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The man was scared-

No, not scared, terrified.

Good.

Wei Wuxian tilted his head slightly, eyeing the one man. This man was curled up, cowering in the corner, Wei Wuxian stared at him with a distain he couldn’t understand. A wave of pride settled in his chest as he observed the man; look at him now…such a pathetic sight. He smirks has he recalled the memory of the cocky leader in red who had once stood tall and proud only a few days ago, before Wei Wuxian had found him and that one woman, his wife – mistress? It didn’t matter, in the end she was far too easily to deal with; whatever these people did, Wei Wuxian’s desire for justice could not to be contained so swiftly.

“Wen Zhuliu… Wen Zhuliu…” The man on the floor whimpered, eyes darting from the Wei Wuxian (yes yes that’s your name, don’t forget, yes it’s you) and the other man.

The other man (Wen Zhuliu, he’s Wen Zhuliu did he know that before? Did he forget that too?- ) stood before the crumbled man in red, staring at Wei Wuxian with a resolute, almost resigned stare.

“At this moment,” Wei Wuxian ignored the one in front of him, glaring at the terrified one near his feet. “Do you still believe it is helpful to call his name?” Was it sad that he had been chasing these two for days and didn’t know their names? Well, it was no matter, he supposed, Wei Wuxian hadn’t been planning on needing to remember their names.

Wei Wuxian smiled down, lips curling at the one who whimpered pitifully in the corner. The way the disfigured one cowered in the corner, pleading and crying at the very sight of Wei Wuxian…it brought an bigger smirk to his lips.

Wen Zhuliu slowly stepped in front of Wei Wuxian, attempting to block the other man from his vision. Wei Wuxian scoffed at the effort. “Wen Zhuliu,” He tested the unfamiliar name on his tongue, almost sadden that the name brought no sense of recognition. “Do you really believe that you can save his cheap life from me?”

“I will try with my life,” Wen Zhuliu spoke so calmly, so unaffected that Wei Wuxian had to let out a small laugh – such devotion, it was almost impressive.
“Such a loyal dog,” Wei Wuxian sighed, shaking his head.

“I have to repay his Excellency for his kindness.” Wen Zhuliu spoke without feeling, yet Wei Wuxian had no doubt he meant every word.

How sad.

“What a joke,” Wei Wuxian hissed. He didn’t know who these men were, he wasn’t sure he cared either; he knew this man and anyone who would seek to protect him must die - needed to die, even at the cost of his own life. “Why must other people pay for your gratitude?” he didn’t expect an answer, he didn’t need one. He felt the eager call of Chénqíng and brought his flute to his lips, the tune coming to him like second nature.

Come, Wei Wuxian called her, I have him here. The woman heard him with glee, keen to answer his call; he had felt how disappointed she was when her fun was cut short last time; he could still hear the man’s screams from her claws before Wen Zhuliu interrupted.

The man must have remembered the last time Wei Wuxian played; he whimpered and scrambled back, shrinking on himself in a corner of the cramped room. Wei Wuxian relaxes when the air around them changes; he felt her presence before he saw her, her anger, her resentment – it was untamable. The woman looked at her ex-lover with a small quirk of her lips; her loathing for her killer motivated her more than Wei Wuxian’s song could, he merely helped her on her path.

She moved faster than Wen Zhuliu, but the one man (what is his name? Does Wei Wuxian care? Should he?) made a loud sound of despair at the sight of her and Wen Zhuliu flew by his master’s side faster than Wei Wuxian could blink. He reached forward to seize her arm but she stabbed her nails into his forearm, red claw-like nails digging through fabric and skin. Wen Zhuliu merely grimaced and again made a grab for his master but Wei Wuxian was faster, playing a quick note and she made a move through the air, slicing through Wen Zhuliu’s back. With every grasp he made for her, she returned first, double the strength.

While her resolve and hatred for the whimpering man stayed steadfast, her strength started to fade and Wei Wuxian slowed his playing. It was getting too difficult for her corporal form to stay intact, and Wei Wuxian couldn’t let her stay a restless spirit forever – he wouldn’t.

You can leave, he played softly, I will deal with him for you. You can rest.

Her anger and bitterness slowly lessened and she allowed herself to fade, her trust in him to grant her vengeance. When she diminished into nothingness, Wen Zhuliu used the advantage to turn to Wei Wuxian, his eyes narrowed and fingers seeking Wei Wuxian’s throat.

Wei Wuxian wanted to roll his eyes even as he kept a straight face while he played, seeking another spirit for aid. Wen Zhuliu’s hand reached for Wei Wuxian’s neck with fury in his eyes. How pathetic. Wen Zhuliu didn’t seem to understand that Wei Wuxian refused to die until he took them all with him. If he died today, he would die knowing that he would return, never resting until he slaughtered them all, every last one.

Wei Wuxian held still, ready to fight until his last breath, when a shattering sound of wood being torn apart caught his attention. He turned his head to see a man clad in purple landing gracefully on his feet, swiping his hand toward Wen Zhuliu, who stood there as shocked as Wei Wuxian was.

Wei Wuxian took a step back, wide eyes observing a purple whip wrap around Wen Zhuliu‘s neck, abruptly halting any movement. Wei Wuxian’s gut clenches painfully at the sight of the weapon, the crackling of the whip and sizzling of flesh feeling familiar, too familiar; perhaps he should leave as soon as he was finished with these two.

Wei Wuxian was debating on if he should slide out now and wait to get them another day - when a figure in white landed in front of him, blocking any more attacks Wen Zhuliu could direct. The one in pure white stood with his back to Wei Wuxian, blocking their face from him.

Rather than following logics side and doing anything else, Wei Wuxian took a step closer, wondering if the figure could feel Wei Wuxian’s piercing gaze. He wanted the other to turn - why won’t he turn? How sad was it that Wen Zhuliu was being choked to death in front of him and all Wei Wuxian could think of was how his mind wouldn’t stop screaming at the one in white to turn around, turn so he could see the other’s face look at me please just look at me I’m here please look at me La-

Wen Zhuliu’s struggles grew weaker, drawing Wei Wuxian’s attention away from the man dressed in white, the Wen’s feet kicked uselessly in the air, and the one in purple showed no sign of loosening his grip, eyes dark, a satisfied snarl on his lips, seeming as hateful towards Wen Zhuliu as Wei Wuxian felt…

Wei Wuxian took another step, closer to Wen Zhuliu’s struggling form, a smirk growing on his lips as the movements lessened.

Soon, almost too soon, Wen Zhuliu stopped struggling.

The one in purple moved his hand back, his whip shrinking away and Wei Wuxian slowly pried his fingers from Chenqing, not even aware he had been clenching it since he had first laid eyes on the weapon; he nodded to himself when he saw it wrap around the other’s wrist, settling into an impressive silver ring but away from him.

All three heads turn down to Wen Zhuliu’s limp body, not a twitch tor a bink to be seen. The one in purple looked up at Wei Wuxian and his eyes somehow seem both furious and relieved. It’s rather an impressive feat. Wei Wuxian didn’t understand why the sight made him fond.

The one in white still didn’t turn around to face Wei Wuxian and he couldn’t understand or control the unease in his chest at that. Wei Wuxian was so focused on the other man he hadn’t even seen the one in purple reach behind himself, pulling a second sword from behind his belt.

“Your sword,” the man said and tossed it at Wei Wuxian. He grabbed it without thinking, a feeling of ownership surrounding him. The sheathed wooden sword feels unfamiliar however undeniable all at once; Wei Wuxian held it to his chest, his thumb running back and forth over the subtle design, comforted.

He looked up at the man, who was seemingly waiting for him to speak. “Thanks?” Wei Wuxian tried.

Not the correct reply.

“You prick,” the one in purple seethed, taking a step closer and Wei Wuxian’s fingers cling to Chenqing again. The other man blinked in surprise when Wei Wuxian took a step back away – how could he not? Maybe he should have escaped when they were distratced. “Where have you been these last three months?” he demanded, gripping his own sword, the colors matching his robes.

Wei Wuxian frowned. Three months?...was that all he was gone for? It felt like he had been alone so much longer…He had people looking for him? People who missed him? People who wanted him back? How much had he missed? Wei Wuxian sent a glare at man in red, still whimpering in the corner; he could wait, enjoy the last few moment in peace.

Wei Wuxian looked back at the man who gave him back the sword. He didn’t try to hide his confusion, instead he set his flute in his belt as he debated which of the hundred questions to ask first.

“Who are you?” Wei Wuxian choose, feeling like that should be the most important one.

The one in purple froze, his eyes widening; Wei Wuxian hadn’t felt guilt for as long as he could remember but he immediately felt it pound against his chest for putting such an expression on the other’s face. The other man’s mouth fell open as he spluttered, staring at Wei Wuxian with horror. Wei Wuxian heard a small, sharp inhale and turned his head to finally see the face of the one in white and -

Oh…

Wei Wuxian didn’t question if he knew this man; the way his heart sang was answer enough. There you are, it seemed to cry, I’m so happy to see you, I’m so relieved you’re okay, I’ve missed you so much.

Oh how sad that three months took away memory of such a face; this man probably looked even more beautiful when his expression wasn’t so dismayed. He stood tall and steady, a powerful presence even without his sword unsheathed. His forehead donned a white ribbon, a small metallic design of a cloud in the middle of the brow and Wei Wuxian felt an urge to touch it, smooth the fabric with his finger tip. Wei Wuxian wanted to speak to him, say something, an almost tease on the tip of his tongue when his name was called.

“Wei Wuxian,” The one in purple swallowed thickly, shaking his head as he growled out his name. “This is not funny.” He spared the man in red a quick glance before facing Wei Wuxian again, seemingly satisfied with the red clad man still in one place.

Wei Wuxian frowned at him. “Would this be a type of joke I make often?” Wei Wuxian turned to fully face the other man again; if he looked too long at the one in white, he might forget his soundings and he’s done enough forgetting.

The one in purple displayed only one emotion on his face at this point; panic. From the wideness of his eyes, the gaping of his mouth, the slackness of his fingers, he looked at Wei Wuxian with pure panic. “Do you – do you not know m- us?”

Maybe, if Wei Wuxian remembered who these people were, he would be more considerate, or at least more careful with his words; instead he resorted to blunt honesty. “I don’t recall anything but my own name.” he said simply, clutching his dizi; the burial mounds made sure of that at least…

Wei Wuxian, do you want revenge?...

The other men exhibited as close to a matching expression as they could get. They don’t look related, Wei Wuxian considered the possibilities to himself as he swayed his head back and forth between them; they fought together and without any others to aid them yet they were in different colors, so they must be in different sects. Perhaps they have different scores to settle with the Wen still cowering in the corner.

“Wei Ying,” The one in white said in a soft voice and oh …Wei Wuxian was sure he could listen to that voice for hours. Deep and soothing, the man’s voice was as relaxing as a lullaby.

Wei Wuxian turned to face him, eyes narrowed – wait - “Wei Ying?” He questioned; did the one in white not know him? To mess up his name like that?

“It’s your birth name,” the one in purple said, words not falling from his lips as easy as they had before.

Wei Wuxian considered the name for a moment, but shook his head; it’s not familiar. “So…who are you?” He asked, looking at the purple one first. “Why are you here? Score to settle?” He jerked his head to the corner.

The one in purple swallowed heavily before he replied. “Jiang Cheng…I’m your – you’re my brother…we were looking into the murders of the Wen…I didn’t know it was you.” He finished, his lips tense while his eyes grew soft.

Wei Wuxian took a step back in suspicion. “Why are our names different?” It didn’t make sense for the other to lie, but Wei Wuxian didn’t know them, had no recognition from their names nor faces; he can’t trust too easily. He can’t, he can’t-

Wei Wuxian, don’t you want revenge?

“You were taken in when you were young,” Jiang Cheng answered without delay, taking a step forward but freezing when again Wei Wuxian reactively stepped back. Jiang Cheng clutched his hands placed by his side, showing no sign of moving, causing Wei Wuxian to relax…slightly.

He should consider the Wen in the corner first, the rest could wait, but he finds himself curious…maybe this man was his family. Maybe not, but the Wen can wait, Wei Wuxian became eager to hear more. “How young?” Wei Wuxian asked.

“Father found you when you were six," Jiang Cheng seemed almost eager to tell him, perhaps hoping the other will recollect something. “You’re older than me by five days but you still say you’re the older brother,” Wei Wuxian huffed lightly; somehow that sounded like him though he knew little-well, actually he knew nothing about himself. What did he really know about himself? He was saved from falling down that dark rabbit hole when Jiang Cheng continued. “We have a sister, Jiang Yanli, A-Jie…She misses you…” His shoulder sagged slightly, looking vulnerable- forgetting the man in white’s presence or ignoring him, Wei Wuxian isn’t sure. “She mentions you every day.”

Wei Wuxian nodded but his expression doesn’t change and Jiang Cheng deflated even more. “So you are my brother,” Wei Wuxian said, pleased at how Jiang Cheng nodded resolutely, no longer as beaten. Wei Wuxian turned to the one in white, taking a half step closer and hid his relief when the other man doesn’t move away from him. “And you?” Wei Wuxian asked him. “Who are you to me?”

The man in white opened his mouth and snapped it closed in an instant, face expressionless but Wei Wuxian could easily see his eyes are anything but.
“ Lan Wangji…” He finally answered, voice barely above a whisper.

Lan Wangji…Lan Wangji…Wei Wuxian frowned slightly as his tried the name…that – well he was in no place to say what was right or not, but that seemed - “Are – I mean, are you sure?” he asked, cringing slightly at the awkwardness.

Lan Wangji and Jiang Cheng stared back at him before he quickly added “I mean – I just feel – do I call you that? I mean if course you’d know your name - ” Ugh, he should have slipped past them when they were preoccupied. “But are you sure?” He pleaded, absentmindedly resting his hands on his flute, the acquainted touch settling his nerves somewhat.

Lan Wangji’s eyes widened faintly and he answered with the most passion Wei Wuxian heard the entire time. “Lan Zhan-” he lowered his voice quickly, seemingly self-conscious by his own outburst. “You call me Lan Zhan.”

A soft wave of “yes yes that’s right” encircled Wei Wuxian’s heart and he smiled softly as he tasted the name. “Lan Zhan…” He inhaled, satisfied. Wei Wuxian swore he saw the tips of Lan Zhan’s ears turn to a light pink shade and he considered how to try to get another reaction like that.

“So,” We Wuxian jerked his head to the nameless man. “I know who you two are, then who is he?”

Jiang Cheng and Lan Zhan both turned their heads in sync to see the man, having seemingly forgotten him. Wei Wuxian silently watched their reactions, watching curiously as Jiang Cheng’s features twist with disgust and Lan Wangji’s eyes flashed dangerously.

“Wen Chao,” Jiang Cheng spat.

