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If I were to live my life again, I'd find you sooner.

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—— Friday - February 7th, 2020 ——

Lan Wangji has a bit of a habit, see. Ever since one fateful morning when he found it just a little hard to stay awake— something that never normal happens to him but a recent slew of late nights having then challenged that notion —, he found himself in a café, in a moment of weakness.

It was meant to be a one time occurrence, something once and then done. But Lan Wangji found himself returning the next day, and then the next. Without his consent, it became a pattern. Everyday for weeks, he’d come in and order the same thing— A black coffee, and two biscuits. It’s strange to think that this is one of the only things in life that he caves for every single day now.

Most often, Lan Wangji’s day begins at five o’clock, him leaving around six, and then arriving to classes or studying. Practicing the law is no simple matter, leading to many, many pages upon pages of reading material to go over and memorize. There’s no end to it, at least not in the near future. But even with such a load, Lan Wangji doesn’t complain, having long since understood just what type of degree and future job he’d be working to obtain.

At around seven o’clock sharp, just after the opening of the café, Lan Wangji walks through the front door. With a practiced routine, he approaches the counter, not quite confidently, but also not nervously either, having more than enough discipline to act accordingly and not fidget.

Just as he reaches the clean white marble countertop, he hears a familiar, cheerful voice greet him, “Oh, good morning, Lan Zhan! How are you today?” Just then, a familiar man, most likely in his early twenties, comes from the kitchen doorway behind the counter. Wei Wuxian is his name, he knows from experience.

Lan Wangji looks the man up and down. He’s dressed casually, with just a bit of professionalism since he’s on the clock; a part of Lan Wangji wonders just how he would look if he didn’t have to worry about the professional guidelines that practically every working-person does— would he dress wilder? Bolder? Somehow, he thinks so. Even today, in quite-tight skinny jeans that Lan Wangji definitely won’t be thinking about later, and an almost black t-shirt with the words, ‘Even the dead can dance’ scrawled across the front of it, with a small cartoonish zombie drawn dancing with maracas after the words.

“So, what’ll it be then?” He asks, the cheer from before still ever so present. A part of Lan Wangji wishes that he could be that expressive. Showing his emotions clearly on his face and with little room to misunderstand. So free, and unrestricted that it hurts a little inside, knowing that it would be near impossible for Lan Wangji to do the same.

Gratefully, at this point, Lan Wangji doesn’t even need to tell the man his order. Having ordered the same exact thing every time, it should be no mystery what he wishes to have. So many times over its been the same thing. Lan Wangji can only draw the conclusion that perhaps Wei Wuxian’s just asking to prompt him to say something, but the words fail to form on his tongue, getting lost somewhere in the depths of himself that even he doesn’t know where is.

“Awww, so quiet this morning. “ He teases cheekily,” Feeling shy? Don’t worry. I’ve got you covered,” he says as a large grin stretched across his handsome features, adorable dimples at the corners, and such bright soft grey eyes that it melts Lan Wangji’s icy heart slightly when he stares for a moment too long.

Lwj feels his heart beating quite painfully in his chest as he looks away, mumbling a single, “Mm,” in response, rather than admonish the man for his cheekiness.

Never having been one for much speech, even as a young child, Lan Wangji has long grown used to many people being weirded out or unsettled by his silence. Wei Wuxian is different in that respect, never once treating him any differently, as Lan Wangji’s personality doesn’t seem to faze him, and in fact, it’s not uncommon for Wei Wuxian to talk on and on, something that Lan Wangji doesn’t mind in the slightest.

Often times, the anxiety of having to answer makes he freeze up, holding him in-place and immobile. The emotion wires his mouth shut, locking away so many feelings that Lan Wangji can’t seem to express, verbally or otherwise. The second he tries, it’s as if there is an invisible wall in front of him, holding him back. But for some reason, that wall seems to begin to crumble in Wei Wuxian’s presence, along with many more inside. Slowly, his defenses are falling down, he realizes, but he doesn’t resist it. He resigns to his fate, one that’s not quite unwanted.

Wei Wuxian whirls around in a half circle, and proceeds to start up the coffee maker, having not been on yet due to the café having just opened for the morning; Lan Wangji would be surprised if they even have the first batch of donuts done yet, as there should be still dough rising in the back. Minutes go by in relative silence, and Lan Wangji watches as Wei Wuxian hums cheerfully to himself.

The coffee maker makes a beep noise, and then he’s putting the beans in, all for the delicious roast that has him coming back time and time again— Lan Wangji pointedly ignores the part of his mind that points out that the coffee roasts is certainly not the only perfect thing he lays eyes on.

Wei Wuxian begins to speak again just as he’s closing the lid of the coffee maker, starting the five minute brew cycle, “I’d offer you some from the pot earlier, but it’s gotten cold and icky,” he scrunches his nose up slightly at the words, “So just wait five more minutes, okay? Then you can have the perfect pot.”

And it’s words like these that truly hit Lan Wangi where it hurts. At first, he wasn’t sure, but slowly it became increasingly clear—Wei Wuxian is just that, and has absolutely no clue what those kinds of words do to his heart. A part of Lan Wangji is grateful for Wei Wuxian’s breathtaking powers of obliviousness, and while perhaps that might miph some people, in a weird way, he finds it quite endearing. Still, endearing or not, it can be quite frustrating at times as well, but often not, Lan Wangji doesn’t really care much.

A minute passes, and then another. Lan Wangji watches as closely and discreetly as he can at the man behind the counter, silently hoping that he doesn’t find it weird. He’s humming a bip-bopy tune to himself, a goofy smile on his face. Biw leaning against the counter, Wei Wuxian takes out his phone, and proceeds to scroll and scroll. What could he be looking at? Lan Wangji finds himself quite curious, but again, he doesn’t have the courage to ask.

