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Loyalty and Betrayal

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It was late at night and he was running. 

His time was running out and he knew it, every lost second was a life and death threatening. He wasn’t a religious man, but now he was praying, simply and desperately.

People began crowding into the streets. Strangers passed by him as ghosts who drifted through the night like shadows, blocking his passage. The annoying glow of the neon streetlights illuminated the dark buildings around him. It was so goddamn cold... 

Wei Wuxian was half blind with fear and a stupid headache was starting to build behind his temple. His heart began to thud against his ribs. Cold sweat was running down his neck and the pain in his chest was simply brutal, yet, he kept running, despite of it.

He shouted something. He couldn't really understand what he was saying, blood was rushing in his eyes, a shrill noise in his ear, and his heart was beating too loud to abide. The only thing in his mind was the little child in yellow clothes, being carried through a disorganized horde of people in front of him. 

He ran as fast as he could. Adrenaline was the only thing guiding him. Desperate steps, sharp breath, burning lungs, everything was a mess. This could be his last chance, so he kept going, falling, scrambling up and running again. Slamming into random people and shouting incomprehensible words at them, focusing only on the two bodies ahead him.

The man holding the child entered a nightclub in an attempt to mislead him. His gun was in his hand when he hit the door with his shoulder, badge hanging on his wrist. 

He quickly made his way through the mess and smoke. People fell around him, heaping in fear of the weapon in his hand. Bottles were smashed on the floor, tables were turning, and suddenly, the ground turned into a sea of shattered glass and cheap liquor.

Blood spurted from his nose and he almost choked on his own blood. He could smell the metallic scent of it, dripping from the wound in his chest. The man in front of him, who fell into a dead-end, with nowhere to run, was cornered between the tables and the club counter. 

He raised a small hunting knife to the boy's throat, the same knife he used to stab him a few minutes earlier.

He heard the child shout his name and time seemed to stop. Too terrified to move, he stopped, his fingers brushing the warm metal of the gun. He could see the fear on the boy’s face, his small almond-shaped eyes glinting with tears. In a desperate move, he pointed the gun, pressing the trigger until he heard the...

Click.


 

He snapped his eyes open. 

There were no sleepy mists in them now. They were pure and hard serendibite. The bedroom was completely dark, an annoying noise was pounding inside his ears. 

He quickly sat on the bed, a thin bead of sweat dripped down his neck. The scenes still seemed to be going on slow-motion inside his head. He was shuddering, clammy with wet hair stuck to his face and tears in his eyes. 

Nightmares surely were always more frightening in the dark.

He slowly got up and went to the bathroom. When he switched on the lamp, light overshadowed his eyes causing the pain in his head to throb strongly. He looked at his own face in the mirror with disgust. Dark circles were evident around grey eyes, his gaping mouth and white deep cheeks made him look older than his 26 years.

He chuckled. He looked like a wild cat who just got run over by a taxi.

Well, he’d killed the man. But, what choice he had?

“There was nothing I could do!” He exploded, hitting his knuckles in the mirror, blood printed in the shattered glass before him. “Nothing I could do to stop any of it...”

The images flooded back into his brain. All the blood, the smell of putrid death mixed with the scent of liquor. The horror evident in the child's eyes. There would be pain, physical and emotional. Such an innocent life... permanently traumatized.

“Fuck...” He felt like he was on the end of the line.

He still had nightmares, flashbacks of that night, and he couldn't simply avoid them.

He turned to the sink, washing the blood on his knuckles and throwing cold ice water on his face, in attempt to erase those sick memories. 

Only after a lot of time, absorbed in his own dark thoughts, did he realize that his phone was ringing.

He stared at the screen, wide-eyed.

“FUCK!”

9 Missed Calls from Jiang Cheng.

“Fucking hell, I’m fucking fucked!”

He stripped speedily, letting his clothes lay wherever they dropped, rushing to find clean pieces he could put on. As soon as he located his black leather boots, he tugged them on and shoved them in. He picked up his phone and returned the call. 

When the call connected he choked on the tooth brush in the middle of his teeth.

“Where the fuck are you, you piece of shit!?”

“If I told you that I am stuck on traffic, will you believe me?”

“Hell no!” Jiang Cheng shouted.

“I won't break any traffic laws just to get on time!” He pretended to be insulted.

“I've heard you gagging on the tooth brush, you shithead.”

“Okay, you've caught me, spare my life, I'm your little brother!”

“And I’m still your fucking boss! Bring your goddamn ass right here, right now!

“I’m on my way, I’ll bring you coffee, love you!”

“Wei Wu-xi-an!”

Laughing, he hung up on Jiang Cheng’s face while jumping down the stairs of his building.

He stopped at the coffee shop next to his apartment and ordered two coffees; one black and pure, and the other; a vanilla latte with caramel and cinnamon, both extra-large. The fastest way to an officer's heart, is strong and quality coffee.


 

Half an hour later he was standing in front of the Police Department, two cups of coffee in his hands and a grin on his mouth.

The minute he stepped off the elevator, he saw the commotion. There was too many people in the hallway and a hysterical Jiang Cheng shouting loud to a dozen of officers, while three prisoners were pressed with their faces on the floor, struggling wildly to get out.

“I assume we have a nice little mess on our hands?” Half laughing, half talking, he asked nonchalantly.

Suddenly, a finger pointed at his face and a pair of murderous eyes stared down at him.

“You-are-fucking-late! One-fucking-hour!” Jiang Cheng growled and grabbed the two coffees from his hand. 

He walked to his office’s door and stood, slowly turning his face to glare at Wei Wuxian’s face one last time. “Take fucking care of this!” and then, he slammed the door on everyone’s face.

"Hey! The black coffee is mine!" Wei Wuxian shouted.

"Shut up!" he heard the muffled voice replying through the closed door.

Still smiling, he turned slowly. Deadly calm, with his lips curved broadly. 

But there was no smile in his eyes, just cold and dreadful entertainment. The room that was noisy a minute ago, was now extremely silent. Scanning the corridor, his gaze dropped to the three prisoners on the floor. He disinterestedly crouched in front of them, all the glances in the room fixed and intent on him. When he finally spoke, his voice was low and raw.

“You guys know that we have security cameras in the lobby, right?” he smirked at them, their faces dropping pale. “So, I'll get the record of each one of you, and I'll include riot, attempted assault on officers on duty and since you already have passage for contact with black market sources on illegal drugs transfer, I'll make sure myself that neither of you will ever leave the jail.”

The three looked at each other and remained silent, like three docile cubs.

“You can take them now.” He stated. The officers who were holding them, lifted the three men and led them toward the cells.

The main floor was quiet now, and he was absently thinking about the report he would have to do, now that he was involved in the commotion. He hated paperwork. He preferred the problem. Causing trouble for other cops was always more fun than having to deal with them.

Grinning, he dreamily thought of his coffee, and how it would look good with a spicy sandwich stuffed in his stomach.

“You know you have no jurisdiction in the Illegal Drugs department, right?” a sweet gentle voice sounded behind him.

"Well, I know, but they don't." He laughed happily, turning to find his best friend standing behind him. “So, what are you doing here in the homicide division, Wen Ning?” He slid an arm around his shoulders.

“Just passing by.” Wen Ning replied gently.

“And how are you? Adjusting well in the toxicology division?”

“Yes! A lot, actually, I loved the lab, it's huge and the staff is very kind and funny.”

“Glad to hear, not missing the morgue?”

“No way! I can’t stand looking at those corpses anymore” He sighed in relief. “But I miss working with my sister.”

“I’m pretty sure she misses you too.”

“Well, I have my doubts.” He let out a small chuckle. “Oh, I have to get going now, Sir.”

“Why are you calling me Sir?”

“You're still my Senior, Lieutenant, Sir.”

“Well, theoretically yes, but you're still my best friend, so there's no need for so many formalities.”

“Okay then.” Wen Ning smiled a little, an soft blush flared up on his cheeks as he shoved his shaking hands into his pocket. “Hmm, dinner is up at our house this weekend?”

“I'll be there, you and Wen Qing better prepare something spicy or I'll get mad!"

“We will!” He prompted, walking back to the labs facilities. “See you later.”

“Seeya!”

Seeing Wen Ning walking down the hall, Wei Wuxian stared at the commander's closed door.

Breathing deeply, he slowly opened the door. Jiang Cheng was on the phone, frowning, as usual. He waved his hand, shook his head, then signaled for him to come in and sit down.

Wei Wuxian, not paying attention to the conversation his brother was having on the phone, picked up his black coffee that was still untouched and sipped.
He groaned as he felt the bitter, strong taste of pure coffee trickling down his throat, burning through his mouth. It was fucking good.

Jiang Cheng turned a small cardboard box toward him and his eyes widened when he realized that several different donuts were in the box, some of them were Lava Donuts, those were his favorite, filled with dark chocolate and tabañero hot sauce. 

He smiled and murmured silently “I fucking love you.” which Jiang Cheng answered by raising a middle finger towards him. He chuckled a little and nibbled half a donut in one bite.

Revived with coffee and the fiery pastry flaming his sweet tooth, he felt thrilled with the sugar running in his veins.

Feeling the silent void of Jiang Cheng’s voice over the phone, Wei Wuxian turned back. His brother, who had wiped off the grin and assumed a blank, professional expression, stared past him and seemed lost, watching something only he could see.

Jiang Cheng hung up the phone and sighed heavily.

“We have a problem.” He narrowed his eyes, straining to hold his own snapping temper in check.

"New case?" Wei Wuxian shoved the coffee aside.

Jiang Cheng picked up from one of his drawers a file, and this was a file of which he was well aware of.

“Double murder, kidnapping attempted and a missing child. The crime scene has just been discovered, I just got the call.”

Wei Wuxian swallowed, his throat was tight and his stomach uneasy.

“Who's the officer in charge of the scene?”

“Well, I was going to tell you right now, before I got the call so unexpectedly.” Jiang Cheng rolled his eyes. “You’ll have an intern starting today, he’s under your supervision, and he was the first to attend the signal.”

“What the fuck?! You know very well that I work alone!”

“Not anymore! The kid is an exact fucking copy of you, I really had no one to train him better than you, so shut the fuck up and accept it.”

“Okay, okay, I'll try for the greater good.” He rolled his eyes. “But I don’t ensure that I won’t traumatize the brat and he will come back crying, asking for transfer.”

“Well, if it gets to that point, I'll put him with another officer, some senior detective, or whatever.” Jiang Cheng pressed his palm against his forehead. “Poor kid.”

“Now, tell me about that case.”

“Well, by the case descriptions, maybe, just maybe, it can be related to Jin Ling's kidnapping two months ago.” He pulled out a copy of a report from under a pile of papers. “Apparently, the couple was found in the same way Jin Ling's nanny was when they found her body, and the modus operandi is quite the same, so I'm designating you for this case.”

Absently, Wei Wuxian pressed his fingers to the glass in the table, felling the chill under his fingertips.

"You and I have a personal tie to this case, so I'm warning you to keep your sanity and your professionalism, save your personal ethics. This is reality. If you can't handle the burden, I'll have to put you away from the case." His eyes remained level, cool. "Am I clear?"

“Don’t worry about it, I can do it.” Wei Wuxian said, trying to reassure him.

“Wei Wuxian, you can’t forget that you have a target nailed to your back, and things will get worse, and more personal.”

“Just leave it to me Jiang Cheng, I can take care of myself.”

“I know, and that is why I'm choosing you, again.” Jiang Cheng gave him a mild smile. “Wei Wuxian, look at me. I really shouldn’t put you in this case, as I shouldn’t have put you in the previous one either. I have all the ethical reasons to take you miles away from this. You are too emotionally involved and it can affect your judgment, it can affect you in a lot of ways, but, as your boss and professional co-worker, not as your brother and not as Jin Ling’s uncle, in the same hand, you are the only person I trust to handle this. I know you are the only one able to close this case, actually, you’re the only one who is capable enough to do this.” He frowned and met his open stare equally.

“But, if it gets through you, if affects you, if you mess this up, you’ll have to step back, even more because of the sudden case and the evidences the team had picked up from the crime scene.” Jiang Cheng’s steel-gray eyes reflected something he’d never seen before, there was the slightest hint of fear hidden behind his lids that he couldn’t read. “I asked you because there’s no one I trust more. Here is the address, your trainee detective is already waiting for you at the crime scene, I think is better for you to see for yourself…”

When Wei Wuxian took the small paper and looked at the adress in his hand, he felt like throwing up. The fear, the panic, they were all the way back again, he felt so cold he feared his bones would shatter. His eyes were dry, but huge, his fear was growing while he read the words written on the paper.

“Oh Christ.” His voice skipped and shivered.

“Wei Ying, I’m here.” Jiang Cheng leaned forward and touched his hand. “If you think it's too much and you can't handle it...”

“I can! And I will.” He reached for a cigarette to keep himself sane.

It was worse, beyond any doubt, when the address of a new case was a known address, a place he knew and people he loved.

“If you don’t feel well, you can always talk to A-Li.”

“I’m okay, I got this.”

“Don't force yourself too much.”

He got up and walked to the door.

“Will you talk to them about what happened?” Wei Wuxian stopped and turned to him.

“I'm going down to the lab area soon after you leave, I'll talk to them about it.” The weakness was present in Jiang Cheng's eyes. “I'm going to give them a few days off, but I imagine they won’t accept it.”

“I know. Wen Qing will want to take the case, it's personal, and there's no one better than her to take care of it, anyway.” His breath was a harsh burn in his throat.

“Thank you for trusting me with this Jiang Cheng, I won't disappoint you.”

“I only expect the best from you, but please, take care of yourself, you got the whole mafia on your ass for killing Wen Xu that night, and I definitely don't want your stupid body dropping on my morgue, so please, be careful.”

“I will.”

He made it to the door before the trembling start again, closing it behind him.

The past could come back to haunt, he knew. Most often it remained in some ghostly corner waiting to strike.

Though his mouth sadly curved, the bitter smile didn't touched his eyes.

Death came for him again, and he had a duty, to the innocent and to the dead.

And he would avenge them.

Chapter Text

In the car, Wei Wuxian sat silent.

For a few short minutes he just stood there, looking at his own reflection through the rear-view mirror. He thought he was already used to it, but how can someone ever become used to death? Even more when... when...

No, stop thinking about it, focus. Wei Wuxian shook his head trying to brush those thoughts away, trying to push the memory to a dark corner in his mind.

He tapped his fingers restlessly on the wheel, he needed to stay calm, even more so in this situation. He mused, then breathed as he drove toward the exit of the Cop Central garage.

Along the way, he felt as if a knife pressed between his ribs, piercing his lungs and keeping him from breathing. He could feel the trepidation in his heart, his fingers trembled at the wheel, why was this happening again?

He felt the ice crawl into his stomach, he felt helpless, for himself and for the boy. A victim too young to even understand what grief was.

What was he going to do with the kid? What was he going to say to him when he became old enough to understand that his parents had been murdered? He bit his bottom lip. It would be hard...

His mind turned to old memories. He thought of him and the afternoons they spent together watching cartoons on TV. He thought about himself and how he should have taken him to the park more often to play. And he thought of the weekend dinner that would never come...

Wei Wuxian was teaching him to draw and Wen Ning was teaching him to write. He was only 5 years old, but he already had an exceptional vocabulary, and a vast knowledge about the world and the people around him. He could talk about everything and anything; about his favorite story, or the way he loved chemistry because it was his uncle's favorite subject, or even how amused he was to start his first year of elementary school.

The boy was a little genius, and Wei Wuxian had never been so proud of him. 

“Please God, keep him safe... let me find him alive.” He said to himself, his voice trembled, and thickened. His mind had gone dead, as if some electrical current had been shut off. He couldn't feel his hands on the wheel, he couldn't feel his heart.

He showed his badge at the entrance of the condo complex. One look at Wei Wuxian's badge had a shadow moving into the security's eyes. Everyone knew his reputation and how good he was, he was simply the best in everything he does. He had a record of closed cases. The cases were many, it was abnormal, and he was only 26 years old. He was a prodigy that ended going up in the police hierarchy very fast.  His co-workers even dubbed him, as “The hero", or "The Police pride.”

However, that same reputation made him seem scary to outward looks. People dreaded him, they were afraid of him, and he didn't really understand why. Some would bow their heads in respect whenever he passed by, but there were also those who would invent lies about him, in an attempt to tarnish his image.

Well, he couldn't care less about it.

When the security guards released him, he headed for the address. He drove slowly down the street, debating with himself on what he should or shouldn't do, while he studied the block, the sidewalk and the neighboring buildings on the way.

When he spotted the house, he slowed down, then parked at the front gate. In the front door he saw the young man. He should be only a few years younger than he, probably around twenty or twenty two years at most.

He had long black hair, tied on a messy bun, an innocent and childish face, and was dressed in a black leather jacket with a Red/Charcoal Reglan underneath, matching with black skinny jeans and black boots.

The only difference between them was that, Wei Wuxian had his hair tied in a ponytail, and he was wearing a red oversized v-neck under his leather jacket. 

In comparison to him, he felt scruffy, and unkempt. But yeah, it was like looking in a mirror. 

Scary. He shuddered.

He climbed out of the car taking his field kit with him. He calmly stretched, then crossed the sidewalk, walking across the green grass of the front yard. 

When their eyes met, the young man's face glowed with such obvious adoration and happiness, and although Wei Wuxian maintained his calm semblance, he studied him carefully.

“You're Lieutenant Wei! Nice to meet you!" He gripped both of Wei Wuxian's hands in his. "I'd have known you anywhere!”

His hands were warm and he smiled down at him, sweetly, kindly and lovingly... for a moment Wei Wuxian froze a little, he glanced down at the small hands inside his own and smiled back.

“You must be Mo XuanYu? The new trainee?”

“Yes, sir! It’s me, I’m so glad to finally meet you.” Mo Xuanyu's hands were shaking so much he could barely speak.

“Oh my God, don't smile like that, you're gonna give me a heart attack!” Wei Wuxian stated with one hand holding his own shirt, where his heart supposed to be. 

“Sorry sir, oh my, I think you should sit down, are you feeling okay?” he brushed a hand over Wei Wuxian's back, clearly worried.

Wei Wuxian sudden slapped a hand over his lips as if to hold back the laughter crisis that ended on a muffled sob. So fucking cute!

“Calm down, I'm just joking. I do this a lot, get used to it, kid.” He finally laughed. “So, nice to meet you too, I think we're partners now.”

Mo XuanYu rubbed his hands over his eyes and simply sighed in pure glee. “Really?”

“Really." He put both hands on her hips and smiled. "You'll see a lot of interesting stuff, learn a lot of interesting things, and the best of it, you're stuck with me more than the rest.”

“OH.MY.GOD! Thank you Sir! It's an honor to work with you Sir, Jeezz, I'm so happy, and excited, and wow.” He shouted and shivered, then closed his eyes for a moment, forcing himself to settling down again. “Sorry sir, the outbreak has passed, I will act professionally now.”

Wei Wuxian laughed, a loud rumble, then shook his head. “Right, I’m excited too." He paused in the doorway, tossed his head and stared at him. "So, you were the first to answer the call, right? You were the first one to arrive?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Tell me about the case.”

“I followed the procedure; preserved crime scene, notified the headquarters and the crime-scene team is already working." He glanced up and smiled at him, sweet and uncomplicated."The main scene is uncorrupted.”

Wei Wuxian walked into the house. The place was full of cops and crime-scene techs, of noise and equipment. Everything around was a mess.

“Keep going.” He pressed his fingers to his eyes and forced himself to think. "Describe it."

“Two Victims, the bodies were discovered approximately at seven-thirty A.M." Mo Xuanyu said obediently. "I responded to an anonymous nine-one-one call. I live in this complex, so I was the closest officer.”

Waiting quietly, Wei Wuxian kept listening.

“35-year-old white male, name: Wen Hai Qiu – Chemistry teacher, worked at the local university." He paused, checking his mental notes. "31-year-old white female, name: Wen Mei Yu – Neuroscientist, worked at Koi Tower; laboratory of scientific study and biological development. And, 3-year-old child, name: Wen Yuan, status: missing. High probability of kidnapping.”

“What's the situation? Tell me about the evidences, the story, and the scene”

“Both victims are on the main bedroom, the bodies are almost naked, bloodied, and there's indications of tortured. The man had his face disfigured, there are signs of burns on both bodies, apparently made by an hot iron branding, with a sun mark." He glanced back, scraping his chin. "The woman’s chest was crushed, her ribcage broke and pierced several organs, including the heart, causing internal bleeding.”

Wei Wuxian felt silent, swallowing slowly. His eyes suddenly burned in anger, resentment, confusion and misery. He could feel it all.

Mo XuanYu seemed to notice his discomfort and held his words. Wei Wuxian's face was dead white to the lips, his eyes blazing.

"Lieutenant." Mo XuanYu stepped forward and laid a hand on his shoulder, lightly. “Please Sir, don't get pissed of, but, are you feeling okay? It's just... you're looking a little pale and shaken.”

Wei Wuxian looked sorely into Mo XuanYu's dark, earnest eyes.

“I know you knew them… Anyone would be understandably distressed in such situation.”

“I'm fine, I'm fine." He said shortly. "Don't worry about it, we have work to do.”

“Are you sure?”

“Absolutely.” He said, the smile back on his face.

Mo Xuanyu smiled faintly as Wei Wuxian moved over to the living room, ready to harass the forensic team that were working on the crime scene. 

However, before entering the room, Wei Wuxian quickly turned and gave him one of his best smiles, and left Mo XuanYu grinning after him.


 

The bodies rested in sunlight. A soft yellow shade mixing in gentle white bathed the couple. They were laid out in the main bedroom bed, a long black cloth covered them, in a way that only their toes were poking out.

From the moment he entered that room, Wei Wuxian was a professional again. There was no room for ties and sentimentalism.

His eyes were clear and direct and his voice remained flat, cool, and dead calm.

“I want the phone records from the last three months, and I want to review the security discs.”

Wei Wuxian gestured to his team as he yanked out his communicator. The criminal team nodded and dispersed, leaving the two of them alone in the room.

“Officer Nie, good morning, case: HC-019-25-556790. I want you to put this case in red code, all tests: pathology, ballistics, DNA analyses, electronic expertise, laboratory tests, toxicology, corpus delict, autopsy, and everything, are priority, understood?" 

As Wei Wuxian kept listing and describing what had been seen there, Mo Xuanyu was observing him with fascination.

"Exactly. Thank you, Lieutenant Wei Wuxian, department code: 11751, Over and out.” 

After endind the call, Wei Wuxian stood, coating his hands with disposable gloves, and studied the position of the bodies. Mo XuanYu decided it was best to say nothing, so he waited for him to speak, studying his movements closely.

The first thing he saw when he removed the cloth was the burnt flesh, all over the bodies. The room smelled strongly of blood, burnt skin, and fresh death.

“How you’re doing, kid?” Wei Wuxian asked, glancing over his shoulder to look at him.

“I’m fine.” He swallowed hard, trying to hide his discomfort.

“It’s your first time in a real crime scene?”

“Yes, sir.”

“And what do you think about this?” He offered him his easy smile again.

Wei Wuxian was talking to him animatedly, Mo XuanYu realized. Trying to distract him from the horror in front of them.

Part of his family was dead in front of him, yet, he was still smiling, taking care of his new partner imperceptibly.

“Yes, it is, actually." His dark eyes ran briefly through all the blood displayed in front of him, and he looked away. "My first time in a crime scene which actually involves death... though they're often made to look incredibly entertaining on television and in movies, they are absolutely horrible in real life.”

Wei Wuxian stopped and slowly turned his body to face his partner.  “And how's it going?”

“Mostly… okay? I think, I’ve… never seen these kinds of wounds before, outside of training videos, it's very... explicit." A shiver of unease rippled down his spine. "I’ll probably see their faces when I close my eyes when I try to go to sleep, for a week or so.”

“It's more than normal." Wei Wuxian said meekly. "Some of these images will certainly sticks with you for the rest of your life, some of them will hunt you, some of them will give you nightmares, and some of them will simply break you... you're absolutely sure you're ready for this, kid?”

“I am, Sir!” Mo Xuanyu replied without missing a beat.

“Good. Where did you work before?”

“Before, I was working in the special victims unit, sir.”

“No need to call me like that, call me by my name.”

“Oh… okay, Sir.”

Wei Wuxian smiled and turned his attention to the bodies again.

“Why did you decide to leave?”

“I don’t know if you read my record by now, but, it just wasn't working anymore..." Mo Xuanyu's breath caught in his throat. "Rape cases, child abuse victims, domestic violence situations... everything was a constant trigger, I was losing focus on solving the cases and I was becoming emotionally attached. It was too much.”

“Oh… I’m sorry…” Wei Wuxian's mouth curved sadly.

“Oh, don't be, it's okay.” He smiled.

Wei Wuxian drew in a breath, leaned back again, very nearly smiled. "Well, they really look pretty dead." He offered a sick smile trying to lighten the mood.

“Cheer up, Xuanyu. We'll close this case.”

“H-how… uh, never mind.”

“I know what you're thinking.”

“What?”

“Life can always be worse. And when you're so close to the end, seeing families fall apart due to a death, it just makes you treasure the people you love, more." He threw him a quick, wary look. "Tha's why I need to smile. I need to be positive, for them, and for me, I need to honor their memories.”

They shared a brief, silent stare, and Mo XuanYu understood.

“You brought the recorder?”

“Yes.”

“Start recording.”

Mo XuanYu began to record the scene and Wei Wuxian repeated all the previous information to the camera.

Blood, brains, and teeth covered the entire room and ceiling. The blast created a huge hole in the back of the man's head.

“First victim, 35-year-old man, has skin burns, deep cuts on his torso, a shot in the shoulder and three on the head."

Wei Wuxian took one step closer, then continued, "So, after torturing him enough, the killer shot him once in his shoulder, then put the gun right against his head. By the mess, I would vote for a colt M19. And then, shot him again, three times, probably to make her speak. She was right beside him, watching everything, hm..." He put a finger under his chin and studied her face. "She was the one holding the information... interesting.”

He pursed his lips and narrowed his eyes. 

“Second victim, 31-year-old woman, presents the same burning marks of the husband, deep cuts on both arms, and her chest was crushed. The heart probably burst inside her ribs causing the internal bleeding and consequently her death.” Wei Wuxian muttered, watching critically.

“The killer must be trained, and highly skilled. There’s not enough evidence, no DNA beyond the victims. There's evidence of struggle, duress and defensive wounds, but there’s no skin under nails, no hair strands or clothing fiber. They used solvent to clean some of the blood traces, and nothing was stolen or taken away.”

“Interesting. So It's a professional killer?”

Wei Wuxian looked at Wen Mei with sadness, all that pretty white skin covered with burns, cuts and bruises.

“Not one, two.”

“How do you know?”

“They are famous and have a reputation.”

“Hitmen?”

“Oh, I like you, pretty boy. You're smart, I like that.” In observation, Wei Wuxian grinned like a madman.

"Is that a compliment?" He smiled from ear to ear.

“Of course it is!” Wei Wuxian inched just a little closer to Mo XuanYu. “So, this isn’t just another torture chamber, what’s the message here?”

“All the furniture is in place, there are no signs of fighting even when the fight is clear by the marks on the bodies and the house was warily cleaned. Clearly a professional service.”

“Anything else?”

“Probably they wanted answers, and when the victims refused to say anything, they simply finished the service.”

“Why would they kill the victims if they needed answers?”

“Perhaps, because they didn’t need any information at all, so they use this to cover up something else, erase a problem or get rid of a loose end without attracting attention.”

“Jeeez, you're so smart! I'm kind of liking this. Any suspects?”

“No one specific, but I would vote for a mafia commissioned service.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know, instinct? Just makes sense in my head.”

“Good enough.” He paused a few feet away from the closed door.

“Do you have any suspects, sir?”

Wei Wuxian looked at him then replied, a hint of amusement on his face. “Oh yes, yes I have.” Then his face turned serious.

“The Core-melting hand and Shishi Gashiro.” Was a statement.

“Oh, I already read about them, in some headlines in the local newspaper.”

“The Core-melting hand and his partner, Shishi Gashiro, are the main assassins of the Wen Mafia." Wei Wuxian circled the bed and adjusted his position to face them. "They say she's the lover of the Don's son, Wen Chao, but no one has ever seen them, no one knows how they look like, their real names, anything. The only thing we have is the modus operandi; while he just ends the service with his final blow, she’s the violent one, probably all those cuts, burns and shots, were made by her.”

“Shishi Gashiro." Mo Xuanyu tapped his finger over his chin. "She always leaves a flower in the house, a Camellia, that's why the name, right? Shishi Gashiro is a type of camellia, they say she always uses one in her hair. She tortures the victims with a hot iron with the mark of a sun... how the hell I didn’t thought about that before?”

“That’s right! And the Core-melting hand developed a technique that is capable of burst the victims' hearts with a single hit to the chest, after the victims had their heart burst out, they have anywhere from 30 seconds to a couple of minutes to contemplate what had happened to them before they finally lost consciousness.”

“Oh, that’s why her chest is crushed.” Mo Xuanyu blinked once and then nodded.

“Yeah, and I'm sure the team will find the flower by the house.”

Jaw dropping, Mo XuanYu stared. “This fits perfectly!”

"Yup."

Still scanning the surrounding, Wei Wuxian looked over his shoulder and his mouth twitched, very slightly.

