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(now)

Things are out of place in the flat. Neither of them are the neatest people, but even if they had been busy, Huaisang knows there is a place in their home for everything. They both liked keeping those things in their places. Today, many things are not in their places.

“A-Cheng…” Huaisang calls out from where he’s standing by the couch, trying to keep still. "Did the boys come over?"

A-Ling and A-Yuan like coming over to the flat with their friends to just hang out. That’s the only reason Huaisang can think of, to have caused this unusual disarray. But they never came over unannounced, and he also knew those children know how to tidy up.

“If they did, they didn’t tell me.” Jiang Cheng answers from the kitchen. “But yeah, it’s weird, I don’t remember leaving some of these things here like this.”

Huaisang hates how he couldn’t help but freeze. Suddenly he feels worried, then terrified, helpless-

“A-Cheng, can you-? Can you come over here for a bit?”

Jiang Cheng heads to the living room. He finds Nie Huaisang pacing aimlessly, biting his lip, wringing his hands. When Huaisang sees him, he practically tackles him.

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing. I... I think the weirdness is just getting to me. My alarms are just… going off. But I’m sure it’s just me. Probably.” Huaisang says, voice muffled against his boyfriend’s chest. “Sorry? I just need a moment. Sorry.”

Jiang Cheng wraps his arms around him tightly, knowing it’s what the other needs when he’s feeling jumpy. “Hey, it’s fine. Maybe we just got really busy with everything going on. We’ll clean up and everything will be back to normal.”

"Yeah. Yeah, okay." Huaisang nods, trying to get his breathing to even.

This doesn’t happen often. Huaisang’s anxiety had mostly been under control over the past few months, but Jiang Cheng knows days like this happen every now and then.

"Maybe we could pick Bear up from jiejie's tonight instead of tomorrow. Will that help?" he asks, rubbing the other’s back reassuringly.

"I… yeah, maybe. Can we?"

"Of course. It's still early. Let me get the keys."

Huaisang draws away and looks up at him with a grateful smile. "Thank you. I love you so much?"

Jiang Cheng just cups his cheeks and leans down, pressing a sweet, gentle kiss to his lips.

That's when they heard it - the rustle, then the unmistakable sound of a camera clicking.

They jerk apart, Jiang Cheng not letting go of his partner as they looked around to find the source of the sound.

And there, standing in the shadows behind an easel with one of Nie Huaisang's latest paintings, is a man they didn't know, holding a camera on one hand, a phone on the other.

"Who the hell are you?" Jiang Cheng demands, shoving Nie Huaisang protectively behind him. "How did you get in?!"

Huaisang is shaking as he clings to Jiang Cheng, grip tight on his jacket. "A-Cheng… A-Cheng, please don't- Don't provoke him… W-Whoever you are, please… Please leave…"

"I'm just a fan!" the man says, smiling a manic smile that had Nie Huaisang backing away, whimpering. He feels like he’d seen it before. "I just wanted to get to know you better-"

"Like hell- "

"A-Cheng! No, let’s- let’s calm down..." Huaisang pleads. He looks at the man. "Please leave now, don't hurt us, we’ll give you anything-"

"This fucker has a camera, Huaisang, I'm calling security-"

Then the man is shouting things at Jiang Cheng, and Jiang Cheng is shouting back, but Huaisang couldn't hear anything, only the ringing in his ears.

Suddenly he's small again, hiding under a table, hearing his parents begging...

The next thing he hears clearly is the shattering of glass. Acting on instinct, he steps back and crouches down, hands on his ears, knees trembling, tears running down his cheeks.

.

.

Huaisang's thoughts are a blur, afterwards. He vaguely recalls sitting on their couch, Jiang Cheng reassuring him that everything's okay and no one got hurt.

Next, he remembers Wei Wuxian, sitting beside him, holding his hand and talking about… something … and when Huaisang tries to find Jiang Cheng in the room, he sees him with Meng Yao, talking to several men in uniform.

Next, there is Jiang Cheng’s hand on his cheek. "A-Sang, we'll go to jiejie's now, okay? We're coming to get Bear and we'll stay there for the night."

Huaisang stares at him, then he says, "No." Before he could think about it, he's already on his phone, tapping with shaky fingers. "No, I… I have to go to da-ge."

"A-Sang, don't worry, we'll tell Mingjue-ge to meet us-"

He shakes his head. "No, I need to see da-ge. In our house. Please."

He couldn't be bothered to make out the discussion that happens. Jiang Cheng says something to Meng Yao, and Wei Wuxian hums a comforting tune, stroking his hair.

He thinks Jiang Cheng holds his hands and squeezes them, then presses a kiss to his knuckles. "Okay, A-Sang, let's go to your da-ge."

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(then)

Nie Huaisang isn’t an actor.

He is a model, sometimes. Apparently he looks good on camera, his body lithe enough for a certain fashion, his face delicate enough for a certain look.

He is busy enough that he has an agent, but not enough that he has a manager - although he knew if he ever took on modeling full-time, his agent will simply become a manager.

That’s just how all-around Yao-ge is. Agent, manager, moral support. Besides da-ge, he’s always the first one to tell Huaisang that he’s seventeen , and though this many opportunities are rare for people his age, he should be a teenager, and just focus on what he wants to do.

Nie Huaisang had been an actor, when he was five, because his parents had been famous actors, and play time at home involved lines to say and things to act. That’s probably why when they took him on set and told him to say this and do that , he did so without complaint, thinking it was still play time.

More than a decade later, he’s been invited to a cast reunion for the twelve-year anniversary of the iconic movie he was in when he was a kid. One of those family classics, where kids went on adventures and silly kid shenanigans. Apparently he’s been a part of a lot of people’s childhoods, a lot of family movie nights, and fans would love to see him and the other kids all grown up.

He doesn’t remember those other kids much. He’d never really watched that movie. Everytime he thinks of it, he is reminded of his Mama and Baba. They were the ones who took him to the sets. People always said they were so proud of him, that maybe he’ll be just like them in the future. Amazing actors.

Huaisang doesn’t want to be an amazing actor, that’s how his Mama and Baba were taken from him and da-ge in the first place.

So Nie Huaisang wanted nothing to do with that movie. But, because Yao-ge assured him that no , there will be no movie viewing, and yes , they’ll make sure to filter questions in the Q&A, he agreed to attend the cast reunion.

Nie Huaisang is an artist. The modeling is a side gig. His art really is what he likes doing, and he’s lucky that his family supports it. Da-ge sometimes left offhand remarks about his grades, but as long as Huaisang doesn’t fail a subject or repeat a grade, Nie Mingjue is content to quietly watch over his little brother and support what he enjoys doing.

So, during the cast reunion, when he was asked what he’s up to these days, Nie Huaisang says that he does art.

They are given time to mingle afterwards. Nie Huaisang didn’t want to mingle, but it’s still too early to leave without being impolite, so he lingers.

He’s lingering and trying to appear uninteresting but somehow, one of the “other kids” from the cast of the movie still seems to take interest in him.

“I'm Wei Wuxian.” the guy introduces himself, embodying sunshine. “Nice to meet you!”

Nie Huaisang looks at the giant print of the movie poster and recognizes this person as “kid in red shirt” (he calls them by their shirt colors). His grin is exactly like the one he had when he was five or six or so.

“Um. Nie Huaisang. Nice to meet you too.”

“You’re the artist, right? That’s cool! What kind of art do you make?”

Nie Huaisang hesitates, but it’s a pretty normal question. He answers, meekly. “Um, all sorts. Digital art, mostly. But… I paint a lot too. And I’ve done some tattoo designs, and murals.”

Wei Wuxian’s eyes go wide. “Oh, wow! And you get paid for that, right? You should!”

Huaisang laughs lightly. The guy’s energy is infectious. “Y-Yeah, I do.” Then remembering his manners, he says, “Oh, um, what about you? What… What are you up to?”

“Eh, nothing much, just school. But I’ve been writing music lately, we’ve just started a band!”

“A band, wow… With your friends?”

“Yeah! My brother - he’s here too, uh, somewhere. He was in the movie with us. I’ve posted some of our stuff online, if you wanna check us out. Hopefully we can play a real gig somewhere soon.”

“Yeah, good luck to you guys…”

“Do you post your stuff too?”

Nie Huaisang ends up giving him his art account.

.

The next day, he gets a follow from a certain @blacklotus_band.

He checks the band’s page out of curiosity. There he is, kid-in-red-shirt Wei Wuxian, on guitar and vocals. With him, Nie Huaisang recognizes kid-in-purple-shirt Jiang Wanyin, also with a guitar. They’re accompanied by a boy named Wen Ning and a girl named MianMian, on bass and drums respectively.

They sound… okay. The instruments and vocals are definitely a work in progress, but Nie Huaisang likes the lyrics and the energy and life Wei Wuxian brings to the music.

He follows back.

.

Wei Wuxian keeps in touch with him. He likes Nie Huaisang’s art and leaves comments everytime. Sometimes he DM’s too, to ask what a certain piece is about.

Nie Huaisang supports their band in turn, witnessing their steady improvement, their rising indie reputation.

While taking a break from some bigger art projects, he draws a piece inspired by one of their songs and posts it on his account. He gets a video call from Wei Wuxian and the rest of the band, telling him it’s amazing and asking can they please be allowed to use it as the cover for their homemade CDs they’ll be selling at their gigs?

Nie Huaisang readily gives his permission, waives any fee they’re offering - “Just treat it as my good-luck present to your band, Wei-xiong.” - and he gets a ticket to their next gig in return.

Just like that, Nie Huaisang finds himself always attending their gigs, eventually just joining them backstage. Sometimes he hangs out during practice. He gets asked to design matching tattoos and to doodle on their CD’s with sharpie - stark imagery from the band’s songs.

He gets sneak peeks of Wei Wuxian’s lyrics. Whenever Huaisang comes over, MianMian and Wen Ning always greet him with a smile. Even Jiang Wanyin learns to let down the prickly, closed-off exterior around him.

Just like that, Nie Huaisang finally has friends.

.

Two years later, Black Lotus, a band of nineteen year olds , would sign a deal with a major record label.

Nie Huaisang gets to make his first official - professional - album art. It goes on shirts, pins and posters. He feels like finally, he is going somewhere.

.

A year later, the band is touring. Nie Huaisang designs for them some more, managing to balance that with regular modeling jobs and other art projects coming in from people who found him from his work with the band.

“College can wait.” Da-ge tells him, when Huaisang says that he wants to focus on his art, that he likes his jobs. “Keep doing what you love doing, but don’t keep it waiting for too long.”

Nie Huaisang is still not an actor, but he gets to be on Jiang Wanyin’s arm on the red carpet of an awards show.

(He’d been too flustered at the band’s invitation to even think of saying no.)

So he goes and walks on the red carpet with Wanyin, because they were supposed to come in pairs and Wei Wuxian had MianMian while Wen Ning had his sister Wen Qing.

“He’s a close friend of ours.” he hears Wei Wuxian say to an interviewer when asked, with all the charm and charisma that earned him his fans and popularity.

Beside him, MianMian adds, “He’s an amazing artist! He’s been with us from the start, designing our very first album art up until our latest one. He’s kind of our unofficial fifth member.”

The two are always the spokespeople of the group. Wen Ning is known as soft-spoken, while Jiang Wanyin is known for being too curt.

“He looks good with Wanyin!” one interviewer says. “Are they together?”

Wei Wuxian laughs, genial. “Ah, haha, you’ll have to ask them that!”

Wanyin must have tuned in to Huaisang’s nerves because he leans down slightly and whispers, “It’s fine. We get asked these things all the time.”

Huaisang nods, smiling what he hopes is an easy smile. He's supposed to be the pretty thing in Jiang Wanyin's arm tonight, after all.

Jiang Wanyin, as promised, doesn’t throw Huaisang to the sharks and catches the questions for him with a tight smile and a tighter answer. “We’re long-time artistic collaborators and good friends. Do you have other questions about our album?”

After that, Nie Huaisang gets more modeling offers. He makes Yao-ge turn almost all of them down.

He doesn’t want to be too famous. He doesn’t want to end up like his parents.

There’s a reason why Nie Mingjue fusses over him, never leaves him alone, and makes sure he has their family dog Baxia with him when he has to be by himself in the house.

Huaisang doesn’t want to attract the wrong attention.

So, he escapes to college. It’s convenient. No one questions it. He’s always been interested in fashion design. Da-ge is happy to support him getting a degree.

He still models for smaller designers and magazines, but he never goes past photoshoots.

He still goes to the band’s shows, still spends time with them in the studio, designs their album and single covers, and helps with their music video concepts.

But he never lets himself be seen with them in public again.

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(now)

Nie Mingjue gets his brother’s message before he hears the news. It’s been long since he’d gotten a request like this from Huaisang. His brother knows his schedule, knows how busy he is, knows to call hours or even days before if he wants to squeeze in some time together.

The message is short and concise, without Huaisang’s usual cheerful greetings or emoji.

da-ge can you come home right now?
please

He wonders why Huaisang couldn’t have called if it was so urgent, but then someone hands him their phone with a news article open for him to read. His blood runs cold, and he messages his brother back.

i’m on my way

.

There’s a security personnel stationed outside the door. Nie Mingjue glowers at him and he backs off.

When he gets inside, he finds Huaisang’s boots on the shoe rack, the green turtle keyring with his brother’s spare keys hanging by the light switch.

“Huaisang?” he calls, toeing off his shoes and shrugging off his jacket as he rushes inside. There’s a coat and a backpack left unceremoniously on the couch, but no Huaisang. He dumps his own bags beside the items and heads for his bedroom.

“Da-ge?” someone calls, the sound muffled.

The bedroom door is open, and finally he sees his brother. It’s clear that Huaisang has just woken up. His clothes were scattered on the floor and he has changed into one of Mingjue’s old and worn college hoodies - one of the few left that Huaisang hasn’t claimed for himself yet - and Mingjue’s boxers that are too big for him.

Huaisang’s cheeks are pink, his eyes puffy. “Da-ge.” he calls, sniffing.

“Didi.” Mingjue breathes, and doesn’t waste time getting on the bed and gathering his brother up in his arms. Huaisang scrambles to hug him back, clutching on his shirt, sobbing. “It’s okay, A-Sang. You’re safe. Da-ge’s here.”

“I was so scared.” Huaisang sobs against his brother’s chest. “It was so much like- It was like-... Like when Mama and Baba-...” His voice breaks, and Mingjue shushes him, clutching him tighter. “I’m sorry. I know I shouldn’t- I know you’re okay, I just had to- I just had to see-”

“I know, I know.” Mingjue tells him, using his softest voice. He rubs his brother’s back, runs his fingers through long hair, kisses the crown of his head. All things he’d done many times before, but many years ago. “I’m okay. I’m okay, Huaisang.”

Huaisang nods against his chest, but doesn’t loosen his hold yet. Mingjue doesn’t let go of him, only shifts so he could lean back against the headboard. He waits for his brother’s breathing to even before he speaks again.

“Huaisang?” He asks, careful. “I saw the news. Are you okay? Are you hurt?”

“M’fine.” Huaisang says, taking a deep breath. He sniffs. “M’fine now, da-ge. Thank you for coming for me.”

“I’ll always come for you.” Mingjue says. “Can you tell me what happened?”

Slowly, weakly, Huaisang draws away from him. He slips off his brother’s lap but settles instead on his side, arms still loosely around Mingjue’s torso. Mingjue keeps his arm firm around his brother. Huaisang swallows.

