.
If it was Bun, though…
Wei Wuxian steeled his nerves and sent his reply.
BAEYing: I’m okay to try it. I reserve the right to tap out at any time.
HGBun: Thank you.
The rest of the day crawled.
One of the things Bun had negotiated for was total control of his day in advance of their scene so no more than a few hours passed without something showing up at his hotel room door. He could tell already that his dom was going to miss having the concierge around to do his bidding once Wei Wuxian was installed in the apartment.
Usually it was food and Wei Wuxian would have been annoyed by it except Bun clearly knew what he was doing. His stomach was usually just starting to bother him right before room service arrived on a linen-covered cart. If this was what the day after a Cleansing session was going to look like from now on then his takeout spending was about to go through the roof.
A silky pair of pajama bottoms and the blindfold they’d discussed arrived as the sun was beginning to dip into the horizon. Wei Wuxian had been planning on using one of his bandanas, but that was too pedestrian for his sugar daddy.
“I’ve only seen these on Facebook ads before.” He commented to no-one in particular as he held up the sleep mask that arrived with his wardrobe for the evening. It had two discs that sat over his eyes and a soft padded band that laid over it. The mask completely sealed out the light. There would be no peeking or accidental glimpses and if he was a little disappointed by that then it was hard to tell past how much he was looking forward to the evening.
Per their arrangements, Wei Wuxian was showered, changed, and in bed by seven o’clock with his hair loose down his back and nothing on but what Bun had told him to wear. He’d thought it was a concession on his part to accommodate Bun’s old man Lan schedule (two whole hours for sexual shenanigans!) but he was actually starting to fade by the time he laid down.
He was startled out of a doze some indeterminate length of time later by the buzz of his phone. Wei Wuxian peeled up the mask and found the message he’d been waiting for.
HGBun: I’m on my way up.
Wei Wuxian might have been drowsy before, but not anymore.
BAEYing: Door’s open. See you soon.
He tossed his phone on the nightstand and jumped back under the covers only to get out again and try to figure out a sexy pose, but that was difficult when he was wearing a mask and didn’t dare get caught with it off.
Wei Wuxian gave up and just got into the bed on his side the way he usually slept and had only just managed to slow his breathing down into something resembling sleep when he heard his hotel room door quietly open. His heart started to pound as a thread of doubt slipped in.
What if that wasn’t Bun? What if Bun was right behind him and walked into the hotel room with someone else there?
The person who’d just entered tapped the doorframe with his knuckles three times and Wei Wuxian relaxed. His anxiety scattered and he decided to try and remember that feeling the next time Bun insisted on setting up a system to double-confirm everything was proceeding according to the script. Wei Wuxian had thought it was a dumb idea that morning when they talked about it. He sure wasn’t feeling that way anymore.
He made a sleepy noise in response and was rewarded when a warm broad hand settled over his bare shoulder peeking out of the blanket. Bun’s lips grazed his temple in a chaste kiss that nevertheless set Wei Wuxian’s heart to pounding for a different reason. He could smell sandalwood.
Was that what Bun’s cologne smelled like? Wei Wuxian normally associated sandalwood with warmth, but on Bun it smelled cold; like standing on your porch on the first frosty morning of the year and watching your breath condense on the air.
The contact vanished as Bun stepped into the bathroom to change. He’d come directly from a meeting and had brought a change of clothes to stay the night in. It was so vanilla and domestic that Wei Wuxian kind of wanted to die about it, but dying meant he might miss out on a single second so he didn’t.
Bun announced his return with another gentle touch to his shoulder and then slowly drew the blanket down the bed, leaving Wei Wuxian exposed on the mattress. He coaxed him into laying on his stomach and hissed as the bruising came into sight.
Wei Wuxian bit his tongue. He wanted to reassure Bun, but he’d agreed to stay quiet in the beginning outside of color checks.
He heard a jar open and Bun’s hands returned with ointment spread over his fingertips. Wei Wuxian recognized it as a spiritual medicine with a few seconds of application. Warmth sank into his muscles as Bun rubbed the medicine into his back. The room took on the faint scent of a traditional Chinese pharmacy, a scent that took Wei Wuxian back to his childhood. The Jiangs were suspicious of Western medicine; not like vaccines and stuff because they weren’t idiots, but general health maintenance and cultivation support.
Bun took his time, drawing it out into a proper massage and repositioning Wei Wuxian as he needed to.
“Close your eyes.” Bun’s voice was low and roughed by some emotion Wei Wuxian couldn’t quite name. His hands went to the clasp on the sleep mask and gently released it from Wei Wuxian’s face.
A calloused thumb carefully brushed over the swollen flesh of his cheekbone. Wei Wuxian was severely tempted to open his eyes and see what Bun’s expression was doing, but this was about trust.
He felt Bun lean down over him a few seconds before soft lips found his forehead, the corner of his uninjured eye, his cheek, the edge of his lower lip…
Wei Wuxian couldn’t help the starving noise that escaped him when Bun’s mouth covered his. It felt like he’d been waiting his entire life to be kissed like this, so deep that he never wanted to surface from it. He reached for Bun and his searching hands found a solid shoulder covered in a thin t-shirt. Bun slipped a hand behind Wei Wuxian’s back and helped him sit up to press into the kiss. His other hand buried itself in Wei Wuxian’s hair.
They separated eventually, breathing hard as they leaned into one another.
“I’m going to fix this.” Bun murmured into his temple and it took Wei Wuxian a solid couple of seconds to realize he was talking about the black eye.
Bun’s spiritual energy felt as cold as his cologne smelled. Wei Wuxian’s breath caught on a gasp as it rolled into him through the two fingertips Bun placed against his cheekbones. It felt good; like an ice pack, but a million times better.
Even his shoulder was feeling better, actually, and that bruise was down to the bone in places. He rolled it experimentally and almost opened his eyes in surprise when nothing ached or pulled. “Ah,” Wei Wuxian murmured and slapped a hand over his eyes.
“Keep them closed.” Bun’s low admonition was right in his ear and nothing could stop the shiver that rocked Wei Wuxian’s entire body.
The soft cotton mask covered his eyes and Wei Wuxian relaxed as that tiny bit of responsibility fell from his shoulders.
“Good?” Bun asked and Wei Wuxian nodded, floating on the feeling. The ‘Mn’ he received in response sounded pleased. “Lay back.”
He settled Wei Wuxian back against the stacked pillows and for a second Wei Wuxian thought he was in for another massage or maybe some more kissing.
Then he heard the digital lock on his cage release.
Arousal hit him like a freight train. His eyes nearly crossed with the force of it.
Bun slipped his hands underneath the waistband of Wei Wuxian’s pajama bottoms and made another pleased sound when he cupped bare hips underneath. He slid the pants all the way off and Wei Wuxian heard them fall to the floor, but his focus was fragmenting as Ban parted his thighs and knelt on the bed between his legs.
Not being able to see heightened every other sensory input he received. Bun’s hand on his thigh felt like a brand as he leaned over Wei Wuxian’s body to brush their lips together once, twice, and then finally they were kissing again. Bun kept his weight off Wei Wuxian’s torso and it was the worst tragedy he could imagine. He hadn’t quite realized how badly he wanted to be pressed underneath that glorious weight of muscle and skin until it was a possibility being kept just out of reach.
Wei Wuxian keened with loss as Bun released his mouth and pressed a kiss to the skin underneath his jaw, then the hollow of his throat, the cup of his collarbone, his solar plexus…
Coherent thought abandoned him as soon as he realized where Bun was headed.
Bun caught his searching hand with one hand, the one not pressed lightly into the interior of Wei Wuxian’s knee holding him open and exposed, and laced their fingers together. Then came a slight lessening of pressure around his dick as Bun removed the lock and eased the cage off him.
He hadn’t been worried about his ability to get it up for a recreational evening, but he had not been this turned on since shortly before he lost his virginity and going by the way his cock twitched underneath the light brushes of Bun’s fingertips Wei Wuxian didn’t think he was going to last longer than it took Bun to get a hand on him or, oh god, something else.
They had for sure not discussed fluid contact or the advisability thereof.
“C-condom!” He wheezed as he felt warm breath wash over his swelling erection. “Drawer. I’m… I’m gonna…!”
Bun pressed a kiss into his inner thigh that nearly finished him off right then and there, but leaned over to retrieve Wei Wuxian’s condom stash. It wasn’t until he heard Bun’s faintly surprised noise that Wei Wuxian remembered that he’d picked out the oral condoms with himself performing oral sex in mind.
“Ah, the ‘blueberry blast’ ones aren’t too strong.” He tried to muster a defense, but his brain shut down as soon as he heard foil rip.
Wei Wuxian clenched his jaw fighting his body’s sudden inexplicable hair trigger as Bun wrapped a hand around his swelling length to coax him all the way hard. He would not shoot off like a teenager. He would not.
His body, meanwhile, was convinced it had never been touched before. Even the cool sensation of a condom being rolled down his shaft seemed alien and new. Then, when Bun took him into his mouth…
Wei Wuxian came back to himself a minute or so later as the white faded from his vision, but Bun was still coaxing him through the dregs of his climax, intent on wringing every last drop of pleasure out of his body.
“Oh...god…sorry!” Wei Wuxian tangled his grip in the back of Bun’s soft t shirt. “I’m...I don’t normally…”
“Good.” Bun’s tone was beyond smug. He kissed his way back up the length of Wei Wuxian’s slack body, starting in the groove of his hip, before he resumed ownership of Wei Wuxian’s mouth. His mouth tasted like -- huh, strawberry shortcake.
Then his groin brushed into Wei Wuxian’s inner thigh and he realized it was a real good thing that they weren’t doing anything that required Bun to wear a condom because nothing Wei Wuxian had bought was going to fit that.
So of course something in the back of his mind asked ‘...but what if we didn’t?’
It was beyond crazy, but he wanted that in him with nothing in-between them except skin. His hazed post-coitus mind spun out a filthy little fantasy that seemed all too possible as Bun took his time kissing whatever solidity Wei Wuxian had left right out of him.
Eventually Wei Wuxian cooled back down enough to start noticing that he was getting chilly and sticky. Bun pulled away as he shivered a little under him.
“Stay there.” He ordered.
Bun returned shortly with a warm washcloth and started to wipe Wei Wuxian down with it.
“Doesn’t Gege want to feel good too?” he asked, leaning into Bun’s ministrations in invitation. He was rewarded with another kiss. Bun took his hand and guided it to… ah? “You finished?” Wei Wuxian asked in surprise.
“A-Ying is beautiful when he enjoys himself.” Bun murmured into his ear.
There was at least a 20% chance he’d taken care of himself in the bathroom, the jerk. Wei Wuxian pouted at him. “Next time I want you in me.” His face heated up and he put his arms around Bun’s neck so he could hide his face in his lover’s shoulder before adding the idea that was still tugging at his hems. “You could leave me locked up during. Next time.”
Bun’s interested and shaking inhale was music to his ears. He was into it. Excellent. Wei Wuxian hated being the only desperate horny one. Bun needed to suffer this fate with him.
Wei Wuxian cooperated as best he could as Bun cleaned him up, locked him back down, re-dressed him, and remade the bed around them. This was the part Wei Wuxian had been looking forward to most. Bun wasn’t just visiting for the evening. He was staying the night; big and warm and there in the darkness.
“Mmm…” Wei Wuxian’s energy was already fading on him. He had one more thing he had to do though before he let sleep drag him under. “...I left you something on the nightstand.”
“Mn?” Bun turned to look, but didn’t say anything right away.
Wei Wuxian had left the card face down so Bun wouldn’t see it right away or realize its significance. He’d thought it would be welcome, but as the silence stretched out he began to wonder if maybe he’d been wrong.
It wasn’t much of a business card; black text on plain white cardstock that read ‘Wei Ying, Courtesy name: Wuxian. Cultivator, Rank A - Demonic. Sect - Unaffiliated.’ Underneath that was his personal phone number and email address.
Bun threw a leg over his hips, straddled his waist, caught him by both wrists, and pinned Wei Wuxian’s hands over his head before devouring his mouth. It was… it was…
The bedroom faded around him. The mattress disappeared and for a deranged moment Wei Wuxian was convinced he was pinned up against a tree while a stranger savaged his mouth. He melted into the assault, confused by his own response. Generally he knew and accepted his own kinks and the psychology behind them, but for some reason that knowledge felt distant; like it belonged to someone else for whom all that was very, very new and as frightening as it was super hot.
Reality reasserted itself as Bun turned his attention to Wei Wuxian’s wrists and palms, pressing more kisses there.
“You’re making me wish I had nicer business cards.” Wei Wuxian chuckled in between kisses. His had started life as a Vistaprint template . Bun’s mouth silenced him again and he lost his train of thought.
“Nothing could be nicer.” He murmured againt’s Wei Wuxian’s cheek. “May I keep it?”
“It’s yours.” Wei Wuxian panted and suppressed a whine as Bun left the bed. He heard fabric rustle and a snap that suggested Bun had just put the card away in his wallet.
Bun rejoined him in the bed and arranged them so they were laying tucked against each other with Bun as the big spoon. “Wei Ying.” He whispered it into Wei Wuxian’s skin like a benediction.
He didn’t think there was any way possible for him to fall asleep like that, but his thoughts slowed like syrup to the sound of Bun’s soft breathing in the darkness and he drifted off.
Wei Wuxian woke briefly around five in the morning. He only knew what the time was because Bun was kissing the back of his neck and that was when the Lan Disciplines made their poor adherents get up.
“I must go.” He didn’t sound like he wanted to.
“Mn.” Wei Wuxian took the chance to steal some lingering kisses, but sank back onto the mattress as soon as Bun pulled away.
He could smell soap on the air, still lingering from a shower, the next time he woke up and there was a text waiting on his phone. It read ‘This is me’ and came from a number he didn’t recognize. He saved it to his contacts as ‘Bun.’
WWX: Morning, Gege
He followed it up with a picture of himself wreathed in blankets with the sleep mask pushed up to his forehead.
Bun: Good morning, Wei Ying.
He sure liked being able to say that. Wei Wuxian hid a fond smile in his palm.
Bun: How are you feeling?
WWX: My Gege took good care of me <3
Bun: It was my pleasure.
Bun: What are your plans for the day?
WWX: Gonna go take possession of the apartment before the delivery guys show up, hit up a grocery store, unpack whatever I can find a place for. Mianmian is already sending me stuff to approve.
Wei Wuxian considered his next question. They weren’t on the app. He could ask personal questions. This was the whole point of slipping Bun his number.
WWX: What about you?
Bun: Very little of note. There is an intersect event where I am expected to mediate.
He winced. Wei Wuxian didn’t keep up with sect business, but all of the least bearable major sects had branch houses in New York since the UN was there. There was a reason the Jiangs had established their international presence in California. ‘Intersect event’ was usually code for ‘poorly concealed slap fight.’
WWX: I’m so out of the loop on sect drama. Who’s fighting right now?
Bun: I envy you.
Bun: PingyangYao and LanlingJin.
So the incoherent blowhards and the unbearable rich people then.
WWX: Oh god. Good luck with that.
WWX: Do you need help faking your death?
Bun: It would cause more problems than it would solve, but I will hold your offer in reserve.
Bun: I miss you already.
Wei Wuxian scrolled through his gallery of selfies, looking for a good non-slutty one that Bun hadn’t already seen. He found one that Wen Ning had snapped of him at a brunch event holding a mimosa in one hand and brushing his hair out of his eyes with the other. It had good lighting. He’d been dressed up for once and having a good time. He sent it.
WWX: For my contact picture on your phone.
WWX: Or your lock screen. ;)
Bun: Thank you.
Bun: Forgive me for not being able to reciprocate yet.
Wei Wuxian wet his lips and sent a picture of a white rabbit laying in the grass facing away from the camera with its legs stretched out behind it like a thirst trap on Instagram.
WWX: I’ll use this one in the interim.
Wei Wuxian bid the Mandarin a fond farewell. He’d miss the place, but he was also trying not to imagine the bill he’d racked up for Bun.
His new place came with a teeny tiny garage that he could barely fit his car into, but an apartment with a big closet and off street parking in Manhattan was basically a unicorn.
The bed showed up around mid morning. Mianmian had forbidden him to buy any linens, but Wei Wuxian hit up Ikea anyway and sent his friends (and Bun) obnoxious selfies from all the display rooms. He liked his life, though, so he didn’t buy more than a bottom sheet for his new mattress and a bath mat.
Then he took a whole video tour of his new house and sent it Wen Qing, Wen Ning, and fuck it. He sent it to Bun too. He should see where Wei Wuxian was living now.
Wen Qing, bless her suspicious heart, started texting him immediately. She must have been on her lunch break.
Qing-jie: Nice place.
Qing-jie: TOO nice.
Qing-jie: What’s the roommate situation?
BestBoi: Oh! Is that real parquet??!
WWX: No roommates.
Qing-jie: Tell me it’s your sugar daddy who got you in there and not one of your hair-brained schemes.
WWX: He bought it in my name.
BestBoi: Ok, I’m starting to agree with A-Jie. I thought it was a little fast, but you can marry him if you want.
WWX: Don’t ask me too many questions about it. I’m still processing.
Qing-jie: Quit it. I’m not going to give you an excuse to self-sabotage.
Qing-jie: If he wants to buy you a house then take it and worry about the rest later.
Qing-jie: Tell him to buy you a sofa too.
Wei Wuxian took a picture of his bed.
WWX: There was money leftover. The scary lady he hired to deal with the real estate market for me is making me hire an interior designer. Here’s my first delivery.
BestBoi: Oh wow, now I really like him. Can we visit?
WWX: If you don’t mind sitting on the floor.
Qing-jie: Yeah, I’ma wait for there to be chairs. Keep sending pics.
Qing-jie: I see a perfectly good kitchen in there. Put some food in it.
WWX: Already been to H Mart.
Qing-jie: Did you buy anything that wasn’t two industrial buckets of lao gan ma?
WWX: I got some oranges too.
BestBoi: Wuxian, no!
Wei Wuxian considered his phone and switched over to a conversation with just Wen Qing.
WWX: So, I have a question for you as a medical professional.
Qing-jie: Just send me a picture of whatever it is unless it’s on your junk.
WWX: Can’t. It’s not a picture type of thing.
Qing-jie: Well now I’m worried.
WWX: So I saw something the other night when he was over.
Qing-jie: Weren’t you blindfolded?
WWX: Yeah, that’s the problem. It was a full on hallucination when he was kissing me.
Qing-jie: Sensory input or just visual?
WWX: I could feel stuff. I thought I was in a tree with somebody holding me down for a second.
WWX: It was like a flashback only that’s never happened to me before.
Qing-jie: Were you scared?
WWX: Not… really? Kinda confused in reality and in the flashback, but into it.
Qing-jie: Tell me a little bit more about how you guys met.
WWX: It’s weird.
Qing-jie: Look at all the fucks I give
WWX: Fine whatever
WWX: He showed up on my channel and paid for a year of my exclusive attention.
Qing-jie: So, he watched you for a couple days and decided he liked it?
WWX: No, I looked up the timestamps and I think it was something like twenty three minutes. It’s hard to be sure. I was doing an unboxing and those get a lot of traffic, but it wasn’t long. I said the usernames of the people who sent me stuff on camera and the chat was always crazy on those videos.
Qing-jie: He’s seen your face right? I know you said you haven’t seen his, but he knows what you look like. Right?
Qing-jie: Wuxian, do you remember when we met?
WWX: I try not to.
It had been ten minutes of ugly crying on both their parts made worse by the fact that neither of them could understand why they were crying or hugging. Wen Qing was not a hugger either so it was extra weird for her.
Qing-jie: Do you remember when I introduced you to A-Ning? How it was even worse?
Ugh. They’d been crying and snotting all over each other. Wei Wuxian kept apologizing for something with a determination only matched by Wen Ning’s insistence that it (whatever it was) wasn’t his fault.
Qing-jie: You’ve been through this twice already and you’re gonna sit there and ask me why some dude laid eyes on you for two minutes and immediately laid down astronomical amounts of money to take you off a creepy internet meat market?
WWX: You think we knew each other.
Qing-jie: If you’re hallucinating memories from a past life because he’s making out with you then you did more than just ‘know’ each other. That’s zhiji territory.
