Lan Wangji didn't actually intend to get rabbits. He was just being a good friend and went to the shelter with Mianmian (she's very insistent on adopt don't shop, which he's never heard of before, but after sitting through a lecture on it in the car, he finds he agrees). It’s also nice to spend an afternoon with a friend, something he doesn’t often think to initiate himself, but usually enjoys when it happens.
At least, he enjoys it when it’s Mianmian he’s spending time with. She probably knows that, and he’s grateful for it. Even if the shelter isn’t where he would have chosen to spend a rare free afternoon. It’s loud. There's a... smell.
While she looks at cats (“older cats get adopted so much less, it's not fair”), Lan Wangji wanders around a little, and finds himself in the small animal room and stays because it's quieter. Most of the cages are empty, but then there are the rabbits. Two of them, huddled up together in the back of their cage.
“They were neglected in their last home,” the volunteer says, and something happens to his heart.
So Mianmian leaves with a black cat named Diablo... and Wangji leaves with the rabbits.
That was two months ago, during the summer, when he was... relatively less busy. He had two months to do what he does best - research - and two months for the rabbits to bond with him. They sit in his lap while he studies. They hang out in the room while he tutors - to the delight of his students. They sit close while he plays his cello.
“I couldn't leave them there, brother,” he says when Lan Xichen comes over shortly before term starts. “They looked so lonely.”
He is definitely not projecting his own loneliness onto some rabbits. Even if the rabbits are, in their silently companionable way, providing the perfect amount of companionship for him.
But the thought creeps into his head: what will happen when term starts again?
He'll almost never be home, they'll be shut up in their hutch after two months of freedom, no students to get cuddled by, no cello to listen to… They'll have each other, but he can't shake the memory that they were neglected, he can't shake the fear they'll be lonely again.
No, he's definitely not projecting his own loneliness. It's important to be clear that that is not what's happening. He's being practical. Reasonable. Rabbits like company.
So if Lan Wangji can't be there for them, he'll do the next best thing, and find someone who can. The trouble is, everyone he trusts is as busy as he is.
Brother is too far away to visit regularly, and besides, he's got plenty on his plate with his two - two! don't tell uncle - boyfriends, plus putting his law degree to use working for the ACLU. And Mianmian is in school, too. Diablo will be fine without her. Though apparently he's become quite affectionate, cats can be left alone for a while.
And that's... it. He doesn't have anyone else to ask.
But he's not lonely, really.
Maybe he should have gotten a cat instead.
He only has a few days left to find someone, and he'd like to meet them and see how they are with the rabbits first, so he needs to be quick.
He turns to... the internet.
Care dot com proves fruitful for pet-sitters, with an almost overwhelming number of options. Lan Wangji filters out the boarding houses, and skims offers until his eyes catch on a Chinese name: Wei Wuxian. His profile is sparse and professional, or at least less informal and peppy than some of the others, and he lists rabbits among the animals he can take care of. That’s good enough.
The young man who turns up wears a black t-shirt with a logo for a band he doesn't recognize and a black sport jacket that's seen better days. He's got long hair in a messy pony-tail, and he's up on the balls of his feet when Lan Wangji opens the door as if caught mid-bounce.
(Wei Wuxian takes one look at the elegant figure in a pale blue cashmere sweater and thinks, fuck, I should have brushed my hair. I should have worn a different shirt. I should have—)
“You must be Wei Wuxian,” Lan Wangji says. “Come in.”
Wei Wuxian isn't what he expected, but at least he takes his shoes off just inside the door.
“So... rabbits, huh?” he asks, looking around the apartment with interest.
“Rabbits,” Lan Wangji agrees.
“Wow, how do you even sit there? I'd be afraid to get crumbs all over it!” Wei Wuxian waves at the white sofa as they pass.
“I don't eat in this room,'” Lan Wangji says, leading him through the sitting room. There's no TV; the sofa is only for company. On the rare occasions he has anyone over. Anyway, the sofa is perfectly clean.
“Huh, okay, okay,” Wei Wuxian says. “Nice place.”
“So, uh... what do you do?” Wei Wuxian asks.
“I'm a student.” He's aware Wei Wuxian is attempting to make friendly conversation, and that he is terrible at friendly conversation with strangers. Small talk has never come naturally to him, but he tries, because he can hear Mianmian's voice in his head telling him to be nice. “What do you do?”
“I take care of people's bunnies!” Wei Wuxian says, and laughs. It's a bright, ringing thing, that laugh. Probably the first one of its kind this apartment has ever heard.
“So you know about rabbit care,” Lan Wangji says. “I want you to spend a few hours here during the day. Their treats are in the fridge, but don't give them too many, it's not health-”
“I know about rabbit care, Lan-ge,” Wei Wuxian says. Lan Wangji's ears get hot. “Don't worry!”
Lan Wangji will worry, anyway. Wei Wuxian does not look as... reputable as he'd hoped for. But he doesn't have time to find anyone else, unless the rabbits hate him or something.
He takes him to the rabbit room - “Lan-ge! You have an entire rabbit room?!” - to meet them.
The rabbit room doubles as his study, with his perfectly neat desk tucked in the corner by the window. He devoted the rest of the room to the rabbits, their hutch and their toys and everything they could possibly need or want when they’re not roaming the apartment. He’d moved the bookshelf and his cello case into his own room to make more space for them.
The rabbits are perfectly happy to come out and visit, and Wei Wuxian crouches down to let them sniff him. They do not appear to hate him.
And Wei Wuxian grins at them with such utter delight it's like someone lit a lamp in the room. He talks softly to the rabbits until they get bored of him, and then he looks up at Lan Wangji, his eyes still alight and his smile so big the curve of his cheeks narrows them to bright crescents.
“What are their names, Lan-ge? Such nice bunnies must have good names!”
No one has ever smiled at Lan Wangji like that in his entire life, and even though he knows the smile is for the rabbits and not for him, it takes his brain a second to click back into gear.
