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Cave Survival (or: how the Xuanwu cave could have gone)

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Lan Wangji was heavier than he looked. So, so much heavier. 

It was probably the multiple layers of robes he had on, Wei Wuxian knew. Oh, sure the Gusu Lan sect robes might look ethereal and dignified, but there were simply way too many layers of them! Was there not one Lan in existence who looked at their robes and thought, "Hm, these look nice, but if they were to become waterlogged, they would add a ton of inconvenient weight to their wearer"? Wei Wuxian seriously doubted it. 

The creature roared. The whole cavern shuddered, and Wei Wuxian nearly fell. Pain shot through his injured arm, and he gritted his teeth. On his back, Lan Wangji still wasn't moving, his chin pressing into Wei Wuxian's shoulder as Wei Wuxian paused to adjust his grip. 

Please still be alive, please still be alive. Lan Zhan, you can't face-off against a monster like that only to die by mere drowning!  

Once they were far away enough and out of sight of the lake, Wei Wuxian collapsed against the cave wall. Lan Wangji slid off his back and onto the floor with a thud

Wei Wuxian winced and crawled over. "Lan Zhan," he called. "Lan Zhan, are you awake? Please answer." 

Of course, there was no answer. Wei Wuxian wondered if he would reply even if he were awake. He held his ear near Lan Wangji's mouth and waited. No breath. 

Shit, okay

He tried to recall how drowning victims were saved back in Yunmeng. The Lotus Pier was situated right along a network of rivers, and most—if not all—of its residents knew how to swim. Still, where there was water, there was drowning, and Wei Wuxian had seen a few rescues. 

He cursed himself for not paying greater attention to those rescues as he tentatively placed his hands on the center of Lan Wangji's chest and started pressing. The compressions were too shallow, he knew. He was supposed to press hard enough to break ribs, but he really did not want to do that. 

A metallic smell filled the air as Wei Wuxian continued compressions. He gave a start, frantically looking around Lan Wangji for injuries. There, on his shoulder, blood bloomed red in the water-saturated white robes, spreading at an alarming rate. 

Lan Zhan, when did you get that?! 

Hurriedly, Wei Wuxian shrugged off his outer robe and pressed it against Lan Wangji's shoulder. He highly doubted that wet clothes were the best for wounds, but options were limited. He didn't know how serious the wound was, and Lan Wangji's lack of breath was a much bigger priority, but if Lan Wangji shed too much blood, the smell could lead the demon tortoise right to them.

Compressions were much more difficult to achieve with just one hand. Wei Wuxian almost had to throw himself into each press. "Come on, Lan Zhan," he hissed through his teeth. "Wake up. Wake up, you stubborn—"

He stopped. Didn't Yumeng's river rescues also include giving breath to the victims? He dimly remembered shijie telling him that the victim's chest rising with a given breath was a good sign, and that if their chest didn't rise, then something was in their airway and they were choking. 

Was Lan Zhan choking? Wei Wuxian prayed not. He had only two hands! He couldn't apply pressure to Lan Wangji's wound, give him chest compressions, and dig around his mouth for foreign objects at the same time. 

He also had the feeling Lan Wangji would very much not appreciate him sticking his fingers down his throat, even in the name of saving his life. In that scenario, the cold-eyed Second Jade of Lan might even prefer death. 

Wei Wuxian gave himself no time to think. He pinched Lan Wangji's nose shut, tilted his head back, and sealed his mouth around Lan Wangji's mouth. He breathed, and—to his great relief—felt Lan Wangji's chest rise. Oh, thank Heavens, he's not choking.  

He'd just given Lan Wangji his third breath when the man jolted up, coughing up water tinged pink with blood. Relief washed over Wei Wuxian like a flood, overwhelming and sudden. He patted Lan Wangji on the chest. "Welcome back," he greeted. "Did you have fun on your little trip to death's door?"

Lan Wangji was a mess. His forehead ribbon was crooked, his hair was mussed and soaked, and his eyes looked at nothing in particular. Wei Wuxian wasn't sure if he'd even heard him. 

He readjusted his position, holding his weight on his good arm while still remaining close enough to see every twitch of Lan Wangji's face. "Lan Zhan?"

