Actions

Work Header

plant a little happiness (let the roots run deep)

Work Text:

Wei Wuxian is halfway up the steps to his apartment building when he hears squealing tires. He turns, just in time to see a car barrel through an intersection on a red light and hit another car making a turn. He's running before the cars have come to a complete stop.

He sees the driver who ran the light practically fall out of his car, but a quick assessment shows he's shaken, but not hurt badly. "Call emergency services," he orders and watches the man fumble for his phone, before he diverts to the other car. The passenger side is badly damaged, enough that he knows trying to open that door will be useless. His breath catches in his throat as he opens the driver's side door.

"Hey," he murmurs softly to the kid looking dazed in the driver's seat, airbag deflating in front of him. "Can you look at me, kiddo?"

The kid does, eyes blinking slowly.

"How are you doing? Anything hurt?"

"Not...I don't think so?" the kid replies. Wei Wuxian gives him a quick examination, hands moving gently over his head down his torso, over his arms and legs. Nothing seems horribly amiss. "What's your name, kiddo?"

"Lan Jingyi," he replies. Wei Wuxian registers the name and very carefully doesn't laugh darkly at his luck. Sure enough, Jingyi and the kid in the passenger seat are both wearing sweatshirts with "Cloud Recesses Academy" emblazoned on the front.

"Well, Lan Jingyi, I'm Dr. Wei and I'm here to help. If you can, I'd like you to get out of the car and sit next to it while I take a look at your friend," he says in his most calming voice.

"Sizhui!" Jingyi gasps and starts to turn.

Wei Wuxian stops him with one finger to his chin while his other hand unbuckles his seatbelt. "I'll take care of him, I promise. Right now, I need you to wait out here, okay?"

He takes off his coat and wraps it around Jingyi's shoulders as he comes out. Once the boy is seated on ground next to the, Wei Wuxian moves into the driver's seat to get a better look at Sizhui. He's not conscious. Wei Wuxian can see blood coming from a gash on his forehead and the white of his sweatshirt sleeve is darkening with blood as well. There's no outward sign of injury on his legs, which are mostly bare because he's wearing athletic shorts.

Wei Wuxian starts talking, voice soft, describing everything he's going to do. There's not a lot he can do outside his emergency room, but he's got some tricks up his sleeve and he can give the paramedics an assessment of his condition when they arrive, which...according to the sound of the sirens he can hear in the distance, will be in about a minute. "Well, Sizhui, I think you'll be okay, but I'm going to stay with you until we get you to the hospital and your guardian shows up, all right?"

He doesn't get an answer, but the kid makes a couple of noises, which is a good sign.

He gets out of the car when the fire department and paramedics arrive. "Dr. Wei!" one of them calls. "What's the situation?"

"The one in the passenger seat has a probable concussion, laceration to the head, and a badly broken arm. I don't have any supplies with me, so I couldn't do much," he rattles off and crouches down next to Jingyi, who is shivering, despite Wei Wuxian's coat. "This one needs a blanket and a more thorough assessment, but I think he's mostly okay. Jingyi, let's go over to the ambulance while these men work."

"Thanks, Dr. Wei."

Jingyi blinks owlishly at him, but lets him pull him to his feet and lead him over to the ambulance. He grabs a blanket out of the compartment they’re stored in and helps him up into a seat.

"Is Sizhui going to be okay?" Jingyi asks after several long moments while Wei Wuxian rummages around for a protein bar or seven. He hadn’t eaten in hours before he came off shift and he’s going to bet Jingyi will want something soon too.

"We need to take him to the hospital to be sure," he says, "but I think he’ll be just fine. Might take a while to be back out on the field with you, though."

Jingyi nods and takes a bite of the protein bar Wei Wuxian hands him. He chews for a moment, then thumps his head back against the wall of the ambulance with a groan. "Uncle is going to kill me."

"No, he won’t," Wei Wuxian tells him. He listens as more sirens get closer. That should be the police. "He’s going to be glad you’re alive. If he wants to kill anyone, it will be the other driver. I saw the whole thing. It wasn’t your fault. You were doing everything right. I’m an extremely reliable witness and a doctor, so I would know."

Jingyi looks skeptical, but a tiny smile has worked its way onto his face, so Wei Wuxian counts it as a win.

The next few minutes are a flurry of activity. A police officer comes over to take their statements while the fire department works on getting Sizhui out of the car and onto a stretcher. The paramedics, whose names he still doesn’t have memorized seem serious, but they’re not moving at the frantic pace of people desperate to save a life, which is a good sign. A few moments later, they’re joining them in the ambulance with Sizhui.

"You joining us, Dr Wei?" one paramedic asks as he pulls the back door shut and bangs on the side to let the driver know they’re ready to go.

"I promised I’d stay until his guardian arrived," Wei Wuxian replies, gesturing to Sizhui. He turns to Jingyi. "Is he your brother?" He certainly looks like he could be a Lan.

"Cousin," Jingyi replies. "I was taking him home after practice. We switch off who drives."

He wants to ask which Lans they belong to, but he figures his curiosity will be satisfied at one point or another. When he’d left thirteen years ago, the ones he knew definitely didn’t have kids old enough to be going to Cloud Recesses now.

He keeps up a steady stream of chatter all the way to the hospital, distracting Jingyi from his injured cousin and the paramedics doing their work.

When they pull up to the hospital, Jingyi goes quiet again. "Can I stay with him?"

"Not for right now," Wei Wuxian tells him as the paramedics move Sizhui out of the ambulance and into the hospital. "The doctor on duty is really good, but she needs room to work, so we'll stay out of her way for a bit. I can check you over while she's doing that and then as soon as they'll let us, we can join him again."

"Dr. Wei, I thought we got rid of you an hour ago," one of the ER nurses calls.

"You'll never be rid of me!" Wei Wuxian replies, grinning. He doesn't remember this nurse's name, either, but to be fair, his shifts rarely overlap with the guy’s. "I witnessed a car accident right outside my apartment, so here I am. What's the census like? Is there a free exam room?"

"You're the most excitement we've seen since before you clocked out," he replies.

"Then I'll take care of Young Master Lan here while Dr. Luo is with his cousin," Wei Wuxian says.

Now that they're in the hospital, Jingyi is starting to look kind of freaked out again, so Wei Wuxian keeps a hand on his shoulder and gently guides him into his usual exam room. The first thing he does is give Jingyi some pain meds, then he washes his hands, pulls on some gloves, and starts his exam. Jingyi is going to have some serious bruising from the airbag and he'll probably be sore as hell for a few days, but he's otherwise fine. He grabs a tub of ointment for the bruising and writes a note ordering rest and minimal activity for a couple of days.

"You should call your families. I can do it for you, if you need me to," he says as he strips off his gloves and tosses them in the trash.

"No, I'll do it," Jingyi says, looking determined.

"I'll step out, then," Wei Wuxian says. "And go check on your cousin. I'll be back soon."

Luo has Sizhui in x-ray. "He woke up once. Was in enough pain that I knocked him out again. He's probably going to need at least one surgery on that arm. Any idea about the parents?"

"His cousin is contacting the family now. I don't imagine it will be long before the entire Lan Clan descends on the hospital," Wei Wuxian replies. "Hopefully I'm gone by the time Lan Qiren shows up," he adds under his breath.

Luo gives him a look, but doesn't comment. "How's the other kid, then?"

"Fine. The usual airbag-induced stuff. Mostly, I think he's shaken up," Wei Wuxian replies. "I'm gonna go back to him."

"I'll keep you updated on this one," Luo says. "I'm admitting him, so he'll be up on the third floor in a couple of hours."

"How's his head?"

"Don't know yet," she replies. "CT scan is next. He seemed fairly coherent when he woke up. Asked about his cousin."

"A good sign," Wei Wuxian says, feeling relieved. He would feel...really terrible if anything truly catastrophic happened to one of the Lan kids on his watch.

He grabs a cup of coffee for himself and some hot cocoa for the kid and slips back into the exam room. "Yes," Jingyi says. "The other doctor is taking care of him, so I don't know anything, but the doctor who helped us thinks he'll be okay. Yes. Yes, the police were there and they talked to us. Yes. The doctor said he saw it and it wasn't my fault at all. He's here now, if you want to talk to him?"

It's only years of practice that keeps the feeling that goes through him at that moment from showing up on his face.

"Okay. I love you too. See you soon," Jingyi says and hangs up. Wei Wuxian holds in a sigh of relief and hands him the cocoa.

"Sizhui's dad is on a plane right now. He's supposed to land in a couple of hours. My parents are in Japan with Uncle and won't be back until at least tomorrow, so our other uncle is coming now," Jingyi explains. "How's Sizhui?"

"Dr. Luo says he woke up for a few minutes. He's currently getting his arm x-rayed," Wei Wuxian replies. "He's gonna have at least one night in the hospital, though."

"Dunno why it always has to be him," Jingyi says, frowning. "He's the best person I know, but he got really sick and had to be in the hospital when he was little, too."

"That's a bummer," Wei Wuxian says quietly and leans against the counter, sipping his terrible coffee. "But he's in good hands now and he obviously has a lot of people who care about him a lot, which means he'll get better even faster."

They only have to wait a few more minutes before the nurse lets none other than Lan Xichen into the exam room. He immediately steps forward and wraps Jingyi up in a hug.

"I'm so glad you're okay," he murmurs. "I got in touch with your parents and Uncle. They're going to get the first flight back tomorrow morning."

Xichen pulls back and Wei Wuxian watches with amusement as his eyes go wide. "Wei Wuxian," he says.

"Zewu-Jun," he responds, smiling. "It's been a very long time."

"Too long," Xichen agrees and schools his surprise into a pleasant smile. "I presume you are the doctor who helped my nephews?"

"You know Dr. Wei?" Jingyi asks, looking curious.

"I went to Cloud Recesses for a while. I was Teacher Qiren's biggest headache, so I have to admit, I'm a little bit thankful Zewu-Jun is the uncle that joined us," he says with a conspiratorial wink, which makes Jingyi laugh, then slap his hand over his mouth and send a nervous look Xichen's way.

Lan Xichen just laughs. "I'm sure...Uncle would manage to remain civil, particularly since it sounds like the person who caused the accident will face proper punishment because of you."

Wei Wuxian grins. "I think you underestimate how much he hated me, Zewu-Jun."

"Well, if nothing else, he wouldn't say anything against the man who helped his grandnephews when they were in such a grave situation," Lan Xichen says and squeezes Jingyi's shoulder. "How is this one?"

"He's going to be extremely sore for a few days and his chest will be black and blue for several more. I've given him ointment for the bruising that can be re-applied every 4 hours. He can also take ibuprofen per the instructions on the bottle to help with the rest. He'll need to rest for at least 48 hours. It's all here, including the excuse for the attendance officer," he says with a wink to Jingyi and hands the printouts he’d grabbed on his way back from talking to Dr. Luo.

"And how is Sizhui?"

"He's doing okay. He woke up and asked after Jingyi earlier, which is a very good sign. Dr. Luo is excellent. I can take you to her if you'd like to speak with her," Wei Wuxian says.

"Please," Lan Xichen says.

"Jingyi, stay here. You should lie down if you need to," he instructs. Jingyi frowns, but does as he's told as Wei Wuxian leads Lan Xichen out of the exam room.

"I'm surprised I didn't hear of your return, Dr. Wei," Xichen says.

"I've only been here a few weeks," Wei Wuxian replies. "I've been so busy settling into work, I haven't even had the time to unpack."

"Ah," Xichen replies. "Well, I'm sure the hospital is lucky to have you. We heard about the incident with the bomb even all the way up here."

"It's the sort of thing we train for, but hope we never have to face," Wei Wuxian says. "I'm just glad my abilities were up to the task."

"I don't think there was ever any doubt they would be, Dr. Wei," Lan Xichen says as they round a corner to see Dr. Luo standing at the nurse's station with a chart in her hands.

Wei Wuxian introduces them and stands by as Dr. Luo gives Sizhui's uncle all the important details.

"Thank you for caring for my nephew so diligently," Lan Xichen says. "May I see him?"

"For a few minutes," Dr. Luo says. "Will you sign the release for the surgery?"

"Of course," Xichen says. "His father should be here in a couple of hours, but if you feel it should be done before then, I will happily sign."

The two of them continue talking as Luo takes Xichen to Sizhui's room. Wei Wuxian turns and makes his way back to the exam room. He feels exhaustion starting to press down on him, but pushes it aside. There are other things to worry about, specifically a teenaged boy currently curled up on the exam room bed and snoring softly. He really needs to go home and sleep in his own bed. Staying here won't help him recover at all.

Lan Xichen slips quietly back into the room a few minutes later, looking troubled. "Thank you again, Dr. Wei, for seeing to them," he says quietly, careful not to disturb Jingyi's sleep. "It eases my heart to know a friend of the family is helping care for them."

Wei Wuxian almost laughs. He's not sure he would use that term, it's not as if he ever did anything but cause the Lans trouble, but if Lan Xichen wants to call him that, he certainly won't argue.

"Speaking of," Wei Wuxian says and gestures to Jingyi. "This one really should go home to rest in his own bed. These beds are uncomfortable for even those in the best condition."

"It seems like you know this from personal experience," Lan Xichen says.

"I do," Wei Wuxian replies with a smile. "I promised I would stay with Sizhui until his guardian arrives and I'm happy to keep that promise if you would like to take Jingyi home."

Lan Xichen frowns. "Dr. Luo says you'd just gotten off shift when you came back with them. I wouldn't want to trouble you."

"It's no trouble," Wei Wuxian assures him and gestures down at Jingyi. "He needs good rest far more than I do."

Xichen gives him a searching look for several long moments, then says, "If you're sure."

"I am," Wei Wuxian replies immediately. "Take him home and let him sleep. Though, I would suggest waking him up to re-apply the ointment and take more pain meds. It's tempting to let them sleep, but the pain will be worse later if you do that."

"I'll do that. Thank you, Dr. Wei," Lan Xichen says and crouches next to Jingyi to wake him up.

Jingyi wakes up with a small groan and Lan Xichen helps him to his feet.

"You'll want to make an appointment with his primary care doctor in a few days to make sure everything is healing as it should be," Wei Wuxian says.

"I'll make sure that happens," Lan Xichen says. "Thank you again, Dr. Wei."

"Thank you," Jingyi says. He moves to bow properly, but Wei Wuxian stops him.

"Ah, ah. None of that while you're injured. If you really feel the need, I'm sure we'll see each other again," he says and reaches out to pat Jingyi's cheek. "Now make Zewu-Jun get you some good food and then sleep, all right? Doctor's orders."

Lan Xichen smiles at him and escorts Jingyi out of the room. Wei Ying rubs his hands over his face, takes a breath, and goes to find the coffee machine again. He takes his full mug in the direction of Dr. Luo and Lan Sizhui.

"Where's Lan Xichen?" she asks when she spots him.

"I told him to take Jingyi home to sleep and promised I'd stay with his other nephew until his father arrives," Wei Wuxian answers.

Dr. Luo narrows her eyes at him. "What's with you and the Lans? You've been like this since we were kids."

Wei Wuxian blinks at her, then points an accusing finger. "You pretended you didn't recognize me!"

"Your memory is so bad, I wasn't sure you recognized me!" she retorts. "Who wants to bring up bad times?"

"Low blow, MianMian," he retorts, pouting.

"Fuck off," she says. "He's in 307."

Wei Wuxian flips her off as he walks away toward the elevator. If Lan Sizhui's already in his room, that means surgery is being delayed until his father arrives. It makes sense. He can't imagine what it would be like to step off a plane only to find out your son is in the hospital badly injured and then not be able to see him because he's in surgery. It's happened plenty of times, due to his own orders even, but only when absolutely necessary.

He snags a stack of magazines from one of the waiting rooms and slips into room 307 to settle into a chair next to the bed. The gash on Sizhui's head is bandaged and he's been cleaned up, but he still looks pale and bruised. "Well, Lan Sizhui, looks like it's just you and me for a while," he whispers.

He switches between reading celebrity gossip and articles about nature until he hears Sizhui start shifting beside him and his eyes pop open. He blinks slowly several times and he scrunches up his forehead in confusion. There's something startlingly familiar about those eyes, but he can't put his finger on what. Probably just that he's a Lan.

"Hi," Wei Wuxian says. "I'm Dr. Wei."

"Jingyi?" he rasps.

Wei Wuxian smiles. "He's fine. Lots of bruises, but just fine. I sent him a while ago with Zewu-Jun to go home and sleep. Your dad should be here in an hour or so."

"Okay," Sizhui replies, shifts enough to jostle his shattered arm, and lets out a moan.

"There's a button near your left hand if you need to call the nurse for more pain meds," Wei Wuxian says gently. "Better for both of us if I don't try to poach Dr. Luo's patient."

Sizhui, he notices, doesn't push the button.

"You don't need to be brave here," Wei Wuxian assures him. "I would much rather you be in less pain and I know your doctor would agree with me. And I don't know your dad, but I'm sure he would agree with me as well."

"But the pain meds make me sleepy. I want to be awake for him," Sizhui says.

Wei Wuxian smiles. "You're a very good son, but I'm absolutely sure he would rather you be asleep than in pain. Now push the button."

Sizhui sighs, but Wei Wuxian sees him push the call button for the nurse, who comes into the room a few moments later.

"What can I do for you?" she asks.

"He needs something for pain," Wei Wuxian says. "I'm not sure what Dr. Luo prescribed, or I'd have done it myself."

"Dr. Wei! I didn't know you were in here!" the nurse exclaims.

"You know me, quiet as a mouse," he says.

"I know nothing of the sort," she replies tartly and turns back to Sizhui. "Would you like anything else while I'm at it?"

"Maybe some water?" Sizhui says.

"Water and another dose coming right up," the nurse says and goes back out the door.

"You're probably wondering who the hell I am and why I'm here," Wei Wuxian says, smiling. "I'm a doctor in the emergency room, but I was going home when I saw the car accident, so I went to help. Jingyi really needed to go home and rest and I'm an old acquaintance of your Uncle, so I promised him I'd stay until your dad got here."

Sizhui nods. "He'll be here soon?"

"Pretty soon," Wei Wuxian replies. "I can't tell you exactly when, but I promise I'll stay until he gets here."

The nurse comes back in with a cup of water and a straw and hands it to Wei Wuxian as she injects meds into the IV.

"Don't try to move," Wei Wuxian instructs. "I'll come to you. Small sips." He leans forward with the straw and sets it against Sizhui's lips. He does as he's told, but his eyelids are already starting to droop again.

"Tell my dad I'm sorry," Sizhui slurs.

"I'll do no such thing," Wei Wuxian says. "You have nothing to be sorry for. I'll tell him you love him, though."

"Okay," Sizhui whispers and then he's asleep again.

"This is gonna be one of those sweet kids we all feel guilty for being sad to see get discharged, huh?" the nurse muses.

"Looks that way," he says. It says a lot that the kid's first thoughts upon waking up each time have been for his cousin, not himself.

"Need a refill on that coffee?" the nurse asks.

Wei Wuxian narrows his eyes. "What will it cost me?"

"This one's free since you're sitting with a sweet kid when you should have been home hours ago," she says. "This is a one-time deal, though. You get your own refills after this."

He grins and hands his mug over. "Then I'll take you up on that with many thanks."

After a few minutes, the room is quiet again and he has fresh coffee in his mug. It's not often he's in this building and without a thousand things to do and he's not entirely sure what to do with himself, so he goes back to reading until Sizhui starts moving slightly and grimacing again. He knows there's no way he can have more pain meds right now and waking him won't help.

"I'm sorry, kiddo," he murmurs, shifts his chair so he can put a hand on Sizhui's shoulder, a point of warmth and contact, then takes a breath and starts humming. There are plenty of studies that show for some patients, music helps soothe them when other things can't, and the Lans are almost universally musically adept. He's got a decent voice and it's worth a shot.

He's gratified to see the furrow between Sizhui's brows smooth and watches him relax again, so he keeps humming softly, moving from song to song he knows, to a melody that he always hums to himself when particularly stressed. He has no idea where he picked it up, but he knows he didn't make it up and knows it's not a popular song.

He's still humming, one hand on Sizhui's shoulder and the other holding a magazine, staring at, but not seeing, the article he’d started when someone sweeps into the room and the tune dies in his throat. The man standing in the doorway is tall and elegant. He looks entirely too good for having just gotten off a plane and, presumably, raced to the hospital.

"Lan Zhan," Wei Wuxian breathes.

Lan Wangji stares at him for several long moments. Wei Wuxian is suddenly very conscious of the fact that his hair is piled on top of his head in a messy bun, that he's still in the scrubs he’d worn all day, that he's exhausted and over-caffeinated, that the bags under his eyes are big enough to be seen from space.

"Wei Ying," Lan Wangji says. "I..." his eyes drop to the figure on the bed and suddenly he's the picture of every concerned father Wei Wuxian has ever been confronted with. He swallows visibly, sinks onto the edge of the bed, and reaches out to brush Sizhui's hair back behind his ear. "How is he?" His voice is hoarse, full of all the things a parent's voice gets full of when their child is hurt.

"He's going to be just fine, Lan Zhan," Wei Wuxian assures him. "He's got a badly broken arm that's going to need surgery, but he's otherwise okay. He woke up about an hour ago and really wanted to be awake for you, but I wouldn't let him because he was in too much pain. I promised I'd tell you he loves you, though."

Lan Wangji's face goes soft and he grabs his son's hand. Wei Wuxian glances away, suddenly feeling like an intruder, like that look on Lan Wangji's face is something that he's not meant to see. Ever.

"Wei Ying, what happened?"

He turns back to Lan Wangji, whose eyes bore into him.

"I was just getting home from my shift when I heard tires squealing in the intersection," he explains. "I saw someone run a light and hit a car making a turn and of course I ran over to see if they needed help. Don't worry, I already gave my statement to the police. They won't get off easy."

He sees the slightest look of grim satisfaction flit over Lan Wangji's face and can't help but smirk.

"Anyway, I checked on the boys. Jingyi has some pretty nasty bruises and he'll be sore for a few days, but he's fine. This one was on the side of the car that got hit, so he was in worse shape. I did what I could while we waited for the paramedics to arrive, then rode over with them. I examined Jingyi while the doctor on duty took care of Sizhui and then your brother arrived. Jingyi was already falling asleep, so I told Zewu-Jun that I would stay here so he could take Jingyi home to sleep somewhere more comfortable. I should go get Dr. Luo. She'll have more information about your son's condition and can talk to you about the surgery."

He hops up out of the chair, but before he can move toward the door, Lan Wangji's fingers wrap around his wrist. "Wei Ying. Thank you."

"Of course, HanGuang-Jun," Wei Wuxian says with a smile. "He's a sweet boy. I'm sorry this happened to him. I"ll be right back."

He practically jogs out of the room and nearly runs into Luo as she steps out of the elevator. "Lan Sizhui's dad is here and would like to speak with you," he says breathlessly.

"Well, it's a good thing I was coming up to check on him, then," she says and moves around him and into Sizhui's room.

"HanGuang-Jun," she greets, voice even, like she's not even surprised. Wei Wuxian narrows his eyes, suddenly suspecting some form of conspiracy.

"Luo Qingyang," Lan Wangji's voice greets.

"It's unfortunate these are the circumstances under which we're seeing each other again," she says. "But since they are, let me tell you about your son's condition and the next steps I would recommend taking."

Since she's got that handled, Wei Wuxian detours to the nearest break room, refills his coffee, and makes a cup of tea for Lan Wangji, hands moving automatically as his mind wanders.

To say he's surprised would be an understatement. Lan Wangji definitely didn't have a three year old when Wei Wuxian had moved back to Lotus Pier thirteen years ago. His memory may be bad, but it's not that bad.

He slips back into the room as Luo tells Lan Wangji about what the surgery will entail and how long it will take. "Now that you're here, I would recommend getting him into an operating room as soon as possible. The sooner we get his bones back where they need to be, the better and faster he'll heal."

Wei Wuxian presses the cup of tea into Lan Wangji's hand and settles himself at the end of Sizhui's bed. Lan Wangji is here now and he's fulfilled his promise, but something keeps him where he is.

"Thank you, Wei Ying," Lan Wangji murmurs and takes a sip. Surprise flits across his face and is gone again when he takes another sip of tea. "Whatever you think is best, Dr. Luo."

She gives a nod. "Then I'll go arrange things. I expect we'll have him in an OR within the hour."

"The orthopedic surgeon is the best," Wei Wuxian says when she's out of the room. "I'd trust her with Jin Ling in a heartbeat."

"That is good to hear," Lan Wangji says.

"Honestly, everyone here is really good," he says. "It's why I accepted the job."

"When did you--"

"Three weeks ago," Wei Wuxian says. "It all happened pretty fast."

"I was very sorry to hear about Jiang Fengmian," Lan Wangji says softly.

"It...thank you." He takes a breath and swallows. "I'm just glad I could help give him a few extra years. Jin Ling got to know his grandfather, so. It was worth it."

And it was, even with all the things he’d given up to help make it happen. He'll never regret it.

"But enough about me. HanGuang-Jun, I may have a bad memory, but I know you didn't have a toddler thirteen years ago. Is he...your stepson?" Wei Wuxian asks. So what if he's fishing a little bit.

Lan Wangji shakes his head. "No. I adopted him not long after you left."

It strikes him, suddenly, that just because his life was on hold while he cared for his ailing adoptive father, it didn’t mean everyone else's was. Thirteen years is a long time, and for everyone else, life had carried on as usual.

"Well, he's obviously lucky to have you as a dad," Wei Wuxian says, ignoring the sense of relief he feels at Sizhui not being Lan Wangji's stepson.

"I am lucky to have him as a son," Lan Wangji murmurs.

"Jingyi said this isn't his first stay in the hospital?"

"Mn. He was...suffering from malnutrition and related problems when I adopted him. He caught the flu and--"

"His compromised immune system made it much, much worse than it should have been," Wei Wuxian finishes..

"Yes," Lan Wangji confirms. "He was in the hospital for a week. His fever got so high, the doctors feared brain damage and when the fever broke, he had very little memory of anything that happened prior to the fever, but he pulled through."

"And grew up to be a fine young man," Wei Wuxian says with a smile. "I've exchanged maybe thirty words with him and I can already tell."

"I'm very proud of him," Lan Wangji says with that soft look on his face again. Something in Wei Wuxian's chest feels tight and he looks away.

He takes a sip of his coffee and looks out the window. It's well and truly dark and probably fucking freezing. He suddenly realizes Jingyi still has his coat and laughs. Now that he's seen them, Wei Wuxian feels like there will be no escaping the Lan family, even if he wanted to.

He looks back at Lan Wangji, who raises an eyebrow at him.

"Jingyi still has my coat," he explains.

"I'll tell my brother to bring it the next time he's here," Lan Wangji says.

"Thanks. It's not really a big..." he trails off and pats his hands over his pockets and laughs again. "No, it's kind of a big deal. My phone and wallet are in the pocket. Tell Jingyi not to go too crazy. My credit cards are still recovering from moving. Not that I've really had a chance to use any of the nice, new things I bought. Except the bed. HanGuang-Jun, do you know how much a decent mattress costs? It's highway robbery."

"Mn," Lan Wangji hums. "I’ll tell him to bring it as soon as possible."

Wei Wuxian waves a hand. "He doesn’t need to trouble himself. The next time someone comes to see Sizhui is fine."

Without his wallet or phone, he doesn’t really have a way to get transportation home, but that’s a problem for later.

Sizhui makes a noise below them on the bed and both of them are immediately alert. Wei Wuxian watches with an assessing eye, looking for anything unexpected.

"Dad?" Sizhui murmurs.

"I am here," Lan Wangji says and leans down to press a kiss to his son’s forehead as he murmurs something Wei Wuxian can’t quite catch. His chest feels tight again. He should probably leave. He’s kept his promise. Jingyi is safe at home and Sizhui’s father has arrived. There’s no reason for him to stay.

Except Luo shows up again and things get busy preparing Sizhui for surgery. Then, Sizhui is gone and Lan Wangji looks vaguely lost. There’s absolutely no way Wei Wuxian could leave him now.

"Come with me," he says hopping to his feet. "Did they feed you on the plane? Never mind, even if they did, it’s not like airplane food ever sticks. You’ll need to eat. I definitely need to eat. How many times did you tell me? ‘Coffee is not a meal, Wei Ying.’ I did learn that lesson. Eventually."

Lan Wangji takes a breath and stands. "All right."

Wei Wuxian leads him down to the cafeteria. He's glad he can pay for food with his employee badge and doesn't need his wallet. They stopped serving fresh food a couple of hours ago, but they're able to assemble meals. On the bright side, there are plenty of clean tables for them to choose from.

"I read your article in the Gusu Journal of Medicine," Wei Wuxian says as he spoons chili oil over his noodles. "It was really, really good. Made me wish--well. Doesn't matter anymore. I'm glad you're out here being brilliant."

