this is late for two separate events, because I'm impressive in my inability to get things done on time. happy belated birthday to my amazing wife, dragonofeternal, please enjoy this late entry for WangNingXian Week, using the prompt "Family"
"You don't think we should tell him?" Wen Ning asks, not meeting Wei Wuxian's eyes as he looks across the small town they're waiting near. They're just far enough out that no one is paying them much attention, though being passed over is something he's used to. Despite being the most well-known fierce corpse in existence, Wen Ning is particularly unnoticeable.
He shrugs in response. "Why bother? He already knows you're family, and I'm basically his other dad now! So why complicate things?" Wei Wuxian points out, tossing a small stone into the sparkling stream next to them. It cuts across the countryside, probably eventually joining a larger river near Gusu before becoming the sea. He almost considers asking its name, though that's a lost cause. He'd probably forget it before they made it home.
"Maybe…maybe he'd like to know more of his heritage," Wen Ning explains.
"Aw, come on, there's not much to hear from my side," he whines, leaning on Wen Ning's shoulder. "I don't remember my biological family, and he's getting enough Jiang [family history] from hanging out with Jin Ling."
"Master Wei…there's only so much of the Wens left. It's just me," he says. The way Wen Ning accepts the utter finality of it sinks like a rock to the bottom of Wei Wuxian's gut. He still feels guilty, still feels like he failed them. Even if Wen Ning doesn't blame him, it does little to assuage his own feelings. "So maybe—"
"Nah-" Wei Wuxian stretches out, nearly knocking Wen Ning off balance. "Besides, we should go check on them! I expected them to be done by now."
Wen Ning shakes his head but doesn't press further. "Of course, Master Wei."
"That's the spirit! I wanna see how they've improved; they're supposed to be the best cultivators of their era, you know," he says, twirling Chenqing idly as they make their way further from the town and its friendly stream, and into the sprawling forest.
They arrive just as the juniors are finishing up; Lan Jingyi is already congratulating Lan Sizhui and Jin Ling on a coordinated technique they pulled off successfully, while Ouyang Zizhen is clearing away the mess left behind. There's an encouraging smile on Lan Sizhui's face as he graciously accepts praise and connects it to everyone else's contributions.
"He has your smile," Wen Ning says softly, and leaves it at that.
Wei Wuxian shakes his head. "Not anymore," he jokes. Mo Xuanyu's body barely looks like his original; honestly, he'd probably look the most like Jin Ling now, if they dressed similarly. But it's still a moot point. What difference would it make?
"Senior Wei! Senior Wen!"
A chorus of voices and rustling robes greets them and the four juniors bow politely.
"You missed the whole thing!" Lan Jingyi says excitedly. "Sizhui did this cool thing, and then Jin Ling jumped in, and—"
"That's the point!" Wei Wuxian cuts in, chuckling. "You don't need our help on every night hunt. We're just here to make sure you don't get up to too much mischief."
"You're the worst troublemaker," Jin Ling grumbles.
Wei Wuxian laughs good-naturedly. "Show some respect! I'm your elder," he chides, all smiles, and Jin Ling makes a show of rolling his eyes.
"Ouyang Zizhen and Jin Ling are planning on returning to the Cloud Recesses with us for a brief stay," Lan Sizhui explains. "The four of us are working together on a proposal Jin Ling wants to present to the rest of the Jin Sect."
"It's nice to see different sects working together so well," Wen Ning says, drawing attention after being quiet for so long.
Wei Wuxian nods. "Yeah, good for all of you! Sometimes it's easy to forget that we're all in this together, no matter where we come from."
Jin Ling shrugs it off. "None of the cultivators from the Jin sect are worth working with," he says stubbornly, falling in step behind Lan Sizhui as they make their way back to the main road.
"You mean they don't like your temper, Young Mistress Jin?" Lan Jingyi teases, slinging an arm around his shoulders.
