and the calm is deep where the quiet waters flow
Lan Wangji did not enjoy watching the foreign disciples who arrived every year, though his presence was always required.
He stood next to his brother and uncle as the various delegations arrived. Only a few remained of those he had sat next to that very year, among them Nie Huaisang, who seemed to want to burrow deep into the soil. Wangji watched him rather than the faces of the many youths stepping through the gates of the Cloud Recesses; he knew not what to make of their admiration or lack thereof.
All of him ached to go back into seclusion. He stood with good grace the hand that Xichen put on his shoulder to quiet him, breathing in the cool and familiar scent of him.
“Preposterous,” Lan Qiren said from beside them, his eyes fixed onto the loudest of the groups assembled in front of them.
They wore the purple of Yunmengjiang, silver bells hanging from their waists, knocking against scabbards and bows. None of those weapons were carved or decorated as finely as the Lan or Jin sects’, but they seemed hardy enough.
“Uncle,” Lan Xichen said quietly. “We have talked about this.”
Lan Qiren seemed not to hear him. “Who does Jiang Fengmian think he is?” he declared anyway. His voice was soft enough not to carry over even to the closest Gusulan juniors, yet Wangji felt in it more disapproval than would be usual. “It is one thing for him to teach an omega, but to have him come here—”
Speaking ill of others behind their backs is prohibited, Lan Wangji thought idly.
“I have heard admirable things of young master Wei,” Xichen interrupted, no doubt following the same train of thoughts. Lan Qiren seemed to regain some form of composure. “His cultivation level seems to be quite high for one so young.”
“His cultivation level will not matter once he starts turning the heads of every one of our juniors.”
“He is immature still.”
“But for how long? And who will handle him once he comes to maturity, Xichen?”
This topic of conversation was too well-known to him by now for Wangji to listen very attentively.
His eyes met those of the only disciple of Yunmeng not swad in purple robes. The boy was of a height with the one next to him—and this one must be Jiang Wanyin, for his robes were of a fabric finer and thicker than anyone else’s—and he only blinked once in Wangji’s direction before turning away.
One of his arms was around Jiang Wanyin’s shoulders. He said something, then laughed, his voice carrying loudly over the quiet of the Recesses.
Next to Wangji, Lan Qiren tensed and breathed between his teeth.
“It’s emperor’s smile! I’ll give you a jar, so keep this between us, alright?”
The cloth keeping the wine stoppered was not enough to hide its smell. It wafted thickly over the nightly air, sweet and heady, and Wei Wuxian was grinning again, seemingly unbothered that Wangji had caught him out after curfew.
Out after curfew and carrying liquor.
“Drinking is forbidden in the Cloud Recesses,” Lan Wangji said thinly.
“What isn’t forbidden in the Cloud Recesses?” Wei Wuxian replied.
He looked nothing like Lan Wangji had expected.
It took until a few moments later, when Wei Wuxian followed his ridiculous reasoning to its end and decided that drinking atop the outer wall did not constitute rule-breaking, for Wangji to realize it fully. He watched in prickling irritation as Wei Wuxian threw back his head and drank from the sweet-smelling wine, and only then did he realize that it wasn’t just the wine he was smelling.
Honey and apples and a smoked and woody scent. Wind brushed past Wei Wuxian’s bare throat and carried those over to him softly.
All at once, years upon years of lessons whispered in Lan Wangji’s ears:
They live in houses that smell of flowers, away from the commonfolk, because they are too valuable.
You must never hurt them. You must never touch them.
“What are you waiting for?”
Wangji looked at the boy in front of him and felt, for the first time in his life, entirely paralyzed.
Wei Wuxian was done drinking. Spittle shone on his mouth, wet with rice wine and with laughter, yet the curve of his lips seemed darker now. Condescending.
“I broke curfew,” he said nonchalantly. “Are you going to fight me or are you too chicken for it, young master Lan? Your sword looks nice, it would be a shame to learn that it is only for show.”
Lan Wangji’s grip tightened around Bichen’s pommel. “Come down from the wall and wait for morning outside,” he said.
Even this much cost him; even this much seemed like violation, like anthesis to what he had been taught, to the sight of the Lan sect omega house far up the mountain whence the scent of blossoms came.
Wei Wuxian attacked first.
