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There is blood in his mouth. Shadows in his mind, smoke and ash and a tune he can’t quite recall.

A pain on the inside of his cheek.

It is morning, and he has overslept. Lan Wangji stares straight ahead. His heart slows to the chime of bells, the sound of water flowing. Birds chirp, and he remembers being young and annoyed by a caged canary, and he feels so old.


There is dust in his eyes, dirt and grit, and when he blinks it out there is one figure, shining brightly.

Wei Ying, he thinks. Wei Ying, please.

He smiles, and it is not the smile Lan Wangji remembers from their youth. It is not the smile Wei Ying would gift him across spaces great and small. This smile has teeth, and they are bloody. It reaches into Lan Wangji’s chest and squeezes, and squeezes, and--

He wakes with a gasp in the dark. He doesn’t rise until it is full light.


He meditates. He ignores the pain in his back. He aches to search for Wei Ying.

He listens to his brother when he visits, holds A-Yuan close. He does not listen to his uncle.

He wakes some mornings erect, and he aches, and he wishes he’d kissed Wei Ying when he’d had the chance.


He is standing in Nightless City, and he is alone until he is not. Wei Ying is there--Wei Ying is there--and there is music on the wind and red in the air, and when Lan Wangji reaches for him, Wei Ying reaches back.

Wei Ying, he says.

The smile he gets is red and full of teeth.

Wei Ying’s mouth on his is less kiss than bite. He is hard and insistent, an animal caged, clawing at his chest until--

There is a heart in Wei Ying’s hands. Lan Wangji thinks it might be his. It beats, steady through the gore, and Wei Ying smiles, and raises it to his lips.


He plays Inquiry.

He plays Inquiry.

He plays--


He is standing in Nightless City.

The heart in Wei Ying’s hand is Wei Ying’s. He doesn’t offer it to Lan Wangji. Instead, he holds it between them, ruby-dark and vulnerable in his hand. His fingers wrap around it, and Lan Wangji watches as he raises it. Watches as he tips his head back, throat bared, and licks the blood sticky at his wrist and the side of his hand. His tongue follows the curve of a finger and--

He’s watching Lan Wangji out of the corner of his eye. He’s watching, his mouth already stained.


He wakes sweat-drenched, heart racing. It’s dark, still, and his skin breaks out in goosebumps as he rises and lights a candle. He retrieves dry clothing and basin of water and a rag. Disrobing, he wipes the sweat from his skin, focusing on each movement instead of the remembered look in Wei Ying’s eyes or the way it made his body burn there on that field of ash and blood.


Wei Ying kisses him, and Lan Wangji digs his fingers into Wei Ying’s shoulder, digs his fingers into Bichen’s hilt. He tastes copper and salt. His chest aches, an open wound throbbing for attention. There’s heat and pain and Wei Ying’s teeth at his lip. There is only the two of them clinging to each other like drowning men.

Lan Wangji gasps for breath, and Wei Ying goes for his throat. His mouth is a brand, and Lan Wangji tips his head back and lets Wei Ying mark him. He holds onto him and welcomes the bloom brought to the surface of his skin. If his actions won’t get his point across, maybe Wei Ying’s mark on his skin will.

He groans as Wei Ying sucks at his skin, pleasure spiking and turning to pain. His hands tighten; Bichen familiar in one, Wei Ying’s shoulder--too thin--in the other. He aches. He aches. Wei Ying’s mouth is on his skin, and Lan Wangji wants so much, so little.

When Wei Ying pulls away his eyes are unreadable, and the heart in his palm is Lan Wangji’s.


He stares straight ahead until the ceiling resolves itself in the gray light of morning.


He meditates.

His chest aches. It isn’t the brand.


He prepares for bed at the usual time. Sleep doesn’t come for hours.


Lan Wangji is in the cold spring. His back aches. Bowing his head, he closes his eyes. Hears the birds, the breeze through the leaves, the trickle of the spring.

Wei Ying’s momentum is carrying him right to Lan Wangji as he slips down the path, kicking off his boots and wading in. Suddenly the loudest thing is the pounding of Lan Wangji’s heart.

Wei Ying stands close. Lan Wangji can feel the heat of him, can see the goosebumps prickling on his flesh. He is smiling at Lan Wangji, bright and hopeful, and Lan Wangji cannot bear to move away.

He reaches for Wei Ying, and wakes with empty hands.


Nightless City, and a drop into nothing; Wei Ying kisses him, and Lan Wangji kisses back. Hands tangle in hair--Chenqing and Bichen gone--and pull at robes. Wei Ying’s teeth find his bottom lip, and Lan Wangji makes a sound like a cry. He pulls him close, but wants him closer. Second Jade of Lan, but he would crack himself open if it meant Wei Ying understood.

