It’s late spring when Wei Wuxian realizes he’s in love.
He’s been sentenced to the library pavilion several times now, spending most of his free hours outside class writing and fulfilling punishments overseen by Lan Wangji—when he’s not being chased around the recesses to be punished by him, that is.
He can hardly call this detention though, can he? At first, they had that forced month of punishment together, that had been a bit rough. Lan Wangji didn’t even acknowledge him back then. But now, all they ever do is spend time together, sitting across from one another, basking in the silent afternoons together unless Wei Wuxian fills it with his banter. Here with Lan Wangji, he gets better reactions to his jokes than anyone else has ever given him. Here, in the library pavilion, is where he has the most entertainment in the Cloud Recesses.
Lan Wangji is silently writing his own work down. He almost looks like a prince, effortlessly handsome and elegant, so prim and proper, not a wrinkle in his features. It’s one reason why Wei Wuxian has so much fun making the man express himself angrily, flustered, or otherwise. He knows Lan Zhan can make fun facial expressions if taunted just the right way, something others wouldn’t dare. He revels in being the only other witness most of the time. To be the only recipient of these expressions.
Wei Wuxian stares, watching honey-warm eyes flicker across the page he’s writing, those long fingers delicately painting line by line.
He sighs. Smiles harder when those eyes are directed at him instead of silly paperwork. He’s much more entertaining, really! He curls a loop of hair around his finger obnoxiously, and watches Lan Wangji’s gaze follow the motion. Wei Wuxian snorts, leans more comfortably on the table (improperly, Lan Wangji would usually say) and waits to be scolded for the action. “See something interesting, Lan Zhan?”
“No. Finish your work.” Lan Wangji says in that quiet voice of his, leaving no room for arguments as he looks away once more. Wei Wuxian laughs, and watches the cherry red color rise to Lan Wangji’s earlobes as he does. Lan Wangji, in return, buries his face back into his paperwork.
Ah, he likes Lan Zhan so much.
It comes so naturally—not a real thought, but a feeling that runs through him so fully as he sighs. He likes Lan Wangji, so, so much. Holds so much adoration for someone so strict and boring and yet somehow fun to be with. He never thought he’d feel this way about such a model student, someone so contrary to himself. Lan Wangji is probably his favorite person in Gusu. Maybe further, save for his siblings.
And just like that, he feels something lodged in the base of his throat. Well, not really lodged—just there. He coughs uncomfortably, and Lan Wangji’s eyes snap to him, all pretense of annoyance gone.
“Wei Ying?” He asks, with an ounce of—worry, maybe? Hopefully? His eyes follow Wei Wuxians’ every move.
He manages a shaky smile, mouth closed. Holds a finger up as a signal to excuse himself for a moment, because he sure isn’t going to hack and cough in a vile way all throughout the room, not on the pretty and pristine Lan Wangji.
He steps out of the pavilion, and then runs as the urge to hack comes back, tries to get fresh air behind a nearby tree, away from the pavilion windows.
Don’t be sick, don’t be sick, don’t be sick . He chants. It’s weird though, it doesn’t feel like he’s ill, it feels like—
He coughs abruptly. Harshly . He has to grip the tree trunk for support for the rather violent choking. Something lands on the dirt and sure enough, he thinks, oh, yep, thats—not his lung, despite the pain it caused to cough up.
this might be worse than a spring bug, then.
He stares at the dirt at his feet, the base of the tree. They’re both splattered with blood, and scattered there lies half a dozen measly petals and half-flowers, white as snow. Well—the ones that aren’t covered in red. Great.
He must be staring at the scene for a while. Before he knows it, he can see Lan Wangji exit the pavilion, standing at the doorway in the distance, looking outward into the garden, presumably for him.
He snatches up the petals, because he’s pretty sure these don’t grow here, and it’s going to be pretty obvious to anyone if they find the foreign flowers and bloody mess that they’re dealing with an untreated case of hanahaki in one of the students.
He skips back to Lan Wangji, flowers crushed between a tight palm. “Lan Zhan! Sorry to worry you. I think I ate something bad. I felt a bit ill there.” He laughs. The only nausea he has is a case of butterflies. The actual problem is a bit more serious.
Lan Wangji frowns at him. Comes closer, only to stare at him some more. “...Too much spice.” He concludes. “Told you .” He says, quieter. Wei Wuxian laughs.
“Lan Zhan! Are you playing jokes with me now? I can handle the spice in my meals, honestly! It was just a brief thing. I’m fine now!”
Lan Wangji looks like he’s about to say something, but he cuts himself off with an undignified sneeze, of all things. Wei Wuxian doesn’t laugh, but it’s a near thing. He waits for Lan Wangi to compose himself, biting his lip to hold his reaction back.
He looks like he’s trying not to be embarrassed as he inches back near the doorway as he whispers. “My apologies,” voice small but genuine. “Allergies.” He excuses, looking to the garden, lined with green sprouts and pink blooms of spring.
Wei Wuxian wants to tease him. Ask him why someone so perfect and regal has such a silly sounding sneeze; there was nothing fancy or regal or beautiful about it. Then, his smile is wiped clean when he remembers.
Lan Wangji is allergic to flowers.
He had told him during the first month in the pavilion, a quiet afternoon earlier in the year when the blooms had barely started forming on some trees, when the green was coming back and the snow melting away—the breeze and rain rampant as spring came about.
Wei Wuxian didn’t have the best memory, but when Lan Wangji, ever quiet, had a short conversation with him about his family, it was a detail briefly brought up: How the spring brought about gentians, his mothers’ favorite flower—only, he was allergic, and couldn’t keep them near himself. Lan Wangji opted out of going to Caiyi Town with him for similar reasons—though, truly, he figured it was a flexible excuse at the time to evade him. But maybe it was rather serious, after all.
“Wei Ying?” Lan Wangji inquires. Wei Wuxian looks up at him, startled.
