Wei Wuxian barely remembered anything about his mother. He barely even remembered what food he ate this morning. Bland porridge? An apple stolen from Lil' Apple? He’s both the best and the worst person you could entrust your secrets to. That’s why he couldn’t possibly remember any memory when he was just four years old.
However, with just the right timing and miracle, certain events could change what should have been an irrevocable truth. That was why Wei Wuxian was suddenly reminded of a story his mother often loved to tell him; a tale about a child whose emotions were visibly worn on his sleeves for others to see. Wei Wuxian also remembered patting his own robes that were still too long for his arms, before curling in on himself since his mother might find out he’s guilty of doing mischief that day.
The memory was definitely triggered by the scene that was unfolding in front of him. Since for some reason, Wei Wuxian could see Lan Wangji's heart.
He could see it, literally. And not just one heart, there are tons of them. The bright pink, heart-shaped object with the size of a palm would suddenly appear around Lan Wangji, dropping on the ground. They would pop out of his chest too, and Wei Wuxian had to muffle his scream the first time it happened.
Wei Wuxian had no idea how it came to pass but, during one of their nightly investigations, he accidentally stepped on something soft and squishy. Picking it up, he saw the text imprinted on it with the word, 'alert'.
"Lan Zhan," Wei Wuxian called out to his companion who was a little ahead of him. Lan Wangji turned around and went over.
Wei Wuxian showed him the heart-shaped object. "Do you know what's this?"
Lan Wangji stared at his palm, then at Wei Wuxian, before looking back at his palm. "Your hand."
"No! This thing," Wei Wuxian pointed at the heart-shaped object.
Wei Wuxian thought that Lan Wangji was messing with him again. He was just dead for thirteen years, and Lan Wangji suddenly became funny? Impossible.
He was pulled out from his thoughts when Lan Wangji's fingers touched his skin, the pads of his fingers passing through the heart and Wei Wuxian sucked in a shaky breath as Lan Wangji traced a line on his palm. His face felt hot for some reason he couldn't comprehend.
"You can't see what I'm holding?" Wei Wuxian asked, relieved that his voice came out normal. Lan Wangji shook his head in reply.
Wei Wuxian pursed his lips, noticing that the hearts had multiplied on the ground. Different words were imprinted on them too– curious, yearning, and sleepy. They didn't make sense, but Wei Wuxian had a wild hunch– the memory of a story from long ago giving him a hint– and so he asked Lan Wangji another question.
"Lan Zhan, are you sleepy?"
"It's almost midnight," Lan Wangji responded.
"Are you sleepy?" he asked again.
Wei Wuxian laughed, and shoved the hearts inside his sleeve. He'd deal with them later.
It happened a lot of times after that. Wei Wuxian would pick up hearts that were trailing behind Lan Wangji, reading the words on them every time. Lan Wangji's feelings were written on each one of them, and wasn't that supposed to be too much of a handicap?
The words on the hearts were misleading. He stared at the one in his hand, then at Lan Wangji's side profile. How could a certain Hanguang-jun be yearning for something?
Or was Lan Wangji missing someone? It's been a while since they left Cloud Recesses, maybe he had someone waiting for him there. Wei Wuxian suddenly felt uneasy. "Lan Zhan, what are you thinking about now?"
Lan Wangji continued looking forward as he answered, "Nothing."
Not satisfied with his answer, Wei Wuxian tugged on his sleeve, making Lan Wangji turn towards him. "Really?"
Hearts popped out one after another from his chest, and Wei Wuxian's eyes widened at the words.
Adorable, love, you, restraint…?
Wei Wuxian pondered for a moment before snapping his fingers, "Ah! Are you thinking about your pet bunnies?"
Lan Wangji looked at him as if he was in pain… or so Wei Wuxian thought. It’s not hard to come up with that conclusion, especially when hearts with the word ‘torment’ burst from his chest. The second jade of Gusu Lan barely showed his emotions even now, but Wei Wuxian could see the little tick on his left eyebrow if he found something interesting, or the twitch of his nose if he caught Wei Wuxian misbehaving.
This time, Wei Wuxian didn’t know how to categorize the silght pursing of lips and the faint furrow of brows. Feeling a little alarmed, he asked, “Are you hurt?”
