It was raining heavily, and Wei Wuxian was running late, and traffic was terrible because it was a Saturday evening, but it would all be worth it once he got there. The DiDi driver patiently ignored his jiggling knee and low off-key whistling as he looked out the window and gauged how much longer it would take. Then, finally, the sign for Henan Cabana Club loomed over them.
Wei Wuxian got out of the car, thanking the driver profusely for opening the passenger side door, and hefted his valuable burden carefully as he made his way through the cabana club that all the rich Jianghu families shared.
No one knew who originally bought the club, but equal shares in ownership had been passed down in an unbreakable trust since many years ago when the club was first built as a high-class tea house in ancient China. To be honest, tensions had arisen over the years, but not a single family had been willing to give up their ownership, so sects that would prefer not to mingle still ended up socializing with forced civility as a result. Once, it was rumored, the Lan Sect founder, Lan An had suggested that they just make it a timeshare and avoid bloodshed, but his logical solution had been quickly shouted down. It was very sad, and quite possibly the main reason that Lan An sulked in seclusion for the remainder of his elderly years.
"Hey, hey! I have the jello shots!" Wei Wuxian announced proudly. The small but growing crowd in the reception area let out a cheerful roar, but judging by how quickly people got plastered at Nie Huiasang's parties, Wei Wuxian could have been announcing the delivery of raw celery sticks and received an equally energetic response.
Wei Wuxian beamed proudly anyway. As soon as he had finished his last final, he had searched up multiple recipes for jello shots and tried and tested them all out to find the best version. A veritable rainbow of jello cups spread across the silver tray that he babied with love until Jiang Cheng managed to create a big enough space on a nearby table by moving apart the tray of tiramisu bites and the brandy cream meringues. Numerous tall and short, stout and thin bottles of liquor created an impressive multi-colored mountain on another table nearby against the wall.
"Ying-ge, you finally made it! Didn't you make a resolution to stop being late?" Nie Huiasang scolded him with good humor, tapping him on the shoulder with one of his many fans. To punish him, Wei Wuxian stole the fan and used it to cool his sweaty face. He held it up to check out the painting, one of a long branch of succulent loquats. It looked tempting and delicious, and he might actually keep this one. Nie Huiasang pouted unsuccessfully at him for the theft and then shrugged carelessly before pulling another fan out of his bell sleeve.
"It's raining outside, did you notice that? I almost broke my neck coming down the stairs with that heavy tray," Wei Wuxian complained. "I know the landlord is just waiting for me to die; then he can jack up the price and get a new tenant."
"You told me that you wouldn't need any help," Jiang Cheng frowned accusingly. "I told you I'd come back to the apartment after yoga, but you told me to just meet you here."
"Ah, Jiang Cheng, you're being too serious," Wei Wuxian groaned. He was in no mood for his brother to give him a hard time about his supposed pathological inability to accept help from anyone. "It's fine. I'm just messing around."
Before Jiang Cheng could argue against that and kill the partying mood, Nie Huiasang got between them and stuffed a small card into Wei Wuxian's hand. "Here, remember not to lose it! Punishment for losing your bar buddy at the end of the night still stands, just like way back when."
"What? Why do we still--" Wei Wuxian started to ask as he read the card. "Wait. Lan Wangji? Who's that?"
Nie Huiasang gestured towards a small table tucked into the corner opposite to where they were standing. Compared to all the talking, laughing, dancing bodies all around him, the slim young man dressed in a pale button down and white-washed jeans stood out with the particular stillness of his body and the flat line to his mouth. "That's Lan Wangji. Remember Lan Xichen? That's his younger brother."
The strobe lights made it hard to see clearly across the distance, but Wei Wuxian squinted a bit, wishing he hadn't been too vain to wear his glasses and too careless to remember his contacts, before realizing that Lan Wangji's beautiful bone structure was rather familiar. Just made alien by the rather off-putting expression on his face.
"Why does he look like someone stepped on his cat and didn't say sorry?" Wei Wuxian wanted to know.
Nie Huiasang shrugged. "I don't think he wanted to come, but all the seniors are celebrating their class reunion on Jin Zixuan's yacht tonight, and Xichen-ge wanted him to learn how to socialize since they won't be sharing an apartment next year."
"Huh, okay." Wei Wuxian shrugged it off. If Lan Wangji was going to stay in a corner the whole night, then that made it super easy for Wei Wuxian to keep track of him. Which reminded him. "But, hey, we're all in grad school, what's the deal with this bar buddy thing?"
Jiang Cheng's expression turned sour. "Mom didn't tell you?"