Later it would be the one thing Lan Wangji remembered: Wei Wuxian attacked first. He kneeled for a whole night on the cold floor of the jingshi, unable to find sleep even if he were to allow it to himself. Thinking again and again of the Yunmeng disciple’s silhouette cutting against moonlight as they rushed at each other; recalling the clash of Bichen’s blade against the clay jar, the spill of oversweet rice spicing up the night air sickly, thickly; Wei Wuxian’s laughter as he tore the string from his own hair to block the sword coming at him.
He had been unarmed. Lan Wangji had swung his sword at an unarmed—
He knelt, silent and heaving, on the cold stone. His knees ached. The knot of anxiety at his throat ached more.
Those were the things Lan Wangji learned about Wei Wuxian in the weeks that followed.
He was unruly. He broke at least one Lan sect rule a day, shamelessly taking advantage of the Lan elders’ unwillingness to punish him, making other disciples turn dark eyes to him wherever he went. He seemed not to care at all that such a cloud of outrage floated over his every step; he laughed, and lazed around, and physically nudged Jiang Wanyin whenever some bright idea caught him. Jiang Wanyin accepted the treatment evenly.
He was brilliant. Despite his immoral claims in class, despite Lan Qiren’s ceaseless mockery of his character, despite how little time he spent actually studying, he was better than most of their yearmates. He moved with the same grace and power that accomplished cultivators did. He carried the rough sword at his waist like someone who knew how to use it.
He must be of a level with Lan Wangji.
He was carefree and shameless and the very opposite of what he should be. He was neither small nor waifish, and his skin was not soft but rough with sunlight, and his hands carried bruises and calluses from handling weapons. He stained himself with ink when he drew talismans. He sketched men and women in various states of hilarity in the margins of his work, showing them to Nie Huaisang and Jiang Wanyin and all who would look and listen.
“Lan Wangji,” Wei Wuxian called on the fifth day of his coming to the library pavilion for punishment. “I really admire you so much. I don’t know how you can stand kneeling here and learning every day. I feel like my mind is liquefying. Hey, Lan Wangji, second brother Lan, Wangji-xiong—”
He called Lan Wangji’s birth name with not a shadow of self-consciousness. The beta chaperone sent to watch over them shuddered every time she heard him do it, her eyes averted as if to look at Wei Wuxian were too shameful to consider.
The beta should have been enough to watch over Wei Wuxian’s punishment, but Lan Qiren insisted on Wangji being there because he had figured out, somehow, that Wangji was less hesitant to call Wei Wuxian back in order. Less hesitant to speak to him and lecture him.
Wei Ying, Wangji once called him in a moment of too-great frustration.
The beta watching them had inhaled in shock. Lan Wangji had felt his ears burn at his own slip-up. Wei Wuxian had looked at him in wonder and then smiled, bright and easy and so genuine, the sound of his laughter filtering through the open windows and, it seemed, chasing mist and clouds away.
Those were the things Lan Wangji learned about Wei Wuxian and wished he had not—
He liked to chew on wild grass stalks while leaning by the pond or under the shadow of a tree, Jiang Wanyin ever-present by his side.
He walked through the thick of dislike hanging over him with his head held high. He answered bark for bark every comment addressed to him. He gave back every stare.
Lan Qiren called him every insult he could bring out of himself as if it were his life mission. Shameful and disrespectful and his mother’s son, and Wangji sat in his uncle’s study next to a placating Xichen and thought, I would have liked to meet Wei Wuxian’s mother.
There was something about Wei Wuxian that Wangji could not help but look for. A shadow, a spark, a gut feeling. Something laid underneath his skin, hidden behind his brash persona, something as cloying as the honeyscent that clung to the pavilion’s walls after each of his visits.
The heaven-sent aura of destiny.
“You look like you want the Jiang senior disciple to come with us,” Xichen told him.
Lan Wangji could not refute it as much as he wanted to.
Caiyi Town shone with mist and sunlight most days of the year, its waters clear and quiet, its townsfolk welcoming. Lan Wangji stood over a wooden bridge and followed with his eyes the dark spot that Wei Wuxian’s robes made against so much clarity.
“What do you think of him?” Xichen asked with the same voice he used to ask, Wangji, what are you doing here?
(What are you doing all alone in a house filled with ghosts?
Wangji had spent so many hours in the dark of the empty cottage. His back braced against the wall and his small fingers wrapped around a piece of stolen clothing that still bore the seasalt scent of his mother.)
