modern au, wwx has been trying to track down lwj for the past 3 years after he suddenly disappeared, no note, no messages, nothing, radio silence. The only thing that was left were a series of polaroid snaps that to anyone else wouldn't seem out of place
Except wwx knew lwj's photography, knew how he was particular about how exposed he let the film be, his subject matter, everything down to his setup and his candids, he'd even been the subject of a few. The ones left were not lwj's usual style
These were unfocussed; and not in the artistic way. Too exposed, the film almost entirely bleached save for the hazy outline of what was maybe a room; too hard to decipher where said room was. Others were black or a dark blue, no discernible image present
// just came back from my run 😂should have included warnings, this is horror focussed, likely will have tech glitches and potential body horror, will tag the tweets accordingly//
A few photos in particular had caught wwx's eye, and these were the ones of lwj, one where he was sat at the table with his laptop, taken as if the photographer was trying not to be caught, slightly obscured by a kitchen counter
Another, closer this time of lwj curled up on the sofa with a book, glasses perched on his nose; still obscured by what wwx could only assume was the back of a chair
The next two were taken in quick succession, the back of lwj's head, and then a slightly blurred one of him turning around; his expression stony but with a certain softness of having seen someone he's familiar with

This one haunted wwx the most
lwj rarely had people round his apartment as far as wwx was aware, so who had he seen? Whenever wwx thought on this he couldn't help the pang he felt in is chest, lwj wasn't obligated to tell him anything of course, wwx just hoped he would
Wwx knew something was amiss when he had received no morning text from lwj, everyday at 9am he would receive a simple text; "good morning wei ying", to which wwx would respond with an overly enthused "morning!!!" followed by a keyboard smash detailing his dream that night
The lack of message had something churning away in wwx's stomach, he had typed out a quick "aha lan zhan, did you sleep in?", no reply
okay, maybe he was busy, it happens at times
An hour had passed and wwx was uneasy, he tried to call but it went straight to voicemail
Heart quickening he dropped a message to lxc, "hey, have you heard from lan zhan today?"
"No. Is something wrong?"
"he hasn't responded to any messages, and his phone goes to voicemail"
"I'll call him"
Even lxc couldn't get through to him, so he told wwx he would go and visit, he had a spare key for emergencies.

When wwx's phone pinged he hesitated to look, stomach dropping when he finally did.
"He's not here."

Wwx was out his door without another thought
Lwj's apartment was eerily quiet when wwx arrived, not that it was particularly noisy any other day. Lxc's brows were furrowed and he looked pale, mutely wandering the apartment as if expecting his brother to appear

Wwx felt lost, he couldn't stop the tremble in his hands
The tremble worsening when lxc called to report lwj missing.

The rest of that day went by in a blur, wwx had vague memories of being questioned, of being ushered out the apartment for it to be searched

He knew they wouldn't find anything, lwj's apartment had been pristine
His coat, wallet, keys, all those were in there respectful place. Only his phone was missing.
No signs of a struggle
No blood

Wwx got a call later that day from nhs saying he had snagged a copy of the cctv footage from the past two days before it was taped over
How he managed that wwx wasn't going to ask, but he was grateful. Nhs dropped off the usb and offered to go through it with him, but wwx refused, thanking him and saying he needed to go through it on his own first

