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The path away from the falls is shaded. Wei Wuxian turns to him as they walk, the hem of his robes swinging. Emperor’s Smile is bright on his tongue. His heart feels light, his steps easy as Lan Zhan smiles at him.

His smile, oh, that smile.

Wei Wuxian turns away. He swallows, and tells himself the lump in his throat is not his buoyant heart trying to escape. It is nothing, it is nothing, except–

This is Lan Zhan’s home, and they are alone in the dappled shade, and Wei Wuxian is staying. For how long, he doesn’t know. For as long as they’ll let me, he thinks, as long as he’ll have me.

He takes a sip of Emperor’s Smile, and does not startle when Lan Zhan says his name. He turns, and looks at him, and Lan Zhan’s face is like that last horizon they stood and watched together. Wei Wuxian’s heart races.

Lan Zhan closes the distance between them with a step under the cool green canopy. There is the smell of wet stone and damp earth, the sound of the waterfall in the distance. Their feet have carried them here, and Lan Zhan is so still and Wei Wuxian feels like he’s spinning, his heart a top dropped casually in the dirt. Except it’s not, he isn’t. It’s Lan Zhan’s hands on him, and they are steady for all Wei Wuxian thinks they might be trembling, too, and Lan Zhan has only ever caught him.

“Lan Zhan.” Nothing has ever felt as wonderful in his mouth until Lan Zhan obliterates that thought by covering it with his own. His hands against Wei Wuxian’s cheeks are cool; his mouth is hot. His mouth is hot, and Wei Wuxian falls into it, already breathless.

“Wei Ying,” Lan Zhan says in the space between them. Their noses brush. Wei Wuxian can feel the heat of him through the front of his robes. “I–”

Less a fall than a fling, closing that distance himself this time. Lan Zhan’s lips are soft and parted, and the sound he makes is happy, and Wei Wuxian thinks he’s never heard that before. It resonates through him. He moans in response, and Lan Zhan’s fingers–his long, clever, beautiful fingers–are in his hair, cradling his head as their tongues meet and part and meet again.

Somehow his hands end up fisted in the front of Lan Zhan’s robes. He’s sure he’d been holding something, he’s sure, and then vaguely remembers the sound of the bottle hitting the ground in his haste. He doesn’t care. How could he care? Lan Zhan’s heart pounds beneath his fist; Lan Zhan’s fingers tangle in his hair; Lan Zhan’s mouth gives and gives and takes. Wei Wuxian shivers against him.

They are breathing hard when they part. Wei Wuxian doesn’t want to let him go. He’s gratified when Lan Zhan’s hands stay in his hair, when his eyes dip to his mouth. Lan Zhan swallows, and Wei Wuxian can hear it there in the stillness of the forest. The waterfall roars in the distance, never changing–no, slowly changing. Here they are, so many years later, finally arrived.

Lan Zhan closes his eyes, and tips his head forward until their foreheads touch. Wei Wuxian can feel the ribbon, the silver band in the middle. Family members and significant others, he thinks, and can’t help but laugh at the feeling inside of him. When Lan Zhan pulls back to look at him, face concerned, he can only shake his head and pull free from Lan Zhan’s hold to bury his face against his neck.

It’s a terrible idea. It’s a wonderful idea. Lan Zhan smells like sandalwood and warm skin this close, and it’s so familiar and so new, and he is laughing. He’s pretty sure he’s laughing, and Lan Zhan’s arms are tight around him and Lan Zhan’s face is tucked against his and he is happy.

This is happening. His feet may not be currently firmly on the ground, but his heart is tethered here.

A minute, an hour, Wei Wuxian isn’t sure how long they stand there. Time passes, because time does, but all he cares about are the not-quite-so measured breaths Lan Zhan takes, the way his hands shift against Wei Wuxian’s back and in his hair. The way Lan Zhan says his name, soft, between them.

The way their mouths fit together. The feeling of fondness when they don’t, quite.