Jin Ling growls and tries to shove him off. "I told you—"
"It's alright- I've come to find your tempestuous attitude charming," he continues undeterred, and Jin Ling just sighs, resigning himself to Lan Jingyi's attention.
Lan Sizhui chuckles, hiding a satisfied smile from them. "You'll have to leave Jin Ling alone eventually, Jingyi."
"I know, I know, we have to fly home."
At the wide open road, Wei Wuxian watches Lan Sizhui direct them into a formation. Flying on a sword is something he only recently remastered, but once he's in the air, years of practice are second nature once again. It's nice to have it back.
"I'll meet you back at the Cloud Recesses!" Wei Wuxian says, tossing his jade token to Wen Ning cheerfully. "Remind me to get you one of these eventually!"
Wen Ning merely nods and takes off, leaving Wei Wuxian to travel in the company of the juniors.
Wen Ning stays on the edges of the Cloud Recesses when he's there - fierce corpses are forbidden, but so is Wei Wuxian, so they make do together. After going over the juniors' notes from their night hunt, Wei Wuxian finds Wen Ning sitting quietly with the rabbits. They've gotten over their initial distrust of him, especially once they realized Wen Ning is much quieter than Wei Wuxian.
"There you are!" Wei Wuxian says, waving as he approaches. A few of the rabbits scatter out of the way, leaving room for him to sit down next to Wen Ning.
"Hello, Master Wei," he says softly, passing one of the rabbits to him. "Good to see you arrived safely."
He grins. "Of course! I know I've had to start cultivating from scratch, but that won't stop me from enjoying flying."
"I'm glad…that you're able to recover so much of your cultivation, Master Wei," he says, the tone as gentle and fond as he can manage.
"Aw, come on, none of that 'Master Wei' stuff," Wei Wuxian says, ruffling his hair with one hand and juggling the rabbit in the other. "I think we've been friends long enough!"
Wen Ning looks at him, unblinking and intense. "I don't think…Yiling Laozu suits you anymore," he says [evenly].
Wei Wuxian stares for a moment before Wen Ning forces a tiny, harsh smile onto his face, and Wei Wuxian bursts into laughter. "You had me going for a second there! Really, you can't try to call me something more formal."
"So don't be so distant!"
"I'll try, Master Wei."
Wei Wuxian laughs again and falls into his lap- much to the dismay of the rabbits already there. "Yeah, yeah, I know you will," he says, looking up through the picturesque trees above. Small tufts of cloud lazily float across the slivers of blue sky he can see, and Wei Wuxian manages to shed any lingering stress in their shared quiet.
"Oh," Wen Ning says, shifting without dislodging Wei Wuxian. "I have your jade token."
"Ahh, thank you," he says, holding out a hand for it. The carved jade is even colder than usual, but Wen Ning's chill has become familiar. "I should ask Lan Zhan to give you one."
He shakes his head. "I don't want to impose."
"You're not imposing! You're my best friend and Lan Sizhui's family, so you're basically part of the sect now," Wei Wuxian assures him. "Besides, even Lan Qiren is slowly warming up to me, and you're way more likable. Or quieter, which is kinda the same thing here."
"Is he?" Wen Ning asks, looking down to meet Wei Wuxian's eyes.
"Mmm, probably! I've almost convinced him to let me teach some classes about demonic cultivation. Detecting and fighting it, that is!"
Wen Ning makes an approximation of sighing. "Allowing a fierce corpse unlimited access to the Cloud Recesses is a little different, Master Wei."
Wei Wuxian shrugs. "It's fine, Wen Ning. I don't want you to feel like you have nowhere to go."
He doesn't answer at first, instead idly resting a hand on Wei Wuxian's shoulder as they sit quietly together. It's hard to have nowhere to go- if things had gone differently at Dafan Mountain, who knows where they'd be now? Wei Wuxian would have been running for years, and Wen Ning has it even worse. There's something to be said for settling down because you finally have the stability of somewhere to call home, but there's also the pain that comes with never quite fitting in.
