NOW: WEI WUXIAN
“It’s not funny,” Wei Wuxian complains to Yanli, who is bent double, elbows on her knees. She’s so enormously pregnant that she can barely balance, her breath coming in gasps. Her morning sickness hasn’t bothered her since her first trimester, but Wei Wuxian is genuinely worried that she’s going to puke all over the courthouse floor.
Jin Zixuan is hovering over her, hand pressed between her shoulder blades with gentle strokes while he glares at Wei Wuxian, like this is his fault. It’s not his fault! Wei Wuxian is happy to claim at least partial credit for many of the problems in Jin Zixuan’s life, like how he trended for a week with the hashtag “LittleSoupBoyJr” after they announced Yanli’s pregnancy, and how whenever they go to restaurants Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng trade off paying the server to get his order just, like, a little bit wrong, and how they’ve been gaslighting him into believing that Wei Wuxian can talk to ghosts.
There are plenty of annoyances, great and small, for which Wei Wuxian can be held responsible, but in this particular case, at this particular juncture, he rejects all blame, because Wei Wuxian is very extremely and explicitly not allowed to file any paperwork, not even his own taxes, just because he never remembers to file any of said paperwork and/or his own taxes. If this were Wei Wuxian’s fault, which it is not, there would be a dearth of documentation rather than the current excess!
And who invited Jin Dicksuan, anyway? It was probably Lan Zhan, who had some soft spot for him because apparently they had, like, been in the trenches of simultaneous emotional crises at some point in time Lan Zhan refuses to discuss—Wei Wuxian suspects it’s a Grew Up A Hollywood Rich Kid thing, because literally what else could Lan Zhan (erotic, honorific) have in common with Jin Zixuan (milquetoast, derogatory)? — and Lan Zhan was a soft baby bunny who thought he “deserved” an “invitation” because he was “your sister’s husband-to-be.”
So what!!! That’s not Wei Wuxian’s fault!!!!
At his shoulder, Lan Zhan gently murmurs, “Wei Ying. Focus.”
Right, Wei Wuxian thinks as he laces his fingers with Lan Zhan’s. Yes. The crisis is not that Jin Zixuan is here, or that the man gets to marry Yanli even though his favorite song is “Hey Hey We’re The Monkees” by The Monkees. The crisis is —
The crisis is —
“Oh my God,” Yanli manages to say to the floor while dry heaving. “I’m going to go into labor. I swear to God this is going to send me right to the hospital.”
“Don’t joke about that!” Jiang Cheng snaps, then remembers that he’s talking to a very hormonal Yanli, who had turned, for a handful of harrowing weeks, into some kind of Stephen King eldritch horror which fed on the tears and misery of those around her, and immediately softens his tone with, “Please. A-jie. Uh, ma’am.”
Lan Qiren, hearing The News, had disappeared, presumably to hyperventilate in his car. Meng Yao produces electrolyte water from seemingly nowhere, handing it to Yanli to sip on between fresh waves of laughter.
“Tell us again what she said to you,” Lan Xichen instructs, holding up both his hands placidly. “When you went up to the counter.”
Lan Zhan’s thumb is rubbing soothing circles on the back of Wei Wuxian’s hand. When he speaks, his voice is calm, because Lan Zhan is the most unflappable person in the whole world. He’s so good. He’s dressed in an extraordinarily well-tailored blue suit and his cufflinks are tasteful little clouds and he let Wei Wuxian wear the world’s stupidest red tuxedo for this event, which they had stopped for on the way here at the Halloween Adventure Store on 4th Ave, and now he’s tracing tenderness onto Wei Wuxian’s hand and he’s so good. Wei Wuxian loves him so much that it always makes him feel a little stupid. Wei Wuxian should marry him.
Which is, of course, the issue. Because when they had followed the signs to the appropriate counter to announce that hello, they would please like to please get married please, the lady had taken their names and then frowned a little and said, “Well — this is so sweet, but you know you don’t have to refile the paperwork when you renew your vows.”
They had blinked at her. “Renew?” Wei Wuxian repeated.
“Vows?” said Lan Zhan.
And with a look of absolute bafflement that Wei Wuxian had felt was, as Jingyi would say, “a big mood,” the nice desk lady had turned her monitor around to point at one of the open windows on her screen, which could not more clearly have been a marriage license. A marriage license, moreover, bearing the names of Lan Wangji and Wei Wuxian.
“Sweethearts,” she had said, very gently, “you’re already married.”
Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji have been married for three-and-a-half years, which means that Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji have been married since before they were dating. Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji were married for two years before they even kissed offscreen.
“Our marriage consummation was a drunk fuck on an office couch,” Wei Wuxian wails, tugging on his hair so hard that he’s pretty sure he’s going to give himself a bald patch. “Our marriage consummation fuck gave me pneumonia!”
“Lack of appropriate coping mechanisms gave you pneumonia,” Lan Zhan corrects, but very gently, and then he kisses the side of Wei Wuxian’s head like he doesn’t mind the coping mechanisms. He’s still in his blue suit. Wei Wuxian had ditched the scratchy Halloween costume the second they got inside the apartment, but he’s put on the devil mask that came with it, because sometimes, when you’ve just found out that you’ve been married to the love of your life for more than twice as long as you’ve been dating him, a bitch does not want to be Perceived.
Lan Zhan, on the other hand, has been completely serene. He has shown absolutely no signs of distress, not even when Jiang Cheng accused him of romantic fraud via marrying Wei Wuxian in-secret-by-accident-on-purpose.
He is currently hanging Wei Wuxian’s crumpled red suit on a hanger, the special one he uses to bring his fancy shit to the dry cleaner’s. Wei Wuxian has no fancy shit to bring to the dry cleaners, and even if he did, he wouldn’t, because if it can’t survive the washing machine than it can’t survive life with Wei Wuxian and it’s better if they all learn that up front before anyone can get too attached.
(Living with Lan Zhan has taught Wei Wuxian lots of things, like that the extra tags in clothes tell you how you’re supposed to wash them, and all the symbols mean stuff that’s supposed to help you clean them, and Lan Zhan knows what each of them mean and follows them to the letter. Lan Zhan’s washing machine has like twenty-five settings on it. Lan Zhan separates his clothes into five separate laundry bins and washes his whites separately, like some kind of absolute nutjob. Wei Wuxian loves him desperately, and also is constantly dropping a single wrong-colored sock into one of the bins. When Lan Zhan inevitably notices he always says, “If you’d like this washed with the delicates, all right,” and then ruins his whole system just for one sock that Wei Wuxian doesn’t even care about, which Wei Wuxian knows he does not because he’s a mushy idiot but because he knows it makes Wei Wuxian a mushy idiot and they’ve been married for three and a half years.)
“Babe, it’s a Halloween costume, it’s probably like 100% polyester,” Wei Wuxian says, helpless with the feeling welling up in his throat, which is probably love but might be neck cancer, or like, whatever it is they used to think you threw up in the olden days when you had been cursed by a witch. Bad humors. Wei Wuxian’s humors are abso-fucking-lutely out of whack. “We should just throw it out.”
Lan Zhan gives him an even look, unperturbed. “It is your wedding suit,” he says gently. “We will keep it.”
He hangs the suit in the closet, ignoring both Wei Wuxian’s opinion and the noise of their friends in the living room. Yanli, despite her current condition making her less agile than a hippopotamus with elephantiasis disease, had planted herself behind the kitchen counter, which was doubling as the bar, and said, “Why don’t you two go change,” in the kind of voice that suggested they had no choice. The sign hanging over the kitchen enclave had said HAPPY GETTING MARRIED DAY, the material terms of which someone had crossed out before they arrived back from the courthouse and changed to say HAPPY STILL BEING MARRIED (?) DAY.
On one hand, Wei Wuxian was surprised and grateful that there were any decorations at all, given that this morning at eight a.m. he’d been like, “Hey, let’s get married today, I’m tired of not being married to you,” and Lan Zhan had looked at him with that face of his, you know the one, the regular one, with its cheekbones and the slipper-soft curve of his smile, and he’d said, “Mn,” and then gone to get dressed while Wei Wuxian frantically texted his group chat with Yanli and Jiang Cheng to ask them to be witnesses along with Lan Xichen and Uncle Q and then the old SNL group chat to be like, “surprise we’re getting married today come to the apt at like 4 if u wanna see lan qiren get absolutely blasted on meng yao’s dirty martinis.” And then, on second thought, added, “you cannot bring +1s i hate literally all of ur partners.” And then, on third thought: “actually nhs u can bring ur brother if he’s around so huan-ge has someone 2 chill with after uncle q & meng yao get messy & start singing sea shanties.”
this is clearly a reflection of lan family favoritism, Mianmian had written back almost immediately. i can’t believe u hopped on lwj’s dick & IMMEDIATELY became a simp for nie mingjue.
Then, after a beat, she’d added, wait hold tf up did u say married????? and Wei Wuxian hadn’t answered except to say in fact i’ve always been a simp for nie mingjue and then turned off his phone.
Anyway, all of them were here now, in his living room, getting upside down on champagne that was supposed to be celebrating a wedding and is instead celebrating, like, nothing at all. Not even an anniversary, because according to the certificate they were married in November.
Wei Wuxian just doesn’t understand how the fuck any of this is happening, because he drinks but there is no way he could have possibly gotten drunk enough at any point in the last three and a half years to have married Lan Zhan without knowing it. Being married to Lan Zhan is supposed to feel like something. Wei Wuxian doesn’t know what, don’t ask him, he’s never been married to Lan Zhan before except of course for how apparently he has been for many years. Too many years. He barely knew Lan Zhan before he was married to him, so whatever it feels like, he can’t differentiate from how knowing Lan Zhan has always been, and that seems unfair. That seems like waiting for dessert and then being told that your dessert was the coffee. It’s not that Wei Wuxian doesn’t love the coffee but he’d have savored it more if he knew it was dessert!
Lan Zhan finishes hanging up Wei Wuxian’s Halloween costume suit and strips out of his own, which makes Wei Wuxian’s brain short out, briefly, like it always does. Lan Zhan is so hot. He gets away with it because his whole, like, vibe is of a disapproving matron aunt, and he’s mean but in such a dry way that people who don’t know him don’t recognize it half the time, so they don’t know how sexy it is. Wei Wuxian feels bad for them and also would have to kill them if they figured it out. Only he’s allowed to pop a boner watching Lan Zhan murmur, “I assume you spent your holiday golfing, Dave,” at the network cocktail parties they sometimes have to go to and from which Uncle Q has thrice tried to have Wei Wuxian banned.
It has become the case that Wei Wuxian is Meng Yao’s wrangling responsibility, because Lan Xichen can’t and Lan Zhan not only refuses to wrangle but attempts to frustrate the endeavour entirely. Lan Zhan definitely says, “I assume you spent your holiday golfing, Dave,” specifically so that Wei Wuxian will pop a boner and have to distract from it by making a nightmare of himself in front of the other NBC executives.
Anyway, Lan Zhan has committed the war crime of putting clothes back on, and is now standing in front of Wei Wuxian at the edge of the bed, reaching out to tuck a loose flyaway behind Wei Wuxian’s ear as he gently pulls off the mask.
“How are you so chill about this,” Wei Wuxian demands, turning his face into Lan Zhan’s palm and kissing it at the center. “I feel like someone just informed me that everyone else on the planet except me has two dicks, and you’re just like, tralala, dry cleaning.”
“It’s easier for me,” says Lan Zhan, very tenderly. “I’ve always had two dicks.”
Wei Wuxian laughs, helplessly. “Lan Zhan.”
Lan Zhan’s gentle hand turns sharp, tugging at Wei Wuxian’s ear. “I wanted to be your husband today,” he says, more seriously. “And I am.”
Wei Wuxian manfully swallows the urge to fling himself into Lan Zhan’s arms and start weeping. Lan Zhan would like it too much. Wei Wuxian can’t spoil him.
Instead, he claps a hand over Lan Zhan’s mouth and says severely, “What’s the rule about saying that shit!!! I have a weak heart! I’m delicate!”
“Whiner,” accuses Lan Zhan, fondly. “You said I had rule amnesty on our wedding day. I wrote it down.”
He points at the wall with all the Post-its. Sure enough, he’s added a little asterisk beside the one that says “GOOPY LOVE STUFF MUST COME WITH APPROPRIATE WRITTEN WARNING” that reads “*except on days of matrimonial celebration, incl. but not limited to wedding and anniversaries, for which this addendum serves such purpose.”
