Wei Wuxian was not, in the grand scheme of things, at all opposed to reading. On the contrary, he quite liked digging through what other people often considered musty and pointless scrolls on the special seals and talismans produced by different clans, and when he was in the right mood, and accompanied by the right kind of drink, he very much enjoyed reading poetry. So it wasn’t that he didn’t understand the attraction of books and scrolls; he did. It was just that Lan Zhan seemed to read as a sort of reflex, one that came right after breathing. A properly balanced life included books, but it also included other things.
So Wei Wuxian considered it one of his duties to coax Lan Zhan away from his reading now and then, and today Lan Zhan had been reading for several hours without even a pause for fresh tea. It was definitely time.
He folded the notes he’d been jotting and tucked them into Treatise on the Changing of Names to keep his place, and stood up in one long, slow stretch.
Lan Zhan didn’t look up.
Wei Wuxian huffed a faint laugh and strolled across from the corner… all right, wall… well, okay, significant section of their sitting room that he’d taken over for his own, to where Lan Zhan sat, perfectly straight, at his writing table.
Lan Zhan turned a page.
Wei Wuxian grinned. It had taken him a while to wrap his mind around the idea that Lan Zhan had learned how to tease, in the years they’d been apart. He was very understated about it (of course), but it was still adorable. Wei Wuxian circled his lover to drape himself over Lan Zhan’s back and murmur into his ear, “Lan Zhaaaan.”
Lan Zhan turned his head enough to give Wei Wuxian a sidelong look, one brow raised.
“Study time is over,” Wei Wuxian declared, folding his arms around Lan Zhan’s shoulders.
“Is there else we should be doing?” Lan Zhan asked, still holding his book open. His shoulders were completely relaxed, though, so Wei Wuxian had no hesitation in swinging himself around Lan Zhan’s side to land squarely in his lap. Sure enough, Lan Zhan caught him adroitly in one arm, and Wei Wuxian grinned up at him.
“You should be paying attention to me.”
Lan Zhan looked down at him, and the line of his mouth softened. “You always have my attention.”
The simple certainty of the words caught Wei Wuxian, just as surely as Lan Zhan’s arm around him, quieting his playfulness into attention. “Always?” he asked, softly, reaching up to trace light fingers along the curve of Lan Zhan’s cheek.
Lan Zhan laid his book aside and brought his hand up, fingers sliding gently into Wei Wuxian’s hair. “Always.”
This time the certainty in his voice was absolute, so complete it rang through the room like a struck chord that stole Wei Wuxian’s breath with its purity. He had to wet his lips before he could speak again, and when he did it was nearly a whisper. “Show me?”
Lan Zhan leaned down and kissed him, slow, every small movement so deliberate that it stroked a shiver down Wei Wuxian’s spine, every cool slide of lips against his speaking of how he was at the center of Lan Zhan’s attention. It felt so good, so easy to relax into that certainty. When Lan Zhan shifted to let him down to the mats and lean over him, Wei Wuxian let him, didn’t (for once) reach up to pull Lan Zhan down close. The weight of Lan Zhan’s intent focus on him was just as good as the weight of his body, heavy and reassuring. He let Lan Zhan take his hands, relaxed in his hold as Lan Zhan unlaced his cuffs, one after the other, long fingers moving over the ties as carefully as they moved on the strings of a guqin.
It felt so good.
He lay quietly in the bright light from the window behind Lan Zhan’s reading table as Lan Zhan unwound his belts and laid his robes open, layer by slow layer, moving pliantly with the gentle stroke of broad palms down his hips, over his shoulders, down his arms, basking in all that focused attention like it was sunlight. It felt just that warm and all-encompassing, and he wanted to just stay here until the warmth sank all the way into his bones.
And then Lan Zhan lifted his arm and pressed a kiss to the center of his palm. Another, very precisely, to the point three fingers below his wrist while Lan Zhan’s fingertips stroked softly down his arm to his shoulder, unerringly tracing the flow of his qi. The delicate touch pulled his whole body taut, cut his breath into a gasp. He’d spent so long not letting anyone suspect enough to check, not letting anyone close enough to see the condition of his qi, how threadbare it had been stripped. So long, learning where to apply the little stream of raw strength left to him, to accomplish what only those of great power might do by direct force.