Wei Wuxian was suddenly aware that he had entered dangerous territory. "No--maybe? You know that I have a bad memory. She maybe told me, and I just forgot. Anyway, remind me?"
Jiang Cheng scoffed quietly. "Figures." He took a champagne-infused cream puff and bit into it viciously. "Mom got the idea that we were all partying too hard and waking up hungover and late to class all the time, so she got all the parents to agree that we all need to have buddies making sure we left by ten o'clock tonight."
"Ten o'clock? But finals are over and everything!" Wei Wuxian wanted to cry. He stared sadly with misty eyes at the six bottles of Emperor's Smile that he had spotted behind the bottles of cognac (gross!) that Nie Huaisang favored. "How can we have fun in so little time?" He could try chugging all six bottles down, but such fine wine was meant to be savored. Savored!
"It's okay, Ying-xiong." Nie Huaisang patted him soothingly. He smiled slyly. "Remember Da-ge's also on that yacht, so we can always continue the party at my place. Oh, and that's also in case we need to enact Plan W."
"Ugh, Plan W." Everyone within earshot, even those not participating in their conversation, automatically made a face.
Wei Wuxian eyed the way that his tray of jello shots was quickly disappearing into voracious drunken mouths, and he grabbed a violent red one and downed it, enjoying the taste of vodka and cherry. He took one of his vibrantly blue jello shots (hello, mysterious blue flavor!) and went to find Lan Wangji to get acquainted.
Lan Wangji flinched as he slid into the seat next to him, and he raised his hands up to look harmless. Wei Wuxian guessed he couldn't blame the poor guy for being jumpy. Being so pretty like that meant he probably got plenty of unwelcome attention. "I'm not some creep, I promise. I'm Wei Ying. Nie Huaisang assigned us to be bar buddies."
Lan Wangji pulled a pristine card out of his jeans pocket. "The card says 'Wei Wuxian.'"
"Yeah, but that's my cultivator name," Wei Wuxian explained patiently. "Nobody uses their cultivator names in day-to-day life. That's weird."
"I do," Lan Wangji said shortly at the same time. An awkward silence ensued as Wei Wuxian realized that he'd accidentally insulted the guy he was trying to befriend.
"Oh, okay." Wei Wuxian played with his jello shot and then brightened. "Hey, you should give these a try before they're all gone. I spent hours finding the perfect recipe," he bragged.
"No," Lan Wangji said. "Thank you," he added begrudgingly like his older brother was standing over his shoulder.
"Ah, come on!" Wei Wuxian cajoled. He really, really wanted Lan Wangji to try his jello shots. He had already gotten over a dozen compliments, but he was eager for more. "Aren't you supposed to be trying new things?"
Lan Wangji's hazel eyes narrowed at him. "Why do you say that?"
Oh shit. Big mouth, big mouth. "No reason," Wei Wuxian said quickly. "Ah, hey, if you have a cultivator name too, then that means you're also taking lessons on growing your golden core. How's that going?"
The hint of a scowl touched Lan Wangji's mouth. "Members of different sects are not supposed to share proprietary information."
Was he kidding? This wasn't ancient China! Jeez, the most interesting thing the foremost cultivator of their generation used her powers for was to grow more disease-resistant crops in rural areas. Nobody was going to start a war or anything. That would be stupid.
"But the Gusu Lan Sect helped to standardize the lessons for junior discipleship two decades ago when we were kids," Wei Wuxian pointed out. "You're the same age as me, so we must have learned pretty much the same things."
"Seniors learn cultivation techniques specific to their own sects," Lan Wangji retorted.
Wei Wuxian blinked in surprise. "Oh, are you a senior?" That would be pretty unusual since modern cultivation pedagogy held to the idea that students should not start learning cultivation too young since their tiny golden cores tended to be less stable, and their meridians could collapse if they weren't careful in channeling their qi. Most seniors tended to be in their early thirties as a result, even in the more traditional sects.
"...No," Lan Wangji said after a moment. "Are you?"
Wei Wuxian grinned. "No, haha. So, we can talk then, can't we? Here, look, I've been working on these for my end of year project." He pulled out one of his little papermen and activated it with a minor infusion of qi. The paperman perked up its head and began wandering the table in front of them.
"My goal is for the papermen to have more independence and take more initiative," Wei Wuxian explained enthusiastically. "I think that if you add just one more character, the one for auto- , right here, then the papermen will focus on anything that may be interesting to the caster, like--"
Possibly, it was a look of mild interest on Lan Wangji's face, but Wei Wuxian didn't have the chance to analyze it further. In a matter of seconds, the paperman hopped onto Lan Wangji's shoulder and then threw itself onto his face and plastered a kiss onto his cheek.
