thinking again abt skating au wangxian and how wwx and lwj were once at the top of the fs world, 'rivals' for the olympic gold medal, and now - 13 years later - lwj walks into a rundown rink in yiling and hears wwx's voice instructing a-yuan on how to do a triple axel
"write what you know" they say therefore: FIGURE SKATING AU. BAM. wwx refuses to wear bunga pads despite the fact that his ankles are darkened and callused bc they feel SO WEIRD, JIANG CHENG, STOP JUDGING ME. jyl and jzx are obviously china's top ice dance (and irl) couple
at lwj's very first grand prix event he steps on the ice for warmup and trips bc he forgot to take his skate guards off, he was /that/ nervous.. videos of that incident are rare and almost unheard of but wwx 13 yrs later still has it in his camera roll and is INSUFFERABLE abt it
wwxs skating would be characterized by his bold, feather-light jumps as well as his irresistible presentation skills and trademark stretchy spins... lwj would be textbook-perfect jumps, deep ripping edges, all long curved lines and flowy movements
wangxian meet for the first time at the gusu weeklong rising stars training camp, up in the mountains for the Stamina(tm).. wwx snuck out past curfew to buy teeth-rotting energy drinks and lwj catches him climbing back up to his second-story room...
so it's a great start!! [wwx voice] LAN ZHAN LIKES ME CMON HES JUST SHY, LAN ZHAN LETS SKATE TOGETHER DO YOU KNOW HOW TO DO THE FOXTROT? LETS DO THE FOXTROT IK WE ARENT ICE DANCERS BUT LAN ER-GEGE~~~~

(cue lwj running away and resolutely Not Thinking abt dancing w wwx)
for the next week wwx is all over lwj, pestering him abt his technique and how does he DO lutzes so cleanly omg do u wanna teach me lutzes er-gege lets skate together 🥺🥺 and lwj is like.. -_- but secretly having a gay little meltdown over why wwx's smile is so PRETTY
and bc lwj is still very much awkward confused teen lwj, he Does in fact push wwx away and refuses to skate with him and if he jumps higher and rotates tighter and skates faster to, idk, show off to wwx, that's HIS problem and NOBODY ELSE'S, xiongzhang, please stop teasing me
on the last day of camp, wwx sidles over to lwj, takes his hand, and pushes something into his palm before lwj can do something stupid like faint bc wwx is HOLDING HIS HAND.

in his hand is a fluffy red rabbit keychain with a black ribbon attached.
wwx smiles brighter than sunlight reflecting off smooth morning ice and flashes the matching blue and white keychain between his fingers.

"for good luck!" he says, squeezing lwj's hand. "and so you don't forget about me before we see each other on the podium, er-gege!"
on the podium, lwj thinks.

wwx leaves gusu with a shiny new triple lutz and, unknowingly, a fragile beating part of lwj's heart. when lwj runs a finger over the bunny's head later that night, his attention catches on the piece of paper wrapped around the chain.
"LAN ZHAN," it begins, and lwj nearly bites his tongue in an attempt to Stop Missing Wei Ying So Much. "lets b friends heres my socmed info!! if u dont have it pls get it for this wei ying~ dont ghost me, ill b heartbroken, come on~~~ okay lan er gege?"
lwj sets the keychain down. then he rolls over and buries his face in the pillow. perhaps if he passes out from asphyxiation, wwx's sweet voice calling him 'lan er gege!' will stop playing in a loop on his mind.

lwj makes weibo and instagram accounts to follow wwx the next day.
he doesn't dare go so far as to add wwx on wechat as well. the conscious part of lwj says, wwx is a distraction, he is a competitor, he is EXTREMELY talented, and he wants to see you (!!!) on the podium, you must work even harder. not for him. for uncle and brother. of course.
but the unconscious part of lwj says, i miss wwx so much, too much for knowing him only a week and a day, i cannot afford to fall any further, i want him and i know i should not and i don't know what to do with these feelings.

also. he's just -
clearly awkward. clearly not somebody who could keep up with wwx's brilliance, whether in person or over text. clearly someone whom wwx would get bored with, if he hasn't already returned to yunmeng and realized the pretty sisters there could give him more than lwj ever could.
so instead lwj throws himself into training, throws himself into the mindless repetition of jumps and ice on his gloves and bruised feet and stretches off-ice. and in the evenings, he scrolls through his feed and silently likes every new photo wwx's posted.
the selfies taken at 6 am morning practice, complete with (adorable) bedhair and a (beautiful) smile. the photos of spicy food he cooks for jiang cheng, and the carefully presented dinners of jiang yanli. the yunmeng sunsets. another selfie with the younger yunmeng skaters.
they're a glimpse into a life that lwj desperately wants to know more about, and lwj knows it might be a little more than creepy to wordlessly like every one of wwx's posts, but he can't bring himself to reach out any more.

when we stand on a podium together, he tells himself.
then, maybe i can reach out and take his hand. then, maybe he would look at me and see someone good enough to love.

and for the first time, lwj has someone to skate for.
summer passes uneventfully, like it always does, except for the time wwx posts a (shirtless?? lwj cannot COMPUTE) selfie of him and his siblings at the pool. and the time wwx posts a video of him doing a biellmann. and the time the matching keychain shows up on wwx's skatebag -
ANYWAY. he and wwx are both entering the jgp circuit in the fall, and lwj decidedly does Not feel the weight of three months' stress lifting when he sees both he and wwx have been assigned to the belarus and italy events, though lxc does give him a very suspicious side-eye
on his flight to minsk, lwj spends the entire time in a fugue state of ... not so much nerves as a more intense version of his usual thinking about wei ying. will they be in the same hotel? will he see wwx before the short program? will wwx still like to tease him -
because as much as lwj was unbalanced by wwx's teasing, he misses it. it meant wwx at least saw him as somebody worth his attention, somebody interesting enough to merit a smile.

but as it turns out, lwj doesn't have to worry at all.
he hears wwx before he sees him, really - wwx asking him to hold the doors of the elevator, please, and lwj wonders if he could possibly be this lucky, and then all of wwx is rushing into the elevator at once with his suitcase and jacket and water bottle, hair loose and messy.
"ah, thank you!!" wwx says, slumping in relief. he's - he's beautiful, lwj notes, a little dazed. wwx turns to him and lwj is hit with the full force of wwx's smile. he might or might not stagger a little. "lan zhan!! this must be fate, running into you like this!"
"mmn," lwj manages, and instantly berates himself for it. MMN??? is he a caveman?? why can't he have better words, more words, ANYTHING to greet wwx, to say i missed you - i wanted to see you - i want you -

"what floor?"

"three."
wwx bounces on his toes, peering up to smile at lwj. "lan zhan, what have you been up to, ah? you never post on weibo or instagram! and you didn't add me on wechat! how was i supposed to talk to you, huh?"

lwj blinks. his brain is gusu-foggy, still trying to process -
well. everything. but mainly wwx, here, in this small metallic space with him, bringing an explosion of color into lwj's life once again. wwx is always so much, all at once, but lwj, he - he really does love wwx, to have missed even this. the simple, unbearable brilliance of wwx.
"you said to see each other on the podium," says lwj, because he is an idiot. wwx gives a laugh that seems genuine anyway. probably courtesy, lwj thinks.

