Lan Wangji getting kidnapped during the Yin Iron quest by Wen Xu, who decides to humiliate Lan Wangji by messing with his memory.
(rated E, warning for perceived dubcon)
Wei Wuxian is of course tracking them closely, and thus opens the doors to an "inn" only to find a room full of beautiful courtesans—among them Lan Wangji.
He's dripping in finery, his face made up to accentuate his fierce features, but the thing that stops Wei Wuxian short is that Lan Wangji doesn't even look at him at all.
Still, the relief at seeing him safe and unharmed is extreme. He almost calls out to him, but realizes a bit belatedly that something very strange is going on, and he should probably make sense of it before drawing attention to either of them. He makes his way through the—brothel, he realizes, face heating—toward Lan Zhan, and when he still doesn't look up, plops himself down beside him at the table where he’s playing a rather gaudy qin.
Lan Zhan ignores him entirely.
"Lan Zhan," he whispers urgently, "what happened? What are you doing here? And why are you...dressed...like that?"
Still, Lan Zhan ignores him.
Wei Wuxian tsks at him, frustrated, and grabs his arm, halting his song. "Lan Zhan!"
This, at last, earns him a steely glare. He lets go, and the music starts up again.
"Talk to me," he says. "Please. I came all this way, let me help."
"I do not know this ‘Lan Zhan,’" Lan Zhan says. "And outside of paid patronage, I have need of nothing from you."
This stuns Wei Wuxian momentarily. He glances around, and sees a hawkish-looking madam overseeing the room, currently glaring at him. He sobers, thinking he's caught Lan Zhan's meaning. They’re being watched, so he’d better play along.
"Ah," he says, "apologies...I...got excited. You're just so beautiful I lost my head," he adds, hoping unabashed teasing might give him just a hint of the real Lan Zhan under the mask. But Lan Zhan doesn't react.
Wei Wuxian clears his throat. "Is there a place we can...um...talk?"
"You are talking now."
"La—! I mean...ah...G-Gongzi...that's not fair. I meant...more privately?"
It’s only because he’s so focused on figuring out whatever is going on that he notices Lan Zhan's sharp jaw clench, his full lips tighten.
"It's just that...I...I would like. To get to know you. Um. Better. Because—" he glances around. "You're so...beautiful? Alluring?"
"Do not give praise you do not mean," Lan Zhan intones, and finally, finally, it sounds like him.
Wei Wuxian huffs. "I do mean it," he says, absolutely still teasing and not at all telling the truth. "Gongzi is the most beautiful courtesan I have ever seen. So poised and lovely. He—"
"Quiet," Lan Zhan cuts him off.
Wei Wuxian can see the backs of his ears are red where the white makeup ends. He grins.
"What, you don't like to hear praise? What do you want to hear, then?" He tries to impress his real question with seriousness. He needs a clue as to what he should do here. "What should I say?"
There's a pause where he thinks Lan Zhan won't answer.
"Is it not for the patron to win the favor of his cherished one? Asking for help is not the way."
Wei Wuxian groans and almost, almost bangs his head on the table. If only Lan Zhan could give him something to understand this completely bizarre situation, maybe he could get them out of here.
"Fine," he says, feeling a million years old with the exhaustion of tracking the Wen
party through the night, and now this bizarre riddle instead of an end to his toil. "This one apologizes. He is determined to win your esteemed favor."
He casts about, and sees another courtesan demonstrating calligraphy.
"I'll be right back," he tells Lan Zhan. "Don't...ah...don't...abandon me while I'm gone."
Lan Zhan glances at him, and gives a tiny nod. Wei Wuxian relaxes infinitesimally.
He charms the calligraphy girl into letting him share her table for a moment with grand declarations of true love for one of her colleagues. He absolutely does not think about the words coming out of his mouth, he’s just saying whatever he thinks will work. And it does—she giggles and makes room for him conspiratorially, and he counts himself lucky.
The portrait he draws is quick, only broad strokes, not as detailed as the one he drew in the library, but that was ages ago now, and he's a better artist than he was then. He hopes Lan Zhan takes it as the token of...friendship? Old memories? Determination? That he means it as.
He rushes back with the ink still wet on the paper.
"Here," he says, laying it down behind the qin. "For you. It's you, see? And I gave you a...a bunny. Since. Well."
Lan Zhan stops playing, his hands hovering elegantly above the strings, as he stares at the paper.
Wei Wuxian waits in the silence, to see what Lan Zhan will do. If he'll fly into one of his unpredictable tempers, or maybe, possibly, relax into one of those rare smiles? Which of course he won't. Not when they're in such a strange, precarious, and dangerous situation.
But then, he does.
His rouged lips part softly, and he blinks in surprise, then looks up at him in silence.
Wei Wuxian squirms. "Did I...win Gongzi's favor? Or...is..."
He looks around again. The madam's attention is elsewhere.
"Tell me," he leans in, urgent once more, "tell me what I should do."
Lan Zhan takes a breath.
"You may visit me tonight."
"Okay," says Wei Wuxian. It's something. "Should I—"
"You already have a patron tonight," the madam squawks, out of nowhere. "An important one."
Lan Zhan's eyes lower to the table, and he nods. Wei Wuxian is knocked bluntly off-kilter by the amount of wrong and upsetting things in that exchange.
He focuses on the worst one.
"What important patron?" he demands, stomach queasy as the full picture of what's happening begins to form in his mind.
"What, think you can compete?" the madam sneers. "You can't, not with the heir of a great sect. You can have this one some other night."
A high-pitched whistle fills Wei Wuxian's ears, and his vision blurs briefly. His fists clench, but he manages not to tear the place apart.
