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the disease called love

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There is one particular memory of his father that stands out, bright and unchanging in shape even as the years unwind around him.

He remembers this: the quiet of his father's rooms, even more than anywhere else in the whole of the Cloud Recesses, as if some heavy cloak had been draped around the entire area, leaving things muffled, distant, though the light that streamed in through the windows was clear, unfiltered.

He remembers this: his father's hands in his lap, cupped upward, to cradle a fragile dried flower between his palms. Once upon a time, it had been vibrantly blue; time and preservation had left it weathered at the edges, the richness of the color bleeding out at the edges. Even as a small child, he had recognized it as a genetian, and he remembers watching his father as the man stared at the flower. There had been such a look on his face--something that made the line of his brow stern while it softened the corners of his lips.

He remembers this: the sound of his father's voice, dry and dusty, a corpse rising from the dead, faint and distant. "Zhan'er."

He did not speak, only bowed his head in a moment of acknowledgment. He was very young, but he was very clever; he recognized when he was being instructed, and he was being invited. This was certainly the former.

"Zhan'er," his father said again. "When the time comes for you, I hope you will remember the teachings of your father."

He remembers the way those words sounded: dead leaves falling to the earth, piling softly one on top of the other.

"There may come a time when you will meet the one meant for you," his father said. "When that time comes, you must do what you can to hold onto them. Do not let the Elders separate you from what is rightfully yours."

He remembers thinking of the quiet little house that sits next door. The flowers have died away for the winter. It has been three months since the doors last opened to him.

"But remember, also," his father had said, and the sound had pulled him away from his morose thoughts, the aching loneliness at a loss he was only just beginning to understand, "that it is far easier when what belongs to you recognizes that."

He had tilted his head at that, polite, confused. He did not speak. He still had not been invited.

He remembers this: his father's hands closing, crunching on that dried flower, his grip strong enough to pulversize the delicate blossom to powder. He remembers the look on his father's face, suddenly awful, suddenly as terrible as all of the illustrations of fierce corpses he'd ever seen in his lessons.

"When you find the one who is meant for you," his father had said, when now, and not if, "then I hope you'll remember this father's teachings, and ensure that you do what you must, to make sure they are never taken from you. Not by anyone."


Like with all of his lessons, Lan Wangji puts that one aside, to rest quietly in the back of his mind until it becomes relevant. It takes years, but he is content to wait. There is plenty to do that is far more immediately relevant. The Lan are known for their patience, after all. He sees no reason to rush.

Or, perhaps more accurately--he doesn't feel any need to rush until the moment comes. He looks up at the boy who perches lightly on the roof across from him, laughing as if nothing in the world could touch him, and he feels something in his chest unfurl, like a flower bud opening to full bloom. His father's words come back to him, and for a moment, he wishes to stop this entirely--to pause this moment and rush to his father's home, to fall to his knees and say, I've found him. I understand, now.

He does not, because there's no reason for it. Even if he threw himself at the door, his father would not open it. Even if he shouted himself hoarse, his father would not hear. The years have only turned him colder, stiller. He is an example of his own lesson to his son, and Lan Wangji is, always, an exemplary student.

He lets the boy bait him for a moment. He says the things that are expected of him. Surely, if his uncle saw him now, he would praise Lan Wangji for his dedication. He refuses the offer of bribery, and then he makes his move. It is an easy thing to channel a thread of energy into making himself faster--so fast that to a non-cultivator it would appear like he teleported; and even to a cultivator, he knows that it is an impressive gesture. He sees it in the boy's eyes, the way they go wide and shining, a moment before he tries to pull away. He grabs for one slim wrist as it happens. Make sure they are never taken from you. Not by anyone.

Not even, he thinks, the person himself. That had been his father's folly, in the end--to seal himself away from the one person he loved more than anything, to leave her alone until she could remove herself from his grasp. How foolish. Lan Wangji intends to learn from his father's mistakes as much as from his teachings.

"Hey," the boy says. He sounds startled, his eyes wide. He jerks against the grip that Lan Wangji has on him, and he is strong--good. Certainly he would have accepted a weak partner. It is his role, after all, to be the protector, the provider. He would have done so gladly, so long as it was the person meant for him, but the fact that he can feel a strong hum of energy through their point of contact, can feel the power in the way the boy pulls at him, is satisfying. He can tell the boy is being careful with him, in turn; for all of his insolence, he doesn't wish to simply turn this into a brawl against a stranger. So: spirited, but not without kindness.


