Later, they would all say that it was Wei Wuxian’s fault. He maintains that it was not at all his fault, and in fact he was the victim, who spent over an hour getting bullied by his drunk friend just for being nice.
Lan Xichen, as the drunk friend, is the only one who agrees.
Dawn comes bright and far too early in the Cloud Recesses, and with it comes the (neat and orderly) flocks of Lan disciples, who attend morning lessons before the guest disciples usually wake up. Among them is Lan Xichen, who is not attending the classes that the other Lan disciples his age are, but rather left in the charge of his great-uncle for a few hours while the elder attempts to teach him what he’ll need to know as sect leader while his uncle leads the lecture. Uncle intends for him to attend the next discussion conference as Acting Sect Leader, and Lan Xichen has been preparing for this for months.
So he expects nothing different on the morning of October 8, despite the fact that it is his nineteenth birthday. He expects to spend several hours studying the culture and etiquette of other sects, followed by lunch with his uncle and brother, during which they will likely both give him presents. Then he will participate and oversee the practice of the junior disciples, which means steering Su Minshan away from his brother. He considers it a success that Wangji still has no idea who Su Minshan is. He expects to have dinner with his brother and uncle, after which he will practice music cultivation before going to bed at 9 pm.
What he forgets to expect, however, is Wei Wuxian.
In all fairness, he hasn’t had more than one conversation with Wei Wuxian. But he has been (avidly) following Wei Wuxian’s interactions with his introverted little brother, so perhaps he should’ve expected this. He knows how aggresively friendly Wei Wuxian is, but it completely slips his mind.
So Lan Xichen emerges from his morning lesson, having spent the past several hours learning about the different festivals of the great sects. QishanWen and QingheNie, like GusuLan, do not celebrate birthdays aside from occasional gift-giving from family members. LanlingJin and YunmengJiang don’t give gifts, but they do hold parties. LanlingJin parties are, like the sect, ostentaneous displays of wealth and power, in which every move from the invite list to the interactions of the attendees are calculated and shrewd. YunmengJiang parties, on the other hand, are small and personal, involving siblings, but usually not parents, and perhaps a close friend, in which the attendees genuinely celebrate the person’s presence in their family.
He is early for lunch, which is why, when he passes Wei Wuxian, Jiang Wanyin, and Nie Huaisang on the way, he says; “Sometimes, it is a pity that we do not celebrate birthdays the same.”
In all honesty, he surprises himself by saying it. It is true that he thinks of Wangji, as always, when he sees Wei Wuxian, which then prompts him to think of Yunmeng birthday parties. If Wangji celebrates his birthday the Yunmeng way, he thinks, then the only attendees would be himself and Wei Wuxian. Lan Xichen is, as always, thinking of ways to get his brother friends, or ways to work out whatever is going on between Wei Wuxian and Wangji. He is not at the point of begging Wei Wuxian not to give up on his brother (yet), as he is still trying to get Wangji to acknowledge that 1) he is far from as repulsed by Wei Wuxian as he pretends, 2) his feelings about Wei Wuxian are in fact far from platonic, or at the very least 3) that he is friends with Wei Wuxian–for a given definition of friends.
Still, he was not expecting to say this out loud. Just because he has the time to strike up a conversation with Wei Wuxian does not mean that he should air his brother’s private business in public. He’s saving that for when he’s truly desperate.
Wei Wuxian blinks, but then immediately opens his mouth to speak, which shouldn’t surprise Lan Xichen, given that he’s seen Wei Wuxian strike up a conversation with a rock. (A rock named “Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan, Lan Zhaaaan!”).
“Do you not celebrate birthdays in the Cloud Recesses?”
“We do,” Lan Xichen replies, “but we celebrate by giving gifts to each other.” And he gestures with the gift in his hand, a carefully-wrapped xiao given to him by his uncle. It is an old, high-class spiritual instrument of the Lans, one that his uncle has deemed him ready for, in light of his upcoming debut as Acting Sect Leader. It is, all told, a typical present from his uncle. Lan Xichen cannot say whether he truly likes it. He would say he is honored, yet in truth it seems rather straightforward. Lan Xichen is dedicated and responsible in his studies, and the xiao is an obvious gift for the heir to GusuLan. It is…expected.
Perhaps it is the fact that he lives such a painfully straightforward life that leaves him so ill-equipped to handle Wei Wuxian.
Wei Wuxian tracks the gift and its obvious implication, and looks back up at Lan Xichen. “You should have told us it was your birthday!” He cries, even though it does not look like Jiang Wanyin and Nie Huaisang share this sentiment. “You know, in Yunmeng, we celebrate birthdays with parties.”
