This is all a very, very bad idea, Jiang Cheng thinks as he watches his brother shove a dozen peanut bags into the glove box, while Lan Wangji lets him.
He himself is sitting in the back seat, because there’s no fucking way he’s taking the death seat with Wei Wuxian driving. Lan Wangji has claimed it by now anyway, looking as usual; so quiet that if he died right there, no one but Wei Wuxian would notice.
Jiang Cheng’s not even sure what the hell is happening. It was supposed to be some fun hiking trip, and now his brother’s crush is in the car, assuring him that Wei Ying invited him and that he, too, didn’t know Jiang Cheng would be there.
Who the fuck invites both their brother and their crush on a road trip? Wei Wuxian, apparently.
“Alright! Are we all ready for the trip of our lives?” Wei Wuxian exclaims, slamming his hands on the klaxon horn. Both Jiang Cheng and Lan Wangji jump. The trip hasn’t even started and already, Jiang Cheng regrets.
This is going to be a long, long journey.
No, Jiang Cheng wants to reply. Instead, he remarks, “We’re going hiking.”
“In the woods.”
“The most exciting thing that could happen is getting murdered.”
Wei Wuxian groans dramatically. “Jiang Cheng, you’re just not fun.”
Jiang Cheng rolls his eyes; he’s heard that one before, and won’t bother with it. “You’ve got everything?”
“Let’s go, then,” Lan Wangji interrupts, in his typical calm demeanor.
Wei Wuxian turns his head around to flash Jiang Cheng his brightest smile. Jiang Cheng rolls his eyes, again.
Shoving the key in, Wei Wuxian starts the car. It trembles and makes a horrible dying noise, and he has to restart it a second time, then a third, for the engines to emit a somewhat steady rumble. Jiang Cheng had offered the use of his car instead of Wei Wuxian’s antiquity, but Wei Wuxian had assured him he’d done a check-up and everything would be just fine.
Hearing the sounds it makes now, Jiang Cheng doesn’t know why he believed his brother in the first place.
“Let’s goooo!” Wei Wuxian shouts. . . just as someone body-slams the side of the car. Even Lan Wangji leans in slightly over Wei Wuxian to see what’s going on, a slight crease marking his forehead. “Nie Huaisang? What the hell dude.”
Leaning in as well, Jiang Cheng sees that it is indeed Nie Huaisang on the sidewalk, dressed in perfect vacation attire: high white shorts, a green crop top, several long necklaces, and his usual hiking boots for ‘the aesthetic’, as he’d once explained.
Jiang Cheng doesn’t go there, but he can recognize when someone is hot.
Nie Huaisang taps his fist against Wei Wuxian’s window several times in rapid succession. “Guys! Let me in!”
Between Wei Wuxian’s laughter and Nie Huaisang’s incessant thumping, Jiang Cheng already feels a headache rising.
“Just open the door and see what the fuck he wants,” he sighs.
For once, Wei Wuxian does as he’s told, and Nie Huaisang wastes no time sliding in the seat next to Jiang Cheng, jamming his bag under his feet.
“Cool,” Nie Huaisang says. He’s barely in before he all but climbs over Lan Wangji to open the glove box and take out one of the bags of peanuts—how did he know?—then sits back and fastens his seatbelt. All three of them stare at him, dumbfounded. “So, where are we going?”
“Huaisang, you’re not invited,” Jiang Cheng says threateningly.
“Sucks. I’m here now though.”
“Gonna break my legs?” Nie Huaisang’s unimpressed eyes course shamelessly over Jiang Cheng’s arms, then shift to his own legs. “I doubt that.”
Jiang Cheng means to protest some more, because there’s no way he’s going to spend eight hours in a tiny car with his childhood crush, but Nie Huaisang is already shoving an unhealthy amount of peanuts into his mouth, Wei Wuxian is letting Lan Wangji fasten his seatbelt for him—what the fuck—and Lan Wangji. . .
Lan Wangji is making dopey eyes at Wei Wuxian, who doesn’t even seem to realize while somehow simultaneously managing to flirt like the end of the world might come at any second.
If he doesn’t die from the trip, Jiang Cheng is certain he might merely from looking at them.
He turns back to Nie Huaisang, and deadpans, “You know what? Welcome aboard.”
