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the soft animal

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“Don’t move,” Lan Wangji says.

It’s more out of habit than anything. Wei Wuxian isn’t moving, hasn’t moved for the past few minutes. “I’ve never moved once in my life,” he says, just as automatic.

“Wei Ying.”

“Alright, alright.” He smiles faintly, holds his arms a little straighter in the air. “This is me, not moving.”

Lan Wangji holds the herbs to the gash at Wei Wuxian’s ribs, his fingertips brushing Wei Wuxian’s waist as he wraps the bandages. It’s not a deep wound, but it’s ugly and raw, pulling as he breathes. That’s all resentful spirits want sometimes, when they know they’ve been beaten. If you remember them with every sting, then that’s a few days longer that they’re remembered.

“Wei Ying,” Lan Wangji says again, his tone softer. His free hand ghosts over Wei Wuxian’s shoulder, barely a touch. He himself has a neat slice above his eye, small but angry-red. He doesn’t seem to have noticed. “Are you in pain?”

“No, no,” Wei Wuxian says. He is, but it’s not why he’s lost in thought, so it’s a permissible lie, probably. “I’m just—these legs.”

The flicker of concern in Lan Wangji’s eyes deepens. “You have other injuries?”

“Ah, Lan Zhan, let me finish.” He grins helplessly. This man. What’s he supposed to do on the receiving end of a look like that? “I was just thinking that these legs are a little shorter than mine. My—you know, my original legs, I mean. I saw that slash coming, I stepped back. In my first body, it would have been far enough.”

Lan Wangji hums thoughtfully, ties off the bandage. “Breathe deep for me. Make sure it’s not too tight.”

“Aiyo, Lan Zhan, I’m not made of lace,” he teases. For that, he receives a third Wei Ying - and this one brooks no argument.

His ribs press at the bindings as he inhales, slow and deep. He can’t quite stop the audible hitch in his exhale. Lan Wangji’s dressing, loose but secure, moves with the swell of his chest.

Lan Wangji kisses the top of his head. “Alright. You may move. Slowly.”

Wei Wuxian finds that he’s in no hurry, anyway. His arms sink slowly to his sides, as if through water. “You don’t think that’s strange?” he says. His voice, his new voice, is familiar now. But sometimes it almost startles him, hearing it come from his mouth. “It’s been nine months. I’ve used them almost every day. I should know how long these legs are.”

Lan Wangji doesn’t answer for a long while, one hand running over and over through his hair. Wei Wuxian is slowly coming to understand the differences in the minute shifts of his face, of the light in his eyes and the gentle but distinct curves of his mouth. They don’t all have names to Wei Wuxian yet. He can’t wait until they do.

“It’s not strange,” is what Lan Wangji finally says. “Lie down. You’re tired.”

“Not yet.” Wei Wuxian eases himself a little further up, cups Lan Wangji’s face in one hand and traces just above the cut over his eyebrow with the other. “You should let me take care of this, too.”

“There’s no need.” Lan Wangji’s hand rises to his cheek to rest over Wei Wuxian’s. “It will heal overnight.”

“Lan Zhan, ah.” Wei Wuxian smiles through a tremendous sigh. “Must everything have a need?”

***

Wei Wuxian doesn’t sleep that night.

It’s strange, really. Pain never kept him awake in his first life. Plenty of other things did. But pain was not a priority. Barely worth the time it took to feel.

He shifts in the loose circle of Lan Wangji’s arms and hopes it feels natural. Lan Wangji can almost always feel when he’s awake. It’s a wonder he hasn’t felt it already.

The moonlight shifts, casting Lan Wangji’s face in pale light. His mouth is slack, his breathing even. His forehead is smooth and unmarked. By the time he went to sleep, the cut was already nearly gone.

The night is barely cool, and Lan Wangji’s chest is warm against his. But this body’s fledgling golden core is pulling all the energy to Wei Wuxian’s ribs, trying fruitlessly to knit the wound closed. His hands and feet are ice. Sometime in the past hour, he started shivering and didn’t stop.

