Wei Wuxian never did learn to watch his big mouth. In his defense, he was entirely too besotted most of the time to function properly. His husband (which was a whole other fortuitous concept that he could not wrap his benighted brain around) had had sixteen years to sort out all his feelings and process all his prurient thoughts. He’d had all that time to imagine all the things he might say to Wei Wuxian, all the things he might never have gotten a chance to do to him - and then he got the chance and so he did. And what did Wei Wuxian have besides a bit of a cursed existence, decades of unprocessed damage, and a stolen donkey? He supposed he also had his necromancy, which - ha! It was hard enough to avoid bringing attention to that when at any point, any member of the Lan Sect might stop pretending not to remember, point at him, and say, “There goes Hanguang-Jun’s necromancer husband, the Founder of Demonic Cultivation!” Well. He was lucky Lan Zhan was the most stubborn man to ever live, Wei Wuxian supposed.
The point was, it wasn’t entirely his fault, when he wrapped his arms around Lan Zhan’s neck, nuzzled like a cat against his husband’s jaw, and whispered in his ear, “I wish I could go back in time to tell you how sorry I am for everything I was about to put you through.”
He probably should not have done that standing in the middle of a wishing array that he had spent the last week designing. Then again, Wei Wuxian had never been the one known for his steely self-control.
Lan Wangji’s arms had tightened around his husband’s flaring ribs. Even now, being able to feel Wei Ying breathe was nothing short of a miracle. Wei Ying’s hair smelled of incense and vetiver oil, and Lan Wangji allowed himself an indulgent lungful before finally uncoiling himself from around his husband’s body.
“Wei Ying?” he let out, quietly, as his eyes focused on the stones where they stood. The array that Wei Ying had been working on was gone.
Lan Wangji lifted his eyes towards the sky, where the rays of the sun were penetrating through the thick foliage of the trees. “It’s summer,” Lan Wangji stated. Which, on a regular day, would not have been an ominous announcement. It’s just that a moment ago, it had very certainly been spring.
Wei Ying raised his hand to shield his eyes from the golden rays. “So it is. Did we just travel into the future?”
Lan Wangji let out an exasperated “Wei Ying…!”
His husband lifted his hands and let out a suspicious chuckle. “What? Lan Zhan, why are you looking at me like that?”
Lan Wangji exhaled again, resigned. “What was the last thing you said?” he asked.
“I said…” Wei Ying scratched the back of his head and wrinkled his nose. It was, frankly, too adorable, and Lan Wangji felt particularly put upon. It made scolding Wei Ying all but impossible. Not that he ever would, not anymore. Not ever again. “Ah, Lan Zhan! I said I wished I could go back in time to tell you how sorry… Oh. Well shit.” Wei Ying gave him a sheepish smile. “It must be that summer then.”
“Don’t be like that,” Wei Ying whined. “I will fix this. Besides, time travel is impossible. Trust me, I’ve tried to mess with time before… you know. We must be in a parallel dimension, one where their timeline has not caught up to ours.”
“Mn,” Lan Wangji intoned.
“Don’t criticize me, Lan Zhan!” Wei Ying crossed his arms and fixed Lan Wangji with a betrayed look. “I was a desperate man. Why wouldn’t I have tried to go back in time to make things different? Wouldn’t you change the past if you could?”
“No,” Lan Wangji shook his head decisively.
“What - no?” Wei Ying furrowed his brows.
“Not if it meant changing something and never being with Wei Ying.”
“But what if you could change something and be with Wei Ying even sooner?” His husband’s brows unfurled and wiggled at Lan Wangji like dancing caterpillars.
“What are you thinking? No,” Lan Wangji shook his head. “Make a new array and wish us back home.”
“But Lan Zhaaaan!” Wei Ying had deployed the eyelashes. Lan Wangji had never stood a chance. “Don’t you want to see your old self again? You were so young, and so beautiful, and such a stick-in-the-mud, so very set upon ignoring me!”
“And I’m sure I was also very young and beautiful. You must have taken many baths in this Cold Spring.”
“Wei Ying!” Lan Wangji pulled his husband against the rocky side of the cliff and pressed his hand over that beautiful, babbling mouth. “Someone will find us,” he whispered, lips pressed against Wei Ying’s earlobe as the sound of teenage voices carried in merriment likely to be forbidden in Cloud Recesses over their heads. He hoped he wasn't about to regret another moment of over-indulgence as Wei Ying dragged a filthy swipe of the tongue across his palm. “We should hide.” Wei Ying nodded enthusiastically against Lan Wangji’s hand that was still clasped to his lips. His eyebrows shot up in an easily understood question. “The Jingshi.” He let his hand drop.
“Do you have a better idea? We’ll run into your brother soon if we don’t hurry.”
After that, Wei Ying did not have to be told twice.
“It looks the same,” Wei Wuxian said, his hand still inside Lan Zhan’s larger hand, while his husband slid the door closed. “Except you still have your little boy bed. Awww, it's so chaste, Lan Zhan. Did you ever think back then, lying here, jerking off furiously to thoughts of me, that one day I would be yours to kiss and fuck and do whatever you want with every day?”
