Lan Xichen smiled at Mingjue from across the table, tea steaming gently in their cups. It was a rare free night for them both— the conference was in full swing and the mid-week break was something everyone looked forward too.
There would be no meetings tomorrow, just a formal dinner— most of the gathered disciples had already vanished into the city, looking to eat and drink with their friends.
Lan Xichen and Mingjue had a long habit of staying in on these nights; after all, there weren’t many times they could visit each other and not have to worry about morning meetings.
Mingjue took a breath as he relaxed, the strain and tension easing from his shoulders as he did so. It made him seem younger, now that the lines of stress around his eyes had eased. Lan Xichen was well-aware that Mingjue was only a few years older than him— but, like his father, Mingjue wore his stress easily.
They had both changed out of the elaborate robes that marked them as Clan Leaders. Right now, they were just partners— partners who had been separated for far too long.
“This is good tea,” Mingjue murmured, eyes falling closed as he inhaled the steam. Lan Xichen smiled at the words.
“I’m glad.” He had paid attention to Mingjue’s preferences over the years, of course— he had hoped that this new blend would meet with approval. Lan Xichen sipped from his own cup, then rested it on the table. “How has it been for you?” he asked, and Mingjue quirked his lips into a smile.
“A-Sang has been bribing me to let him return home since we got here,” he said dryly, and Lan Xichen laughed. Huaisang hated Lanling with a passion— he blamed it on the decor but Lan Xichen and Mingjue both knew it was because all of his efforts to put a spy into Jin Guangshan’s ranks had been swiftly found out by Madam Jin.
She had a stranglehold on the servants of Carp Tower, though Madam Jin seemed to look on Huaisang’s efforts with fondness. Which was fortunate, since the younger man hadn’t learned his lesson yet— Mingjue shook his head at the thought.
“He’ll get over it,” Lan Xichen replied, and Mingjue scoffed.
“Sure,” Mingjue said dryly. “When the sun rises in the west.”
Lan Xichen covered his laugh with his hand, his eyes curved from the force of it.
It was quiet in the quest quarters now that everyone else had made their way into town. Even Lan disciples treated this day as an exception to the strict bedtime and wakeup rules, and Lan Qiren was exhausted enough himself to not care, as long as they showed up for dinner.
“Are you tired?” Mingjue asked, and Lan Xichen lowered his hand as he shook his head. Tired was the last thing on his mind right now, when he had Mingjue all to himself— the other man chuckled as he stood and offered his hand. “Come here then, Xichen,” Mingjue murmured, and Lan Xichen allowed himself to be pulled to his feet and brought to Mingjue’s chest.
He sighed in pleasure at the feeling of strong muscles pressed against his own, and lifted his head to let his cheek rest against Mingjue.
They stood like that for a long moment, merely delighting in each other’s presence. Lan Xichen’s eyes slipped closed as Mingjue’s arms closed around his waist.
“You seem tired,” Mingjue teased lightly, and Lan Xichen laughed.
“Just happy,” Lan Xichen refuted. He smiled as he opened his eyes. “I was— oh, no.”
A golden butterfly flitted through the door, and it was aimed right for them. Mingjue turned at his words, a frown on his face that only deepened at the sight of the messenger.
“What happened now?” he groused, and they both held up their palms to see who the message was for.
The butterfly settled on Lan Xichen’s palm, and the recorded voice began to play.
Xiong-zhang, Wangji’s voice said, and there was something off about it that made Lan Xichen frown. But Wuxian’s voice sounded next, and Lan Xichen sighed, then dropped his head onto Mingjue’s shoulder.
Xichen-ge! Your brother got me drunk! Come get us!
“What?” Mingjue asked as the butterfly faded away, and Lan Xichen huffed a laugh into his robes.
“I think Wuxian got Wangji drunk.” Lan Xichen stepped out of Mingjue’s arms and gave him an apologetic smile. “I have to go get them.”
Mingjue lifted a brow, then barked a laugh. “Wangji got drunk?” he asked incredulously, and Lan Xichen inclined his head. Mingjue shook his head, amusement shining in his eyes. “This I’ve got to see.”
Lan Xichen called Shuoyue to his hand as Mingjue summoned Baxia. They turned in the general direction that the messenger had come from, leaving off the robes that would mark them as more than just mere disciples.