It takes everything in him to look away, realizing that while he true could watch the man all day and probably never be bored, the impending reminder in the back of his mind that he has three tests to study for creeps up, poking at the edges of his sub-consensus until he gives it. Somewhat dejectedly, Lan Wangji turns towards the front of the cafe again and takes a seat at the closest table. He sets his laptop bag onto the tabletop, reaching into it and sliding out his computer, opening the lip and pressing the power button to start the boot cycle. No reason why he can’t fit some studying in now. If he studies here, he’d have a reason to stay longer— he ignores the nagging notation in the back of his mind that he very well may not remember a thing that he goes over while here.

He watches as the icon Windows 10 logo comes up on the screen, a small loading circle below it signally that the laptop is thinking. Turning away from the screen, he looks towards the counter again, observing the employee behind it. The smile has faded slightly, but certainly hasn’t vanished, the corners of his soft looking lips curled up on ways that make Lan Wangji’s heart flip, just enough for dimples to form. It’s an image that sends Lan Wangji through a whirlwind of emotions, many of which he refuses to name, even to himself.

He can hear the clock ticking in the background, signaling the passing of time, but he doesn’t really feel it. Everything’s standing still and in a way that Lan Wangji wants it never to move and move forward at the same time. Still, time moves forward without his consent, and eventually, he finds himself shaken out of his stupor by the sound of loud beeping, most likely from the coffeemaker.

He’s proven correctly when Wei Wuxian pockets his phone, removing the pot with dark, dark brown liquid— coffee, he cermises— from the machine and pouring some into a tall white mug, fit with adorable bunnies running around in a circle around the top. The image makes him melt inside, the cuteness of it overwhelming, but it doesn’t show on his face. Lan Wangji turns to face his computer again, the startup long since finished. He opens the web browser, typing in the link to his college’s online portal to get to the class materials, such as the digital textbook; given the choice, Lan Wangji would chose to use a physical book any day of the week, but this time around, and many others, the teacher insisted on a digital book, requiring it even.

Wei Wuxian moves around counter— Lan Wangji can tell by the sound of his footsteps, the sound of the small door on the side of the counter being opened, and then, more footsteps. At the moment of the cup being placed on the top beside him, a glass saucer underneath it now, Lan Wangji looks up at cup, and then at Wei Wuxian.

His customary grin is in place, as he excitedly says, “Do you like it? I just got this mug the other day.” A brief pause—him setting down Lan Wangji’s plate of biscuits next to the black coffee— before he takes a seat in the chair across from him; this way, he can still see him, even with the laptop between them, “I was walking through the grocery store, buying all of the essentials, especially the hot sauces— did I tell you that I love hot sauce? They bring so much flavor to everything!— and then, I saw it. In just as adorable packaging, a cutely painted set of bunbun mugs! I just had to get them, even if money is kinda tight this month.”

He shifts forward on his elbows, whispering in a voice that’s really not very quiet at all, “Don’t tell Jiang Cheng I said that, he’ll break my legs— he promised,” he says, not at all as urgently as he makes it seem.

He’s most likely exaggerating, but it’s not as if Lan Wangji’s one to blab anyway, “Mmm, I won’t.” Lan Wangji’s gaze falls from the man sat across from him to his cup of coffee, watching as the steam billows up from it in soft puffs. Reaching out a hand, he takes ahold of it and brings it to his lips, ever so discreetly blowing on it before taking a nice, long sip. He sets it back down onto the saucer before turning towards his computer. As he’s typing in his login details, Wei Wuxian begins the conversation anew, not once perturbed by Lan Wangji’s actions. In truth, he’s listening to every word, and perhaps he won’t remember a thing that he reads later, but he finds it hard to care, something that Lan Wangji finds both strange and somewhat disconcerting.

It's with words that he doesn’t expect that Lan Wangji says something other than his usual one word answers.

“What?” He asks uneloquently— did Wei Wuxian just say what he thinks that he heard? Lan Wangji looks up from his laptop, eyes widened by shock as Wei Wuxian dares to repeat those words that made Lan Wangji’s heart jump into his throat, “I asked, would you like to go light some lanterns with me? It would be in the late afternoon— around five o’clock?—, since that’s the only time I can afford to take off this week, what with most of my co-workers not being back yet, and Jiang Cheng already has plans, which is fine—“

Wei Wuxian continues on and on, but Lan Wangji can’t hear him, his voice muffled by his own thoughts.

His brain short-circuits for a moment— at first, he can’t even hear himself think, and then the brief fog lifts only to be covered by another, this one of confusion. Wei Wuxian wants to go light lanterns? With him of all people? The one who has been borderline creepily coming in almost daily for the same old cup of boring old coffee and two biscuits, and same old boring him? It’s a dream made reality that it takes everything in himself to prevent himself from pinching himself— considering that it’s not a terribly proper thing for him to do, especially in public, he restrains himself.

The thought doesn’t compute well, and panic begins to form when he remembers that time will not stop for him, no matter how much he wants it too sometimes, and that all this time, Wei Wuxian has been patiently waiting all this time. In a moment of desperation, not well thought out words, and an inability to tell the man ‘no,’ the word slips out without his consent, “Mmm.”

Wei Wuxian’s ramble dies there, but his expression is anything but dead. A wide, wild grin stretches across his face, so big that Lan Wangji thinks that his face must hurt slightly from it. So bright, so expressive— so many things that Lan Wangji is not, and yet, rather than be hurt by the reminder of the differences between them, he feels somewhat liberated, knowing that in some weird way, Wei Wuxian understands him. Even if Lan Wangji’s smile isn’t nearly as wide in comparison, it’s there, clear as day; this is most likely the time that he’s smiled the biggest, as far as he can remember.

