We are a panfandom featuring canon characters from nearly any live action, animated, video game,
drawn, or authored media. The Gods are fickle, toying with those deemed interesting
enough to be plucked from the world they once knew. Pandora's Box shall be your new home,
as they command.
Despite the fact that shuteye wasn't something he needed, despite the fact that the way he leaned against Xie Lian and let his head droop against his shoulder was entirely something meant to tease, the longer he lingered, the more comfortable he grew. Just because he didn't require sleep didn't mean he couldn't sleep. Just because he it wasn't required to survive didn't mean it wasn't a sensation he enjoyed, and truth be told, it was always far more enjoyable with Xie Lian at his side.
And so, he remained exactly where he was, content to listen to the quiet shift in of Xie Lian's gentle movement until he drifted off.
There was no telling how much time had passed before he was opening his eye again. Hours, perhaps, but he couldn't tell. All was dark and he could feel the tell-tale folds of the blanket around him, but he began to move, his hands searching around, fingers twisting blindly into those folds as he searched for the light.
He must have accidentally woken Hua Cheng. The ghost stirred. At some point while they’d slept, he’d slid from shoulder to ground, and now seemed to struggle to right himself in his confusion, a wriggling lump of cloth in the fading light.
Xie Lian laughed softly. Electing the sorry excuse for a fire as a lost cause, he reached under the blanket to help Hua Cheng extricate himself—and frowned as his hand met another, decidedly much smaller hand.
Unsure of what to make of it, he held it for a long moment as he irrationally waited for it change into something he recognized—because there shouldn’t be such a tiny hand, Hua Cheng’s hands were normal-sized hands—or for his mind to remind him why there would be such a tiny hand there.
When neither of these things happened, he threw back the blanket, not caring that he might find a blinding amount of Hua Cheng skin, and stared when instead of a Ghost King, he found a child. Baffled, he looked to the blanket he'd tossed aside as though he might find Hua Cheng hidden in the folds, but there were no Ghost Kings there, either.
Eventually, the light found him along with a familiar gaze that towered over him far more than it should have. Staring back up at Xie Lian with one wide eye, Hua Cheng was entirely silent as he attempted to wrap his head around what had happened. Had he slumped so far to the ground? As though to look, he dropped his gaze toward the stone beneath them, but he caught sight of his hands on the way, hands that were small. The hands a child, but just a bit rougher because he had been a rough child. Always clawing at the dirt, always squirming, always covered in whatever was on the streets.
Hua Cheng's gaze darted back up to meet Xie Lian's, and he looked just as confused, though less horrified than the child before him did. He was small again. Hideous and small and--
Before he knew what he was doing, he was scrambling to his left and he was reaching out to fling the blanket back over the whole of him, eyes squeezing to a close as though he would be normal again when they opened again.
Their eyes met. Xie Lian got a glimpse of bandages, grubby clothes, and a horrified expression before the child, faster than should have been possible, vanished beneath the blanket.
”San Lang?” he repeated, more concerned now. It wouldn’t make sense for this to be anybody else—children did not appear out of thin air where Ghost Kings used to be—but it was so unexpected, he half-wondered if he was still asleep.
He learned down, lifting the corner of the blanket to peek gently in at the boy so as not to alarm him. ”What’s going on? Are you all right? Do you recognize me?”
That rain. That rain, that damned rain. Wasn't drying off supposed to fix everything? Wasn't he supposed to be back to normal? This was thoroughly a step in the opposite direction, and that was a fact that Hua Cheng genuinely didn't know what to do with, how to handle. But perhaps that had something to do with the child in him pushing its way to the surface, overpowering the intellect of a Ghost King, his very ability to determine how to proceed or how to fix this.
So instead, he hid, which wasn't something that lasted long as he felt the light shift in the fabric and watched light poke its way through in the form of Xie Lian. His little heart skipped a beat at the sight of him.
His heart. Ah.
"Of course," came his small voice, and it didn't sound right to his ears, so he clamped his mouth shut again.
That was what he would have said despite all of Xie Lian's pure intentions if Hua Cheng could have brought himself to unleash that tiny little voice again, but instead, he kept stubbornly silent. His one visible eye peered at Xie Lian before blinking shamefully away as his little hands bunched into fabric to bundle the blanket closer around him and block the Crown Prince's view.
He wasn’t used to such shyness from Hua Cheng. He acted more like the child he appeared than the ever-confident Ghost King. It brought out a strange swelling of affection, and Xie Lian’s smile widened.
”You don’t have to come out,” he said, playful but assuring. ”I’ll join you instead.” And he scooted over beside the small body and pulled the free ends of the blanket over himself so they two sat in Hua Cheng’s protective cave.
It was strange, having such a tiny person next to him, and he automatically reached over and placed the child gently into his lap. ”How’s this?”
