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Lan Xichen knows that war makes for odd bedfellows. Sworn brothers, in particular, often lend one another a helping hand. 

Such pragmatic arrangements are common between warriors for reasons of both public health and basic decency. It is an effective way of biding one’s time until one is able to marry. Cheaper than visiting a brothel, and with no risk of siring children out of wedlock in wartime. And among decent people, it is considered manlier to spend one’s time with a fellow warrior than it is to harass the women on the warfront - whether they be fellow warriors, healers, cooks, or prisoners. Exchanging dry handjobs with one’s shield brother while doing one’s absolute best to manifest a woman in the room through sheer force of will is not precisely satisfying, but it serves its purpose until peace is won and one can meet, wed, and bed the love of one’s life. 

Lan Xichen and his good friend Nie Mingjue become sworn brothers in the second year of the cultivation world’s campaign against Wen Ruohan, and soon thereafter commence exchanging mutually dispassionate warfront handjobs. 

In the fourth year of the campaign, Lan Xichen’s brother Wangji and Wangji’s friend Wei Wuxian also swear brotherhood to one another. Then they, too, commence such exchanges. Rather more loudly than most of the other men in camp - they’re young, after all. 

In Wei Wuxian’s humble opinion, they were all stuck in the Wen indoctrination camp for too long. Much longer than any of the others he spoke to had expected it to be when they were sent there. In the private moments they stole in captivity, Wei Wuxian and Lan Zhan agreed that the Wens themselves also seemed surprised by how long the indoctrination camp went on. 

It took about three years for them to escape, and even then, it was only because they got sent on a bullshit cave spelunking expedition. 

The sword Wei Wuxian got in the process was cool, though. 

By the time he and Lan Zhan make it out and get to the warfront, the campaign is years old. Wei Wuxian has been flirting with demonic cultivation for nearly as long - enough to be a big help against Wen Ruohan’s puppets. He and Lan Zhan have a whole routine where Lan Zhan helps him wash away the resentful energy afterwards. 

They become shield brothers shortly after they get to the warfront. They’ve been through a lot together at that point. They feel quite confident in one anothers’ loyalty; an oath doesn’t actually feel necessary. They mostly do it so that they can get assigned to the same front.

On the front, they share a tent. The war is bitter. Grueling. They don’t ever do the weird shield brothers thing where you jack one another off while staring into opposite corners of the tent. Lan Zhan is much too dignified, and Wei Wuxian doesn’t see the point. 

Instead, they skip straight to actual fucking. 

The first time is late at night. Wei Wuxian is a shameless drunk, and it just kind of… happens. It’s heady and intense, because it feels like the world is fucking ending around them - they’re at war, after all. The second time comes the next morning, when Wei Wuxian tries to brush it off, and Lan Zhan doesn’t let him. Turns out that Lan Zhan is shameless sober. 

Their third time is later that very same evening. So late it might be morning. Wei Wuxian doesn’t know they’re for real until that one. The first time, he was shocked that it was happening at all. The second time, he was confused. Wondering what it meant, instead of thinking about what they meant to each other. 

But the third time, it clicks. Lan Zhan grabs his chin hard and bites his lower lip. “Look into my eyes when you come,” he growls. 

Wei Wuxian takes Lan Zhan in deep and looks into his eyes and comes so intensely that his foot threatens to cramp. He feels owned, and he feels like he owns Lan Zhan in turn. If this is the end of their world, then at least they have this. At least it’s real. 

(Even if Lan Zhan takes another two weeks to mention that they’ve actually already been married for years. The big baby.)

One of Lan Xichen’s proudest memories from the war is seeing his brother stride confidently out of the text he shared with his shield brother and straight into an emergency strategy session, Wei Wuxian hot on his heels. 

Wangji and Wei Wuxian could have been summoned away from doing any number of things, but realistically, it was likely that they had been… biding time with one another when they were called into the session: their robes were quite disheveled. Sleep robes are not worn on a warfront, and given that failing to carry one’s sword may mean a swift death by the enemy, undressing regularly is unwise. Loosely-tied day robes are the closest thing a warrior has to comfortable clothing. Their untidy appearances and stiff gaits spoke of hasty redressing, among other things.

A bit embarrassing for the both of them, but all in all, Lan Xichen was rather pleased for Wangji. Perhaps proud. Wangji had never made friends easily, and here he was, with the closest kind of friend a man could have.

Either way, Wangji was not phased to be pulled out of repose. In his quiet, stern way, contributed useful insights on troop placement. Wei Wuxian also proved himself with observations on the Wens’ resource allocation gleaned during their time in captivity. If Wangji was to only have one friend, Lan Xichen thought that Wei Wuxian was an excellent choice for him. 

He thought to himself, ah, much pain comes of war, but isn’t it a joy to see my little brother coming into his own and becoming a man? 

When the war finally ends, Lan Xichen and Nie Mingjue part ways with a clap on the back, glad to begin the work of rebuilding and starting up their own adult lives. 

Wangji and Wei Wuxian… do not. They stay completely attached. So much so that Wei Wuxian even moves back to the Cloud Recesses with Wangji. 

Ah, it would be hypocritical of Lan Xichen to decry their closeness now. Yes, it is sad that Lan Xichen’s brother is stuck in that youthful holding pattern (that is, exchanging handjobs with one’s shield brother while imagining a beautiful lady) rather than moving on to more adult pursuits. But Lan Xichen himself was the one who initially encouraged Wangji to become friends with Wei Wuxian, thinking it would help him open up. And then they were hostages - prisoners of war - together in Nightless City for nearly three years. Wei Wuxian helped Wangji when he was injured - tortured - by the Wens. It is completely understandable that they became reliant on one another. 

Now that the war is over, Wangji does seem so much more open and happy than he was as a boy. He smiles sometimes, mostly at Wei Wuxian. Once, he even took an afternoon off. At sixteen, Wangji would never have done such a thing; clearly, Wei Wuxian’s influence has helped him grow. 

During Indoctrination Camp at the hands of the Wen, Wei Wuxian begged anyone who seemed halfway receptive for medicine for Lan Zhan’s leg. Or a day of rest. Recovery still took Lan Zhan a long time. So much longer than it should have. Than it would have, had he been given even two straight days off of his feet. Out of necessity, Wei Wuxian bonded with several members of the medicine-oriented branch of the Wen clan, which hails from Dafan Mountain. They were kind people. Oh, not necessarily to his face. But their actions said more than enough. By the end of the first year of Indoctrination Camp, Wen Qing had a system worked out. She would insist on taking breaks during long marches through the forest so that she could gather herbs. Would cut a day short by an hour or so whenever she could manage it. Would rotate Dafan Mountain Wens into the group minding the hostages, who would then smuggle medicine, “overlook” doubled recipes, and switch out their full canteens with the prisoners’ empty ones. 

Wei Wuxian met A-Yuan in the second year of Indoctrination Camp. Wen Ning brought him by on a rare day when Wen Chao wasn’t there to heckle the group. (The prisoners became less novel to Wen Chao as time went on.) 

“There’s someone I want you to meet,” Wen Ning had told Wei Wuxian. “My assistant for the day. My cousin A-Yuan.”

“A-Yuan,” Wei Wuxian repeated, staring at the boy holding small sprigs of herbs in two chubby fists. 

A-Yuan stared up at him, blinked, and broke into a wide, almost-toothy grin. “Hi!” he chirped, and - and - wandered up to hug Wei Wuxian’s knee. 

“Hi, A-Yuan,” Wei Wuxian said, helplessly bending down to his level and scooping him up in a quick hug. Not a smart thing to do, but a completely irresistible reflex. “Oh, a baby,” he said, feeling his tiny shoulders under Wei Wuxian’s arm and his soft hair below Wei Wuxian’s chin. Fuck. Wei Wuxian missed training the little kids at home so much. 

Wen Ning grinned proudly - Wei Wuxian sees the family resemblance - and said, “I thought you’d like to meet him.”

“A baby,” Wei Ying said again.

“I’m a big kid,” A-Yuan said softly, tucked somewhere against Wei Wuxian’s ribcage, but he didn’t seem too upset. 

Later that day, when Wei Wuxian found a safe moment to send a paperman to Lan Zhan, all he could talk about was how there was A baby, Lan Zhan, you don’t understand. He was a baby. Oh, he was so good.

“Mn,” was all that Lan Zhan said under his breath, but it was warm. 

After the war, Wei Wuxian and Wen Qing find one another, and they get help for the other Wen remnants from Lan Zhan and Jiang Cheng and Jiang Yanli. (She makes Wei Wuxian write a heartfelt thank-you note to Jin Zixuan for taking in so many refugees. It’s awful.) 

Somehow, in the ensuing negotiations, he and Lan Zhan end up with custody of A-Yuan, which just cements the fact that, of course, he’s going to follow his husband back to Gusu. The romantic notion of roving the world and cultivating together can wait; they have a little one who’s been through a lot. He deserves to learn and grow in a stable environment like the Cloud Recesses. So off they all go to Gusu. A brand new little family. 

As the war dragged on, Lan Xichen came to understand that Wen Ruohan’s quest for power did not only harm outsiders. They received two reports that common Wen soldiers were killed for losing a skirmish. They recognized faces across the battlefield - not just their own dead, made wrong, but the Wen clan’s dead, too. And they found ghosts - or ghosts found them - who would lament that their own town’s sect turned its back on them. So there is some sympathy for the few Wen survivors. Especially once survivors of the Indoctrination Camp like Wei Wuxian and Wangij themselves vouch for the Dafan Mountain Wens’ less-than-bloodthirsty ways.

After much deliberation on the part of the sects left standing, it is agreed that the Wen remnants can settle and rejoin society - with the caveat that they must be split up, lest they gain strength in numbers. Wangji seems rather upset with Lan Xichen for backing this plan, but he helps to coordinate the resettlement effort. And as Wangji carefully facilitates the placement of the various Wen remnants, Wei Wuxian moving to the Cloud Recesses somehow becomes integral to the proceedings. 

When Jiang Cheng sees an opportunity, he takes it. He’s a sect leader now. Sect leaders don’t hesitate. 

When talk about resettlement starts, Jiang Cheng insists on getting Wen Qing and her brother. (He and Wen Qing came to an understanding during the second year of the war - they wanted to be together, but couldn’t think about it just yet.)

During the bullshit negotiation that ensues, he doesn’t get to talk to her a lot, but they hammered out what the Wen remnants wanted beforehand. He ends up with Wen Ning and Wen Qing in Lotus Pier proper, and various other Wens are settled into trades in Yunmeng.

There are two big worries about Wens going to Lotus Pier. The first is political: Wen Qing and Wen Ning are the highest-ranking Wens still around. The cultivation world wants assurance that they won’t try to “take over” Lotus Pier - Sect Leader Yao’s words - by moving there en masse. The second is practical: Lotus Pier and Yunmeng as a whole are rebuilding on a greater scale than any other major sect. During the Sunshot Campaign, several of the sects were razed, their seats of power fallen into disrepair. Lotus Pier suffered worse destruction at the Wens’ hands than most. And, thanks to its famous humidity, it deteriorated further after that, with the few buildings left standing moldering or rotting outright. 

