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midnight oil

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WWX sleeping on top of LWJ


“Wei Ying.”

Wei Wuxian hums and keeps sleeping.


“Wei Ying.” A hand lands on his shoulder.


Wei Wuxian presses his cheek into the hard, cool surface under it. The corner of something soft is trapped against his jaw. He shuffles so he can burrow into it. “Lan Zhan,” he says, “I’m working.”


“I can see that.” The hand moves up, smooths all the hair back from Wei Wuxian’s face until it rests neatly down his back. “Sit up.”


The hands move to his shoulders to ease him up. And as unattractive as sitting is, everything makes a lot more sense from up here. Wei Wuxian is kneeling over his workshop table. The soft thing under him was the cloak he’s been working on for Sizhui, laying folded among a scattering of talismans. When Wei Wuxian reaches up to scrub at his face, a smear of cinnabar comes away from his cheek.


“Oh no.” Wei Wuxian laughs weakly. “Your husband must look so handsome right now, Lan Zhan.”


Lan Wangji’s smile curves soft in the low light as he reaches down to unstick one last strand of hair from the corner of Wei Wuxian’s mouth. Oh no. Extremely handsome, then. “Come to bed.”


“Ah…” Wei Wuxian glances back to the table, to the hilariously unfinished cloak atop it. “I should keep at this a little longer, sweetheart. Sizhui wants to leave when the weather is good, so I’ll need to—”


Wei Wuxian must be less awake than he thought, because he doesn’t notice Lan Wangji reach out to cup his face, tilt his chin upwards so that their eyes meet, until his hand is already there. “Wei Ying,” he says, the barest hint of a laugh in his voice. “I’m going to bed. Please join me.”


And in the face of that, Wei Wuxian is powerless not to agree. “Mm.” He pushes against Lan Wangji’s palm with his cheek. “Whatever my husband says.”


“Hm,” Lan Wangji says, gently dubious. Then he stands, and tugs Wei Wuxian along with him.


Lan Wangji steers him out of the workshop and into the swiftly cooling night. His palm is warm against the small of Wei Wuxian’s back. Wei Wuxian almost tells him that it’s unnecessary. But then his eyes slip closed for the fourth time, and he has to admit that it’s probably a good thing someone else is steering.


“Did you sleep last night,” Lan Wangji says. Not a question, but also not a reproach.


“A little,” Wei Wuxian demurs. In truth, he was awake for most of it. And most of the night before. But if Lan Wangji doesn’t ask, then he doesn’t feel too guilty keeping that to himself. “I just don’t understand what I’m missing.”


“Wei Ying,” Lan Wangji says mildly. “An extended-use talisman would be unprecedented.”


Wei Wuxian turns to look at him, stumbling against an uneven edge of ground. “And?” he asks innocently. “Only the best for our A-Yuan.”


“Indeed.” Lan Wangji steadies him. “But if you cannot revolutionize cultivation itself within a week, your standard waterproofing talismans will more than suffice.”


The idea came to him when Sizhui returned from a lengthy night-hunt during the rainy season, shivering and soaked to the bone. He’d sheepishly insisted that the fault was his own: that he hadn’t fastened the talismans securely enough to the lining of his cloak, and they’d slipped off in the storm. It had given Wei Wuxian a better idea for Sizhui’s impending trip to Qishan, though. If he could sew a set of talismans within the cloak itself, Sizhui could simply activate them at the first sign of rain.


Unless the talismans could be deactivated and reused, or even designed to release a spell steadily over the course of weeks, it would be more hinderance than help. And not to mention a waste of a perfectly good cloak. Wei Wuxian can admit that this is a long shot. But he’s never actually tried it before. So it would be nice to how long that shot is, exactly.


His eyes must have closed again, because suddenly he’s blinking into the dim, warm light of the Jingshi. Lan Wangji maneuvers Wei Wuxian’s hands to his shoulders, presses them there. “Shoes,” he directs.


