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call me home and I'll build you a throne

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In a great display of foresight and self-control, Wei Wuxian had started planning his trip back to the Cloud Recesses months before.

He hadn’t just come back on a whim, one day, after drinking too much alcohol and feeling like he would do anything to have a familiar shoulder to rest his head on. He didn’t run back to what he knew as soon as he got severely hurt, wanting nothing more than the comfort of being taken care of by careful and experienced hands. He didn’t even give up and went knocking on a very well-known door when he caught the first whiff of sandalwood on a random person, and it felt wrong, to smell sandalwood and not see white robes, the pattern of clouds, the grave voice calling his name in a way that made his heart ache.

Instead, he waited. He worked on developing his new golden core, as far as he could. He did research on effective ways to do it, got to know new people, and created new talismans of protection for the houses he visited in exchange for money.

He walked around his decision for several weeks. Asking for help was never something he felt comfortable with, but if there’s one thing his previous life taught him, it’s that there is no use in trying to do everything alone. He would do well in learning to ask for things.

He sent the letter and started making his way there, patting himself on the back and thinking he was very brave for sending it, knowing he could get rejected, knowing this could be perceived as a display of weakness, if the man receiving it were any other than Lan Wangji.

This will be good, he had thought to himself at that mountain, playing a tune he knew with his heart and soul. Having the Lan Clan help with developing his new core was the best decision he could ever make, and the help of the Chief Cultivator would certainly speed the process up.

But then, Wei Wuxian heard his name, and all at once he knew he was lying to himself.

He came back because he missed a voice, a scent, a smile. He came back because he missed the warmth that radiated from the man who was his soulmate, even when they weren't even touching. He came back because he wanted to be near someone he knew, and who knew him back. Someone who would accept him in any way he came.

Wei Wuxian came back because he missed Lan Wangji.

Nothing else.

 

-

 

For the first time in months, Wei Wuxian opens his eyes to a familiar place.

There’s a streak of sunlight hitting the sheets through the window, and Lan Wangji is nowhere to be seen. He spreads his body wide on the mattress, fully intending to spend a few more minutes - or hours - in bed.

Rubbing his eyes open, he can’t help but let out a contented sigh. There’s a lot of comfort to be found in Lan Wangji’s predictability, his steadiness through life. His room even still smells the same, like the sandalwood incense he missed and something cozy he can’t quite put his finger on.

He buries his head on Lan Wangji’s pillow, inhaling the lingering scent of his hair. It feels welcoming. He wonders what it would be like to wrap his arms around Lan Wangji like this, feel his skin getting hot under his fingertips.

He moves the pillow a bit more and notices something underneath. A wrinkled piece of paper, folded carefully into a tiny square. Wei Wuxian frowns as he recognizes his own handwriting.

What is his letter doing under the pillow? Perhaps Lan Wangji is into the habit of reading letters before bed, and this one has gotten lost? It doesn’t seem like something he would do, incredibly organized the way he is, but…

The door opens, and Wei Wuxian  quickly tucks the pillow back in place.

“Lan Zhan! Good morning.”

Lan Wangji stops near the door, a breakfast tray in his hand, and stares at him. Wei Wuxian is suddenly very aware of his own position, lying down on the bed with his messy hair and robes tangling around his legs.

After another big stretch on the bed, he gets up silently and goes to wash his face.

“Where were you?” Wei Wuxian asks after he comes back and sits by his side, his clothes - Lan Wangji’s clothes - more neatly arranged on his body.

“A meeting,” Lan Wangji answers.

“You don’t look happy about it.”

Lan Wangji tightens his jaw almost imperceptibly. Of course he would never admit he isn’t happy about his duties, even if he were suffering from boredom all the way through. Wei Wuxian leans over the table and decides to push him, anyway.

“So are you enjoying your work as Chief Cultivator?”

Lan Wangji gives him his cup of tea, not meeting his eyes. “Whether I enjoy it or not is irrelevant.”

“So, no?”

He keeps his eyes cast down. His silence speaks volumes.

“Ah, Lan Zhan. You look stressed,” Wei Wuxian sets his cup down.

Lan Wangji doesn’t answer. Wei Wuxian wants to reach out and take his hand, but maybe that would be crossing a line. They haven’t seen each other in so long. He feels like he doesn’t know what the boundaries are anymore. Maybe he never knew.