He laughs softly. Shivering never kept him awake in his first life, either.

“Mo Xuanyu, Mo Xuanyu.” Wei Wuxian traces the circumference of his thin, shivering wrist, like there’s someone else left there to soothe. “This isn’t half as cold as the world can get.”

His words barely rustle the room. Lan Wangji doesn’t wake, at least not fully. But the arm around his shoulders tightens. His thumb rubs once, soothingly, against Wei Wuxian’s shoulder.

Wei Wuxian closes his eyes. And undeterred, Mo Xuanyu’s body keeps trying to heal.

***

Wei Wuxian has a plan: by the end of the month, he’ll be able to wield Suibian for ten minutes.

“The end of the month,” Lan Wangji echoes. He doesn’t sound skeptical, but he sounds careful.

“Mn,” Wei Wuxian chirps. “That’s how long it took me the first time around. Really, it would be fun to outdo myself, but I’m trying to be realistic here.”

He finally looks up from the notes he’s scribbling at Lan Wangji’s slightly creased brow. “Lan Zhan, it’s okay. Who do you think you’re married to? I designed training regimens all the time as Yunmeng Jiang’s senior disciple. I worked with all kinds of learners. Working with myself should be easy.”

Wei Wuxian looks back at his notes. And it occurs to him, entirely against his will, that this is the training regimen he’d be putting together for Mo Xuanyu had they ever met for real.

He tucks that thought far, far in the back of his mind.

Lan Wangji lowers himself to his knees. There’s a tickle of air against his neck as Lan Wangji moves Wei Wuxian’s hair aside to press a kiss to his back. “I’d like to be nearby when you’re training.”

“Lan Zhan.” Wei Wuxian laughs. “Much as I like having you watch me sweat, your uncle has you flat-out with classes lately.”

“You can train while I run drills with the novices.” Lan Wangji moves up, kisses the wisps of hair at the nape of his neck. “They’ll be thrilled to see their Senior Wei so often.”

“Mmm.” Wei Wuxian hums into his smile. “I do love watching the baby Lans. All those tiny little fingers on their massive guqins.”

“Perhaps they will play for you again. They enjoyed your enthusiasm.” Lan Wangji sits back, settles his palms warm and firm on Wei Wuxian’s shoulder blades. For a moment, he’s still. “Wei Ying, you have time. Do not rush.”

Wei Wuxian keeps smiling and tries not to look openly dubious. Everyone thinks they have time.

He makes most of the concessions Lan Wangji requests, in the end. He agrees not to train alone unless he’s meditating. He situates himself in the open field near the back hills where Lan Wangji runs drills with the novices in the afternoon. He balks at the training sword Lan Wangji offers him, but he does agree that he won’t start with Suibian from day one.

So Days One and Two are strength training, and he starts with Suibian on Day Three. In his defense, Lan Wangji should have expected that.

Completely coincidentally, Day Three is his shortest training day. He makes it about two minutes and fifteen seconds with Suibian before his vision goes narrow and gray, and his traitorous legs buckle underneath him. He spends the rest of the day slumped in the shade of a nearby tree, trying to summon the energy to crawl back to the Jingshi and ignoring Lan Wangji’s pointed lecture to the novices about knowing your limits.

Wei Wuxian stares balefully at Suibian. “Here I thought you didn’t want to be wielded by anyone but me.”

It glints back at him innocently.

The day has cooled by the time the lecture finishes and the novices shuffle back to the dormitories, greeting Wei Wuxian on their way past. Wei Wuxian tips his head back as Lan Wangji comes to join him, bumping it lightly against the tree trunk. “How do I look?”

Lan Wangji’s perfect eyebrows arch, just a little. “Why do you ask?”

“Little Lan Xin said if you weren’t going home yet, he would help me back to the Jingshi.” Wei Wuxian grins. “I told him he needed a few more handstands before his arm strength matches Hanguang-jun’s, but that I appreciated the offer very much.”

