Wei Wuxian woke gasping for breath. When his eyes finally focused in the dark of the too-early morning, he realized it was because two heavy children were sitting on his chest.
“Wake up, Xian-Gege!” A-Yuan leaned over to shout right in his ear.
“Curse you, GusuLan sleeping schedule,” Wei Wuxian groaned. He tried to flip over, but the kids wouldn’t let him.
Jingyi bounced on his stomach. “Xian-Gege, you’re going to be late for your wedding!”
“No shouting in the Cloud Recesses,” Wei Wuxian said.
“We’re not in the Cloud Recesses!” Lan Jingyi said cheerfully.
“Then why did you two wake up so early?” Wei Wuxian said, squinting at them as he propped himself up on his elbows. “Get off, you’re so heavy,” he said. “My waist…”
A-Yuan and Lan Jingyi obediently scrambled back off of him and Wei Wuxian sighed as he sat up, giving up on sleep because apparently these GusuLan children already had that eerily accurate GusuLan internal clock set, and if they weren’t asleep, Wei Wuxian clearly wasn’t going to be able to sleep either.
“My last morning sleeping in and you two wake me like this.” Wei Wuxian gave an exaggerated sigh and pout.
“But Xian-Gege is marrying Lan Er-Gege today!” A-Yuan looked effervescent at the idea, beaming at him.
“Right I’m marrying…” The realization sank in as he came fully awake. “I’m marrying Lan Er-Gege. I’m marrying Lan Zhan today! ” Wei Wuxian threw back the blankets and scrambled out of bed. “All right, kids, let’s get breakfast and start getting ready!”
Marriage customs technically started the moment Lan Wangji proposed and Wei Wuxian accepted. There was the tedious process of choosing the most auspicious date for them, all the gifts Lan Wangji had to choose for him, gifts their families had to exchange, tea pouring ceremonies, so on and so forth. And those were just the traditional wedding rites that didn’t include the sect marriage traditions. Each clan had their own customs, and GusuLan wouldn’t be GusuLan if they didn’t have twice as many as everyone else. Though there were enough rules to make his head spin, Wei Wuxian had gone through them all, in part because he got to marry Lan Wangji, and in part because he really did want to bring honor to his husband’s clan—if it took following all of these rules, then he was happy to suffer through them.
Of course in Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji’s case, they were both men and so it had gotten a bit confusing. Cutsleeves, while not uncommon, were never married into family since a cutsleeve marriage could never produce legitimate heirs, which was always a clan’s primary concern. The first time around, the reason the Lan clan had agreed to the terms of their arranged marriage was because Lan Wangji was the second-born and therefore it wasn’t so critical that he have heirs unlike Lan Xichen. Even then, there had been quite a bit of protest amongst the elders.
“Why did they agree to you marrying me in that case?” Wei Wuxian asked when they’d been talking about it one day when Lan Wangji was visiting. “I know they agreed to let me into the clan to keep a leash on the terrible Yiling Patriarch, and it’s not that I’m not happy that it ended up being you, but any random GusuLan disciple could have married me and it would have served the purpose.”
He heard a sharp inhale of breath and Lan Wangji’s hand, which had up until then, been wrapped loosely and gently around his own, tightened.
Wei Wuxian had said it absently—just a simple question he’d been curious about—but when he looked at Lan Wangji’s face, he began to grin. “It couldn’t be you were jealous?”
Lan Wangji’s brow had furrowed into a small frown.
Wei Wuxian waved a finger from his free hand at Lan Wangji, and he felt the grip around his other hand tightened. “Lan Zhan, Lan Er-Gege, I can’t believe the great Hanguang-Jun can still drink vinegar,” he said, delighted.
“Wei Ying…” Lan Wangji said.
Wei Wuxian laughed. “Is that really the reason? Second Master Lan wouldn’t let anyone else marry me even if it was an arranged marriage?” He leaned over to prop his head up on Lan Wangji’s shoulder, smiling at him. “Jiang Cheng told me you didn’t want to marry me at first, though. He said it took awhile for you to agree to even marry me. If you already liked me so much back then, why didn’t you want to marry me?”
“I wanted you to be happy,” Lan Wangji said seriously, threading their fingers together as he met his gaze. “I wanted you to marry for love, and back then, you—”
“I loved you,” Wei Wuxian interrupted before he could finish that sentence. “I’ve always loved you, Lan Zhan—even if I wasn’t aware of it yet, I think since we met, I was always destined to fall for you. I always wanted to marry you. It can’t be anyone but you.” Thinking back now, Wei Wuxian had been excited, in his own way, to get married to Lan Wangji though he’d passed it off as mischief—he wanted to see how the uptight Hanguang-Jun would react to seeing Wei Wuxian in makeup and a veil, how he’d behave seeing Wei Wuxian’s things strewn about the Jingshi, how he’d be in the marriage bed. Of course, Lan Wangji had given Wei Wuxian barely a response back then, living up to both his reputation of being a gentleman while foiling Wei Wuxian’s mischief.
Wei Wuxian wondered, if he had been made to marry anyone else, if he would have reacted so calmly, if he would have been able to adapt so quickly. But with all the things that had happened after, he knew that despite misreading all of Lan Wangji’s attempts to help him, things had only hurt so bad because he wanted his husband to support him, to stand on his side. If it had been someone he didn’t care about, their opinion wouldn’t have mattered so much. It was only because it was Lan Wangji, that it did.
Lan Wangji leaned forward to kiss Wei Wuxian once on his forehead, and then his nose, and when Wei Wuxian whined, finally his mouth.
If it had been anyone else, Wei Wuxian didn’t know if he’d take being put in the position of the bride as well either. Since the circumstances of their first arranged marriage were so particular, he had to marry into the Lan household instead of taking a wife into the Jiang clan. This time around, the circumstances were different, but since Wei Wuxian fully intended to stay in the Cloud Recesses with Lan Wangji, for all practical purposes, he was still marrying into the Lan clan.
Thankfully, since Wei Wuxian was a man, there were certain concessions given to him.
For example, his wedding clothes. Traditional bridal robes were incredibly ornate, commissioned years in advance sometimes, and the wealthier a clan, the more they were expected to do. Jiang Yanli’s bridal robes had been something else to behold, gold and red, so ornate that she could hardly walk beneath all the fabric and embroidery. While Wei Wuxian enjoyed beauty as much as any other man—heavens knew the moment he set eyes on Lan Wangji, he’d been caught—he much preferred robes he could move around in, the more comfortable the better. But after they had rescued the Jin family, Madam Jin had insisted on shouldering the cost of commissioning the couple’s clothes for the event. There had been one heated debate about the styles they would wear, which Wei Wuxian had won. So in the end, he and Lan Wangji would both be dressed in the male fashion, though he was pretty sure they had embellished the designs on his robes since there was far more ornamentation and embroidery and beading than he was pretty sure went on an average groom’s robes. Of course, coming from the Jin clan, that could also simply be what the peacocks preferred.
When he’d first been fitted for the robes some weeks ago, he’d decided to bear with the ostentatiousness if it meant he’d look beautiful for Lan Wangji. Now that he was trying to put them on himself, he regretted ever letting the Jin clan design these robes.
“How the hell is this supposed to go on?” Jiang Cheng groaned, waving a piece of fabric at Wei Wuxian who was busy trying to tie on a waist-piece correctly.
“Do I look like a clothing expert?” Wei Wuxian answered. “Anyway help me with this first— why did you agree to let Jin Zixuan commission these? You know that dumb peacock has the worst taste in everything except Shijie! This is going to take forever for Lan Wangji to get me out of.”
“I hope so,” Jiang Cheng muttered, tugging at Wei Wuxian’s waist to tighten the piece there. “This isn’t working, I’m calling A-Jie,” he said.
“A-Jie! Help!” Jiang Cheng called.
Jiang Yanli came out from the other side of the dressing divider, trailed by A-Yuan and Lan Jingyi whom she’d been dressing on the other side while Wei Wuxian was getting ready. Jiang Yanli had already been asleep by the time Wei Wuxian returned last night, but she had already been awake and had immediately sent him into a heated bath while she offered to watch the children.
She was, of course, already dressed in ornate golden robes as befitting her station now, and glowed. It had been a few months now since she found out she was with child, and though it was hard to tell beneath all the robes, Wei Wuxian was sure he could see the bump of his future nephew.
She was struggling with a heavy lacquered box, and Jiang Cheng let go of Wei Wuxian to help her bring it to a table already littered with pieces of clothing.
“A-Xian, come here,” Jiang Yanli said once her hands were free.
Wei Wuxian pouted and came to her, holding out the pieces of his robes, smiling as she took them from him.
“A-Yuan, A-Yi, come help hold these.” Jiang Yanli handed off different pieces of Wei Wuxian’s clothes to the children to hold and began helping him put on one piece at a time. The kids had already been dressed in little red robes, more color than Wei Wuxian had ever seen either of them wear, and Lan Jingyi had already acquired a stain on one sleeve.
Wei Wuxian turned when she directed him, until slowly the outfit was assembled. “Am I done?” He asked once the last of the robes were on and tried to go to the mirror to take a look.
“Not yet. Sit, A-Xian,” Jiang Yanli said, seating him on a chair as she gestured for Jiang Cheng to bring the box.
When she opened it, Wei Wuxian’s eyes widened. Inside was an ornate headdress with matching jewelry, made entirely of gold and precious jewels so brilliant the entire thing seemed to cast light in the room when she opened it.
“The rest of your gift from the Jin clan,” Jiang Yanli said, smiling as she began running a brush through Wei Wuxian’s hair. Her touch was gentle, working out any tangles until the brush glided smoothly.
But while the jewelry was beautiful and clearly expensive, designed to show off wealth and the importance of the one wearing it, Wei Wuxian hesitated.
“Shijie, I’m really thankful for this, but…”
“It doesn’t suit your taste?” Jiang Yanli smiled. “I did tell Zixuan it’s a bit much.”
Wei Wuxian began shaking his head and stopped again when he felt the brush tug. “No, it’s just that Lan Zhan gave me this…” He reached for the hairpin Lan Wangji had given him the day before, almost lost on the table beneath all the other things strewn there. “I thought, I thought he’d like to see me wear it.”
Jiang Yanli paused in her brushing to take the pin from him, turning it in her hand. “Second Master Lan gave this to you?” she asked.
Wei Wuxian nodded. “He had it made for me. He said it was made by the same artisans who made the one we gave to you.” He glanced up at the lotus-shaped pin in Jiang Yanli’s hair.
“He commissioned this for you?” Jiang Yanli repeated, eyes widening. “His own design?”
Wei Wuxian nodded again.
“Oh A-Xian,” Jiang Yanli sighed, a soft smile coming over her face. “Second Master Lan really does treasure you.”
The sudden, blunt statement even said in as gentle a tone as Jiang Yanli made Wei Wuxian began to blush, feeling his whole face heat up. “I-It’s just a hairpin,” he said.
Jiang Yanli held it out in front of him, turning it so he could see the flower there. Wei Wuxian could already tell the quality of it when he’d worn it the day before, but now seeing it again up close, Lan Wangji had truly chosen a brilliant craftsman to fashion it so the gentian bloom looked almost real, the jade pieces cut so finely that they were nearly translucent and designed so that no matter which direction it was turned, it caught the light by some angle.
Jiang Yanli smiled. “I know you know the language of flowers, A-Xian,” she said gently as she handed it to him and began pinning up his hair. “Didn’t you gift Second Master Lan peonies before?”
