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Distance Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

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Wei Ying had left on the first breath of winter and now summer is burning, the air sticky on Lan Wangji’s skin. The longest day was creeping closer, days stretching, overtaking night. During the evenings the hum of crickets drown out the silence of Cloud Recesses, making the darker hours feel alive. In the height of summer, Lan Wangji finds himself staying up past curfew, playing guqin as an evening breeze curls through the jingshi’s open doors, carrying with it fragrant camellia and the refreshing touch of a midnight rain.

Summer nights are pleasant yet short and soon enough the sun creeps back above the horizon each morning, burning brightly – the middle of summer is sweltering, even in the shade of Cloud Recesses. He spends the days in the shadows, tending to the rabbit warren, teaching heat exhausted disciples, and answering to the call of the cultivation world in the form of mundane letters and monotonous meetings. All of this keeps him busy, distracts him from how the jingshi feels incomplete – how there’s only one pair of shoes at the doorstep. 

The months had slipped through his hands like sand, days falling from his grasp quicker and quicker as each day grew warmer. He settled into his role as Chief Cultivator quickly, tying up loose ends before new ones could fray. It had kept him busy, kept his heart from hurting. 

Although it aches sometimes, when he’s alone with just his thoughts – they’re far too loud for the crickets to drown out with their evening song. It’s the little things that spark them; the empty shelf where his clean robes are folded, the extra bowl that remains untouched, a jar of chilli oil that sits high on a shelf. It’s also the big things that tug at his heart, like the collection of letters that sit beside the chilli oil and the art he keeps rolled beneath his pillow. They’re a reminder that Wei Ying is far away, wandering the world without him, finding his place in existence after time had plucked him out of it for sixteen years. 

The letters come infrequently, sometimes twice a week and sometimes weeks stretch out between them. The last one had come nearly two months ago and although each day made Lan Wangji’s worry grow stronger, he isn’t fearful. Two months is like the blink of an eye compared to sixteen arduous years. 

On the nights where it’s too warm to sleep, Lan Wangji reads each letter with a careful eye, memorising each character –  how the ink rushes across paper as if Wei Ying’s hand couldn’t keep up with his mind. In the letters, Wei Ying tells him about his adventures beyond the reaches of the major sects, of the villages he has helped out with demons in exchange for a warm meal. He asks how Lan Wangji is going, despite knowing he cannot reply. Wei Ying never stays in one place long enough to write back – their continuous one-sided conversation is all Lan Wangji has to tide the months over. 

On a particularly warm day a week after the solstice, there’s a whisper of a storm crackling on the eastern horizon, Lan Wangji takes his morning class indoors. The air is sticky, thick with humidity and the young disciples still look half asleep as they pile into the lanshi, none particularly eager to learn about centuries old Lan poetry. It’s an easy lesson, something all of them need after a sleepless summer night. None of the juniors mention staying up beyond curfew but Lan Wangji isn’t a fool – he too was up until the candles burnt low, playing guqin until rain brought a reprieve from the stifling heat. 

The lanshi’s silence is broken halfway through the morning’s lesson as Lan Jingyi bounds into the room, not heading to the no running rule.

“Hanguang-Jun, the courier has arrived!”

This grabs his attention as well as the other disciples. There’s a grin on Jingyi’s face and he’s panting in the slightest – he definitely ran to the lanshi. 

The lanshi’s filled with the shuffling of robes and whispers. Since Lan Wangji’s ascension to chief cultivator, the mail arrives more frequently but it’s still something that most people in Cloud Recesses look forward to. Disciples from outlying clans receive letters from their families, major sects send letters seeking arrangements, minor sects write to Lan Wangji asking for help. Mail is one of the few things that causes excitement in Cloud Recesses but for Lan Wangji it means something else – and by the way Jingyi grins at him, Lan Wangji can’t help how his heart flutters in hope.  

He closes the bamboo scroll he had been reading, “We will adjourn here for today.”

A few disciples dare raise their brows, curious at the sudden end of the lesson or his blatant dismissal of Jingyi’s rule breaking, but none object to the early mark. Lan Wangji doesn’t wait for the disciples to file out of the lanshi, he’s on his feet and out the door before any even leave their desks. The courier comes twice a week these days but for almost two months Lan Wangji has been waiting for the courier to bring him something – a letter wrapped in red.

Jingyi is on his tail, keeping up with his fast walk, “Hanguang-Jun, Wei-qianbei wrote back! It has been weeks, do you think he went on a great adventure? Wasn’t he out past Meishan last time he wrote? I wonder what it’s like that far west… do you think there are different yao out that way?”

“Wei Ying is always on an adventure,” Lan Wangji says, cutting Jingyi off as they approach the entrance of the yashi, where all the mail gets delivered. He can see piles of letters, packages, and scrolls sitting upon tables, all probably addressed to him but none were what he’s after. A few disciples have begun sorting through the piles, most likely searching for letters from home. 

His eyes land on a splash of red amongst the letters, sitting beside the courier. He is usually met with a letter and occasionally a scroll but this time an ivory envelope sits on top of a crimson box, tied together with the familiar red ribbon (he’s starting to gain a collection of them). A box, this is new. Wei Ying hasn’t sent gifts before and if it wasn’t for the disciples pouring into the yashi, Lan Wangji would grin. Maybe he does, in his own unique way – lips pulling upward in the slightest, excitement lighting up his eyes. 

The box feels heavy in his hands. It’s covered in an intricate pattern often found on Qishan craftsmanship and that elicits a shaky breath from Lan Wangji. It’s familiar. For half a year Wei Ying has travelled across the land, venturing far beyond the reaches of the sects and after waiting so long for his next letter to arrive, Lan Wangji had been certain that he had ventured even further west, to places even he does not know, where grass gives way to cold deserts. Yet here, in his hands, is a box from Qishan. Lan Wangji doesn’t want to assume, not before reading the letter that sits on top of the box but his heart betrays him, quickening at the mere thought of Wei Ying returning.