Wen Chao…Wen Chao…Wei Wuxian shook his head slightly. No, no it didn’t sound familiar either. No one’s name felt familiar, no one except – He glanced at Lan Zhan before directing his attention back to Wen Chao. It was odd to have a name to this man’s face, it never occurred to him the one in red would have a name…of course he did…but it was odd to put a name to the face.

He walked towards the red clad man slowly, neither Jiang Cheng nor Lan Zhan said a word but Wei Wuxian could feel their eyes follow him, the subtle sound of fingers gripping swords a boon to his ears. The sentiment was…sweet but he soon paid little attention to them; he wouldn’t be able to focus on anything else if he didn’t do this now.

“How do I know you?” Wei Wuxian asked the man; he didn’t care before, he only knew he wanted him and the others like him dead. Now, however, he had to ask. Whatever happened to Wei Wuxian, this man, people like him, they were to blame. How much has been taken away from him? He has a brother, a sister, and a…friend? Best friend? Lifelong confident? Soul-

“Wei Wuxian, master please,” Wen Chao said in a shaking voice. “Forgive me, forgive me, I was only doing what my father asked of me.”

“Tell me what you’ve done, and I swear not to hurt you,” Wei Wuxian was growing bored of this constant cowering. He wished only for this to end quickly so he could move on to the next encampment, next settlement, the next anything; wherever the ones in red are so he could take care of them.

“Yes, yes of course, Wen Chao will tell you,” he murmured more to himself. “Please, it was nothing personal, please, Madam Yu and Sect leader Jiang had to die, father wanted them dead, please know I didn’t want to, had no pleasure in their deaths…”

Wei Wuxian heard a sharp intake of breath behind him, from Jiang Cheng most likely. Oh…so his adopted parents…Jiang Cheng and his sister’s parents…Wei Wuxian felt a stab of guilt like a knife for not remembering them. He allowed Wen Chao continue, needing to hear it all.

“Took over Lotus Pier for father, killed many for my father, you must understand, my brother and I must obey, had to…”

“Were you the one who threw me in the burial mounds?” Wei Wuxian heard enough, needing to know what happened that lead him to the resentment fueled graveyard he was in for so long. Or was it only three months? It felt so much longer…

This time it was Lan Zhan who made a sound; Wei Wuxian wondered if he’s imagining the broken way his gasp sounded.

“Yes, yes, please forgive, please,” Wen Chao mumbled, barely sparing a glance to Wei Wuxian. “Please forgive – Master Wei is powerful – he needed to be rid of – please forgive, please understand - ”

“I understand, of course,” Wei Wuxian eyed the man with sneer. “You did good, very good,” Wei Ying smiled cruelly. Wen Chao looked almost relieved. Wei Ying took a step closer, placing his sword in his belt on the opposite side of his hip. His smile stayed in place when Wen Chao took a grateful gulp of breath, and his smile stayed in place when he slammed his foot on Wen Chao’s neck with swift effectiveness, breaking his neck instantly with a sickening cracking sound.

Silence.

“Wei Wuxian,” Jiang Cheng spoke first, voice sounding strained.

“I swore not to hurt him, and I kept my word,” Wei Wuxian turned back, scraping the bottom of his boot over the wooden floor. “He didn’t feel a thing.” Perhaps he should have made it last longer but he had more to do, this man was just a sniveling pawn – there are still others he needs to take care of.

Jiang Cheng’s brows pulled together but he said nothing. Lan Zhan’s eyes slid from Wen Chao’s body to Wei Wuxian’s indifferent posture, his brows narrowing further.

Wei Wuxian cleared his throat, involuntarily fidgeting under their stares. His fingers wrap around Chenqing, he looked down to the red tassel, the lotus flower charm a soothing sight and a welcoming distraction from the two men who were staring at him like…that. Wei Wuxian shouldn’t feel hurt at the stares, after all he supposed he wasn’t usually like this, at least he wasn’t before. He swallowed once…then set his jaw straight. Well, no matter. They would not have to deal with him for long.

“Well, I must thank you two for your help,” Wei Wuxian bowed politely to both of the men, eyes downcast as to not see their expressions, most likely one of relief; who would want him around after that sight? “I shall continue searching for the ones in r- the Wens. I hope we cross paths again.”

He figured he would simply nod his head in salutation and slide past them, hoping the heavy weight on his chest would disappear eventually. He hoped – he wished they would ask him to stay. He wanted them to ask.

Lan Zhan’s eyes widened and like a blur he made a grab for Wei Wuxian’s arm the same time Jiang Cheng took a step closer.

Wei Wuxian flinched back.

Both men stop in the middle of their movements, Jiang Cheng with complete confusion and Lan Zhan with an expression that Wei Wuxian can’t quite understand.
“You can’t just leave!” Jiang Cheng voice broke at the end, and Wei Wuxian chose not to acknowledge it aloud; a small seed of hope blossomed in his chest at the tone. “We just found you – you shouldn’t be wandering around with no memories and without aid – I mean - how bad would it look on our Sect if you insult someone of a high sect with no memory of who they are?”

Wei Wuxian rubbed his nose thoughtfully. Oh, Jiang Cheng only wanted him to stay so not to cause embarrassment? Disappointing…but understandable; he may not remember them but the Jiangs were by his side when he was young…It might be nice to be around people, even if it’s just for a while.

He looked down at Chenqing, small smokes of restlessness gently wrapping around his fingers in a comforting gesture. Chenqing could always sense his distress, his apprehension; she longed to lash out for him. He deliberately ignored the stares both men give him and closed his eyes, breathing deeply. Perhaps he should stay for a while, help them hunt Wens together. Would that be wrong? They didn’t really want him after all, the him he was now; they want who he was, who he used to be. Wei Wuxian rubbed his thumb on Chenqing’s texture…they wouldn’t want him if he never remembered.

Then when the mission was over, Wei Wuxian could slip away so not to cause any humiliation. Who would care for a ward of one sect after the defeat of the Wens? If he wasn’t special enough to be adopted, he must not really be that close to the Jiangs after all.

Lan Zhan’s mouth parted lightly, perhaps weighing his words before his lips pressed together in a tight line. He took a half step toward Wei Wuxian and Wei Wuxian hoped he’s not imagining the relief in the other’s eyes when he doesn’t flinch back again.

“Are you injured?” Lan Zhan asked, apparently ignoring that Wei Wuxian never replied to Jiang Cheng. Wei Wuxian was sure that’s not what he was going to ask but he was grateful for it nonetheless, shrugging a shoulder.

“Of course not,” He answered with a small smile. His injures from god knows when have faded to scars or faded bruises now, he’s been fine this long without any concern.

Lan Zhan raised an eyebrow before he let out a small huffing sound and carefully reached for his wrist, eyes watching Wei Wuxian before he touched him. Wei Wuxian watched with curiosity as light lines of spiritual energy flows through him, searching for any injuries that Wei Wuxian could be hiding from them. Wei Wuxian sighed but let him do it; besides some scrapes and bruises, he doesn’t think there’s anything -

Lan Zhan stiffened almost instantly.

Wei Wuxian frowned, confused as to what he could be reacting to when Jiang Cheng jumped by his side, staring at where Lan Zhan was holding his brother’s wrist.

“What?” Jiang Cheng demanded, unease in his tone.

Lan Zhan looked at Wei Wuxian with an almsot pleading look, still gripping his wrist like Wei Wuxian would disappear if he let go. “Your core…” he shook his head softly, glancing from his solid hold on Wei Wuxian’s arm to Wei Wuxian’s face.

Oh.

Oops.

“I forgot?” He tried. He had been so used to it not being there, to not remember what a golden core felt like, he forgot it was gone in the first place.

“What about it?” Jiang Cheng breathed heavily, looking back and forth from each man. “What’s wrong with it?”

“It’s gone,” Lan Zhan had eyes only for Wei Wuxian. It…was too much. He didn’t want to have Lan Zhan staring at him like he was made of glass, he should pull away, demand he stop looking at him like that, he wanted to be pulled closer, be wrapped in Lan Zhan’s arms and hidden away from the others. It’s so odd. Lan Zhan was proving to be a force to be reckoned with how he was making Wei Wuxian feel…

“No – no it can’t be - ” Jiang Cheng looked horrified, grabbing Wei Wuxian’s other wrist and searching for himself, as if Lan Zhan could be wrong. When he felt the empty spot where Wei Wuxian’s core once rested, Jiang Cheng dropped Wei Wuxian’s wrist like he was burned.

They were all silent for a moment. Wei Wuxian shifted his feet, feeling like he should apologize for some reason.

“Wen Zhuliu…” Jiang Cheng murmured, eyes wide. “He must have taken it before they…”

Tossed him into the burial mounds…Wei Wuxian cocked his head to the side, humming softly in thought. That would make sense he supposed, the Wens wanted him dead, and without a core, he was sure to have died.

“We’ll get it back,” Jiang Cheng narrowed his eyes in determination. “We can get it back.”

“How? I know I have no memory, but a removed core being fixed sounds unlikely,” Wei Wuxian shook his head. He looked over at Lan Zhan for confirmation but the other was looking at him with a now blank expression, still holding on with a steady grip on his hand.

“No,” Jiang Cheng all but snapped. “Your mother’s teacher, she returned my core, she can return yours!” Jiang Cheng was speaking rapidly, not making much sense. For a moment, hopefulness filled his chest but -

“How did she return yours?” Wei Wuxian glanced down to Jiang Cheng’s stomach, where his golden core must be bright and steady. He wondered what it felt like.
“I-I” Jiang Cheng spluttered, eyes considering Lan Zhan, seemingly debating on what to say before he spoke. “I told her I was you. You helped me pretend to be you so she would feel a kinsman ship to the son of her disciple.”

Wei Wuxian could feel how Lan Zhan stiffened next to him but he chose to ignore it for a moment, as did Jiang Cheng. “And when I go there, saying I am the son, what will that do? She may think I’m lying or worse, take yours away and give it to me.”

Jiang Cheng looked him, furious at Wei Wuxian’s indifference. “We have to try.” He barked back.

Wei Wuxian has difficulty refraining from rolling his eyes. So stubborn. “And risk your core? If we did all that work to get it back to you in the first place, why would should we tempt fate?” Wei Wuxian felt a wave of protectiveness around him; he may not remember it, but that man was his family, his brother; how could he risk him losing his core? “I’m used to it now, I can fight without it…why bother?”

Jiang Cheng looked at him for a long moment, tears of frustration gathering in the corner of his eyes. Wei Wuxian subconsciously reached out to touch his face, wishing he could wipe the tear streaks away when Jiang Cheng made a low growl of defeat and turned away, letting Wei Wuxian’s hand slip away.

Lan Zhan took a step forward, lips tense as he gripped his sword as though ready to fight Jiang Cheng when Wei Wuxian gripped him by his sleeve, stopping him. “He’s not the type take being told no so casually I think,” He said with a light shrug. “Don’t take it seriously, I think he’ll need a minute.”

Lan Zhan didn’t look convinced and Wei Wuxian laughed softly at the sight; was it wrong for him to think Lan Zhan was cute to be so offended on his behalf? Eh, if it was wrong, who cared, it was for only himself to know.

“Let’s go,” Lan Zhan said, holding onto Wei Wuxian’s wrist, his grasp light enough not to hurt but strong enough that Wei Wuxian couldn’t pull away without intentionally doing so.

“Where?” Wei Wuxian followed him easily, confused but he copied Lan Zhan step for step without hesitation. It didn’t occur to him that he’s being directed anywhere, he simply stepped besides Lan Zahn without question.

“To see if you have any physical injuries that we need to heal,” Lan Zhan said as he lead them outside of the area.

Wei Wuxian followed him wordlessly, leaning his head to the side whenever Lan Zhan looked back at him; he frequently turned his head to Wei Wuxian, before nodding once to himself, then turn himself back to the path before doing the exact same thing again in a few minutes. As tempting as it was to enquire about it, Wei Wuxian remained silent and soon they join a small group settled by a fire, with Jiang Cheng among them. He gave Wei Wuxian a single look before he snapped his head away, lips pressed firmly together.

Wei Wuxian followed the other’s lead as they traveled along, eventually coming to a small encampment. Lan Zhan opened a tent flap and held it up, gesturing for Wei Wuxian to step inside first.

He hardly had time to examine the room before Lan Zhan moved quickly to Wei Wuxian’s side, fingers grasped onto his elbow with that same, steady, comforting touch.

“Lan Zhan, I can walk,” Wei Wuxian said with a teasing smile that Lan Zhan disregarded, instead helping Wei Wuxian sit on the edge of the bed, as though nervous that Wei Wuxian would collapse at a moment notice. Was Lan Zhan always this overprotective or just how worn down did Wei Wuxian look? He allowed himself to be carefully pushed on the bed in a sitting position, watching curiously as Lan Zhan reached for his hand again, frowning when he felt the chill. Lan Zhan said nothing as he grabbed the nearest blanket and settled it over his knees, placing Wei Wuxian’s hands over it.

Wei Wuxian watched him wordlessly, amused and comforted by the activity. Lan Zhan’s face was still except for a small grimace on his face, yet the actions are full of such tenderness, such care, he couldn’t help but allow Lan Zhan to fuss over him. He shouldn’t let Lan Zhan do this, if he had his memories he would probably be pushing Lan Zhan back and laughing it off with an embarrassed blush– it feels odd to have someone be looking after him –

But Wei Wuxian was so tired, so so tired, so not ready to go out and act like he felt safe all the time…it’s nice. This was nice. To be worried over. He couldn’t ask for more…but he wouldn’t tell Lan Zhan to stop.

Lan Zhan tucked the blanket around Wei Wuxian’s legs and hips, silent in his care. He looked up once or twice to gauge Wei Wuxian’s expression; when he saw no hint of displeasure, he pushed on until he seemed satisfied with his work. “Are you cold still?” He asked softly, eyes on Wei Wuxian’s motionless fingers, deliberately avoiding the other’s gaze.

Wei Wuxian bit the inside of his cheek, almost glad Lan Zhan wasn’t watching at his face. “I feel fine,” He answered. Not exactly a lie; he was fine, though his soul felt restless and edgy, ready for anything, he didn’t feel pain. “Well, hurry up and check to prove I’m fine, don’t need to take up more of the great Lan Wangji’s time.” The name felt wrong on his tongue and he had to concentrate to not turn his nose up at it.

Lan Zhan finally looked up at him and Wei Wuxian was sure he should not feel this pleased at the almost pout-like expression on the other’s face. He had to squeeze his hands together so he didn’t reach out and poke at those pink ears.

“Lan Zhan is fine,” Lan Zhan answered lightly. Now with Lan Zhan’s eyes on him so surely, so determinedly to not look away, Wei Wuxian felt a small….something, gnaw at his heart.