“Hmm.” Lan Wangji kneels, brushes Wei Wuxian’s hair back from his face, and gives him an appraising look. “Finish the fruit I brought you.”

Wei Wuxian feigns a sulk as he plucks another loquat out of the little basket. “You’re not going to tell me I look handsome?”

“You look handsome,” Lan Wangji says, and matter-of-factly pats Wei Wuxian’s back when he nearly inhales a mouthful of juice. “Still pale, though.”

Wei Wuxian takes another morose bite. “I have a little more to work with than I thought, at least. But this body burns through its spiritual power so quickly, you know?”

“Hmm,” Lan Wangji says again.

Wei Wuxian pulls his knees to his chest to prop his chin between them. “It’s okay, you can say it.”

“You’re not pacing yourself, Wei Ying.” It’s said gently, without judgment.

“Mm,” Wei Wuxian says, not a disagreement. Lan Wangji must have been expecting more of a fight, because his gaze turns soft and questioning. All at once, Wei Wuxian decides to just say it.

“If I ask a question that seems obvious,” he says with a smile, “will the great Hanguang-jun humor me?”

“I humor you every day,” Lan Wangji says, without missing a beat. And then, as Wei Wuxian laughs and clutches his chest: “Yes, of course.”

Wei Wuxian picks up another loquat to press into Lan Wangji’s hand. “Your lecture today,” he says. “On limits.”

Lan Wangji makes a small sound in the affirmative. His hand closes around the fruit, but his eyes don’t leave Wei Wuxian.

“Obviously I had them in my first body,” he says. “Everyone does, right? But it wasn’t—something I ever had to think about.”

“Something you ignored,” Lan Wangji corrects, still gentle.

Wei Wuxian laughs again, weakly this time. “If you like.”

Lan Wangji’s answering hum is low, thoughtful. Wei Wuxian has eaten two more loquats before he speaks again. “You don’t know your body yet, Wei Ying. You cannot know your limits if you cannot recognize one when you feel it.”

“Of course I know this body,” Wei Wuxian says. “I’ve been inside it for almost a year.”

Lan Wangji’s face smooths out. “You’ve been busy.”

And Wei Wuxian can’t argue with that.

He shifts against the trunk of the tree, settles his head against Lan Wangji’s shoulder with a sigh. “Do you think it’ll help?” he asks.

Lan Wangji shifts to draw them closer together, murmurs into his hair. “I think even if it doesn’t,” he says, “it is necessary.”

Wei Wuxian bites into the last loquat, the juice tingling against his jaw. He can’t argue with that, either.

***

He starts a list. By the end of the first week, it’s a page long. By the end of the second week, it’s three.

Mo Xuanyu’s body can hold its breath underwater for one minute, give or take a few seconds. Wei Wuxian walks himself to the deepest part of the Cold Springs to test it, yelps when he steps off the drop-off point and sinks like a stone. He coaxes his legs to kick slower, until they’re slow and languid in the water. But he only floats when he’s treading. His head bobs under the surface the moment he stops.

(Mo Xuanyu’s body is lean and wiry. Even at his thinnest, Wei Wuxian could lie in the lotus lakes and drift in his first body. Before his golden core, with it, after it, it didn’t matter. He floated like he belonged there.)

Mo Xuanyu’s hamstrings can stretch until Wei Wuxian’s palms lie flat on the ground. His back can bend until Wei Wuxian sees nothing but sky. These are things Wei Wuxian resolves to take advantage of later, but for now, he writes them down.

Mo Xuanyu’s body has surprising strength but little endurance. Wei Wuxian can chart the point of each exercise when his arms, legs, core, everything starts to shake. Shaking is good. Shaking means muscle being built, growing strong. It’s a sensation Wei Wuxian comes to accept.

