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(these voices) won't leave me alone

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Wei Wuxian wakes up comfortably warm and alone, and almost screams in frustration. The covers are soft and the mattress underneath him is serviceable—not as good as the one they had in the jingshi but much better than sleeping on the bare rock and he would know—but there's no one else in bed with him. When he pokes his head out of the covers to check the quality of the light streaming through the crevices in the cave roof, it's pale enough that it can't be more than a bare hour or two past dawn. He desperately wants to scream again but that would really cause more trouble than it's worth. They're both on edge enough as it is, living in the hostile territory of the Burial Mounds, without adding Wei Wuxian screaming for no good reason into the mix.

Instead he dresses under the covers, cursing the winters in Yiling. The days aren't that cold but the nights are freezing in the absence of the weak sunlight that filters through the miasma of the Burial Mounds. It doesn't affect his body much, cultivation high enough to render him almost immune to extreme temperatures, but he always feels cold in this place.

Even after living in this same damp cave for years with the Wen remnants just down the hill, he still felt the chill of that first winter, alone but for the spirits and corpses in a broken body that felt foreign and strange without his golden core, too weak to live but too stubborn to lie down and die. At least this time he can practice inedia rather than slowly waste away as he scrounges for whatever dubiously edible thing he can get his hands on in the middle of a wintry wasteland. Resentful energy can sustain a body, but it does nothing to stop it deteriorating.

Sometimes he wonders how he even survived the Burial Mounds the first time. He doesn't remember most of it. Maybe he didn't.

Maybe Wei Wuxian, head disciple of the Yunmeng Jiang Sect, really did die in this hell, only to be reborn as Wei Wuxian, Yiling Laozu, founder of demonic cultivation. A demon who thrived on resentful energy and not much else, sustaining himself only to take revenge on Wen Chao and Wen Zhuliu for the future they had stolen from him and his family. After all, it was resentful energy that held his bones together after his precipitous descent and preserved him in that near-death state as his weak, useless body healed itself painfully, agonizingly slowly. It would have been easy for him to tip over the thin line between life and death and never notice it, so full of resentful energy that he could keep going through almost anything, just like Wen Ning.

But if that were true, it would make it too easy to absolve himself of the guilt that he carries to this day. Yiling Laozu hadn't sworn that he would always be by Jiang Cheng's side to support him, but Wei Wuxian had, and whatever else Yiling Laozu had been, Wei Wuxian's heart had beaten in his chest until it broke under the weight of all his sins just like the rest of him. In the end, he hadn't escaped the Burial Mounds, only extended his stay far longer than Wen Chao had anticipated.

Belatedly he realizes that he's been lying in bed fully dressed and musing over such morbid thoughts for long enough that the sun has risen in full. He wrenches himself upright, shoves feet into boots, and stumbles towards the mouth of the cave.

He needs to get out of his own head. He needs to find his husband.

Coming out of the Demon-slaughtering Cave is a shock every time. He keeps looking for the huts of the Wen settlement further down the slope and the sprawling expanse of tilled fields beyond that, the habit of years as their protector (not leader, never leader). But the familiar marks of human habitation on the desolate landscape are gone, or rather have yet to be made.

Lan Wangji is nowhere to be seen.

That's not alarming on a normal day, but Wei Wuxian is not having a good morning and now he doesn't know where on this godforsaken mountain his husband has disappeared to. He grits his teeth and very manfully doesn't scream or start crying or punch the rocky wall of the cave or even head back to bed and just give up on this entire day.

Chenqing lies on the ledge next to the bed where he carelessly tossed it last night while Lan Wangji was busy divesting him of every stitch of clothing before carefully tossing him into the bed. His jaw aches with tension and his breath is so unsteady that he has to do a breathing meditation for long minutes before he can even muster up a steady enough flow of air to play more than a few notes.

The notes are shrill at first, but he relaxes into the familiar rhythm of circular breathing soon enough and the music flows smoothly from his lips and fingers, rising towards the sky and echoing through the unnatural hush of a mountain devoid of life beyond the two of them. He only plays a brief and simple tune but Lan Wangji's senses are keen enough to hear his inquiry no matter where he is.

He closes his eyes and strains his ears for a response. Qin language had not been hard to learn and it never stops being useful for communicating over long distances. An answer comes quickly up the mountain with the brisk morning breeze, a sweet spill of spiritually strengthened sound that tells him exactly where his husband is.

He plays a brief trill of acknowledgement, tucks Chenqing into his belt and trots down the hill at a steady pace. The landscape grows less rocky as he descends but the sparseness of foliage is constant. Few things grow in the Burial Mounds at all and those that do sleep through the winter. There will be no plum blossoms to cheer them through the harshest months of mid-winter.

Lan Wangji is easy to spot against the endless gray and black of the Burial Mounds, a little white dot crouched over one of the many arrays they've been painstakingly carving into the earth all over the Burial Mounds. Wei Wuxian speeds up the moment he sees his husband with no intention of slowing down at all. Lan Wangji realizes just in time to get to his feet and catch Wei Wuxian around the waist as he slams into him, redirecting his momentum into a spin that lifts his feet off the ground and his heart in his chest.

"Lan Zhan!"

"Wei Ying."

He hooks his arms securely around Lan Wangji's neck and just slumps against him, trying to release the tension that's been building in his muscles since he woke up alone. Lan Wangji settles his arms firmly around him and strokes up and down his back in a soothing manner. Except Wei Wuxian doesn't want to be soothed, he wants to know why his husband left him in bed to work alone for the fourth day in a row.

"Lan Zhan." He pulls back just far enough to rest his forehead against Lan Wangji's. It's easier to meet his eyes like this in his original body than it was in Mo Xuanyu's malnourished one. "Lan Zhan," he says again and falters.

He can't find the words. He doesn't know what he's feeling, just that he's feeling bad.

"Wei Ying. What's wrong?" He really wants to cry. Lan Wangji's eyes are soft and worried and also slightly blurry at such close range. He has such perfect eyelashes.

"Isn't that what I should be asking you? What are you doing trying to take all of the fun work for yourself and leave me with boring arrays to look over?"

