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Loyalty and Betrayal

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Eight years ago.

 

 

“Wangji, why are you doing this?” Lan XiChen asked in a preoccupied tone.

“I have to.” Lan Wangji replied curtly.

“No, you don’t, and you know this.”

“It is the right thing to do.”

“It doesn’t mean you’re the one who have to do it.” Feigning a calmness Lan XiChen no longer felt, he shifted his eyes to meet Lan Wangji's.

“I’m the only one capable enough to do it.” Lan Wangji stated. “Nobody knows my face and they can't dig my name out of the files, since I've been kept hidden all these years.”

His brother had a small stubborn look in his pale eyes, that faded so quickly that absolutely no one would’ve noticed the subtle change, aside from Lan XiChen.

Lan Wangji wouldn't give up so easily, and he knew it. “My concern is that you're taking needless risks.”                                                                

“I've been training since I was ten. I'm well prepared to accept the risk.”

“Wangji, listen to me.” Lan XiChen lifted a hand up, cutting Lan Wangji off.

Fear had the color draining out of Lan XiChen's face as he gulped the last sip of tea from his cup.

He continued, “A-Xian got a full scholarship at the local university. Don’t you wanna study with him? Have a normal life?” He desperately closed his eyes, trying to fight off images of his brother in that abandoned place. “Be a musician like A-Xian, you love music, or you can just become a software engineer, since you’re so good at it.” He suggested.

“I can’t.” Lan Wangji simply murmured.

He drew the air in, slow and steady and waited until he was sure his voice would be calm. “Yes, you can, you just don’t want to.”

“Mn.”

“Wangji, please, be reasonable.” Lan XiChen felt powerless. It didn’t seem fair, it didn’t seem right. “Uncle can take care of the company just as well, he’s been doing it for years already.”

Lan Wangji shook his head.  “No.”

“Wangji! You’re too young, and you have no practical experience! This work is dangerous!” He insisted. “I’m giving you the option to work with me, working behind a desk isn’t all that exciting, but it’s safer. You know the company has a lot of different branches, you can just choose the one that fits you best. You don’t need to put yourself in danger.”

“I will not change my mind, brother, I’m sorry.”,

“For heaven’s sake, Wangji.” Lan XiChen felt powerless, desperately trying to think of what to say. They had already lost their parents. He couldn't lose his brother too. “I know you're well-trained and dedicated, but, just courage and ingenuity isn’t enough to survive under difficult and dangerous circumstances.”

Lan Wangji knew he would have to face death countless times, but considering the actual situation, he knew there was no space for him to be afraid of what he might unearth at the end of it.

“I’m not imprudent.” He repeated in a stubborn tone.

“I know, but this time we don't have any advantage.”

“I can do it, brother, even without the advantage.”

“Their database has a biometric lock system; you’ll need to shorten your response time.”

“Mn. I will.”

“Okay, leave the strategic planning with me then.” Lan XiChen sighed as he read through some of the files in his desk.

“Mn, their system is well encrypted. I'll have to break their keys from the inside.” Lan Wangji said, opening his notebook to look over his initial notes. “By my calculations, I'll be able to gather solid information in approximately three months.” 

“Three months is too risky.” Lan XiChen’s voice dropped to a murmur. “Are you fully aware of what you'll have to go through to earn their trust?”

“Mn.”

“They'll have to trust you enough to register your biological material into their security system.”

“Mn. As soon as I have my samples registered, I will be able to infiltrate the system and finish the job.”

“I don't like this.” Lan XiChen blurted out.

“Brother, you have to trust me.” Lan Wangji reminded him.

“I trust you, Wangji… I…I'm just telling you all of this because I am afraid.” He confessed.

He slowly rose from his chair, and after a slight moment of hesitation, he patted Lan Wangji's shoulder. “You're my little brother, what am I going to do if something happens with you?”

“I will take care of myself.” Lan Wangji hesitantly lifted his arm and put a hand over his.

“I know you will.” Lan XiChen said a little stiffly, carefully moving the chair to sit closer to him. “Wangji, I have a gift for you.”

Lan Wangji's eyes lowered slowly to the table, as Lan XiChen slid a not-so-small silver box in front of him. He took the small heavy box in his hands, feeling a little confused while examining every inch of it.

He carefully opened it.

“I know you don't like automatic guns, so I bought you this one.” Lan XiChen half-smiled and thought about the headache he might have later.

Lan Wangji held the gun with his right hand, letting it dangle from his index finger by the trigger. He studied the mechanism with approval and interest, experimentally allowing his finger to curl around the trigger, pressing in a smooth release.

“Beautiful.” Lan Wangji slowly ran his fingers through the cold metal; small, efficient, discreet and deadly. Perfect.

He leaned forward in his chair, looking at his new possession. The gun was refined in white gold and the grip was carved in stainless white pearl with golden accents. It was elegant and cold, as if it was made of ice and snow.

“It’s a Taurus PT38S, 38 calibers, and it's already loaded, do you like it?”

“Mn, thank you, brother.”

“Since you won't be able to use your sword, at least you can protect yourself.” Lan XiChen slid his sad brown eyes to his brother's hands, tangling skillfully around the gun, testing the action of the hammer to see the accuracy which the trigger improves.

“Mn, brother?” Lan Wangji put the gun back inside the case and looked back at him. The moment their eyes locked, Lan XiChen saw his eyes went noticeably dead, darkening like frozen black water, as if something had snapped inside his mind. “Wei Ying… I…” Lan Wangji stammered lightly.

His voice was calm and his face betrayed nothing, but Lan XiChen could clearly see the way his fingers tapped the surface of the desk impatiently.

“Will I be allowed to see him in these three months?”

“No, you won’t, I'm sorry Wangji.” He gave him an apologetic look.

Lan Wangji felt a quick stab to the heart. He had promised not to leave him... And now, look at him, lost in guilt and shame, trying to justify his abandonment in shallow words. Abandonment was a cruel betrayal when it comes to people you love, and he was well aware of that.

“He’s been asking about you, you know? You can't keep ignoring him like this, Wangji.” 

“I can't tell him.” He dug his nails into the wooden table. 

“Why not?” Lan XiChen asked, as he now patiently leafed through file after file. 

“It's confidential.” 

“It isn't against the rules Wangji, there's nothing in the manual that prevents you from telling family, or- hum, boy-huh-friend, - reliable people - about your position, or your job. Don't you trust him?” 

No answer. 

Lan Wangji's mind stayed blank for a few seconds before asking, “Is he... suspecting something?”

“It's hard to say what he’s thinking, but he’s thinking something.” 

“He's not safe around me, not for now, at least.” 

“This isn't just about you.” 

“He's reckless, and I'm responsible for his safety.” 

“It’s not up to you to decide it, you should tell him.” Lan XiChen shook his head in a helpless gesture. 

Wei Ying was his life, if something happened to him, no one would suffer more than Lan Wangji. 

“I can’t.” He lowered his hands to his knees, his nails scraping frantically the fabric in a failed attempt to keep his mind steady. 

“You know better than anyone that miscommunication can lead to misunderstandings.” 

“Mn.” 

“He'll come after you.” 

“I know.” 

“Are you ready to bear the consequences of your actions?” 

For Wei Wuxian’s safety, he would suffer any consequences. 

“I am.” 

“Okay then, are you ready?” Lan XiChen asked passing an envelope-type folder down to him. 

“Mn.” 

“Great, inside this folder have a valid passport, a new ID, a driver’s license and a disposable phone.” He continued, pointing a finger to the perfectly forged documentation. “This pseudonym is your new identity, you have a new name, a new record and a new historic. From today on, you're an elite criminal with dual nationality, a wanted mercenary and a veteran hacker.”