“Wait a minute...” His eyes fluttered, widened as he shot a hand out to grip Mo XuanYu’s arm. “Her wedding ring, is on the wrong finger.”

“What about?” Mo Xuanyu looked confused.

“She was too smart to make such a stupid mistake, she knew I would notice that, she's trying to tell us something.”

Mo Xuanyu realized there was a glint of hope in his eyes. Wei Wuxian took her hand, slightly lifting the limp member, and slowly took out the ring. He tilted his head let out a gasp in amazement.

Mo Xuanyu sat back on his heels, carefully examining the mark in the woman's hand. It was just an ordinary mark, of when a ring stays too long in contact with the skin.

“I don’t see any- ”

“It's not on the finger, it's on the ring.” Wei Wuxian said getting up quickly and throwing the ring towards Mo Xuanyu, who picked it up in the air.

He examined the ring in his hands and realized that there was something engraved inside the jewel.

“What the hell does that even mean?” He ran after Wei Wuxian.

“Morse code, dot-and-dash code, whatever you wanna call it.”

There was a short message inside the ring: -… .- … . -- . -. –

“Is written: b-a-s-e-m-e-n-t.”

“BASEMENT!”

"Something like that. Let's go.” Wary suspicion narrowed his eyes, but he kept walking away, toward the door.

They went down to the basement where the message indicated. But when they got there, it was just a normal basement. There were a lot of cushions, paintings, furniture and toys, a fuzzy white bunny was curled over one of the tables.

Everything was fancy and exorbitantly expensive, and everything seemed in place, besides the huge white rabbit.

“It must have something that I'm not seeing, I'm almost sure that the rabbit is a clue, but I can't make myself think why and how.” He turned to one of the criminalistics officers, who had come down to warn him that he had found a pink flower with yellow center under the child's bed. “Thank you for informing me, you can put the bodies in the body bags and take them to the autopsy.”

“Yes sir.” The officer replied and left.

“Xuanyu, start moving everything, we're not leaving until we find something.”


 

 

After an hour rummaging through furniture and boxes, behind a couch that lay behind the table were the rabbit was, they found a small hole in the wall. Wei Wuxian tried to stick his finger inside the hole several times, but it was too shallow.

“Goddamn it!” Wei Wuxian wanted to pull at his own hair, he should probably take something for the goddamn stupid headache pounding inside his skull.

“Sir, try putting the ring inside the hole.” Mo XuanYu pointed out.

“What?!”

“The ring, try to put it in the hole.”

“Oh.” Wei Wuxian fished the ring inside his pocket and carefully wedged it into the small hole.

The wall made a small click, and a panel opened in the wall, into a private elevator.

“The house has three floors excluding the basement, this should take us somewhere on the upper floors.” Mo XuanYu said thoughtful.

“Who would thought the house had a mechanism concealed in the wall? Brilliant.”

They got into the elevator, but there was no control panel, no button or screen, let alone any interaction engine.

“Shit, not again. Are you seeing any holes in the elevator?” Wei Wuxian asked.

“No, I’m not.”

After a moment cooking his brain, Wei Wuxian gave up and started to kick randomly inside the elevator. When he heard the noise of something breaking inside the metal wall, he stopped abruptly. Then, out of nowhere, a panel opened on the wall, exposing a wide screen on the surface.

His grin widened unabashed when he turned to Mo Xuanyu, shaking him and then pounding a hand on the screen like a happy kitten.

“See?! This always works!” He proudly said, his chin lifted high.

The screen that appeared behind the panel looked like a scanner. They examined for a few moments and didn’t reach any conclusion, when Wei Wuxian was going to start cursing and kicking again, a face appeared on the screen.

A wide smile on a gorgeous round face. Light sparkling in dark-blue eyes, the soft white light from the lamps gleaming in his black hair, and his hands, such small hands, trying to hold the camera.

It must be a safe room, a room in the house that is invulnerable to attack or intrusion.

When the boy's lips curved more fully, Wei Wuxian’s heart squeezed inside his ribs, he couldn't remember when he stopped breathing, holding his breath inside his lungs. He felt his bones melting. Maybe that was luck, maybe it was fate, it doesn’t matter, he would be grateful for both.

 

“Xian-gege! Mama told me that you’d come for me.”

 

Chapter Text

 

“A-Yuan, pay attention to Xian-gege a little bit, okay?”

 

“Okay.” He angled his head.

 

“Where are you? How can I get to you? Can you tell me?”

 

“I'm in the castle!” he laughed sweetly, shaking the camera with his little hands. “Mama said I had to hide.”

 

That was smart, she knew the boy could stay there, undetected, until it was safe to go somewhere else, and she knew Wei Wuxian would be able to find him, she trusted him.

 

“Mama said there's dragons flying outside the kingdom, I am the king and they are my guardians, Xian-gege, did they won the fight? Did they kill the dragons?”

 

Their eyes locked through the camera, and the boy gave him a smile, a full one, a fierce one, full of pride and hope. His heart bounded, he felt it broke inside his chest, then he worked up a smile and nodded.

 

“Yes… they won.” Wei Wuxian answered with a smile.

 

Mo Xuanyu silently glanced up and noticed that his eyes, cool and dark, weren't just sad. They were pissed.

 

“Now, tell me, how did you got in?”

 

“Papa taught me.”

 

“Can you teach me too?”

 

“Yes!” The boy nodded. “You raise your hand like this, and then you put it like that, and the little robot inside the screen will tell you that you can enter the castle.”

 

He described exactly what Wei Wuxian had already assumed, but he was absolutely sure that neither his fingerprints nor his voice and palm print had been programmed onto the security system of the private elevator, after all, he had just discovered the safe room, he had no idea of its existence until that moment.

 

“Can you get out of there by yourself, A-Yuan?”

 

He shook his head.

 

“Papa told you how Xian-gege can get in?” Wei Wuxian asked and the boy denied again.

 

“Okay, we have a serious problem.” He gulped down then squinted out of slitted eyes. “I have none tech or electronic skills to open this shit.”

 

There was a palm plate, a cornea scanner, timed locks and a lot of buttons.

 

“Can't we just call the tech team? They must know how to make the elevator work.” Xuanyu asked.

 

“No, we can’t.”

 

“Why not?” he questioned.

 

“It's not safe. Listen, Mo Xuanyu, just listen.” Wei Wuxian gave him a long look, his voice remained smooth and slightly dangerous. “We can’t trust the police, not now. More people are involved in this case, and unfortunately, people from within, I can't take the risk, no one can know we found him.”

 

Mo Xuanyu remained silent. It was the least he could do.

 

He would take care of the boy's safety himself. He couldn’t trust in anyone else. Wei Wuxian thought.

 

“Just let me think, okay? Let me think.” He paused and lifted a hand to indicate he needed a moment.

 

He trailed into silence, and kept observing Wei Wuxian, who stuck his hands in his pockets as if he didn't know what else to do with them, looking to the panel and studying the controls, he leaned forward, thoughtfully, and sighed.

 

When he brought his hand up to the screen to tap the codes, the screen shifted and the image changed, giving its way to a sequence of information about how to unlock the door, A-Yuan disappeared from the screen automatically and he didn't know how to bring the boy's face on-screen again.

 

"Shit." 

 

Obviously, Wei Wuxian already knew that what he was going to do, wouldn't work, but he tried anyway, he carefully tapped the keys and typed A-Yuan's birthday date.

 

The panel lit up red and a recorded voice started to speak: Incorrect code, to unlock the room, is required a five digits combination including voice code and visual scanner. Incorrect sequence will automatically lock the room indefinitely. Once the room is locked, it will only open with the three official keys.

 

“Okay, this was stupid.” He said frowning. “Three keys? What are these keys?”

 

“I'd say the rings, but we only have two. Well, if we don't have a code, you could try scanning your palm, it probably won't work, but we have nothing to lose.” Xuanyu said tapping his chin with his finger.

 

Wei Wuxian sighed deeply, he needs to try something, it couldn’t cause any harm, right? Right?

 

While his Adam's apple bobbed up and down, he carefully pressed his palm on top of the scanner to activate it. A series of beeps had him lifting a brow.

 

Warning. No entry without authorization.

 

He looked down at the scanner he'd palmed in shock.

 

Warning. Authorization required, you have ten minutes to comply or the room will lock indefinitely.

 

Panic crawled in his belly, snaked up his throat. His hands were shaking, he'd once had disabled a bomb with seconds to spare, and had felt less panic than that.

 

Mo Xuanyu looked at him and saw in those pitch-dark eyes a greatest fear. Think, you're smart enough, he's smart enough, we'll reach a conclusion, think, think, think. He shook his head and started thinking about all the probabilities, now they had nine minutes, they would have to managed, through some miracle, a way to unlock the elevator.

 

Warning. Authorization required, you have eight minutes to comply or the room will lock indefinitely.

 

“Oh God.” Wei Wuxian rubbed the center of his forehead in a firm and desperate up-and-down motion, his own fears had dulled his senses and he couldn’t bring himself to think. “Okay, I’m panicking, and I don't like this.”

 

Xuanyu slowly tapped a calming hand on Wei Wuxian’s arm, his voice was soft when he started to speak, though his mind was screaming, without taking his eyes from him.

 

“Calm down sir, let's think, we need a five-digit code, do you remember any number related to you, which they could access?”

 

“Yes, and I can think of a million different combinations, that's the problem.”

 

Warning. Authorization required, you have five minutes to comply or the room will lock indefinitely.

 

“The next five minutes will be critical.” Wei Wuxian said dryly.

 

“Okay, okay, maybe the scanner doesn't require specifically a palm print, it could be anything, since you had no idea of the mechanism until now, it’s very unlikely that this is it. You used to come here regularly, didn't you? Maybe some object that you might have left at their sight?”

 

“That makes sense.” Wei Wuxian angled his head. “This certainly makes sense, five digits, object related to me, think, think...”

 

Warning. Authorization required, you have three minutes to comply or the room will lock indefinitely.

 

He closed his eyes again, rubbing at the headache behind his eyes, he was missing something. “Oh-my-God! I’m so fucking stupid! It was so obvious from the beginning.” He laughed, then laughed harder, like a madman. “My badge! I always left my badge along with my keys on the kitchen island.”

 

Warning. Authorization required, you have one minute to comply or the room will lock indefinitely.

 

“I hope this works, this is our last chance.”

 

Composed again, he approached the security panel and lifted his badge, flashing it to the scanner for verification. His badge ID was slowly scanned, then a discreet click of locks sounded inside the room. The screen went to a calm, cool blue, and Wei Wuxian exhaled gratefully in relief, this has to be a good sign, right?

 

Scanning authorized to proceed. Please insert the keycode.

 

Wei Wuxian typed the code number of his badge.

 

Keycode: 1-1-7-5-1

 

A few minutes passed before he saw the light blink on the screen, the access panel blinked green and the doors slid shut.

 

Permission granted. Welcome, Officer Wei Wuxian, how may I assist you?

 

"Thanks God!" He laughed wrapping his arms around Mo Xuanyu in a fierce hug, and he hugged back, laughing, obviously delighted with Wei Wuxian’s cheerful spirit.

 

“Well, I suppose things will be just fi-” Xuanyu started to speak when Wei Wuxian sudden spun him around, pressing him to the wall, his breath was short and his eyes stayed on his, narrowed and cold.

 

Mo Xuanyu didn't fight for control, he just stood still, facing his eyes silently.

 

“Be cautious, Xuanyu, you're dipping your toe in dangerous waters. If you lie, I'll know."

 

"I don't lie, sir."

 

“Can I trust you, officer? Are you afraid I won’t be able to stand the answer?”

 

If Wei Wuxian's eyes had been weapons, he’d be dead. Without taking his eyes off his, he answered.

 

“No. You can’t trust me.” He found himself mildly surprised by his own answer, but it was true. “You can’t trust anyone, sir, let alone someone you just met. What I need is to know you believe me. You don't have to trust me right away, you just have to believe I'll do the right thing.”

 

Wei Wuxian stared at him for a long time, his suspicious eyes continued to watch Mo Xuanyu carefully, then he slowly stepped back from him.

 

“Clever boy.” He smiled. “You have a kind heart, my instinct never fails me, I may be taking a lot of risks now, but I'm choosing to believe you.”

 

“Thank you… sir.” He muttered.

 

“For the Wen mob to get infiltrate in the Police Department, it's the easiest and most natural thing in the world. They have men everywhere, double agents, bought cops, bribed politicians and the department isn't an exception, there's men inside the house, both in low and high level positions, they always fills some pockets, and they are willing to do the dirty work.” He pursed his lips, and pressed the button to lead the elevator to the safe room. “And A-Yuan… To the Wens he’s just a target to be exterminated both by pride and principle.”

 

Mo Xuanyu just nodded, understanding.

 

“I just need to know that you'll tell no one, not even those you trust, where we're going, what we're doing and that we have him.”

 

“Yes sir. I’ll never betray you.”

 

“Good. So, I'm trusting you to handle these relatively minor details.”

 

“Do you… believe me…?”

 

“Do you think I’d be standing here with you if I didn’t?” He laughed, giving his shoulder a friendly squeeze.

 

 


 

 

The instant the elevator doors opened, he was streaking across the door, but then he saw the boy, he was distract playing with a toy car, running it lightly down his short small arms. He paused at the door and simply stood for a moment, looking at him, the kid was safe and he would never forget to be grateful for that moment.

 

When the boy looked at him, his eyes grew huge and bright, then he ran straight to his arms. Wei Wuxian caught him in the air, spinning him, tickling him, and the kid began to rock, giggled and to weep. He pulled the little boy close and planted noisy kisses on his head and cheeks. He laughed and hugged, watching the boy let out a wild squeal of joy.

 

“Xian-gege! I’ve missed you!”

 

“Ah, A-Yuan, I’ve missed you too.” He said and laughed. "A-Yuan, this is my friend, Mo Xuanyu, say hi to him."

 

He turned, smiling at him. “Hi, Mo Xuanyu, I’m Wen Yuan.” He said lifting his tiny little hand for him to grab.

 

“Hello Wen Yuan, nice to meet you!” he held his little hand smiling softly.

 

The room looked like a playroom. There were toys everywhere. In the corner, Wei Wuxian saw a single bed with some blankets and a pillow. In the other there was a small shelf with water bottles and canned food. Next to the door, Wei Wuxian found a huge bag, full of kids clothes and some chocolate bars.

 

Wei Wuxian tied the ends of one of the blankets and made an improvised bag, which he used to store all the toys that were on the floor.

 

“We need to get him out of here.”

 

“How we're gonna do this? The house is full of cops and techs.”

 

“He needs protective custody. I've already sent a message, someone I trust is coming to pick him up.”

 

Mo Xuanyu hesitated, then lifted his brows in question. “And how we’re gonna get him out of here without him being seen?”

 

“There is a single window in the basement, she'll wait for us in the back of the house.”

 

It was a small space, but it was big enough for the boy to cross.

 

“Let’s go.” he said, picking A-Yuan up in his arms. Mo Xuanyu picked up the bags and they strolled to the elevator.

 


 

 

Ten minutes later, Wei Wuxian saw a movement outside the glass, so he slowly opened the small window.

 

“Wei Ying.” The voice sounded irritated from outside the window.

 

“There you are!” he said.

 

“Shut up and give me the child.”

 

“So nice, so very nice to see you too.”

 

“Get him out already, damn it.” she said impatiently. “What if someone leaves the house and end up seeing us?”

 

Amethyst eyes gleamed with a hard, suspicious glare through the window, her dark hair was loose in waves that tumbled around her shoulders, down her back. She let out a sigh and kept her weapon down at her side, in alert mode, while looking at him both pissed and irritated.

 

“A-Yuan, look at me, this is a secret mission and you have to go with aunt Yu, okay? I’ll meet you later and we can go grab some ice cream, what do you think?”

 

“Okay, Xian-gege.” He nodded.

 

“Alright, be a good boy and go.”

 

She reached out for the child. Wei Wuxian didn't had to tell him to be quiet and to be quick, he just climbed out in her arms in silence. Christ, the kid was clever and smart, he mused.

 

She rapidly wrapped her arms around him, covering his face with her jacket. When Yu Ziyuan stood and ran to the black van across the street, quickly vanishing inside the vehicle, Jiang Fengmian crouched in front of the window to pick up the bags.

 

“Good job A-Xian.” He smiled.

 

“Thanks uncle, I couldn’t have done it without you, and my new partner here.” He returned the smile.

 

He snatched the bags, and pushed them through the window, and Jiang Fengmian quickly threw them over his shoulder.

 

“Uncle, please be careful not to be followed or tracked.”

 

“We will, we'll meet you in six hours in the combined place.”

 

Jiang Fengmian ran to the vehicle and they kept watching as the van quickly drove off.

 

“She really looked like she wanted to kick you in the balls.” Mo Xuanyu commented.

 

"She's the best, isn't she?" Wei Wuxian said simply laughing. "But you think I would give her a chance to bust my balls? I'm too awesome for that.” He said poking a finger on his chest.

 

“Is that a self-compliment?”

 

“Hell yeah! You'll see, that no one has harder balls than me, detective."

 

“I'm pretty sure she has.” Xuanyu said, laughing delightedly.

 

“Yup, I surely won't argue with that.” Wei Wuxian snorted, then threw back his head and laughed hard. “Let's go back to the cop central, we have work to do.”

 


 

 

By the time they'd arrived, all the team was already seated in one of the central's conference room, he shot across the room alongside Mo Xuanyu and they settled.

 

Wen Qing had apparently cried, her eyes were red and she was slightly pale. She sat quietly, clearly avoiding eye contact with the rest of the room. Wen Ning still had tears in his eyes, he was completely lost in his thoughts, continually sipping water as if the bout of tears had dehydrated him, his fingers trembled around the water bottle, and his solemn blue eyes, deep as pools, gleamed wet under the soft light.

 

“How are you both doing?” Wei Wuxian asked quietly.

 

“I can't really say.” Wen Qing answered, her eyes burned with sorrow and fatigue.

 

Wen Ning kept silent, then he slowly shook his head, blinking back fresh tears that swam into his eyes.

 

“I'm sorry for your lost...” His tone changed, softened. “If you guys need something, you know you can lean on each one of us, right?”

 

Wen Ning blinked, then took in a deep breath. "Thanks A-Xian..."

 

“So, let's talk uh? We know you need to interview us.” Wen Qing murmured.

 

“We don't have to talk about that right away, just when you feel ready and comfortable to.” Wei Wuxian lowered his head and bit his bottom lip, feeling a slightly uncomfortably with the situation.

 

“It's okay, let's just end this already, we need to do our jobs, this case will not solve by itself.” Wen Qing said, she had made her mind, no barrier of grief would stop her.

 

“It's fine A-Xian, you can take our statements.” Wen Ning said sweetly.

 

“Okay…” Wei Wuxian nodded, his breath was starting to hitch. “Where were you last night?”

 

Everyone on the room remained silent, Jiang Cheng sighed pouring two cups of coffee for them.

 

“We were home.” Wen Ning said.

 

“We have a security system in our apartment, here's the recorded disc from the security cam, it has all the time and data record from the last month, you can check it out.” She said pulling a sealed disc from her folder.

 

“What was the last time you saw the victims?”

 

“Last week, we've shared dinner in their house, you were there with us.” Wen Ning muttered setting the coffee aside.

 

“Were you aware of any involvement they might have with the Mafia?”

 

“We don't know, we never heard anything about it, otherwise...” She said quietly. “If we knew they were in trouble, maybe we could've... at least… protect them…” Her words sudden turned into silent tears.

 

“You couldn't have helped, we don't have enough power to deal with them, don't blame yourself.” It was a mutual regret, most on his part, and made him sigh sadly. “Please, don’t blame yourself…”

 

She listened and nodded.

 

“Can you tell me off the records, just as a personal info, what's your correlation with them?” Wei Wuxian said turning off the recorder.

 

“Yeah. Sure.” She clasped her hands together. “We’ve basically never knew our family has kept dealings with the Mafia, our parents were killed in a shootout when we were kids, Wen Ning was not even a year old and I was too young to understand those kind of things. Granny took us over to her house and raised us by herself. After some time, when I grew old, I noticed that Wen Ning and I were kept away from a certain side of the family. As a child I was unaware, but I somehow knew something was wrong subconsciously.”

 

“Cousin grew up with us in granny's house, when he was a kid the Wen's sent a group of burglars to broke into their house in the middle of the night, they tied everyone up and took everything that had value, Wen Ruohan accused his father of stealing money from him and, they were all murdered in a gruesome way, my cousin only survived because he was sleeping in a friend's house that night.” Wen Ning said dryly, and drank half of the coffee in one mouthful. “When we were in junior high school, granny always insisted in picking us up at the school gate, she never left us alone for a minute, her eyes were always sharp and steady, looking around, scanning all the way home, every day. We only find out when we met their kids in college, they were acquaintances of us, and we also had some projects and assignments in common.”

 

“We happened to see Wen Xu open a suitcase once, it was filled with various passports and ID cards with many different identities, and drugs, of course. He never saw us and we kept distance after that. He was selling fake ID's, stolen credit cards, drugs and stuff for the students, when we asked granny about it, she finally told us everything, she said they were ‘the most vicious, dangerous, and resourceful criminal brain’ in the whole country, drug trafficking, arms dealing, prostitution, murder, black market, stealing, corruption, fraudulent conduct, bribery - you name it, the Wens were involved. She emphasized that we shouldn't have any kind of connection with them under any circumstances and so we did.”

 

“After that we enrolled in the academy and become cops and we chose to walk the clean path. We thought that Hai Qiu was also keeping things the same way, even because he was terrified of them. Well, when you make ties with the mafia, things only ends in one of two ways: death or prison.”

 

“Let’s not jump to conclusions, I'm so sorry to make you talk about that.” Wei Wuxian said quietly. “Thanks for the help.”

 

“It’s fine.” She rose and walked to him. “Close this case Wei Wuxian.”

 

“I will.” He managed a small smile.

 

He had one job, and that was to close his case.

 


 

 

He let out a huge breath to relieve the pressure in his chest.

 

“I can see the black aura of stress emanating from you.” Jiang Cheng said in the moment they were left alone.

 

“What can I say? I live for pressure.” Wei Wuxian only grinned. “They need protection, we can't know for sure if they're a target too.”

 

“I separated a team to keep an eye on them, they will split into 12-hour shifts, they won't be alone and they will be safe, don't worry about it.”

 

“Good, that was a nice touch.” He said firmly. “A-Yuan is with uncle Jiang and Madam Yu, I’d appreciate it if you’d let me take care of him.”

 

“I don't see why not. There's no one better than you to keep him safe in this situation.”

 

“Thank you Jiang Cheng.”

 

“You don't have to thank me for this. Will you tell them about him?”

 

“Not for now, is not safe for them to know where he is, they could use them to track him.”

 

“Good thinking, what about your trainee? What was your impression of him?”

 

"Sharp, smart, solid and ambitious, I like him."

 

“Oh, this is new, I'm impressed.” Jiang Cheng laughed and shook his head.

 

Laughing, Wei Wuxian leaned back and picked up a cup of coffee.

 

“Jiang Cheng.” he stopped and looked at him.

 

“What?”

 

“I need your approval to contact... him, I want him working with me.” Wei Wuxian sat back and lit a cigarette. “I need him in this investigation officially, as an consultant, or whatever.”

 

“Are you kidding, right?”

 

“I’m pretty serious about this.”

 

“So am I.”

 

He tapped cigarette ashes into the ashtray on Jiang Cheng’s table. “I can't handle this on my own.”

 

“Can you please, stop looking for trouble? Eight years wasn't enough for you to forget him?”

 

“Can you please, do the job now, and be pissed later?”

 

“What a fuddy-duddy like him can even do in a murder case?”

 

“You wouldn’t understand.”

 

“So tell me.”

 

“I can’t.”

 

“You're just making excuses to see him.”

 

“I work for the dead, Jiang Cheng, this is the only important thing to me, not an old unreciprocated love.”

 

“You can't tell that, that thing, wasn't reciprocated if you never told him you loved him.” he countered his words.

 

“Oh shut up, there are blanks and dead ends, and it turned out he's the only one who can help me.”

 

“Okay, okay, you have my approval, go grab your man.”

 

With a laugh, he turned around and smiled. “Thank you, sir.” He said before he left through the door, Jiang Cheng was still grinning as he sipped from his mug, while watching the city light up through the night, from his office’s window.

 

"Oh man, this is gonna be trouble."

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Wei Wuxian went to his office and grabbed his jacket, some files, then strode out to Mo Xuanyu's table in the detectives area.

 

“Let’s go, Xuanyu.”

 

“To where?” He lifted a brow.

 

“I'll drive you home, you can take the night off.”

 

“Thank you sir, but there’s no need, don't bother, I can take the train.” He said quietly.

 

“I need to go somewhere downtown, I can drop you by your place and then head home myself after that, it isn’t a bother at all.”

 

“Okay, can you give me five?”

 

“Sure.” He smiled, then turned away to walk to the elevator. “I'll be waiting in the car.”

 

“Thank you, sir!” He said, arranging some documents on his table.

 

Wei Wuxian soon stepped out of the elevator into the department's garage. He silently slipped into his car, slowly stretched out his legs, letting out a long breath and... Panicking. His hands were shaking and he was unnecessarily anxious. He was scared, every fucking inch of him.

If anybody's going to fuck this up, it's going to be me, for sure.

 

“Shit.” He punched the wheel.

 

Five minutes passed and Mo Xuanyu quietly settled into the car.

 

“Your car smells of vanilla and cinnamon.”

 

“You can thank Jiang Cheng and his freaking sugar overdose coffee, for that.” He laughed and Mo Xuanyu accompanied him obviously delighted.

 

“So, where we're going?” Mo Xuanyu asked and decided to relax on the seat beside him.

 

“It's a place in city, along the coast.” He only sighed and rested his head in the seat. “One of those luxurious executive buildings.”

 

“Oh, the Lan Company?”

 

“Yup, this one.”

 

“Meeting someone?”

 

“Just an old friend who’s considerably skilled in some technology sort of thing, maybe he can help us with this case.”

 

“He must be cool.”

 

“Yeah, he is.”

 

The rest of the drive was silent. Wei Wuxian just drove, immersed in his own thoughts. The traffic was wild enough to keep his mind occupied, the night was falling and soft lights were ripping through the sky, the city was gleaming in shades of pink and blue, bathing the streets in soft purple. He loved the thrill of the wild traffic of the streets, he loved the sounds and the scents, the neon lights of the shops and cafes, there was something on the vehemence of the city that comforted him.

 

He listened to the voices and conversations carry up to his open window, as the sky went soft with the autumn twilight. He slowly breathed the soft moist air that came from the sea, he liked the calm cool breeze and the solitude. From the car he saw the waves unhurriedly breaking into the coast. It was fascinating. He relaxed into a smile.

For a moment, he felt like he belonged to the deep blue ocean.

 

To the moonlight, dreamy eyes and starry skies.

 

He quickly shook his head at the sudden memory. His heart began to pound, and he slapped a hand to his heart.

 

His mind was a constant turmoil, surrounded by endless memories, sweet distant memories, sometimes forgotten in a dark corner of his mind. Memories about one boy trying to teach the other to improve his sloppy handwriting. Memories about doodles in the margins of notes, full nights of study ending up on two boys sleeping in messy desks. Evenings listening to the rain under a magnolia tree and endless nights wrapped in a fluffy bunny blanket, sipping hot chocolate while watching horror movies.

It hurts his heart to hold onto all the memories he was trying to forget.

 

What would he tell him when they meet each other again? Would he be mad? Angry? Indifferent? Would he be... hurt?

 

Would he remember him?

 

“Sir, we just passed the building.” Xuanyu muttered, and Wei Wuxian showed his teeth in a grin.

 

“Sorry, I got carried away by the ocean view.” He simply said, sliding into a parking spot.

 

A shiver walked down his spine as he stopped the car. He drew a deep breath and opened the door.

 

“Will you stay in the car or you're going in with me?”

 

“I’ll go with you, I'll try to fish some snacks in the waiting room.”

 

“That’s my boy!” He laughed and twisted his head around to grin at him. “Let’s go.”

 

He flashed out of the car like the speed of light, but then he popped back in again, at the same speed.

 

“It’s everything okay, sir?” One dark brow lifted in question.

 

He lifted his rigid chin and nodded. “Fine, fine, I’m fine.”

 

Then he slammed the door shut again. He stared at himself in the rear-view mirror quietly, he recognized misery when it was staring him in the face.

 

“Take your time, sir.” Mo Xuanyu gently said, still smiling.

 

“Say something about this to anyone and I'm gonna rip off your ass.”

 

“Yes, sir!” He offered him a huge smile.

 

“Okay, I'm getting out of the car now.”

 

“No rush.”

 

“Shut up.” Wei Wuxian said and Mo Xuanyu laughed at that, amused and touched.

He opened the door again, slowly putting one leg out of the car, his heart in his throat, he sucked in a breath and slowly, really slowly, got out of the car.

 

“I did it!” He managed to smile, looking for ground and air support.

 

He felt his legs weak and his head a little dizzy, but he somehow, managed to get on Lan Wangji’s floor. He crossed the room toward the counter, then he stepped closer and gave the receptionist a flirtation look.

 

“I’m here to see Lan Wangji.” He beamed at her and winked flirtatiously.

 

“Do you have an appointment?” The receptionist beamed back.