Honestly he would much rather coop himself up in the Demon-slaughtering Cave and pore over what little they've managed to decipher of the barrier array around the Burial Mounds than work on the quite possibly futile task of purifying the tainted land with barely any resources besides their own spiritual energy. It reminds him too much of the first few months with the Wen remnants, but that's not the point. The point is Lan Wangji overworking himself to the point of exhaustion trying to solve both problems by himself because he's an idiot.

"You don't like doing this. You think it's pointless."

"I can do things I don't like. For example, I can eat whatever your sect passes off as food, and I can pretend to listen whenever Lan-lao-xiansheng decides it's time to have another very pointed clan meeting about my shameless behavior, and I can—"

Lan Wangji cuts him off with a brief kiss but he doesn't bite Wei Wuxian's lower lip like he usually does when he pulls away. He just stares back at Wei Wuxian silently with an almost somber look, hand still moving up and down his back.

"Lan Zhan. What's wrong?" He's having a bad morning but Lan Wangji has been having a bad week and one of those is clearly more urgent to deal with. The longer Lan Wangji has to bury the things that hurt him deep inside of him, the harder it is for him to even talk about them. His sorrows grow like weeds in the fertile soil of his secretly tender heart and Wei Wuxian suspects that whatever weed is troubling Lan Wangji is one of the particularly troublesome ones they will never be able to uproot entirely.

Lan Wangji leans up to press the lightest of kisses to the thin skin between his eyes and the jut of his cheekbones. Wei Wuxian's eyes flutter closed obligingly and Lan Wangji kisses his eyelids as well. "You haven't been sleeping well lately."

"How can I sleep well when my husband keeps leaving me all by myself?" He smiles but he knows it doesn't quite reach his eyes. Lan Wangji is so observant and also very good at deflecting conversations away from his problems. His brittle smile cracks under the weight of Lan Wangji's stare. "I've never slept well here. You, on the other hand, were sleeping in with me like a normal person and now you're not, so who's the one not sleeping well, hmm?"

"I am sleeping," Lan Wangji says. Lan Wangji won't get the full force of Wei Wuxian's unimpressed glare with their faces so close but he gives it his best shot. "I am sleeping, Wei Ying. I just need to do, to do more." Lan Wangji rarely hesitates once he's opened his mouth, always waits to make sure he knows what he wants to say before he even draws breath to speak.

"Do more? More than what? More than your fair share? More than you can possibly fit into one day?"

"More than I did." Lan Wangji's voice is low and pained and Wei Wuxian feels a thorn pricking into his own heart. Of course.

He cradles Lan Wangji's face in his hands, stroking his thumbs over those pale cheeks, reddened from long days out in the freezing winds, and holding those glassy eyes with his own. "Lan Zhan. This isn't about us, now?" A small shake of his head, only noticeable because he is literally holding him. "It's about us, then." It isn't a question. Lan Wangji knew his deepest regrets and sorrows, but he also knew Lan Wangji's, and just like his own, they were not the kind of burdens that they could lay to rest as easily as fierce corpses. He likes to think they're getting better at gardening together, though, rooting out weeds before they have a chance to dig too deep.

"Let's go back inside, Lan Zhan. It's too cold to talk about such serious things out here." He doesn't think Lan Wangji will refuse, but he theatrically shivers a little, leaning in even closer to drape himself over his furnace of a husband, just to make sure.

"Mn." Lan Wangji gently pries him off only to take his hand, lacing their fingers together as he lets himself be tugged along in Wei Wuxian's wake.

The walk back up the mountain feels longer without his panicked mind chasing itself in circles. The simple presence of his husband grounds him in the present, keeps him from getting sucked back into another spiral of self-hatred and despair without even noticing that it's happening until he's at the bottom of the whirlpool. Lan Wangji's hand in his is enough to keep the darkness mostly at bay.

Mostly. Wei Wuxian stops in his tracks when they reach the natural clearing that the Wen remnants settled in, close enough to see from the Demon-slaughtering Cave and far enough to keep them out of the blast radius of his experiments.

"Wei Ying?" Lan Wangji doesn't look worried, only confused as he glances over his shoulder at Wei Wuxian's sudden pause.

"I wouldn't have let you do more." Lan Wangji turns to face him head on now, still confused. "Back then. I wouldn't have let you do any more than what you did. You kept reaching out your hand and hoping that I would reach back, but I couldn't, wouldn't have taken your hand and dragged you into my mess."

"I could have done more," Lan Wangji says again, low and insistent in the eerie quiet.

"Lan Zhan, you did as much as you could. Do you know, that time in Yiling, when you carried me and a-Yuan, that was the first time I'd flown in years?" Lan Wangji's hand is warm, but Wei Wuxian can feel himself spiraling and he can't quite control the waver in his voice as he continues, "The last time I flew anywhere before that was when I got thrown into the Burial Mounds in the first place. But you, you gave me back the sky that day, even if it only lasted a few minutes. And I never could have told you then how much it meant to me, because I could never tell anyone about my core."

"Wei Ying—" He can't look up and face the pain he can hear in Lan Wangji's voice, staring at the grey dirt of the Burial Mounds on Lan Wangji's shoes and the hems of his clothes. The soil here is so dry and barren that even the slightest breeze can carry the dust into the air. It got into everything, even the food, and they were always choking on it, a less malignant version of corpse powder that was still slowly killing them.

"You believed in me until the very end, Lan Zhan. You even tried to help me after the Nightless City, but I couldn't let you. You told me you loved me, and I loved you too, so much that it scared me, so much that I had to push you away, because I had just watched shijie die in front of me, to save me, the worthless, stupid boy who had killed the love of her life, and I couldn't bear to watch you die the same way, just because of me."

He spits the last word as if it were poison, tongue heavy with guilt and shame and self-loathing, throat closing up around the sinking stone of his heart, and he can only gasp for air as Lan Wangji pulls him flush against his body with his free arm, pressing their linked hands over his own heart so that Wei Wuxian can feel him, alive and here and safe and by his side. The tears that blur his vision finally spill over and he hides them against Lan Wangji's shoulder.

