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Love in all forms, something tender

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1

Wei Wuxian doesn’t know when it starts. He thinks it starts even before they get together. When Lan Zhan steps between him and anything that seeks to harm him. It doesn’t take long for him to let his guard down and trust. Trust Lan Zhan to protect him, trust him with his personal thoughts, trust him with his heart, mind, and body.

They take their bows and something shifts, so subtle that Wei Wuxian doesn’t even notice it at first. It starts with Lan Zhan prying him off the bed, placing him in the bathtub, rinsing his hair, and wrapping him up to keep him warm. It starts with carefully prepared meals that suit his palate and help his body recover.

Then, one day, when the chill of Cloud Recesses gets to him, things shift a little further.

“Lan Zhannnn,” He moans, feeling flushed and unreasonably warm. He sniffles and leans against his husband, his eyes feeling dry and itchy, his throat sore, and his body heavy, “Lan Zhannnn, I feel miserable,” He turns his face and buries it in his husband’s shoulder. Unfortunately, his nose is too blocked to breathe in his husband’s sandalwood fragrance. He whines at the loss.

“You must eat,” Lan Zhan gently coerces him away, touching his flushed face with cool fingers, “Eat, medicine, rest.”

Wei Wuxian absolutely doesn’t feel like eating. His tongue tastes like dead fish and his throat feels too dry to swallow anything. “Wei Ying,” Lan Zhan reprimands gently when he frowns down at the bowl of broth before him, “Beloved,” Wei Wuxian flushes as Lan Zhan’s voice becomes low, caressing. A gentle hand cups the back of his head and brings the bowl to his lips, “Just small sips, please.”

Lan Zhan is nothing if not persistent and Wei Wuxian is so weak against his husband’s pleading expression. He tentatively takes a few sips, grimacing in discomfort. Lan Zhan hums under his breath, his voice deep and soothing. The tune is familiar and Wei Wuxian sinks into it, giving himself into the care of his husband. Under Lan Zhan’s gentle touch and soothing voice, he slowly finishes the broth and leans against the solid presence beside him.

Lan Zhan’s hand is heavy and comforting on the back of his neck, a thumb gently caressing the back of his ear. He closes his eyes.

It is pleasant.

“Medicine,” Lan Zhan’s voice is faint but his body responds to him nonetheless. He parts his lips obligingly as his husband feeds him the bitter concoction, only moaning in faint protest at the taste. Lan Zhan shushes him, pressing a light kiss to his forehead and murmuring a few endearments in his ear. He feels one, two, three more kisses on various parts of his face and smiles sleepily, nuzzling close and leaning into the loving attention.

Encouraged by his sleepy contentment, Lan Zhan presses a few more kisses, cupping his face like he’s something immeasurably precious. Wei Wuxian feels warm spiritual energy slip into his body and circle around his fledgling Golden Core and hums.

Wei Wuxian is only vaguely aware of Lan Zhan pulling him to his feet, stripping him of all outer layers. He doesn’t even protest when his husband carries him effortlessly and places him on their bed. Within a blink, he’s asleep, happy and content.

---

2

“... alright?” Wei Wuxian feels a gentle hand on his forehead, unfamiliar but soothing. He blinks his eyes open but shuts them again quickly. His temples are throbbing and he feels worse than before.

Lan Zhan,” He whines, “Medicine didn’t work.”

“Wangji has gone to fetch some more medicine, Wuxian,” It takes several long, painful moments for him to recognize Lan Xichen’s voice. Wei Wuxian moans in protest because he wants his husband here. He blinks his eyes, feeling cool tears slide down his temple and into his hair. Xichen hisses softly, wiping them away before wrapping cool fingers around his wrist. The spiritual energy is similar to Lan Zhan but somehow lighter, less potent.

Nevertheless, it helps ease the pain in his temples and he blinks his irritated eyes some more.

“Zewu-jun?” He asks hoarsely, “Lan Zhan?”