“A-Cheng and I came home from the studio.” he starts, wiping his tears with his sleeves. “It was a normal day. We were cleaning up messes then I noticed some things out of place and… and I asked him if maybe A-Ling or the other kids dropped by. He said they didn’t- We tried to pass it off, maybe we really just didn’t remember moving things around ‘cause we’re both so busy. Then we heard a click and… and there was this guy with his phone and camera out inside our house.”

“Motherfucker- Was he armed? How did he get in?”

Huaisang shook his head. “We don’t know… He just had the camera. He said he was a fan. When A-Cheng said he’s breaking and entering, he panicked and threw one of the chairs at the window and then ran. The building guards caught him, though. The broken window set off an alarm.”

“Good.” Mingjue says, voice low and dark.

No wonder Huaisang was a mess, breaking down at the sight of his brother safe and sound.

Nie Mingjue still remembers being sent home early from school because there’s been an incident at home. He had been in high school. He still remembers being told what happened to his parents, and how fortunate it was that they were able to hide little Huaisang and he was kept safe until the police came.

Nie Mingjue had been old enough to be allowed in the scene, afterwards. He remembers the broken glass from the window. He remembers the trials, the man with the gun claiming he was a fan of his parents, that he loves their movies, that he loves them. He loves them so much he just can’t believe those rumors about them possibly having problems in their relationship, so instead of watching them break it off he’d rather have them be together forever ...

That wasn’t love, Nie Mingjue knows.

Love doesn’t make orphans of two children.

Mingjue had been forced to grow up too fast. Huaisang had never been the the same after that. It had triggered his anxiety. He still freezes at sudden loud noises, until now.

Right now, Mingjue wants nothing more than to go to the police station and recite the charges he’s filing himself, to see the face of the person who dared invade his brother’s privacy like this, who almost made him live through the same trauma that haunted him throughout childhood over again. But he knows he’s needed here. That’s a task that he can delegate. This - to hold his brother and assure him that they’re both alright - this is something only he can do.

He rubs Huaisang’s arm, letting him know that he’s here, that they’re both safe. “I can’t wait to destroy that bastard in court. I already sent people to handle that, A-Sang. Don’t worry.”

Huaisang just sniffs, and nods against his brother’s side. “Thank you, da-ge.”

“What about Jiang Wanyin? I thought he’d be with you.”

“He drove me here, with the... guard person that Yao-ge got for me. A-Cheng went to Yanli-jie to get Bear and the keys to the lake house. We’re planning to stay there for a few days.”

Nie Mingjue nods. “That’s a good idea. Only the family knows about that house, yeah?”

“Mm-hm. He also knows Yanli-jie must be worried.” Huaisang takes a deep breath, then he curls up against his brother again. “A-Ling and A-Yuan have spare keys, they stay over all the time, sometimes before A-Cheng and I even come home. I can’t imagine- What would have happened if that man had broken in while they were-”

Mingjue shushes him before he breaks down again. “He didn’t. They weren’t there, didi. The kids are alright.”

“Yeah. Yeah, they’re okay.” Huaisang nods, more to himself than to his brother. “Thank God they’re okay.”

“And… What about the video?”

At this, Huaisang’s answer is more a tired sigh than anything. “Yeah… Apparently he was on his phone posting live before we caught him. That’s what Yao-ge said. I haven’t seen it, though..”

“I watched it on my way here. There’s nothing too… bad, but-”

“But now the whole internet has seen me kiss Jiang Wanyin? My flatmate for three years, songwriter for two?” Huaisang chuckles bitterly. “It’s fine, da-ge. It’s a kiss. We were going to come out with it eventually. We just hate that we didn’t have a say in how it happened.”

Mingjue sighs. "I'm sorry this had to come out like this. I heard there are photos too?"

"Yeah, of the flat and our rooms and stuff... It's okay. We're both safe. That's all that matters to me now…"

“You should consider moving, after this.”

“I know. Yao-ge said he’s already having someone look for a new place for us.”

“You can leave that to him.” Mingjue says, making a mental note to call Meng Yao again later.

He had talked to his brother’s manager briefly while on his way home, but they had kept it short, seeing as the man had been busy doing damage control. Meng Yao gave him exactly what he needed to know - that Huaisang is safe but shaken, that Huaisang is in Mingjue’s apartment, there’s a guard with him, and Mingjue should focus on Huaisang for the meantime.

It’s clear that the emotional toll of the day’s events had finally worn Huaisang down as Mingjue notices that his brother is starting to drift off. He gives the younger’s shoulder a squeeze and presses another kiss on his forehead.

“We’ll handle it, A-Sang. Just rest, and don’t look at your phone for a while. Okay?”

“Okay, da-ge.” Huaisang yawns, finally closing his eyes.

Nie Mingjue watches his brother sleep and holds him tight. He does this for a while, until the room goes dark with the sky outside.

Huaisang is here. He tells himself. We’re fine. We’re okay.

He breathes in.

We won’t lose each other that way.

He breathes out.

.

.


.

(then)

Huaisang gets his bachelor’s degree at 24.

He decides that he’ll talk to da-ge about getting a place of his own.

Despite his anxiety, he does want independence. He wants his own space, his own studio. And really, Huaisang is not stupid , he knows what it really means whenever da-ge says don’t forget to feed Baxia because he’ll be out late with Lan Xichen. Huaisang really should just get out of his hair because da-ge deserves to take his ‘ totally-not-my-boyfriend’ home without worrying about his precious baby brother’s “innocence”.

He is browsing through apartment listings, absently running his free hand to pet Baxia on his lap, when Yao-ge messages him asking if he’d watched the news.

He switches the TV on to see the media feasting on a story about Wei Wuxian and Jiang Wanyin’s family.

It’s something he’d already known, close to the brothers as he is. Jiang Fengmian, a politician with growing influence, had been close friends with Wei Wuxian’s parents, who had both been influential musicians in their own right before the accident. Jiang Fengmian had taken in Wei Wuxian after their death.

But what’s being shown in the television is different from what Huaisang knows. The media has sensationalized the story, spinning up intrigue about a possible affair between Jiang Fengmian and the late Cangse Sanren. What’s more were the sudden allegations - from an “unnamed source” who is a "concerned fan" of the band members - of Yu Ziyuan physically abusing Wei Wuxian as a child, taking out her anger on the boy for the alleged affair between her husband and the boy’s mother.

Huaisang knew that the relationship between Madame Yu and Wei Wuxian is tumultuous at best, but...

“They’re spinning it like a cheap drama.” Yao-ge tells Huaisang over a phone call, when Huaisang tells him what he knows from the brothers. “Someone’s probably trying to hurt Jiang Fengmian’s campaign, and it’s working.”

He sends messages to Wei Wuxian, telling him he's there if his friend needs someone to talk to, or a place to stay.

He doesn't hear back from Wei Wuxian, though.

Instead, it's Jiang Wanyin who turns up at his doorstep the next day.

“Wanyin-xiong?” he blinks. Wanyin never came over on his own before. He’d always just given Huaisang a ride home after a party or a gig.

“Is he here?” Wanyin asks, voice tight, hands clenched. “Wei Wuxian. Is he here?”

Huaisang shakes his head. “N-No… Why would he-?”

“Fuck.” Wanyin curses, fist meeting the doorframe in frustration. He looks like he’s on the verge of tears. “He’s not with Wen Ning or MianMian. He’s not with jiejie. If he’s not with you either, I don’t know who else… Dammit.”

“Hey. Hey, he’s okay.” Huaisang says, bringing his hands up to try and reassure his friend. “Wanyin-”

Jiang Wanyin jerks away from the touch. “You saw what they’ve been saying all over the news! And then Mother-... He can’t be okay!”

“I know. I know. But Wanyin, A-Xian’s a grown up. Wherever he is, I’m sure he’s just trying to avoid causing more damage.” Huaisang says, eyes pleading. This time, when he places his hands on Wanyin’s shoulders, rubbing soothingly, the other sags, tired. Huaisang frowns. They’re still on the doorway, in plain sight of anyone passing by. “Wanyin- A-Cheng , you don’t look alright. Will you come inside? Then we'll figure out how to find your brother together."

He nods, and it hurts Huaisang to see his friend like this. Slowly, he leads him inside the house.

He hands his guest a cup of chocolate before sitting with him on the couch. He watches Jiang Wanyin distractedly try to pet Baxia, who curls up contentedly by their feet.

Wanyin tells Huaisang what happened. Apparently, when the news broke out, his mother had snapped at Wei Wuxian and had let out some very cutting accusations.

“She went too far, she told him she always knew he’d ruin our family. And I just stood there and let her say that.”

“I’m sure he doesn’t blame you. He knows it can’t be easy for you too.”

“But I’ve always just stood back. I just… I should’ve defended him when Mother-”

“It’s not your fault.” Huaisang says, voice firm. “Trust me. I know a thing or two about how the media and crazy fans can ruin a family.”

“My family’s always been a mess. They just let everyone else know how much.” Wanyin scoffs, bitter. “Maybe it’s good that Wei Wuxian finally got out. I’ve always wondered why he bears with it, why he didn’t just… leave, as soon as he was able to..”

Huaisang looks at him with a small, sad smile. “You know the answer to that, Wanyin.”

“Fuck.” he curses again under his breath, closing his eyes and bowing his head, letting it fall on Nie Huaisang’s shoulder. “That stupid, self-sacrificing idiot.”

“Hey.” Huaisang whispers back, shifting so he can bring his arms around his friend’s shoulders. He feels shaky arms wrap around his waist and pull him close.

This is new. He’d never been this close to Jiang Wanyin. More than that, he’d never had to hold a person up like this before. But at the moment, it feels like the right thing to do.

“It’ll be okay.”

“I don’t want to go back.” Wanyin says into his shoulder. “I’ve had enough, too.”

Huaisang nods, holding him steady. “Then don’t.”

.

Nie Mingjue comes home to find his brother sitting on their couch and browsing through apartment listings on his phone while Jiang Wanyin sleeps, head on his lap.

“Da-ge, I’m moving out so I can have my own studio and so you can take Xichen-ge home without worrying about me.” Huaisang says, straight to the point, using his ‘lawyer voice’ on the very man he learned it from. “I’ve made up my mind. I already have a roommate.”

.

Wei Wuxian calls, one full week later.

Jiang Cheng is in the middle of cooking breakfast, so he puts his brother on speakerphone.

“Took you long enough, asshole.”

There’s silence on the other end, and Jiang Cheng almost thought he was gonna get hung up on, when Wei Wuxian finally speaks, “Jiang Cheng, where are you?”

“Where am I- No, where are you? ” Jiang Cheng demands, grabbing an egg and cracking it open, then pouring it on a bowl. “You just up and disappeared without telling anyone!”

“Hey, you’re one to talk! Jiejie said you’re not with her, so-”

“At least she knows I’m alive!” Jiang Cheng grits out, cracking another egg. “I called her right after I left. When did you call her?”

“Um… A while ago…?”

“Yeah? So we didn’t hear from you for a fucking week.” Jiang Cheng says, grabbing a pair of chopsticks and channelling his annoyance at the poor eggs.

“What-... What’s that sound?”

“I’m making eggs!”

“Okay…” Wei Wuxian says, sounding apologetic at least. Then he sighs. “Wait, so really, where are you? You’re not with jiejie, or A-Ning, or MianMian.”

“I’ll tell you where I am if you tell me where you are.”

“I… um...”

He hears feet padding from the hallway and a voice calling out, “Wanyin, do I smell scrambled eggs? Can you make a sunny side up?”

“Yeah, I’ll cook one for you after this.” Jiang Cheng calls back.

“Thanks! I’m going out to walk Baxia!”

“Okay.”

“Jiang Cheng.” - comes from his phone again. Jiang Check clicks his tongue. Surely his brother picked that up. “Was that Nie Huaisang? Are you staying with Nie Huaisang?!”

Jiang Cheng gets why Wei Wuxian sounds so incredulous. He knows for himself that it’s an unexpected choice. He and Huaisang were never the closest of friends, although they’ve known each other for a long time. Still, he huffs. “What about it?”

“N-Nothing, nothing! I just… I just didn’t expect you guys to- Nevermind. So… you left home too?”

“Yeah.” Jiang Cheng says, considerably calmer now. “You’re not the only one who can’t stand it anymore.”

“And you went to Huaisang. Not to jiejie.”

“Yeah, well, why didn’t you go to jiejie?”

Wei Wuxian sighs. “Because it’s the first place they’ll look. If they looked. Next will be A-Ning. Then MianMian.”

Jiang Cheng nods, even though he knows his brother can’t see. So they thought the same thing, after all. They didn’t want to put this on their sister again. She’s played peacemaker for them and their parents long enough. She has her own family now, she deserves to live her own life.

“Hey, Jiang Cheng.” Wei Wuxian starts, pulling Jiang Cheng from his thoughts. “I’ve been thinking. We - the band - we’ve been at this nonstop, almost, since we started... MianMian just got that movie offer and it looks like she wants to take it. And we know A-Ning’s been eyeing that medical degree for a while now…”

“Yeah.” Jiang Cheng says, already knowing where this is headed. He couldn’t even say he’s surprised… he’d seen this as a possibility.

“And you, well- I just-.... I don’t know what you want to do. Do you… Um, do you have anything you want to try? Because I don’t want to just call this off and leave you hanging-”

“Stop it.” he snaps. “Don’t-... Don’t tie yourself down on my behalf, Wei Wuxian. I’m an adult. I can deal with my own shit. Do what you want.”

“But Jiang Cheng-”

“Don’t.” Jiang Cheng cuts him off. 

Don’t say it. He thinks. He’d always known, but he doesn’t want to hear it from his brother, of all people. He knows that Wei Wuxian is worried about him if the band takes a break because it’s all Jiang Cheng has, and even that , the band, has always been, from day one, Wei Wuxian’s. It was his idea. He’s the talent. He’s the one who got Wen Ning and Mian Mian on board. Wei Wuxian is the genius behind their lyrics and their songs. He’s the face of their band, their leader. Jiang Cheng has always been second, but he didn’t mind

 He’d dedicated himself to his role, and yes, maybe he’d dedicated himself so much that he didn’t even think to have back up... but that’s Jiang Cheng’s problem, and no one else’s. At some point, he has to take accountability for himself.

“I just… A-Cheng, I-”

“You called to ask me if I’ll be fine with it, right? I am. So call it.” he says, taking a deep breath. “If Wen Ning and MianMian are okay with it, let’s do it. Let’s take a break.”

“Okay.” Wei Wuxian says, finally. He sounds just as tired as Jiang Cheng feels. “Okay, A-Cheng. Take care, alright?”

“Yeah. You too.”

It’s not until Wei Wuxian hangs up that Jiang Cheng realizes he never told Jiang Cheng where he’s staying.

“Goddammit.”

.

Five years after Black Lotus’s professional debut, their official PR representative issues a statement that the band is going on hiatus for the foreseeable future.

He sits on the Nies’ couch with Nie Huaisang as they watch the news feature on it. He feels his companion rest his head on his shoulder.

“So… what will you do next?” Nie Huaisang asks, in that soft, unassuming way of his.

“I don’t know.” Jiang Cheng says - admits - watching himself and his bandmates deliver their ‘not-farewell-but-see-you-again’ message on television. Already he feels like the Jiang Wanyin on the screen is a completely different person.

Huaisang hums. “That’s not a bad thing.”

Jiang Cheng finds himself nodding. “No. It’s not.”

Tomorrow, they’ll look for apartments.

.

.


.

(now)

Nie Mingjue opens his door to Jiang Cheng and Bear. He starts to say something, but stops to squint at the dog.

“Did he get even bigger ?” he asks. The Chow Chow could be even taller than Huaisang if it stood on its hind legs now.