"Wei Ying. You didn't make those choices and you couldn't have made them for us. Yours was not the sword that cut down Jiang Yanli, and the wounds I suffered did not come from your hands. Resentful energy blinded you, but fear and anger clouded the minds of others as well, and you cannot take the blame for what they did."

"If I hadn't—"

"But you haven't. This, now, here, is not our past or our future, and it won't be. It's only the present and you won't make the same mistakes again."

He sniffles against Lan Wangji's thoroughly soaked shoulder. "Lan Zhan, you've really gotten too good at arguing with me." Not that they're really arguing. He knows what Lan Wangji is saying is true, but it doesn't feel true the same way when he's just reassuring himself—he can only believe it because Lan Wangji believes it strongly enough for both of them.

"That you can blame yourself for. I only learned so well because I had such a good teacher."

"Oh? They must be truly remarkable for Hanguang-jun to praise them so highly." His heart is still heavy, but a smile spreads across his face anyways.

"He is." Lan Wangji whispers the words into his hair, messy from sleep and only more disheveled from his head-long sprint into Lan Wangji's arms.

And really, when his husband is saying such nice things about him, what else can he do but kiss him? Lan Wangji's lips are warm and dry against his own and he pulls away for a bare second to swipe his tongue over his chapped lips before he leans back in. Their mouths slide against each other easily, slick with spit, and the air between them quickly heats up. Wei Wuxian presses himself against Lan Wangji as tightly as he can, unwilling to leave any space between them for the cold to sneak in and steal away his warmth, smirking into the kiss as he presses a thigh between Lan Wangji's and finds him hard already. Wei Wuxian is too, but it's always satisfying to know how easily he can affect Lan Wangji.

"Not out here," Lan Wangji says, only pulling back far enough to speak without Wei Wuxian's lips in the way, and he's right, he's so right, but Wei Wuxian doesn't want to let him go, even for long enough to make it up the last bit of the mountain. He loves to take Lan Wangji outside, to strip him of every bit of refinement and composure and civilization under the open sky, but the Burial Mounds aren't tamed and they tend to get both energetic and very distracted when they fuck. Nothing ruins the mood like a fierce corpse trying to get a quick meal.

"But you're so warm, I don't want to let go at all," Wei Wuxian pouts and Lan Wangji laughs quietly. Letting Wei Wuxian's hand fall away from his chest, he bends a little to fit his hands under Wei Wuxian's thighs and lifts him as if he were featherlight. Wei Wuxian wraps his legs happily around Lan Wangji's waist and hangs on as his husband carries him the rest of the way up the hill.

It's exceedingly hot how easily Lan Wangji can lift him. He's strong too, especially in this body, but Lan Wangji uses his strength with a deliberate grace that sends shivers down his spine. That he can lift Wei Wuxian's original body with the same ease that he'd hefted Wei Wuxian on and off Li'l Apple. Well. Wei Wuxian's cock throbs in his trousers and he winds his legs tighter around Lan Wangji, pressing harder against the firm plane of Lan Wangji's stomach with a groan.

"Shameless," Lan Wangji says, not complaining at all.

"Only for you."

"Hmm." They're inside the Demon-Slaughtering Cave by now, safely inside the limits of the protective array carved into the floor, their bed in sight, but Lan Wangji stops moving deeper into the cave to press Wei Wuxian up against a relatively smooth part of the wall. Wei Wuxian would make something of it, but Lan Wangji is already kissing him again and that's much more important. He pushes his hips against Lan Wangji again, moaning as Lan Wangji bites at his lips, mouth more desperate the louder that Wei Wuxian gets.

Lan Wangji squeezes his thighs once before letting go of them to trace his fingers up to Wei Wuxian's hips and pull at his belt. He can't make much progress at undoing it with Wei Wuxian's legs so tight around his hips so Wei Wuxian reluctantly unhooks his ankles from behind his back to stand by himself again. They have to stop kissing for a moment as Wei Wuxian slides down the wall but with a little more space between their bodies, it's simple for Lan Wangji to unfasten Wei Wuxian's belt and sash without even looking down, letting them fall to the floor with Chenqing as he goes right back to kissing Wei Wuxian with a satisfied noise in the back of his throat.

His hands were warm through the layers of Wei Wuxian's robes and they're even hotter on his skin as Lan Wangji fits his hands around Wei Wuxian's waist, right where his sash usually rests. Wei Wuxian has to break away from the kiss to gasp out a moan when Lan Wangji tightens his grip, fingers digging in hard enough to leave bruises that will ache deliciously tomorrow under the pressure of Wei Wuxian's belt.

"Lan Zhan is so rough, can't you be sweeter to your poor husband?" Wei Wuxian says with no real conviction, breath coming faster as Lan Wangji's hands press into his waist and lips trace the line of his neck, a smile poorly hidden in the delicate skin behind his ear. He whines in disappointment when Lan Wangji finally relents, dropping his hands to Wei Wuxian's hips.

"I thought you wanted me to be sweeter?" Lan Wangji asks, and Wei Wuxian can absolutely hear the smugness in his voice, even if he can't see his face as he nips at Wei Wuxian's earlobe and runs his tongue teasingly up the outer shell of his ear.

"Who taught you how to tease like this? You used to be so sweet and innocent," Wei Wuxian laments, rolling his hips and digging his fingernails into Lan Wangji's back through his thick robes. Lan Wangji only presses him more firmly against the wall and drops to his knees to mouth against Wei Wuxian's cock through the damp cloth of his trousers. Wei Wuxian's hands fall to his broad shoulders and he grabs at them convulsively, fingers scrabbling against smooth fabric.

"Who do you think taught me, Wei Ying?" Lan Wangji's breath is hot against Wei Wuxian's cock and his hips buck into Lan Wangji's immovable grip, back arching to press his shoulders against the unforgiving stone as he whimpers in vain. "I told you I had a good teacher."

