Dec 05, 2020 7:35 PM
time-travelling xichen is king of the babies
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It wasn't something he had done on purpose. 

Lan Xichen had a lot of regrets in his life, some but not all of which were the same as what the people around him would classify as his mistakes. In this, he related very strongly of the Wangji of a few years ago. 

Now, of course, Wangji's regrets were largely obviated, and Xichen did appreciate the effort he was putting into giving Xichen the same emotional support Xichen had tried to give him. And he appreciated all that Wangji had suffered and achieved over that time. He would never try to sacrifice Wangji's happiness for his own. 

The cultivation world at large (most specifically, Sect Leader Jiang) was less hard on demonic cultivation as a whole now that Wei Wuxian was, if not precisely exonerated, at least no longer the scapegoat onto whose shoulders everything was thrown. But sometimes demonic cultivators were a problem. 

When he saw the array, he thought there was no possible way it could work. But it didn't take a genius like his brother-in-law to work out the gist of what it would do if it did. Unraveling the fabric of reality.

No. Bad demonic cultivator. No biscuit. 

He had gotten the demonic cultivator away from the array and extracted an explanation from him--apparently he had gotten into demonic cultivation in the first place in the wake of a loved one's death--a common story--and when he failed to re-create the Yiling Patriarch's work in Wen Ning, he had apparently jumped immediately to destroying several years of the universe in order to prevent it. It was the kind of thing he would expect from Wei Wuxian in an especially bad headspace, which he didn't say; no need to encourage the fellow. 

What he didn't realize, examining the array with the offender safely secured for transport, was that it was remotely functional, let alone so unstable it would go off on its own just from being stepped on. 

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He could feel reality crumbling to pieces around him, feel his own body dissolve in a swirl of caustic energy--was this what it felt like when Wei Wuxian died?--

But he did not die. Even when there was seemingly nothing left of him, he could still feel the world dissolving around him--felt himself twisted and seemingly pulled and spun--

He could feel the destruction pass some kind of threshold--the point, he realized, when it was supposed to stop. 

It did not. 

The spell would run out of energy eventually--he had no idea what the demonic cultivator had even used to power it, but it couldn't be infinite--but what would be left when it did? 

He had no body, but his spiritual energy responded nonetheless to his will, as he tore into the array and 





--He sat upright with a gasp, breath coming too quickly, sweat soaking his sleeping robes. He felt more disoriented than he ever had before in his life. 

His life? How long had that been? Was it five years, or more than thirty--

He clutched at his head as the dizziness faded and the reality of what had happened dawned on him. 

He felt sick to his stomach. He had failed, and someone had--someone had--

Only it wasn't had, exactly, was it? Was it would? What was...

He curled up for a little while, his adult mind overwhelmed by a small child's emotions. He was so used to putting his own feelings aside at need to look after A-Zhan, but A-Zhan wasn't here and he could just sit here and cry for a little while. 

Both sets of memories felt so fresh and real. He knew exactly what he had let happen, and felt guiltily grateful that he hadn't even been thinking of all his regrets when it happened, so at least he didn't have to worry it had been partly on purpose. 

But the knowledge of what could/would/had happened made the part of him that was five years old wipe away the tears, dress hurriedly, and go to see A-Zhan. 


Here's A-Zhan, sitting up in his bed. He is just old enough to wake at five every morning but not old enough to have any tasks to perform once he does so. This morning, A-Zhan clutches a little dragonfly puppet and bobs it in the air.

A-Zhan puts down the toy and blinks owlishly at Brother when he enters. Time for breakfast, is what Brother showing up means! Time to get up. He slides off his bed and patters towards his brother.

Holds up his ribbon for help; A-Zhan still can't tie knots.



He ties A-Zhan's ribbon on and hugs him. 

(He's so small!!!! Tiny Wangji! So cute!)



As soon as they stop hugging, A-Zhan lifts his arms up and looks at Brother expectantly, waiting to be carried.


He picks up his baby brother (so baby!!!) and carries him breakfast-ward. 

