His hands were shaking. His whole body felt tight and burned from the exertion to keep it in place. He couldn't let himself slip. And yet his hands were shaking around the sword's hilt.
It was too warm and the smell was making him dizzy, his arm was starting to feel numb and his body became heavier as the minutes passed. The thrashing of the creature wasn't helping him either. But he knew Lan WangJi was out there.
Wei Wuxian could hear the strings striking every few seconds, could just hear Lan WangJi moving around to avoid the sudden movements of the creature. Wei WuXian had no idea how long it had been already, he didn't know in what condition was Lan WangJi and if he was honest with himself he didn't know how long he could hold on to the sword stuck in the monster's mouth.
From time to time the huge creature would attempt to roar and only managed to create some kind of screeching sound that made Wei WuXian's hair stand on end. It was all too much. The smell and the screeches and the thrashing and-
Then there was nothing. No sounds that indicated Lan WangJi's movements outside. No movement from the creature. No response either. The silence came so suddenly it was unnerving.
And then the creature's mouth began to close. Wei WuXian could feel it pressing against his body, closer and oh so tight. He tried to hoist himself up, kicked around, but everything around him kept tightening and he could barely breath and-
Wei Ying woke up gasping for air. He bolted upright and desperately took long mouthful) of air, gulping to try and get the nausea to recede. His hands were shaking and he could listen his own heart hammering in his ears, he could even feel a light layer of sweat over his forehead, making his hair stick to it.
He looked around for a few minutes trying to orientate himself. The room was scarcely illuminated by the moonlight filtering through the window but it only took seconds to find the familiarity back. He looked at the other side of the bed were Lan Zhan was lying. He allowed himself to stare for a few minutes; stared at his hair spilling all over the pillow in a neat way, his pale skin that seemed to glow, his oh so bright golden eyes staring back at him.
Wei Ying hadn't even noticed Lan Zhan was awake. He quickly turned around and huffed out a short laugh.
'Ah Lan Zhan! I'm sorry I woke you up!' He threw a tense smile over his shoulder just for a few seconds before glancing towards the window again.
As soon as Wei WuXian turned to address the man beside him he felt a strong hand grabbing his collar and pulling him down. He went with the movement with no protest and ended up with his head against Lan Zhan's chest. The heartbeat beneath him was strong and steady. The breathing was calm and deep and Wei Ying took a few seconds to try and stabilize his own.
Wei Ying hadn't even noticed he had been shaking until one of Lan Zhan's hands came up to wrap around one of his, trying to calm him down.
Wei Ying didn't know if it was that strong heartbeat or the hand around his own, the warmth of the body beneath his or the arms gently holding him, that allowed him to fall asleep once again.
It had probably been all of them.
A hundred red suns. Spread all over the place, the familiar purple lotus lies on the ground on every garment of the fallen disciples. There are probably a thousand suns. Wei WuXian can't be sure.
He's watching from the outermost wall. Watches the red and white moving around the place that was his home as if they had ever right to do so, watches them laugh and ignore the corpses clad in purple all around them.
He watches as Jiang Cheng is forced to kneel in the middle of the open grounds.
And then the Melting Core Hand was moving towards him.
Wei WuXian wanted to move. He needed to get to Jiang Cheng before anyone else did. But he couldn't move. His body felt heavy and no matter how hard he tried to make it work it wouldn't budge. He tried to scream.
No sound came out.
And then came the horrible scream.
He needed to move. Wei WuXian tried harder and harder, the screams echoing through the grounds hammered through his ears. He felt the knot of tears tightening in his throat and yet he kept trying to scream.
He needed to get there, he needed to-
Wei Ying woke up with a scream at the tip of his tongue, the knot in his throat avoiding it from coming out. His hands hurt from how hard he was clenching them and the thin sheath of sweat covering his body made his undergarments stick uncomfortably to his skin.
