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 9
the night before


Wen Qing employs Lan Xichen for an important mission.



Wen Qing is tired.

To be fair, Wen Qing is always tired, but this time, she is tired and annoyed . If she were to be honest, she prefers to be tired and angry . Tired and angry means she can keep going on, fuelled by spite. Tired and annoyed means she has to push through, even when she just wants to snap.

Wen Qing is tired and annoyed as she strides to the clinic with purpose. This time, it’s not because there’s an emergency, or that someone’s life is in danger. This time, it’s because she knows that’s where Lan Xichen is. That’s where she had left him anyway. He’s been helping patch people up these past few days.

“Your boyfriend-” she starts as soon as she enters the room, easily finding the person she’s looking for – Lan Xichen is in one of the chairs changing someone’s bandages. He’s humming, but he stops as soon as Wen Qing eyes him. “-needs to sleep. You have to make him sleep, or so help me, I will put him to sleep. I know many ways.”

Lan Xichen blinks, and that almost annoys her twice over. “I’m sorry? Who-… Are you referring to da-ge?”

She raises an eyebrow. “Who else?”

“Oh, I see…” Lan Xichen says, laughing lightly. “He’s-… We’re not-…” He makes vague gestures, but ultimately gives up. “Nevermind. Is he okay?”

Wen Qing blinks, caught momentarily off guard because she caught that attempt to correct her. “I… thought you two were… Huh.”

She had watched Nie Mingjue practically agonize and crawl out of his own skin for weeks on end while Lan Xichen had been missing. He had been gloomy, slow to respond to Wen Qing’s scolding and Nie Huaisang’s doting, and he had just been miserable all around worrying over his “best friend”-

Okay. So maybe they were just really close like that. Right.

She shakes her head, dismissing the idea – that’s not important right now.

“Well, he needs to sleep. We’re leaving early tomorrow and I swear I haven’t seen him asleep once this week.”

“He told me he takes naps.” Lan Xichen sighs as he finishes up on his patient’s bandages and sends the grateful teen on his way. “I said that’s not enough and he just shrugged it off…”

“Listen, our plan hinges on you guys having your shit together.” Wen Qing says. “We’ve been waiting for this opportunity… We’ve risked and lost people preparing and gathering what you need for this elaborate plan you’ve cooked up – I won’t have it fail because our leader was nodding off in the middle of the operation.”

She has a point. Ever since they managed to get in touch with Meng Yao and Madame Jin, they’d had better access to information on Wen Ruohan, and together they’ve been able to come up with a plan to take the man down. For the past few weeks, they’ve busied themselves gathering supplies and people, making preparations, ironing out their strategy.

The operation starts the next day, and they only get one shot at it.

So of course the kids would be restless. Even Lan Xichen himself couldn’t bring himself to sleep earlier. And of course, his best friend – Nie Mingjue – he’s their leader, so it’s no wonder he couldn’t relax, not while they’ve got such a big, elaborate plan to enact in only a few hours.

Lan Xichen only sighs as he stands up. “Alright, let’s see him, then. Maybe A-Jue will listen if we do it together.”

Wen Qing scoffs, but steps alongside him as they make their way to Mingjue’s room-slash-office. “I doubt it, but when I stab him with a needle, it’ll be useful to have you there to catch him so he won’t fall on his face.”

Lan Xichen laughs. “Maybe we can get A-Sang too? He’s always been his da-ge’s soft spot.”

“Negative.” – and this time, Wen Qing looks like she’s nursing a headache. “I sent that one to bed just now. He kept insisting that he’s fine and he’ll fly around the perimeter ‘just one more time’ . Just be ‘sure’ we’re all safe.” she says, rolling her eyes as she gestures with air quotes. “As if that’s not what our patrols are for.”

“Ah…” Lan Xichen nods. He could very well see Huaisang’s pout in response to being sent to bed. He is just as bad as his brother. “He can be stubborn.”

“Jiang Wanyin, too. He was practically destroying the training dummies – it’s 1 AM.

“I suppose you sent him to bed as well, then?”

“Of course I did.” Wen Qing scoffs. “Yanli wouldn’t want her darling baby brother killed in battle because he didn’t get enough sleep.” Then she looks over at him, raising an eyebrow. “What about your darling baby brother? I haven’t seen him around.”

“Wei Wuxian got restless. Wangji told me they were joining your brother and Jin Zixuan on patrol.” he answers, his smile resigned.

He had tried to gently prod them to just stay, but even his usually calm brother had been jumpy – which almost never happens. And Wei Wuxian has always been an unstoppable force anyway, so Xichen could only do so much, really.

“They should be back soon. Hopefully they would’ve walked all that energy off by the time they’re back.”

“You’re too soft on those kids.” she says without heat. She’s not scolding him, he notices. If anything, it only sounded like an observation.

“Someone has to be.” he replies, only half-joking.

He means it – they’re fighting a losing battle, always in a constant state of licking their wounds. He doesn’t want his brother and the other “kids” to one day look back on their teenage years and only have those tough, dark memories.

Wen Qing frowns, but he sees in her expression that she’s less angry, and more hesitant. “I guess you think I’m being too hard on them, then.”

He smiles as he shakes his head. He finds the answer easily too – “Someone has to be.”

