a candle blown out

by Rose Thorne

Disclaimer: I don't own anything associated with The Untamed, and make no money writing fanfiction.

Wei WuXian's survival had been too near a thing, and the teen would not be fit to travel by sword anywhere for some time. His injuries would scar, those from zidian worse than the bruises or even broken bones.

Worse, Lan XiChen knew when the youth begged to stay at Lotus Cove despite the fact that Madam Yu had nearly killed him and had received no censure for the act—and would undoubtedly do so again as a result of Meishan Yu sect's statement that she had the right to do as she wished with a servant—would be the scars to his mind.

And so, when WangJi had unequivocally stated that Wei WuXian would come to Gusu, neither he nor Lan QiRen had denied the demand. Cloud Recesses and the Lan clan were renowned for its mind healers.

The rage on his brother's face was stronger than any emotion he had displayed in years, and knowing how he felt about Wei WuXian... XiChen could only be thankful he had survived.

Wei WuXian, to his relief, had quietly agreed to come to Gusu.

Madam Yu had turned this, too, into a spectacle, predicting Wei WuXian would again be kicked out of Cloud Recesses, commenting that the 'son of a servant' should be turned out into the streets 'where he belongs.'

Shufu had responded tersely.

"Any sect would be fool to let go of such a talented young cultivator. The son of CangSe SanRen will be welcomed by GusuLan."

It was the closest XiChen had ever heard his uncle come to insulting someone of such high rank. Lan QiRen had never liked Wei WuXian's playful nature or rule-breaking, but he too had been horrified at his condition, when shrieks had come from the banks of the river after his shijie had found him, bleeding heavily and with fingernails torn from desperately tearing at the rope that had tied him underwater.

He'd infused his own fingernails with his qi to succeed in escaping the weights tied to him, an unheard-of move of desperation and cultivation that should have been impossible.

Lan QiRen's horror at Madam Yu's sheer cruelty had overwhelmed his distaste for Wei WuXian, particularly that she had nearly killed him over an innocent prank that no one at the Discussion Conference had been offended or harmed by.

Jiang Cheng and Jiang YanLi helped WangJi pack Wei WuXian's belongings, while XiChen himself stood guard over the youth. Jiang FengMian gathered the practice weapons and other equipment belonging to the boy, handing the full qiankun pouch to Lan QiRen, along with a second.

"His contributions to our library, including the talismans he has invented. We are not worthy of keeping them," the sect leader stated firmly.

The bag also included Wei WuXian's parents' ancestral tablets, which they learned had never been displayed at Lotus Cove due to Madam Yu's disapproval.

Where they had arrived by sword, the Lan delegation traveled back to Gusu with their newest member by boat, accompanied by the Jiang children, who had arranged with their father to help settle their adoptive brother into his new home and to study in Gusu a second time. Lan QiRen did not comment, even though it wasn't even the season for guest disciples. They both knew that neither of the Jiang children wished to be around their mother.

Shufu's only comment, softly, to XiChen, was that the boy should not be punished for minor infractions of the rules, and no one could order or administer punishment to him for any reason without going to one of them.

But the Wei WuXian who returned with them to Cloud Recesses was not the one they had known. Even after his physical injuries healed, a process that had taken weeks, he did not smile or laugh or express much emotion whatsoever. He did as he was told and broke no rules. He was quieter than even WangJi, often simply staring into the distance.

Even when he eventually joined classes for older disciples, he was silent unless called upon—and then answered promptly and succinctly, adding no embellishments to his answers, offering no opinions or deviations from the textbook response.

He spent much of his time in his quarters, engaging with the world only when his siblings or WangJi insisted, and then quietly, a much-suppressed version of himself.

XiChen learned he had barely unpacked. He had asked for white robes upon his arrival, and WangJi had delivered them, an array of robes identical almost to his own but sized for Wei WuXian. The boy had simply thanked him solemnly, and the qiankun bag containing the clothing he had worn at Lotus Pier—rich reds, purples, blues, blacks—stayed closed. XiChen remembered that he had once overheard the boy jokingly refer to GusuLan sect robes as mourning robes, and he wondered if Wei WuXian wore them as such.

About the only thing he had unpacked were his talisman supplies, and nearly once a week he delivered a new talisman to XiChen and shufu along with a meticulously-written treatise on its logic, variations in symbols, and uses. While welcome, it had not been asked of him.

They tried to get him to stay for tea, but he always declined.

"I do not wish to impose."

XiChen could almost hear the silent more than I already have. He knew Wei WuXian saw his inventions as payment for room and board.