“Well,” says Wei Wuxian, “except today isn’t a wedding or anniversary. Our anniversary, in case you didn’t hear the lady, is November ninth.”
Lan Zhan gives Wei Wuxian a look that says who do you think I am? Which is fair.
“Inclusive of but not limited to,” says Lan Zhan, incomprehensibly. He looks very pleased with himself.
Wei Wuxian frowns. When Lan Zhan moves to take his hand away, Wei Wuxian snatches it back and bites it like a feral little raccoon. That’ll show him to stop touching or otherwise pampering Wei Wuxian for even one single second, on this, their not-wedding day!
“Huh?” he garbles out around Lan Zhan’s knuckle.
Lan Zhan seems unperturbed by the creature attached to him by its teeth, pressing in closer to run his free hand along the top of Wei Wuxian’s head and tangling his fingers into his ponytail. “‘Except on days of matrimonial celebration, including, but not limited to wedding and anniversaries,’” he recites serenely. “Today is not our wedding, nor is it an anniversary, but it is nevertheless a day of matrimonial celebration. Happy Found Out We’re Married Day, A-Ying.”
“That’s not a real day!” Wei Wuxian yells, instead of passing out from the way Lan Zhan’s voice curls protectively around the syllables of Wei Wuxian’s softest name. The protest is muffled by the hand in his mouth.
“It is,” says Lan Zhan, with a stubborn set of his jaw. “And it’s today. I will add it to our calendars going forward.”
Wei Wuxian heaves a wet sigh into Lan Zhan’s skin. “You already have, haven’t you,” he deduces.
Lan Zhan curls his grip around Wei Wuxian’s jaw and uses it to give Wei Wuxian’s head a fond shake. “Don’t ask foolish questions,” he scolds, and steps back, pulling Wei Wuxian up with him. “Now. Let’s celebrate with our friends and family.”
Wei Wuxian doesn’t want to celebrate with his friends and family. He wants to celebrate right here, with Lan Zhan. Nakedly. Maybe in an undershirt. Maybe in their not-wedding suits.
“No,” says Lan Zhan, without even waiting to hear what Wei Wuxian was going to say.
“I’m not fucking you while my uncle is in the next room.”
Wei Wuxian wilts. “You don’t know that’s what I was gonna say,” he grumbles, even though it is exactly what he was going to say. “Maybe I was gonna say that I could fuck you while your uncle is in the next room.”
“Semantics are not an argument,” Lan Zhan tells him. “And whose dick goes where has no moral distinction.”
Wei Wuxian grins. He loves when Lan Zhan goes all UChicago on him. He sounds like such a — a stern professor, which is not a roleplay they have explored enough, in Wei Wuxian’s opinion. He wonders if Warby Parker does glasses without prescriptions.
“Moral, no, but socio-cultural, certainly,” he shoots back, because he went to Harvard and it had the unfortunate consequence of, every once in a while, making him suffer from Devil’s Advocate Disease. “If we consider the ancient Greek categories of erastes and eromanos — ”
“You are beloved to me, yes,” Lan Zhan interrupts, and the fight goes out of Wei Wuxian immediately. He doesn’t remember why it was there in the first place, except that being a flippant asshole is always his first port in a storm. “Regardless of where your dick is and what it’s doing. You are beloved to me while eating cereal.”
Oof, in Wei Wuxian’s opinion! Yikes! How is Wei Wuxian ever supposed to eat cereal again! No more cereal, ever. Cereal is banned. Eggs only, in their house. Eggs and — and — bagels.
“What if my dick is standing on your porch flashing your neighbors?” Wei Wuxian asks weakly, leaning forward to rest his head on Lan Zhan’s shoulder. “Waving around in little loops like it’s a sparkler?”
“I would visit you in horny jail every day until they let you out,” Lan Zhan promises, and lifts Wei Wuxian’s head so he can press a kiss to his forehead.
Wei Wuxian hums, satisfied with this answer. He could, actually, Wei Wuxian thinks; they’re married. They could have conjugal visits, in horny jail. They could —
It hits Wei Wuxian all at once, and his head jerks up. Lan Zhan is smiling down at him, eyes warm, like he knows that it has taken Wei Wuxian exactly this long to get here. Like he has been, with endless fond patience, waiting for him.
“Lan Zhan,” Wei Wuxian breathes out, and it sounds different, now, because it doesn’t belong just to Lan Zhan anymore, that name. It belongs to Wei Wuxian, too. It is his husband’s name. His. “A-Zhan. Zhan-ge.”
“Mn,” says Lan Zhan, like he’s agreeing. Like his name in Wei Wuxian’s mouth is a full sentence.
“We’re married,” Wei Wuxian tells him. It’s buzzy on his lips, this idea. He feels like he just popped a bottle of champagne using only his teeth.
The smile that stretches across Lan Zhan’s face isn’t one Wei Wuxian has ever seen before. It’s so wide, and pleased, his eyes crinkled into two perfect little crescents. He’s showing his teeth.
“Okay,” Wei Wuxian concedes, reverently touching the edges of Lan Zhan’s smile, the tips of the joy that Wei Wuxian, by some accident and miracle, has put there. His voice is small, but only because he’s afraid that if he lets it get big it will expand so large it will fill the room and ruin all of Lan Zhan’s nice shirts. “Today is — it counts. For the goopy stuff.”
“Shameless,” Lan Zhan mutters, and kisses Wei Wuxian with the kind of want that usually suggests that they’re both about to get laid, his hands tight on Wei Wuxian’s hips, his teeth set against Wei Wuxian’s bottom lip.
“Huh?” Wei Wuxian manages, blinking fuzzily, making grabby hands at Lan Zhan’s shirt to draw him back in. “Who? I haven’t even done anything yet!”
Lan Zhan steps back and puts one hand on the doorknob, holding out the other for Wei Wuxian to take. He squeezes gently as he opens the door and the sound of a party engulfs them. “Not you,” he says, “me,” and then drags them both into the living room to the raucous encore of champagne being popped.
Jiang Cheng would like to be very clear, up front, that he doesn’t care when or how his dumbass brother supposedly married Lan Wangji. If no one wanted to listen to his very good ideas about how a wedding should be, and if he was going to be left alone to basically pull the whole thing together himself in the span of the two hours he had between when Wei Wuxian texted him and when he was supposed to be at the courthouse, then it was not his problem that they wouldn’t get the flower arrangement he’d been planning for months, and would instead have just, like, whatever was available at the local florist. Not his problem. If they wanted their wedding to be lame, that was their prerogative, he supposed.
Anyway, if he has said it once, he has said it one hundred times: no marriage is valid until that salty bastard has poured tea for Jiang Cheng and acknowledged that Jiang Cheng was Wei Wuxian’s family first, and that allowing Lan Wangji to join that club was only due to the fact that Wei Wuxian needed a keeper and Lan Wangji seemed to be, you know. Organized enough to do it. And, quite frankly, it pleased Jiang Cheng to think about Lan Wangji being saddled with the nightmare of Wei Wuxian’s personal habits. Jiang Cheng had once caught him washing his hair with a bar of hand soap because “isn’t shampoo just fancy soap?”
He'd had big plans for this wedding, before they went and ruined it by functionally eloping, and not, it turns out, even doing that right. As it is, there's a bag by the doorway with red sheets and pillow cases that he'd had to pick up on the way, which means their thread count is abysmal, because he'd gotten them at the Bed Bath & Beyond in Murray Hill.
Yanli, who at least had some sense of tradition, had insisted on running her fingers through Wei Wuxian's hair at the courthouse, but she'd only gotten through wishing them a long-lasting union before everybody burst into tears and they had to stop.
Anyway, the point is, irrespective of what the Office of the City Clerk of the City of New York seems to believe, today is in fact their first day of marriage. It starts the second Lan Wangji’s kettle blows and he pours two cups of tea, one for Jiang Cheng, and one for Yanli, who is staring with laser-like precision at the collection of tequila shots that Mianmian is curating.
Jiang Cheng takes a sip. “Congratulations,” he says. “Now you’re married.”
Yanli elbows his side, like, really hard, actually. Jiang Cheng is very excited to meet his nephew, and he would never, in a hundred million words say even one word that so much as implied that his sister was anything less than a perfect angel who had never done anything wrong, ever, in her life, but, it really had to be said that pregnancy had ... amplified certain ... parts ... of his sister’s personality, which had made her a deeply, deeply frightening person.
Also, and this isn’t related but he’s fucking noticed it, okay, is that when Lan Wangji poured tea for her he definitely bowed lower. It’s not that Jiang Cheng doesn’t think she deserves it, she’s older and also Jiang Cheng’s favorite person in the world; it’s just that he noticed, and in this as in all things, fuck Lan Wangji, is all.
Jiang Cheng can’t believe he once spent an entire night getting blasted on shitty cocktails with that asshole and then all he got for his troubles was Lan Wangji being like “you kicked Wei Ying out of your house” like it was any of his goddamn business who did or did not live in Jiang Cheng’s house!
Whatever. Jiang Cheng doesn’t care if Lan Wangji likes him. He doesn’t like Lan Wangji, so what does he care? He doesn’t. That’s right.
“You’re going to shatter that cup if you hold it any tighter,” says Meng Yao at his side, in a low murmur. Jiang Cheng maturely does not empty the cup on his head. He needs Meng Yao to like him, actually, since he’s taken over S&P after Wen Chao was fired in a cloud of disgrace after the emergence of some compromising documents concerning abuse of funds or like, embezzlement? Or something. Jiang Cheng hadn’t paid much attention because Wen Chao sucked and Meng Yao let people get away with way more provided he liked you.
Or, like. Thought you were competent, anyway.
“Be respectful during the ceremony,” Jiang Cheng snaps, even though “the ceremony” is Wei Wuxian laughingly trying to convince Lan Qiren to drink his tea from a plastic dinosaur sippy cup that says ALL MY FRIENDS ARE DEAD.
“PLEASE DRINK TEA,” Wei Wuxian is giggling.
With a huff, Lan Qiren snatches the cup drinks the tea before thrusting a red envelope into Wei Wuxian's hands and storming off, probably to like, meditate on the balcony, even though it’s cold as fuck. Jiang Cheng thinks he and Lan Qiren probably have a lot in common, actually.
Meng Yao gives Jiang Cheng a very pointed look, which he ignores, taking a very deliberate, dainty sip of tea.
Yanli throws back the rest of her tea like it’s a shot and then beams, dropping her chin into her palms and leaning into Jin Zixuan’s side. “I’m so happy for you both,” she announces, a little weepy. “There was really for real a period where I thought A-Xian was going to die of pneumonia and Lan Zhan was going to die of wasting disease and then I’d have to take care of the rabbits.”
Oh, yeah, that was the other thing — what is this Lan Zhan bullshit? When had they started calling him Lan Zhan? Was Jiang Cheng supposed to be doing that? Because he’d rather die. He’d fling himself off their balcony literally right now if it weren’t for the fact that Jin Ling, Sizhui, Jingyi, and Zizhen were on it, and it would probably traumatize them for life.
Not even Lan Xichen calls him Lan Zhan, which is weird for its own reasons, but no fucking way is Jiang Cheng going to be more familiar with his boss than his boss’s own brother, even if his boss was, in a very real sense, also ... Jiang Cheng’s ...
“Oh my God,” he says out loud, horrified, interrupting Lan Xichen’s calm, but fervent defense that if anyone got the bunnies in the event of Lan Wangji’s untimely death, surely it would be him. “Oh my God. You’re my brother now.” He points, accusatory, at Lan Wangji, whose expression twists to match Jiang Cheng’s own.
Wei Wuxian almost spits out his champagne, and Lan Wangji gives his back several firm pats through the ensuing coughing fit. “Not technically,” Wei Wuxian says quickly, head whipping between Jiang Cheng and Lan Wangji like he’s worried they’re going to leap at each other, swords drawn.
“Shut the fuck up about technically,” Jiang Cheng snaps at the same time that Yanli says with deadly calm, “If you make me cry it hurts the baby.” Jiang Cheng blanches.
Wei Wuxian ducks behind Lan Wangji like he’s doing it for protection, but Jiang Cheng isn’t as dumb as everyone thinks he is. He sees that fucker’s pleased little smile.