“This is going to be great,” Mingjue continued as they headed into town, a gleeful look on his face. “Huaisang is going to be sorry he missed this.”
Lan Xichen couldn’t help smiling in response to Mingjue’s broad grin. It was rare to see the other man so at ease— even the thought of Wangji drunk wasn’t enough to dim Lan Xichen’s good mood from the sight.
When they found the younger cultivators Wuxian was plastered to Wangji’s side, speaking quickly with a bright smile on his lips, hands moving from the force of his thoughts.
Lan Xichen heaved a sigh at the sight of his entranced brother, watching as Wangji’s eyes followed Wuxian’s hands. Mingjue chuckled from next to him.
“Odd pair,” he murmured as they walked through the inn. “Are you sure your brother is drunk?”
Lan Xichen took a glance at Wangji’s glassy eyes and shook his head. “He is,” he said dryly. “Why, Mingjue? Did you think that in this he would be like me?” Mingjue had seen the few rare occasions where Lan Xichen had over-imbibed— from the stories, Lan Xichen knew he could get… wild.
Mingjue glanced over, amused. “You are alike in everything else,” he said with a grin.
Lan Xichen huffed a laugh, then folded his hands behind his back as they reached the table.
Wangji looked up immediately when they appeared. “Xiong-zhang,” he said tonelessly, and Wuxian spun in his seat at the word, then lit up at the sight of Lan Xichen.
“Xichen-ge!” Wuxian stood abruptly then swayed, and Wangji reached a hand out to his hip and braced him upright. “Thank you, Lan Zhan,” Wuxian said, aiming his smile towards Wangji before turning back to Lan Xichen with a bright smile. “Xichen-ge, are you here to drink with us?”
Lan Xichen shook his head, bemused. How much had they had to drink that even Wuxian’s tolerance had been affected? He did not remember Lanling’s alcohol being that strong. But Wuxian shrugged, then drained off the last of the jug before Lan Xichen could stop him.
Mingjue’s amusement was made clear by the soft laughter coming from behind him, and Lan Xichen sighed.
“Come on,” Lan Xichen said gently, gesturing for his brother and Wuxian to follow him. There was no point in disciplining them now when they wouldn’t remember in the morning. “Let’s go back.”
“Xiong-zhang,” Wangji said softly, and Lan Xichen turned towards his brother with a lifted brow. But Wangji’s face had fallen, and Lan Xichen’s heart abruptly ached at the sight.
“Ah, Didi,” he said, reaching out to pat Wangji’s shoulder. “I’m not upset. Let’s just go sleep, alright?”
Wangji nodded solemnly, and Wuxian leaned into their space, staring from one brother to the other.
“Why ‘xi-xiong-zhang’?” he asked curiously, and Lan Xichen tilted his head in question. Wuxian pouted, then fell forward and landed in Wangji’s arms. “It’s so long, Xichen-ge,” he complained. “You should be da-ge, right? Lan da-ge?”
“No,” Wangji interrupted, and Wuxian turned his head to look at him as Lan Xichen glanced over his shoulder. Mingjue just shrugged, arms crossed over his chest as he watched the show.
“No?” Wuxian questioned, giggling about his new position. “Why ‘no’?”
Wangji inclined his head to Mingjue, who nodded a greeting. “Da-ge.”
Wuxian struggled to spin around in Wangji’s arms, and Lan Xichen sent a glance around the room, thankful that he and Mingjue were dressed plainly, and that he saw no one he recognized. At least Wuxian had chosen an inn well out of the way for this excursion of theirs.
“Chifeng-Zun is da-ge?” Wuxian asked slowly, and Wangji nodded firmly. Wuxian sat upright then leaned forward, staring intently at Mingjue. “Da-ge,” he said thoughtfully, then yawned. “Let’s go to sleep,” Wuxian said, huddling into Wangji’s embrace, his eyes drifting shut. “I’m tired.”
“Not here,” Lan Xichen said hurriedly, stepping forward and helping the two to their feet, ignoring Wuxian’s sound of distress. “Let’s head back first.”