“The grey one is Little Apple, and the white one is Snowball.”
“Such adorable names, Lan-ge!” It should not be possible for Wei Wuxian's smile to get bigger. And yet. “Who knew you could give bunnies such cute names, you look so strict, but I think you're really a big softie!”
“My students named them,” Lan Wangji says stiffly. He’s not sure what to do when faced with a stranger being so familiar and… genuinely friendly.
“Ah, you have students! What do you teach?” Wei Wuxian bounces to his feet, roving around the small room, picking up rabbit toys to look at them. The room feels darker somehow, now that he's not looking at Lan Wangji.
“Cello and music theory.”
“Is that what you go to school for?”
The answer is too brusque, he knows, but he doesn't like talking about himself. Wei Wuxian is here for the rabbits, not for him.
And that's that. He gives Wei Wuxian the spare key and the schedule he typed out last night, and tells him to help himself to drinks when he's here. He hopes this scruffy young man isn't going to rob him while he’s at school, but the rabbits liked him, so he can't be that bad.
He's so busy for the first week of classes, he barely has time to think about Wei Wuxian. The rabbits seem fine when he gets home, and nothing goes missing from the apartment.
And then the post-its start showing up on his desk.
The first one just says hey Lan-ge, what's your wifi password? you do have wifi, don't you? with a little doodle of a rabbit, so he leaves the note where it is and jots down the password under the rabbit.
Far from being a one-time occurrence, Wei Wuxian seems to take this as encouragement. More post-its follow.
Concept: art for your walls. Perhaps a painting of some rabbits?
Lan Wangji's walls are palest blue, undecorated. He likes them that way. Walls aren’t meant to be looked at, and paintings would merely be distractions. Not that he dislikes art, but the light, airy blue gives the small apartment a sense of open space and tranquility.
Yet he finds himself writing back, Do you have a particular one in mind?
In return, he gets five different doodles of rabbits, clearly with Little Apple and Snowball as models, each on individual post-its the next day. In one, the rabbits have little ribbons swirling around them, and in another, they're surrounded by hearts.
Lan Wangji considers them with some surprise. The rabbits are cute, cartoon-style, but with an undeniably sense of personality captured in a few simple strokes of the ballpoint. After spending a moment unsure what to do with them, he sticks them to the wall above his desk.
Lan-ge! says the next post-it, putting my art on your wall? you flatter me! There's a little chibi rabbit blowing a heart at him underneath.
Lan Wangji doesn't know how to answer that, but Wei Wuxian doesn’t appear to be deterred by an empty desk. Soon, he’s getting multiple post-its a day. At first, it’s mostly single notes telling him Wei Wuxian finished the lemonade, or assuring him the rabbits are happy, sometimes telling him about their little exploits during the day. As Lan Wangji’s studies intensify, the latter take on a narrative that pushes the boundaries of believability and then flies right through them, until he's getting daily episodes of the Bunny Adventures.
He buys a bulk pack of post-its and leaves it on the desk, which gets the response, Ah, Lan-ge! I'm starting to think you like me! with a ribbon heart drawn around the words.
He's not quite sure how this happened to him. He’s not even sure what this is. He hired someone to keep his rabbits company, and suddenly these post-its are becoming the highlight of his days. He's starting to look forward to the Bunny Adventures during his classes, and when he gets home after his evening class, he goes straight to the rabbit room, feeds them dinner - which, he tells himself, he would have done anyway - and sits down to look at his latest post-its.
He’s beginning to amass quite a collection, now. They even have their own folder in a drawer in his desk, because he doesn’t want to throw them away, but he can't just leave them lying around.
In today's (illustrated!) adventure, the rabbits have apparently finished building a rocketship with household items, and tomorrow will be launching for the moon. The last post-it is a little sketch of the rabbits staring out a window at a distant crescent. He adds it to the wall above the desk, and smiles.
But the next day, when he gets home hungry and tired from hours in the library, there's only one post-it waiting.
Lan-ge, I had to leave early, i'm sorry and I can't come tomorrow. i'll refund you for the time I miss
It's the most formal Wei Wuxian has ever sounded, the difference in tone jarring to the routine they’ve settled into. He hopes nothing is wrong.
Cramped at the bottom of the post-it like an afterthought, almost illegible, it says:
i guess the bunnies will just have to wait to go to the moon. Lan-ge, have you ever thought about going to the moon?
He has never thought about going to the moon, but in lecture the next day, he finds himself thinking about it while his least-favorite professor drones on. It’s unlike him to daydream, much less about something so foolish. His classes are important to him, and yet, he allows himself to drift for a few moments, lost between the ramble of Professor Marini and the fanciful idea of rabbits on the moon. He imagines standing on the moon and watching the earth rise.
It should be silly, it is silly, but that’s exactly why he’s going to write it down on a post-it tonight for Wei Wuxian.
When he gets home, the apartment feels... quieter somehow, knowing Wei Wuxian wasn't in it. His desk is bare, but he knew to expect that, and the rabbits seem fine. Perhaps a little more eager than usual for attention when he feeds them, but fine. They can handle a day alone.
So why does he feel...
It doesn't matter. He takes out the cello and practices for a long time, and doesn't think about rocketships and moons.
Some time in the middle of the night, he jots down the outline of a melody. The only thing he has to hand is a post-it note.
in the morning, he has forgotten doing it
Wei Wuxian's next note is as chipper as ever. Everything must be fine, of course it is. He knows nothing about Wei Wuxian’s life outside of this apartment. He probably went out with friends or something, that was what people did. Still he's more relieved than he thinks is necessary when he sees the little blue square of paper covered with Wei Wuxian’s rapid scrawl.
Lan-ge! I had to leave early again, but I fed the bunnies. are you writing me a song??? i'm so flattered! no one's ever written me a song before
Lan Wangji looks at the note, the melody written in his own neat hand, and... vaguely, dreamlike, remembers writing it.
It's a theme for the Bunny Adventures, he writes back, because he can't think of anything else it could be. Then he adds, please don't refund me, it's fine.