Not technically. What an idiot. Jiang Cheng would absolutely drop him if he hadn’t already invested many years of hard work into this particular project, which, despite its foibles, has in fact produced significant dividends. He almost went to business school, he knows how to measure ROI and shit, okay.
God, sometimes he honestly thinks he just should have gone into hedge funds. Everyone there would suck but at least none of them would try to marry one of his siblings and make him a potential caretaker for orphan rabbits.
“Well, that’s such a lovely thought, isn’t it?” muses Lan Xichen, with that special kind of Relationships Management spin that makes him so good at his job. “I’ve got three new siblings for the price of one. Four, soon.”
Yanli claps her hands a few times and then gives Lan Xichen’s arm a warm squeeze. “Oh, I hadn’t even thought that far. Finally I have another older sibling to help manage these dummies.”
“It’ll be so nice to have another grown-up at family functions,” Lan Xichen beams, as if the rest of them weren’t all tax-paying adults with very? successful? careers? “Being an older sibling is underappreciated labor. Wangji wanted me to cut the crusts off his sandwiches til he was fourteen.”
Jiang Cheng has never felt joy like the joy that floods through his entire body, instantly, incandescently, at these words. His head jerks up so fast that all the muscles in his neck go up in flames and he sees spots.
Lan Wangji, very slowly, closes his eyes. “Xichen.”
“What?” asks Lan Xichen, as if butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth. “It was cute! You were a very cute child. I often experienced quite severe cute aggression about your chubby little cheeks.”
Jiang Cheng has never liked Lan Xichen more than in this moment, and he usually likes him a lot. Everybody likes Lan Xichen. It’s like saying you like being hydrated, or receiving a tax refund.
“Hey, wait,” Wei Wuxian interrupts, but his knuckles are white on Lan Wangji’s sleeve which means he’s thinking gross horny thoughts and trying to distract himself. Horrific. “I’m older than Jiang Cheng!”
“By like five minutes, asshole,” Jiang Cheng protests, distracted momentarily from Chubby Cheek Crust Boy.
“Absolutely does not count,” Yanli tells him, but kindly, like she’s informing him he has lettuce in his teeth before anyone else at the party can tease him for it.
Jin Zixuan snorts, arms crossed and leaning back from the table. “Also, your youngest child energy is like, through the roof,” he supplies snidely. As if anybody asked him.
Jiang Cheng cuts him a glare. “Big words from an only child,” he snaps.
“I have a lot of cousins! You have no idea how many cousins I have!” Jin Zixuan says, cheeks going red. Yanli pats his hand and kisses his cheek. Gross. It was Jiang Cheng’s cross to bear that his siblings were both super embarrassing and had terrible taste in partners. He was the only one with standards.
Not that — not that Jiang Cheng had anybody. He didn’t. Doesn’t. He’s a professional. Not everybody needed to fall in love with their coworkers. So what if he had, one time, happened to notice that Wen Qing’s office comb was accidentally thrown out by the cleaning staff on account of how it literally looked like she’d fished it out of the dumpster, broken teeth and all, and then, when he was next passing by Saks, happened to see a very pretty wooden comb that wouldn’t tear all her roots out when she yanked the teeth through her tangled hair after an all-night writing session or taking a wig off?
Like, is Jiang Cheng responsible for comb stock at Saks? No. So fuck off. She’d said she liked it and it “was surprisingly thoughtful” and it lives in her purse now, so.
Whatever! He’d do the same for any colleague whose comb was thrown out! He’s a thoughtful guy!
Lan Wangji raises his hand politely, and Yanli calls on him, gentle: “Yes, Lan Zhan?”
“Does this mean that I am now an older brother,” he asks. “Given that I am older than both Wei Ying and Jiang Wanyin.”
“Oooh,” muses Yanli, tapping her manicured fingers on the table.
“You always wanted a younger brother,” smiles Lan Xichen.
“Fuck all the way off,” says Jiang Cheng. “Lan Zhan.”
Lan Wangji turns to look at him. “No,” he says, voice flat.
“You let Yanli do it!”
“Yanli has special privileges,” Lan Wangji informs him. “Didi should show some respect to his elders.”
Jiang Cheng slams his fist on the table as the group erupts in laughter. “I’ll didi your face, bride-snatcher,” he hisses.
“Wei Ying is not a bride,” Lan Wangji returns serenely.
“So you admit to snatching him? When did you do it? How did you do it?”
“A-Cheng,” Yanli murmurs, voice a warning.
Jiang Cheng throws his hands in the air. “Look, it’s fine that they’re married,” he says, hooking a thumb at Wei Wuxian, “because he’s like, happy. Or whatever. But how am I the only one here who thinks it’s a little fucking suspect that someone filed legally binding paperwork without asking first? None of you are even curious about how they got the signatures? When was the ceremony? Who the fuck officiated?”
Wei Wuxian hums dreamily. “Think how nice it would have been if we’d known,” he muses. “Man, my hospital room after The Fainting Incident would have been so much swankier if I was on your insurance.”
Lan Wangji straightens so quickly it knocks Wei Wuxian’s chin off his shoulder. At Wei Wuxian’s wounded yelp, Lan Wangji carefully cups his cheek in his hand and presses a soft kiss to his chin, murmuring an apology.
“I’ll be right back,” Lan Wangji says.
Wei Wuxian nods, expression hazy. He takes another long swig of champagne, emptying his flute, then shakes his head with a fond sigh. “He’s gone to put me on his insurance,” he says, with a very fond shake of his head. “I’ll bet you one hundred dollars.”
Meng Yao frowns. “It’s been more than thirty days since your Life Change Event, it won’t be eligible,” he says, because of course he knows that, and of course he has to say it.
“I’m sure Wangji will persuade them to make an exception,” Lan Xichen assures them, with all the confidence of a sucker who cut crusts for fourteen years.
The conversation turns back to how cute and wonderful and special and perfect Lan Wangji is; Jiang Cheng tunes it out until Meng Yao leans in and murmurs, “I’m also curious.”
Jiang Cheng raises an eyebrow. “About what?”
Meng Yao hums, flattening his napkin with careful fingers and folding it into a beautiful little paper crane. “How one might have gone about it,” he clarifies. “Filing in secret, I mean. Signatures aside, you'd need them both to be present for the meeting with the clerk, and then one of them, or the officiant, would have to file. New York has a twenty-four hour waiting period before the ceremony must be performed, so you couldn’t just get them drunk and go to a drive-thru, like in Vegas.”
“Do you just, like, know everything there is to know,” Jiang Cheng demands flatly, “or are you trying to secretly file a marriage license?”
Meng Yao laughs, light and easy. “Oh, I just think it’s a fascinating intellectual exercise,” he says. “Such a fun little mystery.”
“I guess,” Jiang Cheng grumbles. Mostly he wants to make sure his brother hasn’t actually been married to whatever the “secret marriage” equivalent of a flasher is, but sure.
“Lots to think about!” chirps Meng Yao.
THREE AND A HALF YEARS AGO
The Marriage License
Wei Wuxian is in Lan Wangji’s office again. Lately it seems like Wei Wuxian is always in Lan Wangji’s office, bothering him when Lan Wangji is trying to write. This is baffling because, theoretically, Wei Wuxian should also be trying to write, as this is the job that they both share, and is a job at which you excel beyond expectation or you get the axe.
And yet, here Lan Wangji is, trying to write, while Wei Wuxian slinks around the room, touching all of Lan Wangji’s belongings with dirty fingers and generally making a nuisance of himself. He’s currently tucking a pair of joke handcuffs into his back pocket, without asking.
And why? What for? What was it about Lan Wangji that could possibly interest someone like Wei Wuxian enough that he wants to spend more time with him than they are already contractually obligated to share?
“ ... Fox News pundit,” he is saying now, popping one of Lan Wangji’s mints into his mouth even though Lan Wangji had not offered it to him. “What do you think, Lan Wangji? Mr. Lan?”
He daydreams for a moment about having the power to seal Wei Wuxian’s lips so he could write in peace.
“Lan Zhan! Are you listening?”
Lan Wangji’s head snaps up at the sound of his name, his — the name that no one has called him since his mother died, not even Uncle Qiren or Xichen.
“No,” he snaps, finally putting down his pencil and giving up on the pretense of having no ears. To punish him, he adds, in a slightly mocking tone: “Wei Ying.”
This does not have the desired effect.
Instead, Wei Wuxian’s face brightens like Lan Wangji has flicked a light switch inside him. He immediately flings himself onto the edge of Lan Wangji’s desk and starts fiddling with his pen cup before selecting one and bending over to scribble with it in Lan Wangji’s sketch notebook. Lan Wangji allows this only because he’s almost at the end of this one, and the sketch he’s working on isn’t very good, anyway.
“Well,” Wei Wuxian goes on, apparently undeterred and in fact with new verve to his tone that Lan Wangji had emphatically not meant to put there, “if you had been listening you’d be agreeing with my very funny sketch roasting the new Press Secretary. Whatsername. With the bangs, you know.”
“No political commentary,” Lan Wangji says, even if this is a credo he has argued against with his uncle many times. Nevertheless, Lan Wangji is not in charge, yet, and he has to admit that his uncle hasn’t been wrong so far, if longevity is a fair measure; which, in television, it is.
Wei Wuxian looks up from the notebook to make a face. “What’s the point of being uncancellable if you’re also irrelevant?”
“Nothing is uncancellable,” for one thing because it’s not a word, Lan Wangji thinks.
“Oh come on. I know I’m new but SNL is about as uncancellable as it gets. It’s not like anybody is fighting over our time slot.”
Wei Wuxian makes a frustrated sound and tosses the pen down. “Fine,” he mutters. “We’ll keep writing sketches about people with weird feet and, I don’t know, bits about gang violence between the Muppets and Sesame Street.”
“Mn,” says Lan Wangji. “Gentrifiers.”
Wei Wuxian blinks. “What?”
“Sesame Street residents are being priced out by Muppet gentrifiers,” Lan Wangji clarifies, the idea forming as he says it. That’s what the speech had been about, after all, that Wei Wuxian wanted to address — gentrification under the guise of business development. Uncle Qiren doesn’t like direct attacks; he thinks it opens them up to actionable complaints. But Lan Wangji sees no reason why they can’t run a perfectly innocent sketch about gentrification of puppet real estate which made no accusations and named no names.
“Miss Piggy as the quintessential Park Slope vegan cupcake shop,” Wei Wuxian riffs, a grin blooming across his mouth. He did have a good smile. Lan Wangji could admit that, objectively. “Yes. So good. Nainai was absolutely right about writing with you. This is gold.”
Lan Wangji frowns.
Of course. Wei Wuxian was here because he’d been sent here, probably as punishment, since Lan Wangji was stern and boring and would be a good babysitter. He hadn’t chosen to be here; why would he choose to be here? Lan Wangji was funny on paper and stuffy in person. Wei Wuxian was ... not like that. Lan Wangji hadn’t put a finger on what he was, exactly, other than distracting.
“Be respectful,” he snaps, inexplicably furious.
“Oh please, Sanren-jie loves it,” dismisses Wei Wuxian, flapping a hand. “She says it’s a vast improvement over,” he lowers his voice dramatically, “The Nighthunter.”
The rest of the staff call Cangse Sanren The Nighthunter because she likes to approve sketches, send the writers home, and then perform significant rewrites overnight. Lan Wangji does not call her this. Lan Wangji calls her Cangse Sanren, which is her name.
Wei Wuxian tosses Lan Wangji’s pen back into the cup, wrong-side up. Everything about him is frivolous and dismissive. Sometimes Lan Wangji wants to pin his wrists at his sides and just hold him in place. Sometimes Lan Wangji just wants to make him behave.
Mostly he wants him to go away. Wei Wuxian is a stressful person. Lan Wangji has spent many hours explaining this to his brother over tennis, even though his brother insists that Wei Wuxian is “funny” and “very gifted” and “a good friend for you, Wangji.”
Lan Wangji does not want a friend. He especially does not want a friend like Wei Wuxian.
He looks down at the notebook, where Wei Wuxian has drawn a little cartoon. It is a cartoon of two dicks. One of them is wearing a tie. The other one is kissing the first one’s cheek. There are little hearts between them. The dick doing the kissing has a little speech bubble that says, “LET’S BE BEST FRIENDS,” and the dick being kissed is answering, “MN.”
