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after the sunset

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It was already quite late when they finally arrived in Gusu. The sun was about to set, painting the sky in soft shades of orange, red and pink. Lan Wangji only barely managed to convince the juniors to wait until morning to greet Wei Wuxian in their usual enthusiastic manner. He could understand their excitement, especially Sizhui’s, but the temperature was starting to drop for the night and Lan Wangji knew that Wei Wuxian would be tired after their journey. He had a talent of fooling people into thinking that he was fine but Lan Wangji knew better, especially after he had learned the truth about his golden core. It was a heartbreaking realization as everything started to make perfect sense.

Now he could notice how Wei Wuxian would get tired more easily, how he would get affected by the weather more than other cultivators. So instead of dragging him to meet others, he just took him directly to the Jingshi and decided to deal with everyone else by himself. He wouldn’t admit it out loud, as he shouldn’t be selfish, but he wanted to keep Wei Wuxian to himself for a little longer, even if it was just one more night.

He couldn’t blame people for wanting to meet him though; Wei Wuxian was shining brighter than the sun and everyone flocked to him naturally. Even his uncle, as grumpy as he was, would come out to meet him under the pretext of scolding him.

After reminding Sizhui to go to sleep, something he hadn’t done in a long while but felt like doing tonight, he grabbed two jars of Emperor’s Smile and directed his steps towards the Jingshi again. He went in quietly, just in case he found Wei Wuxian already asleep.

He didn’t have to worry though, because as soon as he stepped in, he noticed Wei Wuxian sitting on a mat by a low table, slowly brushing his black hair. It was let loose and damp, meaning that he had taken a quick bath.

He was wearing only his red inner robes, the ones that would always linger on Lan Wangji’s mind. Sometimes, when he’d allow himself to dream a little, he imagined them together in red and gold, standing side by side. Now, after they finally admitted their feelings, the chance of it coming true was getting higher, although it was still too early to think about that. There were still things that needed to be taken care of first.

“Wei Ying,” he called softly to grab his attention. Wei Wuxian lifted his head immediately and smiled brightly as soon as he saw him. And what a smile it was; it captured him all those years ago, when he was just a teenager and suddenly this beautiful boy came into his life, breaking the rules and stealing his heart. It was amazing that despite all the hardships and tragedies in his life, he still could smile like this; Lan Wangji treasured every moment he got to witness it.

“Lan Zhan, you’re back!” Wei Wuxian exclaimed happily. It wasn’t the first time Lan Wangji saw him in a setting like this; in the Jingshi, just in his inner robe. Now it felt different though because for once Wei Wuxian wasn’t injured and Lan Wangji didn’t have to worry about him dying. He was just there, looking soft and happy, a sight that Lan Wangji would like to keep forever.

He knew that Wei Wuxian was a free spirit and he’d feel trapped if he was to spend his whole life like this, but Lan Wangji still wanted to give him a place he could return to from his adventures. Something like home. He hoped they would travel together again, once his brother came out of his seclusion.

He felt a little overdressed compared to Wei Wuxian as he sat next to him. He was still in his full attire of inner and outer robes and he wasn’t quite sure how to feel about this. He wasn’t ashamed of his body, no; but he also didn’t want to see the sad look in Wei Wuxian’s eyes whenever he caught a glimpse of his scars. He didn’t regret anything he had done during that time; he grieved and he hurt, but he also did other things. He took care of Sizhui, who was his pride now. He started to question the things he believed in instead of blindly following the rules and he kept his promise to always stand with justice. He would be lying if he said that the memories of Wei Wuxian and his death didn’t bring him pain but he didn’t want to think about it now. He got his second chance, something he would never waste.

He gestured to the jars of alcohol, putting them on the table but surprisingly, Wei Wuxian just shook his head. It was unusual for him to refuse Emperor’s Smile.

“Lan Zhan, how about I brush your hair today?” he asked instead, already moving to sit behind him with the comb still in his hand. Lan Wangji couldn’t even remember the last time when someone offered to do it for him; it must have been his mother or his brother when they were little. Too stunned to say something, he just nodded in agreement which seemed to be good enough for Wei Wuxian as he started to remove the hairpiece carefully, letting his hair fall loose. Lan Wangji let out a quiet sigh; it felt nice and intimate. He expected Wei Wuxian to take off his headband next but it seemed like he was waiting for something.

“May I?” he asked. It was yet another unusual thing about his behavior today. He never asked nor hesitated before, he just reached for it at any time. Lan Wangji was sure Wei Wuxian knew the Gusu Clan’s rules by heart, but he wasn’t the only one at fault – Lan Wangji never stopped him after all. He could have yelled at him, he could have taken his ribbon back immediately. But he didn’t, even with all the implications he was aware of.

“Of course,” Lan Wangji replied, even though the answer was rather obvious. Wei Wuxian would always be allowed to touch it.

He almost gasped as he felt Wei Wuxian slowly undoing the small knot at the back on his head and then finally sliding the ribbon off before handing it back to Lan Wangji with care, treating it as something precious. He thought he would be used to it by now but it still affected him, especially now, when the connection between them felt even more real.

