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echoes of (tears)

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Watching Lan Wangji cry was an experience he could not quite put into proper words.

To be honest, it seemed as though the man himself did not know how to react. He gasped, confused as of to why he couldn't breathe properly. His eyes would close tight against the distinctive sting brought to one, making more tears squeeze out. Wei Wuxian stared into into glassy orbs when they opened once more. They were full of confusion and long lasting pain. It left him floored, not knowing what to do.

Wei Wuxian did want their relationship to be more open for a long amount of time. Ever since he was a child, one could argue. There was a lot he wanted indeed, both the beautiful and the hideous. He did grow to learn the small but huge ways Lan Wangji showed vulnerability in the end.

It hadn't taken him that long to notice an open and infected wound in his heart. You could compare it to fabric sticking to already dried blood, glued together yet not a proper dressing. Wei Wuxian did not expect the effect of peeling off such an old bandage.

He wanted to do many things for his partner, but he could not change the fact that he was useless with crying people.

"What do you want me to do?"

Lan Wangji shook his head in answer, eyes squeezing shut once more and refusing to speak. Wei Wuxian bit his lip, fists clenching at his sides and feeling helplessness all too deeply.

Lan Zhan had proven himself receptive to touch, yet Wei Wuxian wondered whether getting into his space was a good idea to begin with. At the same time, wouldn't he hug A-Yuan when he was crying? It was unfair of him to compare the situation to that one of a baby, yet those were the only tears he could handle. Children cried at small things more often than not then proceed to forget short stretches of time later.

Like Wei Wuxian figured out much earlier, this was a festering wound left alone for far too long. It would take time and care to heal, not allowing him much room for mistakes, no matter how small.

He took a deep breath to ground himself. It contrasted with another sharp gasp and more tears from the one sitting across from him on the bed.

Deciding so many layers of were most likely suffocating, he opened the sash to get rid of the waist skirt. It made the man mumble Wei Wuxian's name, sounding utterly wrecked in a way he never wanted to hear again.

"I'm here," he responded when he had stripped his partner down to his undergarments.

The thin material only absorbed the falling tears faster. It drew his gaze down to the wet tracks and spots from time to time while scrutinising Lan Wangji's body language and expressions.

"I'm here," was repeated, unable to hold back the hand that went to wipe his cheek. If anything, Lan Wangji started to cry harder, sobs making his body tremble. The reminder seemed to slightly help.

They continued like so for quite a while. Wei Wuxian could describe it like a waterfall; you would hang on to a feeble rock while the water itself beat down on you with its violent torrent. It was too many feelings bursting out to handle.

He brought an arm as support behind Lan Wangji's back and pressed the free hand against his abdomen, the hunch unbearable to look at. Lan Wangji's back started aching when he slouched for too long. His body was pliant, going down easy when pushing a little. Wei Wuxian was happy to make the way as comfortable as possible, though not so much when his partner tried to pull him down as well. Then his arm almost got stuck before he finished.

Lan Wangji's tug made him realise his fingers were twisted in Wei Wuxian's clothes. That wouldn't work.

He pried them off, gentle, still sitting and not doing anything when they wrapped around his wrists instead. With the hold, he found himself struggling to shed the outer layers of his robes. The skin on skin contact would help, he knew. There was no real reason to fuss over the little freedom in mobility and harder undressing process. It was a small matter he could deal with, unlike the emotions unloading and sobbing.

Lan Wangji released his wrists to push the robes off his shoulders. He tugged Wei Wuxian down again, violent, eyes wide. His arms fastened around Lan Wangji's waist when he toppled down so they could lay by each other.

"Lan Zhan," he said, throat working, leaning to speak right in his ear, "I'm right here."

His partner stared at him then, glassy eyes brimming with more tears and emotions that had yet to spill over.

Wei Wuxian had always known Lan Wangji was a passionate person, only keeping them under lock and key when it came to showing them.

Yet he came to realise that he felt emotions to a depth humans should not experience. Certain feelings were set aside, viewed as useless. The others he allowed to grow not unlike how one cultivated golden cores. They got stronger as they were nurtured and handled with gentle hands. The realisation came early in their (romantic) relationship, but Wei Wuxian had never wondered about the negative aspects of such a trait.

He might have realised his partner was hurting, but it had not sunk in until that moment, watching thick tears roll down reddened skin. They reflected what little light was present in the Jingshi.

He will not answer unless you ask.

Lan Wangji did not know what he wanted him to do. So much was clear. The amount of times he had let emotions go in such a way he could most likely count on one hand.

Wei Wuxian blinked, gaze boring into Lan Wangji's eyes. He was careful to keep his voice level when he asked again, making sure not to focus on the trail falling tears left behind.

"What do you need, Lan Zhan?"

If anything, Lan Wangji's expression seemed to crumble further. Panic flashed through him as a new flood of tears spilled out. He opened his mouth again - to say what exactly he didn't know - when Lan Wangji shoved his face into the crook of Wei Wuxian's neck. He gasped against the skin there, warm and humid yet freezing him into place.

"Be here," he said, voice stilted in a certain desperation Wei Wuxian had never heard. Never wanted to hear again. The hold on Wei Wuxian went tighter still when he spoke.

Wei Wuxian, "I'm here."

Lan Wangji only shook further, making him tighten his arms as well. His neck was soon damp and wet from tears. The warm breath turned lukewarm on his skin and felt odd.

Lan Wangji should only ever cry tears of happiness.

"But you weren't," he sobbed. The weak sniffle coupled with the sheer intensity of sobbing was heartbreaking. "You weren't there and I was alone. You were dead. You were dead ."