He was in for a long night
// stopping here for tonight! I'll continue tomorrow//
Update time! Grab snacks and a drink, top of the thread is here, I'll do my best to tag cw where applicable!
Wwx trawled through the security tapes that night, at first a passive look, then began to scrutinise them. Lwj returned home at 6pm the previous night, wwx called him at 8pm, between those times there was nothing to note. No strange persons in the corridor,
Nothing that seemed out of place. Cleaning storage room was closed and locked, only opened once by a cleaner doing a late shift.
Wwx had been on the phone for an hour, asking lwj how his day was, he replayed the conversation over and over in his mind
Lwj had sounded... normal, calm and reserved, huffing at something wwx had said, lightly scolding him when wwx let slip he hadn't eaten breakfast that morning
"I ought to make you breakfast to go"
"Ahh Lan Zhan, no need, you don't have to keep looking after me"
Wwx chewed his lip as he stared blankly at the screen. The reality sinking in that was the last conversation he'd had with lwj, the very last thing he had said to him was "Goodnight, Lan Zhan."
And in response
"Sleep well, Wei Ying"
He rolled through the next lot of footage, from 9pm-9am. Absolutely nothing showed up, lwj never once left his apartment, no one approached his. Only a few people returning from late shifts or from a night out were caught on camera. No one out of place that's for sure
Even up until wwx saw lxc let himself into lwj's apartment nothing was wrong. So lwj had gone missing inside his own apartment somehow between 9pm-9am. How does one go missing in their own apartment and not leave a trace?
Wwx's eyes burned with fatigue
Collapsing into bed at 4am, only woken up by a hammering on his door at 12pm.
Nhs had come round bearing more footage.
"Seriously, how do you get hold of this stuff?" wwx had mumbled, knocking back his second coffee that hour
"That's for me to know and you to never find out"
Wwx arched an eyebrow and turned his attention back to his laptop screen, nhs had his out playing different footage. Wwx felt he was turning every speck of dust on the lens into a possibility by this point
It took nhs physically pulling him away from the screen to get him to rest
The pair settle on the well worn sofa, both clutching a mug of coffee. Wwx with his legs tucked up close and nhs with his stretched out.
"It doesn't make sense." wwx muttered, "how does someone go missing inside their apartment?"
// suicide mention

"Well... ah how do I say this..." nhs hedged
"Just say it." Wwx clipped
"Do you think maybe he'd had enough?"
Wwx gave him a dangerous look
"Absolutely not. Besides, there was no body found outside the apartment, nor inside. The place was turned upside down"
"There are no vents for him to climb through, no secret closet where he wouldn't be found. So no."
"I had to ask. On another note, he could have decided to climb the outside wall? He's strong enough."
"Ah?" Wwx looked at nhs incredulously, "he's strong but not reckless"
"Locked room mystery it is then... minus a body" nhs mumbled
"I'm not sure what's more comforting, body or no body?"

Their search through the footage proved fruitless, only lwj entering the apartment building just before 6pm. Wwx groaned in frustration
After much pestering, nhs convinced wwx to let him stay the night
"you need company that isn't your laptop"
One intense film and another absolutely shit one later, both were passed out over each other on the sofa
Wwx had woken in worse places
A few days later wwx was granted permission to enter lwj's apartment after the initial sweep, and more in depth one. Lxc gave him his key, telling him to spend as much time as he needed there.

He idly looked around the too quiet apartment, fondly gazing at the pinned photos
Wwx went into the makeshift darkroom, flicking on the light, praying no photos were still developing; not that they would be salvageable by this point. There were some hung up on a small line, clearly from the last time lwj was developing. Wwx took a closer look, eyes smarting
They were of him, all posed except for one where he had been distracted by something in a tree, a stray blossom stuck in his hair.
He took a breath, taking down the now dry photos and placing them neatly in a box on a shelf
His wanderings took him through the apartment like a stray ghost, peering into cupboards, lowering himself to the floor to look under the bed, half dreading what he might find
Not that there was anything to find
He stepped into the tiny office flipping the switch and waiting for the light to flicker to life, shapes burning into his retinas that morphed like liquid everywhere he looked
Wwx traced his hand over the desk, tapping to no discernible beat, gaze lowering to a drawer
He gave the handle a tug
"Huh? Unlike Lan Zhan to leave something to stick"
He gave a harder tug, hearing the wood squeak in protest, another tug was enough to free it enough for him to at least peer inside, cocking his head to the side as he caught a glimpse of photos
Tentatively diving his hand into the drawer, he grasped the photos and pulled them out.
Not unusual for lwj, but these weren't his usual style. Too washed out, under exposed, blurry, something you'd expect from someone still learning the craft
Spreading them out on the desk, wwx poured over them, trying to find the order in disorder, moving them around, shaking his head and moving them again.
The only ones he was sure were the last to be taken were the ones of lwj, getting closer and closer until he turned around
"Lan Zhan... what did you see?"

Wwx managed to piece together some of the locations, the darkroom, bedroom, living area, kitchen.
Wwx wrapped them up in a cloth and pocketed them, just as he was prepared to leave a thought struck him.