"I want you to find your own place in the world, Wen Ning. But that doesn't mean I don't wanna see you or that you're not welcome here," Wei Wuxian tells him.
Wen Ning pulls his face into a smile. "I know. I just don't want to intrude—"
"Don't make excuses! You're not intruding, I promise. Lan Zhan is just quiet, and doesn't really know you as well. I'm sure he likes you deep down," he insists.
"I think he's still jealous."
"Jealous? Of you? Why would he be?"
"Well, he was before…you two got together, and since you've told him about A-Yuan by now, I think it's…still happening," Wen Ning says, and Wei Wuxian finds a patch of flowers to his left incredibly interesting in lieu of answering. "Oh, no. Master Wei—"
"I mean, I sorta did! He just thought I was kidding," Wei Wuxian says, chuckling nervously. "You know, when he came to visit the Burial Mounds! It was the day you woke up."
"What did you say to him?" Wen Ning asks, doing an incredibly good job emoting with his voice. If it wasn't mounting horror at his actions, Wei Wuxian would be even more impressed.
"Oh, you know…he asked whose child A-Yuan was, and I told him I'd birthed myself from my own body," Wei Wuxian explains, and Wen Ning makes an expression that is impressively similar to the one Lan Wangji made that day in Yiling. "He didn't believe me! He looked at me like I'd said the stupidest thing ever, so I played it off as a joke."
"It's not my fault he didn't believe me," Wei Wuxian says stubbornly.
Wen Ning looks so, so tired. "You should probably make it clearer than that."
He groans. "It's not an issue."
"He's your husband now. Hanguang-Jun would probably want to know, even if you don't want to tell A-Yuan."
Wei Wuxian almost rolls out of Wen Ning's lap to escape the conversation. "Come on, Wen Ning. Can you imagine explaining it? I love Lan Zhan, but the Lans can be pretty backwards."
"You should have more faith in him," Wen Ning says, before covering his mouth. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I didn't mean it like that—"
He cuts him off before he can start bowing or fussing. "It's fine, and yeah, you're probably right. I do trust him. It's just never needed to come up, so why force it?"
Wen Ning pats him on the head. "I trust you to make the decisions you think are right, but you're not very good in tricky emotional situations."
Wei Wuxian laughs and the mood lights considerably. "That's true! But neither is Lan Zhan, so it's good I have you to steer me in the right direction."
"Always, Master Wei," he says firmly. "I think my sister was better at it, though."
"Wen Qing was better at just about everything responsible," Wei Wuxian agrees. "I still miss her."
"Me too," Wen Ning says softly, and they fall back into their shared peace.
The problem still remains: Wei Wuxian has no idea how to bring such a thing up. Usually he blurts ideas out as soon as they come up - he's learned a thing or two from years of failed communication - but A-Yuan's parentage isn't a recent development. It's from before they were on good terms, so of course he didn't air all his personal business back then. Now, though…
He flops backwards, staring at the ceiling of the jingshi as he waits for Lan Wangji to return from a visit with his brother. Maybe tonight is a bad time; his increasingly unproductive meetings with Lan Xichen usually leave him feeling pretty low. The last thing Wei Wuxian wants to do is upset him even more.
Maybe he should have taken Wen Ning up on his offer of being here for it. Though…it probably isn't too late for that. He said he was planning on sticking around for another few days.
Wei Wuxian sits up and hums a few notes- just enough to get Wen Ning's attention and draw him closer. A brief moment later, he hears rustling outside, and Wei Wuxian pokes his head out to greet him.
"Good evening, Master Wei," Wen Ning says, cautiously making his way to the entrance.
"I need a favor," Wei Wuxian replies, smiling as casually as possible.
Wen Ning nods, looking at him expectantly, and Wei Wuxian herds him inside. "I need to bounce some ideas around," he elaborates, tapping the side of his nose. "I kinda don't know where to begin, because I already sorta tried once. 'Remember when I said I birthed A-Yuan myself? I wasn't actually kidding!' That just sounds silly."