He looks at Lan Zhan, still staring at the table, and almost flies off the handle again. What did Wen Xu do to him, to make him act this way? To make him act as if—as if he would—as if—
"I understand," he tells the madam, voice almost even. "I'm just unlucky, I guess."
When she moves off, he leans in again, but not too close. He tries to appear casual.
"I'll come tonight," he says. "Just tell me when."
Lan Zhan looks at him in surprise. "I have a patron," he says.
Wei Wuxian has to look down at his lap to control himself, to beat back the useless rage at the proof that something has indeed been done to Lan Zhan. He has been harmed. He is not himself, not at all. His mind is not his own.
"I know," he says, feeling ill. "But I...I have to see you. Please? Just to talk."
He has to get Lan Zhan to see him alone, so they can get out. And he has to see him before his...patron...Wei Wuxian suppresses a shudder. He is going to kill Wen Xu for this. He is going to—no. No, Lan Zhan will get to kill him. When he's himself again. Yes. Lan Zhan will have revenge, will have justice.
"...Alright," Lan Zhan murmurs. "You may visit."
Wei Wuxian is strung so tightly with anger that he almost doesn’t feel the relief that some persistent part of Lan Zhan still recognizes him as his friend.
"Before him?" Wei Wuxian insists.
Lan Zhan nods. "As you wish."
Later, after the evening meal, Lan Wangji is yet to understand the strange feeling in his stomach. It began when that young man sat beside him, and grew stronger when he spoke as if they knew each other, when he flirted so shamelessly, and then so sweetly. It has not calmed since.
He tries to meditate to settle himself. He is a professional. He knows better than to allow emotions into his work. He goes through the motions—touching up his face, perfuming the sheets. He kneels to prepare himself: fingers, oil, the small phallus that helps spread it deeper.
All of these things he does as he has done them countless times, as he was taught so long ago, but tonight, there is something different about it. The sensation feels...new. And when he presses the phallus deeper, errant thoughts catch in his mind—of the boy from today, and his smile, and his artist's hands, and the fact that he will be here soon—and he gasps in surprise as pleasure makes him stiffen.
He pulls the phallus free, shaken. This is not how it normally feels. It is normally...
He tries to remember. He knows in his mind that it normally feels like nothing, perfunctory. Not something to enjoy—none of his work is, it is merely a job, a show to put on—but he cannot remember the feeling. His mind slides past such details until he feels dizzy. He gives up.
He puts his tools away and cleans his hands, attempting to clear his mind. But as he dons his thin, billowing silk robe, and cinches it, anticipation fizzles in his limbs.
The knock on his window startles him, though they agreed the young man should arrive that way.
He opens it swiftly, and the youth pulls himself gracefully inside.
The anticipation sparks into something hotter.
"Tea?" Lan Wangji asks, indicating the brew waiting on the table.
The young man looks at him strangely.
"...There isn't much time," he says. "Before...well. We have to go."
Lan Wangji blinks, and steps back. "Go," he repeats.
"Yeah, we have to get out before Wen Xu—Lan Zhan, I know something is really wrong, but we have to leave if we want to figure it out."
Lan Wangji frowns. That name again. "My name is Lan Wangji. I am bound to this house. I am not permitted to leave. If you wish to go, then go."
The young man gapes at him for a long moment, then shakes his head as if to clear it. He looks away, his jaw working.
"Sorry," he says at length. "I'm sorry. I got ahead of myself. I just...feel...like I know you, somehow. And I...I want to take you away from here."
Lan Wangji swallows past the unfamiliar thickness in his throat. He has heard of such ridiculous speeches made by pathetic patrons before. But he is once again shaken to find that this speech feels neither ridiculous nor pathetic.
He straightens, remembering himself. One of the first lessons he ever learned is that leaving this house is certain death.
Though he cannot remember how or when he learned it.
"I do not wish to leave my home. If you wish to go, then go," he repeats.
The young man sighs. "I'm not leaving you," he says. "I came here with a purpose."
Lan Wangji nods. He prefers bluntness to seduction. He steps forward, and begins to unbuckle the young man's belt.
"Ah, ah!" he says, pulling Lan Wangji's hands away.
They stare at each other.
"That's not what I meant," he says, but his breathlessness belies him.
Lan Wangji gently disengages from his hold, allowing that some seduction may be in order.
"Perhaps," he says, "but it is what I intended."
He watches the young man's throat bob as he swallows and shakes his head.
"I, ah, no. We...you see, I meant it when I said I just wanted to get to know you. And, so. This..."
"...is a way to get to know me."
"Hhhha," the young man breathes. "This is not, oh, no, this is not—"
Lan Wangji puts his hands back on the young man's belt, and he stops talking.
"This is what you are here for. If you disagree, you may leave," he says.
The young man is breathing hard under his hands, and he refuses to dwell on how much he likes it.
"Is there no...third option?"
He looks so wide-eyed, so vulnerable, that Lan Wangji wants to eat him whole. He realizes abruptly that this feeling, blazing through him like fire through a drought, is desire. He wants him, badly, as he has never wanted anything else. Has wanted him since he first entered the house.
It feels, impossibly, as if he has wanted him since long before even that.
He does not want him to go, or to talk with him and watch him tire of his rigidness as so many do. He knows only one way to keep him coming back.
"No," he says. "I will have you, or you will leave."
(Perceived dubcon ahead! Lan Wangji is very much acting on his own true desires, but Wei Wuxian won't know that just yet! And Wei Wuxian is also acting in accord with his desires, but believes himself to be taking advantage! Oops!
Also in case it wasn't clear this JUST happened, like, in the span of a day or two, so any "memories" Lan Wangji has are false. He's never done any of this before.)