Lan Wangji stares at him a moment, chopsticks poised over his food. "Wei Ying. You coordinated care for over 100 critically injured people a year ago. You are...brilliant at what you do."

Wei Wuxian feels warm all the way down to his bones. He smiles. "I do okay. I'd really rather not have a repeat of that one, though."

"Understandable," Lan Wangji says.

As they eat, Wei Wuxian tells several of his more ridiculous stories of his time as an emergency doctor. Lan Wangji seems happy to listen, just like he always was. Hopefully, he's distracting him from worrying too much about Sizhui.

As they're throwing away their trash and putting their trays in the stack to be washed, Lan Wangji answers a call.

"He's in surgery now--I'm fine--His phone and wallet are in the pocket, though he says it's not urgent--"

"It's not!" Wei Wuxian says loud enough that he knows his voice will be picked up. "How's Jingyi?"

"Mn--I will tell him--Thank you--You as well." Lan Wangji hangs up, slips his phone back into his pocket, and turns back to Wei Wuxian. "My brother says Jingyi was so soundly asleep by the time they got home that he had to carry him to bed. He also says that he'll bring over your coat first thing in the morning."

"It's really no trouble," Wei Wuxian insists. "I'll need it eventually, but not immediately. You all have more to worry about than my dumb stuff."

"Wei Ying, hush," Lan Wangji says. "He will be here to see his nephew before work. And even if that weren't the case, you are not a trouble."

"You are too kind, HanGuang-Jun," Wei Wuxian says, smiling. "I am always a trouble."

Lan Wangji stares at him, so Wei Wuxian grins wider. "A joke, a joke. Come, let's check on the progress."

He goes to one of wall phones near the entrance to the cafeteria and calls down to the Emergency Department to see if they know where Dr. Luo is so they don't have to hunt her down. The nurse tells him to meet her in Sizhui's room.

"He's almost out. Should be in recovery within twenty minutes, so you might as well stay here," she explains. "The surgery was pretty straightforward and has gone really well."

Considering that Lan Wangji has always had perfect posture, even when they were in medical school and completely exhausted, the fact that he perceptibly relaxes says a lot about how worried he's been. It makes Wei Wuxian want to reach out and take his hand. He doesn't. He remembers from way back when he was still a student at Cloud Recesses Academy that Lan Wangji doesn't like people touching him.

Luo leaves again and they sit in the chairs they were in before they’d gone to get food.

"HanGuang-Jun, do you still play the guqin?" he asks, suddenly remembering a quiet moment very much like this that had been punctuated by Lan Wangji's fingers on the strings of his zither, rather than Wei Wuxian's foot thumping against the floor.

"Mn," Lan Wangji murmurs. "So does Sizhui. Piano and guqin."

"It seemed like he and Jingyi were on their way home from some sort of sport practice? Do they play lacrosse like we did, Lan Wangji?" he asks.

"They do," Lan Wangji replies.

Wei Wuxian grins, unaccountably delighted. "That's so adorable. I bet he's really good. He's your son, after all."

"He is," Lan Wangji says.

Wei Wuxian laughs, completely charmed that modest-to-a-fault Lan Wangji is so clearly proud of his son. His laugh dies rather quickly when he realizes how awful having a badly broken arm will be for such an active kid.

"Oh, damn. Is he right-handed?"

Lan Wangji nods.

"Oof, that's going to suck," Wei Wuxian says. "I have a bunch of sports medicine contacts if you want a name or two. I mean. You've been here all along, so maybe you already know someone."

"My path does not often cross with physical or occupational therapists," Lan Wangji says. "Any recommendations you might have would be appreciated."

"Xiao Xingchen at Yunmeng Center for Sports Medicine. They're world-renowned and anyone Xingchen might recommend in Gusu will be brilliant," Wei Wuxian says. "I'll text him when I have my phone again."

A few moments later, two orderlies wheel Sizhui back into the room. He watches as Lan Wangji only waits for them to get him situated before he's sinking down next to his son and taking his hand.

They're sweet, Wei Wuxian thinks and his chest feels tight. He wishes he could have seen them as Sizhui was growing up, wishes he hadn't been gone and had known.

He’s definitely reached the point of intruding. He glances to the clock on the wall. It’s almost late enough that going home would be pointless anyway and since he doesn’t have a way to get home without his phone or wallet, he can at least go find somewhere to sleep for a few hours before his shift starts. Thank god he keeps several changes of clothes and scrubs in his locker.

Even so, he finds himself oddly reluctant to leave. Like maybe he can absorb a bit of their sweetness if he stays mostly quiet in a corner of the room.

And that’s his cue. He’s getting maudlin. When he gets like this, he either needs to get spectacularly drunk, or he needs to sleep. Only one is an option.

"HanGuang-Jun, I should stop bothering you," he says softly. "Is there anything I can get you before I go?"

"You’re not bothering me, Wei Ying," Lan Wangji murmurs and looks away from Sizhui’s face to meet his eyes.

Wei Wuxian smiles broadly. He knows it's a lie, he has only ever bothered HanGuang-Jun, but it's sweet of Lan Wangji to say it.

"Give me your phone," he says and wiggles his fingers until Lan Wangji hands it over. "I'll put my number in. It won't do you much good now, but if you need anything, please let me know. And give Sizhui my good wishes. I'll come check on him when I can. I'll get out of your hair now. I'll be here for...well, the next sixteen hours at least, so don't hesitate."

He hasn't done thirty-six straight hours at the hospital in a long while, it's almost nostalgic.

"Wei Ying," Lan Wangji says. He tilts his head and looks at Wei Wuxian's face for a long moment before saying, "Thank you."

"Of course, of course. See you," Wei Wuxian says and makes his escape. He finds the nearest on-call room and is asleep almost before he manages to toe his shoes off.

_____

Wei Wuxian is an hour into his shift, communing with his second cup of coffee, when someone kicks the chair under him and the wheels move a few inches. His coffee sloshes in his mug, but he saves it from spilling.

"You look like shit," Mo Xuanyu tells him. "More than usual, I mean."

"Be nice to me, I've been here twenty-five hours with eleven more to go," Wei Wuxian whines.

Mo Xuanyu stares at him. "Okay, I know you left yesterday. We went out the door together."

"And then I was back less than an hour later," Wei Wuxian replies with a shrug. "Accident outside my apartment. Turns out the worst injured one was the kid of an old acquaintance. I stayed for a bit."

"All night is not 'a bit,'" Mo Xuanyu points out.

"Yes, well. I came in on the ambulance with the kids, so I didn't have my car and then I gave my coat with my wallet and phone in the pocket to one of the boys and he accidentally wore it home," Wei Wuxian says. "So...I slept here."

"Idiot. There are phones everywhere and my number is on at least six lists you have access to. I'd have picked you up," Mo Xuanyu says.

Wei Wuxian blinks. It...hadn't even occurred to him.

"Your sister is right," Mo Xuanyu sighs. "You'd literally kill yourself trying to help other people before asking for help for yourself."

"It's not like I was dying," Wei Wuxian says, waving a dismissive hand.

"As if you'd say a damn word if you were," Mo Xuanyu grumbles.

Wei Wuxian frowns. He's pretty sure that's not true. Mostly. "Don't you have a job to do, Nurse Mo?" he asks.

"The same job you have, Dr. Wei," Mo Xuanyu retorts. "But as you can see, it's pretty quiet in here this morning."

"It was quiet last night, too," Wei Wuxian says. "That's always a bad sign."

"Calm before the storm," Mo Xuanyu says gravely and pulls up a chair next to him. "So whose kid was it?"

"Kid? Oh. Lan Wangji," he replies.

Mo Xuanyu stares at him, "I don't know why I'm surprised you know the Lans. You know everyone."

He shrugs. "Know is a strong word. We...it was a long time ago."

"There's a story there."

Wei Wuxian snorts. "Not much of one. I annoyed him, he scolded me for–" He pauses and waves a hand down his body. "Being. I annoyed him more. The cycle continued until I left. But...I couldn't just leave, not when his son was in surgery."

"So how's the kid doing?" Mo Xuanyu asks.

"He was good when I left. Sucks, though. His arm was pretty well fucked up and the kid plays sports and music," Wei Wuxian explains.

"Oof, that's rough. Well, he's got the Lans and you looking out for him, I'm sure he'll fare okay," Mo Xuanyu says.

"How do you kno--"

He gets a flat look.

"Okay, fine. He's a sweet kid. I'm gonna text Xiao Xingchen for PT and OT recommendations," Wei Wuxian says.

"Uh, Dr. Wei, Zewu-Jun is here to see you?" a nurse says, coming around the corner toward them. Her voice goes hilariously high at the end. They don't often get such important people just walking around, he supposes. It's probably weird how weird it's not to Wei Wuxian.

"Oh!" he says. "Huh. I sort of figured he'd send an assistant or something. Send him on back."

A minute later, Lan Xichen's smiling face appears around the same corner the nurse came around. "Dr. Wei, good morning," he says and holds up the coat. "So sorry for any inconvenience caused."

Wei Wuxian shakes his head and smiles, standing to take the coat from Lan Xichen's hands.

"No inconvenience worth mentioning," he says. Mo Xuanyu snorts softly behind him. "Jingyi was cold and shaken up. He needed it far more than I did. How's he doing?"

"Just as sore as you said he'd be and being very dramatic about it, especially when I wake him up to follow his doctor's orders," Lan Xichen replies, smile softening. "His parents will be home in a couple of hours, which may well increase the dramatics, but will also be good for him."

"I'm glad he's okay," Wei Wuxian says. "He's a sweet kid, just like his cousin."

"On that note," Lan Xichen says, "I wanted to thank you for staying with Wangji last night. I know your presence was very soothing for him."

Wei Wuxian laughs. "There's a first time for everything, I suppose. I was glad to stay. Someone had to bully him into having a meal."

Lan Xichen smiles. "For that, I thank you. I suppose nothing could have convinced him to go home, however."

"Two peas in a pod," Mo Xuanyu mutters.

"You didn't go home, Dr. Wei?" Lan Xichen asks.

"It was simpler to find a room to sleep in here," Wei Wuxian replies and rocks back to step firmly on Mo Xuanyu's foot. "Nothing I haven't done a thousand times before. Oh! Zewu-Jun, have you met Mo Xuanyu?"

"I haven't had the pleasure, but I've heard much about him," Lan Xichen replies with a smile.

"You...have?" Mo Xuanyu asks.

"Your brother, Meng Yao, is dear to me. He's mentioned you many times," Lan Xichen explains.

"He talks about me?"

"Frequently. He's very proud of you and everything you've accomplished," Lan Xichen says.

"I...none of it would have happened if Dr. Wei hadn't intervened," Mo Xuanyu says, looking away.

"Bullshit," Wei Wuxian says. "You're smart. You're resourceful. You'd have found a way. But I'm glad I could maybe make it a little bit easier."

"I agree with Dr. Wei," Lan Xichen says. "You are the one who did the hard work. He merely gave you a hand up. Actually, A-Yao and I have been discussing, inspired by you, setting up a sponsorship program for people desiring to enter medical professions who may need a hand up, as it were. I feel both of you would have valuable insight, should you like to give it."

"I...yes, I'd like that," Mo Xuanyu murmurs, eyes wide.

"Then I'll tell A-Yao to get in touch and set up a meeting," Lan Xichen says.

"Your brother has my number," Wei Wuxian says.

"Of course he does. On that note, I should go up to see him and my nephew. Before I leave, I will attempt to get my brother to go home and rest somewhere comfortable for a few hours," Lan Xichen says and makes a wry face. "Dr. Wei, perhaps if I'm unsuccessful, you'll have better luck."

"I'm not sure how that could be the case, but I'll give it a shot if needed," Wei Wuxian says.

"Many thanks," Lan Xichen says. "I look forward to speaking with you both again soon."

"Zewu-Jun knows who I am," Mo Xuanyu mutters, several long moments after Lan Xichen has left. "He wants to have a meeting with me."

"I mean, it'd be pretty weird if he knew your brother and didn't know who you are," Wei Wuxian points out.

"I didn't know he knew my brother! And that sounded...do you think they're--"

"I think the Lans don't use phrases like 'dear to me' without any qualifications without being ready and willing to accept whatever the listener might assume after hearing it," Wei Wuxian says.

"Huh."

"Your brother does play his cards close to the chest," Wei Wuxian says. "He's very good at deflecting conversation away from himself."

"I just...why wouldn't he have told me when he knows about me?" Mo Xuanyu asks.

"We're not all like you," Wei Wuxian reminds him. "Knowing for as long as we can remember. Maybe he didn't know."

"I still can't believe you--"

"Shut up. I'm going to go, you know, do my job," he says.

Mo Xuanyu's laughter follows him out into the corridor.

_____

The day picks up after that and he doesn't have an opportunity to do much of anything until well after noon when he raids the cafeteria for sustenance and his locker for sugary contraband, then takes it all up to room 307.

"I come bearing treats," he announces as he strides into the room with a grin.

Sizhui's head snaps up and he smiles. "Hello, Dr. Wei. You didn't need to bring me anything."

"Of course I did," Wei Wuxian says and leans close, whispering conspiratorially. "Secret doctor protocol, shh don't tell."

"In that case," Sizhui says. "What kind of treats?"

Wei Wuxian's grin widens. "Well, the best part is my jiejie's cakes, but I also have a bunch of candy and, uh pudding cups from the cafeteria because they like me there. I'll be honest, I'm going to make you share because I'm just now eating lunch."

"Wei Ying," Lan Wangji says from his chair. "Please tell me you're going to have more than sugar."

"Yes, Lan Wangji," Wei Wuxian replies and holds up the noodle bowl he got from the cafeteria. "I told you I learned my lesson. No more living on coffee and sugar alone for me."

He pulls the rolling table over and sets his bounty on it. "Now, I don’t share treats my jiejie sends me with just anyone, so I hope you feel very special."

He glances up to see Lan Wangji staring at him. "What?"

"You always shared with me," Lan Wangji says.

"Hanguang-Jun has always been very special," Wei Wuxian says, trying for a glib tone. "How could I not?"

In truth, for the entirety of their acquaintance, Wei Wuxian has always liked Lan Wangji and Lan Wangji has tolerated him at best.

He knows he has a strong personality, that some people will just never really like him. His own adoptive mother doesn't particularly like him, so he doesn't really expect anyone else to. He's mostly come to terms with that, but with some people, it bothers him more than others. He thinks maybe it's bothered him the most with Lan Wangji.

But there's nothing he can do about it, apart from getting the personality transplant his brother has always insisted he needs. So, he'll share his jiejie's cakes and just be himself because trying to be someone else has never worked for him, and Lan Wangji will still just tolerate him because he's too polite and kind to tell him to get lost.

"So what's the verdict?" he asks Sizhui as he passes him one of the cakes. "How long are you stuck here?"

"Until tomorrow or the next day," Sizhui answers. "Mostly because of my head, not the arm."

"Makes sense," Wei Wuxian says and passes a cake over to Lan Wangji, who takes it with an odd look on his face.

"Oh! Xiao texted me back a couple of hours ago. I have a couple of names and..." he fishes his phone out of his pocket, "if you want the pre-eminent occupational therapist in the country to make a house-call, he says, quote, 'It's been a while since I was in Gusu, so if you want a consult, I'd be happy to make the trip.'"

"That's very generous," Lan Wangji says.

"Honestly, I'm pretty sure he just wants the excuse to come north. His partner has been in Lanling for the last six months working with the Jins on starting up that new clinic," Wei Wuxian explains. "So really, you'd probably be doing him a favor."

"If you're sure it wouldn't be a trouble, I would appreciate it," Lan Wangji says.

"Xiao Xingchen would never offer something he wasn't ready and happy to do," Wei Wuxian says. "He's honest and straight-forward like that. He's almost as terrifyingly righteous and good as you Lans."

"Is that what you think of me?" Lan Wangji asks quietly.

"Lan Zhan, I haven't seen you in over a decade and I still know you're the best person I've ever known," Wei Wuxian says. "You're like the sun. The rest of us are just lucky you choose to grace us with your presence once in a while. Now eat. I won't have anyone wasting my jiejie's cakes."

"Dr. Wei, Uncle Xichen says you went to Cloud Recesses?" Lan Sizhui says. Wei Wuxian knows a redirection of conversation when he sees one, but he's happy to take it.

"I did," he replies. "For...what was it, HanGuang-Jun? Three or four months? When we were sixteen. Long enough for your Granduncle to develop a deep and abiding hatred for me and to make things very exciting for everyone else."

Sizhui's eyes are wide and delighted. "What did you do?"

Wei Wuxian laughs. "I think the better question is 'what didn't I do?' I made it my personal mission to break all three thousand rules."

"There are four thousand now," Sizhui says.

Wei Wuxian lets himself look exactly as horrified as he feels. "How?"

"Your fault," Lan Wangji says from the other side of the bed.

"I don't know whether to feel proud of my accomplishment or very sorry for what I've inflicted upon everyone who came after me," he says and looks at Sizhui. "Four thousand? Really?"

"Granduncle says they're to help us organize our minds while still young and impressionable," Sizhui says, eyes dancing. "I think it just makes us quick thinkers who are able to come up with workable alternatives."

Wei Wuxian puts a hand over his heart and beams at him. "I couldn't be more proud of you if you were my own child."

Sizhui's smile grows and there's something familiar about it, but he can't think what.

"Lan Zhan, I hope you're very proud of your son," Wei Wuxian says and looks at him. The look he gets back is...very odd.

"I am always proud of him," Lan Wangji says after a moment. "Even when he is making statements that would be sure to send his Granduncle's blood pressure to dangerously elevated levels."

"Dad," Sizhui admonishes half-heartedly as his cheeks go pink. It's maybe one of the cutest things Wei Wuxian has seen in a long, long time.

"Son," Lan Wangji responds, with a quirk of an eyebrow and a small upturn of his lips. Wei Wuxian's entire body goes completely still. He's very sure he's never seen Lan Wangji smile in his presence. It's the most beautiful thing he's seen in his entire life. All he can do is stare. He can't even breathe.

"Dr. Wei, are you okay?" he hears Sizhui ask. Lan Wangji's smile vanishes and he turns a concerned gaze on Wei Wuxian, who promptly inhales over the bite of noodles in his mouth and falls into a coughing fit.

"Fine," he gasps between coughs. "I'm fine."

Dying, but fine. He's fine.

He manages to get all the air flowing into his lungs properly again. Lan Wangji produces a glass of water from somewhere, which is honestly good because they're both looking at him with concern in their eyes and he needs something to hide behind for a few moments.

"Sorry, sorry," he says and puts all thoughts of Lan Wangji's smile out of his mind. "Tickle in my throat. Anyway, Lan Wangji, you really have changed in the last thirteen years."

"Mn," is Lan Wangji's only response.

"Dr. Wei," Mo Xuanyu's bored voice comes over the hospital intercom. "Please return to the Emergency Department at your earliest convenience."

Wei Wuxian snorts. At the curious looks he gets, he grins. "That's our code for, 'there's no emergency but the boss came around to look for you a bit ago, so you'd best get back.'"

He shoves the last bite of noodles into his mouth and stands up, stretching his arms over his head. "Speaking of Mo Xuanyu," he says. "Jin Guangyao and Lan Xichen?"

"And Nie Mingjue," Sizhui supplies helpfully.

Wei Wuxian feels oddly delighted by this revelation. Who knew the uber-traditional Lans had it in them? "You leave for thirteen years and miss all the good gossip. Though, speaking of Xichen..." he turns to Sizhui. "Has he been home?" he asks, pointing at Lan Wangji.

"He hasn't. We tried earlier, but he wouldn't leave," Sizhui says.

Wei Wuxian huffs and turns, puts his hands on his hips, and stares at Lan Wangji. "Lan Zhan, go home. Take a nap in a real bed. I'll check in on him or have Mo Xuanyu check on him if I can't until you get back, I promise."

"I'm really fine," Sizhui says.

He is, but Wei Wuxian knows, for a parent when their child is in the hospital, that doesn't matter.

"I promise, I'll call you if literally anything changes," Wei Wuxian says. "You need to rest, Lan Zhan."

Lan Wangji takes a breath and looks to Sizhui who nods. "All right," he says.

A look of surprise passes over Sizhui's face, but he schools his features almost immediately. "I'm probably just going to fall asleep soon, anyway," he says and Wei Wuxian can see the truth in his features and the slump of his shoulders.

Lan Wangji nods, stands, and gathers his belongings. "Text me if you need anything," he tells his son and leans over to kiss the top of his head. Wei Wuxian's chest feels tight again and he has to look away.

"I will," Sizhui promises. "Bye, dad. Sleep well."

"I'll be back later this evening," Lan Wangji says and steps around the bed.

"I'll check in on you soon," Wei Wuxian promises Sizhui. "C'mon, Lan Zhan. I'll call you a cab."

He's already dialed the cab company before Lan Wangji can say anything.

"There," he says as he hangs up. "They'll be out front in five to ten minutes. If I see you in anything less than three hours, don't think I won't...I don't know what I'll do, but I'll think of something," he says.

"Mn," Lan Wangji hums. "You need to go home sometime today as well. Brother says you spent the night here."

"Then we'll form a pact," Wei Wuxian says. "You go home now and sleep for at least three hours and when you get back, I'll go home."

The elevator dings on the first floor and they step out. "It's a deal," Lan Wangji says and turns toward him. "Thank you, Wei Ying."

Wei Wuxian smiles. "It's my pleasure. Now, go. Don't keep the cab waiting. I'll see you in a few hours."

Lan Wangji keeps looking at him for a long moment, then turns and walks out the doors. Wei Ying watches as he gets in the cab waiting outside, drags his hands down his face, and goes back to the Emergency Department.

He finds Mo Xuanyu where they were sitting earlier in the day and flops down in the chair next to him, letting his forehead thunk against the desk with a groan.

"Problem?" Mo Xuanyu asks.

He doesn't lift his head, just starts talking toward the wooden surface. "You know how earlier we talked about how not everyone knows their sexuality early?"

"Yeeees?" Mo Xuanyu answers, dragging out the word.

"I...didn't figure out anything until after I left Gusu," Wei Wuxian replies. "Let's just say a few things about my time during med school suddenly make a lot more sense."

"Ohhhhhhhhhhh my god," Mo Xuanyu says gleefully. "Oh my god. This might be the best thing that's ever happened to me."

"Ugh, you're the worst. Why do I even tell you things?" he whines.

"Because your sister is up in Lanling and after her, I'm your best friend," Mo Xuanyu replies.

"Shit," Wei Wuxian mutters, then repeats with more feeling. "Shit."

"Wei Wuxian, do you have a crush on HanGuang-Jun?" he asks.

"Something like that," he says and finally lifts his head up off the desk. "Hey, I learned more juicy gossip that might also be about your brother if you want to hear."

"I see you trying to deflect, Wei Wuxian. And...no. I want him to tell me himself. If he wants to," Mo Xuanyu says and looks away.

Wei Wuxian reaches out to pat his hand. He knows Jin Guangshan's sons are still learning how to be family. He and Jin Zixuan are doing okay, if only because We Wuxian himself started dragging Mo Xuanyu to family events, but the two of them with Jin Guangyao and him with them is a little more strained, a little more complicated.

All of which goes to show that all families are complicated. Even, probably, the Lans. Actually, now that he thinks of it, definitely the Lans. Lan Qiren has been the de facto head of the Lan family for far longer than Lan Wangji and Lan Xichen's father has been dead. He also can't really imagine Lan Qiren being thrilled about Lan Xichen's love life. But what does he know. Maybe the old man isn't quite so uptight as Wei Wuxian thinks he is.

He snorts then drops his head back to desk.

"What now?" Mo Xuanyu asks.

"I just remembered how much Lan Qiren hates me," he replies with a moan. "Like...pretty sure I'm still the only black mark upon his career as headmaster of Cloud Recesses Academy."

"It's been, what? Twenty years?" Mo Xuanyu asks. "Surely he doesn't still hate you."

"I am absolutely, 100% certain he still hates me just as much today as he did the day he expelled me from Cloud Recesses," Wei Wuxian replies glumly. "Not that it matters. It's not like Lan Wangji would ever feel that way about me."

"I've never met the man, but can I remind you that you have never once realized when someone is into you?" Mo Xuanyu says. "Not once. Ever. Not even when people are practically throwing themselves at your feet, so I don't really trust your judgement on this one. Especially with someone who isn't completely shameless."

"I hate you. Why are you so mean to me?" Wei Wuxian pouts.

"Someone has to keep you humble," Mo Xuanyu retorts. "Now straighten up, I just heard the boss's voice."

_____

Wei Wuxian checks on Sizhui several times over the remainder of his shift. Each time, he finds him asleep, which is definitely a good thing and no wonder, given everything. When his shift is over, he goes up and sinks into the chair by the bed.

He pulls out his phone, intending to read or fuck around playing games until Lan Wangji gets back, but within moments, he's asleep.

He wakes up to a hand on his shoulder and Lan Wangji's voice saying his name soft in his ear, then immediately after someone shouting Sizhui's name. He takes a deep breath through his nose and blinks around the room. His eyes first land on Jingyi flopped at the foot of Sizhui's bed with a big grin on his face, and behind him stands Lan Xichen. Next to him is Lan Qiren himself.

"Oh shit," Wei Wuxian says before his brain catches up with his mouth.

The scowl that seems to be permanently etched on Lan Qiren's face deepens. "Wei Wuxian," he says. He seems like he wants to say more, but stops himself.

He's saved by Jingyi and Sizhui cracking up, which draws Lan Qiren's attention. His face seems to soften a bit at the sight of his nephews, which is almost sweet.

"Wei Ying, you're exhausted," Lan Wangji says, his hand still resting on Wei Wuxian's shoulder.

"I'm a doctor," he says and smiles up at Lan Wangji. "Comes with the territory."

Lan Wangji frowns at that, but anything he may want to say in response is interrupted by Lan Xichen.

"Wangji, you should give Dr. Wei a ride home. It's the least we can do, given all he's done for our family the last twenty-four hours."

"It was really no trouble," Wei Wuxian says, then he catches Jingyi give a little wince as he shifts his position.

He's out of his chair in a moment, gesturing at Jingyi to sit up with his fingers. "Do I need to take a look? How do you feel? Any places that hurt more than the others?"

"I'm fine, Dr. Wei," Jingyi says. "Just sore. Airbags are no joke."

"No, they aren't," Wei Wuxian says and reaches out to pat Jingyi's cheek. "It's good you were both wearing your seat belts, otherwise it would absolutely have been a lot worse, so I trust the two of you will always wear them forever, am I right?"

"Yes, Dr. Wei," the boys chorus.

"Good boys," he says with a smile.

"Wei Ying," Lan Wangji says. "Come."

"Lan Zhan, you really don't have to take me home. It's fine. You should stay with your son," he says. All he gets in return is a look. Wei Wuxian sighs dramatically. "Still so stubborn."

He's not entirely sure, but he thinks he hears Lan Xichen let out the tiniest inelegant snort.

"You," Wei Wuxian says, pointing at Jingyi. "This better be the most activity you've done today and when you go home, you rest for at least another day. No exceptions."

"Yes, Dr. Wei," Jingyi says glumly.

"You," he turns his finger to Sizhui. "You, I'll see again tomorrow."

Sizhui's smile is sweet and oddly familiar. "See you tomorrow, Dr. Wei."

He takes a breath and musters up every ounce of respect in his body, puts his hands together, and bows to Lan Qiren, and then Lan Xichen. "Headmaster Lan, Zewu-Jun. It was good to see you both again."

The look of surprise that passes over Lan Qiren's face is absolutely worth it. Maybe he'll turn over a new leaf and try surprising Lan Qiren instead of actively trying to anger him. Of course, that would be assuming he'll actually be seeing the man again, which he very likely won't.

"And you, Dr. Wei," Lan Xichen replies with a smile. "I hope we'll see each other again soon."

Wei Wuxian beams at him and lets Lan Wangji take his elbow and guide him out the door.

"Lan Zhan, you really don't have to trouble yourself," he says in the elevator, trying one last time.

"It is no trouble, Wei Ying," he replies and Wei Wuxian gives up. There's never been much use in arguing with Lan Wangji after he's made up his mind about something.

"Did I tell you your son is great? Jingyi, too," Wei Wuxian says as they walk through the lobby. "Jiejie and Zixuan are thinking of sending Jin Ling to Cloud Recesses next year. It's good to know he'll have at least two nice boys who he could make friends with."

"Mn," Lan Wangji murmurs and guides him toward the parking structure toward his car with a hand on the small of his back.

"He needs more friends. Good ones who are good influences to combat all his Jin genetics," Wei Wuxian babbles as they walk down a row of cars. "Jiang Cheng and I can only do so much, you know?"

"You're friends with Mo Xuanyu, are you not?" Lan Wangji asks.

"Best friends," Wei Wuxian replies with a grin. "But he didn't actually live with the Jins until he was already grown up enough to have a real personality. How's Jin Guangyao, anyway?"

