Of course this happens.
Of course this happens now.
It’s all Wei Wuxian can think as he watches the curse hit Lan Zhan.
Time moves in slow motion. Lan Zhan had turned just slightly to the side, shielding the juniors who had been knocked over by the resentful energy of the yaoguai.
Who would have thought that such a small, insignificant nighthunt would be what takes the incomparable Hanguang-jun?
Wei Wuxian should have known. He should have known.
It was the same with his parents after all. Life was always looking for ways to humble him, to remind him to never get too comfortable. Nothing so good can last, not without consequences. He allowed himself to forget that and that was his mistake.
Just last night, he laid in bed, curled next to the warm form of his husband and just stared, feeling indulgent. His husband is so beautiful when he sleeps. His face goes soft and his elegant hands always seek Wei Wuxian out unconsciously, curling around his night shirt or locking around his arms.
Wei Wuxian always feels greedy in moments like this. That he is allowed to have this. That he is allowed to bear witness to this vulnerable side of Lan Zhan that no one else gets to see.
He had pressed a kiss to his husband’s forehead and sent an internal thank you to Mo Xuanyu, for giving him this second chance. For allowing him this time, to feel safe and loved in a way he hadn’t felt since before the war and before he lost Shijie.
Now, Wei Wuxian can hear himself scream as he watches the light of the curse envelope his husband’s body.
And then, within a blink of an eye, Lan Zhan is gone.
His husband's body shrinks away and his finely made silk robes fall to a pile on the dirt road.
No. No. No.
Not him. Please, not him.
Wei Wuxian feels as if he’s watching from outside of himself. He observes as darkness explodes from his body, the resentful energy eviscerating the yaoguai in an instant.
And then, he’s moving forward, dropping to his knees in front of the place where Lan Zhan had stood, strong and solid, just moments before.
Lan Sizhui and Lan Jingyi are already there.
“Wei-qianbei, I don’t understand. What sort of curse is this?” Lan Jingyi whispers shakily, his eyes wide on Wei Wuxian.
He moves aside to reveal a small figure huddled in his husband's robes. A young child, no older than five or six, looking around in both confusion and fear.
They appear to be naked so Lan Sizhui hurriedly helps to pull up Lan Zhan's robes around them, to protect them from the chill.
“This curse, it must have just, switched places with Hanguang-jun and this child, right?” Lan Jingyi looks at Wei Wuxian for answers.
But Wei Wuxian can’t breathe.
Because the little child has a Lan clan ribbon dangling loosely around their neck.
The child attempts to pull it back up to its place on their forehead but it’s much too big, so they give up and just clutch it. They stare around with wide, fearful eyes and as soon as they makes eye contact, there is no more doubt. Wei Wuxian would know those eyes anywhere.
He feels a strange rush of both horror and relief.
The boy's eyes snap back to him, looking at him with mistrust. There is no recognition in his gaze.
“Don’t be afraid, everything is going to be alright,” Wei Wuxian whispers softly. He doesn’t know if that’s true or not but he can’t bear to see Lan Zhan looking so small and frightened.
Wei Wuxian moves forward, opening his arms to this child-sized form of his husband. To do what, he doesn’t know. Lift this boy in his arms? Help him secure his clothes? All he knows is that this is Lan Zhan and he will do anything to keep him safe.
Except the boy flinches away from him, hiding further behind Lan Sizhui, clutching at the sleeve of Lan Sizhui’s robes. Wei Wuxian idly feels his heart break once again before numbness sets in.
He doesn’t recognize him. Lan Zhan doesn’t recognize him.
“I want Shufu,” Lan Zhan whispers, looking up at Lan Sizhui.
Lan Sizhui just tucks the boy more securely in the overly large robes before sending a pleading look at Wei Wuxian. “Wei-qianbei, what should we do?”
“Send a signal for Zewu-jun. We need to take him back to Cloud Recesses.”
Wei Wuxian gets up, pacing a parameter around the area.
“Help me mark this with the detection talismans I taught you,” he orders to the cluster of juniors, who are still huddled together looking in horror at little figure of Lan Zhan. He can see Lan Jingyi send up the firework signal to summon Zewu-jun.
“Wei-xiansheng, is that boy Hanguang-jun?” One of the younger juniors asks nervously, glancing at Lan Zhan.
“Keep your focus and do as I say,” Wei Wuxian orders curtly. The young disciple practically flinches away from his tone but Wei Wuxian doesn’t notice, too fixated on getting to the bottom of the curse.
He works to encompass the entire area, to gather as much residual traces of energy from the curse as he can. It’s minimal and hard to detect under the smoking smell of ash from his own resentful energy but it should hopefully be enough.
He works without speaking, doing what he can to focus on the origin of the curse. Everyone else sits in silence, shocked and frightened or staring in disbelief at the small boy still nervously grasping Lan Sizhui's sleeve.
Wei Wuxian is not sure how much time passes but soon there is a gust of wind and the familiar form of his brother-in-law is stepping off his sword and gliding over to them.
“I saw the signal, what’s happened? Where is Wangji?”
Zewu-jun had accompanied them to Caiyi Town. He treated their small contingent to lunch before heading to the tailor to get measured for new robes while the rest of them went off to investigate rumors of a yaoguai haunting down the river.
Zewu-jun only recently reemerged to public life after his seclusion, he’d been there and smiling at the tea ceremony that Lan Qiren had insisted he and Lan Zhan have after their elopement.
“Zewu-jun--” Lan Sizhui starts, standing up to bow deeply to his adopted uncle.
He looks unsure of how to explain what has transpired but before he can speak, Lan Zhan breaks away from him, racing to his brother, his overly large clothing sliding off the side of his little shoulder. Lan Zhan clutches and pulls at his elder brother’s robes, a silent demand to be lifted up.
“Oh--” Zewu-jun blinks down at the little boy. He bends down to lift him into his arms, unable to refuse him. Zewu-jun stares in disbelief at the boy, his gaze scouring the familiar features until Lan Zhan tucks his face into his brother’s shoulder, holding on tightly to Zewu-jun’s robes.
His little body shudders and Wei Wuxian feels his heart splinter when he realizes that Lan Zhan is crying.
Zewu-jun looks baffled as he turns to look back at Wei Wuxian, he’s rocking the boy, seemingly unconsciously.
Wei Wuxian feels a brief and irrational spike of jealousy that Lan Zhan has turned to him for comfort.
“Wei-gonzi, what has happened to Wangji?”
Wei Wuxian sighs, his body deflating a little.
“A curse. Lan Zhan dove in front of it to protect some of the juniors. I’ve detected the source of the curse but I’ll still need to do some research before attempting a counter spell. I think I’ve heard of something similar to this before so I’m hoping there will be more information in your libraries. Luckily from what I can sense, the curse itself doesn’t seem to be malignant. It’s just... just…”
He waves at Lan Zhan's shaking form.
Zewu-jun adjusts his grip on Lan Zhan, his hand coming to cup the back of Lan Zhan’s head. His hand looks huge in comparison to Lan Zhan’s small frame.
“I suppose he must recognize you in some way. I’m not sure how it works,” Wei Wuxian looks to Lan Sizhui. “Did he say anything more to you?”
Lan Sizhui shakes his head, making a noticeable effort to peel his attention away from the crying child, who is now making quiet, hitching sobs into Zewu-jun's shoulder. “Unfortunately, no. He didn’t recognize me either. He just kept asking for his uncle and Zewu-jun…”
“I have heard of a similar curse as well,” Zewu-jun says looking thoughtful, as he gently rocks his little brother. “It fades after a short period. It’s intended to force the victim back to a vulnerable form. For most it tends to be infancy, if I recall correctly but there is more information in the library,” he looks at Wei Wuxian with growing confidence and Wei Wuxian feels some form of relief, the muscles in his neck releasing from where they had been tense. At least there is a possible solution already known.
The majority of their group mount their swords to head back to Cloud Recesses immediately. Wei Wuxian requests a small group of juniors to remain behind to continue documenting their detection findings. The more information the better.
He leaves Lan Jingyi in charge of them, who tries to protest, but one look from Zewu-jun has the young disciple backing down, handing over Bichen and Lan Zhan's guan, and barking orders to his remaining shidis and shimeis.
