Chapter 1: lacrimal
The Yiling Patriarch and HanGuang-Jun have a conversation.
“Wei Ying,” Lan Wangji says — pleads, rather. “Please.” He doesn’t even know what he’s asking for anymore — for Wei Ying to come back to Gusu with him, for Wei Ying to accept his help, to just listen, to understand —
“Please what?” Wei Wuxian spits. “Save your words, HanGuang-Jun, I already know what you’re about to say. And my answer is the same as always — I’d rather die out here, by myself, than go anywhere to be locked away by the likes of you. Why should I ever trust you? Why should I listen to you? You don’t like me, I don’t like you, we’re not friends, you’re nothing to me —”
Lan Wangji cannot help it — he flinches, away from Wei Wuxian, away from his words, flung like knives. He should be used to it by now, be used to Wei Wuxian’s sentiment, but he just — he cannot — to his horror, he feels his throat growing tight, his eyes prickling. “Wei Ying,” he chokes out, as he feels hot tears begin to escape his eyes, trickle down his cheeks.
“Oh,” he hears Wei Wuxian say, dispassionately, “are you crying?”
Humiliated, Lan Wangji ducks his head, hating that Wei Wuxian has to see him like this, so weak and vulnerable.
“So you can cry,” Wei Wuxian notes. “I was beginning to wonder if I'd imagined it.”
Only you, he wants to cry, only you have the power to reduce me to such a state. Wei Ying, how can you not see how important you are to me, how I would do anything for you, how you could do anything you wish to me, and I would welcome it?
Then there’s a hand under his chin, tipping his face up, so he has no choice but to stare right into Wei Wuxian’s eyes, unreadable in a way they never were, before. “No, don’t look away, let me see,” Wei Wuxian says, and studies Lan Wangji like one might a mildly interesting artifact. Lan Wangji swallows back a sob, and the tears keep coming.
Wei Wuxian cups his jaw, and brushes away a tear with a tenderness that’s completely at odds with his previous words, and Lan Wangji cannot help but lean into his touch. Maybe...Wei Wuxian will not mind. Will not make fun of him. Will —
“You know, Lan Zhan,” Wei Wuxian says, “you’re pretty when you cry.” His smile turns sharp, wolflike. “You should do it more often.”
And then he leaves, as always, and Lan Wangji is left with nothing but his own sobs for company.
(Far, far away, Wei Wuxian’s hands finally stop trembling long enough for him to have nothing to distract him from what a monster he is for making Lan Wangji cry. Even worse, for liking the way the tears had left shimmering tracks on Lan Wangji’s pale skin, had made his golden eyes seem even more luminous than usual.
He really does break everything and everyone he touches, after all.)
Chapter 2: Leonids
Chapter by domokunrainbowkinz, lily_winterwood
Wei Wuxian witnesses a meteor shower.
Wei Wuxian is in a haze.
He's not quite sure where he is — is it the Burial Mounds? He could vaguely feel the cold stone walls of the cave behind his back, the oppressive darkness that seemed to follow him everywhere ever since he became the Yiling Patriarch. The smell of death hung heavily in the air, mixed with the iron scent of blood and something else he couldn't fully pinpoint.
He could hear someone whispering to him, feel a warmth enveloping his hand. Spiritual energy is being poured into him, but it's not like he can use any of it. He wants to tell this person — whoever they are — to not bother.
"Don't..." he rasps. His throat feels raw.
"Wei Ying? Wei Ying, what is it?" The voice asks. It sounds so desperate, Wei Wuxian almost laughs. If he didn't know any better, he would think the voice is trying to save him.
“Get lost,” he snarls.
Silence. Then —
“Wei Ying. Please — ”
“Get lost,” Wei Wuxian repeats. Who does this person think they are? Giving him spiritual energy, holding his hand so tightly like a lifeline — he tries to pull away, but the grip tightens.
“Wei Ying. You need to wake up,” the voice pleads.
“Wei Ying — ”
“I said GET LOST!”