“So I have heard,” Lan Xichen says, a small smile on his face.
And then Wei Wuxian smiles blindingly at him, all earnestness, and says; “We should hold a party for you, Zewu-jun!”
Lan Xichen stares at him.
Jiang Wanyin, used to Wei Wuxian’s forwardness, does not look surprised. “We would be honored,” he says instead, bowing properly, and Nie Huaisang follows suit a beat later.
Lan Xichen, caught flat-footed, tries to think of a way to politely refuse. He was under the impression that in Yunmeng only the closest of friends attend birthday parties, so either his information is wrong (possible, given how little interest Gusu has in other cultures), or Wei Wuxian considers them to be close friends (also possible, given that he considers himself to be friends with Wangji). Lan Xichen does not know how to explain that although he is not required to attend afternoon practice, he is still expected to attend. He cannot imagine simply skipping it. He cannot think of a rule that forbids this, cannot explain why he is so certain that his uncle will disapprove, or why that matters so much when he is not breaking any rule.
He also doesn’t know how to explain that just because Lan Wangji is the most repressed junior disciple, that doesn’t mean that Lan Xichen is much better.
Which is how Lan Xichen finds himself agreeing to an evening out in the town celebrating his birthday with Wei Wuxian, Jiang Wanyin, and Nie Huaisang. Wei Wuxian tries to insist that they bring Wangji, but Lan Xichen already knows that his brother will insist that it is improper, because whenever he’s uncomfortable he resorts to measure of propriety that don’t exist, that he will not be able to stop himself from naming every single rule Wei Wuxian will break while in Caiyi (Lan Xichen thinks he’s still in shock over how many Wei Wuxian can break without even noticing, much less caring), and that he will be stewing in jealousy the whole time that Wei Wuxian is there celebrating Lan Xichen’s birthday, and not his own, despite still claiming that Wei Wuxian is not even his friend–
So before they sit down for lunch, Lan Xichen tells Wei Wuxian that Wangji has a very important prior commitment, and for everyone’s sake ought not to be disturbed. He then relays this all to Wangji, who looks outraged, betrayed, and grateful all at the same time. A few months ago, Lan Xichen would’ve found it adorable of his little brother. Now he’s just tired.
His uncle is, as he expected, not happy that Lan Xichen agreed to skip afternoon practice in order to waste time in Caiyi, even if it is with people he thinks Lan Xichen ought to be socializing with (except for Wei Wuxian, of course). He doesn’t understand how ill-prepared Lan Xichen was to refuse Wei Wuxian, but Wangji is, and Wangji is both smug because Lan Xichen has been (gently) teasing him about it for months, and also jealous because Wei Wuxian did not offer to celebrate Wangji’s birthday.
Uncle does, however, concede that now that Lan Xichen has agreed, it would be unimaginably rude to not show up. Which is how, after lunch, Lan Xichen finds himself in Caiyi, on a tour of places in Caiyi he cannot believe he did not know existed given that he has been going here all his life and Wei Wuxian has only been here for a few months.
Jiang Wanyin and Nie Huaisang have disappeared, and Lan Xichen can’t help but notice that Wei Wuxian talks about his brother an awful lot. He sees spicy congee and tells Lan Xichen about his brother’s hilarious reaction to spice; he sees selections of poetry and tells Lan Xichen that his brother is a stellar poet, as expected, after all, Second Young Master Lan is good at everything, right Zewu-jun?
Wangji was a terrible poet until he met Wei Wuxian.
By the time they make it to the inn, Lan Xichen finds himself carrying a pile of Wei Wuxian’s favorite foods, an overindulgence that is against the GusuLan rules, but is apparently very much allowed in YunmengJiang. Jiang Wanyin and Nie Huaisang are waiting for them at the inn, and they usher them to a private room on the second floor.
It turns out that while Wei Wuxian was making sure that they were well-stocked for Lan Xichen’s party, Jiang Wanyin and Nie Huaisang were securing a room for the evening. The room is a nice enough room for an inn, Lan Xichen knows, having stayed in many during overnight night hunts. It is incomparable to the light, airy, picturesque rooms of the Cloud Recessses. It is foreign, yet Lan Xichen finds that he doesn’t dislike it.
Wei Wuxian immediately gets started unloading all of his purchases in the table in the center of the room. Soon, Lan Xichen finds himself seated at the head of the table with a veritable feast spread out in front of him. The three guest disciples fall into easy conversation, and without invitation, begin eating.
