Pros to visiting the Jin household: Wei Wuxian gets to see his Shijie—perfect in every way except for her choice in husband—as well as his nephew, Jin Ling, who has the misfortune of inheriting maybe a bit too much of his father and uncle. Other uncle, not Wei Wuxian, who is trying to remedy that with nature versus nurture experiments.
He has been warned to stop by Jin Zixuan on several occasions, but he won’t until Shijie tells him to. And she hasn’t. So.
Which brings him to cons of visiting the Jin household: Jin Zixuan, who, aside from being a pompous, pretentious peacock, is a constant reminder that Wei Wuxian is 1) dirt poor, 2) without money, 3) of low income, and 4) lonely.
The money thing doesn’t actually bother him as much as people think, but that’s all just part of his elaborate scheme to get them to stop asking if he’s dating. It’s a work in progress.
He just wishes that Jin Zixuan would stop rubbing it in his face that he’s happily married with an endearingly annoying child while Wei Wuxian is stuck with a turtle as a life partner.
“Not that you’re not beautiful,” Wei Wuxian coos to aforementioned turtle after staggering completely and utterly stone cold sober into his dorm hall (his, because against the better judgement of literally everyone in a position of power on campus, Wei Wuxian is the bosom mother of every freshman part of the Chinese Cultural Society).
Wei Wuxian isn’t ungrateful, but Xuanwu doesn’t freely give out affection and sometimes he just really needs a snuggle, okay, like right now, except Xuanwu is shrinking away from Wei Wuxian’s outstretched, hopeful finger and he won’t admit to anyone that it hurts (seriously) but it hurts (emotionally).
And it isn’t like Wei Wuxian hasn’t tried to remedy his lack of cuddle partner. He’s been rather thorough about his options (“Promiscuous,” says Jiang Cheng) but he just hasn’t connected with anyone (“Sending the Ralph bus meme in response to a confession isn’t emotional maturity,” says Jiang Cheng) and no connection means no way he’s letting them linger in his space (“What space, hoarder,” says Jiang Cheng).
God, he needs to get a better voice for his conscience than his brother.
“You drunk dialed me, asshole,” says Jiang Cheng.
“Fuck,” says Wei Wuxian and hangs up.
He goes to force open his door, barred by a thick layer of clothing from up to a month old, technically clean (“Unworn doesn’t mean clean,” says the Jiang Cheng that is actually in his head this time, because Wei Wuxian checks to make sure he didn’t accidentally call him back). Once he succeeds in entering and he’s stomped his way over to his bed like an old Italian maid mashing wine grapes, Wei Wuxian collapses upon it, shoves off a bunch of books that will surely vanish beneath the next wave of laundry, and unlocks his phone.
This time. This time Wei Wuxian, notorious free spirit and closeted serial snuggler, is going to find someone fun and they’re going to connect and he’ll get to rub it in his extended family and friend group’s collective face.
He just needs to get past all the goddamn dick pics.
The first message he gets is from a girl, which is surprising on its own. Not to mention the message’s contents.
you too emotionally unstable for my pussy?
it sounds like ur pussy is too top tier for me so probably yeah
love ur confidence tho
The second conversation brings a return to normalcy, that being mild biphobia and intense fratboy vibes.
You seem like you might be a bit crazy in bed which I like. I’m looking for fun and casual for my threesome. You down?
no thank u
Conversation three doesn’t go any better.
hey sexy how are u ;)
And neither does conversation four.
Damn ur so pretty i’d jerk ur dad off just to see where u came from hahaha
my dads dead but thanks
It doesn’t take long for him to turn it into a game: one sip for a catfish, two sips for a dick pic, a three second chug for a vagina pic since those are rarer than Jiang Cheng’s smile. Twenty minutes later, Wei Wuxian is less than completely and utterly stone cold sober, but it’s a pleasant distraction from the existential crisis he’ll be having the next morning following a night of indulgence and thinly veiled angst. Not that he’ll ever admit to the angst. Wei Wuxian doesn’t angst.
(Xuanwu would beg to differ but this is why the turtle is Wei Wuxian’s life partner—he can’t snitch.)
At this point, it’s 4 AM and he’s got an 8 AM lab—thermodynamics and kinetics, which could be fun if it wasn’t for the fact that it’s at 8 AM —but he’s several levels into this distraction and he’s invested. So invested that when he sees a picture of the most beautiful man he has ever laid eyes on that is most certainly a catfish, he forgoes the single sip and polishes off the rest of his two-six.
His hair is smooth and polished like it’s been carved from obsidian, not a strand out of place in any of his photos—like if the starless night sky was a waterfall of hair, or like if oil slick was an acceptable comparison that didn’t evoke feelings of capitalistic disgust, like if Wei Wuxian had other words for black that sounded beautiful and luxurious. But he runs out of words and sinks straight into concepts, until, like a Wikipedia deep dive, he emerges to repeat the process with the man’s eyes.
Gold. Can eyes be gold? They are now. Maybe it’s the lighting, but—nope. They’re really just like that. Beautiful and luxurious. This man could be rich on photography commissions alone with irises like molten… gold. God. Wei Wuxian considers digging out a thesaurus, because there’s no way he’s tabbing away from this app right here, right now.
He hasn’t even gotten around to the jaw, both smooth and sharp, skin so flawless Wei Wuxian can only imagine it feels like those polished stones on pebbled beaches that skip a dozen times over still lake water. Beautiful. Luxurious. Wei Wuxian needs that thesaurus. Desperately.
Wei Wuxian’s probably still into girls. Like they have… boobs. And everything. But something about this guy makes his mouth dry in an objectively appreciative way, because yeah, okay, from a certain standpoint, he’s hot, but more importantly he’s just beautiful.
It’s like someone asked, “Hey, out of curiosity, what do you think the guy of your dreams would look like if he was a lifeless mannequin and you wanted to admire him from afar for the rest of your miserable days?” and plucked the image out of his head and into his phone. People can’t look like that. That’s just not fair.
And Wei Wuxian is a connoisseur of all media, so he knows this stoic, unsmiling face. He’s seen this face in varying degrees of stoic and unsmiling in half a dozen movies since its debut several years ago, instantly becoming teen heartthrob material and only skyrocketing in popularity since. Heartthrob, action star, nuanced drama lead, you name it, this man has done it in six movies or less.
He just doesn’t know the name. Which launches him into a Wikipedia deep dive: The Untamed > Xianxia > Buddhism > Hellenistic period > New Comedy > Meet the Parents > Robert De Niro > Taxi Driver > Peptic Ulcer Disease > Amoxicillin > WHO Model List of Essential Medicines > Diazepam > Hoffmann-La Roche > Genentech > Dwarfism > Game of Thrones > Primetime Emmy Award > Lan Wangji.
It’s now nearing 4 AM and he’s no closer to being sober for his morning lab, but Wei Wuxian is satisfied with his sleuthing and returns to the app only to see that the catfish’s name is set to… Lan Wangji.
No profile tag attached.
“What kind of effort,” scoffs Wei Wuxian, but he has to admit the balls are huge on this catfish if they decided not only to steal a famous actor’s face, but also his name.
So he swipes right with a flourish, delights momentarily in that they matched, and immediately sends a message.
so how is mr lan wangji doing on this app today?? getting lots of dick pics on set??
To no one’s surprise, a reply comes an hour later. When Wei Wuxian is still awake because he isn’t fully sober and isn’t about to walk into lab with three hours of sleep and a hangover; he is going to walk into lab with zero hours of sleep without the hangover.
The message is short and simple.
A one-word reply. For a catfish.
For a moment doubt lingers in Wei Wuxian’s mind, and he stares at the message, trying to think of his options. One-word replies don’t exactly encourage conversation, but the point still stands that this Lan Wangji catfish replied anyway.
It’s definitely not Lan Wangji, but maybe. Maybe this person is roleplaying Lan Wangji. Or kinning because who is he to judge. Or maybe this is just another college kid trying to make it through student debt with a sugar daddy—which, if the sugar daddy in question is supposed to be Wei Wuxian, who has eaten instant ramen for five of the seven days this week, the kid is barking up the wrong fucking tree here. Wei Wuxian decides to investigate and go from there.
haha yeah u win some u lose some
what r u up to right now??
Wei Wuxian does not spend the next twenty minutes drumming his fingers on his Art of Experimental Physics textbook because he definitely owns a desk to drum his fingers on and also because he has more important things to do. Like homework that sits untouched in a pile on the other side of the bed. And more alcohol in the form of a one-week old glass of Captain Morgan that might be fermenting as it sits on the windowsill beside his line of succulents.
I am looking after my rabbits.
Fuck this catfish, Wei Wuxian thinks with a vengeance, standing up to take a disgusting sip from the decomposing Captain.
Rabbits aren’t his favorite animal—not with the ever-so-beautiful Xuanwu floating in his little tank, of course—but rabbits?
Fucking asshole. Using animal photos is illegal in conversation. It’s like the most common method to get someone out in the open before mugging them and stabbing them with a shiv. Not that Wei Wuxian has any personal experience with that or anything.
The rabbits are cute, though. There’s three of them in the picture, looking like they’re trying to crawl over the other in a failed attempt at a rabbit pyramid. All of them are white, with stubby pointed ears and dark eyes and unbelievably pink noses. Fuck. Those are the cutest rabbits Wei Wuxian has ever seen. Wei Wuxian would get stabbed with a shiv for those rabbits.
ohhhhhhhhhh my gooooooood thats not fuckign FAIR
what r their names u have to tell me or ill die
is that what u want
MR LAN SIR CAN U TELL ME THE NAMES OF UR RABBITS
MR LAN WANGJI SIR
You will not die.
They are nameless. I found them near the dumpster two weeks ago, locked inside their cage. They are all babies. It is likely that the owner didn’t know what to do with them after their mother bred.
Animal pictures and a sob story. Wei Wuxian takes it back. No way this guy’s an inexperienced catfish. He’s just in it for the long-haul. Well, that’s fucking fine. A new plan hatches in Wei Wuxian’s head. If this nocturnal, bottom-feeding, slimy, invasive mudcat posing as a beautiful actor thinks he can sway Wei Wuxian with animal pictures and a sob story and an unbelievably stilted way of texting with still no dick pictures in the first five minutes of conversation, he has another thing coming. Wei Wuxian’s got it, alright, he has this in the fucking bag.
wait thats so cute
who tf abandons bunnies????? what kinda monster like take them to a shelter u animal!!!!
anyways i have a pet too!!!! hes a african sideneck turtle and his name is xuanwu and i love him even tho he bites a lot
It’s one of the best pictures Wei Wuxian has of Xuanwu, taken of him as a baby and happily floating in his fresh new tank and clean water. No algae or particles of dead shrimp floating around, just Xuanwu staring into the camera with clear and bright eyes. He even has his stubby limbs pressed against the glass, like he’s trying to say hello to the viewer. He’s adorable. Wei Wuxian possibly loves him more than his own brother.
what do u think??? cute right
theres a wrong answer for that btw if u say no im never talking to u again
No need for that. He looks very cute and peaceful. How old is he?
If you don’t mind me asking.
Wei Wuxian snorts. ‘If you don’t mind me asking?’ What, is the catfish trying to score extra points for politeness? Asshole. Wei Wuxian is broke, okay, it’s all in his plan to get people to take pity on him long enough to stop asking him questions about when he’ll “settle down,” as if he’s not twenty with his entire wardrobe perpetually spread out on the floor.
It’s almost admirable how much effort the catfish is putting in to snatch a sugar daddy that Wei Wuxian feels bad for a second, before he remembers that this is a catfish and they deserve no sympathy.
If they’re ugly, they’re ugly, and they should remember to embrace it with grace like Jiang Cheng and his unfortunate nose.
he’s a babey!! i got him when i moved in bc my shijie was worried abt me living alone
she thinks if i feed him ill remember to feed myself and thats fair but also like why feed myself when i can nap thru the hunger u know
but yea apparently to her a baby turtle is more competent than i am which is just ridiculous
From what I have just heard, you have given me no reason to think that you are more competent than a baby turtle.
Shijie? Do you know any martial arts?
can u stop being mean to me
also yea i kno some but the shijie thing is mostly an joke
my brother and i both got training and she didnt and somehow she still can break up fights bw us like its nothing
and even now she KNOWS and she USES IT TO HER ADVANTAGE
she is perfect in every way tho and would never use it for diabolical means
but now i just call her shijie just to make sure everyone in the room knows who has the power u kno
shes also not my real sister so i feel like calling her jiejie
should not b a thing
haha anyways do u have any siblings
I have an older brother.
r u the baby of the family?????? i didnt expect that wait thats so funny
do u still get ur cheeks pulled by the aunts and uncles bc i still do and its not fair since my brother is the real baby but no one believes it since he acts like a 90 year old man with chronic arthritis without the arthritis
They do still pull my cheeks. It is embarrassing, but you must be respectful to your elders.
and they give u money
That too, I suppose.
Slowly, the corners of Wei Wuxian’s mouth pull up in a smile. A catfish with depth, huh.
Wei Wuxian goes to his 8 AM lab somehow, actually enjoys the fuck out of it, and returns with something like a hangover but is really just his body’s desperate response to malnutrition, dehydration and sleep deprivation. He’ll take care of that later.
For now, he’s got a line of succulents on his windowsill to baby (another attempt by his friends to get him to take care of something in lieu of himself, which, hah) and an orchid that he actually tried to kill because it required slightly more attention than the succulents but ended up outliving half of them.
What can he say? He’s a sucker for the underdogs. Now he’s attached.
The plants and Xuanwu go about their peaceful lives while Wei Wuxian pretends not to stress over finding a job that he doesn’t actually have the time for but maybe desperately needs the money from since he’s been steadfastly denying all return funds from the Wen siblings. He might just be breaking even with his room paid for (the only reason he became an RA) and his TA gig supplying his food and books (and maybe other people’s food and books, another story altogether), but that isn’t going to cut it for much longer. Tuition is coming for his ass, and graduation is looming no matter how many courses he takes to put it off.
Courses that all have assignments due soon that Wei Wuxian may have been putting off in order to grade his underclassmen’s work. Now his Art and Archeology in Pompeii class is coming for his ass, too. Wei Wuxian’s ass has never been more popular.
Unfortunately his room isn’t exactly prime real estate for studying. There’s not actually any available surface for… sitting. Or writing. That means Wei Wuxian has to venture forth to a place that has surfaces for sitting and writing, like the library.
Wei Wuxian wades out of his room and into a hall filled with children. Technically they’re not children, but freshmen who are in various states of bright-eyed: Shiny-With-Stress, Trembling-in-Trepidation, and Antsy-Anticipation.
One of these freshmen, eyes Luminescent-With-Lethargy, stands in the middle of the hall, effectively blocking Wei Wuxian’s path.
Well. Not really. He’s pretty certain he could toss Mo Xuanyu single-handed (and that’s saying a lot—Wei Wuxian has been beaten up by stern breezes) but as an RA it’s morally reprehensible to do such things. So.
“Hi,” says Wei Wuxian.
“I’m going to die,” says Mo Xuanyu.
“Okay.” Pause. “Why?”
The freshman crumples—just his face though; his body remains upright through some sort of otherworldly puppetry. “Physics.”
They’re two weeks into the fall semester. Wei Wuxian understands, though. A lot can happen in two weeks plus the extra frosh week before that.
“I get it,” he says, gingerly patting Mo Xuanyu on the shoulder, if only so he doesn’t lose control of his lumbar vertebrae. “I’ll give you all my past quizzes.”
Wei Wuxian patiently waits out Mo Xuanyu’s facial journey: shock > relief > hesitation > apprehension > horror > confusion > uncertainty.
“That’s cheating,” he says with a fat question mark hovering nearby.
Wei Wuxian pats him a little more firmly. “I’m ecstatic to say it isn’t. Not at all.”
The relief comes back and the freshman really does slump sideways into the wall. Poor guy. He’s relatively early with his panicking, but it’s a good heads up for Wei Wuxian to start scanning all his old quizzes and exams to email to the rest of the floor. Admittedly the only reason he passed first year calculus was because he memorized a five year old exam his RA had passed on to them at 3 AM the night before the final. Every question was worded the same, just different numbers. Nailed it.
And between his dips into literally every subject in the university and the entry-level courses that these freshmen will be taking, it’ll be a breeze for them. God, Wei Wuxian is the best den mother ever.
After promising to feed Mo Xuanyu completely legal and ethical study aids, Wei Wuxian scoots out of the dorm building to the library. He spots Nie Huaisang in the attached overpriced coffee shop, hogging a table to himself and a thick spread of papers.
He looks mildly stressed (for Nie Huaisang, which is to say he’s far surpassed Wei Wuxian’s acceptable levels of visible stress but hasn’t quite reached breaking point) but the moment he lifts his gaze and meets Wei Wuxian’s through the glass barrier, the strained brow disappears.
Honestly speaking, Wei Wuxian doesn’t actually know what Nie Huaisang has to be stressed about in the first place since he doesn’t know his major, minor, or really if he’s enrolled in classes at all. Wei Wuxian has been in most introductory courses available and he’s fairly certain they’re the same age—unless, and this wouldn’t be a shock, Nie Huaisang has been lying about his zodiac or is actually twelve years older, the latter of which would be a shock.
The one time Wei Wuxian had asked what he did, all Nie Huaisang had done was laugh, snap his fan, and say something incredibly vague and useless like, “Oh, you know. This and that. Sometimes I help the cafeteria ladies and they give me free dessert.” Wei Wuxian can only assume he’s either the son of a Mafia don or has friends in other similarly high places.
Regardless of age, Nie Huaisang’s major or lack thereof remains one of the campus’ mysteries, beneath such joys as:
- The identity of the meat used in the university center’s Funday Special. Every year the chemistry and food sciences majors do a little experiment on it, and every year the results are different. Drastically different. As in no two bites are the same kind of different. Jiang Cheng thinks it’s horse. Nie Huaisang says it’s an undiscovered species. Wei Wuxian is a firm believer that it’s donkey. They are the only bitches on campus with the stomach to consider it at length. Most, like Wen Qing, either don’t eat it and don’t care or, like Wen Ning, delude themselves into believing it’s secretly vegetarian. Tastes fantastic, though.
- The owl on top of the old library. The question is whether it’s real or not because, while Wei Wuxian hasn’t personally seen it blink, Mo Xuanyu swore on move-in day it watched him trip on the path and the next morning it was gone. Mo Xuanyu is also a known conspiracy theorist, so it’s up for debate.
- The location of the university counselling services. Allegedly students have found the office and use their resources but whenever someone asks for directions, they’re met with confused gazes and more puzzled responses. What do you mean? It’s right up there. Right up where? There. Such conversations usually end in frustration on both sides and claims of fairy interference.
Presently, Nie Huaisang has gone from stressed-and-under-duress to impromptu-game-of-charades. Instead of just walking in and asking what his wild arm gestures are referring to, Wei Wuxian plays along.
Nie Huaisang makes a circle on his head and frowns severely, which is such a strange expression on Nie Huaisang’s face that Wei Wuxian takes a moment to marvel, dig out his phone, and snap a picture. Then he considers it. A bird shitting on his head? Wei Wuxian looks up, but Murphy’s Law hasn’t fucked him over enough to have an entire fleet of geese hovering in the skies, ready to shit on him.
Wei Wuxian shrugs, flaps his arms, and makes a big X. No birds in sight.
Nie Huaisang’s face grows panicked. He waves his arms faster, mimes running motions, begins to strangle himself, then jabs a finger at him. A… zombie apocalypse? Madam Yu? The inherent eroticism of archenemies? The imminent explosion of the sun?
Again he checks the sky. No explosions found.
Suddenly Nie Huaisang abandons all attempts at miming and starts pointing urgently behind Wei Wuxian, who turns, sees his brother on the other side of the lobby, and high tails it to the stairwell. He manages three floors before his breath starts tasting a little metallic.
The great thing about the library is the sheer number of places to hide. Every student has a snapshot memory of every floor—there’s skylights in this extension, you can look down at the bio stacks from this balcony, there’s a fantastic view of the east residences from those windows—but nobody really knows with any confidence where these places are until they find themselves there.
Which means even if Jiang Cheng has sleeper agents hidden among the stacks, he’ll still be spending an inordinate amount of time figuring out which floor has the glass-enclosed math study (the one with the lights that flicker only during exam season (which Wei Wuxian swears is in morse code but his friends always point out he’s usually toeing the line of caffeine overdose and is therefore unreliable (which is bullshit since by the time he stops dissociating, his exam marks are back and he’s passed, and that sounds pretty reliable to him ))).
The math study isn’t a terrible place to be when his own abode is functionally useless. Wei Wuxian has since passed on his wisdom to his kids, so it isn’t a surprise to find two of them making use of the least broken orthopedic chairs by the high-security-prison-windows in the back of the room. The atmosphere definitely isn’t for everyone, but it’s a liminal space and therefore perfect for studying.
Sliding into the end seat, Wei Wuxian gives his kids a beaming smile. “Which course?”
A-Qing breathes deeply through her nose. “Intro Chem.”
“Oh, you’re writing a little treat for me?”
Both she and her lab partner, Xue Yang, look slightly murderous. As their chemistry lab TA, Wei Wuxian has teasing privileges that go beyond his usual den mother teasing privileges, which means they’re especially vulnerable to his every whim. So he doesn’t blame their rage.
Doesn’t mean he’s going to stop, however.
Maintaining eye contact with Wei Wuxian, Xue Yang crumples up his paper into a compact little ball. Gives it an extra squeeze like he’s wringing a towel. Or a neck.
Wei Wuxian raises an eyebrow. “There’s no way I’m marking it like that.”
Only after Wei Wuxian has turned his attention to A-Qing’s needling questions does Xue Yang slowly pick apart the ball back into a legible sheet. He helps them for a short time, but eventually A-Qing cuts him off because his help is… well, he can’t play favorites, can he?
Which is good timing, really, since he looks up from the spread of reference books to see the sliding doors part to admit Jiang Cheng. Thankfully his brother’s gaze lingers on those closest, so it’s with speed and grace that Wei Wuxian slithers under the table.
“What the fuck,” says Xue Yang.
“Say not a word,” says Wei Wuxian in the voice of someone who is definitely not in danger of disembowelment.
A-Qing shifts in her seat, evidently looking to see what could turn him so flighty. She sighs and turns back. Indifference is good. Indifference he can work with.
Of course, hiding under a table as his brother stalks around the library hunting him down is incredibly boring, so it doesn’t take long for Wei Wuxian to pull out his phone and continue the search for The One, because why not. He might as well if he’s going to rot here for the better part of the evening.
Unfortunately today’s results are just as disappointing as yesterday’s, and he doesn’t even have alcohol on hand to use as a fun little drinking game. He doesn’t understand how four different Chads have the same mole on the tip of their dick. That’s gotta be some long-lost sibling shit, or a Chad thing. Maybe there’s some long standing prophecy about a dude named Chad with a dick-tip mole and all the nurses at all the hospitals know this and have to break it to the sweaty, pain-angered new parent who just squeezed out a new life that they’re going to have to name the thing Chad.
On a day without alcohol, Wei Wuxian would make a game out of judging the dicks with Wen Qing. She’s surprisingly adept at it, pointing out scathing criticisms that even he wouldn’t approach.
“That dick is too curved, it’s like a fucking coat hanger,” she once said, sniffing. “Six out of ten. Block.”
But she’s not here, and judging dicks is just no fun without her by his side and his juniors stressing about their lab report above him.
Wei Wuxian abruptly misses Wen Qing with a fierce ache in his chest. It’s stupid when he considers the fact that Wen Qing is living one door away from him, and yet he’s still pining (platonically) after her. He’s not fucking Niulang; he doesn’t have to cross the Milky Way to see her, and neither does she. It’s just that they’re both busy with their own shit and that’s fine. People are allowed to have their own lives.
Wei Wuxian should not be such a clingy son of a bitch with bigger attachment issues than an octopus hooked up to a vacuum cleaner set to turbo max. But knowing how ridiculous he’s being still doesn’t help that Wei Wuxian feels like Niulang about literally everyone: Nie Huaisang, Wen Qing, Wen Ning, Shijie, even Jiang Cheng.
Jiang Cheng. The last time Wei Wuxian spent time with him voluntarily, he had spent fifty-eight minutes of the hour criticizing Wei Wuxian’s fashion, his hair, his lack of employment, his friends, his chin, his unhealthy sleeping habits, his terrible taste in movies, his turtle, his irregular eating schedule, his budgeting, his friends again, his drinking habits, his dying plants, his schedule, his hair again, and then wrapped it up with a shove to the elbow to get him out the door. Hence the current situation.
Jiang fucking Cheng.
That’s how Wei Wuxian knows it’s really bad.
It’s also why, against the admittedly tiny rational voice in his head, he finds himself sending another message to the catfish.
can u provide some rabbits in this trying time
im hiding under a table and im so bored i could eat my students shoe
actually no bc that is eerily close to a foot fetish but i could def eat like
Do you default to eating when you are bored?
i appreciate u not asking why im hiding under a table bc then i could tell u that i am escaping from my rabid horde of fans instead of my brother
also sometimes but the table thing was a joke
It is not entirely a joke. At least Wei Wuxian has come to terms with his status as human disaster and resident single-mother of sixteen children living on twelve dollars a day, because yes, Wei Wuxian has checked his budget, and no, his wallet is not doing too hot. He’d rather eat a table than choke down another dry dorm hall meal.
You should take care of yourself. Have you eaten today?
i ate a granola bar at 11 am
it had like nuts and everything
It is currently 7:13 p.m. Go eat.
my granola bar didnt even have any chocolate chips!!!!!! it had quinoa and costed like half my budget
IM VERY HEALTHY THANK U
u cant tell me what to do
I will not send any more photos of the rabbits until you eat.
MR LAN U CANT DO THIS TO ME
I TOLD U I WAS SO BORED I COULD EAT A TABLE
U CANT TAKE AWAY THE BUNNIES NOW
You can search for photos of rabbits, if you desire them so much.
BUT THEYRE NOT UR RABBITS
UR RABBITS HAVE CUTE LITTLE EARS AND PINK LITTLE NOSES
When no further reply comes, Wei Wuxian sighs. Even his catfish, huh. Even his questionably slimy, big-dicked, actor-kinning catfish refuses to talk to him. For good reasons, granted, but still.
Before he was adopted Wei Wuxian was the youngest in his family. Being a spoiled brat is in his blood, and if he doesn’t take it well, he won’t take it well.
Wei Wuxian glares at the texts for a few moments longer before he puts away his phone and taps A-Qing’s knee, since she’s the less likely of the two to snitch him out to Jiang Cheng. It's already a miracle Xue Yang hasn't lured Jiang Cheng over just to delight in the chaos of the ensuing chase, but either way Wei Wuxian isn't about to look a gift horse in the mouth and risk his chances.
A-Qing isn't that much of a better option, but he knows that she's at least willing to be his sentry, if only so she can call in a favor and coerce him to give her food during class, an extension, or on a desperate occasion, plugs for semi-legal substances.
They’re menaces. Wei Wuxian adores them.
A-Qing gives him a gentle kick in the thigh in response to his nudge. “What.”
“Is he gone?”
No need to clarify who. A-Qing scopes around before nodding, and Wei Wuxian half-climbs, half-wiggles his way back up to the surface. Ah, fresh air.
“Thanks,” Wei Wuxian beams, and reaches over to ruffle A-Qing’s hair despite her hissing, then stretches to tussle Xue Yang’s while he’s at it, ignoring his louder and far more realistic hissing. His little students are cute, even if he has seen A-Qing puking in the potted plants of the fraternity down the street less than a week ago and Xue Yang setting fire to the microwave trying to make instant mac and cheese while high as a kite. Freshmen. “I’ll see you in class, remember not to snitch!”
“Don’t tell me what to do,” Xue Yang sneers, because he is eerily like Wei Wuxian sometimes to the point that it worries him.
A-Qing just flips him the bird in response. Then she pauses, gives him the ‘I’m watching you’ gesture, and a grabbing motion. He understands this means the favor will be called in soon and makes a break for it before God (A-Qing) decides that She (A-Qing) has allowed him to live for far too long.
He does end up getting food, though. It’s an incredibly dry pasta that flakes within five minutes if the marinara sits untouched, but it is... sustenance and Wei Wuxian chokes it down.
He even sends a picture to his catfish.
does this satisfy ur royal highness mr lan
can i pls have my bunny privileges bcak
THANK U FOR MY LIFE
Three conversations in and Wei Wuxian is nowhere close to exposing the catfish as a fake. He has thirty minutes before he has to head out for family dinner that he actually managed to clear his schedule for, which gives him just enough time to send a few questions and change into something more appropriate so that Madam Yu won’t flay him alive. Therefore.
ok so far 90% of our convos have been abt our pets and thats not ok so
speed round of 20 questions lets go
ur favorite alcohol
A reply comes within seconds. You’re not really selling the whole famous actor thing here, Wei Wuxian thinks to the catfish, but still reads the message anyway.
I do not drink alcohol.
BUT WINE EXISTS
EMPERORS SMILE EXISTS
i mean thats cool say no to peer pressure and all that
I assume you drink, then.
ah ah ah questions only!!!! if u wanna kno u gotta use a question
What type of alcohol do you like?
not asking a yes or no question huh oh HO
mr lan has some game
uhhh it depends mostly im ok w everything except peach vodka bc bad memories
but i like the aforementioned emperors smile the most
its sweet and feels nice as it goes down like ur swallowing a handwarmer or somth
i realize that doesnt sound appealing but i promise u it is good
I believe you.
can u pls give me some warning before u say things like that
I don’t understand what I should warn you about, so I cannot.
What is your favorite movie?
WAIT THAT WASNT MY QUESTION THATS NOT FAIR
my favorite movie is tangled
bc im a slut for mandy moore
Do you like Mandy Moore?
nope MY TURN NOW
what r u doin rn?
bc im nice i wont count that as a question
Mm. I am currently texting you.
Do you like Mandy Moore?
what is ur obssession w mandy moore
also her voice is nice but mostly i just like her in tangled
the story is what does it for me
ALSO U KNO THATS NOT WHAT I MEANT I MEANT WHAT ARE U DOING ASIDE FROM TEXTING ME
and dont say ur not doing anything else
no one just does one thing at a time anymore its the era of multitasking
I am not obsessed with Mandy Moore.
What are you doing right now?
u KNO that wasnt my question ur doing this on purpose
im going to clarify which questions are for the game from now on but
in response to ur question
bc ur being mean to me
im texting u
I am texting you while getting my makeup done. I am currently on set.
see was that so hard
dont answer that thats not my question
anyways i am texting u while trying to find clothes for family dinner while watching reruns of gossip girl bc its trashy but
we all have our guilty pleasures
and i am personally of the opinion that we shd not deprive ourselves of the things we want in life
can u send me a pic of urself
An uncharacteristic pause. Then, after a second:
I have to go.
shameless is my middle name
jk i dont have one but u probs knew that
mr lan come back
Wei Wuxian waits, but no further reply comes even after five minutes of aimless scrolling on Twitter. When ten minutes pass in radio silence, he sighs and gives it up as a lost cause.
The catfish probably figured out his intentions and ghosted, which is disappointing because he was looking forward to a whole dramatic conversation.
Like: ur a catfish!!! i know ur secret intentions for my money and pictures of my shapely ass!!! And then the catfish would’ve replied something like, How did you know, you handsome, sexy man, and they would’ve duked it out in a verbal spar that ended in the catfish Venmo-ing Wei Wuxian like twenty dollars for tricking him, and it would’ve been a great story to tell to his nephew later as a parable about the dangers of online dating.
He is not disappointed for other reasons. Being disappointed over a catfish who’s actually been a good texter would be... stupid. Even for Wei Wuxian. So he’s not disappointed over the catfish ghosting. Not at all.
His gaze turns towards the looming pile of clothes stacked by his door and scattered all over the carpet, and Wei Wuxian sighs. Ten minutes to find clothes that won’t make Madam Yu want to kill him more. Cool. Cool.
After much deliberation and frantic upturning of his clothes like a teenager about to go on his first date, he eventually settles on a simple grey button-up tucked into his best pair of unripped jeans and a long overcoat from Uncle Jiang, in hopes that seeing his present well-worn will be enough to restrain Madam Yu from any flayings today. It’s a thin hope, but Wei Wuxian is nothing if not a master of false optimism.
Then his efforts are ruined three hours later, when his phone buzzes halfway through Monopoly and a mouthful of popcorn. It’s a message from the catfish.
Question five: I would like to request a picture of yourself as well.
If that is okay.
Wei Wuxian sees the picture and then proceeds to spew popcorn all over Jiang Cheng’s face.
“I am going to kill you,” shouts Jiang Cheng, lunging at him from across the table. Wei Wuxian is too distracted to ward off Jiang Cheng’s attempts at choking him because the catfish sent him a picture.
And, Jesus, what a picture it is.
His polished skin is lit perfectly, shadows falling beneath the smooth cut of his jaw. Clear, dark eyes gaze directly into the camera. If Wei Wuxian were inclined to study the details, he would note this is probably due to the actor sitting in a chair with his makeup artist’s hand blending foundation barely within frame.