"not LITERALLY! i know you don't like me that much, but did you really have to ignore me the entire summer?"
wwx thinks lwj doesn't like him?

wait. wwx thinks lwj DOESN'T LIKE HIM. his smile is dimmed, just the littlest bit, but lwj has shamefully stared at wwx's face enough to know wwx's tells.

this needs to be rectified.

"I like you," is what lwj wants to say.
but when he opens his mouth, the words don't come. they're tanghulu-sticky, rolled up into an incomprehensible ball at the back of his throat, and lwj can't decipher them anymore. he can't say anything. by the time he picks out one desperate "wei ying," from the mess -
wwx is already laughing - this time a little awkwardly, a little ruefully, like he regrets this whole conversation - and moving on.

"anyway, now that we're in person, you can't avoid me! lan zhan, what jumps have you been working on? what's your program music?"
"I," lwj starts.

"You never post anywhere, ah, but I've probably been flooding your timelines every day, so in return you should tell me! we're friends! i mean - "

"Wei Ying," lwj tries, louder this time.

wwx pauses. "we... ARE friends, right? lan zhan?"
This, at least, is not that hard. "Friends," lwj says, and watches in relief as wwx's smile brightens tenfold.

"Great!! Okay okay cool that's great - be warned, i won't let you go easily now that you finally admitted we're friends! this is your last chance to back out!"
"Alright," lwj says, and does something unthinkably bold, fueled by his lizard hindbrain that does nothing but pine uselessly for wei ying 24/7: he makes a show of stepping closer to wwx.

wwx collapses into giggles, slinging an arm around lwj's shoulder. casual. of course.
the touch still burns through lwj's three layers of clothes.

"ah, lan zhan," wwx is saying, head resting against lwj. h. this is. unprecedented. "you're so funny! I really did miss you."

and that's -

oh.
wei wuxian MISSED him. this implies wwx gave him more than a passing thought, that wwx wanted to see him, talk to him. nothing can rival the desperate intensity of lwj's want, but knowing wwx felt even a tiny portion of that makes his chest feel warm and content.
the elevator dings, and they step out. wwx is still hanging onto lwj. luckily, they're going the same way, and lwj savors every extra moment of time he gets with wwx. he doesn't know how he'll bear to let wwx go, not when he knows what wwx's touch feels like, but -
he'll figure it out. in a few minutes. obviously.

but then they take the same right turn, and then walk down the same hallway, and lwj thinks, wait, this isn't normal, and THEN they stop at the same place and bring out their keycards at the same time.
wwx looks at lwj. lwj looks at wwx.

"so," wwx begins. he's standing in front of room 313. lwj has room 314. wwx waggles his eyebrows in a way that lwj should /not/ find attractive. "neighbors, huh?"

lwj wants to faint. just a little bit.
in the end, it isn't that bad. wwx, no matter how much he complains to lwj about it the next day on practice ice, can NOT just abandon his room to lounge in lwj's and bother him all day. mostly since they share the rooms with their coaches, and lqr would MURDER wwx if he did that
so what wwx DOES do is put his stuff right next to lwj's on all their practice sessions, so lwj gets tormented by seeing their matching bunny charms side by side, and tease lwj endlessly whenever they're taking off their skates, and wheedle lwj into exploring minsk with him
"after the competition," wwx promises, before the short program, "we can get ice cream together! and take a selfie to commemorate it, of course, and you'll post it on your profiles and tag me, right? can't wait to take your social media virginity - lan ZHAN, i'm just kidding -"
(if that is the only virginity of his that wwx will ever take, lwj thinks guiltily, so be it.)

the short program event is the next day, and when lwj looks back years later it'll all be a blur thanks to first-jgp-event-ever panicking, but the one thing that stands out the most -
the one thing he'll never forget - is the sight of wwx in his brilliant silver-red costume, back arched in the middle of the ice as his music fades from the speakers, a devastatingly beautiful smile playing across his lips.

but right now, lwj thinks /oh/ -
sees wwx taking center stage, filling up even this lonely arena with his presence, and thinks, so this is what it feels like to love someone.

wwx skates like there's nobody else in the world, like he's weaving his own universe in the traces of his blades. he's /beautiful./
and lwj wants so badly to join him in that little universe of theirs, to take him by the hand and spin him around and skate side by side with him forever.

wwx places first in the short program. of course he does.
lwj has only ever been beaten once before, in his very first competition at all of 6 years of age, but he can't bring himself to care, not when wwx is whooping with joy and running over to lwj in the locker room and sweeping him up into a hug.
"lan zhan, did you watch me??" he's asking, words tumbling over each other like a waterfall crashing over rocks. "Was that good? oh my god, i can't believe this, lan zhan, am i dreaming?"

"no," lwj says, prying wwx away from him before he loses his last shred of self-control.
"I. Yes. that was good, wei ying," lwj amends. "you skate... well."

when lwj gets home, he is going to throw himself in the lake so 'you skate well' doesn't have to play in his head on loop 24/7.

wwx smiles all the same. "you did too! you were like, perfect, lan zhan!!"
"Actually," wwx continues, breathless, "i can't believe that you weren't first!! i would definitely have put you first, i don't know what those judges were THINKING."

slowly, lwj says, "you deserve this first place, wei ying." it sounds all wrong.
so instead, he says, "as long as we stand on the podium together, i am happy."

wwx gapes at him for a stomach-twisting second. then - "lan ZHAN!! ahaha, you're right, what does it matter as long as we stand together?"
"mmn," lwj hums, too distracted by the thought of any semblance of together-ness with wwx.

"yeah! er-gege, let's stand at the top of the skating world one day, okay? you and i, together!"

"together," lwj echoes. a promise he'll never break.
for the next two years, lwj makes good on his words. every competition he and wwx have together, either him or wwx are standing on that coveted first-place box. in between competitions and on off seasons, wwx messages him nearly every day.
lwj doesn't think he'll ever really get used to waking up in the morning and seeing a message from wwx on there - especially the ones that wwx sends at 1 am, determined on staying up late despite how he has practices at 6 am on the weekdays.
(lwj has not given up telling wwx to sleep earlier, not quite yet.)

and somewhere in between the selfies and the emojis and the videos of failed yet potentially explosive quads wwx sends him, lwj falls impossibly deeper in love.
they spend 2 years in the junior circuit, and fittingly, wwx wins their first jgp final while lwj does a clean sweep of the second. lwj's lockscreen changes from that very first selfie they'd taken in minsk, to wwx doing a finger heart, to them holding their gold medals together.
then - they're seniors and suddenly lwj realizes just how much pressure is on them, the two stars of chinese figure skating, not so much through his own stress as through wwx's, who's been throwing himself into practice in a way he's never done before.
wwx's daily messages taper off to perhaps once every other day, then two days, and one week wwx doesn't text for five days, and lwj gets unreasonably worried. when wwx DOES text, his worry must come through, bc wwx video-calls him just to reassure him that he's OKAY
there are dark smudges under wwx's eyes that may or may not be eyeliner. his face is paler, brushed red by the cold air of the rink. "just a lot of runthroughs for the new season, lan zhan, you're doing the same thing, aren't you?" wwx says.
but because it's wwx, and lwj knows that wwx is characteristically bad about being honest about his own wellbeing, lwj does not believe him. when wwx shifts the camera, lwj catches a glimpse of a purpling bruise on wwx's upper arm.
"wei ying," lwj finds himself saying. he wants to reach through the screen and envelope wwx in a hug, wants to take his hand and never let go. he settles for sending his best, most pleading "please take care of yourself" look at wwx instead.

