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i didn't think it could be true (let alone that it would be you)

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 Wangji first meets Wen Ning during lunch break, when Wei Ying—the love of his life, the savior of his soul—comes to join him, as per usual, but instead of a grumbling Jiang Wanyin following him a shy-looking boy is hurrying to keep up with Wei Ying’s enthusiastic strides.

 ‘Lan Zhan!’ Wei Ying plops himself down onto the seat beside him gracelessly, pulling the other boy, who goes down with a yelp and ends up flailing in his chair.

 ‘Wei Ying.’

 ‘Lan Zhan, this is my friend, Wen Ning! Wen Ning, this is Lan Zhan; I’ve told you about him, right?’

 ‘Y-You have,’ Wen Ning gulps, shooting a furtive glance at Wangji before he continues, ‘Lately he’s all that you’ve been talking about.’

 Wei Ying laughs, bright and clear and loud and Wangji has to force himself to look away.

 In doing that, however, he catches Wen Ning’s eye, and—and the latter is blushing a bright, furious red, eyes flying from him to Wei Ying again and again, and—

 Oh, Wangji thinks, a little faint, I know that look.

 It is the look of someone irreparably and irrevocably in love, the look of devotion and wonder and amazement, that he sees on Wen Ning’s face, and he knows it so well, if only because he knows he himself looks like that when he looks at Wei Ying.

 A surge of something bad surges up in his chest, and Wangji realizes a second later that it is jealousy, and then promptly wants to hit himself upside the head for it.

 And then Wei Ying keeps talking, drawing either one of them at a time into conversation, and Wangji’s concentration in his thoughts is broken to keep talking—a few words, at least—to Wei Ying like there isn’t guilt and resentment churning in his mind.

 From the corner of his eyes, he sees Wen Ning duck his head and look away.

 

 And for a few weeks, that is how things continue—Jiang Wanyin joins them sometimes, but more often than not, Wei Ying jokes that he’s having lunch off campus with his sugar daddy—and though Wangji and Wen Ning do not actually talk that much, they’ve at least come to be comfortable in the other’s presence. Wangji hopes.

 [Wei Ying <3] lan zhan!!!!! i’m not coming today bc i caught a cold haha

 [Lan Zhan ♥] Take care of yourself.

  [Wei Ying <3] will do!!!! (^o^)

 There’s that, but when break rolls around, Wangji is surprised to spot Wen Ning in the crowd, gripping his lunch tray and looking more than a little lost.

 They make eye contact, and Wangji, almost unconsciously, raises his hand and waves it—a glaring gesture for Wen Ning to come and sit with him.

 Then Wen Ning looks around, as if Wangji would be calling for someone else, and he blinks at Wangji, the question clear in his eyes.

 Wangji nods.

 Wen Ning tentatively comes over, setting down his tray and sliding into the seat facing him. It’s almost cute, the way he stumbles over his words, Wangji thinks.

 They eat in silence, but that silence is far from obtrusive as Wangji had expected it to be—Wen Ning had nervously been jittering in his seat, but as the minutes passed by and he became surer that Wangji wouldn’t bite his head off, he’d seemed to calm down—and they’re almost finished when Wen Ning looks up at him and turns his phone around.

 His family’s rule of not using electronics goes flying out the window when he sees a picture of Wei Ying, dressed in what can only be called ‘emo’, but in contrast to his dark attire, Wei Ying is grinning wide, arm looped around Jiang Wanyin’s and hand flashing a peace sign.

 It is one of the best—if not the best itself—photos he’s ever seen.

 ‘Wei Ying was trying on clothes the other day,’ Wen Ning stutters through his sentence, ‘And Jiang Cheng dared him to wear this, but it actually turned out great! I-I mean! Not that Wei Ying looks bad in anything! A-and! It’s-he’s-‘

 ‘Mn,’ Wangji says, if only to save the poor stuttering youth who now looks like he’s going to spontaneously combust, ‘Wei Ying always looks nice.’

 And before he knows it, a big, blinding smile is sent his way, and Wangji has to forcibly shove the thought that Wen Ning is so pure out of his head.

 But then it seems as if Wen Ning’s rambling isn’t done, because he goes on to explaining why he’d shown Wangji the picture. ‘Like-it’s pretty obvious that you have a crush on Wei Ying? I mean-you’ve never told me! So I can’t presume, b-but! I-just-I just thought you’d appreciate this! I mean who wouldn’t have a crush on Wei Ying? I-I!’

 ‘Mn,’ Wangji says again, because it is the only thing he can actually say without exposing himself further. Wen Ning knows. Of course he does. At this point, literally everyone but the object of his affections doesn’t know about the glaringly obvious crush he has on him.

 Wen Ning knows, and they’re in the same boat. Wangji almost feels sorry for the other because Wei Ying, as much as he loves him, is a dense idiot who wouldn’t know love if it dragged him into a dark secluded alley and beat him up.

 ‘Thank you,’ he tells Wen Ning, who blushes an alarming shade of red.

 ‘I-It’s nothing!’ he says, and then promptly hides his face behind his phone.

 Wangji smiles the tiniest bit when he knows no one is watching and wonders why the surge of jealousy isn’t as fierce as the times before.

 

[Wei Ying <3] hope you weren’t too lonely without me today!! ( ^v^ )

[Lan Zhan ♥] Rest.

[Wei Ying <3] such a party pooper lan zhan!!!!! (^○^)

[Lan Zhan ♥] Wei Ying.

[Wei Ying <3] fineeeeeeeeeeeee

[Wei Ying <3] wen nings texting me about this too

[Wei Ying <3] ive only been gone one day and you two are already teaming up on me!!

 

 It is one fateful day that Wangji is waiting outside his classroom—he is twenty minutes early, as always—that a blur of a human rounds the corner and smashes into him bodily, sending them both tumbling onto the floor and the person’s papers and files fluttering in the air around them.

 ‘Oh god—I—I’m so so so sorry!’

 Wangji looks up from where he’s sitting to find that Wen Ning has sprawled right on top of him, face dangerously close to his own.

 If anyone stumbled upon them, they would be in trouble, to say the least.

 ‘A-ah!’ Wen Ning flails, trying to get up, but he slips, landing right back into Wangji’s chest with a little oof. Wangji’s hands come up to support Wen Ning’s back.

 He tries not to think about how normally he would not have let anyone else touch him like this.

 ‘Um,’ Wen Ning squeaks, voice muffled by Wangji’s chest, ‘Please don’t hate me?’

 ‘Mn. Won’t.’

 With a minimal amount of effort, Wangji extricates himself from Wen Ning, holding out a hand to help the younger scramble to his feet as well.

 He strangely misses the other’s warmth.

 Wen Ning lets out a dismayed sound, and that is when Wangji realizes that the papers that had fallen to the floor are in fact photographs.

 Photographs which all have Wei Ying’s smiling face on them.

 Wen Ning is on his knees, hurriedly trying to collect everything, and Wangji leans down to help him. When everything is carefully kept away, Wen Ning bows to Wangji, but even that is not enough to hide how red his face is.

 Wen Ning makes to walk away, stuttering out a last ‘thank you’ but at the last moment he turns, opens his mouth and then closes it.

 Wangji cocks his head to the side.

 ‘Um,’ Wen Ning starts, ‘I-If you want, I could send these pictures to you?’

 Wangji widens his eyes almost imperceptibly, but it seems as if Wen Ning catches it, because he smiles shyly and hides his face behind his folders.

‘…that would be appreciated,’ Wangji says, ‘Thank you.’

 Wen Ning holds his phone out to him and Wangji pauses for an embarrassing second before taking it and adding himself to Wen Ning’s contacts.

 ‘Ah, I-I’ll be going then,’ Wen Ning says sheepishly once Wangji returns his phone to him, ‘Bye!’

 Wangji waves and turns back to waiting.

 Wen Ning gives him a warm smile and flees (and Wangji does not know why he feels warm for the rest of the day.)

 

 Wei Ying is waiting for him after class, leaning against the wall and looking unfairly good for someone who had five hours of classes before this.

 ‘Lan Zhan!’

 ‘Wei Ying.’

 ‘Lan Zhan, you do want to go to the new café with me? I heard it’s pretty good.’