The next day, Lan Wangji's night class is cancelled. He goes home early... to find his note still there, untouched. The rabbits hop to the door of their hutch, hungry. Wei Wuxian hasn't been here at all.
Lan Wangji should be annoyed - the rabbits are hungry! - but instead he feels a stab of concern. Wei Wuxian has never actually missed a day before, never not come without communicating. He's the most communicative person Lan Wangji has ever met in his life.
He reminds himself Wei Wuxian is, basically, a stranger. Someone he hired. He's not a relative, he's not even really a friend.
In short, not Lan Wangji's to worry about.
He feeds the rabbits, then himself. Finishes an essay. Takes out the cello.
And finds himself playing the tune he wrote for the Bunny Adventures, only the cello gives it an air of deep yearning as he improvises variations around the melody. What might Wei Wuxian say if he heard it like this? What his smile might look like…
Lan Wangji sets down the bow, takes a deep breath, and pulls out his phone.
At first he thinks he should text his brother, but the problem is, he already knows what Xichen will say. Instead, he texts Mianmian.
[6:58pm] How's Diablo?
And then he waits. It feels like a long time, even though it's not.
[7:06pm] he's my best boy! [attachment: picture of a black cat stretching on a pink and yellow comforter, mouth very wide in a yawn]
Lan Wangji almost manages to smile at that, and texts back.
[7:07pm] He's very handsome.
[7:07pm] I have a question.
[7:09pm] what's up? is it the buns?? did your sitter make them fat??
[7:10pm] The rabbits are fine.
And then... he doesn't know what to say. He types. Deletes. Types. Mianmian gets tired of waiting and texts him before he's finished.
[7:16pm] hey, are you ok? should I come over?
[7:17pm] I'm fine.
[7:17pm] The sitter didn't show up today.
[7:18pm] oh shit, does that mean you have to find another?
That hadn't occurred to Lan Wangji. He pauses, phone cradled in his hands. Does he need another sitter? The question forces him to realize that he doesn't want one. He doesn't want to let some other person into his home, doesn’t want some other person holding his rabbits.
He wants Bunny Adventures and... Wei Wuxian.
Before Mianmian can get impatient again, he texts back.
[7:21pm] ok so what's the question?
[7:22pm] He's never missed a day before. He always leaves a note when he has to leave early.
[7:22pm] I am...
[7:23pm] Concerned about him.
He sits with that for a moment, looking at the words on his phone screen, letting the truth of them settle into him.
[7:24pm] that's not a question
[7:24pm] but I *assume* you're asking what to do about it
[7:26pm] text him, dummy
[7:26pm] you have his number, right?
Lan Wangji does, indeed, have his number. It was there on the ad. He used it to send Wei Wuxian his address.
They've been communicating by post-it for so long that texting him didn't even cross his mind. It feels... weirdly too personal. Like crossing a boundary, taking their... relationship, such as it is, out of the context of pet-sitting. He'd be asking about Wei Wuxian's real life.
[7:31pm] you don't think that's too intrusive?
[7:32pm] lol no
[7:32pm] you're paying him
He's paying him. The reminder makes him feel worse, for no good reason. It's not like he has so few friends that he has to pay someone to be visit him. Wei Wuxian is here for the rabbits.
[7:35 pm] Thanks Mianmian
[7:35pm] any time <3
[7:35pm] let me know what he says
[7:36pm] I might be able to drop by tomorrow if he can't
This time, Lan Wangji really does smile down at his phone. He's very lucky to have a friend like Mianmian.
[7:37pm] Thank you
Before he can overthink it, he scrolls through his short list of messages. Wei Wuxian's number isn't even saved, just that little back and forth from weeks ago about the ad, the rabbits, his address, a time. It's so plain and innocuous. He could never have guessed it would lead to... whatever this is. This fondness he does not think he has right or reason to feel.
First, he saves Wei Wuxian's number. Then, after hesitating over it for a moment, he adds a rabbit emoji after his name in the contacts list. It feels silly, but he thinks it's something Wei Wuxian would appreciate.
Then he types. Deletes. Types.
Everything he tries sounds too formal, like a professional email. He can't mention money, that's awkward. He doesn't want to offer to get another sitter if Wei Wuxian can't do it, doesn't even want that to be an option.
Finally, he grits his teeth and sends:
[8:23pm] Are you okay?
No answer is immediately forthcoming. He doesn't know if Wei Wuxian is usually a prompt text-er or not. Should he worry?
No. No more worrying. It’s late, and he’s spent enough time on this as it is. Too much time. He hurries through the studying he should have been doing for the last hour until it's 9:05.
His phone is silent the whole time.
He goes to bed, where he dreams someone steals his rabbits while he's in class and wakes up at 4:30 unable to get back to sleep.
This is foolish. He's getting himself worked up over nothing. He's not usually an anxious person, and isn’t enjoying the experience.
There's no text on his phone.
He goes through his day by rote, autopilots through his classes. When, after the class they share, Mianmian asks if he heard from Wei Wuxian, he has to say no.
She looks so hard into his eyes he feels himself blush, and says with more feeling than he expects, “I'm sorry. I hope he texts back.”
The rabbits are hungry when he gets home. There's no text, no post-it, no sign Wei Wuxian has ever existed in his life.
Well, that's not true. He has a whole folder full of two months’ worth of doodles and Bunny Adventures. He has little blue post-its stuck all over his wall.
When his phone dings, his stomach gives a painful lurch that has nothing to do with the fact he hasn’t had dinner yet. He nearly throws himself at the phone, in time to see the screen still lit up, and a text from Wei Wuxian’s number.
[5:36pm] who's this
[5:36pm] Lan Wangji.
[5:37pm] does Wei Wuxian owe you money?
Lan Wangji stares at that for a second to collect his thoughts as his heart sinks. It's not Wei Wuxian texting, but it’s somebody who knows him. That’s something, at least.
[5:39pm] He takes care of my rabbits.