Lan Xichen has to constantly remind himself not to rebuke them for talking. The guest disciples do not follow GusuLan rules outside of the Cloud Recesses. Still, he cannot quite bring himself to participate in their conversation, despite Wei Wuxian’s repeated and increasingly obvious attempts to get him to talk. He appreciates the effort to include him, but the concept of talking while eating is totally foreign to him. Lan Xichen, as the heir to GusuLan, has had to socialize with other cultures far more than his brother has, but the concept of casual friendship still eludes him.
It seems they intended to follow GusuLan birthdays as well, because after dinner, they each present Lan Xichen with their own gifts. Nie Huaisang gives him a painted fan from his personal connection, one that Lan Xichen knows, having heard Mingjue’s rants about his brother’s obsession with fans, means a lot to Huaisaing. But then, Nie Huaisang has always had a soft spot for his brother’s (only) friend.
It is not an ancient xiao, steeped in the history of the Lans, but Lan Xichen is truly honored to have it. “Thank you, Huaisiang,” he says sincerely. “It is beautiful.”
Huaisang waves one of his other fans as if batting away the compliment. “Ah, you know my brother would insist, Xichen,” he says cheerfully. “If I had known, I’d have asked him to send a present ahead of time! Consider it a present from both of us.”
Mingjue would, Lan Xichen realizes with a wince, be quite upset once he realized that Huaisang gave Lan Xichen a birthday gift and he did not. Huaisang is merely staving off much of his brother’s anger by claming it is a present from both of them.
Jiang Wanyin presents him with Yunmeng’s finest perfume, which Lan Xichen thinks is a fine gift considering he had less than two hours to find an acceptable gift that Lan Xichen could not reliably acquire by himself. In truth, he would not even think to acquire it for himself, since he has smelled of the pines of Gusu all his life and has never considered anything else. But he is curious, perhaps even excited, to try it.
Lan Xichen thanks Jiang Wanyin, and then some, unable to stop himself from teasing a younger brother and still a little in shock by how unexpected this all is. “I know you did not have much time to think of this,” he adds, and Jiang Wanyin flushes.
“Compared to some of his harebrained schemes, this is nothing,” he retorts.
Wei Wuxian laughs in delight, completely unruffled and unapologetic. “But this is a good scheme, Jiang Cheng, isn’t it? Isn’t it? Don’t you think everyone deserves to have a birthday party at least once?”
Jiang Wanyin shoves him out of his seat. “I’m just surprised he didn’t scold you for your forwardness, Wei Wuxian!”
“But I am delighted,” Lan Xichen puts in swiftly, because he kind of is, and he’s also looking to diffuse another argument.
“See?” Wei Wuxian cries. “Zewu-jun is delighted. I am a delight!”
“Please, call me Xichen,” Lan Xichen says, before Jiang Wanyin can retort with an insult. “We are friends, are we not?”
For a split second, Lan Xichen is worried that they don’t want to be friends with him. He knows that being the First Jade of Lan is off-putting for most people. Wangji has chosen to wear his reputation like a shield, becoming even more “jade-like” so that he chooses to refuses all attempts at friendship rather than not choose to not receive any. Lan Xichen instead became even more open and friendly, or as friendly as the GusuLan allow when he must still be polite, which is about 10% as friendly as Wei Wuxian. He knows this is irrational, because Wei Wuxian can’t possibly try so hard to be friends with Wangji and then not want to be friends with him. Yet he has only had one conversation with Wei Wuxian, and he has never understood this friend thing very well.
He needn’t have worried.
“Ha!” Wei Wuxian crows victoriously. “You hear that, Jiang Cheng? Friends!” He turns back to Lan Xichen, grinning. “It’s been months and Lan Zhan still hasn’t admitted that we’re friends,” he says mournfully.
Lan Xichen resists the urge to sigh. If only his brother was a little more social…Still, it’s not his place to intervene, no matter how much he might want to. He puts his new fan and new perfume away, before Wei Wuxian can accidentally spill his rice wine (alcohol is not forbidden in Caiyi) over his new presents.
At the same time as Lan Xichen puts his gifts away, Wei Wuxian pulls out his birthday gift and presents it to Lan Xichen with a flourish. Lan Xichen takes it before Wei Wuxian can attempt to put it down in the puddle of chili oil he got all over the table. It’s a small collection of Yunmeng teas, which he can only assume were packaged by Jiang Wanyin, as they’re far too neat and organized for Wei Wuxian.
