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Let's Play Pretend and Live Our Lives

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Subject: HELP!!!!!
To: Nie Huaisang
From: Wei Wuxian

Hey Huaisang!

Question for you. The company picnic is this weekend—it looks really great this year! It's gonna be at Biling Lake Park and there's the volleyball tournament and they'll have a slip 'n slide for the kids and slime-making. How come they never had cool stuff like this at the Jiang Corp company picnics? Anyway, you know how I love the picnic every year—especially because Lan Zhan wears something casual! Not that he doesn't look good in his work clothes, because he absolutely does. He has the least boring business wardrobe of anyone I know and he looks beautiful in everything he wears. His ears even turn a little pink when I say so!

So. Here's the thing. We've become friends—I think?—since I moved to logistics management and we work in the same building now. I think I told you that we've been having lunch together a lot. I don't think he outright hates me for what happened in school. And even if he hasn't forgiven me for the stuff that happened in Yiling the summer before I went to college, he doesn't bring it up. He doesn't ignore me? He doesn't glare? He sometimes converses? It's hard to tell sometimes.

I've been trying really hard to not fuck things up this time. But I think I've fucked up.

You remember that kid I told you about, the one from two years ago when the volcanic eruption in Qishan wiped out Dafan? I adopted him. I fostered him for nine months before it went through and he's been my son for two months now. And I kind of haven't told anyone. Not Lan Zhan or my family or my coworkers, and now it's the company picnic and I want to bring him but I don't know how to tell anyone!

You see the problem? What do I do? Lan Zhan is going to hate me for keeping secrets, especially one this big! Jiang Cheng might actually break my legs, and I don't know what I'm going to tell Shijie because she actually asked about him since she knew I'd had him and I freaked out and didn't tell her I was halfway through the adoption process! I'm a terrible brother!

What do I do? Help me, Nie-xiong! You're my only hope! How do I tell people about my secret baby without them thinking I don't trust them?

Your pathetic friend,
Wei Wuxian

Subject: RE: HELP!!!!!
To: Wei Wuxian
From: Nie Huaisang






Your Hope and Savior,
Nie Huaisang

Wei Wuxian puts on his best, most winsome smile when he arrives five minutes after two at Harold Chan's. He's already eaten lunch with Lan Wangji at noon as usual at work, covering the guilty feeling in his stomach with stupid jokes. He's taken an hour of leave to come meet Nie Huaisang.

Nie Huaisang has already been seated, and his eyes narrow when he catches sight of Wei Wuxian. He swats Wei Wuxian with his folded up fan when he comes within reach.

"Wei-xiong, I can't believe you!"

"I know, I know!" Wei Wuxian sits with a huff, his smile slipping as his anxiety rears its head. "But you'll help me right?"

"Only because this is the most ridiculous thing you've ever done!" He tries to hide it, but Huaisang is smiling, exasperated but also incredibly amused.

Wei Wuxian lets out the breath he's been holding, relief making him lightheaded. He grins, knowing that everything will be all right now with Huaisang's help. His friend is clever and knows how to deal with people without rubbing them the wrong way, like Wei Wuxian always seems to end up doing.

The server comes by, and Huaisang orders a glass of expensive wine for both of them and then the most expensive entree on the menu. Wei Wuxian winces a little, just ordering dessert for himself, but keeps his mouth shut. This is the price for getting him out of this mess.

"So the cousins couldn't take the kid?"

"A-Yuan," Wei Wuxian says, nodding. "One was badly injured and the other was taking care of him. She'd taken in some of the extended family already, too, and she's a doctor working for the Qishan relief effort. The aunties and uncles were not in great shape with the lung damage, and that part of the family hadn't met A-Yuan before. He was two when Dafan erupted, and by the time I'd found them, he knew me better than any of them."

"And you didn't tell anyone about him because..."

"I told people!" Wei Wuxian grumbles, but it's a weak defense and they both know it. "I didn't want to say anything in case we did find someone to take him. Even once I'd brought him back to Caiyi to foster him officially. Most refugee kids get reunited with their families or even someone from their town will take them. But he was the only survivor of his village." He shakes his head. "I had fifteen other kids to resettle, and I was able to place all of them with either relatives or former neighbors. There was no reason to think I wouldn't be able to find someone for him too."

He picks up his chopsticks and fiddles with them with the restless anxiety that often keeps him up at night. "Even after Wen Qing said she couldn't take him and I started the adoption process. He still could have gone to someone else. I didn't..."

He shrugs, unable to quite meet Nie Huaisang's eyes, not sure he can explain the certain feeling in his gut that if he said anything out loud he'd jinx things.

He'd worked diligently to trace A-Yuan's family. That was his job at the time, and as an orphan himself, one he took very seriously. But in his heart of hearts, the longer he had A-Yuan, the more he wanted to keep him.

"So now you have a secret baby," Huaisang says, sitting back in his chair.

"Well, he's four now." Wei Wuxian says with a sheepish grin, glancing up. "You want to see a picture?"

"A secret child you've had for two years!" Huaisang throws up his hands, so dramatic. "Yes!"

Wei Wuxian needs no further prompting to pull out his phone. He has lots of pictures of A-Yuan from the months he's been living with him, and he pulls up a recent one from the playground behind his building. A-Yuan is chubby cheeked and wearing a delighted smile as he goes down the slide.

"All right, I concede, he's cute," Huaisang says, another smile playing around his mouth. "Congratulations."

Warmth abruptly floods through Wei Wuxian, taking him by surprise. He grins broadly, unable to keep it or the happiness in his chest contained. "Thank you."

"Now, about this hole you've dug yourself." Nie Huaisang picks up his fan and taps his chin with it, his most pensive expression on his face as he looks into the middle distance for a moment. "I've had time to think through every possible scenario since your email this morning."

Wei Wuxian straightens up attentively.

Nie Huaisang's face is entirely serious when he looks Wei Wuxian in the eye, and says. "You have no choice but to gaslight everyone."

Wei Wuxian feels his eyebrows go up, feels his mouth open. But Huaisang's fixed gaze keeps him quiet as he explains.

"You have to act as if you've already told everyone and that they've known about A-Yuan all along. Be casual, mention him off-hand in regular office chat when it makes sense. If someone says they didn't know you had a kid, you're confused, oh so confused that they didn't know, for surely everyone knew because you are not a weirdo who spends two years going through the long process of adopting a baby and doesn't mention it."

Huaisang raises his eyebrows meaningfully, and Wei Wuxian chuckles self-deprecatingly. Laid out like that, he feels another layer of tension shed from his shoulders. This is definitely something he can pull off. It's not even the most outrageous thing he's ever tried to convince someone! That would be the successful two weeks that he had Jiang Cheng convinced that qilin were real animals.

His coworkers would be easy. The rest of his family would be a little bit harder, but if they heard it through the grapevine first—he was carefully not thinking about what Uncle Jiang and Madame Yu would say—he could probably swing it once he convinces Jiang Cheng. The one that makes his heart clench, though, is—

"And for Lan Zhan? He's not going to believe that I mentioned A-Yuan to him and he's the one who forgot about it."

Nie Huaisang lifts his wine glass and gestures with it a little, like a sage who has given his advice and now the rest is Wei Wuxian's problem. "You're just going to have to pretend very hard. Don't let him break you."

He's right. Even if he never truly convinces Lan Wangji, he can't admit it. He must keep a thick face and maintain the façade, if only to preserve the veneer that he would never be so terrible a friend.

The server returns with their food. Wei Wuxian takes a sip of his own wine. He doesn't know what he'll do if Lan Wangji won't forgive him for this, and his thoughts shy away from considering it.

It'll be fine. He has a plan. It'll work. He puts the rest of his worries from his mind as Nie Huaisang asks after the rest of his non-secret life, and they spend an enjoyable hour catching up.

"Hands up!"

A-Yuan thrusts his arms into the air for Wei Wuxian to slather them with sunscreen, a big grin on his face. He's wearing a teal t-shirt that said Baba's Boy on the front with a pair of dinosaurs on it, which became his absolute favorite shirt when Wei Wuxian explained that the dinosaurs were a father and son just like them. It's Wei Wuxian's favorite shirt of his too.

"Okay, hands down, legs up!" he says next, getting a giggle from A-Yuan.

"Baba, no! Legs are for standing. They can't go up!"

Wei Wuxian makes an astonished face. "They can't!?"

"No!" A-Yuan is indignant.

"What if you stand on your hands?" Wei Wuxian asks.

"Baba, no!" A-Yuan pushes at him.

"What if I flip you over!" Wei Wuxian darts in and A-Yuan shrieks with laughter as he turns him upside down. He lowers him till his hands touch the ground and holds his ankles as he "walks" a few steps before lowering him to the floor again. A-Yuan lays there breathless for a moment, his face bright red, and Wei Wuxian takes advantage of his temporary stillness to slather sunscreen on his legs too.

"There. All done!" he says, even as A-Yuan is already scrambling to his feet and running to find his sandals, chattering about how they have to hurry or there won't be any water left.

He's been so excited for the company picnic since Wei Wuxian told him about it a couple days ago. A-Yuan keeps asking about the slip 'n slide, which he's never heard of before. He's completely uninterested in meeting Wei Wuxian's coworkers, but he did ask if other kids would be there.

Wei Wuxian on the other hand is a bundle of nerves. He has a reputation for being shameless, one he leans into, but he has to admit the audacity of this plan has even him on edge about how his co-workers will react.

Or okay, if he's honest, how one of his co-workers will react.

World Aid's corporate picnic takes place at Biling Lake Park every year in late spring. They rent out the whole South Lawn designed for such events with a giant picnic pavilion decked out with rows and rows of tables, four volleyball courts, and the large lawn for other games and a kids area. It's basically a carnival with speeches and awards thrown in, and once the stuffy part is done with, Wei Wuxian always enjoys himself.

The day is sunny and warm as he walks along the path toward the pavilion with A-Yuan's hand in his. Wei Wuxian is already feeling the heat on the back of his neck. He put his hair up in a ponytail so at least he gets a little breeze there, but his shirt is already sticking to the small of his back under his backpack.

"Is that it?!" A-Yuan points excitedly to where the slip 'n slide is set up. It's not running yet, but a cluster of older kids are nearby checking it out.

"Yep!" Wei Wuxian shakes A-Yuan's hand a little. "You'll get to try it out after lunch."

"Food first," A-Yuan solemnly repeats one of Wei Wuxian's oft repeated phrases that comes out nearly every day when he wants to go to the playground first thing in the morning or first thing after preschool. Wei Wuxian grins, his heart too full of love for his kid.

The feeling buoys him up and he's grinning when they reach the pavilion. The buffet is already open, so Wei Wuxian loads up two plates of bbq pork ribs, noodles, spring rolls, dumplings, and steamed buns. He gets A-Yuan to hold onto his shirt so he can free up another hand to balance everything and goes to find where his department is sitting.

When he sees them, he plasters on a smile and reminds himself that this will be no problem. There's nothing to be awkward about, after all. They've already heard all about A-Yuan.

He doesn't see Lan Wangji yet, but that could mean anything. There's 500 people in the pavilion, and he's probably sitting silently with his department until the awards are done.

Wei Wuxian takes care to plot his path to pass by Yao-jingli, one of the mid-level administrators who has an opinion on everything and everyone, and who liked to fancy himself the most important cog in the machine.

"Ah, Wei Wuxian! Good to see you, good to see you!" Yao-jingli bobs a bow which Wei Wuxian returns with a smile. He's wearing a bright Hawaiian shirt tucked into his khaki shorts. "How are you finding your transition to logistics management?"

"Good, good. It's been a very good fit," Wei Wuxian replies. He makes his smile wider and looks Yao-jingli in the eye. "It's been especially good for giving me more time with this one." He gestures with one of his plates down at A-Yuan who is faithfully holding onto his shirt and staring at Yao-jingli with big eyes.

Yao-jingli does a brief double-take. "And who is this?!"

Wei Wuxian affects a confused expression, still smiling. "My son, A-Yuan, of course. Surely, you remember me mentioning him at the last Department Happy Hour. He's why I couldn't stay long," he says.

Yao-jingli's eyes widen, then narrow in thought as if he's thinking back to the happy hour a couple months ago. It was even true that Wei Wuxian had left early to go pick up A-Yuan from preschool. He just hadn't mentioned that as the reason at the time.

But with the notion planted and Yao-jingli's ego rendering him incapable of looking a fool, Yao-jingli nods and smiles. "Of course, of course! How could I have forgotten! Ah, but he looked so much smaller in the picture you showed me!"

And done.

Wei Wuxian's smile relaxes into one more genuine. "He's grown! Haven't you, A-Yuan?"

"Yes!" A-Yuan throws his arms up in the air, taking part of Wei Wuxian's shirt with him. He's adorable, but a menace.

"Ayieee! Careful!" Wei Wuxian lifts the plates up, trying not to flash more skin than necessary at his superior. But Yao-jingli just laughs and helpfully takes a plate and offers to help him get to his seat so Wei Wuxian can take A-Yuan's hand. They make more small talk on the way about A-Yuan which Wei Wuxian happily indulges.

By the time they reach his co-workers and A-Yuan has been noticed by more than one surprised face, Yao-jingli has eagerly convinced himself that he has had half a dozen conversations with Wei Wuxian about the adoption process.

"I was so worried when I didn't hear from the ministry for three weeks after I turned in the adoption paperwork," Wei Wuxian says, ignoring his co-workers as he finishes conversing with Yao-jingli. "I took your advice about following up with a polite letter, and it turned out they were just behind. I should have known, I guess," he laughs.

Yao-jingli claps him on the back, chuckling with him. "You must have patience, Wei Wuxian. The grass will be milk soon enough!"

"Indeed, indeed. Thank you so much for your help." He sets their plates down and gets A-Yuan up on the bench. Mianmian is sitting on the other side of the table with her husband and six-year-old daughter. The two kids look at each other curiously. Next to A-Yuan are Bai Ying'ai and Mo Xuanyu, two of the younger members of Wei Wuxian's team.

"Wei Wuxian! I didn't know you were fostering anyone at the moment. Hello!" Bai Ying'ai leans down to greet A-Yuan.

"Foster! No! That's his son!" Yao-jingli says.

"Huh?" Bai Ying'ai looks up in surprise, her gaze bouncing from Yao-jingli to Wei Wuxian to A-Yuan, clearly not sure what's going on.

"Hey, stop giving me a hard time. I have a picture of him on my desk!" Wei Wuxian pouts. "Just because you keep getting him mixed up with A-Ling is no excuse not to know about my kid!"

This is technically true: Wei Wuxian has had a picture of A-Yuan on his desk for months. It was tacked up on the wall along with pictures of all the other kids he's helped in refugee camps or fostered in the short-term while they were in transition. It's a lot of pictures, and he only yesterday added a larger one of him and A-Yuan together that stands in its own frame.

Mianmian, who has known him longest, narrows her eyes at him suspiciously. "Really," she says, not buying his bluster.

Wei Wuxian only smiles wider and rolls his eyes at her. "I definitely told you about him," he lies with certainty. "At Nie Huaisang's party? After I transferred to logistics and you were promoted?"

Mianmian sits up a little straighter, her expression a little embarrassed, because as she knows and Wei Wuxian knows—but he's pretty sure her husband doesn't—Mianmian got uproariously drunk at Nie Huaisang's party. She refused to give up the karaoke mic for six songs about girl power and winning from behind when she was promoted over Su She to regional coordinator. She'd shown up at work the next day and powered through her hangover with the help of everyone who was relieved she'd gotten the position.

Mianmian doesn't look fully convinced, but she knows her memory of that night is compromised. Wei Wuxian decides to worry later when she corners him on his own.

For the moment, he focuses on the rest of his team. "You remember about A-Yuan, don't you, Mo Xuanyu?" Wei Wuxian tosses out to really sell it.

"What? Yes?" Mo Xuanyu looks like he's not sure but trying to keep up, and Wei Wuxian feels a little bad for preying on his insecurity. Mo Xuanyu has the tendency to agree with whoever's speaking, not wanting to be caught in the wrong.

Fortunately, before anyone else can throw questions at him, A-Yuan reaches for his spring roll and shouts, "Baba! Food first!" tired of the grown-ups talking. That does the trick.

Wei Wuxian helps him get settled with his meal, and Yao-jingli asks his co-workers about their families. When more of their department joins them at the table, the others do half the work for him of reminding the newcomers that A-Yuan is Wei Wuxian's son, don't you remember?

Once A-Yuan has gotten a little food in him, Wei Wuxian asks Mianmian's daughter if she's going to go down the slip 'n slide later too. A-Yuan gets very excited when she says yes, and then the two of them are off chatting in what quickly turns into a one-upmanship about how they're going to slide all the way to the lake and then swim across it, and maybe fight some sea dragons and pirates along the way.

Wei Wuxian bites into his steamed bun riding high on the glow of success.

Nie Huaisang is a genius, and his plan is going off perfectly. He chats with his co-workers, liberally throws in stories about A-Yuan so the details are out there, and keeps an eye on his wriggling son who starts getting antsy once he finishes eating.

Wei Wuxian promises him dessert if he sits quietly through the speeches and helps him by holding him in his lap and getting out the finger puppets from his backpack to entertain them both while the bosses talk and give out awards for excellent service.

At last, the mandatory work part is done and the event secretary announces the volleyball tournament and the games. Half the people in the pavilion seem to move at once, ready to get out in the sunshine and enjoy the rest of the day while the other half finish their meals and chat.

In the great shuffle, many of Wei Wuxian's co-workers head toward the lawn. While Wei Wuxian tosses their trash and contemplates whether it's worth taking A-Yuan with him to the crowded dessert line, A-Yuan suddenly jerks upright and bounces to his feet, his mouth dropping in a surprised "o" for a moment before he screeches and runs off.


Wei Wuxian is too late to catch him, scrambling to keep up only to stop short at the sight of A-Yuan happily hugging Lan Wangji's leg a little ways down the aisle.

The sight makes laughter bubble up from deep inside Wei Wuxian's chest, too delighted at the look on Lan Wangji's face and too in love with A-Yuan's enthusiasm for the one person at the picnic he has met before.

It was a brief meeting that took place just after A-Yuan had come back to Caiyi to foster with him. Lan Wangji had stopped by Wei Wuxian's apartment with groceries. Wei Wuxian had asked him to pick up food out of desperation because A-Yuan refused to leave the apartment and refused to let Wei Wuxian out of his sight. A-Yuan had been crying all afternoon, clinging to Wei Wuxian, and Lan Wangji—his face as startled as it is now—had pulled out the bag of sweets and given him one. A-Yuan had been so surprised he'd forgotten to keep crying.

Lan Wangji had asked about him once, around the time Wei Wuxian had tracked down A-Yuan's cousins, and after Wei Wuxian's terse answer, they hadn't talked about him since.

Now, at the picnic, Lan Wangji is Wei Wuxian's greatest test of Nie Huaisang's plan. He'd been nervous before, and he should be now, but seeing Lan Wangji always makes everything better in Wei Wuxian's life.

He's dressed for the picnic in a billowing light blue shirt with little buttons at the collar going toward his shoulder in a diagonal. It's very stylish. The sleeves are partly rolled up and the tails are neatly tucked into a pair of spotless white shorts that show off his toned calf muscles.

He's handsome and beautiful and Wei Wuxian's could stare at him for hours dressed down like this, but he won't because they're just friends. No matter how much Wei Wuxian flirts, Lan Wangji has never given him any indication that he wants to be more than friends, and Wei Wuxian values their friendship too much to push.

"Ah, Lan Zhan!" he calls out, walking over. Lan Wangji looks up from his bewildered examination of A-Yuan sitting on his foot, his brows knit together in confusion. A few people nearby are watching, wondering what's going on, and Wei Wuxian sees a few of his co-workers spread the news.

Wei Wuxian ignores them and instead laughs at the glare Lan Wangji is leveling at him, which only deepens into more confusion as his sharp ears no doubt catch some of the murmurs. Wei Wuxian manages to school his features as he approaches. He tsks in a put-upon show of disapproval.

"Don't look at me like that, Lan Zhan. What will our son think?"

He doesn't know why he says it. The words just come out of his mouth, in the usual way he likes to tease Lan Wangji by saying outrageous things. They've drawn a small crowd now, and Lan Wangji's head is starting to tilt in that way it does when he's really annoyed. Wei Wuxian just smiles wider and recalls Nie Huaisang's advice.

"I'm sorry we were late. I know I said I'd be on time, but you know what it's like getting him out the door," says Wei Wuxian before Lan Wangji can call him on it.

He bends down and pulls A-Yuan off of Lan Wangji's leg. But instead of pulling him into his arms, he hands him over to Lan Wangji, who takes A-Yuan automatically when the boy reaches for him.

"Hi!" says A-Yuan wrapping his arms around Lan Wangji's neck in a stranglehold of a hug. "I missed you!"

Lan Wangji's expression turns comically surprised for a moment before his expression softens. "Hi, A-Yuan," he says, settling the boy on his hip more comfortably.

"Wei Wuxian has a son?" someone's voice in the crowd rings loud with disbelief. It's a voice Wei Wuxian recognizes, and he rolls his eyes at Lan Wangji whose expression darkens as Su She makes himself known in the crowd.

"Who would give you a child to raise?" Su She asks snidely, staring down his nose at Wei Wuxian.

"The Ministry of Child Welfare," Wei Wuxian says easily.

"It happened months ago," Bai Ying'ai says breezily from the sidelines. "You didn't know?" she adds with a sweet innocence that does exactly what she intends it to by making Su She protest and bluster to save face.

"Impossible! Everyone would know if it happened months ago! He's making it up! And now he's trying to drag Lan Wangji into taking care of the boy for him! Shameless!"

Bai Ying'ai scoffs. "I think you were just out of the loop!"

"Months?" Lan Wangji says quietly, while they argue, his gaze intent on Wei Wuxian who feels pinned in place.

Wei Wuxian forces his smile brighter and doesn't look away. "It's only been two months since the adoption was final. We've had him much longer than that, of course."

The truth lies unsaid between them, like a line of tension that grows more taut as they stare at each other. Wei Wuxian wonders if Lan Wangji, who abhors lying, will call him out. But Lan Wangji hates Su She as much as he does, possibly more, and he might be petty enough to go with it rather than admit Su She is right.

"Remember when I was pregnant and didn't know how to tell you?" Wei Wuxian asks, his smile turning wry. He'd almost started that conversation a dozen times. The look he gives Lan Wangji is a mixture of apologetic and daring him to contradict him.

Lan Wangji finally breaks off his stare, looking again at A-Yuan who is watching Bai Ying'ai and Su She argue with a little frown on his face. He jostles him a little to get his attention. "Don't mind them," he says to A-Yuan. "They're talking nonsense."

"Nonsense!" Su She says, indignant, rounding on them once more. "Lan Wangji, this is clearly one of Wei Wuxian's stupid pranks and you can't stand for it."

"It's not a prank," Lan Wangji says, glancing at him. "A-Yuan is our son."

Wei Wuxian beams, joy setting off like firecrackers in his chest, followed by the urge to cackle with glee at the stunned look on Su She's face as his jaw drops unattractively. Lan Wangji is the best friend he's ever had; Wei Wuxian loves him!

"You should really pay more attention to your teammates' personal circumstances," Wei Wuxian scolds Su She with a wagging finger. Su She scowls, and it's beautiful.

"Indeed," says Lan Wangji. He turns and looks Wei Wuxian dead in the eye. "Wei Ying and I are married."

Wei Wuxian goes from the high of Lan Wangji playing along to the low of feeling his heart stop. His jaw drops as his mind goes utterly blank for a moment.

Lan Wangji—the epitome of the moral high ground, who once turned in both Wei Wuxian and himself in at school for breaking the rules when it had been a technicality on his part, who was terse and judicious with his words and known for his blunt truth-telling—that Lan Wangji just told a bald-faced lie.

Wei Wuxian thinks his brain might be broken.

Because when you have a reputation as pristine as Lan Wangji's, everyone believes you when you tell them you're married to your co-worker.

Around them Su She splutters, while others watching murmur amongst themselves in surprise, asking each other if they knew that too? Since many aren't either of their direct co-workers, none of them find it especially strange that it's news to them, especially when Bai Ying'ai lies through her teeth and tells Su She that she knew all about it too, and he would too if he wasn't so self-absorbed.

Amidst all the commotion, Lan Wangji stands calmly in the center of this new storm he's created, letting A-Yuan play with the buttons on his shirt. He raises an eyebrow at Wei Wuxian, who swears he sees the corner of Lan Wangji's mouth turn up in a smirk that seems to say, are-you-going-to-contradict-me-now?

So it's like that, is it? Lan Wangji wants to up the game.

Wei Wuxian can't believe him, but as his mind comes back online, his competitive spirit is secretly delighted. He grins. He wants to laugh. He wants to kiss that mouth. He wants the joke to be true in a sudden swelling of affection—but never mind that now, because most of all he wants to shut Su She up.

Wei Wuxian winks at Lan Wangji and turns to Su She, cutting him off. "Aiya, you really have no regard for us at all if you didn't know that. You think we would adopt a child without being married first?"

Su She's face turns bright red and he storms off. Bai Ying'ai waves after him with a grin. Wei Wuxian can't hold in his laughter anymore. It shakes his whole body, and he grabs Lan Wangji's shoulder for balance, cheeks hurting from smiling so wide.

The murmurs around them turn to how inconsiderate Su She always is and several congratulations on their marriage, which Lan Wangji accepts with a gracious nod. Wei Wuxian manages to get his laughter under control enough to wave in thanks, too.

"All right, all right," he says as people drift away. "We better make a break for it before more people start coming over. What do you think, A-Yuan?"

A-Yuan, who has been quiet throughout all of this—and isn't explaining what just happened going to be fun—raises his arms and shouts, "Dessert!" right in Lan Wangji's ear.

Lan Wangji jerks a little, and Wei Wuxian immediately feels bad and reaches for A-Yuan. "Here, sorry. I'll take him back."

But Lan Wangji turns A-Yuan away from him. "He's fine. Since he's my son too, I can carry him."

Both of Wei Wuxian's eyebrows go up at that. Lan Wangji's delivery is even and his face still, and Wei Wuxian can't tell if that was a dig or not. He's pretty sure Lan Wangji is waiting for him to admit this is all a joke, but Wei Wuxian refuses to crack first. He gives Lan Wangji a knowing look, but doesn't argue.

"Great!" He grins again. "I put his stuff over there. Since I'm such a good husband, I'll go get all three of us dessert."

Wei Wuxian has always been drawn to Lan Wangji. When they were teenagers it had started as a desire to poke his perfect exterior and try to ruffle the top student in their class. He wanted to get a rise out of him. If he's honest, the impulse has never gone away.

Lan Wangji was a hall monitor and Wei Wuxian was always late to something with his uniform a mess. Lan Wangji was always so mad at Wei Wuxian for not changing his ways, no matter how much detention he racked up. Over the years, Wei Wuxian managed to finagle Lan Wangji into having fun sometimes, and even into sitting with him and his other friends for lunch more often than not.

"To prevent you from causing trouble," Lan Wangji had said, setting his lunch tray down furiously the day after Wei Wuxian had flung peas at him with his spoon. By the time they began 12th grade, they were kind of friends.

Of course Wei Wuxian had fucked everything up that spring. The next year, his brother, Lan Wangji, and the rest of his friends went to university. He ended up a year behind at the backwater Yiling University, and they lost track of each other.

When Wei Wuxian came back to Gusu to begin working for World Aid in refugee resettlement, he'd heard through the grapevine that Lan Wangji was there but didn't see him much. They worked in different buildings, and Wei Wuxian was often off-site wherever the most recent disaster was. He honestly thought Lan Wangji preferred it that way.

Imagine his surprise when the first week after his transfer, Lan Wangji came up to his lunch table in the cafeteria and set his tray across from Wei Wuxian. After more than eight months of this, Wei Wuxian is pretty sure they're friends again.

It's still hard to tell sometimes whether Lan Wangji actually likes him or merely tolerates him. Lan Wangji is still a loner and still intimidates everyone. Wei Wuxian still loves trying to make him react, though these days he angles for a soft tilt of his mouth into a smile. He lives for Lan Wangji's flashes of dry humor and the subtle shade he throws at their annoying coworkers.

Wei Wuxian returns with three desserts to find Lan Wangji and A-Yuan seated side-by-side. A-Yuan is happily chattering at Lan Wangji, who listens attentively.

Wei Wuxian's breath catches to see them together. Yes, he did do a little coaching of A-Yuan about giving his candy-gege a hug when they saw him today, but at the time he suggested it, it had been more about telling A-Yuan what to expect and softening Lan Wangji up. He hadn't expected to be overcome with the need to hug both of them right then, his two favorite people in the world, getting along.

Because here's the other thing that Wei Wuxian realized when he and Lan Wangji started eating lunch together again, all these years later: Lan Wangji was still beautiful, still kind, still the smartest, most upstanding person in the room. Wei Wuxian is so lucky to have him back in his life.

"And Baba says that when you swim you have to hold your nose so it doesn't stink," A-Yuan is saying. "Because the water might smell up your nose."

Wei Wuxian is fairly sure that's not how he phrased it, but he doesn't have the heart to correct such an earnest explanation. He takes the open seat on the other side of A-Yuan and passes out the desserts, handing Lan Wangji his with a tentative smile.

Now that the spectators are gone, he's not sure how this is going to go. Will Lan Wangji demand an explanation? Will he keep pretending?

Fortunately, A-Yuan cheers about dessert, attracting both their attention. "It's good!" he says with a mouth full of fried dough.

Lan Wangji brushes his hand over A-Yuan's head. "Don't speak with your mouth full," he says.

A-Yuan turns to him with his big eyes and nods, so serious that Wei Wuxian can't help but laugh again at the picture the two of them make. A-Yuan turns to him then, his lip starting to jut out with a frown.

"I'm not laughing at you," Wei Wuxian hastily reassures him, patting his back. "I'm just happy the two of you are getting along. And it's good advice," he adds when A-Yuan opens his mouth again. "Don't talk with your mouth full."

Over his head, Wei Wuxian grins at Lan Wangji again, and this time he gets that little smile he so loves.

"Why would we not get along?" Lan Wangji looks away first, trying to hide his smile, but it's too late. Wei Wuxian has seen it.

"Well, of course you would," Wei Wuxian says. "A-Yuan is the best. How could you not get along with him!?" He tickles at A-Yuan's side to make him giggle, and he squirms away into Lan Wangji.

"Wei Ying," Lan Wangji says with a sigh, lifting his arm so A-Yuan can rest against him and he can keep A-Yuan from flinging himself off the bench. "Not while he's eating."

"Not while I'm eating!" A-Yuan repeats sternly, looking at home in the circle of Lan Wangji's arm. He takes a big bite of his fried bowtie and chews with a cheeky little grin.

"Oh is that how it is now?" Wei Wuxian says playfully, his heart suddenly beating faster at the sight of the two of them so comfortable together. He keeps his voice light and teasing. "You get yourself an ally and leave your poor old dad out in the cold?"

"No, Baba!" A-Yuan says cheerfully. "It's not cold out. It's hot!"

Wei Wuxian laughs. He can't deny that, nor the rush of love for this kid that follows. "You're right! It is! Know what that means?"

"Slide!" A-Yuan raises his arms in the air, nearly clocking Lan Wangji in the chin.

"Hey, watch where your hands are going," Wei Wuxian catches them, sticky with sugar, and sends Lan Wangji an apologetic look.