That makes her chuckle, the tension easing between them. “What would Nie Mingjue do without us? He’s so busy doing his leader stuff, he just lets those stupid teenagers do what they want.”

“Worry.” Xichen answers. “He’ll worry over them, for sure. He can’t exactly discourage them, he knows he needs them. But given a choice, he’d much rather have them stay out of… well, everything, I guess.”

“He’d wanted to send them all to Meishan. Did you know that?”

“No. But it doesn’t surprise me one bit.” Lan Xichen then remembers something, and he clears his throat before he speaks again, “Oh, um… Forgive me if this might be too direct but… I was surprised earlier when you called him my-… Um… It’s just, I’ve been under the impression that it was you and da-ge who were… well. Together.”

“What?” This time, she looks at him in disbelief. “Us, like, me and-… Me and Nie Mingjue?”

“I’m sorry, it was just I noticed that you were quite… close. I’ve never really seen him close to anyone outside of his family… and myself, I guess.”

“No way, we’re not close , we just- We work together.”

“Oh, of course! Yes, yes, I see that.”

“I just like to stay on top of things and that means spending a lot of time with him since he’s the one… well, he’s in charge of this whole thing… That’s all! If anything, he’s always complaining about how nosy I am. I’m not nosy, I’m just telling him to eat his meals and get some sleep-”

He chuckles. “Okay, Miss Wen-”

“Stop laughing at me!” she snaps, swatting his arm, but she’s smiling too, her cheeks a light pink.

“I’m not laughing! I’m sorry!” he insists, while laughing.

They finally stop when they get to their destination. The lights are still on in Nie Mingjue’s office and the door is left ajar.

There’s the sound of humming from inside, too soft and sweet to be Nie Mingjue’s.

Wen Qing exchanges a look with Lan Xichen before she knocks softly and swings the door open.

Nie Mingjue is hunched over on his desk, head resting on his crossed arms, very much asleep. Standing over him and draping a blanket across his shoulders is Jiang Yanli.

“A-Li?!” Wen Qing exclaims, but she stops when her friend looks up sharply and presses a finger to her lips, shushing her as she gestures towards the sleeping man. She continues in a whisper, “How-… When did you get here?”

“Only a few minutes ago.” Jiang Yanli says, patting down the blanket on Mingjue’s shoulders before walking around the table and stepping towards Wen Qing to hug her. “It was the safest time to travel. I just went to see our fearless leader first.”

Wen Qing lets out a relieved sigh as she returns the hug. “I didn’t know you were even coming.”

“Surprise!” Yanli laughs, letting go. She exchanges a pleasant smile and nod with Lan Xichen too before continuing. “I know you need all the help you can get here, so as soon as Mingjue told me about the plans, I started gathering volunteers. Meishan has capable fighters, and some of those who came with me from here have recovered. I’m glad we made it in time.”

“Barely.” Wen Qing squints at her, slightly reprimanding. “They leave very early tomorrow. Later.

“Then it’s good that everyone’s getting some rest now, isn’t it?”

“In speaking of rest,” Lan Xichen chimes in, from where he’s standing beside the table, peering curiously at his sleeping best friend. “Thank you for finally getting this one some sleep, Miss Jiang.”

“Yeah.” Wen Qing blinks. “Like, how ? And don’t tell me you just asked nicely.”

“I just asked nicely.” Jiang Yanli says, and is met by matching looks of suspicion from the other two. She looks down, smiling sheepishly. “And I might have held his hand while doing so.”

Wen Qing looks at the other woman, grinning. “I see.”

Lan Xichen looks down and pats Nie Mingjue’s head with a fond smile. “Well, it worked. That’s what matters.”

They hear sounds of commotion from outside, followed by some familiar voices.

Yanli perks up. “Is that A-Xian?”

“Yes. He and some others were out on patrol. I’m sure he’ll be overjoyed to see you.” Wen Qing says. She laughs when Yanli hugs her again before rushing out the room.

Wen Qing is still tired, but she’s in a much better mood when she trudges towards the couch in the corner and collapses in it. It’s a nice couch. Comfortable.

She has a bunk of her own, but it wouldn’t be the first night she’ll spend on this couch, though for the past days she knew that it’s been Lan Xichen using it.

He has a bunk too, she knows.

Ugh. They wouldn’t be sleeping randomly on the stupid couch if only their stubborn leader claimed it and slept on it, really.

She has almost completely dozed off when she remembers that Lan Xichen is still in the room, standing by Nie Mingjue’s table and cleaning up the mess of notes, papers and other stuff scattered around the sleeping man.

“See, that’s some boyfriend shit.” she blurts out, too sleepy for any filter whatsoever.

“Hey, I’m not the one who finally convinced him to sleep.” Lan Xichen says, voice soft, soothing – then he hums, and Wen Qing lets out a yawn.

“Yanli cheated.” she says, sounding amused. “You could’ve, too. Like you’re doing now.”

Because she knows that he’s doing his thing. The calming thing. And it’s working. On her.

“You need your rest too, Miss Wen.” Lan Xichen says, and he continues humming.

Wen Qing finally lets her eyes close, feeling peaceful. She should feel restless, just like the others, but she’s not. They have a plan – one they’ve been preparing for, and everything is falling into place, and she’s with her people.

They’ve got a big day ahead of them.




Chapter Notes:

NO U – lan xichen, definitely

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