The next five or so years will be a little rough in Yunmeng. For the very old, that could be all they have left. For the very young, that’s five years they should be spending getting a steady education. 

Jiang Cheng’s wonderful brother, Wei Wuxian, solves both problems by agreeing to go to Gusu with Lan Wangji and lay low with the elderly Wens who would struggle in a still-rebuilding region like Yunmeng, and the single child, who needs an education that Lotus Pier can’t currently ensure. 

Wei Wuxian is easygoing about the whole thing. He usually is. He isn’t happy about the Wens splitting up at all, but he promises Wen Qing he’ll look after everyone personally, and facilitate visits whenever they want. 

Jiang Cheng truly appreciates his brother’s heroic sacrifice. It is so noble of him, to spend his time taking care of a toddler with that stick-in-the-mud Lan Wangji, just so that he, Jiang Cheng, can have a girlfriend.

Jiang Wanyin, the new Sect Leader of Yunmeng, stepped up admirably, taking in more than twenty Wen remnants. Lan Xichen recalls commending him for this during the postwar conference. He had been standing close to Wen Qing. They spoke in low tones, looking intently at one another. Clearly discussing the practical matters regarding resettlement. 

“I understand that Yunmeng will be taking in a number of Wen remnants,” Lan Xichen had said, with a bow to both. “This is a commendable sacrifice, especially given the losses Yunmeng has suffered.”

Jiang Cheng had looked to Wen Qing, then to him, and said slowly, “Yes. Thank you, Zewu Jun. A true… sacrifice. To take in Wen Qing and her family.”

“And you are bearing your upheaval admirably as well, Wen Qing,” Lan Xichen acknowledged. 

“Thank you,” she had said hesitantly, a glint in her eye that Lan Xichen could almost take for amusement. “I am honored by Jiang Wanyin’s… sacrifice?”

Lan Xichen nodded serenely and continued on his way, content with how things had turned out. 

So Wangji arrives at the Cloud Recesses several months following the conclusion of the war with Wei Wuxian, several elderly Wen remnants, and a child in tow. 

The elderly Wen remnants settle in Gusu comfortably. People from all walks of life died during the war, and elders with skills to teach are welcome in Caiyi Town and the surrounding villages. 

A-Yuan is welcomed into the Lan sect’s pre-C (pre-cultivation) courses. Wei Wuxian, too, appears to feel at home in the Cloud Recesses almost immediately. 

Wangji and Wei Wuxian did not swear fealty in a public ceremony as Lan Xichen, Nie Mingjue, and Jin Guangyao did. But upon relocating to the Cloud Recesses, Wei Wuxian pledges his loyalty before the council of Lan elders. He takes traditional Lan vows, ones often invoked to declare family and clan loyalty. He swears to act virtuously, to be true to his link to the sect (in this case, Wangji), and to raise his children to respect the Lan disciplines. With great gravity and dignity, Wangji reciprocates the same vows in front of the same witnesses, which is only fair. 

Lan Xichen wonders if their parents took the same vows, perhaps in this very hall, maybe even in front of a few of the same witnesses. It is a sobering thought, but his mood stays light. The whole thing is a rather ingenious idea of his little brother’s, really. Wei Wuxian’s declaration will certainly serve to assure the Lan clan elders that Wei Wuxian has the Cloud Recesses’ best interests at heart, and that Wangji trusts him to honor the clan - they even hand-fast using Wangji’s ribbon, signifying that Wei Wuxian, while an outsider, is as worthy of trust as any true Lan. It is rather amusing, in a sweet way, to watch them declare themselves brothers with such fierce sincerity. 

The child who arrived with Wangji and Wei Wuxian following the conclusion of the war is a source of some confusion for Lan Xichen. It is not of grave importance, of course, but Lan Xichen does not… understand. Exactly. Whose baby A-Yuan is. The baby has to be a Wen, right? Do Wei Wuxian and Wangji even know? They appear unworried. No one seems as confused by the situation as Lan Xichen is.

Amongst the Lan clan, it is considered unseemly to ask after a child’s parentage. Lan Xichen could not say whether or not this unspoken rule was in place before he and Wangji were born, but he is grateful for the strife it spared him in his own childhood. As such, he cannot justifiably ask where A-Yuan came from. 

What Lan Xichen knows is this: A-Yuan arrived with no parents. War orphans are not unheard of, but Wei Wuxian takes such particular interest in A-Yuan’s well-being that Lan Xichen has to wonder if perhaps he is the father. If that is the case, however, how did Wangji get roped into helping to look after Wei Wuxian’s byblow?

On the other hand… Wei Wuxian often declares that A-Yuan resembles Wangji. Indeed, he does. It is difficult to determine whether that is due to inherent qualities, or his quiet demeanor paired with the Lan robes.

Lan Xichen thinks he would have noticed his brother fathering a child. Most likely. But Wangji was held in Nightless City for years with many other cultivators. Who is to say what Lan Xichen missed? He will not ask about this, either; if his brother - the sect’s head of discipline - fathered a bastard, plausible deniability is everyone’s friend.

Lan Xichen will admit that he does not actually understand the exact mechanics of conception. Oh, the act, he has a theoretical knowledge of. But the obscure processes that take place inside of a woman’s body afterwards, the ones that eventually result in a child, are not a standard part of the Lan Sect curriculum. 

He wonders, at times, if perhaps both Wei Wuxian and Wangji could have fathered A-Yuan. If they both took A-Yuan’s mysteriously absent mother, could it… ah. Lan Xichen might ask Nie Mingjue - his shield brother has a strong understanding of the carnal world, given his relatively easy access to certain lewd materials and the bawdier warrior culture of the Nie clan - but. For all that Lan Xichen is less uptight and reserved than his brother is, he cannot imagine asking Nie Mingjue, if two men take the same woman, is it theoretically possible for it to… mix up in there? 

Perhaps he should ask Wen Qing, the next time he is in Yunmeng. She is a famous doctor, and a cultivator, at that. She must know how it works. Oh, perhaps Wen Qing is the mother? Hm. No, Sandu Shengshou is an ornery man, but a righteous one. He would have insisted on keeping A-Yuan with his mother, if that were the case. 

Truly, Lan Xichen is at a loss. As he does with most things that confuse him, he resolves to simply be at peace with that and not to question it further.

A-Yuan is chattering happily with Wei Ying about his lessons and his friend A-Yi and his firm belief that he is definitely old enough to start training with live steel, A-die, he’s not a baby anymore. 

“Of course you aren’t,” Wei Ying scoffs. “Remember when I planted you in the garden? You’re a radish.”

“Am not!” A-Yuan says. He grins, belying his indignant tone. 

“Ah, you surely are, but either way, you’ll be my baby forever, A-Yuan,” Wei Ying says, a hand darting out to pinch A-Yuan’s cheek. 

His tone is teasing. Privately, Wei Ying and Lan Wangji have agreed that A-Yuan may begin training with a blunted blade on his next birthday, which is only a few months away. It will be a surprise. 

A-Yuan stomps his foot and reaches for Wei Ying. Wei Ying darts out of the way, initiating a game of tag. 

Lan Wangji continues to set out their food. His Wei Ying will herd their son over before long. Perhaps later, they will play one of his new compositions. A wholly satisfactory afternoon. 

In the late spring and summer, Wangji and Wei Wuxian often picnic with A-Yuan in the western meadow after the child is released from his introductory disciple training. A-Yuan seems delighted to show off what he has learned to the two men, and to the rabbits which hop lazily through his demonstrations. Lan Xichen approves entirely. Even if his heart breaks for the poor orphan who still calls Wangji baba and Wei Wuxian a-die, the scene is rather idyllic. It is so wonderful for children to have fresh air. Lan Xichen often walks past and sees them sharing a cold lunch, devising little games with A-Yuan, or playing music together. 

The music that Wangji has written as of late is a great deal more emotionally dynamic than his past work. Recurring songs include two he has titled “Longing Fulfilled” and “Family United.” It really is amazing that he is growing as a composer. Lan Xichen hopes that this is a sign that he will grow into his own emotionally in the coming years. 

(Sooner rather than later, Lan Xichen hopes. After all, at some point, everyone of Wangji's age will be married off. If he stays unattached and disinterested for another two decades, will Lan Xichen have to try to marry his forty year old brother off to a seventeen year old? That will be strange. Ah, If Lan Xichen’s future wife can help Wangji locate a girl with some spirit, it might work out. After all, given Wei Wuxian’s... everything, Wangji clearly likes a spitfire. )

Wangji takes to having the “family” over for dinner once a week. That is, he has A-Yuan, the ever-present Wei Wuxian (who, as his shield brother, is technically family), plus Lan Xichen and even, occasionally, Lan Qiren over to the jingshi for dinner. It is a wonderful idea, to eat together in silence instead of apart in silence. Wei Wuxian is always on his best behavior.

Their uncle becomes more and more suspicious as the evening progresses and Wei Wuxian fails to scandalize him. But after the meal, A-Yuan’s politely bubbly chatter even softens him. 

It is so nice that Wangji has made their mother’s prison into a home. She would have liked having company. Well, perhaps not Lan Qiren. He suspects that they did not get along. But Lan Xichen thinks that she might have rather liked Wei Wuxian, and his influence on Wangji. 

From the day Wei Wuxian showed up for lessons, it was obvious that he intrigued Wangji. That Wangji wanted to understand him. To know him. Lan Xichen always encouraged their friendship. It was the first friendship Wangji truly had, he believes. If Wangji is clinging to this relatively young type of arrangement with Wei Wuxian, well, Lan Xichen must admit that he’s still worlds away from where he was, socially speaking, before they took up together.  

Cultivators live for a long time, Lan Xichen often reminds himself. There is no need to rush Wangji’s maturation. Their mother would have wanted him to have friends. 

 Lan Wangji and Wei Ying do not always work well together when it comes to quiet tasks. Wei Ying gets distracted by technical tangents and creative projects, and Lan Wangji gets distracted by Wei Ying. 

Right now, by Lan Wangji’s side in the library, Wei Ying has chosen a quiet method of self-distraction - sketching. He is always put out that Lan Wangji looks unsurprised to see his finished product, but it is very obvious when Wei Ying is drawing instead of writing. His hands take on a different manner of elegance. His wrists turn in clever arcs. 

Lan Wangji realizes that he has been neglecting his own work just as Wei Ying looks up and meets his eye. A knowing exchange of glances. They should both be working, but they can take a few moments to breathe. 

In the library one day, Lan Xichen happens upon Wei Wuxian and Wangji doing research. Wei Wuxian is diligently working on some of his more arcane talisman designs; Wangji is studying a set of obscure spiritual songs for the qin. 