Lan Zhan leaned down to press another gentle kiss to his stomach, just under the arch of his ribs. “Forgive me,” he said softly, against the skin. “Forgive me that I did not see. That I did not trust how deep the roots of your reasons must run, to take the path you have.” He lifted his head and looked down at Wei Wuxian, eyes soft and serious. “I see you now, Wei Ying. You have my word.”
Wei Wuxian felt like all the breath was being pressed out of his lungs, and he shook his head a little. “You don’t… It’s not…” The apology was the least part of what Lan Zhan had just said, but it was the part he had some map to dealing with.
Lan Zhan leaned down again to kiss the halting words off his lips. “I see you now,” he repeated, quiet and sure, and Wei Wuxian wound his arms around him and held tight, trying to catch his breath. Which was not assisted by how Lan Zhan gathered him up and held him, fingers stroking gently down his neck and back, slowly tracing each flow. He wanted this, so, so badly, wanted Lan Zhan to know him down to the core, to prove that it was possible.
He had no idea what to do with getting any of that, let alone all of it.
And Lan Zhan just held him, as he tried to find his control again, held him close while Wei Wuxian buried his head in Lan Zhan’s shoulder and gasped for breath, held him until he finally managed to calm, finally managed to whisper against layers of fine white, “I wanted you to know. I just couldn’t…”
“Yes.” Lan Zhan stroked gentle fingers all the way down his spine, touch so alive that Wei Wuxian could feel the effect on his qi, feel it like a current of cool water in warm. “Permit me to know, now?”
Heat tightened, low in Wei Wuxian’s stomach, at the thought of letting Lan Zhan touch him that deeply, trace all the paths of life and remaining strength in him. “Yes,” he agreed, husky.
Lan Zhan gathered him closer for a moment. “Thank you, my heart.” Wei Wuxian couldn’t help but laugh a little, soft and unsteady, as Lan Zhan laid him back against his spread-out robes, reaching up to tuck back Lan Zhan’s hair. “You don’t need to thank me.”
“When it is called for, I will,” Lan Zhan told him, calm and immoveable as he shrugged out of his own robes, white fabric slipping down to join black and red pooled around them. “Become used to it.”
Wei Wuxian really did laugh at that, winding his arms around Lan Zhan as he settled back down, a lean weight of muscle over Wei Wuxian. “I love you, Lan Zhan.”
Lan Zhan cupped his cheek in one broad hand, eyes dark and steady. “You are all that is precious to me.” The certainty of his words sent a soft rush of warmth through Wei Wuxian, and he turned his head into Lan Zhan’s hand, smiling.
And then his breath drew in fast and his eyes widened, as Lan Zhan stroked his open palm gently down Wei Wuxian’s neck. His hand was alive–as if he were about to inscribe a seal, as if he were about to draw his sword, as if he were about to transfuse his own life force. Wei Wuxian could feel it.
And Lan Zhan must be able to feel him just as clearly.
That certainty, and the intent weight of Lan Zhan’s eyes on him, drove a soft moan out of him. Gentle, relentless sensation, the slow caress of hands carefully tracing the flow of qi through his body, folded him deep in the warmth of Lan Zhan knowing all of him. He wanted it with everything in him, but even so he arched up with a tiny, breathless sound of not-quite-protest when Lan Zhan’s palm stopped over his solar plexus. “There’s nothing there,” he whispered.
“Then let me know that.” Lan Zhan’s voice was soft against his ear, and when he opened his eyes (when had he closed them?) the daylight brightness of the room past Lan Zhan’s shoulder stunned him a little with its normality. Surely the world should be glowing, lit up from within, the same way he felt right now, doubly aware of the faint currents of his own qi with every path that Lan Zhan traced over his skin. Did he really want to halt it, try to withhold this one thing that Lan Zhan knew of already?
He closed his eyes again, deliberately relaxing back against the firmness of the mats under them, offering this moment of trust as freely as he could. “All right.”