The young man looks as if Lan Wangji has just hit him over the head. Lan Wangji takes this opportunity to unbuckle the belt and toss it to the side, then pluck loose the knot of his outer robes.
"Wait, wait," the young man breathes.
He puts his hands over Lan Wangji's to still them again. They are slightly smaller, rough but warm. Gentle.
"I don't think I can actually. I don't think—"
Lan Wangji loses patience.
"The heir of a great sect will be here in less than a shichen, and my mistress has ways of checking if I am working, or preparing—if I am idle, she will know. And she will come and cast you out."
"She has cultivators. Powerful ones. And soldiers to do her bidding."
The young man stares at him. Lan Wangji steps back, and folds his hands in front of him.
"Decide," he says, eyes on the floor. He is not one to beg, though he cannot remember having the urge to, before now.
"It's not that I...don't want," the young man begins, "I just...it's not fair to...since you..."
This is enough for Lan Wangji. He steps forward again, and makes quick work of the few dark layers between him and his goal. The young man's breath is hot and quick against his skin, giving him goosebumps, a tingling sensation he has never felt before.
"Lan—" the young man cuts off. "Gongzi. Are you certain? You.."
Something snaps in Lan Wangji, and he leans in and kisses him, quick, something he
knows he should never do. It is too intimate, too personal, and what's more, it does not do to smudge one's makeup before the main event.
But it shocks him, shocks both of them, if the young man's face is anything to go by. They stare at each other as the lightning fades from Lan Wangji's veins.
And then he does it again.
He lingers, this time, though not long. He should not smudge the paint. But he cannot help it. When he pulls away, the young man's mouth is stained darker. He wants to taste it. Thoroughly.
He shakes the feeling off, and composes himself before going to his knees.
The young man goes rigid in front of him. "Oh," he says, "that's not—"
Lan Wangji presses a hand against him through his trousers, and he cuts off with a punched-out noise. It is...satisfying. Deeply. Unexpectedly. Lan Wangji pulls the fabric down, sets his hand to hot flesh, and is gratified by the low noise it elicits. But he cannot seem to look up from his task.
He does not ever remember being so focused, so mesmerized by this action before. He does not remember seeing this body part and feeling desire, touching it and wanting more. But he does now.
He strokes it with purpose, and watches it harden further in his hand. His mouth waters. A gasp above him draws his attention, and he looks up. The young man's beautiful face is open with shock, dazed, but his hands are fisted in his open robes.
On an instinct he has never had before, Lan Wangji reaches up with his free hand and gently pries one fist free, to lace their fingers together. He does not look away from his wide, lovely eyes as he leans in, and drags the flat of his tongue up the shaft.
The young man's mouth falls open, his fingers tightening in Lan Wangji’s grasp.
"Fuck," he murmurs with feeling.
Lan Wangji hums and does it again. He uses his tongue and his fingers with skill, mindful still of the delicate paint on his face, until the young man is fully hard and beginning to drip. Lan Wangji catches some with the tip of his tongue, and though the taste is not pleasant, he wishes he could taste more. The dichotomy of this troubles him, but distantly, as does that of the tightness and pleasantness of the grip on his hand. It hurts, but in combination with the sounds of labored breathing and muffled groans, he likes it very much. At one particularly labored gasp from above him, Lan Wangji sits back on his heels and reaches for the young man's boots. This seems to startle him.
"Ah! No, no, let me," he says, leaning down.
Lan Wangji would normally not protest. But he catches his hand, firm.
"Allow me," he says.
They lock eyes, the young man's wide and dark with pleasure, with desire, and something else Lan Wangji does not wish to understand just now.
"Alright," the young man says softly, as if defeated. "Alright."
Lan Wangji removes his boots, and pulls his trousers off. He does not allow himself time to look, to appreciate his easy grace, the well-shaped planes and curves of him.
"On the bed," he says instead.
The young man lets out a shaky breath and does as he's told. Lan Wangji stands and looks at him, perched on the edge, nervous. He goes to him, and brushes a hand across his cheek before removing his simple guan and his vivid red ribbon, letting his masses of soft hair fall free. He runs his fingers through it, automatic, as if he has always meant to, though he has never done so before.
They are staring at each other again, something conflicted and pleading in the young man's expression.
"Will you lie back?" Lan Wangji asks.
"Yes," he says, closing his eyes.
But he does not move at first, simply nuzzles his head into Lan Wangji's hold, and breathes deeply. Lan Wangji waits, and lets him, his impatience fading under the weight of a deep, ancient fondness. It is terrifying. Lan Wangji holds onto it like a lifeline.
Eventually, the young man does move. He presses his lips to Lan Wangji's palm with a furtive glance at his face before pushing back. Lan Wangji's palm tingles as he watches him scoot over and lie down. He does look, then, his eyes selfish and thoughtless and hungry for the muscles of his stomach, the dark jut of his cock, the strength of his thighs. He climbs onto the bed after him and does not even think of stopping himself before dropping another short kiss to his lips.
"Be still," he murmurs to him.
He nods jerkily, blinking as if coming awake. Lan Wangji kneels astride him, and settles the silk of his robe so that it does not catch or drag. Elegance and ease are important aspects of what he does. Then he slips a hand beneath the hem, behind him, and around the cock beneath him. He holds it steady, and lines himself up to sink down on it.
He is not prepared for the way it feels. For the hot stretch, the interminable, filling pressure.
He gasps for air, momentarily confused by his shock, but that strange dizziness drives it from his mind, and he settles. He breathes, though his lungs try to spasm. His thighs shake, but he lowers himself slowly.
