Olympus meetings are boring as Hell.
Wei Wuxian would know this best, considering he’s the lord of the dead.
He sweeps a glance over the Storm Hall, picking out familiar faces - Jiang Cheng, perpetual scowl on his face, Zidian wrapped around his finger; Nie Huaisang, flapping a fan coquettishly; and of course, there is the Venerated Triad seated at the front of the room, except Lan Xichen, who is mysteriously missing from his seat.
As he looks around the hall again, Wei Wuxian finds him next to a new member of the Pantheon, deep in conversation.
“Holy shit,” he whispers to Wen Ning, who is standing behind him, doing a fantastic impression of a potted plant. “Lan Zhan received his Appointment?”
“Yes, sir,” Wen Ning whispers back. “Jiang Wanyin requests that you not try to antagonize him during this meeting.”
At this, Wei Wuxian just grins.
It’s time to make a correction: most Olympus meetings are boring as Hell.
Because this, Wei Wuxian thinks, is the best meeting he’s ever been in. Jin Guangyao is standing at the front, droning on about who-knows-what. Behind his back, Wei Wuxian is making faces and sending paper dolls across the table to Lan Wangji, who absolutely refuses to make eye contact with him. Jiang Cheng, seated right next to Lan Wangji, gives Wei Wuxian the look, the one that indicates that he’s about to lunge across the table and strangle him, but Wei Wuxian is used to that, and besides, Jiang Cheng wouldn’t dare, not in the middle of a meeting. He continues his antics, and the dolls continue to clamber all over Lan Wangji’s robes, diving from his head, swinging from his forehead ribbon.
The meeting ends before long, everyone trailing out through the shimmering gate, but Wei Wuxian immediately bounds over to Lan Wangji.
“Lan Zhan! Lan Zhan!” he calls out. Lan Wangji looks at him impassively.
“You finally got your Appointment, hm?” Wei Wuxian asks, eyes wide and wondering. “What is it?” He’s about to guess, rattle off a few options, Winter, maybe, or the North Wind, when Zidian snaps in front of him, crackling with lightning.
“Get out,” Jiang Cheng scowls. “Meeting’s over. Fuck off back to your corpses.”
“But Lan Zhan is so much more fun than corpses,” Wei Wuxian whines, draping, himself all over Lan Wangji. Lan Wangji, to his credit, manages to still seem as imposing and collected as ever. The effect is mildly ruined by a paper doll perched atop his head, looking somehow proud of itself. “And they’re not even corpses, A-Cheng, they’re spirits. All they do is stand in that field and stare blankly into nowhere.”
“I don’t care. You’re only allowed in the Upperworld while a meeting is happening,” Jiang Cheng reminds him. He cracks Zidian one more time for good measure, and Wei Wuxian is forced to let go of Lan Wangji. “Leave. Now.”
“All right, all right,” Wei Wuxian finally concedes, holding up his hands. He saunters backwards toward the gate, which turns ebony and slides up, spired and spiky like a dungeon door. “I’ll see you around, Lan Zhan.”
He stumbles back into the Underworld before Lan Wangji can reply. As always, it takes a moment for his eyes to adjust to the darkness after the brilliance of the Upperworld. There’s nothing on his to-do list today, no monsters to exterminate or unruly souls to discipline, so he opens the doors to the palace with a bored sigh and wanders around the wide, empty halls of the palace.
He stumbles across Wen Ning in one of the innumerable bedrooms, wiping down a couch with a rag. He must have left right when he was supposed to - when the meeting ended, and now he’s here, busy cleaning up the place. There isn’t much to clean - after all, the only ones who live here are the two of them and Wen Qing - and everything is constantly covered in a thin layer of shadowy dust anyway, but there also isn’t much else to do. The spirits don’t even talk, and they’d all grown tired of poking sticks in Tartarus years ago.
“Wen Ning,” Wei Wuxian calls out, and Wen Ning stops and looks at him curiously. “Tell me more about Lan Zhan’s Appointment.”
Wen Ning hesitates, and Wei Wuxian scoffs. “I know Jiang Cheng told you. Spit it out.”
“He officially became a god just a few days ago,” Wen Ning mumbles, looking chastised. “He’s… springtime.”
“Springtime?” Wei Wuxian manages, before the image of Lan Wangji skipping gaily through a meadow with a completely straight face crosses his mind, and he descends into a fit of laughter. “Are we talking about the same person? Lan Zhan?”
Wen Ning looks offended. “It’s true, I promise,” he says, wringing his hands. “Jiang Wanyin told me. His title is Hanguang-Jun.” Bearer of light. How fitting.
“All right, fine,” Wei Wuxian chuckles. He’s still thinking about Lan Wangji skipping through a meadow, and his mood feels considerably lighter. “But really. Spring? Him?”
Wen Ning shrugs. He looks like he’s about to say something when Wen Qing breezes through the door, carrying a pot smelling of something awful.
“Appointments are based on ability, not temperament,” she says, setting the tray on the table with a huff. “Weren’t people just as surprised when you were appointed to the Underworld?”
Wei Wuxian gives her a meaningful look. “You know that wasn’t based on ability, either.”
Wen Qing frowns, but she doesn’t argue, and Wei Wuxian counts that as a rare win. “Fine. Whatever. Take your medicine.”
“Do I have to?” He groans, flopping himself down across the divan that Wen Ning just wiped down. The stench from the pot has somehow intensified in the last half-minute, and its murky green color is reminiscent of the Styx. It is, by all accounts, disgusting. “Look at Wen Ning. He’s standing ten feet away from it and he looks like he’s about to pass out. I have to drink it.”
“You’ll take out half the Hall next time if you don’t,” Wen Qing snaps.
Oh. Wei Wuxian feels a pang of guilt in his chest.
“That bad, huh?” He muses. He supposes he walked right into the reprimand, but he still doesn’t like being reminded of what he’s capable of, the danger he poses.
Wen Qing’s face softens. “It’s been worse before.”
Wei Wuxian snorts. “That’s reassuring.” Taking out half the Hall is number two on the list of things he most definitely does not want to do, the first being taking out the entire Hall, and knowing that every meeting could be a close call is most definitely not reassuring.
“You still have a few months,” Wen Ning says, almost gently. She picks up the bowl and hands it to him. “A-Ning tells me Lan Wangji is in the pantheon now?”
“He is,” Wei Wuxian replies absently, staring at a tendril of smoke that curls down his arm into the bowl, where it sizzles angrily. “What does that have to do with anything?”
“Oh - well. Nothing,” Wen Qing says, in a tone that definitely implies something. She smiles. “Nothing.”
Wei Wuxian is sitting in the banquet room a few hours later, absentmindedly tracing whorls and circles through the dust on the table, when Wen Qing pokes her head through the doorway.
“If you’re done with your daily existential crisis, there’s a visitor,” she says, propping her hands on her hips like the disapproving older sister she is. “I figured I’d check in on you first, make sure you’re fully clothed.”
“That was one time,” Wei Wuxian retorts. What, so he’d gotten unreasonably drunk one day and Jiang Cheng had found him passed out in one of the bedrooms, completely naked. Everyone has their off days. “Who is it?”
Wen Qing just smiles and ducks out. Wei Wuxian rolls his eyes. There’s no need for her to be so cagey about it, but if he’s honest, he’s having a bit of trouble figuring out who it could be. It can’t be Jiang Cheng - there’s no need for Wen Qing to introduce him in that case, since he usually just walks around the palace yelling Wei Wuxian’s name until he finds him. No one else ever comes, exceptshijie, who visits more these days to chat with Wen Qing than with him.
A familiar face soon steps through the doorway, and Wei Wuxian, tilted dangerously backwards in his chair, nearly falls in surprise.
It’s Lan Wangji. His face looks the same as usual - stern, cold, and very, very pretty - and his robes, white and immaculate as always, look almost comically out of place among the twisting vines and eternal twilight of the Underworld.
“What’s this?” Wei Wuxian asks, after planting his chair firmly back on the ground, face shifting into a lazy smile. “Missed me already, Lan Zhan?”
“Mn,” he says, and Wei Wuxian’s heart skips a beat. The traitorous thing.
Lan Wangji sets a bowl on the table in front of him. The delicious scent of nectar and ambrosia wafts through the air, and Wei Wuxian lifts an eyebrow.
“For me?” he asks.
“Damn,” Wei Wuxian whistles. Nectar and ambrosia can only be prepared in the Upperworld, so he hasn’t been able to eat it since - well. Since his Appointment. He reaches for the bowl, before he stops.
“Wait,” he says, eyes narrowing in suspicion. “What do you want from me? For this?”
“Nothing,” Lan Wangji replies. He’s still standing. Of course. He’d get his robes dirty if he took a seat anywhere, and for the first time, Wei Wuxian regrets stopping Wen Ning’s last cleaning spree.
Even if he hadn’t stopped him, though, the place would still be filthy. Always is, always has been. That’s just how the Underworld is. Which brings him back to the big question - what possible reason could Lan Wangji, supposedly the physical incarnation of sunshine and butterflies, have to visit it, even going so far as to bring a gift?
“There’s a catch,” Wei Wuxian scoffs. It’s the only explanation. “There’s always a catch. Even from the perfect, morally upright Hanguang-Jun - ”
“No catch,” Lan Wangji insists.
Wei Wuxian eyes him warily, but finally huffs, “Fine, whatever. I’m sure you can’t come up with anything worse than what I already go through on a daily basis.” He stands up from the table and rummages through a box in the corner, before returning with a look of triumphant glee.
“What… is that.” Lan Wangji manages, as Wei Wuxian begins shaking something all over the bowl of ambrosia, transforming it into a rather alarming shade of red.