Lan Zhan’s eyes linger when they step apart. Wei Wuxian feels them everywhere, his skin tingling. He’s suddenly aware of his pulse at his throat, and the weight of his cock beneath his robes. The way Lan Zhan’s skin is flushed and his mouth is red. The way Lan Zhan looks at him.

All this time.

In his chest, Wei Wuxian’s heart stutters. He swallows and smiles, finds his equilibrium displaced by the curve of Lan Zhan’s mouth in response. He wants to kiss him again, he wants to touch him. He wants to pull him down into the dirt and rub his hands and mouth all over him.

He does none of these things. Instead, he bends to pick up the discarded bottle. When he straightens, his fingers find Lan Zhan’s sleeve, tangle and tug. “Lan Zhan,” he says, “I want–”

What does he want? He’s had a lifetime before and over a year besides. It’s complicated, and it’s not; he wants a lot of things, but mostly he wants this–more than anything he wants this–Lan Zhan beside him and looking like that. If Lan Zhan can’t come with him–yet, he thinks–than he will come here, as long as he’s welcome.

He doesn’t know how to say what he means. He says, “Take me home.”

The look on Lan Zhan’s face makes him grin, makes him laugh–oh, what a joy to find happiness there inside him.

*

They do not go immediately to Lan Zhan’s rooms. The flow of routine sweeps them along as soon as their steps bring them within the reach of more well-worn paths and living areas. Wei Wuxian’s chest goes tight with pride as disciples pay deference to Hanguang-Jun. This is the man he loves, he thinks, and then he catches the corner of Lan Zhan’s eye, can see the impatience in the tension of his jaw, and thinks, this is the man he loves.

He holds his hands behind his back, the fingers curling around the one holding the bottle. He will not reach out. He will not tangle his fingers in Lan Zhan’s sleeve or reach for the tail of his forehead ribbon where it peeks white through his hair. What are another few moments, another few breaths, when there is everything after, now. So he waits as Lan Zhan stops to answer a question, as he’s called over to see how a particular addition to the compound has progressed, and he cannot stop the smile that keeps curling at the edges of his mouth.

Finally, Lan Zhan turns to him, face expectant, and Wei Wuxian lets the smile loose. Emotion passes like a wave over Lan Zhan’s face, and Wei Wuxian wonders how everyone has him so wrong; there is no stone here, just a man who has been more patient than Wei Wuxian deserves. And so he smiles and falls into step beside Lan Zhan, presses their shoulders together.

A step, and Lan Zhan presses back.

Wei Wuxian is delighted. He wants to pull Lan Zhan into the trees and kiss him until he’s breathless. He could, he thinks, the thought rising in him like a bird, like a note played on the wind. There is nothing stopping him.

He doesn’t say anything. He grabs Lan Zhan’s wrist and pulls him from the path, into the trees. There’s a convenient outcrop of stone, and he draws Lan Zhan behind it before turning and–

Lan Zhan’s already there, mouth eager, wrist twisting in Wei Wuxian’s grip. He touches Wei Wuxian’s hip, reaches for his other hand. Wei Wuxian would laugh at the fumbling of Lan Zhan’s fingers against his own where they’re still wrapped around the empty bottle, but his mouth is otherwise occupied.

At least it is until Lan Zhan pulls away, a furrow between his brows. His mouth is red, and his cheeks are flushed. He is beautiful. He is frowning. And then it’s his turn to take Wei Wuxian by the wrist. “Come,” he says, and tugs.

Wei Wuxian would follow him anywhere.

He feels like he’s seventeen again, almost, slipping through the paths of Cloud Recesses, Emperor’s Smile in his blood and Lan Zhan occupying his thoughts. Except it was never quite like this, Lan Zhan’s gaze always a little disapproving, corners of his mouth downturned. Not breathless and disheveled, nearer to laughter than Wei Wuxian’s ever seen him as he pulls Wei Wuxian behind him to his rooms.