"He...didn't actually live with the Jins until he was already grown up enough to have a real personality," Lan Wangji replies.

Wei Wuxian bursts out laughing so hard he has to stop in the middle of the parking structure and bend over.

He has to reach out and grab Lan Wangji's arm to stay on his feet. When he finally straightens up, he has to wipe tears of laughter from his eyes. "Ah, Lan Zhan. I haven't laughed like that in a while."

He glances over to Lan Wangji's face and sees that same, small smile he’d seen at lunch in Sizhui's room and his breath stops in his throat. He always knew Lan Wangji was one of the most beautiful men he'd ever met, but his smile feels like a blessing directly from the heavens.

Wei Wuxian swallows. He knows he should look away, but he just can't help smiling back.

"The car's just over there," Lan Wangji says quietly as his smile slips off his face. His eyes still look warm, though.

Lan Wangji's car is...extremely nice, which is no surprise. When they get in, it still smells like a new car, though Wei Wuxian is absolutely certain it's not.

"Program your address in," Lan Wangji says, pointing at the fancy built-in screen in the center console.

"I can tell you how to get to my own apartment, Lan Zhan," Wei Wuxian says.

"You're going to fall asleep," Lan Wangji says.

"You can't know that," Wei Wuxian replies.

"Yes, I can. You've always been able to fall asleep anywhere at the drop of a hat and you're exhausted. Program your address in," Lan Wangji insists.

Wei Wuxian huffs, but he does as he's told.

"Wei Ying," he hears and a hand squeezes his arm. "Wake up."

He blinks awake and stares blearily at the man sitting next to him. He's flooded with memories of rides home much like this one, of late night study sessions, and hours spent beside each other in on-call rooms, waiting for their seniors to call for their assistance. Somehow, he’d always wound up paired with Lan Wangji.

"Thirteen years and you still know me so well, Lan Zhan."

"Mm," Lan Wangji hums.

Wei Wuxian unbuckles his seat belt. "Thank you for the ride," he says. "I'll be at the hospital all day tomorrow, so let me know if you or Sizhui need anything, all right?"

"Go get some rest," Lan Wangji says and squeezes his arm before putting his hand back on the steering wheel.

Wei Wuxian is suddenly overcome with an urge to lean forward and kiss Lan Wangji on the cheek. Instead, he grins and says, "See you tomorrow."

He hops out of the car and makes his way up the steps without turning back. He actually makes it into his apartment for the first time in 36 hours.

_____

The next day is so busy he only has time to snag a few minutes mid-morning to jog up to room 307. Lan Wangji has a laptop on one of the rolling tables in front of him and his sleeves rolled up to the elbows. It's the least formal Wei Wuxian has ever seen him in his life, even halfway through a 24 hour call shift. It makes his breath stop in his throat for several long moments, before he tears his eyes away and looks at Sizhui.

"So, are you being set free today?" he asks.

"Yes!" Sizhui replies with a grin. "This afternoon."

"Good, good," he says. "Now, I know you're a good kid and you'll follow your doctor's instructions, but I am not above employing spies to make sure. People whose names rhyme with Dingyi are easily bought."

Sizhui laughs. "I don't think that will be necessary, Dr. Wei."

Wei Wuxian smiles and sits on the edge of his bed. "Probably not, but I also know that once you're in less pain, the whole arm in a cast thing can get really, really old, really, really fast. Especially for an active kid like you when it's your dominant hand. Asking for help with usually simple or easy tasks is going to feel pretty shitty, but I promise you it will help in the long run."

Sizhui nods seriously. "Jingyi shares most of my classes and I have another friend who I know will help in the other ones if I need it."

"Good boy," Wei Wuxian says. He smiles and pats Sizhui's knee over the blankets.

"Dr. Wei, have you ever broken any bones?" Sizhui asks.

"I have," he replies. "It was my leg and I still haven't forgiven my brother for--"

"Dr. Wei, please return to the Emergency Department as soon as possible," the intercom interrupts.

"Well, that's my cue," Wei Wuxian says with a sigh. "It's been a day. That one is actually serious, so I'll tell you the story of how Jiang Cheng made me break my leg some other time."

He pulls a white board marker from his pocket and scrawls his phone number on Sizhui's cast. "Text me if you need anything, okay? I'm serious. You too, Lan Zhan."

He looks over to see Lan Wangji nod his way with what might be the ghost of a smile on his face. Maybe. If Wei Wuxian squints.

"Considering how this day has been going, I don't know if I'll be able to see you off, but I'm glad to have met you, Lan Sizhui, though I'm sorry it wasn't in better circumstances," Wei Wuxian says.

"You too, Dr. Wei," Sizhui says with a bright smile.

"Lan Zhan...you're one of two people I know in this city, so you'd better keep in touch, all right?" he says with a wink in Lan Wangji's direction and then the intercom calls for him again. "I'm coming, I'm coming!" he mutters and dashes out the door.

The rest of the day is a whirlwind. He barely has time to breathe, but at one point he comes out of an exam room to one of the nurses breathlessly informing him that HanGuang-Jun brought him coffee and it's waiting for him at the nurse's station.

He blinks at her, then moves toward the desks. There, on the edge of one with "Dr. Wei" written on a sticky note in Lan Wangji's perfect, neat handwriting is a cup of coffee. And not just any coffee, it's a cup from the nice, fancy shop down the street that Wei Wuxian never lets himself go to because even though the hospital coffee is swill, it's free swill.

He takes a sip and lets out a little moan. It's so fucking good and exactly how he likes it. Even though the rest of the day is just as busy and stressful as the rest has been, he can't seem to wipe the smile off his face, not after such a good cup of coffee.

The next day, he arrives at the hospital and discovers that the Lan family has treated the entire hospital to pastries from a local bakery. There are boxes upon boxes in every break room on every floor and a note on each box thanking them for taking such good care of their children.

"Wei Wuxian, if you don't marry Lan Wangji, I will," Mo Xuanyu declares after his third pastry of the morning. "Don't think I won't. I already have an in and I'm not afraid to use it."

Wei Wuxian rolls his eyes. "As if he'd ever marry the likes of either of us. Let's just enjoy our Lan pastries while they last."

"You know, I saw him when he came by with the coffee," Mo Xuanyu says casually. "He seemed pretty disappointed he couldn't see you."

"Don't be stupid," Wei Wuxian says with another eye roll.

"Why are you so determined to think he doesn't like you?" Mo Xuanyu asks.

"Because he doesn't!" Wei Wuxian replies. "He never has. I've always annoyed him. He's never even smiled at me, not really."

"Not everyone wears their emotions on their sleeves like you do, you know," Mo Xuanyu points out. "Have you seen my brother? He smiles pleasantly even when someone has literally just stepped on his foot so hard they broke something."

"It's true, they both have extremely thick faces, but still," Wei Wuxian says with a sigh. "He just. He doesn't. He hated me the very first time he saw me."

"Then he's either the most patient man alive, or he started liking you somewhere along the way," Mo Xuanyu says.

"Patient, stubborn, it's all the same," Wei Wuxian says with a laugh, then shoves the remainder of his pastry in his mouth and walks away.

"Coward!" Mo Xuanyu calls after him.

Later that evening as he's sitting down with some takeout and is about to turn on his TV to find some trash to watch, he gets a text. It's a video of Sizhui holding the left side of a game controller with one hand and Jingyi with the other and trying to play a game together that way. It is, very clearly, going badly and ends with the two of them laughing so hard their character dies a terrible death.

*

Lan Wangji

They asked me to send this to you to prove that they're behaving, but it was determined that this method would not actually facilitate the two of them sitting still and not exacerbating their injuries.

*

Wei Wuxian has to laugh for five minutes before he can manage to reply.

*

Wei Wuxian

Lan Zhan, you just made my whole evening. Tell them I applaud the effort, but maybe save that for next week.

Lan Wangji

They realized for themselves a few moments after I stopped recording.

*

Wei Wuxian grins down at his phone.

*

Wei Wuxian

Smart boys. Thanks for the coffee, by the way. Made the end of my shift go way faster. And you won the devotion of the entire hospital with those pastries. Anything the Lans want from Gusu General Hospital, the Lans will get. :)

Lan Wangji

We merely wished to show our gratitude.

Wei Wuxian

Well, message received! Much as I liked meeting your son and seeing you and your family again, let's hope we don't have another opportunity to show how much we liked the pastries anytime soon. If I see any Lans as patients in my emergency department, I'm going to be upset. You are all welcome to visit without the need for medical care at any time.

Lan Wangji

I'll be sure to let everyone know.

*

Wei Wuxian can almost hear the dry tone he knows Lan Wangji would have used if he'd said that aloud.

*

Lan Wangji

Do you have some time off now? You've worked at least four twelve hour shifts in a row.

Wei Wuxian

Concerned for me, Lan Zhan? Yes, I have the next three days off, during which I will probably sleep and bother everyone I know with a thousand text messages.

*

There's no response for several minutes and Wei Wuxian takes several bites of his dinner as he mindlessly flips through the channels.

On the one hand, he absolutely needs the time off, but on the other, his days off in Gusu have been entirely too quiet. When he’d been in Yunmeng, he’d had a large group of friends and acquaintances to spend time with, or, if nothing else, Madam Yu always had things for him to do. Here in Gusu, he really only has Mo Xuanyu. They're best friends, but he's a Master's student in addition to working full time and Wei Wuxian tries to be mindful of that.

The truth of it is that he doesn't do well by himself and can't stand being idle. He never has. Even when he’d been in med school here, with more than enough to do and people to spend time with, any spare moments he’d had, he’d spent volunteering at the Children's Center. The place still exists, still run by the same people. He supposes he could go back, but...that would just remind him of A-Yuan and he doesn't think he could stand it.

His phone lights up with a new notification.

*

Lan Wangji

If you're going to be that bored, there's a Sichuan restaurant near the lab that I've heard good things about. You could come tour the facilities and we could have lunch together.

*

His whole stomach suddenly feels like it's doing acrobatics.

*

Wei Wuxian

That sounds amazing! I haven't had any good food since I left Yunmeng. I think the food might be the thing I miss the most. And of COURSE I want to see your lab!!!!!! If you hadn't invited me, chances are good I'd have come uninvited and then annoyed you until you showed me anyway. Well, annoyed you more than I usually do.

*

The response is immediate.

*

Lan Wangji

Wei Ying. You do not annoy me.

Wei Wuxian

Lan Zhan, isn't it against the Lan code of conduct to lie?

Lan Wangji

Ridiculous.

*

Wei Wuxian laughs down at his phone.

*

Wei Wuxian

Name the time and give me an address and I'll be there!

*

It's a much better response than any of the other things going through his head.

They make the arrangements and Wei Wuxian grins his way through the rest of his food and the terrible movie he decides to settle on. It's good to have plans and he'd be lying if he said he didn't want to spend more time with Lan Wangji.

He's still grinning when his phone startles him by lighting up with a call. He fumbles it when he picks it up, sending it crashing to the floor. He scrambles to pick it up. He answers somewhat breathlessly just in time.

"I'm surprised you answered," Jiang Cheng grumbles. "You don't answer your phone or return my calls lately."

"I've been working," Wei Wuxian whines. "You try working four 12-hour ER shifts in a row and spending one night at the hospital and see if you can manage to answer your phone consistently."

"Are they already taking advantage of your stupid need to please literally every person you ever come across?" Jiang Cheng asks with a sigh. "Do you have time off now?"

"Now you sound like Lan Zhan, which is, I gotta say, unexpected," Wei Wuxian replies. "And yes. Three days starting 3 hours ago."

"I don't know why I'm surprised you're already bothering Lan Wangji," Jiang Cheng says. "But I am."

"I'm not bothering him, he texted me first!" Wei Wuxian retorts. "I didn't seek him out. It just sort of happened. Did you know he has a kid now?"

"Lan Wangji has a kid?" Jiang Cheng asks, voice going high-pitched at the end.

"Yeah! He's a little older than A-Ling," he replies.

"Does that mean Lan Wangji got married?" Jiang Cheng sounds so incredulous that Wei Wuxian feels vaguely offended on Lan Wangji's behalf.

"He's adopted. A really sweet kid; A-Ling could use a friend like him. Anyway, he and his cousin got in a car accident right outside my apartment. I helped." He tells Jiang Cheng the whole story. Tells him about Lan Jingyi, how Lan Xichen showed up to pick him up, how he promised he'd stay with Sizhui until his guardian arrived and how Jingyi left with his coat and his phone and wallet. "I still didn't expect the person to walk in to be Lan Zhan. Why would I? Sizhui needed surgery and since I couldn't exactly go home without a way to pay for the trip and I couldn't just leave Lan Zhan to worry about his son alone, I stayed. There was no employer exploitation."

"For once," Jiang Cheng grumbles. "So, how's the kid?"

"His arm is pretty fucked up," Wei Wuxian replies. "It's his dominant hand and he's a fucking Lan, so of course he does sports and music and everything. He seems to be taking it okay, but...he's sixteen and he's going to need a lot of help to get back up to speed."

"Have you already called Xiao?" Jiang Cheng asks because he might talk tough, but at heart, he's a softie, especially when it comes to kids.

"Of course I have, what do you take me for?" Wei Wuxian replies. "He offered to make the trip for a consult."

"Then the kid will be just fine," Jiang Cheng says. "So...aside from Lan Wangji having a fucking kid, what else is up with the Lans?"

"They seem pretty much the same. Lan Xichen is still really nice, but I still get the feeling he would smile while killing me if I fucked up badly enough. Lan Zhan is...just as beautiful and untouchable as ever," he replies. "Though, I think having a kid has mellowed him out a bit. He was joking with us earlier. I mean, in a really dry way, but I nearly fell off my chair."

"Huh," Jiang Cheng says. "Well, that's probably good. The alternative is him turning into his uncle."

"Oh! I saw him too!" Wei Wuxian says. "It wasn't my finest moment, but it also wasn't my worst. Not by a long shot when it comes to him. He seems basically the same. Not even more grey hairs. The Lan genes are truly impeccable. That reminds me. You might already know this, you talk to Huaisang more than I do, but Xuanyu didn't even know so maybe it's pretty new...did you know that Lan Xichen, Nie Mingjue, and Jin Guangyao are in some sort of triad?"

"...they're called the Venerated Triad for a reason, you moron," Jiang Cheng says.

"No, no, not that. I know about that. I mean...romantically. I don't know the details, but ZeWu-Jun is definitely with both Lianfang-Zun and Chifeng-Zun and I'm dying to know what Lan Qiren's feelings on the subject are, but I do have some tact," he says.

"How did you even find this out?" Jiang Cheng asks.

"Well, Lan Xichen said something to Xuanyu and I about Jin Guangyao when he brought me my coat with my phone and wallet in the pockets, so I asked when I was up visiting Sizhui and Lan Zhan, and Sizhui, who was on some pretty strong pain meds, volunteered the Nie Mingjue tidbit," Wei Wuxian explains. "Wild, huh? I always thought Lan Xichen would settle down with some pretty girl and have beautiful, perfect Lan babies."

Jiang Cheng coughs and clears his throat. "Yeah, sure."

Wei Wuxian's eyes go wide and he sits up straight. "Jiang Cheng, what do you know? What have you not told me?"

"Nothing worth talking about," Jiang Cheng replies.

"Oh, I am absolutely certain that's a lie," Wei Wuxian says gleefully. "You might as well just tell me now because otherwise, the next time I see you, I'm just going to get you drunk and make you tell me anyway and then you'll be hungover and have revealed all your secrets."

"Ugh, fine. We hooked up. Once. Something like...twelve years ago now. Lan Xichen likes dick way too much for the whole perfect hetero life....thing," Jiang Cheng replies.

"I simultaneously want to know every detail and am horrified by the implication that you have sex and that anyone likes your dick," Wei Wuxian says.

"Fuck you. At least I realized I was attracted to a Lan and did something about it," Jiang Cheng retorts.

"You knew I had a crush on Lan Zhan and you didn't tell me?" Wei Wuxian cries.

"Pardon me for assuming you had two brain cells to rub together and didn't realize it yourself," Jiang Cheng says.

"Uuuuugh," Wei Wuxian groans. "Not that it really matters. I went back to Yunmeng anyway. Still, it might have been nice to buy a clue about, y'know, my sexuality a little sooner."

"Again, pardon me for assuming you had two brain cells to rub together and didn't realize it already."

"I know, I know. I'm an idiot," Wei Wuxian says.

"So, do you still have a crush on Lan Wangji?" Jiang Cheng asks.

"I...might," Wei Wuxian replies. "He has that whole hot dad thing going on. I'm only one man."

"Well, don't do anything stupid," Jiang Cheng says. Wei Wuxian hears the silent, don't get your heart broken plain as day. And it would surely be his heart that would break. The likelihood of getting to that point is slim to none, though; there's nothing to worry about.

"Rude," Wei Wuxian says. "I never do stupid things."

"You only do stupid things," Jiang Cheng says and Wei Wuxian can practically hear his eye roll.

"Whatever, whatever," Wei Wuxian says. "Did you call for a reason, or just to catch up with your dear brother?"

"Right. Ah. Now that you're back at Gusu and mom's up in Lanling with jiejie, I've decided to move back home," Jiang Cheng says. "There's never not been a Jiang in Lotus Pier and. Well...they offered me Chief Surgeon."

"Jiang Cheng!" Wei Wuxian yells. "That's incredible! What are you, youngest Chief Surgeon ever?"

"Definitely at Yunmeng," Jiang Cheng replies and Wei Wuxian can hear the pride in his voice. He ignores the voice in his head that reminds him at one point, that could have been him. It doesn't matter now, and in the end, it never did, which is why he's where he is.

"I'm really proud of you, didi," Wei Wuxian says, completely seriously and sincerely. "You've earned this."

Jiang Cheng huffs down the line, then says quietly. "Thanks, Wei Ying."

Wei Wuxian swallows hard and smiles. He didn't give up anything worth having back then; not when it means his little brother gets this. That's all he needs.

"Uh, listen, when you move back into the estate maybe...maybe just leave my room alone for a while, okay?" he says.

"Wei Wuxian, what did you do?" Jiang Cheng growls.

"Nothing! Nothing permanent! I'll take care of it the next time I visit, I promise!" Wei Wuxian replies.

"Did you leave something gross in there?" Jiang Cheng demands.

"No! Just. Everything happened so fast, I didn’t have a chance to clean and pack everything and it probably looks like something exploded in there," Wei Wuxian replies.

"I mean, it’s your room, dumbass. It’s not like I’m gonna kick you out," Jiang Cheng says.

"Still! It should at least be clean in case you need it for something!" he says.

"Whatever," Jiang Cheng says indifferently. "You’ll just have to come fix it up, then. I’m not touching your shit."

Wei Wuxian beams and his eyes burn just a little bit. He and Jiang Cheng have had more than their share of ups and downs and he thinks maybe they’re finally at a place where things won’t go down again. At least, not as much.

"I’ll have to do that. Just let me know when and I’ll take some time. I can’t tell you how much I miss the food down there," he whines. "Lan Zhan is taking me to a Sichuan restaurant tomorrow and I’m probably going to embarrass myself crying over the first decent food I’ve had since I got here."

"You’re going to embarrass yourself anyway," Jiang Cheng says and they spend the next several minutes going back and forth about how embarrassing Wei Wuxian may or may not be, particularly in regards to Lan Wangji.

_____

Wei Wuxian lets himself sleep in the next day. He wakes up naturally, makes a pot of coffee, and drinks it as he putters around his apartment doing necessary chores.

When he's done, he spends an inordinate amount of time trying to decide what to wear. It's just that he hasn't really had an opportunity to dress in anything other than scrubs since he arrived. Probably not since his going away party in Yunmeng a month ago. Lan Wangji has seen him in ratty sweats and joke t-shirts that were gifts from Jiang Cheng, so it's not like there's really a reason to dress super nice, but he still kind of wants to, if only to remind himself that sometimes he's a person and not just a doctor.

He ends up in black slacks, a button down, and a stupidly soft, and probably even more stupidly expensive, red sweater that was a gift from Jin Ling a couple of birthdays ago. He's absolutely certain his jiejie picked it out, but that honestly just makes it better because that means it's from two of his favorite people.

For once, he doesn't throw his hair up in a bun, but lets it hang down around his shoulders, only pulling a portion at the top of his head back into a silver clip.

He stops fiddling and leaves the bathroom before he starts feeling like his dumb peacock of a brother-in-law. He pulls on his coat, grabs his keys, and heads for his car.

The Gusu University Hospital campus is across town from where he works at Gusu General and Lan Wangji's lab and offices are in a building constructed after Wei Wuxian was no longer a student there, no longer in Gusu.

He knows the Lans essentially paid for it and if it had been any other family, it would’ve had their name on it. Instead, it's the Cloud Recesses Medical Research Center. It stands in a spot that had once been a green space where he--and Lan Wangji too, now that he thinks of it--used to spend their breaks out in the fresh air outside the hospital, the labs, or lecture halls.

The lobby of the building is fucking beautiful. It makes sense given how much prestige the labs in the building have brought to the already prestigious university in the last decade. Lan Wangji isn't the only famous researcher with labs and offices in this building, just the one Wei Wuxian can claim knowing personally. It's so nice, there's a receptionist at a desk between two doors with signs over them proclaiming only authorized personnel are allowed through them.

"Hi," he says with a smile to the receptionist. "I"m Dr. Wei. I'm here to see Dr. Lan."

He's told to wait, so he steps to the side and for the first time notices that the art on the walls over the sofa in the waiting area is photographs of the old greenspace throughout all four seasons. The plaque on the wall credits Nie Huaisang for the photos. Wei Wuxian grins wide and takes a closer look.

In a corner of the photo for summer, he spots himself sprawled out on the grass under a tree with Lan Wangji in the lotus position beside him. If this is the term he thinks it was, Huaisang and Jiang Cheng must have been on their way to join them for lunch when he snapped the photo.

"Wei Ying."

"Lan Zhan!" Wei Wuxian exclaims and whirls around, beaming. "I admit, I was a little sad there was a building where our park used to be, but here I find these photos in the lobby."

"I argued against this location," Lan Wangji explains. "It seemed like a shame to deprive the students of a place like this, but there was nowhere else suitable. A new greenspace was constructed across campus and Nie Huaisang was happy to let us display some of his photos of what this spot used to be."

"And he snuck in a photo with us in it," Wei Wuxian says. "I love it.

"I chose the photos," Lan Wangji says. "Come. I'll show you the lab."

Wei Wuxian stares at him open-mouthed as he walks away for half a moment before scrambling to catch up. "Hanguang-Jun, you never struck me as the nostalgic sort."

Lan Wangji cuts him a look and slides his keycard through the reader and holds the door open for him. Wei Wuxian follows him to the elevators. There's a directory on the wall listing the professors and research fellows on every floor. Lan Wangji is the only name listed for the top floor.

 

Lan Wangji telling Wei Wuxian he chose the pictures

 

Wei Wuxian is surprised

 

Wei Wuixan and Lan Wangji walking away, the photo on the wall including them is in the background

 

"Lan Zhan, do you teach classes too?" he asks as the elevator takes them up.

"Mn. A few seminars every year for doctoral students. Next term I'll be taking organic chemistry for a professor going on leave," he says.

Wei Wuxian grins. "God, remember how we basically had to carry Huaisang through o-chem? Photography suits him so much better than medicine ever did. I'm glad he finally stood up to his brother and switched."

"He was not particularly suited to medicine, no," Lan Wangji agrees. "He's become successful enough as a photographer that some people recognize his name when they see the photos in the lobby."

"I saw one of the photos he posted on his private WeChat on the cover of a magazine at the newsstand the other day," Wei Wuxian says. "Everyone I know is so successful. He's off traveling the world and taking photos of beautiful people, Jiang Cheng was just named Chief of Surgery at Yunmeng, and then there's you, doing incredible things with stem cells. And let's not forget Wen Qing, who is...Wen Qing. It's enough to make a person feel distinctly average. Anyway, show me all your fancy equipment. I haven't been in a proper research lab in so long, I'm sure there are fun new gadgets I don't even know about."

Lan Wangji gives him a long look, before leading him through the doors and into the lab proper.

Everything looks absolutely pristine, which isn't surprising given that this is Lan Wangji's lab in a research center built in the last ten years, but he kind of feels like he’s stepped into a movie set instead of a place where people actually work. He's absolutely certain that if he stepped into any of the other labs in the building, they would all look far more like real humans worked there than this does.

Still, there are several people working diligently throughout the room. He gets more than one deeply curious glance, but no one speaks to them. He wonders how often Lan Wangji has welcomed a personal guest into his lab.

"So what are you working on, now?" Wei Wuxian asks.

"A follow-up to our most recent article," Lan Wangji replies. "One of our failed experiments for that study yielded some interesting results and we've spent the last few months with more experiments."

The next fifteen minutes feel almost like they're back in med school. Wei Wuxian remembers they had the ability to keep up with each other, the ability to find answers and solutions together in ways no one else could.

The lab is beautiful and Wei Wuxian is fairly certain he could listen to Lan Wangji talk about his work forever. Or, well, coax him to talk about it. It's not that he's reticent about it, but he definitely likes to work with direct questions more than volunteering information. It works out well because Wei Wuxian has a lot of questions.

"Ah, Hanguang-Jun," he says after Lan Wangji finishes describing how early results of their current experiments seem to show a positive results against ALS. "You really do live up to your title, don't you?"

"Ridiculous," Lan Wangji says.

"Almost always," Wei Wuxian agrees and swallows down the lump in his throat. "But not about this."

"Lunch?" Lan Wangji asks.

"I've been looking at the menu and daydreaming about it since you invited me," Wei Wuxian says.

The walk to the restaurant is short and pleasant. Wei Wuxian can't stop the assault of nostalgia, but for the first time in a while, it's pleasant.

"I wonder how many miles we walked all over campus when we were in school," he muses.

"Too many to count," Lan Wangji says.

Wei Wuxian grins. "I feel like I walked most of them next to you. Hanguang-jun clearly has infinite patience to put up with me for so long."

"Wei Ying," Lan Wangji says. "I would not have done it if I felt it were something to be merely endured."

"Careful, Lan Zhan," Wei Wuxian teases. "You're going to make me think you might actually like me."

Lan Wangji doesn't dignify that with a response, but instead opens the restaurant door and gestures for Wei Wuxian to go inside.

They're seated and tea is brought while they look at the menu one last time.

"This restaurant serves Emperor's Smile should you like some," Lan Wangji says softly.

Wei Wuxian goes still. It's been a while since this was something he had to explain to anyone, let alone someone who knew him before. He takes a sip of tea and a deep breath.

"Ah, Lan Zhan. You're sweet to offer; I know you always hated me drinking, but I haven't had a drop of alcohol in five years, four months and....a little over a week," he says. "I, um. It was helping Mo Xuanyu that made me realize I wasn't doing quite as well as I thought I was and, um. I knew if I didn't stop, I would end up in a really bad place."

"Wei Ying," Lan Wangji says, voice still very soft. "I never hated you drinking. I was...worried, but I did not express that well. I apologize."

"No need to apologize," Wei Wuxian says and gives Lan Wangji a wry smile. "I would have...taken your worry with even less good humor than I did what I thought was your judgement. All told, it's a good thing I didn't take that surgical residency. Jiang Cheng told me stories about the things they got up to back then. It would have been even harder for me to quit, with all that."

Lan Wangji tilts his head slightly to the side and gives Wei Wuxian a piercing look. "Didn't...take? You told everyone they rejected you."

"Ah," Wei Wuxian says and takes a sip of his tea. "Trust Hanguang-Jun to catch my slip of the tongue. I, ah...suppose there's no reason not to tell you. Just swear you won't tell Jiang Cheng?"

"I swear," Lan Wangji says solemnly.

Wei Wuxian can't help but smile at him. "Back then...two days before they were going to post the acceptance list, Dr. Gu called me to let me know I had made it and then asked me not to tell anyone until they made the news public. So I kept my mouth shut and it was really hard. I couldn't even tell Jiang Cheng because he'd applied too. And then, well, it became really easy. Because a few hours later we got the call from Madam Yu and Uncle Jiang that he'd been diagnosed. And...Lan Zhan, he...he started planning while we were still on the phone all the things he would need to do to go home and take care of Uncle Jiang. He was writing lists. I could see just...all his joy, all his hope was draining from him and I knew I couldn't just take the residency and let him go home and call it good.

"So, I told them I hadn't gotten it, that there was nothing keeping me in Gusu, and that I would come home."

He takes another slow sip of tea. "I called Dr. Gu and told him something had come up, that I couldn't take it, but...if he hadn't already gotten in, to please consider Jiang Cheng for my spot. I knew he'd make an amazing surgeon and I was proven right."

"Wei Ying, you--" Lan Wangji breaks off, staring at him.

After a moment, Wei Wuxian laughs and pushes his hair out of his face. "Me?"

"You are exceptional," Lan Wangji finally says.