 

“No, I don't, but I'm an old friend of his, I’m pretty sure he can make some time to see me.” He flirted again.

 

“I’m sorry, but it’s impossible without an appointment, I can look over the appointment books to see if I can fit you in.” She shifted to read on some documents, then smiled thinly. “I'm afraid we are fully booked for the next five months.”

 

“Holy shit, five months?!” He blinked in shock. “Come on, I know you can make some time in your schedule for me, please?”

 

“If you had called sooner, maybe it would be possible, we could have arranged an appointment at a more convenient time.”

 

“Can't you just squeeze me in, like, now?” He laid his badge on the table. “It’s urgent.”

 

“I’m afraid not, he already had to reschedule some meetings in order to take a business dinner later, it won’t be possible.”

 

She quickly glanced back as the phone began to ring. She picked up the phone and her face went pale almost immediately.

 

“I'm sorry, sir.” She straightened, paling even more. “Yes, sir. Thank you. It won't happened again.” She hung up the phone.

 

“I'm really sorry officer Wei Wuxian, please forgive me I'm new here, I didn't know you were on the priority list.”

 

“Wait what?!” Now the shock turned into confusion.

 

“He will see you right now, please follow me.”

 

His breath hissed in and out, then he followed her into the corridor. She opened the door. The door opened. He turned quickly, an arrow of shock piercing his heart when he saw him.

 

At first he was surprised to see him, a line of sweat dribbled down his neck, he was this beautiful the last time he saw him? He blinked, several times, then swallowed audibly.

 

Smooth skin, slim bones, strong muscles, the perfectly cut white suit over his tall, beautiful body, deep golden eyes, stone cold, deadly ice, deep and mysterious, looking at him. His hair was black and silky and longer than his own. His eyes fell on his mouth, it looks soft and sweet, he looked so... perfect, he thought.

 

“Wei Ying, how have you been?” He spoke with a soft, sweet, politeness that he always had reserved just for him.

 

“Well, It’s been a shitty day, but I’m fine.” He muttered. “You?”

 

He lifted his hand to hold his and Lan Wangji gave his hand a quick, intimate squeeze.

 

“Good.” He said shortly.

 

Keep cool about it, keep cool about it.

 

“Please, take a seat, shall I get you something to drink?”

 

“Yes, please.” He smiled shyly, sitting in front of his table.

 

Lan Wangji moved to a dark wood drink cabinet, selected a bottle of whiskey, and poured three fingers into a heavy crystal glass. Wei Wuxian was getting hot just looking at him. He felt the heat kindle between his thighs.

 

Keep it coot, keep it cool.

 

Lan Wangji offered him the glass of whiskey.

 

“Why do you have alcohol in here?” Suspicion covered Wei Wuxian’s face. “You're not the drinking kind.”

 

“My regular clients appreciate it, so I keep stored their usual drinks.”

 

“Oh, I see, makes sense.” He grinned at him.

 

He studied the color of the whiskey in the glass.

 

“This looks expensive.”

 

“It’s your favourite.”

 

“What? Emperor’s smile?”

 

“Mn.”

 

“Why do you have it?”

 

Lan Wangji said nothing, he just sat nattily and watched him drink. Looking in his eyes, studying him carefully.

 

Be careful, as careful as you can manage, this man is dangerous, he’s your weakness.

 

“What are you looking at? Missed me?” He said, obviously teasing him.

 

“Every day, for eight years.”

 

Wei Wuxian almost choked on his drink, his heart froze, his mind went helplessly, hopelessly blank.

 

“What?!”

 

Lan Wangji approached him, leaning over the table. The cool scent of sandalwood filled his lungs instantaneously, humming in his blood. His heart was tumbling in his chest and when their eyes met, the rhythm in his chest quickened alarmingly.

 

Lan Wangji kept his eyes level on his.

 

“Do you need me for anything, Wei Ying?”

 

“Y-yes.” He stuttered. “I need your help.”

 

“Talk.”

 

He licked his dry lips, pulled two sealed discs from his jacket then pushed them in his direction. Lan Wangji took both discs and started to read the extensive recorded files in his computer, while listening with polite interest to what he was saying.

 

“I have two bodies on my morgue and I ran out of leads, I'm stuck in a dead end. I believe their deaths are connected to my last case.” He said evenly. “I was following an anonymous tip in my primary case, some big corporation is involved with illegal business with the Wen's, but all I have is unsubstantiated.”

 

Wei Wuxian saw him dance his pretty hands over the keyboard. He would need a long, cold shower, after that conversation.

 

“I can help you trace the source.” He said, turning from his computer to make notes, neat notes, in a beautiful handwriting.

 

“Everything I have is just speculative. I just got an interesting lead from a source, but ended up being another dead end.” He clucked his tongue. “But it does involve a corporation, I’m sure about this, I just don't know which one. I'm sick of end up wasting time following false leads, so I need your technical skills to access tangible files and substantial leads.”

 

Lan Wangji’s eyebrows went up. “I'm quite sure there's a law against it.”

 

“It doesn't matter. I'm desperate.” He said, looking directly at him, with none enthusiasm at all. “I know you have the contacts to deal with this.”

 

“Invade private documents is against the law.” He frowned, considering. “No.”

 

“I know I’m asking you to help me break the law, Lan Zhan, but that’s all I have left.”

 

“No, I don't intend to violate that.”

 

“I know your secret Lan Zhan, I know this company isn’t just a tech company. You already have the clearance to access some of them.”

 

“I'll help you, Wei Ying, but I have to follow the law.”

 

“Can you do it without breaking the law?”

 

“Of course. If we got the data you need from Illegal means, you won't be able to use it in court.”

 

“The problem is that facts aren’t always enough in the court.”

 

“We can work on that.” He said it absently, staring at him. “Come with me to Gusu, you can stay in my house.”

 

“Wait, what?” Wei Wuxian was ice pale, wide-eyed. “Why?!”

 

“Just knowledge and skill aren't enough, I need to use my personal equipment. A high-level and top-level security one, we can work better from there.”

 

Wei Wuxian went totally blank.

 

“I can’t.”

 

“Why not?”

 

“I'm in a critic situation. I have a kid to take care of.” He heard himself say it, the shock of it mirrored in their eyes. “No! I mean, the couple that died recently, I knew them, the kid survived and I'm taking care of him. I need to keep him under wraps. No media, no outside contacts, no cops or anything. I'm keeping him in my place for now, I'll take care of him, I can't trust anyone else.”

 

“Is your apartment safe enough? Let me see your address.”

 

“Sure.” Wei Wuxian wrote down his address on paper and gave it to him.

 

“Your apartment building is easy to access and don't have enough security. Who handles your security system?”

 

“Well, I never thought about security and stuff, since is just me in the apartment, so… no one?” He said wearily.

 

“Gusu is the safest neighbourhood in the city and I have the most advanced security system of the market.”

 

“I don’t know if this is going to work, Lan Zhan.”

 

“Why do you assume it won't work?”

 

Thinking, Wei Wuxian drummed his fingers on the table.

 

“Why are you doing this?” He smiled, quick and charming.

 

“I worry about your safety.”

 

“You haven't seen me in ages, why do you care?”

 

“I've always cared about you. And now you have a child to take care of. Together you're an easy target.”

 

“Well, I'm very capable of taking care of myself, thank you.” He said swallowing guiltily.

 

“Don't you trust me, Wei Ying?”

 

“It's not a matter of trust.”

 

“Is it worth risking his life?”

 

“No.” Wei Wuxian said quickly. “All I need is reassurances of the child's safety.”

 

“Is safer for both of you this way. Will you come?”

 

“Wouldn’t it be a burden?”

 

“No. I'd be pleased to.”

 

Wei Wuxian shifted in his chair, then stared up into his intense eyes, considering.

 

“Yeah, okay. Guess better safe than sorry.”

 



They headed side by side through the corridor to meet Mo Xuanyu in the waiting room. Wei Wuxian slowly approached his partner, who was sitting in an elegant black chair, listening to some music on his phone. When he saw them, he stopped listening and raised his eyes, looking at Lan Wangji with such adoration, Wei Wuxian had to grin.

 

“Put your head in place, detective.” Wei Wuxian said, snorting out a laugh. “I can see you drooling.”

 

“Uh? What?!” Bewildered, he wiped at his mouth. “I wasn't drooling!”

 

“Right, right. Lan Zhan, this is my partner, detective Mo Xuanyu.” Wei Wuxian presented them and Xuanyu politely held out a hand for him.

 

“Nice to meet to, sir.”

 

Lan Wangji's hand slight trembled, but he quickly lifted his hand and took the one offered to him.

 

“Detective.”

 

Lan Wangji quickly released his hand from Mo Xuanyu’s grip and laid the same hand on Wei Wuxian's shoulder, without a problem at all. And Wei Wuxian slightly ran a finger through his knuckles. 

 

“I’ll wait for you in the car.”

 

“Sure, thank you.”

 

Lan Wangji nodded, crossed the lobby and gracefully took the elevator.

 

Wei Wuxian took the car keys from his pocket and dropped it into Mo Xuanyu’s hand. Smiling.

 

“Here, take my car and go home, I'll text you the address so you can pick me up tomorrow.”

 

“Sure thing.”

 

The moment they were alone in the elevator, Mo Xuanyu turned to Wei Wuxian delighted.

 

“He's pretty hot.” Mo Xuanyu said.

 

“He's beyond hot.” Wei Wuxian said with amusement in his eyes.

 

“I wish I could sit on him.” Xuanyu muttered.

 

“What the fuck?!” Wei Wuxian shouted.

 

“What?! It's true, I would gladly be his bottom.”

 

“Can you PLEASE, stop saying those kind of things in front of me?”

 

“Why?! Tell me you wouldn't be glad to be his bottom.”

 

“What the hell?! He's not gay.”

 

“Oooh, but you are, aren’t you?”

 

“I am, but he isn't.”

 

“How do you know?”

 

“Oh, come on, just look at him, he screams straight. He must have a harem hidden inside his basement or something.”

 

“So you should let him fuck you until he screams gay.”

 

“HOLY-SHIT-CAN-YOU-PLEASE-SHUT-THE-FUCK-UP?!”

 

“Hell no, I'm not a complete moron like you, he’s into you.”

 

“You're pretty bold aren't you?”

 

“Well, it’s pretty obvious.”

 

“No, it’s not. And shut up! Before I lose my nerve.”

 

When they got out of the building, Mo Xuanyu spared him a look as he jumped into the car.

 

“Good luck, sir.” He said shortly, and let out a gay laugh. “Oh and please, have a happy, solid marriage.”

 

“You-!” It was all he could say before Mo Xuanyu drive off, in just enough time to snort out the laugh that had been burning in her chest. “Mother-fucking cocksucker.” Wei Wuxian cursed laughing.

 

 

Lan Wangji's car was parked in front of the building, and it was no less than a white Bugatti Veyron. He was behind the wheel and Wei Wuxian saw his solid muscles beneath his coat. Wei Wuxian strode around the car and dropped into the passenger's seat.

 

“Talking about not drawing attention.” Wei Wuxian said, a little surprised and pleased.

 

“My apologies.”

 

“No! I mean, I liked it, nice car, smooth though, I've never driven one of this.” Relaxed and amused, he sat comfortably.

 

Lan Wangji just nodded facing the road, he drove for a time in silence, then Wei Wuxian decided to speak.

 

“I got a temporary license for you.”

 

“Good.” Lan Wangji's eyes stared at him through the rear-view mirror with such intense heat that his lips and throat ran immediately dry. He caught himself staring exceedingly, so he timidly coughed it out looking at the window.

 

“Where do you want to go first?” Lan Wangji asked him.

 

“Hmm... My apartment? I just need to take care of some daily chores, take some clothes, some files and personal items, nothing important.”

 

“Mn.”

 

All the windows were closed, and the scent of his skin was intoxicating, he could feel the warmth of his boy next to him. His mind was running through the madness of memories again, they were too close, he imagined the texture of his skin, the taste of his mouth, this was a mistake. An irresistibly and dangerous mistake. He shook his head trying to get rid of the sudden thoughts.

 

Something was wrong.

 

He looked over his shoulders, shuddered when he realized...

 

“Wei Ying.”

 

“I already noticed.” Wei Wuxian pressed his lips together.

 

“Mn. We're being followed.”

 

“They're probably following me since I left the police station but I was too distracted to notice it before.”

 

“We can try to mislead them.”

 

“It will be hard, tho.” Wei Wuxian said displeased. “Take this deviation and hit the accelerator.”

 

Lan Wangji drove down the winding lane with talent at high speed, he whipped the car quickly in a risky manoeuvre.

 

“This won't do, try to pull off to the freeway.” Wei Wuxian pointed out. “It's too risk start a high-speed chase into a populated area, it's dangerous for the civilians.”

 

Wei Wuxian quickly took his communicator in his pocket.

 

“This is Lieutenant Wei Wuxian, badge number 11751, I’m on the Fifth Avenue entrance, someone copy?”

 

Two minutes later his communicator signalled.

 

“Wei Ying, what’s wrong?” Jiang Cheng asked worried.

 

“Jiang Cheng!” Wei Wuxian said under his breath. “I'm being followed in a civilian vehicle, Mo Xuanyu took my car, I need you to send someone to his house to check on him.”

 

His stomach roiled over his throat as Lan Wangji took them into a dive.

 

"Copy, sending police reinforcement to the address. Dispatch, out.” Jiang Cheng responded and Wei Wuxian switched his communicator off.

 

“If you keep spinning the car like that I'm gonna throw up in your fancy seat.” He pressed a hand to his stomach and Wei Wuxian's composure started to slip.

 

“My apologies.” Lan Wangji flicked a thin almost imperceptible smile. Face-paled Wei Wuxian felt an electric shock in his spine.

 

Too bad I haven't been able to enjoy this smile in a better moment.

 

Lan Wangji muscled the vehicle between a sedan and a bus, then raced away, skimming across the street, now tracing the path of the avenue at full speed, there was too many cars driving too fast in too many directions. Wei Wuxian lids drooped closed and his lips actually trembled, a lot, before he firmed them and managed to speak.

 

“Oh man. You wouldn't believe the way a body can contort after it has been in a car accident, you know? Not many people make it out with all their limbs either, like, ground asphalt meat, smashed brains and oh, imagine all your fillings coming out, well, guess that's where the fun is, isn’t?” He laughed nervously.

 

“Try to calm yourself down, Wei Ying.” Lan Wangji's voice was calm and clear.

 

“Don't tell me to calm down.” He shot out in panic. “We're still being chased.”

 

"They probably know you have the boy." Lan Wangji whispered beside him.

 

“Thank you, Lan Zhan, you’re helping a lot.” Wei Wuxian said forcing his eyes open again.

 

Lan Wangji quickly diverted the car and entered in front of a truck, and miraculously, the truck had blocked their view just long enough for them to misguide their pursuers. Lan Wangji turned toward the highway and kept looking through the mirrors for a while, with cautious suspicion, until he makes sure they wouldn't be spotted again. Wei Wuxian looked around, licking his lips and slowly breathing.

 

“How are you feeling?” Lan Wangji turned his head to look at him, clearly worried.

 

“Fine, fine, just slightly overwhelmed and just a little out of place, what a shitty cop I am.” He sighed. “My apartment is five blocks away from here, let's go there before we take A-Yuan.”

 

“Mn. Let's go to your apartment.”

 

Wei Wuxian smiled. “Mn.”

 



The streets in his neighbourhood were always quietly with almost no movement, almost deserted, so instead of going straight to his address, they parked two blocks away and decided to go on foot for precaution. They were walking silently around the blocks when Wei Wuxian felt a sudden instinct of caution. He took Lan Wangji's arm and pulled him away from street sight.

 

“There’s something wrong.” He said, sharp eyes fixed on the surroundings. He almost didn't realize he'd pulled Lan Wangji way too close, they were face to face, bodies pressed together. “I’m sorry.”

 

“No need.” Lan Wangji replied. “Your apartment is being watched.”

 

Dark figures in black clothes walked across the street, one was sitting on a bench talking in his phone, two watched the street from the building next to his, an suspicious group was talking casually near the bus stop just down the block, and they were all armed.

 

He pursed his lips and narrowed his eyes. Lan Wangji pierced an intense glare in his direction. Wei Wuxian knew exactly what he was thinking, but Lan Wangji just stood in silence, staring at him, he wanted him to say it, to talk it out. Lan Wangji had been right again.

 

“I know, I know, you were right.” He closed his eyes and let out a long sigh. “I should learn not to question your instincts.”

 

Intrigued, Lan Wangji cocked his head. “Mn.”

 

“Oh, come on, stop being so cocky.” He smiled giving him a little elbow nudge.

 

They were about fifty meters from the building, discreetly hidden, shadowed under a broken streetlamp. They waited in the darkness for a while, in silence, they were so close Wei Wuxian could feel Lan Wangji's warm breath in his neck.

 

"Entering from the front door will be impossible." Wei Wuxian said. “We need to change the rout.”

 

“Mn.”

 

“There's two entrances in the back, one in the front, and the building has an external emergency-exit staircase connecting all the floors in the back too.” Wei Wuxian said looking more closely at him. “There's a public library around the corner, next to my building, we can go around the block, then we can go over there and find a way to access the staircase from the library.

 

“Sounds like a plan.” Lan Wangji glanced at his watch and calculated how long they would take to reach the apartment. “We need to be fast.”

 

“We should get going then.” he said, turning with a handsome smile.

 

With their eyes locked, Wei Wuxian reached out, took Lan Wangji's hands, and clasped them in his own. “Follow me.”

 

“Mn.” Lan Wangji whispered, quickly glancing away.

 

They changed the route from the street to the wide sidewalk on the opposite side. They lingered in the darkness for a while, walking the short distance hidden in the shadows. One of the men in black suddenly rounded the street corner and Lan Wangji, instinctively crouched behind one of the parked cars on the sideway, pulling Wei Wuxian with him. They kept motionless as the man walked right past them. Lan Wangji quietly turned, peeking the man from the car mirror as he backed away to where he came. When the field was clear again, they quickly headed down the street.

 

They finally crossed the street and drew closer to the library entrance. Lan Wangji held the doorway as they walked in.

 

“Holy shit.” Wei Wuxian’s eyes widened. The place was completely packed with people. “What should we do?”

 

“Come.” Lan Wangji whispered, pulling him toward some bookshelves, packed with books and encyclopaedias, to access a staff room in the back of the establishment.

 

“Okay, you’re the boss.”

 

The room was miraculously empty and dark, Lan Wangji turned on the lights, his eyes scanning cautiously. “There's a spiral stairway in the back, let's go.”

 

On the second floor, there was a security office with a tiny window.

 

“We can't possibly pass through this window.” Wei Wuxian said, his voice growing serious.

 

“If we take out the window frame, there's a chance.” Lan Wangji said as calmly as possible.

 

“And how do you expect to do that?”

 

As soon as he said that, he saw Lan Wangji taking out a portable break-in equipment from his suit. “Okay, I won’t ask.” He said with a mischievous glint in his eye.

 

“Mn. Watch the security system.”

 

“Got it.” He nodded looking into the monitor to the security-camera feed. Lan Wangji crouched down and began to work on the bolts and nuts from the window.

 

When five minutes passed, Wei Wuxian saw two security officers walking toward the staff door.

 

“I think someone is coming.” He said returning his eyes to the screen.

 

“Lock the door.” Lan Wangji said simply.

 

Wei Wuxian reached the door-knob and locked the door.

 

“We need to get out of here, Lan Zhan.”

 

When Lan Wangji finished, he stepped back and hurried over to Wei Wuxian.

 

Wei Wuxian felt Lan Wangji's hands on his hips now, urging him forward, in the window's direction. “Wei Ying, you need to jump.”

 

Wei Wuxian was ready to jump. But then, he froze, as he heard a frantic bark, he quickly rolled to his toes as his heart slammed against his ribs. Wei Wuxian stared out at the platform in front of him, his mind racing, and his heart pounding, almost in a lethal heart attack.

 

“Lan Zhan...” He whimpered.

 

“Wei Ying, we’re running out of time, you have to jump.”

 

“I’m scared.” he said frightened. He looked down again, it was about a fifteen meters fall, and it seemed like an endless and violent fall straight into a Doberman’s mouth.

 

Lan Wangji gently cupped his face, thumbs lightly brushing his cheeks. "Wei Ying, I won't let anything happen to you, trust me.”

 

Wei Wuxian gently squeezed his hands, savoring the calmness of his touch. “Now you have to go.”

 

Wei Wuxian smiled softly. “Okay, is now or never.”

 

He crouched down on the windowsill, and jumped out. As the security officer unlocked the door, the window swung shut, and the two men were gone.

 



They climbed the stairs and found themselves standing on the metal platform from Wei Wuxian’s floor.  Wei Wuxian took Lan Wangji's hand and yanked him out of the stairwell along to the long corridor of locked doors. When they reached his apartment, the door was half open with signs of forced entry.

 

“I'm feeling very unsettled about this.” Wei Wuxian said as they drew closer to the door, his eyes widened in disbelief. With his gun in his right hand, he eased the door open with his left, The apartment was dark, and silent. Wei Wuxian raised his hand slowly reaching down to switch on the light.

 

He entered the apartment, Lan Wangji by his side. Both with guns out and ready.

 

The apartment was completely vandalized. Glass was shattered around the floor, his plants had been dumped out of their pots, drawers had been emptied, framed pictures were tossed around the apartment, the TV screen was also smashed in the middle of the floor, the couch and the mattress of his bed had been torn apart from one end to the other, there were knife marks tearing through the walls, chairs and cabinets, everything was a completely mess.

 

“Well, looks like someone really broke into my apartment.” Wei Wuxian said, his words sounded oddly literal.

 

“Whoever got in your apartment was looking for something.”

 

“Well, things can't get any worse than this, right?”

 

“It can always be worse, Wei Ying.” Lan Wangji’s voice was suddenly quiet.

 

He slowly glanced around the room, apparently, not much had survived.

 

“I just need to pick up some things, keep an eye on the corridor, can you see anyone outside?”

 

“It’s fine, the perimeter is clean, take your time.”

 

Inhaling deeply, he sighed and surveyed the room, he managed to find a bag in the middle of the mess, which he stuffed some clothes, along with some hygiene items and his flute.

 

“Wei Ying.”

 

“Mn?” He glanced back at the doorway, Lan Wangji's face looked furious and outraged. He looked like someone who simply decided to blow up the entire building.

 

“I will protect you.” He simply stated.

 

Wei Wuxian felt his heart skip a beat.

 

“We will protect each other from now on. Okay?”

 

“Mn.”

 

Lan Wangji closed the door and walked over quietly, he moved to the window and stared out.

 

“There's a black sedan parked across the street, three men inside, heavily armed.” He said with a calm expression on his face.

 

Wei Wuxian approached him, looking the street over his shoulder, the car was about seventy meters distance from the building, even with a night vision system it's almost impossible to see that far. Completely impressed with Lan Wangji's clear night vision, he replied quietly. “That’s very impressive.”

 

One man got out of the car and scanned the area, after a moment, a second one stepped out from inside the car, and the person’s face came into view. Wen Chao.

 

Wei Wuxian took from his pocket two black Nimravus and handed one to Lan Wangji, who took it without saying a single word, soon the knife disappeared inside his spotless white suit. Lan Wangji carefully removed his coat and placed it around Wei Wuxian's shoulders, smoothing the fabric down his arms, lightly taking the bag from his hand and placing over one shoulder. “We should go now.” Lan Wangji said.

 

Wei Wuxian blinked at him and let out a thousand-watt smile. “Let's take the emergency exit on the ground floor.”

 

As they stepped out of the apartment, a man came into view from behind the door. Wei Wuxian instinctively turned, putting his knife to the man's throat and Lan Wangji simply raised his gun and hit the back of it in the man's nape, knocking him out immediately.

 

“I'm pretty sure it's safe now.” He commented reaching up his hand to hold Lan Wangji's. “Let’s go.”

 

Moving cautiously the two passed the floor's entrance, heading toward the emergency stairs, but it was suspiciously deserted, they were already on the second floor when Wei Wuxian saw a sudden movement from the corner of his eyes. A man spun back toward him, pressing a gun to his back.

 

“Target confirmed.” The man said, talking to someone on a portable radio.

 

“Wei Ying!” Lan Wangji's voice was stifled, but Wei Wuxian could sense his terror, his eyes gleaming with a quick shimmer of panic.

 

In the middle of his instinct to protect Wei Wuxian, in a quickly, trained and skilled movement, Lan Wangji rammed his elbow to his throat. The man fell on his knees and his hands strained desperately forward to his own neck, Lan Wangji took his gun and pressed in his vital organs.

 

“Do you work for the Wens?” Lan Wangji asked, his voice trembling with fury and rage.

 

The man burst out laughing. “Just kill me, you bastard.” He said spitting blood on the floor.

 

He shifted a little closer looking the man right into his eyes. “Don't think I'll hesitate to kill you if I need to.”

 

“Just spit it out!” Wei Wuxian shouted.

 

The man squirmed trying to pull himself out of Lan Wangji’s grip. “Fuck you!”

 

When his trained eyes saw the man trying to pull out a sheathed knife from his boot, Lan Wangji's hand shot up reflexively, knocking the man unconscious, hitting his head on the wall with enough strength to crack his skull.

 

“Please, try not to kill people, Lan Zhan.” Wei Wuxian said looking uneasy.

 

“I have a license for that.”

 

“What?!” He frowned. “You know what? Forget it, I don't wanna know.”

 

“I'm just doing what has to be done.”

 

“Let’s just get out of here.” He said as they neared the exit.

 

After exiting the rear of the building, they turned and ran back towards the car, completely disguised in the street shadows. When they finally slipped into the car, and Lan Wangji drove off, Wei Wuxian took a deep, slow breath, and gently reached down, taking Lan Wangji's right hand inside his own, squeezing it lightly.

 

“We kept each other safe again, didn't we?” he said.

 

“Mn.” Lan Wangji squeezed his hand back, and that was enough.

 


  

As they drove away from the danger and were mostly safe, satisfied that they had not been followed, Wei Wuxian decided to stop at the grocery store along the way to buy some chocolate cake and ice cream. Lan Wangji ended up buying all the flavours available on the store, from mint chocolate chip to strawberry and vanilla.

 

They made one more stop to pick up Wen Yuan from the concealed meeting place, where he was hidden with Jiang Fengmian and Yu Ziyuan, before heading to Lan Wangji's house. They were well-hidden on a private space, located on a security backstopping building from the witness protection program.

 

When they arrived, he stared at the house in utter amazement, Wei Wuxian couldn't believe his eyes.

 

“This is not a house, it's a fortress!” He gaped in shock.

 

“It’s unbreakable.”

 

“I can see that, pretty heavy security for a residence.”

 

“A necessary precaution.”

 

They drove through the huge iron gates, surrounded by insurmountable walls. The magnificence of the structure was simply impressive. The house itself was surrounded by a well-kept garden, colored with flowers and stone patches, flanked by rows of tress, swaying gently to the chilly autumn wind. From the entrance was possible to see delicate marble fountains, gurgling with the soft sounds of water, resonating in the silence.

 

The house was covered by glassed walls, in shades of blue and gold. The interior was welcoming, the furniture was modern and attractive, everything was beautifully symmetrical, from detailed pillars painted in brilliant white to carved and polished stair rails. From the distance it looked entirely like a crystal palace, the floor was glacier and reflected a hundred shades of light, meticulously neat, just like him.

 

The house had two floors, well distributed and as they stepped inside, Wei Wuxian strangely felt like home. Lan Wangji politely introduced them to the house, giving them permission to explore and for A-Yuan to play around. Then, soon after, he walked them to one of the guest bedrooms, opened the door and stepped aside.

 

The bedroom was huge and Wei Wuxian could only glance at the big, gorgeous king size bed, and it was black, with satiny bed sheets and red pillows, contrasting with all the other furniture in the house. The colors were vibrant and strong and the space made him feel comfortable. The bathroom was a luxuriant suite, carved in marble with a soaking tub and windows that open to the garden.

 

The atmosphere was so good, the breeze moving across the balcony window through black curtains was soft. Everything in the room was just too much for only one man e a child.

 

“I assume you'd like to stay in the same room?”

 

“Presumed right, we’re comfortable sharing, right A-Yuan?”

 

“Right, Xian-gege.” A-Yuan nods, holding his hand.

 

“My bedroom is right beside yours, you'll know where to find me if you need me.” Lan Wangji said, patiently pointing to the door right next.

 

“Thank you Lan Zhan, say thanks to Lan-gege A-Yuan.”

 

“Thank you, Lan-gege.”

 

“Good boy.” Wei Wuxian said picking him into his arms.

 

“No need to thank me.”

 

“Okay…”

 

“What would you like for dinner?”

 

“Anything is fine.”

 

“Do you like Italian pasta?”

 

“Sure, we love it.”

 

“Sauce preferences?”

 

“I'm going for the spicy sauce, if you have it, A-Yuan can eat the same as you.”

 

“Mn.”

 

Wei Wuxian sudden remembered of their dinners together when they were kids, how their respective uncles kept calling them to eat, over and over again, but as always they pretended not to hear, because they knew they would have to leave soon after.

 

“I hope your rooms are satisfactory. If you have any needs, you can call me anytime, I’ll be in the kitchen.” Lan Wangji said, pulling him back to the present.

 

Wei Wuxian dumped their bags into the bedroom.

 

“Some people are really just good, uh?” He said after Lan Wangji leaves.