A soulmate --or, well, not exactly a soulmate. Wei Wuxian was too American to understand the full cultural nuances of the term, but as he understood it ‘soulmate’ came real fucking close. Especially if actual souls were involved as they were in this case.
He’d always kind of wondered what about him had drawn Bun in. He knew he was attractive or whatever, but he also wasn’t ‘slam $24K on the table after seeing his picture’ hot. That wasn’t even counting whatever Bun had dropped on that fucking wishlist fiasco.
If they were soulmates then maybe he could make it make sense. It might even explain some of the weirder things he’d been feeling. Wei Wuxian didn’t rely on people as a general rule. His motto was ‘forget pain as soon as it heals’, but in practice his memory was a little better than he liked to let on. It drove Wen Qing up a wall and made Wen Ning sad so he was trying to be better about that without doing something crazy like hiring a therapist. Not every place was the intensely dysfunctional environment of Lotus Pier and his head knew that. His feelings insisted on dragging their feet.
By comparison, it had been easy to let Bun in.
Well, not easy. That would be a lie. It had been the hardest thing Wei Wuxian had ever done and he still had panicky moments of backtracking. He’d done it, though, and he couldn’t even really explain to himself why.
WWX: Why wouldn’t he say?
Qing-jie: If I had to guess? It’s probably traumatic. I haven’t read much of the literature. I was more interested in our sort of thing. We weren’t having flashbacks and I only have so much time for extra reading.
Wei Wuxian didn’t like that. It suggested that -whatever happened to Bun when he stumbled across Wei Wuxian’s channel- he’d gone through it alone and now he was trying to insulate Wei Wuxian from experiencing it.
Qing-jie: I’ll check my notes and see if I can find those articles again.
Qing-jie: There’s not many documented cases, but it’s apparently intense.
Qing-jie: It might not be too rough for you. The memories are transmitted through your golden core from your ancestral memory. You just have an itty bitty baby core. Not much is going to get through.
Qing-jie: Word of advice?
Qing-jie: He knows something you don’t. All he’s done so far is try and take care of you. Maybe you should let him do it for a while and see where it goes.
Wuxian coasted on that good Cleansing energy for three days and he got so much done, including updating his emergency contact information with the licensing board; something he’d literally never done before because he’d never had the energy for all the paperwork involved. As far as the board had been concerned, he’d been living in California and working in New York for the past seven years.
So he got that taken care of.
Bit by bit his apartment came together. He approved a layout and spent the night after the painters came through on Wen Ning’s couch. Bun tried to put him back in the Mandarin, but he was out of town so they couldn’t make a date night out of it so Wei Wuxian was more interested in a movie marathon with his best buddy.
Wherever Bun was or whatever he was doing did not stop him from replying to Wei Wuxian’s disparaging comments about the unrepentantly B-grade monster flicks they’d chosen, so it was practically like he was there.
The furniture showed up and Wei Wuxian was a little in awe of it all. He’d never had anything that wasn’t second hand or needed to be assembled with an allen wrench. Everything was clean and a little bohemian looking; a hand painted tile backsplash in the kitchen, colorful rag rugs on the floor, nothing too matched or formal. It felt like a space he was allowed to be in.
The interior designer had some frankly unrealistic ideas about his ability to keep a houseplant alive though, but Wen Ning came through when Wei Wuxian took pictures of all the little empty planters scattered artistically through his open shelves and arrived for their first post-furniture hangout session with two giant Michael’s bags full of realistic fake plants that they spent arranging and rearranging until it looked like a lifestyle blogger lived there.
Wei Wuxian adored the whole thing. He finally had a kitchen where his French press didn’t look weird in it.
“I’m surprised Mister Bun hasn’t gotten you a TV.” He observed while Wei Wuxian showed him around.
“I don’t think he’s noticed that I don’t have one.” Wei Wuxian replied and he was not about to point it out. That was a one way ticket to ending up with some weird curved screen 3D home theater and he was a simple man. He had a tablet. He liked watching it in bed. “Don’t tell him.”
“Oh, I won’t.” Wen Ning promised very seriously. “But if he does then you should get some consoles so we can play sometimes.”
Wei Wuxian ruffled his hair, which Wen Ning adored, and didn’t commit to anything. He had a few too many nice things in his life at present and it was going to be a while before he could invite any further indulgences.
The end of the week loomed and with it his flagging reserves. He never really noticed a difference before, just trusted the people who told him that his CD made a difference. Unfortunately, even Bun’s paranatural ability to smash through bureaucratic barriers couldn’t get Wei Wuxian a recurring appointment with a musical cultivator before the end of the year.
It wasn’t ideal, but he was prepared to cope.
Bun had other ideas.
WWX: I can go back to the CD. Don’t worry about it.
WWX: I don’t want to waste a date night on you having to baby me though the aftermath.
Bun: I would not consider it a waste.
Bun: I enjoy it.
“You would,” Wei Wuxian groused at his screen. He was sitting out in the sun of his little bitty balcony, which Mianmian’s former roommate the interior designer had managed to shoehorn a lounge chair onto on the grounds that he needed more vitamin D in his life.
Wen Qing had agreed when she saw it though and bitched at him to spend more time out there. He put up with it because she loved bitching at him, but they had to keep the topic fresh or she started getting less out of it so he’d given in after only a little bit.
The joke was on him, he loved his balcony nest. It looked out onto a park with hardly any dog walkers in it.
WWX: Then I think I deserve TWO date nights.
Bun: I agree.
WWX: This isn’t how negotiation works, Bun.
WWX: You’re supposed to argue me down.
Bun: I’m getting what I want so I believe it is, in fact.
Smug little shit. Was he really a Lan?
WWX: I’m going to try this again. This time, argue.
WWX: I think I deserve THREE date nights and a dick pic.
Bun: I am willing to concede four date nights and you do not need to bargain for pictures.
All this time he’d been starving for a suggestion of what Bun had been hiding under his prim blue slacks and apparently all he’d had to do was ask?
Bun had apparently gotten a real kick about being asked too. He was fully charged in the picture he’d sent. It wasn’t a great shot. ‘Critique my Dick Pic’ would have had some things to say about the angle and lighting, but Wei Wuxian was at a loss as to what that could have possibly been because it belonged to Bun and they had to be soulmates because it was the most perfect dick Wei Wuxian had ever seen.
He’d never actually encountered an uncircumcised penis in the wild and none of the pictures he’d seen in the past had ever done much for him, but those days were at an end. He was a permanent convert.
Wei Wuxian’s mouth went dry in protest at not being able to give Bun the attention he so clearly needed and deserved in the form of a blow job right then and there. Then he wondered if he’d be able to even if Bun was there. Maybe the picture was foreshortened or something because if not Wei Wuxian might have to figure out some way to unhinge his jaw if he wanted to perform oral sex on that monster.
He knew Bun was big from their brief brush in bed, but maybe he was a little more manageable than the picture was making him out to be?
WWX: Can I get another with your hand in there for scale?
He’d pulled back the foreskin a bit so his flushed glans peeked out to greet the camera. Wei Wuxian was intimately acquainted with the size of Bun’s hands, but even his fingers couldn’t close all the way around his shaft.
WWX: Excuse me, I need to go lay down.
Bun: Are you alright?
WWX: Just got reminded that I’m a size queen. Thanks for that.
Bun: You’re welcome.
WWX: Date night disclosure; I like to have my hair pulled and I am desperate to get you in my mouth.
Bun: Show me how desperate.
Oh wow, he was definitely touching himself over there.
Wasn’t there a Lan rule about that? Did phone sex even count as masturbation?
Wei Wuxian took his show back into the apartment for an extremely satisfying round of phone sex. In doing so they’d made some discoveries about each other. Wei Wuxian liked having his hair pulled when going down on someone. Bun wanted to wrap Wei Wuxian’s entire ponytail around his fist and fuck his mouth like that, although Wei Wuxian had had to coax the admission out of him. So far date night was shaping up to be great.
Bun: Do you have any plans for this weekend? I would like to book the hotel soon.
WWX: Are we talking fun times or Cleansing times?
Bun: I had thought both; four nights would permit fun before and after.
He took a moment to imagine a four day long sex vacation with Bun before he had to shake it off and admit that his schedule wasn’t going to accomodate any such thing. Plus that was a little long to be wearing the sleep mask.
WWX: I can do Friday and Saturday nights, assuming nobody gets murdered. Follow up next weekend?
His reply was, as always, gratifying in its speed.
WWX: A-Ying formally requests that Gege bring some condoms. Because I need you in me by yesterday.
Bun: This servant is pleased to oblige.
Actually, could he even take Bun without some serious prep work? That was food for thought. He was pretty sure he’d used bigger toys during his shows, but that could take up to an entire day of preparation in advance.
Well, extended prep could be fun foreplay. Wei Wuxian knew how to make it fun.
WWX: What are Gege’s thoughts on these?
Bun: Generally positive, when used under supervision. Would Wei Ying like one?
WWX: Wei Ying already has several.
He went over to his closet and its shelf of neatly arranged sex toys. Most of them were gifts from Bun, but not all of them.
WWX: Wei Ying would like to know if Gege would enjoy it if he arrived to date night wearing one.
Bun: It would depend on where Wei Ying acquired them. If they were gifts from other admirers then I will require you to dispose of them immediately.
Wei Wuxian was kind of prepared for the bolt of arousal that shot through him. They’d fooled around earlier, but Bun hadn’t unlocked him for it so he was stewing in delicious frustration.
WWX: All but the little purple one were. I bought that one myself when I moved here from California.
Baby’s introductory plug; it was a little silicone affair he hadn’t touched in years since it didn’t do much for him anymore. Its value was more sentimental than practical.
Purchasing it had been equal parts defiance and self comfort. He’d been trying to be a good sect disciple before he left California and somehow in his head that meant not playing with sex the way he’d wanted to. Afterwards, he’d rationalized to himself that if he couldn’t have his sect then he could at least have his freedom to experiment.
Bun: I want a picture of them in garbage.
His heart pounded as he complied. It took him a minute though, because he had an extensive collection and he was pretty sure Bun didn’t just mean his plugs. Most of his vibrators and nicer dildoes were from Bun, but he’d gotten a few sex toys as gifts through his channel before Bun took him off the market. They were nothing spectacular so he didn’t mind getting rid of them.
Bun: Is there an issue?
WWX: I’m doing it, Gege. I just need to take the batteries out so they don’t go off in the trash.
There was a lengthy pause wherein Wei Wuxian pictured Bun’s faintly alarmed expression as he imagined a vibrating garbage can and snickered to himself.
Bun: ...I had not considered that possibility. Forgive my impatience.
Bun: Please put acceptable replacements on your wishlist by this evening.
WWX: Aw, but I was good!
Bun: You were very good.
Wei Wuxian didn’t fight the shiver that time. Damn it, one day Bun was going to figure out what that did to him and he’d never know peace again.
Oh no. Wait. What if he already knew? What if Wei Wuxian had been like this in their past life and Bun remembered it? Oh man, that might actually be worse.
WWX: Then why are you making me think about the wishlist?
Bun: I like knowing that Wei Ying has his collection and I would very much like it if Wei Ying arrived at the hotel already prepared for me.
Bun: If the toys are to arrive by Friday then I’ll need to order them by tomorrow morning.
WWX: Quit being reasonable!
What a punk. Wei Wuxian tossed his phone away, but couldn’t hide from his own unbearably fond smile.
It took a while, but he knew from past experience that if he put it off then he’d never get around to it and then he’d be in trouble with Bun --or worse, disappoint him. Just the idea gave Wei Wuxian hives.
WWX: Alright, it’s updated.
Bun took a moment with the list.
Bun: There are fewer things here than I saw you get rid of.
WWX: I didn’t actually like everything I had. I was still experimenting when I requested that stuff; figuring out what I like, you know? Not everything was a winner.
WWX: More room on the shelves means more room for you to fill up later.
WWX: Wink wink nudge nudge.
WWX: You like it though.
Bun: I do.
Bun: Would you consider wearing that for me?
Wei Wuxian clicked the link and groaned. Bun had found a wifi enabled remote control vibrating plug. Of course he had. It was one of the high end types, too, that looked like they’d been designed to be an iphone accessory.
WWX: At home, yes. I don’t think I could get it to run off mobile data.
Bun: I would prefer not to run the risk of activating it when you are at a crime scene, yes.
WWX: Well, I was thinking more along the lines of when I’m in the lab all by my lonesome with no handsome Gege to distract me from how long my experiments are taking to run, but at the same time I don’t want IT seeing that accessing the building’s wifi.
Bun immediately promised to look into it.
Wei Wuxian rolled up to his lab space on Monday morning with a song in his heart and a hitch in his step.
Date night, or date weekend in this case, had gone better than good. Two days was absolutely his maximum for wearing the blindfold. He’d noticed it being less hot than restrictive a bit towards the end of Saturday night, so now they knew his out limit for that kind of play, which was valuable information on its own.
Wei Wuxian had arrived at the hotel first and was still changing by the time Bun caught up. That had been a lovely reunion; hard, fast, and right up against the wall. Wei Wuxian was already a satisfied puddle when it came time for Cleansing.
Bun had evidently put his back into that first session because his playing in person was far more gentle, or maybe Wei Wuxian was in less dire need. Either way, he bounced back harder and faster than their first desperate phone experiment. He wanted to credit the sex or Bun’s intense cost-poital cuddling, but the answer was more likely that Bun was better able to guage the effect he’d need when he was playing for a patient in person.
“I do not wish for anyone else to play for you.” Bun confessed as the hour grew late Saturday night.
They were laying chest-to-chest with their legs tangled while Bun played with his loose hair. Not everyone in cultivation society wore it long anymore, but Wei Wuxian had been having a rock music phase right before he left for New York and the hair turned out to make his job easier for once when he had to convince people that yes, he was twenty-five and yes, he was a licensed cultivator.
“I don’t think we can do a hotel date every weekend.” Wei Wuxian answered. He didn’t really want anyone seeing him this way either. Wen Qing and Wen Ning were one thing, but they had their own busy schedules.
“We can for now.” Bun replied, quietly determined.
Wei Wuxian plucked at the back of his shirt. “We’d need to discuss the blindfold in that case.” he pointed out quietly and Bun froze underneath his hands. He’d been thinking about it before and the immediate post-Cleansing mood made him realize a couple of things. He hadn’t been letting Bun get away with the blindfolds and camera angles because he thought it was something that Bun needed, but really he’d been doing it for himself in service of his own avoidance behaviors. “I’ve, uh, got some friends. You may have heard me mention them. Qing-jie and her brother.”
“En.” Bun’s arms tightened around him.
“What I’m saying is, I know what it’s like to meet someone and realize you already know them.” Wei Wuxian told him. “You don’t have to go through it alone.”
Bun didn’t answer for a long while. They lay in the darkness as he held onto Wei Wuxian for dear life.
“It’s more than that,” Bun confessed long after Wei Wuxian thought he might have nodded off. It had to be well after 9 o’clock. “Our history together was… we wasted a great deal of the peaceful time we were granted with one another. Then there was a war. None of us escaped unscathed. I --lost you for a time.” He tucked Wei Wuxian tighter into his arms, if that was possible. “My memories are tolerable. I do not know that yours would be. Your life was harder than mine.”
“Is that your call to make, though?” Wei Wuxian asked.
Bun shook his head so at least he knew that. “I hope you will let me make it anyway.”
“For now.” He groaned as Bun pressed a grateful kiss to the underside of his jaw. “In the interests of full disclosure, I got a bit of memory that one time you pinned me in bed right after I gave you my business card?”
“What memory?” Bun asked, plainly distressed. How terrible had his past life been?
“I was in a tree and blindfolded.” Wei Wuxian appreciated the shock that rippled through his … his zhiji’s body. “Someone came along, held me down, and kissed me stupid. I wonder who that might have been?”
“It… it was not the same as what we do.” Bun tucked his face into Wei Wuxian’s shoulder. He didn’t sound happy with himself. “It was before we ever spoke of feelings for one another. We were not always friendly and by then we were driven apart by circumstance. You were there and I saw that I could take you --so I did. I had wanted you for so long and thought that there was no other way that I might ever have you except in a stolen moment. I was deeply ashamed of my behavior afterwards.”
No wonder Bun was so into explicit consent even when they were roleplaying otherwise.
“Then you’re lucky it was me.” Wei Wuxian stroked his back, trying to soothe away the old embarrassment. “I liked it in the memory.”
“We discussed it later. You thought I was a particularly strong, but shy maiden overcome with admiration for you.” Bun sighed. “Bisexuality was not a concept well understood in those days and I believe you were, although you never said as much to me. You enjoyed the attention of women, but I was your only lover.
Wow, that was really a detailed memory. Wei Wuxian was starting to realize that Bun had a lot more of that past life than he would have guessed. Maybe he needed to listen to what he had to say on the subject.
“I’m with who I’m with.” Wei Wuxian had experimented with labels some after he started to live on his own and wasn’t looking down the barrel of an eventual arranged marriage. “I’m not really into labels beyond that.”
“I have only ever wanted you.” Bun murmured into his skin, but the way he said it sounded more ‘extreme demisexuality’ than ‘erotic monomania’ so Wei Wuxian wasn’t too bothered by it.
“Good thing you’ve got me then.” Wei Wuxian continued to stroke his back. “Do you think I can know your name at least? I’m 90% sure you’re from Lan sect.”
Bun huffed a ghost of a laugh against his throat. “Zhan.” He said. “Lan Zhan.”
Wei Wuxian heard the word like a physical force. Echoes upon echoes of his own voice saying it resounded in his head until he felt like the inside of a bell. Eventually the sensation subsided enough for him to realize Bun… Lan Zhan was crouched over him, saying “Wei Ying!” in increasingly upset tones that was actually kind of making the problem worse. Echoes from a time he didn’t remember layered over his voice and Wei Wuxian had to put a hand over his mouth to make it quit.
“I’m here.” He croaked. “Wow, okay. That was something. Lan Zhan.” He tried to say it again and it wasn’t quite so terrible. “Lan Zhan.” The effect faded quickly, but he could feel something trembling at the corners of his mind just waiting for a crack large enough to get through.
“I’m here.” Lan Zhan echoed. He cupped Wei Wuxian’s face in careful hands. “Are you hurt?”
“It was just a lot,” Wei Wuxian wheezed. “I don’t think I remember anything specific? Just, your name was the same. I think.”
“It was.” Lan Zhan sounded miserable and guilty. He was probably blaming himself. “Yours as well.”
Ah, perhaps that explained some of Lan Zhan’s reaction to the business card.
“Did I upset you?” It sounded like past him had upset past Lan Zhan a lot. Distress in the sound of ‘Wei Ying’ had seemed unbearably familiar despite the fact that he hadn’t had much reaction to Lan Zhan saying his name the first time. “Back then?”
“I was often frightened for you.” Lan Zhan dodged the question. Wei Wuxian decided to take that as a ‘yes.’ “No more experimentation for now,” he said, switching back to his gentle dom tones. It was startlingly effective.
“Yeah, okay.” He swallowed. “Gonna need to talk to Wen Qing about it first. She’s probably gonna kick my ass for saying anything before she could make me read up on it.”
“Mn.” Lan Zhan laid back down against him. “Will you forgive me? For not telling you?”
“There’s no need for ‘thanks’ or ‘sorry’ between us.” Wei Wuxian grimaced as he ended up back in the bell. It wasn’t so long that time. “Mother fu…” He rubbed his head. “No, I’m not mad. This is really annoying and I’m starting to appreciate being left out of it for as long as I was.”
“En.” Lan Zhan sighed into his hair, pulling him close. “I would spare you anything if I can.”
“Not if it means you’re dealing with it alone.” He hugged Lan Zhan back. “Hey, I think… it’d be okay if we took things to my place from now on.” Anything so Lan Zhan wasn’t spending thousands of dollars every weekend.
Not that he seemed concerned by it.
He wasn’t expecting Lan Zhan to shake his head. “It wouldn’t be safe for you.” He said regretfully. “I am often under heavy scrutiny. The hotels are safe enough, but I have been followed before. I would prefer that you not have to deal with that until we both know each other again fully. This will be hard enough in privacy.”
Ugh, sect drama. Wei Wuxian had forgotten for a moment that Lan Zhan was a sect boy; a gay Lan sect boy who was respectable enough to mediate between Yao and Jin in the middle of one of their passive agressive bitch fests. The Lans got a lot of media attention on a general basis and the American news machine just loved to spin scandals starring prominent sect members out of thin air.