Wei Wuxian shakes his head. "He's my brother. I knew I would be okay doing something else, changing course. It would have been so much harder for him. It all worked out for the best, in the end. There are a few things I sometimes wonder about, if things hadn't worked out the way they did, but...I can't change them, so there's no use dwelling. I've never regretted it. Anyway, enough about me. What on earth possessed you to adopt a toddler back then?"

"He needed a home and I found...I didn't like the thought of anyone else being the one to give him one, so I did," Lan Wangji replies. "I have never regretted it."

"Still, it must have been hard, suddenly raising a child and doing your residency at the same time," he says.

"It was...a challenge," Lan Wangji replies. "But brother helped, Lan Jingyi's parents helped. Even Nie Mingjue helped."

Wei Wuxian grins at the image of Nie Mingjue babysitting, then frowns at the obvious omission. "But not your uncle?"

"Uncle helped teach Sizhui calligraphy, how to read, and family history. He only rarely helped care for him," Lan Wangji says.

"By your choice, or his?" Wei Wuxian asks.

"Mine. My uncle will always be important to me and I do not regret my childhood with him once my parents were gone, or the person I became under his guidance, but that is not the life I wanted for Sizhui," Lan Wangji explains.

Wei Wuxian can't keep the surprise off his face. "I...can't say I ever expected to hear you say something like that, Lan Zhan."

"They are not wrong when they say that having a child makes you re-evaluate many things," Lan Wangji says. "I wanted my son to be free with his emotions. I wanted him to laugh when he's happy and cry when he's sad. I wanted him to know that he would never be scolded for feeling and that he could always share those feelings with me. I can only hope I succeeded."

Wei Wuxian tries not to gape. "Lan Zhan, I think you more than succeeded," he says after a moment.

The smile that spreads over Lan Wangji's face when he says that takes Wei Wuxian's breath away. He's relieved their food comes because it saves him the embarrassment he was sure to bring on himself by babbling some sort of nonsense and ruining it.

After that, their conversation turns to more inconsequential things. Well, Wei Wuxian's conversation does. For as long as he's known him, Lan Wangji has never been one for speaking during meals. Unlike in the past, he seems happy to let Wei Wuxian talk.

By the time he's taken the last bite he can possibly take without regretting everything, he realizes he's kept Lan Wangji from his important lab work for well over an hour.

"Lan Zhan, why did you let me keep you so long?" he asks. "Don't you need to go back to work?"

"Mn. We haven't seen one another for thirteen years. I can spare an extra half hour," Lan Wangji replies.

Wei Wuxian beams at him. "We'll have plenty of time in the future. Just say the word."

"I will."

Coming from Lan Wangji, he knows that's a promise.

_____

"Baby Shark" starts blaring on Wei Wuxian's phone at exactly ten am. Jin Ling set the song as a prank and he keeps forgetting to change it, but he can't deny its effectiveness, so he hasn't changed it. He gropes for his phone on his night stand in the dim light of his bedroom and manages to lose the phone in his bedding for about ten seconds before he finally grabs onto it again and turns off the alarm. He's about to sit up and force himself out of bed when a notification pops up on his phone from Lan Wangji.

*

Lan Wangji Good morning.

*

Wei Wuxian grins at his phone and thumbs open the message.

*

Wei Wuxian

morning! you caught me just as I was getting up, good timing! Lan Wangji

I try. Sizhui's pain has lessened enough that cabin fever has set in but I won't let him go back to school until Monday. I told him we could go out for dinner tonight and we thought we would invite you to join us. Jingyi will likely join us, and possibly his parents as they would like to thank you in person at some point.

*

Wei Wuxian can't help but feel a little surprised. He definitely hadn’t expected any kind of invitation so soon. Lan Wangji had promised to keep in touch, but he’d figured there would at least be a few days before their next contact. It's not like he has anything better to do tonight. Mo Xuanyu has class and he can't even call his siblings because they're both busy

*

Wei Wuxian

I would love to! name the time and place and I'll be there!

Lan Wangji No need. We can pick you up. Wei Wuxian Lan Zhan! you don't have to do that! Lan Wangji I want to. I also think it will do the boys some good to be near that intersection again without incident.

Wei Wuxian well that's a different story! it won't do to have them be nervous about driving or being over here, especially if it's one of their usual routes.

Lan Wangji

Let's say 6:00?

Wei Wuxian

sounds good! plenty of time to finish my very exciting plans for the day like laundry and calling HR at yunmeng because my final paycheck never came. i have a feeling they sent it to lotus pier instead of the address I gave them.

Lan Wangji

We'll see you tonight, then. Have a good day, Wei Ying.

Wei Wuxian

You too, Lan Zhan! Don't work too hard. And tell Sizhui I'm looking forward to seeing him and telling him and Jingyi all kinds of scandalous stories about our school days. 😉

*

Lan Wangji doesn't have an answer to that, which Wei Wuxian takes as tacit permission to tell whatever stories he pleases at dinner. He grins through putting his first load of laundry in the machine and then through breakfast. He didn't really expect to reconnect with anyone he used to know in Gusu, nevermind Lan Wangji, but he can't deny he's pleased it's happening.

Lan Wangji texts him promptly at 6 to let him know they're waiting outside. He can see through the windows that the front seat has been left open for him, so he pulls open the door and slides in.

"Hello, Lans!” he says with a grin and twists around to look in the back seat when he has his seatbelt on. "Sizhui, I hear you're getting fed up with life indoors."

"A little bit," Sizhui replies with a smile. "Don't let him fool you, Dr. Wei," Jingyi says. "He's slowly losing his mind." "It's just...all the things I would normally do apart from reading require both hands. So I'm just...reading. A lot. I'm happy to be getting out for a little while," he says looking a bit sheepish.

"Well, then I'm glad we can help keep you from losing your mind. I never did tell you about when Jiang Cheng made me break my leg, did I?" he asks and then tells the story of how it happened and the aftermath for the rest of the ride to the restaurant. He's pretty sure he even pulls a laugh out of Lan Wangji once.

"So...I should be grateful I only broke my arm, is what you're saying," Sizhui says as they get out of the car.

"Well...if you're anything like me, that's exactly what I'm saying," Wei Wuxian replies, laughing.

"He's enough like you," Lan Wangji says, holding the door to the restaurant open for them. "Always active, always doing something, and discontent when he's held in one place too long."

Wei Wuxian smiles wide, weirdly flattered that Lan Wangji would ever compare his son to him of all people. "Well, it's a good thing he has lots of people here to help keep him out of trouble then, isn't it?"

Sizhui huffs, but he's grinning at them both.

As they wait for their table, a couple, the man unmistakably a Lan, enter the restaurant and the next few minutes are taken up with introductions. Jingyi's parents seem like lovely people and Wei Wuxian can tell immediately where he got his more irrepressible tendencies from. His mother is clearly a lively addition to the Lan family and Wei Wuxian likes her immediately.

He didn't expect dinner to be a sedate affair, not with two teenage boys around, but between the two of them and then Wei Wuxian and Jingyi's mother, there's a lot of laughter and stories swapped. Even Lan Wangji contributes a few anecdotes when Wei Wuxian demands childhood stories about Jingyi and Sizhui. The two of them got into all kinds of mischief as children growing up as cousins and next door neighbors in the Lan's Cloud Recesses compound and he's absolutely delighted with every story.

In exchange, he offers more than one embarrassing story about himself and delights them further with regaling them about his few months at Cloud Recesses Academy.

"I gave your dad fits, I'm sure," he says to Sizhui with a grin, then nudges Lan Wangji with his elbow. "But even though we fought all the time, we still worked pretty well together, didn't we?"

"We did," Lan Wangji agrees. "We got the highest grade it was possible to get on the music project we did together."

"And when we did our volunteer hours, it was kind of an organizational disaster, but between the two of us, we managed to get it on track and get that park looking like a place people might actually want to spend time in again," Wei Wuxian says and leans on his elbow, smiling at Lan Wangji. "I forgot about that until just now. It was kind of fun, actually."

"The part where you fell off the boat and into the lake when a dog barked was somewhat less fun," Lan Wangji says.

"Ah, but Lan Zhan, you saved me from drowning! So it all turned out. Imagine if you hadn't been there," he says.

"I would prefer not to," Lan Wangji replies and takes a sip of his water. There's a hint of a smile at the corner of his mouth, though.

"Are you afraid of dogs, Dr. Wei?" Sizhui asks.

"Absolutely terrified," Wei Wuxian replies cheerfully. "Childhood trauma. It's fine most of the time. Except when they surprise me. My nephew has a dog his uncle gave him that I can almost stand to be in the same room with, so I'm doing better than I was back then."

"That's good," Lan Wangji murmurs.

"It is," Wei Wuxian replies. "I can almost guarantee you won't have to save me from drowning in any lakes if I hear a dog bark. Though, I might jump behind you and force you to protect me."

"I can do that," Lan Wangji says. It sounds like a promise.

_____

The next week is full of work, calls with his sister, more work, and texting Lan Wangji. He always expects each exchange to peter out into nothing, or just be the odd message here and there, but somehow they keep chatting on and off most days. Whenever he gets a chance to check his phone at work, he's always a little bit thrilled when he finds a new message. One day, he mentions off-handedly that he's been craving really good congee lately and asks Lan Wangji if he knows a good place to get it. He comes out suturing up a long cut from an unfortunate kitchen accident to find a bag containing a container of congee and a note from Lan Wangji telling him to enjoy.

*

Wei Wuxian Lan Zhan!!!!! you didn't have to do that!!!!!! but THANK YOU! I'm sorry I missed you, though :(

~Lan Wangji~

You are welcome. I'm sorry I couldn't stay to wait for you, but I had a meeting I had to get to at the lab.

Wei Wuxian

I understand. I didn't expect to be in with that patient so long, but he really didn't deal well with the process of getting stitched up. Anyway, you made my day AND satisfied my craving, so you're officially my favorite person

~Lan Wangji~

Does the rank as your favorite person come with some sort of badge, or is this merely a token position?

*

Wei Wuxian laughs for a solid thirty seconds before he can respond.

*

Wei Wuxian

I guess you'll just have to wait for the award ceremony and see, won't you?

~Lan Wangji~

What sort of event is this? Any particular dress code I should know about?

*

Wei Wuxian bites his lip over a grin, mind whirling with all sorts of possibilities.

*

Wei Wuxian

No dress code! I like to keep these things pretty casual. I can even bring the ceremony to you! How does a mid-afternoon tea break and award ceremony sound?

~Lan Wangji~

Delightful. I can't tomorrow as I'll be in meetings all afternoon, but any other day this week works for me.

Wei Wuxian

Perfect! Let's say Thursday, then?

*

Thursday will give him enough time to figure out some sort of stupid token he can actually give Lan Wangji in addition to a break and some tea.

*

~Lan Wangji~

Thursday it is.

*

On Thursday, Wei Wuxian works the early morning shift and is off work by 2 pm. He runs home, takes the fastest shower of his life, then drives across town. Once he's parked and on his way to Lan Wangji's building, he sends him a message.

*

Wei Wuxian

I'm here!

~Lan Wangji~

I'll be down in a moment.

*

It really is only a moment. Lan Wangji is nothing if not prompt, but Wei Wuxian is already distracted by the photo of them in the lobby. He wonders why Lan Wangji had chosen this photo. He's pretty sure it hadn’t been an interesting day. There's no real reason to immortalize this particular moment on the walls of his building, but there they are anyway.

"Wei Ying."

"Lan Zhan!" Wei Ying says as he whirls around. "Let's walk. I've been cooped up inside the hospital all day and I'm ready for fresh air and things that don't smell like antiseptic."

"There's a cafe down the street that will work well," Lan Wangji says and guides him out the door with a hand on the small of his back. "It opened not long after you left and I always thought you'd have liked it."

"Really?" he asks. "You really thought of me after I just...left like that?"

"Of course," Lan Wangji replies. "You are my friend."

Wei Wuxian feels simultaneously giddy and guilty. "I'm sorry I didn't keep in touch, Lan Zhan. I honestly thought I'd be an 'out of sight, out of mind' sort of person to most everyone in Gusu."

"Ridiculous," Lan Wangji says. He sounds almost fond.

The cafe is just far enough that it feels like an actual walk. Wei Wuxian tells Lan Wangji about his relatively boring day and Lan Wangji tells him about how one of his grad students managed to cause a small explosion. Wei Wuxian laughs so hard they have to stop so he can catch his breath.

"That poor girl," he says when they're finally walking again. "I bet she's mortified."

"Mn," Lan Wangji hums. "But mistakes are part of science. Sometimes they lead to great science."

"True enough," Wei Wuxian says and holds open the door to the cafe for Lan Wangji to enter.

They order tea and pastries and take a seat near the window. The fog has started rolling in and he spares a moment to be glad he's not working tonight. He's been back in Gusu for a month now and the number of accidents always increases with the fog.

"When I left, I thought there wasn't anything I would miss, really. Not about the place, anyway," he says and turns back from the window to look at Lan Wangji. "I think I missed these foggy days, though. Yunmeng doesn't get fog like this. Sometimes there's some wispy mist that clings to the lakes, but it always burns off by mid-morning."

"I always find it soothing," Lan Wangji says.

Wei Wuxian nods. "Yeah, exactly. It's almost like snow. It makes everything feel like it's not quite so big. But my silly nostalgia isn't why we're here. We're here for a very special ceremony."

He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a box and sets it on the table between them.

"Wei Ying, what have you done?" Lan Wangji asks.

"Hanguang-Jun, I have kept my promise," he declares with a grin. "With this, I award you the extremely important and prestigious position as 'Dr. Wei Wuxian's Favorite Person.' Your responsibilities in this role are few, but sometimes bringing me pastries and coffee will likely help you retain it indefinitely."

He lifts the lid of the box and pulls the pin he had made out of the box and holds it out for Lan Wangji to see. It's a fairly simple enamel pin with a black background and red lettering reading "Dr. Wei Wuxian's Favorite Person." It's not the furthest he's ever gone for a bit, but it's pretty close and he's ridiculously pleased with how it turned out.

Wei Wuxian reaches out to attach the pin to Lan Wangji’s lapel and pats the pin over his chest before sitting back with a grin.

"Wei Ying, you--" Lan Wangji stops and then lets out a sound that Wei Wuxian is absolutely certain is a laugh and then a heart-stopping smile stretches across his face.

He can do absolutely nothing but smile back. "Me," he says when he thinks he can speak again without squeaking embarrassingly.

"You are ridiculous," Lan Wangji says after a moment. "In the best way."

Wei Wuxian is pretty sure the happiness he feels in this moment will last him for at least a month. Maybe more.

It's a few days later when Wei Wuxian sees Lan Wangji again. He's just come into the hospital with several bags full of takeout that smells absolutely incredible.

"Lan Zhan!" he says, staring. "What's all this?"

"I am putting in the work to retain my position," he says seriously and taps his chest where the pin Wei Wuxian pinned on him is still attached to his lapel.

"Oh my god," he says, grinning. "You...I can't possibly eat all this."

"It felt rude to just bring food for you," Lan Wangji says. "So I brought some for everyone."

"You really are my favorite person," Wei Wuxian says fervently and leads him down the hall to the breakroom. "We had a kind of shitty morning. This will cheer everyone right up."

"Mn."

It continues like that for several weeks. They meet for meals, they bring each other hot beverages and drag one another away from work for a few minutes. They text constantly, and one time when Lan Wangji has been out at a Lan Foundation thing late in the evening, he calls Wei Wuxian.

"It was a long day," Lan Wangji says, "and I'm tired, but still need to drive back home. Talk to me?"

Wei Wuxian does until he hears the sound of the motor switching off, of Lan Wangji getting out of his car and shutting the door.

"Thank you, Wei Ying," he says softly.

"Any time, Lan Zhan. Any time at all, okay?" he replies.

"Okay," Lan Wangji says. "Good night, Wei Ying. See you soon."

"Good night, Lan Zhan," Wei Wuxian replies and hangs up feeling warm all the way to his toes. He falls asleep later that evening with a smile on his face.

_____

It's been a month since the night of the Lan boys' car accident when he gets a text from Sizhui.

*

Lan Sizhui

Hi Dr. Wei! I'm going to be over in the neighborhood of the hospital this afternoon for a school project. Are you there? Can I come say hi?

Wei Wuxian

Of course you can!!! It's a boring day which could use a little more excitement in it.

Lan Sizhui

Cool! I'll be there soon!

*

"What's got you smiling like an idiot over there?" Mo Xuanyu asks.

"Lan Sizhui is coming to say hi," he replies and slips his phone back into his lab coat pocket.

"So you're spending all this time with his dad and now the kid is coming to see you by himself?" Mo Xuanyu asks.

"Yes?" Wei Wuxian replies. "Why?"

"Just seems...interesting," Mo Xuanyu replies.

"Interesting how?" Wei Wuxian asks.

"I'm just saying, if you get an adorable shovel talk from a sixteen year old, don't say I didn't warn you," Mo Xuanyu says with a smirk.

"He's seventeen," Wei Wuxian corrects. "And why would he give me a shovel talk?"

"Oh my god," Mo Xuanyu moans and puts both hands over his face. "I can't deal with you."

*

Lan Sizhui

I'm here! Should I just come in the emergency doors?

Wei Wuxian

Yeah, just wait in the lobby. I'll come get you. It can get a little bit like a maze back here when you're not used to it.

*

He ignores Mo Xuanyu's pointed look and hops up to go out to get Sizhui. He's waiting by the lobby fish tank, watching the cichlids dart back and forth.

"Hey, Sizhui," he says with a grin. Sizhui turns with a big grin on his face.

"Hi Dr. Wei," he says.

"Come on, let's go see if we can get some pudding," he says and gestures for Sizhui to follow him. "So, what's your project?"

"I came to the library, actually. It's...everyone at Could Recesses knows me and I'm a library assistant and tutor, so even when I'm not on duty, if I'm in the library, people ask me things. Sometimes it's nice to go somewhere nobody knows me so I can get things done," he says, sounding sheepish.

"I understand," Wei Wuxian says. "The same thing happened to me sometimes. In college, I would always just go find your dad because one look from him and everyone would go scurrying away and we could actually study. Well. I think maybe my version of studying was probably disruptive to him. I like to talk through things and I can't just sit still and make notes for the life of me. But he always let me anyway."

Sizhui laughs. "He told me you once composed a song about chemical compound structure. He sang a little bit of it to me and I still remember those two bars, so I guess it's effective."

"It is," Wei Wuxian replies with a delighted laugh. "I forgot I did that, but now that you bring it up, I could sing the whole thing start to finish. I can't believe he told you about that."

"It was when I was in Anatomy and Physiology last year and having trouble memorizing all the muscles. He said there's always more than one way to learn something and then he told me that story," Sizhui explains.

"Well, we're both right. I know they have a certain way they do things at Cloud Recesses and there's all that tradition and Lan family stuff going on, but don't forget you can do things another way and that's totally okay," Wei Wuxian says as he walks into the cafeteria and straight to the cooler where they keep the pudding cups.

Sizhui grins and accepts the pudding Wei Wuxian holds out to him. "You and dad really are a lot alike."

"We are?" Wei Wuxian asks incredulously.

"You are," Sizhui insists.

"Well, that is literally the first time anyone has ever, or probably will ever compare me favorably to the incomparable Hanguang-Jun," Wei Wuxian says. "Now...the opposite, that's been done more than once in the past."

"They're wrong," Sizhui says serenely as they sit down at one of the tables.

"If you say so," Wei Wuxian says and gestures at Sizhui's cast with his spoon. "So how's the arm?"

"Itchy," Sizhui replies. "And it's hard to sleep with. And it makes meditation hard."

"Having an unbearable itch while trying to meditate is the only thing worse than meditation," Wei Wuxian says.

"I don't usually mind it," Sizhui says. "But...itchy."

"Well, it will be over soon, right? Just a couple more weeks and then you'll be free and Dr. Xiao will be here to help you get back to your music and sports," he says.

"I know it probably won't be fun or easy, but...I'm still looking forward to it. I'd rather be doing something," Sizhui says.

"I get it," Wei Wuxian replies. "But I think it could be argued that you are doing something. Your body is working pretty damn hard to repair all that damage and not doing anything that could injure it more means you'll be more ready to take a more active role in the process."

Sizhui smiles again. "You really are like dad. He said the same thing a couple of days ago."

"Well, if your dad said it and I said it, that must mean it's definitely true," he says. "We were always at odds when we were younger. I didn't think he liked me at all. I'm still surprised he's hanging out with me so much."

"Dr. Wei, you...dad doesn't really have friends. You're the only person I've ever seen him hang out with that isn't family," Sizhui says, fiddling with his spoon.

Hearing those words from Lan Wangji's son makes Wei Wuxian feel oddly giddy. He's about to respond, when Sizhui presses on.

"He..he's been really happy lately. I've never seen him like this. You make him happy. I hope...I hope you keep making him happy and don't still think he doesn't like you. He likes you a lot. I don't want...I don't want to--" Sizhui stops and takes a deep breath, then says in a rush. "I don't want to see what would happen if you left again like you did before."

All of Wei Wuxian's breath leaves him in a whoosh. He swallows twice before drawing in a deep breath. "Sizhui, I don't plan on leaving again and If...if there's some reason I absolutely have to, I promise you it won't be like before."

"Okay," Sizhui says and a small smile steals over his face. "Okay, good. That's good."

Wei Wuxian reaches over and holds out his fist. "Pound it."

Sizhui snorts and bumps his fist back. They talk about other things as they finish their pudding. About Lan Jingyi's latest scheme and how their friend Ouyang Zizhen is going to end up writing epic xianxia romances when he's older.

"I need to meet this kid," Wei Wuxian says with a laugh. "He sounds great."

"I think you'd like him," Sizhui says. "Oh, I know! You should come with dad and me to the concert orchestra program! Everyone will either be participating or watching and there's always a reception after."

"Give me a time and date and I'm there," Wei Wuxian promises. He'll switch shifts with someone if he has to.

Sizhui beams and rattles off the information. Wei Wuxian puts it in his calendar, notices the time, and sighs.

"Well, Lan Sizhui, I'm really glad you came to see me today. Unfortunately, I should get back to work before they start yelling at me over the intercom," he says.

"Thanks for letting me come say hi," Sizhui says as they both stand.

"Any time," Wei Wuxian says. "I mean it. And if you're ever taking organic chemistry and need a song to help you remember chemical compound structure, I've got you covered."

"I'll keep that in mind," Sizhui promises. "See you later, Dr. Wei."

"See you later," Wei Wuxian says and heads back into the emergency department.

He sinks down into a chair at the nurse's station next to Mo Xuanyu, who looks at him with a lifted eyebrow. "Well?"

"You did warn me," Wei Wuxian says. "I was still not prepared."

Mo Xuanyu bursts out laughing and keeps laughing periodically through the rest of their shift. Wei Wuxian can't find it in himself to mind.

_____

"Lan Zhan, you really don't have to keep picking me up," Wei Wuxian says as he gets in the car with Lan Wangji and Sizhui. "Not that I don't appreciate it, but I do have a car and I know how to drive."

"Do you?" Lan Wangji asks.

"Lan Zhan!" Wei Wuxian exclaims, throwing his hands in the air in mock exasperation. "I'll have you know I haven't gotten in an accident or gotten a ticket in four years!"

"Mn," is Lan Wangji's only response as Sizhui laughs softly in the backseat.

Wei Wuxian huffs and crosses his arms over his chest, but he can't hold it long and starts laughing with him. "Fine, fine. My driving history isn't great. Still. Don't inconvenience yourself."

"You are never inconvenient," Lan Wangji says seriously.

"What a difference thirteen years makes," Wei Wuxian teases.

"You weren't inconvenient back then, either," Lan Wangji says.

Wei Wuxian can't think of a single thing to say to that, so instead he changes the subject. "So how was everyone's day?"

"Kind of boring," Sizhui says. "Everyone in orchestra was practicing all day and that's...most everyone. So it was only a few of us left doing other things."

"I know you play guqin and piano, but...what do you play in the orchestra?" Wei Wuxian asks.

"Piano, actually, when we're doing a piece with a piano part. Guqin if we're doing traditional pieces," Sizhui says.

"Last term, they played Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 1. He was the pianist. He also plays cello. And bass. And percussion. And sometimes xylophone. And he directs when the orchestra director has to step away or is out sick," Lan Wangji says.

"Dad, please," Sizhui says with a huff. "My main instruments are still guqin and piano. I just...do those other things as needed when they don't need me to play my main instruments."

"No wind instruments?" Wei Wuxian asks.

"Not yet," Sizhui replies. "I keep wanting to pick one up, but haven't had a chance yet."

"Do you still play, Wei Ying?" Lan Wangji asks.

Wei Wuxian smiles. "I didn't. For a long time. But I got my dizi out of storage a couple of years ago and started playing again. The concert flute is still in a box somewhere, but...I do love the dizi."

"Ooh, I like the dizi. Dad and I have a duet for guqin sometimes that would be so cool with a dizi part," Sizhui enthuses. "You'll come play with us, right?"

"I haven't played with anyone in a long time," Wei Wuxian says. "I'd just sit on the docks at home and play to the birds on the lake until Madam Yu would shout at me to stop already."

"It would be nice to play together again," Lan Wangji says softly.

"If Lan Zhan wants to play music with me, of course I will," Wei Wuxian says.

Lan Wangji hums his approval and though he doesn't take his eyes off the road, Wei Wuxian can see a smile tugging at the corner of his mouth.

"So, what does Jingyi play?" he asks over the pounding of his heart.

"He's second violin," Sizhui replies. "Honestly, he's good enough to be first, but he says he doesn't want the responsibility of being concertmaster. Granduncle despairs."

Wei Wuxian laughs. "And that's why I never took up violin. Who needs the pressure? Besides, then I'd have had to compete with Lan Zhan for first and it was more fun to sit with the woodwinds and goof off and make him angry. I bet practice was so boring after I got kicked out."

"It was more productive," Lan Wangji says.

"But boring," Wei Wuxian insists.

"Mn."

A few minutes later, they pull into the long drive leading to Cloud Recesses Academy.

"It's been a long, long time since I came back here," Wei Wuxian says. "Not since Jiang Cheng graduated."

"Not much has changed," Lan Wangji says and pulls into a parking space near the main auditorium.

"Surprised would be if it had changed," Wei Wuxian says. Seeing all the same old buildings, the same grounds, even the same trees...at one time, it might have made him feel itchy. Now, the unchanging nature of the place just makes him smile.

"Your uncle knows I'm coming, right?" Wei Wuxian asks as they walk toward the auditorium. "He won't spot me, forget himself and what year it is, and kick me out, will he?"

"He knows," Lan Wangi says. "And if he attempted to do such a thing, I wouldn't let him."

Wei Wuxian laughs in delight and hooks his hand through the crook of Lan Wangji's arm. "You'll protect me, Lan Zhan?"

Lan Wangji doesn't say anything, but he's got that tiny smile playing at the corner of his lips again and he doesn't shrug Wei Wuxian off, so he stays as he is and Sizhui falls into step next to him.

They enter the auditorium, take the programs handed to them by suit-wearing students who aren't quite to the level of the concert orchestra, and take the seats that Lan Jingyi's parents have saved for them. Wei Wuxian feels remarkably content seated between Lan Wangji and Lan Sizhui, chatting with Jingyi's parents. He has his problems with Cloud Recesses and the way Lan Qiren runs things, but he knows that the kids here are just trying to put on the best concert they can and make their families proud.

The lights in the auditorium dim and the noise of the crowd fades to absolute silence as Lan Qiren steps up to the mic. He'll say this for the man, he's got a certain kind of gravitas that few other people of his acquaintance can match. He introduces the orchestra and the piece they'll be performing and then steps away as the curtain goes up.

The director takes the podium, bows to the audience, and then they're off. It's a piece Wei Wuxian knows, remembers well enough that he finds his fingers moving to the positions they would need to be in to play his flute along with them because remembering music is like breathing to him. As they transition into the second movement of the song, he remembers that this was a piece he’d played here in this very auditorium at the only orchestra concert in which he had a part.

He remembers flubbing one note purposefully every time they played in practice, going shrill and awful, just because it made Lan Wangji turn and glare at him. When they get to that note in the performance, Wei Wuxian can't help but reach over and squeeze Lan Wangji’s arm. Lan Wangji turns his head to look at him and the amusement and absolute fondness in his eyes makes Wei Wuxian’s breath catch.

He doesn't draw his hand away for the rest of the performance, just turns his head back to the front and listens to the kids play their hearts out.

When the final notes fade away, he's almost reluctant to move, but the kids deserve their standing ovation.

After a few minutes, the musicians return to the auditorium sans instruments to greet their families. Jingyi bounds over to them, a wide grin on his face. "That was good, right? We did good."

"It was very good," Wei Wuxian agrees with a grin.

"It was wonderful," Lan Wangji tells him seriously. At that, Jingyi practically glows and lets his mother kiss his cheek and his father pat him on the shoulder.