Wei Wuxian pauses for a moment as they all prepare to mount their swords. While he’s been growing Mo Xuanyu’s golden core these past few years, he’s never tried to fly on a sword by himself, as he’s always just flown with Lan Zhan.
"Xian-gege can fly with me,” Lan Sizhui whispers quietly, offering his sword to him without further comment.
Wei Wuxian nods stiffly, climbing on and allowing himself to hold on to the young man's shoulders as they lift off and make their way back to Cloud Recesses without delay. He loves Lan Sizhui but ... he hates this. He hates flying with anyone that is not Lan Zhan. It feels wrong in a way he can’t articulate.
When they land, Zewu-jun sends the group of juniors off to the library to collect the texts they need before he looks to Wei Wuxian, gesturing for him to follow him down the path to the living quarters.
Lan Zhan appears to have relaxed some now that he recognizes his surroundings. He still clutches at Zewu-jun’s robes but he’s no longer crying and appears to not be afraid anymore. His eyes cast around as if searching for someone.
Despite everything, Wei Wuxian can’t help but notice how cute he is. And of course he is. He is still Lan Zhan after all.
Lan Zhan's hair is a little tousled from the flight and one of his cheeks is pink from where it had been resting on Zewu-jun’s shoulder.
“I’m glad he seems to recognize you,” Wei Wuxian murmurs quietly, speeding up to match Zewu-jun’s unusually brisk pace.
“He doesn’t…I asked him, while we were flying...” Zewu-jun shakes his head, looking white in the face. This gives Wei Wuxian pause, he hasn’t seen Zewu-jun look so unwell since the events of Guanyin Temple.
“Lan Zhan, you don’t recognize who's holding you?” Wei Wuxian asks quietly. Lan Zhan turns to look at him, his brows furrowed in an adorable frown.
This stops Wei Wuxian in his tracks, stunned.
Zewu-jun closes his eyes for a moment before setting off again, heading toward Lan Qiren’s quarters without another word.
Lan Qiren is already waiting for them outside, an out of breath junior by his side, who bows deeply at Zewu-jun upon their approach. Lan Zhan is immediately squirming to get down from Zewu-jun’s arms and tripping over his too long robes to get to his uncle.
Lan Qiren, to his credit, just blinks before rushing forward to lift the boy into his arms. He looks at Lan Zhan in wonder, pulling the too large robes tighter around him.
“Please collect appropriately sized robes for him from the nursery,” he instructs to the young junior. They bow once more before scurrying off, looking relieved to have a task.
Lan Qiren exchanges a concerned look with both Wei Wuxian and Zewu-Jun before he gestures at them to come inside.
Wei Wuxian notices Lan Sizhui hovering behind them, his eyes still fixed on the small form of his adopted father. Wei Wuxian pats his shoulder.
“Don't worry, A-Yuan. I won’t rest until he’s himself again.”
Lan Sizhui sighs, bowing to Wei Wuxian.
“I trust you to see it done. Please let me know how more I can be of help. I will join those in the library to see what we can find.” With that he nods and takes off in the direction of the library.
As Wei Wuxian makes his way into Lan Qiren’s quarters, he is abruptly aware at this moment that he's never been inside them before. He’s called Cloud Recesses home for nearly two years now, ever since he returned from his travels, lovesick and missing Lan Zhan more than he could bear.
Lan Zhan took tea here every morning with his uncle and brother at dawn before Wei Wuxian roused, so the opportunity to join them never came about. Also, Wei Wuxian had always wanted to let Lan Qiren have some time alone with his nephews, as it was rare for them to enjoy time alone that wasn't focused on matters of the sect.
Wei Wuxian would normally be curious to look around Lan Qiren's rooms but he can’t focus on anything besides where Lan Qiren has placed Lan Zhan on his bed. He’s attempting to adjust Lan Zhan’s forehead ribbon, which hangs comically low on his smaller form.
He pulls Lan Zhan's hair back into a top knot and works the ribbon through it, winding it through several times to help with the length. Lan Zhan sits quietly, holding still to allow his uncle to work. His eyes keep wandering back to Wei Wuxian and over to Zewu-jun, who hovers by the door still looking a little pale in the face.
“Fuqin is here,” A-Zhan whispers into the silence, looking at Zewu-jun and back up at Lan Qiren who freezes.
“Wangji, what are you--” Lan Qiren stutters, looking confused over at both Zewu-jun and Wei Wuxian. Zewu-jun just shakes his head, looking away.
“I am not Wangji. That is fuqin’s qin,” Lan Zhan frowns at his uncle, looking a little fed up. Wei Wuxian would find this adorable if this whole situation wasn’t so utterly unnerving.
“He doesn’t remember anything from our current time,” Wei Wuxian jumps in at Lan Qiren’s alarmed expression. “At his age, he would not have been given his courtesy name yet so…” Wei Wuxian trails off, exchanging a look at Zewu-jun, who still looks determinedly away. “And, well, he…believes Zewu-jun to be Qingheng-Jun, it would seem.”
Lan Qiren shares a pained look in his nephew's direction. “You do resemble your father quite a bit,” he sighs.
“W-- A-Zhan, what is the last thing you remember?” Lan Qiren asks cautiously.
“Was playing with gege outside. Hide and seek,” Lan Zhan suddenly sits up, looking up at his uncle with a concerned expression. “We must find gege, he might still be looking!”
This appears to be too much for Zewu-jun to handle, with a muttered “excuse me,” he takes off out the door.
Wei Wuxian is not sure which is worse, to not be recognized at all or to be mistaken for their absent father.
Lan Qiren watches Zewu-jun leave with a contemplative expression. “A-Zhan, your xiongzhang is safe, I promise. But it would seem you are under a spell. We will fix it soon, do not worry.”
Lan Zhan blinks at that.
“The spell made my clothes too big.” He holds up his arms as if both to illustrate his point and make a complaint.
Wei Wuxian snorts a little at that, unable to help himself. This draws Lan Zhan's attention back to him.
“Shufu, who is that? He is not a member of our sect.”
Before Lan Qiren can respond, Wei Wuxian steps forward, unable to help himself, “Technically I’m a member of your sect by marriage--!” but at Lan Qiren’s extremely disapproving look he stops himself from saying more.
Lan Zhan, or rather A-Zhan, is currently six years old.
Probably not the best time to inform him that he has a husband.
And yet, the thought of Lan Zhan, in any form, looking at him as if he is a stranger is not something he can endure. So he speaks, without meaning to, “My name is Wei Ying, you don’t remember me right now but you are my…” Lan Qiren’s glower increases, as if daring him to speak further.
“You are my zhiji, my favorite person in the world,” Wei Wuxian adds the last bit softly, taking in A-Zhan’s wide-eyed expression.
Wei Wuxian nods.
“But you are old.”
Wei Wuxian throws his head back in a laugh. Oh, how he loves him. In any shape and size, it would seem.
“Yes, very old! A-Zhan, how old do you think I am, try and guess?” Wei Wuxian puffs his chest out at Lan Zhan, who watches him skeptically.
“Twelve! Wow, A-Zhan, so old…. Actually, would you believe that really you are older--”
“I believe that is enough for now,” Lan Qiren interjects. “We don’t want to overwhelm him.”
Wei Wuxian sighs, nodding in understanding. He is reluctant to part from A-Zhan but he is also starting to feel anxious that no one has come with any findings from the library yet.
“I will take my leave to help with the investigations,” he bows in exaggerated formality to A-Zhan, who continues to frown at him in disapproval. The expression is so similar to the fifteen year old Lan Zhan that Wei Wuxian first encountered, it makes him feel light-headed as he departs. He has to take a moment to lean against the outside of Lan Qiren's home and just breathe before he steels himself and heads to the library.
They eventually discover more information about the curse but they have to search deep in the library's restricted archives to find it. The curse itself is intended to weaken the victim. While it causes no direct harm to the individual, it reverts them physically back to a vulnerable physical form.
For most, it takes the form of an infant or perhaps to a time of great sickness or injury. The curse itself fades after several days, the longest recorded instance being less than one moon cycle.