Wei Wuxian stared. OH, FUUUUU-----
Mianmian was right! He really should be tweaking his inventions more before he brought them out in public.
Lan Wangji's eyes were wide enough to catch the strobe lights, and his lips fell apart in an expression of complete shock.
"Ah, Lan Wangji, I really apologize for--"
Lan Wangji snapped out of his shock, and now those fantastic eyes were blazing in murderous fury. "Get lost!" he hissed before shoving his chair back and storming away from the table into the crowd.
"I told you so how many times," MianMian said unsympathetically later, as they floated in the swimming pool that occupied the majority of the club's square footage (The property tax was unmentionable!). It had stopped raining several minutes earlier, and the clouds were starting to part to reveal a dark blue night sky with a smattering of stars.
Wei Wuxian fiddled with the beak of the inflated swan head that curved over his stomach. "Are you going to say anything else? I thought that people tell their friends about their troubles to get sympathy. Where's my sympathy?"
"I'm sorry you lost your chance at friendship with Lan Wangji, Wei Ying," Wen Ning said, treading nearby with his arms over a swim board, his gentle eyes wide and sweet as usual. "I know it must be really painful."
"Thank you, NingNing," Wei Wuxian said, "but could you not make it sound like I lost a limb? I'm sure I can get him to forgive me, but every time I tried to apologize, he just ran back into the crowd."
"I wish I had thought of that strategy when we were freshmen," MianMian mused to herself.
"Hey! You're being really mean today, MianMian. And not a good kind of mean." Wei Wuxian stared at her with limpid beseeching eyes, doing his best to channel a Care Bear.
MianMian held out for a valiantly long amount of time, but she finally crumpled. "Oh, fine, I still think you could have avoided the problem altogether, but you know what, if I see Lan Wangji, I'll tell him you feel really bad about what happened."
"Um, I can do the same, Wei Ying, if you want," Wen Ning offered shyly.
"Aww, NingNing, you don't have to force yourself," Wei Wuxian cooed, charmed out of his bad mood by how adorable Wen Ning was. Why couldn't his real little brother be like that?
Suddenly, Wen Qing ran into the pool area, her towel flapping behind her like a cape and her glass of Malibu Sunset sloshing onto the tiles. "Plan W! It's Plan W!" Wen Qing screamed, waving her cell phone in the air. She rummaged hurriedly through the mess on her lounge chair and pulled out a megaphone from her purse. Everyone gasped. Wen Qing brought that megaphone to all the parties for one reason and one reason alone.
"Get going, everyone!" She sounded the warning again with a blaring alarm that she enabled on the megaphone. "We have 10 minutes! Let's move it!"
Amidst all the horrified screams, people hustled out of the pool and grabbed their belongings and jumped into their cars, or ran several blocks down so that they could call a car service from a safe location.
Wallet, check. Cell phone, check. Wei Wuxian saw Nie Huaisang and Jiang Cheng stuffing bottles of liquor into qiankun bags and heaving them over their shoulders. He grabbed a qiankun bag of his own and helped with what remained. Wait. They were all forgetting something.
"What about the food?" Wei Wuxian shouted at Nie Huaisang, who looked tortured as he shook his head in resignation.
"Just leave it, Wei Ying!" Jiang Cheng ordered, "We can't take the time!" He did an excellent imitation of being a bodyguard as he hustled Nie Huaisang towards a side door, and then they were gone.
Sniffing back tears, Wei Wuxian turned to bid their lovely alcoholic treats farewell when he spotted a familiar figure slumped over on a table. What the hell was Lan Wangji doing, sleeping at a time like this?
"Lan Wangji! Hey, wake up, wake up." Wei Wuxian tapped him on the shoulder and then began shaking him when Lan Wangji didn't react. Wow, that guy must be seriously sleep-deprived from finals week! Wei Wuxian idly thought about recording it so that he could prove to his jiejie that he wasn't the heaviest sleeper on Earth.
"Lan. Wang. Ji!" Wei Wuxian groaned in despair. "Please wake up already. I'm your bar buddy, and I can't leave you behind for Wen Chao to find. You know what will happen, right? He'll start yapping on about how great he is and what he just spent money on, and you'll be stuck listening to him for hours because you can't afford to leave and offend another sect! It's horrible! It happened to poor Jiang Cheng last year, and he still has nightmares about it. Come on!"