He found himself swooped off the floor, his mouth suddenly full of Lan Zhan’s probing tongue. It was improbably easy to get his husband going. The mere intimation of Wei Wuxian’s collarbone was enough to render the venerable Hanguang-Jun mindless with lust. In all his extensive practice with demonic cultivation, never did Wei Wuxian ever feel so powerful.
He laughed, straddling his husband’s lap affably, and wrapping his arms around Lan Zhan’s long, supple neck. The floor cushions beneath them were thin, austere, and suddenly Wei Wuxian was overcome with a burst of sadness, thinking of all the years his Lan Zhan had spent, and would spend in this universe as well, alone and yearning upon these cushions.
“I wish -” he started to say before being interrupted.
“You’ve done enough wishing.” Lan Zhan’s hand grasped the knot of hair on top of his head and pulled him back into a kiss, both sweet and hungry, and seemingly unburdened with the echoes of the past. Wei Wuxian closed his eyes, allowing himself to sink bodily into his husband’s embrace, to allow the rhythmic stroking of his hands and his tongue to lull him like a lullaby, a sweet and familiar melody which his own body knew intrinsically.
He had almost missed the sound of the door being slid open. He could not have missed the agonized exclamation of “Wei Ying!” which came from behind him, and not from the mouth that was busy bruising his own lips.
“Ah?! What?! I had nothing to do with this!” a young voice protested, in which Wei Wuxian hated to recognize his own cadences.
He twirled around in Lan Zhan’s lap, without unhanding the other man, and fixed the two gaping teenagers with a connoisseur’s look.
“Ah, hello there,” he said, continuing to use Lan Zhan’s lap as his own personal throne. “My, don’t you two look delicious? Look, Lan Zhan,” he tugged at his husband’s lapels. “Your younger self looks like he is about to qi deviate. And that little pervert, and I do mean myself, is about to pop a boner.”
“Wei Ying!” now both Lan Zhans had apparently ganged up on him, directly.
“When would this be?” Wei Wuxian mused, scratching the side of his nose. “Have you two already done the handfasting in the Cold Pond Cave in front of Lan Yi? Has he told you what that means, Little Me? Has he explained to you yet that it means you’re married because he let you touch his self-regulation ribbon? Ow, Lan Zhan, pinching!”
“Listen,” he redirected to their younger, confounded selves, “It’s best you know now. Better than having to wait sixteen years and a death to find out what was destined all along!”
“Sixteen years?” The teenage Lan Zhan beautiful cheekbones flushed in a virginal and wildly becoming way.
“And a death?” Little Him added in a tremulous voice. Wei Wuxian contemplated pulling himself to the side for a spanking for all his future misdeeds and present flights of idiocy.
“Wei Ying, behave,” his husband commanded, in that tone that always went immediately to the root of many of Wei Wuxian’s problems. He shut his mouth, even as he was in the process of thinking of more fun insults to bestow upon his younger self, and nuzzled closely into Lan Zhan’s arms, purring like a content feline.
“How did you do that?” Lan Zhan’s teenage counterpart gawked. “Teach me!”
“Lan Zhan!” Little Him whined, not unlike Current Him has done very recently. “You are always so mean to me!”
“It’s because he likes you,” Lan Zhan surprised Wei Wuxian by just saying such things, like that. It did not make that any less mortifying to hear in the presence of a younger and dumber version of himself. He quickly buried his face in his husband’s neck and helplessly allowed his hand to flail against the marble ramparts of Lan Zhan’s chest. “It’s true. Look. They’re both blushing.”
In fairness, the only one in the Jingshi not blushing was his shameless husband.
“Ah, Hanguang-Jun, my virginal sensibilities!” Wei Wuxian exclaimed, once more letting his fist pound into a perfectly shaped pectoral, where he knew the Wen Clan brand burned as a perpetual accusation of all of Wei Wuxian’s past misdeeds.
“Who are you, people!” At long last, Little Him had asked the right question and Wei Wuxian slid out of his husband’s lap and with a skip in his step approached the two teenage boys.
“You,” he pointed at his younger self, “come with me. You, Little Zhan, stay here.”
“I’m not little,” his husband’s adorable doppelganger glared at him and his teenage shadow with the same look as the day Wei Wuxian had snuck him some of Nie Huaisang’s finest erotica.
“Oh, I know you’re not,” Wei Wuxian retorted with a wink that he could not repress no matter how much he wished otherwise. “Come on, Wei Ying!” And he dragged himself away, out into the yard in the back of the Jingshi.
Lan Wangji straightened out his robes and folded himself into an easy lotus position. Across from him, his sixteen-year-old self mimicked his movements, his cheeks still bright from the embarrassment of a few moments earlier. For about the length of an incense stick, neither one spoke, letting their gazes lock, one serene and steadfast, the other anxious and earnest.
“Is it real?” his teenage self finally asked.
“Mn,” Lan Wangji responded.
“And he…? And we…?”