He doesn't look bothered, though, instead gazing down at A-Yuan with something like fondness. Wei Wuxian has to bite down on another grin.

"Finish your dessert and then we'll get you ready to play." A-Yuan is happy to comply.

"You don't have to come with us, if you don't want to," Wei Wuxian says when he and A-Yuan exit the restroom and find Lan Wangji waiting for them. A-Yuan is pulling against his hold on his hand, freshly changed into his swim shorts and rash guard. He's been slathered with fresh sunblock and is ready to get on with having fun.

"Baba, baba, let's go!" he says, trying to drag him along.

"Since he's my son too, I'll help keep an eye on him." Lan Wangji has that look again, determined and daring Wei Wuxian to contradict him.

Wei Wuxian's not going to. He licks his lips, willing for the game to continue as long as Lan Wangji keeps challenging him. Lan Wangji has always been a challenge he's been willing to rise to.

"Then here. You can carry his bag." He hands over the backpack with A-Yuan's clothes and toys, and then turns to A-Yuan. "Race you!"

A-Yuan, to the surprise of no one, loves the slip 'n slide. Wei Wuxian goes with him to the line the first few times, but then he's off on his own, waiting with the other kids for his turn on the slide and then running through the sprinklers at the bottom of the slight incline. Wei Wuxian retreats to Lan Wangji's side near the other parents who are watching their kids. Every ten minutes or so, A-Yuan runs back over to them and hugs one or both of them, getting them damp before running off again.

Wei Wuxian starts chattering, the way he usually does in Lan Wangji's company, keeping up a running commentary on the kids playing and how excited A-Yuan was for today. He glances over from time to time to see how Lan Wangji is taking the kid-talk and if he's bored yet. Usually he's most engaged in conversations about books or intellectual problems or work-related stuff. Wei Wuxian wonders how domestic he can take their conversation before Lan Wangji gives up and begs him to stop. He's gotta give up on the joke sometime. Wei Wuxian certainly isn't going to be the first one to crack.

But Lan Wangji murmurs an encouraging "Mn," every once in a while, and even says, "Then what happened?" when Wei Wuxian trails off in the middle of a story, distracted by A-Yuan doing somersaults in the grass.  


"What happened after A-Yuan caught the frog?"

"Oh! Right! Well, both the frog and A-Yuan were very surprised! The frog peed on him and A-Yuan dropped him and then told him what a bad frog he was! He told the frog he was supposed to go to the potty! Then he went to demonstrate in his baby potty, which he used and then tried to jump like a frog off of, which knocked it over and got shit, literally, everywhere." Wei Wuxian laughs at the memory, which had been truly spectacular at the time, and then catches sight of Lan Wangji's slightly furrowed brow which either means confusion or horror. He's hoping for the latter.

It's the third potty story Wei Wuxian has told, and so far Lan Wangji hasn't said a thing about how they're inappropriate or gross or how A-Yuan should be better behaved. He's starting to worry that Lan Wangji, the infamous keeper of decorum and manners, is sick or something.

"You're not regretting having a kid now, are you?” Wei Wuxian can't resist prodding.

The frown on Lan Wangji's face smooths out, and he turns to look Wei Wuxian in the eye. "No."

Huh. Wei Wuxian will just have to try harder then.

But as the afternoon progresses, Lan Wangji doesn't flinch from any of Wei Wuxian's stories of A-Yuan's misadventures. In fact, Wei Wuxian thinks he's enjoying them, his small smile quirking his lips every so often. It does something to Wei Wuxian's insides and soon he forgets to try to gross him out and instead tells stories to try and get Lan Wangji to smile more.

He's almost managed it when A-Yuan runs over to check on them and instead of running off again, he plops down in Wei Wuxian's lap. Wei Wuxian wraps his arms around him and rocks a little.

"Having fun, radish?"


"Are you tired now?"

"No!" A-Yuan rolls his head to look up at Wei Wuxian and says very seriously, "I'm not tired!"

"No, of course not." Wei Wuxian agrees even as A-Yuan heaves a huge sigh and melts against him. "He's not tired at all," he whispers to Lan Wangji, who is watching him and A-Yuan with a soft look. Their eyes meet for a second, and Wei Wuxian forgets what he was going to say next.

Lan Wangji's expression holds that little smile, the one Wei Wuxian was trying so hard to find, but only for a moment before he's glancing away. Wei Wuxian feels like he's just had all the air sucked out of his lungs.

Flustered, Wei Wuxian looks down at A-Yuan again. The kid's eyes have drifted closed. Time to get going then.

Lan Wangji's face has returned to its customary calm, and Wei Wuxian reminds himself that Lan Wangji doesn't mean anything by it. He was just watching them. While pretending to be married to Wei Wuxian because Wei Wuxian was pretending he was A-Yuan's other parent.

He shakes his head at himself; he's being ridiculous.

With his help, Wei Wuxian gets A-Yuan out of his wet rash guard and into his shirt. He wraps a towel around his swim shorts. A-Yuan is mostly out of it, whining when Wei Wuxian lifts him into his arms.

"The bus is going to be fun," he says, not really looking forward to it. He reaches for the backpack Lan Wangji still holds.

But Lan Wangji doesn't hand it over. "Let me drive you."

"What? Oh no, you don't need to," says Wei Wuxian.

"Please," Lan Wangji's face is solemn. "Since we're married."

"Since we're married," Wei Wuxian repeats, eyeing him. He wants to give in. But now that the afternoon is done and he's got to get them home, the joke has gone far enough.

Except Wei Wuxian doesn't want to lose. And something in Lan Wangji's face makes him think that he doesn't want to win. Not yet.

"All right. Thanks."

When they get home, Wei Wuxian puts A-Yuan down in his room. The boy fell asleep during the car ride across town in Wei Wuxian's lap and he sleeps through Wei Wuxian getting him out of the rest of his wet clothes and into dry pajamas.

He leaves the door cracked when he returns to the living room. His apartment isn't huge, but it's comfortable enough with two bedrooms and a washer in the bathroom, where he throws A-Yuan's things. The living room and kitchen are definitely a step up from his university and graduate student housing in Yiling.

Lan Wangji has made himself at home in the kitchen while Wei Wuxian was busy with A-Yuan. Wei Wuxian startles a little at seeing him there, despite having invited him in. While they've gotten to know each other pretty well the last few months, this is the first time Lan Wangji has been inside his apartment. Work-friends with work-boundaries, and all that.

It never occurred to Wei Wuxian to invite him over. He didn't think Lan Wangji would accept, or if he did it would be uncomfortable. And even if he weren't hiding the fact that he was adopting a kid, he didn't think Lan Wangji would care for dealing with the mess that a small child generated. And okay, Wei Wuxian isn't the neatest person in the world either, which certainly doesn't help.

His living room floor is mostly covered in blocks and Legos, A-Yuan's discarded pants and socks, and half the blankets he owns piled into a nest by the couch. The coffee table holds about three months of mail and the dining table has the six months before that, plus Wei Wuxian's laptop, scattered papers, and A-Yuan's finger paints. His and Wei Wuxian's masterpieces are tacked haphazardly on the wall.

The kitchen is where dishes go to die.

But Lan Wangji has already emptied the strainer and has now started washing the pile in the sink. Wei Wuxian's stomach lurches in guilt.

"Lan Zhan," he says, but when Lan Wangji turns he's got one challenging eyebrow raised. Wei Wuxian stops in his tracks. In a few short hours he's come to recognize the eyebrow of "Since we're married..." that Lan Wangji has been using all day to get his way.

Lan Wangji seems to read as much on his face and turns back to the dishes without a word.

For some reason, that rankles. Wei Wuxian huffs, not about to be cowed into letting Lan Wangji do whatever he wants in Wei Wuxian's home. As if insisting they're married is all the leverage he needs, Wei Wuxian scowls.

Wei Wuxian is the one who started this. He shouldn't be the one on his back-foot here. Wei Wuxian has stores more shamelessness for this game if that's how Lan Wangji wants to play.

He strides into the kitchen and wraps his arms around Lan Wangji's waist from behind, hugging him close. Lan Wangji immediately goes tense.  

"Thank you for doing the dishes."

Lan Wangji's posture goes even more rigid, a feat Wei Wuxian wasn't sure was possible. "Wei Ying." His voice comes out a little strangled.

"What?" Wei Wuxian shuffles closer, his chest pressing firmly against Lan Wangji's back. "I'm your husband, aren't I? Can't I thank you for your hard work?

Dishes clank in the sink, and Wei Wuxian thinks this is it. This is when Lan Wangji will push him away, call him shameless or ridiculous like he used to in high school, admit they're not married, and go home. They'll see each other at work and Wei Wuxian will tease him and things will go back to normal.

What he doesn't expect is for Lan Wangji to relax against him.

He doesn't expect to suddenly feel the breadth and strength of Lan Wangji's shoulders, or the softening of his stomach muscles under his hands as he exhales. He doesn't expect Lan Wangji's head to tilt back the barest bit so that Wei Wuxian nose is pressed against the soft hairs of his neck. He doesn't expect the scent of sandalwood and sunscreen he inhales to go straight to his belly, lighting him up from the inside and making certain other parts of him start to pay attention.

He doesn't expect Lan Wangji to say, "It's no trouble. I like helping my husband," in his soft, deep voice, which goes straight to his heart.

Wei Wuxian's breaths are loud in the subsequent quiet. He may, he belatedly realizes, have miscalculated.

But he's committed now. And it feels really nice. So he holds on for another long moment before letting go.

Lan Wangji goes back to washing dishes without turning around. Wei Wuxian takes a deep breath to steady himself and just stares at his back for a minute.

That just happened, right? He didn't just hallucinate Lan Wangji escalating yet again?

Well then. Wei Wuxian recovers his determination. He is just going to have to escalate with him.

While Lan Wangji finishes washing the dishes, Wei Wuxian gets the rice cooker going and considers his options.

Of course, he could take a step back, put them back at friend level while still playing along with Lan Wangji's demands whenever he broke out one of his "Since we're married..." challenges. He doesn't have to admit they're not actually a couple out loud—that would still count as not losing. It would certainly be easier on his heart.

Because here's the other thing about Lan Wangji that Wei Wuxian tries not to ever think about: Wei Wuxian would very much like to rub himself all over him.

For obvious reasons, this is a terrible idea.

Foremost among them, Lan Wangji would probably kill him and then never speak to him again, which would be unbearable. Wei Wuxian has gone through that once in his life already, thanks. He knows how badly that would hurt, except probably worse now that he's had eight months of getting to know Lan Wangji all grown up. He is even more impressive and amazing than he was at eighteen.

But—Wei Wuxian glances over at Lan Wangji, bent over the sink and scrubbing at a difficult pot—since Lan Wangji seems just as determined not to give in first and call off their game, maybe this is Wei Wuxian's chance to see what it might be like. After all, Lan Wangji can tell him to stop whenever he wants. There's no reason he has to play along. He never had a problem telling Wei Wuxian "no" when they were younger. Just because he's stubborn, doesn't mean Wei Wuxian is making him do anything.

And Wei Wuxian is genuinely curious how far Lan Wangji will let him push.

He won't cross any lines, of course. But really the only option he has is to walk right up to them and see what happens.

So when Wei Wuxian goes to the refrigerator to see what kind of vegetables he has, he casually-not-casually places his hand on Lan Wangji's back as he passes, letting his fingers trail across his shoulders.

Out of the corner of his eye, he catches Lan Wangji jerk his head up to look at him, but he pretends not to see, hiding his grin behind the open refrigerator door. He pulls out a couple of zucchini, unearths a cutting board and sets it on the counter right next to the sink. His shoulder brushes Lan Wangji's.

Wei Wuxian watches out of the corner of his eye, and he sees Lan Wangji' sharp inhale. Lan Wangji pauses in his scrubbing for a second, but then he resumes without looking over.

"So," Wei Wuxian leans deliberately into him again, but Lan Wangji doesn't respond this time.

"Mn," he says without looking up when Wei Wuxian doesn't immediately continue.

"So," Wei Wuxian gives himself a mental shake and makes his tone casual. "Since we're married and you're eating dinner with us, I can do a curry or fry some tofu to go with this."

Lan Wangji does look over then, his face inscrutable once more. "How spicy will the curry be?"

"It will be properly spiced!" Wei Wuxian says, taking mock offense. "I do know how to make a curry, Lan Zhan!"

"Hmm." Lan Wangji looks skeptical. "I've seen what you eat."

"Lan Zhan!" A mortal hit—Wei Wuxian is so pleased.

Lan Wangji looks pleased with himself too, which only makes Wei Wuxian grin wider. He can't even deny the charge, because Lan Wangji has seen him put chili sauce on every cafeteria lunch they've eaten together and they've had this argument before.

"Don't worry. I'll make a bland version for you and A-Yuan before I make the good version for myself."

"Hm." Lan Wangji doesn't look entirely convinced, but when the dishes are done he goes to the fridge for the tofu and more vegetables. He puts his cutting board on Wei Wuxian's other side, not quite touching at first but close enough that when Wei Wuxian shifts his weight their shoulders press together again. Lan Wangji doesn't move away.

It's unexpectedly thrilling.

Wei Wuxian feels the warmth in his belly intensify and covers by talking. "This is one of my sister's recipes. When I first started fostering, she insisted on teaching me to cook so the kids wouldn't be eating take-out all the time."

Jiang Cheng had some unflattering things to say about that time Wei Wuxian had set the kitchen on fire, but Lan Wangji doesn't need to know about that.

They work well together in the kitchen. Wei Wuxian tries to anticipate what Lan Wangji might need next, getting bowls out for him for the chopped vegetables and tofu. Lan Wangji moves around him easily to set things up neatly by the stove, and hums periodically to show he's listening to Wei Wuxian talk about his sister. Slowly, the tension gives way to the comfortable company Wei Wuxian usually finds with Lan Wangji when they hang out at work.

That is until Lan Wangji puts his hand on Wei Wuxian's waist as he leans into his space and reaches past him into the back of the spice cabinet.

Wei Wuxian's whole body goes hot, a flush burning his cheeks. Lan Wangji's touch is light but searing through his shirt. He stutters over his next words, and while he's trying to regain his footing, Lan Wangji turns to look at him, curry powder in hand and that damn eyebrow raised.

He is such a fucking shit.

Wei Wuxian, still blushing, nevertheless meets his eyes and raises his eyebrows back. Then, taking a page out of Lan Wangji's playbook, he deliberately leans into the arm wrapped around his back without breaking eye contact. Lan Wangji's mouth drops open, just a little bit, and it is supremely gratifying.

He lets go and retreats to the stove.

Wei Wuxian takes a breath and stares down blankly at the canned tomatoes in front of him, wondering what the fuck he's supposed to be doing with them.

This is both the worst and the best idea he's had in a long time. He's going to get so burned by this, but with his skin still tingling from the phantom sensation of Lan Wangji's arm around him, Wei Wuxian doesn't care.

A-Yuan is adorably groggy but awake when Wei Wuxian goes to get him for dinner. He's got his arms wrapped around his two stuffed bunnies, one black, one white, and both wearing little t-shirts with hearts on them.

"Baba!" He smiles when Wei Wuxian comes in and that will never get old.

"Hey, radish," Wei Wuxian drops onto the bed beside him. "You hungry?"


"Well, it's dinner time."

"No! I want to play!"

"We'll play afterwards. Food first," Wei Wuxian says. A-Yuan's lip starts jutting out, displeased with this order of events, so Wei Wuxian tries heading him off. "Hey, Lan Zhan is staying for dinner tonight, and if you eat now, I bet he'll play with you after dinner."

"Will he give me candy?" A-Yuan wants to know.

"Maybe. If you're good."

"I'm always good!"

"You are," Wei Wuxian agrees with a smile. "You're always very good and eat your rice and vegetables."

"And then I get to play with Lan Zhan!"

Wei Wuxian ruffles his hair, wondering how to broach the next topic. He and Lan Wangji might be playing at being married in a weird game of chicken, but he doesn't want to confuse A-Yuan.

"Do you like Lan Zhan?" he asks to start with.

"Uh-huh!" A-Yuan nods decisively. "Do you?"

"Yes," Wei Wuxian smiles at the unexpected question. "I do. So he's going to stay for dinner tonight." He takes a breath. "You might have heard him saying some confusing things today."

"He said I was his son, too, but I'm your son." A-Yuan's expression goes serious the way it does when he's thinking hard.

"Yes. You are my son, and I love you very much and that will never change," Wei Wuxian tells him. "You will always be my son. We adopted each other, remember?"

A-Yuan nods vigorously. "Yes. I became yours and you became mine forever and ever and ever."

"That's right." Wei Wuxian thinks about how he wants to explain the pair of bald untruths that he and Lan Wangji have found themselves entangled in. "Lan Zhan is my friend, and I'm so happy with you that he is happy for me that I get to be your baba. He's not really your dad but it's like pretend. He likes you so much, too, that he wanted our friends at work to know that he likes you so much he could be family."

"But he's not," A-Yuan says with all the certainty of a four year-old.

"No, but we may say things that make it sound like he is. For pretend." Wei Wuxian is going to be cast down into hell and A-Yuan is going to need all the therapy after this.

"I want to play pretend too!" A-Yuan says, wriggling to sit up. "Hi Baba! Hi Lan-gege!" he says to the two stuffed bunnies he now holds in his lap facing each other as if they're talking. "Hi A-Yuan! We love you!" he makes the bunnies say, wagging them back and forth while they talk.

Wei Wuxian's heart might melt right out of his chest. He leans over and wraps A-Yuan up in a big hug, dropping half a dozen quick kisses on the top of his head while A-Yuan giggles and laughs, pushing at him to let go.

"Baba! You're squishing you and Lan-gege," he protests on behalf of the bunnies.

"I thought their names were Bai and Hei?" Wei Wuxian says, sitting back.

He gets a withering look as only a four year-old can give. "They're pretending to be you and Lan-gege."

"Okay." Wei Wuxian suppresses the smile that wants to come out. "So they'll go back to being Bai and Hei when they're done pretending, right?"

A-Yuan nods.

"Just like Lan Zhan will stop pretending to be part of our family sometime," he goes on carefully, watching A-Yuan closely to see if he understands. He's got his thinking frown on his face again and seems to be following. Pretend is a game he knows well, but he's also a boy with a big heart. "When it's done things will go back to the way they were, but Lan Zhan will still be our friend, okay? So you don't have to worry."

"Worry?" A-Yuan looks up at him, curiously.

Oops. Wei Wuxian probably shouldn't have put that idea out there. "You don't have to worry that he won't come back. He's our friend now while we play pretend and he gets to know you, and he'll be our friend later, too, once pretend is over."

"Okay." A-Yuan shrugs, bouncing his bunnies on his lap. "It's time for dinner," he makes the black one say. "I don't want dinner," he says as himself. "That's okay, we can play," he has the white bunny say. "Okay!" says A-Yuan and he tosses the black bunny to the side.

"Hey!" Wei Wuxian says, suspecting he knows exactly who is the black bunny in this situation. He grabs the black bunny and says for it. "Play time after dinner time, that's the rule!" But A-Yuan runs screeching from both him and the bunny into the living room yelling, "Play time! Play time!"

Wei Wuxian follows in time to see Lan Wangji standing frozen in the middle of the kitchen with bowls in his hands to set the table, looking like a deer caught in headlights while A-Yuan runs circles around him screaming.

He looks up at Wei Wuxian with clear alarm on his face, and Wei Wuxian laughs a little at the sight, rolling his eyes in solidarity, before darting out to catch A-Yuan and get him out of the tiny kitchen.

He flips A-Yuan into his arms and jiggles him. He's getting so big. "All right, all right, all right. Inside voice, now. No yelling."

"But I want to play!"

"After dinner," Wei Wuxian repeats for the millionth time. He waits a minute for A-Yuan to look at him and calm a little before setting him down. "Now go help Lan Zhan and get the chopsticks and spoons for the table."

The distraction works, and A-Yuan drops his white bunny on the floor and happily goes to do it. Lan Wangji watches A-Yuan for a moment with no little suspicion, and Wei Wuxian laughs again, bending to scoop up the bunny out of the way and toss toward the pile of toys in the living room.

"Bet you weren't expecting our kid to be so loud," he says.

Lan Wangji regards him for a long moment before resuming setting the table. "I should not be so surprised," he says, which—ouch!—but then he adds before Wei Wuxian can protest, "But he is clearly happy." He says it softly but with such certainty that it hits Wei Wuxian like the hardest rock and the softest flower, gentle and overwhelming both. For a moment all he can do is stare at Lan Wangji and try to remember how to breathe.

Wei Wuxian has been raising A-Yuan more or less alone, only talking to his fellow foster network online when he needs to vent or get advice. He never feels like he's doing enough, being what A-Yuan needs, making sure he's doing the things that will help him grow up well.

For Lan Wangji, unflinchingly honest Lan Wangji—except when he's telling a single giant lie to spite Su She, apparently—to see and say that A-Yuan is okay, that Wei Wuxian is doing okay. Well, Wei Wuxian isn't sure he believes it, but at the same time he has no choice but to believe it.

"Ah," he says, with no real idea how to respond, feeling a blush steal over his face. "He's a good kid. Here, I'll get the rice."

Dinner is nice. Like during lunch at work, Lan Wangji is mostly quiet, letting Wei Wuxian and A-Yuan carry the conversation, which mostly consists of rehashing how much fun the slip 'n slide was and can they do it again tomorrow, with a detour into how A-Yuan found butterflies and rainbows in the water forest at the end of the slide—which Wei Wuxian takes to mean the sprinklers—where the pirates weren't allowed, but sometimes the water dragon was allowed to play if he was good.

Lan Wangji listens attentively, with the same solemn focus he used to wear in school and that he no doubt wears to presentations and meetings at work. A-Yuan soaks it up like a little flower, explaining earnestly about the water dragon as if he were giving a presentation about it. He even eats without protest when Lan Wangji prompts him in the middle of his story, which almost never happens for Wei Wuxian.

Watching them together, Wei Wuxian is hit by another terrible realization: Lan Wangji would actually be an excellent parent. It is a thought that is simultaneously unexpected and hot as fuck.

Wei Wuxian really, really didn't think this through.

After dinner, A-Yuan gets his wish to play, and Lan Wangji obliges when A-Yuan demands he help build a block tower. Wei Wuxian does the bare minimum of clean up in the kitchen before coming to sit beside them, but he gets told in no uncertain terms that he's not allowed to help.

"It's our tower, Baba," says A-Yuan. "Mine and Lan-gege's."

Wei Wuxian isn't going to lie; it hurts a little to hear, but it's counteracted by the way Lan Wangji's face softens, his mouth dropping open just a tiny fraction in surprise.

Wei Wuxian thought he knew Lan Wangji's facial expressions pretty well, from the closed-off frowns and judging eyebrows he always engendered when they were young to the tiny focused or amused expressions Lan Wangji wears when they talk at lunch.

Today he is seeing a whole new layer of expression he never suspected Lan Wangji possessed.

Wei Wuxian blinks and forces himself to focus on his son instead of his pretend husband. He pouts at A-Yuan. "Well, what am I going to build then?"

"Another tower!"

Lan Wangji, recovered to his more reserved mask, shoots him a little worried look, like he doesn't want Wei Wuxian to be left out, which is sweet but ridiculous because it's blocks with a four year-old.

"All right then," Wei Wuxian says. "I'll build my own tower out of Legos and we'll see whose is better."

So they build their towers, and A-Yuan bosses Lan Wangji around and Lan Wangji lets him. Wei Wuxian's tower is more of a sprawling house with see-saws that get you from room to room because that's more fun than doors. It's nice and companionable, and not all that different from how Wei Wuxian and A-Yuan pass the evening sometimes. Lan Wangji fits right in.

He startles a little when the towers are done and A-Yuan raises his arms in triumph and then immediately destroys theirs. Wei Wuxian guards his from destruction while A-Yuan valiantly tries to get around him, which ends with A-Yuan in his lap and Lan Wangji knocking over the single tower element by mistake when he tries to move out of the way of their flailing arms and catches it with his elbow. He looks mortified at first, but A-Yuan cheers and then slumps happily against Wei Wuxian's chest, a warm contented weight.

Wei Wuxian glances at the clock and jostles A-Yuan a little. "What's this, a boy or a sack of potatoes? I think it's time for bed, huh?"

"Baba, noooo! I'm not tired!"

"Uh huh." Wei Wuxian gets them both to their feet, and even though A-Yuan pouts about it, he goes easily enough. "Say good night to Lan Zhan."

A-Yuan runs and hugs Lan Wangji around the middle, grinning. "Good night!"

Lan Wangji freezes but after a moment of hesitation he pats A-Yuan's head. Wei Wuxian herds him off with a quick look over his shoulder to find Lan Wangji watching them go.

Half an hour later, he returns to the living room to find all the blocks picked up and put in their basket and the free Lego pieces tidied into their box. Wei Wuxian's creation has been set out of the way with its spire reaffixed. Lan Wangji straightens up from where he kneels in front of the coffee table, stacking the mail and papers there into neat piles.

"Lan Zhan, what's this? You don't have to do that." Wei Wuxian says, embarrassed, though he never has been neat in his life and it usually doesn't bother him what other people think. Who has time to clean with a little kid running around?

"It's almost nine," Lan Wangji says instead of an explanation. He stands, and for once he looks uncertain. Maybe—Wei Wuxian could be reading him wrong, but he looks like he wants to say something. But in the end he just stares at Wei Wuxian like he hopes he'll read his mind.

"What happens at nine?" Wei Wuxian asks.

"I go to sleep at nine."

"Oh. Are you going, then?" Wei Wuxian smothers the little flash of disappointment. Of course he's going. The game's the game, but he doesn't expect Lan Wangji to upend his life over it.

But Lan Wangji is still regarding him with his unnerving stare, looking like he wants to say something. Finally, he exhales. "Since we're married . . ."

Wei Wuxian waits for the rest, balancing on his toes like he's balanced on the edge of a cliff. Whatever Lan Wangji says next could push him either way.

But that's it. Lan Wangji's mouth firms into a stubborn line, leaving Wei Wuxian in suspense.

"Since we're married," he prompts.

"Mn," says Lan Wangji with a little nod, his hesitation disappearing. He moves around the coffee table, walks past Wei Wuxian, and disappears into the bathroom.

Wei Wuxian's head is spinning, feeling like he's missed two-thirds of the conversation and not sure what to do about it. Should he ask? Should he break the unwritten rule about the game? If he does, will Lan Wangji leave? If he leaves, will things go back to normal? Will Lan Wangji be mad at him for breaking the spell of their make-believe? Is he waiting for Wei Wuxian to break first? Does he want Wei Wuxian to tell him to go home?

Because that's not happening. Wei Wuxian firms his resolve. Lan Wangji is not a talker and while he's not a pushover, he doesn't give a lot of cues for what's going on in his head, either. This is one time when he's going to have to, Wei Wuxian decides. If Lan Wangji wants out of this game, he's going to have to be the one to call it off. Out loud. With words. Not just the expression of outrage on his face when Wei Wuxian does something egregiously shameless.

With that thought propelling him, Wei Wuxian grins and goes to his closet to find some spare clothes for Lan Wangji to sleep in—if he dares.

He gets into his own sweatpants and T-shirt, even though it's way too early for him to go to bed. When Lan Wangji comes out of the bathroom, Wei Wuxian is waiting. He breezily hands him the clothes and slides past him to take his turn brushing his teeth.

When he comes out, Lan Wangji will probably still be standing awkwardly in the hallway, maybe blushing, maybe furious, but either way ready to throw the clothes back in Wei Wuxian's face and leave. Of course that's what Lan Wangji would do, he scoffs at the kernel of disappointment in his chest. There's no way he'd keep this up overnight.

Except when he leaves the bathroom, Lan Wangji isn't in the hallway. He's not angry or embarrassed and ready to call the whole thing off.

He's in Wei Wuxian's bed, flat on his back, covers pulled up, and eyes closed. To all appearances he's asleep or close to it.

Wei Wuxian stands in the doorway for a minute, his heart pounding a hundred beats a minute. He honestly doesn't know what to think. Worse, he doesn't want to think about how he feels seeing Lan Wangji in his bed like that. That way leads to madness.

He thinks about sleeping on the couch. That's what he should do. That's what a good friend would do. But he doesn't.

Despite the early hour, he slides into bed next to Lan Wangji with plenty of space between them and plays games on his phone, ignoring the man beside him and his own pounding heart until at last sleep claims him.

Chapter Text

Wei Wuxian:
nie-xiong HELP!!!!!!!!

Nie Huaisang:
do you know what time it is

Wei Wuxian:
early. too early. I know, okay!
I'm going crazy!

Nie Huaisang:
early on sunday
I hate you
what's wrong

Wei Wuxian:
lan zhan

Nie Huaisang:
what did you do

Wei Wuxian:
so you remember the plan to gaslight everyone
I was worried about lan zhan not believing me
and he doesn't!
but the fucker decided to prank me back and tell everyone that we're married!
and he won't stop pretending so I can't stop pretending and I'm going crazy!!!!

Nie Huaisang:
you told him you adopted a kid and he responded by saying you were married

Wei Wuxian:
I might have told him that A-Yuan was our kid

Nie Huaisang:
:joy: :joy: :joy:
of course you did
actually not a bad plan to get him to play along

Wei Wuxian:
stop laughing at me
he's still here!!!
what do I do?

Nie Huaisang:
what do you mean still there

Wei Wuxian:
he came home with us!
he stayed the night!
in my bed!
and he got up at the ass crack of dawn with A-Yuan and made him breakfast!
now they're playing outside at the playground!

Wei Wuxian:
are you there?

Nie Huaisang:
sorry I had to die of laughter for a minute there

Wei Wuxian:
shut up
what should I do?

Nie Huaisang:
marry him for real

Wei Wuxian:
stop joking!!!
I meant how do I get him to admit that this isn't real without admitting I didn't tell him about A-Yuan?!?!?!

Nie Huaisang:
I gave you my advice
let me go back to sleep

Wei Wuxian:
I hate you

Sunday passes in a weird haze for Wei Wuxian. Lan Wangji stays with them the whole day. They go grocery shopping; he's there picking out cabbages. He puts the groceries away; he fixes everyone a snack. Getting A-Yuan settled for a nap, he agrees to read a story when A-Yuan asks.

Wei Wuxian does what he does best and chatters, narrating things for A-Yuan, going off on tangents to Lan Wangji as stray thoughts occur to him, scolding A-Yuan about putting candy in their cart at the store, and then having to scold Lan Wangji when they get home for slipping the candy back in after Wei Wuxian put it back on the shelf.

Lan Wangji only gives him a little smirk while A-Yuan cheers, then pouts when Wei Wuxian has to be the strict parent and tell him he has to wait till after dinner.

While all that is going on, in the back of his head Wei Wuxian is pretty sure he's freaking out.

He does not know what's going on with Lan Wangji. His best defense is to go along with it, so he does. Jittery and nervous and keeping a proper distance between them because Nie Huaisang's "advice" is rattling around in the back of his head, bouncing off of every little thing Lan Wangji does and says and wondering what does he mean by that?

The man is a puzzle at the best of times, and Wei Wuxian has deluded himself into thinking he knows him well enough to predict his moods and likely behavior. But the last two days have thrown all of that out the window.

Lan Wangji stays the night again, sleeping a foot away from Wei Wuxian, who gives up on playing on his phone when all he does is go back and stare at his text conversation with Nie Huaisang.

It's a relief to go to work on Monday.

Monday morning, Lan Wangji shakes Wei Wuxian awake half an hour before his alarm goes off.