But Wei Wuxian isn’t paying attention to that, because there’s glossy onyx hair, almost shimmering as it falls artistically from a series of crystal pins, with barely a hair out of place. Barely, because he zooms in and sees several broken strands poking free of their perfect fellows.
Somehow, this only increases the perfection of the rest, because this man’s hair is really just like that.
The actor, not the catfish behind the picture, Wei Wuxian reminds himself, saving the picture and immediately opening a reverse image search. Plenty come up, some similar angles or settings, but none are exactly the same. Wei Wuxian chews on his lower lip.
Well, Google isn’t infallible.
“Your life will be fallible after I get my hands on you, you gross-ass—“
Even if the catfish has sent him a picture of Lan Wangji—an unposted picture of Lan Wangji, granted, which is still weird all on its own—Wei Wuxian made a deal. And twenty questions is twenty questions and more legally binding than a mortgage.
Or he intends to, before he encounters a problem. For all that Wei Wuxian collects photos the way he hoards literally everything else, he doesn’t actually have that many photos of himself.
Most of the photos he does have include him in a group shot or features a friend, and while Wei Wuxian couldn’t care less about his privacy, he doesn’t think that the same carefree attitudes apply to everybody else. It’s Tinder, so it’s not likely that they’ll try to post his picture on another fucking dating app, but still.
He ends up with a grand total of two solo pictures in his roll of four thousand photos. One of them is him smiling drunkenly into the camera, eyes half-lidded and boxy shirt falling off one shoulder, and it could’ve been endearingly hot, if it wasn’t for the person throwing up and the three couples swapping spit in the background.
The other one is him, mid-chew with squirrel cheeks. Enough said.
“Shijie,” he blurts, turning to face her and slapping away Jiang Cheng’s attempts at murder, “do you have any good photos of me? Like one that says, ‘I’m hot but effortlessly so’ and maybe a bit of rogue-ish charm? And with good lighting from the past year? And one that has me alone and not with anyone else?”
“Finding a good picture of you is like trying to spot Zhuque and tell it to fly you to Australia,” says Jiang Cheng flatly. The Monopoly board has been packed away during Wei Wuxian’s malfunction and Uncle Jiang and Madam Yu have already retreated upstairs to argue about something or the other. Definitely for the best. Wei Wuxian isn’t above cheating and their little family dinners are harrowing enough as it is without throwing that bomb into their midst.
“Hey,” Wei Wuxian says, “if Xuanwu exists, then there’s hope for me yet.”
“Maybe if you would cut your fucking hair and sleep once in a while,” says Jiang Cheng, as always seizing any opportunity to lecture him, “it could help your face.“
“What’s wrong with my face?”
“What isn’t wrong with your face?”
“Nothing, which can’t really be said for your nose. It’s such a shame we don’t have the same grandparents, because surely Jiang-zufu didn’t do your nose any favors—“
“Like your nose will be any better after I punch it off—“
“Boys,” Shijie cuts in, and they snap apart. She levels a steady but disappointed gaze at them, and shame rushes through Wei Wuxian’s body. Wei Wuxian once fell asleep shitting in the bathroom after midterms and hadn’t felt so much as a blush when the janitor woke him up in the morning, and yet one look from Shijie is all it takes.
“Sorry, Shijie,” Wei Wuxian mumbles, and beside him Jiang Cheng does the same.
She smiles at them. “Would it kill you both to be honest and nice to each other once in a while?”
“But his nose,” Wei Wuxian protests.
“I’m going to fucking kill you—“
“Boys,” Shijie says again, and now there’s a hint of scolding in it. Wei Wuxian avoids her gaze this time. “A-Xian, I’m sure you’ll find something that meets… all your incredibly specific criteria. I think Nie Huaisang gave me some from last semester when you helped with an assignment.”
“Wasn’t an assignment,” says Wei Wuxian automatically, because it wasn’t. He’s pretty sure? Still up for debate. He brightens immediately, contrary to his words, and adds, “If he doesn’t have something, then I’m doomed.”
“Since when do you care about looking good in pictures?”
“I don’t,” Wei Wuxian says, a little too quickly. “I just think I should have options. In case. Of emergencies.”
Shijie tips her head in a way that is both curious and makes Wei Wuxian want to spill his guts to her.
“In case of what?” she asks.
Spill your guts, whispers the little traitorous voice in the back of Wei Wuxian’s head. The one that isn’t Jiang Cheng but isn’t any better, really, because this one Wei Wuxian obeys.
“I met someone,” he blurts out.
Jiang Cheng chokes on air; Jiang Yanli’s eyes go wide and shining. The reaction is so satisfying that Wei Wuxian keeps talking.
“Kinda. We haven’t actually met. I mean, met on Tinder. Via Tinder. The medium of Tinder. He’s…” Better not get into any of the actual gut stuff. “Fun. I like talking to him, even if he is posing as a famous actor. That aside.”
“Tinder?” Shijie asks.
“Famous actor?” Jiang Cheng half-shouts.
“Yeah, but he has rabbits and one time he made me eat dinner, and it was nice. I think I’m really nailing this whole ‘modern romance’ thing here.”
“You,” says Jiang Cheng slowly, as if Wei Wuxian has the comprehension of a very stupid two-year-old, “are talking to a catfish. You know that, right? Tell me you’re not actually dumb enough to believe you’re talking to… whoever this famous actor is.”
“It’s Lan Wangji,” Wei Wuxian corrects, “and we’ve only talked about like, our favorite movies and stuff so far. I know it’s not actually Lan Wangji, though, dude. It’s cool.”
“Is that safe? I trust you, A-Xian, but if this is a catfish…”
“It’ll be fine,” Wei Wuxian says, but the furrow in Shijie’s eyebrows doesn’t disappear and then he abruptly remembers that the last time he said everything would be fine, he ended up in the hospital marveling over the fact that no, everything was not fine, and yes, he really did get stabbed on the second day of sophomore year.
“Okay,” he says, backpedaling a little, “maybe that doesn’t instill a ton of confidence, but I mean it this time! Catfishes don’t tend to, like… Cause bodily harm or anything. The worst that’ll happen is that I’ll be stupid and they’ll somehow extort money from me, and then it’ll be my own problem anyway.”
Shijie’s frown has only deepened by the end of his reassurances, which, way to fucking go, Wei Wuxian.
“It’s fine,” he repeats, trying to beam the sentiment into her brain through sheer force of will. Some of it must get through to her, since all she does is sigh again and reach out to comb through the tangles in his hair like they’re children again. He sighs and leans into her touch, turning a pleading gaze on her. “So? Shijie, please tell me you’ll find those photos for me.”
“I’ll look,” is all she says, which is kind considering she could’ve said something like, “Do you know you look like a rat with passable hair on most days?” or “You are smart and handsome and sweet, but being photogenic is not one of your best qualities,” or even a pitying, “A-Xian, sometimes you just can’t get the things you want in life, and that’s okay.”
In the meantime he sends off another message to his catfish.
so polite mr lan
yeah hold on im trying to find a good photo
i work to impress u kno
You don’t have to search hard.
i mean i kinda do bc i look like a rat
before u say anything its ok rat pride and all that
You do not look like a rat.
even my shijie told me i look like a rat once mr lan u do not have to b nice
im a very cute rat like a nice one that u wld preferably keep as a pet and not one of those mutated rats in the subways that r def controlling our govt
but u love me anyway
“I found one,” Shijie interrupts, nudging him gently in the arm. She hands him her phone before he can bodily climb into her lap—which he would not do, thank you, he is aware that he is a large man and Shijie is a five-foot-four incarnation of kindness and mercy.
When he looks at the screen, he lets out a low whistle at himself.
“Nie Huaisang,” Wei Wuxian whispers, with all the revererance involved in worshipping a god. “Nie fucking Huaisang, I could kiss you.”
It’s a candid, taken between poses that were either very specifically curated or meme references thinly disguised as art. He’s perched on a rock wall, legs mid kick, the overlap of greenery behind him filtering out golden sunlight. Nie Huaisang hadn’t cared about what he wore, so he stuck to his warm weather basics: loose tank top half-tucked into ripped black jeans, hair mostly twisted up. His collarbones are even on display, because Nie Huaisang took one look under his jacket before he announced, “Jacket off. Your bone structure is phenomenal and also the only thing you got working for you.”
So the jacket came off.
He looks happy and mischievous, grinning beyond the camera lens, like the best, clean, well-rested, and well-fed version of himself.
And best of all: he doesn’t look like a rat. He doesn’t look like a rat!
“Damn,” Wei Wuxian says again. Like, okay, he knows he’s objectively not ugly, but he’s forgotten what a miracle Nie Huaisang can work with his camera. He looks up at her amused smile, eyes wide. “Shijie, I’m hot.”
“You are,” Shijie agrees and touches his cheek, gaze softening. “Handsome Xianxian.”
Well, now he just wants to cry.
Time for a tactical avoidance.
I FOUND ONE
this was back when i helped a friend w his photography project
so if ur expecting any other pictures to be like this one prepare urself for disappointment
Immediately three little dots appear and disappear and appear and disappear. Wei Wuxian stares at them, probably too invested. He’s a slut for validation even if he pretends he’s not, but he’s been staring for like a solid minute and his eyes are drying out and maybe he should tab away so the read receipts don’t give him away as a lurker.
So he tabs away. Scrolls Twitter and listens to the background chatter of his family and the clinking dishes. Blinks away from the screen to lubricate his eyes. Eventually caves and goes back to Tinder and his catfish, and those three dots go MIA.
You look very nice.
Do you mind if I ask you some questions? I understand if you are busy and cannot.
The message comes the next day, and honestly Wei Wuxian is more than a little surprised because he hadn’t thought that any part of their conversations would be remotely enjoyable to his catfish. While they’ve talked on-and-off for about a week now, all Wei Wuxian has really done is chronically over-share, which, boohoo, big fucking surprise there, and yell at him for more photos of rabbits.
He has sent him one photo of himself, but even in the picture he isn’t wearing anything that marks him as filthy rich. He isn’t exactly screaming “sugar daddy” material to the catfish here.
But what the hell. He has sixteen minutes before he has to scuttle for his evening classes. Wei Wuxian shoots off a text while dropping shrimp into Xuanwu’s tank.
yea hit me
Question six: you use shorthand frequently, but there are some that I don’t understand. What is ‘tf,’ ‘abt,’ and ‘bc’?
Oh, god. Is this guy for real?
ur kidding me right
u have to tell me ur kidding
I am not.
i cant believe u used a question on my textspeak
ok just as a rule of thumb i dont use any vowels for common words so that shd help u there but just in case
tf is the fuck abt is about and bc is because
i hope u know that typing each letter out was excruciating to me an dur welcome
Shd? An dur?
I HAVE BAD FINGERS OK AN DUR WAS A TYPO MR LAN A TYPO
shd is should
I understand. Thank you for the explanation.
Have you ever heard of autocorrect?
autocorrect is for losers and ppl who use it will not survive natural selection when the zombie apocalypse inevitably hits
ok now that uve asked me questions i get to ask u
its the first law of alchemy equivalent exchange
I don’t think I’ve ever heard of such a law.
ughghghghghhhh of COURSE uve never seen fullmetal alchemist (brotherhood) ur a heathen
question six i bet uve never seen disney movies either
I have watched Mulan before.
mulan doesnt COUNT thats like a chinese americna starter pack
including the inability to read traditional
and a vague understanding of when chinese new year is
and the passing ability to play violin piano cello guqin erhu pipa or dizi
or several combos of the above if ur rly pro chinese
suona doesnt count bc everyone who plays it is annoying and i speak from no personal bias whatsoever
anyways im talking abt the classic disney movies!!! like tangled obviously but also ratatouille!!! the emperors new groove!! or how to trian ur dragon
Should I watch them?
mr lan sir if u have ever loved me or anything in ur life and want to believe that there is goodness in the world u have to watch them theyre my fave movies ok my FAVORITE
studio ghibli not counted ofc
No further texts come, and Wei Wuxian sighs, sensing the end of that conversation. Well, it was all in good fun, and unfortunately his pile of awaiting assignments have not magically decreased in the time he has been talking to the catfish.
Then, when Wei Wuxian has almost forgotten about the catfish while swamped under assignments, a reply comes two days later:
How to Train Your Dragon is a Dreamworks title, Wei Wuxian.
Freshly out of the shower and ready to drop into a coma after all his classes, Wei Wuxian stares at the message, uncaring of how he is dripping water all over the bathroom tiles. The text doesn’t register.
Not on the first read, or the second, or even the sixth. On the twelfth read the implications of the catfish’s message sinks in, and then he’s just naked and cold and still rereading the message like the words will change on his screen. They don’t.
Hesitantly, he taps out his reply.
I watched all the movies you recommended.
Yes. I greatly enjoyed the story and the soundtrack. The other movies were pleasant, but I enjoyed Tangled for its character dynamics out of all of them.
You con, Wei Wuxian thinks, with a growing knot in his throat. He isn’t sure if it’s from fury or misery or—or whatever, but it’s an emotion and Wei Wuxian doesn’t like it.
It’s a catfish. Wei Wuxian knows it’s a catfish. But it’s a catfish who is willing to pretend that they have watched all of Wei Wuxian’s favorite movies and liked the soundtrack to Tangled, with rabbits and a criminal lack of understanding of text speak and politeness that has to be faked because no one is actually that nice in real life.
A catfish but. A really, really nice catfish who hasn’t talked about extorting money for two weeks now and seems genuinely interested in speaking to Wei Wuxian like—well, no one as of late.
Okay, Wei Wuxian takes it back. He’s not doomed. It’s not anything big. It’s just that this catfish is a nice person and Wei Wuxian is starved for company with Wen Qing and Mianmian going out on their unfairly cute dates, and Wen Ning taking care of A-Yuan, and Shijie and Jin Zixuan busy with their son, Nie Huaisang doing whatever Nie Huaisang does, and Jiang Cheng, who has barely tolerated him for two years now.
If Wei Wuxian wants to talk to a fucking catfish, he’ll talk to a catfish. And if the catfish asks him for money or a meet-up, he’ll cut off all contact and ghost faster than Nie Huaisang when he has to do… anything responsible, basically.
He’ll be the king of ghosting, second only to the god of ghosting, aforementioned Nie Huaisang.
With that in mind.
can u send me some more rabbit pics im experiencing a famine
I would like to request pictures of Xuanwu as well. Equivalent exchange.
- There is a hand in the second picture. This is not anything big by itself, except that it kind of is, because if this the catfish’s real hand and not just some picture ripped off the Internet, then this is the prettiest goddamn hand Wei Wuxian has ever seen. And Wei Wuxian checks. There are a million similar images of rabbits and a hand, and in the twenty-minute search Wei Wuxian almost feels like a modern Prince Charming looking for his Cinderella’s shoe, but he doesn’t find a single match. Which means... this is likely the catfish’s actual hand and his actual rabbits and Wei Wuxian is going to die. The hand in question is pale and smooth, with nicely defined knuckles and slim, long fingers and neatly rounded fingernails at the ends, scratching into the rabbit’s fur. This hand could be a model. This hand could stab him with a shiv and Wei Wuxian might even thank it. Holy fucking Christ.
- The Fullmetal Alchemist reference. Wei Wuxian takes deep bracing breaths, lowers himself to his mattress, and then stuffs his face into the pillow to scream in a dignified but tortured manner. Cool cool cool. This is fine. He’s fine.
not to sound weird or anything but u have like rly nice hands
also heres lil xuanwu
Thank you for both the compliment and the picture. Do you have more?
What does ‘serjgiosierjgesoir’ stand for?
its just my keysmash ok
my brother already comes at my throat for it u dont need to either
You should really clean his tank more often.
i am providing u w free turtle pics at minimal cost mr lan do not TEST ME
After that, the conversations come faster and with increasing frequency. Wei Wuxian finds himself texting his catfish almost every spare second of the day when he has it, which isn’t much between his classes, dodging Jiang Cheng’s increasing attempts to kidnap him for family dinners, lab, and his demon little freshmen.
But his catfish watches Wei Wuxian’s favorite movies and shows without question and replies almost always within the day, if not the hour, and he is unfailingly kind and polite and bitingly funny at the most unexpected moments. He texts like an old man and never relents on reminding Wei Wuxian to eat, or drink water, or get some sleep by fucking 9 PM, as if Wei Wuxian is an actual child, but even those reminders are sweet in their own way. It’s harder not to text him, if anything.
Wei Wuxian’s lack of free time and insistence on texting his catfish does lead to several different crises, though. Like their conversation right after his catfish watches the Lion King.
what do u MEAN U DIDNT CRY AT MUFASA
ITS THE PNEULTIMA TE CLIAM XTIC MEOMT NNNHNNHMBM
Are you alright?
eyaha i hjsut dropepd my phone in te h s hwo ewr
You dropped your phone in the shower?
ru gettig n rly gohgod a tth is
Wei Wuxian. Focus on your shower. I will be here after you finish.
i thutn k my phone m ight be rboekn
You should get a new one.
hhahaha l ekki i ha ve the meony for that
its ok i ll jsut
put it ni ric e
The rice trick works, as it has for the past half-dozen times that he’s dropped his poor little shitphone in the shower, but then his catfish forbids him from using his phone while he’s showering or otherwise engrossed with any activities that require two hands.
The forbidding wouldn’t really be a big thing by itself, except that his catfish has now learned tricks and figured out that the best way to get Wei Wuxian to comply is by withholding replies and pictures of his precious rabbits, which just isn’t fair.
So Wei Wuxian listens. Grudgingly.
Their conversations range a million topics—his catfish’s guqin; the latest gossip on his brother’s relationship, or as gossipy as his catfish gets, which is to say not at all unless interrogated; tales of his uncle’s four thousand rules that used to be enforced in their household. Like really, four thousand rules.
question ten how did u survive, Wei Wuxian had said, half-joking and half-horrified, and his catfish had just sent an achingly simple: I had to.
In return Wei Wuxian regales him with stories of his little freshmen, education in memes after his catfish asked why he sent a picture of a puppet frog, and the chaos of his family dinners when Jiang Cheng ends the night by trying to send Wei Wuxian to an early demise without fail. He finds himself telling his catfish all sorts of things that he really can’t tell anyone else, and that’s… something.
like im not desperate to be in a relationship u know im cool with being single
but when everyone around u is dating and they have no time for u
which is fine by the way
its still a little sad
and unlike ur rabbits xuanwu wont even cuddle me
You should get a rabbit, then.
but then my reasons to ask u for ur rabbit pictures would decrease
That cannot happen.
It’s conversations like that which affect Wei Wuxian. It’s his unexpected humor, his serious responses to all of Wei Wuxian’s bullshittery, his respect of Wei Wuxian’s boundaries, and his perpetual kindness throughout the regaling of the disaster that is Wei Wuxian. And unlike… most everyone in his life, really, his catfish still talks to him and treats him like—like an adult.
Like an adult who’s still a disaster, of course. He’s a college student and these things happen when you excrete more stress sweat and caffeine than actual pee.
But his catfish doesn’t act as if this is a horribly awful thing that Wei Wuxian sets out to do on purpose. He just. Accepts it. Asks him if he’s eaten from time to time, but otherwise lets Wei Wuxian make his own bad decisions in life, and stays for the fallout if he has to. With his catfish, it’s like for the first time, Wei Wuxian isn’t the dysfunctional brother, the problem child, the whimsically flightful RA and TA who people trust but not enough to entirely rely on.
He’s just someone. A person to talk to. A friend.
And that is so fucking unreal.
are you still giving the wens food this weekend
so if i come visit your dorm to pick you up for family dinner theres nothing that will be preoccupying you at any time
i have hw
like youve ever done it
im picking you up at 6:30 bc i know you get out of class at 6 on fridays and if i see you sneaking out of the wens room im going to take all the money out of your account and make you eat it
ur so paranoid why would i still be giving them food haha
how do u make ur obviously suspicious brother believe u when u say that ur not still giving ur friends groceries when u very clearly kinda are and u get out of class at 6 but it takes u 20 minutes to get to ur dorm from the grocery store and possibly 30 if u have maybe three bags of heavy groceries on u that u that u got from speeding thru the store like sonic on steroids
I do not lie to my brother or anyone else.
Sonic on steroids?
sonic the hedgehog hes a video game character whos super fast and also kind of a meme
also of course u dont lie why did i expect anything else
do u have any tricks for a quick getaway then
Have several exits prepared. Use a distraction. Predict the conventional paths and avoid them.
u r a genius xoxo
it means hugs and kisses!!
( ´ ▽ ` ).｡ｏ♡
What is that?
its a kaomoji!! my shijie got me hooked
its me sending u my love!!!!
( ´ ▽ ` ).｡ｏ♡
MR LAN SERJGROSIEJRGSJ
His catfish’s tricks work, and twenty-five minutes and one mildly sweaty Wei Wuxian later, he has safely deposited groceries into the fridge.
“It is like,” says Wen Qing, staring into her fridge with all the resignation of a defeated gladiator, “a little gay fairy has fluttered in through the door and left eggs in my mini-fridge.”
Halfway through a sip of her finest vodka—plain Smirnoff, but he’ll take what he can get—Wei Wuxian inhales the alcohol and chokes. When he’s recovered from the burn of the vodka that’s trying to create a new nostril, he manages to say, “But I’m bisexual.”
“It is like a little bisexual fairy has fluttered in through the door and left eggs in my mini-fridge,” says Wen Qing again, with no change in her inflection. Then she closes her fridge door and pivots on her heel, frowning. “Every week you do this. A-Ning and I won’t starve if you don’t give us food, you know that? If you don’t, I’m going to hit you with a beer bottle and practice my sutures, and then hit you again to let you bleed out a little.”
“I am giving you food free of charge,” Wei Wuxian protests, ignoring her mutters of that’s the problem.
Forgive him if this is not the reaction he expected after lugging three bags of groceries—from a real grocery store, not whatever overpriced shit they sell at the university stores—into her room. Speed-walking for two miles, because gas and Ubers are expensive and Wei Wuxian is a whore to capitalism.
“And yeah, I know you two can take care of yourselves,” Wei Wuxian continues, “but indulge an old friend, won’t you? You worry his poor heart.”
“Emphasis on the poor.”
“It’s true,” Wen Qing says, but something about his expression must be suitably pitiful enough that her irritation deflates a little. “Fine. Do what you want. Not like you’ll listen to me. Or take my money, either.”
“Nope,” Wei Wuxian chirps, dancing away from his seat at her desk before she can try to dig in her drawers for the envelopes of cash that she no doubt has prepared. “I would, however, appreciate borrowing your bed for naps. Or your desk on the rare occasion.”
“Your room is next door, Wei Wuxian, what are you doing.”
“Nothing! It’s just that I don’t want to bother my precious little Xuanwu—”
“Xuanwu lives in the commons. Try again.”
“Uh, my roommate has sexiled me?”
“You live alone.”
“The ghost of my roommate has sexiled me?” At her deeply unimpressed expression, he sighs and admits, “Okay, well. I might have. Been sleeping on piles of clothes instead of my bed because folding is too much work. You know it is! Don’t look at me like that, they’re clean clothes.”
“Are you actively trying to give me a stroke?”
Wei Wuxian just gazes at her with his best puppy eyes, and he knows they’re good, he’s practiced in the mirror for far too many hours.
After a moment, she sighs and sticks out her palm. “Fine. Fuck you. Give me your keycard and I’ll do it.” She snatches the proferred key card from his grasp and glares at it like she wants nothing more than to shove it down Wei Wuxian’s throat. “God, you dress like an e-boy who’s spent too much time looking at street fashion on a good day and a Hot Topic employee on the verge of becoming homeless on every other day. How the hell do you have so many clothes?”
“I have tons of options! The shirt I’m wearing right now has undertones of blue!”
“It’s still fucking black,” Wen Qing says, but there’s no heat to it, only defeat, because clearly she recognizes a lost argument when she sees one. Wei Wuxian wishes that Jiang Cheng could share the same sentiment, but alas. “Just. Get lost. I don’t want to see your face today.”
Which is for the best, really, since Jiang Cheng finds him halfway out the Wens’ room.
Wei Wuxian thinks he understands how it feels to be betrayed by one’s children when he gets in the car and makes eye contact with Xue Yang from his window. Well, he doesn’t quite make eye contact since he’s just a silhouette, but the kid’s outline waves and it looks just jaunty enough that Wei Wuxian knows he’s smirking.
He almost hopes Xue Yang’s chemistry final will kick his ass. Almost.
Especially when Jiang Cheng mentions off-handedly that the freshmen let him in as soon as he said he was there to whisk Wei Wuxian away for family bonding time. Apparently they were worried about him, “holed up like Gollum in his stanky ass room” - A-Qing 2019.
“Have you ever cleaned your room once in your life,” Jiang Cheng says, with all the exasperation that accompanies anyone who enters his den of organized chaos. It’s a familiar expression, and Wei Wuxian has heard this exact phrase enough times in his life that he has to wonder if his room secretly houses a spirit that attaches itself to everyone who leaves his room. “There’s no spirit, you dumbass, everyone’s just sick of trudging through your little… cave.”
“My cave is organized and you don’t need to trudge if you know the right places to step,” Wei Wuxian tells him.
He’s lying. It’s totally a trudging zone throughout, but he’s not about to tell Jiang Cheng that.
“Uh-huh. Hey, so why did I catch you sneaking out of the Wens’ room?”
Ah. “Because I was having sex with Wen Qing. Obviously.”
“Wen Qing would sooner castrate you than let her anywhere near her. That was a weak excuse, even for you.”
“I will have you know that one time, she hugged me. And it lasted over three seconds.”
“Was it because you were drunk and she carried your ass out of the bar?”
“Uh-huh,” says Jiang Cheng again. “And your being in the Wens’ room has nothing to do with this Kroger receipt I found from today with your name on it?”
Wei Wuxian sucks in a tiny breath through his teeth, then proceeds to rummage through his many pockets. He comes up with balls of lint, granola crumbs, a crinkled Hot Cheetos bag, and five pen caps, but no receipt. He stuffs it all back into his pockets as discreetly as possible and lets the silence sit.
Unfortunately Jiang Cheng has always been better at suffering oppressive quiet than him.
“Nope,” Wei Wuxian says, once he can’t take it any longer. “No idea where that came from.”
“You’re the worst fucking liar on this planet, you know that?”
“At least I’m the greatest brother on this planet?”
“No,” Jiang Cheng snaps, and Wei Wuxian can’t help the little flinch that runs through him. Jiang Cheng gives him a sideways glance before flicking his eyes back to the road, lips pressed into a thin white line. “What do they need that much fucking food for, huh?”
“Well, Wen Ning’s a growing boy, and apparently I have to feed Wen Qing every day so she won’t castrate me.”
He watches as Jiang Cheng’s face grows colder and stonier in response, jaw going tight.
“Jiang Cheng,” Wei Wuxian says, abruptly feeling exhausted at the sight of him, “let’s just– let’s not do this today, alright? For one day. Let’s not. Let’s talk about something else.”
“They’re not your responsibility.”
Wei Wuxian feels a headache pressing in his eyes and he rubs at his temples, sighing. Guess they are doing this, then. “They kind of are.”
“No, the Wens are two grown-ass adults who are fucking leeching off you, like you haven’t already done enough for them—“
“They’re not doing anything. It’s all me, alright? I’m the one butting into their lives. Back off.”
“How about you tell yourself that for once?”
Jiang Cheng pulls over on the side of the road, and to his right Wei Wuxian spots the familiar glow of the Jiang’s mansion, still in the night. Family dinner.
Jiang Cheng’s glare pins him in place as he shuts off the engine and snatches his phone from the dash. “We aren’t done talking about this,” he says, before he leaves the car and slams the door behind him.
“I really wish we were,” says Wei Wuxian. Of course no one is there to hear him.
If Wei Wuxian were to make a drinking game out of family dinner, he would have an extensive list that goes something like this:
- A half-shot for
- Jiang Cheng yelling
- upgraded to a shot if yelling at the latest C-drama
- downgraded to a sip if yelling at Wei Wuxian
- Madam Yu bringing up how ungrateful, lazy, unmotivated, unkempt, disgraceful, etc, Wei Wuxian is in the first twenty minutes of dinner
- upgraded to three shots for the phrase, “Why he brought you in, I’ll never know”
- upgraded to four shots for the phrase, “Taught no shame by his parents, none at all”
- Shijie stepping in to calm everyone down and divert the conversation to a different topic
- The rapid clearing of Monopoly to avoid imminent slaughter
- The holy presence of pork rib and lotus root soup
- Shijie nudging his foot when his mind wanders off and inevitably misses a question from Uncle Jiang
- Uncle Jiang and Madam Yu retreating upstairs after dinner to argue about everything under the sun
- Jiang Cheng yelling
- Two shots for
- Jiang Cheng winning Monopoly, because Wei Wuxian loves him, but the kid can’t calculate for shit
- Shijie failing to divert the conversation
- Madam Yu’s dig at Wei Wuxian using a story of an auntie’s or uncle’s kid that Wei Wuxian never heard of, i.e. “So-and-so’s kid is graduating this year, with honors and a 4.0 GPA for pre-med. It only took him two years to do it,” and other unbelievably high standards that Wei Wuxian will never reach, etc, etc
- Shijie coaxing Jiang Cheng to get rid of his scowl just by smiling at him
- Three shots for
- Madam Yu asking about his graduation date, followed by a reminder that they won’t attend
- Wei Wuxian meeting Madam Yu’s glare for longer than two seconds
- Shijie talking about her peacock husband; not because it’s a rare event, just because Wei Wuxian needs the alcohol
- A collective yell of rage at the TV for whatever bullshittery happens in the newest C-drama
- upgraded to four shots if the twist involves amnesia, car accidents, cancer, twins, adultery, time travel, evil emperors, or ghosts
- upgraded to six shots if all of the above
- Fifteen shots for
- Madam Yu engaging with Wei Wuxian willingly without a single negative word
- Uncle Jiang winning Monopoly
There’s other events too, of course—such as Shijie asking about his little Xuanwu, followed by a picture exchange of Jin Ling and Xuanwu, as if a human child is the same thing as a turtle—but Wei Wuxian is a little too lazy to think about the specifics of assigning shots for those.
Basically family dinner is a mess that’s only gotten worse over time with the addition of alcohol for all parties, and every time he leaves family dinner, it’s with a bag full of leftovers and an uncertainty as to if he’s invited to the next one.
Wei Wuxian’s position in the Jiang family is a lot like… Nie Huaisang’s general existence. What is it? He has no idea. What does he do? He has no idea. Is he welcome? He has no idea.
Fifteen minutes into it and about six pointed comments about Wei Wuxian’s hair later, though, and Wei Wuxian is beginning to feel exhausted. But the exhaustion itself isn’t anything new. He has coping mechanisms and everything, mainly fleeing into the night and cuddling Xuanwu unsuccessfully and texting his catfish.
Unfortunately only one of those options are available to him at the moment. Wei Wuxian slips out his phone under the table and opens up Tinder.
question eleven pls tell me ur family dinners are as bad as mine
they have to be w ur uncle right
Be respectful to your elders. Do not text during meals.
I don’t know what your family dinners are like but we eat in silence, if that answers your question.
how do u even know if im eating rn huh
i cld be bleeding out in an alley and reminiscing abt the good times for all u know
also ok cool so they r better than my family dinners but barely
Are you bleeding out?
I will call an ambulance. Send me your location.
omg i was JOKING
im fine and i am not bleeding out in an alley and i am eating dinner perfectly safe
even if i was bleeding out do u think i just wldnt call an ambulance as i was texting u
I thought that the fear of hospital bills would hold your hand.
an incredibly valid point actually
ur right ambulances are expensive esp w/o insurance
thnx for the reminder
Wei Wuxian, please call an ambulance if you are injured or otherwise ill. Don’t worry about the costs.
w whose money
Mine, if necessary.
oh my GOD
im not the sugar daddy in this relationship am i
AM I THE USGAR BABY??????
Why are you talking about sugary fathers and babies? Is this another meme?
i love that ur catching on but no
mr lan pls answer my question carefully
if i told u that i rly needed like
a gucci bag
like it was my dearest wish
would u get it for me
I have many. Do you care which one?
“Oh my god,” Wei Wuxian half-yells. “I’m a sugar baby.”
At first Wei Wuxian doesn’t register the halt in conversation and clinking of utensils. Then the unnatural quiet sinks in, and he looks up to find Jiang Cheng with his face in his entire palm, Shijie staring at him with something like simultaneous delight and worry in her gaze, and Uncle Jiang’s chopsticks dangling halfway between his bowl and his mouth. Madam Yu… He’s not going to look at Madam Yu, that’s what he’s going to do.
“Wei Wuxian,” says Uncle Jiang, so delicately that even Wei Wuxian has to wince at his lack of shame, “are you perhaps— It’s okay if you are, but are you in a… arrangement with—”
“No,” Wei Wuxian says, loudly, probably much louder than the situation warrants. Madam Yu scoffs. “I’m not in… arrangements with anyone, no—um. Favors of any kind. All we do is exchange pictures. Of our pets! Of my Xuanwu and his rabbits.”
