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13 Sep, 119 tweets, 20 min read
💜 safe in my hands 💛

🧗‍♂️ wangxian rock climbing au
🧗‍♂️ inspired by lwj's arm strength and the film free solo
🧗‍♂️ for the purpose of this thread fic alex honnold does not exist

lwj is a pro climber. he's been climbing since the age of five.
he's the sponsors' darling - handsome, polite, highly-skilled. maybe a bit standoffish, but that makes him all the more mysterious, all the more interesting to write about, to interview, to film.

he reveals little of his personal life. he likes to keep it that way.
lwj likes to keep it that way, because he can't let people find out why. why he throws himself so intensely at every new route, why he doesn't stick around long enough at competitions to make friends, why he spends all of his time on his fingerboard strengthening his holds.
it's been years, years, since The Incident. if he spends all his time climbing and getting better and getting stronger and doing more then he won't have to think about it. won't have to worry, to wonder.
it had been on the old man of hoy. lwj had been there to do a sponsored shoot for black diamond, seeking out iconic shots on the wild orkney islands.

wwx had been there, the same day, same time, "just by coincidence!" as if he didn't show up everywhere lwj went. the old man of hoy is a sea...
wwx had been, of course, free soloing. the camera crew had loved it. he was notorious, even then, for his disregard for safety. his love of the thrill of free soloing. his brash, bold talent.

of course, it's always when the cameras are present that things go the most wrong.
lwj doesn't think about it now. forces himself not to. but--it had taken so long for the air ambulance to arrive, and the air had been so thick with tension--he'd had to descend three pitches and by the time he got there--

so he just. doesn't think about it, now.
he and wwx had been rivals in the junior championships, had exchanged snarky comments on big walls in madagascar, had been constantly pitted against each other for sponsorship deals. but they had never exchanged phone numbers.
so when the media never got their hands on the outcome of the accident--when wwx disappeared from the face of the planet, just like that--lwj didn't know why. didn't know whether he was alive, or crippled, or dead. he almost didn't want to know. it's easier this way.
so this is what he does: he climbs, and he pushes it down, and he pushes himself further, and harder, and stronger. he reaches the top of his game. he tries not to think about how lonely it is.
he's about halfway up his indoor bouldering wall, working on a tricky counter-balance problem, when his ears pick up a familiar name from the soft hum of the background radio.

no. no. he's hallucinating.
he drops to the springy floor without a second thought, strides across the room to turn the radio up--but they've already moved on, introducing the next song--

he grabs his phone. opens his news feed. it's well-curated, and the article is right there at the top:
BACK FROM THE DEAD: free soloist wei wuxian announces his most daring project yet
lwj fully drops his phone.

he pauses, catches his stammering heart, lets himself have this moment. wwx is not dead. he breathes in the knowledge. wwx is alive. he's alive, and he's still climbing--his most daring project yet? wait--
lwj scrambles for his phone again, forces his eyes past his name to the rest of the article, does his best to ignore how his heart is in his mouth and his stomach is awash with perfect white butterflies.

he almost drops it again. wwx is going to free solo el capitan.
el capitan. the big wall. the most legendary rock face in the world. nearly 1000m of ascent.

and wwx is going to do it without any harness, any ropes, any protection.

lwj's knees give out beneath him. Image
lwj spends the night in a haze. he searches google, scours the climbing forums, even ventures into the terrifying world of facebook groups for information.

no one knows anything more than him. wwx appeared out of the blue, gave a single interview, and boom. media explosion.
time for his last resource. he calls his brother.

"wangji? it's late."

"brother. please tell me you still have his sister's number."

lxc sighs. he might be retired to coach, but he's still in the circuit enough to know who lwj is talking about.
"it's been thirteen years."

"she might not have changed it."

"i will send you her email address."

