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The night was still young, sky darkening slowly with shades of maroon and purple as the sun was setting. Only the brightest stars were able to be seen with the naked eye, Wei Wuxian glancing up at them with a smile.

There was a familiar and somewhat comforting heat burning in his chest and stomach, he took another sip of the red jar, tasting the sweet liquor. The faraway sound of the zither could be heard and his other hand slithered down to hold onto his flute- Chenqing without him even realizing it. Perhaps he should join in, his fingers were already ghostly moving along to the notes without causing any sound. His grin widened, head shaking.

Perhaps some other night, he would.

He could imagine Lan Wang Ji sitting inside his Jingshi, long and strong fingers pulling on the zithers strings, notes strumming in the air like gusts of wind. The notes all followed each other- never making a mistake- while creating a beautiful song. It was a familiar one. One that Wei Wuxian knew by name now. It made him feel special, as he was the only other person apart from it’s creator to know the name of the song. The notes echoed in his ears, voice breaking slightly as he hummed along quietly.

When he closed his eyes, just like this- he could imagine himself right next to the other. He’d take his regular spot right next to him. Perhaps he would be shameless enough to even lean his head against his shoulder. Fall asleep as the other sung him a lullaby. The thought made Wei Wuxian let out a chuckle, the taste of emperor's smile still fresh on his tongue.

Perhaps it was the liquors fault after all, but he couldn’t help but feel somewhat emotional on this very particular night. Staring at the red sky, seeing the sun fall behind the mountains in the distance slowly as Lan Wang Ji continued to play- he had to force himself to look away, hand gripping the jar tighter. A thought popped into his head, one that he both hated and loved to think back on.

How lovely the sunsets always looked like back in Lotus Pier.

His nail dragged along the jar, creating a nasty sound which made his teeth hurt. He cursed, immediately covering his mouth and looking around himself. How silly of him to react such a way as there was no one to punish him for breaking the rules, which was a huge change for him. Wei Wuxian never changed- he was still the same rule breaking rascal that Lan Qiren hated with his whole weak heart, but now he had Lan Wang Ji by his side. His husband.

Without even realizing it, he had let out a giggle. A really childish one, too. If he was anyone else, he’d feel even a little bit embarrassed. But he was Wei Ying, Wei Wuxian- The Yiling Patriarch. He hasn’t felt shame in years. Perhaps he had lost a few too many brain cells along the way, making him unable to feel the emotion anymore. Or perhaps love just made him like that.

He was grinning like an idiot, cheeks blushing with a hint of red as he leaned against the patio fence. Maybe he looked a little too crazy and out of his mind, as the person slowly approaching him had to completely stop- pause and study him for a moment.

Wei Wuxian felt their presence only mere seconds before they began to speak.

“Senior Wei.” Lan Sizhui spoke, stuttering with his words ever so slightly, before bowing politely. Wei Wuxian wanted to smack him across the back and hug him both at the same time, due to such a formal greeting.

But what could he expect, from someone who had forgotten about his whole existence up until just a few weeks ago. Wei Wuxian always remembered the other as Wen Yuan, the small child from the Qishan Wen Sect who he took and and cared for- loved dearly. More than anyone in that cursed placed they had to call home. Wei Wuxian knew he wasn’t the right person to take him and raise him, as he was one step away from ruining himself and everyone around himself at all times. He was, just not himself. He wishes that Lan Sizhui understands that, if he ever clearly remembers what he was like during those times.

He also wishes he would lay down on the formalities, quiet with the seniors and masters. But he couldn’t blame the child, he was just confused. He went from calling him Xian brother, to forgetting all about him, then to Senior Mo and finally back to Wei Wuxian. But he was in a whole new body. It was all a mess- the formalities as well as their relationship. Wei Wuxian never wanted things to be this way, none of them did.

Wei Wuxian swallowed down the bitter lump in his throat, nodding his head a few times slowly. “Yes, Ah-Yuan?” The old pet name comes out of his uncensored mouth even before he can stop himself.

The young man- only a teenager- dressed in familiar white stops for a while, just staring at the other in awe. Wei Wuxian almost wants to somehow take back his words, blame the liquor or just drop dead right then and there to get away from the situation. He doesn’t feel embarrassed- not at all. He just feels like an idiot, that's all.

He clears his throat instead, looking away. “I-i, what did you need? Do you need to see Lan Zhan- Hanguang-Jun?” Curse him, everything he said sounded so wrong. He stills remembers the first time he blurted out Lan Wang Ji’s birth name- forgetting all courtesies and formalities as it felt so natural between them by now. But he had also forgotten the fact that he had been in the presence of way too many Lan disciplines, them all looking at him like he had cursed him and his whole family. It was no wonder, after all Wei Wuxian had been reincarnated into Mo Xuanyu’s body and no one understood why someone like him knew their dear Hanguang-Jun in such a personal level. It all made sense in the end, somewhat at least.

“No, I actually wished to speak with you, Senior Wei.” Lan Sizhui says, cutting Wei Wuxian’s messy thoughts. He appreciated it.

But there was that cursed word again, cutting deep into his skin and twisting painfully. Wei Wuxian didn’t know why the formalities made him feel such a way- but he actually did. It all began when he heard Lan Jingyi speaking with some other Lan Sect juniors during a night hunt, gossiping and chattering between themselves about whatever came to mind. He was ordered by Lan Qiren to make sure that none of them broke any rules, and though Wei Wuxian’s memory is bad- he was pretty sure speaking ill of others was also a punishable act.