Predatory media could get some serious mileage out of his history too, come to think about it.
“Y-yeah.” Wei Wuxian tried not to think about his own history being splashed across a grocery store tabloid right next to whatever people had decided to hate on Megan Markle for that week. “I’m okay with playing it safe for now.”
Lan Zhan hadn’t been able to stay up much longer, but Sunday morning was a pleasant affair where Wei Wuxian woke up to hot kisses, room service, and a very persuasive argument as to why they should extend their stay just one more night. Wei Wuxian still had honeymoon brain leftover from receiving confirmation of Qing-jie’s zhiji theory so he caved right away and they spent the entire day in bed.
So maybe he wasn’t prepared for the week even a little bit, but he had hope that he’d remember to cut loose early enough to go home and finish catching up on his backlog of laundry like he’d been promising himself he would. He gave himself even odds. He was his own boss, but he struggled with hyper focus. Too often he ended up staying until security shut the lights off and he had to drag his starving, exhausted ass home while running on fumes.
...there might have been a cosmic method to the madness of him being soulmates with someone who turned into a pumpkin at 9 pm every night.
Anyway, he was in a great mood. He had no anxieties about where he was going to sleep that night. The city had just paid a bunch of their back invoices so he had money in the bank that he’d earned himself. He was soulmates with a man who held him like a treasure and fucked like a stallion. There’d been no line at Starbucks so he was even starting the day with a Cloud Macchiato.
So of course someone was knocking on the door to his lab when he got to his floor.
“Ugh.” Wei Wuxian gave serious consideration to turning around and going back before the guy noticed him.
This wasn’t a super rare occurrence. People would come to the lab looking for him despite the fact that he didn’t keep regular hours because he didn’t keep an office. Usually they were people who wanted shit he’d already said no to.
Then a familiar face came trotting up to the man at his lab door and he realized he did know the guy as soon as he turned to face her, showing the red tattoo between his brows in profile. It was just that the Peacock had changed his stupid hair again.
“Shijie!” Wei Wuxian increased his pace to a trot and was rewarded by his sister’s brilliant smile as she caught sight of him.
“A-Xian!” She met him halfway, plucking happily at clothes and patting his face to check him for fat. “You’re so thin! You promised you’d eat better.”
“Ah, sorry sorry.” He apologized very sincerely. “I’ll do better.”
“Promise less, do more.” Zixuan said gravely as he caught up to them. “Do you need money?”
Things were so weird between them now that he and Shijie had gotten married and Wei Wuxian had left the Jiang sect. They hadn’t gotten along when Zixuan had been Shijie’s obnoxious fiance and Wei Wuxian had even re-arranged his face for him a couple of times when he failed to appreciate her the way he ought to.
Something had changed after the wedding. Zixuan was a blissfully happy husband and for some reason seemed to think he was now Wei Wuxian’s stepfather.
“We are the same age, Zixuan. I don’t need an allowance.” He grumbled.
“I meant regarding the situation with the Mos,” Zixuan just blinked slowly at him without real offense before he clarified. “I spoke with Xuanyu yesterday and he asked me to check with you. He thinks his aunt might have taken some money from you.”
Where had this dignified calm been when they were teenagers? Ugh.
“Oh, that.” Wei Wuxian grimaced. He’d actually forgotten.
Alright, he could see why Zixuan might have felt some responsibility for the situation. It wasn’t by chance that he’d been living with Mo Xuanyu, after all. The Mos were Xuanyu’s legal guardians so there wasn’t a lot anyone could do to protect him from them, but Zixuan tried to look after his vulnerable half brother. Wei Wuxian had passed information back to Zixuan in return for some help securing the apartment he’d shared with Mo Xuanyu; nothing personal, just letting Zixuan know what the Mos were up to.
“She swiped the security deposit out from under me. I still managed to get a new place.” Wei Wuxian explained. “You didn’t have to come all the way out to check on me.”
Shijie had relocated from New York to the Triangle in North Carolina a few years into her marriage. Jin Zixuan had established a new branch house of the Jin sect there. They had a nice place in Chapel Hill and were working on starting a family. Originally they’d been meant to move to Napa and start a branch house there, but Wei Wuxian was willing to bet real money that Zixuan had figured out what a disaster it would be for Yanli to try and get through a pregnancy safely with either of their mothers within easy harassment range.
It probably wasn’t a coincidence either that he’d started experimenting with his personal style as soon as they were away from both their sets of parents. His current look was pretty okay; a little long in the front, but it framed his tattoo and made his face look a little bit less like a ruthlessly symmetrical 3D rendering; softer and more approachable.
Yanli was looking softer and happier too. She was wearing skinny jeans and had her hair loose in beachy waves with subtle highlights and a level of makeup that Yu-furen would have burned the house down over. Jewelry was all right by MeishanYu standards, even worn in the hair, but hair dye and face paint was perilously close to slut territory. Even Yanli’s natural-looking golden glow would be too much for her mother and aunties.
They were both doing good things for each other and Wei Wuxian felt a little bit more of the lingering wisps of resentment towards his brother-in-law flake off and die.
“Oh, I’m so glad.” Yanli sighed. “I was worried that you were doing something stubborn.”
“Ah, ha, ha,” He chuckled unconvincingly. “No, never!”
“So you did, but we missed it.” Zixuan sighed and ran a soothing hand down Yanli’s arm. He squinted at Wei Wuxian. “Something seems different about you.”
“Good different or bad different?” Wei Wuxian asked.
“Good.” He replied, still giving Wei Wuxian a measuring glance. “Your presence feels cleaner. You seem better rested. Your color is better.”
Like most people, Zixuan did not like Wei Wuxian’s demonic cultivation. There was only so much he could do about it, but unlike other people he seemed to suspect that there was an underlying cause. It was no comment on his powers of observation. He’d just been better positioned than most to notice.
Wei Wuxian let them into the lab and scrounged up a chair for Yanli. “I’m seeing somebody.” He admitted at length. “Specifically someone who can play Cleansing. He’s really good. I’m on a waitlist for a professional, but he’s helping in the meantime.”
That was a lie. He did not think Lan Zhan had ever even put him on the waiting list he’d mentioned or was willing to entrust him to another musician. The odds he’d find anyone better -short of one of the Twin Jades descending from Lan Tower to offer him their personal service- was slim to none so Wei Wuxian wasn’t getting a bad deal.
“A-Xian!” Yanli clapped her hands together with stars in her eyes. She’d been wanting him to start trying to date for literal years. They’d never really discussed his preferences and he’d only ever flirted with girls in front of her, but neither she nor her husband seemed unduly shocked by the idea of him hanging around a dude so maybe he’d had a glass closet situation going on. “Can we meet him?”
“It’s a little early for that.” Wei Wuxian didn’t lie, exactly. “I think we’ve got some stuff to work out before we start introducing family members.”
“I wouldn’t scare him off,” Yanli insisted. “A-Cheng might, though, and I don’t think he’d be happy if I got to meet someone you were seeing and he didn’t. He hates being left out.”
Wei Wuxian tried not to wince at the sound of that name. He also did not miss the slight clench around Zixuan’s eyes.
Yanli hadn’t been there the last time Wei Wuxian had seen Jiang Cheng, but Zixuan had. Zixuan had in fact been the one to pull Jiang Cheng off him and drive Wei Wuxian away in his car afterwards. They didn’t talk about it ever, but they’d independently come to the same conclusion that Yanli could never ever know about that night.
“Do you want to see my new place?” Wei Wuxian offered, desperate to talk about literally anything else.
Yanli cocked her head. “Will your roommates mind?” she asked. She didn’t much like anyone he’d ever lived with aside from Mo Xuanyu who was a difficult person to know past his addiction issues and the symptoms of his mental illness.
“Oh, uh, no roommates. Just me.” Wei Wuxian pulled his phone out. “Here, I’ll send you both the address. We can meet over there.”
He hadn’t really thought the offer through until they all actually arrived. Yanli’s jaw actually dropped. Even Zixuan looked mildly impressed.
“A-Xian, it’s amazing!” She hugged him tight and was glowing with pride when she pulled back. “You must have been saving for so long! It’s gorgeous! I’m so proud of you.”
“Y-yeah.” Wei Wuxian scowled at Zixuan’s raised an eyebrow over her head and mouthed ‘Shut up!’
To give him credit, Zixuan waited until Yanli had investigated the contents of Wei Wuxian’s pantry and taken herself off to the grocery store to stock him up on things that weren’t spicy condiments or potato chips. They stayed behind because, unlike most people, Yanli was more efficient and bought less if she didn’t have someone in the store with her.
“So where’d the house really come from?” Zixuan asked as soon as the door closed behind her. “I had to cosign on your last two apartments due to income requirements. There’s no way someone gave you a mortgage.”
“My boyfriend.” Wei Wuxian sighed. “I told him no, but multiple friends told me I don’t have room in my budget for pride so I let him do it. It’s in my name. Fully paid off. I just have maintenance to worry about and property taxes.”
Zixuan considered him with an expression that agreed with Wen Qing and Mianmian’s opinions about what kind of dignity Wei Wuxian could afford. “Do you still have the paperwork?” he asked and it wasn’t a question about Lan Zhan so Wei Wuxian handed it over.
It was quiet while Zixuan paged through the giant folder of crap that had come with the house and its ten million keys and the ridiculous insurance policy Mianmian had made him get. “Did you know that you purchased the building?” he asked at length, almost absently, as he read.
“What?” Wei Wuxian frowned. “No, it was just the apartment. This is all the purchasing agent showed me.”
Zixuan held up a sheaf of… well, those looked like leases, actually. “They wouldn’t have. All the other units are already let. It’s considered bad manners to disturb the existing tenants.”
“Give me that.” Wei Wuxian dove into the folder of stuff that Mianmian told him to ‘go over when he felt like it and call her if he had questions.’ He’d interpreted that as something he’d never have to deal with unless a problem came up and lost it all down a drawer. “That rotten brat!” he hissed as he read over the old listing description that she’d never actually handed over, and turned his dismay on Zixuan, “I’ve been had!”
Zixuan’s mouth quirked. “Perhaps.” He slid Mianmian’s business card out of the stack and read the name with surprise. “Qingyang was your purchasing agent?”
Oh right, she used to be Jin. “Well, agent, anyway. My boyfriend hired her to make the whole thing happen. I was messed up on resentful energy and adrenaline, and sleeping in my car at the time. He knew better than to ask me to handle my own shit.”
“Then she didn’t screw you over,” Zixuan said, sounding a touch relieved. “She probably is waiting for you to notice money mysteriously appearing in your account before you call her so she can act superior about it and then give you the rest of the details.” He smiled faintly. It looked a little sad. He’d lost some friends due to his dad, Wei Wuxian knew. Mianmian must have been one of them. “How is she doing?”
“Married. Super pregnant. Somehow invincible about it,” Wei Wuxian reported to Zixuan’s surprise.
“Really?” He wilted a little. “I suppose I shouldn’t have expected an invitation to her wedding after everything that happened with my father.”
Jin Guangshan was technically still the head of the Jin sect, but he’d been driven all the way back to China after rocking American cultivation society with a series of scandals whose repercussions were still being felt by those family members who’d been left holding the bag. The branch sects were technically part of the main houses in China, but from an operations standpoint they were basically separate entities. Rumor had it that Jin Guangshan had been accepted into the main sect, but did not enjoy a fraction of the wealth or power he was accustomed to.
“I give it pretty good odds she sent it to Jin house and it just didn’t get forwarded.” Wei Wuxian thought back to Mianmian’s attitude. “I don’t see her as the sort to really play those sort of games.”
“No, I suppose not,” Zixuan allowed. “I think she and A-Li would get along.” He turned to face Wei Wuxian. “We didn’t just come to check in.”
“Well I didn’t think you did. Shijie did though.” Wei Wuxian hitched a hip on the counter. “What’s up?”
Zixuan reached into the inner pocket of his schmancy jacket and pulled out an envelope. “For you.”
Wei Wuxian opened it expecting something about Jiang sect. Yu-furen had been making noises about arranging a marriage for Jiang Cheng for years. It wasn’t inconceivable that she’d finally done it.
No, it was a check.
“Zixuan, I think there’s a typo.” He said after he’d read the amount it was made out for a few times. “There should be a period in here somewhere.”
“No, that’s correct.” Zixuan gave him a small, quiet smile. “That includes the five year rights to your talisman designs I promised you when we got started. The royalty check next year won’t be so large unless you lease us new designs.”
Wei Wuxian had a life-changing amount of money in his hands. It was big enough that he didn’t know if his bank would even accept the deposit. Was that a thing? “Holy crap!”
“I was going to make you buy a condo with it, but I’m pleased that it’s been taken care of.” He looked around the house, probably tallying up how much it had cost and comparing it to his mental list of people who could afford to spend that on their not-very-accomplished cultivator boytoy. “Just tell me that whoever he is, he isn't from the Jin sect.”
“Gross, no.” Pretty much the only Jin disciple Wei Wuxian had ever had much interaction with aside from Zixuan was one of his obnoxious cousins whose name Wei Wuxian couldn’t even consistently remember and he’d sooner castrate himself. “He plays the guqin, if that helps.”
It was as much hint as he had to give.
Zixuan relaxed slightly. “Ah.” He said. There were plenty of people in Lan who could move that kind of money and who’d suffer in a gay scandal if it wasn’t handled with precision. The secrecy wasn’t as exploitative as it could have been or at least that was what Wei Wuxian was telling himself. “That would explain the secrecy. I’ll tell A-Li if you like.”
“If you don’t mind.” Wei Wuxian grimaced. “I’d have a bunch of feelings about it if I tried and then she’d start to feel like she needs to fix it.”
“She cares for you a great deal,” Zixuan allowed and looked a little unhappy about it.
“Think what a great mom she’ll be,” Wei Wuxian consoled him. Thanks to Jin-furen’s occasional gross insinuations, Zixuan was probably always going to see the specter of attraction between him and Yanli whenever the anxiety started to seep in. Mostly he knew better, but Wei Wuxian wasn’t the only person who got periodic Brain Monsters™.
It worked and Zixuan went appropriately misty.
They were looking at TVs on Wei Wuxian’s tablet when Yanli got back. She sent Zixuan out to carry things inside. Her cultivation was getting better since she’d left home. The Jin sect supplemented a lot with fortifying medicines and miracle pills, which Jiang sect turned their noses up at. Madame Yu in particular had feelings about her daughter turning into a medicine pot. Living with Zixuan and getting appropriate cultivation support was doing her good and compensating for the congenital meridian condition she had that was holding her back in her home sect, but Wei Wuxian suspected there was another reason she wasn’t carrying heavy things.
“Someone had better have put that stuff in the car for you.” Wei Wuxian said as he got down his tea kettle for her.
“A nice bagger did.” She agreed and then elbowed him. “Hush, it’s early days. I might be just a little late. I’m still going to leave you with some soup. The shopping bags are for you too; my house warming gift to you.”
He watched her chop and smile at the pots in his cupboard that still had labels on them from the store. “So did you know he was going to bring me a giant ridiculous check?” he asked after a while.
Yanli grinned at him. “A-Xian gave me such a good excuse to leave you two alone. He’s been so excited to bring it over. This is his first project outside of Jin sect. I knew that -between the two of you- you’d do amazing things, but he doesn’t always believe me. I didn’t want him to have to share the moment.” She teased, flicking her hair over one shoulder. “Ah, I should have gotten an apron too.”
He chuckled. “Don’t, I’m a gremlin. It would just hang on the wall and never get used. Let me grab you a shirt to put on over your top.”
They stayed for rest of the day. Yanli loaded his fridge down with prepped food in tupperware and threatened to start texting him recipes now that he could have food hanging around in the fridge without someone eating it all before he got to it.
It was late when he was finally alone, but not yet nine so he texted Lan Zhan.
WWX: So, if -in theory- one happened to come into a crap load of money… what do you do with it?
Bun: It would depend on the amount. I would recommend opening a high yield savings account at minimum.
Bun: Did something good happen?
WWX: I developed some spells a few years back and let my shijie’s husband use them in his start-up. He showed up with a check today.
WWX: There’s like six digits on it.
Bun: In that event, I would recommend hiring a wealth manager. My sect works with several. I will forward their contacts to you. They are all trustworthy.
WWX: Hey, SPEAKING of wealth management.
WWX: I thought you were going to get me an apartment, not an apartment building.
WWX: Shijie’s husband told me I have tenants!
Bun: I gave the facilitators a budget and a vague outline. I told them I wanted security for you.
Bun: It bothers me that I cannot be with you even though currently my presence would cause you more difficulty than it would alleviate. I asked them to only show you locations where you could reasonably expect safety.
Bun: I meant in terms of neighborhood and the local crime rate, but there are many interpretations beyond than I intended.
WWX: I’m not actually mad. I’m the one who apparently wasn’t watching Mianmian close enough.
WWX: Uh, so… since I’m apparently rich now… maybe the next date night could be on me?
WWX: I had ideas though. Sexy ideas.
Bun: We may still explore those ideas, but I enjoy paying.
Wei Wuxian had been sprawled on his couch up until that moment. That made him sit straight up.
WWX: ‘Enjoy’ in what context?
Bun: I receive sexual gratification from the act.
Well, there was no misinterpreting that; not even a little bit.
WWX: So when you’re asking me to put something on the wishlist…
Bun: It is a selfish impulse.
Bun: I’m aware it causes you mild discomfort, but I hope not excessively.
Dollars to donuts his mild discomfort played right into Bun’s ‘gratification.’
WWX: Hang on.
He laid carefully back down until some blood managed to make it way back into his head. That was the thing about the cage, he’d discovered. It didn’t totally stop the arousal. He couldn’t get all the way erect, but his dick could make a real stubborn attempt at it.
WWX: Just had to calm down.
WWX: Then I realized I had a whole ass conversation with my Shijie and her husband while wearing a chastity device so now I’m never going to get hard ever again. RIP, our sex life.
Bun: Then it was fortuitous we hadn’t arranged to experiment with anything else today.
Bun: Although perhaps I would have enjoyed the process of breaking that association.
WWX: Oh god, Bun, don’t be funny right now. I might actually cry.
WWX: Lan Zhan, I mean.
Bun: You may continue to call me that.
Bun: I have enjoyed having a pet name.
Bun: Did you have a good visit?
WWX: I really did. I was never expecting to be friends with the peacock she married, but he’s good for her.
WWX: I think he’s been good for me too. I never had a brother who didn’t yell at me. Kinda warming up to it.
WWX: Shijie loaded my fridge down with food too.
Bun: May I see?
WWX: And the pantry
Wei Wuxian obeyed without thinking about it, but as he returned to the couch it occurred to him that this was actually kind of a normal long-distance dom thing; making your sub prove they were caring for themselves correctly in Sir’s absence and stuff. He certainly liked having the guardrail and he thought Lan Zhan enjoyed exerting that kind of control over him.
He hadn’t done a whole lot of it with anyone who wasn’t Lan Zhan, but he’d read about it when he was still warming up the idea of submission and figuring out what it could look like. He hadn’t been certain he’d ever find anyone to give him the kind of thing he wanted, but he hadn’t known he had a zhiji out there wanting someone to do it for back then.
WWX: I don’t mind doing this stuff, you know.
WWX: You can tell me, instead of asking. We can do it more often.
Bun: You have never made me feel as though I needed to do more than ask.
Wei Wuxian had to lay down again, but for emotional reasons instead of horny ones.
WWX: I like it when you boss me.
Bun: I enjoy the act as well, but I am aware that such things are not always convenient.
Bun: Your schedule is unpredictable and prone to interruption. I have no interest in issuing punishment outside of a fantasy scenario.
Bun: You said once before that you were not in good condition for the possibility of failure.
Bun: I may never be comfortable with setting you up to fail even by accident.
WWX: That is all very smart and wonderful and amazing, but I’m kind of stuck on the part where you just admitted that I could ask you for a recreational spanking.
Bun: You may ask me for anything. Would you like that?
WWX: See, I’m not actually sure? I’ve never done it and I’m not sure how it would go. Like, I could have fun with it or I’d get the non-fun kind of Big Feelings and end up crying all over you. I get weird about discipline without warning; it can go from fun and sexy to blackout rage-inducing on a dime. That’s not necessarily the energy I want in the bedroom with us.