 ‘Mn.’

 ‘Let’s go then!’

 All along the walk, Wei Ying skips, as he is wont to do, and fills the air with chatter about his classes, complaining about Lan Qiren, and—this is a new one—talking about Wen Ning.

 ‘Wen Ning takes archery classes, did you know that?’

 ‘I did not.’

 ‘Yeah, well, you should see him practice! He’s like really good, but only if you get him to be completely calm and relaxed, haha.’

 Wangji nods. He can see how calming Wen Ning down might turn out to be a bigger feat than actually getting him to hit a bulls-eye.

 ‘What is he majoring in?’

 ‘Hm?’ Wei Ying thinks for a moment, before rounding and grinning up impishly at Wangji, ‘Lan Zhan! That’s the first question you’ve asked about someone else!’

 Is it? Wangji is sure he’s asked Wei Ying about himself on numerous occasions.

 When Wangji gives no reply other than staring at him, Wei Ying acquiesces, pouting, ‘He’s a photography major!’

 Ah, that’s understandable then, Wangji thinks, for Wen Ning to have so many pictures of Wei Ying—he needs a muse, after all, Wangji thinks, the thought almost like his brother in how terrifyingly poetic it sounds.

 There’s a pause, a break, as they keep walking, until Wei Ying suddenly says, ‘Maybe we should get him to take pictures of you! With his photography skills and your stunning good looks, I bet you two would make a great team!’

 Wei Ying, Wangji thinks despairingly, please stop. My poor heart can’t take your exquisite brand of torture.

 Wei Ying, oblivious to Wangji’s internal despair, laughs lightly, ‘Just kidding, Lan Zhan!’

 Wangji kind of wants to shake him and yell about which part?! into his face, but that’s…not very gentlemanly of him, so he refrains.

 Wei Ying keeps up his chatter until they reach the café, and then Wangji lets himself enjoy a milkshake at Wei Ying’s insistence, even though he knows his stomach will hate him later on for it.

[Wen Ning] Hi um I’m going to print some new photographs so would you like some copies as well?

[Lan Wangji] That would be appreciated. Thank you.

[Wen Ning] No problem! Do you wanna meet up later

[Wen Ning] So I can give you the pictures!

[Lan Wangji] Is this Sunday okay for you?

[Wen Ning] Yep that’s fine! Uh is 2 ok

[Lan Wangji] Mn.

[Lan Wangji] See you then.

[Wen Ning] Kk! Seeya

 ‘Lan Zhan!’

 Wangji looks up to Wei Ying, who looks despondent now that Wangji isn’t paying attention to him. ‘Who are you texting!’

 ‘Why?’ Wangji isn’t sure if he should be asking this, but Wei Ying seems to pout more.

 ‘Because you’re not giving me attention anymore!’

 Wangji huffs, which he knows Wei Ying knows that it is a sign of amusement.

 ‘So mean, Lan Zhan…’

 ‘Wen Ning,’ Wangji says, and watches as Wei Ying’s brows furrow.

 ‘Yeah? What about him?’

 ‘I was texting him.’

 Wei Ying’s eyes widen, almost comically, and Wangji tilts his head to the side to ask Wei Ying what he’s thinking about. Wei Ying shakes his head and smiles, though something feels not quite right, and says, ‘Well, Lan Zhan, you’re coming out of your personal bubble a little at least! I’m happy for you!’

 Yeah, about that…

 

 The café is moderately crowded as he arrives, earlier than Wen Ning, and orders a black coffee for himself and goes to sit at one of the two-people seat near the window.

 Not a long time after, Wen Ning arrives, hair in disarray and panting as if he’d run all the way here, and one arm holds a folder much like the one he had been holding that day they bumped into each other.

 Wen Ning sees him and brightens, hurrying over to dump his things on the chair before saying a rushed ‘I’m going to get a drink, okay?’ and tripping his way over to the counter.

 Cute, Wangji thinks, and then frowns at himself.

 Why in the world is he thinking like this? Is it because Wen Ning reminds him of Wei Ying? No, surely not—Wei Ying is exuberant and lively, and Wen Ning—it isn’t to say that Wen Ning isn’t cheerful, but compared to Wei Ying, anyone can be overshadowed.

 He’s so lost in his own thoughts that he doesn’t notice Wen Ning has come back until the latter clears his throat.

 ‘U-um,’ Wen Ning starts, clearing his throat nervously, ‘So!  D-do you mind if I talk to you about Wei Ying? I-I mean! I-it’s okay if you say no, because you like him too and all that! I-it’s be-because I don’t have anyone else to talk to other than my sister but she’s already heard everything before and I’m sure she’s fed up with me haha justpleasestopmefromtalking—‘

 ‘Mn,’ Wangji says, slightly amused, ‘Brother gets tired of it too.’

 Wen Ning perks up. ‘O-oh right, you have a brother! I-if it’s any consolation,’ he says, blushing a bit, ‘Wei Ying always talks about how you’re way more attractive than your brother. He’s gotten into a fistfight with Jiang Wanyin about it.’

 The thought pleases him, but—

 Wei Ying, why must you always give off mixed signals…

 Wangji is pretty sure he’s had a straight face all throughout, but Wen Ning sighs and buries his face in his arms. Wangji has to strain his arms to make out his words.

 ‘It’s so confusing when he gives off mixed signals! Like! I see him with someone else, and I’m like, yeah he doesn’t have feelings for me but then he compliments me and my heart shatters!’

 Wen Ning’s ears are turning red, Wangji notes with amusement.

 ‘And that’s not even the worst part!’ Wen Ning rants, ‘He just—he does that with everyone! And then my poor heart is just going confused all the time!’

 ‘Mn. Me too.’

 Wen Ning visibly startles, looking up at Lan Wangji as if he’d forgotten who he had been talking to for a moment, and then he stutters, ‘A-ah! I’m sorry! I-I just! Just tell me to shut up whenever, okay?’

 Wangji, for the entirety of his life, has wanted people around him to be quiet, and yet that has changed since his meeting with Wei Ying—what else hasn’t?—and he reasons that this must be the reason that Wen Ning’s ramblings doesn’t bother him as much as they would have in the past.

 ‘Mn. It’s okay. Nice to hear you talk about Wei Ying.’

 Wen Ning gapes at him, and then turns away, face visibly flushed.

 Wangji hides a smile in his coffee cup.

 

[Wei Ying <3] lan zhan!!!!!

[Lan Zhan ♥] Mn.

[Wei Ying <3] do you wanna go out for lunch later?? I haven’t had spicy food in forever lol

[Lan Zhan ♥] You ate last week.

[Wei Ying <3] yes!!! It’s been forever!!!!!!!

[Lan Zhan ♥] -_-

[Wei Ying <3] please lan zhannn :3

[Wei Ying <3] pwetty pweaseeeeeeee owo

[Lan Zhan ♥] Fine.

[Wei Ying <3] yay!!!! thanks lz!!! Ily

 (Wangji sometimes wonders if Wei Ying knows what he’s doing to Wangji’s poor heart.)

 

 Somehow, Wangji finds himself at the quaint little café again the next weekend, ordering a smoothie for himself and settling next to a window.

 It’s quite nice here, Wangji thinks.

 It is sometime later that another figure shows itself in his vision, and it turns out to be Wen Ning.

 ‘H-hello,’ Wen Ning says, averting his eyes, ‘A-ah, if you-you’re alone, um, please may I sit here?’

 Wangji nods and watches as Wen Ning settles himself, hands cupping a coffee—Wangji is surprised to see that it is black and seems to contain no trace of sweetness (and in all honesty who would need sugar in their life when Wei Ying is already there?)—and then they are lulled into a comfortable silence.

 ‘Lan Wangji,’ Wen Ning says suddenly, looking flustered once Wangji turns his gaze on him, ‘A-ah, I just—I just wanted to ask—how long have you known Wei Ying?’

 ‘Mn, thirteen years.’

 ‘O-oh, that’s a long time,’ Wen Ning says, fidgeting, ‘I only knew of him last year, but…’

 He trails off, but by the way he looks at Wangji meaningfully, he knows exactly what he’s thinking.