 



In the dining room, the long polished white wooden table had been set for three, the fire danced warm in the fireplace, the polished silver cutlery were heavy to the hand, but the mood was light and familiar. They had dinner together and now, Wen Yuan was euphoric waiting for his Ice Cream.

 

“I want a double scoop!” Wen Yuan pouted.

 

“Don't pout, one scoop of each flavour is enough.” Wei Wuxian jerked a thumb at him. “You can eat more tomorrow.”

 

“Just one more, pleeeeease.” He said, then grinned with the charm of an angel.

 

“Oh no, I know what you're doing little boy, and the answer is still no, if you eat too much sugar you're going to be sick.”

 

“Xian-gegeee, you’re so mean.” He whimpered.

 

“What?! I’m not mean, you’re mean.” Wei Wuxian twinkled at him, smiling playfully.

 

“No, I’m not!”

 

“So you’re gonna share that ice cream with me?” Wei Wuxian asked poking a finger at Wen Yuan's cheek.

 

“No.” He grimaced and ignored him, shaking his head. “Brother rich, what's your favorite flavour?”

 

Lan Wangji lowered his book to look at him.

 

“Lemon meringue, yours?”

 

“Strawberry! Do you know Xian-gege can make homemade strawberry ice cream?”

 

“Is that so?” His tone was soft.

 

“Mn, he also makes spicy Ice cream, but it's bad.”

 

“It's not the taste that is bad, you're the one who has bad taste.”

 

“Mama also says it tastes bad.”

 

Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji looked at each other momentarily.

 

“A-Yuan, why don't you go upstairs to play with your abandoned toys for a while?

 

“Okay.” His face lit up in excitement.

 

Wei Wuxian took his arm gently, and help get out of the chair, then the boy ran out to the second floor, leaving the two of them alone.

 

“Sooner or later he'll start asking about his parents.” Wei sighed heavily. “How am I supposed to tell a four year old child that his parents will never return home?”

 

Lan Wangji looked down and seemed to have some thoughts of his own.

 

“I can help if you want.”

 

“This is something I have to do myself, but thanks anyway.”

 

They spoke nothing for a few minutes.

 

“I want a damn drink.” He needed an aspirin, maybe two. “My headache is worsening.”

 

“Would you like something?”

 

“Yeah, I think so.”

 

With a nod, Lan Wangji silently walked away and five minutes later, he went back with a bottle in his hands. He filled him a glass and set the bottle on the table.

 

Wei Wuxian felt himself hesitating, but seemed much relieved. “Why do you have emperor's smile in your house?”

 

Lan Wangji remained silent and his face revealed nothing.

 

“Have you been waiting for me all this time?”

 

Wei Wuxian reached down and toyed with the ends of his hair.

 

Nothing. Not a single reaction.

 

When he saw his glass was empty, Wei Wuxian opened the bottle and drank long and deep.

 

“Wei Ying.” He said nothing more, and he never took his eyes off his face, eyes full of concern.

 

They'd both needed a period of healing after what had happened, eight years passed and the wounds seemed more open than before, could they heal each other this time?

 

“If I remember well, you sleep at 21, right?”

 

Lan Wangji nodded.

 

“It is past your curfew, you shouldn’t be chatting rather than going to sleep.” He said with a remorseful sigh.

 

He got up from his chair and went away, leaving Lan Wangji alone in the room, and taking the bottle along with him.

 

He was back in his room again. Closer than ever to the demons living inside his head.

 

Wen Yuan was sleeping deep and still, hugging the bunny plush toy against him. Wei Wuxian looked at him with love. He leaned down and kissed him lightly on his head, as kindly as a father might kiss a child. Now he was at home, not his home, but still a home, safe and sound, and that's the only thing that matter for now.

 

He flopped back into the bed and tried to get some sleep,  after spacing out for a while he turned his eyes to Wen Yuan one last time, and let himself fall into the darkness of his unconsciousness.

 



He woke up at 2 a.m.

 

He was out of breath, suffocating. His lungs were burning, did he screamed?

 

The nightmare that had haunted him since that day, eight years ago, came crashing back again. It had been months since he had this nightmare, he was being haunted again, he saw him, his golden eyes moist with tears, his white and pure skin, stained with blood, the fear, and despair, of losing him. And then the dream changed and he saw them, all those burn marks, the smell of death and the blood. His heart began to thud, his throat to close.

 

The room was dark, too dark.

 

Instantly, a wave of nausea hit him. Wei Wuxian was too weak to fight against the tears that were finally overflowing his eyes. He got up and went to the balcony, he needed fresh air, he needed to be away from the chaos, he was sick of this strange, confused dreams.

 

From the balcony he could see the lights of an airplane cutting through the starry sky, the city was asleep, plunged into darkness. He could feel the echoes of the memories traveling under his skin, plotting against him, trying to drown him in the torment of his own fears.

 

He hadn't notice the balcony next door was also open, he probably screamed when he was dreaming, or maybe it was his sobs that woke him up, but Lan Wangji silently went out through the glass door, he was dressed in black, loose sweatpants and his shirt was open to the waist, just enough for the moon to sprinkle light over his skin. He jumped over the balcony railing as if they weren't on the second floor at all and strode directly to him, wrapping him in his arms.

 

Wei Wuxian slowly slid his arms around Lan Wangji’s waist, burying his face in the curve of his neck. “I just woke up hoping yesterday had been just a bad dream, is this some kind of perverse joke? Why does it have to be this way?” His voice trembled bursting into uncontrollable sobs.

 

Fresh tears formed in his eyes, Lan Wangji gently kissed the top of his head, skimming the hair away from his face and pressing him close, as if that alone would bring the warmth back to his body.

 

“I missed you, Lan Zhan.” He whispered. “I missed you so much.”

 

“I missed you too, Wei Ying.”

 

Wei Wuxian knew that some places would never be the same and sometimes people will start to live only inside old memories, but some things just stay the same, no matter how long it takes, some things will never change. He'd never realized that being vulnerable to someone else could be so warm, and feel so safe. And in that moment, lost in the softness and comfort of his arms.

 

He gave the wolf the key to the henhouse.

 

Chapter Text

Wei Wuxian woke to the sound of rain.

 

The first drops calmly splattered through the glass door of the balcony. Snuggling into the pillow, he shielded his eyes from the sunlight with one hand and yawned lazily.

 

The scent of sandalwood was there in the pillow, hovering, lightly enough to tease him. Lan Wangji had spent the night by his side, caressing his back while he cried. Wei Wuxian didn't see when he left the room, but judging by the warmth on the sheets, it was not long ago.

 

His mind was clearer now, the headache was gone and his heart was calm and steady. He breathed deeply and spread his arms, he really wanted a long, hot shower and some strong coffee. Wei Wuxian shifted to the side and patted Wen Yuan's head, with care and gentleness, rubbing his little nose and poking his cheeks. The little boy slept, peacefully, his breathing was quiet and serene, curled under the blanket with his stuffed bunny.

 

“Come on little monkey, it's time to get up.”

 

“Don’t wanna.”

 

“It's time for breakfast and you need to shower.”

 

“Still don’t wanna.” Wen Yuan pouted, with his eyes still closed.

 

“If you don't get up by yourself, I'll take you up and toss you in the tub myself.” Wei Wuxian pinched his nose.

 

“Go awaaay.” He slapped his tiny hand over Wei Wuxian's face.

 

“No, you're going to clean up and eat, you can sleep more after that.”

 

With only one arm, he wrapped the boy and lifted him over his shoulder, then he rose and went into the bathroom, dragging Wen Yuan with him. Wen Yuan tried to squirm away, throwing a futile tantrum. All in vain.

 

“Xian-gege you’re so mean.” He pouted at him, looking like he would scratch or bite at any moment. “I don't wanna take a shower.”

 

Wei Wuxian lifted his head to blink at him. “Look at you, all noisy and smelly, what will Lan-gege think about this stubbornness of yours?”

 

“I'm not smelly!”

 

“Yes you are, let's take a shower.”

 

“Okay.” He said relaxing a little.

 

The bathroom window was open, so the wind danced through the curtains and brought with it all the sweet scents of the garden outside.

 

The tub was surely big enough to fit three people. The sides were filled with natural soaps that smelled like coconut and plums. There were pretty bottles holding colorful bath oils and bath salts lining the counter.

 

Wei Wuxian filled the tub with warm water and some salts and slowly put the boy inside.

 

“See? Not that bad, you can stop sulking now.”

 

“I’m not.”

 

“Wanna play with some bubbles?”

 

“Yes!” Wen Yuan finally smiled, with a gleam in his eyes.

 

The boy cheerfully watched the bubbles rise in the water, Wei Wuxian took advantage of his distraction and lathered the soap over his face and body with both hands, washing him calmly. Wen Yuan toyed with the water, making small splashes, and Wei Wuxian pressed his lips together to hold back a chuckle. The boy looked up and grinned at him with a lively twinkle in his eyes, and Wei Wuxian felt his heart getting warmer.

 

“Pretty good, much better now, let's dry you up.” Wei Wuxian lifted him and wrapped him in a towel. After he was properly dried, he tucked him inside clean clothes and gently brushed his wet hair. “Dry your hair while Xian-gege takes a shower, okay?”

 

“Okay.” He grinned.

 

“That’s my boy.” He said pinching his plump rosy cheeks before letting he leave the bathroom.

 

Wei Wuxian took his time and quickly called into Jiang Cheng's phone, to tell him he would work from home that day and that he would call again to give him an update later.

 

Then he went back to the bathroom, slowly stripped down and stepped under the hot stream falling from the shower. He washed his hair with some woodsy-scented shampoo and for a moment he just immersed himself, deep in his thoughts, trying to organize the case in his head.

 

He had to remain focused, they had some leads to go on, but it was far from enough, none of them were really going anywhere.

 

He shook his head clear, then pushed his thick, dark hair out of his eyes, rubbing the soap out of them. He turned off the water and looked around the bathroom for a clean towel to dry himself up. After a few seconds, he spotted two of them on the sink counter, he leaned out and grabbed one.

 

He wrapped the towel around his waist, brushed his teeth and dressed himself in a black sweater and ripped jeans. Then he took the same towel and wrapped around his hair, letting it dry for a while. Satisfied with just that, he went to the bedroom to check on the boy.

 

But when he stepped out of the bathroom and saw the tiny little boy sitting on the floor, playing with his bunny and making cute noises, his heart began to thump. He said nothing for a moment, and just stood in the doorway, in deepest appreciation at the scene in front of him. Then, he quietly sat on the floor beside him, hauling Wen Yuan onto his lap, and the boy smiled at him, sheepish and charming, sliding his arms around his waist and pressing the bunny between them in a fierce hug. When they parted, Wei Wuxian quickly swirled him, exposing his belly.

 

“Look at this little belly, just calling out to be tickled.” Wei Wuxian said smiling sweetly at him.

 

“Xian-gege! No-oh-hoho hahahaha, stop it, stop it!” Wen Yuan gave a laughing shout. “It tickles, it tickles! Hahaha”

 

The sounds of laughing echoed through the house, and Lan Wangji could clearly hear them from the kitchen. He, himself, had a tender half smile in his lips.

 

“That’s where the fun is.” Wei Wuxian laughed in a rumble of amusement, holding the small trembling body in his arms. “You know?” He paused. “I gave Lan-gege two rabbits once, many years ago.”

 

“Really?!” Wei Wuxian saw something glinting in his eyes. “Uhum, I should get you a real rabbit too, what do you think?”

 

“I want it!” Wen Yuan sent him an adoring look as he pushed to his feet, with a jolt of electricity.

 

“But only if you eat properly, four-year-olds require a lot of protein to grow up healthy, okay?” Wei Wuxian raised his finger and Wen Yuan entwined their fingers together.

 

“Pinky promise, Xian-gege.” The soft, pure smile Wen Yuan gave him, surely made his heart melt.

 

“Good. If you break the promise I’ll plant you in the soil like a radish.” The smile vanished in the blink of an eye and Wei Wuxian started to laugh. “Let's eat, Lan-gege must be waiting for us.”

 

Wei Wuxian took his hand and they both walked down the stairs heading to the kitchen. He peered around the doorway, looking around the large space just to find Lan Wangji already finishing up the cooking. The house smelled like cinnamon buns, coffee and blueberry pancakes. As they sat at the kitchen countertop, Lan Wangji poured him a cup of coffee and placed a glass of orange juice in Wen Yuan's hands, along with a plate full of pancakes.

 

Wei Wuxian held the cup in both hands and slowly sipped the coffee, letting the caffeine bolstered his system, pure and strong, just the way he likes, just the way he remembers. “Hmmm, you still make the best coffee in the world.” He said and turned to Wen Yuan, giving his cheek a little pinch. “That looks pretty damn good, eat, little monkey.”

 

Momentarily distracted, Wei Wuxian didn't realize when Lan Wangji pushed a similar plate of pancakes toward him.

 

“What’s this?” His brow arched and he grinned guilelessly.

 

“For you.” He simply said, pouring himself a cup of tea.

 

“Spicy pancakes?!” Wei Wuxian looked at the red dish in front of him humming with happiness. “The ones you used to do when we were in high school?!”

 

“Mn, dark chocolate, ginger and red pepper, mixed with strawberries.”

 

“Hmmmmm, you didn't have to, thanks Lan Zhan, it looks really good.” He added with a mouthful of spicy strawberries in his mouth. “It's so good to finally appreciate a decent meal, hmmm, really, so good.” He licked his fingers.

 

Wei Wuxian was grateful for the beautiful sight, the warming effects of the coffee and the delicious food in his belly. Lan Wangji sat in silence in front of them, holding the cup of herbal tea in his hands.

 

“Glad you like it.” Lan Wangji reached down, raking his fingers over his dripping hair. “Dry your hair properly.”

 

Wei Wuxian looked up and laughed at him. “You haven't changed at all, have you?”

 

Lan Wangji just looked at him, his eyes were direct and intense. Even when he was silent, he was telling everything. With the lightest of touches he stroked his cheek. “How are you feeling?”

 

Something in his tone had him glancing down. “I'm fine, just a little tired, that's all.”

 

“Do you-”

 

Wei Wuxian froze and set his fork down with a clatter. “No! I don’t wanna talk about it, sorry.” He picked up the fork again and fought off a shudder. “But I appreciate your concern, let's- just forget that last night ever happened, okay?” He shook his head, fighting for composure.

 

“Mn, as you wish.” Lan Wangji sipped the tea and kept his voice soft.

 

“Thanks for that, Lan Zhan.” He managed a smile, while finished up his breakfast.

 

“No need.”

 

He’d been vulnerable, and he couldn't let it happen again. He wouldn't become a victim of his own emotions, not again, not this time. He needs to be rational, reasonable and resilient. None of this matters now. Only the job matters.

 

“Well, we have a homicide investigation to proceed.” He set the plate aside and turned to affectionately pat Wen Yuan's head. “It's time for me and Lan-gege to work, Is that alright? You'll be okay by yourself?”

 

“I’ll be fine, Xian-gege.” He nodded, excitedly.

 

“Okay.” He rose, taking both plates to the sink.

 

Wei Wuxian insisted on cleaning up the dishes while Lan Wangji went to the living room to put on some new zombie movie A-Yuan was dying to watch, on his premium movie stuff.

 

After some time, Lan Wangji bolted through the kitchen after him.

 

“Let’s go, the office is on the second floor.”

 

“Sure.”

 

Wei Wuxian followed Lan Wangji to his office quietly. Lan Wangji opened the door and they stepped inside. The office was painted in white, the desk in the center had a high-top computer and a notebook lying open. The wall had bookshelves from one corner to the other, the couch was beautifully designed in white leather and the floor had a welcoming blue carpet, everything was clean, bespoke and neat. It looked comfortable and practical. It really suits him, it matches the owner. He thought to himself.

 

Lan Wangji moved one of the chairs around the table for Wei Wuxian to sit by his side. At first, he felt like arguing, but then he just gave up and laughed, sitting beside him and spreading his files on the desk. Lan Wangji silently pulled some papers out of one of the files and spent some time examining every inch of it.

 

Wei Wuxian watched his every movement closely, the way his lips twitched ever so slightly, the way his throat moved when he swallowed, even in his emotionless stance there was a sense of force, an intense gaze brewing through his eyes every time their eyes met.

 

“I like your face. You're very handsome, you know that, right?” He admitted. “Why you're not married yet, Lan Zhan?”

 

Their eyes met quickly and held.

 

“Why aren't you?”

 

“What?” He blinked, waking from his emotionally drunken stupor.

 

“Married.”

 

“Oh, hm, I can't get married with just anyone, right?”

 

“Do you like someone?” The gold rims around his pupils gleamed with such intensity that Wei Wuxian felt kinda… breathless.

 

“Yes… I do, but this person doesn't like me back, not the same way, I mean.”

 

“I see.” He averted his eyes, his voice was flat and cool.

 

“You didn’t answer me, Lan Zhan, what are you waiting for?”

 

“Love.”

 

Yeah. That single word had his heart trembling.

 

“Yeah, you really deserve to be loved, Lan Zhan, the girl who marries you should be considered the luckiest girl in the world.” Wei Wuxian winked and gave him an elbow bump on his arm, but inside, he felt his heart breaking into hundreds of pieces.

 

“I'm not looking.” He said and turned back to his computer.

 

“Why not?” The tremor was evident in his voice.

 

“Why do you want to know?”

 

“I guess I'm just curious.” With a beaming smile, Wei Wuxian moved slowly closer, his left arm stretching out against Lan Wangji's chair, their knees almost touching with how close they were.

 

“I already found it.” Lan Wangji turned his head and their lips almost touched.

 

Wei Wuxian shifted a little and straightened, ordering his heart to chill and his mind to clear, but when he was pulling away Lan Wangji grabbed his hand before he could shove away. Wei Wuxian swallowed hard, lost in the dangerous and hypnotic gleam of his eyes.

 

“Keep sweet-talking and touching me like that, Lan Zhan, and God knows what could happen.” He watched his golden eyes go dark as midnight.

 

“Shameless.”

 

He got a little hot, but quickly laughed it off. “We should start with financial activities from big corporations which have divergences on the data record.”

 

“Mn.” Lan Wangji gently squeezed and released his hand.

 

When Wei Wuxian glanced at the computer system, Lan Wangji was already scanning some public financials data on some search mechanism.

Oh. That was close. He wiped imaginary sweat from his forehead.

 

They spent the past five hours searching from a series of files and profiles of many of the country's largest corporations, until dozens of papers were piled on the table and the computerized database was full of information, however, their chances didn't seem to increase, and Wei Wuxian looked mildly annoyed.

 

“This is taking so long, Lan Zhan, can't you just access all the information in the world with that powerful computer of yours?” He said impatiently. “You could easily get to the root of our issues if you wanted to.”

 

“I'm not a cyber-criminal, Wei Ying, I can't use my knowledge to do this.”

 

“But you sure have the skills, though, you can just – you know, use it.” Wei Wuxian leaned back in his chair sounding more bored than concerned.

 

“If you want my assistance, you'll have to settle with what we have at hand, I will not break the rules nor go over the law. Those are the terms.” Lan Wangji angled his head to look at him, his eyes were dark, cold and commanding.

 

Wei Wuxian swivelled around in his chair for a while, then he got up and walked to the window, impatient, he swirled around the room muttering. Lan Wangji lifted a brow as he watched him kick half-heartedly at the couch.

 

“Lan Zhan! Do you have a cool hacker name?” He said already lifting his spirits.

 

“Ridiculous.”

 

“What?! People can never underestimate a good hacker name.”

 

“I'm not a hacker.”

 

“Of course not hahaha, from what I know, you're the most reputable, prominent, and not to mention, the best well known agent in this professional field. No one could ever be compared to you, let alone some half-assed hacker.” He tapped a finger on his cheeks, then his nose. “Look at you, I’m so proud of you.” He grinned at him.

 

When his eyes lifted to his, he cursed himself. He knew that expression on his face, or rather, the lack of expression, that showed nothing but meant everything. He was so sternly beautiful, those golden eyes full of secrets, telling him everything he wanted to know.

 

He sat down in his chair again and stretched his legs out, rubbing against his, trying to avoid the obvious and violent wave of feelings that flooded through his body. He closed his eyes, feeling a little uneasy, they've been working on this for a long time now, and Lan Wangji's intense presence was making things difficult.

 

He glanced at his case files and took a moment to collect his thoughts again, then, he took a deep, deep breath.

 

Victim identified as: Wen Mei Yu, born 05/10/1988, ID number: 498.821.546-0X. Parents deceased. No known siblings. Marital status: Married. June 2012. Spouse: Wen Hai Qiu, age 35 - deceased. One child from marriage: Wen Yuan, Status: Missing.

 

“The medical and scientific communities respected and honored her.” Lan Wangji said respectfully following the track of his gaze.

 

“Yeah, such a waste, she was a revolutionary brain in the field.”

 

“Wei Ying.”

 

“Mn?” He felt compelled to lift his eyes... and their eyes met again. There was a gleaming in Lan Wangji's eyes that Wei Wuxian knew really well. Leaning toward him, he caught his face in his hands.

 

“Oh boy, what is that higher brain functions of yours thinking?”

 

“Koi Tower enterprises, what's your suspicion probability?”

 

“I don't have a single piece of evidence against them, at least, none of the evidences points that way, I couldn't find any trace of anything at all. But, my professional instinct is always telling me that something is really wrong with them.” Intrigued, Wei Wuxian ran a finger in his cheekbones and released his face.

 

“I don't have a direct evidence, but I may have a connection.”

 

“What?!” Wei Wuxian shot him a look

 

Lan Wangji leaned forward, quickly typing a series of commands on the keyboard, but then, suddenly, his fingers stopped clacking, and he lifted up his hand, turning the wide flat-screen monitor in Wei Wuxian's direction.

 

“I started working with their company previous month, for external eyes, the Lan company is still a technology and cyber security company. So, in special cases, I need to work with companies, locating security flaws in corporate networks.”

 

The screen in front of him had a lot of numeric codes. “I'm confused as hell.” He said, completely unable to focus.

 

“Jin Zixuan came to me with some ‘insecurities’ about his employees, he was suspected of fraud and money laundering.”

 

“Why didn't he tell us about this before?”

 

“He didn't want to involve your family, not after what happened to your nephew.”

 

“I see.” He tapped a finger on his own chin.

 

“Every network maintains something called Address Resolution Protocol and it is basically an internal IP address, anyone can write this data, it's completely unsecured and easy to hack.”

 

Wei Wuxian shifted his attention to were Lan Wangji was pointing on the screen.

 

“The protection software his company uses in his IT system is weak and common, but there's one division that uses a different software and it is currently one of the strongest systems in the market.” He explained.

 

“The Stem Cell and Genetic study division.” Wei Wuxian exclaimed with a hostile groan, following the structural mapping on the screen.

 

“Mn.”

 

“Are you able to access these records?”

 

“Mn.”

 

“How did you get all these internal documents from Koi Tower?”

 

“Zixuan gave me access and total permission, but this specific system is too encrypted to access, I'm still working on that.” Lan Wangji said making some notes.

 

“I'm storing all the encrypted data I can find and trying to decrypt it, I'm already nearing a breakthrough, yesterday, I installed a back door in their system, so I can get utter access to every function the program has, but it takes time.”

 

“What is a backdoor?” He asked.

 

“Something I can use to bypass all authorization and be able to fire a nuke.”

 

“A nuke?! What the fuck?!” His eyes widened.

 

“Mn, it's a computer language, it means I can access or delete their system and accounts without warning. And also, access the database and all the components stored directly from my personal equipment.”

 

“This is quite impressive.” He moved closer and absently took his hand, playing with the traces of his palm, while studying the screen data. “It’s so complex that it really makes me want to turn off my computer and live in the woods.”

 

“This sector has some of the top scientists of the country and Wen Mei was the chief research officer from the team.” Lan Wangji stared at him.

 

“Remembering now, some days before their death, she was acting strangely, is it possible to find any connection between Koi Tower and the Wens?”

 

“She was working with stem cells for cancer research, if I'm not mistaken, cloned stem cells can be inserted into organ systems to regenerate them. The risk of the body rejecting them is lower than with transplant, especially in bone marrow cancer. But, what if someone tries to use it to commercial endeavours?”

 

“Oh… so that's what the mafia wants, cloned DNA! DNA evidences are unique and extremely complex, just a droplet of blood is enough to incriminate someone.”

 

“DNA match proves the defendant's guilt or innocence, with the right biological samples, the mafia can incriminate anyone, from politicians to confederate generals, agents, personal enemies and all inside the law and court rules. It's irrefutable, not to mention the legal repercussions.”

 

“Especially if the sample is already on file.” Wei Wuxian eyed Lan Wangji sternly. “DNA cloning conspiracy, it's a dangerous business.”

 

“Mn. Its smart and clean.”

 

“I bet Wen Mei found out and they decided to eliminate her.” With a boiling rage burning in his eyes, the brutal reality of it hit him like a fist.

 

“I’m sorry for your loss, Wei Ying, it’s outrageous what they’ve done to them.”

 

“My only duty was to serve and protect, but look at me, I couldn't even do that.” He said with a mix of sadness and refusal all over his countenance.

 

“You couldn't have known.” Lan Wangji gently gripped his chin and kept his eyes focused on his. “I know how devoted you are Wei Ying, how many innocents have you stood for? Trust yourself, you'll bring them justice.”

 

Lan Wangji laid his hands on his shoulders and unexpectedly pulled him against himself, and Wei Wuxian only hugged him closer, burying his face on the curve of his shoulder, digging his fingers on the length of his back, almost ripping the fabric underneath them.

 

“It's a beginning, we're connecting the dots.” Lan Wangji murmured next to his ear, caressing his hair.

 

“That was the connection all along. Their tactical system is obvious, I’m so stupid.”

 

“You're not.”

 

“Of course I am.” He laughed and poked Lan Wangji's rib, slowly pulling away from him. “Who’s the head leader of the sector?”

 

“Jin GuangYao.”

 

“I imagine, the peacock doesn't get along with him.”

 

“You believe he planned the kidnapping.” Lan Wangji stated.

 

“Mn. The peacock is the one who manages the money, after Jin GuangShan's death, by law, he's the one responsible for the company and all the assets. Maybe the research got too demanding and the money too scarce.” Wei Wuxian slammed his fist on the desk. “A child's kidnapping is easy money, even more so when it's known that the family would do anything to have him back.”

 

“As soon as the money was received, they sent Wen Xu to deliver the child.”

 

“Who would have thought Wen Xu would try to take opportunity as well?”

 

“It's unacceptable, what they've done, it is a horror no child should know exists much less experience.” Lan Wangji lowered his voice, trying to contain himself not to hit the table as well.

 

“Lan Zhan, I killed him.”

 

“I know.”

 

“That doesn't worry you? That I took a life? That I have blood on my hands? You have a murderer under your roof, inside your house.”

 

“No, that doesn't concern me.” Lan Wangji gently stroked his still moist hair.

 

“Why?” Wei Wuxian studied him curiously.

 

“Your safety is the only thing that matters to me.”

 

“I can kill again, Lan Zhan. I'm going to kill anyone who dares to touch the people I love.” His eyes went dark and his voice was soft and terrifyingly gentle. “I won't hesitate again. I won't let anyone touch them. I won't let anyone touch you.” He gripped Lan Wangji's hand unconsciously and Lan Wangji interlocked their fingers. Wei Wuxian leaned in the warmth of his skin. It’s warm, he feels safe, but what is the price?

 

Lan Wangji opened his mouth and shut it again, he knew the delusional stupor that clouded Wei Wuxian’s eyes. He had seen it before. He was losing himself again, in this sheer madness of fury that gleamed inside his wild and devastated eyes which seemed nearly crimson under the lights.

 

Sometimes he seemed moved only by resentment and this triggers of fear blinded him in so many different ways that it was hard to count. First, he freaks out, then, he tries to hide. In sleep, in silence and solitude. And eventually, he loses his mind, moving only by emotions, always ready to snap a vicious and mindless attack, like a wounded beast. And Lan Wangji had only one explanation for this strange behavior.

 

“Wei Ying.” Wei Wuxian turned when he heard his voice, blinking in surprise. “Wei Ying, do you blame yourself? For what happened?” Wei Wuxian retracted his hand, his voice trembling weakly.

 

“What?” He asked, a little confused, then shook his head. He was in a very dangerous state of mind.

 

“How many sacrifices you have to make in order to serve?"

 

“Do you really wanna talk about sacrifices? What about you, uh? How many, Lan Zhan? Everyone have to serve at some point, right?” Wei Wuxian responded without hesitation and Lan Wangji became silent.

 

“That's why you left me, Wei Ying?” Lan Wangji quietly whispered, looking down to meet his eyes.

 

“Sorry, Lan Zhan. I don't want to hold you up, you must have other things to do.” He said, already getting up from his chair, ignoring him, in some obvious crisis. Lan Wangji got up, scrambling around the desk and dragging a hand over his face, and then through his hair.

 

“Wei Ying, please, talk to me.” Lan Wangji spoke quietly, almost sadly.

 

“That's why you brought me to your house? To put me against the wall? To interrogate me?” He shouted, in frustration and fury.

 

“No, I just-”

 

“Just what?!” He yelled angrily, the numbness falling over his being. “You know, Lan Zhan? Pain doesn’t hurt if it’s all you have left, so why care about it?”