Lan Wangji's eyes focused, unfocused. He turned towards the sound of Wei Wuxian's voice, eyebrows furrowed in confusion. 

Wei Wuxian smiled at him. "Hello. It's me."

It took a while—long enough that Wei Wuxian was starting to question if Lan Wangji had hit his head sometime during the fight—when Lan Wangji's eyes suddenly widened and he made an odd, choking sound. His hand flew to his own throat, as if startled by the noise. 

"You stopped breathing for a bit," Wei Wuxian told him informatively. "Thankfully you didn't have anything blocking your airway, except—well—water. Nothing different from your standard drowning. And you got the congested blood out. Back at the creek, I told you you shouldn't hold it back. Don't you feel so much better now?"

Somehow this only increased the alarm on his face. His gaze darted everywhere, from Wei Wuxian's eyes, to his forehead, to his lips—

Wei Wuxian frowned. Does he not recognize me? 

"Hey, Lan Zhan." He shuffled closer, bringing his face directly in front of his. "It's me, Wei Ying. You remember me, right? I had to copy sect rules under your supervision as punishment, and you broke countless jars of my Emperor's Smile." 

Lan Wangji still said nothing. He only stared directly into Wei Wuxian's eyes, almost as if he was afraid to blink. Without warning, he took a deep breath—deeper and quicker than Wei Wuxian had ever heard from him before—and Wei Wuxian suddenly realized: he's going to scream

Later, in hindsight, Wei Wuxian would admit that maybe he wasn't as good at thinking on his feet as he'd thought. For someone who prided himself on his quick decisions, he'd had a disappointing number of them turn out to be less than ideal. 

But at the time, he'd seen no choice. His uninjured arm was propping him up and his other hand was applying pressure to Lan Wangji's wound. Using either hand to cover his mouth would have resulted in either Wei Wuxian falling onto Lan Wangji—bad—or potentially agitating his wound—also bad.  

So seeing Lan Wangji's expression, hearing that sharp inhale, Wei Wuxian made a decision.

He leaned down and pressed his mouth firmly against Lan Wangji's parted lips. 

He'd meant to silence him, or at least muffle enough of his scream that the sound wouldn't alert the demon tortoise of their location. Too late, it dawned on him that maybe Lan Wangji didn't fully understand his motive, and that maybe his actions looked a little… questionable. 

Faintly, he noticed that Lan Wangji's lips were cold. He's freezing.

Lan Wangji didn't scream—which was good, that was the goal. His breathing, however, immediately spiked. He sounded like he'd been running for his life, with how harshly he exhaled and inhaled through his nose, warming and cooling Wei Wuxian's cheek. His body had turned to stone, frozen and unmoving, and his eyes were so wide that, in the light of the torches that had been discarded by the fleeing Wens, Wei Wuxian could see both golden irises. 

Wei Wuxian suddenly felt the need to explain himself. "Be quiet," he whispered the words into Lan Wangji's mouth. Do not scream.  

Lan Wangji didn't relax. Instead, he somehow tensed up further, his breathing wild and erratic. One hand gripped Wei Wuxian's arm, fingers grasping at his sleeve. 

He's panicking, Wei Wuxian realized. Not that he blamed him. Anybody would be panicking after seeing a huge man-eating demon tortoise, never mind nearly drowning in said man-eating demon tortoise's cave lake. Still, his reaction felt a little late. The tortoise had gone back to sleep, and neither of them were in danger of being attacked. Why panic? Or—wait, maybe it was shock. Yes, that would make more sense. Shock would definitely—

Lan Wangji's body went limp, all tension melting away. Wei Wuxian lifted his head, surprised. "Lan Zhan?"

No response. Lan Wangji's head rolled slightly to the side, his eyes shut and his features relaxed. 

Did he… faint?  Wei Wuxian stared at him, feeling confused. 

Or was it nine at night already? He had no idea. He'd never seen Lan Wangji sleep before, but he was absolutely certain that someone of Lan Wangji's character had to retire at nine and rise at five everyday, precisely, just like the rest of his family. He wouldn't even be surprised if Lan Wangji automatically fell asleep at nine, no matter where he was.

He did some mental calculations in his head. The sun hadn't set yet when they'd entered the cave. Surely four or more hours hadn't passed that quickly. But here they were, in a cave, with no access to natural light. If Lan Wangji's body told him that it was time to sleep, then Wei Wuxian was in no position to argue. 