“What is it that’s bothering you the most?” Wei Wuxian presses. He’s nothing if not insistent. “Tell me, and I’ll make it go away.”

Lan Wangji scoffs.

“I will!”

“I would tell you,” he looks up with a hint of amusement in his eyes. “But you can’t make every sect leader go away.”

“If they’re bothering you, I can,” Wei Wuxian shoots him a wicked smile. “It wouldn’t even be too hard, really.”

“Wei Ying.”

“Alright, fine. But you should just say fuck this and walk out when they’re getting on your nerves,” he says. Lan Wangji doesn’t answer, so he gives him a playful tug on his sleeve. “You know… I heard that’s exactly what you used to do, before. Just get up and leave whenever the meeting got boring. It’s what I would do.”

“It isn’t,” Lan Wangji says. “You would call them out on their hypocrisy and make the meeting interesting again.”

Wei Wuxian’s laugh gets interrupted by a knock on the door.

“Enter.” Lan Wangji says.

A young Lan disciple comes in, seeming quite a bit nervous. He takes in Wei Wuxian’s carefree appearance with slightly wide eyes, and bows for longer than necessary.

“Hanguang Jun, Yil- Master Wei.” he stutters, face turning red. “Good afternoon. Teacher Lan Qiren has sent me to tell you that arrangements were made for Master Wei’s guest chambers.”

Guest chambers? Wei Wuxian glances at Lan Wangji, but his face is unreadable, as always. Their eyes meet, but none of them say anything.

“Thank you.” Lan Wangji says eventually, and the disciple bows again and hurries to leave.

Guest chambers.

Wei Wuxian is surprised, but he supposes this was to be expected, since his intention is to stay here for a long time.

Of course, he can’t stay in Lan Wangji’s bedroom, sleeping in his bed, every night. That would be absurd. It would be imposing. He knew that.

Still, he can’t help but feel a little disappointed.

 

-

 

“You have black ones now?”

Wei Wuxian runs to the middle of the meadow where the rabbits are, and immediately most of them scatter away and hide.

“Mn. And they are mixing.”

“Mixing?” Wei Wuxian raises an eyebrow. Lan Wangji picks up a rabbit from the floor that is mostly white with some black spots, and carefully hands it to him. “Oh.”

Wei Wuxian pets the rabbit for a while, until it starts to squirm in his hand. He lets it go and tries to grab another one, but they all keep running away from him.

Pouting a little, he turns back around, only to find Lan Wangji already offering him another rabbit, all black, with a single white patch of fur over his right eye.

“So small!” he says, then rubs his nose and the rabbit’s together. “This one likes me a little bit better, Lan Zhan.”

Lan Wangji doesn’t answer. There is a softness to his gaze, an easiness that Wei Wuxian longs to see more of. He smiles back, holding the rabbit closer to his chest.

“How far have you gotten?” Lan Wangji asks.

Wei Wuxian sets the bunny down. This is the moment he’s been waiting for: showing Lan Wangji how much progress he’s managed to make in their time apart. He’s been working very hard on his golden core, every single day, and even though he does it for himself, it feels good to finally be able to show it to someone else.

He loosens his arm guards and offers his wrist to him so he can feel the spiritual power running through his body. With one glance at him, Lan Wangji reaches out and takes his pulse carefully.

Wei Wuxian feels the warmth of his skin and forces himself not to yank his arm away. Years of stopping people from feeling for his core have made him wary of these kinds of touches. But this is something he needs to relearn.

And it’s Lan Zhan, Wei Wuxian thinks as he feels his energy reaching out to him.

He wants Lan Zhan to touch him, even if it’s just like this.

“Wei Ying.” Lan Wangji says, staring at the place where their skin meets. He swallows hard, breath a little heavy. “Wei Ying.”

His voice sounds rough to Wei Wuxian’s ears, and when Lan Wangji looks up, his eyes look slightly red. Wei Wuxian grabs his wrist back, feeling the urge to comfort him, to make a joke and lighten the mood.

“Lan Zhan, what’s wrong?” he asks.

“Nothing wrong,” Lan Wangji answers quickly. His grip on Wei Wuxian’s arm keeps getting tighter, almost to the point of pain. “You really-”

“Master Wei!” a familiar voice calls them from somewhere close in the woods.

