up on melancholy hill

06 May 2021

At any other time, Nie Mingjue would have teased his brother relentlessly and given Jiang Wanyin the worst terrifying talking-to of his life. But they’re in hiding and on the run, being hunted by both their own people and the rest of the world – and this is such a painfully normal teenage thing to experience in the midst of all the bullshit they’re dealing with.

Nie Mingjue figures that he can let his brother have this much, at least.

(Snapshots of some quiet moments during a war)

Chapters: 10
Words: 21,652

up on melancholy hill

Chapter 5


Wei Wuxian takes a moment.

Chapter Notes:

we can have wangxian. as a treat!



Wei Wuxian tries to breathe slowly. One, two, three, in. One, two, three, out. He repeats it, and he repeats it again. And again.

It’s fine. Act natural! he tells himself. You’re good at that!

He pointedly ignores the fact that he had been good at ‘acting natural’ before only because he still had the privilege to do so.

He doesn’t have that anymore.

A group of teens passes by the aisle he’s in, chatting and laughing with each other. He bows his head and hopes he looks inconspicuous enough as he pretends to examine the label on a box of crackers.

One, two, three, in. One, two, three, out. Like they taught him at Gusu. Ah, he wonders what Uncle Master Lan would say about his attempts to calm down, to keep his emotions under control.

“Wei Ying.”

He startles, almost drops the box he’s holding, but he knows that voice, so he just turns to his companion and pulls up a smile.

“Lan Zhan! You surprised me!” he says, laughing. “You should stop sneaking up on people, you know! Geez.”

“Sorry.” Lan Wangji says, brows furrowed slightly at him. “Are you alright?”

Wei Wuxian blinks. “What? Yeah, of course, why wouldn’t I be?”

If it were a few months ago, Wei Wuxian would have missed the slight twitch in the other’s lips that on others would be a full on frown. But now that he’s spent enough time with Lan Wangji over the past few months – first in Qinghe, then in Gusu, and even now on their trip back to Qinghe, he’s gotten quite good at reading the other.

“Are we done? You got our stuff for the trip?”

Lan Wangji nods, lifting the shopping basket in his hand. “You?”

“Yeah!” Wei Wuxian grins again, barely sparing a glance at the basket’s contents – surely Lan Wangji would have gotten what they really need, being efficient as he is. He just casually adds his box of crackers in it before turning around and starting to walk. “C’mon, let’s go. A-Ning must be bored waiting for us outside already-”

Lan Wangji looks at the baskets, then moves to follow him. “Wei Ying.”

“Lan Zhan!”

“What flavor did you get?”

Wei Wuxian almost trips, but continues to walk towards the convenience store cashier and doesn’t look back at him. “Huh? What, it’s right there with you, right?”

“Yes. But what flavor?”

“Uh-… It’s plain crackers, Lan Zhan. You don’t like other flavors, so-”

“This is chocolate.”

Wei Wuxian stops walking and turns to him with a shaky smile. “Oh. Oh, yeah, my bad. I’ll just go get the plain ones, no big-”

“Wei Ying.” This time Wangji steps forward, walking right up to him, not hiding his concern. “Are you okay? No lying-”

“We’re not in Gusu, Lan Zhan.” Wei Ying says, looking away. “I can lie all I want. I’m fine-” He’s alert enough to notice his companion reaching his free hand out towards him, and he takes a step back. “Don’t.”

Lan Wangji looks at him with wide eyes, hand frozen mid-reach before he looks down and drops it to his side. “I’m sorry.”

Wei Wuxian is quick to realize his mistake. “Ah- Lan Zhan, I… I just mean- You don’t have to, not right now. I’m doing fine. It’s okay-”

Lan Wangji was only trying to help. But that’s the problem, isn’t it? He’s always trying to help.

Wei Wuxian has never needed so much help before.

Then they hear it, again – the loud chatting and laughing of the teenagers from several aisles over, and the words they’ve been throwing around carelessly-

“All of them-”

“-fighting each other like savages-”

“-government just busted another one of those hideouts-”

“-just a number of them left, right?”

Wei Wuxian tries to breathe.

One, two, three, in.

He’s angry. He’d never been angry for himself, before. He grew up without a gift, despite his parents and almost everyone else in the Jiang safehouse having one. He’d never had to experience those kinds of words directed at him, but he knew how it hurt Uncle Jiang, A-Cheng and Yanli-jie, and even Madam Yu, though she never showed it.

He’d never had to be angry for himself – he’s not one of them – he could only be angry on their behalf, at the kind of lies the public spins up about the family that took him in after both his parents died protecting their people – the many good people in the very safehouse he grew up in, all the other people with gifts.

One, two, three, out.

He’s afraid. He’s never had this kind of fear, before. Wei Wuxian used to be ‘normal’. Until a few months ago, after his home burned, and his gifts manifested for the first time. He had always been afraid for his family, for his friends, for the safehouse, but not for himself.

He’d always had the privilege, the luxury to be among other people outside the safety of Lotus Pier without getting discriminated against. He’s never had to hide.

“-should just turn themselves in-”

“-hope that Wen guy gets rid of ‘em already-”

“-needs to go, too, he’s one of them-”

Breathe, Wei Wuxian tells himself, trying to remember what few lessons he’d managed to take to heart during his stay in Gusu. They’re not in Gusu anymore, they’re in a goddamn convenience store surrounded by civilians.

One, two, three, in.