He rubbed his hands together, chasing the chill out. They needed to get out of their wet clothes and warm up, fast. 

After binding his outer robe to Lan Wangji's shoulder wound, Wei Wuxian snuck back towards the lake. For once, he was glad the Wens were such cowards; arrows, torches, and bows were scattered all over the cave floor, thrown away in favor of escaping. Most of the torches were already extinguished, having fallen into puddles, but a few had landed on dry rock and were still lit.

Good. He would not have to waste precious spiritual energy conjuring up a flame. 

He separated the items into dry and wet piles and carried them back. He'd light the dry pile first, then add the wet one when the fire was strong enough to withstand the excess moisture. 

Lan Wangji predictably hadn't moved at all since Wei Wuxian left. Wei Wuxian paused to check if he was still breathing. Satisfied upon feeling a steady breath on the back of his hand, he set about building a fire. Once the flames had grown hot enough, he started stripping down and wringing out his clothes. After he shook them out, he draped them across rocks he'd positioned close to the fire to dry. 

When it came to his pants, he hesitated, glancing at Lan Wangji. After a moment of contemplation, he shrugged and pulled them off. So what if Lan Wangji would find it indecent? This wasn't the Cloud Recesses; there was no strict dress code to follow. They were both men, and neither of them had anything the other didn't have. Besides, they'd already bathed in the cold spring together. It was no big deal. 

He was sitting by the fire, untied hair ribbon at his feet, wringing out his hair when he heard Lan Wangji stirring. When he turned, Lan Wangji was propped up on his uninjured elbow, blinking and rubbing his face tiredly. 

Wei Wuxian made a huh sound. "Guess it isn't nine after all."

Lan Wangji looked up, the weary confusion on his face quickly turning into recognition, then horror at the sight of Wei Wuxian. He jolted up, then clamped a hand down on his injured shoulder, hissing in pain. 

"Don't touch it." Wei Wuxian stood up. 

Lan Wangji flinched backwards. "You! Stay right there!" His voice was raspy. 

Wei Wuxian stopped. "What's the matter now?" he frowned. "I saved your life and built you a fire, and this is the thanks I get?" 

Lan Wangji looked anywhere except directly at him. "Why," each word was sheer agony, as if he had to say them under threat of death, "are you not decent?" 

"My clothes are wet," Wei Wuxian answered. Was it his imagination, or were Lan Wangji's ears pink? "If I don't take them off, I run the risk of freezing to death. Don't you live up in the mountains? I thought you'd know about the dangers of the cold." 

"I do." He looked absolutely tortured, staring at the cave wall. "So long as there's a heat source and your clothes are no longer soaking wet, you can put them back on." 

Wei Wuxian made a face. "But I just got dry. I don't want to put damp pants back on."

"Wei Ying!" Lan Wangji growled, the name echoing off of the walls.

"Alright, alright, fine. But just the pants." Wei Wuxian sighed, and went to retrieve said item. "Lan Zhan, I've always known that you were strict about propriety and rules, but I never thought you'd still follow them during a situation like this. Seems a bit unnecessary, doesn't it?" 

"Not unnecessary," Lan Wangji answered, sounding a little hoarse. 

"You making me put on wet clothes in a survival scenario sounds pretty unnecessary to me," Wei Wuxian snorted, before turning around and walking towards him. "Okay, now your turn."

Alarm flashed across his face. "My turn for what?" 

"Getting dry and warm. What else?" Wei Wuxian knelt down in front of him and reached for his waistband. 

For someone with an injured shoulder and a broken leg, Lan Wangji backed up surprisingly quickly. "What are you doing?" he demanded. His back hit the cave wall. 

"Helping you undress." Wei Wuxian followed him easily. "Your shoulder is hurt and you have many layers. It would be difficult for you to undress yourself."

The color drained out of Lan Wangji's face, leaving him as pale as the jade pendant at his waist. "No. Absolutely not." 

"Would you rather freeze to death? Wait, no, don't answer that question." Wei Wuxian sighed and knelt down beside him. "Don't make a fuss. I haven't even looked at your shoulder yet, so we don't know how serious it is." He slid a finger underneath Lan Wangji's belt.