Momentum carries them that far. They catch on each other behind closed doors, fingers tangling in robes and hair. Lan Zhan’s mouth is soft, the look on his face softer when he pulls away, and Wei Wuxian is struck by the weight of what he feels, the width and depth and breadth of it. He’s staring, he knows. He doesn’t care. A hand to Lan Zhan’s cheek, fingers to the corner of his mouth; Lan Zhan kisses the ends of them before taking Wei Wuxian’s hand in his.

Lan Zhan’s eyelashes flutter. It’s the only warning Wei Wuxian gets before the tip of his finger is in Lan Zhan’s mouth where it’s hot and wet and–

He stumbles into Lan Zhan, knees weak, brain stuttering. “I–”

Lan Zhan looks at him through his eyelashes. Lan Zhan looks at him with Wei Wuxian’s finger in his mouth. There is the hint of teeth, the tip of his tongue, and then Wei Wuxian is free, standing there with one hand in both of Lan Zhan’s own. He swallows hard, twice, and says, “Lan Zhan.”

He can’t look away from Lan Zhan’s mouth. He curls his fingers around Lan Zhan’s. There is still an empty bottle in his hand. Why is there an empty bottle, when his hand could be filled with much better things?

Swallowing again, Wei Wuxian licks his lips. Watches Lan Zhan watch him. Suddenly aware of every inch of his skin, he steps back and releases Lan Zhan’s hands. He smiles at him, moving to set the bottle on the nearest table. When he turns, Lan Zhan has followed him. His face is young and hungry, emotion spilling out like a bottle unstoppered. Wei Wuxian takes him in his arms, fits Lan Zhan’s body to his and holds him there. He holds him there.

A moment, and Lan Zhan’s arms are around him, white sleeves enfolding. What might be a laugh or a cry rises out of the depths of Wei Wuxian, his arms tightening. He can hear Lan Zhan’s breathing, can feel each expansion and contraction of ribs and, beneath that, his racing heart.

They breathe. Not slow or entirely steady, but breaths are taken and, between one and the next, fingers find purchase in hair, a cheek brushes against another.

“Wei Ying,” Lan Zhan says, and a shiver rolls through Wei Wuxian. Against Lan Zhan’s back, he winds the tail of his forehead ribbon around his finger, brushes the end with his thumb. Lan Zhan must feel him because he pulls back enough to level his gaze at Wei Wuxian. He steps back, and Wei Wuxian watches as he reaches up to his guan and unpins it. Removing it, he removes himself from the circle of Wei Wuxian’s arms to deposit it not behind a screen, not where it belongs, but beside the empty bottle.

Lan Zhan straightens, hair falling softly around his face, and Wei Wuxian can’t help but think of the last time they were here like this together. Well, not quite like this, not yet.

“I have missed you,” he says, the reality of it suddenly heavy on his shoulders. A year he’s been gone for himself, and for Lan Zhan…

Lan Zhan’s mouth is soft. His hands on either side of Wei Wuxian’s face are warm; Wei Wuxian thrills at the size of them. Thrills at the movement of lips against his own, of tongue against tongue. Blindly, he finds Lan Zhan’s elbows, curls his fingers there to steady himself against Lan Zhan as he’s steadied himself before.

Beneath his hands, Lan Zhan trembles. It’s fine, but it’s there, a tremor in his muscles as he holds Wei Wuxian’s face against his and kisses him.

Wei Wuxian gives him his fill. He braces them both and somehow between them they find a balance until Lan Zhan pulls away, breathless and pink-cheeked, some emotion passing through him. Lan Zhan blinks at him. His thumbs brush against Wei Wuxian’s temples. Wei Wuxian’s thumbs press in the hollows of Lan Zhan’s elbows.

“Wei Ying is here now,” Lan Zhan says, voice low and, oh, Wei Wuxian has missed that voice, has missed the way Lan Zhan looks at him. The way he touches him. And this is only the surface, he thinks, the beginning; the path ahead can be wide enough for two squeezed shoulder to shoulder.

Lan Zhan’s eyes dip to his mouth, and all Wei Wuxian can do is nod and nod.

“Yes,” he says. “Yes, I’m here. We’re both here.”