Wei Wuxian could feel the blush spreading across his face as he twirled the pin in his hand, trying to distract himself. “That wasn’t—I just—he looks nice, doesn’t he? Why can’t I admire him?” Educated in the Six Arts, of course Wei Wuxian knew peonies were the king of all flowers, bringing good luck, prosperity, and, he remembered, a happy marriage. He’d drawn it for Lan Wangji before, gifted it to him twice, but back then, he could never have predicted actually marrying Lan Wangji. The last time Wei Wuxian had given one to him was shortly before Wei Wuxian had found Wen Qing, saved Wen Ning, when he’d been surprised Lan Wangji even came up the stairs of that inn to speak to him. That time, the only meaning of the peony that had stuck in his mind was that of a reluctant parting.
The gentian, he’d simply thought of as the flower surrounding that little cottage in the Cloud Recesses. One that Lan Wangji probably associated with sadness—of the last time he’d seen his mother, of the last time he’d left Wei Wuxian. But with Jiang Yanli’s reminder, the true meaning of this flower came back to him. The gentian symbolized passion and charm, but most importantly…
“Intrinsic worth,” Jiang Yanli said, smiling as she bent to twist the gentian into Wei Wuxian’s hair. “That’s what your husband sees in you.”
“Shijie…” Wei Wuxian felt his throat locking up as he wondered if Lan Wangji had chosen this flower for him knowing exactly what it symbolized, but then, this was Lan Zhan, of course he knew.
Even back then, the first time Lan Wangji had put that flower in his hair, he’d said, “It suits you.”
Wei Wuxian blinked back the wetness from his eyes, suddenly wanting, more than anything, to see Lan Wangji’s face. He wanted to say thank you for seeing him, for caring for him, for loving him through all the circumstances of Wei Wuxian’s life, that regardless of who Wei Wuxian was, even when the world was turning against him, Lan Wangji was willing to protect him, to stand by him, to support him because he saw who Wei Wuxian was at his very core.
“He’s right, you know,” Jiang Yanli said, putting the finishing touches to his hair. She cupped his face and smiled. “You’re beautiful, A-Xian,” she said, and helped him stand to face the mirror.
Wei Wuxian was surprised to see the person he saw staring back at him in the glass. Unlike his first wedding where a bit of rouge was the most ornamentation he’d had, the man looking back at him now truly looked fit to be wed to the prestigious Second Jade of Lan. He was dressed head to toe in rich, red fabric with gold threads patterning the layers. The pieces cinched around his waist accentuated a slender figure, and the folds and lengths of the robes made him look both taller and softer than usual. The gold embroidery shone with light, making him seem almost to glow. The gentian hairpin, Jiang Yanli had worked into his hair, giving that flash of color in tresses of black, so that despite the rest of his outfit, he still looked like himself—like a better, happier, more content version of himself the way he felt when he was around Lan Wangji.
Despite having technically already been married, the months of engagement now, enough bridal gifts to fill YunmengJiang’s storehouses, it wasn’t until now that he looked in the mirror, seeing himself dressed for his own wedding, that it fully hit Wei Wuxian. By tonight, he would really be married.
“Xian-Gege is so pretty!” A-Yuan shouted, running straight into Wei Wuxian’s legs.
Wei Wuxian smiled, watching his reflection change in the mirror, and then the smile grew to his regular grin as he bent, making sure not to mess up his hair or his clothes as he patted A-Yuan on the head.
“A-Yuan, be gentle with Xian-Gege today,” Jiang Yanli said. “You want his wedding robes to look perfect for Lan Er-Gege, don’t you?” she said.
“Mm!” A-Yuan nodded enthusiastically but let go of Wei Wuxian, looking up at him with a look of awe in his eyes.
Wei Wuxian grinned. “A-Yuan, can you fetch my veil?” he asked, gesturing to the piece of red cloth that had been draped on a spare chair.
A-Yuan trotted over and brought it back, and Wei Wuxian unfolded it. Although it wasn’t nearly the quality of everything else he was wearing that had been specially commissioned by YunmengJiang and GusuLan and LanlingJin, and was just a slightly more expensive piece of cloth, it was one that Lan Wangji had won for him at that ring toss game so many months ago, a gift for him that the young stallkeeper had praised for being a beautiful wedding veil.
As soon as Jiang Cheng saw the cloth, he groaned. “You’re not actually a bride, you idiot, are you trying to lose all face for Hanguang-Jun?” he said.
Wei Wuxian stuck his tongue out at him. “Weren’t you the one who said I am technically the bride?” he pointed out. It had been a particularly stupid debate he’d gotten in with Jiang Cheng some months ago when YunmengJiang and GusuLan delegates had come together to plan the wedding details were originally being settled of exactly what the procedure ought to be for it to ensure a prosperous marriage. Wei Wuxian had every intention of staying in the Cloud Recesses with Lan Wangji, but with the GusuLan rules, it had been another hot topic about what the banquet would be like. When Lan Qiren said they would observe all rules, and they would hold the wedding banquet like all their other banquets—quiet and dignified, Wei Wuxian had brought up having the banquet at Lotus Pier instead, maybe even sending their wedding night there if they were too drunk to fly up to the Cloud Recesses that night.
Jiang Cheng had been staunchly against that idea and insisted that since Wei Wuxian was marrying into the Lan family, he was the bride and therefore the wedding and all festivities had to be held at the Cloud Recesses.
“I give it an hour before Lan Wangji gets too embarrassed to deal with you and kicks you out again,” Jiang Cheng said. “You’re going to be the first ‘bride’ to ever get divorced before even making it to the marriage bed.”
“Hah, you’re underestimating how much Lan Zhan wants to get me in bed,” Wei Wuxian said proudly. “If not for you—”
“You shut up, Wei Wuxian!” Jiang Cheng turned a brilliant shade of red.
Wei Wuxian grinned and held out the cloth to Jiang Yanli. “Shijie, can you put it on for me?” he requested.
Jiang Yanli laughed and took the cloth from him, carefully draping it over his head so it hung over his face.
“You know this means you won’t get to be unveiled until after the wedding, right? Not at the banquet,” Jiang Cheng said.
“It’s not a completely traditional wedding anyway,” Wei Wuxian said. “I’m not actually a bride—”
“You just said—”
“I just want to surprise Lan Zhan, but not even Uncle is going to stop me from having fun at my wedding banquet,” Wei Wuxian said, and smiled, touching the veil. “He won this for me—when else am I going to wear it for him?”
“You—”Jiang Cheng looked like he wanted to knock the veil off of Wei Wuxian but at the last minute, he sighed loudly and rolled his eyes. “You’re Lan Wangji’s problem now. God knows why he wants you.”
Wei Wuxian waggled his eyebrows. “I’m great at—”
“You shut up! Don’t be disgusting in front of A-Jie!” Jiang Cheng shouted.
“I was just going to say I’m great at cooking,” Wei Wuxian said with a fake pout.
Jiang Cheng let out an offensively skeptical snort.
While the cloth was actually too thin to be a proper veil, the type that should be made of the finest red silk, draping over a bride’s entire head so that no one could see her until her husband on their wedding night, Wei Wuxian was not a woman and he really only wanted to wear this veil first, because Lan Wangji had given it to him, and second, to see Lan Wangji’s face when he saw Wei Wuxian dressed like this. So all things considered, he was quite glad that it was thin enough for him to be able to see through even if it tinted the whole world pink.
“I bet you get banned within a month if you try to cook at the Cloud Recesses kitchens,” Jiang Cheng said.
“You’re on,” Wei Wuxian answered. “Lan Zhan won’t let them ban me from anything,” he said proudly.
“You two disgust me,” Jiang Cheng said.
Wei Wuxian beamed at him. “And it’s all thanks to you, dear shidi,” he said. “If it weren’t for you, I probably wouldn’t have married Lan Wangji for another thirteen years.”
“If you’re grateful, stop being disgusting and hurry it up. You’re going to be late to your own wedding,” Jiang Cheng grumbled.
Wei Wuxian jolted up, his veil fluttering as he did. “Is he already ready?” he asked, heart speeding up.
“Who? Lan Wangji?” Jiang Cheng asked. “Did you forget when the GusuLan waking time is? He’s been ready for awhile now. Do you know how long it took your kids to wake you up? I didn’t even have to come up with any gate crashing obstacles for him—you’re doing well enough yourself.”
Wei Wuxian stumbled upright. Traditionally, the groom would pick up the bride at her house though he’d usually encounter a series of obstacles he had to pass before getting to her. In their particular case, Wei Wuxian was pretty sure he and Lan Wangji had dealt with more than enough obstacles by now. “You’re just scared Lan Wangji will kill you if you try to stand between us.”
“I’m scared I’ll throw up if I see you two gush all over each other any more than you already do,” Jiang Cheng answered. “It figures the only time you’ll hurry is for Second Master Lan.”
“A-Cheng, be nice,” Jiang Yanli said, smiling. “A-Xian is just excited to see his husband.”
As Wei Wuxian did his best to hurry to the Ancestral Hall without tripping over his long robes, he felt his heart speed up at the thought of seeing Lan Wangji. Soon, he thought. Soon they would be together forever.
As he turned a corner, Wei Wuxian could see two figures dressed all in red waiting at the entrance of the Ancestral Hall, and he felt his breath quicken, wishing he could run but too heavy beneath all the robes to move quickly. Even so, as though sensing his presence, one of the men in red robes turned.
With the scent of lotuses from all around Lotus Pier washing over him, Wei Wuxian felt his breath stolen away.
This was the first time in his life he had ever seen Lan Wangji wear anything other than his all white outfit, Wei Wuxian thought faintly as he stared at him through the gauze of the veil—his husband, waiting for him just outside the Ancestral Hall, blindingly handsome in the same red and gold as Wei Wuxian’s own robes but arranged so neatly, not a fold out of place, that it made Wei Wuxian a bit self-conscious and wondering if he should have taken a few more moments to make sure his own robes were straight.
Lan Wangji’s face was, as always, composed. If Wei Wuxian had been hoping for more of a reaction, he didn’t get one just like the first time they had been married and he’d showed up in rouge.
Lan Wangji held out a hand to him.
When Wei Wuxian put his own hand in Lan Wangji’s, he felt Lan Wangji’s fingers close around his own, firm and secure, like this was where Wei Wuxian’s hand belonged. His grip, though, was just slightly damp and warmer than usual—beneath that perfect exterior, Lan Wangji was excited and nervous too.
“You’re wearing the veil,” Lan Wangji said.
Wei Wuxian grinned. “Didn’t you win it for me to see me in it?”
“Wish I could see your face,” Lan Wangji murmured and his grip tightened a little—not exactly the shocked reaction Wei Wuxian had hoped for, but a better one, one that was entirely Lan Wangji.
Wei Wuxian laughed. “Soon, Lan Er-Gege,” he said, squeezing Lan Wangji’s fingers.
“Good morning, Young Master Wei,” Lan Xichen said, smiling at him from beside Lan Wangji before exchanging the proper greetings with Jiang Cheng and Jiang Yanli.
“You look well, Zewu-Jun,” Wei Wuxian said.
At least, Lan Xichen looked better than the last time Wei Wuxian had seen him several months ago when they’d begun discussing wedding preparations. Lan Wangji had privately told him that the only reason Lan Xichen hadn’t gone into seclusion was probably because they were getting married. Wei Wuxian knew how close the two brothers were, and he was privately glad that because of them, Lan Xichen could throw himself into something other than dwelling on all the things that had happened at Koi Tower. Though Wei Wuxian hadn’t seen him often in the past few months, Lan Wangji said that his brother had more or less appointed himself in charge of arranging the wedding banquet, and the work seemed to be helping him.
