i tried, u guys.
sorry for the delay! here it is! apologies in advance for my action sequences because…. i have no excuse! i just suck! >:D
but ya know what, i’ve been on an on-and-off writer’s block for the better part of 3 years now haha huhu we’re just lucky this gets done at all ashfkldha
ANYWAYS here we go let’s go jiang cheng go get em lad
“Sit myself down, bring my pride in
and start to focus, change who I’ve been.
Give me a second, let me u-turn,
write you the love song you’ve earned.”
Jiang Cheng didn’t grow up in a dream castle in the middle of an “estate” that really could already be considered a small town, but the Jiang Compound in Lotus Pier, in its glory days before the Wens destroyed it, was still no place to scoff at.
He’s been living in his ship and in nightless cities for a while, but he still knew the ways of green planets.
He knows that places like Lotus Pier, and by extension the Nie Estate, even in the dead of night, never really turned their lights out.
That’s why he curses when he sees the Nie Estate go dark – completely.
Dammit, Nie Huaisang isn’t answering his calls, he’s still a mile out, and he could see all the mansion’s lights were out, even as most of the houses and streets of the small village around it were still lit.
It all felt wrong. Even if the Nies slept ridiculously early, with such a large estate, at least the servant houses would still have their lights on, and there should always be at least one guard tower up and active, on both sides of the gates. He saw several of them when he was there. What the hell were they doing?
He punches on the controls of his hoverbike, and holds on as he drives on maximum speed.
The usually quiet engines rev at his sudden stop right at the back gates – the same one he and Huaisang entered through earlier.
Jiang Cheng has never been so relieved to have guns trained on him as he hops off his bike.
“Stop right there! Y-… Wait, you’re-“
They’re Nie guards – donning the same colors he saw on the other servants and Nie Zhenzhen’s borrowed fancy robes.
“You know me. I was just here earlier, with Nie Huaisang.” Jiang Cheng says, not heeding the guns on him – it’s clear they recognize him, they just don’t know why he’s back. Instead he focuses on buckling his weapon holsters across his chest. “Tell me. Why are the lights out?”
“Sir, we’re sorry, Young Master Nie isn’t entertaining guests-”
“Try again.” Jiang Cheng steps forward and glares at the nearest guard, who admirably does hold his ground. In a tone he usually uses for his bounties to tell them to stand down, he asks again, “Why are the lights out?”
“It’s a temporary power outtage, sir. These things happen. Emergency power should be up in a few minutes-”
It only takes him a second to catch up. “Right. That’s what you’ll say to concerned villagers who’ll go here to ask, yeah?” The guard frowns. Jiang Cheng knows then that he has to move now, and quickly, but he can’t just attack these guards- “Nie Mingjue sent me.” he says. Well. Lies.
“Master Nie didn’t say anything about-”
“Yes, he did. I’m supposed to guard Nie Huaisang today. I was here already.” Jiang Cheng says, and this time he does walk past the guards, taking advantage of their confusion. They catch up to him quickly, but just in time to block him from the gates- Jiang Cheng eyes him calmly, coldly. “Open it. Now, or I call him.”
The guard looks frustrated, but Jiang Cheng knows he’s got him. The man signals to someone he didn’t bother to look for in the darkness surrounding the estate, and the gate opens.
The guard steps in again. “So you know the plan.” It’s not a question, but it does feel like one.
Jiang Cheng scowls. “What the fuck kind of question is that?”
Then he shoves his way past the guard, who doesn’t stop him anymore.
So there’s a plan.
Jiang Cheng does not know the plan.
Still, it can’t hurt to have some assist. “Cover me.”
The guard nods, and Jiang Cheng takes his blaster out and steps into the dark.
The guards and staff housing are mysteriously quiet as he rushes past them. He presses a button on his earpiece and hears a familiar hiss as translucent purple material slides out to settle across his eyes. The darkness doesn’t last long as the lens’ night vision activates, guiding his way.
He takes a quick glance around the surrounding area and it confirms his suspicion. No visible presence nor heat signatures. The staff have been evacuated, somehow.
The back door is unlocked.
He sees the first body a few feet into the hall. One of the servants, or a guard, he doesn’t know which – then a short distance away, another body – and this time he knew that it was an intruder, with the way they were dressed and the model of the gun on their unmoving hand. Jiang Cheng kicked the gun away on instinct, even before registering from the info flashing at the corner of his vision that the person showed no signs of life.