Two hours later, he returns for different texts. He could (should, probably) simply request them from a disciple, but he finds he has more success looking at the wide swath of their collection and finding what might be relevant to the topic of the day. 

Wangji is still studying. Wei Wuxian is - at first Lan Xichen thinks he is drafting a talisman, but when he walks behind him, he sees that he is drawing quite a beautiful portrait of Lan Xichen’s brother. 

“Oh, that is wonderful,” Lan Xichen says. 

“Thanks!” Wei Wuxian replies. “It’s because Lan Zhan is such an inspiring model.” 

“Mn,” Lan Xichen agrees, already thinking about how this skill could be put to use. Wei Wuxian already conducts night hunts, invents talismans and arrays, and mentors the juniors, so Lan Xichen must admit that his brother’s sworn shield pulls his weight around the Cloud Recesses. But perhaps he can convince him to cover just a few fine arts classes, if need should arise.

During the year of confusion that follows the close of the Sunshot Campaign, Jin Guangyao kills his own father, confesses his crime to Nie Mingjue, and gets murdered. By Nie Mingjue. It isn’t too hard for Nie Mingjue - well, Nie Mingjue’s little brother - to find a witness to Jin Guangshan’s murder after the fact. 

Lan Xichen is crushed but, frankly, Nie Mingjue had had a bad feeling about that little dude for a while. He goes home to Qinghe with a light conscience and gets married (Married! To a real, live woman! The Nie sect’s most accomplished general, no less!) the following month. She can sharpen a blade to the finest point he’s ever seen, and she beats him roundly in hand-to-hand combat. Marrying her is the happiest day of Nie Mingjue’s life. 

One scant year after Wangji and Wei Wuxian return to the Cloud Recesses, the world loses Jin Guangyao. At Nie Mingjue’s own hand, nonetheless. Lan Xichen is bereaved, but he carries on: as his uncle always reminds him, he is sect leader now. 

“Four, please, auntie,” Wei Ying says to the scallion pancake vendor. 

Taking Wei Ying to Caiyi Town is one of Lan Wangji’s greatest simple pleasures. 

Wei Ying’s casual revelation, towards the end of the war, that he used to be - his words - a “street waif” cast certain things in a new light. He delights in good food to such an excessive degree because he went without any reliable source of food for years, and not of his own volition, as Lan Sect disciples do when they are first forming their golden cores. He loves getting ink and brushes and paper because he had none of the three for many years. Nor anyone to whom he might show or send a drawing or a letter. He loves it when Lan Wangji spends money on him because it gives him a sense of security, and because it makes him feel desired. 

Lan Wangji desires to spoil Wei Ying. In this, as in many things, Wei Ying indulges him with impunity.

Lan Xichen thinks that it is kind of his brother to cover Wei Wuxian’s costs in town without discussion, and even make something of a game of it. After all, the Jiang Sect was thoroughly sacked. Money is probably a sensitive subject for Lotus Pier’s survivors. 

— 

When Lan Zhan puts his hand between Wei Wuxian’s shoulders, Wei Wuxian hardly notices. When he slides it down to his waist, he looks at him but keeps talking. When he puts it flat against the small of Wei Wuxian’s back, it is Wei Wuxian himself who makes the erroneous choice to cant his hips back, encouraging Lan Zhan’s hand down to his ass. 

He knows he has a solid, appealing rear end. He knows that Lan Zhan likes grabbing it. He likes when Lan Zhan grabs it. 

He likes it just as much when Lan Zhan strokes it slowly. Like he’s doing now. Just measured, soothing caresses, punctuated with the occasional pinch. 

“Lan er-gege,” he admonishes after a particularly hard pinch, slapping his husband’s chest playfully. He doesn’t try to get away from his hand in the slightest. 

From a distance, it looks to Lan Xichen like Wangji is vigorously patting his sworn shield’s rear end. Wei Wuxian must have sat in something. For all that black hides stains better than Lan white, Wei Wuxian’s robes are often a bit disheveled.

The pain of Meng Yao’s death lessens as the months go by. Lan Xichen begins to think upon marriage, as he had always planned to do following the war. Especially after he befriends the gentle, clearheaded Qin Su, Meng Yao’s former intended. 

One day, Lan Xichen and Wangji are discussing the potential volatility of Lan Yi’s cave - whether it would fare better left open or sealed. Wangji brings Wei Wuxian to weigh in, as he also met Lan Yi. They are just getting to a productive point in the discussion when Lan Xichen is interrupted by a herald determined to deliver a marriage inquiry directly to the sect leader. 

Lan Xichen blanches. He is excited about possibly marrying within the year, but this is most indecorous. Especially in front of Wei Wuxian, who is not family. He is not even a distant Lan.

Wei Wuxian says to Wangji softly, with the air of an older man recalling a lovely festival day from his childhood, “Ah, everyone thought Jiang Yanli would get married first because she’s the oldest, but then I was married by the time I got back from the Cloud Recesses.”

Wangji blinks fondly back at him, saying nothing. 

Lan Xichen has never heard this before. Wei Wuxian married mysteriously on the journey from Cloud Recesses to Lotus Pier? A whirlwind romance with a woman he met in a town somewhere? It seems like the kind of impulsive move that the son of a servant is able to make. 

The revelation recasts Wei Wuxian’s determination to cling to Wangji in a new light. He should have been able to go back home to his wife after the war. If his wife is gone, Lan Xichen understands how painful it would have been to settle into a lonely life without her. No wonder he did not return to Yunmeng. 

The Lan sect sees mourning as a noble pursuit. Lan Xichen is glad that Wei Wuxian could take solace in the Cloud Recesses. In his shield brother’s arms. How very warrior-poet of them. 

Now, learning that Wei Wuxian is a mourning widower does complicate Lan Xichen’s understanding of A-Yuan’s parentage. If Wei Wuxian was married, and A-Yuan is his child, then A-Yuan’s mother must be Wei Wuxian’s deceased wife, correct? Although... hm. A-Yuan looks so much like Wangji. Is he… Wei Wuxian’s deceased wife’s child by Wangji? He doesn’t think Wangji would sleep with his best friend’s wife. But it would explain their strange arrangement. 

Lan Xichen may have to content himself with never understanding. In any case, it is so kind of his brother to see his shield brother through the pain of losing the most important person in his life. There are worse methods of coping with such a loss than moving to the Cloud Recesses. (See: their father, whose response was to never again move out of his small, secluded cottage in the Cloud Recesses.)

Lan Wangji strikes out at Wei Ying’s shoulder. It unbalances him, but he is on his feet again in a moment; he advances and, in three quick motions, brings the very point of his sword underneath Lan Wangji’s chin. They stand completely still for a moment, gazes locked. 

Then Lan Wangji twists and reverses their positions. Bichen’s blade points at Wei Ying’s throat. 

Wei Ying says sofly, seductively, “I might let you.” As though talking about something else. 

Lan Wangji does not move. Does not speak. 

“I don’t think I’d mind nearly so much, as long as it was you,” Wei Ying continues. 

Lan Wangji tosses Bichen to the ground carelessly and takes his husband by the shoulders. Wei Ying grasps one of his wrists and turns them around, locking Lan Wangji’s arm behind him. 

“Dear husband,” he says in Lan Wangji’s ear. “Have you tired of sparring with your wife so soon? Don’t you want to see if you can tire me out with your sword?”

He sets Lan Wangji up like this sometimes. “I can tire you out with another sword,” he growls.

“I’d like to see you try,” Wei Ying whispers. 

“Very well,” Lan Wangji says, and hooks Wei Ying’s ankle, throwing them both to the ground of the practice arena. 

“Sect Leader,” Lan Qiangda, the Lan sect’s main swordwork instructor, says, bowing deeply. 

“Lan Qiangda,” Lan Xichen greets. “Why have you come to see me today?”

Lan Xichen is currently holding open hours for anyone who might wish to air grievances. As the Lan sect prides itself on discretion and self-governance, few attend these hours. They give Lan Xichen the chance to catch up on correspondence. 

Lan Qiangda’s father was also the Lan sect’s main swordwork instructor, and his father’s mother before him. He is generally an easygoing fellow, self-disciplined and not prone to interpersonal conflict. 

He usually has the typically serene air of a Lan elder, but something about his countenance right now is almost apologetic. “I have come to ask that Hanguang-Jun and Wei Wuxian be stopped from sparring so… heatedly… while the rest of the disciples are training,” he says. 

Oh. Wangji and Wei Wuxian are fairly powerful. And they learned a different kind of fighting during the war; everyone did. Fighting not to win but to kill. 

The youngest disciples have not seen real combat. Lan Xichen hopes it stays that way. 

“That must be upsetting for the younger disciples to see,” he agrees. “I will speak to them.”

“Thank you,” Lan Qiangda says fervently, bowing very deeply before leaving the room. Very upsetting for the youngest disciples indeed. 

Qin Su falls in love with Lan Xichen because he is utterly guileless. 

After Jin Guangyao - her clever, ambitious intended husband, Jin Guangyao - is killed, she comes to understand her true relationship to him, and that he must have known about it. She is horrified. She is disgusted. She is feeling very over the cunning upstart type. 

Lan Xichen expresses condolences during Jin Guangyao’s rites. (She carries them out not out of respect for the man himself but because she does not want to be haunted by her incestuous half-brother’s ghost.)

“Poor man. He was so troubled,” Lan Xichen says sadly. 

She is alight with frustration for a moment. Then she snuffs it out. This man does not know about Jin Guangyao’s blood relationship with Qin Su. She did not announce it. Spared herself - her mother - that shame. 

In place of the anger is curiosity. Few people have said nice things about Jin Guangyao over the last few days, all very happy to have a new person to blame for their troubles in the vacuum left by Wen Ruohan. “Yes,” she says softly, acknowledging without really agreeing. 

“He must have struggled,” Lan Xichen continues sadly. “To confess to Nie Mingjue. He must have been - I still cannot believe that he always meant to do harm.”

“Why is that, Zewu Jun?” she asks.

“Why can’t I believe it?”

She nods. 

“Ah,” Lan Xichen says. He looks lost. “I suppose - I have never wanted to… do what he did. To hurt or deceive anyone like that. He was a good man, at heart. The Meng Yao I knew wouldn’t have done these things.”

Oh. She gets it. His reputation is spotless, after all. He is inclined to honesty, and loyalty, and keeping his word, and so he thinks - rather stupidly - that everyone else must be just the same way, deep down. Must be just like him.

Qin Su is rather attracted to guilelessness, as it turns out. And Lan Xichen’s handsome face doesn’t hurt. 

Lan Xichen does, eventually, get married. 

He and Qin Su bonded over their mutual loss of poor, troubled Jin Guangyao, who had been courting her at the time of his death. When the inquiry from the Qin family arrives, about a year later, Lan Xichen is amenable. The Lan Clan does need to strengthen its ties with the Lanling-area clans. Especially given that Lan Xichen’s brother’s sworn shield is still sticking around, making it difficult for Yunmeng Jiang to take offense at Lan Xichen’s choice to build bridges between the Lan Clan and a minor Lanling-area clan. 