—— Saturday - February 8th, 2020 ——

The morning of, Lan Wangji finds himself strangely jiggery, something that he can’t remember really having experienced to this extent for a long time. Most of the time, he can handle whatever life throws his way— ‘with easy,’ some might suggest, even if Lan Wangji internally protests the phrase often, knowing fair well that it’s not quite with easy, but rather, that Lan Wangji finds it hard to express anything, much less his internal struggles with the world. In most cases, it doesn’t really matter what anyone thinks, since often things work out in his favor, even if it leaves the wrong impression on people.

It is in moments like these that Lan Wangji wishes that the world understood him a bit better; maybe then it would have some mercy on his lonely, very human heart. But as with more things, mercy often doesn’t come for free, and right now the cost would be too much; Lan Wangji simply cannot calm his beating heart, the blood rushing in his ears—they’re probably a bit pink at the tips too, ever so slightly noticeable and one of the only visible signs of his plight.

The air is cold around him, but it does little to help the whirlwind of emotions that is him. Even in a warm bisque-cream sweater, and black jeans, he feels both under and overdressed at the same time. The frigid breeze is unmistakable, slow and langrid, but certainly present.

Lan Wangji resists the urge to shift in place. It’s nearly ten minutes past their meeting time, and he tries not to let it rattle him. Wei Wuxian seems exactly like the type to be late, and certainly not to stand someone up to something that he invited him to. Maybe Wei Wuxian is the forgetful type, but he remembers when it counts. Even in the month that Lan Wangji’s known him, he’s only forgotten simple things like money and coffee mugs.

Wei Wuxian can’t have forgotten…

Right?

The seconds tick by, and Lan Wangji catches himself counting the breaths he takes in with each passing moment. Dread begins creeping up at the corners, and for the first time since he’s net the man, he wonders if this is all one big mistake. He pulls out his phone, watching at the second hand moves, and he can almost hear the clicks, even if the noise around him from the busy square would most likely be too loud to hear such a thing. Laughter, crying, shuffling, and hustling. The world moves by around him, and Lan Wangji feels like a piece separated from it all. Everything becomes muddled as he begins to tune it all out, falling into his own head.

His hand is still holding the phone. With every tick of the clock, he’s held in place. Time not moving for him in direct contradiction to the clock actively moving in front of his face. With a blink, another minute goes by, and Lan Wangji tries not to feel disheartened, but it’s a pointless effort. Looking up from his phone, scanning around, and then back at it, he contemplates. Should he go? It’s almost twenty minutes past. If he leaves now, he could still make the train ride back to Gusu Lan. He purses his lip, different possibilities rushing through his head, most of them shotty explanations to himself about why he’s still standing here, what he did wrong in his previous life, and why Wei Wuxian is so late.

He furrows his eyebrows, his expression pained and clutching his phone tightly in his hand, but not enough to break it.

He spins on his heal, ready to just go home and forget all about this.

He takes one step forward before there’s a hand grabbing his shoulder.

In reflex, he spins around again, preparing an explanation to whatever unsuspecting tourist that’s probably just looking for directions and he does not, in fact, know this area very well when he stops up short. His shock doesn’t show on his face, something that Lan Wangji is both grateful and bitter about.

“H-hey L-Lan Zhan,” Wei Wuxian says, his breath wheezing for air that he apparently desperately needs. Sweat is covering his face, his arms, and some other places, but Lan Wangji seeing right through that in an instant. His hair is tousled, not terribly well styled, but somehow it suits him— crazy hair, for the unpredictable force that is Wei Wuxian; there’s even a little strand of hair standing up on end, denying the laws of gravity in the same way that Wei Wuxian defies social standards. He’s wearing an open crop top, one that exposes about an inch and a half of skin between the black shirt and his denim blue skinny jeans.

He must be cold, Lan Wangji thinks to himself. With no jacket, in this kind of weather which is borderline threatening snow, it’s hard to imagine that he’s not. Lan Wangji wants to ask him about it, about why he doesn’t have a jacket, why he’s, why it is that the second that he came into view, Lan Wangji felt all of his frustrations vanish. It’s maddening what Lan Wangji is probably willing to do for someone he only met a month ago— his saving grace being that Wei Wuxian doesn’t know of the power he holds, for better or for worse.

“Wei Wuxian,” He greets, even if it’s not really as much of a greeting, but rather an excuse to say his name aloud. Already, the nerves from before begin to swim back up and Lan Wangji does his best to keep them underneath his lake of emotions— calm on the surface, but full of life behind. Lan Wangji doesn’t really smile— he can’t with his face muscles locked up, stiff or resistance to movement. Whether it from self-consciousness or something else, he doesn’t know.

Wei Wuxian’s still panting heavily, obviously trying to catch a breath that seems to keep running away from him. Slowly, it calms down, but the sound of heavy breathing can still be heard, even minutes later. Ever the talkative one, Wei Wuxian seems to be awkward for once, a nervous tone audible in his voice as he speaks, “W-well…” He trails off, his thoughts falling off of the tracks for a brief moment before he continues, “Wanna get something to eat?”

Lan Wangji accepts the offer for what it is— an offer to move forward, to not discuss this awkward moment, and to simply forget about it. It hurts slightly to think that it’s simply because Wei Wuxian doesn’t feel comfortable enough to explain why and what happened; he doesn’t let it show, his face as passive as ever, as he lets out an affirmative, “Mmm,” even as there’s a pang of pain in his heart at the evasion.

Wei Wuxian moves first, removing his hand from Lan Wangji’s shoulder, sliding it along his arm and to his hand. The action leaves fire in its wake, a soft tingling from the touch a phantom reminder of the feeling. He feels the tips of his ears redden as Wei Wuxian’s hand takes hold of Lan Wangji’s. His hand is warm against Lan Wangji’s chilled skin, his palms starting to sweat from the temperature change and the rush of emotions and feelings just below the surface.

It’s to a tug of his wrist and Lan Wangji moves forward too, coming to walk in step with him side by side. The feeling of fingers intertwining with his is distracting, and he almost misses the wide grin that Wei Wuxian gives him in reply to the silent question.