Wei Wuxian knew why. It was fucked up childhood stuff so it was probably a permanent feature of his personality by this point and he didn’t find it particularly cathartic the way some people did.
Bun: Then we will table that experiment until you are more certain. I too have certain requirements of the emotions we bring to one another.
Oh gosh, he talked like an encyclopedia and it was still the hottest thing Wei Wuxian had ever experienced. He was getting more and more certain that he’d snagged a Lan elder.
All the major sects had produced at least one immortal by the 21st century, but GusuLan held the record. Most of them had ascended, but not all. There were four or so he knew of who’d remained earthbound for whatever reason. None of them would give a straight answer on the subject.
There were even more who were deep down the path of immortality; pre-immortal cultivators who were still aging, just at a glacial pace. They could be two, three, or as much as four hundred years old.
Bun was a little too loose to be super old, Wei Wuxian thought; a young elder by comparison, maybe. The youngest one he knew of was around two hundred and fifty years old.
He felt less weird about taking a house from someone who’d lived through both World Wars. Fretting about Wei Wuxian’s safety felt different when it came from someone who had that kind of understanding about how temporary life could be.
WWX: What about an evening check in?
Bun: I’m listening.
He wracked his brain for something that could stay fun instead of getting overbearing.
WWX: Just, what did I do that day. Maybe what did I eat or how I’m feeling if we’re getting close to Cleansing day.
Bun: I would like photographic evidence.
Bun: I have been enjoying the ones you’ve been sending when you change. I would welcome an expansion of that subject matter.
He squirmed a bit as his dick tried to make him into a liar about the death of their sex life.
WWX: lol my memory IS pretty bad for stuff that isn’t spell miscellanea.
WWX: Ok, pictures.
WWX: FYI, I may need to skip ‘free time’ tonight. I was wrong. You can still get me worked up. I’m primed to misbehave right now.
His lap emitted three cheerful notes and Wei Wuxian’s hips jerked. He was going to get a Pavlovian response to that sound at this rate.
Bun: Is it misbehavior if you’re under direction?
Wei Wuxian made time the next day to meet up with his new tenants and scheduled a meeting with one of the financial advisors that Lan Zhan hooked him up with. He suddenly had retirement savings and investments. It was all great stuff, but it drained his energy like nothing else in his experience ever had other than a fight to the death.
By the time Cleansing day came around again he was surly and had feelings made out of glass. He’d started two fights -one of them with an actual cop- and been the first to cry about it both times. He spent most of the first evening clinging to Lan Zhan like a koala and didn’t really get back to what he was starting to think about as ‘normal’ until the next morning.
He’d have felt bad, but Lan Zhan was incredibly into it. They’d stayed in bed for the most part, but if they had to move then Lan Zhan carried him everywhere even once he was feeling better and made sad noises about it when Wei Wuxian tried to insist. He’d hand-fed Wei Wuxian cut fruit and tiny sandwiches and got into the bathtub with him when it was time to wash up.
Like, eventually they were going to have to unpack that. Wei Wuxian was pretty sure it had to do with shit he didn’t remember, but it was working for the moment so he wasn’t going to disturb their equilibrium just yet.
Lan Zhan literally fucked him awake. They’d toyed with the concept of somnophilia and Wei Wuxian had given Lan Zhan blanket permission to try it as the spirit moved him and apparently the spirit arrived that day. It was great. He was sort of caught in that warm sleepy moment between sleeping and waking, but also still prepared from the night before so it was easy, slick, and a little obscene. His orgasm crested over him like a gentle sun-warmed wave and Lan Zhan drove him through it before following after with a climax that shook his whole body.
There was only one thing that could have made it better and Wei Wuxian let the idea sit in the back of his mind for the rest of the day until he was sure that he was sure.
“Do you want to get tested?” He groaned at his own inelegance as Lan Zhan, who’d been dozing a bit in the extended afterglow and the rapid approach of bedtime, stirred against him.
“Mn?” Then there was a sharp inhale as he realized what Wei Wuxian was asking for. “There would be mess.” he said in the hesitant tones of someone who really liked making that specific sort of mess.
“I like it.” Wei Wuxian sensed some hesitation when he kissed Lan Zhan. “What?”
“I’m struggling with the thought of your other partners.” Lan Zhan adjusted them so that Wei Wuxian was tucked underneath his body. “It is unreasonable.”
Whoops, Jealous Dom!Bun. “Not that many partners. This is theoretical enjoyment.” Wei Wuxian crossed his legs behind Lan Zhan’s thighs and his forearms behind his shoulders. “Matahari, I am not. This is the biggest relationship I’ve ever been in, but I’ve had fluid contact with other people before we got involved. I don’t think I’ve got any problems and I wanna have all of you, but I don’t want to risk hurting you because I had a brief unsatisfying fling with Chad the Fuckboy a year ago.”
Lan Zhan was quiet for a while. “...define the term ‘fuckboy’ for me, please?” He asked with deep reservation.
Oh wow, how to condense that term down? “It’s a way to talk about someone who’s reliant on their sex partners -emotionally, financially, or whatever. They don’t respect them at best or exploit them at worst. He broke the condom on purpose behind my back. I wasn’t into that. I got tested after and lost interest in dating, but there’s supposed to be stuff that doesn’t show up until later.” He said at last and tried to ignore his resurging feelings about the stealthing incident. Lan Zhan made a noise approaching a growl and that helped. “Not proud about it, but I think one sneaks through everybody’s guard these days. What about you?”
Lan Zhan held him a bit tighter. “One.” He said. His tone absolutely did not invite questions. “A very long time ago. It is unlikely anything would have escaped my notice for so long and I believe I was his only partner as well, but there was a time in his life that was difficult to account for and I would not ask you to submit to a test alone anyway. I believe I would have noticed something, but I understand that even powerful cultivators can be silent carriers of disease.”
Wei Wuxian stroked his hair rather than answer.
“I would like to forgo protection,” Lan Zhan clarified at last. “I am struggling not to ask who else you have been with.”
“Bun, you should.” It helped to know now that Lan Zhan might be sexually educated, but he’d had hardly any past partners so he didn’t have experience with the etiquette involved with discussing past partners. “That’s normal and good.”
“Not for the reasons I want to know,” he huffed. “I would not hurt anyone --except that ‘Chad’ because that was assault, but my primary desire is to cover up anywhere they touched you so that you are only --only mine.”
“You’re already pretty good on that count.” Wei Wuxian chuckled. “Other than him I’ve only had some hand jobs behind the training hall with two slightly older disciples at Lotus Pier and I almost had penetrative sex with my date on prom night, except we were both nervous virgins and we didn’t get that far. I didn’t really have feelings for any of them.” He found Lan Zhan’s cheekbone and stroked the pad of his thumb along it in a silent attempt to convey that he had feelings now.
Lan Zhan caught his hand and pressed a kiss into his palm. “Good,” he said, almost shaking with it. “Good.”
Well, it’s not like he didn’t know Bun was the possessive type.
He proved it too, reasserting his sole dominion over every part of Wei Wuxian that might have suffered anyone else’s touch.
“Could you be any more thoroughly laid?” Wen Qing asked in annoyance when he showed up to brunch with Lan Zhan’s cologne still lingering on his skin.
“I’m blaming 70% of it on Cleansing.” Wei Wuxian hugged both of his second favorite people. Unfortunately, they’d been unseated by Lan Zhan on account of relentless orgasms and it was going to be a while before he came back down off the oxytocin high.
“I’d put it closer to 45%.” That was a pretty big concession from Wen Qing and so he decided to take it. She held out her phone. “You need to see this before they get it taken down. It’s going viral.”
‘This’ was a short clip someone had caught of Zewu-jun, dressed down but still looking like a model, wandering around Whole Foods with his cell phone in one hand and a cotton net shopping bag dangling off his elbow. On screen he stopped in the middle of an aisle and said, “Repeat that?” A pause where they evidently repeated that. “No, I thought that’s what you said. I was hoping to be incorrect. Please define the term for me?” A pause where they defined the term and the confused furrow between his immaculate brows eased. “Oh, well, I suppose he really was an elderly fuckboy. Is there an upper age limit, do you think?”
“Oh, man,” Wei Wuxian hissed. “That got around fast.” He winced as both his Wens turned Looks on him. “I had to explain Chad the Fuckboy to Bun over the weekend. Then I had to explain what one was. I guess he passed the new term along to his sect brothers.”
Wen Qing grimaced as she often did when the subject came up. They never could quite escape tales of his sexual indiscretions. “Ugh,” she sighed and chugged her pomegranate mimosa.
“Woah, careful.” Wei Wuxian had only ever seen her drunk once. “Remember your bad relationship with champagne!”
She scowled deeper at the word ‘relationship.’ Uh oh.
“Her internet guy wants to come visit,” Wen Ning explained, looking sad. “He’s got something to do in New York and asked if she wants him to spend a few extra days here.”
“Oh yeah?” Wei Wuxian looked back and forth between them. Normally that would be a good thing, but Wen Qing’s mood said otherwise. “There’s a problem.”
“I’ve been interested in getting more serious so we had to have the Cultivator Talk.” Wen Qing sighed. “It turns out he’s in the Jiang sect.”
“Ok, what’s the problem then? There’s plenty of great people in Jiang.” He felt oddly offended on behalf of his former sect. Anyway, what beef could she have with them? He was the only… wait. “This… this isn’t about me, right? If you like him then...”
“It’s not about you.” Wen Qing scowled as her brother poked her with his ‘why you always lyin’?’ face. “It’s INDIRECTLY about you. Everything you have said about your former sect tells me that if there’s any chance of this relationship going anywhere then I’d have to move to fucking California to live in Lotus Pier, hip-deep in constant drama and toxic bullshit. There’s no way he’s going to move and my entire life is here.” She pushed her hair out of her face. “If we meet in person I’m probably going to get attached and I don’t want to have to break up my entire life for some guy I met on OkCupid.”
“How do you know he wouldn’t move?” Wei Wuxian wanted to know. “Sects swap members all the time. I remember plenty of people coming and going. It…” He wet his lips and chose his words carefully. “...it sounds like you’re already attached and maybe you’re scared about it. That’s okay! If he was really determined to stay in California he’d be offering to fly you out instead of the other way.”
“You Jiang sect assholes all think the west coast Lotus Pier house is the bright center of the universe,” she groused, but guiltily so he knew he was right.
“Shijie loved New York,” Wei Wuxian pointed out. “You remember how she cried on your couch all weekend when she was coming to terms with having to either leave or kill her mother-in-law in cold blood?”
“I still say she picked wrong.” Wen Qing made herself another mimosa from the pitchers on their table.
“So OkStupid will probably like it too,” Wei Wuxian smiled, resting his case. “Then you’ll have to tell us his name.”
“I’ll tell you if he earns the right to meet you guys,” she sniffed.
Well, that was one disaster settled.
He waited until he was settled in the lab for the afternoon and had some testing arrays set to process before texting Lan Zhan.
WWX: Are you responsible for Zewu-jun saying the f-word on camera?
Bun: Perhaps indirectly.
WWX: Wait, you know Zewu-jun?
WWX: CAN YOU GET HIM TO SIGN MY CD?
Bun: All the disciples in New York are acquainted with the Twin Jades during their initial training period.
Bun: If I have the opportunity, I will ask.
WWX: That sounds like ‘probably not’, but fair.
WWX: I’ve got the attention of the only Lan I want. <3
Bun: I am pleased to hear it.
Wei Wuxian wet his lips. He’d made one more stop on his way between brunch and his lab before his good Cleansing energy or his nerves failed him.
WWX: Speaking of, I got my results.
WWX: Rapid results. ;)
WWX: Does Gege want to see?
WWX: <sent a file>
Bun: <sent a file>
He blinked at Lan Zhan’s instantaneous response. He opened the file and found it was a PDF from apparently the private clinic in Lan Tower. Sheesh, that place really was a man-made sacred mountain. He was surprised any of the US-based Lan cultivators ever came out of there.
WWX: we’re good!
There was no good reason for him to be turned on right at that moment. He’d just had marathon sex nearly all weekend, but his dick wasn’t interested in excuses; only action.
His phone bleeped.
Bun: Are you available for a remote scene?
Bun: I need to see you on your knees right now.
Wei Wuxian was already scrambling to lock his door before the second text hit.
WWX: oh thank god yes now good gege
All told, once his brain rebooted and his bones grew back after Lan Zhan finished with him, it was a great day in the lab.
He even got a new prototype talisman design for fine-tuned thermal regulation sent off to Zixuan for preliminary feedback. Thermal Control spells had existed for hundreds of years, but their settings ranged between Incandescently Hot or Fucking Freezing with almost no options in between. Commercial magic as a field was in its infancy after thousands of years of cultivation society sticking firmly to itself, so Wei Wuxian could fuck around with just about anything he liked and Zixuan seemed to be able to turn it into money.
The only sad thing was heading back to his empty apartment that night all by himself, but for the first time in a long while he had hope that someday soon he might have someone to go home to.
‘This is not what I had in mind,’ he thought pointedly at the universe when he arrived home and turned on the lights to find Mo Ziyuan sitting on his couch with a bunch of his shitty friends poking around the kitchen.
The guys in his fridge left off looking for anything they recognized and closed in on him with fake-friendly smiles.
“Nice place you got here,” Ziyuan observed, plucking at his tragic shirt. “Looks like you traded way up.”
‘This serves me right for putting off erecting new wards,’ Wei Wuxian chided himself. ‘It’s a nice neighborhood, I said. I can wait until I get my hands on some really good anchors and learn the tenants well enough to include the whole building, I said. Fuck.’
He just hoped no one had gotten into his bedroom because it he had any suspicions at all that Ziyuan had touched his sex stuff then it was going in the trash and he’d explain it to Bun later.
“I like it well enough.” The key to dealing with Ziyuan was to ignore his provocations until it was time to put him all the way down. There’d only been so much Wei Wuxian could justify when they were technically roommates and Xuanyu was the one who would end up paying for any way in which Ziyuan was humiliated.
This, though, was a whole other situation.
“There a reason you decided to break into my house?” Wei Wuxian ignored the two giant guys who’d bracketed him like surly bookends.
“Oh, your house, is it?” Ziyuan leaned forward on the couch with a nasty smile. You could not tell that he’d probably been in jail up until recently. He was dressed, as always, in designer clothes that fell a little short of actually looking good on him. He wanted to intimidate, so he favored a lot of dark colors that did nothing for him with sunglasses and jewelry that made him look like he was trying to channel Kid Rock. “See, I think this is my house now. After your little stunt with the cops? I think everything you own is mine.”
Nice. An outright threat.
Wei Wuxian snapped his fingers. Paralyzing multiple targets -some of them just out of sight- was a harder feat to accomplish than one mugger at point-blank range, but everybody in the house froze into place. That was honestly his best spell ever and it was kind of a shame he and Zixuan had agreed it couldn’t be publicized. The drawback was that he now had a migraine and would until someone came to relieve him of his uninvited guests.
He did a quick check of the apartment while the phone rang. Zhou didn’t pick up. Maybe he was sleeping at home for once so Wei Wuxian hung up and dialled dispatch.
“... four, yeah. I haven’t found anyone else lurking around.” Wei Wuxian answered the dispatcher’s questions as best he could as the pressure between his eyes began to mount. “I only know one of them by name, Mo Ziyuan… yeah, that’s the one. He broke into my new place.”
The dispatcher got an estimate for how long he could hold on and promised him help in half that time.
In the meantime, he took a look into the eyes of the guys who’d been getting ready to beat him up or whatever on Ziyuan’s orders. Two of them were just freaking out, but the other one was icily furious. Mostly his attention was on Ziyuan, though, and that was something a man could work with. He’d seemed a little more present than the other two, so Wei Wuxian singled him out. He didn’t recognize any of the trio. They just fit the mold of people who Ziyuan hung out with.
“I’m going to let it go this time,” he informed the angry guy. “Whatever the cops do the cops do. That’ll be the end of it as far as I’m concerned because I don’t know your face. I’m pretty sure that means Ziyuan didn’t tell you what I am.”
The paralysis spell allowed for very slight movements like blinking and very small nods. The angry guy narrowed his eyes and dipped his chin.
“I’m glad we understand each other,” Wei Wuxian told him. Black tendrils of resentful energy began to coil around his body and the angry guy started to become a scared guy. “Because the next time I come home to find someone in my living room, it won’t end so nicely.”
He knew the officers who arrived to collect Ziyuan and his soon-to-be former associates. It ended with everyone going down to the station once the crime scene technicians had processed his place and the public corridors. They did let him check in with his tenants, all of whom were fine and a little surprised to have a cop knocking on their doors.
Eventually Wei Wuxian got to go home. It was practically the next day so he skipped the lab and just went home and crashed, fully dressed, in bed.
Wei Wuxian woke well into the following afternoon under all three of his rabbits and realized all at once that he’d missed his evening check-in with Bun.
He scrambled for his phone and, yup, missed texts and missed calls.
He took a selfie of himself wrapped up in blankets with all his stuffed animals without a lick of shame because, fuck it, someone broke into his house last night.
WWX: I live
WWX: Good morning, Gege. Sorry I missed our check in last night. I didn’t get in until 4 this morning and crashed hard.
He caught up with the pictures he’d taken the day before of breakfast and lunch, but not dinner because he hadn’t gotten to eat any.
Bun: I am willing to entertain a reasonable explanation for this delay should you have one.
Ouch. Alright, Bun wasn’t happy with him. Fair enough. The last time he’d gone AWOL there’d been a mugger involved. Honestly, he couldn't say this was much better.
He rolled over onto his back.
WWX: You remember Shouty? From the old place?
Bun: With extreme reluctance, yes.
Bun: I was given to understand that he is incarcerated.
WWX: Out on bail, evidently, although I guess not anymore.
WWX: He broke into my new apartment with some friends with the idea that he was going to take over on account of I owed him for talking about what he’d been doing to Xuanyu.
WWX: sorry, I meant Other!Roommate. I don’t think you ever saw him. He was the one who’d play my CD for me.
Bun: Are you alright?
WWX: I’m fine. It just took forever with the NYPD; longer than usual. The night hunter liaison finally got that ulcer he’s been working on and is being forced to take leave.
WWX: Your A-Ying continues to be a closet badass. They got into my fridge and sat on my couch and got halfway through threatening me before I shut it down and had the cops come collect them.
WWX: Mostly I’m pissed at myself for not putting up Ziyuan-specific wards. I know his playbook well enough that I should have expected he’d show up on my doorstep eventually.
Bun: Why should you have?
WWX: He wasn’t actually on the lease in our last place. He for sure didn’t pay rent or bills. He just moved into Xuanyu’s room one day after his mom made him move out of her place.
WWX: He’s a real ‘what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is mine’ type.
WWX: I couldn’t do anything about it because Xuanyu was under a conservatorship. He has some mental illness and addiction issues. Ziyuan acted as his mom’s agent somehow. They could do pretty much whatever they wanted to him. I don’t know how much of Xuanyu’s addiction problems were because of his cousin, but Ziyuan was definitely supplying him.
WWX: I had some suspicions that he’d been doing more than that. The Mos would take off sometimes and leave Xuanyu alone for a while once he was wretched enough and he’d usually start to turn himself around. Try and get clean, you know? Then, once he was doing okay they’d show up again and it started all over. Seemed like it was on purpose to keep him destabilized. I heard Xuanyu telling his cousin ‘no’ a bunch, but it was in the house; in his bedroom, right in front of him. How are you supposed to get clean like that?
WWX: That’s what I told the cops, who told a judge, who decided to remove Xuanyu from their custody and appointed him a different guardian. That’s when it came out that Xuanyu had this big ass trust fund that Ziyuan and his mom had been spending on themselves.
Bun: It would explain the conservatorship. Those usually only apply when money is involved.
WWX: Yeah, he’s the illegitimate kid of some Serious Business guy who got Xuanyu’s mom pregnant when she was like fifteen. It all came out in conjunction with some shady political shit he was up to and part of the reparations he was ordered to pay included providing for any kids he’d sired on the women he assaulted.
Wei Wuxian knew exactly who Xuanyu’s dad was, but he wasn’t about to spread that kind of news to an unrelated sect. The Lans probably wouldn’t do anything about it, but you could never tell when they’d feel like they needed to intervene. Lots of them were okay, but that sect also produced more than their fair share of sanctimonious assholes. He’d never heard whether all the charges were statutory rape or rape-rape and Zixuan got pale about it when the subject came up so he never wanted to press the topic.