“Ah, sorry Lan Zhan. I need a bit more fresh air, I think. I’ll come back in a few minutes, okay?”
Lan Wangji, after glancing over him several times, nods very briefly. He retreats into the library, and Wei Wuxian waits until he is out of sight, before he throws the white flower pieces into the dirt, smearing them into the earth with his foot.
It’s not really a good coverup, but it’s not like he can bring them into the pavilion and risk getting Lan Wangji sick.
If he doesn’t cover this up well enough, Wei Wuxian might not be the only one to die from his illness—but Lan Wangji as well, if it was serious enough.
Watching Lan Wangji for the rest of the day, sniffling and eyes teary even after closing the curtains on the windows, to the point of excusing himself, confirms his thoughts. He can barely get in the smallest bit of teasing without feeling bad, knowing he’s the reason.
Well, this sucks. He thinks, as he’s left alone in the library.
“Who is it ?” Jiang Cheng demands later that day, awed and disgusted and mad somehow all at once as he stares at the crumpled flowers sitting in Wei Wuxians’ palm like they’re going to jump up and attack him. Nie Huaisang also leans in, more intrigued from the looks of it.
They’re in the safety of their shared quarters for the guests studying from other sects; it’s just them here, Jin Zixuan and any other untrustworthy folk gone, and yet...
Wei Wuxian whines, dumping them in the bin beside their bed. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
“You better talk about it,” Jiang Cheng threatens. “Wei Wuxian, you have seen three girls at most since we got to the Cloud Recesses. They literally study in an entirely different part of the sect. How?"
“Not a girl.” Wei Wuxian sighs out. Might as well just say it now.
Jiang Cheng looks a bit shocked. Nie Huiasang doesn’t.
His brother recovers quick enough. After a pause of Jiang Cheng presumably being deep in thought, he squints at his brother. “Wait a minute. Is it—” Jiang Cheng whispers hesitantly, like saying his name will summon him, “— Lan Wangji? ”
Wei Wuxian throws the pillow he was holding at his brothers’ face, because it just might. Lan Wangji is always appearing when he’s trying to avoid him.
“Don’t say it! I can’t believe I have a crush on that fuddy-duddy! UGH.”
“I can.” Nie Huaisang mutters from the safety behind his fan. He goes ignored.
Jiang Cheng throws the pillow right back at his face, his worry for his brother clearly gone. “Don’t take your bad taste out on me!”
“I’m going to die, Jiang Cheng.” He whimpers, carrying on. “It’s not even going to be a cool death. I’m going to be taken out by weeds.” He near sobs on that last bit. He’s going to be famous, and it’s going to be for something dumb. Fourth most handsome bachelor, Wei Wuxian, is going to die from unrequited love, of all things.
“Actually, on the contrary,” Nie Huaisang pipes up, “They’re nothing like weeds—those are jasmine flowers. They might look simple, but they have intricate meanings, most being very romantic! Things like, ‘no one can compare’, and ‘eternal love’. Also! They’re really good in tea for fighting illness.” He says. Then, realizing what he said, shrinks—starts fanning himself more heavily under their stares. “I mean... in regular cases they’re good for that!” He laughs uncomfortably.
“Great!” Wei Wuxian proclaims, throwing his arms up once more, “I’m going to die by a flower that’s supposed to keep me healthy. ”
Jiang Cheng wrinkles his nose. “Do you really feel that way about him, though?”
Wei Wuxian shrugs. “Kind of?” He thinks about it for another moment, and can’t lie. “Yes.” He whines.
Why’d he have to realize it now of all times? He takes one look at Lan Wangji, and he feels like he needs to make Lan Wangji look at him. He’s always adored the attention, but he loves it especially from him—his reactions were priceless! But what started off as antagonizing remarks meant to make Lan Wangji mad turned into one of the ways to keep Lan Wangji’s eyes on him.
He still wanted to make Lan Wangji mad! But... he also wanted to see him frown, or get annoyed—maybe get him to smile one day. That would be something. He could live happily for the rest of his life, appreciating every little change in that mans’ face and demeanor, or just spend time with him, like they’ve been doing.
As soon as he coughed that first flower, it was like his eyes opened. It became so obvious that what he was feeling was... way different from friendship. The blood covered petals were physical proof of that.
Thinking of anything a few steps further, like holding hands, kissing, touching… he wanted that! He liked the idea of living together with someone like that. What about kids? One wanted to get with someone they could see raising kids with, right? He could see adopting with Lan Wangji. Maybe, they could even have a little cottage on the edge of nowhere with a farm one day, after years of life as cultivators and being part of sect life got too hectic, maybe....
He coughs at that thought, the feeling of another petal or leaf or something life-threatening daring to appear at the thought of some semblance of a happily ever after. He stops thinking about marriage and kids.
He’s going to have to stay away from Lan Wangji regardless of anything he wants. Lan Wangji might turn into a huge sick ball of wheezing hives if he so much as stays in the same room for too long.
He’s pretty sure, weak, sneezing, and covered in hives, Lan Wangji would still be handsome—the best looking in the room even—but he won’t do that to him. He doesn’t want Lan Wangji to suffer from his feelings, which were near guaranteed to be unwanted by the other.
He mopes as the pillow he’d been moping into is taken away.
“Hey. We’ll fix this.” Jiang cheng promises, a note softer. Wei Wuxian only pouts harder.
He doesn’t want to fix it. He wants his love reciprocated!!!
—which is impossible, as of the moment. Even if the motto of Yunmeng Jiang is to attempt the impossible, some things are out of his reach. He can’t change the way Lan Wangji feels.
But... an idea comes from that thought. He can’t change Lan Wangji’s feelings, but maybe there is something within his own abilities he can do.