"Even that one section that we kept messing up in practice sounded great," Sizhui says.

Jingyi rolls his eyes heavenward. "That section the brass kept messing up, you mean. I cannot tell you how many times we repeated those ten measures over and over and over until they finally got it right."

Sizhui smiles. "Well, it sounded great."

"You better be there for the next one," Jingyi says.

"I'll do my best," Sizhui replies and Jingyi gives him a light punch on his uninjured arm.

"At least they were genuinely messing up," Wei Wuxian says, grinning at Lan Wangji. "Instead of what I did; mess up on purpose to make Hanguang-Jun glare at me."

"You really are shameless, Dr. Wei," Jingyi declares.

Wei Wuxian laughs. "Shame is boring, Lan Jingyi. Life is far more fun when you have no shame. Now, I was definitely promised cookies and juice. Are the receptions still held in the same place?"

"Yes," Lan Wangji confirms.

They walk through campus to the conservatory that serves as a study room connected to the Library Pavillion by day, and for events, is transformed into a glittering reception hall.

There's cookies and juice as promised and it doesn't take long before it becomes incredibly clear that not only are Lan Sizhui and Lan Jingyi part of the Lan family and therefore notable students in and of themselves, but they're also incredibly well-liked by their peers, Sizhui in particular. Wei Wuxian is fairly certain the entire orchestra comes by to tell him he was missed on the stage and they hope he'll be well enough to play with them next time. Sizhui is, of course, smiling and gracious. He rather reminds Wei Wuxian of Lan Xichen, who joins them a moment later.

"Jingyi, that was wonderful," Lan Xichen says and wraps an arm around his nephew's shoulders and squeezes.

"Thank you, uncle," Jingyi says with a slight flush.

"Dr. Wei," Lan Xichen says. "It is good to see you again. It's hard to believe we keep missing one another, considering all the time you're spending with my brother."

Wei Wuxian grins at him. "It's not intentional, I assure you."

"I did not think it was," he says with an answering smile.

"We were reminiscing earlier about being in the orchestra," Wei Wuxian says. "Do you still play violin?"

"I do," he replies. "Though rarely for anyone but my partners and family."

"I've only played for the birds since the last time I was in an orchestra," Wei Wuxian says. "But your brother and nephew have convinced me to come play with them soon, so we'll see if I crack under pressure of playing in front of humans again."

"I find that rather hard to imagine," Lan Xichen says.

Wei Wuxian laughs. "You're right, I probably won't. I don't think I could ever feel nervous in Lan Zhan's presence."

"It pleases me very much to hear you say so, Dr. Wei," Lan Xichen says with a smile that's somehow softer and gentler than his previous smiles. Wei Wuxian realizes that there probably aren't many people who would say such a thing about Lan Wangji. Probably the only ones are right here in this small circle.

"Sizhui!" he hears and then a boy squeezes himself between him and Sizhui. "How was my solo? I felt so shaky. Mom says I was good, but moms don't count."

The cello soloist, Wei Wuxian realizes.

"It was good," Sizhui assures him. "You've come a long way since that first practice. You definitely got the romance of it just right."

The boy grins. "Oh good. That was the most important thing. I could deal with mistakes as long as I got the feeling right."

Sizhui grins. "You see, Dr. Wei? He's going to write epic xianxia romances and then compose sweeping orchestral scores for them. There's no other path forward for him."

"Ah! So you're Ouyang Zizhen," Wei Wuxian says with a laugh. "I've heard a lot about you."

"You're Dr. Wei? It's so good to meet you, sir," Ouyang Zizhen says and gives him a bow. "I've heard a lot about you as well."

"Nothing good, I hope," Wei Wuxian says with a wink.

Ouyang Zizhen's eyes widen in delight and then he grins. "Not a thing, sir. Only scandal and slander."

"Excellent," he says. "I can't have my reputation as a reprobate damaged."

All three boys dissolve into laughter, which only makes Wei Wuxian grin even wider. He likes these kids very much, he decides. He can't wait to introduce Jin Ling to them. He's a little younger than they are, but he thinks they'll still get along. Especially if Jin Ling is away from his awful cousins in Lanling.

He realizes, suddenly, that he really does intend to stay here. To really settle in Gusu. He had been completely serious when he told Sizhui he wasn't planning on leaving, but that's a different thing than actively planning to stay.

He looks toward Lan Wangji and their eyes meet. All Wei Wuxian can do is smile. He'd be lying if he said the man next to him wasn't a large part of that. Lan Wangji blinks slowly, and then he smiles back. Wei Wuxian resists the urge to take his hand and lace their fingers together. Instead, he turns back to the boys and listens to them talk through the performance, giving his thoughts when he's asked for them, but always aware of the warm presence of Lan Wangji at his side.

_____

A week and a half later, he finally has time to make good on his promise to go play music with Lan Wangji and Lan Sizhui. The Lan family compound sits on the same huge plot of land on which Cloud Recesses Academy sits. It's a gorgeous place with houses scattered throughout the many acres for any members of the Lan clan who wish to live there. Wei Wuxian is much more familiar with it than he should be, due to some youthful wall hopping from the Academy grounds, but it's been a long time.

When he gets to the gate allowing access to the compound he punches in the code Lan Wangji sent him and drives up the winding road that cuts through what would be lush greenery were it not early winter. Even now, it's still beautiful. When he was young, he hadn’t spared much thought to the nature of the grounds. While there is certainly a good amount of perfectly manicured grass and neatly trimmed trees lining the drive on either side, there are also areas that have been left to just be forest. It's an oasis of calm beauty in the middle of Gusu city and Wei Wuxian realizes how dumb he'd been as a youth, resenting that the nearest market square was a mile away, that there were no easily accessible restaurants or arcades.

He turns off the main road and down the drive with the bunny-shaped hedge at the head of it, hopelessly endeared that Lan Wangji lives in a house with a bunny hedge. He parks, grabs his dizi from the passenger seat, and before he's even close enough to knock on the door, it opens in front of him.

"Wei Ying," Lan Wangji says. "Welcome."

"Hi Lan Zhan," Wei Wuxian replies with a smile. "I was thinking about it earlier and I don't think I've ever been here through the front gate. Why be polite when you can hop a fence."

Lan Wangji shakes his head, but Wei Wuxian is sure he catches a smile on his face. "It's more than a fence," he says and gestures him inside.

"That just made it more fun to climb over," Wei Wuxian says, laughing. "Have any other students been as brazen as I was?"

"No," Sizhui says from a wide doorway off the foyer. "Because seven of the rules granduncle added when you left made the penalty for trespassing anywhere you don't have permission to be much more severe."

"I really did give him fits, didn't I?" Wei Wuxian asks. "Am I the only black mark on his record as headmaster, then?"

"You forget Nie Huaisang had to repeat several classes," Lan Wangji says. "Though, you are the only student he ever expelled."

"I probably shouldn't be proud of that," Wei Wuxian says. "But I really, really am."

Sizhui giggles, reaches out to grab his wrist, and tugs him into the room. He feels a wave of nostalgia so strong, he's nearly staggered with it. He has no earthly idea where it came from, but he's so happy to be here he can hardly contain it.

"This is the music room," Sizhui says.

"I can see that," Wei Wuxian says. There are instruments hanging on the walls, one of which he recognizes as Lan Wangji's beautiful, distinctive violin, two guqins already set out on low tables with music stands in front of them, and a baby grand piano in the corner of the room with no outside walls. It's exactly the sort of place he always imagined Lan Wangji would have in his home.

Sizhui kneels in front of his instrument and holds up his arm, which is no longer encased in the large cast it had been in, and looks up at the two of them expectantly. "I still can't play super well, but Dr. Xiao said I could and I've missed it."

"Have you been waiting for me?" Wei Wuxian asks. When Sizhui nods and gives him a shy smile, he thinks his heart might melt right here in his chest. "Well, we can't keep you waiting any longer, can we?"

Lan Wangi sits gracefully in front of his instrument. Wei Wuxian sets his case down at one end of his table and sits in front of it. "Is this okay, Lan Zhan?" he asks.

"Mn," Lan Wangji replies.

Wei Wuxian smiles and takes his flute out of the case. He blows into the mouthpiece a few times, then looks up at them. "I'm ready."

Lan Wangji starts them off with a traditional song Wei Wuxian recognizes, but wouldn't say he knows, so he sits and listens for a few measures to get the feel of it before lifting his flute to his lips and joining. They play through that song, then another, and then another after that before Lan Wangji moves his hands off the strings of his guqin.

"How's it going?" Wei Wuxian asks and lifts his hand to wiggle his fingers at Sizhui.

"Okay," Sizhui replies. "I probably won't be able to go as long as I normally would, though."

"Then we should do the song you said you wanted to do before your arm grows too tired," Lan Wangji says.

Sizhui nods, clearly a little bit disappointed at his lack of stamina.

"So what's this song?" Wei Wuxian asks and Sizhui's expression brightens.

"We've been writing it...as long as I can remember," he says.

Wei Wuxian can almost picture it: Lan Wangji sitting much like he is now, but with a small boy in his lap, both their hands on the strings. "Well that's the sweetest thing I've ever heard. Have you written the dizi part?"

"No," Lan Wangji replies. "We trust you to do it."

Wei Wuxian swallows hard and clears his throat. "Then I'll do my best. Play it for me?"

They start playing and Wei Wuxian closes his eyes to listen. The melody begins simple, reminiscent of children's songs he remembers hearing the kids sing at the children's center he and Lan Wangji volunteered at together, but the song shifts and changes and becomes something truly beautiful, a song full of all the love and joy he's seen in the relationship between father and son since the very first moment Lan Wangji stepped into that hospital room.

That he's being asked to add something to it makes his chest feel tight and his eyes burn.

He takes a deep breath and listens. Listens to the melodies, the harmonies, the diminuendos and crescendos. When they finish, he doesn't open his eyes. "Once more," he requests and they play.

This time, he hears a melody weaving between the two guqins, and knows what notes he'll play. He's smiling and when they finish, he opens his eyes again and looks at both of them in turn. "I'm ready."

They start again and after two measures, he joins them. His melody is a counterpoint. When theirs grows serious and somber, his becomes playful. When theirs is joyful, his is solemn. The more the play, the faster his heart races. The music feels wonderful to him and he hopes more than anything that they feel the same.

He's not ready for the song to end, but at the same time, he thinks if he has to play much longer, he might actually burst. When he pulls his flute away from his lips he looks up and meets Sizhui's eyes. "Well?" he asks. "Was that as cool as you were imagining?"

Sizhui blinks at him and then a moment later he's moved around his table and has thrown his arms around Wei Wuxian's shoulders. "It was perfect," Sizhui says into his shoulder.

"I'm glad," Wei Wuxian says with a laugh and wraps his arms around Sizhui, finally allowing himself to look up at Lan Wangji.

What he sees there makes his breath stop in his throat and his stomach fills with butterflies. "How about you, Hanguang-Jun?" he asks, voice only a little bit shaky. "Are you satisfied with my addition to the song?"

"It was absolutely perfect," Lan Wangji says.

"It's probably good we need to stop for the day," Wei Wuxian says as Sizhui pulls back, looking faintly pink, but still so pleased. "Why mess with perfection?"

"Mn," Lan Wangji says and reaches for the soft, cloth cover for his guqin. Sizhui moves back and covers his as well and Wei Wuxian puts his flute back in its case.

"Thank you for letting me play with you both," he says. "I'm not sure I'll ever be able to play with anyone else after this. Nothing could compare."

He's not sure, but he's fairly certain there's a look of absolute smugness and satisfaction that flashes over Lan Wangji's face. He doesn't voice anything like that, though. "You're welcome to stay for dinner."

"I'd like that," Wei Wuxian says. He's not ready to leave them, not yet.

Dinner is cooked by Lan Wangji, who produces a bottle of chili oil for him because he's Wei Wuxian's favorite person in the world. He can tell that even without the chili oil, it would be absolutely delicious and...reminds him of something, now that he thinks of it.

"Lan Zhan, have you been exchanging cooking tips with my jiejie?" he asks.

"Not recently," Lan Wangji says.

Wei Wuxian tilts his head. "Anyone else and I'd think that was a joke. Have you exchanged cooking tips with her at some point?"

"I do see her periodically," Lan Wangji points out. "Until the hospital, I'd seen her much more recently than you. I saw her at most of the charity galas throughout the years and once or twice in between. We do share in-laws after a fashion, you remember."

"I hadn't thought about it like that," Wei Wuxian says. "Well, now I'm going to scold her for not telling me about talking to you."

"No you're not," Lan Wangji says confidently.

"No, I'm not. I might whine at her about it, though," he replies, laughing. "I'm glad you talk, though. My favorite people should get along. It's only right."

That gets a small smile out of Lan Wangji and Wei Wuxian is going to carry the warmth of that look with him for the next few weeks.

_____

Two weeks later, Wei Wuxian checks his mail after a long shift and finds a catalogue, a bill, two fliers for businesses opening soon in the neighborhood, and one extremely expensive envelope, hand-addressed to him in perfect calligraphy. He tosses the rest of the mail and his keys on the kitchen counter and turns the envelope over to see that it's sealed with blue wax imprinted with the symbol of the Lan Family. He carefully slides his finger under the envelope flap and tugs until the wax comes free of the envelope.

Inside, he finds an invitation to the annual Lan Foundation Charity Gala. He's been invited as a member of the Jiang family every year since he turned sixteen, but never thought to be invited on his own merits. He's no one special, really. He's about to set the invitation down, when he notices there's more than just the invitation in the envelope. He expects the RSVP postcard, but not the handwritten note that flutters out and nearly falls to the floor before he catches it.

Dr. Wei,

I cannot tell you how much your presence in the life of my brother since you returned to Gusu means to me. Wangji has always been a solitary sort, but I'm sure you understand worrying about one's little brother needing good friends. You bring him joy and put him at ease in ways I don't often get to see.

I very much hope you will join us at the gala. Not only because it would make my brother happy (though it very much would), but also because you are a valued member of this community.

Sincerely,

Dr. Lan Xichen

Wei Wuxian blinks at the note for several long moments. If the invitation is unexpected, a personal note from Lan Xichen is even more so. He knows how many invitations go out for these sorts of things and he can't imagine that Lan Xichen adds a note to more than a handful or his assistant, and probably his partners, would kill him.

He gently puts everything back in the envelope and taps it against his hand. His family will likely be there. Jin Zixuan and Jiang Yanli haven't missed one since Jin Ling was a newborn. Madam Yu wouldn't miss it for the world, and he knows Jiang Cheng has gone off and on through the years. Still, it feels strange to be invited, to think about joining them. When he’d moved back to Yunmeng to take care of Uncle Jiang, he’d inadvertently stepped out of the society he'd grown up in since he'd been plucked out of foster care at the age of nine.

The last Lan Foundation Charity Gala he attended had ended with him and Nie Huaisang quite drunk and singing bawdy songs while sitting on the edge of a fountain outside the ballroom. They'd both been roundly scolded by their brothers for their shameless behavior.

He's never done one of these sober, he realizes. Even as a teenager, he would snag glasses of champagne off of trays and down them before the waiters even noticed him. Despite being a Lan event, the alcohol flows freely at these galas and it's easy, so so easy, to drink the night away.

He swallows, sets the invitation down on the counter, and goes to shower. He has time to think about it.

The next day during a slow hour in the emergency room, he tells Mo Xuanyu all of this in a rush. If anyone will understand, it's him.

"Do you really trust yourself so little?" Mo Xuanyu asks. "It's been over five years and there are several people who will be there that will watch out for you."

"I know," Wei Wuxian says and takes a breath. "I do know that, but it still feels like tempting fate. And I'd mostly be going for Lan Zhan, but I'm sure he'll be too busy to bother with me all night."

Mo Xuanyu gives him a flat look. "Don't be fucking stupid."

Wei Wuxian wrinkles his nose at him. "I'll think about it."

"Think fast, then. Because if you decide to go, you're going to need a tux and you know all the tailors in the area will be booked up working on everyone else's formalwear," Mo Xuanyu says.

"Fuck," Wei Wuxian says with feeling.

Three days later, he has to cancel on Lan Wangji for dinner because MianMian calls him, desperate for someone to cover her shift because both her daughter and husband managed to contract a stomach bug. He's disappointed to miss dinner, but he agrees readily.

Halfway through his shift, which happens to involve administering IV fluids to more than a few people who have caught the same stomach bug, he looks up from charting at the nurse's station to see Lan Wangji striding down the hallway with a takeout bag in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other.

"Lan Zhan, you are too good to me," Wei Wuxian says. "I was the one who cancelled on you."

Lan Wangji shakes his head and presses the coffee into his hand. "No such thing."

"Come on," he says. "I can take a few minutes."

He leads Lan Wangji through the halls and toward the employee lounge. Technically, he's probably not supposed to bring anyone else back here, but Lan Wangji is his...something and Wei Wuxian doesn't particularly want to go to the cafeteria right now.

"It's going to be a long night," he says with a sigh as he sits down at one of the tables. "Apparently there's a stomach thing going around. We're up to our ears in bags of saline and I've already changed my scrubs once."

Lan Wangji opens a takeout container of rice and hands it to him with a pair of chopsticks, then opens another one he can see is full something that smells like pork and spice. "Eat."

"You're too good," Wei Wuxian insists, then starts eating as instructed as Lan Wangji tells him a story about how one of his postdocs in the lab got some interesting results that they're now going to see if they can replicate. His voice is soft and soothing and everything Wei Wuxian needs in this moment.

"You'll have to keep me updated," Wei Wuxian says with a smile. "I'm invested now."

"Naturally," Lan Wangji replies.

"I really am glad to see you, Lan Zhan," Wei Wuxian says. "I would be even if you hadn't brought me food and coffee. So...thank you."

"There is no need for thanks between us," Lan Wangji murmurs. All Wei Wuxian can do is squeeze his wrist and smile. "Brother says the invitations for the Gala were sent out last week. Were you planning on coming?"

"I hadn't decided yet," Wei Wuxian replies honestly.

"It would make me happy," Lan Wangji says, meeting his eyes. "If you would come."

Wei Wuxian's breath catches in his throat for a moment and then he takes a breath. "Well, obviously I cannot say no to a personal invitation from Hanguang-Jun himself, can I?"

"You could," Lan Wangji says.

"I know," Wei Wuxian says. "But I don't want to. I'll come, Lan Zhan."

"I'm glad." Lan Wangji smiles at him and Wei Wuxian knows he would brave any number of stuffy events just because Lan Wangji asked him.

Mo Xuanyu's words about needing a tux echo in his head and he moans and covers his face with his hands.

"What is it?" Lan Wangji asks.

"I just remembered I haven't bought a tuxedo in over a decade. I don't even know where to go anymore! And if I show up in something less than perfect, Madam Yu will break my legs," he whines theatrically.

"I will give you the information for our tailor," Lan Wangji says. "They are very good and I will make sure they take your appointment."

"Lan Zhan, you don't need to do that," Wei Wuxian says.

"I asked," Lan Wangji insists. "The least I can do is make it easy for you to come."

"Fine," Wei Wuxian agrees with a sigh and takes another bite of food. "Text it to me? I'll never remember and I predict at least one more scrub change before the night is over, so paper is probably a bad idea."

"I will," Lan Wangji says.

"Okay," Wei Wuxian says. "Good. Um. One more thing. It's just small and I want to preface this by saying I really don't think it will be a problem, but if you could help me avoid alcohol, I would appreciate it."

"Of course," Lan Wangji promises. "Wei Ying, of course."

Wei Wuxian lets out a breath and grins. Now that he's agreed, he thinks he might actually be excited about this.

They only have a few more minutes until Wei Wuxian hears his name called over the intercom. "That's my cue," he says with a sigh. "I'll see you soon."

Lan Wangji nods and starts gathering the empty containers. "Go on, I will see myself out."

Wei Wuxian throws him a smile of his shoulder, then dashes back toward the emergency department.

When he finally gets home, he pulls the RSVP card out of the envelope and checks yes, that he will be attending. Before he drops it in the outgoing mail, he adds a note.

Zewu-Jun, If I make your brother happy, it is my honor and privilege to do so. Sincerely, Wei Wuxian

_____

Mo Xuanyu whistles softly when they get out of the car at the tailor's shop. Somehow, even just the parking lot is fancy.

"You sure you can afford this place?" Mo Xuanyu asks.

"Um. If I can't, I guess that's why I've got a credit card," Wei Wuxian replies. "It's not like Madam Yu would let me get away with anything less than this."

"Really relieved I put on nicer clothes before walking out the door," Mo Xuanyu says.

"Very much same," Wei Wuxian agrees softly and they walk toward the door, which a handsome gentleman in a suit opens for them.

"Name?" the man asks after welcoming them.

"Wei Wuxian," he replies.

"Dr. Wei, come right this way."

He leads them down a hall and into a private fitting room and leaves them with a murmured, "Our head tailor will be with you shortly."

"Lifestyles of the rich and famous," Mo Xuanyu mutters.

"Your father is Jin Guangshan," Wei Wuxian points out. "If you haven't been in one of these before, I'll eat my hat."

"I mean, yeah. But it never felt like...reality, you know? I was just there for him to keep up appearances," Mo Xuanyu replies.

"Fair enough," Wei Wuxian says.

A few minutes later, the tailor sweeps in and it's a whirlwind from there. His measurements are taken and attendants bring in various pieces for him to try on. "Now, we don't have time to make a truly bespoke suit for you, but that won't stop us from making it fit you and your personality as closely as possible," she declares, hands on her hips.

She stares at him, circling him, picking up various jackets, ties, vests, squinting between them, then putting them down again. He knows better than to do anything but let her look and answer any questions she asks. After several minutes she nods decisively. "Yes, I think so."

She separates three pieces from the piles. "These will be the base. I'll need to order a few things to pull it all together. Please see my assistant at the front desk to arrange an appointment for three days from now for a final fitting."

"And the deposit," Mo Xuanyu mutters when she's already swept out of the room.

Wei Wuxian laughs a little weakly. "And that."

The same man who’d escorted them in comes to lead them to the sleek reception desk. "We have several openings for next Thursday," the receptionist says before he can say anything. "What would work best with your schedule?"

"I'm free all day," he replies.

"Then let's say morning so we’ll have plenty of time to make any necessary alterations," she says and hands him a card with the appointment time written on it.

"Sounds good." He reaches for his wallet to pull out his credit card and she lifts a hand to stop him with a smile.

"No need, sir. Hanguang-Jun has already taken care of everything," she says.

"Oh my god," Mo Xuanyu breathes beside him.

"Oh," Wei Wuxian says. "Um. Thank you. See you Thursday, then."

"See you Thursday," she replies. Somehow, he makes it out the door and to his car without tripping over his own feet, but he's not entirely sure how.

"Oh my god," Mo Xuanyu says, then starts cackling. "Oh my god, you got yourself a fucking sugar daddy."

"I...no," Wei Wuxian says. "He...I. What the fuck?"

"I don't know, but an intelligent, kind, rich, and handsome man wants to buy you an extremely nice suit to go to a charity ball with him, so you better not fuck this up," Mo Xuanyu says.

"It's not a date date," he says as he pulls out of the parking lot. "We're friends."

"You are not this stupid," Mo Xuanyu says. "I know you're not. Stop being obtuse."

"I just. I don't--"

"Wow, I don't think I've ever seen you this speechless," Mo Xuanyu says with the most shit-eating of grins. "I'm gonna have to mark this day down for the record. Dear Diary, On this day, Wei Wuxian was so stunned he couldn't string together a full sentence for a solid five minute stretch. We were all grateful for the reprieve."

"Fuck you," Wei Wuxian says.

"No, I think I'll be leaving that for Hanguang-Jun," Mo Xuanyu retorts. "He seems like the jealous sort."

"I hate you," Wei Wuxian says. "You're a bad friend."

"No you don't and no I'm not," he says. "God, I'm so glad I let you talk me into blowing off my homework and coming with you. This is the best thing that's happened to me in a month."

"Clearly we need to raise your standards," Wei Wuxian says. "Or get you laid. Something."

"You try working full-time and going to grad school full-time and let me know how well you do," Mo Xuanyu grumbles.

"I...what do I even say to him?" he asks as he pulls into a parking spot close to their favorite lunch place.

"I mean, pretty sure 'thank you' is a decent start," Mo Xuanyu says. "And also showing up to that ball on his arm looking like you're worth a million. Okay, actually we need to get you a hair appointment right the fuck now. You can't wear a suit that nice and then style your hair yourself. I won't let you."

Wei Wuxian lets his head thunk against the steering wheel with a loud groan.

_____

It turns out, he doesn't need a hair appointment. That evening he facetimes his sister and as they're catching up, he tells her he's coming, that his tux is being worked on, and that now he just has to find somewhere to get his hair done.

"A-Xian, don't be silly," she says. "We have a suite. Come get ready with mom, A-Cheng, and I. I'll do your hair for you."

"Oh," he says. It honestly hadn't occurred to him even once. "I...yeah, that sounds really nice."

"You know mom will want to fuss. This way she gets it out of the way and doesn't embarrass you in front of your Hanguang-Jun," Jiang Yanli says. The smile on her face is mischievous and he really can't help but smile back.

"He's not mine, jiejie," Wei Wuxian says, but it sounds weak even to his own ears.

"Not yet, maybe," she says. "You know, I was worried. When you decided to move to Gusu so suddenly. It had been so long and Mo Xuanyu is so busy with school I was afraid you wouldn't have anyone. And I hoped, a little bit, that you might come to Lanling. But this has been so good for you, I can tell. And I'm so glad."

"Thanks, A-Jie," he says. "I'm a little bit surprised that everything has fallen into place like it has, but it's nice to...build something of my own."

"I know the feeling," she says. "Now tell me about this suit."

They talk for a few more minutes. When he hangs up, it's with the knowledge that he's going to be able to hug his sister soon.

Three days later, he picks up his tuxedo from the tailor, then drives directly to the hotel his family is staying at. He texts Jiang Cheng when he parks and his brother meets him in the lobby.

"I can't believe you're coming to this and you don't even have to," Jiang Cheng grumbles and punches him in the shoulder. Wei Wuxian does as he always does and retaliates by grabbing Jiang Cheng into a headlock that doubles as a hug, careful of the garment bag in one hand.

"A-Cheng, in life, there are some things you just don't say no to and personal invitations from the Twin Jades of Lan is one of those things," he says.

He releases his brother from the headlock but he doesn't need to look at his face to know he's rolling his eyes.

"Come on, A-Jie is waiting. I think even mom is looking forward to seeing you, so you better not be an idiot," Jiang Cheng says.

Wei Wuxian just grins and punches the button to call the elevator. The moment they step into the suite, the noise level lifts about sixty decibels.

"A-Xian!" Jiang Yanli exclaims when she sees him, drops the pair of shoes in her hands and in two strides, has her arms wrapped around his waist.

"Hi jiejie," he says, grinning wide and hugging her back. He rests his cheek on the top of her head. "I've missed you."

"I'm so glad we're all together again," she murmurs. It's the first time, he realizes, since the funeral.

"Me too," he says and squeezes her tight.

"Mom! Where'd my shoes go?" Jin Ling yells from one of the rooms.

They both laugh. "They're in here," Jiang Yanli calls. "Come say hi to your da-jiu."

Jin Ling skids into the room, eyes wild with excitement for half a moment before he attempts to tamp it down and act cool. Such a teenager, Wei Wuxian thinks and grins at him.

"How's my favorite nephew?" he asks and tugs Jin Ling in for a hug.

"I'm your only nephew," he says sourly, but he hugs back just as tight as Wei Wuxian hugs him. "I can't believe I have to go to this," he grumbles when he pulls back. "Why can't I just stay in the hotel? I'll be good. I'll just watch TV and play my Switch."

"You're going," four different voices say flatly from various rooms in the suite.

Wei Wuxian laughs. "Sorry, buddy. It's a family rite of passage. But I can introduce you to my--to Lan Sizhui, his cousin, and a couple of their friends. They go to Cloud Recesses and I think you'll like them."

Jin Ling looks slightly mollified, which Wei Wuxian counts as a win.

A moment later, Jin Zixuan enters the room looking distinctly harassed. "A-Li, now I've lost my shoes."

His sister laughs and puts a hand over her face. "Okay. Let's all find our shoes and put them near the door so we won't lose them again, hm?"

Wei Wuxian looks at Jiang Cheng and they exchange grins. Some things never change.

"Wei Wuxian." He hears Madam Yu's sharp voice from across the room and looks up to see her standing in the doorway to one of the rooms. "Are you just going to stand there, or are you going to come greet me?"

He smiles and moves toward her, leaning in to kiss her cheek. "Hello, Madam Yu."

"You're too skinny," she says. "Have you been feeding yourself properly or just grabbing terrible junk from the hospital cafeteria?"

"You and Lan Zhan should compare notes," he grumbles and then regrets it immediately when her gaze goes sharp.