“I have no opinion of Wei Wuxian,” Wangji lied.
He was breaking more and more rules. He was spending more and more nights kneeling upon the stone floor and chasing the sound of laughter from his ears.
“He is quite good, I hear.” Lan Xichen looked down at Wei Wuxian’s smiling face—he seemed in the middle of bargaining with a couple of salesmen, Jiang Wanyin by his side, Nie Huaisang laughing at them all from afar. “I watched he and young master Jiang spar yesterday evening. He is a fine swordsman, Wangji, and I think you would enjoy sparring with him too.”
Lan Qiren would never allow it. Though he probably wished to see Wei Wuxian’s pride split itself on a Lan blade, he would not allow any disciple of his sect to fight an omega.
No matter that the omega was armed this time.
It mattered not anyway: Wei Wuxian got to fight that very same day in front of many eyes. He leaped from boat to boat with the agility of a monkey, paddling with ease, fighting with delight. He caught ghouls with his bare hands when he was not swinging the rough sword at his waist. Its glare was bright red. It burned into Wei Wuxian’s grey eyes every time he looked at it.
What is its name, Wangji asked him before he could help it, and he could not truly be surprised when Wei Wuxian answered, Suibian.
Wei Wuxian flew higher and quicker than any of them—alpha or beta, old or young. He saved Su She’s life before Lan Wangji noticed that his life needed saving. He carried an unconscious man upon his sword, or at least tried to, until Wangji arrived to help.
Lan Wangji acted on impulse. He didn’t know where to touch Wei Wuxian that would not be considered inappropriate; didn’t know how to hold him without suffocating on the heightened scent of him, liquor-sweet on every gust of wind. He grabbed Wei Wuxian’s collar without touching his neck.
“I’m almost out of air,” Wei Wuxian rasped at him in false irritation, a grin still tugging at his lips.
Wet hair stuck to the sides of his face gently. The wetness over his brow was half-lakewater and half-sweat from exertion. Sunlight turned every drop on his skin to gold.
Lan Wangji felt his heart quicken in his chest and replied, “I do not like physical contact.”
Wei Wuxian did not take well to being told what to do. Lan Wangji had known this for close to two months now. And though he did not often see Wei Wuxian break rules once the boy’s month of punishment at the pavilion was over, he knew that it was only because Wei Wuxian had become better at not getting caught.
When he thought of it—and he often did, much too often—Wangji felt close to understanding why Wei Wuxian did what he did. Why he broke so many rules; why he acted so carefree when his life could not necessitate more care.
Lan Wangji had been taught that hurting an omega was the worst thing one could ever do. He had grown away from them, in the company of his beta brother and alpha uncle, never once talking to the couple inhabitants of the brown house at the peak of the mountain. He had read the words written on scrolls that made omega feel less human than godly.
You must never hurt them.
Yet Lan Qiren did, day after day, in his words and looks and demeanor. The same voice that had told Wangji that he was powerful enough to hope for the best betrothal, and for one or two of the rare and precious omega at least, spoke of Wei Wuxian like filth.
Wei Wuxian could dance all he wanted on the training field behind the pond. He could parry Jiang Cheng’s unhesitant sword and Nie Huaisang’s more careful one, fly over the both of them like fallen leaves on the wind… he would never win approval.
Lan Wangji wondered why the books made omega seem so otherworldly, when every time he looked at Wei Wuxian made something in him ache that was so very human.
He put his sword to Wei Wuxian’s throat when he caught him out after curfew that night. His hand shook when he did it, his grip so light there and so tight over the handle of his umbrella, he feared one or the other would break.
He wanted to take it back. He wanted to hand the umbrella over instead, to let Wei Wuxian in despite the jars of wine he carried underarm, the spark of mischief over his face saying that he knew what he was doing. Lan Wangji felt some sort of nausea at resisting him like this; he felt queasy, brittle, watching raindrops glide along Bichen’s blade and fall to Wei Wuxian’s bare throat.
It was worth it for the smile that Wei Wuxian gave him.
He could not care about his own rule-breaking when they both fell over the wall. Wei Wuxian’s jars of Emperor’s smile had long since broke into pieces, their content spilling out, indiscernible from the transparent rain. Mud stained Wangji’s robes and grass stuck to his wet hands, but all he felt and all he saw was Wei Wuxian.
