It wasn’t often that Wei Wuxian had terrible, awful, no good shifts at the hospital; usually things went mostly smoothly and he and his coworkers were able to handle all the cases that came in the door with relative ease. Trauma surgery was, in essence, a stressful job, but Wei Wuxian loved the challenge of its rapid pace and high pressure. His chosen career path fit his personality very well and he wouldn’t change it one bit.
Except last night had truly been a terrible, awful, no good shift and he was bone tired, practically wobbly at the knees with exhaustion and relief at being done.
Everything had started out fine – it was a normal evening with the normal amount of patients with the normal kinds of issues – but quickly devolved into an absolute disaster. First there was the motorcyclist who hadn’t been wearing a helmet when they ran a red light, then the woman who had fallen and shattered her femur, and finally the massive car accident on the freeway that send two dozen people into Wei Wuxian’s department. They’d run out of beds! He hadn’t eaten since the burrito he’d snagged before starting at 7:00 pm, and it was now 8:00 the next morning.
So no, Wei Wuxian was really not in the mood to do anything but grab something to eat and go to bed before he had to go back to work that evening. Maybe he’d snag something warm to drink on his way home too – it was the middle of February, after all, and the city was the kind of cold that sank into your bones if you weren’t careful.
That’s how he found himself waiting in line at his favorite cafe just down the block from the hospital, eyes barely staying open as he ordered a large cup of hot cocoa with extra whipped cream.
“Bad night?” The barista asked sympathetically; Nei Huaisang had quickly become a good friend of Wei Wuxian’s ever since he’d starting coming here on the regular.
“I don’t even want to think about it,” he responded tiredly.
Nei Huaisang nodded sagely as he wrote Wei Wuxian’s name down on a cup one size larger than he’d ordered. “One extra large hot cocoa to-go, coming right up.” Wei Wuxian started to protest but Nei Huaisang help up a finger to stop him. “Nuh-uh, no arguing with Dr. Nie.”
Wei Wuxian smiled slightly in thanks and moved to the end of the counter to wait for his drink.
The cafe was busy as usual for that time of day; Nei Huaisang had built up quite the retinue of regular customers with his reputation of strong coffee, delicious baked goods, and a friendly atmosphere that made everyone feel at home. Wei Wuxian stopped in almost every shift to grab a latte or black coffee, depending on the day, and all of the baristas knew him by name and order. He sometimes even bought Wen Qing a drink too if he knew she was having a bad day. It never hurt to butter up the head cardiac surgeon anyway.
A few minutes later and Wei Wuxian’s name was called, along with that of another customer, and the two of them pick up their drinks at the same time. Wei Wuxian spares the other man the briefest of glances before starting to walk away and wow, that was the most beautiful person he’d ever seen in his life. He was so distracted that he stumbled a bit over his own feet. The gorgeous man walked away towards the comfy chairs by the fireplace and Wei Wuxian couldn’t help but stare after him, not nearly as tired as he had been before.
Shaking his head slightly to clear it, Wei Wuxian made to turn away and leave the shop. He sighed and lifted his drink to his lips to take a sip of what he knew to be a lusciously sweet cocoa. Instead, however, his tongue was coated in the slightly bitter flavor of some sort of herbal tea and Wei Wuxian sputtered, the taste taking him by complete surprise. He held the cup up to inspect it and there, written in black marker and slightly smeared by the spray of tea on the side, was the name Lan Wangji written in Nei Huaisang’s curly script.
Ah. He’d grabbed the wrong drink.
Suddenly realizing something, Wei Wuxian turned around and searched for the beautiful man; they must have each taken the other’s drink. Said man had just settled in his seat and was about to take a drink of what had to be Wei Wuxian’s cocoa, and Wei Wuxian almost tripped in his haste to stop him.
“Wait!” He called out, probably a bit t o o loudly, if the reactions of the other people in the cafe were anything to go by. At least the man had looked up too, the barest hint of surprise in his jade-like features. “Ah, sorry-” Wei Wuxian weaved through the small crowd to reach the chairs by the fire. “I think we, uh, switched drinks by accident.”
They both moved their gaze to the cup in the man’s hand and sure enough, there was Wei Wuxian’s name.