They both turn in time to see Lan Sizhui and Lan Jingyi approaching them with hurried steps. Wei Wuxian adjusts his sleeves and ties his arm guards back, more out of habit than anything else.

“Jingyi, you shouldn’t shout,” Sizhui says after they come closer and bow to both of them. “Master Wei, we heard the good news. Is it true you’ll be staying with us for a while?”

“Ah, yes. Hanguang Jun is gonna have to live in utter despair as I annoy him to death in the next few months.”

“Months!” Jingyi says with a cheery voice. “Master Wei, you must find time to teach us some things too! It is only fair, since you’ll be living under our care-”

“Jingyi.” Lan Sizhui stops him, but Wei Wuxian is already laughing.

“See?” he turns to Lan Wangji and points at the boy in front of them. “That’s honesty. A true Lan is a Lan who always speaks his truth.”

At that, Lan Jingyi seems to stand a little taller.

“Indeed,” Lan Wangji agrees. “A true Lan is also always polite to a guest.”

Lan Jingyi swallows dry and bows to them again. “I apologize, Master Wei.”

Wei Wuxian shakes his head and gestures for him to relax.

“Ah, Lan Zhan! Aren’t you the one who always told me to shut up when you were their age?” he bumps their shoulders together. Lan Wangji gives him a sideways glance. “Even when all I wanted was teenage Hanguang Jun’s affection! Boys, it was awful. I was always running after him.”

Lan Wangji’s face remains impassive, but his ears blush the slightest bit.

Wei Wuxian smiles with satisfaction. This is the exact kind of reaction he likes getting from him. He turns back to the kids and sees Lan Jingyi looking from one of them to the other with slightly narrowed eyes. Lan Sizhui simply twists his lips.

“... Boys?” he says.

“We- we should go.” Lan Sizhui bows again, then tugs on Lan Jingyi’s sleeve. “You were both obviously very busy. Excuse us.”

Lan Jingyi protests, but they both hurry and leave after that. Wei Wuxian lets out a tiny giggle.

“Hanguang Jun, the juniors can’t even bear to look at your face for a long time,” he says. “It must be your good looks stunning them out of words.”

“It is Wei Ying they can’t bear to look at,” he says. 

Wei Wuxian’s head snaps back in his direction, but before he can ask what he meant, he’s already reaching out for his wrist again, expression focused.

“Where were we?”

“Wait, what did you mean with-”

“Wei Ying,” Lan Wangji insists. “Focus.”

Wei Wuxian sighs. Fine. They came here with a purpose in mind, after all. To show Lan Wangji how far he had gotten, and decide on a best course of action for the future.

He probably didn’t mean it in the way Wei Wuxian thinks he meant it, anyway. Lan Wangji has never expressed any thoughts about finding his appearance pleasant, or even displeasing, in any way. He probably does not care. It’s silly that Wei Wuxian would even want him to think of him like that.

Trying not to let the disappointment reach his eyes, Wei Wuxian focuses.

 

-

 

It doesn’t come as a surprise, but Wei Wuxian has a hard time getting used to the Cloud Recesses. He is more open to it than the first time he came here, as a teenager, but it’s still an entirely new world he isn’t accustomed to.

Waking up early is terrible, but he already knew that. Going to sleep early is even worse, when his body feels tired but his mind still feels fresh, used to being more nocturnal from years of going to sleep at the break of dawn. Still, he makes an effort to get used to the daily life there. If he must live here for the next few months - or, luckily, years, although he keeps that hope close to his chest and doesn’t even dare think about it - he should also get used to their routine.

It does not help that Lan Wangji turns out to be a lot more busy than he initially thought. His dreams of walking side by side with him during the day, going together to play their music by the waterfall, and other similarly indulgent fantasies, are all frustrated by the fact that he barely manages to see Lan Wangji at all.

Wei Wuxian takes to crashing into his bedroom at night around dinner time, with his own dinner in his hands. “Let’s eat together, Lan Zhan!” he says with a cheery smile.

Lan Wangji always nods, and gestures him in with a small smile in response. Wei Wuxian fears that the sound of his racing heart will be heard in the room’s unforgiving quietness.

The fifth time he does it, Lan Wangji raises a hand to him.