“Mn.” 

“Your mission is to bypass their Internal Security, gather and provide internal sensitivity information, confirm any leads and tactical value and...” The clear sadness in his voice caused Lan Wangji to glance at him. “Survive.” 

“I will.” Lan Wangji said, sliding a comforting hand over his, trying to calm him down. 

“I'll be waiting for you to come back home.”

 


 

 “What happened? Did Lan Wangji break up with you?” Jiang Cheng asked curiously. 

“Shut up, we’re not even dating to begin with.” Wei Wuxian’s brows drew together and his lips moved into a pout.

“To my eye you have heartbreak written all over you.” Jiang Cheng said, grabbing a pack of chips from his backpack and chewing loudly. 

“You haven’t seen me in almost a year, how can you know what I’m feeling?” Wei Wuxian's eyes slightly narrowed with the insult.

“OOOOH, SO YOU ARE HEARTBROKEN!” Jiang Cheng laughed shrilly. 

Wrinkling his nose, Wei Wuxian folded his elbows over his chest and averted his eyes. “Fuck you.” 

Jiang Cheng suddenly stopped when he saw the obvious hurt in his brother’s eyes.

“Where's that fucking shit? I'll fucking murder him!” He smashed a fist against the coffee table. 

“Can you please take care of your own business?!” Wei Wuxian shouted, loud enough to hear a door slamming and angry screams coming from Madam Yu on the second floor. 

“What?! Do you REALLY want me to sit on my ass, watching you being hurt because of that jerk and do nothing?!” He slapped both his hands on Wei Wuxian's face, pressing his cheeks with repressed anger. 

“Stop doing this! I'm not a child!” Wei Wuxian's hands grasped his, shoving them away. “He didn’t hurt me! And he’s not a jerk! Watch your mouth!” 

“What happened then?!” He asked, and his angry expression didn't change. 

“A-Cheng, A-Xian?” Jiang Yanli spoke softly, as she opened the door carefully. “Is everything okay?” 

“I'll fucking break Lan Wangji's legs!” Jiang Cheng shouted. 

“Don't you dare!” Wei Wuxian rolled over him, almost kicking his nuts. 

“Get off of me!” 

“Promise you won't touch him!” 

“A-Xian, A-Cheng, calm down, please.” Jiang Yanli softly demanded, holding their heads gently, just to knock them against each other. 

“Ouch!” They whined in unison, rubbing their foreheads. 

“Come here A-Xian, sit by my side and tell me how you’re feeling, and what you’re thinking, I'm concerned for both of you.” 

“I don't know what happened either.” Jiang Cheng sulked, narrowing his eyes. 

“So why the fuck are you so pissed off?!” 

“Because you're my little brother and it's my duty to take care of you.” Jiang Cheng’s gaze went straight to his face as he pointed a finger at him.

“Oooh, A-Cheng! You do care!” Wei Wuxian gave him a satisfied smile.

“No, I don't, it's just an obligation.” He countered.

“Let’s sit down you two.” Jiang Yanli said, gesturing to the couch.

Wei Wuxian immediately curled up on the pillows, laying his head on her lap, while Jiang Cheng sat erect on the edge, trying to remain calm. 

“What happened?” She tucked Wei Wuxian's hair behind his ear, calmly listening to him. 

After a moment of hesitation, Wei Wuxian decided to leap straight to the point. 

“Well… Where to start?” He huffed out a breath while Jiang Yanli combed her hands through his hair. 

“The last six months have been different, and I'm not entirely sure why, and it’s specifically the last few of them that have been the worst.” Wei Wuxian glanced up and smiled, although his expression was mocking, his voice was sad. “Lan Zhan changed, since he started with those trainings last year. He was close, but at the same time, distant. And now, simply out of the blue, he decides to take a trip abroad with his uncle without even warning me? It hurts, though.” 

Wei Wuxian thought about the last time they met, three months ago. Lan Wangji’s scent was reaching out for him, so familiar and somehow warm. But his voice was cold, and the way he merely moved his shoulders, always turning away, shifting his position, like he's uncomfortable; made Wei Wuxian even blame himself for something he didn't know was happening... Yeah, it hurts. 

“Did something happened between you two?” She asked in a compassionate tone. 

“Kind of?” He emitted a low noise that was far from a laugh. 

“Do you want to talk about it?” 

“I’m… hum… in love with him?” He closed his eyes for a moment, trying to block the wave of tears that threatened to slip out. 

“No shit, Sherlock.” Jiang Cheng blurted angrily. 

“I'm serious! I think I'm having an emotional crisis.” Wei Wuxian dropped his head on his knees, feeling his head buzzing, swirling like bees. 

“Try telling me something I don’t know already, your relationship is so clingy and overly sweet, that gives me goosebumps just looking at you both.” 

“A-Cheng, calm down.” Jiang Yanli glanced at Jiang Cheng, and although she smiled at him sweetly, the look she sent to him was deadly. Silently saying; let him find out by himself. 

“It's not like that okay?! It's just like those movies when one of the characters falls madly in love by the other, but the person is clearly way out of his reach?” Wei Wuxian said with determination. “Our relationship is just like that, a strong platonic bond. He doesn’t love me the same way.” 

“You must be kidding me.” Jiang Cheng hissed, slamming his palm on his forehead. “You tell him or I tell him?” 

“A-Cheng!” Jiang Yanli raised her arm and cupped his mouth to silence him. “A-Xian, why do you think he doesn't love you the same way?”

“Common sense?” 

“Jesus Christ.” 

“Shut up, Jiang Cheng!” Wei Wuxian said bitterly, slightly averting his eyes to not look them in the face. “A-Li… I did something very wrong.” 

“I'm listening, and I won't judge you.” She smiled gently. “A-Cheng will try to be patient too, aren't you?” 

“Sure.” He rolled his eyes.

“Do you remember when Uncle Jiang brought that imported whisky from Caiyi Town?” 

“The one you drank all by yourself?” Jiang Cheng asked. 

“Yeah yeah, the thing is...” Pursing his lips, Wei Wuxian blinked back tears. “Last year, the night you flew back to Yiling, remember? Well, we drank together, Lan Zhan drank only one shot but his tolerance for alcohol is very low, and… I didn't know that.” 

He continued. “Things got a little out of control and I couldn’t resist kissing him, so we ended up making out on the kitchen’s floor like two rabbits in heat.” 

“Oh my God, too much information.” Jiang Cheng said and Jiang Yanli just smiled. 

“I don't see anything wrong with that.” She said caressing his hair. 

“He was drunk and I took advantage of it.” 

“I'm pretty sure that things don't work like that, did you force the kiss or he was kissing you back?” Jiang Cheng asked. 

“Well, actually, he was the one who pressed me on the floor and started taking off my clothes.” He gestured to the floor like he was reviving the memory. “It was so passionate and erotic, and I still have a boner every time I think about how hard he was against my thigh and also –” 

“TO-MUCH-INFORMATION-WEI-YING!” Jiang Cheng shouted in a threatening tone. 

“Sorry, sorry.” 

“What happened next XianXian?” 

“He tried to sit too fast, and then he felt a wave of dizziness and a sudden sick feeling, I thought he was going to throw up but he passed out.” 

“He passed out?! Why did you give him alcohol in the first place? Are you out of your damn mind?!” 

“I didn't know his tolerance was so low!” Wei Wuxian stood and pointed a finger at him. 

Jiang Cheng looked away and drew a deep breath, apparently trying hard to keep his temper under control. “How can you be so irresponsible?” 

“I didn't think that... whatever… when he woke up he said he didn't remember anything and I decided not to talk about it anymore.” He closed his eyes and struggled to regain the breath he had lost because of his sudden crisis. 

