Their arrival in Lotus Pier was heralded by a literal stampede of disciples rushing to Jiang Cheng’s side. Wei Wuxian was bodily ripped from his side by an overly zealous Lan Wangji, causing Wei Wuxian to squeak indignantly.
"Lan Zhan, I'm not a doll to be dragged places!" Sensing there was some real annoyance behind those words, Lan Zhan reluctantly eased off his grip. He still glared directly at Jiang Cheng though.
"Wei Ying safe?"
"Perfectly safe, Lan Zhan. I had Sect Leader Jiang guarding and guiding me. I couldn’t possibly be any safer." Wei Wuxian declared loudly. Lan Zhan's gaze softened as he saw how happy Wei Ying looked. Jin Ling turned up with Sizhui and Jingyi in tow. Jin Ling looked between his two uncles, unsure of where to go before settling on Jiang Cheng. He was a loyal child after all. Sizhui and Jingyi, on the other hand, swarmed Wei Wuxian.
• • •
Though disgruntled at being unceremoniously shoved aside, Lan Zhan would never show it because he was also beyond happy to see his little family together again. Jin Ling dragged a surprisingly compliant Jiang Cheng over so he could be within arms reach of Wei Wuxian, who promptly pulled the young man into the group hug he was wrapped up in.
“Aww did my young ones miss me? Where's your other friend, Ouyang Zizhen?"
"Here, Senior Wei." said boy was delighted to be remembered.
"Is everyone here then?" Queried Jiang Cheng, a headache already beginning. He had actually enjoyed being away from it all for a few days. Perhaps, in the future, they could occasionally escape by themselves. A solid hand ghosted across his back, tugging at the loose strands of hair.
"Who cares if we're all here? Lotus Pier knows how to host a good time." Wei Wuxian declared gleefully. Everyone grew tense awaiting the explosion, but nothing was forthcoming, leaving them all stunned.
• • •
Looks were exchanged but no words were said as those standing by the brother duo looked on in confusion. Where did all the anger go? They couldn’t see that it was still there, simmering beneath the surface; Jiang Cheng was resolute in his decision to do better. Looking around at all the happy faces he couldn’t help but feel he'd succeeded somewhat. Jiang Cheng and Wei Wuxian were eventually ushered to their rooms and left to get themselves cleaned up. Jiang Cheng was of course ordering his people back to training on the way and berating their lack of dedication. There was no malice to the words, and he was inwardly quite please they had missed him. Lan Zhan was following along just behind Wei Ying who was being fussed over by Sizhui and Jingyi. After a bath and change of clothes Jiang Cheng joined the others in the great hall where a feast was already underway. He glanced down the rows of tables until the end and did not spot his brother among them.
• • •
Lan Zhan walked side by side with Wei Ying as they wandered the outer docks of Lotus Pier. For Wei Ying it felt like home; the breeze smelled of Lotus flowers and the air tasted of their pods. Leaning against a railing Wei Ying felt the brush of Lan Zhan’s sleeve against his arm.
"What do I do now, Lan Zhan? What are you going to do now?
Lan Zhan did not even need to ponder the question, his answer immediate.
"Stay with Wei Ying." There was never any doubt for Lan Zhan about his place in this world upon Wei Ying’s return.
"Even though we solved the problem?" Lan Zhan frowned at the quiet tone Wei Ying was speaking with. In a rare display of boldness Lan Zhan slung an arm around Wei Ying’s shoulders; drawing the man closer.
"I said where you lead, I will follow. Where you stay, I stay."
• • •
Wei Ying would always feel safe in the presence of Lan Zhan, but the weight of the man's words made him feel guilty.
"If I chose to remain here?"
"Then here is where I would remain as well." Turning to face Lan Zhan, Wei Ying reached up to slide his fingers over Lan Zhan's features.
"What about what you want Lan Zhan?"
"Want Wei Ying."
Wei Ying blushed.
"Lan Zhan!" Embarrassed, Wei Ying made to turn away only to have Lan Zhan wrap both arms around him securely.
"Stay with Wei Ying." Wei Ying laughed, and it was a music that brought joy to all that heard it; carefree and happy. Lan Zhan would always cherish it. "Will Sect Leader Jiang allow you to remain?"
"My brother has grown lately. Please don’t be mad at him Lan Zhan."
"Mmm." Lan Zhan would try for Wei Ying.
• • •
They stayed there for far longer than was polite, given the impromptu banquet going on, before returning to the large room. Conversation immediately softened as the whispers began. Without realising it, Wei Wuxian shrank into Lan Zhan’s side. He was just debating with himself whether to leave again when Jin Ling called him over to sit beside him - at the table reserved for family. Lan Zhan gave him a nudge and, exuding all the confidence he didn’t have, Wei Wuxian sauntered over to seat himself at his nephew’s side. Lan Zhan moved over to his place beside his brother. Conversation eventually restarted as others followed Sect Leader Jiang’s approach of ignoring the situation. When it became blatantly obvious the newly returned duo were flagging, Lan Xichen graciously suggested they turn in for the night. It took a few moments for the suggestion to sink in but finally people began returning to their rooms.