At the entrance of the yashi he finds Lan Sizhui and Lan Jingyi huddling over a golden scroll, undoubtedly from the Jin Sect. 

“The courier will be here until sundown,” Lan Wangji says, voice collected. Any excitement that rushes through his heart doesn’t seep into his words. “Make sure you write a reply to Sect Leader Jin.” 

“We will,” Sizhui says, not bothering to hide his grin or the way his eyes land on the box. 

Jingyi’s eyes widen, “I thought it was just a letter! Are you and Wei-qianbei courting?”

“Jingyi!” Sizhui yelps, paling at the forwardness but it doesn’t sway Lan Wangji. Instead, he stares at the disciples calmly, not willing to give Jingyi an answer simply because he doesn’t have one to give.

He ignores Jingyi and instead nods over to the pile of letters that are most likely for him, “Also please place any letters addressed to the Chief Cultivator in the lanshi. I’ll look at them this afternoon.”

The two juniors nod, a smirk lingering on Jingyi’s face while Sizhui stares at the ground as if mortified. Lan Wangji leaves them, walking down the steps of the yashi as quickly as the rules allow, eager to unwrap the gifts Wei Ying has brought him. 

He’s almost out of earshot when Sizhui harshly whispers, “Why would you say that!”

He hears Jingyi reply matter-of-factly, “It’s a red box! Of course they’re courting!”

At this a smile tugs on Lan Wangji’s lips, unable to be suppressed. He doesn’t know if they are, at least he doesn’t think they are. They might be, in their own strange unorthodox way – he isn’t sure. However, the thought of courting Wei Ying doesn’t sound so bad. In fact, it’s something he longs for, hopes for, yearns for each time a letter arrives.

He rushes to the jingshi, his walk breaking into a staccato run as his head and heart fight. Rules or Wei Ying. If other people see him walk quicker than allowed no one dares look twice. 

Inside the seclusion of the jingshi, Lan Wangji allows himself to stare, to admire. The box in his hands had been held by Wei Ying no more than a few weeks ago. It’s a physical reminder that he’s out there, wandering – not by his side but so very much alive. The gift is reassurance. 

His fingers caress the red ribbon that’s tied up in a lopsided bow, taking a frayed end in between his thumb and index finger and tugging. For a moment he wonders if the ribbon smells like Wei Ying but he restrains from bending down and testing that hypothesis. It hasn’t been worn by him for weeks, it’s only wishful thinking. 

Lan Wangji settles at the table, gently placing the gift in front of him, nervous yet longing to open it. He looks at the letter addressed to him, studying each stroke of ink that splashes across the letter. Wei Ying’s calligraphy is haphazard, strokes joining together in a way that’s so unmistakably Wei Ying.

He tugs the ribbon open, letting it tumble onto the table before picking up the letter, pulling the seal open with gentle ease. He’s welcomed with pages covered in ink, hundreds of characters scrawled upon paper occasionally broken up by a drawing. Wei Ying’s letters are always lengthy, filled with idle musings – so many words just to say so little and Lan Wangji grows fond knowing that this letter isn’t any different. 

Lan Zhan, are you well? 

Since my last letter I have travelled further west than I ever knew I could! Out here the sun burns late into the afternoon, bright and hot across open plains. I feel as if I’m at the top of the world, closer to the heavens and further away from you. There’s not many people out here Lan Zhan, just me and Lil Apple upon the open road. It’s beautiful, yet lonely. So lonely! There’s no one who needs the help of a rogue cultivator nor are there many villages for me to rest my weary head. 

I don’t know how far west I can go however each step closer to the setting sun makes my heart ache. It’s a step further away from the eastern sea, further away from you. Yes, It’s peaceful out here, with only the breeze rustling the grass and birds flying overhead. It gives me time to think, to reminisce, but I’ve done enough of that. I spent a week without seeing another person, imagine what it was like, Lan Zhan. (A week of just my thoughts!)

I don’t know how you put up with my company because by the time that week was up I headed back east, towards mountains, towards you.

This eastern path has given me some excitement. Just under a month ago, when the moon was waning, I found a small village nestled beside a wide meandering river. It looked unassuming but before I could even find the local inn, I was called to action! A ghost bride (how exciting!)  had been plaguing the villagers for close to a year and without any cultivators nearby, the villagers were at her mercy. But don’t fret! I gallantly swooped in to save the day. It did mean I was briefly married to a ghost but don’t worry Lan Zhan! It was just symbolic, I didn’t actually get deflowered by the undead!

Lan Wangji pauses for a moment, heat rising to his cheeks – ears burning red. He can’t imagine Wei Ying getting married, taking his three bows with a ghost. Just that thought of Wei Ying going through a wedding ceremony should make his stomach churn with envy but instead, it leaves Lan Wangji flustered, thinking of how pleasant Wei Ying must’ve looked all dressed in red. 

To shake those images from his mind, Lan Wangji turns the page and is met with drawings of what must be the western landscape – rolling hills and jagged mountains spanning across the page. It’s a visual reminder of how far Wei Ying has wandered during the better half of a year.

Ah Lan Zhan, that must leave you with many questions but there’s something more important I must ask. 

How have you been, Lan Zhan? Have you been sleeping soundly? Eating properly? Attending to all your duties as Excellency with the uttermost care?