“Look, leaving the fainting thing aside, looks like he was enjoying it as much as you.”

“I agree with A-Cheng, A-Xian, he could be drunk? Yes. But he was well aware of what he was doing.”

“I don’t know… Maybe he thought I was someone else, perhaps the girl he likes?” He sadly pondered the issue. “You know how images can become a bit blurry and confused when people are drunk.” 

“You're being paranoid, and dramatic.” 

Wei Wuxian listened carefully, and then sighed. 

Jiang Yanli smiled. “A-Xian, you do tend to get a bit paranoid sometimes.” 

“Yeah, and we're talking about your paranoia at its peak.” 

“Maybe he really doesn't remember anything, A-Xian.” She smiled and took his hand again. “Maybe the problem has nothing to do with you or what happened.” 

“I don’t know, I just want him to be less strange and less distant, in the brief time we’d spent together.” He tried not to let his sadness sound in his voice. 

“When did things started to change?” Jiang Cheng asked.

“Six months ago? I'm not sure. This new training of his was taking all his time and he started staying at his uncle's house.” He put a hand on his chin to think. “And as I told you before, he simply decided to take this 3 month trip abroad with his uncle, out of nowhere, without saying anything, I heard from XiChen-ge, it wasn't even from him.” 

“This is actually, a behavior that Wangji wouldn't normally have.” Jiang Yanli said. 

“I know right?” He said, then made a small sound of impatience. 

“Sometimes he's going through something and he doesn't feel ready to tell you yet.” Jiang Cheng rose and faced him. “But no matter what happens, we’re on your side.” 

“I know… I… just thought he trusted me.” Wei Wuxian gave them a flinty smile that didn't reach his eyes.

“It's not a matter of trust A-Xian.” Jiang Yanli said quickly. “Being there for your friend in difficult times is the most important way you can be a good friend, no matter the circumstances.” She said with a hint of a smile, then continued. “If he doesn't want to talk, try not to push him so hard, give him time and just let him feel your encouragement by being by his side. Assume that he just wants to be in a safe place for now. Nobody's perfect A-Xian, not even Wangji.”

Lifting her hand, he kissed it. “I will, thanks A-Li, I feel much better.” 

“Whenever you need, I'm glad you're feeling better.” She pressed her lips to his forehead. 

“When he comes back from this trip, try talking to him and showing him he can count on you, he loves you, Wei Ying, everyone can see it.” Jiang Cheng laid a hand on Wei Wuxian's shoulder before he could speak. “Everything will be okay.” 

Wei Wuxian could feel his heart melting and a wide grin curving his mouth. “I love you both so muuuch.” 

“Why am I being softened up?” Jiang Cheng said in a not-so-pleased tone. 

“Because you care.”

“No, I don’t.” 

“Yes, you dooo!” 

“Shut up!” 

Jiang Yanli smiled absently to her unwieldy family, that she loved so much.

 


 

After just a week, Wei Wuxian started his first semester in a top rated music college. And since the campus was only five blocks away from his house, he felt no need to stay in a dorm. 

He was taking night classes and got used to coming home late every night, and very often, his new colleagues were unwilling to let him walk all alone. But he wasn't seeking company, he would rather be alone than to be with any of them. There was only one person he wanted by his side.

And without Lan Wangji, he only felt vulnerable. 

The air was cold that night, and the wind painted Wei Wuxian’s cheeks and nose in a soft shade of red. The streetlamps bathed the empty sidewalk in dim pools of gold while soft snowflakes melted in his skin, like tiny molten crystals. 

He stared up at the sky; the stars brushed the velvet dark like white ink, splashing different tones of light in radiant bursts. 

Every passing day, he was getting more and more used to the lonely long walk near the ocean. 

Wei Wuxian stood near the old brick bridge with his black flute held to his lips. His gaze slowly swept through the view, and after some time, he felt an overwhelming sense of loneliness… like he was really far from home… 

He sighed. Lan Wangji was right; home is where the heart is. And his heart, Wei Wuxian thought, was lost somewhere, inside Lan Wangji's chest. 

Nobody had ever quite stolen his heart, not until Lan Wangji. 

The sharp wind blew into his face and he felt himself lost, in the perfect circle of blue, softly crashing against the rocky beach. The water breathed the surface, rising and falling, glistening the luminescence reflections from the stars.

The high, sweet sound of his flute echoed through the desert street. The faint, melodic notes rose and fell with the breeze, replicating a song Lan Wangji used to play, every now and then.

He played that song until his lips went blue. 

The light above his head started to flicker like and old movie. Everything was too quiet and derelict, and Wei Wuxian felt his throat closing up when he pressed his tearful eyes with trembling fingers. 

With every fainting breath, warm silent tears melted down from the corners of his eyes, in a desperate rush for relief. 

They weren't drops of sadness, they were tears of longing. And he longed for him, longed to see him again, to feel his skin and hear the soft tone of his voice. Nothing ever comes from wishes, and yet, at every star above his head, he wished, to see him again, at least one more time. 

After his brief moment of reverie, he hung the flute on his belt and took his way home. 

It was almost midnight when he returned. Everything was so silent and dark that Wei Wuxian felt a slight shiver. He hadn’t known that darkness could be so scary when you're completely alone. 

He reached for his phone and unlocked the screen, turning on the flashlight to walk his way to his room. 

After quickly walking up the stairs, Wei Wuxian carefully nudged the door open and peered around the doorway. He waited for a few seconds and scanned the room once more. Nothing seemed out of normal, but something just felt wrong. 

Unable to figure it out, he put one foot inside the room, desperately searching for the light switch panel. His hands were already shaking when he saw a ghostly motionless shadow blending into the darkness of his window. 

He froze, his face turning white as he dropped his cellphone on the floor. 

“I have a gun!” He shouted. 

The shadow moved so fast that Wei Wuxian didn't even had a chance to run when the person went over to him, turning and pressing his back flat against the wall. In one second he was fully immobilized, with his wrists pressed above his head. 

The person was so strong he couldn't even struggle. 

“You shouldn't leave the window open when no one is home.” The voice murmured, hoarse and gentle against his ear. 

When he felt the warm breath brushing against the nape of his neck, he quivered. 

His eyes were wide open in the dark and he heard a small, involuntary gasp escaping from his mouth before saying in a shaky breath, “Lan Zhan?” 

“Wei Ying.” He said, slowly freeing his hands. “I’m here.” 

Wei Wuxian’s hand hit the switch and he felt his heartbeat increase. As his eyes adjusted to the burning light; the tall figure came into focus. His beautiful golden eyes looked down at him. 

God. That face could make his toes curl every time he looked at him. 

He looked down at his shaky hands and then at Lan Wangji again. He wanted to put his arms around him, touch him, in a desperate way to reassure himself that it was really him, standing in front of him.

Sometimes, he thought, he heard his voice in the wind. And sometimes, he would even see a fuzzy silhouette sitting on the tree outside his window. Wei Wuxian often felt like he was being drowned in some insane dream. So, he had to be sure. 

“I left it open for you.” Shaken, he stepped forward, as if trapped in some kind of delusional denial. “I was waiting for you.” 

He threw his arms around him and held tight, tears already rolling from his eyes. For a long time he kept his face pressed against his chest and sobbed quietly, as Lan Wangji linked their hands together with his own trembling fingers. 

The embrace seemed more intimate than a kiss and Wei Wuxian wondered if he wasn’t actually sliding into a dream or an illusion. 

No. It was real, it wasn’t a dream, for the first time in a long time, ‘this’ was really real. 

“I missed you so much.” His voice was low and weak. 

“I missed you too, Wei Ying.” The tenderness in Lan Wangji’s voice made his heart race. 