He knows very well he can’t just storm his way through the halls, not knowing who was waiting around the next corner, so he moves swiftly but cautiously towards where he knew Nie Huaisang’s rooms were, his blaster raised and ready.
He finds at least a dozen more of the Nie’s staff and a handful of the mercenaries either dead or knocked out on his way. Some Nie guards were conscious and simply injured, some were completely unscathed, and those ones did try to stop him and ask him why he’s here, and he only tells them the same alibi.
On the landing of the second floor, he hears the sounds of shouting and gunshots. Lots of them.
There’s only one way to know what that’s about. He runs towards the sound.
Goddammit, Jiang Cheng thinks – he should be on his way ho- well, somewhere else, right now.
Instead he’s actively heading towards an active shootout. Great.
He doesn’t have to round the corner, because he had to stop before he crashed against someone who was obviously about to take cover from the shots that now sound closer. The quick flash of green-gold tells Jiang Cheng they’re not an enemy – but this guard doesn’t know that, and upon sight of Jiang Cheng they only take a second to stop in surprise before they’re raising their gun again.
That second is enough for Jiang Cheng, stepping quickly and knocking the friendly’s arm to the side, enough to make them miss the shot, but not enough to knock the gun off their hand. Jiang Cheng knows better than to disarm an ally. Instead, he grips the – oh – the woman’s arm firmly before she can fight him off.
“Stop. I’m on your side!” he hisses, pulling her away as he saw a shot ricochet off the nearby wall. One of the intruders are definitely close.
“Who-…?” She looks him up and down quickly, confused but seemingly agreeing.
Thank god for Nie Huaisang’s boring white shirt, because Jiang Cheng is at least dressed differently than the assholes shooting at them.
“I’m the backup.” he answers. “Where’s- Shit! Cover!”
On instinct, they split up and took cover on either side of the hallway, Jiang Cheng behind a convenient podium for an expensive-looking vase- or well, what used to be an expensive-looking vase, and the Nie guard behind a hall table, narrowly avoiding another round of shots.
“I didn’t know there’d be backup!” the woman whisper-shouts at him.
“Well, there’s one now.” Jiang Cheng replies, adjusting his blaster settings. These people are using guns. Guns with actual bullets. Jiang Cheng is using his stupid space blaster, because his gun only has trick bullets, and he doesn’t want to waste those, not when he doesn’t know exactly what the Nies’ stupid plans are. For now- “How many of those assholes are here?”
“I have two on my tail.” she says. “Cover me.”
Jiang Cheng follows orders easily. He provides cover fire as she shoots. They hear a grunt of pain, and after a quick signal, they lean out their hiding place again to fire another round.
Jiang Cheng sees a figure go down, and another take cover around the hallway bend.
They hide again. The Nie guard reloads her gun. “Bastards fought dirty. My partner went down. But these should be the last of the small fries.”
“Third floor, balcony.” she answers.
Jiang Cheng frowns. Of all the places. A fucking balcony. The easiest target.
And then he remembers – “The plan.” because yes – there is a plan, they all said. Was it a trap? “He should be there?”
“Yeah.” She must have caught something in Jiang Cheng’s expression, because she says, “Go. I’ll cover you.”
And then she takes the saber out.
A fucking saber. On one hand. And on her other, a newly-loaded gun.
She’s obviously got this, he supposes. Jiang Cheng takes a breath, nods and gets up, just as she turns and starts shooting again.
He hears gunfire and then a crash, and a taunting call of “Come and face me, coward!”
Jiang Cheng idly wonders if he’s actually needed here, like, at all.
They did have a plan, he thinks. Nie Huaisang said as much. And despite the casualties, most of the remaining guards he’d encountered looked like they still had a handle on things.
But whatever. He’s already here.
He has to be here, he tells himself.
Not because of Nie Huaisang.
Or Nie Huaisang’s plan. Nope.
Jiang Cheng doesn’t care about the fucking plan.
Wen Zhuliu is here, and Jiang Cheng will kill him.
Jiang Cheng gets to the balcony, and he freezes when he hears a scream.
He knows that voice, but he’s entirely a stranger to that scream.
