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What Might Have Been Lost

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Wei Wuxian hasn’t felt peace in so long that to finally have it feels as if he were walking along the edge of a cliff. To one side of him, a green meadow, flush with grass so fresh it’s still supple and tender with youth, stretches as far as the eye can see. To the other side, the yawning abyss, waiting to swallow him whole.

It’s so strange, Wei Wuxian thinks, that this is where he should find peace.

The snow is now falling in constant flurries, obscuring his view of anything past the white stones and bordering bamboo groves of the Jingshi’s elegant little garden. It’s so much more silent than what seems reasonable, the only sounds to be heard are the gentle melody falling from Lan Zhan’s fingers and his own soft breathing.

Whenever Wei Wuxian allows himself the indulgence of pondering a feeling of peace, his mind always strays to hazy days spent lounging on sun bleached wooden piers with Jiang Cheng and Shijie, the gentle sound of the lake lapping at the stilts underneath them washing away that great yawning nothing that threatens to consume him.

And now, on a quiet winter’s night, he’s resting against the doorframe accompanied by someone who by all accounts should have turned tail and ran when he saw what being associated with the Yiling Patriarch could mean for someone, and he feels at ease.

What a strange thing, that this is where he should find peace.

In the light from the candles positioned around the room, Lan Wangji’s unbound hair softens him, rounding out his edges into something much more human than the jade statue that people claim him to be. Wei Wuxian smiles a little to himself, watching the serene look on his face as his gaze trains on his hands, gliding so delicately across his guqin that they seem to almost float.

He takes his last sip of the Emperor’ Smile, reveling in its sweet coolness washing through him and warming him inside and out. He revels in the fact that Lan Wangji was the one who brought it to him.

“Lan Zhan,” he calls, voice uncharacteristically soft. Lan Wangji’s fingers don’t stop, he simply looks up to meet Wei Wuxian’s steady gaze. “Will you help me change my bandages?”

At that, his hands do stop, and something unidentifiable flickers across his face briefly before it smooths back out into that serene expression. He nods and rises to retrieve new wrappings and a bowl of warm water.

Wei Wuxian sets his jar down on the porch just outside of the threshold, and sprawls himself over Lan Wangji’s desk in a way he knows will earn admonishment.

“Wei Ying.” he scolds softly.

Wei Wuxian juts his lower lip out playfully, but dutifully rearranges himself into a more workable position, his feet resting gently on the floor, mirroring Lan Wangji’s bare ones in front of him.

Lan Wangji settles himself gracefully onto his knees in between Wei Wuxian’s spread legs. He rests the bowl of water and the wrappings to the side, and rests his hands on his lap, looking pointedly at Wei Wuxian’s chest.

“Your robes,” he says after a few moments of apparently waiting for Wei Wuxian to realize that the wound he was supposed to be dressing was on his stomach.

“Ah! Of course Lan Zhan, forgive me, I must be going senile in my old age” he chuckles. His hands only tremble a little bit as he begins to undo the knots holding his belt tight, gently easing his robes off of his shoulders until the bands of white encircling his stomach are revealed.

Wei Wuxian feels daring, like he’s pushing the shaky boundaries that have settled so precariously between them since his return. The air in the Jingshi is cool, and Wei Wuxian feels so much more aware of his body than he has for a very long time.

Lan Wangji, showing no signs of discomfort other than a slight hesitancy as he leans in to begin unravelling the bandages, works with that single-minded concentration of his, a little crease between his brows betraying how careful he’s being.

He can feel the heat of his body as he wraps his arms around him, and hopes desperately that he can’t hear the little breath he sucks in through his nose.

He makes a little noise of distress when his stab wound, raw and angry but healing well, is unveiled. Wei Wuxian is suddenly very thankful that all of the scars from his past life are gone. If Lan Zhan asked about them, he doesn’t know if he would be able to lie to him anymore.

“Ah Lan Zhan, this is nothing! You should have seen the mark Jiang Cheng left. I’d take this little poke any day.” This however, appears to have been the wrong thing to say. It only serves to make the corners of Lan Zhan’s soft lips tick downward in displeasure.

Wei Wuxian chuckles softly, “You worry too much, Hanguang-Jun.”

Lan Wangji dips a clean cloth in the bowl of warm water, and begins to wipe gently around the wound, cleaning away the stale blood and grit, the little messy pieces of himself that seem to so often escape without his permission. He looks so lovely like this, almost glowing in the gentle candlelight. His long eyelashes cast faint shadows over his soft skin.

“Wei Ying does not worry enough.”

