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SLAM!

Wei WuXian startles and cracks open one eye. “Huh?”

He blinks, disoriented, and turns his head to the right, in the process managing to crinkle the page of the book under his cheek. A small distance away from his face, another book that’s the size and weight of several bricks rests on the table.

A pair of hands is holding the book, and the person who slammed the book against the table is still—obviously—attached to the hands.

Wei WuXian yawns and sits up, following the line of the arms up to a well-rounded shoulder and then all the way to an unamused face.

Eyes seething with cold anger stare at him, and the stare lets Wei WuXian know that this person would like nothing better than to slam the book on his head instead of right next to it.

No sleeping in the library.” The words are whispered, but the hissing sound is loaded with all the rage of a thunderstorm.

With that, the angered stranger lifts the massive book from the table and vanishes between the shelves in a flash of long black hair.

Wei WuXian rubs his eyes and stretches. “What the hell was that?”

Across the table, Jiang Cheng looks up from his study book and rolls his eyes heavenward like he’s seen this circus too many times already. And sure, Wei WuXian has slept in the campus library before, but this is the first time a handsome stranger with angry eyes has called him out because of it.

“That’s the new assistant librarian,” Jiang Cheng says, turning the page. “Fresh back from his foreign exchange year.”

Assistant librarian? Wei WuXian recalls hearing something about that. Or maybe he read about it on the campus news app? Either way, it rings a bell, then another one, but his sleep-fuzzy head takes a few seconds to finally make the connection. When it finally clicks, he whips around in his chair to stare after the stranger, even though he’s long gone by now.

“Wait,” Wei WuXian says, slow and disbelieving. “That’s Lan XiChen’s brother? Lan WangJi?”

“Yup.”

“But—” Wei WuXian squints his eyes toward the aisle where the younger Lan brother disappeared. “I guess Lan XiChen got all the smiling genes of the family, then.”

A slight chuckle escapes Jiang Cheng’s lips, even though he tries to look stern when Wei WuXian turns to grin at him.

“If you spent more time studying and less time sleeping,” Jiang Cheng begins.

“—I wouldn’t get in trouble. Blah blah.” Wei WuXian winks. “But who would then provide you with endless amusement, hm?”

Jiang Cheng doesn’t dignify that with an answer. Instead, he huffs and flips the page again. “You all good with the neurology exam material?” he asks with a faux-sweet smile.

Wei WuXian looks down at his study book. The page is crumpled and there may or may not be a spot of drool where he fell asleep on it. “Oh yeah, totally. This is easy.” He smooths the page with his fingers and closes the book, hoping it will undo the creases. If not, he suspects Lan WangJi might do further damage to the book by introducing it to his head.

 

-

 

The exam is easy. Jiang Cheng gives Wei WuXian an eternally-suffering look when they get the results two weeks later and Wei WuXian passes with flying colors.

“How do you do that?” Jiang Cheng asks in a tone that Wei WuXian would describe as whiny, but he doesn’t want a fist in his face so he keeps the thought to himself.

“Do what?” Wei WuXian asks with an air of innocence as he walks down the stairs of the science building. He spots two familiar figures in the distance. “Hey, Lan XiChen, Lan WangJi!” He waves at the brothers passing across the yard.

Lan XiChen waves back. Lan WangJi stares at them without as much as a nod.

“Does he hate everyone or is that privilege reserved for only me?” Wei WuXian mutters to himself. He turns to Jiang Cheng.  “What did you ask me again?”

Jiang Cheng sighs. “How do you manage to get such good grades? All I ever see you do in the library is sleep on the books. Do you acquire the information through some kind of sleep osmosis?”

Wei WuXian laughs. “I don’t know, maybe? Hey, are you coming to that party at the Tunnels later?”

Jiang Cheng’s suffering expression turns sour. “No, because unlike some people I actually do have to study at times.”

Wei WuXian frowns. “Aw. I was hoping you’d be my wingman and I could be yours. I hear they’ve invited girls from the next town over. Plenty for both us, eh?” He elbows Jiang Cheng in the side, winking.

“Still have to study. Sometimes I wonder if you even listen to what I say.”

“Yeah, I wonder that too,” Wei WuXian admits, then rushes a few steps ahead to avoid Jiang Cheng’s retaliation. “Anyway, you know where to find me if you change your mind,” he calls before turning around the corner.

“In the Tunnels, neck deep in girls?” Jiang Cheng deadpans.

Wei WuXian makes finger guns at him.

The Tunnels is exactly what it says on the tin—a winding maze of tunnels and adjoining rooms underground. It’s the basement complex of a warehouse turned into a student lounge, right outside the campus and hence outside the reach of the campus rulebook. All the best parties happen at the Tunnels, and where the best parties are, there’s also Wei WuXian.

 

-

 

“Pathetic,” a voice hisses somewhere near Wei WuXian’s ear.

“Nnhhh?” Wei WuXian asks. He’s so tired, but for some reason he’s not lying comfortably on the grass anymore. No, he’s being hoisted up by the armpits, and not very gently for that matter. “…the fuck?”

“Up,” the voice commands.

“No,” Wei WuXian refuses. “’m sleeping.”

In response, he gets a frustrated huff that’s the soundwave equivalent of daggers being thrown at him. The iron grip under his armpits holds, and despite Wei WuXian and gravity’s joint efforts, he soon finds himself unsteadily on his feet, with a pair of arms holding him up like a ragdoll.

Wei WuXian opens his eyes just enough to squint at the assailant of his beauty sleep. “Oh hey,” he mumbles with a sleepy grin. “You’re the one who always looks like you want to bash my head in with a book.”

Lan WangJi stares at him, unblinking. “Ridiculous.”

Wei WuXian isn’t sure if by ridiculous, Lan WangJi means him personally, their current situation or his claim about the book-bashing. He leans closer and squints at Lan WangJi, meeting his unwavering glare with a droopy smile. The nearby streetlight gives Lan WangJi’s eyes a hue that looks like the green depths of a lily pond.

“Your eyes are really pretty, by the way.” Wei WuXian tries to lean even closer, but Lan WangJi resists his attempts by tightening his grip under Wei WuXian’s arms.

Lan WangJi’s throat bobs around a swallow. “Ridiculous,” he repeats, but his voice has lost the worst of its dagger edge. “You should not sleep here.”

“I was just taking a nap,” Wei WuXian explains, grinning.

Lan WangJi is the absolute embodiment of unimpressed as he holds Wei WuXian propped up by the armpits while still managing to keep him at an arm’s length. “A nap.” His voice could freeze hell over in seconds. “You were taking a nap.”

Wei WuXian nods emphatically. “Yes.”

“On the grass.”

“Yes.”

“On the campus grounds.”

“Yes?”

“In the middle of the night?” Lan WangJi grits out the last words like they personally insult him.

“Well, yeah,” Wei WuXian begins. “See, I was going home. It’s, uhh, that way.” He points far over Lan WangJi’s shoulder, and somehow that tips his balance, so he ends up that one crucial step closer and plants himself face down against Lan WangJi’s shoulder.

It’s a nice shoulder, and the light gray leather jacket is soft under his cheek. Wei WuXian sighs and rests his head for a bit.

Lan WangJi is warm, but he stands frozen like a statue. As Wei WuXian shifts, a strand of Lan WangJi’s hair tickles his nose. Wei WuXian has just enough time to think that he smells really good before Lan WangJi straightens him up and pushes him back to his previous distance like he weighs nothing. Lan WangJi’s leather-clad arms are solid muscle where Wei WuXian grasps them in a pathetic attempt to keep his balance—or what’s left of it anyway, given the current circumstances.

Current circumstances being, there was that party at the Tunnels, and somehow whenever there’s a party, people invite Wei WuXian. And once he gets there, they keep handing him drinks, either because they like him or because they think he’s hilarious when he’s drunk. Wei WuXian doesn’t care either way, because free booze is free booze.

Okay, maybe he got a bit too drunk, so on his way back home he thought it might help to rest for a bit by sitting down on the lawn.

Sitting down may be an exaggeration at this point, because it’s a few degrees closer to consciousness than the state which Lan WangJi found him in, but whatever. It’s semantics. Tomatoes and potatoes and all that stuff.

Hmm. Potatoes.