"ah!" wwx rubs at his arm.
"lan zhan, i SAID don't worry, i just had a nasty fall the other day. you know how it is! been having lots of those, but it comes with the job!"

lwj does know how it is. lwj also thinks it's concerning that wwx is clearly working himself to the bone, that wwx -
THE most talented jumper lwj has the pleasure of knowing - is struggling enough to be bruised and exhausted enough to not muster up even a cloudy-day-sun levels of bright smile.

what lwj says: "I know. please take care of yourself, wei ying."
"of course! who do you take me for?"

somebody who considers his own happiness and wellbeing among the least important things in his life, somebody i want to take care of because it hurts me to see you be so careless about yourself, lwj thinks.

"mmn."
and if lwj goes to skating forums after the conversation, haunted by the memory of wwx's awkward, hollow laughter, just to see ANY snippet of news abt what wwx is working on, or updates on the yunmeng skaters, that's his business and his business ONLY.
after that, too, wwx makes a clear effort to text lwj more, and to pretend that he's doing okay and not being bogged down by the stress of breaking into senior competition and refining his skating. lwj indulges him, if only to do whatever little he can to make wwx happy.
and he thinks, this will just be until the first competition, i'll talk to wei ying, i'll take him to dinner, i'll tell him - i care about him and i want to compete against the best version of you, every time wwx dodges his questions on skating, every time wwx has a new bruise.
except:

autumn classic. last warmup for the short program. a red ribbon, black skates, a crooked and daring smile. it's wwx, except this is a wwx that lwj doesn't quite know, a wwx he hasn't seen for months, right up until this warmup.
lwj looked for wwx - at the airport, at the hotel, at the restaurant two days before the competition, at the locker rooms - and now that he's found wwx, he can't even reach out to him. he can only do his warmup jumps and stare longingly at wwx's sleek form from afar.
lwj knows almost nothing about what wwx's been up to, in terms of skating. which is why, when wwx pulls a clean, tight, gigantic quad loop 30 seconds before the end of his energetic, exhaustive short program, lwj is (understandably) a little more than shocked.
so.

"So," lwj begins, later, after everything is said and done. somehow, he won. he suspects the judges penalized wwx for being too daring, though he'll never be able to prove it. "Your quad loop."

"What about it?"
"Was that what you have been working on?"

"One of the things," wwx says, flippantly. "Did it look good? it's my super secret special weapon!"

"yes," lwj says, but that's not important right now. "wei ying, your health -"
"aiya, lan zhan, are you going to lecture me about this too?"

"too?"

"jiang cheng was all up in arms over me doing it, he thinks i should take it easy."

ah. it is unfortunate, but lwj finds that he.... agrees. with jiang cheng. horror of horrors.
"But i don't NEED to take it easy! my quads are getting better every day, and i sleep my recommended 7 hours and i eat healthy food, seriously, everything is FINE. you don't need to worry!"

I worry about you every day, lwj wants to tell wwx.
"still, your muscles and joints - "

"i stretch! i'm not pushing myself TOO hard." wwx grins. it's strained. "but you know, i thought... i should work a little harder, if only to thank madame yu and uncle jiang for supporting me. if only to stand on the podium with you."
"I don't want to share the podium if you aren't at your best," lwj tells wwx, but it comes off wrong. wwx's smile falls. "i - wei ying, i want to compete with you fairly," and that's wrong too, and wwx is looking like he wants to walk away - "you could get hurt." he finishes.
"I know," wwx says, flapping his hand. "But we run that risk every day when we skate, don't we?"

"Seriously hurt," lwj amends. "I - you should take it easy. Please."

"I know," wwx says again, but it sounds distinctly like he's just placating lwj. like lwj doesn't understand.
but the thing is, lwj /doesn't/ understand. he doesn't understand why wwx is going this far, not really. to stand on the podium with him? if lwj did that with a wwx who was working himself to the bone just to keep that promise, what kind of friend would he be?
more than anything, he just wants wwx to be happy. if wwx feels, in any way, obligated to exhaust himself bc he thinks /lwj/ wants to stand side by side no matter what, then shouldn't lwj let him go? shouldn't lwj say, for wwx's good, that he doesn't need to do that?
"You don't have to do that for me," lwj says quietly. he can't bring himself to look at wwx's face. "Just - forget about the podium."

"forget about it," wwx echoes.

"If it is hurting you, forget about it." lwj says again. "I - I only wish for you to be safe."
"I see," wwx says. his voice is dull. empty. he laughs. "So that's how it is. Okay, lan zhan, I get it. I'll forget about it. You won't have to worry about me anymore. Okay?"

it is decidedly NOT okay, lwj thinks, but how can he make this right?
how can he wipe that expression off wwx's face?

lwj gets the feeling that he's said something terribly wrong. but his hands remain clenched by his side, even as he watches wwx saunter away, even as he searches desperately for the right words.
after that, wwx doesn't really text him anymore. he tries, a few times, and lwj always responds, but it isn't right and they both know it. they only have one gp event together this year, one that wwx aces while avoiding all of lwj's gazes.
his jumps are more polished at that event, his presentation more flamboyant, his eyebags at the hotel the day before the free program more prominent. lwj doesn't reach out. he can't. he knows that he's the one who pushed wwx away, somehow, that something he said hurt wwx -
but clearly wwx doesn't want to talk to him anymore, and if that is so, then lwj will not bother him.

