Wei Wuxian wove carefully through the clustered crowd of parents in front of the auditorium, looking for Jiang Yanli. His sister was tiny, but her husband was not; he resigned himself to searching out the most offensively dressed tall individual he could find. As with all things associated with that peacock, his plan abruptly went awry - concentrating on looking for him, Wei Wuxian walked straight into Principle Lan's back.
"Ahhh sorry sorry!" Wei Wuxian grinned and waved his hands apologetically; Lan Xichen was good natured, but it was still rude to run full-tilt into your boss.
"Not at all," Lan Xichen smiled, and when he turned to see who had nearly bowled him over, his smile grew wider. "Wei Wuxian, how timely! You remember my brother?"
Standing a little behind Principle Lan was of course Lan Wangji, Lan Xichen's younger brother and Wei Wuxian's former classmate at this very school. Wei Wuxian had not seen him in over a decade, not since they'd both been students.
Lan Wangji had uniquely coloured eyes, they dipped to Wei Wuxian's shoes and then slowly climbed to his face. "Wei Ying," he said quietly, voice deep and calm. Lan Wangji inclined his head in a polite bow.
He was still so handsome, smooth and pale, distinguished brow and full lips. Still so tall and slender, elegant even standing still. Wei Wuxian reeled from the once over, and felt his cheeks catch fire as he laughed. "Lan Zhan, it's been so long! Are you here to cheer on your brother's pupils?"
A strange, intense look fell over Lan Wangji's face, for a moment more austere than his usual resting bitch face. "My son is performing this evening."
"Really?" Wei Wuxian had not know Lan Wangji was married. Although it hardly surprised him, Lan Zhan had been the best looking person in their entire school, and he'd only improved with age. "That's… that's cool!"
"Mn," Lan Wangji agreed, frowning slightly. "He is in your class: Lan Sizhui."
Lan Sizhui was not only in Wei Wuxian's advanced orchestra class, he was Wei Wuxian's favourite student. Talented, polite, willing to dedicate himself to study, but also clever, witty, and as good at minor pranks as Wei Wuxian had been at his age. Lan Sizhui was a gem of a boy, of course he had the most perfect man in the world for a father.
"He's my best student," Wei Wuxian told both Lans truthfully. "And an amazing kid, you and your wife must be so proud of him."
Lan Xichen coughed, and Lan Wangji's ears turned a little pink. "I am not married," he corrected softly.
"Oh." Shit. "Sorry, that's so terribly rude of me! I guess you can rest assured that my face is as thick as it used to be!"
"It seems you have much to catch up on," Lan Xichen said, perfectly pleasant, in an attempt to diffuse the situation. It was the same tone he used with irate parents who turned up in his office to complain about the harsh but ultimately fair punishments Vice Principle Nie handed out.
"Ah ha, yeah! It's been… thirteen years?"
"Sixteen," Lan Wangji corrected immediately.
"Whoa that long!"
Wei Wuxian's phone pinged in his back pocket, he made an apologetic noise and dug it out. Jiang Yanli had sent him a text message; she and her stupid husband were stuck in traffic, no doubt because of some mistake on the peacock's part. Principle Lan made a sympathetic noise when Wei Wuxian explained.
"Wangji, why don't you go in and help Wei Wuxian save two seats? I have to sit with the rest of the shareholder elders."
"Oh! Cool! Thanks Lan Zhan!"
They managed to get a good spot ten rows up, and Lan Zhan spread their coats over the two outermost aisle seats, before sitting down next to Wei Wuxian. In keeping with the type of order famous at Cloud Recesses, junior students had everyone seated in the auditorium in a matter of moments. Anyone who so much as looked at their coats received a flat stare from Lan Zhan that encouraged them to keep walking.
"Wow, Lan Zhan is still so scary," Wei Wuxian laughed. "Fitting for the Head Boy who handled all the discipline."
"I do not," Lan Zhan began, and then looked at his hands for a moment, folded in his lap. "I am very proud of Sizhui."
"He's so good," Wei Ying smiled. "I can tell he's had a great parent in his life."
"He and his friends are doing a special presentation, did he tell you? It's top secret, they wouldn't tell me about it. Just commandeered my practice room all semester after school."