It is usually meant to give the attacker the upper hand and is not intended for long term use. This is a relief, yet still, Wei Wuxian does what he can to research to see if he can counter the spell sooner.
“It is odd, though, isn’t it?” Wei Wuxian can hear Lan Jingyi speculate to Lan Sizhui.
“Why wouldn’t it change him to an infant? Or, you know, after his back…” Lan Jingyi catches hold of Wei Wuxian’s gaze and quickly shuts up after that.
But Wei Wuxian can't unhear it and the thought of Lan Zhan having to live through his discipline whip wounds again makes Wei Wuxian feel physically ill. They have been spared that at least.
But Lan Jingyi has a point, why this age?
He gets his answer two days later. He’s spent most of his time since Lan Zhan was cursed in the library, plotting out potential spells to counter the effects of the curse.
He doesn’t want to risk doing anything to harm Lan Zhan, especially when it’s not necessary, but the entire sect seems to be at a stand still with Lan Zhan in this state. With Lan Qiren occupied looking after the boy and Zewu-jun looking like he’d prefer seclusion once more. For Wei Wuxian to sit around and not try to research solutions seems impossible.
At his core, Wei Wuxian suspects he just doesn’t want to feel helpless. The empty space where Lan Zhan's presence had filled his life feels so vast.
Lan Zhan has been staying with his uncle these past few days, and Lan Qiren hasn’t emerged with him in that time, taking their meals in his quarters. Wei Wuxian hasn’t visited him again, not knowing what else to say or do with this little version of his husband, who doesn’t even recognize him.
It’s snowing a little this evening, frost blanketing the path as he trudges back to the Jingshi. It’s just before curfew and Wei Wuxian is feeling a little hungry and a little miserable. He’d spent all day pouring over research and failed talisman experiments to see if he could speed up the effects of the curse.
Lan Sizhui had made sure to have food sent to him throughout the day but Wei Wuxian had no appetite for it. He has become used to his husband’s cooking, who makes everything just to his liking. Everything else tastes bland in comparison. At this point, he is eager be home and help himself to some Emperor’s Smile.
Wei Wuxian stops short when he sees a small figure kneeling in front of the Jingshi doors up ahead. Wei Wuxian blinks, uncomprehending at first before he realizes-- Oh.
This is why Lan Zhan has been reverted back to this age, isn’t it?
How foolish of him to not have made that connection before. Zewu-jun must have figured it out, which is why he’s been so melancholy over this whole ordeal.
Wei Wuxian looks around for a sign of anyone else. Where is Lan Qiren? Isn’t he supposed to be watching over A-Zhan? How could he let him slip away? From the look of the snowflakes in his hair and the state of his robes, it looks as if the boy has been there for some time.
Wei Wuxian shakes his head, trying to steel himself for what he has to do.
“A-Zhan, what are you doing here?” He attempts to ask softly but A-Zhan startles anyway.
A-Zhan recovers quickly, his drooping, dejected form straightened back to attention.
“Waiting for A-Niang.”
Wei Wuxian sighs, his heart breaking once more for his beloved.
“A-Niang, huh?” Wei Wuxian sits himself next to him.
A-Zhan throws an irritated look in his direction before he straightens once again, turning his unwavering attention back to the Jingshi doors.
“I’m--I don’t think she’s home right now,” Wei Wuxian murmurs, cringing at himself as he cowardly avoids the truth.
“She is there this time. The lights are on. Not like before. But I don’t know why she doesn’t see me,” A-Zhan frowns, clenching his fist. His little voice shakes at the end.
Wei Wuxian keeps the lanterns lit using talismans, so he’s not stumbling in the pitch darkness when he returns home. He’s not sure what he hates more about this, that he’s given A-Zhan false hope or that A-Zhan thinks he’s being ignored.
“A-Zhan, your shufu has told you you are under a spell, yes?” Wei Wuxian murmurs. He takes out Chenqing, twirling it in his hands, in need of something to fidget with, to channel his anxious nerves.
“Mn. I’m supposed to be old. Like you. And Ge.”
Wei Wuxian chuckles a little at that, he feels some relief to know that at least Lan Qiren has put Zewu-jun out of his misery and A-Zhan actually knows who he is now.
“Yes, so it’s been a long time. Your A-Niang doesn’t live here anymore,” Wei Wuxian tries to tell him gently.
A-Zhan just stares up at him in confusion. “No.”
“No? A-Zhan thinks I’m lying?” Wei Wuxian teases a little, he can’t help it.
“A-Niang isn’t supposed to leave. She has to stay here.”
“Ah, well, a long time ago she was able to leave. She’s… with her family now.” Wei Wuxian hates himself for this. But what can he do? A-Zhan is only going to be in this form for several more days. Why break his heart?
A-Zhan seems even more confused now. “A-Niang doesn’t have family, just me and gege.”
“Ah, well everyone has family, A-Zhan. You’ve got to come from somewhere, you know? I tell you what, when you are back to normal. We’ll go visit her, just you and me, how does that sound?”
Wei Wuxian thinks of the memorial tablet down by the coast that Lan Zhan had made for her many years ago, after he left seclusion. She had always talked about how much she loved the beach, so he thought she would like it there. He’d picked out a beautiful, serene spot not too far from Gusu.
The two of them would always stop by to prepare offerings when passing by the coast. Wei Wuxian, who had no tablet or grave for his parents to speak of, made two tablets for his own parents there too. The three of them rest side by side, overlooking the beautiful blue shoreline.
A-Zhan doesn't respond, but after a pause, he stares up at him looking serious, “You are my husband.”
Wei Wuxian is so taken aback he nearly chokes on his own spit.
“A-Zhan! Your shufu really told you this? I’m so surprised!”
A-Zhan shakes his head. “Heard shufu and gege talking about it.”
“Ohohoho, A-Zhan, isn’t eavesdropping against your rules, hm?”
A-Zhan frowns. “Didn’t eavesdrop. They spoke near me.”
“Oh, I see, I see,” Wei Wuxian grins hugely, feeling light for the first time in days. It’s strange to see parts of the man he loves in this little boy.
“You are my husband. You said you were my zhiji, but you have not come to see me,” A-Zhan pouts and Wei Wuxian is struck by how similar he looks to his older self when he’s drunk. He is so cute, Wei Wuxian wants to pinch his soft little cheek.
“Aiya, Lan Zhan, forgive me. I’ve been trying to research this spell you are under. I didn’t want to scare you, I thought you didn’t recognize me.”
A-Zhan just continues to pout, refusing to respond.
So it’s like that, Wei Wuxian smiles to himself.
“What do you say you and me go see the bunnies tomorrow?”
A-Zhan perks up at that, “Bunnies?”
Wei Wuxian beams. “Yes! There is a family of bunnies that live in the meadow. They love you. We can bring Sizhui-xiong and Jingyi-xiong if you like?”
From what Wei Wuxian has heard, the two young disciples have been the ones to look after A-Zhan these past few days when Lan Qiren was busy trying to do some work. Lan Jingyi had been in raptures the previous evening, recounting how A-Zhan allowed him to carry him around Lan Qiren’s garden as he pointed out the different types of colors he saw.
Now that Wei Wuxian isn’t feeling such total despair about the situation, he is envious that they have witnessed such cute behavior. And he is now suddenly eager to spend some time with little A-Zhan too.
“No, just Wei Ying.”
Wei Wuxian smiles, “Okay, just you and me then. And the bunnies!”
Lan Zhan nods seriously, as if he is pleased with their negotiations.
“Alright then, let’s get you back to your shufu’s before he has my head. I can’t believe they haven’t noticed you snuck away yet. What a little sneak you are A-Zhan.”
“Not a sneak. Just walked out the door.”
Wei Wuxian cackles loudly at that. When he tries to take A-Zhan’s hand to lead him along down the path, A-Zhan resists. Instead, he holds his arms up to be held.
“Oh, A-Zhan wants to be carried?” Wei Wuxian teases, sweeping the boy up easily in his arms, delighted by how small and sweet he is in this moment.