And now he’s hungry, great.

“I want fries,” Wei WuXian blurts, swaying.

Lan WangJi freezes even more solid under Wei WuXian’s grasping hands, if that’s even possible. “What?”

“I’m hungry, I want fries,” Wei WuXian says. “Chili fries,” he adds as an afterthought.

“You were going home,” Lan WangJi points out. He sounds a bit frustrated and a lot like he’s questioning his own choice to get involved in this.

“Fries first,” Wei WuXian decides. “Fries are important. For survival.”

The closest burger joint is nowhere near his route but who cares? He’s on a mission. He struggles to get free of Lan WangJi’s grip, but only manages to nearly drop his left shoe. He wedges his foot back in before the shoe falls, while Lan WangJi’s expression makes a minuscule shift from frustrated back to unimpressed.

“Let me go?” Wei WuXian suggests. It’s clear that Lan WangJi doesn’t want to be here, so he should just let go and allow Wei WuXian to night-hunt his fries alone.

Lan WangJi does not let him go. Instead, he twirls Wei WuXian around by the shoulders and guides him off the lawn and down the path. For a second Wei WuXian thinks about struggling free from Lan WangJi’s grip, but the path they walk down is the one leading to the fries, so he decides the extra support may come in handy. After all, perhaps he’s not at his peak steadiness right now.

Wei WuXian grins at Lan WangJi over his shoulder as they walk. “Are you gonna get fries too?”

“Mn.” Lan WangJi steers him right before he crashes into a bench.

“Is that a yes or no?”

“Mn.”

“You don’t talk much, do you?”

“Mn.”

“We haven’t been properly introduced, by the way.” Probably because Lan WangJi has avoided him like the plague or refused to acknowledge his existence when they’re in the same space. Wei WuXian doesn’t let that deter him. “I’m Wei Ying.”

“I know who you are, Wei WuXian.”

“And you’re Lan Zhan. Err, Lan WangJi,” Wei WuXian corrects. He doesn’t care if Lan WangJi calls him Wei Ying but concluding from Lan WangJi’s cool demeanor the sentiment of familiarity is not mutual. Wei WuXian feels an odd need to explain himself under the scrutiny of Lan WangJi’s eyes. “I know your brother, that’s how I know, uh, your name.”

Lan WangJi’s guiding hands on his shoulders tighten for a second, but then Lan WangJi only comments, “Mn.”

“I’m gonna count how many times you say that,” Wei WuXian informs him.

“What?”

Mn,” Wei WuXian mimics in monotone. “We’re at… five now, I think?”

So then Lan WangJi says nothing in response. Wei WuXian sighs. Lan WangJi’s so proper and boring.

Except… if he’s so proper and boring, what on earth is he doing outside at this hour? The horizon beyond the eastern campus buildings is already turning pale in anticipation of sunrise.

“So, Lan WangJi.” Wei WuXian twists his head back again to look at him. “I was at the party in the Tunnels, but what are you doing out so late?”

“Walking.”

“You went out for a walk in the middle of the night?”

“Mn.”

“Six,” Wei WuXian counts under his breath. “And then you found me resting my eyes on the grass.”

“Found you passed out,” Lan WangJi corrects icily.

“Semantics.” Wei WuXian waves a dismissive hand at him. He looks ahead and spots the bright neon lights of the burger place. “Ooh, we’re there! Fries!”

Wei WuXian tries to walk faster, and only Lan WangJi’s iron grip prevents him from faceplanting on the curb.

Wei WuXian aims a sheepish grin over his shoulder.

At the burger joint, Lan WangJi sits across the table and watches expressionlessly as Wei WuXian stuffs his face with fries. Lan WangJi’s leather jacket hangs on a hook on the wall, and his white dress shirt is in pristine condition despite the late hour. The top button is undone and the sleeves rolled up to his elbows, and Wei WuXian feels like he’s sitting across from a magazine ad for expensive something, like cologne or some shit. Or maybe hair products, because no one’s hair should look so perfect when the clock is nearing six in the morning.

Lan WangJi’s hair is tied at the crown in a neat half-bun, with silky black strands flowing past his shoulders nearly to his waist. His hair looks like there isn’t a single tangle in it, which is kind of unfair. Wei WuXian is pretty sure his own hair resembles a bird’s nest at this point: partying at the Tunnels and sleeping on the ground tends to do that to a person. He wonders what’s Lan WangJi’s secret. Maybe tangles are afraid of Lan WangJi and steer clear of his hair? It would make sense; he is kind of scary.

Lan WangJi pushes his hair back over his right shoulder, his movements fluid and his posture impeccable. He sits so straight it looks borderline unnatural.

Wei WuXian tilts his head and waves a fry at him. “Did you swallow a broomstick when you were a kid?”

Under the fluorescent light, Lan WangJi’s eyes are just on the light olive side of green. At Wei WuXian’s comment, said eyes narrow a fraction, but aside from that his expression and his posture remain unchanged.

“No, seriously, what’s your deal?” Wei WuXian asks. Well, mumbles, because his mouth is full of chili fries, so it comes out more like mo ferioufly whatf youh dheal. He swallows. “Are you always this serious?”

“Mn.”

“Seven,” Wei WuXian says without thinking.

Lan WangJi purses his lips, aloof. “Done?” he asks, ignoring the tally mark.

Wei WuXian looks at his empty plate. “Unfortunately, yes.”

Lan WangJi rises to his feet and sweeps his jacket off the hook. He turns his back when he pulls it on, and Wei WuXian’s eyes do a one-over without his consent. So unfair. Here he is in his ripped skinny jeans and a tattered denim jacket, picking dried leaves off his bird-nest hair. Meanwhile, Lan WangJi in his black slacks walks around like he just came from a high-end fashion photoshoot.

Lan WangJi pulls his hair from under the collar of his jacket, and it immediately settles perfectly around his shoulders, still nary a tangle in sight. Wei WuXian sighs and shakes his head. Lan WangJi is so handsome, he could get all the girls on campus if he wasn’t so… well, like he is.

Chili fries have a steadying effect, or Wei WuXian has sobered up a bit by now. Either way, he doesn’t need to be supported anymore, but somehow he ends up on Lan WangJi’s arm as they walk out. Well, Lan WangJi offered his arm, and he took it, so here they are, walking down the street toward the student housing complex across campus.

“You don’t have to walk me home, you know,” Wei WuXian says. “I’m fine. Really.”

Lan WangJi gives him a doubtful side-eye and makes no effort to let go of him.

Wei WuXian hangs off the sleeve of Lan WangJi’s leather jacket until they get to the building where he shares an apartment with Jiang Cheng. “We’re here,” Wei WuXian says, pointing at the front door and then up. “Third floor. You can let go of me now.”

He gets another sideways glance. Lan WangJi walks him all the way up the stairs and almost pushes him through the doorway into the apartment. He then shuts the door in Wei WuXian’s face with a click of the lock and stomps away.

Wei WuXian stares at the closed door, puzzled. “Thanks?” he says. “I guess.”

 

-

 

“Lan WangJi! Lan WangJi!” Wei WuXian runs across the lawn outside the library. “Wait!”

Lan WangJi stops dead on his tracks and turns. He’s wearing his usual gray leather and black slacks, but today his dress shirt under the jacket is pale blue. Errant gushes of wind make his hair dance around his shoulders, and the afternoon sun gives his skin a faint glow. He looks ethereal.

Lan WangJi’s face betrays no emotion as Wei WuXian comes to a halt in front of him, panting after his sprint. Wei WuXian drops his backpack on the ground by his foot. He feels anything but ethereal, and standing next to Lan WangJi makes him feel like a pig fresh out of a sty, all sweaty and gross. Damn this man and his perfect… everything.

“Hey, Lan WangJi,” Wei WuXian says once his breath evens out.

“Mn.”

“That’s nine, now,” Wei WuXian mutters.

Lan WangJi casts an icy glare at him. “Eight.”

Wei WuXian laughs. “So you’re keeping count as well? Should we make a shared excel sheet?”

If Lan WangJi was the type to roll his eyes, Wei WuXian suspects he’d be doing that now. As it is, he only huffs out a small sigh. “What do you want, Wei WuXian?”