Wei Wuxian speaks with a much chipper tone than before, “There! This way, we won’t get separated.”

Lan Wangji accepts the explanation, even if a part of him wonders if there is more to his actions then that, but he doesn’t have the resolve to question him further. A part of him itches to say something back, but he finds himself at a loss of words. A lack of something to say seals his mouth shut. The moment passes, and then another, and it’s then that Lan Wangji realizes that his opportunity to say something has dissolved.

He turns to face the road again, melancholic disappointment in himself bubbling below the surface like an underground hot spring. His gaze falls to the sideway, and he watches as each tile of concrete passes them by in seconds, just like the opportunities that Lan Wangji can never find the ability to take.

It’s when he hears the sounds of children excitedly yelling, crying, and laughter that Lan Wangji knows that they’re approaching their destination. Looking up, Lan Wangji scans the area, takes everything in. There’s red everywhere; being the customary color for celebration, it shouldn’t be as much of a shock as it is. While Lan Wangji has been out and about during the new year festivities before, it has been many years since he truly took the time to really take it all in, and unfortunately, he was just a small child at the time, so details must have been lost in his memories; he knew it was red, but not the extent of it.

Still, he maintains his composure, hiding inside the whirlwind of emotions that’s flooding through him. What would his life had been like if his father was there to take him every year? What would it have been like if his mother had been there too? If there hadn’t been a fire in their family home, cruelly taking his parents away from him and his brother. Would Lan Wangji have been different? The questions punch right in the gut, but Lan Wangji swallows it all back, doing what he does best— He ignores it, knowing that he could never explain or be as open and honest about something so personal about himself.

It works, or at least he thinks it does— he’s never been so thankful for his thick face than in this moment, sincerely hoping that everything doesn’t show. Wei Wuxian turns to face him, a large grin in place. It twitches ever so slightly when he looks at Lan Wangji, perhaps aware, but also maybe not.

A moment passes before Wei Wuxian says, “What do you think?” As if he knew that Lan Wangji doesn’t have much experience with festivals or something. The fact that he can tell makes Lan Wangji uneasy and strangely happy at the same time.

He swallows again, needing to force down everything else in order to even find his voice. What should he say in reply? Every word that comes to mind is one that’ll never be able to learn his lips, a mix of fear and excitement curbing his speech.

In a desperate attempt at something, he replies, “Mmmm, very nice.” Which is probably one of the most generic answers that he could have given. Internally, he cringes, but the words have been said now.

Wei Wuxian just gives him a wide-eyed smile in return, most likely proud of himself for any number of reasons. Even if Lan Wangji doesn’t quite understand why, it doesn’t really matter to him that much. At least Wei Wuxian doesn’t seem to find his actions just as awkward as Lan Wangji does, or he’d probably have to find a hole to bury himself into.

People are bustling all around them, going from store to shop, and place to place. The streets are crowded, and that makes it hard to stay connected, the brushing of strangers passing by tosseling them both amongst the crowd. Eventually, he feels a tug on his wrist that leads them out of the large stream of people. While Lan Wangji is more than aware of the people shifting and moving all around them, it’s significantly easier to stand here, not having to fight for standing room.

Turning away from the bustling street, Lan Wangji notices that they seem to have come into a small alcove and a storefront. On crisp white paper, hung like a scroll, there’s the words ‘Jiǎo zi,'' written in proper black calligraphy (1). The appearance of the storefront is not that much different from the rest of the world around them— plenty of red decorations artfully placed around with thought and care —but the smell is strong here. It wafts in under his nose, and unintentionally, breathes it in.

Just now, he can feel his stomach rumb a little at the delectable scent. Lan Wangji doesn’t make a motion towards the food stand though, perfectly okay if Wei Wuxian decides to just continue moving— Lan Wangji won’t be heartbroken over skipping the dumplings, no matter how good they smell; what if Wei Wuxian wants to eat something different?

As if he can hear his thoughts, Wei Wuxian speaks, his voice a touch louder than now to be heard over the loud noise of the crowd behind them, “Do you want some?” He asks, before adding quickly, “B’cause I kinda want some.” There’s a visible pout in his face, as if he were a young child, and while some might find that expression off putting, it only makes Lan Wangji’s poor heart beat impossibly faster.

Worried about his voice being lost in the noise, Lan Wangji nods, turning to complete face the storefront, pointing towards some of the dumplings politely, before holding up two fingers.

Somewhat confused at first, the man behind the counter doesn’t seem to understand, and it’s not until Lan Wangji begins to truly panic internally that he seems to get it, pointing at the dumplings himself. When Lan Wangji sees that he seems to get it, he feels relief, nodding his head to confirm.

It’s not long before Lan Wangji’s wallet is just a little bit lighter, but he doesn’t mind. When one of the steaming hot dumplings are given to him via a soft naptin, Lan Wangji can’t help his mouth watering slightly. It’s only nerves that hold him back for a second, but when Wei Wuxian begins to consume his own, Lan Wangji feels his nerves give way to his hunger.

Dumpling held in both hands, Lan Wangji takes small, savoring portions, wanting to enjoy every single piece of it, whereas Wei Wuxian devours it in seconds. With the dumpling gone in a flash, Wei Wuxian licks his fingers clean very quickly and briefly, and yet it’s a sight that’s so distracting that Lan Wangji feels every mental process halting as he attempts to process what he’s seeing. With a shiver down his spine, Lan Wangji knows that the action will haunt his dreams for the foreseeable future.

The red blush that settles across the tips of his ears is undeniable, and Lan Wangji can only hope that it’s hard to see in the sea of red and the steadily darkening sky— even as the sun goes down, the lights from all around brighten the area in its place. Subtlety, Lan Wangji turns away, embarrassed by the effect such an act has on him. It’s not as if Wei Wuxian does it on purpose— there’s no way that he would. As far as he can tell, Wei Wuxian is just as oblivious to it as a child is to almost everything else at first. Even in the short period of time that he’s known him, Lan Wangji can tell. This knowledge only serves to further the guilt— the confusion— the desire.