Lan Wangji stayed stubbornly face down, and Wei Wuxian racked his brain for what he could do in the remaining, he checked his phone, six minutes before Wen Chao showed up to crash their party. That asshole never seemed to understand why parties always seemed to end when he arrived. God!
The timer on his phone blinked threateningly as it continued the countdown until they were held hostage to a braggart's inane monologue, and then Wei Wuxian stared hopefully at his phone as an idea finished coalescing. He could call for help! If he called one of the seniors that Wen Chao found intimidating, then they would be safe!
His phone beeped in warning once, twice, and then it turned black. Oh, fuck! Wei Wuxian had forgotten that he was streaming a game that he started that morning, and he had been so busy checking the solidity of his jello shots that he hadn't charged his phone at all that day. Fuck!
Wei Wuxian wanted to cry. Then he spotted the silver cloud charm hanging from Lan Wangji's pocket. Admittedly, it was a little skeevy to reach into an unconscious person's pocket, but needs must, okay?
He picked up the charm and gave it a gentle tug, watching as the sleek phone began to slide out.
Wei Wuxian held his hand and rubbed it urgently. He hissed at the pain. That was definitely going to bruise.
Lan Wangji was now sitting up completely straight, and he was glaring at Wei Wuxian again. "Pervert!" he spat, and he tried to slap Wei Wuxian's hand again.
"Hey! Stop that!" Wei Wuxian dodged the blow, and he held his uninjured hand up threateningly. "I'm not a pervert! I'm trying to help you! And me. So stop that! I'm not so nice that I'll just let you hit me. I'll hit you back."
Lan Wangji stumbled to his feet. "Where--? What--?" he murmured to himself. His eyes were sleepy, and his shoulders slumped. He swayed a bit before he regained his balance by straightening his spine like he was made of steel.
Wei Wuxian's annoyance drained as he realized. "Did you drink too much? Are you drunk right now? Shit, I'm sorry, but we have to go, okay?"
"Yes," Lan Wangji said.
"Good, great," Wei Wuxian said, feeling relieved at the compliance. He winced at the tacky feeling of old cold sweat gluing his shirt to his back. "You want to share a DiDi? I need to get to Nie Huaisang's place, but I can drop you off at your place first."
"Okay! You drove here then?"
"All right, I'm confused," Wei Wuxian said finally. "How are you going to get home?"
Lan Wangji rolled his eyes and started walking towards the exit. "Not going home. I have a mission."
Rethinking his life's choices wasn't unusual for Wei Wuxian, but really, he had finished all of his finals, aced all of them probably, and he hadn't said anything rude to Jin Zixuan when he came to pick up Jiang Yanli for the yachting trip. Hadn't he earned some good karma by now?
Lan Wangji had refused to take a DiDi to wherever it was he wanted to go because "Everyone should try to use public transportation more often. Good for the environment." Which, yes, Wei Wuxian couldn't argue with that, and he took the bus most days he had classes at Henan Central University, but it was already getting late, and he had the suspicion that the bus lines might be closed by the time Lan Wangji finished his errand.
Wei Wuxian fiddled with the qiankun bag and wondered if they were sitting far enough away from the bus driver for him to sneak a few sips of alcohol. At that moment, the bus driver met his eyes in the rear view mirror and gave him a stare quite reminiscient of Master Lan Qiren, the cultivation theory professor, and Wei Wuxian decided not to risk it.
Lan Wangji's eyes were soft, and he was humming an instrumental piece that Wei Wuxian found vaguely familiar from the days that Aunt Ziyuan had tried forcing him to learn the piano instead of the flute. Apparently, the flute was uncouth.
Since the other young man seemed like he was in a good mood, Wei Wuxian tried again, "Lan Wangji, everyone is going to wonder where we are. Let me borrow your phone, please? I just need to make a few calls." He held out his hand and wiggled it enticingly.
Lan Wangji stopped humming and stared at his hand. "It's foolish to hand your phone over to a stranger," he rebuked.
Wei Wuxian groaned. "Do you really count me as a stranger still? You know my name, and I already told you that I'm from Yunmeng Jiang. There's only one person with the surname Wei, so if I screw you over, it would be really easy for you to get me held accountable, and trust me, Aunt Ziyuan has ways to make people regret being born."
The skeptical look on Lan Wangji's face didn't lessen.
Wei Wuxian threw away his pride and resorted to bribery. "I'll buy you a drink, okay? Wait, nothing alcoholic! No offense, but you clearly need to work on your tolerance level. We can do boba milk tea, how about that?"
Lan Wangji looked at the hand he had kept extended and then put his hand on top of Wei Wuxian's. His hand was soft and warm, and clearly, he clipped his nails weekly because they looked neat and tidy at the tips of his elegant fingers, a musician's fingers.