And suddenly he’s giddy with it again. They have the rest of the afternoon, the evening, the night. Tomorrow and the next day and the next. He is eager when Lan Zhan’s fingers sink into his hair, when Lan Zhan angles him and pulls him forward and takes his mouth with his own. Let Lan Zhan lead; Wei Wuxian will follow.

For now anyway, he thinks as Lan Zhan’s arms shift beneath his palms. They have time, and Wei Wuxian has ideas of his own, harbored and nourished after years of denial. It is time to reap something good.

He follows the line of Lan Zhan’s biceps to the curves of his shoulders. His hair falls against the backs of Wei Wuxian’s hands, cool and soft as Lan Zhan is solid and warm. It’s easy to ground himself here, like this, to remember the man and not the memories. Lan Zhan’s shoulders are wide, his frame strong. Wei Wuxian’s hands travel to his back where his fingers spread, taking up space. There are layers of robes between them still; Wei Wuxian wants to feel the shift of muscle, wants to see the tender skin of him, the pale scars, territory he has waited forever to map.

Wei Wuxian kisses him, nuzzles at his cheek when he pulls away, and takes the opportunity to find the sweet hidden curve of his neck beneath the heavy fall of his hair. Kisses him there as Lan Zhan tips his head, his own hands falling to Wei Wuxian’s shoulders for mooring.

The world is nothing but this now, nothing but the sound of Lan Zhan’s breath catching, the click of his throat as he swallows, the rush of Wei Wuxian’s own blood–alive, he’s alive!–in his ears. Beneath his tongue is salt and skin and Lan Zhan, who clings to him like he has any thought of being elsewhere.

“Wei Ying.” His fingers are tangled in Wei Wuxian’s hair; they don’t pull or tug, but hold. They stay. Lan Zhan’s hands cradle him as Wei Wuxian mouths the length of his throat. They do tighten when Wei Wuxian sucks at the curve of Lan Zhan’s neck, just at the line of his robes. It has been a lifetime since Wei Wuxian thought he was cold; he was not prepared for how warm he is through the layers of fabric. Here, between them, he burns hot.

They share hot breaths between them when Wei Wuxian pulls back. Lan Zhan’s eyes are dark and heavy, his lips full. He has bitten them. But then, so has Wei Wuxian.

Wei Wuxian has thought of them, if not here exactly, than like this, entwined. He knows Lan Zhan has, he must have, so many years and this his home. He wants to ask him what he’s thought of, to tease him, move them forward into the uncharted spaces between them.

He is distracted completely when Lan Zhan slips from beneath his hands and goes to his knees.

This he has not considered, though he has thought often of going to his own knees for Hanguang-Jun, that imperious face above him breaking apart into something desperate and wanting. Except that Lan Wangji is as gone as Wei Wuxian was, if he ever really existed outside of Wei Wuxian’s head. He is a figment, a phantom. He is nothing in comparison to the Lan Zhan on his knees before Wei Wuxian now, living and breathing and real.

The Lan Zhan who looks up at him with a face cracked wide-open.

Wei Wuxian reminds himself to breathe.

“Lan Zhan,” he says, heart racing, “what’re you–”

“I want to.”

Hands on Wei Wuxian’s hips, mouth red, hair loose. I want to. How can he deny him...anything? Wei Wuxian swallows, and nods, blood rushing southward. His hands go to his belt to find Lan Zhan’s there already, their fingers twisting together.

For a moment, neither of them move. Lan Zhan bows his head against their hands, bows his head and breathes and Wei Wuxian stands over him and waits, breathes too through the racing of his heart, his own shaking hands.

And then Lan Zhan presses his face to the front of Wei Wuxian’s robes, and Wei Wuxian can feel him, he swears, the hot breath of him making it through the layers.

When Lan Zhan sits back, his cheeks are pink. His eyes are wild. Wei Wuxian helps him pull at the belt and, loosened, it falls to the floor. Wei Wuxian opens his mouth to say something, to tease Lan Zhan for his new disregard for order he thinks, but Lan Zhan’s hands have already moved onto his robes, parting the outer layers until there is only the inner remaining and the trousers beneath.