Wei WuXian smiles. “I just wanted to thank you for last Friday,” he says. “For taking me home and all.”

“M—” Lan WangJi catches himself just in time.

Wei WuXian lets out a snicker. “I guess that doesn’t count.” He then grows serious. “So, I know you don’t like me, but the other night you helped me nonetheless. Thanks.”

Lan WangJi’s throat moves as he swallows. “It’s nothing.”

Wei WuXian smiles, bright and happy. “It’s not nothing. We inhabit the same campus. Gotta look out of each other, right?”

“…Right.”

Wei WuXian shifts his weight from one foot to the other. Looks like his attempts to make Lan WangJi tolerate him aren’t very successful. “Anyway. That’s all I wanted to say. I’ll get out of your hair now.”

Wei WuXian knows he can be an acquired taste, but most people end up liking him once they get to know him. Wei WuXian is used to people finding him annoying, but Lan WangJi’s distaste is on a whole other level. Usually Wei WuXian doesn’t let people’s dislike get to him, but he has to admit that having Lan WangJi hate him so much when they barely know each other kind of hurts. He sighs, picks up his backpack and turns to leave.

“Wei WuXian.”

He looks back.

Lan WangJi’s eyes are unreadable. “You’re welcome.”

 

-

 

SLAM!

This is starting to feel like a bad déjà vu. Wei WuXian blinks at the book Lan WangJi has slammed next to his head on the table. Well, at least this time there isn’t a study book under his cheek, so he hasn’t drooled on any pages.

On the other side of the table, Jiang Cheng buries his face in his hands like he’s fully given up on life at this point.

Wei WuXian yawns and looks up to give Lan WangJi an apologetic smile. “Sorry. Studying is so tiring,” he mutters.

The lack of any study materials in his vicinity kind of busts holes in his story. Lan WangJi seems to deduce as much, since his face is a mask of disapproval, and he casts a pointed look around the empty table.

Lan WangJi doesn’t reply directly to Wei WuXian. Instead, he looks across the table at Jiang Cheng. “Does he have a bed?”

Jiang Cheng looks up, eyes wide. “Huh? Of course he has a bed.”

“I have a bed,” Wei WuXian confirms with a nod. “You wanna see it?” He waggles his eyebrows.

Lan WangJi glares daggers at Wei WuXian. “Sleep in there. Not in the library, not on the grass outside, but in your bed.”

“Boring,” Wei WuXian says, winking at Jiang Cheng.

Jiang Cheng’s expression says to leave him out of this. He raises a book in front of his face like a shield, blocking them both outside.

Wei WuXian looks around the empty table. “Well. Looks like I’m done studying—”

Lan WangJi huffs, and a snort emerges from behind Jiang Cheng’s book.

“—sooo, you wanna get coffee or something?” Wei WuXian beams at Lan WangJi. “My treat.”

He’s offered to buy Lan WangJi a coffee a few times now, but each offer has been met with cold silence. He expects another huff and maybe a stern refusal. He expects to be bashed in the head with the book Lan WangJi is holding.

What he doesn’t expect is a momentary silence, followed by, “I get off my shift in half an hour.”

With that, Lan WangJi turns around and marches off, leaving behind a gaping Wei WuXian.

Jiang Cheng drops the book on the table and joins his charade of open-mouthed shock. “Dude. I thought he hated your guts?”

Wei WuXian closes his mouth. “I thought so too.”

“Maybe he just wants to get you to a secluded location so he can murder you with that book,” Jiang Cheng speculates. “It looks like you could squash melons with it.”

“Good thing I’m not a melon.” Wei WuXian grins. “Maybe my charming personality has finally converted him, and now he likes me?”

Jiang Cheng gives him a meaningful look.

Wei WuXian looks back at him with wide eyes, pouting. “What?”

Charming personality.” Jiang Cheng snorts.

“Screw you.” Wei WuXian sticks his tongue out. “I’m gonna prove you wrong. I’m gonna get Lan WangJi to become my friend.”

Jiang Cheng chuckles. “Yeah, until next time he finds you sleeping somewhere you’re not supposed to.”

Wei WuXian points a finger at Jiang Cheng. “Just you wait and see. Lan WangJi and me, we’re gonna be great friends.”

“Uh-huh.” Jiang Cheng picks up his book and mutters, “Excuse me for not holding my breath while we wait for that to happen.”

 

-

 

Getting Lan WangJi to go out to the campus coffeeshop with him is a great first step on the path to friendship.

That is, before Wei WuXian realizes he’s left his wallet at home and can’t pay for Lan WangJi’s tea like he promised. Hell, he can’t even pay for his own coffee.

Lan WangJi gives him a look and pays both their drinks without a word.

Wei WuXian grins sheepishly. “Sorry. I’ll pay next time.”

As if there’s going to be a next time. He’s lucky if Lan WangJi doesn’t slice his throat with a sharply-laminated bookmark and leave him to bleed dry behind a shrub somewhere.

They sit by the window, and Wei WuXian tries his damnedest to be polite and charming. One person’s opinion of him shouldn’t matter, but for some reason he really wants Lan WangJi to like him.

Wei WuXian does most of the talking. Lan WangJi doesn’t slip up much, but on occasion he says, “Mn.”

Wei WuXian lets out a gleeful laugh every time this happens and counts each occasion aloud. He looks at Lan WangJi with a smile on his face. There’s probably latte foam on his upper lip, and his unruly hair tries to dip into his drink when he leans across the table and whispers, “Twelve.”

It happens a few more times before Wei WuXian catches the deliberateness behind it and understands that Lan WangJi doesn’t hate it when he counts those small indifferent noises. Lan WangJi’s face is as expressionless as always, but his ears tint red when Wei WuXian declares a new tally mark. Wei WuXian wouldn’t go as far as to say Lan WangJi likes it, but his annoyance seems to have shifted toward more neutral ground.

The path from indifference to friendship is still a long way to go, but it’s closer than Wei WuXian was an hour ago. He should have placed a bet on it with Jiang Cheng, because this friendship scheme is working like a charm.

“So, Lan Zhan,” Wei WuXian says. “Can I call you Lan Zhan? I feel like we’re close enough for that, eh?”

Lan WangJi swallows a mouthful of tea and looks down at the table as he sets the mug neatly in the exact same spot. “We’re not.”

“Aww c’mon, don’t be like that.” Wei WuXian pouts. “Why do you hate me?”

Lan WangJi’s eyes flash from the mug to Wei WuXian, and the color in them reflects the intensity of his stare. “You’re ridiculous.”

“Ridiculous and charming?” Wei WuXian says, batting his lashes.

“Ridiculous.”

“Just ridiculous? Not at all funny, handsome, friendly?”

He thinks Lan WangJi’s mouth curves up just a tiny bit. “Just ridiculous.”

“Lan Zhan, you wound me.” Wei WuXian pushes his empty latte cup away and drapes himself over the table like he’s been shot in the heart. He cranes his neck to aim a pathetic look at Lan WangJi.

Lan WangJi’s mouth is slightly open, like he was about to berate Wei WuXian for using his name again but decided against it. He sits, back straight as always, but his eyes are directed downward at the tabletop where Wei WuXian is doing his best impression of a swan dying of emotional hurt.

Wei WuXian grins. “Can’t we be friends? You can still hate me if you want.”

“That’s not how friendships work,” Lan WangJi says in an even tone.

“It could be a unique trait of ours,” Wei WuXian claims. “That and keeping count how many times you say mn. Our motto can be spreadsheets and one-sided hatred, see, it already sounds like one of those motivational t-shirts they sell at the campus store.”

He spots another slight twitch of Lan WangJi’s mouth. “You think I’m funny,” Wei WuXian says, awed.

Lan WangJi’s mouth defaults back to a straight line. “I do not.”

Wei WuXian sits up and almost knocks his empty latte cup over. “You totally think I’m funny. You almost smiled.”

“Maybe I had a stroke.”

Wei WuXian spreads his eyes comically wide. “Lan Zhan, did you just make a joke?” he cackles. “See, I’m funny, and it’s rubbing off on you already.”

Lan WangJi pushes his hair behind his shoulder. “Shut up.”

Wei WuXian grins triumphantly. “Make me.”

“Mn.” There’s that sound again, neither agreeing nor refusing.