"It's a start," Wen Ning tells him. "You're usually very…casual."
Wei Wuxian groans. "I guess."
"I think…if you try to rehearse a speech, it will be harder."
"You know I'm just gonna say it stupidly no matter what," he says, and Wen Ning does his best not to laugh at him.
A whisper of movement at the door interrupts their discussion, and Wei Wuxian jumps up to greet Lan Wangji.
"Lan Zhan!" he exclaims, jumping into his arms. "Welcome home!"
"Wei Ying," he greets, wrapping an arm around him fondly. "Wen Qionglin."
Wen Ning bows. "Hello, Hanguang-Jun. Apologies for intruding."
Lan Wangji shakes his head. "If Wei Ying invited you, it's fine."
Wei Wuxian smiles broadly. "See, Wen Ning? I told you not to worry."
"I suppose… you did ask me to come, Master Wei," he concedes.
"Yep!" he says, before turning his attention back to Lan Wangji. "How was Zewu-Jun?"
"The same," he answers without elaborating, only shifting his grip on Wei Wuxian to hold him more comfortably.
Wei Wuxian makes a sympathetic sound and presses a kiss against Lan Wangji's neck comfortingly. "You can't rush grief, but maybe I can take your mind off it…"
Lan Wangji clears his throat audibly. "Wei Ying."
"I should go," Wen Ning says, trying to excuse himself as gracefully as possible.
"Oh, right!" Wei Wuxian scrambles out of Lan Wangji's arms to face him properly. "Wen Ning and I have something to talk to you about."
Lan Wangji raises a singular eyebrow very subtly while Wen Ning shakes his head. "No, no, I thought I was just here to help—"
"By sticking around!" Wei Wuxian finishes cheerfully.
His gazes flicks between the two of them. "Wei Ying, if you would like to pursue a more intimate relationship with Wen Qionglin—"
"Whoa, whoa, what?" Wei Wuxian cuts in.
"You two are very close," Lan Wangji says simply, as though that explains everything.
Wei Wuxian holds his hands up defensively. "Well, not like that. I mean, not anymore, if that's what you're worried about!" he says quickly, talking over whatever apologies Wen Ning is trying to make. "It's sorta what I wanted to talk to you about, so maybe that's where you got the idea."
The look of impending horror returns to Wen Ning's face - still very impressive! - as Wei Wuxian pushes onward, past his nerves and hang ups, trying to maintain his peppy attitude the whole time. Why is he so nervous about this? Nothing has stopped him from speaking his mind before!
"So- so, remember, when you first met A-Yuan?" he asks, accepting Lan Wangji's brief nod before continuing. "And I made that joke about how he was my son I birthed myself, and you made- well, you kinda made the face Wen Ning is making now! Well, it's kinda funny, looking back, that no one believed me, because I guess the best way to disguise the truth is to make it sound like a lie."
Wen Ning's expression lightens slightly and Lan Wangji's brows furrow. Oh, he looks so cute when he's confused! At least he's getting that out of this conversation.
"Men cannot have children," Lan Wangji says carefully, though he still sounds unsure.
"Well, okay, usually not—"
"Was this because of your demonic cultivation? I've heard there are unexpected side effects."
Wei Wuxian groans. "No, no, nothing like that! Is that really something people think can happen?" he asks with a laugh, and Wen Ning nods.
"There are…a lot of rumors about demonic cultivators," he says. "Most of them are exaggerated or incorrect."
"See, this is why I should teach that class," Wei Wuxian points out. "Try to squash these ridiculous ideas before someone gets hurt from taking them too seriously. And maybe some sex ed—"
He shrugs. "Sorry, I'm off topic. It wasn't demonic cultivation- some people are just like that. Born with bodies that are different than the norm," he tries to explain. "So Wen Ning and I fooled around a couple times, cause you know, boredom or whatever, and we weren't super careful, I guess, and that's where A-Yuan came from. But there was the war going on, and it seemed safer to leave him with Wen Ning's family…"
Wei Wuxian trails off, not really sure how else to put it. Wen Ning's family had been fairly removed from the war; none of them fought in it and Wen Qing mostly did office work unless her medical expertise was needed. He had no idea it would end as badly as it did, and he's doubly grateful that Lan Wangji found him in the Burial Mounds.