Wei Wuxian rubbed at the back of his neck with his free hand. “I’m afraid I’ve already made a bit of a mess of your tea though – I’ll get you another one, don’t worry.”
The man – Lan Wangji – stared at him for a few long seconds with his lips slightly parted before responding. “There is no need.”
“No, really, it’s the least I can do for stealing your tea ,” Wei Wuxian insisted.
“ We both took the wrong drink.”
Wei Wuxian huffed a small, self-deprecating laugh. “Yes but I’m sure it was me who picked up yours first – I had a very long night and am currently about as scatterbrained as you can get.”
Lan Wangji continues to stare for another few seconds, then nods. He holds the hot cocoa out but Wei Wuxian waves it off.
“Just leave it on the table for me?” Lan Wangji does so. “I’ll be right back!”
At the counter, Nei Huaisang gives him a curious look. “Back so soon, Wei-Xiong?
Wei Wuxian tries not to reveal his embarrassment when he replies. “I may have accidentally grabbed someone else’s drink? I’d like to replace it.”
“Yeah, I know, my bad.” He shows Nei Huaisang the cup with Lan Wangji’s name and order on it. “So can I get another one of these? Please. ”
Nei Huaisang smiles. “No problem!”
After paying, Wei Wuxian goes back to the end of the counter, nervous for reasons he couldn’t quite explain. He didn’t look back to where Lan Wangji sat waiting, choosing instead to stare at the art on the walls of the room – Nei Huaisang had really done a wonderful job decorating.
All too soon, Wei Wuxian heard Lan Wangji’s name being called. He carefully checked that the cup he picked up was the right one, then walked back to present the tea to Lan Wangji.
“Sorry again,” he apologized. “I hope this all didn’t mess up your morning too much.”
Lan Wangji shook his head lightly. “No need to apologize, it was a simple mistake.”
Somehow, Wei Wuxian knew that there would be no use arguing with this man on the subject . “Alright, if you say so.” He took a moment to observe the minute changes in Lan Wangji’s expression before taking a deep breath and preparing to depart. “Well, I won’t keep bothering you-”
“Not a bother,” Lan Wangji interrupted.
Wei Wuxian stood there, slightly stunned at the tiny amount of panic he could see in Lan Wangji’s eyes. The other man seemed to have more to say, so Wei Wuxian waited, body still turned a bit to the side.
“You said you had a long night,” Lan Wangji began haltingly , looking away for a second and then looking back. “I do not mean to presume but does that mean you are free right now?”
There weren’t words to properly express how much Wei Wuxian was shocked at th at question but he found himself shifting so he was facing Lan Wangji properly anyway, slowly nodding his head.
Lan Wangji seemed to square his shoulders slightly, though it was hard to tell – the man’s posture was already so immaculate. “My brother was supposed to meet me but has informed me that he will be late; would you like to join me for a while?”
Yup, this had to be a dream – there was no way this god among men was asking Wei Wuxian to sit with him, not when Wei Wuxian looked an absolute mess in his rumpled scrubs and hooded black parka, hair up in the messiest of messy buns. And yet, despite his disbelief, Wei Wuxian found himself removing his coat and sitting down in the big comfy chair across from his new acquaintance an y way.
They sat in silence; Lan Wangji seemed like the quiet type in general and Wei Wuxian was not even close to being sure where to start. So, to fill the moment, Wei Wuxian finally took a sip of his cocoa. He couldn’t help the little hum of contentment that slipped out at the rich taste; Nei Huaisang truly had the best recipe.
Apparently, the silence had gone on long enough for Lan Wangji. “ Lan Zhan.”
Wei Wuxian met his gaze. “Huh?”
“My name,” Lan Wangji said with a small quirk of the lips. “The cup says Lan Wangji but you may call me Lan Zhan.”
“Oh.” There was something intimate in giving permission to use such a name and Wei Wuxian felt warm all over. “I’m Wei Ying.”
That was definitely a tiny smile on Lan Wangji’s face now. “Do you work at the hospital?” He asked.
“How did-” Wei Wuxian was momentarily confused; how could Lan Wangji know that? And then he remembered. “Aha, right, my scrubs.” He laughed. “Yeah, I’m in trauma surgery. I worked a twelve-hour last night.”
