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brother, come back home with me

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everyone knows it’s jiang cheng that led the siege in burial mounds, everyone knows that it’s him that pointed the sword at his brother with the intent to kill. nearly everyone forgets jiang cheng wasn’t the one to kill him—that he hadn’t even nicked him with his sword (that it was merely hearsay—thinking back to it, he doubts he would have been able to do it in the first place—or, maybe he could have. he has spent countless nights wondering about this, he has never found an answer). 

everyone remembers that they were brothers, of the monster that bit the hands of the family who fed him and how jiang cheng exacted his revenge in turn—everyone forgets that they still are—brothers. that just because it is overwhelmingly painful, to the point that at times, jiang cheng wanted to see him burn—doesn’t mean he no longer yearns to save him and have him just come back home. underneath his skin and within his bones, he is still his sister’s brother, his father’s son, jiang cheng—and just like his father and sister did, he has always only wanted to protect his brother. once, and still.

everyone forgets that he was the one at the forefront of the battle, and as fate might have found it funny (as it had for the longest time), had given him a front-seat view of his own brother getting torn apart by the very same cause he’d abandoned his family, him and shijie and jin ling, for.

everyone forgets and nobody ever asks jiang cheng what he saw that day. 

he doesn’t tell anyone about the defeated look wei wuxian gave him, one that told him he has only been waiting for this. there was no sign of struggle, no playfulness, no helplessness—just pure, unadulterated defeat—and that jiang cheng had to take a step back, wondering if this was really his brother ( come home with me, brother. you will be safe with us. please. the war is done and over and you need not save anymore, you need not give your life over people who will hurt you anymore).

he doesn’t tell anyone the way wei wuxian’s eyes turned frantic as something shifted and how he looked when he shouted at jiang cheng to “go!” and the daunting realization he has lost control, and that this time, and again—jiang cheng’s side will win, but at the cost of him losing his brother for what will seem to be the rest of his life (even when wei wuxian promised to be by his side forever. come home with me, brother. please. )

he doesn’t tell anyone because nobody ever asks. and just like everyone else, he convinces himself he shouldn’t have to remember, he shouldn’t have to mourn. 

despite it all, he spends thirteen long years looking for him anyway—unconvinced, that it could end just like that. because his broth—because wei wuxian is stubborn and relentless and all-powerful and the both of them has faced death so many times and he— he couldn’t have just , he couldn’t have just gone

he couldn’t have just gone and left jiang cheng behind because he’d promised. because wei wuxian wouldn’t—couldn’t. if anyone had asked why he relentlessly pursued traces of his former brother, he wouldn’t know how to answer—nobody asks because they assume it is so he could take his anger out on anyone even resembling wei wuxian—jiang cheng wouldn’t know how to answer but that is not why. sometimes, he looks in the mirror and sees three siblings with smiles on their faces and the rest of the world would seem conquerable with them in his midst. jiang cheng wouldn’t know how to answer but anger is not why.

 

the first time he sees him again, he recognizes him almost immediately. he sees the brief surprise flash in the other’s eyes, and then realization, that it is him and the younger boy in their midst is their sister’s only son—and then a look he knew all too well, remorse.

jiang cheng first recognizes this emotion in his father’s eyes—when he’d told him he had to send his dogs away because the new kid—wei ying—was terrified of dogs. he was crouched down, holding onto jiang cheng’s small arms, his eyes glowing in what seemed to be a mix of an attempt to persuade (about a decision that has long been made in the first place) and an apology. he says he’s sorry, but jiang cheng is big enough to understand now—that there are things he has to let go of for other people, and this is one of them. jiang cheng does not say aloud that he does not understand.

he sees it next in wei wuxian’s eyes, outside his chambers where he refuses to let the other boy in—convinced, that wei wuxian was taking everything that he has away. he peeks in-between the cracks of the door to see his father crouched down, gently talking to the boy as he implores him to understand, wei wuxian’s eyes glow in the same light his father had, says “i’m sorry i’ve caused trouble for you, uncle”. his father says, “wei ying, from now on, you don’t have to apologize for the things you didn’t do wrongly. remember that, okay?”

wei wuxian’s eyes shine and jiang cheng feels hurt thrum underneath his veins, raw and strong and big. he tells wei wuxian he’s going to make his dogs come after him and the boy disappears for half a day until all the hurt prickling from underneath his skin is turned into worry and despair. when he sees the older boy again, he instinctively apologizes. the first time they hold hands and play around, jiang cheng thinks it isn’t too bad to be with him after all.

