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third time’s a charm

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The sun is high up in the sky, scattering bits of golden light through the gaps between the branches of a magnificent magnolia tree. There are countless rabbits hopping about, some clamoring over to Lan Jingyi’s feet as he walks towards the shade under the tree where he knows someone is waiting for him. The mood is just right, and he has worn his lucky socks for today, just to give him an extra boost in confidence to prepare for what’s to come.

 

In short, it’s the perfect day to confess his feelings to the most perfect man he has met.

 

It’s not like Lan Jingyi hasn’t tried before, he really did! A few years back, the thought of voicing out his feelings for Lan Sizhui has popped in his mind the day after the Guanyin Temple incident, but found himself retreating at the sight of his best friend (and hopefully soon-to-be partner?) and Senior Wei hugging, afraid that he might ruin the moment. Besides, he wouldn’t want to burden Sizhui with the weight of his confession, not when he has family matters to deal with. The right time will come, he remembered thinking back then as he bade Sizhui and the Ghost General goodbye.

 

Then there was this rather awkward incident during one of their night hunts after Sizhui returned. They were overpowered and at their limits but this time the signal flare conveniently hidden in their sleeve pockets have gone missing and there were no Hanguang-Jun nor Senior Wei to help them defeat the twenty or so fierce corpses. Jingyi had briefly thought that this was it, this is how they’ll go from this world. At least Sizhui was by his side, and Lan Jingyi is determined that he would not let anyone hurt Sizhui. They would have to go through him first.

 

Of course, Lan Sizhui, being the angel that he is, had the same ideas. He kept trying to eliminate the corpses on Jingyi’s side first before focusing on those coming after him. And Lan Jingyi simply won’t have that.

 

He grabbed Sizhui’s wrist and made a break for it, dashing through tall trees and dense foliage towards the small cave he had seen while parrying with one of the fierce corpses. They’ll probably still be seen by the corpses at one point, but taking shelter inside this cave bought them a few precious minutes that Lan Jingyi would forever be grateful for.

 

“Have you figured out a way to get out of the forest?” Lan Sizhui had asked, wide-eyed and tense. It was not the first time that Jingyi had seen him like this, in fact,  he probably looks way more terrified than Sizhui is, but the resigned fear that is mirrored in his beloved’s eyes was what caught Jingyi’s attention. 

 

Lan Jingyi shook his head mournfully, the sounds of the fierce corpses getting louder as the seconds passed.

 

Beside him, Lan Sizhui sighs. “I never thought that this is how we’d go.” He said with a rueful laugh. “I’m sorry, Jingyi. It’s my fault that we ended up getting separated from the others.”

 

“No!” Jingyi immediately countered, making Sizhui flinch from where he’s crouching. “If I hadn’t insisted on going deeper in the forest we wouldn’t have been here, surrounded by fierce corpses with no chance of escape.” He clutched the hem of his sleeve with a tight grip, guilt filling his thoughts. “Y-you shouldn’t have followed me. Now we’re both lost and in danger and we might die and—”

 

“Jingyi.”

 

The stench of death is much closer than before, any minute now and their hiding place would be discovered. Soon, they would be shredded into pieces if they don’t come up with a plan to escape and get some help.

 

But like time itself had slowed down, his vision zeroes in on Lan Sizhui, a strange mix of mortification and anger marring his handsome face and all of it looks so wrong, Sizhui shouldn’t hold an expression like that. Not towards him of all people. “None of this is your fault. You were just trying to find a better way to finish this mission, and I trust your judgement, of course I would follow you.”

 

The roaring of the fierce corpses sounds so far away now, an omnipresent buzz now taking its place as Lan Jingyi tried to digest just what Sizhui had said. And what his words had meant.

 

“Sizhui, I—”

 

There was a clamor outside of the cave, and Jingyi could hear voices, not the fierce corpses’, but of humans, shouting and calling out for them. They’re safe.

 

Immediately after they realized that help had come and the situation was mostly under control, Jingyi and Sizhui made their presence known to their colleagues. The strange atmosphere between them had died down and was swept under the rug, but Jingyi was dying to know what the implications of Sizhui’s statement was.

 

He hopes that he’ll find out soon.

 

(“Jingyi. Oi, Lan Jingyi! What has got you occupied?” It was Jin Ling who called him out, his scowl a permanent aspect of his face by now. “Was it something that happened back there?”

 

“It’s none of your business.” Jingyi grumbled, looking over to Lan Sizhui’s direction.

 

Jin Ling followed his line of gaze and smirked, leaning backwards to rest his body against the wall behind him. “Did we interrupt you in the forest earlier?”

 

“N-no! What are you trying to say?!”

 

“Nothing, nothing.” Lan Jingyi hates the knowing smile on Jin Ling’s face. He wants to wipe it off with his fists. “If you want to confess, do it while you’re not actively running away for your lives, idiot.”

 

Lan Jingyi chased him around the tavern with a pair of chopsticks in his hand.)

 

“Jingyi?”

 

Lan Sizhui’s voice snapped him out of his brief reminiscent trance. He walked up to Jingyi, a gentle smile on his face that Jingyi wants to write lines upon lines of poems about. (He must have done it at some point, but he will never admit it to anyone. Especially Sizhui.) The rabbits that were on Sizhui’s lap moments ago were now clamoring on their feet, begging for attention. Lan Jingyi picks up one and gestures for them to sit under the shade of the tree.