"Nngngn," he says, cracking his eyes open.

"I must leave early," Lan Wangji says. He's sitting on the side of the bed dressed in his white shorts and the shirt he borrowed from Wei Wuxian yesterday that stretches tight across his broad shoulders. It isn't fair how handsome he is this early in the morning.

"What?" Wei Wuxian says, still mostly asleep. He scoots up in the bed, instantly noticing when Lan Wangji's hand falls away from his shoulder.

"Mn. I have fed A-Yuan and he's playing quietly in the living room. Here." Lan Wangji reaches to the bedside table and hands Wei Wuxian a mug of tea. It's not what he usually drinks first thing in the morning, but it's the perfect temperature and Wei Wuxian can't help the contented sigh that escapes after his first sip.

"Wow, this is good," he says.

Lan Wangji glances down, but Wei Wuxian thinks he sees his mouth tilt a little. Yesterday's brain fog is clearing after a couple hours of sleep, and Wei Wuxian thinks it would be really nice, if this is what being married to Lan Wangji would be like.

Of course it won't be, really. This won't last. Lan Wangji will get tired of him soon enough.

"I left breakfast for you on the stove. It simply needs heating."

"Breakfast?" Wei Wuxian knows he's staring, but he can't stop.

"Mn," Lan Wangji says, glancing back at him, and that is definitely a soft smile curling on his lips. Wei Wuxian's eyes fall to it, feeling off-kilter again. "I'll see you at lunch."

"Yeah, lunch," Wei Wuxian agrees. He sips his tea again and watches Lan Wangji leave the room, wondering if he's dreaming. But no, even his brain wouldn't have come up with Lan Wangji bringing him tea in bed and making him breakfast.

By the time he gets A-Yuan off to preschool and himself to work, however, the routine manages to make it feel like a normal day. That is until he's standing outside of the doors that lead to his department.

On the other side are all the coworkers he has to continue to convince that he told about his son. Unsurprisingly, that problem faded into the background over the weekend—which is when it hits Wei Wuxian that his new "married" status is also something that all his co-workers have likely heard about too.

He puts a smile on his face and goes in.

He barely makes it to his desk before Mianmian comes over. "Wei Wuxian, you and Lan Wangji? Really?"

"Good morning to you, too," he says, but she just waves her hands impatiently at him.

"Answer the question."

"Uh, yeah?" He hopes she doesn't see right through him.

"Don't tell me you told me about that at Nie Huaisang's party, too," she says, eyes dangerous. "Because I know you didn't."

"Ah, we were kind of keeping it under our hats for now," he replies, wincing at his own unconvincing delivery. "You know how Lan Zhan is, doesn't want to say anything to anyone." Maybe if he makes jokes that will throw her off.

"Hm." Her eyes narrow. "When did you get married?"

Oh shit. Wei Wuxian is not prepared for this. "A month ago," he makes up on the spot. "We eloped, didn't want to make a fuss."

"Uh huh." Mianmian still doesn't look convinced. "Was that to avoid his family or yours?"

"Both!" Wei Wuxian grins brightly. "Now if you'll excuse me, I need to get to my email so I can be prepared for your meeting in half an hour."

Thankfully, Mianmian goes, but Wei Wuxian doesn't doubt that she'll be back, like a shark looking for blood. Fortunately, Monday mornings are busy with status update meetings for their active aid regions, and Wei Wuxian uses "Very busy! I'll tell you all about it later!" as an excuse when four other people come to question him.

By the time lunch rolls around, it's a relief to put his tray down across from Lan Wangji's in the cafeteria.

"Have your co-workers been bugging you all morning about the married thing? Because mine have, and it's awful."

"No. No one has said anything to me."

Lan Wangji is dressed for work today in a tailored three-piece suit. It's in a blue just a shade too royal to be strictly all business, with dark purple flowers patterned on his waistcoat. His crisp white shirt has a Mandarin collar and he's not wearing a tie, making him stand out against the sea of western-style business attire worn by everyone else. In deference to the season, his suit jacket is hanging neatly on the back of his chair, a white pocket square with a purple edge peeking out. He obviously took a shower and styled his hair this morning, too. He looks terribly put together and handsome.

"That's no fair," Wei Wuxian pouts and focuses on the important points here. "It's your glower, isn't it?"

"I do not encourage gossip. It's no one else's business but our own."

"So you just stare at them until they go away?" Wei Wuxian shakes his head. "That never works for me."

"You could simply switch topics," Lan Wangji offers.

"I've been telling everyone I don't have time to talk all morning, but that's not going to last long." He points his chopsticks at Lan Wangji. "I already got grilled by Mianmian about when we got married! I told her it was a month ago, by the way, and that we are keeping it quiet to avoid our families for now. Next she's going to ask when we started dating or how you proposed and . . ." He trails off, not sure how to ask how they get their stories straight without admitting that it's not real.

"We started dating seven months ago."

"We did?" Wei Wuxian pauses in surprise, noodles halfway to his mouth. "I mean, right. Of course we did."

"When we went to see the Ouyang Trio play at Memorial Concert Hall."

Wei Wuxian's eyes widen. He'd gotten tickets to go when Jiang Yanli was going to come visit, but she'd had to cancel because something came up with her stupid husband in Lanling. He'd invited Lan Wangji to go with him instead. Wei Wuxian had started out the evening glum and missing his sister, but in the end he'd had a really good time listening to music with Lan Wangji.

"That was a good night," he says in agreement and is rewarded with one of the soft looks that kept his heart from calming down all weekend. "Hey, remember when you let me talk you into going to see the night-blooming orchids at the Gusu Botanical Gardens? You didn't want to stay up that late."

"It was worth it," Lan Wangji says, this time a smile peeking out of the corner of his mouth, and—yeah, okay, Wei Wuxian thinks to himself. Maybe he doesn't have to freak out about people asking him about Lan Wangji. They're friends. They've done a few friend things outside of work. Those two to be exact, but that's enough to work with.

The thought is enough to relax him through the rest of lunch, and when Lan Wangji asks when they're picking up A-Yuan, he barely even blinks before telling him. He's got this.

Wei Wuxian whistles on his way back from the cafeteria and is ready for Bai Ying'ai and Mianmian and even that fucker Su She if they want to give him grief.

But when he arrives back, the department is in an uproar. Bai Ying'ai grabs him as soon as he walks in and drags him over to Mo Xuanyu's desk. Mo Xuanyu is looking pale and a little sick.

"I'm gonna be fired!" he wails. He's sniffling and trying to hold back tears but can't quite manage it. His cheap mascara is running and turning him into a raccoon.

"Tell him he's not going to be fired!" Bai Ying'ai tells Wei Wuxian, looking just as worked up as Mo Xuanyu, though without the tears. "They won't fire him, right?"

"For what? What happened?" Wei Wuxian asks, wondering just what the hell is going on. From here he can see that the conference room door is closed. Several silhouettes are visible through the frosted glass, one of them presumably Mianmian since she's not on the floor.

"One of the senior executives showed up for a surprise visit!" Bai Ying'ai hisses at him. "Mo Xuanyu didn't recognize him and when he asked for Mianmian, he told him he needed an appointment!"

"Most people need an appointment!" Mo Xuanyu cries.

"Shh, shh," Wei Wuxian pats his shoulder reassuringly. "I'm sure it will be fine. He's speaking with Mianmian now, right? It was just a little misunderstanding!"

"My life is over!"

"Oh, xiao-Mo, don't be so dramatic. Look, why don't you go wash your face. Take him to wash his face," Wei Wuxian pushes Bai Ying'ai toward Mo Xuanyu. "You'll feel better."

The door to the conference room opens as the three of them leave Mo Xuanyu's cubicle. Mianmian hands a note to the intern standing attentively nearby, and less than a minute later Wei Wuxian and the other team leads have been summoned to give their aid site updates in person.

The material is the same from the morning status meeting. It's the same material the senior executives get in the reports that they put together and submit every week. It's highly unusual for them to make personal visits. But as they stand in a line and bow, Wei Wuxian gets a good look at who exactly has come to their lowly department and his stomach drops through the floor.

Seated at the head of the conference table is Lan Xichen, Director of World Aid. He sits perfectly straight in a crisp tailored suit that is more conservative but no less fashionable than his younger brother's. His eyes snap to Wei Wuxian when Mianmian introduces him, which only confirms that this is not a random visit.

Wei Wuxian is so fucked.

Su She, the blowhard, volunteers to go first, and Wei Wuxian tunes him out while his brain goes into overdrive, cursing the lightning speed of company gossip and the hole he's dug for himself in equal measure. If there's one thing Wei Wuxian knows about Lan Wangji it's how much he loves and respects his brother. When he'd tried to apologize for everything that went wrong in high school, it was Lan Xichen's face at the door turning him away.

Wei Wuxian's knee jitters under the table. His fingers twist at the pen he pulled from his pocket. Mianmian has their slides from this morning queued up on her laptop, so he doesn't even have his computer to hide behind. And he definitely needs to hide.

Lan Xichen to all appearances is paying attention to the presentation, but Wei Wuxian sees how he looks toward him from the corner of his eye whenever Su She turns to look at the projection screen with his laser pointer.

When it's his turn, that focus of attention lands entirely on Wei Wuxian, who smiles broadly—nothing to see here, everything's fine (except for the areas he's talking about which are not fine)—and gives a point-perfect briefing of the situation in various hotspots in Qishan.

"Hotspots because of the volcano," he explains, when silence greets the joke that had gotten chuckles this morning.

Lan Xichen's neutral smile doesn't crack. He looks like he was carved from ice with that smile on his face, perfect pleasantness contrasted to Lan Wangji's perfect bitch face.

"Ah, right, anyway," Wei Wuxian hurries onward.

At the end of the presentations, Lan Xichen thanks them all. "It is good to see that our service sites are being so well attended thanks to your hard work."

"Thank you, Lan-dongshi." Mianmian bows, followed by the rest of them. "You honor us."

"You honor yourselves. I thank you for your time, though Wei-xiansheng, if you would be so kind as to stay behind, I had a few additional questions for you."

The rest of his colleagues file out, and Mianmian hovers for an uncertain moment before she, too, leaves at some unspoken signal from Lan Xichen. She gives Wei Wuxian a quick worried glance before she shuts the door. She knows whose brother Lan Xichen is, too.

Once they're alone, Wei Wuxian moves back to the side of the projection screen and braces himself.

But Lan Xichen surprises him by actually asking questions about Qishan. "You were stationed at one of the camps not long after the eruption, correct?"

"Ah, yes," Wei Wuxian says. "The Shrine Camp, closest to Dafan. We were the first distribution point for the refugees who lived closest to the volcano."

"Tell me about it."

"The camp?" Wei Wuxian asks in surprise.

Lan Xichen's expression shifts for the first time, his smile turning self-deprecating. "I have read about it of course, from the reports and testimonials, and the seen the news packages the public relations office put out, but I would like to hear your perspective."

"Ah. Right." Wei Wuxian takes a breath to shift gears, casting his mind back two years to when he arrived near Dafan and helped set up World Aid's presence. They'd placed the camp south of the prevailing winds, about fifty kilometers from the volcano. It was near one of the surviving villages that had taken in a lot of the survivors who had managed to flee in time and needed medical care and food.

"The tents were filled up in a day, and by the second we were nearly out of our initial inlay of supplies," Wei Wuxian tells Lan Xichen, as he describes the evolving conditions in the camp. "I was with refugee resettlement then, and we initially had about forty kids under eighteen without guardians, most under thirteen. I was pretty busy with them and we were able to reunite most of them with family within the first two weeks. Sixteen lost their parents, so we had charge of them, some of them pretty young."

A-Yuan had been the youngest, but Wei Wuxian doesn't volunteer that information. Lan Xichen asks about the conditions, if supplies were adequate, the camp operation procedures and how they helped or hindered, about medical care and sanitation. Wei Wuxian knows what he's getting at: the poor sanitary conditions had made the news and hadn't reflected well on World Aid.

"It was the rains that caused the problems. The mountain was still unstable, and there were a lot of little landslides, which forced us to shift tents where we could, and then the latrines flooded, and one of the nearby villages lost a bunch of houses in another larger landslide from one of the aftershock earthquakes. It was just mud, mud, and more mud, then sewage, and more mud and more people who needed help. Everything was wet. We couldn't keep the rain out." Wei Wuxian shrugs. "It was a lot all at once, but the camp leaders really did do their best. We got as many people relocated to the new site as we could, but it was a lot of exhausted people who'd just lost their homes and some of them their families."

"A difficult situation." Lan Xichen nods solemnly.

"Yes," Wei Wuxian agrees.

"Do you find the work rewarding?"

Wei Wuxian blinks quickly at the unexpected question. "Yes," he says barely having to think about it. "Yes, of course. Going out and helping people when they're in need is why I wanted to join World Aid."

"But now you're in logistics. You won't be in the camps working directly with those in need. I understand you requested specifically to work in the field with the children when you were hired."

"Yes." Wei Wuxian swallows, his nerves which had settled while he talked about his past work return at full force. "Logistics is a very important position, making sure sites get what they need when they need it."

"It is. But I'm curious, why you requested the transfer?" Lan Xichen's slight smile is still on his face, softening his features without being pushy. It's an expression gauged to make the listener comfortable.

Wei Wuxian is not comfortable. He licks his lips. "I felt it was time for a change," he says carefully.

"I would have thought, given your past history, you would have sought more time in the field rather than more time in the office," Lan Xichen replies. "You never were very good at sitting still, if I recall correctly. You always seemed . . . eager for the next adventure."

He smiles, but Wei Wuxian feels the sting of the barb hidden in his words. It's the first acknowledgement that Lan Xichen has given that they knew each other—knew of each other—and Wei Wuxian does not care for what he's implying about his character.

"Things change," he says shortly, then adds recklessly. "I have a family now." It's not a lie—he does have A-Yuan—but it certainly leaves room for interpretation.

"Do you?" Lan Xichen feigns interest, eyes sharp enough to cut. "I heard a rather interesting piece of information regarding your family status. I find it strange that I heard about it through company channels."

Oh shit. Here it is. Wei Wuxian holds very still, unable to look away from Lan Xichen, as if everything will come crumbling down around him if he blinks.

"I also find it strange that your personnel file lists neither the child nor the spouse you claim to have." Lan Xichen raises an eyebrow in a way that is frightfully similar to Lan Wangji.

Oh double shit. Wei Wuxian feels a cold sweat break out all along his back, his armpits, his palms. "I, uh, haven't filed the paperwork yet."

"Ah, of course," Lan Xichen nods as if that is a perfectly reasonable answer—which it is! Wei Wuxian was so done with paperwork by the time A-Yuan's adoption was final that he just hadn't gotten around to all the other paperwork yet.

Lan Xichen smiles. "I'm sure I don't need to remind you that falsifying your personal information is against our policies."

"No," Wei Wuxian says, feeling a pugilistic surge of resentful energy at the assumptions underneath the reminder. He clenches his jaw against the retort that wants to burst forth. It's not like he doesn't know why Lan Xichen has it out for him. It's not like he doesn't agree that Lan Xichen has every reason to think the worst of him.

"Good." Lan Xichen stands. "Then I expect the rumors I hear floating around to be corrected."

Yeah, good luck with that. If there's one thing Wei Wuxian learned from being a fuck-up years ago, it's that rumors are their own untamable beast. "I'm not sure there's much I can do about the rumors," he says.

"Perhaps you should begin by reassessing your associations that are fueling them."

Wei Wuxian sucks in a harsh breath as if he'd taken a blow to the stomach. Lan Xichen must see it; his head tilts a little and his eyes never leave his face, pleasant smile firmly in place as if he hadn't just told Wei Wuxian to stay away from his brother.

Wei Wuxian needs a second to make sure he doesn't do something stupid.

Meanwhile, Lan Xichen nods to Wei Wuxian in dismissal, walking around the conference table to the door.

Wei Wuxian is supposed to bow now, but he can't. Won't. He knows he's glaring but he can't stop. Lan Xichen doesn't comment on his rudeness, in fact he almost seems like he expects it, which is what makes Wei Wuxian's slim control over his mouth slip.

"Perhaps you should talk with your brother before you make assumptions about my associations."

Lan Xichen stops abruptly in the doorway, looking over his shoulder, and this time, the smile has dropped from his face.

Wei Wuxian offers a fake smile in return and finally bows, pressing his hands against his sides hard enough to still their shaking from the rage burning through him.

Wei Wuxian gets very little productive work done for the rest of the day. He waves off Mianmian's concern and has a rage-fueled hour of working before he realizes that he's been using the numbers for Qishan’s eastern depots when he was supposed to summarize the supply numbers from their western depots.

He stares at his computer and swears, then drops his head into his hands. He wishes he could fall apart like xiao-Mo.

What's the worst that could happen if Lan Xichen truly disapproves of him and his friendship with Lan Wangji? Lan Xichen has a reputation for being a fair and diligent director, leading World Aid with compassion and sincerity, in the most honorable tradition of the Lans.

He also, Wei Wuxian knows, loves his brother more than anyone else in the world and will move the heavens for him.

Wei Wuxian had gotten Lan Wangji in so much trouble that awful spring. And then a year later after everything really fell apart and Lan Wangji had reached out, Wei Wuxian had rejected his friendship, rejected his help, told him off for interfering where he wasn't wanted—how could someone who'd had everything handed to him his whole life possibly understand? He'd thrown it all in Lan Wangji's face.

It had been cruel and unfair, and Wei Wuxian has to close his eyes against the sharp cut of the memory and the shame that has never faded.

Lan Xichen was entirely within his rights to tell him to leave Lan Wangji alone back then. Wei Wuxian has never blamed him. He had been merciful not to yell at him like Wei Wuxian had deserved.

Now though, the thought of turning his back on Lan Wangji's friendship after regaining it this past year seems impossible.

Doubly so when he finally leaves for the day and he finds Lan Wangji waiting for him in the plaza just outside their office building. He nods to Wei Wuxian, face as stoic as usual, but with something warm around his eyes. He carries his briefcase and what looks like a gym bag in his other hand.

Wei Wuxian feels his shoulders drop, surprised to see him even though they agreed they would meet to pick up A-Yuan together. The feeling is quickly followed by dread that this has to end because everything has spiraled out of control—the game is up, he should call it quits here before they go pick up A-Yuan—followed by the defiant anger that has always led to Wei Wuxian's worst decisions. The same flare of fire before he talked back to Madame Yu, before he socked Jin Zixuan in the face, before he said fuck it and took Xue Yang up on any number of bad offers.

The worst part, however, is the fact that Wei Wuxian hadn't been lying when he'd told Lan Xichen that things had changed. He has A-Yuan to think about now, which strangely makes Wei Wuxian angrier when he thinks about all the things Lan Xichen had left in the silences between his words. He might have had good reason to think so poorly of Wei Wuxian when he was a teenager, but he doesn't know Wei Wuxian as he is now.

"You are upset," Lan Wangji says after he approaches, startling him out of his thoughts.

"I'm fine," Wei Wuxian snaps. It's part reflex, part indignation that Lan Wangji is so calm, while Wei Wuxian feels like he's swallowing crushed glass.

He's suddenly irrationally angry at Lan Wangji for landing him in this mess in the first place. It's his fault that the stupid rumor about them started. It's his fault Wei Wuxian needed to fool everyone about A-Yuan.

"You are not."

"I said I'm fine." Wei Wuxian glares at him, but Lan Wangji is the master at not reacting, though his eyebrows do twitch into a frown. "Look," Wei Wuxian says before Lan Wangji can offer any more insights. "I don't think you should come with me to pick up A-Yuan."

Lan Wangji's tiny frown intensifies. Wei Wuxian looks out into the street, where people are going about their business, walking toward home. He wonders if any of them are getting imaginary divorces right now.

"Why not?" Lan Wangji asks.

"Just...because," Wei Wuxian flounders, not wanting to mention Lan Xichen because that feels like tattling. "It doesn't take two of us."

"I would like to see his school."

"It's a fine school!" Wei Wuxian says, abruptly defensive. "There's nothing to see! I can take care of A-Yuan just fine by myself, you know."

Lan Wangji regards him, and Wei Wuxian hates it, can't stand the weight of it. He starts walking toward the bus stop to get away from it. Lan Wangji takes a couple strides with his long legs and falls in beside him. Wei Wuxian wants to tell him to go away—he recognizes that he's being unreasonable but he can't seem to stop. He swallows it down though, because he's also kind of glad that Lan Wangji followed, and he likes to think that he's grown a little as a person since he was eighteen. The dredged-up memories sit like barbs on the back of his neck.

"Did someone say you could not?" Lan Wangji asks after a long silent minute.

"No." Wei Wuxian doesn't sound convincing, even to his own ears, even though it's the truth.

"What did they say?"

Lan Wangji is too fucking smart for his own good, or for Wei Wuxian's.

He remains stubbornly silent. Wei Wuxian can keep his mouth shut when it matters; see the example of him quietly adopting a kid, he thinks sourly.

They reach the bus stop. Lan Wangji stands patiently beside him, seemingly unbothered by the lack of answer.

"Are you just going to follow me the whole way?"

"Wei Ying."

"I'm sure this is some kind of harassment. You should just go home."

"I will," Lan Wangji says, and for a moment Wei Wuxian feels the words cut. But then Lan Wangji adds with his deliberate care, "After we pick up A-Yuan."

The lump in Wei Wuxian's throat isn't because he's pleased to hear that. It isn't because something loosens in his chest at the we and the implication that home is together. It's not. Fuck.

The bus comes, and they pack in with the rest of the commuters, standing close. Lan Wangji drops his gym bag between his feet and crowds next to Wei Wuxian. The arm holding the bar above doesn't touch him, but Wei Wuxian finds himself enveloped in the space it makes beside Lan Wangji, like he's standing in this little pocket protected from the rest of the passengers. It's too noisy to talk, but this, Wei Wuxian thinks, staring resolutely at Lan Wangji's shoulder and not his face, this is what it could be, and he gets angry all over again, the turmoil of his emotions churning uncomfortably in his stomach.

A-Yuan's preschool is a good school in a good neighborhood with a good reputation. The Gusu school system is one of the best, and A-Yuan likes his teachers and has friends, and that's really all Wei Wuxian can ask for.

His bad mood loosens its grip when A-Yuan lights up and yells, "Baba! Gege!" upon seeing them. He runs over and slams into Wei Wuxian's legs giving him a solid, full-body hug before turning to do the same to Lan Wangji. Lan Wangji has shifted his gym bag into the hand with his briefcase so he can pat A-Yuan on his head. To Wei Wuxian's eye, Lan Wangji still looks a little surprised by his kid's open affection, and his bad mood loosens its hold even more to see it.

How can he be mad at Lan Wangji for wanting to spend time with his son?

A-Yuan's teacher follows him over, smiling and bobbing a greeting. She hands the check-out clipboard to Wei Wuxian for him to sign and turns to Lan Wangji and A-Yuan. "And who's this? Can you introduce me, A-Yuan?"

"This is Lan-gege!" A-Yuan says cheerfully. "Lan-gege, this is Wang-laoshi! She's the best teacher in the whole school!"

"A-Yuan is too kind," Wang-laoshi says with a smile.

"I'm Lan Wangji. A pleasure to meet you," Lan Wangji introduces himself properly.

"Ah, Lan Wangji is my . . ." Wei Wuxian's head abruptly empties of words, a jumble of descriptors he could give—colleague? friend? husband? crush?—that are all wrong in different ways.

"Ah, your good friend. A-Yuan mentioned he was a good cook," Wang-laoshi says before the unfinished silence becomes awkward. She gives Wei Wuxian a knowing look that does nothing for his heart rate or the blood rushing to his cheeks. Lan Wangji made dinner and breakfast two days in a row. Just what did A-Yuan say?!

He doesn't dare look at Lan Wangji, and it takes a minute for him to register that Wang-laoshi is still speaking.

"It's very nice to finally meet you, too," she's saying to Lan Wangji. "It's always good to meet the important people in A-Yuan's life—especially before we need to call you!"

If it were possible for lightning to strike him down right now, Wei Wuxian would welcome it. His whole body goes hot then cold as he realizes what she's talking about—A-Yuan's emergency contact list. Which Wei Wuxian filled out months and months ago when he started fostering A-Yuan in Caiyi. Which requires the names of two adults. Which lists Lan Wangji as the second adult.

Lan Wangji is polite as always, but Wei Wuxian can feel his eyes on him as they make their goodbyes and head home. A-Yuan, still full of energy, runs ahead of them on the sidewalk and then back, telling them to watch as he does a series of jumps. Wei Wuxian exclaims over him and ignores Lan Wangji at his side even though it is entirely impossible for him to ever ignore Lan Wangji.

"You gave my name to the school?" Lan Wangji breaks the silence at last, after A-Yuan has run ahead again.

Wei Wuxian shrugs, trying to play it cool. "In case they can't reach me." He glances over to find Lan Wangji's gaze fixed on him with some unnamable expression on his face. "Aiya, don't look at me like that." He can feel himself blushing again. "I had to put somebody down! He's your son, too," he adds, hoping the joke will make Lan Wangji stop staring. Wei Wuxian can't take it.

"Mn," is all Lan Wangji says, which could mean yes or no, but probably yes if he's still determined to play along with this whole domestic fiasco.

And that's fine. Really. Wei Wuxian loves the domestic fiasco if it means more reasons to hang out with Lan Wangji. He's still not sure what Lan Wangji is getting out of it. Associating with Wei Wuxian has never led to anything good in the past, as Lan Xichen was so helpful in pointing out today. He's still not convinced Lan Wangji has fully forgiven him. They haven't ever talked about it.

Wei Wuxian had been grateful for that at first, but now he's really regretting it. He also doesn't know how to bring it up without reminding Lan Wangji, who will probably come to his senses and leave once it's out in the open. Maybe that would be better after all, he thinks morosely, his mood plummeting again, the specter of Lan Xichen's unsaid dictate pulsing uncomfortably in the back of his head. Then it will be Lan Wangji's idea to leave instead.

What's the worst that could happen? He goes on raising A-Yuan. He doesn't eat lunch with Lan Wangji everyday.

He scowls, feeling like kicking something.

Lan Wangji sends him a few looks, which Wei Wuxian returns with a sarcastic, sunny smile he doesn't feel. By the time they make it home, even A-Yuan has picked up on Wei Wuxian's black mood, despite Wei Wuxian's efforts to hide it from him. He forces himself to cheer up and play with A-Yuan while Lan Wangji makes dinner. They manage to make it through the evening. He thinks he's done pretty well, back to his usual self by the time A-Yuan is in bed.

That is, until he returns to the living room to find Lan Wangji waiting for him on the couch. His light-colored eyes zero in on Wei Wuxian immediately. He's already cleaned the kitchen and picked up the living room so there's nothing for Wei Wuxian to do. He goes into the kitchen anyway, opening cabinet doors to make sure everything was put away properly. Or something.

He hears soft footsteps behind him. "Wei Ying."

"What?" He stares at the stack of plates. Counts them. He's pretty sure he should own more plates than that.

"You are upset."

"I'm not upset." He's calm, even tempered.

"Wei Ying," and damn it, Lan Wangji sounds both annoyed and concerned, and so fucking sincere. He's so good. He's more than Wei Wuxian deserves and now he's gone and gotten them into this mess.

"Wei Ying, please. Tell me what happened today to upset you," Lan Wangji says. "Was it something I said at lunch?"

"No!" Wei Wuxian says immediately, finally turning around to face him.

Lan Wangji stands straight and tall next to the dining table, his sleeves still rolled up from doing the dishes, baring his forearms in a way that does things to Wei Wuxian. Lan Wangji waits patiently, a little furrow of concern between his eyebrows that would be full-blown alarm on anyone else.

Wei Wuxian lets out a heavy breath, his chest feeling like it's wrapped up in a constricting knot. "It was nothing you said or did. At least not today."

Lan Wangji inhales a little, his sharp eyes meeting Wei Wuxian's for a moment before Wei Wuxian has to look away.

"Someone said something about us," he guesses. Wei Wuxian nods, staring at the floor.

"It's fine," he says quickly, smiling and risking a quick look up. The expression on Lan Wangji's face says that it is not fine, and now Wei Wuxian is annoyed at him. "Look, we could have guessed this would happen when word got around. I mean I'm a notorious fuck-up and you're you. Of course people would say we weren't suited for each other."

"You are not a fuck-up," Lan Wangji says, catching Wei Wuxian entirely off-guard. He can't help but stare.

"Language! Lan Wangji, I can't believe you!" Wei Wuxian laughs at the novelty, feeling on the edge of making up fifteen jokes.

"Wei Ying. Be serious."

"I am serious! I've never heard you swear before! I've known you since we were teenagers and not once have I heard you curse! I have to write this down. I have to tell everyone!"

But Lan Wangji doesn't take the bait like he would have when they were younger. He keeps his intense gaze on Wei Wuxian. "Who told you we should not be together?"

Like that, Wei Wuxian's laughter dies. The way Lan Wangji says it, like he thinks they should be, like they are hits him hard. It's a game, of course it's a game, he reminds himself, but Lan Wangji doesn't look like he's playing. Wei Wuxian hugs his arms around himself.

"I don't want to tell you," says Wei Wuxian in a fit of honesty, a pout nevertheless less settling in.

"Why not?"

"Because, it's not a big deal? Anyway, what if they're right? We can go back to the way things were a few days ago, the rumors will die down. We might need to stay away from each other for a while to really make things stick, then it will blow over and we can have lunch together again, once a week maybe."

That could work; the plan forms in his head as he rambles. Wei Wuxian nods, eyes on the middle distance as he thinks it through. That would satisfy everyone, make sure things aren't that serious, that no one can say that Lan Wangji is lowering himself. It will suck for Wei Wuxian of course, but he's used to that.

"Stay away from each other?" Lan Wangji's deep voice cuts in.

"Yes. I can't say I'm wild about the idea either." Wei Wuxian manages to grin at him, glad they're on the same page. "It's been nice not having to do the dishes every night. But then you won't have to worry about me messing up your life—"

"Wei Ying!" Lan Wangji raises his voice to interrupt, and Wei Wuxian is surprised enough to stop. Interrupting is another thing that Lan Wangji rarely does, and now that he has, Wei Wuxian actually looks at him.

To anyone else he might look as unexpressive as usual, but the press of his lips, the slight flare of his nostrils, the slight widening of his eyes as he searches Wei Wuxian's face tell a different story.

"Are you so eager to end our lunches together?"

"No! I mean—" But with Lan Wangji looking at him like he's upset, Wei Wuxian doesn't know what to say. "Shouldn't we?"

He doesn't know what he wants Lan Wangji's answer to be. That's a lie. He knows exactly what he wants it to be and it's not what he should want.

"If you enjoy them and I enjoy them, then I see no reason to stop," Lan Wangji says firmly.

Relief rolls through Wei Wuxian like a wave washing him clean. But it doesn't fix things. Wei Wuxian blows out a breath.

"Lan Zhan, word has gotten around that we're married," he says, trying to get through to him about how bad an idea this is. They should end it before things get worse. "Our colleagues all know and word has spread to every floor of the company. Whatever I do or say will now reflect on you. I don't want to damage your reputation."

"Who would think so poorly of you that it would reflect badly on me?" Lan Wangji demands. "You are a diligent employee and a good and honorable man."

"I haven't always been so good," Wei Wuxian says, flustered by the praise.

"Hmm." Lan Wangji's lips thin, annoyed again. "That was in the past."

"Well, some people have long memories," Wei Wuxian snaps.