 

He turned, looked straight at Lan Wangji, eyes completely bleak and dark. But before he could answer, a bell began to reverberating through the house. They remained silent for a few seconds, then Wei Wuxian exhaled a weighty sigh.

 

“Must be Mo Xuanyu.” He managed a weak smile.

 

“I will open the gate.” Lan Wangji kept his voice flat and expressionless and slowly let go of him, walking across the room to check the security system.

 

He looked at the black car parked in front of his gate and shot an uneasy glance at the monitor when he spotted Mo Xuanyu leaving the car, heading toward the security panel outside the gates. The infrared detector hadn't detected any other thermal images registered in red other than Mo Xuanyu. The surrounding area also looked clear.

 

He activated the panel speaker. “Have you been followed?”

 

“No sir, I've been careful.” He kept an even tone.

 

Lan Wangji checked the security cameras, feeling a growing nervousness by the interruption. He unlocked the gate remotely and told him to enter. When Mo Xuanyu was driving in, the surveillance system scanned the car looking for hidden GPS tracking devices.

 

Clear. Good.

 

Lan Wangji crossed the office toward the door, where Wei Wuxian was and held out his hand for him, with a security key card ID access in his palm.

 

“When you trust me enough, when you find that needing help isn’t the same as being weak and dependent, you can talk to me.” He said as politely as possible. “You can use the notebook, I'll be in my room.”

 

Lan Wangji left him alone in the room.

 

There was sorrow in his eyes, or perhaps it was pity? It was hard to tell. But in that moment, all the words fell silent inside his head. What was he doing? What was the point? All the effort, the risks, all the plans and promises, all those years, lost.

 

They had lost eight years, and for what? Because he can handle his fears? Or because he can't get his fucking shit together? Neither of them can change what happened, so why is it so hard to forget? Why is it so hard to move on? Everything went wrong because of him, that was true, but even now, a grown man like him, couldn't be able to put an end to this burden he'd been carrying for the past eight years?

 

He knows he can't take back the time they already lost but, would he be able to give the future a chance? Everything was so fractured and ruined, they’d gone from boys to men and everything changed, they didn't even know each other anymore. For now, their professional relationship was mutual, but it was just that, would they be able to cultivate a friendship again? It was impossible to know if they didn't try.

 

Well, tough choices were necessary, so whatever the universe's twisted plan are, to led them on the same path again, they'd better take it. It was given them a second chance for a reason, right? He should talk to Lan Wangji later, they should clear this up, once and for all.

 

Wei Wuxian took the stairs down and unlocked the wide wooden door from the main entrance with the ID Card, Mo Xuanyu stepped in and tossed aside his shoes.

 

“Sir, I think I found the undercover officer.”

 

“What?!”

 


 

“I brought you a copy of all data, report and interview discs.” Mo Xuanyu said gathering up the files and discs on the desk and Wei Wuxian quickly went through the discs and files, flipping through them with his fingers.

 

“Any private concerns?”

 

“Actually, yes, I took some time this morning to verify, research and well, speculate, and this is the only logical conclusion I could reach.”

 

Wei Wuxian snatched the security disc and shoved it into the notebook slot. He looked tired, Mo Xuanyu noted.

 

“There was a huge glitch on the security discs, the image shifted precisely at 02:35 and returned to surveillance at 05:00. The anonymous call was at 7:25”

 

“So, we have two hours and twenty five minutes wiped from the system. What was the time of death?” Wei Wuxian's cat eyes were sharp on the screen.

 

“The time of death was determined by Wen Qing at 3:18 A.M. for Wen Hai and 3:33 A.M. for Wen Mei. The process of the torture and the heart burst method are included in the report.”

 

“They'd spent nearly three hours inside the house after their deaths, probably to make sure they hadn’t left any trace behind.” Wei Wuxian slowly tapped a finger on his chin, thinking about the wiped records. “Toxicology results?”

 

“All within normal range.”

 

“Okay, so far, everything is sort-of-normal. Tell me about the cop.” Wei Wuxian sat back and stared up at the ceiling.

 

“Well, when I read the reports this morning, I immediately went back to the crime scene, as you’ll see in the autopsy report and as far as the examination could conclude, there was deep wounds on both throats, from screaming. There's no city noises in the complex, everything is remarkably silent. Anyone would clearly hear the screams and the shots from miles away, especially at night.”

 

“You went there to see if the walls where thin or sound proof.” Wei Wuxian stated.

 

“Uhum, only the safe room is sound proof and the officer who interviewed the victim’s neighbours, claims in his report that, from all the follow-ups on the list, none of them had heard a thing.”

 

“They lied during the interview?! All of them??” Wei Wuxian lurched out of his chair and almost yelled, completely restless, unsettled.

 

“I think so?” Mo Xuanyu said a bit weakly. “I checked with the neighbours again, and everyone I've managed to interview, stated the same story. I couldn’t get one single soul to refute what was on the report.”

 

“What the fuck?! They were all bought?” Wei Wuxian's eyes shifted, went cold. “There was anyone behaving in a suspicious manner?”

 

“An old lady across the street, her voice was trembling as nervously as a thief’s hand. And also, I heard this afternoon that a family on the back street saw a small fire in the woods outside of their house, called the fire department, and after putting out the flames, they found their dog burned to the bones.” Wei Wuxian met his eyes and he sighed resolutely.

 

“Christ, that’s sick.” He rubbed the center of his forehead, trying to ignore the headache that was building in his head.

 

“They lived in a nice, suburban home, and for what I could see, they loved their neighbourhood, and the complex is really calm, I live there for Christ sake, whatever is happening there, is haunting the poor neighbourhood.”

 

“For how long will they keep playing this game?” Wei Wuxian hissed. “They are probably being blackmailed or threatened.”

 

Wei Wuxian realized that the small problem had become a drama, and the drama was a step away from becoming a commotion.

 

“Why do you think the cop is involved?”

 

“He's new in the department, I accessed his public archive and he has high connections at nearly every level of business, he was a high-level personal security officer, so, what is he doing as a low officer in the department? Who would trade that kind of salary for a public job? And also, he wasn't the officer in charge of the interviews, but then again, the other cop called in sick and he was conveniently in charge of everything.”

 

“And Jiang Cheng approved this shit?!”

 

“The order came from the federation, it was out of the commander's order.”

 

“What’s the cop's name?”

 

“It’s Su MinShan, sir.”

 

Wei Wuxian's eyes went sly. “I know that name... There's something about that name that sounds familiar...”

 

“He was my half-brother’s personal security.” Mo Xuanyu made a disgusted face.

 

“Do you mean…?”

 

“Uhum, Jin GuangYao.”

 

Wei Wuxian's eyes blinked, then widened. “I'll send Jiang Cheng an authorization request for Su Mishan's files and ask A-Li to write up a preliminary psychological profile about him.”

 

“Oh, speaking of which, Doctor Jiang must have established a profile of the killers by now.”

 

“Great, we can meet her at her office tomorrow morning, Shijie opens her office at 9 A.M. so we can go at 10.”

 

“Sure.” He slid his hands into his pockets. “Hm… Sir?” He paused, struggling a little with his emotions.

 

“Mn?” Wei Wuxian only lifted a brow at Xuanyu's nervous tone. “Oh boy. What have you done?”

 

“Okay, before I tell you, you have to promise not to scold me.” He said flipping back and forth on his chair. Xuanyu looked anxious and a bit worried, Wei Wuxian noticed.

 

“I promise.” Wei Wuxian said in a calm tone then put a hand on Xuanyu's shoulder, squeezing lightly.

 

That small measure relieved Xuanyu's anxiety a little. He took a steadying breath.

 

“I kind of... sneaked into his office at lunch?!” He looked over at him nervously.

 

“What?!”

 

“There was no one there and I thought it was a good opportunity to look at some connections and appointments in his agenda?” He explained anxiously, his voice trembled now, just like his hands.

 

“That was for sure a pretty lousy idea.” He rolled his eyes and chuckled. “Oh my, look at you, you're so sunken in disgrace, just like me, you're so adorable, my pride and joy.”

 

“I'm very confused, Sir.” He gave him a look.

 

With a full laugh, he slid an arm around his shoulder. “What have you found?”

 

“You got plans for tonight?” His eyes seemed full of mischief. “He has a meeting at the center, at a club named Nightless City.” Xuanyu showed his teeth in a full smile. “To meet the owner.”

 

“You can't be serious!” Wei Wuxian smiled along with him.

 

“I bet my fine ass, Sir.” He pointed his nose greedily.

 

“Your skinny ass, you mean.” Wei Wuxian started laughing.

 

"Mean!" Mo Xuanyu said, pretending to pout.

 

“What do you think about we just hit a night club on a Friday night? Wouldn't that be fun?”

 

“That's the most fun.” Mo Xuanyu grinned at him.

 

“Let's go out to celebrate and get drunk.” Wei Wuxian said, rising from his chair.

 


 The sky was pitch-black and the wind whipped through his hair. The moonlight flickered as if it was a flashlight, it was a bit cold and the chill crept into his bones.

 

Xuanyu rubbed his chilled hands as they headed toward the car.

 

Wei Wuxian aimed his eyes to the house one last time, a sad smile ghosted around his mouth. He closed his dark eyes in the night breeze and heaved out a breath, it’s really cold. He shivers, in a sudden wave of vertigo.

 

Our conversation will have to wait until tomorrow, Lan Zhan.

 

For a moment, he had a deep sense of foreboding, but he chose to ignore it. He jumped in the car, lifted the ID card to the panel and used it to open the gate. The shrill beep of the security system instantly caught Lan Wangji's attention. But, when he was halfway down the stairs, they had already gone.

 

 


 

Wei Wuxian parked in front of the Club, and his eyes met Mo Xuanyu’s in the rear-view mirror.

 

“Let's go kick some ass, Xuanyu.”

 

“Oh Sir, I love when you say that.”

 

 

Chapter Text

Eleven years ago.

 

It started on a Sunday morning.

He woke up early, had a peaceful breakfast, and sat by the window.

There was order and regulation to everything around him. 

He loved quiet days.

He loved the ticking noises of the clock echoing silently through the house. He loved the sweet and almost tangible songs of the birds outside, dissipating in the blissful, warm weather. And he also loved, the soft hum of his guqin, played like a breath of serenity, in a wakeful rest. 

Everything was so natural. The hours moving without hurry, the wind sailing free in an infinity of kindness and patience.  

Lan Wangji positioned himself in front of the wide glass. Accompanied only by the tree outside his garden.

He could feel the warm rays of sunshine bathing his skin. The earthy scent of wet soil from the rain of the previous night, was something so fragile and ephemeral, but capable of stopping his thoughts from buzzing. The gentle melody of the drops, somehow, brings serenity to his being.

He closed his eyes, overwhelmed by all those sweet feelings around him. He lightly ran his fingers over the shining strings of his guqin and started practicing, while looking at the flowers, that swayed in the wind in the front yard of his house.

The neighborhood was quiet.

Every single house had flowers and patchways of grass in the front, coloring the streets and adding gentleness at the rhythmic passing of the neighbors. He liked it, liked the feel of it, he always felt safe there.

People didn't need to lock their cars, nor their houses, and the children could spend the whole day playing around, without supervision at all. He could see older boys and girls in the distance, always riding bikes or skateboards over the uneven sidewalk. It was just an ordinary day, like any other one.

He truly appreciated the view and silence.

Music slowly took shape under his talented fingers, and Lan Wangji slowly sunk inside his small world.

He felt everything light around his body, as if someone had pushed a button, turning off everything around him; the planet, the satellites and even the moon.

But then, a formless shadow caught his attention.

There was a suggestion of movement from beyond the garden, moving like ghosts in the silver light shadows from the sun. He opened his eyes, slowly shifting his head to look toward the fence outside his house.

Indistinct sounds engulfed him, breaking his companionable quietness and pristine silence.

A moving truck parked across the street. The abruptly loud noise interrupting his thoughts.

He shot a look of dislike at the upsetting movement and chatter coming from the street.

A man and two boys stepped out of the car, – that was parked in front his house – and started carrying some boxes and furniture to the house next door. One of them was excessively noisy, too energetic, and Lan Wangji frowned at that, for a whole minute.

Not good.

The noisy creature had a long flow of black hair tugged in a high ponytail, and he was wearing a tight black jeans and a basic red shirt.

The cotton fabric moved softly in the breeze, and the collar was open just enough to show the shape of his neck and a bit of his chest.

He picked up a huge cardboard box. A thin layer of sweat covered his skin, along with his jawline, glistening in the sunlight.

Lan Wangji felt a quick shiver run down his spine.

He realized he'd been staring at him for more than half an hour now. Studying his face and the way his body moved for longer than he should have.

The boy stopped to take a long drink from the water bottle the other one handed to him, and after he steadied himself enough with three more sips, he lifted his fingers, reaching for the buttons of his shirt.

What is he doing? Is he unbuttoning his shirt?!

Lan Wangji turned his head away, trying to recite all the 3.000 rules from the Lan manual in his head.

His heart was hammering inside his chest, a warm heat tinting his ears in soft pink. That was probably the most shameless thing he had ever witnessed. But he also felt uncomfortably curious.

Guided entirely by curiosity, he lifted his head, slowly turning to the window again. Just to catch the boy’s eyes, a dark shade of gray, deeply staring at him.

Lan Wangji froze, his eyes instinctively lingering on his bare upper body.

The boy kept looking at him, the same curiosity mirrored in his eyes. When Lan Wangji realized the situation, he was already in the middle of an inner panic attack.

Although his inner thoughts betrayed his moral, he couldn't resist glancing at him one more time. The boy’s cheerfully mood brightened in a smile, one that was beautifully lighting up his face.

He waved his hands at him, laughing, so obviously pleased that Lan Wangji stiffened abruptly, his guqin almost falling out of the window.

He wasn't able to resist the urge to retreat. He carefully stepped back, took a deep breath, and closed the curtains in his face.

“Wangji?” Lan Wangji almost jumped at the sudden and unexpected interruption.

“Bro-ther.” Lan Wangji's face turned a fraction in his direction, clearly refusing to look Lan XiChen in the eye.

“Are you okay? You’re a little pale.”

His mind was running too wild to properly formulate a worthy response. “Nothin-g to wo-rry about.” He said, trying to regain some of his composure.

Lan XiChen slightly frowned down at him. Slowly angling his head to study his brother, as he thought about this strange behavior of his. However, when he heard a cackling laughter outside the window, Lan XiChen struggled not to laugh, immediately understanding the defensive stance of his younger brother.

“Ah… have you seen the new neighbors? Uncle said a new family was moving next door.” He said letting out a small chuckle.

“Mn.” Lan Wangji pressed his lips together, averting his eyes even more.

“I heard they have a son around your age.”

A sudden wild thrill whipped through him, he couldn't understand his own feelings for the first time in his life. He couldn't understand why that trifling information had his heart aching like a burn.

“Caring all those belongings up two floors of stairs must be hard.” He grinned. “Maybe we should go help them.”

Lan Wangji froze, for a second or two, his shoulders visibly stiffened.

“Sorry brother, I have homework.” He said apologetically. “I’m going back to my bedroom, excuse me.”


 

Since his peaceful afternoon had been ruined, Lan Wangji tried to get through the evening in the quietness and solitude that he had so longed for, in the comfort of his bedroom.

He lightened his sandalwood incense and meditated for a bit.

After an hour or so, he sat in his bed and started to play his guqin again, immersed in the sweet vibrations of the notes. His brain flowed between creation and reality, intoning different tones that without effort, filled the house like the sand filled the ocean.

He could feel the tidal flows running in his veins, flowing with the stirring of his own blood. And eventually, he lost sense of everything, except for the music.

He barely had started when a different sound came suddenly. Sweet and pure, like blackbirds singing in the nightshade.  The lightness swayed like honey, melting around the guqin notes like smokey haze.

Lan Wangji felt the soft, harmonious waves around him, rising familiarly, like old acquaintances, and this, somehow, was different, in a good way.

He could feel the warm presence like a slowly invitation. His heart kept time with the notes and the flute, whoever was playing, followed his tempo with patience and calmness, but at the same time, full of strength and power.

It sounded like a new journey of sounds, a shared journey.

Lan Wangji closed his eyes and slowly took his fingers off the strings, silencing his sitar.

The solitary flute kept resonating, its vibrations blinding the air like soft scents infusing in his bloodstream. He felt… heavenly. He was completely connected to the song, diving down just to rise all over again.

He felt the air being stolen from his lungs, it was breath-taking. The melody poured to the soul, overwhelming him with a tsunami of emotions he’s never felt before.

He somehow knew who was playing, and he didn't know if it was the demeanor, the player or the song that touched him so badly, but he was severely captured.

Like a sailor laced by the singing of a Siren.

When the last notes of the instrument got lost in the wind, he got up, almost running to the windowsill of his bedroom. He leaned down and found himself lost in the dark gray of his eyes.

Half of his body was out of the window, his elbows resting on the edge while a black flute danced blithely in his fingers.

A leaf from the magnolia tree planted between the two houses, was hanging loose on his lips, the same, curved in a bold smile, the sort the devil might have aimed towards the heaven, and the one that made him completely at his mercy.

The soft breeze greeted him with the scent of fresh soap and shampoo. He breathed in the smell of his perfume, so exotic and intoxicating, intermingling with the salty aroma of the ocean.

The sight felt like a drug to him, and he couldn't get enough of it.

His skin was almost translucent, it looked so soft and white, pinkish in the right places, where porcelain blue veins ran like rivers across his paleness. He watched, as a small drop of water slide down his neck, losing itself inside his shirt, and he imagined, how his skin would taste like, probably deliciously savory than any flavor he knows.

“Lan Wangji, right?” His hand came to his lips as he spoke, playing with the leaf around the corners of his mouth. His hair was wet, thrown up in a messy bun, and for what he could see from the upper base of the window, he was wearing a simple white shirt under an old black corduroy jacket.

“How -” Lan Wangji blinked, stuttered.

“Your brother, he came by early, bringing some baked goods. He just make the best homemade blueberry muffins I ever tasted. It was a kind gesture, though.” He smiled, so genuinely sweet, with the right touch of shyness. It was a sign of bliss, like a ray of sunshine glowing in the middle of the night.

Lan Wangji had his heart throbbing in his throat, his stomach sank and turned, as if butterflies were trying to escape from his mouth. It was menacing and eager, vivacious and warm, all at once. How can something so small and prim, change a person’s mood so instantly?

He felt his world split for a second, feeling absolutely delirious.

“Do you know how to talk?” The boy angled his head to meet his eyes. The diffused yellow light from the street-lamps glowed softly over his skin, dazzling the darkness gently. “Looks like we're bedroom neighbors too.”

During all the time, Lan Wangji was in complete silence, he skimmed his eyes through him, trying to figure it out how to make his brain cells go back to its normal functions.

“Oh, my name is Wei Wuxian by the way, but you can call me Wei Ying because I like your face.” His eyes twinkled in an innocent tease.

“Shameless.” Lan Wangji barely managed to say.

“Oh! So you know how to speak!” All innocent, he beamed up at him. “So, will you be my friend?”

Lan Wangji stood frozen, his eyes widened. “What?”

“Friends. You know, we can have fun together. I don’t know the city yet, neither the neighborhood, so you can show me around.” He began chattering, gesturing his hands as he spoke, his body slightly leaning forward the windowsill. “Oh, the windows are really close, aren’t they? I think if I climb the tree, I can get inside your room in the blink of an eye, wanna try?” He flashed a smile.

Looking more than a little surprised, Lan Wangji politely ignored him, shutting the window flat in his face, once more.

This can’t be true, he must be dreaming. No, he was in the middle of a nightmare. His room was his sanctuary, the only quiet place he had to take a break from the chaos of the outside world, to unwind and meditate, but then came this trouble, named Wei Wuxian, his obnoxious new neighbor, to destroy his peaceful palace, quickly turning his world into a war zone and a living hell.

“It was good to talk with you, too!” Wei Wuxian threw up his hands and shouted it from outside, laughing heartily.

No. No. No. No. No.

Lan Wangji's eyes were slightly blurry as he marched down the corridor. His blood seemed to rush to the surface of his cheeks. He felt oddly light-headed, with a wavering dizziness building under his temples. He stood in front of Lan XiChen’s room and shoved his door open with a burst.

“Brother.” He said quietly, almost for himself.

“Wangji?” Lan XiChen smiled, a little shakily, dropping his poetry book on the floor. “What’s the matter?”

“I want to exchange rooms.” His eyes were dark and gloomy.

“Oh, can you tell me why?” Lan XiChen’s eyes softened.

He let out a long sigh, of course he would never admit his motives.

“Wangji… Making friends may not be as hard as you think, sometimes they can be cool, try to give them a chance, uh?”

“I do not intend to make friends.”

“Everyone needs a good friend and a good friend is hard to find.”

“I do not know how to make friends, brother.” He murmured.

“You just need to learn how to communicate better.” He carefully laid a hand on Lan Wangji's shoulder, and when his younger brother didn't react negatively, he relaxed. “Why don't you try starting with something simple?”

He shifted his gaze and studied his brother – who approached him with an easy smile – waiting for the answer patiently.

“You can start saying ‘Hello’.”

Let's face it. He couldn’t do it.

From that day on, he avoided the window.


 

For the next few days, the new neighbors were still moving some things to the house and Lan Wangji tried to ignore them every time they went out.

When their kids were in the garden or around the street, he locked himself in his room, trying to mask the reality behind dense curtains and solitude, but even so, the noises and voices echoed in his head until he nearly scream with it. Why do they have to live in the same universe?

On Tuesday, they were smashing watermelons in their front yard.

And why on earth was he listening to Lady Gaga at full volume on a Wednesday night?

For the first time he really, really missed their nice, quiet neighborhood.

The world would be a much better place if nobody had neighbors. But it’s not like he can call the cops every time their noisy neighbors are up to something.

Despite this, the week went fine, and then was Sunday again, and with it, the end of summer vacations.

In the next morning, classes would start again and he was really looking forward for his first year of high school. He was a good student and the pride of his family, he enjoyed his current mornings at the library and the experience of learning.

He sat in his desk to organize his backpack. He used to plan his next day every previously night.

He started separating new textbooks, along with a pencil bag, filled with two neutral pens, a highlighter, an automatic pencil and an eraser. He carefully put his notebook and the charger in the case and then, he finished putting his student ID and his library card inside his planner. After separating enough money for lunch for the whole week and filling his water bottle, he started to get ready for bed.

It was late and the house was quiet. He finished setting up, putting his wallet and house keys in his desk and went to bed. The night was warm and his window was open, for the first time that week. His hair flew softly, pulled by the wind. A little restless, he slipped out of his bed and glanced at the closed window in front of his.

The moonglow bathed down his skin, white and sweet.

He closed his eyes in a secret whisper, sighing as he looked down at the surface of the long tree trunk connecting the two bedrooms on the second floor. Please, for the love of God, they couldn't be in the same class.


 

It was a lovely morning. Lan Wangji bowed his head to the old couple across the street and helped a kid to stand up after falling from her bike.

The trees and flowers along the way were soaked in surprisingly different shades of gold, reminding the world of the beginning of the fall. The air had a gentle and sultry breeze and the feel of the sun's warmth caressing his body was overwhelming.

He drank in the view of the beautiful sunrise as he crossed the school gates. Voices babbled happily as the new students arrived. The halls were crowded with different faces; the seniors were greeting each other, joining their respective groups while newcomers walked to their classes a little scared from new beginnings.

Most of them just enjoyed chatting and having fun, instead of studying. Others were too immersed in their cellphones to take inventory of their surroundings. Actually, it was almost impossible to find someone without a phone in their hands, he included, but he had his own motives. And they weren’t for fun.

It was like a different world populated by teenagers. And Lan Wangji? He was the type who enjoy to observe rather than to be involved, let alone socialize.

He went straight to his first class, modern art, he wasn't good at drawing, and he was even worse at painting. Art has never been one of Lan Wangji’s strengths, he was more of a accurate person, however, he loved the essence of it, and the way a simple piece of paper can illuminate the world in fluid movements and colors, waving widely in metaphors and dreams. Just like music.

He sat politely in the first seat, next to the teacher’s table and took his phone to check his daily chores and create new tasks for future projects and assignments. He heard the distinct chatter around the room, they were probably talking about him, but he was used to it, so it didn’t matter.

He was silent and his normal gaze was rather cold compared to almost everyone else in the world. His features devoid of warmth and his expressionless face, turns him into the unlikable type, and people had already made up their minds about him before he even spoke a single word.

He was the only one to blame, that was the truth. He was often giving them the worst impressions, only by being, himself. It's understandable, and he didn't mind, although it felt lonely sometimes.

He was just setting his notebook in the table when he heard a playful tone echoing outside. The laugh came like a hurricane, washing his thoughts and shaking his world. It was so unrestrained and brilliant, and suddenly the room was filled with joy. Wei Wuxian stood at the doorway, caught by the brief look of surprise on Lan Wangji's face. 

Lan Wangji observed him from the corner of his eyes, he was gathered in a circle of teenagers, everyone chattering and laughing loudly. He recognized one of the students as the younger brother of his brother's best friend, Nie Huaisang.

Wei Wuxian laughed at one of the girls of the group and Lan Wangji could assume it was because of some type of joke.

Wei Wuxian tried to lock his eyes with Lan Wangji, but Lan Wangji quickly averted them, instead looking at the black board in front of him.

“The only challenge in high school is to keep grades up while partying my ass off.” Nie Huaisang said hiding his face and Wei Wuxian laughed.

“Do you think Wangji would enjoy these kinds of parties? I think I’ll invite him.” Just looking at him all focused at that blank board, was enough to make his smile sweeten.

“That freak?! He’s so mysterious and reclusive, never returning any hello’s or smiles. Only answering with those silent, cold, unfeeling dead eyes.” One of the girls said and pretended to shiver. “Of course he wouldn’t enjoy it.”

Wei Wuxian slowly raised his eyebrows in a signal of unpleasant surprise. “What did you just said?”

“Yeah, and he also has all that superiority aura.” The other girl followed gesticulating with her fingers.

“He may be serious though, but he’s not unkind.” Wei Wuxian cut the two.

“He's systematic and completely obsessed with grades, it's like boredom has been rooted out of existence to make home inside one single person. Oh, and he's so pale that people say his skin must be made of ice, just like his heart.” The third girl said and they all started to giggle.

“You're all being a little too dramatic.” Wei Wuxian insisted, his voice hissy.

“Yeah, yeah, but he's pretty hot, though, such a waste, I'm pretty sure he's still a virgin.” The first girl added, ignoring him.

“Imagine taking him to bed, must feel like being fucked by a wax doll.” The boy by her side started to elbow her.

Wei Wuxian shoved his fists in his pockets and grinned, obviously pissed.

“Oh, I'm sorry, did I offend you by offending him?” The boy pointed his nose at him.

Wei Wuxian just glanced over the boy, his voice pleasant and gentle, and in that moment, they all knew, that that was the most dangerous of all.

“Talk shit in front of me again and you'll go back home with a broken bone.” His lips were now curved in a genuine smile, a scary one, and the whole group became silent. He got up to leave. “Let’s go Huaisang.”

Nie Huaisang that remained silent the whole conversation, nodded and followed him. He was actually smiling under his fan, too proud of Wei Wuxian to even bother a final glance to the group.

“Are you really going to talk with that spoiled rich kid?” The nameless girl shouted and Wei Wuxian turned slowly, silencing her immediately.

“It looks like you all have A LOT of extra time on your hands, huh?” Wei Wuxian said quietly, a slight twinge of a smirk at the corner of his lips, already tired of the conversation. “I'm pretty sure he works really hard, he's polite, quiet, fucking hot and probably better than any of you put together. So yeah, I’m sticking with him, so fuck you, shit heads.”

He ignored the bitter curses and rude gestures tossed at him and ran toward Lan Wangji's table, almost colliding with his chair.

“Wangji, Wangji! Long time no see.” Wei Wuxian waved at him, sliding to the seat beside him, while Nie Huaisang sat on the one behind him.

Lan Wangji only nodded at them.

Patience. Patience. Patience.

He looked straight to the floor, a little distressed, aiming to be invisible, and slightly annoyed by the forced interaction.

The teacher walked into the room and gazed at the students, noticing the casual chaos from the first day of school. When everyone accommodated to listen, she started the class.

"You're working on assignments, choose a partner and join the tables, you'll work together until the end of the semester." Her voice was soft as she spoke.

“Wangji, let’s work together?” Wei Wuxian asked immediately.

“Nonsense.” In that moment, Lan Wangji could feel his energy being drained from his being like an ink stain blotting on paper.

“Come oooon, I’m a good partner! You’ll see!”

“Ridiculous.” He said, slowly turning to face the cause of his raised heartbeats and cold sweats.

“Seriously, just let that thought soak in your brain for about thirty seconds.” Wei Wuxian said looking at his watch. Thirty seconds passed and he glued their tables together, unceremoniously. “Told ya.” He laughed, and Lan Wangji just sighed.

The teacher gave them the topic and some time to discuss the project, which was, modeling. They would have to paint portraits of each other in some of the most influential movements of modern art, like surrealism or fauvism, and of course, Wei Wuxian chose Pop Art and Lan Wangji Art Nouveau. Aside from this, the rest of the class went fine, however, Lan Wangji forgot to include the Wei Wuxian element in the equation.

“Quit passing notes.”

“Sure, sure.” He ignored him.

“Wei Wuxian, quit texting.” He insisted.