Nie Huaisang seems about to pass out, hanging onto the door’s handle for dear life, as Wei Wuxian once more proves that he doesn’t know how to drive without making the whole car jump, and the passengers fear this is their last day on this forsaken Earth.
When Wei Wuxian brakes in the most abrupt way yet, Nie Huaisang’s hand comes flying, grabbing Jiang Cheng’s tightly. Jiang Cheng stares from their joined hands to him, but Nie Huaisang holds his eyes sheepishly. Jiang Cheng slides his hand out of his grip.
That did not happen and if his heart’s on a run, only Wei Wuxian’s poor driving is at fault.
“Maybe,” Nie Huaisang says slowly after an awkward, forced cough, “someone else should drive?”
“Why?” Wei Wuxian asks, sounding like he doesn’t understand what the problem is at all. “It’s fine.”
“Wei Wuxian, pull the fuck over,” Jiang Cheng warns, because if this keeps going Nie Huaisang is going to throw up all over his pants, and there’s no way in hell that’s happening. “I’ll drive.”
“You can drive when there are less red lights,” Lan Wangji adds, and that’s right, he’s still there.
His brother whines, but, having been asked so nicely by his best friend, complies.
They exchange seats, and Jiang Cheng barely suppresses his eleventh roll of eyes of the day when he notices that through his relief, disappointment flashes across Lan Wangji’s face.
Jiang Cheng hasn’t made it past two red lights before he’s screaming at some truly irresponsible drivers and threatening to break their legs so they can never drive again.
Like that’s not enough, Lan Wangji’s voice suddenly rings out. “Blinker.”
Rolling his eyes, Jiang Cheng uses his blinker. Like he wasn’t going to! His name isn’t Wei Wuxian.
Not another five minutes pass as Wei Wuxian and Nie Huaisang throw peanuts at each other’s mouth in the backseat. The sounds they’re making are going to drive him crazy.
Another two minutes.
“Yes, oh Light Bearing Lord,” Jiang Cheng says, sarcastically. Wei Wuxian punches his shoulder. “Hey! Wei Wuxian, I swear—”
At the next turn a car threatens to slam into their side, and though it brakes just in time, Jiang Cheng sees red. Between Lan Wangji’s reminders to use his blinker, Wei Wuxian’s mere existence, and Nie Huaisang being there making him weak, this is enough.
“My fucking god! Can’t anyone drive around here? Where did you get your license, you fucking asshole!?” Jiang Cheng screams at the runaway driver. “I hope you don’t fuck like you drive!”
Wei Wuxian has to grab both his shoulders to stop him from getting out of the car and running after them.
“Ooookay,” Wei Wuxian says, patting Jiang Cheng like he’s some wild horse and that’s going to calm him down, not make it worse. “Jiang Cheng, you’re scaring Lan Zhan, how about someone else drives?”
Jiang Cheng whips around to look at Lan Wangji. He still looks like a statue, blinking slowly at him. He does see Lan Wangji’s eyebrow twitch, though, and that is, somehow, the most unsettling thing he’s ever seen.
They pull over again, and this time Nie Huaisang saunters over to the driver’s seat, not even giving Lan Wangji any time to unbuckle.
Somehow, being out of the city doesn’t make Jiang Cheng feel safer, as more than once, Nie Huaisang threatens to send them flying off bridges and into trees.
Meanwhile, Wei Wuxian looks completely unbothered, massaging Lan Wangji’s shoulders from his seat behind him. Lan Wangji has his eyes closed, clearly enjoying the moment. He holds his hands together tightly, rubbing slow circles with his thumb onto his own palm.
“Huaisang, how the fuck did you even get your license?”
“Oh, I didn’t,” Nie Huaisang says with a laugh, like that’s absolutely normal. “My license is actually fake, I bought it off some dude in a back alley because I didn't want to study for the test.”
“You what now?”
Given Wei Wuxian’s lack of reaction, Jiang Cheng assumes he already knows. Lan Wangji, however, clearly didn’t. Jiang Cheng swears Lan Wangji’s knuckles are going to go white from the sheer strength with which he now grips the sides of his seat, all the relaxation from Wei Wuxian’s massage gone.
For once, Jiang Cheng gets him.
“Huaisang. Pull over.”
Nie Huaisang whirls around to try looking at him over his shoulder, thus once more making the car zigzag dangerously. “Why?!”