“Do you like when people use your birth name?” Wei Wuxian asked, trying to distract the feeling.

“No,” Lan Zhan was quick to answer, grabbing a container of something and seemingly searching through medical supplies before pulling out some bandages, though Wei Wuxian was sure he had no injuries that are bleeding.

“Then…why let me?” Wei Wuxian unconsciously rubbed at his nose. Were they childhood friends who met before they were given their courtesy name? Perhaps he asked Lan Zhan to keep using his name and he in turn only used Lan Zhan’s?

Lan Zhan was silent for a moment. Wei Wuxian, despite the curiosity that tugged at his chest, joined him.

“You are…my friend,” Lan Zhan said at last, the words careful on his tongue. “Only Wei Ying uses it.”

…the room wasn’t this warm a moment ago, right?

Lan Zhan thankfully used the silence as the perfect time to grab hold on Wei Wuxian’s wrist, closing his eyes as he searched for any injuries, internal or otherwise.

Lan Zhan frowned slightly, opening his eyes slowly after only a few moments. “Your body is weak.” He sounded upset.

Wei Wuxian raised an eyebrow playfully. “Yes, malnutrition and no sleep does that for you,” He laughed lightly. He couldn’t remember the last time he ate a meal, a real meal. It used to hurt to not have food, but his body grew used to it surprisingly fast; perhaps it wasn’t the first time he’s been half starved.

Lan Zhan’s throat bobbed with a dismayed expression and Wei Wuxian winced. Okay, maybe skip those jokes in the future. “Ah, sorry,” Wei Wuxian apologized. “I kinda…forgot how to talk to people I guess.” He smiled a bit wider, feeling awkward at his own thoughtlessness, though Lan Zhan’s brown eyes were a pleasant distraction.

“We’ll help bring your strength up,” Lan Zhan said resolutely. “We brought extra food in case – We have supplies. You’ll be okay.”

Wei Wuxian kept his smile light, nodding at the kindness. Though he didn’t doubt the sentiment, Lan Zhan couldn’t guarantee his safety and Wei Wuxian wouldn’t make him try to keep the promise, the gesture was appreciated nonetheless.

Lan Zhan closed his eyes again and continued. Wei Wuxian didn’t know better he’d say that Lan Zhan was trying to avoid Wei Wuxian’s gaze. His thumb nonchalantly rubbed the inside of Wei Wuxian’s wrist as he examined him - Wei Wuxian breathed in deeply, the soothing feeling of the other’s hold and presence a reassuring change from what he had experience these last few weeks – oh or was it months? Ah it didn’t matter. His eyes drooped without his permission and he felt his body relaxing.

Wei Wuxian felt rather than heard Lan Zhan’s sharp intake and he lurched up as his body started to relax, jerking his head up to see Lan Zhan staring at him. “I took a closer look…at your core,” Lan Zhan started, his voice weak. “It’s not like the others who had their cores melted…it’s like it was scooped out…” He sounded wrecked; Wei Wuxian would be tempted to apologize if Lan Zhan wasn’t continuing. “do you have any unusual injuries?”

Wei Wuxian scoffed. “Can you be more specific?” Where doesn’t he have unusual injuries would be the better question. He remembered looking at his body one day to see if anything struck a memory and instead was shocked at the amounts of scars and bruises; it was frightening to wake up not knowing who or where he was. All he had was fear and pain running through the very core of his being.

Seeing Lan Zhan’s pained expression had him cringe; Wei Wuxian really needed to stop doing that around Lan Zhan. He stopped to truly think; he had scars on his back that looked like they were from spiritual weapon, a sun symbol was burned over his heart, his thighs and forearms have deep scars that had small chuck of flesh that were missing, he thought they looked like teeth marks from some unknown creature, and on his stomach –

“There’s one…” Wei Wuxian said slowly. “On my stomach. It’s a straight line, it looks surgical.” He traced the line over his clothes as he described it; he never questioned it, if it didn’t stop him from killing Wens, he didn’t care. He figured it was just torture done by the ones in red, the Wens.

Lan Zhan eyes trailed down to Wei Wuxian’s stomach, causing him to shifts clumsily. How could anyone handle having him looking directly at them? He felt like he could implode if Lan Zhan didn’t look away soon.

“You never mentioned you knew where your mother’s master lived, not once” Lan Zhan was looking at Wei Wuxian with uneasiness and Wei Wuxian was struggling with stopping himself from reaching OUT. “Baoshan Sanren isn’t easy to find…I think you would have mentioned it.”

Wei Wuxian hummed thoughtfully. He wasn’t sure about his life before, but if Lan Zhan was his closet friend, it did feel odd that he never mentioned it.

“Maybe…” He tilted his head as he considered his words. “Because I didn’t know where she was.” He began.

Lan Zhan’s face looked dismayed, though not surprised. “You didn’t know where she was…You never knew where she was.”

“But Jiang Cheng needed to think I did,” It felt less like a theory and more like a fact. “I needed him to think I knew her…but why? Why lie?”

“…Lady Cheng, once, mentioned that Jiang Wanyin’s core was melted.” Lan Zhan’s expression shifts from uneasy to almost anger. “It had been melted shortly after Lotus Pier was-” He stopped. “After it was attacked.”

Wei Wuxian made a small sound of understanding. “So I somehow give him mine…” Wei Wuxian finished. None of it felt like a revelation; of course he would give it to his brother. How could he not?

Wei Wuxian let out a tired laugh. His core was never melted; he gave it away. All this time. To Jiang Cheng…He couldn’t let Jiang Cheng know that he gave it away, nothing he can change about it, but his brother couldn’t know. “I can’t let him know; I must have kept it a secret from him for a reason,” He looked up at Lan Zhan, sure that Lan Zhan would at least be understanding when he froze at the sight.

Lan Zhan’s eyes were wet.

“Lan Zhan!” Wei Wuxian shoved off the blanket and fell to his knees on the floor by the other man, cupping his cheeks with his hands, looking over him. “What’s wrong? What happened? Are you hurt?” He didn’t understand, what had happened?

Lan Zhan didn’t answer, his mouth opening and closing after several seconds, like he was trying to express something but could only stare at Wei Wuxian with an imploring expression. He looked…sad. Sad? For what?

“Lan Zhan,” Wei Wuxian moved his palms up higher, letting his thumbs wipe away the steady, silent drip of Lan Zhan’s tears. Oh he was a fool - “It’s okay, I don’t even remember what it was like to have a core, it’s not a problem, really.” He kept a steady rhythm with his thumbs, soothing away the wetness while the tips of his fingers stroked over the tip of Lan Zhan’s ears in what he hoped was a comforting gesture. “It’s okay, really. It doesn’t hurt, I can’t even remember if it did when I lost it.”

That proved to not be the right thing to say since Lan Zhan only shook his head sharply and he reached up, clutching Wei Wuxian’s wrists desperately. His hold was tight, unyielding, eyes never leaving Wei Wuxian’s.

Wei Wuxian could feel his face grow hot at the direct attention, instinctively about to pull his hands back but Lan Zhan wouldn’t let go, his grip secure. Wei Wuxian stopped resisting, only sighing when Lan Zhan still showed no sign of budging. “It really is okay…even if I remembered, I’d say that same thing.”

“I know,” Lan Zhan’s voice trembled. “I know.”

Oh.

That was the problem, wasn’t it?

A sliver of guilt pierced his gut, the weight of Lan Zhan’s words falling heavily on him. There was no accusation, no anger in Lan Zhan’s tone, only sad acceptance; Wei Wuxian must usually be the type to laugh off concerns, or maybe ignore other’s worry regarding his own safety.

“Well,” Wei Wuxian began, smoothing back Lan Zhan’s already perfect hair, his fingertips playing with the ends of the strands. “What’s done is done. I can’t change it and I’m sure I wouldn’t want to.” He lowered his hands to settle on Lan Zhan’s shoulders, his smile small. All the while Lan Zhan was still holding on to him, his embrace was a comfort, it’s as though Lan Zhan belonged there.

“It’ll be okay,” Wei Wuxian tried to ease him, determined to take that look away from Lan Zhan’s face. “I’ll get my memory back and everything will be back to normal.”

“…Do you want to?” Lan Zhan asked softly.

“Want what?” Wei Wuxian asked. “My memories?”

Lan Zhan nodded.

Wei Wuxian weighed the question. “I think so? I was indifferent before, I didn’t think I had anything or anyone that was waiting for me, that missed me.” He looked at Lan Zhan, truly looked at him. “But now…I want them back. If I can.”

Lan Zhan smiled, it’s a small thing, but it’s so lovely it stole Wei Wuxian’s breath. “If that is what you want, than I want it as well. Then I will help you with that, by your side if you would let me.”

Wei Wuxian didn’t try to hide his beaming smile.

“But if it doesn’t happen,” Lan Zhan added softly. “I still wish to be by your side.”

Wei Wuxian swallowed, lowering his head, words becoming too heavy on his tongue.

After a moment’s silence, Wei Wuxian eyed Lan Zhan carefully. “I think I missed you,” Wei Wuxian muttered to himself more than anyone, yet Lan Zhan’s eyes widened at the words. “I don’t know how to explain it, it’s like – like my body missed how I could be myself around you.”

Shameless, whispered his mind.

It’s the truth, laughed his heart.

Wei Wuxian could be mortified if he ever recalled who he was later, for now, what was the point of lying?

Well, maybe there was one thing he should be silent about. “We can’t tell him, my brother – Jiang Cheng.” He said urgently. Jiang Cheng can’t know. He can’t. Wei Wuxian couldn’t explain it, but Jiang Cheng couldn’t know, at least not yet. “I kept it a secret for a reason; we can’t let him know.”

Lan Zhan’s eyes trailed from Wei Wuxian’s positions of his hands, to his black clad arm, up to his face. After a careful minute, Lan Zhan nodded slightly. “If Wei Ying wants it, I vow to do it.”

Wei Wuxian could feel his heart beating rapidly at the unwavering look. “Careful Lan Zhan, you’re going to spoil me,” He laughed, awkwardly moving his hands away, already missing the steady hold of Lan Zhan’s fingers.

With speed Wei Wuxian didn’t suspect the other had, Lan Zhan seized his fingers and pulled him back, cupping Wei Wuxian’s hands in a tight hold. “It’s not too kind,” Lan Zhan whispered fiercely. “It’s what I should do. It’s what you deserve.”

Wei Wuxian was going to need to look into creating a talisman that reduced the amount of blush cheeks could hold, because at this rate, he was going to turn beet red at everything Lan Zhan did. “You don’t need to be so dramatic,” he tried to give them an out, give them a way to play it off –

“I don’t lie,” Lan Zhan said with a firm bob of his head, no sign of a lie on his expression.

Wei Wuxian said nothing for a moment, still and silent except for his breathing. Then he brought his hands to Lan Zhan’s. “Promise?” Please don’t lie, please don’t lie to me. Show me I can trust you, prove that I should stay -

“Promise.” Lan Zhan declared. “Wei Ying, I promise.”

Wei Wuxian believed him, he doesn’t think anything else is an option. “Then…you will keep that up? You won’t lie to me?” Wei Wuxian’s voice trembled. “You can’t; no sugarcoating or half-truths, if I ask, you will be honest?”

Lan Zhan nodded with a soft “Hm” and Wei Wuxian’s shoulders sagged with relief. “Thank you.”

“Wei Ying,” Lan Zhan said and oh, Wei Wuxian wanted to do whatever it took to guarantee Lan Zhan never made such a broken sound like that again. “I’ve done nothing to deserve your thanks.”

Wei Wuxian actually snorted. “You’ve been nothing but kind to me, checked me for injuries, and promised to stay silent on a subject that is probably a appalling matter; do you have to save me from certain death to be worthy of my thanks?” He teased.

Lan Zhan lowered his gaze, ashamed. “I wanted to be there for you,” He whispered bitterly, causing Wei Wuxian’s smile to slip away. “I wanted to be the one to save you from the Wens, take you to Gusu, and keep you safe there…in the end I was too late…you had to save yourself, like always. Because I left you alone when I should have stayed.”

“Stop being cruel to yourself,” Wei Wuxian poked Lan Zhan’s chest. His heart was beating rather rudely against his ribcage; it was odd, almost some sort of shy delight spreading over him over the words, but he could not stand for this self-deprecation. “I am positive you did all you could, and I doubt you ever truly left me to fend for myself.” He would have to ask him to explain more of what he was talking about another time. It was getting frustrating, how much he can’t remember, how much he has missed.

“Wei Ying wouldn’t have left me,” Lan Zhan sighed. “Even when you should have, even when it was safer for you to leave me.”

“You have saved me,” Wei Wuxian nodded his head firmly, refusing to listen anymore. “You’re here now, aren’t you?”

Lan Zhan finally raised his eyes to look at Wei Wuxian; Lan Zhan looked as though he doesn’t believe him. Wei Wuxian can’t truly be sure of Lan Zhan’s past actions, but he was here now.

“I will get my memories back,” Wei Wuxian declared with a grin. “Just to prove to you that there were times you saved me too.” He again poked Lan Zhan’s chest with his free hand, pleased at Lan Zhan’s now soft expression. He was enjoying how Lan Zhan looked when he was unguarded….

The tent flap swung open and impulsively Wei Wuxian tried to pull back to reach for his dizi, only for Lan Zhan to refuse to loosen his hold; it was started to seem that once he was holding on to Wei Wuxian, he couldn’t let go.

At the mouth of the tent stood Jiang Cheng, arms folded against his chest has his gaze switched from Wei Wuxian to Lan Zhan. If Wei Wuxian was correct, Jiang Cheng was struggling to hide an exasperated expression. “Any injuries that need dealt with now?” He asked instead, annoyed as though they had interrupted him.

Lan Zhan shook his head, not letting go of Wei Wuxian, though if Wei Wuxian was to guess, Lan Zhan may not even be aware that he was still holding on. It was hard for him not to snicker softly at how Lan Zhan was glaring at Jiang Cheng for the interruption. “Nothing external.”

Jiang Cheng looked at their tangled fingers and closed his eyes for a moment, before huffing out, “We will find a healer when we get back tomorrow to be positive,” Jiang Cheng said firmly and even Wei Wuxian could see he trying to act more sure than he really was. “Wei Wuxian, follow me.”

Wei Wuxian moved his head from his brother to Lan Zhan, suddenly hesitant. “You’ll be here tomorrow?” He asked Lan Zhan.

Lan Zhan blinked slowly, features resolute and firm. ”Yes.”

“You won’t leave?” Fear was gripping his heart, terror and dread clawed at his chest from a time. It was like when he had first “awaken” from the Burial Mounds, feeling like he should be seeing someone, that same someone, by his side when he opened his eyes only for them to be gone and not seeing them again -

“I will be by your side when we leave…and when we arrive…and after if you need,” Lan Zhan locked eyes with their intertwined hands, lips tightening after his resolve.