Wei WuXian slams his hand on the table. “Sixteen. I’m gonna make that spreadsheet.”

Lan WangJi shakes his head. “Ridiculous.”

Wei WuXian is a man of his word. He creates a spreadsheet and decorates it with flourishing colors, then painstakingly records every occurrence of ‘mn’ uttered in his presence, complete with timestamps and locations. As a cherry on top, he adds a sum total at the bottom of the column, so each time an occurrence is added it updates the total number in a cell highlighted in rosy pink.

He sends the link to Lan WangJi’s university email and sits back to wait for the inevitable moment when he’s going to get knifed in the jugular.

 

-

 

Mass lectures are the best thing about university, because they allow Wei WuXian to disappear in the crowd and maybe take a nap. Also, in front of a faceless crowd, the lecturers never care enough to call him out when he skulks in fifteen minutes late with the biggest coffee the campus coffeeshop has to offer.

Once again, the class has already started when he sneaks in, closing the door with a barely audible click. Wei WuXian slides into a seat at the very back and looks up, only to find Lan WangJi’s icy glare aimed at him from behind the lectern. Lan WangJi’s eyes drill into Wei WuXian’s skull, and even though he keeps talking in a calm tone, he radiates so much disapproval that Wei WuXian feels the heat all the way across sixteen rows of seats.

Wei WuXian sinks down and tries to hide behind his massive takeaway cup. What is Lan WangJi doing at the front of the class? Wei WuXian pulls out his phone and logs on the intra to find the syllabus that he never read when the course started.

Oh. Apparently it’s been listed on the syllabus all along. Guest lecture on foreign diplomacy by honored doctorate student Lan WangJi. Wei WuXian snickers silently into his coffee. Well, that’s probably what Lan WangJi studied during his year abroad, but really, diplomacy? Lan WangJi is the most unyielding person he’s ever met, so Wei WuXian doesn’t know if they should listen to his advice on the matter of diplomacy. After all, diplomacy often relies on compromise, and that doesn’t seem to be Lan WangJi’s strongest suit.

Wei WuXian listens to the lecture with interest, not because the subject is close to his heart, but because this is the most words he’s ever heard coming out of Lan WangJi’s mouth. He’s not a grandiose speaker, but he commands attention nonetheless. Wei WuXian doubts it’s the content of Lan WangJi’s speech that keeps all eyes on him. Either people are too afraid to look away, or they are too entranced by Lan WangJi’s good looks.

Wei WuXian downs the remains of his coffee and leans his chin on his hands. Lan WangJi is wearing a soft gray button-up with a pattern that from a distance looks like clouds. His sleeves are once again rolled up to his elbows, and the topmost button of his shirt is undone in an illusion of casualness. Wei WuXian would bet the last coins at the bottom of his pocket that over half of the students in the lecture hall would pay for the privilege of popping open another button on Lan WangJi’s shirt.

Hell, Wei WuXian himself would pay to do it, if for no other reason than to see the look on Lan WangJi’s face. He imagines the growing panic in Lan WangJi’s eyes if he were to plant himself on Lan WangJi’s lap and reach out to unbutton his shirt. Lan WangJi, the pristine Jade of the Lan family, would undoubtedly flip his shit.

It would be a glorious moment of three full seconds before Wei WuXian was murdered.

When the lecture ends, the teacher thanks Lan WangJi for his speech and Wei WuXian has no idea what Lan WangJi actually said.

He gets up among the first people and is about to steal out of the room, when Lan WangJi’s voice calls from behind him, “Wei WuXian.”

Wei WuXian stops dead and grimaces, before turning around and switching the grimace to a smile. Lan WangJi waits below at the lectern while other students pass Wei WuXian on their way out like he’s a rock in a stream of water. Some of them cast curious looks in his direction, others—like Jiang Cheng—merely look like they never expect to see him alive again.

“It was nice knowing you,” Jiang Cheng says from the corner of his mouth as he walks by.

“I want my ashes to be spread on Lan WangJi’s doorstep,” Wei WuXian replies, deadpan.

Jiang Cheng snorts out a laugh, then he’s gone and the room is quiet.

Lan WangJi gathers his papers and pulls on his jacket, while Wei WuXian lingers near the door.

“Hey,” Wei WuXian greets when Lan WangJi finally climbs up the steps and they stand face to face by the door. Lan WangJi is taller by just enough so he has to crane his neck to look him in the eye. “Did you want something?”

Lan WangJi brushes a lock of hair over his shoulder. “You owe me tea,” he says.

Wei WuXian blinks, confused. Perhaps this is Lan WangJi’s twisted way of saying he wants to be Wei WuXian’s friend after all? Wei WuXian has long since given up on trying to understand the inner workings of Lan WangJi’s mind.

Wei WuXian pats his pockets to make sure he has money on him and smiles when he finds his wallet. “Yeah. Of course. You can get a bagel too if you want.”

“Mn,” Lan WangJi says, then looks like he regrets ever setting foot within fifty meters of Wei WuXian when he immediately whips out his phone to add this to the spreadsheet.

“Oh, by the way, did you like the spreadsheet?” Wei WuXian asks with a devilish grin, waving his phone in Lan WangJi’s direction.

“It’s ridiculous.”

“You need to expand your vocabulary, Lan Zhan.”

“My vocabulary is fine.”

“But it’s just that me and everything that has to do with me is ridiculous?” Wei WuXian clarifies.

“Mn.”

Wei WuXian taps another entry into the spreadsheet, since it’s already open on his phone. He looks up and winks. “Well. I think I can live with that.”

 

-

 

The party at the Tunnels is full of people, so moving in the narrow concrete hallways means wading through a mass of human bodies. The air is suffocating, and judging by the smell someone nearby is smoking a joint indoors.

Wei WuXian holds his beer bottle above the crowd, trying to make his way toward the back end of the maze without spilling it. If his memory serves him correctly, he last saw Jiang Cheng in one of the rooms near the back entrance.

But then again, his memory isn’t really serving him correctly, or then Jiang Cheng is hiding, because when he gets to the room in question Jiang Cheng is not there. Maybe he left already? No, he wouldn’t leave without saying something. Wei WuXian squints and tries to spot familiar faces in the crowd of people. Well, anyone is a familiar face when he’s drunk enough, but he’s not quite there yet.

Wei WuXian gives up on trying to find Jiang Cheng and makes his way to the steep back stairs that lead outside. Fresh air never hurts, especially after being underground in the bunker-like maze for hours on end.

Someone has dragged a couch outside and set it in the middle of the empty backyard. The couch is pockmarked with cigarette burns and smells faintly of old booze, but Wei WuXian hops over the backrest and sits down on it anyway. His jeans have seen worse. Behind him, music from the basement blasts through the open back door.

Someone is throwing up in the nearby bushes. Wei WuXian grins and cranes his neck to see who it is. Maybe it’s Jiang Cheng? He’ll have blackmail material for weeks if that’s the case.

It’s not Jiang Cheng, but an unfamiliar man in a yellow hoodie. When the guy finishes puking his guts out, he wanders over to the couch and sways on his feet, squinting at Wei WuXian.

“Hey, you’re that… WuXian… something,” the guy finally says.

“Wei WuXian,” he confirms. “What about me?”

“So you’re the, uh, boyfriend of the tall scary guy?”

Wei WuXian blinks. “What? Tall scary guy? Ohh, you mean Lan WangJi.” He laughs, then stops. “Wait, where did you get the idea that I’m his boyfriend?”

“I’ve seen you around campus.” The guy wipes his mouth. “Just looked like it.” He shrugs and then goes inside.

Just looked like it? Wei WuXian blinks at the empty doorway over his shoulder. What the hell?

He turns and stares at his beer bottle for a long while. He brings it to his lips, but instead of taking a sip he blows into the bottle, listening to the hollow sound it produces. He does it again, and the sound reminds him of flutes and wind chimes.

Wei WuXian leans back to look at the sky, the bottle resting against his stomach. The idea of him being Lan WangJi’s boyfriend is, as Lan WangJi would put it, ridiculous. However, looking at it from an outsider’s point of view, maybe not so ridiculous.