 

“So, you wanted to talk about something with me?” It was Lan Sizhui who broke the ice, looking at him with eyes so soft and patient and oh no Lan Jingyi’s losing his train of thought again, damn it. Can he please focus? This is an important moment of his life.

 

He looks down to the rabbit on his lap, who’s currently sniffing his robes while simultaneously burrowing deeper in them, then back up to Sizhui’s face, who urges him with a small smile. Lan Jingyi forgot how to breathe for a good few seconds.

 

Okay. Whew. Lan Jingyi, focus.

 

“Yes, actually, this has been on my mind for some—”

 

“Ah!”

 

A loud whimper interrupted Lan Jingyi’s supposed speech, their heads snapping at the direction of the sound. Hey, he rehearsed this whole monologue all night! Can the world just let him confess properly once and for all?!

 

The sound came from a thick row of bushes not too far away from them. Jingyi has an idea of what it is, and prays that he’s not correct with his hypothesis. This would be another embarrassment in his books if his guess turned out to be true.

 

Lan Sizhui gestured to stand up, but Jingyi grabbed him by his arm before the other can. “M-maybe it’s just nothing! Let’s just leave it for now.” 

 

“Okay…” Lan Sizhui looked hesitant, but ultimately complied and sat properly once again. “What is it that you’re going to say?”

 

Lan Jingyi takes a deep breath, feeling his hand that was stroking the head of the rabbit shake while he does so. No need to be nervous now, else another distraction might come at them again. 

 

“I… We’ve been friends for our whole lives, right?” Sizhui nodded. “We’ve been through a lot and you know me so well that sometimes you even know some things about myself that I don’t but… What I’m trying to say is…” Why is Lan Sizhui looking at him like that? Why are his eyes so mesmerizing? Why do they look like they’re shimmering with hope, and for what?

 

“Sizhui… Lan Sizhui, A-Yuan, I—”

 

“Lan Zhan!”

 

Lan Jingyi wants to stand up and throw a tantrum because really? Of all the times they could do it, they’re doing it now? Here, where Jingyi planned to confess his feelings for his long-time crush?!

 

“That’s Senior Wei’s voice.” Lan Sizhui says, as if that wasn’t obvious enough.

 

He and Sizhui know exactly what they’re doing behind those bushes. Actually, every Lan Sect disciple knows to walk the other direction when they hear strange sounds coming from a secluded corner or behind a row of plants like this one. They knew its implications very well, but it still caused the both of them to blush, knowing that their two seniors (and technically Sizhui’s parents, of all people) are doing… Unspeakable things just a few meters behind them.

 

Nice. Now Jingyi is never going to get the chance to confess at this point.

 

“Maybe we should… Go to another place?” Lan Sizhui suggested, bless his kind heart. He held up his hand for Jingyi to support himself on. “Let’s go to the other side of the mountain.”

 

As they were getting ready to get the hell away from the scene of an obscene crime, though, Wei Wuxian appeared out of nowhere, looking… A lot more composed than what he’s expecting. Usually, his clothes would be a little (or a lot more) rumpled, his hair even messier than what’s normal, and he’d be walking in this funny way that neither he nor Sizhui wants to know the reason why or how their Senior Wei became partially crippled.

 

“Oh, you’re here!” Wei Wuxian exclaimed, one hand coming up to scratch the back of his neck after being caught in the action by two junior disciples. And one of them is his son! “Did you perhaps… Hear something?”

 

“Ye—”

 

“No! Senior Wei, we—we didn’t hear anything. We just… Um, we just got here, actually.” Lan Jingyi raised his eyebrow at Sizhui’s blatant lie, but didn’t correct him. He knew it was to save some of Hanguang-Jun and Senior Wei’s faces.

 

Speaking of Hanguang-Jun…

 

Everything that Lan Jingyi had expected to see on Wei Wuxian is surprisingly found on his spouse, down to the noticeable limp everytime he walks. Lan Jingyi tries not to gape openly at the sight of the esteemed Lan Wangji hobbling as he walks closer to the three of them.

 

Lan Sizhui looked like he wanted to be anywhere but near his fathers, seeing as they started to make heart eyes with each other the moment Wei Wuxian felt his husband’s hand settle on his waist. He took the initiative of saying goodbye to the pair and practically yanked Sizhui away towards a place where there aren’t unwanted moans popping up in the most crucial times.

 

Lan Jingyi internally wails. Well, there goes another chance of him confessing.

 

 

(He did, in fact, confess soon after this incident. And it’s practically nothing like what he imagined. Both of them were doing handstands, Jingyi for smuggling food inside the Cloud Recessed late at night and Sizhui for letting Jingyi eat said food in his room because he thought Lan Wangji wouldn’t notice. He was just reprimanding Sizhui for letting himself get roped into Jingyi’s schemes but the former just chuckled and softly smiled at him, saying that he doesn’t mind getting punished if it’s Jingyi he’s with.

 

Jingyi had panicked and toppled over right when Lan Qiren walked into the room.

 

It was a grueling day for the both of them, but at least Lan Jingyi got to call Lan Sizhui his by the end of it.)