“A-Li, are you—oh, you’re all here.” Jin Zixuan said, coming out from inside the Ancestral Hall. He gave Wei Wuxian a disgruntled glance. “A veil? Really?” he said as he crossed over to give Jiang Yanli his arm in support.
“That’s what I said,” Jiang Cheng said, and gestured them all to go inside. “Come on then, let’s get this over with.”
As Jiang Fengmian and Yu Ziyuan had passed away, the tea ceremony would take place in the Ancestral Hall. The tea itself had already been prepared on a tray set on the ground before the altar of his adoptive parents. As the others took seats by the sides, Wei Wuxian knelt beside Lan Wangji who prepared the tea, carefully pouring out two cups with that elegance he always possessed.
Then Lan Wangji approached the altar and put one of the cups before Jiang Fengmian’s memorial, and the other before Yu Ziyuan’s. They had knelt here a few months ago when Lan Wangji had asked for Wei Wuxian’s hand in marriage properly. And now, as Wei Wuxian watched him fulfill his filial duty to his parents, he couldn’t help that wave of fondness he felt as he watched.
“Father,” Lan Wangji said to Uncle Jiang’s tablet. “Mother,” he said to Madam Yu’s tablet, greeting them properly. If they had still been alive, if they had still been here, Wei Wuxian could imagine the gentle smile Uncle Jiang always wore, the way he would pat Lan Wangji on the head though they were adults now, and tell him to quickly get up. He imagined Madam Yu would be relieved to be rid of Wei Wuxian, but how she would approve of Lan Wangji, the perfect example of a young cultivator with such discipline and stature that neither Wei Wuxian nor Jiang Cheng possessed, and the imperial nod she would give him.
Thank you, Wei Wuxian thought, sending the prayer up to the heavens and hoping they would hear him. Thank you for raising me, for giving me this family, for letting me meet Lan Wangji in this lifetime.
Lan Wangji carefully knelt again and together with Wei Wuxian, they bowed to Uncle Jiang and Madam Yu.
After that, Lan Wangji continued the ceremony, serving tea to first Jiang Cheng as both Wei Wuxian’s brother and sect leader, and then to Jiang Yanli and Jin Zixuan as Wei Wuxian’s sister and brother-in-law. This type of ceremony could sometimes take awhile, but as Wei Wuxian didn’t have much family left, it concluded shortly.
When they rose again, Wei Wuxian took one last look around the Ancestral Hall, at the tablets of his parents, and at the rest of Lotus Pier outside. The next time he saw this place, he would be a married man who belonged to the Lan clan.
Lan Wangji offered Wei Wuxian his arm again and Wei Wuxian took a deep breath, taking it, as Lan Wangji led him outside again and this time toward a red wedding palanquin.
Wei Wuxian hadn’t been paying attention to exactly when Nie Huaisang had come in, but as they left the Ancestral Hall, he hurried in front of them, telling the QingheNie cultivators to hurry and prepare.
“This is going to be the longest I’ve ever flown on a sword,” Nie Huaisang said and then brightened when he saw Jiang Yanli. “Jiang-Jie,” he whined. “How big is your sedan? Do you think I could keep you company? It’ll be such a long trip there.”
Jiang Yanli laughed. “Oh Huaisang, I’m already taking A-Yuan, A-Yi, and Wen Ning since they can’t fly—”
“Then one more won’t make a difference,” Nie Huaisang said.
“Did you hear her? I should have ordered a second sedan just for those three—A-Li needs space!” Jin Zixuan interrupted. “Hurry and go get ready,” he said. “If you dare try to get on A-Li’s sedan, I’ll tell Mingjue-Xiong.”
“You’re heartless,” Nie Huaisang complained. “Then what about Wei-Xiong?” he asked hopefully.
“ He can’t fly either,” Jiang Cheng said as Jiang Yanli called for the children to come with her.
As for the truth about Wei Wuxian’s golden core, the true reasons he’d turned to demonic cultivation, and this new type of dual cultivation he and Lan Wangji had invented—it had all come out a mundane evening not long after he moved back to Lotus Pier. Wei Wuxian had never intended to tell Jiang Cheng the truth, but after he moved back to Lotus Pier, there had been another argument about whether or not Jiang Cheng was going to play ZhanYing for him—Lan Wangji insisted someone had to regularly, whereas Wei Wuxian insisted he’d just wait until Lan Wangji visited him on weekends.
He’d won that argument by promising not to cultivate much usually—an argument made more convincing since it meant Lan Wangji had to visit him weekly.
Unfortunately, it had raised enough questions for Jiang Cheng about why he had to listen to this composition. Still, Jiang Cheng might not have figured it out if it hadn’t been for Jiang Yanli coming to visit one weekend, both to help him with his wedding planning, and also to announce she was with child.
Wei Wuxian had been ecstatic for his sister and eager to share the news with Lan Wangji who would be arriving later that night, and somehow or other the truth had slipped out in between good food and good drink. He’d only said something offhanded about how he’d never have thought a year ago that Lan Wangji would be both the man who saved his life and also the one he fell in love with.
And before he knew it, his siblings were grilling him like he was a war criminal. While Wei Wuxian could have withstood Jiang Cheng and probably made enough lewd jokes to send him stomping away like he had all the times before, in the face of Jiang YaLi, he was defenseless. By the time the entire story had come out, Jiang Yanli had gone sheet white and Jiang Cheng kept starting sentences only to end up cursing instead.
“It’s really not a big deal,” Wei Wuxian said quickly. “It all worked out, and thanks to Lan Zhan, I can cultivate—”
His words were cut off when Jiang Yanli stood, trembling, and burst into tears.
“C-Calm down, Shijie, your baby—”
“You—you almost died ,” Jiang Yanli sobbed.
Wei Wuxian panicked. “Shijie, it’s really okay,” he said. “Since I had Lan Zhan, he would never let me die. See? Everything worked out. All of that’s in the past,” he said whatever came to mind, anything to get her to calm down as he hugged her, patted her on the back, and handed her a handkerchief. “Jiang Cheng, help me,” he turned to hiss at his brother, only to see Jiang Cheng’s entire face scrunched up in the ugliest expression.
“Don’t you dare cry too, Jiang Cheng!” Wei Wuxian shouted.
“Shut the fuck up, Wei Wuxian!” Jiang Cheng cried. “Who asked you to give me your golden core?”
“I told you, it’s not a big deal,” Wei Wuxian said. “If Uncle Jiang and Madam Yu hadn’t taken me in, I wouldn’t have had a golden core to begin with,” he tried to reason. “Remember? I promised your mom I’d protect you.”
“Who the hell asked you?” Jiang Cheng sobbed.
More panicked, Wei Wuxian tried to steer the conversation away. “It worked out anyway—if you’re the one who didn’t have a golden core, it’s not like you’d fall in love with Lan Wangji and he’d compose you a song.”
“I’d compose my own song!” Jiang Cheng cried.
“You hate music!” Wei Wuxian said and then sighed, patting Jiang Yanli more on the back. “You’re making Shijie upset,” he tried.
“ You’re making A-Jie upset!” Jiang Cheng shouted. “I never asked you—I could have lived without a golden core! I knew that when I let the Wen dogs caught me!”
Wei Wuxian froze with Jiang Yanli still in his arms. “‘What do you mean when you let the Wen dogs catch you?”
“Nothing,” Jiang Cheng said, his voice stuffed as he snatched the handkerchief from Wei Wuxian to wipe his face.
But there was only one time Jiang Cheng’s accidental confession made sense. “You let yourself be caught to—what? Distract them?” Wei Wuxian asked as he recalled that day when he’d gone out to find something to eat. Jiang Cheng had been all but catatonic since his parents had died, and it was only because Wei Wuxian had to protect Jiang Cheng and find Jiang Yanli, that he’d had the willpower to stay calm himself. Still, Wei Wuxian was exhausted, and he hadn’t noticed the Wen cultivators coming close to him until he was sure they’d seen him—only for a commotion to draw them away. “You let yourself be caught so they wouldn’t catch me,” he said.
“I didn’t,” Jiang Cheng said, but he wouldn’t meet Wei Wuxian’s eyes either.
Wei Wuxian wasn’t sure how to react as the realization sank in.
Only for Jiang Yanli to react first as she reached over and pulled Jiang Cheng in for a hug too. “A-Cheng, A-Xian, I should have protected you both better. I’m sorry.”
“It wasn’t your fault, Shijie,” Wei Wuxian said quickly. “I’m the one who’s sorry.”
“ I’m sorry,” Jiang Cheng said.
Jiang Yanli lifted her head to smile through her tears, touching Wei Wuxian’s cheek with one hand, and Jiang Cheng’s with the other. “Thank you,” she said to each one of them, her thumb stroking gently at Wei Wuxian’s cheek. “Thank you,” she said, “For being my family.”
Long story short, when he’d arrived some time later, Lan Wangji had walked in on the three of them all hugging and crying, and been shocked frozen when first Jiang Yanli, and then Jiang Cheng got on their knees to bow to him in thanks.
Thankfully, after that incident, life had gone on. Neither he nor Jiang Cheng brought it up much to both their comfort, except at times like this, apparently.
“Have some shame will you?” Jiang Cheng said to Nie Huaisang who sighed as he shook his head at Wei Wuxian.
“If we weren’t friends, Wei-Xiong,” he said.
Wei Wuxian laughed.
The distance from Lotus Pier to the Cloud Recesses was significant, and a wedding palanquin carried on foot would take days to arrive. Since flying by sword was the fastest way to travel, the Nie clan had provided Wei Wuxian a special palanquin, apparently one of their sect treasures that had been fashioned from a very light wood and the same type of metal as spiritual swords. Since Wei Wuxian wasn’t able to fly on a spiritual sword, this particular gift had been well-received. Draped in ornate, heavy red cloth to keep out the weather, Lan Wangji opened one of the flaps of cloth and then helped Wei Wuxian get in, being careful not to jostle his veil as he stepped inside.
“See you soon,” Wei Wuxian said as he sat down.
Lan Wangji lingered and Wei Wuxian grinned, waving a hand at him to hurry. “You better hurry, Lan Zhan. Your uncle won’t be pleased if we’re late. You’ll see me again soon enough.”
Lan Wangji grabbed the hand Wei Wuxian was waving. He appeared to be thinking about something, and after a moment, he raised Wei Wuxian’s hand suddenly to his lips and pressed a kiss there.
Wei Wuxian was glad he was wearing the veil because his entire face turned hot. He wanted to bury his face because he could not stand looking at Lan Wangji’s earnest expression even through the veil. “Lan Zhan, you—give me some face,” he whined.
“Rest now,” Lan Wangji said. “See you soon, Wei Ying.” And with one last squeeze of his hand, he disappeared back behind the curtain again.
Before Wei Wuxian had recovered, he felt a small jolt, and the carriage lifted off.
Lan Wangji really had gotten good at reading him, Wei Wuxian thought as they began the journey. Despite the excitement of his own wedding, he had been forced up at a far earlier hour than he was used to, and with nothing to entertain him for the long hours spent flying, he dozed off in the sedan. It wasn’t until he felt the palanquin jolt that he came awake and quickly touched his face, making sure he hadn’t messed up his hair or accidentally drooled.
When he lifted the curtain, ready to step out, Lan Wangji was reaching for it as well, and Wei Wuxian beamed at him.
“Did you rest?” Lan Wangji asked, blocking Wei Wuxian’s way.