Wuxian stood, pouting as he watched Wangji very carefully count out enough money to cover their bill. Lan Xichen sighed as Mingjue added more to the pile behind his brother’s back— neither of them knew how much the bill was, and it better to overpay than owe a debt.
“Xi-xiong-zhang,” Wuxian complained, then swayed forward and collapsed against Lan Xichen’s chest. “I’m tired.” The word was accompanied by another yawn, and Lan Xichen glanced up helplessly as Mingjue and Wangji merely watched as Wuxian sank into his arms.
“Let’s… let’s just go,” Lan Xichen said finally. He turned to leave, carting Wuxian along with him. Mingjue kept a careful eye on Wangji— he was quiet, his eyes following as Lan Xichen half-led, half-carried Wuxian through the room.
It was much quieter outside the inn and Lan Xichen breathed out a relived breath as they made their escape.
Mingjue turned towards Wangji, brow raised. “Why did you drink?” he asked curiously. Wangji tore his gaze off Wuxian long enough to glance at Mingjue.
“He said it was good,” Wangji replied solemnly. “It was.”
Mingjue laughed and Wuxian straightened up from being slumped over Lan Xichen’s shoulder to stare at the two behind Lan Xichen.
“What?” Mingjue challenged, but his voice was amused— Lan Xichen was thankful that he had brought the other man with him and glanced over his shoulder in thanks. Mingjue caught his gaze, then winked.
Wuxian struggled out of Lan Xichen’s grasp and staggered his way to Mingjue, staring at the Clan Leader with wide eyes.
“Why are you so tall?”
Mingjue stared down at Wuxian impassively, unperturbed by the question. “Why are you so short?” he shot back, and Wuxian rocked on his heels.
“I am not short!” Wuxian objected hotly, and Mingjue raised a brow, then lifted a hand and measured the distance between the top of their heads.
“Short,” he said confidently, and Lan Xichen watched as Wuxian pouted and turned to Wangji for comfort.
“Tell him I’m not short, Lan Zhan,” Wuxian complained. Wangji glanced between Mingjue and Wuxian.
“But Da-ge is taller,” Wangji said, his voice apologetic, and Lan Xichen huffed a laugh as his brother inadvertently continued the teasing.
“What!? Lan Zhan, you’re supposed to be on my side!”
Wuxian turned back towards Lan Xichen and tucked himself against the Clan Leader’s side. “Xichen-ge is the only nice one here,” he mourned as Lan Xichen curled an arm over his shoulders and patted gently. “The rest of you suck.”
Wangji frowned at the words, but Mingjue just laughed. He reached across the distance and poked Wuxian in the shoulder.
“What were you talking about so earnestly when we arrived?” Mingjue asked curiously, ignoring the sour look Wangji aimed his way for the action. “You didn’t even notice us.”
“Wedding,” Wangji replied before Wuxian could. Lan Xichen’s shoulders went stiff, and Mingjue began to grin slowly.
“Oh?” Mingjue asked, his tone far too cheerful for the headache Lan Xichen could feel forming. “Who is getting married?”
“Me!” Wuxian said immediately, turning in Lan Xichen’s arms and waving his hand to answer. “I am!”
“Oh, no,” Lan Xichen whispered. Mingjue’s laugh rolled through the darkened street.
“Are you now?” Mingjue asked. He lengthened his stride to catch up to Lan Xichen, then glanced at him, delight shining in his eyes. “And who are you getting married to, Young Master Wei?”
Wuxian reached his arm out towards Wangji and yanked him close. “To Lan Zhan, of course!” Wuxian said cheerfully, and Lan Xichen shut his eyes for a moment. “Who else?”
Mingjue nudged Lan Xichen with his elbow and Lan Xichen retaliated with a sharp glare— how had Wangji kept this from him? Shouldn’t his own brother have brought this up to him, as Clan Leader, first? Before Lan Xichen found out by accident?
Mingjue’s grin seemed like it would never fade. “I am so glad I came with you, Xichen,” he said seriously, and Lan Xichen turned and shoved Wuxian into his arms instead.
“Then you can help,” he said, and reached out to touch his brother’s shoulder. “Wangji, we are going to talk about this in the morning.”
