Of Pining, Obliviousness and Failed Seclusions
(Or How Gusu Lan Sect Almost Got Eight New Sect Rules)
It surprised no one who knew of Lan Xichen’s character that after Guanyin Temple, he went into seclusion. What surprised those who knew him, and himself most of all, was that he didn’t stay in seclusion.
Afterwards, Lan Xichen would wonder that if Young Master Wei and Wangji hadn’t been so completely oblivious about their feelings for each other, he might have remained in seclusion after all.
Or perhaps not.
It might just have taken them longer to wear him down.
As seclusions go, Lan Xichen is beginning to wonder if his is a complete failure.
No matter how many wards he sets, no matter how silent he remains, no matter how firmly he keeps from acknowledging their presence, no matter how still he sits, they keep visiting.
They come to see him every day. At different times, of course. Wangji comes early in the morning, Young Master Wei near to evenings. Wangji talks very little, mostly sitting nearby and just being there. Young Master Wei never seems to stop talking. He talks and talks, and talks - about nothing, about everything, about Wangji.
After a while, Lan Xichen finds himself beginning to listen.
“Why can’t I take rabbits to the library?” Wei Wuxian complains, practically pouting. “They’re so cute and they only ate one book that one time!”
The image of rabbits in the esteemed library of the Cloud Recesses might have made Lan Xichen smile in another time, when his heart was lighter and he didn’t feel weighed down by grief and regret. It does make him at least think of something else for a moment, and he half wonders if that is the real purpose of Wei Wuxian’s visits here.
“They always try to run away from me,” Wei Wuxian says with a sigh. “I give them carrots, I take them on adventures, and they still try to run away from me. They never run away from Lan Zhan.”
Wei Wuxian seems to ponder that for a moment, twirling his flute a bit absentmindedly.
“I wish Lan Zhan’s rabbits would love me like they love him,” Wei Wuxian finally says, his voice filled with longing.
Of course you do, Lan Xichen thinks, and doesn’t say.
One morning, Wangji brings copy of newly proposed sect rules and reads them loud enough that Lan Xichen can hear. They include a new rule about no rabbits in the library, as Lan Xichen was expecting. Surprisingly, they also include a new rule on no serenading rabbits by flute on rooftops after curfew.
Lan Xichen doesn’t ask. Wangji still tells him.
“Wei Ying,” he says as way of explanation. His face is almost, just almost, blank, but his eyes are slightly too downcast. Wangji is worried. “Wei Ying is bored in Cloud Recesses.”
Lan Xichen barely keeps himself from nodding. Wei Wuxian does not have the temperament for permanent residence in the Cloud Recesses, life too quiet here for his mind. Unless…
“Yet still he stays,” Wangji goes on after a moment, voice slightly puzzled.
How can his brother fail to see why, Lan Xichen wonders. Then he remembers what he failed to see and his heart aches.
Maybe being oblivious is a family trait?
“I broke three sect rules yesterday,” Wei Wuxian announces, plopping down next to Lan Xichen with the expected lack of grace. “I think Lan Zhan was proud of me. Only three. Last week, I broke five before breakfast.”
He goes on to detail what sect rules and how, and Lan Xichen listens, eyes closed all the while, finding himself imagining everything Wei Wuxian details – Lan Quiren’s despair and anger, the amusement of the younger disciples, Wangji’s many exasperated looks and occasional reminder to behave.
“I’m such a trial to poor Hanguang Jun,” Wei Wuxian comments at the end of his tale. “It’s a wonder he hasn’t kicked me out of Cloud Recesses long ago.”
It is not a wonder at all, Lan Xichen knows.
Wangji sometimes brings work with him – letters to reply to, assignments the disciples have handed in to be graded, books to be looked over. He works at them in front of Lan Xichen, as if hoping to make him interested in what he is doing. Thus, Lan Xichen cannot help but not notice that sometimes, tucked into Wangji’s papers, there are small drawings.
Rabbits. The forests of the Cloud Recesses. A full moon over falling snow. Wangji.
These are Young Master Wei’s drawings, Lan Xichen knows. Not because they are signed or because he recognizes the style. No, he knows they are Wei Wuxian’s drawings because Wangji always, always smiles at them, and gently tucks them into his sleeves when he leaves. What Wei Wuxian gives, Wangji always keeps.
Lan Xichen never says anything when he notices them, but he often lets his mind wander, remembering a time when he subtly encouraged Wangji to make friends with Wei Wuxian. If he had known then what he knows now, he would have….
No. he would not have regretted that, Lan Xichen always concludes. Not that. So many other things, yes, but not that. Not when Wei Wuxian can make Wangji, Wangji, smile like that.