“Took a nap,” Wei Wuxian said cheerfully. “Move over, Lan Zhan, how am I supposed to come down with you—”
He felt the world suddenly tilt, his veil fluttering and forcing him to grab it to keep it from flying off, when Lan Wangji’s arms tipped him, one behind his knees and the other around his shoulders. He was being lifted out of the sedan like he weighed nothing at all.
“Lan Zhan!” Wei Wuxian hissed. “You—you don’t have to carry me inside.” He was a grown man, after all, and though it was tradition for the groom to carry the bride inside to avoid evil spirits, Wei Wuxian was pretty sure he himself was as evil of a spirit as the cultivation world had experienced.
Lan Wangji carried him inside the gates anyway, refusing to put him down until they had crossed the threshold before setting Wei Wuxian lightly back down on his feet.
And the first thing he heard was, shockingly, the crackle and snapping bang of thousands of firecrackers going off. Wei Wuxian, who had been busy making sure his veil and robes were in place, was so surprised that he backed up a few steps, steadied only by Lan Wangji’s hand on his waist. It was the most noise he had ever heard in even Yunmeng where firecrackers were set off every New Year’s. It was far more noise than the Cloud Recesses had probably experienced ever.
Even more shockingly was the thunderous applause he could hear only after firecrackers died away.
Lan Wangji was there, steadying him, and through the red veil and the haze of smoke from the firecrackers, Wei Wuxian could see the Cloud Recesses more full of people than he had ever seen it before. People in GusuLan white, in YunmengJiang purple, in LanlingJin gold, in QingheNie green, of course, but also those dressed in the colors of smaller sects, people who Lan Wangji had helped in the past, people he’d helped, all those who had come to honor them. Each one of them was clapping, smiles on their faces, as they greeted them.
Wei Wuxian thought, in a daze, there might even be more people here than at his shijie’s wedding. Could the Cloud Recesses even fit this many people?
A red carpet laid the path sprinkled with red flower petals led toward the Ancestral Hall. He remembered it mostly as the place he’d taken a beating that time he’d pulled Lan Wangji out of the walls with him, and then the place he’d been forced to kneel and reflect the time he’d punched Jin Zixuan.
As Wei Wuxian walked, though, it was an entirely different Cloud Recesses greeting him. The Lan residence had always been known to be elegant in its simplicity, decorated minimalistically so that even flowers were rarely seen apart from the Gentian Cottage and the occasional magnolia tree. But now, it was draped in festive red. Red lanterns hung from every building Wei Wuxian set eyes on, red ribbons and charms hung from the walls, draped artistically in that elegant way that GusuLan seemed to be known for. The white walkways had been covered in red cloth though Wei Wuxian could hear the crunch of pebbles beneath their feet muffled by the cloth.
If Koi Tower had been flamboyant in its decor to celebrate the Jin-Jiang wedding, the Cloud Recesses were tastefully elegant but not one person walking through those gates today would think anyone here looked like they were in mourning.
Wei Wuxian wondered vaguely how long it must have taken to decorate the Cloud Recesses this way—to put up this amount of red, and how it was probably giving all the elders strokes to see their home suddenly bleeding with color like this.
And yet as they walked up to the Ancestral Hall, and Lan Wangji guided him inside, Lan Qiren was sitting in one of the seats traditionally to be occupied by Lan Wangji’s father, and he too, was dressed in red.
Wei Wuxian stumbled, eyes wide, grateful when Lan Wangji quickly caught him by the elbow and helped him along. He half wished he hadn’t worn the veil now to make walking a little bit easier, but it was too late to take it back.
Through it, he could see Lan Qiren’s moustache twitch at the sight of him, and he grinned beneath his veil.
As Lan Wangji’s parents had also both passed away, in place of their seats sat Lan Qiren and Lan Xichen. And like Lan Wangji had done to Uncle Jiang and Madam Yu’s tablets, now, Wei Wuxian was the one who served tea to Qingheng-Jun and Madam Lan’s memorial tablets, calling them father and mother, and thanking them for Lan Wangji.
He was the best man Wei Wuxian told them as he bowed. They would be proud of the man he had become, and Wei Wuxian could only work hard to be worthy of him. He would do everything in his power to love him as much as Lan Wangji loved him, to support him as much as Lan Wangji supported him, to make him as happy as Lan Wangji made him.
Then he stood and brought a third cup of tea to serve Lan Qiren.
“Uncle,” Wei Wuxian called him. He remembered the first time he’d called him this his second day in the Cloud Recesses, and the way Lan Qiren had exploded at the joke.
Now, though, Lan Qiren took the cup from Wei Wuxian and gave him a nod. “Nephew,” he said to Wei Wuxian, and that, of all things, lodged a lump in Wei Wuxian’s throat so that he could only wring out a “Brother” when he served to tea to Lan Xichen.
He was thankful that the next part of the ceremony also involved serving tea to each one of the elders of the Lan clan, so that by the time it was finished, he had also recovered control over himself.
Then began a second series of bows. Their first had begun in Lotus Pier with bows to heaven and earth, and then to Uncle Jiang and Madam Yu. Now, they continued with bows to Qingheng-Jun and Madam Lan. They bowed to Lan Xichen and Lan Qiren, to Jiang Cheng and Jiang Yanli, and then to the elders of the Lan sect.
And then it was time to bow to one another.
Wei Wuxian found himself suddenly nervous as he turned to face Lan Wangji. Lan Wangji got down on his knees first and then held a hand out to Wei Wuxian to help him kneel as well. Through this entire morning, he hadn’t really faced Lan Wangji as directly as this, and with this final bow, they would, in the eyes of all those watching now, be married.
Wei Wuxian bowed, hands to the ground, forehead touching it briefly, and as he straightened up, saw Lan Wangji doing the same—once, twice, three times.
When the last bow was complete, Lan Wangji reached his hand out again to help Wei Wuxian stand.
Since he hadn’t actually told anyone he planned to wear a veil, no rod had been prepared for them. Instead, Wei Wuxian held Lan Wangji’s hand up to the veil.
“Take it off, Lan Zhan,” he said softly.
Behind him, he thought he heard Lan Qiren sigh, but Lan Wangji was already reaching for him, pulling the veil up and over his head, a flutter of red in his vision. And then he could fully see his husband before him.
Wei Wuxian drank in the sight of Lan Wangji after that haze of red, his jade-like appearance, his handsome face, delicate features, feeling like he hadn’t seen him clearly in so long. And that was when he noticed it. There, wrapped around Lan Wangji’s forehead was...
“Lan Zhan, is that—I gave you that ribbon!” Wei Wuxian said, too astonished to be proper. It was the ribbon he had chosen that one afternoon when they’d been drifting on a boat in Caiyi Town, and Lan Wangji had ruined Wei Wuxian’s bargaining by paying full price for this ribbon. Back then, he’d started speaking a bunch of nonsense to Lan Wangji as he gave it to him that had started as just a way to get Lan Wangji to accept this gift.
But really, having just found out he was going to die, the only thing on his mind back then, was how to take care of Lan Wangji once he was gone.
“I promised to wear it at my real wedding,” Lan Wangji answered.
The memories came flooding back—Emperor’s Smile turning bitter on his tongue as he’d imagined that wedding for Lan Wangji, handsome in his red robes, beside a bride he loved, wearing this red ribbon…
“You said you wouldn’t marry again,” Wei Wuxian said, reaching up to touch the ribbon. He heard a strangled gasp behind him, but he only had eyes for Lan Wangji.
“You made me promise to marry someone I truly love,” Lan Wangji said, his voice low, just for Wei Wuxian. “I’ve kept that promise now.” A single tear slid down Lan Wangji’s cheek that Wei Wuxian brushed away, a crushing weight on his chest as the full realization of what he had made Lan Wangji promise back then crashed over him.
“I love you too,” Wei Wuxian said, his thumb lingering, brushing at that trail of wetness on Lan Wangji’s cheek.
And then the most miraculous thing happened.
“Lan Zhan,” Wei Wuxian said. “You’re smiling.”
Because he was.
For the first time in his life, Wei Wuxian saw Lan Wangji smile, gentle and joyful and so beautiful he felt like he couldn’t breath. Then to his greater astonishment, Lan Wangji actually gave a quiet, wet laugh, as though he had just realized himself he was smiling, and another tear slid down his cheek, and then another.
“I’m happy,” Lan Wangji said.
Wei Wuxian couldn't help leaning in then, ignoring their audience, to kiss Lan Wangji gently on the mouth once, and then again, more urgently, when he got that tiny huff of a laugh from him again. “I love you, Lan Zhan,” Wei Wuxian said in between the wet kisses. “You’re so good. You’re the best. I love you so much.”
“Wei Wuxian, you’re in public ,” he heard Jiang Cheng hiss. “The wedding isn’t done yet or you can get lost back to your wedding chamber now and skip the whole banquet, less trouble for the rest of us!”
It was only the threat of missing his own wedding banquet that stopped Wei Wuxian from dragging Lan Wangji straight to the Jingshi.
Wei Wuxian pulled back, looking fondly at Lan Wangji one more time, smoothing away a last tear with his thumb before trailing his hand down to straighten a non-existent wrinkle on his lapel. He smiled one more time for Lan Wangji, and then turned to address everyone else. “We’re married!” he declared. “Let’s party!”
With the official baitang ceremony over, the banquet began.
The Banquet Hall at the Cloud Recesses had also been decorated in red, and as Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji were ushered to the head table, the cheers and shouts of congratulations were so loud they made Wei Wuxian’s ears ring. He could see Lan Qiren already seated up front looking like he was just one shout away from making everyone recite rules, but Lan Xichen, next to him was smiling from ear to ear.
As they sat at the head table, Wei Wuxian saw the guqin already placed there in place of any food. Like all major cultivation sects, GusuLan had its own set of traditions. LanlingJin had their hunt, and GusuLan, as the sect known for its musical cultivation, its most important tradition was that the groom was to compose a song for his bride to honor her.
Lan Wangji had already composed a song for Wei Wuxian—one that had saved his life—so though the hall fell silent as Lan Wangji sat to play, Wei Wuxian recognized the opening notes of ZhanYing as soon as he strummed the first note. But ever since Wei Wuxian had found out about this custom months ago, he’d been thinking about how to return it. Lan Wangji had done so much for him whereas even now, Wei Wuxian’s reputation, while no longer as bad as it once was, was still going to take some time to recover. He wanted to honor Lan Wangji as well.
It had taken quite a lot of planning to hint things to A-Yuan exactly right, made more difficult since the child couldn’t visit him often. But in the end, he’d convinced A-Yuan to pester the origins of a second song out of Lan Wangji.
Months ago, not long after he’d moved to the Cloud Recesses the first time, Wei Wuxian had heard Lan Wangji play this song in the privacy of their room. It had sounded familiar to him, a song he associated with comfort and protection for a reason he couldn’t remember. Later, when he’d been the only one who could do anything about that Tiangou in the farmhouse, this was the song that had come to mind to calm it.
That was the first time he and Lan Wangji had ever dueted. This would be the second.
As Lan Wangji played ZhanYing, Wei Wuxian raised Chenqing to his lips, and a second melody joined the first, the notes twining together in beautiful synchronicity, neither overpowering the other, but each taking turns to lead. Wei Wuxian wondered if Lan Wangji had composed them to play together this way, if he’d hoped that someday Wei Wuxian would recall where he’d composed that first song for him, a song that he’d written because Wei Wuxian asked him to sing something—anything—while he was burning with fever in the cave of the Xuanwu.
Wei Wuxian watched Lan Wangji’s eyes widen as he lifted his face to meet Wei Wuxian’s gaze.