Wei WuXian recalls several occasions when he’s draped himself across coffeeshop tables, batted his lashes, winked and pouted in an attempt to get Lan WangJi to smile, or more like tolerate him. There was also the night when he was drunk and walked home hanging off of Lan WangJi’s arm. So yeah, he can see how from the outside it would look like something it’s not.

But still, the whole thought is ridiculous.

Lan WangJi doesn’t even like him.

And more importantly, Wei WuXian is not into him like that. He just wants to be Lan WangJi’s friend.

Wei WuXian startles out of his weird headspace when the couch dips beside him. He looks to his right. “Oh hey, there you are.”

Jiang Cheng clinks his beer against Wei WuXian’s. “You looked like you were a million miles away just now,” he says.

“I’m not high if that’s what you’re asking,” Wei WuXian retorts.

Jiang Cheng sighs. “Shame. I will always remember fondly that one time when you tried weed.”

Wei WuXian shoves him in the shoulder. This is why he needs blackmail material on Jiang Cheng—the guy has too much blackmail material on him.

Jiang Cheng downs the last of his beer and gets up. “Have we seen enough of the chaos downstairs for one night?”

“Yeah. Let’s head home.” After sitting outside with his thoughts strange and heavy on his mind, the noise and stuffy air waiting inside don’t feel the least bit inviting. Wei WuXian sets his half-empty bottle on the ground and allows Jiang Cheng to pull him up from the couch. They make their way to the gap in the hedge that surrounds the makeshift yard behind the Tunnels. It’s not so much a purposeful gap among the shrubs but more a natural path worn by years of students passing through the hedge. Wei WuXian holds a branch so Jiang Cheng can slip through and then follows suit.

It’s just past midnight, so there’s still some foot traffic on the paths when they pass through the campus. They walk by the spot where Lan WangJi found Wei WuXian sleeping that night weeks ago. Wei WuXian glances at the lawn and smiles. He recalls his own stumbling gait and Lan WangJi’s guiding hands on his shoulders, and how Lan WangJi sat in the fast food joint looking like he was a walking ad for all kinds of fancy stuff. Well, he still looks like a walking ad for fancy stuff on a daily basis, so that hasn’t changed. What’s changed is his tolerance for Wei WuXian’s bullshit, because where at first he got all huffy, now he just takes it with an air of expressionless nonchalance.

Well, not expressionless. Lan WangJi’s expressions do alter, but the changes are so small Wei WuXian didn’t notice they were there at first.

He notices them now.

Wei WuXian realizes he’s spent so much time with Lan WangJi that he’s learning to read the minuscule shifts in Lan WangJi’s expressions.

He doesn’t know what that means or what he should think about it.

 

-

 

Wei WuXian waits until Lan WangJi has taken a sip of his tea and then says in a loud voice, “So, some guy at the Tunnels party last weekend asked if I’m your boyfriend.”

Lan WangJi is too proper to actually spit out his tea, but he does look like he’s choking for a good five seconds. His face flushes an unhealthy shade of red and his eyes go wide as he tries to keep the tea where it’s supposed to stay. He wheezes through his nose, swallows hastily and then reaches for a napkin to hide his cough behind. He coughs for a long time, while Wei WuXian leans his chin on his hands over the table and enjoys the performance.

“I asked him where he got the idea,” Wei WuXian continues when Lan WangJi looks like he’s back in the land of the living.

“Mn.”

Wei WuXian taps the screen of his phone where he has a tally counter app open. Lan WangJi glares at his tapping finger for a second, but then his eyes flit back to Wei WuXian’s face.

By now, Wei WuXian may be good at reading the tiny shifts in Lan WangJi’s expressions, but Lan WangJi is giving him nothing. He’s doing it on purpose, Wei WuXian is sure. He knows Wei WuXian is trying to get a rise out of him, and he refuses to play.

Boring.

“He said he’d seen us around campus,” Wei WuXian says, mischievous. “And apparently our behavior led him to believe, you know…” He trails off with a shrug, leaving the rest up for deduction.

Lan WangJi’s throat moves as he swallows.

“So what you think, Lan Zhan?” Wei Wuxian bats his lashes. “Boyfriends?”

“We’re not.” Lan WangJi’s tone is flat.

Wei WuXian leans over the table with a wink and twirls a lock of hair around his finger. His hair is a tangled mess as usual, so the movement isn’t very smooth. “But oh, think how gorgeous we’d look together.”

Nothing in Lan WangJi’s expression changes, but his ears tint pink. Wei WuXian is sure Lan WangJi is seething with silent rage, but he can’t help himself—he wants to coax out a reaction. An actual, human-emotion reaction that isn’t just a bob of Lan WangJi’s throat or a rush of blood to his ears.

Without thinking too much, Wei WuXian reaches across the table to pop open a button of Lan WangJi’s shirt.

Lan WangJi’s eyes widen, and his fingers close around Wei WuXian’s wrist before he can accomplish his goal. The grip holds tight, but a slight tremble accompanies it.

Lan WangJi is tense, his eyes staring at Wei WuXian, unblinking. Wei WuXian grins and wiggles his fingers in front of Lan WangJi’s chest, trying to pry his wrist loose. “This is no way to hold hands, is it?”

Lan WangJi lets go like Wei WuXian’s wrist is a live wire and retreats where Wei WuXian’s grasping hands can’t reach him.

Wei WuXian decides he’s teased Lan WangJi enough for one day, so he pulls his hand back and laughs. “Oh, Lan Zhan. For a second there you almost looked shocked.”

“Mn.” Lan WangJi returns to his tea and pointedly ignores the tap of Wei WuXian’s finger on the tally counter app.

Wei WuXian leans his chin on his hands again, mimicking Lan WangJi’s deadpan expression. “Aww, Lan Zhan. So serious.”

Lan WangJi doesn’t respond. Instead, he turns to dig out a book from his bag and slams it on the table.

“Is that so you can whack me on the head?” Wei WuXian asks.

“It’s so that I can ignore your existence.”

Wei WuXian pouts and then spends the rest of the time in the coffeeshop tearing napkins to pieces and tossing them on the open pages of Lan WangJi’s book to disrupt his reading. It’s childish as fuck, but he doesn’t like being ignored.

Lan WangJi brushes off the napkin confetti with an irritated flick of his fingers, but Wei WuXian is sure he spies a tiny smile on his face a few times—so he must be amused more than irritated. That, or Lan WangJi is having an annoyance-induced stroke.

 

-

 

“Did you just say you’re gonna be studying with Lan WangJi?” Jiang Cheng’s tone has crossed the realms of disbelief and beyond, because he sounds like he’s absolutely certain this is another one of Wei WuXian’s bullshit stories.

“What? We’ve been hanging out lately; we’re friends. Which, by the way, I told you I’d make happen.” Wei WuXian crosses his arms over his chest. “Why would it be so weird if we study together?”

Jiang Cheng waves his hand at Wei WuXian, dismissive. “Oh, I don’t doubt the friendship part, or whatever is going on between you guys—”

“Hey!”

“—it’s just that you said ‘studying’. As in you, Wei WuXian, are going to be studying?” Jiang Cheng laughs and dodges Wei WuXian’s swatting hand. “I’ll believe that when I see it.”

“Tell that to your latest essay grade,” Wei WuXian huffs. “As I recall, I got a better grade on that than you did.”

Jiang Cheng’s mouth settles into an unamused line and he narrows his eyes. The playful atmosphere makes an immediate swerve toward territory where Wei WuXian doesn’t want to venture.

“Sorry.” Wei WuXian gives Jiang Cheng an apologetic nudge. He doesn’t mean to hit below the belt. He knows how hard Jiang Cheng works to keep his grades up, because his parents are all up his ass about it. It’s not his fault Wei WuXian is able to do the same with less effort.

Jiang Cheng shrugs.

“Well, in any case I’m going to pack my study book with me,” Wei WuXian says, steering the conversation back from Jiang Cheng’s grades to his own minimal study time. “See?” He shakes the book in front of Jiang Cheng’s face and pushes it into his backpack.

“Didn’t even know you owned a course book,” Jiang Cheng mutters.

“I do study,” Wei WuXian mutters. “On occasion.”

“Uh-huh.”

“Maybe I’m just so tired of your constant mocking that I do it when you’re not there,” Wei WuXian accuses. “Like now, with Lan WangJi.”