He looks up through his eyelashes as he licks at Wei Wuxian's cock through the wet cloth and Wei Wuxian has to slam his eyes shut so he doesn't come before they even get started, a guttural noise ripping its way out of his throat. Lan Wangji's jade face never pinks with arousal or embarrassment, but the wind burn on his cheeks matches well enough with the pink of his ears to make him look absolutely debauched, the very picture of a teenage Wei Wuxian's hazy fantasies about defiling the pristine Hanguang-jun.

"Lan Zhan, I really can't—" He breaks off with a squeak of surprise when Lan Wangji pulls his trousers down and his cock springs free. The cave is well-shielded from the wind but the air is still cold on his spit-slicked skin and he can't help the shiver that runs through him. The fire of arousal is just as hot in his belly, but his cock has softened enough that he's not on the brink of orgasm anymore.

Lan Wangji is definitely laughing now and he wants to glare down at him, but he's too beautiful like this, flushed with joy and arousal and all of it for Wei Wuxian. He can't help the moonstruck smile that spreads across his face, echoed moments later on Lan Wangji's, and he moves his hands from Lan Wangji's shoulders to his hair, tugging at his forehead ribbon until Lan Wangji obediently bends forward to let him untie it, gently kissing and sucking at the line of his hip bone, tantalizingly near his cock.

The knot comes apart easily under his experienced fingers and he undoes Lan Wangji's hair tie as well. He ties the hair ribbon around a wrist, using his teeth to pull the knot tight before he goes back to combing his hands through the fall of hair that now cascades freely around that beloved face. With Lan Wangji bent over to mouth at him, his hair brushes against Wei Wuxian's upper thighs and cock and he giggles breathlessly at the ticklish sensation, hands pulling into tight fists against Lan Wangji's scalp. Lan Wangji's quiet moan is muffled by his mouth on Wei Wuxian's skin, but he can feel the hot gust of it against his cock.

"Lan Zhan ah, Lan Zhan, please, please put your mouth on me, I can't take it anymore," he babbles, "I want you so much, you're so beautiful like this, so pretty and pink, want to see your mouth around me."

"No," Lan Wangji says, "not yet. Keep your hands there." Wei Wuxian opens his mouth to keep begging and also ask what the fuck he means by not yet, and Lan Wangji closes his hand around his cock, stroking him back to full hardness in seconds, and all that comes out of his mouth is a garbled moan, desperate and high.

Lan Wangji's hand is so warm on him after the cold of the winter air and just rough enough that the friction stokes the crackling fire in Wei Wuxian's belly. His other hand is still flat on Wei Wuxian's hip, keeping him in place so that he can only take what Lan Wangji is giving him, slow and torturously gentle despite the roughness of his hand. He can't even think to beg for release, only drag desperate breaths into his lungs and clutch at Lan Wangji's hair with every slide of those long fingers on his cock.

Lan Wangji's face is tilted up to watch him, golden eyes intent on every one of his reactions, and Wei Wuxian is set alight. His face must be as red as his hair ribbon by now and the faint breeze that he can feel on his cheeks is a welcome relief. His mouth is dry, hanging open as he pants for every breath, torn between the chill of the air and the heat inside of him. He's so close, tension building to a crescendo as he starts to tip over the edge—

And Lan Wangji releases his cock before he can come, cold air blunting the edge of that blinding pleasure yet again, and Wei Wuxian's knees give out entirely as he sobs in frustrated arousal. Hot tears leave rapidly cooling trails down his flaming cheeks and Lan Wangji's hand on his hip is the only thing keeping him upright, slumped against the wall.

"Lan Zhan!" he chokes out, a hoarse, pleading sob that rips out of his ragged throat. His hands are knotted so tightly in Lan Wangji's hair that he can feel the tips of his fingers going numb, or maybe that's just his focus narrowing in on what Lan Wangji is doing between his legs.

"Patience," Lan Wangji hums, sounding utterly self-satisfied, like all he wants is to watch Wei Wuxian writhe in frustration.

The hand that was just on his cock presses against the back of one of his thighs and Wei Wuxian lets Lan Wangji lift his utterly limp leg over his shoulder, hand going under his ass to take his dead weight. Then he does the same with the hand that was pinning Wei Wuxian to the wall and now Lan Wangji has both of his legs slung over his shoulders, hands cupping his entire ass tightly enough to bruise, broad enough that his little fingers are lying right across the sensitive line where Wei Wuxian's thighs meet his ass. More importantly than that, though, Lan Wangji's mouth is hovering right in front of Wei Wuxian's cock, which twitches weakly at the sight of the stupid smug little smirk that pushes at the edge of those pink, perfect lips.

"Lan Zhan, my good Lan Zhan, you're so cruel, please put your mouth on me, please just let me come, please," he whines, watching Lan Wangji's lips twitch up even further before he finally, finally takes him in his mouth, gently sucking as he bends his neck to swallow as much of Wei Wuxian's cock as he can fit. Every thought in Wei Wuxian's head has fled, wiped out by the white hot burn of pleasure that floods his body. His eyes are wide open but he can't see anything at all.

He can only feel, hips immobilized in Lan Wangji's grip and hands tangled in silky hair, as Lan Wangji's head bobs between his legs. His robes hang from his shoulders, leaving his whole body bare to the freezing air except where Lan Wangji touches him, his mouth scorching and his hands like brands against his skin. He can't pay any mind to the cold, not when he's burning alive from the inside out, finally allowed to tip over the edge into sweet relief.

Wei Wuxian sobs as he comes into Lan Wangji's mouth, fresh tears trickling into his hair as his head tilts back in ecstasy or maybe agony, a release of tension so draining that he is completely wrung out by the time the sound of his blood roaring in his ears fades and he can hear himself again, soft moans of overwhelmed pleasure as Lan Wangji keeps sucking gently at his cock, tasting the last drops of come.

The moment his moans cross the line between pleasure and pain, Lan Wangji releases his cock and lowers him slowly down to rest on his lap, tucking his robes around his limp body and positioning him sideways so that he leans against the solid warmth of Lan Wangji's chest, wrapped securely in his arms.

Lan Wangji runs a hand soothingly up and down his back as he tries to recover from having his brain utterly blown by the force of his twice-denied orgasm. He starts to shiver a little before he gets back enough brain function to form words, not really cold but maybe a little shocky. Lan Wangji hefts him up against his chest and rises to his feet without even a groan of effort.