“HUAISANG, LOOK AT THE FUCKING ROAD?!” Jiang Cheng shrieks. Nie Huaisang instantly does, straightening the car as he laughs nervously. Jiang Cheng heaves out a long sigh. “No one here wants to die. I fucking beg of you, pull over. This way we can also stretch our legs.”
Begrudgingly, Nie Huaisang eventually pulls over on a parking lot for forest hikers. They all hop off, and if Lan Wangji pretends he didn’t see the way Jiang Cheng’s legs briefly shake as he takes a few steps away from the car, Jiang Cheng will also pretend that he didn’t see Lan Wangji almost stumbling out.
Stretching his arms over his head, Wei Wuxian shivers in the morning freshness. He leans against Lan Wangji, wrapping his arms around him and, no doubt, giving him his best puppy dog eyes.
“Lan Zhan, I’m cold, can I have your jacket?”
Scowling, Jiang Cheng joins them in big strides to tap on Wei Wuxian’s shoulder, choosing to ignore the way Lan Wangji doesn’t hesitate for a second before unbuttoning his jacket.
“I told you mornings have been cold lately,” he scolds. Summer, his ass. “I told you to bring a jacket, why didn't you listen to me? Next you'll say you forgot a change of underwear.”
Wei Wuxian smiles sheepishly as he lets Lan Wangji slip his jacket over his shoulders. “Haha. . . hey Jiang Cheng. . . we're the same size. . ."
“Wei Wuxian, I’m going to break your damn legs.”
“Jiang-xiong, I’m cold too,” Nie Huaisang’s voice suddenly interrupts from behind him.
Jiang Cheng slowly turns away from Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji—maybe that’s for the best, given the way Lan Wangji looks at Wei Wuxian from behind his back—though not without giving Wei Wuxian the stink eye and the silent warning that he will regret it and he will wash his own fucking underwear.
Unlike Wei Wuxian, with his shorts and crop top, Nie Huaisang is actually shivering. Jiang Cheng’s first instinct is to scold him too, but—Jiang Cheng sighs as he takes off his purple scarf. He ties it around Nie Huaisang, making sure it protects each part of his neck properly.
Nie Huaisang smiles. “Thanks.”
“It’s fine,” Jiang Cheng blurts out, walking away before Nie Huaisang can see the blush spreading over his cheeks. That means, however, that he’s facing Wei Wuxian again, who all but wiggles his eyebrows at him. Jiang Cheng takes out the first thing he finds in his pocket, a little pack of tissues, and throws it at his face.
“Lan Zhan, surely you can go a tiny bit faster? Look!” Wei Wuxian says, gesturing wildly at the open road. “There isn’t anyone!”
For once, Lan Wangji doesn't listen to Wei Wuxian and only shakes his head, staring resolutely ahead. Jiang Cheng agrees that Lan Wangji might be going a little too slow, but at least he drives straight, and for the first time since this trip started, Jiang Cheng doesn't fear for his life.
“Ok. Fine then. But I get to choose the music.”
“No fucking way,” Jiang Cheng protests, clutching his phone. It's connected to Wei Wuxian's portable radio through Bluetooth, and so far a road trip playlist has been playing in the background.
Wei Wuxian exchanges a look with Nie Huaisang. That can't be good.
“Do you prefer Wangji to choose the music?”
Jiang Cheng glares at him. “No.”
“What's wrong with my music?” Lan Wangji asks. “It’s soothing.”
“If I listened to it while driving, I'd fall asleep and we'd die,” Jiang Cheng deadpans.
“Isn't it good that I'm driving, then?”
Jiang Cheng snorts. “Fine. You all do whatever you want.”
“Wei Ying, put on my playlist, please.”
Wei Wuxian is far too happy to oblige to Jiang Cheng's liking, and Nie Huaisang's smug face doesn't reassure him one bit.
“Thank you, Wei Ying,” Lan Wangji says softly when his boring, classical music begins to resonate inside the car.
Wei Wuxian bumps his shoulder into Lan Wangji's, and that's somehow enough to make Lan Wangji's ears go red.
Jiang Cheng shares a look with Nie Huaisang, who makes a face at him, mouthing, “Gross.”
A minute later, as the music is already numbing Jiang Cheng's mind and threatening to send him drifting off far away from this secluded space (which, frankly, doesn't sound so bad), his phone vibrates with a text.