“Spice powder!” Wei Wuxian grins as he continues adding the substance, only stopping when the pile begins to tower dangerously high above the rim of the bowl. “I tried it once when Wen Ning and I snuck out to the middle realms and - okay, I know, most of the stuff humans make is gross - but I promise this is pretty all right. Jiang Cheng finally caught us, so it’s been a while since I’ve been up there, but I stockpiled a bunch. Just in case, y’know, not that there’s ever anything worth eating down here.”
“Do you want to try some?” Wei Wuxian asks. He stirs the mixture, which at this point looks to be more spice than ambrosia. A mischievous grin slides across his face. “It’s good, I swear!”
“I… will try.” Lan Wangji says. His words are at odds with his face, which is clearly hesitant, but there’s no way Wei Wuxian is passing up this opportunity. He scoops up a heaping spoonful of the mixture, holding it expectantly in midair.
“Say ah,” Wei Wuxian coos, half-joking. He’s expecting Lan Wangji to refuse, maybe shoot him a glare, but to his immense surprise and delight, Lan Wangji actually complies. Wei Wuxian takes the opportunity to stuff the spoon in his mouth before Lan Wangji changes his mind.
Lan Wangji takes the bite, chews thoughtfully, and swallows. Wei Wuxian tries not to think about how domestic the whole thing feels.
“So?” he asks, grinning. “How is it?”
“It is good,” Lan Wangji manages. He looks like he might be crying. Wei Wuxian isn’t sure, since he’s never seen Lan Wangji cry, but he’s pretty sure those are tears in his eyes.
“It’s not proper to lie,” Wei Wuxian says, barely holding back laughter. “Wen Ning! Can you bring some water?”
“What kind?” A voice yells back from somewhere inside the castle.
“The kind for people I don’t hate!” Wei Wuxian yells back. Lan Wangji raises an eyebrow.
“Oh, don’t worry, there’s a freshwater spring in the backyard,” Wei Wuxian grins. He leans in and whispers conspiratorially, “If I’m in a bad mood though, I get Styx water and tell people that’s all we have.”
“Lying is improper,” Lan Wangji shoots back, but Wei Wuxian swears he sees just a bit of amusement flash across his eyes. Fuck, he thinks. I’m starting to hallucinate.
“But Lan Zhan, there’s nothing to do here,” he replies, faking a pout. “Can you blame me for trying to entertain myself?”
“Not at the expense of others,” Lan Wangji huffs. “Eat.”
“Oh, this,” Wei Wuxian says, looking back at the crimson goop in front of him. “I can eat later. Since you’re here, I’d rather talk to you.”
Something complicated slides across Lan Wangji’s face.
“I cannot stay,” he says, quietly, and Wei Wuxian’s stomach drops.
Of course. Lan Wangji isn’t here to talk to him. What reason would he possibly have to do that? He’s just here to drop off some food, which will probably bind him to some mystical contract, and then he’ll saunter off until the next time he feels like taking pity on Wei Wuxian.
“Oh, okay,” Wei Wuxian says, plastering a smile onto his face. “I get it. You’re a busy guy. You have important things to do. I’m just the weirdo in the Underworld. Cool. Exit’s on the left.”
“Wei Ying - “ Lan Wangji starts, but Wei Wuxian holds up a hand. He doesn’t want to hear what Lan Wangji has to say right now, because no matter what it is, it won’t change the fact that - what? That he’d been hoping for something different, that he’d been hoping Lan Wangji actually wanted to be here. That he’d been an utter and complete fool.
“It’s fine,” Wei Wuxian replies, willing his voice to stay steady. He gets up from the table and turns around, heading for a random hallway that he knows doesn’t lead outside. “Thanks for coming.”
After taking several wrong turns, Lan Wangji finally finds Wen Qing in the courtyard outside the palace. She’s staring pensively at the gate, which remains stubbornly closed, bolted shut with a thick, black chain. As he approaches, the chain creaks and breaks, and the gate begins to shimmer, but she doesn’t seem to notice.
“How long does he have?” Lan Wangji asks, and Wen Qing starts with a soft curse.
“Oh, it’s just you,” she says, settling back onto the bench. He hands her the obscenely red bowl of ambrosia he’d taken from the banquet room. He’s not sure that Wei Wuxian will ever go back to retrieve it, so this seems to be the best way to make sure he eats it eventually. He’d seemed too haggard, too worn at the meeting, even for a lord of the dead, and Jiang Cheng had explained that he and Jiang Yanli had both been banned from taking any nectar or ambrosia to the Underworld.
(You haven’t, though, Jiang Yanli had whispered.)
Wen Qing seems to recognize who it’s for, and takes it wordlessly. She still hasn’t answered his question, so he takes a seat on the bench next to her, folding his hands across his lap.
“How long does he have?” he asks again, and she sighs. Perhaps it’s an intrusive question, but he wants - no, he needs to know. Wei Wuxian would never tell him - he’s not sure Wei Wuxian even knows, himself - and he doesn’t know what he would do with the knowledge anyway, but that’s nothing, compared to the desperation and worry he feels.
“Do you think you can save him?” Wen Qing finally replies. Lan Wangji balks. It’s not an answer. A question like the one he’d asked has so much lurking behind the surface, so he doesn’t blame her for avoiding it, but the question she’s thrown back is every bit as heavy as his was.
“Answer my question.”
Lan Wangji stares. He is not used to insolence, especially from a prisoner, but Wen Qing has always been full of surprises. She peers back at him and her face softens, just a bit.
“No one wants to the see the ones they love die,” she settles back against the seat, gazing off toward the gate again. Her voice is quiet. “Just because we’re titans doesn’t mean we don’t care, Hanguang-Jun. We love him too. Me and A-Ning. Perhaps not the way you do - “ Lan Wangji starts, and she gives him a wry look. “- but you are not the only one who cares.”
Lan Wangji lowers his head, feeling chastised. It is true, sometimes, that he feels like it’s him and Wei Wuxian, alone, against the world, that he is the knight in shining armor for someone shunned by everyone else. But to keep thinking that way is a disservice to not only the Wens, and the Jiangs, but also Wei Wuxian himself - his kindness, his compassion, the light he carries that draws people in and leaves everything he touches that much brighter, that much warmer than before.
“I do not know,” Lan Wangji confesses. He stares at his hands in his lap. Useless, useless things. He is springtime. Rebirth. Under his hands, the earth heals, flowers bloom, life returns. But what about Wei Wuxian’s life? Can that be given back to him?
“I am not a cruel person, Hanguang-Jun,” Wen Qing says, letting out a shaky breath. She stands up from the bench, but does not look at him. He feels a keen sense of disappointment in himself. She had been hoping, too. That he would have an answer. “Knowing such a thing will only make you suffer. Please - enjoy the time that you have left. And help him to do so, too.”
I do not know how to do that, either. But Lan Wangji, too, is not a cruel person, and Wen Qing already has so much to carry - Wei Wuxian’s life rests in her hands just as much as his. He will not add himself to her long list of responsibilities.
“Thank you,” he says. There isn’t anything else to say. Wen Qing nods, and Lan Wangji steps back through the gate.
Lan Wangji is summoned to his brother’s room as soon as he steps back into the Upperworld. The messenger is waiting right next to the gate, and hands him a slip of parchment before disappearing in a flash.
See me. The handwriting is loose and flowing, a script he’s seen many times before. Lan Wangji slips it in his robes and makes the familiar trek to the Hanshi.
His brother is standing at the far wall, facing toward the window. When Lan Wangji steps inside the room, the door slides closed, thudding against its frame.
“You went to the Underworld today,” Lan Xichen begins. It’s not a question; it’s a statement. The comings-and-goings of the gods are no secret, not with nymphs and naiads hiding around every corner, but it’s rare that anyone actually cares. “Uncle is furious.”
Lan Wangji doesn’t reply. There’s nothing to reply to, after all. There was no question, just two very simple facts: he’d gone to the Underworld, and his uncle is furious. As he’d expected.
Lan Xichen turns around. “Wangji,” he says. His face bears no trace of tension, but his voice is taut. “Please explain yourself.”
“I went to visit Wei Ying,” Lan Wangji replies.
“You know better than to do that,” Lan Xichen sighs.
“We are not banned from entering the Underworld,” Lan Wangji points out. He’s being insolent, but he doesn’t care. “If we were, the gate would not have allowed me passage.”
“This is not about being allowed,” Lan Xichen says, voice rising just a notch. “This is about your well-being. The Underworld is already dangerous, and Wei Wuxian - ”
“Wei Wuxian is not dangerous,” Lan Wangji bristles. He knows what people say, but in the face of Wei Wuxian himself, all of those words fall away. Wei Wuxian is many things - brash and bold and self-sacrificing - but he would never harm him. Lan Wangji knows that, above all else.
“Have you already forgotten the incident in Cloud Hall? With Jin Zixuan?” Lan Xichen asks. His face is pained. “A-Zhan, I know how you feel. But you know what Wei Wuxian is, and what he’s done. I am just worried for you.”
Worried. Everyone is worried for him, but no one is worried for Wei Wuxian, dark circles under his eyes, paler and thinner every time the Pantheon convenes, bearing a brittle smile, a hollow laugh.
“I know, Brother,” Lan Wangji replies. He understands, he really does, about his brother and his uncle’s misgivings, but there are more important things. “But I am concerned for him. If he continues to stay so close to Tartarus, he will be overcome.”
“We have had this discussion.” Lan Xichen’s voice is gentle, but strict. “It is the only way to keep everyone out of harm’s way. Wei Wuxian accepted the conditions willingly.”
“There must be another way,” Lan Wangji shakes his head.
(There has to be, because he’s not sure what he will do if there isn’t.)
“Wangji.” His brother’s voice is soft, now. Placating. Lan Wangji does not want to be placated. He wants answers. “There are some things even gods are not capable of.”