Lan Wangji shoves Wei Wuxian off his desk. “Go away,” he says, feeling the tips of his ears getting red.
“But we’re best friends,” Wei Wuxian pouts. He points at the drawing. “Our dicks even kissed about it.”
“Get out,” Lan Wangji says again, rising this time and forcefully pushing Wei Wuxian by the shoulders to the door, ignoring his complaints.
In the hallway, Wei Wuxian abruptly stops resisting, and they both go tumbling forward, nearly taking out Mianmian in the process. Mianmian has been at SNL a year longer than Lan Wangji, two years longer than Wei Wuxian. She’s very funny, and very efficient. Lan Wangji likes her.
“Oh, thank God,” she says now, seeing them, pressing a hand to her heart. This is not how Mianmian typically greets Lan Wangji, nor presumably Wei Wuxian. “My two very special and favorite people.”
They blink at each other, and then her. “Us?” Wei Wuxian asks, gesturing between them. “Did I hit your head just now?”
“Oh my gosh, you’re so funny! Are you, like, a comedian?” She clutches her hands in front of her chest and flutters her eyelashes. Wei Wuxian grins at her, leaning back so he can give her hair a tug. Her perfume smells like lilies. Lan Wangji decides he doesn’t like it. “Listen, since you’re my favorite boys, my favorite favorite ones, surely you’d be willing to do me a favor? It’s small. It’s so small. It’s tiny.”
“The smaller you say it is the more I suspect you’re about to ask me to leap in front of a sword for you,” Wei Wuxian tells her dryly.
“You should feel free to do that at absolutely any time, it would be very sexy and heroic,” Mianmian tells him, “but no. I really just need one of you guys to go get the marriage certificate for the Wedding Fart sketch on Saturday. We’re having one made but it’s still with the guy and I promised the Nighthunter I’d have it to her by tomorrow morning but I’m booked to shoot the Digital Short and I’m not going to have time before they close at five.”
Lan Wangji frowns. “Send an intern,” he suggests.
Mianmian gives him a very dry look. “Oh, sure, why didn’t I think of that,” she says, then looks pointedly at her watch. “None of them have shifts now, today.”
“Redundant,” says Lan Wangji, which even he knows is a dick move. He doesn’t know why exactly, but Mianmian is just — she’s annoying him today. She flicks him off, unimpressed. “All right. I’ll go.”
Her expression shifts, and she tips up on her toes to ruffle Lan Wangji’s hair, which he hates, but allows, in order to foster a sense of camaraderie with his colleagues, which is important, Xichen says. Also, he can’t help but feel a little victorious that Mianmian is ruffling Lan Wangji’s hair, even though Wei Wuxian is standing right there, promising to fall on a sword for her.
“Oh, I could kiss you,” she crows happily.
“Please don’t,” says Lan Wangji.
Clearing his throat suddenly, Wei Wuxian offers, “I’ll come too!” and clasps a hand on Lan Wangji’s shoulder. Mianmian raises an eyebrow.
Lan Wangji eyes him suspiciously. “Unnecessary,” he assures him, but when he tries to shake free, Wei Wuxian yanks Lan Wangji’s own joke handcuffs from his pocket and slaps one onto Lan Wangji’s wrist, the other on his own. “Ha!” he cries, holding both their arms up, looking as pleased as if he’d invented the concept of hand-cuffs himself.
Both of Mianmian’s eyebrows are raised. Lan Wangji wishes, very fervently, that he were dead.
“Well, okeydokey then,” Mianmian says, looking between them. “The place is right next to Foley Square — don’t ask me why it’s all the way down there, I was not consulted. It’s all handled, just tell them you’re from SNL. You’ll probably have to sign for it, that’s fine. It shouldn’t take more than a few minutes. Thanks again. You can just leave it all in my green room when you’ve got it.”
She brushes past them toward the break room, not looking back. Lan Wangji is still staring down at his wrist, somewhat consternated. He’s pretty sure he remembers how to get out of these. It’s just. It’s not coming to him, right now.
Wei Wuxian leans in, beaming. “It’s funny, right?” he asks. “Handcuffed together on our way to get hitched? Come on, it would be a good sketch. We should write it. We could call it — Comrades In Arms.”
Lan Wangji brings his non-handcuffed hand up to his brow, massaging it to stave off the headache he feels coming. “Boring,” he snaps. He still can’t remember how to get out, so instead of wasting more valuable time standing in the hallway, he walks forward toward the elevator, and yanks Wei Wuxian along with him.
Lan Zhan won’t look at or speak directly to him, but! He also hasn’t shaken off the handcuffs, which either means he doesn’t know how (hilarious) or secretly agrees that it’s very funny to go pickup a marriage license while handcuffed together (true) or he’s, like, secretly madly in love with Wei Wuxian and wants to marry him for real (unlikely).
They take the R down to City Hall, which is only twenty minutes, and not particularly crowded, but Lan Zhan refuses to sit next to him so their arms have to be stretched out over the empty seat between. Wei Wuxian waves cheerily at the truant teenagers huddled together at the other end of the car, eyeing them with bewilderment and a soupçon of distrust.
“I’m a criminal,” he volunteers to them, giving his cuffed arm a little shake. “And a lunatic. This is my boyfriend. We’re very in love and we’re going to get married.”
“Uh,” says one of the teens.
Lan Wangji glares at him. “Don’t tell lies,” he snaps.
“So he’s not a criminal lunatic?” asks another one of the group, leaning in. She has a pompom hanging off her phone like it’s the nineties again. Wei Wuxian cannot believe what a flat circle time is. “Because he looks pretty much what I’d think a criminal lunatic would look like.”
Wei Wuxian nods sagely. “You’ve got good instincts, kid,” he compliments her. “Never talk to strange, handcuffed men on the subway. All of us are bad news.”
“Even him?” She tips her head at Lan Zhan.
“Oh, no, not him,” Wei Wuxian says quickly. “That’s Lan Zhan. He’s very good news. The best. He’s my best friend.”
“I thought he was your boyfriend. I thought you were going to get married.”
“I thought you had good instincts,” Wei Wuxian shoots back. “Anyway, if Instagram wedding accounts have taught us nothing else, they have taught us we should all be marrying our best friends.”
Lan Zhan lets out a long, tired sigh, closes his eyes briefly. Wei Wuxian wonders if he’s like, reciting mantras to himself to keep from doing murder. He’s so weird and old-fashioned. Wei Wuxian really likes him so much. He’s twice as fun to tease as Jiang Cheng, and that’s really saying something, given how much Wei Wuxian loves to provoke Jiang Cheng.
The doors rattle open at City Hall, and Wei Wuxian allows himself to be yanked to his feet, quietly saying a prayer of thanks that the joke cuffs are plush and gentle on his wrists. He waves goodbye to the teens and follows behind Lan Zhan. Getting through the turnstile is a little stupid and a lot delightful. Lan Zhan’s ears are pink — the same shade as the cuffs. Wei Wuxian wants to bite them, which is an impulse he carefully puts aside and promises himself to never think about because, wow! Haha. So weird.
They walk quickly, because Lan Zhan always walks quickly. It’s those long legs of his. They’re really long. Wei Wuxian bets there aren’t any cupboards at all he can’t reach in his house. Wei Wuxian isn’t short or anything, but he just feels like he’s proportioned differently. Lan Zhan is ... he’s just very leggy. Like, Wei Wuxian understands “legs all the way down to the floor” now kind of legs. And long arms, too. And kind of, um, his fingers are also very — well, anyway, he’s like, a long guy.
Wei Wuxian thinks he himself is probably a bit long, but you can’t tell, because Wei Wuxian likes to wear big hoodies and whatever pair of pants is closest and the least dirty, whereas everything Lan Zhan wears is, like, perfect and tailored and probably designed by (Sir?) Yves Saint Laurent with him in mind, or whatever.
“That’s a good skit,” he muses. “Fashion designers who are all besotted with like, this random stand-up who only plays at shitty no-cover comedy clubs and isn’t even very funny, or handsome.”
“Mn,” muses Lan Zhan, without slowing. “Could be funny. Needs work.”
“Needs work,” Wei Wuxian mimics, pitching his voice down. “You always say my stuff needs work.”
“Your stuff always needs work,” Lan Zhan replies, perfectly even, like he’s not the most savage person in the world sometimes. God, Wei Wuxian wants to like ... he doesn’t know. Bully him. He wants to behave really badly just to see him get mad. Furious.
Wei Wuxian rolls his eyes, and then points at the Duane Reede as they pass it. “Hey, look. It’s the original.”
Lan Zhan pauses briefly, looking after Wei Wuxian’s hand, and then huffs out a soft, “hm,” before continuing. Wei Wuxian hears himself talking about naming your pharmacy Duane Reede just because it’s between Duane St and Reede St, which is not an interesting conversation, so he doesn’t really listen to anything he’s saying. He just does it because he likes to make noises when he’s thinking. People listen to what he’s saying and then he can have a little, like, privacy, or whatever, to think stuff.
Right now he’s thinking that his pinky is brushing against Lan Zhan’s, almost like they wanted, but were too embarrassed, to hold hands, which is a very teenager thing to do, which makes him think about Lan Zhan as a teenager. What was he like. Wei Wuxian would fling himself onto a bed of nails to see Lan Zhan as an awkward fifteen-year-old. Did he have braces? Did he get acne? Dye his hair embarrassing colors? When his voice started to drop, did it ever squeak?
What was Lan Zhan’s terrible teen boy puberty smell? Now he always smells lovely, like sandalwood, or sometimes like — something else, Wei Wuxian can’t put his finger on it. Sometimes, very rarely but sometimes, he smells like fresh bunny shavings. Wei Wuxian wants to roll in it, it’s such a nice smell. He hadn’t realized how nice it was until now. Maybe if reincarnation is real, Wei Wuxian can reincarnate as a bunny, and someone will love him like Lan Zhan loves Snowball and Cloud (Snowball and Cloud how cute is that, Lan Zhan has such deep still waters of being the most fascinating person in the world trapped in the personality of the wettest blanket) and give him fresh shavings and stroke him gently but firmly right between the ears until he falls asleep.
They come to a stop and Wei Wuxian trails off. He has literally no idea what he was saying; he assumes it was horrible, given how red Lan Wangji’s ears are, and how his cuffed hand is clenched. Wei Wuxian focuses back into the world around him. They’re standing on the corner of Foley Park; there’s no obvious place for them to pick up anything.
Wei Wuxian cranes his neck, looking for like, a FedEx Print Office or something, but there’s nothing; just a bunch of government buildings.
“...Uh,” he says, pointing at the one on the corner, a massive stone building that says THE LOUISE J LEFKOWITZ STATE OFFICE BUILDING across the door, and then, smaller, on the side: Office of the City Clerk. He points. “I guess SNL is really investing in realism in sketch comedy this year.”
Lan Zhan’s perfect brow furrows. “Hm,” he says.
Wei Wuxian gestures around them. “Look, I also think it’s going overboard, but point out the other option that is within a stone’s throw of Foley,” he says. “I’ll bet Nainai knows someone at the City Clerk who said they could get her a copy. Mianmian said they’d taken care of it, right?”
There is a long pause. Lan Zhan looks down at their still-handcuffed hands. “Hm,” he says again.
“I mean, we can also call Mianmian,” Wei Wuxian concedes, fishing his phone out of his pocket. He hits dial and waits a beat; when she picks up, her voice is harried, like she’s running.
“We have arrived at the Marriage Bureau,” Wei Wuxian tells her. “Are you sure ... this is right?”
Mianmian laughs. “That should be their next ad campaign. Look, I know, it’s insane that it’s all the way down there, but I refuse any blame, one of the interns made the arrangements,” she says brusquely. “Just give them your info to fill it out. It’s not gonna be shown in enough detail to worry about it.”
“Won’t it be, like, legally binding?”
Mianmian runs out of patience. “First of all, don’t be dumb, and secondly, even if it was it’s just a piece of paper until you file it. I have to go now. Jin Guangshan has been trying to get me to talk about one of the sketches for half an hour and I have to be very busy or else I’ll have to like. Spend time with him.”
She ends the call, and Wei Wuxian puts his phone away, shrugging. “She says this is right,” he reports. “I guess one of the interns made the arrangements. Maybe they, like, know a clerk and wanted to show off.”