(it takes jiang cheng a long time to realize it is hard to save people you love from those who wish to hurt them if you’re not powerful enough, and it is even harder to save someone you love from themselves even when you desperately want to. 

wei wuxian has always worn apologies in his sleeves like he was always ready to atone for his sin of overstepping his boundaries as a person, as a brother. he never learned to look at himself as though he was worth equal among his siblings. he is good at faking them, molding the apology on his skin so that it looks like a smile, so that nobody worries—it took jiang cheng too long to see it is so).

and just like this, jiang cheng finds, again, that it is easier to be angry than let the hurt from underneath his skin fester. wei wuxian denies his identity and jiang cheng lashes out like a whip, like an angry man, like—like who he has been for the last thirteen years.

when he walks away, he does not turn to look. (but he wishes he had, oh , how he wishes he had.)

the man who had bitten the hand of the family who fed him did not deserve jiang cheng’s mercy. ( then why had you let him go? then why do you want to hug him close and say, thank the gods, thank the gods you’re back. i never learned how to live without you. )



it is easy to be angry—raw, hot, fiery anger that eats you from the inside because it is easy to explain why it is so.

it is easy to watch the world burn than to fix it, easy to ruin things even when you could have just mended it—it is easy to say he hates wei wuxian because everyone expects him to.

it is easy to say he hates wei wuxian, rather than explain why he does not, why he could not—why he only wants to see wei wuxian come back home.



there is no solace for reaching an end he didn’t even know he was anticipating—he was waiting, yes, and then what then? what then? did he think he would feel relief at the sight of seeing wei wuxian alive? did he want to forgive him? did he really want to have him go back home? what had he been waiting for? what had he been looking for?



the household in lotus pier is quiet.

it has always been so, in the last thirteen years—since wei wuxian walked away—but jiang cheng only feels the brunt of it now as he enters the ancestral hall and kneels before his parents.

he lights incense, putting them on the bronze container in front of the tablets and moving to prostrate once, twice, thrice, his forehead touching the floor for what seemed to be the longest time, and then suddenly, like a container too full (it is ironic to the feeling of a gaping hole existing where his heart should be), he bursts into tears, chest heaving out sobs just big enough for the person he is now but of which would have been much too big for someone as small as him thirteen years ago. his body trembles in its sadness, incapable of containing this decade-long pain in his chest he wishes he could still mute.

he'd done it for the last thirteen years, what should be the difference now? aiya, jiang cheng, why are you crying like a baby? this gege will treat you out so stop crying already!

suddenly, he is sixteen again and the world is at the palm of his hands, and wei wuxian still looks as though there is no other home than lotus pier and—

“i miss him,” he chokes out repeatedly, like a mantra, a reminder, a confession. “mother, father, a-jie, when you’d gone, why did you have to take him away from me too? i wish i could have saved him, it was a few of the only things i wished to do but even until the end, i couldn’t do it. why did wei wuxian have to act like a hero? why is it that even when he’s back, it seems that i’ve still lost him? i am alone and there is no one else home and i would give anything, everything, to have all of you back.”

and then, as though a remnant of the past, the ghost of his sister appears behind him—gentle and kind in presence, always. jiang cheng does not have the strength to turn, to look at her—he did not want her illusion to disappear.

a-cheng, you only have to tell him he is still welcome back home.



they are wet from having fallen from their boats, broken in and bruised from physical jabs that no verbal communication could have fixed better, lying on the docks of the lotus pier, a fair distance away from one another but still the closest they could get after all these years and it feels a lot like fitting the last two pieces of a thousand-piece puzzle together after toiling for so long and seeing the masterpiece that it finally is—it feels like settling back in and belonging.

“come back home,” jiang cheng says.

wei wuxian’s laughter reverberates in the stillness of the night but it is not with tension, not with anger, not with sadness—just laughter, just amusement.

“i’m married, dumbass. i have to go back to,” he pauses for effect, feigning disgust, “the cloud recesses or lan zhan will come to get me himself and tie me to our bedpo—”

“i didn’t need to know that.”

“but literally! jiang cheng, they have over 4,000 rules now, what kind of place even is that!” jiang cheng’s brows furrow in irritation before he answers.

“shut up.”

the stars are twinkling brightly.

“i’ll come to visit though, like thrice a week, or twice, maybe. just tell me you miss me and i’ll come immediately, okay?” wei wuxian puckers up his lips and attempts to give jiang cheng kisses on the cheek.

jiang cheng pushes him down the lake.

(it is easy to be angry—raw, hot, fiery anger that eats you from the inside because it is easy to explain why it is so.

it is easy to watch the world burn than to fix it, easy to ruin things even when you could have just mended it—it is easy to say he hates wei wuxian because everyone expects him to.

it is easy to say he hates wei wuxian, rather than explain why he does not, why he will not—why he only wants to see wei wuxian come back home.

but he and his brother never cared for gossip anyway.)