“No one has tried,” Lan Wangji mutters. His voice is neither confrontational nor accusatory, but still, his brother stiffens, almost imperceptibly. Lan Wangji was not present at Wei Wuxian’s Appointment - at the time, he was still recovering from his injuries - but Lan Xichen was. He’d seen the whole disastrous thing from beginning to end, and he hadn’t been able to stop it.
“Do you know another way?” Lan Xichen finally asks, after a silence.
“There may be a way,” Lan Wangji replies. Lan Xichen studies him carefully, and finally, he nods.
“I will talk with Uncle,” he says, with a sigh. “For now, you are free to travel to the Underworld, though I would feel better if you took Jiang Wanyin with you. I am not sure how much time I can give you.”
“I understand,” Lan Wangji bows his head. I am not sure how much time I have, either.
Before he leaves the Hanshi, his brother calls out to him, again.
“A-Zhan,” he says. He hasn’t used that name in a long time, not since they were very little, holding onto their father’s hands, clinging to their mother’s robes. Lan Wangji turns, and his brother is looking at him with a strange expression, a mixture of concern, worry, a little bit of pity. Lan Wangji tilts his head, just barely. His brother replies with a weary smile. “Please remember that there are people who care about you, too.”
Lan Wangji makes the walk back to the Jingshi in a thoughtful silence. There had been a time when Wei Wuxian had been loved by all, when his brother wouldn’t have worried about him associating with him, and it makes him angry, because Wei Wuxian is no different now - no less intelligent, no less vibrant and talented and alive- and yet. No one wants to speak his name. No one wants to see him, let alone talk to him.
It all started at Caiyi.
(3 years ago)
It was supposed to be a routine job. That’s why they’d sent the trainees out on it, instead of actual gods, but as Wei Wuxian stares at the water below them, the strange black energy writhing under its depths, coalescing into a whirlpool, a monster, he knows that this is anything but routine.
“Titan,” Jiang Cheng whispers. Wei Wuxian’s knuckles go white around his sword.
“We can’t handle this,” Nie Huaisang whimpers from behind his fan. Normally, Wei Wuxian would dismiss this as Nie Huaisang being Nie Huaisang, but one look around confirms that for once, everyone actually agrees with him.
“Let’s go,” Lan Xichen says. “I will bring the rest of the Venerated Triad to deal with this.”
Everyone begins flying away, but Wei Wuxian lags behind, staring at the darkness. Something about it feels strangely familiar, which is absurd, but it does, and he can’t quite put his finger on it.
Without warning, a tendril shoots out of the water and latches onto his arm. Wei Wuxian curses. Suibian pulls, hard, but its advantage has never been its strength, and soon more tendrils begin grabbing onto him, binding to his legs, his face. He watches as Jiang Cheng turns around and yells his name, and suddenly everyone is watching as he gets pulled underneath the water.
As Wei Wuxian drifts deeper and deeper, falling closer and closer to the darkness, he’s starting to realize that it doesn’t actually feel malevolent. Before he can fully process this fact, he sees vague shapes drifting through the water, hacking with swords, and suddenly, Lan Wangji’s face, almost desperate, appears out of the murk. Today has been full of strange happenings, but this might be the strangest of all, that Lan Wangji would actually appear concerned for his well-being. Wei Wuxian is pretty sure he’s hallucinating, but the hand that grips the front of his shirt and tugs him upward is very real.
Once they’re out of the water, Lan Wangji places him gently on the shore and helps him sit up, keeping a firm hand against his back. He’s completely drenched - both of them are, and yet Lan Wangji still manages to be elegant with wet hair and seaweed stuck to his robes.
Ah, Wei Wuxian comes to a sudden realization, head spinning. Lan Zhan must be upset that he had to get his robes wet.
On the far shore, he can barely make out Jiang Cheng and Jin Zixuan, each also dragging something out of the water. He forces himself to stand and squints, trying to figure out what is going on, but a wave of dizziness washes over him, and he stumbles. Someone catches him as he falls, calling out his name, and then everything goes dark.
Wei Wuxian wakes up in a soft, plush bed, head pounding. Jiang Cheng is nearby, pacing back and forth, muttering something under his breath., and when he finally notices Wei Wuxian looking at him, he jumps a little in surprise. Wei Wuxian manages a short laugh before wincing. His entire body feels sore.
“You're awake,” Jiang Cheng says, customary scowl back on his face. He motions upward with his hands. “Get up.”
“Is that how you treat an injured person?” Wei Wuxian complains, struggling to prop himself up on his elbows. “Everything hurts. I don't think I can walk.”
Jiang Cheng’s face darkens. He draws a vial of nectar out of his pockets and tosses it to Wei Wuxian. “There's no time. Everyone's waiting for you.”
Wei Wuxian downs the vial with a satisfied sigh. The nectar suffuses his body with warmth, and the pain slowly fades to a dull ache, far more manageable than before.
“What's the rush?” he asks as he swings his legs over the side of the bed and begins putting on his robes. Rarely are any proceedings put on hold for a single person, and never has one been put on hold just for him.
“You'll see,” Jiang Cheng answers. How cryptic.
The two of them walk without speaking through the gilded hallways and marble columns of Olympus. It's completely silent, devoid of any chatter or even footsteps, and Wei Wuxian feels a shiver run down his spine.
It's clear where everyone has gone as soon as Wei Wuxian steps into Storm Hall, the largest of the many halls in Olympus, overseen by Nie Mingjue himself. Every seat is packed, gods and trainees and creatures of all kinds squeezed together on the marble benches. Someone has even brought in velvet cushions for everyone who didn't manage to find a seat.
A messenger standing by the door guides them past the stares of everyone to a bench at the very front of the hall, where Lan Wangji and Jin Zixuan are already seated. They glance at Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng, giving them subtle nods of acknowledgement.
Wei Wuxian takes a seat, grumbling about his joints. On the bench across the center aisle, he sees two people he doesn't recognize, a girl and a boy in red robes. The girl is seated with her back straight, head held high, elegant and proper. The boy, on the other hand, is crouched over and cowering, like he’s trying to sink into the ground and disappear. Wei Wuxian can relate to that.
“Who are they?” He whispers to Jiang Cheng, gesturing toward the unfamiliar people. Jiang Cheng scowls.
“We found them caught in the water abyss when we were looking for you,” he explains. His face darkens. “They’re titans.”
“Titans? How?” Wei Wuxian asks, but then Nie Mingjue bangs his gavel, and Jiang Cheng looks away, pursing his lips. A minor god grabs Wen Qing and Wen Ning’s arms and drags them up to the stage. Their shackles jingle as they walk.
“We are gathered here today to pass judgment on Wen Qing and Wen Ning. They are titans discovered at the water abyss in the Caiyi realm.”
At the word titan, a hush spreads over the assembly. Only a few of those present have actually seen a titan before, let alone one that wasn’t actively trying to kill them, but everyone else has heard the stories. Vicious, bloodthirsty things, desperate to reclaim the power, the influence that was once theirs.
“The water abyss has caused a significant disruption in the Caiyi realm and inflicted significant injury to one of our trainees, Wei Wuxian. We wish to hold Wen Qing and Wen Ning accountable for these crimes.”
So that’s why they’d waited for him.
“As witnesses, we have Lan Wangji, Jin Zixuan, and Jiang Wanyin.”
As their names are called, the three of them stand up. Wei Wuxian looks up curiously. All three of them are wearing matching expressions, mouths set in grim lines, eyes narrowed. It would almost be funny, if the atmosphere wasn’t so heavy.
“Wen Qing, Wen Ning. Do you have anything to say for yourselves?”
Wen Ning shakes his head, cowering behind his sister. Wen Qing raises her head in a display of defiance. Her voice rings out clear and steady across the room.
“We were born from the water abyss,” she begins. An almost respectful hush descends over the audience - truth be told, Wei Wuxian half-expected booing and jeering, but Wen Qing carries herself with a kind of authority, a gravitas, that makes him want to listen. “We did not cause such a thing, nor would we ever want to.” She gestures to Wen Ning. “A-Ning is still a child, and I am only a healer. We have not harmed anyone, nor do we have any intention of doing so.”
Whispers ripple across the crowd. Nie Mingjue bangs his gavel.
“Anyone can say pretty words,” he says calmly. “Where is your proof?”
“Wei Wuxian is still alive because of me,” Wen Qing replies. There’s no defensiveness in her voice, just the declaration of a simple fact, but the words come as a surprise to Wei Wuxian. He doesn’t know why this is the first he’s heard of it, but Jiang Cheng better have a damn good reason for keeping it from him.
To his surprise, the next person to speak is Lan Wangji.
“We are thankful for what you did,” Lan Wangji says. He turns to Nie Mingjue and bows his head. “She speaks the truth.”
“A devious ploy to gain your trust,” Nie Mingjue sounds skeptical. “What about the Caiyi realm? The removal of the water abyss is all but impossible. The people there have lost their entire livelihood. Who will answer for that?”
Wei Wuxian narrows his eyes. He’s starting to see what this trial is about - rather than justice, it’s about finding a scapegoat. Someone to point fingers at, to blame for what has gone down at Caiyi, and he’s just a convenient pawn to strengthen the argument.
“It was not us,” Wen Qing shakes her head. “Like I said, we were born from the abyss. We were not the cause of it.”
“There is no proof,” Nie Mingjue repeats. “No god or god-to-be is capable of such a thing, and you are the only titans discovered at the scene.”
These facts, while incomplete, are still irrefutable, and Wen Qing has no response, standing still with her arms crossed, face shadowed. A murmur rises in the crowd, growing steadily louder. The voices seem doubtful, but Wei Wuxian thinks that perhaps they are just afraid.