Lan Wangji shook his head before walking again, not sparing his companion another glance. Wei Wuxian followed with a sigh, picking up the hearts that dropped dejectedly on the grass.
It became a habit for him to pay attention to whatever Lan Wangji was feeling before he could voice it out. Not that Lan Wangji ever voiced his emotions out, but Wei Wuxian would always get a satisfied feeling whenever he made Lan Wangji satiated and happy.
His companion was starting to get accustomed to it too, Wei Wuxian figured. They were used to communicating mentally when it came to working together to solve the case, but now Wei Wuxian had the upper hand of knowing what Lan Wangji needed for himself.
If a heart with the word 'parched' popped out, Wei Wuxian would give him water. If it showed ‘hot’, Wei Wuxian would find a big leaf to cool him down. Despite some of the confusing words he'd stumble upon (he can never figure out why 'mine' was written on them sometimes), the hearts acted as a cheat sheet to Lan Wangji's feelings.
There were emotions that didn’t need any intervention from Wei Wuxian. When words ‘cute’ or ‘adorable’ came up, he’d just giggle to himself. The stoic Hanguang-jun seemed to have a soft spot for fluffy animals, though Wei Wuxian couldn’t see them himself. Maybe they’d run away before he could come closer; they might have sensed his interest in roasting them.
Words like ‘control’ and ‘restraint’ were hard to interpret. They usually appear whenever Wei Wuxian teased him, or touched him, sometimes when he wasn’t doing anything at all. Wei Wuxian frowned. Those descriptions sounded like Lan Wangji just didn’t like to be near him in general. He would reevaluate that later.
The word ‘dirty’ was the hardest of them all. Lan Wangji looked pristine all the time, even if his white robes were definitely harder to maintain compared to Wei Wuxian’s dark ones. That word usually appeared with ‘restraint’ and ‘tempting’, which made it more confusing.
Wei Wuxian came to conclusion that he liked seeing what Lan Wangji felt, but something had been nagging him since this started. Why would hearts pop out from Lan Wangji in the first place? There was no trace of any spell or curse on Lan Wangji, nor there was any killing intent near the vicinity.
He recalled his mother’s story. The child had his heart on his sleeve because he couldn’t contain his emotions, forcing them to leak out. He felt too much, thus his body adapted by throwing them out. In the end, nothing was left inside the child, and he became a soulless body; a mere vessel. Wei Wuxian wondered why his mother chose that bedtime story for a four-year old child.
It was just a story, but Wei Wuxian couldn’t help but worry, especially the same thing was happening to Lan Wangji. He didn’t want him to end up like that.
In spite of Wei Wuxian’s insistence otherwise, Lan Wangji was funny and interesting. His ethereal appearance wasn’t just for show, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t human. His eyes were the most expressive part of his face, golden hues lighting up whenever they came across a bunny. Sometimes he’d caught Lan Wangji looking at him with those kind of eyes, making his heart still for a moment before realizing that Lan Wangji must have been staring at something else. Wei Wuxian also found comfort in his watchful gaze, despite his face heating up whenever they locked eyes.
That was why it’s a big deal to handle whatever Lan Wangji was going through now. Wei Wuxian didn’t want Lan Wangji to lose his emotions. There’s no need to turn him into a lifeless doll.
“You can tell me anything you want, Lan Zhan,” Wei Wuxian said, walking side by side with Lan Wangji. There were more people on the streets than usual, so they had to press closer to each other to avoid being bumped into. “It’s hard to be repressed all the time, you know? I can help you deal with it.”
Lan Wangji looked at him, a deeper dent between his brows than usual. A heart popped out and Wei Wuxian caught it. It said, ‘Are you hearing yourself?’
Wei Wuxian’s eyes widen. This was the first time a sentence appeared. It must be getting bad. "Lan Zhan–"
“Your fault.” Lan Wangji cut him off, walking faster in an attempt to leave Wei Wuxian in the middle of the crowd.
“What? Lan Zhan, hey!”
Wei Wuxian pushed a bowl of soup in front of Lan Wangji. “Here, eat. We can’t have you roaming around with a noisy stomach.”
“My stomach does not make any sound,” Lan Wangji countered, but took the bowl given to him with a nod of appreciation.