Lan Wangji takes another bite of his dumpling, thoroughly enjoying the taste in an attempt to distract himself from what just happened. Wei Wuxian turns to look him in the eye, customary goofy grin in place as he leans slightly into Lan Wangji’s personal bubble— a bubble that’s about two feet around— but still it sends his mind racing, his blood rushing. Swallowing harshly against his now dry throat, an action not unlike forcing down sandpaper, Lan Wangji waits with a bated breath for him to say something.

Wei Wuxian’s plump lips open, and move— a sight that Lan Wangji can’t stop staring at for a good couple of seconds, and moments later he finally processes what he’s saying, “Do you wanna walk around some more?” There’s a somewhat playful tone in his voice, and Lan Wangji tries his best to remind himself that Wei Wuxian just doesn’t realize what he’s doing to him, and that’s why he keeps doing it, not because he actually—

Okay, that’s a dangerous thought process to go down at the moment. Better to stop it now before it gets out of control. Subtly, Lan Wangji nods, humming out a quiet. “Mmm,” that is most likely lost in the crowd.

At having been given permission, Wei Wuxian’s hand latches onto his own, and it’s in this moment that he realizes that he might never forget the pleasure of having Wei Wuxian’s hand in his— soft, gentle, but firm. It’s a perfect balance, and Lan Wangji has to fight with himself to not rub his finger up and down the backside of his affections’ hand

With a gentle tug, they’re pulling out into the wide street. In the short period of time that they’d spent at the small storefront, the street back gotten impossibly busier, something that Lan Wangji doesn’t quite understand how can happen, but it has. The shock passes as quickly as it came, and Lan Wangji finds himself walking closely, not wishing to somehow accidentally lose the contact between them with careful maneuvering. A few times, they end up pressed close together, something that Lan Wangji both relishes in and hates— the dirty thoughts and images that the contact brings only fuel his underlying desires, and will surely also fuel his dreams as well.

He doesn’t know how much time passes, but it doesn’t take long for the sun to go down entirely, the beautiful sunset disappearing in favor of the starry night sky. In the distance, Lan Wangji can hear music, traditional in style being played, but they’re not really moving towards it. He lets himself be led by Wei Wuxian, perfectly content to go wherever he desires to.

Every couple of seconds, they are sliding in and order people, maintaining the connection between them while also moving forward. People of all sorts of ages, genders, and sizes are everywhere, all of them happy, open, expressive.

Lan Wangji wishes he could be that expressive, even if he’s long since believing that wishes come true.

A few minutes go by, and Lan Wangji’s just watching the people that they pass, falling into the pitfall that is his own head. It’s hard to fight the doubt and depression, even when they’re at the bottom of the murky water that is his mind.

Abruptly, and just in time, he’s gently jerked from his thoughts, Wei Wuxian changing course to move out of the open street. He could have been speaking this whole time, but Lan Wangji hasn’t heard him— couldn’t really with just how much noise is around them.

When the sea of people finally part again, Lan Wangji can see why they’d stepped out of the road. Once again, they’re in front of a storefront, but this time, instead of food like before, there’s small delicate-looking keychains and knickknacks. Most of them are animals; dogs, dragons, boars, bunnies—

Lan Wangji’s brain short circuits for a moment. Bunnies? They’re beautifully made, soft gentle details filled with carefully looking strokes of paint of some kind. There’s only two of them, and that may be because it won’t be the year of the rabbit for a few more years yet. The sound of Wei Wuxian’s delightful voice finally breaks through the noise, excitement raising his volume, “Wow! They’re all so adorable.”

He leans in, an overjoyed expression on his face. His hair, somewhat loose even in the ponytail that it’s in, falls forward over his shoulders in a way that gives Lan Wangji a perfect view of the back of his neck. Soft, and unblemished. A burning need in his chest compels him to touch it— to see if it’s really that soft and smooth— to mark it.

Lan Wangji swallows, averting his eyes in embarrassment just as Wei Wuxian turns to look at him. The man’s eyes sparkle gray, with tiny golden flecks— something that Lan Wangji doesn’t know if are a result of the lights around them or if he truly never noticed before.

“Do you think I should get one?” His voice is intense, but not in a negative way. It’s easier to fall into those sparkling depths, being perpetually drawn back in every time he tries to leave them. In the back of his mind, there’s a voice admonishing himself for being so improper and rude so as to stare so long and openly.

Carefully, Lan Wangji considers the question, opting to go with the safest option, not knowing what else to say, “Mmm, Wei Wuxian should do what he wants.”

At having been given ‘permission’— something that Lan Wangji can’t fathom Wei Wuxian truly seeking from him—, he turns back to the storefront, excitedly saying, “Hello sir!”

He pauses for a second, waiting for the young man behind the counter to turn to face them, “What will these two rabbit keychains cost me?” Just as he poses the question, he points his finger toward the keychains in question.

The young man follows the finger to where it’s pointing, turning over one of the keychains to check something written on the back in small font, “That’ll be 70 yuan for both of them.” The young man sets the keychain back down, glancing up at Wei Wuxian with a questioning look, “Would you like them?”

Briefly, Wei Wuxian looks back at Lan Wangji, a big grin forming across his face as he cheerfully responds, “Yes please!” Just as the salesman begins to bag up the keychains, Wei Wuxian feels around, most likely digging for his wallet. Finally, he pulls it out, unfolding the slightly beaten-lookly leather to dig around some cash. A moment passes, and then another. He’s still digging around, moving to a different section of the wallet and then another.

It’s when Wei Wuxian checks the same place for the third time that Lan Wangji acts, pulling some spare change from his pocket from buying the dumplings before—96 yuan, and pulling out what’s needed to cover the bill.