“Jiang Cheng,” he says solemnly. He grips the edge of the bed, and grins at his brother. “I’ll make my own cure. Just because one doesn’t exist yet doesn’t mean it’s not possible, right? Then I don’t need to get over it, and Lan Wangji won’t be allergic to me! We all win then, right?”
The two look doubtful, but quickly agreed to help him. He’s pretty sure his stellar pouting and overhanging death sentence convinces them, in the end.
He’s going to have to do it without getting caught by Lan Wangji. He has to stay far, far away from Lan Wangji.
Making a cure was more fun in his head.
“What if I design a spell that represses it? They’ve been used for curse marks, before.” He waves his hand around in thoughts, as he takes another bite of his food. They’d snuck out of the Cloud Recesses to think over ideas while getting lunch, but so far food hasn’t brought him much clarity. “There’s lots of talismans for holding issues at bay, too. Slowing something down, that kinda thing. Could that work?”
Jiang Cheng rolls his eyes. “I thought we were trying to cure it?”
“I do want to cure it! But think—nobody has found a cure before besides reciprocation, or getting over their feelings entirely. Considering neither are happening for me, I think I need as much time as I can get, Jiang Cheng.” He takes another gulping bite of his red, fiery-tasting food.
“You could just… try confessing.” Jiang Cheng recommends.
“Nah.” He shakes his head. “Lan Wangji isn’t into someone like me. I annoy him at best, and piss him off at worst. I wouldn’t exactly be coughing flowers if he liked me back, would I?” He jokes, smiling to his brother. “Ah, but well, it doesn’t need to be a bad thing. I could be famous if I get this to work in my favor, you know?”
“I guess.” Jiang Cheng says, but he doesn’t seem convinced. He doesn’t voice the consequences of his failure, either, but it hangs over them as they finish their meal, and continue to work.
His attempts at designing spells for it are a failure.
There are many he can look to for reference, but Gusulan’s library seems especially helpful coming from a sect dedicated to meditation, music, and healing. However, it seems catered mostly towards physical wounds or mental conditions, not for ailments. The spells for repression were worth looking into, but those will only give him a bit more time, and probably weren’t worth pursuing in the long run. On top of that, his studying in the library is cut short when Lan Wangji sneezes from across the table, and he takes that as his cue to leave for the day.
Sue him, it’s hard to stay away from Lan Wangji. But he won’t push the limits. Also, he doesn’t want to be suspicious if he can avoid it, so reading books of spells on top of the homework he came to the library for seemed the best way to go about this.
His second attempt is with a disaster of an experiment with Jiang Cheng.
His thesis is something along the lines of passing his spiritual energy to Jiang Cheng might reduce his strength, and maybe therefore stop the energy going into the flower growth. But that’s quickly proven wrong when he chokes on more petals than usual halfway through the attempt, and scares his brother half to death as he gasps for air. Even jokingly presenting the pretty flower to Jiang Cheng still nearly gets him cuffed in the head, so they move on from that pretty quickly. If anything, it seemed his spiritual powers were giving him more time.
Third attempt is Talismans. The designs are altered off existing ideas, but still need to be tested.
“Alright, Jiang Cheng. Nie Huaisang.” He says, solemn, as he finishes his work. “If this goes wrong, You get to tell Shijie I died in a dramatic fight with a ghoul, alright?”
“You’re not going to die,” Jiang Cheng hisses. “And don’t test it on yourself first.”
Nie Huaisang watches nervously, fanning himself as he guards their little experiment from a safe distance as a lookout.
“Are you volunteering?” Wei Wuxian asks, eyebrow raised.
“No, just—activate it from afar. Grab a wildflower.”
Wei Wuxian frowns as he digs in his pockets, and pulls out a handful of jasmines. “Why? We can just use these. I kept a few for experiments!”
“Have you had those in your pocket the whole day?!” Jiang Cheng hisses before moving away from his outstretched hands.
“Are you five? They’re perfectly clean! I washed all the blood off, see!” Wei Wuxian promises, and revels in his brother running from his hand, and Huaisang’s cries as he gets nearly knocked over in the fuss.
In the end, he’s very glad his brother suggested testing it on something besides himself, first—desperate for a cure as he is.
The flowers wilt. That in itself would be fine—he almost revels in the success, but then they catch on fire, and they have another problem on their hands entirely.
“Maybe it was too strong,” Wei Wuxian suggests after they’ve stomped out the persistent flames. “I could lessen the power, maybe? That was a really good first try, though!”
“Forget it .” Jiang Cheng commands. “You just saw what happened. We aren’t doing that again.”
Wei Wuxian sighs, but knows it’s probably for the best. Talisman weren’t meant for delicate work like this—they were tools for combat.
They were running out of options rather quickly, was the only problem.
After a few weeks of repeat experiments, altering some and creating new ones entirely, all while making a mess on every inch of the cloud recesses in an attempt to design something usable—Wei Wuxian comes to the conclusion that this is much harder than he made it out to be, and there’s probably a reason people just recommend getting over your crush. It didn’t feel like the easier option.
He sighs, leaning on the docks of Caiyi. Jiang Cheng joins him at some point, sitting side by side with him in the midst of his misery.
“I don’t know what to do.” He admits.
It’s a while before Jiang Cheng speaks.
“Can’t you just… stop?” Jiang Cheng requests, foolishly.
Stop… loving Lan Wangji? Wei Wuxian gives him a look, with all the pity he can muster. He pities his brother. “Ah, Jiang Cheng... this is why you’re going to be single forever.”
Jiang cheng nearly pushes off the docks.
“You—!” He starts, before sighing, letting the anger go. “I’m serious, okay? Consider moving past him. At this point, he’s not that great, is he?” Not worth your life being the implication.
He knew it would come to this again. His brother is gruff, but he’s also worried about the situation, Wei Wuxian can tell. It doesn’t mean it’s a helpful suggestion, and he would’ve preferred his brother yelling at him than this sort of talk.