He shifts uncomfortably at that, and Lan Wangji begins to wrap his wound again, his fingers brushing delicately over Wei Wuxian’s skin. He wants to grab them and press them to his waist, to see if the rest of him is as warm as his hands are.

He doesn’t, and Lan Wangji pulls Wei Wuxian’s robes gently back up his shoulders. He leaves the front open, and his gaze lingers briefly on the too sharp lines of his collarbones.

Wei Wuxian doesn’t know how to explain to Lan Zhan that he feels like an imposter here. As if this peace, this unbarable closeness isn’t his to indulge in. That after everything he’s done, after all the blood he’s spilt, he doesn’t know if he deserves this peace at all. He thinks that Lan Zhan would probably get upset at that, so instead he says,

“Why would I worry? Even I’m a little shocked at my cockroach-like ability to stick around through everything the world throws at me.”

At that, Lan Zhan looks up sharply, suddenly looking… angry? No, not anger, something deeper and more painful than that. The raw emotion on his face steals the breath from Wei Wuxian’s lungs.

Lan Wangji shouldn’t be allowed to look so upset. He’s suddenly overcome with an awful guilt at the knowledge that he’s the one who put that look on Lan Wangji’s peerless face.

“Not everything.” Wei Wuxian’s mouth falls open a little bit at that, a terrible sinking feeling growing in his stomach. His gaze falls to the loose collar of Lan Zhan’s robes, where he can see a thick silvery scar curling its way over his shoulder.

“Lan Zhan-”

“You were dead, Wei Ying.” To Wei Wuxian’s horror, Lan Zhan’s eyes are glassy and filled with so, so much sorrow. “not missing, not hiding in the Burial Mounds, dead.”

The thing is— the thing is. Wei Wuxian knows that Lan Wangji cares about him. The very fact that he’s here right now is proof of that. So Wei Wuxian knows that Lan Wangji cares about him. But this, being presented with his shaking hands, clenched into fists in his lap in an effort to conceal it, the visual evidence of the pain that caring for Wei Wuxian has caused him, he feels utterly lost.

Teasing, flirting, casual touches and red earlobes, he can deal with that. This, Lan Wangji’s heart layed bare for the taking, he can not deal with.

“I know,” he says as gently as he can manage.

“No. Sometimes, I don’t think you do.”

This is dangerous territory. They don’t talk about this, they don’t talk about him dying. For Wei Wuxian, his death is something out of reach. He doesn’t remember anything, just a feeling of cold nothingness, like drifting at the bottom of an ice capped lake. Something nebulous and incomprehensible.

For Lan Wangji, his death was a real, physical pain. He’s seen him, when he thinks he’s not looking. Eyes blank, shoulders hunched in, lost in pain that’s never far enough away to escape. Again, his eyes drift to the corded silver skin curling over Lan Wangji’s shoulder, and his mind drifts back to his conversation with Zewu-Jun a few hours earlier.

No matter how others consoled us, and how our Uncle scolded us, Wangji still came here every month. He would sit on the porch, and wait for someone to open the door.

When we got old enough, we realized that Mother would never come back. That no one would open the door for him. But he still came.

Wei Wuxian is suddenly overwhelmed with the depth of Lan Wangji’s emotions. He doesn’t understand how on earth he ever thought this man cold and unmoving, when he feels things so intensely that it threatens to destroy him.

A thousand words flit through Wei Wuxian’s mind, but he can’t bring himself to voice a single one.

You’re so, so good Lan Zhan. Someday, maybe I’ll have done something to deserve you.

But he’s already taken so much from Lan Wangji. How could he live with himself if he took any more?

“Lan Zhan, I’m sorry, I’m so, so sorry-”

Lan Zhan startles a little bit, and brings his shaking hands up to wrap Wei Wuxian’s in his own. He presses them to the center of his chest, and Wei Wuxian’s breath hitches as his fingers come into contact with warm, smooth skin.

Lan Zhan’s lips part a little bit, a little line between his brows betraying his distress.

“Wei Ying has nothing to be sorry for.” He says it with no hesitation, as if it were the truest thing in the world. “All I ask is for Wei Ying to treat himself with kindness.”

Wei Wuxian can all of a sudden feel hot stinging tears pressing at the backs of his eyes. In this moment, Lan Zhan, face open and earnest, his hair flowing like rivers of ink around his face, looks more beautiful than Wei Wuxian can ever remember.