“I will, I will.” He basically repeated in an absent move.

“Are you seriously watching Netflix right now?”

“Ah, come on Wangji, will you pay attention to me? If you do, I'll turn off my phone.”

“Shameless.” He said. Lan Wangji always tried to stay out of people’s way as humanly possible, but Wei Wuxian, he was completely unavoidable. “Stop playing around.”

“I'm taking school seriously, I swear!” Wei Wuxian said laughing, but he indeed turned off his phone, propping himself up with an elbow on the table.

Lan Wangji tried hard to focus on the lecture, while Wei Wuxian smiled at him, as sweet-natured as a sunrise, without taking his eyes off his face the entire time.

Lan Wangji, Lan Wangji, what a mysterious person you are.

There was something so sexy in that vulnerable look of his.

Wei Wuxian watched his hair, so long, thick and black, flowing over his cute pink ears, right down to the collar of his white silk shirt.

He has the most wonderful golden eyes he had ever seen, and the way he presses those soft pink lips in discontentment, makes him feel an irresistible impulse to smile. Not to mention those well-defined chin and nose, carved cheekbones and blade jawline, inviting his most primitive desires, making him want to eat him alive.

For years, he felt himself completely lost and confused about his sexuality. First, he thought he was asexual because he didn't liked anyone, then, he thought he was bi, because flirting with anything alive was fun, but the moment he met those golden eyes in that window, he was sure about one thing in his life. He was a hundred percent gay for his neighbor.

“Still ignoring me?” He moved an inch closer. “What should I call you to get a real response from you? Wangji?” He leaned even closer to Lan Wangji's desk.

“Lan Wangji?”

“…”

“Lan… Zhan?”

“…”

He leaned close to his ear and whispered.  “Lan Er-gege…”

Lan Wangji stiffened in his chair, his eyes widened at Wei Wuxian's next movement. He sat on his table. “I already told you, you can call me Wei Ying if you want to.” Wei Wuxian said in an easy flirtatious manner.

“Pathetic.” Was what his mouth was saying, but surely not his heart.


 

The school bell rang, it was lunch time.

Wei Wuxian readily took his hand in his, dragging him out of the classroom. “Let's find a secret spot to hang out! Just the two of us.”

They ordered their food and Wei Wuxian settled himself by his side, in a hidden table at the cafeteria, where they ate far from the bustling confusion.

Most teenagers had colorful hairs and piercings, and all of them were rebels, always thinking they have it right and the grownups have it wrong, with a willingness to disagree and challenge anything and everything. And that's the way they show the world they're cool.

But Wei Wuxian on other hand, considered ‘emo’, the right way to go. The popular one, at least. He was different, his hair was much longer with full bangs hanging over his eyes, he dressed in dark clothes, mostly black and red, but he was... so idealistic, smart and confident, full of enthusiasm, creativity and experimentation.

“New schools can be an adventure, right?” Wei Wuxian commented as Lan Wangji finished eating.

Lan Wangji glanced up in complete silence, but interested.

“Why don't you take me around?”

He glanced up again, quickly. His lips twitched.

“Hahaha-haha! Don’t tell me it’s ridiculous!” Wei Wuxian said Laughing.

Laughing uproariously.

He just. Laughed. And that was enough.

From what Lan Wangji had seen from him so far, Wei Wuxian was kind, gentle, and so thoroughly free… something Lan Wangji wasn’t used to.

That easy smile, the way his lips curved ever so lightly, the way he used to hold that challenge in his eyes, full of a dangerous kind of passion, followed by the promise of trouble, and he himself, was always so distracted, lost in the triumph of that face, to even notice the danger ahead, the danger behind.

He was beautiful, silly, and lovely... and Lan Wangji just… – couldn't take him off his head, the way humor danced in his round and dark eyes, that soft rose-petal skin, so warm, inviting, tempting, promising.

The way he looked at him, with a soft half smile on his lips and laughter in his eyes, always teasing, always flirting, did he even know what he was doing?

Was he trying to make him crazy?

“What are you doing?” He said frantically when Wei Wuxian unashamedly climbed into his lap.

“I'm just making excuses to hang out with you, isn't it obvious?” Wei Wuxian said simply, backpack hanging loose on his shoulder and a sweet smile on his lips.

Without waiting for an answer, he just held out his hand and took him into his madness.

Wei Wuxian. Would definitely. Be the death of him.


 

Lan Wangji remembers that night as if it just happened. They walked back home together, he politely said goodbye and went inside his house. He headed down to the kitchen to have dinner with his brother, checked his homework and some tasks and then went to the second floor and eased into a hot bath.

When everything was finished, he headed to his bedroom to change. It was almost nine and he wanted nothing more than to nuzzle in and sleep. But as much as he wanted to be alone and rest, he felt himself instinctively drawing to the closed window.

He got up, opened the window and observed the long tree. And he was there, waiting for him. Sitting on the tree limb, high enough to swing his legs; calmly staring at the moonless sky. It was a dark night, with thin clouds hiding the stars, the wind was blowing fairly hard and some drops of rain were falling around the tender furled leaves of the tree.

He was sheltered from the rain, but not from the cold.

Saying nothing, Lan Wangji climbed out of the window, scaling the wide tree trunk and sitting by his side. He slowly took off his thick sweater and wrapped it around his shoulders.

The fresh scent of his bath spun seductively in his nostrils. The hot scent of spice mixed with the sweetness of black orchids seemed to cling to his skin, and this mix of fragrances had quickly become familiar to Lan Wangji, like fresh air and oxygen. Wei Wuxian smelled like all the sins he wanted to lose himself to.

“Lan Zhan.” He said, lightly sniffing at Lan Wangji's dark cashmere sweater.

“Mn?”

“Where are your parents?”

The mention of his parents brought back to his mind a violent wave of memories, both sweet and sad, but mostly vague.

“They died, some years ago.” He let his words trail off, not certain of how he could explain it to him. “It’s, just me and my brother… – my uncle comes to check on us from time to time.”

“What happened?” Wei Wuxian looked down at their feet, swinging together.

He kept silent for a while, as if he might have been going over some decision just to be certain that it was right. “I don’t really know, they went for a business trip and never came back.” He didn’t lie, but he also thought it was best to omit some parts of the truth.

“I’m sorry, Lan Zhan.”

“No need.”

Wei Wuxian carefully put his head to the curve of his neck and shoulder, Lan Wangji stiffened but didn't push him away, so he felt it was safe to stay like that. “My parents died when I was three, I barely remember them.”

Lan Wangji looked at him a little confused and Wei Wuxian almost laughed.

“I’m adopted.” He swallowed hard and looked back at him. “Uncle Jiang came after me when he heard about the accident.”

“I’m sorry, Wei Ying.”

“No need! Hahaha.” He shook his head wearily. “We have more in common than we think.”

He touched Wei Wuxian's hand. And he had no regrets. Maybe, having friends and neighbors wasn't so bad after all.

“Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan, look at me!”

“Shameless.”

“Hahaha-haha, I was hoping to persuade you to join us for dinner tomorrow night.” His eyes, gray and smiling, met his. “What do you think?”

“Mn.”

“Is this a yes or a no?”

“Yes.”

“Really? Good! I was already planning a kidnapping.” His lips parted in a smile that revealed perfectly aligned teeth. “Lan Zhan?”

“Mn?”

“Will you be my friend?”

I will be whatever you want me to be, if you just ask me to.

“Mn. I will.”

“Good… I’ll be your friend too.”

From that night on, every night, Wei Wuxian was sitting right outside his bedroom window. And Lan Wangji? He was always by his side, closely accompanying him.


 

Days, weeks and months passed in the blink of an eye. Along the year, things started to change, to grow, and they were getting closer and closer, just as naturally as breathing.

There were no more hesitations, no secrets or shyness, they did everything together. Walking home from school, doing homework together, watching movies after curfew, staying over each other's house, being volunteers at the animal shelter, going into music classes, and even travelling sometimes. And life? Life was always exciting when you have someone to share it, isn’t it?

Lan Wangji came to learn a lot of things about Wei Wuxian and his family. Wei Wuxian was the kind of person who enjoys horror movie nights and spicy popcorn for dinner, his brother, Jiang Cheng, has anger management problems and his sister, Jiang Yanli, had those quiet shy eyes and the sweetest smile he had ever seen.

The Jiang family was as dysfunctional as intriguing, always laughing and always arguing, mostly Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng with each other. But there was also Madam Yu, which was always lowering herself to the childish level of arguing back and forth with Wei Wuxian. And almost always, immediately regretted losing her temper, but never admitted it. Even with all the fighting, it was obvious to anyone that deep inside, Yu Ziyuan loved Wei Ying, just like her own kids.

Captain Jiang Fengmian was the head commander of the Police Office from the state, and Captain Yu Ziyuan, was his right hand. But outside of work, they always seemed connected by a bond of love, care and support, even more when their children made them so proud. Even when they didn't make a show of it, it was all written on everyone's face, that they loved each other completely.

In those months, Lan Wangji had been warmly welcome to this new family.

At first, he felt completely out of his habitat. It was like being confronted by a different reality that he was not in control of. It was very frustrating and the urge to run away without looking back crossed his mind several times. But eventually, when he got used to the people around him and how they act toward him, never demanding or treating him like an outsider, he really felt like taking the next step. As impossible as it seemed at that time.

The days in the Jiang Family house were as warm as a sunny day and as colorful as a rainbow, especially when Jiang Fengmian used to make dinner and Lan Wangji and Wei Wuxian often caught him dancing in the kitchen, cheerfully clattering his shoes on the floor. No one would’ve say that this spirited man was the most honorable captain of the country. And it was for sure, like an entirely different world for him.

In their third year of high school, Jiang Cheng moved to Yiling to start his training at the Police Academy, and Jiang Yanli was in her last year of college. Wei Wuxian’s adoptive parents were always busy with their shifts and duties in the police station and Lan Huan, after college graduation, had just started his job at the Lan Company, in the advocacy sector. So the most of time, it was just Wei Wuxian and him.

And every passing day, Lan Wangji discovered new things about Wei Ying that made him so madly, pathetically, in love with him, that it was almost driving him crazy, like a short side trip into insanity.

He was the meme king; with the most meme knowledge he had ever experienced. He was also unbelievably lazy and hard to motivate. He absolutely loved spicy food and ice cream, and he liked to spend his free time gaming, watching horror movies or composing.

And oh, he was incredibly bad at making plans, because he never makes them from the first place.

Wei Wuxian had always been a very frantic person. Every time he spoke, he gestured, he touched, with such intensity. Always in some sweet casualness, bringing him closer, brushing his hand on his shoulder, in his arms, his hands, his chest... It was so natural coming from him, something Lan Wangji wasn't used to receiving. And that was what had drawn him to Wei Wuxian.

And well… There was also that thing, the one he does so easily and merciless. Wei Wuxian was always flirting, always touching him, in some way or another. And his touch always made him weak, always awakening needs, of anticipation and desperation, for more, more sensations, more discovery and more intimacy... it was so damn irresistible. Was he even aware of what he was doing?

Every single time, his fingers seemed to itch to touch him, as if he couldn't breathe unless he was touching Lan Wangji in some way, and every touch was always feather soft, delicate and full of tenderness. Sometimes, Lan Wangji noted, Wei Wuxian’s hands seemed to tremble so slightly, like he was scared of breaking him, and this always made his young heart flutter a bit, a bit too much.

Lan Wangji’s mind whirled with confusion, he wanted to tell him, about his feelings, about the way his heart pulsed every time he smiled at him, but an insecurity he hadn't been aware of, was always holding him back. He lay back against the pillows in his bed and tears started coming again. He was already losing count of them. His resistance was nil when it comes to Wei Ying.

His silent sobs were suddenly interrupted by the ringing of his cell phone, hidden under his pillow.

He checked the name on the screen, even already knowing who it was, and glanced at the closed window before picking up.

“Lan Zhan?” His voice sounded a bit worried and Lan Wangji felt a little guilty. “Are you okay? I was jumping in to see you but your window is closed.”

“I just got out of the shower.” It wasn’t a lie. Please don’t ask more about it.

“Oh! Sure! Hahaha, let me ask you, have you eaten already?”

Lan Wangji unconsciously shook his head. “Not yet, you?”

“Not yet.”

“Is that someone shouting?” He heard a crash, some curses and a really scary threat.

“Oh don't worry, it's just Jiang Cheng, this morning I ate the muffins XiChen-ge made for his plane trip and now he's pissed, and late too.” He laughed. “We're just threatening to burn each other's underwear.”

Lan Wangji pressed his lips in a coy smile.

“Okay, so he just thrown a freaking loquat at my head?!” He made a sound in his throat that was equal parts shocked and outraged. “And he didn’t even say a goodbye before slamming the door at my fucking face.”

When he laughed, Lan Wangji felt like he could spread his entire body in the sun and it wouldn't be enough to warm him like this laugh just did.

He had never seemed quite able to get enough of this, of him.

“So, Lan Zhan, I was thinking, maybe you should come over, I can make us dinner.” He said with a nervous laugh, almost quietly. “A-Li is sleeping at the peacock’s house tonight and Jiang Cheng just flew back to Yiling, so I’m all by myself.”

“What about your parents?” It wasn't a problem since he had already slept there several times with them present, but he asked anyway.

“Oh, they got stuck in the night shift.” He paused and then said. “So… Are you coming? I bought that new movie I told you last week.”

“Mn, I will lock the house.”

“Okay, I’ll be waiting for you!”

He hung up the phone and collapsed on the bed. How could he resist this person? With a heart as big as the ocean, as warm as the sun.

After a few minutes, he slowly shifted, reaching for his bag on the bedside table. He stuffed in a pair of socks, his pajamas, a change of clean clothes and a sweater, along with some hygiene things. He already had a toothbrush over Wei Wuxian's bathroom so he passed straight from his.

He left a note on the counter for his brother, checked the house one more time and locked everything.

And maybe, just maybe, he would even summon the courage to confess to Wei Ying, the truth about his feelings.

He crossed through the purple fence and rang the doorbell with confidence.

“The door is open!” Wei Wuxian shouted from inside.

Lan Wangji put his hand on the doorknob and then hesitated for a second. All the courage he was gathering, slipped from his mind in the moment he stepped through the doorway. Oh my God, why does he have to be like this?

He went straight to the second floor, put his bag on Wei Wuxian's bed, and went to meet him in the kitchen. Lan Wangji stopped in the doorway. Wei Wuxian’s head came up from where he was cooking on the stove and he tried to smile while chewing some vegetables. Lan Wangji’s heart melt, drowning completely at the sight of him.

“Sit Lan Zhan, I made your favorite! Sesame Chicken and Vegetable Chow Mein.” Wei Wuxian took a spoonful from the pan and shoved it in Lan Wangji's mouth, smiling. “Is it good?”

“Mn. Very good.” It was for sure the most delicious thing he had ever eaten. “You made by yourself?”

“Yes! I learned really well, didn't I?”

“Mn. What about you? What are you going to eat?” Lan Wangji glanced over the stove looking for any trace of something red. Nothing.

“Oh, don't worry about me, there's some leftovers from last night.” He propped himself up on an elbow in the countertop. “A-Li made some spicy Kung Pao Chicken, and I’ll eat this too.” He pointed at the pan.

“Wei Ying, you didn't have to…”

“Oh, come on Lan Zhan, you're always cooking spicy dishes for me at your house, let me spoil you a little bit, okay?” He pinched the bridge of his nose.

“Mn, thank you, Wei Ying.”

“It wasn't you who said that, between you and me, there's no need for 'thank you' and 'sorry'?” Wei Wuxian grinned and slid a plate over the counter for him.

“Mn.”

They had dinner sitting elbow-to-elbow, Wei Wuxian blabbering and often putting small pieces of spicy chicken on Lan Wangji's plate or mouth, and Lan Wangji was doing the same with him, feeding him with the vegetables he liked.

Wei Wuxian was always mocking him for eating in silence, sitting so straight, taking small bites, and asking permission to leave the table. And even after almost three years, he still didn't know how to put up with a pleasant conversation while eating, so, while Wei Wuxian got used to do all the talking job, he was his silent listener. And things worked that way.

Lan Wangji ended up spooning up more of the food, which was pretty rare coming from him, before helping Wei Wuxian cleaning the kitchen and the dishes.

As soon as he set the dishes in the drainer, Wei Wuxian came from behind him, tucked his chin on the curve of his shoulder and whispered in his ear.

He stiffened, tension lodging in the base of his neck. His heart was beating so fast and so fiercely that he was afraid Wei Wuxian was going to listen.

“Lan Zhan, I have a surprise for you.” Wei Wuxian said simply. But when Lan Wangji felt the warm heat of his breath on his nape, his heart threatened to explode through his chest, for real this time.

Wei Wuxian positioned a bottle of whisky in front of him, his lips curved, almost pressed on his neck.

“Drink with me, Lan Er-gege.” By the tone of his voice, he was openly flirting with him. But it’s not like this was exclusive, he flirted with anyone. Why would it be different with him?

“You're underage, alcohol is forbidden.” He stated.

“Come on, there're some things that everyone should try when they are still young.”

“You can drink when you’re eighteen.”

“Lan Zhaaan, pleeease, just one shot!” Lan Wangji shot a look over his shoulder, Wei Wuxian's mouth was an inch from his, their eyes locked.

He felt a hard shiver down his spine when Wei Wuxian's hands slid around his waist, sliding a pair of drinking glasses at the counter in front of him. He was too self-conscious of his presence.

“Drink with me...” He flashed him a grin and moved closer to the counter. “I have never drunk with anyone before, you’ll be my first.”

“Mn.”

“Really?” His eyes widened, along with his teeth, in a bright, warm smile.

“Yes.”

“Okay!”

He opened the bottle. Lan Wangji could smell the pure and strong essence of the alcohol. Wei Wuxian slowly poured the rich amber liquid into the two small glasses and offered him one.

The ice cube tinkled inside his glass as he watched Wei Wuxian’s popping his cube in his mouth after drinking everything in one single gulp. He couldn't concentrate, not when Wei Wuxian's pinkish, soft tongue, circled the rigid ice in front of him. He almost dropped his glass.

“Lan Zhan, aren’t you gonna drink?”

“Mn, I will.” He stared hesitantly at the liquid when his fingers regained their grip around the cold glass.

He took the first sip and felt the chill run down his body, the liquid burned in his throat, numbness crept into his brain like his mind was going to shut down from exhaustion.

Alcoholic beverages comes with a painful realization, he thought, alcohol doesn't taste very good.

Wei Wuxian saw Lan Wangji's face go as pale as snow, he took a step backwards and tripped slightly, then he stumbled forward again and Wei Wuxian somehow knew he was going to faint. He quickly wrapped his arms around him and felt him falling like a plank, heavy as a corpse.

“Lan Zhan!” They both fell to the floor, Wei Wuxian laughing thunderously with Lan Wangji all contorted in his lap. Is he really sleeping? “Lan Zhan, are you seriously drunk already?” He laughed even harder.

“Lan Zhan, wake up!” He patted his cheek lightly. “Lan Zhan?” His voice was soft.

Lan Wangji’s eyes slowly opened and stared at him, Wei Wuxian had an easy and calm smile on his lips, the corners lifted gently as if something good was about to happen.

Lan Wangji was so sternly beautiful in his arms, he could get used to it so easily… if just… he shook his thoughts away.

He couldn't keep himself from staring at him when he was like that… God… isn't this wonderful?

Wei Wuxian was just positioning him in his arms to get up with him when something flashed on the surface of his face.

Was a sudden shift and it disappeared as fast as it came, but he swore, with all his life, that he saw a smile escaping from that mouth. It was just a small hint, clouded by stiff cheeks, but for a fraction of second, Lan Wangji's mouth twitched upwards, and it was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.

“Wei Ying…” Lan Wangji lifted his beautiful slender hand and touched Wei Wuxian's lips.

Static, he glazed wild-eyed to him. How was it possible to even try to describe that? He couldn't put it in words. It was like writing a new music in new sheets, or painting with expensive paint on a new blank canvas.

No, none of this, it was alluring, blissful, glowing, dreamy, delightful, divine, something worthy of a new word, never invented so far.

When he felt the light brush of Lan Wangji’s finger over his neck, sliding down to his collarbone, his cheeks instantly flushed.

“Hey, Lan Zhan, why don’t you even blush when you’re drunk?”

Lan Wangji gently scooped his fingers through Wei Wuxian's hair, slowly drawing his face against the warmth of his chest.

“Listen to the heartbeats.” He whispered.

Wei Wuxian looked deep inside his eyes, his heart was thudding violently against his ears.

“The face doesn’t show anything, listen to the heartbeats.” Despite his thundering heart, his face was serene.

“I won’t be able to tell from your face unless I listen to your heartbeats?”

“Mn.”

Fascinating… Wei Wuxian stared at him, transfixed by the warm feeling bursting inside of him.

“Lan Zhan…”

“Wei Ying…”

“Lan Zhan…” He took his hands in his. “Feels right with you... why does it feel so right with you?” He absently dragged him closer, without noticing.

He leaned in, just enough to brush his lips over his hair.

“Wei Ying…”

“What is it?” He smiled and gently brushed away the hair on his forehead.

“My mom… used to say, that home, is where the heart is.” His words were a bit incoherent, rasping out of his throat so slightly he could barely hear if his face wasn’t so close. “I feel like home.”

Those words brought on a violent wave of conflicting emotions into his heart. He didn't know, if he should allow himself to be pleased by his words, or if those words were just a drunken hallucination, of long forgotten memories. But for a moment, he felt the blood pounding in his head and he nearly lost control.

He lifted Lan Wangji’s hand, slowly turning it over to press his lips to the palm. “Lan Zhan… do you like that?”

“Mn…” They were so close... his soft... parted lips, trembling. “More…”

“More?”

“Mn.”

“Okay…”

He brushed his lips over his brow, then his eyelids, his lips gently and softly, over his skin.

“Wei Ying…”

“Mn…?”

“More.”

Wei Wuxian framed his face, leaning over to lay light kisses on his cheeks, then his nose. It felt so real. It was so real.

He brought his mouth close to his, running his thumb over it. He knew this was wrong, Lan Wangji was drunk and he was taking advantage of it, but at the same time...

“Can I?” He asked, and Lan Wangji simply nodded, as if he understood what he was saying. “Okay…” He murmured softly as his lips hovered above his.

He leaned down, caught his chin in his hand and brushed his lips over his. They were just pressing against each other, just a small chaste kiss.

He wished, and how he wished, that his first kiss was from Lan Zhan, he had kept that kiss for him since the day they met. But some stupid, selfishly stranger decided to steal it from him when he was blindfolded, after showing himself up at the school's archery tournament.

His eyes were blurred and glassy, the gray seemed to fade around his pupils.

“Feels so good Lan Zhan, you feel so good...” he murmured, touching their lips again, moving a bit too fast for his own good.

When he felt Lan Wangji nibbled lightly at his bottom lips, his body tensed.

“Lan Zhan? Why are you biting like a dog?” He gasped lightly against his lips. “Do you want me to kiss you more? You’re so bold Lan Zhan.” He taunted, words starting out as a chuckle but ending in a moan as Lan Wangji ran his hungry lips from his ear to his neck, down his jaw and collarbones.

In a fierce and sudden move, he twisted, flipping him over and changing their positions, shifting him until they were face-to-face, chest-to-chest, pressing his hips into the counter and spreading his legs open to accommodate himself between them.

“Lan Zhan, what are you doing?!” He asked and closed his eyes, his breathing turning perceptibly heavy.

“Let me.”

The grip on his hips were strong, not gentle at all, and he liked it, he wanted more.

“Yes.” Wei Wuxian cupped a hand on the back of his neck and pressed his lips hard to his.

He licked Lan Wangji's lips, tracing the shape of his mouth with his tongue as a moan escaped him. His vision dimmed, his blood boiling inside his veins, legs wrapping around his waist. He never felt so hot in his entire life.

Lan Wangji forced his lips open, his tongue soughing for his, sliding inside his mouth, exploring, tasting, ravaging, and Wei Wuxian tasted the sweetness of the drink on his tongue, tasted the desperation on his mouth. There had been nothing to compare with the flavor of his kiss.

But it felt familiar, somehow.

They were moaning mouth to mouth, a thin line of sweat dripping down his neck, the scent, the taste, the soft texture of his skin under his unsteady fingers, was too much, simply too much. This was for sure, a very pleasant first experience.

Wei Wuxian pressed their bodies closer, their tongues slicked in a deep slow kiss that slipped from gentle to urgent, and he was answering it with equal hurry.

He wanted him. Desired him, longed for him, ached for him. For almost three years, restless, passionate and desperate.

When he briefly came to himself in a glimpse of lucidity, he was being sprawled on the kitchen’s floor, pressed against the cold ceramic. He wanted his lips, tracing the shape of his body, and he wanted it now.

“Lan Zhan, please…” He whined, shoving his hand inside Lan Wangji's shirt.

He was hard, his hips unconsciously bucking up to get more friction, and Lan Wangji swayed, rocking his hips down, pressing their erections together. He was moaning above him and Wei Wuxian felt his head dizzy, what they were doing was probably strictly forbidden, but it felt so good.

He stared breathlessly at his red, swollen lips, as Lan Wangji started to kiss him more fiercely, pulling his shirt over his head, almost ripping the fabric. Wei Wuxian could feel his desperation, tracing his lips in his jawline, neck, shoulder and chest. He buried his mouth in Wei Wuxian's ribs in an open mouth kiss, savoring every inch of his skin.

His golden eyes fluttered and darkened as he dug his nails into Wei Wuxian's inner thighs.

“Lan Zhan, please… touch me…” He cried, as tears streamed down his cheeks.

“I will.” He sighed, heavily, his voice hoarse and full of desire.

Wei Wuxian felt his stomach muscles quiver when Lan Wangji ran his tongue under his waistband. So close, too close.

His cheeks flushed violently in a mixture of pleasure and embarrassment. But, when Lan Wangji raised his head, and tried to sit on his heels to open his zipper, he crumbled to the floor, slightly pulling away and pressing his fingers hard in his temples.

His ears were ringing and his balance gone. He felt his head spinning fast and his eyesight going blurry. It felt like suffocating.

“Lan Zhan?! Are you okay?!” Wei Wuxian asked, a little breathless, his face full of worry and anxiety.

“My… head…” His hands were starting to tremble.

Wei Wuxian sat up quickly, holding him instinctively, there was a tightness in his throat, like the air around them was devoid of oxygen.

“What are you feeling?” The brief sensuous activity quickly gave its way to panic.

“I feel sick, and heavy.” His hands were cold and his breath was short. “My head is dizzy.”

Wei Wuxian forced him to sit up and held him in his arms. “I'll bring you some water, okay? You just got up too fast, it's okay, come here, just lean against the counter for a bit and wait for me.”

“Mn.”

He put one arm around Lan Wangji to assist him to lean his back against the counter, as gently as possible. He could feel his limbs trembling around his arms, he was flustered and afraid and he didn't want to leave him.

“I’ll be right back, okay?”

Lan Wangji nodded and then... he was slowly swallowed by the darkness.


 

When he woke, he was lying on Wei Wuxian's bed, his head rested gently on his lap. Wei Wuxian was sitting in the quarter lotus position, eating popcorn while watching a movie on TV, and from time to time, he was absently tangling his fingers in Lan Wangji's hair, sometimes his fingers even caressed his ears, cheeks, and forehead, eyes glued on the movie.

He was half listening, half sleeping, driving in and out of consciousness.

He was just listening to the movie, laying there calmly, with his eyes closed. But when he heard a scream, coming from a fragile voice, he glanced up. The sudden noise making him more than just a little curious.

The man in black looked sadistic, evil and the camera had gotten several close-ups of his crimson red eyes, glowing with a deadly cold stare. The corpses around him moved too fast to be seen and the blood of his enemies poured out thickly, blooming like flowers around the field, in slow motions. The man in white watched in horror, the hopelessness tearing his soul apart as the man he loves, in that split second, starts shouting frantically as the body of his sister lay cold in his arms.

“Lan Zhan?” Wei Wuxian whispered. “Are you awake?” The warm caresses continued.

“Mn.”

“Are you feeling better?”

“Mn, what happened?” Lan Wangji felt the thigh under his head tense.

“You… don’t remember?” Wei Wuxian asked him quietly.

“No.”

“What is the last thing you remember?”

“That I don't like the taste of alcohol.”

“Do you just remember drinking?”

“Mn.”

“I see…”

Lan Wangji looked up and Wei Wuxian met his eyes, although a small smile was curving his lips, his eyes were unbearably sad.

“I did something wrong?”

“No, not at all.” He gave him a faint smile.

“What happened?” He insisted.

“Nothing much. I said something like ‘let's clean this up and hit the movie.’ and when I looked back at you, you were sleeping on the kitchen counter.” His smile widened. “So I brought you to bed, took a quick shower, made popcorn and started watching the movie, I couldn't wait, sorry.” He laughed, turning to look at him.

He had no sorrows, no regrets. But Lan Wangji might be. It was too late now, for I didn’t mean to or I wish I hadn’t. Even though, it was all he ever wanted.

Was that the endgame?

Say something.

“No need.” Wei Wuxian slightly ran his fingers over his face and Lan Wangji buried his nose in his thigh before getting up. “I will take a shower.”

Please, say something.

“Sure, make yourself at home.” He said handing him a clean towel.

You're a coward, Wei Wuxian.