Lan Zhan’s mouth covered his, and the slow, wet sliding together of lips and tongues put a sensual edge on the cool current of qi that slid into him, sending his whole body surging up against Lan Zhan’s. He’d felt this before, long ago, in the cave where they’d both nearly died, but not like this. That moment was hazy in his memory, tangled together with pain and cold and cloudy regret. This time there was nothing in the way of feeling the cool, strong current of Lan Zhan’s qi flowing into and through his own, and his arms tightened around Lan Zhan as if he could pull the feeling closer that way. “Lan Zhan…”
“Breathe with me,” Lan Zhan murmured against his lips, fingers holding steady just below his ribs. The huskiness of his voice made Wei Wuxian shiver, but the request was such a basic exercise that he fell into rhythm with Lan Zhan without thought.
And then he was hard pressed to keep it, feeling the flow of his qi start to parallel the current of Lan Zhan’s, warm and cool sliding into each other and winding together. His next exhale was a low moan. “Lan Zhan…”
Lan Zhan made a distinctly pleased sound and slid his hand down Wei Wuxian’s stomach, tracing the major flow there, slow and certain, until long fingers wrapped around his cock. The intensity of heat, pleasure, response that rushed through Wei Wuxian’s body and energies both left him dizzy and clinging to the rhythm of their breaths as the one stable point left, and oh it felt so good, knowing Lan Zhan was still with him. The slow in and out pulled him deeper into the moment, into the absolute certainty of Lan Zhan’s touch, until he was moving with Lan Zhan, rocking up into each stroke in a long flex of muscles, trading deep, slow kisses back and forth. In one moment, he thought this might last forever, and in the next he was already over the edge, groaning out loud as pleasure pulsed through him like the heavy beat of a drum. Lan Zhan gathered him in tighter, and Wei Wuxian wound closer around him, holding on as heat and sweetness shook him apart.
When his senses finally settled again, he was cradled close in Lan Zhan’s arms, chest heaving as he panted for breath. Lan Zhan’s hand swept slowly up and down his back, open and soothing, and he could still feel how alive Lan Zhan’s palms were, feel the faint response of his qi.
“You always have my attention, Wei Ying,” Lan Zhan said quietly, and Wei Wuxian had to bury a burst of helpless, giddy laughter in Lan Zhan’s shoulder.
“I believe you,” he promised, breathless, and laughed again at the eminently satisfied sound Lan Zhan made, and kissed the faint, pleased curve off his mouth.
It wasn’t until they were putting their clothes back to rights that Lan Zhan spoke again, very quietly. “Wei Ying. I believe you do have a Golden Core.”
Wei Wuxian froze in the act of pulling his sash snug, feeling the words like a physical shock, and slowly looked around at him. Lan Zhan was watching him, gaze steady and even. “But that’s… not possible.” His voice rasped on the words.
“I have not the skill of one such as Wen Qing, but I know what I felt just now.” Lan Zhan stepped close and touched his fingertips to Wei Wuxian’s stomach, just under his ribs. “I do not know why or how, but it is there.”
Wei Wuxian pressed his hand over Lan Zhan’s, as though that would let him feel what he hadn’t before. He hadn’t felt anything there, had he? Nothing like what he’d known his Golden Core to feel like. No one that Wen Zhuliu had attacked had ever recovered.
But he hadn’t been attacked, had he?
“The extraction?” he murmured to himself, turning the pieces over in his head. “Maybe the real problem was scarring, all along? Or did the revival ritual transfer that with his wish? Or maybe continuing cultivation itself is the key, do we have any records…?” As possibilities sorted themselves in his mind’s eye, he looked up with a grin to see Lan Zhan smiling faintly at him, rueful and fond. “Lan Zhan! I need all the medical books from the Lan library! And also a bunch of the histories, I think.” He looked around, frowning at the stacks of books and notes and charts already in his end of their sitting room. “Is there room for them here? Maybe I should just take over a station in the library—” He broke off as Lan Zhan kissed him.
“Let us see,” Lan Zhan said, sounding calm but still looking amused. Wei Wuxian laughed, leaning against him.