Wei Wuxian’s arms around his body. Wei Wuxian’s grin splitting his face in two. Wei Wuxian’s scent in his nose rendered cooler by the downpour, like the first breath of air after swimming out of a lake.
The wooden switch hit Lan Wangji’s back time and time again the following morning. He kneeled in the ancestral hall of the Gusulan sect, taking his punishment in complete silence, and the only bruise he felt was the one left by Wei Wuxian’s fist clenched into his side. Clutching and shoving and pulling down, down, down.
“You should’ve punished me too.”
Wangji had not come to the cold spring for healing. He seldom did. The bruises over his back were uncomfortable but ultimately meaningless, and not even the water of the spring would help mend them in quicker than a few days.
He had not come for cultivation either.
“You cannot be here,” he breathed, not daring to turn around.
He heard Wei Wuxian move along the edges of the spring. Dead leaves broke under his footsteps and felt to Lan Wangji’s acute hearing like glass. When Wei Wuxian appeared in the corner of his vision, having walked around half of the spring, he turned his back to him.
“Don’t be like that, Lan Zhan.”
“No one’s here, are they?”
A sound, sharp and sudden, like something breaking the surface of the pond. Lan Wangji jumped around at once with a cry swelling in his mouth.
Wei Wuxian looked up at him with a smile. His hand, which had just dropped a stone into the spring, closed gently.
“Those bruises look bad,” he commented.
Lan Wangji felt Wei Wuxian’s eyes roam along the blue-and-purple spilling over his shoulders like a brand. His breathing caught inside his chest as if someone had stoppered his throat.
“I asked your brother. He said the spring helped?”
Wei Wuxian seemed to be waiting for an answer; Lan Wangji could only nod stiffly.
“You should’ve punished me too,” Wei Wuxian said again, oddly pensive. Lan Wangji had hoped that his looking away would relieve him; instead, he found himself aching anew with the face that Wei Wuxian pulled. “I’m the one who pushed you over.”
I cannot beat an omega, was the appropriate response.
I cannot beat you, Lan Wangji almost said.
Wei Wuxian crouched by the edge of the spring. He dusted away some leaves before sitting, legs crossed, his elbow on his knee and in chin in his palm. He was still watching Wangji as if waiting for something; his face gleamed softly, lit from under by moonlight, the water’s surface acting like a mirror.
Lan Wangji repeated, “You can’t be here.”
He expected Wei Wuxian to protest, to chirp some awful argument or another on why this was completely fine and appropriate, but the other boy stayed silent.
Wei Wuxian could not be here. No matter how much leeway Jiang Fengmian gave him, no matter how he had been raised that the man’s own son had no hesitation to follow him so closely, to touch him and be touched by him, he could not be here. He couldn’t sit here alone at night in the company of a half-naked alpha. He couldn’t.
If Jiang Wanyin knew—if Lan Qiren learned—
“You have to leave,” Lan Wangji said, looking down into the clear water, his heart pounding bruises onto his ribcage. “Wei Wuxian, you can’t be here.”
“I know I can’t be,” Wei Wuxian replied.
Lan Wangji inhaled shakily.
Silence spread over them, broken only by the wet sounds of the spring, until Wei Wuxian chuckled.
“I’m sorry, Lan Zhan,” he said. Wangji saw from the corner of his eyes his legs unfold and his body slowly come upright once more. “I was out of line. I just wanted…”
Wangji had never seen him struggle with words before. Despite himself, despite the inappropriate and potentially life-destroying situation they were in, he met Wei Wuxian’s eyes.
What do you want? he thought.
In that moment he felt ready to acquiesce to anything.
Wei Wuxian quirked a smile his way and said, “Nothing. I’ll go.”
He did not leave, however. He stayed as if frozen by the edge of the spring, water licking at his boots, dirt and grass staining his grey pants. Lan Wangji saw his throat move as if he were trying not to sob, though his eyes were entirely dry.
If Jiang Wanyin or Lan Qiren or anyone else happened to walk by and see them like this, the consequences would be grave. Lan Wangji may escape with no more than some shame and a profound taste of self-hatred, but Wei Wuxian’s life would be forfeit in all ways but the literal. Not even Jiang Fengmian would suffer the rumor of an impure omega in his household.
No one would.