Where's lwj's camera now?
He looked in the usual place where lwj kept his camera, a dslr, a few slr's, and an instax, but his polaroid was missing
Wwx turned the apartment upside down, everything should have been catalogued, why wasn't this raised?
Cold fury followed by sickening dread dropped into wwx's stomach. Whoever has lwj's polaroid knows where lwj was, but no one entered the apartment! How could anyone have it? People and cameras don't vanish into thing air, there's a solution behind everything
Wwx was tired, he tidied the apartment the best he could, and with a heavy heart made his way home.
He couldn't help beating himself over not finding anything, no one else had leads, he had to find something surely
Forgoing eating once home, wwx scanned the photos he found, altering the contrast and brightness, sharpening the blurred ones.
The underexposed ones revealed gaunt screaming faces, an overexposed one revealed the outline of a person
Wwx sharpened the one of lwj further, his expression just that little bit clearer
Still one of recognition, but... of hesitance

Wwx honed in on the mirror behind lwj, trying to catch a glimpse of any kind of reflection.
All he saw was a dark blur
Days turned to months, months turned to years, winter settled in wwx's bones
He was no closer to an answer
And even further from the truth
// That's it for tonight! I'll update again tomorrow! Thank you so much for reading 🌟 //
Update! Starting a little earlier as I got washing out of the way, there's gonna be tech glitches and mentions of blood in this one, I'll tag the blood dw
Top of thread!
Over the years wwx searched various webpages, blogs, and forums of strange experiences, none matched up with what had happened to lwj; some were similar but certain details were off, such as there had been evidence of a struggle, or numerous personal items were missing
Wwx even posted in a few forums, some people suggested that someone had snuck into the apartment, had tampered with the cameras, and was very thorough with the clean up; others disputed this.
Someone said with full confidence it was a demon, they were mainly proven wrong
Others suggested a ghost, once again this was hotly debated.
Someone else said the post was a bullshit ARG made up by a bored student and to be more creative next time.
"Maybe parts of the security tapes jumped without you realising? If you've not heard anything in this long maybe he doesn't want to be found?"

Was lwj really someone just to up and move without telling a soul? That thought didn't sit right with wwx, but a part of him wondered
Maybe lwj really would do that. Maybe he had gotten so tired of everything around him and wanted to start somewhere new. Wwx wouldn't blame him really, but it still stung if that were the case.
Yet another part of him screamed falsities
Wwx visited lwj's apartment frequently, lxc and somehow come to an agreement with the landlord in which he'd keep paying for the vacant apartment, part of him believing his brother would come back.

Wwx sat looking up at the plain ceiling, until-
He heard the soft plucking of strings on lwj's guqin

One note

Then another

Wwx straightened up slowly, never once taking his eyes off the guqin sat on the low table as he saw another string pull taut and release
Hesitantly he walked over to the table, noticing a dark shadow on the floor as if someone were sat there, he pressed his hand to the shadow, the wood feeling warm, he then felt the space next to the shadow
It was cold
Wwx kept his eyes fixed on the shadow
It didn't move, but the strings kept being plucked.
After a while the playing stopped, wwx shakily exhaled extending a hand out to the instrument, pulling one of the strings and letting it go with an inelegant twang
He waited, trying not to get his hopes up but holding his breath all the same, a moment later the guqin sang one again.
The breath left him instantly as he racked his brain for something lwj had taught him, if whatever was playing was truly lwj it'll know what to play
"Oh, right"
Wwx shifted to be properly sat at the guqin, feeling a little strange to be sat on the shadow
"Lan Zhan if this really is you then I hope you don't mind me sitting on your lap" he half-heartedly laughed
Something lwj had taught him... there was one song, it had no sheet music, wwx only remembered lwj instructing him
"don't blame me if this sounds awful, I'm out of practice"
Hands gliding over the strings, wwx plucked the first verse
Not even a second later the corresponding verse was played
"Okay" he breathed "this is weird"
Wwx played another part, and sure enough the next part was played perfectly in response up until the end of the song
Wwx wasn't sure when tears began to fall, hot on his cheeks as he furiously blinked them away, he folded his arms on the table and sobbed into them
"Lan Zhan, where are you?"
Over the course of a few days, more odd things kept happening in the apartment. Wwx would place and cup in one place and then find it in another.
Doors to certain rooms would suddenly lock and wouldn't budge, even though there was no feasible way to lock them
On one particular day wwx was idly browsing his phone in the apartment, sat on the sofa with an entire binder and journal spread out in front of him on the coffee table. His phone suddenly crashed and flickered to the home screen, the pixels bleeding where lwj's eyes should be
With a yelp he threw his phone to the other end of the sofa, warily reaching for it once his heart had slowed down to a reasonable rate
The picture of lwj on his homescreen was looking to the right... he was looking at the camera before...
Wwx sighed and locked his phone, returning to his notes, making a note of /that/ odd experience.
When he checked his phone again the picture of lwj was glaring directly at him, an annoyed expression that made wwx feel uncomfortable under the scrutiny
"The fuck, this is fuckin creepy. Why are you angry at me?"
"And why am I talking to my phone?" He thought wryly