If only he’d understood.

They kiss. They bite. Lan Wangji tastes copper. They tear at clothes until fingers find skin. Beneath his hands, Wei Ying is hot but too thin. Head bent, Lan Wangji presses his mouth to his neck, his collarbone. Wei Ying sings beneath his touch, hands gripping Lan Wangji’s shoulders.

They’re both hard, and Lan Wangji aches at the knowledge, the two of them on the same line at last.

And then Wei Ying is kissing him again, mouth insistent, and his hands are at Lan Wangji’s hips, at his cock. Wei Ying squeezes him through the layers between them, and kisses him until he’s breathless, until he’s gasping. He holds on, and he lets Wei Ying take what he has to offer. All of it is Wei Ying’s anyway.

He takes up all of Lan Wangji’s air.

Wei Ying kisses him, his other hand pressed to Lan Wangji’s chest, fingers playing against a nipple. A nail digs in, sharp, and Lan Wangji shudders. He moans. Pain seeded blooms into pleasure; Lan Wangji could find completion like this, caught between Wei Ying’s clever hands, his more clever mouth.

Lan Wangji presses against him, wanting more. His hands slide to Wei Ying’s waist, and he’s pulling even as Wei Ying’s mouth slides from his to his jaw, to his neck. The curve of his shoulder. His mouth is hot as a brand, and the fingers at his nipple leave to press against his skin.

Lan Wangji’s heart races. There is blood in his mouth. There is Wei Ying against his skin. There is--

There’s a rush of pain that leaves him gasping in Wei Ying’s grip, leaves him feeling emptied out and hollow. He opens his eyes to gray sky and smoke and his heart in Wei Ying’s hand.


They’re alone in the space Wei Ying has claimed for his own in the Burial Mounds. Bare arms and legs tangled beneath a mess of robes and blankets. Lan Wangji’s ribbon is missing; Wei Ying’s has survived, a bright curl of red. Wei Ying is too thin, but he is warm and smiling and every time he looks at Lan Wangji that smile gets bigger and every time Lan Wangji sees it, his heart clenches in his chest.

Lan Zhan, he says.

There’s a mark on his chest that Lan Wangji put there. Lan Wangji presses his fingers to it, and Wei Ying laughs. Swoops in and presses his mouth to Lan Wangji’s. He’s gone again before Lan Wangji can really appreciate it.

Threading his fingers through Lan Wangji’s hair, Wei Ying tilts his head. He presses his toes to Lan Wangji’s shin. They are cold, and Lan Wangji registers that the space around them has dimmed.

Wei Ying’s hand is on his cheek.

Lan Zhan, he says, why didn’t we do this sooner?

Lan Wangji wishes he knew.


He plays Inquiry.


They could be anywhere. Lan Wangji doesn’t have to look to know it’s Nightless City. He can’t break Wei Ying’s gaze anyway. He doesn’t care to.

Wei Ying, he says.

Wei Ying looks at him, eyes unreadable in that way they only ever were after those three months. He looks, and he closes the distance between them. He crosses the lines Lan Wangji can’t. He takes Lan Wangji’s face in his hands and presses their mouths together. Lan Wangji tastes dirt and ash.

He clings to Wei Ying, hands and mouth greedy. He wants so badly to feel Wei Ying against him. He would take him back to Cloud Recesses, or follow him to the Burial Mounds. He would go, if Wei Ying would only tell him where. If he would only tell him--

Wei Ying’s teeth are sharp. There is blood on Lan Wangji’s tongue. His heart pounds in his ears.

Robes give way to skin, and Wei Ying’s hands are on him. They follow the lines of his abdomen, the planes of his chest. His fingers find Lan Wangji’s nipples, and Lan Wangji gasps into him. Presses harder into the touch. He is Wei Ying’s, if Wei Ying would just--

They’re both hard. Lan Wangji can feel Wei Ying, wants to feel more of him as Wei Ying’s fingers spread against his ribs. His hands are sure; Lan Wangji’s shake at the small of his back, at his hip, at the dip of his waist. They kiss, and they bite, and their hips work against each other, and Lan Wangji’s face is wet.

His heart is in his throat.

No. They’re standing in Nightless City. They’re standing on a cliff.

Wei Ying, he says. Come back.

There is blood on Wei Ying’s mouth; Lan Wangji can’t remember if it’s Wei Ying’s or his own.


His hand against his chest in the dark, he follows the edge of the Wen brand, presses fingers to flesh until he feels bone. Branches snap under ice and snow like ribs broken open.

There is nothing in his bed but the cold.