Lan Wangji gave his hand a pat.
"Uh...? I said phone, not hand...?"
Lan Wangji gave his hand another pat, and Wei Wuxian was starting to wonder if maybe he was also super drunk and was actually saying "hand" every time he meant to say "phone."
Lan Wangji let out a sigh and then switched their hands' positions, and Wei Wuxian stared at the random change, wondering exactly what Lan Wangji had gotten drunk off back at the club. Then Lan Wangji whipped his hand up from beneath Wei Wuxian's and smacked the top of his hand. Hard.
"Ahhh! Damn it!" Wei Wuxian swore, and he pulled his hand away. "What's wrong with you? Why do you keep hitting me?"
The petulant expression on Lan Wangji's face spoke of someone who had been deeply wronged. "I let you start the game, but you didn't do anything, so it was my turn to start."
"What are you--?" Wei Wuxian started before he realized, "Oh, wait, you mean the Red Hands game!"
"Never mind then," Lan Wangji sulked, and he ignored Wei Wuxian's attempts to talk to him or cajole him into releasing his phone for the rest of the bus ride.
Five minutes later, the bus let them out at the edge of downtown, and Lan Wangji strode quickly away, heading towards the heart of it. For lack of better options, Wei Wuxian just followed along until Lan Wangji abruptly stopped, and Wei Wuxian flailed his arms up. If he bumped into Lan Wangji, he'd probably get smacked again, and he was really getting tired of that.
"Here," Lan Wangji announced with satisfaction.
Wei Wuxian looked up. They were standing in front of the new bunny café in town. It had a deep pink canopy outside its entrance and cream colored walls, and a large deep green banner proclaiming its "Grand Opening."
It was also closed because it was past eight o'clock.
"Lan Wangji," Wei Wuxian whispered. "What are we doing here? You can see that it's closed."
"Good," Lan Wangji proclaimed, and then he pulled out an honest-to-God calligraphy brush. A self-inking one.
Wei Wuxian stared in shock as Lan Wangji began painting a long line of characters up and down the café's immaculate windows. Lan Wangji finished and then took a step back for a better view. He added another exclamation mark at the end, grunted in approval, and then stuck the brush back in his sleeve.
Wei Wuxian just continued to stare as he read what Lan Wangji had written:
BAD CAFÉ! SAVE THE BUNNIES!! POOR BUNNIES!!!
Objectively speaking, it was incredibly elegant and skillful calligraphy. The message...Well, the message was something else.
Lan Wangji looked at him expectantly.
"Lan Wangji," Wei Wuxian said weakly. "I, I honestly don't know what to say. Uh, what exactly do you have against this café?"
Lan Wangji frowned. "I'm saving the bunnies. People need to know about the bunnies."
"But...but save the bunnies from what? It's, you know, a bunny café, like the cat cafés where you get to pet cats. It's, it's not like they roast the bunnies and eat them, you know?"
Displeasure crinkled Lan Wangji's nose. "Bunnies don't belong in cafés; that's unhealthy," he said disdainfully. "Bunnies should live in grassy fields and. be. happy!"
"Uhh, I guess that's true...Um, does it help that the café borrows bunnies from the local pet store? I think it's a collaboration to get more bunnies adopted since all the nearby cities had that overpopulation issue last year."
Lan Wangji listened to him, a little crease forming between his eyebrows. Wei Wuxian felt the odd urge to smooth his fingertips over it, and he flexed his fingers uneasily against his jeans.
"Oh," Lan Wangji said slowly and thoughtfully. "I remembering reading an article about that."
"Yeah, I probably read the same article. Anyway, the bunnies seem like they're just fine, so are we good now? I mean, there's nothing we can do right now to fix what you wrote. I never learned any spells to get rid of tagging, the reverse actually, if I'm honest, haha, but we can--"
Clearly a man of surprises, Lan Wangji had now pulled out a miniature sword (What the hell? Was that some kind of mail opener??) from his back pocket and was single-mindedly carving a separate message into the wooden part of the café's window frame.
"Lan Wangji! That's too much! What are you doing now?" Wei Wuxian's mind was blown. Didn't that cloud charm on Lan Wangji's phone mean that he was part of the actual Gusu Lan cultivation family? Weren't they supposed to follow a billion rules or something? Lan Wangji must be the family rebel; that was the only explanation!
"Left my information," Lan Wangji said briefly before trying to stick his small sword back into his pocket and failing and again and again.