“If there are no other objections, then we can proceed with the sentence,” Nie Mingjue continues. “The traditional punishment is to send them to the Underworld. Does anyone else have any other suggestions?”
Traditional. Wei Wuxian almost scoffs. He’s fairly certain there’s no established rules when it comes to sentencing titans. This is just the Venerated Triad’s way of sweeping the problem under the rug: out of sight, out of mind.
The hall remains silent. No one would be crazy enough to defend titans. But Wen Qing is the person who saved his life - even if Jiang Cheng didn’t say so, even if the words came out of a titan’s mouth, Lan Wangji’s corroboration of her statement is more than enough to convince Wei Wuxian of the truth. There is no way he can sit by, idly, as she is sentenced to exile, to an eternity of misery. He stands up and strides confidently up to the witness stand. Jiang Cheng watches him, incredulously, then stumbles into the aisle, chasing after him.
“This isn’t right,” Wei Wuxian insists. Jiang Cheng grabs onto his sleeve, trying desperately to pull him off the stand.
“Stop making a fool of yourself!” he hisses, but Wei Wuxian ignores him. A surprised murmur rises up from behind him, and Wei Wuxian ignores that too.
“You have no proof that they did what you said they did, either. How can you claim to be just when you give such a heavy punishment to someone who don’t necessarily deserve it?”
Silence falls over the hall. Jiang Cheng gives up on trying to get him to sit down and slinks back to his seat. Wei Wuxian stares at Nie Mingjue, a challenge in his eyes.
“What we choose is justice,” Nie Mingjue declares after a silence, eyes flashing. Without looking away from Wei Wuxian, he bangs his gavel, once, twice. “Wen Ning, Wen Qing. We hereby sentence you to eternity in the Underworld.”
Several minor gods immediately stand up, surrounding Wen Ning and Wen Qing. As they are being led away, Wei Wuxian watches, heart sinking. Wen Qing gives him a silent nod, and Wen Ning mouths something that looks like “Thank you.”
It’s not what he wanted to happen, but Wei Wuxian can’t blame Nie Mingjue for the decision he’s made. It’s his job to keep the peace, to maintain order, and in that context, allowing titans to run free in Olympus wouldn’t exactly be a wise choice.
He doesn’t have much time to think about it though, because Jiang Cheng is striding far in front of him as everyone streams out of the Hall, walking so quickly and purposefully Wei Wuxian is fairly sure he’s trying to avoid him.
They’ve turned multiple corners into several corridors before Jiang Cheng finally spins around angrily.
“Why are you following me?” he asks, glaring.
“You owe me an explanation,” Wei Wuxian replies. He crosses his arms. “Why didn’t you tell me Wen Qing saved my life?”
“It wasn’t important,” Jiang Cheng scowls.
“What do you mean, not important?” Wei Wuxian scoffs. Maybe Jiang Cheng doesn’t understand what it’s like, owing your life to someone else, but Wei Wuxian does, all too well, first to Jiang Fengmian, and now to Wen Qing. The worst thing is to not know, to not realize that you’ve been given such a gift, a sacrifice. The worst thing is to not be grateful for it. “This is my fucking life -“
“Oh, come on,” Jiang Cheng forces out between gritted teeth. “You play roulette with your own life on a daily basis. Doesn’t seem like it means anything to you.”
“Why are you so agitated?” Wei Wuxian demands, ignoring the jab. There’s something else lurking here, something deeper, and he’s going to figure out what it is. “You're always in a bad mood, but this is far worse, and I know it's not just because they're titans -“
“Yeah, she healed you,” Jiang Cheng finally spits out, throwing his hands up in defeat. “You collapsed on the side of the lake and we didn’t know what to do. Even Lan Wangji was at a loss. But she came over, and she did something, and you started breathing again.”
“So what?” Wei Wuxian replies, genuinely confused. “Didn’t she do a good thing? Unless you’re trying to say that you wish she’d just gotten rid of me -“
“Oh, shut up,” Jiang Cheng cuts him off with a glare. “No, the question is: how did she know? How did a titan born from a water abyss -“
Oh. Wei Wuxian doesn’t know how he didn’t realize it sooner.
“How did a titan born from a water abyss know how to treat me?” Wei Wuxian finishes the question. Jiang Cheng looks surprised, but he recovers quickly, nodding.
“You heard her,” Wei Wuxian shrugs, faking disinterest. He knows exactly what Jiang Cheng is suggesting, and he doesn’t like it. He’s beginning to regret pushing the issue. “She said she’s a healer. Why wouldn’t she know?”
“Do you believe her?” It’s Jiang Cheng’s turn to scoff now. “Sure, let’s say she’s a healer. But even so, why would she be able to heal a god? There’s only one explanation - “
“No,” Wei Wuxian cuts him off with an emphatic look. “That’s not what it is.”
“How do you know?” Jiang Cheng hisses. “Father found you on the streets in a middle realm. You don’t remember anything about your own parents. How do you know -“
“How do I know?” Wei Wuxian retorts. He holds up his palm to Jiang Cheng. There’s a scar there, from one of their adventures when they were younger, sneaking out into the middle realms. “Look at me, Jiang Cheng. Look at this fucking scar. Do you remember it? The ichor? It was everywhere. Everywhere. And there’s also the time you punched me in the nose - “
“You deserved that,” Jiang Cheng mutters.
Wei Wuxian snorts. “Okay, sure, but that’s not the point. The point is I bled ichor then.” Jiang Cheng still looks skeptical, and Wei Wuxian pulls the vial from earlier out of his pocket. “What about this shit. I drink nectar like my life depends on it.”
“It kind of does,” Jiang Cheng replies drily, but finally, the corners of his mouth quirk up, just barely. Wei Wuxian feels something in him relax, and grins.
“I’m not a titan, all right?” Wei Wuxian cuffs him lightly. “And even if I were -“
He’s about to say, we’d still be brothers anyway, but he falters when he sees the cold fear that flashes across Jiang Cheng’s eyes. He forces himself to laugh.
“I’m joking, Jiang Cheng. I’m not a titan.”
“Yeah, yeah, whatever,” Jiang Cheng grumbles, but his mood seems to have finally lightened.
“Great,” Wei Wuxian says, swinging an arm around his brother’s shoulders with a conspiratorial smile. “Let’s go raid the kitchen. I’m starving.”
Wei Wuxian usually just sleeps in any random bedroom he can find - the palace isn’t lacking in them, after all - but there’s one in particular he’s taken a liking too, all the way up in a far tower, away from everything and everyone else (and the gate, in particular).
Wen Qing heads there first after Lan Wangji has left, carrying the bowl of ambrosia.
She’s surprised to find him moping. She would have thought that Lan Wangji visiting - and bringing a present, too - would have put him in a good mood, but he’s splayed out on the bed like a starfish, staring up at the ceiling.
“Here,” she says, offering the bowl to him. “Lan Wangji left this for you.”
“Don’t want it,” Wei Wuxian mumbles.
Wen Qing sighs. Sometimes Wei Wuxian acts like such a child. “What happened?” she asks, setting the bowl down gently on a table.
Wei Wuxian is silent, but Wen Qing has experienced enough of these conversations to know that doesn’t mean he has nothing to say. She waits.
“Why does anyone even bother associating with me?” he mumbles, finally. “I mean. It’s not like I have any fancy abilities, or do anything cool. There’s no reason to visit the Underworld, let alone me.”
“Ah,” Wen Qing says with a knowing smirk. “So your daily existential crisis isn’t finished yet?”
“Oh, shut it,” Wei Wuxian huffs. He takes the effort to actually glare at her, which is progress, but then he resumes staring at the ceiling and frowning. “Lan Wangji left. He didn’t want to stay. Didn’t want to talk to me.”
Well, that certainly explains Wei Wuxian’s behavior.
“He’s probably got something to do in the Upperworld,” Wen Qing replies with a shrug. “Or maybe a family thing. I’m sure there’s another explanation.”
“What other explanation,” Wei Wuxian says flatly. “There’s nothing. Lan Zhan just doesn’t want to talk to me. Can’t blame him.”
“Stop it,” Wen Qing glares. “I’m sure Lan Zhan will be back. So eat your food. He’ll give me a disapproving look if you look even shittier the next time he comes.”
“How can you be so sure there will be a next time?” he asks, but at least his voice isn’t quite so lifeless anymore. Wen Qing scoffs.
Of course she’s sure. She was there, too, on the shore of Caiyi. She’d seen Lan Wangji’s frantic eyes, the protective hold he’d had on the unconscious Wei Wuxian. She knows how difficult it had been to coax him into letting go, for just the briefest moment, so that she could take Wei Wuxian’s hand and heal him.
But it’s not her place to say that.
“Just eat your damn food,” she snaps, and Wei Wuxian finally shuts up and eats.
Wen Qing is right, as she somehow always is.
Lan Wangji comes and visits a few more times. He always brings nectar, and something else with him too, sometimes a go board, sometimes his guqin. They chat about how things are in the Upperworld, and Lan Wangji plays the guqin for him, and slowly but surely, Wei Wuxian forgets, and begins to feel something like hope, hope for a friendship, maybe even something more.
When the first day of spring finally rolls around, Wei Wuxian is ready. Normally it would be just another interminable day spent in the Underworld, but this is the first day of spring since Lan Wangji has been appointed to the Pantheon. There is no way he is letting himself miss the opportunity to watch Lan Wangji skip gaily through a meadow, rules be damned.
It’d taken a bit of arm-twisting, but he’d finally gotten Wen Ning to fudge a bit of paperwork, and he waves cheerily as he heads toward the exit gate. It turns a beautiful blue, like the sky of the middle realms, and he steps through.