It feels a little indulgent, all this, now that he knows not to fear for Lan Zhan’s recovery. Lan Zhan is normally so self-sufficient, always the one doting on and caring for Wei Wuxian. Having the opportunity to carry him around and baby him makes Wei Wuxian more pleased than he cares to admit.
A-Zhan takes the opportunity to study Wei Wuxian’s face up close, as he carries him down the familiar paths back to Lan Qiren’s.
“A-Zhan, you’re staring at me so seriously. Do I have something on my face?” Wei Wuxian teases bouncing the boy a little as they walk.
“No,” A-Zhan responds, not elaborating further but just continuing to stare with determination.
“Are you disappointed by your future husband then?” Wei Wuxian laughs, smiling at the boy with his eyebrow crooked.
“No. Wei Ying has a pretty smile,” A-Zhan replies as he pats curiously at Wei Wuxian’s cheeks.
“A-Zhan! Always such a flirt, even now!”
Anything more he was going to say is cut off by Lan Qiren, who rounds the corner with a pinched expression, looking like he is attempting not to run. He lets out a noise somewhere between exasperation and relief when he sees A-Zhan in Wei Wuxian’s arms.
“I had a feeling he was with you, thank the heavens. I forgot how quietly he used to slip away when he was this age. If not for my cultivation, I would have lost several years of my life in fright at the times he used to do this,” Lan Qiren huffs.
Wei Wuxian can’t help but laugh. “Ah, well, I thought I’d give you a reprieve tomorrow and take A-Zhan for the morning. I can come collect him after breakfast?”
“Very well then,” Lan Qiren sighs.
He then struggles to pluck A-Zhan out of Wei Wuxian’s grasp as A-Zhan refuses to let go, his fist wound around Wei Wuxian’s red hair ribbon. For a long moment the three of them are stuck locked together, with Wei Wuxian awkwardly bent sideways, unable to free himself from A-Zhan's determined grip .
“Aiya, don’t make me tickle you,” Wei Wuxian threatens eventually, as he gently tickles A-Zhan's belly. He sighs in relief when A-Zhan releases him with an affronted gasp. Wei Wuxian takes his chance to dart away and secure his freedom.
Lan Qiren appears to have had enough of both of them. He mutters something about seeing Wei Wuxian in the morning before taking off with A-Zhan in his arms without another word.
Wei Wuxian laughs to himself, feeling a little hysterical at the change in mood this night has brought. It’s only once he’s back in the Jingshi, that he realizes little A-Zhan has taken his red ribbon with him.
The next morning, Wei Wuxian wakes up on his own. His body thrumming with anxious excitement. He’d sent a note to Lan Sizhui before going to bed, requesting that, in the event that he sleeps in, Lan Sizhui come wake him. He doesn’t want A-Zhan to wait for him too long.
Before he heads over to collect A-Zhan, however, Wei Wuxian impulsively rifles through the small trunk in the corner of their bedroom, where Lan Zhan has kept some of Lan Yuan's childhood things.
There, sitting on top of Lan Yuan's children sized robes and stacks of papers containing crude attempts at calligraphy and some sweet little drawings, is a small blue rabbit toy with floppy little ears. Lan Zhan had made this toy for Lan Yuan himself while he was in seclusion.
He had taken up sewing and embroidery in those years, a skill that his mother excelled in as well. Lan Zhan had said that though he may have not been able to visit the rabbits with A-Yuan himself during that time, he still wanted to have that connection.
Lan Sizhui admitted with a shy smile that he used to sleep with that toy every night up until he moved to the juniors dormitories. And for several years after that, snuck it under his pillow.
Now, Wei Wuxian smiles gently as he lifts the little rabbit out of the trunk and gazes down at it. It looks as if it was made of old blue robes that Lan Zhan must have no longer worn and is weighted with dried rice, giving it a light but comforting weight. It even makes a pleasant sound when you move it around that makes the back of his neck tingle pleasantly.
Wei Wuxian wonders if he should ask Lan Sizhui’s permission before he brings it along. Yet, for little A-Zhan, he can’t imagine Lan Sizhui would mind. So, with a small smile, he tucks the toy into his robes and heads out the door.
When he arrives at Lan Qiren's, A-Zhan is already there on the porch waiting for him. He’s sitting primly but his little feet swing just slightly from where they hang off the steps.
He is so cute, Wei Wuxian wants to scream.
“A-Zhan!” He calls cheerfully, jogging down the path to get there faster. He’s perfected the art of not exactly running over the last few years.
A-Zhan perks up at the sight of him, hurrying to sit up and re-adjust his robes to lie flat.
This ends up being a fruitless gesture, as Wei Wuxian quickly scoops him up and spins him around in the air, his little feet flying akimbo. A-Yuan used to love it when Wei Wuxian did that with him. And now, all the little Lan babies that he helps teach basic drawing and painting skills line up to not-so-patiently wait for their turn for Xian-gege to toss them in the air.
A-Zhan just gasps, clutching tightly to the collar of Wei Wuxian robes once he’s properly settled back in his arms. Wei Wuxian laughs for him, feeling joyful.
He feels more relief now, compared to yesterday, as he spent another few hours in bed last night reviewing his notes for Lan Zhan’s curse. At this point, he feels there are enough instances of this type of magic to conclusively say that Lan Zhan isn’t in any real danger. And, with Lan Zhan’s strong qi and cultivation, he would likely only be trapped in this form for a few more days if not less.
So why not try to have some fun?
“A-Zhan! Are you ready to see the bunnies?” Wei Wuxian asks with glee.
A-Zhan squirms in Wei Wuxian's arm in an effort to either get comfortable or to express excitement, Wei Wuxian is not sure which but does know he wants to bite his mantou cheeks.
Wei Wuxian is about to turn and set off without delay but a quiet clearing of the throat stops him. Lan Qiren makes his way down the porch followed by a smiling Zewu-Jun.
“We had some fresh herbs and vegetables prepared for you to take with you, to feed the rabbits,” Zewu-jun says as he hands over a small woven basket.
Lan Qiren harrumphs. “Purely the stems and left overs, nothing wasteful,” he insists. Wei Wuxian nods indulgently at him.
"A-Zhan," Lan Qiren looks pointedly at the little boy. "Don't you have something to give Wei Wuxian?"
A-Zhan frowns, reaching into his robes with a noticeable pout. He pulls out Wei Wuxian's red ribbon and reluctantly hands it back over.
Wei Wuxian shifts A-Zhan in his arms, turning to the side present his hair. "A-Zhan, will you tie it on for me?"
A-Zhan then determinedly ties the ribbon in his hair. In the end, it's probably a little too loose and too lopsided but Wei Wuxian finds A-Zhan too precious to correct so he just let's it dangle until he can fix it later.
“Have fun, A-Zhan, I will send some lunch down for you both later today,” Zewu-jun says stepping down and combing away some of the hair that had flown in A-Zhan's face during Wei Wuxian's antics. He’s standing much closer to Wei Wuxian than he normally ever would, seeming to be too delighted fussing over his miniature didi to notice him.
A-Zhan nods seriously, reaching out to pat Zewu-jun's cheek. “Bye-bye, gege. We will have dinner and tea later.”
With that, Wei Wuxian exchanges a smile with him before he trots off down the familiar paths to the meadow.
They get quite a few curious looks as they make their way through Cloud Recesses. Normally, Wei Wuxian pays no mind to these things, but he’s feeling a little protective over A-Zhan being seen like this. So he adjusts his cloak to drape over them, to keep the boy mostly covered.
A-Zhan huffs in complaint. “Cannot see.”
“Well, A-Zhan why don’t you count for me and we’ll see how far you get until we get there, huh?” Wei Wuxian used to do this with A-Yuan as well.
There wasn’t much fun for a child in the Burial Mounds, so when in need to entertain the boy, they would prompt him to count or sing. This whole ordeal has made Wei Wuxian think about A-Yuan a lot.
Lan Sizhui has taken up more responsibilities in the past year now as one of the head Lan disciples. So between that and his visits to his “Ning Shushu,” he has been kept occupied. Lan Zhan and him haven’t been able to spend as much time with him as they initially had when Wei Wuxian first returned to Cloud Recesses.
