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end, begin (and the spaces in between)

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It ends like this:

"HanGuang-Jun!" a cheerful voice calls and WangJi looks up to see WuXian smiling at him. WangJi rises to meet him and lets WuXian drag him down the dusty streets, chattering and lively as they pass through the vendors filling the streets with food and other wares. The streets are bustling with activity but he only has eyes for WuXian.

WuXian smiles at him fondly and pokes him, “Are you even listening to me? How mean! Ignoring me like that, HanGuang-Jun!”

“Wei Ying.” WangJi says interrupting, WuXian as an exaggerated pout takes over his face, “I am here.”

His cultivation partner rolls his eyes but he’s smiling again, bright and unreserved and undeniably happy.

“Yeah, you are,” he says and tugs at WangJi’s hand until their fingers are tangled together. “Where shall we go next?”

“It matters not.” As long as I’m with you, he doesn’t say.

WuXian grins like he heard it anyway and they set off once again, together.

 

 

But how does it start? Perhaps, here like this:

You are fifteen, sixteen, eighteen, twenty and no matter where he is, even when he is not, you turn towards him, his pull irresistible. You find yourself searching for his unruly locks in the crowd, the sound of his laugh, wild and carefree carries, echoes through your bones and no matter where you look you can not escape him - you do not want to.

He is like the sun and you are caught in his orbit, in his warmth and in the way he burns, blazingly bright and true and good. They say that there is a fine line between love and hate but there was never hate, not for him, not in the beginning, not even in the very end, nor in the years of quiet regret like ashes at the back of your throat.

Uncle always said that love makes fools of us all but quietly, you think to yourself that you would be the fool, to not fall in love with him, he, the indisputable centre of your universe.

It seems like he will always be there until he is not.

There is a knife in your gut which you can not pull out, you feel it inch inwards, slowly slicing you open, the spray of fresh blood spilling from your skin, the smell of it acrid and harsh. You try to reach for the knife but it does not exist.

Wei WuXian also does not exist in this world any longer.

 

 

That isn’t all, of course, so maybe it feels a little more like this:

First light filters through the window and WangJi lazes a little in the quiet stillness of the morning. There is still time before he needs to get up and their bed is warm and cozy. WuXian is still snoring softly beside him, the light sheet covering him falling off his shoulders from all his shifting through the night.

He looks unbearably young like this, young, pure and unmarried by the harsh realities of the world. Of course, there is perhaps no one that knows of the realities of the world as much as WuXian.

WangJi is just glad that he is able to find peace, here, by his side.

“Lan Zhan,” he murmurs in his sleep and WangJi smiles fondly, smoothing back his messy hair and pressing a soft kiss to the top of his head before sitting up and getting ready for the day.

 

 

There is also this though, in the moments you have not considered:

There are days where you wish you could just keep WuXian to yourself, this boy that wears his heart on his sleeve and you wish you could hide him away forever so that no harm could ever come to him, so that no one could know the beautiful melody of his bright, rhythmic core.

You know you can not though because he is a wild thing and wild things can not be kept in cages, dulled, clipped and ugly.

After all, Wei WuXian belongs to the world and you belong to him.

 

 

And one you have considered, loved and held close:

It’s a quiet day and WangJi is practicing on the guqin on the cliff at the far edges of the Cloud Recesses.

He lets his thoughts wander and starts playing another tune into the bright, clear sky.

From behind him, a flute joins in and WangJi smiles to himself. It fills in the spaces of the melody, makes it complete and overflowing with emotion until WangJi can not help but start to hum along to it, a familiar tune made for two.

The last note lingers in the air, suspended between the water and the sky, in the space they meet and intersect.

“Lan Zhan,” WuXian says cheerily, stepping forward and draping himself across WangJi’s back. WangJi turns to accommodate his weight a little more and blinks at the wide grin on his face, usually reserved for when something fun, or WuXian’s definition of fun, occurred.

“What happened?” WangJi asks, thumbing the corner of his smile.

“I’m just happy!” he says, pressing himself closer to WangJi, “It’s a good song.”