“Jiang Cheng,” He sighs. “I really... don’t think I can.”
“Try.” He says, and Wei Wuxian wilts. After a moment, he sighs again. “I’m not trying to take it out on you but—what do we do ? You’ve tried everything. I’ve tried everything.” Jiang Cheng asks.
Wei Wuxian shuffles into a sitting position. “We haven’t tried everything yet,” He says quietly, unable to meet Jiang cheng’s eyes. “Do you remember what I brought up in class, all that time ago? Maybe… Jiang Cheng, what if I—”
“No.” Jiang Cheng says as he catches on, angry once more. “Not that. You aren’t learning that kind of thing.”
“Then what do I do?” He asks, voice small.
“We’ll think of something!” Jiang Cheng insists. “I’ll help you every step of the way, but don’t go down that path. I’ll knock your head so hard you’ll forget about Lan Wangji entirely before it comes to that.”
He snorts. “Please don’t hit me in the head—I won’t use it if you say so.” He kicks his feet into the water, and relishes in the calming cold of it. He misses Yunmeng. Was it time to start worrying if he would see it again? “Thank you, though.”
Now, it’s come to this. He’s coughing full handfuls of flowers every other day. Lan Wangji, who was only across the row from him in class, has been sneezing more and more, eyes watery and skin looking duller whenever they were around each other for too long. He can’t even get through a few moments of teasing the man without feeling awful about it. He was a walking allergy bomb waiting to happen. He’s going to have to take further measures if he wants to go undiscovered.
He considers trying to earn Lan Wangji’s affections, for a moment; he’d have to do so from a distance, but surely he could think up something. He could always try and communicate through gestures as a paperman, dancing to convey his intentions. He could send long, well read romantic letters if he put his mind to it. Maybe even leave him drawings on his seat in class. However, he quickly moves on from these thoughts.
As it currently stands, Lan Wangji doesn’t like him. He’s pretty sure these types of efforts would only be played off as a joke—if not taken as his new attempts at being obnoxious by Lan Wangji.
No, it was for the best if he stayed away from Lan Wangji for good until he fixes it, this time.
He’ll continue to attempt at a cure, reworking his steps.
There had to be something.
Lan Wangji feels something sinking in his chest. A foreboding weight on his heart telling him something is amiss in his routine. It’s a good, clear day out. No harsh winds, no snow, and no fog. He’s perfectly content finishing his homework. So why is he uneasy ?
The only thing unpreferred is it’s... too quiet.
It’s nearly dinner, and Wei Wuxian has usually bothered him by now. It’s almost ridiculous how his eyes dart to the doorway every couple of minutes, hopeful, like Wei Wuxian might trample in.
He looks to the window—Wei Wuxian had jumped through there, once. Maybe he’d do it again? It would startle him, but he wouldn’t be too mad, if it would cover the noise of the humming crickets far in the distance, of the papers rustling too loudly in his hands.
Wei Wuxian may have spoiled him with his presence. Always loud, always stirring up chaos or trouble, and always touchy and connected to his hip. It hasn’t even been a day since they’ve last seen one another, but...
Despite the original circumstances with time spent together—That is, Wei Wuxian being in trouble on the daily—he’s not been visiting Lan Wangji out of punishment or obligation in a long while now. His record was far from clean, but they were close; Wei Wuxian claimed so, anyway.
Lan Wangji is always asking the man to go away when he’s pushed things too far, but he hadn’t said anything wrong recently, had he? Pushed too hard?
It’s probably best the other is gone—Lan Wangji can get more done then. That’s what he tells himself, but he huffs when he realizes he’s read the same page several times while worrying about the other.
Wei Wuxian is a distraction, even without being present.
Lan Wangji gets little to nothing done the whole afternoon.
He realizes it after a lot of thought, and another few days of silence, pester-free. He wondered why he was progressively feeling worse, irritable, and easier to anger than usual. Wei Wuxian is a carefree spirit. He probably hasn’t ignored Lan Wangji on purpose, but the carelessness of the action stung too.
In one of the high windows of the halls, he sees Wei Wuxian in the distance, arguing with Jiang Wanyin, chasing him around, loud and playful, having a good time.
He used to do that with me , He thinks, and immediately feels ashamed, coveting something such as…playing. Rough-housing , He considers instead, as one of them pull each other into a chokehold before falling into another roll down the slope.
He turns away. It’s only been a few days! He didn’t need something so frivolous.
Oh, but he wanted. He feels himself tilting into Wei Wuxian’s echoing laugh coming from the window, leaning into it like it was music.
Unfortunately for him, his brother was privy to witness his longing stare out the window, and the way his eyes soften in condolence say as much—he understands entirely. Lan Wangji walks away fast—away from the window, in a near run from his brother.
“Do you want to go see your friend?” Lan Xichen asks, considerately. “Uncle only needs to see me—I can fill you in later, if you’d like.”
It’s a tempting offer.
He wants to. But that would mean he’d have to physically go talk to Wei Wuxian, and he’s certain he’d ruin any fun the atmosphere had upon his arrival. He wouldn’t even know how to explain himself, interrupting them due to a nonsensical feeling of envy.
“I’m sure he would love your company. You get along, don’t you?” His brother adds.
We do , he thinks, though he’d never be able to say it with a straight face.
“He is busy,” he says, and walks, not wanting to say more. It’s fine .
Wei Wuxian always seemed to come back around. Lan Wangji just finds himself missing him a bit, already. Even if it is for the best if such a troublemaker strayed from him for good.
He doesn’t come back around, though.
Wei Wuxian leaving eventually was something he knew. He just thought it would be when he graduated, and not in the midst of his stay. He assumed things between them were going well. Lan Wangji considered the interest the boy had in him might wane, but he didn’t think it would happen so abruptly, without a word. He’d hoped it wouldn’t come to this at all.