"/thank you/." lwj is feeling too raw to keep the emotion out of his voice. lxc would have heard it there anyway.
he stares at his blank email draft until 2:34am. what do you say? "hi, i was and still am in love with your brother, now that he's alive again could you please put us in touch?"

he can't just send that. he saves the blank draft. the morning will make everything easier.
the morning does not make everything easier. lwj is awoken by his phone buzzing against his face. it's nearly 9am. he never sleeps this late. what on earth has got into him?

groggily, he swipes to answer. "hello?"
"lan zhan!"

lwj goes very, very still. his phone slips down onto his chest. that voice, that sweet, cheery, achingly familiar voice--

"lan zhan? are you there? it's me, wei ying! hi!"
wei ying. it's been years. where have you been?

he forces himself to sit up, clear his throat, answer like the entire foundation of his world has not just been shaken to its core.

"wei ying. good morning. how are you?"
"ah, i'm good! i'm good! did you see my news?"

"mn." he swallows. "yes. wei ying does not do things by halves."

"haha, you got that one right! anyway, lan zhan, i know it's early but i wanted to ask you a favor."
lwj wonders if wwx knows he would literally throw himself off a cliff for him. "anything."

"okay, well, careful what you ask for. so, i've been--kinda out of things, for a bit, you know, and well. with the ascent. i'm gonna need to learn the route pretty well first."
"mn."

"so...."

"so?"

"i was wondering if you would. um. want to do that? with me?"
lwj closes his eyes. takes a deep breath. wets his lips. wwx has gone very quiet, but so has he. to be asked--finally--

it's just climbing partners. they will be on ropes the whole time. but it's so much more than that.

behind the secrecy of the phone, lwj smiles.

"okay."
// stopping there for tonight but there is plenty more to come, we'll continue tomorrow! yosemite awaits 🏞️
lwj is overflowing with nerves.

on the outside, he is the picture of perfect calm, sipping his tea in the window of the cafe, sun filtering across the table. on the inside, he is screaming.

wwx is due to meet him here any minute.
they've been messaging & calling back and forth for weeks. wwx had popped up in the uk, of all places, and it had taken him long enough to get his visa sorted that they've already discussed the ascent at great length, but it's different in person. lwj is vibrating under his skin.
he checks his watch again. it's been nearly twenty minutes since wwx was meant to arrive. he taps his fingers on the table anxiously.

he's waited thirteen years. he can wait another five minutes.
he's tipping his cup back to finish the last of his tea when a battered black van pulls up into the parking lot. he nearly chokes. he'd recognise that van anywhere.

lwj sets down his mug, checks himself over, breathes. he is a professional adult man and he can do this.
wwx tumbles out of the van, long-limbed in scruffy shorts and a faded tee, hair tied into a short ponytail with his signature red scrunchie, and lwj thinks: he cannot do this.
he's still frozen when wwx strolls up to the cafe, sees him through the window, waves in delight, and lwj has to make a very physical effort to lift a hand in return. wwx bursts in through the doors in a storm of energy and drops into the chair opposite him.

"lan zhan!"
lwj stares. he looks amazing. his hair is shorter but just as messy, and there is a new scar curling around his bicep, silvery. he's still lanky, but now it's in a lean-muscled sort of way, and his shoulders have filled out delightfully.

but the most important part. his smile.
his smile is exactly the same.

"wei ying," he says by way of greeting, and he is hit with it full-force, lethal. if he had ever thought 13 years could dull the intensity of his feelings--this has instantly proved him wrong.

"lan zhan! oh my god, hi. you look really good."
wwx is quick and easy with his compliments. he hadn't forgotten, but he certainly hasn't been able to appreciate it in far too long.

"as do you," he replies. wwx blushes immediately. "it is good to see you. fit and healthy." he wishes he could put how he really feels into words.
wwx laughs it off, waves away any questions lwj might want to ask about his recovery from what had looked like certain death. "so! el cap."

"mn."

"you excited?"

the thought of spending so long with him, learning the route? he's over the moon.