 ‘Mn.’

 ‘Has he ever hugged you?’ Wen Ning asks, clearly nervous, ‘I don’t know about you but when he hugs me it’s always warm and nice and he also smells really good? I don’t know why, but he does and his hugs always cheer me up.’

 ‘Mn,’ Wangji replies, ‘Wei Ying has hugged me without my consent.’

 Wen Ning giggles a little, clearly amused by the visual of Wangji being hugged by a persistent Wei Ying.

 That, it seems, is all it takes for them to open up a little bit more to each other, and they spend the rest of their time there talking about Wei Ying.

 

[Wei Ying <3] wen ning told me you saw each other today!

[Lan Zhan ♥] Mn.

[Wei Ying <3] how was it????

[Wei Ying <3] tbh tho im kinda surprised you two are getting along so well!

[Wei Ying <3] but not in a bad way tho!!!

[Lan Zhan ♥] Wen Ning is a good person.

[Wei Ying <3] that’s a high compliment coming from you lan zhan!!!!!!

[Lan Zhan ♥] I only speak the truth.

[Wei Ying <3] haha yeah ik ik

 

 Their weekly meet-ups continue, even though they don’t explicitly state it, and Wangji arrives promptly at two every Saturday. Wen Ning is either later or earlier than him, and as soon as they both are comfortable, Wen Ning starts by telling him of his latest encounter with Wei Ying, and Wangji contributes sometimes with tales of Wei Ying when they were children.

 He also shows Wen Ning pictures of them in their childhood, and immediately agrees when Wen Ning excitedly coos over a cute, chubby-faced Wei Ying.

 They go there enough that the staff there recognize them as frequent customers, smile at them more and even get Wangji the almond milk he acquires after a few times.

 (‘You don’t drink milk?’

 ‘Mn. Lactose intolerant.’

 ‘Ah, that’s understandable.)

 And so, weeks pass. Wangji settles into routine that is seeing Wei Ying every day, and Wen Ning exclusively on the weekends.

 It might be surprising, how quickly Wangji had become close to Wen Ning despite knowing him for only a short amount of time, but it isn’t. Their friendship almost comes naturally to Wangji—he does not know if he can say the same for Wen Ning—and he finds himself even looking forward to their meetings every weekend.

 Wen Ning, for his part, is immensely nice. They start talking about themselves after the third week.

 Their first conversation at talking about themselves goes something like this:

 ‘So, um what’s your favorite color?’

 ‘Red.’

 ‘Ah, mine’s silver!’

 ‘Mn. Favorite animal?’

 ‘Cats, you?’

 ‘Rabbits. Wei Ying gave me a pair of them once.’

 Needless to say, they now prefer to talk about themselves amidst talking about Wei Ying.

 That isn’t to say that they do not get along outside of conversation, though. Wen Ning, with his endless amounts of patience, has taken to studying Wangji’s every facial expression—with Wangji’s permission (and oh how that conversation had been an awkward one)—and, despite not nearing the level that Wangji’s own brother is on, comes pretty close.

 And he knows when Wangji is having a bad day, when Wangji feels frustrated about something, and he sends new pictures discreetly to Wangji’s phone for him to calm down.

 It’s oddly soothing.

 (And things aren’t the best, but they’re good, and Wangji would be selfish to ask for more.)

 

[Wei Ying <3] lan zhan!!!!!!

[Lan Zhan ♥] Mn.

[Wei Ying <3] sorry I can’t have lunch today I need to finish some assignments lol

[Lan Zhan ♥] Mn. It’s okay.

[Wei Ying <3] I hope you won’t miss me too much!!!!

[Lan Zhan ♥] I have Wen Ning.

[Wei Ying <3] oh no!!!!!

[Wei Ying <3] the hurt!!!!!!!!!

[Wei Ying <3] the betrayal!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

[Lan Zhan ♥] .

[Wei Ying <3] hmph

[Wei Ying <3] hang out with each other then! See if I care!

 

[Wei Ying <3] lan zhannnnnnnnnn

[Wei Ying <3] come back I do careeeeeeeeeeee

[Lan Zhan ♥] -_-

[Wei Ying <3] :D

[Lan Zhan ♥] .

[Wei Ying <3] how are you with wen ning btw 0.0

[Lan Zhan ♥] Wei Ying.

[Wei Ying <3] hmmmmmm???

[Lan Zhan ♥] Shut up.

 

 Wangji wakes in the middle of the night to his phone blaring.

 That in itself is surprising, because he has his phone on mute except for three people—his brother, Wei Ying, and Wen Ning.

 It takes him a few moments to locate his phone, and when he does, his screen is already flashing with the signal that he has a missed call.

 Wen Ning.

 He frowns and picks it up, dialing Wen Ning’s number.

 ‘H-hello?’

 Wangji immediately frowns more, because, yes, Wen Ning usually stutters, but not to this extent, and there are traces of a broken sob being muffled—and Wangji is worried, to say the least.

 ‘Wen Ning?’

 There’s a hiccup. ‘Lan—Lan Zhan, I-I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to disturb you—‘

 ‘It’s okay,’ Wangji interrupts, sitting up straight in bed, ‘What is it?’

 There’s a pause, a few sniffles, and then Wen Ning says, ‘Can you come see me?’

 ‘Your address?’

 Wen Ning rattles off where he lives shakily, and then while he leaves the house, Wangji tells Wen Ning to stay on the call.

 Neither of them talks very much, and the only reason Wangji can hear Wen Ning properly is because of the occasional sniffle that comes through. Wen Ning’s house is not very far away, but Lan Wangji still takes his motorcycle with him, if only because he wants to get there faster.

 When he arrives, Wen Ning is already waiting outside, the streetlight outside his house casting a long shadow over him.

 Wangji slows to a stop, and then takes off his helmet.

 Wen Ning looks at him with wide eyes.

 ‘Come,’ Wangji says, when he feels that the silence is getting too oppressive.

 Wen Ning steps over and hesitantly places himself behind Wangji.

 ‘Put your hands on my waist,’ he instructs, and pretends that his heart doesn’t beat the tiniest bit faster when Wen Ning does.

 ‘Hold on.’ And with that, he kicks off, slowly gaining speed until they’re gliding through the streets, silent save for the roar of the engine in the depth of the night.

 Wangji does not know how long they stay like that, with him driving about town and both of them silently enjoying the wind that whips through their clothes, and Wen Ning’s arms, from where they had been tensed at the beginning, start to loosen, hugging him from the back softly.

 His touch does not feel as other people’s do.

 Finally, Wangji stops them at a park near his house. Wen Ning starts, and then scrambles from his motorcycle after Wangji.

 After leaving it, Wangji moves to take Wen Ning’s hand and freezes.

 That—that had been completely instinct, Wangji thinks, almost a bit fearfully, and the way his hand is floating in the air between him and Wen Ning is a little embarrassing, but—

 —but then Wen Ning flushes and looks away, averting his gaze, and his hand comes too fast, almost as if he would’ve stopped himself if he was any slower, to clutch Wangji’s own.

 Wangji starts, but, but he adapts and soon enough he tugs Wen Ning along with him to the spot that he frequents, and not a breath is spoken between them until they are sitting on the grass with their gazes tilted up towards the sky.

 Everything is still.

 Even the distant sounds of infrequent cars and outside noises seem to be mute, muffled by the night and maybe the way Wen Ning’s eyes sparkle in the darkness, maybe by the way he looks up in wonder despite the fact that not many stars can be seen from where they are.

 They sit beside each other, and Wangji likes that he can spend time with Wen Ning like this, in silence and tranquility, without feeling like—without feeling uncomfortable.

 Finally, Wen Ning says, whispers, ‘Thank you.’

 ‘Mn. No need for thanks.’

 ‘But—‘

 ‘No,’ Wangji says, and sees Wen Ning’s expression crumble. ‘We are friends. Friends help each other.’

 Wen Ning lights up, before he looks away and turns to the sky again.

 Wangji finds himself entranced—and it is not the sky that he finds captivating.

 ‘It’s funny,’ Wen Ning says a few minutes later, ‘Qing-jie would scold me and make me tea and tell me that no matter what happens she’ll still be there to knock some sense into my brain. Wei Ying could chatter on about everything and make me forget about my nightmares and then he’d tell me that he’d protect me from anything.’