Breakfast is fine, and he pays lots and lots of attention to A-Zhan, but he can't help but be a little preoccupied. He certainly wouldn't have chosen to destroy thirty years of future, but...that future is destroyed. The future going forward will be a different one. And...he can make it a better one. Has to; if everything goes forward exactly the same way then all the death and destruction will be his fault

He doesn't know what he can do about it as a five-year-old, though. 


A-Zhan is not contemplating the fate of the world, but is also being very serious. He finishes his breakfast and occupies himself trying to make the spoon line up perfectly with the side of the table. Keeping his table neat is Very Important.


Oh NO baby A-Zhan is SO CUTE and earnest and good. Xichen is not going to pinch his baby brother's cheeks but he will hug him again. 


A-Zhan would not enjoy having his cheeks pinched at all, but more hugging is acceptable.


He hugs his baby brother and swallows and puts his face on the top of A-Zhan's head so nobody can see his face. He doesn't have A-Zhan's all-but-unreadable face. 

He is going to change everything. Nobody is ever going to whip his baby brother, or break his leg and throw him against an evil demigod, or--anything. 


Brother is very good at hugs.

A low bell rings across Cloud Recesses. The bell means that Brother leaves for class, which is very sad. Maybe if A-Zhan hugs Brother enough he will forget.


Oh noooooo. 

It would probably not serve his fix-everything goals to skip class to hug A-Zhan more. 

Maybe...if he tries to BRING A-Zhan...nobody will stop him? It's kind of a long shot but it's not like A-Zhan will be better off being ignored by the other children his age than in class with Xichen. 


He SHOULD bring A-Zhan! A-Zhan is definitely better off staying with Brother, and he can do really helpful things in class like stack books or hold a writing brush or poke Brother with his bunny doll every time it seems like class is talking about something important.

A-Zhan holds Brother's hand and walks towards class beside him.


They're most of the way there before Qiren catches up to them. "A-Huan, A-Zhan! What are you doing?"


Oh no. 

"Going to class?"


"A-Zhan does not belong in your class, you know this. If something is wrong, I can take care of it." 


He remembers Uncle telling Wangji you are such a disappointment as the blows fell, and unconsciously tugs A-Zhan a little bit closer. 


What in the world. Is something wrong? But A-Zhan looks neither visibly hurt nor distressed...  "Answer me when I address you, A-Huan! You'll be late. Let go of him now."


He should say something clever and persuasive, he always was the better at soothing Uncle--

but right now he is five and upset and all he can say is "NO!" as he clings to his baby brother, trying desperately to keep as much of himself as possible between A-Zhan and the world. 


Not only disobedient but so loud about it, what is wrong with him today? 

"A-Huan! Stop this nonsense at once, you know better. I expect an apology, as will anyone else you have disrupted with this commotion! You had better start behaving and let go of A-Zhan right now if you expect to see your mother this month."


A-Zhan starts to cry.




It hits him like a blow. Mother would still be alive now, of course, she hadn't died until A-Zhan was six

A-Zhan, kneeling in the snow, unable to understand that she was never ever coming back--

Mommy, who he remembered better than A-Zhan--

He was five, and he was thirty-five and so, so tired, and all of a sudden he really really wanted his mom. 

His mom, who he would be allowed to see once, in more than a week, and then not again for a month. 

He'd known their situation was unusual, the first time he had been five. But he hadn't understood--it wasn't right. He had never been able to do anything about it, the first time around, not even make anyone admit it had been wrong, but--whatever she had done, they didn't deserve it. He didn't. A-Zhan didn't. 

He. Was going. To do something. About it. 

But not right now. Now he let the part of himself that was a grown-up and could control himself have reign. Now he let the tears glisten in his eyes, and let go of A-Zhan with reluctance but not hesitation, and bowed to Uncle. 

"I'm very sorry. I had a dream last night where he got hurt. I should not have allowed it to influence my waking behavior. I acted improperly." 


"That is correct. Thank you for apologizing. If you're still upset about the dream after class we can discuss it then, alright? A-Zhan is not going to get hurt. Come here, A-Zhan."


A-Zhan goes to him, still crying. He cries very quietly for a toddler. 

He bows clumsily and then hugs his uncle's leg to cry into his robes. 


Qiren pats him reassuringly. "Go to your studies now, A-Huan. A-Zhan is fine."

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