He waits, a minute. Two. Watches the three little dots spring to life under his text.
[5:41pm] oh, you
[5:41pm] Wei Wuxian can't take care of your rabbits anymore
Lan Wangji heart gives an unpleasant squeeze. Mianmian would say he has a right to ask, he tells himself, right before he asks.
There's a pause so long he thinks whoever is on the other end isn't going to answer him at all. Maybe it's too personal. He paces, unable to sit down. Stillness, which is usually so easy, so natural, won't come to him.
Then his phone dings three times in rapid succession.
[5:58pm] he's disappeared
[5:58pm] the asshole
[5:58pm] the police are looking for him
Lan Wangji's stomach drops somewhere around the basement level of the apartment building.
In the time it takes the person with Wei Wuxian’s phone to answer, Lan Wangji decides the three detective novels he read in college were three too many. He decides he should never have let Xichen show him that Masterpiece Murder Mystery. He shouldn't have watched that trailer for a cop show that one time.
[6:01pm] yeah, disappeared. as in, on the lam, as in, there's a warrant for his arrest, as in, he's an asshole making trouble for my whole family
Lan Wangji's idea of 'disappeared' rapidly reorients itself from wondering if Wei Wuxian has been murdered to wondering what he did.
Which he absolutely cannot ask, because that's definitely too personal for someone whose only relationship with Wei Wuxian is rabbit-sitting.
So he texts back numbly,
[6:03pm] Thanks for letting me know.
Then he drops his phone on couch next to him and just sits there, with absolutely no idea what he's supposed to do with the information that his rabbit-sitter is now a wanted criminal, or the dawning knowledge this is forcing on him that he really likes his rabbit-sitter. Rain patters at his windows, dreary and almost-winter cold. Of course it would rain. Thunder growls distantly, the storm settling in to stay.
A rabbit nudges his foot.
The rabbits aren't actually allowed on the sofa, but he picks up Little Apple anyway, and strokes him in his lap for a long time, listening to the rain.
The next day, it's still raining. One of his classes is cancelled because flash flooding on the roads and the professor can't get to campus. Rain comes down in sheets, and the roads are so hazardous, the professor before that sends all the commuters home early.
It's a good thing he has to pay so much attention to the drive that he can't think about whether Wei Wuxian is out in this, wet and freezing somewhere.
Despite his umbrella, his clothes are soaked by the time he gets to his apartment, and stops with his hand on the doorknob.
His door is unlocked.
He definitely did not leave his door unlocked.
Heart racing, he hefts his folded umbrella. It's not much of a weapon, but it's the full-sized kind with a metal cap on the tip he could probably jab a thief with pretty hard if he has to. Hopefully, he won’t have to.
Maybe he should call the police.
He doesn't call the police.
Slow, silently, he opens the door. The apartment is quiet. Probably whoever was there is already gone.
What if they hurt the rabbits? The thought makes his insides grip sickeningly. Surely a thief wouldn’t hurt a couple of bunnies.
Heart in his throat, he creeps towards the rabbit room, freezes when he sees movement in the gap of the half open door. Someone is there, someone is—
“I'm gonna miss you, little buddies. You take care of Lan-ge for me—”
Wei Wuxian backs out of the rabbit room, turns, and goes paper-white at the sight of Lan Wangji menacing him with an umbrella in the hallway.
“Holy fuck—!! Don't sneak up on me, Lan-ge! What are you doing home?”
He's so wet his shirt sticks to his skin, his ponytail limp against his neck, and there are dark smudges under his eyes.
Lan Wangji lowers the umbrella.
“Ha-hah yeah! Yeah I am, sorry about your carpets.” Wei Wuxian's laugh is nothing like the one he remembers from... the only other time they've been face to face. This laugh is shrill and brittle. He doesn’t have to know him well to hear the lie in it.
“Don't mind me, I just came by to feed the rabbits and—and let you know—”
“There are clean towels in the bathroom cabinet. I'll get you dry clothes. You can shower if you're cold.” Lan Wangji has no idea what he's saying, what he's doing, except that Wei Wuxian's hands are shaking, and he's alone, and he's here.
He might be a murderer, Lan Wangji reminds himself, but then again, just because the police are looking for him doesn't mean he actually did something wrong. Lan Wangji has a civil rights lawyer for a brother, after all.
“Lan-ge, I can't do that, really— I should go—”
“Look, I really have to tell you…” Wei Wuxian looks down at the floor. The ends of his hair drip. It couldn't be more obvious he doesn't want to say it.
“No need,” Lan Wangji repeats. “I already know. Go shower, and we'll talk when you're dry.”
Wei Wuxian doesn't argue any more after that. He wobbles off to the bathroom. Lan Wangji hears the shower start, and goes to change his own clothes. He leaves a shirt, sweater, and pants for Wei Wuxian outside the bathroom door, and puts on the kettle for tea.
He feels like he's moving through a haze. This is the stupidest thing he's ever done in his life. He's knowingly harboring a fugitive! A fugitive who is currently in his shower!
He should call the police.
He should call his brother.
Instead, he checks on the rabbits.
The rabbits are great. He sits cross-legged on the floor and gives them an extra treat just because he feels like it, and pets them as they snuggle up in his lap, soft, warm little bodies keeping him from becoming completely unmoored from the reality of what's happening. All too soon, the kettle boils. Mechanically, he sets the rabbits down and makes tea, going through familiar motions that mean he doesn’t have to think too much. He has a box of mango black tea in the cupboard because Wei Wuxian said he liked it when Lan Wangji told him no, he wouldn't get coffee and didn't have a coffee maker.
That post-it is in the folder somewhere.
The pipes clunk as the shower shuts off, and five minutes later, Wei Wuxian creeps into the kitchen, his hair down and wet, soaking a dark patch into the blue shirt Lan Wangji left for him.
He looks... ethereal in blue. As if black made him part of the real world, and now he's not quite…
“You said,” he whispers, slow and subdued, “you know.”