 Wangji meets Wen Ning’s gaze and nods.

 ‘But you,’ Wen Ning pauses, smiling, ‘You didn’t even have to talk to calm me down. I don’t even know how you did that? But—thank you, Lan Wangji. You truly are too good for this world.’

 Wangji knows that this is how people see him, how people think of him, and Wei Ying himself has teased Wangji with it, but hearing Wen Ning say it is somehow—different.

 Maybe it is the way Wen Ning sounds so sincere, the way his voice is so soft and earnest, the way he smiles and looks as if Wangji hung up the stars for him.

 Wangji turns away from him, and says, hums, really, ‘We are friends.’

 Wen Ning huffs out a small laugh and ceases talking.

 And in the space of time his eyelids droop from exhaustion, Wen Ning has moved so that their sides are pressing against each other, and he’s almost leaning his head on Wangji’s shoulder.

 Everything is still, and Wangji thinks that the picture would be complete if only Wei Ying were here.

 The thought sends a sharp stab of something into him, but his befuddled mind refuses to make sense of it and stores it away for later pondering.

 Wen Ning shifts, and then Wangji turns his head, miscalculating and going a little bit too much into Wen Ning’s personal space, so close that their breaths fan across each other’s faces.

 And yet, neither of them move.

 Wangji blames sleep deprivation for everything.

 And then Wen Ning giggles, blowing a puff of air onto Wangji’s cheeks, ‘Hey, the stars are beautiful tonight.’

 Wangji knits his eyebrows together.

 ‘But you know what’s more beautiful?’

 Wen Ning’s eyes twinkle, and then Wangji knows.

 ‘Wei Ying,’ they say together, in tandem, their words coming out perfectly in sync.

 Their quiet laughter echoes through the night.

 

[Wei Ying <3] lan zhannnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn

[Lan Zhan ♥] Mn.

[Wei Ying <3] you looked tired in class did anything happen owo

[Lan Zhan ♥] Nothing. I was fine.

[Wei Ying <3] if you say so….

[Lan Zhan ♥] Mn.

[Wei Ying <3] are you sure tho???????

[Lan Zhan ♥] Mn.

[Wei Ying <3] absolutely sure??

[Lan Zhan ♥] Mn.

[Wei Ying <3] pinky promise?

[Lan Zhan ♥] -_-

[Wei Ying <3] ahahahaha lan zhan youre so cute! :3

[Lan Zhan ♥] Ridiculous.

 

 

 So.

 It’s kinda official now, Wangji thinks mildly, running his fingers along his guqin.

 He likes Wen Ning.

 In addition to Wei Ying, his mind supplies, because Lan Wangji is nothing short of a masochist who likes to torture himself with unrequited feelings.

 Wei Ying he can handle, he’s been doing that for give or take a decade, and it’s easy to squash down the fireflies of hope that rise within his chest every time Wei Ying is nice to him.

 But Wen Ning is different. Not by much, but he is still different from Wei Ying—he still shines with a quiet light of his own—and Wangji despairs at the thought of having to deal with feelings he’d learned to deal with years ago.

 That night—the night where Wen Ning had called him in a frenzy—had kick-started this entire thing, Wangji thinks.

 Maybe it’s the way they looked at each other in the dying light of the moon, maybe it’s the way Wen Ning had looked ethereal bathed in the warm glow of the sunrise, maybe it’s the way they finally stood up after hours of silently appreciating each other’s company, legs sore and asses numb, maybe it’s the way Wen Ning had silently twined their fingers  together on the short walk back and maybe it’s the way Wen Ning leaned on him and provided him with a warmth on his back that he misses even now.

 So when his brother sits down in front of him, opening his mouth in a greeting, Wangji wastes no time in telling him about everything that had happen since they last saw each other to Xichen’s open-mouthed gaze.

 ‘Well,’ his brother says at last, ‘I’m not sure if I’m the best person to go to this for, Wangji…’

 Ah. In hindsight, going to his brother, who is in the middle of his own love trifecta with Nie Mingjue and Jin Guangyao—both of whom seem to despise each other (not that they really do; Wangji, as a very gay man himself, can detect the amount of frankly disgusting emotional and sexual tension between the two of them—but he can’t judge, so he keeps his voice quiet)—might not have been the best idea, but his only other option is his uncle, who would definitely rather go for world domination than listen to Wangji’s lovesick ramblings about the two people he despises the most.

 ‘I know,’ Wangji says, and he is sure that his face shows his brother everything he needs to know.

 Xichen lets out a laugh. ‘Wangji, it is to anyone’s bet that either of our relationships will work out. But I do hope that you will give your old brother some advice if you do manage to get together with them.’

 Wangji feels his ears turning red.

 ‘Ridiculous.’

 His brother laughs, and Wangji cannot find it in himself to care.

 

[Wei Ying <3] wen ning took some pictures for me!!

[Wei Ying <3] and!

[Wei Ying <3] since my little brother said I look like a gremlin!

[Wei Ying <3] I’m asking for your opinion on this!

[Wei Ying <3] 5 files attached.

 

[Wei Ying <3] helloooooo?

[Wei Ying <3] lan zhan why are you seenzoning meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

[Lan Zhan ♥] You look nice.

[Wei Ying <3] ha! take that jc!!!!

[Wei Ying <3] thanks lz ily

[Lan Zhan ♥] .

 

 ‘I—I can’t,’ Wen Ning despairs, one side of his cheek pressed to his glass of vanilla milkshake, ‘I can’t.’

 ‘Mn.’

 ‘Just—just look at him! He’s so perfect!’

 ‘Mn.’

 ‘Lan Wangji, you—you agree, right? Look, I can’t be the only one suffering!’

 ‘Mn.’

 Wen Ning groans, long and hard, and Wangji can’t help but pity the other, for he himself has been in the exact same situation for too many times to count.

 Except with a lot more internal screaming.

 ‘And he doesn’t even know he’s doing it!’ Wen Ning rants, raising his head and talking with fire in his voice, ‘He pretends he’s flirting with everyone but then he doesn’t actually mean it and then he’s blind as a rock when someone actually flirts back with him!’

 Wangji has felt that pain, and it is with a consoling hand that he reaches out and lays it over Wen Ning’s hand.

 The touch is brief, just a moment, to reassure Wen Ning that even though he doesn’t talk, Wangji is definitely another person suffering under the glaring force that is Wei Wuxian.

 Unfortunately, Wei Ying’s penchant for showing up at the worst times ever makes itself known, when he magically appears out of nowhere to look at Wen Ning and Wangji’s hands and gives them a shit-eating grin.

 ‘Oh? What do we have here?’

 Immediately, Wen Ning’s eyes grow wide, and he splutters incoherently. Wangji almost wants to smile at that.

 ‘Well!’ Wei Ying says cheerfully, too cheerfully, ‘I won’t bother you on your date anymore! Have fun!’

 And just as magically as he had appeared, Wei Ying flounces off.

 Wangji feels a growing sense of dread making itself known in his chest.

 ‘Oh no,’ Wen Ning says, staring after Wei Ying, ‘oh no.’

 Wangji cannot help but echo out an ‘oh no’ of his own.

 

 [Wei Ying <3] congratulations on your relationship!!

[Lan Zhan ♥] Wen Ning and I are not dating.

[Wei Ying <3] oh???? so what was the thing today huh (*^3^)/~

[Lan Zhan ♥] I was sympathizing with him.

[Wei Ying <3] hmmmm???????

[Lan Zhan ♥] A personal matter.

[Wei Ying <3] hm i see

[Wei Ying <3] but still! You’d make a cute couple!

[Lan Zhan ♥] Ridiculous.

 

 And thus, the apparent fact that Wangji and Wen Ning are ‘together’ imprints itself on Wei Ying’s mind, and every time they see him, Wei Ying always makes jokes about how they don’t even hold hands in public.

 And every time, Wen Ning and Wangji share mutual looks of Suffering.

 And it is one day that Jiang Wanyin and Wei Ying are running around in the canteen that Nie Huaisang seems to grow tired of their lovesick pining and snaps his fan closed and lays it delicately on the table.