Wei Wuxian’s knees feel weak. He is lightheaded. He is bound here only by Lan Zhan’s hands on his hips and the look Lan Zhan levels at him. Wei Wuxian licks his lips, and Lan Zhan watches him. Swallows. His gaze goes to the remaining tie; Wei Wuxian’s gaze follows. And then his hands go to the fastening as Lan Zhan watches and then Wei Wuxian is standing there bare chested and hardening.

There was another time like this and not like this at all, the two of them in the dark instead of the light, Lan Zhan bleeding instead of whole. So much has changed, so much–

Lan Zhan touches his waist, hands slipping beneath the loosened fabric. They’re warm, his hands, and wide. They palm his side, moving upward over his chest. Fingers pass over dusky brown nipples, and Wei Wuxian jerks and shivers even as Lan Zhan moves on, moves back to the rise of Wei Wuxian’s hips and the dark line of hair below his navel.

Wei Wuxian doesn’t move. He cannot. He wouldn’t. He stands, captivated, welcoming each touch of Lan Zhan’s reverent hands, skin thirsty for more.

Lan Zhan follows the line of his waistband with careful fingers, stops at the tie. Leans up and in and presses his mouth just above.

Wei Wuxian feels it everywhere. He gasps, steadying himself on Lan Zhan’s shoulder, wondering now if standing really is the best for this. Knowing that it’s not, not if this is how he feels when Lan Zhan’s barely touched him.

Hot breath on his wrist, Lan Zhan nuzzles at his forearm. Looks up at him through his lashes.

I want to.

Squeezing his shoulder, Wei Wuxian reaches for the tie of his trouser with his free hand. Laughs–he cannot help it–when Lan Zhan’s hands join him.

“You’re eager.”

“I have waited.”

The thought overwhelms him, Lan Zhan alone. Lan Zhan wanting. He cups Lan Zhan’s cheek, allows himself a moment to run his fingers through Lan Zhan’s hair. Pauses to finger the forehead ribbon. “Ah Lan Zhan,” he says, “you have, haven’t you. Thank you for being so patient.”

How he earned this, he doesn’t know. But Wei Wuxian will not turn it away.

It takes a moment, but between the two of them, they manage Wei Wuxian’s trousers down his hips, past his half-hard cock. And then he is half-dressed but exposed, Lan Zhan’s eyes hot on him. They breathe, and it is loud between them, this shaking, famished thing. Wei Wuxian can feel Lan Zhan’s breath ghost over him before Lan Zhan holds it, leans in, presses his mouth to the shaft.

Eyes closed, he does it again.

Wei Wuxian cannot breathe.

Lan Zhan opens his eyes and holds him with a look before taking him in hand and learning the length of him.

The world slows down, it speeds up. It pauses there for the two of them as Wei Wuxian looks down at him, as he watches Lan Zhan, careful, pull back his foreskin and bend his head with lips parted. His tongue is pink, his eyes downturned. Wei Wuxian’s grip on his shoulder tightens and then there is the first touch of Lan Zhan’s tongue on the head of his cock, the flat of it wet.

Wei Wuxian vibrates. He lets a breath out in a rush when Lan Zhan pulls back, eyes closed, mouth closed. And then he looks at Wei Wuxian and parts his lips and takes Wei Wuxian’s cock between them.

Standing was a bad idea. A wonderfully bad idea. Lan Zhan is attentive. Fuck, he is–Wei Wuxian squeezes his shoulder, tries not to be overcome by the sight of Lan Zhan with his face upturned and Wei Wuxian’s cock between his lips, the bulge of it against his cheek. He is obscene. And beautiful. Wei Wuxian touches his cheek, and when Lan Zhan turns into it, his chin is wet with saliva and precome and his lips are more full than Wei Wuxian has ever seen them and this is, everything is–

“Wei Ying.”

His voice!