“How dare you disappear like that? I was worried to death.” 

“I had to.” Lan Wangji gently pushed a hand through his hair and kissed him in the temples. 

“You could've just warned me, you know?” Wei Wuxian said locking their eyes.

“I couldn’t.” 

“Why?” 

“I can’t tell you now, but I will, eventually.”

“Why not now?” 

Lan Wangji glanced back and gave him no answer. 

“You're pathologically incapable of not being brutally honest, that’s why you can’t tell me? It’s a secret?” 

“Mn.” 

“How long you're staying?” He saw a small single tear sliding down Lan Wangji's cheek and with a hesitant move, he kissed it away. 

“Just tonight.” Lan Wangji said wrapping his arms around him, pressing their bodies even closer than before. “I had to see you.” 

“It’s… not long enough…” 

When Wei Wuxian glanced up at him, Lan Wangji looked absolutely defenseless. “Okay, I won’t ask.” He smiled thinly and slowly pushed Lan Wangji’s hair away from his pale cheeks. “Did you eat?” 

“No.” 

“I'll prepare you something.” He said, although he didn't want to break the embrace. 

“Wei Ying?”

“Mn?” 

“Can I take a shower?”

“Of course, you don’t even have to ask, the house is yours.” Wei Wuxian trailed his fingers over his cheek and gave him a wink before strolling out of his arms. “You know where the bathroom is, if you need anything I'll be in the kitchen.” 

“Mn.” Lan Wangji answered as he dove into the bathroom. 

Wei Wuxian was already limping down the stairs when he remembered that he hadn't given him a clean towel, so he turned on his feet and quickly went back in the bedroom, grabbing a dark blue towel with white cloud patterns. 

Wei Wuxian was already used to walk through Lan Wangji’s door without knocking. They were already close after all; Lan Wangji was already part of his family. However, when the door opened, Wei Wuxian felt himself far beyond ready for the impact of what he saw this time. 

Lan Wangji's face lifted with shock when their eyes met through the mirror. Lan Wangji was half-dressed with his white shirt collar loose around his neck, almost fully unbuttoned. Wei Wuxian's eyes locked on his, widening in disbelief. 

“Take them off, Lan Zhan. Don't make me remove them from you.” He demanded. 

“Shameless.” Lan Wangji’s lips trembled as he answered, and he felt his legs go weak. 

They looked at each other and Lan Wangji tried hard to hide his body, only for Wei Wuxian to stop him, closing a hand over his wrist. 

Lan Wangji's mouth quickly opened but no words came out. Reluctantly, he put his hands down and kept silent, allowing Wei Wuxian to touch him. 

Wei Wuxian gently took his hands and slid closer to him, slowly undressing him. His fingers trembled while he opened the buttons of his shirt, and a clear, swift pain twisted in his heart when he drew down the zipper of his jeans, that quickly slithered to the floor. 

Lan Wangji just remained silent, averting his gaze and allowing Wei Wuxian’s fingers to trail along his bare skin.

Wei Wuxian's eyes looked ready to shred somebody into pieces. “Tell me who did this. I promise I will try not to kill them.”

“It’s out of our hands.” He simply said. 

This is part of your secret?” He gestured as he slowly traced the finely developed muscles; half afraid he'd fall into pieces under his fingers. 

“Mn.” Lan Wangji responded honestly, wishing he had pockets to hide his hands into. 

He was badly injured, and they were all fresh. Lan Wangji’s back and chest were covered in fresh bruises, all dull purples and sickly yellows and down further, he saw a blood stained bandage on his thigh and deep cuts on his arms. 

Wei Wuxian paled, and kept his eyes on his bruised body, checking him all over, looking for more scars and other injuries. His hands trembled with rage and his face flushed with rising anger and frustration. He felt like he could kill the person who did this in a hundred different ways. 

“Won’t you tell me who did it?” 

“I will.” 

“When?” 

“When it’s over.” 

“And when is that?”

“Give me two days.” He cupped Wei Wuxian’s face. “Please.” 

“Did you get involved with bad people?” 

No response. 

“You did, didn’t you?” Wei Wuxian’s hands weren't steady this time as he took his.

“Where are you taking us?” Lan Wangji asked as Wei Wuxian walked with him into the corridor. 

“Uncle Jiang's bathroom.” 

“Why?” 

“Their bathtub is twice the size of mine, you'll be more comfortable.” 

“Just a shower is enough.” 

“You don't have to choose anything right now.” 

“Mn.” Lan Wangji gave up and just murmured, squeezing Wei Wuxian’s hands very lightly. 

Once they were in the bathroom, Wei Wuxian silently slid the glass door open and turned the dial of the tub, adding some of Jiang Yanli's medicinal salts in the water; which supposedly relieves muscle pain and speeds healing. 

He turned and closed his eyes, as Lan Wangji stripped off his underwear and slowly stepped inside the tub.

When Lan Wangji was well settled into the tub, Wei Wuxian closed the door and went back into his parents’ bedroom. He wasn't thinking straight. He had several options, several plans running wildly inside his head.

He knew Lan Wangji would find his way out as soon as he slept, so he had to be quick. 

Wei Wuxian knew Madame Yu had a safe hidden in the side wall of her closet. So with frustration over the situation at a boiling point, he ran toward the closet and quickly found the access to the safe behind a rack of clothes. 

The guns were the first thing he spotted. 

He gripped one of the glocks by the barrel and pressed the trigger until he heard a feeble click, just to make sure the gun was working. The gun was capped by a silencer and was fully loaded. 

He didn't intend to kill anyone, but at least he would scare someone off. 

He closed the safe and went back to his bedroom, quickly stuffing his backpack with two boxes of ammunition and a flashlight. Then he paused, he would also need fully black clothes and a knife, just in case, he thought.

For a moment, he considered how crazy was what he was doing. But he would do it anyway. He hid everything under the bed and went back to the kitchen, as if none of that had just happened.

They had dinner together and after a quick cleaning, Wei Wuxian calmly treated Lan Wangji's injuries. 

Wei Wuxian sat on the chair next to him, feeling small and impotent as he applied some medicines on his skin. Most of his torso was bandaged now, and yet, he couldn't keep his stomach from turning. 

“Are you feeling any pain?” 

“I feel fine.” 

Under the lights, his bruises and cuts were even more evident against his pale skin. There were deep dark circles under his eyes, leaving his delicate facial bones seeming weak and fragile.

He wanted to skin the person who did this, alive.

“Promise?”

“Promise.”

“Let's sleep then.” Wei Wuxian said inching him toward the bed.

“Mn.”

Lan Wangji settled himself under the blankets, holding the edge of the blanket up for Wei Wuxian to lie beside him. As they were already so very familiar with each other’s bed, Wei Wuxian took off his clothes and climbed into the warm mattress with him, with no embarrassment at all.

“Since when do you sleep in your underwear?” Lan Wangji looked curiously at him, his ears flushing a little.

“Although it’s winter, It's hot tonight, and your body is pretty warm, Lan Er-gege.” He said, shamelessly flirting.

“Mn, I am indeed.”

“Lan Zhan?! Did you just flirt?” Wei Wuxian's face reddened.

“Mn.” 

“Who did you learn to be so shameless with?!” 

“You.” 

“Lan Zhan!” He said in a shocked tone. 

“Good night, Wei Ying.” Their limbs intertwined and Lan Wangji leaned down to kiss his hair. 

“Hahahahaha, good night Lan Zhan, beware of ghosts.” Wei Wuxian said kissing his chin. 

Although his eyes were closed, his mind was focused.


He hadn’t been surprised at all when Lan Wangji rose from his bed in the dead of the night.

Wei Wuxian was right. 

The moment he pretended to be sleeping, Lan Wangji got off the bed. 