 ‘So,’ he starts, leaning his elbows on the table and pressing his fingertips together, not looking unlike a villain who has grand schemes planned out far, far into the future, ‘What are you two doing?’

 Well. Isn’t that a question Wangji wonders himself whenever Wei Ying’s around.

 ‘We don’t know,’ Wen Ning says dejectedly, looking at Wangji for help.

 ‘It would be much appreciated if you would tell us,’ Wangji adds.

 Nie Huaisang levels them with a look that he probably learned from his older brother.

 ‘So you’re telling me. That neither of you are planning to confess to him?’

 ‘I mean,’ Wen Ning says, clearly out of his bubble, ‘We don’t want to make him feel pressured to choose, so…’

 ‘So you’re both going to waste away pining after him for another decade?’

 Wangji feels so attacked right now it isn’t even funny.

 Wen Ning, however, has no qualms with nodding.

 ‘I—‘ Nie Huaisang pinches the bridge of his nose, ‘I can’t—you’re both so—‘

 ‘We know.’

 Nie Huaisang takes a deep breath, opens his fan, and sits back demurely, as if he hadn’t channeled all of his brother’s murderous intent literal seconds ago. ‘Well,’ he says primly, ‘I will help.’

 Wangji glances at Wen Ning and sees his own doubt reflected in his eyes.

 

[Unknown Number] You better appreciate this

[Lan Wangij] Who are you?

[Wen Qionglin] I think its nie huaisang?

[Unknown Number] If you don’t tell me what happens I will Murder.

{Message removed}

 

 Wangji is not sure how he’s gotten himself into this particular situation, but with Wei Ying involved, the impossible turn into the most mundane of things, so Wangji should not be judging so quickly.

 Alright—he knows how he’d gotten here. He’d taken Wen Ning on his motorcycle to Wei Ying and Jiang Wanyin’s apartment—the latter had gone out for the night to stay with Nie Huaisang—after Wei Ying had pestered them to stay over as he would be lonely by himself.

 The fact that he had used his puppy eyes had not been good for either Wen Ning or Wangji’s hearts. In fact, Wen Ning had screamed into the wind the entire ride.

 But that is a very big contrast to Wen Ning now, who is shamelessly draping himself over Wei Ying—Wangji finds himself wincing from secondhand embarrassment—and acting like the usual shameless Wei Ying.

 Huh.

 Wangji blinks as an arm flings behind him and pulls him into Wen Ning’s side. Upon further inspection—or maybe hindsight—he finds that it is Wen Ning who had pulled him to his side.

 Huh, he never knew the other boy worked out. Though Wei Ying had once said that he was interested in archery, was he not?

 Wangji shakes his head.

 Wen Ning had become drunk after a bottle of alcohol, and while Wangji knows his own alcohol tolerance is admittedly worse, he also knows that Wen Ning will probably die of embarrassment the moment he wakes up tomorrow.

 ‘Wei Ying!’ Wen Ning says excitedly, ‘You’re blossom!’

 Wangji blinks and exchanges a look with Wei Ying over his shoulder.

 Something soft unfurls itself in Wei Ying’s eyes, and Wangji looks away before he sours the evening with his jealousy.

 When neither of them responds to him, Wen Ning pouts, drawing them all closer in an awkward hug and repeats, ‘You’re blossom!’

 ‘Ah, yeah, Wen Ning,’ Wei Ying says, looking bemused, ‘That’s—thank you?’

 Wen Ning, oblivious to their consternation continues, now talking to Wangji, ‘And you’re bubbles!’

 Wei Ying bursts out laughing at the affronted look Wangji knows he has on his face.

 ‘And I’m buttercup!’

 Oh, Wangji thinks, just in the same moment where Wei Ying says it out loud. Of course—

 Wei Ying, though, takes it in stride, chuckling and leaning into Wen Ning’s space, ‘But your personality is more like Bubbles, don’t you think, Wen Ning?’

 Wen Ning frowns. ‘But—but he’s blue…’

 Wei Ying chokes on his own laughter as Wen Ning turns towards Wangji and—holy shit he’s never seen Wen Ning look so sad, all at the prospect of Wangji’s personality not matching up to a literal Powerpuff girl’s.

 It’s kind of endearing, really.

 ‘I can be Bubbles but without her personality?’ Wangji says, unsure, and Wen Ning smiles, bright and wide.

 ‘Yeah! I don’t match up to Buttercup either!’

 Behind him, Wei Ying is rolling around on the floor chortling with laughter.

 Wen Ning is oblivious to this, and without the presence of Wei Ying by his side, he snuggles into Wangji and rests his head on his shoulder like a lazy cat.

 Wangji is too engrossed in watching Wen Ning that he only notices after the flash goes off that Wei Ying is taking pictures of them both.

 ‘Wei Ying!’

 ‘Lan Zhan!’ Wei Ying replies, voice playful, teasing, and oh, how Wangji wishes that it didn’t do Things to his Poor Gay heart.

 ‘Lan Zhannnnnn,’ Wen Ning drawls, obviously copying Wei Ying, ‘Lan Zhannnnnnnnnnnnnnn…’

 It is a testament to Wangji’s willpower that very much doesn’t crack when Wen Ning climbs into his lap, completely uncaring of the way Wei Ying is gaping.

 Wangji wonders if in this state of mind Wen Ning had mistaken him for Wei Ying.

 What happens next is—

 ‘Lan er-gege,’ Wen Ning purrs, all while messily turning around so that he is straddling Wangji, ‘Hey.’

 Through all the blood that’s rushing to his ears, Wangji manages to say a ‘hello’ in response. He starts with Wen Ning’s arms come up to rest on his shoulders, but his own hands automatically come up to support the younger’s waist when he leans back precariously.

 ‘Lan er-gege,’ Wen Ning whispers again, leaning forward and rubbing his cheek against Wangji’s, ‘Wei Ying is watching us.’

 It’s enough of a murmur that Wei Ying cannot exactly make out what he is saying, but Wangji—Wangji is reaching the end of his tether. For him, having his crush seated on his lap while his other crush watches on is just—

 —embarrassing, to say the least.

 Wen Ning shifts, pressing himself closer to Wangji, and he has a moment to thank the gods that Wen Ning is not like this on a daily basis, otherwise Wangji would have spontaneously combusted a long time ago, and Wei Ying is already bad enough in his shamelessness, before—

 Before a pair of lips touches his own, and Wangji thinks that he hears a sharp gasp somewhere in the background, but then those lips are pressing more insistently against his, and Wangji throws all caution to the wind and kisses Wen Ning back.

 It’s—it’s probably painfully clear that neither of them is experienced, but Wangji thinks dizzily between each kiss that Wen Ning’s kisses are soft and pliant. And then those kisses turn heated, Wangji gripping Wen Ning’s waist tighter, and Wen Ning pulls away for a second only to dive back in.

 Both of them are panting by the time they completely pull apart, and Wangji can’t tell if the flush high on Wen Ning’s cheeks is because of their…actions or the leftover alcohol.

 And then a loud laugh comes from behind them and both of them turn to the side to see that Wei Ying has been filming then, and guilt and embarrassment seep into his heart.

 Without thinking, he blindly grasps for one of the cups of alcohol on the table and throws it back before he can start to regret anything just yet.

 Well. At least Wei Ying’s expression before Wangji passes out can be considered an achievement.

 

[your big bro ;3] Wangji can I stop by later at your place

[your big bro ;3] Wangji?

[your big bro ;3] Wei Wuxian has informed me that you and Wen Ning are at his place

[your big bro ;3] He has also informed me that both of you are, in his words, “piss drunk”

[your big bro ;3] Well have fun and use protection, Wangji!

 

 When he wakes up, it is to a warm and almost suffocating weight on his chest and an equally warm weight on his side.

 It takes a few moments of blinking to reconcile himself with his surroundings, and when he does, Wangji considers going back to sleep and never waking up again.

 So.

 Last night had happened.

 Wangji does not remember what he’d done while drunk, but that is a danger all in itself considering his sober self had been kissed senseless by Wen Ning.

 Wen Ning! Of all people!

 Why!