Mo Xuanyu’s body feels hungry when it’s thirsty. It feels tired when it’s hungry. And when it’s tired, it barely gives Wei Wuxian the courtesy of a heads-up, just waits for him to stay still long enough for sleep to settle over him.

Mo Xuanyu’s body is tipsy after half a jar of Emperor’s Smile. By two jars, Wei Wuxian is so drunk that the room whirls like a top.

This is the most devastating blow.

“Lan Zhan.” Wei Wuxian is wrapped around Lan Wangji so that their chests are pressed together, his legs are latched around Lan Wangji’s waist, and his face is buried in Lan Wangji’s neck. He doesn’t know how he got here. He doesn’t know how to climb off. “Lan Zhan, this is sad.”

“Wei Ying.” Lan Wangji pets at his hair. “Let go. I’ll get you water.”

“Can’t let go,” Wei Wuxian mouths into his neck. “Spinning.”

Lan Wangji keeps stroking a soothing rhythm. “It will spin less if you lie down.”

“No,” Wei Wuxian says. “You have to keep holding me.”

Lan Wangji huffs a quiet laugh. “Alright.”

His fingers keep sifting through Wei Wuxian’s hair. He hums, their bodies so close that they shiver with it. Wei Wuxian sighs and shifts his face into his shoulder. “Such a warm, soft husband,” he mumbles. “Very good at singing and hands.”

“Thank you for the compliments,” Lan Wangji says.

“You deserve all of them. Such a good boy.” Wei Wuxian detaches one arm from around his back to pat at his head, almost misses. He can feel Lan Wangji smiling against his cheek.

Wei Wuxian hums, tilts his head so he can rest it more firmly. Lan Wangji’s so steady. He never has to get up. Bed isn’t going to feel any better than this.

“I’m a lightweight,” he says mournfully.

“Shh.” Lan Wangji’s arm resettles at his waist, warm and tight. “Two jars is not light.”

“Wouldn’t’ve been for me. Old me.” Wei Wuxian closes his eyes. The spinning has stopped. He holds on tight anyway.

“This should be easier,” he whispers.

Lan Wangji’s fingers still, then resume. His touch is so light that the hairs on Wei Wuxian’s arms rise. “It seems very difficult, actually.”

“Hmm.” Wei Wuxian tries to open his eyes, fails. “You say the sweetest things.”

Lan Wangji’s laugh is so soft, it’s almost inaudible. “Good.”

***

The wound on Wei Wuxian’s ribs heals jaggedly: after three weeks it’s still scabbing, ugly and red and long. Lan Wangji looks it over one morning as Wei Wuxian squeezes his hair dry, his mouth tight and pale.

“I should have stitched it sooner,” he says.

“Shh, Er-gege.” Wei Wuxian bounces onto the balls of his feet to lay a kiss directly on the center of his forehead ribbon. “It’s healing fine.”

He looks it over more carefully once Lan Wangji has left for his morning class. It’s pretty unlikely that it’ll scar. If it did, though, it would be long enough to bisect two of the scars he already has. Which wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. He’s a sucker for continuity.

Wei Wuxian slides his hand across his stomach. One of these scars is from Jin Ling, from Koi Tower. If its corresponding stab from Jiang Cheng still existed, they’d be stacked, one on top of the other.

The other scar, on his side, predates him: little and crooked, a pale faint red. It’s one of four scars Mo Xuanyu left him. There’s another on his ankle, on the back of his shoulder blade, and across the knuckles of his right hand. You’d have to be looking hard to see them. None are quite distinctive enough to guess their origin.

There are other things. His right knee twinges when the weather turns. Colds settle easily in his lungs. There’s a mole on his lower back that Lan Wangji loves to find, to press under his fingers. When he stands at rest, his shoulders curve forward, his arms migrate inwards, like his muscle memory is reminding him to make himself a smaller target.

But there’s only so much you can divine, looking at a body. It can’t answer questions, in the end. And standing here now, he has Jin Ling’s neat stab, the scabbing at his ribs. His stance, the set of his shoulders, a light red mark on his neck from the press of teeth the night before. His own touches turning the topography of this body into something new.