“I can hear it in my mind,” or with my eyes, Wei Wuxian thought. When the word ‘hungry’ appeared on a heart, Wei Wuxian immediately dragged Lan Wangji at a nearby restaurant– halting their investigation for a while. They had already scoped out the Guanyin temple, and the only thing left to do was to recuperate before breaching the array.
Wei Wuxian had meticulously placed each heart in a storage pouch Lan Wangji had lent him, taking some of them out to examine every night. It must be a weird sight for Lan Wangji, watching him focus intently at an empty table, but his friend never mentioned anything about his actions, so Wei Wuxian kept on doing it.
They decided to call in the night early, and Lan Wangji booked a single room at the inn upstairs. It was nothing out of the ordinary– the two of them had shared the same bed in the two months they've travelled– but why did Wei Wuxian feel at a loss all of a sudden?
Before he could ask for a different arrangement, the innkeeper had already shoved them inside one of the available rooms, wishing them a good night.
Taking a seat by the table, Wei Wuxian poured wine on his cup as he watched Lan Wangji on the corner, meditating right away. He looked serene, more so than usual, with eyes closed and face devoid of any crease. Hearts rarely appeared whenever Lan Wangji did meditation, as he successfully got rid himself of any wordly thoughts.
Wei Wuxian knew that Lan Wangji was capable of getting hungry, thirsty, or hurt just like any normal person, but the hearts had helped him recognize each one of them, since their owner was too stubborn to tell him what he felt.
But even without the help of those objects, Wei Wuxian was aware that they had to take a break, especially with what happened with Jiang Cheng in the Lotus Pier
"I didn't know Hanguang-jun gets tired too," he says after gulping his drink.
"Quiet, Wei Ying," Lan Wangji replied after two beats, eyes remained closed.
"But I'm bored, Lan Zhan," Wei Wuxian lamented, draping his upper body on the table before looking up at Lan Wangji. "Entertain me."
Lan Wangji opened his eyes as a heart appeared on the ground. It's the word 'restraint' again, and Wei Wuxian still didn't understand what it was for. "What do you want?"
Standing up, he moved closer to where Lan Wangji was and sat in front of him. "Let's play a game. We guess each other's feelings or thoughts as of the moment!"
Lan Wangji shot him a long-suffering look. "Ridiculous."
"You're feeling irritated right now," Wei Wuxian declared with a smug look. "Did I get it right? What about me? What am I thinking right now?"
"That's not fair, Lan Zhan! Play seriously!" he scolded. His pouting must have been effective since he could almost see Lan Wangji's mind churning for an answer.
"You want to drink more wine," Lan Wangji finally guessed.
"Ooooh," Wei Wuxian clapped. "You guessed it right! My turn. You're..."
He looked intently at Lan Wangji, and as expected, a heart popped from his chest. "... nervous. Why are you nervous, Lan Zhan?"
"How–" Lan Wangji pursed his lips, before trying again. "I am not."
"Isn't lying against your sect's rules?" Wei Wuxian chuckled when he saw how distressed Lan Wangji was at his words. "Don't worry, I won't tell anyone."
Feeling somewhat more shameless than usual, he crawled closer to his companion, inwardly laughing when Lan Wangji forced himself to hold his ground, not budging to move back.
"I can read minds. I can even tell what you want right now." He kept his sly grin, until he looked down at the heart that rolled and hit his hand.
Wei Wuxian blinked in surprise. Kiss. The word was still there. He blinked again. It didn’t change.
"What?" Lan Wangji asked, tone close to a challenge, startling Wei Wuxian to look back at him;, his eyes suddenly caught in a heavy gaze that sent chills down his heated spine. Something warm pooled in the depth of his stomach at their close proximity, their breaths intermingling together that he could almost taste Lan Wangji’s question on his tongue. Wei Wuxian's brain must have malfunctioned since he couldn't process what was just said. Lan Wangji seemed to notice this as he clarified, "What do I want?"
"Oh," he murmured, unsure of what to do, except for one thing.
Leaning in, he pressed his lips against Lan Wangji for a soft, chaste kiss. That was initially the plan. But then, he felt strong arms circling his waist, pulling him until his weight was fully on Lan Wangji’s lap.
