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you can't ever tell me (I will burn this whole world down)

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Wei Wuxian hasn’t ever lived in the Cloud Recesses long enough to really get the hang of the Gusu Lan Sect schedule; up at five in the morning and in bed by nine in the evening had been difficult enough as a teenager, and even in a new body Wei Wuxian has never really grown out of his night-owl tendencies.

Fortunately, Lan Wangji appears to be willing to be convinced that “in bed by nine” does not automatically translate to “asleep by nine” - and that there are far more profitable (and pleasurable) activities to pursue in bed than sleeping. Nevertheless, occasionally Wei Wuxian still finds himself alert and awake after Lan Wangji’s breathing has evened out into sleep, even with his own body pleasantly sore and satisfied.

The moon creeps in through the windows of the jingshi, casting the bedroom in shades of silver and gray. Wei Wuxian watches carefully as it casts Lan Wangji’s lashes into dark pools, his high cheekbones set in silver. Even with his features relaxed in sleep, his arm flung around Wei Wuxian’s middle and his head resting on Wei Wuxian’s chest, Lan Wangji still appears as if he’s been carved from jade, so handsome that the moonlight has come to steal his beauty away in jealousy. Wei Wuxian strokes a hand over Lan Wangji’s hair, attempting to settle some of the disarray back into place, and Lan Wangji makes a sleepy sound of contentment, burrowing further into Wei Wuxian’s chest. The movement dislodges the blanket draped over his shoulder, the fabric slipping low on his back, and Wei Wuxian’s hand pauses.

The scars that stretch across Lan Wangji’s back are not new to him, and although their meaning is still heavy in Wei Wuxian’s heart, he wouldn’t trade the weight of knowledge for the lightness of ignorance, not for anything. Thirty-three lashes, for thirty-three elders; all for him. And he hadn’t even known.

Lan Wangji sighs in his sleep as Wei Wuxian traces his fingers lightly over the topmost scars. He can barely reach below Lan Wangji’s shoulder blade, and Wei Wuxian knows that they stretch much, much further down.

He suddenly needs to see.

He tries to lift Lan Wangji’s arm, to shift him to the side, but Lan Wangji grumbles and clings tighter. After some thought, Wei Wuxian leans over as far as he can with Lan Wangji wrapped around him, snagging the corner of his robe where it had been discarded next to the bed. It takes some careful maneuvering, but Wei Wuxian is soon sliding down the bed while Lan Wangji clutches a pillow wrapped in Wei Wuxian’s robe.

Wei Wuxian settles over the back of Lan Wangji’s thighs, moving slowly and carefully so as not to wake him. He draws the bedclothes gently down, until all of Lan Wangji’s back is bare before his eyes.

Even healed, the scars are brutal. The discipline whip strikes deep, as Wei Wuxian has cause to know, although of course this body is unmarked in that fashion. Wei Wuxian traces one gently with his fingertips, and then lowers his face to Lan Wangji’s skin.

One. A brief press of lips, firm and sincere. Two. A drag of his mouth down roughened skin. Three. A soft kiss, gentle but lingering.

Four. It doesn’t seem fair that his own body is now unmarked. Five. That Lan Wangji should have to be the one to carry these scars for the rest of his life. Six. If Wei Wuxian could take them on he would, gladly. Seven. Even if it meant enduring the whip himself. Eight. It would be a small penance to pay, to lift these marks.

Nine. He doesn’t know their names. Ten. He doesn’t ever want to know their names, to know on whose behalf Lan Wangji’s skin was split open. Eleven. If he knows their names, he’ll find a way to know their faces, and if they still reside in the Cloud Recesses. Twelve. Lan Qiren he will always have an uncomfortable relationship with. Thirteen. Lan Xichen is Lan Wangji’s brother. Fourteen. Better that the rest of them remain faceless, nameless disciples. Fifteen. Better that he not know.

Sixteen. He does want to know, though, so badly that it burns sour in his gut. Seventeen. But he can’t. Eighteen. He can’t. Nineteen. If he knows, if he can pick them out of a crowd -

Twenty. He could make it look like an accident. Twenty-one. It wouldn’t even have to be fatal. Twenty-two. He’s very creative. Twenty-three. It’s one of his strengths. Twenty-four. He could make each one unique, cover his tracks.

Twenty-five. Lan Qiren might catch on, but honestly, Wei Wuxian feels like his bridges there are already burned. Twenty-six. Lan Xichen would be more difficult to maneuver around. Twenty-seven. Fortunately he’s in secluded meditation. Twenty-eight. There’s a bright side to everything.

Twenty-nine. It wouldn’t undo what’s been done. Thirty. But Wei Wuxian would do it still. Thirty-one. If he knew who had held the whip. Thirty-two. If he knew their names.

Thirty-three. A final, lingering kiss, and when Wei Wuxian looks up Lan Wangji is watching him over his shoulder.

“Did I wake you?” Wei Wuxian asks, even though the answer is quite obviously yes.

“Mn.” It’s soft, sleepy, and Wei Wuxian’s heart seizes up at the sound of it. Lan Wangji reaches out and Wei Wuxian shudders as his hand slides around the back of Wei Wuxian’s neck, drawing him back up the bed. Lan Wangji tilts his head and Wei Wuxian meets him halfway, lips moving fierce and desperate against Lan Wangji’s mouth.

“You can’t ever tell me,” he gasps out when they break apart. He closes his eyes and rests his forehead against Lan Wangji’s. “You can’t ever tell me who they were, Lan Zhan, the ones who did this to you, because if you tell me I will find them, and if I find them -”

Lan Wangji’s hand tightens on the back of Wei Wuxian’s neck.

“I would bear it again, and gladly,” he says, low and rough with sleep, and Wei Wuxian makes an angry sound of dissent. “But if you do not remember that day,” Lan Wangji continues, “then I see no reason for me to, either.”

Wei Wuxian opens his eyes. “Do you promise?” he asks desperately, staring into Lan Wangji’s eyes with barely a breath between them. “Lan Zhan, do you promise?”

“Yes,” Lan Wangji says solemnly, and Wei Wuxian shudders, letting himself collapse.

Lan Wangji shifts underneath him, and then strong arms wrap around him, settling him against Lan Wangji’s chest. Wei Wuxian rests his head against Lan Wangji’s shoulder, hand flattening against his chest to feel the strong heartbeat there. It beats steadily, a soothing rhythm against his palm, and between that and the promise settling warm and secure in his chest, Wei Wuxian thinks he might finally be able to sleep.