Wei Wuxian gave a small squeeze in return before he pulled away and Lan Zhan allowed him, reluctantly, and Wei Wuxian wondered if he was feeling as lost without the touch as he himself was.

Jiang Cheng mercifully doesn’t comment (aside from a silent groan of annoyance) and instead merely took a step back, allowing Wei Wuxian to walk out of the tent and follow his lead.

“So, where are we going?” Wei Wuxian asked, glancing back at Lan Zhan’s tent when he was sure Jiang Cheng wouldn’t be looking.

“Our tent,” Jiang Cheng doesn’t bother to spare a glance to Wei Wuxian when he answered. “You’re the Jiang Clan’s head disciple, it’s only natural that we stay together.” He didn’t press on, even though the comment left Wei Wuxian more confused than anything; all the same sects don’t need go into the same general area let alone the same tent, so why insist?

The tent was not too far from where Lan Zhan’s was, which should probably not make Wei Wuxian feels as pleased and secure as it did. He had lasted this long alone without needing another, why was he feeling like this now.

Jiang Cheng went behind a private screen without another word, changing into sleep robes while Wei Wuxian looked at his own robes; he hadn’t had anything else but this for…well, a while.

He stood still as he observed the area and saw two pillows and two thin blankets on the floor side by side; the makeshift bed looked more comfortable than the forest ground and empty homes he had been in hiding in before. He was silently grateful for the thoughtfulness before kicking off his shoes and pulling out his flute from his belt to hold in his hand. He picked a spot at random and settled on his front under the blanket, scooting away from the other’s pillow and blanket.
Wei Wuxian was settling himself as comfortable as he could when he heard Jiang Cheng return.

“Aren’t you going to change?”

Wei Wuxian looked up toward the demanding tone before he shook his head slightly. “Does it look like I packed clothes?” It fell from his lips easily, he didn’t think he had said something wrong until the silence grew. “No,” He sighed. “But I’m fine.” He closed his eyes again and waited for the other man to fall asleep.
Instead, he heard the shuffling of covers being thrown off. He stayed still as footsteps move about the room and after a few seconds of ruffling sounds, a sort of fabric was thrown over his head. He bolted up and threw the material off just as he pulled up Chenqing towards his lips, a tune at the ready.

“It’s just sleep clothes,” Jiang Cheng again seemed to prove he’s a master at displaying two different emotions at once; lips tense with annoyance while his eyes are soft with concern. “I had extra.”

Wei Wuxian blushed slightly, feeling awkward for overreacting before he turned his head where he tossed the offending fabric. He examined quietly, noting that it turned out to be just his size, light material, black with some red on the sleeves, and matching loose pants. They don’t seem Jiang Cheng’s style but after seeing the man once for all of…oh God how long had this night been?...he knew he was in no place to judge something like that.

Wei Wuxian mumbled his thanks before he slipped behind the screen and changed in a flash with his dizi still in hand; the fabric light and comfortable, he almost was tempted to sigh with delight at how it felt on his skin. He walked away from the modesty screen and ignored the pair of eyes on him as he placed himself back under his blanket. “They’re nice,” He muttered before settling himself on his front again, Chénqíng held firmly on his hand as he stretched his arms above his head.

“You don’t sleep on your front,” Jiang Cheng’s muffled voice said. His face was pressed against his pillow, narrowed eyes glued on the other.

“Force of habit,” Wei Wuxian said sleepily, eyes starting to fluttering shut. “When I was in the burial mounds, my back and sides were bruised and torn. Couldn’t sleep anywhere else unless I wanted to wake up in my own blood again.” When he first looked at his own back, the lighting scars he suspected were from years ago, but there were some newer ones that left an ache still, leaving a pain in his bones that didn’t leave for many, many weeks - proving it must have been a somewhat recent encounter; he was used to sleeping on his front by now. The other more minor injuries seemed to be caused by some sort of attack.

Wei Wuxian could feel the gaze of the other man and he opened his eyes to see, for once, an unreadable expression on Jiang Cheng’s face. He wondered if he should apologize for being blunt again or maybe ask what the problem was; instead he closed his eyes again – which felt like the safest option. He doubted he could sleep with a stranger in the room, but hopefully Jiang Cheng would pass out soon and leave Wei Wuxian to wander the encampment, ensure it was safe and feel out if any other Wens could be nearby.

Then Jiang Cheng spoke up. “It’s going to be okay.”

Wei Wuxian tilted his head toward the other, scooting his body closer so there’s only a few inches of space between them, curious to hear what the other man meant. “What is?”

“This,” Jiang Cheng gestured wildly around the room. “All of this. You won’t say it out loud but I know you; you’re worried about what others will think. When they know about…you know..”

Wei Wuxian looked at his brother, unable to agree but unable to lie.

“This is…” Jiang Cheng eyed Chénqíng with a slight upturn on his lips. “Is different, different from you…but – with no core - ” It was unclear which one flinched harder at the statement. “you still were able to perfect a cultivation in hardly any time, and took care of our biggest threat without even knowing who they are; none of us could have done that.” He looked away before returning Wei Wuxian surprised gaze. “Anyone who tries to say you shouldn’t be here, that you are wrong, will come through the Jiang clan first.”

Wei Wuxian’s jaw dropped faintly, shaking his head against the pillow. But…he didn’t even remember the Jiang Clan, didn’t know Jiang Cheng at all, he’d be a hindrance than a help. He almost felt frustrated, why would he care about Wei Wuxian? “I don’t remember…any of you, I don’t know what I am expected to do, or say or act; it will be easier for you to let me leave and let everyone go on thinking I’m dead until I get my memoires back.” If he ever gets them back he thought to himself bitterly…but at least leaving would keep them all safe.

“No,” Jiang Cheng sat up on his knees, leaning forward with a fiery gaze. “That is not an option.”

Wei Wuxian looked at him carefully. Why was he so upset? “If you are thinking it’s somehow your fault,” Wei Wuxian selected his words carefully; he may not feel it as strongly as he would before his memories were taken, but he was sure he never wanted Jiang Cheng to know his core was not restored but replaced. “that my core is gone, it’s not. You owe me nothing.”

Jiang Cheng’s jaw tensed and he opened his mouth before it snapped shut audible. He turned away silently, lying back on the ground with his back facing Wei Wuxian.

Wei Wuxian sighed, a little disappointed. Well, that should be the end of that.

And yet…

Wei Wuxian sat up, grabbed his pillow, and swung it as hard as he could over Jiang Cheng’s head.

“What the hell?!” Jiang Cheng exclaimed, turning over to Wei Wuxian with a furious expression and grabbing his own pillow as a weapon. “What was that for?!”
Wei Wuxian pursed his lips; actually he didn’t think that far. “I don’t know how we usually resolve conflict so I assumed through more violence?” Wei Wuxian tried with unrepentant look. He folded his pillow on his lap and groaned loudly; this whole “having no memories” was turning out not to be as helpful as he thought it would be. “I don’t want to fight with you. I don’t want any misunderstandings, I don’t want to be kept in the dark. If you are mad, tell me why. I am trying to not cause problems for anyone, and from how I am considering things, leaving would work out for the best.”

He couldn’t read his brother, guess what he was feeling, or even ask his “sister” what he should do; if he ever remembers his past, he may be furious at himself for how he was handling this but for now, he was tired, he was confused, and he didn’t want to lose someone that felt so important to him.

Jiang Cheng glared at him, pillow clutched tightly in his hand. His mouth pressed firmly together for a long moment. “You should stay,” Jiang Cheng didn’t break eye contact this time. “You should try…try for a while at least. If you want to leave, then leave…be a hero if that’s what you think you need to do. But we don’t want you to go.”

We? Jiang Cheng and his sister and...maybe even…would they really want him to try and stay? That can’t be. It would be easier to leave, right?

…But…but he doesn’t want to. He doesn’t want to fight this battle alone. He could, he has for months…he doesn’t want to anymore.

“…okay,” Wei Wuxian whispered, blinking rapidly, touched at the other’s insistence. Jiang Cheng noticed this and his eyes widen comically as he sat there, fingers twitching as he avoided his brother’s gaze. Wei Wuxian saved him from making a choice as he laid back down, on his side this time, and felt his tense body relax from the vaguely familiar position. “You’ll tell me when to leave, whe-if I have to, right?”

Jiang Cheng copied him and rested his arm outside of his blanket, fingers outreached and gripping Wei Wuxian’s sleeve. “I never avoid telling you when to get out of my face, you should at least remember that, idiot.”

Wei Wuxian snorted and whacked Jiang Cheng’s exposed hand. Jiang Cheng smirked at the action and Wei Wuxian difficultly chose not to joke about how hard his brother was griping his sleeve. “People are going to want to talk to me when we get back, aren’t they?” Wei Wuxian moved himself a bit closer to his brother. “They’ll talk about my sword, or lack of.” He wasn’t sure he would ever be in a mood to explain himself over and over or make niceties with strangers.
Jiang Cheng’s fingers tightened on Wei Wuxian’s tunic. “I’ll explain to them. They’ll have to understand. You had no other choice.”

Wei Wuxian made a humming sound in agreement. “Okay,” His eyes began fluttering shut, sleep winning but not before he whispered “Thank you.”

Jiang Cheng said nothing for several minutes, causing Wei Wuxian to wonder if his brother was asleep before he heard the smallest “you’re welcome.”

Wei Wuxian fell asleep with a smile.

*
It burned.

It hurt, it was setting his skin on fire; the lighting strike of purple came slamming on his back again and again and again and he could feel nothing but fire. He wanted to twist his head around to see who’s attacking him, but he did nothing- he coulnd’t move - his cheek was pressing against the wooden floor, something wet spilling down his face and yet he didn’t try to crawl away: why? Why won’t he move? He needed to move, get away but the fire hit his back again and he grit his teeth, keeping back his screams of agony –

Wei Wuxian’s eyes snapped open. He stared wide eyed next to him, seeing someone sleeping soundlessly next to him and it took several seconds before he remembered – Jiang Cheng. His brother.

He inhaled shakenly, desperately attempting to hold back bile. He laid on his side for a few moments, trying to remember – it is okay to move, your back won’t start bleeding if you move now – he was grateful Jiang Cheng slept through Wei Wuxian’s small, helpless whimper when he rose up.

He moved quietly and changed into his old clothes, his dizi placed through his leather belt, still holding on to it with white knuckles. Wei Wuxian sat back down over his blankets and settled in a lotus position, waiting for his brother to wake up.

Wei Wuxian could feel how the Chénqíng grew bored, remaining on edge; he hadn’t been this still without a plan in a long time. He breathed in deeply, reminding Chénqíng that they were finally safe, that the ones he was fighting were not going to be without punishment…they can fight another day.
Jiang Cheng shuffled slightly as he awoke, eyes glancing over Wei Wuxian empty makeshift bed and twirling his head around at breakneck speed until his eyes landed on his brother.

“Idiot,” Jiang Cheng muttered.

“What did I do?” Wei Wuxian asked, a whine coming out naturally. “I just woke up!”

“Yeah yeah,” Jiang Chneg muttered, his shoulders no longer looking so stiff. “Just try to at least tell me when you leave my sight, A-Jie will cry if you went missing again and I will break every bone in your body if you make her cry anymore.”

Wei Wuxian couldn’t explain why his heart preened with affection at the threat of bodily harm. Instead, he opened the tent flap to get some air when the outside sight had him freezing.

“Lan Zhan?”

Lan Zhan had been sitting outside their tent, eyes opening from his mediation position and immediately standing up, taking one step until he was by Wei Wuxian’s side.

“What ae you doing here?” Wei Wuxian grinned, ignoring Jiang Cheng’s head poking out, taking one look at Lan Zhan and sighing loudly before returning back inside the tent.

“Mediating,” Lan Zhan replied.

Wei Wuxian raised an eyebrow, looking from where Lan Zhan’s tent was to where he was standing now.

“It is better if one is outside when mediating,” Lan Zhan answered, face impassive as his ears grew red.

Wei Wuxian could only smile.

The group head towards the Unclean Realm shortly after Jiang Cheng had declared it was time to move out before privately telling Wei Wuxian he had sent a message to their sister, A-Jie, what was happening so she had some warning.

Lan Zhan was practically cemented to Wei Wuxian’s side during the entire trek; he was up before anyone else and was by Wei Wuxian’s side the moment he had laid eyes on him. They remained silent but Wei Wuxian had a bounce to his step the entire time, pleased to have company.

Several times Jiang Cheng or Lan Zhan would randomly announce to the groups that they wanted to stop and rest, despite the fact that neither showed any sign of tiredness. It wasn’t until the third time when Lan Zhan was resting to refilling his already full water skin that Wei Wuxian realized he himself was breathing heavily, sweat on his brow and fingers trembling that he understood they were stopping for him. Perhaps he should be brooding over this development, but their lack of pity and worried glances allowed him to take it as what it was: they wanted him safe.

When they arrived in the Unclean Realm, in the back of his mind, Wei Wuxian had been hoping that this place would bring a stir of familiarity, a flash of a memory, anything; yet when they stepped through the gates, he only felt curiosity of where he was. With a soft sigh, Wei Wuxian stayed by Lan Zhan, occasionally having their hands brush together as they walk; if seeing Lan Zhan didn’t bring back anything, nothing would…though perhaps that’s a ridiculous thought as well, Wei Wuxian supposed. Lan Zhan said they were just friends, it wasn’t fair to put any sort of expectation on Lan Zhan.

Wei Wuxian remained quiet, his eyes flickered to his friend enough times that he noticed how often Lan Zhan’s dark brown eyes stayed on him before immediately looking away when Wei Wuxian caught his gaze. Wei Wuxian grinned and shoved Lan Zhan’s shoulder with his own. He could only grin wider when Lan Zhan gave him a bewildered but amused look before turning his head away, lips upturned slightly.

“A-Jie will be waiting for us,” Jiang Cheng looked at Wei Wuxian assuredly. “She’d want to see us as soon as we’re here.” Wei Wuxian nodded, following his brother and Lan Zhan until they arrived.

Jiang Yanli’s room.

Lan Zhan gave a small nod to them both before he took a step back but not before Wei Wuxian reached out to grab at his sleeve, eyes wide. “Are you leaving?”
“I will speak with my brother,” Lan Zhan’s voice was comforting; he didn’t yank away from Wei Wuxian’s hold. Instead, he reached up with his own hand and clutched Wei Wuxian’s. “I will be back when I am done.”

Wei Wuxian smiled widely. “Thank you,” He said sincerely. Lan Zhan gave one more squeeze before he let go and Jiang Cheng pressed his hand behind Wei Wuxian’s back, steering him towards the front of the door. Wei Wuxian allowed it, though he was unsure if he was correct when he thought he heard Lan Zhan stop to look back.

