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armageddon blues

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It's 3 AM. Jiang Cheng is sitting alone in the workshop.

He hadn't been sitting for long. He just finished repairing most of the old machines they've salvaged the other day. They were easy repairs. He hardly had to think about them. There are others that require more work, but he'd look over them tomorrow. When he's rested and more awake. When Huaisang is up for it, because it's always better when they can put their heads together to solve something.

Huaisang went to bed early tonight. He had said his brain was tired. While Jiang Cheng had been busy fixing broken stuff, Huaisang had been dissecting them for the unsalvageable ones to build new things.

Jiang Cheng had never been good at that. That's always been Nie Huaisang's thing, though his moods always swung wildly between inspiration and... err, hibernation.

He switched to hibernation early tonight. That's fine, Jiang Cheng thinks. The weather's getting colder. Huaisang's constitution doesn't always agree with this season. It's a family thing, he once told Jiang Cheng. From his mother's side.

Jiang Cheng muses about that, about what Huaisang said earlier before going to bed.

"A-Cheng, you shouldn't stay up too late... I need someone to keep me warm."

He'd tried to distract Jiang Cheng with kisses and wandering hands but Jiang Cheng had patiently sent him off with a promise to join him soon and a suggestion to take the thicker blankets out if it gets too cold. And a kiss to his cheek.

"Alright, but if I wake up coughing and miserable in the morning, I'm blaming you..."

Oof. Jiang Cheng yawns, and that interrupts him from his thoughts and, apparently, from staring blankly at his half-organized toolbox. Yep. He needs to sleep. He promised, after all.

There's an old song playing from the radio corner on the other table. Or maybe the song's a new one that just sounds old because of the crackling of static. Their speakers aren’t exactly equipped with digital surround sound.

'Give me a love song, give me a reason to live...'

The singer croons in a soothing voice, the melody lazy and slow. No wonder Jiang Cheng is getting sleepy.

He moves towards the table, intending to turn the music off.

'Give me a sad song, something I-'

The cut is abrupt. Jiang Cheng frowns when he hears the sudden static noise, and then the feedback and silence that follows. Is there something wrong with the antenna? It's not like it's windy... Did the owls try and attack the gear in the roof again-

[['Hello? Is someone out there?']]

He blinks. He knows that voice.

[['Heeeyyy, anybody home?']]

There's a sigh. He knows that sigh. Jiang Cheng steps forward, hand hovering over the switch to reply.

[['If can you hear me, this is-']]

Jiang Cheng flicks the switch and speaks into the mic, "Wei Ying."

[['Ah! Jiang Cheng! Good, this thing works!']] - and then, with a voice obviously farther away, he tells someone else - [['What did I tell you, I can fix stuff too-']]

"What do you want." Jiang Cheng interrupts him with a roll of his eyes as he slumps down on the closest chair. "I swear, if you called me for a stupid test call at goddamn 3 AM-"

[['Um, no! No, uhhhhhhh... we're in terrible danger, actually.']]

Okay, that's... not what he expected.

But it’s also not the first time he’s getting a call like this. "What?"

[['Haha, so you see, Lan Zhan and I-']]

"So he's with you, then?" Jiang Cheng scoffs, then shrugs. "You'll be fine."

[['No, we got separated-']]

“Didn’t know that was physically possible.”

[['Jiang Cheng, listen to me! So, uh, we're trapped right now…']]

"You're always trapped." Jiang Cheng says, yawning again, leaning back on the chair heavily. "Everytime you call me to save your ass, you just do it yourself and by the time we get there, you just ask for a ride back home. Just call again in a few hours, maybe I can be bothered to pick you up.”

His brother makes an annoying whiny noise before continuing, [['How are you this sassy at 3 o’clock? Fine, I appreciate the vote of confidence, I really do, but the thing is… uh. We've got the kids with us!']]

Now, that’s enough to wake him up.

“What- K-... What kids?”

[['Well, you know…']] an awkward laugh. [['The kids! Kids, in general- Hey!']]

Then there’s loud noises of struggling and arguing- the noise of whatever receiver is being used being passed around, or more likely being fought over with, then-

A different voice.

[['Hello, jiujiu? Really sorry for bothering you. Please come help. We’re stuck. Long story. Well, short but- Whatever. I promise to never go on a supply run with da-jiu again.']]

Jiang Cheng runs his hand across his face and sighs.