(he will simply watch wwx from afar, wondering if wwx is doing alright, if he has somebody to remind him to take breaks and drink water and eat, if he misses lwj.)
lwj throws himself into skating again, this time not for the memory of a golden promise with wwx but rather to skate until he forgets everything but the feel of his boots around his feet and the clean slice of his blades through battered ice.
in the evenings, again, he checks wwx's social media sometimes, as if it would do anything to lessen the terrible ache of the wwx-shaped hole in his heart.

sometimes, wwx posts videos of his skating. sometimes, they have his skate bag in the background.
and every time, lwj sees the fluffy blue-white rabbit keychain on the bag. wwx still has it. wwx hasn't thrown it away yet.

so lwj clings onto the hope that maybe, just maybe, he can make this right with wwx yet.
then: the grand prix final. wwx makes it (of course he does) and so does lwj (of COURSE he does, they're still china's top figure skating stars, best friends or not) and the days that lwj spends there all blur together into a ball of stress and pining and skating.
wwx wins the short program with his fiery, captivating performance, but in the end it's lwj's victory - his stamina had always been better than wwx's, and his free program was near-flawless. they're standing on the podium together, but wwx won't even look at him.
lwj doesn't know what wwx wants from him, now, or if wwx wants anything from him at all - if perhaps keeping the keychain was simply because it was cute, and not because wwx still thought of lwj.

he accepts his medal and doesn't reach out to grab wwx's hand when they step down.
and THEN: the banquet. lwj will never forget the banquet.

technically, wwx is old enough to drink since his birthday was in october, but lwj doesn't turn 18 until january. when a third faceless skater offers him a glass of champagne, he politely runs away to hide on the balcony.
lwj sits in (relatively) peaceful solitude, contemplating the risks of simply leaving the banquet without making any connections with the skaters or sponsors or judges.

except.

two warm, familiar hands sliding over his shoulders. a liquid-honey voice in his ear.

"lan zhan!"
"wei ying," lwj breathes, too shocked and flustered to do anything but let wwx hook his chin over lwj's shoulder and embrace lwj from behind.

"lan zhan," wwx slurs again. "why are you out here, ah?"

oh.

wwx's drunk.
carefully, lwj tries to disentangle himself from wwx, who stares up at him with a frankly impressive pout.

wwx is /drunk/, lwj reminds himself. wwx wouldn't do this sober.

(wwx wouldn't want lwj, sober.)

"I am relaxing," lwj says, once it becomes clear wwx won't let go of him.
"Lan Zhan," wwx says again. he swings himself around to sit on the bench, still holding onto lwj. "Lan Zhan."

"Yes?"

There's a flush adorning wwx's pretty face. lwj adores him and lwj wants him and lwj cannot have him, and wwx is smiling, always smiling.
"Nothing! I just wanted to say your name. I haven't said it in so long. Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan - " wwx pauses. then, "Er-gege, why are you ignoring me?"

There are a great many things lwj could say to this. He says, "I am not," and wwx shakes his head mournfully.
"You are, you are, you never text me, you don't like my posts anymore, you weren't looking at me today, Lan Zhan, you're ignoring me."

I was looking, lwj wants to say. I am always looking. Why won't you look back?

"...Why are you asking?" lwj says, instead.
"Because." wwx pouts and buries his face in lwj's shoulder. "What did I do wrong, er-gege?"

"Nothing. Wei Ying - "

"Why are you mad at me? Why don't you look at me anymore? What did I do wrong, Lan Zhan?"

Oh.

This isn't just about today anymore.
it's about all those days before, the lonely plane flights, the weeks stretching between their messages, lwj's phone screen in the darkness showing wwx's taut smiling, wwx's ponytail fluttering as he walked away last year.

"Nothing." lwj says again. It's the truth.
wwx did nothing wrong, really. it was all lwj, pushing too much, wanting too much, not understanding anything. it was lwj who told wwx to forget about their promise, and it was lwj who never reached out to wwx, and it was lwj who let wwx go time and time again.
"Wei Ying, you didn't do anything. I still - "

"But I know I did, you won't talk to me anymore, you don't - why don't you want to skate with me anymore? Just tell me, Lan Zhan, and I'll fix it, I'll make it better, you'll want me again." wwx sags. "Please, Lan Zhan."
"I still want to skate with you," lwj says. "I still - I. I still want you, Wei Ying, I always have."

"You said... you said to forget about it." wwx is drooping more, breathes coming in sighs against the fabric of lwj's suit. "Us, together, on the podium."
"Because - because it was hurting you, Wei Ying, I didn't want you to overextend yourself because you felt obligated to me!"

But wwx laughs, shakes his head. "You don't understand, Lan Zhan. I was doing it for you, so I could be good enough to stand by your side."
"You..." lwj sighs. how can wwx think that? "Wei Ying. You're drunk. Rest. We can talk about this tomorrow, okay? I'll be there. I promise."

"You're right, you're right, I'm drunk and I don't know anything, of course," wwx says, flopping down into lwj's lap all of a sudden.
lwj's hand comes up to stroke at wwx's hair, almost on instinct. wwx sighs happily. "But just for tonight, won't er-gege sing a song for me? Lan Zhan, you've ignored me for so long, won't you indulge me?"

slowly, lwj nods. there is nothing that he could deny wwx, after all.
so he cards his fingers through wwx's hair, still soft and wet from his post-competition shower, and hums the tune that's been building in his heart since he first met wwx.

like this, just the two of them, lwj could almost pretend that everything is alright.
when their song fades, wwx sighs again and turns so that his face is smushed into lwj's stomach, his body curled around lwj's torso. it's so unbearably, illegally cute.

"your voice is so nice, lan zhan. i like it. i like /you/."

lwj freezes.
"I like you," wwx insists. "I missed you, lan zhan. you're my best friend. don't... don't ignore me anymore, okay? you... look at me, er-gege..."

lwj trails his hand through wwx's hair again. somehow, wwx has fallen asleep. somehow, lwj's heart won't stop rabbiting in his chest.
lwj knows wwx only means it in a friendship context - gods, wwx had spelled it out for him just now, called lwj his 'best friend' - but 'i like you' is playing in his brain on repeat, and lwj can't function.

and he has to leave, soon. who will take care of wwx when he's gone?
after a minute of fretting over wwx's sleeping form and decidedly not thinking about anything wwx had just said, something in wwx's pocket buzzes. when lwj takes it out, he sees jyl is calling and picks up gratefully, tells her where wwx is, thanks her once she takes lwj's spot.
lwj leaves the banquet still shell-shocked and flustered, but with the promise of talking this over with wwx tomorrow, of being able to finally fix this. tomorrow, lwj thinks. tomorrow i'll go to wwx's hotel, and knock on his door, and we can be friends again. tomorrow.
except, tomorrow dawns bright and early, and after lwj eats breakfast at 6 he walks to wwx's hotel and paces in front of his door anxiously, and when he knocks, nobody responds.

he waits. perhaps wwx is still asleep.

he knocks again, five minutes later.

nobody responds.
he waits ten minutes - 20 - 30, and wwx still doesn't respond.

perhaps... wwx is still.... asleep?

just in case, lwj digs out his phone and texts wwx for the first time in months.
lan zhan: Wei Ying, have you left already?

wei ying: yeah im at the airport w jiejie, why?

lan zhan: [typing...]

lan zhan: It's nothing. Have a safe flight.
so that's it, then. lwj's confirmation. sober, wwx doesn't want him. sober, wwx doesn't mean all the things he said - or perhaps he does, perhaps he still remembers lwj as his best friend, but lwj had pushed him away, and now wwx doesn't want him anymore.
that's fine, lwj thinks distantly, making his way back to his hotel to collapse on his bed and avoid lqr's pointed stares. it's FINE. if wwx doesn't want to clear this up, it's FINE. whatever wwx wants. however he feels towards lwj, lwj will humor him.
(it doesn't matter whether LWJ composes endless messages to wwx in his head, or whether LWJ desperately wants to go back in time and reach out for wwx, to take his hand just that once and confess his deepest feelings, because even that would be better than not having wwx at all.)
and so spring and summer pass like that - more radio silence from wwx, more of lwj throwing himself into training for an unattainable goal. even if he stands on that podium with wwx, it wouldn't matter if wwx didn't want that with him anymore.
around june, some worrisome rumors emerge. they say: wwx has been working on the hardest quads, wwx has talked to yzy about attempting even a quad axel, wwx is pushing himself to the limits and beyond, wwx exemplifies the jiang sect motto.
lwj is, understandably, really worried about this, but wwx's social media doesn't reveal anything. he can't text wwx, he has long since lost the privilege of being the person to stand by wwx's side, and even if he DID reach out, would wwx accept his advice?
or would he say, smiling like he did that night, 'i'm doing it for you, lan zhan!'