They nearly made it to the bed the first time Lan Wangji had him in his arms so it's only a moment before Lan Wangji is laying him down again. He tucks Wei Wuxian under the blankets and turns away before pausing. Wei Wuxian realizes that he's made an incoherent noise of protest and licks his lips before he tries to speak again, mustering all his returning cognitive function.

"Hanguang-jun, Lan Wangji, Lan-er-gege, Lan Zhan, you can't make up for leaving me in bed by abandoning me again," he croaks. His voice is wrecked. He coughs to clear his throat and when he opens his eyes, Lan Wangji is back, holding a flask to his lips. Oh. That makes much more sense than Lan Wangji just walking off. He sits up as much as he can on his elbows alone and drinks quickly, wiggling his eyebrows at Lan Wangji as he does.

"Feeling better?" Lan Wangji says, one eyebrow arched as he wipes at the corners of Wei Wuxian's mouth with his sleeve and scrubs lightly at the dried tear tracks on his cheeks.

"Much," Wei Wuxian says. He's not surprised to find that the thoughts slowly starting to whirl through his head at the same breakneck speed are much less negative than they were when he woke this morning. He gets like that sometimes, needs the reset of a good night's sleep or a brain-melting orgasm to wipe away the fog that clouds his brain. Luckily, his husband is usually able to provide at least one of those, depending on the time of day, and if not, well, that's what they have toys for. "Love you, Lan Zhan."

"Love you, Wei Ying." Lan Wangji presses a kiss to his upturned face. "I'll be back in a moment." Wei Wuxian watches through fluttering eyelids as he shuffles through the mess of paper on their one table before he returns, crawling over Wei Wuxian with a sheaf of papers in hand to sit against the wall with legs outstretched. "Come on. I'll be here when you wake up this time."

Wei Wuxian obediently wiggles his way over with the covers in tow and settles his head in his husband's lap with a sigh of contentment. Lan Wangji immediately threads one hand into his hair, gently scratching at his scalp until he melts. He falls asleep to the sound of rustling paper and Lan Wangji's quiet breathing. It's almost like being back in the jingshi.

When Wei Wuxian wakes, Lan Wangji is still there, just as he promised. It doesn't feel like it's been too long, the cave still brightly lit the way it only is during the middle of the afternoon. He rubs his drool encrusted face against Lan Wangji's thigh and rolls over to stretch out luxuriously in the middle of the bed.

Lan Wangji dampens a cloth from the same flask and tosses it at his face. Wei Wuxian obediently mops his face clean and rolls back across the bed to receive a more affectionate greeting from his husband in the form of a forehead kiss.

"Do you want to talk now?" Lan Wangji's voice is a little hoarse, which sends a delicious shiver down Wei Wuxian's spine.

"I think so," he says and reluctantly hauls himself upright on floppy limbs to sit next to Lan Wangji, leaning half on him and half on the wall. He takes Lan Wangji's offered hand and laces their fingers together, dropping a kiss on his knuckles. "Alright, I'm definitely ready now."

"What was it that bothered you, me leaving or doing too much?" Ah, his husband really knows him too well.

"You leaving," Wei Wuxian admits. "I'm used to you being busy and I don't mind that, but I need you here more than I usually do. I really can't sleep without you here. It's too quiet in the cave and too loud inside my head when you're not around."

"Barrier isn't working?"

"Not because of resentful energy. The barrier is just as functional as when you checked it this morning." A meticulous and thorough man, his husband. "All of the noise is coming from me. This place"—a broad sweep of his hand so Lan Wangji knows he means the Burial Mounds entire, not just the cave—"is where I was the most miserable and most content in my first life. I wasn't quite happy, but in the end I was content to farm in peace and raise my child and work on my inventions. It brings a lot of memories back."

"Good or bad?" Lan Wangji is familiar by now with the way his memory can work against him, highlighting the worst moments of his life and blurring together the good times.

"Mostly bad. Even the good ones feel bad because of what happened in the end." It's more than that, but Wei Wuxian doesn't quite know how to explain it. Living in the Burial Mounds, breathing the same air that filled the empty space of his core to the brim with resentful energy, all of it takes him back to the feeling of scrabbling for survival, not just that first year but every year after that. He was content when he lived here with the Wen remnants, but only because by then he had gotten accustomed to the constant fear and hatred and anger that he pushed away and suppressed under layers of masks and pretense.

"Even when I was content here," he says abruptly into the patient silence, "I knew that a single mistake on my part would bring disaster. If anyone found out about my core, if I ever lost control of the corpses I was suppressing, if I ever failed to keep one of the balls I was juggling in the air, the rest of my life would come crashing down around me. I was content, but I couldn't hope for more, and then I did and it destroyed everything."

"Hmm," Lan Wangji says. It's not a dismissal, just a noise that lets Wei Wuxian he's listening and formulating a response. "You felt content, but never safe."

"Yeah, exactly. When you're here, I have a physical reminder that it's different now, but when you're out of sight, it's like I lose that sense of security and start backsliding right into the same pit."

"Does it need to be me, or would some other physical reminder help?"

"What kind of physical reminder are you thinking about? Because I'm telling you right now, more biting is not going to fix this problem." He refrains from making a joke about how he died, but from the way Lan Wangji's hand twitches in his, he's thinking about it anyways.

"Your binding talisman. Could you adjust it so that it stretches over a longer distance than the original?"

"I don't know," Wei Wuxian says, mind already two steps ahead of his mouth as he actually starts thinking about it. "I think so? I might have to start from scratch, and the final version will probably need a continuous flow of spiritual energy to maintain the elasticity over really long distances, but yeah, I think so."

"Do you think that would help?" Lan Wangji asks, pulling him out of his daze with a gentle squeeze of his hand.

Wei Wuxian takes a moment to think about it. If Lan Wangji is the one to use the talisman, then Wei Wuxian will be able to feel his spiritual energy constantly, no matter where he roams. If he puts in a little extra effort, he can probably even make it so he can also adjust the tension of the rope on his end, not just Lan Wangji's. The feeling of Lan Wangji with him, always at the end of the rope around his wrist and only a tug away.