Wei Wuxian resolves to make more time to spend alone with the young man. If A-Zhan can be convinced, maybe he’ll take them both down to the waterfall together tomorrow to have some fun.
A-Zhan counts to thirty before he decides that’s far enough and restarts from one.
By the time they arrive at the meadow, Wei Wuxian has switched tactics, pointing to random plants and birds, explaining what each of them is. A-Zhan is an excellent audience, as always, listening studiously with his little brow furrowed. As if making a physical effort to memorize this information.
Wei Wuxian can’t help but pinch his cheek a little for being so cute. He’s resisted temptation long enough.
A-Zhan is not amused in the slightest, glowering up at Wei Wuxian for this indignity. He’s annoyance melts away, however as Wei Wuxian carries him down the bamboo steps to the meadow.
From there, A-Zhan stares in wide-eyed wonder at the little white bunnies that cluster together in the field, peacefully nibbling some flowers.
At the familiar sight of Wei Wuxian, however, they hop their way over, knowing to inspect him for food. A-Zhan gasps quietly as Wei Wuxian lowers them down to the ground, seating himself in lotus position and setting their little basket of vegetables next to them.
A-Zhan clamors into his lap, staring at the bunnies in amazement. He holds out a hand cautiously for one to sniff and it immediately bounces into his lap, nudging for pets.
Wei Wuxian laughs in delight, “A-Zhan, they recognize you!”
Wei Wuxian then guides him on how to gently pet and correctly hold the rabbits. Wei Wuxian can’t help but shake his head a little in amusement at this, thinking of all the times Lan Zhan has chastised him about his improper rabbit handling techniques.
After no time though, A-Zhan sits content, petting the two rabbits snuggled in his lap and feeding them coriander leaves. A-Zhan doesn’t speak for a while after that, besides the occasional gasp whenever one of the rabbits does something particularly cute.
Wei Wuxian is content to fill the silence. He continues his point and explain game a while longer until he gets bored and switches to recounting tales and legends from some of the different towns he visited during his travels. Time passes by in a contented haze.
In what feels like no time at all, he spots Lan Sizhui and Lan Jingyi coming down the path with a basket full of their lunch. Wei Wuxian has just gotten to the climax of his story. The two seem to sense this and wait on the steps with indulgent smiles at A-Zhan, who looks on with bated breath as Wei Wuxian acts out the last scene. He finishes with flourish, bending down on one knee in front of A-Zhan. And after a quick flash of a talisman, the little blue bunny toy pops out of Wei Wuxian’s sleeve.
He presents it to A-Zhan, who snatches it, looking awe-struck at Wei Wuxian for a moment before cuddling close to his face. It’s the sweetest thing Wei Wuxian has ever seen in his entire life.
Wei Wuxian makes a pained noise, collapsing on the ground as if wounded, unable to withstand it.
A-Zhan pays him no mind.
“Who’ve you got there, A-Zhan?” Lan Sizhui smiles down at the boy as he and Lan Jingyi settle down next to them on the grass. Wei Wuxian exchanges a quick nervous glance at him and back at the bunny, but Lan Sizhui just nods his head in acceptance before smiling brilliantly at A-Zhan.
The boy holds out the little bunny toy for Lan Sizhui's inspection.
“This is Didi.”
“Didi, huh?” Wei Wuxian smiles.
"We will take him home to be with Gege and A-Niang,” A-Zhan continues simply, taking the toy back into his cradling arms. Lan Sizhui and Lan Jingyi both throw bemused glances in Wei Wuxian's direction, but he just subtly shakes his head in response.
Wei Wuxian just gives A-Zhan’s cheek another gentle squeeze before he sets his sights on unpacking their lunch.
“Zewu-jun said that he liked being carried at this age,” Lan Sizhui whispers to Wei Wuxian as they watch Lan Jingyi stride ahead with A-Zhan proudly on his hip.
“Yes, I noticed,” Wei Wuxian laughs.
The four of them are heading back to return A-Zhan to Lan Qiren’s after lunch, so that Wei Wuxian can teach his advanced talisman making class to the older Lan disciples that afternoon. The two boys have prompted A-Zhan to recount the things that Wei Wuxian had showed him on the way here.
A-Zhan diligently points at the different birds and plants he sees, looking very serious indeed. Lan Jingyi nods eagerly along as he tucks A-Zhan more firmly under Wei Wuxian’s cloak. A-Zhan is perhaps at the age where he’s a little too big to be carried around so much, but no one has the heart to deny him. Especially now.
Not even Lan Qiren, it would seem.
“Shugong said that since he will likely turn back soon, it’s best to not upset him and risk destabilizing his qi," Lan Sizhui says, looking amused.
Wei Wuxian can’t help but laugh at that. If that’s what you need to tell yourself, Lan Qiren, he thinks to himself. Wei Wuxian has no such qualms about spoiling Lan Zhan, curse or no curse.
He’d been tested though, when it was time to leave the meadow. A-Zhan had not wanted to go and had simply laid on the ground, refusing to move. Ignoring their pleas to get up. Lan Jingyi and Lan Sizhui looked at Wei Wuxian torn between looking concerned and like they wanted to laugh.
Wei Wuxian had sighed, attempting to pry the boy up off the ground yet A-Zhan had resisted with his full dead weight. Wei Wuxian had then tried to use the little rabbit toy to coax the boy up, making it tickle and kiss his face, but A-Zhan just glowered and turned his face into the dirt.
Wei Wuxian was eventually able to heft the boy enough to turn him around but the boy was pouting mightily, looking close to tears. Wei Wuxian shook head as he wiped the dirt off his face, thinking of what Lan Qiren would say if he returned A-Zhan to him in this state.
“A-Zhan, what’s wrong? I know we’re having fun but we’ll come back tomorrow, alright? I have to go teach a class now but I will stop by to see you before dinner. You are supposed to have dinner and tea with your gege, remember?”
“Wei Ying must come,” A-Zhan insisted, “and have tea with Didi, Gege, and A-Niang.”
“Oh, very well then,” Wei Wuxian agreed with a smile. He made a move to grab for A-Zhan’s cheek again but the boy scuttled away to hide behind Lan Sizhui and glare at him.
Now, as they make their way through Cloud Recesses they watch as Lan Jingyi trots ahead happily with A-Zhan in tow under Wei Wuxian’s cloak. A-Zhan would occasionally peek through the fabric to check to make sure he and Lan Sizhui were still following behind them.
“Xian-ge, what did A-Zhan mean when he said he wants you to have tea with his gege and A-Niang?”
Wei Wuxian sighs, “Ah, A-Yuan, I don’t really know. Did you know he tried to look for her at the Jingshi last night? I found him there waiting for her. It nearly broke my heart.”
“He didn’t seem to understand that she wasn’t there,” Wei Wuxian continues. “So I may have fibbed and told him she ‘left to go live with her family’. It wasn’t technically a lie but… do you think that was wrong of me to do?”
“Ah. Well. Like Shugong said, it’s best to not upset him. Zewu-jun thinks that since Hanguang-jun was really sad at this time in his life, that may be why he was reverted to this state, so...”
“--so if we make him happy then the curse would undo itself faster?” Wei Wuxian posits.
Lan Sizhui nods, “that is Shugong and Zewu-jun’s theory.”
“It is a sound theory,” Wei Wuxian says consideringly, “It can’t hurt to spoil him a little. I certainly don’t mind. Making Lan Zhan happy is my goal in life always. We’ll just have to tread carefully… about mentions of his A-Niang.”
Lan Sizhui nods again, looking thoughtful.
Wei Wuxian hesitates for a moment before he adds, “A-Zhan overheard Zewu-jun and his uncle mention that we were married…” Wei Wuxian isn’t sure what is prompting him to bring it up, but he’s suddenly unable to stop the words from spewing out of his mouth.
Lan Sizhui just chuckles. “Ah, that would make sense. He would not stop asking us questions about you yesterday.”
“Mn. He wanted to know your favorite foods and things you liked.”
“Aiya, Lan Zhan, so sweet. The best husband even when he’s a baby,” Wei Wuxian tuts, twirling Chenqing to distract from how touched he is by this. In this instance, he misses Lan Zhan fiercely. As much as he’s enjoying this little baby version of him, he misses his husband.
