Among Lan Wangji’s positive attributes, being a good sleeper is probably fairly high on the list. Unlike his brother, who requires any combination of melatonin, white noise, and pillows wedged between his knees and elbows to fall asleep, Lan Wangji was blessed from a young age to fall asleep quickly, sleep deeply, and wake naturally five minutes before his alarm.
None of these things stop him from waking abruptly around 1:37 in the morning to someone whispering, “Lan Zhan! Lan Zhan!” outside his window.
There is only one person who calls him by that name. “Wei Ying?” he says reflexively, uncharacteristically groggy. It is dark outside, so for a moment all he can detect is what looks like the usual swaying of the tree outside his window’s shadow. As if in a fast wind. Oh, Wei Ying is waving enthusiastically.
He’s at the window before he’s even fully awake. The balcony outside is accessible only via his bedroom, since he lives on the second floor, so why would Wei Ying be trapped outside? Still, he obligingly slides the window open and Wei Ying crawls through in a tangle of ungainly limbs. He lands with an oof on the hardwood, banging his elbow hard. Perhaps Lan Wangji shouldn’t have removed the carpet.
“Lan Zhan!” Wei Ying says again, grinning madly.
“You’re drunk,” Lan Wangji observes. Not a judgement, the way it might have been the first time they met. He’s developed quite an affection for drunk Wei Ying over the years -- the way his hands get cold and he needs to stick them in Lan Wangji’s pockets, his newborn deer gait, that particular smile -- but that does not mean he was expecting to see him at such an hour with no forewarning. Worry strikes him belatedly. “Is everything okay?”
“I’m grand,” Wei Ying announces, hiccuping a little as he pushes himself up. Lan Wangji takes his arm to steady him; Wei Ying leans into the contact gratefully as Lan Wangji guides them over to sit on his bed. “Hi.”
“Hello,” Lan Wangji says, amused. “Scale of one to ten, how drunk?”
Wei Ying scrunches up his face to think. “Seven. It was nine earlier, but I can actually focus on your beautiful face right now. Hi. I missed you! Hi.”
“Hello,” Lan Wangji says again, patiently, trying to disguise the way his heart skips at every one of these compliments. It is just how Wei Ying interacts with the world, he must remind himself. “Do you need anything? Water?” Wei Ying nods and Lan Wangji leans over to the bedside table to snag his Hydroflask, which Wei Ying gulps from eagerly.
He smacks his lips when he’s done. “Lan Zhan!” he repeats, and sighs.
“How did you get onto the balcony?” Lan Wangji asks curiously. He’s not sure Wei Ying will remember in the morning.
“Climbed the tree,” Wei Ying says matter-of-factly.
Lan Wangji has a brief moment of horror at the thought of Wei Ying drunkenly shimmying up at least six meters of tree. He watched Nie Mingjue fall out of a tree and break his arm at age ten and that had only been three meters. He swallows it back. Wei Ying is clearly fine and whole. “Why?”
Wei Ying laughs. “I came to see you! What was the point of taking a cab here just to stand outside your building? I’m not made of money! Your brother offered to drive me but I thought that would be too weird.”
Lan Wangji blinks. “Brother offered to drive you here? From where?”
“Huaisang’s party. Or possibly Nie Mingjue’s party that Huaisang co-opted, I’m not sure.” He sips a little more from the Hydroflask. “It was very edyu -- educational, so I had to come here and talk to you.” He nods decisively, then looks at Lan Wangji’s unmade bed. “Oh no,” he says. “Did I wake you?”
“It’s alright,” Lan Wangji says, because it is. There are exactly two people he is willing to forgive for waking him in the middle of the night for no reason, and luckily Wei Ying is one of them. “You had to talk to me?”
Wei Ying huffs. “Yes!” he says. “Okay, so long story short is that everyone yelled at me. It’s like, you know when you only know a word from reading it and then you say it out loud and everyone is like, that’s not how you say that! You know?”
Lan Wangji, who spent most of his childhood reading and not talking, is perfectly well acquainted with this experience. “Yes.” He hesitates. “You tried to break into my house to tell me you were mispronouncing a word for years?”
Wei Ying wrinkles his nose. “ No, I’m saying it was like that. It’s a metaphor. A smimile. Simile. Whatever.” He drums his fingers against his chin, trying to get back on track. “What was I saying?”
“Everyone yelled at you,” Lan Wangji prompts obligingly, although he dislikes the idea.
“Right,” Wei Ying says. “Thank you. Okay. I was talking about how I don’t get the big deal about romance, you know? Like why would you do that to yourself? I said, why would I bother dating when I can live with Lan Zhan for the rest of my life and we’ll have four bunnies and two cats and a bird and maybe a kid. And Huaisang was like, that sounds like dating to me.”