“Undergraduates,” Lan Zhan mutters distastefully, and then yanks him forward again, apparently accepting his fate.
“Goin’ to the chapel, and we’re, gonna get maaaaarried,” sings Wei Wuxian, chasing him up the steps. At the door, he pauses, pulling Lan Zhan up short. He looks down at their cuffed wrists. “Uh. This ... is a state government building, I just feel like ... ”
He doesn’t really want to take them off, is the thing. It’s funny, is all. It’s a very funny bit, even if only they know about it. It makes something in his chest kind of ... pinch to think about, about, the joke. About ruining the joke. And Lan Zhan hasn’t taken them off either, right? So maybe.
“I forget how to get them off,” he lies.
Lan Zhan is staring down at the cuffs, expression an absolute wall. After a long beat, he admits in a pained tone, “I also. Forget.”
The pinching thing loosens, and Wei Wuxian grins, linking their fingers and tugging both their sleeves down to cover the cuffs. “Cool,” he says. “Guess we’ll just pretend to be super normal professionals, then.”
“Fine,” says Lan Wangji and pulls him forward again, but this time by the fingers interlaced with Wei Wuxian’s own.
“This is, like, very realistic,” Mianmian says to the intern, whose name she refuses to remember because she still hasn’t forgiven him for having it printed at the FedEx place down by City Hall just because it was near his apartment. “So, big ups to you, I guess.”
The intern looks over her shoulder. The license is printed on that weird flimsy government paper that is somehow twice as expensive as normal paper. STATE OF NEW YORK LICENSE OF MARRIAGE is printed in bold across the top.
“They put their own information?” the intern asks, sounding surprised.
Mianmian waves a dismissive hand. “The camera won’t see it, it’s fine,” she says. “We just want it to look nice on the desk when they sign, Wen Zhuliu’s had a big stick up his ass ever since some blogger screenshotted a bunch of throwaway props and roasted him for bad set design. Do me a solid and bring this down to props, okay? And make sure nobody spills anything on it.”
EARLIER THIS MORNING: LAN WANGJI
Lan Wangji has been awake for four and a quarter hours by the time Wei Ying finally rises. He doesn’t mind. He never minds. Lan Wangi thinks that probably he would lie in stillness for days at a time, if it meant that Wei Ying got rest. He would lie in stillness for days at a time, if it meant Wei Ying, curled around him like a particularly needy cat, his nose nestled in behind Lan Wangji’s ear, his hands curled in the fabric of Lan Wangji’s pajama shirt.
It’s a comforting weight. He has trouble, now, sleeping without it.
He is reading What We Owe To Each Other by T.M. Scanlon. It is interesting, and broadly agreeable. Wei Ying, who likes to pretend he cannot read, often makes Lan Wangji read it aloud to him when they go to bed. Lan Wangji likes the routine of it but doesn’t actually internalize any of the words when he does it. So he’s re-reading the bit they went through last night.
What Lan Wangji would like to be reading is the trashy romance novel about cowboys he’s downloaded on his kindle, but Xichen and Uncle Qiren are also reading this, and they’ll expect him to be able to talk about it at dinner, so.
Wei Ying mumbles against Lan Wangji’s neck. “Too early,” he complains, even though it is nine fifteen, at which time Lan Wangji has usually already played tennis with Xichen and eaten breakfast. They couldn’t get court time today because one of the local travel groups had a tournament.
“Mn,” says Lan Wangji, noncommittally. He’s learned well enough not to argue about the concept of time with Wei Ying, who knows more than Lan Wangji does about quantum physics and is not afraid to weaponize that knowledge to win an argument about the nature of time and its relationship to when the alarm should go off.
“I’m awake,” Wei Ying lies, drowsily. He’s warm. His right eye has a little bit of sleep dust on it. Last night he had drooled a drench-dark spot into Lan Wangji’s pillow. Lan Wangji thinks he’s probably the most precious person in the world.
He reaches out to comb his fingers through Wei Ying’s hair. “Okay,” he acquiesces, easily enough. “We don’t have plans until noon. You can sleep.”
“Mmmmmmm, sleep,” Wei Ying agrees, but then smacks his lips together a few times and blinks, his eyelashes soft against Lan Wangji’s ear. “Lan Zhan. You’re not sleeping.”
“No,” Lan Wangji admits fondly. “I’m reading.”
That perks Wei Ying up: he raises his hand, blinking. “Your sexy gay cowboys?”
He shifts against Lan Wangji’s side, not quite suggestive, but only because he’s not awake enough to coordinate sexual grace. Lan Wangji rolls his eyes. “No. Moral philosophy.”
“Boooooo,” says Wei Ying, closing his eyes again. “I want them cowboys to fuck on a horse.”
“I’m sure they will.”
Wei Ying pouts. He drops his chin onto Lan Wangji’s shoulder and brings a hand up to draw traces around the place where Lan Wangji’s terrible tattoo is. Every day he has debated getting it removed, and every day Wei Ying sees it and his eyes go soft and Lan Wangji decides not to. “We should fuck on a horse,” he decides, before a big yawn swallows his face.
Lan Wangji brushes his hair out of his eyes. What an idiot. What a complete moron. “Neither of us knows how to ride a horse,” he reminds him, but gently, because it’s early, and he knows this is bad news.
“I could learn,” Wei Ying protests. “For that kind of incentive, I could learn.”
“Very well,” says Lan Wangji, and feels his mouth curling up. “We’ll take riding lessons. When we graduate, we’ll buy a horse, keep it in Jersey, and once a month, we’ll go out there and fuck, even though it will be uncomfortable and mechanically difficult.”
Wei Ying beams at him, and crawls up so that he’s fully rested on top of Lan Wangji, laid out and insouciant. His hair is messy. He looks like all the dreams that Lan Wangji had ever had about him, and now here he is, living in a house that they share, asking for horseback riding lessons.
“You’re such a rich kid,” he teases. “We’ll buy a horse. Okay, Daddy Warbucks.”
Lan Wangji huffs. “We’re not fucking on a rented horse,” he says sternly. “It’s rude.”
“I think it’s rude to the horse no matter who owns it,” Wei Ying postulates, and then laughs. There’s silence in which Lan Zhan is tempted to read the next sentence in his book, before: “Hey, Lan Zhan.”
“I want them cowboys to get married.”
Lan Wangji’s breath hitches. They’ve been talking, on and off, about this. Lan Wangji knows that there are many people who want a wedding, a big wedding; he knows they’ll have to give them something, even though what Lan Wangji wants is to quietly and gently marry Wei Ying. He does not want it to feel like anything other than a regular day, because he wants to love Wei Ying exactly this much, always. It is not possible to love him more. He does not want to imagine a world where it is possible to love him less.
Probably he will have to let Jiang Wanyin bring flowers and red envelopes. There will be tea. But Lan Wangji doesn’t care about the trappings of a wedding, of a marriage. What he wants is Wei Ying, bound to him. What he wants is to be bound to Wei Ying himself.
Also, he’d really like to move Wei Ying over to his health insurance and combine their finances so that he can secretly pay off his student debt and the last of his hospital installment payments, but that’s neither here nor there.
“I want that also,” he murmurs, petting Wei Ying’s head. “Regardless of who owns what horse.”
Wei Ying looks at him, for a long moment, then breaks out into a smile. He takes the left hand currently stroking his head and brings it down so he can kiss Lan Wangji’s knuckles, one at a time. He pauses over the ring finger and kisses down at the joint, where a ring would sit.
“Today,” he decides, and looks up. “I want to get married today. I’m tired of not being your husband.”
Lan Wangji’s throat tightens. He nods because trying to say anything would be embarrassing, and anyway, what is there to say? Lan Wangji has been tired of not being Wei Ying’s husband since the very moment he realized he loved him.
“I’ll text my family,” he manages, after Wei Ying graciously allows him to collect himself, with an amused little twist of his lips. “You should, too.”
Wei Ying makes a face. “Jiang Cheng’s gonna make such a whole thing out of it,” he whines. “What if we eloped and told them after.”
“All right, but I'm not defending you from Yanli,” Lan Wangji returns calmly. “Still, if that’s what you want to do — ”
“No,” says Wei Ying quickly. “No, uh. No. Okay. You’re right. I’ll text them. I’m sure Jiang Cheng can pull together something decent in the time it takes for us to get dressed, go to the courthouse, wait in line, and get a license. Or — hey. Is there a waiting period?”
Lan Wangji nods. “Twenty-four hours,” he says. “But we can always just have everyone sign and date it for tomorrow. I believe Xichen is legally registered as an officiant.”
Wei Ying stretches down and gently bites his jaw. “That’s a crime,” he points out, delighted. “I can’t believe I married an edgy, law-breaking bad boy.”
“Bad to the bone,” Lan Wangji deadpans, and drops his hands around to Wei Ying’s hips, dragging him up so that Lan Wangji can suck a bruise onto his collarbone. The last one he put there has faded. Lan Wangji is annoyed at love marks on the one hand for being ephemeral; he is grateful to them on the other for the opportunity to apply them anew.
It is a mixed emotion. Lan Wangji has become a master of those.
Wei Ying’s breath hitches, and he presses up into Lan Wangji’s mouth. He is always pressing up into Lan Wangji’s mouth, wherever Lan Wangji’s mouth is. He never pulls away. He never seems to want to be anywhere other than exactly there.
Lan Wangji closes his eyes and swallows against a sudden sting of tears. Mine, he thinks, arms wrapping tight around Wei Ying’s middle, drawing him in. Wei Ying comes. Wei Ying always comes to him, and never leaves. Is it possible to be so lucky? To be so known? Lan Wangji buries his face in Wei Ying’s neck and breathes in the scent of him, glad to be alive, glad not for the first time for every wound, every ache, every stitch that life gave him so that he could be here, with Wei Ying sleepy and pliant and warm and his, saying I want to get married today.
THREE AND A HALF YEARS AGO
It is freezing inside the clerk's office. Wei Ying finds himself kind of half-listing into Lan Wangji's side, seeking the warmth of him as the clerk stares at them with the kind of glazed look that you really only find in public-facing government buildings and at tollbooths. She’s young, maybe twenty, and is clearly texting under her desk. Wei Wuxian hitches up a smile which even he knows looks nervous and weird.
“Hello,” he greets, squinting at her name tag, “...Lanan.”
“It’s pronounced Lenon,” she says, voice bored.
“Okay,” says Wei Wuxian, even though it very much is spelled Lanan. “Well. We are here from SNL, to get a marriage license.”
Lanan blinks at them. “You work at SNL?” she repeats, and then points at the badly-covered handcuffs. “So are those, like ... part of that?”
Wei Wuxian feels Lan Wangji’s hand tighten in his own, and he laughs, a little sheepish. “Ah, well,” he jokes, “you know us. Comedians.”
“Funny,” agrees Lanan, as if it’s not very funny at all. Lanan seems like she could not care less where they worked as she slides an empty form across her counter. “Well, fill this out please. And I’ll need your IDs.”
Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji glance at one another. “Our ... real names?” Wei Wuxian asks.
Beside him, Lan Wangji is jade-stiff and silent, his grip on Wei Wuxian’s hand tight. Wei Wuxian takes a moment to imagine what it would be like, to be here for real. To be with — with someone. Who wanted Wei Ying to belong to him. Who wanted to belong to Wei Ying.
It’s unlikely. Wei Ying knows what he’s like. People get tired of him, and he gets ... sometimes he gets the itch to do something or go somewhere and he has to do it, he has to, if he doesn’t he’ll die, probably. And people don’t usually want to wait for him to get back. They get mad if he goes without them.
“Yeeeeeah,” Lanan drawls, looking back down at her phone. “Obviously. I can’t release it to you without your real names.”
“We’re from SNL,” Lan Wangji says slowly, to confirm. “We were told we could just pick it up.”
Lanan rolls her eyes. “I got that part. I don’t care where you work, if it doesn’t have your info on it I can’t give it to you. Like, legally.”
Lan Wangji and Wei Wuxian look at each other again, and Lan Wangji gives a tiny, adorable, helpless shrug. He guesses it makes sense that, even if it’s for a prop, the government can’t exactly release like ... real fakes.
He shrugs back at Lan Wangji, and grabs a pen, scribbling down his info before sliding the paper back over to Lan Wangji.