Wangji nodded in response, but Lan Xichen sighed. It was likely his brother wouldn’t remember any of this anyway, if the last time Wangji had been drunk was any indication. Lan Xichen brought his hand up to rub his temple, watching from the corner of his eye as Wuxian reached up to touch the pins in Mingjue’s hair.
Being drunk must have taken away all of Wuxian’s self-preservation, Lan Xichen thought— but Mingjue was in a good mood from the teasing, despite his own night being interrupted, and allowed the touch.
But Wuxian seemed to realize he was being held up by Mingjue all of a sudden and frowned. “Huaisang isn’t going to get this big, is he?” he asked, worried. Wuxian poked the arm around his waist pensively. “If he does I won’t be able to pick on him.”
Mingjue huffed in amusement. “I don’t think so,” he said, and Wuxian tilted his head back and grinned up at him.
Lan Xichen sighed with relief when he glanced up and saw that they were almost back to the guest houses.
“Let’s put them in my room,” he said, turning to Mingjue. “That way I can watch over them tonight.”
There was always the possibility that a drunk person would choke on their own vomit— and Lan Xichen also did not want his brother to escape before they had sat down and had a chat about this ‘wedding’ Wangji and Wuxian had been planning.
“Fine,” Mingjue agreed, turning to follow along. Wuxian swayed in his grasp, yawning once more.
Lan Xichen opened the door and let everyone into the room, then shut it snuggly behind them.
He glanced around, then sighed. “Put him on the bed,” Lan Xichen said, and Mingjue moved forward and urged Wuxian to lay down. The younger man kicked off his boots then curled up on his side, eyes sliding shut.
Wangji stood at the side of the bed, then glanced towards his brother.
“Xiong-zhang?” he asked, and Lan Xichen shrugged.
“There’s a pallet in there,” he said, and watched as Wangji very carefully turned and made his way to the chest Lan Xichen had indicated.
Lan Xichen turned to Mingjue, smiling crookedly. “I’m sorry, Mingjue,” he said helplessly, but Mingjue shrugged.
“It looks like you’re about to have another little brother soon,” he said, easily waving off the apology. “Of course you’ve got to take care of him.”
Lan Xichen leaned forward and rested his head against Mingjue’s shoulder for a moment. “I’ll come to Qinghe after the conference,” he promised. A hand stroked over his hair, then paused, and Mingjue huffed a laugh.
“Oh, Xichen,” he said, voice thick with amusement. “I think you’re going to have your hands full.”
Lan Xichen lifted his head and turned, then sighed and closed his eyes.
Wangji had indeed set out the pallet— and then he’d removed his boots and curled up around Wuxian’s lightly snoring form. Golden eyes stared at Lan Xichen even as Wangji tucked Wuxian into his arms, and Lan Xichen began mentally building the arguments to convince Lan Qiren that this was a good match.
He’d known that the two of them would be like him and Mingjue— but Lan Xichen had just anticipated having a little more time before thinking about a wedding.
Mingjue tapped his finger on Lan Xichen’s shoulder in thought. “At least you know you have to provide chaperones now,” he said lightly, and Lan Xichen groaned and leaned against his chest. He took a breath, then let go of the slight frustration that filled him with an amused sigh.
“Then you get to stay here tonight and deal with this with me,” Lan Xichen teased. He raised a brow as Mingjue shrugged. “We won’t both fit on that pallet.”
Mingjue pushed him towards the bed and put Baxia to the side, taking Shuoyue from Lan Xichen and putting the sword with the saber. “Hmph. It’s barely big enough for me,” he replied, then reached out and shoved the two younger men apart. “Wangji, you should know better.”
Wangji watched Mingjue with hooded eyes but didn’t protest, and Wuxian was far too deeply asleep to care.
Mingjue jerked his head towards Lan Xichen. “Come here.” He nodded to the space between the two on the bed. “We’ll just share.”
Lan Xichen shook his head with a laugh, but removed his boots and settled down between Wangji and Wuxian. His brother curled up next to him immediately— a move that made Lan Xichen’s heart ache with affection. Wangji had snuck into his bed after nightmares for a long time until Lan Qiren had found out and put an end to it; Lan Xichen wrapped his arms around his brother and hugged him tightly.