"mn. yes."
wwx laughs again, and it's intoxicating. thirteen years and lwj finds himself just as head over heels as he was when they were competing against each other in the junior world championships.

they do actually discuss the project, and their plans, and logistics.
wwx is of course planning to stay in his van, because that's what climbers do. lwj has a lodge booked out in yosemite valley, but they're expecting to spend quite a few nights up on the wall anyway, and he doesn't think it will see much use. he's brought a portaledge.
before they know it, wwx's coffee is gone, lwj's second tea is gone, and the cafe is empty. the sun has started to dip towards the horizon outside.

they arrange a meeting point & time for the morning, go over the rack they'll need for the first few pitches. they start tomorrow.
lwj knows a sleepless night before climbing el cap is not healthy, but that's what he gets.

he slathers himself in sun lotion and meets wwx in the picnic area for the walk in. the sun isn't up yet; they wanted to get an early start.
by the time they reach the base of the wall, wwx has finished his flask of coffee and is acting somewhat more alive. they get kitted up. lwj enjoys the sight of him in a harness. not just because of the safety it promises.

he mentally shakes himself. he has to focus on belaying.
wwx leads the first pitch, then leads it again, then leads it again. lwj is glad he brought his belay glasses, even if they do make him feel like an idiot.

there are 33 pitches. this is going to take a long, long time, and lwj is going to enjoy every minute of it.
they make slow progress. the first day is spent almost entirely on the bottom pitches, learning the holds, following the scuff of chalk marks and previous experience. lwj has climbed el cap before, of course, but he's never done this route in its entirety.
he walks wwx back to his van in the twilight, and thinks, he would be happy if this project took an entire year.
every day is the same. get to the wall at the crack of dawn, climb, belay, descend, walk back to the car park exhausted & eager for more. wwx chatters throughout, of course, and lwj begins to learn him: his habits, his tastes, his memories. the years of recovery. hurting, alone.
after three weeks (of surprisingly good weather), they start moving off the ground. they've been off the ground for most of the time, of course, but now lwj has to bring out the portaledge.

they set up base camp at the bottom of the freeblast slabs. slick, smooth granite.
they will be here for a while.

lwj has brought plenty with him, and their support team is ready to drop off further supplies as well, should they need them. portaledges aren't comfortable but they are useful. they could be up here for days.
the first day goes terribly. he can tell wwx is nervous, all over the place, cramping up and gripping badly and generally losing his cool at all the wrong times. lwj does his best to talk him through it, but wwx is too high-strung to listen.
the sun sets, and they sit on their portaledge and eat rehydrated pasta and look out over the valley.

lwj nudges wwx's knee with his foot. "why?"

"why what?"

"why did you decide to come back?" Image
wwx doesn't answer for a long time. lwj worries he might have asked the wrong question. but then he shifts, leans back against the granite behind them, shrugs. "i don't know. i guess... i guess i felt ready again. for the first time in years. i missed it."
his gaze skitters across lwj's, and he smiles a small, soft smile. "missed a lot of things."

lwj hums gently in agreement. it's peaceful up here. alone in their own little world, high above the ground, it would be so easy to--
wwx laughs under his breath and looks away. lwj tries not to feel crushed.

the portaledge is wide enough for two people to lie side by side, but only just. he can feel wwx's arm pressed against his through the sleeping bag. it's cold up here, hundreds of feet above the earth.
wwx shuffles, and lwj wonders if he's still awake, staring up at the same great expanse of rock up to the stars.

"lan zhan?" his voice is quiet in the vastness of night.

"mn."

"cold, huh."
"mn. are you wearing enough layers?"

he hears wwx sigh, and feels him roll over. he can just about make out the shape of him in the starlight. "lan zhan. seriously?"

"it is the best way to stay warm."
wwx huffs, and suddenly lwj's arm is being pulled out of his sleeping bag and across wwx's waist, tucking into the warmth of his. he has to roll over onto his side to spoon up behind him. wwx sighs with content and snuggles down.