He turns his right arm, bares the underside of his wrist. It’s smooth, unmarked where the three marks of the Sacrifice Summon once sat. It wasn’t as if he set out to erase Mo Xuanyu’s last act on this earth – and yet.

It would be different, maybe, were there a place to pay respects. But the people who knew Mo Xuanyu best are gone. There is nowhere for him to rest. This body is the altar, the tablet, the ancestral home. It is everything left.

Wei Wuxian slides on his trousers, his robes. And he heads to the porch to stretch out the aches of the day before.

***

“Join us after class today.”

Wei Wuxian makes a muffled noise of protest and leans in to chase another sleep-soft kiss. It’s too early to be talking about class. This hour of the morning isn’t suitable for anything but being held and having his hair combed.

As he pulls away, nibbling on Lan Wangji’s lower lip on his way back, curiosity finally gets the better of him. “What’s after class?”

“Guided meditation with the novices,” Lan Wangji says, spooning another egg into Wei Wuxian’s bowl.

“Lan Zhan,” Wei Wuxian says, playfully picking at his collars, “are you saying my meditation needs guiding?”

Lan Wangji declines to answer that, but his mouth gently curves. “It will be beneficial to you, too.”

“Well, then.” Wei Wuxian grins. “If Hanguang-jun says so, then how can I say no?”

Wei Wuxian isn’t feeling nearly as indulgent about it by the time Lan Wangji locks eyes with him after the day’s training, the white of his robes illuminated in the low, bright sun, and beckons him over. Even after a long day with the novices, he looks pristine. Wei Wuxian doesn’t have a mirror to look at himself right now, but he would guess that he looks the opposite. His belt is coming undone. His shoulders and back are damp with sweat.

His legs wobble but hold steady enough as he moves across the grass. He caved to Lan Wangji’s demands this week and scaled back to the training sword, its spiritual power barely half of Suibian’s. He’s still upright, at least. But his heart flutters like a rabbit in a trap, and his head is spinning a little in the heat of the late afternoon.

Lan Wangji watches him approach, and Wei Wuxian hopes all of this doesn’t show on his face. But Lan Wangji simply nods, his gaze warm, and then turns to the novices.

“Your Senior Wei will be joining us today,” he says. Lan Wangji speaks to children like he speaks to adults: a little softer, but just as respectful. The knot in Wei Wuxian’s chest unfurls. “Please greet him properly.”

The novices, already in lotus position, fold into clumsy salutes in Wei Wuxian’s direction. “Good afternoon, Senior Wei.”

Wei Wuxian smiles, sinks to the grass, and tries to pretend that his heart isn’t about to go up like a giant firework. “Did you work hard today?” he asks.

“Yes, Senior Wei,” they chorus. Wei Wuxian doesn’t burst into tears, but it’s a near thing.

“Alright,” Lan Wangji says. “Once Senior Wei is ready, we’ll begin.”

Wei Wuxian folds into lotus position. A few disciples look at him curiously – he winks, eliciting stifled giggles that fade as Lan Wangji observes everyone’s form. Still grinning, Wei Wuxian lets his eyes shut. Ah, well. If nothing else, an afternoon with the kids will cheer him up.

He follows along with the breathing exercises, but he stays above the surface, his mind sluggish with exertion but still resisting the pull of real meditation. At this point, it’s doubtful that he’ll have a solid handle on Suibian by the end of the month, let alone at a place where he can wield it for ten minutes. But maybe something can be salvaged of his training plan, at least. He’ll go back to the Jingshi whenever this is done, see what he can—

“You will remember,” Lan Wangji says quietly, pulling him from the whirl of his thoughts, “that last week we discussed limits.”

There’s a low, affirmative hum from the kids. Wei Wuxian, for his part, barely maintains lotus position. Lan Zhan ah, he thinks, slumping, did you really ask me here to scold me again?