Uncle Jiang looks torn between nodding and like, asking him if that’s a euphemism because Wei Wuxian knows it sounds like a euphemism, he knows, but it’s the truth and all they do is text about stupid shit and trade photos of their wonderful little animals! Wei Wuxian turns to Shijie, desperate. “Shijie, you know, right? I’ve talked to you about him before. The guy with the rabbits. He made me eat dinner before. Also he has nice hands.”
Shijie blinks before realization dawns on her face. “Oh! Do you mean your—”
“Catfish?” Jiang Cheng shrieks. “You’re still texting that dude?!”
“I resent the ‘still,’ he’s a very nice man with very cute rabbits!”
“Fuck the rabbits! What do you mean, you’re a—” A visible shudder of disgust runs through Jiang Cheng, and he looks like he’d rather be gutted when he grits out, “A sugar baby?”
“I’m not really. But I just found out he’s rich.”
“And I thought I would be the sugar daddy,” Wei Wuxian says, determinedly ignoring the way Uncle Jiang mouths the words sugar daddy to himself at the head of the table. “Because, you know, he’s a catfish.”
“But you have no money,” says Jiang Cheng.
“Yes, I know, thank you,” says Wei Wuxian.
“So why would you be the sugar daddy? You’re the sugar baby,” says Jiang Cheng, and then recoils, grimacing. “I take it back. You’re too dysfunctional to be a baby. You’re a sugar... zygote.”
“That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you!”
“That you’re a sugar zygote?”
“No, that I’m half a sugar baby because he hasn’t actually given me anything, he just offered, like, a hundred Gucci bags.”
“Not a hundred,” Wei Wuxian corrects himself, “just like… Twenty? I don’t know, how many do you think are in this picture?”
Both Shijie and Jiang Cheng lean in to take a closer look at the picture. Normally they look nothing like each other, their only similarities being in the curve of their eyes, the sharp cut of their chin, and their thick dark hair that 99% of the Chinese population already shares.
In their reactions, though, the Jiang blood runs strong: their mouths fall open, eyes flicking from the picture to Wei Wuxian and back to the picture, before settling back into their seats as one. Then they move in again to take a second glance.
“A-Xian,” says Shijie eventually, when no one speaks again, “that entire picture adds up to a semester of your tuition at least. If not two semesters.”
“What,” Wei Wuxian says.
“What,” Jiang Cheng says, louder.
“Children,” says Uncle Jiang, loudest, once it becomes clear that no one will leave this conversation alive and sane, “how about some Monopoly?”
Family dinner afterwards manages to go slightly better. They break out Monopoly and then store it away within twenty minutes after Shijie begins sweeping everyone into jail and bankruptcy. Jiang Cheng leaves halfway through to go to the bathroom for an unusually long amount of time, which is weird because his shits are like, instantaneous, but whatever.
The Moon Lovers is on tonight and Wei Wuxian is curled up against his Shijie’s side and the arm of the couch, and he has high hopes for his five whole dollars betting that tonight’s episode will be the one where the lovers reunite in the present time.
Onscreen, the male protagonist is reading the diary of his love interest from five hundred years ago, detailing how she died tragically and alone without him by her side. There’s a dramatic single tear tracing his cheek as he caresses the pages. This is good. This is very good. Any moment now he’ll be warped back into the past and they’ll reunite and Wei Wuxian will make ten whole dollars—
Jiang Cheng storms in through the door. “Happy birthday!” he shouts.
“Shut up!” Wei Wuxian yells back. “Zhiqiang is crying, this is important!”
A beat passes.
“What,” Wei Wuxian says, and lifts his eyes to find—Jiang Cheng holding a cake? Wei Wuxian blinks, and blinks again when the dehydration-induced mirage of the cake doesn’t go away. “What’s happening.”
Shijie nudges him, and he turns to find her holding a little cone birthday hat.
“Since we couldn’t celebrate last year,” she says apologetically.
Last year? Last year being his… twentieth.
At his squint of confusion, she prompts, “The peaches?”
What the hell does fruit have to do with his birthday? Like a euphemism? Except Shijie doesn’t do euphemisms, nor does she make sly references to events he barely remembers, unless…
Oh. Oh. At the bar with the fake ID. And the. Peach vodka. Right.
“Oh,” Wei Wuxian says. Finally it registers. “Ohhhhhh. But wait, my birthday isn’t until next weekend?”
“We thought it might be better to celebrate earlier this year, leave the day for you to celebrate as you please,” Uncle Jiang pipes in. Recalling the disaster that was his twentieth, Wei Wuxian considers it and nods. “And… hopefully safely. Since it’s your twenty-first.”
They know him so well. Wei Wuxian feigns wiping a tear from his eye, and in the doorway, still holding the cake, Jiang Cheng rolls his eyes.
“Can you move your lazy ass and blow the candles already?” he demands. “It’s like eighty percent frosting and it’s heavy. Because you’re a monster.”
“I am a rat,” Wei Wuxian corrects, “who loves frosting. We all have our assigned roles, Jiang Cheng, don’t try to push the angry purple rage monster onto me.”
“Shut up and blow before I shove this whole cake in your face.”
“Ooh, that’s what she sa—”
“A-Xian,” Shijie interrupts, and there goes his half-shot, “how about a little song?”
And then he has to sit there on the couch as the Jiang family members loom around the coffee table in the dark, visible only by the light of the candles, chanting the birthday song. Not a song. A chant. Because Wei Wuxian loves them, but none of them can sing for their lives.
Madam Yu may be lip-syncing out of sheer spite. Midway through the song, Jiang Cheng’s arms actually begin to tremble, which is amazing and makes Wei Wuxian pull out his phone to zoom in on the shaky arms for future blackmail. Uncle Jiang is just smiling, maybe a little creepily with the low light, and Shijie is singing high in his ear as she braids little rows from his ponytail.
It’s like he’s eight-years-old rather than soon-to-be twenty-one. He loves it.
“Make a wish,” Jiang Cheng mutters, once the chanting has concluded.
Wei Wuxian smiles sweetly at him. “I’ll wish for my dear brother to find someone who can tolerate him romantically, or for him to get a better nose. Or, or— ooh, grow three centimeters taller so you can finally achieve your unrealistic dream of being taller than me. It sounds better if I say it in centimeters than inches, doesn’t it?”
“Blow out your fucking cake,” Jiang Cheng snarls, fast approaching the threshold between I’m tolerating this because it’s your birthday and fuck it you’ll die at twenty-one.
Wei Wuxian listens to his instincts for once. He leans in and blows out the candles.
Madam Yu gifts him with the absence of any further insults. Shijie gives him a pack of ludicrously neon hair pins, a Hydroflask, and a whole pot of pork rib and lotus root soup that she apparently already has stored away in the trunk of Jiang Cheng’s stupidly expensive car. Uncle Jiang puts a hand on his shoulder and recounts the whole story of his adoption with suspiciously shiny eyes for the fifth time, followed by a red envelope of money, probably leftovers from the last Chinese New Year. Jiang Cheng hands him a baby cactus. Zhiqiang even returns to the past, accompanied by four slow-motion shots of the two main leads kissing at slightly different angles, and two minutes later his phone alerts him to the fact that Nie Huaisang has Venmoed him ten dollars.
It’s a pretty great family dinner.
For the following week up to his actual birthday, Wei Wuxian blacks out. Well. Not really. It’s just that Jiang Cheng drops him off at his dorm with a lingering glare at the Wens’ door, Wei Wuxian washes up, catches up on the latest beauty guru drama, and then… Something.
Presumably he sleeps and goes to class, since Trevor from his Professional Development for Educators class says hi to him like he recognizes him, and Wei Wuxian recognizes Trevor back somehow. He has an awful memory that immediately forgets people he doesn’t see in a week, so if he remembers Trevor’s weirdly squishy face, that means he must have gone to class at some point during the week.
Of course, he can’t remember, and then before he knows it, it’s Thursday and Wei Wuxian is sitting at a bar, enjoying his new status as a legal adult who can now make worse decisions than ever before.
He is also holding a glass of pure vodka.
“No,” Wei Wuxian says, because he has a great alcohol tolerance, but this is a glass for beer and it is 8 fucking PM. “No, nope, not happening.”
“But it’s Tito’s,” comes Nie Huaisang’s voice somewhere to his left, and of course that fucker is here, fan and obnoxious bomber jacket and all. “We got you the good shit. It’ll be easy. Ease you into it.”
“Then you do it.”
“I’m not twenty-one,” Nie Huaisang points out.
“Then why are you here?” Wei Wuxian cries. Then he sighs, shakes it off. Arguing with Nie Huaisang is an oxymoron. Like the fairies, you just end up wondering what you were even arguing about in the first place. “You know what, never mind. Why am I holding a glass of vodka? You guys couldn’t have gotten me something normal to start with? Like beer?”
“Beer is boring and for basic bitches,” Wen Qing scoffs, and oh, there she is. She’s wearing actual clothes for once, a red tube top and an admittedly cute black skirt, which is a far cry from the sports bra and shorts or the head-to-toe sweats she has on every time he sees her. She’s even wearing makeup. He almost feels like crying. “Drink up. No peer pressure or anything, but this cost like twenty whole dollars.”
“Because you bought a handle and you smuggled it in.”
“Well, yeah. Remember to pay me back, Nie Huaisang, I want my twenty dollars.”
His friends are all nightmares.
“You don’t have to drink it if you don’t want to,” Wen Ning says. “It’s, um. Don’t feel pressured!”
Correction: his friends are not all nightmares.
“You are the only bitch on this planet who loves me,” Wei Wuxian announces, and then giving each of his friends the stink-eye, except Wen Ning, who gets a loving gaze coupled with finger hearts, he chugs the entire thing.
It is awful. It is like battery acid is slithering down his throat and burning a new esophagus, but it’s Tito’s so it tastes like high-quality battery acid. Like Energizer instead of some Maxell bullshit.
He doesn’t cough. One of his birth parents gave him a fan-fucking-tastic liver and he did not sneak into bars since he was eighteen only to cough on his first day of legal drinking. It still doesn’t stop him from wanting to gag after and gesture urgently for a lemon or salt or juice, or shit, he’d take human blood at this point.
Nie Huaisang is a menace. He finds the salt shaker first and then slides it over slowly.
After ingesting enough sodium to give a dietician a stroke, Wei Wuxian chokes out, “You are the worst and I am getting you back for this.”
Nie Huaisang snaps his fan in response. One of these days, Wei Wuxian is going to take that fan and break it.
A heavy thump to his right makes Wei Wuxian jump. He finds Jiang Cheng collapsed in the barstool, panting. “Did I miss the competition?”
Wei Wuxian blinks, more than a little startled than he even showed up. Shijie couldn’t because of a sudden business trip, but Jiang Cheng has never liked the Wens and showing up, here, with an unspoken promise not to engage in any arguments about them—
Well. It means more than Jiang Cheng knows. Not that Wei Wuxian is willing to tell him.
“We just started,” Wen Qing says, sugar-sweet, activating all the nerves meant to feel primal fear when faced with an apex predator. “Nie Huaisang went first with a glass of pure vodka. Do you have your materials for your contender?"
In response, Jiang Cheng upturns his bag. Out comes chocolate milk, lime-flavored White Claw, and instant mac and cheese cheddar.
“No,” Wei Wuxian whispers. “Please, no.”
Jiang Cheng grins. “Yes.”
“Is this because I called you short? Like it’s true, but I’ll take it back if you never feed me that, please—oh, god—”
It’s too late. Jiang Cheng has already shaken out the last of the cheddar into the glass, with the empty carcass of the chocolate milk box and White Claw can discarded at its feet. The glass fizzes ominously. Jiang Cheng slides it towards him. “Bottoms up.”
“Why do we do this competition,” Wei Wuxian moans, taking it, because he’s deeply cursed and someone must’ve hated him in a previous life. He must’ve been a mass murderer. A demon summoner. A devilish rogue. “It’s not fun. I hate it. Whose idea was this?”
“Yours,” Wen Qing says. Her eyes are gleaming. Likely because she had to suffer through the same thing on her twenty-first, back when the tradition started. Well. Karma. “Bottoms up, Wei Wuxian.”
“Take Jiang Cheng off my will if I die,” Wei Wuxian tells Wen Ning, and then tosses it back. He squeezes his eyes shut, resists the urge to punch the table a few times. He thinks the concoction may be cementing in his mouth. The cheese is stuck in his teeth. “Fuck, I hate you guys so much, holy fuck, this sucks.”
The cheese, when the world is no longer blurring around him and his spirit has returned to his body, has clotted on his tongue and the cup. Wei Wuxian stares at the cup for a moment, eyes teary, and thinks, Surely my dear brother wouldn’t.
His dear brother would. His dear brother, in fact, hands him a spoon. Wei Wuxian stares at him. His dear brother motions at the cheese-clotted cup: go on, it’s a present. Wei Wuxian gazes at the cup, and then spoons out the brown cheese clot from the cup and into his mouth.
“Fuck,” Wei Wuxian says, and beside him Wen Qing sighs happily.
The rules limit the concoctions to a maximum of three ingredients, so there’s little chance that Wei Wuxian will die from this, but that might actually be worse. Even death won’t allow him to escape. Only the surrender of his own dignity or the elimination of the drinks will, and Wei Wuxian is stupid and prideful.
If there’s any hope of salvation, it’s in the fact that there are only two contestants left, which means he’s already halfway through. Wen Qing’s candidate involves a generous dose of mayonnaise, a pinch of wasabi, and Sambuca, and he doesn’t even want to know where she got the Sambuca from. The mayonnaise and wasabi aren’t bad, but the Sambuca. Fuck.
Wen Ning’s looks fine. He brings out one pristine strawberry with the stems cut off—which, okay, cool—and lemon juice—awesome, great, fantastic—and then plonks down a bottle of Jose Cuervo tequila.
“Shit,” says Nie Huaisang, in the resounding silence. “Did you kill his parents or something?”
“Wen Ning,” Wei Wuxian says, quiet in his horror, “if I have ever wronged you. In any way. You couldn’t have told me? Instead of betraying me like this?”
“I-I thought it would be fine,” Wen Ning stammers, searching the shocked gazes of the table. “Is—it’s tequila, I thought you liked alcohol—”
“Alcohol,” Wei Wuxian interrupts, “is one thing.” He points at the accursed bottle rolling on the table, like it’s sentient. He feels like his soul is leaving the mortal plane as he speaks. “That monstrosity is a whole different story.”
“Oh,” Wen Ning whispers. He looks so guilty, wringing his hands and the sleeves of his hoodie that for a moment Wei Wuxian almost feels bad, and then he remembers that Wen Ning brought Jose Cuervo and ditches any concept of responsibility and companionship. “I. I can change it.”
Jiang Cheng already has his phone out, no doubt ready to record the worst moment of Wei Wuxian’s miserable life. “No,” he declares, sounding a little too gleeful. “Can’t change the ingredients once it’s been presented, you know the rules. Mix the drink, Wen Ning. Make sure to get a lot of tequila in there.”
“You’re a menace,” Wei Wuxian informs his brother, before turning back to Wen Ning.
His hands are shaking. This does not bode well.
The end result is a glass full of clear liquid with one single strawberry floating in the center. It is almost entirely tequila, because Wen Ning forgot to put the lemon juice in until the cup nearly overfilled. Wei Wuxian’s certain now that he must’ve committed some grave sin against Wen Ning, either in this life or the last one.
Jiang Cheng takes a whiff of the cup and reels back, eyes watering. “Jesus,” he chokes out. He looks ecstatic. “I bet you five dollars you’re going to hurl.”
“Only five?” Wei Wuxian demands. He’s about to swallow the worst liquid concoction known to mankind, and his brother is offering him five dollars. Fraternal duty is dead.
“You think I have money?” Jiang Cheng asks.
“You have a Mercedes Benz,” Wei Wuxian says.
“Yeah, but I didn’t buy it.”
“Then sell it and give me the money if I finish this glass.”
Jiang Cheng considers this. “Okay,” he says, “how about twenty dollars.”
“Deal,” Wei Wuxian says, and before he can convince himself that he doesn’t want a new orifice in his body, he picks up the cup and knocks it back.
Good news: he doesn’t gag. Bad news: he loses color vision for maybe three days.
“Is he breathing?” says a voice.
“Maybe. He’s fine.”
“You show a remarkable lack of concern for your brother.”
“Shut it, Wen, you haven’t seen this guy swallow rocks like I have.”
“Wei Wuxian ate rocks?”
“Yeah, said it would give him superpowers or some shit when we were younger, don’t ask me.”
“I didn’t swallow rocks, fuck off,” Wei Wuxian coughs out, ignoring the cries of he’s alive! His head is pounding. He hasn’t even gotten drunk and he already has a hangover. This is officially the worst day of his life. “I swallowed gravel and before you can ask, yes, the shits were awful. Also all you bitches owe me a birthday wish. I’m collecting later because I… can’t think. I think that tequila carved a hole in my brain. Or my face. Quick, someone tell me I’m still pretty.”
“You’re the ugliest motherfucker I ever,” Jiang Cheng begins, before Wen Ning cuts him off with a panicked, “Very handsome!”
“Rat,” Wen Qing adds.
Wei Wuxian opens his eyes just enough to squint at them and make sure his eyes still work. Jiang Cheng looks equal parts delighted and horrified, so maybe there is a new hole in his face that no one is talking about. Nie Huaisang has hidden behind his fan again. Wen Qing has apparently abandoned them after her last comment to chat up the cute bartender, who may or may not be Mianmian. Wen Ning is… glistening in the light. That’s sweat, maybe. Fairy dust? Tequila hallucination.
“Whatever,” Wei Wuxian sighs, waving a hand. “Someone tell me that they got that on camera. I need a record of all my bad decisions.”
“You should hire a cameraman to follow you around forever, then,” Jiang Cheng says, like a two-year-old. Wei Wuxian sticks his tongue out at him, thinks about it, and then leans over to blow raspberries on his brother’s arm. “Ew, what the fuck—”
“Birthday wish,” Wei Wuxian declares, pointing at Jiang Cheng’s nose. It really is unfortunate. “You have to say you love me and list at least five reasons why and then let me give you a million kisses on your face.”
“Because I was put on this planet just to annoy you,” says Wei Wuxian, beaming.
Jiang Cheng grimaces. “Choose… one of those. That’s not one birthday wish.”
“The rules are whatever you can get out in one breath,” Wei Wuxian reminds him, and Jiang Cheng lets out a mournful fuck. “Uh-huh. Come here. List ‘em. All five. Be grateful it wasn’t twenty.”
Nie Huaisang and his fan lean in, eyes sparkling.
“You aren’t ugly,” Jiang Cheng starts, forcing the words out in one pained exhale, like he’s been stabbed. “You have thick hair. Your… left brain. Not the right. And one time you gave me a new toilet paper roll without blackmailing me.”
“That was four,” Wei Wuxian says, ignoring Nie Huaisang’s “Wait, those count?” in the background. Getting Jiang Cheng to say Wei Wuxian has thick hair is the equivalent to any other common bitch spewing entire limericks of love about it. He’ll take what he can get.
“Come on, A-Cheng,” Wei Wuxian coaxes. “One more and a million kisses later, and then you’ll be free.”
Jiang Cheng closes his eyes. If he placed his hands on his knees and shaved his head bald, he could be mistaken for a Buddha statue with how much enlightenment his face reflects. He’s ascended reality just by the sheer act of saying neutral things about Wei Wuxian. Wei Wuxian has never been prouder.
“I’m glad,” says Jiang Cheng finally, “that Dad adopted you."
Wei Wuxian stares.
“Oh, fuck,” Nie Huaisang whispers. “Wait, that was real. That was like, an actual nice thing.”
Wei Wuxian is still staring. Jiang Cheng’s cheeks are beginning to flush red.
“Wei Wuxian,” says Wen Ning quietly, “do you… Do you want a tissue?”
“No,” Wei Wuxian manages to say, desperately swallowing the sudden ball in his throat. His eyes are stinging, but he isn’t going to be that dumbass who cries on his birthday while drunk, he refuses.
If anything, it feels weird that Jiang Cheng said something explicitly nice about him. It’s like he’s stepped into an alternate dimension and he desperately wants to return back to his own, where he doesn’t want to crawl out of his skin from the sheer embarrassment of the compliments and Jiang Cheng is still the vicious street cat who tolerates him at best rather than this… this.
“I’m fine, honest,” Wei Wuxian says, sniffling a few times to make sure he returns to the right dimension. “The tequila is hitting me late. A-Cheng, come here so I can give you your million kisses and we can both forget this ever happened.”
“You come here,” Jiang Cheng grits out.
Because he is Wei Wuxian’s brat of a younger brother and always will be, Wei Wuxian obliges happily.
Twelve seconds later Wen Qing is forced to physically separate them from a full-on wrestling match. Per the natural order of the world. “Behave,” she tells them, making ominous slicing motions, before she disappears to flirt with her Maybe-Mianmian bartender again.
Which leaves Wei Wuxian to his own devices. Jiang Cheng and Wen Ning are engaging in conversation about cars, of all things, and it’s honestly too fascinating of a phenomenon for Wei Wuxian to even consider breaking it up to bother one of them. Nie Huaisang has vanished, as he is prone to do when people don’t keep their eyes on him for longer than fifteen seconds. He’ll be back, though, Wei Wuxian’s sure.
So one option left.
sry i didnt text u like all day today i think i just repressed all memories of this week for some reason
my friend thinks i have early onset dementia
A typing bubble immediately comes up. So reliable, Wei Wuxian thinks, fond.
It is not unlikely.
stop being mean to meeeee
my friends just made me try all of the worst combos of assorted alcs and my taste buds have been nuked
tell me ur day has been good and give me a treat
tell me u got little trick or treaters or ate some candy or smth
I live in an apartment complex, so we get no trick or treaters here.
thats so sad
today my freshmen had the audacity to kncok ont ym droro adn demadn tereawass
To knock on your door and demand treats?
tahtll be the vdoka sry
the cheese is arrivrrign
u r sso godo at tht is
Why are you drinking vodka and cheese at eight in the evening?
“Wen Ning,” Wei Wuxian says urgently, tugging at his sleeve of his hoodie, “Wen Ning, listen to me. This is important. Are you listening?”
Wen Ning’s face is squished between Wei Wuxian’s hands, but he manages to nod. “Mm-hmm.”
“I have,” Wei Wuxian says, delivering this statement with the grave importance that it deserves, “a catfish. And I need to text him something, but my fingers aren’t working.” He takes his hands off Wen Ning’s cheeks and wiggles them to demonstrate, and they do this odd squiggle in the air, like it’s a sentient snake. He doesn’t recall ordering them to do that. Case in point. “Do you see.”
“I see,” says Wen Ning.
“Okay,” says Wei Wuxian. “Perfect. So you betrayed me earlier. Now you have to text me—text my catfish, I mean. This is my birthday wish. You have to text my catfish in my place. This is important.”
Beside him, Jiang Cheng snorts into his beer. Wen Qing was right. Beer is for basic bitches.
“I am going to kill you,” Jiang Cheng says.
“You can’t, it’s my birthday and that’s illegal, and I’m older than you, and I’m taller than you so you couldn’t kill me even if you wore stilts,” Wei Wuxian says in one breath, before turning back to Wen Ning and placing his phone in Wen Ning’s absurdly cold hands. “Did you understand me.”
“Yes,” Wen Ning says. “So… text your catfish? About?”
“I’ll relay it to you. It’ll be a whole thing. You’ll be like my. Voice dictation. My scribe.”
“Why not just use voice dictation?”
Cruel of Jiang Cheng to ask. As if the chocolate cheese milk wasn’t enough. “You know I have the worst enunciation,” Wei Wuxian says, frowning. “I don’t go around talking about how short you are all the time, do I?”
“You do,” shouts Wen Qing from the far end of the bar.
“You do,” says Nie Huaisang, and oh, there he is.
Wei Wuxian turns to Wen Ning, resigned. He waits. After a second: “You do,” says Wen Ning, meek.
He takes it all back. His friends are nightmares. Regardless. “I’ll tell you what I have to say,” Wei Wuxian says. “And you’ll just—you’ll write it down. And send it to my catfish. It’s gonna be so good. This is such a good idea.”
“Right,” says Wen Ning, and they get down to business.
i’m turning old today
Who are you?
“What the fuck,” Wei Wuxian shouts. Then, quieter, to Wen Ning: “Text that.”
WHAT THE FUCK
(sorry that’s rude but he said to do it)
no shut up wen ning
i can’t believe you found me out
was it the apostrophes that did it wen ning types like such a proper young man
Yes, it was the apostrophes.
you know me sooooooooo well
(i’m estimating the amount of o’s that went into that, i’m sorry if that’s not accurate)
(also hi i’m wen ning nice to meet you i’m sorry wei wuxian is very drunk right now)
I’M NOT DRUNK YOU TAKE THAT BACK
Is he telling you what to text?
(yes he doesn’t want you to be left out of the conversation)
it’s because mr lan is so nice to me so i have to be nice back
anyways you never answered my question! what are you doing right now
I am texting you.
you’re always so focused on one task huh how dedicated
so no halloween plans? nothing?
mr lan i know you said you don’t drink but you should do something exciting
i finished the worst concoction game and now everyone owes me a birthday wish
if only you could be here
then you would owe me a birthday wish too
i like to think that you wouldn’t betray me like wen ning he did me sooooo dirty
wen ning gave me jose cuervo tequila mr lan it was the worst
it was like i drank liquified
liquified robots mixed with
strawberries and whatever spawned nicholas cage
Not that. It’s your birthday today?
(he said to add a lot of exclamation points, i’m sorry if it got lost in translation)
see we only do the worst concoction game on the 21st birthdays
last year my friend (the dementia theory one (that’s my sister, wen qing)) drank yogurt and tobasco sauce mixed with plain vodka before she called it quits
if you call it quits you have to pay for everyone’s drinks/dinner for the next two months
but if you win then you get a wish granted from everyone participating
and jiang cheng told me a few days ago i have no money so i had to win you know
(jiang cheng is wei wuxian’s brother)
can you believe it
i’m turning 21 which is sad
because that means i’ve officially crossed the last stage of adulthood but
also happy because it means that i don’t have to use a fake id anymore
my fake id said i was from michigan and that i was 22
it was a lie
i can’t remember where i’m from but i’ve narrowed it down to either northern china or florida
but i hope it’s northern china and not florida because florida is the worst and it scares me
anyways i’m also having an existential crisis about turning old because it’s the last adult threshold that’s fun for non-adult reasons
which according to wen ning
is very exciting if you’re into renting cars without paying extra insurance fees
(it is very exciting)
anyways what are your plans for tonight
I have to go.
“He didn’t even wish me a happy birthday,” Wei Wuxian mutters, gazing sadly at his phone. The read receipt is on, which means that his catfish saw his pleas and ignored them. This is worse than Wen Ning’s betrayal a few minutes ago. This is even possibly worse than that time Jiang Cheng stole his keys and ditched him at the grocery store when he was sixteen because Wei Wuxian ate the last bagel.
“You’re still holding onto that grocery store thing?”
“I ate your bagel and you deserted me.”
“Yeah, and it was fucking asiago, I was saving that shit for a reason. You had it coming.”
“I didn’t mean to betray you,” Wen Ning mumbles. “I thought you liked tequila.”
“No one likes tequila,” Wei Wuxian says, and this is the last thing he remembers before he suddenly finds himself stumbling out of the bar. The air is cold, because it’s the end of October and he’s that stupid bitch who left without putting on his jacket again. “Fuck,” he mutters.
Then, because he sticks to his bad decisions, he checks his phone. It’s 11:52 PM. Still no message from his catfish.
He begins texting him again anyway. What else can he do? Stare sadly at the dumpsters and the couple who may or may not be fucking in the alleys?
i think im sober again
sorry about that if it made u uncomfortable
i hope ur having a good halloween mr lan
and that maybe u didnt go to sleep at 9 pm like u frequently do because sleeping early on halloween is sad
u at least have to eat something sweet before the day ends u know
u know i cant actually believe im 21 now
its weird because every year i get older i cant imagine being another year older but it always happens
did u ever name ur rabbits u never told me
After his last message, the read receipt turns on. Wei Wuxian straightens out of his slump against the wall, blood rushing in his ears as he watches the typing bubble. He doesn’t know why he’s so invested in this, but—but surely his catfish wouldn’t be so cruel as to leave him hanging without so much as a happy birthday. Right?
The text arrives.
It’s a picture of a cake.
A red birthday cake, with a bunch of candles lined up in a little row. Twenty-one of them, to be specific. Wei Wuxian’s breath stops.
Beside the cake is a little white card written in unnaturally neat handwriting: Happy birthday, Wei Wuxian.
I’m sorry I left so abruptly. I didn’t know it was your birthday and wanted to do something for you before it ended, even if it was just baking you a cake.
It’s a red velvet cake with cinnamon and paprika, since you mentioned how much you like spices and spiced sweets before.
The rabbits are still nameless.
Wei Wuxian stares at the shattered screen of his phone. He stares at this perfect cake that his catfish baked for him, filled with cinnamon and paprika that his catfish actually remembered from a conversation from weeks ago and at the follow-up messages that never forget to address every half-thought that leaves Wei Wuxian’s head. He stares for a long, long time before he can finally come up with a reply.
u r so cruel to bake me a cake that i cant even eat
didnt u say u were in california right now why on earth would u
I wanted to.
I wanted to, he says. Like it’s that simple. Like anyone is that nice. Except his catfish is.
can i name ur rabbits
the little baby one with the dot between his nose can be tissue
the one thats always lazing around in the pictures can be tofu
I see. What about the last one?
The last one. The rabbit that’s always staring into the camera with steady, dark eyes.
hes my favorite
He’s my favorite, too.
Tissue, Tofu, and Darling it is. Thank you.
it was my pleasure
thanks for all this
really i think it was
one of the best presents ive ever received
I’m glad you were born, Wei Wuxian.
Wei Wuxian’s throat seizes up. In the cold autumn air, he lets the emotion sink through him, lets himself feel the little jolt of electricity at the ends of his fingers, the ache in his chest. He releases a slow exhale, watching his breath rise in the air in little puffs of fog.
im glad u were born too
In December, Wei Wuxian trips headfirst into love. The way this happens is simple and also incredibly embarrassing.
alright question 13
whyd u join tinder anyway??
i kno u arent in it for those delicious dicks
im sorry i did it for the alliteration but now im just filled with shame
jk i have no shame but i figured i shd try to show some repentance before the fbi agent tracking my phone tries to snipe me for real
My brother expressed his concern about my lack of companions. He has had a rough year. I didn’t want to be another reason to add to his worries.
Is the FBI agent another meme?
yeah he is but i like to imagine hes real just for funsies
also god u guys are like perfect
no way siblings like that actually exist
u have to be lying
companions as in companions or companions as in c o m p a n i o n s
I am not lying. He is exasperating at times, but I understand he has my best interests at heart.
I’m not sure how to tell the difference. A friend.
ok fine i guess siblings like that do exist
ALSO MR LAN U JOINED TINDER FOR FRIENDS???? im going to cry
its too late the waterworks have started
what on earth made u think that tinder wld be a good place for friends
The application’s tagline is, “Dating, friends & meet people.” I assumed there were options available to me. This was the first app that appeared when I searched for “apps for finding life-long companions.”
that wld do it yeah
I do not want short-term relationships, Wei Wuxian.
well i guess ur pretty disappointed w the results then huh
all u got were dick pics and the rare vagina if ur into that
I found you. I am not disappointed.
MR LAN SIR I TOLD U THAT U HAVE TO WARN ME BEFORE U SAY THINGS LIKE THAT
It’s a low-definition picture of Kermit the Frog given CPR with heart-emojis littering the background. Oh, fuck.
I found this on the Internet. Is this better?
thats almost worse thank u
“I think I’m memesexual,” Wei Wuxian says aloud. What else can these heart palpitations and the feeling of an incoming stroke be?
“I am begging you,” Jiang Cheng moans, face smashed into his textbook, “please shut up for once in your life.”
So that’s that.
Finals week approaches and everything that isn’t solid and in front of Wei Wuxian gets put on the backburner.
Of the conversations Wei Wuxian has had in the last three days, half have been requests for the location of student counselling services, a third are thinly veiled pleas not to do room checks (as if he ever has), and the rest a smattering for actual academic help.
Wei Wuxian would love to help, really, but the problem remains that he apparently is not privy to the whims of the fairies—regardless of Wen Qing’s deadpan barbs—and therefore has no idea where counselling services are, and he’s so swamped with his own work that the best he can do is dump all his old study aids on them and hope for the best.
They accept the aids with the exaggerated relief only first semester freshmen are capable of. As for counselling… he hears through the grapevine that some of the more desperate have responded with confusion when asked, so they evidently found their way somehow. That’s good. As their RA, Wei Wuxian is here for them, but there’s only so much he can do or say that wouldn’t come out slightly hypocritical.
Thankfully finals week is also maybe the only week that Jiang Cheng doesn’t come for his ass. It is also the only week that Wei Wuxian almost wishes he would, if only to peel him bodily from his responsibilities and give him an excuse to procrastinate just a little more. But he can’t, and he has his thermodynamics and kinetics exam the same day as Art and Archeology in Pompeii, so he can’t even put off studying for one until the night of. He has to study for both the night of.