"I believe it relates to the theme," Lan Wangji offered, "but I have not been told other details."
"A surprise for us both then," Wei Wuxian winked.
It was the centennial anniversary of the academy, which was in fact founded from a much older school that could trace itself all the way back to the Ming Dynasty. History was a celebrated fact of Cloud Recesses life, the grounds had a large museum and also a section of preserved buildings, roped off and decorated with artefacts and artistic recreations. The Academy was extensively proud of its heritage, which included mention in one of the great poems of literature, the Ballad of the Yiling Patriarch, by the great scholar, Hanguang-jun.
All of this lent very well to the deep pockets of rich people, who liked to send their kids to stuffy private schools. Cloud Recesses was the stuffiest and most exclusive, but it was loosening up a little bit under Lan Xichen's regime as Principal. If you had told teenaged Wei Wuxian, who was nearly expelled five times under the oppressive watch of Lan Qiren, that he would one day teach at Cloud Recesses, he would have laughed directly into your face. But Wei Wuxian was tired of a life of living paycheque to paycheque in foreign countries, bouncing from orchestra to orchestra, and the offer from the Cloud Recesses had been very generous. It meant he could come home and see his nephew, his sister, and occasionally Jiang Cheng when life as a high-powered executive didn’t have his little brother jet-setting all over the place.
It was still pretty stuffy, but Wei Wuxian supposed he was of an age now where a little bit of stuffiness was just how he rolled. He had a lot more leeway than most teachers, showing his class how to transcribe Black Pink for traditional instruments, and letting them use his practice room as a space to goof off. He'd rolled his eyes at "Memories of Our Past" as the Winter Recital theme, but supposed it was to be expected, and then set about helping the kids find clever ways to interpret it. As it was, they still had four girls submit oration of the Ballad of the Yiling Patriarch, who had to be coerced into performing it together, and then had a fight over who would get to speak the final quarter, when the Yiling Patriarch and the poet finally declare their feelings for one another.
"It's about the longing," Wei Wuxian had told three pouting girls. "The ending is good, because of all the sadness beforehand. Each part is important."
The Traditional Ensemble was going to perform several musical scores from the Cloud Recesses own library archive; Sizhui was lead guqin. He was also going to play Rachmaninov's Elégie. Lan Jingyi had been roped into singing with several groups, Ouyang Zizhen was living his best life as their stage manager - an inspired choice Wei Wuxian had made when he decided that no one else at the school had a larger capacity for sentimental nonsense. Jin Ling was part of Sizhui's surprise, Wei Wuxian had linked him up with the two Lan boys when he failed his french horn exam, and thus wasn't eligible to perform in the recital with the full orchestra. He's still working on convincing Jiang Yanli's terrible husband that Jin Ling is one hundred percent tone deaf, and should be allowed to just keep up with his soccer and his badminton and his archery lessons.
"Do you still play, Lan Zhan?"
Lan Wangji had played the guqin in Traditional Ensemble, and in orchestra he'd been lead violin. He'd been exceptional at both.
"Just for myself," Lan Zhan admitted, "and with Sizhui."
Wei Wuxian grinned. "How lucky for him, now I know where his ear came from."
"He works very hard. You are his favourite teacher."
"He does work hard," Wei Wuxian allowed, ignoring the second statement. The lights for the auditorium flickered twice, the five minute warning, and Wei Wuxian sent a frantic text to Jiang Yanli. She was still stuck in traffic.
I'll record A-Ling for you if you miss it! He promised, cursing the prime stupidity of his sister's husband, who was certainly responsible for making his sister miss her son's performance. When the lights dimmed down and the recital began, Wei Wuxian kept up a whispered, one-sided commentary with Lan Wangji, praise for the students, small gossip, and remarks on the various performances. Lan Zhan was just as stoic as he remembered, offering the occasional non-verbal remark, though he made no move to quiet Wei Wuxian. He fell silent all on his own when Sizhui took the stage for his Cello solo.