People who didn’t know Wei Wuxian would probably assume that the impulsive Yilling Patriach would be harsh and terrible at a simple task like this, but in reality, he was quite delicate and mindful to not cause any pain. Wei Wuxian would always surprise him like this; just like with the bunny lantern at the very beginning of their friendship, when he didn’t even notice that he started smiling.

The monotone movement and gentle tugging on his head made him feel like he could fall asleep right there, so he let himself relax. The feeling was so nice and warm that it took him a while to notice that the touch disappeared. He wanted to turn around and say something but Wei Wuxian was faster, suddenly hugging him from behind, his arms circling tightly around his waist.

“Lan Zhan,” he murmured into his hair, making Lan Wangji’s skin tingle in the most pleasurable way. He leaned back to bask into his warmth, the warmth he was always seeking even before he could fully understand it. He wouldn’t mind staying like that forever but there was still something in the back of his mind. The mystery of why Wei Wuxian was behaving differently tonight.

“Is everything alright?” he asked, the curiosity winning over him. He regretted it almost immediately when he felt Wei Wuxian tensing for a brief second before replying with a question on his own.

“Why would you ask that?”

Lan Wangji took a moment to gather his thoughts; it was just his observation but he needed to know if he was right.

“You’ve never refused Emperor’s Smile before, yet you didn’t want to drink it today. You asked about my ribbon even though…” he paused for a bit, trying to keep his voice calm and steady. “Even though you never did that before.”

Just when those words have left his mouth, Wei Wuxian moved away, taking the precious warmth away with him. Lan Wangji missed it immediately, although luckily it wasn’t gone for too long as Wei Wuxian sat next to him this time, bumping his shoulder into him. When Lan Wangji turned to look at him, he saw an adorable pout on his face, which was a relief; it wasn’t anything too serious then.

“You always have to notice everything, Lan Zhan,” he huffed, but without any heat behind his words. He touched his nose with his finger, tapping it slightly, another habit of him that Lan Wangji adored. He was curious what exactly this was about but he decided to wait and give him time to continue.

“It’s just… You’re good, Lan Zhan. You’re really great! And I thought that I’d court you like you deserve, without breaking any of your rules. It’s stilly,” Wei Wuxian mumbled, turning his face away to avoid meeting Lan Wangji’s eyes.

It was a well-known fact that Lan Wangji didn’t smile often, but who would be able to resist when Wei Wuxian was like this in front of him? This time he could feel the warmth spreading inside him, starting right in his heart. He didn’t think he could love this man even more but everything was a constant surprise with Wei Wuxian.

“Wei Ying, you don’t need to change for me,” he said simply because it was the truth. As annoying as he thought of him at the beginning, he fell in love with him just as he was. He counted it as a victory when Wei Wuxian turned his head to look at him again. “I adore you the way you are,” he added and it seemed to be something Wei Wuxian needed to hear, judging by the toothy grin that appeared on his beautiful face.

Wei Wuxian got up gracefully and then proceeded to lower himself on Lan Wangji’s lap.

“Really, Lan Zhan? Even if I’m shameless?” he asked cheekily. Years ago Lan Wangji would get flustered and panic but this time he just put his hands on Wei Wuxian’s waist and thigh to support him. He was serious when he decided to not waste the second chance he got.

“Yes,” he answered, pulling him closer. It wasn’t something Wei Wuxian expected and for once, he was the one to fluster.

“My, my, what happened to you?” he tried to hide it behind his jokes in true Wei Wuxian’s fashion but his hands found their way to Lan Wangji’s neck as he put his weight completely on him.

“You,” he answered simply, reaching for the stray strand of Wei Wuxian hair and tucking it behind his ear. He loved seeing all the reactions he could get from him, the way his eyes would widen and his mouth open slightly when Lan Wangji said something he didn’t expect. He loved every second of it, but he didn’t want to wait anymore, so he put his hand on Wei Wuxian’s neck and brought their lips together. Wei Wuxian reacted quickly and Lan Wangji could feel his smile even through the kiss. He couldn’t help but gasp before deepening the kiss and trying to bring them even closer, which got him a very enthusiastic response.

The room suddenly became even hotter when he felt hands roaming over his shoulders, trying to get under his robes. It was too much and too little at the same time so Lan Wangji broke the kiss and moved his lips to Wei Wuxian’s neck to bite it softly. It seemed to be the right decision, judging by the following moan that made them both shudder; Lan Wangji couldn’t wait to draw out even more noises like this from his lover.

Wei Wuxian, on the other hand, started to involuntary thrust his hips and oh, Lan Wangji could definitely feel a very obvious outline poking into his stomach.

“You’re really not wearing anything under that?” he asked in a raspy voice, looking up again. Wei Wuxian was looking right back at him with a grin, his cheeks flushed and eyes dark.

This view was truly breathtaking and Lan Wangji couldn’t take it anymore. They were still on the floor and he wasn’t fond of the idea of staying there, so he gathered all his strength to get up with Wei Wuxian still in his arms, who squealed in delight as he wrapped his legs around Lan Wangji’s waist to keep balance.