Wei Wuxian likes to think that he has this shit figured out. He’s got his shit locked, because surely, surely near two decades of schooling would have taught him how to cram.
He is mistaken, of course. By hour four the textbooks begin to look the same, which is worrying because one has pictures of pillars and the other has pictures of geometric shapes that are supposed to mean something, and Wei Wuxian cannot tell the motherfucking difference. Hour five and Wei Wuxian is losing his grasp on reality. What is enthalpy and angular momentum? Did Shijie give him Xuanwu or did Wei Wuxian just pick him up in Gusu Meadows? Has he seen God? He has no fucking idea.
“I,” says Wei Wuxian to no one but also everyone in the library, “am losing my mind.”
Murmurs of assent rise in the air. He honestly can’t tell if he hallucinated that or not. Right. Time for a break. He tabs his place in both textbooks before flipping them closed, dropping his forehead on the covers.
do ut htink that if i sleep withmy texbokos that ill absorb the material somehow
what r u doing pls tell me its better than what im doign
I was clearing up after dinner. Now I am texting you.
Wei Wuxian squints at the numbers on his phone. Somewhere around hour... five he lost his understanding of numbers, and it takes him a second to connect the waning light outside of the windows with the 7:28 PM on his phone.
Huh. He could’ve sworn it was 7:30 like, two minutes ago.
no its fine i just forgot time existed for a sec
What are you doing?
i have finals so i am
whatever u r texting dont ik ok im a disaster when it comes to this
Have you eaten dinner?
Or any meal at all.
Wei Wuxian blinks, then drags his gaze to his bag. His stash of granola bars and assorted nuts that he’d packed like a frenzied squirrel preparing for the apocalypse is all gone, which means that at some point he must’ve consumed it. Or. Someone must’ve. At some point. He has a faint memory of a little baby freshman wandering into his corner of the library looking scared shitless, and offering the trail mix to her as a reassuring gift. He can’t remember if she actually took it.
Inconclusive. Also completely irrelevant.
idk if ive eaten
thats actually rly funny u have to admit
How long have you been studying?
see thats another question i wld love to answer w full confidence but again
Today my brother gave me rabbit sweaters. I will put them on the rabbits and send you pictures if you eat.
ok that is CHEATING
what kind of sweaters
They are black hoodies.
It’s a hard deal. Wei Wuxian gets up, orders a questionably dry hamburger, and scarfs it down before he texts his catfish again.
ok ive eaten
i can feel the energy coursing thru me
is this what its like to be healthy or have i died and reincarnated into a functional body
Likely the former, although I would not be surprised if it was the latter.
literally no one believes me when i say that ur the meanest to me out of everyone bc u type so politely and its not fair
i demand the bunnies as compensation
give me the sweater bunnies mr lan or there will b consequences
oh myg od they re CROCHETED SWEATERS
DID UR BROTHER MAKE THEM
THEY HAVE LITTLE HOODS ON THEIR LITTLE EARS
OH MY GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOD
THATS SO CUTE
as a treat may i get a video of them hopping around
little hippity hoppities if u pls
My brother wanted to learn some new hobbies, so I suggested knitting or the like. He crocheted these sweaters as thanks.
I will send you a video if you drink some water first.
u and ur brother are legit unreal i cannot believe u guys dont feel the cain instinct
also u r the biggest bully in my life
there thats proof empty water bottle and all
i chugged it instinctively and i am greatly suppressing the urge to throw up but its ok
the bunny videos will heal me
send them to me bunny connoisseur
Wei Wuxian clicks the video. He watches the video to the end. Then he plugs his earphones into his phone, restarts the video, and turns the volume all the way up.
The video itself starts out pretty normal, if not a little stroke-inducing with how cute the rabbits are. His three precious children are hopping around in the grass, and wherever his catfish is at the moment, it’s in a place where the sun is just beginning to set, sending muted sunlight across the greenery. For a minute the rabbits tumble in the grass, noses twitching, ears flopping. If Wei Wuxian closes his eyes, he can almost imagine it: the soft wind sifting through his hair, the prickle of the grass below him, and—
“Careful,” comes a quiet voice. Wei Wuxian’s eyes open in time to catch the pale hand that nudges a rabbit closer to the camera, where long legs in dark slacks stretch out onto the grass. The rabbits all rush to get closer. Trip over his knees, his lap. Strands of dark hair swings into the frame before it’s tucked back, giving the slightest glimpse of a blue button-up sleeve. Slim fingers stroke the nearest rabbit’s fur, and the rabbit snuggles into the touch.
The whisper of a breath. Almost like a laugh.
“Be good,” the same voice says.
Then the video ends.
For a while Wei Wuxian sits back in his uncomfortable chair, tipping his head back to stare at the ceiling to consider the situation.
So. That’s his catfish. It’s probably the most he’s ever seen of his catfish in the history of their months-long acquaintance. It turns out that after months of waiting, his catfish is. Nice legs. Long hair. A gentle voice.
Right, he thinks, a few minutes later. I think I’m having a meltdown.
On a basic level he already knew that he was in love with the catfish. This, however, is not the basic level. This is a level so far beyond logic and rationale that the sheer act of watching the video a second time shattered something inside Wei Wuxian like, spiritually. He hasn’t blinked in several minutes. He can’t even feel the dryness.
“What to do,” Wei Wuxian murmurs, “if you are hurtling your way towards becoming completely feral. Like rabid. Absolutely foaming at the mouth insane.”
“Just let it happen, man,” another suffering student mumbles beside him, clearly in the same boat or at least getting there. She nods at his phone. “Give yourself five minutes and then get back to it. Time yourself if you need to.”
Wei Wuxian nods. This is an excellent plan. He reaches for his phone, sets a timer, and proceeds to give himself a seizure just thinking about his catfish. It’s all very systematic. There’s a lot of head-thunking against the table. Furious whispers of what the fuck are you doing are you an idiot what the hell why do you only have two brain cells that you can barely use what the fuuuuuck. Even an anguished pulverization of his trail mix in his hands for a little variety. God. He wishes he wasn’t in the library. Not that anyone would care if he had a momentary lapse in sanity especially considering the timeframe, but also like. Volume. It would be so nice to just shriek and bounce off all the walls for a few hours.
Unfortunately the timer runs out before then. He lets out an exhale, stuffs the bisexual disaster panic back under his skin where it will no doubt simmer until it’s ready to explode again, and he nods at his fellow student.
His fellow student nods back.
“Good job,” she says.
“Thanks,” he says. Then they get back to their individual papers.
Some undetermined amount of time later, at which point Wei Wuxian’s eyes are beginning to blur again, he remembers that he forgot to send a reply to his catfish and emerges from the haze with a sharp inhale.
Way to leave the literal love of your life on read, asshole.
shit sry i forgot to reply
my children r so cute
was that u playing w the bunnies tell me it was
mr lan u have such good legs
not to be weird or anything
“You are a disaster,” Wei Wuxian hisses at himself. His wrangler Wen Qing isn’t even here to stop him, so of course he keeps going.
and rly pretty hands
no wonder u can play guqin theyre
send me more vids of the rabbits later ok??
i need them desperately in these trying times
I will. Take care of yourself.
Wei Wuxian kills the urge to send a million heart emojis, but it’s a near thing. He turns back to his notes, switches subjects, and immediately feels his eyes glaze over.
∆U = Q - W
This isn’t even hard. This is basic shit. First law of thermodynamics. But seeing a triangle next to a letter is sending Wei Wuxian’s brain somewhere very far.
“Aaaaaaaaaaaaa,” he says.
He flips to a new page, sees more shapes next to letters with subscripts and superscripts. Maybe this isn’t a good time for science. Maybe this isn’t a good location. Feng shui’s all wrong.
Wei Wuxian relocates to his dorm room, wading through his kids doing some form of yoga against the walls. Once safely confined once again, he spends a solid hour sifting through courses on a rotation until his phone buzzes and he drops them all, desperate for a break someone else can force upon him.
so youre not coming to dinner this weekend
or the next
or probs for the next four years as far as i know
Well, it’s a distraction. He’ll take what he can get.
dont be dramatic
dad and jie said that you get a free pass for xmas since you got grading
and you can either skip new years or chinese new year if youre rly busy w your shit schedule and or the weird thing you have with how you literally never stay home for longer than a weekend
but either way you cant skip both or theyll flay you alive
im gonna sue u for defamation of character
what did they rly say
losers who bail for dinner dont get to know
im just gonna keep adding chins until u tell me
dont think i wont
ill crash ur phone if i have to
omg they said they missed me thats so embarrassing
we are literally family wtf
yeah but its still embarrassing
one of these days youll actually get hives from emotions
and ill be sure to have an epipen ready so i can stand there
and not give it to you
YOU SAID YOU DELETED THOSE PICTURES
and obviously i was lying
Bullying Jiang Cheng brings back Wei Wuxian’s will to live, or at least enough of it that he begins cranking down on the studying again with minimal fuss, fuss being about five minutes of near-uninterrupted groaning before something thumps on the other side of the wall. He stops. Wen Qing shares a wall with him, after all. He doesn’t want to know what made that sound nor does he ever.
He studies until dawn, sleeps for two hours, finds the cheapest family size bag of cheese puffs and eats that for brunch alongside an espresso shot brewed with Redbull. The hour before his thermodynamics exam is spent last minute cramming. The caffeine hits halfway through. Wei Wuxian is buzzing, thrumming, his heart skipping when he pays attention to it, which is often, too often.
He’s fine. He writes the exam. He feels good about it. Art and Archeology in Pompeii is in three hours. He feels less good. He’s running out of time.
Food. Wei Wuxian recognizes the need for food, so he eats every granola bar he can find in forgotten pants pockets. Satiated—but not really—he downs another Redbull-espresso and spends the next two hours before his art history exam dissociating. He writes it though. God damn, he writes that fucking exam and it’ll either be genius or a red smear on his transcript.
No use worrying about it though, because he’s got another exam in a few days and Xue Yang is the closest to submitting to the espresso-Redbull lifestyle that Wei Wuxian recognizes really isn’t for everyone. Or anyone. Himself aside, he can at least sway his kids from trundling down that path.
When finals come to a close and the dorms empty out for winter break, Wei Wuxian still has an abundance of work to do grading exams that it isn’t until after Christmas that he feels the hollowness of a frigid and empty campus. The year is coming to a close and Wei Wuxian is one of maybe five people permitted to stay over the break. The other four are made up of three international freshmen from a different floor and a shady PhD student in environmental engineering that Wei Wuxian first met scaling the outside of the library and then never again.
In theory, there are a handful of places Wei Wuxian could crash for the break, but the Wens’ place will be crowded, and cohabiting with either Jin Zixuan or Jiang Cheng would end in disaster at some point. So he manages to weasel his way into staying in the dorm.
Of course that also means a dense kind of quiet and smothering loneliness perpetuated by two feet of snow. At least it’s pretty.
But it’s New Years Eve and Wei Wuxian chose not to celebrate the dawn of a new year inventing new and elaborate evasion techniques when family members come for his lifestyle choices. Instead, he’s here, sitting cross-legged in the residence lobby, staring at the snowdrifts outside and thinking this is how it must feel to stand in an abandoned mall.
Granted, he’d tried to celebrate in his own way. Downtown was a mess of students who hadn’t gone home to their parents, instead celebrating their shiny new independence by getting absolutely hammered. Wei Wuxian made five new bestest best friends and received marriage proposals from the most excitable before deciding he might be too old, or too poor, or too something for this.
So he sits in the lobby and witnesses in real time across several social media platforms what all his acquaintances are getting up to. A long winded Instagram story involving his lab partner from first year chemistry, Everytime We Touch [bass boosted] and a series of homemade fireworks is interrupted by a notification from Tinder.
It’s a picture from his catfish. Of the rabbits specifically. They’re all looking up in a little cluster. The cutest snowdrift Wei Wuxian has ever seen.
aaaaaa theyre so cute
u should send me some more
just as a gentle suggestion
Are you okay?
You normally don’t spell out the word “should.”
that is legit the hottest thing anyone has ever said to me
wow im actually shocked what the fuck
You refrain from using text-speak when you are upset.
i guess ur right???
i dont know i never really noticed
Is there anything I can do?
the bunny spam im in love
but no its okay im just in one of those moods u know
i guess im like
i dont know its really quiet here and i dont think ive talked to a sober human being in a bit
so im going a little insane
Would you like to talk with me?
I mean, would you like to call?
If you’re uncomfortable with the idea, we don’t have to.
i wld rly like that
And because his catfish is one of those rare, magical people who don’t procrastinate like Wei Wuxian, the phone call comes immediately. His catfish doesn’t even give him time to prepare.
“Fuck,” Wei Wuxian yells, before he leaps to his feet and dashes out the door, accepting the call. “Hi, hey, what’s up.”
“Hello,” comes a smooth, low voice in his ear, the same soft voice from the rabbit video, and Wei Wuxian nearly trips over concrete before he regains his footing again. “Wei Wuxian?”
“Yeah, hi, that’s me.”
“What are you doing? You sound… out of breath.”
“Oh, me? I’m just walking around, getting some exercise in. You know. As I do.”
His catfish doesn’t point out that the most exercise Wei Wuxian gets is from sprinting from one end of the campus to the other between classes, and that he has reported nearly dying after every single subsequent sprint.
“Ah,” his catfish says instead. It’s very kind of him to fake his understanding of something that literally never happens. “I see.”
There’s a stretch of silence and in a desperate attempt to curb the ensuing awkwardness, Wei Wuxian opens his mouth the same moment his catfish does.
“How are the rab—”
“How is Xuan—”
They both halt. Wei Wuxian’s mouth twitches into a small smile when it becomes apparent his catfish will hold out a lot longer than him. “Xuanwu is great. Only bit me twice this morning, so I think he’s really falling for me.”
“And the rabbits? Any new clothes?”
“The rabbits are healthy. My brother has moved onto solving jigsaw puzzles, so there are no new clothes.”
Wei Wuxian’s startled laugh comes out shaky and he’s definitely going to blame the cold for that. “Sounds to me like your entire family’s got the grandpa genes.”
There’s a soft huff that may or may not be his catfish laughing. Another pause, though it’s shorter this time because Wei Wuxian realizes something about the way he refers to his catfish, like a constant reminder that he isn’t real, that the name he’s shared on his profile isn’t the right one, and Wei Wuxian wants to change that.
“Y’know, I’ve been wondering.”
“What should I call you?” When silence only follows, Wei Wuxian sighs, scratches his nail absently against the knitted stitches of his sweater. “I mean, what do I call you.” Not the catfish. Not the actor. But him. “What do you want me to call you, Mr. Lan?”
“Oh,” says his catfish. A second trickles by. “Ah. You can call me Lan Zhan.”
Wei Wuxian blinks, slow. “Lan Zhan? That’s you?” A hum of affirmation. “Oh. That’s. Nice. I like that. Lan Zhan. Lan Zhan.”
“Nothing, I just.” He flushes, painfully aware of how idiotic he sounds, and is probably going to sound for the remainder of this call. “I just like saying it, I think. That’s weird. That’s weird, right? You don’t have to be all nice and polite, I know that’s weird.”
“Wei Ying,” Wei Wuxian blurts, because Lan Zhan’s low voice in his ear saying such a courtesy name after all these months together is so wrong in ways that Wei Wuxian can’t even verbalize. He might be a catfish, but he’s a catfish who watched Wei Wuxian’s stupid movies and shows, photoshopped memes for him, called after Wei Wuxian’s drunken text rant in the middle of the night, and has always, unceasingly, been there for him in all the ways that his friends and family haven’t been.
And that’s not any reflection on them in particular, just the way that Lan Zhan has single-handedly stood at his side with his quiet, steady presence like a low flame. Abruptly Wei Wuxian is consumed by this need to know what his name will sound like in Lan Zhan’s voice. What his syllables will sound like wrapped around Lan Zhan’s tongue. He doesn’t know how he’s gone all this time without Lan Zhan calling him Wei Ying, but he can’t have it anymore. Lan Zhan. Lan Zhan.
After a moment of silence, Wei Wuxian repeats, “Wei Ying. That’s what I want you to call me.”
A long pause, and a quiet flutter of static against his ear, like Lan Zhan is exhaling. Then, as if in agreement: “Wei Ying.” Another short pause. And then softer, almost murmuring, Lan Zhan says it again. “Wei Ying.”
“That’s me,” Wei Wuxian says. “Ah, that’s nice, Lan Zhan. I—you know? Lan Zhan. Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan.”
Lan Zhan makes a questioning sound in response.
Wei Wuxian laughs. “No, it’s just—all this time, and I finally feel like I know your name.”
“Mm,” Lan Zhan says.
It’s such a Lan Zhan way of agreeing that Wei Wuxian can’t help the laugh that bursts out of his throat. “You know, I thought the phone call was gonna be weird since all we did was text, but it turns out you sound exactly the same in real life.”
A pause. Wei Wuxian is beginning to learn that pauses for Lan Zhan are entire sentences for everyone else. Lan Zhan’s pauses have different purposes to them, like rests in music. This one is hesitant, unsure.
Sure enough: “Are you disappointed?” Lan Zhan asks.
Wei Wuxian smiles. “Never.”
Another pause. Embarrassed this time, Wei Wuxian thinks.
“Should we continue our game of twenty questions?” Wei Wuxian asks, once it’s clear that Lan Zhan won’t say any more. “I don’t think we ever finished it, but I can’t remember what question we were on.”
“Fifteen for you. Sixteen for me.”
“You kept track, huh?” Lan Zhan hums, and Wei Wuxian smiles. “Alright, so it’s my turn then. You know, doing this on the fly is a lot harder than doing it in texts.”
“I’m sure Wei Ying can manage.”
“Oh, misplaced optimism,” Wei Wuxian says, laughing. Truth is that it’s not too hard to come up with a question, especially ever since December when he had his whole crisis about meme-sexuality. Lan Zhan’s gentle voice doesn’t help matters either, and that, combined with the discovery of his name, is what makes Wei Wuxian finally say, “Alright. I got one for you. But you have to promise to tell the truth, like extra-clear. Um.” He exhales. “What’s your ideal type? Or. Who, I guess.”
“I mean,” Wei Wuxian babbles, “surely you have one, right? You couldn’t have gone twenty-one years of your life without one, unless you’re aromantic which is cool and in which case I will take back my question and ask a different one. Haha.”
“No,” Lan Zhan says. “I have one.”
“You do?” Wei Wuxian manages to say.
When Lan Zhan finally answers, his voice is swift and strong, sure. “My ideal type is kind,” Lan Zhan says, soft, and something in Wei Wuxian’s chest hitches, skips a beat. “He is funny and charming. He has dark hair and he adores my rabbits. He makes me happy.”
Someone funny and kind. Someone who makes him happy, huh. It’s only a little crushing because Wei Wuxian listened to all of the previous statements with the budding hope that it could be him, with the dark hair and the humor and the dubious kindness, but at the last one Wei Wuxian’s heart sinks to his feet. “It sounds a lot like you have someone in mind when you say these things, Lan Zhan,” he mumbles.
A pause, one that Wei Wuxian can’t read, and then:
“Mm,” Lan Zhan agrees, quiet. “I do.”
“Oh,” Wei Wuxian says. He blinks, and blinks again when his vision doesn’t get any clearer. Alcohol must’ve really fucked him up. “Oh, okay, cool. I hope you get the person you want, then. Well. Not just the person. You should get everything you want, Lan Zhan, you deserve it.”
“Ah, don’t thank me, I’m breaking out into hives here!” He smiles when there’s no response. He likes to think that it makes Lan Zhan smile too, like this person he loves so much.
For a moment he allows himself to imagine it. What Lan Zhan would look like, what he’s doing. Maybe Lan Zhan is staring into the night, even if he’s not outside; that he’s sitting upright in bed, back straight, blankets clean and unrumpled around him because that’s just the type of person he is. Lights off. Pretty hands wrapped around his phone, or curled loosely around his rabbit. Relaxed mouth and soft eyes.
“—about you?” Lan Zhan’s voice breaks into his thoughts.
Wei Wuxian startles out of the image, blinking. “Shit, sorry, I zoned out. What?”
“What about you,” Lan Zhan repeats dutifully. “Your ideal type. Question seventeen.”
“Oh. Huh.” Wei Wuxian has to consider it for a minute. “I don’t think I have one.” When Lan Zhan stays silent, he realizes what an awful answer that was and hurries to add, “Not that like, anyone would work, it’s just...”
For the longest time, he never really had an ideal type. It’s why he dated around so much, flirted with everything and anything. It was hard to reject someone based on a series of standards that he never had. No height, no face, no personality. In theory anyone would work.
But if there was one thing he wanted. One thing he would give anything to have.
“One time,” Wei Wuxian begins, “before my Shijie got engaged, she spent a lot of time being sad over Jin Zixuan. That’s her husband’s name, by the way, dunno if I ever told you. He was a huge dick to her and never looked at her once even though she’s literally the most perfect person on the planet. And she was in love with him, still is, but back then, it was like—it was so stupid, you know? ‘Cause she could’ve gotten anyone if she just snapped her fingers like that, and she wanted a guy who treated her like shit. So I asked her. What it was about this guy that made him so special. Why she was so hung up on him.”
He breathes out, grounds himself by tracing the path of the snowflakes drifting down to earth.
After a short moment, Lan Zhan asks, “What did she say?”
“I was pretty drunk when she told me so I can’t remember all of it, actually.” It’s a huge understatement. He was nearly twenty shots in and curled up around the toilet after the fifth break-up of the month.
“But I remember her saying that the person she loves has to love her so much that they understand her better than she understands herself. That they know what she wants and needs. Even if they can’t get it for her, they have to at least know, and that knowing is a million times more important than having money or, or a good face, or whatever. One time she saw him peeling lotus roots with his mom, right? He cut his finger but he still shooed her away from the stir-frying because he thought the oil splatters would hurt her without an apron on. And I guess that’s what Shijie wanted. To be someone he loved. Someone who he would peel the lotus roots for.”
He has a shitty memory, but he remembers this at least: the cold bathroom tiles. The nauseating stench of peach vodka on his shirt. His stinging eyes and stinging throat, stinging everything from how much it fucking sucked to be unwanted again and again. And Shijie, sleep-rumpled and so, so sad. Tucking his hair behind his ear, whispering into his shoulder that A-Xian would find someone too, look at you; how could anyone not love you with everything they have?
Very easily, as it turns out.
“In response to your question,” Wei Wuxian says finally, feeling like the words are crammed in his throat, like one big knot he can’t erase, “I don’t know. I just—I don’t like Jin Zixuan, but every time I think of what I want, it’s them I see. Looking at each other, moving together without speaking, being affectionate. I think I was really touch-starved as a kid, which makes sense ‘cause I was an orphan and all, you know? Sometimes my best company were the dogs and the street and uh, they didn’t like me a lot. So my ideal person would have to be someone who touches me a lot. Not sexually or anything all the time, just… to remind me that they’re there, and that they love me enough to stay by my side and deal with all of my clingy bullshit. I’m a hard person to be around, I know that.” Lan Zhan makes a disagreeing noise, and Wei Wuxian allows himself a brief smile at that before he goes on, “The lotus roots, too. I mean, I don’t cook often, so it probably won’t happen, but I still want that. Someone who would do even the stupid shit for me.”
“I don’t know. Peel the clementines. My feet are constantly cold, so they’d have to be okay with me putting ice blocks all over their legs when we cuddle. And they’d have to love Xuanwu, too. My last date got disgusted with the shrimp he eats and said that turtles were gross when I showed him a picture.”
“Xuanwu is cute,” says Lan Zhan, sounding offended.
It tugs a laugh out of Wei Wuxian. “I know,” he says. “He is, isn’t he?”
Above him, fireworks burst in the clear sky. He was so involved in telling the story that he hadn’t noticed the countdown, but judging by the distant cheers around them, the ball has already dropped into the new year.
“You know,” says Wei Wuxian idly, “Shijie once told me that you should start off the new year by doing whatever you want to do for the rest of the year, to set the tone for new beginnings. I’m sorry I took the tone setting away from you, Lan Zhan.”
“I would enjoy talking to you for the rest of the year. If that is what Wei Ying wants.”
His heart gives a traitorous thump in his chest. Even in the cold weather his cheeks feel hot. “Me too,” Wei Wuxian says, smiling. “Happy New Year, Lan Zhan.”
“Happy New Year, Wei Ying.”
They begin calling each other more often after that. Admittedly not by much, because his catfish— Lan Zhan—is busy at odd times of the day and night and leaving a message like a bait trail to follow later is convenient. Still, Wei Wuxian gets to hear his voice more often than before, which was not at all, and he’ll take whatever he can get.
It’s not like he hadn’t noticed the first time he called, but being sober and in daylight just brings to attention how… good Lan Zhan’s voice is. “Like, it’s all smooth,” Wei Wuxian babbles at one point while he rushes between classes, because he’s an unstoppable disaster hurtling towards certain doom like a trash can asteroid, “and low, and you could really make a living with that voice, dunno if you have, it’s pretty… Um. Great.”
A pause. This one is another one of those unreadable ones. “Thank you,” says Lan Zhan, and it sounds like he doesn’t know how he should feel about it.
Regardless of Wei Wuxian’s questionable communication skills, Lan Zhan keeps texting him and accepting his calls and sometimes even requesting calls with his stupidly polite May I call you? It’s all kind of crazy. Wei Wuxian already knew that Lan Zhan’s kind and weirdly funny, but now Lan Zhan’s kind and weirdly funny with like, the voice that would narrate Wei Wuxian’s dreams if he had that sort of money. Or a voice he would fuck.
If that was. A thing.
Speaking to Lan Zhan also makes Wei Wuxian aware of how bad his impulse control is in real life. Like, okay, on some subconscious level he already knows, but knowing and speaking to the people who are well-trained in ignoring him, versus knowing and talking to Lan Zhan, who hums in agreement and carefully considers the shit that Wei Wuxian spews on a regular basis?
They are entirely separate matters altogether.
The amount of self-restraint that Wei Wuxian uses in stopping himself from gushing—like, actual gushing, like whole unfiltered minutes of it—is insane.
One time Lan Zhan commented on the new, still-nameless black rabbit he adopted a month ago, and Wei Wuxian said, “Oh, you should name it after me,” like an idiot.
“It’s clingy shit like that,” Wei Wuxian tells Xuanwu now, envying the peaceful way he floats in his tank, “that got me dumped. Not again, no sir. I have learned.”
Meanwhile, the dawn of the new semester does something weird to the freshmen. For a short while they seem almost dazed as they adjust to new classes with new profs and TAs and schedules after three and a half months of familiarity.
Mo Xuanyu greets them on the first day of class with a blank stare and ‘No, you don’t understand, the owl is gone,' while A-Qing whines loudly about being late to each of the five lectures she’d scheduled on Wednesday. Xue Yang finds Wei Wuxian in a corner of the library that has bean bags (and which can only be purposefully found on Mondays and Tuesdays, to mysteriously vanish every other day of the week) with a question about organic chemistry, only to flush a delightful embarrassed pink when he remembers that Wei Wuxian is no longer his TA.
Xue Yang also curses him out for it as if it’s not his own fault but Wei Wuxian forgives him. He’s magnanimous like that.
Other than that, nothing really changes between the fall and spring semesters. Wei Wuxian’s schedule is still a hellscape that occupies his time from the crack of dawn until 8 PM, at which point he has to pretend he doesn’t see the newly rushed freshmen pre-gaming in the halls, and then help them not choke on their own vomit or die of alcohol poisoning when the hazing inevitably goes wrong.
“This is the worst,” moans a random freshman he finds puking into the bushes. Wei Wuxian has sacrificed his hair tie to hold her hair, and he’s patting her back as she groans, “I’m never doing this again, I swear, everything is awful. Fuck, this sucks. Oh god, why do people do this? I’m dying."
This is almost word-for-word the exact same speech Wei Wuxian gave on the disaster of his twentieth birthday. Just replace the freshman with him, him with Shijie, and it’s practically a cinematic parallel.
“Sure,” says Wei Wuxian, deciding not to mention how wonderfully that has worked out for him. “Never drink again. All things in moderation.”
“All things in moderation,” the baby freshman agrees before hurling into the shrubbery again.
By the second week, the campus as a collective returns to being a passably lubricated machine, and the number of distressed baby freshmen Wei Wuxian has to comfort returns to a healthy half dozen on the daily instead of the initial thirty or so.
This, coupled with the narrow grace period before early assignments are due, leaves Wei Wuxian with enough time to go visit A-Yuan.
The Wen siblings’ little cousin lives with their grandmother a short bus ride from campus, in a nice neighborhood with an elementary school and attached daycare within walking distance. Generally, Wei Wuxian will tag along with either Wen on a visit, since they do so frequently. Today, he goes with Wen Ning.
The kindergarten class is just letting out for the day when they arrive. A-Yuan spots them immediately, little pudgy face lighting up. He grabs onto his nearest friend, excitedly pointing out Wei Wuxian and Wen Ning, explaining exactly who they are quite loudly and to the amusement of the other parents and teachers.
“—and Uncle Wuxian buries me in the dirt so I grow taller—”
“I love it when he slanders my good name,” says Wei Wuxian cheerfully, prancing over to scoop A-Yuan up into his arms.
A-Yuan giggles in response, treating Wei Wuxian to a little gap-toothed smile that does things to Wei Wuxian’s heart. “No slander,” he says. “I don’t know what that is.”
Wei Wuxian boops him on the nose. “It’s when little monsters like you tell lies about good people like me.”
“Not a lie! You said dirt would be better than drinking milk.”
He did say that, didn’t he. “Well,” Wei Wuxian says, “rule number one, you should listen to only half of the things I say.”
“Rule number one is no strangers.”
“Rule number two, then.”
They take a walk to the park, A-Yuan swinging between his and Wen Ning’s hands. A handful of other kids and their parents are also there, building snow castles and trying to reach the sky on the swingsets. For a solid half hour, Wei Wuxian becomes a villain that the children chase around and try to throw sandy snow at before their parents scold them. He forgets how much energy they have. He can’t recall the last time he put this much effort into something that wasn’t A) schoolwork or B) evading Jiang Cheng or C) not insulting Jin Zixuan to the point that Shijie frowns at him and he feels like a flaming dumpster.
Inevitably he crashes and burns in a haze of poorly formed snowballs and squealing children and A-Yuan declares him defeated, until Wei Wuxian summons his faithful general Wen Ning to fight in his honour.
He collapses on a bench next to Granny Wen, who came to join them sometime before Wei Wuxian gained three new elementary school archnemeses. For the first part of the conversation, he manages to dodge most of the pleasant conversation starters—how are classes? Are you eating well? Are you seeing anyone?—before Granny Wen raises her eyes in an expression that declares Wei Wuxian caught.
“You only say so much about yourself,” says Granny Wen, “before masterfully evading. Can I not ask questions about the people I care about and expect an answer?”
Wei Wuxian screws up his face. “Can I say no?”
Granny Wen looks at him flatly, but she’s too kind to really maintain it. “Then tell me, at least, how are your students?”
That he can answer at length. While A-Yuan tests the limits of Wen Ning’s stamina, Wei Wuxian tells Granny Wen about the students on his floor, those who speak multiple languages with apparent ease and those who spend equal time translating and working on their assignments, how he tries to help them but feels disconnected from the international students, both similar and completely different from him, who grew up with a foot in either culture. He tells her about A-Qing, vicious and kind in equal measure, and Mo Xuanyu, who is nervous and brilliant and might be onto something with that owl, and Xue Yang, a terrifying enigma that Wei Wuxian has no doubt will succeed whether his endeavors be legal or far less so.
Granny Wen listens with an interest that Wei Wuxian appreciates, because he adores his students even when they age him thirty years. It’s easier to talk about them and their cute fuck ups, because he sees their potential and knows, despite puking in fraternity plants and setting microwaves on fire, they’ll be okay. Better than okay.
Wei Wuxian watches A-Yuan fling himself off the monkey bars into Wen Ning’s waiting arms, shrieking all the while. A mother across the park looks horrified by the trust fall.
“He’s happy, right?” Wei Wuxian finds himself asking, after a rambling love letter his freshmen will never receive. “Not just because I’m here, because obviously, but. He’s happy?”
Granny Wen’s entire face creases with her smile. “Yes, he’s very happy. Thank you.”
“No, it’s… it’s nothing.” Wei Wuxian lifts a hand to rub at the back of his neck. “As long as you’re happy, too.”
“I am,” says Granny Wen, leaning into his field of view. He remembers how she was when he’d first met her so many years ago. The wrinkles looked like age and exhaustion then, but now they accentuate her content smiles, like the one she’s been wearing all afternoon. Gently, she adds, “I have been, for a long time now.”
She means something more. Wei Wuxian knows this, but he smiles back. “Good. I’ll make sure it stays that way.”
Granny Wen might have something to say about that, but Wei Wuxian knows she can’t help but brag about A-Yuan. One strategic question and Granny Wen forgets whatever it was she was going to say in favour of praising the New Year’s themed finger painting he brought home last week.