Political concerns aside, Qin Su is careful and kind and beautiful. Lan Xichen had expected to feel generally indifferent to his marriage at the start, being that it was always going to be a practical match. But he is so happy, truly, to marry her. 

Also, on a more crass note, Lan Xichen is thrilled to learn that real sexual relations are every bit as satisfying as they are purported to be. It’s warm in there. Incredible stuff. 

Strangely, being initiated into the art of lovemaking makes him feel more charitably towards Wei Wuxian. He feels bad for him. Wei Wuxian once knew the miraculous touch of a woman, and then he had to regress to awkward tent handjobs on the warfront. Awful. How kind of him to indulge Wangji’s youthful appetites.

Lan Wangji and Wei Ying usually do not fuck in the cold springs. They have, mostly to prove to themselves that they could. But fucking in a bed - or any room-temperature environment - is far preferable. 

That said, on hot summer days like this one, they do like to bathe together in the cool, refreshing waters. 

Lan Wangji carefully directs Wei Ying to lean back into the stream. As he floats slightly, Lan Wangji combs through his hair. 

“Lan Zhan, let’s live in the cold springs,” Wei Ying says. “And then you could do this forever.”

“I can do this at home,” Lan Wangji reminds him. “I do this most mornings, in fact.”

“Mm,” Wei Ying agrees. “So good at it. Handsome husband. You’ll pull up if I fall asleep, right?”

“Mn,” Lan Zhan promises. Given that he bathes a sleeping Wei Ying many mornings, he has at least as much practice in checking that he is not underwater as he does in combing his hair. 

After their wedding, Lan Xichen and Qin Su are given a few days of seclusion in order to get to know one another intimately. It is his understanding that this practice was set into place after an unfortunate incident wherein a newly-married Lan sect couple, having exchanged their ribbons, lost hold of their self-discipline entirely and scorned their duties, instead running off to an inn in Jinlintai for several weeks in order to, ah, learn one another. The elders were outraged, but also thought that it was a rather wise idea, and instituted a week of marital leave as policy. 

Thus, he finds himself unoccupied and rather sticky in the middle of the afternoon on one of the hottest days of the summer. He carefully extricates himself from their marriage bed - Qin Su snores a bit, which is extremely cute - and goes to dip into the cold springs. Upon arriving, he sees that his brother is already there, intently focused on… giving Wei Wuxian a bath? Just genially, publicly washing Wei Wuxian’s hair? And - is that a comb?

Wei Wuxian cannot possibly still be injured from the night hunt two months ago that took a chunk from his shoulder. Can he be? 

Lan Xichen resolves to ask them both privately if they might wish to take some time off of their night hunting duties, or lessen their frequency, so as to allow for optimal recovery. Then he selects a spot a bit downstream from them for bathing; it seems rather rude to rinse off the aforementioned stickiness directly onto others. 

Wei Wuxian’s unexpected arrival at Qin Su’s doorstop unnerves her. Lan Xichen is off attending to sect matters, and she is alone in the hanshi catching up on piles of correspondence. This is their first day out of seclusion as a couple. 

Wei Wuxian may be a war hero, but he has a reputation for dabbling in the forbidden arts, and she does not know him at all. Hanguang-Jun is supposed to meet her and her husband at the hanshi for dinner; why is this other man at her new home hours beforehand? Did she forget about drop-in meet-and-greet hours for the sect leader’s wife?

Interacting as a married woman is new and fraught. She does not want to offend anyone. But she will not be intimidated in her own home. 

She throws back her shoulders before she opens the door. Wei Wuxian attended her wedding. She thinks that he may have been in attendance as her new husband’s extremely intimidating brother’s… companion. She can give him a chance to explain himself. 

“Madam Qin! Hi!” Wei Wuxian says when she opens it. He bows politely from a distance. She doesn’t look around in confusion when he greets her as Madam Qin, which is a small, private victory. 

So. An honored, intimidating war hero of slightly dubious reputation is here. At the door of her new home. Where she now lives. 

“I just wanted to welcome you to the Cloud Recesses! You know, say hi and ask if you need any help setting up for dinner or anything! I’m so excited to have another non-Lan in the family,” he says. 

Huh.

“Oh, here,” he continues. He hands over a beautifully wrapped box. “I would never trade being married to Lan Zhan for anything, but the Lans do not know how to spice their food -”

Oh. Oh!

“- so I brought you, ah, some of the very hot southern peppers - that’ll be the red jar, careful when you open it if you’re not used to them - and also star anise, and a few others. I’ve found a pretty good spice seller in Caiyi Town, and I usually stop in town on my way back from hunts, so I can pick up others for you if you ever need. Or whatever else, really.”

He cuts a rather domestic figure when brandishing cooking sundries rather than a sword.

“I - won’t you come in?” Qin Su asks. 

Hanguang-Jun himself appears after an only moderately awkward tea-taking. He apologizes for having been caught up in his correspondence. (She’s gathered, at this point, that Lan Xichen forgot to tell her that the two of them would be stopping by today. She will discuss that with him later. Her mother told her all about laying down the law with her husband before he gets ideas.)

Hanguang-Jun and his husband are obviously very in love. They take turns lovingly gazing at one another and gushing about their son. 

“A-Yuan is perfect, Qin Su,” Wei Wuxian says. He expounds on this point for several minutes, listing everything from A-Yuan’s age-appropriate reading skills to his quietude and diligence to his “very cute little toes.” 

At the end of this spiel, Hanguang-Jun adds, “He is… a polite boy.” 

Never has Qin Su heard a Lan be so effusive in their praise. 

When they leave, she closes the hanshi’s door behind them and leans against it momentarily. 

“Oh, thank heavens,” she says to herself. 

As Qin Su is the wife of the sect leader, helping to find a wife for Lan Wangji is under her purview. Her husband has spoken about Lan Wangji a few times. About how he hopes that his little brother lets go of youthful things and embraces marital bliss as Lan Xichen himself has. (“Embraces marital bliss” is his wording. He is a ridiculous, dear man.) It’s stressful to be tasked with finding a suitable wife for an incredibly stoic man belonging to a notoriously strict and upright clan. Qin Su only just finished finding herself a husband, and her first choice turned out to be her own brother. Her track record isn’t great. 

But! It turns out that her brother-in-law is already married! Goodness, Qin Su really dodged an arrow there. 

She is a little concerned that her new husband apparently to some degree disapproves of those who cut their sleeve. Ah, well. No new husband is perfect (another one of her mother’s helpful teachings), and Hanguang-Jun and Wei Wuxian seem to be handling things just fine. 

Wei Wuxian surfaces slightly from sleep for just an instant to the sensation of his very perfect husband breaching him with the tip of one spit-slick finger. 

He falls asleep again without even noticing. Dreams that his husband is fucking him. He’s sleeping on his stomach in their bed in the jingshi, one leg pulled up to the side, but in the dream he’s on his knees. Wakes again, slightly, only enough to recognize that the dream and the real world are two different places. His husband slides the whole finger inside of him. Wei Wuxian falls back asleep as Lan Zhan fucks him gently.

He dreams about Lan Zhan some more, and somewhere along the line, the dream becomes very specifically about Lan Zhan fucking him in their bed. With three fingers. Wei Wuxian just breathing. Deep. Calm. Wanting more so badly but unable to do anything about it. Wanting more but just hanging out and waiting to see what he’s being given. Wanting, wanting - 

He wakes up for almost-real for a split second when his husband lifts Wei Wuxian’s leg at the knee and shoves his cock inside of him in one smooth motion. 

Wei Wuxian groans loudly, emphatically, the sound pushed out of him with no grace or charm. 

Lan Zhan chuckles over him, over his body, which is still sleep-weak. No one believes him when he says Lan Zhan can chuckle. 

Wei Wuxian intends to say something, but falls back to sleep instead. 

There are two more times when he wakes up with a sense of need, wanting but too useless to chase it for himself. 

He manages one pathetic whine. 

Lan Zhan doesn’t chuckle, this time. He speeds up. Gets deeper into Wei Wuxian. He feels so good there, so right, that Wei Wuxian - oh. Whoops. He distantly recognizes that he’s dreaming again. He should probably wake up. They were right about to get to the good part. They - 

He wakes up already spilling over Lan Zhan’s fingers. His whole body feels confused, like it should have coiled up tightly, anticipatory, but he didn’t have the time. He’s just lax and loose. Fuck, gods, gods. He can’t make words. He can’t even whine. Lan Zhan’s fine with that, though. As he drifts off again, Wei Wuxian is pretty sure that Lan Zhan is coming. 

Lan Xichen does convince Wei Wuxian to cover an art class for a cohort of younger disciples. He is thrilled to hear that it goes well. It makes sense that Wei Wuxian is good with children. After all, he is raising one (his? someone’s?) right here in the Cloud Recesses. 

It is a wonder he has the energy, though. During the war, Lan Xichen saw Wei Wuxian sleeping in tent corners, collapsed over piles of talismans, all the time. 

Wei Wuxian’s sleeping habits are positively Lan-like, really; he appears to simply knock out wherever and whenever he is feeling tired. But whereas the Lan fall asleep at a set hour regardless of their location, Wei Wuxian lacks a predictable bedtime. Occasionally, Lan Xichen spots him napping at midday in trees and in his small office attached to the archives. 

Lan Xichen can reasonably assume that the man sleeps in the guest dorms from time to time, but he does not have a dedicated set of rooms now, as most adults in the Cloud Recesses do. Presumably, as Wei Wuxian’s host, Wangji must throw a blanket over Wei Wuxian wherever he passes out, because it’s not as though Wei Wuxian is a member of the clan who keeps to the hours.

Actually, if either of them are anything like Lan Xichen, they fall asleep after the act - whether it is true lovemaking or an exchange of dry handjobs whilst envisioning one’s best guess at the naked female form. (Lan Xichen shudders to recall that Wei Wuxian once knew the touch of a woman, and now is back to just imagining them very hard while trying to pretend that his sworn brother’s hand is not attached to, well, his sworn brother.) So Wei Wuxian likely sleeps on the floor of the jingshi, or possibly even Wangji’s bed, from time to time. That sounds uncomfortable. Perhaps failing to dedicate rooms to Wei Wuxian has been an inhospitable move on the part of the Lan sect, and of Wangji, specifically. Lan Xichen wonders if that should be rectified. 

“Should I send a second bed to the jingshi? So that Wei Wuxian has a dedicated sleeping space?” he asks Qin Su one evening, walking back to the hanshi after a family dinner with Wangji, A-Yuan, Wei Wuxian, and Lan Qiren. 

Her eyebrows furrow in charming disapproval. “No,” she says, uncharacteristically crisp. Huh. 

Wei Wuxian and Lan Zhan play a rambling duet by the waterfall they think of as theirs, for no reason other than that they both like it in particular. Its waters are not terribly loud, and the acoustics of the surrounding rock are incredible. 