“HELP ME!” He hears Huaisang’s voice, filled with terror as he struggles against the man who has him pinned to the floor. “P-Please! Anyone! There’s-”
Jiang Cheng looks at the scene – the balcony’s a mess, tables and chairs fallen and upturned around the two people in the middle.
He watches Wen Zhuliu’s hand come down to muffle Nie Huaisang’s screams, while Nie Huaisang squirms helplessly under him. He sees the assassin’s raised blade, glinting silver in the bright Qinghe moonlight-
‘No.’ Jiang Cheng thinks, feeling the dread and anger boil under his skin. ‘Not him too.’
“Get off him!” he shouts, successfully distracting the Wen assassin, who only narrowly avoids Jiang Cheng’s blaster shot. “Now!”
“Jiang Cheng?!” he hears Nie Huaisang’s confused, shaky yelp.
Jiang Cheng shoots again, but Wen Zhuliu isn’t a professional for nothing – the man lets go of his target, backs up to save himself and manages to throw his blade at Jiang Cheng in the process. His aim is true, and Jiang Cheng barely managed to avoid the attack, giving the assassin an opportunity to take cover behind the upturned balcony table nearby.
The very same table Nie Huaisang and Nie Zhenzhen were sitting on earlier.
It’s a very nice table. Jiang Cheng almost feels bad shooting at it now, to let the assassin know Jiang Cheng isn’t letting him go that easy.
Jiang Cheng keeps his blaster up as he rushes to Nie Huaisang, who stands up surprisingly fast to meet him.
“Are you okay-”
“No, no, you shouldn’t be here-” Nie Huaisang looks shaken, robes all rumpled, long hair in disarray, eyes teary.
The sight just hardens Jiang Cheng’s resolve. “Yes, I should. I’m gonna kill this bastard.” Jiang Cheng grits out, shoving Nie Huaisang protectively behind him.
Nie Huaisang won’t let go of his sleeve. “No- A-Cheng-”
“Huaisang, let go.” he says. “I’ve got this.” he says, softer, though he doesn’t take his eyes off Wen Zhuliu’s hiding place.
He hears a weak “Huaisang-ge!” and risks a glance to see Dai Lei, coming up behind Nie Huaisang as if to help keep him standing. ‘Where’s he been all this time?’ Jiang Cheng wants to ask, but the boy is looking at him with wide confused eyes, and Jiang Cheng lost the heart for it.
Besides, they’re not the enemy at the moment. Jiang Cheng just shrugs Huaisang’s hands off his sleeve and gently pushes him back towards his appointed bodyguard.
He fires another warning shot at the table.
Stupid rich people blast-proof tables.
“No use hiding, assassin. I know who you are.” Jiang Cheng calls out, suprising himself with how calm he sounds. “Wen Zhuliu. Fancy meeting you here, then again, you’ve made a career out of this, huh? Attacking defenseless people?”
There’s a beat, and Jiang Cheng hears the unmistakeable sound of a gun being loaded. Then the man stands up and steps out from behind the fallen table, gun raised and steady.
Wen Zhuliu looks at him with his cold eyes and unreadable expression. Then there’s the barest hints of a grin on his lips. “Ah. The Jiang pup.” he nods, as if merely recalling an acquaintance. “I recall now, we did leave one out.”
“Wasn’t your best work.” Jiang Cheng scoffed. “Why don’t you come here and finish the job?”
He must admit, he didn’t expect the assassin to agree so quickly. Then again, Wen Zhuliu is notorious for his efficiency, so Jiang Cheng didn’t spare any time to freeze as the first thing the man did was to lean down and grab one of the fallen chairs and throw it in Jiang Cheng’s direction, causing his little huddle with Nie Huaisang and Dai Lei to scatter.
He hears Nie Huaisang call out his name again, but he ignores it as he rushes forward, going for a swipe at Wen Zhuliu’s arm. That makes the man let go of his gun, but it was obviously a distraction for an opponent, to get Jiang Cheng close – as the man barely flinches and instead goes and aims his blade at Jiang Cheng. Thankfully, Jiang Cheng sees it quickly enough, as he goes low just in time to avoid the blade to his throat. He throws a punch at the man’s gut, but misses, and has to step back again to dodge the low kick coming at him.
As much training and work as Jiang Cheng has done since the attack, he knows he can’t match the man’s years of experience and, well, general desire to just kill. Jiang Cheng is a bounty hunter, not a murderer.