“Yes.” Lan Wangji holds out a steaming mug. “Careful, it's hot.”
Wei Wuxian looks at him for a long moment, his eyes huge.
“Ha-hah,” he says, that awful, fake laugh again, “so, when will the cops show up?”
“I haven't called the... cops,” Lan Wangji says. Wei Wuxian looks like he's just going to stand there in the middle of the kitchen floor, so Lan Wangji goes over to the sofa and Wei Wuxian has to follow him. He hovers for a moment before deciding to sit, tea clasped in both hands, long fingers curved around the white earthenware.
“You... but you said you know. Is it on the news or something?”
“When you didn’t come, and you didn’t leave a note, I... worried. So I texted you. Someone else responded.”
“...oh.” Wei Wuxian looks into his tea like it might give him more answers than Lan Wangji himself. “Shit. Jiang Cheng. He's my brother,” he adds before Lan Wangji can ask. “So, then why haven't you... you know?”
“No one has told me what you've supposedly done,” Lan Wangji replies, finding that he has the answer on his tongue even though he certainly hadn't articulated it to himself before. “And as far as I'm concerned, you're innocent until proven otherwise.”
“Wow, Lan-ge... I don't know what to say.”
“Drink your tea. And stop calling me Lan-ge.”
Wei Wuxian flinches, and he regrets it immediately, realizing too late the words must have sounded like a rejection.
“You can call me... Lan Zhan.” What on earth is he doing? But Wei Wuxian perks up so fast it's a little dizzying.
“Lan Zhan.” He says the name with care, like he's savoring a new flavor. “Then you'd better call me Wei Ying.”
He has the gall to smile over his teacup and instantly erase every bit of doubt and confusion in Lan Wangji's mind, along with everything else that might have been in there. It’s an odd feeling, but not unpleasant.
“Wei Ying,” he repeats slowly, liking the shape of the name in his mouth, the taste of a treat he's not sure he deserves but desperately wants. He wrenches himself back to the present. “Are you hungry?”
“Starving! Lan Zhan, I'm wasting away over here!”
Which is how Lan Wangji ends up eating takeout Szechuan at his little table — “Not on the sofa, I remember, Lan Zhan! I never eat on the sofa!” — with his rabbit-sitter who might be a wanted criminal while his rabbits crunch on celery sticks on the kitchen floor.
After, Wei Wuxian falls asleep on the sofa and Lan Wangji covers him with the fuzzy blanket that's usually draped across the back because it has a cloud pattern and Xichen said it made the room more inviting.
Then he finally calls his brother.
Lan Xichen is surprised, to say the least, at what his perfectly rule-abiding little brother has gotten himself into. Lan Wangji can hear the surprise radiating through the phone as he explains the situation. Well, what he knows of the situation.
But, because he is the best brother in the entire history of brothers, he says, “Of course I'll help,” and he doesn't lecture or give warnings, he just offers to come over.
“When the flooding stops,” Lan Wangji says, filing away all the excuses he's come up with — he hasn't hurt me, I don't know what he did (I like him, brother) — in case he needs them later.
Wei Wuxian sleeps straight through dinner time. Lan Wangji doesn't have the heart to wake him, just leaves a post-it on the fridge that he should have his leftovers. It feels good to leave him a post-it, and somehow exciting to leave it somewhere that isn't his desk.
Wei Wuxian is still asleep when Lan Wangji finishes studying, still asleep when he goes to bed at nine, still asleep when he gets up at five. He's curled up in a tight little ball under the blanket, a pillow clutched against his chest.
Lan Wangji resists the urge to brush his hair off his cheek, and makes himself granola for breakfast so he won't disturb Wei Wuxian by cooking. The rain has slowed to a miserable drizzle, but inside it's warm and... something. Something. Comfortable. Companionable. Something…
Anyway, he likes having Wei Wuxian asleep on his couch and doesn't want to examine why too much yet.
Soon he's supposed to leave for his 8:30 class and Wei Wuxian hasn't woken up yet.
What if he leaves while Lan Wangji is out? What if he disappears and Lan Wangji never sees him again and never gets the chance to try to help him get out of whatever situation he's in?
He knows Wei Wuxian has a family, but the brother, Jiang Cheng, didn't sound exactly like he was fretting for Wei Wuxian's safety.
Maybe that's not fair, he doesn't know Jiang Cheng at all, but he finds he doesn't really care. His brother is a lawyer and he will not let his friend — his friend, they are friends now, surely — Wei Ying vanish into a rainy autumn and probably get arrested.
So he emails all his professors for the day, and for the first time since he had the flu in his sophomore year of college, he doesn't go to class.
Wei Wuxian doesn't wake until after nine. He stirs on the couch and makes a little kitten-squeak when he yawns and rolls over.
And his eyes light up with a sleepy expression of mingled surprise and relief when he sees Lan Wangji in his armchair, typing away on his laptop. They stare at each other for a moment, and then Wei Wuxian whispers, “M-morning,” and yawns again.
“There's granola on the counter and the kettle is still warm,” Lan Wangji offers. “I only have rice milk.”
“Why are you…” Wei Wuxian rubs his eyes. “Don't you have class?”
“Not today,' Lan Wangji replies simply. “Do you feel better? You slept a long time.”
“So much better, Lan Zhan, your couch is so comfy! You're sure about this? About helping me? I mean, we barely know each other... what if I did something awful?”
“Well, I guess that depends who you ask.” Wei Wuxian bites his lip. It shouldn't be as endearing as it is. “Lemme pee first.” That's sufficiently less endearing.
He watches Wei Wuxian go through his own morning, hears the little yelp of surprise when he finds the new toothbrush Lan Wangji left out for him, listens to him grumble about “rice milk and no coffee” as he makes himself granola and more black tea, which he brews way too long.
Finally, he's back on the couch, perched on the edge like he might fly away.
“So, I, uh, I'm a hacker,” he says to Lan Wangji's patiently waiting expression.
“A hacker? Like in a spy movie?”