He blinks at the sudden brightness that washes over him, and it takes him another moment to get his bearings. All around him is green, green as far as the eye can see, and at the center of it, standing very, very still, is Lan Wangji, eyes closed, head bent.
Wei Wuxian is about to call out and say something inane, something ridiculous, but his voice catches in his throat when Lan Wangji raises his arms, hands facing outwards, and all around them, flowers begin to bloom, splashes of all colors bursting out of the ground, red and blue and purple, rippling outwards like a sea. It’s something straight out of a fairytale, beautiful and awe-inspiring and a bit overwhelming, and at the center of it all is Lan Wangji, skin glowing softly from within, mouth curved into a ghost of a smile.
Wei Wuxian swallows. There are several thoughts running through his mind right now, such as how much he wants that smile pressed against his own lips, and how he would do quite possibly anything for Lan Wangji to look at him with that same kind of affection.
But Wei Wuxian doesn’t deal with things like feelings, so he just grins and bends over to pluck a peony off the ground, already imagining several ridiculous ways he can present it to Lan Wangji. Between his fingers, it suddenly dissolves, fading away into ash and dust. With it, whatever madness seized him disappears too, and reality comes crashing back in.
Fool, he thinks, biting back a bitter laugh. Yes, he’d allowed himself to hope, over the last few weeks, that they could be something like friends, maybe something more, but he’d forgotten something important - the simple truth that Lan Wangji, darling of the Pantheon, brilliant and beautiful and good, would never, ever feel anything for someone like him.
Remember what you’ve done, a voice inside his head whispers. Remember who you are.
Lan Wangji still hasn’t noticed him, and Wei Wuxian leaves without looking back.
The next time Lan Wangji comes, Wei Wuxian is prepared.
“Look!” he says, waving a scroll in his hands. Wen Qing didn’t bother announcing him this time, but Wei Wuxian has spent the last few days scouting out the path to one of the turrets that looks out over the courtyard. He spends a lot of time there, these days, for reasons totally unrelated to expecting anyone to step through the gate.
Lan Wangji watches him wordlessly.
“Don’t you want to know what this is?” Wei Wuxian pouts, when he doesn’t say anything. He’s going to show it to him anyway, because that was the whole point of what he’d made, but Lan Wangji doesn’t need to know that.
“What is it?” Lan Wangji asks, voice flat, face straight. Wei Wuxian sighs.
“Can you pretend to be curious, at least?” he grumbles, but half-heartedly. Lan Wangji is indulging him, or at least attempting to, and that counts for something. Wei Wuxian unrolls the scroll with a flourish and a grin, and watches Lan Wangji’s reaction carefully.
Lan Wangji takes one glance and looks away, huffing. “Ridiculous,” he mutters under his breath.
“Oh, don’t say that,” Wei Wuxian laughs. He turns the scroll toward himself, so he can take another look at his most recent masterpiece. It’s a painting of Lan Wangji skipping through a meadow of flowers, wearing a crown of flowers and his usual stoic expression. “Come on, admit it, it’s hilarious.”
No one else had agreed when he showed it to them - Wen Qing, in particular, always fails to appreciate his comedic genius - but Wei Wuxian still finds the image incomparably funny.
Lan Wangji pointedly ignores his statements, and instead gestures to the table behind Wei Wuxian. “What is that one?” he asks with a tilt of his head. Wei Wuxian turns to look. Shit.
“Oh, that,” he blusters. “It’s nothing. You don’t want to see it.”
“I want to see it,” Lan Wangji frowns. He looks almost petulant. It’s kind of adorable, and Wei Wuxian files the image away for the next time he feels like painting.
“Oh, so now you’re curious,” Wei Wuxian sniffs, acting affronted. “Fine, if you want to see it so much, here.” He tosses the scroll over, and watches carefully as Lan Wangji slowly unfurls it. His expression doesn’t change, at all, but then he looks up at Wei Wuxian, something inscrutable in his eyes.
“You painted this?” Lan Wangji asks, voice sounding oddly strained.
Wei Wuxian nods. Gods, he knew he shouldn’t have painted it, but when he’d come back from watching Lan Wangji doing his spring thing, whatever it’s called, he couldn’t get the image of Lan Wangji, that soft expression, the glow under his skin, out of his mind.
And even though he knows Lan Wangji will never see him as anything other than an annoyance or someone to kill time with, he’d painted it with him in mind. As a gift, or something. But he’d lost his nerve just before heading down to the banquet room and left it on his desk - at least, he’s pretty sure he left it on his desk, but apparently that didn’t happen, and now Lan Wangji probably hates him even more for creeping on him on the solstice.
Lan Wangji rolls the scroll back up wordlessly, tying it again with the blue ribbon. He places it back on the table, next to the other painting.
“Wait,” Wei Wuxian says, confused, when nothing else happens, no look of disgust, no creeped-out freakout. “You don’t have anything else to say about it?”
Lan Wangji looks like he’s about to say something when Wen Ning bursts through the door, frantic and out-of-breath.
“Another monster?” Wei Wuxian asks, before Wen Ning has a chance to speak. He nods, still panting.
Wei Wuxian sighs heavily. “Well, as you know, I am a god, and I still have duties,” he says to Lan Wangji. The visit had been going well for once, but he doesn’t want Lan Wangji around to watch him play his dizi. He didn’t discover his ability to manipulate demonic energies until well into his time here, but it partially explains why the Oracle placed him in the Underworld, as it comes in handy for subduing monsters and generally chasing off threats.
But it’s still something strange, something unnatural, and Wei Wuxian doesn’t want Lan Wangji’s opinion of him to fall further than it is already (though whether or not that’s even possible, he’s not sure).
“Don’t wait around,” he says, and then with a swish of robes, he’s gone.
The monster is a small fry, dispatched quickly, and Wei Wuxian rushes back, holding onto the irrational hope that maybe Lan Wangji decided to wait for him.
But the banquet room is empty. Of everything, even the scrolls, and Wei Wuxian looks around, searching. Perhaps Wen Qing or Wen Ning had decided to clean up after their guest, and moved them somewhere. He runs up to his room.
They’re not there, either. He shuffles through the mess of scrolls and ink on his desk, confused. Sure, the paintings were kind of a joke, an impulsive thing, but he’d liked them all the same, for reasons totally unrelated to Lan Wangji’s face being on them. He’s still searching frantically when Wen Qing walks by and sees him elbow-deep in a mess of scrolls, ink splotches all over the floor.
“What are you doing?” she asks, judgment written all over her face.
“Have you seen my paintings?” Wei Wuxian asks, trying to sound nonchalant, and failing miserably.
“The ones tied with blue ribbon?” Wen Qing replies. Wei Wuxian nods, expectant. If she’d seen the ribbon, then she must have seen where they went. Wen Qing gives him a disappointed look, shaking her head. “Lan Wangji took them. You didn’t see him holding them when he left?”
Oh. The truth is far better than what he was expecting, which ranged from I threw them in the Styx to I fed them to the dog, but it also makes little sense.
“Why would he take them?” Wei Wuxian asks, confused. Wen Qing gives him a surprised look, before sighing yet again. She seems to do that a lot these days - not that she didn’t already do it often before, but they’ve definitely increased in frequency since Lan Wangji’s visits started.
“I don’t know,” she shrugs dismissively, already turning to leave. “Why don’t you just ask him yourself, next time?”
Next time. She sounds so sure that he’ll be back. He supposes she was right about it last time, but she also makes it sound so easy, to ask a question like that. It’s really not, especially not for Wei Wuxian. It’s not so much that he’s afraid of the answer, but he’s afraid that if he asks the question - if he asks Lan Wangji about such things, then it’ll turn to why Lan Wangji visits, why he stays - and then Lan Wangji will realize that there is no reason.
Maybe, once, there could have been a chance, that Wei Wuxian could be that reason. But Wei Wuxian knows now - has always known, though he hadn’t really accepted it, until the solstice incident - that he will never get the answer he wants.
He doesn’t deserve it, after all.
(3 years ago)
Wei Wuxian is used to hearing this kind of gossip, but today, the person being interrogated is Jin Zixuan.
“Zixuan-xiong,” one of the trainees asks, sly grin on his face. “Who do you think is the best girl?”
Jin Zixuan purses his lips. Another trainee lightly slaps the one who’d asked the question.
“That’s a stupid question to ask him,” he says. “Zixuan-xiong has a fiancee! Of course he’d say it’s her.”
The original disciple makes an “oh!” of surprise, face lighting up. “Wow, really? Who is she? Is she in the Pantheon already?”
Jin Zixuan makes a noncommittal noise. “Forget about it,” he replies gruffly.
There’s no way Wei Wuxian is standing by after Jin Zixuan has said such a dismissive thing about his shijie. He knows that Jiang Yanli isn’t one of the more well-known or powerful goddesses, but she is many other wonderful things - bright and warm and loyal - and those things make her beautiful. For her to be looked down upon by Jin Zixuan - by that arrogant, strutting peacock - makes his blood boil.
“What do you mean, forget it?” Wei Wuxian snarls, striding into the conversation. The other two trainees, terrified at the sudden change in mood, step away warily, but Jin Zixuan stays where he is, a defiant look on his face.
“I mean exactly what I said,” he sighs, crossing his arms. “I didn’t know your vocabulary was that bad, Wei Wuxian.”
“No, my vocabulary isn’t the issue. Why don’t you tell me why you’re so dissatisfied with my shijie?” Wei Wuxian demands. Jin Zixuan glares in return.
“Why don’t you tell me why I should be satisfied with her?” he retorts condescendingly. The air around him starts to glow, shimmering with heat, but Wei Wuxian refuses to step back. He can take a little heat.
Jiang Cheng stalks up behind Wei Wuxian, but he waves him away.