Lan Wangji knew this, and Wei Wuxian must know this, yet neither of them made to leave. Indeed Wei Wuxian’s eyes only bore deeper into the spring, his knee flexing slightly, readying itself to jump.
Don’t, Lan Wangji thought, and he didn’t know which way he meant it.
All the air around them smelled of honey. It seemed the scent had turned to taste; Wangji had to swallow twice to make it go away.
Wei Wuxian’s knee stopped jerking. Tension loosened itself out of him. He huffed a silent laugh, as if mocking himself, and said, “Good night, Lan Zhan.”
“Good night,” Lan Wangji replied, shaken all out of breath. “Wei Ying.”
Lan Wangji did not see Wei Wuxian attack Jin Zixuan the following morning, though he heard of the brawl almost as soon as it happened. He was in his uncle’s study when a fellow junior came running, shock and morbid excitement making him forget his manners. The omega hit young master Jin in the face—
Lan Qiren was too lost to his own fury to bother disciplining the boy on his words or behavior. His face turned so red with anger that Wangji thought for a second he would see steam erupt out of his ears, and he rose almost shakily, walking out of the room in something like a run.
No running in the Cloud Recesses, he had told Wangji and Xichen as they grew, alone and unwatched and oft left to their devices. Wangji remembered the grip of his brother’s hand on his shoulder one time, the cool beta-scent of him turning even cooler. It had been the first time Lan Qiren had talked to them in days. Xichen had bowed, and smiled, and said nothing.
All activities at the Recesses seemed to halt for a few hours. Everywhere Wangji went he heard of Wei Wuxian, as disciples from all sects discussed the event, some smiling, some grimacing. He didn’t see Jiang Wanyin. Huddled in a corner of a wide classroom, Nie Huaisang bore a worried expression.
“… can’t hit him.”
“Of course I didn’t hit him back, Father. I’m not mad.”
The voices came from one of the guest rooms. Wangji stopped in his tracks near the window of it, the rabbit he had been walking toward watching him curiously.
Jin Guangshan sighed audibly, a noise like wood touching wood filtering through the open blinds. He must have put down his sword. “A-Xuan,” he said in a weary voice. “I’ll ask you again, and I want you to be honest with me—do you want to marry Jiang Yanli?”
Wangji knew Jiang Yanli, though he had seldom met her. He knew the names of all the clan leaders and their families, all taught to him in detail by his uncle and great-uncle as he grew.
You’re the heir, Wangji. You need to know all of them.
“A-Xuan,” Jin Guangshan said impatiently.
“She’s a beta,” Jin Zixuan answered. Wangji heard him groan after this as if he had not meant to say it at all.
There was a moment of silence. “I know you are unsatisfied with her status,” Jin Guangshan went on, placating now. “And her low cultivation level. I know you wanted something better, but she is a kind, bright girl. Marrying her would be immensely beneficial to Lanlingjin, and I am certain that you will grow to love her in time.”
“I don’t think I can,” Jin Zixuan muttered.
Speaking this way to his uncle would have earned Wangji a few days of fasting. Jin Guangshan only sighed.
“What do you want me to do, then? This betrothal was arranged by your mother since before you were born. Jiang Fengmian has offered you a way out, but know that you will take it with no other prospect in sight.”
“Can’t you…” Jin Zixuan seemed to hesitate. Softly, he said, “I was thinking… maybe an omega instead.”
“There is no unbetrothed omega of marriageable age in any of the main clans,” Jin Guangshan declared. “And if there were, I dare say we would not learn so much as their name before they were sworn to one of sect leader Wen’s heirs.”
“I will not have you long for some fairytale. The birth of an omega is too rare to wait after.”
“Father!” Jin Zuxuan cut in, his young voice now more expressive than Lan Wangji had ever heard it. There came the shuffle of soft cloth as one or both rose to their feet. “Father, I was thinking, Wei Wuxian—”
“Do not finish that sentence if you want to call yourself my son.”
Silence froze the air inside of the dormroom. It seemed to crystallize around Wangji’s oddly heavy heart, prickling his eyesight with white spots. Belatedly, he remembered to breathe out, as quietly as possible.