"Don't think I won't," she says.

He sighs heavily. The worst part is she will.

"Now take off that ratty hoodie," she orders. "We can't do your hair with that awful thing getting in the way."

He does as he's told, sits in the chair he's directed to, and exchanges increasingly silly faces with Jin Ling as Madam Yu, Madam Jin, and his sister all stand behind him and discuss exactly what they should do to his hair. He supposes he brought this on himself by letting it grow out.

Apparently, they reach a consensus because soon, only his sister is left carefully combing his hair, putting various products in it, and then she starts the serious work of making his hair do something that would be appropriate for this extremely fancy event.

"Will Hanguang-Jun be picking you up here?" she asks.

"He insisted," Wei Wuxian replies.

"Of course he did," Jiang Yani says approvingly.

"What would you have done if I'd said no?" he asks.

"Judged him," she replies instantly and pats his shoulder. "My didi deserves to be treated like a prince."

Wei Wuxian laughs and reaches back to squeeze her hand. "You're the best sister a man could ask for, did you know?"

"Of course," she replies and tugs on his hair. "Now let me finish."

By the time she's done, all he knows is that whatever she's done, he has about seven hundred bobby pins in his hair and it's going to look extremely good, but he can't for the life of him imagine what she's done. "Mom, can you bring me the--"

"It's already right there, A-Li," Madam Yu says.

"Oh, so it is," she replies. There's a sound of a box opening and then he feels the cold metal of what is sure to be an ornate pin sliding in to hold it all together.

"Now," she says and gives him a large hand mirror. "Go look and tell me what you think."

He grins, leans in to kiss her cheek, then goes into the bathroom. He's not sure why he was expecting a severe look. His sister knows him and knows that's not at all his style, so he's pleased to see that it's not too far off from what he would normally do to his hair, but instead of merely pulled up into a bun, it's braided up the back of his head and then the ends of the braid feed into the bun. The pin stuck through the side of it is a family heirloom and he can't help but be a little bit touched that Madam Yu is allowing him to use it.

"It's wonderful, A-Jie," he tells her when he comes back into the sitting room. "Much better than anyone at a salon could have done."

"That's only because I know what A-Xian likes," she demures.

"No, it's because you're magic," he insists.

"Maybe a little," she says with sparkling eyes. "Now see about ordering us something from room service to snack on. It's going to be a while before any of us can eat."

He does as he's told and soon, room service brings them all the food he could find that would be both easy snacking and unlikely to drip.

Madam Yu hums in approval when she comes to look over the spread, so he counts it as a win.

After they eat a bit, the activity levels in the room seem to increase exponentially. When the women start doing their makeup, Wei Wuxian goes into the bathroom, puts the lid down on the toilet and sits there talking to his sister as she works.

"How about some eye liner, A-Xian," she asks with a wink.

"Maybe next time, jiejie," he says. "I wouldn't say no to some concealer for these dark circles, though."

She laughs. "Aren't you lucky I picked up some concealer and powder in your shade?"

"Have I told you you're the best sister in the world in the last twenty minutes?" he asks as she hands her the items from her makeup bag. "I think the last stuff you bought me is probably dry and sad and still in the box labeled 'Bathroom #2' stacked in my living room."

"A-Xian, why haven't you unpacked yet?" she asks and moves a little to the side to give him room to apply his own makeup beside her.

"I don't know," he replies. "I don't really like my apartment and I feel like I'm hardly there. I guess it seems pointless."

"Would you like it better if you unpacked and made it feel more like home?" she asks.

He thinks about it for several long moments before answering. "Honestly the best thing about it is the fact that it meant I was in the right place at the right time when Lan Sizhui and Lan Jingyi got in that accident."

"You seem very fond of those boys," she says.

Wei Wuxian can only grin. "Because I am. Sizhui is...I think thirteen years ago if you'd asked me what sort of child Lan Zhan would raise, I wouldn't have even come close to describing Sizhui. But he's a really good dad and Sizhui is a really special kid."

"You know," she says conversationally as she applies blush with quick strokes of her brush. "I think the only other child you've ever talked about with so much affection and pride is A-Ling. And a long time ago, your A-Yuan from the children's center."

Wei Wuxian swallows hard at the mention of A-Yuan. He'd tried to check in on him after he got settled in Yunmeng again, but the only thing anyone could tell him is that he'd been adopted quickly after his grandmother passed.

"I, um. I guess I am proud of him. He's ridiculously talented, he's intelligent, and he's just...a really kind person," Wei Wuxian says.

"Then I look forward to meeting him," Jiang Yanli says and smiles at him in the mirror.

He smiles back. "If you guys do send Jin Ling to Cloud Recesses next year, I think Sizhui would be a really good friend for him to have. Jingyi too. Better than his little shit of a cousin at any rate."

When Jiang Yanli doesn't even scold him for calling a child a little shit, he knows something new must have happened recently. "That's good to hear. I'd like him to have the opportunity to find some better friends."

"I know I've been trying to talk you out of it, but...maybe it would be a good fit for him," he says. "And Old Man Lan even let me on campus a couple of weeks ago, so probably it wasn't a lifetime ban."

She laughs. "I'll tell A-Xuan. We're still deciding. But if A-Ling meets these boys and likes them, maybe that will make the decision for us."

They both finish at the same time and give one another thumbs up in the mirror, then crack up. "Now, go put on your suit so we can take a few pictures before we have to leave," she orders and shoos him out of the bathroom.

Madam Yu is already in her gown and fussing over Jiang Cheng's hair, so Wei Wuxian grabs his garment bag and slips into her room to change. He's tying his tie when he hears a knock on the door, "Wei Ying are you decent?" Madam Yu calls.

"Yes, ma'am," he replies and turns to face her.

"Well," she says, hands on her hips. "Turn. I can't tell if this tailor is worth anything if I can't see the whole thing."

He does as instructed, turning slowly so she can take in the whole tuxedo. He can't imagine she'll find any fault in it. It's from the Lan family's preferred tailor after all.

"It'll do," she finally says and strides forward, picking up a box from the dresser and removes two silver objects. "Wrists," she orders. "I won't have you wearing the cufflinks that came with the shirt.

He smiles and does as he's told while she replaces the basic pearl button cufflinks with some he recognizes were once Uncle Jiang's. He swallows hard, but before he can say anything, she pulls something from the same box and reaches up to pin it to his lapel. It's a silver lotus, a symbol of the Jiang family. The Lans have their forehead ribbons for formal occasions and the Jiangs have the lotus pins. When he was younger, he was never given one.

"There will be rivers of champagne there tonight," she says briskly. "Will you be all right with it?"

He nods, throat tight and eyes stinging. "Yes, ma'am. Lan Zhan promised to help, too."

"Good," she says. "Now go. A-Li wants pictures."

"Yes, ma'am," he says and flees before he actually starts crying. Nobody wants red, puffy eyes just before a huge formal event.

The next twenty minutes are taken up with so many pictures, Wei Wuxian is pretty sure people are going to have to clean out their phones before long. He can only be well-behaved for so long before he starts causing mischief and making everyone laugh, but for once, nobody scolds him for it.

It's funny, he thinks. He knew that at some point over the thirteen years they were living in the same house again, he and Madam Yu managed to bring their relationship to a somewhat better place, but he hadn't realized how much until now. Getting ready for these sorts of things always ended in shouting matches and Wei Wuxian trying desperately not to make Madam Yu too angry at him. Now...now it feels like all four of them are actually a family.

When Madam Jin takes a picture of them all, Wei Wuxian thinks that, for the first time in a family photo including Madam Yu, his smile might be completely genuine.

He probably shouldn't be surprised Lan Wangji shows up in a limo to pick him up, but he very much is.

"Like a prince," his sister says softly with a twinkle in her eye.

"Jiejie, hush," he says, cheeks flushing as he moves toward the entrance to the lobby and out to meet his date.

His mouth goes dry when he finally takes in the full picture Lan Wangji makes. His tuxedo is traditional and classic and suits him perfectly. The accent pieces are the pale blue that has been part of the Lan Family crest for generations upon generations, the same color as the ribbon tied around his forehead. Wei Wuxian has only seen it a few times. Usually Lan Wangji wears a watch in its place as at some point in the relatively recent past, the forehead ribbon was deemed impractical for modern life. In this instance, it pulls the whole look together into something out of a storybook. It's times like this when he's reminded why the Lan brothers are called the Twin Jades of Lan. They're so perfect, it's like they were carved from stone. His jiejie is wrong. He's definitely not the prince in this scenario.

Lan Wangji looks at him and that's all it takes to remind him that despite appearances, he truly is just a man. His lips part just the slightest bit and his expression is...Wei Wuxian can't describe it, but he knows he could drown in it.

"Wei Ying," Lan Wangji says, voice almost too soft to be heard over the sounds of the city.

"Lan Zhan," he replies and when Lan Wangji reaches out his hand, Wei Wuxian takes it.

"You look...perfect," Lan Wangji says.

Wei Wuxian can only chuckle as Lan Wangji helps him into the limo. "That's mostly my jiejie's doing. And nevermind me, look at you. Everyone is going to be so incredibly jealous of me."

"Ridiculous," Lan Wangji says, but Wei Wuxian can see the tips of his ears going red.

"Ridiculous is you bringing a limo to pick me up," Wei Wuxian says.

Lan Wangji shakes his head and Wei Wuxian grins broadly at him.

"So how stressed is your brother?" he asks.

"He is...better today now that the day is finally here," Lan Wangji says,

"Understandable. All the hardest things are done, I suppose. Now all he has to do is show up, look pretty, and say a few words," Wei Wuxian says.

"Mn," Lan Wangji agrees. "You...may not remember from before, but there will be a red carpet and press in attendance. As a Lan, I can't skip it, but if you would like to, we can drop you off at a side entrance."

"If it's something you have to do, of course I'll do it with you," Wei Wuxian says.

He sees a flash of relief in Lan Wangji's eyes and smiles. "They're going to think we're dating, though," he points out.

Lan Wangji cuts him a look. "Let them."

Wei Wuxian laughs merrily as the limo turns down the road to the museum where the gala is held every year.

"There will also be a few times where I'll need to join my brother and uncle for interviews and press photos. They'll just be the three of us and the Foundation's PR representatives," he says.

"I'm sure I'll find a way to entertain myself," Wei Wuxian says and pats his arm. "My family is here, after all. And I want to introduce Jin Ling to Sizhui and the others."

"I hope they get along," Lan Wangji says with almost painful sincerity.

"So do I," Wei Wuxian replies. "I think they will."

The car finally comes to a stop in front of the grand entrance to the museum. He can practically see Lan Wangji steeling himself to step out of the limo and onto the red carpet. He reaches out and squeezes his arm. "It'll be fine. I'll be right beside you."

Lan Wangji nods and he smiles the tiniest amount, then waits for the chauffeur to open the door for them. The moment they're out of the car, the flashbulbs start going off.

Wei Wuxian has been in front of a crowd of reporters all shouting things and taking photo after photo, but that was when he was giving status updates regarding the injuries inflicted by a bomb. This...is an entirely different thing.

Wei Wuxian holds out his hand to Lan Wangji, who takes it with the tiniest of smiles and squeezes.

They walk down the red carpet, pausing to let their photos be taken. Lan Wangji only actually stops for a couple of people, one reporter and one photographer. One of the reporters is clearly a student reporter from Cloud Recesses. She's adorable and earnest and Lan Wangji answers her questions seriously. The photographer is Nie Huaisang.

"Nie-xiong," Wei Wuxian says with a grin. "Fancy meeting you here."

"Wei-xiong," Nie Huaisang says as he snaps photo after photo after photo. "I can't believe you've already been in Gusu this long and this is the first I've seen you. Lan Wangji is clearly hoarding you all for himself."

"You've been traveling!" Wei Wuxian defends with a laugh. "Each new Weibo post seems to be from somewhere else! How am I supposed to know when you're back and free at the same time as me?"

"Fine, fine," Nie Huaisang says with a casual wave of his hand. "I'll be here for at least two weeks, so we should definitely catch up. I'd say we could chat tonight, but I'm the official photographer for the event."

"Nepotism pays," Wei wuxian says with a wink.

"It does and I'm not even a little bit ashamed," Nie Huaisang retorts.

Wei Wuxian laughs and Lan Wangji tugs his hand just the slightest bit.

"Text me," Wei Wuxian says. "We'll get lunch or something."

"I will," Nie Huaisang promises, but his camera is already turned toward the next set of people behind them on the red carpet.

There's about twenty more feet of the red carpet left and they manage to make it to the end and in through the large main doors of the museum without incident. Inside looks much the same as it had when he was younger. Everything is glittering and every single person looks absolutely incredible.

"I stole champagne within five minutes of arriving the first time I attended one of these and made you angry at me within the first twenty minutes," Wei Wuxian says, sending Lan Wangji a rueful smile. Lan Wangji squeezes his hand and raises an eyebrow just slightly in question. "I'm fine. It's just funny how life changes. Well. I think it's changed? I'm fairly certain I won't make you angry for at least an hour. This time."

Lan Wangji shakes his head. "Ridiculous." His tone is so fond Wei Wuxian feels his butterflies in his stomach in response. As they move through the crowd, Lan Wangji gets stopped a few times, but one advantage of having a reputation of being unapproachable is that not many people approach him. They make it into the main hall and toward the head table fairly quickly.

Lan Xichen is already there with Jin Guangyao at his side, talking to someone. They step away and Lan Xichen turns to tell Jin Guangyao something when he spots them and stares.

"Zewu-Jun, do we make such a compelling picture? Nie-xiong took many photos of us if you need one," Wei Wuxian jokes.

Lan Xichen shakes his head and smiles. "The two of you make a striking pair. It's as if you were always meant to be together...here tonight."

Wei Wuxian chooses not to make comment on that pause, but grins. "I'll have to take your word for it for now."

"What is our schedule for the night?" Lan Wanji asks.

"Local outlets in ten minutes," Jin Guangyao says. "Then national and international twenty minutes after that."

Wei Wuxian is fairly certain that the only reason Jin Guangyao doesn't have a clipboard is that he has an eidetic memory.

"Thank you," Lan Wangji says.

"A word of warning," Wei Wuxian says. "A-Ling has launched a campaign with all his uncles to get a pet snake. He has a speech and everything. Jiang Cheng got it yesterday, apparently. I got it this afternoon. Beware."

The pleasant smile on Jin Guangyao's face melts into one full of genuine affection. "Thank you for the warning, Dr. Wei. I presume his parents are not in favor of this?"

"Honestly, I think jiejie would be fine with it, it's your brother who's the coward in this situation," he replies.

"I will keep that in mind when A-Ling finds me," Jin Guangyao says with a laugh.

Wei Wuxian spots Lan Sizhui and Lan Jingyi at a nearby table and tugs Lan Wangji's hand. "Let's go say hi to the boys."

"All right," Lan Wangji says and lets Wei Wuxian tug him around several people and over to the boys' table.

"Don't the two of you look handsome," Wei Wuxian says with a grin.

Jingyi grins broadly while Sizhui flushes and smiles.

"Hi Dr. Wei," Sizhui says "You look very nice yourself."

Wei Wuxian laughs. "That's at least sixty percent to do with your Hanguang-Jun and forty percent to my jiejie."

"Nonsense," Lan Wangji says. "You look nice all the time."

Wei Wuxian turns and gapes at him a little bit. "Are you hearing this?" he asks the boys. "He's going to kill me with his words before we even get to the appetizers."

"Then I guess it's a good thing we're in a room full of doctors, isn't it, Dr. Wei?" Jingyi says.

Wei Wuxian grins. "I dunno. I feel like heart failure due to compliments might not be something a doctor can do anything about."

"I'm sure Hanguang-Jun would find a way," Jingyi says.

"Mn," Lan Wangji agrees, looking at Wei Wuxian. His expression makes his heart race even more.

"Anyway, don't disappear on me, boys," he says. "I want to introduce my nephew to you, but first I have to find him."

"Sure, Dr. Wei," Sizhui says. "We'll stay here...oh, um. Dad, I think bobo wants you."

Lan Wangji turns to look at Lan Xichen, who gives him a nod. "The first of the interviews will start soon. I'll be back."

"Good luck," Wei Wuxian says and squeezes his hand. Lan Wangji squeezes back, then turns to join his brother.

"Okay, I'm going to go find A-Ling," he says to the boys. "I'll be back soon."

All he has to do is look for Madam Yu's purple gown to find and move towards them. He only gets stopped once by someone he knows he remembers from med school, but can't for the life of him remember their name. Luckily, he's able to slip away before that becomes awkward.

"A-Ling," he says and puts his hands on his nephew's shoulders. "Come with me."

Like the good son he is, he looks to his mother for permission. She smiles and nods and Jin Ling stands.

"They better be cool," Jin Ling says as he follows Wei Wuxian back through the crowd.

"Well, I think they are, but you'll just have to decide for yourself."

He introduces Jin Ling to Sizhui and Jingyi quickly, then steps away. He knows they won't really actually talk if he's standing there hovering. Better to let things happen organically from here. They'll either like each other or they won't.

He's not sure how long he'll be alone, but he doesn't want to go too far away in case Lan Wangji comes back. A waiter comes by with a tray full of champagne and it's surprisingly easy to wave him off.

He looks around and sees quite a few Lan forehead ribbons amongst the crowd. This is the one event every year where they all come back to Gusu and it's interesting to see how large the family really is, when he's only ever known Lan Wangji and his closest family members.

One of his favorite professors from med school catches him and they catch up until he feels a presence at his side.

"Lan Zhan," he says. "Done already?"

"Yes," he replies. "Dr. Baoshan. It's good to see you."

"And you, Lan Wangji. Funny how we work on the same campus and yet so rarely see one another. But I hear so many good things about the work you're doing, I imagine you stay holed up in your lab most of the time," Dr. Baoshan says.

"I've been dragging him out into the real world sometimes," Wei Wuxian says with a grin.

"Of course you have," Dr. Baoshan says with a smile. "There was always something about the two of you back then. I'm glad you're together now."

Wei Wuxian should probably correct her assumptions, but it seems like more effort than it's worth, so he just smiles and says, "So am I."

Lan Wangji catches his hand and squeezes it tight. When he speaks, his voice is oddly hoarse. "The speeches and dinner are about to start. We should return to our table."

"Sure, Lan Zhan," Wei Wuxian says. "Dr. Baoshan it's been lovely to catch up. I look forward to seeing each other again since I'm back in Gusu for good."

"Yes, yes," she says. "You have my number and I think you'd be an excellent guest lecturer for my students if you're up for it, so do keep in touch."

"I will," he promises, then lets Lan Wangji lead him back to their table.

Moments after they take their seats, the speeches start. They're about as entertaining as they can possibly be at an event that happens annually for the same foundation, which is to say not very. There's no one terrible at public speaking, which is more than can be said for a couple of the events Wei Wuxian has attended before, so at least there's that. When the meal is served, all the Lans are their usual quiet selves during the meal, so Wei Wuxian and Lan Jingyi's mother carry most of the conversation, with frequent contributions from Nie Mingjue.

He remembers being younger and looking up at the Lan table from the Jiang table. He remembers thinking how boring the night seemed for them with so little conversation or laughter, but this is nothing like what he saw before.

As the plates are cleared away, the Lans slip away for their second round of interviews while the bulk of the attendees start filing toward the main ballroom. It's been...an extremely long time since Wei Wuxian did any kind of dancing, nevermind the kind that happens at these sorts of events, but he moves toward the ballroom anyway.

He watches with a smile as Jiang Cheng and Madam Yu join the first dance. Jiang Cheng doesn't even look grumpy about it, which probably means they're really, truly grownups now.

Out of the corner of his eye, he sees a small passel of teenage boys slip into a side room and starts moving that way. Jiang Yanli is standing with Jin Zixuan about halfway there.

"Are you having a good time, A-Xian?" Jiang Yanli asks.

"I am," he replies and leans in to press a kiss to her cheek. "The younger generation of Lans seems to have brought people into the family who know how to carry a conversation during a meal."

She laughs with a teasing tone says, "And now they've added you as well."

"Jiejie!" he exclaims. "It's not--"

It's not not like that, but putting a name to it, acknowledging it, feels like tempting fate.

Her smile softens and she squeezes his hand. "I know, A-Xian."

He takes a breath and squeezes her hand back.

"Have I mentioned how nice you look tonight? Your tuxedo is a perfect complement to his. But enough of that, you seemed like you were on a mission before you spotted me," she says.

"I was just going to go see the boys are up to," he replies. "I saw them disappear through that door over there. Of course, if it were me, they'd be up to all manner of mischief, but these are all much better kids than I ever was."

Jiang Yanli laughs. "You were spirited."

"I shaved off Lan Qiren's beard in his sleep once. I feel like spirited isn't the word we're looking for. Maybe suicidal?" he says.

"You say that as if you wouldn't do it again in a heartbeat," Jin Zixuan says.

Wei Wuxian laughs. "Okay, fine."

His sister grins at him. "Go find the boys. Let us know how A-Ling is doing? It seems like he might be having some fun, but sometimes we can't tell."

"I will," he promises and moves toward the doorway he’s seen them go through.

He leans against the doorway and watches as Sizhui tries to help them with their dance steps. They all have varying degrees of competence, but it's clear that all of them were taught to lead and are struggling with practicing together because none of them can quite transition to following.

"Don't you have any girl friends?" he asks with no small amount of amusement.

"Dr. Wei!" Jingyi exclaims holding a hand over his heart as if he’s received the fright of his life. The fact that this dramatic kid is a Lan has yet to stop entertaining Wei Wuxian.

"None of us are dating anyone, Dr. Wei," Sizhui says while Jin Ling sends him a sour look.

Wei Wuxian shakes his head and pushes off the doorway and into the room. "Not what I meant. Friends. Who are girls. Who you don't date or try to date. You'll all be much cooler people if you make some. You'll also be cooler people if you learn to both lead and follow. Not every girl wants to follow, after all. But that can be a project for another time, since you're still practicing your leading steps. Sizhui, come here. You lead. We'll give them a proper demonstration," he says.

They give each other the proper bows, then start dancing. Wei Wuxian grins at him. "No surprise that you're the best of the lot."

Sizhui smiles and holds a hand up to twirl him. "Jingyi and I took dance classes together, but he didn't like our instructor, so he was stubborn about it."

Wei Wuxian laughs. "I know how that feels. Madam Yu herself taught my siblings and I. There was no being stubborn about it if you didn't want to be grounded for a month."

"Now, watch Sizhui's footwork in this next section," Wei Wuxian calls out to the rest of the boys. "These steps seemed to be tripping you up the most."

Wei Wuxian counts and calls out the steps as they move through the section, and then again through the repeats.

As they come out of another spin, Wei Wuxian laughing breathlessly because though Sizhui has the steps down, he's not as tall as Wei Wuxian and the spin didn't go quite as it should have, a figure appears behind him and taps Sizhui on the shoulder.

"Sizhui, may I cut in?" Lan Wangji asks.

"Of course," Sizhui says with a bright smile, and steps away to allow his father to take Wei Wuxian's hand in his and put the other to his waist.

"Lan Zhan," Wei Wuxian breathes. "Done already?"

"Mn," Lan Wangji replies as they move around the room together, steps never once faltering.

Wei Wuxian is acutely aware of Lan Wangji's warm fingers in his hand and the feel of his hand against his side. He can't look away from him, doesn't want to look away.

"Any more responsibilities this evening, Hanguang-Jun?" he asks.

"None to do with the event," Lan Wangji replies and spins him out, then draws him back in again, somehow closer than before. "The rest of the night is ours."

Wei Wuxian feels breathless and it's not even a little bit from the dancing. "Good," he says. "Because I haven't danced like this in a long time and I'm realizing I missed it."

"Then we shall dance the night away," Lan Wangji says. The dance gets back to the spin he and Sizhui had trouble on. With Lan Wangji, it's perfect, they move together like they've been dancing with one another for a decade, not five minutes.

 

Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji dancing

 

As they come to a stop with the end of the song, applause fills the room around them. Wei Wuxian laughs and turns to find that it's no longer just the boys, though their applause is the most enthusiastic, but a few others from the main ballroom have drifted in to watch them as well.

"I think that means we dance well together, Lan Zhan," Wei Wuxian says. He knows his cheeks are flushed and he can't stop smiling, but he doesn't care.

"I always knew we would," Lan Wangji replies.

They go back into the main ballroom after that. They only spend a handful of dances apart. Once, he's fairly certain Lan Xichen and Jiang Yanli conspire because suddenly his sister and Lan Wangji are floating around the room together and he's facing Lan Xichen's pleasant smile.

"As predicted, my brother has been happier and more at ease tonight than I have ever seen him at this event," Lan Xichen says. "So thank you, Dr. Wei. From the bottom of my heart.'

"If I could always make him happy, I would," Wei Wuxian says. "There is no need to thank me."

"There is," Lan Xichen insists. "There is every need. I did not realize until you showed up in our lives again, how little happiness he takes for himself. He is professionally satisfied and Sizhui has been his pride and joy these past thirteen years, but a parent's joy in their child is something different and I didn't see it until he started seeing you regularly. Dr. Wei, I can say with certainty that my brother has smiled more in my presence these past two months than I remember him smiling since before our parents died. So you see, there absolutely is a need."

Wei Wuxian swallows hard. "Then I can only say you are welcome and...I promise to do my very best to keep making him happy."

"That is all I would ask, Dr. Wei," Lan Xichen says. "And now I believe I will give you back to my brother."

A moment later, he's back in Lan Wangji's arms. He wants to ask what he and Jiang Yanli spoke about, but if he asks, Lan Wangji will probably ask him the same question and he's not certain he can actually get it out, so he just grins. "Isn't my jiejie lovely?"

"Very," Lan Wangji replies. "It was good to speak with her."

Wei Wuxian beams at him. "Your brother, of course, is always very nice. I don't know how he manages to be so gracious all the time. I don't think I could do it."

"By having Nie Mingjue and Jin Guangyao by his side making sure no one takes advantage of his kindness and graciousness," Lan Wangji says.

"There's definitely something to be said for having the right partner. Or partners, as it were," Wei Wuxian says. Lan Wanji's hand flexes on his side and in his grip.

"There is," he agrees quietly.

They keep dancing, perfectly in sync, even as the song changes.

_____

He wakes up the next day with aching feet and a smile on his face, extremely glad he’d swapped shifts to one later in the day. He picks up his phone and thumbs open Lan Wangji's text thread.

*

Wei Wuxian

I know I said this last night, but I had a really really wonderful time. Thank you for inviting me.

Lan Zhan

You are more than welcome. Thank you for joining me.

*

He smiles at his phone for several long moments, then rolls his eyes at himself. He doesn't have time for just standing there smiling like a fool. His family will absolutely start breakfast without him if he doesn't get over to the hotel soon.

The next few days are full. His family leaves the afternoon after the ball, but between his shifts at the hospital, catching a meal with Nie Huaisang before he goes back to Qinghe, and Lan Wangji's own schedule, they can't do much more than text for a week. It makes Wei Wuxian feel itchy. Strange, how vital Lan Wangji's presence in his life has become.

One week after the ball on a Friday, he has a later shift. He arrives in the afternoon as Mo Xuanyu is leaving. One glance and Wei Wuxian can see he looks pretty harried.

"Rough day?" he asks.

"Wasn't great," Mo Xuanyu replies. "And they're saying this fog is going to clear up only for it to start raining buckets as the evening progresses, so…be prepared, I guess."

"Shit," Wei Wuxian says. "And it's a Friday night." Friday nights are almost always worse.

"Yeah. Good luck," he says, then practically runs out the door as if he lingers one moment longer, they're going to make him stay.

Wei Wuxian smiles slightly and goes to put his things in his locker and grab a cup of coffee.

He doesn't get a chance to take more than a few sips of it before an ambulance arrives. By the time he has a moment to breathe, it's gone cold. He drinks it down in three large swallows and runs to the next emergency that comes through the door.

He knows when the rain starts. Not because people start coming in wet or he can see it, but because he can hear it, despite being on the first of seven floors and in an exam room that's nowhere near any outside walls.

It doesn't let up and the number of car accidents and rain-related injuries only grows. He's already two hours past what should have been the end of his shift when an ambulance brings the worst accident they've seen yet. He immediately begins life-saving treatment, but it's too late. He steps back until he hits the wall and lets it support his weight as he strips off his gloves and tries to catch his breath.

"Does he have family here?" Wei Wuxian asks the nurses in the room with him.

"His mother and wife are in the waiting room," one of them says.

Wei Wuxian takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly. "I'll go get cleaned up, then talk to them."

He changes into fresh scrubs and washes up as thoroughly as he can in the five minutes he has to do it.

Like every time he's had to do this, he feels oddly separated from his body. He breaks the news to the young man's family, comforts them as much as he can while they sob, and waits with them as the shock starts to set in and they ask what they're supposed to do now. He has no answers, he never has any answers, but he does his best. When he finally steps away and heads back to the nurse's station, one of the other doctors on duty claps him on the back.