 Wangji takes a breath, momentarily stunned by how much his heart is hammering in his chest, and then very belatedly realizes that he’s on the same bed with both objects of his affection.

 Wen Ning is curled into his side, and it seems that his hand is fitted into Wangji’s own, while Wei Ying is sprawled across both of them with his arm hanging off the bed awkwardly.

 For a moment, Wangji considers going back to sleep, but his stomach grumbles loudly and he decides to get up and eat something—as unhealthy is Wei Ying’s kitchen is—before the loudness of his stomach wakes up either of them.

 It is a cruel twist of fate that he is the one facing the wall and his way out is blocked by two people.

 Wangji sighs.

 Dislodging himself from Wen Ning and Wei Ying is an arduous task in itself, and Wangji has to makes sure that he doesn’t send either of them flying to the floor with his attempts to keep himself from dying of starvation.

 Hesitantly, he places a soft kiss onto both of their foreheads and quietly pads out to the kitchen.

 Where Jiang Wanyin is sitting.

 Wangji pauses for a second, and then continues on his way. Looking for anything healthy to eat isn’t really an option, so Wangji opts for the instant noodles they keep stocked.

 ‘Would you like anything?’ Wangji asks Jiang Wanyin out of courtesy.

 Jiang Wanyin raises an eyebrow, flipping his book closed and stretching, ‘I didn’t know one night stand etiquette involved cooking for the person’s roommate.’

 ‘It doesn’t.’

 ‘And you’re so well-versed in it?’

 ‘No.’

 Jiang Wanyin lets out a short laugh. Wangji taps his fingers on the counter as the water starts to boil.

 ‘I saw you three.’

 Wangji’s fingers still. ‘Mn.’

 ‘You—‘ Jiang Wanyin stops, continues, ‘When are you going to choose?’

 ‘Choose?’ Wangji repeats, finally turning to see the other.

 Jiang Wanyin stands up, scraping the legs of the chair against the tiles and making Wangji wince, and comes to stand directly in front of Wangji.

 ‘Well, yeah,’ he says, frowning, ‘If you don’t choose between my brother and Wen Ning, someone’s going to get hurt.’

 The only person getting hurt is him, Wangji thinks mildly, because Wen Ning definitely has more chance with Wei Ying considering how much the latter talks about him, but Wangji does not say that out loud.

 Instead, he says, ‘I don’t have to.’

 ‘Hah?’

 ‘I don’t have to,’ Wangji repeats, ‘because neither of them love me and it would be foolish to hope so.’

 Jiang Wanyin’s expression transforms into one of incredulity, tinged with annoyance. He bites out, ‘So you really think that?’

 Wangji nods.

 Jiang Wanyin lets out a laugh that is akin to a bark, and mutters, ‘Of course you would.’

 Wangji does not reply, and Jiang Wanyin decides to take his leave, grabbing his book and walking noiselessly out of the kitchen, but just as he reaches the door, he turns back one final time.

 ‘Be warned, Lan Wangji,’ he says, sneering, ‘If either you or that Wen hurt my brother, I will make sure neither of you will be able to see the light of day again.’

 It’s not a very creative threat, as far as they go, but the steel in Jiang Wanyin’s voice and the coldness of his voice make the words dangerous anyways.

 And when he is alone in the kitchen, Wangji lets himself snort.

 As if Wei Ying would ever deign to be hurt by someone like him.

 

 Later, while Wangji is eating, Wen Ning comes into the kitchen, wearing one of Wei Ying’s shirts and plopping down beside Wangji with a tired yawn.

 He gets up to grab a bottle of water and two bars of chocolate, and then they eat together in silence, and it is only when Wangji finishes his noodles that Wen Ning asks, ‘What happened?’

 ‘How much do you remember?’

 ‘Um,’ Wen Ning says, ‘Not much after the first bottle.’

 Wangji grimaces. It’s just his luck that they kissed, and Wen Ning doesn’t even remember it. A horrible guilty thought comes to him, and he thinks a bit hysterically that if Wen Ning knew he accidentally kissed Wangji while thinking it was Wei Ying, Wen Ning would probably stop speaking to him out of a misplaced sense of embarrassment or concern for Wangji, when in fact it is the last thing Wangji would want.

 ‘You assigned different Powerpuff Girls to us,’ Wangji tells him, ‘and cuddled with Wei Ying. I became drunk as well after that.’

 It must have been the wrong thing to say, because Wen Ning pales considerably.

 ‘A-ah,’ he says, resolutely not looking at Wangji in the eyes, ‘I-is there anything else?’

 One of the rules his family has always followed is ‘no lying’, and Wangji would be loathe to disobey it just to save himself from some embarrassment.

 ‘You kissed me.’

 And that definitely was the wrong thing to say, because Wen Ning jerks away from him and looks at Wangji with wide, terrified eyes.

 ‘I-I’m sorry,’ Wen Ning stutters out at first, and then he completely backs away from Wangji, ‘I’m so sorry, I’m sorry, please don’t hate me, I’m sorry for what I did, just please—‘

 Wangji stands up, barely paying any mind to the way the chair screeches, and hugs Wen Ning.

 Wen Ning goes still, but he is still trembling minutely, and a suspicious wet spot starts forming on Wangji’s shoulder.

 ‘It’s fine,’ Wangji says, ‘I did not mind it.’

 Wen Ning hiccups. ‘Lan Zhan, you’re really too perfect…’

 ‘Am not.’

 Wen Ning lets out a wet laugh.

 In another few minutes, Wangji leads Wen Ning back so that they can sit down at the table again, drawing his chair close to Wen Ning’s so they he can keep on hugging Wen Ning while the latter morosely finishes his chocolate.

 ‘Look on the bright side,’ Wangji says, unable to resist saying what he wants this one time, ‘At least we won’t fight over who kisses Wei Ying first.’

 Wen Ning stares at him with big, wide eyes, and just as Wangji is starting to regret his entire existence because of one stupid joke, Wen Ning giggles.

 Wen Ning giggles, and Wangji wants to hug him forever because he is so cute.

 Those giggles turn into full-blown laughter after a few seconds, and even Wangji cannot stop his lips from twitching at Wen Ning’s uncontrollable shaking laughter.

 

 (From the door of the kitchen, Wei Wuxian watches them with a smile that is hard to keep.)

 

 In the end, they get off very lightly—Wei Ying just shoves the video into their faces and laughs when both of them turn red—and Wangji pointedly does not thank Wei Ying for sending the video to him so he can keep it saved in his phone.

 But something lingers on Wangji’s mind; Wei Ying’s laughs are smaller, more hesitant, and he does not look either of them in the eye when they finally leave his house.

 Neither of them says anything as Wangji drops Wen Ning off, though, and Wangji thinks he might be over thinking whatever happened.

 ‘Um, bye then,’ Wen Ning says, shuffling awkwardly, ‘thanks for sending me.’

 Wangji nods and speeds away.

 He also screams into his pillow once he gets home, but no one has to know that.

 

[Nie Huaisang] are you fucking kidding me.

[Nie Huaisang] I gave either of you the opportunity to make out with wwx while being drunk

[Nie Huaisang] and yet you waste that opportunity

[Nie Huaisang] by kissing EACH OTHER

[Nie Huaisang] god I get why jc is so angry all the time now

[Nie Huaisang] must be the constant exposure to you two.

[Lan Wangji]

[Wen Qionglin] hey that’s kinda rude…

[Nie Huaisang] I don’t care!!!

[Nie Huaisang] well yes I do bc I admire you both

[Nie Huaisang] but that’s not the point!

[Lan Wangji] And the point is?

[Nie Huaisang] pardon me

[Nie Huaisang] The point is that you both are Dumbasses!

[Wen Qionglin] it’s not my fault I got drunk…

[Lan Wangji] You kissed me thinking I was Wei Ying, though.

[Wen Qionglin]

[Nie Huaisang] *sigh*

 

 After that, everything is mostly fine again. They go about their lives, Wangji meets up with Wen Ning once a week, and all three of them hang out every now and then.

 And one night, at around one thirty, Wangji receives a call.

 ‘Hello?’

 ‘L-Lan Zhan?’