He walked quietly and stood beside the nightstand as he put on a pair of socks and his shoes. For a moment he stood at the doorway like a piece of the night, checking Wei Wuxian one more time before leaving. 

And as soon as he left, Wei Wuxian got up, put the black clothes on as best as he could, threw the backpack over his shoulder and then tiptoed his way out of the room. 

He didn't want to be a cop, that was true, but he was trained to be one, and he was the strongest and the smartest from his siblings, besides being the most highly skilled of them. 

And he was nothing if not confident.

He shrugged into his leather jacket and hid the gun in the small of his back, as he walked down the stairs toward the garage. He quickly climbed into Jiang Cheng's Silent Hawk and pulled on his helmet. The motorcycle was black, versatile and silent. The perfect bike to sneak up on him undetected. 

For the second time that night he felt guilty, he was betraying Lan Wangji's privacy, not to mention that he was really crossing the boundary this time. And although it would certainly be wiser to just mind his own business, Wei Wuxian was concerned for his safety; he would do everything at his reach to protect him. 

So when Lan Wangji's car drove off, Wei Wuxian followed.


It took almost an hour or so to get to the location. 

He drove for a while, following Lan Wangji's car; all the way with the motorcycle headlights off. Lan Wangji parked at the far end of the road and Wei Wuxian quickly made the motorcycle vanished behind a thin line of trees.  

Lan Wangji got out of the car and started to walk.

As his eyes became accustomed to the darkness; Wei Wuxian started to move stealthily behind him.

They were surrounded by a dense forest; the road wasn't paved and as they moved deeper, the forest became darker and lifeless, immersed in absolute silence. Not a bit of wind or animal noises. The whole place seemed dead. The soil was blood red and the ground cloaked in a thin veil of snow.

And the thick fog, was really, really creepy. 

The abandoned building ahead was probably an old asylum, and the probability of some criminal group use the spot as cartel was high. So what was he doing there? Lan Wangji couldn't possibly be involved with those people. It was deeply unsettling for Wei Wuxian to witness this. 

Lan Wangji went in and he silently followed. 

The place opened up in a labyrinth of tunnels and corridors, sprawled in a claustrophobic design to isolate and trap any living soul. There were also trapdoors and secret panels around the place, which would easily help anyone escape from anything in a chase. 

Wei Wuxian paused when he noted some steel-barred doors in the corners that really looked like a hidden spot for criminal activities. He heard a refrigerator's compressor humming in the distance, and he also could hear footsteps and cries of children nearby. 

As he kept walking, he lost himself in some underground tunnels and it only took a second for him to lose Lan Wangji from his sight. An oppressive cold fear almost paralyzed him, his gut was literally telling him not to get any closer. It was undoubtedly dangerous to be sneaking into that place at night. 

Wei Wuxian desperately tried to think. The structure was so enormously big, that even if he tried to search room by room, it would take forever. 

He tensed as some heavily armed men walked around the surroundings. He kept moving, pressure and tension were always a problem, but it helped him to stay focused. He knew how to blend in, so that whoever noticed him saw exactly what he wanted them to see. 

He turned, glancing down the subterraneous corridor and scanning one of the glass-walled labs at his side. 

He was just moving forward the entrance when a hint of a shadow moved around him like a hunter trying to gauge his prey, trapping him, with one hand pressed against the cold glass and the other cupping his mouth not to scream. 

“Who are you and why are you follow–” Lan Wangji started, – pulling his gun, ready to fire – but his voice died in the middle, raw fear creeping into his eyes before asking, “Wei Ying?” Lan Wangji stared at him in blank horror. 

They were staring at each other, with wide eyes and open mouths, guns pressed on each other's throat and knives ready to take out ones heart in one efficient move. For several moments Lan Wangji stood, so badly terrified that he felt a cold mass forming in his stomach. 

Lan Wangji lowered his gun and stepped back, and Wei Wuxian did the same, tucking the gun in his belt and his knife inside his boot. 

“What are you doing here?” Lan Wangji’s face was deathly pale when he asked. 

“I came to protect you.” Wei Wuxian pointed out. “What the hell are you doing in this pla-” He started, but before he could finish, Lan Wangji cupped his mouth again. 

In a graceful move, Lan Wangji took Wei Wuxian’s hand and quickly pulled him into the office in front of the lab, closing the door behind them. 

“I have to get you out of here.” Lan Wangji looked desperately at him, his eyes wide in fear. 

“I'm not leaving without you.” Wei Wuxian stated. 

“Yes, you are.” 

“Try me.” He cut him off. 

Lan Wangji took a deep breath. He felt like he was contemplating a life-and-death decision. 

He walked from one side to the other. He had to find a solution, a resolution that would take them out of the building without being seen. But all the initial attempts he pondered in his head had failed drastically. 

With no instant solution which proposed a viable escape route, Lan Wangji started to panic. However, the panic only increased the instant they heard footsteps approaching the door. 

Lan Wangji quickly cupped his cheek with his hands and locked their eyes. “Listen to me, you will run. You will not stop. And you will never look back. Through the window. Now.” 

“I'm not leaving without you.” Wei Wuxian repeated stubbornly, holding Lan Wangji’s head in his hands.

Lan Wangji felt his lungs ready to burst. 

“Hide.” 

“Where?” 

“Under the desk, now!” 

Lan Wangji snatched his arm and quickly sat down behind the desk, pulling Wei Wuxian to sit on the floor; tucked with his back between Lan Wangji's legs. 

He glanced at the door from under the desk, feeling nervous and uncomfortable seated into the space that was really too small for him to fit. 

A man put his head inside through the door. 

As Lan Wangji cupped his mouth under the desk, Wei Wuxian noted there was a ring on his finger that wasn't there before, with some sort of blue stone on top of it. 

The man stared at Lan Wangji with intense, sullen hostility, before entering. 

“Did you bring the customer list?”

“Mn.” Lan Wangji answered and handed the man an envelope. 

“Didn't I tell you to always leave your hands in sight?” The man asked, looking suspiciously at him. 

Taking a deep breath, Lan Wangji gently rubbed his fingers over Wei Wuxian's face and raised his hands, resting his palms lightly on the desk and hoping Wei Wuxian would keep quiet in the process. 

“Good.” The man shot him a grim look. 

He then carefully pulled some papers through the envelope, checking the printed names on the list as his mouth flashed in a wicked smile. 

“Looks like you proved your value, kid. Congratulations, you’re one of us now.” The man said with a good deal of satisfaction. “You can access the system, make a good use of it.” 

“Thank you, sir.” Lan Wangji answered quietly and politely. 

An eerie laughter echoed and Wei Wuxian heard the door closing. 

“That was close.” Wei Wuxian whispered and Lan Wangji sighed above him. 

Lan Wangji slid the ring off his middle finger and quickly stroked it with his thumb. With just a gentle touch, the stone came out and Lan Wangji plugged it inside his ear. 

Wei Wuxian glanced at him curiously. “What are you doing?” 

Lan Wangji just looked around and lifted the base of the ring up to his lips. 

“Uncle, I’m in.” Was all he said, shifting rigidly on the chair.

He glanced over at the laptop above the desk and opened it. Soon after, he began typing skillfully on the keyboard.

“I got full access to their system.” 

“…” 

“Twenty minutes, I will need support to get out of here.” 

“…” 

“Wei Ying is with me.” 

“…” 

“He followed me, I didn’t know.” 

“…” 

“Mn. I’m sending you a complete copy of the files.” 

“…” 

“I'm also sending you a rescue coordinate for the hostages.” 

“Lan Zhan, what the hell are you doing?” Wei Wuxian asked as his fingers skimmed Lan Wangji's legs from under the table.