While they’re both lost in music, the golden afternoon light fades into dusk.

Feeling the slightly cooler cast to the air, Wei Wuxian looks up. His husband - oh. His husband. 

He brings his part of their song to a close and sets his dizi aside carefully. Lan Zhan follows suit.  

He and Lan Zhan and A-Yuan often come here as a family, but today he and his husband are alone. Their son is in class, learning calligraphy. Sucker. 

“Lan Zhan,” Wei Wuxian whispers, tugging on Lan Zhan’s sleeve. 

Lan Zhan moves to sit closer to him and, without needing to ask, leans down and kisses him. It’s slow, wet, deep. Lewd, for the setting. Lewd in general. Very sexy. 

Wei Wuxian breaks away to say, “Lan er-gege,” and then pulls him back in for another one. 

Lan Xichen is meditating higher up in the Cloud Recesses’ waterfalls. He can hear the music that his brother and his brother’s sworn shield are playing. He can also hear when it stops. He looks down absently, thoughtlessly breaking his concentration, and startles to see Wei Wuxian and Wangji - ah, there is no polite term for making out, with visible tongues. With, apparently, a side of biting one another’s’ throats. 

That is - a bit more amorous than anything that Lan Xichen did with his own shield brother, but - ah, well, the natural beauty of the Cloud Recesses in the springtime is so powerfully inspiring! And perhaps it is easier for them to imagine a woman if they cannot hear one another over the rushing of the falls? 

His brother deserves to enjoy what frivolous youth he can recapture from before the war. If the two of them have found a way to pretend that one another's' mouths are the beautiful, soft lips of a lady, then more power to them, Lan Xichen supposes. 

He hurriedly stands and goes to meditate elsewhere. 

Wei Wuxian’s wrists have been tied with Lan Zhan’s ribbon for what feels like hours. 

He blew him just long enough to get Wei Wuxian hot and bothered. Aching for something in his ass. Aching for him. 

Then Lan Zhan shoved into him all at once, way too harshly, exactly like Wei Wuxian likes it. 

“Fuck, Lan Zhan, Hanguang-Jun, Lan er-gege,” he babbles. “Have mercy, you’re going to tear me up, I’ll die, I’ll - I -”

“You will live,” Lan Zhan instructs. He takes Wei Wuxian’s cock in hand. 

Wei Wuxian keens. He pushes his hips up into Lan Zhan. Fuck his fist and impales himself on his husband’s perfect cock. 

“Kiss me,” he demands. “No, kiss my neck. Make sure it shows, okay?”

Lan Zhan bites the tender skin under Wei Wuxian’s ear and asks - rhetorically - “Why is that, pretty wife?”

“Makes me feel like everyone knows I’m yours,” Wei Wuxian tells him. “Dear husband,” he adds.

“Mn,” Lan Wangji agrees, and sucks harder at Wei Wuxian’s throat. 

Wei Wuxian’s wrists strain against the ribbon, but its spiritual power holds him fast. It bites into him when he struggles, painful, almost like carpet burn. 

He loves it. He wants Lan Zhan to keep him tied up for the rest of their lives. 

Quite honestly, Lan Xichen is a bit confused by just how much necking appears to be involved in Wangji and Wei Wuxian biding time with one another. If the occasional shadows (or outright hickies) on their throats and jaws are any indication, they do so rather often. 

(To be fair to them, there is a bit of a trick to spiritually healing up hickies, as they are not serious enough ailments for one’s golden core to automatically intervene. A few days into their marital seclusion, Lan Xichen and Qin Su awoke to find themselves quite bruised about their throats (and several other places besides). After their sheepish laughter wore off - they kept telling one another not to look, and then kept breaking the seriousness of it by giggling - they mutually decided it was below their dignity as a married couple to flash said bruises about. They lost a full afternoon attempting to heal them before getting it quite right.)

Wangji and Wei Wuxian seem to have taken a more... lackadaisical approach. They bear the blemishes of amorous, carefree youth unselfconsciously. Or, seemingly so - one time Lan Xichen tried to show Wangji how to heal them. 

Lan Xichen’s attempts to demonstrate the healing technique to Wangji have been met with horrified mortification. If he is honest, this is at least part of why he has offered to teach it to Wangji so many times. Wangji is usually unflappable; Lan Xichen seizes rare opportunities to get a rise out of him as they come.

Anyway. Yes. Necking with one’s shield brother is... odd. But hey, who is to say that Lan Xichen wouldn’t have tried it out if his arrangement with Nie Mingjue had extended past the war? Granted, he had not wanted to neck with Nie Mingjue, but perhaps he would have been motivated to do so if he were feeling concerned about his performance in marriage. 

He had not, actually, known at the time that there were performance standards by which kissing could be judged. It worked out just fine, though. He happily remembers the week or so wherein Qin Su painstakingly explained that there was technique to kissing, and then taught it to him. There had been… much room for improvement in his performance at the beginning of his marriage, it turned out. 

Ah, Wangji and Wei Wuxian are still so inexperienced, never having known the touch of a woman. Or - Wei Wuxian was married before, wasn’t he? But that was some time ago, regardless. It is probably a good sign that they are practicing so diligently for their own marriages, then! Perhaps, in addition to Wangji turning his thoughts toward matrimony,  Wei Wuxian will be moved to find love again one day. 

(Regarding marks other than hickies, Wei Wuxian also often has bruises or red marks on his wrists. Lan Xichen knows that these ones, at least, are the result of intense sparring: Wei Wuxian sometimes pouts at Wangji and tells him that he must rub salve into them in penance for putting them there in the first place.)

Wei Ying drags Lan Wangji and A-Yuan out into town to take in the celebration of a minor festival. (He calls it dragging, at least, though both Lan Wangji and A-Yuan go quite willingly.) On their way back, A-Yuan insists on practicing sword forms. Lan Wangji indulges A-Yuan for some time, and finds his brother keeping Wei Wuxian company under the nearest tree afterwards. They return to the Cloud Recesses together, walking largely to set a good example for A-Yuan regarding frivolous use of spiritual energy. 

“A-Yuan’s getting so big! He’s so good at that third turn movement now,” Wei Ying says fondly that evening. 

“Mn,” Lan Wangji agrees. “His endurance has improved as well. How long were you and Xichen waiting?”

“Oh, a while, but it was no trouble. We just... chatted.” His voice is strange. Falsely casual. 

“About what?” Wangji asks.

“Just… stuff,” Wei Ying says coyly. “Family stuff, you know. I think he might be finally kind of getting it.”

“Mn,” Lan Wangji says skeptically. 

“I know,” Wei Ying says, laughing a little. 

“If this worries you -”

“Oh, no, who cares,” Wei Ying sighs breezily. “I don’t need your brother to understand. You’re the only Twin Jade that matters to me. You’re a great husband. And… a great father.”

Lan Wangji strokes Wei Ying’s hand. 

“Like. Such a good father,” Wei Ying says. “You like it, right? Being a father?”

“Of course,” Lan Wangji says, concerned. 

With a secretive smile, Wei Ying says, “Good. Me too.”

Just outside of Caiyi Town, Lan Xichen runs into Wei Wuxian. There is a small festival in town today; Wei Wuxian has candy. Some distance away, Wangji patiently goes through sword forms with A-Yuan, who has recently taken to insisting on practicing them anywhere, any time, without a moment’s notice.

“Isn’t he great?” Wei Wuxian asks when Wangji carefully repositions A-Yuan’s elbow. 

“Yes,” Lan Xichen says. “I look forward to seeing him with a large family one day.”

Wei Wuxian’s eyes widen. He stares at Wangji for another moment and stops biting his candy mid-nibble. 

Pulling it out of his mouth, he turns to face Lan Xichen and asks, “Did - um, did Lan Zhan say he wants more kids?”

Oh, dear. “We have not discussed it. I assume he does. Would that be a problem?” Lan Xichen asks, taking in Wei Wuxian’s wide-eyed stare back towards Wangji and A-Yuan. A-Yuan will always be a Lan. Will always be Wangji’s son. Lan Xichen hopes that the idea of Wangji growing up - marrying and adding to his family - does not incite misplaced jealousy, for either A-Yuan or Wei Wuxian. 

“No,” Wei Wuxian says, to Lan Xichen’s relief. “No, I mean, I should probably talk to him about it, but not - not at all. No, I love kids.” His voice is high.

“Good,” Lan Xichen says, pleased. 

“And, I mean, I don’t really know how that would happen, but - no, not a problem at all.” He sounds happy.

“Ah,” Lan Xichen says vaguely, somewhat shocked by Wei Wuxian’s boldness, but also gratified: Lan Xichen, too, finds the - the arcane processes behind conception rather opaque.  

Troublemaker though he may be, Wei Wuxian might be the best shield brother Wangji could possibly have found. He is terribly gracious and understanding of Wangji’s immaturity. What grace, to look forward to his shield brother’s future marriage despite his own ending in tragedy. To support Wangji in finding his own wedded bliss, as Lan Xichen himself has, as Wei Wuxian once did. 

Lan Wangji and Wei Ying go to the hot springs together. The crisp fall air makes the waters steam, painting everything in a haze. Normally, they only watch one another here. Perhaps kiss a bit. But Wei Ying bends over, and Lan Wangji reaches out to grab his ass without conscious thought. Sinks his fingers in. Decides that he absolutely must sink other things in. 

“Lan Zhan,” Wei Ying says. He shivers when Lan Wangji’s mouth ghosts over the back of his neck. “Here?”

“Here,” Lan Wangji says, and Wei Ying obligingly spreads his legs. He is always willing. It astonishes Lan Wangji, the way that Wei Ying is always willing.

“So improper, where anyone could see,” Wei Ying says coyly. 

Lan Wangji does not bite at the possibility of being caught. Right now, that is not his focus. His focus is on the cool air, and the comparatively blistering warmth of the springs. The even greater heat inside of Wei Ying, at the heart of him, where Lan Wangji wants to be - 

Where he is - 

Where he finishes. 

“Lan er-gege,” Wei Ying says when they are both satisfied. “So good to me, my sweet husband.”

Lan Wangji hums, satisfied, slipping two fingers back into him just because he can.

As the weather turns again, Lan Xichen begins dipping into the secret, Lan clan member-only hot springs in the evening. 

One day as he approaches, he is surprised to hear Wei Wuxian’s voice ringing out in the distance, words indistinct, tone conversational. What is Wei Wuxian doing in the hot springs? How did he get in? Lan Xichen frowns. The hot springs’ wards are only supposed to permit entry to immediate Lan family members. (There was an incident, before his uncle’s time, with a group of visiting disciples.) And these springs are quite small, compared to the cold springs; they cannot fit many bathers. 

Then he hears a low, quiet voice murmur to Wei Wuxian in response. Ah, that explains it: Wangji brought him. Mystery solved, Lan Xichen thinks to himself, satisfied that nothing untoward is going on. He heads away to the hanshi. He will return when the hot springs are unoccupied. 