Somehow, his heart feels a little lighter every time he sees that smile, Lan Xichen finds.
Wei Wuxian begins to play his flute to him. Some of his songs are familiar, others are not, but they are all enjoyable, all played well. He clearly tries to keep to happy songs, but every now and then, he trails off into something bittersweet, something longing, something wistful.
Lan Xichen knows he is thinking of Wangji when he does.
“Do you have a favorite song, Zewu Jun?” he asks one evening, looking down at his flute. “I could play you that. I think I know every song in the Gusu Lan library now.”
Lan Xichen says nothing, but he cannot help but find the offer touching.
“I could play you my favorite song,” Wei Wuxian says after a moment. “Lan Zhan composed it himself! Only, I don’t know what it’s called. Lan Zhan won’t tell me. You’re the sect leader. Can’t you order him to? He’s so unfair keeping it from me.”
Softly, Wei Wuxian begins to play, and Lan Xichen soon realizes why Lan Zhan won’t give Wei Wuxian the name of the song.
This song is a song of longing and of love, saying everything Wangji wants to say, yet seems to avoid telling Wei Wuxian with words.
Brother, Lan Xichen thinks, heart aching for him.
Wangji begins to bring musical scores with him, looking at songs meant to ease heartbreak, to return spirit, to help temperament. Lan Xichen knows what he’s trying to tell him and wishes he could appreciate it more.
Is this how Wangji felt all those years ago, when Lan Xichen tried to help him with the loss of Wei Ying?
He doesn’t ask. It occurs to him that Wangji has already answered – all he did then, all he has done since, all of it explains all too well how he feels.
To everyone but Wei Wuxian, at least.
One evening, Wei Wuxian flops down next to him miserably, staring up at the ceiling.
“Your Uncle is out to make my life as miserable as possible,” he whines. “Ah, forgive me, Zewu Jun.”
Lan Xichen considers saying nothing. Then he sighs. Weeks and weeks of Wei Wuxian talking and talking and talking seem to have worn him out. He inclines his head, indicating forgiveness granted.
Wei Wuxian lights up, looking beyond happy to see Lan Xichen react to him. It is rather touching to see just how genuinely happy he is. It is mostly for Wangji’s sake, of course, Wei Wuxian wanting him to feel better, but that is what makes it so touching.
“Zewu Jun is gracious,” Wei Wuxian says, and even does a formal bow. “Talk to Lan Zhan, will you? He is all sad and no fun when you’re not talking to him.”
Lan Xichen closes his eyes for a moment. He knows his seclusion, his grief, is causing Wangji pain, and he wishes, oh how he wishes, that he would not have to pain his brother just as their father once pained them by his absence.
“I don’t want him to be sad,” Wei Wuxian goes on. “Lan Zhan should be happy all the time. I wish I could find something to make him happy forever.”
You have, Lan Xichen half wants to snap at him. You. You.
How can Young Master Wei be so clever in so many things, and be such an absolute idiot when it comes to this?
The next morning, Wangji enters as he always does, but his shoulders are less tense and he looks… Hopeful, Lan Xichen supposes. As expected, Wei Wuxian must have told him what happened yesterday.
“Brother,” Wangji says formally, making a bow before sitting down. He waits, patiently, stubbornly, and Lan Xichen sighs. Did he ever have a chance at remaining in complete seclusion with the combined forces of Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji?
He inclines his head to Wangji and acknowledges his presence.
Wangji says nothing at first. He simply exhales, closing his eyes for a moment, his relief so palatable it hurts.
“Thank you, Wei Ying,” Wangji whispers under his breath, voice soft and loving.
Tell him that, Lan Xichen thinks.
Wangji does tell him, Lan Xichen discovers. Just not with words.
“Lan Zhan was very happy today,” Wei Wuxian informs Lan Xichen that evening. He twirls his flute and grins. “He even brought me lotus seeds today. Lotus seeds! I didn’t know you could get lotus seeds in Cloud Recesses.”
Gently, Wei Wuxian reaches into his robes and pulls one a handful of seeds out. He bites into one, smiling as he does.
“Do you want one, Zewu Jun?”
Lan Xichen shakes his head lightly.
Wei Wuxian shrugs, and bites into another. “I’m not sure Lan Zhan likes them either. He only ate a few. He never drinks liquor with me either, even when he gets it for me every night. Isn’t that odd, Zewu Jun?”
No, Lan Xichen doesn’t say, but he does sigh. Loudly.
One morning, it is Wei Wuxian that comes early, not Wangji. Perhaps Wangji had something to see to, and Wei Wuxian came in his stead, Lan Xichen supposes.