“Yunmeng specialties,” Wei Wuxian says proudly. “I thought you might appreciate them, seeing as Gusu teas are–” he moves in time to avoid Jiang Wanyin kicking his shin, “–hot medicinal water at best,” he finishes, and Lan Xichen thinks he knows Wei Wuxian well enough to know that was the polite version of whatever he was going to say.
Lan Xichen takes a moment to lean back and smell his new teas. “Thank you, Young Master Wei,” Lan Xichen begins, only to be interrupted.
“Call me Wuxian!” Wei Wuxian interrupts cheerfully. “After all, we’re friends now, right, Xichen?”
Lan Xichen ignores Jiang Wanyin facepalming in the background and smiles a little nervously at Wei Wuxian. “Of course, Wuxian,” he replies, resolutely ignoring Jiang Wanyin gaping in shock. “Thank you for the teas, Wuxian,” he continues, gaining confidence. “I hope you won’t mind if I share them with Wangji?”
“Of course not!” Wei Wuxian says. “You should tell us when his birthday is, so we can throw him a birthday party as well!”
Jiang Wanyin swats the back of Wei Wuxian’s head. “Wei Wuxian! Just because Lan Xichen is nice doesn’t mean you should force Lan Wangji to put up with you on his birthday!”
“But we’re friends, Jiang Cheng,” Wei Wuxian retorts, with just a touch of whine that Uncle wouldn’t have ever tolerated from his nephews.
“I do not think Wangji would mind,” Lan Xichen puts in.
“You’re being too nice to him, Young Master Lan,” Jiang Wanyin accuses. “If you give him an inch he’ll take a mlie, you can’t be nice to him!”
“Just because you can’t make friends doesn’t mean I can’t,” Wei Wuxian objects, and then stands up in order to avoid getting hit. “I’m getting drinks,” he announces, but not before throwing Jiang Wanyin a wounded look. Huaisang looks on with open amusement. “Do you want anything?”
Huaisang and Jiang Wanyin both pipe up with drink orders, and in that moment, Lan Xichen can feel himself at a crossroads. He could play it safe and request water, but there’s a growing part of him that longs to be accepted, that yearns to be included in their group. He knows he has too many responsibilites to simply go with them whenever they decide to go to Caiyi or whatever it is they do in their free time. But he think he could argue to Uncle that he’s making vital political allies with the heirs to great sects in a time when QishanWen is getting more and more aggressive, and the other great sects ought to ally closer.
The truth is that he just wants friends. So Lan Xichen speaks up and asks for Wei Wuxian to get him the same drink Jiang Wanyin asked for. He doesn’t know what it is, but Jiang Wanyin is the most level-headed of the trio (so long as Wei Wuxian isn’t involved), so Lan Xichen judges it safe to follow his example. He feels a little smug and a little like preening when all three look surprised.
“If you’re sure…” Wei Wuxian says, hesitating.
“As you said,” Lan Xichen says, gaining courage by the light of what looks like approval in their eyes, “we are not in the Cloud Recesses.”
Now Wei Wuxian looks fully taken aback, and Lan Xichen is more than a little smug. “Xichen, I didn’t know you had it in you,” he says, admiring, and leaves to get the drinks.
Wei Wuxian watches nervously as Lan Xichen lets out a little moan and his head pitches forward. Huaisang snaps his fan closed and lunges in forward to stop the First Jade of Lan from faceplanting into the table.
“Wuxian,” Huaisang complains, “what did you put in his drink?”
“I didn’t put anything!” Wei Wuxian exclaims. “He just has a really low alcohol tolerance!”
“Perhaps that’s why drinking alcohol is banned in the Cloud Recesses,” Huaisang allows.
“Why did you let him drink alcohol then?” Jiang Cheng accuses.
“I didn’t let him,” Wei Wuxian splutters, “he’s an adult! You were all here too!”
Lan Xichen sits up at that moment and they all quiet down, nervous to see what state he’s in. His eyes are glazed over.
“Did he…fall asleep?” Huaisang whispers.
“No,” Wei Wuxian says, “he just lost focus for a minute there.”
“Immediately after drinking half a cup of wine,” Jiang Cheng observes.
Lan Xichen gasps loudly, and they all jump in their seats. “Wine?!” He exclaims (loudly). “I drank wine?! Wow!! I’m such a rebel!!” He grins, clearly pleased with himself.
Wei Wuxian, Jiang Cheng, and Nie Huaisaing all stare at him in horror.
“Okay,” Wei Wuxian acknowledges faintly, “maybe this birthday party was a bad idea.”
“But I really liked this birthday party,” Lan Xichen pouts, and then suddenly lunges across the table.