“Lan Zhan,” Wei Wuxian whispers from down on his knees, looking up at Lan Zhan, who’s leaning against a tree. 

They’re in the forest. Camping out for one more evening following a successful night hunt. They could have flown home, but why hurry? A-Yuan is safe in the dorms for the night. It’s nice to be alone together in the middle of nowhere. 

“Mn,” Lan Zhan says. 

“My dear husband, you made promises to me when we married,” Wei Wuxian says. “You said every day we would - you know. Will you fail me now? Just because we’re outside where anyone could see? No one’s here.”

But someone could come across them. These aren’t private lands, and neither Wei Wuxian nor Lan Zhan bothered to set up any wards tonight. (Yet. They will. Wei Wuxian is sort of paranoid about getting caught off-guard and just never coming back from a night hunt, leaving A-Yuan alone. Who could say what that’s about?)

Lan Zhan gently puts a hand to the side of Wei Wuxian’s face. “I will never fail you,” he says, too intense, too good. 

Wei Wuxian swallows. He leans forward, nuzzling Lan Zhan’s robes. Nuzzling what’s underneath. “Lan Zhan,” he whines. Then he whispers, “Get it out?”

Lan Zhan possibly smirks as he does. Wei Wuxian doesn’t get to watch his face and find out; he’s much too busy taking in the sight of Lan Zhan leaning back to untie his belt, part his robes, and pull his trousers down beneath his balls. His body language is so cocky when he does it, confident. His cock is thick already. Well, it’s thick in any situation, but it’s thickened right now, starting to stand to attention at the sight of Wei Wuxian on his knees. At the knowledge that they could, technically, be happened upon at any moment. 

Wei Wuxian waits patiently until Lan Zhan taps the head of his cock against his lips, and then he surges up, taking it in both hands, running his tongue along the length. He makes sure to stick his tongue out and look up at Lan Zhan from under his lashes. 

Lan Zhan’s eyes are heavy-lidded, smoldering. He lets it go on for a long time, content to watch Wei Wuxian put on a show, before saying, “Go on.”

That’s all the warning Wei Wuxian gets before Lan Zhan is taking his hair and pushing his head down onto his cock. Wei Wuxian moans, sucking him down. 

Taking Lan Zhan in his mouth has a way of shutting out the rest of the world. Wei Wuxian wouldn’t notice if they were caught now. He might not care, either; it would be pretty hot, under the right circumstances, at least theoretically. 

Lan Zhan takes him and uses his mouth. Wei Wuxian can moan as much as he wants, but he doesn’t have to speak right now. Lan Zhan’s cock is thick and heavy on his tongue, keeping his mouth open, forcing his throat to relax. Lan Zhan takes care of everything; Wei Wuxian can just stay on his knees and get fucked. 

Right around the time that Wei Wuxian starts to press a hand against his own cock in earnest, Lan Zhan pulls away. 

Wei Wuxian makes a sad sound. Tries to chase him. But Lan Zhan holds him back with a strong hand clamped down on the juncture between his shoulder and neck. 

“Like this,” Lan Zhan says, and begins to fist his cock in front of Wei Wuxian’s face. 

“Oh, Lan er-gege,” Wei Wuxian says, faking wide-eyed innocence while he takes out his own cock and begins stroking it. “Are you going to get your come all over me?”

“Yes,” Lan Zhan growls. 

Wei Wuxian shivers. “Why’s that, my dear husband? You want to see me like that?” He licks his lips. 

Lan Zhan, watching him, says, “I wish to see you like that. And if some traveler happens upon us, I wish for them to see you... like this.”

“How’s that?” Wei Wuxian gasps. “You mean you want them to see me on my knees? Touching myself, waiting for you to -”

“To ruin you,” Lan Zhan says, voice incongruously soft, almost kind. 

Wei Wuxian whines and strokes himself faster. “Lan er-gege, I can’t - I need you to, I need something, can’t without getting fucked -”

Lan Zhan is clearly holding himself off by now, shoulders tense, abs twitching. “Then do,” Lan Zhan growls.

Wei Wuxian gasps and uses his free hand to shove his trousers down to his thighs. Then he switches hands, so the dry one goes around his cock. He buries two fingers into himself with his other hand. Curls them and moans. It hurts a little; it feels amazing. “Lan Zhan, please,” he says. “Husband. Lan er-gege. Please.”

Lan Zhan says softly, darkly, “Close your eyes.”

Wei Wuxian moans and fucks himself harder. He sticks his tongue out, covering his lower lip. An invitation. He bats his eyelashes at Lan Zhan, and then he closes his eyes and waits. 

Soon - very soon - the head of Lan Zhan’s cock hits his tongue and comes against it. Then Lan Zhan must pull back, because the rest lands across Wei Wuxian’s mouth and over one cheek. He hears Lan Zhan inhale sharply. Feels his thumb brush the corner of Wei Wuxian’s mouth. Swiping against what he’s left there. Pushing it onto his still-waiting tongue. 

Wei Wuxian comes with his eyes still shut, mouth closed around Lan Zhan’s thumb, sucking it. 

“A productive night hunt, I assume?” Lan Xichen asks Wei Wuxian and Wangji. They returned from their latest trip this morning.

They go night hunting quite often, always together, occasionally with a small party of other disciples. It is very kind of Wangji to be so dedicated to representing the Lan sect in the face of chaos. It frees up Lan Xichen to focus on important sect leader duties - diplomacy and politics. Plus, whenever a particularly challenging sect dignitary is visiting, Wangji absconds with Wei Wuxian, which Lan Xichen is sure has averted some incidents. 

“And how,” Wei Wuxian says, offering a wink. “I sure got down and dirty, if you know what I mean.”

“Wei Ying,” Wangji hisses. His ears are bright red.

Lan Xichen does know what Wei Wuxian means, unfortunately. 

Wait.

Is Wei Wuxian breaking off this arrangement between himself and his sworn brother, Wangji? 

Because if he has re-embraced the touch of a woman following his wife’s tragic passing… what is he still doing here, keeping his brother from moving forward with his life?

He waits politely, but Wei Wuxian does not announce an engagement. Nor does Wangji tell Lan Xichen that he is finally open to making marriage inquiries. 

Odd.

Oh - perhaps his brother’s ears are red from embarrassment, not anger… because Wei Wuxian is also revealing an indiscretion on Wangji’s part? Perhaps, utterly sick of sustaining themselves through dry, awkward handjobs by imagining beautiful ladies, both of them partook of a… certain kind of establishment on their way back from Qinghe, and Wangji does not want Wei Wuxian to tell Lan Xichen about their illicit exploits with women?

No, right? No. Lan Xichen knows his brother. His passions run deep. If he paid a visit to a brothel, he would have brought her back to the Cloud Recesses as his wife. If not out of love for her, then out of love for righteousness towards all beings. 

Still - he must admit that it would have been terribly amusing, in a horrible, unfilial way, to see Lan Qiren confronted with Wangji following in their father’s footsteps by bringing an inappropriate spouse to the Cloud Recesses with no announcement whatsoever. 

Lan Qiren sees Wangji’s relationship with Wei Wuxian quite clearly, thank you very much. When a man returns from war with a spouse and a child in tow, one does not ask questions. One only breathes a sigh of relief that at least a marriage took place. 

Can Lan Qiren stand Wei Wuxian? No. Must he stand Wei Wuxian? Yes. 

At least Wangji cannot make quintessentially Lan - meaning: terrible - choices with women if he has shacked up with a man and their baby. Lan Qiren would not have chosen this particular man, had he been consulted, but he decidedly was not. He sees their relationship, and he hates it, but ultimately he makes his peace with - meaning: fully allows - it. 

A-Yuan, at least, is a joy. Better behaved than Xichen or Wangji were at that age. And, horribly, it seems that Wei Wuxian is doing a fair job of rearing him. He also, Lan Qiren supposes, does a passable job of teaching their rising disciples. And his performance on night hunts is - it pains Lan Qiren to admit - adequate. Even Wei Wuxian’s contributions to the sect in terms of research and improvements in cultivation technology are… heavens help him… acceptable. 

Which is not to say that Wei Wuxian has stopped being incredibly aggravating. But no matter. No matter. Lan Qiren is stepping back and allowing Xichen to take over as sect leader, after all. Wei Wuxian is Xichen’s problem now. 

Lan Wangji and Wei Ying sometimes eat dinner with the rest of the cultivators in the main hall. Usually because it is convenient. After a long day of hard work, when they do not feel even like walking all the way back to the jingshi or cooking for themselves, they take their meal with the group. Even now that Wei Ying has established a satisfactory spicing system for Gusu Lan’s more bland offerings, they prefer to spend their time with one another. And with A-Yuan, as often as they can without interfering with his training. 

But tonight, they have only just returned from a week-long hunt. They are both strong cultivators, but returning to a place of stillness makes any journey feel tiring in hindsight. So they eat with the bulk of the Lan disciples. 

Wei Ying is tired and cranky. Lan Wangji is, though he would never admit as much to Wei Ying, also cranky. Because he is also tired. 

“You wrecked my ass last night,” Wei Ying whines to Lan Wangji when they finish eating. He wiggles his fingers in Lan Wangji’s direction, indicating that he should help him up off the floor.

“Mn,” Lan Wangji agrees. He pulls Wei Ying up when he stands. In a lower voice, he assures him, “I will take responsibility.”

“Oh, good,” Wei Ying says sleepily as they leave the main hall. “That’s nice.”

“You wrecked my ass last night,” Wei Wuxian whines to Wangji at dinner. 

They really do spar so hard, Lan Xichen thinks. He may need to speak with them at some point about forming better habits in peacetime. 

“I love you so much,” Wei Ying whispers, looking into Lan Wangji’s eyes. 

“Wei Ying. I love you,” Lan Wangji responds, his lips inches away from Wei Ying’s. 

“A word, if you will, Wangji,” Xichen calls, as he lets himself into their home. 

Fuck. 

Xichen stops short a few feet from the door of their (locked) private residence and stares, wide-eyed and blank, at Wei Ying and Lan Wangji. At their rather intimate positioning. 

Wei Ying and Lan Wangji look back at him, waiting to hear what in the world could possibly be so important that he might need to break into their home to discuss it. 

“Ah,” Xichen says. He bows, turns on his heel, and walks right back out. 

Wei Ying and Lan Wangji exchange a look. 

“What the hell was that about?” Wei Ying asks. 

“He has been strange lately,” Lan Wangji says. “Asking me vaguely about marriage offers.”

“Marriage offers?” Wei Ying asks, wrinkling his nose. “Still?”

“I tell him I am not open to them, and he says that of course, he knows this, but if I were, would I want this or that,” Lan Wangji sighs. 

“Maybe they’re for him? Is he thinking about marrying a second wife?” Wei Ying asks. “But Gusu Lan doesn’t usually practice plural marriages.”

“Mn,” Lan Wangji agrees. This has been his line of thinking as well. 