Wei Wuxian finally opens his eyes, needing to see who this annoying voice is.
Dirty mourning robes. Bloody hands clutching his own. A pair of pale, golden eyes. In his haze, Wei Wuxian does not recognize who this is.
“Get lost,” he says again. It is quickly becoming the only thing he is able to say.
“I — ”
The person does not respond. Very faintly, Wei Wuxian hears them take a shaky breath.
“Please,” they whisper. Distantly, Wei Wuxian feels something warm drip onto his hand.
There were stars falling from the person’s eyes, sparkling from the faint moonlight filtering from outside.
He remembers one night long ago, when Lotus Pier still stood proud and tall, he, Jiang Cheng, and Shijie ran outside to catch a rare meteor shower. They had sat down on the docks, side by side, watching the streaks of light fall across the sky, lightning fast and beautiful.
Make a wish, Shijie had said. But make sure you don’t tell anyone, or it won’t come true!
Wei Wuxian can no longer remember what he had wished for. But, perhaps in the face of this meteor shower, he can make another one:
I wish I died on the streets back then. None of this would have happened if I was dead.
“Wei Ying, please do not say that,” the voice pleads.
“Ah… I said it out loud,” Wei Wuxian realizes. “Now it won’t come true.”
The stars start falling faster. It seems the meteor shower is at its peak.
“How pretty.” Wei Wuxian reaches out to catch a falling star, feeling its warmth melt into his hand. “I’ve always wanted to see a meteor shower up close.”
“Wei Ying,” the voice whispers. “I love you.”
Wei Wuxian throws his head back and laughs.
“How funny!” he laughs — or screams. He isn’t sure. “I’ve never had a meteor shower tell me they loved me! Hahahahahahahaha!”
But Wei Wuxian cannot hear the sound of their voice. He is drowned by the sound of his own laughter, his crying, some sacrilegious combination of both — completely deaf to the world around him. He did not hear the words the person kept whispering to them, did not hear the sound of swords clashing as the person struck down their own, did not even feel the brush of the person's lips on his forehead as they got dragged away.
By the time Wei Wuxian comes to, he is alone.
“Weird,” he mumbles to himself. “How did I get here?”
His mind conjures up images of falling stars, the sound of a pleading voice, a whispered confession. He passes it off as a strange, haze-induced dream, and prepares to face the world.
There were three times in Lan Wangji’s life where he had shed tears.
All of them held great significance because these tears had fallen for the people that he loved. They had their places within his heart and the moment they drew their final breath, those places crumbled into what was a barren wasteland.
The first time he cried was for the death of his mother and that was the first death he had ever experienced. Their mother was a kind soul and gentle with how she handled both Lan Wangji and Lan Xichen. She loved to tease him especially and while Lan Wangji wouldn’t say it, he enjoyed it because it meant time with her.
Their mother loved them with her entire soul and Lan Wangji always treasured the time that they spent together.
It was only once a month but it was enough to flood him with a certain type of love he couldn’t get anywhere else. The unadulterated love of a mother who planted kisses upon his forehead and read him stories that his uncle would call a waste of time. The love of a mother which warmed his soul and made him feel like everything would be okay as long as his mother was there.
Waiting for him in the hanshi where the purple gentians bloomed and calmed the senses with their light fragrance. She would always be waiting for him to come back with her arms wide open to pull him into her warmth. Her soft voice beside his ear as they read together and her proud praise as she listened to him play the guqin for her.
She would always be waiting for him until...
“You do not need to go there anymore.” Their uncle had told them one day, just a week away from the brothers’ monthly visit to their mother. Lan Wangji had been confused; his little face twisted to show it and he turned to look at Lan Xichen who looked just as confused. But it was Lan Xichen who gathered his courage to ask why they could not go and their uncle’s usually stoic features seemed to showcase some sort of emotion for a brief second.
It was gone as fast as it came but one would guess that it had been sorrow for the brothers who stared at him with questioning eyes.
“Your mother is gone.”