“Oh I’m sure there are plenty of things you do with Lan WangJi when I’m not there.” Jiang Cheng makes a face.

Wei WuXian gives him a suffering look. “It’s not like that.”

“Sure it isn’t.”

Wei WuXian’s face forms a solemn mask of sadness. “Sometimes I worry about you.”

Jiang Cheng looks at him, suspicious. “Worry about me? Why?”

Wei WuXian sighs. “It’s clear you’re both delusional and self-destructive, because you see things that aren’t there, and you also know full well I’m going to kill you if you don’t cease this ridiculous speculation.” He smiles brightly and points a finger at Jiang Cheng’s nose. “So stop it or die.”

Jiang Cheng’s laughter follows him all the way to the door.

Once the apartment door closes between them, Wei WuXian drops the bright smile and sighs. Ridiculous speculation? Ugh. He’s starting to sound like Lan WangJi. But more importantly, first the guy in a yellow hoodie and now Jiang Cheng? It seems like the world is out to get him.

 

-

 

An hour later, the book he brought lies forgotten on the table, and Wei WuXian finds his eyes tracing Lan WangJi’s features across the table in Lan WangJi’s kitchen.

Lan WangJi’s brows inch closer together in concentration. He has two reference books open in front of him, with a stack of seven still unopened. He’s doing research and taking notes for one of his doctorate courses, something about international politics or whatever. Anyone in their right mind would use a laptop, but Lan WangJi writes his references down in neat, concise handwriting. He jots down notes with a pen, and even without any lines on the paper to guide his writing, the columns of text are perfect and evenly spaced.

Wei WuXian sighs. Seriously, is there anything about him that isn’t perfect?

His eyes slide up Lan WangJi’s forearm to his elbow, where the cuff of his sleeve is neatly rolled. Lan WangJi seems to own an endless supply of dress shirts, because Wei WuXian has only seen him wearing the same shirt twice throughout their acquaintance. Today’s variant is white, with a subtle blue cloud print on the inside of the collar and the button placket. The topmost button is undone as usual, and Wei WuXian can just spy the slight dent at the base of Lan WangJi’s throat where his collarbones meet.

Wei WuXian’s eyes trail up the column of Lan WangJi’s throat to his sculpted jawline. Lan WangJi’s hair is pushed back over his shoulders but small wisps frame his face on either side. Wei WuXian has an inexplicable need to push one of the strands behind Lan WangJi’s ear, just to feel the soft brush of silky hair and smooth skin under his fingertips.

Lan WangJi looks up, eyes sharp like he knows what Wei WuXian is thinking.

Wei WuXian startles. “Huh?”

“You’ve had the same page open for a long time,” Lan WangJi notes.

“Oh, just taking a break to, um, process.”

Lan WangJi’s left eyebrow rises a fraction of a centimeter. “That’s the page you’ve had open since you started.”

Wei WuXian shrugs. “It’s a lot to process.”

He’s not sure if he’s talking about the studying, or his own errant thoughts running wild like headless geese.

“I need to use the bathroom,” Wei WuXian mutters. He gets up and paces to the doorway, and when he turns to glance over his shoulder, Lan WangJi has returned to writing his immaculate notes, his neck slightly bent while his back remains straight.

Lan WangJi’s bathroom is as clean as the rest of his apartment. Wei WuXian doesn’t actually need to use the bathroom, so he stands around for a moment and then flushes the toilet for show. He washes his hands with cold water and stares at his own reflection. He looks like he usually does—gray eyes, dark brows and a tangled mess of long black hair—but he feels different. He doesn’t know how or why, but he does.

When Wei WuXian comes back, Lan WangJi is completely focused on his research. Wei WuXian stops for a moment and watches his side profile from the doorway. Lan WangJi’s mouth is cracked open, his lips moving silently to form the words he writes down. His eyes are downcast, following the columns of text his hand smoothly produces. A lock of hair flows down his temple and creates a stark contrast against his cheek, like a black silk ribbon on fair velvet.

Wei WuXian’s chest feels tight, and his heart does a thing. He doesn’t know what the thing is, but it’s a thing, and it happens in his chest right at this very moment, and he doesn’t know what it means or what to do with it. All he knows is he can’t deal with looking at Lan WangJi for a second longer.

So Wei WuXian reaches out and flicks off the ceiling light, veiling the room in darkness.

It’s really stupid, because it solves absolutely nothing and may, in fact, cause more problems. But it gives him a momentary illusion that nothing is going on, because in the dark he can’t see Lan WangJi’s face.

“What—” Lan WangJi’s frustrated voice calls from across the room. “Wei WuXian? What are you doing?”

Wei WuXian stands frozen. The outside world is not completely dark, and his eyes are already adjusting to the lack of light. Lan WangJi rises to his feet, silhouetted against the kitchen window, and takes a step toward the door.

“Wei WuXian?” Lan WangJi stops in the middle of the room as if listening. “Wei Ying?”

Hearing his name fall from Lan WangJi’s lips is like a million needles pricking his skin, leaving goosebumps in their wake. Wei WuXian doesn’t breathe. He stands absolutely still in the doorway, realizing that he can see Lan WangJi against the backlight of the window, but Lan WangJi can’t see him where he stands in the dark doorway.

However, this is Lan WangJi’s kitchen, so of course he can navigate it with ease. He walks over without hesitation and switches the light back on.

For half a second, the world is too bright and they both squint at each other. Lan WangJi looks like a stern spirit of revenge, ready to strike down those who interrupted his research. That’s all Wei WuXian can see before he steps closer and slaps his hand on the switch, killing the light again.

The human eye sucks at adjusting to rapidly changing light conditions, so for a moment they’re both blinded.

Only this time, Lan WangJi stands very close; so close that a single step forward from either of them could cause bruised toes.

Wei WuXian’s heart does the thing again, so strong that it’s almost painful. Maybe he’s having a heart attack. Maybe this is the end. Wei WuXian inhales sharply and decides, fuck it. If he’s to die tonight, he might as well go down with a memory of something that’s been kindling at the back of his mind for a while now.

He stumbles forward, reaching blindly toward something, anything.

A pair of strong arms catch him without hesitation, and Wei WuXian knows which direction to fall in.

Toward Lan WangJi. Always toward Lan WangJi.

Lan WangJi is a shadow silhouetted against a faint backlight, and Wei WuXian can imagine the disapproving look on his face even though he can’t see it. He reaches one hand behind Lan WangJi’s neck, closes his eyes and pulls.

It’s even darker behind tightly closed eyelids, but what darkness steals from sight it gives back in touch and sound. Lan WangJi makes a surprised noise, like the slightest whisper of a gasp, and then their mouths crash together.

Wei WuXian’s heart is not doing the thing anymore, but now it’s doing another thing that makes him suspect his heart is trying to jump out of his chest and make a run for it. Lan WangJi’s mouth trembles against his, and Wei WuXian feels every shaky exhale that escapes his lips.

Wei WuXian expects Lan WangJi to push him away. He expects harsh words, hateful words. After all, Lan WangJi barely tolerates him.

Instead, Wei WuXian finds himself held tightly, heart to heart, while Lan WangJi’s lips start moving on his—slow, tentative, still trembling. Wei WuXian’s eyes fly open, but in the darkness that does little to aid him in dispelling his disbelief. Is this truly Lan WangJi, the cool Jade of the Lan family, kissing him with such tenderness as if Wei WuXian was a paper doll who might tear at the slightest touch?

Wei WuXian’s hand rests on the back of Lan WangJi’s neck, fingers threading through his silky hair. Lan WangJi’s arms form a tight cage around his waist, with one hand placed between his shoulder blades and another resting on the small of his back.

The kiss fades but they stand in the darkness, foreheads touching and so close they’re sharing the air they breathe.

“You don’t hate me.” Wei WuXian is not quite sure if his words form a statement or a question.

“No. Never.”

Wei WuXian has never heard Lan WangJi sound like this—so rough and breathy. The voice sparks a low-burning fire that travels through Wei WuXian’s body and settles in the pit of his stomach. He closes the gap between their lips again, and Lan WangJi accepts him, meets him in the middle. Lan WangJi’s lips no longer tremble, but his inhale warps into a sharp gasp when Wei WuXian licks at his bottom lip.