Also, his ribs are still healing from his last job. He knows that if Wen Zhuliu gets him there, he’s dead.
So he uses what he has, and he fires his blaster again, point blank, grateful he set it to lethal on his way up. It grazes the assassin’s arm, but hardly enough to stop him from sliding forward and going at Jiang Cheng with his blade again. Jiang Cheng parries it with his blaster, and he’s lucky to catch Wen Zhuliu drawing another blade with his free hand, as he goes and grabs the man’s wrist barely inches before the man could stab him.
Jiang Cheng considers for a split-second kicking him back, but then Wen Zhuliu lunges at him again, forcing him backwards, trying to make him lose his balance, and Jiang Cheng couldn’t help wincing at that, his barely day-old bruises and injuries catching up to him.
Wen Zhuliu grins. He knows Jiang Cheng has a handicap.
That quick moment of panic catches him off guard as he didn’t catch Nie Huaisang’s flurry of hair and robes coming and crashing against them. He only realizes what’s really happened when Wen Zhuliu flinches and moves back from him in an effort to dislodge Nie Huaisang who is latched on to his back.
Jiang Cheng blinks, realizing that no, Nie Huaisang is not simply clinging to the assassin, he has stabbed Wen Zhuliu’s shoulder with-… Is that a hairpin? One of his fancy hairpins?
“Stop it!” Nie Huaisang cries, as he drives the pin deeper, and Wen Zhuliu tries to elbow him off. “Just leave!”
Jiang Cheng steps forward, but that’s when Wen Zhuliu finally grabs a hold of Nie Huaisang’s robe and hauls him off, and Jiang Cheng had no choice but to catch Nie Huaisang as he’s practically thrown in his direction.
Jiang Cheng sees Wen Zhuliu grab the pin from his shoulder and throw it aside – and he moves to step around Nie Huaisang protectively, but Nie Huaisang pushes against him, surprisingly strong, and he shouts, “Now!”
And then a there’s over a dozen combinations of guns, blades and sabers pointed at Wen Zhuliu, who freezes on the spot, quiet, as he looks around and realizes he’s been cornered.
“I-It’s over…” Nie Huaisang says, shaky and breathless. “You’re-… you’re outnumbered! Just surrender peacefully.”
Wen Zhuliu glares coldly at him, but he does straighten up. He raises one hand, blade up, and then he opens his grip and lets the weapon drop to the floor in a loud clatter.
“Let me kill him.” Jiang Cheng grits under his breath, but Nie Huaisang shakes his head. “You don’t understand, he-”
Wen Zhuliu raises his other hand then, in the same way, blade up. But this time, when the drops his weapon, he also drops something else.
Jiang Cheng recognizes what it is a moment too late, as the balcony is suddenly engulfed in a huge cloud of red smoke. He hears the clamor of the guards who all rush forward and then start coughing. The smoke fills his nose too – nasty and cloying and making his eyes water. He could tell that Nie Huaisang is only in slightly better condition because he’s able to use his robe’s big sleeves for cover, and is currently fanning all the smoke around him away with a fan. Where did that even come from?
But that wasn’t Jiang Cheng’s biggest concern, because as he ran forward, waving his arms in a futile attempt to clear the stubborn smoke around him, he realizes that it’s too late.
Wen Zhuliu has escaped.
Or at least, he’s trying to.
Jiang Cheng curses, and he runs back to Nie Huaisang amidst the slowly clearing smoke. “He’s getting away! I have my bike, I can catch up-”
“No!” Nie Huaisang quickly grabs onto him, coughing. “No, A-Cheng!”
Jiang Cheng is not used to hearing that from Nie Huaisang. He’s only realizing it now, and he has decided that it’s very annoying, specially when it involves chasing down the man who burned his home and murdered his family and also just almost killed his friend.
The lights are slowly coming back on, and Dai Lei and other guards have started flanking them to check up on Nie Huaisang. It all just heightens Jiang Cheng’s impatience. “Move. He killed my family, I can’t just let him get away!”
“Y-You have to.” Nie Huaisang says, firmly. “Just for this one time. Please.”
“What the fuck are you-”
But Nie Huaisang raises a hand, silencing him, while his other hand flies to his ear, and when he speaks, Jiang Cheng understands that he’s not speaking to him. “Yes. You know what to do. Tail them, then let them lose you.”