Jiang Cheng looks taken aback, blinking despite his exhaustion. “Uh… Yeah, he’s not done growing. Apparently.”

“Bet he’s a handful.” Mingjue mumbles as he lets them both inside.

He thanks small miracles that Baxia is at Xichen’s for the week since Mingjue has been staying long nights at work lately. He doesn’t know how his house would accommodate two big dogs if they decided to wrestle.

He watches as Jiang Cheng picks up Huaisang’s coat from the couch and starts folding it neatly.

“Huaisang’s asleep.”

Jiang Cheng nods. “Was it… bad?”

Knowing his brother, Mingjue knows that Huaisang must have held himself back and didn’t show anyone - even Jiang Cheng - how scared he really was until he’s all alone, only breaking down when Mingjue got to him. 

“He was a mess.”

“I’m sorry.”

Mingjue walks forward and lays a hand on the younger’s shoulder. “Not your fault, kid.” he says, firm and steady. “You should know that.”

Jiang Cheng nods. “I just… never thought…”

“I know. No one ever thinks it could happen, until it happens.” Nie Mingjue says, gripping the other man’s shoulder, firm. “Just be thankful no one got hurt.”

When he speaks, there is barely contained anger in his voice, and under it, fear. “He shouldn’t have had to experience all that over again...”

Nie Mingjue understands completely, and he only pats him again. “You’re right. But it’s not your fault that some fans are obsessed and insane. It’s not anyone’s fault but that person’s, alright?”

Jiang Cheng could do nothing but nod again. “Thanks, Mingjue-ge.” he says. “I got the keys to the lake house, we can stay there while Meng Yao sorts things out.”

“Good. Leave that part to us. It’s what we do. You hungry? I ordered takeout, it’s in the kitchen, there’s one for you too.” Mingjue says, then snaps his fingers at the dog already trotting lazily around his coffee table. “Hey, Bear, stop sniffing around. C’mere, I’ll give you food.”

.

Nie Huaisang wakes up in the middle of the night, warm and snug under the blankets, in his big brother’s arms. He’s always been affectionate with his big brother, but it has been a long, long time since he last needed to be in the same bed, to sleep fitted snug against him.

He’s 27 now, he really shouldn’t be making his brother treat him like the constantly crying preteen he used to be anymore. Still, he knows Nie Mingjue wouldn’t hesitate to coddle him, no matter how old he gets.

His throat feels dry, though, so he carefully slips off his da-ge’s grasp and pads as quietly as he can over to the kitchen.

He stops in his tracks when he sees Jiang Cheng asleep on the couch, one hand still resting over Bear on the floor. Nie Huaisang smiles and walks over, sitting on the floor beside him. He shushes Bear when the dog shuffles, coaxing him back to sleep. Then he turns back to Jiang Cheng, Gently, he brushes dark strands of hair from his boyfriend’s sleeping face, fingers lingering and tracing the man’s jaw.

Jiang Cheng stirs, and slowly opens his eyes. When he recognizes Huaisang, he shifts to lie on his side, so he could look directly at him. “A-Sang. Hi.”

“Hi.” Nie Huaisang says, whisper-soft, knuckles brushing gently against the other’s cheekbones. “Sorry for waking you up.”

Jiang Cheng yawns as he shakes his head. “It’s late. Why are you up? Are you okay?”

“Just got thirsty.” Huaisang says. He smiles when Jiang Cheng raises a hand to take his, twines their fingers together, and presses a kiss to his knuckles. “Are you okay?”

“I am if you are.” he mumbles against the back of Huaisang’s hand. “Tomorrow we’ll go to the lake house. Away from all this noise. So you can feel safe. Then we’ll figure things out.”

“Yeah.” Huaisang says, leaning forward to rest his chin on the couch, pressing their foreheads together. “Go back to sleep, A-Cheng.”

Jiang Cheng nods, letting out a deep breath as he closes his eyes and burrows his face on his pillow.

Huaisang watches him as he falls back asleep.

.

.


.

(then)

Between the two of them, Huaisang has his modeling and art jobs that pay well, and Jiang Cheng has his own savings and income. They found a nice place with an individual bedroom for both of them and a spare room to be Huaisang’s studio. Jiang Cheng doesn’t fuss about letting him take it, saying he’s fine having his guitars, keyboard and music equipment in his own room.

The apartment is spacious. Even though they both had a ton of stuff - artwork, easels, canvases, fan collection, books, musical instruments, records and award trophies, there’s a place for everything with room to spare, so by the end of week one, they were both unpacked and settled.

The moving in part is easy - they had both known that.

The living-with-each-other part is the tricky one. They always got along, Wei Wuxian or no, but they haven’t been around each other for long periods of time to know if they’ll be compatible housemates or not.

But, they’re friends. That should count for something.

Also, they’re both younger brothers who for the first time are getting a chance to prove that they can be independent and not reliant on their elder siblings, while also knowing from their own tendencies that being alone might just as well make them spiral downwards instead… so.

They really, really should make this work.

Also, they really, really like the flat.

.

Nie Huaisang thinks having Jiang Cheng as a roommate is a lot like living with his da-ge. Jiang Cheng would nag him to tidy up and do chores, but he’d also see Huaisang in the zone, busy making art, and leave him be until he has to pry him away from his canvas and sit him down on the dining table to eat. He doesn’t know everything, but he knows just enough to see signs of Huaisang’s anxiety on not-so-good days, and he takes it in stride when Nie Huaisang sits closer to him that usual, or naps on his bed, or asks to tag along when he’s going out.

“I’m going out to drop off some stuff at jiejie’s.” Jiang Cheng announces, standing by the doorway of Huaisang’s studio where Huaisang is busy painting a fan - his hobby outside of commissions. “You gonna be okay?”

Nie Huaisang sometimes wonders if his da-ge perhaps made Jiang Cheng promise to always ask Huaisang if he'll be okay to be alone in the house.

At the same time, Huaisang has grown to learn that despite being prickly and distant to others, Jiang Cheng is very much a caretaker, so maybe that part is all Jiang Cheng, after all.

He doesn’t know for sure, and doesn’t ask either. He just lets his friend know it’s appreciated.

“I’m good.” he tells Jiang Cheng, sending him a smile. “Say hi to Yanli-jie and A-Ling for me.”

.

But while Jiang Cheng’s brand of concern is fleetingly familiar to Nie Huaisang, it isn’t the same the other way around.

It takes Jiang Cheng a while to get used to Nie Huaisang. Nie Huaisang doesn’t leave him alone.

Whenever Jiang Cheng is frustrated at whatever he’s working on, or when he’s in too deep in his thoughts to be healthy, Nie Huaisang sits on his bed with a sketchpad and keeps him company. Sometimes Nie Huaisang would distract him by picking out a documentary and asking to watch it together, or by dragging him to do groceries, or making him sit in the park to pet other people’s dogs and watch birds.

Jiang Cheng also has to get used to getting random pastries and cupcakes from his roommate. 

“What’s this?” he asks, one time, when a plate of tiny cupcakes is unceremoniously placed on his desk, followed by Nie Huaisang perching on his armrest, resting an arm on his shoulder.

“They’re baby owls. In baby cupcakes.”

“They look like tiny brown Elmos.”

Nie Huaisang slaps his arm, pouting. “They’re owlets! See their little beaks?”

“Oh, beaks. Right. Those are beaks.” Jiang Cheng just chuckles, shaking his head as he picks one of them up. “Alright, I’m gonna eat a baby owl now.”

Huaisang has a whole Pinterest board of cute cupcake and cookie recipes.

Jiang Cheng has since learned that Huaisang isn’t the best baker. Huaisang just bakes because his hands are itching to do something else. His works are never perfect - Huaisang himself said he’s not trying to make anything perfect. Sometimes the cakes are a bit too sweet or a bit dry, and the decorations are obviously afterthoughts, but they’re decent and edible, for someone not picky.

Jiang Cheng is picky, but he has learned not to be, when it comes to Huaisang’s baking.

“Mm. Tastes like chocolate.”

“Mission accomplished! Okay, I’ll clean up now. Happy working!”

He watches his new roommate disappear into the kitchen with an amused smile. Then, his eyes go to the tiny cupcakes and he picks up another one.

This is not what Jiang Cheng is used to - his own space, a friend who’s not his brother, random weird cupcakes - but he thinks the change isn’t bad. Not bad at all.

.

Jiang Cheng comes home one day to find that Huaisang has company.

Then he joins his housemate in watching helplessly as Nie Mingjue rummages through their cupboards and closets and proceeds to point out everything wrong with their flat.

They don't have enough vegetables. They should have more spare blankets and curtains. They have too much sugar in storage and not enough insect killer. A lot of other things. Also, they need a plant.

"Get a plant." the man orders, tone not accepting any arguments. "There better be a plant here next time I visit."

Huaisang pouts, and opens his mouth to argue because that's what a little brother does, but Jiang Cheng beats him to it. "Yes, Mingjue-ge."

So Jiang Cheng asks MianMian for recommendations and buys a plant.

Nie Mingjue returns a week later with vegetables, blankets, curtains, insect killer, and basically everything else he said they were missing last time. Minus plant. Plus roomba.

They don't question it.

Huaisang sticks googly eyes and a paper moustache on the roomba.

“Your name is Da-ge Junior.” he tells the poor thing.

Jiang Cheng looks towards Nie Mingjue, but it seems like the man has taken the christening in stride and is just looking around the flat, satisfied with his contributions. 

He nods in approval when he sees the plant.

"What's that one’s name, then?" he asks Jiang Cheng.

Jiang Cheng blanks out for a second, completely unprepared for that question. "Uh… Name- I- What uhhh…?"

He looks at the plant. It’s a snake plant. He bought it because MianMian said it’s a nice indoor plant that doesn’t attract bugs and also helps people sleep.

“S-Snakey?”

Mingjue scoffs, but nods. "Good."

Then he tells them to be responsible adults and leaves. Well, he tries to leave right away. He very obviously wants to pick Huaisang up and take him back home with him. But eventually he settles for hugging his brother and kissing his forehead and then he does leave.

Oh, and he also tells Jiang Cheng to not disappoint him.

Huaisang peers at his roommate’s face and raises an eyebrow. "Wow, da-ge really likes messing with you."

Jiang Cheng nods. “Does that mean he likes me? I can’t tell."

“Oh, he really likes you.” Huaisang laughs. “Actually I doubt he would’ve let me move out if you’d been Wuxian.”

“Huh.”

“Also, Snakey ?”

“It’s a snake plant!”

“Okay, international punk rock star Jiang Wanyin.”

“Snakes are punk!”

.

Huaisang comes home one day to find that it’s Jiang Cheng’s turn to have company.

Jiang Cheng has company, and the living room is a mess.

“Oh, I see we have a guest.” he says, trying not to smile too widely at the sight of little Jin Ling hugging a guitar almost as big as him on his lap.

He recognizes the guitar as Zidian, one of Jiang Cheng’s acoustic guitars.

Also one of Jiang Cheng’s more rarely-used guitars. Hm...

“Hey.” Jiang Cheng greets him. “Jiejie needed someone to look after A-Ling. A-Ling, say hi.”

“Hi, Huaisang-gege.” Jin Ling says, busy attempting to strum the big guitar.

"Hi, A-Ling." Huaisang greets back, setting his bags aside and sitting with them on the couch. He wraps his arms loosely around the boy, keeping him from tipping over with the guitar. Now that he’s closer, he notices the boy’s puffy eyes and pink nose. He frowns, looking towards Jiang Cheng.

Jiang Cheng looks tired as he mouths ‘tantrums’ and Nie Huaisang nods. That explains the mess, and the fact that the boy is holding a guitar that, besides being one of his uncle’s “special” guitars, is also otherwise too big for him. If Huaisang would hazard a guess, the guitar was probably Jiang Cheng’s ultimate attempt to appease the kid, and it worked.

"What are you doing now?" he asks Jin Ling, wiping some drying tears beside the boy’s eyes.

"Jiujiu is teaching me guitar." Jin Ling answers.

Jiang Cheng positions his little fingers on the frets, and he strums again. “Jin Ling really wanted me to teach him guitar.”

"I see." Nie Huaisang nods. "You're gonna be a rockstar like jiujiu?"

"Yeah!"

"Aww..." Huaisang coos, squeezing the kid tighter. Jin Ling, used to the coddling, ignores him in favor of strumming haphazardly. "Jiujiu, this guitar is too big, don't you think A-Ling should get a baby guitar?”

Jiang Cheng raises an eyebrow. “What, like a ukulele?"

“No, a baby guitar. For babies. He’s baby.”

This gets Jing Ling’s attention. “I’m six!”

Jiang Cheng smirks. "Should I get you a baby guitar for Christmas then, A-Ling?"

“No! I don't want a baby guitar, I’m six! I want a jiujiu guitar!”

"A jiujiu guitar." Nie Huaisang giggles. "He wants a jiujiu guitar, A-Cheng."

"Your hands are still too small for a jiujiu guitar, A-Ling." Jiang Cheng explains, patient despite his tiredness. Huaisang never sees him quite as soft as when he's with his sister and nephew. "What about a small jiujiu guitar so you can hold it properly?"

"Small. Not a baby guitar?"

"Not a baby guitar. Just an A-Ling-sized guitar."

"Okay." Jin Ling nods, patting the guitar like he would pet his dog Fairy. "Will Huaisang-gege paint it too?"

Huaisang smiles, squeezing the boy for a second as he looks at the hand-painted silver snakes on the purple guitar. It always makes him happy to see how much care Jiang Cheng had given it. He'd painted it years ago, inspired by a beautifully ornate sculpture that Huaisang saw once in the Jiang residence. He’d been told it’s a heirloom from Madame Yu's side of the family.

"I'll paint it if A-Ling wants." he says. "What do you want Huaisang-gege to paint?"

The boy answers happily. "Robots! And Fairy."

Huaisang grins at Jiang Cheng over the boy's head.

"Alright. Let's wait for your small jiujiu guitar and you can use that then, alright? This big one will hurt your fingers." Jiang Cheng says, taking the guitar from the kid, who gives it up easily now that he's been promised something else.

Huaisang catches Jiang Cheng's hopeless look at the toys and other kid stuff scattered around their living room and smiles. He leans down, peering at Jin Ling's face. "A-Ling, do you want to help Huaisang-gege make cookies?"

"Cookies?" Jin Ling asks, eyes lighting up.

"Yep, let's go make cookies!" Nie Huaisang says, exchanging a look with Jiang Cheng as he stands up and pulls Jin Ling with him to the kitchen.

Jiang Cheng mouths 'thank you' and proceeds to pick up after the mess.

"What's in the cookies?" Jin Ling asks, watching Huaisang take out various ingredients in colorful containers.

"Whatever you like, A-Ling. As long as we have it here."

"Sprinkles and chocolate?"

"Yep."

"And M&M's?"

"Yep."

"And gummy bears?"

"Hmm…” Huaisang surveys the cupboard. “We don't have gummy bears. Maybe jiujiu can buy gummy bears."

"Jiujiu will buy gummy bears after he cleans up this mess." Jiang Cheng calls from the living room.

Huaisang clears up some space on the counter and perches Jin Ling on top of it, then hands him a tray of cookie cutters and tells him to pick which shapes he likes.

A little while later, Jiang Cheng disappears for ten minutes and comes back with gummy bears. He hands the little package over to Jin Ling.

Jin Ling looks between the two adults for one wide-eyed moment and then says, “Jiujiu, I want to live here.”

.

Jiang Cheng drives Huaisang to his modeling jobs because he has the time to spare and a flexible schedule.