Sizhui was exceptionally talented, but he was also an expressive player. It was evident he felt the music as much as he created it, something Wei Wuxian encouraged in his students, but had been surprised to find in a student with a Lan surname. Now that he knew Sizhui was Lan Zhan's son, he was even more intrigued; Lan Zhan had played beautifully, wringing emotions from his instruments at complete odds with the shuttered expression on his face and his elegant posture. Wei Wuxian had tried to tease him out of it on numerous occasions, until Lan Zhan's temper had exploded. But for some reason that had led to a friendship, one Wei Wuxian had treasured up until he'd left for college abroad. He'd been young and foolish and confused about his own feelings, and he'd been too immature to completely understand that he'd wanted to be more than Lan Zhan's friend until it was too late. Distance and self-preservation had caused him to lose track of Lan Wangji.
When Sizhui finished his piece, Wei Wuxian leapt to his feet, whooping and cheering over the polite applause of the rest of the parents. He was proud of his students, and thick faced enough to let them know about it. Next to him, Lan Zhan came gracefully to his feet as well.
"He's so good," Wei Wuxian grinned as Sizhui bowed and took his exit.
"Mn," Lan Zhan agreed, small smile crooking just the corner of his lips.
"We played Rachmaninov too, didn't we?"
"Yes." Lan Zhan's smile softened, something delicate and pretty. "The same piece, Wei Ying."
"Really? Oh! I guess, yeah! I had forgotten." Wei Wuxian laughed and reached over to swat at Lan Zhan's arm fondly. "Must be why I like this concerto so much."
The rest of the acts passed in this way, Wei Wuxian cheering for the students between recounting memories with Lan Wangji. It was nice, easy, something warm and comfortable in Wei Wuxian's belly, like a bowl of his sister's soup.
"Remember the rabbits I found?" he smiled. "And tried to keep in my dorm room? I thought Lan-laoshi was going to expel me for sure."
"Wei Ying." In the dim light of the auditorium, Lan Wangji's ears were red. "I still have them."
"What!" Several of the surrounding parents shushed them, and Wei Wuxian leaned closer, whispering "Cotton Bud and Sweet Bean are still alive?"
"That's… wow." Wei Wuxian fell back into his seat, momentarily at a loss for words. On stage, the girls were doing their dramatic poetry reading, and once they'd finished, bowing to the applause, Wei Wuxian turned to Lan Zhan again, feeling suddenly shy. "You must have taken really good care of them. You really are the best, Lan Zhan."
"I gave my word," Lan Zhan said softly. "Wei Ying…"
Wei Wuxian's stomach dipped, like he'd stepped into a too-fast elevator, or gone flying down the biggest hill of a rollercoaster. It was an exciting, almost pleasant kind of feeling. On stage, the curtain opened to reveal Lan Jingyi, dressed in a thin purple hanfu. "Greetings all who gather where tales are told," he said, voice loud and even. "I am the Yiling Patriarch, hear my tale of woe."
"Oh shit," Wei Wuxian whispered, and fumbled for his phone. "This is Jin Ling's bit I think."
Sure enough, Jin Ling strode out onto the stage, dressed in a similarly coloured robe. "Head disciple!" he barked, his face tomato red with what Wei Wuxian knew were nerves, "it is I, Heir to the Lotus sect! We depart now for our year of study in the Cloud Recesses!"
"Good plug," Wei Wuxian murmured. Beside him, Lan Zhan nodded.
Jingyi walked to the centre of the stage as Jin Ling exited, apparently finished his part. "Listen and hear," Jingyi spoke. "For once I walked the wide golden path, admired by all. Raised with care amongst the lotus, in the dawn of my youth, I met a man who dwelled within the clouds."
That was apparently a cue, over the loudspeakers of the auditorium, a guqin strummed low and deep. Jingyi stepped back from the edge of the stage, now holding out two clay jars. A sword point met him, and a second spotlight opened, and there stood Sizhui, in a white hanfu, a thin white ribbon tied around his forehead.
"Halt, trespasser," he said, voice too sweet for the command. "You are not permitted to enter here."
Jingyi looked at Sizhui for a moment, and then a slow smile spread across his face. "On whose authority?"
"That of Hanguang-jun, the Second Jade."
