an easy recipe

31 Dec 2022

A year after they finished the con that took down Jin Corp, Nie Huaisang gets suspicious calls from his quartet of teenage vigilante do-gooders.

Or: A lil sequel to the lil Leverage-inspired AU!

Teen (13+)
Words: 7,580

an easy recipe



anyways, this is a lil sequel to “vintage” now renamed “for old time’s sake”, since i used the “vintage” as the series name. in keeping with tradition, it is also holiday-themed! and un-beta’d! PLEASE FORGIVE ME

again, the warning-
IMPORTANT: this is tagged ‘Canonical Character Death’ and by that I mean that characters who are dead in canon are also dead in this fic, including WWX and NMJ




Nie Huaisang had always known that he wouldn’t have children.

“Da-ge can do that!” he had always joked during family events. “I am too useless for parenting, I am meant to be the cool and fun uncle who will babysit da-ge’s children, spoil them rotten when he’s not looking, and then give them back to him.”

It wasn’t that he didn’t like children – he just really meant what he said. He simply thought that they weren’t for him. He could do favorite babysitter uncle, though. It has always been one of his talents – being a good bad influence.

Unfortunately, he didn’t end up being a favorite babysitter uncle. His da-ge had left too soon. His da-ge had left, and Nie Huaisang was alone.

And he was fine. He got by like that – alone – just surrounded by strangers. For a bit, they were just company. Then he made a living dealing with strangers. He had always been good with strangers. But no matter how many strangers, Nie Huaisang was still alone.

Even then, even alone, he still knew that he didn’t want children.

So, then – now – why?

“Why does it look like I have four of them?” he complains to no one in particular, after receiving yet another message from a teenager.

He’s driving. He’s working – or – well. Is he? Wait, no – he’s on his way to meet a mark, and grifting is his job, so he is at work!

He really should set aside whatever this message is for later. It’s incredibly distracting.

It’ll be fine, right? They’re big boys! They would understand that people at work are not to be disturbed unless it’s an emergency-

That almost gets Nie Huaisang to hit the brakes.

Oh, no – what if it’s an emergency?

Sighing, Nie Huaisang reaches over and taps the ‘answer’ button, bracing himself.


“Ah! Nie-shushu! It’s Jingyi!”

“Yes, Jingyi. I have your number saved.” Nie Huaisang keeps his eyes on the road as he takes that in. Jingyi doesn’t sound too distressed. Maybe everything is fine-

“Are you busy?”

“Well, I’m driving.” Nie Huaisang says. “And kind of in the middle of a job. What is it this time, Jingyi?”

“This time? I don’t really bother you that much, don’t I?”

“Okay, technically, the last one was Zizhen. But you boys are a unit, so I just kinda count it all together.”

“So Zizhen already called?”

“Yep. Two days ago.”

There’s a telling pause. “W-What… what did you guys talk about?”

“He asked if I had any acting tips to share.” Nie Huaisang answers. He sighs again.

At any other time, he would love to banter with the boys – they’re smart, witty, funny, and all charming in different ways – but unfortunately, Nie Huaisang is still on duty.

So he does something that he rarely does – he gets straight to the point – “Jingyi, what is really going on?”

“Why do you think something’s going on?”

That actually gets him to chuckle. “Oh, Jingyi, Jingyi… The smartest of my smart boys… Do you remember when I was in the frontline as we took down a billion-dollar corporation, barely a year ago?”

“Hey, I was there- That was a-”

“-group effort, yes. Anyway, my sweet child, there is a reason why you are the team’s hacker.” Nie Huaisang says, not trying to be mean – just annoying.

He knows how much he annoys Jingyi when he goes all “my sweet child” on them.

So he pushes at some more buttons – “Ouyang Zizhen at least successfully had me believe that he needed acting tips to audition for the school’s theater production for a whole three minutes.”

“Yeah, alright, haha… I suck at lying. Anyways, nothing’s going on.”


“But… suppose something is… Um, are you in town?”

Nie Huaisang sighs for the third and final time. “Alright, what do you need?”

“Jin Ling needs a getaway.”

“By getaway, I don’t suppose you mean a vacation?”

“Nope, like, a getaway car.” comes the answer that Nie Huaisang dreaded. “Zizhen let us use his car, but he’s in class. Sizhui was supposed to drive, but Sizhui had to go help Jin Ling out and now Sizhui is stuck in a vent – he’s fine now! He just won’t be getting back in the car anytime soon and Jin Ling needs to get out of that area now or, uh… I don’t know, he says he can’t hide in the nice lady’s ice cream truck forever.”

“Oh, Gods.” Nie Huaisang despairs. Just what did these kids get themselves into? Had he not taught them better? Sure, he just teased and annoyed them most of the time while they were working together… but surely they at least learned some tricks? Precautions? If not from him, then at least from Jiang Cheng?

Lan Jingyi laughs. “Hey, he’s your nephew too, right?”

“My boyfriend’s nephew. That’s different. I don’t suppose his jiujiu knows, then?”

“Ah… haha… What do you think?”

“Lan Jingyi!” – oh, now they’ve done it.