He’s done nothing to deserve this. His stomach twists at the certainty with which he knows this. Wei Wuxian has never, in either of his lives, done anything that could warrant the peerless Second Jade of Lan kneeling in front of him with his hands clasped to his chest like a lifeline, looking at him with such open adoration that it feels wrong to meet his eyes.

He feels like he’s intruding on something private. Such love and care was never meant to be in possession of someone as destructive as Wei Wuxian.

“How can you forgive me so easily?” He chokes out. “After everything I’ve put you through, you’d have every right to never want to see me again.”

Lan Zhan releases one of his hands to reach up and brush a tear off of Wei Wuxian’s cheek. His fingers are warm and calloused, and unbelievably gentle against his heated skin. He hadn’t even realized he was crying.

“There was never anything to forgive.” Wei Wuxian is sure that he’ll drown in the face of Lan Wangji’s tenderness. His thumb stokes across his cheek again, burning. “I don’t know who I would be without you, Wei Ying. When I’m with you, the world is in color.”

He laughs, gasping and tear soaked. The words hit him like a blow to the back of the head, leaving him dizzy and stumbling.

This is it, he thinks, this is all it ever was, and this is all it will ever be.

“Lan Zhan,” he whispers, and that’s all it takes.

They surge towards each other, like the sea meeting the shore, powerful and inevitable as time itself. Lan Zhan is everywhere, the hot press of his lips setting Wei Wuxian alight from the inside out. Their mouths slide against each other, waves lapping at the shore again and again.

They’re gasping into each other’s mouths, breathing into each other’s lungs. Lan Zhan’s hands slide over him, stroking over his arms, wrapping around his waist, and finally threading into his hair, still a little damp from standing out in the snow.

He’s cradling the back of his head, angling his chin in an effort to press their mouths even closer. His arms frame the side of his neck, and Wei Wuxian brings his hands up to hold them tightly in his grasp.

Lan Zhan is making little punched out noises every time their mouths connect, and Wei Wuxian slits his eyes open to watch him.

His beautiful face is tilted up to meet him, his eyes squeezed tightly shut, eyebrows pulled up and together in the center as if by little puppet strings. There’s a high flush on his cheeks, and a little shine of sweat at his hairline.

Wei Wuxian looks at him and burns.

He slides forward off of the table, into Lan Wangji’s lap. Arms, lean with muscle from twenty years of sword work, wrap around him and press them flush together, as if he was trying to press them into one being, indistinguishable from one another.

They separate with a slick sound, resting their foreheads together. They’re still so close that their lips rest gently against each other, the lightest of touches. He can feel Lan Wangji’s hot breath fanning out over his spit slick lips. They stare at each other wide eyed, panting.

There are still tears drying on Wei Wuxian’s cheeks, and Lan Wangji places little tiny kisses all over his face, just the barest brushes of lips on skin. He lets out a shaky breath and cards his hand through Lan Wangji’s silken hair, unable to believe that he gets to have this.

Lan Zhan’s lips travel to the edge of his face, brushing kisses at his temple and hairline before hovering over his ear.

“Wei Ying is beautiful.”

He lets out a gasp at that, hands tightening where they’re bunched in Lan Zhan’s robes.

Lan Zhan begins to nip at his ear, soothing over where he bites with the slickness of his tongue. Wei Wuxian trembles.

“Wei Ying is good.”

“L-Lan Zhan, isn’t this a bit much-”

His mouth, red and pulsing with the fierceness with which they’d been kissing, opens on the point where his heartbeat flutters under the delicate skin of his neck. He whispers against his skin,

“Wei Ying is mine.”

A long, drawn out moan escapes him at this, feeling flames lick up his spine and spread the very tips of his fingers and toes.

He surges back in, mouth open and hot as his fingers claw at Lan Wangji’s back, as if trying to tear his way in. Lan Zhan meets him there, his hands stroking up and over Wei Wuxian’s arms, pushing his still parted under robes off of his shoulders.

He can feel the heat of Lan Wangji pressing up against his stomach, setting him alight. He rolls his hips down to meet him, and Lan Wangji chokes out a gasp.

“Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan,” he whispers, “take me to bed.”

Strong hands grip the back of his thighs and he’s lifted, gently, as not to jostle his wound, and brought to the Jingshi’s only bed. Lan Zhan’s bed.

Lan Zhan gently sits him on the edge of the bed, again kneeling in between his spread legs to lick and suck at the exposed skin of his throat and shoulders.

It feels so good. This feels so good, Wei Wuxian can not believe he gets to have this. Beautiful, beautiful Lan Zhan, pressed into him so tightly he can’t tell where he ends and Lan Zhan begins. His attention, that single minded concentration all focused on making Wei Wuxian feel good. It feels incredible. It feels like a dream.