Lan Wangji's eyes narrow then widen, and Wei Wuxian recognizes a moment too late that he has given too much away.

"Brother," Lan Wangji says.

Wei Wuxian sighs, frustrated with himself for slipping up and feeling terrible for putting that hurt expression on Lan Wangji's face. "I'm sorry. This is why I didn't want to tell you. I know you're close and he only wants to protect you. I don't blame him."

"It's not his place."

"He's your brother! Of course it's his place!"

"You do not tell your brother who he can and cannot see."

"He lives in Yunmeng! And he gets enough of that from his mother. But it's different for you."

Lan Wangji's gaze sharpens again. "What exactly did he say?"

"It's not a big deal." Wei Wuxian waves his hand, trying to get him to calm down. If anything that just makes Lan Wangji more worked up. He takes half a step closer, his head tilting, eyes sparking in the kitchen light as he moves.

"Wei Ying."

"Okay, fine." Wei Wuxian gives up. He's only trying to save Lan Wangji's feelings here, but if he insists. His earlier annoyance and anger bubble up again, slippery and hard to define what he's actually angry about, but somehow he's mad at both Lan Xichen and Lan Wangji, and above all himself.

"He dropped by my department for an update and after we gave him our presentations he asked me to stay behind and brought up the rumors that we're married. He wants them stopped."

"He dropped by your department." Lan Wangji places each word carefully.

"Look, what's the worst that can happen? We stop hanging out and let things go back to normal?" Wei Wuxian's mouth starts running again, because he's heard that tone from Lan Wangji before and back then he'd been furious with Wei Wuxian. It's a reflex to keep talking. "It's not a big deal. I'd think you'd jump on the chance to get a break from me. I mean it's not so bad when you think about it. I really don't want to piss your brother off. He runs a good organization. It's a good job, but it's not like it'd be hard for him to find an excuse to dismiss me. I'm not that much of a model employee. He could probably cite my late reports as a reason if he wanted to."

Oh. Once the words tumble out, Wei Wuxian finds himself breathing hard. Is that what he's upset about? Not just the fact that Lan Xichen doesn't want him to see Lan Wangji but that he dropped by his department and demanded an extra report on Qishan and made insinuations about Wei Wuxian falsifying paperwork.

He can't look at Lan Wangji. He's too afraid of what he'll see there. Badmouthing his brother like that; what was he thinking?

But Lan Wangji doesn't give him a choice. He comes closer, close enough that Wei Wuxian has to look up when he's only a few feet away, so he hides his face in his hands because that's better than the anger he finds on Lan Wangji's face.

"Lan Zhan. Lan Zhan, I'm sorry."

"Do not apologize," Lan Wangji surprises him by saying. "I will speak with my brother."

"What?" Wei Wuxian laughs in disbelief, but when he drops his hands, Lan Wangji's expression is determined—or something. Wei Wuxian doesn't even know anymore. "You don't have to do that."

"It is inappropriate for him to disrupt your department's schedule and then single you out to make personal inquiries."

"You make it sound so formal," Wei Wuxian tries joking, but it's weak and they both know it. Lan Wangji is standing so close he could reach out and catch his hand or touch his chest. The way Lan Wangji is looking at him, one hand carefully behind his back—Wei Wuxian swallows and glances down.

"Was it not?" Lan Wangji says softly. "He made a formal visit his excuse to talk to you. My brother is a good man but he has his blindspots. He should not be using his position to intimidate my . . . my husband."

"Husband?" Wei Wuxian smiles a little, catching the hesitation. He wonders at it. Lan Wangji hasn't been shy about throwing it around to his advantage the last couple days, but something in how he says it now is different.

Wei Wuxian looks up at Lan Wangji through his lashes, and another knot of anxiety he didn't know he was still carrying loosens at the concern he sees on Lan Wangji’s face.

"Are we not married?" Lan Wangji replies, lifting his eyebrow, and Wei Wuxian would swear that was a playful twitch of his lips.

Feeling on firmer ground, Wei Wuxian decides he's had enough of all this heavy talk. "A proper husband would be better at comforting me when I'm upset." He sticks out his lower lip the way he does with his sister when he wants her to spoil him.

Lan Wangji's lips part, and this close, Wei Wuxian can hear his inhale. "And how would a proper husband provide comfort?"

Wei Wuxian's mouth goes dry as a sudden slew of possibilities make themselves known, like firecrackers going off in his imagination. He doesn't dare voice any of them. But he does dare.

The air between them feels fragile.

Nevertheless, Wei Wuxian straightens up and steps forward into Lan Wangji's space. Watching his face for any sign of discomfort, more than half expecting it, he reaches for Lan Wangji's elbow and draws his arm from behind his back. The other follows. Wei Wuxian steps even closer and leads Lan Wangji to place his hands on his waist. Lan Wangji remains motionless, but he doesn't flinch. Carefully, Wei Wuxian wraps his arms around his shoulders and pulls him into an embrace.

Lan Wangji hesitates for only a moment longer before his fingers flex at Wei Wuxian's waist and he slides his arms around him in return. Wei Wuxian rests his chin on Lan Wangji's shoulder and finally relaxes, letting himself press against Lan Wangji and take the comfort offered in his hug as the last of his bad day falls away.

This—well, Wei Wuxian isn't going to think too hard about this.

Later, lying a foot away from Lan Wangji in bed, it takes a long time for Wei Wuxian to fall asleep.

The next day after work, Lan Wangji goes to talk to his brother.

While he goes up to the 10th floor, Wei Wuxian goes to pick up A-Yuan on his own. They're just finishing with dinner when Lan Wangji knocks on the apartment door. He's brought with him two more suitcases to add to the gym bag he'd brought over the day before, and Wei Wuxian steps aside to let him in without a word.

Lan Wangji looks tired and impatient. Probably hungry too. Wei Wuxian goes to fix him a plate while A-Yuan yells and goes to hug his leg.

"All right, all right, let him eat," he shoos A-Yuan off when he comes back to the dining area. Lan Wangji bends to help A-Yuan up and sits down at the place Wei Wuxian sets for him. A-Yuan immediately tries to crawl into his lap.

"A-Yuan!" Wei Wuxian says, reaching for him.

"He's fine," says Lan Wangji, shaking his head at Wei Wuxian and helping A-Yuan up to settle comfortably against him, one arm coming around the kid to make sure he doesn't fall.

"You'll spoil him," Wei Wuxian says, sitting in the chair across the table. A-Yuan grins at him cheekily.

"I missed you, Lan-gege!"

"Yeah, yeah. Don't you want to go play?"

A-Yuan shakes his head, and Lan Wangji smiles, so there's that battle lost.

Wei Wuxian sighs. "How did it go?"

"Fine." Lan Wangji tucks into his dinner.

"Just fine?" Wei Wuxian presses.


"He didn't disown you?"

Lan Wangji sends him a quelling look for that.

"What? It happens," Wei Wuxian says defensively. 

"What's disown?" A-Yuan asks, making Wei Wuxian curse internally at his own big mouth. It's definitely not something A-Yuan needs to be thinking about so soon after getting a new home. As a kid, Wei Wuxian never stopped living with the niggling fear of being kicked out of the Jiang household, and even though he's an adult now, the fear still tastes bitter at the back of his throat on the rare occasion he and Madame Yu are at the same family gathering.

"It's a grown-up thing," Wei Wuxian tells him. "Nothing for you to worry about." He's not going to let A-Yuan ever fear that he's going to lose Wei Wuxian.

Lan Wangji sets his chopsticks down for a moment. "I had a civil conversation with my brother," he says. "He conveys his apologies and agreed that our relationship was only to be discussed outside of work hours and would have no bearing on your continued employment."

"Well that's nice of him to say," Wei Wuxian replies with no little sarcasm. He fiddles with the chopstick rest left on the table.

"He was sincere," Lan Wangji says. He catches A-Yuan's hand before he can grab onto his chopsticks.

"I want dessert!"

"Not on weekdays," Wei Wuxian says automatically, his attention fixed on Lan Wangji. He has no doubt that Lan Wangji believes Lan Xichen, but he's not sure that he does.

Lan Wangji must see his hesitation on his face because he says softly, "Wei Ying, do you trust me?"

"Yes." That's the easy question to answer. "I just don't know if I can trust your brother to keep his word."

"Trust me when I say he will not break his word to me," Lan Wangji says. He holds Wei Wuxian's gaze, calm and as sincere as he knows how to be. It's the same expression that always cuts Wei Wuxian to the quick, a promise of its own.

Slowly, Wei Wuxian nods. How can he not? Lan Wangji has always made good on his promises to Wei Wuxian.

Lan Wangji nods in return, the matter seemingly settled. But he doesn't pick up his chopsticks. He hesitates, eyes dropping to the table. "There's something else."

Wei Wuxian's stomach clenches. "What?"

Lan Wangji steals himself, his expression smoothing out to neutral and unreadable. "Brother also invited us to dinner this weekend. He wants to meet you and A-Yuan properly."

Wei Wuxian sucks in a breath, but Lan Wangji isn't done.

"He wants to invite Uncle as well."

Shit. He's a dead man. "What did you say?"

"I said I would discuss it with you."

Wei Wuxian might be having a coronary. Or whiplash. Or both. There's too much happening in this conversation for him to process. He stares at Lan Wangji for just offering him the choice like that.

"Do you want to go?" Lan Wangji asks very quietly, his eyes dropping, and Wei Wuxian is expected to make a decision now?

"I'm fairly certain I never wanted to run into your uncle again after leaving school. No offense," says Wei Wuxian. "Your brother doesn't like me much, either."

"He doesn't know you," Lan Wangji corrects, and the warmth that floods Wei Wuxian at that is enough to settle some of his nerves.

"They're important to you," he says.

"Mn." Lan Wangji isn't looking at him, his attention on A-Yuan as the kid makes another go for his chopsticks. Lan Wangji bounces A-Yuan a little to distract him, and when Wei Wuxian remains silent, thinking, he resumes eating.

He's going to say yes. Of course he is. He's not going to turn his back on Lan Wangji's family even if he's apprehensive about the invitation, but Wei Wuxian can recognize a peace offering when he sees one. If it makes Lan Wangji happy, he'll go and gladly.

"All right. Let's do it." Oh god, he's going to voluntarily have dinner with Lan Qiren. Wei Wuxian grins to cover the resurgence of nerves now that he's said it out loud. But he gets a faint smile from Lan Wangji that makes it worth it.

A-Yuan makes another play for dessert, and this time he isn't easily distracted. He knows he's found an ally in Lan Wangji. When both of them turn pleading eyes on Wei Wuxian it's not fair. Is this what he looks like when he begs his sister to baby him? He should stop that.

"Why do I have to be the mean parent?" he whines. "Lan Wangji, don't tell me you have a secret sweet tooth, too."

"I enjoy desserts," Lan Wangji says with a touch of longing in his voice, and Wei Wuxian remembers he grew up with a distant father and Lan Qiren, and he has a little more sympathy.

"Okay fine!" Wei Wuxian throws up his hands. "You can each have one ginger candy, but that's it. No sneaking more on a weeknight." He wags his finger at them mock-severely as if he really is the stern parent who won't tolerate any more of this nonsense.

A-Yuan cheers and runs to stand expectantly in front of the kitchen cabinet above the sink where Wei Wuxian had to move the candy when the little monster learned how to climb on the counter. Lan Wangji's eyes crinkle in amusement and he stands more slowly, going to the cabinet to fetch them their treats.

Meanwhile, Wei Wuxian takes a moment to wrap his head around his life. Dinner with the Lans. Nope, he still can't do it—if he thinks about it his head might explode.

His eyes land vaguely on the two suitcases Lan Wangji left by the door when he arrived.

That is some ballsy game, he thinks, and it's really not any better to focus on. Never mind dinner with the Lans, Lan Wangji is apparently moving in. Because they're married and have a kid.

His mind flicks to the hug from last night and how good Lan Wangji's arms felt around him. Marry him for real, Nie Huaisang had said.

Ugh. He lets his head thunk to the table and squeezes his eyes shut.

It's too surreal for Wei Wuxian to argue with. So what if Lan Wangji wants to move in? That's fine. That's all fine here. They'll be like roommates who pretend they're married. And sometimes hug. He's still not willing to be the first to admit it's all pretend. What that would do to his reputation of shamelessness—nope, not happening.

Besides if Wei Wuxian draws the line here, then Lan Wangji will be alone, and A-Yuan will miss him, and that's not fair either.

So, yes he is one hundred percent fine with this. He presses his forehead against the table to feel the pressure against his skull. It's soothing. He's fine.

Besides, he thinks, sitting up and giving himself a mental shake, he's great at games. He beat Jiang Cheng at everything. He can totally turn this to his advantage. If Lan Wangji wants to move in, then Wei Wuxian is ready.

Half an hour later, Wei Wuxian is contemplating which of his long-sleeve shirts spark the most joy and which can be stuffed in a bag and shoved under the bed. The burgundy one he's holding doesn't give him that warm feeling but he needs to wear something to work so he keeps it and discards its near-twin in an orange shade. Reds are definitely his color. He doesn't even know what he was thinking buying the orange one. He never wears it.

"Wei Ying." Lan Wangji's voice from the bedroom doorway startles him, and Wei Wuxian nearly trips on the piles of clothes scattered like an archipelago around him.

"Lan Zhan!" Wei Wuxian grins brightly, gleeful in anticipation of Lan Wangji's reaction. "Don't mind all this. I'll clear it away in a minute. Come here! Tell me what you think." He gestures Lan Wangji over and grandly sweeps his arms toward the half-emptied closet. "Is that going to be enough space for your clothes, do you think? I also cleared out one of the dresser drawers and I can make room in another if you need more space for your socks or something."

Lan Wangji's expression doesn't crack—Wei Wuxian doesn't even get a raised eyebrow! He looks over the half-empty closet with a critical eye before turning to Wei Wuxian.

"It is sufficient," he says with a tiny nod of approval.

Wei Wuxian suppresses the urge to roll his eyes at Lan Wangji’s thick face. Of course he'd treat this entirely seriously, Wei Wuxian thinks with fondness.

"Great! I'll just move all this." He crouches to gather up the armload of clothes and dumps it on the floor on his side of the bed. He'll deal with it later. He dusts his hands off and looks up. Lan Wangji is watching him, his head tilted a little in disapproval, an expression that reminds Wei Wuxian of their school days when he'd broken one of the rules. "What?"

Lan Wangji stares at him for a beat. "Your clothes will get wrinkled."

"Oh, don't worry about it," Wei Wuxian can't help but laugh and wave him off. "I'm not going to wear them anytime soon anyway. Here, you get your stuff and unpack. What time is it?"

"Nearly eight. A-Yuan is tired."

"Okay, then I'll get him in bed while you make yourself at home." He waves to encompass the room, but even at that Lan Wangji barely blinks. Wei Wuxian is clearly going to have to try harder.

"I'd like to help," he says. "With A-Yuan's bedtime," he clarifies at Wei Wuxian's confusion.

Well, that wasn't the expected retaliation, but Lan Wangji is good at surprising him. Wei Wuxian nods, not letting it phase him. "Of course. He's your son, too. What if one of these nights he wants you to do bedtime instead of me, hm?"


Damn, Lan Wangji is uncrackable tonight.

They go gather up A-Yuan, who is indeed tired even though he protests leaving his toys. He flops around in Wei Wuxian's arms and fights getting into pajamas, complaining that all the ones Wei Wuxian offers him are wrong.

"A-Yuan, just choose. These are your options," Wei Wuxian shakes the yellow robots and the purple unicorns in each hand. He refuses to look up at Lan Wangji, feeling weirdly like he's being tested and evaluated on how well he can get his unruly kid into pajamas. A-Yuan hasn't been difficult the last few days, but now it looks like Lan Wangji is going to get a show, and Wei Wuxian is surprised to find himself a little embarrassed.

A-Yuan's lower lip juts out and he stubbornly shakes his head.

"All right, I'll pick." Wei Wuxian starts wrestling A-Yuan out of his day clothes and into the unicorns, being as gentle as he can while A-Yuan protests that it's not fair, he wants the robots.

"Well, you should have picked the robots sooner then. You can wear them tomorrow night, all right?" Wei Wuxian smooths A-Yuan's hair from his face and bops his nose before he starts crying for real. "Ah, what's this? Did I grab your nose?" He waves his fist in mock-surprise, and A-Yuan reluctantly smiles.

"Baba, no! Give me my nose back!"

"I don't know, maybe it's my nose now. How would I look with two of them?"

"Baba!" A-Yuan says with the wail of a child who loves and despairs at being teased. Wei Wuxian lets out an internal sigh of relief at the meltdown averted and grabs A-Yuan up into a hug. "Here, Lan Zhan, you hold onto A-Yuan's nose." Wei Wuxian "hands" it to Lan Wangji who hesitates for half a heartbeat before reaching down to "accept" it.

"Gege, no!" A-Yuan giggles, twisting in Wei Wuxian's arms but not trying to leave them. He's got one elbow hooked around Wei Wuxian's neck for balance as he reaches up toward Lan Wangji.

With his signature solemnity, even in this, Lan Wangji kneels down beside them and taps A-Yuan's nose. "There. Your nose is returned."

A-Yuan is captured in the spell of his calm, and his eyes are very serious when he bobs his head and says, "Thank you, Gege."

Wei Wuxian has to bury his face in A-Yuan's hair before he combusts from the immense feelings in his chest that he has no idea what to do with. He takes a moment to inhale the grounding scent of little boy and collect himself. His heart can't take this.

"All right, all right," he says, emerging after a few deep breaths. He smiles at A-Yuan, loving him so much. "Let's show Lan Zhan how good you are at brushing your teeth."

The rest of the bedtime routine goes smoothly—brushing teeth and a story and goodnight kisses. Lan Wangji doesn't even hesitate before brushing his lips on A-Yuan's chubby cheeks, and A-Yuan pats his face before snuggling into his blankets.

Wei Wuxian does the dishes while he contemplates what he should do next to get under Lan Wangji's skin. Normally he would wait until he's desperate to do the dishes, but Lan Wangji has done them the last few nights and cooked, and it gives Wei Wuxian something to do while Lan Wangji unpacks his suitcases in Wei Wuxian's bedroom.

Sometime while they were putting A-Yuan to bed, Wei Wuxian realized that Lan Wangji was genuinely enjoying playing along with being A-Yuan's parent. Enjoying it so much he wasn't really playing. He couldn't have said exactly what made him think that. Reading Lan Wangji was one part watching for his tells, one part guesswork, and one part some immeasurable intuition that Wei Wuxian has apparently acquired through sheer proximity.

He likes to think so anyway, but he's starting to think he might be bad at it. Which brings him back to trying to figure out what might work to crack that Lan exterior.

Wei Wuxian was an expert at pissing off Lan Wangji when they were younger, both intentionally and just by existing, and he can't figure out why none of his escalations have worked to get Lan Wangji to admit this is all farce. When they were younger, any hint of intimacy between them would have sent Lan Wangji recoiling like a spring. The professionally distant nature of their new friendship at World Aid had to all appearances been more of the same and had given Wei Wuxian no indication that his shamelessness would somehow lead to Lan Wangji putting his clothes in Wei Wuxian's closet.

Or wearing his light-blue striped pajama set in Wei Wuxian's apartment.

Wei Wuxian stares when he finishes the dishes and finds Lan Wangji reading on the couch, dressed for bed in matching tops and bottoms. He'd missed seeing them last night when Lan Wangji had gone straight to bed after changing in the bathroom, and they were hidden under the blanket when Wei Wuxian came to bed at eleven.

Lan Wangji in pajamas looks so soft and approachable—so different from the stoic face he shows the rest of the world that all Wei Wuxian can do is soak it in.

But after a moment, Wei Wuxian shakes himself back to reality; he's being ridiculous. Lan Wangji is clearly trying to push Wei Wuxian's buttons right back. It's not gonna work. Well, Wei Wuxian amends in his head, it's working, but he's not going to admit it.

Wei Wuxian oh-so-casually plops down on the other end of the couch and puts his feet on the coffee table as if this is perfectly normal. He has his own evening routine that consists of pulling out his phone and alternating wasting time on the Internet with trying to decide whether or not he should text Nie Huaisang. But looking back over their last conversation, Nie Huaisang's good advice seems to have run out.

His siblings' group chat offers a welcome distraction when A-Li sends today's baby pictures of Jin Ling rolling around on his floor mat and looking adorable. He coos appropriately in emoji and mocks Jiang Cheng for just sending a thumbs up—Jin Ling deserves hearts and starry eyes—all the while shoving down the guilt that he needs to tell them about A-Yuan, and he needs to do it before they hear it about it from someone else.

When the chat dies down, he lets his head fall back on the cushions and lets out a gusty sigh. He's really not looking forward to that.

A rustle from Lan Wangji precedes a soft, "Is everything all right?"

"Fine," Wei Wuxian sighs again, not wanting to bother Lan Wangji with his problems. He's done enough of that already.


Wei Wuxian rolls his head toward Lan Wangji without lifting it up. That didn't sound like an "Mn" that particularly believed him. Lan Wangji returns his gaze steadily, but it doesn't feel like a scolding. Maybe more like making space in case Wei Wuxian wants to tell him.

Or it could be Wei Wuxian reading into the silences of the most laconic man he knows. He needs to get a grip.

He goes back to scrolling through his social media accounts, saving the cat videos to show A-Yuan later if he needs cheering up. He'll worry about telling his family after he gets through dinner with the Lans. Dealing with one angry family at a time seems like a good idea.

A while later, Lan Wangji closes his book and stands up. It's five to nine, which is Lan Wangji's bedtime. Wei Wuxian grins when Lan Wangji turns toward him. Last night they'd exchanged quiet good nights, Wei Wuxian too worried to do more before diving back into distractions on the internet. Tonight, however, when Lan Wangji offers a soft,"Good night," with a slight tilt of his head, Wei Wuxian can't resist.

"Do you want me to tuck you in?" He can't keep the playfulness from his tone and honestly doesn't try very hard.

Lan Wangji's lower lip drops open a little, a movement that Wei Wuxian is pretty sure means he's surprised. Wei Wuxian wiggles in his seat a little, dropping his feet from the coffee table to the floor, raising his eyebrows in a challenging question.

Got him.

Lan Wangji's expression, however, firms up, his lips pressing together in a way that Wei Wuxian can't tell is good or bad, but he's literally on the edge of his seat now, waiting to find out.

After a long drawn out minute—maybe five; it feels like forever—Lan Wangji nods and says, "Mn."

Fuck! Wei Wuxian lets out the breath he didn't realize he'd been holding and jumps to his feet in a burst of nervous energy. That was not what Lan Wangji was supposed to say! Not that he's really disappointed.

At this point he doesn't know if he's surprised or not at Lan Wangji calling his bluff. He doesn't know anymore whether he was actually bluffing.

"I see you already read your story. Did you brush your teeth?" Wei Wuxian asks as he follows Lan Wangji down the hall.

Lan Wangji sends him a look with the corner of his mouth upticked just the tiniest amount. "I did."

"The backs, too?" Wei Wuxian asks just to be a shit.

"Mn. Also flossed." Lan Wangji enters the bedroom. Wei Wuxian stands in the doorway for a moment, admiring the elegant way he moves, even in striped pajamas. Lan Wangji pulls back the covers and sits, sliding off his slippers which he arranges neatly by the bedside. He lies down on his back, and Wei Wuxian comes over, heart beating a quick tempo, to help him draw up the covers.

Lan Wangji lies perfectly still as Wei Wuxian's knuckles graze his shoulders, his eyes fixed on Wei Wuxian's face. He can only hold that gaze for a moment before it's too much. Wei Wuxian's heart might beat out of his chest—what is he doing?—but he focuses on smoothing down the blankets, feeling the hard line of Lan Wangji's collarbones as he makes sure there are no drafts. Lan Wangji's eyes are the shade of dark honey in the low light of the bedside lamp. Wei Wuxian pats his shoulder.

"How's that? Comfy?" he asks quietly, caught in the spell that has seeped into the air between them.

"Mn," Lan Wangji says, shifting the tiniest bit to get comfortable. He doesn't look away from Wei Wuxian. His hair that usually curls over the right side of his forehead has fallen back, making him look younger, more open. Or maybe that's the way he's looking at Wei Wuxian.

Wei Wuxian has to sit down on the edge of the bed. It's part of the ritual. It isn't because he's not sure how standing works anymore.

The last step of course is the goodnight kiss. Wei Wuxian's eyes can't help themselves; they drop to Lan Wangji's lips in the barest flicker of wondering.

But that would be crossing a line.

Instead he bends and gently presses his lips to Lan Wangji's forehead. His skin is smooth and so very warm.

Wei Wuxian lingers for a moment before drawing back. Lan Wangji's eyes are closed, and his breath stutters, so subtly that if Wei Wuxian weren't so close to him he wouldn't have noticed. It's reassuring—what is running through that head of his?—and some of the tension in Wei Wuxian eases even as he feels about to buzz out of his skin.

He smiles shakily when Lan Wangji opens his eyes. "Good night."

Lan Wangji's eyes are once more unfathomable. "Good night."

Wei Wuxian turns off the light and retreats.

A few minutes later, he stands in the living room with his hands in his hair, staring at nothing, wondering what the hell he's playing at. He is in so much trouble.

Chapter Text

Over the course of the last four days, Wei Wuxian has given one hug, received one hug, given one goodnight kiss (chaste), and spent four nights sleeping (for values of sleeping that include lying in bed thinking too much) a foot away from Lan Wangji. He has eaten four breakfasts cooked by the man, had one cup of tea served in bed, and eaten two and half dinners he made. They have picked up A-Yuan from school, played with him, and put him to bed together. They have sat in companionable silence and had two conversations with more emotions in them than Wei Wuxian usually cares for.

Every time Wei Wuxian thinks he's got a play that will make Lan Wangji balk, Lan Wangji steps into his move and Wei Wuxian is suddenly left with a (mostly metaphorically) armful of Lan Wangji.

It's terrifying. It's thrilling.

It makes his heart pound and his palms sweat, and now that Wei Wuxian is starting to expect Lan Wangji to go along with his pushing the boundary beyond just friends, he thinks he might be addicted to the charge in the air each tease leaves behind.

He wants Lan Wangji so much.

The next few days don't make things better. In fact, every day that Lan Wangji brings more of his things over, Wei Wuxian dies a little at each new revelation that he had no idea about.

It's the hair products that find their way into the bathroom cabinet. It's the tightly rolled sports shorts and sweat-wicking t-shirts in Lan Wangji's drawer (that Wei Wuxian swears he was absolutely not snooping into, it just used to be his sock drawer and he opened it out of habit). It's the soft cotton t-shirt with a bunny print on it that is faded and soft with age. It's the extra pair of slippers printed with little musical notes. It's the traditional guqin he sets up on its own table in the living room by the bookshelf alongside the violin he played in high school. It's the doubling quantity of vegetables in his refrigerator and the high quality cookware that slowly pushes out Wei Wuxian's battered pans.

At each new addition, another layer of Lan Wangji's perfectly curated image gets peeled back. Wei Wuxian feels like an interloper peering behind the curtain. He also doesn't have enough shame to avert his eyes.

Because the other half of seeing Lan Wangji's things, is seeing him use them. Which is harder than it sounds at first, because Lan Wangji is just there, perfectly put together each morning and it's not until Friday that Wei Wuxian realizes that if he wants the goods, he has to get up at the ass-crack of dawn.

He only wakes up because A-Yuan elbows him in the face, a sharp crack to his cheek that is both painful and disorienting. Wei Wuxian jerks and makes a choked cry, half-sitting up, still mostly asleep and fighting the blankets. A-Yuan has crawled in beside him and is worming his bony way on top of Wei Wuxian. It's not the first time the kid has woken before it's light out—it's so early it should be illegal, Wei Wuxian thinks blearily as he stares at the glow of the street lights through the window.

But it is the first time there's an answering glow from inside his room. From his closet to be exact, accompanied by a soft, "Wei Ying?" from the silhouette of Lan Wangji that has paused in the middle of pulling on those short sports shorts.

Wei Wuxian isn't sure what he's looking at for a long moment, and Lan Wangji takes a couple steps closer, enough for Wei Wuxian to see him properly in the gray light from the window. Lan Wangji's hair is flat and sticking out in odd ways. He's dressed for running in matching shorts and shirt, his feet incongruous in his music note slippers. He's tousled and clearly just out of bed—a quick glance at the red numbers of the clock say 5:08 a.m. which is definitely illegal—and all Wei Wuxian can think is that he's beautiful.

He's got beautiful ankles, and muscular calves and bare thighs. The sports shirt fits his torso like a glove, leaving very little to the imagination as it hugs his abs and chest. Wei Wuxian had known that Lan Wangji was fit, but under his dress shirts and jackets, he hadn't fully appreciated the man's biceps and shoulders.  

"Hn?" Wei Wuxian's brain is not ready to have this conversation, whatever conversation this turns out to be. He's not sure he's ready to ever have it.

It's hard to tell in the dim light, but Lan Wangji seems to be amused, maybe. He comes closer to the bed, and all Wei Wuxian can do is drink in the sight of him.

"Is he bothering you?"

"A-Yuan?" Wei Wuxian glances at the boy sprawled on top of him and shakes his head. "He does this sometimes. It's fine." He shifts a little to settle A-Yuan more comfortably on him. The kid has already gone back to sleep, but Wei Wuxian knows it's temporary. A-Yuan has always been an early riser and there's no escaping the early wake-up when he decides to pile in with Wei Wuxian.

"I am going for a run. I will be back in forty-five minutes," says Lan Wangji.

He's crazy, if you ask Wei Wuxian, but he's a good-looking crazy. "Yeah, okay. Go run." 

It doesn't take much for his eyelids to get heavy and the warm weight of A-Yuan to pull him back to sleep—at least until A-Yuan wakes up for real and starts squirming again. Wei Wuxian gently rolls him to the side to avoid any more elbows and knees to delicate places, and squints at the clock. It's almost 6:30 now, and morning light suffuses the room.

He can also hear the shower going across the hall.

Wei Wuxian lets his head drop against the pillow, his brain abruptly, entirely awake.

"Baba," A-Yuan interrupts his absolutely, one hundred percent innocent gazing at the ceiling. "I have to go pee."

Wei Wuxian looks at the four year-old and knows with every last ounce of parenting experience that he cannot ask A-Yuan to wait. A-Yuan is already wiggling where he sits, his eyes big and sincere.

"All right, all right, come on." Wei Wuxian rolls out of bed, A-Yuan scrambling after him.

He doesn't let himself hesitate before knocking on the closed bathroom door. This is A-Yuan needing the facilities, and Wei Wuxian is not going to compromise all the progress A-Yuan has made with recognizing he needs to go before it's too late to do anything about it.

"Lan Zhan?" he calls. The shower is still running. "Lan Zhan, I'm going to let A-Yuan in to pee." The knob is unlocked, so Wei Wuxian takes that as permission to usher A-Yuan in.

There. Done. He didn't even peek.

He's barely made it back into his room before the shower shuts off. Wei Wuxian resolutely ignores it, lying back down on the bed, while Lan Wangji talks with A-Yuan in soft murmurs. But a few moments later, there's no ignoring Lan Wangji walking into the bedroom with only a towel wrapped around his waist.

Wei Wuxian is not prepared. He stares.

Lan Wangji hesitates for a second when he sees Wei Wuxian, face an unreadable mask, but he continues on to the dresser. The only sign of discomfort is the way his ears turn pink in the morning sunlight.