"Oh," breathes the young man, "oh, fuck, ah—"
The sound of his voice blooms warm and familiar in Lan Wangji's chest, and all at once, everything feels very, very good. He sinks down farther, taking more of him, circling his hips, leaning into the pleasure that lies just past the burn.
"Oh," he breathes, as his own cock twitches. It has never been hard during this before. In fact he is not certain if it has ever been this hard. "Oh."
The young man is heaving beneath him, a sheen of sweat glowing on his tan skin.
His hands are fisted in the bedding, pretty mouth open in pleasure. Lan Wangji rests a hand on his hard stomach as he seats himself fully.
"Is it good?" he asks, breathless and shaky, but somehow needing to know. He has never needed to be told before. "Does it feel good?"
"Yes," the young man groans. Lan Wangji can see him straining to keep still. "Yes, it feels, yes. Please, Lan—ah, fuck...please."
Lan Wangji wants to kiss him, filthy and deep. He does not. He breathes, and lifts himself up, then grinds down, the beads of his hair ornaments clinking. They both make satisfied sounds, and Lan Wangji knows he cannot control himself much longer, his careful restraint fraying. He moves again, slow and purposeful, though it is possibly driving him insane.
"Would—oh—would gongzi like," he says with difficulty, "to see what he does to me?"
There is a ripping sound as the young man's fist jerks, tearing the bedding.
"Yes," he groans tightly, "yes, fuck, oh, Lan Zh—fuck."
Lan Wangji does yet another thing he should not, and unties his sash, unraveling the costume. He rips it away, and opens the robes to put his whole self on display. The young man groans, his hands reaching out, then stopping.
"So beautiful," he says, quiet. Fiercely reverent.
His hips buck up into Lan Wangji, and a hot surge of pleasure courses through him, ripping a moan from his chest.
"Fuck," the young man says, "I—I'm sorry—"
"Please," Lan Wangji begs, beyond all reason now, "please, oh—"
The young man fucks up into him again, and he almost collapses with the force of pleasure, his back arching, his head falling, his muscles failing briefly. The young man reaches out for him again, but still stops himself.
"Touch me," Lan Wangji rasps, taking hold of one of his wrists. He places it on his waist, and the sudden, squeezing grip forms a strange, pitiful sound in his throat.
The young man holds onto him, and fucks him, and murmurs praise, and Lan Wangji goes weak. He falls, bracing himself on the bed.
"Oh," he groans, "please."
The young man wraps both arms around him and rolls, pressing him down into the bed, pressing down into him with all his weight, with new force. Lan Wangji's vision begins to go dark.
"Yes," he breathes, "yes, Wei Ying, oh—"
The young man gasps, moans, "Lan Zhan," and fucks him deeper, shaking as he comes.
Lan Wangji's world goes blindingly white, and then black.
When his vision clears, the young man is lying beside him, watching him. His beautiful hair is a damp, tangled mess, and his robes trail from his shoulders, but his eyes are bright and intent. With such a face so close, and so open, Lan Wangji finds it difficult to recover his breath.
"You remember?" the young man asks.
His lovely face clouds with confusion. "You said my name."
Lan Wangji blinks at him. "Your name?"
He frowns. "You said it, just now. When we were..."
With effort, Lan Wangji thinks back to just moments before.
"Wei Ying," he says. The syllables feel good in his mouth. Familiar.
Wei Ying smiles, heartbreakingly sunny. "My name. You remembered it."
Lan Wangji shakes his head, confusion making the dizziness threaten the edge of his mind. "I have never heard it before."
The young man—Wei Ying—looks devastated, and drops his face into the bedding.
"Why do I know it?" Lan Wangji asks, his heart beating hard.
Wei Ying shakes his head.
"I...I can’t explain it," he says. "I...knew yours too, before you said it.
"You called me Lan Zhan."
Wei Ying groans. "That was...a joke. It was dumb. But I...knew your name was Lan Wangji. And that...you like rabbits. And...I just..."
He lifts up his head to look at him. He looks miserable. "I knew you. You don't...feel like you know me?"
Lan Wangji considers him, though trying to think clearly with his body still humming and wrung out is difficult. He fights past it all, past the encroaching dizzying blur, and finds…he did...does…feel. Something strange and inexplicable for him.
"...Yes," he says. "I do."
"Lan...Lan Wangji," says Wei Ying. He goes up on his elbows to look down at him, serious. "I think...I...I don't know what I'll do if you make me leave here without you. I think we're fated. It's meant to be you and me, and I—I want. I don't want to leave you...ever again."
This declaration is nonsensical. It is horrifyingly emotional, and unrealistic, and Lan Wangji deeply, deeply feels the same. It is the scariest thing he has ever heard.
"Wei Ying," he says.
Wei Ying nods, his expression grim. "Come with me, right now. Nothing else matters—I'm a cultivator, and I can bring you to a great sect. You'll be safe, and...you'll be with me."
Lan Wangji sits up, feeling blindsided and confused. His heart is beating hummingbird-quick.
"I know this is a lot," says Wei Ying, "but we have to go now. Before...before your patron comes."
"And if you don't want me then...let me at least—"
Finally, finally, Lan Wangji gives in. He kisses him, slow and deep and with no concern for the paint on his face. When he pulls away, Wei Ying is looking at him with an embarrassingly unguarded, happy expression. He looks away, his ears heating.
Wei Ying takes his hand.
"Let's get dressed. I'll fly us away.
~~THE NEXT DAY~~
Wei Wuxian knocks on Lan Zhan's door with a heavy heart.