"see. much warmer this way."

lwj has to agree.
he wakes up in the morning with his nose pressed into wwx's hair and his morning wood pressed into wwx's ass. he has never been more grateful for the thick down of his sleeping bag. he shuffles away carefully, and thinks unsexy thoughts about his uncle, and just about survives.
they continue like this: climbing during the day, fraught with tension, rehydrated food and the sunset, cold nights pressed close together with tension of a different kind. they don't talk about it. it's just the friendly thing to do with your climbing buddy, to keep warm.
as they progress up the wall, lwj realises that he had been underselling wwx in his way of thinking about him: yes, he is brash, and bold, and overflowing with raw talent, but he's clever, too, in a way that lwj has never appreciated before.
wwx has to be fully prepared to do this without a rope. he cannot rely on any kind of aids, only his own nimble fingers, confidence in his feet, perfect balance and strength and agility. he has to change the route of several pitches to ensure he can do it.
oftentimes, he's making things harder or more tedious for himself, downclimbing to avoid an obstacle that can only be accomplished with a rope swing, or traversing sideways to wedge his body into a crack.

it's impressive. lwj is madly in love.
they spend weeks on the wall. the weather is blessedly good to allow it. the portaledge gets excellent use, although they descend to the valley floor every few days to eat real food and shower.

lwj finds himself missing the press of wwx's body against his.
four months have passed by the time they're tackling the final obstacle. wwx is absolutely stressed about it, lwj can tell, even if he pretends like it's just as easy as everything else.

he has to kick his leg out, above waist height, across the face of the rock. holding onto--
--the tiniest nub of rock. it's probably the most dangerous thing he will ever attempt.

they practice it twenty times, thirty times, forty times. every time wwx slips he gets more and more frustrated.
after a day of frustration, lwj wraps his arms around him and presses his nose into the sweat of his neck. they still don't talk about this. but that doesn't mean they can't talk about other things.

"you're angry," lwj says softly. "at yourself."
wwx stiffens. "well, yeah, because i can't fucking get the move and if i can't fucking get the move then the whole fucking thing is off."

lwj rubs a thumb over his arm. "you will get the move. but you're still angry. it's why you push yourself so hard."
wwx mumbles something.

"hm?"

"i said it's not allowed for you to read me like a fucking book like that."

lwj smiles into his hair. "i'm right, then." wwx doesn't reply, which is a good confirmation. "tell me."
he sighs, and doesn't reply for a while. then he rolls over onto his back, pulling lwj's arm tighter over his chest. "/fine/."

on their little hanging ledge, under the stars, wwx tells him. he tells him everything.
he hadn't always been a free soloist. lwj knew this, of course, from their junior competition days, everyone did. but he never knew why--why he just stopped, one day. stopped climbing with others. stopped using protection.

"it was my fault," he whispers to lwj.
"i led the climb, i placed the protection--and i do check, always, but i must have not done it properly, because it wasn't solid, and jiejie--she--"

he stops, catches his breath. lwj traces a circle into the skin of his wrist.

"she was the one that paid for it."
lwj remembers. remembers hearing about wwx's sister, more because she was wwx's and jc's sister, and they were both junior champions, than because she had aspirations for greatness herself--but he remembers hearing about it. a nasty fall. a life-changing injury.
jyl would never climb again. wwx's brother stopped talking to him. he started free soloing. now that he sees it, the connection feels glaringly obvious.
"i couldn't, after that," wwx continues. "couldn't put anyone else at risk. it was easier to do it alone." he pauses, and his chest contracts, and lwj thinks he might be crying. he presses his nose closer into wwx's shoulder. "and--the adrenaline. the knowledge that a single--
--misstep could be your last. it's like a drug. it makes it bearable. makes the pain go away."

lwj sucks in a breath, and holds him closer than his own heart.
"you are worth more than just an adrenaline rush, wei ying," he breathes. wwx shudders in his arms, a sob. lwj dares to press a gentle kiss to his shoulder. "thank you," he says. "for trusting me with this."
wwx doesn't reply, just pulls lwj closer, and holds him there until his breathing steadies out, until he goes loose and peaceful in his arms. lwj tucks wwx in against him.

it hurts, the truth. but knowing it, knowing the reason, the why, makes him love him all the more.
the atmosphere feels different in the morning. wwx doesn't mention the night before, but he's more relaxed, laughing with ease, shaking off each failed attempt at the karate kick move and trying again without complaint. it takes another two days before he finally gets it.
once he does, he has to practice it over and over until he's fully confident he can do it without the safety of a rope. a greedy part of lwj wants to stay up here on the portaledge with him forever.