"Hey," the boy says again, and he sets his heels into the tiling. His mouth twists, like he wants to smile, but he also wants to be stern. More words bubble out of him, protests and complaints, more offers for whatever, any number of silly promises if only Lan Wangji would let him go, and let him off the hook this once. Lan Wangji listens without hearing, taking stock of the body instead. Up close, it's easier to see the purple cast to his clothes, which had been drained to near-black in the moonlight. A silver bell hangs at his waist. Yunmeng Jiang, then.

He only tunes in when the boy reaches what sounds like a conclusion: "This humble disciple apologizes to the honorable young master. I'll be on my way, and I promise I won't do this sort of thing again. You'll never see me here again."

Lan Wangji considers. He thinks he would not mind, terribly, to see this boy up here like this--but only if Lan Wangji is at his side. Only if the lightness of his movements were mean a spiral back into his arms. He tightens his grip, feeling the way bone and muscle shift under his hand. The boy makes a pained little noise, a soft sweet breath, his eyes going even wider before they narrow. He telegraphs his feelings so easily. The amusement and good mood have melted away into the beginnings of genuine pique. It would be good to fight with him later, Lan Wangji thinks. He hopes that can be soon.

But for now--for this moment--he has something more important to do.

It is an easy thing, to move. He hasn't been planning for this--he'd had no idea when his destined one might appear, and to practice prematurely seemed foolish, when he had enough other things to fill his time--but it comes effortlessly to him. He catches the boy's chin in his other hand, never loosening his grip with the other, and he leans in to bring their lips together. A dark hunger yawns open in his chest at the contact, so sudden and so starved that he almost staggers with it. He goes as far as to make a little sound, though it's nothing compared to the muffled yelp that comes from the boy. His lower lip is rough, but his mouth overall is soft. It would be so very easy to press into that, to find the wet heat waiting for him, but... not yet. He thinks of another lesson from his father: you cannot force your beloved into closeness. You must convince them.

So he only allows himself that soft glancing contact, and then he lets go of the boy entirely, even as his entire being shrieks protest.

"Very well," he says. "Go back to your quarters. Lessons begin tomorrow at nine." It's apallingly late by Gusu Lan's standards, but even they aren't completely incapable of adapting. As his uncle says, pained and sighing, they want to teach students properly, and to have them retain their knowledge, not be forced to repeat things again and again, like certain Nie disciples that neither of them will name. Gusu Lan continues its schedule apace, but the lessons for the student guests always come later in the day. "I will see you then."

"What," the boy says. He sounds breathless. That sound, too, pulls at the hunger in Lan Wangji's gut. He wants, more than anything, to turn back, to take what is his, to bind them together properly--but no. No. Love cannot be forced; it must be cajoled. "Hey, young master! At least tell me your name--"

"You will learn it tomorrow," he says, "if you come to lectures."

He goes, leaving confused sputtering behind him. And if he takes the long way back to his own quarters, a circuitous route that takes him close to the rooms where his father remains shut up... no one need know that but him.


The boy's name is Wei Ying, courtesy name Wuxian. Lan Wangji likes the sound of that courtesy name, even as he discards the weight of it in his mind. It is a particular pleasure to see the way Wei Ying's eyes go wide when he sees Lan Wangji in the lectures, as promised--even more when he realizes just who Lan Wangji is. He does not smile, because he is not someone given to those things, but he cradles that warm dark pleasure in his chest, and he thinks: yes. Yes. See who I am. I will give you the entire world. I will cut the gods down from the heavens and lay them at your feet, if you wish.

He is pleased to realize that Wei Ying is the Head Disciple for Yunmeng Jiang, and that despite his apparent disrespect, he is capable of stepping up where and when he needs to. Lans do not endorse gossip, but it takes very little effort to linger where the other Yunmeng Jiang disciples gather, and to listen to them talk. Most of them admire their da-shixiong; they laugh at his antics, and a few take bets on how much trouble he will be with the sect leader's wife, when they return home. A little more digging, and Lan Wangji learns that Wei Ying is a ward of the Jiang family, though the Madam of Lotus Pier has no especial love for him--but even then, she has trained him well. She has allowed him to rise among the ranks. It is clear, for all that they bicker and tussle, Jiang Wanyin sees Wei Ying as a brother.