Wei Wuixian glanced at Jiang Cheng, clutching Chénqíng with both hands. “Should- should you go first?” He asked, turning his head between the door and Jiang Cheng.

Jiang Cheng gripped the back of his shirt and yanked them both in.

Wei Wuxian didn’t see her face at first, not with how she was sitting with her back towards them, leaning over a table as she stirred something in a small ceramic pot. She was humming softly, a light tune, unfamiliar but it made him feel warm.

“A-Jie,” Jiang Cheng sounded as nervous as Wei Wuxian felt. “We’re home.”

She froze when she heard his voice; slowly she set the ladle down and stood up elegantly. She brushed the front of her dress, cleaning off nonexistent dust and Wei Wuxian was tempted to do the same when she finally turned around.

Wei Wuxian‘s breath caught in his throat.

Sister. She was his sister. She’s…oh of course – this is his sister. It was unbelievable that anyone like her could be his family but at the same time, it was the only thing that made sense; her small, comforting smile and soft eyes have him wanting to rush to her, hands hovering in front of himself like his body wanted to hug her but his mind was unsure - everything about her screamed sister sister sister.

“A-Xian,” She sobbed.

Sister, his heart cried.

She was rushing forward before he could even open his mouth and he was pulling her into a hug and holding her tightly before his mind could comprehend what he was doing. “Sister,” He sniffed. “You’re my sister.”

His sister, she’s his sister. Her very presence was a comfort; he doesn’t know how he could ever let her go and could instead stay in her arms for hours, soothe back her tears and promise to never make her cry ever again - causing her grief was unforgivable.

Jiang Yanli nodded enthusiastically, her earrings dancing. “I’m your Shijie,” She pulled back to cup his cheeks, her hands caressing the side of his face. “You’re my XianXian.”

Wei Wuxian’s laugh broke as he clung to her, tears streaming down his face; he’s unsure if he had ever cried this hard in his life. Shijie’s movements were careful, fingers soft and light as she cradled the back of his head. He squeezed his eyes shut as he tried to slow his tears down, moving one arm away from Shijie’s back to gesture wildly to where Jiang Cheng had been standing. “Get in here, we can’t be the only ones crying.”

“I’m not going to cry,” Jiang Cheng said through his tears. He wrapped his arms around the two other siblings, fingers digging into their arms.

Eventually they pulled back, the three siblings red faced and wet eyes but Wei Wuxian had the biggest grin on his face. “You’re my family.”

They both smile, eyes hopeful until Wei Wuxian shook his head. “I remember the feelings, but not you…yet.”

Jiang Cheng excited features diminish into a crestfallen expression but Shijie nodded her head sadly but her smile stayed in place. “That’s okay.” She patted his cheek tenderly before straightening his hair. "You’re still our brother XianXian, even if you never remember.”

Wei Wuxian was unsure what to say, her words wrapping around him like a warm blanket. He turned his head towards Jiang Cheng. “Are you sure she is your sister? She’s more like an angel and you’re just a grumpy spoiled grape,” He flicked his brother’s forehead before poking his purple robe, delighted when Jiang Cheng spluttered indignantly as Shijie giggled at their behavior.

“If you had any memories, I’d break your legs for a comment like that,” Jiang Cheng swiped at the back of Wei Wuxian’s head.

“You’d let a little thing like memory loss keep you from breaking my bones? Oh how generous! Thank you, you’re so compassionate to me.” Wei Wuxian laughed, his face hurting from the force of his smile.

Shijie gently made a grab at Jiang Cheng’s arm, squeezing it affectionately while she beamed through her tears. “A-Cheng, A-Xian, keep this up and I’ll take away the food.”

“Yeah A-Cheng, do you want her to take away my food? Is this how your treat your brother?” Wei Wuxian sighed dramatically as he subconsciously settled into a strangely familiar role, extending his bottom lip, though the pout was ruined by his crinkling eyes trying to hold back laughter. Jiang Cheng gives his sister a look of betrayal. “Why must you hurt your brother like this, A-Cheng?”

“Terms of endearment will grant no mercy from me,” Jiang Cheng went to mildly swat at his brother’s head again when Wei Wuxian’s eye caught the bracelet of silver and purple on his wrist.

Wei Wuxian reeled back, landing on his back and his hiss of pain from the impact couldn’t compare to the imaginary flames he swore he could feel on his back.
Jiang Cheng and Shijie instantly moved towards him, twin expressions of horror and concern but when he tried to focus on them, all Wei Wuxian saw looming figures in purple - the silver bracelet sparkling. He doesn’t think twice as started reaching for Chénqíng, barely concentrating on his mind screaming for him to stop, don’t hurt them, not them.

Wei Wuxian stayed still, breathing heavily until he remembered where he was – brother, sister – Lan Zhan was nearby, he promised – Chénqíng ready with a tune aching to spill from his lips – before he dropped Chénqíng like it burned him. “I’m sorry,” He panted out, swinging his head back and forth to the alarmed expressions of his siblings’ face. “I’m sorry. I thought – it felt – I didn’t mean to.”

Shijie’s eyes were wide as she let out a raw “A-Xian”. Jiang Cheng took a step next to his sister and for a split second, Wei Wuxian was terrified that he was going to step in front of her, blocking her from Wei Wuxian’s view and he swore if that happens, his world would fall apart.

Instead, Shijie took a careful step forward before gradually sitting on her knees and slowly reaching her hand out, watching carefully for his reaction. When he doesn’t flinch again, she leaned in and held his jaw with her hand, fingers brushing back his hair carefully. She said nothing, just caresses his face softly as tears flowed down her cheeks.

Jiang Cheng kneeled down instantly when Wei Wuxian didn’t recoil from Shijie’s touch, about to reach out when he looked down at his wrist, his silver bracelet reflecting from the sun. He stared at it for a few seconds before his eyes narrowed and he gripped it off of him roughly, throwing it behind him, the weapon hurling against the wall with a dull sound.

Wei Wuxian hung his head down, both ashamed that he couldn’t even look at the weapon without reacting like his body was set aflame and relieved that Jiang Cheng had removed it. He opened his mouth to tell Jiang Cheng it’s alright, his brother shouldn’t have to get rid of it just because of Wei Wuxian (he doesn’t understand, why would the weapon give him such a response? Jiang Cheng wouldn’t hurt him, why was he so frightened by the sight) but all he could come up with was “Thank you.”

Jiang Cheng looked miserable but he jerked his head as reply nevertheless.

“Was - Was it always yours?” Wei Wuxian asked in an embarrassingly small voice.

Jiang Cheng paused before he shook his head.

“Whose was that, before you got it?” Wei Wuxian refused to believe that his fear rested with Jiang Cheng…it couldn’t be because of Jiang Cheng, he couldn’t believe that.

At first, Yanli and Jiang Cheng stayed silent, both siblings looked at each other before Jiang Cheng lowered his head, eyes focusing on the tile floor. “It was mother’s…”

Oh.

None of the siblings said anything for a while.

“A-Xian,” Shijie began.

“Can we – could we talk about that later?” Wei Wuxian pleaded, the cracking in his sister’s voice too much for right now. “Let’s just talk – tell me about us. You mentioned you made soup?” he stared imploringly at her; not right now – yes they must talk about it – but for now, he just wanted to be with his family.
Jiang Cheng started to say something before he looked back at his sister and stayed silent. Jiang Yanli let out a broken sound before she grabbed her two brothers with both hands, gripping them tighter when the brothers returned her embrace. She pressed them all together and showing no sign of loosening her hold for a long time.

*

Wei Wuxian opened the door, leaving Jiang Cheng and Shijie some time alone to talk while he dwelled over the development, trying to make sense of…well, everything. He looked around the hallways and his shoulder slumped when he saw he was alone; how long they had been in the room together? Long enough that Lan Zhan must have had to leave. Wei Wuxian had expected Lan Zhan wouldn’t be able to stay long but it hurt to see the empty hallway. He sighed, pondering if he should ask someone where his room could be when he spotted a tall figure in white walking up from the corner.

“Lan Zhan!” He called, running towards the man, uncaring that that he was yelling, Lan Zhan was still here, he didn’t leave –

The figure turned fully and Wei Wuxian as well as his heart skid to a stop.

His clothes are similar to Lan Zhan’s, same forehead ribbon, same posture, even the way he held his arm behind himself was similar but this man was not his Lan Zhan.

“Oh, sorry - I thought you were my - my friend,” Wei Wuxian didn’t hide the disappointment in his voice.

Instead of looking annoyed, the man let out a small genuine laugh. He looked kind, pleasant, much like Lan Zhan but his smile was too wrong to be mistaken as Lan Zhan’s small yet no less bright one.

“Master Wei,” The man said with a polite bow. “I apologize, Wangji has left for a few moments to discuss where his room will be located while we are visiting.”
Wei Wuxian looked the man up and down; not surprised when no memory was being recalled but from his clothes and resemblance to Lan Zhan…Though he could not easily mistaken for Lan Zhan upon closer inspection he must be - “You…are you his brother?”

The man smiled brightly, a proud quirk of his lips and Wei Wuxian was sure he must like this man. “Yes, elder brother. Zewu-Jun but you may call me Lan Xichen,” he bowed respectfully again after the introduction and Wei Wuxian copied him in turn. “At your service.” His smile faded and he held both hands behind him respectfully. “Wangji explained to me your situation…if there is something I can do to help, please name it.”

“That is kind of you,” Wei Wuxian responded truthfully, grateful for the lack of pity. “If you don’t mind me asking, do we know each other through Lan Zhan? Are we friends?”

“Not as much as I would like,” Lan Xichen lowered his head slowly. “Hopefully we can change that; you are precious to Wangji, therefore you are precious to me. It is my honor to help however I can.” He finished with a strange smile.

Face burning, Wei Wuxian coughed, clearing his throat in hopes of hiding the growing redness on his face but he was positive Lan Xichen could see his pleased blush growing from his neck to his cheeks, judging by how his eyes crinkling in amusement. “Uh, well-”

“Wei Ying.”

Wei Wuxian snapped his head around and it’s as though his whole body sagged in relief when he saw Lan Zhan just a few feet away from him, standing tall and proud with a tender, comforted look in his eyes. Forgetting to say even a simple goodbye to Lan Xichen, Wei Wuxian rushed over to Lan Zhan, stopping short of swinging his arms around his neck and hanging off of him shamelessly. “Lan Zhan!” He beamed. “You’re back, you didn’t say you were leaving,” He crossed his arms over chest with an over-exaggerated frown. “I met your brother!”

Lan Zhan eyed Lan Xicxhen with a wary expression and Wei Wuxian turned to see the elder brother tilting his head to the side, looking innocently back at them. “I see,” Lan Zhan said lowly, fingers reaching for Wei Wuxian’s sleeve, gripping him tightly. “That is good…I will be showing Wei Ying to his room.”

Lan Xichen only tilted his head more, eyebrows raised.

“His single room,” Lan Zhan added, a deep pink on his ears.

“Hm,” Lan Xichen said, smile still in place.

Wei Wuxain wasn’t sure if his own blush was growing deeper from embarrassment or controlling the desire to laugh. Lan Zhan saved him from turning as red as his ribbon in front of Lan Zhan’s brother by dragging him away, down the long hallway and away from the sound of Lan Xichen’s entertained laugh.
Lan Zhan’s hold on his wrist was soft, making easy if Wei Wuxian wished to break free (though he has no desire to). Lan Zhan pulled him along and only let go when they were far enough from Lan Zhan’s brother’s laughter. Wei Wuxian followed him easily, walking side by side. They remained silent, only sparing occasional glances at the other and soon ended up in front of an entryway that Wei Wuxian presumed was his room.

“Mine is across the hall,” Lan Zhan said softly, face calm. “If you need me, I will be right here.”

Wei Wuxian cocked his head to the side. He assumed he would have been near Jiang Cheng or maybe even Jiang Yanli but to have Lan Zhan right across the hall from him was…unexpected to say the least, unless - “Did…did you arrange for us to have a room across from the other?”

Lan Zhan’s answering silence was response enough. “If you would like space, I can ask for a rearrangement.”

“No,” Wei Wuxian hurriedly said. “No, I like it. I feel comfortable around you.” He said too fast to stop himself.

Lan Zhan stared at him, eyes warm and steady and soft and Wei Wuxian could barely look at him.

Wei Wuxain laughed lightly at La Zhan’s expression, shaking his head. “Lan Zhan, ah Lan Zhan,” He couldn’t help but smile. He reached between the space between them, finding Lan Zhan’s hand and interlacing their fingers. The touch had such a natural feel to it, Wei Wuxian would have been sure that they’ve been doing it for years if not for how Lan Zhan was eyeing their hands’ with wide eyes.

His nervousness was contagious and Wei Wuxian started growing wary that he was pushing his luck and he made to withdraw but Lan Zhan’s fingers gripped his tightly, like he’s offended that Wei Wuxian would ever think to remove them. They stood in front of the other silently, fingers interlaced and expressions soft. “What will I do with you?” Wei Wuxian said with zero annoyance, eyeing their interlocked fingers with a growing grin.

“Allow me to play music for you?” Lan Zhan spoke in a rush, perhaps like he was waiting for a chance to ask. “Cleansing has been known for helping with calming the mind and spirit.” Lan Zhan was swift to explain.

Wei Wuxian cocked an eyebrow, recalling previous attempts at meditation. The pain, the feeling of black smoke clinging around his lungs and heart tightly, too tightly to breath- “I doubt it can be helpful…” He said after a moment of silence, hoping Lan Zhan wouldn’t prod. “It’s not going help me with my memories…"
Lan Zhan held his hand tighter. “I ask because I want to help you, no other reason.”

Wei Wuxian lowered his gaze, finding it strangely difficult to look Lan Zhan in the eyes. He was unsure how effective it could be, nothing has helped him before when he tried…but Lan Zhan was observing at him so earnestly, so sincerely, Wei Wuxian couldn’t help but nod. There didn’t seem to be any harm to it and he was…rather enjoying seeing Lan Zhan’s pleased expression.

The relief on Lan Zhan’s face made it all worth it. “Shall I play for you soon?” He asked slowly, perhaps testing if there was a barrier he shouldn’t be crossing.
Wei Wuxian coughed, hiding his smile. “You could play now, if you want; I must warn you that I truly don’t think this will help much.” He added, not wanting bring disappointment to Lan Zhan.

“I’d still like to try if you will let me,” Lan Zhan said in a tone that Wei Wuxian would label as petulant. “I’ve been seeking new compositions. I believe it can help even one did not have a core.”

Wei Wuxian patted Lan Zhan’s arm gently as thanks, heart doing summersaults. He leaned against the door, warmed at Lan Zhan presence, enough that he felt comfortable enough to ask “Do you think I should tell him? One day?”