At some point, Wei Wuxian finds even his perfectly normal keysmashes are insufficient for expressing how he feels about Lan Zhan. Like, right, keysmashes are the pinnacle of gay panic, and that’s fine. But Wei Wuxian has been gay panicking over a fucking catfish for almost four months now. It doesn’t seem to be getting any better either, because sometimes Lan Zhan will just— say things, like genuinely sincere things that no one says to Wei Wuxian because he’s a menace to society, and he texts them in perfectly punctuated sentences as if he means them, and he says it in response to the most crackshit things that most of his friends don’t even dignify with a reply.
Wei Wuxian once texted all of his friends, my grades r telling me to be a trophy wife but my face is telling me to study harder so what do u do when ur a rat w two brain cells
Shijie texted back: You are incredibly smart and hard-working A-Xian don’t say that!!!!!!!! ヽ(`⌒´メ)ノ
Jiang Cheng said: die
Wen Ning, because he is an angel and Wei Wuxian does not deserve him in any way whatsoever, replied, I think you can be both a trophy wife and a breadwinner!! Wei Wuxian had spent the next ten minutes looking at that and tried not to tear up.
Wen Qing didn’t reply at all, which, like. Fair. And his phone, for some reason or the other, couldn’t deliver the message to Nie Huaisang.
Lan Zhan, though. Lan Zhan?
my grades r telling me to be a trophy wife but my face is telling me to study harder so what do u do when ur a rat w two brain cells
mr lan pls reply this is a srs problem
You are not a rat and you have more than two brain cells.
no its ok i told u before rat pride forever
anyways honey ur so hot
sweettalk me more
tell me about how sexy u find my non-rat like appearance and my three whole brain cells
uve been typing for a while
ur scaring me
You underestimate yourself too much; you may procrastinate and follow unhealthy habits, but neither of those traits have stopped you from being an intelligent, hard-working student who cares deeply for his friends. As for your appearance.
You have eyes. Have more confidence.
There is no reason to degrade yourself.
sweet talk like
not like that
i meant sho wme ur DICK
I DIDN TME AN THAT I PANCIKED
Does this help?
ACTUALLY IT DOESNT AT ALL BUT THANKS
So. What is Wei Wuxian supposed to do, aside from get horribly drunk and voice dictate an entire memo about his thoughts on his catfish?
“Okay,” he announces to the trees outside of his dormitory. It’s a frigid night, and Wei Wuxian has half a sweater on and the Smirnoff is rushing through him like adrenaline, it’s all good. He’s on the rooftop because it’s an RA privilege he doesn’t get to abuse nearly enough, and also because it’ll stop the little freshmen from looking up to him as a gleaming standard of propriety. Not that he ever was, but still. “Right, okay, so. Mr. Lan.”
Then he stops, stumped.
The whole plan was to get drunk enough to spew out all of his thoughts about Lan Zhan, but now that he’s actually in the situation, it’s harder than he thinks. For one, nothing really comes to mind. There’s just some general thoughts floating about, like I wonder what Lan Zhan looks like or where did he get all of those Gucci bags from, but it’s nothing like the panicky crisis that’s led him to aggressively keysmash into his shattered phone before. He needs like, gay thoughts. He needs strong vibes.
He picks up his phone, and after a moment of consideration, begins to scroll back. There’s a lot more here than he expects. It takes him two whole minutes to scroll back to yesterday, which is just ridiculous when he thinks about the fact that Lan Zhan texts once to Wei Wuxian’s whole monologue. It’s mostly Wei Wuxian, granted, but it’s also. It’s hours of conversation.
Oh, boy. The panic is coming.
“Shit,” he says, “shit, shit, shit. Oh, fuck. Oh my god.” If he squints he thinks he can imagine seeing Lan Zhan sitting in front of him, and because Wei Wuxian doesn’t have an actual picture of his catfish, his mind automatically fills in the image of Lan Wangji instead, and his golden eyes are staring into Wei Wuxian’s soul. The Smirnoff-induced hallucination is coming for him unless he confesses here and now.
So he stands up, begins the recording, and starts pacing.
“Right,” Wei Wuxian says, “so it’s not like anything new that I’m a mess and- and a disaster, but this is low, even for you, Wei Wuxian. Like come on. I mean, okay, he’s really fuckin’ nice and listens to me for hours, like who does that, that’s insane. But it’s not. That. Like have some higher standards, m’dude. But also how can I have higher standards if I just really, really like how he treats me? Like he’s so nice? And he has rabbits? And he sends them to me constantly and one time he said I looked very nice? He didn’t even say I was a rat. Which I am. I am such a rat.” He sighs into his bottle, and then adds, like an afterthought, “Rat pride.”
There’s more, a voice whispers in the back of his head. He’s too drunk to figure out whose it is. But they’re right.
“There is more,” Wei Wuxian goes on, miserably. “Fuck, there’s so much more. He’s trying to learn memes for me. He didn’t even know what a meme was when I met him and then one time he sent me a personally Photoshopped meme and I thought I was going to die.”
It was the one of the car swerving into the other lane; on the left lane were the words Wei Ying treating himself with the respect he deserves. The right lane, which the car was veering into, just said, Wei Ying calling himself a rat. The words were filtered to look like they were part of the road signs and everything. Wei Wuxian spent twenty minutes alternating between screaming and loud breathing. “No one’s ever done that. It looked so professional. I was like, so fucking turned on it was gross. I think the way to my heart is memes. It has to be. Right? ‘Cause there’s no way that- that I like him so fucking much when I don’t even know what his face is doing. Fuck. Fuuuuck.”
Wei Wuxian peeks at what the voice dictation has inscribed so far. It’s a hefty message that takes up the entire screen. But it’s still not enough.
“I just,” Wei Wuxian says, sighing, wanting to slump into the rooftop ledges and then doing exactly that once he realizes no one is there to stop him, “I just like him so much it’s awful. I don’t even double text him. I triple text him. I fucking—sixteen text him. And he still replies! Like all the time! My last date said I talked too much and he sent me like one text a week and then maybe an emoji if he was feeling spicy.” Wei Wuxian wrinkles his nose thinking about it. “And I still sucked his dick. Ugh. Fuck you, Brent.”
A part of Wei Wuxian is marveling at his ability to monologue by himself. He’s really a modern Hamlet or something. Shakespeare would be so proud.
Wei Wuxian lets his phone slip to the ground as he slides down the ledge and onto the rooftop floor. He rolls around a little. It’s just that kind of day. “Mr. Lan,” he mumbles. “What do I do. You’re driving me insane. Send tweet.”
Then he laughs for a minute, because Lan Zhan probably doesn’t even know what Twitter is, if precedent says anything. He seems like an Instagram kind of guy. Who posts pictures of his rabbits and like, his family and shit once every year. Like he’s that guy.
His catfish. His dear, darling catfish.
Sighing again, Wei Wuxian picks himself up, brushes off the bits of gravel sticking to his jeans, and reaches for his phone. He freezes.
The message has been sent.
“What, no, no, no,” Wei Wuxian chants.
On any other day, voice dictation would not have picked up his every word with near-perfect accuracy. Today is not one of those days.
Right so it’s not like anything you that I’m a mess and it is Astor but this is low even for you Wishon I mean like come on I mean OK he’s really fucking nice and he listens to me for hours like who does that that’s insane but it’s not that like how some higher standards my dude also how can I have high standards if I just really really like how he treats me like he’s so nice and he has rabbits and he sends them to me constantly and one time he said I looked very nice and he didn’t even say I was a rat which I am I am such a rat rat pride
there’s more fuck there’s so much more he’s trying to learn Memes for me he didn’t even know what I mean was when I met him and then one time he sent me a personalized photo shopped me when I thought I was gonna die No was ever done that it looks so professional I was like so
Fucking turned on it was gross I think the way to my heart is Memes like it Hass to be right because there’s no way that I like him so fucking much when I don’t even know what his face is doing fuck fuck I just I just like him so much and it’s awful I don’t even double text him I triple texting I fucking 16 text him and he still replies like all the time my last day said that I talk too much and he sent me like one text week and then maybe an emoji if he was feeling spicy and I still suck his dick fuck you Brent restroom on what do I do you’re driving me insane send tweet
There’s a read receipt.
The typing bubble is going to give Wei Wuxian a stroke. He’s sure of it. Lan Zhan will read this and then see what a disaster he is and then get the hell outta dodge because Wei Wuxian is desperate and sent him a goddamn dissertation on how much he likes him, and that’s just not a casual Tinder-date thing when they haven’t even gotten each other’s real numbers yet. Oh, fuck. Fuck.
Why were you typing like that?
Additionally, why would you do such a thing for Brent when he didn’t treat you well?
Wei Wuxian stares. “That’s fucking it?” he demands. “That’s all I get?”
Then he forces himself to exhale, take deep breaths, remember that at least Lan Zhan is still talking to him like he’s not such a huge goddamn disaster. Okay. He can work with this. Just. Be casual.
i mean it wasnt a bad dick
“Not that casual,” he hisses to himself. “What the fuck.”
also i may have been voice dictating my thoughts and then
accidentally sent them to u
“What the fuck,” Wei Wuxian shouts. “Give me something to work with here, dude, come on!”
Lan Zhan is typing. And typing. And typing. It brings Wei Wuxian back to the first and only time he sent his catfish a picture of himself, when he watched the typing bubble with the same level of investment that people watched a high-speed car chase or something. But he can’t help it. Wei Wuxian is allergic to any real emotions, and the thought of Lan Zhan replying with anything but a so how are your classes makes him break out into hives.
With that in mind.
He sends a message—right as the text from Lan Zhan finally arrives.
I don’t think it’s insane that people would listen to you for hours. I personally enjoy all of the texts you send me, even if you believe they’re too much. I know I am bad at communicating with others, so the fact that you continue to text me at the end of every day makes me happy and at ease. You are a good person. Despite what you think of yourself.
so how r ur rabbits
An uncharacteristic pause.
They are good.
“NO,” Wei Wuxian howls, infuriated at himself and this stupid catfish. “THEY ARE NOT GOOD.”
hold on u cant say that and then MOVE ON
i am a ruthlessly charming funny sexy rat who gets hives from real emotions so i get to do it but u dont !!!!!!!!!!!! thats not fair!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
DONT U MM ME IK WHAT UR DOING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I am merely responding the same way you would.
u r literally giving me whiplash
u cant go from saying the nicest things ever and then go back to bullying me in the next sec
I am not bullying you. It’s the truth.
the truth is synonymous w bullying didnt u know
but u know what
GOD I HATE EMOTIONS
IM GETTING HIVES
ok im fine now everythings cool
actually nvm can u just like
spam some rabbits and we can pretend this never happened
A short pause in conversation.
If that is what you wish.
“I’m a mess,” Wei Wuxian says to himself, then delves into the rabbit photos. What else can he do?
Mid-January. On any other year before this one January 23rd would not be a big deal, but he has since discovered that January 23rd is Lan Zhan’s birthday. The Lan Zhan who bought him a whole cake despite not being able to eat it because. Well. Thinking back on the memory brings a flush to Wei Wuxian’s cheeks, and he has to repress the urge to wave at the air just to dispel the incoming embarrassment.
He’d said that he was glad Wei Wuxian was born—
“Fuuuuuuck,” Wei Wuxian groans into his pillow. Apparently the pillow was burrowing between his desk and three whole mountains of clothes. It’s incredibly convenient for venting to, since it doesn’t, like, respond. Sometimes Wei Wuxian swears that Xuanwu understands him and is judging him.
The plan for Lan Zhan’s birthday is simple and about to be enacted in…. roughly four minutes. Wei Wuxian will just send him a happy birthday text at the stroke of midnight, wish him well like a normal person, and then. Go to sleep. Maybe bake a cupcake in the morning with little rabbits on the frosting, because surely even Wei Wuxian can’t fuck up rabbits.
Two minutes. God. Waiting is agonizing. Everything is so much easier when Wei Wuxian doesn’t have to think about the future consequences of his actions.
He walks out of his room and into the commons, where Xuanwu’s tank is lit by a night lamp. Idly he taps at Xuanwu’s tank. Xuanwu twitches, then falls back to the bottom of his tank to sleep. He glances at the clock. One minute.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY LAN ZHAN!!!!!!!
i know ur probs sleeping but i wanted to be the first to wish u a happy birthday
Without locking the screen, he flings his phone onto a stiff couch where it slides between two brick cushions. He doesn’t mean to do it on a conscious level, but his subconscious is better than him and clearly recognized the instinct to say more, which is. Dangerous.
Therefore the flinging.
Wei Wuxian immediately dives after his phone lest it vanish forever. It’s happened before. He’s seriously considered setting up a motion cam because “the possibility of sock gremlins expanding their repertoire to include phones devoured by couches is uncomfortably high” — Mo Xuanyu 2020.
After discarding a hairband, a hairbrush, three paperclips and a post-it with weird rune-like drawings on it, Wei Wuxian miraculously finds his phone. It’s still open on his message, except now there are three dots bouncing in the corner. Wei Wuxian’s eyes bulge.
May I call you?
Wei Wuxian breathes in extremely calmly, confirms the message with uncontested tranquility, and hops from foot to foot until his phone buzzes, at which point he swings around to draw on Xuanwu’s serene energy. “Xuanwu, give me strength,” he pleads, before he clicks the call button.
“Lan Zhan?” Wei Wuxian asks, like a normal person with a normal voice that doesn’t do an awful squawking thing once he picks up. “Uh, hi. I thought you slept early on your off days. It’s midnight, what’re you doing?”
“I am in California right now,” says Lan Zhan. A beat. “It’s currently 9 PM.”
Oh. “Shit,” Wei Wuxian swears, reeling back from Xuanwu’s tank. “Oh, fuck, I’m sorry, I’ll… I’ll text you in three hours and then you can forget this ever happened, how about that? And then you’ll see my message in the morning and gaze fondly at my message or stroke the screen. Or like, hurl it out the window if you find it to be really annoying. And then I’ll beg for your forgiveness and give you a thousand cakes. It’ll be a whole thing, I promise.”
“Not annoying,” Lan Zhan responds. A huff of crackling breath against the speaker—maybe amused?—and then he goes on, “I read your messages. Thank you.”
“Even—” Wei Wuxian swallows. “Even if they were three hours early?”
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA, goes Wei Wuxian’s mind. He reels it in. Reel it in, dude. Put that shit back in the closet. “Okay,” he manages to say. “Cool. How’s um. How are the rabbits.”
“I presume they are healthy. I left them in my brother’s care.”
“Oh, your brother,” Wei Wuxian says, as if this comment isn’t utterly meaningless. His mind blanks out. “And the rabbits, they’re… Healthy.”
“Mm,” Lan Zhan says.
“Did you ever name that black one?”
A pause, long enough that Wei Wuxian is beginning to wonder if Lan Zhan nodded off to sleep mid-conversation like an actual grandpa, before Lan Zhan admits, “Yes.”
Wei Wuxian blinks and sits up. “Wait, seriously? And you didn’t tell me?”
“But why? I thought we had a thing going! We share pet photos and I give my little Tofu, Tissue, and Darling virtual kisses and then you get a new rabbit and he’s all cute and he becomes your new favorite and you tell me his name so then I can plot to steal his affections from you by calling his name a million times and overwhelming his thoughts of anyone else but me! That was the plan! Lan Zhan!”
Another huff of static against his ear, this time definitely amused. “Keeping his name from you will not destroy your plans. I’m sure he will love you regardless.”
Oh, that’s cheating.
“You know what you’re doing when you say things like this,” Wei Wuxian accuses. “Don’t you.”
Lan Zhan doesn’t reply, which is basically a confirmation with his whole no lying rule.
Wei Wuxian pouts. “Lan Zhaaaaan,” he complains. “Tell me. What is it? I bet it’s something super embarrassing and that’s why you won’t tell me. That’s it, isn’t it? Did you name him Dick or something, short for Lizard? Or something lame like Jeff? What is it?”
“...Dick, short for Lizard?”
“Yeah, like Richard.”
“Like… Richard,” Lan Zhan repeats. “Right.”
Wei Wuxian stifles a laugh. It’s so nice when Lan Zhan doesn’t full-on ignore his bullshittery and makes an attempt to understand him. It’s a lot like watching an alien make contact, but a very cute alien. That he’s in love with. Ahem.
“Anyways, you’re not gonna tell me the name of my new son? Of our new son? So cruel of you to leave him nameless to his own father, Lan Zhan, that’s not very nice of you.”
“He will be fine.”
“Now you’re just being mean.” He discovered a long while back that Lan Zhan could be more stubborn than possibly Jiang Cheng when he put his mind to it, re: that time Wei Wuxian said that he needed to rant about Serena van der Woodsen before he realized that Lan Zhan would have no idea he was talking about, and then Lan Zhan came back two days later to report that he watched all six seasons and found her to be quite unreasonable. It was a great challenge to not send Lan Zhan a million variations on do u know that im literally so fucking in love with u and memes with the shooting heart emojis.
Anyways. He recognizes a lost battle when he sees it and vows to find out the name of the rabbit another day, before changing the subject. “You said before that you’re twenty-one now, right?” Wei Wuxian asks. Lan Zhan hums his agreement. “Well, that’s just sad. It would’ve been so nice if you could partake in the whole worst drink concoction game like the rest of my friends. I’d love to see how you react to any of Jiang Cheng’s concoctions, he’s just evil.”
“You would want me to do that?”
“Um, yeah,” Wei Wuxian says, before belatedly remembering that Lan Zhan doesn’t drink. “Oh, shit, wait, never mind. You don’t drink. We could do it with like, virgin cocktails, although Jiang Cheng might argue at your right to get birthday wishes then.”
“I would drink.”
“Yeah, no, I have no doubt you would, it’s just the legality of birthday wishes would be called into question if the drink isn’t as disgusting without alcohol in it—”
“No, I would drink it with alcohol,” Lan Zhan tells him, firm. “For the birthday wishes.”
Wei Wuxian is struck speechless for a long moment. Then, voice hoarse and cracky, he says, “You would… drink. Alcohol. For birthday wishes?”
“Even… Even Wen Ning’s? He’d give you an entire glass of tequila with a drop of lemon juice, Lan Zhan, that’d be dangerous.”
“I am okay with it.”
“Do you even have a high alcohol tolerance? I feel like you’re one of those people who can either secretly drink thirty shots and be fine, or is allergic to alcohol and passes out after one shot.”
“It is,” Lan Zhan says, hesitant, “likely the latter. My family has a genetic weakness to alcohol.”
That is so cute. And sad, and also nice because getting drunk would be cheap as hell, but cute.
“Then let’s do it,” Wei Wuxian blurts. “One day. I’ll go easy on you and you can have all the birthday wishes you want from me. I would suggest doing it now, but the fun is in being there and mixing the drinks and watching the reactions, you know? I’d love to introduce you to my friends one day, they’re a nightmare. Um. Sorry, that was a lot. But I mean it.”
“I mean it, too,” Lan Zhan says back, steady and sure, and Wei Wuxian can’t help the smile that blooms across his face.
Despite midterms just around the corner, Wei Wuxian does not slink out of celebrating the Chinese New Year with the Jiangs. It helps that all his little freshmen are in the same boat and everyone trickles out to their various commitments over the course of the day. He doesn’t even need Jiang Cheng to kidnap him for it! Though Jiang Cheng arrives to pick him up anyway, purely out of convenience and so Wei Wuxian can’t pull the I Got Lost card again.
The gathering is bigger this year, involving not only the Jiang clan but Jin Zixuan’s side of the family as well.
The weird thing about Chinese New Year now is that Wei Wuxian’s at that nebulous age where he’s still dysfunctional enough to still need money, but also old enough to have an entire generation of kids younger than him. He has to give money, in other words, and this year might not even receive anything back.
He did get money from Granny Wen when he visited her a few days back, which was funny because he then proceeded to give that money right back to A-Yuan. The money balance between him and the Wens is completely unequal and he plans on keeping it that way. Possibly forever.
Regardless of his confusion with the money situation, the first thing Wei Wuxian does when he steps foot into the Jiang mansion is speed right over to his favorite nephew, swarmed by a million aunts and uncles, and flap the red envelope in his chubby face.
“Look,” he coos at the startled toddler. “Look, it’s your favorite uncle who loves you and who you should also love the most because he gives you money. Look, A-Ling, look! It’s money! How nice!”
A hand plucks the envelope from Wei Wuxian’s grasp. He turns to find Jiang Cheng opening the envelope and rifling through the new bills, an expression of distaste plastered all over his face.
“A-Cheng,” Wei Wuxian gasps. “Opening the envelope in front of me? Such bad manners. Who taught you to act like this?”
“You did,” Jiang Cheng shoots back. Recalling the incident in his second Chinese New Year with the Jiangs, he concedes the point. It’s completely fair. Jiang Cheng looks up from the bills, mouth screwed in a grimace. “Thirty bucks, Wei Wuxian? Really?”
“I knew you were a cheapskate and gave twenty. Of course it’s my duty to do better than you and keep my position as A-Ling’s favorite uncle.”
“You are so fucking petty,” Jiang Cheng spits, but he’s already digging through his wallet for more bills.
“No wrinkled bills,” Wei Wuxian reminds him. Jiang Cheng stills, scowling. Wei Wuxian stares at him. “Uh-huh. Put that shit back. You lost and I’m going to be A-Ling’s favorite uncle forever, admit it.”
Sullen, Jiang Cheng puts his wallet back into his pocket before elbowing him in the ribs. “You’re so fucking annoying. Like you have money to spare.”
“Money is easy if you eat only one meal a day,” Wei Wuxian tells him, tapping at his temple. “Big brain plays only.” When Jiang Cheng’s face darkens, a jolt of instinctive fear jumps down his spine and he forces a laugh, patting his brother on the shoulder. “A joke, of course. I’ll see you later! Don’t kill A-Ling.”
It’s always a little fascinating how he discovers new relatives every Chinese New Year. While Wei Wuxian knows he has a shitty memory, he’s pretty sure he would remember if he had nine paternal uncles instead of the five he distinctly recalls from last year, two of them being twins. When the twin Jiangs tell him that they played Mario Kart with him and snuck him some rice wine at dinner during the last gathering, Wei Wuxian’s mind goes blank. Saying that they were the uncles who gave him some rice wine and played video games with him is like all the different Chads he knows coming up to him and saying, “Hey, but I’m the Chad with the mole on his dick.”
It doesn’t clarify anything at all. There were so many uncles who did the exact same thing.
He manages to maneuver his way out of remembering names by calling everyone his favorite uncle or aunt or grandma or grandpa, or great-uncle or great-aunt, and so on and so forth. Not for the first time, Wei Wuxian is glad he doesn’t have parents, if only so he can say, “Haha, yeah, Auntie, I’m glad the Jiangs adopted me after my parents were killed in a car accident,” and use their horrified expressions to make a quick getaway. He uses this tactic to excellent success several times, giving Shijie a discreet thumbs-up when she overhears him and hides her laugh behind her hand.
Jiang Cheng, of course, just rolls his eyes.
“You are so lucky your parents are dead,” Jiang Cheng mutters, after he catches Wei Wuxian weaseling his way out of a trap involving the question when are you going to get married, it’s already that time for you, Wei Wuxian and you are still wearing your hair so long? Ah, cut it off, so messy, so messy. Your face is too small. So thin, eat more.
“You know,” says Wei Wuxian thoughtfully, “that might be the first and only time we agree on something tonight.”
Then he loses Jiang Cheng among the crowd of a million other unfortunately-nosed Jiangs, so the conversation ends there.
At some point during the night, he finds a face he recognizes and stops still in the room, staring. “Mo Xuanyu?”
His baby freshman turns and blinks, cheeks flushed red. Must’ve been the twin Jiangs with the rice wine. He nods at Wei Wuxian, a little bleary. “Wei Wuxian,” he says. “My RA. Hi.”
Wei Wuxian can’t do anything but blink back. “You… we’re related? Did I know this?”
“Probably?” Mo Xuanyu squints, the familiar expression of someone calculating the family tree and various lineages crossing his face. “Your sister is married to Jin Zixuan, right? And Jin Zixuan is…” Mo Xuanyu sets his wine bottle down on a nearby counter, tracing lines in the air. His finger goes horizontal to the left, up for about two seconds, jerks to the right, down, diagonal, bobs twice in the air to the right before settling back down again, maybe two inches from his original starting position. He nods. “That. So that makes me, um… Your sister’s husband’s maternal second aunt’s daughter’s… um, first uncle-in-law’s...”
“A cousin,” Wei Wuxian sighs, patting Mo Xuanyu on the shoulder. “Let’s just say cousin.”
“Cousin,” Mo Xuanyu agrees, before picking up his bottle and stumbling into the milling Jins and Jiangs again, vanishing from sight.
Right. Cool. Chinese New Year.
As the night wears on, the families with younger kids leave the mansion, followed by those with work in the morning, then the young adults with better places to party, until it’s Wei Wuxian sprawled out on a couch in the basement listening to Wii music and spamming his catfish.
He’s essentially alone in the mansion, what with Shijie and her husband and A-Ling sound asleep in the rooms two floors up, and Uncle Jiang and Madam Yu no doubt pacing around in cagey circles as they tend to do after a family reunion or any sort of event that requires them to act as a happily married couple. Jiang Cheng is probably polishing off the rest of the wine bottles or storing them in his car to smuggle back on campus. As an RA and also an older brother, Wei Wuxian should really care more about that, except that it’s one of those rare nights that Lan Zhan stays up past 9 PM to talk to him.
oh no doubt its the subservient chicken
oh boy get ready for some meme history
ok so the story of the subservient chicken is like
in 2004 burger king made this fucking website where a dude in a chicken suit and garter belts would like
respond to comments and commands
and users could “have it their way” by typing commands for a man in a chicken outfit and garters to make the whole thing extra kinky
so like if u typed jumping jacks
the kinky chicken man did jumping jacks etc
thats what the subservient chicken did
And your dream job is to be this subservient chicken.
the job doesnt exist anymore hence why its my dream job
listen its so funny
u get the eroticism of a mysterious identity
the inherent hilarity of a chicken
and the fame of streaming it for all to see
AND u get to feel sexy with the garters as a treat
how is that not ur dream job
thats a fair point
“Are you still using that app?” comes Jiang Cheng’s voice above him, and Wei Wuxian startles so hard that he almost shatters his already-shattered phone again. When he saves his phone from certain obliteration and looks up, Jiang Cheng has his eyes narrowed at him, mouth pressed into a thin line. “How long have you been talking to this guy, anyway?”
“Uhh,” Wei Wuxian says, partially because he has to think about it, and partially because he’s attempting to find a way out of this conversation before certain death comes for him. He’s been Jiang Cheng’s brother for the better part of two decades, okay, he can sense it in the air like well-paid medium. He tries for a reassuring smile and hides his phone in his pocket. “Like, uh. five months? Give or take a few days?”
“He’s a very engaging guy, A-Cheng! He sends me pictures of his rabbits!”
“You’ve been talking to a catfish. For five months. Because of rabbits.”
“Yeah. How’s your new internship going, by the way? I heard you get a swanky cubicle to yourself and everyth—”
“Don’t try to distract me. Why the hell are you still talking to this guy?”
“Because he’s nice?” Jiang Cheng’s glare doesn’t lighten, and Wei Wuxian sighs, steeling himself for a doomed conversation. “I know what I’m doing, A-Cheng. I’m not twelve. I don’t need a lecture on responsible Internet behavior on talking to strangers. Who the hell tries to extort money on Tinder, anyway?”
“Clearly people who can see how irresponsible you are. And maybe it’s not money, have you thought about that? Maybe it’s for…”
Then he trails off, and Wei Wuxian smiles despite himself. “What, like sex?” he asks, amused. “Like murder? You think a catfish with rabbits who likes watching Tangled is going to try to murder me?”
“God, you’re so stupid and you don’t even see it. Fine. Whatever. Get yourself killed, see if I care. Not like talking to you has ever changed your mind before.”
“Jesus Christ, a catfish isn’t going to kill me.”
“That’s not what I’m talking about and you know it.”
Looking at him closely, Jiang Cheng does seem more infuriated than reasonable for the topic of the catfish. Wei Wuxian’s heart drops into his gut. Fuck. He stays quiet for a moment, trying to think of a way out of the impending conversation, because Jiang Cheng’s face only really gets that twisted when he’s thinking about one thing, and that’s the Wens.
Which Wei Wuxian doesn’t want to talk about. If ever.
“Jiang Cheng,” he says carefully, “I know what you’re going to say.” When Jiang Cheng doesn’t reply, Wei Wuxian exhales and goes on, “If this is about the groceries, I told you, it’s just every once in a while and I like to treat them. I know you told me to stop, but it’s not like it’s a big deal, you know? It’s not anything different from buying dinner for friends—”
“Except it’s not just the groceries,” Jiang Cheng interrupts, quietly livid, “is it.”
Wei Wuxian’s blood turns to ice in his veins. No way. There’s no way.
“For the past four years,” Jiang Cheng continues, still using that horrible muted voice, “you’ve been paying rent for the Wens’. Not their tuition or their living expenses, I’m sure. But you’re not careful with your bank statements. You leave your shit lying around in your mess of a room, and you leave your door unlocked all the time like you don’t care what happens to you or your stuff.”
“I did,” Jiang Cheng says, louder, “and I’m not sorry about it. Paying for the Wens’ rent? How long?”
Wei Wuxian doesn’t respond. He can’t.
“Fine,” Jiang Cheng says. “Don’t tell me. You’ve probably been doing it since they left their dad’s house anyway. You know they don’t even live with their grandmother? Not even just that. Their groceries, the utilities, the daycare that Wen Yuan goes to, all of it—you earn that fucking money for yourself and you don’t even use it. You give it away like it’s nothing! You have tuition!” Jiang Cheng is shouting now, every word laced with fury. “You have your own fucking life, and your own inheritance from your dead parents, and you use it all on some people who were nice to you a few times? Who don’t even know?!”
“They know,” says Wei Wuxian, feeling like he’s hearing himself from a mile away. “A-Cheng, I wouldn’t—”
“They know someone’s paying it,” Jiang Cheng cuts in, scathing. “But they don’t know who, do they? They think it’s a scholarship, a charity. Returns on taxes or some shit. Maybe the grandma knows, I don’t know, but—did you honestly think you could keep this up?”
Yes. “No,” Wei Wuxian says.
“This is the thing about you, Wei Wuxian. You try so fucking hard not to be a burden. You give and give and give and never ask for a goddamn thing back, don’t even expect it, and you don’t ever fucking think about how—” Jiang Cheng sucks in a breath, holds it, swallows. “You never think about yourself,” he says, voice raw and awful. “Making all these fucking jokes about what a disaster you are, haha, very fucking funny. You got two fucking kids looking up to you, god knows why, and you think this is okay? You think you’re okay and you never fucking care about the people who—who care about you.”
Wei Wuxian just stares at him. He knows, he wants to say. He knows that people care about him objectively, but—
“You paid for their lawyer and the court fees to get them emancipated from their piece of shit father,” Jiang Cheng goes on. “Okay. Fine. You give them groceries because you’re an overbearing asshole who doesn’t know how to mind his own business. Fine. What the fuck ever. But the rent. The daycare. They have their own fucking lives. Let them fucking manage it. They aren’t your goddamn responsibility, especially when you can’t take care of yourself, let alone other people.”
“A-Cheng, listen to m—”
“No, you listen. I have watched my brother,” Jiang Cheng says, hoarse, eyes bright, “fucking destroy himself over the past four years. You were goddamn seventeen and pretended like you were already more mature than anyone else while I had to sit here and watch. And I’m still sitting here. I’m still fucking watching while you bring them groceries every other weekend and you—you barely remembering to eat two meals a day, with your shit schedule because you don’t know what you’re doing, you never have, and you just go on like it’s fine, and you don’t—” He cuts off, raking a hand through his hair. He looks small, all of a sudden. He looks like the brother who has hated the idea of loving Wei Wuxian for years now.
Wei Wuxian’s chest aches just at the sight of him. “A-Cheng, I…” He trails off.
What can he say to that?
The truth is that he knows Jiang Cheng is right. At least partially. He’s shit at taking care of himself and yeah, he barely eats two meals a day because he has a shit memory, but—so are all college students. What does it matter that he’s just more dysfunctional than the rest of them?
And it’s not like Jiang Cheng gets it. Not fully. Jiang Cheng has always had a family who cared about him and loved him, a safety net below his feet at all times. Wei Wuxian was on the streets for three whole years, running from orphanage to house to orphanage, and he gets it, he knows what it’s like to have no money, no safety, no guarantee that everything will be okay. What does it matter if Wei Wuxian is using his own money to give the people he cares about that guarantee?
Uncle Jiang took him in without a second thought. Madam Yu fucking hates the sight of him and she still lets him into their family dinners, lets him call the people around him Uncle and Shijie and A-Cheng. She still gave him a family. A life. A Chinese New Year with so much family he still can’t remember their names years later. It’s not something that Wei Wuxian can ever give back, especially not to the Jiangs. But he can at least try to give it to someone else.
That’s all. That’s all it has ever been.