Lan Wangji gives his hand a gentle shake and startles Wei Ying into paying attention to him again. “I’m not left handed,” he says, voice pained, and then Wei Wuxian understands and sheepishly lets go of his hand. Lan Wangji gives him a little huff of acknowledgement and then, slowly and carefully, begins to fill out the license.
Them, married, he thinks, a little hysterical, a little dizzy. Imagine being loved by someone like Lan Wangji. He would probably — he would probably be a really nice husband. He was nice to Lan Xichen. He was nice when he talked about his bunnies, which was never, but Wei Wuxian had overheard him saying goodnight to them on the phone a couple of times.
It was probably ... really nice, being loved like that, by someone like Lan Wangji, who seemed like the type of person who loved you, even if you went somewhere without him. Even if it took you a while to come back. The type of person who stayed.
NOW: WEN QING
“Okay so just so that I understand, like, what’s happening here,” Wen Qing says, shifting her bag up on her shoulder because she had stopped by a Walgreens on her way to Lan Wangji and Wei Wuxian’s apartment to pick them up last-minute wedding presents; she’s been wanting to get them a complete first-aid kit for ages but hasn’t had a funny enough reason, “we’re going to their wedding, which they’d planned to be fraudulently early, but is, in fact, three and a half years late?”
Jiang Cheng had texted her almost fifty-two times today, which was a roughly 5200% increase in communications from him. The first ones were things like Hello Wen Qing. Wei Wuxian has announced he and Lan Wangji are getting married today. There will be a party after at the apartment. As we do not have work, I assume you are available., and then deteriorated in coherence from there, until the most recent, which just said BROTHER SNARXJER, so. Clearly he was having a weird time already.
It was ... cute. Weird, but cute.
Beside her, Wen Ning hums thoughtfully, then grabs her arm before she can walk out in front of traffic. He’s always doing that, which she guesses is thoughtful, but also, Wen Qing has lived in New York for like half a decade. She’s not gonna get hit by a cab. She knows how to dodge.
“I don’t think that technically it’s the ceremony,” Wen Ning muses. “Sizhui said that apparently they had to have had the ceremony ages ago, because licenses are only valid for sixty days in the state of New York and they got the license … more than that ... ago. But nobody knows how.”
He’s got both of their red envelopes in his hands, which is lucky because Wen Qing had forgotten all about it. She doesn’t ... get invited. To many weddings.
Yanli has asked her to be a bridesmaid in her wedding to Jin Zixuan, which is just, like, it’s really nice to be thought of and Wen Qing genuinely wishes Yanli all the luck in the world, but what the fuck. Yanli has like, eight hundred million friends, and she wants Wen Qing, who is bringing a first-aid kit as her wedding gift today?
The light changes, and they cross the street. Wen Qing wrinkles her nose. “They’re not telling anybody, or they literally haven’t found out yet?”
She wants, very badly, to bury her face in her hands, because of course this would happen to Wei Wuxian. Of course it would. He’s the most absurd person in the world, probably. If someone had written a sketch about this, she’d have said it required too much suspension of disbelief, but here it is happening, for real, to Wei Wuxian, and she just feels like ... yeah. Obviously. Naturally. She’d have been more surprised if they went to the courthouse and got married and had their vaguely criminal ceremony like they’d planned without a hitch.
“I need a cigarette,” she mutters. In her first year at SNL, before Wei Wuxian quit cigarettes and took up Warheads, they’d often run into each other up on the roof, taking a smoke break. They’d sit on the ledge, or pace around when it was cold, and chain smoke on stressful days. Sometimes they talked, and sometimes they were both so exhausted that they’d nod at one another and then say nothing.
It was nice.
She doesn’t miss him, because she’s not a baby or anything. But it was nice back then. There’s nobody to smoke with her now. All the new kids are like, vegans, if not literally than spiritually. She’s pretty sure Sizhui’s never even smoked weed.
“I wish you wouldn’t,” Wen Ning murmurs, gently downtrodden.
“Don’t weaponize being cute against me, it won’t work,” she tells him, even though it definitely works, like, eighty percent of the time. As they come up to the entrance of the building, she glances up and sees Sizhui, Jingyi, Jin Ling and Zizhen on the balcony, waving cheerfully down at her. Jin Ling has a bunny in his arms, which just feels so unsafe, for the bunny.
Wen Ning waves back. Wen Qing does not.
“So are we saying congratulations or we’re sorry? What’s the protocol here?” she asks, following Wen Ning inside.
He shrugs helplessly as he pushes the elevator button for Lan Wangji’s floor. “Heck if I know,” he tells her. “But I think it’s probably congratulations. Gosh, remember when we all thought Wei Wuxian was going to die of pneumonia and then it turned out he didn’t die but he was going to quit to sell his pilot, and then it came out that they’d slept together months before, and poor Lan Wangji was basically wasting away with love and it was so sad, and then they lived together for a week for some reason — ”
“Wei Wuxian got evicted,” Wen Qing supplies. “Or like. His house burned down? Or something?”
“Oh yeah. And then they broke up, I guess? And then Lan Wangji laughed out loud, on air?”
“I remember, A-Ning,” says Wen Qing, dry. “I was also there.”
Wen Ning clasps his hands behind his back. “Anyway, it’s just kind of funny, when you think about it.”
The elevator dings, and the doors slide open. Wen Qing can hear the sounds of a party. “What’s funny?” she asks as they step into the hall.
The door swings open and Wen Qing finds herself faced with Yanli, who is — not to be rude — the size of a planet. She flings her arms around Wen Qing, knocking her purse to the side with her massive belly. Wen Qing hugs her tentatively back. She’s kind of afraid to touch Yanli in case she, like, rattles the baby.
Obviously that’s not how it works, Wen Qing knows, but it feels like it’s how it works.
Wen Ning grins at her over Yanli’s shoulder, handing Yanli the red envelopes before he's enveloped in a hug of his own. “Well, they were married that whole time,” he points out, in answer to her question, and Yanli lets out a delighted peal of laughter. “All that will-they-won’t-they happened and they were ... already husbands.”
Nie Huaisang is yanked, very unceremoniously, into Lan Wangji’s admittedly beautiful bathroom the moment he arrives. It’s all marble, with a massive claw-foot tub, big enough for two, which: good for them, honestly. Swag recognizes swag, though Nie Huaisang leans more toward modernist copper tones, personally.
He shakes free of Mianmian’s grip, clutching tenderly at the wound. “What the fuck, babe,” he complains. “Whatever it is, I didn’t do it, and I don’t know who did.”
She slaps his arm. Nie Huaisang thinks she’s been spending too much time with Wen Qing, because she’s become significantly more violent in the past year. She should just take up boxing and be done with it. Or one of those murder ones. Krav Maga.
“They’ve been married for three and a half years,” she hisses at him. “Three and a half!”
Nie Huaisang raises his eyebrows. He knows this. Everyone knows this. It’s the funniest thing that has ever happened on Saturday Night Live, up to and including literally every sketch they’ve ever done. They’ve won Emmys for less.
“Yes, and?” he prompts. “It’s cute. It’s absolutely going in my tell-all memoir.” Mianmian makes a very high-pitched sound and yanks her phone from her skirt pocket. Nie Huaisang notes this, because he’s been talking to da-ge about starting a side hustle clothing line together called KNEES. It doesn’t actually rhyme with Nies as it’s supposed to be pronounced, but if that were the American Media Bullshit hill he was going to die on, he’d be long dead by now.
For now he’s thinking: hats. Perhaps a full body sweatsuit with GET ON YOUR on the butt.
Anyway, that’s neither here nor there. Here is Mianmian, holding her phone waaay too close to his eyeballs and clacking an acrylic nail against a photo of — “Wait, is that their marriage license?”
“It’s a prop,” Mianmian says. “From three and a half years ago. The wedding murder fart sketch.”
“Silent But Deadly? Where Jiang Cheng kills everyone in the courthouse and then has a fart shootout with the cops outside?”
“Wasn’t that your sketch?”
“Yes, and it was fucking terrible, please don’t remind me. Least funny thing I've ever written. But I couldn’t go get the license from the printer because I was in, like, ninety million sketches that week, and then on the day of, Wang Lingjiao gave me a black eye with a mop ‘by accident,’” she does air quotes, which Nie Huaisang loves, “and I got stuck in makeup having it covered so Wei Wuxian said he’d step in for me and it would just be, like, a gay wedding, and we didn’t have a suit that fit him so he wore that stupid tuxedo t-shirt that he loved so much he stole it and made it his costume when they took over Update. Oh my God. Jesus fucking Christ on a whole wheat cracker, I think I married them by accident.”
Nie Huaisang holds up his hands in a soothing gesture, then zooms in on the license. “Okay, Pepe Silvia, calm down,” he tells her. “I’m sure there’s a misunderstanding. You can’t marry anybody, you’re not an officiant. Look, it’s not even signed.”
She makes another sound and stomps her foot. “Yeah, not in this picture, I took it before the sketch aired,” she says. “And then it aired.”
Nie Huaisang casts back and tries to remember what happens in the sketch. It was set in a courthouse, and Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji were getting married. They were called up for the ceremony, with Nie Huaisang playing the witness and Jin Guangshan playing the officiant, because he had been registered in New York a couple years earlier for a friend’s wedding and felt it “lent realism to his performance.” Jiang Cheng, Wei Wuxian’s bitter ex-lover, showed up to kill everyone with his deadly, untraceable fart.
Nie Huaisang remembers because, afterward, he had ... insisted on ...
His fingers go numb. Oh shit. Oh shit shit shit. “... I didn’t know,” he says, feeling a wave of panic. “Fuck! Shit! I didn’t know! I really didn’t know!”
THREE AND A HALF YEARS AGO
“My costume itches,” Nie Huaisang complains, and Wei Wuxian gives him a sympathetic pat on the head. Lan Wangji does not acknowledge his complaint, because Lan Wangji is a professional and is going to get this goddamn sketch over and done with before it causes any more problems in his life. He still has marks from the cuffs. “Also just for the record I would never wear this to a wedding.”
Wei Wuxian indicates his tuxedo t-shirt. “Uh?” he says.
Nie Huaisang snorts. “Please. Ten thousand percent you would wear that to a wedding.”
They’re standing in a split set, Jiang Cheng, Yanli, and Wang Lingjiao in one room and Jin Guangshan, Nie Huaisang, Lan Wangji and Wei Wuxian in the other.
Behind the camera, Ah Qing holds up her hand, three fingers raised. Lan Wangji frowns at his colleagues and ignores Jin Guangshan, whom he doesn’t like and who had insisted on wearing all gold even though “what kind of bizarre public official would do that,” Jiang Cheng had pointed out. The ON-AIR light flashes up, and the skit begins — they’re not really in the primary camera angle, which is focused on Jiang Cheng and Mianmian and Yanli.
Jin Guangshan announces somberly, “We are gathered in this courthouse today to witness the wedding of these two young people. Are you both here of your own sound mind and will?”
“I am,” says Wei Wuxian, before putting on an affected giggle and a very poor attempt at a southern accent. “I’ve been waiting for this day my whole life.”
Lan Wangji reaches out and takes both Wei Wuxian’s hands in one of his own. He arranges his face into something he hopes looks tender, and then says his line: “You’ll never wait another day.”
Wei Wuxian’s cheek is warm under his hand, and his skin is very soft. He beams up at Lan Wangji with… yes, that is Flamin’ Hot Cheetos breath. Lan Wangji had found this sketch a lot more bearable with Mianmian.
In the next room, Jiang Cheng announces, “Where are they? They thought they could hide from me? Well, they’ve got another think coming!”
“Sir, please calm down,” Yanli says. “We’re all here to celebrate.”
Jiang Cheng gives an admirably maniacal laugh. “Oh, I didn’t come here to celebrate,” he sneers. “I came here for revenge. Stinky, stinky revenge.”
There’s a gasp. “Wait, I recognize your face!” Yanli cries. “You’re — you’re — !”
There’s the sound of gas. “That’s right,” Jiang Cheng says. “It’s me! The Deadly Fart Bandit!”
Wei Wuxian raises a hand to his eye, brushing away an imaginary tear as Jin Guangshan asks, “Do you take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband, in sickness and in health, for as long as you both shall live?”
“I do,” Wei Wuxian says tearfully.
“I’LL FART ON EVERY LAST ONE OF YOU,” cries Jiang Cheng, over the sound of scuffling. “I’LL FART ALL OF YOU TO DEATH!”