Zixuan hadn’t known about Xuanyu’s trust fund, otherwise they’d have realized that the Mos were never going to go away on their own or be convinced to surrender custody of Xuanyu to someone else. Most of what Wei Wuxian had been doing in Sheepshead Bay had involved collecting information Zixuan could use later to extract his younger brother, except Xuanyu was super private about his personal business so it had been very slow going.
WWX: I cancelled Ziyuan’s meal ticket so I should have realized he’d come around to settle up eventually.
Bun: You should not have. It was not reasonable to expect.
Bun: You are a powerful cultivator and threatening you in your own home is tantamount to suicide. You are not to blame for his choices.
WWX: No, see, he really IS that dumb.
WWX: I never beat him up before because I couldn’t protect his cousin 24/7 and I know how guys like that work. That level of nuance is beyond him. He thought I was just scared and that meant he could do whatever he wanted to me.
WWX: Plus Xuanyu and I are cultivators and he’s got this Whole Thing™ about it. He wants to be one, but never got training so he’s identified as a budding crime lord instead. The really fucked up this is that the Mos have plenty of money. They didn’t need to take Xuanyu’s income or my security deposit. His dad is apparently some sort of real estate guy and actually good at it.
WWX: I’m never going to understand, probably.
WWX: Also, on a scale from 1-10: how irrational is it to want to have my couch steam cleaned because Ziyuan’s butt touched it?
Bun: Replace the entire thing.
WWX: See, the answer I was expecting was ‘flip the cushion.’
WWX: Alright, so if your reaction is an 11 then mine was probably somewhere around a 5. That’s medium irrational so Stanley Steamer it is.
Bun: I want to come to you.
Wei Wuxian sucked in air. His fingers clenched on the frame of his phone.
WWX: I want that too.
He wanted it more than anything.
He wanted Bun to come over and help him go through the fridge for anything he personally hadn’t opened and then hold him while he forced himself to throw out food his Shijie had made for him; something he only did in the most extreme circumstances.
He wanted Bun in his bed so that he wouldn’t have to face the idea that he no longer felt fully safe in his own space without someone there.
WWX: Not sure I’m ready for more memory stuff or the blindfold, honestly, though. I had to get nasty for a second and my resentful energy is still High and, not gonna lie, I am going to be a massive bitch for the foreseeable future because of it.
Bun: I understand.
He probably did not but was willing to fake it.
Bun: May I come anyway?
Wei Wuxian put the phone down. This was the Big Step.
He’d been taking his time processing that this was no longer a remote sugaring relationship and was mostly adjusted to the idea that getting together with Lan Zhan was no longer a question of ‘if’ or even ‘when.’ They were already together. They were just trying to circumnavigate the issue of being able to interact face-to-face without Wei Wuxian getting knocked on his back by a massive memory download that his nascent core may or may not be able to handle, given that was apparently how the memories apparently got through to him.
If BabyMe found out, banned LanZhan, and tried to reopen his BAEYing channel then he’d probably close his account down. He was done with anyone who wasn’t Lan Zhan and maybe it was time to admit it in the most real way possible. He was just about pissed off and needy enough to do it too.
He took a breath.
WWX: <has shared his location>
WWX: Text me at the street level and I’ll buzz you in.
WWX: I’ll wait to put the blindfold on until you knock.
WWX: Sorry in advance. I’m probably not going to be any fun.
Bun: I do not require ‘fun.’ I require having you safe and within my sight.
Wei Wuxian’s eyes started to water and he pressed his knuckles into them until the burning in his face and throat began to ease.
He did end up flipping all the couch cushions and then laid a throw rug over the whole thing. It would do until he figured something out. He actually wasn’t too good with the idea of more strangers in his house, not even professionals, but they made upholstery cleaners right? Maybe he could put one on the wishlist and really blow Lan Zhan’s mind with an extra gift this week.
The text arrived as Wei Wuxian stood in front of his fridge and wrangled his feelings about Wasting Food vs. My Shijie Made That vs. Ziyuan’s Goons Maybe Touched It and considered just how nuclear he was likely to go if any of them even looked at his Pork Rib and Lotus Root soup.
Rationally, he knew it was unlikely they had gotten into anything. They’d all been super-duper white-looking and nothing in his fridge looked at all approachable to that particular palate
It was a relief to step away when Lan Zhan knocked on the door.
He’d been afraid of being prickly and touch adverse as soon as the blindfold went on, but he shouldn’t have worried.
The words “Hug me immediately!” fell out of his mouth as soon as he opened the door and Lan Zhan picked him up by the backs of his thighs to carry him backwards into the apartment. Given the fact that they were more or less the same height and Wei Wuxian had a slight edge on him in terms of muscle mass, it was hotter than he could deal with right at the moment. They were already kissing and all the weight of the previous day atomized under the pressure of Lan Zhan’s presence.
Lan Zhan carried him to the closest flat surface, which turned out to be the kitchen counter and proceeded to do a very thorough job of re-marking his territory.
“Fuck, I missed you,” Wei Wuxian groaned as soon as they parted for air. “It’s been less than thirty-two hours and it feels like it’s been a year.”
The weary, upset ‘Mn’ he got in response along with another kiss pressed into the column of his throat said that Lan Zhan hadn’t enjoyed the separation any more than he had.
How joined at the hip had they been in their previous life? Was this an escalation or just where they’d left off?
“How did you get away from Lan Tower without being followed?” He asked once he felt like he could make words that weren’t demands for affection.
Lan Zhan huffed a slight laugh that Wei Wuxian felt as a puff of air against his cheek more than he heard it. “It was pointed out to me that if I dress as a non-cultivator and tuck my hair into my jacket then I am not quite so distinctive. It seems to have worked.”
Wei Wuxian patted Lan Zhan’s shoulders and, yes, he was wearing a light leather-like coat. A good host would take that off him so Wei Wuxian pushed it back and down over Lan Zhan’s arms. Lan Zhan took it and put it… somewhere. Wei Wuxian was too busy exploring a bit more. Most times they were together, Lan Zhan’s clothes evaporated between touches within a few minutes of their reunions and he didn’t get dressed again until they had to part, which Wei Wuxian had no complaints about. It was just that this was new and interesting.
The jacket had felt sort of like a moto jacket and Lan Zhan had a thin shirt on underneath it that almost felt silky to the touch. It probably made his physique look amazing. It felt amazing. He had his long hair in a low side-swept ponytail that had been draped over his shoulder where it would have laid nicely under his jacket.
“You need to wear this when I can see it.” Wei Wuxian informed Lan Zhan while simultaneously pawing at his abs. They flexed under his hands. “Stop taunting me with those. It’s too hot.”
“Mn.” That time it sounded smug. Lan Zhan sure liked being perved on for a Lan.
Broad calloused palms cupped his face.
“Wei Ying, what can I do?” Lan Zhan asked in his quiet, earnest way.
If he said ‘take me to bed and fuck me into next week’ then Lan Zhan would probably do that. That wasn’t what was being asked, though, and Wei Wuxian really was trying to be less of a recalcitrant asshole about asking for the kind of help that wasn’t life or death. The blindfold kind of helped in that regard. He couldn’t do much for himself at the moment so he had to ask.
“Can you look in the fridge and throw away anything that it looks like someone ate out of?” He kinda hated how he sounded. “There’s a bunch of Tupperware in there. My Shijie came by and left me with food. I didn’t have anything open when I left yesterday and I get weird about wasting food…”
“I’ll take it all the way out to the garbage bins and wash the container.” Lan Zhan promised. “When did you eat last?”
“Lunch, yesterday.” Wei Wuxian admitted. “I slept straight through after I got home last night.”
Lan Zhan kissed his temple. “Shall I reheat something for you or may I order food?”
“You should probably order,” Wei Wuxian admitted. “She made that with my spice tolerance in mind. You probably couldn’t even kiss me after.”
“I am resilient,” he replied, but also said, “I will read menus to you when I return. Where may I sit you in the meantime?”
“The cou…” Wei Wuxian trailed off as Lan Zhan snarled (snarled!) at the beginnings of the suggestion. “I flipped the cushions and laid down an afghan!”
“I will take you to bed.” Lan Zhan decided for them both and picked Wei Wuxian back up.
Thank god he’d made the bed and changed the sheets. He’d known there was zero chance of Lan Zhan going home that night and maybe he wasn’t ready for how much of a gremlin Wei Wuxian could be on his own. Wei Wuxian changed sheets when he spilled something and not before. Lan Zhan probably slept on new sheets every night.
Lan Zhan paused briefly just inside the glass-paned door that separated his bedroom from the public area, presumably looking around.
It was a nice room, thanks to Mianmian’s designer friend; mostly soothing grays with black and white accents. The only things out of place were the empty picture frames on his walls (he’d wanted to fill them himself) and the trash bag sitting in the corner.
Lan Zhan laid him on the bed and a moment later he heard the rustle of plastic.
“Ziyuan’s gross friends got into my sex stuff.” Wei Wuxian explained as the silence stretched on, surely brought on by Lan Zhan seeing several very nice toys that they’d gotten a lot of mutual enjoyment out of inside the bag.
“I will take these out as well.” Lan Zhan’s reassuring tone was at odds with the sharp jerk of a noise as he pulled the bag shut. “Was anything else disturbed?”
“They only got into anything that would look weird to a vanilla person and I’m missing a bunch of condoms, but other than that it seems okay.” Wei Wuxian sighed. “I’ll just clean everything else.” He smiled as Lan Zhan came over to give him another kiss. “Gege is going to spoil me.”
“I hope so,” Lan Zhan murmured against his temple. “I will return shortly.”
He was as good as his word. The garbage drop-offs were clearly labelled so Wei Wuxian didn’t have to answer any questions on that score.
“I did not find anything your sister made that was open.” Lan Zhan reported when he returned and climbed into bed alongside Wei Wuxian. “There were some snack foods and condiments in the pantry that appeared to have been disturbed, but not eaten from. I threw them out and have ordered replacements.”
“Define disturbed for me?” Wei Wuxian wasn’t sure he wanted to know.
“Several jars had been opened and someone stuck their finger inside,” Lan Zhan clarified with distaste. “I have the menu for Parachute. May I read the entrees to you?”
Wei Wuxian tucked himself into Lan Zhan’s side. “I can tell you from memory; a baked potato bing, banchan, and a Ruth Bader Gimlet.”
Lan Zhan called it in, forgoing the app entirely, and Wei Wuxian listened to him order a vegan mapo dofu for himself. Maybe he could handle Shijie’s cooking. It was weird to Wei Wuxian that he was even considering it, given the fact that he’d literally bitten Jiang Cheng once over the last bowl of pork rib soup once. Jiang Cheng bit him back. The soup was that good.
Eating Wei Wuxian in the blindfold was something they’d worked out over the past few extended dates. They ate in bed and if it was immediately after a scene then Wei Wuxian would tolerate being hand fed. Lan Zhan loved it -maybe because it wasn’t a guaranteed thing- while Wei Wuxian swung back and forth on the subject. His current mood was nowhere near where it needed to be so he’d picked things he could eat without being able to see.
Lan Zhan changed into soft lounge pants at some point and they spent the rest of the day in bed; no sex, which was new, but not unwelcome as Wei Wuxian’s internal threat index was still hovering around a 4 and stood poised to ramp up to a 7 as soon as he heard an unauthorized noise. The blindfold was probably not helping, but Lan Zhan’s solid presence balanced it out.
“So are you ready for these back-to-back disasters to be done with?” Wei Wuxian asked as he started to feel like it was getting late. “Cause I sure am.”
“I am perhaps the wrong person to ask.” Lan Zhan admitted. “It seems to me that chaos is the fate of a cultivator. If you do not seek it out then it comes looking for you.”
“So what you’re saying is that I’m not night hunting enough?” Wei Wuxian considered it. That was almost fair. He’d been doing a lot of very indulgent lab work lately when he wasn’t fussing over his own business. He hadn’t done much pro bono work in the past year. Instead he’d focused on billable hours and not overusing his demonic cultivation.
“No.” Lan Zhan pinched his butt; a light reproof that did Things to Wei Wuxian when he imagined Lan Zhan maybe doing that in public someday. “You find plenty of chaos.”
“Yet it persists in seeking me out.” Wei Wuxian hitched a leg over Lan Zhan’s thigh. “Qing-jie got me some links to those articles she promised. You want them?”
“Yes.” Lan Zhan laced his fingers together behind Wei Wuxian’s back. “I have been reading on my own, but I am neither a medical authority nor a specialist in medicinal cultivation.” Wei Wuxian stroked his back because he sounded so annoyed about it; that a field existed that he was not instantly proficient in, how dare?
“So near as I can figure, as I too am neither a doctor nor a spiritual medicine specialist, I’ll either get everything bam all at once or a bunch of drips like what’s slipped through so far, which would suck because that’s been pretty disorienting.” Wei Wuxian knew which one he preferred. He was a ‘rip the bandaid off’ kind of guy, but he was aware he wouldn’t get to pick. “There’s not a lot of research about core donors. I’m going off a study about a very young kid with a nascent core, but I’ve got a fully developed dantian and there’s been arguments that the elixir field plays as much of a role in access to ancestral memory as the core since it’s the birthing place of spiritual energy.”
Most of what he’d gotten from those articles was that Western medicine still had no idea how cultivators worked and was so, so mad about it, but that wasn’t news.
“You are also re-establishing a core rather than developing it newly so that is not a perfect example.” Lan Zhan made a thoughtful hum. “I would prefer to essay the experiment in Lan Tower with a doctor at hand when you are able to take time away from your work for a while afterwards.”
That made sense and was more practical than anything Wei Wuxian had considered so far. He was not the planner in this relationship, obviously.
“I kind of want to get it over with.” Wei Wuxian confessed. “I hate not being able to see you. There’s a whole stream of data about you that I’m missing and it’s bugging me more as time goes on.”
Lan Zhan made a soft noise of agreement. “I miss your eyes.” His fingers tangled in Wei Wuxian’s hair. “They are the same as they were. I am frustrated not to know what has changed.”
Well, as long as he wasn’t expecting a carbon copy of the man in his memories, that was alright.
“I have some active experiments going on right now, but I should be able to take some time off after I’ve got the prototypes worked out.”
Zixuan wasn’t his boss, really, but Wei Wuxian was still his primary researcher and technically he paid for the lab space. He’d need to know if there was going to be a time when Wei Wuxian couldn’t follow up with the testers and QA people. That meant he was going to have to explain the whole zhiji thing.
That meant Shijie would find out.
That meant he and Lan Zhan were going to get bowled over by ‘meet the family’ stuff from both directions probably.
“My shijie and her husband are going to want to meet you once we get serious about this. Qing-jie and her brother too.” He blinked as Lan Zhan petted his face. “What?”
“I am looking forward to meeting her.” Lan Zhan said with sincerity and something else Wei Wuxian couldn’t quite describe going off tone alone.
“What’s your family like?” Wei Wuxian was desperate to change the subject away from the strange splintered nature of his own that he blurted that out, despite the fact that he was pretty sure Lan Zhan had already outlived any parents or siblings he might have had.
“My elder brother is looking forward to meeting you.” Lan Zhan said to his surprise.
Wei Wuxian was glad of the mask for once, otherwise he was certain his eyes would have given away the fact that no one he’d ever dated had told their families about him unless it was unavoidable. Lan Zhan kept wrecking him totally by accident.
“T-that’s good!” Wei Wuxian tucked his face into Lan Zhan’s shoulder. “Me too.”
Eventually, Lan Zhan had to go home.
Neither of them really wanted it. Lan Zhan uncharacteristically dragged his feet about getting ready the following morning and returned to kiss Wei Wuxian in bed several times before he ran out of excuses to linger.
Wen Qing took the news that they were tentatively moving forward with infinite scorn until Wei Wuxian used the words ‘in Lan Tower under supervision’ whereupon she calmed down about it. Slightly.
Qing-jie: I will not give my blessings until you tell your sister about it.
Qing-jie: If I have to call her to tell you died of a brain hemorrhage then I refuse to have to also be the one to explain to her that it’s because you met a soulmate she knows nothing about.
So, that brought him to the current moment as he struggled for the first time in his life to compose a text to his sister.
Eventually he chickened out and texted Zixuan.
WWX: I might need to go out of the office for a little while in the near future. Still working out the details.
Peacock: You don’t need to clear a vacation with me.
Peacock: Wait, who am I even talking to? This isn’t a vacation.
Peacock: What are you hunting? Is it a murder mystery? If so I want in. I have been stuck in this office all year and I need a night hunt. There are no ghosts in North Carolina that I can justify going after myself and I am slowly dying.
WWX: It’s not like that.
Peacock: BS it’s not, I know you.
Peacock: Yanli wants to go too. You’re stuck with us now.
Well, this was quickly spiralling out of control.
WWX: It’s a medical thing.
Immediately his phone lit up with his Shijie’s face.
“Good job me,” he groaned and answered.
“A-Xian!” she cried out, probably remembering the time little Wei Ying had tried to walk off broken bones or the pneumonia from night swimming that one time. “What’s going on? What medical thing?”
“I’m not hurt or sick.” He took a breath. “Turns out I have a zhiji. He tracked me down. We’ve been getting to know each other, but haven’t met face to face.” For a given value thereof, anyway. “I’m trying to make some time to… you know. Adjust afterwards.”
“Is… is this the boyfriend you mentioned?” Yanli asked. “The one who plays Cleansing for you? Is this one of the things you needed to work out?”
“Yeah.” He rubbed the back of his head. “He remembers everything. I guess it was rough on him because he’s been really careful with me.” He absolutely did not want to get into the core thing. He’d take that with him to his grave if he could.
“Oh, that’s… good?” Yanli sounded uncertain. “Are you sure he’s… for real? It’s not that I don’t think you could have a zhiji, but they’re so rare and that’s such a frightening thing, A-Xian.”
Well, it did sound a bit like a scam except Lan Zhan was the one who’d been getting fleeced so far and he only seemed to get off on it.
“Yeah, I’ve had a couple close calls with those past memories.” Wei Wuxian shivered at the memory of being trapped within the reverberation of the words ‘Lan Zhan.’ “We’ve talked. I believe him. It’s going to happen at Lan Tower with one of the doctors there watching in case something happens.”
“Oh, really?” Her entire demeanor changed and then she gasped. “A-Xian! Your boyfriend plays Cleansing!” she realized out loud.
“And he goes to bed at nine every night, wakes up at five, and is super vegan but not an ass about it,” he confirmed.
“Tell me when you schedule it,” Yanli said. “I want to be there just in case. Zixuan too. He’s got his worried face on.”
“Alright, I promise.”
“I’m mad that you told Zixuan first!” She didn’t sound mad. “You have to take me to lunch when we’re back in the city and a night hunt as a penalty. I’m getting a lot stronger and I want to test myself.”
“Any time you want, Shijie.” He smiled, happy to see her getting to pursue her own cultivation at last. Her parents had emphasized bridal training for her once it became clear that her golden core was developing too slowly despite her best efforts. “Let me know when you want to come out and I’ll pick out some good prey.”
“A-Xian, do you want me to tell A-Cheng for you?” She was quiet for a beat. “I know you two still aren’t talking, but he still asks about you.”
“He does not,” Wei Wuxian blew a raspberry and his sister folded.
“Well, no, but he doesn’t stop me when I tell him stuff and that’s practically asking from him.” She paused again. “I think things are tense at Lotus Pier. No one tells me what’s going on, but I think he’s been fighting with dad --maybe with mom too.”
Wei Wuxian felt a nervous coil in the pit of his stomach. He’d been afraid of that happening once Yanli left home. It was good for her, but bad for Jiang Cheng. She was a peacemaker who soothed over the sharp edges of her family members before they could start to cut into one another. Marrying her out of the sect was perhaps the stupidest thing Jiang Shushu and Yu-furen could have done to themselves, but Wei Wuxian hadn’t been consulted and Yanli deserved a life where her loved ones could handle their own shit.
“You can tell him if it comes up in conversation, but I don’t want to hear the first two or three things he has to say about it,” Wei Wuxian warned her.
“No, I wouldn’t tell you anyway.” She chuckled. “Poor Didi and his foot-in-mouth disease. Maybe I’ll tell him afterwards? Otherwise he might show up to try and give your zhiji a shovel talk while trying to avoid you.”