“There was something I failed to make clear,” Lan Wangji says. And even with his eyes closed, Wei Wuxian feels his husband’s gaze on him. “I told you to listen to your body. But if you have never done so, it may be a difficult concept to grasp.”

Wei Wuxian almost opens his eyes to look. He wonders if Lan Wangji might be teasing him, for a moment. But he sounds as serious as he ever has.

“Today I’d like you to pay attention to what you feel.” Lan Wangji’s voice is quiet and steady, the swish of a soft current under the earth. “You worked hard today. Your breathing and your heartbeat must be starting to slow. Reach over to feel your pulse, if you like. Sit quietly for five minutes. See what you notice.”

Wei Wuxian swallows. Objectively, there’s no way for Lan Wangji to know if he’s not following the exercise. Lan Wangji would know anyway, though. And he wouldn’t have the decency to look angry about it. He’d just look quietly sad, which he’s fully aware Wei Wuxian can’t endure.

So Wei Wuxian allows himself to catalogue the sensations of this body. His heartbeat still thuds in his ears, his breaths still pushes tight in his chest. But his head is clearing. The nausea has loosened its grip, his golden core whirrs in his lower dantian. The sweat cools on his skin, easing the choked heat of the day. When the wind blows, he shivers.

He breathes a little deeper this time. And behind his closed eyelids, the long hallways of Mo Xuanyu’s body spiral out before him. This abandoned house in which he is a guest.

Wei Wuxian’s next breath is shorter, harsher. But he measures his next inhale like a ladle of water, then lets it fall in a steady stream. Mo Xuanyu’s lungs, his cadence. Mo Xuanyu’s heart, his rhythm. Whatever else is true, he’s not a guest. He lives here. He lives here.

“Good.” Lan Wangji’s voice drifts over him. “Your body keeps you alive every day without your even asking. Hard work should be met with gratitude. Thank your body for its work today.”

This time, Wei Wuxian does crack an eye open. Lan Wangji meets his stare until he lets it fall shut again. Go on, his gaze says.

The wind ripples the grass around him. The clearing is still, aside from a few of the disciples breathing their thanks out loud.

Alright, he thinks, well. Thank you for keeping me alive. I’ve been told that I don’t make it easy.

He breathes in again. His hair is a sun-warmed curtain at his back, his shoulders loose beneath it.

This next part, he’s not sure about. It seems presumptuous to thank someone for something he never asked to give. Mo Xuanyu can’t have thought this far. Wei Wuxian must have been as much of a mystery to him as the other way around.

In the end, he thinks, Thank you for bringing me here. I’m sorry you’re not here, too.

Wei Wuxian opens his eyes. And the moisture slips down his face before he can wipe it away.

Lan Wangji takes a step toward him. For once, he is too slow: there are a dozen Lan novices scrambling out of lotus position before he can get close.

“Ah, Senior Wei!”

“Senior Wei, what’s wrong? Does something hurt?”

“Senior Wei, do you want my handkerchief?”

“Alright, alright, alright.” Wei Wuxian laughs, suddenly and helplessly light, gently batting at the pairs of little hands tugging at his robes. “Stop your fussing. I had something in my eye.”

Several suspicious frowns stay trained on him – others turn to Lan Wangji, as if for help. “Hanguang-jun,” Lan Xin says plaintively, “you have to tell him lying is forbidden in Cloud Recesses.”

Wei Wuxian tilts his head up to look at his husband. He stands behind the disciples, crowned in the afternoon light, his dark eyes searching Wei Wuxian’s. Whatever he finds there relaxes his face, the set of his shoulders. Wei Wuxian swipes the last of the tears off his face and grins up at him.

“Sorry, Hanguang-jun,” he says. “It won’t happen again.”

The sun shifts across Lan Wangji’s face like it’s dancing. “See that it doesn’t.”

***

“Are you still sulking?” Wei Wuxian says as he tips the last of the bathwater into the tub.