"Yeah. It would help a lot." He tugs Lan Wangji's face down so he can press a kiss to his lips without having to sit up further. Predictably, Lan Wangji just tugs him into his lap so they can keep kissing without bending at awkward angles. They exchange chaste kisses for a little while, occasionally venturing further to drop kisses on the forehead or the nose, and then Lan Wangji bites his lip and Wei Wuxian is sharply aware of every point where they're touching, skin prickling with the sudden ignition of arousal.

He sighs happily through his nose and licks into Lan Wangji's mouth, pulls back and looks at Lan Wangji incredulously. "Didn't you wash your mouth out?" Lan Wangji's mouth still tastes of his come and he doesn't hate the taste, but he doesn't relish it either.

"You were comfortable. I don't mind the taste."

"I love you, Lan Zhan, but come never tastes good, always bitter."

"Mn. Used to it."

Wei Wuxian can't even speak for a solid minute after that, too overcome with laughter. Eventually he wheezes, "I'm never going to be able to eat your sect's food again, Lan Zhan, you've ruined it for me forever. And I was going to try so hard to get Lan-lao-xiansheng to like me this time around—"

"Wei Ying is sweet enough to make up for it." That sets Wei Wuxian off again, throwing his head back in laughter until Lan Wangji takes the invitation and starts biting at his throat, pushing his loosened robes aside to get at his chest and shoulders. Then he's gasping in pleasure and rocking down against Lan Wangji to try and get some friction on his rapidly hardening cock.

"Instead of Yiling Laozu's Demon-slaughtering Cave, maybe we should call it Hanguang-jun's Demon-raising Cave instead, hah? Ow, Lan Zhan, quit pinching me, it was only a joke," he whines, batting uselessly at Lan Wangji's merciless fingers as they dig into his sides. Lan Wangji opts for the way they both like best to shut him up, kissing him until he's dazed and breathless with exhilaration, hands cradling his head as Lan Wangji finds the best angle for wrecking his composure.

"Wait, wait, I can't think when you keep doing that," Wei Wuxian gasps at length, grabbing at Lan Wangji's wrists to keep some distance between their faces. "You didn't get off earlier, did you?"

"No," Lan Wangji says. He doesn't sound unsatisfied. If anything, he looks smug about edging Wei Wuxian until he cried and then passed out.

"Stop looking so self-satisfied, it's very unattractive on you," Wei Wuxian says, blatantly lying through his teeth. "What I meant was, you took care of me earlier, gave me what I needed. What do you need now?" If left to his own devices, Lan Wangji will often set aside his own needs and wants in favor of Wei Wuxian's, but he can't refuse Wei Wuxian when he asks so directly, when what Wei Wuxian wants is to satisfy Lan Wangji's desires.

"You inside of me." A startled smile spreads with the blush across Wei Wuxian's face, but Lan Wangji isn't done. "Want to show you that you can be good, can take care of me, that I trust you with all of me. If you don't want me to leave you alone in bed, just fuck me until I can't walk." He whispers the last bit in Wei Wuxian's ear, hot breath making him blush even harder.

Wei Wuxian hides his burning face in his hands. His husband used to be so reticent in bed until he realized how flustered he could make Wei Wuxian with just a few words and sounds. He groans into his palms, "A little warning, please, Lan Zhan, you're going to make my heart actually stop one day."

"You asked." Wei Wuxian peeks through his fingers at Lan Wangji. He's so smug, Wei Wuxian can't wait to fuck that little smile off his face. He tells him that and watches the heat in Lan Wangji's eyes turn his irises from gold to yellow as his pupils dilate.

Then Wei Wuxian rolls back out of Lan Wangji's arms and straight off the bed, grinning at the soft noise of confusion. He wants to take his time with Lan Wangji today, just like he asked, and the cave is too cold right now for that. He likes the intimacy of sex under the covers but today he wants to see Lan Wangji fall apart under him, wants to overwrite every terrible night he's spent in this cave with the memory of Lan Wangji writhing in pleasure because of him.

"Wei Ying." The plaintive note in Lan Wangji's otherwise even voice makes Wei Wuxian grin. It's what he deserves for teasing Wei Wuxian for so long.

"I'll be back in a moment," he says, setting about his work with deliberate slowness. The small fire that warms the shielded nook of their bed needs to be stoked back to life and the dry wood of the Burial Mounds is at least good for burning. His robes are still loose around his torso and he turns to smile innocently at Lan Wangji in the full knowledge that he looks thoroughly wrecked, love bites just peeking over the edge of his trousers from earlier and lips red from kisses.

"Wei Ying." Pleading, not demanding.

"I thought you wanted me inside of you, taking care of you? How can I take care of you without oil?" Wei Wuxian taunts, shrugging off his robes one by one as he saunters over to the desk that Lan Wangji fucked him over yesterday. Mo Xuanyu's body wasn't bad looking, but it had taken years to put back on the weight and muscle he'd lost to malnutrition and confinement—Wei Wuxian has been practicing the sword since he was old enough to start cultivating and it shows in the muscles of his shoulders and back.

It takes him but a moment to find the oil in the chaos they left the desk in and he grabs the pot of ointment at the same time, juggling the two containers one-handed as he turns back to the bed. He didn't tell Lan Wangji to stay put, but he has, fingers practically clawing at the covers as he watches Wei Wuxian shamelessly flaunting his body in front of him.

The cave is lit by fire and sun, but neither of them can compare to the light in Lan Wangji's eyes as he looks at Wei Wuxian. Wei Wuxian's breath catches in his chest and all of his plans for teasing disappear in the face of his husband's everything. He tosses the jars near the head of the bed and launches himself after them, pulling Lan Wangji to his knees in the middle of their bed and kissing him frantically.