Jingyi startled and looked to the audience. "Oh no!" he stage whispered, garnering a smattering of laughs. He set his two jars down carefully, and gave Sizhui a proper bow. "Apologies, Hanguang-jun, but can you look away just this once?"
"No." Sizhui pressed forward with his fake sword. "Surrender for punishment."
"You know," Jingyi said, "You're kinda cute!"
Sizhui blushed something fierce; Wei Wuxian looked sideways at Lan Zhan. He had some suspicions about the close friendship of Jingyi and Sizhui, but nothing on Lan Zhan's face was hinting anything.
"Head disciple!" Sizhui sputtered, "You mock me!"
"Nope!" Jingyi winked at him, and then, the loudspeaker started playing, of all things Yakety Sax. Wei Wuxian laughed so hard he had to hold his phone with both hands to film the way Sizhui chased Jingyi from the stage. It was a good thing he did, because then Jin Ling came out, picked up the jars, and told them all, in a voice that was clearer and less nervous, that the Head Disciple spent many days irritating Hanguang-jun, but that their innocence was to be short lived. "For the Sun Clan longed to shine upon all things," Jin Ling said ominously, really getting into his part now, "and longed to chase the clouds away."
Sizhui came back out onto stage, limping, his hands held behind his back by Ouyang Zizhen, who was dressed in a black robe. Jingyi trailed behind them, looking angry. "This is stupid," he complained. "There's no demons down here."
Zizhen let go of Sizhui, who stumbled back into Jingyi. "Be quiet! If I say there's a demon, then there is!"
As if on cue, Jin Ling came running on stage, this time without his robe and just in a black shirt and black jeans. On his right hand he was wearing the soft turtle puppet Wei Wuxian had bought him at the airport in Toronto when he came home to see him for the first time.
"Ah," he said fondly to his phone. "He kept that…" which was completely at odds with the way Jin Ling clamped the turtle puppet's mouth onto Zizhen's shoulder, and promptly killed him with a great deal of ridiculous dying sounds on Zizhen's part. The audience roared with laughter as Jingyi half dragged Sizhui back across the stage, away from Jin Ling pretending to eat Zizhen.
"A turtle demon!" He cried. "Hanguang-jun, there is no escape!"
"We must kill it," Sizhui said, arm tight around Jingyi's waist. "That is the only way."
"How? We have no swords!"
"If you are beside me," Sizhui said, "I have no need of my sword."
It made something tighten in Wei Wuxian's throat, for some reason he had to look at Lan Zhan, and found him starting back, his eyes shining in the dark. On stage, Sizhui and Jingyi were battling Jin Ling's turtle puppet as the theme song to Teenage-Mutant Ninja Turtles played for maximum comic effect, but all Wei Wuxian could focus on was the hidden thing in Lan Zhan's gaze.
"It is dead!" Sizhui said on stage, which made them both startle and look back towards the performance. "Head Lotus Disciple!" Sizhui caught Jingyi as he slipped towards the stage floor, which was impressive, because Jingyi had hit his growth spurt early in the year and shot up almost a foot above Sizhui's head.
"Head Lotus Disciple," Sizhui repeated, reaching out to feel Jingyi's forehead. "Help will come soon. Stay awake."
"Hanguang-jun," Jingyi moaned. "Sing for me."
Sizhui sat beside him, easing Jingyi's head to rest against his shoulder. They looked very small, sitting together on the dark stage. Wei Wuxian's throat got a bit tight again.
"Listen," Sizhui told Jingyi softly. "Listen to my song."
For a moment, Wei Wuxian thought Sizhui might actually sing, which made no sense in terms of casting, Jingyi had a strong singing voice with a huge register, and Sizhui's own voice was very soft. But then Sizhui turned his head to put his lips near Jingyi's ear, and a familiar opening flute refrain started playing in the auditorium.
Every night, in my dreams…
"Oh my god," Wei Wuxian hissed, and then rounded on Lan Zhan. He had countless memories of being driven home in Lan Zhan's car when they were younger, enduring this same album. "This is your fault."
"It is not," Lan Zhan said stiffly. "Ms. Dion is a talented singer."