I know you cannot respond, since I never stay in a town long enough to await a letter. Still, how have the sects been treating you? I hope you’re not too weary from listening to the incessant ramblings of the lowly sect leaders. You’ve never struck me as someone who enjoys settling border disputes and broken marriages, much less the headache of taxes and minor demonic disturbances! I can imagine you, Lan Zhan, sitting in the main hall, glaring out into the distance as Sect Leader Yao chews your ear off with whatever issue he has come to you with. Your icy face is impenetrable to most, looking placid, but I know your disgruntled look! 

By the way, you’re very cute when you’re annoyed. It’s true! Your brows furrow in just the slightest, lips twitching downwards – a storm brewing in your eyes. I miss seeing you like this, teasing you to draw out a reaction. Maybe I’ll be able to do that again, soon, if the journey south east treats me well.

Lan Wangji looks up from the pages to find a mirror. He faces himself and stares, attempting to replicate the look Wei Ying describes. He looks placid, not cute. Surely Wei Ying must’ve forgotten what he looks like after all these months apart. He presses a finger above his right brow, pushing it inwards, trying to replicate the furrow Wei Ying mentioned. Knowing Wei Ying finds him pleasing to the eyes isn’t new. In many letters Wei Ying describes his features with poetry so floral that it makes Lan Wangji blush. However, knowing Wei Ying finds his annoyed face cute is new – it takes him by surprise. 

I hope the juniors are tending to their studies. They must be excelling in the six arts, especially Sizhui! I doubt your students could get anything other than a jia with you as their teacher. You’re so talented and patient Lan Zhan, you could even make learning the Lan Sect rules palatable. Actually, you did! I’ve learnt a lot of them just because of you. Remember rule 1734? ‘Do not share beds with people who aren’t your partner.’ Ah Lan Zhan, do you remember all the times you broke that rule? Hanging around me has surely turned you into a rebel!

Maybe you can break that rule again? Maybe even sometime soon? As I write this letter I am heading further east, now back on familiar roads and wandering into villages that know who the venerable Yiling Laozu is. I feel myself drawing closer to you day by day, the string that stretches out between us is tugging me forward, towards you. I’ve wandered for months, met countless people and seen landscapes that took my breath away but none of that compares to you. 

Lan Zhan, to think it has been half a year and I haven’t seen your face, held it between my hands just to marvel at your perfection – that’s half a year too long. Lan Zhan, you fill up my mind day and night – the memory of you keeps me company on the lonely nights but none of that can compare to having you in front of me. 

Remember before I left on my adventure, how we spent those nights together in the jingshi? I hope you haven’t forgotten them, Lan Zhan. I cherish those nights, they bring solace when the vast reaches of the world I’m exploring feels suffocating. I remember us, entwined beneath bedsheets, bathing in the moon’s gentle light as we stayed up until the early hours of the morning sharing stories of our youth. You listened to me ramble on about all my summers at Lotus Pier and in turn, you told me about your mother. I think about those nights often – I yearn to have more of them.

Often, Wei Ying’s letters leave his heart aflutter but none quite like this. He hasn’t mentioned their nights together, the nights that burn so brightly in Lan Wangji’s mind. It had been as if time had paused in the days leading up to Wei Ying’s departure – just the two of them stealing each other’s company. 

Lan Wangji lets out a shaky breath as he flips the page, only two to go. Now Wei Ying’s writing is getting more refined, as if he had taken his time to choose each character instead of spilling his thoughts onto paper.

Oh Lan Zhan, how I miss you so. I probably didn’t need so many pages to tell you this but I do! I miss you more than I ever thought possible. I miss you so much that I now see you everywhere I travel. No, I’m not hallucinating, don’t worry, I just come across such beautiful sites and can’t help but be reminded of you (You’re so beautiful, Lan Zhan. Have I told you that before?)

I see you in the sunsets, how the clouds streak with cherry blossom pink and in the burnt umber that paints the sky as the sun falls into night's sweet embrace. 

I see you in the sunrises, how in the minutes leading up to daybreak the sky shifts to periwinkle, gently brushing away the indigo of yinshi. 

Two weeks ago I visited a town out in the western reaches of Qishan, nestled within jagged mountains. The town's known for their porcelain and I saw you in the intricate paintings upon their teapots. Fine lines, a midnight blue, swirling upon dove white, each line placed down with such practised elegance (I brought you a teapot so you can admire the fine art, I hope the courier hasn't broken it!).

Lan Zhan, the world reminds me of you no matter how far I travel.

The world is so beautiful Lan Zhan however none of it can compare to you. Not even the finest jade artisans could carve jade finer than you. You’re a flawless white jade, shining brightly beneath moonlight – the most beautiful man I’ve ever seen whose beauty could rival the gods. Lan Zhan, please don’t put down this letter and call me shameless, everything I say is true! I could spend all day writing about your beauty.

Lan Zhan, oh Lan Zhan. This letter is getting long and have I even said anything worthwhile? I hope I have – I think I have. Each day the wind whispers your name and I can't wait until I can say it out loud, hum it to you beneath the cloak of midnight, within the walls of the jingshi. I yearn for the days when I can hear you say my name, have it whispered beside my ear as our limbs are entwined. I just miss you. I miss being the one by your side. 

By the time this letter reaches you the solstice should have come and gone and I should’ve made my way southeast. So Lan Zhan, shall we reunite once more?

When the breeze is sticky and fireflies light up the languid evening, let's meet where we parted. I'll be waiting for you beneath the open sky, counting each star that sits above, finding comfort in how we see the same stars – that the same moon hangs above our heads. 

Until then, I shall keep you in my heart and watch each sunset come and go, knowing that each one brings me closer to you. 

Yours always,

Wei Ying.