“I just,” says Wei Wuxian finally, thinking about all of this, throat thick, “want you to trust me. I know I’m not doing the best. But I—I know what I’m doing. I have savings if shit happens. I’m not giving everything I have to the Wens, and—and the eating, I’m busy, alright? And yeah, my schedule is shit, but that’s my own fault. That’s just—that’s just me.”
Jiang Cheng’s face grows darker with every word that Wei Wuxian says, and at the end of it, he’s looking at Wei Wuxian. If it was fury or hurt, Wei Wuxian thinks he could deal with that. Jiang Cheng has been hurt and angry before and they dealt with it fine, if not well. But this. Jiang Cheng looks at him like he’s exhausted, just as tired as Wei Wuxian of having the same conversation over and over again.
“Right,” Jiang Cheng says, hollow. “It’s your own problem. Your own fault and none of my business. Never mind that we’re fucking family.”
A jolt runs down Wei Wuxian’s spine. “That’s not what I mean.”
“No,” Jiang Cheng agrees, “‘cause you never think about it, do you? You’re just wired to fuck yourself over. Never think twice before doing something. You and the Wens, your catfish, your future. The life that you’re living now. Us. You never think twice about any of it.”
“Jiang Cheng,” Wei Wuxian says, helpless. He feels like he’s been kicked in the throat.
“No. You don’t get to say that. Not anymore. You don’t deserve it. God, just—” Jiang Cheng swallows, lets out a low breath. “Fuck you. Do what you want. You’re right. It’s your problem. I don’t know why I ever bothered.”
Before Wei Wuxian can reply, Jiang Cheng walks out, slamming the door closed behind him. The sound makes Wei Wuxian flinch.
It takes Wei Wuxian a long moment to register the snow outside. It’s the in middle of winter at night, and it’s snowing.
With dawning horror, Wei Wuxian realizes that Jiang Cheng left without a coat, and he jerks up, ready to rush to him and give him the coat, even if he won’t talk to Wei Wuxian anymore. Then he realizes that he has no idea where to find Jiang Cheng anymore. Two years ago his favorite haunts would’ve been Shijie’s house, the abandoned swingset in the outskirts of the Jiang’s backyard, maybe the cafe two blocks down.
But that was two years ago, when Wei Wuxian hadn’t spent almost every moment trying to avoid Jiang Cheng’s attempts at conversation.
Wei Wuxian slowly stands up and gathers his things before he thinks about it. Jiang Cheng’s anger has always been a sure thing, slow to cool. Even if Wei Wuxian left now, Jiang Cheng still wouldn’t come back. He drops his coat back onto the couch and heads into the kitchen to clean the dishes, wipe down the table. He leaves the packed leftovers where they are. Afterwards he stands in the doorway of the living room for a moment, feeling like he is watching his own body from a long distance, before tucking his keys into his pocket.
He sends Jiang Cheng a message, and then, unable to help himself, one last text.
dont stay out too long. its cold and u forgot ur coat
Jiang Cheng doesn’t respond to any of his half-assed attempts at conversation ranging from questionably apologetic to outright denying the argument ever happened. On the plus side, he stops kidnapping Wei Wuxian to go to family dinners. On the down side:
I miss you
Wei Wuxian feels like trash.
While this isn’t new, he does like to avoid things like guilt and regret, especially where they pertain to his Shijie. She doesn’t add any follow-up messages. No request to come visit her, no guilt-trips about how his last visit was over a month ago, nothing. Just a simple I miss you.
She’s a lot like his catfish in that sense, constantly giving her time and devotion without expecting anything in return, even though he is the last person to deserve it.
But. It’s not like he can’t work to deserve it, right? If only for just one weekend, he can spare some time to brave Jin Zixuan’s stupid mansion and visit his precious Shijie.
With that in mind, he turns off his phone, gathers up all the textbooks and materials necessary to complete his most pressing assignments, and grinds it out right there on his carpeted floor, in the midst of all his crumpled clothes and papers. By hour two his back is hurting like he’s an eighty-year-old man with chronic arthritis and maybe scoliosis. Hour three and his vision is blurring more than that time he drank Nie Huaisang’s mystery jungle juice. Hour four, and he finally sets his pen down, exhales, and picks up his phone to send her a message:
i miss you too
can i come visit after classes on friday
so we can watch c dramas together?
It’s a testament to how perfect his Shijie is that the reply comes immediately, even at the crack of dawn.
Of course!!! ヽ(>∀<☆)ノ
I’ll have a pot of your favorite pork rib and lotus root soup waiting for you ♡
The shiny glass and bronze door swings open to reveal Shijie, arms already open for a hug that Wei Wuxian sinks into without hesitation. She’s wearing her softest sweater. Wei Wuxian buries his face into her shoulder, even if it forces his neck at a bad angle. She laughs softly when he goes limp, half dragging him into the spacious foyer, one hand smoothing down his back. The huge house is quiet, Jin Zixuan and Jin Ling out to give them time with each other. As promised, there is a steaming pot of Wei Wuxian’s favourite soup on the stove, and as expected, it’s amazing.
They take their bowls of soup into the family room, even though there are bar stools, a kitchen table and a dining room table. It’s always a little too clean in here, so Wei Wuxian appreciates being able to just sit on the floor, hunched over his bowl like a gremlin as Shijie queues up a drama.
In every gap of silence, Wei Wuxian half expects her to bring up his fight with Jiang Cheng, because there is no way his little brother didn’t rant about it afterwards. Maybe. Probably. But Shijie says nothing about Jiang Cheng, barely even talks about the Chinese New Year celebration except to mention offhand how her son, to Wei Wuxian’s horror, plans on spending his new wad of cash on a puppy.
And once the drama is playing, they have something to focus on. Something that isn’t Jiang Cheng, school, impractical romantic interests—until, that is, a very familiar actor appears on screen in a flowing white robe and smooth black tresses and Wei Wuxian is coughing on a chunk of lotus root.
“Are you alright?” Shijie asks, rubbing her hand between his shoulder blades.
“Yeah,” wheezes Wei Wuxian. “So good.”
He finishes the soup without further incident and casually slides up to join Shijie on the couch, where she won’t have a view of the way his shoulders tense whenever Lan Wangji appears on screen.
She still notices anyway, because his Shijie has seven whole senses to Wei Wuxian’s doubtful three. His eyes have gone to shit after hours of blank staring at textbooks, as it turns out.
“A-Xian,” she says. “Is there… Do you want to watch a different drama?”
“What? No. This is fine. I love Lan Wangji. He’s. Cool. I know nothing about him.”
Shijie’s eyes narrow. Times like this, he’s reminded that she and Jiang Cheng are actual siblings, despite every other sign pointing to the contrary. “A-Xian,” she says again. “What is it? You can tell me.”
“Um,” he says. “I. It’s cool. Nothing’s happening. I love this drama. Hey, did you get a new TV?”
“It’s the same TV, and you aren’t getting out of this.” A considerate pause, and then she adds, a little sadly, “Unless you don’t want to talk about it with me.”
“No,” he says, defeated. “It’s fine. I’ll talk.”
Half of it she already knows with the disaster that was the family dinner back in October, when he first talked about the catfish with the Gucci bags. But the other half she doesn’t know, so he tells her the story in halting bits and bursts: how his catfish is the worst catfish ever, how he’s considerate and kind and willing to learn memes, and how despite the circumstances, Wei Wuxian maybe, perhaps, slightly has budding feelings of, well, love. And how he has no idea what to do with these feelings.
Once he’s done, Shijie is quiet for a moment as she processes. The drama is still playing in the background of their conversation. Wei Wuxian steadfastly does not strain to listen to the dubbed voice of Lan Wangji’s character.
“What are you going to do once you find out who he really is?”
Wei Wuxian doesn’t reply. Not because he can’t, but because he doesn’t know how to even begin to broach that conversation. He’s known that Lan Zhan was faking since before they even started talking, and after all that they’ve talked about, it’s not like he cares. At this point Wei Wuxian thinks Lan Zhan could be like, a fifty-year-old grandfather with five separate wives, and Wei Wuxian would still probably be in love with him.
Lan Zhan could be an axe murderer or a jewelry thief—preferably the jewelry thief, because stealing from the rich is so attractive—and Wei Wuxian would still feel heart palpitations just thinking about him. Not in like a, “Oh, serial killers are so sexy” kind of way, just like “I have such bad taste and I pine after anyone who treats me remotely well” sorta thing. Weird as that is. But no one’s ever accused Wei Wuxian of having good taste, and Lan Zhan is no exception.
Even then it’s not the catfish thing that’s the problem. It’s just that talking to someone who doesn’t trust him with the truth of their own identity after all this time is… It hurts, really. Nothing more to it than that. But that’s his own fault, regardless.
Recognizing the awful expression that must be plastered all over his face, Shijie sighs and tucks him back into the crook of her shoulder. “Oh, A-Xian.”
“It’s okay,” he says, muffled into her sweater even though it’s really kind of not. His eyes sting and he has to swallow several times to clear the lump in his throat. “I mean, I knew from the beginning, right? So I should’ve known better.”
“You just wanted someone to talk to. Who can blame you for that?”
“I could’ve talked to you or anyone else. I could’ve dealt with my own problems.”
Shijie doesn’t point out how unrealistic those two options are for him, which is kind of her. Instead she just sighs again, tugs his hair out of his ponytail, and says, “I know. You give your heart too easily. Watching you is like watching someone give out free samples of themselves.”
The thought makes him laugh. “Says you, Shijie?”
She digs her knuckles gently into his head. “Hey. I’m not as bad as you. And my husband is a good man.”
“Since when were you so diplomatic? A month since I’ve seen you and Xianxian is like a new person.”
“Xianxian is three,” Wei Wuxian protests, because the thought of change is horrible and Shijie is cruel to tease him so. “I am not diplomatic, Shijie, you take that back.”
“Mm,” Shijie says, and he sighs, giving it up as a lost cause. Just as his mind is wandering back to the TV where Lan Wangji the Actor is staring dejectedly into the raining sky like a sad cat, Shijie’s hesitant voice breaks the quiet. “A-Xian,” she says, “what would you do if your catfish was who he said he was?”
Another beat, and then the reality of what she just says hits him. Incredulous, he asks, “Wait, like the actor? Like actual Lan Wangji? Like superstar, darling of China and token Asian actor Lan Wangji, with the really good hair and the eyes and the—” He gestures to his own jaw, and then frantically at the screen, where Lan Wangji is… There. “Like that Lan Wangji?”
“That Lan Wangji,” Shijie confirms, nodding. “What would you do?”
He stares at her. “Has Jin Zixuan driven you insane? Is it the stress of motherhood?”
“I’m not saying it’s him, I’m just… You said his voice sounded familiar.”
“An app or a good impersonator, I’m sure.”
“And the pictures that never came up on Google reverse images? Like the Gucci bag and the Lan Wangji selfie? The nice hands?”
“The nice hands are the catfish’s,” Wei Wuxian says, because he’s stared at those hands more than once and at this point the thought of those hands not belonging to the catfish is more crushing than he is willing to admit. “Don’t say such slander.”
“Okay, but they could be the catfish’s and Lan Wangji’s hands, if they’re the same person. They’re both pretty hands.”
Wei Wuxian’s traitorous gaze wanders back to the TV. Onscreen the camera has zoomed in on a scene of Lan Wangji the Actor playing the guqin, slim fingers and perfectly rounded nails plucking at the strings, and.
Those are pretty hands.
Those are Lan Zhan’s hands.
“Fuck,” Wei Wuxian says faintly. He feels like he’s having an out-of-body experience. “Those are. The same hands.”
“Then you can’t dismiss the possibility that they’re the same person, A-Xian. Lan Wangji and your catfish.”
“No,” Wei Wuxian says, vehement. “No fucking way that’s possible. There has to be an explanation. Maybe it’s Lan Wangji’s twin.”
“His… not famous twin? Who looks just like him?”
“Yeah, like Will Smith’s first son.”
“Will Smith has another son?”
“Exactly,” Wei Wuxian says, nodding. “Like that. Or maybe my catfish is Lan Wangji’s stalker, and he’s managed to take super close shots of Lan Wangji’s hands and his rabbits. Or maybe he’s a hacker and he hacked into Lan Wangji’s phone which is probably super boring and vanilla, and then started using the pictures of his bunnies to convince people that he’s not a catfish and instead the real Lan Wangji when really, he’s a hacking catfish.”
Shijie waits until Wei Wuxian’s breathing has returned to semi-normalcy before she asks, “And you think that being a stalking, hacking, unknown catfish twin of Lan Wangji who knows everything about Lan Wangji is more realistic than your catfish being Lan Wangji himself?”
Shijie levels a disappointed gaze at him. “A-Xian.”
“I mean, does it make sense? No. But it makes even less sense than actual Lan Wangji texting me because I teach him how to use memes.”
“Why doesn’t it make sense?”
“Because,” he says, and stops, stumped on how to explain.
Shijie is nothing if not patient. “Because…?”
Because of a lot of reasons, namely that Lan Wangji is Lan Wangji, and Wei Wuxian is Wei Wuxian. Because Wei Wuxian is a rat whose own brother hates the sight of him. Because he barely has any idea what he’s doing with his life while Lan Wangji is living his best one.
“Because,” he ends up saying, “of the peaches. I’m not a person who gets lotus roots peeled for me.”
Confused, Shijie gazes at him for a second before her face crumples. “A-Xian, no. Don’t say that.”
“No, it’s okay, it’s true,” Wei Wuxian says, rubbing her back and trying for a smile. “I mean, like I kinda knew it ever since that day, you know? And my catfish already has an ideal type and I don’t think I’m it. He said that his ideal type makes him happy, and he—he talks to me, but I’ve never heard him laugh or respond with anything other than complete seriousness when I tell him jokes. Most times I think he’s just humoring me, actually. And if it turns out that—that by some miracle Lan Zhan, that my catfish is in love with me too, it’s just impossible that he can also be Lan Wangji.” Wei Wuxian takes a deep breath and holds it there in his lungs, trying to keep himself from falling apart. Not with Shijie, not now. “I mean, I’m okay with that. Really. I’m not you, Shijie. I don’t deserve half the things that you do, you know?”
“You deserve everything,” Shijie says fiercely. “Don’t you ever say that again.”
Wei Wuxian smiles, helpless in his adoration. “Thanks, but it’s not like—I can’t not say it, ‘cause it’s the truth. I’m sure I deserve someone, just… not him. Can we drop this?”
In response, she just looks at him in that way that makes him feel seen all the way down to the soul, to the worst and unsavory parts of him. To the little orphan who’s still trying to stay afloat at any cost.
“Sometimes,” she says finally, “you break my heart, A-Xian.”
He swallows. “I… I’ll try not to.”
“You will, regardless of whether you try or not,” she responds before she kisses his forehead. “Turn around. Let me braid your hair for you and we can make fun of the bad CGI.”
“Thanks, Shijie,” Wei Wuxian murmurs, and lets himself sink in the sensation of her fingers stroking through his hair.
Wei Wuxian picks at the edge of his Fundamentals of Environmental and Toxicological Chemistry textbook thoughtlessly. He’d never looked too closely at the way the corner folds over like that. Is there a How It’s Made episode about textbooks? Book binding probably. That would be a great way to waste an hour or two, and since technically he’d be learning something, it’s earned procrastination material, right?
Motion in his periphery puts a pause to Wei Wuxian’s picking. He glances up, recognizes Wen Qing, then allows his eyes to slide back to the textbook. When was the last time she’d been here? He doesn’t think he’s ever actually seen her study, which is frankly bizarre since she’s in pre-med and there’s no winging that. Wei Wuxian would know. He took a pre-med course or two.
Something in her tone makes him go very still, like a prey animal hearing a twig snap a mile off. He slowly meets her gaze. “Yeah?”
She puts down an envelope on the table. It’s formally addressed to Granny Wen, the top crease neatly cut by a letter opener. Wei Wuxian looks between Wen Qing and the letter. He reaches for it, sliding it across the table towards himself with mounting unease. With two fingers he parts the cut edge, peeks inside, recognizes it as a bank statement. The receiving end of the one Jiang Cheng picked up. Knows exactly what it is Wen Qing saw.
Wei Wuxian looks up. “I can explain.”
It’s a blessing they’re in the library, otherwise Wen Qing would surely go full banshee on him. Seeing her like this, however, cheeks a splotchy furious red, lips trembling with the force of her fury, Wei Wuxian might actually prefer it if she yelled.
“You do not get to decide,” she says, “whether or not I am capable of taking care of my family.”
Wei Wuxian turns to ice.
“I appreciate everything that you’ve done for us. You got us emancipated from our piece of shit father when no one cared and you helped us set up our own lives. I don’t think I’ll ever stop being grateful for that. But this.” She takes a breath. “This is not your fucking responsibility. You have no right to go behind my back and—to go behind my brother’s and my cousin’s, and- and pay for everything without a word like we’re some charity case.”
She’s staring at him with an expression he’s never seen directed at him before. It’s always been aimed at Wen Ruohan. Never at him.
“I have money,” she goes on. “I have continued to offer you money back for all the help, and you never took it, and you know what? That’s fine. But.” She gestures towards the letter with a trembling hand. “You had no right. Acting on your own. Doing everything by yourself like you couldn’t trust me or A-Ning with our own fucking fami—”
“I do,” he blurts, desperate. “I do trust you and Wen Ning, I just—” He cuts himself off, unable to explain. The safety net. The gaping hole of utter despair. All of it, stemming from the one urge to help his friends avoid it. “You know,” he says, swallowing, “you know better than anyone what I’ve—The orphanage. The dogs, A-Qing. You know. I just didn’t want you and everyone else to go through it.”
Her expression doesn’t soften, but something in it does crumple. “That,” she says, and stops. Her throat bobs. For a long moment the both of them are still, motionless in this oppressive air. Then she exhales, sets her shoulders. Something eerily like grief passes over her face before it’s wiped away. “That wasn’t for you to decide,” she says finally. “Not without me.”
“I meant to tell you,” Wei Wuxian says, because it’s true, he did. It was all in the plan since he started paying the monthly bills. “But I—it was never the right time, and I always forgot, and eventually it just didn’t seem—”
“Did you know?” she interrupts. “How humiliating it was to open that letter and see those statements. You say you meant to tell me but you fucking didn’t. All of it, all of the money. From you. No government exemption. No tax refund, nothing. Granny said she had it handled and I believed her, and—fine, that was stupid of me, I’ll admit it. But it was like—” She’s shaking now, jaw tight, paler than he’s ever seen her. “Going back to that house,” she says, “not knowing a goddamn thing and being powerless. You said I know about the orphanage, the dogs, but you know about my dad’s house. And you—at least back then you kept me updated. You told me what was happening. This? There was none of that.”
“I just,” he says, helpless. “You were busy. I didn’t want to put any extra stress on you.”
“And it was okay for you to be stressed? For you to be busy and handle everything else because I can’t handle it?”
“You know I didn’t mean it like that—”
“No,” Wen Qing snarls suddenly, lunging forward to crumple his shirt in her fists. Up close her eyes are rimmed red, bright with furious tears. “How the hell am I supposed to know when you don’t talk to me about it? You told me nothing, Wei Wuxian! I didn’t know! You didn’t trust me enough to tell me!”
He stares at her, wretched and awful. It’s like he could rot from it.
She slumps, then, all the fight drained out of her. “You know what,” she says softly, almost to herself, “maybe that’s my fault. But. But it still doesn’t change things.” Standing up straight, she reaches for the letter and shoves it into his chest, forcing him back a few steps. When he looks back up at her, her face is stony. “I don’t want to see you again,” she tells him, and Wei Wuxian freezes, blood going cold.
“Not now,” she continues, “not ever. Not my brother or A-Yuan or Granny, either. If you want the money, I’ll be happy to wire it to your account. But it’s not like you’ll take it, anyway.” She takes an unsteady breath, a few steps back, turns on her heel. “I don’t know you. You don’t know me. Don’t contact me again unless it’s about the money.”
Without another word, she leaves. Wei Wuxian drops back into his seat. The paper slips between his numb fingers, falls to the ground. The ensuing silence is crushing.
Wei Wuxian doesn’t accomplish much after that. Not that he was in the first place, but now especially there’s something metaphysical pressing in on his brain and it doesn’t feel good. He stays in the library until the sun sets, until half the lights turn off as a warning, until one of the librarians encourages him to go back to his dorm.
He sluggishly packs up his things, including the bank statement. It’s freezing outside but Wei Wuxian doesn’t tuck his chin in or fold up his arms tight. Somehow it feels like he deserves the sting against cold skin that burns when he walks into the heated residence.
At the bottom of the stairs he pauses, remembering the Wen siblings room beside him. Will they be there? What if he runs into them? If he sees Wen Ning, would he listen? Is he just as disappointed? Just as angry? Wei Wuxian can’t remember a time he’s seen Wen Ning truly angry. The emotions always come out of him desperate and sad, like it’s his own fault something goes wrong.
Wei Wuxian doesn’t want to see a Wen Ning who looks at him like he’s done something worth being angry about.
But he can’t linger there forever, so Wei Wuxian hurries up to his room, ignoring the confused looks of the freshmen he passes. Once safely inside and locked up, he drops his bag and does not open it, does not look at the bank statement, doesn’t even look at the wall that joins their two rooms. He doesn’t.
(He does, and maybe the Wens aren’t even there but he can imagine they are, and it sucks.)
On impulse, he takes out his phone and texts Lan Zhan.
am i like
a bad person
Did anyone say that to you?
no im just
sorry its a stupid question i kinda already know the answer
You are upset. It isn’t stupid.
I would like to have a word with whoever made you think like this. You are not a bad person.
u are literally the nicest person ever
but u dont need to do that
forget i asked
im being stupid and whiny
what r u doing rn
If you want to talk about it, I will listen. I can send you rabbit pictures as well.
I am currently taking a break between takes.
Between takes, huh.
Wei Wuxian doesn’t know why he says it. Maybe it’s the fallout after the Wens and Jiang Cheng. The irony in Lan Zhan not trusting him after Wei Wuxian apparently trusted no one else. Or maybe it’s just something rotten and awful inside Wei Wuxian, finally grasping at the chance to hurt someone back.
He sends the messages without a second thought.
takes on set right
ur whole acting thing
u know its funny bc i dont think ive ever told u this before but
i started talking to u bc i thought u were a catfish and just wanted to expose u
posing as famous actor lan wangji and all that
and i guess i thought it was just funny after all these months and resigned myself to like
thinking that u would tell me on ur own time and ur terms who u are
and i thought i would be ok with that
but recently i feel like im not
can u just tell me the truth lan zhan
lan zhan its very obvious ur not a famous actor
i dont care who u are i just want to know
like even if u dont want to tell me who u are for whatever reason
can u just tell me the truth at least and say that uve been lying to me about being lan wangji
can u give me that at least
Do you think I’m lying about my own identity?
im not saying ur lying its just that
Wei Wuxian lets out a breath. Anger seeps out of him, leaving only exhaustion in its wake. What right does he have to be angry at Lan Zhan, really? After all that he’s done.
after a certain point it becomes hard to tell ppl things ok
it becomes hard to tell ppl the truth
and im just saying that idc if ur one of those ppl
i just want to know
His message is cut off when his phone starts buzzing in his hands. An incoming call from Lan Wangji. Wei Wuxian swallows. Abruptly the quiet voices of Jiang Cheng and Wen Qing come to mind. Looking at the screen, he imagines it. Hearing that same stilted, furious quiet from Lan Zhan.
He presses decline.
i dont want to
whoever u are im ok with it
i dont want u to feel like u cant tell me the truth after all this time
like uve always been here and ur always so nice and kind and u listen to me like what i say matters all the time and u dont give me shit for being a disaster and u dont even judge me for it even though ur literally perfect
i just feel
sad i guess
that u dont seem to trust me in the same way
That’s not it.
I’m not lying to you. I never have.
I’m not a catfish or someone pretending to be Lan Wangji because I am Lan Wangji.
I don’t understand why it is so unbelievable for you but I am.
like a famous actor has time to spend on a dating app looking for friends
for ur life long companions
and be satisfied with
I am more than satisfied with you.
i really wish i could believe u
but if even my own family isnt satisfied with me i dont see how lan wangji the famous actor can be
not that ur him anyway
I am him and I am happy when I talk to you. I mean it.
yea ok whatever
lets just drop it
clearly it doesnt matter all that much anyway
No. I will not.
Everything I have told you
About my brother, my rabbits, the four thousand rules
My struggle to communicate with others and form relationships
They were all true
I watched Tangled and I don’t drink alcohol.
I like playing guqin the most out of all the instruments I know.
I don’t understand your rat jokes.
I think that you’re kinder than you believe yourself to be
And seeing the rabbits was my favorite part of the day before I met you.
All of this is true.
I don’t understand why you think that even a “famous actor” can’t be as honest as you are.
u know what
lets say all thats true
say u are lan wangji
why the fuck would you ever keep talking to someone like me
There is no “someone like you”
I enjoy talking with you more than you can imagine.
now thats just unbelievable
even more than the famous actor story
i cant believe
you of all people shouldve known that you cant
fuck i cant even say anything
its my own fault that i trusted you i guess
You can trust me
hey you know what
ill give you credit
you did your research well
im sure that if i cared enough to google lan wangji then everything that you said in his place would be all right
maybe you got the same type of rabbits
or said his birthday in place of yours and read a million articles on how he grew up
i dont fucking know
Wei ying I mean it
but if youre going to keep telling me that someone like lan wangji is talking to someone like me because he enjoys it
that is the fucking lowest
thats the worst fucking thing you could say
because i know better than anyone
how fucking untrue it is
you dont have any right to use that against me
I’m not using anything against you
no i told you i could handle anything
but i cant handle this
if youre not going to even trust me with whoever you really are
and tell me at the same time
I told you i don’t lie
that you enjoy talking to me for no goddamn reason
you dont get to say that
youve done nothing but lie to me
every time you said those nice things about me i bet you were just having a laugh
you figured out that i have nothing to offer you
except someone to laugh at right
thats why you kept talking to me
some pitiful son of a bitch i am
Thats not it
im fucking done
i dont want to talk to you
not if youre going to keep lying to me
dont call me that
What can i do to make you believe me
you can fuck off
When the typing bubble comes up again, Wei Wuxian hurls his phone at the wall. Let it fucking shatter, for all he cares. Not like he has anyone to talk to now. Even his catfish. Especially his catfish.
He’d thought that after all these months, Lan Zhan would at least be willing to tell him the truth—that he was scared of Wei Wuxian breaking off all contact after lying; that he’d gotten too deep in the act and couldn’t figure out a way to go back; that he was sorry and the truth of his identity was just that of someone who loved Wei Wuxian.
But that didn’t happen. Instead Lan Zhan kept lying to him.
Somehow the phone doesn’t break. It buzzes. A short pause. Then another buzz, and one more before it falls silent. He waits, but no further messages come even after minutes of blank staring at the walls.
Eventually miserable curiosity makes him slide out of bed and pick up the phone.
The screen is more fractured than ever before, splintered glass making it almost impossible to read the texts. But they’re messages from his catfish, as expected.
A picture of all the bunnies. They’re gathered together in a pile, dark eyes gazing at the camera. Wei Wuxian’s breath stills in his throat.
Below that, one last message.
This was taken on the first day we talked. It has since become one of my favorite pictures. I will respect your wishes and I hope that you feel better, Wei Wuxian. Thank you.
The icon where the profile picture sits is empty. When he clicks on Lan Zhan’s profile, it’s bare. No pictures of Lan Wangji, no name.
In true Wei Wuxian fashion, instead of talking it out— it being his fuck up with Jiang Cheng, his fuck up with the Wens, his fuck up with Lan Zhan—he takes what he can get his hands on and throws all of himself into it. His coping mechanisms have always been pretty primitive, being fight or flight. In this case, there’s nothing he can fight except other people or himself, and he’s had enough of fighting for years. He’s so goddamn tired of fighting and giving a shit. Which leaves the other option.
His dawn to dusk schedule has always been sprinkled with cracks—tiny, narrow things he filled in with people, but now that those people are gone, their back turned to him, Wei Wuxian finds himself desperate. He has learned something from the disaster of his twentieth birthday that alcohol does him no favors when he’s sad, so he avoids that route entirely.
So he just works harder.
But harder doesn’t mean better.
His brain is a poorly oiled machine, gunked up and tacky and grinding on edges that shouldn’t, and he spends more time on his assignments but he knows they’re not any good. They’re as transparent and vapid as he feels. More than once he finds himself reading the assignment requirements and thinking, What the fuck does it matter?
The disappointed looks his professors give after turning in a half-assed lab report is still the pits, though. He knows, he wants to say to them. He knows he’s a disappointment and he’s not trying hard enough, never enough, but what can he do?
After classes Wei Wuxian has to stop at the back of the buildings and take deep breaths before moving onto his next class. But that’s fine. All in a day’s work.
Worse still is he knows he’s failing his kids as well. A-Qing is the first to notice something is off as soon as Wei Wuxian attempts to smile. Word passes along quickly. Mo Xuanyu, always the first to greet him most mornings with concerns about owls and possible heart failure, has mysteriously vanished. Even Xue Yang, least empathetic of the bunch and arguably the whole residence, if not the whole university, has curbed his biting comments, which would be a cause for serious concern if Wei Wuxian could bring himself to feel anything beyond a buzzing melancholy.
After a long week of academic self flagellation, Wei Wuxian returns to a dorm hall that’s uncharacteristically quiet. It isn’t peaceful. It feels dim. Maybe that’s just him.
When he trudges his way back to his room, he finds items strewn in front of the door, like bizarre offerings to a fallen god. There’s a pair of pink gently used socks. A family-sized bag of Hot Cheetos. A pack of hair ties with three of the ties missing, and a straw doll that looks like it may have been previously used for voodoo or similar curses. Wei Wuxian stares at the items for a long moment, before he notices a note attached to the back of the straw doll.
All it says is, we miss bullying you mom. feel better or perish
It says a lot about his fragility that this is what breaks Wei Wuxian.
Wei Wuxian doesn’t know how long he’s holed up in his room, but he makes sure to lock the door this time, window closed, curtains drawn, and even with all the lights off he wouldn’t be able to see a thing through swollen eyes. Night comes, presumably. There’s a clawing sound at his door and he’s fairly certain that only happens during the witching hour.
But this clawing sound is a lot more like scraping and there’s a weird click and a slight grunt of effort and—oh shit, this is more like that time those weirdos walked up and down the halls checking locks so they could steal shit.
Well. They could steal all they wanted. Except for the gently used pink socks Wei Wuxian currently has clutched to his chest when his door swings open. Or it would, if not for the clothing barrier.
The figure in the crack of his doorway sighs and shoulders the door open until they can step inside. The door closes, the silhouette vanishes in the darkness.
Click. Light floods his cave. Wei Wuxian makes a sound not unlike a frightened goat.
“You live like this?”
Wei Wuxian’s eyes fail to open wide the first try, but he succeeds after scraping the salty gunk he couldn’t be bothered to wash off after his meltdown. Understandably, Nie Huaisang’s expression is fifty shades of disgusted.
“How’d you get in here?” Wei Wuxian asks, though it comes out more like a croak.
“I have my ways,” says Nie Huaisang, snapping open his god forsaken fan, batting it once and immediately regretting it. He shuts it and instead uses it to gesture at the room. “I heard you weren’t… well.”
Instead of responding, Wei Wuxian keels over in his nest and shoves his face painfully against a Japanese language textbook disguised by a hoodie. He can hear Nie Huaisang tip toeing around his room, audibly tsk ing under his breath.
“Mind if I have one?”
Wei Wuxian grunts but doesn’t look up. A plastic bag rustles open followed by a muted crunch. Blearily confused, Wei Wuxian looks up to see Nie Huaisang holding the bag of Hot Cheetos. His face goes curiously blank before he sets the bag down on the approximate lump of Wei Wuxian’s desk.
“So.” Nie Huaisang stares at him. “You’re a mess.”
Wei Wuxian turns his face back to the textbook. Grunts.
“Anyways, I just wanted to ask about your catfish.”
The noise Wei Wuxian releases is truly terrifying, no matter how muffled it is by three hundred pages of kanji exercises. Nie Huaisang waits a long moment before pretending that never happened.
“Is your catfish using pictures of the actor Lan Wangji?”
Wei Wuxian hates this.
“I’m going to take that as a yes. Does your catfish have any pets?”
Slowly, Wei Wuxian tips his head to the side just enough so his voice is less muffled. “Why are you doing this to me?”
“Just answer the question.”
“...Rabbits,” says Wei Wuxian miserably.
“Three white.” Somehow his misery is thickening. He really loves those rabbits. “One black.”
“And their names?”
“Tofu, Tissue, and Darling. I don’t know the name of the black one.”
“When’s his birthday?”
“January 23rd. Why’re you asking me this?”
“Last question, real quick, what do you call him?”
Wei Wuxian swallows, resists the urge to burrow his face back into his assorted textiles. “Lan Zhan,” he mumbles. Even saying the name makes his heart ache something fierce. His catfish lied to him and continued to lie until the end, but for the longest time, he was kind. He was a friend. Maybe something more, at least to him. “I call—or. I used to call him Lan Zhan.”