He's still damp and his hair curls around his ears. The hints of physique Wei Wuxian had glimpsed before his run are on full display: broad shoulders and strong arms, muscled chest and abs Wei Wuxian wants to lick all the way down to the devastating dusting of hair just below his navel. When Lan Wangji turns away, Wei Wuxian is granted the view of the smooth expanse of his back that slopes down to the curve of his towel-covered ass.

Wei Wuxian pulls his pillow over his face and bites it.

Wei Wuxian:
here is my last will and testament
my darling son A-Yuan gets everything except for the following
my skateboard goes to jiang cheng
also my ancient collection of loose change because we all know how he worries about how I spend my money

Nie Huaisang:
doesn't that skateboard only have three wheels

Wei Wuxian:
he can buy a new wheel with the loose change
shijie gets the curtains she bought me because they shouldn't go to waste
also the little figurine of the dancing cat

Nie Huaisang:
why are you giving your things away

Wei Wuxian:
it's my last will and testament!
keep up!

Nie Huaisang:
I'm pretty sure you're not of sound mind
but okay
I'll bite
why are you writing your will
does lan wangji get anything

Wei Wuxian:
he gets nothing
he's why I'm dying!

Nie Huaisang:
this I gotta hear

Wei Wuxian:
you're not getting anything either
we are no longer friends
it's your fault
why did I ever listen to you??!?!

Nie Huaisang:
because I'm brilliant and your crush on lan wangji could be seen from space
you're welcome
he's still staying with you I take it
have you fucked yet

Wei Wuxian:
what's wrong with you

Wei Wuxian:
but I really wanna
I saw him in a towel
I watched him get dressed
I might have peeked into the bathroom while he was doing his hair

Nie Huaisang:
tell me more
did you see his ass
is he as perfect as he was in high school

Wei Wuxian:
I hate you so much
his ass stayed under the towel :disappointed:
probably a good thing
shirtless nearly killed me
and the worst part is he's so good to me I can't sully that

Nie Huaisang:
he's pretending to be married to you
pretty sure he wants you to sully him

Wei Wuxian:
but what if he doesn't?!?
he hasn't said anything

Nie Huaisang:
he never says much of anything
you have to infer

Wei Wuxian:
he says plenty if you let him talk
he reads to A-Yuan and talks to him so seriously
it's so cute
he's really good with him

Nie Huaisang:
but is he good with you :wink:
is he meeting your needs

Wei Wuxian:
shut up

Wei Wuxian:
he gave me a hug
and let me tuck him into bed

Nie Huaisang:
you are so pathetically vanilla

Wei Wuxian:
I don't think he likes me that way!

Nie Huaisang
how are you getting that out of the fact that he says you're married and is playing house
a grown man
who has a reputation for never doing anything he doesn't mean

Wei Wuxian:
aren't guys not supposed to assume their female friends are into them?
doesn't the same apply to your male friends?

Nie Huaisang:
so find out
by sticking your tongue down his throat
I can send you some porn links if you need help figuring out where everything goes

Wei Wuxian:
:middle_finger: :middle_finger:
I'm not going to ruin our friendship you asshole
I'm pretty sure it's going to end tonight anyway
we're having dinner with his brother and uncle

Nie Huaisang:
oh shit
lan qiren
okay I see why you were giving away your worldly possessions
dibs on your couch

Wei Wuxian:
you don't get my fucking couch!

Nie Huaisang:
it's a nice couch

Wei Wuxian:
you aren't getting the couch

It is a nice couch though, Wei Wuxian thinks, stretching out longways. He glances at the time and then tosses his phone on the coffee table. Three hours to go before he meets his doom.

Well, the doom he's not currently living with.

He looks at the corner where Lan Wangji is listening very seriously to A-Yuan as he explains what his stuffed rabbits are doing in the little block house he made them. The blocks make outlines on the floor for each room. The rabbits look like giants. Lan Wangji looks like an even bigger giant, but a beautiful one sitting with his legs crossed and good posture, with his hair styled out of his face, and his short-sleeve blouse showing off his forearms.

Wei Wuxian can't help but think of what he looks like out of his clothes too. His glimpse yesterday was followed by a more surreptitious one this morning. Wei Wuxian feels terrible for acting like a creeper but not so terrible that he didn't set his phone to vibrate to wake him up now that he knows that peak Lan Wangji time is before seven.

Lan Wangji glances over at him. When their eyes meet Wei Wuxian feels his face flush, and he quickly looks away before Lan Wangji plucks the dirty thoughts from his head.

Fuck. It was one thing to tease him when they were younger when Wei Wuxian was entirely oblivious to his own preferences. It was quite another when retrospectively a lot of things are becoming abundantly clear about why Wei Wuxian always wanted Lan Wangji's attention.

Well, now he has it, and it's too much for Wei Wuxian's poor heart to handle.

He rubs a hand over his eyes, trying to get his head on straight. He can't walk into enemy territory distracted and expect to make it out alive.

"Wei Ying, are you all right?" Lan Wangji asks in his deep voice.

"Fine!" he replies from beneath his hand because there's no other answer.

"Are you sure?" Lan Wangji asks, and Wei Wuxian can't help the small dry laugh that he's been seen through so easily.

He lets his hand drop and levels a look Lan Wangji's way. "What do you think?"

Lan Wangji's gaze is steady, and fuck, he's beautiful even when he's staring Wei Wuxian down. Or maybe they're just looking at each other. Lan Wangji's expressions are tiny but there if you pay attention. He's got that little frown line between his eyes and seems to be hesitating about what to say.

"Dinner will be fine," he finally says as softly as before.

"Easy for you to say," Wei Wuxian says.

"We're going to see Lan-gege's brother and uncle," A-Yuan contributes. He'd been a little unsure when they'd told him, but has warmed to the idea since. "They're nice!"

Wei Wuxian had told him that so he wouldn't be nervous. They'll probably be nice to A-Yuan so maybe it will be partially true when they go over.

"Wei Ying." Lan Wangji unfolds gracefully to his feet and comes over to the couch. Feeling vulnerable lying down, Wei Wuxian scoots up and twists so he's sitting properly, and is surprised when Lan Wangji sits beside him, close enough for their knees to touch. He startles when Lan Wangji takes his hand and threads their fingers together.

His long fingers are warm, and they close gently around Wei Wuxian's. Lan Wangji sets their joined hands on Wei Wuxian's knee, looking at them for a moment before finally raising his gaze to meet Wei Wuxian's. There's color on his cheeks, which is both endearing and makes the fast heartbeat in Wei Wuxian's veins calm a little.

Lan Wangji is holding his hand and he meets Wei Wuxian's eyes without wavering. It's brave, Wei Wuxian thinks, wondering whether this is another challenge or something else—Nie Huaisang's texts are bright in his mind. Would Lan Wangji be holding his hand if he didn't want to?

"I know my family can be difficult to please," Lan Wangji says, bringing Wei Wuxian back to the crisis at hand. "I know this dinner is not something you want to attend."

"It's just a lot, so soon," Wei Wuxian says quickly, overcome by a wave of guilt. Here he is whining, whining, whining. It's just dinner. His fingers reflexively clench around Lan Wangji's, and Lan Wangji squeezes back.

"I know. I told my brother I expect him and Uncle to be polite."

Wei Wuxian gives Lan Wangji a disbelieving half-smile. "And you expect that to work?"

He gets an answering shrug and a softening of Lan Wangji's eyes. "I expect that it will mean we do not start off the evening with hostilities." His expression softens even more. "We won't stay late."

"Mark your words, Lan Zhan," says Wei Wuxian, raising their joined hands to point at him.

"Mn," Lan Wangji says with no little amusement. Wei Wuxian doesn't think things will go as well as Lan Wangji hopes, but he still feels better for having the words said out loud.

He slumps back against the couch, still holding Lan Wangji's hand. He's hyperaware of how close Lan Wangji's sitting, especially when he leans back, too, and their shoulders brush.

Lan Wangji doesn't let go of his hand either, and now they're both staring across the room, not looking at each other. That is, until A-Yuan tells his bunnies, "I expect you to be polite," in a tone that's a dead ringer for Lan Wangji.

Wei Wuxian bursts out laughing, and when he and Lan Wangji share an amused look between them, the weird tension bursts into something comfortable and shared, like a long held breath finally released.

Lan Wangji squeezes his hand, and it doesn't feel like a challenge or an escalation, it just feels nice.

Fortunately, Wei Wuxian doesn't have time to overthink it. Attracted by the laughter, A-Yuan runs over to them with his bunnies and crawls into Lan Wangji's lap demanding to know what's so funny. Their handhold breaks in favor of keeping A-Yuan steady. The moment fades like a retreating wave, leaving traces in the air as they focus on getting A-Yuan ready.

Lan Xichen:
Da-ge, I have a favor to ask.

Nie Mingjue:
Sure what's up?

Lan Xichen:
I know Nie Huaisang was friends with Wei Wuxian in school. Do you know if they are in touch? I recently learned that Wei Wuxian returned to Gusu and has been working for World Aid for five years.

Nie Mingjue:
And you didn't know?

Lan Xichen:
I found out this week when rumors circulated that he and Wangji were married.

Nie Mingjue:
:surprised face:

Lan Xichen:
Apparently so. The rumors are of course untrue, but when I spoke with Wangji about it he confirmed that they are seeing each other. I was wondering if you would perhaps ask your brother if he has any more insight into the situation.

Nie Mingjue:
Yeah of course
I'll ask him right now.

Nie Mingjue:
He says he doesn't know anything
I can't tell if he's just not telling me or if he's really clueless
I think he might really be clueless this time because he got all excited and wanted to know details

Lan Xichen:
Thank you for asking. I'll see if A-Yao can ask if Jiang Yanli knows anything about the situation.

Nie Mingjue:
Good luck
Tell Wangji I say hi

Jiang Yanli:
Have you talked to Wei Wuxian recently?
Like really talked?

Jiang Cheng:
Not really
It's just been the group chat and we've been sending memes but we haven't talked more than that in a month or so
What did he do?

Jiang Yanli:
I just had a very odd conversation with A-Xuan who said his brother asked if I knew anything about A-Xian seeing Lan Wangji.

Jiang Cheng:

Jiang Yanli:
I know! He would have told us, right?
Things haven't fallen apart that badly, have they?
I thought things were better
I talked to him just a few weeks ago and he didn't say anything to me!

Jiang Cheng:

Jiang Yanli:
Be nice
If he's happy that's all that matters. You know how close they were

Jiang Cheng:
I can't even right now
He always does this

Jiang Yanli:
What date? He never dates
Don't be mean about your brother

Jiang Cheng:
No! Goes off and gets in trouble!
Dragging other people into it!

Jiang Yanli:
A-Cheng, come on
It's not like he went and got Lan Wangji pregnant. They're just seeing each other
I think it's exactly what A-Xian needs

Jiang Cheng:

Jiang Yanli:
Stop being dramatic
If things hadn't gone wrong in high school they most certainly would be together by now
Everyone needs somebody to love and be loved by
I just wish he felt he could tell us :sadface:

Jiang Cheng:
Okay, that's it
I'm going up there to get to the bottom of this

Jiang Yanli:

Jiang Cheng:
He always does this!
He never tells us the important things and then he's just gone to Yiling without a word and he refuses to come home for holidays

Jiang Cheng:
You know it's true

Jiang Yanli:
Don't do anything stupid A-Cheng. I'm calling you right now. You better pick up

Lan Xichen lives in the Cloud Recesses, the ancestral home of the Lan family on the mountain that overlooks Caiyi. The drive takes forty-five minutes across town and then up the winding mountain roads through the late spring foliage. The last of the day’s sunshine filters through the leaves, and Wei Wuxian would find it very nice and peaceful if not for what awaits him at the top.

The last time he was here, things hadn't gone well. Despite Lan Wangji's reassurances, he doesn't have high hopes for this visit either.

Once they park at the main gate, they have to hike the last kilometer to the main buildings. A-Yuan holds Lan Wangji's hand and asks him question after question about the flowers and waterfalls and if he had to walk up the steps every day after school.

Lan Wangji, of course, knows the names of every plant they pass, tells A-Yuan about how cold the water is but they can go swimming sometime if he wants, and yes, once he was old enough to attend school in Caiyi he walked up the steps everyday on his way home.

"But not anymore," A-Yuan says quite seriously. "There are a lot of steps."

"Mn," Lan Wangji agrees. "Not anymore. I've lived in Caiyi since I finished university."

"And now you live with us!" A-Yuan turns his chubby-cheeked grin up at Lan Wangji, who smiles softly in return.

"Mn," he agrees again, glancing over at Wei Wuxian who finds himself faltering at the expression of deep contentment he finds there.

He's still not sure he believes Nie Huaisang's insistence that Lan Wangji wants to be with him. Not completely. Surely it's only temporary, until Lan Wangji tires of him. But Wei Wuxian is going to enjoy it while it lasts.

Lan Xichen's home is beautiful, built in the old style with a lush front garden brimming with white and blue flowers. He greets them at the door with a broad smile and ushers them inside. He and Lan Wangji don't hug or bow to each other, but Lan Xichen touches Lan Wangji's elbow and they look at each other for an extended moment, which seems to satisfy as a greeting.

"Wei-xiansheng," Lan Xichen does bow shallowly to Wei Wuxian, a good host inviting in his guest. "Welcome. Thank you for coming. I hope the journey was smooth."

"Ah yes, very smooth. Your roads are well-paved!" He chuckles at his own joke, but Lan Xichen's smile goes a little fixed and Lan Wangji levels a look at him. Wei Wuxian trails off awkwardly. "Ah . . . thank you for inviting us!" he rallies.

"Of course. I am glad to get to know my brother's friends," Lan Xichen says. "I hope our encounter at the office didn't give you the wrong impression. If it did, I apologize. I simply wanted to understand the source of the unusual rumors."

Wei Wuxian feels his eyes narrow at Lan Xichen. The Lans have a thing about always telling the truth, and he's fairly certain Lan Xichen is skirting those rules with very precise wording, never clarifying just what "impression" Wei Wuxian was supposed to take away from Monday's impromptu meeting.

But Lan Wangji asked Wei Wuxian to trust him, and he said his brother was sincere in his apologies, so he puts on a smile and says, "No harm done," which seems to satisfy everyone.

Lan Xichen even thaws a little bit, his smile relaxing into something more genuine as he turns to greet A-Yuan who is still holding Lan Wangji's hand.

"Hello. You must be A-Yuan," he says, as seriously as his brother would. "And I see you've brought a friend." Lan Xichen nods to the white bunny A-Yuan is hugging close.

"This is Bai," A-Yuan says shyly, turning his face to hide in Lan Wangji's leg.

"Nice to meet you, Bai." Lan Xichen reaches out to shake Bai's fuzzy paw, getting a giggle from A-Yuan. "Thank you for coming to dinner."

And okay, Wei Wuxian will grudgingly give Lan Xichen a few points for being good with their son. It settles his nerves a little bit, but then they follow him around the privacy screen into the living room where Lan Qiren is seated in the armchair and all his nerves come roaring back.

Lan Qiren doesn't get up. Lan Wangji gives him a short bow. "Uncle."

"Wangji," Lan Qiren nods back, his eyes turning to Wei Wuxian, hard and disapproving. "I thought surely Xichen was joking when he told me."

The disapproval is nothing new, and Wei Wuxian only refrains from retorting because Lan Wangji gets there first.

"He was not," he says, voice about twenty degrees cooler. "And neither am I."

"It's nice to see you again, too, Lan-laoshi," Wei Wuxian says, mostly keeping the sarcasm out of his voice. He hadn't promised Lan Wangji that he would be polite too, but Wei Wuxian is not above scoring points by turning up his manners to eleven.

Lan Qiren is not impressed. He hmphs and stares at the wall, not even twitching as Lan Xichen invites them to sit and pours seltzer water for everyone. Wei Wuxian sits next to Lan Wangji on the couch, A-Yuan between them while glasses clinking and water pouring sound loudly in the otherwise silent room. The tension is thick enough to cut with a knife, although Lan Wangji and Lan Xichen both ignore it as drinks are passed around.

Lan Xichen settles into the other armchair and plasters on another of his polite smiles.

"So Wei Wuxian, how do you find your work at World Aid? I must confess, I had not realized you had returned to Gusu to work with us." Lan Xichen's gaze lands on Lan Wangji at this last bit. Lan Wangji placidly takes a sip of his water and then gives his brother one of his dead-eyed glares.

Wei Wuxian watches as some conversation goes back and forth between the brothers, one too subtle for him to follow. He doesn't know whether to feel touched or offended that Lan Wangji had kept their rekindled friendship from his family.

"I find the work very rewarding," Wei Wuxian says because it's true. "Though it was not where I expected to end up."

"At World Aid or in Gusu?" Lan Xichen asks, his smile gentling.

"Both," Wei Wuxian says. Lan Wangji's head tilts toward him and Wei Wuxian laughs a little as his mouth takes over to fill the silence. "I always knew I wanted to do work that helped others, but I never imagined I would get an interview at World Aid. Really, I applied on a whim."

"Is what we do whimsical to you?" Lan Qiren interjects sharply.

"No. No, of course not," Wei Wuxian says, bristling. "I just didn't expect to get the job. Yiling isn't the most prestigious university and I'm sure there were other more capable candidates."

"You would not have been hired were you not the best person for the job," says Lan Wangji sincerely. Wei Wuxian glances over and is met with an equally sincere look that is almost too much to bear.

"Hmph." Lan Qiren is fortunately more than ready to continue to disapprove. "And what did you study in university?" he asks.

"Civil engineering," says Wei Wuxian. "Then peace studies for my graduate degree."

Lan Qiren's lips thin, and Wei Wuxian tries not to let his smug satisfaction show. Lan Qiren is one of the preeminent scholars in peace studies. He holds an emeritus position at Gusu University in the field, in addition to offering a course at the Cloud Recesses Academy for excelling high school students.

Needless to say, when Wei Wuxian was at the Academy he was not selected for the program. Lan Wangji, at the top of their class in everything, of course, was. Wei Wuxian used to pester him about it, endlessly curious even as he mocked the fact that only the most rule-abiding students were selected for it, which he found to be the height of irony given that the course was about resolving conflict.

"You matriculated a year behind your peers," Lan Qiren says.

Wei Wuxian can't quite suppress the urge to roll his eyes, but he at least turns his face away so as not to blatantly disrespect Lan Qiren. Unfortunately that means he catches sight of Lan Xichen's troubled expression, which is surprisingly the thing that sets Wei Wuxian on edge again.

He'd fucked everything up, gone off on his own, fallen in with a bad crowd, and been late to enter university. He's made peace with his past transgressions, but that doesn't mean he doesn't wish things had been different. That he wishes he could unsay some things he'd said.

He glances at Lan Wangji, but he's looking at his uncle. "Wei Wuxian graduated with distinction," he says pointedly.

"How do you know that?" Wei Wuxian says, surprised.

"You told me when we discussed your dissertation."

"That was months ago! You remembered?" Wei Wuxian vaguely recalls the conversation, notable for the fact that it was the first that Lan Wangji had initiated, coming to join him in the cafeteria after they bumped into each other again. At the time Wei Wuxian had been more than a little amused at Lan Wangji's overly serious demeanor as he'd interrogated him about his studies. It was like being in a second job interview.

"What's a dissration?" A-Yuan flops against Lan Wangji.

"Dissertation," Lan Wangji corrects his pronunciation. He lifts his arm and gently guides A-Yuan to sit up properly. "It's a long project you do in school."

"Oh." A-Yuan sighs and bounces Bai on his knee, kicking his feet out. "That sounds hard."

Lan Xichen cracks a tiny smile, earning him another few points in Wei Wuxian's good graces, though he's not sure what to make of the look he's giving his brother as A-Yuan bounces Bai to his knee and Lan Wangji murmurs a quiet hello to the stuffed rabbit.

Lan Qiren is glaring at the wall again

"A-Yuan, are you bored?" Wei Wuxian asks to change the subject.

A-Yuan knows a cue when he hears one. He nods vigorously, clutching Bai tightly in his arms. "Is it dinner yet?"

"Soon." Lan Xichen says, his expression smoothing back into politeness.

"Here, I brought a coloring book for you." Wei Wuxian finds the bag he brought and gets A-Yuan set up with his coloring book and crayons at the coffee table while Lan Xichen asks if Lan Wangji has done another composition for guqin or something, but Wei Wuxian tunes out for a minute, distracted when A-Yuan wants to look at what else is in his bag.

When he finally sits back on the couch and tries to catch up, Lan Wangji is once more glaring at his brother who has raised his eyebrows in return, and Wei Wuxian is sure he's missing something.

He's about to ask when a timer goes off in the kitchen, which prompts Lan Xichen to usher them all to the table.

Dinner is rice and various vegetable dishes, which are mostly bland and flavorless and could do with some spice, but Wei Wuxian doesn't make a fuss. A-Yuan seems to like it okay, so that's at least one battle he doesn't have to have in front of Lan Wangji's family. Doubly good because he'd forgotten about the Lan thing about not talking during meals. There's all this silence begging to be filled, but Lan Wangji, seated across from Wei Wuxian and A-Yuan, catches his eye, and Wei Wuxian swallows down the urge to chatter.

He doesn't know why he's making the effort really. He's never going to win Lan Qiren's approval. It's only for Lan Wangji's sake that he's determined to be a good guest. His family are important to him, even with all the rules and formality and silence.

Wei Wuxian is just glad that Lan Wangji has left the worst of it behind.

He feels a tug on his sleeve and glances down to see A-Yuan looking up at him like he wants to say something. Wei Wuxian leans close enough for him to whisper in his ear.

"Is there going to be dessert?" A-Yuan asks in a whisper that is nevertheless loud enough for everyone to hear.

"I don't know," Wei Wuxian replies. "Eat your vegetables."

He feels Lan Qiren's glare like a physical weight. He sits at the head of the table to A-Yuan's right, stiff-backed and like he wants to be anywhere else.

A-Yuan tugs on Wei Wuxian's sleeve again. "I really hope there's dessert," he says, and Wei Wuxian sees A-Yuan's eyes dart to Lan Xichen and Lan Wangji because he's a smart kid who knows where his best shot at dessert is.

Lan Wangji is a pushover. Wei Wuxian doesn't know about Lan Xichen yet, but he'd lay even odds given how he'd been charmed by A-Yuan's dimples earlier.

"There's no talking while eating," Lan Qiren intones, an ominous thundercloud.

A-Yuan turns to him, and says, with earnest innocence, "But I'm not eating right now."

The bark of laughter is entirely impossible to contain. Wei Wuxian immediately covers his mouth, only able to stifle the worst snort, and he knows—he knows—it's going to do the opposite of help, because A-Yuan loves making people laugh and will take it as encouragement, and Lan Qiren will of course take it as an affront.

Case in point, Lan Qiren sets his spoon down with a clank, his ire ready to blow up. His glare lands on Wei Wuxian, which is good because he wouldn't be holding back if Lan Qiren dared turn on A-Yuan. As it is Wei Wuxian glares back with his teeth bared through his sunniest smile because, really, fuck this.

"Uncle, please." Surprisingly, Lan Xichen is the one to cut in. He calmly meets Lan Qiren's gaze, an expression of entreaty on his face. Across from Wei Wuxian, Lan Wangji's expression is not so kind.

A-Yuan, picking up on the tension, shrinks against Wei Wuxian's side. "Hey, it's okay," Wei Wuxian soothes him, wrapping an arm around him. "Don't mind us fussy grown-ups. We're just being silly."

A-Yuan gives him an appropriately skeptical look, still worried, and Wei Wuxian hugs him close then tries to convince him to eat more of his dinner.

Lan Qiren settles back down, and everyone resumes eating in silence. Except after a minute, when A-Yuan leans in to ask about an unfamiliar dish, Wei Wuxian decides he is done with stupid rules. He starts a running commentary to A-Yuan about each of the vegetables on their plates, what they are for the unfamiliar ones, where they grow, what they all taste good with.

He pointedly ignores the three-way looks going on amongst the Lans.

"You can grow potatoes anywhere," he tells A-Yuan. "Even in bad soil, even on steep slopes!"

"Won't they roll downhill?" A-Yuan asks, looking skeptical.

"They're in the ground while they grow, all tucked up tight like little boys at night."

A-Yuan giggles.

"You can find them all over, but I think they started in the south."

"They originated in South America," Lan Wangji abruptly chimes in. The silent argument has apparently been decided.

"Really?" Wei Wuxian ignores Lan Qiren's scowl and smiles across at him.

He doesn't want to admit it, but being a one-man talking show surrounded by Lans being very Lan is wearing on even his nerves.

"Mn," Lan Wangji nods, eyes darting to his uncle whose jaw grinds, but remains quiet.

"They came with the Europeans a few hundred years ago," Lan Xichen, who was the last person Wei Wuxian expected support from, jumps into the conversation.

"Oh," Wei Wuxian says somewhat stupidly, not sure what to make of this odd alliance. Lan Xichen smiles agreeably at him, but unlike Lan Wangji, Wei Wuxian's not sure how to read it. This goes beyond just being polite into actively welcoming Wei Wuxian in the face of Lan Qiren's disapproval.

But then he keeps talking, giving a short history of the potato in a measured, calm tone, and answering A-Yuan's questions. Lan Wangji contributes too, Wei Wuxian makes jokes, and it's almost like a normal meal.

Until the end, when there is no dessert, and A-Yuan nearly has a meltdown.

"None?" he turns wet eyes and a trembling lip on Lan Xichen, and Wei Wuxian swears he sees the man's heart break.

This is exactly the sort of blatant manipulation Wei Wuxian employs himself, but ignores from A-Yuan as a general rule. Lan Wangji falls for it every time, and it looks like Lan Xichen is going to, too.

"Well, perhaps I can find something in the kitchen," he offers, standing up. He's taken aback when A-Yuan immediately scrambles down from his chair and runs around the table to go with him, but gamely takes A-Yuan's outstretched hand.

Once they're gone, the silence weighs down upon the room once more. Lan Wangji looks down at his empty plate, and Wei Wuxian wonders if he should offer to help clear the table as he would at his sister's house. Lan Qiren stares at the wall behind Lan Xichen's chair, intent on ignoring them both.

It is a very lovely wall, Wei Wuxian concedes, a tasteful mixture of traditional and modern aesthetic done in beautiful woods with deliberate decoration that doesn't overpower the senses.

"Your brother's home is lovely," Wei Wuxian says to fill the silence. "Do you have a place like this? Maybe we should live there instead." He grins at Lan Wangji. "It would have to be really nice though to make all those steps worth it!"

Lan Wangji's expression softens just a tiny bit, which warms Wei Wuxian's heart, but he doesn't get time to enjoy it.

At the head of the table Lan Qiren abruptly turns his head, looking between them with a growing look of fury, which finally lands on Lan Wangji.

"Wangji! You are living together!?"

"Uh," Wei Wuxian freezes even as Lan Wangji's back straightens.

"Where we reside is not your concern, Uncle."

"Not my concern!" Lan Qiren's face grows red. "You are living together! Throwing propriety into the dirt! You are shaming the name of Lan enough by associating with this . . . this—"

"Uncle!" Lan Wangji snaps, his cold glare meeting Lan Qiren's hot anger. It does nothing to quell it.

"Wei Wuxian is a disgrace to his family." He flings out a hand toward Wei Wuxian who flinches from both the gesture and the words. "He disgraced his school and he disgraced your friendship. He has brought nothing but ruin to you, Wangji! He associates with criminals and has no regard for others. Now he's here with a child, preying on you and your money!"

Wei Wuxian feels his face go hot. This is it. This is when Lan Wangji will listen to his family and come back to his senses. Nothing Lan Qiren says is wrong, except for the part about Wei Wuxian ever wanting Lan Wangji for his money. That wasn't true when he was trouble as a teenager and it's not true now.

"That was the past," Lan Wangji says, and Wei Wuxian feels every cell in his body stand at attention.

"The past shows us what the future will be!"

"It does not. Circumstances are different now."

"He was trouble then and took you with him, and now you are throwing your life away!"

"He did not make me do anything I did not wish to then, nor does he now." Lan Wangji turns and meets Wei Wuxian's eyes. Like a circuit connecting, Wei Wuxian lets go of the breath he'd been holding since Lan Wangji first contradicted his uncle.

"He got you drunk and you were picked up by the police!"

"He did not make me do anything I did not wish to," Lan Wangji repeats coldly, which is a blatant lie if Wei Wuxian remembers correctly. He'd been the one smuggling in alcohol after all, and pressuring Lan Wangji to drink. He'd been irresponsible and Lan Wangji had been the one hurt because of it.

"It was my fault," Wei Wuxian can't help but say. They've never talked about the way he'd bullied Lan Wangji into getting drunk and caused all the trouble afterward. They've never talked about how Lan Wangji tried to talk some sense into him after he'd been kicked out of school and struck out on his own to Yiling. Wei Wuxian had shoved him away. He has so many apologies stacked up in his throat. "I said some terrible things to you later."

"You were in difficult circumstances," Lan Wangji replies with far too much kindness.

"Circumstances of his own making!" Lan Qiren snaps with a glare at Wei Wuxian.

"Wei Ying, please go fetch A-Yuan," Lan Wangji abruptly stands from his seat.

Lan Qiren stands as well, and the two of them engage in another Lan staring contest that holds more meaning than a conversation. Wei Wuxian doesn't stay to see who wins this one.

Lan Xichen rises again in his estimation when he finds him and A-Yuan in the kitchen with the radio playing music from his phone and A-Yuan fully entranced as he watches Lan Xichen juggle lemons while he chews on a soft candy from the bag sitting next to him.

"He's a sweet boy," Lan Xichen remarks, touching Wei Wuxian's elbow to pause him before they leave the kitchen. He meets his eyes, and for the first time all evening, Wei Wuxian feels like he's seeing the real Lan Xichen underneath all the polite façades.

"I only worry for my brother," he says. "But A-Yuan clearly thinks the world of him. He has been happier this past year, and that happiness has now blossomed."

"Ah," Wei Wuxian has to duck his head, as the words rake across the exposed edges of his past mistakes. "A-Yuan has that effect, don't you?" He leans down and pokes A-Yuan's chubby cheek, making him giggle. The sound helps settle the high emotions that suddenly seem to be coming at him from all sides. He has no reply for Lan Xichen so he nods, which fortunately is as good as a full speech among Lans.

Lan Wangji and Lan Qiren have moved to the living room, pointedly ignoring each other. Lan Qiren stands straight and tall with his hands behind his back staring at a different wall while Lan Wangji gathers up A-Yuan's coloring supplies and puts everything in the knapsack.

Wei Wuxian watches for a second and wonders how Lan Xichen can see that Lan Wangji is happy. He looks the same way he always has around Wei Wuxian, perhaps a little more stilted in his movements as he ignores his uncle.

Wei Wuxian gets their coats, helping A-Yuan into his and then holding out Lan Wangji's for him like a gentleman, because fuck if he's going to let Lan Qiren get the last word in—action, whatever. Lans are a fucking head trip.

"Thank you," Lan Wangji murmurs, turning toward him, his expression softening the way it so often does for Wei Wuxian.

Is this what Lan Xichen means?  Wei Wuxian doesn't know. All he knows is that something settles in him to see it, and he leans in, the impulse strong despite Lan Qiren and Lan Xichen's presence, or maybe because of it. He doesn't examine it, just leans in and presses a soft kiss to Lan Wangji's cheek.

He hears a strangled noise from Lan Qiren, but it is Lan Wangji's sharp inhalation that hits him in the pit of the stomach.