For what feels like an eternity, Lan Wangji stares at the letter, eyes drawn to Wei Ying’s name scrawled at the bottom of the page. His heart’s thrumming hummingbird-quick, drowning out his thoughts. Not that there are many thoughts in his head – his head is filled with just Wei Ying. 

Wei Ying misses him. 

Wei Ying is returning. 

Wei Ying is coming home. 

He pulls his eyes off the letter, turning his attention to the red box that sits before him. It’s elegant, the intricate carving makes it seem expensive and despite Lan Wangji giving Wei Ying more than enough money to last his journey, he still wonders why Wei Ying brought him such a box. 

Jingyi’s question lingers in his mind. Maybe Wei Ying is courting him.

Wei Ying hasn’t been shy about his feelings during the months they’ve been apart – lines and lines of praise and promises, flirtation that seeps off the pages. Time has only made Lan Wangji’s heart grow fonder and for Wei Ying it has been distance – the further he travels the more apparent his love has become. Some days Lan Wangji can’t believe it, that the feelings that have ruled his heart for decades could be reciprocated, that Wei Ying feels the same. 

He feels warmth on his cheeks, residual from the floral prose of Wei Ying’s letter, and as he opens the lid the warmth turns to a burn. Nestled within swaths of red velvet there is a teapot and two cups. Fine lines of midnight blue and gold dance upon the porcelain and as he picks up the pot, he notices the design – rabbits running amongst a forest. 

Lan Wangji’s lips turn upwards, a soft smile. Wei Ying knows him well.

There’s a rabbit upon each cup. One for him and one for Wei Ying. It’s a beautiful set and as much as he would love to brew a red tea in the pot, he shall wait. Wei Ying deserves to be with him when he pours from the pot for the first time – drink from a rabbit cup, their cups. Their teapot. Theirs. Wei Ying didn’t say it was for the both of them but Lan Wangji would like it to be and if the letter was any indication, Wei Ying may feel the same way too.

When the heavens open up hours later, washing everything in a summer storm, Lan Wangji’s face is brighter, less preserved, and in the evening he plays their song alongside the rain. Each note full of the same warmth that wells up in his chest – the kind of love that only Wei Ying can elicit. 

A week later he’s walking through Cloud Recesses, close to curfew, when something catches his attention. The sun had set not too long ago, the heat of the day still leaving him sticky, the air hanging still, and on the edges of a babbling brook, dozens of fireflies float in the air – pinpoints of light against the muted evening hues. They’re beautiful but their beauty isn’t what sends an electric bolt to his heart.

He keeps walking past them, eyes trailing a few that fly closeby. He wants to reach out, to touch them, to ensure his eyes aren’t playing tricks on him. So he does. His eyes widen when his finger brushes against fluttering wings. His heart feels like it’s growing, a fuzzy warmth spilling out into his chest and throughout his body. 

Wei Ying is returning. 

The hours between evening and dawn feel sluggish that night, months of waiting are coming to a culmination and Lan Wangji struggles to sleep. His bed feels emptier than it has been during the recent months, yet his heart feels the fullest it has been since before winter’s touch. 

When he finally falls to sleep he dreams of Wei Ying.

It’s humid when morning breaks, the sun bringing with it another sticky day. He leaves Cloud Recesses not long after breakfast, only telling Sizhui that he’ll be back by sundown. Lan Wangji feels as if there’s an invisible string wrapped around his heart, pulling him onto a familiar path into the hills of Gusu – a path he had travelled six months ago when the air had been cool. Back then clouds had settled low in the sky, threatening rain. Today the clouds are back, this time high up, trapping the stifling summer heat. He follows the unmarked trail, out of the dense forest of Cloud Recesses and into the open hills of Gusu, where green and grey stretch on endlessly, lush valleys twist in the mountainous folds, waterfalls dot the hills. 

The sun is past its peak when the rolling grass becomes familiar, the sweeping view a memory. That’s when Lan Wangji sees him, a splash of black and red against the grass. Wei Wuxian is facing the horizon, playing chenqing, the melody of their song entwining with the breeze. For a moment Lan Wangji pauses, his steps faltering. He has to blink twice to make sure it isn’t a dream, that it’s real. Unlike their last reunion, Lan Wangji doesn’t feel the desperation, the ache to have Wei Ying by his side. This time his heart beats quick yet gentle, flooding him with the warmth he feels every time he sees Wei Ying.

Their song, the one he wrote when they were merely teenagers, sounds honey-sweet wrapped in the summer air. It pulls him forward, each step closer to Wei Ying making his heart grow more aflutter. 

When he gets close enough to reach out, Lan Wangji stops, breath shaky. Wei Ying has returned. Wei Ying has come back to him. Wei Ying wanted to come back to him.

“Wei Ying.”

The music stops, the air suddenly thick with silence. Time feels as if it fades, moving slow like honey, the moment drawing to pause. Wei Wuxian turns around, beaming with a smile that makes Lan Wangji’s heart flip, it makes the world seem brighter. 

In this moment, the last half a year of waiting seems non-existent, as if no time has passed since he last saw that smile. His heart is pounding, words fail to form so instead Lan Wangji returns the smile, softer yet just as bright.

In an instant, Wei Wuxian closes the distance between them, chuckling, wrapping his arms around Lan Wangji’s neck, tucking his face into the crook beneath his jaw. Every nerve in Lan Wangji’s body feels alive as he becomes connected to Wei Ying. He wraps his arms around him, pulling Wei Ying close, relishing the embrace.

Wei Wuxian’s smile may make it feel as if no time has passed but touch makes Lan Wangji feel as if it has been an eternity. It has been six months since they last hugged – six months too long. 