(and the thing is - the thing IS, what wwx doesn't get is that he was already enough as he was. the only thing he ever accomplished by tearing himself apart was tearing lwj's heart apart, too.)
around august, a video emerges of wwx - a little grainy, a little shaky, but still so characteristically /him/ - doing a quad lutz combo, slipping on the landing and sprawling across the ice. he dusts himself off and scowls, gives a taut smile to the camera.
what wwx is doing is dangerous, and for a second lwj's 17 again and trying to reach out to wwx, but then he blinks and wwx is on the other side of the screen halfway across china, unreachable.

their first competition, lwj resolves. he'll talk to wwx, broken friendship be damned.
they only have one competition together this season, too, so lwj only has one last chance.

then the grand prix starts, and all the juniors who'd been at the top of their field last year pour into senior events, and lwj is swept into the current of competition once more.
of particular notice to lwj, and not in a good way, is jin zixuan's cousin jin zixun, who jumps like he thinks he's as good as wwx when in fact he should still probably be in novice competitions, at best. he's aggressive and flamboyant in style. annoying.
he isn't much more than an annoyance to lwj, until two weeks into the start of the season he says at a press conference that his goal is to unseat wwx as one of the two stars of china's figure skating world, and then he becomes a full-blown concern.
also particularly worrisome is the scores that jzxun gets - definitely undeserved, though not so high to attract an untrained viewer's suspicion - and wwx's scores in comparison. it's really no secret that wwx is... not controversial, but unconventional, a little too bold -
too MODERN, too DARING, for some people's tastes, and lwj is getting the sneaking suspicion that somebody on jzxun's team is making deals with the judges to place him higher, with wwx's slowly dropping scores as payoff.

this is bad for two reasons:
one, wwx will be judged unfairly, and this corruption cannot be called out without a scandal that could harm wwx's career.

and two, wwx - whether knowing it's rigged or not - will inevitably push himself even harder, make it so that he is undeniably the best.
lwj does try to bring it up with lqr, who has connections in the ISU, but lqr is - well. he doesn't like wwx, has sort of a distaste for wwx's style of skating, his disregard for technique, and though he hates corruption, he also makes no promises to try and change anything.
so lwj is pretty much stranded, and he can't really DO anything until the first competition - which him, wwx, and jzxun are all attending. he doesn't see wwx there, not until the first practice ice, and then -

wwx's clearly exhausted, at least to lwj, who has learned to read him
and jzxun isn't helping matters, skating dangerously close to wwx on some occasions, doing his ugly jumps in wwx's way. success at the expense of somebody else is unavoidable in this sport, but to do it intentionally, with malice, is something lwj cannot tolerate.
he skates over to wwx and says, "wei ying," and watches as wwx blinks up at him in surprise. no dark circles, but wwx has always loved to use makeup.

"are you okay?"

"lan zhan! um. yeah. of course! just nervous, really." wwx shakes out his legs. "did you... want to talk?"
"mmn. are you free after the practice session?"

wwx makes a face. "unfortunately not, but tomorrow's the short program, right? it's no good to distract ourselves before, so let's do it after."

it's oddly easy to slip back into his rapport with wwx, to pretend -
that they haven't been torn apart by lwj's failure to reach out and just talk to wwx, by this cruel world.

"okay," lwj agrees. he can wait a day. as long as he can get to wwx, as long as he fixes this. he doesn't mind. before he skates away, though, he says - "be safe."
"Take care of yourself, Wei Ying."

wwx stares at him for a second. then he laughs, a little awkwardly. "I actually have been. trying to do that, i mean. like you said, lan zhan."

"Good," lwj says before he can stop himself.

"And i'll stay safe, whatever that means."
lwj nods. he does not reach out to squeeze wwx's hand as he skates away, thinking instead of what he'll say tomorrow.

(three days later, lwj will look at his hands and think - why did i let him go again, why couldn't i reach out, will i ever get another chance to take his hand?"
the short program. lwj knows, bc it's wwx, that it'll be daring, technically challenging and artistically beautiful, knows that wwx has been pushing his limits to achieve that sort of perfection.

but even the best skaters fall, sometimes.
maybe it was a nick on his blade, or maybe there was a rut in the ice. maybe wwx was simply exhausted, or maybe - maybe, lwj thinks, in the quietude of the rink, looking at jzxun's name on the leaderboard. maybe it was sabotage. he can't prove anything.
but either way, the end result is this: wei wuxian, lying prone on the ice after falling out of his quad, his music still playing tinny over the speakers, his hair a shock of ink against the white ice.

get up, lwj thinks, irrationally. you always get up.
wwx doesn't get up.

not when the music stops and the medics rush onto the ice, and not when lwj calls his name as they pass by, reaching out one day too late, staring at wwx's beautiful, slack face on the stretcher.
lwj competes in the free program numbly, going through the movements, thinking about how he couldn't go inside wwx's hospital room, how even jyl is hesitant to tell lwj just how bad it is. with wwx out of the running, he gets first, but it's an empty victory.
a day later, the news breaks

the first: team china's wei wuxian was admitted to the hospital with a head injury after a disastrous fall in the short program, and that he's still unconscious.

the second: team china's wei wuxian has been implicated in a doping scandal.
obviously lwj is a little more than confused at the second one, because wwx got to where he was with his own talent, his own hard work. but the news says, going through wwx's bags, they found traces of steroids, and lwj realizes exactly what's going on, how it adds up.
wwx had always been the prodigal jumper, doing feats that were near-impossible at such a young age. he improved so rapidly, he climbed the ranks and attracted rivals like jzxun with his talent and boldness, he jumps so high and so consistently, are you SURE he isn't...?
it would be so easy to push these rumors, once you had the perfect setup. skating star wei wuxian's catastrophic fall and the lack of drugs in his bloodstream? he was struggling without the steroids. his improvement, his talent, his long hours of hard work? doesn't matter.
of course the more traditional judges are quick to jump on the bandwagon and condemn wwx, following who else but jzxun's lead, all while lwj paces and begs his uncle to speak up, uncaring of whether he'd be punished or not, while wwx still lies asleep in his bed.
there's no PROOF, of course, that jzxun snuck into the locker rooms and tampered both with wwx's bag and his skates, to ruin his career and his hopes of getting back into skating in one fell swoop. lwj can't offer any proof to lqr.

