Nov 28, 2020 12:22 AM
time-travelling xichen is king of the babies
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He goes. 

He's very distracted, but since he has all the knowledge of his adult self, it isn't hard not to let the teachers see. 

What's he going to do about Mother? 

The more he thinks about it, the more he can only see three viable ways forwards. One: leave things as they are, except try to get the healers early warning of the sickness that kills her. Two: convince the Elders to change their minds, about her imprisonment or at least about limiting their time with her. 

Three: take Mother and A-Zhan and leave. 

He doesn't like any of them. The first one would be the easy route, but--he's not at all sure it would work. He doesn't think she was ever going to last, locked up like that. Even if he could buy another decade or so by heading off this one illness--and could he? Would they believe him?--that wouldn't be saving her, not in the long run. 

The second one--well. He knows how hard it is to get the Elders to change their minds. He could maybe do it, if he got the whole story out of Mother and it was one he could work with, forging evidence that couldn't possibly be altered from within her little house or by a real five-year-old. 

The third one scares him. He doesn't want to leave. He loves the Cloud Recesses, loves his sect, even loves his Uncle. And Wangji is Lan to the bone. It would be a sacrifice. But. It might be the only option on the table. 

...He should speak to Mother before deciding. He would have to, to go with either the second or third option, the only ones he thinks he could live with himself after. He's allowed too much suffering and death in those he loves by his own inaction and complacency, in the lifetime-that-was, to do so now. 

He satisfies his teachers and goes to see his Uncle. 

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Qiren is in his rooms, as expected. Qiren spent some time comforting A-Zhan, and then some time sitting and reading nearby while A-Zhan and the other very young children of Cloud Recesses clambered around the courtyard and avoided each other. Now A-Zhan is calm again, sitting on the floor and playing with Bunny. 

"Ah, A-Huan. How was class?"

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"Class was fine, Uncle. I am very sorry for my outburst this morning. I do not think I saw everyone who was nearby; is there anyone else I should offer personal apologies to?" 

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He names two elders who could use personal apologies. "You may approach them tomorrow, and they can decide about your punishment. I am glad that you have reflected, A-Huan. Do you want to talk about the bad dream?"

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...He hesitates. 

"I dreamed A-Zhan made a friend, and the friend made a mistake, and someone who didn't like the friend saw and said it was worse than it was, and people wanted to kill him about it, and everyone was very angry, and A-Zhan tried to protect his friend so they hit him with the discipline whip." 

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How deeply disturbing.

He hadn't even known that A-Huan had learned about the discipline whip, certainly not that it was something he'd thought about. Perhaps finding out about it recently had set off the nightmare.

"A-Huan, A-Zhan is a child. No children will ever be struck by the discipline whip, not you nor your brother. Even if A-Zhan's friend got him into trouble, we would just put him in a corner for time-out. He wouldn't be hurt and nobody would be killed. Okay?"

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"I understand, Uncle." The problem was that A-Zhan wouldn't stop being Xichen's baby brother when he wasn't a child anymore. 

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"You may now play with your brother. I expect better behavior from you tomorrow, A-Huan. Dreams can be frightening but we do not let that control our behavior." Sigh. "Next time, express your fears calmly before you misbehave."

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"I understand, Uncle. I will not make the same mistake again." He bows again and goes over to A-Zhan.

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A-Zhan looks pleased to see him!! Hug.

"Gege, Bunny went to class."

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Hug!!! Oh no A-Zhan is still calling him gege instead of xiongzhang it's so cute. 

"Oh? What did he learn?" 

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"He learned the books. He learned - twen-ty - two - rules." Bunny can be included in the hug as a reward for learning So Many Rules.

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"That is very impressive of Bunny. Bunny did very well." He hugs his baby brother who is never ever going to be bedridden for three years. 

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So many hugs!!! Today is not a terrible day after all, because Brother is back and there have been many hugs.

A-Zhan wiggles in the way that means he wants to be picked up now.

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Xichen picks him up. 

"You're getting to be a big boy, aren't you?" 

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"Mm." A-Zhan is a big boy and he follows lots of rules even though he doesn't know all the numbers yet and he should be able to go to class with big brother now, he thinks.

Cling.

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His brother is so good and he loves him so much. 

He will carry A-Zhan around and tell him stories for as long as A-Zhan wants. His arms start getting tired after a while but he doesn't care. 

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A-Zhan loves his brother and loves his brother's stories. He would like to be carried and told stories all the way to dinner, please.

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A-Zhan is precious and should not have been scared this morning and his big brother will tell him SO MANY STORIES. 

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During dinner they have to be quiet, but that's okay. A-Zhan keeps picturing the stories that Brother already told him while he eats his soup.

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Xichen eats his soup and steals glances at his adorable baby brother. A-Zhan is so cute at this age. 

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After dinner A-Zhan wants to go look for birds before going to bed.

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His big brother would be happy to take him assuming Uncle says it's okay. 

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That's fine, as long as they come back inside in time to get ready for bed.

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Then he takes A-Zhan by the hand and leads him outside and to all the places Nie Huaisang liked best to look for birds. 

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