Lan Wangji's breaths staggered. "Wei Ying!" He struggled, grabbing Wei Wuxian's wrist. 

"I said don't fuss!" Wei Wuxian pried his fingers off and continued working at the belt. "Huh, wow. This is tied pretty tight. Can you even breathe in this?" 

The noise that escaped Lan Wangji sounded suspiciously like a whimper. "Wei Ying—"

Wei Wuxian batted his hand away. "Don't worry, I can handle this." 

Soon, the belt slid to the ground, along with his blue waistband and jade pendant. Lan Wangji made the same sound again, too tired and cold to fight.

Lan Wangji's clothes were not of the same make as the Gusu Lan uniform non-blood-related disciples had to wear. His were finer, lighter, with delicately embroidered clouds that must have taken someone months to complete. Wei Wuxian felt a little guilty for just tossing each layer aside to focus on the next one, but really—there were just way too many layers

"Lan Zhan," he groaned as he carefully eased the fifth layer over Lan Wangji's injured shoulder. "Why do you wear so much? This is so tedious."

Lan Wangji kept his gaze at a fixed point away from Wei Wuxian. "Sect rules. Proper dressing." 

"Yeah, well, your sect rules are going to bore your spouse on your wedding night." Wei Wuxian untied the front of the sixth layer, and his jaw dropped. "There's more?

Ears flushed red, Lan Wangji yanked the edge of his robes from Wei Wuxian's hand. "Don't do it then, if you find it a bore," he said icily. 

Wei Wuxian couldn't help but laugh. "Now, don't be like that, Lan Zhan. I was joking." He reached for the robes again, positioning its sleeves so that Lan Wangji could slip out with minimal movement. "How many more layers after this one?"

"Just one," Lan Wangji answered succinctly. 

There wasn't just one layer left, as Wei Wuxian quickly discovered, but as soon as he touched the remaining layer, Lan Wangji clutched it tightly. "Leave it," he ordered. "The fabric is thin. It'll dry soon." 

Might as well, Wei Wuxian thought with a sigh. He hooked his thumbs on the edge of Lan Wangji's pants. 

Lan Wangji jumped, as if burned. "Leave that too!" he blurted out.

Wei Wuxian frowned. "But we need to treat your leg."

"It's fine," he insisted, drawing his knees towards his chest. 

If it was possible to completely roll one's eyes into the back of their head, Wei Wuxian would have done so. "The fabric of your pants is much thicker than your robes. They're going to stay wet for a while. Besides, your undershirt is long enough to cover you." 

Stubbornly, Lan Wangji remained where he was, glaring daggers at Wei Wuxian. 

Wei Wuxian dug through the small pile of Lan Wangji's robes, and held up one of the thinner layers. "If you're worried so much about decency, you can drape this across your legs instead. Sounds good?"

Lan Wangji looked from Wei Wuxian, to his robe, then back again. Slowly, he held out his hand to accept it. 

Wei Wuxian beamed and tossed it to him. "Good boy. Now off with the pants."

The glare returned in full force. "Turn around."

It was so tempting to tease him more, to see those ears turn a deeper red, but Wei Wuxian restrained himself. Poor Lan Wangji looked absolutely miserable, forced to undress in front of a former classmate, and with two injuries that haven't been treated yet. Wei Wuxian had to take pity. 

So he busied himself with slicing up the sleeve of his robe with a Wen sect sword he'd found. Between the two of them, Lan Wangji had the most serious injuries. He would need bandages for his shoulder, and a splint for his leg. 

A flash of pink caught his eye, and he dug out a small pouch from his pocket. He grinned in surprised delight. This was the herbal pouch Mianmian gave him. Surely there was something useful in here. 

The moment he held it in his hand, his grin faded. The pouch had gotten wet too, and the bottom was stained with herbal juice. Whatever restorative properties the herbs may have had would be diluted, and the pouch could only hold so many herbs.

No matter. At least it was something.

Wei Wuxian turned back around. "Lan—" 

He froze. 

By anybody else's standards, Lan Wangji was reasonably covered-up. His robe already covered him to almost mid-thigh, and he was in the middle of draping the extra robe across his lap, leaving both legs momentarily exposed. He didn't look as immaculate as he usually did, but he didn't look inappropriate enough to be scandalous. 