And it’s only now that Jiang Cheng really looks at his friend.
Nie Huaisang is all haggard, long hair down and messy, clothes rumpled and even torn in some places, and his cheeks were red and tear-streaked, but he’s also standing straight, his hands are steady, his eyes are clear and his mouth is set.
Nie Huaisang turns his head and whispers something to Dai Lei and then he looks back at Jiang Cheng.
“Give us a moment, please, everyone.” he tells the others.
Dai Lei nods. The boy gives Nie Huaisang his hairpin back, now half-stained with blood, and he sends a guilty, puzzled look at Jiang Cheng before he leaves with the rest of the guards.
The whole time, Jiang Cheng just glares at Nie Huaisang.
The lights have flickered back on, as if in perfect timing. Maybe it is.
“You’re on comms.” Jiang Cheng says bluntly, disbelieving, and he keeps his composure for a while. At least until the last of the guards file out of the ruined balcony. That’s when he lets it out – “You were on comms-?! The whole fucking time- Acting- You were acting?!”
Nie Huaisang shrugs. “You know I have a theater degree.”
“Fuck you. Don’t give me that.” Jiang Cheng scowls. “You had a knife to your throat and I was fucking terrified-”
“I told you we have a plan.” Nie Huaisang sighs. “You weren’t even supposed to be here, Yue-jie on the comms said that backup’s coming and I was like, what backup? There’s no backup, and it totally threw me off, I was supposed to stab Wen Zhuliu much earlier-”
“Wh-… Ealier? Wha-”
“-but anyway, it worked out well enough, and you even got a few blows in, I hope you’re happy about that. So the plan is still a success!” Nie Huaisang beams. “Well, we still have to wait a bit for him to believe that he got away, but he’ll probably be distracted about knowing you got away from him twice now. So maybe you being here was a good thing, after all.”
“What?” Jiang Cheng repeats. He hates feeling stupid, but fuck it, not asking questions got him into this mess. So he is now deciding to ask more questions. Moving forward.
“We let him try, and fail…” Nie Huaisang says, slower now, as if explaining to a child, “…and we’re letting him go.”
Jiang Cheng would be offended if he wasn’t too keyed up and confused. “Why.”
“Because now there’s a tracker on him.” Nie Huaisang waves his bloody hairpin, and smiles as Jiang Cheng blinks at it. “Nanotech. Injected into his bloodstream. Practically untraceable.”
And shit, does that make sense. Jiang Cheng absolutely hates that it makes sense.
“A tracker.” he frowns, calming down just slightly enough now that he knows there’s a reason his long-awaited much-deserved revenge attempt has been thwarted. Now he just needs to know if it was worth it. “You already know who he works for. It’s in his stupid name. And you know where the Wens are.”
Nie Huaisang nods. “We know where Wen Ruohan is, but not his other operations, and we’re hoping his chore boy gives us that info.”
“Why the hell do you need all that? What the fuck are you guys up to?”
Nie Huaisang takes a moment then, and Jiang Cheng waits.
He’s quietly disappointed when Nie Huaisang looks down and says, “That’s… confidential.”
Fine. Asking questions worked for a bit, but Jiang Cheng should’ve known that it wouldn’t work on everything. He should understand, really. It’s not like he’s the most forthcoming guy with answers about himself, either.
He only has one more question left.
“Did you know that he’s the one who killed my family?”
At this, Nie Huaisang does look back at him, straight into his eyes. He looks surprised. “I knew it was the Wens. I didn’t know it was him.” He looks down. “Though thinking about it now, I really should have guessed…”
If that’s a lie, well then Jiang Cheng would have to commend that theater degree, because he actually believes it.
“Alright, then.” is all he says.
As he avoids Nie Huaisang’s look, his eyes stray to the man’s red cheeks, at the beginnings of a bruise by his jaw, at the scratches by his lips.
Jiang Cheng hates that it’s taking everything in him not to reach out and wipe his tears and ask him if he’s alright.
‘He’s alright.’ Jiang Cheng thinks to himself, shoving his hands in his pockets, so no one could see them clench and unclench. ‘I said I’d ask more questions, doesn’t mean I’d start asking stupid ones.’
He hates it even more that when Nie Huaisang is the one who moves, steady hand reaching for his shoulder, he flinches and steps back.