All of a sudden it's too much.

What is he playing at, here, in Lan Xichen's house, with Lan Wangji stepping away from him? Or maybe it's him doing the stepping as he turns to make their goodbyes, heart pounding, head empty of all the sense Lan Wangji claims he has, as reckless as Lan Qiren's fears.

It's not till they're outside in the clear summer air, cool up here on the mountain, that the buzzing in his ears stops and Wei Wuxian breathes, once more in the moment.

"Ah, sorry," he says as they head down the path, toward the infinite steps and Lan Wangji's car, each of them holding one of A-Yuan's hands. "That was—I mean if I overstepped—with your family there—"

"Wei Ying," Lan Wangji cuts off his babbling. He stops them on the path. They're lit by the path lights and the moon, everything is quiet, and it feels like the whole night is holding its breath.

Lan Wangji has that soft look on his face again, the one that does things to Wei Wuxian.

"You did not overstep," he says gently. "We are married." And he leans in and presses a kiss to Wei Wuxian's lips.

The kiss is chaste, a press of Lan Wangji's dry lips to his. An inhalation, an exhale. The slightest movement that sends shivers down Wei Wuxian's spine and makes sweat break out at the small of his back. It lasts a few seconds that feel like both an eternity and an instant, before Lan Wangji is pulling back.

"Lan Zhan," Wei Wuxian says helplessly. He feels battered by the evening. He feels elated. Lan Wangji's eyes are so soft, so clear, looking at him like there's no one else.

Wei Wuxian swallows the urge to laugh hysterically or burst into tears or run screaming down the mountain. He coughs and looks away, blinking furiously, because it's too much for his overwrought heart to handle. He might be having a heart attack right this moment.

At the same time, the seventeen year-old in him, watching from somewhere outside his body, wants to fist bump Lan Wangji for making the move. He didn't think he had it in him! Since this whole pretending to be married game started, Lan Wangji has been full of surprises.

It's hot as fuck.

Also somewhat confusing, but in his post-kiss haze Wei Wuxian mostly finds it hot.

All this runs through Wei Wuxian's head in a tangled wave over the course of a few moments. They're still in the Cloud Recesses, they still have A-Yuan between them, looking at them curiously. Lan Wangji resumes walking and the three of them continue to the car without another word.

Wei Wuxian is still thinking about that kiss and not the pressure in his chest that's too hard to wrap his head around. Best to ignore it. Best to just focus on following Lan Wangji carrying a sound asleep A-Yuan into the apartment. Take off A-Yuan's shoes and socks and follow Lan Wangji to his room and murmur, "Just put him in bed with his clothes. Better not wake him this late."

Follow him out to the living room where they stop and look at each other. Wei Wuxian had thought of a thousand things to say on the way home. All of them flee his mind.

"Do you want to talk about this?" he manages as he watches Lan Wangji's eyes flicker to his lips for the second time, the movement enough to kindle warmth low in Wei Wuxian's belly.

Lan Wangji takes a step closer to him. "I want to kiss you again."

"Oh thank god," Wei Wuxian says, reaching, moving, and then Lan Wangji's lips are on his again.

They're damp and hot, and Lan Wangji tilts his head and deepens the kiss immediately. Their tongues touch and that's it, Wei Wuxian is in love with Lan Wangji's tongue, which strokes and duels with his. They're clutching each other's shoulders for balance, and Wei Wuxian forgets whose turn it is to escalate because he just wants more.

He stumbles a bit as Lan Wangji leans into the kiss, overbalancing until Lan Wangji's hands catch at his hips and steady him. Wei Wuxian shudders, those same hips rolling forward to bump against the long line of Lan Wangji's body—and that's definitely a moan that's torn from his throat when Lan Wangji presses his full length against Wei Wuxian.

Through their clothes it's not much more than warmth against him, a steady counterpoint to their frantic kiss. Wei Wuxian is growing hard, a delicious frisson of pleasure beginning to build. He takes a small shuffling step to the side, slips this thigh between Lan Wangji's legs and rolls his hips again, and—fuck, there, his cock jerks against the cradle of Lang Wangji's hips, and that next to it is Lan Wangji's rock hard cock pressing back.

Oh shit—Wei Wuxian has to pull back before he comes just from that. But Lan Wangji doesn't let him and closes the distance, grinding against him with each step. It takes a minute for Wei Wuxian to put that together with the fact that they're stumbling through his bedroom door, and then Lan Wangji is fumbling it closed behind him.

They break apart, and for a handful of panting breaths, they stare at each other. Wei Wuxian doesn't know what Lan Wangji is thinking behind those golden eyes of his, blown wide with desire. His lips are plump and red from their kissing, his hair falling from its styling into his eyes. Normally so calm and collected, Lan Wangji looks rumpled, and it is possibly the hottest Wei Wuxian has ever seen him look.

Wei Wuxian takes a couple of steps backward toward the bed. "Come here," he says, his voice low, his throat dry, his fingers plucking open the buttons on his shirt.

For a dreadful moment, Lan Wangji doesn't move—panic floods Wei Wuxian and he freezes. Did he read this wrong? Of course Lan Wangji probably didn't mean he wanted to go this far—Wei Wuxian doesn't blame him— But then Lan Wangji is moving, taking the two strides that separate them in less time than it takes Wei Wuxian's thoughts to flinch.

Lan Wangji's hands are on his shirt, ripping it open, popping buttons, and his mouth is on Wei Wuxian's again and then his bared throat, a nibble making his legs quiver as Lan Wangji bears him down onto the bed.

"Lan Zhan!" Wei Wuxian gasps as his doubts melt under the onslaught of pleasure. Flat on his back he spreads his legs so Lan Wangji can settle between them. He groans in pure ecstasy when Lan Wangji grinds their cocks together and sucks on Wei Wuxian's neck.

"Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan, you feel so good—unf!"

Lan Wangji's mouth covers his again in another filthy kiss. Wei Wuxian fumbles to pull Lan Wangji shirt out from where it's tucked into his pants, shoves it out of the way to touch skin.

"Wei Ying—" Lan Wangji's voice is rough when Wei Wuxian trails his fingers up his back. Lan Wangji's whole body shudders and his eyes drop close. And that's just from Wei Wuxian's hands on him!

Lan Wangji nuzzles his face into Wei Wuxian's shoulder, his weight falling heavily on top of him. He's trembling, ever so slightly. Wei Wuxian slows his hands down, making them sweep across his back in firm strokes as he catches his own breath.

Maybe they're moving too fast. Maybe they just need to catch their breath.

"You okay?" Wei Wuxian asks softly after the desperate urgency of it all retreats a little—not gone, but no longer frantic. He's got his arms wrapped around Lan Wangji, ankles hooked over his calves. Their hips rock together, a pleasant ache throbbing in Wei Wuxian's cock when it rubs against Lan Wangji's still interested one.

Lan Wangji pulls back a little, enough to look at Wei Wuxian. His expression has smoothed out but it's not cold or inscrutable. Instead Lan Wangji's expression is open, his lips parted with a hint of mischief at the corners, countered by the shy sweep of his eyelashes when his gaze drops from Wei Wuxian's eyes.

"Mn," he says, bringing his eyes back up, the shyness melting away into a beautiful smile that takes Wei Wuxian's breath away. "Are you okay?"

"Oh fuck yeah," says Wei Wuxian, rolling his hips. Lan Wangji's eyes fall closed again and he makes a small moan—he's so fucking gorgeous like this. "What do you say we get out of our clothes?"

Lan Wangji rolls off him for long enough for them to each undress themselves. Wei Wuxian's shirt is a lost cause, but he can't say he doesn't like the heat in Lan Wangji's eyes as he eyes its remains. But then he's distracted by the acres of skin revealed when Lan Wangji sheds his own.

The muscles and smooth skin he's only seen in furtive, half-asleep peeks in the low light of dawn are now fully on display. Wei Wuxian wants to lick Lan Wangji's ripple of abs, he wants to suck on those pert nipples, he wants to be held down by those arms. Then Lan Wangji drops his pants and underwear, and Wei Wuxian's mouth starts watering at the sight of his big cock as it springs free.

"Lan Zhan, oh, Lan Zhan. Please tell me you're going to dick me down. I might die if you don't." Wei Wuxian licks his lips. He's barely kicked the rest of his clothes off before Lan Wangji is on top of him again—and fuuuuck! He might die anyway from the heat of their skin sliding together, just starting to stick with sweat. The tongue Lan Wangji plunges back into his mouth is wet and sloppy, hungry for more.

Wei Wuxian spreads his legs, groaning into Lan Wangji's mouth as their cocks rub together. He's rolling his hips, humping up against Lan Wangji who grinds back against him with delicious pressure that is good, so good, but not enough—not yet—but getting there, and fuck. Wei Wuxian wants him inside him yesterday. He reaches down and takes them both in hand, and nearly whites out from the first stroke.

"Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan, please, oh shit!"

Lan Wangji's hand wraps around his, and it's so fucking much. Wei Wuxian throws his head back against the pillow, unable to stay still, his back arching, thrusting into their hands. He's not going to be able to last. He can feel his orgasm building, his balls full and heavy.

Lan Wangji is rutting against him, his cock hot and dripping with pre-come that makes the glide in their hands easier. He presses open-mouthed kisses against Wei Wuxian's throat, and when his teeth scrape across his skin, Wei Wuxian bucks—that's it, he's gone. His eyes roll back in his head as waves of pleasure tumble through him. Warm spunk coasts his fingers, and above him Lan Wangji groans and follows him over.

Wei Wuxian feels like a wet noodle afterward. Lan Wangji collapses to the side, one leg thrown over Wei Wuxian's thighs and their fingers still tangled together in their mess between their bodies.

Languid, his body humming, Wei Wuxian rolls his head on the pillow and finds Lan Wangji watching him, his eyes blinking slowly. His expression is soft, softer even than the usual softness that only Wei Wuxian is allowed to see.

With his clean hand he carefully brushes a strand of hair back from Lan Wangji's sweaty forehead. Lan Wangji leans into it, eyes dropping closed, and Wei Wuxian's hand settles on his warm cheek. Nothing icy and closed off about him now. Wei Wuxian's breath catches in his chest, his heart overflowing with tenderness.

He could be my husband, he thinks.

When Lan Wangji's eyes open again, Wei Wuxian is helpless against the urge to kiss those lips, pressing his smile and his happiness into the corners of Lan Wangji's mouth and turning to hide his face in his neck. Lan Wangji gathers him close.

It's perfect and too much, and as their breathing settles, the silence presses around Wei Wuxian.

"So that was married sex," he says, to break the tension. Lan Wangji tightens his arms around his waist, and Wei Wuxian melts against him. Of course, doing that rubs the mess on his belly everywhere, and his whole body shudders, sensitive.

"Mn," Lan Wangji agrees, pulling back a little so they're facing each other on the pillows. This time he's the one brushing Wei Wuxian's hair from his face. He must look like a wreck.

Pouting, he says, "Married sex is quite messy, Lan Zhan. I hope you're going to take responsibility! You didn't even fuck me!"

"I will take responsibility," Lan Wangji says with a fond smile and light dancing in his eyes. He threads the fingers of his clean hand through Wei Wuxian's long hair, and it feels so good, Wei Wuxian would be purring if he were a cat.

"Good." Wei Wuxian hums and closes his eyes. The weight of the evening is catching up to him.

Lan Wangji lets him doze for a few minutes, stroking his hair. Wei Wuxian cracks his eyes open sometime later to find Lan Wangji returning through the bedroom door with a washcloth.

"Shh, don't get up," Lan Wangji says when Wei Wuxian makes an aborted attempt to move. "Let me take care of you."

"Mnn," Wei Wuxian hums, heavy with sleep as he watches Lan Wangji sit beside him on the bed. He's put on underwear and a shirt, which is disappointing, but his hands handle Wei Wuxian with care as he tenderly cleans come from Wei Wuxian's skin. He starts with the mess on his belly, then slowly works the cloth down his treasure trail and to his dark curls and gently over his soft cock.

Wei Wuxian hisses a little, still sensitive, but it's nice too and even though he has no chance of getting hard again so soon, more than a little arousing to be handled so. Lan Wangji's face is an expression of concentration as he carefully lifts his cock and wipes his balls, sending shivers all through him.

Wei Wuxian spreads his legs a little to give him more room and is rewarded when the tips of Lan Wangji's fingers brush over his taint and down to the pucker of his hole. It could be an accidental touch as he cleans the underside of Wei Wuxian's ballsack, but from the way Lan Wangji's eyes darken when he looks up at Wei Wuxian, and when Wei Wuxian squirms and presses back, it's not accidental at all.

"Lan Zhan," Wei Wuxian whines, feeling arousal stir, but also too sensitive and wanting to go to sleep. He's torn: what if this is his one chance to get Lan Wangji's cock in him? But before he can decide, Lan Wangji is standing, crossing the hall to the bathroom to throw the washcloth into the laundry, and then he's back and drawing up the blankets.

He gathers Wei Wuxian close and, oh, that's nice. Snuggling against Lan Wangji is the best, is the Wei Wuxian's last thought before falling into sleep.

Lan Wangji arriving back from his run wakes Wei Wuxian the next morning. The gentle snick of the bedroom door closing and the flick of the closet light-switch pokes through his veil of slumber. Morning light is already streaming through the window as Lan Wangji picks through his clothes for today's outfit.

Wei Wuxian stretches, feeling rested as he watches him. Last night had been amazing.

Amazing and a little surreal, if Wei Wuxian is honest. He's half convinced it was a dream and peeks under the covers to confirm that, yep, he's naked.

A delicious shiver overtakes him, and his eyes land on Lan Wangji again. He either hasn't noticed or is ignoring Wei Wuxian, which is fine. It gives Wei Wuxian time to admire his backside and think wildly that he'd touched that ass last night. What was Lan Wangji thinking?

Maybe fighting with his uncle at dinner broke something in his head. He didn't even know where to begin making sense of all of that.

That part of last night had been excruciating, and just remembering the anger on Lan Qiren's face right before they left leaves the door open for all of Wei Wuxian's doubts to come creeping back in.

Lan Qiren had been angry and upset, and obviously disapproving. That Lan Wangji hadn't immediately stepped into line still didn't compute. Nor did the way he'd looked at Wei Wuxian as he defended his past self.

It's not that Wei Wuxian doubts that Lan Wangji cares for him. Their friendship both when they were teenagers and now has always been real, even if Wei Wuxian still hasn't figured out why Lan Wangji let him talk him into being friends. So he can't help but wonder how long until he either fucks up again or Lan Wangji gets tired of putting up with him.

Good sex notwithstanding, their relationship is pretend, after all.

It's such a depressing thought, Wei Wuxian shoves it away. For now, Lan Wangji is in his closet picking out something ridiculously stylish to wear on the weekend, and Wei Wuxian somehow hasn't fucked things up yet.

"Good morning," he says, voice creaking.

Lan Wangji turns immediately, a tiny smile of his on his face. Wei Wuxian feels the warmth all the way across the room.

No, he hasn't fucked up yet. And he's going to hold onto it for all he's worth as long as it lasts.

Lan Wangji crosses back to the bed and sits at Wei Wuxian's side, taking his hand and leaning in to kiss him.

It's not the heat from the night before, but it's not a peck on the lips either. Wei Wuxian kisses back with interest, and Lan Wangji moans, pressing him back onto the pillows.

Wei Wuxian feels his cock stir, heart picking up its beat in his chest because this is not the kiss of a man who's done with him.

Lan Wangji's lips taste of salt. He's still in his running clothes, and it wouldn't take much for Wei Wuxian to get his hands in his shorts, under his shirt, to see if the rest of him tastes like salt too.

"Lan-gege!" A little sing-song voice calls from the hallway. A-Yuan gives them all of a moment's warning before he runs through the cracked door.

Wei Wuxian lets his head fall back on the pillow for a moment, catching his breath. Lan Wangji sits up, tugging the blanket up snugly around Wei Wuxian's naked shoulders. His smile hasn't disappeared. He shares a look with Wei Wuxian and Wei Wuxian is overcome by just how good and wonderful and special Lan Wangji is. It's too much, too early, and he has to hide his face in the pillow for a moment.

It works out because A-Yuan launches himself on the bed and crawls over to them.

"Lan-gege!" he says in his four-year-old's attempt at a whisper.

"Good morning, A-Yuan," Lan Wangji says in his beautiful voice, opening his arm up for A-Yuan to snuggle up against him, so easy and sweet as if he'd been doing it for A-Yuan's whole life, instead of a week.

Wei Wuxian eyes start itching for no reason, no reason at all, except they're perfect together. A-Yuan's face lights up when he sees Wei Wuxian is awake and says, "Baba!" like this is the best possible outcome, and it's too much for Wei Wuxian's poor heart.

We could be a real family, he thinks somewhat hysterically, and he wants it so badly he doesn't know what he's going to do with himself when it ends.

Chapter Text

Wei Wuxian has no chance of going back to sleep, so he gets up at dark o'clock after Lan Wangji ushers A-Yuan out of their room to the bathroom. They take turns showering and getting A-Yuan dressed and through his morning routine. Lan Wangji is making breakfast when Wei Wuxian finally succeeds in negotiating A-Yuan into an outfit fit for playing outside.

It's all normal and domestic, and Wei Wuxian slept with Lan Wangji last night, and he might have hallucinated that.

He stares at Lan Wangji's back from the kitchen entryway while A-Yuan climbs to his seat at the table. Even cooking, Lan Wangji stands straight, his broad shoulders relaxed as he stirs their breakfast congee in the pot.

No, he definitely remembers holding onto those shoulders. And nibbling at his neck.

"Would you slice the fruit?" Lan Wangji says, turning his head to look at Wei Wuxian, which makes him blush and stutter, because he'd just been staring like that.

"Yeah, sure, of course! Fruit." Wei Wuxian shakes his head and tells himself to pull it together. It was a fluke, or something, or—

But when he sets up the oranges on the cutting board next to Lan Wangji, his fake husband turns to him and sets his spoon down long enough to lean in and kiss Wei Wuxian's surprised mouth.


"Good morning, Wei Ying," says Lan Wangji as if this is normal.

Wei Wuxian is not awake enough for this.

He's also pathetic and Lan Wangji is right there, and they're pretending to be married. So he leans back and kisses Lan Wangji in return, his whole body relaxing at the pleased light in Lan Wangji's eyes and the little curl to the corner of his mouth, as if he couldn't imagine anywhere better to be. Like kissing Wei Wuxian while making breakfast is the best thing in the world.

It fills Wei Wuxian with no little awe. "Good morning, Lan Zhan."

Lan Wangji's tiny hint of a smile stretches into something that could conceivably be a smirk, happy and satisfied. At the sight, something shifts in Wei Wuxian, like all his cells have realigned themselves to point north, and that north is Lan Wangji.

After breakfast and cleaning up the kitchen, Wei Wuxian watches, bemused, while Lan Wangji encourages A-Yuan to pick up his toys, and A-Yuan does it.

"How do you do that?" he asks. A-Yuan usually ends up playing with his toys again rather than putting them away.

"I ask politely," Lan Wangji replies.

"Yeah, well, just wait," Wei Wuxian tells him. Lan Wangji is in for a surprise. The few times he's gotten A-Yuan to help, his help hasn't lasted. With no little skepticism he waits with baited breath for A-Yuan's mischievous little smile.

The smile when it comes is cute, like it always is, impossible to be mad at. A-Yuan looks impishly over his shoulder at Wei Wuxian, hands on the edge of the box of blocks. Then he glances at Lan Wangji who pauses in folding the throw blankets and, no joke, gives A-Yuan a raised eyebrow that makes A-Yuan stand up straight and raise his hands in the air.

"I did it!" He yells in the tone he reserves for demanding praise, looking so pleased with himself.

Wei Wuxian feels his mouth fall open, true wonder in his eyes when he turns to stare at Lan Wangji. "How did you manage that?"

Lan Wangji smiles at A-Yuan, his expression fond and pleased. "Very well done. Now the stuffed animals, please." Then he turns to Wei Wuxian and gives a little nod. "I ask politely," he repeats, eyes cutting away.

Wei Wuxian shakes his head, still not quite believing that that's all Lan Wangji has to do to get A-Yuan to pick up. He crosses to grab the trailing edge of the full size blanket Lan Wangji is trying to fold now. "Whenever I ask politely he puts them away until the box is full and then he dumps them all back out."

They fold the blanket lengthwise then meet in the middle to fold it in half. Lan Wangji looks a little rueful, his smile slanted at Wei Wuxian. His fingers capture Wei Wuxian's when they meet, holding him close, fingers trapped in the blanket. "He did that the first morning I asked. And the second."

Wei Wuxian laughs, he can't help it, and his smile only grows bigger at the fond look on Lan Wangji's face that's directed at him. He can't help leaning in that last little distance to kiss him. Lan Wangji's mouth is sweet with the lingering taste of oranges.

"How did you get him to stop?" Wei Wuxian asks when he pulls away, breathless. Lan Wangji's gaze lingers on his lips, sending a thrill through him that turns into a shiver.

It takes Lan Wangji a moment to collect himself, gently tugging the blanket from Wei Wuxian's fingers and putting another step between them. "I told him it would be very sad for the noise to wake you up too early since you had to be well-rested for work. He was very apologetic and for a moment I feared I had upset him."

"Oh no, did he do the face?" Wei Wuxian pouts in imitation of A-Yuan's unhappy expression. Lan Wangji nods.

"Mn. Just like that."

"Oh poor, Lan Zhan. Did he cry?"

"I was able to cheer him up." Lan Wangji doesn't quite meet his eyes when he answers, and Wei Wuxian knows he needs to know why.


Lan Wangji is definitely looking shifty now, and Wei Wuxian gives him his pout, and whines, "You have to tell me now!"

Sighing, Lan Wangji admits, "I gave him a ginger candy. And another once he successfully put his toys away."

"Lan Zhan!" Wei Wuxian is scandalized and delighted. "Bribery!"

"I didn't want to wake you."

"Trust me, I've been woken by a lot worse than blocks spilling everywhere."

"But you don't have to be," Lan Wangji says. He sets the folded blanket down on the end of the couch.

"It comes with the territory! I don't mind. Well, I don't like it but I'd rather get up and deal with it than not, I guess," he amends. "You don't have to get up early with him."

"It's no trouble. I get up early anyway."

Wei Wuxian's heart clenches at the easy way Lan Wangji says it, as if it really is that easy to go from asleep to caring for an energetic little boy, especially since he knows that moving to Wei Wuxian's apartment has disrupted all of Lan Wangji's routines. He shouldn't have to do that.

"You should wake me if it's too much," Wei Wuxian says, his stomach swooping in sudden worry. "If you want a quiet morning. You don't have to do all this."

"Wei Ying." Lan Wangji's mouth looks annoyed.

"I'm serious!" Wei Wuxian says, feeling bad about ruining the mood, but also bad about Lan Wangji taking care of his kid and straightening up his apartment for him when he didn't sign up for it

The last thought hits like a light switch going on, and Wei Wuxian stares at A-Yuan half playing, half picking up his stuffed animals as if this is part of the routine. He looks around the living room next, his brain clicking over as he looks at it with fresh eyes.

Wei Wuxian is not the neatest person, even before he became a single parent with a full-time job. His choices usually boil down to feed his kid or make the house not a disaster, and feeding A-Yuan always wins. Frankly the thought of cleaning is exhausting, and he's lucky he more or less keeps up with the laundry, and the bathroom isn't as bad as his bathroom in university.

The result is blankets and blocks and Legos and stuffed animals littering the floor at all hours. Every few weeks, when he's finally tired of stepping on things, Wei Wuxian will pick everything up and shake out crumbs from the clutter. If he's feeling ambitious, he'll sweep the floor.

He'd noticed the improvement to the kitchen, obviously, but now, he sees that all the usual clutter and junk mail and his work things are in fact mostly tidied away. He hasn't tripped on anything once in the last couple days. It's only the toys and blankets that came out when A-Yuan was playing after dinner that are in disarray.

Stunned that he hadn't noticed just how far the cleaning had gone, Wei Wuxian stares at Lan Wangji in horror. "Lan Zhan!" Wei Wuxian doesn't know whether to laugh or hide his face in embarrassment. "Have you been sneakily cleaning my apartment?!"

Lan Wangji regards Wei Wuxian with an expression that has dipped back toward inscrutable. "Mn. Partially," he says with dignity. "I have yet to locate the vacuum."

"Lan Zhan, you don't have to!" Wei Wuxian says, flustered. "You don't have to do any of this!"

"Wei Ying." He can see Lan Wangji is properly annoyed with him. Wei Wuxian would backtrack except every good hosting instinct that was beaten into him as a kid is now screaming that this isn't right.

"No, really, I can do more of my share. I mean you've been cooking too," Wei Wuxian says, which makes him feel worse, now that he's said it out loud. He covers his face with his hand, trying to feel less like a complete failure as an adult.

"Wei Ying, stop this." Lan Wangji comes over to him and pulls his hand away from his face. He doesn't let go of Wei Wuxian's hand. "What kind of husband would I be if you did everything? I want to help."

"You want to help?" Wei Wuxian's heart stutters at "husband," cringes that it's not a real commitment. He knows Lan Wangji means it, but there's a part of him that doesn't believe it. This will just be one more thing that Lan Wangji will get sick of. No one has been able to stand cleaning up after Wei Wuxian for any length of time.

"Yes," Lan Wangji says anyway. He leans in a little bit to meet Wei Wuxian's eyes and says seriously, "By vacuuming."

This startles a laugh out of Wei Wuxian, and Lan Wangji seems pleased to see him smile. He squeezes Wei Wuxian's hand and the band of anxiety around Wei Wuxian's chest eases. Lan Wangji is ridiculous, and far too good for him.

"Ah, I don't have one," he admits.

And there it is—that little frown line between Lan Wangji's eyes which means he's disappointed.

"I mean, I had one!" Wei Wuxian rushes to explain. "But it survived three foster kids plus A-Yuan, and it had a very noble death three months ago."

"It set off the fire alarm!" A-Yuan shrieks with glee. Wei Wuxian winces and lets out an uncomfortable chuckle.

Lan Wangji isn't impressed. "I will bring mine over."

"Lan Zhan—" But Lan Wangji does that thing with his eyebrows that freezes the words on Wei Wuxian's lips, the one that says he's going to be sad if Wei Wuxian doesn't give in on this, even if it's all backwards since he's the one helping. Wei Wuxian takes a deep breath and tells himself to stop freaking out.

"Okay. Thanks." And then because Wei Wuxian can't help it. "Who knew you would make me a wonderful housewife!"

The eyebrows don't let up, but before Wei Wuxian can try to backpedal the joke, Lan Wangji says, "Househusband. Don't be sexist."

"Lan Zhan!" Wei Wuxian exclaims, the last of his anxiety falling away in the face of Lan Wangji's joking around.

He really is too good. He's sincere as they stand there and talk about vacuums and divvying up laundry and bathroom cleaning like this is a real relationship. Wei Wuxian doesn't know if it's that or the thought of being able to share chores and not do everything himself that's more overwhelming.
Is this the next stage of escalation? Wei Wuxian wonders a little while later as he collects A-Yuan's dirty clothes. Hugging, kissing, fucking, cleaning? It ought to feel like going backwards, but the fact that it doesn't… well, Wei Wuxian doesn't examine it too closely.

After lunch, they go to the neighborhood park with A-Yuan, who shrieks and runs off when he sees one of his friends from preschool on the slide. As he and Lan Wangji find a bench to sit on, Wei Wuxian sees a few more familiar little faces and points them out to Lan Wangji who nods seriously at the twists and turns of preschool drama.

"And that's little Lan Jingyi. He's the one who introduced A-Yuan to pirates and sea monsters." Wei Wuxian points at the kid currently chasing after A-Yuan as the two of them race up the stairs to the top of the slide again.

"Ah," Lan Wangji says, as if this solves a great mystery. At Wei Wuxian's nudge, he says, "I had wondered. He doesn't have any books about pirates."

"Not everything is learned in books, Lan Zhan!" Wei Wuxian grins, nudging him again because Lan Wangji doesn't seem to mind. In fact he presses his shoulder back into Wei Wuxian, and fuck, Wei Wuxian is imagining what that would feel like skin to skin. Thoughts definitely not appropriate for a public park.

But one glance at Lan Wangji and Wei Wuxian is pretty sure he's thinking the same thing.

The moment breaks when an unfamiliar ringtone emanates from Lan Wangji's phone. Lan Wangji frowns, pulling it from his pocket and staring at the screen for a moment before silencing it.

"I don't mind if you answer it," Wei Wuxian says, nodding to him. It's a good distraction to keep his thoughts in check.

But Lan Wangji puts the phone back in his pocket, shaking his head. "It is Uncle."


Well, that immediately dumps water on Wei Wuxian's naughty thoughts. All at once, he crashes back to Earth, where Lan Wangji is playing a weird game of chicken with him, cooking and cleaning and saying nice things, and facing off against his uncle.

Wei Wuxian knows Lan Wangji likes him, but does he like him enough to stick around for? When will he get tired of the sex, or get fed up with doing Wei Wuxian's chores, or fed up with Wei Wuxian when he fucks everything up like he did all those years ago. Twice even. He still can't wrap his head around why Lan Wangji spoke up for him to his Uncle.

"You don't have to ignore him on my account," he says, doubts wriggling around his belly on a bed of guilt.

Lan Wangji's mouth opens a little when he glances over, but it takes a moment before he says, "I would rather not ruin the afternoon by arguing with him."

"I'm sorry."

"There is nothing for you to be sorry for."

"Of course there is! You wouldn't be arguing with him if it wasn't for me," Wei Wuxian says with a hand gesture that encompasses his everything. "I know he basically raised you. I don't want to cause problems between you, and I'm sorry I upset him last night."

Lan Wangji raises an eyebrow at that statement, and Wei Wuxian flaps his hands at him. "You know what I mean. I'm not sorry for being me, just sorry that being me upsets him and makes things difficult between you. You didn't have to defend me, you know."

"You have nothing to be sorry for," Lan Wangji says again, his brow crinkling into annoyance. He scowls at We Wuxian. "And I will defend you when anyone, including my uncle, slanders you."

"Oh, come on, Lan Zhan," Wei Wuxian protests, because it's either that or let his heart get the better of him. "Your uncle's not wrong. I did get you in trouble. I was expelled and I spent the next year hanging out with terrible people doing borderline petty crime." Wei Wuxian sighs, looking down at his hands. "I said some really terrible things to you when you came to see me and were only trying to help. I'm sorry for that too."

"You were distraught."

"I was talking out my ass. Thinking I was just fine on my own."

"You were young and scared and caught in circumstances outside of your control."

Wei Wuxian snorts, shaking his head. Regret stings in the back of his throat as fresh as it had the morning after the whole mess happened. "I could definitely have chosen not to get you drunk and picked up by the police. If I'd have just thought a little bit less about myself, taken better care of you, I wouldn't have been kicked out of school and Madame Yu wouldn't have kicked me out of the house."

It's a sequence of events he's gone over and over in his head a thousand times in the dark of night, those early restless hours when shame decides he has not repented enough.

"Wei Ying," Lan Wangji says so gently Wei Wuxian can't look at him. He'd endangered Lan Wangji, just to prove to everyone that he could worm his way under that cool exterior and expose the real human underneath his perfection. He'd betrayed Lan Wangji's trust and he'd always regret it.

"Madame Yu and Jiang Fengmian could have convinced the school to only suspend you. They chose not to fight your expulsion."