Lan Wangji took a drink of his tea. “Do you...enjoy your work?”
“Most of the time,” Wei Wuxian admitted. “Though last night was definitely a test of my dedication.”
He proceeded to tell Lan Wangji all about his shift, trying but mostly failing to leave out any of the gorier details. Lan Wangji didn’t seem to mind though, and continued to ask questions throughout, though he left most of the talking up to Wei Wuxian. It was incredibly easy to talk to Lan Wangji, Wei Wuxian found out; the other man was an intent listener and seemed to always know the exact right thing to say. Eventually though, Wei Wuxian started asking a bit more about Lan Wangji himself, curious to see what kind of a man he really was.
“You own a comic book store? ”
The tips of Lan Wangji’s ears turned a delightful shade of pink. “Mn.”
Wei Wuxian let out a short bark of laughter, though at Lan Wangji’s resulting subtle look of defensiveness, he waved a hand around to dismiss it. “Ah, sorry, sorry!” He smiled guiltily at Lan Wangji. “It’s just that you don’t strike me as a comic book kinda guy.”
“I have always found the art style entertaining,” the other man confessed . “ My uncle wanted me to join the family business, as my brother had, but I have always preferred the...freedom of the fictional worlds within comics and books.”
Wei Wuxian’s smile grew into a full grin at this. “It’s so awesome that you followed your dreams like that!” He sighed wistfully. “I do miss reading comics though.” At Lan Wangji’s questioning gaze, Wei Wuxian elaborated. “When I was younger, I used to read all sorts of things! Now it seems like I barely have time for anything besides work.”
“You should come by the shop sometime,” Lan Wangji stated.
“Oh! Yeah, I think I would like that very much.”
Just then, another man approached the two of them; he was tall, with a kind face, and looked so much like Lan Wangji that he had to be his brother, the very same one who’s seat Wei Wuxian was currently occupying.
“And here I was thinking that I knew all of Wangji’s friends.”
Wei Wuxian felt a strange sort of fuzziness in his chest at the realization that even Lan Wangji’s own brother didn’t use ‘Lan Zhan’, that somehow he’d been given this right even though they barely knew each other.
“Aha, sorry-” The words rushed out of Wei Wuxian as he hurried to get up and put his coat back on. He picked up his half-finished cup of cocoa. “I won’t take up your space anymore.”
Lan Wangji stood up as well, looking at Wei Wuxian with an unidentifiable something in his expression. His brother looked between the two of them, his smile widening. “There is nothing to be sorry for, I am the one who was late, after all.”
Wei Wuxian bowed slightly, eyes moving to Lan Wangji’s. “It’s time for me to go home anyway.” Looking down at his watch, Wei Wuxian wasn’t that surprised to see that it had already been a half hour. “I have another long shift tonight and should really get some sleep.”
“Will you visit?” Lan Wangji asked, words tinged with what Wei Wuxian thought might be something almost frantic.
He couldn’t help but smile back. “Of course! When I have the time, I’ll be sure to stop by.”
Lan Wangji looked somehow relieved. “I look forward to it.”
“It was really great to meet you, Lan Zhan.” Wei Wuxian turned to the man now standing next to the chair he’d previously been occupying. “Lan Zhan’s brother.”
Then, with precise steps and without looking back for fear of never wanting to leave ever again, Wei Wuxian slipped the fur-line hood of his coat up over his head and stepped out into the chilly winter morning.
The soft, warm feeling in his chest didn’t seem to be coming from his now-lukewarm cocoa.
At this point in his life, Lan Wangji was quite used to the teasing of his brother; Lan Xichen loved to mess with hi m , his stony outward appearance and serious personality hid ing a secretly gentle soul that adored rabbits and cheesy sci-fi movies. Lan Wangji tried to ignore it but of course Lan Xichen knew all the ways to get to him. The whole ordeal with Wei Wuxian was no exception to this rule and it really didn’t help that Lan Wangji knew he was being obvious about his emotions, especially when it was his brother who was watching .
“He seems nice,” Lan Xichen had observed after Wei Wuxian left, a mischievous glint to his eyes.