The touches between them grow and expand, molding and moving their bodies together until Wei WuXian is backed against a wall and Lan WangJi’s lips trail a path of kisses down his throat.

Lan WangJi hoists him up against the wall by the thighs, and Wei WuXian feels like a ragdoll being tossed around. It’s not a bad feeling. He wraps his legs around Lan WangJi’s waist, gasping at the sensation of teeth grazing his neck near his collarbone.

Bedroom is starting to sound like a good idea.

Wei WuXian grins to himself. “Do you have a bed?” he asks, throwing Lan WangJi’s words back at him.

Lan WangJi’s mouth on his neck stills. “Mn.”

“I’m just saying, we should be in it,” Wei WuXian suggests. Then, quieter, “Also, that’s forty-nine.”

Lan WangJi bites him. Hard.

Wei WuXian gasps, but before he has time to retaliate, his back detaches from the wall. He hurries to hold onto Lan WangJi’s shoulders as he’s being carried out of the kitchen and into Lan WangJi’s pristine bedroom.

A bedside lamp is on, casting a warm, yellow glow across the bed that’s made without a wrinkle in sight.

It’s ruined in a matter of seconds as they crash on the mattress in a tangle of limbs. Wei WuXian chuckles softly at the thought, that he’s the one who gets to mess up Lan WangJi’s bed. He’s flipped onto his back, and Lan WangJi sits astride his thighs.

“What’s funny?”

“Ruining your bed,” Wei WuXian replies.

Lan WangJi’s eyes, already dark in the dim lighting, darken even more. He reaches up to pry his half-bun loose, letting his hair down. Then he leans over Wei WuXian, and his hair falls around them like a curtain, encasing them in a small secluded world where nothing else exists.

Inside their private little bubble, Wei WuXian reaches up to slide a finger over Lan WangJi’s lips. They crack open at the touch, and Wei WuXian has a brief sense of shock when Lan WangJi’s tongue brushes the pad of his finger. The shockwave travels through his body in a ripple of goosebumps on his skin. The muscles below his navel coil up, tense.

A fleeting moment of panicky doubt flashes through Wei WuXian’s mind, because none of this is premeditated, thought-out, a part of his greater plan. Not that he actually has a greater plan, or any kind of plan. But whatever his plan or not-plan was, it never included them in bed together, or Lan WangJi’s hips rolling against his, or Lan WangJi’s mouth on his fingertips.

Then Lan WangJi leans down to close the gap between their mouths and Wei WuXian’s doubts fly out the window, kicked into the abyss by an even stronger sensation he readily recognizes. It’s want, a burning fire in his veins, a rush of heat along the edges of his skin. Wei WuXian’s fingers slide along Lan WangJi’s cheekbone and into his hair, and then Lan WangJi’s lips find his again.

“Wei Ying,” Lan WangJi gasps against his mouth, like he can’t believe what’s happening.

Wei WuXian can’t believe what’s been happening during the past fifteen or so minutes either. His hand slides down Lan WangJi’s neck and encounters the collar of his shirt. A distant memory from weeks back circles back to his mind, and he doesn’t know whether he should laugh or cry.

To think that he fooled himself into believing he wanted to open the buttons of Lan WangJi’s shirt for no other reason than to get a rise out of him. Inside his head, present-day Wei WuXian cackles like a maniac at his past self as his fingers find the topmost button.

This time, there’s no hand on his wrist to stop him.

So he opens the button, blindly, because Lan WangJi’s mouth is insistent and hot on his and he can’t see what he’s doing. His hand moves down the placket and encounters another button, so he opens that as well. And another.

With every button that pops open, Wei WuXian discovers more warm skin and Lan WangJi’s kisses turn more bruising in their force.

Also, that’s definitely a cock rubbing against Wei WuXian’s thigh. He pauses briefly, and blood rushes in his ears like a high-pitched melody. Each advancement in their situation seems to send him into a momentary spiral of doubt, until he circles back to the fact that it’s Lan WangJi, and his thoughts regain their orbit.

For weeks and months, Lan WangJi’s been there, a constant and often disapproving presence who just so happens to look like a runway model. Not to mention that he’s smart, and caring in his own expressionless way, and somehow he tolerates Wei WuXian’s bullshit. Really, no one would blame Wei WuXian for falling hard and fast. Except it took some time, a puking guy in a yellow hoodie and Jiang Cheng’s teasing remarks for him to actually realize what was happening.

Okay, so technically it took the outline of Lan WangJi’s hard cock against his thigh to realize it. Maybe Wei WuXian is a bit slow at times.

“Holy shit,” Wei WuXian says.

Lan WangJi’s mouth detaches from his in an instant. He rolls off Wei WuXian and pushes his hair off his face. He looks at Wei WuXian with a question in his eyes. “Hm?”

Lan WangJi’s mouth is red from kissing. Wei WuXian stares at it, awed. He made that happen.

“It’s just—I just realized I like you,” Wei WuXian says. Then he grimaces at himself. “Also, I realize how dumb that sounds, considering what we’re doing.”

Lan WangJi snorts, and the small crease of worry between his brows vanishes. “Really, now?”

“Are you being sarcastic, Lan Zhan?”

Lan WangJi doesn’t bother with a reply. He leans down in one smooth move and reclaims Wei WuXian’s mouth. Wei WuXian gasps into it, because at the same time, Lan WangJi’s hand slides down his chest, fingers skating over his shirt and coming to a halt on the waistband of his jeans.

Wei WuXian pushes his hips up into the touch, hoping to convey his message without having to detach from Lan WangJi’s lips. Truth be told, he never wants to let Lan WangJi’s mouth go anymore. He wants to superglue their lips together—whatever it takes to keep Lan WangJi near him, touching him, kissing him.

Lan WangJi, the master of microscopic expressions and gestures, gets it. He pops the button of Wei WuXian’s jeans and slides down the zipper, and then there’s just a layer of underwear between Wei WuXian’s hard cock and Lan WangJi’s hand. Holy shit, Wei WuXian repeats silently to himself. He hurries to open the rest of Lan WangJi’s shirt buttons, and then undressing further with their lips sealed together becomes impossible.

Wei WuXian makes a small noise, a wordless suggestion, and somehow Lan WangJi understands what he means. There’s a brief moment of separation, mouths breaking free from the kiss so they can both get rid of unnecessary clothing.

Which means to say, every single piece of clothing comes off Wei WuXian’s body and flies directly to the floor. Lan WangJi is not far behind, and Wei WuXian notes with some satisfaction that he doesn’t bother folding his clothes—no, they reach the floor in a mess like Wei WuXian’s.

It’s good to know Wei WuXian is not the only one who is eager to feel skin on skin. He settles back on the bed and watches Lan WangJi stalk closer across the mattress. His hair flows down to his waist, and the rest of him is just lean muscle and long limbs.

And, well, there’s also his cock. Wei WuXian’s eyes focus on it and he can’t look away.

Holy shit, Wei WuXian thinks yet again, and then suggests that his brain should get a new dictionary because it seems to be stuck on a loop, here.

But when he is naked, in Lan WangJi’s bed, with an equally naked Lan WangJi lowering himself down on top of him, what else is there to think except for holy shit?

Lan WangJi’s cock brushes against his, and the electricity in Wei WuXian’s veins sparks up thousandfold. The sensations down below are unfamiliar, but by now Lan WangJi’s mouth on his feels comfortably intimate, so Wei WuXian sinks into the kiss like he’s come home. He gasps when Lan WangJi mouths down his jawline and bites him in the neck. It’s harsh and rough, but also gentle, the way he places soft kisses on top of the bitemarks as he trails down toward Wei WuXian’s shoulder.

The push and grind of their hips is soon accompanied by Lan WangJi’s hand between them, around Wei WuXian’s cock, and Wei WuXian loses track of the pain from the bites in the waves of pleasure.

Then Lan WangJi’s hand slips farther down, between Wei WuXian’s legs, and Wei WuXian freezes for a solid three seconds.

Everything in the room stops moving, aside from their lungs, still producing inhales and exhales at an accelerated pace.