“I just need to take care of some things before we leave.” He said with his eyes glued on the screen. “Stay hidden. Are you comfortable?”

“Evidently not, can I use your thigh as a pillow?” He asked shamelessly. 

“Mn. Can you see the door from where you are?” Lan Wangji said spreading his long and well-shaped legs for Wei Wuxian to lean more comfortably. 

“Yes.” 

“Keep watching.” 

“Okay.” 

Wei Wuxian carefully watched from his hiding place, he couldn't hear clearly but he glanced every now and then in the direction of the voices outside the door. 

“Won't you tell me what's going on?” 

“Mn, as soon as we get out of here safely.” He answered vaguely. 

“I must be really annoying, uh?” 

“You’re very charming.” Lan Wangji said, too concentrated to realize what he had said. 

“Do you think so?” Wei Wuxian glanced up at him, mouth curved in a genuine smile. 

“Mn.” 

Wei Wuxian kept smiling in silence, holding a bright flush as he rested his head on Lan Wangji’s inner thigh. Long minutes had passed when Lan Wangji finally heaved a sigh of relief. He pulled Wei Wuxian from under the desk and hugged him.

“Did you finished?” Wei Wuxian linked his arms around his neck and hugged tight.

“Mn.”

Wei Wuxian noticed a tiny, subtle smile on Lan Wangji's face and he felt a sudden urge to nibble on his lips. But instead, he just said, “Congratulations.” Laughing gently as Lan Wangji linked their fingers together. 

“Let’s go.” Lan Wangji said, vastly relieved to have finally finished what he had to do. 

They left the room silently, holding hands and holding guns. 

“Uncle is already here, stay behind me.” Lan Wangji said when they heard people running and screaming in the distance. “Warn me if anyone head our way.” 

“Count on me.” Wei Wuxian said, trying to keep his eyes on Lan Wangji's back and the surroundings at the same time. 

They slowly walked through the tunnels, trying to make their way back up to the main entrance, undetectable. 

One man came from behind and Wei Wuxian was quick to grab the man’s upper arm and force the knife out of his hand. In a flash movement Lan Wangji's fist hit against the man's facial bone. The impact knocked him off of his feet and the man fell to the floor weeping, and Wei Wuxian took the opportunity to smack the barrel of his gun against his head. 

They saw him go down and kept moving. 

Lan Wangji detected a slight movement from the corner of his eyes, a little surprised and hesitant, he stepped forward. There was a man standing by a pillar some distance from where they were. 

There was a bomb attached to his chest. A suicidal soldier, Lan Wangji thought, and the bomb had probably one single purpose; tear down the entire building and destroy any evidences. 

Lan Wangji suddenly felt even more fearful about the whole situation. When he glanced down at Wei Wuxian, he saw the same fear reflect inside his eyes. 

Their eyes met and Wei Wuxian grinned guilelessly, squeezing his hand tight. “As long as I have you by my side, I’ll have nothing to fear.” 

In that moment, Lan Wangji knew, deep in his heart, that he could face anything and everyone, as long Wei Wuxian was by his side. 

“When I say run, we run.” Lan Wangji said, looking deep inside his gray eyes.

Wei Wuxian nodded as they hurried down the last corridor. When Lan Wangji had a clear view of the entrance door, he spun around and shouted, “Run!” 

They started running in the same pace. Hands clasped together and heartbeats pounding in unison. 

They were near the exit when the first bullet blew out, and in an instant, a blinding flash and a huge ball of fire exploded next to the door. Guns started firing simultaneously, and Wei Wuxian heard another deafening explosion burning in his ears. The windows shook so violently that glass shattered through the whole place. In a desperate move to protect his eyes, Wei Wuxian released Lan Wangji's hands. 

Wei Wuxian saw Lan Qiren and a full armed group moving amid the chaos, ready to attack. Lan Qiren threw a light grenade and the flash of light blinded Wei Wuxian momentarily, his mind went completely blank.

Pandemonium raged around them. There was only noise and blinding lights, like a twisted battlefield. Semi-blinded, Wei Wuxian shouted for Lan Wangji. 

Lan Wangji saw people running, in horror and panic, shouting and aiming guns, pushing him violently through the crowd. 

He saw Wei Wuxian wandering lost near a dangerous group. Terrified, he ran in his direction, but a new wave of gunfire startled him, the rampant bloodshed put his brain in a frightening alertness as he kept running into the growing chaos; it took him only a few seconds to reach Wei Wuxian. 

The impact of Lan Wangji's body slamming against his almost knocked him off his feet. In the midst of confusion, he heard voices and someone screaming in urgent request for support. Wei Wuxian could barely breathe when he realized he had dropped his gun along the way. 

Lan Wangji held him tight in his arms, keeping his own body between Wei Wuxian and the bullets, shielding him from the mortal danger. Lights flashed around them and between the rush of gunfire and mass confusion, bullets entered Lan Wangji’s body. 

Five. Five was the number Wei Wuxian counted. 

His eyes were wild, he heard someone desperately screaming and crying for help and it took him some time to realize that he was the one screaming. He slowly felt the warm blood staining his clothes in deep, scarlet red. 

The blood spread quickly to his chest and his waist, pooling the floor around them; slicking down Lan Wangji’s face and body. Wei Wuxian was sobbing in shock and fear and for long agonizing seconds he lay on the ground, hugging and clinging to Lan Wangji. 

“Wei... Ying...” Lan Wangji slowly raised his fingers to touch his cheek, to make sure he was really there. “Are you… safe...?” He coughed some blood. 

“I am! I am… Don’t talk… I’m here...” He whispered, as tears started to slid down his cheeks. “Don't leave me.” His voice was trembling, feeling Lan Wangji's blood soaking his shirt. He could feel Lan Wangji’s limbs trembling, then, gradually stopping. 

Life was slowly fading from his body, the same, cracking in his arms like a porcelain doll. 

“Please, please, Lan Zhan, I beg you, don't leave me, don't you dare leave me! Hold on a little longer, please, stay with me, stay with me Lan Zhan!” He cried desperately, words starting to become incoherent and incomprehensible. 

His hands were trembling badly as they tried to press against him like iron, trying to compress the bullet wounds to stop the bleeding. 

“No… it's not fair.” He put his hand against his smooth pale skin, now covered in red. He was getting cold. “Don't leave me, don't leave me, don't leave me, don't leave me, don't leave me, Lan Zhan, wake up!” He started to repeat like a poisonous mantra, pressing harder against his chest. “Please, come back!” 

Lan XiChen, who ran headlong into the chaos searching for his brother, broke, into shock and tears the moment he saw them. He would never forget the expression on Wei Wuxian's face that day, while holding his brother's body in his arms. He was close to madness and it was absolutely horrifying. 

“Help! Somebody help!” He dropped down on his knees, pressing the wounds along with Wei Wuxian, and screamed with all his might. “For fucks sake, I need help!” 

Wei Wuxian had gone into a breakdown by the time the ambulance arrived. They barely saw when three paramedics surrounding them. 

“How much blood did he lose?” The paramedic asked, putting an oxygen mask on his face. 

“It’s hard to say.” The other answered. 

“I can barely get a pulse, but he's alive.” 

“His condition is critical, he needs emergency surgery.” 

Lan XiChen swallowed hard, pulling Wei Wuxian into his arms and burying his face on his shoulder, trying to prevent him from collapsing into a crying fit as the men worked on Lan Wangji. 

“He had gone into shock!” One of the paramedics shouted in alertness.

“Take him now!”  The chief paramedic said gesturing to one of the stretchers. “Defibrillator now!”