“Right,” says Nie Huaisang. “I just wanted to make sure. Alright, I’ll be on my way. No need to see me out.”
Nie Huaisang slips out of the room, muttering about manners, which is rich considering he doesn’t bother turning off the lights after his abrupt departure. Taking a peek, Wei Wuxian notes the door is somehow still locked. Weird. Maybe Nie Huaisang has been a fairy the entire time. The whole poking at open wounds for shits and giggles definitely fits the bill. Slowly Wei Wuxian reaches out for the open bag of Hot Cheetos and proceeds to systematically devour them.
Wei Wuxian is swimming in and out of consciousness when his phone lets out a disheartened buzz—and it has to be disheartened, because all his friends and most of his family are done with him so the only person who would deign to text him must be his Shijie, who is no doubt disappointed with how he’s handling this entire situation. But still, she is the last light in his life, and avoiding her has self inflicted consequences.
When he flips over his phone, he notices first that it’s running on fumes. After plugging it in, he then sees that it isn’t his Shijie texting him, but an unknown number. He drops his phone on top of the hidden Japanese textbook with a thump and resumes his fetal position.
His phone continues to buzz, but it’s no longer disheartened. More annoying, since if it was spam the messages would have ended at the first, or a voicemail. Wei Wuxian is tired and feels like ash after burning out for a week and wants to try napping away his problems, but his phone keeps fucking buzzing.
It’s not his catfish. His catfish deactivated his account, leaving their conversations and rabbit pictures and an empty profile behind. Even in the end Lan Zhan was stupidly thoughtful. Wei Wuxian still can’t tell if he’s resentful or grateful for it.
The texts don’t stop coming, though. Groaning, he lifts his head and squints at his phone.
Nie Huaisang gave me your number.
He told me you weren’t well, but unfortunately my brother comes first for me.
You’re Wei Wuxian, yes?
Odd. He did tell me you would be awake at this time.
Nie Huaisang? Brother?
who are u
I’m Lan Xichen. Lan Wangji’s brother.
You may remember him as the catfish, though.
He stares at the screen for a long moment before the words process. Suddenly fury is rushing through him so fast that it leaves his ears ringing, fingers trembling when he begins to type.
youre a fucking asshole nie huaisang
look i dont know why you just barged into my room and started insulting my room and whatever horrible life decisions ive made
and eating all my hot cheetos
but then you ask me all these questions about my catfish
and i didnt think about it then
but you have no fucking right
maybe you think its funny
I don’t understand.
because everythings funny to you
but it wasnt to me
i know it was stupid like its probably the dumbest fucking thing ive ever done
to fall in love with a goddamn catfish
but you dont get to go around using a fake number to make fun of me for it
give me shit for whatever else
but not this
leave me the fuck alone
There’s nothing on the other end, long enough that Wei Wuxian is about to toss his phone back into his mountain of disorganized things, but then the typing bubble comes back up.
I didn’t expect that.
yeah well your jokes fucking suck
find something better to do than play pranks on me
No, not that.
I am not Nie Huaisang.
I am Lan Xichen and the person you were texting really was my brother.
I can prove it.
I could give you a call or send a photo doing something you requested, with the clock next to me so you know it was just taken.
maybe you have lan xichen helping you then
So it’s believable that Lan Xichen would help in pranking you but not be the one texting you?
A pause. It reminds Wei Wuxian of Lan Zhan, of his natural pauses in conversation, and fuck. He misses Lan Zhan so much he hurts with it. It’s like the clingy octopus hooked up to the vacuum cleaner inside him has turned itself inward to squeeze Wei Wuxian’s lungs inside his chest, and it’s the worst. Getting stabbed in sophomore year would’ve been preferable to this. He curls himself into a tighter ball in an attempt to crush it out of him.
Lan Zhan was just a catfish, no matter what this—Lan Xichen faker is telling him. Wei Wuxian has to get over him at some point.
Okay, what would make you believe that you were texting Lan Wangji?
anything short of the man himself declaring that he was the one texting me
One moment, please.
Well, it’s not like Wei Wuxian doesn’t have time.
The unknown number returns within minutes.
Wangji has been unwilling to leave his apartment for the past few days, so I don’t think that’s possible.
I did find this, though.
Check for yourself.
Feel free to search up any articles about Lan Wangji’s friend, if you want. I’m sure there’s no shortage of them.
*taps mic* lwj is in love with his mystery friend and i have so much fucking evidence links in the thread in chronological order
lwj first started talking about his “””friend””” in early sept saying that in his spare time he likes to take care of his rabbits and sometimes text a friend. he mentioned that this friend was new but he enjoyed his company a lot m.youtube.com/watch?feature=....
this might not be anything big but because lwj never tweets at all (and yes im counting his managers who hack into his account and tweet promotional stuff like little robots) i’m counting it. guys the last time he tweeted was two years ago when he got the account and it just said “Hello.” GUYS. this is two weeks after he first started talking about his friend btw
Lan Wangji @lanwangji
then he went radio silent because he was filming his new indie movie (WHICH HAVE U GUYS SEEN THE TRAILERS AKJSHFKJAH) but a month later talked about his friend again when he talked about who he talks to the most. spoiler alert it’s not lxc people.com/style/exclusive-with-lan-wangji
this is where the mystery friend starts getting real. end of oct, said he didn’t have any plans on halloween and then? oct 31. a curious instagram post of a birthday cake and a caption that just said “Thank you.” HUHhHHHHHhhhHHhhHh?????? instagram.com/p/GeSeRj7As/…
lwj is known to be super private and he’s never posted about anything like this last year which means this has to be the birthday of a new friend. like his new mystery friend hm????
then the vogue interview in dec. The Vogue Interview.
lwj talked about his friend eleven fuckin times in his own interview. eleven times. refer to timestamps 0:14, 1:48, 1:59, 2:23, 4:16, 5:41, 7:12, 8:49-9:03, 10:37, 11:42, 12:01 (HE SAID HE FELT MOST AT HOME W HIS FRIEND AAAAAA) yt.be/AScwY
74 Questions With Lan Wangji
he didn’t go two whole minutes without talking about his friend. TWO. MINUTES. this interview is 12 minutes long and he spent nearly every single minute of it talking about his friend instead of like how rich he is
idk about u guys but i don’t even talk about my own boyfriend that often ok like that’s distinctly not no-homo to me
then in mid-dec he got a new rabbit and said he didn’t have a name for it (this is important i promise) instagram.com/p/AeWrGU6Vg/…
at a fan meet & greet someone finally did god’s work and asked what his friend was like, looks, personality, etc, etc.
lanlover 6v6 @toya_t
191221 LWJ M&G - LWJ is too precious. o(TヘTo) He said his friend has dark hair and he is “handsome. He is very funny and charming” and then changed the subject to the fan, but his ears turned red. Ahhh!
Y’ALL BITCHES SEEIN THIS???????? IN FRONT OF MY FUCKIN SALAD?????
ahem. anyways you all recall the rabbit yes? in early jan, lwj said his name was wifi instagram.com/p/ByOuGP2Us/…
another meet & greet. more on his friend’s personality
lanlover 6v6 @toya_t
200115 LWJ M&G - Chinese fan asked what his friend was like. LWJ responded “无愧” (has a clear conscience, feels no qualms)” and “钦羡” (LWJ admires, holds him in high regard him a lot). After saying this, his ears turned red, but LWJ seemed happy! His eyes crinkled a little. (｡T ω T｡)
before i dissect this can we all agree that that’s like. pretty gay. like that’s pretty gay. god lwj why are you such a dreamy guy
so anyways as a chinese american riding the line b/w enough proficiency to talk to my parents but not enough proficiency to avoid disappointing my grandparents and as a diehard lwj stan, the first thing i thought about was his new rabbit. dark-furred rabbit named wifi you all recall yes
wifi in chinese is 无线 (wu xian). he said his friend had a clear conscience (无愧, pronounced wu kui), like he has no regrets about the way he’s living his life and the choices he’s making…... this is high praise coming from lan wangji you know unicef ambassador advocate for equal rights donates regularly to literally every charity on this planet
also i legit had to ask my mom what 钦羡 (qin xian) meant because it’s rarely used but?? it’s like deep admiration and respect, almost to the point of envy. GOD LAN WANGJI CAN YOU PINE ANY HARDER
anyways put those two together what do you get? wu (from wu kui) xian (from qin xian). wifi in chinese is wuxian. wifi as in the name of his rabbit. if his friend’s name isn’t wuxian i will literally die i did not do all this sherlock holmes business for it to come to nothing
also thank you to lan wangji for inventing puns in 2020 i owe you my life and three unborn children
anyways im 99.9999% sure he named his rabbit after his friend. HELLO??????????????????????
now we’re in february. chinese new year. you all know. You Know. the lan clan and then lwj, looking at his phone, SMILING. LXC’S CAPTION THAT SAID “here’s to a bigger family next year” instagram.com/p/EzFbWx4Wj/…
i know you guys all remember this photo twitter crashed for thirty whole minutes because of it (and lwj’s smile, and his changshan, and lwj’s entire existence). but hello? looking at his phone? like you do when you text a friend? a dear friend? who you have feelings for?
and since all three members of the lan clan (shown) are all single that means no incoming baby. that means lxc was likely referencing someone marrying into the family. of course this could be someone marrying lqr (which, terrifying) but like? it’s lwj’s friend. it’s definitely lwj’s friend.
lxc is the type of person who skips the excitement about the dating process and moves right onto being excited about the in-laws. tell me i’m wrong you can’t
anyways that brings us up to the present. i probably missed a few things but you get the point and if this doesn’t convince you then you have no eyes and no jury on earth would side with you. thank you for coming to my tedtalk goodbye
Disgusting how stan twt preaches about gay acceptance & encourages men to come out, but then turns around and fetishizes a perfectly normal relationship between two friends. Stop it
@farmaybe i agree but also did you watch lwj’s vogue interview? where he said his inspiration was his friend? and that his friend makes him smile the most? and that if he could go back to 13 y/o lwj then he would tell him that one day he wouldn’t feel so alone? you clownin
@farmaybe and i’m not fetishizing it, i just want lwj to be happy and if it turns out i was wrong then i’m ok with that! if he turns out to be straight and his friendship was rly a friendship i’ll be happy to apologize
master lord @sh4rky
u literally have a third eye queen
@sh4rky thank you uwu
LWJ World Domination @lwjobsessed
DID U KNOW LXC LIKED UR TWEETS KAT PLS REPLY
@lwjobsessed I KNOW AJJAKSFHAFLAFJASHFAI JSUT SA W OH MY GOD @lanxichen CAN U PLS TELL UR BROTHER I LOVE HIM AND WISH HIM THE BEST W HIS MYSTERY MAN THANK U
Lan Xichen @lanxichen
@lanxichen WHAT DO ES HTIS MEA NA SKJFHAFHASJKFLAJFAHFAKFASFJAG
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In the news
Eyes On You Trailers Reveals Lan Wangji’s Return to Romantic Roots
Screen Rant - 8 minutes ago
Lan brothers gather for Lunar New Year, confirms unfairness of genetics
HuffingtonPost - 1 month ago
...mentioned the possibility of a new member entering the family with his caption. Fans are torn between theories of Lan Xichen’s secret wife after his disastrous relationship with former co-star and ex-boyfriend Jin Guangyao, but others think it could be Lan Wangji’s mystery friend from September…
Who is the ‘mystery friend’ that Lan Wangji keeps talking about?
The Nation - 2 months ago
Lan Wangji has reportedly known his friend since September of last year. Famous for his private, introverted lifestyle, Lan Wangji made waves when he willingly gave out information about his friend in an interview with People’s Magazine…
74 Questions With Lan Wangji Is Twelve Minutes Of Unfiltered Gushing About His Friend. No, Really
Buzzfeed News - 3 months ago
...When asked about what inspires him in life, Lan answered, “Recently it has been my friend. He encourages me to be a better version of myself.” Coming from Lan Wangji, that’s high praise…
- When he talked about his favorite movie, and no, not his own, his brother’s, or even his super famous Uncle Lan Qiren’s movies:
“I enjoyed the movie Tangled greatly. It… was brought to my attention by a friend, and I have found myself humming the soundtrack here and there ever since.”
- When he talked about the best advice he’d ever received:
“I do not have any advice that I can give you, but I can pass on the words of a dear friend instead. He once said that we should not deprive ourselves of the things we want in life. I would be inclined to agree with him.”
- When he tried the Fire Noodle Challenge and survived, all in the name of love:
“I don’t have any tricks. It is simply that my friend adores spicy food. This is his favorite type of ramen, in fact. The first bite did hurt, but I thought I should continue if only so he wouldn’t yell at me for failing to appreciate it properly later on.”
In summary: Lan Wangji says his ‘friend’ in the same way most people say ‘husband.’ Try to top that, Kimye.
(Davis, Annie. “8 Times Lan Wangji Invented Romance.” Buzzfeed. New York, New York. 2020. Web.)
oh my fucking god
u liked the thread?
I thought it would be a good way to convince you, even if it did mean confirming some rumors.
but lan zhan
ur brother isnt in love w me
i get the other stuff but theyre wrong abt that
If that’s what you believe, then I certainly can’t be the one to persuade you.
Regardless, do you believe me now when I say that both Wangji and I are who we say we are?
i have to apologize
i dont even have his number fuck
god i was such an asshole
As long as you’re willing to fix it, that’s all that matters to me.
It’s a good thing you have his brother’s number right here, hm?
can you please
if he dosent ever want to talk to me again i get it but
i have to tell him im sorry
unless hes not comfortable with talking to me ever agian
can you just
can u ask him if i can talk to him again one last time
and if not
tell him im really really sorry
im so fucking sorry
[contact attached: Wangji]
Tell him yourself.
Wei Wuxian takes the morning to really look at himself, what he’s surrounded himself with and why, exactly, it isn’t working anymore.
That isn’t the problem. It's that it never worked in the first place. He’s spent so long putting things off for the future version of himself to deal with that he forgets he is the future version of himself already. Continues to be, even when his laundry piles up and his assignments rot and his grades cling to the edge of mediocrity when there’s solid proof he can and should do better. What excuses does he have anymore?
So he recognizes all the parts of him that are burning trash and realizes rather quickly that wanting and doing are two different things. He wants right now, but he doesn’t know where to begin.
It’s a good thing that despite everything he’s put them through, he knows there’s some people willing to help. First he consults Shijie. Because she is a master of all household affairs and life in general and also because he wants to not feel like such a piece of shit for a second.
Her reply thankfully comes before he can change his mind and distract himself with other matters. It’s a list of chores stripped down to the basics, including the names of people he needs to talk to but the thought of which induces the most anxiety. Wei Wuxian is ready to bail and bail hard, until Shijie’s last message.
If this is really what you want, then do it all at once <(︶︹︺)>
Don’t let yourself stop halfway and put it off
You can do this!! I love you!!! (´｡• ᵕ •｡`) ♡♡
He starts with the here and now: the laundry, questionably clean or worn five days straight—all of it gets tossed into a garbage bag to wash since his hamper isn’t nearly big enough; he opens his window, even if it’s a touch too cold, wipes the dust off his succulents and the sill; peels his bedding off to join his clothes, fluffs his naked pillow, stacks his notes and textbooks into one corner. Suddenly his room feels bigger, the air clearer, the grinding gears of his brain spinning just that much smoother.
With the surface of his desk now visible, Wei Wuxian sits his laptop down upon it, the university website open, the requirements for graduation staring at him. His gaze flicks to the application date. He might be a little late. He’s going to have to talk to someone about that—but not yet.
Lugging the communal vacuum up from the lobby draws some attention from his kids. The sheer bulk of the vacuum—a thirty year old monstrosity with nine more googly eyes than necessary—forces Wei Wuxian to keep it in the hallway for the most part. The suction power leaves a lot to be desired, but it’s enough to change the overall color and pattern of his floor.
When he kicks the vacuum free from where it got stuck in the door frame, he realizes he’s got an audience. Nearly every door in the hall has a head peeking out from it. Wei Wuxian blinks at them; they blink owlishly back.
“Anyone need to clean their room?” he asks with a little wave of the vacuum’s hose.
Mo Xuanyu sidesteps into view, wordlessly pattering down the hall to take the vacuum hesitantly from Wei Wuxian, as if he might take it back or something. Wei Wuxian maintains confused eye contact as the freshman backs up with the vacuum in tow.
“Well. If that’s all.” Wei Wuxian slips into his room, pretending the eruption of chatter outside doesn’t cheer him up.
Eventually his room is spotless, his clothes and bedding churning in the laundry room, the hall is alive with the sounds of post-midterm spring cleaning, and Wei Wuxian has relationships to mend.
He starts close—right next door kind of close.
“I’ve come to— fuck!” Wei Wuxian shouts at the door that just shut in his face.
“Way to go,” snipes A-Qing as she passes with the vacuum.
“Hush up.” He tries knocking again. “Wen Qing, please, I’m trying to apologize!”
Her voice is steely even muffled by the two inches of door between them. “I don’t believe you.”
“I am! Scout’s honour! At least let me try.”
“Can’t let you do that.”
“What the f—lip. Why?”
“Because Wen Ning will forgive you and I’m trying to protect him from the harsh realities of the world, which include you.”
Wei Wuxian waits a moment, but upon realizing she isn’t going to continue, squawks indignantly, “I’m turning over a new leaf here. You give me hell for alleged babying but covering Wen Ning’s ears isn’t any better, he’s a grown man —”
The door swings open violently. “I’m going to kill you,” says Wen Qing in a shockingly accurate rendition of Jiang Cheng.
Wei Wuxian is just glad the door is open. He wiggles a foot up against the door jam lest she slam it shut again. Visible over Wen Qing’s shoulder is Wen Ning, standing in the middle of the room and wringing his hands as he avoids Wei Wuxian’s imploring gaze.
“Eyes on me, rat,” says Wen Qing.
“Rat pride,” replies Wei Wuxian automatically before grimacing and schooling his expression into something apologetic. It isn’t nearly as hard as he expects it to be. “I really do want to apologize, if you’ll let me.”
Wen Qing pointedly looks down at his foot until he retracts it.
Then she slams the door closed again.
“Wen Qing, no,” Wei Wuxian whines at the door. “I thought we had an agreement! I keep my eyes on you, you tell me I’m a rat, I agree, and then everything’s good!”
“You enjoy being a rodent, rodent.”
“I enjoy being a rat, not a rodent, there’s a difference,” Wei Wuxian clarifies, then shakes his head again. Not the point. He is trying to be a good friend and apologize like a functional human being. “I mean it. Can you at least let me see your beautiful face so I can say sorry like a million times? Please?”
“Do you want me to castrate you?”
“Your very mediocre face which I have no interest in because I’m in love with someone else,” Wei Wuxian says hastily, sighing in relief when the door cracks open again once more.
“What do you want to say sorry for?” Wen Qing stares at him, face immovable as stone. “Tell me. In detail. You have a minute.”
Because she’s Wen Qing and she is no doubt starting a timer behind the door, Wei Wuxian launches into his speech immediately. “Okay, first I want to apologize for giving you guys food all the time. Wen Ning eats like a baby squirrel which is not his fault and I love him for it, and you are… you, so you probably didn’t need all of it. I just liked taking care of you guys and treating you to dinners without actually making the dinners or going anywhere, and also I didn’t want to intrude on any family time. It still doesn’t excuse the fact that I burdened you guys by giving you unnecessary shit. And secondly I’m sorry for paying your guys’ rent and shit.” He pauses to take a breath and reconsiders his phrasing. “Well, I’m not sorry about it, but I’m sorry that I didn’t tell you and give you guys the right to make your own choices about your family. It sucks that I didn’t trust you enough to tell you, even if that wasn’t my intention. Very sorry.”
A click. Must be the timer. Or a tranquilizer.
“Is that it?” Wen Qing asks. “That’s all you have to say?”
Nervous sweat—the cold kind—begins to bead at the back of his neck. “Um, yes? And also I want to make you guys dinner to show how sorry I am. I’ll hold back on the spice, I promise.”
Wen Qing narrows her eyes. “You better not have bought us anything else, Wei Wuxian.”
Wei Wuxian chucks the bag of groceries he was holding down the hall. “Okay,” he says, amending his plans, “can I come in and use the ingredients from your fridge to make you dinner?”
Wen Qing studies him for a moment longer. He tries to look appropriately contrite.
“On one condition,” she says eventually. Wei Wuxian perks up at that. “You accept the money I’ve been saving since junior year.”
Junior year? But they’re in junior year.
Unless she means.
“Wait, like junior year of high school?” Wei Wuxian asks in disbelief. “Why?”
“Because,” Wen Qing grits out, “you paid for the lawyers, the court fees, the moving fees, the first semester of our tuition, my grandmother’s rent, A-Yuan’s daycare, and the shitton of groceries that you lugged back without an Uber for God knows how long. And that is a lot of money. So you are going to fucking take it before I tranquilize you for real.”
So that is a tranquilizer behind the door. Wei Wuxian rocks back on his heels. “Ah,” he says, nerves alighting at the fear of the apex predator before him. “Um. I will accept twenty-five percent of whatever is in that scary-looking envelope you have stashed in your desk.”
“How do you know what’s in my desk?”
“I’m a snooper and a rat, it’s what I do, Wen Qing. Come on.”
Wen Qing considers this. “Ninety.”
“Thirty, and you smuggle A-Yuan into the dorm on my free weekends.”
“Your weekends are never free, you son of a bitch, why on Earth would you want to spend it with my cousin? Seventy-five.”
“Forty, and A-Yuan is adorable, thank you, you’re just terrified of little kids.”
Wen Qing stares at him until he feels the cold sweat on his toes. “Sixty,” she says finally. “And A-Yuan loves you, so he’ll play with you whenever. It’s not like you have to ask my permission. I feel like I’m lending him out. Also you tell A-Ning who you’re in love with, since I know he’s been dying to ask for a few minutes now.”
“Sixty,” Wei Wuxian agrees, and beams. “Deal. Now give me my suspicious money envelope and tell Wen Ning to give me a hug so I can spill the deets.”
Wei Wuxian gets his hug, melting into Wen Ning. There’s something stuck in his throat and it isn’t the gravel he swallowed for wisdom as a child. Even with his newfound proclivity towards honesty, he doesn’t tell them how much this means to him. He probably doesn’t have to. It’s plain as the tears he pretends aren’t gathering in his eyes.
Wei Wuxian is hovering in his room, staring at the collection of greenery on the window sill when the kids arrive. Admittedly the next part of his plan is the most frightening one. He might be trying to put it off. Or trying to try. His laptop is still open on his desk, another list of application requirements hiding behind a blurry screensaver of Xuanwu mid-lunge staring at him.
At some point, Wei Wuxian realized that despite the long list of questionable impressions his lifestyle spawns, he’s approachable. When he offers help to his little freshmen, even if they whine about it and deny trusting him, they do come to him for study aids and advice. In the courses he TAs as well, few argue his grading. If there’s one thing they trust, it’s his knowledge in the material and being fair about the results. That, coupled with the fact Wei Wuxian might actually really love helping, points him in one clear direction.
“Xue Yang broke Mr. Sucky,” comes A-Qing’s voice behind him, pulling him out of his thoughts. “What are you doing?”
He’s currently staring at the pink socks, pack of hair ties and the straw doll sitting on the keyboard like a reminder. The Hot Cheetos have long since vanished.
“I did not,” snaps Xue Yang, “and don’t fuckin’ call it that.” Pause. “Do you need another straw doll?”
“I don’t have anymore,” says Mo Xuanyu.
“I may be walking to my doom,” Wei Wuxian murmurs as he turns to the freshmen, gingerly holding a little round hedgehog cactus sitting in a clay pot.
Xue Yang brightens. “Can I have all your valuable worldly possessions when you kick the bucket?”
“If you can find any.”
The trio look around the room, now especially bare bones with no layer of clothing and scattered textbooks. They look rather disappointed, which Wei Wuxian would think insolent if not for the knot of apprehension coiling in his gut.
Suddenly Mo Xuanyu’s hand is on his shoulder, squeezing gently. “Breathe in.”
Wow, he’s really losing face here.
“I’m fine, I’m good,” Wei Wuxian says with a wave, nearly spiking Mo Xuanyu in the face with the cactus. “Shit, sorry. I’ve gotta head out. Don’t burn anything down while I’m gone like last time. Xue Yang is forbidden from the kitchen as always. If I don’t return, A-Qing gets Xuanwu. Wait, no, give Xuanwu to the Wens, what was I thinking.”
“I want the turtle,” says Xue Yang, with a glint in his eyes. Wei Wuxian would rather not know why.
“You’re not getting the turtle.” He looks around at them, then nods. “Don’t worry about Mr. Sucky, we’ll have a funeral for him later.”
“Or yours,” chirps A-Qing.
“Yes, thank you for the reminder.”
He brushes by them with a dramatic sigh that doesn’t do much to lessen his anxiety but still feels good to let out. He’s in the hall when one of the kids clears their throat. Turning around with a cocked brow, Wei Wuxian finds three awkward freshmen staring back, expressions in various stages of suffering.
For a long moment it seems like they’re just going to stand there shuffling their feet, until A-Qing blurts out, “We’re glad you’re back.”
She blushes. Wei Wuxian stares until Xue Yang lunges and shoves at his shoulder.
“Go die already!” he shouts, completely at odds with the vibrant embarrassed red of his face.
Wei Wuxian adores them, tells them so, watches as even Mo Xuanyu looks like he would rather punch himself in the face than stand there any longer. Being as benevolent as he is, Wei Wuxian flees the scene. The knot in his stomach feels a little bit looser.
Jiang Cheng’s apartment is on the other end of campus. This gives Wei Wuxian plenty of time to mull over what he’s going to say, practice on the cactus cradled in his hands, draw multiple gazes that would be concerned or suspicious if this wasn’t a campus and talking to a plant wasn’t part of the status quo. The cactus doesn’t give him any feedback though, so it’s with increasingly larger butterflies writhing in his stomach that Wei Wuxian follows a cluster of students into the building, marches up to his little brother’s door, and knocks.
“I have this cactus,” Wei Wuxian blurts once the door opens.
Jiang Cheng looks—well, for once, he might look worse than Wei Wuxian, which is saying something. His mouth is thin and tight in a stressed line, eyes dark with sleeplessness. Wei Wuxian came into this whole thing hoping that he would catch Jiang Cheng like, post-all-you-can-eat-buffet, but no. Jiang Cheng’s eyes flicker briefly down to the cactus before returning to Wei Wuxian’s face, impassive, and okay, cool, that’s not nerve-wracking at all or anything.
“Um, I water it once a week and give it lots of sun and warm air, and uh.” His mouth is dry. Fuck. What did he even practice? Something about self-care. Shit. “It’s trying to grow? Sometimes I miss a week but it— You got me this cactus. I don’t know if you remember, but you gave it to me and I didn’t take care of it but now I am. It’s not a disaster anymore. Well, like, its needs are still minimal because it’s a cactus, but I’m— I’m working on that. I cleaned the windowsill and repotted it into a new plant holder or whatever they’re called. And I think it looks better.” Wei Wuxian takes a deep breath and exhales, slow, before meeting Jiang Cheng’s eyes. “I’m taking care of it,” he repeats. “I’m trying harder to take good care of it.”
For a long moment Jiang Cheng stands in the doorway, arms crossed, body just as immovable as his stony expression.
The changes happen in little shifts. First Jiang Cheng uncrosses his arms. Then he leans on the doorway. Lets out a sigh. Nudges the door open wider with a foot, and staring at the baby cactus, he says, “I remember. You… took good care of it.” A bob in his throat as he swallows, and then, stilted: “I know you’re trying. To care. That’s all I needed.”
“And,” Jiang Cheng continues, “I’m sorry. For yelling at you. That was shitty.” The hard lines around his mouth ease. “I do trust you. Annoying as you are.”
Heat pricks Wei Wuxian’s eyes but he nods, staring at his little baby cactus. He will not cry. This is a good moment and he will not cry, he will not cry. “I’m sorry too. For worrying you.”
Another moment passes as they stand there, unmoving, and Wei Wuxian’s grateful for it because it gives him enough time to blink back any traitorous tears and plaster on a smile.
“Right,” he announces, lowering the cactus to look somewhere off to Jiang Cheng’s left, “I’m— I got assignments and stuff, so I’m gonna— go—“
“For fuck’s sake,” Jiang Cheng snaps, before pulling him by the wrist in through the door and into a hug. Face buried in Wei Wuxian’s shoulder, his voice comes out muffled and thick. “You can’t even stop bullshitting for one second, can you? A— a fucking cactus?”
“But you gave it to me,” Wei Wuxian says, frozen stiff, one hand still holding his cactus behind Jiang Cheng’s back. Jiang Cheng is hugging him. His baby brother is hugging him.
“Shithead,” Jiang Cheng mutters. “You give the worst hugs. Put some back into it, Wei Ying.”
The Wei Ying is what makes Wei Wuxian reach up, clutch at the back of his brother’s shirt tentatively, then with a stronger grip when it’s clear that Jiang Cheng won’t pull away. The realization hits him like warmth blooming through his bones. Jiang Cheng won’t pull away anymore. His brother is here and he’s forgiven Wei Wuxian, and he is hugging him for real, and god, he’s right, Wei Wuxian is giving the shittiest hug on Earth.
He sniffles and lets himself sink into the hug entirely. “You’re so stupid,” Wei Wuxian says, unable to help himself. “Who the hell gives a cactus for a present? That’s so like you. Idiot. A cactus. A cactus!”
“If you don’t want it, you can give it back.”
“No!” Wei Wuxian wails. “It’s mine and I love her, take her back over my dead body.”
“Shithead,” Jiang Cheng says again, but it sounds annoyingly fond, like Jiang Cheng before all this shit went down, and it’s okay. The gravel in his throat loosens, vanishes. Jiang Cheng has given him a cactus and Wei Wuxian has managed to take care of it. That’s all that matters.
There’s one last step he has to fulfill before figuring out his own graduation thing, and it might be the most difficult. No, it definitely is. With the Wens and Jiang Cheng, Wei Wuxian had the benefit of years of history, a solid foundation of trust he’d taken a pickaxe to but didn’t permanently damage. Terrifying certainly, but not entirely new.
With Lan Zhan, however.
Lan Wangji, Wei Wuxian reminds himself for the fifth time since stepping foot on the residence roof. He’s taken to pacing, a chill wind whipping his hair into a matted nest. Pulling apart the knots gives him something to do with his hands as he rehearses his apology. Suffice it to say, he isn’t doing well. If only he’d brought the cactus up with him.
Winging it worked out with Jiang Cheng at least. Maybe he could try that again. He can’t tell whether he actually needs to hurl or if he thinks he thinks he needs to. It’s all very confusing. The wind blows impatiently.
“You’ve got this,” says Wei Wuxian under his breath, and again louder. “You’ve got this. You’ve got this! Hell yeah! Woo!”
He doesn’t got this.
“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA,” says Wei Wuxian as he calmly takes out his phone and presses Lan Wangji’s number.
The line rings. Wei Wuxian definitely has to vomit.
Bile or some other physical manifestation of terror rises in Wei Wuxian’s throat for a terrible second. He forces it down, inhaling shakily, trying not to think how that sounds from the other end.
“Your brother gave me your number,” Wei Wuxian says, before Lan Wangji can hang up thinking he’s some creep. Wait. That probably doesn’t help matters. Creeps lie all the time. Okay. “Um, this is Wei Wuxian. I don’t know if you remember. The, um. Tinder guy. I mean, you probably remember because you don’t have the memory of a Swiss cheese goldfish like me, but uh, just in case. Anyways. I just wanted to call and—also, I promise that I got your number through legal means even though I have no idea how your brother got my number.”
Silence on the other end.
“Oh,” says Lan Wangji. He sounds lost, on several different levels. “My brother?”
“Yeah, uh,” Wei Wuxian says. “Nothing like brothers betraying you, huh? You know, if it makes you feel any better, one time Jiang Cheng tried to drown me in the shower because I said that he couldn’t do math.”
Silence again. Then:
“Can you,” says Lan Wangji, “elaborate.”
“No. That’s the whole story.”
God, Wei Wuxian is going to break out into hives. “But that’s not the point,” he blurts before the oppressive quiet can resume again. “I said betrayal, but I’m hoping that your brother didn’t actually betray you, because betrayal would imply that he did something you didn’t want him to do, and- and even though I was literally the worst and treated you like shit and didn’t believe you when you said you were you, like—didn’t even take you at your word…” Wei Wuxian trails off, swallowing.
Wow, how did anyone stand him? No wonder even Nie Huaisang leaped at the opportunity to hassle him. He deserved it. Shithead.
“I don’t know where I was going with this,” he says, after a moment. “Um. Anyways. The point is that I’m sorry for— for all of that. It was awful and you didn’t deserve it. Any of it, but especially me treating you like shit after all that you’ve done for me. I should’ve known better than to think that you were the type of person who would laugh at other people.”
“I didn’t,” is all Lan Wangji says.