Lan Xichen immediately stiffened. His entire body tensed as his eyes widened with the weight of their uncle’s words. Lan Wangji was more confused than ever and he remembered looking up at both of his brother and uncle for an explanation of any kind.
Where had their mother gone?
Did she leave them?
Did she leave... him?
He didn’t understand but that didn’t stop him heading to the hanshi every single month and sitting in front of a door that would never open. His guqin would always be perched on his lap and he would always play in hopes that maybe the door would open and his mother would appear. And she would gaze down at him with those soft eyes and a tender smile as she listened to him play. But it never happened and Lan Wangji couldn’t understand why as all of his emotions bubbled until it all came to a head.
The first tears slid down his face in the middle of the night when he was supposed to be asleep and they kept on falling until he could not stop them. His chest heaved with heavy breaths and he tried to remain quiet but it was getting harder too. He wanted to wail and scream and shout because he missed his mother and he wanted to see her. He wanted to be in her arms again, to feel her warming touch and the motherly love that immediately made him feel like he could tackle anything.
Lan Wangji was only six-years-old when he allowed himself to cry like the true child he was. All of the GusuLan Sect’s rules meant nothing to him now and he continued to cry until Lan Xichen was by his side, holding him tightly while telling him that everything was going to be okay.
He missed his mother so much and just wanted her back.
The second time Lan Wangji cried was in the cave of the Xuanwu and he was in the worst condition he had ever been in.
His leg was still healing from being broken, his entire body felt weak and his emotional state wasn’t at its best. There was so much he was feeling but he refused to let them out because that was only something he could in his own privacy. But he had none of that as he was stuck in the cave with Wei Wuxian who was both the light and bane of his existence. Being trapped in a cave wasn’t exactly a good predicament and Lan Wangji really wished that he had either been stuck on his own or with someone else.
Anyone but Wei Wuxian.
But Wei Wuxian had saved him today and taken care of him to a point that surprised him. Lan Wangji didn’t know Wei Wuxian well enough but from what he gathered, he knew that he was bright and spontaneous and loved throwing caution to the wind. He was everything that Lan Wangji had been taught not to be and the very idea of him was enough to make Lan Wangji’s blood boil. Though the anger never lasted and it soon turned into admiration which started to develop into something deeper.
Until it formed into a plant made of love which was set to bloom.
That was the least of his worries now because his entire life was in disarray as his home had been bent to the ground and his father was gravely wounded. People from his sect had suffered at the hands of the Wens and his brother had gone into hiding to protect what was left. He had no idea what was happening out there and if his father was still alive or worse, if his brother was dead. And there was nothing he could do and it was frustrating to the point where…
Tears began to fall and traced the curve of his cheeks as he stared at the open fire before him. He gritted his teeth but made no movement to wipe them away as he allowed to drip down like falling crystals. There was a brief gasp that came from his side and it was then that he realised that Wei Wuxian was watching him. Embarrassment prickled at the tips of his ears and sat heavy in his chest but he did nothing but slowly turn his head away so Wei Wuxian couldn’t see him anymore.
So Wei Wuxian couldn’t see him being so weak.
“Lan Wangji,” Wei Wuxian tried and Lan Wangji sensed him moving closer, heard him breathe in to speak more words but he didn’t want to hear it.
“Shut up.” Lan Wangji hissed and that was the end of that.
Wei Wuxian said no more and left him to his peace while Lan Wangji continued to cry, sobs itching at his throat in a desperate plea to get out. He wanted to scream and shout and talk to Wei Wuxian about everything that he was feeling, about all that he was happening. But that wasn’t what he did and wasn’t going to start it, especially in a situation like this. So he forced his tears back and stopped thinking about how nice it would be to slump into Wei Wuxian’s arms and bear his soul.
He repressed the thoughts of being held and comforted and reassured.
His uncle would be disappointed in him for thinking such things.
Lan Wangji stored his emotions in their wooden chest and locked them up before tucking the key far far away.
The third time he cried as when he found out about Wei Wuxian’s death.