Wei Wuxian felt many things about the time leading up to and of his death. Resentment at the situation then and now, but not enough to be a malicious ghost. Certain amounts of remorse when thinking of the things and people that led to it. Responsibility for the remaining Wen families and broken promises. Betrayal for the knowledge that he was hated for being powerful in the first place, not only because it was demonic cultivation.

Others were mixed and cloudy, not bearing any name yet existing nonetheless. It could be that they did have one and he had only not put the label and feeling together. Yet, if he ever will.

Guilt was a new one.

Guilt flooded Wei Wuxian.

Because how could he not have thought of the beautiful man he left behind? There were scars on his body with reasons he was aware of and would never forgive his family for. He liked to kiss the ones on his back during the rare mornings he woke up early enough to help Lan Wangji with his hair and robes. His palm would press against the one close to his heart during passionate nights and he knew his hand would search for it when he fell asleep often.

His death was quick, a blink of an eye. For him and only him.

It had been 13 years to everyone else.

He bit back the instinctive apology that tried to tumble out of his mouth.

Settling with a heavy, "I know," Wei Wuxian doubted he ever would. Would it count as a lie? He knew nothing of many things and would never truly understand what his partner had gone through.

Another sob wracked through Lan Wangji, making him shake further in Wei Wuxian's embrace.

"I was like my mother," he murmured against his skin and Wei Wuxian felt his heart clench at the words. "Could only keep it together for A-Yuan."

They curled around each other, trying to draw in some form of comfort from the action. The fact made him mad at himself; how could he be upset when Lan Wangji, of all people, was crying in his arms?

A little laugh slipped through the sobs and Wei Wuxian wondered if that was what one felt when they were heartbroken for someone. That little twinge in a heart that felt odd and as thought someone was clenching a fist around it. Was what Lan Wangji felt similar, in a sense?

"Like my father as well," he said, still with that sobbed out little laugh that made Wei Wuxian want to silence him. "Wanted to lock you away for only myself."

What could one even say? He knew nothing but the bits and pieces he was offered; crumbs left for him to pick up, not much bigger than dust. There was the quick wonder of whether Lan XiChen would know what to do. At the same time, even if he was better at calming his younger brother down, Wei Wuxian had the distinct feeling that this was necessary. It had to be let out for his own good.

He settled for a, "you were trying to protect me."

Lan Wangji shook his head frantically against him, breathing ragged. "I wish to be selfish with Wei Ying."

Wei Wuxian wiggled down enough to press his lips against Lan Wangji's cheekbone. "I wish to be selfish with Lan Zhan as well. You are a good man, please believe it."

Lan Wangji continued to babble even after this, talking more in a row than Wei Wuxian had ever seen. He learned much about his partner in those moments.

He thought he knew enough, initially. Knew the expressions on his face people thought were the same. Knew the blushes he could get and the different meanings they held. Knew the varying shades of of his ears and what they expressed. Knew what foods he would enjoy and which ones he only tolerated. Knew the different ways to kiss him for certain reactions or emotions to bubble up.

Knew how much he loved him.

It was becoming glaringly obvious how little he knew. Perhaps he had gotten too used of his partner knowing everything about himself instead.

The Yiling Patriarch.

Wei Wuxian.

Wei Ying.

He might not have believed the past was of much importance in a personal way, but it continued to affect Lan Wangji. The fact alone gave it all the importance in the world. It was a mistake for him not the address the issue earlier, but he couldn't bring himself to regret it. There was no way he could have opened up so emotionally if everything had gone down in another manner.

Lan Wangji might have been hurting with the peeling open of old bandages, but it was a healthy release to have. His partner had been comfortable crumbling in front of him the second they were in a private setting. There was nothing to regret with this amount of intimacy and trust achieved.

Wei Wuxian wondered what kind of a person this made him.

He responded with something when Lan Wangji's talking became more of a frantic and gasped out chant. "You were dead, you were dead, you-"

The only thing his dumb self could think of doing was kiss him.

It was chaste, lasting one, two, three seconds before he slowly pulled back, afraid he had done a terrible mistake. His eyes fluttered open once more to stare into golden orbs. They remained wide open and glassy after his action, tear tracks framing the beautiful colour and making flecks stand out. Tears that were no longer falling, frozen in place.

I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm-

"I know," he murmured, thumbs rising up to stroke damp cheeks once more. "I might not ever understand, but I know."

The room lapsed into silence then, interrupted by soft sniffles on few occasions.

Lan Wangji's expression began to clear once more.

Wei Wuxian tried for a small smile, aiming for comforting. It seemed to work when his eyes cleared up that much further.

He allowed the smile to slowly fall as they searched each other's eyes. Looking for what neither could exactly tell.

There was the wondering of what Lan Wangji was seeing in him. What expression was it? What emotions? What intentions?

He hoped there was love.

Wei Wuxian wanted him to feel loved.

Lan Wangji deserved so much love.

"What do you need, Lan Zhan?"

Need. An odd thing to think about.

One needed simple things like food, clothes, and a roof over their head. Yet you could argue those were not the only things a human needed.

"Just hold me," he said, voice hoarse with the emotions that rushed through him.

"Okay," he agreed, knocking their foreheads together.

"Just stay," Lan Wangji said. Wei Wuxian could still see the storm behind his eyes, proving that even with this there would always be a wound left behind. It might heal further, but it would always exist. Hands clenched tighter into Wei Wuxian's clothing, so thin it would tear with little more strength.

"Of course," he nodded, fingers still creating those little circles on his cheeks. The skin here was long dry.

"Don't leave again."

Don't die.

Don't leave me.

Wei Wuxian shut his eyes once more, taking in their mingling breaths with a sigh.

"Forever, my love."