They are making Nie Huaisang betray his one true love. His very grumpy, very strict, very judgy one true love who had explicitly told the boys ‘No More Crimes Until Graduation!’ – and to Nie Huaisang, specifically, ‘No More Encouraging Crimes Until Graduation!’.

Oh, Nie Huaisang is not having that. It’s so hard to find a handsome and sexy and perfect one true love these days, especially one who is cool with Nie Huaisang’s lifestyle of Crimes (for the Greater Good).

But someone really needs to pick Jin Ling up now.

“Fine.” he says. “Send me the pickup location. But we are talking about this later!”

“That’s what we like about you, shushu! So reliable!”

Ugh, Nie Huaisang hates that. He’s not supposed to be reliable! He works alone with only a few trusted contacts for things he can’t get done by himself. He takes on jobs that he likes, comes up with plans that he follows, gets them done and then he’s off to the next big catch. He’s not supposed to be anyone’s emergency contact.

Now they want him to be reliable. That’s not him, that’s Jiang Cheng!

‘Ah, what would Jiang Cheng do?’

Wait. Nie Huaisang knows what Jiang Cheng would do, actually.

He frowns, musters up his best ‘grumpy’ voice, and then says, “You’re on thin ice, young man.”



Barely a year ago, they finished the Jin Corp job. It was a success – or, well, as much of a success as it could be. It shook the business world to learn of all the atrocities done by Jin Guangyao and the rest of the Jin Corp higher-ups under the cover of the company, some even associated to past scandals of Wen Pharmaceuticals. The company had lost all its credibility in their field, and it would take a lot of time for Jin Guangyao or any of his associates to even try to recover from it all.

They celebrated for a full week – and then the boys had to go back to school – a reminder that they had only done this over the holidays and school break. And even after that, there was more work to be done.

Jobs that big always had collateral damage – Nie Huaisang knew that all too well. Thankfully, this one didn’t involve any deaths. But there were people down the line who got affected – innocent employees who lost their employers and company in one fell swoop.

Their little team did the best they could do. They made sure the employees got the best people to make sure they got fair compensation, that the media made it clear that the corruption was from the higher-ups and majority of the workers were doing honest work. They spent a good couple of months just monitoring the former workers. On the bright side, most of them had moved or branched out to other companies or jobs since.

With all that done, Nie Huaisang had packed his bags again.

Jiang Cheng let him go without much fuss. If anything, Wen Ning and the boys had looked more concerned than he was. Jin Ling in particular looked almost resentful when Nie Huaisang first told them that he’s moving on to his next job.

“Come on, don’t look at me like that, guys!” Nie Huaisang said with an awkward laugh. “I mean, yeah, I’m head over heels in love with your uncle and all, and it was nice to take revenge on the man who killed my only family, but let’s be real, taking this job on was a business deal. I’m an outsourced employee.” Then he gestured towards Jiang Cheng, who was sitting on the side, nursing a cup of coffee and… doing his taxes? Some boring adult thing like that. “Look – your Jiang-shushu isn’t even worried!”

Jiang Cheng had only raised an eyebrow at him. “Why would I be worried? I have your number.”

Nie Huaisang blinked. “What if I change it?”

“You won’t.”

He rolled his eyes, because as always – “He’s right. I won’t.” Then with a defeated smile, he tells the boys, “I promise to not change my number, so you can all still call me. Alright?”

“Oh. Alright.” Lan Jingyi said – because perhaps that was his primary concern? Losing contact?

“So… you and Jiang-shushu aren’t breaking up?” Ouyang Zizhen asked – because of course that was his concern.

“We’re not d-” Jiang Cheng had started, before just sighing in defeat. “No, Zizhen, there is no break-up.”

The boy sighed in relief. “Oh. Whew! I was really worried! You two make a great couple!”

“Can we call you… just to say hi?” Lan Sizhui asked – and Nie Huaisang knew he was not asking his full question out loud.

He simply smiled. “Of course, A-Yuan.”

Lan Sizhui had smiled back. Beside him, Wen Ning nodded happily for him. Nie Huaisang knew that they’ll be fine.

Then Jin Ling had asked, “Who will water your children?”

“I’m sorry?”

“Your cactus children. Princess, Jasmine, Little Love?”

“They have their father.” Nie Huaisang answers with a smile. “Also, they only need water every other week. Please do not water them everyday, A-Ling. They’ll die.”

Jin Ling scowled. “I’m not dumb. I know that.”

Nie Huaisang sighed, then smiled his most diplomatic smile. “I… will call every other week to check that they’ve been watered?”

That… seemed to do the trick. Jin Ling seemed appeased for the time being, huffing in a way that reminded Nie Huaisang so much of Jin Zixuan when they were younger, complete with a tell-tale little blush, as he finally turned away and said, “Sure. Whatever.”

Jiang Cheng had walked him to his car.

Finally alone, that was when Nie Huaisang asked, “A-Cheng, ah… are you really not worried?”

“No.” Jiang Cheng told him, honest and real – “I know I can find you whenever I want. You never exactly tried to hide from me, didn’t you? All those years?”

Nie Huaisang laughed. “How long did it take you to figure that out?”