What’s more, Wei Wuxian seems to be in an even more stubborn mood today.
“I am going to get you to talk to Lan Zhan,” Wei Wuxian informs him, crossing his arms. “I can’t stand seeing him so miserable. Brothers should talk to each other.”
His voice has just a tinge of pain, and Lan Xichen thinks of Jiang Cheng and Wei Wuxian, and wonders if that is something that will ever be mended. For their sakes, he hopes so.
“Why are all Gusu Lan so stubborn?” Wei Wuxian whines after a moment when Lan Xichen says nothing. “Lan Xichen, if you don’t talk to me, I am going to leave and you'll be bored forever. I can just leave. I am free to roam the world. No one will hunt me now. What is holding me here if you won’t to talk to me?”
Lan Xichen looks at him, and Wei Wuxian looks away.
“I can just leave,” he repeats brightly, too brightly.
Wei Wuxian cannot just leave, Lan Xichen knows. He knows very well what holds Wei Wuxian here, and it is not his lack of speech.
“Leave?” Wangji says from behind them, and Wei Wuxian looks up sharply. Lan Xichen glances over at his brother as well, noting how his stiff posture, his guarded expression, his hidden hurt.
Lan Xichen sighs, then sighs again.
“I…” Wei Wuxian says. He swallows. His voice is too brittle, too nervous, as he tries to make a joke out of it. “Bet you’d be relieved to get rid of me by now, right, Lan Zhan?”
Lan Zhan says nothing.
Lan Xichen tries to recite the Lan sect rules to keep himself from saying anything. He manages to get through a few hundred while Wei Wuxian and Wangji just look at each other before he finally, finally has enough.
“How long?” he asks softly, and Wangji and Wei Wuxian both look up in shock, staring at him. “How long are you two going to be like this?”
“Brother,” Wangji says, sounding relieved.
“Zewu Jun!" Wei Wuxian exclaims happily at the same time. “You’re talking again! Wait, like what?”
“Oblivious,” Lan Xichen says. He closes his eyes and then opens them again. How can anyone be expected to remain quiet while witnessing such a ridiculous amount of mutual pining?
They both just look at him, still oblivious, and Lan Xichen gives up entirely on not saying anything.
“Young Master Wei,” he says, and Wei Wuxian looks at him curiously. “My brother likes you.”
Wangji stiffens immediately, eyes darting here and there, practically radiating panic. “… Brother.”
Wei Wuxian has gone still as well, flute mid-twirl, eyes wide and shocked and… hopeful? “… Likes?”
“How can you not know that?” Lan Xichen asks, exasperated. “After all he’s done, how can you not know that? He has endured uncle’s disapproval for you again and again, and has stood beside you when no one else would. He wears scars for you, Young Master Wei. How can you not know how much he likes you?”
“I thought…” Wei Wuxian begins, trailing off. “I didn’t… dare think that.”
Ah, Lan Xichen thinks, looking at him anew, noticing the way his eyes dart towards Wangji, hardly daring to believe what he’s just heard. Perhaps it is not merely idiocy. Perhaps Young Master Wei’s upbringing and circumstances has made him so used to scorn he simply expects people to think less of him than they do.
“Wangji,” Lan Xichen says after a moment. Wangji is purposely not looking at anyone, avoiding Wei Wuxian’s attempts to catch his eye. “Young Master Wei likes you.”
Wei Wuxian goes still. Wangji’s breath catches. There is for a moment a silence that seems to stretch on forever.
“…” Wangji says nothing, just swallows, and the hope on his face is almost heartbreaking.
“Why do you think Young Master Wei is still here?” Lan Xichen goes on. “Four thousand sect rules, Wangji. Months of four thousand sect rules. Yet he is still here. Why do you think he is as dedicated to bringing me out of seclusion as you are? Wangji. This is not merely gratitude for what you have done for him. He likes you. How can you not see how much?”
Wei Wuxian swallows, then he kneels down in front of Wangji and places a hand on Wangji’s. The touch is hesitant, but so very tender, and Lan Xichen smiles at it.
“I do,” Wei Wuxian whispers. “Lan Zhan, I do like you. I don’t even remember how it felt to not like you. I love you. I love you.”
“…” Wangji’s lips move, but no sound comes out. He just breathes, staring down at Wei Wuxian’s hand on his, and then very slowly, lifts his gaze. “Wei Ying.”
“Lan Zhan,” Wei Wuxian replies, and Lan Xichen cannot help but smile softly at the scene.
“….” Wangji breathes, and Wei Wuxian dares to shift closer. “… I like you. I love you.”