(There is a brief moment, there and gone, where Lan Wangji wonders if it might not be something else--he sees the way Jiang Wanyin's eyes track Wei Ying's movements, the way he frowns when Wei Ying is particularly bright and loud. He wonders if this will become a problem, or if it is not one already, and he considers what he might need do to deal with it--but then he sees the way Jiang Wanyin blushes and stammers at one of Lan Wangji's shijie, in a rare chance meeting with the female students, and he is relieved to put that to rest. For now.)

These are all good things. Lan Wangji is pleased that Wei Ying will have his own things to bring to their partnership.

For now, he acts as if that kiss on the roof never happened. He has his suspicions, and he is pleased to see they are correct: the fact that he acts as if nothing has happened drives Wei Ying mad. He can see it in the way Wei Ying fidgets in his presence, the way he cannot help but ramp up the entirety of his personality when he notices Lan Wangji nearby. He is confused, circling in ever closer, growing more frantic with every time his attempts at connection are (apparently) rebuffed. Lan Wangji has observed how the Yunmeng Jiang disciples conduct themselves together--it is no surprise Wei Ying is the way he is, loud and opinionated and just as likely to pick a playful fight as give words of praise to a friend.

The fact that Lan Wangji does not respond, except to cooly dismiss him, only draws the ties around Wei Ying's throat tighter. It would be so easy to reach out and tumble Wei Ying fully into his arms, and there are days where he has to dig his nails into his own palms, until he feels the sting of blood, to remind himself: not yet.

But he also cannot let Wei Ying's interest wander. He flirts with other boys with casual affection, and Lan Wangji hears the other Yunmeng Jiang disciples laugh about Wei Ying's attempts--successful and not--to flirt with girls at markets, or the girls back at Lotus Pier. Wei Ying is someone who would cut himself into a thousand small pieces, to scatter out into the world; in order to pin him down, he needs something to work with.

So he plans accordingly. One week after their first meeting, he notices Wei Ying's eyes wandering; he isn't quite so frantic to get Lan Wangji's attention, and so, after dinner, Lan Wangji lingers near the quarters assigned to the Yunmeng Jiang. He is confident he won't need to wait for long, and of course he is right: an hour after curfew, he sees a door open and Wei Ying strolls out. There's a moment of disappointment when he sees Jiang Wanyin behind him, but despite their attempts to keep their voices down, it is very quiet, and voices carry well. Wei Ying is restless and wants to stretch his legs before he sleeps, and Jiang Wanyin has to give him a token admonishment. Remember, you're just as much the face of our sect as I am! It's bad enough you get into trouble during the day, don't try to do it at night!

But he doesn't try to stop Wei Ying, either, and finally he closes the door again, and Wei Ying is alone. Lan Wangji trails him a short distance, until they are far enough away that, even if Jiang Wanyin changed his mind and came after them, it would take a minute or so, and then he deliberately lets his boots make noise, scuffing against the ground.

Wei Ying spins. It's a neat gesture, graceful and controlled. It is always a pleasure to see him move. There's a smile on his face, bright and insouciant, ready to try and charm his way out of trouble--which fades into an honest surprise when Lan Wangji steps into sight. It isn't quite a falter, but he seems to recognize Lan Wangji's intent, which sends a pleased shiver down Lan Wangji's spine.

"Ah, Lan Zhan," he says. "Fancy seeing you here! Isn't it a bit late for you, though? Don't all of you Lans just pass out when it hits nine?" He backs up a step, as Lan Wangji continues his advance, and then another. A few more, along with a slight change in trajectory, and his back will hit a wall. Of course Lan Wangji adapts to ensure this happens. "I don't suppose you'd believe I just wanted to step out to relieve myself--I promise, I'll head right back when I--ah."

His back hits the wall, and Lan Wangji immediately flows into the remaining distance, until Wei Ying is pinned in place. His breathing is rabbit-quick, sharp, his eyes round and bright. His tongue darts out, a brief wet flash of pink, to wet his lips.

"Lan Zhan," he says. "Ah, Lan Zhan, I--I don't suppose you'd let this humble disciple go... I don't have anything to offer you, this time."

What a laughable idea. As if he needed anything more than himself. Lan Wangji curls fingers under his chin and feels the shiver that goes through Wei Ying at the contact. His pupils have blown so wide that his eyes look nearly black. His body flexes, muscles tensing and relaxing. If he pushed back, it would be a struggle to keep him pinned in place.