Taking it out of his pocket, Jiang Cheng sees that the texts are from Nie Huaisang.
Jiang Cheng types his reply.
From Nie Huaisang:
I CANT BELIEVE THEYRE STILL ACTING LIKE THAT WHAT ARE THEY WAITING FOR
HOW HAVE THEY NOT KISSED YET
I CANT TAKE THIS
Stifling a laugh, Jiang Cheng slides his phone back into his pocket, and glances at Nie Huaisang. He seems to be having a harder time than him not bursting out laughing, but eventually manages.
To Nie Huaisang:
I know. if it gets worse please shoot me
From Nie Huaisang:
I CANT PROMISE YOU THAT, I MIGHT FLING MYSELF OUT THE DOOR FIRST
It’s kind of cute.
Jiang Cheng instantly gives himself a mental slap at the thought.
At that exact moment, loud music suddenly explodes inside the small car; Jiang Cheng jumps, Nie Huaisang jumps (even though he’d clearly planned this), and Lan Wangji starts so violently he hits his head on the ceiling of the car and briefly loses control of the wheel, sending Wei Wuxian—who’s laughing his fucking ass off—and Jiang Cheng slamming against their respective doors, and Nie Huaisang, who’d taken off his belt, straight into Jiang Cheng’s side.
The car goes forward again. The screaming heavy metal music blasts. They’re all quiet and disheveled, except for Wei Wuxian: he’s doubled over in laughter, wiping tears from his eyes.
Nie Huaisang has at least the decency of changing the music back to something more akin to what Jiang Cheng’s pick originally was, but—
Not a moment later, the screaming returns, making Lan Wangji jump a second time, and Jiang Cheng is unsure whether the windows shake because the music is just that fucking loud, or because he’s losing his mind.
“Wei Wuxian,” Jiang Cheng growls. This is it; he’s going for the kill this time.
Wei Wuxian, sensing the danger after years of provoking his brother, shrieks, pressing himself as close to the front of the car as he can to avoid Jiang Cheng’s furious fists.
“Give me your phone, Wei Wuxian!”
“But Jiang Cheng!”
“I said, give me your phone!”
After a merciless fight, Wei Wuxian eventually gives in, not handing Jiang Cheng his phone but turning off the music. Wei Wuxian turns to Lan Zhan to smile sheepishly at him, who despite his impassive expression, clearly seems relieved to welcome back the silence.
Jiang Cheng can’t believe he’s doing this, but he selects an instrumental OST playlist, sufficiently harmonious to please Lan Wangji, and featuring ample of Wei Wuxian’s favourite movies to stop him from complaining.
Then, he hands Nie Huaisang his phone.
“Pick a playlist for after this one’s done, but please, have mercy on my ears.”
“I see something. . . that’s wearing red.”
“I see something. . . clever, but a little dumb sometimes.”
“Hey!” Wei Wuxian exclaims, turning around to swat at Nie Huaisang, and Jiang Cheng rolls his eyes when he swears he sees the corner of Lan Wangji’s mouth turn up in the most imperceptible of ways.
Nie Huaisang makes a point of ignoring Wei Wuxian. “Oh my god, Wangji, you’re so good at this—I see something. . . handsome.”
“Can you stop enabling them?” Jiang Cheng interrupts before he has to hear Lan Wangji say ‘Wei Ying’ one more fucking time.
“But Jiang Cheng, that wasn’t Wei-xiong!” Nie Huaisang pouts.
“Sure.” Jiang Cheng snorts. “Who else would it be—”
Even Lan Wangji glances over his shoulder to give him a look.
Heat rises to his face, and Jiang Cheng resolutely turns his head to stare at Nie Huaisang. He’s not looking at him anymore, instead furiously typing on his phone, chatting with who-knows-who.
Jiang Cheng can’t help feeling a hint of disappointment.
He huffs. Nevermind.
“Jiang Cheng, can I borrow your lap?” Nie Huaisang pipes up. Jiang Cheng’s eyes flick up from his phone. Nie Huaisang is looking at him innocently. “Please, I’m tired.”
Jiang Cheng squints his eyes. He glances at Wei Wuxian, who’s staring at them.
Nie Huaisang instantly lies down. “Okay, thanks.”