his faith in wwx, apparently, does not matter.
two days later, wei wuxian wakes.

lwj isn't allowed to see him - it's regulated to family only, so the jiang siblings and parents, and lwj doesn't get a moment with jyl to pass any messages onto wwx. but a day passes, and then two, and lwj gets impossibly more worried.
but of course, this is the skating world. the rumors are never hard to find, especially when lwj is actively looking for them, and surrounded by people who spread them.

and they say: this is madame yu's last straw, she's dropped wwx, wwx has nowhere to go now, serves him right!
they say that wwx's injury isn't even that bad, that he's out of the hospital already - that after a week of recuperation, wwx will leave, whether of his own accord or by madame yu's direction or both. poor jyl, they say, having such a brother, won't it stain her reputation?
and they say, wwx didn't even try to deny the claims, he's obviously guilty, another washed-up skater, huh?

lwj wants to ruin them all, wants to say that wwx cant deny it, WONT deny it bc he's already accepted his 'fate', determined to protect the jiangs over his own reputation.
but lqr drags lwj on the plane to gusu, & thats the last that lwj has of wwx. the memory of his pale face. his body, broken by the ice. lwj thinks endlessly of better days, when wwx still smiled at him, but what good does it do when he doesnt even know if he'll see wwx again?
lwj's last resort is socmed. when he checks it, all of wwxs accounts have been deactivated. he texts wwx through wechat. his message doesn't go through. he doesn't have the jiang siblings' numbers, lqr wont ask for him.

and that, really, is the last lwj sees of wwx for 13 years.
it's not like lwj doesn't search for wwx - he talks to the jiang siblings at competitions, even when he knows they don't know any more of wwx's whereabouts than he would. he listens to the rumors for the first time in years, just for a whisper of wwx's name.
he still skates - lqr wouldn't like it if he quit, after how much he's done to support lwj - but he has nobody to skate for anymore. if wwx is still out there, lwj doesn't think he'd care much for a world that tore him to pieces.

lwj doesn't, either. care, that is.
the skating world destroyed wwx, but even before that, lwj held a certain level of distaste for all the gossiping and corruption and coldness. it must show in his skating, because they call him the icy prince, wangji with the stunning jumps and frozen demeanor.
the passion that lwj channeled subtly through his skating is gone now. wwx took it with him when he left. but lwj's technical skills more than make up for it, and a year after wwx's disappearance nobody can touch him.

two years after, lwj wins his first olympic medal.
it's silver, but lwj can't bring himself to feel anything but numb loneliness standing on the podium. it would have been alright if wwx were the one standing above him, resplendent in gold, but instead it's some faceless skater from Russia.
but it's the moments after competitions that lwj misses wwx the most, sitting in his hotel room with the rabbit keychain clutched in his hand, wondering if wwx even remembers him.

but he hadn't done anything to help wwx, in the end. would he deserve that?
four years after wwx's disappearance, jyl retires from competition and marries jzx. at their wedding, lwj sits alone. later, jyl gives him a tired smile and tells him to call her if lwj ever needs anything.

she doesn't need to say she misses wwx. lwj understands all the same.
six years after wwx's disappearance, lwj wins olympic gold and retires the same day. after dedicating his whole life to skating, there really isn't a path for him aside from working alongside lqr as part of gusu's coaching. he watches over the new generation and hopes -
that the world will be kinder to cheerful little lan jingyi, to sassy a-qing and her shy partner ouyang zizhen, than they were for wwx. instilling the same fire and love for skating that wwx always had in his students is the one thing he can do to ensure wwx's legacy lives on.
eight years after wwx's disappearance, lqr retires as head coach of the gusu team. lwj takes over, with help from lxc to manage the financial side of things. his feet still ache to skate, sometimes, but the thought of standing on the podium without wwx always keeps him grounded.
10 years after wwx's disappearance, lwj makes his first appearance at a jgp event to support ljy's debut in the circuit.

12 years after wwx's disappearance, lwj attends the gp banquet with a-qing and oyzz, and thinks back to wwx's sweet voice in his ear all those years ago.
then, 13 years after wwx's disappearance, on a foggy february morning, ljy bursts into the rink with his phone in his hand.

"it's going viral!!" he says, in lieu of an explanation. "coach lan, look at this video, he can't be any older than me!!"
lwj looks. it's a video of a skater in a rink so far removed from the cloud recesses's top-of-the-line facilities that lwj is startled, for a second, until ljy presses play.

at first, lwj doesn't notice anything off about it.
the skater is smooth and powerful, sure, skates with a quality that lwj admires, but it's nothing that he hasn't seen before.

and then ljy turns the volume up, and lwj's world screeches to a halt.

the music playing through the speakers -

it's lwj and wwx's song.
the one that lwj sang for a drunk, tired wwx on the dark balcony outside the banquet, a confession without words. the one that only one person in this world could possibly know.

lwj doesn't realize he's trembling until ljy stops the video and says, "coach lan, are you okay?"
"Ah." lwj's mouth is dry. he stuffs his shaking hands in his pockets. "yes, I was simply... surprised. who - who is the skater? where do they train?"

"Oh, i think the account that posted it says they're from yiling skating club!"

yiling. less than a day away by car. so close.
ljy whines. "do you think i'll have to compete against that skater?? but he's so GOOD, gah, i'll be completely decimated!!"

lwj makes a cursory 'hmm' and rushes out of the rink. if he leaves now, he can make it to yiling before 6 pm.
lwj does not break any speed limits, but he does get to yiling skating club's home rink one hour ahead of schedule. he's aware that he looks disheveled and desperate, that going here is a fool's move, but he can't think of anything but seeing wwx again.
the woman at the front - her nametag says wen qing - gives him a suspicious glare and says, "you're that lan wangji, aren't you?"

"Mmn."

She sighs. "Fine, go in. I know you're here for wei wuxian, though i'm not sure how that idiot got found."
lwj stares.

"What?" wq says. "You're famous. everybody knows your face. and /i/ know that wwx was friends with you. he never shuts up."

"wei ying talks about me?" lwj says, feeling a little faint.

"oh my GOD. please just go talk to him."
so. lwj does. he's imagined this moment a thousand different ways, over the year, but nothing could really have prepared him for this.

when he pushes the rink doors open, wwx's voice is the first thing he hears. even after 13 years, his heart still knows it.
"A-Yuan!!" he's saying. "cross your legs tighter! you're underrotating it again."