Lan Wangji shares every bit of his urgency, mouth hot and wet under his lips and tongue, and Wei Wuxian moans desperately at the way Lan Wangji yields under his hands, letting Wei Wuxian push him onto his back. Wei Wuxian is well-versed by now in the art of undressing Lan Wangji and he could probably get Lan Wangji naked while blindfolded with his hands tied behind his back. Doing it one-handed from between his legs while his other arm keeps him propped up just far enough above Lan Wangji to keep their mouths together is no challenge at all.

Only a real effort of will lets him pull away from Lan Wangji's sweet mouth and sit up on his heels for long enough to rid them both of their trousers. He's fully nude now but Lan Wangji is sprawled on the rumpled remains of his excessive layers, arms still partially tangled in his sleeves and legs splayed out enticingly to display his hard cock and the curve of his ass. The sight is otherworldly but Wei Wuxian can't tear his eyes away from Lan Wangji's face, ablaze with love and joy and anticipation as he wriggles free of the last of his robes and holds his open arms up towards Wei Wuxian expectantly.

"Wei Ying. Come here." Wei Wuxian falls into his embrace gladly, blanketing Lan Wangji with his body, only barely supporting himself on his elbows so that they can keep kissing.

Lan Wangji wastes no time in slotting his mouth back against Wei Wuxian's, kissing him like they've been apart for years instead of moments, hands sliding down from his shoulders to his ass and pulling his hips down as he grinds up, quiet moans muffled by Wei Wuxian’s lips. Lan Wangji's cock is hot and hard against his belly, rubbing teasingly against his own, and Wei Wuxian works one arm free to blindly grope for the oil, lost amid the tumble of sheets and robes.

When he finds it, he doesn't bother trying to extricate himself from Lan Wangji's arms to slick up only one hand, just pours a generous amount onto Lan Wangji's stomach. Lan Wangji jumps at the sudden shock of cold and pulls away from the kiss to frown at him. Wei Wuxian laughs and accepts the admonishing pinch to his ass that gets him, tosses the oil back to the bed. He shifts his legs so that he's straddling one of Lan Wangji's thighs and props himself up more securely on one hand, trailing the fingers of the other down Lan Wangji's chest, through the pool of oil quickly warming against his skin, to wrap a fist around his cock.

"You know, when I have your cock in my hand like this, I can almost believe what they all say about Hanguang-jun being as rigid as the jade he was carved out of," Wei Wuxian murmurs teasingly, squeezing tighter around his cock, heavy in his hand. Lan Wangji's hips twitch up into his slick grip, mouth falling open in an almost inaudible gasp, and he huffs in impatience when Wei Wuxian lets his cock go after only a few short strokes.

"Wei Ying!" Lan Wangji makes no move to take himself in hand, trusting Wei Wuxian to take care of him, but his hands tighten on Wei Wuxian's ass, pressing into the bruises his fingers left earlier, and Wei Wuxian has to breathe deeply through the sudden surge of arousal and affection.

"You wanted me inside, Lan Zhan, don't you remember?" Wei Wuxian presses a comforting kiss to his cheek and drags his fingers through the oil again, avoiding Lan Wangji's cock entirely to trail dripping fingers down to press against his hole, teasing little strokes with barely any pressure. His eyes never leave Lan Wangji's flushed face, watching every little expression that flashes across it in response to the tiniest twitch of his fingers against such a sensitive place. "Everyone knows how upright and virtuous Hanguang-jun is, how strict and severe, but only I know how welcoming your body can be, how easily you open up for me when I'm fucking you, how sweetly you moan for me when my fingers are inside of you."

Lan Wangji's eyes flutter closed and he cries out sharply when Wei Wuxian presses in with two fingers at the same time, shallow enough to be little more than a brief tease, then presses in again, deeper and harder, seeking that sweet mixture of pleasure and pain that both of them crave. Lan Wangji clenches down around his fingers, face twisted with shock, but they slide in easily enough and Lan Wangji moans again as Wei Wuxian flexes his wrist and curls his fingers inside of him, tapping in a ceaseless rhythm as he rubs circles around and against that most sensitive spot. He watches Lan Wangji's face go completely slack with pleasure, head pressing back against the bed as he arches up in response to the constant stimulation, lips parting around the sweetest sounds Wei Wuxian has ever heard in his two (three?) lives.

"Really, the most beautiful, Lan Zhan, you sound so good when I'm inside of you, you're so hot like this," Wei Wuxian breathes, grinding helplessly against Lan Wangji's thigh between his. He glances down Lan Wangji's body and stifles a groan at the sight of his cock, lying heavy against the oil-slick skin of his belly and leaking at the tip. He wants to suck him, wants to do everything to him, but he only has so many hands, so he settles for pressing another finger in. "You feel so perfect around my fingers, I can't wait to feel you around my cock, so hot and tight—"

"Wei Ying, please!" Lan Wangji really does lose every bit of his composure like this. Wei Wuxian presses his thumb against his perineum and curls his fingers inside just a bit harder, watching in delight as Lan Wangji's cock visibly twitches in response. "Wei Ying!"

Wei Wuxian pulls his eyes back up to Lan Wangji's face, self-satisfied smirk falling off his lips as the intensity of that golden gaze sears through him. Just like before, all of his intentions to prolong his teasing fade in the face of Lan Wangji's pure desire. He can't even bring himself to make Lan Wangji put it in words when he can read his face and body so clearly. He pulls his fingers out slowly and slides off of Lan Wangji's thigh to nestle between his legs again, suddenly aware of his own desperate arousal as he uses the last of the oil on his own cock.

"Lan Zhan," he says helplessly, pressing his forehead against Lan Wangji's as he lines himself up, the tip of his cock just barely brushing against the slick skin of Lan Wangji's hole. "Lan Zhan, I love you, my sweet Lan Zhan."

"I am here, love you, Wei Ying, please," Lan Wangji begs, and Wei Wuxian tries to push in slowly and carefully, conscious of just how new sex in these bodies is to both of them, but Lan Wangji's hands on his ass are insistent and they both shudder and moan with the intensity of the sensation as Lan Wangji pulls him in fully, ass flush against Wei Wuxian's hips and legs crossing behind his back. Lan Wangji is so tight around his cock, surrounding him entirely with his body, wrapped around him like he can't bear to be apart for a second.