“Difficult, considering I don’t think he knows where I am.” He wasn’t hiding, exactly, but he didn’t want Jiang Shushu showing up on his doorstep either. He was probably safe enough with his licensing paperwork, but updating his location on Facebook or something was just asking for trouble. Yu-furen would probably leave him alone, but he couldn’t consistently predict her so he erred on the side of caution.
“For this, I think he’d put more effort into looking,” She said. “I think he’s been waiting for you to come back.”
“I know, I know.” She sighed. “He probably does too and that’s why things are getting scary at home. You didn’t cause mom and dad’s problems, A-Xian. They didn’t go away just because you did.”
He closed his eyes and leaned on the wall. He’d never been sure of that. He’d hoped they would or that things would get bearable without him in the mix to act as a catalyst.
“If he leaves Lotus Pier…” Shijie asked slowly. “...can I send him to you? He’ll probably come here first, but I won’t be what he needs. He always wanted your attention most.”
Yanli was vastly overestimating how much Jiang Cheng hated sharing his big sister, but… but…
“Yeah, okay. Send him to me. I’ll introduce him to the city.” Wei Wuxian forced a note of good cheer into his voice. “Assuming I’m not a disgusting newlywed by then.”
“If you plan on getting married then you’re going to get found out no matter what,” she told him flatly. “There’s no way you, the former ward and chief disciple of the Jiang sect, could get away with marrying a Lan boy and still stay under the radar. Mom would find out and they’d have to be invited or Hell would reign on earth.”
“...domestic partnership?” he asked, legitimately afraid of that possibility.
“If you think your Lan boy would be happy with that.” Shijie’s voice warned him not to hold his breath.
Wei Wuxian considered for a moment a world where LanZhan was cheated out of his opportunity to shop for an enormous blinged-out Kardashian-esque engagement ring or a ceremony that would make ‘Platinum Weddings’ look like a Las Vegas drive through chapel.
“He’d live in sin with me.” Wei Wuxian was pretty sure he could talk his zhiji around if the other option was Yu-furen setting foot in the venue. He didn’t actually want to see who’d win in a bitch fight between Lan Zhan and his foster mother. Lan Zhan probably, but still.
“I guess it’s not impossible that you found the only Lan boy in existence that’s not super duper into public displays of official commitment,” Yanli allowed. “Really improbable, but it could happen.”
“Way to overwhelm me with confidence, Shijie.”
“I try to keep your feet on the ground, A-Xian.” She chirped. “Let me know when to book our flights.”
“I will,” he promised and texted Lan Zhan.
WWX: My sister wants to be there when we do it.
WWX: When we rip the bandaid off.
WWX: Not when we’re having sex, to clarify.
WWX: I am incapable of maintaining an erection anywhere within a ten mile radius of my sister. She thinks Xianxian is saving himself for marriage and no one is going to tell her otherwise.
Bun: So noted.
Bun: Xiongzhang will appreciate the company. He is very nervous for us, but cautiously optimistic.
Bun: How long will you need?
WWX: I think a couple days barring any explosions. I got one of the two projects I was close to finishing done before Ziyuan helped himself to my couch.
Bun: Then I will schedule an observation room for Monday.
They’d set a time.
This was gonna happen.
WWX: I’ll pack a bag.
Bun: Bring yourself. That is all I need.
WWX: Pretty sure your sect is going to notice if I disappear into your room for a couple of days and emerge wearing the same clothes I arrived in.
Bun: Let them.
The rest of the week and weekend passed in a blur of lab time and also some minor packing.
No matter what Lan Zhan said, he was going to show up with a weekend bag and because WeiWuxian was a little vain where Lan Zhan was concerned that meant he’d changed his mind about what to bring about forty times so far. Also, Zixuan and Yanli had agreed to watch his place for him so all his toys needed to be hidden before they showed up. There were conversations he was willing to have with his Shijie; his wall of sex gear was not one of them.
Everything was going great. He got ahead on his projects and even shipped off not two but three of the designs he was working on.
So, of course, Sunday night was when things went bad.
He was laying on the floor in his living room listening to a meditative podcast and trying to calm down by any means necessary so he could sleep that night when the phone rang. When he checked, the number belonged to Detective Zhou.
He answered it. “I thought you were on leave?”
“It’s an emergency,” Zhou informed him tersely. “Earlier in the month you were involved in a haunting incident; a Grudge manifestation…”
“...the old lady, I remember.” Wei Wuxian wished he didn’t, but Grudges weren’t that common. “What happened? Last I checked the Lans locked the property down.”
“Someone got in. They gave my temporary replacement some warding talismans and instructions for placement, but Su handed them off to someone else and the location was improperly secured. We’re not sure who went in there except they stopped screaming a while back.” Zhou sighed. “The ghost absorbed enough energy off the victim to revive itself. Lan Tower sent a group of their infants in to suppress it, but now they’re pinned down in the townhouse. We’re still in contact with them, but nothing they’re doing seems to be working. I need you to come put this thing down again.” He growled and added, “Sorry for the late call,” as almost an afterthought.
Aw, it was kind of nice to be seen as the competent option in a choice between him and a group of highly trained sect cultivators. Then again, the cops didn’t much like working with the sects, not even Zhou, who’d started out as a sect boy. They liked him because he acted like a contractor; he showed up, he got it done without ceremony, and he invoiced them later. It was probably a more comfortable relationship than they had with Lan, who did whatever they wanted because they were often working for free as a favor to the city.
“On my way.” Wei Wuxian got to his feet with a groan. “Any signs of ancillaries?”
Grudge ghosts had a nasty habit of absorbing the spirits of their victims to make them part of the haunting and force them to share in the Core Grudge’s torment. The Ancillary Grudges were rarely aggressive and had even been known to try and drive potential victims away from the Core Grudge, but that wasn’t a hard or fast rule. A new Ancillary Grudge might not even know it was dead yet and that would be the most dangerous time to interact with it.
“Not sure.” Zhou admitted. “There’s the possibility of at least one, given the fact that it’s taken a victim and no one was able to retrieve the spirit before it could get yoked into the Grudge. The officer it killed before is confirmed to have passed on, but it got powerful real fast. There might have been someone else visiting the site that unintentionally fed it up a little bit before it went nuclear.”
“There were two suspects.” Wei Wuxian fumbled his shoes on and collected his gear. “Are either of them in custody?”
“No. The evidence was circumstantial at best and judges don’t issue warrants based on motive alone.” Zhou covered the receiver and shouted something indistinct in the background. “We haven’t been able to contact either the property developer or the grandkid.”
So they could both be in there now.
“Great. I’m heading out now. Text me if you lay hands on them otherwise I’m going in assuming they’re both ancillaries now.” Wei Wuxian loaded himself down with pre-made talismans and his weapons, including his brand new flute.
He owed Lan Zhan a million filthy sexual favors. He needed to go into that house loaded for bear and thanks to Lan Zhan, he could.
Wei Wuxian wet his lips.
WWX: NYPD called me in. Might be up late tonight.
Bun: Should I be concerned?
WWX: Nah. I’m kitted out right and going in mean.
Bun: Please check in with me however late you return.
WWX: Will do.
WWX: I’ve got this hot date tomorrow and I don’t plan to miss it. ;)
The drive sucked and sucked harder when Zhou texted to let him know that the developer's wife hadn’t seen him since that morning, but she was pretty sure he’d visited the townhouse at least once in anticipation of buying from the old woman’s estate. Not only that, but the grandkid hadn’t been seen since the week before. Apparently he’d had a falling out with his roommates, got kicked out of their shared apartment, and now his phone was going straight to voicemail.
Odds were good the grandkid was squatting in the townhouse and that fed the Grudge enough yang energy to raise it again, which sucked ass. Grudge ghosts were arguably worse the second time around. Whatever personality or intelligence they’d first risen with burned off after they’d risen from dormancy once so there was nothing left but hatred and pain.
The townhouse looked deceptive in its middle-class innocence when Wei Wuxian arrived. It was an older place, but had been taken care of while the owner was still alive. The potted plants out front hadn’t died yet and there was still a laser cut hand-painted Snoopy-themed welcome sign hanging on the front door wreathed in dyed raffia and black checkered bows.
Resentful energy boiled all around the building. It was probably a good thing that the developer had bought out the surrounding tenants, otherwise they’d have been dealing with some bad second-hand spiritual poisoning. It wasn’t in the visual range of concentration yet, but only just.
Zhou fitted him with a shoulder radio and let him in through the perimeter.
The interior of the townhouse was as he remembered it; a slightly narrow space with too many stairs for an elderly single person. That probably should have been a sign of how stubborn her ghost would be. He could hear noise from the stairwell, possibly coming from the basement, so he moved inside with caution and sealed each area he passed through with spirit repelling talismans.
His priorities were to first create a tunnel to evacuate the baby Lans through, then to eliminate the Core Grudge, and then seek out any potential Ancillary Grudges.
Wei Wuxian kept his lips wet as he went, ready to whistle at the slightest provocation.
The Lan cultivators weren’t in the basement, but there were a couple bodies on the bottom landing; a middle-aged white dude and a twenty-something guy who looked to be more mixed race; Afro-Latino maybe. The white guy was messed up. Wei Wuxian was pretty sure the Grudge had broken every bone in his body. The younger guy, by comparison, was almost untouched except for the unnatural angle of his neck and livor mortis. His position at the bottom of the stairs suggested he’d fallen and hadn’t been moved.
The Grudge ghost might not even have been involved in his death. One of his shoes was missing and Wei Wuxian located it further up the stairs wedged between two of the open risers.
“I found some bodies in the basement, no cultivators yet.” Wei Wuxian dutifully reported. “First one is a white male, looks to be mid-forties and reasonably fresh. Violent and supernatural death for sure. The second is older by a few days; early to mid twenties, mixed-race. That one looks like it could have been an accident.”
Zhou blew out his breath in a low unhappy hiss. “Got it. Continue upstairs.”
Wei Wuxian started to find evidence of the cultivators as he climbed the steps. There was a big crash from up there as he started up, but no human noises of pain or fear. The Grudge and its Ancillaries were giving him wide berth for the moment. There was a talisman on the wall of the upper stairwell and the shredded remains of more on the steps. Wei Wuxian carefully posted his own talismans as he crested the top of the stairs.
There were two bedrooms and a bathroom on the upper level. One door, the one leading to the master room going by the pink furniture inside, had been ripped off his hinges. The bathroom door stood open as well so Wei Wuxian could see it was empty.
The final door was firmly shut and scored by narrow scratch marks where something had been trying to get in.
Motion in the corner of his eye drew his attention to the wrecked master bedroom. A blue-black bruised hand gnarled by age and the knobbly twisted joints of rheumatoid arthritis folded around the door frame close to the ground. The Grudge ghost dragged her head -twisted at an impossible angle- into view and Wei Wuxian whistled a punishing note that threw her backward into the bedroom. He slammed up a talisman on the door the Lan cultivators had presumably retreated behind and another on the opposite wall. Red light flashed across the walls, delimiting the protected zone.
The Grudge ghost rolled to her feet --sort of. She was on all fours with her torso twisted around at the waist so that her knees and elbows were both pointing up as she charged him. Her face was turned sideways at a ninety degree angle to her shoulders, but her mouth was open wide in a silent shriek of fury right before she rebounded off the barrier created by the repulsion talismans.
“Sorry, ma’am.” Wei Wuxian told her with sincerity right before he lifted his brand new and as yet nameless black jade flute to his lips and played her final requiem. He’d experimented with it a little and its powerful voice fit his cultivation seamlessly.
It took a while, but the Grudge ghost was pinned in the master bedroom with nowhere to retreat from the song. It thrashed and screamed and threw things. Wei Wuxian knew better to relent. Even ghosts could get a second wind, but a silhouette stepped into view from within the bedroom just as it looked like she was about to get hers.
The Ancillary Grudge -a twenty-something Afro-Latino man with a twisted neck and only one shoe on- wrapped her up in a hug as she shrieked and clawed at the carpet. He closed his eyes with his cheek pillowed on top of her springy white hair as her rocked her back and forth while Wei Wuxian played them both into nothingness. Wei Wuxian played until he was certain they were gone; finally at rest. At least for now.
“The Core Grudge and one Ancillary are down,” he reported into the shoulder radio. “I would bump the grandkid down your list of suspects. His ghost helped me lay her down and she didn’t try to fight him, but it looks like she tried to take the other guy apart at the atomic level. Proceeding to check on the Lan cultivators.”
“Understood.” Zhou’s voice crackled a bit with interference, confirming that there was probably still one more ghost in play. He’d have to make triple sure that one was down. The Ancillaries could form a new Grudge sometimes if they were nasty enough and the guy downstairs had met a gruesome end.
Wei Wuxian rapped on the other bedroom door. “You guys okay in there? I’ve got one more to deal with, but I can escort you out first if someone needs medical care.”
A thready young male voice came from inside. “Ma Fatimah is bleeding pretty badly and I’ve broken my wrist. The older male Ancillary is pretty violent and it moves fast. It got the drop on us before we realized there was a second victim. The younger Ancillary covered us to retreat, but we got pinned down by the Core Grudge. It’s slow, but very powerful. The ward I put up won’t hold much longer.”
Good kids. They might be in over their level, but they weren’t being dicks about it, which put them head and shoulders above a lot of the other sect juniors that Wei Wuxian had had to deal with over the years.
“Alright.” He hid an indulgent smile. “Come out slowly and I’ll cover you until you’re outside.”
The two cultivators who emerged looked to be between twenty three and twenty five. One of them fit the classic Lan mold -Asian and ethereally pretty-, but his partner was of Arabic descent and wore a hijab. She had her arm over her partner’s shoulder as he helped her walk. She must have caught that blow in her leg, but she was still gripping her unsheathed sword like she was ready to throw down the second someone came for her.
That fit with what he knew of Lan field regulations; one duellist and one talisman specialist per team, at minimum. There were only two of them though, which was criminal and Wei Wuxian had to table his feelings on the subject for a minute in favor of getting them out.
“Move slow,” he directed the juniors. “If something happens then you put me between you and the danger, understood?”
“Yes, sir,” they chorused in miserable weary voices.
They made it almost all the way out before the last Ancillary took a shot at them. Wei Wuxian must have pinned it down in the main level. There was a formal sitting room just off the foyer closed off by a pair of french doors and Wei Wuxian caught a glimpse of something moving just inside a few seconds before a twisted wreckage of mad flesh threw itself at him. The repulsion talismans he’d left up tossed it right back into the sitting room, but not before it barfed blood and viscera all over him.
The kids screamed, but there were things you got used to as a night hunter and demonic cultivator -grossout ghost goop being foremost among them- so Wei Wuxian’s only reaction was to close his eyes and mouth so none of the ectoplasmic discharge could get in.
“Hang on for a sec, kids,” he said once the splash attack was over and took his flute back out.
They watched in silent and maybe disgusted fascination as he played the remnants of the developer into oblivion. It was a fresh ghost so it didn’t really know how to fight exorcism yet and gave him less trouble than the Core Grudge had even without intervention from another ghost.
“Wow,” the boy whispered as Wei Wuxian tucked his flute back into its holster under his left arm.
“Ancillary #2 is down.” Wei Wuxian reported into the radio. “We’re coming out now. The Lans are beat up and could use some medical attention.”
EMTs met them at the perimeter and tried to converge on him. Funnily enough, saying “Oh, no, it’s not mine” didn’t seem to calm them down any; not until one of the more veteran members of Zhou’s ghost brigade came over to explain that the ectoplasm would gas off in a couple of minutes.
Wei Wuxian hung around to answer questions, did a second sweep to make sure they hadn’t missed anybody, and tried not to drip too obviously.
One of the officers pulled him aside after a few minutes. “Could you check on one of the sect cultivators?” he asked. “The little guy isn’t looking so good. EMTs don’t think anything’s wrong, but they’re not exorcists.”
Wei Wuxian looked back to the ambulance where one of the EMTs was working on Ma Fatimah’s leg. Her partner, whose name was apparently Lan Nan, was sitting nearby with his wrist in a split looking vaguely like he was about to puke. “On it.”
“Thanks, man,” the officer said and left.
“You doing okay?” Wei Wuxian asked as he approached. “You’re pretty pale.”
Lan Nan startled upright. “Wei-qianbei?” He gulped and his lower lip trembled a little. “I’m alright! Fatimah got me away from the Ancillary and the EMTs say she’ll make a full recovery.”
“Alright, then what’s wrong?” Wei Wuxian prodded because that information did not seem to have cheered him up at all.
“I hit my panic button when we were pinned in the bedroom,” Lan Nan admitted quietly. “I called it off, but the emergency responders already left. It’s the Twin Jades! I’m going to have to explain to Zewu-jun and Hanguang-jun how everything went wrong.”
Ah. Yeah, that would be pretty nausea-inducing.
Wei Wuxian ruffled Lan Nan’s hair with his cleanest hand. “Just tell it like a story.” He advised the kid. “You were a very small and junior team to deal with that. Getting away after just getting banged around a little was an achievement. You’re not going to be in trouble.” He scratched his nose. “Honestly, whoever dispatched a team of two juniors to eliminate a Grudge with one confirmed kill and two more suspected victims is more likely to get in trouble.”
“You dealt with everything by yourself though, sir,” Lan Nan pointed out mulishly.
“Well, I’m not a junior.” Wei Wuxian chuckled. “Plus I’m particularly effective against ghosts. Every cultivation path has its unique strengths and weaknesses. Lans are better spiritual investigators. I can’t make a ghost say shit if it doesn’t want to.”
Lan Nan looked a little shocked at his language, but focused on something over his shoulder. “Here they come,” he whimpered, folding in on himself.
Wei Wuxian looked to see two white-robed figures ride in on pale silver blades. Zewu-jun he kind of recognized from his CD cover art. There weren’t a lot of pictures of Hanguang-jun in existence because he had a habit of breaking cameras if he caught someone pointing one at him without permission. Wei Wuxian had kind of expected him to look more like his brother, but the Twin Jades of Lan weren’t actually twins.
Hanguang-jun had a pointier chin as opposed to Zewu-jun’s slight cleft. He also wore more elaborate hair accessories and… and…
“Are you alright, sir?” Lan Nan caught his elbow and Wei Wuxian swayed on his feet.
“I…” Wei Wuxian couldn’t take his eyes off Hanguang-jun, who hadn’t noticed him quite yet. His vision was doubling or -no- it wasn’t doubling. He was seeing someone else layered over Hanguang-jun; him except younger, maybe fifteen or sixteen, and walking past Wei Wuxian with the most spectacular and bored resting bitch face he’d ever seen. In that memory Wei Wuxian could feel his entire focus narrowing down to the silhouette of that boy and nothing else, possibly ever again.
‘Lan Zhan,’ Wei Wuxian thought apropos of nothing.
Hanguang-jun turned then as the officer he was speaking to pointed in Wei Wuxian’s direction and their eyes met.
Wei Wuxian knew those almond-shaped eyes -a brown so pale they approached gold- almost better than he knew his own. He’d never seen them before in this life, but he knew them.
Memories not his own were pouring into him and he staggered. Someone was crying out and Hanguang-jun, no Lan Zhan broke into a run and caught him a few seconds before Wei Wuxian’s knees folded under him.
“Wei Ying!” That voice was familiar, at least. Lan Zhan’s beloved features were pale and drawn with distress. There was a little ectoplasmic blood streaked across his cheek too and Wei Wuxian wished his new set of memories had fewer past examples of that to show him. Lan Zhan should never be upset or dirty, he was irrationally certain. The ghost goo evaporated though, as though it didn’t dare stain such a perfect face. The effect rippled across Wei Wuxian’s entire body giving the illusion of Lan Zhan’s touch burning him clean.
“Huh.” Wei Wuxian patted his zhiji’s cheek as his tenuous hold on consciousness wavered. “Hanguang-jun. I would not have guessed that.”
Lan Zhan held him tighter. “Wei Ying, stay with me.”
“Yes.” Wei Wuxian didn’t realize until a few seconds later that he’d probably meant that as ‘don’t pass out’, but too late.
Wei Wuxian woke up some undetermined amount of time later in a bed with a cool gel pack over his eyes and someone holding his hand. He squeezed it and it was a bit too big to be Shijie or Wen Qing. Wen Ning?
