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Jul 25, 2021 7:19 PM
More time travel with Lan Wangji and Jiang Cheng
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He scoffs. "Are you trying to get rid of me? What about you?"

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He doesn't appreciate being caught at that.  And he is also very tired. 

"A-jie still needs to be told everything, and you'd get it wrong if I left you to do it."

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"Jiang Cheng, who says you're gonna get it right?" He narrows his eyes. "You just don't trust me to be near her."

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Dealing with Wei Wuxian after so many years feels like coming back to an instrument after long enough for the callouses to fade, like there's a part of his mind getting blisters from the now-unfamiliar contact.  He wants his brother back, and is terrified of losing him.  He also wants him to go away, because he is too much and it hurts.  He's so tempted to storm off, prove him wrong by leaving him with A-Jie and just go to bed himself, but he isn't going to shirk his responsibility no matter how much it pains him. 

So of course he does what he always does, and shouts something he doesn't mean.  "It's not like I don't have good reason not to."

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Whatever is going on, this is unacceptable.  She is not going to let her brothers fight when they've only just been reunited.  Both of them need to be here.  She puts her hand on A-Xian's shoulder comfortingly.  "I think A-Cheng needs some time to calm down.  Do you really want to stay up?  We can step out for some fresh air, then come back."

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Wei Wuxian's hands have curled into tight, trembling fists. That's -- bad. He doesn't want to be threatening, he doesn't want to be a danger to his family. He should calm down. He should lash out so that Jiang Cheng can punch him already; that would probably make both of them feel better.

-- but that would not make Shijie feel better, that would make Shijie feel even more stressed and sad, that would be unacceptable. Getting punched is unfortunately not on the table right now.

"Whatever," he grits out, not looking directly at either of them. "Stay with him, Shijie, I don't need anything."

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Jiang Cheng sits still and watches as Wei Wuxian turns to leave, then suddenly speaks up before he can leave.  He offers terse directions to the guest room.  "You'd better not get lost and make me go looking for you for breakfast."

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"I think I'll manage."

He strides out, face stormy.

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She braces for the worst.  Tea sounds like a good idea.  She prepares it while A-Cheng collects himself. 

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Jiang Cheng has, for better or worse, pretty much cried himself out already.  Which isn't to say that this retelling is logical or well put together.

He tries to start out chronological.  This is... hard.  Some of the things he'd done turn out to have been unspeakable, even before they got to Wei Wuxian's death.  Not in that they were worse - or even as bad - as the things the Wen had done.  Merely in the literal sense that they catch in his throat as he tries to say them.  How is he supposed to look A-Jie in the eyes and tell her that he'd threatened a comatose patient who had saved his life twice?

He forces everything out anyway.  It's easier to speak to her than anyone else, even after all this time.  Easier in a cozy, dimly-lit room than looking at the cold cenotaph at the heart of Lotus Pier.  That makes it possible at all, but it's still muddled.

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She is patient, and mostly quiet.  Having already expected this to be terrible, she had sat at the same side of the table where she could easily reach over to hug him.  Feeling how and when he tenses under the arm she has wrapped around his shoulders is more honest than facial expressions anyway. 

At the final battle of Nightless City, when he struggles to keep going, she brings over a jar of a strong Qinghe province wine.  She pours a cup for herself, then hands over the rest. 

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He drinks and keeps talking.

He already knew he'd made mistakes with Wei Wuxian after his resurrection.  Squandering every opportunity that he'd been in his presence.  Expecting that Wei Wuxian would just bounce right back towards him no matter how often he shoved him away.  That he would keep his promise.

Did Wei Wuxian resent him because Jiang Cheng hadn't somehow known what he'd done for him?  How was that fair?  That asshole, leaving and not coming back.  He'd go to the Burial Mounds, to Cloud Recesses, but never to Lotus Pier.

He tells her about the golden core transfer.  He doesn't mean to, but he doesn't have control over his mouth.  And about how he'd really been captured in the first place.  He can't even get sacrifice right, when he tries it.  Wei Wuxian wound up captured and golden core-less anyway.

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She clings, and cries.

Jiang Yanli is angry.  At the world, and a bit at all three of them.  But.  She doesn't think of herself as the sort of person to be angry.  She knows that she will forgive them.  Always.  So she might as well do it now.  Besides, they have enough of thinking that they hate each other when they don't; the last thing that needs to happen is more misunderstandings.

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Jiang Cheng hates that she's crying.

He wishes he could make Wei Wuxian tell her.  But this Wei Wuxian doesn't have first-hand experience.  It was always better to have first-hand accounts than to rely on rumors and gossip which could grow and mutate, even among people who had better memories than Wei Wuxian.  He was such an inconvenience.

They reach the long stretch of time where nothing really happened, and there's a long digression about Jin Ling.  "He learned to swim in Lotus Pier," he says, face almost in a smile.  "In the same pond that we all learned in."

Jin Ling, coming back from Lanling with his first tiny bow.  He insisted on trying the kite-shooting exercise that he'd read about, but couldn't even hit stationary targets.  This had improved.  He was a good archer - the best of his age group in Carp Tower or Lotus Pier. 

Jin Ling, hands covered in ink, paper covered in childish scrawls.  First attempts at handwriting and painting that were indistinguishable from each other.  Each one was kept. 