They got into Qinghe very late, and he's been up all night in their library looking for answers. He's never been so depressed to solve a puzzle in his life. He just hopes Lan Zhan listened to him and hasn't gone out or spoken to anyone.
Well. He hopes other things, too. But he's staunchly not thinking of them just now.
Lan Zhan opens the door, and smiles when he sees its him.
Wei Wuxian's heart sinks further.
"Hey," he says, "sorry, I, um, had something to work on. But it's finished."
Lan Zhan nods, and sits at the table to set out teacups.
"Actually I...need your help."
Lan Zhan looks up at him. "My help?"
"Mn," Wei Wuxian nods. "I have to...ah, have an extra set of hands, to...make something."
"But I have no knowledge of cultivation,” Lan Zhan says.
Wei Wuxian just barely stops himself from making a horrible face at the awful wrongness of it.
"That's okay," he says. "I just...would rather do it with you."
Lan Zhan's ears go pink, his face gently pleased. Wei Wuxian thinks very hard about all the ways he's going to have to punish himself for all of this once it's over.
He draws the array he found, with a few modifications, and gets Lan Zhan to stand in the middle of it.
"Okay," he says, "now copy what I do, and picture a dam breaking, and clear water overflowing riverbanks."
Lan Zhan gives him a quizzical look, but nods. Wei Wuxian guides him through the motions of unlocking spiritual energy.
He gasps, and his eyes go clouded as he had seen them do briefly the night before. He teeters, body locking up with the effects of the memory curse. Wei Wuxian activates the array. It lights up, and so does Lan Zhan. For a brief moment, he looks weightless, suspended, bathed in the bright white glow. Inhumanly beautiful.
And then it flares out, and Wei Wuxian rushes forward to steady him. Lan Zhan blinks, brow furrowed. Confused. He looks down at the array, and then seems to notice Wei Wuxian's hands on his arm. He stares at them. And then, very slowly, looks up at Wei Wuxian.
"Lan Zhan," Wei Wuxian says, "are you back?"
Suddenly, Lan Zhan stumbles away from him, eyes wide. Wei Wuxian has a pang of terror that he's done something wrong, that he's made it even worse.
"Lan Zhan? Are you alright?"
Lan Zhan's eyes catch on the table, on the hair ornaments he was wearing the day before. He casts about.
"Bichen," he says. "Where is Bichen?"
A tiny reprieve of relief tugs at Wei Wuxian's joints at the name.
"I'm sorry, I don't know. I think Wen Xu has it."
Lan Zhan blanches, and then his face goes more livid than Wei Wuxian has ever seen it. He looks like fury personified. Wei Wuxian takes a step back, toward the door. He watches Lan Zhan's fists curl, watches his posture tighten, his anger hardening to stone, to ice.
"I will kill him," Lan Zhan bites out.
Wei Wuxian nods. "You will."
It seems to alert Lan Zhan to his continued presence. He looks at him, surprised, and drops his eyes to the floor.
"You can kill me, too, if you like," says Wei Wuxian. It comes out too lightly. It's not a joke.
Lan Zhan flinches. "Wei Ying."
"I'll go," he says. "Now that you're fine. You can decide on that later."
"No!" Lan Zhan lurches toward him, then stops. He's breathing hard. "Thank you," he says. "For...saving my life."
And then folds himself down to kneel.
"I am sorry."
He touches his forehead to the floor before Wei Wuxian can stop him.
"Lan Zhan!" Wei Wuxian shouts, pulling him up. "Don't. Don't!"
Lan Zhan fights him to stay kneeling, so Wei Wuxian gives up and kneels beside him, pushing him away from the floor.
"Stop it. Lan Zhan, stop, please don't apologize to me."
"I cannot ask your forgiveness," Lan Zhan insists, still fighting. "Please tell this one—"
"Lan Zhan!" Wei Wuxian shouts, shaking him by the shoulders. "Stop. Don't apologize. I should be the one apologizing. I...should have gotten you out, not—taken advantage of—"
Lan Zhan is shaking his head, eyes wide with horror. "I gave you no choice. I made you. I forced you to—"
"Everything I said to you was true," says Wei Wuxian.
Lan Zhan stares at him.
"That...I think we're fated. And I never...never want to leave you again. And that I wanted all of it. It's true." Wei Wuxian lets go of him, fighting back tears. "I wanted it. Before, since—for a long time. So you can take your revenge on me, too, Lan Zhan. It's my fault." He hangs his head. "I'm sorry. You can hate me. You can do whatever you want to me."
It's a long time before Lan Zhan speaks.
Wei Wuxian spends all of it deep in anguish.
"Wei Ying," Lan Zhan says, hoarse. "My memory was...not mine. But the things I wanted. The things I did." He takes a breath. "They were."
At first, Wei Wuxian thinks he's misunderstood. He glances at him, and finds his expression distressingly open.
He looks down. "I have...wanted. I have dreamed. Of—"
Wei Wuxian finds himself clutching the front of Lan Wangji's robes.
"Lan Zhan. Can I kiss you? Would that be—"
They stare at each other, breath equally ragged in the silence.
"Yes," says Lan Zhan, looking dazed.
So Wei Wuxian does. He kisses him, and kisses him, and after a stunned moment, Lan Zhan kisses him back.
Wei Wuxian feels as light as the first time he flew his sword. He feels as powerful as the first time he destroyed a monster. When he pulls away, Lan Zhan stops him with a hand fisted in his robes. He's breathing hard, his eyes alight. His mouth is almost as red as it was when it was painted.
"Again," he says.
Wei Wuxian smiles, and does as he's told.
(Lan Wangji absolutely kills Wen Xu before the Cloud Recesses ever burn, which creates a different but more manageable set of problems. Everyone you love lives, everyone you hate dies, and Lan Wangji and Wei Wuxian live happily ever after. The end!)