A-Yuan hadn’t been able to get the truth out of Lan Wangji. He also hadn’t convinced Lan Wangji to teach it to him or even play it for him again. Lan Wangji told him instead, that it was a song meant for Wei Wuxian’s ears, that he had composed it for Wei Wuxian a long time ago, when they were still just youth, before Wei Wuxian learned demonic cultivation, before the Sunshot Campaign, before their lives had become so complicated. And the memory had finally come back. The warm, reverberant sound of Lan Wangji’s deep voice amongst the echoing drips of water in that dark cave. A sound that, despite all of their circumstances, made Wei Wuxian feel safe and at home.
Halfway through the songs, they switched parts—Wei Wuxian’s flute twisting into ZhanYing’s melody, and Lan Wangji’s guqin into the other song.
I love you, Wei Wuxian poured into every note he played. I vow to love you in front of all of our family, all of our friends, the entire world from the beginning to all of eternity.
When the last note of the songs finally died away, Wei Wuxian took a deep breath and put down his flute.
Lan Wangji stilled the last string on his guqin and turned to him.
“What’s the name of this song?” Wei Wuxian asked, smiling at him, for him, everything he wanted to say already poured into the notes of their duet.
Lan Wangji exhaled and met his eyes. “WangXian.”
From there, the afternoon melted into a blur of greetings as Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji were expected to make their rounds, thanking all their guests for coming and accepting their congratulations as the first few light courses were served. As two prominent members of their cultivation sects, it was doubly important that they greet everyone properly.
As was usually the case with them, Wei Wuxian did most of the talking. Other than their closer family and friends, he enjoyed chatting with the smaller sect representatives since he got to hear story after story about how Lan Wangji had stepped in to help one clan or another—sometimes it was during the Wen reign, sometimes it was the case of a nighthunt that had gone out of control. With each story, Wei Wuxian couldn’t help admiring his husband more, even though Lan Wangji looked mostly uncomfortable with the praise.
By the time they made their way back to the head table for the true dining portion of the banquet to begin, Uncle Four, clearly already soused, tottered over to them and shoved three jars of liquor into Wei Wuxian’s arms. “Never thought I’d see the day the Cloud Recesses allowed alcohol,” he said jovially. “Just in case, I’ve been saving these for months in case they didn’t! Made with extra spice.” He gave Wei Wuxian an exaggerated wink.
Wei Wuxian laughed. “Thanks then, Uncle Four!”
Liquor had been allowed inside the Cloud Recesses for this single occasion, and while no one, apart from Uncle Four, had started drinking yet in deference to the happy couple, now, jar after jar of Emperor’s Smile was brought to each of the tables lining the hall.
Wei Wuxian peeled the seal off one of the jars Uncle Four had handed him, and poured himself and Lan Wangji each a cup.
He gave Lan Wangji a mischievous smile. “Shall we?” he said, picking up one of the small cups.
Out of the corner of his eye, Wei Wuxian could see Lan Qiren twitch as though wanting to stop them. Naturally, Wei Wuxian had expected full protests when the two families had initially discussed the details of the wedding. Lan Qiren had been highly against the idea, and Wei Wuxian was pretty sure it was for this very reason—if Wei Wuxian came to the wedding banquet, he would naturally want alcohol served, and that meant everyone would be breaking at least one GusuLan rule.
“I’m a man too, let me be at banquet,” Wei Wuxian had said. “You guys don’t even like alcohol. It’s a waste of a good meal.”
“I thought you wanted to do this the proper way. What kind of a bride doesn’t go straight to the wedding chamber?” Lan Qiren said.
“This is the proper way,” Wei Wuxian said. “I’m a groom too! Right, Lan Zhan?”
Lan Wangji had, of course, nodded and agreed with Wei Wuxian, which left Lan Qiren muttering about migraines and high blood pressure. But in the end, Wei Wuxian had gotten his way.
Lan Wangji picked up his cup as well, and looping their wrists around each other, Wei Wuxian beamed at Lan Wangji, and they drank.
All around them, applause and cheers broke out, and then they were being toasted as everyone—including Lan Qiren—lifted their cups and drank.
Lan Wangji, of course, immediately fell asleep, leaning heavily on Wei Wuxian who laughed and hugged him closer. “Oof, you’re heavy, Lan Zhan,” he said fondly though he knew he wouldn’t hear him. He brushed back a strand of Lan Wangji’s hair as he waited for him to wake up and poured himself some more liquor as dishes were finally set on the table.
True to Uncle Four’s promise, this fruit liquor he’d brewed “just in case” Wei Wuxian didn’t win the battle for alcohol, was the spiciest Wei Wuxian had ever tasted, beating out even Emperor’s Smile. He sighed in contentment and helped himself to the dishes placed out as he waited for Lan Wangji.
He put some of the milder items into Lan Wangji’s bowl for when he woke, and stuck to the spicier ones himself. “I can’t believe you pretended to like spicy food so long for me,” he said to Lan Wangji as he did. “Goodness, with your usual GusuLan food, it’s a wonder you survived eating with me.”
Lan Wangji made no move at all from his position leaning against Wei Wuxian. Wei Wuxian smiled, reaching over to touch his face. “Wake up soon, Lan Zhan, I miss you…”
“Alcohol is forbidden!”
Wei Wuxian’s eyes darted over to where Lan Qiren was sitting—well, standing now. As Lan Wangji’s uncle and an elder of the Lan sect, Lan Qiren had naturally been given the table of honor beside Lan Xichen at the very front of the room right next to Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji’s own. It meant that everyone in the hall had a perfect view of Lan Qiren when he planted one foot firmly on his table into a plate of food. Face flushed bright red, he shook a fist at Wei Wuxian. “Stop drinking!” he shouted.
“Oh my god, your uncle’s drunk!” Wei Wuxian whispered, shaking Lan Wangji as his eyes widened in astonished delight. “Please let me remember this for the rest of my life,” he prayed as he watched Lan Qiren proceed to shout at the top of his lungs at any wedding guest nearby with a cup in their hand. “Please let Uncle remember this for the rest of his life.”
“Stop drinking! Alcohol is forbidden!” Lan Qiren yelled, shaking a finger at Lan Xichen next to him.
Which was when Wei Wuxian found out was that there truly was good reason that the Lan sect had banned liquor from its grounds. It turned out, Lan Wangji wasn’t the only one who couldn’t hold his alcohol. In fact, not one Lan in the clan could hold their alcohol. In a moment, pandemonium broke out as some Lans began singing, others started dancing, more than one began shouting and quite a few rude remarks as well. Wei Wuxian watched as a disciple he didn’t recognize actually leaned full on a LanlingJin girl’s table and unabashedly began flirting.
“You’re missing everything, Lan Zhan! I take back everything I ever said about GusuLan being boring! This is the best sect,” Wei Wuxian said, shaking Lan Wangji, though he knew he wouldn’t wake just yet. “You guys are literally breaking every rule on that wall!”
Lan Xichen, beaming from ear-to-ear, seemed, so far, the most normal of them all as he poured himself another cup of Emperor’s Smile and downed it.
“Xichen, don’t think I won’t discipline you even if you’re the sect leader,” Lan Qiren shouted at him. “Write the rules three thousand times!” he ordered before he took a wobbly step off his table and, to Wei Wuxian’s continued delight, began scolding Jin Zixuan at the Jin table of honor beside him.
“You! You need to be more lowkey.” Lan Qiren wagged a finger at him. “These clothes of yours—who wears so much gold? And has your parents ever disciplined you? Who do you think you are to bring a dog into the Cloud Recesses?” he demanded.
“But I didn’t bring any dogs...” Jin Zixuan looked like he’d been falsely accused.
Jiang Yanli, beside him, was laughing into her sleeve.
“Dogs are loud and noisy! As bad as Wei Wuxian’s dumb donkey!” Lan Qiren shouted.
A few weeks ago, when they had started moving most of Wei Wuxian’s things up to the Cloud Recesses, the donkey had been one of them since there wouldn’t be a good time to transport it after, and after the farmhouse, Wei Wuxian was quite fond of it. Apparently, it had been doing quite well for itself up here.
“Lil Apple is a great donkey,” Wei Wuxian said. “It’s very well behaved, and—”
As though out to prove him wrong, a sudden commotion broke out at the entrance to the banquet hall when a youth came dragging a donkey inside.
Wei Wuxian didn’t recognize the youth who appeared to be fighting to drag the donkey who was digging in its heels and braying at the top of its lungs in protest.
“Mo Xuanyu?” Jin Zixuan said.
“You know him?” Wei Wuxian asked. “Why...why is he trying to steal my donkey?”
“It’s my donkey!” the boy named Mo Xuanyu said indignantly. “I brought it to Lanling with me but it disappeared. He stole it and I’m taking it home with me!” He was, indeed, dressed in LanlingJin robes, and had a good face though he was just at the beginnings of his growth spurt, too thin and gangly, and definitely losing that fight with the donkey.
“Mo Xuanyu, mind your manners,” Jin Zixuan said.
“I didn’t steal it, it followed me home,” Wei Wuxian said, just as indignant. “I tried to get it to leave, but it wouldn’t. If you want it back, go ahead.”
Lil Apple tried to bite Mo Xuanyu who quickly dropped its reins and took a step back, looking like he’d been betrayed. “It’s not fair, it’s my donkey!” he said when Lil Apple swished its tail and trotted up to Lan Qiren’s table where it began helping itself to the food Lan Qiren had stepped all over earlier.
Lan Qiren, seeing a donkey eat from his food, turned around and began shouting at the donkey.
“When I said you could look around the Cloud Recesses, I didn’t mean you could drag a donkey in here,” Jin Zixuan ignored Lan Qiren to scold the boy who looked like he wanted to argue but didn’t quite dare to. “This is my younger half-brother, Mo Xuanyu,” he added to Wei Wuxian.
Jiang Yanli smiled. “It’s all right, Zixuan,” she said. “A-Yu was probably just surprised to see his donkey here, wasn’t he?”
Mo Xuanyu blinked big eyes at her and nodded like he was the one being bullied. “Sao-Sao, it really is my donkey. My mom gave it to me to ride to Lanling.”
“We believe you,” Jiang Yanli said gently. “But it doesn’t look like Lil Apple likes Lanling very much. If it likes the Cloud Recesses more, won’t it be happier here?” she said.
“If A-Yu wants a donkey, Zixuan can give you one we already have at Koi Tower,” Jiang Yanli said, smiling. “Or a puppy,” she suggested. “Didn’t you say you’d rather have a dog?”
“I can have a dog?” Mo Xuanyu seemed to forget entirely about Lil Apple as he turned to Jin Zixuan, eyes shining.
Jin Zixuan just looked highly relieved that Jiang Yanli had appeased this child. “Little White is going to have pups soon—you can have one if you promise to train it well.”
“I will!” Mo Xuanyu said and glared at Lil Apple. “You can keep the stinking donkey.”
“How is Lil Apple stinky?” Wei Wuxian demanded, indignant on the donkey’s behalf. “What is wrong with your family that everyone likes dogs?”
Shortly after the events at Koi Tower, Wei Wuxian heard that a young half-sibling of Jin Zixuan’s had showed up at Koi Tower, claiming to be the son of Jin Guangshan. The child had been understandably shocked when he found out that Jin Guangshan had suddenly passed away, but though Madam Jin was originally against it, after all that had happened with Xue Yang and Jin Guangyao, Jin Zixuan seemed determined to atone for his father’s sins and had taken in Mo Xuanyu, adopting the child into the LanlingJin Sect. Shortly after, he’d begun a search together with Jiang Yanli to look for other half-siblings to make sure they were doing well, and bring them into the sect should they desire.