Xichen’s voice is dripping with concern as he places his free hand on Wei Wuxian’s forehead again, “He has gone to fetch medicine,” He blinks again and Xichen looks to the side, “Go to the healing pavilion. Wangji should be there, ask him to fetch the doctor as well.”

It is… Sizhui’s voice that replies, “Yes, Zewu-jun.”

Wei Wuxian feels a jolt in his chest, “a-Yuan, no, don’t go-”

Xichen leans over him and Wei Wuxian blinks, his mind foggy, “Zewu-jun?”

“Wuxian,” His brother-in-law greets back, he looks very worried, “Don’t speak, just rest. You are very ill, I’m afraid.”

“Lan Zhan?” Why is his husband not here if he’s ill?

“Wangji will just be a moment,” Zewu-jun assures and Wei Ying blinks, feeling cool fingers touch his forehead, cheek, and neck. He leans into the gentleness, smiling absently, “Cool, nice. Lan Zhan? Where?”

“Just a moment, didi,” Zewu-jun soothes, combing his fingers through his hair, “Ah, your hair is still tied up. Let’s loosen it a little, shall we?

“Mn,” Wei Wuxian closes his eyes, relaxing as his brother-in-law releases his hair ribbon and sets it aside. The tension in his temple eases a little more but his scalp tingles and feels tender. The older man doesn’t hesitate to run fingers through sweat-damp hair and spread the strands over the pillow, “Lan Zhan?”

“Just a moment more,” Zewu-jun sounds amused and he opens his eyes to squint at him. There’s a gentle smile on the First Jade’s face though his eyes look concerned, “The heavens can’t keep your Lan Zhan from your side, didi.” He assures, his fingers massaging Wei Wuxian’s temple. He feels his entire body relax and closes his eyes again.

“...making fun,” He complains with a pout even as something in him blooms with warmth. He is usually more guarded in Lan Xichen’s company, knowing that Zewu-jun has only accepted him into the family for Lan Zhan’s sake but they have both worked to bridge the gap. It feels nice to see proof of that healing on the older man’s face.

“As is my right,” Lan Xichen says, running a thumb soothingly along his hairline, “I don’t spare Wangji, why would I spare you, hm?”

“Da-ge,” He murmurs, turning to press his face against the sheets, “Sick.”

“I can see,” A hand rests on his head and Wei Wuxian feels the last wall between them crumble into dust. Zewu-jun is a Lan; he doesn’t lie with words or with gestures.

“Lan Zhan?” His question is a bit cheeky this time.

Xichen-ge taps his forehead with a finger in reprimand, “Just a moment, didi.”

The awaited moment arrives in a blink. He hears Lan Zhan’s voice before he sees him and he looks up, ignoring the throbbing in his head. He disregards everyone’s presence and reaches for his husband, “Lan Zhan,

His husband looks visibly worried, his brows furrowed and lips pursed. Wei Wuxian soon finds himself plucked from the bed and placed on his husband’s lap. He leans against the warm body at his back and blinks blearily up at the old man before him, “Lan dai-fu,” He points a finger at him accusingly, staring at his arm as it trembles, “Medicine didn’t work.” He doesn’t like bitter things and he has been forced to swallow far too many herbs in the past few days with no payoff.

“He feels warmer,” Lan Zhan’s voice is lined with worry and Wei Wuxian frowns, tapping his arm to banish the concern.

“He’s being forgetful as well,” Xichen-ge adds. Wei Wuxian notices that his fingers are still wrapped around his wrist and there’s still a gentle influx of spiritual energy circulating in his meridians. He is surrounded by worried Lans, Wei Wuxian notices, looking beyond the doctor and Lan Xichen to see Sizhui and Jingyi lingering by the door.

He squints.

Is that Lan Qiren at the end of Jingshi’s path?

---

3

“Baba,” Wei Wuxian would argue that Sizhui’s voice is the sweetest thing he has ever heard. It was a sweet thing when he was just a child following his Xian-ge around and it is a sweet thing now, when he’s an adult and nursing his parent back to health. Fatigue sits heavy on his bones but he musters a smile under his precious son’s worried gaze, “How do you feel?”