“Ahaha no no, Lan Zhan, nothing like a movie. It's not nearly that exciting.”
“Do you steal people's identities?” Lan Wangji’s attention sharpens. Jokes aside, that would be... definitely not something he could condone.
“Oh no! No, I'd never. I steal information.”
He seems to realize that's not exactly what Lan Wangji wanted to hear, because he laughs nervously again.
“Ah no don't look at me like that, Lan Zhan! I steal information from big companies to try to expose them for violating people's rights and burning rainforests and stuff.”
Ah. Of course. Of course Wei Wuxian is the kind of hacker who fights against injustice. Something in Lan Wangji’s chest that has been clenched tight since there’s a warrant for his arrest begins to ease. At least the person he hired to take care of his rabbits, to be in his home every day, isn’t the kind of man who hurts people.
There was a little plot arc in the Bunny Adventures where the bunnies found out the yappy little dog next door was actually an evil CEO. It was silly at the time, but suddenly makes more sense.
“And is this... illegal?" Lan Wangji asks, afraid he knows the answer.
“Well, I don't— I mean I— I mostly write code and fact-check other people's reports, I don't do like DOS attacks or anything.”
Lan Wangji doesn't know what a DOS attack is, but it sounds serious, the way Wei Wuxian says it.
“You didn't answer my question,” Lan Wangji points out.
“It's... I'm not sure. I mean, I'm not sure if exactly the stuff I do is illegal, but if they suspect I'm involved with people who have done illegal stuff... anyway, yeah.”
“So you ran away?”
“Yeah, pretty dumb, I know. I was scared, Lan Zhan, and then I was extra scared. The police really don't like it when you avoid them, you know? So I couldn't go back! And I felt so bad leaving you and the bunnies without saying anything, so I just thought I'd— and then— yeah. Here we are.”
“It's understandable to be scared,” Lan Wangji says. He can't imagine what he would have felt in Wei Wuxian's place. He definitely wouldn't have run away, but he can’t be sure he might not have wanted to.
“My brother is a civil rights lawyer. He's agreed to help you.”
Wei Wuxian's jaw drops. He’s never seen that happen to someone for real before, and some small part of him makes a note that it isn’t just a saying.
“Seriously,” Lan Wangji says. “And you can stay here as long as you want.”
“Lan Zhan! You can't just say things like that! You could get in trouble!”
Wei Wuxian is right, and yet, how can he turn him over to a brother who calls him an asshole? He considers how much trouble he might actually get into, the text from Jiang Cheng evidence he knew what he was doing even if he intended to lie, which he doesn’t. He’s not sure the exact legality of letting Wei Wuxian stay here, but Xichen would know.
“I will be fine.”
“Lan Zhan, I... I really don't know what to say, I don't know why you're doing this for me. Even Jiang Cheng... well, never mind him, he's all bark, anyway.”
Lan Wangji finds he does, in fact, mind Jiang Cheng quite a lot, but he's Wei Wuxian's brother, so he holds his tongue.
“I'm doing this because…” He begins to explain, and then finds he doesn’t know how.
Because you're my friend, your notes made me happier than I’ve been in years, I like having you in my apartment, knowing you've been in my apartment, taking care of my rabbits, I like you Wei Ying…
“You haven't written when the bunnies go to the moon.”
Wei Wuxian stares at him for half a heartbeat, and then throws his head back and laughs, ringing and beautiful, not because it's delicate or musical or anything like that, but because it's loud and so real.
And it's for him.
“You're so funny, Lan Zhan! I didn't realize you could be so funny! You don't even have real milk or coffee, but you're funny!”
Wei Wuxian wipes his eyes on the back of his sleeve — Lan Wangji's sleeve, actually, he's still wearing his shirt — and it's only as Wei Wuxian relaxes that Lan Wangji realizes how tense he's been, wound tight like a spring. The laughter releases something in him; he sprawls back on the white sofa, messy hair and messy posture, messy messy and Lan Wangji likes it and—
“You know, Lan Zhan, I really like you a lot. Thank you, I don't know how I can thank you.”
Something strange but not entirely unpleasant is happening in Lan Wangji's chest. Lan Zhan, I really like you a lot. It echoes inside him, filling him with a fizzy sort of warmth. Not that Wei Wuxian means it like that, Lan Wangji wouldn’t even want him to mean it like that. He has never wanted…
“You don't have to thank me, just look after my rabbits.”
“Ah Lan Zhan! What kind of man harbors a fugitive to babysit his bunnies?!”
It takes Lan Wangji a beat to realize Wei Wuxian is teasing him, and then to realize he doesn't mind being teased by Wei Wuxian.
“I suppose I am that kind of man.' He shrugs. “You shouldn't be in trouble for doing something good.”
“And you believe me, just like that? I could be lying to you!”
“Well…” He waves a hand vaguely in the air. “No.”
“Then I believe you.”
“Ah, ah, don't be so— so sincere! I can't take it. You're really too much.”
Lan Wangji blinks, looks down, and that alone, without words, is enough to start Wei Wuxian speaking again.
“No, no, I didn't mean it, Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan, look at me, you're great, this is great.”
He’s not sure anyone has ever talked to him like before. Said his name, that name, quite the way Wei Wuxian says it. He looks.
Wei Wuxian is sitting forward now, that long messy hair draped over his shoulder, ink-dark and thick now that it's clean, and it probably smells like Lan Wangji's shampoo, which makes him feel that fizzy warm feeling again. And his eyes are so bright, so intent on Lan Wangji.
The problem with looking at Wei Wuxian is that now he doesn't want to stop looking. For so long, Wei Wuxian has been handwriting and doodles on little blue squares of paper, and now he's here, a whole person, three-dimensional and real and Lan Wangji knows so little about him.
He wants to know more, and doesn't know what to do with that wanting, doesn't know if it's reciprocal or even how to ask. Especially not when Wei Wuxian's choices are his apartment or the rain and police. Later, it will be appropriate... later.