They quickly put the stretcher inside the ambulance to begin resuscitation, and closed the door for transportation. Neither Lan XiChen nor Wei Wuxian were allowed into the ambulance as Lan Wangji was taken away to the hospital. 

They were kept in the dark when they arrived, a man Wei Wuxian didn't know approached them after a while, talking to Lan XiChen, who asked for a few changes of clean clothes and towels. 

The man returned after a moment and indicated them an appropriate place, at the staff room, for both of them to take a shower. 

Wei Wuxian entered one of the cubicles and just sat there, he was panting and powerless, staring at his bloody hands. He felt like throwing up a couple of times as the scalding water hit him hard. 

He rubbed his skin sore and raw, until it almost peels off of his body.

But it wouldn't be enough. The water could wash away the red stains that covered his skin, but not the memory that would fill his mind for eternity. 

Lan XiChen was already seated when Wei Wuxian walked back to the surgical waiting room. His cheeks were slightly wet from tears and he made no attempt to wipe them away when Wei Wuxian sat by his side. 

Lan XiChen held his hands tightly and they kept silent, comforting each other and waiting for the news.


Lan XiChen was the first to be called, and soon after, a nurse came through the double doors and strode toward Wei Wuxian to give him some directions. 

Nausea clawed at his throat at the sudden smell of bleach. As he walked down the hallway, his face went pale white, stained with dried tears. He bit down on his lips, feeling the taste of blood on his tongue. 

From far away, he could hear some muffled voices along the narrow hallway, some angry, some desperate, some crying. 

The lights were too bright for his eyes, almost abrasive. The space was mostly confined, devoid of color and vibrancy; he felt lost in a void of white, like the walls simply grew from the floor, matching the ceiling. Depression was served cold and Wei Wuxian felt his shivers intensifying as he walked close, feeling the sickness moving from door to door. 

His hands were shaking violently as he reached for the doorknob. All his life, he had feared death, not his own, but from the ones he loved, and now, he stood at the doorway as if life had choked its way out of his being. 

He opened the door and felt a quick stab in the heart. 

There was no decoration in the room; the faded blue curtains flowed lightly, and the only sound echoing, was the soft drip from the intravenous medicine. 

Everything was clean, the bed looked comfortable, and the sheets had a soft scent of Lavender. Lan XiChen was sitting on a wooden chair on the bedside, and the nurse on the other, was attaching monitors and oxygen tanks to... him. 

Nausea swelled again, and with it, fear.

 

Lan Wangji’s skin looked so fragile under the lights; the soft pink of his lips contrasting with everything in the room. Wei Wuxian slowly came closer to him, lifting his hands hesitantly, and then tangling his fingers carefully through his hair. 

He sobbed again, warm tears flooded him like a river, making his eyes glassy. 

"A-Xian... please, don't cry..." 

How could he not cry? The pain would be with him until the end, every day. His fingers trembled slightly as he began to stroke along the fragile line of his collarbone, too close to the bandages in his chest. Fighting back tears again, he pressed his lips to Lan Wangji’s forehead. 

“Look what I did to him, XiChen-ge.” His hands now rested on his, feeling the coldness of his fingers. “If… if I wasn’t there…” 

The nurse, who was preparing a syringe to take some blood samples, glanced at them a little embarrassed, like she was interrupting a very intimate moment. 

“It wasn't your fault.” Lan XiChen stood up, his hands reaching for Wei Wuxian's shoulders when he felt his balance breaking. “Please, sit, have you eaten?” He gestured to the vacant chair beside the bed. 

Wei Wuxian shook his head and gave in to his weakened legs, sinking into the chair. "I’m not hungry." 

“There were a few complications following surgery but he's out of danger now, I'll bring you something to eat then we can talk, okay?” With a soft smile he squeezed his shoulder once again, trying to reassure him that everything was fine. 

“Thank you, XiChen-ge.” Wei Wuxian said, his voice weak. 

Wei Wuxian nervously chewed on his bloody, bitten-down nails looking directly at Lan Wangji. 

The nurse nodded politely at him and walked away quickly. 

A few minutes passed and Lan XiChen walked back into the room and handed him a cup of hot tea, along with two aspirin pills and some cereal bars from the vending machine. He wiped his eyes clear and took a sip of the tea Lan XiChen had brought to him, swallowing the pills along in one hard gulp.

“Can you tell me what is happening?” Wei Wuxian asked, looking pale and exhausted.

“I think in such a situation, the best thing to do is to get straight to the point.” Lan XiChen sighed, pulling a chair to sit next to him. “The Lan Company is actually a Secret Intelligence Service, and Wangji is an undercover agent.” 

Wei Wuxian's eyes widened as he listened carefully to what Lan XiChen had just said. 

After a pause, he continued. “The act of being an infiltration agent is one of the most difficult and dangerous positions on the field, and that's why he choose this segment. He's the only one capable to do this job.  Wangji is basically a double agent, and he’s the best in the Lan Intelligence Service. He infiltrates inside the enemy base and spies them while pretending to spy for his own group; and it requires courage, patience, and a lot more than just luck.” 

“Along the years a lot of our agents have been killed, others captured, and a few disappeared. If your cover is out, you're dead. Revealing his true identity in a mission can cost him his life.”

Restless, Lan XiChen slid out of the chair to stand on his own feet. 

“Wangji was selected for a dangerous mission this time, which he played an important key role; he should provide technical data from inside systems, passing along extremely sensitive information, while also giving detailed information on the prison shed and troop movements.” 

“This case was specifically heinous. Healthy children were being put to death for organ trafficking. Most of them needed to fit basic physical characteristics, such as height, weight and blood type, to match organ recipients. The organs are sold in the black market, to wealthy foreigners who desperately need them, and as surprising as it may seem, to hospitals too.” Disgusted, his lips quivered. “There are a lot of doctors performing illegal transplant surgeries to make easy money.” 

“The ‘clients’ are powerful rich men and women; from politicians, doctors, celebrities, and even law enforcement officials. The average age of those forced into this illegal trade is 10 to 15 years old and most of them were kidnapped while traveling alone, usually to meet up with parents or relatives.” 

He walked across the room to the window, restless fingers reaching for a cigarette he never lit. 

“Wangji was secretly taking food, blankets, and medicine to the women and children in the shed. Is not an easy task considering the background; everything about this is disturbing. The average age of the victims being sold into sexual slavery is just 8 years old, for God’s sake, imagine his pain witnessing this every day, unable to act or do anything.” 

“Jesus Christ.” Wei Wuxian gasped, covering his lips with trembling fingers, while a painful breath burned in his throat. 

“He ended up exposing the group, leading the company to close the case, and he managed to reveal the exact position and status to their next transaction. We were on the way to arrest the group in the act, but then...” 

“But then I showed up and compromised the case, putting Lan Zhan's life at risk…” Squeezing his eyes tight, Wei Wuxian pressed his hands on his chest, praying for his stomach to settle. “He almost died because of me, it's my fault.” He looked like he would burst into tears again. 

“It wasn't your fault A-Xian, he chose this life on his own.” Lan XiChen shook his head in frustration. “He made his choice.”

“Why?” He asked, and all he could do was staring blankly at Lan XiChen when he began to speak. 

“Our parents.” Lan XiChen stared sadly at his brother, lying in front of them. “They died some years ago, did he tell you how?” 

“Lan Zhan never told me, he just said they didn’t come back after a business trip.” Wei Wuxian stared at Lan Wangji as memories came flooding back in his mind. “He always seemed hesitant about this subject, so I never asked too much.” 

“They were infiltrated in a similar group for 18 months. The operation was meticulously planned, but the duplicity required seclusion; they couldn't get out of the perimeter because there was a huge chance of exposing themselves…” Lan XiChen smiled. “But once every month, our mother sneaked out to see us.” 