He shakes.  He doesn't know what's going to happen to Jin Ling now.  Will he even be born, even if Jiang Cheng manages to arrange A-Jie's marriage again?  A-Ling, but raised by someone who had any business raising a child?

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Jin Guangyao's name comes up, inevitably, and his crimes.  Jiang Cheng had never realized how unobservant he was.  And yet, it seemed to be a theme.  Not knowing what Wei Wuxian needed.  What Wei Wuxian did.  What Jin Guangyao had been doing.

And speaking of complete assholes: Lan Wangji.

He'd been holding Wei Wuxian up as he had dangled over the side of that cliff, when Jiang Cheng had approached and shouted and swung his sword around and wasted time until Wei Wuxian had slipped.  Lan Wangji had claimed yesterday that he hadn't been under Wei Wuxian's control.  Jiang Cheng still isn't sure he wants to buy that.  Would he know?

But.  He also saw Lan Wangji as Wei Wuxian had escaped Carp Tower after his identity had been revealed.

He tells her what happened when he first woke up, back near the Indoctrination Bureau in the past.  Lan Wangji had pulled a sword on him just for saying hello.  He's also apparently not allowed to clean his own wounds without being threatened.  Lan Wangji has been rude to him for over a decade, and is only escalating.  After he helped him and everything!  What a menace.

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"But he still went with you to help A-Xian," she says.  She knows how to see things in the gaps of what her brother's say, and has suspicions that Lan Wangji is motivated by love.

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Jiang Cheng is Absolutely Refusing to have suspicions involving Lan Wangji's motives.  As far as he is concerned, Lan Wangji is entirely inscrutable. 

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"You trust him to be on A-Xian's side, though?"

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"I... expect him to do whatever he thinks is best for Wei Wuxian," he admits, sullen.  "But not that he'd know what is.  Back in this time, the first time, he'd been adamant against the demonic cultivation before anyone else.  He seems to be now.  So far.  But I still remember ten years of him opposed to my tracking down of demonic cultivators, and then just letting Wei Wuxian wander off doing demonic cultivation like it is suddenly okay."

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"Yes.  I suspect that they love each other, too.  That's good, right A-Cheng?"

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He huffs.

Jiang Cheng says nothing about how he hates it.  Why should he care if Wei Wuxian wants to leave.  Good riddance - he's a trouble maker.  Or A-Jie, with Jin Zixuan.  He had never been anyone's first choice, and he'd never been able to win any competition.  And that's.  Fine. 

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She is proud that Jiang Cheng has figured out the value of giving information to people.  There is more here than she can reasonably work through right away, in fact.  She supposes that finding out about his golden core and all of Jin Guangyao's hidden crimes would do that.  She hopes that this this conviction to make sure everyone stays on the same page is a lesson that sticks.

He has not managed to work out how to speak about feelings.  Nor has anyone else

She hugs him, and he doesn't put up even a token resistance.  "Your brother loves you.  I love you."  When he predictably starts crying at this, she holds him for a while.

Then it is off to bed with him, because he also needs sleep.  She doesn't care if he is in his thirties, he is still her little brother.

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As for herself, she can't sleep.  Jiang Yanli realizes that she'll pay for this later, but she can't bring herself to lie still for the remaining... not very long at all, any more.  It has been a long night. 

Besides, she has something she very much wants to do, on top of keeping her hands busy and her mind distracted.  She makes another batch of soup, this one more suited to the Lan palate, extra gentle on spices and lacking meat and as always very very good.  Some Lan, she knows, will eat other foods outside of Cloud Recesses, but she doesn't know Lan Wangji's tastes in particular.  She can always make him a normal batch later if she finds out differently.

At the reliable Lan wake-up time, she packs up a generous portion and goes looking for a chat with Lan-er-gongzi.

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As it happens, Wangji is right at this moment on his way to the Jiangs' quarters.

Last night after leaving them, he went and reported to Sect Leader Nie that the Indoctrination Bureau had been taken, the hostage swords retrieved, and Wei Wuxian rescued.

He does not go into any detail about the latter. Nor does he mention any time travel. Wangji retains a complicated respect for Nie Mingjue, but he will never trust him again as he did when he was first this age. Nie Mingjue turned his back on the Wens and turned his sword on Wei Ying. Wangji will entrust his brother alone with his memories of the Sunshot Campaign, and Brother can figure out how to best feed Nie Mingjue the appropriate strategic information. No one else needs to be told.

Lan Xichen is still missing; as Wangji remembers, he won't reappear for another few weeks. He knows there is no need to worry, but anxiety still snags at him. It is difficult being back in this time and place where his two most important people had both been missing or dead. It feels like something is urgently wrong. He needs to be out in the field looking for Brother and Wei Ying right now.

The solution to these irrational fears is to meditate them away, but first Wangji wouldn't mind reassuring himself of Wei Ying's safety in person. As soon as he wakes, Wangji heads back to where he left the Jiangs. 

When he sees Jiang Yanli approaching him he stops in his tracks and bows, feeling oddly caught.

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She returns the bow.  Jiang Yanli can instantly tell where he was going and finds it extremely cute.  He wants to check up on A-Xian!  What a good thing for a potential future brother-in-law to be doing.  She had already looked in on her brothers as she was leaving but she doesn't mind doing so again on her way back.  They're closer to the Jiang guest quarters than the Lan ones anyway. 

"Lan-er-gongzi.  Would you care to join me for breakfast?" 

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