but too soon, he's got it solid, and they descend for the last time.
lwj's heart is in his throat right from the moment they set off. suddenly, it feels like the past six months have flown by far too quickly, like time is marching forward at an alarming pace, right up until wwx actually does his attempt. his single attempt.
there will be no retries.

he curses himself for forgetting why they are really here, for forgetting that wwx could very possibly actually die in the near future, for forgetting why free soloing is so dangerous in the first place. he got too caught up in wwx's vivacious presence.
they check the weather forecasts daily. the conditions have to be perfect, to allow for the greatest chance of success. media crews start arriving. their filmmaker friend from kendal mountain festival wants to shoot it. wwx starts getting calls non stop for interviews.
and then, suddenly, over coffee, wwx announces he's doing it in the morning.

lwj has to rush into the bathroom to lock himself in a cubical and hold down his breakfast.
wwx is too relaxed. too chilled out about it. as if he just said he was going to pop out for more milk, do you need anything from the store?

lwj feels like one breath of wind could scatter him into pieces.
after lying facedown on his bed for several hours, lwj realises he is wasting huge amounts of time, so he gets in his car and drives to the picnic area at where wwx has set up camp.

he swallows, and knocks on the door of his battered black van.
wwx opens it in his t-shirt with holes in it and fifteen-year-old marmot pants. he looks at lwj with softness in his eyes, his earlier bravado gone, and lwj sees the hint of anxiety there. he steps up into the van silently.
there's a dirty pan of tomato pasta in the sink and an open bottle of beer on the side. lwj aches to think that he might have spent this final evening alone.

"you're here," murmurs wwx.

lwj looks at him. world-famous, dancer with death. soft and vulnerable.

"i'm here."
the moment stretches between them. it is full, of those years racing each other when they were teens, of injury and loss and recovery, of nights spent wrapped in each other under the stars, high above the earth. of truths and secrets. trust.

it is not full enough.
lwj doesn't know who steps forwards first. all he knows are wwx's lips on his, desperate, needing, seeking solace. he thrusts his hands into the soft fabric of his shirt, pulls him tight against him, presses him against the small counter. wwx gasps into his mouth.
they stumble backwards towards the bed, & fall into each other, no sleeping bags and tightly-held tension between them now. this time, when wwx cries, lwj can kiss the tears away, hold him closer than ever before.

he tries not to think about how every kiss might be their last.
after, they press together skin to skin, feet curled against the wall in wwx's cramped van bed, and wwx noses into lwj's hair. "please don't try and stop me," he mumbles, and lwj can hear the genuine fear in his voice. "i have to do this."
"i won't," lwj replies, even though it breaks his heart. "i will be waiting for you at the top."

wwx sniffles, and lwj presses a kiss to his chest, and finds that his eyes are wet too.
lwj doesn't want to sleep, because he doesn't want tomorrow to come, but morning arrives far too soon. it's still dark when they step out of the van. wwx plans to begin the ascent no later than 5:30am.
lwj has to leave now to hike up to the top. he clings tight to wwx in the parking lot. there are no words.

their final kiss lingers on his lips like a seal. he can only hope that it is a promise and not an omen.
he puts phone firmly into his bag and out of reach as he walks. wwx will be starting soon. he cannot, cannot allow himself to think of the worst outcomes. the lower pitches are fine. up until the freeblast slabs, where they first held each other, and then--

he gets to the top.
the media is amassed up here, news reporters and journalists and photographers. huaisang's film crew are already in position, dotted the height of the wall, ready to catch whatever happens on camera.

lwj feels sick again. he ignores everyone and sits down to wait.
the first hour passes. he imagines where wwx will be up to. on the freeblast slabs now. smearing himself across smooth granite like he was made to defy physics. up, higher, across the mammoth terraces and downclimbing around hollow flake. pumped full of adrenaline.
lwj refuses the packet of cookies someone offers him. continues staring unseeing at the distant horizon. he must be at least halfway up now, which means that it won't be long until he's tackling the boulder problem, and the terrifying karate kick move.
lwj's heart is going haywire. he stands up and starts to pace. the air is visibly thick with tension.