He continued. “Once every month she would come back home and get in through his bedroom's window. She liked to climb the three and surprise him, and every month, on the same day, Wangji would sit at the windowsill, waiting for her.” 

Hurt throbbed in Wei Wuxian's heart when he thought about the tree and the nights they spent side by side, watching the sky and chatting away. 

“One day, she didn't come back, unfortunately. It wasn't easy to leave once you're inside.” His voice was tired and his eyes sadder. “They died in service and earned the Medal of Honor, but they left two kids behind.”

Lan XiChen closed his eyes and drew in a deep, unsteady breath. “And Wangji, he waited every day, sometimes at the window, sometimes at the tree, but he waited for years. Eventually, when he grew older, he understood that she would never come back home, that nobody would ever get in through the window of his bedroom again.” He felt the tension slowly draining away. “Well… that’s until you show up in his life and change everything.” Lan XiChen attempted a smile and lightly squeezed his shoulder. 

About a minute passed in silence, until Wei Wuxian was able to find his voice again. “I… I… I don’t know what to say…” 

“He loves you very much A-Xian.” 

“Me too! I lov-!” Wei Wuxian almost screamed the next words out, when the door suddenly opened and Lan Qiren bustled in. 

“What is he doing here?!” Lan Qiren immediately shouted pointing at Wei Wuxian. 

Wei Wuxian could almost see the clear indignation, followed by hatred and anger in Lan Qiren's red face. “This is all your fault!” 

“I… sorry… I –” Wei Wuxian formed the words slowly, but as soon as he opened his mouth to try to speak again, Lan Qiren interrupted him. 

“Do you have any idea of what you did?!” Lan Qiren glared at him with rising anger. “It all happened because you were there, his mission was almost completed and Wangji would have left without a problem if it wasn’t for you!” 

“Uncle, it wasn’t his fault.” Lan XiChen stood by Wei Wuxian’s side as Lan Qiren's gaze intensified. 

“Everything was going fine! Until you ruin everything, I can't believe that, I just can't!” He said, almost tearing out his beard’s hair. “Seven employees were killed and thirty three of our best agents were harmed because of you, Wei Ying, because he was trying to protect you!” 

He continued. “He's all motivated by duty, principle and justice but this is a business marked by deceit, betrayal and death! He cannot risk everything for a person like you! If he gets captured, the fate is brutal, it doesn't exist loyalty in this world, only betrayal. There's no mercy!” 

“He at least helped several of them to escape before...” Lan XiChen tried to soothe the surge of anger that erupted from Lan Qiren.

“You! Keep quiet!” He shot a deadly look toward Lan XiChen. “He survived months of interrogations, tortures and isolation to get in, to be accepted in the enemy group, for you to screw everything up in one day! Your life isn't worth blowing an entire operation.” 

“Don’t you dare say something like that ever again!” Lan XiChen's shout was obscenely loud, and Lan Qiren lapsed into silence. “Sometimes our agents have to put themselves in danger to investigate from the inside and Wangji designed himself for this undercover operation knowing the risks!” 

His voice rose suddenly in anger. “Because of him, the cartel's organ and human trafficking operation had come to light, which resulted in the arrest of 56 criminals and 15 doctors.” He pointed angrily. “The Lan prosecutors, now have evidences against the cartel leader and the possession of their client list, to begin a new arrestment operation, all thanks to Wangji! You should be grateful for that, and you should be grateful that he’s alive, and that’s all! Don’t you dare put this on A-Xian!” 

“Do you think I don't know that? I was the one who trained him! He proved to be an effective spy, he's the best at gathering information and even crucial evidence in physical and electronic surveillance. But he's always with his neck on the line, he doesn’t need distraction, and he doesn’t need you.” He pointed at Wei Wuxian, who was silently listening to them. 

“He’s right.” Wei Wuxian tried to rose on shaky legs, his eyes were dead and appeared a little moist. “It’s all my fault.” 

Lan XiChen was quick to place his hands on his shoulders and said. “A-Xian, don’t listen to him, a true friend will show you the true meaning of courage and loyalty, and Wangji would do anything to keep you safe, as much as you would for him.” 

“It doesn't change the fact that he almost died because of me.” 

“Don’t do this to yourself.” 

“Undercover agents were supposed to live right next to the edge, weren’t they?” Wei Wuxian shook his head and managed a weak, sad smile. “He's not safe around me.”

Lan XiChen felt heartsick, hearing Wei Wuxian repeat the same words his brother had told him three months ago. “A-Xian… That’s not tr-” 

“Can I have a moment with him before I leave?” He interrupted, turning empty eyes to him. 

“Of course.” Lan XiChen said sadly, pushing Lan Qiren away from him. 

As they both went outside the room, Wei Wuxian sat again beside the bed. 

He slowly smoothed and untied the red ribbon tying his hair in a ponytail. Soon, his long hair was undone, loosing easily around his shoulders. He held Lan Wangji's wrist gently and tied the ribbon around, like a small prayer for protection. 

“I hope you can forgive me one day.” His fingers gently toyed with Lan Wangji's, tracing them with his thumb. “You know Lan Zhan…” He lifted his hands to his face and traced the shape of it, trying to engrave him inside his memories. “If I had to choose, I would fall in love with you again, every single day.”

He smiled. 

Then continued. “I promise you, I'll become strong enough to protect you.” He pressed a kiss on his wrist and let out a trembling breath. 

He glanced toward the door and then at him again, and after a brief moment, that lasted for eternity, Wei Wuxian got up, placed a small last kiss between his eyebrows and said; 

“Goodbye.”


When Lan Wangji woke up from his coma and was discharged from the hospital, the first thing he did was to look for Wei Wuxian. He pressed the bell next door and hesitated when Jiang Yanli opened the door. 

“Wangji! How was your trip, just got back?” She smiled affectionately at him. 

“Mn, was fine.” He said lightly. “Shijie, I'm looking for Wei Ying, is he here?” 

“Oh, didn't he tell you?” 

“What?” 

“He went to Yiling, he dropped out of university.” 

His thoughtful eyes widened. “Why?” 

“He didn't tell anyone, just decided to go in the last minute.”

“I see…”

“Ah, he left this for you.” She said handing him a small sealed envelope. 

“Thank you.” His hands shook as he stuffed the envelope inside his pocket. 

“You're welcome Wangji!” 

Lan Wangji returned to his room and opened the envelope slowly, inside was a small letter. 

He licked his dry lips as he read over the messy handwriting. 

My dear Lan Zhan,  

How are you? XiChen-ge told me you’re better, that you’re eating well and are no longer feeling pain. It relieves me.  

My hands are a little shaky as I write this, so I’m sorry for the awful handwriting. Hahahahaha- you know me, everything I do I do badly.

Well, I never expected to leave like this, but I guess life just changes us in unexpected ways, huh?

I want you to know that I'll never forget the time we shared. And I'll really miss the time when we could simply climb the tree and hold onto each other, like we were free.

When I look back to the years, I feel like I should have enjoyed the time I had by your side, more than I've ever did.

I miss you already, and I think I’ll miss you forever.

All I ask is for you to take care of yourself, the same way you would care for anyone else. Just, be safe, for me, okay?

Thank you, Lan Zhan, for everything you did to me, I will never be grateful enough.

And I'm also sorry, for everything I did to you. You’re such a good person, Lan Zhan, you don’t deserve this pain.

You're the only person I'll hold in my heart, I will never forget you. And one day, I hope to be strong enough, but until then, please, don't look for me.

 

Your friend, Wei Ying.

 

Lan Wangji finished reading with tears in his eyes, holding tight to the ribbon which the familiar scent was already fading.

What was he supposed to do now?

 

What am I going to do without you?