"You saying I shouldn't have been punished?" Wei Wuxian asks, more than a little incredulous. Lan Wangji had been furious with him, afterward, and rightly so.

"I'm saying that they prevented you from being expelled when you and Jiang Cheng fought with Jin Zixuan, a worse offense than accidentally getting me drunk and going on a scavenger hunt."

"A scavenger hunt that almost got you killed," Wei Wuxian points out.

"I was never in any danger," Lan Wangji says calmly, completely baffling Wei Wuxian, whose jaw drops open at the blatant untruth, except he can tell Lan Wangji really believes it.

"How can you say that? We went in the river! Drunk! You could have drowned."

"I was with you. You would not have let me get hurt." Lan Wangji says as if it's fact, as solid a notion as gravity.

For a moment all Wei Wuxian can do is stare at him, his heart suddenly beating a thousand beats per minute, banging against his ribs like it's rattling its poor cage.

They'd been seventeen, their friendship a love-hate relationship that was just starting to tip toward Lan Wangji maybe easing up on his strict adherence to stoicism and making an expression once a month or so. Wei Wuxian had poked and prodded, unable to give up, taking the fact that Lan Wangji didn't chase him away or storm off as a good sign.

Drinking was against the Academy rules and they were still a year underage, but that had never stopped students from sneaking in alcohol. What Wei Wuxian hadn't counted on when he'd finally convinced Lan Wangji to join them was that Lan Wangji knew all the ways to sneak out and into town, and drunk, decided to make use of them.

Nie Huaisang and Jiang Cheng had left it to Wei Wuxian to chase after him. It had been fun at first, until Lan Wangji wanted to go swim in the river, and someone called the cops on them.

Madame Yu had been livid when she'd arrived to pick him up.

Wei Wuxian shakes his head at Lan Wangji. "I was drunk too. Something really bad could have happened."

"Could have but did not. Yet you were unfairly punished as if I had drowned."

Wei Wuxian shakes his head again. "The Jiangs gave me everything and I repaid them by giving them grief and shame. I can't fault them not wanting me anymore when I burned through all their good will."

"If A-Yuan got in trouble like you did, would you turn him out on the street?" Lan Wangji levels him a look.

"Of course not!" Wei Wuxian says, his heart stopping at the very thought of it. "But that's different!"


"He's a good boy, not like me, first of all. And second, there's nothing he could do that would make me that angry or," Wei Wuxian swallows hard, because he knows what Lan Wangji is getting at, and it stirs up a whole heap of feelings he'd rather just shove right back down into the dark hole where they belong. "It's just different. I didn't have a bad childhood with them, you know. I still talk to Shijie and Jiang Cheng all the time, and I've been invited for New Year's since I started working for World Aid."

Lan Wangji's head tilts, his stare long and uncomfortable. It's too much to bear, but Wei Wuxian deliberately rolls his eyes first before looking back out over the playground for A-Yuan. He and his friends are chasing each other and screaming joyfully, caught in the world of some sort of game Wei Wuxian can't figure out from watching.

"What?" he finally asks, not looking at Lan Wangji.

"You volunteered to staff the office over New Year's this year."

"Someone has to be on call."

"Last year, you said you spent New Year's volunteering at the children's shelter."

Wei Wuxian swallows. "A-Yuan hadn't been transferred to my custody yet."

He waits for Lan Wangji to keep going, but the next attack doesn't come. After a minute of heavy silence, Wei Wuxian risks a look over at him. Lan Wangji is mercifully watching the kids too, but he glances back at Wei Wuxian.

Their eyes meet. Lan Wangji's expression is worried or maybe sad—it's hard to tell. All Wei Wuxian knows is that he doesn't like it and he feels terrible for making him worry.

"Really, it's fine," he says, needing Lan Wangji to believe him. Lan Wangji's expression doesn't ease. "Ah, Lan Zhan," Wei Wuxian sighs, slumping on the bench. "You shouldn't be worrying like this about me."

"I will always worry for you."

Wei Wuxian's heart stops and starts for the fifth or sixth time that day, and he has to hide his face in his hands.

"Stop saying things like that!" he complains. "You are far too nice to me."

"Not nice enough."

"Lan Zhan!" Wei Wuxian doesn't appreciate being attacked with kindness any more than he cares for the pointed reminders about his relationship with his family. But he can't escape the warmth on his skin that seeps into his bones and stays there.

Lan Wangji's face has gone soft again, and worse, he gently takes Wei Wuxian's hand in his. In a public park. Wei Wuxian wants to die and preen at the same time.

"So what," Wei Wuxian says, his mouth going on of its own accord. "When you saw me again in the cafeteria you just decided to let bygones be bygones? Forgive the way I treated you?"

"There was nothing to forgive." Lan Wangji squeezes his hand.

Wei Wuxian lets out a huff of laughter that doesn't feel particularly funny. "You tracked me down to the shithole I was living in to invite me home with you, and I told you to get lost. I couldn't have gone, but I didn't have to be cruel. I still don't understand why you even came to find me."

He hadn't returned to Yummeng for long after he'd been expelled. Uncle Jiang had wanted him to live at home and finish his classes at the local school. But after Madame Yu's screaming tirade when he was expelled, when she told him he was no longer welcome in her home, he'd decided everyone would be better off if he got out of her hair for good. In a fit of stubbornness Wei Wuxian told his family he was fine, hopped on a train to Yiling in the middle of the night, and found himself an apartment and shady new neighbors who offered him "work."  

He never told anyone how scared he'd been after the anger wore off. Only Uncle Jiang knew about the money he put in Wei Wuxian's bank account that hadn't been turned down. It was the main reason he'd been able to get himself straightened out and into university in the end.

But quietly accepting help from his adoptive father was one thing. Openly accepting Lan Wangji's demand for him to come back to Gusu with him—expelled or not you shouldn't stay here—Wei Wuxian remembered bristling at the way Lan Wangji had looked down his nose at his shabby new home—I'll explain to my uncle. It was such a preposterous offer that Wei Wuxian, eighteen by then and angry, had lashed out.

"Did you not come to the Cloud Recesses to apologize?" Lan Wangji of the here and now asks.

Wei Wuxian looks at where their hands are still twined together on the bench between them. Lan Wangji's hand is warm, his thumb tracing back and forth across Wei Wuxian's knuckles. It feels good, even though Lan Wangji is too nice to him, no matter what he says. Wei Wuxian doesn't deserve to have his hand held, but he's too selfish to let go.

"That was years too late," Wei Wuxian says, feeling the sting of shame and longing that had driven him back up the mountain to the Cloud Recesses during his third year of university.

He'd gone to Gusu instead of Yunmeng for the Mid-Autumn festival, telling himself he'd spend the time doing research for his term project. He'd known even then that it had been an excuse to see Lan Wangji.

"Your brother didn't even let me in to see you."

Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Lan Wangji nod, a strand of hair flopping out of place and into his eyes. For a moment, it makes him look seventeen again, and Wei Wuxian's heart hurts for the time they lost because of his pride and fear.

"I wish he had," Lan Wangji says. He tugs a little on Wei Wuxian's hand until he looks at him. Lan Wangji's gold eyes are bright in the sunshine. "I would have told you I'd already forgiven you."

"I thought you didn't lie, Lan Zhan," Wei Wuxian says, his voice thick with an emotion he doesn't want to look at too closely.

"I don't," Lan Wangji says gently. He squeezes Wei Wuxian's hand, and Wei Wuxian squeezes back for dear life, blinking hard against the sunshine. It's making his eyes water. His thoughts swirl and settle and swirl again, like a flock of birds unsure of whether it’s safe to land in a new tree.

"Ah, Lan Zhan, this is too much for a sunny day," he says, clearing his throat. "We shouldn't be out here rehashing the past like sad old men. We were having such a good morning too!"

"I had to clean the toilet," Lan Wangji says deadpan, but Wei Wuxian laughs, dashing a hand over his eyes, his heart feeling full and tender, like if he breathes too deep it will rend in two, or maybe grow too big.

They lapse into silence, their attention taken once more by the kids playing. Lan Wangji doesn't let go of his hand.

A-Yuan comes running to them crying, flapping his hands until he slams into Wei Wuxian's knees.

"Hey, hey, hey? What happened?" Wei Wuxian exchanges an alarmed look with Lan Wangji. They'd both been watching him play and he didn't fall or get hurt.

A-Yuan has his face pressed into Wei Wuxian's thigh, and he shakes his head while his body shakes with little cries. Wei Wuxian brushes his hair back and tries to encourage him to look up.

"You have to use your words here, radish. I can't help you if I don't know what's wrong," he says. "Do you want a hug?"

A-Yuan nods and finally lifts his head. Wei Wuxian pulls him into his lap and cradles him close.

"What happened?"

Sniffling pathetically, A-Yuan rubs his snot-covered face into Wei Wuxian's shirt. "Jingyi said blue couldn't be my favorite color. He said it was his favorite color and I had to pick something else and I couldn't like blue. But I do! I do like blue!"

Of all the arguments to have his kid in tears. Wei Wuxian has to bite his lips so he doesn't laugh at this very serious disagreement. He exchanges another look with Lan Wangji, who is maintaining his poker face much better than Wei Wuxian is, but amusement dances in his eyes. He reaches over to rub A-Yuan's back.

"Well I have good news for you, A-Yuan," Wei Wuxian turns his suppressed laughter into a big smile. He leans in close like he's going to tell him a secret, and A-Yuan is distracted by this declaration enough that his tears stop.

"What?" he asks, wiping at his eyes.

"You can both like blue. No one gets to be the only one who likes a color. I like blue too. What about you Lan Zhan? Do you like blue?"

"Mn. It is also my favorite color," Lan Wangji nods with the solemn attention that he always gives A-Yuan.

"It is?" A-Yuan is blown away by this revelation and then he's a squirming mass of kid scrambling out of Wei Wuxian's lap and running back to his friends while yelling to Jingyi. Wei Wuxian flinches and rubs his arm where A-Yuan shoved off of him with surprising strength.

However, Lan Wangji barely has time to ask him if he's all right before A-Yuan and Jingyi are running back toward them. Jingyi apparently has a bone to pick with Lan Wangji, and Wei Wuxian nearly asphyxiates himself trying not to laugh at his little face of indignation while Lan Wangji assures him quite seriously that more than one person can like the color blue.

He's still chortling about it on the walk home, while A-Yuan tells them all about the games they played. After each description he tugs on Lan Wangji's hand and asks, "Do you like fierce sea creatures too?" and "Do you like being a sea captain too?" and "Do you like walking the plank too?"

Wei Wuxian connects walking the plank to watching the kids jump off a bench over and over again and then running around chasing each other—the sea creature attack presumably.

Lan Wangji considers each answer before he gives it, and sometimes asks what kind of sea creature or what being a sea captain entails, prompting A-Yuan to go on at length and into ridiculous detail, peppered with a lot of "Jingyi says."

Wei Wuxian holds A-Yuan's other hand as they walk, entertained by the conversation but mostly watching Lan Wangji. The thoughtful cant of his head, the patience with which he listens to A-Yuan ramble, the gentleness with which he gives his answers, especially when it's an answer A-Yuan is not expecting. It's doing things to Wei Wuxian's insides again, brushing up against the remnants of their conversation earlier—I'd already forgiven younot nice enoughI will always worry for you. He's so good with A-Yuan. He's so good to Wei Wuxian.

And yet, they're still playing this game of pretended bliss. If the rest of it is real, why hasn't Lan Wangji said anything about wanting to make their game of pretend real?

It's a gnarled thought that makes Wei Wuxian want to shove it away, but it stubbornly lodges into a crack beside the voice in the back of his head that whispers about forbidden things, things that are too much to hope for, too precious to risk losing and so too precious to risk having them to lose. Wei Wuxian knows it's a vestigial voice from his childhood, knows that no matter whether he listens or not, things will go sideways.

Aiya, he's thinking too much, Wei Wuxian scolds himself, once they're home.

A-Yuan goes to the couch and upends the stack of neatly folded blankets to make a nest for himself and his stuffed animals in the corner. Wei Wuxian flops on the couch and gratefully accepts the glass of water Lan Wangji hands him a minute later.

He's barely finished it, when a pounding on the apartment door startles them all.

Wei Wuxian coughs, clearing the water he choked on. A-Yuan lifts his head for a moment then lies back down unconcerned. Lan Wangji is the one who answers the door.

As soon as it opens, the distinctive sound of Jiang Cheng saying, "Oh fuck, it's true," rings out into the expectant silence.

"Hey!" Wei Wuxian says on reflex, glancing at A-Yuan who sits up again, his eyes big.

"Swear!" he says with the childlike glee of hearing a forbidden word.

"Wei Wuxian!" Jiang Cheng shoves past Lan Wangji, who looks more than a little rattled by the sudden appearance of Wei Wuxian's brother. His brother who storms everywhere like a thundercloud, and does the same now with a glare for Wei Wuxian that is as familiar as it is wearying.

The fact that his brother is here now, suddenly hits him, doubly so when A-Yuan shrieks, "You said a bad word!" and Jiang Cheng halts in his tracks and stares at Wei Wuxian's kid. His eyes go big and round with shock.

Wei Wuxian feels the snakes of his terrible deceitfulness rise to life in his stomach. He has to stop himself from swooping in and putting himself between the two of them. But Jiang Cheng doesn't move toward A-Yuan. Instead he turns to look over his shoulder at Lan Wangji for a long moment before turning back to Wei Wuxian.

"Fuck," he says again. "You did knock him up."

Everything is chaos. Wei Wuxian might be having an out of body experience and a panic attack at the same time.

Jiang Cheng keeps swearing and yelling, asking why there's a kid here, and he punches Wei Wuxian in the arm hard when he tries to laugh it all off like a reasonable person. But he barely has time to mutter an exaggerated "Ow!" at his brother before A-Yuan yells at the top of his lungs about "No hitting!" and Lan Wangji grabs Jiang Cheng by the shoulder to pull him away from Wei Wuxian and a voice from the door shouts into the din:

"A-Cheng, you've been here less than two minutes!"

There, in the still open door, is Wei Wuxian's shijie carrying a bag of takeout looking at them all in appalled amazement.

"What happened to not saying anything before I got here?" she admonishes Jiang Cheng in the ensuing silence. "Hi, A-Xian. Nice to see you, Lan Wangji." She nods at both of them and closes the door behind her, walking in like it's her own home. "Where should I put dinner?"

Wei Wuxian's brain finally returns from being scattered into pieces. "Shijie! What are you doing here? What are you both doing here? Why didn't you tell me you were coming?"

"So you could hide the evidence?" Jiang Cheng sneers.

"A-Cheng." Setting the takeout on the table, Jiang Yanli gives him that look of hers that has never failed to rein either of them in. Jiang Cheng crosses his arms across his chest, a mulish expression on his face.

"Baba! Who are they?!" In a burst of energy, A-Yuan erupts from his nest of blankets and attaches himself to Wei Wuxian's leg. Wei Wuxian cradles his head against him reassuringly, while both Jiang Cheng and Jiang Yanli freeze and stare at the two of them.

"Ah. Right." Wei Wuxian laughs, nothing to see here. He looks at Lan Wangji, who looks just as uncertain about what to say. It's not like at work where they've been pretending this has been all fine all along. With the two of them staring at him like that, he's not going to get away with saying he told them about his son already. "Jiang Cheng, Shijie, meet A-Yuan. A-Yuan these are my brother and sister. Your shufu and guma."

He hears Jiang Cheng splutter as that sinks in, but Wei Wuxian's eyes are on his sister.

Her face stills in surprise, her eyes dropping to look at A-Yuan again. When he shyly turns toward them, she smiles, and Wei Wuxian feels a weight he didn't know he was carrying drop away.

"It's so good to meet you, A-Yuan," she says, crouching down so she's not towering over him.

A-Yuan is immediately won over. He smiles big and brilliant at her. "Hi! Baba says you make the best soup!"

Jiang Yanli laughs. "I'm sure he does. One day you'll have to visit to try it out."

Jiang Cheng, meanwhile, makes a strangled sound. Wei Wuxian doesn't even know what's going on on his face. There are too many emotions that are all converging into a blow-up.

"Jiang Cheng—" he starts, but he's not quick enough.

"He's yours?! How do you have a child?! Is it a mistake?"

Wei Wuxian rolls his eyes, annoyed. "You see when two people love each other very much—"

"Wei Wuxian! Be serious! You can't have a kid!"

A-Yuan's hand suddenly clenches hard around his leg, and shit—

"Stop shouting. You're scaring him," Lan Wangji interjects, glaring at Jiang Cheng.


"No!" Jiang Cheng takes a step back, to better glare at all of them, sweeping his hand toward Wei Wuxian. "Why are we not talking about this?!"

"Baba." A-Yuan looks up at Wei Wuxian, freaking out now, his lip starting to quiver.

Wei Wuxian quickly gathers him up. "Hush now. Don't listen to him," he tells A-Yuan. "He's just spouting nonsense. You're mine and I'm yours, forever and ever." He rocks A-Yuan back and forth a little, sending his own glare back to his brother who has the good grace to look shamefaced for making a kid cry.

"Wei Ying," Lan Wangji is there, then, and thank goodness there's two of them for this. "I can take him to his room while you talk."

"Yes. That okay, radish? Want to go read a story with Lan-gege? I need to explain to your shufu and guma."

A-Yuan nods and, reassured for now, reaches easily for Lan Wangji, who levels another frosty glare at Jiang Cheng and says, "Do not yell," with the weight of retribution if he does.

Unfortunately, Jiang Cheng neither likes nor is intimidated by Lan Wangji and makes a rude face at Lan Wangji's back.

"What is he doing here?" he demands, once the door to A-Yuan's room is closed behind them. "He ruined your life and now your dating?!? And what's with the kid? Is it his kid? Is he making you raise his kid now, too?! What the fuck is wrong with you?!?"

"Me? What's wrong with you barging into my house unannounced and yelling at me about my life?" Wei Wuxian's voice is not quite a shout, but he can't help it. He wants to strangle Jiang Cheng right now, wrestle him to the floor until he cries mercy and apologizes for every last damn thing out of his stupid mouth.

"Someone has to talk sense into you!" Jiang Cheng shouts back.

"A-Cheng! That's enough! Both of you. Really," Jiang Yanli snaps. "Come sit at the table. We'll talk about this like adults," she says with a steely tone that will brook no more arguing from them.

Wei Wuxian feels five years old and not in a good way. The urge to strangle Jiang Cheng remains, a tension in his muscles all that's keeping him from it. But he sits. Jiang Cheng takes Lan Wangji's spot across from him and Jiang Yanli the place at the end that's A-Yuan's.

"A-Xian, there's no need to be so surly," his sister reaches for his hand. "We were just surprised by the news and were worried that you hadn't told us."

It's impossible to stay mad at Shijie. She cares about him and is only worried. Jiang Cheng too in his own obnoxious way. Wei Wuxian straightens up from his slump, anger replaced by the crawling guilt that has kept him up nights.

"Who did you hear from?" he asks.

"Jin Guangyao asked A-Xuan to ask me about Lan Wangji," Jiang Yanli says. "We didn't know about A-Yuan. Is he the boy you were fostering a year ago? I thought he'd gone back to his family."

Wei Wuxian shakes his head, and then steals himself to look her in the eye. He owes her that much. "They couldn't take him. So I adopted him. It was finalized two months ago."

"Wei Wuxian!" says Jiang Cheng, though he sounds more resigned than angry now, the tone for when Wei Wuxian got them into trouble as kids. "Did you think this through at all?"

"As matter of fact I did," Wei Wuxian snaps. "I've been his primary caretaker since he was two years old! He was the youngest kid in the refugee camps, the only survivor of his village by a miracle. I was the one with him through every nightmare he didn't fully understand. I was with him at every attempt to find his family. He'd already been with me a year when the last of his relatives said no. It was the easiest decision I've ever made. It was the right one."

He glares at Jiang Cheng, who huffs and rolls his eyes. "Right up till you run off again," his brother says, which fuck him, hurts.

Wei Wuxian feels his expression harden, feels the anger in his heart go cold. "I know what it's like to be unwanted. My son will never feel that. Never. If you ever imply keeping him was a mistake in front of him again, you will not be welcome here."

"A-Xian," Jiang Yanli starts, but Wei Wuxian holds his brother's angry eyes. He sees the hurt there, but it's nothing he can fix. It's not like Jiang Cheng didn't know where he was when he moved to Yiling. He didn't have to wait a year before visiting. Except they both know why he did.

"A-Xian, I'm sure A-Cheng won't say anything like that to A-Yuan again," says Jiang Yanli, squeezing his hand. "We are happy for you." She smiles at him and she is truly happy for him, Wei Wuxian can see it in her eyes. As before, he feels something unclench at the reassurance.

"You just surprised us," Jiang Cheng grumbles, slumping forward at last to rest his elbows on the table like he always did growing up when the fight left him. "How am I supposed to know when to take you seriously?"

It's an apology in Jiang Cheng's prickly stupid way, and Wei Wuxian grins in relief. "You should always take me seriously."

Jiang Cheng kicks him lightly under the table, and he knows it's going to be all right between them.

"We were also surprised to hear you were dating Lan Wangji," says Jiang Yanli, with a playful smile. Wei Wuxian braces himself for the teasing. "I know you had rekindled your friendship, but you never told me you were getting serious! He is still quite handsome."

"Shijie! I know!" Wei Wuxian glances toward A-Yuan's door, half afraid that Lan Wangji is listening, half hoping he is. They hadn't talked about what to say to either of their families, and his siblings are going to want far more details than the Lans who already object to their friendship. "It kind of came about suddenly."

"You're too good for him, you know," Jiang Cheng says, his dark glower returning but this time not aimed at Wei Wuxian. Despite the friction between them, Jiang Cheng has always held an undercurrent of disdain for Lan Wangji that Wei Wuxian has found endearing, no matter how much he disagrees with the sentiment. It's the other way around, of course; Lan Wangji is too good for him.

"I think it's wonderful," Jiang Yanli says, ignoring Jiang Cheng. "Is he good with A-Yuan?"

"The best!" Wei Wuxian lets out a happy sigh, and then tells her how seriously he listens and plays with his kid, how they gang up against him. Wei Wuxian is aware he's saying too much—Jiang Cheng rolls his eyes a couple times and he kicks him under the table in retaliation—but he can't stop. Jiang Yanli wants to know everything, and asks about their first date—the concert, Wei Wuxian says, which feels as natural as breathing—about when he moved in—after he met A-Yuan, time unspecified—and if he was a good kisser.

"Shijie!" Wei Wuxian exclaims, his face going hot as he blushes to the roots of his hair.

Jiang Yanli laughs, a delighted peel of laughter, that wicked teasing gleam in her eyes, while Jiang Cheng groans and covers his face with his hands.

"Please don't answer that! I don't want to know!"

Despite his own embarrassment, Wei Wuxian can never resist riling Jiang Cheng. He lowers his voice and leans in close to Jiang Yanli.

"He's very good. At everything he does."

Now Jiang Yanli is outright laughing while Jiang Cheng lunges across the table to smack at Wei Wuxian, who's laughing too hard to dodge. He pushes back, singsonging, "Lan Zhan is so beautiful, so gorgeous, so bi—"

Jiang Cheng rounds the table, shouting, "Stop, stop, stop!" covering Wei Wuxian's mouth with his hand, and less than a second later they're wrestling on the floor. Jiang Cheng is heavy, and though he's shorter than Wei Wuxian, he's all muscle and fast. Wei Wuxian scrabbles at his arm, trying to get his mouth free so he can continue to taunt him.

"Baba!" At the commotion, Lan Wangji and A-Yuan emerge from the bedroom. Wei Wuxian doesn't have time for more than a quick glance—it's enough of a gap in his defenses for Jiang Cheng to sit on him. Lan Wangji looks horrified by the scene at first, but as he takes in Jiang Yanli laughing at them with fond exasperation, he relaxes.

"A-Yuan! Come save your baba from the horrible dragon!" Wei Wuxian calls, and his son needs no further invitation to join in the fun. He runs over, and then stops, unsure. He and Jiang Cheng stare at each other, A-Yuan with his little serious face, and Jiang Cheng like he's sizing up an opponent, neither knowing what to do with the other.

Both of them are too cute.

"You know how to defeat the terrible shufu dragon?" Wei Wuxian says from under Jiang Cheng. "Tickles!" He's not an older brother for nothing. His fingers attack all of Jiang Cheng's vulnerable spots, making him shout and squirm, and like that, the tension is broken. A-Yuan leaps on both of them.

It's wild, it's fun, like they're kids again themselves. And then, A-Yuan attaches himself to Jiang Cheng's arm, trying to tickle his neck ineffectively. Jiang Cheng swings him up and catches him gently in his arms, crying, "Mercy! This dragon yields and bows to the will of the mighty A-Yuan! I am yours to command!" Wei Wuxian's little radish shrieks in delight and says, "Fly!" And Jiang Cheng, Wei Wuxian's grumpy brother, obediently makes dragon sounds and swings A-Yuan around like they're both flying through the air.

Wei Wuxian's heart hurts so much with love. Over at the table, his sister is watching with a big happy grin on her face that gentles when she meets his eyes. Wei Wuxian can't take it. Lan Wangji at least is watching Jiang Cheng with their kid like a hawk, which is both better and worse because Wei Wuxian can't take this. He's going to combust.

"All right, all right, time for dinner," he declares, needing a distraction. A-Yuan and Jiang Cheng take that as an invitation to make a tickle attack on him. It's chaos again as they tumble back to the floor. Wei Wuxian catches Lan Wangji looking worried again.

"Save me, Lan Zhan!" he calls, sandwiched between Jiang Cheng who's pinning him down and A-Yuan who's attacking his sides. "Save your poor husband from the tickle dragons!"

Lan Wangji blinks, and takes a half step toward them but stops when Jiang Cheng shouts, "You call him husband? You're so shameless! I don't want to hear that!"

It had just slipped out. Wei Wuxian laughs it off, feeling awkward and embarrassed at the look Jiang Cheng is giving him. "It's a joke!"

"It's gross!" Jiang Cheng says, and then they're wrestling again as Wei Wuxian tries to get him back for that.

Jiang Yanli makes them go wash their hands and faces after rolling around on the floor. Dinner is loud and happy. Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng argue about everything, and Jiang Yanli reins them in when it goes too far. A-Yuan is still worked up from playing, and Lan Wangji has to prompt him to eat.

Lan Wangji is quiet, but that's no surprise given how loud the rest of them are. Jiang Yanli tries to engage him in conversation, but Lan Wangji has reverted to one word answers, and even when Wei Wuxian teases him, he's a little stiff. Wei Wuxian feels a little bad about the unexpected onslaught of his siblings, especially since now that the yelling's over, he's so glad they came. It feels like it's been ages since they've been together like this, joking and messing around. Jiang Yanli is perfect of course, but he and Jiang Cheng together are a lot. He nudges Lan Wangji's foot under the table and smiles at him when he looks up.

The little frown line in the middle of Lan Wangji's forehead eases, and he nudges Wei Wuxian's foot back, letting his calf come to rest against Wei Wuxian's. It sends an illicit thrill up his spine, and Wei Wuxian feels his own smile melt into something bigger.

Ah, his poor heart can't take all his favorite people in one place!

Sadly, it all comes to an end too soon. His brother and sister need to catch the evening trains home to Yunmeng and Lanling.

"I can't believe you both just dropped everything and came for the day," he says as they gather their things. Lan Wangji slips out the door to the take the trash to the garbage chute, giving them some privacy. A-Yuan has attached himself to Jiang Cheng's leg and is already pouting about saying goodbye to his new favorite uncle.

"We wouldn't have to if you actually told us what was going on in your life," Jiang Cheng scolds him, leaning over to pick up A-Yuan and give him a hug. "I can't believe you kept my nephew from me for two months. Can you believe that A-Yuan? We could have been playing dragons for two months!"

"Will you come back?" A-Yuan asks, his little face gone serious again with worry.

"Yes," says Jiang Cheng. "You'll come visit me, too," he adds, giving Wei Wuxian a pointed glare that's only angry on the surface.

"We will," Wei Wuxian confirms with a smile.

"Lan Wangji too," Jiang Yanli says patting his elbow and looking up at Wei Wuxian like she's looking right through him. "You should bring him to meet the family at Mid-Autumn."

"He might not want to, Shijie," Wei Wuxian hedges, the uncomfortable guilt of everything he hadn't explained rearing its head again. "Who knows if we'll still be together then?"

Jiang Cheng snorts. "You're already calling him husband."

"That's a joke!" Wei Wuxian says again, feeling his insides squirm. "This all started as a joke, and here we are, and—" he shrugs helplessly, laughing again to cover how much this whole messed up situation means to him. "Can you imagine the two of us actually married? We'd be on a fast track to divorce. Already the stress of not knowing when he's going to get out of my hair is killing me."

Jiang Cheng rolls his eyes at him, and Jiang Yanli's smile is painfully kind. It's the smile that sees right through him, that sees how much he wants it, even if admitting it might kill him.

She cups his face and says "Oh, A-Xian. It'll be okay. Give it time."

Wei Wuxian shakes his head, time for him to decide he doesn't want me, on the tip of his tongue, but just then the door opens, and Lan Wangji comes back from the hallway. His face is a neutral and unreadable and he doesn't meet Wei Wuxian's eyes for long, before accepting A-Yuan from Jiang Cheng, who immediately squirms to get down.

Then it's all goodbyes and hugs and polite bows. As suddenly as they blew in, Jiang Cheng and Jiang Yanli leave.

Predictably, A-Yuan has a meltdown.

He flings himself into his nest of blankets and wails at that terrible decibel all small children seem to be able to hit that pierces eardrums. Wei Wuxian exchanges a look with Lan Wangji, who hasn't seen a full on tantrum before and looks a little spooked.

Wei Wuxian tries cajoling A-Yuan into calming down, but his son just pushes him away and cries for Shufu.

"One evening and I'm completely replaceable," Wei Wuxian moans sitting back, propped up on his hands when his efforts have completely failed. "You'll be next Lan Zhan, throwing me over to hang out with my siblings instead of me."

"No." Lan Wangji makes a face at the idea, which makes Wei Wuxian laugh. The image of Lan Wangji and Jiang Cheng awkwardly glaring at each other from six feet apart does seem unlikely.

"Fine. Your brother then," Wei Wuxian says, eyeing A-Yuan who is still going at full volume. "Get yourself some peace and quiet. Okay, radish, I think it's bedtime."

This declaration sets off A-Yuan even louder, but this time Wei Wuxian just scoops him up, tears, snot, and all, and carries him to his room. He doesn't bother with brushing A-Yuan's teeth, just wrestles him into pajamas and then sings him song after song for what feels like an age until A-Yuan finally, reluctantly, falls asleep.

It's nearly nine by the time he flops on the couch in exhaustion. Lan Wangji is in the kitchen making tea, but Wei Wuxian wants him to come sit with him so they can snuggle for a minute. It's been a ridiculously long day, a roller coaster of emotions, and Wei Wuxian is off-balance from it all.

He misses Jiang Yanli and Jiang Cheng already. The three of them haven't been together like that in ages. Since he doesn't go home for family events if he can help it, Wei Wuxian has been visiting them one at a time the last couple years.

"That was nice, wasn't it?" he says to fill the quiet that has settled throughout the apartment. "I can't believe they dropped everything just to check up on me. But it was fun once we got everything cleared up. It went so much better than I thought it would. Well, not at first. At first it was exactly as horrible as I thought it would be, but in the end it wasn't so bad. Did you think it was okay?"