Damaged Doll: Chapter 3
Summary: Angeal and Zack discover a man in all black trapped under boulders in the mountains near Icicle Village. They notice things are extremely wrong about this man, but one thing demands their attention: mako blue eyes with slit pupils. Sephiroth will want to see this. And meeting him only raises more questions than answers. But what happens when this blonde is face to face with the silver general himself?
Based on this prompt by @im-totally-not-an-alien
Chapter 3: A Link
A short pause filled the room, snake like eyes bearing into each other, one with utter obsession, the other with incurable curiosity.
Sephiroth’s throat hitched, despite all of his planning, all of his preparation. It was his mother, the woman he was punished for asking about. The connection he never had but desperately needed, no matter how many times he was told he was better, different, and had no need for such pointless connections. He could finally learn about his mother. He took one last breath to clear it before asking, “How do you know my mother’s name?” He hoped this would be the least complicated question, or at least the least complicated answer he’d receive tonight. “How do you know my mother is Jenova?”
“It’s the name you know, therefore the name she took,” He answered simply, like that explained anything, “Your hair and the shape of your eyes are the same as hers.”
He knew he should be smarter than this, much more cautious of the abnormal answer, but a childish longing held his rational mind hostage as he answered mindlessly, “She looked like me?”
“What was she like…?” His voice was small, and he received an almost caring, empathetic look from the blonde.
“Powerful. Intelligent. A tactician. A savior to so many.” He paused as he hunted for an answer. “…She was caring. Kind. Beautiful.” A wistful expression claimed the patient’s slitted eyes, which, peculiarly, expanded like a cat’s in the dark. “You’re so much like her, My prince.”
The general forced down the bubble of warmth from the comparison calmly, attempting to focus on his goal. “How did you know her?”
“Your mother created me.” He answered truthfully, but that wasn’t possible. His age seemed about the same as Sephiroth’s.
Cloud lifted his head in confusion for a moment before nodding. “Yes. She created me from the stone and glass in the north.”
Sephiroth only raised a brow, but Cloud did not continue.
Instead, he returned to a different topic, a bit of explanation before he planned to continue his answer evident in his voice. “When your mother came to this planet, she-”
“Stop,” He ordered in bewilderment, shaking his head and hands softly in wait, gaining instant silence. He always showed more emotion when it came to his mother. “‘This Planet’?”
The blonde looked down, folding his hands neatly in his lap before raising his eyes hesitantly. “Forgive me, My prince, I must ask...” it was the first time his voice faltered in front of Sephiroth, matching his currently fractured state. “What do you know of your mother…?”
Sephiroth’s heart dropped at the question, his confusion replaced with the ever gaping hole in his chest. The color vanished from his face. “Her name was Jenova. And she died giving birth to me.” He did not meet the gaze of the patient as he finished, refusing to see the reaction to the statement he told no one before, “That’s all I know.” He closed his eyes to center himself, and he heard the patient breathe deeply in thought, analysis, interrogation, determination.
“Yet you’ve come so far…” Was that surprise, the smallest hint, in the raspy voice? Then it was back to steel, the solid tone he only used to Him. “...Your mother would be proud.”
Sephiroth’s chest warmed again, and with a nearly sad expression on his face, he didn’t fight it.
“Please, let me explain, My prince.”
He sighed softly and nodded, his signal to continue.
The blonde completely understood. “Your mother was not from this planet.” Sephiroth nearly jerked in question, and though he did not ask, the blonde knew exactly what he wanted to know. “The humans would call her an alien, but she is so much more than an extraterrestrial.” His change in tense was noticed, but the general swallowed to soothe his inquiring mind, despite the cautiousness slowly stirring within. “She was a godsend. Multiple planets would call out to her when their beings were in danger due to the lifeforms they could not control. And after aiding them, she ruled them as queen. This planet, the Lifestream itself, cried. And she answered.”
Sephiroth opened and closed his mouth once, like a guppy, too many questions colliding that only one stuttered to escape. “H-How?”
“A meteor. I believe…the crater should still be there.”
“The Northern Crater?”
Cloud nodded. “Yes.”
The silver general shook his head, denying this explanation. This was nonsense, a terrible waste of time. You're insane. Completely insane or delusional. After the state he was found in, the general wasn’t surprised, just disappointed. Perhaps it was brain damage from the boulders. Perhaps it was the unspecified length of solitude. Perhaps he was never well, and that’s how he ended up in that cave in the first place.
“My prince, please wait,” The blonde begged when Sephiroth took a step toward the door, and the general gave him a tired look. “Please, I speak the truth, but it…” He trailed off, then closed his eyes and breathed. “It may not seem possible today. This world has changed so much. But your mother remains the same. Please, what other questions do you have about her?”
Is he using my own mother to justify this asinine story? Is he trying to control me just because our eyes are the same? The slightest counter shone out of the inhuman eyes.
Cloud’s eyes widened in defeat, before he closed the lids and bowed his head, dread settling in his features as the fire dwindled. “I have bothered you. I’ll stop…”
“Tell me something I don’t know,” Sephiroth stated suddenly, even surprising himself with the burst of his thoughts before turning to the blonde with a cold expression. One last chance. “Tell me something I don’t know.” That’s even remotely possible, the silent half of his sentence was caught as well.
Cloud took a pained breath, then paused, analyzing his mind and the room for what he could believably explain. “...Do you truly believe your mother is dead…?”
His heart dropped, the hook ripping through his walls and reeling him in completely.
“How many times were you told…?”
