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at the end of the storm

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Wei Wuxian has never seen so much snow.

In truth, he’s barely seen it at all—there will be a light dusting of it, in the Cloud Recesses, perhaps a few inches’ worth around the coldest places, but never like this.

They are far from any village, not even a farm or a humble shack within sight. There’s only this lonely mountain path and the forest around, so muffled and still that even breathing feels like a shout from his lungs, I’m alive, I am, I’m here.

He feels loved by this mountain. Is that silly? Wei Wuxian tries not to be too sentimental about particular places—he can make do anywhere, after all, but here—if he were to yell at the top of his lungs, the air would simply sweep up his words and carry them back from the cliffs, to be caught by the snowdrifts and held there so gently, kept safe. Softened.

If silence always felt like this, he would understand why the Lans keep it so carefully.

But the sounds they find when on the move feel just as special. The squeaky crunch of snow beneath their boots delights him, and the soft thumps when wind blows snow from the trees; a few of the braver birds are venturing out to see what’s been left by the storm. It feels like a world made just for them, for him and Lan Zhan, and maybe Wei Wuxian likes that best of all.

He keeps spinning on his heels as they walk, looking up at the pale blue sky and down upon the sloping forest below, unable to stop smiling. “Do you see this, Lan Zhan?” he asks more than once.

And Lan Zhan, each time, looks at him with a gaze so soft it aches. “Mn.”

Wei Wuxian skims the bottom of his boot along a stretch of untouched snow, painting a careful swipe next to the path, and wonders once again how someone could call Lan Zhan cold. No one has ever listened to him as closely as Lan Zhan, or appreciated his nonsense the way Lan Zhan always does. Who could expect them to? After all, Wei Wuxian is a nuisance. He knows this.

But here he is, alive again and alone with the person who, somehow, still calls him zhiji.

He doesn’t feel like a nuisance here. He’s the luckiest man in the world.

The landmark they are looking for, an old shrine built into a cliff, is a few days’ journey north, so they have nothing to do but walk—Lan Zhan couldn’t carry him all the way by sword, not if he’s to have a trace of spiritual energy when they arrive. So, hiking. Wei Wuxian scoops up snow and eats it, every so often, thrilled by the powdery ice on his tongue each time.

He’ll admit the cold does bite a little, pinpricks on his hands and cheeks even as the sun is shining. To someone with a proper golden core, it would be nothing, and so Wei Wuxian resolves it will be nothing to him as well. It’s only a bit of a chill! Who’s he to complain on such a beautiful day? If he breathed a word to Lan Zhan, it might end, because Lan Zhan is gentle and sweet and would want him to be comfortable. What Wei Wuxian wants is to stay here, with him.

If the chill gets worse as the sun sinks, that’s no matter. The fearsome Yiling Patriarch will not be felled by a single winter day, or even by the steady press of Lan Zhan’s hand on his back as they navigate an icy stretch of rocks, which feels far more deadly. Lan Zhan is so warm.

(He starts to think of ways to fall, just so Lan Zhan might catch him.)

And it’s not so bad, handling the weather. Already Wei Wuxian feels better: his toes, which were distractingly cold before, have steadily gone numb. Thus the problem solves itself.

“Lan Zhan,” he calls out, hopeful. “Will you sing something for me?”

With just one backward glance, eyes warm, his beautiful lips turned up at the corners so that Wei Wuxian nearly dies—with that, Lan Zhan turns back to the path and starts to sing their song quietly in the hushed mountain air. He is too good, too lovely, too everything. It’s a wonder that Wei Wuxian’s heart can take it, really. Perhaps someday it won’t. The best and biggest risk he’s ever taken.

As the evening settles in, they stop to watch the western horizon. Sunset paints the sky in orange and pinks, and the snow sits luminous beneath it, a shadowed blanket on the land, faintly reflecting warm colors above. Wei Wuxian points to it, and keeps pointing to it, noting every subtle shift in shades, even though every time he glances back Lan Zhan is only looking at him.

It’s awful to look at a person like that, Wei Wuxian thinks privately. It gives them ideas.

The temperature has gone down sharply without the sun’s glow and Wei Wuxian is, by now, cold down to his bones, cold enough that his hands and feet and the tip of his nose are numb. Perhaps he should mention it. But he wants to watch dusk fall completely, and see the snow lit by nothing but stars and the moonlight. He very nearly manages, too.