The screen glitched again, the pixel bleed making it look like half of lwj's jaw and been torn off. Wwx screamed, throwing the phone further than last time
He contemplated flushing his phone down the toilet to rid himself of this now cursed object, regardless, he picked it up, the screen back to normal; lwj now looking to the left
Wwx looked to his left, down the hallway
"Okay, what the fuck"
He looked back to his phone
"Do you... want me to go there?"
Wwx felt delirious, he was certain he was losing his mind and was having a fever dream; he'll wake up in his own bed soon
He pinched himself for good measure
"Not dreaming"
He took a few steps down the hall, paused, then took a few more. Lwj's bedroom was on the right, the darkroom and the bathroom on the left.
Wwx looked at his phone
"In here?"
He placed his hand on the handle to the darkroom, still watching his phone
The image scrambled, flashing whites, and pinks, blanking out completely
He let go of the handle quickly, his phone still glitching in his other hand, frowning, he placed his hand on the handle again.
This time his phone began vibrating and playing his alarm at max volume
He winced and yelled
"Okay! Okay! Not in there! Just... hold on"
Pressing the flat of his palm against the door he felt the cold from beyond the threshold, air charged with static, the hair on his arms standing up
He pulled away, traipsing down the hall to the bathroom, only briefly looking back just to make sure nothing was following him.
He placed his hand on the handle to the bathroom, looking to his phone once again.
The homescreen was back to normal, lwj still looking left
Wwx took a deep breath, closing his eyes and entering the bathroom, blindly feeling for the light switch.
He didn't want know what was lurking where he couldn't see.
Once the vision behind his closed eyes turned red did he then open his eyes
Nothing struck him as odd in the bathroom, everything in exactly the same place as it had been left, only when he gaze drifted over to the mirror did he suck in a breath
// blood mention

Smeared on the mirror in what wwx could only assume was blood was the word "mirror"
Well that definitely wasn't there before
"Hey, Lan Zhan, if this is you, what the fuck?"
The blood smeared more in front of him as he watched another word take it's place

His phone began to ring again, tearing his eyes from the mirror he silenced his alarm, looking at the screen; lwj was now looking right
Wwx frowned, left the bathroom and all but bolted into the bedroom, slamming the door behind him, flipping on the light
The full length mirror on the wall had a smear of blood on it, wwx tentatively walked over, brushing the stain with his fingers; it didn't budge
Looking into the mirror did he only realise how tired he looked, eyes dark, paler than usual, hair mussed
"Man, I'm a mess"
He bit back another yelp as his reflection changed in front of him
Lwj was stood in front of him, looking harrowed, if not a bit nightmarish
"Lan Zhan!" Wwx slammed his hands against the mirror, as if he could somehow touch lwj but all he could feel was the cool surface of the glass
"Wei Ying"
Oh. Oh he missed lwj's voice
He sounded muffled, but alive at least
"Lan Zhan, is that really you or have I finally lost it?" He choked out
"Its me" came lwj's response, short as always but with the same amount of gravity wwx was used to
"How? What? What's going on?" wwx babbled incoherently, barely making sense to himself
Lwj shook his head
"I do not know"
Wwx cast a glance down and saw lwj's bloody hand
"Are you okay?" He looked back up to meet lwj's gaze
"It'll heal"
"3 years, 3 years Lan Zhan! We all thought you were dead, I - wait... are you..."
Lwj shook his head again
"I don't believe so."
Wwx breathed out a sigh of relief, as much relief as that offered at least
"Lan Zhan... where exactly are you?"
"I'm not sure..." Lwj looked unsure of himself which was odd to wwx, it wasn't like lwj to look lost "I'm both present with you... and not"
"Like a ghost?" Wwx questioned, tilting his head to the side with a raised eyebrow
"Not quite" Lwj's gaze snapped to behind wwx, brows knitting together as he tightened his lips, "Wei Ying" he said gravely, "get out"
"What? Why?" wwx sounded almost offended, "now hold on just a minute, I've only just found you!"
"Not safe"
"Lan Zhan! I'm not gonna abandon you in whatever hell of a dimension you've found yourself in! There's got to be a way to get you out!"
"Perhaps there is" lwj said tightly, "however you must leave, now"
Lwj looked stricken
Wwx took a breath
"Fine, but I will be back tomorrow!"
Lwj's reflection faded from view, wwx took a few quick breaths before darting out of the bedroom, hastily gathering his things. The lights can stay on, fuck turning them off
Wwx made his way home and collapsed on the sofa, taking out his phone; his homescreen was truly back to normal now
He typed out a message to nhs
"How much do you know about alternate realities?"
// That's it for tonight! Thank you again so much for reading, update tomorrow hopefully! 🌟 //
Update in a few minutes! Here's the top of the thread!
Nhs rocked up to wwx's apartment at 11pm looking both dubious and intrigued
"You mention alternate realities and I come running"