He’s not new to photoshoots anymore, after his run with the band. He’d never seen Huaisang in one, though. Still, he doesn’t want to disrupt his work, so he contents himself to just drive his friend to and from his jobs.

“This one’s for a billboard.” Huaisang tells him one day. Jiang Cheng glances shortly at him before turning his attention back to the road. “That’s… that’s big. That’s big, right?”

“It is.” he says, slowly, trying to get a feel for the other’s mood.

“I told Yao-ge I don’t want it, but apparently they really wanted me? They insisted? I mean, that’s flattering, I guess, but… I’m kinda terrified. I’ve never done something this big.”

Jiang Cheng nods. “You know, I never really got why you do this modeling thing.”

Huaisang looks at him.

“Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you’re bad at it. I’ve seen your work, you’re really good.” Jiang Cheng clarifies. “It’s just… You told me you don’t really like being seen by a lot of people, and you don’t like that part of being famous. But modeling is literally about people looking at you. Look, I’m not telling you to quit, okay, I just... if it makes you uncomfortable...”

“Ah. Yeah, I get it.” He says, smiling sheepishly. “In high school, I started doing this to like, rebel, against my anxiety, I guess? I was getting tired of feeling like I can’t do anything except stay inside and paint. Then I found that I’m kinda good at it, so I kept doing it. It’s just… I guess, for me, it’s fine. Being seen in pictures. It’s different. It’s not like it’s a catwalk or like, a concert, a stage show. It’s… It’s the audience, I think. That makes or breaks it for me.”

“The audience?”

He takes a deep breath. “With just pictures, I don’t have to be around people when they look at me. I can handle that. Besides, it’s… it’s nice, dressing up. Wearing someone’s art instead of being the one making it, for once. I actually got to appreciate it more after studying fashion. I wanna design some of my own clothes someday, but for now I’m fine just trying out others’.”

Jiang Cheng nods, understanding.

“But still.” Huaisang says, biting his lip. “A billboard.”

Jiang Cheng glances at him and notices him wringing his hands. “Hey.” he says, reaching out. Huaisang takes his hand, and he gives it a squeeze. “You’ll do great today. You always do. That’s why they like working with you so much, right?”

Huaisang smiles. “Thanks, A-Cheng.” They sit in silence in the traffic for a while, then he takes a breath and turns to his friend. “Um… Can I ask for a favor?”

.

The studio is busier than Huaisang expected it to be. There’s usually a bustle of activity all around the place during these shoots, but this time, everyone seems to be rushing around in a panic.

Meng Yao stops his pacing when he sees Huaisang, and he is ready to greet the younger when he notices that he came in with someone.

“Yao-ge, hi.” Huaisang greets him, sheepish. “I hope it’s okay, I brought a friend with me? He’s just here to watch, really.”

Meng Yao notes the ‘friend’s hand on Huaisang’s shoulder and narrows his eyes for a second. The man looks vaguely familiar, but Meng Yao can’t really tell, with the black mask covering half of the stranger’s face.

Still, he smiles pleasantly at them both.

“Of course it’s fine! I’m Meng Yao.” he says, extending a hand. “Huaisang’s manager.”

Jiang Cheng nods and shakes the other man’s hand. “It’s nice to meet you. Jiang Wanyin.”

Meng Yao’s eyes widen in recognition.“Oh, Jiang Wanyin! Black Lotus’s Jiang Wanyin?”

Everyone in the room stops and turns towards them.

Jiang Cheng resists the urge to hide behind Huaisang. For one, it’ll probably be useless, as he’s a head taller than his friend. Awkwardly, he nods at all of them in acknowledgement. “Um. Hi. I’m… the driver.”

“The driver. He’s the driver! Does he hear himself?” Someone says, rushing towards their little crowd. From the fancy make up and the gaudy clothes he’s wearing, Jiang Cheng assumes he’s the guy in charge of the whole thing. “Nie Huaisang! Your driver is Black Lotus’s Jiang Wanyin? Since when ?”

Huaisang lets out a nervous laugh. “Um… a couple months now, actually?”

“The Gods are smiling upon me today. Someone call this man’s manager!

“Hey, wait a minute! What-” Jiang Cheng gapes and watches helplessly as several assistants disperse in different directions, all tapping on their phones furiously. “Hey, I did not sign up for this.”

Huaisang, beside him, also looks at a loss. “Um, Xuanyu-xiong, Wanyin really was just dropping me off here today, he’s not-”

But Mo Xuanyu had already begun to beg. “Please, please, please , Jiang Wanyin, save this entire production! Will you model for us, today? We’re missing our lead model!”

Huaisang frowns. “What’s wrong, where’s Jin Zixun?”

“We can’t find him.” Meng Yao sighs. “He probably partied all night again and overslept in some hotel…”

Jiang Cheng narrows his eyes as he pushes his mask down, now that there’s no use wearing it anymore. “Excuse me, who?”

Mo Xuanyu lets out a dreamy sigh as he stares up at him. “Ah, Jiang-xiong, you’re so handsome in person…”

“Xuanyu...” Meng Yao patiently hums under his breath as he nudges his half-brother, still smiling up at Jiang Cheng. “We’re missing Jin Zixun. He’s supposed to be A-Sang’s partner for this shoot. Jin Zixuan’s cousin, you might have met him…?”

“Ah, yes.” Jiang Cheng says, a grin creeping in his lips. “Jin Zixun, huh? I have met him.”

“Oh, my heart, he’s smiling, Yao-ge…”

“Xuanyu.”

Jiang Cheng knows Jin Zixun, alright. He owes that bastard a punch, or two. Or three. Ten. Fifty? For being a pompous, entitled jerk, almost ruining his sister’s wedding, and his nephew’s birthday party, and insulting his brother, and being rude in countless other family gatherings-

“A-Cheng?” Huaisang tugs at his shirt, mildly terrified.

-and now to think that Jin Zixun will be putting his hands on Jiang Cheng’s roommate, his best friend, Nie Huaisang… Even in a professional capacity-... Nope.

Jiang Cheng just squeezes his shoulder and then smiles at Meng Yao and Mo Xuanyu. “I’ll be happy to do it.”

Huaisang gapes at him. “You will ?”

“Yes! Thank you so much, we’re all big fans of yours, this is an honor!” Mo Xuanyu claps his hands, then runs towards his staff. “Alright, team, we have our lead model back! Well, not back, this one’s new, but we have a live one! And he’s not hungover with lipstick marks all over him!”

There’s a general exclamation of joy and relief from everyone except Meng Yao, who gives Huaisang and Jiang Cheng a strained smile before following the younger man. “Uh, Xuanyu, I don’t think- Maybe we should discuss this with the management first-”

“Who’ll turn down Jiang Wanyin, Yao-ge?! No one! Zixun’s a jerk anyway, he’s difficult to work with, and he’s mean to me. This is an upgrade! If he complains to daddy-dearest, I’ll hide behind Zixuan-ge. Zixuan-ge loves me.”

“Xuanyu-”

“If I get fired for this, so be it, at least I’ve worked with Jiang Wanyin in a photoshoot. I’m dying happy!”

.

“Jiang Wanyin, I don’t hear anything from you for months besides ‘Fuck off, Wei Wuxian, I’m on vacation.’ and then I almost crash my bike on the highway because you're ON A GODDAMN BILLBOARD?!”

Nie Huaisang, from his studio, laughs.

“I did it for the greater good.” Jiang Cheng replies as he squints at the cupcake his laughing roommate had claimed was supposed to be a flamingo until he screwed up and it “naturally evolved” into a Jigglypuff.

“W-What-...? Jiang Cheng, explain yourself! But also tell Huaisang he looks amazing. You guys are so cute, the chemistry is great. You know MianMian called me to ask why you’re upstaging her movie’s billboard? She says to tell you that you owe her a drink next time you see her-”

He bites on the cupcake while his brother continues to scream over the phone. As he suspected: sugar. 

“-and I know you don’t go there, but Twitter had a meltdown over the whole thing. But first explain yourself!!! Jiang Cheng!!!”

Jiang Cheng scoffs. He licks pink frosting off his fingers and just says, “Fuck off, Wei Wuxian, I’m on vacation.”

.

Jiang Cheng gets a ton of offers after that billboard gig. He turns them all down.

"I'm on a break." he tells his manager, and Wei Wuxian, and jiejie, and MianMian, when they all tell him maybe he shouldn't turn down all the offers, maybe he'll enjoy some of them.

But what's done is done. It just wasn't his thing. The modeling is a one time gig.

Huaisang doesn't question his choice.

He is a menace though, so he puts up a framed copy of the billboard photo on their wall.

Jiang Cheng doesn’t even notice it until one lazy night, when his eyes strayed to the framed poster while they were watching a documentary about penguins.

“What the fuck? When did that get there?”

"Xuanyu-xiong gave it to me! He said it got crazy good feedback!" Nie Huaisang says, laughing. “Not from Jin Zixun, of course. Obviously.”

“That pleases me.”

“I’m sure it does.”

"But… I've wanted to ask…” Jiang Cheng starts, squinting at the photo again. “They're a clothes brand, right? Why am I not wearing a shirt?"

Nie Huaisang snorts. "Because you're hot , Wanyin-xiong. Duh."

Jiang Cheng turns towards him and glares.

"I bet it's the tattoos that did it for 'em. People like tattoos."

"Did I ever tell you I liked you more when you were all quiet and shy and cute?"

Huaisang grins. "You thought I was cute?"

Jiang Cheng grabs a pillow and bashes him on the head with it. “Not anymore.”

Huaisang gasps, then grabs his own pillow and hits back. “Jiang-xiong! So mean!”

They don’t stop until they’ve both laughed themselves breathless.

.

Huaisang has an online following from both his modeling and art career. Once or twice a month, he does live streams, where he can update them on his latest projects, or just share useful art tips while he shares his screen as he draws or paints something.

His audience is usually from the art side of his following, the comment section being questions about his art and his process.

This time his comments are about the billboard, congratulating him on a “big break”. He can’t say he didn’t expect it, but it’s still surprising to see it from people who mostly recognize him for his art. Perhaps the billboard really did lend him more visibility - fashion magazines only reached so many.

He’s in the middle of thanking them when one of the comments catches his attention.

i miss your Black Lotus album artworks! ❤️🖤 i found you through them!

“Oh, thank you.” he says, smiling. “I did enjoy working with Black Lotus a lot. I love their music. They’re my best friends, and I was so lucky they trusted me to make art for their work.”

The comments are then filled with black and red heart emojis. He knows those are representative of the band’s fandom in social media.

kudos to friendship! ❤️🖤

BLB Forever ❤️🖤

do you know when they’ll be back? ❤️🖤

you looked so good with jwy in that poster! 💜 who picked u 2 for it?

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa i miss them so muuuuch ❤️🖤

will jwy do more projects like that now? like commercials and stuff?

“Wow, okay, haha, I can’t answer these!” Huaisang laughs, sheepish. “Um, I think I’m allowed to say I kinda dragged Wanyin in for the job? It’s a long story. As for projects, he’s a very private person so I won’t give anything away, but I’m sure he’ll let you all know himself if he’s got something coming up-”

As if summoned, he hears Jiang Cheng call from the hallway, “A-Sang, the pizza’s here.”

“I’m streaming!” he calls back.

“Oh, okay. Sorry.”

oooo who’s that!!!

A-SANG 😳😳😳

is that your bf??? omg!!!

don’t say sorry, sexy voice!

Huaisang snorts, reading the exclamations. “Oh my God. You guys, no.”

oh to be nie huaisang with a handsome voice person in his house saying the pizza has arrived 😩😩😩

“Okay, fine, wait a minute.” Huaisang chuckles, muting his mic. “A-Cheng?” he calls, and a few seconds later, Jiang Cheng appears on his studio’s door. “I have some really enthusiastic Black Lotus fans in my comments section asking me who the owner of the handsome voice talking about pizza is. Do you wanna greet them?”

Jiang Cheng raises an eyebrow. “Do they know it’s me?”

“Nope.” Huaisang says. “But they heard your voice. I can just change the subject, if you don’t wanna do it.”

Jiang Cheng thinks about it, looks down at himself to check that he looks decent, then shrugs. “Eh. Let’s do it.” he steps inside the studio, grabbing the spare chair on his way. “Are you gonna switch the camera on?”

“That’s the plan, but we can go voice-only like I usually do if you prefer that.”

Jiang Cheng snorts, settling down on the chair beside his roommate, tugging his hair absently. “Nah, rip the band-aid off. My manager told me people have been wondering where I am. This should answer that question. I’m at home, getting fat with pizza and bad baking.”

“You love my baking.”

“That doesn’t mean it’s good.”

“I’m both touched and offended.”

“You’re welcome.”

“You’re gonna break Twitter again, you know that?”

“Not my problem, I don’t have Twitter.”

.

 

@nhs_art
thank you everyone who watched the latest stream! that was a fun one, filled with surprises! i’m sorry i couldn’t keep my guest on for longer. i am not as powerful as pizza 🍕 see you all next month! 💚

@blacklotusband_updates
❤️🖤 WATCH: Surprise appearance from our very own Jiang Wanyin 💜 in his roommate @nhs_art's monthly livestream! He dropped by to greet BLB fans who were in the livestream and answered some questions.

re: future projects
JWY: No projects for the future yet because I’m really just enjoying this time off for myself. Rediscovering my own art and making up for missed time with friends and family.
NHS: He’s still working harder than me though.
JWY: I have to or I’ll get fat because you bake so much.

re: “Are you dating?” comments
JWY: No. (laughs) I’m his live-in chauffeur.
NHS: (nods) He’s my live-in chauffeur.
JWY: Wait, you don't pay me.
NHS: Oops?
JWY: It's so hard to find a good job these days.

@stanblb19
Ohmygodtheywereroommates.jpg 😳

@jiangwany1ns
I WAS IN CLASS!!! WHAT HAPPENED!!!! 😭😭😭😭😭

@blacklotusbabe
giiiiirl our man jwy apparently been living with nhs for months now omg
he crashed nhs monthly art stream 😂 but it looks like they’re having fun
they said they’re not dating tho just roommates 🤔💜💚

@jiangwany1ns
AWW that’s so cute! 🥺💜 blb & nhs have been bffs for yrs right? nhs is the only one blb trust to make their album art… after that nastiness earlier this year we were all worried bc we didnt hear anything from wanyin but now we know he's ok!

@blacklotusbabe
yes! he actually looks content & happy! also jwy drives him to his photoshoots… nhs how to be u??? 😔

@saturn_ravel
Who's this guy using blb wanyin for clout ew 🤮

@lovelotus
ok sit down child if you don't know nhs are u even a real blb fan? he's their unofficial 5th member and their album artist. you don't see him with them often because he's busy with his own projects but he's been with them from the start.

@lovelotus
also wanyin is a private person and picky with who he gets seen with so if he's in nhs channel that means he trusts nhs and he's ok and comfortable being there.

@softepiphany
i can’t believe this… jwy… soft… he vacation… he wears t shirt… he tells jokes… who this man 😭💜 thank u nie huaisang 💚

@missmianmian
i go online to see my band trending and it’s because of jiang wanyin 💜 AGAIN 💜

stop upstaging me bro i’m the one with a movie coming out!!! 😡😡😡
i hate it here 😔😔😔

but lol wanyin going out of his cave and crashing his roommate’s art stream to give unsuspecting fans a heart attack is all the proof you need that he and @weiwuxianxian are indeed brothers. 💜 chaotic. i love them. 🌸

@weiwuxianxian
ah… there they are… two of my favorite people…. 💚💜 all grown up and breaking the internet for the second time in a month… 😂 keep up the good work!!! 👌✨

.

.


.