Wei Wuxian squawks and backpedals, but not before Lan Xichen tackles him with a hug. He looks left and right for support from either Huaisang or Jiang Cheng, but they’re both varying levels of horrified and amused, the traitors. He flails for a second before tentatively patting Xichen on the back.
“I’m glad, Xichen,” Wei Wuxian manages, trying to gently disentangle himself from Xichen.
Lan Xichen refuses to let go. “You’re my friend now, Wuxian,” he says happily. Then he gasps loudly again. “But you’re still Wangji’s friend, right, Wuxian?” He asks anxiously. “Please be Wangji’s friend. Wangji needs friends.”
“I’m Wangji’s friend,” Wei Wuxian squeaks. Jiang Cheng still looks vaguely horrified by the actions of Lan Xichen, but also terribly amused with Wei Wuxian’s predicament.
“Good,” Lan Xichen says firmly. Then he grins excitedly again. “Wanna know a secret?”
“Uh,” Wei Wuxian says faintly, “I’m not sure that’s a g–”
“Wangji likes you!!” Lan Xichen says happily. He’s not loud, per se, but he’s certainly…hiper. He nods, confidently. “Wangji really, really likes you!!”
Wei Wuxian pats Xichen on the back again. “I don’t think he likes me that much,” he says awkwardly.
“No!!” Lan Xichen protests loudly. He shakes Wei Wuxian by his shoulders, ignoring the “help me” eyes Wei Wuxian shoots at Huaisang and Jiang Cheng. “He likes you very, very much!!” Xichen insists. “I know my brother doesn’t know how to express himself, but he’s in love with you!!!”
Wei Wuxian makes a sound like a dying cat, and Jiang Cheng manages one snort before he loses it, and falls to the floor in laughter.
“Lan Wangji!” He howls. “In love with my brother!” And then he continues giggling from his position on the floor.
“Well,” Huaisang points out logically, “do you know what Lan Wangji looks like when he likes someone?”
That makes Jiang Cheng sit up. He tries to think of one person that he knows for certain that Lan Wangji enjoys the company of, and comes up completely blank.
“And if anyone knows Lan Wangji, it’s his brother, right?” Huaisang continues, with a nod at Lan Xichen, who’s still shaking Wei Wuxian and babbling about how much Lan Wangji likes him.
“So,” Jiang Cheng says, about two octaves above his usual range, “you’re saying Lan Wangji,” and he pauses just to appreciate the all-consuming Lan Wangji-ness of Lan Wangji, “has a crush on Wei Wuxian.”
Nie Huaisang shrugs helplessly. “Apparently.”
“You said you’d throw him a birthday party!!!” Lan Xichen is saying insistently, far too close to Wei Wuxian for Jiang Cheng’s comfort. “You need to throw him a party!! I’ve been trying to set you up for months!!!”
Wei Wuxian looks faint at this admission from Zewu-jun. “I’ll throw him a party,” he promises hastily, but thinking now that it might not be the best idea.
“Good,” Lan Xichen says again. Then he adds mournfully; “Wangji only gets presents from me and our uncle, it’s so sad.” Then he brightens, and Wei Wuxian does his best not to flinch in terror. “I know what to get him for his birthday!!!” He looks absolutely ecstatic at this discovery.
“What will you get him?” Huaisang asks, because he’s a terror that loves causing Wei Wuxian trouble.
But Lan Xichen isn’t listening. Instead, he stands up abruptly, grabbing Wei Wuxian’s forearm with his right hand, and runs for the door. Wei Wuxian lets out a sound somewhere between “eep” and “eek” as he stumbles backwards, hanging onto Xichen’s arm lest he fall.
A second later, the two have disappeared out the door. Huaisang and Jiang Cheng look at each other for one long, stunned moment, before they start running after them.
When they catch up to Lan Xichen and Wei Wuxian, they’re in the middle of the street, and Xichen is attempting to mount Shuoyue.
“Wei Wuxian!” Jiang Cheng shouts, when he sees that Wei Wuxian is doing little but watching in growing mortification as the First Jade of Lan manhandles him like a life-sized doll. “Why don’t you shake him off?”
Wei Wuxian looks down to where Lan Xichen has a death grip on his forearm, then back up at Jiang Cheng. It is true that he could push Lan Xichen off him if he really wanted to. The Lans have quite frankly ridiculous arm strength, but Wei Wuxian is also quite frankly ridiculous when it comes to being good at things.
“But I’d feel bad!” Wei Wuxian shouts back. “It’d be like stepping on a bunny rabbit!”