After another pause, Wei Wuxian asks cautiously, “you think it’s fine that I am spending time with him? It’s not… confusing him? Lao Lan didn’t seem to object…”
“Well, the goal is to keep him happy. So if he wants to see you, how can he object? And everyone knows he’s safe with you.”
Wei Wuxian smiles, feeling warm at the thought.
“Say, A-Yuan, has anyone told him about you, yet?” Wei Wuxian asks. During their playtime today A-Zhan didn’t seem to look at Lan Sizhui as anything other than a shixiong and babysitter.
“Ah, well, I didn’t want to overstep,” Lan Sizhui demurs, looking away. Wei Wuxian can see his jaw clench a little though.
“Well, he seems to be fine with me and his gege looking like an adult, so if you want us to tell him…”
“I don’t want to upset him,” Lan Sizhui responds quietly.
“Why would he be upset to know he has the best son in the entire world?” Wei Wuxian tugs a little at Lan Sizhui’s sleeve but Lan Sizhui just shakes his head a little.
“I get it, it’s been difficult for me to have a six year old husband so I imagine it must be just as difficult to have a six year old father,” Wei Wuxian teases lightly. He doesn’t want to push the boy if he’s feeling reluctant, but he doesn’t want him to hold back either...
“But, if you like, you should tell him. A-Zhan may give you extra hugs.”
Lan Sizhui just smiles a little at that, “I will consider it.”
“Very well! I was thinking... how about the three of us head to the waterfall tomorrow? It’s a little cold for swimming but he always likes to go there to play his qin. We still have your little children’s qin for him to try if he wants. Perhaps you can help him play?”
Lan Sizhui smiles gently at that thought. “Yes, that would be nice. I will need to request it with Zewu-Jun, though, I’m supposed to oversee some sword training for the younger juniors.”
“I’m sure Jingyi won’t mind taking charge of your lessons tomorrow.”
They turn to examine the young man, who is delightedly singing a children’s song to A-Zhan.
After enduring this for a gracious amount of time, A-Zhan’s little hand floats out from under the cloak to simply cover Lan Jingyi’s mouth.
Wei Wuxian makes his way to Lan Qiren’s that evening just as the sun is starting to set in the sky. He’s both eager to see little A-Zhan and also feeling a looming sense of dread. A-Zhan was so insistent that Wei Wuxian have tea with his brother and mother. Wei Wuxian worries that the boy will be upset when they have to dance around his mother’s absence. Wei Wuxian thought that A-Zhan handled his explanation last night quite well, all things considered. Yet, he worries now that the boy didn’t take it to heart. His Lan Zhan has always been rather stubborn, after all.
However as Lan Qiren slides the door open for him and he murmurs “you are right on time,” as Wei Wuxian slips his shoes off.
There sitting at Lan Qiren’s table is A-Zhan, Zewu-jun, and three little stuffed animals. One is Lan Yuan’s little blue bunny, the other two a worn looking panda bear and a lumpy looking kitten.
A-Zhan nods, looking pleased in his own subtle way at Wei Wuxian’s arrival.
He indicates formally for Wei Wuxian to sit on the mat closest to him.
“We are having tea.”
Oh my goodness.
Wei Wuxian exchanges a helpless look at Zewu-jun who fails to contain his amused smile as he nods to Wei Wuxian silently in greeting.
“Wei Ying knows Didi and Gege but he has not met Kitty-Gege or A-Niang,” A-Zhan refers to Zewu-jun and the kitten doll as the “Geges” and the panda as “A-Niang”. Wei Wuxian allows himself to feel a brief moment of relief for this reveal that A-Zhan has been referring to his toys and not actually his mother.
Yet still, the biggest concern is how Wei Wuxian will get through this tea and dinner with his sanity intact. As this is just too cute for him to possibly survive.
Wei Wuxian bows formally to the Kitty-Gege and Panda-A-Niang in greeting, to which A-Zhan nods in approval.
The boy then picks up the small children’s tea set in front of them and pretends to pour them their tea. There is nothing in it, of course.
Wei Wuxian has to clench his fists to resist screaming over how adorable this is but he doesn’t want to interrupt A-Zhan’s clear demand for formality. The little boy even takes care to pretend to pull his sleeves aside, just as he would as an adult, though his sleeves are cuffed.
A-Zhan clears his throat in a way that reminds him of Lan Qiren. Wei Wuxian realizes with a wave of crushing affection, that A-Zhan is imitating his uncle's mannerisms. Wei Wuxian darts a quick look at Lan Qiren who has busied himself reviewing his student’s assignments behind his desk across the room. Wei Wuxian thinks he spots a small quirk of a smile on the man's face but it’s quickly covered up as he strokes his beard.
After he and Zewu-jun finish their pretend tea, a young servant arrives with their dinner. They look curiously at the scene in front of them biting their lip to restrain themselves from exclaiming at the adorable sight.
Lan Qiren comes to join them then and A-Zhan graciously allows him to sit in the seat which housed his stuffed animals. He assigns Kitty-Gege to sit with Zewu-jun for dinner and Panda-A-Niang to Wei Wuxian. He sits the little blue rabbit next to himself.
“You’ve done very well, A-Zhan,” Lan Qiren praises quietly, gently patting the boy on the shoulder. A-Zhan doesn’t smile but he does swell a little at the praise. As they silently eat their dinner, the boy sways a little happily as he occasionally glances up at Wei Wuxian and his family.
After they finish, Wei Wuxian gets up to follow after Zewu-Jun who has excused himself for the evening with a nod to Wei Wuxian, bow to Lan Qiren, and a hug and forehead kiss to A-Zhan.
“I’ll pick him up at the same time tomorrow?” Wei Wuxian asks Lan Qiren who agrees before excusing himself back to his desk. Wei Wuxian attempts bends down to say goodnight to A-Zhan but the boy is clutching at the ends of his robes. He’s holding the little blue bunny in his grasp as well.
“Ah, A-Zhan, I’ve got to go now. It’s almost time for you to get ready for bed. Don’t worry, I will see you tomorrow morning. I’m going to take you and Sizhui to see the waterfall and we’ll play all day, alright?”
“No Sizhui. Just Wei Ying.”
“Oh my, what’s wrong? You don’t like your Sizhui-xiong? He’s a very sweet boy! The best! You had lots of fun with him and Jingyi today, no?”
“Mn, but Wei Ying is my friend, not his.”
“Oh dear…” Wei Wuxian exchanges a helpless look at Lan Qiren who very unhelpfully gets up to escape to the bedroom. Wei Wuxian gets a glimpse of a small cot set up next to Lan Qiren’s bed before Lan Qiren lightly slides the door shut.
“A-Zhan,” Wei Wuxian folds himself to sit on the floor and talk at A-Zhan’s level.
He peels A-Zhan’s hand away from his robe to hold it in his own instead. It’s so small, still squishy with baby fat. It’s hard to think that they will become the elegant, beautiful hands that Wei Wuxian loves so much.
“A-Zhan, Sizhui is very dear to us. You don’t remember but you care for him very much. And he cares for you so much. It would mean a lot to him and to me for him to spend the day with us tomorrow.” A-Zhan's pout melts a little at this and he caves with a small nod.
“Thank you, I promise we’ll have fun together,” Wei Wuxian gently squishes A-Zhan’s little cheek. A-Zhan glares but is still unwilling to let go of Wei Wuxian’s hand.
“Don’t want you to go,” A-Zhan frowns.
Wei Wuxian smiles at him, “Well, A-Zhan it’s almost bedtime and you need to sleep! Otherwise how can we have fun tomorrow? Just think, when you wake up in the morning tomorrow we can go see the bunnies again! And I’m taking you and Sizhui to the waterfall. That sounds fun, right?”
A-Zhan nods but in a way that makes it known that he’s still not pleased with this situation. Wei Wuxian is unable to resist temptation and tucks the boy in his arms in a tight embrace.
“Wei Ying?” A-Zhan whispers into his shoulder.
“You said you are my zhiji and you married me when I was old so… you won’t leave like A-Niang."