He felt dizzy, and he was barely aware of his ragged breathing. He threw the thin blanket aside and tried to find some kind of purchase, the room was spinning and his eyes hurt from how hard he was trying to focus. It felt suffocating; he couldn't get enough air into his lungs and every time he closed his eyes the screams were back, loud and clear and-
'Wei Ying.' A hand came down gently over his shoulder accompanied by that strong yet soft voice. Wei Ying vaguely recognized that voice. And yet he still flinched at the contact. As soon as the hand was there it was gone.
'Wei Ying.' This time a lot softer.
Wei Ying looked up with unfocused eyes, trying and failing to stop his vision from spinning. Then that same hand gently grabbed one of his own and slowly brought it up towards warm skin. Wei Ying could feel the skin rise and low steadily with his hand and attempted to follow the rhythm.
It took him a few minutes to control his breathing and for his vision to stop swimming. As he gazed up once again, Lan Zhan's face came into focus. Warm golden eyes full of concern.
Lan Zhan didn't say a word. He simply shook his head slightly before sitting down beside Wei Ying. The room was completely silent, yet none of them dare to break it, there was no need.
Wei Ying's hand now laid over WangJi's, who was rubbing slow circles over it. They stayed like that for a long time, Lan Zhan's warm hand tethering Wei Ying to the present.
It was dark. Anywhere he looked at was completely covered in shadows, not even the pale moonlight seemed able to break through it.
Wei WuXian was running. He could hear the grumbling behind him getting closer. He took a sharp turn and hid behind a tall tree, trying to control his breathing and to bring his heartbeat to a normal rhythm.
The air felt thick, heavy with resentful energy every time he took a breath, it almost felt like he was slowly being suffocated. The trees around him were dead, devoid of life just like the rest of the area and the breeze blowing felt cold against his skin. Then there were also the thousands of corpses. Wei WuXian hadn't expected any less of Burial Mound. And yet, he thought, he never could've been prepared for it.
Out of nowhere, so suddenly, it surrounded him.
A choked scream was all he could manage before the resentful energy fell over him. He couldn't move. He felt it coil around him, burying under his skin, felt it reach deep within his heart. And it hurt, oh god it hurt. His skin burned, he could feel his throat slowly closing, felt as if his heart was being squeezed; every single part of his body ached. He felt as if something deep within was tearing him apart, leaving a cold feeling behind.
And yet something deep inside him wanted to accept it.
Wei WuXian wished for it to stop. Stop, stop, st-
Wei Ying woke up with a jolt. He was shaking. No, someone was shaking him. Two warm hands cupped his face, but the touch felt so wrong Wei Ying immediately pulled back. The hands didn't try to approach again and he felt grateful about it for the moment.
He felt his skin itching, like something was crawling beneath it and he couldn't get rid of the sensation. He felt like throwing up, the same suffocating feeling from the nightmare following him back into reality. His body felt way too hot even when he had already kicked the blanket off.
A cup of water appeared before his eyes and Wei WuXian took it with shaky hands, the cold tea took most of the heat as he swallowed it down. He barely heard the window in the room being opened, but the cool breeze came as a big relief, taking the rest of the heat with it. He took big gulps of air and ran his hands over his arms to chase the last traces of the nightmare. Only when he had managed to take control of his body did he look up.
Lan Zhan was standing right beside the window, warm golden eyes opened wide and attentive, hands balled into loose fists. Wei Ying remembered the hands that had tried to touch him, the same hands that had offered the cup of tea.
'I'm fine..' he tried to smile but he felt his lips wobble a bit. Lan Zhan's eyes slightly narrowed but he didn't pressure or made any move towards him.
'Hmm.' He simply nodded at Wei Ying and remained in place.
Wei Ying had no idea how long they remained like that. One waiting for the other. When he was able to find his voice again he looked up at Lan Zhan, who had been staring at him the whole time.
'Lan Zhan, would you play something for me?'
At this Lan Zhan couldn't help but feel surprised, yet he recovered immediately and went to sit on the bed. As soon as he was close enough, Wei Ying reached for his hand and he let him pull it towards him, running shaking fingers over it.
'What do you want me to play?' Wei Ying was looking at his hand as if it were the most interesting thing in the world.
'I don't know, anything's fine...'