“The moment when I decided to track you down, and found you so easily. I knew you could do better than that.”

“Ah, you underestimate your skills!” Nie Huaisang smiled. “But, yes. You have me whenever you want.”

“I know what you’re up to.” Jiang Cheng said. He seemed to consider his next words before continuing, “I know what you’re getting back into. Just… don’t overdo it, yeah?”

Nie Huaisang’s smile turned teasing,“Will you come to my rescue if I do?”

“I know you won’t do it. You’re too careful for that.” Jiang Cheng rolled his eyes, but he did move closer. “But sure, if you asked nicely.”

What a nice and sweet goodbye kiss that was. Nie Huaisang could only sigh dreamily now.

And that was that! He had left again, and worked alone, but things were a bit… different.

He never really went too far.

He called every other week, to check that his ‘cactus children’ have been watered.

Lan Sizhui had called him, once, to say ‘hi’, and to ask a couple more questions.

Ouyang Zizhen had called too, to ask, more bluntly, “That museum scandal on the news? With the stolen art? Was that you?” – and yes, that was him.

Nie Huaisang regularly sent absurd thoughts and funny photos to Jiang Cheng, who sent his own biting commentary back.

Jiang Cheng hadn’t taken up any of his offers to join him on a grift – (“It’ll be like a date, A-Cheng! But we’ll be making some rich capitalist bankrupt! Wouldn’t that be fun?”) – but Nie Huaisang had since discovered what Jiang Cheng’s love language was – (“No, thanks, we’re kinda busy here in the office – but I think I have something that might interest you.”)

That was when Nie Huaisang received an e-mail full of intel with rich, rich dirt on his mark.

Ah, Jiang Cheng… such a romantic! Nie Huaisang is in love.



-and things worked, like that. It’s been a nice few months. Nie Huaisang is very much comfortable with their current arrangement.

Until a month ago when the ‘kids’ – because they are still kids, Nie Huaisang decides – have started to call him semi-regularly.

First, it was Lan Jingyi – who just asked if he’s in town. That was all. That was weird, but Lan Jingyi is always weird and up to something, so Nie Huaisang decided to sit it out and wait until whatever it was unfolds.

Then, Lan Sizhui also called – this time to update him that Wen Ning had gone out of town, just for family reasons, nothing to write home about. Nie Huaisang thanked him – because it is nice to know how Wen Ning is doing these days. Lan Sizhui also asked him if he was in town, but Nie Huaisang assumed that was just part of pleasantries. Lan Sizhui is a very polite boy (-and a good liar, but that’s beside the point).

There had been a couple more calls, including Ouyang Zizhen asking for acting tips, and some increasingly concerning questions about increasingly concerning hypothetical scenarios – ‘what would you do if’s and ‘what should we say when’s.

Nie Huaisang had actually decided that after his current job, it would be good to tip Jiang Cheng off to look in on the boys, just in case there’s anything to be concerned about.

But it seems like he would have to expedite that.

Because he just picked Jin Ling up from whatever he and his friends have been up to, and the boy looked haggard and maybe a bit traumatized.

Nie Huaisang hightails it out of there as fast as he could go without looking suspicious.

He makes a mental note to ask Lan Jingyi if he would have to ditch his car.

Damn, he really likes this one. He had a good time stealing it.

“Thanks, shushu.” Jin Ling says once they are peacefully (hopefully) not running for their lives anymore.

“Do I want to know?” Nie Huaisang asks, resigned.

“Sorry.” Jing Ling looks down. For once, he does look as young as he is – sincerely apologetic. “It just… you know.”

“I actually don’t. What, exactly- Wait, no. I don’t wanna know, after all. I need some kind of deniability in all this.” Nie Huaisang says, frantically shaking his head. “And I thrive in saying ‘I don’t know’. I look cute doing it! Your uncle will forgive me easier if I don’t know.”

“It’s not that big of a deal-”

“It shouldn’t have been a deal at all. You boys shouldn’t be doing this.” Nie Huaisang says. He sighs. “I really shouldn’t have waited. I should have stopped you the minute I thought something was up, I should have told your uncle-”

Jin Ling cuts him off with a desperate, “It just got out of hand for a bit!”

Nie Huaisang inhales sharply. “Out of hand?” He notices that even Jin Ling fell quiet at that, noting his change in demeanor. Nie Huaisang tries to even out his voice as he says, “A-Ling, you of all people, should know how bad things could get when a job gets out of hand.”

The boy goes quiet.

Nie Huaisang does too, keeping his eyes on the road, letting the words sink in.

“I just… We… wanted to help.” Jin Ling says, after a while. “We were helping someone. This girl I go to school with.”

“I know. You only have the best intentions.” Nie Huaisang nods, fully understanding. He’s been there. He’s part of the reason these boys were so familiar about this world, after all. “I don’t have any right to stop you, either. But I was there when your jiujiu made you promise to stop doing this until at least after you’re older, and you said yes. I can’t hold anything over you, A-Ling. But you broke a promise to your uncle.”

Jin Ling looks resigned as he rests his head on the car window, looking out into the busy streets. “So I guess you’re telling him.”