Lan Xichen was the one who told him and it was like Lan Wangji’s entire world had ceased.
Wei Wuxian had lost control of his powers and they had turned against him in a backlash as one had expected. It had become too much for him to manage and at the end of the day, it led him to his demise. And as if that wasn’t enough, his body was ripped apart by wild corpses so there was nothing of him left.
The Yiling Patriarch was gone in an instant and Lan Wangji couldn’t process that. He had been with Wei Wuxian not long ago and had held his hand while trying to get through to him. His words had been pleading and he had been terrified as Wei Wuxian simply told him to get lost, his eyes blank and emotionless. Lan Wangji had nearly broken down at that time because this wasn’t who Wei Wuxian was.
This wasn’t the Wei Wuxian he remembered who smiled with mischief and laughed with such joy and abundance. Who teased Lan Wangji relentlessly and never failed until he pulled a response out of him, plush lips pulled in a pout or blue eyes sparkling with success. Who was brave and selfless and did right by others even though it cost him everything that he had ever known.
And everyone he had ever loved as well as who loved him.
His back only knew of pain with wounds still tender, not fully healed and his body ached with every step he made. But his heart hurt more than a whip to his back and weighed heavy in his chest as he tried to hold himself together though he failed miserably. The rules no longer mattered to him anymore and Lan Wangji sobbed loudly as he stared at the ceiling of his jingshi . Tears flowed fast and carelessly as they pooled at the corners of his eyes and slipped down towards the sharp curve of his jaw.
He lifted his hands, ignoring the agonising pain and pressed them against his eyes as if he was trying to hold back the tears but it w
as no use. Everything hurt and there was no such thing as peace while his soul cried out for Wei Wuxian because he should be alive, he shouldn’t have died.
He should have been laughing like he always does, smiling and grinning and teasing and jumping around with light footsteps. He should have been living out the rest of the days in some form of happiness while he watched the world go by and change before his very eyes.
Wei Wuxian should have been there with him but Lan Wangji didn’t try hard enough.
He had let Wei Wuxian down.
“Wei Ying,” he sobbed out, struggling to breathe as his chest heaved with his every breath.
The last time he cried like this was when his mother had died and when he couldn’t understand why she went away. It hurt more this time, though, because Lan Wangji could have saved him, could have saved the one person that loved with his entire soul and yet-
Lan Wangji played Inquiry for the next thirteen years in hopes that maybe one day, Wei Wuxian would answer him. It was never guaranteed because they didn’t part on good terms and their relationship had not been the best. That was something Lan Wangji wished he could redo, and there were a lot of things that he also regretted. If turning back time was possible then he would have done that from the very time Wei Wuxian even felt the need to put his life at risk.
He would say more and do more.
He would be with Wei Wuxian more.
The notes of Inquiry play into the night and the soul that he looked for didn’t respond to him yet again. But he kept trying until maybe one day-
A lone tear fell.
Maybe one day.
Chapter 4: in the rain I weep
Chapter by Naamah_Beherit
On a rainy morning, Lan XiChen becomes the bearer of bad news.
“Wei WuXian is dead,” XiChen tells him and for a moment, WangJi’s heart stops.
The world tilts; the cup he’s been holding slips from his fingers and falls to the floor. It lands with a thump and rolls away, and the herbal remedy for pain spills around WangJi’s feet. He pays no attention to it. For the first time in days, he feels no pain and no sorrow. He feels nothing.
Wei WuXian is dead. In the depths of his heart, those words resonate like no rule has ever done before. Wei WuXian is dead.
“How...” His voice breaks, hoarse from the lack of use. There is no one to use it for nowadays. “How did it happen?”
Who killed him? is what he doesn’t say. For all of XiChen’s compassion and nostalgia for the days long gone, he no longer shares WangJi’s sentiments. How could he, after that day on which the streets of Nightless City ran red with blood? How could he, after the stone floor of the GusuLan’s ancestral hall did so as well?