Lan Wangji had willed his flush to recede, purposefully avoiding Lan Xichen’s teasing. “Surgeon.”
Knowing he would get nothing more out of his younger brother, Lan Xichen had moved on to the topic he’d come to discuss with Lan Wangji in the first place, of which Lan Wangji was grateful; His brother may be playful but he never pushed too far.
When he made it back to the shop, Mian Mian greeted him from behind the counter. Her hair was a deep aqua blue today ; hadn’t it been bubblegum pink the day before?
“ Boss ,” she said with a mock salute.
Lan Wangji gave her an icy stare on his way to the back office; she just laughed at his expression and went back to processing inventory.
He’d spent the rest of the day – and every day after for three weeks – wondering when he’d see Wei Wuxian again. Would the other man ever come by the shop, like he’d said he would? Lan Wangji hoped so; there was something about him that Lan Wangji found so utterly compelling. The odd fluttering in his gut when Wei Wuxian smiled didn’t help his confusion either.
Despite it being a bit out of the way for him, Lan Wangji went back to the cafe several more times after that but Wei Wuxian was never there. Perhaps his schedule simply did not allow for it? Or maybe Lan Wangji’s luck really was just that bad. The last time he’d gone in, the barista that seemed to always be working the counter – the owner, if Lan Wangji remembered correctly – had given him a knowing look and said looking for Wei-Xiong? You just missed him . Lan Wangji must be losing his touch if he was being that obvious.
But then one night, five minutes before closing, a harried-looking Wei Wuxian burst into the comic shop, hair just as messy as the last time Lan Wangji had seen him but just as beautiful.
Lan Wangji felt the tips of his ears go hot at the sight of flushed cheeks and a radiant smile. “Wei Ying.”
Stepping into the store, Wei Wuxian looked around with wonder on his face, a childlike glee clear in the way his eyes sparkled. “Wow, Lan Zhan, this place really is amazing.”
“It is simple but I am happy with it.”
Wei Wuxian looked at him with confusion, as if what Lan Wangji had said was utter nonsense . “ Seriously, I can tell how much love you put into it.” Suddenly, Wei Wuxian’s brows creased as he caught sight of the sign posted by the register stating the store’s hours. “Oh no, Lan Zhan, why didn’t you tell me you were closing! I’ll leave and come back another time, I don’t want to keep you from going home-”
“No need,” Lan Wangji inter jected ; he didn’t know why but he just knew that he needed Wei Wuxian to not leave . “You can stay.”
“Are you sure?” Wei Wuxian seemed conflicted and Lan Wangji didn’t like the guilt he could see tensing the other man’s shoulders.
Lan Wangji nodded in affirmation. “Mn. As long as you don’t mind me locking the front door.”
The look of pure joy on Wei Wuxian’s face was well worth staying after hours for. “You really are the best, Lan Zhan.”
The feeling of warmth spread from Lan Wangji’s ears to his cheeks to match that of the feeling in his chest. He walked around the counter and to the front door, locking it and turning off the open sign. When he turned back around, Wei Wuxian had wandered over to one of the comic displays and was reverently touching the covers with long, dexterous fingers. Lan Wangji found himself fixating on those fingers, forgetting momentarily that he still needed to finish closing up the shop. He was only able to move once Wei Wuxian retracted his hand and moved along the shelves.
Lan Wangji took a deep breath to clear his head, then went back to the register and began counting the till. Every so often, he would glance up to find Wei Wuxian in a different area of the store, that same look of wonder on his face. Lan Wangji felt like he was filled with light, the knowledge that he’d caused that joy, however indirectly, practically overwhelming him. He couldn’t look for too long or he thought he might burst into flames right then and there.
“Oh!” Came Wei Wuxian’s soft cry just as Lan Wangji finished his closing rituals; the other man was standing in the fantasy section of the graphic novels, an old classic held delicately in his hands. Lan Wangji joined him in the aisle. “This one was my absolute favorite!”
Forgetting Envies was indeed a beautiful story, one about love and sacrifice, ghosts and mystery. Though Lan Wangji preferred science fiction, he was still partial to this one; the two lovers’ journey always felt so familiar, like from a long-forgotten memory or a dream he’d had long ago .