Wei Wuxian has to breathe for a long moment before he can even move without coming instantly. Lan Wangji's legs are so tight around him that he can barely pull out at all, so he rests more of his weight on either side of Lan Wangji and just fucks deeper into him in short, grinding thrusts, relishing the way he clenches so tightly around him. Little grunting moans fall from Lan Wangji's lips every time Wei Wuxian's hips meet his ass and his eyes have long since fallen shut again, letting Wei Wuxian admire his unguarded face from up close, memorizing the way he looks in the throes of pleasure.

Wei Wuxian can't even muster up the focus to string words together in the moment, too distracted by every new facet of this familiar experience, the way his body doesn't tire so easily, the unfamiliar churning of his abundant spiritual energy at the peak of arousal, how clearly he can hear every shameless sound from both of their throats, every rustle of the sheets and slick noise as he fucks into Lan Wangji. This close to the fire, the air is almost too warm and sweat beads on his skin as his movements grow more frantic in response to the growing volume of Lan Wangji's moans.

Wei Wuxian loves everything he gets to do with Lan Wangji, every way that they can come together and bring each other pleasure, but he always feels a special kind of overwhelmed when they fuck like this, Lan Wangji letting Wei Wuxian take his fill of his body and welcoming every bit of it. His nails rake desperately down Wei Wuxian’s back, leaving stinging trails that only spur Wei Wuxian on to greater heights of arousal, and Lan Wangji must be getting close, he never gets so rough unless he’s losing himself in the sheer onslaught of sensation. Wei Wuxian can’t pull away far enough to get a hand between them, so he resorts to his best weapon: his words.

"Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan, look at me, look at your Wei Ying," Wei Wuxian calls, soft but insistent, until Lan Wangji's eyes open again and catch on his, hazy with pleasure, questioning noise shattering into a moan. He puts as much emotion in his voice as he can, fucks into Lan Wangji as steadily as possible when he’s so close himself, and continues, "Lan Zhan, Lan-er-gege, I love you so much, you feel so perfect around me, my Lan Zhan, my sweet Lan Zhan, love you, want to see you come, lose your mind because of me, it feels so good inside of you, am I making you feel good?"

Lan Wangji cries out and Wei Wuxian watches in satisfaction as Lan Wangji shudders beneath him and comes between them, never stopping the movement of his hips. Wei Wuxian loves getting fucked in the aftermath of an orgasm, but he doesn't enjoy being fucked through orgasm nearly half as much as Lan Wangji, shaking and whining from overstimulation under him as Wei Wuxian finally reaches his own peak and comes with a moan that echoes against the walls of the cave.

He presses one last sloppy kiss to Lan Wangji's lips and slumps down to press his face into his neck, burying his nose in his hair and letting Lan Wangji take his weight as his arms give out. His heart pounds relentlessly in his chest and he can feel Lan Wangji's racing just as fast, both of them panting and sweaty as they come down from the high of orgasm. Even the chill air doesn't bother Wei Wuxian when he has the solid heat of Lan Wangji's body underneath him and still wrapped around him.

Wei Wuxian could stay like this for the rest of the day but eventually Lan Wangji starts to shift restlessly under him. He pulls out gingerly, laughing at the scrunched up face Lan Wangji makes and digging through the covers for the water flask and the cloth he used to clean his face earlier. He warms the damp cloth with a quick burst of spiritual energy and wipes Lan Wangji and himself down thoroughly. He finds the ointment and massages it into the mostly healed brand on Lan Wangji's chest—and then into his own at a chiding look—before he flops back down on top of Lan Wangji, pulling the covers over them this time as they settle comfortably against each other, legs twining together.

"I really miss having a bathtub," he sighs into Lan Wangji's neck, receiving an affirmative hum in response. Despite his unfathomable fondness for the cold springs in the Cloud Recesses, Lan Wangji does not enjoy only being able to wash in the cold mountain spring in the middle of winter either. "I could pamper you so nicely in a bathtub but right now I can only cuddle you until you're satisfied."

"Never satisfied," Lan Wangji says, and curls possessive arms around him as he laughs hard enough to nearly roll himself off Lan Wangji's chest. Nobody ever believes him when he says Lan Wangji is funny—in fact, they seem to think he's making fun of them when he says so—but the joke really is on them in the end because Lan Wangji is hilarious when he wants to be. He's many things, and Wei Wuxian appreciates every bit of him he gets to see.

"Did I take good care of you, Lan Zhan?" Wei Wuxian asks. He wants it to come out teasing. It doesn't, and he would be ashamed at how needy it makes him sound if anyone else but Lan Wangji was there to hear him.

"Always," Lan Wangji says into his hair, stroking up and down his back until he relaxes into the soothing motions. "Always."

"Good. I'm going to sleep more now and you should too because you really haven't been sleeping well this last week either so you should too."


"Sh, stop talking, otherwise I'll never stop and then we'll never get any sleep."


"Lan Zhan!"

He spends the rest of that day curled up in bed with Lan Wangji, tinkering with the binding talisman when he can't stand laying still anymore and adding his expertise to Lan Wangji's when he needs some input on a particularly tricky aspect of the boundary wards. It's a simple enough task to adjust the talisman so that both of them will be able to pull the rope taut at will, but that triggers a few ideas about other applications for ropes of spiritual energy and that particular tangent distracts them both quite thoroughly when he gets to the practical testing phase. So they don't leave the bed for the rest of the day except to get paper, brush, and ink, not even Lan Wangji able to insist on bathing when their only option is the freezing mountain spring.

The next morning, Wei Wuxian wakes up comfortably warm, alone, and smiles at the binding talisman wrapped around his wrist, glowing blue line stretching off towards the mouth of the cave. It takes only a tiny bit of spiritual energy to pull the line taut and he tugs on it, once, twice, thrice, then waits.

Seconds later, his arm jerks with three sharp pulls from the other end of the rope and he laughs with joy before he tugs on the rope again, longer this time. No need for a reply to this message, so he just kicks the covers off and arranges himself seductively in their bed as he waits for his husband to answer his summons.