“There was a siege on the Burial Mounds.” His brother’s voice is dry, detached. Bile rises in WangJi’s throat and stays there no matter how many times he tries to swallow. “Yi—Young Master Wei lost control. The corpses got to him before we did.”
Wei Ying’s gaunt face flashes in his mind, dirty and bloodied. In those last days, he didn’t look any different from the dead roaming the Burial Mounds at his command. And yet even with the tangled, matted hair and distant eyes, he was still the most beautiful sight to behold in WangJi’s world.
“Have you buried him yet?” He will attend, of course. He will get up and go to the ceremony, consequences be damned. It’s not like he has anything left to lose. “When—”
“WangJi. There was nothing left of him to bury.”
He hears it and something stirs in his heart. It’s cold and small and hurts infinitely more than the ruin of his back. “Brother,” he croaks, “I—”
XiChen nods; always understanding, always knowing what WangJi needs even before WangJi realises it himself. “Of course.”
And with that, he’s gone, and the silence rules in the jingshi once more. That thing in WangJi’s heart, that cold, debilitating thing grows and grows until it steals his breath away and takes over his thoughts. Wei WuXian is dead, it repeats over and over again, and soon no other words are left in the world but those four.
Wei WuXian is dead.
Lan WangJi didn’t cry when his mother died. He waited and waited until there was no point in waiting anymore.
But oh, does he cry now.
Chapter 5: for a spirit unseen
Chapter by tangerinechar
The song that calls Wei Wuxian.
The next time Wei Wuxian sees Lan Wangji cry, he is dead.
It has been a year, maybe, since his death at the Burial Mounds, and Wei Wuxian’s soul refuses to leave the earth. He wonders why he’s still wandering around, always coming back to the Cloud Recesses as if there’s a ribbon tethering him to this place, and if there’s anything left for him.
He ignores the summoning rituals that call his soul. He is not the real Wei Wuxian, anyways, they cannot summon that, because that is shattered. Lost among the waves, never to come back.
This Wei Wuxian is little more than a faint imprint.
He’s never gone past the boundaries of the Cloud Recesses that protect it from resentful spirits, not because he can’t, but because he’s scared to see what lies beyond.
This Wei Wuxian is the 15-year-old disciple who hated the rules and met Lan Wangji on that stone-carved wall. This Wei Wuxian is… memories, he supposes, and a little bit of sentiment because a ghost never stays when it feels nothing.
But this night, the notes of a song have tugged on something deep within his ghost and pulled him inside the boundaries, down paths and past familiar buildings until he reaches the jingshi. This night, he finds Lan Wangji sitting next to the window with kind souls swirling around him, slender fingers skimming over strings that glow in the moonlight.
He looks as beautiful as ever, Wei Wuxian thinks, but so cold. What happened?
The song is Inquiry, the one the GusuLan sect uses to call dead souls. He must be trying to speak with somebody, but with every soul he talks to, there is a small shake of his head and the clench of his jaw.
Who is he calling?
Wei Wuxian stays there for as long as Lan Wangji plays, out of a morbid curiosity as for who the distant Hanguang-Jun would miss so much as to play Inquiry for hours on end. Perhaps it is his parents.
Too bad he never learned the language of the guqin. But the song resonates in the wispy vestiges of his soul and he knows it is calling him and —
Wei Wuxian does not come forth, because surely it cannot be him — a servant’s son, an intruder, unworthy — who Lan Wangji is calling for. Because he would not have enough strength to answer it, anyways, and not nearly enough courage to face the man he pushed away.
As the night wears on, Wei Wuxian never strays from Lan Wangji’s side. There is a blanketing peace that the other man’s presence brings to his restless soul, and Wei Wuxian does not tire of watching Lan Wangji’s minute reactions to each soul he comes across.
And when all the souls have dissipated, Wei Wuxian leans forward in interest. Is the great Hanguang-Jun going to give up just like this?
Lan Wangji lets his fingers still on the guqin with an elegant finality. Wei Wuxian blinks once, twice, because this must be his eyesight deceiving him, but in the pale moonlight there are tears dripping down Lan Wangji’s face, shimmering silver and splashing over strings.