"Got it!" And then the mysterious a-yuan - the skater from the video, apparently - is speeding across the ice and taking off into a triple axel.
the instinctual coach part of lwj is a little amazed by it. still rough, still a little too quick to be polished and easy, but the jump height and the rotations are there, and his mid-air position is near-perfect.

the stupider parts of lwj are fixating on wwx's voice.
lwj's heart is thudding in his chest as he steps out from his hiding place and says, voice ringing across the ice, "wei ying?"

a-yuan skids to a stop. then -

black hair. grey eyes. a confused, ever-brilliant smile.

wwx steps into view.

"lan zhan?"
"Lan zhan!!" wwx says. he's running, toepicks in the ice in that characteristic way that always made lwj nervous for wwx's safety, and then he's hopping off the ice and sweeping lwj up into a hug. he lets go a second later, tucking a lock of hair behind his ear.

lwj is -
well. to say lwj is shocked would be the greatest understatement of the century. wwx is here, with his radiant smile and his long tangled hair just like 13 years ago, and lwj is just as in love with him as ever.

"Lan Zhan, it really is you, what the hell are you doing /here/?"
"I... Wei Ying, I - "

"Wait, don't tell me, you saw the video and now you want to coach A-Yuan??"

"What."

"Oh my god, I'm CORRECT, that's my talented and perfect A-Yuan for you!!"
"Wei Ying, that is not what I - "

"A-Yuan!! Come and meet Lan Zhan!" wwx says. a-yuan skates over and does, in fact, put on his guards before walking over to them, unlike wwx. "This is THE lan wangji, you know? two time olympic medalist?"
"Yes, xian-gege, I know..."

"He wants to coach YOU. isn't that amazing??"

This. This is giving lwj a headache. "Why do you think I am here, Wei Ying?" he grits out.

"What else would you be HERE for?" wwx says, wrinkling his nose.
as if lwj has not spent the last 13 years wishing for just a shred of news about wwx, even one word to know that wwx is doing okay. as if it is unthinkable that lwj would travel to the ends of the earth to find wwx.

as if.

lwj sighs.
wwx must take it as a sign that he's correct, because he grasps lwj's hand and shakes it very seriously. "well, lan zhan, i'm honored that you want to coach our a-yuan, but you must know that i've been his coach for the last four years! so i won't hand him over so easily!"
wwx keeps talking. this time, lwj doesn't let go of his hand. "Still, i know that you're a super talented skater and coach, so how about this: why don't you stay here and teach a-yuan for two weeks, and after that it's up to a-yuan who he wants as his coach, alright?"
"Xian-gege, I don't think - "

"A-Yuan, just give it a try, eh? lan zhan's super good, you know, you'd benefit a lot from his coaching." wwx turns to lwj. "so, lan zhan, you'll stay? it's a deal?"

"Of course," says lwj.
if wwx thinks he won't take this one last chance to reach out to him, he is so utterly wrong. lwj has spent too long regretting not taking wwx's hand. this time, he won't let go of wwx.

this time, he'll stay.
the other coaches at gusu can take over lessons for lwj for two weeks. lwj is content to stay here forever, really, but he knows he can't stay away from gusu for too long.

which is why, before these two weeks are up, he'll make it right with wwx. for real, this time.
after a-yuan's practice session is over, because lwj didn't book a hotel and doesn't want to either, wwx ushers him to his care with a smile and tells him they have a guest room in the apartment, he can use it for two weeks.

"I really didn't expect you to show up, though!"
"You posted the video," lwj says. doesn't wwx know? doesn't he remember?

"Yeah, but I didn't think you'd be interested in taking on a-yuan, you're so... high-profile, and everything."

This is not working. "What is a-yuan's program music?" lwj says, a little desperately.
"Oh, ah, I actually don't know? It's a song that popped into my head one day all of a sudden, I remixed it into an orchestral version for a-yuan to skate to but I can't place where i heard it before. weird, right?"

Weird indeed. lwj sighs. that answers his question, at least.
namely: why did wwx leave, that day after the gp banquet?

wwx doesn't remember anything from it. and lwj let him go once again on his foolish assumptions.

"But, you know, I'm kind of glad you decided to come here."
"I mean... look at us." wwx laughs a little. "A-Yuan is so talented, but we can't give him the proper training that he needs to really succeed. If you took him on, I'm sure he'd flourish. So... thank you, for considering this at all."

"There is no need for thank yous," lwj says.
"Seriously!!" wwx says. "It's been so long, and even though he's under me, you're still not adverse to taking him in, I just..."

"Why would his coach being you make any difference?"

"I don't know, we haven't seen each other in 13 years and all that?"
"Surely you're at least a LITTLE mad at me for leaving just like that, right?" wwx continues. "It's okay to tell me your feelings, you know."

Mad? no. Sad, yes. Devastated, confused, upset - that wwx was being pushed out like this - and heartbroken, yes. But never mad.
"Not mad," lwj says. Then, because he knows he has to say more if he wants to make this right, "I... I missed you. When you left. And I was worried about you, even before your accident. But I was never mad."

"Lan Zhan," wwx whispers. The car engine thrums around them.
"I didn't know," wwx says, eventually. "That you... still felt that way."

What way, lwj wants to scream. What way do you think i feel about you, wei ying?

"I mean, I basically - I was stupid and I pushed you away and I hurt you, and you still worried about me."
"Mmn," lwj says, quietly. "Of course I did. You were my best friend."

"Even though I destroyed myself trying to earn that title? Even though you must have heard all those rumors, about me?"

"Even still," lwj agrees. He will give wwx no reason to doubt his dedication.
"And you did not need to overwork yourself, to stand on the podium with me," lwj continues. All the words he should have said, 13 years too late. "I just wanted you as you were, podium placement or not. You never needed to be good enough. Not for me."

"Lan ZHAN."
"Yes?"

"...Ah, er-gege, you're ruthless to this Wei Ying," wwx mutters. he parks the car in front of a dark apartment complex and slumps back in his seat. "Saying all these things..."

"I should have said them sooner," lwj confesses.
wwx laughs wetly. "And I shouldn't have pushed you away. Lan Zhan, sweetheart - " lwj's brain crashes to a halt at that, "Let's just agree that we were both young and a little stupid, okay?"

"Okay."

"Do you still want - "

"Yes."
"I didn't even finish my sentence!!" wwx cries. "Lan Zhan, are you serious?"

"Anything you want," lwj says. Anything. Everything. lwj will give it to him. He is done regretting.

"If I said I wanted to be best friends with you again?"

"Wei Ying. /Yes./"
"But we haven't even talked in 13 years -"

"Yes."

"And like, you have responsibilities in gusu and everything - "

"Still yes."

"Lan Zhan, will you ever say no to me??"

"Always yes, with Wei Ying," lwj says, finally.
wwx makes a sort of choked gasp. "You are incorrigible, Lan Zhan," he says. "Fine! Fine, indulge me like that, I won't stop you, I'll just be having multiple heart attacks in the corner!"

after 13 years of loneliness, feeling this fond is, lwj thinks, a little dangerous.
"But, um." wwx pauses, uncharacteristically shy. "I, ah, I missed you too, Lan Zhan. I'm really glad I got to see you again."

"Mmn."