“Miserable,” He says with a faint grin, “Your a-die won’t let me stir from bed and your bofu has taken this opportunity to saddle me with paperwork.” He gestures towards the scrolls piled neatly by his bed. Xichen often has Wei Wuxian go over trade agreements and land dispute letters. He knows it is partly for his sake, to make him feel welcome by handing him some familial responsibilities. But he also knows he has been of material help. There have been times he has caught lies, unfair clauses, and nuances that Zewu-jun has missed.

Sizhui smiles in amusement, reaching forward to tuck the sheets around Wei Wuxian properly, “Well, that will keep your mind engaged at least,” He sits back once he is satisfied, “I know you dislike being idle.”

“Aiya, baobei, you make me feel like a child sometimes,” He chuckles and reaches forward to tuck at Sizhui’s forehead ribbon, a silent gesture of affection they have developed over the past year. It scandalizes the elders sometimes but he knows his little family appreciates it, “Entertain me with tales of your recent nighthunt with Wen Ning.” He requests as he settles into the bed, “Were you able to resolve the situation fully? Do we need to send additional assistance to set up protections?”

Sizhui nods, “I’ve already mentioned the aid requirements in my report to Hanguang-jun,” Wei Wuxian is always charmed by how clearly Sizhui maintains the divide between his duties and personal life. When he’s talking about work, he always addresses them by their titles, “The temporary measures we put in place should protect them for now.”

Wei Wuxian nods, reaching for the tea set aside for him. He has barely spoken a few words but his throat already feels rough.

His ridiculous son doesn’t even allow that, “No baba, it has been sitting out for too long, let me brew a new pot,” Wei Wuxian sighs but doesn’t protest. His throat feels too sore for him to drink something cold. He watches Sizhui prepare tea, smiling when he sees echoes of Lan Zhan in his gestures. The way he tucks his sleeve away, the angle of his wrist as he pours, the gentle and measured movements.

“Aiya, my heart,” He murmurs under his breath, shaking his head when Sizhui glances at him in question. There has to be a name for the warmth he feels when he sees Lan Zhan’s influence so clearly in their son. Is it pride? Is it love? A mix of both? All he can think is ‘mine’.

He leans back and closes his eyes, feeling fatigue tugging at him. He doesn’t even realize he has drifted off to sleep until a bout of coughs shakes him awake. He sits up quickly, rubbing his chest as he coughs into his hand. His chest aches and his throat feels raw.

“Baba!”

“Wei Ying!”

Two pairs of hands brace him and Wei Wuxian closes his stinging eyes, feeling quite pitiful. He leans into his husband’s warmth, taking careful, measured breaths to avoid another painful coughing fit. Lan Zhan cups his face with one hand curling around him almost protectively. He can feel Sizhui rubbing his back.

It takes a few moments for him to settle but his two precious boys continue to fuss over him even as he relaxes into the bed. He doesn’t dare lay down again but he willingly takes sips of the hot tea Sizhui makes him drink, smiling a little wryly when his son blows over the tea between every sip to make sure it is a comfortable temperature.

Such a filial child.

The warmth from the tea and a clear fragrance of eucalyptus oil lingering in the air helps clear his airways a little and he sighs, “Lan Zhannn, your poor Wei Ying is miserable.”

Lan Zhan pulls him closer, pressing a kiss against his forehead and rubbing his arm. Sizhui hovers nearby, half kneeling on the bed and looking so heartbreakingly concerned, “Aiya, baobei, it is just a cold. I’m sure I’ll be fine in just a few days.”

“Mn,” Lan Zhan agrees, “He isn’t coughing as often during the night, Sizhui. Wei Ying will recover soon.”

Their child’s worried expression softens a bit and he nods. But he is still concerned enough to sway forward, slipping into Wei Wuxian’s arms without even a pause. He huffs out a low laugh before wrapping Sizhui in an embrace, nuzzling into his hair with bright affection blooming in his chest. “Precious boy,” He murmurs, “The very light of my life.”