Didn’t… what? “Didn’t laugh at other people?” Wei Wuxian clarifies, confused. “‘Cause yeah, I agree. Or didn’t get betrayed? Didn’t nearly drown in the shower when you were ten?”
“You were ten?”
“That is so not the point. But yes.”
A quiet huff. Christ, did Wei Wuxian miss those.
“Didn’t do it for you,” Lan Zhan says eventually, and Wei Wuxian feels something in his chest wither and die like an unwatered plant. Before he can interrupt, though, Lan Wangji goes on, “I… All the conversations, the cake, the rabbits. I wanted to. I enjoyed talking with you. You weren’t a burden or an inconvenience. It was—” He breaks off, pauses, then continues, softer, “I liked it.”
“Oh,” Wei Wuxian says. Is he still alive? He has no idea. His soul has floated out of his body maybe. “That’s. Cool.”
“Okay!” Wei Wuxian doesn’t squeak out the word. It’s more like a dignified yelp. Still full of absolute terror, though. “Okay, cool, cool, cool. So we’re? Good now? I hope? And I can keep texting you and bothering you for pictures of rabbits like normal? And you don’t hate me and wish the curse of a thousand vengeful spirits on my soul?”
“I never hated you.”
It’s like this man is on a quest to give Wei Wuxian heart trauma.
“Right,” he says. “That’s, uh, awesome. Great talk.”
Lan Wangji hums, and the sound of it fills him with such relief that he nearly collapses on the rooftop right then and there. But he doesn’t. Instead he keeps standing, dizzy with the fact that everything has gone back to normal, to better than normal. He hasn’t felt this good since… ever, really.
“Lan Zhan,” he says. “I missed you.”
This time there’s no pause. “I missed you too, Wei Ying,” Lan Wangji says.
Pulse singing, heart soaring, Wei Wuxian smiles.
Wei Wuxian is late applying, but student services is made up of older men and women that he’s managed to charm over eight semesters of asking about course availability and wiggling his way into those that should be empty and figuring out how many majors and minors he can feasibly declare with all of it. This time, when he leans across the table and Cathy asks him, “Another summer semester then?” he’s able to say, “I’m graduating.”
She blinks at him. “On time?”
It should be offensive, but he just laughs. “Despite everything, yeah.”
And Cathy, bless her, leans back in her cubicle to brag about Wei Wuxian to her coworkers like a proud grandmother.
It’s a little more difficult scrambling all the necessary paperwork for a last minute application for teachers’ college, but Cathy works her magic. “It helps that even though you skipped around every department on campus,” she says, “you still took enough requisites and three, four-hundreds to fill some majors.”
“Wait, really?” Wei Wuxian asks. “Like what?”
She sighs at him, looking so much like an affectionate auntie sighing endearingly at his hair and small face and bad decisions that for a moment Wei Wuxian almost forgets that she’s white. And also like, thirty-five at most. “Art history, for one,” she says. “Chemistry, Lord knows how, and of course, education. I think that you knew what you wanted all along, even if you didn’t think you did.”
“Oh.” Something very warm and very pleasant fizzles in Wei Wuxian’s stomach. “Neat.”
Her smile is amused. “Very.”
For some mysterious reason, studying comes easily after that. Not the actual consumption and retention of knowledge, but the motivation to work at it, to start and maintain that last minute sprint to the finish. Wei Wuxian can’t remember the last time he felt this confident going into an exam, which can’t be said for his freshmen.
“Can’t I just become a full-time carer for Xuanwu,” bemoans Mo Xuanyu, sprawled out in the common room while other students hopscotch over him to get to the microwave.
“No,” says Wei Wuxian, “because you’re going to ace this exam and never have to take this course again and you’ll graduate and become famous and send me money every year. It’s gonna be great, c’mon, get up.”
The days leading up to finals week is much of the same: Wei Wuxian contacting old classmates to mooch past exams off them for the courses he never took, adding little sticky notes with advice, scanning and distributing to his students, convincing them for the third time that day that they can do this, because they’ve already been through first semester and writing exams in the spring is no different.
Then exam day one: Introductory Physics hits, followed by Conversational Chinese, Early Modern Europe, Intro Environmental Sciences, Health Biology, and all his students collectively lose their shit.
“The owl is fucking gone,” says A-Qing by day three.
Half the rooms reek of beer but there’s never a bottle or can in sight. Mysterious and not so mysterious thumping noises occur throughout the night. Someone sets off the fire alarm and Xue Yang ends up standing outside with his hair frothed up with shampoo, looking hilariously murderous. Wei Wuxian spams Nie Huaisang’s phone and only half his messages go through. There are now two owls.
Then, on a Wednesday, Wei Wuxian walks out of the last exam of his university undergrad. As soon as he walks into his dorm hall, he grabs the first student he sees and asks them to pass on a message. It takes some time, but eventually all his little freshmen are crammed into the common room, several leaving a gap so Xuanwu can also bear witness to Wei Wuxian breaking out into hives from speaking sincerely. The kids are all looking at him, expectant. Xue Yang has his phone out, no doubt ready to record the moment Wei Wuxian is stabbed with an Epipen.
“Alright,” Wei Wuxian says. “Alright. For many of you, tomorrow will be your last exam and you’ll be moving out of the dorms.” He pauses, letting that sink in. More for himself than the kids, who probably won’t realize this is the end of their first year until they’ve got everything packed up in boxes. “I’ll keep this short, but despite the burning microwaves, shady dealings, the fight club in the gender-neutral bathroom I pretended not to notice on Friday nights, intermittent hurling, the bullying of your poor RA—”
“Get on with it,” says A-Qing.
“Case in point.” Wei Wuxian wrinkles his nose at her before grinning at the floor. “Despite all that, or maybe because of it, I really loved being your RA this year. Even if you’re all menaces and gave me a cursed voodoo doll. I’ll miss seeing you on campus. I’ll miss being your RA.” Oh, god, he is not going to tear up here. They’d rip him to shreds and he’d have to pretend he doesn’t love the attention. “I-I hope that, even if I’m not a student here anymore, you’ll all still reach out to me if you need bad advice—like horrible, I’m talking life-ruining advice, or. Or a friend.”
There’s a beat that turns into a pause that ends with Mo Xuanyu saying, “But my doll isn’t cursed.”
And Xue Yang: “You’re graduating? You can do that? They’re letting you do that?”
And A-Qing: “You. You weren’t. Awful. I guess. Come back sometimes—because I have no plug, not for any other reason! Obviously. Also sometimes you’re smart. Just a little. Fuck, stop looking at me—”
She’s misty-eyed and Wei Wuxian’s skin is prickling in hives or embarrassment or affection, but she isn’t the only one. For many of the students, the realization this is the end of something is just dawning on them.
Before Wei Wuxian can see the first tears start in earnest, he clears his throat and says, “Why I love any of you is the ninth mystery on campus. Okay. Study hard.”
Someone sniffs wetly and Wei Wuxian flees like he hasn’t seen every single one of them lose it over something or other during the past eight months living together.
hey ik we never talked abt meeting in person or anything before
but if u cld itd be rly nice if u came to my graduation
i mean if ur busy or u dont want to u dont have to i ttly get it
but i think id just rly rly like it for u to be there
im graduating holy shit!!!!!
I am happy for you.
What day is it?
thnks lan zhan
its on may 2nd
itll start at like eleven am but tbh i think if u come at like 2 itll be fine bc my name is in the back with the rest of w’s
so ill be suffering and probs one of the last to be called
I cannot attend. I have an event that day.
ok yeah yeah thats cool
i guess ill die then
that was a joke by the way
thanks for telling me
oh my god its fine
You spelled out “I guess” and “oh my god.”
lan zhan ur literally gonna make me cry
thank u for the rabbits tho
♡( ◡‿◡ )
( ◡‿◡ )♡
On any other day, Wei Wuxian would celebrate the weather—oppressively hot for the end of May and three touches too humid—but he’s currently wearing a black graduation gown that’s soaking up every ray of sunlight and the cap is doing more to warm his skull than shade his eyes. Beneath the gown, the cotton shirt Shijie insisted he wear to avoid heatstroke is sticking to his skin and every time he shifts, there’s a new sweaty itch he has to relieve against the corner of his chair. Around him, some hundreds of graduates are suffering similarly. Why did they have to do this outside? Who thought this was a good idea?
Even still, he’s happy.
Sitting somewhere in the back of the assembly is Uncle Jiang and Madam Yu, proud and grudgingly so respectively, Jiang Cheng, Shijie and Jin Zixuan with little Jin Ling between them, and in another row are the Wens, A-Yuan perched on Granny Wen’s lap.
He’d tried to persuade Nie Huaisang to attend but he bailed due to a very important movie premiere. It was the least vague excuse Wei Wuxian has ever gotten so he forgives him.
Besides, they’re all here as his extended family. It’s a little too soon to be crying, but every time Wei Wuxian thinks about it, his eyes get all hot.
As a Wei, his name isn’t called for a good long while. Whenever the list moves on and there’s one less letter to get through, the graduates sigh a collective breath of relief. Finally—"Wuxian Wei.”
He leaps to his feet, not even the sweat rolling down his spine diminishing his excitement for this moment. As he strides to the stage, sunlight glints off his graduation cap, splintering off the hundred or so rhinestones he’d stuck to it and effectively blinding anyone who so much as looks towards him from the wrong angle. He bounces up onto the stage, beaming at the dean. A smooth black book flips back, showing him the papers within—bachelor degrees in two majors, chemistry and art history, with a minor in education to boot.
Three years, eight semesters, not a single season without class, and Wei Wuxian holds in his hands the end and beginning.
The dean shakes his hand, smiles, and says, “Congratulations on graduating.”
Wei Wuxian feels like he could fly right off the stage—but he doesn’t, because breaking his legs would probably ruin the afterparty. He returns to his seat, waving wildly at his family, most of whom steadfastly don’t wave back. It’s fine, the kids and Wen Ning are his ride or dies anyway.
After the last graduate has returned to her seat, the dean grips the edge of the podium, waits a long moment, and then grins. “Well, go on then.”
As one, the grads reach up to their tassels, shifting them from one side of the cap to the other with symbolic weight. A beat late, Wei Wuxian scrambles to flick his tassel over to the other side, effectively knocking off several rhinestones that snipe his neighbor in the face. Somewhere far in the back, Jiang Cheng sighs audibly.
“Whatever awaits you in the future,” the dean says, looking out over a sea of black caps and pleased faces, “I hope you take with you all the good memories, all those experiences over the course of your time here, and think fondly of them. Remember late night studying, your favourite break spot that generations of students carved out before you, meeting someone for the first time and not knowing a week later they’d be your best friend. Remember the bitterness of a lab gone wrong, but the relief of an exam finished and a course behind you. When you’re tired, and stressed, and anxious, remember the friends you made here, be they your peers, your favourite teaching assistant, the professor of your favourite course, and know that no matter where any of you go, the connections you’ve made here will remain. I look forward to seeing where the future takes you. Congratulations, graduating class of 2020.”
The last of his words are drowned out by the roar of hundreds of grads as they rise to their feet, Wei Wuxian among them, flinging their caps skyward. It’s all very dramatic, especially the part where all the hats come down and Wei Wuxian trips over no less than three pairs of feet lunging to catch his.
From one moment to the next, Wei Wuxian is suddenly surrounded by not only his peers, but their families, and his own swarming around him, an overwhelming kaleidoscope of familiar faces.
Jin Ling and A-Yuan are bouncing up and down at hip height, both looking to get picked up. They only just then seem to see each other, eyes wide, and to everyone’s amusement A-Yuan takes hold of Jin Ling’s pudgy toddler hand and says entirely seriously, “Will you be my best friend?”
Jin Ling’s mouth goes slack, his face reddening in record time. Wei Wuxian coos. It’ll take another decade or so before Jin Ling admits to being best friends, but A-Yuan is terrifyingly persistent. Until then, A-Yuan doesn’t let go of his hand and drags him to Granny Wen and the Wen siblings to show off.
As Wei Wuxian watches the kids, his friends and family around them, he has a thought. It’s not a bad thought, or a good thought. Just an observation, really, that the only thing that could make this graduation of his any better would be if just one more person was in attendance. But thinking that makes him feel a twinge of guilt so he doesn’t linger on it.
Until something causes him to look up and around, scanning for no real reason the families milling about the shade. He doesn’t even know what he’s looking for until—
There he is.
There’s something startling about seeing Lan Wangji like this—in the flesh, as Lan Zhan, as the person Wei Wuxian thinks he is, and not just a character in a movie with one thin layer of makeup because Lan Wangji has no pores. His hair isn’t perfect, isn’t being fawned over by half a dozen stylists, just twisted up in a loose bun that does something to Wei Wuxian’s perception of him.
Real, supplies the part of his brain that has long since made the connection between text, voice and face. The rest of his brain is slow to catch up.
Wei Wuxian’s legs move faster, carrying him from his distracted family to the edge of shade Lan Wangji stands under, and Wei Wuxian’s breath stills in his throat at the sight of him. He’s wearing a white suit with a neat sky-blue tie, and the way his blazer stretches over his shoulders should be absolutely criminal. It has to be tailored for his body, because if it isn’t and Wei Wuxian finds out that his body is just like that, he might actually have to sue someone. He’s searched up dozens of pictures of Lan Wangji since finding out who his not-so-catfish really was, and maybe had sixteen heart attacks after every one. But this. This. Wei Wuxian’s mouth goes dry and it isn’t entirely the weather’s fault.
“Wei Ying,” says Lan Wangji, when it becomes clear Wei Wuxian isn’t capable of greeting him yet.
Because eyes. Because nose. Because lips, curving in the echo of a smile that betrays Lan Wangji’s fond amusement.
“Lan Zhan?” Wei Wuxian asks dumbly.
“But.” Wei Wuxian inhales and lets it out in one shuddering breath. “But you said you couldn’t come. You said you had. A thing.”
“A premiere, yes.”
“A prem— Why are you here? Did it get cancelled?”
“I couldn’t go. I’m sick,” is all Lan Wangji says. He hides two unconvincing coughs into his elbow. He doesn’t even blink while doing it.
Wei Wuxian feels like his soul has floated up somewhere into an astral plane. Lan Wangji, standing in front of him wearing a suit that’s probably tailor-made for him at Wei Wuxian’s graduation in stupidly hot weather, not even fazed, making—
”A Mean Girls reference?” Wei Wuxian asks.
Lan Wangji just holds his gaze, steady.
A rush of heat floods through Wei Wuxian, but he shakes it off. Eyes on the prize, dude, eyes on the fucking prize. “You told me that you don’t lie.”
Lan Wangji inclines his head. “That is a rule in my household, yes.”
“And yet… you lied? For this?”
“We are currently outside,” says Lan Wangji. He gestures at the forestry, as if to demonstrate. A beat. “We are not in my house.”
This time, he really can’t help the pure arousal that rushes into his body. “Fuck,” Wei Wuxian whispers, eyes wide. He has no doubt that his pupils must be dilated entirely. “Lan Zhan, wife me the fuck up right now. Hopefully before I do something very bad in front of the children in public, I’m not fucking playing.”
Lan Wangji’s eyes widen. The change in expression is so unexpected that the reality of what he just said hits him, and Wei Wuxian reels back, blinking.
“Wait,” he says, cheeks hot. “Shit. Wait, I didn’t mean to say it like that. I had a whole thing ready.”
Lan Wangji’s ears are pink.
“How,” he says, voice hoarse before he clears it. “How did you mean to say it, then?”
Everything stops still.
Wei Wuxian had, sometime after their reconciliation and before graduation, made a whole resolution to himself that he would find some way to confess to Lan Wangji. Maybe it would be before the end of this year, or the first time they met. And it would be a whole moving speech that would immediately be shut down by Lan Wangji’s rejection, because of course he would. And it would be cool. Wei Wuxian would just watch a dozen terrible C-dramas and devour four tubs of ice cream and make Jiang Cheng get horribly drunk with him, and then, after all that, be fine. He’d fall out of love, or maybe he wouldn’t. Either way he would force Lan Wangji to stay his friend, continue to teach him memes and recommend all of the worst teenage dramas in the world, and everything would be okay.
How did you mean to say it, Lan Wangji had said.
That is not a rejection.
Wei Wuxian is a whole rat and somehow Lan Wangji has not reacted in utter disgust at the words wife me the fuck up. His ears are even reddening, flush spreading down to his neck. Oh, fuck. That’s so goddamn cute. Shit. Wei Wuxian is going to have a stroke and die.
“You’re really great,” Wei Wuxian blurts. It’s the first thing that pops up into his head, other than I’ve never wanted anyone to dick me down more, but that’s not romantic and also not age-appropriate and also not part of the moving speech Wei Wuxian thought of before. So he inhales, clears his head a little with the fresh air. Then he continues, “You’re just—really fucking great. And I like you a lot. I can’t even understand most days how you put up with me, never mind forgave me for all that stuff I said to you. But I do. It’s kind of embarrassing how much I like you actually. But this is probably the one thing in my life I won’t ever be embarrassed about, because it’s—it’s you, you know?”
If Wei Wuxian thinks about it, this is the start of it for him. It’s not the famous actor thing, or that Lan Wangji looks like the walking incarnation of Wei Wuxian’s ideal man, or even the fact that he learned how to use memes just for Wei Wuxian.
It’s this. That Lan Wangji is a good person, through and through.
Lan Wangji’s face hasn’t moved since Wei Wuxian began his whole word vomit. For some reason, it just makes Wei Wuxian talk faster.
“I want to keep seeing you in person,” he goes on, almost tripping over his words in his hurry to get them out of his mouth, “and date you, and hold your hand, and like, pet your rabbits together, watch Xuanwu float together, do whatever together. And honestly, you can do anything you want to me, I don’t care what it is, just as long as I’m doing it with you. As long as you’re willing to do it with me. Because I like you. A lot. Date me. And then maybe wife me the fuck up later, ‘cause I totally want to do that like, so much you won’t even believe it. That’s, um.” He sucks in a desperate breath. “If you want to.”
For a long moment Lan Wangji stares at him. His expression is utterly unreadable. A moment trickles by. Another. Still there is no response. It’s like he’s completely fucking shut down. Wei Wuxian is holding his breath, so it’s no surprise when things go a little dizzy, and then blurred because it’s hot as fuck under the robes, and then—
“Ah,” Lan Wangji says, in a bland tone that he might use to express his realization that he left his toast in the toaster, rather than a response to Wei Wuxian asking him out. No follow-up reply.
Then he pulls out his phone.
A buzz in Wei Wuxian’s pocket. Wei Wuxian digs out his phone. Finds a message from Lan Wangji. Tinder.
In a voice that may or may not tremble, Wei Wuxian chokes out, “You know, if you’re going to reject me, I appreciate the subtlety like a lot, it’s really sweet. But you can just say it. I won’t be mad. I mean, I’ll be crushed and probably imbibe half my weight in alcohol and bad TV shows because my coping mechanisms are still awful, but like, I won’t be mad, I promise. Actually I think texting me the rejection is worse, ‘cause it’s like, ‘Surprise!’ But a bad one. Like surprise, did you know that there's a million cockroaches living in your hair? This is just like that. You know?”
“No,” says Lan Wangji. When Wei Wuxian looks up, his expression is... “Look at the message.”
Wei Wuxian unlocks his phone and looks at the message.
It’s an image.
More specifically, it’s an Uno reverse card.
“Oh,” Wei Wuxian says.
“Mm,” Lan Wangji agrees.
Wei Wuxian asked him out and blurted out the world’s most embarrassing confession ever—and Lan Wangji texted him an Uno reverse card. He responded to Wei Wuxian’s I like you so much it’s kind of embarrassing with a no u.
“I want to marry you,” Wei Wuxian says, feeling dangerously close to tears. “You’re my dream guy.”
In response, another buzz. It’s the same image. Wei Wuxian is going to pass out. There’s no way this is real. There is no goddamn way he is this lucky.
“A rule that my uncle taught me,” Lan Wangji says, when Wei Wuxian still hasn’t moved in maybe three hours, “is that one should not postpone what can be done now.”
Wei Wuxian lifts his gaze from the beautiful Uno card to Lan Wangji’s beautiful face. “What does that have to do with...”
A beat. The words sink in slowly. Then it registers like a kick to the throat.
“Oh my fucking god,” Wei Wuxian wheezes. “You— you—! You con, you sly motherfucker, you can’t just—”
Lan Wangji holds out his hand. Wei Wuxian’s brain is working at Xuanwu’s pace. It takes him two whole seconds to realize Lan Wangji wants him to hold it.
Still wheezing for breath, he does. He steps forward, turns a half step to the side, slides his fingers against Lan Wangji’s smooth palm. Fuck. The hand really is as perfect as it looks. Gradually Wei Wuxian’s breathing settles, but his pulse picks up, skittering like mad in his ears. Swallowing, he traces the lines on Lan Wangji’s fingers and the calluses at the ends before finally grasping his hand. Against his skin, Lan Wangji’s pulse is fluttering hummingbird-quick. Beat for beat.
Wei Wuxian takes a moment to stare at their joined hands. Several months now and he’s only ever seen this hand in pictures, videos. Never touched it. Never even imagined that he could be holding it one day.
On impulse, Wei Wuxian tugs their hands up to press a fleeting kiss to the edge of Lan Wangji’s wrist.
“I,” he says, “am so fucking lucky.”
When he drags his eyes back up to Lan Wangji’s face, the pink in his ears have darkened to a sunburnt red. Suddenly he can’t shove it down any longer. “I want to kiss you,” Wei Wuxian says, mesmerized by the deep gold of Lan Wangji’s eyes, the soft curve of his red mouth. He watches as Lan Wangji’s eyes darken, the ring of gold thinning to little slivers. “If you don’t want it, you gotta tell me now, okay? I might cry a little but I’ll get over it as long as you say no right now —”
Lan Wangji kisses him silent.
At first their lips slide, unsure, and then something clicks and suddenly they’re kissing for real, hot and demanding before it gentles, slows. Wei Wuxian’s dated a handful in his life and kissed even fewer. The way Lan Wangji kisses—soft, sweet, slow like he could spend his entire life doing nothing but kissing him—is something else entirely. The feeling of it doesn’t send electricity jolting down his spine. Instead it’s warmth, spreading steady and tender throughout his entire body, leaving the ends of his fingers tingling.
Instinctively, Wei Wuxian moves closer, presses his body against Lan Wangji’s. More. God, he wants more. His mouth falls open to Lan Wangji’s, and Lan Wangji makes a needy sound somewhere at the back of his throat, dragging him in—
“EW,” Jiang Cheng’s voice bellows somewhere behind him. “EW, WHAT THE FUCK, WHY ARE YOU KISSING SOMEONE.”
Smiling, Wei Wuxian presses another lingering kiss to Lan Wangji’s mouth before he pulls away just enough to peek at Jiang Cheng’s half-terrified, half-disgusted face. He considers this expression against the oppressive heat that’s making even his arms sweat, and then leans into Lan Wangji’s side anyway. Like clockwork, Lan Wangji’s arms come up to wrap around his waist.
Oh, god. His boyfriend—fiancé?—is just as much of a clingy octopus hooked up to a vacuum cleaner as he is.
This is so good. This is perfect.
“You are so great,” Wei Wuxian sighs, and Lan Wangji hums and tightens his hold on Wei Wuxian’s waist in response.
“Asshole,” Jiang Cheng is still shouting, but quieter now that he’s stormed up to them. He glances between Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji, eyes narrowed, before he jabs his finger at Lan Wangji. “What the hell is this? Why is Lan Wangji here? Did you fucking pay him to show up at your graduation?”
Wei Wuxian blinks. Never mind the implication that Lan Wangji is some kind of escort, but—
“Wait,” he says, realization dawning, “you paid attention to those C-dramas?”
“Some of them are good,” Jiang Cheng snarls. He’s so vicious in his defense. It’s so cute. Wei Wuxian breaks into a wide grin, unable to help himself. “Stop that. Don’t be so fucking smug. That’s not important. Why is he here?”
“Well. Remember my catfish?”
“Well,” Wei Wuxian says again, and gestures. “Meet my catfish.”
All the emotion in Jiang Cheng’s face vanishes in the face of his horror. “No.”
“Yes. Turns out he wasn’t a catfish. Instead this is my boyfriend, Lan Wangji!” He looks up to beam at Lan Wangji, marveling at the unreal cut of his jaw for a moment before Wei Wuxian whispers in his ear, “Or are we fiancés? I never really got a clear answer for that.”
Lan Wangji’s ears are flushing pink again. God, he’s never going to get tired of seeing that. He wants to see that for the rest of his life.
“Stop, oh my god, I didn’t think that you would be this unbearable once you got a boyfriend!”
“Might be fiancé, actually,” Wei Wuxian says, reluctantly turning away from Lan Wangji’s face. “Also, don’t be homophobic, A-Cheng.”
“Don’t be homophobic,” Shijie’s voice chimes in, and Wei Wuxian’s smile only widens when he finds her stepping beside Jiang Cheng. Her eyes are shining, hands clasped together. “Oh, A-Xian. Your catfish?”
“My catfish,” Wei Wuxian confirms, then thinks about it. “Well, not my catfish. Just the real person, as it turns out. You were right as always, Shijie.”
“No more breaking my heart, then. You aren’t allowed to, now that you have someone who will peel the lotus roots for you. Or at least I hope he’s willing to?”
Lan Wangji steps up before Wei Wuxian can reply. “I will,” Lan Wangji says. He hesitates, then continues, “I will peel the lotus roots even if Wei Ying is bad at cooking, and any clementines because he doesn’t enjoy the scent of citrus on his hands. He said his feet will be cold at night. I am okay with that. And—Xuanwu. I will love Xuanwu.” Lan Wangji turns back to Wei Wuxian, hand reaching up to tug at the edge of his ponytail. “And anything else,” he says, so soft that instinctively Wei Wuxian knows that the words are only meant for him and no one else. “I will be here.”
Wei Wuxian’s heart stutters in his chest. “Lan Zhan—”
“Wonderful,” Shijie interrupts, and when he tears his gaze from Lan Wangji, she’s beaming. “Lan Wangji? A word, if you could?”
She tips her head, a gentle suggestion to which Lan Wangji inclines his own. They step aside, just out of earshot so Wei Wuxian can’t eavesdrop but close enough that he can see the minute shift in Lan Wangji’s expression. With Shijie’s back to him, he can’t see her own, but it’s almost humorous imagining it by the way the world famous actor’s every facial muscle goes curiously slack.
Barely a minute later, they both return to where Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng are openly staring. Wei Wuxian peers closely at Lan Wangji before looking at Shijie.
“What did you say to him?” Wei Wuxian asks, bewildered. “I’ve never seen his face like that. Granted, I've seen him in person for like, fifteen minutes max, but I've never seen his face like that.”
“Like... he always is?”
“No, it’s extra still. Like the difference between sleeping and being unconscious.”
With Shijie’s questionable shovel talk out of the way, the next Jiang member takes his place to continue the conversation.
“You,” says Jiang Cheng, stepping forward, eyes narrowed at Lan Wangji.
Wei Wuxian wishes he had popcorn and a high-quality video camera with a tripod and maybe a drone, because already his older brother senses are tingling, telling him that this is about to be good.
And it is. It is so good.
“You are,” Jiang Cheng says, and stops, looking intensely at war with himself.
Wei Wuxian can almost see the two sides of Jiang Cheng battling against each other: the side that craves threatening people he barely knows in the form of shovel talks, and the side that grudgingly respects Lan Wangji’s work as an actor in one of his favorite dramas. Wei Wuxian has to bite his lip to hold down his smile.
“Me,” Lan Wangji says.
Jiang Cheng’s face does a—thing. It’s like watching a blobfish move. It’s fantastic. “Shut up,” he hisses, then looks horrified, before settling into his usual neutral-rage. “Listen. You are on thin ice. You and your million Gucci bags and rabbits. Everyone knows that people only send animal pictures if they want to mug you and stab you with a shiv, and you sent animal pictures, so. Thin fucking ice. I’m watching you.”
Lan Wangji listens to this with an unchanging expression before turning to Wei Wuxian. “Shiv?” he asks.
“Like homemade knives for broke criminals,” Wei Wuxian says cheerfully, waving it off. “One time I got stabbed by one and he’s never let it go since, it’s nothing. Jiang Cheng, keep going. This is the greatest day of my life.”
“You got... stabbed—“
“You are the worst,” Jiang Cheng seethes, as always talking over everyone within a five foot radius with the sheer force of his fury. “I’m trying to do something here, asshole.”
“I know, it’s very cute!”
“Shut up. Die. I hope you suck each other’s faces off and choke. Also die. Did I mention that you should die.” He’s using die as punctuation. Wei Wuxian loves him so much his heart could burst with it.
“Oh,” Wei Wuxian coos, “Lan Zhan and I are gonna do all of that. It’s gonna be great.”
“Wei Ying,” interrupts Lan Wangji, eyes intent and dark. “Stabbed?”
“It was a very minor injury,” Wei Wuxian reassures him.
“You were stabbed in the ribs and you were stuck in the hospital for two months because it nearly punctured your heart.”
“‘Tis but a flesh wound.”
Wei Wuxian shouldn’t find Lan Wangji’s worry so endearing, but he can’t not find it adorable when his boyfriend-slash-fiancé is fretting over something that happened almost two years ago. “It’s fine!” he says, reaching up to smoosh Lan Wangji’s cheeks in his hands. “Listen, I got a very sexy scar out of it that I’ll show you later if you’re so concerned.” He lowers his voice to a quiet murmur. “And you can personally make sure that I’m all healed up.”
Lan Wangji’s fingers twitch around his waist, and Wei Wuxian feels a thrilling jolt down his spine when he answers, “Mm. I’ll do that.”
“Ugh, I’m already throwing up in my mouth a little.”
“Don’t be homophobic, A-Cheng,” Wei Wuxian says again, and hears Shijie’s echoing, “Don’t be homophobic!” in the background. He smiles. Ah, to bully Jiang Cheng in solidarity. It’s the day of his dreams.
“I’m not being homophobic! He’s just being gross!”
“That’s called homophobia, A-Cheng!”
“No, it’s called you being a menace to society—”
“Like your nose?”
“Will you ever let the fucking nose thing go—”
“I should thank your sister before we leave,” Lan Wangji says abruptly.
Wei Wuxian stops arguing with Jiang Cheng long enough to look at him. “What? Why?”
“She gave you Xuanwu.”
A beat. No further explanation. “And?”
“Before you got Xuanwu, you were stabbed.”
Wei Wuxian turns this around in his head for a moment, trying to follow Lan Wangji’s bizarre jumps in logic. Then it hits him. “Wait, do you think Xuanwu’s some kind of. Divine protector? That getting Xuanwu prevented me from getting stabbed anymore?”
“Have you been stabbed since?”
“Well, no,” says Wei Wuxian, at which point Lan Wangji nods like he’s proved his argument, “but that’s so—I don’t need Xuanwu to take care of myself or, or not get stabbed, you know!”
“Mm,” says Lan Wangji, and leans down to press a fleeting kiss to the top of his head.
All the fight seeps out of Wei Wuxian and sinks into the dirt. That is so unfair. “That’s illegal,” says Wei Wuxian weakly. “That. Actions have consequences, Lan Zhan, you can’t just do that to me.”
“I will take responsibility,” Lan Wangji promises. It sounds so much like a— proposal thing that Wei Wuxian can’t help but stare.
“Will you?” Wei Wuxian asks, almost a whisper. “The bunnies too. And Xuanwu. And—”
“You,” Lan Wangji finishes, pressing another kiss to the tip of his ear. This time it’s not only his boyfriend’s ears that turn red.
Lan Xichen @lanxichen
Welcome to the family! :)
loving lwj hours @vinglwj
WHAT HBJBSKHABSKFKHBA SINCE WHEN WHAT DID I MISS I WAS GONE FROM TWITTER FOR TWO WEEKS
two bros chillin in a family picture holding hands because theyre actually gay holy shit HOLY SHIT HOLY SHIT HOLY SHIT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Okay but can we talk about how cute lwjs boyfriend (fiance?) is like i didn’t think anyone would be good enough for lwj until i saw his boyfriend (fiance) damn drop your skincare routine king
Jay // ig : cqrlw.17 @cqrlw17
Why don’t people just leave them alone? Two people in love really bothers some angry people. Shame on you, especially after Lan Wangji found happiness. It’s also none of their business. Maybe be more tolerant, accepting and loving.
congratulations !! aaaaaaa lwj really deserves it look how happy he is !!
I FUCKIGN KNEW IT AJKSLFASHFKAJSFHA FI FUCKGIN KNEW IT WHAT ID DI I SAY I CALLED IT I FUCKIGN CALLED IT OH MY GOD also congrats lwj for living ur best life :’)) akjshfkajfhalkjsfhla
rat pride @weiwx
@stan_lwj u r literally the most woke person on twit thank u for my life low key got our relationship started heh
@weiwx Are You Him? Are You Serious?
rat pride @weiwx
@stan_lwj ( ˘ ³˘)♥ heres ur proof thank u queen
@weiwx oh my god they were fiances
LWJ World Domination @lwjobsessed
@stan_lwj @weiwx OH MY GOD THEY WERE FIANCES