Good. He would simply wait it out. Wait until he was a grown man again, wait until he was presentable to Xie Lian if such a thing were ever really possible, and then he would come out and ... pretend he hadn't spent a fleeting amount of time of his eight hundreds as a child. Fleeting. Because it wouldn't last long.
"I'll join you instead."
Eyes blinking rapidly toward Xie Lian who was already crawling into the little makeshift blanket fort Hua Cheng had created, his lips parted as though he were looking to protest, but once again, he couldn't seem to find his voice, especially as his small form was suddenly scooped up and placed into a lap he simultaneously wanted to crawly desperately away from and remain in forever. He remained very still, very silent, and yet, images of the past rolled through his mind.
A boy clinging to a prince.
"Humiliating," his small voice whispered half-heartedly, and yet despite that, he felt his tiny hands twisting gently into Xie Lian's robes.
gege, this is the most humiliating day of my life
But he couldn’t say that. He could tell Hua Cheng was uncomfortable enough as it was, so instead he set about to check on him by going over what he knew already. Given his defeated tone, with no hint of strain, Hua Cheng didn’t appear to be in any physical pain, which had been his biggest concern.
”It’s all right,” he said, feeling the small hands curl into his robes. He couldn't help himself and put a hand on Hua Cheng's head to pat it. ”San Lang is a very cute child from what I saw. There’s nothing to be upset about. Is this because of the rain? Am I going to become a little Lian Lian, too?”
He laughed a little at the thought and leaned forward, then turned thoughtful as he considered the little body. ”You’re very warm, though. Is that normal? Can ghosts get sick?”
Xie Lian always had a way about him. He was truly the light in comparison to all that Hua Cheng stood for, and the differences in which they handled this situation only further proved that. Where Hua Cheng was mortified, Xie Lian was making light of it, trying to make him comfortable, trying to make him see that there were worse fates. And maybe, just maybe, tiny Hua Cheng dipped his gaze to try to hide the little embarrassed smile at his lips when he was called, ah ... cute.
But he stopped himself, his eye darted back up to meet Xie Lian's gaze. Little Lian Lian. Hua Cheng's lips parted at that and he laughed, the sound soft as though he were holding himself back. Still, maybe the thought was just a bit wishful thinking. Maybe this wouldn't be quite as mortifying if a perfectly regular Xie Lian, the person he loved and admired most in the world, weren't there to watch it all transpire, or at the very least, they went through it together.
Then again, two small children in a cavern in the middle of a magical rain storm seemed inadvisable.
"You're very warm, though."
It was as though it occurred to him then. His heart, beating. His body, functioning the way a body should have functioned. The child hesitated and then loosened his grip on Xie Lian's robe as his hand drifted toward Xie Lian's, guiding a considerable larger hand to his considerably smaller chest where he could feel his heart pumping blood.
A laugh. A little hesitant sun peeking through the storm clouds. Just what he wanted.
”It’s a shame I can’t change my shape at will like powerful Ghost Kings,” he mused, tone turning teasing. ”You could see what I looked like. I’d be taller than you for once, I think. You’re very small.”
He would have gladly shared it with him, all to make him feel better. Two children under a blanket, talking away the storm until the clouds parted.
”Mmm?“ Unexpectedly, his hand was grabbed, and he let Hua Cheng do as he wanted, letting out a small murmur of surprise at the little heart beat. It was strangely comforting, how stubbornly it pounded against his palm, resolute as the Ghost King himself. ”So that’s it… That’s a relief.”
Yet at the same time, it made Hua Cheng seem somehow fragile, impermanent, and without thinking about it, Xie Lian wrapped his arms protectively around the tiny, warm body. ”Well. I’ll just stick to my promise and keep you safe until you change back. How does that sound?”
Hua Cheng's emotions seemed to be doing flips. Where Xie Lian tried to comfort, he succeeded to draw a laugh, but the next attempt left him feeling inferior to everything he had been before. He had stood tall and he had stood stubborn and proud and determined. Now what manner of weakness was he? The rains had stripped him of his ability and now of his dignity as well. What, he wondered, would be next?
But where he wanted to worry, where he wanted to feel angry, Xie Lian's very presence seemed to help that all drift away. The arms around his body pulled him closer, and while Hua Cheng could have always imagined the warmth, while he could have always very vividly pretended what it might have felt like, actually feeling that warmth for himself was different. He breathed in deep and then exhaled as though expelling his pride, his fear, everything stubborn about him, and instead, he leaned into Xie Lian, curling his fingers back into those robes and blinking his eyes closed.
Changing back would come. But for now ... for now, to be held so tightly by His Highness the Crown Prince. Perhaps this wasn't quite so terrible a fate.
Hi friends I want to apologise for my absentness of late; work is crazy right now and I'm just feeling like poop.
Thank you to everyone I'm plotting for being so patient with me and everyone in general for just being so lovely, you guys are the best