“What an intense stare!” A smile breaks over Wei Wuxian's face like sunrise. “I feel like I'm being examined. I think you'd be pretty scary if I didn't know you loved your bunnies so much!” He breaks the way-too-long eye contact, and Lan Wangji is relieved despite himself, because it was... a lot.
“You should have seen yourself with the umbrella yesterday!” Wei Wuxian chatters on, “so intimidating, ready to take me down! A-hah! Lan Zhan, you're smiling!”
Is he? He didn't realize, but Wei Wuxian looks so triumphant that he must be.
Usually, he doesn't like chatter. Usually, it annoys him. But Wei Wuxian's chatter is just like his notes, warm and creative and amusing, flitting through ideas until...
He comes to rest at last. “Can I ask you one more favor?”
“Of course,” he says, and finds that what he means is anything.
“Can I borrow your phone? I just... I need to call my sister, that's all.”
“Of course.” He offers it without further question, choosing to believe that calling his sister is what Wei Wuxian will do. Even though he hadn’t known Wei Wuxian had a sister, a piece of information he can now add to the short but growing list of things he knows about Wei Wuxian.
Lan Wangji goes to the kitchen, ostensibly to chop vegetables for the rabbits, but really to give Wei Wuxian privacy.
Over the next few days, he tries not to consider too much how easy it feels to share space with Wei Wuxian, when Lan Wangji is usually so controlling of his personal space, his home. His things have places, his life has a comfortable routine, his apartment is quiet, not counting the neighbor’s yappy dog. Yet, Wei Wuxian has already become part of that routine, already has a place here. His physical presence feels more like an extension of what already existed than an imposition.
It stays like that. Stays easy. Wei Wuxian sleeps on his couch at night and watches his bunnies by day. Their schedules don’t line up, but it works out. He's still awake when Lan Wangji goes to bed, so he lets him use his laptop to stream movies.
“Don't do anything illegal,” he warns.
Wei Wuxian’s grin is gratifying. “I'll try not to.”
Lan Xichen comes over a few days after Wei Wuxian arrived, once the rain stops. He and Wei Wuxian spoil the rabbits while Lan Wangji is in class, and build a case for Wei Wuxian's defense. Wei Wuxian isn't arrested after all, which is a perk of having a really smart and well-connected lawyer for a brother.
And Wei Wuxian just sort of... stays.
He talks a lot. He talks about his family. He talks about the causes that matter to him. He talks about a movie he watched or a joke he heard, and somehow, Lan Wangji... keeps... enjoying it. When he chats at Lan Wangji, he doesn’t appear to expect Lan Wangji to hold up his side of the conversation like most people do, perfectly happy with small signs of attention.
He tells him the rest of the Bunny Adventures, too.
How the bunnies go to the moon in the rocket ship made from the fruit ninja blender and the tea kettle and other household objects, how they helped the aliens there revolt against other colonist aliens (“the Moonshot Campaign,” he calls it). It's very silly, and Lan Wangji loves to watch Wei Wuxian tell it. The animation of his expressions, and the gestures he makes with his hands. He does all the voices, too, bringing to life a story that previously only existed within the limitations of post-it notes.
Lan Wangji plays the Bunny Adventure theme song he wrote, and with Wei Wuxian listening, it sounds much happier, somehow, less restrained, though still with that thread of longing from the original melody.
“It's wonderful, Lan Zhan! You're a genius, you should write more music!”
“It's not... productive.” Lan Wangji sighs, his arms draped lightly around the cello. Variations on the simple tune isn’t what he would call genius, but he decides not to contradict Wei Wuxian this time. “I'm not going to school for music.”
“So? Do it because you like it!” Wei Wuxian says. “You should do things you like more often.”
The thing is, Lan Wangji is doing things he likes more than probably ever in his life.
He likes finding little blue post-it notes on his fridge, his counter, his desk. All the thoughts Wei Wuxian has jotted down for him during the day, from 'need orange juice' to bits of Bunny Adventures.
He likes playing music for Wei Wuxian and the bunnies in the evening. He likes having dinner with him and his brother when Lan Xichen stays too late. He likes having Mianmian over, though the first time is, well…
“There's someone I want you to meet,” he says, Mianmian coming up behind him. Wei Wuxian is sprawled on the sofa, and sits up in a rush.
“Luo Qingyang, but please, just call me Mianmian! Everyone does.”
Wei Wuxian looks between them and there's something odd on his face for a second, gone so fast Lan Wangji might have imagined it. Something like... disappointment?
Then he's saying, “Wow, it's great to meet you!” and being so friendly Lan Wangji definitely imagined it.
But when Mianmian goes into the rabbit room to take a call, he leans conspiratorially towards Lan Wangji.
“She's really pretty and nice, I see why you like her. Your family must be so pleased.”
And Lan Wangji just stares at him in incomprehension for a second, then realization, and clamps his mouth shut so he won't blurt out I'm gay.
“Ohh, oh no, does your family not know? Does her family not know? Do they not want her to date in school or something?” Wei Wuxian asks, misinterpreting his silence so completely he doesn't know how to stop him.
“Mianmian is on the phone with her girlfriend,” Lan Wangji says in a rush, which is... slightly better than outing himself? Because at least Mianmian is out and wouldn’t care. “We’re friends,” he finishes quickly
“Ohhh!” Wei Wuxian lights up. “Haha, Lan Zhan, I thought you were introducing me to your girlfriend, sorry, sorry!”
“It's fine, I realized, I... can see why you'd think that.”
“She is very smart. And pretty. Too bad about the girlfriend, or I'd have flirted with her!” He winks, and Lan Wangji's heart sinks. Not that he really expected... really thought...
So it, whatever exactly ‘it’ is, becomes the thing they talk around, and don't quite talk about.
Until Lan Wangji begins to notice a very... romantic? undertone to the latest Bunny Adventure plot.