If he were to tell his younger self, so desperate and hungry and empty, that he got to have this, he would have laughed in his face. He would have been told that fairy tales aren’t real, that such beautiful things don’t exist in real life. Can’t exist in real life.

But here he is, with the kindest, most beautiful person he’s ever known offering his heart to him in cupped palms. Lan Zhan is so good. Wei Wuxian is in love with him.

“Hey, hey, come up here.” Lan Zhan tears himself away from Wei Wuxian’s collarbone, and looks at him like he hung the stars in the sky.

He crawls backwards onto the bed, and Lan Zhan follows him with all the grace and elegance in the world. Even like this, hair a mess and lips thick and shining from the pressure, he still manages to look like something otherworldly.

Wei Wuxian pulls himself into his lap again, his robes gathering in the crease of his elbow. Lan Zhan is gazing up at him, breathing hard and eyes shining.

He pulls at the ties holding Lan Zhan’s belt together, and Lan Zhan’s breath hitches. His eyes never leave his as he pushes his robes aside, exposing his creamy skin to the chilled winter air.

The Wen brand stands out against the rest of Lan Zhan’s chest, mottled and silver with age. Wei Wuxian’s stomach twists at the sight. He’s never had the courage to ask how he got it. He doubts his own sect would be so cruel, but the only remaining answer is too painful to even consider.

He looks up and Lan Zhan’s eyes are on his face, searching.

“I should have known you’d be beautiful everywhere, er-gege.” He presses his lips to the center of the brand, and Lan Zhan sucks in a shuddering breath, hands coming up to stroke his hair again.

By the time Wei Wuxian reaches down to brush his fingers against Lan Zhan’s hardness, to feel the shape of him, Lan Zhan is trembling like a leaf. His eyes are shining bright with an emotion that Wei Wuxian feels breathless in the face of.

Lan Zhan lets out a high keening sound when Wei Wuxian finally pulls him out, his forehead falling forward to press against Wei Wuxian’s collarbone. His hands are shaking where they rest against the small of his back.

“Wei Ying-” he gasps.

“Shhhhh, love, it’s alright.” Lan Zhan is pulsing with heat, twitching in his grasp, his skin soft and silky in Wei Wuxian’s hand. He starts gently, slowly, stroking him with warm caresses and twists of his wrist.

He’s burning, watching Lan Zhan fall apart like this. He can hear his own shuddering breaths and feel his own aching need, but it pales in the face of getting to watch Lan Zhan like this, glowing in his loveliness.

“Wei Ying, you too,” Lan Zhan gasps into his skin. His hand leaves the small of his back to trace down the lines of his stomach, carefully avoiding the bandages he so painstakingly applied. All that feels like an eternity ago.

Everything feels like an eternity ago, as if his whole existence has been a dream, as if this is the first real thing that’s ever happened to him.

Lan Zhan wraps his hand around him, and he feels as if a bolt of lightning has been shot up his back, arching, all bright, pulsing heat.

“Ah! Ah, ah Lan Zhan, that’s great, that’s amazing, you’re amazing-” The rest of his sentence cut off with a groan as Lan Zhan strokes him from root to tip.

Lan Zhan is watching him wide eyed, watching him writhe around and squirm on top of him. And really, it shouldn’t feel this good, it’s just a handjob, he’s done this to himself a thousand times. But it does feel good, it feels so fucking good that he thinks he’s going to cry if Lan Zhan doesn’t stop soon.

His thighs are so slick with sweat that he’s beginning to slide off of Lan Zhan’s lap, and they’ve gone back to just panting into each other’s open mouths as they work each other over. Lan Zhan is letting out these little breathless noises, and Wei Wuxian can’t stop babbling.

“Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan you’re so beautiful, ah! Lan Zhan that feels so good, do, ah, do that again-”

Lan Zhan bats his hand away, and pulls Wei Wuxian forward so they’re chest to chest, and wraps his hand around both of them.

They drop their foreheads together and groan, and Wei Wuxian starts kicking his hips up a little bit, entranced as he watches himself poke up through Lan Zhan’s long, elegant fingers. Watching them, how they move and slide together, is hotter than any pornography he ever layed eyes on when he was a teenager. He feels as if there was liquid fire licking at the base of his spine, pooling in his stomach and winding tighter and tighter.

“Lan Zhan!” He gasps, and opens his eyes to find Lan Zhan staring at his face, eyes filled to the brim with tears.