Unfortunately, the dampness of his inner robe from sweat has taken on the chill. It brushes over his spine, and Wei Wuxian shivers violently, unable to hold back a displeased sound that rattles in his jaw. In an instant, Lan Zhan is there, taking stock of his pale fingers and faintly chattering teeth.

“Wei Ying,” he says softly, not angry but pained.

“It’s fine!”

Lan Zhan takes his wrist in a tight grip that he can just barely feel, which might be the first good argument there’s been for finding a place Wei Wuxian can warm up. “It is not.”

“Ah, don’t be angry with me, Lan Zhan.”

Lan Zhan gives him a look that he cannot begin to interpret. He then bends close and simply lifts Wei Wuxian in his arms as if he were just as light as one of Lan Zhan’s rabbits. Wei Wuxian finds himself stock-still and utterly silent, heart pounding in his chest as if he’d fallen down the slope, and decides it is far too dangerous to think of what else Lan Zhan might easily do to him.

“So! We’ll—find a cave?” he tries, breathing in sandalwood and warm skin with every word.

Lan Zhan’s chin rests on the top of his head. “Mn.”

“Okay,” Wei Wuxian says weakly, and lets himself be carried away.

 

 

Inside the cave, with talismans placed around its entrance, Wei Wuxian escapes the wind and the worst of the cold but only seems to shiver more. His robes are all damp below the knee, his boots have gotten soaked through, and his jaw keeps shuddering, tense, even when he can stop his teeth from chattering. All of Lan Zhan’s warmth is gone and as always, the absence hurts.

Wei Wuxian aims to be stoic, but without Lan Zhan holding him, it really feels unbearable.

“Lan Zhan—” he begins. Before he can speak another word, Lan Zhan is there, taking Wei Wuxian’s hands in his and squeezing gently, seeking out the coldest spots on his fingers.

Almost an afterthought, Lan Zhan looks at him searchingly. “Yes?”

“Oh,” he says, smiling and blinking back a few silly tears. “Nothing! That just feels so nice.”

Rather than risk another moment of eye contact, Wei Wuxian looks down at their joined hands and breathes in sharply. It occurs to him that perhaps he’s never appreciated Lan Zhan’s hands enough, the size and strength of them, how perfectly-shaped they seem to be for holding on like this. He is still cold, and painfully so, but it’s hard to remember it now.

He gasps, startled, when Lan Zhan’s energy starts to unspool for him, the steady glow of that brilliant golden core suffusing his skin and clothes with warmth. “Lan Zhan. Don’t use too much.”

All Wei Wuxian gets in response is a hum that suggests he’ll be humored, but not listened to.

“I mean it,” he protests, or tries, as all his muscles start to slowly relax.

“Wei Ying,” Lan Zhan says, sweet and firm and overwhelming. “It is not too much.”

There’s no more numbness left when Lan Zhan does stop, but it means Wei Wuxian feels it very distinctly when his chilled hands are dropped. That does feel a bit like the end of the world, Lan Zhan turning away, but—ah well. He’s had worse. He watches curiously as Lan Zhan spreads their few blankets neatly on the ground; having finished, he sits Wei Wuxian down on them with just the slightest press of his hands. It does not take much convincing.

“Stay.” It’s all the warning he gets before Lan Zhan starts to undress, unfastening layers of his robes one by one. Wei Wuxian can feel his eyes go so wide that it’s a wonder they don’t freeze like that, honestly, but—Lan Zhan, behaving in such a way! It feels like a dream.

(It feels like a very specific dream, but Wei Wuxian refuses to think about that.)

Lan Zhan kneels in front of Wei Wuxian, takes his trembling hands again and guides them beneath his open robes, so there is only an undershirt between Wei Wuxian’s hands and the scarred planes of Lan Zhan’s back. Whip-lines carved into the skin are thick and jagged beneath his palms, a brutalized exterior of something so painfully precious. Wei Wuxian cannot for the life of him recall how to breathe when Lan Zhan tips them down onto the blankets.

Long moments pass like that, both of them wrapped in a cocoon of Lan Zhan’s robes, as all the day’s weariness makes itself known to Wei Wuxian in his exhaustion, in aches and pains blooming where he’d been numb before. All the little costs of living. Wei Wuxian has tucked his head down and feels he cannot possibly look Lan Zhan in the eye. It would be giving himself away.

It’s incredibly difficult not to—react, in a certain way, with certain parts of him so freshly warmed and very—ah, moved, by being so intimate. He can feel Lan Zhan’s spine and the shift of muscles in his shoulders and back; he feels each breath in steady movements and soft brushes of warmth against his hair. “Better?” Lan Zhan asks, his dear voice stiff but full of such care.