Lan Wangji is crying, and this makes Wei Wuxian’s soul hurt like nothing else.
His quiet sobs fill the jingshi. His shoulders shake and the guqin slips on his lap until Lan Wangji is left with nothing but himself, his fists clenched in his robes and his face wet with tears.
He’s truly beautiful when he cries. It makes Wei Wuxian want.
“Please.” Lan Wangji whispers. A choked cry tears its way out of his mouth. Wei Wuxian’s incorporeal body glows blue in response.
“You have to be out there. You can’t be gone.” More tears drip onto his robe. Lan Wangji is openly crying now, golden eyes clouded by grief, and Wei Wuxian’s hand stretches out to cup his face before he can think.
“Wei Ying. ”
Wei Wuxian lets himself cry, then, because — because —
Because he loved Lan Wangji once upon a time, loves Lan Wangji, and Lan Wangji is crying for him.
“Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan —” Wei Wuxian moves to embrace Lan Wangji from the back, letting his head drop into the curve of Lan Wangji’s shoulder. “I’m here.”
He pretends that he really is here, with a solid body as warm as Lan Wangji’s, with a heart that would race at their touch.
“Wei Ying.” Lan Wangji whispers. His eyes flutter shut. Tears glisten on his eyelashes and Wei Wuxian kisses every one of them off. “Come back. I love you.”
Wei Wuxian sobs, wretched cries that make his spirit ripple, and tightens his hold on Lan Wangji. He knows Lan Wangji can’t feel him, knows it like he knows the waters of Lotus Pier.
“Lan Zhan, I’m here. I won’t leave you. I love you.”
And Lan Wangji cries in the dark of the night for a spirit unseen.
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Chapter 6: Empty Empathy
Chapter by Keysmashed
Over the years, the wounds on his back heal but his heart continues to bleed. Wei Wuxian's ghost lingers.
There is a ghost only Lan Wangji can see in the Library Pavilion. Sometimes, it sits near the window to stare at the sky, humming a song nobody hears. Most of the time, he sits on the other side of the writing table as if he thoroughly enjoys watching every dip of the brush, every stroke of the characters on the paper. The faraway smile etched on the ghost’s face is an invisible hand playing with Lan Wangji’s heartstrings, pulling and strumming, sending ripples that make his heart ache.
“Wei Ying,” Lan Wangji whispers to the ghost, his voice barely a whisper against the loud silence of the pavilion of books and ink that used to be where he finds his solace. Now the quiet only serves to mock him. “Look at me.”
The ghost of Wei Wuxian never hears or sees him there, content in his own bubble.
He has tried everything in his power to catch the ghost’s attention. He has played ‘Rest’, he has played ‘Inquiry’ and every day, he begs for Wei Wuxian to look his way, to show that he is not just a figment of Lan Wangji’s mournful imagination. Lan Wangji has played every song in the book but Wei Wuxian never acknowledges his presence. Ignored.
"Wei Ying, please."
Is this how Wei Wuxian felt back then, back when he kept trying to get Lan Wangji’s attention? Is this the heaven’s way of punishing Lan Wangji for leaving Wei Wuxian to die in the Burial Mounds, trapped by scornful eyes of those who wished for nothing but his death?
The brush in his hand falls onto the table with a soft clatter, smearing the half-filled page of nothing but the 33 strokes of Wei Wuxian's birth name written over and over with splotches of midnight ink. Droplets of water fall onto the smaller blots, seeping into the paper, further smearing, tarnishing the scroll. Eating and drinking are not allowed in the library, so from where did the water come?
Lan Wangji blinks. Once. Twice.
“Oh”, he gasps. The drops of water, he realises, they are my tears. His heart clenches at the realisation and like a dam has just been broken, his tears come in waves, riding on the silent scream that chokes his lung.
How long will it take until my heart doesn’t ache when I think about him?
Will that day ever come?