When Jin Guangshan spoke again, his voice was kinder. “A-Xuan,” he said, “I understand. Do not look away from me, I understand. You have spent the past few months in Wei Wuxian’s company, much longer than when you met him in the past… This is why we all told Jiang Fengmian that this was a terrible idea,” the Jin sect leader said ruefully. “I wouldn’t be surprised if half of the disciples harbored some thought of wedding the boy, no matter how improper he is. Any omega will seem entrancing to one who has only glimpsed them before.”
Jin Zixuan seemed to be at a loss of words. Lan Wangji bit the inside of his cheek till he tasted blood, shame and fury rolling through him in waves.
“Jiang Fengmian is a sentimental fool—he raised the boy all wrong because he was so blindly in love with his mother,” Jin Guangshan said curtly. “Cangse Sanren was a blight upon omegakind, and she married a gutless beta who never put an end to her madness. Her son is turning out just like her. He has no shame, no manners, and he will bring nothing but embarrassment to whoever ends up wedding him. He hit you with his bare hands!” Lan Wangji almost heard the man shudder. “You will not think again of having anything to do with him. Am I understood?”
“Am I understood?” Jin Guangshan said again, louder.
“Yes, Father,” Jin Zixuan murmured.
Whatever fighting spirit had moved him before was gone.
“Come, now. If you do not want Jiang Yanli, I hear Wen Ruohan’s alpha niece is a rare beauty…”
Lan Wangji walked away from the window in silence.
The rabbit he had glimpsed earlier, one of the two gifted to him by a dirt-marred and grinning Wei Wuxian, was gone. Wangji walked from the guest rooms to the cold spring and then to the library pavilion, crushing dewed grass under his feet, deaf to wind and birds alike. He felt no cold upon his skin; no exertion from the walk.
His feet took him to the wide gates of the Cloud Recesses without the need for thought. He had already heard news of Jiang Fengmian’s arrival—he had flown in with Jin Guangshan earlier, the both of them cold to each other despite their usual cordiality. Jiang Fengmian must have run to where Wei Wuxian was kept as soon as he arrived.
He was there now, and so was Wei Wuxian.
There was no trace of the scuffle on him, of course. Jin Zixuan would never raise a hand on him, not even after being attacked. Unlike you, said a voice in Wangji’s head, who held him at sword point, who felt his arms around your middle, who let him watch you bathe.
Wei Wuxian was talking to his sect leader, his posture more reverent and polite than Wangji had ever seen. The boy who would sit with spread legs or lean against Jiang Wanyin’s shoulder now bowed in perfect form, fist and palm meeting firmly as he curved all of his back horizontally.
Some disciples ogling the scene scoffed. Some said, Finally. Some mocked that Wei Wuxian was now playing the part of omega.
Lan Wangji watched Wei Wuxian rise again and thought that what he had just seen was not make-believe, but deep respect.
Ice tickled his nose when Xichen emerged from a door not far and gestured at him to approach.
“Uncle has been looking for you,” he told Wangji, ushering him inside.
“Wei Ying is leaving us,” Lan Qiren declared without preamble as soon as Wangji was within sight. Distractedly, he gestured to both brothers to sit. “As it should be! What folly could possibly have taken Jiang Fengmian, to think that this boy would do well here…”
“Young master Jiang will remain for the rest of the year,” Xichen said lowly. He served tea into three cups with one steady hand. “He is not happy. I hear young master Wei was the one who convinced him to finish studying here instead of going back to Yunmeng as well.”
“There is no need to trouble yourself with respect, Xichen,” Lan Qiren spat. “Jiang Cheng has obviously caught some of his father’s madness. Oh, I will work on righting that wrong…”
Lan Qiren spoke for a while. If not for the lead that seemed to weigh down Lan Wangji’s stomach, he could almost believe that this was a day just like any other. That he would patrol around that night looking for a sneaking shadow, for the sound of clay hitting clay as Wei Wuxian carried in his favored wine. For a hint of honeyscent on the wind.
Dusk had come when Wangji exited the study. The crowd gathered around the gate was long gone, and so were Jiang Fengmian and Jin Guangshan, no doubt on the way back to their respective holds.
So was Wei Wuxian.
“I dare say we shall find some quiet again at last,” Lan Qiren huffed, descending the stairs in direction of the mess hall. “With any luck, we’ll never hear of Wei Wuxian again.”
Lan Xichen’s hand rested at Wangji’s elbow in a strange measure of comfort. Wangji looked at the grey sky and thought of equally grey eyes.