• • •
Lan Zhan paid no mind to the room assigned to him with the other members of his Sect. He followed Wei Ying until they reached the room specified and was quick to hold him when the man collapsed on his bed.
"It's been a long few days." Wei Ying moaned.
"Years without Wei Ying."
"Lan Zhan!" Wei Ying would never be able to understand Lan Zhan's fascination with flustering him. For Lan Zhan it was simple, any reaction from Wei Ying was one he cherished almost as much as he cherished the man himself. Tugging Wei Ying up, he encouraged Wei Ying to get changed into sleeping robes.
"Sizhui will wish to speak with you soon."
"Mmm." Had Wei Ying been more awake he might have considered the implications of what was being said.
• • •
Lan Zhan was up and gone by the time Wei Ying roused from sleep. Yawning and gently swiping at his eyes, Wei Ying let his senses expand around the room. He grew nostalgic as the shape and furniture placement were all familiar and as he remembered it. The feeling when you just know where things are by long ingrained habit was a welcome one. Walking slowly around in his sleeping robes, Wei Ying touched everything and anything. The room was surprisingly clean, not a spec of dust anywhere. A presence appeared at the door and Wei Wuxian spun to face his adopted son with a smile in place.
"Sizhui!" His greeting was cut short as Sizhui ploughed into his chest, burying his face and clutching at Wei Wuxian’s robes. Sizhui's voice was muffled as he babbled non-sensible things. It didn’t take long for Wei Wuxian to realise Sizhui remembered their shared history. With a sigh, Wei Wuxian pulled Sizhui close and apologised over and over again. He wondered how Sizhui had held himself together last night. When Sizhui cried himself to sleep Wei Wuxian continued to hold him and fussed over how long Sizhui had held everything in.
• • •
“Wei Wuxian” Said man started slightly - aware of the young man in his arms - at his name being called in the recognisable tone of his brother. Wei Wuxian couldn’t help but wonder what had brought Jiang Cheng to his room and he gently extricated himself from Sizhui’s grip so he could move over to speak softly with his brother, a small part of him nervous as to why Jiang Cheng was here. He found his hand gripped and placed onto what Jiang Cheng was carrying.
"Robes?" Wei Wuxian felt the cloth’s softness and his fingers traced the features they found. They were familiar in a way he'd longed to feel again. "Jiang Cheng:" Wei Wuxian didn’t know how wistful his tone was.
"They're still dark, but they have our embroidery." It was a touching gesture, an offer that backed up they’re renewed bonds. It would always be difficult for Jiang Cheng to watch his brother cope with the damage he'd caused, and so it should be. He deserved to carry that burden as Wei Wuxian had carried his. Wei Wuxian ducked away to change, leaving Jiang Cheng to wait and observe the sleeping Lan teenager.
• • •
Jin Ling spoke well of both Lan Sizhui and Lan Jingyi as well as that other boy. Jin Ling never spoke well of anyone and never got on well with anyone, ever. To think a child of Wen was friends with a child of Jin. His train of thought was disrupted by Wei Wuxian’s re-emergence. Jiang Cheng teared up though he would never admit it. Wei Wuxian still had his hair out and it fell, long and tangled, past the black robes that fit smugly to his lithe shape. The subtle Purple Lotus patterns stitched to perfection were just visible enough to be a highlight. Wei Wuxian looked as though he was a part of Lotus Pier, as he always should have been. Jiang Cheng watched Wei Wuxian wander closer while trying to fix his hair. Jiang Cheng reached out after a moment’s hesitation and tugged Wei Wuxian over to the vanity.
"Let me." He said softly, mindful of the sleeping Lan Sizhui. This was how Hanguang Jun found them when he returned; Jiang Cheng kneeling behind a seated Wei Wuxian, casually combing his hair and coaxing it up into the Jiang Sect style of braids.
• • •
Later that day, Wei Wuxian was spotted walking between Hanguang Jun and Lan Sizhui, both Chenqing and Suibian hanging from his belt. More importantly, dangling at their side was a silver bell, marred with scratches and dents, but whole and capable of ringing soundly. For those who saw that symbol of trust and the conjoined hands between white and black clad cultivators, they knew that the Yiling Patriarch belonged somewhere now. Knew he had a home and family who called him theirs. Wei Wuxian would always carry his burdens, but now at least he was no longer doing so in the dark on a treacherous narrow path. Instead, Wei Wuxian was once again able to walk the wide path, ironically still in the dark, but with those he loved by his side.