“Send it back,” he says, and points to the table. “I already have a meal for you.”

And with that simple line, their entire routine changes. Every night, Wei Wuxian comes to Lan Wangji’s room after they’re both done with their tasks. Every night, Lan Wangji already has a warm meal set out for him, waiting. Every night, after they’ve eaten, Wei Wuxian lingers in his room for longer than propriety would allow and watches as Lan Wangji gets ready for bed, undressing to his sleeping robes, and carefully braiding his hair so it doesn’t knot.

Every night, he leaves to his own cold room, and dreams about what it would be like if he ever asked to stay.

 

-

 

After getting a little bit more comfortable in the Cloud Recesses and making his guest chambers look a little more his - half-made talismans everywhere, open books that he still needs to finish reading, and several stacks of papers with his own writing that he will someday arrange into some kind of book - he hears of Lan Qiren’s return.

He is summoned almost immediately, like he knew would happen. The day after Wei Wuxian’s arrival, Lan Qiren had taken a sudden trip, and was only now coming back.

Wei Wuxian can’t help but laugh a little, as he dresses in some of his best clothes to go. A few days before, he had told Lan Sizhui and Lan Wangji that Lan Qiren was avoiding him. Lan Sizhui, of course, had insisted that he wasn’t, and that he was merely busy with other things. Lan Wangji, however, had simply frowned. His silence meant more than his words ever could.

As soon as he enters Lan Qiren’s chambers, he bows as respectfully as he can. He can be on his best behaviour when he wants to, and if he wishes to stay here, perhaps it is time he and Lan Qiren get on better terms.

“Wei Wuxian,” the man says, lips twisted as he sets his teacup on the table and gets up. “I have heard of your reasons for staying with us. Are they genuine?”

Wei Wuxian can at least admire how he gets straight to the point, not wasting any time on niceties.

“Yes, they are.”

“And what are your intentions, exactly?”

Wei Wuxian frowns. Certainly, his reason for staying here and his intentions are… the same thing. Lan Qiren can’t possibly want him to tell him what he already knows.

“The Lan Clan has a very good reputation for training the best cultivators in-”

Lan Qiren shakes his head, effectively cutting him. “I mean, with my nephew.”

“I don’t understand.”

Lan Qiren huffs, clasping his hands firmly behind his back. “You were always a very… intelligent young man,” he notes. Wei Wuxian’s frown deepens further at the sudden compliment. “But you were never very wise.”

Ah.

“Teacher Lan, I-”

“I hope you know Lan Wangji is very fond of you, although I cannot understand why.”

At that, Wei Wuxian feels his heart softening. “Yes, I know.”

Lan Qiren takes a step closer and holds his gaze.

“You have hurt him one too many times,” he says..

The words make his stomach sink. There’s nothing he can say to that. He is very aware of his faults, of everything Lan Wangji had to go through because of him. The marks on his body. The years he spent alone. Everything he has done for him, despite his sect’s clear rules.

And now, Wei Wuxian has come to ask for even more.

“I know,” he repeats, his voice sounding a little less confident. Suddenly, he can’t wait for this conversation to be over.

“Very well,” Lan Qiren sighs, and seems to relax a little in his pose. “How are you finding your stay?”

“Dull,” Wei Wuxian forces a smile. It doesn’t reach his eyes.

He has a million thoughts running in his head, of how he is abusing Lan Wangji’s friendship, to simply barge into his home like this and demand help with something that he should’ve been able to achieve alone. Interrupting his peace, his duties, his meals, because of reasons that are entirely selfish and unnecessary.

“That’s good,” Lan Qiren pulls him out of his thoughts. He sits back down at his table, looking a lot older than he seemed when they started the conversation. “You need a little dull in your life, boy. It would do you good.”

Wei Wuxian can barely listen. His mind is already spiraling into a sea of dangerous thoughts.

With a last bow, he leaves as fast as he can.

 

-

 

Hovering around Lan Wangji had always been second nature to him.

Positioning himself by his side, whenever they were close enough together. Standing a little taller every time he knew Lan Wangji could see him. Leaning into his space to share some kind of warmth with him that he probably shouldn’t be allowed to have.