“It depends. Do you want him to hear it from me, or from you?”

The teen sighs and he looks dreadful as he says, “Me. I’ll tell him.”

Good, Nie Huaisang thinks. Young troublemakers should feel dreadful every once in a while.

“You will.” he nods. “And Lan Jingyi, and Lan Sizhui, and Ouyang Zizhen will too.”

“Fuck.” Jin Ling says.



Nie Huaisang realizes what just happened and pouts. Gods, listen to him! He’s being a responsible adult! That is very much not fun.

Then, in a total tangent, Jin Ling asks, “Hey, will you be in town long? And will you be busy?”

And then Nie Huaisang remembers – “Okay, what is the deal with that? You boys are up to something- no, something else. Not.. this… whatever this is you’re doing now. No, it’s something else, because I refuse to believe you’ve been bugging me for the past two weeks just because you need a backup getaway driver today.”

Jin Ling looks away quickly. Nie Huaisang sees right through it.

“I’m dead on, huh? So what is this other thing? Why me, and not your uncle? Is it about him?”


“Because if this is about keeping secrets from your jiujiu, I’m out. You’re one of the few non-negotiables between us. Whatever you tell me, I am telling him if it’s for your own good.”

“But shushu-”

“Unless it’s a surprise party! Is it a surprise party?”

At that, Jin Ling stares at him. “A what?”

Nie Huaisang looks disappointed. “Oh. So it’s not a surprise party.”

Jin Ling looks more disappointed. “Shushu, it’s December.”


“His birthday is in November.”

So? I’m a meticulous planner, A-Ling.”

Jin Ling shakes his head, and looks back out the window, mumbling ‘ridiculous’ under his breath.

It’s very Jiang Cheng. Nie Huaisang almost coos.

After a while, Jin Ling asks another question, “Why did you leave?”

Nie Huaisang doesn’t quite know how to approach that. He takes a deep breath, and then picks his most diplomatic answer, “I have work somewhere else. You know that.”

“I thought you were staying. With jiujiu. Like, for good. Didn’t you want to do that?”

Nie Huaisang smiles. “I guess… no. For now. And anyway, it’s not that big of a deal. The distance, I mean.”

Jin Ling frowns a bit, not disagreeing yet, just trying to understand – “You’re okay being away from each other?”

“We’re both used to it, so… I guess so.”

“Isn’t it nicer to be together?”

“It is nice, A-Ling. But… ah, I don’t know how to explain it! We’re doing fine right now. You know we still talk, constantly. We just… appreciate being on our own, too.“

“For now, right?”

That, Nie Huaisang could read well. He’d been seeing signs of Jin Ling sticking to this line of thought for a while. “Are you asking if we might… settle? Someday?”

“Guess so.” Jin Ling shrugs. “If you really like him, I mean. You should marry him, shushu.”

Nie Huaisang almost crashes the car right then and there.

He knew this is where Jin Ling was getting at – but he didn’t expect him to just say it.


“I’m just saying. So the aunties at our gym will stop being so thirsty and annoying and they won’t ask me stuff about him anymore.” Jin Ling says, face scrunched up. “Some of them even asked for his calling card, so they can get his number.”

That gets him to giggle. “Oh Gods. Did he give them his card?”

“Yeah, ‘cause he thought it was for work. Like maybe they have stuff for him to investigate.” Jin Ling snorts. “Then when they were just flirting with him, he blocked their numbers.”

Nie Huaisang bursts out laughing, and even Jin Ling snorts, muffling his own laughter with his hand.

“That was good! Very good… Ah, thank you for telling me that, A-Ling.”

“So are you gonna marry him?”

“Jin Ling, are you proposing to me for your uncle?” Nie Huaisang asks, amused. “I don’t know if he’ll appreciate that.”

“It’s for the greater good.” Jin Ling says. “And my peace of mind.”

“I’ll think about it.” Nie Huaisang chuckles. “For the record though, your jiujiu is a very attractive man – I really don’t think those aunties will stop flirting with him, even with a ring on his finger.”

Jin Ling looks disgusted. “Ugh, aunties.”

“Ugh, aunties indeed.”



Nie Huaisang drops Jin Ling off a few streets away from where he knows Lan Jingyi’s apartment is.

“You’re still going on that job?” Jin Ling asks, standing outside the car.

“Yeah, I want to get this one over with.” Nie Huaisang shrugs. “We shouldn’t keep our mark waiting-”

“-because it gives them time to think and they might start getting suspicious.” Jin Ling finishes, nodding obediently.

“Aw, some of my lessons stuck! Very good!” Nie Huaisang claps his hands. “Anyway, for now, you boys clean up after this… whatever-this-is of yours, okay?”

“Sure. Thanks again for picking me up.”

“Anytime. And hey, I might pay a visit to your uncle after this.” Nie Huaisang says. “Get started on that proposal you were suggesting.”

Jin Ling scrunches up his nose. “Ew. But also, sure. Please. Actually, yes, go do that.”

Nie Huaisang laughs. “Bye, A-Ling.”

“Bye, shushu.”

And then he’s off.

My, what an eventful lunchbreak.




Jiang Cheng hasn’t seen Nie Huaisang in months.