“So the search is going well then,” Wei Wuxian said.
Wei Wuxian felt an arm encircle his waist, and even without looking, he knew who it was, smiling and leaning back into his arms. “You woke up, Lan Zhan?” he said. “Welcome back.”
“Mm,” Lan Wangji said.
If Wei Wuxian hadn’t had experience with him twice before already, it would be difficult for him to tell that Lan Wangji was still entirely drunk. “We were just talking about Jin Zixuan and my shijie looking for their half-siblings,” he said.
“Mm,” Lan Wangji said.
Jin Zixuan coughed, looking anywhere but at Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji since it was clear Wei Wuxian did not plan to move from his comfortable position. “I’ve already found Xuanyu and another half-sister—she couldn’t come this time, though. I’ll introduce you both the next time you come visit A-Li.”
“We should stop by Yantai on our way back,” Jiang Yanli said. “Didn’t you say you found another half-brother there?”
“I’ll stop by,” Jin Zixuan said. “You should go back to Koi Tower and take care of the little one.” He gave a significant look at her.
Jiang Yanli smiled. “That reminds me, A-Xian—choose a name.”
“A name?” Wei Wuxian asked.
“For your future nephew,” Jin Zixuan said, his arm around his wife. “A-Li said she wanted you to choose. Apparently she doesn’t trust me.”
“I never said that,” Jiang Yanli said, though Wei Wuxian thought she’d really made the right choice.
“Hm,” Wei Wuxian thought for a moment. “The Jin next generation name is ‘Ru’ so how about Jin RuLan?” Wei Wuxian suggested, looking slyly back at Lan Wangji.
“Why are you naming him Lan?” Jin Zixuan said. “He belongs to the Jin clan.”
Wei Wuxian unabashedly beamed at Lan Wangji. “Why can’t I? Shijie asked me. You should be thankful if he grows up to be anything like Lan Zhan.”
Jin Zixuan actually rolled his eyes then. “A-Li, Jiang Cheng has a better naming sense, can’t we ask him—”
“If you want your future son to be named Fairy, maybe,” Wei Wuxian said.
Jiang Yanli laughed. “A-Xian chose a good name,” she said. “Jin RuLan it is.”
Wei Wuxian beamed at her. “If I ever had a child, I would ask Shijie to name him too.”
“Is our Xian-Xian finally growing up and being filial?” Jiang Yanli asked, reaching forward to stroke his face.
“Wei Wuxian is going to have a son?” Lan Qiren stopped scolding Lil Apple at this news and turned to stare at them again.
Wei Wuxian wanted to laugh. “No, no, that was just a joke, Uncle—”
“We have a son.”
Wei Wuxian whirled around to stare at Lan Wangji who had spoken.
Jiang Yanli, Mo Xuanyu, Lan Qiren, and more or less everyone else who had heard Lan Wangji speak also turned to stare at him.
“We do?” Wei Wuxian echoed.
“Mm.” Then Lan Wangji let go of Wei Wuxian to pick up A-Yuan who, dressed in festive red robes, beamed at them, looking confused but happy. Wei Wuxian hadn’t even noticed when A-Yuan had toddled up to the table. “He gave birth,” Lan Wangji said, his face as blank as always.
“You—you—” Lan Qiren’s eyes rolled up and he fell backwards into Jin Zixuan who quickly rushed to catch the old man.
Wei Wuxian’s mouth dropped open as he stared at Lan Wangji. Then he burst out laughing. “Lan Zhan, you really learned well!” he gasped, laughing so hard he had to lean on Lan Wangji so he wouldn’t fall over. “I can’t believe—your uncle’s face —ah, that was even better than when I said that to him!” He beamed up at Lan Wangji. “You’re really the best, Lan Zhan. I like you so much.”
“Me too!” A-Yuan chimed in, happy to be held by his favorite dad.
“So when are you two going to officially adopt him?” Uncle Four asked loudly from his table. “That’ll solve your heir problem, won’t it, Old Man Lan?”
Lan Qiren twitched though he was unconscious, sprawled in Jin Zixuan’s arms.
Wei Wuxian laughed, leaning into Lan Wangji and raised his eyebrows. “I don’t know. What do you think, husband?” he said to Lan Wangji, and then thought better of it. “Actually, let’s ask again when he’s sober,” he said. “Wouldn’t it be a surprise to Lan Zhan if he wakes up tomorrow morning and finds we have a son already.”
He shot a mischievous look at Jiang Yanli. “Shijie, start thinking of a courtesy name for him,” he said. “He’ll need one before Jin RuLan does—he can’t be A-Yuan forever.”
“Jin RuLan? Jin RuLan is a great name!”
When they turned to see who had just shouted, Wei Wuxian was shocked to see Lan Xichen beaming from ear-to-ear as he unabashedly eavesdropped.
“Jin RuLan is the best name I’ve ever heard!” Lan Xichen said cheerfully, and then equally enthusiastically, added, “Who’s Jin RuLan?”
“The Lan clan is the best clan,” Wei Wuxian said. He hoped this wouldn’t be a one-time thing. He’d have to find ways to make them drink again. He’d never been so entertained in his entire life.
“Ah, Jin RuLan is your future…what would he be for Xichen-Xiong?” Jin Zixuan paused. “My wife’s brother’s husband’s brother is…wait, no, my son’s older uncle on his mother’s side’s husband’s brother is…”
“The future name of Jin Zixuan’s son,” Wei Wuxian said, sparing him the mental acrobatics of trying to figure out the right address for the future Jin RuLan.
“Your son? Congratulations, Zixuan-Xiong!” Lan Xichen shouted brightly. “That’s wonderful news! We need to celebrate more! These red decorations are so nice! We should paint everything red to celebrate! Congratulations, Didi! Congratulations, Zixuan-Xiong!” he shouted. “Paint! I need to find red paint!”
Saying so, Lan Xichen strode down the hall, politely if loudly asking every random guest where he might find red paint.
“Aren’t you going to stop him?” Wei Wuxian nudged Lan Wangji. “He might actually do it,” he said.
“Wei Ying likes red,” Lan Wangji said, half-muffled by Wei Wuxian’s ear.
“Yes?” Wei Wuxian said.
He felt more than saw Lan Wangji nod, stirring his hair. “Then he can paint everything red.”
“Lan Zhan, you—it’s my fault for trying to reason with a drunk,” Wei Wuxian said. “I’ll stop him myself. Sect Leader Lan—ah, Lan Zhan, let go,” he said, but Lan Wangji only tightened his hold around Wei Wuxian’s waist.
“Mine,” he said.
“What’s yours?” Wei Wuxian said, distracted, as Lan Xichen appeared to pull another equally drunk Lan cultivator into also looking for red paint. “Lan Zhan, if you don’t let go, you’re really going to regret it when half the Cloud Recesses is painted red.”
Lan Wangji didn’t say anything, only tightening his hold. “Mine,” he repeated, sounding stubborn and a bit petulant. “Don’t leave. Mine.”
And then Wei Wuxian realized what he was talking about and felt his heart melt. “All right, I’m not going anywhere, Lan Zhan. I’m yours.” He smiled, putting his hands on top of Lan Wangji’s. “All yours.”
“Mm.” Lan Wangji appeared satisfied with that answer.
Wei Wuxian laughed and shook his head. “Don’t blame me when you’re all scrubbing red paint off next week then,” he said.
Thankfully, though, he wasn’t the only one who had noticed Lan Xichen.
“Should we stop Er-Ge?” Nie Huaisang asked Nie Mingjue from where they sat at their tables of honor on the other side of the hall. Though they’d both had quite a bit to drink, judging by their red faces, at least they still seemed relatively in the right state of mind still.
“Xichen, come over here and drink this,” Nie Mingjue sighed and stood, reaching over as Lan Xichen tottered by them and dragged him over to hand him a cup of tea.
“Mingjue-Xiong! Huaisang!” Lan Xichen shouted, waving the cup and splashing it all over Nie Huaisang’s robes.
“These are new, Er-Ge!” Nie Huaisang looked like he might start crying. “They were so expensive to commission!”
“I’m so happy to see you!” Lan Xichen beamed at him. “Where’s A-Yao? Then we’ll all be together!”
Wei Wuxian who had been about to turn his attention back to Lan Wangji looked over at them again at the mention of Jin Guangyao.
“A-Yao? You want to see Jin Guangyao?” Nie Mingjue asked.
As a criminal, Jin Guangyao obviously hadn’t been allowed to come to the Lan-Wei wedding. At the trial, everything Jin Guangyao had orchestrated had come to light—from saving Xue Yang, to killing his own son and his wife, to kidnapping Nie Mingjue, to trying to take over the LanlingJin Sect. Originally, he should have been given the death sentence but since he was still a member of the head Jin clan, they had, in the end, sentenced him to prison for life instead. And of all people to argue for that sentence, it had been Nie Mingjue.
It seemed that when he had given up his freedom and risked his life to save Lan Xichen, Nie Mingjue had seen something worth saving in Jin Guangyao. After the sentencing, he had volunteered to take charge of his punishment and rehabilitation. Since the Jin Sect was understandably wary of keeping Jin Guangyao around Koi Tower in case he had any more secret loyal followers, they’d accepted the offer and let Nie Mingjue take Jin Guangyao back to the Unclean Realm.
But, in an even more unseen turn of events, after the trial, Lan Xichen refused to visit the Unclean Realm entirely. Jin Guangyao, Wei Wuxian heard, was the most heartbroken by this. It seemed that despite his betrayal, he had never imagined that Lan Xichen would refuse to see him.
No one knew if it was Nie Mingjue’s attempt to reform Jin Guangyao or if it was his attempt to get Lan Xichen to reconcile, but Nie Mingjue had, much to the shock and discouragement by everyone else, allowed Jin Guangyao to begin playing the Sound of Clarity for him again. Wei Wuxian knew that it was in part because he did need to calm his spirit, though Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji had made him memorize exactly what the song should sound like before anyone allowed him near Jin Guangyao. But despite this attempt to show Lan Xichen that Jin Guangyao may truly be repentant, Lan Xichen still refused to go anywhere near him.
“I miss A-Yao!” Lan Xichen said and his smile dimmed. “But I can’t see him,” he said sadly. “I’m sorry, Mingjue-Xiong!” he shouted right in Nie Mingjue’s ear.
Nie Mingjue winced. “You can see him if you wish,” he said.
Lan Xichen shook his head. “I can’t,” he said. “It’s my fault,” he said. “I need to tell Mingjue-Xiong I’m sorry, and—and…”
Apparently Lan Xichen’s alcohol tolerance had reached its limit and he fell flat on his face onto Nie Mingjue’s table, snoring softly.
It was still too fresh, everything that had happened, Wei Wuxian thought. Only a few months ago, Lan Xichen had been defending Jin Guangyao, helping him slaughter the innocents he’d accused of attacking Koi Tower. His defense of Jin Guangyao had almost led to his coup d’etat over the LanlingJin Sect and the near-death of Nie Mingjue. But as Wei Wuxian watched Nie Mingjue yell for Nie Huaisang to help him put Lan Xichen back in his sect leader’s seat, he thought that maybe someday, maybe under Nie Mingjue’s guidance, Jin Guangyao’s reformation might be true and real. And on that day, maybe Lan Xichen would be willing to forgive him and to see him again—that Meng Yao who had once saved him.