"Let me borrow that," Wei Wuxian said hastily, taking the sword away before Lan Wangji could stab himself somewhere vital.
Lan Wangji let go easily, but then he stuck out his hand, palm up. "Trade," he demanded.
"Sure, sure, trade," Wei Wuxian said resignedly. He stuck his hand into his jacket pocket and managed to unearth his house keys. There was no way in hell he was going to trust a drunk with them, so he fended off Lan Wangji's surprisingly grabby hands and detached the little silver tracking bell that Uncle Fengmian had put on his keys after Wei Wuxian lost them for the fifth time. The bell had turned out so useful that Uncle Fengmian ended up buying one for every member of the family.
"It's a temporary trade," Wei Wuxian warned, and he watched Lan Wangji calmly hold the bell up and look at it from every angle before ringing it gently. Those stern lips softened into a little curve, and Wei Wuxian would have mentioned the resemblance to his new baby nephew Jin Ling, but he didn't want to piss Lan Wangji off, so he refrained. It was just as cute though.
But Wei Wuxian rubbed his face in frustration as he regarded Lan Wangji's inadequate and confusing message:
"LAN WANGJI WAS HERE!" Followed by his phone number.
Making sure that Lan Wangji was still occupied with his childish fun, Wei Wuxian used the tiny sword to scratch away Lan Wangji's incriminating message. He estimated the costs of removing the paint and replacing the damaged part of the window frame, pulled several crisp bills from his wallet, and slid them one by one under the door. He sighed. Well, that was his monthly allowance all gone already. That was a new record.
"Okay, Lan Wangji--"
"Lan Zhan," Lan Wangji corrected.
"Lan Zhan. Xichen said that we don't have to use our cultivator names with our friends."
"Oh...?" Despite the incredible mess this whole night had been, Wei Wuxian felt his heart warm up faster than a supernova. "Haha, so, we're friends now?"
"Mm. Wei Ying."
"All right, Lan Zhan! Lan Zhan, let's go home."
The ride home was interesting, and Wei Wuxian could tell that the DiDi driver was one more weird statement from Lan Wangji away from stopping the car and asking for their parents' contact information. Fortunately, the driver was kind enough to let Wei Wuxian charge his phone, and he left a quick voicemail message for Jiang Cheng explaining that he was fine and heading home for the night.
After wrangling Lan Wangji the whole evening, he was too exhausted to even consider rejoining the party. Anyway, who cares? He was sitting next to a handsome guy who was snuggling into his side and getting chatty in a quiet sort of way.
Now that they were officially friends, Lan Wangji was thrilled to unlock his phone and show Wei Wuxian pictures and pictures of boba milk tea drinks.
"They all look really delicious, Lan Zhan," Wei Wuxian said when they stopped on a particularly gorgeous picture of a milk tea drink with stiff peaks of whipped cream and candied walnuts sprinkled on top.
Lan Wangji looked extremely pleased. "My treat," he offered. "Tomorrow."
"Sure, thanks, your treat," Wei Wuxian said humoring him. The adrenaline from aiding and abetting in a minor crime against an innocent bunny café had worn off, and Wei Wuxian's giddiness at gaining Lan Wangji's friendship had also dissipated. He remembered what Lan Wangji was like before he got drunk, and he was pretty sure that once Lan Wangji sobered up, he was going to avoid Wei Wuxian at all costs and pretend they never met if they ever did come face to face.
Lan Wangji smiled (and he was just so lovely!), and Wei Wuxian's heart thumped with want in his chest. He smacked it discreetly.
Then a frown curved Lan Wangji's lips downwards. "Do you mean that?"
"Of course, I do," Wei Wuxian said, feeling a bit offended. It wasn't like he was going to be the one doing the avoidance in the future. Heck, he was on speaking terms with every single one of his two exes, and that was something.
The frown grew deeper, and Lan Wangji turned away from Wei Wuxian to stare out the car window. "You didn't meant it then," he said quietly, and Wei Wuxian could barely catch the words above the hum of the car's wheels against the road.
"Mean what? What other thing?"
Lan Wangji didn't turn around. He just tapped a single finger against his cheekbone, and Wei Wuxian flushed from forehead to collarbones as he realized why Lan Wangji had stormed off when he had thought they'd been having a nice enough conversation.
"Ohhhh! Oh, I wasn't making fun of you! We just met tonight, but I do really like you, even if you're a troublemaker when you're drunk," Wei Wuxian said honestly. "Um, I'm still working out the kinks, but the paperman can sense the caster's feelings, so I think it kissed you because I was attracted to you." Wei Wuxian mumbled the last part and flushed hotly. Talk about a forced confession. Normally, he psyched himself up for days and whined to his entire immediate family and circle of friends before he finally asked someone out.