A supply run.

Leave it to Wei Wuxian to tag along with the kids - Jin Ling - their nephew! - on a supply run and get in trouble along the way.

But, he really has no time to be annoyed right now.

So he says, “Alright. Where are you?”

.


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Nie Huaisang doesn’t want to wake up. No, not yet, it’s too early…

But Jiang Cheng is shaking his shoulder and talking into his ear, and they’re not nice things to say to someone like Huaisang, who really feels like he’d just gone to bed a minute ago-

“A-Sang, come on, wake up.”

Huaisang buries his face on his pillow, groggily batting at the hand shaking him. “Mm, no...”

“Nope, you’re getting up now. We have to go.”

“Go where?” he asks, sounding his most miserable and meaning it. “What timeissit-”

“3:10. Wei Ying called.”

Nie Huaisang wants to cry. He loves Wei-xiong, he really does. He loves him like a brother and really would do a lot of things for him… but Huaisang also loves sleeping and a good night’s rest-

“He needs backup.” Jiang Cheng adds.

He turns over, reaching out to maybe grab some part of Jiang Cheng for comfort but his hands meet nothing. He opens his eyes just a bit to look around and sees the other man across the room, taking his shirt off. “Again? Can’t he call when they’re done?”

“No, he really needs the help this time.” Jiang Cheng says as he puts on a new shirt, then grabs his jacket.  “C’mon, get up.”

With effort, Nie Huaisang sits up. “He needs help? Did Lan Zhan die ?”

“Sadly, he’s alive, but apparently he’s tied up with something-” Jiang Cheng pauses when he turns around and sees the other man just sitting in bed, with his face in his hands. “Huaisang .

But Huaisang just mutters into his hands - “Why am I so mean. I love A-Zhan. That was so bitchy, oh my god- I want to sleep.”

Jiang Cheng stares. Why must the love of his life have three different personalities when sleepy?

“Listen.” he says, walking across the room and pulling his companion to his feet. “Wei Ying has the kids with him. That’s why he called. We have to get there, and fast.”

Nie Huaisang’s eyes widen. “He has the kids? Why does he have the kids?” Then he blinks. “What kids? A-Yuan is one kid-”

“No, it’s A-Ling, A-Yuan, the others. A whole bunch.” Jiang Cheng answers, then walks off again to finish getting dressed. Thankfully, he sees Nie Huaisang head to the closet too to grab a change of clothes. “They were on a supply run when they wandered into a research facility-”

“Wandered?” Huaisang asks, incredulous. “Who wanders -”

“His words.”

“Oh, I love him so much.”

Jiang Cheng looks at him. Huaisang is already buttoning up his favorite jumpsuit. “Really?”

Huaisang shushes him. “Ssssh, I need to keep saying it to believe it. I love your brother, he is my best friend and I got out of bed because I want to help him, truly.”

That makes Jiang Cheng snort as he finds his boots and starts pulling them on. “Uh-huh.”

“I’m doing this for shushu points.” Nie Huaisang says, joining him with his own boots. “I must be nice to Jin Ling, or else you won’t marry me.”

Jiang Cheng finishes off his laces and looks at the man beside him. “A-Sang.” he says. “We’re married.”

“Oh.” Nie Huaisang blinks. He doesn’t move when his husband kisses his cheek before walking off towards the weapon holsters. “Yeah.”

Jiang Cheng just snorts in amusement as he fixes his knife holsters on his torso.

“It’s 3 AM, Jiang Cheng, don’t judge me! I hardly even remember what year it is!” Nie Huaisang pouts, following him. He straps his usual pack to his hip. “Hey, do I have to bring bombs?”

“Will my answer make a difference? Do you go anywhere without at least a few bombs? Don’t you already have bombs in that pack?”

“Ah… haha… Oh! I’ll bring Baxia!“ he says, patting his bag in place before moving over to help Jiang Cheng straighten the straps around his chest, making sure they’re snug before helping place the knives on their respective pockets. “I made some new rockets.”

Jiang Cheng shrugs. “Okay, but I’m not carrying that.”

Nie Huaisang looks up at him with big eyes and a pout. “Not even to prove your love?”

Jiang Cheng would believe him more if he didn’t know that he’s packing grenades and cherry bombs in his fanny pack - (“It’s a hip bag!”) - and that he could lift a loaded bazooka like it’s a bubble gun.