“Uh, anyway,” Wei Ying says. “Could we still -” He stretches his body sinuously. The modified spirit net that holds him cuts into his ass and his thighs in a pleasing manner. 

“Mn,” Lan Wangji agrees again, and resumes fingering him through the netting. 

That night, Lan Xichen and Qin Su settle down at the hanshi’s table for the evening. It is still light outside, so they have some time before they must retire. As usual, they sit at opposite ends of the table and allow their ankles to cross while they silently amuse themselves - Qin Su with her reading, and he with his study of a few recreational xiao compositions. 

Concentration is difficult. The embarrassment of his encounter with his brother and Wei Wuxian earlier today has yet to entirely burn off.

“If I might speak indecorously?” he finally asks his wife. “In a - not regarding ourselves.”

She nods with a slight smile. 

“I went to the jingshi today. Unannounced,” he begins.

Qin Su’s eyebrows raise a bit. 

“And I saw - I saw, ah. My brother. In a compromising position. With Wei Wuxian.”

“Mn,” Qin Su says, clearly waiting for him to begin the important part of the story. She knows he spent time with Nie Mingjue, and that his brother and Wei Wuxian still - spend time. 

“Their embrace was quite... passionate,” he tells her. 

“Yes,” she says vaguely when he looks to her for a verbal response. 

“Quite - quite elaborate,” he says hesitantly. He does not explain further, in part because he is embarrassed and in part because he lacks the vocabulary for several of the things he witnessed. 

She quirks a small smile again. His unworldliness in these matters amuses her, for which he thanks the heavens every day. 

“I am concerned… that they are having to become creative in an effort to relieve the boredom of - of spending time with a man,” he finishes in a rush. First the waterfall, now the - whatever it was, today: clearly, imagining a woman in the room no longer satisfies them. (Oh, heavens, was the time that they were in the hot springs - no. No. Surely Wangji would not take his sworn shield there just to liven up their altercations.)

“I do not find it boring,” Qin Su states fondly. 

He ducks his head, smiles. 

“Are you worried they will tire of one another and Wei Wuxian will leave?” she asks. He has told her about their parents, so she knows that he and his brother both worry about being left, in the same way that she worries about being cornered. 

“No, no,” Lan Xichen says. “I worry that they will continue to - escalate - rather than simply breaking things off and finding their own true marital happiness.”

She glows briefly at marital happiness, but then flattens down. Ah. He has done something wrong. 

“You think that they should stop seeing one another,” she says evenly. 

“Of course,” he says. 

“Why?”

“Well - it’s, they have to get married some time.”

“Aren’t they already quite committed to one another?” she asks. 

“Exactly the problem,” he tries to explain. “They must outgrow this arrangement if they are ever to find real love.”

Indeed, he did something wrong. He does not understand what exactly he did wrong, but Qin Su tells him to think about the destructive power of the idea of legitimacy and then come back to her before asking her to explain for a sixth time. When he does something wrong and does not understand what, she allows him simply to take his punishment as it comes - in this case, he must sleep on the floor - and meditate on the reason for it over the coming days. Truly, his wife is generous. 

“It’s been, oh, five years?” Wei Wuxian asks Lan Zhan that evening. “Right? Since we came here? Since I came here.”

“We moved here with A-Yuan five years ago, yes,” Lan Zhan says. 

“How is your brother still surprised that we’re still together?” Wei Wuxian asks, laughing a bit.

“I cannot fathom,” Lan Zhan says, looking bewildered himself. His version of bewildered, anyway. His right forelock has a slightly windswept quality to it.

“I mean,” Wei Wuxian says. “Even when I was just a visiting disciple, he was always encouraging you to hang out with me.”

“Mn.”

“And he sent me to, like, ambush you while you were bathing in the nude. I mean.” He laughs again. “Even if I’d hopped on your dick right then, he couldn’t have acted surprised about it later. He set it up.”

“I believe he knew that I wanted us to be… friends,” Lan Zhan muses. 

“You didn’t want us to be friends,” Wei Wuxian says, rolling his eyes. 

“I did,” Lan Zhan argues. “Among other things. Did you not wish to be mine?”

Wei Wuxian covers his face with his hands. Cute. Lan Zhan is so cute. “I guess I wanted to be friends, but also, my crush on you was out of control.”

“Likewise. Xichen... mistook the nature of my regard.”

“How?” Wei Wuxian asks. “We’re not discreet.”

“Mn,” Lan Zhan agrees, a glint in his eye, no doubt thinking of the thing they did in the garden last week. 

Wei Wuxian shivers pleasantly. “That’s what we’ve always been like. Like, I didn’t know what I was asking for when we were kids, but I wasn’t subtle about asking for it.”

“I wish you had been more direct,” Lan Zhan admits. 

“Do you?” Wei Wuxian asks. 

Lan Zhan’s eyes go distant. “I would have ruined you in the library.”

Wei Wuxian is about to ask, How? and possibly follow it up with, Fuck it, let’s just go there, you can show me, when his husband refocuses. “People knew even during the war,” Lan Zhan says. “We had silencing talismans, but we were in a tent. People heard things.”

“Ha. Yeah. Remember, Nie Mingjue gave you a talk about not wearing me out faster than my golden core could handle?”

“Mn,” Lan Zhan says, pulling the tiniest little face of discomfort. It’s fine for Lan Zhan to re-enact all kinds of nasty porn with Wei Wuxian, but apparently his brother’s sworn shield clapping him on the back and telling him, Now, Wangji, don’t go snapping Wei Wuxian in half, we need him, is a step too far. 

“Do you - this is crazy. I know. But do you think your brother even knows we’re married?” Wei Wuxian asks. 

“He was there,” Lan Zhan says slowly. 

Wei Wuxian sighs. “Yeah, he congratulated us on our marital union and everything. Like, we knew he kind of thought we were joking, but…” he trails off. “I mean, at least it helped us out?”

Lan Zhan dips his head slightly in agreement. “Mn. I have never seen the elders so visibly mortified as when Xichen giggled during our handfasting.”

“Oh, heavens, remember Lan Ju’s face?” Wei Wuxian reminisces. “He was practically blushing.”

“I still believe that our union was welcomed so warmly in part to compensate for his rudeness.” Lan Zhan looks pleased with this, like they pulled off a trick.

Wei Wuxian smiles helplessly. “You’re right, yeah, Lan Xichen did us a favor.”

Lan Zhan says, “Mn. But he should have acclimated to our marriage long ago.” 

Wei Wuxian makes an emphatic I know! gesture and sighs again.

“He does not... understand the nature of my regard for you,” Lan Zhan says. “I should be clearer with him.”

“You’ve been pretty fucking clear,” Wei Wuxian says, exasperated. “We both have. He knows you regard me very well.” Never one to miss an opportunity, he leers a little. Then he adds, “It’s like he still doesn’t get cut-sleeves. It’s kind of amazing. I mean. He knows you so well.”

Lan Zhan blinks.

Wei Wuxian sputters, “Because, you know, you’re - you’re the most cut-sleeve. Of anyone.”

“Mn. Thank you,” Lan Zhan says dryly. The tips of his ears are red, though. He likes that Wei Wuxian likes girls too and chose him anyway. It plays into their whole thing about Lan Zahn seducing him away from a future of boring, conventional married life in favor of… okay, still boring married life, but a very sexy cut-sleeve take on it. 

Speaking of married life - “We even have a kid. I gave birth to the future sect leader,” says Wei Wuxian, who did no such thing. “How is your brother still - whatever. Whatever. Hey, fuck it. We can deal with him later. There’re more important things to do right now.”

Lan Zhan looks at him. 

“Lan Zhan,” Wei Wuxian wheedles, leaning forward. “Show me what you would’ve done to me in the library.” 

Very subtly, Lan Zhan perks up. It’s his version of leaping to his feet and running off with Wei Wuxian somewhere. (Well, no; he’s actually leapt to his feet and run off with Wei Wuxian before. But he’s into it, Wei Wuxian can tell.) “There?” Lan Zhan asks. 

Wei Wuxian considers it. “Forbidden section, after hours?” he suggests. 

“Mn,” Lan Zhan agrees. 

“But we can practice now. Here,” Wei Wuxian says.

Lan Zhan demurs. 

“Why not?” Wei Wuxian whines.

Lan Zhan’s eyes go far away again. “I want you… unprepared,” he says softly. 

Wei Wuxian shivers again. “Mean,” he says. “So mean, making me wait.”

Lan Zhan just brushes a kiss to his hairline and whispers in his ear, “Yes.”

Lan Xichen’s concerns about Wangji and Wei Wuxian come to a head one day when Lan Xichen receives a promising missive regarding a possible marriage for Wangji. 

The Gan sect’s Gan Ye is recently of marriageable age and thoroughly suitable to marry a second son of a clan’s main branch. The letter tests the waters regarding a match, outlining her personal accomplishments and the Gan sect’s strategic position as known experts in agricultural cultivation. 

As luck would have it, Wangji is right there in the administrative center, handling follow-up correspondence about a few night hunts. Wei Wuxian is also there. Sometimes it seems like he hangs out and pesters Wangji just for fun. Their relationship really is so odd. In this case, though, perfect! Lan Xichen can run the idea past Wangji right now. With no embarrassing walk-ins this time, since he can see both Wangji and Wei Wuxian and he knows that they’re not getting up to anything at the moment. 

“Wangji,” Xichen says. 

The barely-restrained excitement in his voice tips Lan Wangji off. Whatever this is, he may not like it. “Mn,” he says. 

“I have received an interesting missive from the Gan sect.”

For an instant Lan Wangji thinks this is about a night hunt. Then his hopes are dashed. 

“Gan Ye is seeking a husband,” Xichen continues. 

Oh, bother, Lan Wangji thinks.

“She might be a good match for you,” Xichen says. 

Oh, bother again. Bother quite a lot. 

Across the table, Wei Ying looks up from his work, wide-eyed. 

“She possesses many admirable qualities,” Xichen continues. His voice fades into the background for Lan Wangji. His attention is on his husband. Wei Ying’s beautiful eyes are slightly glassy. His pout trembles. 

Lan Zhan, Wei Ying mouths more than says. 

Lan Wangji looks deep into Wei Ying’s eyes and attempts to communicate, through eyebrow speech alone, Wei Ying, I literally have no idea. I am so sorry. I will make this up to you. (Sexually.)

While Xichen goes on to detail the missive about the potential match aloud, Lan Wangji quietly, urgently makes heartfelt apologies to Wei Ying.

“Truly, I do not know where he could possibly -” Lan Wangji begins. 

Wei Ying says, “Lan Zhan, I know you didn’t ask him to look for someone, but are you sure the clan doesn’t expect -”

“Uniquely accomplished in the Gan sect’s agricultural style of cultivation,” Xichen reads with relish. 

“Uncle gave you my grandmother’s forehead ribbon to be used for ceremonial occasions. If even he understands -”

“I just - I don’t - if I’m not really considered your -”

“Improving growth yield,” Xichen reads. 