Judging by Lan Wangji's expression, he clearly thought otherwise. His hands clenched the robe on his lap as he quickly slid both legs under it. "Wei Ying!" 

Wei Wuxian stifled a laugh. "Did I accidentally see your calves? I'm sorry." He walked over to Lan Wangji's pants and picked them up, disrupting the careful folds. 

Lan Wangji tensed up.

"Why did you fold this?" Wei Wuxian wrung out the fabric, twisting it to the point that wrinkles stayed even after unraveling. "It's going to take longer to dry." He spread it out alongside the rest of their clothes.

"Habit," Lan Wangji replied dryly, eyeing Wei Wuxian with suspicion. "What are you doing now?"

"Treating your leg." Wei Wuxian tossed the pink bag at him. "See if you recognize any of these herbs."

Lan Wangji caught the bag with a frown. He loosened the opening and carefully picked out herbs, studying them. "Some of these can expel toxins. Others can fight infection or heal wounds."

Wei Wuxian couldn't help feeling pleased. "They all sound good." He knelt down and lifted the edge of the robe to expose Lan Wangji's injured leg. 

Lan Wangji startled. "Wei Ying!"

"What? I said I was treating your leg! Don't be so jumpy. It's not like we're strangers." Wei Wuxian cupped the back of his heel and brought his leg forward. He frowned. On top of being broken by the Wens, the leg bore bloody teeth marks, deep and large. Infection was a very real threat. 

Wei Wuxian sighed as he took a pinch of herbs from the pouch. "What were you thinking, jumping into the tortoise's mouth like that?" He pushed the robe all the way up to Lan Wangji's thigh. "Hold that, please." 

Lan Wangji took the fabric and pushed it back to his kneecap. "You were in danger."

"I can handle danger." Carefully, Wei Wuxian spread the herbs across the wounds, taking care not to directly touch them. "And I can handle myself. Now you're stuck here with me instead of out there, free."

Lan Wangji stayed silent, gripping the cloth at his knee. 

"But I appreciate it," Wei Wuxian smiled at him as he wrapped the wound. "It was very heroic of you. I knew you cared about me." He took a splint broken off from a torch and aligned it with the leg. 

"Your burn."

"Hm?" Wei Wuxian ducked his chin, looking at the brand on his chest. He winced. It was no longer bleeding, but the skin had already turned an ugly, puffy red. "Ah, it's nothing. Your leg is more important."

When Lan Wangji didn't say anything, Wei Wuxian returned his attention to binding his leg. There was no use admitting it out loud, but he was concerned about the injury. He did not know the exact details of how the Wens broke Lan Wangji's leg, and he had a feeling Lan Wangji wasn't going to tell him, but walking around on an injured leg—then getting bitten on the same leg by a gigantic tortoise—couldn't be good. Worst case scenario, the leg could get infected, or heal incorrectly, leaving Lan Wangji crippled. 

He didn't notice slender fingers pressing medicinal herbs to his chest until he was already yelling in pain.

Lan Wangji scowled as he withdrew his hand. "If you know it hurts, don't be so rash next time."

"You're really cruel, Lan Zhan," Wei Wuxian gasped, blinking the stars out of his eyes. "If you know I'm injured, why be so rough on me? That's not very nice of you."

"You do not listen otherwise." 

"I listen!" he protested. "I listen! Since when do I not listen? Oof—ugh—" He groaned, reaching up towards his burning chest. 

Lan Wangji took his wrist right before contact. "Do not touch it. Let the medicine do its job." 

"You need this medicine more," Wei Wuxian argued through clenched teeth. Fuck, it hurts. "Don't worry about me. I'll be fine."

The grip tightened unnervingly. "Do. Not. Touch."

It felt like his wrist was on the verge of being crushed. "Alright, alright!" Wei Wuxian cried. "I yield! I yield. I won't touch it." He yanked his hand out of Lan Wangji's hold. Tenderly, he rubbed it, soothing the squeezed skin. "You're so stubborn, Lan er-ge. Clearly you need the medicine more. Being selfless could cost you a leg, you know."

Lan Wangji pushed the robe back, completely covering his legs. "My leg is fine now. Focus on your own wounds."