“Ask him,” Lan Wangji said calmly just as a loud commotion from the back of the Jingshi alerted them to an incoming hurricane of unbridled teenage emotion. Both Wei Yings hurried back into the room, one as pink as a peach blossom, the other beaming with his toothiest grin.
The Wei Ying in his white disciple robes dropped to his knees at the younger Lan Wangji’s side and pulled with urgent desperation at his sleeves. “Lan Zhan! Lan Zhan, is it true? Do you really like me? Because I like you so much!” His hands clasped over his face, as if attempting to hold in the shame of his own youthful utterances.
“So cute,” his own Wei Ying mouthed at Lan Wangji over the tops of their teenage heads.
“I do,” his younger self confessed breathlessly.
“Well, husband, I think our job here is done,” Wei Ying declared with a triumphant twirl, landing back in Lan Wangji’s lap.
“Not quite,” Lan Wangji pointed out.
“Explain yourself, Lan Zhan?”
“If I understand how your arrays work, we will not be able to leave until you’ve achieved what you came here to do.”
“I came here to explain to this budding specimen of perfect manhood what’s hidden beneath all those layers of Lan Sect robes,” Wei Ying purred into Lan Wangji’s reddening ear.
Lan Wangji shook his head and gave his husband’s pleasantly round behind a firm squeeze. “Apologize,” he prodded.
Wei Ying pouted and wrinkled his face again. “Feels like a more useful apology might be killing Wen Ruohan and his totally deranged sons.” Chenqing twirled between his fingers with a deadly flourish. “Don’t you think?” Lan Wangji barely lifted an eyebrow. “I knew you’d agree with me.”
“Lan Zhan, you married me,” Lan Wangji heard in Wei Ying’s youthful voice.
“You married me,” his younger self retorted, as if it were a competition.
Lan Wangji and Wei Wuxian both sighed and rose from the floor. “Seems that our dubious progenitors here still have a ways to go before sorting themselves out,” Wei Ying said, squeezing his hand. “Little Lan Zhan,” he called and the young man’s face lit up with a burst of instinctive indignation. “I really am sorry for everything. He’s a handful!”
“I like a handful,” Lan Wangji’s younger version replied, his cheeks coloring once more as his eyes drifted from one Wei Ying to the other.
“You really do, don’t you, Lan Zhan! You really married me in that Cold Pond Cave!”
“Be quiet, Wei Ying.”
“You totally married me! Oh heavens, I’m your wife! I married into the Lan Sect!”
His own Wei Ying let out a little cough and began to pull Lan Wangji by the hand out of the Jingshi. “I think we’ve done enough damage, don’t you agree?”
“I don’t know if your apology is accepted.”
“Lan Zhan! You’re so terrible, you can accept my apology yourself, as many times as you like when we get home!”
The two boys they were leaving behind let out various exclamations of shock and disgust.
“They have a lot to learn,” Wei Ying pointed out.
“But luckily not from you,” Lan Wangji said, rushing them down the meandering path before anyone else spotted them. “Time to reverse the spell. Make your array again.”
“All right,” Wei Ying said in a way that meant anything but consent. “But first, consider….”
Back in Cloud Recesses that existed in a parallel universe that had not caught up with their own, Lan Qiren was stroking his beard with a certain amount of violence, threatening to thin it into nothing but a wisp. It was bad enough that the son of Cangse Sanren had been following his perfect nephew like a lap dog all summer, now that it was coming to an end, he was going as far as sitting right next to him during lecture. And what was even less comprehensible and more alarming, Wangji was allowing it. More than allowing it, but was casting rather soft glances in the direction of the other boy.
His elder nephew had strolled into the lecture hall and greeted him with a graceful bow. Unlike Lan Qiren, Lan Xichen’s face reflected nothing but serene contentment when he glanced over at where Wangji and that Wei Ying boy were making ridiculous cow eyes at each other.
“We’d just received word, Shufu,” Lan Xichen said quietly. “Wen Ruohan is dead. His sons as well. There was an attack on Nightless City. No one knows who was responsible.”
Lan Qiren heard but barely took in the news, his mind was still otherwise occupied. He nodded in the direction of the front row, where Wei Ying had shamelessly taken Wangji’s hand into his own, and once more to Lan Qiren's chagrin and bewilderment, Wangji had permitted it.
“Look,” Lan Qiren sighed, “and behold the sum of all my failures.”
“Oh, it’s not so bad, Shufu,” Lan Xichen said with a beatific smile. “I happen to think they’re really good for each other.”
Back in their own world and in their own marital bed, Wei Wuxian cried out and rolled over, fixing his husband with an intense look.
“What is it?” Lan Zhan asked.
“We forgot to kill Sect Leader Yao!” Wei Wuxian complained.
His husband appeared to contemplate that for a moment. “We can still do that here,” he suggested, his hand soothing down Wei Wuxian’s exposed flank.
“You say the most romantic things, Lan Zhan, what am I supposed to do with you?”
Luckily, Wei Wuxian was a bit of a genius, and doubtlessly, the answer would come to him soon enough.