Eight months after his wedding to Lan Zhan, Wei Wuxian can safely say that he loves living in the Cloud Recesses. The beauty of the wooded hills and the fast-flowing mountain streams never fails to take his breath away, even when he sees them every day, and the compound itself could have been built to house a clan of heavenly immortals—the graceful lines of the architecture and the tasteful decorations are neither too gaudy nor too simple, and Wei Wuxian has been papering the jingshi’s walls with his sketches of his wedded home over the past three seasons since he married into it.
One of his favorite portraits (and Lan Zhan’s favorite of all, though he claims to like them all equally, like the shameless flatterer he is) is the one of Lan Qiren sitting on the steps under the Lanshi with Jingyi lying on his back beside him, asleep, and A-Yuan reciting poetry from a bench nearby with Xiao-Yu in his lap and Lan Qing sharpening her twin Jin daggers in the tree just over his head. The Lanshi had looked incomparably lovely through its hail of falling peach-blossoms that day, and the picture it made with nearly all of Wei Wuxian’s new family gathered in front of it was too tempting to resist—so he let his talisman class out to lunch early and went out to capture it, ordering his uncle-in-law and the children not to move a muscle as he settled himself on a convenient patch of grass with his brush and tablet.
“If I must,” Lan Qiren had replied, sounding rather put-upon as he brandished an ivory comb at Wei Wuxian as a kinder substitute for the ferule he usually carried during lectures. “As long as you sit still and let me brush that horse’s tail of yours out for you, afterwards. It’s full of leaves, you impossible boy.”
It reminded Wei Wuxian so much of Madam Yu—whose death was only four years ago, to him, and whose faults he decided to forget after the fall of Lotus Pier—that he had to blink back tears when Lan Qiren untied his red ribbon and picked out the leaves in his hair before smoothing the tangles away with the fine white comb.
“Can you comb my hair, too, Xiansheng?” Lan Jingyi asked, cracking one eye open. “There’s a part I can’t get my brush through, and—”
“No, I won’t,” Lan Qiren said, rather heartlessly. “Go to Xichen. You’ve got sugar syrup stuck into it again, haven’t you?”
Jingyi moaned and groaned about it for a while before slinking off to the hanshi, where Lan Xichen reportedly stuck his head into a tub of water and scrubbed it clean until his ears turned pink; but that afternoon remains one of the most precious in Wei Wuxian’s memory since he left Lotus Pier that spring, and only served to make both the Cloud Recesses and all the people who lived there even dearer to his heart. It was a bare two days later that he realized that nowhere save this place of refuge with Lan Zhan could ever be his home for good, now— which is why it takes Wei Wuxian by surprise when he discovers that Gusu winters (though the sight of fresh snow blanketing the pine trees is an artist’s daydream, in his opinion) are far too cold and damp for his comfort, if not downright injurious to his health.
“It’s just a chill, Lan Zhan!” he wheezes from the large double bed in the jingshi, as he shivers through the third spell of cough and fever he’s had in the past month. “I used to get them all the time when I was younger, so just stuff me full of soup and tea until my throat gets better, and I’ll be fine.”
“This is not fine,” his husband says sternly, putting a warm compress on Wei Wuxian’s forehead and helping him lie back down. “You have been ill three times in the last five weeks, and the infection might spread to your lungs if you do not get well in the next day, and—”
He doesn’t finish the sentence, but Wei Wuxian knows well enough what the rest of it would have been; after all, the late Madam Lan had come from a warmer climate, just as he did, and a simple winter cold had turned deadly and killed her in less than thirty hours when Lan Zhan was a child.
“There will be no infection,” a voice from the door calls out, before Lan Xichen slides it open and lets himself into the bedroom. “Liebing is good enough for this. But how are you, difu?”
“Tell Lan Zhan I’m fine,” he complains, melting into the anxious press of Lan Zhan’s hand at his cheek and the soft kisses peppered on his forehead. “I’ve dirtied half the Cloud Recesses’ stock of handkerchiefs, yes, but that’s all.”
“You are not fine,” his brother-in-law sighs, echoing Lan Zhan. “I will heal you now, since I would rather not run the risk of injury to your lungs, but I think you and Wangji ought to go to Lotus Pier with the children as soon as you are better. You managed a month of winter here before falling ill, so you will get used to it in time, but Xiao-Yu was sniffling this morning—and he has no golden core, either, so Yunmeng is the safest place for you both until the weather warms up again.”
“It does not snow there, especially not on the lake,” Lan Zhan agrees, taking Wei Wuxian’s feverish hands and kissing those, too. “We will leave tomorrow afternoon.”
“Do send my best to Sect Leader Jiang,” Zewu-jun says mildly. “That means you should send a messenger talisman ahead of you instead of turning up at his doorstep without notice, Wangji.”
“I am the Chief Cultivator, so I may go where I like.” Lan Zhan kisses Wei Wuxian’s lips, this time, despite Wei Wuxian’s weak efforts to push him away and stop his husband from falling ill himself. “And Jiang Wanyin keeps Wei Ying’s room aired out and made up with fresh sheets at all times, Xiongzhang. Yu Zhenhong told me so.”
“A-Hong is a traitor. No loyalty at all,” Wei Wuxian coughs. “He never listens to us if he thinks he ought to disobey for our own good. But you’re right, Xichen-ge. A-Yu’s too small to be all right if he falls ill like this, so we’ll go to Lotus Pier.”
“I will let your brother know to expect us,” Lan Zhan tells him, sweeping out of the room so that Lan Xichen can play his healing music in peace before returning with a small sleepy bundle wrapped up in four blankets at once. “Take Xiao-Yu, xingan . He has been crying for you.”
Xiao-Yu only sniffles at him. “Want A-Die,” he sulks, burrowing into Wei Wuxian’s outer robe like a tiny bird in a nest. “A-Die left A-Yu, again!”
“A-Die was sick, my baby. Xiao-Yu had to stay away until Bofu could come and make me better.”
“Xiao-Yu is sick,” the baby insists. “Xiao-Yu will stay with A-Die, and listen to Bobo.”
“Xiao-Yu isn’t sick,” Wei Wuxian smiles, after sending a worried glance at Lan Xichen and receiving only a slight grin in return. “But we’re going to Lotus Pier tomorrow with Papa and A-Yuan, so you can stick to me until spring if you like.”
A-Yu draws in a deep breath and tries his best to sneeze, turning his poor little face as red as an apple until Wei Wuxian bites his chubby cheeks to make him stop. “Xiao-Yu has a cold. I stay in A-Die’s bed until summer.”
“You’re a naughty baobei, you know that? Xiao-Yu mustn’t pretend to be sick, A-Die’s heart can’t take it.”
“Mm. You must be kind to Wei Ying’s heart,” Lan Zhan says, reappearing in the doorway with a messenger talisman. “If it should be hurt again, what would Papa do?”
“Kiss it better!” Xiao-Yu squeals. “Papa, give A-Die kiss.”
(And Lan Xichen takes that opportunity to abscond as fast as he can, because Lan Zhan is only too delighted to take their son’s advice ,and kiss him very soundly indeed.)