It took Wei Wuxian a moment to realize that Lan Wangji was kissing him back, fiercely compared to how it started. Their mouths moved with desperation as Wei Wuxian gasped and scrambled to cling on his neck, jerking him closer. Lan Wangji’s surprisingly expert tongue pulled obscene noises from him with each lick and slide, every ministration sending jolts of pleasure straight to his crotch. Trying to relieve himself, Wei Wuxian started to rock his hips back and forth, seeking any kind of friction, and whimpered when Lan Wangji bit his lip.
Slightly parting to give Lan Wangji a piece of his mind, Wei Wuxian opened his eyes and was greeted by a bewildered look on Lan Wangji’s face. Wei Wuxian’s heart sank, and his mind raced through the possibilities of what that face meant, overwhelming him.
“This is a mistake,” Wei Wuxian said in a shaky voice, his arms dropping to his side. Lan Wangji wanted a kiss, but that didn't necessarily mean that he wanted it from Wei Wuxian. A part of him believed that since Lan Wangji reciprocated, he must have liked it. But he couldn't understand what made Lan Wangji look like that. Was he surprised? Did he regret it?
Wei Wuxian should have been satisfied and kept his mouth shut, but as expected, he went right ahead and mess things up again.
"I'm sorry–” Wei Wuxian was about to push Lan Wangji away when a heart popped out between them, making his breath hitch.
All this time, Wei Wuxian had been ignoring that word since the first time he saw it. As much as it was blunt, he couldn’t take it at face value since the mention of the word could cause complications to their relationship, whatever it was. He had convinced himself that he could live like this, between knowing and not knowing. As long as Lan Wangji would be by his side, he’d take whatever form he could get. More than anything, he didn’t want to expect, to assume whatever feelings Lan Wangji had for him.
But staring at the heart currently stuck between them, it’s impossible to misunderstand what Lan Wangji felt for him, especially when the words printed on the heart were, ‘love Wei Ying’.
Wei Wuxian tried to reach for the heart, and for the first time, his hand passed through, pressing his palm against Lan Wangji's chest instead.
"Wei Ying.” Lan Wangji touched his wrist, his fingers gently curling around it. "Why did you kiss me?"
Wei Wuxian chewed on his lip. It’s not that he could say that he knew Lan Wangji wanted it. And so what if he did? Wei Wuxian was in no obligation to grant it.
He looked at Lan Wangji, and with a determined voice he said, "Because I wanted to."
Lan Wangji's eyes widened, and a heart popped out again. Wei Wuxian ignored it. "Because I like you, Lan Zhan. I love you. A lot. I also want to kiss you, and to hug you, and to do things with you. And I'm such a coward for not saying anything until I was sure…"
Wei Wuxian paused, before placing his hands on Lan Wangji's shoulders. "Lan Zhan, do you love me?"
He barely finished his sentence when Lan Wangji wrapped his arms around him in a bone-crushing hug, the scent of sandalwood filling his lungs. Wei Wuxian hugged back as tight as he could, burying his face against Lan Wangji's neck.
"I love Wei Ying," Lan Wangji whispered, his breath tickling Wei Wuxian's ear. "Does Wei Ying..."
"Wei Ying loves Lan Zhan!"
"Do you like me?"
"Yes, I like Lan Zhan too!"
"Kiss me? Hug me?" Lan Wangji asked, and Wei Wuxian recognized his nervousness in the trembling of his hands.
"Yes!" Wei Wuxian exclaimed, pulling away to plant a big smooch on Lan Wangji's lips, giggling as he caught sight of how red the tips of his ears were.
He cradled Lan Wangji's cheeks in his hands, watching as a soft smile bloomed across his face like sunrise. Lan Wangji dragged him down again for a kiss, as if he couldn't help it, and Wei Wuxian's laughter was swallowed in between.
They stayed in each other's arms like that for a long time, rolling around the floor, slowly disrobing each other, until Wei Wuxian remembered something.
Pushing himself up until he was hovering over Lan Wangji, he asked, “Were you thinking about dirty thoughts about me?”
There was a slight upward curl on Lan Wangji's lips. “Always.”
“You pervert,” Wei Wuxian laughed, kissing him again before leaning against his ear, whispering, "Can't you tell me what they were?"