“Wei Ying,” He whispers, lips brushing against his hair. There’s so much his heart wants him to say but Lan Wangji can only bring himself to say his name, relishing the way it sounds, that Wei Ying is in his arms.

“Lan Zhan,” Wei Wuxian hums in response. He can feel Wei Ying’s smile against his neck. “You came.” 

Wei Wuxian pulls back and Lan Wangji feels himself lean forward, not wanting to let Wei Ying go. He wants to hold Wei Ying, run his hands through his hair, rest his head against his chest so he can listen to Wei Ying’s heart. He wants to do so many things, things that they haven’t done before.

Wei Wuxian is looking at him with crinkled eyes, a soft smile on his lips. He looks as gorgeous as he had been the day he left, maybe even more so. He looks so beautiful that Lan Wangji just wants to take his face in both his hands and stare, bask in his beauty. He wants to but he doesn’t, instead, he stands there, holding onto bichen.

With a grin, Wei Wuxian twirls chenqing, “Did you miss me?”

Lan Wangji nods, the corners of his mouth lifting. 

Wei Wuxian steps back into his space, reaching a hand up to stroke at Lan Wangji’s cheek. The touch feels electric, fingers trailing sparks along his jaw. Wei Wuxian’s eyes are focused on him like a pinpoint, gaze trailing his face as his fingers graze his jaw. It’s as if Wei Ying is mapping him, trying to find any differences from when they last parted. His hand drops, fingers brushing along his neck, so lightly that it makes Lan Wangji’s breath hitch. Wei Wuxian’s fingers trail down his chest, dropping so slowly until Wei Wuxian finds his hand, entwining their fingers together. 

There’s something that feels so right about the way they connect as if they’re two halves of one whole. 

He brushes his thumb upon Wei Ying’s hand, eyes flitting down to watch, enthralled at how they’re together again. 

“Lan Zhan,” Wei Wuxian hums, honey-sweet. “You’re more beautiful than I remember. How is that possible?”

His compliment makes heat rise to Lan Wangji’s cheeks. It reminds him of all the praise Wei Ying wrote in his letters, reminds him that it’s true – everything Wei Ying has told him through those letters is real. His heart feels like it’s overflowing under Wei Wuxian’s gaze and when he looks up, to face Wei Wuxian again, it stops.

“I missed you so much,” Wei Wuxian whispers, his gaze containing the answers to every question Lan Wangji has yet asked. Whenever they’re together something clicks into place, it feels right, and by the way Wei Ying’s looking at him, Lan Wangji knows he feels the same way.

He watches Wei Ying’s eyes dart to his mouth, pulling his bottom lip between his teeth for a moment and then their bodies are pressed up against each other, Wei Ying’s hands wrapping around his neck, pulling him close. 

Lan Wangji has imagined this moment since they were teenagers, he always thought kissing Wei Ying would be dramatic, or maybe cheeky, or done in the heat of the moment. There have been many times that it could’ve happened like that but now he knows that their first kiss was always meant to be like this, gentle – a hello.

Wei Wuxian leans in, lips brushing against his as if in question and in response Lan Wangji kisses him, melting into the softness of Wei Ying’s lips. Just like everything else about Wei Ying, the kiss is familiar, as if they’ve done it countless times before – it doesn’t contain any of the nerves that Lan Wangji always thought their first kiss would have. 

When Wei Ying pulls back, Lan Wangji chases his mouth, not wanting it to end, he presses sweet kisses against Wei Ying’s lips and Wei Ying reciprocates, unable to contain a smile. 

“I’ve dreamt of doing that countless times,” Wei Wuxian muses, their lips brushing together. “But no dreams can compare to this.”

Lan Wangji kisses him again, softly, “You dream about me?”

Wei Wuxian nods, tilting his head so he can kiss Lan Wangji deeply, “You’re all I dream about.”

It feels as if lightning runs through Lan Wangji’s body, confirmation that everything Wei Ying has ever said in his letters is true – that what Lan Wangji feels is reciprocated, wholeheartedly. 

Lan Wangji reaches up to cup Wei Ying’s jaw, thumb stroking over skin, marvelling in how he can do that – how Wei Ying wants him to do it. 

He kisses Wei Ying slowly, letting themselves get lost in each other, mouths meeting with languid kisses and gentle touches. Lan Wangji doesn’t feel the need to rush, to make up for lost time – now they have all the time in the world. 

His lips travel to Wei Ying’s cheek, then jaw, up to his nose, and then he plants a tender kiss on Wei Ying’s forehead, lips lingering.

“I dream of you too,” He murmurs.

Wei Ying nuzzles under Lan Wangji’s jaw, “Good things, I hope.”

He presses another kiss upon Wei Ying’s forehead and then gently on his temple, “Mn.”

“You dream of kissing me?” Wei Ying asks with a hum, peppering kisses down his neck – each one feels like a spark against Lan Wangji’s skin.

“And more,” Lan Wangji’s mind is an imaginative one and the recent months, despite being busy, have been lonely, with only the memory of Wei Ying to keep him company during the long nights. 

“Lan Zhan!” Wei Ying gasps against his neck. “You can’t say things like that and not expect my knees to go weak.”

Lan Wangji hums, running a hand up through Wei Ying’s hair, wrapping a finger around a strand from his ponytail. 

They stay like that, entwined, for an immeasurable amount of time – the world pausing around them as they reacquaint, pick up from where they left off six months ago. Wei Ying is warm, pliable, fitting perfectly in his arms and Lan Wangji doesn’t want to let go.

Their moment shatters when Lil Apple nudges them apart, wriggling her head between their bodies, demanding attention. Wei Ying giggles and strokes her mane.

“Lan Zhan,” Wei Ying says softly, leaning back in. He kisses Lan Wangji from his neck to his lips and then tenderly on his cheek. “Let’s go home.”