"Not yet. There's still your shoulder." Wei Wuxian scooted closer. "Take your robe off. Let me see."

Lan Wangji's lips tightened into a thin line. He clutched the front of his robe in a fist, as if it might fly off of him at any moment. 

Wei Wuxian resisted a sigh. Heavens, it's like dealing with a three-year-old. "If you're that self-conscious, then just take your arm out of your sleeve. Can you manage that?"

Still, Lan Wangji looked reluctant, but—finally—gave an infinitesimal nod. Slowly, he undid the front of his robe. 

"There you go," Wei Wuxian encouraged, stifling a laugh when he received a glare in return. "See, was that so bad? Here, let me help." He took the neckline of the robe and pulled it back gently. 

Lan Wangji was right; the robe was made of a thinner, lighter fabric, and was halfway dry already, but the shoulder area was still sticky with blood and stuck to the wound. Wei Wuxian cringed as he carefully peeled the cloth away. "Oh, Lan Zhan," he whispered.

The wound was shallow, but long. It looked like it was inflicted by one of the giant tortoise's teeth scraping across Lan Wangji's shoulder. Maybe it happened when Wei Wuxian tackled him out of the monster's mouth. He couldn't be sure. 

He took extra care moving Lan Wangji's arm out of its sleeve. "Best not to move this shoulder too much." Holding his arm in one hand, he lightly dabbed some herbs on the wound with the other. "Ah, this one might leave a scar. I'm not the world's best healer, I'm afraid." 

"It's fine." Lan Wangji said, looking away. 

"At least it'll look cool," Wei Wuxian offered as he began wrapping the wound. "And when someone asks about it, you can say you got it while fighting a giant demon tortoise. You'd have no problem attracting girls."

Lan Wangji gave a little huff. 

"I'm serious." Wei Wuxian tied the ends of the makeshift bandage together. "Girls love a man with battle scars. Just show a little shoulder, and they'll be falling all over you."

"Proper attire must be observed at all times in the Cloud Recesses," Lan Wangji recited, each word cold and curt. "Disrupting public peace and drawing unnecessary attention to oneself are not allowed."

"And there you go," Wei Wuxian sighed, absentmindedly running a hand down his arm. "Again with the rules. Won't you live a little? Life is no fun if you follow the rules all the time."

As expected, Lan Wangji didn't respond. He remained stubbornly staring at the ground, his face obscured behind the black veil of his hair. 

Wei Wuxian didn't know why, but he felt the sudden need to brush Lan Wangji's hair away from his face.

The moment Wei Wuxian's hand touched his face, Lan Wangji gave a start. Golden eyes met grey ones, wide in surprise, the flames of the small fire setting his irises aglow. 

For a moment, Wei Wuxian could do nothing except stare. Have his eyes always looked like that?  

He tried to think back to the time when he'd been stuck with Lan Wangji for a month, copying and recopying Righteousness. How bored he'd been, and how often he'd tried to get the other boy's attention. But aside from the occasional glance, those eyes had remained resolutely focused on books of proverbs and poems. It was a real pity Wei Wuxian never got a good look at them during any of Gusu's sunsets, when the last golden light of day must have amplified the brilliant color of his eyes. 

His smile took a little more effort than he'd expected. "Don't worry." He patted an uninjured area on Lan Wangji's arm. "My offer to take you to Yunmeng still stands. We can go swimming in the rivers and pick lotus seeds to eat. Then, at night, I'll show you all my favorite food stalls. Does that sound good?"

Lan Wangji's gaze dropped, and once again, he turned away. Just when Wei Wuxian thought he wasn't going to answer, there came an, "Mn," the smallest of sounds in his throat.

Wei Wuxian beamed. "Finally! I'll hold you to that, Lan Zhan. You won't be disappointed, I promise." He laughed, idly resting a hand on Lan Wangji's forearm. "Hey, are you getting cold? Do you want to move closer to the fire?"

Lan Wangji glanced at the fire. "Are the clothes dry?" 

"I think a few of yours might be, but mine probably aren't." Wei Wuxian went to check, prodding each article of clothing. "Yeah, just yours. Do you want them back?"

Lan Wangji started to nod, but stopped. "What are you going to wear?" 

"Me?" Wei Wuxian blinked. "Oh, I'm just going to stay by the fire."