Lan WangJi’s hand pulls away. “We don’t have to—”

Which is exactly the moment when Wei WuXian decides that he really, really wants to. He says as much, in a rushed voice, and feels a heated flow of blood reach his cheeks. He flushes red all the way down to his chest as he lies on Lan WangJi’s bed and asks to be taken; to be held as close as it’s possible for one human being to hold another.

Lan WangJi pulls back, and for a terrifying moment Wei WuXian thinks he’s going to leave, but he only reaches into the bedside drawer and retrieves an inconspicuous small bottle and a box of condoms.

Lan WangJi coats his fingers with lube, and Wei WuXian closes his eyes, exhaling deep as he waits for the intrusion. He has no point of reference, and waiting for the unknown is always the scariest. When Lan WangJi’s finger pushes into him, it’s curious and new, but it’s not bad.

It takes a while to get used to the sensation of being worked open, but Wei WuXian is well-distracted from it because holy shit, that’s Lan WangJi’s mouth on his cock. Wei WuXian trembles under the conflicting sensory input. It’s a duality of sensations—a flash of stretch and dull ache, followed by a hot rush of pleasure. It’s very strange and also very good.

When Lan WangJi puts on a condom and pushes in, Wei WuXian screws his eyes shut around the burn.

Lan Zhan.”

Lan WangJi drops to his elbows and his lips close around Wei WuXian’s earlobe in a soft kiss. He whispers directly in Wei WuXian’s ear, “I’m here.”

“I know you are, I can feel it,” Wei WuXian says. He doesn’t whine, because that’s not his style, but his voice may be encroaching on the territory of whiny voices.

“Mn.”

Wei WuXian doesn’t bother to count it, because he has other things on his mind. Mainly Lan WangJi’s cock, that’s currently in him. Holy shit. Wei WuXian is too overwhelmed to scold his brain for its lack of originality anymore, so his thoughts are just a repeated loop of holy shit holy shit holy shiiiiit

Lan WangJi raises his head and looks at Wei WuXian. The position and Lan WangJi’s gaze make Wei WuXian feel vulnerable, open, on his back with his legs spread wide and Lan WangJi’s weight heavy on him. But Wei WuXian knows which way to fall—always toward Lan WangJi—and since he’s not in a position to fall upward, he reaches his arms around Lan WangJi and pulls him down into a kiss instead. With that, Lan WangJi slides deeper into him, and they both gasp, mouths open and lips trembling against each other’s.

Wei WuXian feels full and stretched open, and so close to Lan WangJi that they may as well be one. The lingering soreness where their bodies are connected is gradually fading, giving way to a warm sensation that Wei WuXian wouldn’t exactly call pleasure, but it’s definitely getting there. Then he sneaks a hand between their bodies and wraps it around his cock and crosses the threshold to pleasureland.

It’s not a sudden explosion of bliss, but a slow-building sneak-attack on Wei WuXian’s senses. It’s the thrill of harsh breaths against his mouth; it’s their hips snapping together and the warmth spreading to his extremities. It’s being surrounded by Lan WangJi’s presence, feeling him with every fiber of his being like he’s never felt anyone before. When Wei WuXian comes, hard and messy between them, Lan WangJi lets out a quivering sigh and his hips drive in and out a few more times, fervent, before shuddering and coming to a halt.

Lan WangJi’s weight on him is comforting. Wei WuXian lies still, sweaty and his muscles weak like he’s a fawn who hasn’t yet dared to take his first steps. When Lan WangJi pulls out, Wei WuXian lets his legs slump on the bed and drags his arm over his eyes, panting.

“Holy shit,” Wei WuXian rasps. “I feel like a limp noodle.”

This elicits a quiet chuckle, and Wei WuXian hurries to take his arm off his eyes. He made Lan WangJi chuckle? What reality is this?

Lan WangJi’s face is solemn as usual, but there is something soft in his eyes and in the line of his mouth. He holds up a finger as a sign for Wei WuXian to wait a moment, then leaves.

The bed feels cold and empty, and somehow Wei WuXian feels more naked alone than he did with Lan WangJi. He wants to pull the blankets on himself, but he’s still covered in his own sticky come and he’s pretty sure that Lan WangJi, despite looking at him softly, is not above murdering him if he ruins the sheets. So he lies still, exposed, feeling the residual burn. He’s probably going to be sore in the morning. It’s a good soreness, though. It’s a reminder how close to Lan WangJi he was.

Lan WangJi comes back with a damp cloth. He dabs it on Wei WuXian’s skin, cleaning him in gentle movements.

“Can I stay here for the night?” Wei WuXian blurts, when Lan WangJi goes to dispose of the washcloth.

He gets a stern glare in reply. “I wasn’t going to let you leave,” Lan WangJi states.

Wei WuXian smiles and settles more comfortably on the bed, burrowing under the blankets. He closes his eyes and waits, listening to Lan WangJi moving in the apartment. Lan WangJi comes back soon and crawls under the blanket with Wei WuXian. He’s a solid warmth against Wei WuXian’s back, pressing his lips to the nape of Wei WuXian’s neck.

“I’m so glad you didn’t bash my head in with a book,” Wei WuXian mutters.

A soft exhale against his neck is the only indication that Lan WangJi finds his remark amusing.

Wei WuXian is teetering on the edge of sleep, when Lan WangJi whispers, “So am I, Wei Ying.”

 

-

 

The bed dips, and a hand reaches out to shake Wei WuXian’s shoulder.

He doesn’t want to wake up yet, it’s way too early for that. Wei WuXian whines and buries his head under a pillow.

A firm hand pries the pillow away. Wei WuXian makes a protesting noise, blinking sleepily against the morning light.

“Nnghh, Lan Zhan.” Wei WuXian turns on his side and reaches out to tug Lan WangJi against him. Lan WangJi allows himself to be pulled into an embrace, which is the best thing ever, despite the too-early hour. Wei WuXian yawns into Lan WangJi’s shoulder. “What time is it?”

“It’s morning.”

“Morning,” Wei WuXian mutters. He scoots up on the bed and presses his mouth against Lan WangJi’s jaw. “Too early in the morning.”

A soft huff flutters his hair. “It’s almost nine.”

“Like I said, too early.” Wei WuXian tilts his face up to kiss Lan WangJi.

“Mn.”

“You know, I believe I lost count of that last night,” Wei WuXian says against the corner of Lan WangJi’s mouth. “Ow! Will you stop biting me?”

“No.”

Wei WuXian sucks on his lower lip, where Lan WangJi’s teeth left a sore spot. He pulls Lan WangJi in for another kiss, slow and sleep-languid, while his hand reaches for a pillow behind his head.

Revenge time.

The pillow smacks Lan WangJi in the temple, and Wei WuXian has just time to giggle in delight before he’s wrestled onto his back and Lan WangJi sits on his hips, pinning Wei WuXian’s arms above his head.

Wei WuXian wiggles his hips under Lan WangJi’s weight and watches his stern expression melt away. Lan WangJi lets go of Wei WuXian’s hands, and what is Wei Wuxian to do with his two hands other than to pull Lan WangJi down into a kiss? It’s only logical.

After rolling around, kissing, shoving and wrestling each other for a breathless moment, they settle against the pillows with Wei WuXian resting his head on Lan WangJi’s shoulder. Lan WangJi’s arm holds him against his side, and Lan WangJi’s lips press absent kisses on Wei WuXian’s hair. Wei WuXian traces patterns on Lan WangiJi’s chest.

Wei WuXian turns his face up and looks at Lan WangJi. “You know what, Lan Zhan?”

“Hm?”

“I know you said I need to sleep in my own bed, but do you think that every now and then, I could also sleep in yours?”

The expression creeping on Lan WangJi’s face is something Wei WuXian has never seen before.

It’s a smile. A full-blown, radiant smile, and it’s the most beautiful thing Wei WuXian has seen in his life. His heart does the thing again, and Wei WuXian finally understands what it means.

Feelings, stupid. It means you have feelings for Lan WangJi.

Wei WuXian sighs. Jiang Cheng is never going to let him live this one down.

 

-

 

 

Wei WuXian sits at the kitchen table and checks his phone while Lan WangJi makes breakfast.

Jiang Cheng has left him a text message sometime around seven in the morning. It’s one word, bracketed in five pairs of quotation marks.

”””””Studying”””””