The walk back to Cloud Recesses is peaceful, finding comfort in each other's company. Lan Wangji hasn't felt this at peace since Wei Ying had left. There's something about him that's grounding – finding solace in the way Wei Wuxian skips ahead every now and again, and how he rattles off about his journey from the outskirts of Qinghe to Gusu. Lan Wangji listens intently, transfixed. It is one thing to have Wei Ying write his adventures onto paper but it's something else to hear him, to watch him speak. He didn't realise how much he missed Wei Ying, well and truly missed him, until now.

Occasionally their hands brush and in a daring leap of faith, Lan Wangji reaches out to entwine their fingers. They had just been making out but there’s something so thrilling about being able to do that, to hold Wei Ying without reservation. To Lan Wangji’s delight, Wei Ying doesn't let go – they walk towards Cloud Recesses hand in hand, the lingering touch of Wei Ying's lips on his own.

The sun is low when they return, breaking through brewing storm clouds, amber light filters through the dense trees. Lan Wangji watches a smile settle on Wei Ying’s face as they ascend the stone steps that wind up the mountain. He looks happy to be back and the joy is infectious – Lan Wangji finds himself wearing a smile, albeit a small one. 

“Lan Zhan,” Wei Wuxian hums, leaning into him as they enter Cloud Recesses. “Who should we see first? The juniors? I can’t wait to see Sizhui again! Do you think he missed me?”

Lan Wangji shakes his head, “They can wait until tomorrow.”

Something in Wei Ying’s smile shifts, an undertone that makes Lan Zhan’s pulse quicken, “Tomorrow.”

When they get to the jingshi, Lan Wangji watches, enthralled, by the way Wei Wuxian takes off his shoes and places them beside his own. It looks complete – two pairs sitting side by side. 

Wei Wuxian walks around, shedding pieces of him as he does so – placing chenqing beside wangji on the center table, dropping the bag he had carried upon Lil Apple onto the floor. Instantaneously the jingshi feels more like a home, no longer making his heart ache. Wei Ying fills in the gaps, chaos complimenting his organisation – black and red blending seamlessly with white and blue. 

“Ah Lan Zhan, you got my letters?” Wei Wuxian asks. He’s standing in front of the pile, a collection of the last six month’s memories. 

“Every single one,” Lan Wangji nods. He crosses the room to reach Wei Ying, wrapping his arms around Wei Ying’s slender waist. “You write well.”

“A compliment from Hanguang-Jun?” Wei Wuxian muses, leaning into his touch. “I’m glad I wasn’t just writing into the void, or that the letters didn’t get misplaced. Can you imagine someone else opening up the letter to see me compare your beauty to the gods?” Wei Wuxian chuckles, turning around in Lan Wangji’s arms. “They’d probably agree with me. You know, I meant all that. How I find you the most gorgeous being in existence.”

Lan Wangji is suddenly all too aware of how they’re entangled, Wei Ying snug in his arms, their faces close enough that Lan Wangji can feel Wei Ying’s breath. 

Wei Wuxian’s flattery overflows his heart, making every inch of him feel warm. He still can’t believe that Wei Ying thinks such things, especially when he is the most beautiful man Lan Wangji has ever seen. He’s so beautiful that Lan Wangji could write poetry about how his eyes pull him in like the moon pulls the tide. 

Not knowing how to accept such sincere flattery face to face instead of writing on a letter, Lan Wangji reaches up to caress Wei Ying’s cheek, whispering with sincerity, “Wei Ying, you’re the most gorgeous man to ever exist.”

He watches as Wei Wuxian’s cheeks redden at the praise, eyes diverting to the ground, “Lan Zhan, you really know how to make a guy swoon.”

Gently, Lan Wangji tilts Wei Ying’s chin up, eyes meeting his. Wei Wuxian’s gaze is shy yet something crackles beneath the surface, pulling Lan Wangji in. The afternoon sun bathes him in gold, light dancing upon his skin, and Lan Zhan loses himself in Wei Ying. Outside a summer storm brews, yet to snuff out the sun, yet the air already feels electric – charged in a way that Lan Zhan’s certain he’ll get zapped if he touches Wei Wuxian.

Maybe it isn’t the looming storm that’s charging the air, maybe it’s them, the sixteen years of waiting coming to an end – anticipation. Wei Wuxian must feel it too because he’s leaning in, bringing their lips together. 

This time their kiss isn’t a gentle hello nor does it make time fade away. This kiss strikes him like a lightning bolt, electricity crackling where their bodies meet. Time comes alive, and Lan Zhan chases after the feeling, both hands coming up to cup Wei Wuxian’s jaw, pulling him closer, tilting their heads in just the right way so they can kiss deeper, so he can chase the lightning. 

Nothing could’ve ever prepared him for the soft moan that comes from Wei Ying as Lan Zhan licks into his mouth, eager to taste all of him. The sound is so soft, gentle, yet it stops Lan Wangji in his tracks, his mind being wiped clear of everything except that sound – the knowledge that he can elicit such a sound from Wei Ying. 

“Lan Zhan?” Wei Ying tilts his head, questioning. “Are you alright?”

Lan Wangji stares at him, eyes focused on his lips.

He wants to do that again.

In reply, Lan Wangji kisses him firmly, body leaning into him, causing Wei Wuxian to take a few steps back. They’re suddenly a flurry of hands and heated kisses – Wei Ying’s hands travel down his robes, as if trying to map his body, and Lan Wangji’s hands wind up to his hair, tugging on silken strands. This elicits another moan from Wei Wuxian that gets lost in kisses that are becoming more heated, rushed. 