“What? Oh, yeah.” Wei Wuxian holds on as he toes off his shoes. He turns, automatically, toward the bed, but Lan Wangji’s gentle grip on his waist holds firm.


“Bath,” he says.


Wei Wuxian lets out an objectively horrible whine. “Lan Zhan, I’m clean.”


Lan Wangji hums sympathetically and reaches up to wipe down his cheekbone with one thumb. It comes away a vibrant reddish brown. So apparently there’s more cinnabar there than he realized.


When Wei Wuxian groans, Lan Wangji steers him to the tub. “Still handsome,” he says.


The water is hot enough to soak away any lingering reluctance. Wei Wuxian recognizes one of his own warming talismans curled around the lip of the tub – Lan Wangji might have prepared the bath for him a while ago. “Oh,” Wei Wuxian says, squinting into the steam. “What time is it?”


“Late enough.” Lan Wangji tilts Wei Wuxian’s head back and wets a cloth. The water bobs against his ears. “Hold still.”


Wei Wuxian has a hazy sense that he should probably protest, if only for the sake of whatever shame he has left. Tell Lan Wangji that he can wash his own face, at least. But the warm, rhythmic strokes of the cloth across his cheeks and forehead lull him into compliance. And Lan Wangji is humming softly, something half-formed and new. He leans into it, lets it cascade over the water.


The next thing he knows, he’s being nudged into a sitting position.


Wei Wuxian blinks rapidly as he’s helped up. His legs are buzzing, his wet hair tangled around his shoulders. “Did you already wash my hair?”


“Mm.” Lan Wangji is holding out one of his own inner robes in his free hand. As Wei Wuxian takes it, wraps himself in the voluminous white fabric, Lan Wangji carefully towels his hair. It’ll probably be a mess tomorrow. But Lan Wangji will help him brush it straight, with that look he gets like there’s nothing he’d rather be doing.


“Lan Zhan,” Wei Wuxian laughs helplessly, “you can wake me up next time.”


“You looked peaceful.” Lan Wangji goes still enough that Wei Wuxian turns to look at him. His face is impassive, but thoughtful. “Talk to Sizhui tomorrow. He worries for you.”


“Aiya, that boy,” Wei Wuxian says with a sleepy smile. “He worries too much. You both do.”


Lan Wangji strokes one last wet strand back from Wei Wuxian’s face. “Then it is a problem all three of us share.”


Wei Wuxian is quiet as Lan Wangji pulls him down to the bed, arranging Wei Wuxian’s head so that it’s pillowed on his chest. His own robes will probably get wet. He doesn’t seem to mind.


Lan Wangji watches him steadily. Wei Wuxian looks up to meet his eyes, the way he should have done every day since they were young. “How many night-hunts had Sizhui gone on?” Wei Wuxian says, carefully casual. He reaches up to untie Lan Wangji’s forehead ribbon with his clumsy, sleep-soft fingers. “Before I—got back.”


Lan Wangji’s hand slides through his hair, grounding. “I did not count,” he admits.


“A lot, I’ll bet. Smart kid. Sure he didn’t want to wait.” Against his will, Wei Wuxian’s eyes slide closed, and he’s sinking. His arm tumbles to his side. He can feel the forehead ribbon, still resting between his fingertips. But when he moves to lay it safely aside, his wrist barely twitches.

By the time Wei Wuxian speaks again, his own voice feels muffled. “I have to catch up, still.”


There’s a pause, nearly long enough that Wei Wuxian fully slips into sleep. Then the firm press of lips against his temple. “There is nothing to catch up to.” His voice is more sensation than sound, water within the earth. “We are not ahead. We are here, with you.”


Wei Wuxian tries to lift his head. The effort is halfhearted enough that he feels Lan Wangji laugh. The arm around Wei Wuxian’s waist tightens, the fingers in his hair resume their pace. Lan Wangji. His husband. Right here.


“Sleep,” he says. And Wei Wuxian does.