Both settled down on the sofa with a mug of coffee each, wwx explaining everything he saw to him. Nhs only raised an eyebrow, taking a swig of coffee
Silently judging him

"So you saw him in a mirror?" he questioned
"Look" wwx sounded exasperated "I know it sounds impossible, but you have to believe me."
"Okay, say if I do, you believe he's in an alternate reality?"
"It's the only thing I can think of" wwx gnawed the skin on his thumb, "I saw him in the mirror and can only assume he was the one glitching my phone. How else would I have been able to find him without /that/ happening?"
Nhs examined wwx's phone, looking through files wwx barely paid attention to, determining that his phone is in working order with nothing strange, he handed it back to him
"Have you told Jiang Cheng about this?"
Wwx bristled a little
"I've been a pain in the neck for him for 3 years, I don't want to bother him any more than I already have"
"He cares about you" nhs said bluntly, "who else aside from me is gonna haul your ass out of weird shit?"
"So you gonna call him?"
Wwx waved his hand
"Not yet, wanna figure stuff out first. If it's dangerous I don't want to drag more people into this y'know?"
"Oh thanks, drag me into danger why don't you" nhs said with mock offense
Wwx nudged him in the ribs, nhs may have spluttered
That night they both scoured the web and the odd book wwx had on dimensions and portals
"Some say mirrors are portals" nhs murmured
"Can't pass through mirrors though, they're pretty solid"
"Humans can't at the very least" nhs pointed out
"You saying something not human passed through and dragged Lan Zhan with it?" Wwx raised an eyebrow at him
Nhs shrugged
"Maybe? Moreover, how much can he affect things in our realm?"
Wwx pondered, drumming his fingers on the book in his lap
"If he plays his guqin it plays in our realm, I assume he can move some objects? I think he's limited with that though"
"I guess we test that out when we're there..."
The pair fell into silence as they read whatever information they found, occasionally sharing ideas
Wwx almost leapt out of his skin when nhs suddenly smacked his laptop
"Wait! You saw him in the mirror - hear me out - what if you filled the bathtub and he did the same his end, when the water stills you might be able to pull him out?"
"Honestly, I'll take anything at this point"

Deciding they had at least a loose plan, the pair got a few hours sleep. Wwx setting an alarm for the morning so they wouldn't waste any time and precious daylight hours
The next morning both headed over to lwj's apartment, grateful for the clear skies and bright sun.
When they entered they immediately went to the bathroom, peering into the mirror where lwj was very much not
"Can he see us?" nhs asked, turning to wwx
"Not sure... maybe he can sense us?"
Wwx beckoned for nhs to follow him as he settled at the guqin, plucking a few notes, seconds later the same notes were plucked in response
"Woah" nhs said in awe "freaky"
Both then went to lwj's bedroom, lwj was stood in the mirror waiting for them. Nhs paused in the doorway upon seeing him there
"That's even creepier"
Wwx ignored him, standing in front of the mirror and giving lwj a small smile
"We may have found something"
Lwj cocked his head to the side ever so slightly, nodding his head for wwx to continue
"We need you to fill your bathtub your end, we'll fill it this end"
"Wei Ying?"
"Trust me?" Wwx offered him a sheepish smile
Nhs set to filling the tub whilst wwx conversed with lwj through the bathroom mirror, only pausing when the tub was deemed full enough
After the water had settled lwj's reflection came into focus, wwx slapped nhs' arm excitedly
"Are you certain?" lwj asked, voice very muffled from the water
"No, but worth a shot. Try passing through"