“Once.” His eyes winced closed, the memory excruciating as it overwhelmed every cell in his body, dragging him down to the depths of the suppressed and fragile mind. Back to a little boy, stronger than any machine or monster they threw at him, special and different and above all else, though he never believed it. He was barely strong enough, barely as strong as they wanted, finally making his… finally making someone proud of him.
He’d be leaving for Wutai in a week, his life no longer dictated by every word out of Hojo’s cruel mouth. He’d be the first SOLDIER, out of the lab, in the field, in the real world.
Maybe he’d finally feel rain.
But Hojo, for the first time in his life, offered him a gift, any gift within reason, the only shred of joy the scientist ever offered. The opportunity.
“Make your decision while I'm feeling sentimental, boy.”
Though he fidgeted in his spot as he thought, the minute of silence that passed did not change his question. He prepared for the argument, the yelling he couldn’t capture in his throat when Hojo inevitably went back on the deal after hearing what he wanted. Clothes, weapons, equipment, he wanted none of those things, nothing material. He took a breath before forcing his eyes to the scientist.
“...Okay. I’ve made my choice.”
He felt the gaze burn through the black glasses as the scientist crossed his arms, an annoyed gesture to tell him to continue.
One more breath. One last attempt at steeling himself. “I want to know about my parents.” He felt the white hot burn from the white reflection in the back glasses in his heart. “Both of them. That’s the only thing I want.”
Hojo nearly stood and tensed in response, analyzing him, calculating his mind. The glare and pause nearly stung his skin, but he refused to back down. “You’re better than this. You know you’re better than this.”
“It’s not an attachment-”
“Then what is it, boy?” The scientist spat. “Is it curiosity? Is that the lie you’re about to tell me? That you don’t care about the answer? You ‘just’ want to know?”
Like glass, cracking at the force of the words. “I won’t ask again… Please… Just once...” He nearly whined, his voice as small as a field mouse. “That’s all I want…”
He couldn’t read the expression on the professor’s face. He didn’t know what to prepare for. The silence felt like an eternity. And when the professor moved a hand slowly, he actively forced his eyes to remain on his target.
“You get one gift,” the scientist seethed while holding up an index finger. “So choose. Which parent do you ‘care’,” the professor nearly gagged at the thought, “about more?”
He froze at the challenge, his anxious movement vanished into ice, a shocked look on his face, his mouth agape and his eyes accusatory. He had to pick between his mother or his father? When he’d never know either? How would he know if he made the right decision? Hojo’s mind was made up. He knew there was no room for argument. Why would Hojo do this to him?
“Which one, Sephiroth?”
“Make a choice.”
Clear as a window.
“My mother!” He spat out so quickly the scientist flinched and tilted a head ever so slightly in confusion. “My mother. I choose my mother...” His strength failed him and his eyes fell to the ground, guilt pumping through his veins. Why did Hojo make him choose? Why…? He kept his eyes down until Hojo spoke again, his mouth dry as a bone.
“Her name was Jenova.”
Sephiroth’s blue eyes widened as he repeated the name for the first time. “Jenova...”
“Yes.” The scientist spat. “And she died. Giving birth to you.”
He didn’t see a shred of lie or truth beyond the black glasses. He tried to breathe, he tried to speak, but he was spellbound by the guilt in his heart and the scientist dangling the organ over a floor of swords, always ready to drop. It made sense, why he never saw her, why he didn’t have a single memory of her. It hurt. Gods it hurt, his chest tightening, but he had to keep trying, anything he could get. He swallowed hard, his hand twitching in shock. “What was she like…?”
The scientist scoffed. “No.”
Why? Why not?
“No, I gave you your gift. That’s all.”
“Don’t pull this on me,” Hojo growled. “I answered your question, now go.”
He instinctually stepped toward the man. “Please, Hojo!”
“Step back, Sephiroth.”
But he couldn’t stop his mindless pleading and eyes from watering when he moved One. Step. Closer. “Please!”
The last memory forced upon him was the crack against his cheek, that sent him stumbling back despite all his strength.
When Sephiroth finally returned to reality, finally outside the prison of his memories, he found himself standing at the center of the same room, but with the blonde’s arms wrapped around him and pulled tightly to him. A hug. He glanced at the clock for confirmation. Only a few seconds had passed. Maybe five, or ten? Did he...dissociate? This has never happened before.
“Who did this to you, My prince?” was all he spoke, embers growing to a small flame. He was shorter, the soldier realized, the first time he stood for anyone, his head politely pulled away from the opening of skin in the leather jacket, the palms of his yellow hair softly brushing the soldier’s chin.
Sephiroth was at a loss for words.
“You do not need to explain anything. Please answer when you’re ready. Who did this to you?” Cloud tightened his grip, his posture a rock, a ground to focus his prince.
The silver general, the silver soldier, the first SOLDIER, the little boy cowering away from the experiments, the tiny kid crying from each failure, each break, each cut, each bruise, every emotion in his very being screamed over the whisper of logic trying to break through. His arms moved impulsively, like a desperate child, starved for attention and affection, and gripped the shoulders of the injured blonde across the smaller body.
Cloud did not ask again, but patted the space on the back between the large pauldrons, petting the space of leather soothingly.
Then he found himself removing one hand and pulling the blonde to his chest, with no resistance. It felt…nice, to have someone so close to him, the vaguest memory of a stuffed chocobo dashing through his mind, the fluff of the fur delicate and comforting. The similar color almost coaxed him into leaning his face into the dandelion of hair, perhaps even breathing in a scent of something other than this solitary lab. So many memories…why now? He searched his thoughts for an answer, the silence only aiding his tracking mind.