Wei Wuxian laughs, but it is a delighted laugh, a happy laugh, and Wangji smiles more softly than Lan Xichen can ever remember seeing before. “All this time?”
All this time, Lan Xichen thinks, and sighs. At least his brother has found someone as good at pining as himself.
“All this time,” Wei Wuxian repeats, but in wonder. “All this time, I… Lan Zhan.”
They stare at each other for a moment longer, both wearing silly smiles, and then Wei Wuxian leans in, braids one hand in Wangji’s hair and slips the thumb on his other hand beneath Wangji’s headband, and kisses Wangji happily, so very happily.
Lan Xichen averts his eyes after a second, looking down at his hands. He has to admit that his brother’s happiness is a worthy reason to break his silence. A very worthy reason indeed.
“Young Master Wei,” he says into the air after a few moments, “if you do not take my brother somewhere more private to be kissed, I fear you will be the reason for at least one more rule being added to the sect rules.”
“Sorry, sorry, sorry,” Wei Wuxian murmurs, but he sounds quite the opposite of sorry. When Lan Xichen glances over at them, they have indeed stopped kissing momentarily, Wangji’s lips lightly parted, his expression happier than Lan Xichen can ever remember seeing before.
Gently, Young Master Wei takes Wangji’s hand in his, giving it a soft kiss before smiling at Wangji with so much love it makes even Lan Xichen’s breath catch.
“Lan Zhan, let’s go,” he says, pausing to give Lan Xichen a formal bow as he leads a slightly dazed Wangji away. “Zewu Jun. Thank you.”
Thank you too, Lan Xichen thinks as he watches them leave, and even as he returns to his silence and his grief, it feels more bearable, somehow.
Two days later, Wangji and Wei Wuxian come to visit him together.
There is a new sort of closeness between them, a confidence in how they look at each other, how they lean into each other, how their hands touch. It has been obvious for a long time how much they loved each other, Lan Xichen thinks, but now it has become very obvious that they finally, finally have stopped being oblivious to it themselves.
They no longer pine for each other. Now, they have each other.
They both give him a formal greeting as they walk up, and Lan Xichen cannot help but smile at them.
“How many new sect rules has uncle proposed?” he asks after a moment.
“Five,” Wangji says, his expression almost neutral, but the corners of his lips twitch up just ever so slightly.
“Five,” Wei Wuxian agrees, sounding disappointed. Then he perks up. “I think I can get it to seven if…”
“Wei Ying,” Wangji says firmly.
Wei Wuxian pouts at him, then gives a dazzling smile. “Six?”
“Mn,” Wangji says.
“That’s not a no,” Wei Wuxian says happily. He turns and smiles at Lan Xichen. “Zewu Jun, please forgive my shameless behavior! I wish to make up for it.”
“How do you propose to do so?” Lan Xichen says softly. He already knows what is coming, but he has a feeling Wangji and Wei Wuxian both wish to declare their intentions – after holding it in for so long, they must be bursting with it.
“By proposing to take Hanguang Jun as my husband and cultivation partner,” Wei Wuxian says solemnly.
“By accepting Wei Ying as my husband and cultivation partner,” Wangji says equally solemnly.
Lan Xichen closes his eyes for a moment, remembering a young boy kneeling in the snow, waiting stubbornly to be let in – even after he knew it was impossible. That was then.
This is now.
“A wedding,” he says, opening his eyes to smile at them both. “I am happy for you, Wangji.”
Just how happy, he doesn’t say, but Wangji knows, his eyes softening. They don’t need to speak of the past when they both remember it.
“I am happy for you too, Young Master Wei,” Lan Xichen adds after a moment, and Wei Wuxian beams. He takes Wangji’s hand in his, then looks expectantly at Lan Xichen.
“Will you join us for a meal to celebrate, Zewu Jun?” Wei Wuxian asks, and both he and Wangji hold their breaths while waiting for his response.
Lan Xichen remains still for a long, long moment.
He can still feel the grief and regret, and it is tempting to simply remain in it, give in to it, live it. His father did. His father…
He is not his father, Lan Xichen thinks. Wangji is not either. Wangji lived stubbornly through his pain, and now he has found his happy ending at last. Perhaps it is time to be as stubborn as his younger brother, Lan Xichen decides.
It is time to live through the pain, not with the pain.
“Yes,” he says, and follows them out into the brilliant sunlight, leaving seclusion behind.
(It ends up being eight new sect rules proposed, as it turns out, but Lan Xichen doesn’t put any of them into effect, finding the fact that Wangji likes to kiss Wei Wuxian among the rabbits of Gusu and that Wei Wuxian likes to sit on Wangji’s lap while reading in the library far too endearing to ever ban.)