"You have poisoned that kid's musical taste! Lan Zhan!"
The song continued to play, Celine Dion booming over the audience. On stage, Zizhen appeared once again, this time wearing a yellow robe. Sizhui helped Jingyi to his feet and draped him against Zizhen, watching for several long moments as they shuffled off stage together. When Sizhui at last stood alone, he brushed back the edge of his sleeve to show the red ribbon tied there, and then he took his exit in the other direction. Jin Ling appeared again, once more dressed in purple. The music faded out and he told them that while Hanguang-jun returned in victory to take back the Cloud Recesses from the Sun Clan, the Head Lotus Disciple returned home and recovered his strength, only to have his own home burned by the sun, and to be captured. "In their hatred, the Sun Clan poisoned his soul," Jin Ling declared, and Wei Wuxian smiled softly and told his phone he was doing so well. "The Head Lotus Disciple was no more, and in his place rose the Yiling Patriarch! Dark and Terrible!"
Jingyi emerged from the shadows, now dressed in a black and red robe. He tossed his sword to Jin Ling, who caught it with a shout that Wei Wuxian wasn't sure was part of the dialogue.
"I don't need a sword," Jingyi grinned wildly, "you keep it for me, Lotus Sect Leader. I will defeat the Sun Clan on my own!" He walked to the front of the stage and winked.
"Is he wearing eyeliner?" Wei Wuxian whispered.
"Mn," Lan Zhan nodded.
"Don't be stupid!" Jin Ling was shouting. "Everyone needs a sword! How will you fight?!"
"With the power of GHOSTS!" Jingyi boomed, and suddenly the jazzy synthesized beat of Michael Jackson's Thriller was blaring into the proceedings as Wei Wuxian's entire advanced orchestral class ran on stage wearing white and covered in what he could only assume was baby powder.
"Oh fuck," he laughed. "Sorry Principal Lan…"
The shareholder elders were definitely sputtering in their seats, but the audience seemed to be enjoying the proceedings as Jingyi led his "ghosts" through the iconic steps of the dance. Just as things were really getting going, Sizhui walked on stage and shouted "Yiling Patriarch!" cutting the music off abruptly.
"Oh, hi Hanguang-jun!" Jingyi beamed. "Check out my cool ghost army!" A couple of the kids waved, while some others flexed muscles.
"Yiling Patriarch," Sizhui said. "This dark and treacherous path will break your soul."
"Nah," Jingyi said, waving his hands dismissively. "Ghosts are totally reliable." Several of the ghosts nodded in agreement.
Sizhui stepped closer, one hand lifted in concern. "Please, let me help you. Return with me, to the Cloud Recesses."
Jingyi looked at Sizhui for a moment, Wei Wuxian squirmed slightly uncomfortably in his seat. Hadn't those been Lan Zhan's words to him, when his adoptive Uncle had died, and Madam Yu decided it was high time to cut off Wei Ying, the thorn in her side? Stay with me in Gusu, he'd said. We will figure something out. But Wei Wuxian knew he couldn't leech off of Lan Zhan, or tarnish his good reputation with his family. He'd accepted a scholarship abroad, scraped by delivering Chinese food to poorly tipping white families six nights a week, and reshelving books at the campus library. He made it work on his own.
"Hey!" Jin Ling shouted, startling both Jingyi and Wei Wuxian. "There's a war going on!"
"Right!" Jingyi cried, as more kids ran onto the stage wearing coloured hanfu and Kung Fu Fighting started to play. For minutes the stage was pandemonium, the audience in stitches. Wei Wuxian turned to Lan Zhan with a grin. "It's like I was there," he laughed.
"It is an interesting interpretation," Lan Zhan said diplomatically.
On stage the battle was shifting and changing. Not content with merely defeating the Sun Clan, the Ghost army started attacking other kids dressed in white or purple or yellow, until Sizhui and Jingyi were cornered on the stage, Zizhen and Jin Ling standing before them with swords drawn.
"Surrender the Yiling Patriarch, Hanguang-jun!" Zizhen yelled.
"Give up the villain!" Jin Ling added. "He must pay for his crimes!"
"No," Sizhui said, drawing his sword. "I cannot."