Lwj tried, wwx could see him dip his arm into the water, however the water barely rippled with disturbance on his end
"I can't" lwj tried again, "It won't let me"
Lwj appeared back in the bathroom mirror
"Lan Zhan? What happened?" Wwx asked, starting to look a little unsettled
Lwj shook his head
"I'm not sure. I passed through the bottom of the tub, but something stopped me going further, or rather... something was pushing against me"
Wwx pondered, turning back to the tub; saying nothing as he dipped his arms into the water, taking a shallow breath before plunging his face into it
"What are you doing?!" Nhs yelled
"Wei Ying!"
Wwx felt like he was sinking, thrashing about in the perpetual darkness surrounding him. He felt something strong grab his arms and pull him up

Light burned his vision as he spluttered and gasped for breath
"Wei Ying!"
That voice sounded far too clear
Wwx looked up from where he was lying in the bath, dazed and barely registering the face he saw, only coming to his senses when he felt himself being pulled out of the bath
"Why?" lwj looked mortified
"You couldn't get out" wwx coughed, "so I came to you"
"Foolish" lwj scolded as he steadied wwx
"Wei-xiong! Wei-xiong!" Both heard nhs from the mirror, wwx wetly padded over, tapping on it
"I'm here, how's your end?"

Nhs had a moment where he looked utterly bewildered, looking between the mirror and the bathtub
"Nothing odd here" he finally said after regaining as much sense as he could, "try the bath again?"

Both parties peered over the tub, seeing each other's reflection. There was a moment of quiet before nhs started yelling, his reflection and voice fading from view
// blood
"Huaisang?!" wwx leant over the edge of the tub, yelling into the water before rounding to the mirror, "Huaisang!" he shouted into it, "what's happening?"
Nhs looked pale and like he was about to throw up
"T-the bath!" he babbled incoherently, "it's filled with blood!"
// blood gore

"What do you mean blood?" wwx sounded frantic
"I don't know! It suddenly went dark and when I put my hand in it it was congealed, I swear there's organs in there!"
"Shit" wwx turned to lwj who looked just as concerned
More yelling had them turning back to the mirror
"The powers out! I can't see anything but I can hear something moving!"
Lwj gently moved wwx aside
"Get out of the dark and barricade the door. It should still be day for you" he instructed
"I'm calling Jiang Cheng!" nhs sounded hysterical
"Wait, no!" wwx pushed lwj aside to yell in the mirror
"No! Listen, I'm not staying here on my own, safety in numbers."

They hear nhs slam the door along with a groaning and a thump against the door
Nhs made his way into the living area where it was thankfully very bright thanks to the sliding doors to the balcony, he took out his phone and messaged jc a cryptic message which in hindsight probably wasn't the best idea as his phone rang seconds later
Beyond the mirror wwx was shivering, teeth chattering in the silence, lwj handed him a towel and fetched a set of clean clothes for him
"Reckless" he muttered as wwx wriggled his way out of his damp shirt
"Perhaps things didn't go to plan, but at least you're not on your own now" he couldn't help but grin at lwj who huffed in response, turning away to give wwx some privacy to change, but not willing to leave him on his own
One fresh set of clothes later and a steaming cup of tea, wwx and lwj sat on the sofa in the reversed world
Wwx peered around, everything looked normal from what he could see, the same layout, same colour, nothing out of place
If he knew better he'd say that things here felt more normal than they did in their realm, however one look at lwj's stuff posture and wary eyes said otherwise

"3 years?" lwj asked softly
"Ah?" wwx blinked, "oh... I suppose you don't keep track of time here"
Lwj shook his head and pointed to the clock on the wall, the numbers were reversed and it ticked anticlockwise