 ‘Wen Ning?’ Immediately, he’s on his guard, sitting straight up and already pulling on a pair of trousers that won’t be too cold for the night outside.

 ‘Y-yeah, hi, um, can you pick me up again? Please?’ Wen Ning’s voice is so small and meek and usually Wangji would definitely not like that type of character, but Wen Ning sounds so vulnerable and trusting that Wangji’s heart aches instead.

 ‘I’m coming.’

 With a whispered ‘thanks’ Wen Ning drops the call, and Wangji makes his way to his house as quick as he can without violating any speed rules.

 ‘Hi,’ Wen Ning says, blotchy eyes visible even in the dim light, ‘Thank you.’

 ‘Mn. No need.’

 Without saying anything more, Wen Ning scrambles to climb on behind him, automatically resting his hands on Wangji’s waist. Wangji has never been more grateful to the fact that he’s facing forwards and Wen Ning can’t see him right now.

 And, like the last time, Wangji drives around, until Wen Ning seems to relax, and then still like last time, he stops at the park.

 This time, it’s even natural for him to take Wen Ning’s hand and lead him to the place they’d stayed in before.

 They rest against each other, back to back, and Wangji wonders how much more complete the picture would be if Wei Ying were here.

 ‘Thank you,’ Wen Ning says suddenly, ‘I know I—probably say it a lot, but thank you for caring about me to do things for me like this. I really do mean it.’

 ‘Mn,’ Wangji says, feeling out of his depth, ‘I do not mind doing this for you.’

 Wen Ning laughs a bit, and then they fall silent again.

 ‘If you do not mind,’ Wangji starts, ‘Do you have nightmares often?’

 ‘Um, yes, kind of? I don’t know why, and my sister says it was the way I was raised, but thankfully they’re less than when I was younger. I mean, it only happens, like, once a week now, so…’

 Wangji frowns. Once a week is still too much, he thinks privately, but…

 ‘Call me.’

 He hears Wen Ning take in a startled breath. ‘W-what?’

 ‘Whenever you need someone after a nightmare. Call me.’

 Wangji thinks he hears a wide smile in Wen Ning’s voice as he agrees.

 And they stay there, until two hours later, until Wen Ning starts to droop from exhaustion and Wangji thinks he’s hallucinating from lack of sleep.

 And if their hands find each other in the cover of the night, neither of them says anything about it.

 

 Wangji nods his goodbye as Wen Ning gets off, preparing to start his motorcycle again.

 And suddenly, Wen Ning whirls around on the pathway and rushes back to him.

 Wangji stills.

 Wen Ning reaches him, and—he looks cute even in the darkness of the night, Wangji thinks dazedly—in flash—

 He kisses Wangji’s cheek, stutters out a ‘t-thank you!’ and all but flees into his house, slamming the door so hard it makes Wangji wince.

 After that, though, Wangji touches his cheek, where Wen Ning had kissed him, and he smiles.

 

 (Soon after he leaves, a very annoyed sister is woken up by uncontrollable shrieking.)

 

 So there’s this thing about habits—they’re habits.

 And for Wangji, who has been taught to sleep from nine to five every day, his body absolutely decides that it simply cannot have Wangji have a few gaps in his sleep without Fatal Consequences.

 Too many times, he has lost concentration in class, only for Wei Ying to poke him to consciousness and give him a worried stare that he resolutely ignores for the rest of class.

 It doesn’t help that Wei Ying shares those concerns with Wen Ning, who looks incredibly guilty every time Wei Ying brings it up.

 But it’s fine, Wangji thinks, as long as Wen Ning and Wei Ying are happy, he would do anything for them.

 

 The fifth time Wangji takes Wen Ning out at night, Wei Ying shows up.

 Well, it’s not showing up as much as calling Wen Ning, who has his phone one silent and unfortunately doesn’t notice, and after that Wangji, who does notice, and almost punches his phone when the loud blaring interrupts Wen Ning talking.

 ‘Hello?’

 ‘Lan-Lan Zhan?’ Wei Ying’s voice is teary, panicky, and Wen Ning shoots Wangji a worried look when he sees Wangji’s brows furrow. ‘A-are you there?’

 ‘Wei Ying? What’s wrong?’

 ‘A-ah,’ Wei Ying laughs, but it comes out sounding like a sad hiccup, ‘I-I’m fine, Lan Zhan! Just-just missed you, is all…’

 ‘Wei Ying,’ he says firmly, ‘How can I help?’

 ‘H-help? Ah, Lan Zhan, you don’t have to…’

 Wangji waits.

 ‘Okay, yeah, um, some help would be appreciated,’ Wei Ying sniffs out a watery laugh, ‘Can you please come get me?’

 ‘Mn. Your house?’

 ‘Yeah, thanks.’

 With that, Wangji cuts the call and turns to Wen Ning.

 ‘Is he okay?’

 ‘I have to go get him.’

 Wen Ning’s eyes widen, but before he can speak, Wangji gets up. ‘I will go get him. Will you wait?’

 Wangji waits for Wen Ning to nod, and then makes his way to his motorcycle.

 It takes him more or less some time to get to Wei Ying, who’s standing out on the cold and rubbing warmth into his arms.

 Wangji shrugs off his jacket and hands it to Wei Ying, who takes it silently and climbs on.

 ‘Hold on,’ Wangji tells him, and Wei Ying does, burying his head between Wangji’s shoulders.

 The ride is quiet, and Wangji feels unsettled at how quiet it is without Wei Ying to fill the silence that accompanies them.

 He would have liked to take Wei Ying for a ride around the city, as he usually does with Wen Ning, but that usually takes about an hour and Wangji definitely does not want to leave Wen Ning to freeze in the cold.

 Because of that, the ride ends up short, and when Wangji stops, Wei Ying does not make a move to get up.

 It takes Wangji an embarrassing amount of time to realize that Wei Ying has fallen asleep.

 It also takes an absurd amount of time for Wangji to maneuver himself so that he can shift Wei Ying into his arms and go to meet up with Wen Ning again.

 Wen Ning is found easily, the glow of his phone lighting up his surroundings, and he scrambles to his feet once Wangji pads into the clearing.

 ‘Is he asleep?’

 Wangji nods, and then sets himself onto the ground while trying not to jostle Wei Ying too much. He ends up sitting cross-legged with Wei Ying lying sideways on his lap like an overgrown toddler.

 Wen Ning watches with an unsettling amount of curiosity.

 And Wei Ying shifts, shivering despite the jacket Wangji lent him, and Wangji frowns.

 He gestures for Wen Ning to come closer, and when he does, he tells him to sit.

 Wen Ning, clearly hesitant, sits just a few inches away from Wangji.

 ‘Wei Ying is cold. Needs more warmth.’

 When Wen Ning catches the meaning of Wangji’s words, he blushes, his whole face turning an alarming shade of red that Wangji finds some amusement in. Even after kissing him, Wen Ning’s still so adorably shy sometimes…

 Wangji shakes his head to rid himself of those thoughts, and then they end up something like this: Wangji is still sitting cross-legged on the ground, but Wen Ning his both his legs on either side of Wangji’s waist, just shy of straddling him, and Wei Ying is comfortably settled in between two of them.

 Wen Ning and Wangji link their hands behind Wei Ying for a makeshift pillow.

 And that is how they stay, Wen Ning and Wangji occasionally whispering to each other and shifting every time they start to get numb.

 Wangji does not know how much time has passed, but he does not want to wake Wei Ying, and neither does Wen Ning, so they resign themselves to staying like this the entire night—morning?—until Wei Ying wakes up.

 Somewhere in time, somehow, they end up—

 ‘Do you think he’ll ever know of our feelings?’

 ‘Don’t think so.’

 ‘You’re probably right.’ A laugh. ‘Besides, even if he does, he’ll probably choose you.’

 A frown. ‘Why?’

 ‘Well, because…you’re so you, you know?’

 (Wangji doesn’t.)

 ‘Anyone would be lucky to be with you.’

 A blink. Sleep deprivation. ‘Even you?’

 A pause, a huff of air, a look averted. ‘Even me.’

 No reply.

 ‘Lan Wangji.’ Soft.

 ‘Mn?’

 ‘I—‘

 A shift in between them.