“Well if you’re not g–Wei Wuxian!” Jiang Cheng runs forward, forcing the people in the street to clear out of the way. Xichen has successfully mounted his sword, and he now seems to intend to fly back to the Cloud Recesses with Wei Wuxian. “Lan Xichen! Let go of my brother–!”
Lan Xichen takes off, Wei Wuxian dangling from his arm. Jiang Cheng curses and mounts Sandu, then curses again and helps Nie Huaisang onto his saber and follows them.
Lan Qiren is having a pleasant day until Wei Wuxian shows up. If he let his day be ruined every time Wei Wuxian showed up, all his days would be ruined. But no, this day is ruined because Wei Wuxian shows up with his nephew.
Or more precisely, his nephew shows up with Wei Wuxian. Or even more precisely, his drunk(!) nephew flies in to the Cloud Recesses holding a screaming Wei Wuxian with one arm. This is the scene that greets him when he is heading down the paths of the Cloud Recesses.
Well, it doesn’t greet him so much as pierce his eardrums when his nephew flies in overhead and comes to an unsteady landing in the middle of the path in front of him, Wei Wuxian screaming all the while.
Lan Qiren’s eyes bug out of his head. “Xichen…?”
“Uncle!!!” Xichen does not look okay. “Wuxian is–”
“Master Lan!” Wei Wuxian, having partially faceplanted from Xichen’s poor landing, stands up again and interrupts Xichen. “I am so sorry, I never meant for this to happen!”
“Wei Wuxian,” Lan Qiren grits. “What did you do?” He is well aware that Xichen went to Caiyi for some Yunmeng party, but cannot comprehend how it ended like this.
Wei Wuxian winces. “He…might be drunk?”
“Wei WUXIAN!” Lan Qiren shouts (shouting is forbidden, but this is an exception. His nephew is drunk, and it is Wei Wuxian’s fault).
“Don’t yell at Wuxian, Uncle!!!” Xichen pouts at him. “He’s my friend!!” He brightens. “And he’s Wangji’s birthday present!!!”
Xichen shakes Wei Wuxian’s arm up and down excitedly. Wei Wuxian hides a wince, but he’s pretty sure his arm will be bruised the following morning. “My friend!!”
“But,” Lan Qiren splutters, unable to name everything wrong with what his nephew just said, “but you’re already friends with Nie Mingjue! Why must you be friends with Wei Wuxian?! And what was that about Wangji–Xichen!”
Xichen has mounted Shuoyue again and hovers an unsteady foot above the ground, making poor Wei Wuxian dance on the tips of his toes. Not that Lan Qiren sympathizes with Wei Wuxian, ever, but Xichen’s behavior is truly appalling, even if he is… drunk .
“He’s Wangji’s birthday present!” Xichen shouts happily.
“Shouting is forbidden in the Cloud Recesses,” Wei Wuxian and Lan Qiren say at the same time, and then stare at each other in unadulterated horror.
Then Wei Wuxian lets out an eep of terror as Xichen takes off without warning, flying away from Lan Qiren, and dragging his unwilling passenger after him.
“Lan Xichen!” Lan Qiren bellows, but his eldest nephew doesn’t even pause, and Lan Qiren has too much dignity to run after him. Instead, he stares, blinking in shock as Wei Wuxian and Lan Xichen fade from view. Then his beard quivers in terror. Oh no, he realizes, they’re going to Wangji. Poor, poor Wangji.
He hears rapid footsteps approaching him, and whirls around, a no running in the Cloud Recesses on the tip of his tongue. The words die on his lips when he sees the heirs to YunmengJiang and QingheNie running up to him.
“Master Lan,” Jiang Wanyin begins, panting, “have you seen–my brother–”
“No,” Lan Qiren says shortly, and very resolutely does not run away as quickly as he can.
Lan Wangji is having a slightly irregular day. He has spent afternoon practice being inexplicably harassed by a junior disciple whose name he can’t quite recall. Unlike a regular day, when Xichen would be there to magically make him go away, Lan Wangji resorts to glaring and then soundly beating him in sparring in the hopes that he will go away. He doesn’t go away, and Lan Wangji wishes his older brother was here.
But Xichen is off in Caiyi celebrating his birthday Yunmeng-style with Jiang Wanyin, Nie Huaisang, and Wei Ying. (Lan Wangji is not jealous. He is not). As such, he cannot expect to see his brother again until dinner, which he is planning on heading to now.
Lan Wangji is behind the Orchid Room when he hears the screaming.
He looks up, because up is the direction he hears the screaming coming from, and has enough time to spot a moving black and white blur before a black and red blur hits the ground in front of him.