WangJi had tried to help him unpack, and had discovered a battered dizi among his possessions. The discovery had prompted him to purchase a high-quality dizi in Caiyi for him, and he had tried to encourage him to play, to no avail.

His siblings were at a loss. Jiang Cheng had tried to spar with him, but Wei WuXian seemed to simply go through the motions, his movements lacking the ingenuity they had once had, the speed. The Jiang sect heir won these bouts, but had not been pleased with the wins.

It was Jiang Cheng who joined them for tea frequently, expressing his concerns for Wei WuXian's well-being.

"I always hated being second to him," he said one day. "I never thought..."

He didn't have the words to express it, but they understood.

Jiang YanLi cooked all of Wei WuXian's favorites, often sending for ingredients from afar, but he barely ate, more often staring at his plate until the dish had long gone cold.

It was difficult to watch WangJi try to reach Wei WuXian. He took the teen to Caiyi frequently. XiChen accompanied them once, and it broke his heart to watch his little brother try to pull Wei WuXian from the shell he'd built around himself, tugging him to stalls in the market in hopes something would catch his interest, buying him spicy foods that went largely uneaten.

"Xiongzhang, shufu," he said one day over tea, "is justice only something for those with power?"

Neither of them knew how to answer.

A steady stream of guests came to the Cloud Recesses seeking Wei WuXian. Nie HuaiSang insisted he paint fans and landscapes with him, and was humored. But although he produced beautiful work, Wei WuXian remained quiet and reserved.

Jin ZiXuan shocked them all by showing up, stating his intention to court Jiang YanLi. He did so to Jiang Cheng first before approaching Wei WuXian, who barely blinked before informing him he no longer needed his permission, as he was no longer YunmengJiang.

"You are still her brother," Jin ZiXuan insisted.

Wei WuXian turned an even gaze on him, silent for a while.

"Do you intend to treat her as your father does your mother?"

It was a brazen question, but politely stated in formal language, like a peek at the old Wei WuXian but not quite. Jin ZiXuan turned bright red at the implication—few people dared address his father's infamous infidelity at all, let alone to his face—but answered evenly.

"I would treat her with the honor she deserves. I will never be like my father."

Wei WuXian only nodded, and didn't engage in further discussion.

Jiang FengMian visited, but Wei WuXian barely spoke to him, and only used the most formal language with him, never referring to him, as he had been encouraged to as a child, as Uncle Jiang. Only Sect Leader Jiang.

"A-Xian, I am so sorry for your mistreatment."

"This one is fine, Sect Leader Jiang," Wei WuXian intoned, his voice devoid of emotion. "This one will not trouble you any further."

The man was near tears when he left.

The mind healers only said it would take time, and advised that he be encouraged to spend time outside in the fresh air, to meditate and cultivate, to use his mind and body.

XiChen wondered, after six months of this, if the Wei WuXian they knew was gone forever, and he could see in shufu's eyes he wondered the same thing. The trauma of being nearly murdered by a mother figure... Could it be overcome? Or had Madam Yu succeeded where it mattered?

Neither of them spoke of it, though, only encouraging WangJi and the Jiangs to keep trying. If WangJi could find the words to express how much he valued Wei WuXian, perhaps he could be reached, would not waste away before them.

This was born from two prompts from the angstymdzsthoughts Tumblr:

In a world where the SSC never happened bc WRH is a semi-decent person who appreciated that WWX had befriended WN without looking down on him, a Discussion Conference is held in LP. WWX does something, and MDMYu drags him out of the room. Most of the Sect Leaders (Except JGS-he was at a brothel so MdmJin was there in his place, and she made a big fuss over WWX's prank) laugh bc it was pretty funny, even if it was rude. The next morning, WWX does not appear to any of the competitions or to the banquets. At first no one notices, thinking that he's being punished, which, considering the prank, was understandable. On the third day, a mixed group of disciples decide to go swimming and they find WWX's corpse. It turns out that MDMYu decided that WWX had cost LP enough face and beaten him to death. She had her maids hide him underwater expecting him to not be found until too late.

Murdered wwx au Wwx was found barely alive, madame Yu confessed. The other sect Leaders started arguing on Who would take wwx with them since madame Yu was too powerful with her sect backing her ti remove her, even jfm got his hands tied. Who Will get wwx? The wens? Wen Qing Is the best doctor After all, or the lan? Nie?

"No, please, I'm sorry," Wei Ying protested weakly. Hes still recovering and has been asked which sect he would prefer to go to. "I'll never do it again, please don't send me away... I'm sorry, I'm so sorry..."

Obviously, I put my own spin on it. The first prompt was responded to by mondengel on Tumblr: post/624729321193553920/in-a-world-where-the-ssc-never-happened-bc-wrh-is