“I really like you a lot,” adventure Little Apple says to adventure Snowball, and Lan Wangji's heart aches, his whole chest aches, and he wonders if maybe he's getting sick or something, because his lungs definitely aren't supposed to feel like that, and he presses his fingers into real Snowball’s fur and anchors himself with the rapid flutter of the little heart beneath his hands.
It's Mianmian, again, who calls him out.
“So, are you and Wei Wuxian dating yet?' she asks over a dining hall lunch of mediocre vegetarian noodle salad for him and pizza for her.
Lan Wangji drops his chopsticks.
“Are. You. Dating. Yet?” she pronounces slowly.
“Why would we be dating?” Lan Wangji asks, pulse pounding in his temples.
“Oh, you know, the usual reasons. You like him, he likes you... figure it out.”
I really like you a lot.
“Do you really think…”
“I'm a lesbian, not an idiot. Yes!”
“But he likes women,” Lan Wangji protests, a little numbly. “He said you were pretty.”
“I am pretty, and bisexuals exist, Wangji.”
He stares down into his plate, trying to grapple his thoughts into words. It matters to him to say exactly what he means, so when he isn’t sure what he means in the first place, he doesn’t know what to say.
“I... I'm not sure…” he says to his noodles, grateful for Mianmian’s patience. She knows when to wait. “I’m not sure I could be what he wants,” he says at last, then clarifies, “I mean, enough for him.” Saying it aloud, finds it's true. He’s never had to deal with this before, and frankly doesn’t know how to begin, but he knows when something is true because saying it makes him feel a little choked. Wei Wuxian is just so much, and what if he wants more than Lan Wangji can offer him?
The idea makes his food suddenly extremely unappetizing.
“He likes you now,” Mianmian says gently. “His sister says he's been talking about you all the time, even before the whole legal thing.”
That makes him look up. “You talk to his sister?”
“Yeah, he introduced us, and unlike you, I use my phone to text more than two people.” She stops, frowns. “I'm sorry, I don't mean—”
“No, you're right.” When he sighs, she reaches out, gently puts her hand over his. He doesn't like to be touched by most people, but Mianmian is a close enough friend for him to appreciate it.
“Just talk to him,” she says, quiet and firm. “Tell him. You won't know what he thinks, otherwise, and you'll just keep chasing yourself in circles not knowing.”
She's right, as usual.
He and Wei Wuxian talk about so many things, it's really not that odd to talk about... preferences. It's starting the conversation that he doesn't know how to do, which means he just says it, two nights later over tofu stirfry.
“I’m ace. Asexual. At least, I thought I was.”
Wei Wuxian looks up from measuring chili oil over his rice, and doesn't miss a beat.
“Thought you were?”
“I've never been interested in someone before,” Lan Wangji clarifies, and Wei Wuxian doesn’t miss that, either.
“Okay... but you are now?” For once, he can't ready Wei Wuxian's face at all. His expression has gone carefully neutral.
“I... am,” Lan Wangji says slowly. “I have been interested in the... concept of people before, but not a specific person.”
“And it's not Mianmian?” Wei Wuxian raises an eyebrow, and it's such a gentle, safe tease, the kind that says I'm taking this lightly, I don’t mind without dismissing him.
“It's not Mianmian,” Lan Wangji says. “I am interested in... the concept of men.” Which feels easier, and more true, than saying he's gay, even though that’s what he usually tells people, when he bothers to tell people anything. It’s the answer that requires the least explanation, but Wei Wuxian matters enough, and is listening with enough care, that this time he wants to explain.
“And one man specifically?” Wei Wuxian asks. He’s twisting one of his chopsticks in his hands, his fingers long and delicate and lovely.
“And if that man was interested in you, specifically…” The chopstick stops twisting, pointing loosely in Lan Wangji’s direction.
Lan Wangji swallows. “I'd be very happy.”
Wei Wuxian's smile lights up the room.
“And is this man... very far away?”
“No. Not very far.” Lan Wangji's heart is doing that warm fizzy thing again, and his lungs ache, and...
“If this man was close enough,” Wei Wuxian asks, with a strange sort of care, an unusual slowness in his speech, “would you want to kiss him?”
Lan Wangji looks down at his tofu. For once, Wei Wuxian is quiet, waiting for him, leaving space for him.
“I've never kissed anyone before,” he admits, hoping Wei Wuxian won’t laugh.
Wei Wuxian doesn’t laugh. “Do you want to? Lan Zhan, it's okay if you don't.”
And somehow, that makes it okay to want to.
Wei Wuxian gets up, comes around the table, and bends low over Lan Wangji. His fingers are warm and soft, brushing Lan Wangji's cheekbones, and he thinks his heart is going to fly right out of him.
“I hoped…” Wei Wuxian breathes, and he smells like soy sauce and chili. He's very, very close, and then he rests his forehead gently, gently against Lan Wangji's, and lets him close the last bit of distance at his own pace.
His mouth is so soft.
The chili leaves a warm, tingling glow on Lan Wangji's lips, a warmth that settles into him. He’s something he wasn’t, a moment ago. He is now a person who has kissed Wei Wuxian.
“I really like you so much, Lan Zhan,” Wei Wuxian whispers.
He finds he likes being a person who kisses Wei Wuxian. Even the burn of the chili feels... well, hot. It’s hot. He wouldn't want to kiss him any harder over dinner, but... he would like to do it again some other time. Maybe he would like to try lots of things with Wei Wuxian he's never wanted to try before. The realization opens up before him, a giddy rush of possibility that’s both exciting and a little overwhelming. He takes a deep, steadying breath, and finds he’s all right with that. More than all right, he’s happy with it.
There's still the court case, which drags on for months despite Lan Xichen’s best efforts, but at least Wei Wuxian continues to not be arrested while they work out exactly what he did and didn’t do. There’s still school and Lan Wangji’s degree and the thesis work hanging over him. In short, there is still everything that was already.
And then there's this... new thing between them that doesn't fit on post-it notes anymore.
Lan Wangji is brilliantly, dizzyingly happy.
So are their rabbits.