When the salesman accepts the money with a pleasant, “Thank you very much,” and hands Lan Wangji the bag if merchandise that Wei Wuxian looks up again. Uncharacteristically, there’s a blush of shame on his cheeks, not quite prominent but certainly there. He opens his mouth to say something but Lan Wangji beats him to it.

“Don’t worry,” Lan Wangji attempts to reassure, even though it feels like it does nothing. Wei Wuxian closes and opens his mouth again, as if contemplating what to say, but eventually settles with a somewhat solume, “Okay…”

Not wishing to see the sad expression on Wei Wuxian’s face any longer, Lan Wangji holds up the bag, somewhat away from himself and towards him. At the reminder of what was bought, Wei Wuxian brightens up again, taking the bag and pulling out the two keychains; up until now, Lan Wangji hasn’t noticed it, but the bunnies are two different colors, one white, and one black.

With one in each hand, Wei Wuxian grins widely, holding one of them—the white one— out toward Lan Wangji, “Here! Now we each have one.” And the thought of having matching keychains is too hard to pass up, even if the thought of it makes his heart beat so wildly in his chest.

He lets out a soft, “Mmm,” before accepting the offering. Even after he pockets it, it’s hard to forget it’s presence, threatening the burn a hole in his pocket, even after they reenter the sea of people. A quick glance at his phone clock— something that’s really hard to sneak a peek at when so many people are moving so quickly and rapidly around them— reveals that it's almost time for the lantern lighting, the very thing that they both came here for.

Eventually they both come to a clearing of a wide river. All around the edges of the river lay unlit lanterns, ready for use. It doesn't take long for them to reach their own lanterns. Made of soft semitransparent white paper, each kongming is constructed perfectly so as to fly up into the sky upon being lit (2) Suddenly Lan Wangji feels somewhat nervous even though he has nothing to be nervous about. It's not as if it would mean something if Lan Wangji were to light lanterns with the object of his affections. There’s no way for Wei Wuxian to know exactly what he’s silently wishing for...

Right?

Feeling somewhat anxious, Lan Wangji looks up from his lantern to the man standing just a few feet away, balancing his own lantern in his palms. There’s nothing left to do but wait— the conductor will surely mark the start not too long from now. Wei Wuxian looks up at him, and even in the somewhat dim lighting, Lan Wangji can see the tiny specks in his blue-gray eyes. Every passing second builds more and more pressure and unease, but Lan Wangji forces it down— rejects it even. There’s no logical reason for the feelings he’s experiencing, and no reason to let it control him.

Lan Wangji looks away from Wei Wuxian’s gaze, feeling slightly hot under the collar. It’s probably partially due to the large number of warm bodies surrounding them on all sides, he tries to reason with himself. There’s a light tapping of his foot against the ground— barely noticeable— but he hides it well. Finally, it begins. One lantern begins to fly high, and then another. Quickly more and more go up, and Lan Wangji looks down to light his own. With a careful hold, he lights the fire, holds it up, and lets go when he feels it start to slip from his fingers. Seconds later, another one goes up beside his, and a quick glance over towards Wei Wuxian reveals that he’s litten his own as well.

A small bit of happiness swells in his chest when he thinks about how they’re both flying up together, each trying to reach their dreams. A part of Lan Wangji desires that closeness, that familiarity, and everything that comes with it. Just as much as it makes him happy, it also makes him bitter. The thought of Wei Wuxian with someone else makes him bitter. Possessive need is apparent, even to himself, but at least he doesn’t need to worry about judging himself, for what kind of hypocrisy would that even be?

Slowly, the lights get father and farther away, but Lan Wangji remains transfixed, even if the people around them start to disperse somewhat. Their dreams are getting far, far away, and Lan Wangji can’t help but wonder if his own is just as out of reach.

—— Monday - February 10th, 2020 ——

When Lan Wangji comes into the café the next day, it’s to an overly excited Wei Wuxian calling out to him, “Oh, Lan Zhan! Come here, come here.” His tone is light and giddy; it’s with a level of freedom that he’s greedy for.

Barely inside the door at this point, Lan Wangji closes it behind himself, approaching Wei Wuxian just as he asked. His footsteps are one of the only sounds in the place, except for the audible use of the oven coming from the kitchen.

“You’re just in time! I have something special for you,” He declares, and Lan Wangji feels his heart rate pick up very fast. Just then, a somewhat loud beeping begins, and Wei Wuxian holds up a finger in a wait sort of motion. Waiting patiently, he watches as Wei Wuxian walks into the kitchen. He can hear the sound of the oven being pulled open, and some other soft bangs and clangs. Less than a minute later, Wei Wuxian comes out with a plate in hand. The second that he sees the pastry on it (for what else would Wei Wuxian be carrying on a plate?), he feels his heart tighten, a soft blush of red on the tips on his ears— he can feel it— and happiness bloom.

“Tada!” He says, the cheer and pride in his voice unmistakable.

On the plate is a golden brown bunny shaped pastry. It’s cartoonish in style, but that doesn’t take away from its cuteness. The bunny is laying down on his belly, the tail a giant ball of what would be fur on its adorable butt, if it were alive. Big floppy ears are laying down over the elbows of the rabbit’s feet. Bright blue eyes have been quickly but carefully piped on, adding to the adorableness of the piece.

His eyes don’t leave it, until more than an awkward moment has passed. It’s not until Wei Wuxian is setting the plate down onto the countertop that he shakes from his admiration-filled trance. The pastry is a work of art that Lan Wangji cannot begin to describe as otherwise.

“What do you think?” Wei Wuxian prompts, more than a little giddy about the whole situation, “Too shocked by the cuteness? I know that I was.” The tone of his voice is somehow teasing, customart cheeky grin in place.

“Ridiculous,” Lan Wangji admonishes, as if it isn’t a direct lie— he was very much speechless at the grade reveal, so to speak.