Somehow, they work their way across the jingshi, lips never parting, kisses heavy and heated. Lan Zhan feels his legs nudge the edge of his bed and in an instant, he’s pulling Wei Ying down so he’s on top of him. For a moment, Lan Zhan allows their lips to part so he can look up at Wei Ying, so he can admire how the afternoon sun turns his eyes terracotta. Wei Ying’s hair falls onto him so he reaches up to tuck a strand behind his ear, fingers then dropping to trace his jaw. 

“Lan Zhan, I’ve never done this with anyone,” Wei Ying says shyly, tilting his head into Lan Wangji’s touch.

“Neither have I,” He replies, his thumb comes to rest on Wei Ying’s bottom lip. He gently presses it, marvelling at how soft Wei Ying’s lips are, how he can just touch Wei Ying like that. “I only ever wanted you.”

Wei Ying grins so widely that his eyes crinkle.

“You want me,” He says, as if in awe that such a thing could be true.

“I want you,” Lan Wangji replies, craning his neck up to capture Wei Ying’s lips in a kiss. “Wei Ying, I want you.”

“You want me,” Wei Wuxian says against his lips, smiling. “You actually want me.”

He can hear the undiluted joy in Wei Ying’s words and it tugs on Lan Wangji’s heart – the electricity caused by Wei Ying’s touch drowned out for a moment by the love that fills up his heart, overflowing into every inch of his being. He wants Wei Ying, he has wanted him for close to two decades. Now he has him. 

He pulls Wei Ying for a deep kiss, his tongue running along Wei Ying’s mouth, and as they kiss he flips them over. He wants to spend countless hours staring at Wei Ying, admiring every facet of his beauty but that can come later. Now he wants to show Wei Ying just how much he wants him, try something that he has thought about with increasing frequency throughout the recent months. 

His hands make quick work of Wei Ying’s robes, untying them with a speed that could be considered greedy, wanting desperately to feel Wei Ying. When his hands touch bare skin, robes only half off, he brushes his fingers against one of Wei Ying’s nipples. The sound that falls from Wei Ying’s lips at that action is intoxicating, causing a burning heat to flicker to life deep down inside him.

Lan Wangji trails kisses down Wei Ying’s neck, lingering whenever a certain spot causes Wei Ying to whimper. He quickly makes it his mission to find everywhere that makes Wei Ying feel good, that draws out the sweet sounds.

When his trail of kisses brings him to Wei Ying’s chest, he wraps his mouth around one of his nipples, gazing upwards through his eyelashes to see Wei Ying’s reaction. 

“Lan Zhan,” Is all Wei Wuxian is able to utter, his name ending in a whimper.

When Lan Wangji flicks his tongue, he watches as Wei Ying’s arms fling out, grabbing onto the sheets before abandoning them in favour of Lan Zhan’s hair. His fingers climb up to his scalp before tugging downwards, gently – Lan Wangji takes the hint.

He continues his myriad of kisses, wanting to map Wei Ying’s body, worship it, giving Wei Ying the undivided attention that he deserves. The golden hour sunlight has begun to dip behind the clouds but they’re still bathed in it, the summer sun feels hot against Lan Wangji’s back but that heat pales when compared to what he feels for Wei Ying right now. 

When he reaches Wei Ying’s hips he pauses, running out of bare skin to shower with affection. Sheepishly, Wei Ying looks at him, lips parted, his breaths starting to become ragged. All Lan Wangji wants to do is continue his quest of mapping all of Wei Ying but he waits.

“Lan Zhan, you don’t have to if you don’t want to,” He says, giving him a smile. “Kissing’s fine.”

Lan Wangji can’t help the laugh that escapes him in the form of a puff, “Wei Ying, I want to.”

At this, Wei Wuxian’s eyes widen, shooting him an excited smile, “Do you even know how? I mean, uh, you said you haven’t done this before?”

Lan Wangji’s lips pull upwards into a half-smile as he hooks his fingers underneath the top of Wei Ying’s lower undergarment, “I’ve read books.”

He hears Wei Wuxian’s breathing hitch, “Hanguang-Jun reads pornography? Breaking the Lan Sect’s rules? The esteemed Chief Cultivator, Excellency of the cultivation world, renowned guqin player and highly esteemed teacher, master of the six arts, reads pornography? Why didn’t you tell me about this earlier Lan er-gege? I could’ve filled your letters with some delightful illustrations!”

At this, Lan Wangji can feel his ears burn at the mere thought. He doesn’t indulge Wei Ying with a reply and instead turns his attention to ridding Wei Ying of his undergarment. 

When he does, Wei Ying’s left in just a black inner robe, pulled open, and Lan Wangji can’t help but stare. Everything about Wei Ying is perfect, his slender waist and long legs are captivating, causing the heat that’s building deep within him to strengthen. Just like kissing Wei Ying, Lan Wangji has imagined this moment countless times but imagination cannot compare to how he feels in this moment, how gorgeous Wei Ying looks, lips glistening and kiss bitten, long limbs stretched out in front of him. 

He slowly trails his gaze up Wei Ying’s body until he finds Wei Ying looking at him with wide eyes.

“Not fair,” Wei Wuxian whines, pouting. “How come you’re still fully dressed?”

Ignoring him, Lan Zhan settles down between Wei Ying’s thighs, pressing kisses against the soft skin of his inner thigh, “You’re gorgeous.”

Slowly, he kisses further down Wei Ying’s thigh, all too aware of Wei Ying’s eyes on him, watching his every move. When he gets to the base of his leg, where his thigh meets his hip, Lan Wangji feels himself ache – he wants Wei Ying so much.

He wants Wei Ying and he has Wei Ying. 