Swallowing hard, Wei wuxian licks his lips. “Lan Zhan,” he says, “I don’t–I’m not–This really isn’t fair, you’re still wearing the ribbon, I–”

“Remove it.”

“What.”

 

“You may remove it.”

Is it surreal because he is half-clothed, cock still hard between them as Lan Zhan bows his head? Or is it surreal because parents and significant others? It hardly matters, and the thought is there and gone before Wei Wuxian’s focus is on the cool slide of Lan Zhan’s hair through his fingers, the ambient heat of his skin, the winding of the ribbon.

He removes it, and when Lan Zhan rises, Wei Wuxian meets his mouth with his own. He tastes himself there, and chases that with Lan Zhan’s hands on his hips, Lan Zhan’s forehead ribbon in his hand.

“It’s a start,” he says, breathless, tumbling forward as Lan Zhan draws him further into the jingshi. He is clumsy with his underclothes around his knees, his shoes still on. Wei Wuxian swears and laughs, feels young and foolish only insofar as he failed to grab Lan Zhan before when he could. Ah well. Live and learn, he thinks. Die and return. He’s got hold of Lan Zhan now as surely as Lan Zhan has him.

They stumble at the bed, layers of robes falling around them, white and black. Lan Zhan is hard–Lan Zhan is hard–and both of them fumble and gasp, eager hands and fingers meeting and tangling, distracting from disrobing.

Until it is just them, Wei Ying and Lan Zhan, bared to each other and then, oh, the full-bodied press of Lan Zhan as they reach for each other, fitting together finally in the late afternoon light.

Somewhere, a weight lifts. Wei Wuxian feels light, touch-drunk. He mouths at the line of Lan Zhan’s throat, the wings of his collarbones, the rounds of his shoulders. He palms hips and flanks and the curve of his ass. Wraps his hand around Lan Zhan’s cock and watches as Lan Zhan’s eyelashes flutter before his eyes slip closed.

“You are–” What? What can he say that will ever contain what he means? Too much feeling, too few words. “Lan Zhan.”

It gets him Lan Zhan’s mouth on his, Lan Zhan’s hands moving him, moving the both of them down onto the bed. The last time Wei Wuxian was here, he was wounded, and things were...different. The bed was his. He slept alone. Now he is healed, scarred, gloriously accompanied. Reclining, he welcomes Lan Zhan to him, holds him close as he kneels between Wei Wuxian’s legs, fitting himself there until they’re pressed cock to cock.

They lay like that for a moment, caught in the other’s arms. Lan Zhan shudders, forehead pressed to Wei Wuxian’s, and kisses him, mouth gone soft and wondering.

Wei Wuxian can relate. There is so much skin. Lan Zhan’s legs go on forever. His shoulders are so much wider than they look. His thighs are strong, and his hips–His cock–Wei Wuxian wraps himself around Lan Zhan and holds him close, face tucked into the curve of his neck, overwhelmed. He breathes, and swallows a laugh or a sob and breathes in the smell of Lan Zhan so close, lets himself relax again into this new thing they are forging between them.

Racing hearts slow, find their pace. Lan Zhan looks at him, eyes gone wide. They are full of so much, and Wei Wuxian feels all of it reflected in him, a light shone in a dark pool. He takes Lan Zhan’s face in his hands, kisses him with a smile on his mouth. Can’t remember ever feeling like this.

They rock together, trading kisses, sharing air as they learn how to move, how to take up each other’s space. It’s easy–barring hair pulled and tender parts kneed–and Wei Wuxian feels like he was made for this, for Lan Zhan, as Lan Zhan was made for him.

The light is the same, after. Lan Zhan looks at him from across the bolster, eyes steady and full, and Wei Wuxian looks back, reaching across to tuck some hair behind Lan Zhan’s ear. In his chest, Wei Wuxian’s heart squeezes when Lan Zhan’s eyes dip shut.

“Ah, you’re stuck with me now, Lan Zhan,” he says, as Lan Zhan turns his head into his touch.

The word is said into his wrist, muffled but clear. “Good.”

Wei Wuxian laughs.