Mingjue went around the room and blew out the candles, then made his way to the side of the bed and removed everyone’s hair pieces with careful hands. He laid them out neatly on a nearby table, then took the open space behind Wangji as his own and pulled the quilt up over all four of them.
“This is highly unusual,” Lan Xichen murmured into the darkness, smiling despite his words. Mingjue scoffed.
“For the Lan Clan, maybe,” Mingjue refuted, settling in for the night. “A puppy pile is a time-honored Nie Clan tradition.”
Wangji stirred, lifting his face from Lan Xichen’s shoulder and turning to look at Mingjue. “No puppies,” he said clearly. “Wei Ying is scared.”
Mingjue reached out and ruffled the top of Wangji’s head. “Go to sleep, Wangji.”
Lan Xichen went still as Wuxian turned and pressed his head into his shoulder— he glanced down at the two teens using him as a pillow, then sighed. He unwound his arm from Wangji and wrapped it around Wuxian, then settled his hands on their hair.
“How come you aren’t being used as a pillow?” Lan Xichen asked Mingjue, who propped himself up on an elbow at the words and glanced over.
“You’re their big brother,” he said pointedly. Mingjue reached out and tucked the quilt under Wuxian’s shoulders, covering the area that had been exposed when he moved. “Enjoy it while it lasts,” Mingjue advised. “They don’t stay this cute for long.”
Lan Xichen rested his head back against the pillow, then smiled as Mingjue reached a hand out to brush a strand of hair behind his heads. He turned his face and pressed a kiss to Mingjue’s palm.
“Wuxian’s reaction will probably be interesting,” Lan Xichen murmured, and Mingjue huffed a laugh.
“Oh, I can’t wait.” Mingjue settled down, turning so he was back-to-back with Wangji. He yawned, then chucked. “It’s bound to be good.”
Lan Xichen listened as Mingjue’s breathing deepened into slumber and envied his ability to fall asleep so fast.
His mind whirled through thoughts of how to arrange this marriage— what would the Jiang Clan want, would Wuxian marry in, how long would it take Lan Qiren to agree? He sighed softly, then pushed the thoughts away for now. Most of them would likely be answered in the morning, regardless.
Wei Ying woke up before the sun, a raging headache pounding behind his eyes. He groaned lightly and pressed his face into his pillow— his pillow who was breathing, and he scrambled backwards in shock.
He landed on his ass as he rolled off of the bed, the blood rushing out of his face as Wei Ying realized he’d been sleeping on Lan Xichen’s chest.
Lan Xichen liked him, but not this much! I’m dead, Wei Ying thought wildly as Lan Xichen’s eyes blinked open, head lifting from the pillow to search out the disturbance.
But Wei Ying’s heart stuttered as Lan Zhan’s head appeared from the other side of Lan Xichen, golden eyes frowning at the sight of Wei Ying on the floor. Both brothers stared at him curiously— was Wei Ying the only one who thought this was weird?
“Wei Ying?” Lan Zhan asked quietly, and what— what was going on!?
Wei Ying croaked out words that he barely recognized in response.
He cleared his throat, then tried again. “Lan Zhan, what—”
A deeply unhappy voice interrupted him, and Wei Ying went still in shock.
“Shut up, Wei Wuxian,” Chifeng-Zun rumbled, “and get back in the bed.” Chifeng-Zun’s annoyed eyes met his from behind Lan Zhan, the man glaring as he propped himself upright. “It is far too early to be awake.”
Wei Ying glanced from Lan Xichen to Lan Zhan to Chifeng-Zun, and swallowed. He got up slowly and sat on the edge of the bed, and Lan Xichen lifted the quilt enough for him to slide underneath.
“Don’t start worrying just yet, Wuxian,” Lan Xichen said reassuringly, patting his shoulder gently. “I’ll wait until later to bring up our conversation from last night.”
Wei Ying took a breath, then gave up and burrowed into the warm mattress in an attempt to hide. “I don’t remember anything,” he mumbled into the pillow. Lan Xichen patted his head gently.
“Don’t worry,” Lan Xichen said serenely, and Wei Ying shivered in fear from that tone. “I do.”
Chifeng-Zun laughed as he laid back down, and Wei Ying wondered what on earth he and Lan Zhan had done last night to warrant this.