The night is inappropriately warm for a night hunt and Lan Sizhui feels sweat collect at the base of his skull. He's breathing a little too hard from the exertion of running the hell away from whatever that massive demon thing was, but when he turns, Lan Wangji and Wei Wuxian are not with him. They told him to run and naive as he still is sometimes where his parents - his parents - are concerned, he did as he was told, expecting them to be right behind him. Of course they're not. They're idiots. They're going to be dead idiots if they keep this up, not because a demon will ultimately get them, but because Lan Sizhui will murder them in their sleep.
How dare they be self-sacrificial on a family vacation? How dare they? And without him!
Lan Sizhui immediately misses Jin Ling, who would be so perfectly outraged on his behalf. He could rant up a storm at the slightest provocation and it's a little disturbing how easily Lan Sizhui can imagine it. He can hear his friend's voice, can imagine the way he'd turn red and gesture with his hands like an excited fish wife. Lan JIngyi always makes fun of him for that, but Lan Sizhui finds it strangely endearing.
He smiles to himself and hopes that Jin Ling never finds out about these thoughts of his. Jin Ling can be a little volatile sometimes, but maybe that's why Lan Sizhui likes him so much. Not that he likes him that much.
There's a loud crash and someone yelling.
His parents, right. He needs to find them, likely save them from the big bad monster, and then yell at them for sending him away. He's an adult now. He can handle himself. There are noises coming from the battle field, a field of flowers that had grown unnaturally large and slightly ravenous. He's never been bitten by a flower before and would prefer not to repeat the experience.
When he stumbles back into the clearing, there are dead bits of flowers everywhere, bleeding a thick, inky black sap. Wei Wuxian is playing a stark, ugly song that sounds like a hurricane taking apart a village, wood tearing and flying everywhere. It works on the flowers, but the demon at the center of the clearing seems unimpressed, lashing out at Lan Wangji with thick branches creaking like the ancient wood they are.
Lan Sizhui has never seen a furious tree before, but there's a first time for everything. He takes out his guqin and plays the first song that comes to mind, a battle hymn that's going to give his parents strength. Well, probably Lan Wangji will benefit, he's not so sure about Wei Wuxian, whose golden core remains entirely absent. Not that he's needed it to utterly annihilate spirits before, but it sure would keep him safer.
That's what Lan Sizhui hates about this weird protective thing his parents have: he's way less likely to die from random injuries than Wei Wuxian! If they were thinking logically, Wei Wuxian would be the one staying behind. This has nothing to do with logic and everything to do with-
A branch knocks the guqin out of his hands and throws him back a few feet. He lands hard on his back, his head ringing with the impact. Oh, ouch. He really should be paying more attention to the fight and not get distracted by his own indignation. "Ah," he says instead of something tactically useful. He really is his father's son. Fuck, that hurt. "I'm okay. I'm okay."
Wei Wuxian, whose eyes have widened, his fingers lax on his flute as he finds Lan Sizhui in the dark, looks like he might just ground him until he's thirty. "Why are you here?" He's livid, and Wei Wuxian is never angry. Even when the disciples fuck up, he finds a way to laugh about it. But he's not laughing right now. Oh no, he looks like he wants to kill Lan Sizhui himself.
Lan Sizhui pushes himself back up and unsheathes his sword. "I came to help. The two of you always try to protect me but I'm not a kid anymore. I can hold my own." Wei Wuxian looks like he wants to argue but thick black vines begin to curl around his legs, creeping up to his chest. He starts playing again and the vines relax, flexing at his feet like coiled snakes ready to strike. Satisfied that Wei Wuxian has things under control, Lan Sizhui throws himself at the demon, sword first.
The fight is long and ugly, none of them coming out of it unscathed, but they manage to tear victory from the wooden limbs of this infernal tree. It creaks and gnashes as it goes down, withering in front of their eyes. The carnivorous flowers wilt where they stand, dark energy fleeing from them in black wisps of smoke. Lan Wangji gets the final blow and takes it with extreme prejudice. He kills that demon so thoroughly, it crumbles into ash and dust, all its demonic energy dissipated or destroyed.
Lan Sizhui blinks sweat and blood out of his burning eyes. Everything hurts and he's probably in for the punishment of a lifetime, but he's never felt this strong, never breathed so deeply or smiled so brightly. "That was amazing!" He can't keep himself from yelling.
Wei Wuxian comes limping from the back and crashes into him, pulling him into a fierce hug. "Kid, you are in so much trouble, you have no idea." His voice is rough and low, but he speaks the words between burying his face in Lan Sizhui's hair, running his hands over his arms looking for obvious injuries. Lan Wangji wraps them both in a stiff embrace from the outside, not because he's a terrible hugger - he's a great hugger, actually - but because of the blood running freely down his arm from a nasty cut on his shoulder.
Lan Wangji makes this noise, like a wounded animal, and Lan Sizhui suddenly feels the reality of the situation crash down on him. They nearly died. He nearly died. And maybe his parents got hurt just a little more because they were worrying about him, too. Guilt settles in his stomach like a river stone.
"I'm sorry," he says, muffled by hair and robes and skin, he has no idea which or from who and it doesn't really matter. Right now they're this messy, awkward unit, a family clinging to each other in the dark. "I'm sorry, I'm okay. Are you okay?"