Wei Wuxian had always known his feelings for Lan Wangji were different. He craved for more than companionship, more than loyalty, more than heartfelt conversations. It was an incredible thing to find someone who could follow his leaps in logic and understand his mind so quickly, but sometimes…

Well. Most times. Most times, Wei Wuxian wanted more. Most times, he found his own fingers twitching, an almost unbearable desire to touch him, even if just to brush his fingers on his jaw. He didn’t know what the back on Lan Wangji’s neck felt under his fingertips, and he wanted to, so much that his limbs almost moved on their own.

People all across the world know that Lan Wangji is beautiful, but only Wei Wuxian knows what it feels like to lose his breath when the late afternoon light hits him, what it feels like to watch him curl his lips in a soft smile and know that it is all for his eyes alone.

But those are all selfish, boyish desires. The real world is much more complicated, and in the real world, he can’t just come into someone’s house and demand their attention.

Maybe I should leave, Wei Wuxian thinks to himself as he stumbles on the tiles of Lan Wangji’s rooftop. Maybe it would be better to stay only for a few more days, gather all the useful information on golden cores the Lan Library has, and make his own way again. Lan Wangji is a busy man, and as much as Wei Wuxian doesn’t doubt his affection for him, liking someone and wanting their constant presence in your life are two very different things.

If this is how it needs to be… Wei Wuxian drinks a big gulp of the Emperor’s Smile jar he bought earlier and watches the moon, high in the sky. Perhaps this is how their relationship must always be. Perhaps they will always see each other in small doses of two or three months at a time, never staying, but always leaving an impression in each other’s hearts.

Perhaps Wei Wuxian is doomed to walk alone in this life, making his way through the world, until the time he looks back and all that he sees are his own solitary steps, fading in the sand, where before there used to be two pairs, or three, or even four…

“Wei Ying,” comes the voice from down below. Wei Wuxian stretches his neck to see Lan Wangji walking towards his own room.

He smiles, despite himself. Lan Wangji in white, walking in his direction. Always a sight for sore eyes, and he will always cherish it, especially when he doesn’t know for how long he will get to see it.

“Ah, Hanguang Jun!” he sits up. Lan Wangji jumps to the roof and stands in front of him, their feet aligned, nearly touching. Wei Wuxian looks at the difference between his worn out boots and Lan Wangji’s pristine white ones, and laughs. “I thought you were still busy.”

Without a word, Lan Wangji removes his hand from behind his back and extends a bag to him.

“What’s this?” Wei Wuxian gets up to take it and look into the contents. The bag makes a weird shuffling noise when he moves it, and there are a few smaller bags inside, all seeming filled to the brim with tiny little-

“Seeds,” Lan Wangji says. “Chili, cardamom, black pepper... Things we do not use here.”

Wei Wuxian stares at the assortment of too-many different seeds inside the bag. So this is why Lan Wangji took so long to come back. He looks at him with a wide smile on his face and closes the bag again. This is adorable. Lan Wangji doesn’t eat these, and someone in the market chose to sell him seeds instead of some of the actual spices he was looking for.

“Lan Zhan, someone tricked you,” he says, knowing how fond his own voice sounds. He’s gonna miss all of this when he’s gone again. “Tomorrow, I’ll go with you and sort this out. How dare they sell the wrong thing to Hanguang Jun!”

“It’s not wrong. I asked for seeds,” Lan Wangji tilts his head a little. Wei Wuxian wants to squeeze both his cheeks between his hands and plant soft kisses on his entire face until he can’t breathe.

“We don’t eat the seeds for most of these. We need to buy the fully grown thing, so we can-”

“I did,” Lan Wangji says, seeming more and more confused every second. Wei Wuxian does his best to hold back a laugh. “But these aren’t for eating. They’re for growing.”

Wei Wuxian blinks at him.

“What do you mean?”

“You can grow them here,” Lan Wangji says. “Instead of always going to the market.”

Wei Wuxian simply stares at him as the realization dawns. Lan Wangji wants him to plant and grow spices for himself in Gusu, instead of having to go back and forth every time his chili oil ends - which is very often, given how much he uses it. He is giving him something based on the knowledge that Wei Wuxian is staying here for a long time.

He blinks back a few times, unsure why his eyes have started stinging.

“You told me… In your letters. You said you enjoyed farming,” Lan Wangji frowns a little, searching his face. “Was I wrong?”