"Everything works in a loop here. Once 24 hours pass the day restarts"
Wwx frowns, asking gently
"Did you try to count the days?"
Lwj looked away, staring into space
"I tried, but each time I wrote it down it disappeared the next day - it was easier not to focus on it"
Wwx hummed in understanding, his gaze drifting to lwj's hands
"Your hand too?"
Lwj nodded and showed him, the site was clear of any wound
They lapsed into silence, wwx stealing glances at lwj whenever he thought he wasn't looking
Lwj caught him staring, both holding the gaze longer than what felt necessary before wwx looked away
"I've missed you"
He heard lwj give a short intake of breath
"I've missed you too"
A thud from the bathroom alerted them, they looked at each other alarmed before leaping up and running to it

Wwx wasn't sure what he was seeing, but lwj was in front of him wrestling something in the bath, grunting as something thrashed in the water, soaking the floor
The water looked swampy, dark with what looked like a mass of hair or maybe weeds
"Lan Zhan!" wwx called out to him, panicked
"Wei Ying! Pull the plug!"
Wwx didn't hesitate, sliding across the floor, grasping the chain and yanking it up
// injury
The water drained away with a croaking and a groan, stands of hair blocking the plughole, wwx pulled a few of them up to inspect, only tossing them when he heard lwj hiss
// blood injury
Lwj's arms were scratched up and deeply, blood trickling down them, pooling and dripping from his fingertips
"Shit, Lan Zhan, your arms" wwx breathed
"They'll heal" lwj looked pained
Wwx wetted a flannel from the sink and began to gently clean the wounds
"Should still take care of them" wwx replied
Lwj tried not to wince when wwx began to bandage his arms, but wwx could see how he scrunched his nose and heard the occasional sharp hiss
After he had finished lwj went to his bedroom to change his now sodden clothes
Wwx turned to the mirror and saw the worried face of nhs
"Is everything okay? I heard a commotion"
"Uhhhh" wwx's eyes drifted over to the bath "something was in the water, it's gone now, how's over there?"
"Quiet" nhs frowned, "Jiang Cheng doesn't finish work until 6pm and I really don't want to stay here on my own"
"Go home and meet up with him later" wwx said flatly
"You sure?"
"Yeah. It's not safe" he hummed, "when you're back pluck a few notes on Lan Zhan's guqin"
Nhs looked a little unsure
"He won't mind, besides, we'll know you're here then. I'll ask Lan Zhan if he has a handheld mirror anywhere, might make it easier to talk"
Nhs breathed shakily
"Alright... Wei-xiong?"
"Be safe"
Wwx grinned at him
"We'll be fine"
Wwx wandered back into the living area to find lwj sat back on the sofa, gazing out of the balcony doors. The weather was stormy and grey, rain pelting the glass
"Crappy weather" Wwx mused
"Mn... it never changes"
"At all?"
Lwj looked to wwx, eyes tired, face pale
"Oh Lan Zhan"
Wwx sat next to him, inching closer and closer until his arm brushed against lwj's, lwj didn't say anything or seem to pay any mind at all really

"Lan Zhan" wwx hesitated, "when you went missing... I found polaroids"
Lwj gave a hum in acknowledgment, gazing outside
"It looked like you recognised someone"
Lwj stiffened next to him
"Who did you see?" wwx pressed further
Lwj turned to look at wwx, eyes locking with his, scrutinising him but most of all, they were afraid

// That's it for tonight! Thank you for being patient! Hopefully I'll update tomorrow, thank you for reading! 🌟 //
Gonna be a short update tonight! Here's the top of the thread if you missed it:
Wwx stared at lwj in disbelief, an uneasiness settling in his stomach like fish wriggling in his insides
"Lan Zhan, what do you mean you saw /me/?"
LWj absently clasped his fingers together in his lap, smoothing over his thumb with the other
"I heard the camera go off, when I turned I saw you..." he glanced towards wwx "Initially I didn't think anything was wrong, but-"
"I came in unannounced?" wwx asked
Lwj nodded his head
"You always give notice, but also, I should have been able to hear you"
Wwx hummed to himself
"What happened after that?"
Lwj frowned, balling his fists in his lap, wwx's lips tightened at that, absently reaching out to soothe lwj, but lwj flinching in response
Wwx drew back immediately, whispering a hasty "sorry"
"It's okay" lwj murmured, he took a steadying breath before continuing, "we talked, I asked if everything was okay but you waved me off saying you wanted to see me"
Lwj opened his mouth to continue, words sat heavy on his tongue
Wwx noticed his hesitation and encouraged gently
"And then?"
Lwj sighed
"You took my hand - it was ice cold, when I tried to pull away your grip tightened and..."
His fists tightened, knuckles turning white, eyes flitting with distress
// horror gore