Nie Huaisang didn’t miss this, of course. He instantly draws his hand back. He is quick to blink away the hurt from that rejection, but not before Jiang Cheng could see traces of it in his face.
Jiang Cheng… has had a day. Jiang Cheng doesn’t want to deal with this, not at the moment.
“I should go.” he says at the same time he makes his mind up. “You’re clearly busy. Don’t wanna get in your way any more than I have.”
It sounds colder than he had intended it to be. But maybe that’s good.
He starts walking away, and he makes it a few steps before Nie Huaisang calls to him. “No, A-Cheng, don’t-”
“What?” he snaps. He’s so. Fucking. Tired.
“I just mean, you shouldn’t… go.” Nie Huaisang says, voice smaller this time. “Wen Zhuliu is still at large. You and him might-… I think we should wait. Until we have confirmation that he’s off-planet. It’s safer for you that way.”
Fuck. He’s right.
Nie Huaisang steps up to him, tentatively resting a hand on his arm. This time, he doesn’t flinch away, and just stays still, holding his ground. “I’ll have a room prepared for you, okay? And I’ll let you know when he’s gone far enough.”
Jiang Cheng lets out a heavy sigh, but he’s too tired to argue back. “Fine.”
Jiang Cheng stays out of the Nies’ way. The guards and staff are back for the cleanup – and he has taken enough jobs to know what the “cleanup” means in the aftermath of events like this.
He had been approached by one of the house staff earlier, led to a perfect and clean guest room, then provided with everything he needed, from warm tea and bread on the table, to some medical supplies. He’s told that his hoverbike has been safely taken into the estate’s lot. The man had asked him if he required anything else, but Jiang Cheng simply dismissed him.
He unstraps his weapon holsters, washes his hands and his face, then eats, for lack of anything to do. He drinks the tea, noting how expensive it tastes – the same tea they were served earlier in the dinner with Nie Huaisang and his grandmother.
He could barely believe that it all happened on the same night.
When he’s breathing easier, he pulls out his communicator to check up on Zidian, making sure she’s secure in the spaceport. He also checks on his spaceport bill, sure that he’ll see new charges for his extended stay, and finds that it’s also been paid, with extra.
Probably hush money. Fucking Nies. They move really fast.
There’s nothing else left to do. So he waits. He sits by the window seat, looking out at the view of the estate village past the gates. The lights from the houses are now flickering out one by one, only the street lights to remaining steady. It is past midnight, after all.
It’s like nothing had happened. A power outage, like the guards told him, that’s all – that’s all the villagers will know.
They wouldn’t know that their young master was almost killed in an assassination attempt – a second one, at that. No, families like this only revealed those details if it served the narrative they want. Jiang Cheng would know.
He doesn’t know how long he stays there, sitting up, staring at fading lights.
Soon, exhaustion catches up to him and he finds himself nodding off – that’s no good, he can’t sleep sitting up, not with his bruised ribs.
So he tries the bed.
It’s too soft, and he moves to the couch.
The bruises are aching more now, finally all the adrenaline wearing out. He winces, then remembers the med kit on the table. He had gone through it earlier and seen some kind of soothing salve in it. Yep, he needs that now.
That’s how Nie Huaisang finds him – on the couch, shirtless, trying to wrap fresh bandages around his torso.
“Hey.” Nie Huaisang says, staying by the doorway. “May I come in?”
Jiang Cheng scoffs. “It’s your house.”
Nie Huaisang holds his tongue – no quip this time. He simply steps inside the room and closes the door softly behind him.
Jiang Cheng looks at him. He looks better, hair up in a bun, out of the fancy robes, just his cardigan and shirt and shorts. All cozy and comfortable after almost getting murdered. Jiang Cheng has to wonder if this is just another Thursday night for him.
Nie Huaisang just looks back. Jiang Cheng catches his eyes stray to the bandages and salve on the table, then to his torso.
“Let me help?” he asks, quiet.
Jiang Cheng lets out a small huff. Fuck, even breathing hurts. He looks away, but offers up the roll of bandages.
Nie Huaisang is quiet as he walks towards him, takes the bandages and then sits on the couch. Then he gets to work.