Wei Wuxian chooses to continue, “Even when I was still putting them in the oven. I had to give it a few tries, and had some things to modify, like how I tried to put the ears straight up at first,” He lets out a small sigh, “They didn’t want to cooperate, refusing to stay up by the time I’d get them in the oven.”

A pout comes into place, and Lan Wangji knows that he’s in trouble when he finds even that too adorable to take, “It made me so sad— I was so excited for them to come out. But at least I managed to perfect my choux pastry dough, so the consistency is right.”

Wei Wuxian bends over to lean against the counter on his elbows, one of his hands coming down to stroke the pastry softly, “Choux pastry, especially homemade, is quite a tough and long process. Hours upon hours of rolling out dough with frozen butter between the layers, all to make sure that the pastry will become flakey,” a finger digs slightly into the dough, causing a small shaving of pastry to fall onto the plate behind it, “While not perfect, I’m pretty happy with the outcome.” Lan Wangji finds himself transfixed, watching closely as he withdraws his finger from the plate.

Wei Wuxian sets his head in his hands, now interlocked together to support his chin. Lan Wangji secretly swallows to himself, forcing down the dirty thoughts that threaten to surface. How disgusting that he can’t seem to control himself while in this man’s presence. His hair, his eyes, his choices of fashion and those tight jeans— they haught his dreams, and lately, he finds it ever so much harder to forget those thoughts, even now.

“Well?” Wei Wuxian prompts, his grin on his face growing wider, “Try a bite.” His eyes speak of innocent, kindness, and a teasing quality; as he says this, he’s shifting positions, grabbing a fork from a nearby bin, and setting it on the plate before returning to his previous position, eyes staring straight through to Lan Wangji’s soul— he feels so naked under that gaze.

Somewhat nervously, Lan Wangji agrees, his voice at least not betraying his sudden anxiousness, “Mmm.” Carefully Lan Wangji picks up the fork that was just provided, and cuts into the soft pastry as gently as he can so as to not smoosh the whole thing. He takes a cut out of the bunnies butt, not wanting to ruin the beautiful handiwork of the face and ears. Slowly taking it into his mouth, Lan Wangji feels as his taste buds are gently caressed by the soft buttery flavor. To some people, they may consider it to be somewhat bland, but not to Lan Wangji. It’s so flavorful and soft that he feels his heart melt a little inside, just like the pastry he is currently consuming.

It’s more of a chore to swallow than he’d expected it to be, not wanting to lose the taste of the buttery goodness. Eventually, though, he does, and after his unconsciously licks his lips, he says without prompting, “It's good.” It’s more than good. It’s amazing, he wants to add, but he’s quickly lost his voice. He can feel the tips of his ears burning a touch of red.

Just then, the sound of the front door opening startles Lan Wangji, a small flinch the telltale sign to the world of its happening. He slowly turns his head towards the front of the café before quickly turning back. It seems that a customer has come in, and inevitably, it seems that Lan Wangji has to let Wei Wuxian go to take care of them. He turns again, this time intending to leave the counter to go find a table.

The sound of Wei Wuxian’s voice makes him halt before he gets too far. “Hey, sir, you forgot your pastry,” he says, winking at Lan Wangji as if it doesn’t have the power to stop his heart from cuteness. The blush on his ears strengthens tenfold as Lan Wangji hesitantly grabs the plate from the countertop and stepping out of the way for the next customer. If there’s a soft giggling that can be heard from behind him, Lan Wangji pays it no mind.

—— Wednesday - February 12th, 2020 ——

“Hey hey, Lan Wangji?”

Said man lifted his gaze from his laptop’s keyboard, looking over at the man seated across from him. Wei Wuxian’s head is propped up by his arms, chin pillowed in his conjoined hands, elbows on the dark hardwood table. There’s an unmistakable grin across his face, the wonder and amusement clear as day.

“Would you say that we are close?” The expression on the man’s ace is innocent, even as Lan Wangji’s own heart threatens to stop at the brupt, somewhat personally question. Would he? While Lan Wangji certainly feels close to him, there’s no telling just Wei Wuxian feels about their relationship. Theirs is one of acquaintances in Lan Wangji’s eyes, perhaps even friendship, but certainly not what he wishes for it to be. His lips feel glued shut, sandpaper in his throat, and despite the burning need to respond to Wei Wuxian’s impromptu question, Lan Wangji doesn’t really have an answer for him, or at least one he can explain.

There’s a pregnant pause in the air. The cafe around them is silent, what with it being just after seven in the morning on a Monday, with no one inside except for a few people at far away tables, books, or laptops in hand. Feeling a bit awkward, Lan Wangji shifts slightly in his seat, his hands leaving his keyboard to settle on the table in front of his laptop. His eyes are staring straight into Wei Wuxian’s, willing with all his might for him to just understand, to see his struggle and frustration with such a question.

He is a man taught not to lie, and this is no exception; Lan Wangji would sooner take a whip to his back than willingly tell a falsehood. The question swirls in his mind, and finally he comes to a questionably safe conclusion.

“Yes,” he simply says, not a lie, but with no further explanation. A part of him wonders where Wei Wuxian is going to take this.

There’s a brief moment where Lan Wangji sees a flash of minor surprise from Wei Wuxian, but it quickly fades away, taken over by a cheeky grin, “Then you wouldn’t mind telling me about your love life, right? I’m quite curious about a few things.”

Lan Wangji’s eyes widen, his jaw dropping open ever so slightly, and it takes everything in him not to cringe at such a blunt and personal question. A little blush settles on the tips of his ears, which now feel quick warm compared to the rest of the room, which was slightly chilly moments ago.

At Lan Wangji’s silence, Wei Wuxian takes the opportunity to continue, “You see, I’ve always wondered just what your type is. Is it tough, macho? Or much more feminine? Do you like women, men, some mix of both? I couldn’t help but notice the small rainbow pin on your laptop bag.”