He groped for the pack with an annoyed, sleepy noise and the hand holding his released him. A few seconds later someone took the eye pack away from him.
“Lan Zhan.” Wei Wuxian smiled dopily as a beautiful, albeit annoyed face came into sight. “What’s the matter?” He squinted, noting his own slurred vowels. “Am I on drugs?”
“You are.” Lan Zhan stood to lean over him. At least he didn’t stop touching. He’d changed out of the formal white robes associated with Hanguang-jun and into a pair of plain blue yoga pants with a white t-shirt emblazoned with a Lan cloud over the left breast. Wei Wuxian was wearing something similar, he realized. “You were experiencing odd brain activity when you arrived. Our doctors sedated you so you’d sleep it off. It should wear off shortly now that you’re awake.”
Wei Wuxian let Lan Zhan, his husband from another life what even, help him sit up. They were in an elegantly appointed bedroom. The furniture was very similar to what he remembered occupying the Jingshi although obviously not the same exact items considering those would have been about ...he had to stop and think about how long it would have been and it sucked because it involved multiple calendars. God, that stuff would have been eighteen hundred years old by now.
He stared at Lan Zhan, his immortal husband. “You didn’t ascend,” he said, dumbly.
It had happened almost without warning, he remembered. Lan Zhan had given up cultivating immortality when it became clear that Wei Wuxian would never reach that lofty peak. At first they’d thought it was because Mo Xuanyu had had such a late start in life, but later they realized that his borrowed body had arrived with limitations. No matter how he meditated, Wei Wuxian never grew Mo Xuanyu’s core beyond what it had been at the time of his resurrection so he’d aged much faster than his beautiful husband.
Despite his best intentions, Lan Zhan had seemed destined for Heaven though. He kept up with his cultivation to be strong enough for them to follow the chaos and then later to compensate for his weakening husband. He meditated more often as age began to wear heavily on Wei Wuxian so as to maintain dignity in the face of impending loss.
Wei Wuxian had been pushing two hundred and mostly bedridden with arthritis when Lan Zhan inadvertently stumbled across that final threshold.
Nearly every immortal ascended to Upper Heaven, the realm of immortals, when they achieved perfect cultivation. Lan Zhan nearly had, except he fought it tooth and nail in the way only he would. In the end, he remained determined and earthbound with Wei Wuxian.
He remembered how bitterly they fought about it afterwards.
He remembered his deathbed.
Wei Wuxian closed his eyes. ‘When I’m gone, you need to go,’ he’d said during those last few days, when he’d realized he probably wasn’t going to shake off his final illness. He’d been too old and too delicate to rally and instead he’d begun to fade. Cultivation historians would tear their hair out if they ever found out the mysterious Yiling Laozu had died in bed from the complications of a lingering cold. ‘Trust that I’ll catch up in my next life.’
Lan Zhan’s mouth quirked in amusement. He brushed the hair out of Wei Ying’s eyes. “I told you I wouldn’t go unless you went with me,” he said in the tone of someone who thought they were being perfectly reasonable. “I told you I would wait until you returned to me. I said I would find you again. Did you think I wouldn’t?”
“Stubborn asshole.” Wei Wuxian hauled him in for a very delayed reunion kiss that Lan Zhan hummed a shameless affirmative into.
Then he remembered where Lan Zhan had eventually found him again and had to pull away so he could bury his face in the pillow and scream a little.
“You found me on a cam site!” Wei Wuxian groaned. “Please tell me Zewu-jun doesn’t know.”
A wrinkle appeared between Lan Zhan’s brows and his gaze slid to the right in unmistakable guilt.
“No!” Wei Wuxian burst upright. Adrenaline burned off his sluggishness. “You told!”
“I did not.” Lan Zhan assured him. “Xiongzhang nearly ascended shortly after your death, but he chose to remain earthbound because of me,” he explained. “He has been looking for you as hard as I have, but he used more modern methods. He hired investigators who helped him create a digital mockup of you through old portraits I’d kept. They used facial recognition software to browse through public images on the internet. I don’t understand fully, but they told me it was simple.”
That sounded incredibly complicated and expensive, actually, if you knew anything about facial recognition technology.
“Xiongzhang sorted through the short list of results and found a still taken from your channel that was used in a banner ad somewhere.” Lan Zhan’s ears turned a faint pink. “He brought it to me. I created an account to confirm for myself that it was you. From there, I think you know the rest.”
“In my defense, I was really broke.” Wei Wuxian turned his face back into the pillow. Lan Zhan stroked the back of his head.
“I recall,” he said sadly.
“Hey.” Wei Wuxian sat up and leaned into Lan Zhan’s space. “You found me.”
Lan Zhan smiled with a soft sincerity that nearly killed him all over again and bumped their foreheads together. “I did,” he agreed.
Wei Wuxian dragged him into the bed. They had a reunion to get on with.
Later, once he felt sufficiently reacquainted with the changes time had wrought upon his husband, something occurred to him.
“Wait.” He rolled over onto his back from where he’d been laying half across Lan Zhan’s chest. “Are we still married?”
“I consider us so,” Lan Zhan said and chased after him with a grumpy noise.
“Legally, though,” Wei Wuxian insisted and Lan Zhan frowned in thought.
“Our original union would not be recognized in China,” he allowed after a moment of careful thought and Wei Wuxian did not point out that it had not been really recognized at the time either except by Cloud Recesses, who as a general rule did not give a single shit what people down the mountain thought or did.
That said, Wei Wuxian’s presence in the Jingshi hadn’t really done much to slow down anyone’s attempts to broker a marriage alliance with GusuLan through Lan Zhan either. Lan Xichen didn’t show them the letters past the first few once he’d ascertained that they weren’t interested in adding to their marriage, but Wei Wuxian remembered that the letters kept coming until they were both well into their seventies.
“We both have US citizenship, but in this country they specify death as the end of a marriage in this country as part of the vows.” Lan Zhan frowned. “We need to remarry.”
He looked distant for a moment, but seemed to warm to the idea with a slow, heavy-lidded look that reminded Wei Wuxian of his conversation with Shijie regarding Kardashian-esque engagement rings and...
“Lan Zhan,” he choked groping blindly for his soulmate’s shoulder so he could shake it. “Shijie’s alive.”
“She is.” Lan Zhan covered Wei Wuxian’s hand with his own. Of course he understood. His voice always had that warm glow when Wei Wuxian had talked about her like he was happy for him, but Wei Wuxian had thought it was because Lan Zhan was just glad that he had one good relationship with a family member. No, he’d known something Wei Wuxian hadn’t. “I am looking forward to meeting her again.”
“I’m gonna cry all over her and she won’t even understand why.” Another thing occurred to him and that one landed like a fist. “Zixuan’s alive too…”
How could he look him in the eye?
Lan Zhan pulled Wei Wuxian into his arms. “You two seem to have a different relationship in this life.” He observed.
“That’s putting it mildly.” Wei Wuxian sank into Lan Zhan’s bare chest. “I owe him a lot. He was there for me when he didn’t have to be. It was mostly about Shijie, of course, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t benefit.”
“Will you tell me how?” Lan Zhan asked. “I have been wondering.”
Wei Wuxian felt his mouth draw down into an unhappy bow. “It was after I donated my core,” he started, speaking in jerky fits and starts. He hadn’t told the story except once and not for years.
“Jiang Wanyin?” Lan Zhan guessed.
“Different circumstances...” Wei Wuxian sighed. “...but yes. There was a serial killer operating near Jiang territory. We suspected it was a rogue cultivator, which made it our problem to deal with. He and I were dispatched to look into it. We were like seventeen and not expected to actually capture the guy. We were just meant to do some preliminary field work for the hunting team Jiang-shushu was putting together.”
“It went wrong.” Not a hard guess there.
“It went very wrong. He found out we were on his tail immediately,” he agreed. “The guy was a core melter. I never heard his real name so I don’t know if he taught himself or if he was a state core melter who went rogue. He got a hand on Jiang Cheng before I killed him. It was…” Wei Wuxian closed his eyes against the tidal wave of combined memories. “...fuck, somehow worse than last time. His parents are still alive and his mother was furious. She blamed everyone; me, Jiang-shushu, even Jiang Cheng if he caught her at the wrong moment. Nobody was safe, but Shushu…” Wei Wuxian wet his lips, trying not to remember in too much detail. “...he just stopped paying any attention to Jiang Cheng at all. I don’t know if it was grief or actual indifference, but I know how Jiang Cheng took it.”
He drew a shuddering breath. “He made an unsuccessful suicide attempt before his mom got him onto a core donation list. That pulled him back from the edge for a little bit, but as time went on…” He shook his head. “...Shijie and I couldn’t turn our backs on him. His parents were… I can’t even explain how awful it was. Every minute he stayed alive seemed like a miracle.”
Lan Zhan stroked his hair. “You don’t need to persuade me,” he said softly. “I know what lengths you will go to for your own.”
“Eventually someone from his care team contacted me to see if I was interested. I was from the same cultivation path, we were brothers, we were both male and close in age. I had the best chance of passing it on successfully so I volunteered.” Wasn’t it ironic that he’d always told Jiang Cheng back in their first lives together that he’d do it all over again given half a chance. Well, it turned out he was right. “It was anonymous and I didn’t want his parents to know.”
Lan Zhan frowned and propped himself up on an elbow so he could stare in appropriate disapproval. “Why?”
“Why?” It occurred to Wei Wuxian that Lan Zhan had never really met his foster parents in any incarnation so he didn’t really know how they were. Lucky bastard. “We wouldn’t have survived it is why. Madame Yu would have been all for it. She was fighting for Jiang Cheng’s life despite the things she’d say sometimes. Who knows, she might have actually approved of me afterwards and I don’t know if I could have stood that. Then Shushu reacted so weirdly when Jiang Cheng lost his core. He seemed disappointed, but he wasn’t ever really sad about it. He just went ‘oh well’ and quietly started making me go to more intersect meetings. It didn’t seem like he thought he’d lost anything and I --I just couldn’t take the risk that he’d react differently when it was me. We were always closer than he and Jiang Cheng were. Shijie and I were easier for him to love; safer, maybe.” He shrugged. “Loving Jiang Cheng or his mother means accepting the possibility that sometimes you’re going to get bitten even if they didn’t mean to and I don’t think Shushu ever could.”
There were many things Jiang Cheng could and would forgive. Exchanging the return of his core for confirmation that his father never really liked him was something Wei Wuxian could never, ever risk asking of him. He knew that was his shidi’s greatest fear and the worst part was that it wasn’t an irrational one. Wei Wuxian grew up terrified of the exact same thing just from a different angle. To be honest, he didn’t want confirmation that he’d stolen the love of Jiang Cheng’s father either, not even now.
He grimaced and added, “Of course, my hot recovery plan was to pretend it never happened and fake my cultivation until I could grow my core back. I thought it would go faster than it has and I wasn’t prepared for how long I’d be in recovery. What a little idiot...”
“Wei Ying.” Lan Zhan squeezed him. “Please do not speak of yourself that way.”
“My work suffered,” Wei Wuxian kept going rather than address that. “Madame Yu never much liked me to begin with. It frustrated her that I could coast on natural talent and did. To her it probably looked like I’d suddenly stopped trying and eventually she kicked me out of the sect. Shushu tried to argue, but my performance had been crap lately so he didn’t have much to work with. I was eighteen by then so they weren’t my guardians anymore either. Madame Yu made it clear she’d kick my ass if I tried to stay and my core was gone so I knew I probably wouldn’t survive what she’d think of as just smacking me around some. So I ended up homeless for a little bit.”
Again, Lan Zhan’s grip on him tightened. He settled his chin on Wei Wuxian’s shoulder so his face was out of sight, but he could almost hear Lan Zhan grinding his jaw.
“Jiang Cheng and Zixuan came after me, but by then I’d gotten an infection.” Wei Wuxian hoped he could get through this story without Hanguang-jun killing somebody. “My surgical site never really did close afterwards. I was supposed to have a lot of aftercare, but I didn’t go. My foster parents would have noticed those medical bills and absences. I only got away with the donation because they paid for my part blind and Madame Yu wasn’t really watching my movements at the time. She was focused on Jiang Cheng. I was hanging out in this warehouse where the street kids in the area slept when they found me. They tried to talk me into coming with them and when I refused Jiang Cheng tried to drag me out. I ended up bleeding through my shirt.”
He tried not to remember the horrified comprehension on his foster brother’s face. Jiang Cheng wasn’t an idiot despite the fact that he acted like one a lot of the time. He knew where his own surgical scar was located. He knew when Wei Wuxian’s performance as a cultivator took a sudden inexplicable nosedive. He was smart enough to make the connection.
Unfortunately, Jiang Cheng only had one reaction to shock and horror: overwhelming aggression. Zixuan had to pull Jiang Cheng off him and sometimes he could still feel his brother’s hands around his throat. Like hell he was telling Lan Zhan that part. Someone would end up dead.
“He didn’t take it well and Zixuan ended up taking me to a hospital.” Wei Wuxian said instead. “He didn’t ask me a lot of questions. He just paid the bill and when I could be released he took me back to New York with him. He took me to doctors and, uh, helped me dry out when he figured out how much I’d been self-medicating with alcohol. He introduced me to the NYPD. Jin sect used to do what I do now, but they hated it and no one ever fought me for the work. He helped me get a place of my own when he and Shijie had to leave in exchange for keeping an eye on Mo Xuanyu.”
“Was Mo Xuanyu also one of Jin Guangshan’s illegitimate children in this cycle?” Lan Zhan asked.
“Yeah, same circumstances except he got caught and had to pay reparations to the women whose lives he wrecked.” Wei Wuxian didn’t feel sorry about that at all except somehow it had made Mo Xuanyu’s life even worse for a while.
“I will owe him a debt of gratitude.” Lan Zhan rolled Wei Wuxian onto his back so he could kneel over him and place a hand over his heart. “I was afraid you’d suffer in this life. I’m sorry I didn’t find you in time to stop it. I’m glad someone was there to help.”
“You’re here now.” Wei Wuxian cupped his zhiji’s cheeks because of course that’s what Lan Zhan had been worried about. “That is really all I care about.”
“Mn.” His eyes were soft though as he sank back down into Wei Wuxian’s embrace.
Unfortunately they couldn’t spend the rest of their lives holed up in Lan Zhan’s private quarters screwing and telling each other stories about where they’d been and what they’d done during their separation even though Wei Wuxian was game to try. Lan Zhan had eighteen hundred years of anecdotes to get through so it might take longer than Wei Wuxian could reasonably stay out of contact.
Lan Zhan’s phone rang the following morning and he got out of bed to answer it spectacularly nude. Wei Wuxian stayed in bed to enjoy the view. That was all his now. Again. Whatever.
“Xiongzhang? What is it?” Lan Zhan was quiet for a moment. “Yes, he’s fine now. I was going to ask someone to bring trays… no, I understand.” He turned to Wei Wuxian. “Your sister and her husband have arrived at the tower. They’re concerned that you haven’t been answering your phone.”
“Shit!” Wei Wuxian dove for it, but the battery was totally dead. Lan Zhan was an iPhone person so there hadn’t been a convenient cord for his poor android. He held up the black screen for Lan Zhan to see. “The battery is gone.”
“Ah. Please beg their forgiveness on my behalf.” Lan Zhan turned away, ears pink again. “His phone died before he woke up and I did not think to find a charger for it. Thank you. We will be out shortly.”
Wei Wuxian did end up back in his night hunt gear; black BDUs, a dark red t-shirt that didn’t show bloodstains too much, and a long black canvas jacket that made Lan Zhan’s pale eyes shine red in the sunlight.
Lan Zhan meanwhile was dressed down, for him. He wore pale blue slacks and a white dress shirt with the sleeves folded back over a thin draping cardigan that moved a bit like his old robes did. His hair was still up in a filigree silver guan set with a white jade stake since neither he nor Zewu-jun seemed at all inclined to give up their hairstyles or jewelry.
“Hang in there, Bun,” Wei Wuxian murmured as they made their way out to the lounge that Lan Zhan shared with Lan Xichen and the occasional guest. “You can take it off me later.”
Lan Zhan’s gaze softened and he kissed Wei Wuxian on the cheek. “I did not think to hear that name again after you remembered,” he confessed. “I would have missed it.”
“Me too, Hanguang- bun.” Wei Wuxian snickered and got bitten on the neck for his trouble.
The lounge was basically two couches facing each other. Yanli and Zixuan were sitting on one side both wide-eyed and in frozen awe because sitting opposite them was Zewu-jun himself.
He was the first one on his feet when they entered. “Wuxian!” He hauled Wei Wuxian into a bear hug that made every rib he possessed creak in protest. “I’m so relieved to have you back. We have been worried out of our minds.” His eyes were shining when he pulled away.
They’d had a rocky start in that other life, yes, but after that they’d been in-laws for over a century and a half. Wei Wuxian felt heat build in his eyes too.
“Xichen, I’m glad to be back.” He chuckled damply. “You were taking better care of me than you know. I got a CD you need to sign for me.”
“So I’ve heard!” Xichen bustled them over to the sofas as one thousand eight hundred years of frustrated paternal fussing came to the fore. “I will sign it! I’ll even have it framed so you never try to use it in lieu of medical care ever again. I was very upset to hear that! You will not do it anymore.”
“No, Dabo. Lan Zhan would never let me,” he agreed and met his sister’s stunned gaze. “Uh, so… it turns out I used to know them.”
“I’m seeing that,” she agreed faintly. “Correct me if I’m wrong, but ‘dabo’ is…” She trailed off looking to Zixuan. The Jiang sect didn’t speak much Chinese among themselves. They were one of the first sects to emigrate and had been under stronger pressure to assimilate. She spoke Mandarin alright, but the different family words threw them all for a loop sometimes if it was one they didn’t use often.
“Husband’s older brother,” Zixuan translated as he turned his own gobsmacked expression on Hanguang-jun.
“Are you still married?” Xichen asked. “For yourselves I’m sure yes, but…” He trailed off in thought, thinking through the knotty entanglements of gay marriage and reincarnation.
“We have agreed to call it a vow renewal,” Lan Zhan said and turned to Yanli with a slight bow that was still deeper than anything an immortal owed anyone. “I do not think you will recognize me, Jin-er-furen, we were not close when I knew you last, yet we were friendly. I remember you and I am pleased to make your acquaintance once more.”
“Oh, I…” She looked at Wei Wuxian with a tremulous joy awakening in her eyes. “...A-Xian?”
He smiled, feeling more settled in his bones than ever in his living memory. “I’ve always been your shidi, Shijie.”
“I knew it!” She clenched her fists and pumped them in the air in victory, making the lace flounces on her blouse bob. “I knew it and mom said I was making it up. You were too little to remember, but when dad brought you home you, Jiang Cheng, and I all started crying over each other. You and A-Cheng cried so hard you passed out and had to be carried to bed. Do you remember how A-Cheng would follow you around? It was like he thought you’d vanish and he never liked other kids before that.”
He and Jiang Cheng had been closer in age during their previous lives, but in this one there’d been a difference of three years which was a large gap considering he’d been brought to Lotus Pier at age seven. He shouldn’t have been on the hunt that ended with him losing his core, except for the pressure his mother put on him to excel as the sect heir. Wei Wuxian had honestly been too young for it either, but it had taken longer for him to come to terms with that too.
“Yeah. We were all siblings before.” Huh, actually. “Shushu and Madame Yu were there too.”
Yanli jerked back as though he’d smacked her on the nose. “So she knew I wasn’t making it up too. Why aren’t I surprised?” Her cheeks turned pink and Zixuan reached over to stroke her back. They didn’t discuss it much, but Yanli had gone minimal contact with her home sect within a few years of her marriage. Jiang Cheng and sect politics were probably the only reason she still picked up the phone when Lotus Pier called.
Zixuan was still staring. “You --you’re Hanguang-jun.” Apparently he was still stuck on that. “You two were --married?”
“We were.” Lan Zhan agreed with patience that only Wei Wuxian and maybe Xichen could tell was starting to wear.
Zixuan turned his shock and dawning horror on Wei Wuxian.
“What?” Wei Wuxian patted his face to see if there was something on it.
“Hanguang-jun’s only known spouse was the Yiling Patriarch,” Zixuan wheezed.