“Hm.” Lan Wangji’s mouth shifts, almost arch. “I do not sulk.”

“Poor Lan-er-gege.” Wei Wuxian crosses the room to where Lan Wangji sits at the low table, folding into his lap and slinging his arms around his neck. “If I’d known carrying the bathwater was so important to you, I wouldn’t have insisted.”

“Wei Ying.” Lan Wangji’s hands come to rest on his waist. “It is not the bathwater in particular.”

“I know, I know. You like spoiling me.” Wei Wuxian dips in to peck his cheek, then slides one of his sleeves up for a performative flex of his biceps. “But if you carry everything heavy, how can I show you that my training is paying off, hm?”

Lan Wangji hums, raising one hand to run down his arm. Grinning, Wei Wuxian slides back and drops his shoulders to slip off the top of his inner robe. It pools around his hips like something in bloom, bright and inviting even in the low light. The lines of his muscles are faint, the lines of his scars even fainter.

It doesn’t feel like his old body. It likely never will. His one-month deadline to wield Suibian for ten minutes has passed. It will likely pass a few times more.

But he asks this body to move, and it moves. He asks it to breathe, and it breathes. These lungs tighten when he runs, this hair tickles his face when it blows in the wind, and when he laughs, there’s no difference between Mo Xuanyu’s voice and his own. If that’s enough to make something his, then here he is.

“How about it,” he breathes. “Do you like this, Lan Zhan?”

Lan Wangji moves his grip up to rest his palms on Wei Wuxian’s ribs. “I like everything of yours.”

“Lan Zhan.” Wei Wuxian drops his forehead to Lan Wangji’s shoulder. “You’re allowed to be a little shallow once in a while, you know. It won’t ruin your spotless reputation.”

Lan Wangji shifts, and for a moment, Wei Wuxian thinks he’s being pushed off. But Lan Wangji gently presses him back so that they’re face to face again. His hair falls softly around his face, bare of its forehead ribbon. “I liked it before,” he says. “I like it now. I like everything of yours.”

Wei Wuxian cups his cheek, smooths his hair back. “Lan Zhan, ah, Lan Zhan,” he says through a watery laugh. “It’s really that simple?”

Lan Wangji holds his unbroken stare, his mouth parted, his lips soft. Not all of his expressions have names for Wei Wuxian yet. This one does. “Nothing is simpler.”

Wei Wuxian tips forward until their foreheads press, rubbing his thumb against the underside of Lan Wangji’s jaw. “Oh, sweetheart,” he murmurs. “I’ve been making you worry about me, haven’t I.”

Their first kiss of the night is always like this: feather-light, like Wei Wuxian is something fragile. Lan Wangji’s palms press warm against his back, Wei Wuxian’s shoulder blades ripple against them as he pushes in closer.

“It’s alright, Wei Ying.” Lan Wangji barely moves back to say it.

“Of course it’s not alright,” Wei Wuxian huffs. “No one makes my husband sad. Especially not me.”

“You did not make me sad.” Lan Wangji’s fingers rest on the back of Wei Wuxian’s neck. It’s dizzying to think that touch did not always come naturally to him. He always knows how Wei Wuxian wants to be touched, now. “But I did not know how to help.”

Wei Wuxian blinks. “Lan Zhan,” he says. “All those beautiful things you said – that was you not knowing how to help?”

Lan Wangji’s face goes open. A little uncertain. A faint echo of Guanyin Temple all those months ago, back when Wei Wuxian told him, as many times as he needed to, that he loved him. “You liked that?”

Wei Wuxian tucks his face into Lan Wangji’s neck, and for a long moment, he just holds himself there. He knows, by now, that Lan Wangji loves like an unshakable structure. His love is something you live in. Whether or not you open the door and invite him in has always been second in his mind.

Wei Wuxian is no longer in the habit of keeping him waiting.

“My love,” Wei Wuxian laughs against his skin. “Shouldn’t you know this by now? I like everything of yours, too.”