Then wwx looks away, and the moment breaks. "Come on, I'll show you around the apartment!" he says. lwj follows.
It's small but clearly lived-in - after wwx left, he explains, he made his way to yiling and got a job at a local coffeeshop. eventually, he became friends with wq, a skating coach at the rink, and wn, a dance teacher. when the coffeeshop closed and he lost his job -
the wens took him in & gave him a coaching job at the rink. now he helps the wens pay rent in exchange for his job, and he teaches their cousin wen yuan (mostly) for free.

lwj doesn't say anything through wwx's tour and explanation, just glad wwx has people who take care of him.
his guest room is right next to wwx's bedroom. this time, lwj plans to get as much time as he can with wwx before he has to leave. wwx has to go back to the rink to teach group lessons, but before he goes he gives lwj a quick hug and says, "friends?" and lwj nods -
and thinks, is it possible, could it really have been that easy, did wwx really think of me for those 13 years, are we... are we okay, now? can i be happy, now?

if the lingering warmth of wwx's touch is any indication - then the answer is yes, to all of those.
perhaps it's simply the side effect of the 13 years apart, letting them both grow and mellow out, or perhaps it is because lwj is too tired of waiting and hoping and yearning. but either way, the path forward with wwx finally feels clear.
for the next two weeks, they settle into a comfortable routine. lwj wakes up, helps wn make breakfast and hands wwx his daily coffee when he stumbles into the kitchen bleary-eyed with adorable bed-head. a-yuan heads off to school, and lwj stretches his legs on the ice -
while wwx teaches some younger kids on the public session, and marvels at how good it feels to skate with wwx. a-yuan bikes to the rink and has a lesson with wwx, does off-ice with wq, and wwx will drive them home. lwj cooks dinner and makes sure wwx's portion is extra-spicy.
and then a-yuan does his homework at the table while wwx and wn quiz him on math and history respectively. on sunday, wwx gets drunk, and on monday he stumbles into the kitchen and hugs lwj from behind, hands wrapping around lwj's waist.
"er-gege, good morning," he says through a yawn, and goes off to pour his coffee like nothing's happened. lwj allows himself five seconds to process this, then accidentally burns the fried egg he was making anyway.

as if that wasn't bad enough, wwx does it for the next week.
by the end of week 2, lwj realizes that, a: what they've been doing edges frighteningly close to something resembling domestic bliss, and b: he doesn't want to leave yiling. he wants to stay, and coach a-yuan alongside wwx, and never let wwx go.
but they're at the rink, and a-yuan is standing in front of him, and wwx is asking a-yuan which coach he prefers, and lwj is, to say the least. panicking. not even a little, but a lot. he could take a-yuan in as a student under gusu skating club, but he can't fathom -
a life without wwx in it, now, and he doesn't know how he survived 13 years like that. he can't let things continue like this.

so he steps and says, before a-yuan can answer, "Wei Ying, I did not come here for this."
"What?" wwx says. In the background, a-yuan looks a little relieved, almost. He gives lwj a subtle thumbs-up.

"I would love to coach A-Yuan, but I did not come to Yiling with that intention in mind."

"Then... why are you here??"
"For you, Wei Ying. I came for you. It has always been you."

"Lan Zhan," wwx whispers, eyes wide. Belatedly, he notices a-yuan edging away from them and tugs lwj off the ice and into a more private room, to lwj's gratefulness.

"You're serious?"

"Yes."
"But - but how did you /know/ it was me coaching a-yuan?? I'm - " wwx splutters. "I'm like, super flattered and also really confused right now, lan zhan, you can't just DO this -"

"A-Yuan's program music," lwj says. "Our first gpf banquet. You were drunk, and you - "
"You joined me on the balcony. When you asked me to sing a song for you, I sung A-Yuan's program music."

"Are you kidding," wwx groans. "The one time I get blackout drunk! Is the one time you sung me a song!! Don't tell me it's an original composition, too - "

"It is."
"Gods, Lan Zhan!" wwx rubs at his forehead, peeks up at lwj through his lashes. lwj wants to kiss him. he could, he really could, if he just moved closer... "So... you made a song for me? And you came here... for me?"

"Mmn."

wwx fidgets. "What... what's the song's name?"
lwj blinks. He hasn't ever thought about it before, but now that wwx asks, there's only one correct answer. lwj has spent so long waiting, so long regretting. this time, he'll reach out to wwx. this time, he won't fail wwx.

"The song's name is wangxian," he says.
"Wangxian?" wwx echoes. lwj can see the gears turning in his head. "You... Lan Zhan, you really, you really mean it? You can't - you have to mean it, otherwise I won't be able to take it, Lan Zhan - "

lwj steps closer, takes wwx's hands.

"Yes. I have always meant it, Wei Ying."
and then wwx is hugging him, burying his face in the fabric of lwj's sweater, sighing lwj's name over and over. "Lan Zhan, sweetheart," he's saying. "Me too, Lan Zhan, god, I love you too, I love you so much, I think I've always loved you - that's what you meant, right?"
"The - the song, you coming here for me after 13 years, everything, it means you love me, right? Because I love you, I really do, and I just need to know - "

Shutting wwx up with a kiss is, lwj finds, very effective.

"I love you, Wei Ying," lwj says, when he pulls back.
"Oh," wwx says, breathless. His lips are red red red. lwj's brain is having a hard time processing all - all this. he kisses wwx once more for good measure, just to confirm that this is real, he can do this now, wwx wants this. "Er-gege, say that again?"

"I love you."
"Again," wwx demands, pulling lwj closer.

"I love you."

wwx giggles. "You're so good, Lan Zhan. I really do like you so much. Kiss me?"

lwj does.
He slides his hand down wwx's side, until his fingers brush against wwx's wrist. he kisses wwx breathless and thinks, this is what i want now and forever.

he doesn't let go of wwx's hand.

this time, he has wwx's hand, and he won't let go.
~FIN!!!! THAT'S A WRAP EVERYBODY, OKAY, TO ANYBODY WHO BORE WITH ME THROUGH THESE HUNDREDS OF TWEETS, THANK YOU FOR READING!!!!

some notes:
-wwx and lwj become a-yuan's co-coaches!! they bring a-yuan to the jgp and gp together and a-yuan becomes a world champion one day!
-lqr is like.... -_- when he learns lwj wants to co-coach with that troublemaker wwx but like.. a-yuan IS a good skater. and lwj DOES look happy. so lqr learns to live with it
-wangxian adopt two bunnies and a-yuan and get married and the skating world has a collective aneurysm
-a week after the ending, lwj texts jyl, and the jiang siblings show up in yiling a day later (cue jiang siblings reconciliation and wwx finally getting to meet his nephew!!)
-lwj has edeas, wwx has jacksons, never used either skate brand but it just Sounds correct
-lwj has bunny soakers in this au. and also he probably exchanged rockers with wwx so his guards are like... half blue/white and half red/black... the ROMANCE!
-at some point in time, lwj skates to rachmaninoff piano concerto no. 2
-THAT IS ALL, THANKS FOR READING
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