“Huai—” Jiang Cheng swallows his words. Fuck, he thinks. This is. . . nice?
Wei Wuxian is almost completely turned over in his seat, seatbelt be damned (Lan Wangji looks displeased, to say the least), grinning, all his teeth showing. Jiang Cheng flips him the finger, and his brother sticks out his tongue at him in answer.
Now. . . where does he put his hands? Seeing him hesitate, Wei Wuxian starts mouthing words and making strange gestures that Jiang Cheng can’t for the life of him understand. Rolling his eyes, Jiang Cheng reaches out to tap him on the hands until he goes back to gazing at Lan Wangji, chuckling as he elbows him and leans forward to whisper into his ear.
Steeling himself, Jiang Cheng eventually sets one hand on Nie Huaisang’s shoulder, the other near Nie Huaisang’s head on his lap, and heavens, is it hard not to play with his hair.
Jiang Cheng feels like he might simultaneously combust with repressed affection, and die on the spot.
The scenery is devoid of anything interesting, so when a sign appears on the horizon they all, except for Nie Huaisang, lean forward like that’s going to make them decipher what’s written on it faster.
“Road work ahead?” Wei Wuxian reads aloud.
“Yeah, I sure hope it does!” Nie Huaisang mumbles from Jiang Cheng’s lap.
The car falls silent, until the smallest, briefest of laughs enters their ears, so unexpected even Wei Wuxian’s own laugh fades in his throat before it can come out. All eyes turn to Lan Wangji.
What the fuck.
Lan Wangji’s gentle instrumental music, which, granted, had somehow managed to send Jiang Cheng into a drowsy, meditative state, abruptly stops, replaced by what sounds suspiciously like loud ‘bunny munching on carrots’ ASMR.
Nie Huaisang is still napping with his head on Jiang Cheng’s lap, and makes a small, sleepy sound at the ringtone, snuggling closer, hugging his favorite fan. Jiang Cheng doesn’t want to feel this weak. He doesn’t, but he is and each new minute spent in this car confirms that he’s got it worse than he expected.
“Who is it?” Jiang Cheng asks, already hating whoever it is for disturbing Nie Huaisang’s precious rest. Wishing he could break their fucking legs.
Wei Wuxian glances at the phone’s screen. “Uh oh.”
“What? Come on, spit it out!”
“It’s Nie Mingjue,” Wei Wuxian says. Jiang Cheng doesn’t have to look at him to know he’s wincing.
Shit. If he’s calling on Lan Wangji’s phone, it must mean he’s been trying to get to Nie Huaisang for a while, and not succeeding, asked Lan Xichen for Lan Wangji’s number, knowing he had to be with Wei Wuxian. Sighing, Jiang Cheng gently shakes Nie Huaisang awake.
At the same time, Wei Wuxian answers the call.
“NIE HUAISANG!” a strong, frankly terrifying voice roars from the speakers, making all of them, even Lan Wangji, start. Nie Huaisang springs awake.
“Shit,” Nie Huaisang says under his breath, instinctively hiding behind his fan even though the owner of the voice isn’t there. But even Jiang Cheng shudders, and having met Nie Mingjue before, he can’t really blame him. “Heyyy, da-ge!”
“What’s going on? Why did you leave your self-defense lesson? Why aren’t you answering your phone? What has Wei Wuxian gotten you into again?”
“Uhhhh. . .”
Jiang Cheng says nothing, only because he knows he’s not going to stay calm, and now’s not the time to get on Nie Mingjue’s bad side. Not looking at Nie Huaisang, he reaches out and squeezes his shoulder, an attempt at comfort, saying, I’m there.
“Don’t worry, sir,” Wei Wuxian intervenes cheerily. “We’re just going hiking for a few days.”
Nie Mingjue and Nie Huaisang shout at the same time, “HIKING?”
Wei Wuxian looks at Nie Huaisang incredulously. “Well yeah, what did you think we were going to do?”
“I—I don’t know!” Nie Huaisang exclaims. “Just chilling?”
“We’ve been driving for six hours.”
“Chilling. . . far away?”
Nie Mingjue grumps, somewhat less angry now. “Well, there’s no telling you to come back now. Don’t think this is over, though!”
“Yes da-ge, I’m sorry da-ge.”
“Don’t forget to mark your trail.”
“. . . yes, da-ge.”