Finally, he wraps one hand around the base of Wei Ying’s already hard cock, the action making Wei Ying moan – it makes the burning desire inside Lan Wangji intensify. 

Lan Wangji brings his lips to the head of Wei Ying’s cock, hesitating. He wants to savour the moment despite a big part of him wanting to rush, to press Wei Ying into the bed with fiery passion but they’re in no rush. He waited sixteen years and then another six months for this and he knows without hesitation that he’ll never have to wait again – there’ll be no more goodbyes. Their first time can be like their first kiss, gentle as if they’ve done it a thousand times before.

Wei Ying’s already enticingly hard and leaking so Lan Zhan darts his tongue out to lap at his head. At this, Wei Ying throws his own head back with a moan that rings throughout the jingshi so Lan Zhan does it again, licking at the precome, the moan shooting straight down to his own cock. 

He runs his tongue along the length of Wei Ying, relishing in how hard it feels against his tongue, how everything he does makes Wei Ying whimper, makes him feel good. 

When he takes Wei Ying into his mouth, lips sliding past his head to partway down his cock, Lan Zhan feels Wei Ying’s hands wrap in his hair, tugging.

“Fuck Lan Zhan, you feel incredible,” He says, words ragged. “You should see how you look, mouth wrapped around–”

Wei Ying’s sentence becomes lost to a loud moan as Lan Zhan begins to bob his head and suck, taking Wei Ying deeper each time. 

Fingers pull on his hair which only makes him take Wei Ying deeper into his mouth, head of his cock nudging the back of his throat. Wei Ying feels so heavy on Lan Zhan’s tongue and he loves it, savours being able to unravel Wei Ying with just his mouth. 

He finds a rhythm, each bob eliciting either moans or strings of praise from Wei Ying, each making his own cock ache so much that he presses down against the bed, seeking pressure to tide him over but Lan Zhan’s already close, just by sucking Wei Ying off, hearing him come apart. 

When he takes Wei Ying as far as he can go, burying his nose into the tuft of dark hair at the base of his cock, Wei Ying let’s out a string of praise, “Lan Zhan, oh my Lan Zhan, you’re so good at this. Of course you’re good at this.” 

The praise shoots through Zhan and without sliding off Wei Ying, he hums around his cock, as a thank you. 

This does something because instantly Wei Ying bucks up into his mouth, hands pulling tightly on his hair, moaning obscenely as he comes down Lan Zhan’s throat. 

Lan Zhan manages to look up in time to watch Wei Ying come apart, his face is scrunched up with pleasure, mouth falling open – he looks unfathomably gorgeous like this and that’s all Lan Zhan needs to send himself over the edge, coming in his pants untouched, mouth wrapped around Wei Ying’s cock, swallowing. 

For a few moments, the world fades to white, every inch of his body turning soft, overwhelmed with pleasure. Slowly he regains his senses, feeling the heat of the summer sun bat down upon his back. Outside the sun still burns, now a deep gold. There’s a storm lingering, far away, but right now it feels as if the storm has descended upon the jingshi. Lan Zhan feels as if his entire body has been struck by lightning thousand times over. Every part of him feels over sensitive, so very much alive. 

When Wei Ying stills beneath him, Lan Zhan pulls himself off, eyes immediately trailing down Wei Ying’s body, drinking in how fucked out he looks, knowing that he was the one to do that to Wei Ying. 

A post-orgasm haze has descended upon him but electricity cuts through it, his body buzzing when Wei Ying reaches out to stroke his chest, fingers dipping beneath his outer robe, “Your turn, er-gege.”

Lan Wangji feels his ears heat up, feels his own come sticky on his inner robes. 

“No need,” He replies, taking Wei Ying’s hand, bringing it up to his lips so he can place a kiss on his open palm. “Wei Ying was enough.”

For a moment Wei Ying looks at him with slight confusion but then his mouth falls open, “Oh.” Wei Ying stares at him, eyes widening. He gulps. “That’s really fucking hot but I do want to suck you off too.”

Lan Wangji’s lips pull up into a soft smile, “We have all night.”

“We do,” Wei Wuxian agrees, “Ah Lan Zhan, if only I knew how good your mouth was earlier.” He sighs, pulling Lan Wangji down onto the bed beside him, capturing his lips in a kiss. “I would’ve taken the fast route back to Gusu if I knew I’d be welcomed with a blowjob that good.”

“I’m glad,” he begins to reply but hesitates because he’s glad of so many things. He’s glad he could make Wei Ying feel good, glad to share something so intimate  – he’s thankful that after all this time he can finally love Wei Ying wholeheartedly, without restraint. 

Wei Ying must know what Lan Wangji’s thinking because he leans in to press a kiss to his cheek, a silent thank you.

The kiss lingers, skin tingling with warmth in the wake of Wei Ying’s lips and Lan Wangji stares at Wei Ying, transfixed with how someone so gorgeous is in his bed, allowing Lan Wangji to love him and loving him in return. 

Later that evening, when the moon replaces the sun, they find themselves out on the steps of the jingshi, Wei Ying dressed in Lan Wangji’s spare inner robes. They watch the horizon, lightning coming alive in faraway clouds, followed by thunder that’s barely there. Closer, the evening is filled with pinpoints of light – dozens of fireflies dancing around them. 

Wei Wuxian is leaning into his side, a hand reaching out to play with the ends of Lan Wangji’s ribbon and in return Lan Wangji rests a hand upon Wei Ying’s knee. 

“Lan Zhan,” Wei Ying whispers, tugging lightly at his forehead ribbon to gain his attention.

In response, Lan Wangji squeezes his knee and hums, “Hm?”

Wei Wuxian looks up at him, a gentle smile on his lips, “It’s good to be home.”