(now)

The lake house is a four hour drive from the city. It’s one of the many properties of the Jiang family, gifted to Jiang Yanli by her parents when she got married. Since then, many holidays and vacations have been spent in the house. It’s a lovely place, private - a spacious cabin with many rooms, a lush green yard surrounding it, and a beautiful lake just a few minutes’ walk from the property.

Nie Huaisang spent the previous year’s holidays there with Jiang Cheng and his siblings with their families: Jiang Yanli, Jin Zixuan and 9-year old Jin Ling, and Wei Wuxian, Lan Wangji and 10-year old A-Yuan. It was a nice, peaceful vacation - he had been grateful that everyone had managed to clear their busy schedules for it.

Now, it’s just him and Jiang Cheng, and Bear.

.

“How was Yanli-jie?” Huaisang had asked in the middle of the drive.

“She’s fine. Worried. About us. You, especially. I told her you’ll be fine after you go to Mingjue-ge. She said she’ll talk to A-Ling about not coming to our apartment for the meantime.” Jiang Cheng told him. “Wei Wuxian said the same about A-Yuan too. He’s also really worried about you.”

“I really am okay.” Huaisang insisted. “It’s just… It was a trigger, I guess. But I’m fine now.”

“Still.” Jiang Cheng said. “There’s nothing wrong with being shaken up by that, Huaisang. Someone broke into our apartment, went through our stuff and filmed us without our knowledge, then destroyed property. Anyone would be terrified. And with what you’ve been through with-... With your parents…”

He reached out and found Huaisang’s hand.

Huaisang grasped his hand back, and he didn’t let go until they got to the house.

.

Bear is happy to be let out after four straight hours in a car. Huaisang laughs when the dog licks his face and then goes to run in circles around the green, spacious front yard of the house.

They take their bags inside and change into more comfortable clothes, then pack a jug of water and a small bag of snacks together with Bear’s favorite toy ball.

They call Bear to them, and together they spend the rest of the day lazily walking around the grounds, eating snacks by the lake and playing fetch with Bear.

For dinner, they make stir fry and watch baking shows, judging the cakes and contestants together, teasing each other about how much they’ll screw up the recipes if it were them.

They don’t touch their phones, not just yet. Besides, Meng Yao gave them a spare one that only he and Nie Mingjue had the number of, telling them to only answer from that phone. So far, there’s been no other messages other than Nie Mingjue checking in if they got to the lake house alright.

“A-Cheng,” Nie Huaisang says eventually, while he’s warm, bundled up in a blanket, Jiang Cheng’s arm around him and Bear’s weight on their laps. “We might have to move. Da-ge said. Are you okay with that?”

“Mm.” Jiang Cheng hums against his hair. “Remember what I said last year, when you told me you were scared to go on a tour?”

“A-Cheng…”

“I go where you go.” he says. "And anywhere you want to stop, I'm right there with you."

Nie Huaisang sighs, turning his head to nuzzle his boyfriend’s neck. “You really mean it?”

“I really mean it.” Jiang Cheng says, running a hand through his hair - it's wavy and curly like this, freed from the braids Huaisang has worn all day. “Why, don’t you want me to go with you? You do know you can’t give Bear a bath by yourself, right? Literally, he’s bigger and stronger than you?”

Huaisang laughs, shaking his head. “Let’s find a bigger one.” he whispers. “Our room, your studio, my studio, and Bear’s bedroom.”

“Bear’s bedroom that he can share with his cousins.”

“Exactly.” Huaisang nods. “So A-Ling and A-Yuan have their own space when they sleep over.”

Jiang Cheng chuckles. “Wei Wuxian will have a heart attack when he discovers that we make A-Yuan sleep beside Bear.”

“The kid loves Bear.” Nie Huaisang rolls his eyes. “Oh, and we could get a balcony too. I want a pet bird.”

“Just one?"

"Two."

"Two." Jiang Cheng considers, turning to look at the other and leaning down to brush their noses together. "I can live with that."

Huaisang leans up. "They will always have each other." he says, and when Jiang Cheng kisses him, he knows that he agrees with every word.

.

.


.

(then)

Jiang Cheng had never heard Nie Huaisang sing before. He’d known him for… what? Five, six years? And he never heard his friend sing before. Why had he never heard his friend sing before?

Right. Because Jiang Cheng is always in his soundproof room, wearing his headphones, focused on his music.

Right now though, he is not in his soundproof room, and not wearing his headphones. He’s in the kitchen cooking dinner. Because Huaisang never closes his studio door, Jiang Cheng can hear his voice clearly, singing along to the music he’s listening to while he’s drawing.

“Seconds, minutes, hours, lifetimes... Doing it right, doing it right…”

He’s… not bad.

“I found love in you… Doing it right, doing it right…”

Huaisang’s voice is soft and… floaty, is the word Jiang Cheng would use to describe it.

“Hands up for a miracle, up high for a miracle… oh, the smoke don't stop but we let it go, but we let it go on and on…”

He continues chopping the vegetables he’ll be cooking for dinner and listens to Huaisang sing some more. It’s… nice.

It’s not the most complicated song, the melody is repetitive, but Jiang Cheng knows a good singing voice when he hears one. This one has got a soothing quality to it, and Jiang Cheng can just hear it accompanied by an acoustic guitar. He can also hear it lending itself to deep bass and electro pop beats if layered correctly. It’s good. Versatile.

Jiang Cheng used to write his own music and lyrics, way back. He slowed down over the years, when he had to focus on Wei Wuxian’s music for the band. He never held it against his brother - Wei Wuxian even regularly asked for his input and help with their songs, and Jiang Cheng got partial credit for the production, so he couldn’t say he fully stopped working on improving his skills. He slowed down, but he didn’t stop.

When Wei Wuxian had once asked him if he had a song or two for one of their albums, Jiang Cheng had said no.

Jiang Cheng had a lot of songs. He just never thought any of them were good enough.

Now he’s getting back to it, slow but steady. He’s finding lyrics in old notebooks and writing down some new ones by the day, while catching up to new technology and production tricks. Self-study is something he’s good at. After all, he can play all the instruments in their band, plus the keyboard.

(It impressed Huaisang when he told him about it, and Jiang Cheng was proud for some time until his roommate proceeded to be a menace and asked him to “Prooooove it, I wanna see my talented Wanyin-xiong play all the instruments!!!” )

(That… was an afternoon.)

Right now, he is hearing Nie Huaisang’s singing voice for the first time.

Jiang Cheng… wants to hear that voice sing his lyrics.

.

“So,” he starts, when they both sit down for dinner. “Why didn’t you tell me you could sing?”

Huaisang blinks. “Me? Sing?” he laughs. “I can’t sing. I mean, okay, I sing along to songs all the time, but I can’t like, sing -sing, you know?”

Jiang Cheng raises an eyebrow. “Mingjue-ge never told you you have a good singing voice?”

Huaisang laughs that off too. “Da-ge is tone deaf, A-Cheng. Also, he’s just, uh… not into music, I guess? He mostly ignored me when I sang around the house.”

“But I heard you.” Jiang Cheng stares at him. “You’re good.”

Huaisang looks back at him like he’d grown two heads, obviously taken aback by how direct that complement is. “What? A-Cheng, I can carry a tune, that’s all! I think. No one ever complained about me on karaoke nights, but I’m not a singer -singer. Not at all like you, or Wei-xiong.”

“Fine.” Jiang Cheng says, conceding easily. He knows he’s not gonna be able to convince Huaisang that he’s got this surprise talent anytime soon. “But, I help you with your art all the time, doing poses and buying your supplies for you. Now that I know you sing better than you bake-”

“Hey.”

“-you gotta help me with my songs sometimes, too.”

Huaisang pouts as he thinks about this. “Does that mean I get to look at your notebooks and read your top secret lyrics?”

“Yes.”

“Deal!”

.

Huaisang nods his head in time as Jiang Cheng strums the acoustic guitar. On cue, he sings the chorus, looking down at the notebook in front of them for the lyrics.

“And I’m still in sight, your fast machine, always holding your love-”

Jiang Cheng stops strumming. “Wait.”

“What?” Huaisang blinks. “Sorry, did I get it wrong?”

“No, no. You’re good. I just-...” Jiang Cheng pauses, stares hard at the notebook before he moves to stand up. “Wait. Uh… Hold this.” He hands Huaisang the guitar, and then exits the room.

Nie Huaisang is left sitting on the floor in the middle of his studio, surrounded by his frames and canvases, hugging Zidian to himself.

JIang Cheng returns a few minutes later, and sets down an item in front of Huaisang as he sits beside him again. “Here. We’ll try this.”

“Oh, colors! Cute!” Huaisang’s eyes glow, then he looks up when Jiang Cheng retrieves the guitar from him. “Wait, I don’t know how to play this.”

“Nie Huaisang. Please. It’s a xylophone.” Jiang Cheng deadpans. He reaches over and hands the mallet to Huaisang, who takes it gingerly. “Okay, you hit this one, then this one, then this one.”

“Blue, yellow, green...” Huaisang mumbles, following the instructions. The tinny sounds ring across the room. “Like that?”

“Yeah, but gently, and time it like this...” Jiang Cheng grasps his wrist and guides his hand to correct the timing. He sings the melody as they go along. “ Lalalala... - one, two, three - Lalalala... - one, two, three - La.. La.. La.. Lala... - one, two, three. You get it?”

“Oooohhh!” Huaisang coos, delighted, practically bouncing in place. “Oh wow, it sounds so nice! I love music! Let’s do it, let do it!”

Jiang Cheng chuckles at his excitement, going back to his guitar, strumming experimentally. “You ready? Top of the chorus?”

“Okay.” Nie Huaisang says with renewed focus, eyeing the xylophone intently as Jiang Cheng starts to play.

On Jiang Cheng’s cue, he sings. “And I’m still in sight…” He brings the mallet down on the xylophone, playing the notes like Jiang Cheng told him to.

Jiang Cheng provides backup vocals, “Oh...” He nods at Huaisang to let him know he’s doing good.

“Your fast machine...” Huaisang continues.

Jiang Cheng echoes it. “My fast machine.”

“Always holding our love supreme…”

He watches Huaisang’s eyes light up, hearing how the music and the lyrics come together, knowing he’s a part of it.

He looks like how Jiang Cheng feels.

“Our 45’s, spinning out of time…”

“Ohhh…”

“But honey, I’m still on your side.”

Nie Huaisang’s voice trails off, and Jiang Cheng’s strums grow softer.

“It sounds good.” Huaisang tells him. “I mean- To me, haha, but it’s your song! Did I do okay?”

“You’re perfect.” Jiang Cheng says without thinking, flipping through his notebook, trying to find a certain page. “Uh. Here. This one’s the second verse. Want to have a go at it?”

He’s answered by silence. When he looks up, Huaisang is just staring at him.

“A-Sang?”

“O-Oh!” Huaisang blinks, finally looking at the lyrics. “Yeah, okay, I can try.” He reads the words once, then tries to put a melody to them. “Are my hopes finally gonna waste me? Am I the worst compass I know...”

.

They record a video of them in the studio, surrounded by Huaisang’s paintings, performing the whole song, with just an acoustic guitar and a xylophone, just because.

They send it to Wei Wuxian.

Wei Wuxian calls them five minutes later. They pause their latest bird documentary to answer the call.

“Jiang Wanyin?! What is this?! WHAT IS THIS?! What are you doing?! This is not punk rock! I hate this!!!”

Jiang Cheng scowls. “Okay, you know what, screw you-”

“I’m crying!!! Where have you been hiding this song?! And YOU, Nie Huaisang!!! You’ve been hiding too!!! How dare your voice make me feel feelings!!! I hate it, I hate it, I've been crying for ten hours!!! Ugh!!! I’m sorry Lan Zhan, I’m okay, I- Oh, tissues, thank you- Excuse me-”

There’s a very harsh sound that sounds like sneezing.

“Is he… Is he serious? I can’t tell.” Nie Huaisang says.

“Okay, okay, I’m calm… I’m calm- IT’S SO GOOD!!! I HATE YOU TWO!!!”

Jiang Cheng cringes at the volume of that last scream. “What the hell, Wei Wuxian! It’s- It’s… one song. Calm down.”

They listen as Wei Wuxian takes deep steadying breaths, and then finally , provide some decent feedback. “No, seriously? I love it. It’s sweet, and perfect! The guitar and the xylophone are a good choice and your voices blend well together. Will you guys post this?”

The two look at each other. “Uh… no? Why would we post it? We made this for kicks.”

“Because it’s a damn good song and performance, duh, and you both have fans who will love to see this!”

Huaisang laughs, awkward. “Ahaha, I don’t know… I’m… an art account, Wei-xiong.”

“Who cares?” Wei Wuxian says, laughing. “Just… just trust me, okay? If it flops, delete it and sue me for damages!”

“Whatever, Wei Wuxian. We’ll… think about it.” Jiang Cheng says, looking at Nie Huaisang, who just shrugs at him. “Stop weeping and just go back to your boring husband.”

“Okay. Oh! How did you know?”

“Know what?”

“That we’re married?”

Jiang Cheng and Nie Huaisang stare at the phone for five full seconds before exclaiming. “You’re married?!”

“Ahh… Haha… oops.”

“Wei-xiong?!”

“Wei Wuxian, I’m gonna kill you.”

"Please don’t. My son needs me."

"Your WHAT?! "

.

@nhs_art
okay, here’s something a bit different! 😊 Wanyin of @blacklotus_band is an amazing musician & i had the honor of helping him with his songwriting process this week. here’s us giving his unreleased original song ‘45’ a test run in my studio. 💚💜

@mulberrysnowflakes
singer nie huaisang?!?! 😳😳😳💚💚💚 everyone say thank you blb jiang wanyin!!! 💜

@jiangwany1ns
JIANG WANYIN WRITING HIS OWN SONGS 😭😭😭 I REPEAT,,,, JIANG WANYIN WRITING HIS OWN SONGS 😭😭😭 HE SAID A FEW YEARS AGO HE WANTS TO WRITE MUSIC SOMEDAY TOO BUT JUST HAVENT HAD THE TIME 😭😭😭 AHSDKJAHDKJAHFD I’M READY FOR MORE 💜💜💜💜💜💜💜💜💜 

@missmianmian
dang, i’ll be singing this all week. love u both, my boys @nhs_art and wanyin (wherever you are... please make a twitter account already) 💚💜 

@ghostning
Beautiful! 💚💜

@j_yanli
my a-cheng wrote such a beautiful song! 🥰 a-ling has been singing it nonstop and he’s already trying to play it in his guitar! 💚💜

@weiwuxianxian
i thought i was done screaming at these two geniuses over the phone but actually i’m not. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA 💚💜

@blacklotusspring
wow @blacklotus_band really be out there holding out on us!!! ❤️🖤 blb forever and all but i get they’re busy with their own stuff rn so i’m looking forward to this jiang wanyin solo era instead 💜💜💜 kudos to nie huaisang too i didn’t know he sings! 💚💚💚

@jupiter_pyrrhic
and here i thought wwx is the only songwriter in the band!

@redblackcutie
if you check their album for song credits, jwy is listed as co-producer in a lot of their songs! wwx writes all of their lyrics yes but jwy has always helped arrange their music! ❤️🖤

@_lotuspancakes
jwy and nhs just giving us this perfect brand new song jwy wrote in their apartment while surrounded by nhs paintings. the taste that has. the power that has. can y’all imagine just how much creativity goes on in that apartment like… bruh 😔

@annadrizzle
how are they both beautiful and perfect and multi-talented 😭😭😭 also whats the ship name bc i’m READY 💚💜

@weiwuxianxian
it’s sangcheng 💚💜

@nhs_art
hello wei-xiong, wanyin told me to send you this: 🙃🔪

@annadrizzle
oh my god i’m screenshotting this and printing it out and framing it 🤣

.

