Gotta finally get my flower meanings on- hydrangeas mean 'apology' and my heart said 'make them suffer', so here we are :D

"I'm sorry."

It's soft, so soft Lan Xichen almost doesn't hear it over the gentle patter of light rain outside. He glances over, as if somehow he'll see someone else in this prison of his own creation, as if guilt and regret would allow him even a glimpse of a happier time. Rain continues to fall, filling the painful silence that stretches in the empty, empty room. He sighs and looks back down at the thick book of rules on the table. He knows the words by heart, but nothing in them has helped quell the conflicting emotions in his heart.

A droplet of rain water hangs fat and heavy from the roof, and in the split second before it falls, Lan Xichen swears he sees a face in it, one so familiar it hurts. Loneliness hurts, being the last of the three of them hurts, and living in a world without either of them by his side had never occurred to him.

"I never meant for you to get hurt," whispers on the wind, like a caress that Lan Xichen has craved and missed, and a touch so delicate it feels like a single breath could break it drifts over his cheek. He holds his breath: 1, 2, 3, and-

"I'm sorry," he hears again, still quiet, so very quiet he almost can't recognize it. Jin Guangyao spent his whole life cultivating confidence and an ability to say the right thing at the right time in the best way possible, but all he hears now is the open, nervous honesty of Meng Yao. It's nostalgic but not quite comforting, and Lan Xichen closes his eyes.

The scene in the Guanyin Temple in Yunping has burned itself into his eyelids and every time he tries to escape the guilt and loneliness that haunts his daily life, he's reminded of it: the desperate look of betrayal in Jin Guangyao's eyes, the blood and gore and deeply physical distrust, the sickening crack as-

A rustle near his ear, like fine silks rubbing together, and-

"Zewu-Jun, please. I'm sorry, I'm so sorry," he repeats, a tempting fantasy to believe. "Brother-"

"A-Yao," he whispers, resigned to the nightmare of a closure he'll never get, and opens his eyes.

It's gone in a flash, like a memory of a dream, leaving Lan Xichen all the lonelier. He'll never get a true closure but he never asked for his explanation- just a friend, a confidant, a shoulder to lean on, cry on, laugh on, and he'll never stop being haunted by every lost moment together.

"I miss you," Lan Xichen confesses, and it reverberates around him, an answered plea, and he wants-

I'm sorry.