While Wei Wuxian wanted the night never to end, liquor had destroyed that famous Lan discipline, and after Lan Wangji had stopped draping himself on Wei Wuxian like a giant human cloak, his hands began wandering. To be fair, it was mostly innocent, just Lan Wangji’s hands touching him along his waist, holding his hand and rubbing his thumb, warm, along the pulse point of his wrist. They were both dressed in too many layers for anything truly untoward to happen, unfortunately.
It took some time to extract themselves from the banquet. People kept coming up to the table to toast them, and after the first few toasts sent Lan Wangji immediately back into unconsciousness, Wei Wuxian began drinking for the both of them. By the time there was a small gap in greetings, it was already past the usual curfew time—another thing Wei Wuxian probably wouldn’t get to see again in this lifetime—Lans out partying post-curfew.
“Lan Zhan, hurry,” Wei Wuxian said, pulling Lan Wangji’s arm as he looked around them. Already, he could see another group of guests further down in the hall eyeing their table.
Lan Wangji looked up as Wei Wuxian tugged him to his feet. “Wei Ying?” he asked.
“Hurry before they come greet us again,” Wei Wuxian said. “Didn’t they already come too? I’m pretty sure I already drank twice with them.”
“You don’t want to drink?” Lan Wangji asked.
“I do, I do, but I more want to…” Wei Wuxian leaned over to whisper in Lan Wangji’s ear. He grinned when that ear turned bright red and the hand he was holding tightened around his.
Suddenly, it was Lan Wangji who was striding so quickly out of the hall that Wei Wuxian had to trot a little to keep up.
Wei Wuxian broke into laughter as they snuck out of the banquet hall and headed for the Jingshi. Lan Xichen really had thrown himself into the decorations, and though the living quarters of the Cloud Recesses didn’t really all need to be decorated, he had been thorough. Even here in the unoccupied parts of the Cloud Recesses right now, Wei Wuxian could see red banners fluttering gently with the night breeze as they hurried down quiet corridors like a pair of mischievous young lovers.
Lan Wangji, man of action, flattened Wei Wuxian against the Jingshi door as soon as they were inside. Even though Wei Wuxian had stolen kisses every time Lan Wangji came to visit Lotus Pier in the past few months, he didn’t know how much his husband had been holding back until his mouth was being devoured. He couldn’t breath and when he tried to push Lan Wangji a bit to signal him, Lan Wangji grabbed both his wrists in one hand, pinning them above him. It was a good thing his other hand was still firm around Wei Wuxian’s waist because the kiss was so intense it made his knees go weak, and when Lan Wangji finally pulled back for a moment, Wei Wuxian found himself blinking teary eyes.
“You—let me breath at least, Lan Zhan…”
But this sensation reminded Wei Wuxian of one other time he had been kissed so intensely that it had taken him some time to recover even after pulling the blindfold off his eyes and seeing the dappled sunlight of the forest around him. Phoenix Mountain, what felt like ages ago now, was where he’d lost his first kiss to...
“ You’re the strong maiden?” Wei Wuxian said, eyes wide.
“What?” Lan Wangji said.
“On Phoenix Mountain where I had my first kiss stolen—I thought it was just an unusually strong, shy girl, but it was you,” Wei Wuxian accused him. “You stole my first kiss!”
“You said you’d kissed...a lot...before,” Lan Wangji said, but his ears were bright red, and he hadn’t denied it.
“How embarrassing would it be if I admitted someone just stole my first kiss?” Wei Wuxian said, knocking his fist gently on Lan Wangji’s chest now that his grip on his wrists had loosened. “The Yiling Patriarch who just humiliated Jin Zixuan and cleared the mountain of all good prey had his first kiss stolen.” He glanced at Lan Wangji. “But who knew Hanguang-Jun was so bold to steal a kiss and to kiss like that,” he said, grinning.
“I apologize,” Lan Wangji said stiffly. “I lost control.”
“I was a little disappointed at the time. You know, I was saving that first kiss for my future wife,” he said and grinned. “I guess I did that after all,” he said cheekily. At the time, he hadn’t even considered the possibility that it might have been Lan Wangji who kissed him even though, thinking back now, Lan Wangji had definitely been upset by something to be beating up a bunch of trees when Wei Wuxian found him. “And now all of my kisses belong to Hanguang-Jun, but keep kissing me like that and you’ll have to carry me to bed—I don’t think I can stand.”
He laughed, delighted, when Lan Wangji took the hint and swept him up, carrying him further into the Jingshi and to their bedroom.
The first time they were married, the Jingshi had been the only place decorated in the Cloud Recesses, and that had consisted of just that huge eyesore of a bed and the red “Luck” paper stuck to the top of it. Now, though, the JingShi had been tastefully draped in red and the red lanterns inside had already been lit, bathing the entire room in a warm glow. Their ugly bed had also been exchanged for one fitting of the decor here, but hilariously enough, someone had stuck not just one red “Luck” charm onto the bed, but every part of the wooden frame had been stuck full of them.
Wei Wuxian burst out laughing at the sight. “They’re really making sure we have a prosperous marriage this time, aren’t they?” he said and then grinned at Lan Wangji. “Well? What are you waiting for?”
Lan Wangji gently put him down on the bed. The blankets and sheets were also all red this time, a beautiful, new set of bedding Wei Wuxian intended on thoroughly ruining tonight.
But instead of following him onto the bed, Lan Wangji simply stood and looked at him.
“What is it, Lan Er-Gege?” Wei Wuxian asked, raising his eyebrows. “Aren’t you going to undress your your husband?” he teased.
Lan Wangji didn’t take the bait, his eyes moving up and down Wei Wuxian’s seated form as though trying to memorize this moment. Wei Wuxian, looking up at this wonderful man, dressed in this celebratory red, felt suddenly that if this was the moment his entire life added up to, that if all he’d ever accomplished in this lifetime was simply loving this man, it would be a life worth living.
Wei Wuxian smile turned gentle and reached out a hand to him, wiggling his fingers until Lan Wangji finally took his hand. Wei Wuxian pulled him gently forward until he was standing right in front of him and Wei Wuxian had to tilt his head up to look at him.
Then, slowly, he guided Lan Wangji’s hand up to his hair and put it on that gentian hairpin.
He could see the flicker of understanding the moment Lan Wangji touched it, and as they drew it out of his hair together, the coils of his hair falling in loose waves over his shoulders now, Wei Wuxian smiled up at him.
“Thank you,” he began.
He was startled when Lan Wangji’s hand stiffened beneath his.
“No need,” Lan Wangji said.
Only then did Wei Wuxian realize, from the time they were married the first time, no maybe even before that, Lan Wangji had always said this to him anytime Wei Wuxian thanked him or apologized to him. But thinking back, every time, it had almost always been something said before they parted again or got in another fight. The last time he’d said it, Wei Wuxian realized now, maybe Lan Wangji had thought he was thanking him that time in the boat, which had caused the worst misunderstanding and nearly ended their relationship.
“Then there’s no need for thank you or sorry between us,” Wei Wuxian said. “We can say… we can say ‘I like you’ instead,” he decided and smiled at him. “I like you. I really do, Lan Zhan. I’m so glad I got to meet you.” He reached up to touch his husband’s face, pulling him closer and tilting his head up to kiss him softly once, and then deeper the second time. He felt Lan Wangji’s hand tighten in his hair, and then he was being pushed back on the bed.
Wei Wuxian couldn’t help smiling through the kisses, so happy he thought he might burst with it, as he grabbed Lan Wangji’s robe with one hand to dragging him down, and looped his other around Lan Wangji’s neck, laughing into the next kiss. “I like you, I adore you, I treasure you,” he said, trying to bend his knee through the robes so he could nudge against Lan Wangji.
He wasn’t sure which thing it was that ignited Lan Wangji, but a moment later, Lan Wangji was pulling back to tug impatiently at his robes. Wei Wuxian laughed as he helped, shedding pieces of his clothes as fast as he could and trying to pull apart Lan Wangji’s as well. As soon as Lan Wangji was down to his under robes, Wei Wuxian pushed him down on the bed and straddled him, eyes bright.
“Lan Zhan, don’t move, all right?” Wei Wuxian said, and before Lan Wangji could answer, felt his way into his clothes, all the way down his chest, stomach, and right into his pants.
Lan Wangji’s breathing immediately sped up, and Wei Wuxian looked up at him through his eyelashes. “Wei Ying, don’t—”
Wei Wuxian grinned, mischievous, and took Lan Wangji into his mouth. In truth, while Wei Wuxian was pretty sure he knew more than Lan Wangji, he’d really just looked at a handful of spring books a lifetime ago, and all his experience up until now had also been with Lan Wangji. He liked what they’d done the last time, and he really didn’t care about the details so long as he got to spend the rest of his life with his Lan Zhan. But the way Lan Wangji’s breath quickened, the way the muscles of his stomach tightened beneath Wei Wuxian’s hand, the way his dick grew even bigger in Wei Wuxian’s mouth as he hollowed and sucked—all of it was incredibly hot. As was expected of Second Master Lan, he was big enough that it didn’t take long before Wei Wuxian’s jaw began to ache. But despite his own discomfort, Wei Wuxian wanted nothing more than to continue watching that expression of barely there self-control on his face. It was a little sloppy, his technique probably wasn’t too good, but Lan Wangji seemed to enjoy it, and anyway, they had the rest of their lives to practice.
“Wei Ying, stop—”
Lan Wangji’s hand in his hair tightened as he tried to pull Wei Wuxian back, but Wei Wuxian pushed his hand away and sucked hard.
In a moment, it was all he could do to swallow as Lan Wangji came, and he felt quite self-satisfied as he sat back up, wiping his mouth and grinning at him. “I think I did pretty well for my first time,” Wei Wuxian said as he looped his arms around his neck and playing with the red ribbon still tied around Lan Wangji’s forehead, loosening it until it came sliding off and into his hand.
Lan Wangji, looking a bit dazed, kissed him, still breathless, and Wei Wuxian was happy to let Lan Wangji nip at his lips a few times, hips stuttering as he pulled himself closer to Lan Wangji.
Wei Wuxian felt himself being pulled closer into Lan Wangji’s lap, felt Lan Wangji pulling his arms away from his neck, but was so distracted by his mouth, that he didn’t realize what Lan Wangji was doing until his hands were already bound up again with the red ribbon this time.
“Do you really like tying me up that much?” Wei Wuxian raised an eyebrow and then yelped when he was pushed onto his back. “Where are you going?”
Lan Wangji backed up from the bed but only went to a side cabinet where he brought back a small bottle.
“What’s this?” Wei Wuxian asked as Lan Wangji uncorked it and poured some sort of oil onto his fingers.
“Gift from Maiden Wen,” Lan Wangji answered.
“From Wen Qing? What—” The next moment, Wei Wuxian felt Lan Wangji grip his dick to tug once, twice, and then traced down the crease of his thighs to... “Wait—what—” Wei Wuxian startled at the touch and automatically tried to scramble back only for Lan Wangji to close a large hand around his ankle and pull him back. “Lan Zhan, what—”
Lan Wangji touched him again down there, and Wei Wuxian felt both shocked and a little turned on as Lan Wangji persistently rubbed at his entrance until he could slip a finger inside. Wei Wuxian had thought oral service was about as intimate as two men could get, but apparently, he’d thought wrong.
“Lan Zhan—” Wei Wuxian arched, wanted to reach for him, but couldn’t with his hands tied.
Lan Wangji seemed to realize what Wei Wuxian wanted, though, and leaned down to comfort him with a kiss. “Maiden Wen spoke to me a few weeks ago,” he explained as he continued stretching Wei Wuxian with two fingers now. “She gave me a few...manuals,” he said. “And the oil.”