“Very good,” Wei Wuxian answers, when he knows he can say it steadily. “Now only my face is cold! I think my lips might’ve really turned blue earlier, Lan Zhan, did you see?”

“Hm.”

Wei Wuxian rests his forehead comfortably against Lan Zhan’s chest and lets his eyes drift shut, breathing in the mingled scent of them. Almost comfort, to hide and torment himself with what he can’t have. He’s only roused by the feeling of warm fingers slipping up his throat to rest under his jaw.

Lan Zhan tips his chin up and kisses him.

It’s a soft, lingering kiss, unhurried, their lips pressed so carefully together. But it’s followed by another, and another, until Wei Wuxian feels he might catch fire and is whimpering into the heat of Lan Zhan’s mouth, pressing close, shaking for reasons so entirely different. Lan Zhan doesn’t stop until Wei Wuxian’s lips are flushed and swollen, all the cold kissed away.

Lan Zhan has him pinned now, rolled neatly onto his back and pressed into the little nest of blankets. They stay there, breathing hard against each other, watching each other so closely, and in the silence that follows, it seems impossible not to ask for more.

And Wei Wuxian is a nuisance. He is selfish.

“You know, if you stop—” Wei Wuxian says quietly, running his hands through the silky thick rivers of Lan Zhan’s hair, careful, careful, “—I might get cold again. We shouldn’t risk it, right Lan Zhan?”

Lan Zhan’s lips, dark pink and wet, are parted. His hand tightens in Wei Wuxian’s hair, like a last grasp at control, and Wei Wuxian can only watch him and silently plead.

The silence stretches and in it, Lan Zhan frowns and makes a helpless, wanting sound.

When he breaks, it is completely, gorgeous and wild as he kisses Wei Wuxian over and over, messily, pressing his own hot slick tongue into Wei Wuxian’s mouth and swallowing down the little moans and whimpers of encouragement. Lan Zhan kisses like he means to devour, lips and teeth and tongue so hungry against Wei Wuxian’s mouth, his skin, the curve of his neck.

Wei Wuxian pulls him closer and feels the length of Lan Zhan’s cock pressed thick and hard against the curve of his hip; he arches up because he’s always wanted to hear Lan Zhan moan. It’s even prettier than he imagined.

“Wow,” he gasps, half-laughing. “You really do like me, eh Lan Zhan?”

Lan Zhan lifts his head and stares so indignantly that it’s hard to even call to mind the serene, untouchable Hanguang-jun; there’s only this man—horny, exasperated, half-dressed and appalled, who knows his Wei Ying is an idiot and wants to kiss him anyway.

“That’s the look you gave me when I asked if you liked MianMian.”

The look on Lan Zhan’s face does not in any way subside; it only becomes more aggrieved.

“You can bite me again, if you want to,” Wei Wuxian offers.

After a moment’s consideration, Lan Zhan takes Wei Wuxian’s hand and bites down firmly on his fingers. It is, embarrassingly, sexy enough that he almost forgets to keep going.

“Ah, you don’t have to answer,” he adds in a rush. “This is good, it’s really good. Y-your teeth are very sharp. I like it. Fuck, don’t listen to me! I’m doing this badly. You should let me try again tomorrow, all right? But I do. Like you, I mean. I think I love you, Lan Zhan.”

His fingers are abruptly dropped, damp and bearing teeth marks. Lan Zhan stares at him, eyes wide, and gently takes Wei Wuxian’s face in his hands. He seems at a loss for words, but he holds on with such tenderness, and when Wei Wuxian tugs him down for a kiss, Lan Zhan descends on him with a fierce desperation, teeth scraping at Wei Wuxian’s lips.

“Love you,” he says, voice strained, as if all the air is gone from his lungs. He kisses almost frantically all over Wei Wuxian’s face and neck and the line of his collarbone, his bitten hand, any scrap of skin he can reach. Lan Zhan’s warm weight presses down a little more, trusting Wei Wuxian to hold him, and it feels like a promise. “Love you. Need you.”

“Oh, Lan Zhan,” he whispers, both smiling and in tears. His heart is so full. “You can have me. All yours.”

Lan Zhan groans, a hurt winded sound from deep in his chest, and hugs Wei Wuxian so tightly that it’s difficult to breathe. It doesn’t matter, he quickly decides. He can breathe later. He could breathe for centuries with Lan Zhan at his side.

He wraps his arms around Lan Zhan’s neck and thinks he might never be cold again.