“You think you have the right to be choosy?” Wei Wuxian scoffs. “Just because you’re the next Sun doesn’t mean shit. So you can pull a chariot. Big deal. You should be concerned with whether you’re worthy of her - “
“If she’s so undeserving of me,” Jin Zixuan shoots back, eyes narrowed, “then why don’t you tell her father to call it off? Oh. Right. Because he’s gone and the only reason we’re doing this is in his honor. Whatever honor he had while he was alive, treating someone like you even better than his ownson -“
Behind him, Jiang Cheng stiffens, but before he can move, Wei Wuxian has pinned Jin Zixuan up against the wall, grabbing him by the neck of his robes, snarling. As everyone watches, he pulls his hand back, swings -
The punch never connects. The Hall explodes into thousands of glittering fragments, thin and sharp as glass, and long tendrils of black smoke grab onto Wei Wuxian’s limbs, tugging him into a void. He thinks he might hear himself screaming, and then everything goes black.
When he comes to, the air is thick with dust. The ground is filled with rifts and cracks, and all around him is rubble, the familiar marble columns and seats of Cloud Hall dashed to pieces. Next to him, he catches sight of someone in trainee robes.
“Jiang Cheng,” he manages, before coughing hoarsely. He crawls over, desperate for a familiar face, but to his surprise, it’s not Jiang Cheng - it’s Lan Wangji, who, as far as he can remember, was nowhere near the disaster that was his and Jin Zixuan’s conversation. He places a hand just above Lan Wangji’s mouth, and sighs in relief when he feels the warmth of his breath.
A few feet behind him, someone coughs, and Wei Wuxian spins around. Jiang Cheng drags himself upward into a sitting position. Golden ichor trickles down his temple.
“Jiang Cheng - “ Wei Wuxian yells, trying to force his aching body to move, just a few feet, even a few inches, but when Jiang Cheng sees him, the look that flashes across his face is pure, utter terror.
“Who are you?” he whispers. Wei Wuxian can barely hear the words, but the sentiment is clear - Jiang Cheng is afraid of him. This destruction, this ruin, that surrounds him - he did this. He is an other. A monster.
Wei Wuxian shakes his head, wordlessly. He has no answer for Jiang Cheng. The dust begins to settle, coating everything in a thin layer of white, and the sounds of footsteps approach on all sides. The walls are completely gone, and Wei Wuxian watches as gods he’s grown up with all his life approach, watches the same cold fear flash in their eyes as they take in the scene and realize that he’s at the epicenter of it all.
He closes his eyes with a sigh and lays down on his back. The voices that surround him are hushed. They ebb and flow, growing softer and louder as people tiptoe back and forth through the rubble, but everyone is keeping their distance.
Hours later, someone comes up to him, forces him onto his feet, and leads him away. He’s not sure how he makes it all the way to his room, but he finds himself there, staring blankly at his table.
Wen Qing walks through the doorway with a damp towel.
“Clean off your face,” she says tersely, throwing it at him. He doesn't catch it, and it lands on the table in front of him. “You look like shit.”
“What are you doing here?” he mumbles. He's still trying to process the events of the last hour, the little fragments he remembers, and Wen Qing’s presence in the Upperworld, a place she should be banned from, is not helping.
“I don’t know either,” Wen Qing sighs, taking a seat across from him. “I was just told to watch you, at least for the time being.”
“For the time being?” Wei Wuxian echoes.
“Your Appointment has been scheduled,” Wen Qing says with a frown. “That's what it's called, right? I'm supposed to take you there, once you're ready.”
“Appointment?” His Appointment isn't supposed to be for three more years. Wen Qing isn't supposed to be the one telling him it's scheduled. Today has been filled with so many supposed’s that haven't come true, and while Wei Wuxian has never been a stickler for tradition, it's still jarring.
“Don't ask me, I don't know how any of this works,” Wen Qing replies with a shrug. “I'm just a big, bad titan.”
The joke falls flat. Wei Wuxian is barely listening, mind still trying to make sense of the situation he’s found himself in. Wen Qing sighs deeply. She gets up and rummages through his closet and pulls out a new set of robes, laying them on the bed.
“Wash up and get changed,” she says, before leaving.
Those are things that Wei Wuxian can do, and so he does them. His face in the mirror, while haggard, looks no different than usual otherwise. He’s not sure what it was expecting - for it to have transformed, maybe, into something demonic or twisted.
He opens the door. Wen Qing is leaning against the wall across the hallway, and she gestures toward the exit.
“Aren’t you supposed to lead me?” Wei Wuxian asks, bemused.
Wen Qing scoffs. “Do you think I know where anything is?”
Ah. In his distracted mind, he finally pieces together that she doesn’t, considering she’s only been on Olympus once, and that was in chains, for her own trial. Appointments are always held at Storm Hall, and so he heads in that direction, Wen Qing trailing behind.
The doors are wide open. They would look welcoming, Wei Wuxian supposes, if the faces at the very front of the room weren’t so stern, or if the general atmosphere wasn’t so suspicious, so fearful.
A minor god walks up to him, trembling. Probably the person meant to escort him to the front. The poor soul looks absolutely terrified, and Wei Wuxian waves him away. An unusual act, perhaps, but these are unusual circumstances. The god seems to waver, hesitant to go against tradition, but self-preservation wins out, and he scampers away quickly.
Wei Wuxian strides up to the front of the room and takes his seat. The view is familiar here: Nie Mingjue seated at the place of honor, flanked by Lan Xichen and Jin Guangyao. The only strange thing is that Wen Qing seated next to him, instead of across the aisle.
Nie Mingjue bangs his gavel, and the doors in the back of the room slam shut.
“We are gathered for the Appointment of Wei Ying, courtesy name Wei Wuxian.” His voice booms loudly, filling the room.
“The Oracle has spoken,” he continues. Wei Wuxian is jolted out of his thoughts at the mention of the Oracle. No one dares contradict the Oracle. If it judges him still worthy of godhood, then Wei Wuxian will be a god. Is a god. Not a titan.
Nie Mingjue turns to look at him, expression inscrutable. “You are appointed to the Underworld, as lord of the dead.”
Lord of the dead. Of course. Wei Wuxian has a startling sense of déjà vu. So this is what they did to problems they didn’t know how to deal with. Sweep them under the proverbial rug, send them to the Underworld, out of their sight. Even the Oracle isn’t immune to such inclinations, apparently.
“As lord of the dead, you are to remain in the Underworld at all times. However, you will be allowed to return to the Upperworld to attend meetings, as required of a member of the Pantheon,” Nie Mingjue continues, face looking incredibly sour, and Wei Wuxian has to stifle a laugh. So they won’t be rid of him completely.
The proceedings end there, and everyone begins to file out, filling the air with quiet murmurs.
Appointment days are supposed to be joyous, happy days, but when he exits the hall, Jiang Yanli’s face is streaked with tears and Jiang Cheng won’t look him in the eyes.
“Were you ever going to tell us?” Jiang Cheng mutters darkly, staring at the floor. “That you’re a titan.”
“I’m not, though,” Wei Wuxian protests, although weakly. No one’s ever told him as such, not that his parents would have been around to tell him, but the evidence is incontrovertible: a rampage of Titan energy had destroyed the Great Hall, injured countless trainees, nearly killed the Sun himself, and at the eye of the storm, there was only Wei Wuxian.
Jiang Cheng jabs a thumb in Wen Qing’s direction. “She said you are. At least partly.”
This is news to Wei Wuxian, but it explains why Wen Qing was recalled to Olympus, why she’s been following him like a shadow for the past hour. She - and Wen Ning - might be the only people who aren’t in danger around him.
Jiang Yanli throws her arms around him with a muffled sob, her tears wetting the front of his robes.
“Shijie,” Wei Wuxian begins, trying to keep his voice as lighthearted as possible. “Sorry about punching your fiance. Or trying to, at least.”
“He’ll be okay,” she sniffs. “A-Cheng told me he was being rude, anyway. Take care of yourself. We’ll come visit, when we can.”
Trainees are banned, and there is an unspoken rule that the rest of the gods are to interact with the Underworld as little as possible. But Wei Wuxian has never been one to follow the rules, and he hopes some of that has rubbed off on the Jiang siblings. Wen Qing coughs, awkwardly, and Jiang Yanli lets go, wiping her tears. The flow of people coming out of the Hall has lessened now to a trickle, and people are starting to stare.
“You should go now,” Wei Wuxian says, gesturing. He doesn’t want them to be shunned for associating with him. They’ll already be under suspicion for having been so familiar with him before, and there’s no need to make that worse.
“You better be okay,” Jiang Cheng mutters under his breath. He walks away, grumbling. Jiang Yanli watches him with a fond look.
“He means well,” she says, smiling softly. “Take care, A-Xian.”
“I will,” Wei Wuxian replies, and then she leaves too, robes fluttering as she walks away.
He’ll miss shijie, that’s for sure. He’ll miss her laughter in the mornings at his unruly bed head, her lotus and pork rib soup, nights sitting in front of the fireplace, listening to stories of bravery and daring. It had been no surprise when she’d been appointed goddess of the hearth. Wei Wuxian wonders if the Underworld has any hearths, or if it’s just that big castle, all ugly grey stone and vine-broken rubble.
“You are to assume your new position immediately,” Wen Qing taps him on the shoulder, startling him out of his thoughts.
“You mean they want me gone as soon as possible,” Wei Wuxian snorts. Wen Qing shrugs, which means he’s right. He doesn’t have that many possessions, just a couple sets of trainee robes and his dizi. It takes him just a few minutes to gather them from his room and return to the gate, where Wen Qing is waiting.
To his surprise, Lan Xichen is also there. Probably to supervise him, but before Wei Wuxian steps through, he pauses, meeting Lan Xichen’s eyes.