Lan Wangji’s eyes bug out of his head. “Wei Ying?”
He stills completely for a second, wanting to help Wei Ying up but not wanting to voluntarily initiate physical contact.
Then Xichen descends from the sky, as he was apparently the one who dropped Wei Ying like a sack of potatoes at his feet, a ludicrously large grin on his face. “Wangji, I got you a birthday present!!!” He yells excitedly.
Lan Wangji opens his mouth, thinks of several responses to that (starting with “shouting is forbidden” to “brother, I think you need to see the healers” and “is Wei Ying my birthday present?” and ending with “...can I keep him?”), and ends up with; “Brother. It is not my birthday.” His voice sounds slightly like a cat being strangled.
“But you’ll really like this present, Wangji!!!” Xichen protests. He strides forward, somehow remembering to sheathe Shuoyue, and picks Wei Ying up by the back of his neck.
“Lan Zhan, I am so sorry,” Wei Ying begins, half-babbling. “I might have accidentally gotten him drunk, did you know your brother is a complete lightweight, no wonder you Lans don’t drink alcohol, I keep on trying to explain to him that you don’t want me that way–”
“Yes he does!!!” Xichen interrupts insistently, completely ignoring the way Lan Wangji’s ears are burning crimson. “Wangji really, really, really likes you, Wuxian!!!”
Wuxian?! Lan Wangji wants to know when his brother got that close with Wei Ying.
“Look at him, Xichen!” Wei Ying argues. Xichen?! Why is Wei Ying so close with his brother? “He looks completely uninterested!”
“No, look, his ears are burning,” Xichen says stubbornly. Lan Wangji decides right then and there that he’s never drinking alcohol, because it turns people into traitors. “He’s mortified!!”
“Enough!” Wei Ying cries. He pushes Xichen’s hand off his neck with a strength Lan Wangji didn’t know he possessed. He takes a step away from the Lan brothers and refuses to look at either of them. “Xichen, you’re just embarrassing both of us. I know your brother doesn’t l–like me. He doesn’t–I know I say that we’re friends a lot but he doesn’t actually like me, he–” Wei Ying makes a slight shrugging motion with his shoulders. He’s curling in on himself, unconsciously trying to make himself smaller, and Lan Wangji hates it far more than he thought he would. “It’s like Jiang Cheng says,” Wei Ying explains, his voice subdued. “He hates me. I just annoy him a lot, that’s all I do.”
Xichen gasps loudly, then turns big, soulful eyes on Lan Wangji. “Wangji!!” He demands. “Are you going to let your soulmate continue thinking this way?!!”
Wei Ying makes a choking sound, and Lan Wangji inhales sharply. Why would Xichen call Wei Ying that? How does he know what Lan Wangji has been calling Wei Ying internally for the past several weeks?! Yet can’t deny that Wei Ying looks miserable and sad, and that Lan Wangji can do something about that.
In theory. “Wei Ying,” he begins, then stops, struggling for words.
“Don’t bother,” Wei Ying says dully. He turns around, but Lan Wangji almost wishes he hasn’t. Wei Ying isn’t smiling at all. He looks so sad. “I know I’m a nuisance, everybody says so–”
“You are not a nuisance,” Lan Wangji forces out.
Wei Ying blinks. “But? You’re always telling me to go away?”
“I don’t–” Lan Wangji begins, then stop again. He does. But Wei Ying is just so much, he’s so bright and loud and Lan Wangji doesn’t know how to deal with that, and what if one day Wei Ying decides that he’s boring just like everyone else and goes to bother someone else and drops completely out of Lan Wangji’s life? Then what will Lan Wangji do?
“You are Wangji’s first friend, Wuxian!!” Xichen cries. “He’s doesn’t know how to deal with friends, much less,” and here he lowers his voice to whisper theatrically, “soulmates.”
Wei Ying looks mortified. “Lan Zhan, why does your brother keep calling us soulmates?”
“Because Wangji has been writing poetry about you, his soulmate, for weeks!!!” Xichen explains happily. “It’s so cute!!! Wangji, Wangji, you write love poetry for your crush, you’re so adorable!!”
“He–I–” Wei Ying sounds like he’s being strangled slowly.
“And he’s been writing a love song for you!!!!” Xichen adds.
Wei Ying turns pink. “Lan Zhan, is this true?” He looks…disbelieving, but almost hopeful.
Lan Wangji opens his mouth again, but no sounds come out.