Wei Wuxian pauses, momentarily lifting his head from his hands to lean forward, “I know it’s not really any of my business, but a man’s gonna wonder, you know?” He shifts back to leaning on his crossed hands once again. Lan Wangji’s ears are burning red by now.

Wei Wuxian’s expression darkens, his eyes almost melancholy, “... Is there someone special to you now? Someone who has a special place carved out in your heart?”

His heart is beating too fast, blood roaring in his ears. Adrenaline is pumping like he’s fighting for his life, when it’s his sanity that that’s on the line in reality. What does he say? Is there anything that he can say at this point? There’s almost no way for him to respond that doesn’t result in exposure, in him knowing. The thought terrifies him more than he should. Lan Wangji’s had many daydreams, thinking about the moment that he finds out about his feelings, how he reacts, what the final result is, but dreams are just dreams, and suddenly, everything feels like it might happen outside of the dream, even if a part of him knows that it won’t.

It takes him awhile to calm the roaring seas. A deep breath in and a deep breath out help, but they do assist somewhat. Minutes go by and each one is the sea of emotions inside slowly down, but certain not stopping.

“I-I—“ His composure cracks for a moment, a stutter slipping through his broken defenses without his consent.

He swallows, his ears very red even if it doesn’t show on his face, “Yes.” He admits it, but he doesn’t quite know why.

He could have stayed silent.

He could have not said a word.

Perhaps there still is a part of him that does want him to know— to know what it does to his poor heart when Wei Wuxian asks questions like these when he doesn’t know the answer, but knows he won’t lie.

Perhaps there’s still a chance.

Wei Wuxian’s eyebrows rise up, cheeky grin forming quickly. With an audible excitement in his voice Wei Wuxian quickly asks, “Who? Do I know them?”

Lan Wangji does ignore this question, somewhat better prepared than before. He purses his lips subtly, knowing the act is not quite proper but still does it anyway, mostly out of frustration.

A minute passes, and then another. Quickly, Wei Wuxian seems to catch on, “Ah well, if you don't want to say, that's okay.” Awkwardly he shifts backwards, sitting up straighter, his hands on the table in a relaxed, loose, manner. They tap against the wooden tabletop with a soft clink.

“I gotta go turn my buns before they burn,” he says abruptly, his tone not joyous nor depressed, before standing up and heading towards the back kitchen. Lan Wangji watches in regret as he walks away, his back turned to him.

—— Friday - February 14th, 2020 ——

Lan Wangji comes in again a few days later a few ounces heavier. Every second he’s in the café, the box of expensive chocolate in his laptop bag burning a hole in his mind. Even as Wei Wuxian cheerfully greets him, just like normal, his mind is on the box. It's an assorted set, truffles from caramel to coconut, mostly because Lan Wangji doesn't know what he likes and doesn't. And that's really what’s on his mind, isn’t it?

The chocolates. How is he going to give them to the man? It’s not as if he can just… give them to him. Lan Wangji just doesn’t have the guts. He’d probably die on the spot from embarrassment or humiliation. Lan Wangji clenches his hands, frustration settling on the surface of his emotional lake.

Now settled at his usual spot in the cake, he opens his laptop bag, pulling out his computer, and as he does so, the laptop bumps the box on the way out. He stops for a second, before continuing, the box of chocolates distracting him so much that it’s unlikely for him to even get any work done with it on his mind. A frown forms across his features, his laptop still closed despite the fact that most days he’d already have it on and working.

At that moment he feels an impulse. What if he just gives them to him directly? What would happen? It would be embarrassing for sure if Wei Wuxian rejects him, but can he take not knowing? How long is he going to wait?

A quick glance towards the counter shows him Wei Wuxian leaning against the countertop, phone in hand. Silently, he’s giggling to himself, his hand over his mouth, most likely trying and failing to be discreet. Nervously, he swallows, his hands twitching.

Should he do it?

Can he do it?

Abruptly, he stands up. Reaching into his bag, he pulls out the box, holding it carefully in his hands. His palms are sweaty, and the room feels hot. The approach to the counter is slow, and the world seems to stop all around them. Even as Wei Wuxian turns to look up at him, realization coming quickly at a quick glance at Lan Wangji. Carefully, he sets the box on the countertop, his ears redder than a firetruck. The smooth cardboard makes a clunk sound as it hits the surface.

Lan Wangji swallows drying, starting to regret his impromptu decision at the silence from Wei Wuxian. Licking his lips subtly, Lan Wangji utters quietly, “For you.” His voice doesn’t betray his current feelings, not at all shaky like how he feels. On the inside, he’s trembling, his mouth full of cotton, and his mind cloudy.

The silence stretches on, and Lan Wangji looks up before he can stop himself. Wei Wuxian’s expression is one of shock, his hands covering his mouth. The look in his eyes is one that Lan Wangji can describe as anything other than unbridled surprise.

Nervously, Lan Wangji feels his hands begin to shake slightly. Self-conscious, he slips them off the counter, letting them hang by his sides instead.

Wei Wuxian finally speaks again, parody of his own words, “For me?” He reaches for the box slowly, carefully opening it up to reveal the chocolates inside.

He gasps, “You spoil me, Lan Zhan.” Giggling he himself gleefully, he reaches in and grabs one of the chocolates seemingly at random before putting it in his mouth.

“These are so good,” He groans blissfully, and isn’t that a beautiful sight? “Thank you, Lan Zhan!”

Lan Wangji feels his heart melt at the sight. Maybe he can do this. A small smile forms without his consent, betraying his feelings inside, “Your welcome.” So many things he would like to add to those two words

I like you.

“Hey Lan Zhan?”

I love the way you look, even when you think no one’s watching

“I think I really like you.”

The cheer in your voice, the glee on your face, the sunshine in my day

“Wanna grab some dinner tonight?”

Dinner sounds perfect.

“Mmmm,” He hums, “Yes.”