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up on melancholy hill

Chapter Text

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In the aftermath, there were too many things to do, too many wounded to tend to, too many loose ends to tie up, that there’s no time to really celebrate Wen Ruohan’s defeat.

There is, however, a general feeling of relief. It’s like everyone had let out one slow, collective exhale.

But at the end of a long day of fighting, the fatigue still creeps in, slowly but surely, until Jiang Cheng’s arms start to shake while he’s distributing supplies to some elders and children they had found as Wen Ruohan’s prisoners. He stumbles slightly when he stands back up, and that’s when he feels his sister’s calming hand on his arm, telling him that he’s done enough for the day, and it’s fine to take a break.

He knows she’s right so he heeds her advice. He finds a free spot to settle down in, out of anyone’s way. He sits with his back against the wall - too tired to do anything else, but still too alert to contemplate sleep.

It’s over. Wen Ruohan is dead. They had intercepted an attack on a public event, they saved lives - civilians, gifted people... and a few government officials. The media was there too. People had seen them banding together and using their gifts to defend, not to harm. They were left alone afterwards. No orders to capture or subdue them. Yet. But a victory is a victory.

It’s all part of the plan - the plan that worked with Meng Yao’s intel, Lan Xichen and Nie Mingjue’s careful preparation, and Jiang Cheng and the others’ precise execution.

For the first time in months, Jiang Cheng can actually see things looking up.

He hears Xiaoyu before he sees her. She perches on his knee and he smiles lightly at the bird, raising a hand to tap her head with a finger. If Xiaoyu is here, then her master won’t be far behind.

“Resting, finally?” Nie Huaisang asks, walking towards him with a blanket in his arms. He sits beside Jiang Cheng and Jiang Cheng moves so he can drape the blanket across both their shoulders, and when that’s done, they press close together, their hands easily finding each other’s. It’s not cold, but it’s grounding to be this close, this warm.

“Hi.” Jiang Cheng whispers to the other’s dark hair before he presses an absentminded kiss to the side of his head, more like a passing thought than anything else.

“Hi.” Nie Huaisang whispers back, sending him a small smile. He reaches up to rub off what Jiang Cheng assumes must be dirt or dust off his cheek. “You’re tired.” he says.

“You too.” he replies, and they just settle there for a while, huddled beside each other, both quiet, lost in their own thoughts.

They hear a shrill cry of a child followed by a familiar laugh, and when they look towards the source of the sound, they see Wei Wuxian crouched down and teasing a toddler who had somehow latched on to Lan Wangji’s legs. Lan Wangji looked at a loss of what to do, while Wei Wuxian has taken to offering the kid some of his own food. Wen Ning is hovering too. They can see the family resemblance. The kid must be from his branch of the family - the ones who opposed Wen Ruohan so they got thrown in with the other prisoners.

“I’m glad Wei-xiong is doing fine.” Nie Huaisang says. “I was worried.”

Jiang Cheng nods. A huge part of the plan hinged on Wei Wuxian’s newfound power to control other people - and at first Jiang Cheng had been apprehensive, but his brother was determined. He has to admit that it terrified him to see Wei Wuxian use his new gift to that extent and in such a manner. He knew the toll it takes on his brother. But in the end, things worked out. Wei Wuxian looks worn and tired, but no more than any of the others.

"Yeah." he says. "He looks like he'll be fine."

Wen Qing is ordering people around. Without her uncle, and with her cousins having fled early on when things seemed to go south on their side, she is by default the acting head of the Wen faction. Jiang Cheng thinks that’s for the best. Wen Qing is sensible, and grounded - she’s a healer and a caretaker before anything else - and aren’t those the purpose of the safehouses in the first place? To protect and nurture people like them?

In speaking of leaders - there’s Lan Xichen talking to Meng Yao, and Jiang Cheng had looked in their direction just in time to see Nie Mingjue pass by them - he spares a soft smile for Lan Xichen as always, but steels himself and only gives a curt nod to Meng Yao before going to talk to Wen Qing.

“So… even you guys didn’t know?” Jiang Cheng asks. When Huaisang only hums in question by his shoulder, he continues. “About Meng Yao?”

He feels the other shift, and the hand in his tightens its grip. “No. We didn’t know.”