“Lan Zhan,” he begins. He doesn’t know what happened, in Cloud Hall, and he doesn’t know if he ever will, especially why Lan Wangji somehow ended up in the blast radius. But at the very least, he wants to know - “Will he be all right?”
A strange expression flits across Lan Xichen’s face. Fiercely protective, a bit sad. Angry, too. The anger is clearly directed at him, and Wei Wuxian knows he deserves it.
“Wangji will be fine,” Lan Xichen replies forcefully. “Leave.”
Wei Wuxian steps through the gate without another word.
It takes him a moment to adjust to the darkness, but once he has, he looks around, taking in the sights of Hades for the first time. Standing in front of him is an enormous castle, far larger than the rumors, and somehow gloomier too. In front of it, where the gate is, there seems to be an attempt at a courtyard, patches of dark, dead flowers, a bench carved out of a black, glassy substance, and some trees, dark and twisting and leafless. Besides the castle in front of him, it’s just gray, lifeless grass as far as the eye can see, pale white spirits drifting aimlessly through the air.
“Welcome to Hell,” someone says, and Wei Wuxian yelps in surprise, turning back around to face the castle. Wen Qing looks almost amused, and next to her, Wen Ning is bowing so deeply Wei Wuxian is afraid he’s about to snap in half.
“Thank you,” he says, after he’s composed himself. “Wen Qing. Wen Ning.”
Wen Ning straightens up and nods, face brightening. “You remembered my name!” He says, all too cheerful for someone in such a terrible place.
“Everyone in Olympus knows our names,” Wen Qing hisses. “It’s not a good thing.”
Wen Ning’s face falls. “Oh,” he says, sounding genuinely disappointed, and Wei Wuxian actually feels kind of bad for him.
“Well,” Wen Qing claps her hands together, sounding very business-like. “Not to rush you, but there are matters to discuss. Follow me.”
She turns and strides away. Wen Ning meets Wei Wuxian’s eyes and shrugs before chasing after his sister. The three of them make their way through the large, wooden doors of the palace, and wander through the halls, turning this way and that. Wei Wuxian is about to ask if they’re lost when he finds himself in an enormous room, roughly the size of Storm Hall, if not larger, filled with countless rows of tables and benches. Wen Qing sits down at the closest table, and Wei Wuxian takes a seat across from her. Wen Ning stands at the side, awkwardly shuffling back and forth.
Wen Qing waves him off. “The adults are talking,” she says. He slinks away, looking like a kicked puppy, and once again, Wei Wuxian feels sorry for him.
“So,” he says, after Wen Ning has left. “I’m a titan.”
“Well,” Wen Qing begins. “Not exactly.”
“What do you mean, not exactly?” Wei Wuxian hisses back. “Either I’m a titan, or I’m not.”
“Well, you see, when a titan and a god love each other very much -“
“Oh my gods,” Wei Wuxian buries his head in his hands. “Really? The birds and the bees?”
“That’s how it works!” Wen Qing says. She has the nerve to look offended. “Fine. Okay. You’re half-titan, half-god. I think.”
“You think,” Wei Wuxian echoes. He’s struggling to wrap his mind around the concept - he’s heard of demigods, half-gods, half-human. There are tons of those running around the middle realms. But half-god, half-titan? What kind of a sick joke is this?
“Your mother was Cangse Sanren, right?” Wen Qing asks, and Wei Wuxian nods. “She was a titan. But you’re also definitely part god, so that must have been your father.”
“Okay, makes sense,” Wei Wuxian replies slowly, rubbing his temples. “Except it doesn’t, because how the fuck do a titan and a god get together? Does that even work? Anatomically?”
Wen Qing rolls her eyes as if she's regretting all the choices that led her to this moment. Wei Wuxian doesn’t care; what he thought he knew about the world has been completely upended, and that means he’s allowed to ask whatever stupid questions he wants. “Titans can shift their shape as well. We also usually prefer to appear as humans. It works, in that sense.”
“In that sense,” Wei Wuxian repeats.
“I can’t say for certain, because you are quite literally the first half-god half-titan I’ve ever encountered,” Wen Qing continues. “But the two halves of you cannot stay in balance. They’re not supposed to coexist, ever. It’s a miracle you’ve made it to this age.”
Wei Wuxian scoffs. “A miracle,” he mutters. “Could use some more of those.”
“From my observations, your titan half isn’t like Wen Ning, or me - it’s more of a primordial energy. The same stuff in the water abyss at Caiyi. It lashes out when you become highly emotional,” Wen Qing muses, ignoring him. She sounds waytoo excited about the whole thing, and Wei Wuxian has the uncomfortable feeling of being a specimen under a metaphorical microscope. “Otherwise, it’s usually suppressed. But as you’ve gotten older, the balance is becoming more and more precarious.”
“Oh, just great,” Wei Wuxian scowls. “So? What happens to you and Wen Ning? If it happens again?”
Wen Qing shrugs. “We should be fine,” she says. “We’re titans, so we shouldn’t be damaged by titan energy. But even if something happened to us, it’s not like anyone would care.”
It’s a sad statement - first of all, he’d care a little bit, considering Wen Qing did save his life before - but besides that, it’s not really incorrect.
“Okay,” Wei Wuxian says, trying to make sense of all he’s learned. “So, to summarize, I’m half-titan, half-god. When I get upset, my titan half goes out of control and kills things. And going forward, it’s only going to do that more and more. Fantastic.”
“There is one more thing,” Wen Qing says, quieter.
“Oh gods, how much worse can the news get?” Wei Wuxian rolls his eyes. All this gloom and doom is making him listless. “Just tell me.”
“Staying so close to Tartarus is dangerous for you.” She stares down at the table. “At some point, you will be consumed by your titan half, and at that point, you will likely return to Tartarus.” She doesn’t say it, but Wei Wuxian knows the last part of that sentence is: Or be killed by the gods.
Wei Wuxian laughs helplessly. So he has two choices. One is to demand that he be allowed to stay in the Upperworld, or visit more often, where he only leaves fear and suspicion in his wake, a ticking time bomb just waiting to explode. The other is to remain here, in the Underworld, keeping the people he loves safe, awaiting his eventual, inevitable demise.
The choice is obvious. There is no place in the Upperworld for him, not anymore, and even if there was, he would never be able to live with himself if he willingly put everyone around him in danger.
“I am supposed to tell you that you are allowed to choose whether or not to stay,” Wen Qing says. She looks down at the table. “But you know that the gods do not show mercy to titans.”
So there’s really only one choice. It’s for the best, he knows. He doesn’t know when he’ll lose control next, what he’ll do - he’s already managed to wound Jin Zixuan, the sun himself, and Lan Wangji, too. What if next time, it’s Jiang Cheng? What if it’s shijie?
It’s for the best, and it’s what he would have chosen, but still, it leaves a bitter taste in his mouth that he never had the choice in the first place.
“Why didn’t anyone tell me?” Wei Wuxian asks, quietly. The question isn't directed at Wen Qing. It’s not directed at anyone, really.
The only answer he receives is silence.
The first headache strikes with no warning.
He’s sitting at his table, working on a painting, when a pressure builds behind his eyelids, slowly becoming unbearable. When he places a hand against his temple, he feels black smoke shrouding it, slowly covering his vision.
It passes in a matter of minutes, and Wei Wuxian slowly picks himself off the floor, joints aching.
Wen Qing shows up in the doorway moments later, concerned look on her face.
“Did something happen?” she asks. Wei Wuxian gives her the widest smile he can muster.
“No, nothing I can’t handle,” he waves. Wen Qing purses her lips - it’s clear she doesn’t believe him, but she doesn’t press the issue.
She does, however, up the frequency of the doses of the putrid stuff she calls medicine. The headaches keep happening, once every few days, but each time, Wei Wuxian waves her off. They’re getting shorter, anyway, and he wasn’t lying - he can handle a headache or two. It’s not like he has anything critical to do, and by some miracle, they never come when Lan Wangji is visiting.
But a few weeks later, the headache doesn’t last minutes. It lasts hours, and this time, Wen Qing finds him curled up in a ball on the floor, an overturned inkwell staining the ground next to him.
“We can’t ignore this anymore,” Wen Qing says. Her voice trembles. Wei Wuxian, through the fog of pain, vaguely wonders why she even cares so much. “I’m - Just. Wait here.”
“What are you going to do?” he croaks out.
“I’m sending a letter to Lan Wangji,” she says. “He’ll be here soon.”
“He won’t come,” Wei Wuxian scoffs, but it turns into a wince as new pain flares through his temples. “He doesn’t care - “
“He will,” Wen Qing snaps at him, desperate and angry, and then she disappears.
Lan Wangji is minding his own business at dinner, when Jiang Cheng sits down across from him without a word.
“How is he?” he finally asks, gruffly. Lan Wangji looks at him, eyebrows raised, and Jiang Cheng looks away. “Wei Wuxian. You went to visit him. How is he.”
“He is in good spirits,” Lan Wangji says. He pauses. “Are you concerned?”
“Me? Concerned about Wei Wuxian?” Jiang Cheng scoffs. He spears a piece of lamb vehemently. “No. Of course not.”
Lan Wangji manages to eat peacefully for a few moments, before -
“Okay. Well. Maybe a little bit,” Jiang Cheng grumbles, glaring down at the piece of lamb on his plate like it’s offended him. “I think he hates me.”
Lan Wangji knows he isn’t good with this kind of stuff - feelings, that is - but he can give it a try, at the very least.
“I don’t think Wei Ying hates you,” he replies, thoughtfully. “I think Wei Ying thinks you hate him.”
Jiang Cheng looks at him, surprised.
“Me? Hate him?” he asks, like it’s the most ridiculous thing in the world.