“I heard that eye roll.”
“Aaanyway,” Wei Wuxian interrupts. “We’ll take good care of your little brother, goodbye!”
He closes the call. The car is dead silent, until Nie Huaisang gapes. “Wei-xiong. . . you are courting death.”
Wei Wuxian shrugs as Lan Wangji sends a concerned glance his way. “Where’s the fun if I don’t?”
“There’s no fun if you’re dead,” Jiang Cheng points out.
“Strangled by my brother’s biceps,” Nie Huaisang adds.
Wei Wuxian hums, and from the look on Nie Huaisang’s face, he’s being gross. “That doesn’t sound so bad,” he says with another shrug.
Lan Wangji chokes on his water.
While Wei Wuxian retrieves the water bottle and pats him with some napkins he finds in the glove box—scattering peanut bags on the floor of the car in the process—looking way too pleased with himself, Nie Huaisang lets out a nervous laugh.
Rolling his eyes for what must be the umpteenth time today, Jiang Cheng shares a pointed look with Nie Huaisang. Please say something before Wei Wuxian makes a show of flirting with Lan Wangji again.
Nie Huaisang coughs awkwardly. “Guys, are we really going hiking?” he asks nervously, glancing at his clothes and his bag that must, clearly, not contain anything needed for a hiking trip.
Before any of them can answer, there’s an awful noise, and the car shakes.
Jiang Cheng feels like he’s one foot closer to the ground, and slowly, the wobbling car comes to a stop.
Nie Huaisang gazes at their destination, the mountain on the horizon, like he wants to die.
Inwardly, Jiang Cheng wants to tell him to suck it up; Nie Huaisang has, after all, invited himself on this trip, and though no one seriously tried to convince him otherwise, it’s only the consequences of his own actions.
But deep down, he knows Nie Huaisang simply wanted to have some fun and avoid his brother’s high expectations for a little while. Thinking on his relationship with his parents, how could Jiang Cheng not relate?
So, when the peculiar song of a bird plays amongst the trees, and Nie Huaisang gradually lights up the more he listens, any scolding that might have slipped through Jiang Cheng’s mouth dies before it can even leave the bottom of his throat.
“Jiang-xiong, can you hear that?” Nie Huaisang whispers, a finger over his lips.
Jiang Cheng hums in response, walking up to him as Nie Huaisang goes on a long, enthusiastic rant about how this specific species is very rare, and oh, will there be more where they’re going?
Truth be told, Jiang Cheng doesn’t care much about birds. But he cares about Nie Huaisang, and if Nie Huaisang wants to share this with him, he’s at least going to listen.
Nie Huaisang can’t seem to be able to stop talking, and turns out, it’s actually a pretty good distraction while Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji try to get a sufficient signal to find how to change a flat tire on Baidu.
“. . . and you see, that’s why we say that they mate for life.”
Wei Wuxian suddenly laughs, “Lan Zhan, are you crying?”
“I’m not,” Lan Wangji answers, but as they both turn to look at him, though he’s not crying per say, his eyes do seem a bit watery.
“Wangji. . . I know about so many birds that mate for life. . .” Nie Huaisang says smugly, and Jiang Cheng and Wei Wuxian, now standing next to each other, stifle a laugh as somehow, a flash of both interest and dread darts across Lan Wangji’s face.
Their car is somehow wobblier than before, but at least they’re back on the road. With each minute that passes, the mountain is getting closer and closer. Nie Huaisang, just from looking at the distance, assures them they’ve only got about one hour until they reach their destination.
Fuck, he’s so clever, Jiang Cheng thinks.
His brother and Lan Wangji still flirting like they’re not there, Jiang Cheng has made the decision to look anywhere but at them, lest he throws up all over the backseat. His eyes are fixed on Nie Huaisang instead, the scenery having been the same for the past several minutes, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to change until they get there.
He’s forced to look away though, when Nie Huaisang says, “Hey, Wei-xiong, wanna play a game?”
Jiang Cheng sighs heavily.
“If it annoys Jiang Cheng, yes.”
“Shut up,” Jiang Cheng threatens.
Still, they start playing another game, this time the Yellow Car Gamex. Jiang Cheng eventually gets dragged into it too, but after five minutes of not seeing a single car, Nie Huaisang gives up to throw peanuts at Wei Wuxian’s mouth once more, sending some all over the car in the process, and Jiang Cheng makes a point of ignoring them.