"We cannot leave the fire burning for long," Lan Wangji told him. "We do not have enough fuel."

Oh. Oh. Wei Wuxian cursed silently. He'd forgotten about that. He glanced at the pile of wooden weapons and tools the Wens had dropped. Sure enough, there was barely enough for one night, let alone however long they were going to be stuck in the cave for. If he went searching, he could find more bows and torches he'd overlooked the first time, but he doubted it would be a significant amount.

"I guess I'll just scout around, then," he declared. "See if I can find more firewood, or maybe an exit, if I'm really lucky."

Lan Wangji shook his head. "You need rest."

"No— you need rest," Wei Wuxian countered. "You have a broken leg, a shoulder wound, and you almost drowned. You need to let your body recover."

"You are wounded too," Lan Wangji insisted. "And you also need to rest."

Wei Wuxian dragged a hand down his face, exasperated. "Lan Zhan, I say this with all due respect: right now, I'm stronger than you. I can handle this. Can you please rest?"

The look Lan Wangji gave him sat somewhere between insulted and indignant. "How long do you plan on wandering these caves naked? Until you collapse out of exhaustion or exposure?" 

Wei Wuxian blinked and glanced down at his pants. "Lan Zhan, I don't think you fully understand what 'naked' means."

That threw Lan Wangji off a little, if that twitch in his jaw was any indication. "My question still stands." 

With a pout, Wei Wuxian sat down on the floor. "Alright, then what do you suggest?" He flicked a pebble against the cave wall. "We can't have this fire burning for too long, but we need the heat. Not all of our clothes have completely dried, so we can't wear them yet. I could scout the area and warm up while I'm at it, but you won't let me. And we both need to rest."

Lan Wangji stared at the fire, the flames flickering in his eyes. 

Sensing that he wasn't going to get a response soon, Wei Wuxian tore more cloth for his arrow wound. He thanked the Heavens and the Earth that the arrow hadn't been barbed and that the disciple who had accidentally hit him was a terrible shot; the wound was not very deep, and had mostly stopped bleeding. Still, he wanted to cover it, just to be safe. 

"Wei Ying."

"Hm?" Wei Wuxian looked up, one end of the bandage in his mouth. 

Lan Wangji seemed to stifle a sigh. "Come here." 

Wei Wuxian raised an eyebrow. He spat out the bandage so he could talk. "You've never asked me to approach you before."

The tips of Lan Wangji's ears turned a little pink, a direct contrast to the frown on his face. "Come here," he repeated. "You won't dress your wound correctly that way." 

Wei Wuxian decided to be obedient—just this once. He couldn't hide his grin as he sat down next to Lan Wangji and held out his arm. 

Instead of simply tying off the wrap like Wei Wuxian had expected, Lan Wangji undid the entire thing. He took his time, carefully making sure the binding was neither too tight nor too loose. Cool fingers barely skimmed Wei Wuxian's skin, gentle as a breeze. 

How Lan Wangji managed to tie such a ragged strip of cloth into a neat knot was beyond Wei Wuxian. He lifted his arm to admire it. "You truly are a man of many talents, Lan Zhan."

Lan Wangji readjusted his robe tighter around his body. "Mn." 

The fire was starting to die down. Using a bow he'd unstrung, Wei Wuxian poked at the embers. "What now? Any ideas?" 

Beside him, Lan Wangji inhaled slowly. He paused too long before answering, "We rest."

Wei Wuxian pushed the remnants of a torch away from the main pile. Weak sparks flew up, quickly dissipating in the cool air. "That's going to be a challenge. Neither of us have enough layers available. Or are you suggesting we use spiritual energy?" 

Lan Wangji shook his head. "We should conserve our spiritual energy in case the tortoise gives us further trouble."

"Alright." Wei Wuxian lifted the bow when the end of it started smoking. "Then how do you propose we rest? I suppose we could put the wet layers on top of the dry ones for added weight, but if it soaks through…" 

The small flames sputtered. The fire would be out soon. 

"We rest," Lan Wangji spoke, with some difficulty. "Together." 

Wei Wuxian looked at him. 