“Mn.” Lan Wangji nods. He’s surprised, too, that the thought has never crossed Jiang Cheng’s mind. “You have made your dislike of titans very clear.”
“Well, that’s true, but…” Jiang Cheng trails off, lost in thought. When he speaks again, his expression is soft, almost, the usual scowl replaced by a faraway look in his eyes. “He’s different. He’s Wei Wuxian. I’ve known him all my life and he’s an insufferable little shit but he’s also my brother. He’s not just a titan.” He looks up at Lan Wangji, almost pleading. “Doesn’t he understand that?”
Lan Wangji shakes his head. “Wei Ying cannot know what you do not say.”
Jiang Cheng stares at him for a moment before laughing, short and bitter. “You make it sound so easy,” he says. He casts his eyes downward, mouth twisting. “It isn’t that easy. You should know that.” There isn’t any bitterness behind those words, just resignation.
“What do you mean?” Lan Wangji asks. The last statement is clearly directed at him, but he doesn’t know what it’s about. Or rather, he thinks he does, but he really hopes he’s wrong.
Jiang Cheng gives him a wry look. “Please, Lan Wangji,” he says. “Put us all out of our misery and tell my brother that you’re hopelessly in love with him.”
For a moment, Lan Wangji lets a flustered expression show on his face, and Jiang Cheng laughs.
“Oh, gods. The look on your face,” he manages between chuckles. Lan Wangji glares.
“Are you done,” he says, flatly. Has he really been that obvious? He hates the feeling of being so transparent, of being known, to anyone other than his brother.
“I wasn’t joking, you know,” Jiang Cheng replies when he’s finally stopped laughing, voice soft. “There are things we think we will have forever to say.” He looks downwards, swallowing. “We think we’re invincible, but we’re not, and one day it will be too late.” There’s traces of something lingering in those words, old wounds, old scars.
Lan Wangji stays silent. He’s not sure how to interact with this quiet, pensive Jiang Cheng, but before he can think too much about it, Jiang Cheng has already returned to his usual angry, scowling self.
“If you hurt him,” he declares solemnly, “I’ll break your fucking legs.”
“Duly noted,” Lan Wangji replies drily, and Jiang Cheng looks satisfied.
A letter flutters down from the sky, landing neatly in the middle of Lan Wangji’s unfinished soup. He fishes it out, and unfolds it carefully. The ink is already bleeding across the paper, but Lan Wangji can still read it - it’s only two words.
He meets Jiang Cheng’s eyes. Jiang Cheng nods. Go.
A few minutes later, Wei Wuxian hears the voices of Wen Qing and Lan Wangji conversing in the courtyard, and he forces himself onto the bed, combs through his hair a bit.
The voice break off, and soon after, the door swings open. Lan Wangji steps inside, eyes widening when he sees Wei Wuxian sitting on the bed, hugging his knees.
“Hello,” Wei Wuxian manages weakly, lifting his head up. “How are you doing today, Lan Zhan?”
Lan Wangji doesn’t seem to register what he’s said. “Come back to the Upperworld with me,” he says, voice soft. Wei Wuxian feels a wrenching in his chest. What a cruel request. There’s nothing he wants more than to return, to live among his friends, to live with Lan Wangji. He’s wanted to for years, but the same reason that kept him here, back when he still had a choice, still exists. He won’t go back. He can’t.
“You know I can’t,” Wei Wuxian tries to smile, but it quickly turns into a wince. “I made my choice.”
“You cannot stay here!” Lan Wangji insists. His voice sounds raw, desperate, and Wei Wuxian thinks, ruefully, that despite his best efforts, he always ends up making Lan Wangji upset. “You will die, Wei Ying.”
“I’m not afraid of dying,” Wei Wuxian mumbles, staring downwards. It’s a lie. He’s scared, so scared, but he can’t show it. Not to Wen Qing, not to Lan Wangji. “It is what I deserve. I’m dangerous, Lan Wangji. I almost killed Jin Zixuan. I almost killedyou.” His voice breaks on the last word, and he wills himself not to cry.
“You didn’t hurt him,” Lan Wangji says, voice soft, insistent. “You din’t hurt me, either. It wasn’t you.”
“Don’t lie to me!” Wei Wuxian suddenly snaps, eyes flashing. The words come easily now, the anger of so many years finally set free, and they rush out in a torrent of frustration. “Last time I hurt Jin Zixuan, but who knows what happens next? No one knows how to fix me. No one even knows what I am. If I stayed in the Upperworld I’d be sentencing shijie, and Jiang Cheng, and you, and everyone else to certain death. Do you really think I would come back, knowing that? I know you think I’m annoying, irresponsible, whatever. But at the very least, I figured you wouldn’t think I was that much of a selfish bastard.” He lets out a sigh, closing his eyes. “I guess I was wrong.”
Lan Wangji remains silent, and Wei Wuxian laughs, an ugly, bitter sound. So this is the end of Lan Wangji’s tolerance for his bullshit. He’d lasted a lot longer than he expected, but everyone has their limits, even the god of sunshine and butterflies, apparently.
The pain suddenly worsens, sharp and vicious, and Wei Wuxian gasps. Lan Wangji’s eyes widen in concern, but Wei Wuxian puts his hands out, shaking his head. “Leave,” he barely manages to choke out. “Before - “
He can’t finish. The room begins to blur, fade, and the air shimmers, clouding with black and grey. Tendrils of smoke wisp off Wei Wuxian’s robes, stretching like hands out toward Lan Wangji. No. Not now, please, no, not Lan Zhan, anyone but him -
A touch, soft against his skin, brings him back to awareness, and the pressure recedes. Wei Wuxian touches his temple gingerly, and nothing chases his finger when he moves it away.
“It wasn’t you,” Lan Wangji says, again. His hand is circled around Wei Wuxian’s wrist and Wei Wuxian realizes -
(Spring. Growth. Hope, renewal, a rebirth -)
“You,” he says, in a tone of profound disbelief. “You were there. At Cloud Hall. You stopped me.”
“Your titan half is not you, Wei Ying,” Lan Wangji whispers. He moves his fingers away from Wei Wuxian’s wrist, and clasps Wei Wuxian’s hands between his own. Wei Wuxian can feel him trembling, just barely. Lan Wangji’s face is close enough now that he can see the flecks of gold in his eyes, can feel his breath ghosting across his face, and his lips -
It’s a spur-of-the-moment thing, impulsive, foolish, but Wei Wuxian closes his eyes and leans forward, pressing his own lips against Lan Wangji’s. Lan Wangji makes a sound of surprise, but before Wei Wuxian can pull away, apologize, Lan Wangji is kissing him back, desperate and needy and wanting. Wei Wuxian tangles his hands in Lan Wangji’s hair, and Lan Wangji brings his hands around Wei Wuxian’s back, drawing him flush against him. A groan escapes Lan Wangji’s lips, and his fingers are hot against Wei Wuxian’s skin, even through the fabric of his robes. Wei Wuxian is about to do something even more stupid when -
“Wei Ying!” Wen Qing’s voice carries down the hallway, and Wei Wuxian is jerked back to reality. He pulls away from Lan Wangji, breathing heavily, when she slams open the door, out-of-breath, eyes frantic.
“There was a surge of titan energy, are you -“ and then she stops, mouth dropping open almost comically. Her eyes travel from Lan Wangji’s hand, nestled in the curve of Wei Wuxian’s back, to the very apparent lack of space between their two bodies, and then, finally, their flushed faces and mussed hair.
Wen Ning appears right behind her, yelling something incoherently, and they watch as he goes through the exact same phases before blushing furiously and running back the way he’d came, yelling again.
“I - yeah. Okay. I’m going to assume everything is okay. So. I’m going to leave now,” Wen Ning says, impressively composed. She slams the door shut as forcefully as she’d come in, and they can hear her screaming faintly as she runs down the hallway.
“Well,” Wei Wuxian says, turning back to face Lan Wangji with a smile. He traces a finger lightly across Lan Wangji’s lips, soft and kiss-red, and Lan Wangji growls. Oh, he’s never going to get used to this. “Shall we continue?”
“Why are you holding hands at dinner,” Jiang Cheng hisses, pressing a hand against his temple. “Can you even eat properly? Nothing is going to happen.“
“Lan Zhan is ambidextrous, didn’t you know?” Wei Wuxian hums as he scoops up more food with his right hand. His left hand is, of course, holding Lan Wangji’s right hand, and Lan Wangji is holding his chopsticks in his left hand, eating quietly. It’s the most ridiculous thing Jiang Cheng has seen, and he’s seen a lot, considering he grew up with Wei Wuxian. “Comes in handy, in more ways than one, if you know what I -“
“No! I don’t know what you mean! And I don’t want to!” Jiang Cheng yells, slamming a fist down on the table. The gods at the surrounding tables turn and stare, and he sighs, forcing himself to calm down. Ever since Wei Wuxian had gotten the okay from the Venerated Triad and Wen Qing to visit the Upperworld, he’s been absolutely insufferable -
“I think you do,” Wei Wuxian smirks. He picks up a piece of food with his chopsticks and holds it up in front of Lan Wangji’s mouth, and Jiang Cheng feels a headache coming on. There’s no way this is happening. There’s no way Hanguang-Jun is going to eat food off Wei Wuxian’s chopsticks like a fucking toddler, and if he does, Jiang Cheng swears, he’s going to fucking scream -
“Here, Lan Zhan. Besides, Jiang Cheng, remember, I’m only allowed up here as long as I’m touching Lan Zhan at all times -“
In front of everyone’s wide and disbelieving eyes, Lan Wangji opens his mouth and takes the bite from the chopsticks, a fond expression on his face.
Jiang Cheng buries his face in his hands and screams.