Lan Wangji looks between Wei Wuxian and Wen Ning, deep in thought. "So…he is your son. Together," he finally says. It's not a question, as much as he still looks somewhat lost.
He nods. "Mmhm, but that was a long time ago! You don't need to be jealous, don't worry."
"I worry because you are fixated on giving him an erection," Lan Wangji says patiently and Wei Wuxian laughs nervously.
"Lan Zhan, that makes it sound kinda perverted," he says.
"How…how could it not?" Wen Ning asks.
"No, no, it has to do with you being a fierce corpse and not having any blood flow," he tries to explain. "So I was trying to come up with a solution to make it work again."
Wen Ning holds up his hands and shakes his head, desperately trying to ward off Wei Wuxian's rant. "That's really not necessary—"
"I think it is," Wei Wuxian says.
"Wei Ying," Lan Wangji says, cutting off any further explanations in an attempt to get Wei Wuxian back on track.
Wei Wuxian laughs, scratching the back of his head. What more does he really need to say on the matter? "That's all there is, Lan Zhan. Wen Ning and I were talking about telling Sizhui, and he found out I'd never told you, so…now I have! Sorry it took so long."
He nods slowly. "So all this time, he was yours."
"Thank you." Lan Wangji is a man of few words, but Wei Wuxian has finally learned how to read past the surface— . Thank you for telling me, thank you for allowing me to raise your son, thank you for joining me in parenting him now.
"Of course! And now you know what's up, so we're good," Wei Wuxian says cheerfully, slinging his arms around Lan Wangji and Wen Ning's shoulders. All is said and done, emotions are over for the evening, and now he can move on with his life. If Lan Wangji took it so well, maybe he can tell Sizhui after all, although he'd worry about how well he'd take it...
"Master Wei, I still have to know…why were you talking about me like…that?" Wen Ning asks, and Wei Wuxian cocks his head slightly to look at him better.
"I mean, I talk about you a lot, especially when you're traveling! So it came up eventually," he answers.
Lan Wangji shakes his head. "You talk about assisting him in a sexual way often enough that I am unsurprised to hear you once had a relationship."
Wei Wuxian laughs nervously. "More like friends who hook up sometimes- you know, like friends do!"
"Most friends don't," Wen Ning tries, looking increasingly incredulous. "But I don't want to make your relationship with Hanguang-Jun weird—"
"Oh, don't say that! You're always welcome around," Wei Wuxian reassures him, leaning further into him. "Honestly, if you didn't want to travel so much, I'd want you to be here more!"
Wen Ning cautiously wraps an arm around his waist to support him. "I'm not going to intrude on your life—"
"Not intruding," Lan Wangji says firmly. Wen Ning looks up at him with another one of those surprisingly expressive looks- this time it's surprise.
"See! Lan Zhan likes you too," he says, grinning proudly. There's something soft and warm in the air, made even sweeter after the looming stress of worry from earlier.
Wen Ning still looks unsure. "I don't think it's quite like that, Master Wei."
Lan Wangji looks between them again. "If you like someone this much, then they are very important to you."
Wei Wuxian nods. "Well, yeah, of course he is!"
"I would like to get to know him better, since he is a part of your life," he says.
"See, Wen Ning—"
"I- I think I'm reading something wrong," Wen Ning cuts in.
Wei Wuxian shrugs- as well as he can while leaning on both of them, and eyes Lan Wangji. "Well, Lan Zhan?"
"If you wish to continue your relationship, I am open to seeing where it goes," he elaborates, and Wei Wuxian feels his cheeks flush.