The awkwardness was worth it though when Lan Wangji finally turned back around and smiled again. Then they looked at more boba milk tea pictures.
As it turned out, Lan Wangji lived in an apartment complex only a few blocks from Wei Wuxian's but a little bit closer to the university. When they entered the apartment, the lights were still off, and Wei Wuxian thanked his lucky stars that he wouldn't have to explain Lan Wangji's condition to his older brother. He had nothing to do with it, of course, but he didn't want to face being a scapegoat.
"Can I get some water?" Wei Wuxian asked Lan Wangji after he kicked off his shoes and put on the pair of pale blue bunny-eared slippers that he was handed.
Lan Wangji brought him a cold glass tumbler, and he drank it gratefully. He had eaten a bowl of soy sauce crackers at the club, but he could make a cup noodle at home once he got Lan Wangji taken care of, and he'd be all set. Wei Wuxian considered himself a fast learner, and it took just one vomit-spewing hangover back in junior year to teach him proper self-care.
Lan Wangji sipped at his own glass of water, all the while staring at him with eyes that looked increasingly droopy.
"It's really late, so I'll get out of your hair soon," Wei Wuxian said, "but I want to make sure you'll be okay first. How much exactly did you drink? You should probably eat something and drink another glass of water, or you'll be in a world of pain tomorrow."
"Mm," Lan Wangji said. "The blue jello cup did taste good."
Wei Wuxian waited for the rest of the list, but Lan Wangji said nothing else.
"That's it?" Wei Wuxian was incredulous. "You got this smashed off one jello shot? I made them pretty weak so that the fruity flavors would stand out more!"
Lan Wangji shrugged and drained the rest of his water. Then he opened a cupboard and pulled out a large bag of shrimp chips. He tore it open, scattering a bunch of chips across the living room coffee table, and began picking at them. He politely offered the rest of the bag to Wei Wuxian, who took it automatically.
"Lan Zhan..." Wei Wuxian had a distinct sinking feeling. "Lan Zhan, was this your first time drinking?"
"Hmm," Lan Wangji hummed, thoroughly distracted with lining the shrimp chips into something that might have resembled musical notations if they were a little less deformed.
"Aiyah, Lan Zhan! Okay, first, stop playing with your chips, and eat them. And let me get you another glass of water." Wei Wuxian bustled around the kitchen, trying not to freak out at his discovery and wondering if his usual anti-hangover remedies would even work for Lan Wangji, who clearly had some freak alcohol susceptibility.
Lan Wangji had turned compliant again and was methodically eating his way through the line of chips, and Wei Wuxian had to say that it looked really cute. The last time someone ate shrimp chips in front of him, he'd gotten sprayed by the open-mouthed chewing, and it had really turned him off them. Yeah, thanks a lot, Xue Yang.
Wei Wuxian watched Lan Wangji eat for a while, and then it occurred to him that Lan Wangji might not be acting blackout drunk right now, but who knew if he would remember things the next morning? He didn't want Lan Wangji to wake up the next morning and be scared that he couldn't remember what had happened.
"Ah, Lan Zhan, can I borrow your phone? I want to write you a message for tomorrow so that you don't worry about things."
Lan Wangji's eyes widened, and he looked distraught. He shoved his phone into Wei Wuxian's hands. "Almost forgot," he mumbled. "Want your phone number."
"Right," Wei Wuxian agreed indulgently, and he added himself as a contact before sending himself a text message. He returned Lan Wangji's phone and then spent a few minutes typing and backspacing until he figured out the best message to send to a potentially amnesiac new acquaintance who had hated him when sober.
To Lan Zhan:
Hi, this is Wei Wuxian! We met yesterday at the cabana club. You got really drunk off a jello shot and wandered around downtown for a while. I kept you company and made sure you got back home. Nothing bad happened. You can text me if you want more details. Hope you're not hungover!
Yeah, there were some lies in there, but Wei Wuxian figured it would be better if he explained things to Lan Wangji tomorrow if the guy was actually interested and bothered to contact him. It seemed a little cruel to tell someone about their vandalism misdemeanor by text message. And it would be nice if Lan Wangji paid him back for the money that he was out, but he wasn't going to hassle the poor drunk guy for it right now.
Wei Wuxian sent the text, and Lan Wangji made an eager noise when his phone chimed, and Wei Wuxian had to stop him from checking his phone now and losing the notification.
"No, Lan Zhan, that message is for tomorrow. Check your phone tomorrow, okay?"