The teasing, obnoxious clinging, hanging off him, or even greeting him stopped, all of a sudden. He figures, even if the charm in working quietly alongside each other for hours at a time as punishment has faded—surely Wei Wuxian still wanted to tease him, as he practically courted the idea of trouble. Right?
But the man sits as far from him in class as humanly possible, quickly looking away when their eyes connect, and actually focuses on his studies, not antagonizing anyone, including his uncle.
What’s wrong? He yearns to ask.
Before, if Wei Wuxian had any problems with him, he never ceased to list them off to his face—which was both annoying, and… strangely endearing. He was so honest in the way others were afraid to be with him. So blunt, yet somehow charming.
But having Wei Wuxian go quiet like this—it was odd. Lan Wangji needed to talk first, this time.
And so, he tries. Gets up hastily as possible the moment class is dismissed.
As he approaches, though, Wei Wuxian smiles, but nervously holds up a hand.
“Sorry, Lan Zhan! I have to go early today, so I can’t hang out. I’d tell you, but It’s top secret!” He winks, waves, and then he’s quickly pulled out of class by Jiang Wanyin. Nie Huaisang, who trails behind them, at least had the decency to give him an apologetic look before following behind the other two.
Lan Wangji stares after them, and tries to understand the rejection.
There aren’t any answers left behind for him. The only things in the room are him, and the lingering smell of something floral. His nose itches.
Lan Wangji tries to catch Wei Wuxian on his way to dinner, to steal a seat by him in the dining hall. Lan Wangji lingers near the stone wall of the entrance later in the night, as if Wei Wuxian might attempt to climb it once more. If he did, Lan Wangji could use that time to try and convey his worry. He waits in the library pavilion a few more afternoons, though Wei Wuxian is never to be found. He keeps slipping away before Lan Wangji gets a chance to try and use his words.
It’s become startlingly clear Wei Wuxian is distancing himself from him, though he hasn’t voiced a reason. It upsets him much more than he’d like to admit. Was it something he did, after all? Or was Wei Wuxian of all people suddenly shy about something? Lan Wangji didn’t want to be avoided over a misunderstanding.
He spends class alone, pester-free. Wei Wuxian isn’t the perfect student, but whoever he bugs in class, it’s never Lan Wangji anymore. Even catching Wei Wuxian’s gaze is enough to make the man look to his notes again as if they’re suddenly interesting to him. Lan Wangji knows for a fact Wei Wuxian finds the subject drearily boring—he used to tell him all the time when evading work.
He should be happy about all the space he has, all the silence.
He hates it.
Lan Wangji is frustrated, and hurt. It’s the first time it strikes him just how much he wants Wei Wuxian to rely on him, to acknowledge their friendship once more to ease him.
His uncle informs him after class that his work has not been his best— Lacklustre, at the very least. What’s worse, is for once, he doesn’t even hear the man—his eyes follow Wei Wuxian out the door.
Throughout all his attempts, one thing has become painstakingly clear. Wei Wuxian is avoiding him. Him specifically . Seemingly, he has no intention to tell Lan Wangji why, either. If that’s what he wants… What can he do?
He’d never force Wei Wuxian. That’s never been something he wanted. That was against the goal entirely. What he wanted was…
What do I want? He wonders.
But he knows what to do, whether he likes it or not.
He’ll leave him alone.
I’m not mad , he thinks to himself, as he writes down his work, his brush heavy on the paper, making his usually pretty writing rather botched—calligraphy thick and bubbly on his page.
He’s not mad. Just really, really hurt. But he wants Wei Ying to be happy, even if their goals don’t align.
He just wishes he could learn what it was he did wrong to Wei Wuxian. At the very least, he would apologize for his own behaviour before the man left.
He spills some ink, and crumpls his work. He will redo it later. He decides to get some fresh air, maybe go for a long walk—it’d be best if he puts his tools away for the night, leaving to clear his mind before bed.
The cold air of the outdoors was soothing. Nothing like the ice of the stream, but the fresh air does make him steady.
It’s near curfew. The moon is steadily rising.
So why was he watching Jiang Wanyin and Wei Wuxian hop over the walls of the Cloud Recesses?
He promised himself he would back off. However, his was a clear violation of the rules. They were not allowed to leave the premises this late.
With another steady inhale of air, he follows behind. He could at least see what they were doing before he drops the punishment.
He lost sight of them for a while. He figured it was another alcohol run, but he had been wrong. Instead, they seem to be running away from town—into the middle of nowhere, it seemed. A place on the edge of Caiyi, close enough to receive light from town, but far enough to leave them with a lot of privacy.
By the time he catches up, he only hears snippets of the conversation. He hovers back, cautiously listening.
“Look, Jiang Cheng! I nearly have a bouquet, now.” Wei Wuxian laughs, then, drearier, “Ah… I wish this would stop happening, though. Thanks for coming out with me regardless. I know I interrupted your sleep again.”
“No problem.” He replies, gruff as ever. “...You’re going to throw them away right? We can’t bring them back.”
“Ah, I don’t know,” Wei Wuxian starts. “They’re kinda pretty like this, don’t you think?” He laughs, waving his hand around. Jiang Wanyin punches him in the shoulder, and disagrees, but Lan Wangji isn’t paying attention to that.
In Wei Wuxian’s hands is a cluster of flowers. Small, white, shining vividly from the moon’s glow.
“Your little crush is absolutely grossing me out.” Jiang Wanyin says, halfheartedly. But he swats the hand with the flowers away from him, regardless. “If you’d just get over it , we wouldn’t need to run away like this every few nights.”
“You’re so boring.” Wei Wuxian laughs at his brother. “I’m giving you excitement and rebellion! You should appreciate it!”
Lan Wangji stares dumbly at the scene. Wei Wuxian is meeting someone who gives him flowers . Someone he had a crush on. Someone he liked, someone worth sneaking out and breaking rules to meet with. And it’s been happening for a while, clearly.