He let out a weak laugh when he heard the water running from the bathroom.

After a quick shower and a change of clothes, Lan Wangji came back into the bedroom.

Wei Wuxian was seated in the same spot, his eyes looked slightly damp and his nose was a bit red. Something seemed wrong. His brows knitted together.

Wei Wuxian had his eyes lost in the screen when Lan Wangji approached. His face altered subtly as he shifted closer to him.

Lan Wangji saw the movie credits flickering on the screen, and a scatter of used tissues lying over the bed.

Ah… the ending must have been sad, he thought.

A tender smile crossed his face absentmindedly when Lan Wangji sat beside him. He heartily blew his nose in a paper tissue and tilted his head back to look at him.

“The ending was sad.” He said smiling, swallowing the tears that threatened to fall again. That was a mistake since the beginning and he didn't plan on repeating it.

He balled up the used tissues and tossed them in the trash can near his desk. “What about you, feeling better? No hangover?”

“Mn, I’m fine.”

“Good.”

They were both dressed in pajamas, ready to sleep, but the usual inflatable mattress wasn't where it was supposed to be, Lan Wangji noticed.

Wei Wuxian slowly got up and went towards the window. He sat at the windowsill and Lan Wangji could see him taking a long, quiet breath, his chest heavily tightening, restricting the air as he tried to force the words out.

“Lan Zhan, come here, sit by my side.”

Lan Wangji settled himself beside him and wrapped a soft black blanket around them.

“Lan Zhan, what am I to you?”

It didn't seem possible for him to love someone like Lan Wangji; so righteous, so calm and perfect, so… different than he. It seemed so wrong.

It was like staining a white pure cloth in red. And he felt like he should pray for forgiveness for touching something so pure.

But oh, he had fallen, from the start, and he was so afraid. It felt like he was pouring gasoline over burning flames. He was scared, scared of the answer, scared of the future and how destroyed he would become.

But in the end, it would hurt more if he didn't try anything.

It didn’t matter, whatever his answer would be, Wei Wuxian would accept anything, he would gladly be a victim of Lan Wangji's love. He wanted to be drowned by him.

He couldn’t imagine living a life without him by his side, no matter how, no matter what. Was it too much to ask, to be loved back?

Lan Wangji lowered his gaze to meet his eyes. He could hear his own heart raging in his chest as he took a quick breath, his lungs expanding painfully. He didn't want to ruin everything, what if he couldn't express his own feelings? What if Wei Wuxian felt disgusted by it? What if he walked away and no longer wanted to be his friend?

There were so many what ifs running inside his mind.

And in every conclusion, their friendship would be ruined.

"We're friends?" He ended up saying.

It hurts.

“What if I want to be more than friends?”

Lan Wangji didn't answer, but Wei Wuxian saw his eyes darkening and widening.

Wei Wuxian broke their eye contact.

Lan Wangji was vital in his life.

It hurts.

Lan Wangji opened his mouth but his voice faded into silence.

It really hurts.

“Don’t worry Lan Zhan, I’m just kidding.” He laughed, placing his head over Lan Wangji's shoulder. “What I meant is, will you be my best friend?”

“Best friend?” Oh, he was just joking again, so why does it hurt so much?

“Yup, you’re being promoted to best friend instead of just friend.”

“What’s the difference?” There was a more painful way to die than from a broken heart?

“Well, a friend is just someone you see every day and enjoy their company.” He gestured vaguely. “But a best friend, is a person you get into trouble with and you'll defend no matter what, and also, someone who should be able to tell you when you’re acting like an idiot, knowing you would never be offended.” Wei Wuxian chuckled, then nuzzled his neck.

“Oh oh, a best friend is also someone worthy of seeing you in your underwear.”

“Shameless.”

Wei Wuxian laughed and nuzzled against him even more.

“Wei Ying.”

“Mn?”

“You were my best friend since a long time ago.” He said, then locked his arms around him.

How could he keep his heart in one piece after this? His body softened. “And you were mine too.”

“Mn.”

“Lan Zhan, what are you gonna do after we graduate?”

“I… I will work with my uncle… In the family company. I will be the next CEO.”

“Is that what you want?”

“Mn. My brother decided not to take the line, so I have to take it instead, what about you?”

“I don't wanna be a cop.”

“What do you want to be?”

“I wanna go to college, I wanna be a musician.”

“You will be the best musician.”

“I know right?!” His grin widened.

“Wei Ying?”

“Mn?”

“I need to tell you something important.”

Wei Wuxian heard a slight tremor in his voice.

“What’s wrong, Lan Zhan?”

“I won’t be coming back from school with you anymore.”

“What?! Why?”

“My uncle set up an intensive training schedule for me, so I’ll start attending the company every afternoon from next week.”

“But, you have been training for years, every weekend and holidays, and now everyday?”

“Mn.”

“Why?”

“It’s necessary.”

“You’ll be CEO of a tech company, not the fucking president.”

“Wei Ying.”

“Sorry, sorry, I just… I’ll miss you...” He said with a sulky pout.

“I’ll miss you too…”

He dragged him closer, without noticing the thin dampness in his eyes.

“It's past curfew, let's sleep.”

“Okay…”

“Wei Ying?” Wei Wuxian lifted his head. “Where's my mattress.”

“What mattress?” He asked him with a delightful grin and pointed his chin to the bed.

“Would you like to share it with me?” 

“Shameless.”

Wei Wuxian held his waist with his hands and pulled him lightly toward the bed.

When he took him to bed, slowly snuggling him closer, his face burying against his neck, Lan Wangji just couldn't deny anymore. There was no substitute for the truth.

He had fallen, desperately, foolishly and completely in love with him. He was in love with an absolute fool. And he, himself, was also a fool, for keeping buried in silence every storm that burst inside his chest. Of course he was a fool.

He slid himself into his bed, Wei Wuxian gently nudging at him, curling in him, legs whirling around his. Sometimes Wei Wuxian giggles in his sleep, before whispering cute comments. Sometimes he even moaned, quietly. How was he supposed to sleep with something so beautiful in his arms?

He angled his head down until their eyes met, he just wanted to see his eyes like this, forever.

Lan Wangji didn’t know if was the gentle warm breath over his face, or the soft weight of Wei Wuxian's leg over his belly, or even the rhythmic heartbeats pounding steady against his chest.

But he was grateful.

“Promise me you won't forget me.”

“I promise.”

“Promise me you'll never leave me.” I love you Lan Zhan.

“Mn, I promise.” I love you Wei Ying.

 

 

Chapter Text

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?

Chapter Text

The night was freezing, autumn was ending, and Wei Wuxian didn't want to remember.

He didn't want to remember how the cold crisp air always seemed to bury him in a whirl of motion and darkness.

Winter would start in a week, and he was afraid, desperately afraid that he would sink back to his obscurity, once more. At this rate, winter became a time where the ice filling the ground, couldn't compare to the coldness of his heart.

The experience was short lived, but one that would haunt him forever.

Since that day, eight years ago, his world became a blur of dull colors. The blackness was absolute, where the light could no longer reach. Avalanches don't choose, let alone discriminate, who they will bury in their next fall, under a sheet of white, cold and pain.

The snow hit was always hard and unforgiving. There was no light. No shadows. Just the emptiness of penetrating white.

Wei Wuxian was a dead volcano, once shaped into a vessel of passion and defiance, erupting a mass of bright flames. But now, he was just a dormant and extinct mount, trapped, caged and imprisoned, claustrophobically confined within walls of ice, with no way out.

Snow rests upon his heart, lost in dusty illusions of so familiar and yet so terrifying, memories. And maybe, just maybe, that's why he craved so badly for loneliness. Because he didn't want to drag anyone down the white covered soil with him.

And Lan Wangji? Lan Wangji was like a pristine layer of crystalline water, which turns into fresh, glacier snow in winter.

And he needed, he desperately needed, the crystalline water to melt the ice around his heart like a warm rainy day. However, he knew very well, that if the volcano came back to life, kissing the water like a starving God, the water would evaporate faster than the air inside his weary lungs.

And that’s how it was.

Even if the water was warm enough to melt what remained of his frozen heart, he wouldn’t let it.


 

8 P.M. Alley -  One hour before the meeting.

 

Wei Wuxian's car was parked five blocks north from the club. The street was dark and deserted, and despite the empty narrow alleyway and the suspicious intersection hidden in the shadows between the two large buildings where they were, Mo Xuanyu watched, somewhat fascinated and more than interested, as his boss pulled out a huge bag from under the back seat of the car.

He pulled out the overnight bag with a loud pop and before Mo Xuanyu could even react, Wei Wuxian lifted his hands and let the said bag fall, not-so-gracefully into his lap.

“Sir?” Mo Xuanyu raised an eyebrow, looking like a tiny potato near the enormous duffel bag. 

Wei Wuxian had a little slyly smirk of his own in the dark. He dropped his eyes momentarily to the zipper, before looking back at him again. “We have to dress properly, don't we?”

“I’m sorry, Sir... I think I'm a bit confused about what’s going on here.” He blinked at him, then leaned back in his seat.

Wei Wuxian only laughed as he opened the bag, revealing fancy, expensive-looking clothes and absolutely fabulous shoes. The fabrics were definitely finer than Mo Xuanyu could ever afford, and all of them were neatly folded and organized by color.

“What-” Mo Xuanyu looked up at him, momentarily baffled with his dark eyes wide and guileless, full of surprise as he gestured to the electric purples, glinting metallics and sparkling glitters. “How?!”

“I was working in a big case like this… hum… about nine months ago? I don’t remember.” Wei Wuxian pressed his fingers to his eyes for a moment, trying to fish the memory in some dark corner of his mind. “It was a serial killer case. We investigated the modus operandi for a few weeks and eventually, we started to find connections between the victims.”

He continued, “All of them were models, all of them had brown hair, short bangs, light eyes, and a relatively close age. So, after researching some cross-clues with old cases, we came to the conclusion that he was probably attracted by their physical type.” He smiled with sad sympathy.  “We used to find the victims hanging in the dressing room after an important fashion show.”

“I think I heard about this case, all the victims were similar to his mother, right?” Mo Xuanyu asked, as he pulled out a bright cherry red platform heels from the bag. “I saw the documentary on channel 75, Nie Mingjue interviewed him didn't he?”

“Yes, murder in the fashion business is always big news.”

“Indeed, I still get goosebumps when I remember what he said in that interview.”

“What do you know about beauty? What can be more beautiful than death?” Wei Wuxian repeated, raking his fingers through his hair. “Well, psychos are pretty damn thrilling, uh?”

“Yeah… He was a model too, wasn't he? He ended up killing his manager and the man’s best friend too, right?”

“Yeah. Miamian and I worked for a few months undercover, she fit the pattern of the victims, so she came in as the model and I was her manager.” He picked up an elegant black slim suit and wondered if it would still fits him. “She got caught and things went pretty crazy, but it turned out alright in the end.”

“Oh, Dr. Wen's fiancée?”

“Yup, we had to play the role under the Broadway’s flashing lights and billboards for a while, and these are the clothes we had to wear at that time, pretty fancy, uh?”

“Yes! Pretty cool!” His face shone with amusement. “But, why are these heels my number?”

“Oh, these are mine.” Wei Wuxian laughed lightly when his eyes darted to the red shoes.

“Really?!” He asked and Wei Wuxian could see a clear spark flickering when Mo Xuanyu aimed his wide grey eyes in his direction. “Can I wear them?!”

“Of course!” Wei Wuxian laughed hysterically, completely pleased with his choice. “Bold choice, kid.”

“Thank you, Sir!” He said, already wearing it with obvious cheer.

They ended up choosing matching outfits, Wei Wuxian put on skinny black vinyl jeans and Mo Xuanyu followed with red ones, both with black tank tops and black leather jackets.

After dressing, in the small, tight space they had, they looked at each other and burst out laughing. Anyone who looked at them would probably think they were twins.

“We just need to fix your face.” Wei Wuxian waved a hand full of makeup brushes at him. “We can't be recognized.”

“Okay.” Mo Xuanyu said, closing his eyes expectantly. “I'm entrusting my pretty face to you”

Wei Wuxian slowly took all of his essential products and carefully started to apply makeup on his face. Lining his eyes in black and red, curling his lashes and gently applying an electric red lipstick over his lips.

“Done.” Wei Wuxian turned the rearview mirror at him.

“I’m beautiful.” Mo Xuanyu said amused, excitement dancing in his eyes as he caught his reflection in the mirror. “Thank you for the makeup, Sir.”

“This color looks good on you.” Their eyes met through mirror.

“I love this color on me.” Mo Xuanyu posed and they shared a warm laugh. “What about you, Sir?”

Wei Wuxian smiled but didn’t answer.

In silence, he reached into the bag and pulled out a black velvet box. His hands were a little shaky, as if all his confidence was starting to slip from his fingers. Mo Xuanyu lifted an eyebrow at him as he opened the box, pulling a black rabbit mask out of it.

Wei Wuxian held the mask in both hands as he smiled, brushing his fingers very gently over every silver detail. Despite the smile, Mo Xuanyu could see his body language screaming in denial and dejection. His eyes were blazing, but they held despair.

“It's everything alright, Sir?” Mo Xuanyu risked a glance in his direction and asked.

No answer. He was too far away to answer. He didn't even noticed when he let himself go into some kind of trance. Losing track of himself one more time. Thinking about home, about the past and bitter memories.

After a few long minutes, Mo Xuanyu started to get worried, so he tried to lay a tentatively hand on his arm, hoping to be enough to break the stupor. When he felt the gentle sensation of cold fingers touching his skin, Wei Wuxian's eyes popped wide.

"What happened?" He cleared his throat, noticing he had unintentionally withdrawn deep into himself.

“Nothing happened, Sir.” Mo Xuanyu looked at him without blinking, full of worry in his eyes. “But, are you okay?”

“I’m fine, I’m fine. You worry too much.” He tried to laugh it off, but when Mo Xuanyu looked at him like he didn't believe him at all, he sighed. “Lan Zhan did this for me when we were in high school, it's a pair, I made one for him too.” He explained.

“I know it's not my place to intrude, but, did something happen between you and Master Lan?” Worry hitched through his words.

“We just have some bad stuff in our past.” He mumbled, almost to himself.

“Wanna talk about it?”

“I don’t know… I’m just a bit homesick, missing our childhood.” He smiled. “Nothing much, just remembering.”

After a moment, he smiled broadly then continued, “When we were kids, we used to sneak out at night to climb onto the tree outside our houses, and every single time…” He sighed, eyelids fluttering open and then closing, in a drunken reverie. “I thought the moon would never compare to the beauty of his eyes. Sometimes, I'd even fall asleep in his arms, just to wake up the next day curled up on his very comfy bed.” He paused and gave him a sad smile.

“You're... really in love with him, aren't you?”

When Wei Wuxian just looked away, exhaling slowly and trying to hide a sudden wave of sadness, Mo Xuanyu could confirm it. “Yes, you are.”

“Yes, I am.” Wei Wuxian whispered, looking completely defeated, and Mo Xuanyu had to suppress the urgent need to put a hand on his shoulder to comfort him. “For almost thirteen years.”

“And you never told him?”

Wei Wuxian turned the car on and started to drive back to the club.

“How could I?” All of a sudden, his throat felt really dry. He forced a laugh and moistened his lips, ignoring the memories that kept spilling from his mind. “We’re having a hard time right now, the same way we had back then.”

“You need to take control of your own happiness, you know? You can’t keep allowing bad memories and experiences to have power over your life like that.”

Mo Xuanyu's words surprised him, not for the raw frankness of it but for the weight and the reality in them.

“Better the devil you know than the devil you don't.” He ended up saying, slumping his shoulders in defeat.

“I’m sorry sir, this may be petulant of me but, does it worth it? Closing your eyes instead of facing your demons?” Mo Xuanyu gently grinned. “I know you're scared, I was scared too. There is no shame in that, but… you can't be scared forever, huh? You can always fix your mistakes, it's never too late.”

“I-I can’t…” Wei Wuxian said grinding his teeth.

“Why not?”

“I just need him to be safe.” He pressed his lips together in a thin line. “And I think if I talk to him, things will only get worse between us.”

Ignoring the emptiness inside of him, Wei Wuxian drove relentlessly toward the city, beginning to slowly understand, how selfish he had been all this time and how badly he'd screwed everything up.

“So you think it’s wiser to just ignore it?” Mo Xuanyu pointed out. “I used to think like you, you know? But after so much suffering I just couldn't take it anymore, I concluded that if I didn't face my family, I would never be free.”

“You don’t understand.” Wei Wuxian almost shrieked at him, completely hopeless. “He's... he’s like a diamond in a sea of glass. He deserves the best, and I can't give him that.”

Mo Xuanyu just smiled. “And who says you're not a diamond too?”

The words had barely been spoken and Wei Wuxian was already afraid, that his mind would hear those compliments and rejected them. But instead, he felt some kind of warmth radiating straight to his heart. His lips tilted up. This was really different, a good kind of different.

“They were good times, weren't they?” Mo Xuanyu couldn‘t help smiling, seeing how his boss nodded, so very softly with a hint of a smile on the corner of his lips. “Solve your problems with him and then, let him fuck you all night long.” Mo Xuanyu smirked and winked over his shoulder. “What do you think? Sounds like a good plan, uh? Power bottom bossy boss.”

He gestured with his hands as if they were forming a rainbow over his head and Wei Wuxian couldn't help but laugh.

“Okay, I have to admit it, maybe that's not a bad idea.” Smiling slyly, Wei Wuxian parked and got out of the car.

“Sir, this is a brilliant idea, if I do say so myself.” Mo Xuanyu laughed, joining him in the sidewalk across the street.

“But unfortunately, he's not gay.” Wei Wuxian slowly raised his hand, leaving the black mask over his eyes. “I'm fine with this one sided love, though. I just want him to be happy, and if he's happy, that's all that matters.”

Mo Xuanyu frowned at him, pursing his lips up, ready to argue.

Although Master Lan didn't show it, it was completely clear from the way he looked at Wei Wuxian that he loved him much more than he revealed. He opened his mouth and met his gaze, determined to counter those meaningless words, but when Wei Wuxian smiled graciously at him, the words died on his lips.

What did he know anyway? It wasn't his place to intrude.

“Come on, we're wasting our time, we must go.”

Mo Xuanyu closed his mouth and nodded, following him silently.

The night was cold and the street was deserted, silent. Wei Wuxian saw the sterile red lights from the club shining over them. The floodlights burning down like spotlights, illuminating the lonely road. He could hear indistinct chatter, sirens and helicopters hovering in the distance.

Yeah. There were certain parts of town you just know is best to avoid.

That night they couldn't rely on guns.

As they walked toward the entrance, a security guard lifted his hand and began to fumble for weapons, taking a lot longer than necessary to complete the task.

“Hey you.” Wei Wuxian called when he saw the uncomfortable look in Mo Xuanyu's face. “Get your hands off of him, you touched him enough.” He slapped the man's hand with a cold, controlled temper.

Wei Wuxian could see his hands trembling and he could've sworn that if he closed his eyes he could hear the boy's heart pounding in his chest. The man growled angrily and Wei Wuxian gave him a cautious stare.

Seeing the frightening way Wei Wuxian glanced at him, the man finally gave up and took his hands off of Mo Xuanyu's body, moving them to search Wei Wuxian instead.

After a minute or so, the man released their entry and they stepped inside. The sight inside the club was captivating; the mirrored floor reflected a galaxy of neon lights, shining in shades of red and blue.

The pulsing music started to muffle, mixed with equal parts vibrancy and violence, mixing winsome flirting and energetic people, grabbing, twisting and dancing. Most of them were also wearing masks, creepy and handcrafted masks, like something taken out of those weird pictures when searching ‘deep web’ on google.

Neon lights illuminated the dance floor like a kaleidoscope, and girls, too young to be in a place like that, danced, arms and bodies swaying from side to side, like clarity gleaming beyond the dark, completely unaware of the madness and danger surrounding them.

The artificial glow of dry-ice swirled an array of acid reds and cold blues, flowing like a virus, injected right into the bloodstream. In any room of that place, people could find the cure for their sadness, served with a smile.

Mo Xuanyu gasped by his side, mesmerized by the neon lights and the huge cloud of red smoke.

The bar was crowded, which lessened their chances of being recognized. The bartender looked like one who could slip strange things into people's drinks, but Wei Wuxian couldn’t care less at this point. They sat at the counter and Wei Wuxian ordered anyway; one spiced sour whiskey for him and a hot cranberry & whiskey lemonade for Mo Xuanyu.

From where they were, he could see the thousands of different cocktails, lined up in a row over the luxurious bar. Plunging like poison in the neon-soaked violence, slightly cloaked by harmless charms of strawberries and tiny umbrellas.

Nightless City was known to sell souls in exchange for dollars. The place was a hot point for negotiations and a goldmine of information, where the Wen Mafia encircled minor gangs under the wraps.

The drug business had a sort of self-feeding cycle, fuelling a wanton cycle of predator-prey, which their most corrupt corporation would be able to control their submissive clients with addictions and distractions.

Kids that should be at home, were lost, savouring over-priced luxuries displayed like candies, in a riot of vibrant shades disguised as vanilla cream and fruit jellies. Craving for love in chemicals. Yearning for cold sips that burned holes down their throats, just to blind the fear and insanity as side alternatives for their dissociated minds.

Wei Wuxian fussed in his seat for a while, he could feel his cellphone continuously vibrating inside his pocket, but he chose to ignore it, instead, discreetly scanning the place

“There's one of them on your right.”

“Where?” Mo Xuanyu asked, slightly coughing out the smoke of cigarettes and suspicious substances.

“Keep your voice low.” He slowly pointed his nose into the darkness behind him. “White male, average age, wearing a white shirt and red pants.”

“How do you know he’s one of them?” Mo Xuanyu gave him a curious look.

“They all have a red sun tattoo on the left side of their neck, they show off as some kind of trophy.” He shook his head in disgust, reaching over the counter and taking his untouched drink to his lips. “You're staring too much.”

“I am?” Mo Xuanyu blinked, a little surprised.

“A little.”

“Sorry, boss.” He let out a breath.

“Don’t worry.” Wei Wuxian patted his head and smiled. “And stop calling me that, I’m not your boss, we’re partners.”

“Oh, okay!” Mo Xuanyu hurried on, knowing that he was probably blushing. “So, what's the plan?”

Wei Wuxian saw a man in the corner, playing with a deck of cards. The man opened his lips in a devilish smile, burning him with a primitive look in his eyes, full of malice and desire.

“Well, at first, I was hoping to get drunk enough to take a few punches without worrying about the consequences.” Wei Wuxian laughed, wearing that signature smirk of his. “But judging by the way those two guys on your right are looking at me, I'll make a scene and you'll take the opportunity to put this inside our friend’s suitcase.” He held a device very similar to a needle between his fingers. “It's only a distraction, but we'll have to make it work.”

“What is this?” Mo Xuanyu opened his mouth wide, looking at the needle with obvious curiosity.

“A tracker recorder.” He grinned. “With this, we can control the flow of information from the distance.”

“Where the hell did you find this?!” His gentle dark eyes widened. “Is this legal?!"

“In one of the drawers on Lan Zhan's desk, and hum… No, it isn’t.” Wei Wuxian laughed easily, and the sound was sweet like music. “I remotely connected it to my cellphone and Lan Zhan's notebook.”

“Does he know that?”

“No, he doesn’t.”

“Jesus Christ.” Mo Xuanyu slapped his forehead.

“Got visual contact.” Wei Wuxian’s grinning, delighted countenance disappeared.

Mo Xuanyu turned and it didn’t take him long to spot them a few tables ahead. They were wearing masks as well, and half-dozen armed guards were patrolling the table. Wei Wuxian took a brief scan of what he assumed to be documents being passed on, carefully arranged, as if all of that was some special research project.

The man wearing white seemed to be discussing matters of high importance with a man wearing red. Maybe the guy was a just a minor member, but studying the body language, Wei Wuxian assumed the later was Wen Chao, so the former would probably be Su She.

Moving back to the full picture, his eyes quickly rested on a very beautiful woman. She was wearing nothing more than a very tight and vulgar pink dress. On top of her head was a very delicate pink flower, and on her face, a pink and gold embroidery carnival mask.

The woman approached and slid into one of the seats, and when she threw herself to the side, wrapping her arms around Wen Chao’s neck, he knew he guessed correctly.

“Shishi Gashiro.” They hissed in unison, exchanging a suspicious look.

Who would've thought? Interesting, very interesting.

They moved easily and carefully from their stools to a nearest table, watching and listening to everything they were doing. When a man wearing a golden suit and a Plague Doctor mask in black leather approached the table, sitting next to man in white, their eyes met again, with implicit understanding.

“Do you think-?” Mo Xuanyu started.

“Possibly.” Wei Wuxian finished.

The man wearing gold was Jin GuangYao. And in a matter of seconds, a situation that seemed extremely simple became extremely dangerous.

“The man in white is probably our stupid self-described cop, and that one, is our doctor.” Wei Wuxian snorted and looked back at the table. “Shit.”

“What should we do?”

“Stick to the plan.” He said looking around. “We can't stop the process now, otherwise, we would be digging our own grave.”

Wei Wuxian shook his head and looked back at the table, wondering if there was any possibility of those being the files related to his case. That was way too coincidental. The connection should be in those files.

“Okay, it's now or never.” He glanced sharply at Mo Xuanyu. “Be ready.”

Mo Xuanyu nodded and without announcement, Wei Wuxian’s smile grew and turned warm, undisguisedly flirtatious. That smile was his best weapon and he would use it to his advantage.

The mischievous smile lit brighter at his lips as he saw the man across the room giving him an appraisingly wink. He laughed, teeth closing on his lower lip while bringing his shimmery and expensive drink to his lips. That was his announcement, his intent brief, clear and loud.

Wei Wuxian was the devil, disguised as an angel, and when he wanted something, absolutely nothing would be able to stop him.

“Don't worry, we can make this work.” He met Mo Xuanyu's gaze steadily. “Tonight, I'll be one of the troublemakers.”


 

With his hearty, beautiful laughter, immediately drawing attention, he crossed his legs. Shamelessly insinuating his sexy thighs, enveloped by his shiny and tight pants. He raised his hands to his chest in slow motion, running his tongue over his own teeth and slowly sliding his fingers down his torso, like an open invitation

All eyes seemed to be locked on him, including the two men from the beginning.

“You can do it, you easily blends in.” His voice remained calm, assurance clear in his tone. “At my signal, clip it in the suitcase.”

As one of them began to approach the counter, Wei Wuxian gestured for Mo Xuanyu to get up and follow the plan, handing him the tiny device. “Go.”

Mo Xuanyu's fingers hooked skilfully to the device and he got up. However, when he was about to leave, Wei Wuxian gripped his hand in his. “Hey, kid.”

With eyes fixed on his, he said, “Be careful.”

Mo Xuanyu nodded and moved forward.

As he was leaving, the man came into view.

“Hey there, what's your name, short-cake?” The question was asked in a completely obscene way.

“Depends on who's asking.” Wei Wuxian replied in the same tone, slowly rising from his seat and tapping his finger against his shoulder.

The man gripped Wei Wuxian's slim waist with both hands. The touch made him tremble, in a terrible way. The man’s scent of cheap alcohol and cigarettes was nauseating, but he had to go with it.

In the distance, relying only on intuition, Mo Xuanyu moved, silently and slowly. The club seemed even more crowded than before, and it only made it more difficult to make his way forward stealthily.

He turned left and followed through the shadows, until he disappeared behind an immense column, where the darkness stretched vastly next to the table.

“I'm thirsty, will you buy me a drink?” Wei Wuxian swallowed his flirtatious little lie, skimming his hands around the man's neck to try to get a reaction from him.

“I have something much better for you, short-cake.” His voice was thick and mildly disgusting, and Wei Wuxian wanted nothing more than to finish with it, as soon as possible.

“Oh, really? Show me then.” He moved closer, although fighting a strong urge to retreat.

The man fished a small Ziploc bag from a hip pocket and flipped it directly at him. His eyes darted immediately at the contents of the plastic bag, where he recognized the big amount of colorful pills and tiny bottles filled with colorless substances.

Drugs.

“What do you think about us going to a private room?” His tongue flicked out like a snake. “I wanna mess up that pretty face of yours.”

“Do you really think I enjoy fucking completely high? What's the fun in that?” Wei Wuxian shrugged. “Don't you guarantee yourself enough that you have to use these – he wiggled the small bag around his fingers – cheap drugs?”

“So you're the obstinate type, uh?” The man laughed, fingers gripping Wei Wuxian’s jaw hard enough to make him wince, trying to open his mouth by force. “Don’t worry baby, you’ll like it, it's an incredible trip.”

Good. That was what he needed, a forced attack to start a fight.

“Try me, bitch.” He whispered mischievously, tightening his grip around the man's wrist to the point of pain.

With a Cheshire grin on his lips, Wei Wuxian twisted the man's arm and hammered him with a precise punch on the chin, following with another one in the gut just for good measure.

He laughed hard, grabbing his own hand and rubbing his knuckles. Landing the punch was surely painful, but it was definitely worth it.

The man fell to his knees and his head dropped between his legs as he fought for air. The brief fight caught everyone's attention and Wei Wuxian's smile widened.

“I could use you as my punching bag, you know? But I'm in a good mood, lucky you.” He said and the man’s face twisted in hatred. “I don't apologize for the punch, by the way.”