“I guess… they like it. Wow. Okay.” Huaisang says, perched on his desk, scrolling through his phone, momentarily distracted from his drawing. “Oh! Da-ge texted me too! He says I did a good job.”

“You did.” Jiang Cheng replies from where he’s absently strumming his guitar and scribbling down on his notebook. “Told you you have a nice voice and you didn’t believe me.”

“I thought you were just being nice to me!”

“When am I ever nice to you?”

“A lot of the time! You eat my baking no matter how much it sucks!”

“I grew up with Wei Wuxian. Your baking is a five-star meal compared to the abominations he’d stuffed down my throat.”

“Okay, now I’m kinda scared of Wei-xiong.” Huaisang says, standing up and crossing the room, plopping beside him. He perches his chin on Jiang Cheng’s shoulder, looking into the notebook. “What are you doing now?”

“Trying to make sense of these lyrics. They’re like years old, I don’t even know what they mean now, or what they're really supposed to sound like.”

“Mm…” Nie Huaisang hums, and reads the lines out loud. “ I know a place where you don't need protection, even if it's only in my imagination. That’s pretty. I like that.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah. What have you got so far?”

Nie Huaisang withdraws from his shoulder so Jiang Cheng can play the guitar. He listens to the melody and eventually, tries to sing along.

They finish another song in a night.

.

.


.

(now)

Huaisang wakes up to the warm, heavy weight of Bear on his torso and a wet muzzle sniffing at his neck. He shifts, mumbling the dog’s name, and gets dog slobber on his face in return.

“Bear! Ew, come on, it’s too early…” he whines, pushing the dog’s face away as he opens his eyes and wipes the drool from his cheeks. Bear rolls over and Huaisang obliges him with sleepy belly rubs. “You big baby. You’re so lucky you’re super cute. Where’s your dad?”

He’s answered by the smell of pancakes drifting from the kitchen. Jiang Cheng has always been an early riser, so Huaisang is very much used to waking up to the smell of whatever he’s cooking. He smiles, getting up and heading to the kitchen where he knows his boyfriend is making breakfast as usual, Bear following at his heels.

“Good morning.” Huaisang greets, hugging Jiang Cheng from behind and burrowing against his back. “I love pancakes and you.”

“I love pancakes and you too.” Jiang Cheng replies, chuckling, keeping his eyes on his cooking. “I thought you were gonna sleep in.”

“Your son woke me up.” he grumbles.

“I see. When he’s being annoying, he’s my son. When he’s cute, he’s yours?”

“Yeah.” Huaisang says, smiling when Bear brushes up against his legs, tickling him. He lets go of Jiang Cheng and leans down to pet Bear, almost falling over when the dog reared up and rested his front paws on his stomach. “Fine, fine, let’s go outside so you can run this energy off.”

Jiang Cheng tells him he’ll bring breakfast outside, and Nie Huaisang drops a kiss on his shoulder before ushering Bear out the back door.

He sits down at the cabin porch, watching the dog run around the yard, chasing after a dragonfly.

Huaisang raises his head and closes his eyes, breathing in the fresh morning air and quiet of his surroundings. The lake house is peaceful, so far away from the usual bustle of the city he grew up in. It’s almost like a place from a fairy tale.

He can almost forget why he’s there in the first place.

Huaisang reaches into his pocket and takes his phone out, fiddling with it without switching it on.

He knows he has tons of unread messages and alerts. His brother and Jiang Cheng had both advised him not to pay attention to the news or social media until he’s ready, or ever. But at some point, he knows he has to see those things eventually, and confront his feelings about them.

Taking a deep breath, he taps his phone and swipes at his lockscreen.

.

 

@blacklotusband_updates
❤️🖤 READ: Official statement from Meng Yao of Jin Ent. about the “fan” who broke into JWY and NHS’s apartment, leaked photos of their home and livestreamed a video of their private conversation.

@jinent_mengyao
Our management has filed charges against the man who stalked and harassed our artists, Nie Huaisang and Jiang Wanyin in their own home, and is responsible for leaking private photos/footage without their consent. We have also taken serious steps to take down & prevent the spread of these on the web.

Currently, Wanyin and Huaisang have relocated to a safe place, and are getting support from their family and loved ones. Let’s give them time and privacy as they recover from this event. As for questions about their relationship, they will give an official statement when they are ready.

@stanblb19
this is terrible! no decent “fan” does this!

@lovelotus
anyone i see sharing those videos of wanyin & huaisang or even those pics of their flat (!!!) are gonna get reported and blocked. just because it’s “harmless” doesn’t make passing it around okay. it’s private stuff broadcasted & shared without their consent!

@blacklotusspring
tbh i think we all knew that they were together in some capacity but wanyin & huaisang still deserved to announce their relationship themselves at their own pace and comfort. they’ve both been victims of gossip media and obsessed fans at some point in their lives, huaisang as a kid at that! i hope they’re doing alright. 💚💜

@strawberrieswaterballoons
lmao what the big deal with that vid its literally just 2 dudes going around their flat then kissing. so that blb guy & his model friend are dating after all? this ~breach of privacy~ won’t be a problem if they just came out with it in the first place. it’s not like they were cheating or whatever so why did they want to keep it hush so bad?

@ratatouille_ramen
wow ur lack of empathy is astounding. i’m not even their fan but i feel bad for them. they’re normal people and deserve to have a private life. also icymi that vid exists bc some creepy fan broke into their house??? which is LITERALLY ILLEGAL.

@mulberrysnowflakes
I’ve followed nhs for his art even before the music career took off. he always values his privacy and he once shared that he still feels scared to be on his own at home sometimes because of what happened to his parents. sending love to him and jwy. 💚💜

@beachkaren
y’all are overreacting and blowing this whole thing up more than necessary. it’s just a paparazzi who got ahead of himself. 🙄 this happens all the time. and the video isn’t even that *juicy*, they were making out which we already know they been doing already lol

@wonderpurple
are you serious? “it’s just a pap and he didn’t even get anything juicy” shut up! this is not even paparazzi, they don’t break into someone's house, go through their things and take photos/videos of people while hiding in there! that’s stalking and harassment, that guy’s a criminal!

@redblackcutie
wow how insensitive can you get dude? nhs parents died because a creepy obsessed fan broke into their house and shot them! nhs was there when it happened. even if this time is different, nhs couldn’t have known that while it’s happening, so he must’ve been terrified.

@blacklotusbabe
wtf try being forced to relive a childhood trauma and see if you can still say that

@ghostning
Can’t imagine how terrifying it is to have someone invade your safe space without your knowledge or consent. Wanyin-xiong and Huaisang-xiong, we’re here for you. 🖤

@missmianmian
everyone has a right to their privacy, even your idols, who already give you so much of themselves when they share their art with you. they deserve to be safe in their home and they deserve to choose which parts of their lives to share and which not to. 🌸

@weiwuxianxian
we’re all worried for a-sang and a-cheng but i urge everyone to give them space at this time. they’ve had their privacy invaded in their own home. we’re giving them love and support as much as we can but the last thing they need right now is more prying eyes. 💚💜

@jiangwany1ns
sending love to the family, xian-gege! we hope that creepy “fan” goes to jail.

@redblackcutie
sorry this happened to your brother and best friend. please let them know a lot of us love and support them through this and we hope that man is held fully accountable for his actions.

@annadrizzle
I’m seeing so many shit takes and i can’t believe i still have to do this but it has to be done so here we go:
WHY YOU ARE NOT ENTITLED TO EVERY DETAIL IN YOUR IDOL’S PERSONAL LIFE
(A THREAD)

@jiangwany1ns
GO OFF SIS

.

“I see you’re checking the wonderful world of Twitter, huh.”

Nie Huaisang looks up to see Jiang Cheng with a tray of breakfast food on one hand and Bear’s dog bowl on the other. He sets both down and whistles for Bear, who obediently comes bounding towards them and proceeds to scarf down his food.

Jiang Cheng sits down and accepts the phone when Huaisang hands it to him.

“People are supportive.” Huaisang says, picking up the plate of pancakes and a fork. “Well... most people. Some aren’t, but I knew that already.”

Jiang Cheng quietly reads through the posts, absently petting Bear as he does so. Huaisang eats his breakfast in the silence, gazing out at the green surrounding them.

After a while, Jiang Cheng places the phone down between them and takes a deep breath, looking up at the sky.

“A-Sang…”

“Mm?”

“I’m sorry.”

“For what?”

“Dragging you into this. I know you didn’t sign up to be this big singer, doing shows and tours and all that...”

“I did, though.” Huaisang says, and Jiang Cheng looks at him. He sets down his plate and looks back at him. “I did sign up for this, A-Cheng. You asked me to sing your songs, and I did. You asked me to go on stage, and I did. You asked me to join you on tour, and I did. You asked me every step of the way. I said yes every time.”

Jiang Cheng’s gaze softens, and he reaches out to tuck a strand of hair behind his ear. “Do you regret it?”

“No. I thought I would, but I don’t.” Huaisang smiles. “I was scared at first, yeah. But I thought I’d be scared always, but I wasn’t. And… And I liked that, not being scared. I think it was because you’re right there with me, everytime.”

Jiang Cheng nods. “If we keep doing this… will you be okay? Because if you want to stop after this, I understand-”

“A-Cheng.” Huaisang cuts him off, and just looks at him, eyes fond. “I like singing your songs. I love them. And I love how people love them, and how I can help you share it with them. But I’m still… just me. I never dreamed of this big singer life. I’d never want to do it by myself. I only want to do it if it’s with you, so. Just promise me you’ll be there with me, and I’ll be okay.”

“Of course I will.” he promises, cupping the other’s face. He grins. “Who else will eat your bad baking?”

Huaisang laughs, bowing his head and pressing a kiss to the fingers tracing his cheek. “You love my baking.”

Jiang Cheng laughs with him, knowing what to reply by heart. “That doesn’t mean it’s good.”

“You love me.”

It’s easy to reply to that, too - “I do.”

.

.


.

(then)

Jiang Cheng starts to work in a corner of Nie Huaisang’s studio more often.

He finds that his process just flows better there, surrounded by colors and unfinished works instead of his boring bedroom walls. He works on his music while Nie Huaisang works on his art. Every now and then they throw around some witty comment at each other, to destress or clear their heads.

Eventually, they move a small couch inside the studio for comfort.

When Nie Huaisang gets stuck on his work, or needs a break, he’ll just cross the room and perch himself beside Jiang Cheng, asking after his latest song.

Today, that's just what he does.

"Wanyin-xiong, what are we doing?"

"Lyrics. I'm missing some lines. Can’t find anything that... fits. "

"Mm… I'm no good at those." Nie Huaisang sighs leaning against his side. "Will cupcakes help? I'm kinda itching to do this one recipe I saw the other day..."

"Eh. I don't know. Go for it."

Nie Huaisang hugs him and boops his nose before standing up and disappearing into the kitchen.

Roughly an hour later, he comes back with a tray of little cupcakes with bright yellow frosting on top.

“Ta-da!” he says, brandishing his latest masterpiece proudly.

Jiang Cheng narrows his eyes at the cupcakes. “Okay… What’s this one then?”

“Guess!”

“They look like yellow poop.” Jiang Cheng admits, because honesty is the best policy.

Thankfully, Huaisang has learned to look at him expectantly first so he would know he has a second chance to save himself.

“But… there’s like little dots on top of them, and… aren’t you an artist, who loves birds? Why do you never get beaks right? Those are beaks, right?”

Huaisang gasps, eyes sparkling. “Ah! A-Cheng, you recognized that they’re birds! I’m so proud of you!”

Jiang Cheng eyes him with pity. “I don’t think the fact that it took me this long to learn to recognize your creations is a compliment to you .”

“Oh, shush, let me be happy.” Huaisang rolls his eyes, picking up one of the cupcakes and peeling the liner and offering it to him.  “Now, ah...”

Jiang Cheng obediently opens his mouth and takes a bite of the proffered cupcake, chewing thoughtfully. “Hey, I actually like this one. The frosting’s real sticky though.”

“Ah, sorry, yeah, I think that’s why they look poopy.” Huaisang laughs, using his thumb to wipe frosting from the other’s cheek. “But at least you recognize them!"

Jiang Cheng lets his roommate feed him the rest of the poopy yellow bird cupcake, and thanks him for the snack before he leaves the room again to clean up in the kitchen.

When Huaisang returns again, Jiang Cheng has abandoned his guitar and is now sprawled miserably on the couch, his notebook covering his face.

"Oh, no… My dear Wanyin is dead... I don't remember putting poison in those cupcakes… I was saving those for another day."

"I'm not dead." his dear Wanyin says, sounding dead. "It's just… ugh, lyrics."

"Still?" Huaisang asks, nudging his friend’s legs aside to make space for himself on the couch. When Jiang Cheng refuses to move, he huffs and sits himself on the man's lap, earning a strangled "oof!" He takes the notebook and studies the messy writing. "You've been stuck on this one for days."

"Yeah."

"Let's see… Oh, here's a verse. Hm…" he reads the line first, hums the melody he remembers, then sings.

"With my patience wearing thin, when I'm ready to give in…"

Jiang Cheng sits up so he can listen more closely, careful not to dislodge his friend from his lap. Nie Huaisang, for all that he claims to not be a singer, picks up rhythm and melody so easily, it amazes Jiang Cheng a lot of the time.

"Will you pick me up again? Then I guess you can hang with me."

Nie Huaisang's voice is lovely, low, intimate in the way he sang those lines. When he turns to Jiang Cheng, their noses brush. He laughs a surprised laugh, taking it in stride and drawing back to speak. "Am I right? What's next?"

Jiang Cheng flips the pages of the notebook in Nie Huaisang's hands until he finds what he's looking for.

"There’s the pre-chorus." he says, leaning forward slightly to see the writing better and then sings.

"And if you do me right, I'm gonna do right by you."

Nie Huaisang nods, then sings along for the next lines, a smile peeking in his lips when he hears their voices blend together.

“And if you keep it tight, I'm gonna confide in you.”

Jiang Cheng groans then, resting his head on the other’s shoulder, arms loosely wrapped around Huaisang’s waist to keep him steady. “Then, that’s it. I need three more lines and everything I think of feels… out of place.”

Huaisang closes his eyes and raises his hand to stroke his companion’s hair, scratching lightly on his undercut while Jiang Cheng hums the melody of what’s supposed to be the rest of the verse.

He doesn’t remember when this started, the lack of care for physical space between them, but it’s… nice.

Nie Huaisang doesn’t like to be seen , to be considered famous , to attract any sort of attention from strangers because he knew what that cost his parents. He knows he’s a celebrity  though, albeit a minor one, and most of the time that thought still terrifies him.

But Jiang Cheng always feels like safety. When Jiang Cheng looks at him, makes him feel like he’s not just good at what he’s doing but he’s special - Huaisang thinks he likes that, that kind of attention, that kind of love. Not just from anyone, though. Just from Jiang Cheng-

Oh.

He is distracted when he hears the other’s chuckle, so close, right by his ear. “Hey, what’re you thinking so hard about?” Jiang Cheng asks, thumb absently rubbing circles on Huaisang’s waist.

Oh.

“Um. I…”

“What? Are you okay?” Jiang Cheng starts to frown. He knows a sudden quiet is sometimes a sign of Huaisang’s anxiety.

But that isn’t the case this time. “Yeah. I just. Lyrics.”

“Lyrics?”