“No! No, I-” Wei Wuxian swallows down the lump forming in his throat. “I do, but… I would need some… Soil space?”

“Yes. I have already claimed a piece of our fertile grounds as Wei Ying’s.”

“You have?” Wei Wuxian widens his eyes. Lan Wangji simply nods. “Lan Zhan, this… It would take months.”

“In the meantime, we could still buy them in-”

“I mean,” Wei Wuxian clutches the bag in his hands. Lan Wangji’s eyes follow the movement, the concern starting to form there, almost imperceptible. “I know we talked about this a little, but it’s months of me… Staying here. Have you thought about that?”

“Mn.”

“Months of having me here disturbing your peace. Months of a very loud person breathing down your neck everywhere you go.”

Lan Wangji’s eyes seem to react at that, but he quickly casts his gaze down.

“Mn.”

“And you’re fine with that?” Wei Wuxian realizes he is raising his voice, and fights to bring it down again. “You’re fine with having me here all the time? With never really having time to be alone?”

“I’ve had enough time to be alone,” Lan Wangji answers in a low voice, his eyes still firmly set on the tiles beneath them.

Wei Wuxian’s breath gets stuck in his lungs.

It’s easy to forget, when he can’t remember a single day of it. It’s easy to pretend no time has gone by at all, and that he came back to life only a few days, and not several years, after his death. It’s easy to walk around and act like none of it really happened, and ignore the very real feelings of loss and grief someone else has gone through because of him.

Sixteen years. Sixteen long years had he been gone, and the world had changed around him. He often took comfort in the fact that Lan Wangji was something constant, a presence in his life that didn’t change, but that wasn’t true. He had gone through so much while he wasn’t here. He became bolder, kinder, more mature. He had raised A-Yuan to be an upstanding cultivator and a gentle person, and in all the years he was gone, Lan Wangji had never forgotten him or allowed his memory to become dark in his mind.

“Lan Zhan,” Wei Wuxian reaches out and takes his hand. Lan Wangji startles, but makes no movement to stop the touch. “I’m sorry. I keep forgetting. It’s just a little hard for me to think… That someone really wants me around, for nothing in return,” Lan Wangji opens his lips, but Wei Wuxian squeezes his hand and keeps talking. “I just keep thinking I’m too much for your quiet life. Someday you’ll get tired, and then-”

“Do you get tired of me?” Lan Wangji asks, finally lifting his eyes to him again.

“Of course not,” Wei Wuxian breathes, feeling trapped by his gaze. He can’t lie, not with Lan Wangji looking at him like this. “Never. If I could, I’d follow you around all day, like some of the Juniors seem to like doing.”

“Wei Ying,” Lan Wangji doesn’t smile at his joke. He squeezes Wei Wuxian’s hand once, firm enough to ground him. “I’m the same.”

Wei Wuxian swallows, his heart beating loudly inside his chest. His gaze drops to Lan Wangji’s lips, and he quickly closes his eyes to hide it.

“Alright,” he takes a deep breath, focusing on the reassuring feeling of Lan Wangji’s hand on his.

He wishes they could always talk like this, walk like this, even eat with their hands connected. It wouldn’t be an easy task, but it would be worth the effort. With a soft laugh at his ridiculous thoughts, he opens his eyes again. Lan Wangji is finally smiling at him, the soft moonlight on his face making him impossibly more beautiful.

“Alright,” Wei Wuxian says again. “Show me to my fertile ground.”

“Mn. Tomorrow,” Lan Wangji says. “Now, dinner.”

Wei Wuxian raises an eyebrow. “This late? You haven’t eaten yet? I assumed you were dining with some important clan leader and didn’t have time for your humble friend.”

“Ridiculous.”

Lan Wangji tugs on his hand and turns, jumping off the roof and watching as Wei Wuxian lands softly by his side. He lets go of his hand to open the door to his room, and Wei Wuxian immediately misses it.

“Don’t tell me you waited for me, Hanguang Jun.”

Lan Wangji turns back to him. “I waited for you.”

Wei Wuxian smiles bright, feeling like all the weight was lifted from his chest at once.

Maybe, if he can keep this, he will be fine. If he has stability… If he has someone to care for, who cares for him back… Maybe the footsteps on the sand won’t be solitary, after all.