Lan Wangji’s heart sinks. He knows perfectly well how obvious his feelings are to seemingly everybody but Wei Ying, but he had trusted that out of pity, no one would bother informing Wei Ying. But if Huaisang was drunk, or just bored…
“And I said,” Wei Ying continues blithely, “Huaisang, you silly goose, you have just never experienced True Friendship.” He says it just like that. “I said, you are just bitter because Lan Zhan is my best friend and we are going to have a little cottage by the sea and go to the farmers market every weekend with candles that we dipped ourselves!”
“Mm,” Lan Wangji says. Candlemaking sounds messy, to be honest, but if Wei Ying thought it sounded fun, he would be willing to try.
“But then Wen Qing turned around and was like, ‘But I thought I was your best friend,’ and Wen Ning was like, ‘Me too,’ and Huaisang pointed out that I have definitely also called him my best friend, at various points.” He scratches his nose thoughtfully. “But I said of course you are all my best friends and I love you, but Lan Zhan is my best best friend, you see? It’s different. He is my uberfriend. My soulmate!”
Lan Wangji takes a deep breath and lets it out. It should be embarrassing, maybe, that this is enough to stoke a little warm fire inside his chest. This is enough; being Wei Ying’s uberfriend, whatever that means, is enough to sustain him. As long as he is Wei Ying’s something.
“And then,” Wei Ying barrels on, “Huaisang was like, ‘Do you want to kiss him? Is that what makes it different?’ And I said, of course I want to kiss him, it’s Lan Zhan! Anyone with eyes and a beating heart would want to kiss him!” He looks rueful; Lan Wangji feels frozen. “But then Huaisang said he wouldn’t, and Wen Qing wouldn’t, and Wen Ning wouldn’t, and neither would Jiang Cheng or Jiejie or Mianmian.” He tilts his head.
Lan Wangji’s heart beats very, very fast. He manages a shallow breath and realizes after a moment that Wei Ying seems to expect a response. He’s drunk, Lan Wangji reminds himself. “You do?” he asks, even surprising himself with the steadiness of his voice.
“Well, of course,” Wei Ying says easily. He fidgets with the water bottle. “And by then everyone was paying attention, so I sort of did a survey, and it turns out that when someone is your favorite person in the world and you want to live with them forever and kiss them and brush their hair and sleep in their bed and make candles with them that you might be in love with them. Everyone agreed.”
Lan Wangji swallows. “I see,” he says. His voice comes out too softly. Too close to giving himself away. He can only count the years he’s been in love with Wei Ying because it’s the number of years they’ve known each other. The night around him feels suffocating and comforting all at once, not quite real. Or extra-real. His heart feels so big in his chest that it’s taking up space meant for his lungs.
Wei Ying drops the Hydroflask on the comforter and grabs Lan Wangji’s hand. “I didn’t know!” he says. “Can you believe that! My heart has been reading the same word as everyone else and pronouncing it differently.” His eyes crinkle. “I’ve never been in love before, so -- so I didn’t realize.”
“And you came here to tell me,” Lan Wangji says quietly. “Right away?”
“Your brother heard the tail end of it,” Wei Ying admits. “And he said that if I didn’t take a cab here he’d drive me here himself. Actually, he may have meant in the morning. I’m not sure.” He squeezes Lan Wangji’s hand between his. His hands are familiar, by now. Long fingers, always cold. There’s a callous on the inside of his thumb from riding his bike everywhere. Short fingernails, so he won’t bite them. Lan Wangji loves every inch of him; he doesn’t know how not to.
“It’s okay if you don’t feel the same,” Wei Ying says, still smiling, just a little subdued by Lan Wangji’s nonreaction. “I don’t need you to. I just needed you to know, do you see? I love you. I’m in love with you.”
“Love you,” Lan Wangji says, before he can think better of it. He’s been pulling himself back from it for years now. Normally he’s forcing himself to speak, not holding words in. They don’t form naturally on his tongue. He’s thought for years there must be a wire disconnected between his brain and his mouth, something that stops his thoughts from coalescing into words. “I am -- in love with you. Also.”
“Really?” Wei Ying says, beaming, exhausted. “I love you too. I can’t believe I didn’t know.” He laughs a little; it turns into a yawn.
“Wei Ying,” Lan Wangji manages to say, and his voice does crack this time, mortifyingly. He doesn’t care. “You are the bravest person I know.”
Wei Ying gives him a small, brilliant smile. “Do you think so? I felt brave, climbing the tree.” Lan Wangji had forgotten about the tree. “The drunk level is down to a six now, if you were wondering. Your room isn’t spinning anymore.” He casts a longing look at Lan Wangji’s bed.
“Sleep,” Lan Wangji says, startling himself with his own boldness. “We can talk more in the morning. If you want.”
“I want!” Wei Ying says. “I want! Lan Zhan!” He tips forward and hugs Lan Wangji clumsily. Lan Wangji lets out a breath and hugs him back.
“Wei Ying,” Lan Wangji murmurs, holding him probably too tightly. His hands are trembling against Wei Ying’s back, and every muscle in his body feels tense. Wei Ying just laughs and pets a hand down the back of his pajama shirt. “Wei Ying .”