Lan Zhan nodded and made to stand up for his guqin, however Wei Ying's hand tightened around his as soon as he attempted to move away. Lan Zhan looked at him with questioning eyes but Wei Ying wouldn't look at him.
And so he did the only thing he could; he started to hum.
Wei Ying immediately recognized the song. Their song.
He found a better position and let Lan Zhan's voice lull him back to sleep.
He opened his eyes and found himself surrounded. On one side Jiang Cheng, on the other side Jiang Yanli, and in front of him stood Lan WangJi.
Wei WuXian smiled and tried to move towards Jiang Cheng, only to find his feet stuck to the ground. He attempted to speak but no sound came out. Jiang Cheng looked at him, wide smile on his face and yet Wei WuXian didn't like the feeling it evoked.
'You were always so good. I was never really needed.' And with that Jiang Cheng turned around and began to walk away. Wei WuXian called for him, screamed at him to stop, but no sound came out.
'A-Xian.' At the sound of the voice his gaze turned to the other side. He wished he hadn't done so.
Jiang Yanli stood there, her clothes slowly staining red as more and more blood spilled out of the wound on her stomach. And yet she was smiling.
'Why did you do it?'
Wei WuXian desperately tried to speak, scream, anything. The results were the same and Jiang Yanli turned around and followed Jiang Cheng's steps. Wei WuXian felt the frustration rise within him, making his eyes tear up. He gazed towards the last remaining person.
Lan WangJi's was expressionless, just like many time Wei WuXian had seen him before and yet this time it felt unnerving. Wei WuXian tried to call for him and failed again. Lan WangJi turned around just like the other two had done.
'You always stood on your own.' He said over his shoulder and walked away.
Wei WuXian called and screamed for him, attempted with all his strength to move, all of this to no avail.
Don't leave me. Don't leave, don't leave, don't lea-
He choked on a sob as his eyes flew open. For a few seconds Wei Ying's vision was blurry, he blinked and the tears slid down his cheeks which were already damp. He clenched the soft fabric of the blanket in his hands, trying to chase the frustration away.
The deep sound of the guqin almost startled him.
Wei Ying raised himself to a sitting position, finding Lan Zhan in the same way in the corner of the bed. His guqin rested over his lap, long fingers stroked the cords slowly, making no sound just yet. Lan Zhan's golden eyes rose to meet Wei Ying's. The warmth he found in them made his heart feel tight. Lan Zhan placed the guqin carefully aside and stood up, he slowly walked towards Wei Ying and with warm hands gently cupped his face. A thumb stroke oh so slowly right beneath each of his eyes, taking with it the tear streaks.
Then Lan Zhan went back to his original place and took his guqin once more.
He said and began to play.
The song, Wei WuXian immediately recognized it. But it was those two words that brought warm to his heart and peace to his mind.
(Everywhere he looked there was fire.
Lan WangJi could feel the hot air surrounding him, licking at his skin and making it burn, making his eyes sting. He watched some disciples rushing out, but he continued moving forward.
He couldn't find his Brother. He had last seen him rushing inside the Library Pavilion, and yet after he had followed he hadn't seen him again. He knew his Father was outside already. Not that it calmed him a bit given the state he was but he was at least out already. He just needed to find his Brother.
He rushed past running disciples, picking anything of value he could on his way. Then out of nowhere Lan WangJi saw him. His Brother was just a few meters away from him, picking books and parchments before the fire could get them.
'Brother!' He rushed forward but no matter how many steps he took he wouldn't get any closer. He could feel the fire right behind him, but he couldn't reach.
'Brother!' This time Lan XiChen turned at the sound of his voice and smiled at him.
Just then the fire grew closer closer closer, enveloping his Brother and bringing the ceiling down, he was screaming and-
Everything suddenly changed.
He was back inside the cave. He could hear the monster roaring somewhere away from where he stood.
Lan WangJi's body tensed at the voice. Wei WuXian. He was here as well, but why wasn't Lan WangJi with him?
'Lan Zhan!' This time the scream came more desperate, sounded almost painful and Lan WangJi began running in the direction of the sound.