“Perhaps,” Lan Zhan says after a moment, not needing further explanation. “He is bound to discover it one day, and it shouldn’t be by accident.”

Wei Wuxian considered it, again wishing he remembered, that he knew enough to judge if he should tell Jiang Cheng before he discovered it for himself or to take it to his grave. He was basically a stranger to him but Wei Wuxian was sure that his brother (brother, he has a brother, he has family) he wouldn’t have stolen Wei Wuxian’s core for himself, and Jiang Cheng would be furious to learn he was being lied to, even if it was in his best interest.

Wei Wuxian rubbed his temples, squeezing his eyes shut; the whole situation made him feel tired – he was so tired and Lan Zhan’s presence was so soothing and safe, he didn’t want to think about the future right now, he just wanted Lan Zhan.

When he opened his eyes, Lan Zhan was staring at him noiselessly, apparently he had grabbed Wei Wuxian’s hand at some point during all of this, thumb brushes over Wei Wuxian’s knuckles, softly moving with back and forth sweeps. “Tell him when you feel ready.”

Wei Wuxian couldn’t speak, or else he may say something he could never take back.

“Shall we?” Lan Zhan suggested after a few comfortable moments in science. Wei Wuxian looked around the room once before nodding, cheeks flaming as he was so enraptured by Lan Zhan’s hands on his own that he forgot where they were. In his defense, he doubted anyone could remain indifferent when being held by Lan Zhan.

Lan Zhan’s room was bare and plain, not much besides a simple bed and some personal belongings, yet calmness washed over Wei Wuxian like a warm sunny breeze; with an exciting jolt Wei Wuxian realized somehow this space feels almost familiar. It’s…it’s comforting, it’s right. It’s Lan Zhan’s. Wei Wuxian exhaled as he admired the view. He stood near the bed as Lan Zhan carefully grabbed a guqin and arranged himself on the floor.

“You may sit on the bed if you like,” Lan Zhan looked up at him patiently, hands positioned over his guqin.

Wei Wuxian blinked, baffled at first but the bed did look comfortable…an actual bed, how long has it been since he was in a real bed? He didn’t argue and silently settles comfortably on the bed, crossing his legs and leaning forward as soon as Lan Zhan plucked the first string.

The tune didn’t have even a hint of familiarity Wei Wuxian silently noted with slumped shoulders, however it was soothing. Lan Zhan’s posture was of course, perfect as he focused solely on the instrument.

Wei Wuxian closed his eyes, his breathing relaxing into a rhythmic pattern as he listened to the tune with comfortable ease. He didn’t feel less…well, less anything, but he couldn’t deny that he felt more…secure than he ever remembered feeling.

Wei Wuxian watched Lan Zhan with fondness, resting his head on his hands his gaze lingered. He swore he only yawned just once when he started to fall to his side, exhaustion winning. The softness of a blanket being drawn over him and tucked around his body in light gestures didn’t even startle him. However when the warmth started to disappear, Wei Wuxian threw his hand out instinctively and reached around until he connected with soft, silk fabric. Eyes unable to open, he carefully gripped the material and tugged around it down. He heard a bemused huff and Wei Wuxian pulled until a warmth was by his side, pressing him close. He fastened his own fingers around a warm hand and gave a pleased hum when the other’s fingers interlaced with his.

“Can we stay like this, just for a while?” Wei Wuxian sleepily asked.

“For as long as Wei Ying wants.”

Wei Wuxian sighed out a pleased exhale and snuggled Lan Zhan closer…he’s not positive but he was so sure that he mumbled out a soft “forever then” just before sleep consumed him.

*

Wei Wuxian started to drift awake when he felt fingers linger on the pulse point at his throat; fighting back didn’t occur to him. The touch was a welcoming thing, the fingers hovered there for a moment and then, seemingly content with the result, pull back. Wei Wuxian kept his eyes closed, hoping that comforting touch will return when he felt the bed shift and the tussling of movement is heard.

“I will return, Wei Ying.”

Wei Wuxian squinted his eyes open the barest bit just in time to see Lan Zhan slip out the door with hushed movements. He shouldn’t have felt sadden by this. He sighed softly and closed his eyes, falling into a dreamless sleep.

*

“A-Xian, are you sure you feel alright?”

Wei Wuxian nodded, taking a sip his drink before he realized it was empty. “Of course, why?” Mentally he cursed at himself, did he zone out while she was talking?

Shijie sighed, setting down her drink. “You can be honest with me, I know when you are distracted. You’ve been nodding but saying nothing the whole time.” She refilled his drink as she spoke.

Wei Wuxian had to smile at her sweetness. He had only been with them for a few weeks and yet he still feared one wrong word would end everything. With Jiang Cheng’s banter, Jiang Yanli’s smiles, Lan Zhan’s absolute everything, he didn’t think he could survive losing it all. He thought that staying silent when things got too difficult to express would be best and yet here was his sister, knowing him better than he knew himself.

If he couldn’t be honest with her, who could he be honest with?

“It’s all just so…difficult.” Wei Wuxian finally confessed.

“What is?” Shijie asked, looking at him with rapt attention.

Wei Wuxian held the drink, the heat grounding him. “It’s all…so new, and unfamiliar, and when I think maybe something could be familiar, it slips away.” He gripped his hair with one hand, frustrated. “I don’t want to never remember.”

Shijie gently grabbed his hand, pulling it away from his hair. “You don’t have to remember, ever.” She set his hand on her lap, cupping their hands together. “I, all of us, want you to stay but if you feel uncomfortable, if it feels like we are pushing you-” She began, looking crestfallen.

Wei Wuxian immediately shook his head, holding her hand tighter. “No it’s not that…I just wish I could act…the right way. Act like who I was.” The way people eyed him distrustfully, waiting for a slip-up- that was something he could deal with, but having Jiang Cheng, Shijie, and somehow more painfully even Lan Zhan, look at him like they wanted to say something and thought better of it…that was worse.

She nodded, encouraging him to continue.

“I don’t know who to be anymore, or if I am doing something wrong and I don’t want to be someone I am not but I also don’t want to lose anyone...” He groaned, putting his drink aside, wishing he could rest his head on her lap. “I’m not who I was, and maybe I will never remember who I was – and that hurts but losing you all hurts more.”

Shijie stayed quiet for a moment before she set aside her own drink and pulled his head, encouraging him to come over. Wei Wuxian followed easily, settling next to her and making a pleased noise when she tucked his head on her shoulder.

“I just want to do the right thing and not lose…you, Jiang Cheng…”Wei Wuxian said honestly, the words easier to say once when he couldn’t be seen.
“You know,” She started. “When A-Cheng and Young Master Lan returned without you, we feared the worst. When he said you had taken him to see your mother’s teacher,” She paused. “I had a feeling what happened…and I feared I would never see you again.”

Wei Wuxian gripped her hand tighter. “You know?”
“He plays with the hand of his sword when he’s nervous,” Shijie smoothed his hair from his face. “He did the same with yours when you were missing, and at times….I could have sworn the handle moved.”

Wei Wuxian couldn’t look to her. “I don’t remember it.”

“Thank heavens,” She sighed, holding him tighter. “I’m so glad you are here with us again.”

“Me too.” He gripped her tighter. “I want you in my life, you, and Jiang Cheng and - ” He cut himself off.

“And Young Master Lan?” She added, looking at him closely.

Wei Wuxian sat up quickly, raising his eyes to hers. “What do you mean? Were we - he and I…where we ever…?”

Shijie patted the side of his head, her thumb gently caressing his cheek. “That is something you should be talking with him.”

Wei Wuxian had a feeling she’d say that. He got up and she followed suit. “Yeah, you’re probably right…it’s all just so soon though, isn’t it?”

She hummed for a moment in thought before she replied. “Perhaps….but in your heart, doesn’t it feel about time?”

Wei Wuxian didn’t know how to answer.

Shijie looked concerned at his silence before he held her hand carefully, cradling it with both hands. “Thank you though, for listening…it means more than I can say.”

She beamed, leaning up to kiss his cheek before patting his hair one more time. “That’s what big sisters are for. Don’t rush yourself, but I think you know what to do.”

Wei Wuxian gripped her arm comfortingly before he left, shaking his head once he left the room; how was his talk with his sister so helpful and yet so terrible? He shouldn’t have talked to her about it at all, because he will just mess this up, ruin everything, he’ll fail everyone and have to be alone again-

Wei Wuxian sighed, rubbing his eyes with a frustrated moan. He just needed to leave for a bit, wrap his head around everything; he couldn’t stay still for so long. He needed to get out of this place, even for a while. Chénqíng was pleased since she as well was growing restless. He hasn’t stayed this still in weeks and she needed to move, to get revenge, to kill –

Wei Wuxian, have you forgotten your revenge?

Wei Wuxian took a sharp inhale. Just for a few hours, he can leave just for a few hours.

Before he did anything else, he went to his room just to write a note explaining he was going to the nearby town. Probably best to explain, in case someone came looking for him. He slipped away the moment he could, least he bumped into anyone he knew.

Wei Wuxian exhaled in relief when he wasn’t stopped - it was just early enough that no one would be wandering around the halls that would try to talk with him; he wasn’t in the mood for sympathetic stares or fake considerate talks as these strangers sought for common ground. For a split second he glanced over at Lan Zhan’s closed door, tempted to knock and either invite him along or at least tell him he was leaving before he talked himself out; the whole reason was to be alone right? Plus there was no need to bother Lan Zhan, especially not after all he had done to make Wei Ying feel welcomed and – well, safe? Cherished? Worthy? He couldn’t settle on one.

Wei Wuxian eagerly found his way to a nearby market he never got a chance to explore before; the early morning sun shined on his face, the sound of people talking and laughing were peaceful sensations at peace as he strolled around along the stalls where only a few people were buying things. He eyed a few trinkets and sweets, delighted when he was able to pass the market with ease. He searched through every market, and even went back to look at some repeatedly, time passing by in a blur. It’s only then that he realized he was starting to hum; a lullaby-like song, one that he found himself humming at random times; he once asked Shijie and even Jiang Cheng if they could recall where he might of come from but neither had an answer. He was relaxed enough that he barely heard the small gasp by his side, he hardly had time to react when a hand was grabbing his arm, stopping him. Wei Wuxian reached for his dizi and inhaled sharply as he thought of what tune to play that won’t put all the other people in danger when -

“Master Wei?”

Wei Wuxian stiffened in the other’s hold. He squinted at the face, taking in the other’s features in case it struck something within him but of course, nothing; the other man was slightly smaller than Wei Wuxian, timid looking but with wide, eager eyes that screamed recognition. “Oh Master Wei, I am so glad you are alright; my sister will be so please - we heard rumors that you were…” He stopped.

“I’m sorry,” Wei Wuxian gently patted the hand holding him before pulling out of the grip with ease. “But I am afraid my memory is poor as of late, can you tell me who you are?”

The man froze, his kind eyes widening in shock. “I – but – we are - how did this happen?” his mouth was turned down in a dismayed frown, eyeing his flute with confusion; Wei Wuxian fiddled with Chénqíng as she fight with him, ready to strike at the unknown man, side eyeing the crowd that was growing along with the morning light.

“It…is a long story….a very long story.” Wei Wuxian settled with in the end.

Wei Wuxian was unbelievingly grateful when the other man merely nodded and seemed to let it go. He bowed respectfully before raising his head up bashfully. “I am…I am Wen Ning- uh, courtesy name Qiónglín.”

Wei Wuxian’s smile faded.

Wen.

A Wen.

Wei Wuxian’s eyes trailed over the man in front of him, hands folded in front of him timidly. The man looked as though he’s been walking for days without rest….but he told Wei Wuxian he was a Wen without hesitating…but a friend? He had never seen a Wen that was anything but cruel and malicious, eager to kill innocents.

Wei Wuxian tightened his hold on Chénqíng reflexively, observing the kind eyed man for several seconds before Wei Wuxian forcibly shoved his hand away from his dizi, his lips twisted with frustration. “How do I know you?”

“We met at classes – in Cloud Recesses,” Wen Ning eagerly said; his smile was gentle and bright and Wei Wuxian was hit with an urge to pat his cheek. “You - You helped me with my archery, and my sister, Wen Qing is- was- friends with your sister and brother.”

Wei Wuxian narrowed his eyes; he didn’t mean to but – how could he be sure this man was telling the truth? He had no memory to prove what he said was true…yet his heart didn’t gnaw at him to slaughter him, nor does Chénqíng call for him to strike…perhaps –

“Where is your sister?” Wei Wuxian asked instead.

Wen Ning shuffled his feet. “We went into hiding after we – after you and your siblings left.” Wei Wuxian was sure there was more to that but he didn’t question in.

“Why did you not stay with the other Wens?” If he was truthful, surely there were others they could have been with; why would they be out in public where they bring risk of being recognized?

Wen Ning lowered his head, pink coloring his cheeks. “After we helped your family…We – I mean - please don’t worry about us – but my sister was wary of her cousin suspecting us and took me and we’ve been hiding for months…we hadn’t heard about you for so long we were worried…We feared the worst.” He seemed so distraught, unable to look Wei Wuxian in the eye, as though he had any reason to be ashamed. “I’m glad you’re okay….We were so worried.”

Wei Wuxian believed him. He couldn’t explain it, he wasn’t even sure if he himself understood it, but he trusted Wen Ning. Wei Wuxian sucked in a shuddering breath, his eyes fixed on Wen Ning’s pleading face, and he nodded resolutely to himself.

“Come with me,” Wei Wuxian grasped Wen Ning’s forearm urgently. “Are you alone?”

“No, my sister, she’s with me.”

“Bring Wen Qing or whoever is with you, we can get you into safety.” Wei Wuxian begged.

Wen Ning stayed still, unsure. “But…Master Wei, it wouldn’t be safe for you if we…”

“If you trust me, you know I mean it when I say I will keep you and your sister safe,” Wei Wuxian jerked his chin up determinedly, every fiber in him screaming that he can’t leave them behind. “I trust you. So please, trust me.”

Wen Ning bit his bottom lip before nodding firmly, eyes full of hope; how could Wei Wuxian abandon him? Wen Ning silently allowed Wei Wuxian to follow him as he walked through the crowd before the other man stopped next to a woman who was speaking with a man in an exasperated tone, negotiating prices for vegetables.

She turned her head for a moment to nod at her brother before she halted, mouth dropping open slightly at the sight of Wei Wuxian.

“Wei Wuxian?” She gasped before a small smile started to grow on her lips. “You’re alright.” She grabbed his arm for a moment before she frowned and gave his arm a punch with no force behind it. “You’re alright! We were so worried! We thought you were dead! How-”

“Long story,” He cut in with an apologetic jerk of his head. “Wen Ning will explain for me, but for now, follow me.”

She looked over at the merchant, to Wei Wuxian, then finally on Wen Ning with a troubled expression.