Okay, they talk every other week, and they had a video call one time.

Did he miss having Nie Huaisang there? Yes. Did he complain to the succulents about it once or twice? Sure. Was he sulky about it? Absolutely not.

Nie Huaisang is a presence in his life who is off doing something else someplace else that Jiang Cheng is better off not knowing the full details of.

Like he had always been.

Except this time, there were no more mysterious postcards. They’ve been replaced by cute or funny animal photos at random times of the day.

And that’s fine.

But he wouldn’t complain if Nie Huaisang popped by once in a while.

Like now, after his usual weekly workout – as he makes his way out the gym and Nie Huaisang is right there in the lobby, happily chatting up Miss Li, the nice receptionist.

Jiang Cheng’s first thought is ‘Why is he dressed in short shorts in this weather? That’s not good.’ – and he thinks this not because he is opposed to the very short shorts, but because he can see the ladies, other regulars hanging out in the lobby couch, eyeing Nie Huaisang and looking like they’re debating which one of them should come over and cover him up.

His next thought is ‘Oh, no. Did something happen?’ – and that is distracting enough that Nie Huaisang steals the first greeting between them.

“Ah, there he is! A-Cheng!” Nie Huaisang waves. He smiles and nods politely at a surprised Miss Li before jogging over to him. “Hi!”

“Hi.” Jiang Cheng blinks, opening his arms automatically when Nie Huaisang breaches the polite greeting distance between them and goes straight to wrapping his arms around Jiang Cheng’s torso. “What’s happening-”

“Nothing’s wrong, just do something me.” Nie Huaisang says quickly under his breath, still smiling a perfect smile. “Kiss me?”

That’s easy. Jiang Cheng leans down and kisses his forehead. “Happy?”

“Hm, it should be good enough, I guess.” Nie Huaisang giggles.

Jiang Cheng catches an audible gasp from somewhere- oh- there, the ladies on the couch. And- huh- They are frantically whispering to each other now. Jiang Cheng knows most of them by face or name because they’re regulars, and some of them had even tried to- Oh. Wait. What? But why- How-

“What did you just make me do?” he asks lowly, trying to keep a smile on his face because- well, that was kinda funny.

“The most fun of cons.” Nie Huaisang whispers, delighted. “Shocking aunties.”

Jiang Cheng rolls his eyes. “You couldn’t have warned me?”

“Surprise- oh!” and Nie Huaisang gets cut off because Jiang Cheng kisses him on the lips, right then and there. He blinks when they’re done. “Okay.”

Ah, his A-Cheng… He always delivers.

They hear a shocked, muffled cry of “No!” from the distance and they both decide they’ve done enough damage for the day.

“Let’s get out of here.” Jiang Cheng says, wrapping an arm around Huaisang’s shoulder as he leads him out.

Nie Huaisang turns to wave at the receptionist on their way. “It’s nice to meet you, Miss Li! A-Ling is waiting for us at home, so we’ll get going now!”

Jiang Cheng also nods at the woman. “See you next week, Miss Li.”

“S-See you, Mister… Jiang…” Miss Li says, voice floundering as she alternates between waving back at them, and looking concerned towards the scandalized ladies on the lobby couch.


They break down in laughter when they get to the car, and as soon as they’re inside, Nie Huaisang leans over and steals a proper, longer, sweeter kiss, which Jiang Cheng returns without missing a beat.

They part almost hesitantly, Jiang Cheng not entirely willing to let go of Nie Huaisang just yet as he asks, “Right. Who put you up to this?”

“No one.” Nie Huaisang says. He realizes that amid all the enthusiastic kissing, he had ended up partly straddling Jiang Cheng in the driver’s seat – which is ridiculous and makes him feel like a clumsy teenager again – so he gingerly moves to sit properly on the passenger seat. “Okay, Jin Ling and I were having a little chat, and he started complaining about gym aunties and such, and did you know they annoyed him so much he started proposing to me in your stead?”

“Ah.” Jiang Cheng nods, taking his keys out and starting the car. “Yeah, they do bother him sometimes.”

“He said, and I quote – ‘For my peace of mind’. A-Cheng, the poor boy’s been through it.” Nie Huaisang laughs.

Jiang Cheng huffs in amusement, already seeing his nephew’s annoyed expression as he starts to drive out of the parking lot. “And since when were you and Jin Ling chatting with each other?”

“Ah. About that.”

Jiang Cheng hits the brakes and looks at him.

Nie Huaisang smiles his sweetest smile. “Sadly, I didn’t just come here to have fun shocking aunties with you.”

Jiang Cheng sighs his deepest sigh, and he mentally counts backwards from ten, before he says, “I’m not gonna like this, am I?”

Nie Huaisang looks like he’s trying to hold back – his tears or his laughter – Jiang Cheng isn’t sure which. “When we get home, the boys will be there-”

“What did they do.” – it wasn’t even a question. Just a general statement of dread.

“No, it’s not gonna come from me.” Nie Huaisang says decisively. “I just need to you know that- Wait, actually I don’t know what they did. I’m sure it’s not that bad. Probably.”