He does not push. Lan Wangji smiles at him--a small thing, brief, and he sees the way Wei Ying's eyes blow even wider in the moment he leans in to take the kiss he has been craving for a week now. This time, he does not leave it as something light and sweet; this time, he takes as he had wanted to then--he presses his weight agaisnt Wei Ying's, reveling in the flex of lean muscle pressed against his own, at the way Wei Ying's lips part at the first press of his tongue. He does as he has wanted to since the first time, taking and taking and taking, claiming what is rightfully his. Even though Wei Ying yields to him after a second, it isn't enough; Lan Wangji pinches at the hinges of his jaw to force his mouth further open, thrusting with his tongue in a deliberate, determined rhythm. Wei Ying makes little choked noises, sweet soft things that catch in his throat, that vibrate between their mouths. One of his hands, and then both, find the back of Lan Wangji's robes, pawing without being able to maintain a grip. He arches his own back into those touches, though he forces the kiss deeper, harder, until he feels Wei Ying nearly gag on his tongue.

And then he pulls back--slowly, though, almost gentle, pressing smaller, softer kisses to Wei Ying's lips, to the corners of his mouth. He would not call them apologies--he has no shame or regret for sharing a kiss with his beloved--but he has no desire to be cruel. He only wishes to convey how much he feels.

From the dazed look in Wei Ying's eyes when he finally pulls away, he thinks he has succeeded. He notes, with some satisfaction, that Wei Ying is trembling; it is only the press of their bodies, he thinks, that keeps him from simply sliding down the wall.

"Wei Ying," he murmurs.

Wei Ying makes a small, incoherent noise in response. He looks as if he might not remember his own name, if asked. Lan Wangji presses a thumb briefly to the swell of his lower lip, and then forces himself to step back. That rallies Wei Ying more than anything else; he blinks and inhales sharply, and he leans forward, like a flower seeking the warmth of the sun. His voice, when it comes, is a lovely, cracked thing. A pleasant shiver threads down Lan Wangji's back at the idea of doing more to him later.

"What? Lan Zhan? W-wait, you can't just--"

"I'll see you tomorrow, Wei Ying," Lan Wangji says. He keeps his own voice soft, a low rumble, and is pleased when Wei Ying's breath catches again at the sound. "Go to sleep now."

"I can't even walk," he says, and there it is, that warm good humor that Lan Wangji has already come to expect and love from him. "And now you're telling me to sleep? How can you leave me like this? The Second Young Master is truly unkind."

He does not laugh, even if he wants to. Instead, he brushes his fingers against the hinge of Wei Ying's jaw. There is a small red spot there; it will surely linger later. He looks forward to seeing that. As it is, he still has the pleasure of both seeing and hearing the way Wei Ying reacts to that, a little spark that will keep him warm for long weeks to come.

"Good night, Wei Ying," he says, and forces himself to leave without looking back.


It is almost laughably easy to get what he wants.

A comment in Jiang Wanyin's hearing here, allowing his own brother to see the way his eyes track Wei Ying there, a deliberate angling of his body towards Wei Ying's when they were out among others. He makes the attempt to listen politely to Jiang Wanyin and does not snarl when he sees the way he cuffs Wei Ying upside the head; he keeps his hands at his side when they snipe and snap at each other, and as a result, both Wei Ying and Jiang Wanyin turn to him favorably the times he does intervene. He makes it a point to ask for stories about their sister, and nods and adds his own compliments to the glowing stories they tell. He steps in when Jin Zixuan starts spouting his nonsense about Jiang Yanli--she will be a valuable ally, he knows. With the way Wei Ying looks at him, admiring and pleased, he thinks she already is.

He does not seek Wei Ying out every night, though he wants to. Sometimes, he trails in silence behind Wei Ying, watching the way he turns his head this way and that, seeking hopefully--but even though Wei Ying is a cultivator of impressive caliber, the Cloud Recesses are Lan Wangji's home. He knows it in ways that Wei Ying cannot, just yet.

In time, though. He knows that.