Wei Wuxian could practically feel her worry hitting him in waves; her careful gaze on her brother and only on her brother was proof enough that she wanted to make the right choice by him. Wei Wuxian reached for her hand and squeezed it reassuringly. “Please, trust me. I won’t let anything happen to your brother or you. Jiang Cheng and my sister will support me on this.”

At the mention of Jiang Cheng, Wen Qing’s eyes widened and her cheekbones flushed to a light pink, some of her tension seeming to seep out of her. Huh….Odd. But slowly, reached for her brother. “If he goes, I go.”

Wei Wuxian couldn’t control his grin. “Then let’s go,” He gestured for them to follow. “They should be all up by now.”

He was relieved when they gave no sign of hesitation and quickly followed him; Wen Ning eagerly went along side of Wei Wuxian with every step and Wen Qing walked with her head held high, only faulting when Wen Ning explained in a hurried voice about Wei Wuxian’s current state.

“No memories?” She said in a horrified tone. “How? It wasn’t because of-“

She looked over at Wen Ning, his gaze cutting her short. It’s something Wei Wuxian would need to ask about but for now all he could think was that he needed to get them to safety and fast. Wei Wuxian no longer had doubt that these two are people he was close with at how easily they follow him. How could he abandon them? His questions could wait.

While not completely used to the Unclean Realm, Wei Wuxian easily remembered where Jiang Cheng’s room was, hoping the siblings don’t ask him what his plan was. He had a rough idea of how he would explain all this – nothing more though but that didn’t matter for right now as long as he-

“Master Wei?”

Wei Wuxian whipped around, gripping his dizi -

“Wei Wuxian,” Lan Xichen exhaled in relief; his hand raised towards him for a split second, as though he meant to reach for his arm, only to think better of touching him. “Are you alright? Wangji was looking for you. You left a note but - ”

Wei Wuxian felt a stab of guilt but pushed it side reluctantly to apologize to Lan Zhan properly; he would speak with Lan Zhan as soon as he knew the siblings were safe. His (stop saying your, he’s not yours, he’s too good, he could never be your anything) Lan Zhan was safe; the Wen siblings weren’t.

“I am sorry for any inconvenience I caused,” He bowed his head respectfully. “I should have told him at least where I was going.”

“You’ve been gone for hours,” Lan Xichen’s tone was similar to Jiang Yanli when she was trying to explain when Wei Wuxian did something impolite. “Wangji was…anxious. “

Wei Wuxian winced slightly. Had he really? It hardly felt as though even an hour had passed. “I’m sorry, it didn’t feel like I was there so long” Wei Wuxian wished he was saying this to Lan Zhan.

“No, it’s alight,” The elder Lan said quickly. “I should be the one apologizing. We are all just worried about you.” His eyes flick over to the Wens before his eyes widen slightly. So, he must know them as well.

Lan Xichen tensed, slowing moving like he was going to try and pull Wei Wuxian away from them and Wei Wuxian was glad for the distraction of Jiang Cheng seemed to always happy to provide.

“Wei Wuxian!” Jiang Cheng yelled, his tone furious but his eyes soft, clutching his fists as though he was torn between punching Wei Wuxian or pulling him into a hug. Wei Wuxian was assuming Jiang Cheng would have settled for doing both only for him to stop dead in his tracks when he laid eyes in the Wens.
“Lady Wen?” Jiang Cheng breathed.

Wen Qing’s eyes softened, the barest hint of a smile in the corner of her lips. “Jiang Wanyin…”

Wei Wuxian looked between the two, blinking rapidly at their reactions. Was anyone going to tell him this was a development or was he supposed to find that out for himself?

“How did – where did - ?” Jiang Cheng began, spluttering only for Wei Wuxian to interrupt.

“They are…they are my friends,” He was sure of it. “We found each other only this morning. They need to be kept safe.”

Jiang Cheng looked at the two Wens and Wei Wuxian’s firm expression before he nodded in agreement, looking at Lan Xichen imploringly. “They kept us safe after Lotus Pier was destroyed. They helped us bring back our parent’ bodies. Please, allow them to stay with us. We owe them that much.” He bowed respectfully.

Lan Xichen pulled Jiang Cheng out of his bow. “I would be more than happy to help,” he said and Wei Wuxian had no doubt he meant it. “But Nie Mingjue may not be so forgiving. The Wens…” He trailed off. “He has people who rely on him, it may not go over well if we harbor two Wens under the same roof, and I doubt they can be kept hidden for long.”

Wei Wuxian’s heart sank.

“I was Wen Ruohan’s doctor,” Wen Qing recovered quickly, holding her head high. “I know information, things that can help you bring him and his army down. You can do what you want to me, but please, my brother has done nothing wrong.” As she speaks, she steps in front of Wen Ning.

Lan Xichen gaze was apologetic. “I have someone on the inside as well, I am afraid I would need something more to bring to Mingjue.”

Wen Qing blinked once at the fact, barely faulting before she then squared up her shoulders. “I know where Xue Yang is.”

The air turned tensed and Wei Wuxian was torn between being on edge or pouting at his own obliviousness; now what? Who was Xue Yang? No one mentioned him before.

“I have my brother,” Wen Qing folded her arms our and bowed to Lan Xichen. “A little cousin no more than four, and a few other family members who have done nothing to bring harm or death in this war; if you please do what you can to keep them safe, I will tell you anything you need.”

Jiang Cheng hurriedly pulled her out of her bow, hands gripping her arms gently. “We will help however we can.” He looked over at Lan Xichen for approval. Wei Wuxian hoped that his brother would still help though, no matter what the other Lan says.

Lan Xichen nodded in agreement.

“Do I have your word that they will be unharmed?” Wei Wuxian implored the elder Lan. He had no doubt Lan Xichen and Jiang Cheng would about something like this but he couldn’t be sure of the others once they got wind of them harboring Wens.

He paused for only a moment before he replied. “I swear it. Nie Mingjue will understand in time, once I explain the situation. Once explained, your help bringing down Wen Rouhan and Xue Yang will give you and your brother freedom.”

“Our family as well.” Wen Qing added, stance firm.

Lan Xichen actually smiled. “And for their family.”

Wen Ning and Wen Qing don’t try to hide their relief.

Jiang Chang was the first to speak, eyes locked on Wen Qing. “We should speak to him now so we can get them some rooms to rest in.” he gestured his head to Wei Wuxian to join them. “Come, let’s go.”

Oh…now? Now that the Wens were on the road to safety, he had wanted to speak with Lan Zhan. Perhaps it would be best to join them, he did drag them here after all.

Though…..Wei Wuxian wanted to see Lan Zhan, so much. Lan Xichen, with an odd look on his face, replied “Actually, if you wouldn’t mind, Wangji should be involved as well, would you mind letting him know?”

Wei Wuxian was surprised at how hard he had to fight the urge to hug him. He looked at the Wens, ignoring Jiang Cheng’s eye roll. “Will you two be okay?’
Wen Qing gave something close to a smile. “You go, we can talk more about this later. Promise.”

Wen Qing nodded and Wen Ning watched at Wei Wuxian worriedly before nodding as well. Wei Wuxian He would ask them later about everything that had occurred between them and himself; he had been gone for a while, now that he knows they are safe and with people he trusted, it was time to return or Shejie and Lan Zhan would –

“Wei Ying!”

Wei Wuxian exhaled, a smile pulling at his lips as gaze sought Lan Zhan’s; his Lan Zhan’s eyes land on his. Lan Zhan exhaled sharply, immediately drifting toward Wei Wuxian’s side. Wei Wuxian raised up his hands apologetically. “I can explain,” He started, guiltily setting his dizi away in his belt. “I found two people who know me and I felt like - I knew that I needed to -” Lan Zhan quickly tugged him forward and crushed Wei Wuxian into his chest, holding him tightly.
Wei Wuxian’s heart stopped for several seconds before beating rapidly. He could feel the other’s heart beat erratically across from his own, he wondered if it’s all Lan Zhan’s or if his own heart was joining his. “Lan Zhan?”

“You’re were gone,” the other murmured, his usually strong tone cracking, before he spoke again, tinged with relief. “Went to your room and you were gone…”

Wei Wuxian’s arms moved up to hold Lan Zhan properly and he was rewarded with an even tighter embrace from Lan Zhan. “I left a note…” He tried weakly,
rubbing his hand up and down Lan Zhan’s back, feeling the rise and fall of his Lan Zhan’s breath under his fingers.

“Hours ago,” Lan Zhan muffled voice accuses, his lips pressing against Wei Wuxian’s temple. “Jiang Wanyin, Lady Jiang, Xiongzhang…you had said you were going out, but nothing else.”

Wei Wuxian didn’t regret his choice since it lead him to the Wens but Lan Zhan’s tone was…Wei Wuxian squeezed his eyes shut from the onslaught of emotions; he never, never, wanted to do that to Lan Zhan again. “I’m sorry…I didn’t think – It’s my fault, I’m sorry. I’m not used to being looked after…I thought the note would be enough, and I didn’t plan on being gone so long.”

“No need for sorry,” Lan Zhan pulled back from the hug, fingers sliding down Wei Wuxian’s arms to his hands. His featured relax slightly as his thumb brushed over Wei Wuxian’s knuckles back and forth, in a gentle sweep. “I am glad you’re safe, I was…worried. Do not be distressed”

“Shouldn’t I be saying that to you?” Wei Wuxian patted Lan Zhan’s hands fondly before squeezing his hand once, twice. “I’ll take care to tell you or someone where I’m going next time, okay?” He promised.

Lan Zhan nodded, looking similar to an eager child being granted a toy and Wei Wuxian snickered.

“Are you...alright?” Lan Zhan asked, his eyes lowering to their hands after a moment of silence.

“Of course,” Wei Wuxian frowned slightly. “Why?”

Lan Zhan gestured to their fingers and Wei Wuxian needed a moment before he understood what he was seeing. Whispy black smoke were wrapped around Wei Wuxian’s finger tips to the other’s wrist, holding Lan Zhan firmly.

“Ah,” Wei Wuxian said. “I must have been tenser than I thought.” He glared at the smoke and it seemed to only make it grip Lan Zhan tighter.

Lan Zhan looked at him worryingly. “Does it hurt?”

“No, it doesn’t hurt anymore,” Wei Wuxian scowled at the smoke.

“Can-Could I play for you?”

Wei Wuxian pressed his lips together to keep from grinning; Lan Zhan being lost for words should not look so cute and yet - “Okay, you can play for me if you like,” Wei Wuxian relented, with a theatrical air.

Lan Zhan’s expression immediately softened as he held out his hand to Wei Wuxian. Wei Wuxian was quick to offer his own and Lan Zhan held him, going off with a hurried pace, or perhaps it would only look hurried to ones who didn’t know him. Wei Wuxian didn’t feel annoyance or displeasure at Lan Zhan’s worry; instead, he felt warm.

The moment they returned to Wei Wuxian’s room, Lan Zhan started moving around the area with purpose, he set his guqin down on the ground next to the bed and sat with his legs crossed before Wei Wuxian even set foot in the room. Wei Wuxian gazed at him again, admiring Lan Zhan’s movements with soft eyes before remembering himself.

He made his way to the opposite side of Lan Zhan, mirroring his position. Lan Zhan’s guqin strings are soothing to Wei Wuxian. He breathed deeply, absorbing every note, letting it surround him. It’s nice, but it doesn’t feel like much of a difference; similar to putting a thin bandage over an open wound, but the fact that Lan Zhan wanted to assist seems to help more than the song itself.

Soon, the song ended, leaving them in silence. Wei Wuxian normally doesn’t like quiet, leaves too much room for other factors, but with Lan Zhan? He felt closer to peace than he had ever felt before.

“Can I play with you?” Wei Wuxian asked, the urge sudden and strong.

Lan Zhan cocked his head to the side before he replied with a simple “Hm,”, his gaze fond. “Do you have a song in mind?”

One song always came to him in particular. “One, but I do not know the title…I could play and you could tell me if it is familiar?”

“Of course.”

Wei Wuxian grinned as he pulled Chénqíng from his belt before placing it by his lips, the notes coming to him naturally. His eyes fluttered close as he carefully recalled the tune, the song that felt like a lullaby and yearning love song all at once. He played naturally, his lips curled up to a smile as he continued. When he finished, he opened his eyes to beam at Lan Zhan, only to see him eyeing Wei Wuxian with an open mouth and wide eyes.

“What?”

“That – That song...” Lan Zhan was eying him strongly, his tone almost sounding…pleading.

“Oh so you do recognize it?” Wei Wuxian asked, excitedly shuffling closer. He was a fool, why didn’t he think to ask Lan Zhan about the song before? “I don’t know how I remember it, I don’t think anyone was playing music at the Burial Mounds” He tried to joke. “But it’s been in my head for as long as I can think back.”
“…Really?” Lan Zhan stayed still, face slowly turning unreadable, yet his ears turned a beet red.

“Yeah,” Wei Wuxian shrugged a shoulder, puzzled over Lan Zhan’s changing reaction. Wei Wuxian couldn’t explain why he felt so strangely possessive over the song but he didn’t like the idea of Lan Zhan being upset with it. “Why? Is it something you’ve heard of before?”

Lan Zhan nodded, a curt movement.

“How?”

“…I wrote it.”

Wei Wuxina froze for a single second, before he came even closer, inches away from Lan Zhan. “You did? That’s amazing! I should have known Lan Zhan would be so talented to write something like this.”

Lan Zhan’s eyed flicker down, tips of his ears that adorable pink shade. Wei Wuxian couldn’t help but be impressed; he should have expected someone like Lan Zhan would have written such a comforting song. “Did you write it because of something? Or someone?”

From Lan Zhan’s still burning ears, Wei Wuxian knew it must be the second one.

Oh…it was for someone. He was glad he was sittign down already, he didn’t trust he could have kept his balance otherwise. “Who was it for?” It was such a beautiful song, of course it would be a love song.

Lan Zhan said nothing, still looking down.

“Ah, are you embarrassed because I would know who the person is?” Wei Wuxian hoped he hid the bitterness in his voice. It wasn’t his place to know who Lan Zhan wrote it for but…it hurt…it hurt because there’s no denying what the song meant - the tune transcended words. It was written for someone. Someone that Lan Zhan must love completely. Wei Wuxian wondered if he had met that person – he hoped Lan Zhan couldn’t hear Wei Wuxian’s heart cracking…whoever he wrote it for better adore and value it as much as Wei Wuxian did.

“…”

“Lan Zhan,” Wei Wuxian almost pleaded when Lan Zhan didn’t reply. He couldn’t explain but…he needed to know who it was for.

Lan Zhan remained silent.

“Lan Zhan…”

Lan Zhan opened his mouth.

A knock on the door stopped either of them from continuing.