He has to hide. He knows he has to hide. Wen Ruohan had caught wind of the Lans in Caiyi and had sent people to attack them, and Wei Wuxian is terrified because the only reason they all survived was because he had been there, he had fought back using a gift he could neither understand nor control, and none of the Wens nor their people expected someone like him among the supposedly quiet and peaceful Lans.

(And he almost didn’t stop.)

(It’s been giving him nightmares. Wasn’t his gift’s cost supposed to be that he gets tired? How come he loses control over his own head too?)

They’d had to run, the Lans and the few remaining people under their protection – they’d all scattered and headed to separate, smaller safehouses of much smaller factions.

Lan Xichen had told Wei Wuxian, Lan Wangji and Wen Ning to head back to Qinghe: “Wen Ruohan will be looking for you, when he hears what you can do.”

Lan Xichen had been very gentle and kind when he said it, but Wei Wuxian knows what he really wanted to say: that Wei Wuxian now has a target on his back and the Lans – teachers and scholars first, and never fighters – they won’t be able to protect him anymore.

One, two, three, out.

He has to run – and fast, though it weighs on him. Yes, their best fighters were in Qinghe. Yes, that’s even more dangerous – to lead the enemy to their last line of defense. Yes, Nie Mingjue had told him to come back, to not worry, that he’ll be safer with them. But Wei Wuxian also knew that this is a risk.

Wen Ruohan likes to collect. The man may be drunk with power, but he is smart and he likes having people with unique, powerful gifts under his control.

(He’d been trying to get Nie Huaisang for a while – they all knew that’s why Nie Mingjue keeps his brother close at all times. He’d offered not to burn Lotus Pier if Jiang Fengmian would give him Jiang Cheng – and he made good on his threats when the man refused. Wei Wuxian wonders now if the Jins only kept complacent as a compromise for Jin Zixuan’s safety.)

(People had said Wen Ruohan is only doing these to compensate for none of his sons having a gift, despite his own being one of the most powerful and dangerous of all.)

(Others had said that he wants to ‘steal’ those gifts and give them to his sons. If that’s even possible.)

(Either way, they’ll be his .)

“-good, all of them should just be rounded up and-”


Wei Wuxian is angry and scared. He has to run and hide. He can feel his flimsy control, the cold sensation of his gift, overtaking him again. Breathe, just breathe, he tells himself. He doesn’t want to manipulate people, doesn’t want to control them against their will. He doesn’t want this gift, he needs it to stop-

When he looks up, he sees Lan Wangji, still there, still standing in front of him, his eyes downcast, his grip on the basket tight.

He’d heard all of that, too. Of course he had.

Unlike Wei Wuxian, he’d been hearing those words all his life.

“Lan Zhan-”

Lan Wangji looks up, and when he does, Wei Wuxian is surprised at what he sees.

Concern. For him .

One, in. Two, three, out.

Wei Wuxian sighs, then steps forward and takes his friend’s free hand, giving it a light squeeze. Lan Wangji twines their fingers together. Instantly, Wei Wuxian feels calmer, and the ice-cold sensation of his powers threatening to burst out of him subsides, like boiling water settling down to a simmer.

He smiles. “Let’s just get out of here.”


The driver looks concerned when they file inside the bus.

“Your friend alright?” the driver asks them, tipping his head at Wen Ning, who is all bundled up complete with a beanie and face mask, and looking very pale.

Wen Ning blinks, looking down.

Act natural . Wei Wuxian tells himself again. You can’t be terrified forever.

He feels Lan Wangji’s hand squeeze his own. He hasn’t let go since they’d left the convenience store.

“Ah, he just has a bit of a cold, uncle!” he says with his usual grin. “He’ll sleep it off. We got a long trip, anyway.”

The man nods. “Where are you boys getting off?” he asks. The bus is awfully quiet even as they settle down. There are only a few other passengers this late in the night, and almost all of them are asleep. The old man is probably bored with no one to talk to.

“Qinghe. Pretty far, right?”

“It is. You on… what, an outing?”

“We’re doing some research. For a school project.”

The man nods then, and when he sees that the three have settled, he puts some music on and then starts the bus again.

Wen Ning is his usual quiet self, sitting on the row behind Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji, looking out the window, at the trees and the sky.

“You doing okay, A-Ning?” Wei Wuxian asks, peering at him from over his seat.

Wen Ning only nods. If he didn’t have a mask, Wei Wuxian is sure the younger boy would be smiling his gentle smile.

Wei Wuxian returns to his seat, and realizes that he’s still holding Lan Wangji’s hand. He laughs gingerly. “Lan Zhan,” he whispers, prompting the other to turn to him, head tilted slightly in question. “I’m really okay now. I have it under control. You don’t have to hold me anymore.”

Lan Wangji nods, but he doesn’t let go as he looks straight ahead again. “Not doing it because I have to.”

“O-Oh.” Wei Wuxian blinks, looking down at their joint hands. “Um… okay.”

Lan Wangji says nothing, but like this, while Wei Wuxian can only look at him from the side, he finally notices that his ears are red.

“O…kay.” he says again, slowly. He turns back to watching the scenery passing by, and after a few moments, he hesitantly leans his head on his friend’s shoulder.

“I might take a nap.”


“Wake me up when You-Know-Who comes to kidnap me, yeah?”

He feels the hand in his own tighten. “Won’t let anything happen to Wei Ying.”

Wei Wuxian believes him. He smiles as he closes his eyes. “My hero.”




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