He kissed Wei Wuxian softly again. Wei Wuxian lost himself to the sensation for a bit until the words registered and he stopped cold to stare at Lan Wangji. “Are you telling me Wen Qing gave you spring books?” he demanded. When Lan Wangji didn’t answer and started to flush, Wei Wuxian began to grin. “She did, didn’t she? She actually gave Second Master Lan spring books! Was it the type I showed you before, or longyang?” he asked, full of curiosity now. “Do you still have them? I’ve never seen a longyang before, and—”
Wei Wuxian broke off into a moan when Lan Wangji grasped his dick with his other hand, but he fought back the stars threatening to explode inside him. “Wait, don’t try to distract me. I can’t believe Wen Qing gave you—ah—ah—” Wei Wuxian yelped when Lan Wangji thrust a third finger inside along with the first two. “Lan Zhan, okay, mercy, Lan Er-Gege, I’ll stop asking about Wen Qing’s longyang books—”
Lan Wangji frowned, that intense look that Wei Wuxian had first seen on that moonlit rooftop so many years ago, the most beautiful youth he’d ever seen glaring at him. Back then and now, it made his heart speed up. “I really like the way you look at me, Lan Zhan—”
“Can you stop speaking?” Lan Wangji said.
“But I was born with a mouth so shouldn’t I use it? And anyway, you love me. You love my talking, you—”
Lan Wangji touched a spot inside him that made his protests turn right into a loud moan.
“What—” Wei Wuxian panted. “Wait, Lan Zhan—” But having found the spot, Lan Wangji continued pressing against it, his other hand jerking Wei Wuxian off until, all too fast, Wei Wuxian was spilling into his hand.
Wei Wuxian lay there, blinking back the stars in his vision, quietly panting. “Ah, you’ve really defeated the Yiling Patriarch, Lan Zhan,” he said, giving Lan Wangji a dazed sort of smile. “That was amazing. You’re amazing.”
He stopped praising Lan Wangji when he felt those fingers inside him begin to move again. “Ah, wait, wait, Lan Zhan, it’s too much,” Wei Wuxian protested, trying to pull Lan Wangji’s hands away.
“Still not tired of talking?” Lan Wangji said.
“You know me, Lan Zhan, I’ll never be tired of talking like I’ll never be tired of you,” Wei Wuxian continued his teasing.
Lan Wangji pressed against that spot that made Wei Wuxian’s vision spot white. “I’m tired! I’m tired, Lan Er-Gege, have mercy on your Wei Ying.”
He was going to continue more when Lan Wangji’s mouth pressed over his own like he owned Wei Wuxian, kissing him until he had stolen all the air from Wei Wuxian’s lungs, and he was both hard again and entirely speechless by the time Lan Wangji began pushing himself inside. It felt incredible, too much, too intense, too everything. Even though Lan Wangji looked big, it was nothing compared to how big he felt inside Wei Wuxian, and he stiffened up all over, unable to stop himself.
“Wei Ying,” he heard Lan Wangji whisper and felt the gentle touch on his face, opening his eyes to see Lan Wangji kissing away the tears on his face. “Wei Ying, does it hurt?” he asked.
Wei Wuxian began to nod and then shook his head. It wasn’t that it hurt—between the oils and the stretching, Lan Wangji had prepared him well enough. It was just that he’d never imagined that he could feel so close to one person as he did now. Since he’d lost his parents so far back he could barely remember them, he’d never found a place he felt like he wholly belonged. But now, with Lan Wangji, with this man he loved with every fiber of his being, he belonged just like this, connected like this, as deeply as two people could be.
“I love you, Lan Zhan,” Wei Wuxian said, throat tight and tears pricking at the corners of his eyes. “I like you. I want to be with you forever. I want to sleep with you every day for the rest of my life.”
He didn’t know if he was saying all the things he wanted to say to Lan Wangji, but Lan Wangji seemed to understand anyway.
“Every day,” he said simply, a promise and a blessing.
When Lan Wangji began to move, Wei Wuxian felt like he was being remade from the very depths of his soul—the soul that Lan Wangji had saved and sung back to life in him. And when Lan Wangji filled him, every mark on his skin another promise of love and devotion, Wei Wuxian let the pleasure rush through him, the vow of life spent with this man he called husband.
Wei Wuxian wasn’t sure how long he dozed in bed, but by the time he woke from his sleep, he had been cleaned and dressed and was lying half-on Lan Wangji, using his chest as a pillow. He was enveloped in the refreshing scent of sandalwood, and it was dim in the room, all the lanterns there having been put out now.
He adjusted himself, making himself comfortable on him, and smiled, his entire body feeling light and bonelessly relaxed, and a bit sore as well. He sighed in contentment and leaned up to kiss Lan Wangji on the chin.
Lan Wangji, who had been asleep, opened his eyes when Wei Wuxian kissed him again, pulling him a little more securely against himself, and Wei Wuxian’s smile widened as he pushed himself up on his elbows to kiss Lan Wangji on the lips this time.
That was when he noticed that the ribbon that had been loosened from his wrists had now been tied around just one wrist. “Do you want your ribbon back, Lan Zhan?” he asked, looking down at the ring of red.
“It’s yours,” Lan Wangji said.
Wei Wuxian grinned. “Jingyi told me your GusuLan ribbon means self-regulation, and can only be removed by the one you love,” he said.
“Lan Jingyi told you?” Lan Wangji asked.
Wei Wuxian laughed. “Don’t sound so skeptical. He’s also a Lan, after all,” he said and then looked at the ribbon again. “Does that mean you’re letting go of all restraint when you’re with me?”
Lan Wangji gave him a look and lifted Wei Wuxian up to straddle his hips again, touching along his waist and then meaningfully lower.
Wei Wuxian laughed even as he grabbed Lan Wangji’s hand. “Not again tonight, Lan Er-Gege, where’s your forehead ribbon? Maybe you should keep it on. What happened to your self-restraint?”
“You took it,” Lan Wangji said.
Wei Wuxian yelped, laughing, when Lan Wangji flipped him over again to lie beneath him. “I’ll give it back, I’ll give it back,” he said.
“No need,” Lan Wangji said.
Wei Wuxian grinned, looking up at him. “I wish this could last forever,” he said, reaching to touch Lan Wangji’s face. “The banquet, everyone here, being with you—alone, I mean.” He supposed, in the end, he’d been looking forward to being with Lan Wangji for so long, and he was so happy with all of his family and friends here, that he simply wasn’t ready for it all to be over, for them to settle into life at the Cloud Recesses. For this one day, he and Lan Wangji had just been themselves—two ordinary people getting married, celebrating with all the people they cared about. When the sun rose, they would once again be Hanguang-Jun and the Yiling Patriarch to the cultivation world. Lan Qiren had already begun assigning them responsibilities to teach, to go to alliance meetings, to help grade papers. “Go somewhere people don’t know us, night hunt maybe,” he thought out loud.
He wanted, he thought, to just be simply Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji for a little longer, to spend some time alone, just the two of them. He thought back to that day so long ago when he’d told Lan Wangji he wished he could just live simply, to go shopping maybe, enjoy good food and drink, live in a cottage somewhere, go night hunting and help people when they heard of cases. But in their positions, retirement wouldn’t come for a long time still.
Wei Wuxian was still thinking about it when he heard the sound of voices somewhere outside the Jingshi.
“We can’t disturb them now—it’s their wedding night. Do you want to see them doing who knows what?” one person was saying.
“Well we can’t not give them our gift,” another said. “It would be so impolite to show up with it tomorrow. What if Hanguang-Jun gets mad? What if Wei Wuxian gets mad?”
“Wouldn’t they be more mad if we interrupted them now?” the first voice pointed out.
Wei Wuxian, who had recognized the voices, snuck over to the door, adjusting his under robes to make sure nothing indecent was showing.
Lan Wangji frowned and dropped his outer robe over his shoulders just before Wei Wuxian threw open the door.
“We sure would be mad if you interrupted now,” Wei Wuxian said, cackling when Liu Fengya let out a loud shriek and Guo Yi clutched at his chest.
“Senior Wei, please—please don’t do that again,” Guo Yi gasped. “I’m too young to have a heart attack.”
Wei Wuxian laughed, cooperatively letting Lan Wangji put his arms into his sleeves as he spoke. “You two are so late, you missed the entire banquet,” he said, turning so Lan Wangji could tie his waistpiece on securely.
It was, in fact, late enough that the early tendrils of the pink dawn were visible in the sky now.
“It wasn’t our fault,” Liu Fengya said. “Our boss gave us a delivery job that was supposed to be on the way up here, but who knew that town has a haunted white villa, and our client tried to trick us into staying there. Apparently, it’s haunted by this ghost with a hook—”
“No, it was a ghost who had his tongue cut out with a hook,” Guo Yi said. “By his wife,” he added.
Wei Wuxian exchanged a look with Lan Wangji.
“Anyway, there’s no way I was going to stay any longer in that town, but we got lost on our way up here, and—”
“—and I think to make it up to us for missing our wedding banquet, you should take us there,” Wei Wuxian said.
“Wait, what?” Liu Fengya said.
“We can’t hear about a town being haunted by this Hook-Hand and not look into it,” Wei Wuxian said. “My new sect’s motto is to ‘Be Righteous,’ isn’t is, Lan Zhan?” he said, grinning at him.
“Mm.” Lan Wangji nodded.
“Don’t you have post-wedding stuff to take care of?” Liu Fengya tried. “Don’t you have sect responsibilities?”
Wei Wuxian laughed. “There’s nothing more important than helping the common people when there’s a ghost terrorizing them,” he said, clapping him on the shoulder. “We’ll count it as your wedding present to us,” he said cheerfully. “Now where’s that ghost?”
“Near Lanling,” Guo Yi said. “We can take you.”
“Guo Yi!” Liu Fengya said.
“Fengya, didn’t you learn from me yet? If you’re always so scared of ghosts, they’ll follow you around more to feed off that energy,” Wei Wuxian said. “You need more training. You definitely need to stay at least one night in that house.”
Lan Wangji, who had quietly gotten dressed while Wei Wuxian spoke, finished tying his white forehead ribbon on and unsheathed Bichen as Liu Fengya complained about having to go back to that town.
“Shall we go?” Wei Wuxian said, stepping into the circle of Lan Wangji’s arms, feeling himself being picked up and looping his own arms around Lan Wangji’s waist.
The first time they had done this, the moon had been rising. Now, it was the sun.
In time, the news would travel to the common people, and they would debate if the Lan-Wei wedding was a marriage of convenience to control the terrible Yiling Patriarch, or if the Yiling Patriarch had enchanted the righteous Hanguang-Jun. Still more would gossip that it was a marriage of true love—didn’t they just see the two of them exorcise the plague of fierce corpses in the south? Didn’t they see them watching over a group of youthful cultivators on their night hunt, and wasn’t that definitely the Yiling Patriarch crying into Hanguang-Jun’s arms to get away from that spiritual dog his nephew brought?
Even later, the cultivation history books would record their union as a marriage joining two of the top four sects, an important alliance that secured the Yiling Patriarch’s position, and one that changed the face of the cultivation world. That afterwards came the first time sects began using summoning talismans to help them call over prey on their night hunts, that the Yiling Patriarch and his husband became known for inventing more useful talismans and cultivation techniques than had ever been recorded before in history.
But as they flew out of the Cloud Recesses together that bright dawn morning, they were just Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji, Wei Ying and Lan Zhan heading toward the rest of their lives together.
And it all started with a wedding.