WangJi thinks about the way their two instruments meld together, their song floating through the mountains of Gusu and rising into the clouds above for the Heavens to hear.

“It is,” he agrees.

 

 

That’s not quite it, maybe this comes a little closer:

There is a feeling in your gut that is one part unsettled, one part confused and three parts determined. The man from DaFan mountain, it’s Wei WuXian, it has to be, lies on top of you and you stare unblinkingly at his unfamiliar features.

In the dark stillness of the night, you wonder if you had only imagined it, that the song that you have burned into your fingers in the sleepless night after the siege was nothing but a cruel trick that your mind has played on you. You were so sure but what if you were wrong, what if everything was wrong, was fake, was a dream and here you were still sleeping and waiting for the harsh light of day to wake you up again.

You don’t sleep well that night.

Three times you wake, heart beating, palms sweating and eyes drawn to the stranger curled up against you, his weight an anchor to the world, heavy and warm and real.

He is here you tell yourself and that is all that matters.

 

 

There is something else though, you think:

WuXian is spread out on the bed, his long hair falling out of his ribbon and pooling around his shoulders. He reaches out for WangJi and WangJi lets himself be pulled in until he’s lying on top of WuXian, chest to chest, heart to heart. WuXian’s lips are curled into a cheeky smile and WangJi can’t help but lean in and taste the laughter on his lips, to feel his warmth and have it settle into his body, soft and gentle.

When they part, WuXian’s face is flushed, his lips a delicate, enticing red and WangJi can’t help but press his fingers into them. WuXian, being WuXian, sucks on them into his mouth, his tongue working over his fingers and looks up at WangJi through his lashes.

“Wei Ying,” WangJi says and marvels at how just one look from this man leaves him feeling breathless and weak.

He undresses WuXian slowly, savouring every part of him until he’s squirming and gasping beneath him, WangJi’s name falling from his lips, WangJi’s marks on his skin.

He is beautiful like this and for this moment only, he belongs entirely to WangJi.

 

 

And in the moments of yesterday, whispered into the mist:

You name it WangXian and it’s stupid, impulsive and pathetic, the thought of it making your ears burn a little but you can not think of another name which would fit it half as well.

What drives a person like Wei WuXian you wonder, someone with a complete disregard for rules or things like honour, dignity and order but would throw himself in front of a burning seal for a girl he barely knows.

You do not know what might have happened if you had not stepped in but the thought of him sitting in that cave alone, with the Xuanwu of Slaughter lurking in the pool, the darkness closing in an-

You shake your head. That is not how it went.

There was something there, you think, something in the echo of those caves where his heartbeat reverberated in your chest, where it was just you, him and endless darkness and nothing else mattered. You don’t know what it is but even through the damp chill of the underground, there was something soft and warm in your bones that whispered that it would be okay.

In the end, the song remains WangXian because as much as it is yours, it is also his.

 

 

Perhaps, this instead is where the story starts:

DaFan Mountain is burning, the smell of smoke and ashes filling the air and WangJi feels uneasy and at ease all at once. He waits another moment more before heading to where the juniors should be.

There is something in the air that whispers that something has changed.

WangJi hears it before he sees anything and it feels like all the air has been snatched from his lungs, replaced with something finer, sharper, overwhelming and it feels like he has been walking on air all along and have just reach solid ground again. It’s a feeling he didn’t know he was missing all along.

Amongst the chaos, stands a figure - it’s a different body, a stranger's body but WangJi has not been searching for a body for all these years.

The notes that come out of the flute are harsh and shrill but sound to him, like the sweetest melody, of hope and relief in a physical form, vibrations in the air that catch and sink into his skin and move outwards until it envelops him.

WangJi reaches out to grab him and promises to himself to never let him go again.

 

 

But no, that’s not right, it actually starts like this:

There is a figure coming over the wall, light and quick-footed, holding two jars of alcohol. You meet his eyes, the moonlight illuminating up this stranger's features, making him look otherworldly.

He smiles and it tastes like inevitability, feels like the roaring river and you see each, minute movement of the world around you as if time itself has slowed to a stop to make room for him.

"It's Emperor's Smile! If I give you one, can you pretend you didn't see me?"