“Baba!” Sizhui complains, pulling away far too quickly for Wei Wuxian’s liking. He doesn’t linger long after that, too many responsibilities await him outside the comfort of the Jingshi. Wei Wuxian watches him go before turning around in his husband’s arms.

Lan Zhan understands the unspoken request easily and pulls him down. Laying on top of Lan Zhan’s warm body does soothe the tightness in his chest a little. He buries his face in his husband’s neck and breathes him in, humming contently as large hands rub along his back. “Hurts?”

“Mn.” There’s a touch of genuine distress in the short, punched out noise and Lan Zhan curls around him, both arms holding him close and tight.

“You’ll recover soon,” His husband’s voice is a pleasant rumble against his ear and he burrows closer, seeking all of the comfort Lan Zhan is willing to give.

“I’ll recover from the cold but die of boredom before that happens,” He complains because he needs to do something to remove the worried crease between Lan Zhan’s brows, “I haven’t even seen our bunnies in over a fortnight!”

“Bunnies,” Lan Zhan says suddenly and before Wei Wuxian has a chance to protect, his husband effortlessly gets off the bed, carrying him like he weighs nothing. Wei Wuxian is startled enough to break into another light coughing fit. Lan Zhan circulates soothing spiritual energy through him but doesn’t pause in his stride.

“Er-gege! What are you doing?” He asks in alarm as they pass by several astonished disciples. Lan Zhan is fully dressed but Wei Wuxian is in his thinnest robes. It is only Lan Zhan’s sleeves that keep him looking decent.

They arrive at the area where all rabbits are kept and Wei Wuxian looks around eagerly, feeling fond and happy. Really, his Lan Zhan is so silly sometimes, carrying him all the way here. But the fresh mountain air and the sight of the cute bunnies is already doing wonders to his mood.

His husband is so ridiculous, he doesn’t even set Wei Wuxian down to remove his outer robe. Lan Zhan just holds him in his left hand to shrug off his right sleeve and then switches him to his right hand to remove the entire robe.

Wei Wuxian feels like a toy and can’t help but pout at the protectiveness, “Really, er-gege? Aren’t you being silly?” The heavy silk, warm from Lan Zhan’s body heat, is draped over him before his husband sets him down. Even then, he isn’t allowed to take full control of his movements, Lan Zhan holds him in place as he kicks a few stray stones off a patch of grass before pushing him to lie down on it. Wei Wuxian flushes, wondering if anyone is around to see their Hanguang-jun being so silly.

Something warm is placed on his chest.

Wei Wuxian blinks and looks down at the snow-white bunny sitting on top of him, its nose twitching and posture cautious. He blinks again but the bunny remains in place and it soon has a companion.

Before long, he’s buried in a pile of their warm, fluffy bodies. He looks up at his satisfied husband in disbelief but he doesn’t dare say anything, lest he frighten the cute bundles resting on top of him.

Lan Zhan sits down before gently guiding him until his head is resting on his husband’s lap.

“Ridiculous,” Wei Wuxian mutters, his face feeling warm.

Lan Zhan caresses his cheek with a pleased light in his eyes but says nothing.

---

4

“Wei Wuxian!” He flinches at the scolding tone and turns around, bowing to Lan Qiren as the older man comes to a stop before him with a scowl of disapproval. He likes to think that Lan Zhan’s shufu has learned to tolerate him over the past year, but sometimes the air between them remains stiff and full of restrained ire.

“Elder Lan,” He greets with a smile, resisting the urge to fiddle with the sleeves of his light, informal robe. He had just left the Jingshi to breathe in the clean morning air, unable to sleep without Lan Zhan keeping him warm. Unfortunately, he seems to have caught Lan Qiren in a bad mood, judging by the twist of his mouth as he looks down at Wei Wuxian’s clothes.

“Have you recovered completely?” The elder demands and Wei Wuxian blinks. He is aware that he looks unusually pale and there’s a tired slump to his shoulders. His state of health is obvious.