It all starts to click. The perfume-like scent that followed him wherever they went. Sneaking out at dinner. Avoiding class.
Was this what Wei Wuxian was hiding? Aside from running away from the Cloud Recesses at night, or skipping lecture—he wasn’t overtly breaking rules. Why was it so... secretive? Was it related to him, even?
Had he stayed away from Lan Wangji, knowing he would put a stop to these visits they were having in the midst of the night? Was Wei Wuxian pushing him away because he liked hanging out with this person instead?
He doesn’t understand .
But he feels the anger roll over him regardless.
He pushes his way out of his hiding spot into full view, and doesn’t keep quiet about his steps, either. Jiang Wanyin is the first to notice him—eyes going wide as they meet his, like a deer in the headlights.
“Shit,” He whispers, and Wei Wuxian looks to Lan Wangji instantly.
He attempts poorly at hiding the flowers behind him back. “Lan Zhan!” He says, a loud, cheery greeting. “Ahh, have you heard of my sleepwalking issues? Jiang Cheng accompanied me to make sure I was safe, but I’m awake now! We Were just heading back to the Cloud Recesses—so let's go!”
Jiang Wanyin rubs at his nose, and steps to the side, as if suddenly embarrassed to be associated with his brother, and his obvious lies.
“You left,” Lan Wangji starts, “To meet with someone?”
“No!” Wei Wuxian shouts.
“Yes!” Jiang Wanyin says, at the same time.
After, they both give each other a look , a silent conversation conveying their disagreement. They stare at each other, before both looking forward at Lan Wangji.
“I’ve... I’ve been meeting with someone.” Wei Wuxian confirms, but the words don’t sound very convincing, but he’s heard all the proof he needs, hasn’t he? “Lan Zhan—” Wei Wuxian starts, sounding tired. “Please don’t punish Jiang Cheng on my part—I just wanted him to keep me safe from any dogs in town, really! He was bothered by escorting me, too. This is all my fault, and he had nothing to do with it.”
“Wei Wuxian,” Jiang Wanyin growl in warning, and they bicker for a moment longer. However, Wei Wuxian defends himself, and then, those flowers are in plain view once more, no longer held behind his back.
Lan Wangji takes his chance and grabs them from Wei Wuxians hands, still feeling angry and awful at the sight of them.
“Hey!” Wei Wuxian says, stopping to look at Lan Wangji, but really, he looks more uncomfortable than anything. “Lan Zhan? Why did you—”
“Confiscated.” Lan Wangji declares, eyes narrowing.
“That’s not fair!” Wei Wuxian says, looking a bit startled. “Hey—I’ll go for whatever punishment you want. I really need those back. Lan Zhan—please?” He asks once more, but his eyes look between the flowers and him just a tad desperately. “You’re allergic, you shouldn’t be holding them anyways!”
Jiang Wanyins’ nose scrunches up as he looks at the fistful of flowers in his hand with something like distaste, mouth just parted like he has something to say about it. He doesn’t understand why Wei Wuxian is so desperate for them, either.
Does he like the person who gave these to him… that much?
“I can handle flowers.” He says, annoyed. He’ll have red, irritated skin, later. He might even be a bit congested until he washes next. But in the moment, he won’t even consider handing them back, feeling stubborn. “Head to the Cloud Recesses.” He orders instead.
“Lan Zhan,” Wei Wuxian whines, but his pleas go unanswered. No one speaks the entire walk back. The flowers burn in his palm, but he’s pretty sure it’s not an allergic reaction.
When they get back, he escorts them to their room without another look at Wei Wuxian.
“Library Pavilion tomorrow. Write the rules down ten times each.” It’s a lax punishment.
“Lan Zhan—” Wei Wuxian tries again, sounding between serious and just a bit distraught.
“Brother will oversee you.” He cuts in. Lan Wangji isn’t going to hound Wei Wuxian with his presence if he wants to get away from him so badly. But it would hurt too much, if he had to listen to the excuses of why Wei Wuxian wanted to be away from him.
Lan Zhan…” Wei Wuxian says, softly, like he’s the one who’s saddened by it. “That’s not—”
But he doesn’t want to hear this. He leaves with no more than a hurried goodbye, and near runs away. They would be wise not to follow, if they didn’t want more time added to their punishment.
Lan Wangji gets back to his own room, and he throws the flowers down on the table—jasmines, he’s certain—and sniffles as he glares at the from his seat. Because of the pollen, of course. He’ll report them both in the morning, and give the flowers back. Maybe he’ll just leave them in the pavilion, so he doesn’t embarrass himself further.
He’d acted so unnecessarily out of anger.
He had no reason to take the flowers. No reason that weren’t tangled in his own selfish, angry whims, anyway. Even if he told himself it was for the broken rules, he knows that isn’t true.
It was disgraceful for someone of his stance to act like that, so out of line over a gift given to Wei Wuxian. There are no rules against acts of kindness or love such as gift-giving—what is wrong with him?
The ugly feeling still rips at his chest. He’s still mad, but now more at himself than Wei Wuxian. He shouldn’t be, though. Wei Wuxian is allowed to find happiness in others, and relationships. He’s allowed to love other people. Anyone he wants.
He’s allowed these things without Lan Wangji in the picture, too.
Lan Wangji doesn’t get to stake any claims, just because they’re what? Friends? It doesn’t give him the right to prevent Wei Wuxian from seeing others just because he doesn’t like it. It’s not fair of him to get angry about Wei Wuxian making connections with people.
But it startles him just how much he wants Wei Wuxian to find happiness like that with him instead, act like that with him instead of someone else—some mystery girl in town. How much he selfishly wants Wei Wuxian to look at him like he looked at that bundle of flowers, and be with him always.
I love him , He thinks, and the realization is ultimately freeing for himself. Not as much in other areas—Wei Wuxian still loved someone else.