“Of course you are,” Lan Wangji assures him with great urgency. “Of course you are.”

“Well, I know A-Yuan is your son, in that sense, the elders all signed off on his adoption, but -”

“Purifying the land to increase its fecundity,” Xichen lists. 

“Our son -”

“Ensuring fertile harvest,” Xichen lists. 

“Why does he keep -”

“And strong birthing hips,” Xichen touts, then coughs in startlement. 

“Brother,” Lan Wangji announces loudly, rising to his feet. He pulls Wei Ying up, too. “Wei Ying and I must leave now. I have no intention to marry Gan Ye. In fact, I intend specifically not to marry her. Or anyone else who inquires. Goodbye.” 

He tows Wei Ying out of the room.

Halfway to the jingshi, Wei Ying tugs him behind a tree by the belt. “That was fucked up, but you’re really hot when you’re telling someone off,” he whispers, and pulls Lan Wangji into a kiss. So Lan Wangji thinks he is not at this time being held accountable for his brother’s egregious behavior. 

He resolves to make it up to Wei Ying (sexually) anyway. 

Qin Su makes her lovely but willfully stupid husband sleep on the floor that evening. 

“The Gusu Lan Clan does not partake in multiple marriages. Are you trying to get that started up? Do you want a second wife?” she asks him sharply. 

“Of course not,” Lan Xichen says. 

“Good,” she tells him. “I would hate to be the first wife in the history of the Lan clan to dissatisfy her husband so thoroughly.” Her outrage is only somewhat for effect. 

“Never. Qin Su, you complete me,” Lan Xichen says, with all apparent earnestness. 

“Hm. So you just want to kick Wei Wuxian out of the Cloud Recesses,” she concludes. 

Lan Xichen says, “Well, eventually, when it’s time for both of them to move on from this youthful dalliance. Both Wangji and Wei Wuxian deserve to find a - a real, non-imaginary woman...”

“Do you want them on the streets?” Qin Su asks. “Do you want A-Yuan to be homeless?”

“Never, of course not, merely -”

This conversation continues for some time. Her husband is breathtakingly accomplished in straddling the line between simple misunderstanding and outright disregard for his brother’s cut-sleeve marriage.

Qin Su won’t stand for such disrespect against two people who have gone out of their way to help her feel at home here. Especially not when she has just begun making subtle inquiries into her poor half-brother’s living situation, and whether or not he might like to study at the Cloud Recesses for a change of scenery. (Her poor cut-sleeve half-brother, specifically; she has several.)

Three nights on the floor for Lan Xichen, perhaps. 

Lan Wangji takes Wei Ying with him to the sect’s receiving hall the following day and insists on an appointment to see Xichen. 

“Hanguang-Jun, you may enter at any time,” the disciple manning the door says tentatively. 

“It is the principle of the thing,” Lan Wangji says darkly. “I require an official appointment.”

The disciple clears his throat. “Very well,” he says. “I have… two sticks of incense past noon?”

“Mn,” Lan Wangji agrees.

It is more like four sticks of incense past noon when they finally are seen by Lan Xichen, leader of the Lan sect. 

“Thank you for agreeing to see us,” Lan Zhan says. He makes it sound like fuck you for making this necessary. 

“Lan Wangji, of course,” Lan Xichen says reassuringly. “I hope you realize I will not force you into any marriage at all. I only wish for you to be open to happiness.”

Really, how rude.

“I am very happy,” Wei Wuxian’s husband growls. “And not open at all.” And then he pulls off his forehead ribbon and wraps it around both of their wrists. 

Lan Xichen gapes at him. 

Lan Zhan gestures forcefully at Wei Wuxian with his free hand. “This is my husband,” he says very slowly. He emphasizes this; Wei Wuxian is here for demonstration purposes, but clearly the issue is between Lan Zhan and Lan Xichen at this point. Wei Wuxian kind of likes it. This, like he’s an object. It’s both sexy and very final. There’s nothing complicated or disputable about simply declaring, this is my sword. This is my hair ribbon. This is my husband. 

Lan Zhan is wildly possessive in normal situations. It turns out that he becomes more so when someone - even his brother - tries to casually deny his marriage of a decade.

Gods, Lan Zhan’s righteous anger is always so intense and sexy. 

Wei Wuxian almost feels bad for Lan Xichen, who’s receiving all of the intensity and none of the sexiness. Almost feels bad. 

“Technically,” Wei Wuxian muses out loud, “we’ve been married for… almost ten years? Thereabouts?”

“Mn,” Lan Zhan says. 

“Since you were fifteen?” Lan Xichen asks, voice upticking a bit on the last syllable before he reasserts his calm. 

“Yeah, since Lan Zhan claimed me in Lan Yi’s cave,” Wei Wuxian says. 

Lan Xichen blanches. “... claimed,” he echoes. 

“Oh, not ravished me,” Wei Wuxian says. “Just handfasted me into the Lan clan with Lan Yi and her many rabbits as witnesses to our marital union.”

“Non-traditional of you,” Lan Xichen says faintly. 

“Mn,” Lan Zhan agrees, with a clear undercurrent of and what of it?

“But then - when was our next marriage?” Wei Wuxian asks Lan Zhan. 

“Immediately after the war. Lotus Pier,” Lan Zhan says. “Ancestral hall.”

“Oh, right!” Wei Wuxian says. “That time we did the bows and everything. Jiang Cheng was even there. We had tea afterwards, too. So, double married.”

“Triple,” Lan Zhan says. 

“Triple?” Wei Wuxian asks.

“The temple in Qinghe last year,” Lan Zhan reminds him. 

“Oh, true. Oh! And I guess the - time - in Yiling,” Wei Wuxian says. He had been about to say inn, but that felt a little too blunt. “With the -” turned away from Lan Xichen, he mouths to Lan Zhan, liquor. 

“Mn,” Lan Zhan agrees, although he has mournfully (in his way) lamented not remembering that particular time.

“Gusu Lan never held a wedding,” Lan Xichen says helplessly. 

“Again, I would argue that you did,” Wei Wuxian says. “I met Lan Yi. She accepted me, blessed our union, gave us an artifact of unimaginable power, and sent us on a quest to save the cultivation world from destruction.”

“Nevertheless,” Lan Zhan says, staring Lan Xichen down, even though Lan Xichen’s chair on the dais makes him the tallest person in the room. “I am married. This is my husband. I will not marry any other. Is that clear?”

“I - yes,” Lan Xichen says, still looking a bit bewildered. Good. Let him stew in it. 

“Good,” Lan Zhan says, likely thinking the exact same thing. “Now. Wei Ying, beloved of my heart, my spouse, my soulmate, let us go see our son. Whom we have raised. As married co-parents.” 

Lan Xichen startles.

“Of course, dear husband,” Wei Wuxian coos, looking into Lan Zhan’s pretty eyes, not putting on an act in the slightest. “You know A-Yuan, of course, Lan Xichen. Our son. Your nephew. The one who considers you his favorite uncle.”

Lan Xichen swallows. “Yes,” he says, with a rasp. 

With that sorted out, Wei Wuxian and Lan Zhan turn (with only a little fumbling - they are still tied together), leave the assembly hall, and go to find A-Yuan.

“So what have you learned?” Qin Su asks her husband that evening. 

In the rote, measured tone of a Lan disciple reciting the rules, Lan Xichen says, “No marrying my brother off to strange women. Or any woman. Or anyone.” 

“Good. And what have you earned?”

Lan Xichen gives her a smile and a soft sigh. “Another night on the floor?” he asks peaceably. 

She tsks. “Oh, my heart,” she says, cupping his cheek in her hand. “Of course you have.”

She must write to her mother in the morning. Qin Su has trained Lan Xichen so well; she’ll be quite proud.  

Going forward, Lan Wangji takes to publicly, solicitously waiting hand and foot on Wei Ying. Even more so than he did previously, that is. Usually while staring aggressively at his brother, daring him to claim that he does not see it. 

“What chili oil would you like tonight… my stars?” he asks Wei Ying at dinner. 

Wei Ying says, “Oh, either of the green ones will do,” so Lan Wangji pulls them both out of the lacquered box in which he carried them to the main hall. Makes direct eye contact with Lan Xichen and asks, “Dear heart, may I apply them for you?”

“Of course, Lan er-gege,” Wei Ying agrees. “I’ll tell you when to stop.” And then he does not tell him to stop until his food is obscured until an absurd mass of spice. 

Throughout this process, Lan Wangji does not break eye contact. He only looks away once Lan Xichen nods hesitantly. 

In addition to making certain public displays, Lan Wangji also refers pointedly to Wei Ying as his husband and to A-Yuan as their son. Perhaps he will let up on the needless displays in front of Lan Xichen one day, but he thinks he will continue to do this part for the rest of their lives. 

When discussing A-Yuan’s performance in school: “Yes, A-Yuan - that is, my son, who is also Wei Ying’s son, because we are married, and he is our child - is doing quite well, and excited to begin learning basic musical notation.”

When leaving for a night hunt: “I am to depart soon with my husband, Wei Ying, to whom I am married, in order to handle the issue on the Qinghe-Mo border.”

When returning from a night hunt: “I am back from my night hunt with Wei Ying, the man to whom I am married. Wei Ying, who can otherwise be referred to as -”

“Your husband, yes,” Lan Xichen says. He grew tired of hearing Wangji refer to Wei Wuxian as though he is the most titled lord in all the land - Wei Ying, my husband, to whom I am married, and with whom I am raising our son, A-Yuan, whom we co-adopted, as his married parents - within days. Then, after about a month, it became rather funny. Who knew that sustained outrage was all that was needed to bring out a sort of absurdist humor in Wangji? The humor value faded within a year or so, after it became routine. Now, Lan Xichen simply expects Wangji to refer to Wei Wuxian this way. He has forgotten, for the most part, that Wangji used to just call his husband Wei Ying, and that he still refers to him as such with other people. 

Lan Xichen sighs and says, “Thank you, Wangji. I look forward to seeing you and your husband of several years, Wei Wuxian, and your co-parented son, A-Yuan, at dinner in your family home two nights from now.”

Wangji gives a sharp, approving nod - a warning nod, Lan Xichen might say, were there such a thing - and marches out. Presumably to go spend time with his son, A-Yuan, who is also Wei Wuxian’s son, because they co-parent him, because they adopted him together, because they are married to each other. 

(At a conference the following year, Sect Leader Yao asks Lan Xichen about Wangji’s marriageability. 

“Gusu Lan does not practice plural marriage,” Lan Xichen says. 

“My daughter is not married. Is your brother?” Sect Leader Yao asks. 

Lan Xichen gestures between Wangji and Wei Wuxian - currently canoodling on the steps of Koi Tower - and says, “Why, Sect Leader Yao, Hanguang-Jun is already married." Summoning all of the ability to lie that he has, he adds, "I cannot imagine why a person might think otherwise.”)