“I have… um…” Not knowing how to say it, Huaisang just… sings it. “I know what’s on your mind, there will be time for that too...”

Jiang Cheng stares at him, obviously not expecting that, but he breaks into a small grin as he completes the verse. “...if you hang with me.”

Huaisang laughs, nervous, but it’s cut off when Jiang Cheng leans forward and kisses him. He freezes for a heartbeat, then melts into it, wrapping his arms around the other’s shoulders as Jiang Cheng guides him down on his back in the couch, the notebook falling from his lap and to the floor.

When they break apart for breath, Huaisang looks up at him, searching his face. “A-Cheng-”

Jiang Cheng jerks back, as if realizing what he’s been doing. “S-Sorry, I-”

Huaisang quickly shakes his head, cupping his cheeks, not letting him pull away. “No! No, hey, come here.”

Jiang Cheng relaxes considerably, and leans down again to press their foreheads together. “Is this okay?”

“Yeah, very okay, I just-... Um. When did you start writing this song, again?”

“Uh- What- This week?”

“W-Who’s it about?”

Jiang Cheng chuckles, breathless, looking down at him with the softest smile and stealing another kiss.

“You know who it’s about.”

.

 

@blacklotusband_updates
❤️🖤 WATCH: Wanyin and @nhs_art with another song, ‘hang with me’. 💚💜

@nhs_art
wanyin has a new song! this time he took out all sorts of equipment because it’s a special song, he said. and wow i really don’t know what all those pedals and buttons do. i just sing. we hope you guys like it! 🥰💚💜

@mulberrysnowflakes
@nhs_art don’t be shy change your @ to nhs_talent bc that’s what you’re giving us with these updates oh my god bless u both 💚💜

@blacklotusspring
jwy are you looking for another roommate
i will do all the chores 😭

@_lotuspancakes
“i just sing” nhs please look at wanyin’s face while you “just sing” 😅 i think he really loves your voice for his songs. 💚💜

@redblackcutie
right?! we know wanyin can sing too so he could have sung this himself! but noooo it’s like he’s really writing songs for nhs to sing… ugh i want what they have…! 💚💜

@jiangwany1ns
HE’S SO TALENTED!!! 💜💜💜💜💜💜
THEY’RE SO TALENTED!!! 💚💚💚💚💚

@cutienhs_
nie huaisaaaaang where have you been hiding this singing talent all this time?! 😭😭😭💚💚💚 this song is my favorite so far!!! also wow jwy really snapped with this one. 💜 live loops are no joke to arrange and perform.

@lovelotus
are they… you know… 😏😏😏 my shipper heart aside, everyone go listen to the song it’s really beautiful 💚💜

@wonderpurple
ok but this song is super on brand for wanyin? he always advocates for more awareness for the aro/ace spec side of the LGBTQ+ community. these lyrics have really strong demi vibes. “I know what’s on your mind there will be time for that too if you hang with me” my heart! 💜🤍🖤

@missmianmian
WHAAAAT OMG. wanyin wouldn’t even let any of us near his equipment and now here he is with the live looping! what do you put in those cupcakes, huaisang?! 💚💜

@weiwuxianxian
summoning circle:
                🕯
      🕯                   🕯
  🕯    jiang wanyin  🕯
🕯    ft. nie huaisang    🕯
  🕯   studio album   🕯
        🕯                 🕯
                  🕯
(or holiday movie i'm not picky)

@happinesswwx
you’re really out here shipping ur brother and ur best friend lmao this is why we love u gege!!! ❤️🖤❤️🖤

@blacklotusspring
wwx knows whats up! 👍

@annadrizzle
xian-gege 😭 pls take them to the recording studio already! 

@nhs_art
wei-xiong!!! 😂😂😂 wanyin says “you first” 💜

.

“Look what you did, Jiang Wanyin. I’m not an art account anymore! Are you sure you don’t wanna make your own Twitter?” Huaisang pouts, scrolling through his feed, reading through the comments and replies.

Jiang Cheng snorts, gathering him up in his arms and pulling him to lie down with him on the couch. “Nah, I’m good.”

Huaisang sighs. He sets his phone aside and cuddles close. “A-Cheng…”

“Hm?”

“Why do you make me sing your songs?”

Jiang Cheng thinks about it, and it doesn’t take him long to find an answer. “Because it’s how I hear them in my head.”

“With my voice?”

“Yeah.”

Huaisang feels warm. He hides his smile in the other’s shirt. “You know… A lot of people are asking if you’ll record them properly. Like, in a studio or something.”

“I think so. Sooner or later. But not right now.” Jiang Cheng says. “Right now, they’re still ours.”

“We posted it on the internet.”

“You know what I mean, smartass.”

Huaisang laughs.

“Hey.” Jiang Cheng looks down at him then, and raises a hand to cup his chin, making him look up. “If I record them, properly, one day… Will you sing them for me again?”

The question catches Nie Huaisang off guard. He never really thought about that. Of course he knew that the songs are good, amazing even. They should be in an album. What they’re making now could very well be considered demos. But… for him to record all those songs in an actual studio, his name credited as vocals? That’s different.

He never in his entire life thought he’d be working in music that way. That’s… a new kind of visibility he doesn’t know how he feels about, yet.

He says as much. “I don’t know, Wanyin. I-... I’m sorry, I don’t know if I can-”

“Hey, it’s okay. I get it.” Jiang Cheng reassures him. “I get it. This wasn’t… in your plans. Sorry. I’m not gonna put that on you if you don’t want it.”

Huaisang nods, brows furrowed. “What… what will you do then? If I say no?”

“Well...” Jiang Cheng takes a deep breath. “Then, I’ll find someone else.”

“Oh.” Huaisang says, looking down again.

He doesn’t know how he should feel about it. He doesn’t know how he likes how those words sounded… It shouldn’t hurt, should it? He’s an artist, and sometimes a model - he’s not a real singer, he couldn’t possibly be able to do justice to Jiang Wanyin’s songs...

But then Jiang Cheng continues, “Someone else to sing it. Or maybe I’ll do it myself. But…” He pauses for a moment, taking time to lean down and press a kiss to the other’s hair. “But you have to know, the first version of those songs, the version I heard in my head before putting them down on paper? It has your voice.”

Huaisang doesn’t know how a heart could go from aching to feeling full so fast. But it’s what happens. His heart is full. He gives in the urge to hide, burrowing his face on the other’s chest, letting out a little helpless whimper when the arms around him hold him tighter.

When he finally recovers, he looks up again, and his eyes lock on to meet Jiang Cheng’s.

“Jiang Wanyin, are you saying that I’m your muse?”

The man stares at him for a couple of moments before looking away, coughing.

“I… I was trying not to say that.”

That surprises a laugh out of Huaisang, and he couldn’t help but grin in delight as he sees the other’s cheeks burning red. “Why? I like it!”

“It’s corny.”

“It’s romantic !”

“It’s sappy! I don’t do sappy. I’m a badass.”

“Oh no, you’re not.” Huaisang giggles. “You’re soft, and you know it.”

“I’m not soft.”

“Really, and who cried watching that lost baby penguin reunite with his dads?”

“Both of us, so shut up !”

.

A month later, Meng Yao drops by with a record deal offer from Jin Ent. for Jiang Wanyin. It's for an EP, he says, not a full album yet, but there would be enough tracks for him to try out his sound and concept, and for Jin Ent. to gauge the audience reception.

Jiang Cheng accepts, then he asks Nie Huaisang again.

“Just vocals, no extra strings. No video, no shows, nothing you’re not up for.” Jiang Cheng says. Huaisang doesn’t think he’s ever seen him more nervous the time they’d known each other. “You pick which of the songs you want to do. One or all of them, I don’t care-”

“A-Cheng.” Nie Huaisang cuts him off, laughing. He pulls him down into a kiss. “I’m in. If you really want me. I’m yours.”

.

 

@blacklotusband_updates
❤️🖤 LOOK: Wanyin’s EP “Homemade” is out now! 💜 Featuring studio versions of 6 songs including ‘45’ and ‘hang with me’ ft. vocals by Nie Huaisang 💚 Available now in all major music streaming apps. #StreamHomemadeEP💜

[ open playlist on spotify ]

@jiangwany1ns
THANK YOU FOR MY LIFE #StreamHomemadeEP💜

@cutienhs_
wait omg is that nhs in the polaroid on the ep cover?

@jupiter_pyrrhic
yes it is! wanyin said he took that photo in their studio while nhs is working on his paintings and he decided to use it for the cover.

@redblackcutie
YO WHAT??? songwriter producer PHOTOGRAPHER jiang wanyin oh myyy

@annadrizzle
i love that this is so different from the BLB sound/concept so no one can say wanyin is just riding on his band’s coattails. he’s his own artist with his own sound!
also him coming up w the cover art while nhs is featured in the music itself… i love this switch up! they’re really trying new things! #StreamHomemadeEP💜

@mulberrysnowflakes
never thought i’d see Huaisang’s name on the credits of an album/EP not as the cover artist but as the vocalist! 💚 he did such a good job! also loving jwy’s music and definitely looking forward to what he makes next. #StreamHomemadeEP💜 

@lotuslove
i get now why jwy never wrote songs for the band.
blb is all energetic punk rock that you shout at the top of your lungs.
wanyin's music is intimate nostalgic electropop that you play in the car alone on a long ride, holding your s/o’s hand. love love love #StreamHomemadeEP💜

oh and having 45 as the last track with just guitar and xylophone like the way they performed it for the first time? that’s… they did that. god they really did that to us.

@wonderpurple
like... how did this happen even… jwy woke up one day and kicked nhs door open and was like “i’m gonna write 6 whole ass songs and i want YOU to sing” and nhs wit his 0 year experience recording music was just like “sure bro” and they nailed it???? iconic #StreamHomemadeEP💜

@missmianmian
two of the most creative and talented people i know. 💚💜 proud of them for this masterpiece. #StreamHomemadeEP💜

@ghostning
This might be all I listen to for the rest of the year. Congratulations Wanyin-xiong and Huaisang-xiong! Everyone #StreamHomemadeEP💜 You won’t regret it. 🖤 

@weiwuxianxian
no words. excuse me while i weep. i love them and their baby so much 😭😭😭  #StreamHomemadeEP💜

.

.


.

(now)

“Okay, it’s been three days.” Wei Wuxian says, pacing around his sister’s living room. “Three days!”

“Yeah.” Jiang Cheng shrugs. Curled up beside him on the couch, Nie Huaisang continues tapping on his phone. “And we’re bored.”

“You’re bored?! ” Wei Wuxian gapes at them. “You’re being feasted on on the internet and the news!”

“Yeah, we know.” Jiang Cheng deadpans.

Jiang Yanli, from where she’s sitting across them, sends her brother a withering smile before intervening. “A-Cheng, I think what A-Xian is trying to say is that we thought you’d at least take a few more days off...”

“A month! A year! You got attacked!” Wei Wuxian frowns. “You could take a break and just… take time to make yourself feel safe again, just be with each other.”

“Yeah, but no. Lake house is nice but we have work here. It’s the last show scheduled for a while anyway, and it’s just in the city. We can take a break afterwards.”

Lan Wangji sets his cup of tea down on the coffee table. He hasn’t moved in the hour or so that the discussion has started, so naturally they all turn towards him.

He looks back at Jiang Cheng and Nie Huaisang. “Your fans would understand.”

Wei Wuxian also looks at the two as he gestures to his husband with a flourish. “Thank you, Lan Zhan. If you guys are worried about your fans-”

“Wei Wuxian,” Jiang Cheng starts, sending both men a look . “Not everyone reacts to a scandal about them by disbanding, eloping with his secret boyfriend, living in the mountains and adopting a whole child.”

Wei Wuxian looks like he’s about to say some very unsavory words, but remembers the presence of his beloved sister and husband. Instead he raises a finger and very calmly says, “Okay, first off, Lan Zhan was not a secret boyfriend, he was a new boyfriend-”

“-that we didn’t know about.”

“And we didn’t live in the mountains, it was a farm -”

“-in the mountains.”

“And we didn’t officially adopt A-Yuan until we were married for- uh-”

“One year and two months.” Lan Wangji provides.

“A year and two months! Thank you, Lan Zhan.” Wei Wuxian extends his hand and Lan Wangji high-fives it. “And I get it, I’m not telling you to elope, and I know you’re happy with your one monster dog that is so big why is he so big I swear he’s a hellhound-

“Bear is an angel.” Jiang Cheng shoots back, offended.

“You could name him Angel and he’ll still be a hellhound.” Wei Wuxian shakes his head. “But yeah! My point is, you don’t have to force yourself to go back out there just to appease your fans, okay?”

He then turns to Nie Mingjue, who is standing by the window and absently looking out into the garden. Jin Ling and A-Yuan are there, Jin Ling playing guitar while A-Yuan is singing happily. Jin Zixuan is sitting with them, taking photos of the kids on his phone.

“Mingjue-ge, what do you think? They want to go through with their show next week, you’re fine with that?”

The man takes a deep breath, then looks at him. “They’re adults. They know what they’re doing.”

Both of them look at Wei Wuxian with matching smug smiles. “Thank you, da-ge!”

“Don’t ‘Thank you, da-ge’ me! I’m having Meng Yao increase your security. Meet and greet afterwards is cancelled. Afterwards, you’re going home straight to the hotel, and then you’re staying here, or at my place. You’re not going back to your flat unaccompanied, and only then just to get what you need. No staying over until it’s time to pack and move.”

The two nod dutifully. Meng Yao had told them about most of those precautions before they left the lake house. He had also sent them a shortlist of ideal new apartments they could move into.

Nie Huaisang finally stops tapping on his phone. He lifts it up to show Jiang Cheng, and after a nod of approval, Jiang Cheng taps the screen himself.

Wei Wuxian narrows his eyes at them. “What’s that?”

“Our Twitter update.” Huaisang says.

“Oh.” Wei Wuxian blinks, taking his phone out and checking. “Huh."

“I have one last concern.” Jiang Cheng says, raising his hand and waiting until Nie Mingjue turns to him before continuing. “Who will water Snakey?”

Nie Mingjue rolls his eyes. “I have work.”

They turn to the others. Lan Wangji picks up his tea cup again. “I also have work.”

Yanli opens her mouth, looking very happy and willing to volunteer. Wei Wuxian sees this, and sighs.

“Fine.” he says, before his sister could claim the task. “I’ll water Snakey.” Then he blinks. “What the hell is a Snakey?”

.

 

@blacklotusband_updates
❤️🖤 READ: For the first time since the break-in incident, @nhs_art posted an update about the situation with him and @wanyin, including a thank you message for fans’ support as well as plans for their next show! 💚💜 And Bear! 🧸

@nhs_art
so that happened. i don’t know what i could report that the news hasn’t covered yet except the fact that me & wanyin are both safe & well, surrounded by our lovely family & friends. and you guys. we've seen your messages & are overwhelmed by the love & support you've shown us. 💚💜

we're choosing not to let this incident hold us back from doing what we love & just move forward. that means that we're not cancelling next week's show! 🎉 it's been a great tour & we want to close it celebrating the music we've been sharing with you all. 

ofc there will be changes to the usual routine specially with the security. as usual, refer to @wanyin for show details. 😅 and to clarify, no that's not actually Wanyin posting, just his social media manager because the man i love still refuses to use Twitter. 😔

lastly, here’s a very happy bear to cleanse everyone’s timeline! 🧸

@missmianmian
look at them… there they are, my little babies, off to destroy people 💚💜

@jiangwany1ns
“THE MAN I LOVE” AHSJDKHSAFAF NIE HUAISANG DID YOU REALLY JUST 💚💜💚💜💚💜 I’M SO HAPPY THEY’RE OKAY!!! AND BEAR!!!