When he looks at the ghost of Wei Wuxian sitting before him, head swaying left and right to the unknown rhythm of a phantom song, Lan Wangji knows he doesn’t want the day to ever arrive. He wants to remember him and to ache for him because to ache means to never forget. Lan Wangji doesn't want to forget anything about Wei Wuxian. Just imagining he might one day wake up not remembering Wei Wuxian's face brings forth a new wave of melancholy.
He doesn't want to forget.
Lost in soft hiccups and the burn of his own tears, Lan Wangji almost thinks he is hallucinating when Wei Wuxian opens his eyes. Their eyes meet and for a moment, they do nothing but stare into each other’s eyes. Wei Wuxian looks at Lan Wangji like he finally sees him there. From behind his eyelashes still heavy with cathartic tears, Lan Wangji watches as Wei Wuxian leans forward from across the table, his hand reaching out to touch Lan Wangji’s face.
He feels it. A gentle caress where phantom fingers touch his face. When Lan Wangji’s tears are dry, Wei Wuxian’s smile widens.
And then, in a burst of white light and spring petals, he disappears.
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Chapter 7: after the bath
Chapter by lily_winterwood
Wei Ying is avoiding him. (Post Ch. 95 in the novel.)
Wei Ying is avoiding him.
There is a blur in Lan Wangji’s memory from the alcohol, and Wei Ying is avoiding him.
He tries to piece the events together. He had returned to his senses, only to find himself completely naked, in a bed together with Wei Ying. His initial reaction had been shock, but the shock quickly gave way at the sight of Wei Ying’s expression.
Guilt. Anger. Desperation. Perhaps even disgust, because there was no other explanation for the broken tub or their state of undress — something had occurred between them while Lan Wangji had been drunk, and Wei Ying is now more unattainable than he had ever been before.
Lan Wangji thinks back to the moments he had stolen with Wei Ying, catching him in his arms in Lotus Pier, watching him steal lotus pods upon the river, lying with him warm in the hay. Wei Ying had been so bright and ecstatic, full of life and mischief like a beaming youth. Seeing him so shrunken and burdened with guilt now causes Lan Wangji’s own to churn deep inside him.
He should never have let his guard down. He should never have drunk that wine. He should never have forced his feelings on Wei Ying like this, because Wei Ying once hated him, and though recent events since Lan Wangji rediscovered him at Dafan Mountain may have pointed to a bridging of the chasm between them, it still could not have withstood something this shameful, this lewd.
Lan Wangji looks at the wall of the inn that now separates him from Wei Ying, and for the first time in a very long time, he lowers his head and cries.
Though Wei Ying is here again, Lan Wangji should have known better than to assume he could ever love him back.
Chapter 8: and that distant longing shines gold
Chapter by sushicorps (Inclinant)
"Wei Ying, I'm so happy you are alive."
The early morning sun in the mountains this time of the year comes as a hazy, dreamlike cast through the thick sea of clouds. In the quiet of their rooms, tucked deep between an outcropping of rock and the bamboo groves, Lan Zhan stirs, roused from his sleep through force of habit. For a moment he blinks, unable to shake off the hold of slumber from his mind, gazes blankly at the rumpled silken sheets in the soft white light like there's something missing, seems strangely empty.
For a moment, his heart stops in turn. Aching, he clutches at his chest, not sure where or what to look to, just that he's not here, and that can't be.
Then there's a grumble in the shift of the sheets, the weight of an arm, warm and heavy with life thrown across his lap like it belongs there.
“You wake up too early,” Wei Ying mumbles from his side where he is haloed by the morning light. His dark hair fans out over the back of his loose robes, tracing the spiraling embroidery in gold thread of the pillow. Then he turns and peels open one eye to look up at Lan Zhan, mouth curving into a cheeky smile.
“Why are you looking at me like that? Can't get enough of me?”
The stinging in his eyes that he hadn't realise hurts, and then there is a light tap on the blankets pooled in his lap, and then another, and another, and it is only at Wei Ying's alarmed look in his eyes that he reaches up to his cheeks. When he draws his hand away, his fingers are damp.