"No, no, see- it's not like that, I don't have a secret relationship! Or, uh, I'm not reigniting something like that. We've always been good friends, that's all!" he tries to explain.
"I know you haven't thought of it that way," Lan Wangji says patiently, and it's time like this that Wei Wuxian really has to work to decipher what he means. Someone needs to make a Lan Zhan translation guide!
"Master Wei…friends don't usually have a child together, even on accident…it sounds like more than a meaningless fling, especially since we raised A-Yuan together for awhile," Wen Ning says, equally patiently.
"You're not meaningless," Wei Wuxian says defensively. "And, I dunno, it just sorta happened that way?"
"Yes," Lan Wangji agree. "There's history in your friendship."
Wei Wuxian glances between them, trying to piece everything together. "Look, I know I'm not always great at recognizing what's going on in my love life, but I think I'd know if I'd actually been in a relationship."
Wen Ning manages a sigh. "Why do you think Hanguang-Jun was jealous of me when you first returned?"
"Because he wanted my attention to himself when he was drunk?"
"And- I cannot believe someone has to reexplain your current relationship to you, Master Wei," Wen Ning says, fondly exasperated.
"No, I understand it!"
Wei Wuxian sighs dramatically. "Okay, so I've missed some cues- what else is new? I guess I'm lucky to have you two to explain things to me," he concedes. "Did you always feel this way? Like have you been hiding some wild secret fantasies, Lan Zhan?"
Lan Wangji's ears flush bright red. "Mm. I want you to be happy."
He laughs, leaning into Lan Wangji to tease him further and inadvertently dragging Wen Ning along with him. "Ah, ah, I get it, you're embarrassed! Were you going to wait until it came up in an incense burner dream to say anything?" he asks, nearly cackling with joy.
"Master Wei, is this really appropriate?"
"Has that ever stopped me?"
Wen Ning manages a laugh. "No, it hasn't."
Wei Wuxian falls backwards into Lan Wangji's arms and Wen Ning releases him, standing to the side while Wei Wuxian laughs joyously. "Thanks for figuring everything out for me," he says again, looking up at Wen Ning thoughtfully. "So, are you gonna kiss me, or what?"
If Wen Ning could blush, he would be a brilliant shade of red. Instead, he manages a flustered "Master Wei!" before attempting to extricate himself from the situation.
"Hey, no fair! You started this; you can't run away!"
"No, I, actually—"
"Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan, take me to him! I want a kiss," he insists.
"Mm," he agrees, carrying him to Wen Ning and depositing him right in front of Wen Ning's embarrassed face.
Wei Wuxian gives him an encouraging smile. "This is okay, right? Don't look so worried!"
"Master Wei, you are…so impulsive," he says, fondness shining through any frustration.
Wei Wuxian cups his face gently, but it's Wen Ning who kisses him, cool lips pressed firmly against his own. Wei Wuxian finds himself giggling in delight as he kisses back, and from behind them Lan Wangji's strong arms wrap the three of them together with a pleased little noise. Wei Wuxian feels Lan Wangji press a kiss to the crown of his head, and he breaks from kissing Wen Ning to crane his neck up to demand a proper one. Wen Ning relaxes into the embrace, nestling his face in the crook of Wei Wuxian's neck… Maybe he really is an idiot for never realizing what a good thing he had with these two.
"We should discuss it with Sizhui," Lan Wangji says firmly. "Before they depart again for Koi Tower."
"Are you sure that's…" Wen Ning starts, but Wei Wuxian strokes his hair gently and quiets him.
"I think…Lan Zhan might be right. And we've all seen that I can be really wrong. We're here for him, together, as family." Wei Wuxian sighs. "And for as hard as all this sappy stuff can be, family matters." Before Wen Ning can object, Wei Wuxian kisses his forehead again. "You matter."
Wen Ning doesn't object this time. Instead, he forces out a sigh, letting his eyes slip shut. "Of course, Mas- er, Wei Ying."