'Wei Ying!' His clothes felt stuck to his body, making his movements heavier, the humid air made his skin feel sticky and wouldn't allow him to breathe properly. The long tunnel of the cave seemed to have no end.
'Lan Zhan!' Came the voice again, this time it sounded tired and on the verge of breaking.
He couldn't get closer, couldn't reach him, he-
Everything vanished, leaving another scene before him.
Lan WangJi was back in the Cloud Recesses.
He was by himself, the dull ache on his back and the specific place he was in was all it took for the memory to come back. The solitude punishment.
He felt tired, his body hadn't recovered just yet and any movement he attempted brought with it a sharp sting of pain that lasted for a few seconds. He looked around trying to-
'The Yiling Patriarch is gone!'
'Torn apart by his own creations, call it karma!'
'Even his soul has vanished!'
'Good! That's what he gets for taking the crooked path!'
The voices all fell over him at once, mixing in a jumble of words that made Lan WangJi dizzy.
Wei Ying. He couldn't be-
It took every ounce of strength Lan WangJi had left to move but he couldn't bring himself to care. Wei Ying couldn't be gone. He had to look for him. He stood on weak legs and managed to get out, moving towards the forest.
The breeze blowing through the forest was cold, though Lan WangJi could barely make notice of it. He moved slowly but steadily, he had no direction, no idea where he needed to go but he didn't stop. He had to find Wei Ying. He couldn't be gone, he simply couldn't-
His steps came to a halt abruptly as he caught sight of the person standing just a few meters away from him.
Wei Ying smiled at him, but something felt wrong about it. The feeling of relief that had risen inside Lan WangJi slowly began to transform into uncertainty. Something felt odd. And yet he simply stood there and watched as Wei Ying walked towards him, unable to do anything else.
Once close enough, Wei Ying lifted one of his hands and gently placed it over Lan WangJi's cheek. The skin felt cold and the smile he received seemed even colder.
'Lan Zhan,' Wei Ying for closer, close enough for his mouth to be right beside Lan WangJi's ear, his voice merely a whisper. 'You're late.'
And with that he vanished right before Lan WangJi's eyes, just like the forest around him began to blur and-)
Wei Ying woke up with the feeling of the cool breeze against his face. The room was still dark and as he raised to a sitting position and looked around he realized the door leading outside was open. Lan Zhan was nowhere in sight.
With a feeling of unease, Wei Ying quickly stood up and went outside, concern gnawing at his insides. For a moment he saw nothing but the white flowers growing right outside the little house and the little river further away. Then as he turned around he spotted Lan Zhan sitting amongst a patch of flowers.
Wei Ying took a few seconds to simply admire him. Bathed in the moonlight Lan Zhan almost seemed unreal, almost ethereal if he were to describe it some way. His long hair swayed with the wind with such lightness it almost looked like shadows against the night. He was simply beautiful. Standing there looking at him, the strength of the love and affection Wei Ying felt, hit him by surprise. He welcomed it and let it spread through his body.
Sensing someone else, Lan Zhan turned around, warm golden eyes ran over Wei Ying, almost as if to assure himself that Wei Ying was actually there. Wei Ying knew enough of nightmares to recognize the effects of one in another person.
He smiled at Lan Zhan and walked closer, till he was standing in the same patch of flowers. Then he let himself fall right beside Lan Zhan, thigh to thigh, placing his head on his shoulder and taking a deep breath. He was aware of the relief flooding Lan Zhan as the body against his slowly began to relax, then as a hand slowly came to rest over his thigh, Wei Ying grabbed it with one his own. He needed the contact as much as Lan Zhan did.
'Hey Lan Zhan,' He gazed up to bright eyes filled with warmth and tenderness and couldn't help but smile. 'How about a song?'
The small and oh so soft smile he received made Wei Ying's heart throb, left him feeling warm and fuzzy on the inside and brought a sense of peace and happiness he loved to feel.
Lan Zhan simply nodded at him and Wei Ying went to grab his flute.
Nightmares were unpredictable, unavoidable. But, as long as they had each other, as long as they had their song, there was no nightmare they couldn't overcome.