“I can find other ways.” Jiang Cheng says, strapping his sword to his waist next and heading out their little bedroom. “Like not making you drive the jeep.”

Huaisang raises an eyebrow, trailing after him. “Because you know I’d get us killed if I drove.”

“Yep. See? Proving my love.” Jiang Cheng says as he grabs the keys on their way. Behind him, he can hear the sounds of Huaisang grabbing his own stuff to bring too.

When they get to the door, he turns around and slides an arm around Huaisang’s waist. “I’ll start up the jeep. Grab your toys and the radio.”

Huaisang nods. “Okay.” He gives his husband a quick kiss before stepping away and jogging towards the workshop.

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The place is on fire when they get there.

Because of course it is.

Jiang Cheng stops the jeep at a safe distance and grabs the binoculars.

People are evacuating - employees and guards, mostly lab coats carrying machines, computers, boxes of what probably were research documents or specimens.

“I'm… gonna try to contact them." Huaisang says, grabbing the radio.

It takes only a few seconds of static and noise, then they hear Wei Ying’s familiar, albeit frantic voice, [['Hello, how may I help you today?!']]

It would be a perfect customer service voice, if not for the screaming in the background.

Nie Huaisang snorts. "So, um, we're here, maybe? Is this place normally on fire or did they put it up special for you?"

[['Is that you, Nie-xiong? Oh, yeah, the fire part is us, totally part of the plan-']]

"There's a plan?"

[['Uh-huh! Phase one - push all the buttons! Phase two - run! We're on phase 2, except there’s a lot of goons surrounding the truck right now and they won’t let us out even though half the building is already on fire. You’d think they’d be smarter, eh?']]

“T-Truck? What truck?”

[['The supply truck! We were on a supply run, remember?']]

At this, Jiang Cheng grabs the radio, then says, “You parked our supply truck in the enemy’s parking lot?!”

[['That's what parking lots are for, Jiang Cheng!']]

“You’re lucky they’re not just shooting you down!”

There’s a pause.

[['Ah… haha… Well…']]

Jiang Cheng is done . “What. What is it?”

[['They probably didn’t want to shoot down… their… patients…?']]

Jiang Cheng looks at Nie Huaisang. “Patients.” he repeats, to clarify.

[['Yeah, I didn’t mention that we broke people out?']]

“You didn’t!” Jiang Cheng snarls.

Beside him, he sees Nie Huaisang looking through the binoculars, humming. “Oh, I see…”

[['What was I supposed to do, Jiang Cheng? Leave them here? It’s not fun to get cut open and experimented on!']]

Jiang Cheng freezes for a moment.

His scars seem to hurt, for a moment.

Then he feels Nie Huaisang’s hand in his arm, squeezing, grounding. He takes a deep breath. “What you were supposed to do,” he says with gritted teeth, “was report back to base so we could organize a rescue mission.”

[['And make them wait? We can’t abandon-']]

“Okay, shut up, where are you exactly?”

[['West side of the building, there’s a bunch of armed guards and vehicles but we don’t wanna run them over-']]

“So you need them cleared out.” He nods at Huaisang, who reaches over to the back of the jeep and starts grabbing things. “Roll your windows up.”

[['Wha-']]

“Get ready to hold your breath, just in case. On the signal, drive fast. Just get out of there, we’ll cover you.”

[['What signal-']]

“You’ll know it.”

[['Wh- A-Cheng!']]

Jiang Cheng sets the walkie-talkie aside when Nie Huaisang passes him a rifle. It’s heavy, but he knows what Huaisang picks up next is heavier.

“They’ll love this.” Nie Huaisang says as he loads something on his sticker-riddled grenade launcher. “I cooked it up just a few days ago…”

Jiang Cheng watches his companion take aim. Firearms were never his thing, but he knows his way around them well, so he sucks it up, looks at the one he’s holding and takes the safety off.

“Ready when you are.”

The smoke grenade works.

The flash bomb also works, as well as the whole host of stuff they (mostly Huaisang) shot and threw to cover the supply truck that hightails it out of the building on record speed.

They’re compromising their position, so as soon as they’ve surveyed that most of the people were offsite, Nie Huaisang takes out The Big One, as Jiang Cheng calls it, and gets out one last boom.

“A bit unnecessary, don’t you think?” Jiang Cheng says as he climbs back onto the driver’s seat of the jeep.