But It’s so much easier to accept what he’s been feeling, suddenly. All the frustration and confusion he felt about these emotions eases, like a chord tight with tension unwinding in his chest. All the mixed feelings he had about the man, solved. He loves Wei Wuxian.
He goes to bed, heart beating fast, thoughts all over the place.
He’s still sad—it’s not as if having an epiphany fixes all his problems. It’s unlikely these feelings would be returned in any capacity, considering the circumstances.
He will… confess. In some way. At the very least, use his feelings as reasoning when he apologizes to Wei Wuxian for his behavior.
He’s certain he’ll mess his words up—he’s never been good with them before, and he doesn’t think he’ll be great at them now. He has no intention of pushing his way into Wei Wuxian’s life if he doesn’t want it. But he’d rather proceed with his awful odds than never say it all.
The next morning is… hectic. Wei Wuxian is louder than he’s been in weeks during class. His skin looks rosier, and he’s so filled with energy and cheer that he nearly gets kicked from class in the first hour. Did he forget about his punishment? Lan Wangji wonders.
He sees Wei Wuxian stop Lan Xichen for a moment to talk, later on. Watches the two from afar, slows his stroll to witness them have a seemingly cheery conversation, until Xichen leads them away to talk in privacy.
Now that Lan Wangji knows what he’s been feeling more recently than his affection is jealousy , he tells himself not to feel it because of his own brother talking to Wei Wuxian, of all things.
He heads to the library pavilion. He hasn’t sorted out what he’s going to do about his feelings before Wei Wuxian returns home. First, he will apologize.
He’s only chosen a book to read through when Wei Wuxian bursts through the door, startling him. His eyes are wide, breathing labored, as he enters the library.
Xichen was supposed to be overseeing the other mans’ punishment this time, and yet, his brother is nowhere in sight. Wei Wuxian is steadily making his way across the room to him.
Before Lan Wangji has a chance to think much more about it, Wei Wuxian drops to the floor in front of him, pulling Lan Wangji’s hands into his own. Usually, he’d be able to fight against such things and stand his ground and push the other away from such silly, teasing acts. But he’s surprised at the action, with how Wei Wuxian has been avoiding him for these last few weeks.
Wei Wuxian pulls one hand off of his, only to put it over Lan Wangji’s mouth. “Lan Zhan! Shh !” He says, much too loudly. If he was trying to uphold the quiet of the library, he was failing terribly. “Lan Zhan, if it’s okay, can you just listen to me for a bit?”
I’d love nothing more. He nods, slowly. Doesn’t pull away from the contact either.
Before, he would have. Now, he’ll take what he can get.
“Lan Xichen talked to me,” Wei Wuxian says, looking him in the eyes. “Well, actually—he kind of knocked some sense into me. I really shouldn’t have avoided you like I did. I was just—I was afraid of what would happen between us, or I wouldn’t be able to get over it if things went sour—that maybe you wouldn’t even want to be my friend if I told you, you know? I didn’t even know how to tell you when I thought about it, but I feel a little silly about it all now. Feelings are scary like that. You get me, right?” He says, and doesn’t wait for lan Wangji’s reply before continuing. “Lan Zhan, I’m sorry. You didn’t deserve that treatment at all.”
Lan Wangji pulls Wei Wuxian’s hand from his mouth. “Wei Ying,” He starts, unsure, but hopeful at the sudden apology, the close contact after so much distance.“What are you talking about?”
Wei Wuxian’s eyes widen once more, searching his gaze, maybe nervously. “I like you! A lot, actually.” He declares, much too suddenly.
Lan Wangji’s inhale is sharp and surprised, leaving him breathless. “You can’t .”
Wei Wuxian frowns. “What? What do you mean I can’t?”
“You ignored me.” He protests, quickly. “You like someone else!” He reminds him, but his confidence in those facts are waning in comparison to his quickly growing hope.
Did I misunderstand? Were the flowers not from someone, but for someone—?
Wei Wuxian cups his cheeks. “Lan Zhan, there’s nobody else! I lied that night, because I didn’t know how else to hide everything. You’re the one I like— just you! You might be the only one for me, actually. And I’m not teasing or anything, I’ve been like this for a while. I promise!” He grins. “That’s why I’m apologizing. I didn’t want to ignore you! I was trying to… figure things out.”
“You,” There’s a million things he wants to say, right now. But he can feel his eyes getting misty. He never imagined these new feelings might be returned. “Love you, too. Only you.” He breathes, and it’s easy again.
Wei Wuxian gives him a glowing smile before throwing himself at Lan Wangji, tucking himself close. Lan Wangji holds him, and prays he isn’t dreaming as he digs his fingers into Wei Wuxian’s robes for some sense of grounding.
He’s still confused. But despite all the uncertainty, he trusts Wei Ying. For now, he embraces the man tightly. If these few weeks alone ended in realizing his affections, getting held like this, and his feelings returned by Wei Wuxian before he could confess himself—it’s all been worth it.
It might even make sense then, that he didn’t start coughing flowers by the start of the morning, the biggest sign of an unreciprocated love. He expected as much from the realization, and the troubles that would come with it due to his allergy. He’s so, so lucky.
He holds close to the hug, never wanting to let go.
But another realization comes his way as his mind directs into the concept of the deadly flowers.
Wei Wuxian promised of no one else. The fragrant scents, the flowers, the sudden avoidance from class and dinner and leaving the Cloud Recesses all the time, including in the middle of the night. The sicklier he’s been looking recently, all until this very morning.
Lan Wangji feels like an utter fool. There was never anyone else. He closes his eyes.
“Wei Ying,” He says, suddenly pained, as he pulls back from him. Not entirely, but just enough so they could face one another, eye to eye. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“About liking you? Lan Zhan, I just did! I—”
“Earlier,” Lan Wangji asks. “Why didn’t you tell me when it started?”
