The birds chirp quietly in the trees, talking to each other, calling each other. Lan Xichen had always wondered what they spoke about. Did they tell each other where the best worms or berries were? Or to watch out for certain animals or humans?
The birds don’t scatter when Lan Xichen and Lan Wangji pass them. They stay on their branches, still squawking at one another. To be fair, the birds are most likely used to their presence, and even more so, Lan Xichen and Lan Wangji both walk exceptionally quietly. One would barely be able to hear them, except for the crunch of leaves and twigs under their feet.
The brothers were taking their routine daily walk, usually through the tranquil forest, which they took together everyday. Unless it was raining or one of them was absent, which was rare, but not completely uncommon. Today though, it was sunny, and both brothers were in the Cloud Recesses.
Lan Xichen felt happy to be in nature,and to be with his brother. He treasured this time of day, when he could spend an hour or so with Lan Wangji, speaking only when wanting to and feeling the stress and pressure of his responsibilities dissolve with every step he took. Taking a big breath of fresh air, Lan Xichen feels himself smiling. It was a good day to be outside.
They had been walking for several minutes, mostly in silence, with the occasional word or two. Lan Wangji preferred quietness, and Lan Xichen was happy to oblige his brother. Though Lan Xichen didn’t quite enjoy the quiet like his brother did, he too would rather have peace and calmness than anything else. They were both Lans after all.
“Brother.” Lan Wangji says, interrupting the quietude. “May I ask you a question?”
A bit startled by the sudden words from his brother, it takes Lan Xichen a second to respond.
“Of course you may.”
His brother hesitates briefly before speaking, as if trying to think of the correct phrasing. “Do you believe in love?”
Lan Xichen almost laughs. What an abnormal question! And from his brother of all people! But he knows Lan Wangji is dead serious, so he swallows a chuckle, and instead settles for a smile.
“I do believe in love.” Lan Xichen says delicately. “I believe in it because I have felt it. Not only towards me but I have felt love towards others. Like you. I know I love you, so I know that love exists.”
Lan Wangji nods slowly, taking in the information.
“I love you as well.” He says after a few seconds.
That makes Lan Xichen smile more. There was no one in the world he loved more than his brother, and though Lan Xichen is always encouraging his brother to make new friends and get out more, he cherishes their relationship and the time they spend together more than anything.
They walk in silence for a few more feet before Lan Wangji speaks again.
“Brother, do you believe in... romantic love?”
This time, Lan Xichen hears a touch of timidness in Lan Wangji’s voice, a tone he rarely hears from his brother. Romantic love? He briefly wonders where these questions are coming from, but decides to save that inquiry for later. It takes him a few seconds to respond, not quite sure what to say.
“I believe I do. I think that many people truly do fall in love with each other.”
“But,” Lan Wangji injects, “Is there a difference between romantic love and platonic love?”
That makes Lan Xichen pause as well.
“Well, I’m not sure. I have never fallen in love, so I could not tell you what the difference is, or what it feels like. But, from what I have heard, or what I have seen, I believe there is a difference. There is a difference between the love I feel for you, and the love I feel for Uncle, and the love I feel for my friends, so I don’t see why it wouldn’t be different for the person you fall in love with. And though I cannot speak from experience, I have been told it can feel like your world… changes when you’re with them. Like your heart feels like it might burst when you see them. Like your emotions will overflow at any minute because of them. It's a feeling, physical, but also emotional. No matter what they do or say, you still love them. No matter their flaws or imperfections, you still find them beautiful. They fulfill you. The sort of attraction or desire you feel for the person will likely feel different as well. As in the... things and you may feel you want to do with them. As in-” He clears his throat, feeling a little awkward speaking about this type of thing with his brother, but Lan Wangji looks as if he’s hanging off every word Lan Xichen says. “Sexual activities. But, again, I cannot say that is accurate, seeing that I have never been in love.” He finishes in a rush.
Lan Wangji slowly nods again, and Lan Xichen can see the tips of his ears have grown red. Swallowing, Lan Xichen hopes he’s not blushing as well. After a moment, they continue their walk in the quiet lull of nature.
Lan Xichen really did not know if what he said was accurate, as he had truly never been in love. He had never really had any specific couple to look to either, no one to show him how a couple should act or feel or be. His parents were… complicated and rarely saw each other. His uncle was single. And the Lan Sect was very private when it came to these matters. If two people were in a relationship, you wouldn’t know until they were married, and if they married you could hardly tell, considering public displays of affection were frowned upon.
That’s not to say he hadn’t liked people before, quite a few in fact, but they had never turned to anything more. He speculates his brother may have those types of feelings towards someone. Or at least, is beginning to. Lan Xichen suspects he knows who as well. He begins debating whether he should ask Lan Wangji directly or wait for his brother to tell him himself. Before he has the chance to decide, Lan Wangji surprises him with another question.
“Do you believe in love at first sight?”
Lan Xichen almost chokes on air itself. “Uhm. Do you?”
“...I do not know.”
Clearing his throat yet again, Lan Xichen thinks it over quickly. “Well... I suppose there is attraction at first sight.”
Lan Wangji is silent. Clearly that wasn’t a good enough answer.
“Hm.” Lan Xichen continues slowly. “Maybe, maybe one may feel the potential for love the first time they see someone. Love- is a bit complex I would say. One may presumably not feel outright love for someone the first time they meet or see each other, but may feel like that person could be someone they will come to love. And, maybe attraction is part of that, but maybe fate has its part.”
“Like… soulmates?” Lan Wangji ponders, eyes a little wider, face a little more vulnerable.
“Yes, I guess it would be similar to soulmates.”
Lan Wangji nods in understanding. Coming to a halt, Lan Xichen holds out an arm to stop his brother.
“Wangji,” He says gently, turning to him. “Why do you ask these questions?”
Averting his eyes from his brother's face to the forest floor beneath them, Lan Wangji takes a short inhale of breath.
“I was curious.” He exhales.
With a soft smile towards his brother, Lan Xichen tips his head in concession. He continues to stroll the forest path. Lan Wangji falls into step beside him.
Lying is prohibited in the Lan Sect, but speaking around the truth is not. If Lan Wangji did not wish to tell his brother why he was asking him such questions, Lan Xichen would not push him to. If it is important, in time Lan Wangji will tell him. He always did.