He’s used to this – both of them are. They’ve done this before. Jiang Cheng has all too often gone straight to the Nest after a rough job, and Nie Huaisang always sweet talks his way to getting Jiang Cheng to accept medical help and making sure he will live to see the next day. Usually he’s all teasing, coaxing Jiang Cheng to tell him about his latest misadventure, and Jiang Cheng gives him spare details – the atrocious pay, the stupid client, the even stupider bounty…
“We’ve just confirmed that Wen Zhuliu has left Qinghe.” Nie Huaisang says as he works. “His trajectory indicates he’s heading to one of the Wen’s territory planets. It’s quite a ways off Nightless City, so you should be safe to head off and take jobs in that quadrant.”
Jiang Cheng nods.
“You can take the salve with you.” he continues. “It’s good for bruises. Very soothing.”
“Yeah. Thanks.” Jiang Cheng replies. Then, just because he couldn’t bear the tension anymore, he asks – “How’s… the rest of the house?”
“We had a few casualties.” Nie Huaisang says. When Jiang Cheng looks at him, he catches him blink back some tears, but after a steadying breath he regains his composure. “But we knew that could happen. That’s just how these things go. We’ve rooted the mole out, and all of the other Wen dogs were taken care of, and there’s a tracker on the assassin, so.”
“Your grandma and cousin?”
“Safe. They were on the panic room and I had already switched with Zhenzhen way before the intruders got here.”
Jiang Cheng scoffs. “That was the plan?”
“That was the plan.”
“And your brother?” Jiang Cheng asks. “He’s all fine with your plan to be live bait like this?”
“If he left the Nest now, he’ll blow his cover there.” Nie Huaisang answers with a shrug. “It’s safer if it’s me who disappears for a few days, the patrons will just think I went on some joyride or hooked up with someone.”
Jiang Cheng frowns. “Me. That’s why you hitched a ride with me?”
“Um, I didn’t hitch-hike, you were paid.” Nie Huaisang points out. He leans back, finished with his work. “And it could have been anyone.”
“Wow.” Jiang Cheng only checks the bandages for a beat before grabbing his shirt. “I thought I was special.”
“A-Cheng.” Nie Huaisang sighs, but he’s also smiling, recognizing the familiar sarcasm. He inches closer, helping Jiang Cheng slip his shirt back on, careful of the bandages. “I meant it, you weren’t supposed to-”
“Did you, really?” Jiang Cheng asks, cutting him off, turning to him and for once not bothering to mask his frustration, his confusion… his hurt. “Why did you have to take me here at all? You said it yourself – it could be anyone, as long as you got here- You picked me.”
“Because I was worried about you!” Nie Huaisang says, eyes glistening with tears he’s trying very hard to hold back. “You’re injured, and you weren’t yourself after we met Wei Wuxian, and that call with your sister – and- and I just knew you were going to do something reckless after that. But then-… then I had to go back here because Zhenzhen got hurt, and I had to-… I couldn’t just… leave you… like that…”
Jiang Cheng watches him look down and curl on himself, shoulders hunched, hands gripping his cardigan. When he continues, his voice is small, shaky.
“So I thought, if I could… I don’t know, distract you enough, on the way here, and pay you so you can take it easy for a few days. Maybe you can clear your head just a bit, maybe you won’t go and pick a new job where you’re looking to get yourself killed. ‘Cause that’s what you’re always doing.”
Jiang Cheng shakes his head. “You’re saying you tried to take care of me, and your family at the same time- That’s stupid, you can’t-”
Nie Huaisang grumbles. “I’m usually very good at multi-tasking.”
“Well, sucks for you, it didn’t work – because I saw your assassin right at the spaceport, and I wasn’t going to let him kill you, like he killed my family.” Jiang Cheng says, almost bitterly. “Because, in case you’re not keeping up – I care about you.”
That makes Nie Huaisang look up, blinking. He wipes a tear with his sleeve. “But you-”
“Yeah, I hate it.” Jiang Cheng shrugs, then leans back against the couch, resigned. “You really think I won’t come back if I knew you were in danger? Aren’t you supposed to be good at reading people? You couldn’t have possibly thought you could bring me here and tell me you’re getting yourself killed and then expect me to walk the other way. You know I don’t just do shit for anyone, I don’t get-… involved… with someone that I don’t care about. That’s not how I work.”
He takes a breath, looks at Nie Huaisang’s dumbfounded face, and frowns. He wants to think he’s frowning in disappointment.
“You know all that.”