Jiang Cheng looks unimpressed. “Uh-huh.”

“But before we get there! Before we get there, I need you to remember that you care for these boys very much, and they adore and respect you, and that they are good kids who just wanna do good in the world-”

Jiang Cheng looks at him in terror. “Did they murder someone?”

“No!” – Nie Huaisang says, then because he actually does not know the full details, he amends it with, “Probably not? I-”

Jiang Cheng looks more terrified. “Did someone die?”

“No!” – Nie Huaisang answers, then he does a quick mental tally – he did get replies from all four boys, right? And Wen Ning? Yes. Yes, he did! “I’m quite sure no one is dead. Stop going there! You’re freaking me out too!”

And somehow, that makes Jiang Cheng snort, and then laugh.

Nie Huaisang watches Jiang Cheng laugh, and he bites his lip and sighs.

A few more of this and he might just start seriously considering to stay.

But that’s for another time.

“Alright.” Jiang Cheng says, catching his breath now. “Alright, I’ll try to be patient, since no one’s dead. Though I can’t make any promises that I won’t kill at least one of them when they’re done telling me about whatever it is they did this time.”

Nie Huaisang just chuckles, shaking his head.

Jiang Cheng squints at him. “Why are you looking at me like that?”

“Nothing.” Nie Huaisang says, leaning forward and kissing his cheek. Then he leans back and relaxes against his seat. “I just missed you, I guess.”

Jiang Cheng stares at him for a long moment.

Then, he asks, “Are you dying?”

Nie Huaisang cries – “No!”




Jiang Cheng stayed silent the entire time the quartet of teenage vigilante do-gooders seated in his living room couch were explaining their latest adventure.

He stayed silent for a full minute afterwards, too.

“So, let me get this straight.” he says, before Lan Jingyi can complain that he is taking too long to process all of it. “A-Ling and Zizhen’s classmate’s family was in trouble with a scammer running a notorious pyramid scheme, you guys looked it up, planned a whole con by yourselves which went, I quote – ‘a bit out of hand’ – and it was a close call but you managed in the end, with a little lucky assist from Huaisang here, who was running his own con today, and who you guys have also been bothering for the past few weeks because… why, again?”

“Because we want to pull another, bigger con. And we want him on the team again.” Zizhen says, brightly. “And you too, Jiang-shushu! We need our mastermind!”

Jiang Cheng looks at him in disbelief before sighing and running a hand over his face. “I’m surrounded by criminals.”

“Hey, takes one to know one-” Lan Jingyi starts, and shuts up just as quick when a death glare is sent his way. “Okay! Sheesh. Touchy.”

Nie Huaisang, from his perch on the armrest of the loveseat where Wen Ning is sitting, sighs.

“Let’s set aside this shiny new con that you want us for.” Jiang Cheng says, slowly. “Let’s talk about the one from today. First off – what the hell were you thinking?

Wen Ning says, “Language.”

“I’m sorry.” Jiang Cheng says sourly, then turns to the others again. “What the FUCK were you thinking?!

The teens flinch, all guilty.

“A-Cheng,” Nie Huaisang starts, voice soft and appeasing. “They apologized.”

Jiang Cheng doesn’t look back at him, but he does look towards the ceiling, and takes another breath before speaking to his makeshift wards. “I have half a mind to tell your parents what you’ve been up to.”

Zizhen, Jingyi and Sizhui look alarmed, while Jin Ling opens his mouth to retort-

“None of you were hurt?” Jiang Cheng asks, voice more even.

“Just a couple of bruises.” Jin Ling says.

Beside him, Sizhui nods. “We’re fine, shushu.”

“I have a splitting headache.” Lan Jingyi adds. “But I’m fine too.”

“I wasn’t even there.” Zizhen says, in despair at having missed the exciting parts.

Jiang Cheng scowls. “Good. Lan Jingyi, you’re sure this can’t be traced back to any of you?”

Lan Jingyi nods. “Yep. I scrubbed footage and the other stuff clean.”

“I can take a second look to make sure.” Wen Ning volunteers.

“Please do.” Jiang Cheng says. “We gotta make sure your darling nephews and their friends can’t be connected to that mess.”

Wen Ning nods. Nie Huaisang leans against his side and whispers, “Thanks.” The other man simply smiles.

“That brings us to this other, bigger, new con of yours.” Jiang Cheng continues. He notes their surprise at him moving on so quickly. Has he forgiven them about today yet? “You thought of telling Nie Huaisang first, who we didn’t even know would be in town, before me? Even while you were still counting on me to come up with a plan?”

Jin Ling looks guiltily, “Jiujiu, it’s just- I knew what you would say!”

“Yeah, Nie-shushu had, like, a higher chance of convincing you to do it?” Ouyan Zizhen added.

Jiang Cheng scoffs. “Well, you should know that Nie-shushu is a snitch, and he would have told me the moment you brought it up to him, anyway.”

“No, he wouldn’t!” Lan Jingyi says.

“Yes, he would.” Lan Sizhui says back.

That made them all stop.

“Points to Sizhui.” Nie Huaisang says, grinning. “I would never bypass your Jiang-shushu’s authority on you guys unless it’s for funsies. I’m the fun uncle.”