Everyone had known that besides the fact that Meng Yao is an illegitimate child, Jin Guangshan had refused to acknowledge him because he had no gift. When Jiang Cheng first met him in passing, in Gusu when he came to pick Nie Huaisang up, he remembers the man being introduced to him as a resident of the Nie safehouse, but not as a refugee seeking sanctuary. 

(Nie Huaisang had even said then - “He’s like… um... to me, what Wei-xiong is to you. He’s different from us but he’s family.” )

Imagine their surprise when the same meek, quiet man had been the one to deal the killing blow to Wen Ruohan.

After doing something - something that disoriented the man so much that he lost control and coordination, making it easy to take him down.

“He said it’s like the opposite of Xichen-ge’s gift.” Nie Huaisang continues. “Turmoil? I guess? He talked to me. A while ago. We’re okay. But da-ge’s still… Da-ge needs time.”

“They’ll be fine.” he reassures the other, knowing how much both men mean to him. Nie Huaisang had never known his parents, but he’d always had his big brothers to look after him. “If all else fails, just pout at both of them until they make up. It works on me and Wei Wuxian, why not them?”

Nie Huaisang laughs, and this time his hand squeezes Jiang Cheng’s in appreciation. “It does work on you guys, huh? You’re such big softies.”

“Shut up.” he huffs, and to avoid the topic he just goes back to people watching.

He sees his sister again.

His sister-

His sister is now the leader of the Jiang family. Has been for some time now. It suits her.

Jiang Cheng doesn’t know what’s in store for them - but he knows he’ll follow her lead without question. She’d never led him anywhere he didn’t want to go. They’ll rebuild Lotus Pier and the Jiang safehouse. They’ll provide sanctuary to those who need it, like their family had always done.

Right now, she’s going through food supplies. Jin Zixuan is trying to help her. Or something. He’s fumbling really badly with the food he’s holding.

Jiang Cheng wants to shout at him to get his shit together.

“Jin Zixuan is being weird. Why is he being weird?”

Nie Huaisang makes a sleepy, curious sound as he turns his head to look. “Ah. You can’t tell? He likes your sister.”

“What? That loser.” Jiang Cheng snorts. “Jiejie likes Mingjue-ge. Or Wen Qing. I don’t know. Maybe both. Is it both? You should just tell me.”

Huaisang giggles. “Believe me, A-Cheng. I’d tell you if I knew.”

“Really?”

“Really.”

“But who is your da-ge dating? I thought it was Wen Qing. Or Lan Xichen. But now I don’t know. Wait, is Meng Yao an ex? Is this why it’s so awkward between those three?”

Huaisang only sighs and pats his arm. “A-Cheng, A-Cheng… I really really wish I knew.”

“Huh.” is all he says, leaning back again, letting go of Huaisang’s hand only so he can wrap his arm around him instead. Huaisang cuddles close to him. When Jiang Cheng looks, he sees that he’s already close to dozing off. To be honest, Jiang Cheng is surprised Nie Huaisang managed to stay awake this long after everything that had happened.

It’s been a long day - a long fight - a long year . The big battle is over, but there’s still a lot of work to do. It’ll take even longer - maybe years, maybe decades - to undo the damage Wen Ruohan has done, the fear and prejudice he’d encouraged in a society that already was fearful and prejudiced to start with.

But it’ll be fine.

They have time.

He has his sister, his brother, this new family he’d found and somehow managed to keep during a year of hiding and running and fighting for his life and others’. He has-

“Huaisang.”

“Mm?”

Xiaoyu flies off and Jiang Cheng watches her perch on Wei Wuxian’s shoulder. The crying kid from earlier gets distracted by the pretty bird and finally lets himself be pried off from Lan Wangji’s legs as he is lifted into Wen Ning’s arms. Wen Ning rocks him lightly, and the kid cuddles close, yawning.

It’s infectious. Jiang Cheng yawns as well.

He doesn’t want to sleep yet.

There’s still so much to do.

But first-

“Let’s go out. Like, on a date.”

He remembers another night - a different one - but with the same sleepy Nie Huaisang pressed warmly against him.

“With the hand holding and ice cream and all that cute shit I hate.”

Huaisang laughs - soft, sleepy, sweet. “I thought you’d never ask.”

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fin