“They experiment on humans, A-Cheng. That was very necessary.” Nie Huaisang says, patting Baxia happily. He hops on the passenger seat and leans over to peer at Jiang Cheng's face. He cups the other's chin, then brings his hand to his chest, where he knows he'll find old faded scars under careful layers of clothes. “And you’re upset, so I’m upset too.”

Jiang Cheng just takes a deep breath, then shakes his head as he looks out into the destroyed research facility. He’s just thankful the burning building was emptied before that last explosion.

He starts the engine up.

“Alright, let’s go find my idiot brother.”

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The sun is up high when they meet up with the supply truck. Jiang Cheng allows Wei Ying to hug him for five seconds. Only five seconds. After that, he smacks his brother painfully and yells at him to stop getting in trouble, and being a bad example for the kids, and putting everyone in danger.

He doesn’t give Wei Ying a chance to reply as he goes straight to finding Jin Ling and fussing over the boy.

Jin Ling is tired, with messy hair and dirty clothes, but he’s otherwise unharmed. He doesn’t let his uncle fuss over him for long though, looking embarrassed and apologetic but also annoyed.

Yep. He’s that age.

So Jiang Cheng just hands him a protein bar.

Then, he quickly checks up on A-Yuan and the others. Teenagers he knows from the safehouse, who are all pretty much in the same state as Jin Ling. They assure him that they’re alright in a much kinder and politer way.

Nie Huaisang had gone over to talk and assess the rescues. When Jiang Cheng looks, he’s already making phone calls and talking to Lan Zhan. Good, Jiang Cheng doesn’t have to worry about that.

So he goes back to scolding his brother. He scolds Lan Zhan too, when the man joins them. Lan Zhan glares at him, but he probably knows that Jiang Cheng has a point, so he doesn’t say anything.

When he’s done, Wei Ying finally bows his head and says, “I really am sorry, A-Cheng.”

Jiang Cheng nods. He’s much calmer now, but if Wei Ying is taking accountability for his latest reckless escapade, then he won’t stop him - “For?”

“For causing trouble.”

“And?”

“And endangering the kids.”

“And?”

“...and, uh, g-going on a rescue mission without authorization?”

“And?”

“Um,” Wei Ying blinks. He looks at his husband, and then the kids, who were distributing some food and blankets to the rescues. He’s at a loss. “Is… Is it the truck? Because I swear it was already that ugly when we left!”

Jiang Cheng shakes his head. “Not the truck.”

Wei Ying whines. “Okay, just tell me what else I did! I’m sure I’m sorry about it!”

This time, Nie Huaisang sidles up beside him and taps his shoulder with his phone. He smiles. “Wei-xiong… You kinda interrupted our honeymoon.”

Wei Ying gasps, then turns to his friend-slash-brother-in-law. “Oh my g- I didn’t mean to! I am so sorry!!!”

“You better be!” Jiang Cheng growls, watching his brother tackle his husband. Huaisang sways on his feet, but thankfully Wei Ying keeps them both upright. “You know I haven’t slept? And Huaisang is… in a delicate condition? I don’t know how we’re still standing!”

Wei Ying wails as he clings to Nie Huaisang. “A-Sang!!! I’m so sorry, I completely forgot about y- What delicate condition? Are you okay? Are you pregnant?”

“Oh, God, no.” Huaisang coughs. “We have enough children.”

At this, Lan Zhan finally speaks - “People don’t throw their children and watch them explode.”

“They’re not all bombs-”

Wei Ying shakes his head. “Don’t say knives.”

“Okay, I’m out.”

Jiang Cheng simply sighs, eyeing them warily. Nie Huaisang is leaning a bit too much on Wei Ying. “It’s his sick season.”

Huaisang laughs awkwardly. “Yeah, I’m kinda feeling faint, haha...”

“Oh, no, already? But it’s your honeymoon!” Wei Ying says, concerned. Drawing away to check up on his friend. “Wait, how long is this honeymoon? You got married months ago!”

“It’s a late honeymoon.” Nie Huaisang says, shrugging. “Because right after the wedding we had to relocate the entire safehouse - you were away that time, I think - then there was that thing with the Jins, then that other rescue mission, then- ah, I can’t remember them all… Lots of things?”

“Yeah, you guys haven’t had a break huh?” Wei Ying frowns. “Your schedule sucks.”