“I… didn’t think…” Nie Huaisang admits. “I usually do, I usually think too much. That’s usually enough.”
“Well, you can’t be right all the time.”
Nie Huaisang laughs softly, shakily – sheepishly. “I’m sorry. If I worried you?”
“I was fucking terrified.” Jiang Cheng grumbles. He sounds like he’s sulking. He doesn’t care. “And I don’t know what to do about it. This is stupid. I don’t know why I’m telling you, even. I wasn’t supposed to feel this fucked up. Great job-”
Nie Huaisang cuts him off by leaning over and kissing him.
Jiang Cheng groans – he doesn’t want to want this, not now when everything’s fucked up and he’s a mess – but when Nie Huaisang draws back, worried that he’d overstepped and starting to say sorry, Jiang Cheng finds himself pulling him back in, whispering, “No, come here.” – and kissing him again.
He coaxes Nie Huaisang into his lap, grips his waist and urges him to press closer, even as Nie Huaisang begins to stammer about his bruises. Jiang Cheng quiets him with more kisses.
It’s some of the softest kisses they’ve shared, slow and unhurried, even unsure – and he could taste Nie Huaisang’s tears. He only draws back to wipe them for him.
“Don’t do that.” Jiang Cheng frowns. “You’re making it weird. Like you’re all sad about it.”
Nie Huaisang laughs. “Sorry. I don’t know, I can’t help it. It’s been a night.” He wipes the last of the tears. “I’m not sad.”
He takes a second to compose himself, and Jiang Cheng is thankful he does it so fast, because if he cried any longer, Jiang Cheng might start crying too – for whatever the fuck reason. He feels light, he feels heavy – he feels all kinds of things.
Yeah. It’s been a night.
Nie Huaisang reaches up and strokes his hair, tucking it behind his ear before cupping his cheek, eyes on his, searching. “Um… A-Cheng, do you really-?”
“I think so.” Jiang Cheng answers, not bothering to lie or deny. But he doesn’t bother pretending that he knows what to do next, either. He tilts his head, nuzzling Nie Huaisang’s hand on his cheek. “But… All this, it’s-…”
He’s grateful that Nie Huaisang doesn’t make him say it. “I know. It’s all a lot.”
“I need… to take a minute.” he says, quiet, almost a whisper.
He knows what he wants.
He doesn’t know if he’s ready for it.
“That break you said. Yeah.”
“I understand.” Nie Huaisang says. It sounds like a goodbye, but he’s pressing closer, wrapping his arms around Jiang Cheng’s shoulders, nothing charged, just… hugging him, settling into his warmth. “Are you leaving now?”
“I should. But are you fucking kidding? I’m beat.” Jiang Cheng scoffs. It makes Nie Huaisang giggle. “I’ll go in the morning.”
“Okay.” Nie Huaisang sounds sad, but accepting. “Can I stay?”
Jiang Cheng wraps his arms around him, finally returning the embrace.
He drops a kiss to Nie Huaisang’s neck, buries his face on his shoulder, and answers, “It’s your house.”
Nie Huaisang wakes up to the early morning rays of Qinghe’s sun, so different to the artificial one of Nightless City that he’d been waking up to for the past months.
His body ached slightly, the last night’s events finally catching up to him, but it’s nothing he can’t handle.
He’s not in his own bedroom, but in one of the guest rooms.
The sheets beside him are rumpled. He reaches out to check, maybe it’s still warm – maybe it hasn’t been long since Jiang Cheng left…
But then he sees it, something glinting under the sun, on his hand- He draws it closer to look at it and blinks.
On his index finger is a ring. It’s a jet black band, with what looked like a streak of purple lightning in the middle. It’s the exact colors of Zidian. Nie Huaisang had seen it before, fiddled with it as it hung on a chain around Jiang Cheng’s neck. He had asked about it then, and Jiang Cheng never gave him an answer.
The purple lightning shimmered prettily in the morning light.
Nie Huaisang smiles.
//end of pt. 3
so yeah i’m invested and now i gotta write the next one where he comes back ok
what u can do for the meantime tho is to kudos/comment to give ENERGY !!!! yes i need energy <3
fic title is from “yellow” by tegan and sara. chapter title is “u-turn” by tegan and sara. this whole fic is powered by tegan and sara. they have a whole concert up in youtube, check em out bc they’re amazing.