He frowns. “What do you mean?”
Lan Wangji wordlessly points to the flowers on the desk, the ones he brought to return to the other, today. He can’t bring himself to say it.
Realization comes over Wei Wuxian’s face, and he looks from the flowers back to Lan Wangji. “Ah… well, you didn’t feel the same way? But also, I couldn’t see my feelings going away anytime soon, and I didn’t want to make you sick with my problems—but I really was trying to make a cure as soon so I could tell you in my own time.”
Lan Wangji blinks. “...A cure?”
“Yeah! I was trying everything—talismans, sigils, spiritual energy, you name it. I even tried drinking enough Emporers’ Smile to drown the dumb flowers, but that just made me really, really sick. Jiang Cheng had to cover for me once again.” He sighs. “I thought I was cured when I woke up this morning to no pain—that something fixed me, finally. I was really happy!” He scratches his chin. “Then, I went to tell your brother in my excitement—it’s a pretty big discovery, right? And he just told me in uh… kinder words that I was an idiot and to just talk to you, because it definitely wasn’t one of my shoddy talismans that cured me!” He laughs.
Lan Wangji can’t take much more hearing of Wei Wuxian in pain, and buries his face in his shoulder, pulling him in tightly once more. He sniffles, but it’s a quiet thing.
“Lan Zhan, see ! I might still have some pollen traces on me. You’re tearing up! This is why I had to stay away for awhile. We should hug again after I bathe instead.” He says this, but he rubs Lan Wangjis’ back, holding him close with seemingly no interest in parting.
“Not because of pollen.” He whispers. The guy he loves is an idiot. Wei Wuxian was really going to do all this without telling him.
“Then... I’m sorry for hurting your feelings. I really should have told you that I was sick earlier so you’d at least know why I kept running away, but well.” He shrugs. “Hindsight, right?”
Lan Wangji shakes his head. “You were hurting.” He pulls back, and tries to compose himself once more. Holds Wei Wuxian’s hands, to steady himself. “I should have realized.”
The other frowns at him. “This is in no way your fault.”
“Not yours either, then.” Lan Wangji says, stubborn.
Wei Wuxian snorts. “Fine, fine. There’s no need for apologies, then.” He grins up at him.
The moment of staring holds just a little too long, and suddenly, Wei Wuxian’s mouth parts, as he seems to realize just how close they are. “Lan Zhan… Can I—” He says, trailing off, staring into his face for something.
His intentions are pretty clear.
Lan Wangji moves forward, lightly pressing his lips to Wei Wuxian—who gasps at the action, and runs his hands through Lan Wangji’s hair, tugging at the ribbon ends, and pulling their faces close. Lan Wangji can’t back away, and he doesn’t want to.
“Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan ,” Wei Wuxian mumbles in between small kisses, voice soft and lips pliant as they keep meeting in the middle. “I really love you. I realized all those weeks back, when I had that coughing fit in here.” He wraps his arms around Lan Wangji, fingers bunching in robes. “I didn’t want to get over it. I really wanted to find another way—I was a little disappointed knowing none of my inventions worked—” Lan Wangji rolls his eyes at this, fond. “but I forgot about it really fast when I realized it meant you feel the same.” He laughs.
“Wei Ying. Love you.” Lan Wangji agrees, glad to say it. He tucks a strand of hair behind Wei Wuxian’s ear, and enjoys Wei Wuxian’s palm covering his knuckles, holding the hand at his own cheek now.
“Did you know,” Wei Wuxian starts, eyes alight. “Nie Huiasang knew immediately what jasmines stood for. I got curious, and read into some stuff about them as well. Do you want to know, too?”
“Tell me,” He hums, happy. He’s not exactly one for poetry, writings of love, or flowery language. He knew the rules, and his duties. Everything else was unnecessary—unless it came to Wei Ying—So of course he really wants to know.
“Eternal love, ” Wei Wuxian says, combing his fingers through Lan Wangji’s hair once more. “Strong bonds , like that of connected souls. Nobody can compare .” He says, and Lan Wangji’s heart soars.
He doesn’t know what to do with all the warmth in his chest, so he kisses Wei Wuxian once more, leaning their foreheads together after.
“I’m keeping them.” He states, talking about the flowers. He’s so glad he hadn’t thrown them out in a fit.
Wei Wuxian pulls back, features twisted. “Don’t! I felt bad when you grabbed them. I didn’t know how to warn you where they came from without telling the truth.” He winces.
“I want to keep them.” He insists. “They were for me, weren’t they?” He argues.
Wei Wuxian stares at him, like he’s trying to decide whether his insistence was sweet or gross. “Metaphorically, yes. Physically—they were headed for the garbage. I just needed to discard of them outside the Cloud Recesses, so nobody caught on.” He rolls his eyes. “Come on. Why do you need those? They’ll make you sneeze, anyway.”
“Want them.” He insists. “They’re from Wei Ying.”
“I’ll buy you fresh ones everyday! So many fresh ones! But you can only have them for a bit, okay? Because I don’t like seeing you sick. I’ll get you other things you like, instead—like sweets, or more rabbits.”
Lan Wangji considers this quietly.
“Ahh, Lan Zhan, You have me, don’t you? You don’t need the flowers!” He protests. It kind of works.
He loves the idea of Wei Wuxian gifting him flowers. Of giving gifts in return, too. Of them spending more and more time together, even after he goes back home to Yunmeng. They’ll find ways to meet up. They’ll send letters back and forth. It’ll be good.
“Mm.” Lan Wangji nods. Wei Wuxian almost looks pleased, but then Lan Wangji adds, “I’ll keep one .” and Wei Wuxian groans.
“Fine, ” sighs, and curls back close to Lan Wangji. “You’re lucky I love you.” Wei Wuxian mumbles, pouting.
Lan Wangji smiles into his hair.
He really is.