If they were anywhere else, at any other time, he would have mercilessly teased Lan Wangji for his suggestion. The thought of Gusu Lan's cold, infallible, I-avoid-physical-contact Lan Wangji suggesting that they share body warmth was already entertaining. To actually hear it from his mouth was hilarious, and in any other situation, Wei Wuxian would have burst out laughing. 

Lan Wangji looked back at him. The outline of his face was already starting to blur into shadows. Only his eyes remained visible, for the time being. Soon, they too would be lost to the dark. 

Wei Wuxian did not laugh. 

Instead, he got up, gathered all of Lan Wangji's dried robes, and handed them to him. Temporarily slipping into his still-wet shoes, he used his feet and a few well-placed prods of the bow to move some of the rocks onto the embers, where he spread the rest of their clothes to soak up any lingering heat. By the time he was finished, there wasn't any useful light left from what remained of the fire. 

Lan Wangji's voice called hesitantly from the dark. "Are your… clothes still wet?" 

Wei Wuxian patted his pants. The front had dried from him sitting in front of the fire, but the back remained damp. "A bit, yeah." 

A resigned sigh. "Set them out to dry. You may wear one of my robes." 

Wei Wuxian couldn't hold back a smile at that. "Wangji-xiong is very generous," he snickered as he stepped out of his pants and shook them out. 

There was no reply to that, but he liked to imagine that Lan Wangji's ears flushed a little. 

As soon as he'd made sure that everything was in place, Wei Wuxian called, "Lan Zhan, where are you?" 

"I am here," came the reply. "Watch your step." 

Slowly, Wei Wuxian made his way towards the voice, taking each step with care. He squinted, trying to see something—anything. 

Lan Wangji was not where Wei Wuxian last remembered him to be. Somehow, he had found an area of the cave with a slight incline. Wei Wuxian shuffled his steps, half-expecting to stub his toe on something.

"Lan Zhan?" he called again. 


Something was shoved at him. Wei Wuxian nearly dropped it, confused until he felt parts of it spill from his hand. Gingerly, he drew the cloth over his shoulders and slipped his arms through the sleeves. "Thank you." 


The robe was just a little too large for him and hung loose on his body, but it was infinitely better than nothing. Wei Wuxian knelt down and patted around cautiously until he found fabric, then an arm.

The arm moved, and a hand took his wrist. "Sit." 

Wei Wuxian did so, feeling the hand search until it reached his shoulder. Then it pressed, guiding him. "Lie down. Slowly." 

Lan Wangji had laid one of his thicker layers down to insulate them from the cold stone floor. Wei Wuxian shifted about on it, wincing. Trying to get comfortable on stone was an impossible endeavor, but he still tried to find the position that brought the minimum amount of discomfort. 

At least he wasn't freezing. 

Something draped over him, and Wei Wuxian found himself burrowing into what must be the remaining layers of Lan Wangji's robes. He pulled the fabric up to his face, delighted in their warmth, and inhaled. Sandalwood. Lan Wangji always smelled of sandalwood. It came as no surprise that his clothes would, too. 

He reached out. He found an arm, an uninjured shoulder, a neck. Upwards he went, tracing over a chin, soft lips, an elegant nose. When his fingers trailed over a smooth forehead, his stomach dropped. "Lan Zhan! Your forehead ribbon!"

"I took it off." Slender fingers plucked his hand away from Lan Wangji's face and placed it down on something firm. It took Wei Wuxian a moment to realize that his hand was on Lan Wangji's chest.

"Oh." A pause. "You're allowed to do that?" 


"Ah. Makes sense." He curled his fingers slowly, unable to resist skimming his thumb across smooth, bare skin.

He's warm. 

With a sigh, Wei Wuxian scooted closer, until he was pressed firmly against Lan Wangji. Normally, he wouldn't be so bold, but he had a feeling Lan Wangji would permit it, at least for the night. 

"Goodnight, Lan Zhan," he mumbled, suddenly aware of how tired he was. 

Silence. Then, so quiet that he barely heard it, "Goodnight, Wei Ying."

The floor was hard, and neither of them had pillows, but Wei Wuxian was too exhausted to care. As his eyelids slid shut, all he could feel was the stone beneath him, the warm body by his side, and a hand resting on top of his own. 

He fell asleep to the sound of dripping cave water and the smell of sandalwood, more comforting than he'd ever imagined.