"Lan Zhan?"
"Your eyes turned red before your skin greyed, your flesh melted from your face, I - I don't remember much, I remember falling backwards; I think through the mirror, with you dragging me through it"
"Oh, oh Lan Zhan I'm so sorry" wwx hesitantly reached out to him, letting lwj decide to take his hand or not
He did, it was warm; a small bit of relief washed over lwj
"Don't be, it wasn't you"
They sat in silence for a bit, wwx looking out the window noting how heavy the rain was; it was impossible to see anything beyond it.
Lwj had since relaxed a little, biding his time with a book
"Hey, Lan Zhan?"
Wwx peeled his gaze from the window to look to lwj, he tilted his head a little before asking
"Was there anything odd leading up to that? Aside from the polaroids"
Lwj shook his head
"Nothing of note. The apartment was peaceful"
"Hmm" wwx mused, bouncing his leg up and down
"What about with you?"
Lwj gave him a quizzical look
"Did you feel odd?" wwx clarified
Lwj paused, brows knitting together in thought
"I'd been having nightmares leading up to it, of something getting closer"
"Getting closer?" now it was wwx's turn to look confused
"I was aware of something in the back of my dreams, static in presence - I thought I was stressed"
"Well, I can't imagine entertaining the possibility of a paranormal event was on your mind" wwx couldn't help but grin a little
"Far from it" lwj confirmed
"Have you tried to get out?"

Lwj hummed in affirmation
"Tried the doors and windows first"

Lwj gestured to them
"See for yourself"
Wwx hopped up from the sofa, sliding his way over to the balcony doors first. He grabbed the handle and pulled hard trying to slide the door, it didn't budge
"It's... like it's part of the wall"
He walked over to the front door, trying the same much to the same results
A thought formed in his mind, he took a few steps back before running and throwing himself at the door shoulder first
"Wei Ying!"
Wwx laughed
"It's okay! I wanted to see if it was possible to break it. That's really sealed huh?"
Lwj's response was to make more tea whilst wwx nursed his bruised shoulder with a groan, graciously accepting the hot beverage

"Sometimes other doors lock and I can't open them"
"Huh?" Wwx whipped his head round to fully face lwj, "That happened to me too!"
"I couldn't get into your office one day, then about an hour later I could open the door again"
"Lan Zhan?"
"I was in there. The door locked behind me."
Wwx took a sip of tea, watching lwj curiously
"Did you manage to unlock it?"
Lwj shook his head
"The door opened with force and I heard rustling"
Wwx blinked a few times, piecing together the events in his mind before he clicked his fingers
"Oh! That was me looking through your stuff, I thought the door was still stuck - I was a bit surprised! Wait..."
Both frowned at each other
"Feels a little bit like a puzzle box, no?"
"Maybe that might be a way to get us out?" wwx suggested, "If things are locked on the other side we can unlock them here, and vice versa! Ohh 6pm can't arrive fast enough"
Wwx took the opportunity the update lwj on what had happened in his absence, a marriage, a break up or two
"I got a better paying job! I'm hoping to move out of my crappy apartment soon"
Neither of them spoke about the unmentioned "if we get out" that lingered in the air
"Your brother continued paying your rent" wwx said softly, "he believes you'll return home"
Wwx felt best not to acknowledge too much how lwj's eyes turned misty and unfocussed
At 6:30pm the guqin rang out discordantly, lwj grimaced whilst wwx laughed
Lwj sat at his guqin, playing a few notes nhs would recognise, looking up at wwx who gave him a mischievous grin
// That's it for tonight! I really need to plan out the next parts, maybe two more updates after this one? We'll see! Thank you so much for reading! 🌟 //
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