Which is good, because soon enough, they’ve begun a round of Truth or Dare.
Nie Huaisang dares Wei Wuxian to read an excerpt of some terrible erotic romance novel aloud, and Wei Wuxian gladly does; Jiang Cheng has never wanted to die more in his entire life. Even on the one point they’re so similar, Wei Wuxian has to be so fucking different. Despite being asexual too, if enabled, he’ll talk about sex all day long, while Jiang Cheng, though not made uncomfortable by it, would still rather forget it even exists, thank you very much.
“Lan Zhan, truth or dare?” Wei Wuxian asks when it sounds like Nie Huaisang is running out of ideas.
“Truth,” answers Lan Wangji.
Nie Huaisang pipes up, “Who do you have a crush on?”
Lan Wangji purses his lips. “Dare.”
“Kiss me,” Wei Wuxian says.
There’s a long, long silence. Wei Wuxian’s usual easy smile is playing on his lips, awaiting a reaction from Lan Wangji. It turns into a frown when Lan Wangji, eyes still fixed on the road, takes a sharp intake of breath, and—
Slowly brings the car to a stop on the side of the road. Blinkers on, of course.
“Uhm, Lan Zhan?” Wei Wuxian asks, laughing it off. “It’s just a joke, don’t be upset.”
But Lan Wangji is already out the door, and as Jiang Cheng exchanges a worried glance with Nie Huaisang, he actually. . . circles the car, opens Wei Ying’s door and, grabbing him gently by the hands, takes him out.
And fucking, finally, kisses him.
Jiang Cheng can’t believe he’s still alive. That he didn’t break anyone’s bones, either.
Nor that he’s going to have to endure Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji being openly, grossly in love for the next three days, while he pines over his best friend like a fucking idiot.
Walking away from the car and joining them on the track, Nie Huaisang is adjusting his bag over his shoulder with a sigh.
He’s not all that happy to be here now, and that won’t do.
Jiang Cheng walks up to him, letting Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji walk hand in hand further ahead. Without a word, he draws a yelp from Nie Huaisang by taking his bag, and places it over his own.
Knowing better than to say anything, Nie Huaisang looks down, smiling softly at his feet.
They walk silently for a while, Jiang Cheng resolutely staring right ahead, even if it means watching his brother whisper who-knows-what in Lan Wangji’s ear.
“What’s this bird?”
“This bird we’re hearing. What is it?”
Jiang Cheng catches Nie Huaisang blinking dumbfoundedly at him from the corner of his eyes. “You—you want to hear me talk about birds?”
Heat rising to his cheeks, Jiang Cheng humpfs. “Are you going to tell me or not?”
Slowly, a smile stretches over Nie Huaisang’s lips. He fans his face gently, and the gesture sends the remnants of Nie Huaisang’s perfume straight to his nose. It still smells really good.
“Alright then, well this bird is native to the country, and it’s got a very special plumage—”
Jiang Cheng still doesn’t give two shits about birds, but. Offering to listen to him is all it took for Nie Huaisang to finally perk up since they arrived, and that’s. . . That’s good enough.
That night, they set their tent in one of the appointed areas to that effect. Thankfully, there’s no else there. Tent, singular, because it turns out, Wei Wuxian of course forgot to pack the second tent. Just this once, Jiang Cheng’s not even that mad: Wei Wuxian looks as disappointed in his mistake as he is.
They set up a campfire, almost burning themselves a few times before Lan Wangji steps in and decrees he will take care of the fire from now on.
By the time they’ve filled their bellies and run out of things to say, tiredness after a long day closing up on them, Wei Wuxian’s really quiet for once.
He sits a little further away with Lan Zhan, where the trees part the most, giving way to the sky.
He’s looking at the stars, and Lan Wangji is looking at him, and the moon shines her gentle light on them. It’s romantic. They’re disgusting. Jiang Cheng is unable to retain a roll of his eyes. But—
I wish I had that, he thinks.
“I wish I had that,” he hears sighed at the same time, from the other side of the campfire.
Jiang Cheng looks away from his brother. Nie Huaisang is sitting there, slowly fanning the fire with his fan. It’s getting cold, so he’s wrapped up in a blanket. Jiang Cheng stares. Nie Huaisang stares back. He looks like a deer caught in headlights, alarm blaring, Did I say that out loud? Too loud?