"Go home, Dr. Wei," they say. "You've done more than enough. The rain has let up a bit, so things should start quieting down."

He nods mechanically and goes to collect his stuff. When he gets outside the hospital he passes the sidewalk that would take him to the parking structure, and keeps going. His whole brain is screaming at him to turn right, walk down the road a few blocks, and find somewhere to drink. He grits his teeth and walks straight until he reaches the small park across the street from the hospital.

The rain has lightened considerably, but it hasn't stopped. He lifts his face to the sky and breathes in the air, tries to banish the lingering scent of blood and antiseptic from his nose.

Without thinking, he takes his phone out of his pocket and taps Lan Wangji's number. It rings several times and Wei Wuxian is sure it's about to go to voicemail when Lan Wangji's voice is in his ear.

"Hello?" His voice is scratchy and soft and Wei Wuxian's eyes close and he takes a breath. "Wei Ying?"

"It's late, isn't it?" Wei Wuxian realizes. "You must have gone to bed hours ago. Shit. I'm sorry, Lan Zhan. I didn't think."

"It doesn't matter," Lan Wangji replies. He hears some soft shuffling noises over the line and it's weirdly soothing. "Wei Ying, what's wrong?"

He takes a deep breath, and then another. "I had to tell the mother and wife of a twenty-two year old man that I couldn't save him."

"You did everything you could," Lan Wangji says with a certainty that Wei Wuxian himself does not feel. "Are you home?"

"No, I...I probably shouldn't drive right now and my first thought was to walk straight to a bar. I went to the park across the street instead," he explains. "Will you...tell me about your day? What did you do in the lab today? How's Sizhui? Wasn't today supposed to be his first orchestra practice?"

Lan Wangji starts talking. Wei Wuxian closes his eyes and listens.

 

Wei Wuxian with his eyes closed and his face turned toward the rain

 

He listens to the words because he always wants to know what Lan Wangji is up to and how Sizhui is doing, but their content doesn't matter as much as the sound of Lan Wangji's voice. There's some rustling and a pause, then his voice is back, soft and soothing. Wei Wuxian imagines he's moved into his kitchen, further away from the bedrooms so he doesn't disturb Sizhui. He's such a good dad, a good man. Something clenches in his chest that Lan Wangji would do this for him. Would wake up in the middle of the night and talk to him until he's ready to face the world again.

"Wei Ying, I'll be just a moment," Lan Wangji says after maybe ten minutes. "I'll be here," Wei Wuxian says. It's still raining and he's starting to get cold, but he can't quite bring himself to move from this spot, to take the steps required to get home.

He takes a breath and tries to relax his jaw, his shoulders, to unclench his free hand.

"Wei Ying?" he hears Lan Wangji say. The voice isn't coming from his phone, though. It's coming from behind him.

Wei Wuxian's breath catches and he turns around to see Lan Wangji standing a few feet away. He swallows hard and in two strides, he steps into Lan Wangji's arms and is pressing his face into his neck.

"Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan," he breathes as Lan Wangji's arms tighten around him, enveloping him in warmth.

 

Wei Wuxian pulling his phone away from his ear and realizing Lan Wangji is behind him

 

Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji embracing in the rain

 

"Wei Ying," Lan Wangji murmurs after several long moments. "It's freezing. Let's go to the car."

"Okay," Wei Wuxian replies and forces himself to pull away. Lan Wangji doesn't let go of him entirely, though. He keeps hold of Wei Wuxian's hand and leads him toward where his car is parked. Before they get in, he wraps his coat around his shoulders, and holds the passenger door open for him.

He gives Lan Wangji a small smile, then slips into the seat. "Lan Zhan, I'm getting your nice car all wet. I'm sorry."

"It doesn't matter," Lan Wangji says for the second time in twenty minutes and reaches down to turn on the heated seat under Wei Wuxian.

"You're too good to me," he murmurs. He can practically feel the adrenaline leaving him as the warmth of the seat begins to seep into him.

"Not possible," Lan Wangji replies.

The next thing Wei Wuxian knows, Lan Wangji is unbuckling his seatbelt in his freakishly clean garage at his house in the Cloud Recesses. Before he can gather his wits together to help or get out of the car, one arm slides under his knees, another around his back, and Lan Wangji lifts him up into his arms and out of the car.

Wei Wuxian keeps his eyes closed and leans his head against his shoulder. Maybe it's shameless, but it feels so nice to be taken care of, he can't bring himself to say anything.

Lan Wangji carries him through the house and into a bedroom. He's about to finally stir and say something, when Lan Wangji sets him gently into a comfortable chair at one end of the room.

"I'll bring you a towel and something to change into," Lan Wangji says gently.

"Okay," Wei Wuxian replies and his eyes flutter closed again. A moment later, he hears the faintest creak of a door opening and closing, and then the sound of drawers being pulled and shut.

Wei Wuxian finally takes a deep breath and opens his eyes. Lan Wangji reaches around his head and pulls his hair out of its messy bun, then starts toweling it dry.

"Lan Zhan, you don't need to--"

"Let me," Lan Wangji says. "Let me do this for you, Wei Ying."

"Okay," Wei Wuxian replies and closes his eyes again. The towel is drawn away and a moment later, a comb starts running gently through his hair.

"Lan Zhan, you're really great," Wei Wuxian says. "I like you so much."

There's a fleeting, soft pressure on top of his head. "Do you want to sleep with your hair down, or up?"

"Don't care," he replies. The comb doesn't come back, so clearly Lan Wangji has chosen to leave it down. He moves back around in front of Wei Wuxian and holds out his hands.

"You should get out of those wet things and dry off properly," he says and leads Wei Wuxian into the en suite bathroom. There are clean clothes and a towel folded on the counter.

"Would you like something warm to drink?" Lan Wangji asks.

"Tea sounds nice," he replies.

"I'll go make some while you change."

Wei Wuxian's fingers feel clumsy as he pulls off his scrubs and dries himself off. His skin still feels cold, so he's grateful for the soft long-sleeved shirt and sweatpants.

He finishes and moves back into the bedroom as Lan Wangji returns with a mug of tea. He appears to have also changed back into something comfortable from the clearly hastily thrown on clothes he’d worn to pick Wei Wuxian up.

Lan Wangji tugs back the covers on one side of the bed and insists Wei Wuxian get in before handing him the tea and sitting on the edge of the bed at his side. As he drinks, Lan Wangji starts talking again, finishing up his explanation of the work he did during the day. "Sizhui says practice went all right, but I'll let him tell you about it in the morning."

Wei Wuxian smiles. "That sounds nice."

Lan Wangji nods at him with a soft expression on his face, then moves to pull away.

"Lan Zhan, I...I don't want to be alone," he says, staring at the nearly empty mug in his hands.

"I will stay with you," Lan Wangji promises. "But it would be awkward to get into bed from this side."

Wei Wuxian laughs a little bit, drains the mug, and sets it on the nightstand. "I suppose you're right about that."

Lan Wangji circles around the foot of the bed and slides under the covers beside him. Wei Wuxian slides down from his seating position, curls up on his side to face the center of the bed, and pulls the blankets up over his shoulder.

"I love my job," he murmurs. "Ninety-seven percent of the time, I love my job. But that other three percent? I really fucking hate that other three percent."

Under the blankets, Lan Wangji reaches out and takes one of his hands. He doesn't say anything. He doesn't need to. Wei Wuxian laces their fingers together and falls asleep feeling warm and cared for.

-----

Wei Wuxian wakes up not to the sound of Jin Ling's terrible song, or even to the sounds from the road outside his apartment, but to a hand running slowly up and down his back, to his cheek pressed against a warm chest that rises slightly with every breath. His eyes blink open to a room full of late morning light. His bedroom is a cave. Partly because it doesn't get any direct light, partly because he has thick curtains over the windows, but mostly because he never spends any actual time in there when he's not sleeping. Even if he'd forgotten to pull his curtains, it still wouldn't be this light in his room.

It takes a moment for him to remember the previous day, remember how terribly his shift ended, remember that Lan Wangji had driven across town to pick him up because he knew Wei Wuxian was...distressed.

He swallows and his hand flexes where it rests against Lan Wangji's side. The hand on his back pauses. All Wei Wuxian knows in this moment is that he doesn't want it to stop, so he rubs his cheek against Lan Wangji's chest.

"Good morning," he says without lifting his head and the hand starts moving again.

"Good morning, Wei Ying," Lan Wangji replies.

"Thank you," he murmurs. "Last night was the worst I've had since moving here. The first time I've been tempted to drink in a long, long time."

"There is no need for thanks between you and I," Lan Wangji says, just as quietly. "I wanted to come. I will always want to come."

Wei Wuxian desperately wants to see his expression, but he's half afraid that if he lifts his head, the soft warmth of waking up here in this place with this person will skitter away from him. That he'll have to face himself and his job and the real world again.

But he's never been a coward, so he finally lifts his head, letting his chin rest on Lan Wangji's chest. He's treated to one of the man's small smiles and he lifts his hand off Wei Wuxian's back to brush his hair out of his face. He's got a book in the other hand as if he's been settled here like this for quite a while.

"What time is it, anyway?"

"Eleven--" he pauses and looks toward the bedside table, "--twenty-three."

"Is it that late? Don't you usually get up stupidly early?" Wei Wuxian says.

"I didn't want to wake you," Lan Wangji replies. "You were exhausted and needed the rest."

Wei Wuxian can't help but smile at him. "Well, in the future, if I'm well and truly asleep, not much will wake me until I'm ready to wake up."

"I will be sure to keep that in mind," Lan Wangji replies. The way he says it makes Wei Wuxian's stomach flutter.

"But it was nice," Wei Wuxian says, "to wake up like this." More Saturday mornings should start just like this, he decides. Maybe every Saturday morning.

"I'm glad," Lan Wangji replies. "Do you have to work today?"

"No, thank god," Wei Wuxian says with a grimace. "I don't think I could face that place again today."

"Then would you like to spend the day with Sizhui and I?" he asks.

"I'd like that very much," Wei Wuxian replies. Maybe he won't have to face the real world quite yet after all.

"Good," Lan Wangji says. "Are you hungry?"

"I'm definitely hungry. And I could probably drink a vat of tea, but...could I borrow your shower?" he asks.

"Of course," Lan Wangji replies. "Anything you need."

Wei Wuxian smiles at him, but instead of getting up, he puts his head back down and sighs with contentment. Just a few more minutes and then he'll get up, he'll take a shower, and then he'll have the day with two of his favorite people.

There's no reaction from the man below him except fingers running through Wei Wuxian's hair until he takes a deep breath and forces himself upright again. Lan Wangji gets up behind him and there are noises of Lan Wangji moving around, then a moment later, there's another small stack of clean clothes beside where he's sitting on the bed. "Take your time. There are clean towels hanging next to the shower."

We Wuxian smiles. "See you soon," he promises and slips into the bathroom. He hadn’t really got a good look at it the night before, as exhausted and distracted as he was. There's a massive, deep tub in one corner, and a shower that looks like it has the kind of fixtures most people only see in luxury homes on television.

Growing up in the Jiang household, he got used to finery in many aspects of his life, but somehow fancy showers are still novel to him and he's going to enjoy the hell out of this one.

He gets in the shower and turns on every single jet and lets the water pound away all the remaining tension in his body. He could definitely get used to this shower, he thinks as he turns off the water and squeezes the water out of the ends of his hair. He wonders if he could get Lan Wangji to comb it out for him again. Probably, he thinks, but he'd rather have whatever breakfast and asking for his hair to be combed would probably delay that.

He dries off and pulls on the clean clothes Lan Wangji left out for him, runs a quick comb through it and twists it up into his usual messy bun.

Lan Wangji isn't in the room when Wei Wuxian exits into it, so he takes the opportunity to be just a little bit snoopy. If it wasn't clear before that Lan Wangji didn't just take him to a guest bedroom, but brought him directly into his own bedroom, seeing this room in the light of day proves it.

The room is simply decorated, but seems extremely warm and comfortable. There are bookshelves filling up one entire wall, and the chair Lan Wangji set him on the night before is in a corner between the bookshelves and another wall that's almost entirely windows. Wei Wuxian can perfectly imagine him sitting there with a cup of tea and a book.

The room may be lovely, but Wei Wuxian would rather find the occupant.

As expected, he finds Lan Wangji in the kitchen with Sizhui, making something that's starting to smell incredible.

"Good morning, Dr. Wei," Sizhui says with a smile over his shoulder from where he's manning the wok.

"Good morning to you too," he says. "Sorry to intrude on your Saturday."

"You're not intruding," Lan Wangji insists, then pours tea into a cup and hands and hands it to him. "You are welcome. Always."

Wei Wuxian smiles helplessly. "Thanks, Lan Zhan."

"You're not intruding," Sizhui agrees, giving him another look over his shoulder. "Having you here is nice."

Wei Wuxian grins at him and takes a sip of tea, feeling warmer and happier than is probably warranted.

"Lan Zhan, your shower might be magical," he says. "I think every ache or pain I've had for the last three weeks is gone now."

"It's good for that," Lan Wangji agrees and leans against the counter with his own cup of tea.

Wei Wuxian settles against the counter next to him, leans in so some of his weight is resting against Lan Wangji's side. Who clearly takes it as the hint it is, because he lifts his arm and draws Wei Wuxian fully against his side, hand resting on his waist. Wei Wuxian leans his head against his shoulder and sighs happily as he takes another sip of tea.

"Lan Zhan, you really are so good," Wei Wuxian says.

This time, there's no mistaking the soft press of lips against his temple.

---

Wei Wuxian spends the next several days daydreaming about his day with Lan Wangji and Lan Sizhui every time he has more than thirty seconds of downtime. It had been such a simple day. They’d eaten brunch, they played music together, they'd gone on a small hike around Cloud Recesses, then back for dinner. He'd let himself sit curled up under Lan Wangji's arm for a couple of hours after dinner before sighing and declaring he should probably retrieve his car from the hospital and go back home. His only consolation was that Lan Wangji seemed as reluctant for him to leave as he was.

He can't stop thinking about it, though. About how it was an absolutely perfect day in every conceivable way. He's had his fair share of bad shifts. Normally, they throw him into a funk for a few days and make everything harder. Instead, he’d felt rejuvenated by the end of it instead of worn down and exhausted. He’d felt like he could face his next shift without the guilt prickling at his scalp as he walked in the door.

He wants so many more days like that and he wants them with Lan Wangji and his son.

One afternoon as he's walking back to his apartment from grabbing some coffee, his phone rings. It's not a number he knows, but it's local and over the years he's learned to just answer. With his job, it's a legitimate call more often than not.

"Hello, Wei Wuxian speaking."

"Wei Wuxian, it is Lan Qiren."

Wei Wuxian stops in the middle of the sidewalk and his stomach drops. "Is...is everything all right, laoshi? Is...Lan Zhan and Sizhui, they're all right?"

"They are fine," Lan Qiren replies and Wei Wuxian feels like he can breathe again. "I am calling to invite you to a luncheon. With the family."

He sounds a bit like he has to force every word out. Normally, it would make Wei Wuxian laugh, but he's a little too shocked to have any of his usual reactions. He has trouble summoning up even the proper reactions. The thought of Madam Yu frowning severely at him finally snaps him out of his stupor.

"Laoshi, I would be honored. Name the time and place and I'll be there," he says. He doesn't care if he's scheduled to work. If Lan Qiren is inviting him to something with the Lan Family, he will get on his knees and beg one of the other doctors to switch shifts with him. He'll work a night shift if he has to.

"My home in Cloud Recesses at one o'clock next Sunday," Lan Qiren replies.

"I'll see you then, xiansheng. Thank you for the invitation."

A few moments later, they've hung up. Wei Wuxian is still standing unmoving in the middle of the sidewalk.

He takes a sip of coffee and starts walking again. Two steps later he's laughing.

*

Wei Wuxian

you'll never guess who just invited me to a meal at his house

Jiang Cheng

The emperor?

Wei Wuxian

Hah. No. More unlikely.

Jiang Cheng

...Lan Qiren invited you for a meal at his house?

*

Wei Wuxian laughs as he unlocks his apartment and flops in his chair.

*

Wei Wuxian

YEP!!!

Jiang Cheng

Watch for poison.

Wei Wuxian

hah hah hah. Listen, we said twenty whole words to one another at the charity ball. All of them civil. Maybe we've turned over a new leaf in our relationship.

Jiang Cheng

I guess you managed with mom, but I still think you should carry some poison antidotes with you just in case

Wei Wuxian

:P dick

*

He thumbs over to Lan Wangji's text thread and then notices the time and taps through to call him.

"Lan Zhan, I just had the most surreal conversation with your uncle and I need you to reassure me that he's not plotting my demise," he jokes in lieu of a greeting when Lan Wangji answers.

"Oh?" Lan Wangji asks.

"He called and invited me to lunch at his house with the family next Sunday," Wei Wuxian says. "There's a lunch scheduled, right? He's not just luring me to an isolated location so he can murder and/or threaten me, is he?"

"There is a lunch scheduled," Lan Wangji assures him. His voice sounds a bit funny, but he's probably just getting in his car and turning on his hands free stuff.

"Oh, good," Wei Wuxian says with a smile. "Anything specific I should know going in?"

"It's just a lunch," Lan Wangji replies. "Shufu hosts them once a month."

"Okay," Wei Wuxian replies. "Well, I'll be there, even if I have to pledge a kidney to one of my coworkers."

"Please don't do that," Lan Wangji says. "But I'm very glad you'll be there."

"So how was your day?" Wei Wuxian asks and they chat until Lan Wangji arrives home from work.

"See you soon, Lan Zhan," Wei Wuxian promises when he hangs up.

He ends up having to work a double the Thursday before Lan Qiren's lunch in order to have his shift covered, but that's all right. It's a slow day and he spends most of his extra day shift shooting the shit with Mo Xuanyu.

"My brother goes to those lunches," Mo Xuanyu says when he finds out about Wei Wuxian's weekend plans. "He says they're extremely formal, the food is terrible, but he wouldn't dare miss without a really good reason. Like a family member dying."

"Huh," Wei Wuxian says. "Wonder why I got invited."

Mo Xuanyu stares at him for a solid thirty seconds before shaking his head and sighing heavily. "Clearly not for your wits."

"You're so mean to me," Wei Wuxian pouts.

"I'll stop being mean when you stop being dumb," Mo Xuanyu says and crosses his arms over his chest.

Wei Wuxian sticks out his tongue at him. "Whatever. Asshole."

Mo Xuanyu smirks and flips him off.

Wei Wuxian spends a solid half hour staring at his closet Sunday morning debating with himself about just how formal this occasion is until he realizes he can just ask someone.

*

Wei Wuxian

Lan Zhan help

What should I wear?????

♡Lan Zhan♡

Wear whatever you like.

Wei Wuxian

That's not helpful! I don't want your uncle to regret inviting me the second I walk in the door. What do you wear?

...no that won't do, you're always formal. What does Nie Mingjue wear to these things? A tie? A jacket? A t-shirt because he's a man with literally no fear??????

♡Lan Zhan♡

He usually wears a dress shirt and slacks, no tie or jacket.

Wei Wuxian

Perfect! Thank you! See you soon!!!! I'm going to park my car at your house, if that's okay.

♡Lan Zhan♡

It is fine. See you soon, Wei Ying.

*

He finds a dress shirt and slacks still in the bags from the dry cleaners and thanks his past self for being on top of things for once in his damn life. It's probably overkill to shine his shoes, but he does it anyway. He's not sure why this time he feels such a need to make Lan Qiren, if not approve of him, then at least not actively despise him, but he really, really does.

He spends the entire drive to the Cloud Recesses drumming on his steering wheel, trying to get out some of his nervous energy. When he pulls up in front of Lan Wangji's house, he and Sizhui step outside.

"Hi Dr. Wei!" Sizhui calls. "We always walk over when it's not raining."

"Well, I think we have the single day this week with no rain, so we'd best make the most of it," Wei Wuxian says with a grin and buttons his coat.

"I'm glad you're here," Lan Wangji says softly when he comes up beside him.

Wei Wuxian beams at him. "I'm glad to be here. Still a little surprised, but glad."

Without thinking, he reaches out to take his hand and is rewarded with Lan Wangji's hand closing around his. Contentment wells up in Wei Wuxian. Even if this meal is awkward, even if it's uncomfortable and conversation stilted, if it happens at all, that's fine. His favorite people will be with him. That's all that really matters.

The walk to Lan Qiren's house is almost half a mile, but the weather is nice and even on the cusp of winter, Cloud Recesses is still incredibly beautiful.

He forgets to be nervous at all until Lan Wangji is knocking on his uncle's door, and even then, it doesn't really come back. It will be fine. He can feel it in his bones.

A servant opens the door for them and takes their coats and he's abruptly reminded that the Lans are extremely wealthy. As they make their through the house to the dining room, Wei Wuxian makes note of the antiques he can spot through various doors, the art on the walls, one piece of which he definitely remembers from art history class.

It's not ostentatious by any means. Lan Qiren isn't crass and wouldn't make any attempt to deliberately showcase his wealth, but the Lans are one of the oldest, wealthiest families in the province and this is the home of the current head of the family. Naturally, family heirlooms will be on display. Seeing this place makes him understand exactly how Lan Wangji and Lan Xichen became the contained and calm people they are today. Showing the exuberance of a child amongst all these things would lead to disaster.

He's suddenly so, so glad Lan Wangji is the father he is. Lan Sizhui was clearly allowed to actually be a child.

Lan Qiren is waiting to greet them at the entrance to the dining room. Wei Wuxian gives his best bow and greeting and he doesn't get a single glare, so he counts it as a win.

Waiting inside are Lan Xichen and his partners. Lan Wangji introduces him to an older Lan couple he doesn't know, their children and their partners who appear older than Lan Xichen and Lan Wangji by several years, and their young adult grandchildren.

A few minutes later Jingyi and his family appear and Lan Qiren makes his way to the head of the table, signaling that the meal is about to start.

As he takes his place at the table next to Lan Wangji, he abruptly realizes that everyone here is part of the Lan family. He is, from what he can tell, the only outsider.

But Lan Qiren invited him to a family-only meal. Which he hosts every month.

He swallows hard and grabs Lan Wangji's hand under the table.

"Wei Ying?" Lan Wangji asks quietly.

Wei Wuxian smiles and shakes his head. There's nothing to say. Not right now, anyway. Lan Wangji squeezes his hand and they sit like that until the meal officially starts.

A servant brings out the first course, which is soup and Wei Wuxian takes a sip. It's...honestly terrible. He feels bad for whoever the cook is because nobody should have to make this bland, medicinal nonsense even for a paycheck. Even the food from the Cloud Recesses cafeteria isn't this bad and he always thought that was the worst food he'd ever had.

Still, Madam Yu trained him well. He will keep a straight face. He will be polite. He will eat this food. And later, he's going to get some actually good food and he's going to savor it even more than usual.

Honestly, the worst part of it might not even be the food. It might be the silence. If it weren't so quiet, maybe there'd at least be a distraction from the terrible food.

As it is, the only way he can entertain himself is making covert faces at Jingyi across the table. At one point, Nie Mingjue catches his eye and sends him a commiserating look. When Wei Wuxian looks down at his bowl again it's...empty. He knows he hadn't finished it yet, but there it is, completely empty. He looks to Lan Wangji at his side who has a serene look on his face as he continues to eat the soup.

The rest of the meal goes much the same: Wei Wuxian valiantly attempts to eat only to find his dish suddenly empty in front of him.

Halfway through, he nudges Lan Wangji under the table and in return gets the tiniest hint of a smile.

Wei Wuxian thinks if it were possible to die of being too full of affection, he'd be perilously close to death at this moment.

When the meal finally concludes, he reaches over to take Lan Wangji's hand. "You are too good to me, Lan Er-gege."

"Impossible," Lan Wangji says seriously and squeezes his hand.

The entire group moves to a sitting room for tea. Wei Wuxian slips away for a few moments to find the restroom and is distracted on the way back by a small, narrow room that appears to be a gallery of several generations of family photos.

It's almost funny how stiff and formal and Lan-like everyone is. As he moves down the room, he and gets closer to the present day, he's absolutely delighted to find photos of Lan Xichen and Lan Wangji as young boys. They look much the same now as they did then. Lan Xichen's sweet smile and Lan Wangji's serious eyes are expressions most everyone who meets them associates with them. It's stupidly adorable.

Next, he sees Jingyi's family with Jingyi as a laughing, happy baby. It's so cute, Wei Wuxian wants to reach into the picture and pinch his cheeks.

The next photo makes his breath stop in his throat. He stares at it, blinking, trying to make sense of what's in front of his eyes. Lan Wangji looks just as serious as his previous photo, if a bit more tired, but it's the child with him that is making his heart pound so hard in his chest he can almost hear it.

He scrambles to get his wallet out of his pocket and flips it open to the photo he's kept there for the past thirteen years, the photo of the boy he might have adopted had the timing not worked out the way it had. He looks between the worn picture from his wallet and the one on the wall.

It's the same chubby cheeks, the same bright grin, the same eyes. It's the same boy.

"A-Yuan," he breathes.

He can see, now, how his little A-Yuan had grown up to be Lan Sizhui. His cheeks aren't as chubby anymore, but Wei Wuxian can see how it's the same face.

He swallows hard and bites the inside of his cheek, but it's not stopping the burning behind his eyes as he continues to look between the two pictures. He wants to rush into the other room, but he knows he doesn't want an audience for it, so he stays where he is and tries to breathe. He's about to pull out his phone and text Lan Wangji to ask him to come to him, but then he hears his name. "Wei Ying?"

"Lan Zhan," he replies, voice thick and turns to look at the man at the other end of the room. He holds out his hand and watches Lan Wangji walk toward him. The moment his fingers touch Wei Wuxian's, he pulls him close. He wraps one arm around Lan Wangji’s waist and slides his other hand around the back of his neck. "Lan Zhan."

"You're crying," Lan Wangji murmurs, concern written all over his face and lifts a hand to run a thumb under his eye.

"You saved him," Wei Wuxian rasps. "I had to leave and you...you took him in and made him your son and--"

There are no words for what Lan Wangji did. He doesn't know why he's bothering to try. Instead, he closes the few inches between them and presses their lips together. Lan Wangji freezes in his arms for a brief moment and then he crushes Wei Wuxian against him and starts kissing back. They kiss and kiss until they both have to pull back and gasp for breath.

"I love you," Wei Wuxian breathes. "I love you so much I don't know what to do with myself. I felt like this an hour ago and now I find this. I didn't think it was possible to love you more, but I do. Lan Zhan, you're so good. I like you so fucking much."

"Wei Ying." Lan Wangji says his name like a benediction. His eyes are bright with tears and Wei Wuxian reaches up to wipe them away. "Love you. So much. Since the beginning. More every day."

Wei Wuxian leans in to kiss him again, slower this time. He lets his fingers slide up into the short hair at Lan Wangji's neck. He's about to turn his head, to open his mouth and deepen the kiss when there's a cough at the door.

"Um. Dad? Dr. Wei? Sorry, but Granduncle is asking about you," Sizhui says.

Wei Wuxian smiles against his lips and pulls back. He feels Lan Wangji's hands flex at his sides. His eyes are shining with happiness and Wei Wuxian knows his must look the same.

"You may tell him," Lan Wangji says softly. Wei Wuxian swallows and nods.

"A-Yuan," he says. "Come here? Come let me look at you."

Lan Sizhui looks confused, but obliges, moving down the portrait room toward them.

When Sizhui gets close, he puts his hands on his shoulders and maneuvers him so he can look between the photo and the boy. He pats his pockets and laughs when he realizes he dropped his wallet at some point and bends down to pick it up again.

"Thirteen years ago, I volunteered at Gusu Children's Center with your dad." Lan Sizhui's eyes go wide. "There was a little boy there who was the light of my life. He was living with his grandmother, but her health wasn't great. I spent a lot of time trying to work out the logistics, trying to figure out what it would take to adopt him if it came to a point where his grandmother could no longer take care of him. And then I got the call that I was needed back home. More than leaving my friends, more than giving up the residency I'd been dreaming of since before I got into med school, leaving him was the hardest part. Once I got back home, I tried to check on him, but all I ever got was that he had been adopted. I hoped and prayed he found a wonderful family, but I never forgot him."

He holds out the photo from his wallet to Sizhui. "It turns out, the best person in the world made sure to look after him and became his dad."

Sizhui's eyes are wide and he looks over at his father and back to Wei Wuxian. "I don't...you played your flute for me, didn't you?" he whispers. "I thought...when we played together that first time. Your flute seemed so familiar."

Wei Wuxian laughs in delight. "I did play for you. And some of the marks in the wood are from your little teeth."

Sizhui's face goes pink and Wei Wuxian can only pull him in and hug him tight.

"Xian-gege," Sizhui whispers against his shoulder. "I called you Xian-gege."