Lan Wangji grumbled a bit, but Wei Wuxian just patted him gently on the back, like he did when Jin Ling got fussy.
"Make sure you go to bed soon, Lan Zhan," Wei Wuxian said, reluctantly heading for the door. "I'll talk to you tomorrow. I have to get home before Jiang Cheng thinks Wen Chao did get me."
"Good night, Wei Ying," Lan Wangji replied softly, and it was really difficult to leave, but Wei Wuxian did it because he was capable like that.
Wei Wuxian took another sip of his morning coffee, and then he went back into battle. He surveyed the mess of his bedroom and wondered why he never managed to fit his belongings back into his suitcase.
He sat on top of his mountain of clothes, pushing them down a few inches, and managed to click the two straps together. He had thought about bringing some of his novels back, but maybe he'd just rely on his tablet for the break since it looked really unlikely that he'd have any space left over for them.
Their flight to Lotus Pier was tomorrow at 10:00, and Jiang Cheng had gone to the nearby bakery to buy some breakfast sandwiches that they could use for brunch instead of eating the overpriced and inferior airport food.
The doorbell rang, and Wei Wuxian combed his sweaty bangs out of his face so that he looked a little less maniacal before he opened the door to find Lan Wangji standing there. He looked really good, and judging by his heather sweater and light grey linen pants, Lan Wangji always favored a subdued sort of palette, but hey, he was eye-catching regardless. And he didn't have the sallow complexion and chapped lips of someone who had overindulged and regretted it, so Wei Wuxian was going to assume that Lan Wangji was lucky enough to miss out on his first hangover.
"Oh, hey, Lan, uh, can I still call you Lan Zhan?"
"It's fine," Lan Wangji said, and then he pushed an envelope into Wei Wuxian's hands. "You should take this back."
"Ah?" Wei Wuxian checked the envelope, and yup, that did look like his lost money. "Lan Zhan, the café needs this!"
"Xichen took care of it," Lan Wangji said, an embarrassed blush lighting his cheekbones and ears. "I don't really remember what happened last night, but apparently, I was still awake when Xichen came back home, and I told him everything."
"Oh, no!" Wei Wuxian blurted sympathetically.
Lan Wangji shook his head in disagreement. "He was very understanding about what happened. He went to the bunny café before it opened to retrieve your money and to fix what I did."
"Wow," Wei Wuxian whistled, impressed. "I guess we can look forward to doing things like that once we become seniors. I would love to be able to get rid of evidence of my misdeeds."
"Wei Ying," Lan Wangji said reprovingly.
"Ah, Lan Zhan, you can't scold me. Think about what you did last night! You have a mischeivous side too," Wei Wuxian teased, watching the way Lan Wangji turned his head to the side in shy avoidance.
"Boba," Lan Wangji said abruptly, turning back to face Wei Wuxian with a forcedly composed face. "We talked about getting milk tea together today. If you're free right now. It's my treat."
"It's okay, Lan Zhan, you don't owe me anything! You brought back my money and everything, and you paid for the DiDi last night."
"No," Lan Wangji said intently, insistently, "It's not a matter of owing each other. I want to get boba milk tea with you. We promised."
"Oh~," Wei Wuxian said, and now it was his turn to blush. Actually...wasn't this his first time being asked out? He had always taken the initiative before. This was...kind of nice~
Lan Wangji waited patiently for Wei Wuxian to get his mouth working again. "Yes, yes! I have time right now."
Wei Wuxian just barely remembered to stuff his phone and keys into his jeans before he closed the door behind him and fell into place walking next to Lan Wangji down the street.
"I searched for the best boba shops around here," Lan Wangji said quietly. "I noticed that Tea-licious has high ratings, and it's only a ten-minute walk from here. I hope that's okay."
"Yeah, definitely," Wei Wuxian said without thinking twice. After all, it wasn't really about the boba.
It was late afternoon on a temperate day after some rain, so the air was particularly crisp and fresh. It felt cool against Wei Wuxian's skin and prevented him from overheating as he gazed at the side of Lan Wangji's perfect face. Normally, when he was faced with the day before winter break, Wei Wuxian thought something like "Yes! Fucking finally!" versus his mournful thought now of "Ah, damn it, two weeks, hm."
The sidewalk slowly populated with other people as they left the residential area, and instead of walking one in front and one in back, they just moved closer and closer together, and finally, they ended up brushing shoulders as they walked. Wei Wuxian's right hand itched again, and this time, he tentatively reached out, wondering and hoping, and Lan Wangji's fingers slowly, gently curled around his.