"Hanguang-jun," Jingyi hissed behind him. "Stand aside and let me kill them."
"No," Sizhui said again, his voice warbling with too much emotion. "I will not allow either, for I love the Yiling Patriarch."
"Hanguang-jun!" Jingyi's face was flushed pink. "Get…get lost!"
"Seize them!" Shouted Jin Ling, as kids ran forwards and grabbed Sizhui, and dragged him, struggling across the stage. At the same time, Jingyi ran the other way, into his ghost army, who turned on him and began pulling at his robes and wailing.
"Stop that," Jingyi told them, slightly panicked, but it was no use. The ghosts made a tight knot around him, and when they parted, all that remained of Jingyi was his robe on the ground.
"No!" Sizhui cried, flinging off his captors. The ghosts all disappeared off stage, their work done, and Sizhui sat alone at center stage, clutching the robe to his chest as all the stage lights went dark.
Wei Wuxian's throat felt dry, and his eyes stung. He exhaled a hissing breath out through his teeth, and then he felt it, Lan Zhan's hand on his forearm. When he looked over, Lan Zhan was not looking at him, but his lips were in a thin line, the corners of his eyes pinched tight, the way he had looked every year on the anniversary of his mother's death, when he was really upset.
"Lan Zhan," Wei Wuixan said softly. He was about to set his phone down so he could pat reassuringly at Lan Zhan's fingers, but then the spotlight shone once more on Jin Ling, dressed now in a yellow robe, and he had to keep filming.
"For years, the great Hanguang-jun travelled the land," he explained, "searching for any trace of the Yiling Patriarch. He became known as a man of great honour, appearing whenever there was need. With his sword he righted many wrongs. He played music, taught the people, and learned from them in turn. But he was lonely."
A second spotlight opened, and Sizhui sat now at his guqin, playing a forlorn song. His hands stilled at the strings and he sighed, and the spotlight closed on him again. Lan Zhan's hand held on to Wei Wuxian's arm a little tighter.
"A scholar, musician and poet, Hanguang-jun never wed. He lived alone within the Cloud Recesses, hoping for the day he might one day be reunited with his beloved. And then one day, he happened to hear a familiar song."
Sizhui appeared again, leading a few students dressed in white. At the same time, Jingyi stepped onto the other side of the stage, now wearing yellow, and a mask. Zizhen lumbered across the stage, making zombie noises and dressed in white, and Jingyi stepped to the front of the stage, between Sizhui and lumbering ghost, and sang.
"Every night, in my dreams," he began, and Wei Wuxian groaned. They'd even found the backing track for him, and Jingyi was a beautiful singer, he had the range and the showmanship, but Wei Wuxian had decided, at the impressionable age of fifteen, that Celine Dion was personally out to get him.
"I can't believe this is happening to me right now Lan Zhan," he groaned. "I can't even have two hours with you without having to listen to this."
Their entire friendship, tentative at first and then deep and perfect, he felt could be punctuated with this song. The first time Lan Zhan had grudgingly shared a practice room with him. Study sessions in Wei Wuxian's cramped dorm room or Lan Zhan's immaculate bedroom. Sitting together on the train, their headphones plugged in to the bunny-shaped splitter Wei Wuxian bought for Lan Zhan, on their way to perform or see a performance or just to head to the city for the day. That last day, when Lan Zhan had driven him to the airport, sat in his car and stared so long and so hard at Wei Wuxian that he nearly worked up the nerve to just lean forwards and kiss him, but then he'd chickened out. So many moments, all of them special.
"Wei Ying," Lan Zhan said quietly, and his fingers closed around Wei Wuxian's wrist.
"Love can touch us one time," Jingyi was singing, "and last for a lifetime, and never let go 'til we're gone…"
"Her music, I understand her." Lan Zhan whispered. "I too, have only ever loved one man."
Wei Wuxian couldn't breathe. On stage, Sizhui had taken hold of Jingyi's wrist and spun him around so they faced each other, cutting of his singing. Wei Wuxian looked in Lan Zhan's eyes and thickened his face and whispered "Who?"