@annadrizzle
that’s super brave that they’re going through with their show despite what happened. i hope those people attending give them the love and appreciation they deserve! 💚💜 AND BEAR!!!

@cutienhs_
they really said “And what about it?” to the gossip media lmao WE STAN. 💚💜 Also??? BEAR??? he’s so big now omg?!?!

@lotuslove
i was ready to get an email saying the last tour show is being cancelled and i’m getting a refund. it’ll be sad but i would’ve understood. but they’re going through with it after all! talented amazing brilliant show stopping!! 💚💜 and bear!!! what a baby! 🥰🥰🥰

@redblackcutie
HECK YES GO PLAY YOUR CONCERT SANGCHENG! 💚💜 ALSO BEAR!

@weiwuxianxian
fyi people almost everyone in the 💚 sangcheng 💜 support group was like “hey it’s ok if you take a break we’ll understand!” and those two went like “it’s been 3 days we’re BORED” like… who does that? they deserve each other, man. 🥺🥺🥺

@blbstan19
xian-gege remember when u named their ship and they happened? will you please name the mianmian x wen qing ship too pls

@weiwuxianxian
ok ok… at the risk of my life… manifesting… mianqing 🩺🌸

@missmianmian
WEI WUXIAN 🔪🔪🔪

@docwenqing
WEI WUXIAN 💉💉💉

@weiwuxianxian
LOOK GUYS IT’S WORKING ALREADY

.

The fans and attendees were disappointed but understanding when they were told that the meet-and-greet sessions were cancelled, but they perked up quickly when it was announced that they could leave their address and get some signed items in the mail instead. No one had complained too much about the increased security.

The show goes well. Jiang Wanyin’s shows are unlike the energetic, loud and wild concerts of Black Lotus. Instead it’s a more intimate affair where he alternates playing guitar and keyboard while singing backup to Nie Huaisang’s main vocals, with their usual band accompanying them on the other instruments.

They perform as usual, mixing up songs from the first EP and the album throughout the show, pausing every three or four songs to check in on the fans and share an anecdote or two.

They usually told stories about how a song was written, or about Bear, or just an interesting thing that happened to them recently. Their banter is easy, comfortable.

This time, for their first break, they took care to thank everyone for coming and for supporting them through the past weeks. They only got supportive cheers and applause in return.

“Wow.” Nie Huaisangs says to the mic, breathless. “You guys are the best.”

The applause just goes on and even louder.

He looks at Jiang Cheng, and Jiang Cheng just grins back. They both look relieved, and Jiang Cheng plays a few notes on the keyboard before he leans forward to talk. The audience go silent.

“Okay, uh. This next song is from the EP.” he says. There are some cheers, but not as loud as before, with the people waiting to hear more. “Fun fact,” he glances at Huaisang. “This song is special, because before it, I’ve been using old lyrics? Yeah, I wrote, uh, ‘45’ and others, from lyrics I’ve always had, but just never put music to. But for this, I came up with brand new ones for it.”

“He struggled.” Nie Huaisang adds, teasing.

“I did. So much that you had to bake me emotional support cupcakes.”

Huaisang hides his face in his hands, laughing. “Oh my God. The poopy bird cakes.”

“Guys, they looked like bright yellow poop, no joke.” Jiang Cheng tells his audience, who all burst into laughter and giggles. “But they kinda helped, a bit. And besides the cupcakes, Huaisang also… came up with some of the lyrics himself, so, yes, he was helpful.”

“They were like two lines.” Huaisang grumbles, sheepish.

“Yeah, two lines that made so much sense and worked so well I couldn’t help but kiss you afterwards.”

Then the crowd bursts into squeals.

“Jiang Wanyin!” Huaisang practically screeches, wide-eyed and pink-cheeked. He hides behind his hands again as their audience continue to laugh and cheer.

Jiang Cheng just chuckles, shaking his head and looking down to hide his smile as he places his hands back on the keyboard. “Uh, yeah, this song’s called ‘hang with me’ .”

And the show goes on.

.

 

@wonderpurple
y’all who wanted sangcheng to happen…. you have created monsters…. they won’t stop flirting… it’s the best thing because TRUE LOVE 😭😭😭 but also the worst thing because I WANT THAT TOO 😭😭😭

@softepiphany
hasjkfhakhfsshkaf guys ‘hang with me’ was their first kiss i can’t with these two 💚💜

@jupiter_pyrrhic
jwy so smooth… then gets embarrassed by how smooth he is 🤣 nhs looks like he wants to disappear but then squares up and goes back to singing flawless 🤣 the duality 🤣 BEST SHOW EVER 💚💜

@lotuslove
things we’ve learned so far!
jiang “ugh lyrics” wanyin
nhs cupcakes taste ok but look weird
hang w me is ‘oh no im in love w my best friend’ song
they watch bird docus to destress
jwy naming expert named snake plant "snakey"
wwx currently plantsitting snakey

MOM I LOVE IT HERE

more!!!
they hang out w their nephews!
jwy got bear bc he doesnt want nhs to be alone
bear is a rescue dog!!!
jwy tried to paint a fan (nhs hobby) he was v bad at it
THE BILLBOARD WAS UNPLANNED LMAOOOO JWY JUST HAPPENED TO BE THERE
MO XUANYU CALLED NO SHIRT WE HAVE A NEW QUEEN

@blacklotusspring
look i’ve gone to several of wanyin’s shows before and this is the BEST ONE… i mean the music is amazing but the breaks??? they’re so happy and comfortable and cute in love but also so chaotic… it’s quality entertainment 😂😂😂

@annadrizzle
all these updates from the people on the show… i… okay… when’s the wedding

@weiwuxianxian
my mentions are blowing up???
yes guys i can confirm snakey is alive and well???
how do you even know???
what are those two doing in that show???

.

“So, we’d like to do something special tonight.” Jiang Cheng starts, looking to Nie Huaisang to check on him, and Huaisang nods. “The meet-and-greets are cancelled for security reasons, and believe me, we hate that as much as you do. We like meeting you guys and getting to hear your stories. So, uh, we figured we’ll try to give you guys up-close-and-personal as best as we can tonight.”

There are excited cheers from the crowd as he stands up from behind the keyboard and picks up an acoustic guitar. Then he heads towards Huaisang and takes his hand. Huaisang gets his mic from the stand and lets Jiang Cheng lead him closer to the edge of the stage. It’s still a safe distance from the crowd, but away from the complicated band setup.

“Um, Wanyin wrote a song.” Huaisang says, because he’s the one holding the microphone. “Like, last night. It’s super new. But… it’s a song.”

The crowd cheers again, and the excitement turns to intrigue when Jiang Cheng sits cross-legged on the stage. Huaisang sits across him.

Jiang Cheng gives a few, soft experimental strums to check. He gestures for the microphone and Huaisang turns it to him so he could speak into it.

“I write many of my songs in Huaisang’s studio.” he says. “I’d be on the couch, with one guitar, a notebook and a pen. Usually Huaisang joins me, when he’s not too busy. Last night, we weren’t at the studio, we were at my sister’s house and… well, I started to write this song.”

Huaisang takes back the mic to add, “I found him at a balcony, late night, under the stars, with this guitar and his notebook. It was very dramatic.”

He is met with ‘awws’ and light laughter, and he turns the microphone back to Jiang Cheng. “So, since we won’t be able to meet you guys in person tonight, we thought we’d just… let you see us. How we are, and how we make this music, without the flashy instruments and studios. Uh… yeah, I guess. This is us.”

The crowd gives them a round of applause. Jiang Cheng and Nie Huaisang look at each other, then Jiang Cheng nods and starts to pluck the guitar strings.

The venue starts to quiet as he plays, and by the time Nie Huaisang lifts the microphone to his lips, all that could be heard is the guitar. He scoots close to Jiang Cheng as he starts to sing, and Jiang Cheng himself sings along under his breath as he strums the guitar.

Huaisang sings, voice gentle and breathy, and his eyes widen when he looks around and realizes that in the darkness, they’re surrounded by tiny dots of light from their audience’s phones.

“I'll be there if you're the toast of the town, babe…”

It almost feels like they’re back to the night before, on the balcony, sitting across each other, their heads bent over a dimly-lit notebook, trying to put words to music and music to words, only the starry sky above them.

Or if you strike out and you're crawling home.”

When Jiang Cheng leans forward, Nie Huaisang shifts close so they can both sing on the microphone.

“Don't read the last page, but I stay when it's hard or it's wrong or we’re making mistakes.”

Nie Huaisang closes his eyes and sings. When he opens it, Jiang Cheng is looking at him. He smiles.

“I want your midnights, but I'll be cleaning up bottles with you on New Year's Day.”

.

.

.

.

.

“A-Cheng?” Nie Huaisang appears in the doorway ready with a question, but he stops at the sight that greets him. “Ohhh… This room’s looking nice.”

“Yeah?” Wei Wuxian grins. He, Jiang Cheng and Jin Ling look very busy, surrounded by boxes upon boxes of musical instruments and production equipment. “This home studio will look so cool when it’s done!”

“I’m sure it will.” Huaisang tells him, then turns towards his boyfriend. “I can’t remember which box we put the dog food in. Should we just feed Wei-xiong to Bear?”

Wei Wuxian almost drops the electric guitar he’s carrying. “No! No, you get that feral beast away from me! I’m calling my husband!!!”

Jiang Cheng rolls his eyes and pauses to think, then frowns. He gets up from where he and Jin Ling are assembling a microphone stand on the floor. “I can’t remember what label it is, but I’ll know the box when I see it. Jin Ling, don’t move anything.”

Together, they walk towards where the rest of their things are still packed in boxes. They pass by the balcony, where A-Yuan is keeping Bear distracted so he won’t wander around the house and find Wei Wuxian. The boy sees them and waves before going back to giving Bear belly scratches.

Jiang Cheng looks around at the rest of the new flat. Wen Ning is standing on a ladder, hanging up curtains. Wangji and MianMian are sorting through records and books. Yanli and Zixuan are getting the kitchen set up and preparing to cook everyone lunch.

Everyone is busy, except Nie Mingjue, who is holding some framed photos, obviously about to set them down somewhere, except he got distracted.

He is now peering at the brand new birdcage, and the two lovebirds inside.

Huaisang smiles at the sight. “Da-ge! You like Fish and Chip?”

Nie Mingjue looks at his brother. “First you name your dog ‘Bear’, now you name your bird ‘Fish’?”

“We did a poll.” Jiang Cheng says, finding one of the boxes and opening it. “The second runner-up was Fiesta and Siesta.”

“The two moods.” Huaisang nods. “It’s amazing, da-ge. A-Cheng’s first ever tweet is to make people vote for bird names.”

Nie Mingjue just sighs and shakes his head, then proceeds to set down the frames on a shelf.

Jiang Cheng finds the dog food and hands it to Huaisang, who happily accepts the pack and tiptoes to give him a kiss before skipping over to the balcony to feed Bear.

He ducks to hide a small fond smile and just heads back to the studio to finish what he has to do.

Before he could even get there though, Wei Wuxian almost barrels right into him.

“Oh, good! Jiang Cheng, come here!” his brother says, grabbing him. “A-Ning, MianMian, the studio’s ready!!! Come, come!”

Jiang Cheng frowns. “What do you mean- We can’t possibly be done yet-”

“I said ready , not done. The drums are set up and the amps are good to go. We don’t need the other fancy equipment to play, it’s not like we’re recording. Let’s play one song! Please, please please? To test the acoustics?”

Jiang Cheng give him a dubious look, but when he looks towards his bandmates, Wen Ning is already coming down from the ladder with a shy smile, and MianMian is dusting off her clothes and stretching her arms.

He turns back towards his brother. “Fine. One song.”

“YES.” Wei Wuxian jumps, and pulls him back towards the still-in-progress home studio.

It doesn’t take too long to plug their guitars back in the amps and for MianMian to settle in the drum set. It’s like sliding back into an old, worn but comfortable shirt after a long day.

MianMian counts them down, three hits of her drumsticks together and then she’s banging on the drums, the boys falling into rhythm flawlessly to the beats.

Their music is strong, and loud and demanding, from the get-go. Jiang Cheng’s been making his own music, his own sound, for the past three years. It’s far from this - Jiang Cheng’s sound is for late nights and dimly-lit rooms, while this - this one is for stadiums and screaming crowds.

He would be lying if he said he didn’t miss it.

At some point, Nie Huaisang had come in and sat himself beside Jin Ling on the corner of the studio, a pencil and his sketchbook in his lap. A-Yuan finds his way on Jin Ling’s other side, while Nie Mingjue and Lan Wangji stand by and watch from the doorway.

“Black Lotus is back!!!” Wei Wuxian screams into his mic. He pants as the song finishes, then turns to beam at his bandmates. “No, really, I can’t wait to play a whole show again.”

“Slow down, Wei Wuxian. You need practice. You missed a few parts there.” MianMian points out with a smirk. “Don’t think I didn’t notice.”

“Awww, I did? MianMian, you and your monster ears...”

Jiang Cheng crouches down to make some adjustments to his amp. “Luckily for you, we’ve got three months before the reunion concert.”

“One more song?” Wen Ning asks.

Jiang Cheng looks up at him and then shrugs. “Ah, hell. Why not?”

Wen Ning smiles sheepishly. “W-Which one?”

“Surprise us!” Wei Wuxian says, and that’s what Wen Ning does.

He immediately launches into a complicated bass line that they immediately recognize, and MianMian readily provides the beat, while Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng start strumming the familiar chords.

Nie Huaisang can’t help but smile as he watches them. This is so familiar. He’s been in this position so many times before, many years ago. Sitting in a studio, watching his friends rehearse for hours and hours, refining their craft. Him with a sketchbook in his lap.

But this is different, too. They’re all older now, and it’s not just the five of them anymore.

“They’re so cool.” Jin Ling says.

Nie Huaisang looks at the boy beside him, hugging his white-and-gold guitar to his chest as he watches his uncles play. He also catches sight of A-Yuan, bobbing his head, mouthing along to the lyrics.

Nie Huaisang chuckles, nudging them gently. “I’m sure you’ll be as cool as them someday.”

Jin Ling looks back at him, then peers at the open sketchbook at the man’s lap. “What’re you drawing?”

“The music.” Huaisang answers. “I need practice too. I haven’t made anything for Black Lotus in a while.”

The boy leans sideways on his arm, looking up at him. “Don’t you want to sing with them, Huaisang-ge?”

Huaisang blinks. “Hm?”

“You’re a singer too, right?”

“Ah… Am I?”

Nie Huaisang watches his best friends perform, but his gaze keeps going back to Jiang Wanyin. Jiang Cheng. His A-Cheng. He is playing music as he’s always done, but also very differently right now. Him playing his brother’s songs is a far cry from when it’s just him and Huaisang.

Huaisang kinda likes that, though. They have something just for the two of them. That’s special.

This - what the band has - is different, it is not really Huaisang’s, but he’s part of it, he knows. They’ve let him know. They’ve asked him to design the reunion concert promotional artworks themselves. And he’ll do it, just like he’s always done for them.

He won’t be able to say that their music was still his most favorite, though. Not anymore. Something else has taken that place. And he knows they won’t mind.

“I guess I am a singer, sometimes.” he says, more to himself than to the boy beside him. “Right now, though, I’m an artist. And I am going to make art.”

Jiang Cheng looks up to see him watching and just sends him a boyish little grin.

Oh. Okay.

Huaisang bites his lip, looking down at his sketchbook. That never got to him before.

Suppressing a smile, he twirls his pencil on his fingers and then starts drawing.

.

.

.fin.