I like to follow up all my fluff with major character (un)death! :D

Warning for "light necrophilia" aka fierce corpses kisses. Despite running two different polls on twitter, I still can't decide if fierce corpses count as full on necrophilia or not...so I guess make of that what you will?


Darkness spreads around him, away from him, all-encompassing, until Lan Xichen is sure he's nothing more than a forgotten speck in the great, expansive universe- until he feels nothing, until he remembers nothing, until—

"Wake up," a quiet voice says against his ear, as gentle as a lover's caress, and he has never wanted to obey something so much in his existence.

Lan Xichen gets up- something that feels unfamiliarly difficult, because nothing moves the way he expects it to. It's not a fluid, graceful motion; how long was he laying down for his limbs to be so stiff and jerky? The world swims into focus as he looks for the source of the pleasantly commanding voice, and only finds Jin Guangyao.

"A-Yao?" he asks, and even talking feels strange, different, and new. Something isn't right, but he can't quite reach it. There are foggy memories of a fight, of screaming and pleading voices, and no more.

"You're awake," he says with the practiced calm that Lan Xichen recognizes from Jin Guangyao's tensest moments, when he's had time to prepare but not quite enough to calm down."How do you feel?"

He tries to take a breath to calm his own nerves and instead finds that he cannot. He can go through the motions, but they don't properly draw air into his lungs. Nothing is moving right, from the stiffness of his limbs to the way every sense strains through a muffled filter, and he can't stop staring at Jin Guangyao's faked calm and the apprehension in his eyes.

"I feel different," he answers honestly, and Jin Guangyao's laugh is hollow.

"I'm sorry then. But it was what I had to do, to- to keep you around," he says. He stops meeting Lan Xichen's gaze when his words turn vague, and doesn't explain further. Instead, he slips a knife he must have been holding back into his robes and clutches Liebing with his other hand.

Something is wrong.

"What did you do?" Lan Xichen asks, even though the pieces are already trying to come together through his muddled thoughts.

"What I had to."

"What—"

Jin Guangyao's gaze snaps back to meet his. "I couldn't leave you for dead," he begins, slowly making his way over to Lan Xichen, eyes bright with determination now. "After all these years, after so much, to have you fall from a night hunt gone wrong, interrupted by incompetent, useless cultivators who—"

He breaks off, taking a deep breath to steady himself. His grip on Liebing shifts and he reaches up to rest a hand on Lan Xichen's cheek. "Er-ge, I couldn't lose you. Forgive me for this, please."

His touch is- it's a distant bit of pressure, and he only knows anything more detailed because he can see it. There's a terrible weight of knowledge making itself know, and Lan Xichen thinks that no one should have be forced to know the feeling of their own death. He can't even react fully, not through the dampened haze of a fierce corpse's existence, not—

There are too many questions now, too many to think about, and he can't even feel properly overwhelmed.

"Er-ge," Jin Guangyao says simply, letting his hand drop. He opens his mouth to speak and thinks better of it, shaking his head.

"How?" Lan Xichen finally asks, trying to address this mess one issue at a time. He knows that the LanlingJin Sect acquired many of the Yiling Patriarch's notes, but he'd always assumed they were merely another spoil of war, sitting untouched in the treasure room.

"How else does one wake up a corpse?" he asks sardonically.

His possession of Liebing makes much more sense now. "Why would you do this?"

"Because—" Jin Guangyao chokes out. "I had to. It worked."

"A-Yao—"

"What do you want me to say, Er-ge? That I did it because I couldn't bear to see you dead? Because I'm selfish?" he snaps, his measured calm slipping. "Because of everyone else on this wretched earth, it's you that I can't imagine a life without?"

There's too much in these words, hints to so many feelings long left unsaid, but now that they're standing on blood-soaked ground, life and death torn asunder, it's time for those words and feelings to see the light. "I should tell you that nothing is worth the cost of resorting to demonic cultivation," Lan Xichen says carefully.

"Demonic cultivation is specifically forbidden by rules 73, 220, 1080, and 3161," Jin Guangyao recites.

"It harms the body and mind," he elaborates, and nothing will ever remove his brother's suffering at Wei Wuxian's hands from his memories. He knows how this story ends; it's an unsustainable method that leads its practitioners to untimely deaths. But now he, too, is wrapped up in it, and he doesn't think he can make himself condemn Jin Guangyao for this.

Jin Guangyao is watching him, waiting for more with barely controlled nervousness, fingers gripped so tightly around Liebing that his knuckles are white. Lan Xichen wishes he could reach out, take his hands in his, and comfort him somehow.

So he does. He's still getting used to how to move, but he can do this. Jin Guangyao's fingers entwine in his own, hesitant at first before gripping tightly, as though Lan Xichen is his last anchor in life.

"I learned from the Yiling Patriarch's notes and Xue Yang's further experimentations," Jin Guangyao explains to fill the continued quiet.

"I…see," Lan Xichen says. There's another level to his words and a confession of the true meaning of LanlingJin Sect's support of Xue Yang, but right now…

Right now, he has other things to worry about. "What do you expect me to do now?"

What Jin Guangyao has done is selfish: a brief respite from loneliness that dooms Lan Xichen to an existence of solitude. No fierce corpse can exist among the living without consequence- the world still remembers and fears the Ghost General too much to allow that. He wants to be angry- it would be so easy to be angry to yell and scream with the power of resentful energy fueling him, but—

"I'm sorry," Jin Guangyao says again. He's still so close, so unafraid despite knowing that he's done something that should anger Lan Xichen, someone who could hurt him so easily now. "I wanted you- I still do. I'm sorry I don't regret it more."

Selfish, greedy, desperate

"I know," Lan Xichen responds. "You aren't as subtle as you think you are."

Jin Guangyao's cheeks flush. "Er-ge, I am sorry-"

"I suppose I've always been willing to look the other way and accept that you have your reasons for everything you do, but I didn't quite realize how selfish you can be."

He shakes his head. "Not always, but this time- I was desperate."

They've never danced around an answer so much before, though this is new territory for so many reasons that it makes sense that they're struggling to find the right words to express themselves. Jin Guangyao's answers are fine. It's…it's not enough, but Lan Xichen doesn't have the words to ask for the rest. "I can see that."

As the sun rises and pale light shoots through the canopy of trees, Lan Xichen can see so much and so little. There's nowhere to go now, except into hiding, and only Jin Guangyao could know enough to visit him.

A hand grazes his cheek as Jin Guangyao brushes hair out of his face. "One more apology from me, Er-ge, though this one is in advance," Jin Guangyao says, leaning up to kiss him. It's pressure instead of anything defined, and Lan Xichen wishes he had the dexterity to do more than fumble forward as he clumsily kisses him back. There's a soft gasp in surprise before Jin Guangyao presses against him, fingers in Lan Xichen's hair to guide him, help him kiss him properly, and years of friendship and care melt into purposeful touches.

Jin Guangyao pulls back, gasping for breath, but his hands linger. "I won't leave you alone—"

"Please don't promise something you can't keep."

"I'm not."

And it's another kiss, under sunrise's hopeful embrace, and together- together, they'll make it work.

・x・x・x・x・x・

They say that Zewu-Jun and Lianfang-Zun vanished after a night hunt gone wrong. They say that a fierce corpse haunts the lands between Lanling and Gusu with an unknown cultivator at its side. And they say that these two stories are unrelated.