“A-Niang said me and Gege are her favorite people in the world too. She said she would never leave us…”
“A-Zhan,” Wei Wuxian gathers him close, pulling him in his lap. “A-Zhan, to me, being with you is the best thing in my life. I love you so much. You are my family and my home. I would never leave you. Not ever.”
Wei Wuxian's heart breaks when he feels A-Zhan sniffle into his robes. So he just holds him tighter, rocking them both a little.
Without intending to, Wei Wuxian finds himself humming Wangxian. It’s his comfort song after all. Maybe on some visceral level, he hopes Lan Zhan will recognize it.
A-Zhan’s grips loosens eventually and Wei Wuxian looks down to see the boy has fallen asleep. Wei Wuxian gently strokes a finger over his cheek before carefully standing up, with the boy in his arms.
Lan Qiren must have heard his movements and slides the bedroom door open to allow him entrance. Wei Wuxian carefully tucks A-Zhan into his little cot and places his stuffed toys around him.
There is a small wooden sword next to the bed, in an imitation to how Bichen (and Suibian) rests by their own bed at night. Wei Wuxian smiles at that before turning to leave without another word.
Lan Qiren follows him out to the entrance of his home and as Wei Wuxian pulls his shoes back on he whispers, “Thank you.”
Wei Wuxian just nods, “Of course, I don’t mind putting him to bed.”
Lan Qiren just shifts, avoiding his eyes for a moment. “No, thank you. Wangji is much happier, with you in his life.”
“Ah,” Wei Wuxian’s eyes suddenly sting, he is so surprised he’s not entirely sure what to do or say.
He can’t even think of a joke to make, not wanting to ruin the moment. One thing he’s learned from his husband though, is that sometimes, words aren’t needed. So instead he just bows in acknowledgement, gives him a small smile, and takes his leave for the evening.
Wei Wuxian waits until he’s back at the Jingshi, with his face tucked into his husband’s pillow and the warm smell of Lan Zhan surrounding him, to let a few tears fall.
The next morning Wei Wuxian does need to be roused by Lan Sizhui. He wasn't able to sleep the night before, his mind rehashing the scene with little A-Zhan sniffling into his robes, desperately missing his mother.
Lan Zhan isn’t one to share things or talk about his feelings without being prompted, or in some cases, forced. Wei Wuxian himself is the same way, especially regarding the time of his life after losing his parents. Wei Wuxian resolves to take a trip down the mountain to go visit their memorial tablets after this is over and Lan Zhan is healed.
Little A-Zhan is currently waiting for them on the porch again. This time with both the little blue bunny and his toy sword in hand.
“Oh, look at that sword! What’s this A-Zhan, are you are going into battle?” Wei Wuxian teases lightly as he takes the boy’s hand to lead them down the path.
“I need it to protect Wei Ying.”
“Oh?” Wei Wuxian exchanges a look with Lan Sizhui who cannot contain his smile.
“Mn. Wei Ying doesn’t have a sword so I will bring mine.”
“A-Zhan! So sweet!” Wei Wuxian can’t help but sweep the boy into his arms. He’s already got the Lan Yuan’s childhood qin strapped to his back so he’s slowed down a little by A-Zhan’s added heft. Though the boy is still quite small.
“A-Zhan, I do have a sword! Maybe I’ll show you tomorrow. Can you guess it’s name?”
A-Zhan doesn’t even attempt a guess.
“Why don’t you carry it?” A-Zhan asks, his brow furrowed in confusion.
Wei Wuxian plucks the little bunny toy from him and tucks it into his robes before he holds out his wrist for A-Zhan to feel his qi. A-Zhan’s little face scowls further when he does.
“Pretty bad, huh? It’s much better than it was, though, I’ve improved it a lot!”
“You’ve improved it an extraordinary amount, Xian-gege,” Lan Sizhui shakes his head affectionately at him.
“I’ve tried my best,” Wei Wuxian demurs.
When he’d left to travel on his own after Lan Zhan accepted the chief cultivator position, he first wandered without intentions, just stopping to help people in need as a rogue cultivator. Just him and Lil Apple, enjoying shared stories and befriending people from all walks of life.
It made him think a lot about his parents. About how, had he not been raised by the YunmengJiang clan, he would have liked to be a rogue cultivator as well. Independent of power struggles and free of political corruption. Just helping people in need with no one but Lan Zhan at his side, like how Xiao Xingchen and Song Lan had lived. It had been his secret fantasy ever since he was a boy and went on his first nighthunt with Lan Zhan. Before the war took things from them they could never get back.
This also made him think of Baoshen Sanren and how he had always wanted to meet her, as his mother’s shifu. So, he found himself searching for her. And when Wei Wuxian eventually found his way to her, she’d just grumbled before letting him inside her home.
She was a tiny woman but grumpy too, unused to having to share space with another person. He was exceedingly fond of her and he didn’t regret taking the time for himself to learn from her.
It had been a time of seclusion and healing, his body and mind finally having the quiet to confront the trauma it had been put through, in both life times. He thought a lot about the Dafan Wen, Shijie, Jin Zixuan, Jiang Shushu, and Madam Yu in that time.
And his parents as well.
All people who had been taken from him. Whose lives and deaths were entwined with his. It was with her that he was able to take what remained of Mo Xuanyu’s core and turn it into something more.
Something that gave him a real chance for a future with Lan Zhan. Not that he wouldn’t have had a future with Lan Zhan without one, but a future that he wanted. A future where he felt he had purpose.
And, when he couldn’t bear another day being apart from his zhiji any longer, he’d parted his ways with his shifu and set his path back to Gusu. With their song in his heart and a marriage proposal on his lips.
He could endure living in Cloud Recesses, such a controlled and strict place, if that meant he could be with Lan Zhan. Lan Zhan was needed there, his brother needed him and as did his sect. It was his home. So Wei Wuxian made it his home too.
Wei Wuxian made himself useful, offering his skills in teaching the young disciples who came to learn from the masters. He enjoyed teaching more than he realized, something he learned about himself through his time spent with Jin Ling and the other juniors. And amazingly, the Lan clan liked what he did. Once they learned to live with his unconventional methods, that is. They had disciples coming from all Sects to learn talisman invention from Wei Wuxian.
Lan Zhan was so proud of his growth. And Lan Zhan's pride in him, fuels Wei Wuxian to keep going. To keep building his core, so that he and Lan Zhan can have a long life together in this life time.
Little A-Zhan, though, disapproves when he feels his qi.
“Aiyo, A-Zhan, don’t pout! I’m improving my core everyday! I will live a long life yet, you can’t get rid of me too quickly.”
Lan Sizhui nods in agreement, “you don’t need to worry, A-Zhan. Xian-gege is a man of his word. He's been getting stronger everyday.”
Lan Zhan just turns his face into Wei Wuxian’s neck and Wei Wuxian can barely hear the quiet whisper.
“My gege. Not yours.”
Luckily, Lan Sizhui has not heard this and leads the way up the trail to reach the waterfall, blissfully unaware that this version of his six year old father has a jealous grudge against him.
There can only be one baby, it would seem.
Wei Wuxian can’t wait to tease Lan Zhan about this, when he’s back to normal. For now, though, they spend a lovely morning playing music by the waterfall. Wei Wuxian on the dizi and Lan Sizhui on his qin.
A-Zhan determinedly plays some chords on Lan Yuan's little practice qin, too. His little tongue just slightly sticking out. It is quite possibly the cutest thing Wei Wuxian has ever seen. He nearly falls into the river because of it.
A-Zhan even puts his grudge against Lan Sizhui temporarily aside to sit next to him and allow Lan Sizhui to gently instruct him through playing the qin. Lan Sizhui keeps throwing joyful smiles at Wei Wuxian as the little boy eventually migrates into his lap to have a better view of Lan Sizhui’s playing.
“A-Zhan you used sit like this and play with me when I was your age, you know,” Lan Sizhui smiles down at the boy.
A-Zhan blinks, “we are friends, A-Zhan and Shixiong?”
Lan Sizhui looks at Wei Wuxian for help, who just smiles encouragingly at him.
“Ah, well, A-Zhan, you are my shixiong or, well, rather shifu or… rather...it was you who raised me. I was an orphan and you took me in and cared for me. I consider both you and Xian-gege to be...”