He felt almost uncomfortable in a way, selfish thoughts surrounding him. He wanted to be called that way too, he craved for it. But he didn’t know if he deserved to feel such a way.

He didn’t want to hear another “senior” from the others mouth.

No more “masters” or any other honorifics and formalities.

His beloved Ah-Yuan was standing right before him, after so many years and he wanted him to shout his name in that childish tone again like before, hold onto his leg and not let go. Even Xian brother wasn’t good enough anymore, Wei Wuxian is greedy for something more now that the image has been placed into his head thanks to the gossiping Lan juniors.

The image of Lan Sizhui calling Lan Wang Ji his father, multiple times.

Wei Wuxian turns away, looking upwards and blinking away the tears that dare to escape and fall down his rosy cheeks. “What did you want to- why?” He manages to get out, teeth gritting against each other. His fingers hold onto the jar even tighter, knuckles turning white. He hated the way he felt at the moment. Angry, sad and happy all at once.

He wanted nothing more than to capture the other in his arms again like when he first found out about him, hold him tightly and this time never let go.

He wanted to drown him in kisses, like when he was a child. Hold him in his arms and play with him like they always used to before, when things were different. But he had to remind himself that things were indeed different. Lan Sizhui was no longer the child he remembered him as. Wei Wuxian cannot get the image of him as a toddler out of his head, still remembering everything to clearly when he would close his eyes and day dream. All memories from the Burial Mounds were hell- torture on his mind, except the ones involving him.

Wei Wuxian had died, left him alone. He didn’t return until thirteen years later. During those thirteen years, many things changed. When he returned back, inside Mo Xuanyu's body, he had thought about what happened to him after all those years. The thought that his dear little Ah-Yuan was still alive never even crossed his mind. He had been sure that he had been killed. But Lan Sizhui had gotten another chance in life, a better one than Wei Wuxian could have ever provided him with during those times. Hell, he was seconds away from destroying everything they had at all times, unstable and definitely not parent material. He wishes he could slap himself for even thinking he could ever be that to him, a parent.

Lan Wang Ji was there, when he wasn’t. Wei Wuxian only knew him for a few years out of his life. Lan Wang Ji watched him grow from a child into a teen and then a young adult. He was there for him, like a father should be. He deserves that title, truly.

And Wei Wuxian wishes he could say he wasn’t jealous, but that would be the biggest lie in his whole life. Because he was indeed very jealous, turning green with envy. This was something that was eating him up from the inside, turning his insides into a nasty, rotting mess. He too, wanted to be someone important in his life, but he wasn’t sure he’d be able to ever gain Lan Sizhui’s trust again. Because he too secretly feared that he’d leave him again some day, this time not because of his own actions.

While his mind is full of storm clouds, heavy rain falling down on him and perhaps even a little through his eyes, the other watches him with pity.

Lan Sizhui knows exactly how he must be feeling, reading his emotions well. Wei Wuxian may never realize it, and maybe Lan Sizhui too is somewhat oblivious to the fact, but the few years the spent together were one of the most meaningful ones in their lives. Though they were sleeping on top of cursed ground, eating food grown from corpse ridden soil and fighting the dead daily- Lan Sizhui now only remembers the good times.

That time Wei Wuxian buried him in to the ground along with the radishes.

How he played with him for hours, his childish mind working well with his own.

How he taught him to trust and love again, after losing his birth parents.

To him it didn’t matter that Wei Wuxian left, even for so long, as long as he returned back. And he did.

“I-I have…” He speaks again and Wei Wuxian realizes to his horror that his voice is also thick with sadness. And eyes wet with tears, he notices when he turns to look at the other properly. God it hurts, seeing him sad. It brings him back to when they were younger, when he’d find little Ah-Yuan fallen onto the ground and crying. He’d barely even scratched his knee, but he was crying as if he’d been stabbed with a sword. Or how he’d weep over a dead fly or cockroach for hours, shedding tears nonstop. Seeing him sad like this again was like reopening an old wound. Wei Wuxian decides he never wants to see him sad ever again, right then and there.

Lan Sizhui is wiping his tears away into the sleeves of his robes, attempting to hide his emotions. He must have learnt that from someone else than him, he thinks sadly. Wei Wuxian wants to step forward, be the one wiping away his tears instead. And he does exactly that without even realizing it, taking a step forward until they are right in front of each other. Wei Wuxian wants to hug him, hold him tightly and make him stop stuttering. He does exactly just that.

Lan Sizhui seems to relax against him, calming down and staying still. His small sniffles die out slowly, breathing calming and turning regular again. Whilst this is happening, Wei Wuxian’s heart is beating faster than ever. He wants to sob, cry his heart out with the boy in his arms. His little Ah-Yuan, his little angel. His-

“Father, I missed you.” Lan Sizhui breathes against his neck quietly.

There it is, the trigger sending them both weeping again. But the tears are welcomed now, they are well deserved.

The quiet sound of the zither never stops, continuously playing throughout the night as the sun sets. Leaving two old acquaintances to chat for hours on the patio during a chilly night. Forget being acquaintances- these were two people already very familiar with each other. A bond running deep between them that even death couldn’t separated.

A father and his son.