“Can I kiss you?” Wei Ying asks, muffled into Lan Wangji’s shoulder. For a second Lan Wangji thinks he’s misheard, but then Wei Ying tips his face up and asks again. “Can I? I know -- not on the mouth. I’m too drunk. You wouldn’t like it.”
Lan Wangji would most probably like it, but he would not like the possibility of taking advantage. He reaches up a shaking hand and taps his own cheek. Wei Ying gives him another blinding smile and stretches up to kiss him in that precise spot with no hesitation. Lan Wangji can hear the warm brush of his breath against his skin, the tiniest scrape of stubble. His own breath catches in his throat.
“Now me, now me,” Wei Ying says, eyes crinkled up. “Or it’s not fair.”
Lan Wangji obligingly folds down and presses a kiss to the same place on Wei Ying’s cheek. His skin is soft and warm. He can feel the tug of his smile. Wei Ying sighs happily.
“Okay,” he whispers. “We can sleep. And then I can tell you in the morning again. When my brain is back in order. Or as close to order as it ever gets. Okay?”
“Okay,” Lan Wangji echoes. It takes a moment to convince himself to let go of Wei Ying’s warm body. “Do you have things to sleep in?”
Wei Ying looks down at himself. “No,” he says. “I didn’t really plan past the confessing part.”
That’s fine. Lan Wangji never even got close to confessing, left to his own devices. Reluctantly, he lets go of Wei Ying. “You can borrow some clothes of mine.”
Wei Ying is wobbly but pliant as they both change his clothes. This, at least, is familiar. His shirt is fine, as are his boxers, but Lan Wangji helps him balance as they swap out his jeans for flannel pajama pants. He has seen Wei Ying down to his underwear plenty of times before, but usually his eyes skitter away out of self preservation. Tonight, he fixes his eyes courageously on Wei Ying’s bony knees. “Someone spilled beer on my feet,” Wei Ying says plaintively, looking at his wet socks, and so Lan Wangji lends him those too. When they’re done, Wei Ying flops back against the bed and holds out his arms with his eyes closed. “Lan Zhan!”
“Under the covers,” Lan Wangji says firmly, and Wei Ying sighs exaggeratedly and starts squirming underneath as best he can with his eyes shut. Lan Wangji takes pity on him and pulls the covers over them both as he climbs in.
“Good,” Wei Ying says, plastering himself to Lan Wangji’s back. “Good, yes, good. Do you like being the little spoon? I’m more of a big spoon, I think.”
Lan Wangji has never been any size spoon before. “Mm,” he says, because it is Wei Ying and there is very little he would not try if Wei Ying was the one doing it to him.
Wei Ying fits his arm around Lan Wangji’s middle and presses his face up against the back of his neck. “I love you,” he says again, half asleep already, into the knob at the top of Lan Wangji’s spine.
“I love you too,” Lan Wangji says, and he still loses his breath saying it. He thinks he could get over that, with practice. He wants, so desperately, to practice.
Lan Wangji rarely has trouble falling asleep. But he doesn’t try, not right away. He is determined to savor this particular sweetness -- Wei Ying pressed up against his back, impossibly warm, breathing against the nape of Lan Wangji’s neck. If he wakes and doesn’t remember, or changes his mind -- Lan Wangji will always have this. The place on his cheek where Wei Ying kissed tingles.
It will be several hours, in all likelihood, before Wei Ying wakes up. Lan Wangji has seen Wei Ying sleep well into the afternoon when uninterrupted. The thought should worry him, maybe, or make him impatient, but the thought of Wei Ying in his bed for hours makes him warm inside. Lan Wangji reaches out and turns his alarm off. Even if Wei Ying changes his mind… he feels safe here. He knows he is wanted.
The sky is beginning to lighten by the time Lan Wangji closes his eyes and sinks into sleep. Wei Ying is snoring into his hair. This is enough, he reminds himself. Even if this is all he ever gets.
He wakes at eight-thirty -- unconscionably late by his standards. The bed is empty. For a moment he blinks at the space where Wei Ying was curled up behind him. Despite himself, his stomach sinks. It wasn’t a dream -- his window is still cracked open, his alarm shut off. Did Wei Ying leave already? Did he wake up and immediately run?
The door nudges open. Wei Ying peeks his head through, his hair still in a tangle -- his eyes widen when he sees Lan Wangji is awake. “I made you tea,” he says, holding the mug out. “A spoonful of sugar, no milk.” He pauses. “Also, I love you.” His cheeks are flushed. “I’m sorry, that was so embarrassing, last night -- I hope I didn’t make you uncomfortable, but I did mean it --”
Lan Wangji’s heart stutters. As carefully as he can, he reaches out, takes the tea, and sets it on the bedside table, without so much as a coaster. Because he’s feeling wild this morning. Then he tugs Wei Ying down into his arms. Wei Ying goes easily, with a delighted yelp, and kisses him tasting like Lan Wangji’s toothpaste.