His stomach twists in worry, and the rocking of his hips comes to a stop. “Lan Zhan, love, what’s wrong?”

Lan Zhan just keeps staring at him, eyes wide and shining like cracked glass. He’s still shaking.

“Wei Ying…” He whispers, and Wei Wuxian brings his hands up to cradle his face in his hands.

“You’re… you’re alive.” At this he lets out a little hiccuping sob, and Wei Wuxian feels his heart shatter. How much pain would he cause this beautiful man before he decides that enough is enough?

“You—you came back.”

“I did, sweetheart, of course I did.” Wei Wuxian brushes the tears from Lan Zhan’s cheeks and presses kisses as light as feathers to his gently closed eyelids. “And I’m never gonna leave you again, my love. As long as you still want me, I’ll be here.”

Lan Zhan looks absolutely broken, still letting out little sobs, chest heaving with the effort of trying to hold himself together.

“Promise?”

Wei Wuxian strokes the hair out of Lan Zhan’s face and presses his lips to his forehead, right over where the silver filigree of his ribbon sits. “I promise.”

Lan Zhan gasps, and surges up to swallow Wei Wuxian’s words like a man starved of oxygen. They tumble backwards, and suddenly he’s completely surrounded by Lan Zhan, the warm heat of him, the comforting scent of the sandalwood incense he loves so much. He feels engulfed, and so, so completely safe that he’s convinced that all his life was just the path he needed to take to work his way here.

Lan Zhan is frantic, pressing kisses to his hips, his stomach, his ribs, anywhere he can reach. He’s chanting his name, whispering into his skin like it’s some sort of prayer. Wei Wuxian feels like he’s drowning, like the tide is washing over him, pulling him ceaselessly into the ocean, where he was meant to be all along.

“Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan-”

“Mine,” Lan Zhan whispers, and Wei Wuxian moans as he wraps his hand around him once more, lighting him up from the inside out.

“Wei Ying,” he gasps into his neck, “say you’ll be mine.” His hand is speeding up and he can feel Lan Zhan rutting against his thigh, can feel them crashing together, like waves against the shore.

“Always!” He cries, “I’ve always been yours Lan Zhan!”

Lan Zhan gives one final push against his leg, and buries his head in his neck as he shudders apart, Wei Wuxian’s arms tight around him the only thing preventing him from falling apart completely.

Wei Wuxian reaches down to take himself in hand, and it only takes a few strokes for the knot that’s been tightening in his stomach to snap and unravel, crying out as his body tightens like a bowstring with the white hot pleasure crashing through him.

They lay there, completely tangled and panting into each other’s skin, and Wei Wuxian thinks about how funny it is that he should find peace here. That he’s allowed to find peace here.

Lan Zhan is curled into his side, ever mindful of this injury. He’s looking at Wei Wuxian with something like wonder. There are still tears drying on his face.

Wei Wuxian reaches over to stroke his hair away from his face, their breathing finally beginning to even out. Lan Zhan isn’t shaking anymore.

He’s walking along the cliff’s edge, but the drop doesn’t scare him anymore. All he can feel is the soft grass beneath his feet, the warmth of the shining sun.

“Never in my life” Lan Zhan whispers.

“What?”

“Never in my life did I imagine that I would get to have you.”

At this, Wei Wuxian chuckles a little bit. He’s so happy, he’s surprised his chest isn’t visibly glowing with it.

“I’m sure there was one point in your life where you’d have run for the hills if you learned you’d be stuck with me forever.”

To Wei Wuxian’s surprise, Lan Zhan’s eyes go soft at this, and his lips tick upwards in an almost smile, sweet as spun sugar.

“No,” he starts, then pauses, evidently choosing his words carefully. “You are the only thing I’ve ever wanted.”

Wei Wuxian feels immediately as if he were going to die, his face going bright red and his stomach doing weird little flips. How on earth this man can just say things like that and expect Wei Wuxian to be able to respond coherently, he’ll never know.

“Really?” He grins, “You could’ve fooled me. Everyone swore you hated me when we first met!”

At this, Lan Zhan looks a little sad. He reaches up to stroke his thumb across Wei Wuxian’s lower lip, watches the way it molds and bends under his touch.

“I never hated you. You terrified me, I wanted you so much.”

“I don’t terrify you anymore, right?”

At this, Lan Zhan does give him a small smile. It warms him through, makes him believe that maybe, just maybe, if he can get Lan Zhan to smile like that, maybe he can deserve him.

“No. I’ve never been afraid of love.”