someone gathered by the live feed from the cameras gasps.
lwj's stomach drops out through his feet. he's not sure he's seeing properly. he vaguely registers people rushing to the screens, panicked murmurs, urgency.

he has lost him once. he will not survive losing him again.
there's a moment, silent, waiting, of pure agonising torture. he can't--he can't be--he had the move--

"he's done it!"

the call comes loud and clear, ringing across the clifftop. lwj's knees give out. he hits the rock with a thud. he's done it. he's alive.
lwj shakes with relief. he accepts a cookie now, from those being passed around. but although wwx has completed the hardest move, it's not over yet. he still has an hour of climbing to go.
it drags. every second drags. every minute wwx gets higher, and closer, yes, but higher, and no doubt more exhausted. lwj is vibrating out of his skin with anticipation.
suddenly, there's a loud scream, and for a horrifying moment lwj thinks that the worst has actually happened--but then he turns, and sees him.

sweaty, shirtless, glistening with exhaustion. grinning. his wei ying.
he's across the surface of the clifftop in seconds, paying no heed to the cameras or journalists or squealing assembly of onlookers. wwx pulls himself up over the final edge of the cliff, wobbles to his feet.

topples forward straight into lwj's arms.
"you did it," he says.

wwx grins at him for stating the obvious. "i did it." he wraps his arms around lwj's shoulders, holding onto him for support. his chest is still heaving. "you know how?"

"how?"
wwx smiles, that soft, quiet smile that is just for them. "because you trusted me to do it."
lwj kisses him then, in front of the world, on top of the world, his heart soaring somewhere in the sky above them. when he pulls away to murmur those three words into wwx's ear, wwx blushes, and giggles, and murmurs them back.
there are of course the news cameras to deal with, and photographers, and interviews. huaisang's team show them the best bits of footage and preemptively invite them to the premiere. people want selfies and high fives and hugs. lwj holds wwx's hand throughout.
he only lets go when they reach the back of the crowd, and wwx goes still. lwj follows his gaze to a familiar man and woman in matching purple buffs.

"go to them," he says, and squeezes wwx's hand. wwx looks at him, once, vulnerable, so lwj nods, and he goes.
they finally get their pace much later that evening, lying again in the too-short bed of the van, fingers intertwined over smooth skin.

"i meant it," wwx says. "when i said i could only do it because you trusted me. it was true."
*peace grr

"thank you for letting me."

"no, lan zhan, thank you. like, without being cheesy. i may not have had a rope, or protection, or a harness, but the knowledge that i had you? that was enough."
lwj smiles, presses it against wwx's lips, and murmurs there, "wei ying is more than enough."

wwx squirms, and blushes, and attacks him with kisses, and lwj revels in every touch and every moment and every thing that says they are both here, right now, living. in love. together.
safe, in each other's hands.
// the end! ✨

thank you so much for reading! i had so much fun writing this and seeing everyone's reactions :D

as always, like/qrts/interactions are always vastly appreciated! love you<3
an important closing remark: this fic is very much based on a true story! alex honnold is an insane free soloist who did this incredible climb back in 2017. it was documented in the film free solo which I highly recommend watching! (I literally stole his exact route for this sh) ImageImage
also shout-out to another really good climbing film about el capitan, the dawn wall, which is also very good and gave me the portaledge inspiration
and finally, I actually made a ko-fi, and I don't have a job at the moment so I'm just gonna do a no pressure plug for that here! ko-fi.com/daltoneering

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More from @daltoneering

25 Aug
hello i have An Opinion and it is that non-sexual kink is quite honestly god tier
lan zhan Knows wei ying, knows how incredibly his brain is and knows how despite that genius he still forgets little things sometimes. usually about self-care. he doesn't take lunch, or he forgets to pick up his meds, or he leaves his jacket behind at work.
it starts simple. a little peck on the forehead, a hand encircling wei ying's wrist as he stumbles out the door.

"wei ying. do not forget your lunch today."
"ah! thank you lan zhan, such a good husband to me, whoops, haha!"
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