“But cons are fun!” Lan Jingyi.

Nie Huaisang shrugs. “Cons are fun together, Jingyi. That means I want my boyfriend and I both in it. And I won’t have that if sneak behind his back. So yes, Nie-shushu is a snitch.”

Lan Jingyi squints at Lan Sizhui, who also shrugs at him.

“So don’t even try.” Nie Huaisang says. “Because you all owe me a favor. Lan Jingyi, I don’t know who was gonna get kidnapped last week, but I gave you a distraction to use for that.”

Lan Jingyi looked away.

“I told Jin Ling what to say to get past those ‘hypothetical’ suspicious guards.”

Jin Ling just buries his face in Fairy’s fur.

“I gave Zizhen instructions on how to hook in that mark when he asked. Yes, Zizhen, I knew that wasn’t for auditions.” he continues, looking at Zizhen, who looks dismayed. “Don’t worry, you’re still my favorite.”

Zizhen quickly brightens up. “Thank you, shushu! I appreciate all the tips!”

“And Sizhui-…. well, he owes me a coffee.” Nie Huaisang says, smiling at Sizhui. “Don’t you, sweetie?”

Sizhui smiles back. “I’ll pay you for that coffee, shushu.”

“So,” Jiang Cheng finally says, “now that that’s settled, and we’re all here – what is this new job you want us to take on this time?”

There was a moment where the four teens just let that sink in – the fact that Jiang Cheng is asking them about the new job-

“I’m not saying we’ll do it. But I’m going to hear you out because otherwise, you brats won’t shut up about it anyway, would you?”

Nie Huaisang looks at the man’s expression – tired, resigned, but still focused.

“Yeah, sorry, just a quick question.” Lan Jingyi chimes in, raising a hand as if in class. He points at Nie Huaisang, “What kind of con were you doing today? Those clothes are a choice, it’s winter. I’m just really curious-”

Nie Huaisang blushes. “O-oh, that con’s done! This is for, uh, there was a lil something at the gym-”

Jin Ling raises his head from his slump with Fairy. “Are the aunties not gonna bother me anymore?”

…and because apparently, what Jin Ling knows, Ouyang Zizhen also knows, he follows up with “Are you getting married?”

Nie Huaisang just beams at them and says, “Let’s focus! Sizhui, what is the new con about?”

Lan Sizhui blinks, catches up whip-fast and nods. “O-oh! Remember Mo Xuanyu? Jin Guangyao’s former assistant? Zizhen befriended him during the con, right?”

Ouyang Zizhen takes that as his cue. “He got a new job in a new company and he’s doing well. Since he thinks I’m also a former Jin Corp employee, he asked if I got ‘scouted’ too. Apparently, he and other former employees have been contacted by this new private firm? They’re looking to acquire people with, his words, ‘inside knowledge’.”

Lan Jingyi is ready with his tablet, which he hands to Jiang Cheng. “After a bit of digging we found out that this new firm shares many resources with Su Security Solutions, which-”

“-is connected to Jin Corp.” Jiang Cheng nods, expression still focused as he reads through the information on the tablet screen. “Former employees, inside knowledge… they’re tracking someone down. One of the employees know something, probably not about Jin Corp, since we’ve uncovered all of those… but with Su Security…”

Nie Huaisang feels Wen Ning lean back against him. “We’re gonna do it.” the man whispers.

Nie Huaisang looks at Jiang Cheng’s expression, then at Wen Ning and nods. “We are.”

They wait in tense silence as Jiang Cheng reads the info once, twice, a third time. “A loose end, huh.”

He looks back up, handing Lan Jingyi the tablet back.

“Let’s tie it up, then.”

Nie Huaisang watches as the teens rejoice, grabbing at each other in excitement, while Jiang Cheng tries to calm them down and establish some ground rules if they’re doing this again.

Here it is, Nie Huaisang thinks. More danger. For the greater good.

He’s so glad he’s in town to catch this.


They order dinner and eat together as Jiang Cheng lays down how they’d gather the intel they need to come up with a good scheme.

Afterwards, Lan Jingyi says he’ll go home to grab his equipment again. Lan Sizhui, Ouyang Zizhen and Wen Ning also opted to go home for the night.

While they all cleaned up and got ready to leave, Sizhui sidles up to Nie Huaisang.

“Nie-shushu… Thanks for… well, the coffee?”

Nie Huaisang looks at the teen and pats his head. “A-Yuan. You know I love getting coffee with you.”

That makes the boy laugh. He laughs so much like Wei Ying, Nie Huaisang thinks.

He checks that they’re out of anyone else’s earshot before he conitnues, “But you know that I’d have to tell A-Cheng, right? When he’s calmer?”

“Yeah… You don’t think he’ll be… mad, right?”

“At you? No. But you know, even if your dad knows, about this whole thing, it’s not like he will barge in here with the police to report the team or anything. That’s not him. But he will worry, Sizhui. You have to tell him what you’re up to, and well… let’s hope for the best.”

“Will you help me talk to him, if he… reacts badly?”