…his mother. It tied to her, didn’t it? Whether the blonde was telling the truth he sought all his life, or a story fabricated by a tortured and damaged mind, he didn't know. He did not believe the tale, of course, but he felt a connection. A deep connection.
“...Hojo did this…” His deep voice boomed softly, and the blonde only nodded in confirmation. The only noise in the room was their tensioned breaths and the occasional beep of the medical machines. Maybe a minute of peace passed through them.
But then they felt something, and Sephiroth let go and took a step back as they both glared at the observation window. The speaker in the ceiling clicked on.
“Apologies.” That was absolutely a new hire, stuck on the absolute worst shift for specimen monitorization: zero-hundred to zero-seven-hundred hours. “Visiting hours are 9AM to 12AM, and the patient should not be standing. Please help the patient return to the bed, then leave the room. Thank you.” Another click notified the shut off of the microphone and speaker.
The blonde’s head was bowed again. “Forgive me.”
His silver brows knotted in confusion as his gaze returned to the blonde. “For what?” Only now did he realize the blonde was balanced on one foot, the damaged leg dangling in the air.
“I disobeyed your order to stay in bed.”
Sephiroth shook his head. “Don’t apologize. Here,” He stepped toward the blonde with his hands out, “Let me help.”
Cloud shook his head and held his arms out to stop him. “My prince, I can’t let you- nh-” He was already lifted and back in the bed before he could finish, grabbing his sides to soothe the pain from movement and failing at concealing his low, pained grunt.
“Are your ribs okay?” The soldier asked, scanning the other set of eyes for the truth.
The blonde nodded quickly. “Yes. Thank you, My prince.”
Sephiroth cringed at another use of the faux title. “Please don’t call me that.” He moved to the exit.
Cloud tilted his head, and spoke as the door slid open. “What would you like to be called?”
“My name,” Sephiroth spoke softly, too tired, too confused as to what just happened to continue, why it happened, and left the patient alone in the hospital-like room.
* * *
Hojo. Will. Die. For the pain he caused My prince. But he had to be careful. He was strong enough to kill the scientist if he got close, but he wasn’t strong enough to get away with it. It angered him greatly, his hands itching to break holes in the wall. Whatever his prince had to endure as a child still haunted his prince now. But he had to control these impulses. He would not make the same mistake again. His prince deserved the perfection he failed to give his queen. Now he needed to weld the connection they both shared. He already looked back fondly on the moment in the middle of the night, finally treated as what he was. He was a weapon for her use. But he was also a tool for comfort. A toy for a child, a stuffed animal to hold for safety. Cloud almost smiled at the memory as he stared at the walls. But he was still being watched. Again.
When the scientist, no… when Hojo finally entered, Cloud was informed he should not attempt anything with his leg for at least a month. But the longer he’s weakend, the longer that bastard lives.
However, the scientist raised a hand and made a gesture toward the room through the one way glass. Almost immediately, the door opened to a young girl with red hair in mostly black clothing, a rougher fabric than what he was given. She adjusted a white bag in her hands, and nodded to the professor upon entry.
“She’s a part of the Turks,” Hojo explained. “An elite program, a type of special forces here. They investigate, interrogate, exterminate, basically whatever we see fit,” He spoke with power behind the ‘T’, then gestured to the woman. “This is Cissnei. She’ll be teaching you everything you need to know.”
Cloud carefully moved his eyes to the scientist. “What specifically…?”
“Well, what you’ve missed the past two thousand years,” he stated as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. “We can’t expect you to assimilate into our society easily, but perhaps you can find someplace with more knowledge. In return for my research, of course.”
His predatory eyes narrowed for a fraction of a second before he returned to calm and collected. “Very well...”
He scribbled something before clipping the pen to the board. “Glad you agree. Now excuse me.” Then he left, without another glance to either of them, though Cloud watched his location, even through the mirrored window.
The red haired girl approached him while he wasn't looking, and she only met his eyes when she was an inch away from the bed, gently placing the bag in his lap. “These are the clothes you were found in. We highly recommend excluding your pants to let your leg heal.”
Cloud was already opening the back like a child with a gift, pulling out his coat first and analyzing the sown scratches.
“We had them cleaned and repaired. We hope you’re satisfied.” She took the open seat as he continued to scan, frowning as he ran his thumb along the new patches.
Then he looked up to her and moved the clothes to his side. “Thank you...”
She nodded in response. “They said your throat will take another day or two to fully heal. After that it shouldn’t hurt so much to talk.”
He nodded in appreciation. Then he noticed her gloves. Both black, but only one covered her whole hand. She was a part of some kind of special force, right? The Turks? “What kind of weapon requires those gloves…?”
Cissnei had to look down at them to notice what he was talking about. She didn't think about them anymore. “Oh, these?” she held them up for a better view. “They’re the most effective for using a large shuriken.”
He tilted his head, so she elaborated.
“A type of throwing star.” She scanned him as well. “Do you know what that is?”
He shook his head.
“Well,” she almost laughed, “Then let’s start your lessons there.”
Cloud appreciated her aid, kindly smiling as she explained whatever she knew about their world, with him asking questions as she went on. But he hated where this aid came from. He needed to learn about this changed world, yes, and she seemed kind enough. Yet she is tied to her job. Perhaps learning her loyalty to this special program would aid him in his coming cover-up. He needed an opportunity, and he still needed it while he looked innocent. No more mistakes. No more failures. Everything must be perfectly clean. Not a drop of blood will tie back to him.
Thanks for reading!
Author's Notes: New baby Sephiroth content will not change this story. I already finished that section before the announcement. Though I am EXTREMELY excited to see the little Babyroth! (Check tags for more notes)