“Not completely, no.” He says, “But I’m well on my way!”

Lan Qiren scowls, “You-” He gestures sharply at his clothes, “Walking around in nightclothes on such a brisk morning? You will catch your death in such a state and where will Wangji be then?” He demands.

Wei Wuxian resists the urge to lean back and stare, “I… am nearly recovered, Lan-laoshi.”

“Nearly recovered isn’t fully recovered.” Lan Qiren snaps, “Back inside, now.” Wei Wuxian is certain his expression conveys his astonishment but the elder doesn’t comment on it, just following him to make sure he actually heeds his commands instead of getting into mischief. Wei Wuxian feels a stir of amusement but he keeps it from his face as he collects his outer robes and pulls them on as soon as they enter the Jingshi.

He’s unable to help taking a glance around their home to make sure everything is in order. He doesn’t want to give Lan Qiren another excuse to complain. Fortunately, the Jingshi is spotless, with only a few scrolls scattered over the writing table. But Wei Wuxian figures that’s alright since he had been working on them before deciding to stretch his legs.

“I’ll make some tea,” He says and reaches for the kettle of hot water they always keep ready.

Lan Qiren nods curtly and reaches into his sleeve, “Use this,” He hands him a pouch that smells of ginger and a few other herbs, “Will soothe your throat and warm your chest. Drink it twice a day without fail.”

Wei Wuxian freezes for a moment, staring at the pouch before placing it on the table delicately. His throat feels tight for an entirely different reason as he adds the ingredients into the hot water.

Lan Qiren had gotten a special herbal tea for him. He recognizes ginger and chamomile, but he’s certain there are a few other herbs in there as well. Even the steam from the brewing helps ease the stuffy feeling in his nose.

He ducks his head and carefully serves the brew, keeping his hands steady.

“Look at how pale and thin your hands are,” Lan Qiren says gruffly and Wei Wuxian bites his lips, “Delicate wrists like a maiden’s! Far too careless.”

“Aiya, you can’t blame this one for catching a cold, Lan-laoshi.” He protests, somewhat weakly, his heartbeat a bit elevated. Lan Qiren has never been content to spend time in his company but now he doesn’t look like he would prefer to be somewhere else.

He takes a sip after the elder does, feeling the scrutiny as he drinks the warm liquid.

The soothing effect is immediate and the aroma of ginger floods his nostrils. He closes his eyes to savor it, feeling the warmth spread throughout his body. “This is good!” He can’t help but exclaim in surprise, “And not very bitter!”

“Good,” Lan Qiren nods, “You have no excuse to avoid drinking it.”

He smiles wryly, “Laoshi knows me too well, it seems.”

Lan Qiren looks at the tea pointedly, “None of your usual chatter. Learn to speak meagerly now.” Wei Wuxian conceals his amusement behind the cup, taking one sip after another of the soothing brew. He doesn’t comment on the elder’s careful gaze and how his expression conveys subtle satisfaction.

“I’ll see to it that you have clothes better suited for Gusu weather,” Lan Qiren says after the tea is done, “Your constitution is weak,” Wei Wuxian winces but doesn’t deny. Mo Xuanyu’s body isn’t very resilient, despite being born in a town close to Cloud Recesses. He can’t seem to tolerate cold as well, “Heavier silks, with some talismans for additional protection.” He continues, rising to his feet and heading to the door. Wei Wuxian quickly follows, taking just a moment to reorient himself after standing up so quickly.

Lan Qiren spares him a sharp, assessing glance but doesn’t comment, waiting for him to catch up. “No walks during early mornings or late evenings. If you wish to walk, do so when the sun is high.”

“Yes, shufu.”

The elder glances at him sharply, his lips pursed, “None of that cheek. You are too old for it, Wei Wuxian.”