“Would you like me to show you the poetry, Wuxian?!!!” Xichen asks excitedly. “I have–”
“Yes!” Lan Wangji bursts out, successfully capturing Wei Ying’s attention away from the topic of his terrible love poems. “Wei Ying, I–” He swallows hard.
“Just recite one of your poems, Wangji!!!” Xichen suggests oh-so helpfully. Lan Wangji’s ears are on fire.
“Wei Ying,” Lan Wangji begins, for what feels to be the hundredth time. He tries to pull his scrambled brain together. He takes half a step forward so he can look Wei Ying in the eye, and tries to ignore his brother’s presence. “I. Feel. Strongly.”
“Say it!!! Say it!!!” Xichen cheers, off to the side.
“Brother, please,” Lan Wangji begs, mortified.
“Lan Zhan, don’t force yourself to say something untrue,” Wei Ying says, sounding concerned.
Lan Wangji looks back at him with wild eyes. “No, I–I–Wei Ying, I love you! I love you,” he says again, firmly. “I–brother!”
His and Wei Ying’s attention is diverted when Xichen begins attempting to climb the Cloud Recesses Library, chasing after butterfly he saw at the top.
“Lan Zhan!” Wei Ying yells, as they run after Xichen, attempting to pry him bodily off the column. “I love you too! I can’t believe your brother has gone through so much effort to set us up!”
“Me neither!!!” Lan Xichen yells back.
Lan Xichen wakes up with a roaring headache, and a terrible feeling of dread. This inexplicable dread becomes rather obvious when vague memories of last night start to filter in. He recalling dragging Wei Wuxian out of the Caiyi inn’s room. He also fuzzily remembers running into his uncle at some point last night, and…something about a butterfly?
Wangji bursts into his room, followed by Wei Wuxian, and Lan Xichen sits up so fast he falls over. “Wei Ying recommends drinking water,” he says, unprompted, and holds a pitcher of water out to Lan Xichen.
“Ah…thank you,” Lan Xichen replies vaguely.
“One of the best ways to cure a hangover,” Wei Wuxian says cheerfully, prompting a rush of humiliating and embarrassing memories.
Lan Xichen pales. “Oh no.”
“Oh yes,” Wei Wuxian says.
“I am so sorry,” Lan Xichen begins, but Wei Wuxian just laughs him off.
“My brother has done far stupider things while drunk, Xichen,” Wei Wuxian says. “Don’t worry about it.”
Lan Xichen would protest, and say that he should’ve known better, when he finally notices that the clothing Wangji and Wei Wuxian are wearing are the same as yesterday’s, and extremely rumpled. And, admittedly, Lan Xichen is a bit of a recluse, even if he’s a socialite by Lan standards, but he still understands the implications. “Did you…?” Lan Xichen clears his throat as politely as he can considering it suddenly went dry. He tries to avoiding looking them up and down, and fails.
“Did we…?” Wei Wuxian echoes, blankly, and then his eyes widen. “Xichen–! You!” He points an accusing finger at Lan Xichen. “We spent all of last night trying to get you to stop climbing on things! We did not–I did not defile your brother, Zewu-jun!”
Wangji looks away, mortified, in a way that suggests he would perhaps like to be defiled by Wei Wuxian. Lan Xichen chooses not to think about it. He also chooses not to think about the fact that he’s a little disappointed.
“Honestly,” Wei Wuxian huffs. “Who would think you’re worse than Huaisang when it comes to this?” He gives perfunctory bows to both of them, which seem useless in light of recent events. “I’ll see you after breakfast, eh, Lan Zhan?” He says, winking, then vanishes out the door, before Wangji can rid himself of the smile that grew on his face without his consent.
Lan Xichen sighs and closes his eyes. “Wangji.”
Lan Xichen cracks his eyes open. Wangji does not look as upset as he thought he would be.
“You helped,” Wangji says reluctantly, then reaches into his robes and pulls out a piece of dragonfruit candy.
Lan Xichen stares at it blankly. “What’s this?”
“Your birthday present,” Wangji informs him.
Lan Xichen had completely forgotten about his birthday. It is very like Wangji, who knows that Lan Xichen likes sweet things even though GusuLan does not encourage taste preferences, to go out of his way to find him this candy. In some way, it means more to him than his new ancestral xiao.
He looks down at the candy, then up at Wangji, who still hasn’t completely rid himself of the soft smile on his face that means Wei Wuxian has done something he finds unbearably sweet. Lan Xichen can remember the last time Wangji smiled openly, and it was before their mother died.
“Oh, Wangji,” Xichen says, “you’ve already given me the best birthday present any big brother could ask for.”