Nie Huaisang sighs. “I can’t promise that he’ll be pleased to see me. But sure. Wangji is tall and scary, but I grew up with him, I think that’ll help me talk to him a bit.”

Sizhui nods, relieved. “Thanks, shushu.”

They share a hug, then Nie Huaisang waves him and Wen Ning goodbye.


Meanwhile, Jiang Cheng watches Jin Ling put on a coat and a scarf, getting ready to leave, having volunteered to go with Lan Jingyi to help him pack his stuff.

“A-Ling.” Jiang Cheng calls. Jin Ling trudges towards him sheepishly, probably still guilty about today’s shenanigans. “You guys drive safe.”

“Yes, jiujiu.”

Then he asks, “Why didn’t you come to me?”

Jin Ling looks up at him, blinking. “W-What?”

“When you were in trouble earlier. You didn’t ask Lan Jingyi to call me. You had him call Nie Huaisang instead?”

“O-Oh, I-…” Jin Ling starts, then looks down. “Sorry, jiujiu… I just… I knew you’d be mad.”

“You were right.” Jiang Cheng says, stern, but he softens up quickly, laying a hand on his nephew’s head. “But I would never be mad enough that I won’t come to help you. You know that, right?”

“I know, jiujiu.” Jin Ling nods, honest. “It won’t happen again.”

“Good.” Jiang Cheng says. “And what is it I heard about you wanting me to get married?”

Jin Ling steps back. “T-That’s-! That’s nothing! He’s teasing you- me- us!”

Jiang Cheng raises an eyebrow. “I didn’t even think you two were that close.”

“We’re not! We were just… talking… about something else-”

“Something else?”


Jiang Cheng narrows his eyes. “Jin Ling. You’re keeping more stuff from me?”

The boy looks away. “No! I mean, yeah- Not anymore- I don’t know, we were talking about your-… Um. Your surprise party!”

Jiang Cheng looks at him, unimpressed. “My surprise party.”

“T-That’s right.”

“It’s December. My birthday’s not until November.”

“We’re meticulous planners, jiujiu.” Jin Ling huffs, and before his uncle can ask further, he turns to leave, dragging a protesting Lan Jingyi with him. “Bye, jiujiu! We’ll drive safe!”

Jiang Cheng stares after them, shakes his head, and just goes back to cleaning up.





That left Nie Huaisang and Jiang Cheng alone for the night.

Well, there’s Fairy, but she’s sleeping peacefully in the living room.

Nie Huaisang sits on the windowsill, fussing over his succulents, smiling softly at them. They’re pretty as ever, well taken care of.

Jiang Cheng stands across from him, arms crossed, leaning against the wall.

“So where were you planning to spend New Year’s Eve?“ he asks.

Nie Huaisang looks up with a raised brow and a sly smile. “Jiang Cheng, is that an invitation? To spend the holidays with you again?”

Jiang Cheng rolls his eyes. “I’m just asking… if the boys didn’t start to bug you and bother you with this shiny new con, would you have gone home? Or made plans to?”

Nie Huaisang blinks.

Did Jiang Cheng just call this place Nie Huaisang’s home?

He wouldn’t be wrong, that’s what Nie Huaisang has been calling it for a while now, but it just surprised him to hear it said so directly.

As usual, he masks his flustered reaction by looking away, hiding behind his curtain of hair. “If you should know, then yes. I was always planning on coming back. Only I thought it’d be more romantic and sexy, like I can wear some cute lingerie and wait for you when you come home after work and say ‘happy holidays’ – but alas, I had to make do with these trashy short shorts and giving your lady friends from the gym a heart attack-”

Jiang Cheng huffs. “Liar.”

“Hey!” Nie Huaisang whines. “Fine, I had no plans for the surprise yet, but it’s true, I was gonna come back!”

“It sounded good, though. You just came up with that?”

“Yeah, I’m a grifter, I’m good at improv.” Nie Huaisang huffs, then realizes what the other man just said. “Wait, which part did you like, the lingerie bit? Or these shorts? Because, not gonna lie, if you rip this one off me, I won’t be mad, I don’t wanna wear them again, ever, they’re uncomfortable-

Jiang Cheng sighs then holds out his hand. “You idiot.”

Nie Huaisang looks at him. He takes the offered hand, then lets the other man pull him up, then closer.

“I asked a simple question. I could do with a simple answer.” Jiang Cheng says, wrapping his arms around him, leaning down, pressing their foreheads together. “Were you always planning on coming home?”

Nie Huaisang melts against him, holding on to the other’s shirt. He nods. “Yes.” he answers, simple and true. “Always.”

Jiang Cheng nods back. “That’s all I need.”

And then they kiss, soft, sweet and unhurried.

Nie Huaisang smiles. He never saw himself settling, with children or even a husband, but he had always wanted a family.

This is all he needs.






lol Su She u goin down boi

i am writing & posting this as the fireworks are starting. anyway, i just wanna say it sucked that i wasn’t able to write more this year but what i had, u guys always accepted with love & support so THANK YOU THANK YOU MWAHHHH I LOVE UUUU I GOTTA RUN NOW


(title is from another line in Vintage by NIKI, which is also my inspo for the first fic!)

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