Wei Wuxian laughs wetly. "You did. You can again, if you want. I don't mind. Anything but Dr. Wei. It's too formal."

He feels Lan Wangji wrap his arms around both of them and closes his eyes tightly against the sudden onslaught of tears. He doesn't think he's ever been as happy as he is in this moment.

"You promised to grow me brothers and sisters," Sizhui says, pulling back and giving him a mischievous little smile he remembers clearly from when he was a little boy. "Xian-gege, you lied."

"Hey now," Wei Wuxian says. "They might not have been brothers and sisters, but I feel like I had a hand in getting you some cousins. Do they not count, A-Yuan?"

"Not the same," Sizhui says stubbornly.

"Well, I'm sure your father and I will be very enthusiastic in our attempts to get you some siblings," Wei Wuxian says with a wink.

"Oh my god," Sizhui groans and covers his face with his hands.

"Wei Ying," Lan Zhan says. He sounds exasperated and fond. Wei Wuxian turns his head and grins at him and the heat in his eyes makes bite his lip over the sudden need that courses through him. They're still in Lan Qiren's home. They still have to get through tea.

Another throat clears at the door to the room and Wei Wuxian looks up to find Lan Xichen smiling at them. "I hate to break up the moment, but shufu is growing impatient."

"Right," Wei Wuxian says and takes a breath. "I can't completely spoil my first family luncheon, can I? I need to save that for at least a few in when he's already come to terms with the fact that there's no getting rid of me. Let's go."

Lan Xichen and Sizhui laugh, but then Lan Wangji laughs too and Wei Wuxian can't contain himself.

"Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan," he says and leans in to kiss his laughing mouth. "I love you. We really better go now."

Lan Wangji nods and reaches out to lace their fingers together and then they follow Lan Xichen and Sizhui back to the room where tea is happening. It feels interminable, but at least there's more conversation over tea than there was over lunch.

He sees Jingyi and Sizhui have a whispered conversation and then Jingyi grins and turns to give Wei Wuxian two thumbs up. He laughs and returns the gesture.

He stops holding himself back from leaning against Lan Wangji's side, from taking his hand where others can see, from kissing his cheek when he's moved to do so. He's sure it's still a little too shameless for Lan Qiren's tastes, but the man only looks mildly cranky, not approaching apoplexy. When the group finally rises to go back to their own homes, Lan Qiren acknowledges his bow and his thanks, so Wei Wuxian will take it.

When they get outside into the fresh air again, Wei Wuxian takes a deep breath and what comes out again is a laugh. Lan Wangji quirks an inquisitive eyebrow at him.

"I'm just really, really happy," Wei Wuxian answers.

"Wei Wuxian," Lan Xichen calls and he turns to meet his eyes. "Welcome to the family."

Wei Wuxian bows toward him. "Thank you, Zewu-Jun."

"Good luck with the old man," Nie Mingjue says.

Wei Wuxian laughs. "Thank you, Chifeng-Zun. I will probably need it."

"I presume you'd rather tell Mo Xuanyu this yourself?" Jin Guangyao asks with an amused smile playing at the corners of his mouth.

"I don't think I need to tell him anything at this point," Wei Wuxian says. "He's had a better read than me on everything from the very start."

Jin Guangyao looks vaguely smug at that and Wei Wuxian thinks maybe his best friend and his brother have finally started figuring out how to be family.

Lan Wangji takes his hand and gives it a small tug.

"You're right, Lan Zhan. Let's go home."

The walk back to the house is mostly Wei Wuxian telling Sizhui stories from when he was small. For his part, Sizhui seems equal parts delighted and embarrassed. Lan Wangji adds some details, but mostly he holds Wei Wuxian's hand and listens.

When they get back to the house, Sizhui turns to them. "Shushu and shenshen said I could come spend the night with Jingyi. Um."

Wei Wuxian bursts out laughing and reaches out to pat Sizhui's shoulder. "Probably smart. Come back for breakfast?"

"Yes, D--Xian-gege," Sizhui promises and disappears toward his room to, presumably, pack a bag to spend the night with his cousin.

"You raised such a good boy, Lan Zhan," Wei Wuxian says.

"Many times when I felt overwhelmed and didn't have the first idea what to do, I asked myself what you would do or say in the same situation," Lan Wangji tells him. "Sometimes, I knew it wasn't what I wanted to do or say, but it always helped me figure out what I did want."

Wei Wuxian lifts his hands to cup Lan Wangji's face. "I'm sorry I wasn't here with you for real."

"You are here now," Lan Wangji replies, wrapping his hands around Wei Wuxian's wrists. "That is what matters to me."

"Now and for every moment going forward," Wei Wuxian promises. "If you need me, if he needs me, I will be here."

Lan Wangji nods and turns his head to brush a kiss over his palm.

A few moments later, Sizhui reappears with a backpack. He stands with his hands wrapped around the straps. "I just...I'm really happy for you both. I'm really happy it's you, Dr. Wei. Xian-gege. Dad, I--" He cuts himself off and steps forward to wrap his arms around his dad. "I like seeing you so happy," Sizhui whispers into his shoulder.

Lan Wangji holds his son close and presses a kiss to the crown of his head. "You are part of that happiness, A-Yuan."

Lan Sizhui nods and pulls away again. "I'll see you in the morning," he promises and disappears back out the door.

"Lan Zhan," Wei Wuxian says. Lan Wangji turns his head to look at him. "Take me to bed?"

There's half a beat, and then Lan Wangji lifts him into his arms with one swift motion and carries him down the hall toward his bedroom.

"Lan Zhan!" Wei Wuxian says with a delighted laugh as he wraps his arms around his neck. The last time this happened, he’d been too out of it to consider the ramifications. Now that he knows Lan Wangji can lift a man roughly his same size with little apparent effort, the possibilities seem endless.

Those can be for later, though. Right now, all he wants is to get his hands and his mouth on Lan Wangji's skin. When he's set back on his feet inside the bedroom, Wei Wuxian immediately reaches for his tie and starts tugging the knot to loosen it.

"You look so good in a tie and all I ever want to do is take it off you," Wei Wuxian says.

"I nearly always wear a tie," Lan Wangji points out.

"Exactly," Wei Wuxian replies and pulls the tie off and over his head.

Lan Wangji's eyes are warm as he reaches for Wei Wuxian's shirt and untucks it from his slacks with one tug, then immediately puts his hands under the shirt and on his skin. Wei Wuxian feels an electric frisson skitter down his spine and he shudders. If Lan Wangji is making him feel like this already, this first time is going to be over fast. That's okay, though. They have plenty of time.

He tugs Lan Wangji close, brushes his lips over his jaw and down his throat. Sucks lightly at the skin just below his ear and is rewarded with a soft moan.

"Lan Zhan," he breathes and reaches up to start unbuttoning his shirt as quickly as his fingers will allow him. Lan Wangji is, of course, wearing an undershirt because he's a proper gentleman, and then Wei Wuxian gets caught at his cufflinks which are even harder to be careful with than the buttons because at this point he just wants the shirt off, but he perseveres and sets them on the dresser before turning back to just stare at Lan Wangji in his undershirt. It's unfair how good he looks.

"Wei Ying." Lan Wangji holds out his hand.

Wei Wuxian lets Lan Wangji tug him close again. "You're gorgeous. And built. God, Lan Zhan. When do you even have the time to work out?"

"Do you really want to talk about my workout routines right now?" Lan Wangji asks, eyes sparkling with amusement.

"Fuck, no," he replies, reaches for the undershirt, sweeps it up over his head, and throws it to the side. He lets his hands fall to Lan Wangji's shoulders, slides them down across his collarbone, then over his chest. Someday, he's going to take the time to explore every single inch of Lan Wangji's body with his fingers and tongue. Right now, he moves his hands down to Lan Wangji's belt and gets to work undoing it.

While he does that, fingers carefully unbutton Wei Wuxian's shirt, push it off his shoulders, and interrupts Wei Wuxian's work to get the cuffs unbuttoned and off. Wei Wuxian takes the opportunity to steal a kiss. Their lips and tongues move together until they're both breathless he's starting to feel a bit uncomfortable with his slacks still done up and he's not sure he can stand another moment without Lan Wangji's naked body against his.

"Okay. Okay. I need to. Let's just--" He cuts himself off with a laugh and quickly undoes his belt and shucks off his trousers and socks while Lan Wangji does the same. He puts his hands on Lan Wangji's hips and tugs him back until he feels the bed against the back of his legs and climbs up.

A moment later, Lan Wangji's warm body settles over his and Wei Wuxian wraps his arms around his neck with a moan.

"Yes," he breathes and rolls his hips so their cocks slide together. "Lan Zhan, you feel so good. How did I not realize? I wasted so much time," Wei Wuxian mumbles and then his mouth is entirely too occupied to speak for several long moments. Lan Wangji's mouth slides over his throat, he sucks a line over his clavicle, then moves down his chest. Wei Wuxian is torn between missing the press of his body and eager to discover what Lan Wangji is going to do next.

He moans when his lips close around his nipple while his fingers find the other.

Wei Wuxian slides his fingers into Lan Wangji's hair. "Lan Zhan you've got an extremely talented mouth, did you know?" He's fairly certain he feels a smile against his chest.

Lan Wangji moves to his other nipple, giving it equal attention before moving down again, He presses soft kisses to Wei Wuxian's stomach, then to the scar below his belly button from when a fight with Wen Chao and his idiot hangers-on had turned nasty and a knife had been pulled on Jiang Cheng. Lan Wangji trails his lips to the dip of Wei Wuxian's hip, nudges his knees further part and settles between them.

"Lan Zhan," Wei Wuxian breathes and bites his lip hard. Lan Wangji doesn't seem finished with his exploration, though. He presses his lips to Wei Wuxian's inner thigh, then opens them enough to suck lightly at the soft, tender skin. "Lan Zhan, you're really trying to kill me, aren't you? Please just touch me."

"I am touching you," Lan Wangji points out and squeezes his thighs with his large hands.

"You know what I mean," Wei Wuxian whines and tugs lightly at his hair.

"Mn. I do," Lan Wangji says, but he doesn't make a move to do anything, just looks at him, eyes warm like a banked fire.

"Please, Lan Zhan. Next time you can draw it out until I'm a sobbing mess, I promise," he says.

"Mark your words, Wei Ying," Lan Wangji says with a small, decidedly sly little smile and then he shifts forward and wraps his lips around the head of his cock.

Wei Wuxian moans with both relief and pleasure and lets his hand slide into Lan Wangji's hair again as he presses his tongue over the slit, and then sinks down further. Wei Wuxian reaches out and rubs his thumb over the corner of Lan Wangji's mouth, marveling at the visual of his cock disappearing into the wet heat of it.

"Fuck, Lan Zhan, you look amazing like this," Wei Wuxian says. "You always look amazing, but this is just for me, isn't it? I'm the only one who gets to see you like this."

Lan Wangji moans and his fingers tighten over Wei Wuxian's hips as he sinks down further, taking more of his cock into his mouth and his cheeks hollow as he starts to suck.

Wei Wuxian's fingers clench in his hair, but he lets go quickly and strokes his fingers soothingly over his scalp. Lan Wangji hums with pleasure.

"Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan," Wei Wuxian gasps and his hips twitch forward in a small thrust he can't hold back. "Sorry, sorry."

Lan Wanji lifts his eyes to meet Wei Wuxians and he squeezes his hips.

"Do you want me to fuck your mouth, Lan Zhan?" he asks.

Lan Wangji hums in agreement.

"Fuck. Okay. Lan Zhan, I'm...this is gonna be quick."

He lets his head fall back against the pillow, closes his eyes, and stops holding himself in check. His hips start snapping up into Lan Wangji's mouth and he moves his hands to grab tight onto the bedding. A moment later, one hand leaves his hip and reaches up to twine with one of Wei Wuxian's.

He doesn't have any words anymore, he can only moan and listen to the obscene wet sounds as he fucks Lan Wangji's mouth. He feels the pleasure pool at the base of his spine and it's all he can do to gasp out a warning before he starts to come. Lan Wangji sucks him through it, mouth gentling as he finishes. From somewhere, Wei Wuxian finds the ability to move and tugs the hand holding his.

"C'mere," he whispers. Lan Wangji pulls off his cock and moves up his body. We Wuxian pulls him close and kisses him, chasing the taste of himself on Lan Wangji's tongue.

"Just for you," Lan Wanji says against his lips. "Always been for you."

"You're mine," Wei Wuxian says and lets a hand trail down his back. "And I'm yours. All yours. Forever."

"Forever," Lan Wangji agrees, voice rough and kisses him again.

Wei Wuxian nips at his bottom lip when he pulls back, then cups his cheek and meets his eyes. "How can I make you feel as good as you made me feel, Lan Zhan? What do you want?"

"Just your hand," Lan Wangji answers.

"Don't want to shut me up with your cock, Lan Zhan?" Wei Wuxian asks with a grin.

Lan Wangji shakes his head. "I like hearing you talk."

"Lan Zhan," Wei Wuxian says and does the only thing he can: close the few inches between them and kiss him again. When he pulls back he tries to give Lan Wangji a severe look. "Lan Wangji, you are a doctor. You should have more concern for my poor heart, saying things like that."

He ruins it by laughing, and slides a hand down to Lan Wangji's neck, over his shoulder, and down to his hip. He strokes his thumb over his pelvis.

"What do you want me to say, Lan Zhan?" he asks. "Do you want me to talk about how gorgeous you are? How every time I see you, my breath catches in my throat?"

He lets his hand drop a few inches and wrap lightly, teasingly around Lan Wangji's cock.

"Or do you want me to tell you how every time I've gotten off since I saw you again, it was to thoughts of you?"

Lan Wangji moans and his hips stutter into Wei Wuxian's hand, looking for more friction.

"It's true," he says. "Even when I was trying not to acknowledge it, it was you. Your gorgeous hands on me, your mouth. Fuck, Lan Zhan, your mouth is perfect. Better than my imagination could ever have come up with."

"Wei Ying," Lan Wangji whispers. It's a request, a plea.

Wei Wuxian smiles and tightens his grip, brushes his thumb over the leaking tip of Lan Wangji's cock. "And Lan Zhan, my imagination is pretty good. I thought about a lot of things and I knew anything with you would be good."

He starts stroking Lan Wangji's cock, slow and firm, and watches his eyes flutter closed in pleasure.

"For the record, I did think about you shutting me up with your cock," he says.

Lan Wangji's eyes open and he smiles slightly. "I can't say the thought has never crossed my mind."

Wei Wuxian laughs, but keeps his hand moving steadily. "Ah, Hanguang-Jun. You really are the best. We'll keep that near the top of the list, then."

He slides his thumb over the head of Lan Wangji's cock again and his hips twitch. "You're so close, aren't you? Did you like getting me off that much, Lan Zhan?"

"Yes," Lan Wangji moans.

"How long have you wanted to suck my cock, Lan Zhan?" Wei Wuxian asks as he speeds up his strokes.

"Emperor's Smile on the Academy wall," Lan Wangji gasps when Wei Wuxian twists his hand just right.

Wei Wuxian laughs and laughs, pressing his lips against the corner of Lan Wangji's mouth even as he keeps stroking. "Did my terrible, impertinent teenaged self turn you on that much? Or was it love at first sight, Lan Zhan?"

"Both," Lan Wangji replies and his control breaks as he starts thrusting into Wei Wuxian's hand.

He smiles and watches as Lan Wangji's lips part, watches his breathing pick up, watches the flush creep further down his chest.

"Lan Zhan," he whispers into his ear. "Come for me. Let me see you."

That's all it takes. Lan Wangji thrusts into his hand twice more and he's coming as he moans Wei Wuxian's name.

He wants to see and hear this man come for him every day for the rest of his life, he decides. The logistics will be a little tricky, maybe, but they're both smart, creative people. He thinks they can make it happen.

"I love you," Wei Wuxian says as Lan Wangji's eyes open again.

"I love you too," Lan Wangji replies and draws Wei Wuxian into his arms. Wei Wuxian props his chin on Lan Wangji's chest and smiles up at him.

"For the record, that wasn't my whole list. Not by far. There are so many things I want to do with you. I want you to fuck me into the mattress, I want to wake up too early one morning and fuck your thighs before I even open my eyes. I want to see what we can do in that shower and also that fucking bathtub. It's a long list, Lan Zhan. I hope you're ready," he says.

"I've been ready," Lan Wangji replies with a soft smile, then rolls him onto his back and settles on top of him.

Wei Wuxian hooks an ankle over his thigh and smiles up at him. "Then I guess we'll just have to make up for lost time."

"Mn," Lan Wangji says and leans in to kiss him. They don't stop until drowsiness sets in and they can't keep their eyes open anymore. It's still early yet, though, Wei Wuxian thinks with a smile as they settle into one another's arms. They can wake up for dinner and round two.

The next morning, they both wake sore and satisfied, but not so much that it stops them from making love one last time before Sizhui gets back home. After, they shower together in Lan Wangji's amazing shower, washing one another with gentle hands and many kisses.

It starts raining as Lan Wangji sets the coffee brewing.

"I guess we really did only get the one day reprieve from the rain," Wei Wuxian says and slides his arms around Lan Wangji's waist from behind and presses a kiss to the back of his neck.

"Mn," Lan Wangji murmurs, turns in his arms, and captures his lips. They kiss until the door opens and two people start giggling simultaneously when they enter the kitchen.

Wei Wuxian turns his head and grins at the boys near the doorway. "Problem?"

"No, no problem, Xian-gege," Sizhui replies with a grin. "Jingyi drove me home because of the rain. Can he stay for breakfast?"

"Of course," Lan Wangji replies and pulls away from Wei Wuxian to start selecting ingredients from his cupboards. Wei Wuxian steps to the side out of his way.

"Did you have a good night?" Jingyi asks with a sly smile.

"Do you really want the answer to that?" Wei Wuxian asks.

"Uh, you know what? No, not really," Jingyi replies sheepishly.

Wei Wuxian laughs. "That's what I thought."

"But, um. I'm happy for you guys," Jingyi says. "Almost makes the car accident worth it. Almost."

Jingyi nudges his hand gently against Sizhui's formerly broken arm and smiles. Sizhui wrinkles his nose, but smiles back.

"If it had to happen, I'm glad it happened the way it did," Sizhui allows.

Wei Wuxian grins and wraps an arm around each boy, tugging them tightly to his sides. "Agreed. But let's make sure that's a one-time thing. If I see either of you in my emergency room again, I'm going to be upset."

"Noted, Dr. Wei," Jingyi says.

Breakfast with the three of them is a joyous affair. He gets to hook his ankle around Lan Wangji's, eat his good cooking, and tease the boys. He honestly can't think of a better way to spend a meal.

Eventually, he has to gather his things so he can leave and go to work. He doesn't particularly want to, but at the same time, knowing this is just the first time he gets this is enough to sustain him.

He makes Lan Wangji come to the bedroom with him for an extended kiss goodbye before he forces himself to step away.

"I love you," he tells Lan Wangji. "And the longer I stay, the harder it will be to leave."

"You could come back here after your shift," Lan Wangji suggests.

Wei Wuxian smiles. "Lan Zhan, you have no idea how much I want that."

"Then what's stopping you?" Lan Wangji asks as he reaches out and brackets Wei Wuxian's hips with his hands. "I...Lan Zhan, I can't just move in the day after we get together," he says.

"Why not?" Lan Wangji asks. There's a stubborn glint in his eye and Wei Wuxian loves him so much he thinks he might burst.

"Well, for one, you should maybe talk to your son about it first," Wei Wuxian says. "For another…"

He trails off. In this moment, he honestly can't think of another reason.

"For another?" Lan Wangji prompts.

He reaches up and rests his hands on Lan Wangji's shoulders "Talk to Sizhui," he says with a smile. "We said forever. That means we have time."

Lan Wangji tips his forehead against Wei Wuxian's. "I would like our forever to start right now," he confesses.

"Lan Zhan," Wei Wuxian whispers and curls his arms around his neck. "Just a little more patience, Hanguang-Jun. You and Sizhui are already part of my family. Where I live for a little while longer won't change that. I just want...if we're a family, then we need to make decisions together, yeah?"

Lan Wangji hums and leans in to kiss him breathless. "I will talk to him. Come for dinner tomorrow?"

"Of course," Wei Wuxian promises and forces himself to move out of the circle of Lan Wangji's arms. "I love you."

He takes a breath and leaves Lan Wangji's bedroom. Maybe someday soon it will be their bedroom, but for now, he needs to go back to his own apartment and change clothes and go to work. First, he goes into the living room where Sizhui has settled with his homework.

"See you soon, kiddo," he says and leans down to kiss the top of Sizhui's head.

Sizhui wrinkles his nose a little, but he smiles up at Wei Wuxian. "See you soon, Xian-gege."

"Text me later, okay?" he says. "I...if you need anything or want to talk or...anything."

Sizhui nods and Wei Wuxian grins at him one last time, then makes his way toward the door with Lan Wangji at his heels.

"Bye Lan Zhan," he says and give his hand a quick squeeze before dashing out the door. "See you soon! I love you!" he calls over his shoulder and gets in his car before he can be tempted to stay longer.

He can't stop grinning the entire way back to his apartment. He can't stop grinning as he changes clothes, puts his hair up, and leaves again for the hospital. On his way, he passes through the intersection where Sizhui and Jingyi got hit without incident. He laughs and turns on the radio to some pop song about love he's probably heard a hundred times. He sings along at the top of his lungs.

When he gets to work, before he even gets out of his car, he pulls out his phone to see a notification from Lan Wangji.

*

♡Lan Zhan♡

Have a good shift. I love you.

Wei Wuxian

I love you too. And you know what? I think our forever starts whenever we say it does and I think it already started. No matter what, we've already got forever, Lan Zhan.

_____

Six Months Later

Spring term is in full swing and Lan Wangji carefully extracts himself from a pointless conversation in the lobby of the lab building. He's not sure what it is about more pleasant weather that makes people chattier than usual, but he wishes they would stop. Especially when his partner is waiting for him outside so they can walk to the cafe and get lunch together before he has to spend the rest of his afternoon in meetings.

"Lan Zhan!" Wei Wuxian calls from where he's standing directly in the sun just off the sidewalk, predictably chatting with one of Lan Wangji's undergrad students.

A swell of affection bubbles up in Lan Wangji at the sight of him. He's sure that were it possible for Wei Wuxian to get chattier in more pleasant weather, he would.

"Ms. Xiao, Wei Ying," he greets and Wei Wuxian leans in to kiss him lightly.

"A-Qing, you'll have to excuse us," Wei Wuxian says. "I'm starving. Guest lectures are hungry work."

She waves a dismissive hand and rolls her eyes. "Everything with you is hungry work, Dr. Wei."

"Now you sound like Song Lan," Wei Wuxian says with a grin. "As if he doesn't appreciate a decent meal after he's been talking in front of people for a while."

"Yes, but unlike you, my father doesn't keep talking after," she retorts.

Wei Wuxian tips his head back and laughs. "I get no respect around here."

"You lost my respect the first time I saw you and your brother get cutthroat over croquet," she replies.

"You know what? Fair," Wei Wuxian replies with a grin.

"See you Dr. Lan, Dr. Wei," she says and waves over her shoulder as she turns back onto the sidewalk and moves back toward the lab building.

Wei Wuxian slips his hand into Lan Wangji's and tugs him in the opposite direction.

"I take it things went well?" he asks.

"Yep!" Wei Wuxian replies. "I even got them to have a pretty good discussion by the end. I mean, pretty good by first year med student standards anyway."

"Not the highest of bars," Lan Wangji says dryly.

Wei Wuxian laughs. "No, no it's not. Still, it was fun. I enjoy teaching. I know I've only done this like, three times, but I think if the opportunity presented itself, I might want to do more of it."

"You are very good at it," Lan Wangji says. He's only been able to attend one of Wei Ying's guest lectures at the med school, but he's dynamic and engaging in front of a classroom and good at making first year med students think before noon. And that's not even getting into how much he's been helping Sizhui and his friends with their physics homework of late.

"And it might be nice to cut back on hours at the hospital," Wei Wuxian says. "It feels weird to even say that but I've got a family now."

Lan Wangji lifts his hand and presses a soft kiss to the back of it. "You do."

Wei Wuxian smiles softly at him and pushes open the door of the cafe. They're waved to their usual table with little fanfare. Wei Ying calls out their thanks to the waiter. They no longer have to order here. They've been coming often enough since Wei Wuxian returned to Gusu in the fall that the staff have their orders memorized.

"I don't know if there are even any openings or anything, but I guess I can just...tell Dr. Baoshan that I'm open to doing more see if anything comes of it," Wei Wuxian says.

"Mn," Lan Wangji hums and accepts his tea from the waiter. It's a good idea. Selfishly, he would very much like it if Wei Wuxian worked on campus, worked closer, but anything that makes him happy will make Lan Wangji happy.

"So how about your morning, Lan Zhan?" Wei Wuxian asks. "You're still in the same shirt you were wearing when you left this morning, so clearly there haven't been any disasters."

"One time, Wei Ying," Lan Wangji says.

"I know, but you're just so…you," Wei Wuxian replies. "It was notable."

Lan Wangji rolls his eyes and sips his tea. "Ridiculous."

"And you love me anyway," Wei Wuxian says.

God help him, he does. He has for a very, very long time. Clearly Wei Wuxian reads Lan Wangji's agreement on his face because he grins at him across the table.

"My morning was uneventful," Lan Wangji says. "I spent most of it typing up my notes from the last few days."

"Wow, yeah, a real party going on up on the 8th floor," Wei Wuxian says.

"You pulled all the energy over to the other side of campus," Lan Wangji retorts. "There was none left to spare for the rest of us."

Wei Wuxian laughs and reaches out to steal a sip of his tea, something he's been doing since the first time they came here after getting together.

"I don't think that's true," Wei Wuxian says. "I've read Sizhui's physics textbook from cover to cover and there's nothing in there about humans being able to suck ambient energy from their environments."

"If anyone could perform such a feat, it would be you," Lan Wangji tells him.

Under the table, Wei Wuxian tangles their feet together. "Such faith in my abilities, Hanguang-Jun."

"Mn," Lan Wangji hums and takes back his mug of tea.

Their food arrives a moment later and Wei Wuxian chatters animatedly as they eat, telling him about his lecture in greater detail, about the one student who managed to surprise him, about Sizhui's sudden panic this morning after Lan Wangji left for the lab about a literature test he felt he hadn't studied enough for because he was so focused on his physics homework.

"He'll be fine. I quizzed him over breakfast. He's got a good grasp of the material, just feels guilty for not splitting his time evenly or something," Wei Wuxian says.

"He's fastidious," Lan Wangji says.

"He is and it's wonderful, but not everything needs his equal attention or he's going to burn out before he gets to university," Wei Wuxian says. "He's not treating literature or his teacher with less respect because he has a good grasp of the subject and doesn't need to spend as much time on it."

"We'll work on it, then," Lan Wangji says.

Wei Wuxian reaches across the table to squeeze his hand. "I'm sure he'll figure it out, but maybe we can save him some extra stress in the meantime."

Lan Wangji nods and gives Wei Wuxian an answering squeeze of the hand. At first, he'd felt guilty at how much of a relief it was to have Wei Ying's partnership in parenting Sizhui. Especially given that compared to some other teenagers he's known, his son is astonishingly easy. Now, he just lets himself appreciate it and Wei Ying's perspective.

It's yet another thing that makes him feel astonishingly sappy about all the changes in his life over the last six months. He gets to wake up and fall asleep with the love of his life and that's far more than he ever dared dream of at any point.

"Lan Zhan," Wei Wuxian says and twists in his chair to reach into his messenger bag. "I have a surprise for you."

In a gesture very similar to one he made in this same restaurant months ago, he sets a black box on the table between them with a bright grin.

"What is it?" Lan Wangji asks.

"Well, through some careful sleuthing...mostly backreading our text thread, I realized this is the six month anniversary of you being granted the title of 'Dr. Wei Wuxian's Favorite Person,'" he explains. "The nature of the award has shifted and I felt it was time I acknowledged that." Wei Wuxian reaches for the box and lifts the lid, but Lan Wangji can't seem to take his eyes from his partner's face to look at it.

"You see," Wei Wuxian continues, "I've come to realize that the scope of the award needs to be expanded significantly. Hanguang-Jun, Lan Wangji, Lan Zhan, will you accept the duties and responsibilities of being my one and only very favorite person for the rest of our lives?"

Lan Wangji feels like all the breath has gone from his lungs and his eyes finally drop to the box where a band of metal is nestled in black velvet. Wei Wuxian takes his left hand in one hand and picks up the ring with his free hand.

"Lan Zhan," he whispers. "Marry me?"

Lan Wangji swallows hard. "Yes," he croaks. "Yes, Wei Ying. Yes."

Wei Ying's smile is brilliant as he slips the ring onto his finger.

 

Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji wearing lab coats and smiling at one another