The word smacked Wei Wuxian right in the brain like Lan Zhan’s face, but worse. Memories of Lan Zhan could only be a good thing, but the name ‘Yiling Laozu’ brought with it blood, death, blood, and agony. He didn’t usually have a delicate stomach, but Wei Wuxian coughed once --then gagged --then he made a dash for Lan Zhan’s quarters, which contained the only bathroom in Lan Tower that he knew about.
Like any cultivator with a decent education, he knew about the Yiling Laozu, and had been largely okay with the guy. He was the grandmaster of demonic cultivation and a very famous teaching example of what it looked like when you lost at Sect reputation politics, but knowing about himself from a textbook and having the real visceral memories of the things he’d had to do to survive his own fate back then were two very different things.
The textbooks mentioned that he’d spent an unknown amount of time in the ancient Yiling Burial Mounds after the first fall of the original Lotus Pier. They made it sound like a deliberate retreat from the world and that he’d done it by choice rather than being thrown in from a height that was nauseating even to consider. They didn’t say he’d been trapped there mostly or that he’d been in consistent pain for the remainder of his short life.
Wei Wuxian remembered it all in vivid detail, almost as bad as living it over again. It echoed with his memories of losing his core, struggling to maintain a facade of normalcy when all he wanted to do was curl up in a miserable ball forever, then of that godforsaken warehouse always sleeping with one eye open lest he get jumped by the other kids, and the constant basenote of pain that became his life until Zixuan browbeat a doctor into giving him some fucking morphine already. The two memories blurred into one horrific entity.
Lan Zhan slid into the bathroom after him and held his hair without comment as Wei Wuxian lost what little he had in his stomach.
Yanli came to kneel next to him. “A-Xian, are you alright?” She got a damp washcloth and offered it to him to wipe his face with.
“I’m still getting things back,” he rasped. “I remembered Lan Zhan, but I didn’t… would you believe I wasn’t thinking about me or who I was?”
“I would, actually.” She smiled sadly. “Do you want a ginger ale? I bet there’s a vending machine here somewhere.”
“Allow me.” Lan Zhan disappeared for a few minutes and came back with a squat ceramic tea cup that had been filled with ginger ale.
“Let it fizz for a minute,” Yanli told him. “It won’t help until it’s a little flat.”
He let his sister and soulmate fuss over him until it was clear that he wasn’t going to puke again. Then he let Lan Zhan carry him out of the bathroom. He didn’t bother with the lounge again and put Wei Wuxian straight into bed with a brief pause to pointedly take his shoes off.
“I’m not an invalid!” he groused as Lan Zhan covered his lap with the blankets and just got another forehead kiss -from both of them, sheesh- for his trouble.
“This is our fault,” Yanli apologized to Lan Zhan. “We should have waited until you two spoke to a doctor before we visited. I wasn’t thinking at all.”
There was a knock at the door. Zixuan and Xichen entered at Lan Zhan’s invitation. The latter looked concerned. The former just looked plain miserable.
“Being the Yiling Laozu sucked,” Wei Wuxian informed him without preamble. “Like, even worse than in history class and I didn’t even know that was possible.”
“Yeah?” Zixuan came over with his hands crammed guiltily in his pockets. “Look, I didn’t mean to…” He turned a dull shade of red.
“You couldn’t know.” Wei Wuxian punched him in the thigh, which earned him half a smile. “Forget about it.”
Yanli gave him another kiss. “We need to go check on the apartment and get your bag. Zewu-jun told us that you ended up here early. Zixuan is getting us a hotel room closer to the tower, but I’ll put up a basic ward before we leave, ok?”
“Ah.” Lan Zhan straightened up. “That will not be necessary.” He turned to glance in Wei Wuxian’s direction. “It may be for the best if I return with Wei Ying back to his apartment sooner rather than later.”
Xichen seemed to catch the direction of his thoughts. “Ah.” He frowned and explained, looking a bit embarrassed. “We have many personal possessions on display in the Tower, come to think of it. If Wuxian is still making memory connections then many of them could be latent triggers. Some of them were his.”
“Chenqing and Suibian are on display here,” Wei Wuxian realized out loud. He’d known that even before he’d realized he had any personal connection to those artifacts. It was kind of crazy. He’d been looking forward to seeing the original Ghost Flute as a potential cute date idea. That time he bopped Lan Zhan with his fist. “You enormous sap.”
Lan Zhan caught his hand and lifted it to kiss his knuckles. “I am,” he agreed.
“Let me find you two a guest room,” Xichen offered as he not-so-subtly guided Yanli and Zixuan back into the hall. “Family shouldn’t have to bother with hotels.”
“Text me later, A-Xian,” Yanli called over her shoulder. “We’ll make plans tomorrow once you’re feeling better.”
“Sure thing, Shijie.” He sagged into Lan Zhan as soon as the door closed. “Is it bad that I’m missing the blindfold a little bit right now?”
“You may become reacquainted with it when we attempt to leave the Tower. There are two exhibits that we cannot avoid and will likely cause you distress.” Lan Zhan pushed him to lay down, but his hands also went for Wei Wuxian’s fly so not everything was terrible.
...or maybe it was. Wei Wuxian covered his own eyes.
“Lan Zhan!” He groaned, “You put the reincarnated Yiling Laozu in a cock cage!”
“I have done a great many things to and with the Yiling Laozu, reincarnated or otherwise,” Lan Zhan agreed without demurral. His fingertips dipped below the waistband of Wei Wuxian’s briefs and his gaze flicked upwards, getting hot. “The things we did before you and I were reunited.” He wet his lips. “I would like to continue.”
So, correction; he intended to keep putting the reincarnated Yiling Laozu in a cock cage and every part of Wei Wuxian -past, present, and likely future- was on board with it, so he nodded his assent.
The cage had disappeared while he was knocked out, but Wei Wuxian assumed Lan Zhan had slipped it off him before any medical professionals had a chance to notice it. Sure enough, he produced it from the nightstand adjacent to the bed along with the digital lock.
Wei Wuxian shimmied his briefs and BDUs down his legs to give his husband unimpeded access.
It wasn’t the first time Lan Zhan had locked him down, but this was the first time Wei Wuxian had ever gotten to watch him do it. His mouth went dry as Lan Zhan took him into his warm hands with a look of possessive satisfaction in his pale eyes and… okay.
He’d probably made that face every time, except Wei Wuxian hadn’t been able to see it. Maybe he didn’t miss the blindfold after all.
“You’re gonna need to work fast,” Wei Wuxian warned his husband and squeezed his eyes shut before his libido made the task impossible. He breathed a sigh of relief as he heard the lock engage and luxuriated for a moment in the headspace it transported him into. He let his eyes flutter softly open. “Hm, I like that I’m Gege’s private property.”
The shiver that wracked Lan Zhan’s entire body was a sight to behold. His eyes had a red cast to them when he lifted them to meet Wei Wuxian’s. “As do I.” The heat dimmed as unhappiness flickered across his handsome features. “I was untruthful before,” he admitted quietly.
“About what?” Wei Wuxian tugged him closer and was privately glad that he was finally trusted with this vulnerable aspect of Lan Zhan. He hadn’t known what he was missing until suddenly he was.
“I want to return to your place.” Lan Zhan allowed himself to be folded into a hug. “Merely because I want to, not solely because I am concerned for your welfare. I have wanted to return there since the moment I left. I want to live there with you.” He pressed his face into the hollow of Wei Wuxian’s throat. “I have missed you. I am less in your absence. I did not involve myself with this world beyond my night hunts and the needs of Lan Tower and I did not realize how much I had missed until you returned to me. I want to experience this new age with you.”
Wei Wuxian hadn’t wanted to say anything, but he wasn’t surprised. Lan Zhan’s quarters looked like a high-end guest room. They looked like the kind of place you’d refer to as ‘quarters’ despite the nice furniture. The night before they’d had to hide under the blankets and pretend to be asleep as two novices came through to tidy up and empty trash bins. There was no kitchen either.
His apartment, meanwhile, had been put together with comfort first in mind. Everything was soft and easy on the eye except for his empty picture frames.
“Good, I want that too.” Wei Wuxian grinned at Lan Zhan’s startled look. “I just got you back, Bun. We didn’t spend more than a few days apart for the entire one hundred and sixty years we were married. Did you think I got less clingy in this life? I want to see you in every corner of the apartment --except for the couch until it gets cleaned.”
The tense line of Lan Zhan’s shoulder eased. “Do not bother. I am replacing it.” He smiled like the breaking dawn as he said it.
“You can’t replace our furniture every time someone you don’t like sits on it,” Wei Wuxian warned him.
Lan Zhan’s mulish expression said that he not only could, but would, so Wei Wuxian patted his side. “Come on babe. Let's pack you a bag and make a break for it.”
They had to take an Uber back to Wei Wuxian’s place. Lan Zhan was back in Normal Person™ drag, but carried an honest-to-god qiankun duffle bag with him that contained most everything he owned that wasn’t either actual furniture or on loan to the Tower exhibits.
Considering everything in his fridge was either spicy, meat, or spicy meat and he did not forsee either of them caring to leave the apartment for more than visiting with Shijie or Xichen, Wei Wuxian put together a grocery order, while they sat in traffic with Lan Zhan watching over his shoulder in rapt fascination.
He wasn’t the only one who breathed a sigh of relief as his door closed behind them though. Lan Zhan set his bag down in the foyer, picked Wei Wuxian up in a bridal carry and made straight for the bedroom.
Having slept on the thin ancient-type mattress Lan Zhan had in his rooms -it was all very authentic and fit the Lan aesthetic, but come on- Wei Wuxian wasn’t protesting over a midmorning fuck followed by a nap on memory foam like a civilized person. He’d slept on beds like that for a whole lifetime and been perfectly content, but he knew better now ok?
He slept harder than he meant to -probably on account of the memory stuff taking a harder toll on him than he’d allowed for- and woke up to the sound of Lan Zhan reassembling his toy display in the closet shelves, occasionally consulting a picture on his phone as he did so.
Wei Wuxian squinted at the rest of his closet and was relieved to see that a glittering selection of pale clothing and silver accessories had taken up half the space in there.
“I’m thinking I need a cabinet for those.” He stretched out underneath the blankets. “Something that locks and keeps dust off.”
“A glass front perhaps? With lights?” Lan Zhan willfully ignored his oblique suggestion that maybe the sex toys shouldn’t live on display. Then again, Wei Wuxian had never seen the heat in his eyes when he looked at them before either.
Sure, okay, most everything he had left after the Big Sexy Purge represented vivid memories with Lan Zhan of sexy times past, but still. They didn’t need to supplement with toys anymore and he didn’t want to have a packing project every time he had someone over.
Then again, if Lan Zhan made that face every time he looked in there then maybe they’d just curtain off the closet when people were around and call it good.
Lan Zhan adjusted the angle on, god help him, a glow-in-the-dark rainbow glitter unicorn horn dildo that Wei Wuxian had once sent him a picture of as a joke back before he’d internalized the fact that Lan Zhan never shied away from sex stuff. He would escalate every time so long as pain wasn’t involved. Lan Zhan had ordered the biggest one Bad Dragon had in stock and then made Wei Wuxian ride it during a show while wearing a pink ball gag, body glitter, and nothing else. Safe to say Lan Zhan wasn’t the one who’d ended up embarrassed.
“You’re smiling,” Lan Zhan observed from where he was seated on the floor in front of the toy display.
“Just a nice memory.” Wei Wuxian chuckled and got out of bed to go find some pants that weren't part of his discarded hunting gear, all of which had vanished off the floor while he slept. He dropped a kiss on the top of Lan Zhan’s head as he passed.
He found some shorts and the least-rude graphic t-shirt he owned, got dressed, and then turned to find Lan Zhan watching him with a fond smile. There was no reason not to go over and sit in his husband’s lap, so he did.
“Are you feeling better?” Lan Zhan asked. He took one of Wei Wuxian’s wrists to feel his pulse, which was such an old-fashioned thing to do Wei Wuxian could hardly stand it.
“The doctors said I should be fine unless I run into another trigger.” Wei Wuxian chuckled as Lan Zhan lifted him up and carried him into the living room. He skipped the couch -it was apparently still on his shit list- and sat him down on the big ottoman that doubled as a coffee table in there.
Lan Zhan knelt on the rug in front of him and put a hand on his sternum. “Your core has stabilized,” he agreed and his expression grew solemn. “Wei Ying, do you remember the promise you made to me?”
He’d made Lan Zhan a lot of promises over the years and hadn’t been able to keep them all.
Of course, Lan Zhan knew better than to rely on Wei Wuxian’s notoriously unreliable memory. Especially now. “You promised that if I found you again that you’d do whatever it took to achieve immortality in this life.” His gaze bored into Wei Wuxian’s eyes. “You swore you would not leave me a third time.”
A pang rocked Wei Wuxian’s chest right where his first core used to be, where he only had a fragile shell for his second. “Lan Zhan, I…” He wet his lips. “...I’m so sorry.”
Lan Zhan shook his head. “No recriminations, Wei Ying. That’s not what I want.” He put a hand on Wei Wuxian’s knee. “Promise me again. Promise to try.”
How could he say no?
“I promise.” Wei Wuxian slid forward so he was sitting on the ground in between Lan Zhan’s knees and pulled Lan Zhan’s hand up to cup his cheek and leaned into it with his eyes shut. “Whatever I can do, I’ll try it.”
To clarify, he was not watching Lan Zhan’s other hand.
“You swear?” Lan Zhan’s voice was low and rough with emotion.
“I swear, La-ah!” Wei Wuxian’s eyes snapped open as something popped into his mouth. It --it tasted like a lotus seed? He crunched it between his teeth and swallowed on reflex.
The determined look on his husband’s face was the only warning he got.
Spiritual energy exploded in his chest. He gasped and scrabbled for Lan Zhan’s shoulders as he tried to contain and absorb the supernova settling in his chest. His husband looped his arms and wrapped a net of his shining, cool spiritual force around Wei Wuxian’s torso. Whatever slipped Wei Wuxian’s grasp failed to elude Lan Zhan’s. Between the two of them they forced the spiritual bloom to condense back down, down, down into Wei Wuxian’s golden core.
“Wha…” Wei Wuxian wheezed, slumped over in Lan Zhan’s arms afterwards once his core had absorbed the miracle pill his husband had slipped him. “...t the fuck was that?”
“A thousand year lotus pill,” Lan Zhan confessed quietly.
Wei Wuxian’s cheek twitched hard. “A thousand year… lotus pill?” He swatted Lan Zhan. “You wasted a thousand year lotus pill on me!?”
The heat throbbing in his chest lent him more strength than he’d intended to put into the smack and he had to struggle with it for a minute. His core felt like he’d never given it away, like he wasn’t missing seven crucial years of cultivation.
Any other cultivator who’d taken that pill would have been two-thirds of the way to immortality by now. The last time one had made it to auction it had been very nearly rotten and still sold for two and a half billion dollars.
“It is not a waste.” Lan Zhan didn’t shake him but he was clearly imagining it. “Wei Ying, that pill has been in my possession for five hundred years. I have kept it for you and no one else. You just swore to me that you would do anything.”
Wei Wuxian felt faint. “I… I will…” He gulped. “...but Lan Zhan…”
“I’m already immortal.” Lan Zhan held him closer. “What other use could I have for it?”
“You could have given it to some deserving junior or even sold it!” Wei Wuxian threw up his hands in exasperation.
“I have.” Lan Zhan replied, unbothered, then explained as Wei Wuxian boggled. “I have done so in the past with the others I have located.” His mouth quirked in the barest ghost of annoyance. “They do not last an entire millenium. Periodically I have to dispose of them.”
“Them.” Wei Wuxian’s stress tic was back. “You have more than one.”
“It will be some time before you can safely absorb another.” Lan Zhan darted in with a savage kiss and growled, “I refuse to lose you again.”
Wei Wuxian gave up and squished his husband’s cheeks between his hands. He took a breath, let it out, and acknowledged that he’d made that promise and that maybe Lan Zhan had correctly predicted the degree to which Wei Wuxian would kick and scream rather than eat a priceless medical treasure.
“Lan Zhan, ah!” He touched their foreheads together and reminded himself that it had been a longer time for Lan Zhan than it had been for him. What wouldn’t he do if it would keep Lan Zhan from being taken from him? He gave his husband a wicked smile. “You really shouldn’t have done that before we worked out a chore chart. Lucky for me, though.”
Lan Zhan blinked in his confusion and Wei Wuxian patted his cheeks. He’d survive scrubbing the bathroom and being on permanent garbage duty. Probably.
“It’s alright,” he cooed. “I won’t be too mean about it.”
A week later…
Wei Wuxian walked into his favorite brunch joint with Lan Zhan’s hand in his back pocket. Lan Zhan turned heads as they entered, but not because anyone recognized him as Hanguang-jun. It was because he was a big beautiful man in glittering white and enormous movie star sunglasses. He’d left off his headband because they didn’t want to run any risk of attracting paparazzi on this outing.
They weren’t ‘out’ yet. Xichen had a tentative plan that involved a press release once they’d had a private ceremony so they didn’t have to invite anyone from the Sects and that involved both of them maintaining a low profile in the interim. Wei Wuxian had no complaints since that meant he basically split his time between being locked in the lab and locked in his bedroom.
They were disgusting in their domesticity. Lan Zhan had especially taken to cohabitation away from the quasi-commune environment of Lan Tower, where privacy was for other people. He’d started cooking again after what had apparently been a very long break because he struggled with the stovetop for a bit at first, but eventually struck a comfortable balance between GusuLan cuisine and real flavor.
They were on a waiting list with a purebred rabbit breeder for a pair of Silver Martens after Wei Wuxian caught Lan Zhan torturing himself with pictures. He had an entire Pinterest board dedicated to the topic. If Wei Wuxian exhibited the slightest interest in something then Lan Zhan made it appear through sheer willpower, but if Lan Zhan wanted something for himself he had to sit on it for twenty years before deciding he was Too Busy and Unavailable to a Pet and other bullshit Wei Wuxian had stopped listening to after he found an email address on the Rare Breeds website Lan Zhan had been cruising at the time.
Wen Ning perked up as he spotted them and started to wave, but broke off with a confused squint as they got close enough for him to get a good look at Lan Zhan.
“Did…” Wen Ning leaned back from them, looking concerned and hissed quietly. “...Wuxian, I think I knew him!”
“We did,” Lan Zhan confirmed.
“Um…I don’t feel like we were friends.” Wen Ning sounded kind of broken up about it, switching his big sad gaze between Wei Wuxian and Lan Zhan.
“It was complicated.” Wei Wuxian patted his hand and pulled out a chair for his husband/fiance. “You’re friends now.” His tone did not brook any argument.
Lan Zhan accepted it with grace. “I was very jealous of you when we were young and we never had an opportunity to repair the relationship later.” He bowed slightly. “I apologize to have left such a lasting mark on you.”
“I…” Wen Ning boggled. “...how were YOU jealous of Me?” he yelped, scandalized at the very thought.
“You and Wei Ying were very close,” Lan Zhan admitted. “Your friendship seemed effortless in the face of great adversity. I struggle even now with personal relationships.”
Wei Wuxian leaned into his side. None of this was news to him, exactly. He’d been married to Lan Zhan a long time the first time, but he was proud of the man for talking about it and making amends where he could. “They have mocktails here if you want one. We don’t usually order food until everyone’s here and Qing-jie might be late. She’s bringing a dude and had to go get him from his hotel.”
“O-oh, you don’t drink?” Wen Ning perked up. He was probably really happy to have a potential sober buddy. Wei Wuxian and Wen Qing could drink hard and did. “Me neither!” He grinned and handed Lan Zhan the virgin cocktails list so they could go over it.
Wei Wuxian watched them with their heads bent together -a tableau he never would have expected to see in that past life- and felt happier than he’d been in years.
He could be content like this, he realized; weekend brunches with his friends, slowly growing the group to include their partners, spending his days in the lab, and then going home to his husband and rabbits.
‘It’s going to be peaceful days from here on out,’ he thought to himself and didn’t hate it at all.
A flicker of red caught his eye and he turned to greet Wen Qing. She was wearing a sundress patterned all over in cherries; softer than anything he’d ever seen her in. Her attention, however, was on Lan Zhan. “Wuxian, you weren’t kidding.”
“I never do!” Wei Wuxian lied and turned to greet her date. “Hey, nice to…”
Jiang Cheng’s furious eyes met his a few seconds before all hell broke loose --as usual.