“Aiya, don’t remind me of my age!” He protests, a giddy feeling rising within him. It has been over a year since he married Lan Zhan but the acceptance has been slow. Now, he thinks that the acceptance has been there all along and the Lans have only just started to show it. He feels like a child, somehow, and decides to push his luck, “I don’t want to grow old anytime soon. One day, I’ll be as stern and patient as laoshi, but not anytime soon.”

Lan Qiren doesn’t deign to answer but when Wei Wuxian tries to step out of the Jingshi to follow him, he stops and glares, “Have you forgotten my instructions already, boy?” He demands, “It is too early in the morning for a walk. Go do the work Xichen has assigned you. You may walk later.”

Wei Wuxian opens his mouth to protest before deciding to just give in. He bows as Lan Qiren sweeps his gaze over him once again before leaving with a final stern command of ‘rest.’

He walks back towards his desk, his eyes flickering to the pouch with fragrant ginger tea for a moment.

Aiya,” He thinks, “Is there no end to this happiness?

 

---

5

He’s perfectly fine. There hasn’t been a cough or a sniffle for over a week now but his family insists on hovering over him like he’s some elderly matron. Wei Wuxian knows he should feel disgruntled. He is accustomed to showing strength instead of vulnerability when ill. But Lan Zhan has softened all of his edges and uncovered desires he didn’t even know existed.

So, when his husband sweeps him off his seat when he complains of boredom, he doesn’t protest much. It has become such a common sight these days that the people of Cloud Recesses barely blink as the Hanguang-jun carries the Yiling Laozu around. He already knows where they’re going when he spots the familiar path leading to the rabbit cove.

He presses a smile to his husband’s shoulder, “You’re so silly, Lan Zhan.”

“Mn,” There’s a light kiss pressed against his head and he cuddles close. Being carried out makes him feel like he’s some delicate child instead of a full-grown adult but he doesn’t mind. He has learned to accept Lan Zhan’s need to coddle him just as he has learned to accept his desire to be sheltered.

So, when his Hanguang-jun rests him on the grassy ground and piles rabbits over him, he doesn’t do anything but close his eyes in contentment. Wei Wuxian can feel some creatures hopping on him voluntarily, already accustomed to it. There’s something to be said about it. Whenever Lan Zhan lays him on the ground and piles rabbits on top of him, he feels a strange sense of peace. The animals have come to trust him and Lan Zhan barely stirs from his side, watching him with a gentle golden gaze.

Somehow, it feels like healing.

Wei Wuxian lets the warmth from their little bodies soak into his bones and hums, “Is this going to happen often?” He blinks open one eye and glances at this husband, “Will I be buried in a pile of bunnies whenever my husband wishes it? You have done it three times already!”

Lan Zhan’s expression is soft, a hint of a smile lingering in the corners of his lips. Wei Wuxian says nothing as his husband leans over him, a cool hand cupping his cheek, “Wei Ying likes it.”

“Indeed, I do,” He agrees, “Who wouldn’t like being buried in a pile of these sweet things, Lan Zhan, the descendants of our first children!” Lan Zhan’s ears gain a fetching red color. The rabbits settle, contently chewing the cabbage leaves Lan Zhan supplied them, “You keep spoiling them and before long, they’ll be too heavy to pile on top of me. What will you do then?”

“Babies.”

“Mn?” Wei Wuxian asks absently, “Babies?”

“Babies.”

He smiles, bringing his husband’s hand to his lips and kissing his wrist, lips pressed against a beating pulse. He just feels Lan Zhan’s heartbeat for a bit before nodding, “I guess we can add to your collection of babies,” He says, seeing the promise of a beautiful future laid out in front of him, “I’ll let you pile as many of them as you like on top of me,” He grins brightly at his silent husband, “As long as I remain your first.”

Lan Zhan leans forward to kiss him, their lips brushing gently, barely a whisper apart, “Always.” His husband vows solemnly.

And Wei Wuxian pulls him close, letting Lan Zhan scatter all of the rabbits to settle on top of him, “Very well. Do with me as you will, Hanguang-jun.”

“Shameless.” His husband whispers and sweeps him away.