“...Lan Zhan! What's wrong, what—” He can distantly hear his husband's voice, but all Lan Zhan can feel in that moment is the slipping away of the cold emptiness gripping his heart like a vice, the relief crashing upon him like a tidal wave, that he's here, he's by your side, and he said he loves you just last night—
He'd said that out loud, he realises, but then Wei Ying is leaning over, hands pinning his wrists down to the bed and kissing the worries from his mouth and brushing away his insecurities from his cheeks.
“Silly Lan Zhan, I'm here now aren't I?” Wei Ying laughs softly into his ear, and Lan Zhan just nods and holds him tighter to himself, his tears of gratitude, of relief, of love.
“But you know...you're pretty when you cry!”
“Nonsense,” Lan Zhan mumbles into his husband's shoulders, noses deeper into the warmth where the lapel of black robes slip over sharp collar bones in the crook of his neck. The stray strands of Wei Ying's hair tickles his nose, but he just lets out a soft huff as he buries himself in Wei Ying’s faintly herbal scent, the taste of his skin grazing his lips, revels in the every lift of his chest that matches the breath hitching in his throat. At the foot of the bed, the incense curls into the air, of rich sandalwood and sharp star anise.
“HanGuang-Jun,” he hears Wei Ying cajole, his hands rubbing circles down his back, strong and soothing. Then his fingers climb up, resting lightly over the back of Lan Zhan’s neck, brushes away his long hair to hook it behind his ear gently. “We have to get ready for breakfast soon. You promised to teach the juniors the new song you composed last week, remember?”
He should be washing his face now, calling the servants to prepare his robes, pressed white and jade ornament laid within. He should be taking his place by his brother’s side at the head of the table, be looking at the wooden bowl of plain congee and the condiments laid out in little saucers, fresh mountain vegetables blanched lightly in spring water, simple yet nourishing.
“No—” Lan Zhan says, and inches closer to Wei Ying and defiantly locks his arms together around him.
“...No?” Wei Ying repeats incredulously, then he’s laughing, each chuckle a peal of music purer than any other to Lan Zhan’s ear. “Listen to yourself! Ah...that old man Qiren will complain I'm corrupting the Precious Jade of Lan again.”
But Wei Ying doesn’t let go either.
They’re pressed together tightly, chest to chest, each heartbeat rising in tandem, and Lan Zhan thinks, day by day, he has never been happier. With each morning that dawns with Wei Ying by his side, with each morning that he thinks must be some blissful dream, till he bows his neck to press a kiss to his sleeping husband’s forehead and it strikes home again and again that this is real.
“Wei Ying,” He says, drawing back to silently map out Wei Ying’s face — from the soft sweep of his black sleep mused hair, to bright eyes that spark with ideas for the wildest of inventions, to where his face now tapers narrower down the thin cheekbones to his jaw, to the little quirk at the edge of his mouth… It is like that day in Dafan Mountain, when he had first saw this strangely brazen black-robed youth that called to some part of him he’d thought he had locked up at Yiling.
“Wei Ying,” He repeats again, breathes the word to himself. He reaches out to grasp Wei Ying’s hand in his, holds his fingers to his lips.
“I'm so happy you are alive.”
You are alive.
The words well up in his eyes, catches the gold in the dawn light, and when they fall one by one, like the slow rains atop the bamboo grove where inquiry plays, Wei Ying catches them in his palms, catches Lan Zhan in his arms.
“Don't cry again, you're making me cry too!”
There is a loud thump on the bed, followed by another, and the little warm bundles of fur are nosing themselves into the space between them, long black and white ears twitching with self righteous fury over the lack of breakfast provided by their humans.
“You spoilt brats,” Wei Ying mouths at the rabbits to shoo them away, but he doesn’t let go of Lan Zhan’s hand for a moment.
And Lan Zhan smiles.
And morning breaks over Gusu.
yes I am that one fluff tag. I tried really hard to counteract all the pain in this entire collection.
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