“I’m leading a resistance organization after an apocalypse, Wei Ying.” Jiang Cheng points out. “Everything sucks.”

“Mm-hm, and we finally found some free time,” Nie Huaisang continues, “so we were staying home for a bit, like a lil vacation, but…”

Jiang Cheng scoffs. “We didn’t even get through the week.”

Wei Ying sniffs. “I feel very terrible.” he says, and once again hugs Nie Huaisang.

Nie Huaisang suspects he’s being used as a human shield.

“In my defense, Jiang Cheng didn’t give me his assistant’s number.” Wei Ying pouts.

Nie Huaisang laughs. “That’s because his assistant is on the honeymoon with him, Wei-xiong.”

“Well, who was I supposed to call?” Wei Ying cries. “Jin Zixuan?”

“Yes!” they both answer.

“I left him in charge for a reason!” Jiang Cheng says.

“He’s very capable, Wei-xiong.” Nie Huaisang agrees. “Also, you have his son .”

“Fine.” Wei Ying sighs, reluctantly stepping back. “I guess I’ll just… report to that peacock…”

“Now don’t worry, I’ve already talked to him for you.” Nie Huaisang says, patting his shoulder before transferring to Jiang Cheng’s side. Jiang Cheng places a steadying hand on his back. “He’s getting the safehouse ready to receive you guys.”

“We’ll be back in a few days too.” Jiang Cheng says, leading Nie Huaisang back to the jeep and helping him climb up the passenger seat.

Wei Ying follows them, concerned. “But-??? Your honeymoon…?”

“Eh. We’re just hanging out in the workshop and sleeping in.” Jiang Cheng says with a shrug. “We’ll probably just wait until Huaisang’s feeling better, then we’ll be back to work.”

“Alright, but I’m sure it’ll be fine if you guys need more time.” Wei Ying says. “Thanks again for the backup. And sorry for the trouble!”

“It’s nothing, Wei-xiong. It was fun!” Huaisang says, smiling brightly. “Oh, also, I called Miss Wen.”

Wei Ying freezes. “Y-You did?”

“Uh-huh, and Yanli-jie too!”

“And jiejie?!” Wei Ying cries.

“I mean, Zixuan-ge will tell her anyway? I thought they’d like an update, you know? So, yeah, they said they’ll see you when you get back!”

Jiang Cheng watches as horror creeps into his brother’s face. Yep. There is no threat he can make that’ll top that.

“A-.. A-Sang, you… r-really didn’t have to do that…” Wei Ying says, laughing, visibly terrified.

“Ah, I did anyway!” Nie Huaisang says, with a completely innocent, albeit sleepy, smile.

Jiang Cheng has to hold back his laugh. “Alright, we have to get going.” he manages, after a few coughs. “You guys too. No side trips this time, alright?”

“Y-Yep…!” Wei Ying squeaks out. “I can’t wait to get back, w-wow!”

Jiang Cheng gives him a short hug.

He’s not angry anymore.

He’s actually a teeny-tiny bit concerned now.

But Wei Ying had this coming, so Jiang Cheng just pats his back before finally hopping on the driver’s seat of the jeep.

He nods at Lan Zhan, waves goodbye at the kids, and then drives off.

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A few minutes into their trip home, Jiang Cheng finally says, “People say I’m the mean one.”

Nie Huaisang, already half-asleep, giggles. “They’re not wrong.”

He has a point.

Jiang Cheng is mean.

His husband is just meaner.

So he reaches over to take the other’s hand and press a kiss to it. “Go to sleep. You need it.”

“You too.” Nie Huaisang says. He squeezes Jiang Cheng’s hand before letting go so he could grab and hug a small pillow.

“I know.” Jiang Cheng says with a shrug. “And I will. When we get home.”

“Mm.” the other hums. “Put some music on?”

Jiang Cheng nods, fingers finding the switch for the radio. He flicks it on, and after seconds of feedback and static, the music comes on.

He grins lightly. It’s the same song that was playing on the radio earlier.

'Give me a love song, give me a reason to live...'

He looks over at the passenger seat, where Nie Huaisang is already fast asleep, wearing a small smile on his lips.

‘Give me a sad song, something I can give.’

Grateful now for the slow, old song that will keep his husband sleeping peacefully, Jiang Cheng returns his gaze to the road and softly hums along.

They’ll be home soon.

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.fin.