“And do you take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband, in sickness and in health, for as long as you both shall live?” Jin Guangshan asks Lan Wangji, as if he hasn’t heard anything. Green smoke is beginning to fill the room. Jin Guangshan sniffs, and makes a face. “Ugh, do you smell that?”
And Lan Wangji, right before he fake-faints onto the mats just out of the shot, looks Wei Wuxian dead in the eye and says, “I do.”
After the show, Lan Wangji makes it a habit to go home instead of to the weekly afterparty. He does this for several reasons: first of all, he’s tired; secondly, he typically doesn’t drink; and thirdly, he never has a good time. He sits in a booth and watches Wei Wuxian and his friends flit around and flirt. Once, Wei Wuxian made out with someone at the bar. Lan Wangji hadn’t — he hadn’t liked it. He knew it wasn’t his business, and that comedians were ... like this, with and around each other, but he just —
He thought it was unprofessional, was all.
But this week has been terrible. It’s been utterly terrible. All of Jin Guangshan’s sketch ideas were about fart jokes and masturbation and Lan Wangji liked a good dick joke as much as the next guy, but good God. There was a joke to be found about beating a spent dick, but he couldn’t find it, because he’d had half a beer.
He wouldn’t do that normally except Jin Guangshan has been trying to get him to drink all week, and now he’s gone, so Lan Wangji is going to drink, without him around to see it. For spite.
Wei Wuxian hadn’t left his side tonight, anyway, which was nice. Lan Wangji doesn’t like him, but he likes that he’s here, their shoulders pressed together. It’s helping Lan Wangji to keep from slumping over, even though he really, really wants to. He wants to put his head down on the table and nap. He wants to eat chicken wings. He wants Cracker Jacks.
“Wings I can make happen, Cracker Jacks are a tougher get,” Wei Wuxian tells him, from very close by. His voice is warm. It sounds almost like he’s laughing, but not in a mean way. Sometimes it’s in a mean way but not often and never at Lan Wangji. Anyway, he didn’t know Wei Wuxian could read minds. He says so, and Wei Wuxian laughs again. “Lan Zhan, you’ve been narrating out loud for, like, the last ten minutes.”
Lan Wangji blinks. Oh, he thinks, as a test, and sure enough, he feels his mouth say it. He also hears his mouth say it. Wild.
Nie Huaisang slides into the booth beside them. He makes a face and waves the marriage license from one of the interminable fart sketches in their faces. “Look what that dickhole did,” he grumbles, pointing at where it says OFFICIANT. Jin Guangshan has signed it, spilling over the box like an autograph. “He said I could keep it, ‘to show my friends.’”
Lan Wangji snorts. “Bah,” he mutters. “Friends.”
Wei Wuxian threads a hand through Lan Wangji’s hair, which is so nice and surprising that he promptly goes liquid, leaning into the touch. Xichen used to do this sometimes. When Lan Wangji was sad. No one’s done it for him for a long time.
“No, friends are good,” Wei Wuxian instructs him gently. “Jin Guangshan is bad.”
Nie Huaisang is glaring down at the paper. “I’m gonna sign it and send it back to him,” he decides, taking a shot and immediately reaching for another. “With a note that says — well, I don’t know yet, but something savage as fuck.”
“Do it,” says Wei Wuxian, which Lan Wangji dimly recognizes is bad advice, but he feels too good to say anything. If he says something, maybe Wei Wuxian will stop petting him.
“Don’t do it,” Yanli’s voice advises, from somewhere. There are too many people in this room. It’s very loud. “You know he’ll like, make a whole thing about it.”
Lan Wangji raises a finger and points it vaguely in the direction of where Yanli is. That’s good. Yanli is smart. She’s right, and smart. Lan Wangji thinks she's great.
“Nah, I’m gonna,” Nie Huaisang decides. “I’ve got a great signature. I’ve got the best signature in this whole fucking city.”
Lan Wangji stops listening, out of principle. The best signature? In the whole city? No. Ridiculous. Lan Wangji’s penmanship is perfect. All his teachers said so. He sits up and grouchily snatches the pen from Nie Huaisang, scribbling his own perfect signature where it says SPOUSE. That’s him. He was the spouse. And this is his perfect signature. So there.
“Uh,” says Nie Huaisang.
“Oh cool, we’re doing signatures,” Wei Wuxian says, a little too quickly. “Here’s mine.” He snatches the pen from Lan Wangji’s smug grip and signs his own name, next to Lan Wangji’s. “There. Send it back with all three signatures. It’ll be funny.”
“Mine’s the best,” Lan Wangji tells them, very firmly. He looks at Wei Wuxian, expectant.
Wei Wuxian grins at him. “Best I’ve ever seen, personally,” he says, with apparent sincerity, which makes Lan Wangji nod in satisfaction before putting his head back down on the table.
“Wow, okay,” says Nie Huaisang, “So clearly we are all way behind Captain Morgan over there. Wei Wuxian, drink with me. Let’s catch up.”
Lan Wangji feels Wei Wuxian shake his head. “I’ve gotta designated taxi cab this guy home,” he deflects. “He’s definitely too plastered to make it alone.”
Nie Huaisang huffs, then reaches out to gently pat Lan Wangji’s shoulder. The half-empty beer scooches away by itself. “I can text Huan-ge. He’ll come get him.”
Lan Wangji is gathered more closely to Wei Wuxian’s chest. Warm, Lan Wangji thinks. “What? No! This means I’m gonna get to finally meet the bunnies!” A pause. “Also, why do you have Lan Xichen’s number and why are you calling him Huan-ge? Can I call him Huan-ge?”
“He and my brother are close,” Nie Huaisang explains, “and no.” Lan Wangji raises his head blearily to glare at him. He doesn’t get to decide who’s allowed to call Xichen Huan-ge. That’s Lan Wangji’s brother, not Nie Huaisang’s. Nie Huaisang has his own brother. Nie Huaisang is a brother-stealer.
Wei Wuxian doesn’t let him go. He keeps him pinned close, hands still soothing through Lan Wangji’s hair. Lan Wangji feels very bad, physically. In his head, and also in his stomach. He wants to go to sleep. At home or on the table. He’s not picky.
“Sleep,” he demands, and feels Wei Wuxian chuckle against him.
“Okay, champ,” Wei Wuxian promises, and starts to hustle them both out of the booth and onto their feet. “But I’m gonna hang in your living room and pet your bunnies for at least half an hour.”
Lan Wangji considers this, then nods. It’s a fair trade. Snowball and Cloud deserve the attention. Lan Wangji will go to bed and Wei Wuxian can play with the bunnies and then it will be morning, and that will be good. Tomorrow is Sunday. Lan Wangji will play tennis. Xichen will be there. That’s good. That’ll show Nie Huaisang.
He leans against Wei Wuxian’s shoulder in the cab because that feels like the most secure place. Everything else is moving too fast, but not this shoulder. This shoulder is steady, right beneath his temple. He says, “Wei Wuxian,” and pats it, so that the shoulder knows it’s done well.
Above him, Wei Wuxian’s voice says slowly, a little hesitantly, “You, uh. You called me Wei Ying. Before.”
Lan Wangji tries to remember if he had done that. It doesn’t sound like him. But maybe he had. He did a lot of things when it came to Wei Wuxian that he usually wouldn’t do, because Wei Wuxian made him feel a little bit insane, most of the time.
“Mn,” he says, noncommittal.
“You could,” Wei Wuxian goes on, “keep calling me that. If you want. You don’t have to.”
Wei Wuxian is too loud and he moves too fast and everything he does makes Lan Wangji’s skin feel like there are nettles in it, but tonight he’s been nice, and on Monday he’d kept intercepting the drinks from Jin Guangshan and drinking them himself, and that had been nice, too. So Lan Wangji guesses he can do this for him. It’s polite to call people what they want to be called.
“Okay,” he decides. “Wei Ying.”
Wei Wuxian’s hand in his hair tightens, then gets soft, giving him a little pet. The pet is soft. He’ll be okay with the bunnies.
Lan Wangji’s eyes close. He’ll wake up when they get home, he decides. It’s okay to sleep here. It’s good. It’s nice, and warm, and he can hear Wei Wuxian’s breathing. In, out. In, out. In, out.
He falls asleep.
The Filing Officiant
The paper that his PA hands him is on absolutely terrible paper. It takes him a moment to realize it’s the marriage license prop from one of the skits last week.
The bottom section is filled out around where he had signed. Beneath, that short kid with heeled boots has signed on the line indicated for the witness. There’s a Post-It on top that says THOUGHT YOU COULD SHOW THIS TO YOUR FRIENDS :).
He tosses it back at the set-assigned PA in disgust. “Send it back,” he commands. Fucking — comedians. They all think they’re so funny. Jin Guangshan has been famous longer than most of them have been alive.
Well, two can play this game.
“Uh, where, sir?” the PA asks.
Jin Guangshan glares at him. He doesn’t know his name. He knows it’s been way too long to ask but honestly Jin Guangshan just has a hard time remembering the names of service people.
“Where the fuck do you think?” he snarls. “The fucking Marriage Bureau?”
His assistant packs the paper away. “Yes, sir,” he says, and Jin Guangshan makes a sound of disgust as he turns away. It’s fucking impossible to get competent help.
Sizhui has cried five times since he got the text from Dadji, though if anybody asked he was actually just experiencing seasonal allergies. Nobody could prove he didn’t. So what if Sizhui grew up on a hay farm in Maryland and had never had seasonal allergies in his life? People changed.
Sizhui buries his face in Whatever’s belly. She’s a really good girl, and lets him with an air of studied patience that Sizhui assumes she learned from having Momxian as a parent. Lan Wangji has lamented to Sizhui that Wei Wuxian treats the rabbits like they’re people, talking to them and explaining what he’d like for them to do, as if they’ll understand, and then is bewildered when they disobey him.
“They’re rabbits,” Lan Wangji always says. “They don’t understand the concept of electrical shocks. They barely have object permanence.”
Once, last year, Lan Wangji had to go on a business trip out to LA and he’d asked Sizhui to swing by and feed the rabbits, even though Wei Wuxian was still in the apartment, because, “he barely remembers to feed himself, much less anything else,” and then he’d paused and added, “actually, while you’re there, if you could heat up some of the frozen meals that I’ll leave for him,” and Sizhui had been speared through with such a feeling of warm delight that he’d shoved an entire carrot into his mouth and accidentally said, “Sure thing, Dadji,” right to his face.
They’d both paused, horrified, and then Lan Wangji had said, “No problem, son,” and that had been enough for both of them to laugh and never, ever talk about it again.
“In some ways, it’s very funny,” Zizhen muses. “They’ve been married literally as long as we’ve known them.”
Jingyi raises his hand. “Uh, excuse you. As long as you have known them. I, of course, having interned at SNL before any of you showed up because I didn’t waste my time on ‘an education’ — ”
“Anyway,” Zizhen goes on, “I can’t believe that while they were like, ruining everybody’s lives with their sexual intrigues it was actually just marital discord.”
“First of all, it’s very funny in all ways,” Jingyi corrects. “Secondly, does it count as marital discord if the couple in question is unaware of their legal bond?”
Jin Ling snorts. “Yes,” he says flatly. “In fact, I think it makes the whole thing worse. We all deserve workers’ comp for witnessing that shit.”
“It wasn’t all bad,” Zizhen protests. “Remember that period where they were fighting with each other by trying to out-mentor us? I learned so much good shit about punchlines that week.”
“Or when Dadji had to get his wisdom teeth removed but insisted on coming to 30 Rock stoned off his gourd and Momxian had to chase him around the building until he finally used a prop lasso to tie Dadji to his desk chair?”
Jin Ling grins. “Remember when Jin Zixuan’s manager talked shit about Momxian in the lounge and Dadji had his car towed from the garage?”
“Serves him right for driving in New York,” Zizhen mutters, wrinkling his nose. “I know our public infrastructure is crumbling but have some decency, dude.”
Sizhui hums into Whatever’s ears, and she twitches at him, nuzzling her nose into his chest. “Remember when I was living with Momxian and Dadji came over to talk about cooking appliances and then he took us both out for dinner and they sat so close their shoulders were touching and they gave really good advice about managing my career and not letting the industry ruin my optimism?”