The next time he lets himself go further is a night when Wei Ying, his brother, and a handful of their fellow disciples sneak alcohol in for a small party. He feels a brief, sharp pang that Wei Ying did not think to invite him, but he consoles himself with plans for later. He sits just out of sight, listening to them chatter amongst themselves--letters from Lotus Pier arrived earlier that day, and both Wei Ying and Jiang Wanyin are sharing news specifically of Jiang Yanli. She seems to be well-beloved among all the younger members of the sect; one of them starts mourning her cooking, and Wei Ying leaps in immediately, turning it into a caterwauling about the virtues of the Young Maiden Jiang. Lan Wangji is glad that he can see so much of his own relationship with his brother (and, a piece of him whispers, in what soft memories he still has of his mother) mirrored in Wei Ying's relationship with her. It would be troublesome to engineer a solution, otherwise; Jiang Wanyin is a future sect leader, expected to go on night hunts constantly--but a woman who has no interest in cultivation, who is promised to the heir of the Lanling Jin... that would be significantly more difficult.

He has his own exciting news, though he cannot share it just yet. While the Yunmeng Jiang students tussled over their letters, Lan Wangji had seen how one letter had been handed over to his brother. He'd caught sight of the Sect Leader's seal upon it, and he'd pretended not to notice the way his brother's eyes darted to him, and then to Wei Ying, after he'd skimmed the contents. He knows what the summary of that letter is, even if he doesn't know the exact words. But he cannot share it yet--his brother has not officially broached the topic with him, though he'd retired early with their uncle. He suspects they are discussing and debating even now, after curfew, but he is not concerned. His brother knows his heart, and as intractable as his uncle can be, at times, Lan Wangji knows that he will not truly object--not if Lan Wangji's happiness is what is at stake.

("I worry, sometimes, that he will take after his father," he'd heard his uncle say once to his aunt, in the brief times the two of them met. Lan Qiren's marriage was a quiet thing, barely a ripple in the fabric of the society of the Gusu Lan; they did not have the same sort of love that had taken Lan Wangji's father, or that burned in his own breast--theirs was a partnership, where he oversaw the male disciples and she the female, and Lan Wangji had two significantly older female cousins that he would see sometimes for the holidays, and sometimes would not. But--

"You've taught him with as much sense as you can," his aunt had said. "But if you truly regret how things ended with your brother, you'd best listen to that boy's heart, and go with it as best you can."

And his uncle had grumbled and muttered, but in the end, he had acquiesed to his wife's advice. Lan Wangji had not yet met Wei Ying at that time, but he'd been glad for that. It would have been an inconvenience, indeed, to deal with his uncle in the event of his opposition.)

For now, Lan Wangji is content to sit outside of the room, listening as the revelry inside gets first louder, and then softer--as the alcohol kicks their spirits higher, and then, one by one, pulls them to sleep. He waits as snores begin, and he waits until he hears Jiang Wanyin slur something about the hangover, which is soon echoed by his own snoring.

He rises, then, and pushes the door open.

Wei Ying is the only one awake, as he knew would be the case. His shidi are scattered around him carelessly, and Jiang Wanyin has slumped to lean against his side, his head drooping forward. Wei Ying has an arm around him, mostly to keep him upright, a thoughtful little smile on his lips as he sips at his drink. It takes him a second too long to register the sound of the door opening, and when he does, he sways back, blinking owlishly before he breaks into a smile.

"Lan Zhan!" he says, loudly, and then much more quietly when Jiang Wanyin snorts and scrunches up his face. "Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan, are you here to crash the party? If you were around, you should have come in sooner. There was room for you."

He hums, which is neither an agreement or a denial, but he is warmed by that. There was room for you. Good. He means to keep opening more and more space for himself, until he has hollowed out at least half of Wei Ying to fill with himself. Again, and again, he thinks of that lesson from his father. He wonders if his mother would still be here, if his father had only poured more of himself into her. If he had taken half of her into himself, and given half of himself in return--if he had been brave enough to bind her entirely to him, would she still be here?

He isn't willing to take that chance. Not with Wei Ying. He continues his approach, picking his way delicately among the unconscious disciples, and Wei Ying watches his approach with heavy eyes and a wet smile.

"Lan Zhan, ah, Lan Zhan," he says, when Lan Wangji is standing beside him. He rolls his head back, loose-limbed and sweet from alcohol. "If you didn't wish to carouse with us earlier, what are you doing here now?"

He kneels, an easy motion. With gentle hands, he pulls Wei Ying's arm away from Jiang Wanyin--and then, so that Wei Ying won't protest, he eases Jiang Wanyin down, so that he's now curled on the floor, snoring gently.

"I am here for Wei Ying," he says. "Not for anyone else."