The security guards around the VIP table began to disperse toward the commotion. Meeting Mo Xuanyu's gaze in the distance without so much as a blink, he spun around, kicking the man hard in the balls with the metal toe of his boot.

Mo Xuanyu started to move quickly, aware of the signal, and that he had to make the next move as fast as he could.

The boy was fast, and the job was done.

Mo Xuanyu took advantage of the moment when everyone at the table shifted their attention to the commotion and stapled the tiny device into the briefcase, under one of the buttons where the needle would be hidden.

Wei Wuxian grinned when he saw that Mo Xuanyu, like a shot of adrenaline, moved his feet to the beat and drifted away.

Adjusting the mask over his face, Wei Wuxian ignored the man and turned to leave. But since nothing in this life can be that easy, in a strange, completely unpredictable turn of events, his plan fails.

At first he felt something thumping on his back and then, a sharp knife was pierced between his shoulder blades, only inches from his throat. He looked down, watching as a thin crimson line emerged over the paleness of his own skin.

“You may not know, cutie, but I don't take no for an answer.” The man on the floor stood up slowly, and after facing him with a crooked smile, he licked the blood from his neck.

Wei Wuxian’s eyes widened as the man pulled out a syringe, obviously used and slightly rusty, from the same pocket he had pulled the pills from before. The liquid inside had a purple tinge, almost fluorescent and Wei Wuxian felt his stomach clenching so hard he felt like throwing up.

He knew that drug. It was a new one, still being studied by several universities and private Labs. Its effects could cause severe paralysis and hallucinations. And it was currently the most potent drug on the marked right now, which had a high connection with a lot of new murder and rape cases.

This.is.bad.

“Try it, you're gonna feel the fire exploding inside your body.” The man gestured to the security, saying he had the situation under control. “It's a one way trip, baby.” The words were spoken too slowly, one by one.

It shouldn’t have been like that.

He drew a deep breath and let it out slowly. Mo Xuanyu stood frozen in the distance, his eyes stared blankly forward, clouded by a paralyzing mist panic as the blade pierced Wei Wuxian's neck.

Shit.

The jumble of people kept glistening and dancing, totally and completely blind to the scene, as if the incident in front of them was something normal and usual to the sight.

He was unable to move, and the only safe thing he could do right now was fall back on his alternate plan. He decided to beg.

“Come on, tell your friend to lower the knife and we can go to that private room.” Wei Wuxian tried, sounding more defensive than worried.

“Oh-ho-ho, are we negotiating now?” He replied with a smile. “Here's the deal, sassy boy, I don't trade, I just take. I'll fuck you until you lose consciousness and then I'll fuck you some more.”

Wei Wuxian gritted his teeth, ready to risk a physical combat, a hand-to-hand fight, even with the knife pointed at his throat.

“And when I'm finally satisfied with you, I'll let my friend here have his turn with what's left.” The greasy man continued, turning the deck at him. “Pick a card, sweetheart, any card.”

Wei Wuxian hesitated, tempted to refuse and confront him once and for all, but all he could do was muttering a curse.

“Come on, you're disappointing me.”

The blade sank into his skin again. Looks like confront wasn't a possibility. Wei Wuxian slowly held out his hand and pulled out a card, flipping the paper to him.

Ace of spades. Shit. Nice job, Wei Wuxian.

“Oh, look at this, looks like you’re my property now.” He reached down and tapped him under the chin, like he was his pet.

Ace of Spatha, everyone knows the meaning of this card in the underworld.

A death sentence.

In this job, he had seen it over and over. When a gang encounters a traitor among the group, they use cards to decide their fate, and every time, most of the deals end up in death.  Why?

Because the mafia’s hitmen often use a full deck of ace of spades. Did they even have a choice? The answer was clear.

No amount of luck or money could save you in this world of crime. All that was needed, was someone you trust enough not to dump you in a shallow grave like a piece of disposable trash.

And yet, he had no one.

Indeed, there is no loyalty in this world.

Wei Wuxian inhaled deeply as the red smoke encircled the man, plunging them into the darkness. He smiled. He should have listened to his instincts. But well…

I’m not going down without a good fight. He said to himself.

He planned to attack under the red cover of smoke, his lips quirking at the corners as he raised his fists, ready to strike the syringe. He positioned himself skilfully around the other man’s grip without raising their attention. His head tilted to one side and a hopeful smile played on his lips, ready to deliver a beautiful punch when he saw the man in front of him, raising his arm.

His plan came together. Breathing accelerating as the pressure on his neck increased. In his head, everything moved painstakingly slow, but in what seemed like seconds, a sudden shadow darted across the dance floor and the flash of a blade cut the syringe precisely in two, abnormally fast.

Wei Wuxian’s eyes widened, smile turning into a snarl as he lowered his voice to a whisper. “Oh no.”

He saw the purple liquid speckled and splashed over the man's face, his eyes rolling in pain and fury as the acid substance melted his skin.

No. no. no. He couldn’t be there. Not him, not there.

A shadow moved in the corner of his eyes and the warning bells that clang inside his head started to scream. Wei Wuxian turned his head in a full circle, ignoring the warm thick blood that was starting to stain his jacket, looking for a familiar face among the crowd.

He was there. Walking upright in his direction. Eyes searching Wei Wuxian’s face with equal determination.

No. Not again.

When Lan Wangji’s eyes met his, Wei Wuxian felt his entire body stop working. He felt his heart sank right through his skin onto the floor.

His eyes widened, his chest constricted, and his breathing became hard. It was happening all over again. He was back. Back in his personal living hell. A prison without walls, a madhouse of turbulent memories, flashing like thunders inside his head. He couldn't run. He couldn't move, not without feeling the invisible straps of restriction bounding every single part of his body.

Growing desperate, Wei Wuxian thought about squirming his way out by force, but every time he tried to move, the knife stung around his throat. It was too dangerous. He couldn't risk his own neck at this point, he had people counting on him, he had priorities.

Lan Wangji stopped in front of them and looked at him. He was wearing the white and gold rabbit mask Wei Wuxian had molded for him, with his own hands. A white, sharp suit hugged his body perfectly like a glove, the white silk framing his smooth, strong and sculpted thighs perfectly as he moved.

Despite the situation, Wei Wuxian felt himself blushing. Those killer golden eyes shone behind the mask, and those same eyes looked at him with an ice cold stare.

No. There was something more, something bright and warm emerging from behind his eyes.... like the sun, melting his liquid gold in an eclipse.

Wei Wuxian blinked hard in surprise, once, twice, trice. Was he... holding a... sword?

The sword was... gorgeous. It's blade was almost transparent, as if made of ice and snow, and the hilt was even more beautiful, encrusted with pure sky blue jades and refined ivory silver. It was elegant and truly erotic, especially when Lan Wangji held it with those long, beautiful fingers.

“Get your hands off him.” Lan Wangji said, voice hard and cold.

“I beg your pardon?” The man asked, turning his head to face him.

“You, don't touch what's mine.”

Lan Wangji said, the words fell from his lips slowly and dangerously, and Wei Wuxian felt his brain shutting down, trying to suppress the hard thrill from the sudden rush of desire. Mine? Oh…

It was a trick, it could only be a trick.

The man laughed in response. “Or what?”

“I'm going to slice you from head to toe with no mercy.” His eyes were direct and intense through the mask, and the chill of it made Wei Wuxian shiver.

“Bullshit!” The man burst out laughing, then stopped, pulling out a small gun from his coat. “That big sword of yours don't mean crap to me.” He began to play with the nine millimeter, pointing at Wei Wuxian's head and pulling the locked trigger over and over across his mask.

Wei Wuxian could see Lan Wangji grip so tightly around the hilt of the sword, his knuckles turned white.

“La-…” Wei Wuxian looked up at him, wide dark eyes glistening in fear. What the hell? He had almost called him by his birth name in a room full of gangsters. It was evident that what he almost did was extremely dangerous.

He swallowed hard, raged at his own stupidity. “Get out of here! You shouldn’t be here!”

Behind his mask, he looked defenseless, completely fragile under the soft white of the lights, gleaming through the grey rims of his eyes. Eyes that welled with unshed tears as he gasped for breath. “Get lost! I… I don’t want you here.”

Lan Wangji could hear the wordless whispers that spilled from those eyes. He could interpret every hidden reason. He wouldn't leave him alone, not again, not ever.

They were all silent for a few moments. Lan Wangji's mouth slightly tightened. Anyone could think he was reacting to the words, pondering, if that was really worth his time. But people didn't know him. Wei Wuxian did.

“See? He doesn't want you here, you better leave when you still can.” The one holding the knife started to laugh, pressing harder to the back of the Wei Wuxian's neck.

Lan Wangji eyed the knife and felt blood pounding in his ears.

The first man smiled at him, “You see, pretty boy? Your sweetheart here, came to me by himself, offering this beautiful body of his, and I don't like to share.”

“Put the gun down.” Lan Wangji said slowly, expression impassive as always.

“Okay, okay.” The man looked straight at him, lowering the gun in a simulated motion. “As you wish.”

Wei Wuxian sighed, seeming to relax, but not a millisecond later the gun suddenly hit him, squarely in the jaw. He felt it before his mind could actually register, his jaw ached from the collision and his breath came in slow gulps as the air burned his lungs.

Took him a few seconds to adjust his eyes and he swore under his breath. He could taste the coppery blood pooling in his mouth, too disorientated to even sustain what was happening before feeling the gun hitting him once again on the opposite side.

Wei Wuxian defiantly spat the blood on the man's face, before blurting out. “Fuck you, you piece of sh–”

He barely finished speaking when the man turned abruptly, punching into his ribs so hard that Wei Wuxian immediately began to cough, as a thick patch of blood emerged at the corner of his mouth.

“There is, after all, such a thing as being pummelled into submission, that they like so badly, don't you think?” The man said to Lan Wangji.

Lan Wangji saw red, darkness veiled his face.

“You’ll regret it.” Lan Wangji felt his throat dry, lusting for the man’s blood.

“What did you say? I didn’t hear it.” The nameless man tilted his head smiling slyly.

“I said.” Lan Wangji repeated sarcastically, feeling like he wasn't in control of his body anymore. “You’ll regret it.”

However, the words died in his throat as he stared at Wei Wuxian.

“Why don't you just get lost?” The last words fell from Wei Wuxian’s lips like a desperate plea for redemption.

He was smiling, red tinting the white of his teeth, while small drops of blood slowly dripped down his chin. His flawless, spotless pale skin, now seemed to glow in a bright crimson taint.

How dare he? Taste his skin, make him bleed. How dare he?

Lan Wangji stepped forward, a completely irrational hatred gripping his nerves. He raised his blade and turned it over in his right hand, no longer able to hide the greed inside his eyes.

Before anyone could react, Lan Wangji gracefully twisted the sword in his hand, slashing the air in front of them, and in one flawless and precise movement, the blade sliced smoothly, through the skin, flesh and bones, chopping the man's entire hand off.

The man's body bowed in agony, limbs lying at unnatural angles in a pool of darkening blood. Wei Wuxian’s heart fluttered, and his stomach tightened when he properly processed the scene. People started to run past him seeking protection, shouting like sheep ready for slaughter. Startled from the sight of fresh blood staining the floor in red.

The man holding the knife stared blankly at Lan Wangji, too scared to comprehend what had happened in front of him. Color drained from his face as he stumbled backwards, completely incapacitated with fear.

Lan Wangji absently made a vague motion with his sword, retreating and sealing it in its sheath, while reaching out for Wei Wuxian’s hand. Wei Wuxian's gaze went down at his bloody sword, but all he could think about, was how gently Lan Wangji ran his hand through his hair, and the way he felt Lan Wangji's slender fingers intertwining with his, bringing him toward the exit.

Wei Wuxian shook his head vigorously. Anger and confusion were finally starting to build inside his head.

“What the hell are you doing here?” Resentment tinged his voice.

“What are you doing here?” Lan Wangji said in a tone of voice that suggested equal anger, but mingled with deep disappointment.

“Well, I thought; it’s Friday night and I have nothing better to do, so fuck it, why not?” He spoke softly this time, twining his fingers through Lan Wangji's.

“Stop lying to me, Wei Ying.” Wei Wuxian felt a horrible sense of guilt when Lan Wangji faced him with furrowed brows.

Growing more frustrated, Wei Wuxian felt himself inclined to argue, but he gave up.

“Okay, okay, I was just following a lead.” He said. “You know I love those nasty, dangerous things.”

“Unacceptable.” Lan Wangji pursed his beautiful, marble lips at him and Wei Wuxian felt lightheaded all of sudden.

Tilting his head and feeling an uncontrollable urge to tease him, Wei Wuxian eyed him shamelessly, from the top of his head straight to his feet. “You look so sexy wearing this mask, Lan Zhan.” He speared him a sly smirk.

“Shameless.” Lan Wangji prompted, but his slightly dyed pink ears didn't get unnoticed by Wei Wuxian, only making him want to tease him more. Irresistible.

“And the way your fingers curled around the hilt of your sword right before you cut that man's arm, God, so hot.” He moaned softly close to his ear.

“Wei Ying!” Lan Wangji's hand trembled perceptibly inside his, and he felt every little movement like an earthquake.

Lan Wangji was so intoxicating, and he was so… close. Almost close enough to burn him, luring him like a magnet of attraction, or something even more powerful, like gravity itself. He was obviously conscious of the man walking beside him, instantly feeling his every touch electrifying every nerve in his body like flames, consuming him as if he was fuel for its deadly claws. He needed, he couldn't resist anymore, the urge to taste him.

“What?” His voice was low when his nose gently tickled his ear, his tongue licking it, all the way down, from the shell to the soft pink skin next to his neck. And that, was enough to make the little hairs on the back of Lan Wangji’s neck to stand up, causing him to almost trip over his own feet.

“Shameless!!!” He shouted.

Wei Wuxian burst out laughing, poking him at his ribs. “Oh, come on, don’t be shy, I'm just messing with you, and it's not like you're a 26 year old virgin, right? How many girls have done this so far huh?” He threw back his head and laughed, until his stomach ached, maybe for the first time in a very long while.

When Lan Wangji didn't answer, Wei Wuxian looked up at him, slightly out of breath, and Lan Wangji had a cute mildly annoyed expression on his face. It was in moments like that, he thought, that he could briefly forget about the demons living inside of him. Like the delusion of a blissful rarity of freedom.

They were approaching Lan Wangji's car, which was parked just behind his when suddenly, the situation finally hit him and he felt his body twitching in uncontrollable fear, remembering with perfect clarity that he had left someone in his care, that shouldn't be left alone under any circumstances.

He gripped Lan Wangji's hand harder, hard enough to hurt him, sucking in a lungful of air as terror turned into anger. “Where’s A-Yuan?!”

“He's with my brother.” Lan Wangji assured quickly and Wei Wuxian let out the breath he's been holding, his grip slowly softening around his hand.

“Okay, XiChen-ge, Okay.” He sighed. He was worrying for nothing. He knew Lan Wangji would never do anything irresponsible in the heat of the moment, he trusted him with his own life, after all. “I'm sorry for yelling at you.”

“No need to apologize.”

“Even so, I shouldn't…”

“Wei Ying…” When Lan Wangji turned to face him, moonlight slanted over his face. His hair, dark as midnight, flowed around his waist, like a waterfall of melted onyx. “It’s fine.”

Breathing shakily, Wei Wuxian instinctively released his hand, trying to disguise the sudden arousal with annoyance.

“So, why do you always have to spoil my fun, huh?” He asked, his face warming as he struggled to control his feelings.

“You…” Lan Wangji's lips twisted.

“Me what?!”

“Will not go out without me.”

Okay. Process of turning arousal into anger successfully acquired.

“Oh, sorry to warn you in the last minute, Lan Zhan, but I'm not your property.” He said bitterly. “I can go wherever I want, anytime I want.”

“Wei Ying!” Lan Wangji’s forehead creased. “Don’t forget you’re a target, with your neck in the mafia’s guillotine.”

“And?” He replied sarcastically.

Lan Wangji pressed his fingers over his eyes and considered discussing, but for now, he took out a handkerchief and began to cleaning the blood on Wei Wuxian’s face. Gently running his finger over his bottom lip. The soft skin of his hand was cold to the touch, and Wei Wuxian found himself shivering, surprised by the sudden gesture of intimacy.

“He tasted you.” Lan Wangji whispered.

“Uh?” Wei Wuxian looked up, confusion flickered in his eyes.

“He tasted you.” He repeated.

Lan Wangji lowered his hand, sliding from his mouth down to his neck, and Wei Wuxian let his fingers run across the cut in his throat, ever so slightly, as if that, was enough to erase the issue.

“Nothing happened Lan Zhan, we were just talking at the bar, maybe you got the wrong idea, the guy was just a crazy bastard.” Wei Wuxian ripped the mask from his own face, feeling slightly guilty. “I had everything under control, I didn't need your help.” Wei Wuxian shrugged, showing him a side that was almost vulnerable, and that he hadn't seen for years.

Lan Wangji’s fingers moved with mesmerizing tenderness over his skin, brushing his thumb over his cheeksbones and temples, and Wei Wuxian couldn't do much beyond knit his fingers and flex them above his head, trying to ignore the warmth that spread across his face, wherever Lan Wangji's fingers touched him.

“Mn, I know.” He absently rubbed his collarbones. “You're free to do as you wish, but you're not free from the consequences.” Lan Wangji moved his hands to cup his chin and Wei Wuxian caught himself leaning to the touch. “Behaving like this, all by yourself, can result in you and other people being harmed, Wei Ying.”

No matter how many years passed, Wei Wuxian would continue to be reckless and impulsive. After all, this was still the same man he fell in love with. Even taking a different path in life, he was still the same. Never thinking about the consequences, always putting himself in other person’s shoes, facing unnecessary dangers for the sake and protection of others... Simply being an existence for people or to hate or to endear, but always in extremes.

And that, was the only reason why he was suffering so much. Lost inside delirious and unending memories. This selfless being, was the reason why he was so unable to control his own emotions. Like a convex mirror, where the convexity can widen the view, but is the farthest from reality. And taking into account all the traumas buried in their past, being this selfless could do more damage than actually help. The cloistered pain could lead his feelings to cloud his judgement, and that was seductive and dangerous at the same time.

“You need to stop putting yourself at risk to protect others.” Lan Wangji stated. “Your selflessness won’t help anyone if something happens to you.”

Wei Wuxian held up a hand to silence him before Lan Wangji could continue.

“Selflessness? Don’t people only help others because it makes them feel good about themselves? Isn't it actually selfish?” He laughed, pushing his hand very lightly, then walking a few steps away. “What makes you think I'm selfless? Bold of you to assume that, Lan Zhan.”

“You are selfless, and not for the reason you think.” Lan Wangji moved to stand beside him, but not touching him anymore. “Wei Ying… you were meant to be a bird; unique, talented and free. You should be shining around the world, making music… not –”

“Don’t make me laugh, Lan Wangji.” Wei Wuxian’s voice dripped in ice. “Be true to yourself, why do you even care anyway? You've always found me disagreeable, no matter what. You were just tolerating me when we were kids, why would it be different now?” He laughed dryly, and after a moment of thinking he raised his chin, staring at the dark sky. “A crow maybe, that’s more like me, I bring death and misery to everything I touch.”

The words made Lan Wangji tense, as if a bucket of ice-cold water had been thrown at him. He took Wei Wuxian's hand in his one more time. In a last hint of hope to ensure him what he really feel.

“Wei Ying…” It’s not true.

He wanted to say, but the words seemed stuck inside his throat when Wei Wuxian turned, eyes staring at him under the red neon lights, almost glowing a shade darker than clotted blood. In that moment, he almost wished he hadn't said anything.

In the complete silence that followed, Wei Wuxian yanked his hand away from his and started to look for Mo Xuanyu among the crowd.

Mo Xuanyu spotted the two familiar faces near Wei Wuxian's car, but he decided not to approach, the mood didn't seem right.

After a few minutes, Wei Wuxian made a face and waved him over.

“Did you make it?” Wei Wuxian asked.

“I did.” Mo Xuanyu smiled before continuing. “I hid the device under one of the buttons, unless he looks a lot, he won't find it.”

“Damn, you really are one smart kid.” Wei Wuxian laughed, then pulled out his car keys and handed to him. “Here.”

“Won't you need the keys, Sir?” Mo Xuanyu whirled, looking confused.

“I will take him home.” Lan Wangji replied instead.

“Oh, okay, I'll take my leave then, have a good night, Sir.” Mo Xuanyu said, voice changing from warm and gentle, to extremely polite when he turned to Lan Wangji. “Have a good night, Master Lan.”

“Mn, take care.” Lan Wangji nodded.

Mo Xuanyu tried to suppress the smile, but only managed to stay quiet as he followed to the car. Home, uh? Yes, the lieutenant was in good hands.


 

Back in Lan Wangji's car, the mood wasn’t easy for conversation. All Wei Wuxian could do was sit and listen to Lan Wangji's tight breathing. Each small sigh was like a slap on his face and at that moment, he wished he couldn't read him that well. Part of him was saying, to simply go for the ride and try to forget it... but the silence between them was too loud for him to bear.

It’s pathetic. He’d missed those moments, the easy silences, followed by those hidden smiles shared through their eyes. But now, there was nothing but distance. He felt like freezing once again. There was no warmth in his bones. He felt like he was trying to drain blood from rocks, stone cold rocks, pumping frozen water through his lungs, to fill the place where his heart should be.

When he became truly sick and tired of the distance, he started to tease, making small talks and chatting nonsense, trying to make them both to relax. But unfortunately, talk was never as easy as one might think.

Lan Wangji could hear the clear exhaustion in his voice. This was something Wei Wuxian carried since their childhood, something that could annoy or amuse him, depending on his mood.

“Wei Ying, how do you feel?” He called, asking softly.

“Well, I feel like shit.”

Lan Wangji sighed, as exhausted as he was, if not more.

“How am I going to protect you if you keep doing this?” Lan Wangji took his eyes off the road and looked at him over the wheel. “If you don't cooperate, I can't help.”

“I don't need your help with this, much less your protection.”

“You better get used to having someone worrying about you, Wei Ying.”

“Who says I need you to worry about me, Lan Zhan?” He hissed. “I'm better off on my own, I’ve always been.”

“Wei Ying…”

“What is it?”

“You should be able to trust me.”

“I wouldn't be here if I didn't.”

“So why don’t you let me in?”

“Nothing’s the way it used to be, Lan Zhan, this won't make things a little less tragic for anyone.” He sighed, listening to the sharp exhale Lan Wangji let out. “One moment you're just fine and the other, the whole world is turning against you.”

“I know you are desperate, but you shouldn't be held hostage of long-buried feelings.” He stared at him for a long moment. “You’re not alone.”

“Feelings?” Wei Wuxian started to laugh, sounding nothing more than mean and sarcastic. “What feelings? I deal with facts, not emotions. We can't trust our emotions. Emotions are uncertain and questionable.”

It was just the truth, anyway. He didn't consider himself a cynic, he was just realistic. Wei Wuxian thought.

“Feelings don't matter when it comes to right or wrong, you just have to choose a side.” The corner of his lip curled slightly, humorlessly. “It's time to choose sides, Lan Zhan.”

“What matters then?” Lan Wangji ignored his affirmation, the question leaving an imperceptible hint of sadness in his tone.

“Orders matter, rules matter, closing the case, matter.” He stated in a raspy voice.

“Why you keep running away from me, Wei Ying?” He said it mournfully, raising his gaze to him.

“One. That's not your concern. Two. Why you keep asking for more when you know the bottle is empty, Lan Zhan?” He blurted, feeling his chest burn on the verge of tears.

They say, if you tell a lie long enough you’ll start to believe it. Right? He repeated those words to himself, over and over like a mantra, as if the words itself, would be enough to wipe the crippling pain away. “There's nothing left of me that I can offer to you.”

“You need to stop being so cold and distant to the people closest to you.” Lan Wangji gripped hard at the steering wheel, staring straight at him.

“We’re not close anymore.” Wei Wuxian’s voice came out so low, that Lan Wangji barely heard it. “And since we're speaking frankly, let me make one thing clear; I don’t need you to worry about me and I don’t need your protection. I just need to keep my feet on the ground and close this case, this is the only reason I'm here. I didn't come looking for you to be your friend again, don't mix things up, Lan Zhan.” He spat the words without pity, unable to see more than a blur of muted pain.

A few moments of silence passed and when he finally turned to Lan Wangji, he felt the seconds stop in time.

A single, lonely tear shone through the traffic lights; warm and clear, and Wei Wuxian felt like the world was passing in a blur of red and white lights. If the car had crashed, it would have hurt a lot less than seeing that.

Gazing straight ahead, Lan Wangji simply drove, watching as small raindrops slowly raced their way down the window. Each drop was a reminder of his own misery, falling from low slung clouds like saltless tears.

Instead of saying anything, he turned his face to the blanket of grey. So that way, Wei Wuxian wouldn’t see the layer of pain he was trying so badly to hide.

Wei Wuxian could be absent-minded most of the time, but when it came to Lan Wangji, years could pass; eight, thirteen, a thousand, and he would always be as sharp as a tack.

He saw it.

The way his eyes slightly crinkled and his brows knitted in concern. The way he inhaled deeply, trying to suppress the tear that ended up falling anyway. The way his chest expanded, like it was hard to breath. And the way his elegant fingers quivered, almost imperceptibly around the steering wheel.

He saw everything.

Lan Wangji slowed the car as he drove through the gates, heading to the entrance in silence.

Wei Wuxian pressed his tired eyes, resting his head over the soft leather of the seat. A sense of regret immediately washed over him. But, he would rather hurt him now and see him alive, safe and far from him, than near and dead.

“I miss you more than I remember you, Wangji.” Both were breathing heavily at this point. “I don’t even know you anymore... We’re just… – the words were stuck in his throat – strangers with a common purpose, so please, don't make things more difficult than they already are.”

“Wei Ying… I…” His voice was steady but the tone wasn't right.

Wei Wuxian felt like tears could spill from his and Lan Wangji's eyes at any moment. He didn't want to see him cry. He didn't want to be the one responsible for his tears. That face... that face wasn't meant to shed tears. That voice wasn't meant to crack that way. Not because of him, not because of anyone.

What was he doing? Why did he come back? He was again, causing more pain than relief, to the only person he truly loved.

The ache in his chest made it hard for him to breathe. Hearts don't snap like brittle glass or burst like an overfilled balloon. But he had, at least to try.

His hand hesitated over the door handle. He couldn't look him in the eye. Every time Lan Wangji looked back at him in his calm, considering way, was… it was too much.

It was easier to break him now than to watch him die later. Because of a mistake you made. That's the lie he's been telling himself. That's the lie that has been keeping him alive for eight years. If you keep lying long enough, you’ll start to believe it. If you start to believe it, then it’s true. Right?

“Look, I… I've had enough… thank you for the ride, but I'm going to sleep.” As soon as he turned off the car, Wei Wuxian opened the door and was quick to get out, leaving Lan Wangji behind without looking at him.

This is for the best.

This is the best for you and the best for me.

I'm not strong enough for you.

I can’t protect you.

You will find someone better than me.

You will be happier without me.

I was made to be alone. I don’t deserve you. I don’t deserve your love. I never did, I never will.

Lies.

The lies he feared the most, were the ones closest to the truth.


 

It was already past nine and Lan Wangji couldn’t avoid the whole think too much, worry too much thing.

Lan Wangji knew the man sleeping on the other side of the wall. He knew his secrets and rhythms, his fears and his darkness, his righteousness and his kindness, but most of all, he knew his humanity, long since forfeit, stuck into half-remembered nightmares, of endless and painful memories.

Lan Wangji simply knew. Wei Wuxian would never be able to forget, he would keep forcing himself, again and again, to sink into those memories.

Old scars are best left alone, aren't they?

That’s the lie he’s been telling himself.

They would always be there. Like the ones on his back, would also be.

He knew all of him. But at the same time, he knew nothing at all.

That day would haunt them for the rest of their lives.

Since he returned; to his life, to his house, to the room next to his, there wasn't a night where Wei Wuxian was spared from the nightmares.

In the first night, Lan Wangji woke up to screams and muffled sobs. He just remembered running, breathing heavily, following the almost imperceptible sounds. His first thought at that moment was to hold him tight enough to wash away those memories.

But… Would he be able to?

His thoughts were running full steam, and his mind was probably playing tricks on him, but he could swear, that if he was quiet enough, he could hear him breathing from the other side of the wall.

He pressed his hand to the cold surface. They were separated only by a thin wall, but it felt like an impossible long-distance.

It was a slow process, isn’t it? Lan Wangji pressed his forehead to the wall, falling again in a cacophony of conflicting thoughts.

I’m sorry, I asked too much of you…


 

On the other side of the wall, Wei Wuxian pressed his fingers to the same surface, and then, over his heart.

There was nothing left, no reason to move. There was no hope for a man like him.

It was frustrating…

Wei Wuxian could feel the tears sting his eye, pouring down his cheeks for the thousandth time.

“If I'm doomed to death, at least... At least I could be killed by you...” He silently sobbed, struggling to keep his tears silent. “Tear my heart to pieces, make it stop from beating, if it’s you Lan Zhan, if it’s you… Then it would be worth it. It would be worth being killed by you.”

Lan Wangji had no intention of hearing the desolate sobbing that came from the other side of the wall, let alone the words that followed shortly after.

 

But he did.