Lan Zhan and Wei Wuxian whipped their heads toward the doors, with Lan Zhan looking as frustrated at the interruption as Wei Wuxian was.

Wei Wuxian stood up and yanked the door open. “Jiang Cheng?”

Jiang Cheng angled his head to see Lan Zhan in the room, and promptly failed to keep from rolling his eyes. Jiang Cheng gestured out of the room. “Come, we have a meeting with Nie Mingjue.”

“Already?” Wei Wuxian frowned slightly, turning to Lan Zhan, both with similar expressions of disappointment. Wei Wuxian sighed, holding out his hand for Lan Zhan to join. He needed to focus on the Wens now….It’s none of his business, whoever Lan Zhan had feelings for, Wei Wuxian should stay silent….or try to…he shouldn’t try to make Lan Zhan feel obligated to tell him.

As Lan Zhan reached for his hand, Wei Wuxian wondered what Lan Zhan must be thinking…

***

Lan Wangji never experienced the desire to always be moving or needing to remind himself to keep still; yet in the meeting room with Wei Ying sitting across from him, right there in front of him - Lan Wangji had never been so tempted to cross over to the other’s side and sit awkwardly on the floor if he had to; he needed to be near him.

The worst thing was the meeting was that he knew Xichen would be the only one who could convince Nie Mingjue of anything; this meeting was merely for paperwork in a sense. Without actual proof, Nie Mingjue would listen to no one but the one he trusted most.

Lan Wangji felt his knuckles crack with the force of holding on to Bichen so tightly, he should be entirely focused on what Mingjue and Xichen were discussing but this was his brother after all, it would be difficult but not impossible for his brother to sway Minjue. While stern, with Xichen vouching for the Wens, along with Jiang Cheng standing by them as well, he couldn’t deny Lady Wen the sanctuary she needed for her family, not with her information.

Lan Wangji couldn’t help but look repeatedly over by Wei Ying. He felt a mixture of relief and ease whenever Wei Ying’s eyes would inevitably find his and offer him a bright smile, blinding him, soothing Lan Wangji’s rabbiting heartbeat.

He wanted to tell him the truth, Lan Wangji longed to tell Wei Ying everything; he was so close too when they were interrupted. He ached to say “it’s for you, all of it, everything. Wei Ying, it’s for you.” It doesn’t matter if Wei Ying never regained his old memories, Wei Ying was Wei Ying. Lan Wangji would still stand by and care for him no matter what, only Wei Ying himself could make Lan Wangji leave his side if that was what he wanted.

If he would have Lan Wangji by his side, that was enough.

The meeting had been rushed but already it proved productive; Nie Mingjue was agreeing to shelter the Wen siblings as a few of their family members. With Wen Qing’s aide, Nie Mingjue declared her a valuable asset. Lan Xichen was staring at Nie Mingjue with pride and a half hidden smile. Nie Mingjue’s eyes flickered to Lan Wangji’s brother for a moment but even he couldn’t resisting returning the smile. He looked across the room, almost daring someone to disagree with him; and who was going to try to go against the Red Blade Master?

Well, normally no one would.

“And how did these two Wen dogs sneak into here?” Jin Guangshan asked with a sneer. Lan Wangji had been luck that he had been able to avoid the other’s presence these last few weeks he had arrived but it wasn’t long enough. “They came at your front door with a sob story and some lies about how they can help bring down the rest of the Wens? Their own people?” He scoffed, looking around the room for others to approve.

“They were found and brought here for safety,” Jiang Wanyin said tersely, hands gripping his drink.

“And how exactly were they found?” Jin Guangshan demanded, staring at Jiang Wanyin.

Lan Wangji glared at the man, struggling to stay still in his seat when –

“I found them, and no harm is to come to them,” Wei Ying responded coolly, looking unimpressed with Jin Guangshan’s display. Lan Wangji wasn’t quite sure but he could have sworn Wei Ying was gripping Jiang Wanyin’s leg in comfort.

Jin Guangshan sneered. “And we are to trust him now?” He barely spared Wei Ying a glance before turning to look at the others. “The one who claims to have no recollection of his own past? Who is to say he isn’t a spy for them, tortured or bribed to get the Wen dogs into our army to kill us all?”

Lan Wangji rose first and Jiang Wanyin followed his lead. They stared twin daggers at the man. Wei Ying didn’t seem affected by the other’s words but Lan Wangji would not let such an insult stand.

“If he trusts them, then we trust them,” Lady Jiang said with a calm voice, ice in her eyes. “My brother has never steered us wrong, especially when it comes to innocent’s lives.”

“And we are to expect that he just trust them? After claiming he has no memory?” Jin Guangshan spared her little attention.

“Wei Ying survived for months on his own with lasting scars,” Lan Wangji failed at keeping his voice level. “And has worked harder than most to bring an end to this war, which he does without hiding behind neutrality.” Lan Wangji hoped he didn’t overstep anything with Wei Ying, though judging from how the other looked at him with a shocked, almost affectionate expression, he figured he didn’t.

Jin Guangshan sputtered. “And what are you implying?”

“He’s implying nothing,” Nie Mingjue said coolly. “Unless you are thinking he’s referring to you? What would make you assume that?”

Lan Xichen let out a cough that only two people would recognize is trying to hide a laugh.

“No one is implying anything,” Nie Mingjue continued. “Now if you would let my trusted allies” he glowered at Jin Guangshan at the word ‘trusted’ “continue with their request, I would appreciate it.”

This was good, Lan Wangji agreed silently; Lady Wen and her family had done nothing to warrant suspicion and a huge selfish part of him was also pleased they were safe due to the fact that Wei Ying stood behind them. Wei Ying may not be the exact same boy he first met but even now, Wei Ying wished to seek justice and protect the innocence. Lan Wangji smiles softly; Wei Ying never really changed, did he?

He loves him so much.

It hurt that Wei Ying didn’t know yet but Lan Wangji feared it will hurt worse if it stayed buried. He thought…he was almost sure that Wei Ying looked hurt when he suggested that Lan Wangji wrote the song for another. As if Lan Wangji could ever love someone other than Wei Ying. Ridiculous.

Maybe-just maybe- Wei Ying felt the same. And just like that, Lan Wangji couldn’t sit still, couldn’t waste another moment without telling him. When Nie Mingjue finally ended the meeting, Lan Wangji was the first to his feet, striding toward Wei Ying with an uncharacteristic swiftness that Xichen was sure to tease him about later. That could wait. He had to tell Wei Ying though, let him know. Lan Wangji would accept any answer from Wei Ying.

Soon Lan Wangji caught up with Wei Ying and the other turned to him with a beam so bright Lan Wangji simply had to return it, even in small. He basked in the comfortable silence as they wordlessly walked to Lan Wangji’s room. He sneaked a glance from Wei Ying before he breathed deeply, seeking to calm his heart.
He would tell Wei Ying everything.

*

It wasn’t going to be easy to help Wen Qing and her family, but Wei Wuxian hadn’t considered that he would be the reason for it. He fought to keep his face neutral but the fact that the Jin whatshisname, had suggested that he was lying to bring them down, made him feel unexpectedly leery.

For now it was ignored, but the idea was still out there. Wei Wuxian saw the looks of the others (and a terrible selfish part of him preened at the indignant looks on Lan Zhan, Jiang Yanli, and Jiang Cheng’s faces when they rushed to his defense. He smiled lightly at the thought.), others may think the same.
Would his presence make things worse?

“Wei Ying?”

The sound of Lan Zhan calling his name caused him to jump slightly. From Lan Zhan’s tone, it sounded like he had been calling his name for a while now. He glanced around the chamber; how long had they been in Lan Zhan’s room? “Sorry,” He laughed. “Just elsewhere I guess…”

“Would you like to talk? About it?” Lan Zhan tried, seemingly lost but not looking away from Wei Wuxian.

For a fleeting second, Wei Wuxian was going to laugh it off – but the earnest on Lan Zhan’s face had him feeling surprising truthful. “Lan Zhan…” Wei Wuxian shook his head, unable to look away from Lan Zhan; his heart was beating rapidly, like it will implode if he stopped looking.

“Wei Ying…what is wrong?”

Lan Zhan reached for Wei Wuxian’s hand and Wei Wuxian couldn’t look him in the eyes, can only stare at their hands. They fit so perfectly together, is that bad to think? “I fear…I’m worried my presence, my cultivations, are making Jiang Cheng and our allies look bad… and I almost dragged you down too…and yes they all agree to my help and the Wens now…but when the war ends, what use will they have for me? Should I even bother staying?” Wei Wuxian closed his mouth shut with a snap; he hadn’t meant to say so much.

Lan Zhan paused. He stayed silent for such a long moment and Wei Wuxian’s heart started dropping until Lan Zhan slowly reached out his other hand to him. Wei Wuxian doesn’t hesitate returning the hold.

“What you want to hear…” Lan Wangji began. “is that you can leave whenever you want, that you don’t need to worry about others, because you are doing this out of love. You must leave to keep them safe. Even at the expense of your own happiness." Lan Zhan’s voice faltered.

Wei Wuxian’s chest ached at the sound.

“However, what you need to hear,” Lan Zhan took a moment, hands still clutching Wei Wuxian’s. “is that if you leave, we will look for you; Jiang Wanyin, your sister…me. They would never stop looking. I could never stop until I knew you were safe.”

“Oh,” Wei Wuxian wished words didn’t fail him when he needed them the most. Thankfully, Lan Zhan, as always, is there for him.

“Yes…” Lan Zhan vowed, blinking slowly. “Always Wei Ying. Where you would go, I would go. Where you would stay, I would stay. Where you would live, if Wei Ying would have me, I would live.”

Wei Wuxian looked at him with something (not something, he knew exactly what that feeling was, an inexplicably familiar feeling) overwhelming his chest; the amount of love he has for this man is sure to send him to an early grave. He loves him. It’s so simple. Wei Wuxian loves him so much. How could he not? Maybe he’s always loved Lan Zhan.

Lan Zhan froze, eyes stuck on his and ears the darkest shade of red that We Wuxian had ever seen. It’s only then that Wei Wuxian realized he spoke out loud. He felt the blood draining from his face but it doesn’t matter, he couldn’t waste another second.

He pulled Lan Zhan closer, their hands pressed against his chest, his words in a blur but he can’t stop speaking, he loves him so much –

“You’re so amazing, do you know that? I love you, I love you so much - You’re absolutely amazing. I adore you, I fancy you, I love you, I want you, I can't leave you, whatever the word is, it’s you, it’s all for you" He broke off, his tears slowing him down but he couldn’t stop, he didn’t want to.

Lan Zhan cupped one hand, cradling Wei Wuxian’s cheek as his eyes grew wet. "I want to travel with you anywhere, I want to night hunt with you for the rest of my life. I don't want anyone but you-- it can't be anyone but you-"

Lan Zhan let out a shaking inhale as he threw his arms around Wei Wuxian, pulling him close and burying his face in his hair. “…fancy you…”

“Yes!” Wei Wuxian cried, pulling them apart just so he could see Lan Zhan’s face, clasping his cheeks so hard it’s a surprise Lan Zhan can even speak.

“…love you, want you…” Lan Zhan whispered, thumb caressing Wei Wuxian’s face as he spoke through his tears. Lan Zhan was nable to tear his eyes away from Wei Wuxian, a beautiful small smile on his lips.

“Yes!” Wei Wuxian’s cheeks hurt from smiling, but he only grined harder, leaning close to nudge his nose again Lan Zhan’s.

“Cannot leave you, do not want anyone but you… it can’t be anyone but you…” Lan Zhan stops only to press kisses on Wei Wuxian’s forehead, cheeks, under his lips, never getting enough of kissing him.

They held each other for what feels like hours and yet not long enough. Wei Wuxian kissed the tips of Lan Zhan’s ears as his breathing resume normally, fingertips barely grazing the pure white ribbon on Lan Zhan’s forehead.

“I love you…” He breathed, just because he can. “Lan Zhan…can I?...” He reached for the forehead ribbon.

Lan Zhan tugged it off without any further prompting and cradled it carefully in his hands with the same amount of tenderness he used when holding Wei Wuxian. Slowly, he held it out. Wei Wuxian carefully supported it with two hands, thumbs caressing the silky design. “Thank you…”

“There is no need for thank yous with us…this is yours…had been yours, for a long time.”

“How long, Lan Zhan…”

“Forever,” Lan Zhan replied so simply that Wei Wuxian almost could believe it.

Wei Wuxian laughed softly. “When did it happen then?”

“…Since we were fifteen…”

All this time? “That long?” Wei Wuxian whispered. He wondered if it was the same for himself, he feels like the answer is yes. “Wasn’t there anyone else?”

“Never.” Lan Zhan replied easily, kissing the freckle under Wei Wuxian's lip.

“How?” Wei Wuxian almost couldn’t believe it, Lan Zhan was Lan Zhan: beautiful, bright, funny without trying, and brilliant. Surely - surely- there was someone else.

Lan Zhan’s hands came up to hold his face, looking directly into him. “Everything I want, has been right here.”

Wei Wuxian couldn’t help it – he leaned in just as Lan Zhan did, their lips pressing together.

Lan Zhan doesn’t hold a thing back, kissing Wei Wuxian thoroughly like he’s something he wants to savor. He ran a soothing hand on Wei Wuxian’s back, rubbing up and down his sides as they kiss back. Wei Wuxian inhaled sharply, emotions close to spilling over again as he pulled away just to press his face to Lan Zhan’s neck where the smell of him was overwhelming in the best way. The sandalwood scent grounding, becoming a tether. He always loved that smell, he could become drunk from it-

“You’ll love me even if I never remember?” Wei Wuxian asked, starting to lose himself to the sensations of Lan Zhan’s hand in his hair, at his waist, pulling him ever closer, kissing along Lan Zhan’s cheek before meeting his lips again.

“Always Wei Ying. Always, always.”

“I love you – I love you so much, I love you,” Wei Wuxian rubbed his nose against Lan Zhan’s. “I don’t think I could have never not loved you before, and you’re here now…” He was stopped by Lan Zhan’s lips, the warmth new yet so familiar that if he didn’t know better, he would be sure they had kisses thousands and thousands of times before. Oh…he loves Lan Zhan…

“We will do it, together.”

“Forever?”

“Forever,” Lan Zhan said gently, tracing Wei Wuxian’s cheekbone with his thumb, running calming fingers along the back of his neck with his other hand. Wei Wuxian leaned into the warmth that could only belong to Lan Zhan - it’s still unnerving, everything felt unknown and unclear-would it be terrible to say that he felt that it would be okay? In the end, no matter what happened, Wei Wuxian had his family on his side, his Lan Zhan, all supporting him, how could he not feel like it would be okay?

“Forever, Wei Ying” Lan Zhan whispered again, and Wei Wuxian had no doubt Lan Zhan means every word before they lean in again for one of many kisses.