Wei Ying laughs--a little too low to be a giggle, a little too rapid to be a chuckle. He lets himself be pulled into Lan Wangji's arms without protest, his long lashes fluttering as he turns his face into Lan Wangji's throat. "Are you? Ehhh, but Lan Zhan, you always look so lonely, by yourself. You should get to know other people."

He allows himself a smile as he moves from kneeling to sitting, drawing Wei Ying into his lap, so that his back curls gently against Lan Wangji's chest. He keeps one hand pressed where he can feel Wei Ying's heart fluttering like some preening bird. "I am not lonely," he says. "Not when Wei Ying is around."

"You need more than just me," Wei Ying says. His eyes are closed, but his words are clear enough. "Tell you what, come visit me in Lotus Pier, when this is all over. I'll take you around. I'll show you everything--you can meet Shijie, and the others, and maybe--" here he pauses to yawn, so wide his jaw cracks--"you'll see. You won't be a cold young master anymore. Not when I'm done with you."

"I am not cold," Lan Wangji says. He lets his hand skim up, so that his fingers catch at the edges of Wei Ying's robes, slipping past the layers to warm skin. "Not when I am with Wei Ying."

Wei Ying laughs again, breathless. He squirms a little in the curve of Lan Wangji's arms. "Yes, but--"

"But nothing." He turns his head, nosing at Wei Ying's ear, breathing softly against the curve of it. Another shiver goes through Wei Ying, a little noise bubbling out of his throat. When Lan Wangji presses his palm flat to the expanse of Wei Ying's chest, his fingers skim over a half-hard nipple, and he feels the way it tightens further under his touch. "I am happiest with Wei Ying. I am neither cold, nor lonely, when I am with Wei Ying. I will meet with Wei Ying's sister, if he wishes it, but I am content if I have him with me." As he speaks, he lets his hand slip lower, and lower. He keeps his words low, his breath hot, all whispered against Wei Ying's ear.

"Ah," Wei Ying says, and his teeth rake briefly over his lower lip as he shifts. In his loosened robes, it isn't hard to see the way he's already half-hard, his legs coming together as if he could hide it. "L-Lan Zhan, ah, what--"

"I will come to Yunmeng, if Wei Ying wishes it," he murmurs. He allows himself just a moment to catch his teeth against the soft curve of Wei Ying's ear, feeling as much as hearing the way his breath catches, the way he shivers. "And then, I will bring Wei Ying back to Gusu."

"Bring me back?" Wei Ying sounds dazed, confused, his head rolling back against Lan Wangji's shoulders. Even though he smells strongly of the alcohol he consumed, he's so sweet and sticky with it that Lan Wangji makes plans to smuggle more in. There is a loose floorboard in his quarters; it would make an excellent hiding place. He scrapes his teeth lightly in the tender space under Wei Ying's ear and is rewarded with another shaky noise. "Ah, I don't understand, why..."

"I will bring Wei Ying back here," he murmurs. He smooths one hand to Wei Ying's belly, pressing against it to pull their bodies more firmly together; his other hand he keeps higher up, finding one nipple and rolling it gently between his fingertips. Wei Ying shudders and twists loosely in his grip, without any real strength to pull away. "I will bring him home, where he belongs."

"I don't," Wei Ying says, and then he makes a strangled noise as Lan Wangji wraps a hand around his clothed cock, squeezing. It takes only a second for him to harden fully. However drunk he is, he isn't incapacitated. "I, ah, ah, Lan Zhan, I don't--"

"You do," he whispers. He strokes slowly, keeping his grip too loose, fascinated with the way feeling twists Wei Ying's handsome face. His brows draw together, his teeth catching again on his lower lip, his nose flaring as he tries to catch his breath that way. "You belong here. You were meant to be here. With me."

"Lan Zhan--"

He runs his teeth lightly along the long cord of Wei Ying's neck--not too hard, nothing that would leave a mark, but enough to let Wei Ying feel the pressure, the edge. Wei Ying whines, his whole body trying to curl. In retaliation, Lan Wangji pinches a nipple, hard. It gets him a gratifying little yelp before Wei Ying's head falls against his shoulder again, trembling. He continues the slow motion of his other hand; he wants this to go slowly, a buildup. Wei Ying's voice is lovely like this, small muffled gasps and whimpers that he is trying so, so hard to bite back. He's so hard in Lan Wangji's hand, his hips moving in shaky little thrusts.

"I will take care of you," he murmurs. "I will provide for you. I will give you everything you need. You won't be lonely either, Wei Ying. Your sister can come see you any time she wishes. Your brother, too. We can go to see them, as well. And then I will bring you home again."