A pause. The marshmallow he’s been turning over the flame turns a dangerous shade of brown.
“He said he wished he had that!”
“Wei Ying. . .”
Jiang Cheng sees red. He drops his stick and burned marshmallow into the fire. The sole reason he’s not darting towards his brother and strangling him to death as he scrambles to his feet is Nie Huaisang, whose face is made redder by flames.
He takes one step away from the campfire, thinking that going to sleep early in the furthest corner of the tent doesn’t sound so bad right now, but goes no further. Did Nie Huaisang just. . . sigh? Did he see disappointment in his eyes, a mere second before he looked down to his lap?
Jiang Cheng’s fists clench by his sides. Fuck.
A deep breath, and Jiang Cheng spins around. Nie Huaisang looks stunned as he sits down by his side, facing him. A little bit hopeful, too.
“What is it?”
“Tell me.” Jiang Cheng steadies himself to say the next word as sincerely as he can, because he is. “Please.”
“Ah, well, see—I don’t know how to tell you this, but—” Nie Huaisang smiles, scratches the back of his neck. Hesitates a moment longer. “I think we should kiss.”
When Jiang Cheng doesn’t reply right away, Nie Huaisang adds, flustered, “I’m—I’m gonna go get some firewood.”
He gets to his feet and bolts, leaving Jiang Cheng sitting there like an idiot.
Fuck, fuck, fuck. If he doesn’t say it right now, he’s gonna die, and then never forgive himself.
Jiang Cheng follows Nie Huaisang into the dark. He’s stopped not too far away from the clearing, hesitating at the edge of the woods. Hearing Jiang Cheng approach, he takes another few steps, beyond the trees. The woods ahead are pitch black, and Nie Huaisang pauses again, giving Jiang Cheng just enough time to grasp his wrist.
“I like you,” Jiang Cheng blurts out. Then, before he can back down, “I think we should kiss, too.”
The silence is so deafening, Jiang Cheng is almost thankful for Wei Wuxian’s laugh, grounding him there.
“Oh.” Nie Huaisang slowly, finally turns around. A smile is blooming on his face, making Jiang Cheng’s legs feel weak. “That’s cool.”
Fuck this. Nie Huaisang leans in, at the same time Jiang Cheng does.
“AH!” Wei Wuxian bursts through the trees, and his fakely exasperated voice interrupts, “Are you going to kiss now or what-oh! Ohoh!”
Jiang Cheng pulls away and, with one hand, flips him the finger. “Fuck off.”
With the other he cups Nie Huaisang’s face again and, closing his eyes tight, kisses him full on the lips.
Clearly, this is not how Jiang Cheng would’ve imagined their first night as boyfriends.
First of all, it would’ve been in a bed, not a tent, and second, Wei Wuxian and fucking Lan Wangji would not have been there.
The four of them are pressed together like sardines in a tin: Lan Wangji is somehow already deeply asleep, looking disgustingly content; Wei Wuxian is splayed half on top of him not unlike a cat, a blissful smile on his face; Jiang Cheng is crammed against Lan Wangji, his brother’s knee threatening to punch him in the stomach, again; and Nie Huaisang is doing the starfish.
The mountain is colder at night, and as he drifts off, Jiang Cheng shivers. Nie Huaisang is warm, though. So warm. . .
Jiang Cheng wakes. The only sounds are their breaths, Wei Wuxian snoring loudly, and an owl hooting.
He isn’t cold anymore; he’s hanging onto something solid and delightfully warm, encircling it with both his legs and his arms. There’s a short moment of horror when, his brain still foggy, he realizes what he’s been doing.
But, when he makes to withdraw, Nie Huaisang makes an adorable, tiny whine, his hands unconsciously reaching for him. Wanting, it seems, to keep him close.
And—and that’s the one nice, perfect thing about this whole ordeal, really.
Here in the darkness, where no one can see, Jiang Cheng smiles.
On the morning of the third day, Lan Wangji hurts his hand trying to save Wei Wuxian from falling down a fucking cliff.
Soon enough, an intense feeling of dread washes over Jiang Cheng as he realizes: the return trip awaits and, with his swollen wrist, Lan Wangji can’t drive.