He wants to pull back, wants to see, to make sure, but he's being held so tightly, there's no way he can get enough distance. Besides, it's full dark now, the moon and stars hidden behind heavy clouds. It's going to rain soon, hopefully washing away the stench of death and demonic activity as well as the heat.
Wei Wuxian starts laughing. He's shaking with it, they're all shaking with it. And if there are tears on anyone's cheeks, no one is going to see them. "That sure was something, wasn't it?"
Lan Sizhui has never loved him more. "You're so lucky I came back and saved your ass," he says with as much bravado as he can muster. It's not much, but it will do. Wei Wuxian is ready to argue and make a scene and that's a lot better than this strange feeling in Lan Sizhui's chest, where guilt and the memory of loss provide fertile ground for new trauma to grow like... well, like those fucking vines, probably.
Lan Wangji sighs and gives him that look, that fatherly look that immediately causes him to think about everything he might have ever done wrong and whatever it is, dad, I'm going to fix it! It's one of the most powerful parenting tools in Lan Wangji's repertoire and he's only ever used it a few times while Lan Sizhui was growing up.
"A-Yuan," he says, his voice all rough and low because he's been fighting for his life and maybe he's also holding back tears a little bit. Lan Sizhui can barely contain himself, he's going to start crying for real, and if the other boys ever find out about it, they're going to make fun of him forever. Especially Lan Jingyi, who is a total hypocrite, because he's been crying about Lan Sizhui's parents getting married.
"Ah, we should be finding shelter, these clouds look like they're about to burst," Wei Wuxian says as he starts leading them both out of the clearing. "The inn isn't too far away, we can probably make it."
They're not exactly quiet on the way back, reaching more enthusiastically for any topic that isn't the very real possibility of death they just left behind. It doesn't take very long for things to circle back to the very beginning and the reason for this family trip in the first place. All of a sudden, Lan Sizhui wishes he had been killed by the monster, because it's certainly better than this.
"So, A-Yuan, your father and I," Wei Wuxian gestures wildly between him and Lan Wangji, "we've been talking about this problem you seem to be having-"
Lan Sizhui can feel himself blush. "It's not a problem! I'm handling it."
Wei Wuxian snorts, "I'm sure you're handling it, alright." He receives twin death stares from his husband and his very innocent child who doesn't need to hear any sex jokes from his dad.
"Wei Ying," Lan Wangji says reproachfully, "let the boy speak." His father is definitely his favorite. Except then he looks at Wei Wuxian with those eyes, like Lan Sizhui isn't right there, and it's not okay to mentally undress your spouse when your child is standing only two feet away.
"Gah," Lan Sizhui says and walks away. "Please never talk to me about this again."
It's not like it's a big deal. They've been mostly supportive about his... whatever he has when he thinks about Jin Ling smiling at him. Maybe it's an illness, a cold can make you clammy and your heart beat too fast, right? Wei Wuxian thinks it's cute and Lan Wangji is unconditionally supportive of his son in all things, up to and including somewhat ill-advised romantic feelings. Obviously, otherwise he'd be a hypocrite.
"It's okay," Wei Wuxian calls after him, "we can talk about it over breakfast." Lan Sizhui walks faster.
They make it to the inn before the storm breaks, but only by a hair's breadth. It starts to pour down like it's never going to stop and Lan Sizhui is becoming aware that he is now stuck in a fairly small enclosed space with his parents and their ideas about his romantic awakening. Oh no.
"A-Yuan, let's sit, drink some tea. I'll have some of the wine they make here, I hear it's almost as good as Emperor's Smile." Wei Wuxian leads them to a small table near a cozy fire. He orders drinks from the innkeeper and charms the old man with incredible skill. Sometimes proprietors are so enamored with him, they offer drinks for free.
Lan Sizhui looks at his father, who has never been the type to talk about matters of the heart. He looks tired, a little worse for wear, blood still staining his robes and Lan Sizhui begins the tear the ruined cloth away. Clean water in a wooden bowl is placed in front of him by a shy serving girl whose name Lan Sizhui doesn't remember and he begins to clean the wound. It's already healing over, not as deep as Lan Sizhui had feared.
"I don't really want to talk about the kiss," Lan Sizhui says, quietly, his eyes on the wound he's cleaning. "I don't know what it is I'm feeling anyway, it's too soon. If I figure it out, I will let you know. Alright?"
His father nods. "Hm," he says, "whatever you want, my little A-Yuan."
The familiarity is something they have struggled with at times, not always getting it right, but it makes Lan Sizhui flush with warmth and comfort. Wei Wuxian has brought them a balance they had been missing, with his brightness and his fragile heart. They both love him so much and it's made them stronger, as a family. Wei Wuxian is the gold poured into their cracks.
Lan Sizhui looks over at Wei Wuxian trying to charm the innkeeper and smiles. "He's not going to let me get away with it that easy."
Lan Wangji puts a hand on his knee. Lan Sizhui looks up at him and there's a wicked glint in his eyes. "I will distract him."
And Lan Sizhui can't decide if he's more scandalized at the thought of exactly how his father will distract him, or the fact that the pure and good Hanguang Jun is not above making a sex joke of his own. Lan Sizhui groans. "I'm never going on vacation with the two of you ever again. You're the worst."
Wei Wuxian finally arrives back at their table and drapes an arm around Lan Sizhui's shoulder. "Yeah, but you love us anyway."
Lan Sizhui can't argue with that.