He twists to look a Lan Wangji who brings his mug into the living room and settles at the far end of the couch. Wei Wuxian frowns, unhappy with the distance, but Lan Wangji probably just wants to make sure he can drink his tea without Wei Wuxian spilling it.


Wei Wuxian smiles as Lan Wangji frowns into his mug. "I know we're loud together. Especially when it's just the three of us. We haven't done that in a while. Usually I just visit one of them at a time. But at Shijie's, her stupid husband is around, and Jiang Cheng refuses to take time off of work when I come so he's always on the phone."

Wei Wuxian stretches out his legs until his toes brush Lan Wangji's thigh. Lan Wangji stills but doesn't look over. He shifts his weight, not enough to move away, but as if he maybe wants to. Wei Wuxian frowns. It's something he would have expected Lan Wangji to do early on in their game. In fact, it's exactly the kind of uncomfortable response that Wei Wuxian has been trying to provoke in him since this whole thing started—a response he hasn't gotten, not once.

Maybe Lan Wangji just needs space after dealing with him and his family all day. He pulls his feet back and tries not to think about it.

"Jiang Cheng was good with A-Yuan. I shouldn't be surprised. He's always been good with kids in his own super dorky way. He lets his younger cousins crawl all over him too, and he absolutely dotes on A-Ling." Wei Wuxian chatters about family gatherings when they were teenagers, going swimming in the lake at Lotus Pier in the summer, and then lifeguarding and teaching swim lessons when they were older. He talks about their plans for teaching Jiang Yanli's son how to swim and his first forays into the water at age one.

He talks until he's yawning, and he talks through Lan Wangji returning his mug to the kitchen.

He only pauses when Lan Wangji stops short next to the dining table instead of coming back to sit with him on the couch like he has every other night this week. He's standing still, his face unreadable like it had been earlier and he's not quite looking at Wei Wuxian.

A curl of unease unfolds in his stomach. "Lan Zhan?" Wei Wuxian sits up. "Is something wrong?"

Lan Wangji pauses before shaking his head. "I'm going to bed."

He doesn't say it like an invitation.

Wei Wuxian stands. "Should I tuck you in?" he asks, with a smile to plaster over the sense that he's missing something.

"No need," Lan Wangji says.

"Can I—" Wei Wuxian cuts himself off when Lan Wangji finally looks at him, his expression softening at the edges, but not into the familiar fond smile. Instead, he looks like he did when A-Yuan was screaming—at a loss. Wei Wuxian swallows. He doesn't know what to do with a Lan Wangji at a loss. He's afraid to ask.

What if… No. He's probably just tired. Like he said.

"Can you…?" Lan Wangji prompts.

Wei Wuxian summons up a grin, one designed to provoke and push boundaries. "Can I kiss you goodnight?" he says, tilting his head coyly. "Since we're married."

Lan Wangji's eyes snap to his. Wei Wuxian holds his breath, not knowing what he's waiting for until Lan Wangji finally nods his permission.

Wei Wuxian starts the kiss slow, a press of his lips. They're not touching anywhere else, even though all Wei Wuxian wants to do is grab Lan Wangji and hold onto him tight. But Lan Wangji's arms are at his sides, not even coming up to touch his waist or elbow. The kiss morphs on a gasp to open mouths and tongues, but unlike last night, when their lips part it doesn't feel like a prelude to more. Lan Wangji steps back, eyes flickering to Wei Wuxian's, his breathing hard.

"Good night," he says softly.

Wei Wuxian echoes him, "Good night."

He watches Lan Wangji retreat first to the bathroom and then to the bedroom. When the door closes, Wei Wuxian shakes himself. It's nothing, he tells himself. It was just a long day. Lan Wangji had to deal with Jiang Cheng and Wei Wuxian together. Of course he wants an early night. They have work tomorrow.

But the feeling in the dark depths of his stomach doesn't go away.

Chapter Text

Things don't get better in the morning. A-Yuan is cranky and Lan Wangji is quiet. They dance around each other carefully as they get ready for the day. Wei Wuxian is half afraid of saying anything in case he tips the fragile peace into the disaster that seems imminent.

The worst part of it, however, is not the anxiety writhing under his skin, or arguing with a four-year-old over the appropriateness of pants. It's not knowing what set things down this path.

Yesterday, Wei Wuxian thought things had been fine, getting better even. He can't pinpoint what he did or said that is making Lan Wangji act like there's a chasm between them that he wants to but can't cross. Wei Wuxian asks again what's wrong, but Lan Wangji is tying A-Yuan's shoes while the kid wails that he doesn't want to go to school today, he's sick (he's not sick) and either doesn't hear him or is ignoring him. Wei Wuxian doesn't want to repeat himself and find out which.

So he swallows his doubts and gets on with their day.

With A-Yuan dragging his heels they're running late, so Lan Wangji goes on ahead to the office while Wei Wuxian drops him at preschool.

At lunch, Lan Wangji texts him that he has an unexpected meeting. It's not unprecedented, but Wei Wuxian doesn't believe in coincidences.

When they see each other at the end of the day, all his words have left him. He should say something, ask after Lan Wangji's day. He's wearing a more conservative gray suit today, brightened by a bright pink and baby-blue paisley tie and matching pocket square. But despite not having a hair out of place, Lan Wangji looks bruised around the edges.

Wei Wuxian's tongue feels thick and useless in his mouth.

The one bright spot is that school has cheered A-Yuan up. He fills the silence between them all the way home and through dinner, and things feel normal again. Lan Wangji asks what he learned at school and listens carefully as A-Yuan rattles on about what he and his friends got up to. When A-Yuan pauses to shovel food in his mouth and Lan Wangji reminds him to not talk with his mouth full, he lifts his gaze to Wei Wuxian.

"And how was your day, Wei Ying?" he asks carefully, like he's not sure he should.

"Good, good," says Wei Wuxian, his shoulders relaxing a little. "I missed you at lunch."

"I am sorry about that. The ten-day prediction model finished its run with some abnormal results."

Wei Wuxian's attention snaps to him. Lan Wangji works in the technical group that forecasts potential disaster hotspots based on data from satellites and ground stations that report on the weather and other conditions. "Everything okay?"

Lan Wangji shakes his head, but it's not a no. "We are rerunning and will know more tomorrow," he says.

"Mn." Wei Wuxian nods, glancing at A-Yuan and back at Lan Wangji, the understanding that they won't go into detail now passing between them. He takes another bite of noodles, and it's quiet for a moment. His anxiety has shifted to worry; Lan Wangji wears a neutral expression but seems tired underneath. "Are you okay?"

"Of course," Lan Wangji says immediately, his face impossibly smoothing out even that small hint of fatigue. "We will resolve the issue tomorrow."

"No, I meant—" But Wei Wuxian doesn't know how to finish that thought. How does he name a nameless feeling of something being off? How does he ask about something that's probably a figment of his imagination, a product of his own stupid insecurities?

Maybe everything really is fine, and his bad feeling is just Lan Wangji when he's really tired. Faced with Lan Wangji's placid regard, he lets it go. "Never mind."

"Baba, Baba," A-Yuan breaks in. He's got sauce smeared all over his cheeks, "I was really good today."

"You were, were you," Wei Wuxian gratefully takes the distraction. This, at least, he knows where it's going.

"Mn. I was." A-Yuan nods his head very firmly. He turns his big innocent eyes on Wei Wuxian, who returns the look coolly. "Can we have dessert tonight? We didn't have dessert last night."

They had in fact had little mints that came with the take-out for dessert last night.

"It's a weeknight," Wei Wuxian points out.

"But we didn't have dessert last night!" A-Yuan whines. Giving up on Wei Wuxian, he turns his pleading eyes on Lan Wangji.

"Lan Zhan," Wei Wuxian says warningly, shaking his head. He lets A-Yuan get away with far too much.

Lan Wangji hesitates, but in the end he shakes his head. "Not tonight. Don't pout," he adds when A-Yuan's lip comes out. "I'll read you a story after dinner."

A-Yuan sighs and continues to pout, but at least he doesn't whine about it, so Wei Wuxian calls it a win.

After dinner, he cleans up while Lan Wangji reads A-Yuan his promised story, distracting him back into a good mood. He happily goes to play with his bunnies, afterward, reenacting a dramatic fight of some kind that involves a lot of yelling, "Now go! Do your best!"

Wei Wuxian smiles, watching him, and grins when Lan Wangji joins him in the kitchen. Clean-up done, Wei Wuxian put the kettle on for tea and is leaning against the counter waiting for the water to boil.

Lan Wangji nods to him, and something about the way he's looking at Wei Wuxian sets the nerves that had settled back on edge again.

For once, Wei Wuxian doesn't fill the void with restless chatter. He turns to the cupboard to get the tea cups, looking for the fancy ones with the traditional dragon motif in the back that Jiang Cheng got him for his housewarming, saying Wei Wuxian needed to have a proper adult tea set. Wei Wuxian didn't see what was wrong with the everyday set of mismatched cups he'd had since grad school. He thought the chipped one was especially charming.

"I think I should go back to my apartment."

Wei Wuxian stills, his hand frozen with the chipped tea cup in his hand. The words sink into him like rain soaking into soil. He sets the tea cup on the counter and finds a fancy dragon one behind it and pulls it out, too. A mismatched set indeed.

"To get the vacuum?" he asks casually, without turning around. The silence behind him is deafening.

"Wei Ying—" Lan Wangji starts, but Wei Wuxian can't bear to let him finish. He pastes on a smile and turns.

"Oh, that's fine," he says, waving his hand in an expression of I get it, no need to say it out loud and ruin my heart even more.

Lan Wangji doesn't look particularly overjoyed, but then he's being very careful to not look any particular way at all at the moment. Wei Wuxian hates it. He misses the warmth in Lan Wangji's eyes that was there just yesterday, that disappeared with no reason that he can understand.

"I should water my plants," Lan Wangji says weakly.

Wei Wuxian smiles wider. "Right, right. Wouldn't want them to get lonely."

"Unless you want—"

"No, no, you should go! It's fine. We've kept you from your real life long enough." WWX laughs because it's that or cry. "Don't look so forlorn. We'll still see you! Won't we, radish?" he calls to the living room where A-Yuan is paying them no attention what-so-ever. Fuck, how's he going to explain this to him. Wei Wuxian takes a breath and lets it out with another big smile that's like a slash across his face. "We'll still be," he swallows, "still be friends."

"Of course." But Lan Wangji is still determinedly not revealing what's going on behind his solemn eyes.

Fuck. Wei Wuxian really fucked up.

Lan Wangji is only this fixedly unreadable when he's really upset. He hopes he gets a chance to apologize once he figures out what for. He hopes this is only the end of their fake marriage and not of lunch and afternoons in the park and hanging out.

The loss of Lan Wangji in his home hurts, but is understandable. He should be allowed to set his own boundaries, get back to the things he likes doing. The loss of him in Wei Wuxian's life, however, well, he might not survive that.

"Are you taking your things?"

For the first time, Lan Wangji flinches, but he ends up nodding. "I should take a few."

"Great, great—oh, some of your laundry is mixed up with mine. I'll go sort it out, while you—" Wei Wuxian gestures vaguely at the kitchen that Lan Wangji has made his own.

It won't take but a few minutes to sort out the laundry, and taking a minute to get ahold of himself is probably a good idea.

But the moment he crosses into the bedroom and dumps out the laundry basket on the bed, it hits Wei Wuxian like a mountain falling on his head that Lan Wangji is going to take home his beautiful billowy shirts and the slotted spoon and the non-stick pan that fries dumplings so well. His hair gel and face moisturizer are going to disappear from the bathroom. He's not going to be here to bring Wei Wuxian tea in bed or give in to A-Yuan begging for dessert every night. He's never going to hold Wei Wuxian in his arms again and kiss him.

And every damn thing in his apartment is going to be a reminder of what's he's missing.

The tears when they come are as fast and furious as they are surprising, like an undertow pulling him down till he can't breathe, can't feel anything but overwhelmingly horrible, choking on feelings he's been stuffing down the last two weeks to try to avoid this.

Wei Wuxian presses his hands against his eyes trying to make it stop, bites his lip to keep from making a noise. There's a lead weight in his chest and a lump of coal in his throat and everything tastes like ash.

"Baba? Lan-gege said to ask you if we can have buns for breakfast. Can we have buns?" A-Yuan runs through the partially open door at speed, knocking it into the stopper on the wall with a loud clatter.

Wei Wuxian jerks his head up in surprise, then turns away when A-Yuan's eyes widen.

"Why are you crying?" his son asks, clearly spooked. Wei Wuxian tries to remember if A-Yuan has ever seen him cry before, gross and sticky like a kid himself.

He hastily wipes his face. "I'm not crying. See?" He smiles. "I'm okay." But the tears don't actually stop, putting lie to his words.

A-Yuan frowns. "Okay, Baba, but why?"

Wei Wuxian doesn't know whether to laugh or wail in despair at how good his son is, how big his heart. If he didn't fervently not want to talk about it—how does he even begin explaining to his son when he's such a mess?—he'd shower him in kisses and tell him he's so good for checking on him. But Wei Wuxian really needs an extra minute to make himself less of a disaster before Lan Wangji comes in and sees him.  

"I'm fine, radish. It's just grown up stuff, okay? You don't need to worry. Why don't you go play with Bai and Hei? Build them a house?"

"Okay," A-Yuan says doubtfully. But he goes, and that's all WWX needs.

He lets himself wallow for one more minute before he makes himself start separating out Lan Wangji's clothes. The first thing he grabs, though, is Lan Wangji's bunny T-shirt that he still hasn't heard the story of, which somehow makes everything worse, because he desperately wants to know why the ever-fashionable Lan Wangji has this old, wretched shirt and now he never will.

The door creaks again.

"A-Yuan, I'm fine!" he says as he looks up.

But it's not A-Yuan at the door. It's Lan Wangji.

"Wei Ying?" That terrible neutral expression has finally dropped away, but what's replaced it is worse: concern.

"Oh no." Wei Wuxian looks resolutely at the laundry, his eyes welling up again. "I'll be just a minute."

"He was crying!" A-Yuan says running out from behind Lan Wangji to hug Wei Wuxian around the legs, rocking his body against the bed. His chin digs into Wei Wuxian's hip, and with terrible earnestness, he says, "Baba, if you're hurt you have to tell us. You have to use your words, Baba, or we can't fix it."

His own son, turning his own words against him. It'd be funny if it weren't so terrible.


"Wei Ying, what's wrong?" Lan Wangji takes a hesitant step closer.

"Nothing!" But Wei Wuxian can't hold up in the face of Lan Wangji's concern.

"Words, Baba!" A-Yuan insists in the exact same tone of voice that Wei Wuxian uses when he's coaxing A-Yuan to tell him what's wrong. His own son!

"Please tell me, Wei Ying. We're—"

Lan Wangji stops on an inhaled breath.

Wei Wuxian finally looks at him properly. The unsaid "married" falls like glass to the floor between them, its absence shattering and final.

"Married?" Wei Wuxian says at last, and it tastes bitter.

He takes a deep breath. The game is up. He doesn't know how to fix this, but as he cradles A-Yuan's head and runs his hands reassuringly through his hair, he smiles for his son who's looking at him like this can be fixed if he just uses his words. He owes A-Yuan this much. He can't think of just himself in this anymore.

"A-Yuan, go play in the living room. Lan-gege and I need to talk."

He takes another breath while his son retreats with worried eyes. Lan Wangji closes the door after him. There's a long pause when their eyes meet. Wei Wuxian, heartsore and tired, takes another deep breath, and says, "We're not married, Lan Zhan."

Lan Wangji's lips part, like he's going to say something, but he doesn't.

Wei Wuxian gives him a moment and watches emotions too small and new for him to interpret, that he's too tired to read into, cross Lan Wangji's face. His mouth closes with a press of his lips at the end.

"I know I have no right to ask," Lan Wangji says after a long moment. "But I would still like to know why you are upset." He hesitates, then adds like he's not sure, "We are still friends."

"Yes," Wei Wuxian agrees too quickly. "Still friends."

Lan Wangji takes another hesitant step forward. "Will you tell me what's wrong?"

"Why are you leaving?" Wei Wuxian says in a rush. He can't meet Lan Wangji's eyes, so he looks at the floor between them instead. "I thought we had a good day yesterday. I thought—" But his throat closes up and he can't finish his thought.

"Wei Ying?"

"Why are you leaving?" His eyes dart up to Lan Wangji's face and away, and he offers a wan scrap of a smile to paper over how exposed he feels just asking that much. "If I have to use my words, then so do you."

"I—" Lan Wangji stops and swallows loud enough for Wei Wuxian to hear it. "Yesterday, with your sister." He stops again and his voice drops even softer. "You said you were waiting for me to leave."

Confused, Wei Wuxian does look up at him then, but this time Lan Wangji is the one avoiding his gaze. "I only meant I didn't think you'd stay!"

"Which is why I'm leaving."

"But do you want to?" Wei Wuxian asks, feeling like he missed a step somewhere in the conversation.

"It doesn't matter what I want," Lan Wangji says, still staring past him. "If you do not want me to be here then I will not be."

"But—" Wei Wuxian splutters as his world turns sideways, grasping for a picture whose edges are taking shape but is still out of focus.

Lan Wangji finally looks at him, something raw and wanting in his eyes.

Wei Wuxian doesn't know how they got here, but that little bit of yearning is enough to rest hope on, it's enough for him to blurt out, "But I don't want you to leave!"

Lan Wangji's eyes widen, just the little bit more that on him is as good as a gasp of shock. "Then why did you tell your sister—"

"Because you keep saying we're married, but we're not!" Wei Wuxian interrupts. He throws his hands out, suddenly unable to stay still as the words flood out of him. "We're not. And it started as a joke and a dare and I don't know where that ends for you or if it's all still a joke, because you haven't said anything else but that. I keep waiting for you to get tired of me and leave because that's what always happens, and I honestly don't blame you. Who would want to stay with me? I'm a lot! I was terrible to you before! I'm a disaster and a half, and I impulsively adopted a kid without telling anyone—"

"I would." Lan Wangji, who never cuts people off, cuts him off. He closes the last couple steps between them and grabs Wei Wuxian's flailing hand, searching Wei Wuxian's face with an intensity that is unnerving. He squeezes Wei Wuxian's hand. "I do. It's not a joke."

"Then what is it?" Wei Wuxian hears the pleading in his voice. He feels that stupid feeling in his chest rear its terrifying head. He licks his lips and pushes on anyway. "When you say we're married, what are you saying?"

Lan Wangji looks like he's scared too, but he doesn't look away. "When I say we're married, I'm saying I want to be married. To you. Wei Ying. I want to marry you."

Wei Wuxian can't breathe for a second. He's not sure he's heard right, but then Lan Wangji squeezes his hand again, and he's there and real and holding his breath too.

Wei Wuxian has to close his eyes on the tears he already feels streaming down his cheeks. He shakes his head and doesn't know whether to sob or laugh. In the end, it's the laugh that wins out, a hard, painful sound that shakes something loose, making space for the words to work their way in. Land in his heart.

He wants to marry me.

"Lan Zhan." Wei Wuxian opens his eyes, a smile spreading across his face that feels too small for the sudden surge of joy that overtakes him so fast Wei Wuxian is dizzy with it. He tries wiping the tears away, but then Lan Wangji is there, stepping into his space and using the cuffs of his fancy draped cardigan to wipe them away for him.

"Lan Zhan," Wei Wuxian tries again. "Do you mean it? Do you want me? And all this?"

Lan Wangji nods, his smile gentle as he cups Wei Wuxian's face in his palms.

"Yes. I want you. I want all of you, and all the joy and chaos that comes with you. You make my life worth living. Wei Ying. I'm in love with you."

"Oh good," Wei Wuxian murmurs, his heart full and beating too fast. "Because I'm in love with you, too, and I never want to be apart from you again."

He catches the bloom of Lan Wangji's smile, happiness glowing from him as he leans in. His lips land softly against Wei Wuxian's, full of tenderness for a moment before Wei Wuxian kisses back, and then they are surging against each other. Lan Wangji's arms come around Wei Wuxian, and when the kiss breaks they hold on to each other, warm and tight, in an embrace that feels like coming home.

As soon as the door creaks when they emerge from the bedroom, A-Yuan comes running. Lan Wangji holds Wei Wuxian's hand and doesn't let go when he slams into them, one arm around each of the legs.

"Are you all better, Baba?" he asks, his pointy chin landing on Wei Wuxian's hip. "Did Lan-gege fix it?"

"He did!" Wei Wuxian can't stop smiling. "He kissed it all better," he adds with a wink for Lan Wangji's whose ears go delightfully pink. But he can't seem to stop smiling either.

"Good!" A-Yuan declares, letting go of them. He steps back and nods seriously. "But if you're still sad, dessert could cheer you up, too."

"You have a one-track mind." Wei Wuxian ruffles his hair. He squats down so he's at A-Yuan's level, and Lan Wangji does the same beside him. "Hey radish, I have a question for you. You know how before Lan-gege moved in I said we would be a pretend family for a little while?"

A-Yuan looks back and forth between them. "You said Lan-gege would stop pretending he was family but he'd still be our friend. Is pretend over?" His little face pinches into an anxious frown.

"Hey, it's okay," Wei Wuxian rushes to reassure him. "Pretend is over, but in a good way. What do you say to making Lan-gege part of our family for real?"

"You want to adopt him?" A-Yuan's eyes go round and big, and he turns an awed excitement on Lan Wangji. Wei Wuxian stifles his laughter in Lan Wangji's shoulder.

"Not adopt, marry," says Lan Wangji fondly. "I want to marry your baba. That would make me your baba, too. Would you like that?"

"Yes!" A-Yuan throws himself at Lan Wangji who catches him with his free arm while A-Yuan does his best to strangle him in excitement. "So you'll be ours and we'd be yours forever and ever!"

"That's right," Lan Wangji agrees, bringing up Wei Wuxian's hand he's still holding to kiss his knuckles. Wei Wuxian melts against his side, wrapping them both up in a hug, so happy he could burst with it.

"But what will I call you, Lan-gege?" A-Yuan asks, squirming back upright with the urgency of this new thought. "If Baba's baba, and you're baba, how will you know who I want?"

Lan Wangji smoothes back a stray hair from A-Yuan's eyes. Watching him with A-Yuan, Wei Wuxian can't believe he gets to have his two favorite people together with him.

"We can try different names till we find one that fits," Lan Wangji says. "We have time."

Wei Wuxian still isn't sure it's not all a dream when at last bedtime rolls around.

In their bedroom with the door closed, Lan Wangji is kissing him like he needs it to breathe. He holds Wei Wuxian with gentle yet firm hands, tilting his head where he wants it so he can lick into every crevice of Wei Wuxian's mouth.

Wei Wuxian is a puddle, he's goo, held up only by those hands cradling his face and the press of Lan Wangji's thigh between his legs that puts a delicious pressure on his cock. He aches from sweetness, yearns for it to both continue and for things to speed up.

But when he makes a move to get his hands under Lan Wangji's shirt, Lan Wangji pulls back. His lips are shiny and he's breathing hard. His eyes are dark desire and they focus with an intensity that Wei Wuxian is helpless to resist.

"Let me," Lan Wangji says, no more than a breath that ghosts along Wei Wuxian's cheek. He follows it with a kiss, then another to the corner of Wei Wuxian's eye. "Let me take care of you. I've been trying so hard to take care of you. All I want is to take care of you."

Wei Wuxian's breath is stolen from him, like a wave pulling back from shore only to be followed by its return in an overwhelming surge of love for this man. His head lands on Lan Wangji's shoulder with a thump; he can't look at him while feeling this much. Lan Wangji wraps his arms around him and squeezes, his arms sure and strong, holding him up, which doesn't slow the rush of feelings coursing through him. Wei Wuxian hates it. He loves it.

"Lan Zhan! You can't just say that!"

"Mn." Lan Wangji rubs his back. He tilts his head so his cheek rests on Wei Wuxian's head. "I tried not saying it, tried showing you, but you didn't hear."

Wei Wuxian lifts his head and gives him what he hopes is a stern look but knows his smile is probably ruining it. "Telling Su She we're married and then moving in with me is not saying it!" Then another realization hits him. "Oh shit! You said we were married over a week ago and you meant it! A week and you didn't tell me!"

"And what did you mean when you said A-Yuan was my son? And then kept letting me move in?" Lan Wangji's mouth curls into a smile with such fondness that Wei Wuxian has to bury his head in his shoulder again. "I was not sure how long you would let me stay. I was worried you would turn me away again."

Like he had all those years ago when Lan Wangji had come after him in Yiling. Neither of them had been able to say the right things then either. Now, moving in without asking, the cooking, the chores and calming Wei Wuxian down when he was freaking out about dinner with his family. It finally sinks in that Lan Wangji has been as desperate for it to be real as he has. As scared of rejection.

"Maybe we were both hoping the other would hear," Wei Wuxian says looking up again. He feels a little ridiculous, but Lan Wangji's expression is sheepish around the edges, so he's not alone in feeling silly at least.

"Mn. Now we've both said it. I'm going to keep saying it," Lan Wangji says. He leans in to kiss Wei Wuxian again. "I love you," he whispers against his lips.

Wei Wuxian feels his pulse race and leans forward into another kiss, one that's deep and dirty, pouring every scrap of terrifying, amazing feeling into it. Lan Wangji's arms tighten around him, his hips press flush against him. Want floods Wei Wuxian's veins.

When at last they break, Wei Wuxian is breathing hard. His cock is flushed with blood and aching. He can feel Lan Wangji's hard length against him. His forehead thunks against Lan Wangji's. "I love you too."

"Let me take care of you," Lan Wangji whispers, and this time, Wei Wuxian nods in eager agreement.

"Yes. Take care of me. I want you so much, Lan Zhan. I've wanted you for so long."

Once he's started, he can't stop talking while Lan Wangji undresses him, undresses himself. He can't keep his hands to himself, runs them over Lan Wangji's perfect chest and stomach, feels Lan Wangji's hands leave trails of desire down his flanks. He babbles every thought that comes into his head until Lan Wangji quiets him with another kiss and presses him into the bed.

He kisses Wei Wuxian as he fingers him open, trails love bites down his neck as Wei Wuxian arches onto his two fingers on a fluttering gasp. Wei Wuxian's words sublimate into moans as Lan Wangji fingers find his prostate, lighting him up until his skin is buzzing.

"You're so beautiful," Lan Wangji murmurs.

"Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan." Wei Wuxian was going to say something else, he swears, but another of Lan Wangji's fingers is stretching him open and they feels so good.

He reaches blindly until he finds Lan Wangji's cock, thinking he should do something about that, just as soon as he can concentrate again. He manages a couple strokes—and fuck, Lan Wangji is big, and soon he's going to take Wei Wuxian apart with his dick.

Lan Wangji's moan when it comes is abrupt and deep, a sound straight from his chest that sends Wei Wuxian spiraling higher.

"Come on, Lan Zhan—" is all Wei Wuxian gets out before Lan Wangji's fingers leave him, gaping and bereft for a moment before Lan Wangji manhandles him into position—fuck fuck fuck, he's so fucking strong, and Wei Wuxian is going to die. Lan Wangji hooks Wei Wuxian's knees over his elbows, folding him nearly in half as he thrusts home in one long, slow stroke. Wei Wuxian's breath is fucked out of him—the stretch and burn are a lot, but he's so full, as full of Lan Wangji's cock as he is of his love. His head is going to explode.

Lan Wangji doesn't waste any more time. Once Wei Wuxian adjusts and urges him on, he thrusts hard and deep, so deep Wei Wuxian can feel him in the back of his throat.

"Wei Ying, oh Wei Ying," he groans, the sounds wrung from him, and Wei Wuxian opens his eyes to see him. The flush on his cheeks, his lips parted and panting, his eyes locking on Wei Wuxian's and seeing straight through him, straight to his bruised and messy heart.

"Yours," Wei Wuxian pants. "Lan Zhan, my heart, it's yours, me, I'm yours—"

Lan Wangji pounds harder, stirred into a new frenzy, and pleasure builds and spikes. Wei Wuxian feels every inch of him, feels the cascade of pleasure within him wind tighter and tighter as each stroke hits that perfect spot.

"Marry me, Wei Ying," Lan Wangji gasps, eyes still on his.

"Yes. Lan Zhan. Yes!"

Lan Wangji gives a cry, his hips stuttering frantically. His hand pumps Wei Wuxian's cock and his lips find Wei Wuxian's as he comes, hot jets filling Wei Wuxian's insides as he grinds against his prostate. Overwhelmed, Wei Wuxian crests a moment later, pleasure flooding over him in wave after wave. Lan Wangji peppers his face in kisses, and it's more than pleasure overwhelming Wei Wuxian as tears leak from the corners of his eyes. He wraps his arms and legs around Lan Wangji, who rolls them to their sides and wraps him up in turn.

Joy swells in his chest, too much to contemplate. Wei Wuxian breathes through it and kisses Lan Wangji and presses their sweaty skin together, wrapped up in Lan Wangji's warmth and love, and the promise of forever.

Nie Huaisang:
so when are you going to tell me how dinner with lan qiren went
it's been three days and all dage can get out of xichen is that it went fine
he always says everything is fine
i'm dying here

Nie Huaisang:
wait you're not dead right
lan qiren didn't bury you in the backyard

Nie Huaisang:
wei-xiong if you don't tell me you're alive I'm gonna assume I can pick up my couch now

Wei Wuxian:
hands off my couch!

Nie Huaisang:
so dinner

Wei Wuxian:
it was fine. not great but fine
lan zhan stood up for me when lan qiren got started

Nie Huaisang:
still worried he's going to abandon you

Wei Wuxian:
about that
turns out you were right

Nie Huaisang:
of course I was
did you get a look at his dick yet

Wei Wuxian:
you're the worst
I want that on the record

Wei Wuxian:
and yes
even though that's none of your business
it turns out he wants to marry me too
if you gloat you're not invited to the wedding

Nie Huaisang:

Wei Wuxian:
what's this? nie-xiong's wedding invitation getting burned

Nie Huaisang:
I'm going to plan your wedding so just try to keep me out

Nie Huaisang:
congratulations wei-xiong

Wei Wuxian:
Thanks :heart:
I'm still not sure how this all happened

Nie Huaisang:
I'm rolling my eyes at you
only you wei-xiong
okay gotta go dage's home
lunch this weekend
bring your kid
and your husband

Wei Wuxian can't contain the grin that overtakes him as he reads the last message and replies with a sparkle of emojis. He sets his phone on the coffee table. He's been floating all day.

In the kitchen his future husband is cooking dinner. At the table, their son is industriously coloring. While Wei Wuxian continues to wrap his brain around the fact that it's not a game anymore, A-Yuan gets up in a flurry.

"A-die, a-die, look!" he shouts, running to Lan Wangji with his drawing and showing it off proudly. Lan Wangji sets down his spatula and gives it a proper look, his face softening. He glances up at Wei Wuxian and turns the paper so he can see too.

There, drawn large with A-Yuan's four-year-old enthusiasm are two tall figures and three smaller ones standing on a colorful field with crooked hearts above their heads. The largest of the small ones is in A-Yuan's favorite royal blue. The tall ones, one in black and one in pale blue, are holding hands. The two of the smallest figures probably have bunny ears, if past drawings are anything to go by. But from this distance, they could be anything—bunnies, cats… kids.

As Wei Wuxian goes to join his family in the kitchen, soaking in his son's smile and the warm gaze of the man he loves, the possibilities seem endless.

the end