 ‘Mn?’

 Nothing.

 ‘Wei Ying talks about you.’ Sudden. ‘He is very friendly with you.’

 ‘He is with you as well.’

 ‘Mn. Different.’

 A giggle. ‘How?’

 ‘The way he looks at you—‘ pause—‘different.’

 A huff. ‘That’s because you can’t see the way he looks at you while you’re not watching.’

 ‘Mn. Maybe we are both misled.’

 So close. ‘Lan Wangji.’

 ‘Mn?’

 ‘I-I think—‘

 ‘Mn?’

 Short breaths.

 ‘It’s okay. You don’t have to tell me.’

 ‘I do!’ Startlingly loud. Flushed cheeks.

 A hand cups the back of his head, stroking slowly. Breaths even out. His hand comes up to lightly grasp his wrist.

 ‘I—‘

 Close.

 So close, yet so far.

 So close, that they go a little cross-eyed (a giggle), so close that they can count the stars in each others’ eyes, so close that the weight between them is the only thing grounding them.

 So close—

 Not close enough.

 Wangji does not know what propels him forward, but it does, and between one blink of an eye and another, he’s pressed his lips hesitantly to Wen Ning’s.

 And he pulls back, even after he lets himself linger, even after Wen Ning does not respond.

 ‘Sorry.’ The word comes out frigid.

 And Wangji wants to leave, wants to run away from the pounding that is in his heat, from the guilt that gnaws on his bones and settles heavy in his stomach, but Wei Ying is still there, and he slumps over, staying at least for Wei Ying’s sake.

 Wangji repeats, ‘I’m sorry—‘

 And Wen Ning crashes towards him, with not much force but still enough to take Wangji’s breath away, to make his heart stop and start again with the ferocity of a beast awakened—

 And what can Lan Wangji, only a man, do, if not press back with equal fervor and warmth?

 Wen Ning’s hand presses on his neck, cold, and Wangji follows, kissing with an intent he only knew he had for Wei Ying, kissing so much he’s left breathless, just kissing and taking in all of Wen Ning.

 And when they finally break away, panting and knowing nothing but each other, they rest their foreheads on each others’.

 ‘I—‘

 Their voices come out, unsteady, shaky, and Wen Ning giggles.

 ‘Wen Ning? Lan Zhan?’

 Both of them startle.

 In everything that had happened, they’d forgotten about Wei Ying.

 Irony at its finest, Wangji thinks.

 ‘Where am I?’

 ‘Park near Wen Ning’s.’

 Wei Ying blinks, slowly drawing himself into a sitting position. ‘Wait—am I sitting on both of you?’

 Wen Ning nods.

 ‘Aiyah!’ Wei Ying throws up his hands to hide his face, ‘So kind of you both to include me in your relationship!’

 Wangji freezes, sharing a look with Wen Ning. Does he know…?

 It doesn’t help that Wei Ying’s arms are resting against their chest, and there is no way he could possibly miss the way Wangji’s heart starts jackrabbiting when he says that.

‘Oh,’ Wei Ying says, and yep they’re definitely done for.

 ‘Um, it’s not what you think?’ Wen Ning says meekly.

 Wei Ying laughs, loud and bright and cheerful, as he hooks both his arms around their necks and draws them all together. ‘It’s fine guys! I don’t mind, really!’

 Wen Ning and Wangji glance at each other.

 ‘Wei Ying…’

 ‘I won’t feel left out or anything! So it’s fine to say you’re in a relationship in front of me, haha.’

 What.

 What is he saying…

 Wei Ying stills, his laughter petering out when neither of them respond. ‘Um, is that not what it was?’

 Wangji meets Wen Ning’s eyes, silently—

 It’s time.

 ‘Wei Ying, I—‘

 ‘Wait, aren’t both of us going to say it?’

 Wangji blinks. ‘We are?’

 Wen Ning shrugs, but Wangji sees how his hand trembles, and reaches over, lacing their fingers together. Wei Ying follows their moments.

 ‘Wei Ying, I,’ they say together, voices stumbling, ‘We love you.’

 There is a pause in which Wangji definitely does not consider running away, and then Wei Ying giggles. He fucking giggles.

 ‘Well yeah!’ he says, lips curling into a bright grin, ‘I love you guys too! But I meant, ah, your more romantic affection towards each other.’

 Wangji stares.

 How had—how had Wei Ying not gotten it? How did not realize that both of them were confessing! HOW!

 Wangji shares a mutual look of despair with Wen Ning, and decides. What’s done must be done.

 And so, with Wen Ning’s nod, Wangji mirrors his actions from earlier and cups Wei Ying’s cheek with one hand.

 ‘Lan Zhan, what are you—‘

 Kissing Wei Ying is both what and not what he expected. His lips are chapped, but from where Wangji has expected roughness comes only a gentle hesitance, and he seems to melt into Wangji’s touch like it’s the most natural thing for him to do.

 Wangji does not kiss him for long, but, yet again, he lets himself linger, drawing back and barely restraining himself from kissing Wei Ying senseless when he sees the look in Wei Ying’s eyes.

 Wen Ning doesn’t wait for long to draw Wei Ying into a kiss himself, tugging on the front of Wei Ying’s shirt and kissing him as if his life depends on him.

 Wangji cannot look away, and—

 There is no jealousy curling in his gut. Instead, there is only a gentle satisfaction, of having the two people he loves here with him and having kissed them minutes before.

 And when Wen Ning takes a bit too long, who could blame Wangji for leaning forward and kissing a trail down the side of Wei Ying’s neck?

 

 Later, when they can all barely keep their eyes open despite the fact that it’s probably four in the morning, Wei Ying asks, ‘Wait, so when you said that you loved me you meant it romantically?’

 Wangji does not know if he wants to laugh or cry.

 ‘Okay, yeah, stupid question nevermind.’

 Wangji kisses his neck again in lieu of a response.

 From the other side, Wen Ning giggles.

 ‘Did you know about each other?’

 ‘Mn. Everyone did.’

 ‘Everyone?’

 ‘Mn.’

 ‘Oh—so that’s why Nie Huaisang was glaring at me…’

 ‘Yeah.’

 Wei Ying smiles, bright and happy and Wangji cannot even mask his own happiness, not when his arms are wrapped about both Wen Ning and Wei Ying, so he hides his face in Wei Ying’s arm and says, ‘Wen Ning and I talked about you a lot.’

 ‘We did,’ Wen Ning agrees.

 ‘That time you started thinking we were dating…’

 ‘I was ranting about you and Lan Zhan was telling me he knew how he felt,’ Wen Ning supplies.

 Wei Ying blinks, once, twice, and Wangji feels his heart bursting with love as his face progressively gets redder and redder.

 So cute…

 Wen Ning mutters that thought out loud, and Wei Ying yelps, hurriedly hiding his face and spewing out obscenities of how shameless Wen Ning and Wangji are.

 And Wangji and Wen Ning look at each other, and simultaneously press a kiss to each of his uncharacteristically flushed cheeks.

 Wei Ying wails.

 

 (And later, when Wangji murmurs an ‘I love you both’ to them, Wei Ying smacks his arm and yells hin his face about how he loves them too and Wen Ning stutters out a small but no less meaningful ‘I love you too’, Wangji feels himself smiling.)

 (And two days later, his brother slams a hand down on Wangji’s desk, eyes manic and hair flying about, Nie Mingjue and Jin Guangyao yelling in the hallway, and grits out, ‘Help me.’)

 

[Nie Huaisang] I won the bet thanks guys

 

 Wen Ning, Wei Ying and Wangji, all cuddling on Wangji’s bed, sigh at the message.

 ‘Wei Ying, how did you know about your feelings for us?’ Wen Ning asks, in a bout of curiosity.

 ‘Um,’ Wei Ying says, looking away. ‘I—‘

 ‘Was it when I kissed Lan Zhan in front of you?’ Wen Ning laughs, indicating that it’s a joke, but the way Wei Ying’s cheeks flush say it is anything but.

 ‘Oh?’

 ‘Shut up!’ Wei Ying squeaks, hiding himself and curling into a ball to evade them.

 God, Lan Wangji thinks, I love them so fucking much.