"Oh my gosh," Jiang Yanli huffed, sitting abruptly in the seat on Wei Wuxian's other side, and making him jump nearly a foot into the air. "Sorry we're so late! What did we miss A-Xian?"
"I… I recorded it," Wei Wuxian said weakly. "Just watch for now."
Lan Zhan had retreated back into his seat, face forward and still. Wei Wuxian tried to focus on the rest of the boy's show, but everything was lost under the frantic beating of his heart, until he was standing to give everyone a final ovation, and the lights in the auditorium were coming on, everyone blinking and shuffling towards the exits. He turned to look at Lan Zhan in the light, and he was gone.
"Oh," Wei Wuxian breathed, his stomach like a cement block.
"A-Xian?" Jiang Yanli smiled at him. "Did you enjoy the show?"
"Yeah," he smiled wide, to hide the heavy feeling seeping into him. "The kids were great."
"Who's coat is this?" Jin Zixuan was holding out a beautiful dark blue wool coat, obviously aware that it was way too nice to belong to Wei Wuxian, even without the Dior label at the collar.
"Shit!" Wei Wuxian grabbed it from Jin Zixuan's hands and started looking around frantically. "It's… he was just here. Just… excuse me, okay? I'll be back!"
He took off running, dodging parents and other teachers and nearly barreling into someone. He was half-certain he heard Lan-laoshi shout after him about running being forbidden, and Wei Wuxian laughed, clutching Lan Zhan's coat to his chest, suddenly fifteen again and knowing, with absolute certainty, exactly where Lan Zhan would be.
The third floor practice room had been their favorite, cozy in the afternoons with soft sunlight. Wei Wuxian had chosen it, entirely sentimental, as his dedicated work space when he'd been organizing his rooms for classes. Three stairwells and the hallway were in darkness, but the door to Wei Wuxian's room was open. His feet echoed in the empty halls, but not quiet enough that he couldn't hear it, someone picking out Celine Dion on the piano.
"Lan Zhan," he gasped, slipping through the door, "how dare you defile my piano with your nineties French-Canadian diva ballad, this is sacrilege, that piano was one hundred percent pure and you have tainted it -"
He looked so good standing there, tall and handsome and a little closed off, a little worried, and Wei Wuxian threw Lan Zhan's expensive coat across his desk, and then he was running, because it had always been this way between them, Lan Zhan gave him an inch, and Wei Wuxian took a whole mile, Lan Zhan opened up a crack and Wei Wuxian pried things wide open and climbed in, made himself at home.
The piano made a loud, terrible noise of protest - but that was nothing, better frankly, than what it had been playing before - three deep collective notes from both Lan Zhan's palms and his hip when Wei Wuxian backed him into the keys and kissed him hard. The piano made a second, quieter noise when Lan Zhan shifted his hands so he could lift them and set them on Wei Wuxian's waist. And that was good, that was perfect, Wei Wuxian kissed his lips and then both cheeks and then the bridge of his slender nose.
"Only one man," he whispered against Lan Zhan's chin.
"Mn." A smile, that Wei Wuxian felt against his cheek and in his belly and in the curl of his toes, in every thud of blood through his veins.
"Lan Zhan, that's… you're so… I can't believe this, I have been seduced by the enduring heart of someone who unironically listens to the Titanic soundtrack… How are you going to make this up to me and my poor piano?"
"Dinner," Lan Zhan murmured, deep and quiet, his voice just for Wei Wuxian. "Friday at seven. I will drive. You may choose the music."
"Yeah?" Wei Wuxian laughed. "Yeah, okay, that is a pretty good start, Lan Zhan, but you should probably kiss me some more to seal the deal -"
The piano made a few more protesting, inelegant noises, but neither of them heard anything, too lost in each other. They didn't hear the door to the practice room close quietly either.
Jingyi let go of the knob gently, turning to face his friends. Jin Ling was red faced and embarrassed, Zizhen looked like he'd just won the lottery, and Sizhui was smiling shyly at him, one of Jingyi's favourites of Sizhui's smiles.
"Gentlemen," he said, tapping the jewel case of the CD he'd stolen from Sizhui's dad's car six months ago, "I think we can say Operation Dion has been a success."