Zizhen, Jingyi, and Jin Ling blink at him. Eventually, Jingyi says, “Uh … No, buddy. That one’s all you.”
“Yeah, rub it in that you’re the favorite,” Jin Ling mutters.
“Sizhui’s Jin Ling’s favorite, too,” Zizhen pitches in, elbowing Jin Ling, and Jin Ling’s cheeks flush dark.
“Shut up!” he snaps. “No he’s not. I dislike all you assholes equally.” He glances at Sizhui and then away.
“Jin Ling is Jiang Cheng and Yanli’s favorite,” Jingyi says. “Zizhen is Wen Qing’s favorite. Sizhui’s Momxian and Dadji and Wen Ning’s favorite, which feels like an unfair ratio, but that’s Sizhui for you. I’m everybody’s secret favorite, but the only one who will admit it is Mianmian, and that’s why she’s my favorite.”
Sizhui shakes his head. “I’m not Momxian and Dadji’s favorite,” he protests, though he really can’t deny that Wen Ning dotes on him. His friends make sounds of varying levels of disagreement, but Sizhui is right. He’s not their favorite; none of them are, because Lan Wangji’s favorite is Wei Wuxian, and Wei Wuxian’s favorite is Lan Wangji. It’s been like that for as long as he’s known them. Married or not married, it doesn’t matter. There was never a time where they looked to find anybody else’s face when they entered a room. Momxian could be actively looking for Sizhui, and he’d still check the room for Dadji first. He prefers it that way, actually. It’s … soothing. The constancy of them. The forever of it.
Sizhui gives Whatever a gentle pet and watches her nose wiggle.
THREE AND A HALF YEARS AGO
The Marriage Certificate
The envelope is one of those fancy brown ones, with padding inside it, and the return address is the State Government of New York, which frankly is just not an official body that Wei Wuxian would like to pay attention to him. It’s his first year living in New York and he hasn’t filed taxes yet, but it’s only February, he has plenty of time, so he doesn’t know why they’d be sending him scary-looking envelopes. You can’t audit someone who doesn’t even exist yet.
The granny he lives with had dropped the envelope on his bed, and when he came home from SNL she’d pointed a messy spoon at his bedroom. “The government wants you,” she’d told him. “Also, come taste this soup.”
He’d let her spoonfeed him and said, “It’s perfect, don’t change even one single thing,” and Granny had rolled her eyes.
“So you think it needs more spice,” she’d deduced, but Wei Wuxian was already headed to look at what the government wanted, having had a brief fit of panic that maybe they’d reinstituted the military draft.
Anyway, what he decides to do is put the envelope in his IMPORTANT STUFF TO READ LATER drawer, which is where he puts all the stuff he gets from work and from the government, and then at tax time he panics and shoves it at Jiang Cheng or just uploads it into Turbotax and hopes for the best.
Six months later, their apartment gets broken into after the hair salon downstairs leaves its front door unlocked, and Wei Wuxian’s stuff gets ransacked along with everyone else’s. The envelope is gone, but he doesn’t ever try to track it down; they report the break-in and he figures if it was really important, they’ll follow up.
No one does, and he gratefully forgets about it.
NOW: WEI WUXIAN
Wei Wuxian sends everyone home promptly at nine, because Lan Wangji doesn’t like late nights and because he’s spent all day having to talk to other people when the only person he wants to talk to is his husband.
His husband! The one he’s married to!
He closes the door behind Lan Xichen, who had graciously stayed behind to clean up, even though Wei Wuxian had said they could do it themselves. Lan Xichen had leveled him with a look and said, “This furniture was expensive. If you don’t get the wine stains out they’ll be permanent,” in the tone of voice that suggested he knew that Wei Wuxian’s idea of “doing it themselves” was to ignore it until the morning in favor of immediately having sex.
Anyway. Lan Wangji is standing behind him, his hands clasped behind his back, waiting. He looks a little tired, his hair kind of mussed. It’s growing out so he doesn’t look quite so much like a cop. It’s a bit fluffy now, a small mop above the sharp lines of his face. He’s smiling, the one he reserves just for home, the one Wei Wuxian only ever catches him in by accident, when he thinks he’s not being observed.
“Hi,” Wei Wuxian murmurs, going to him and hopping up to hook his ankles around his husband’s — his husband!!!!!! Ha!!!! Take that, every authority figure he had between the ages of thirteen and twenty — waist. Lan Zhan catches him easily in a light hold, and presses a kiss to Wei Wuxian’s cheek. “Do you know what I just realized?”
“Hm?” asks Lan Zhan, walking them back to the kitchen and depositing Wei Wuxian on the counter so that he can pull what’s left of the cake from the fridge. He puts the tray on Wei Wuxian’s lap and hands him a fork, because he knows Wei Wuxian doesn’t like icing and prefers to dig into the center for the mushy cake bits. He’s the best person in the whole world, and he married Wei Wuxian. Unbelievable.
“We saved ourselves for marriage,” Wei Wuxian announces, feeling indeed very delighted by it. “We have only ever had married sex.”
That gives Lan Zhan pause. He moves in, facing the other side of the cake, which had once read MARRIAGE! and now reads simply AGE!
“That was quite traditional of us,” Lan Zhan says eventually, watching Wei Wuxian’s mouth close around the fork.
Wei Wuxian nods. “I’m very traditional about this kind of thing,” he says seriously. “No divorce. Not ever. You have to love me until I’m dead.”
“I would love you even if you were dead,” Lan Zhan tells him plainly, and Wei Wuxian wants to scold him for being a sap, but like a sucker, he’s agreed that today is a holiday where it’s allowed, so he just shoves another forkful of cake into his mouth.
“Ah, c’mon,” he mutters weakly. “It would be super on brand for me to die early and in a very stupid way, Lan Zhan. So — so if I do, you’ll have to be a sad widower for, I don’t know, three years max. Then you can date again.”
Lan Zhan takes the fork. He puts the cake to the side and steps into the vee of Wei Wuxian’s legs. “No,” he says, flat.
“Lan Zhan,” Wei Wuxian complains, “Okay. Ten years. A nice round decade. That’s very fair.”
“No,” Lan Zhan says again, cupping both Wei Wuxian’s cheeks in his hands. Ah, yikes, he’s so soft. He’s so good. Love is stored in the Lan Zhan. “Not three years, not ten years, or thirteen, or sixteen, or a hundred. Always. It can’t be anybody but you, ever.”
Wei Wuxian is allowed to get teary, actually, because it is his Find Out We’re Married Day celebration. “What if I get old and wrinkly,” he says, just to be an asshole.
“I will get old and wrinkly also,” Lan Zhan says, and Wei Wuxian genuinely gasps, covering his mouth with a hand. How dare he. Lan Zhan will be flawless and beautiful forever.
“Ridiculous,” Wei Wuxian scolds. “You’ll look exactly like this, forever. It’s your genetics. Look at your uncle, he’s a million years old and still a stud.”
Lan Zhan’s eyes crinkle with a smile. “There is no way you could look that I would not love,” he says, and Wei Wuxian groans in agony, dropping his head onto Lan Zhan’s shoulder. It’s too much. He can’t bear it. He wraps his arms around Lan Zhan’s shoulders and squeezes. This is where he wants to be, forever. Lan Zhan’s hand rubs gentle circles on Wei Wuxian’s back. “You’re shaking. Are you cold?”
“Ugh, don’t notice, it’s because I’m happy, it’s embarrassing,” Wei Wuxian mutters. “I’m so happy that I’m probably not going to be funny anymore. My show is going to get cancelled and I’m not going to be able to contribute to the household except by way of blowjobs.”
“That’s fine,” Lan Zhan assures him.
“I mean it!”
“I love who you are, not what you contribute,” Lan Zhan says, then pauses and adds, “though it must be said you do give outstanding blowjobs,” and Wei Wuxian has no option but to kiss him so that he’ll shut the fuck up. This really is too much. He’s too good. Wei Wuxian’s going to get the vapors. He’s never been sure exactly what they are, but he’s gonna get ’em. It’s disgusting, how much Lan Zhan loves him, how much he loves Lan Zhan. They should both be arrested on eight million counts of being absolutely unbearable.
“Let’s have sex,” Wei Wuxian announces, pulling away, and Lan Zhan is radiating happiness at him, eyes wrinkled, smile too big to look at.
“Okay,” he agrees, picking Wei Wuxian up again and carrying him down the hall.
“Let’s be really gross and married about it.”
“Tell me you love me.”
“I love you.”
“I meant during sex, Lan Zhan.”
“I know. I’ll tell you then too.”
Wei Wuxian cannot believe he convinced Lan Zhan to marry him twice.
He buries his face in Lan Zhan’s neck. They’re good at being married, he thinks, sinking his weight into Lan Zhan’s hands, trusting he’ll be held up. He’s suspected they’d be good at it, and he was right. He’s always had such good ideas. He should be president of ideas, forever, actually. Lan Wangji can be VP. He’s not co-president, because of that whole thing he has around “time” “existing” and “punctuality” “mattering” which Wei Wuxian has not yet been able to argue out of him.
Lan Wangji sets him gently down on the bed and then leans down over him, kissing his forehead, his cheeks, his nose, his chin. His face is dear and perfect and close. Wei Wuxian takes it between his hands and traces his cheekbones with his thumbs.
“Hey,” he murmurs. “Let’s get married.”
Lan Wangji knows.
He had not known this morning, or at the courthouse, or at all until he’d gone to hassle his insurance into letting Wei Ying join his plan, and looked more closely at the copy of the marriage certificate that the clerk had kindly provided for them.
The officiant listed is Jin Guangshan. Lan Wangji had remembered instantly: the bored city clerk, the handcuffs, the warm weight of Wei Ying’s hand. He remembers thinking that it was preposterous, the idea that someone like Wei Ying would ever marry him, or vice versa. That everything about Wei Ying was too loud, too unruly, all flash and no bang.
But of course he had not thought that, not ever, not really. He had only taken the dazed, dizzy feeling that looking at Wei Ying sparked in him and decided it was irritation because he did not recognize the intensity of his own desire.
Some part of him thinks he had known, even then, that it made no sense to get a real marriage license from a real clerk. That they were almost certainly doing something — different, from what they told each other they were doing.
But Wei Ying has always made Lan Wangji want to do things differently. He’s always made Lan Wangji want ...
He’s always made Lan Wangji want.
He had not imagined their wedding ceremony would be an extended fart joke, or that Wei Ying would wear his wedding robes every Saturday after, or that their wedding video would be sandwiched between an ad for L’Oreal dandruff shampoo and a sketch about three sisters trying and failing to murder each other in increasingly preposterous ways. Standing in the city’s clerk office, knowing he was doing something but not knowing exactly what, Lan Wangji had not imagined anything at all: he had thought only that ... here was Wei Ying, holding on to him, his mouth curved into a smile. Not taking off the handcuffs.
Wei Ying, who was always moving, always flitting away and coming back, cuffing himself to Lan Wangji’s wrist and choosing not to shake it loose. Choosing to stay.
He smiles down at where Wei Ying is glittering mischievously up at him. “We are married,” Lan Wangji reminds him.
“Let’s get married again,” insists Wei Ying.
Lan Wangji would marry him today, and tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that. He says, “Okay.”
“Let’s get married every day,” Wei Ying decides, leaning up to kiss him and then flopping back down. He tugs at one of Lan Wangji’s newly-long and shampoo-soft flyaways.
“Mark your words,” Lan Wangji tells his husband, and he can feel the smile breaking across his face, showing his teeth.
“Lan Zhan! You can’t just agree with me about everything, now that we’re married,” Wei Ying protests, but in the tone of voice that says he’s lying to them both, and Lan Wangji should, in fact, agree with him about everything, and should have been doing it even for the half year that they knew each other before they got married in secret, by accident, and maybe a little bit on purpose.
Lan Wangji settles on top of Wei Ying, resting his chin on his chest. Wei Ying runs his hand through Lan Wangji’s hair, just the way he likes. The way Lan Wangji’s mother used to do. The way Xichen did, after. “Okay,” he says. “I’ll agree with you for other reasons.”
“We’re best friends,” Lan Wangji deadpans. He points at the framed drawing on their bedside table, two dicks kissing. One is wearing a tie. “Our dicks even kissed about it.”
Wei Ying falls back against the pillow and laughs, and laughs, until Lan Wangji leans up and captures his mouth, swallowing the sound.