Wei Ying whimpers, a small, pleading noise; his head rolls against Lan Wangji's shoulder as if he wants to shake it in denial, and cannot quite get the strength for it. His hips move with greater eagerness now, and his hands have come to clutch at Lan Wangji's arms. Occasionally he paws at them, as if he means to pull them away, but his fingers get caught in the long folds of Lan Wangji's sleeves and tangle there. "I, ah, ahh, I'm--"

"You are mine," Lan Wangji murmurs. He finally lets go of Wei Ying's cock, ignoring the bereft noise, to slip his hand into Wei Ying's pants now, eager for the touch of skin on skin. When he touches Wei Ying again, they both make a sound--Wei Ying's high and cut off, Lan Wangji's own much lower, deeper, a rumbling that comes from that dark hungry place inside of him. He grips a little more tightly, moves his hand a little faster, and listens to the sounds that spill out of Wei Ying's lips. Most of them are incoherent little hiccups and exclamations, the occasional stumble over Lan Wangji's name--and then, after a few strokes, pleas for more. He keeps his pace, though, still ocasionally twisting Wei Ying's nipple like a punctuation, sometimes pressing a thumb to the slit at the head of his cock. He wants more--he wants to bury himself entirely between Wei Ying's legs, into the tight clinging heat, but not yet.

Some things are better saved for the wedding day, after all.

He presses his lips to Wei Ying's pulse where it rabbits in his neck, licks over it to hear the way Wei Ying's breath stutters. He gathers precum from the head of Wei Ying's cock and uses that to further slick the way, though he only ramps the pace up slowly, slowly.

"Lan Zhan," Wei Ying gasps. His eyes flutter open, dark and glazed, and he rolls his head enough to look out at the rest of the room, at his sleeping martial brothers, and his gaze lingers on Jiang Wanyin, who has rolled to be facing them now. A dark rumble of satisfaction purrs inside of Lan Wangji's chest; even if Jiang Wanyin did, perhaps, harbor some inkling of feelings for his brother, he cannot have this. He does not get to see or hear Wei Ying like this. He will never know how close he came, and how that honor has been denied him. Even if he still holds some small piece of Wei Ying after the marriage, he will never, ever have this.

Wei Ying, who doesn't yet understand, only shivers harder. He squeezes his eyes shut, tears beginning to leak from his eyes, his breathing stuttering and high. "Lan Zhan, w-wait, I, oh, I can't--"

"You can," he murmurs. "You will."


"Shhhh," he murmurs. "I have you. I will take care of you. You are mine; I will be whatever you need."

"Lan Zhan--"

He tightens his grip. He moves his hand faster, and he allows himself the small pleasure of biting right behind Wei Ying's ear, where the skin is soft and mostly hidden; even with the way Wei Ying prefers to sweep his hair up in a high tail, the fall will mostly hide the mark. Mostly.

And Wei Ying, his Wei Ying, the one person meant for him, stutters a small shaky cry, arching in the cradle and the cage of Lan Wangji's arms as his cock jerks and he comes, wet and messy and careless--and beautiful, the way he always is. He sobs for breath, finally uncaring if any of the drunken boys scattered around them might hear, and Lan Wangji makes soothing noises, pressing soft kisses all across his face. Tears and sweat both gather on his lips, sweet in spite of the salt. Wei Ying shivers and shakes for long seconds after his initial orgasm, and Lan Wangji curls around him, careful and slow as he lets go, as he tucks Wei Ying back into his clothes, as he slowly pulls away. His own desire is roaring, starved, but he reminds himself to be patient. His uncle and his brother have the proposal. He knows he can have what he wants soon.

Wei Ying's eyes are closed as Lan Wangji settles him, more gently and carefully than he did with Jiang Wanyin. His lashes flutter briefly, but he doesn't otherwise move. It is either that the drunknness has claimed him properly, or that he's overwhelmed from the touch--Lan Wangji hopes it's the latter, but if it is not, he will learn.

He is a good student, after all. The best. He has taken all of the lessons his father gave him, and he has refined them, and he has succeeded where that man did not.

He brushes his fingers, still wet with Wei Ying's release, against the curve of Wei Ying's cheek, gathering one last tear, and he leans to press their lips together, a soft, gentle gesture.

"Rest well, my Wei Ying," he murmurs. "I will give you the good news tomorrow."

He's looking forward to it.