“I never got to finish it though,” Wei Wuxian continued, a little sadly, flipping through the pages. “I’d always hoped for a happy ending.”
Lan Wangji knew that there indeed was a happy ending, though the main characters would go through hell and back to get there. “Would you like to borrow this copy, Wei Ying ?”
Wei Wuxian looked up sharply. “Oh, no, I couldn’t – I’ll purchase it like any other customer, Lan Zhan, really .”
Lan Wangji found that he really didn’t mind the idea of Wei Wuxian using his store as a library but wouldn’t press the matter; in the short time they had known each other Wei Wuxian had given him the impression of someone with much pride and a stubborn side that could rival his own.
“Besides! I might just skip to end right now to assure myself…”
Indeed, Lan Wangji watch ed as Wei Wuxian scandalously opened the last few pages, eyes flicking back and forth across the images. For some reason, Lan Wangji awaited his response with bated breath.
“Aha! I knew it!” Wei Wuxian looked right into Lan Wangji’s eyes. “ I love you! ”
Lan Wangji stood there in complete silence, not sure what was happening at all except his heart seemed to be at risk of beating right out of his chest and his lungs burned. He knew his eyes were wide and that he must look like a dumbstruck fool but he couldn’t get himself under control.
A dark flush spread across Wei Wuxian’s cheeks and he looked away, laughing nervously. “Ah, well – it’s, it’s what the Yiling Laozu says to Hanguan g - J un, finally, at the end.” He glanced back at the book, a crooked smile replacing his former look of embarrassment. “I always knew they were in love…”
The breath Lan Wangji had been holding left him in a long stream. He closed his eyes briefly, trying desperately to compose himself. When he opened them again, the other man was still staring softly down at Forgetting Envies , and Lan Wangji wanted so much for Wei Wuxian to look at him like that, the realization hitting him like a ton of bricks.
“Have you eaten yet?” The words were out of his mouth before he had time to think them over.
Wei Wuxian’ s storm-gray eyes met Lan Wangji’s and oh , this must be what the poets meant by love at first sight.
“Are you asking me out, Lan Zhan?” The blush on Wei Wuxian’s cheeks darkened.
Lan Wangji swallowed thickly and chose to tactfully ignore the question. “ Y ou look like you just got off your shift and have mentioned before that you often skip meals.”
Wei Wuxian clearly wouldn’t be swayed. “You didn’t answer my question.”
“And you didn’t answer mine.” Two could play at this game.
The smile on Wei Wuxian’s face grew and crinkled the corners of his eyes. “Then no, I haven’t eaten yet. Do you have any recommendations?”
Lan Wangji could only nod. “Mn.”
“Well then! Guess I’ll have to come back and get this later,” Wei Wuxian declared, slotting Forgetting Envies back into its spot on the shelf. He stood there, lower lip between his teeth, then appeared to make his mind up about something. “Well, Lan Zhan, I refer to your expertise.”
Without thinking about it too much, afraid he might chicken out, Lan Wangji marched to the office, grabbed his things, and met Wei Wuxian back at the front of the shop. He put his coat on, turned the lights off, readied the alarm, and then the two of them exited the building, Lan Wangji locking up behind them. It was like he was on autopilot, all up until he had to look at Wei Wuxian once more, who was staring back at him with a softness to his gaze that sent shivers down Lan Wangji’s spine.
“So where are we going, Lan Zhan?”
Lan Wangji put his hands inside the pockets of his coat. “Wei Ying said he liked spicy food.”
Wei Wuxian grinned again. “Wei Ying does like spicy food.”
“There is a noodle place down the street that you might like,” Lan Wangji went on, hoping that the jitteriness he felt wasn’t too obvious in his voice. “ It won’t take us long to walk there.”
Wei Wuxian did that thing where he was clearly having an internal battle with himself, then nonchalantly hooked his arm through Lan Wangji’s and leaned slightly into his side , calm like they did this every day but with a crooked smile that was both sweet and playful at the same time . Lan Wangji’s pulse sky rocketed and he felt a little lightheaded .
“ Alright then, lead the way.”
Oh no , Lan Wangji thought helplessly. I think I’m in love.