A-Zhan exchanges a wide-eyed look at Wei Wuxian, “Sizhui-shixiong is our baby?”
Wei Wuxian nods, “Yes, in many ways. You gave him Bunny-Didi, you know. It was his toy. You made it for him, actually. He let me give it to you, for you to have.” He pulls the blue bunny out of his robes to hand to A-Zhan, who stares at it for a moment before holding it out to Lan Sizhui.
“I did not mean to take your toy BaoBao-xiong,” A-Zhan earnestly says.
“Oh my! You didn’t! Of course you may play with it, A-Zhan. I trust you to take care of it,” Lan Sizhui says as he throws another helpless look at Wei Wuxian. Wei Wuxian is no help, however, as he has fallen over, overcome with laughter at Lan Sizhui's new nickname.
A-Zhan is much warmer to Lan Sizhui after this, though only Wei Wuxian might notice. He spends much of their morning staring up at Lan Sizhui and huddling closer to him. When A-Zhan needs to be carried down the path back to Cloud Recesses, as the rocks are too steep for him and he immediately reaches for Lan Sizhui.
Wei Wuxian pretends to pout about this.
“Wei Ying must save his strength. Baobao is stronger,” A-Zhan responds practically from where he is carefully cradled in Lan Sizhui’s arms.
Wei Wuxian pretends to stab himself in the heart with A-Zhan’s toy sword. A-Zhan finds this an inappropriate use of his sword and demands it be relinquished back to him.
When they get to the meadow, Lan Sizhui sets A-Zhan down and mentions that he requested for some lunch to be packed for them along with some treats for the rabbits, so he goes to retrieve them.
Wei Wuxian takes his opportunity to snatch A-Zhan and pull him in his lap to try and tickle him. A-Zhan squirms mightily, until finally a tiny little giggle escapes his mouth. It’s the sweetest sound Wei Wuxian has ever heard.
He presses a gentle kiss to A-Zhan’s forehead and smiles into his hair, cuddling him close. Cuddling Lan Zhan is one of Wei Wuxian’s favorite activities and this little version of him is especially cuddle-able. “Hm, so aren’t you glad Sizhui joined us today? Didn’t we have fun?”
A-Zhan nods, “Mn, love A-Yuan.”
A-Zhan’s gently petting a rabbit that is snuggled up to their side and he starts lightly humming, his happiness and contentment clear. Wei Wuxian smiles before he freezes in surprise, trying to recall if he ever addressed Lan Sizhui as “A-Yuan” in front of A-Zhan.
Wei Wuxian's got a niggling sense of intuition and he’s reaching for a talisman when he hears it. A-Zhan’s humming Wangxian.
“Lan Zhan…?” Wei Wuxian asks cautiously.
But before A-Zhan can turn to respond, there is a rush of light and a ripping sound of fabric.
And then, there he is, his Lan Zhan.
Naked, sprawled on top of Wei Wuxian's lap, with the children’s robes he was wearing in tatters around him, looking bemused. His forehead ribbon’s popped off and dangles haphazardly in his hair.
“Lan Zhan! You're back!” Wei Wuxian pulls him on top of himself even more firmly, kissing his face and everywhere he can reach. “I missed you!”
The rabbits have all scrambled away, frightened by the sudden shift of energy. So Wei Wuxian doesn’t feel badly about all but wrestling Lan Zhan into an embrace. Wei Wuxian struggles to keep his hold on his husband while attempting to pull out the extra robes he stored out of his qiankun pouch.
Lan Qiren and Zewu-Jun had insisted he carry some extra robes this morning, in case Lan Zhan changed back while they were outside. Wei Wuxian had readily agreed to this precaution, as he had no interest in sharing the privilege of viewing Lan Zhan's naked body with anyone else.
“Lan Zhan are you all right? Do you remember anything or--?” The reports of the victim's memories, from those who had recovered from this curse had been inconclusive. With some remembering what happened and others not.
“Yes, I remember everything,” Lan Zhan says while fixing his robes and attempting to re-tie this headband. He’s only got the most basic of layers of robes and Wei Wuxian has to force his eyes away from the bare skin of Lan Zhan’s collar bones.
Lan Zhan smoothes his robes, getting to his feet and looking determined. “I must apologize to Sizhui and Shufu. I was rude to them.”
Wei Wuxian just tugs Lan Zhan back down the grass with him, checking the flow of his qi. It feels just as strong as ever, just the slightest bit of tremulousness. They will stop by the healers to have him checked over.
“Aiyo, BaoBao-xiong didn’t even notice you being jealous, if that’s what you are worried about. But what’s this about being rude to Shufu?”
Lan Zhan looks away and sighs, “I bit him.”
“LAN ZHAN!” Wei Wuxian falls over onto the grass laughing uproariously. “Lan Zhan, what did your poor Shufu do to deserve getting bit?”
Lan Zhan just shakes his head, but there is a ghost of a smile quirking at the sides of his mouth. “He made me go to bed when I wanted to see you.”
Wei Wuxian beams, “Hm, yes, very disrespectful to A-Zhan.”
Lan Zhan cups a hand to his cheek, gently sweeping his thumb over Wei Wuxian’s cheekbone. “He should have known by now, not to try to keep me from you.”
Wei Wuxian’s eyes sting as he turns his head to kiss Lan Zhan’s hand. He pulls Lan Zhan closer to him, in another tight embrace, laying his head on Lan Zhan’s shoulder. Wei Wuxian breathes in a sigh of relief at the familiar weight of his body against his.
“Lan Zhan, I promised you that we’d go visit your mother. Let’s go pay our respects to our parents memorial tablets soon?”
“Yes, we can go tomorrow,” Lan Zhan’s warm hand cups the back of Wei Wuxian’s neck, massaging there, just like he knows Wei Wuxian likes.
“As soon as you are cleared by the healers to travel,” Wei Wuxian counters. “You might need to rest some time longer, your qi is still a little unbalanced.”
Lan Zhan just nods in acceptance of this, “Wei Ying will take care of me.”
“Always,” Wei Wuxian murmurs into Lan Zhan’s neck, pressing a kiss to the soft skin there.
“Wei Ying… thank you. For comforting me. This whole experience… reminded me how lost I was back then.”
“Always,” Wei Wuxian just whispers again, pulling back so he can look at Lan Zhan directly. “I will always be there for you. Just as you would for me.”
Lan Zhan nods before leaning forward to press a sweet, gentle kiss to Wei Wuxian’s lips.
“Mmm,” Wei Wuxian sighs contently against Lan Zhan’s lips. “Ah, Lan Zhan, you were the cutest little boy in the world! And I learned some things about you I never knew!”
“And what’s that?” Lan Zhan asks, a slight tease to his voice.
“That Lan Zhan loves being carried!” Wei Wuxian cheers, tightening his grip on Lan Zhan before standing to sweep his husband up in his arms.
“Wei Ying!” Lan Zhan protests but his arms wrap around Wei Wuxian’s shoulders all the same.
“My beautiful husband likes to be carried so I must give my beautiful husband as he wants!” Wei Wuxian laughs, swaying Lan Zhan in his arms.
“Perhaps, you should wait until Sizhui comes back. He can carry me, since he’s stronger,” Lan Zhan comments, as Wei Wuxian makes a show of trudging them around.
Wei Wuxian makes a wounded noise at that. “My husband, how could you say that to your gege, huh?”
Lan Zhan sighs, the sound somewhere between reluctant acceptance and disgust.
“Hey, Lan Zhan, you were such a cute little kid it got me thinking…”
“Would you, maybe, want to adopt another kid someday? There is no rush, I know you’re busy! It’s just… we still have all A-Yuan’s kid stuff and your uncle clearly kept all your things too, I just-- we never got the chance to raise A-Yuan together so... I thought--”
“Wei Ying,” Lan Zhan cuts off Wei Wuxian’s nervous rambling with a finger to his lips. “Wei Ying, yes, let’s adopt. As soon as we find a child that is right for us. We can have as many as you want… I would like to have a daughter, I think.”
Wei Wuxian just smiles widely, before swooping down to kiss his husband once more.