The boy in blue (Ouyang Zizhen, Jiang Cheng’s brain supplies, heir to Baling Sect, spends a great deal of time in Cloud Recesses, mildly argumentative but loving relationship with his father. Jiang Cheng has always remembered that sort of information easily, a skill that he honed originally because he could be the best at it as with so little else. He has since learned that it is far more useful in his role as sect leader than any cultivation or martial ability; he still struggles with how to feel about that) is hovering over Wei Wuxian, words coming rapid and anxious. Good, Jiang Cheng thinks. It won’t get through, probably, but any time Wei Wuxian has to acknowledge that his behavior makes normal people worry about him is just fine with Jiang Cheng.
If he goes over now, it will attract notice, the kind he isn’t ready for. And really, he needs time to process everything. Probably he should be focussing on consequences of the death of the Chief Cultivator and Jin sect leader, but what sticks in his mind is Wei Wuxian’s smile as he wiped away Jiang Cheng’s tears. He needs to go away and think about what it might mean to have a brother again, and then decide how to move forward. He also feels a pressing desire to take Jin Ling home and feed him soup and perhaps never let him go back to Lanling ever again, and he thinks he can accomplish at least part of that.
So Jiang Cheng turns away from the crowd and follows his nephew towards the gate.
He knows his brother, though, even after all this time; Wei Wuxian is an impatient creature. So he is wholly unsurprised by the familiar call of “Jiang Cheng!” behind him. A few more of the jagged edges in his heart dissolve. He does not turn around, but he stops and waits for the inevitable quick footsteps.
They do not come. Instead, another voice cries urgently, “Senior Wei!”
Jiang Cheng has spun and is running before he thinks to tell his feet to move. Most of the others have gone to look at the damaged temple, including Lan Wangji, so Wei Wuxian is alone on the ground save for the Ouyang boy kneeling over him. Jiang Cheng drops to his own knees. “What happened?” he snaps. Wei Wuxian’s eyes are closed; he is breathing, Jiang Cheng is desperately relieved to see.
“He got up,” Ouyang Zizhen says, on the verge of tears. “To follow you, I think. Then he just…”
“Idiot,” Jiang Cheng mutters. He puts a hand on the boy’s shoulder. “Not you, him. Go get Hanguang-jun, at once.” Ouyang Zizhen nods, face clearing now that he has a task, and dashes off.
Jiang Cheng has been trying, lately, to give up lying to himself. So he acknowledges that he is only half assessing Wei Wuxian’s condition; the rest of him is just devouring the sight of him, looking in a way that Jiang Cheng has not let himself do since his return. Even unconscious, Wei Wuxian is here, is alive.
The part of him that is responding appropriately to the fact that there is a man passed out on the ground notes that Wei Wuxian is far too pale; there is a touch of fresh blood at his mouth and traces of more that must have been wiped away earlier. Jiang Cheng’s memory presents him with the observation that Wei Wuxian had leaned on the coffin for a moment after sealing it. How much energy had it cost him, to control the blade spirit? How much had he had available? With an uncomfortable ache, Jiang Cheng remembers the way Wei Wuxian had sagged in his grip at Lotus Pier, had crumpled into Lan Wangji’s arms and been carried away. Even with a golden core, he had always pushed himself too far; without one—Jiang Cheng pushes the thought down. He slips an arm under Wei Wuxian’s shoulders, pulling him into his lap instead of leaving him on the ground. With his other hand, he touches two fingers to Wei Wuxian’s wrist and begins to feed power into him. It feels strange, enough so that Jiang Cheng takes a minute to work out the differences before strengthening the flow. Normally he would just pour energy into the golden core to be converted for the healing process; without one, he has to be more careful. It is not particularly efficient, but he manages to find a way to push his power where it can help. He settles Wei Wuxian more comfortably against him and concentrates.
Quite quickly, Wei Wuxian stirs and opens his eyes. He doesn’t try to get up, which is a certain indicator that he is in poor shape; instead, he blinks upwards. “Jiang Cheng?”
“Obviously,” Jiang Cheng says. “Don’t move.”
“Wasn’t really planning on it,” Wei Wuxian murmurs. “What happened?”
“As far as I can tell, you spent too much energy saving everyone and completely failed to let us know you needed help,” Jiang Cheng says. “So, you know, the usual.”
Wei Wuxian smiles a little. “I didn’t think it was that bad.”
“You never do,” Jiang Cheng tells him. “Lan Wangji was right about the effects of resentful energy, wasn’t he?”
As if summoned, Lan Wangji comes hurtling across the courtyard and kneels down across from Jiang Cheng. “Wei Ying,” he says, searching his face urgently. He reaches out, seemingly on reflex, but stops himself upon noticing that Jiang Cheng is still feeding energy into Wei Wuxian’s hand.
“Hey, Lan Zhan,” Wei Wuxian says cheerfully.
I could strangle you, Jiang Cheng thinks, with a sigh. For just an instant, he spots a very similar emotion in the way Lan Wangji’s face goes expressionless, but perhaps it is his imagination.
Perhaps not, though. “Ah, Lan Zhan,” Wei Wuxian says. “Don’t look like that. I’m really fine.” They both glare down at him then. “Well,” he amends, “I’m not going to die, or anything. And look! Maybe this was all a ploy to get you two to agree on something!”
“Nice try,” Jiang Cheng tells him, unmoved. He looks at Lan Wangji. “He overdid it in there, I think.”
Lan Wangji’s glare snaps seamlessly to him instead. “He stopped the blade spirit,” he says coldly. “None of us could do that. He saved your nephew’s life.”
“I know that,” Jiang Cheng says. Wei Wuxian, who had stirred as if to protest Lan Wangji’s words, blinks up at both of them. “That doesn’t mean he couldn’t have asked for help after—from you, or Zewu-jun, if he didn’t want to—” he grits his teeth and changes what he was going to say, finishing, “talk to anyone else.”
Lan Wangji’s jaw tightens; after a moment he looks away without replying. “Jiang Cheng,” Wei Wuxian says, but he doesn’t follow it with anything. Instead, he tries to sit up. Lan Wangji moves to help him at once. Judging that Wei Wuxian’s color has improved enough for the moment, Jiang Cheng carefully halts the transfer of power and sits back. Wei Wuxian leans against Lan Wangji, but his eyes stay on Jiang Cheng’s face. “Thank you,” he says, quietly.
Jiang Cheng feels himself go red. “Don’t be stupid,” he snaps.
“Jiang Wanyin!” Lan Wangji growls, but Wei Wuxian grins brightly.
“Oh, Jiang Cheng, I’ve missed you,” he says. “Jin Ling tries so hard to be like you, and it’s adorable, but it’s not the same.”
Jiang Cheng finds that he doesn’t know what to say to that at all. It’s not a new feeling, exactly—Wei Wuxian has always been willing to say that sort of thing, the kind of affection and sincerity that he himself cannot imagine putting out into the open—but even before, something had happened to make him stop doing it, at least around Jiang Cheng. He swallows.
Lan Wangji presses his fingers to Wei Wuxian’s wrist, frowning. “You need rest, and a healer,” he says. “We will find an inn. Gusu is too far.”
“A nap sounds pretty great,” Wei Wuxian admits, which makes both of them look at him in alarm. “What! You can’t complain that I don’t take care of myself and then panic when I try.”
The ease with which Lan Wangji gets Wei Wuxian to his feet speaks of more practice doing just that than Jiang Cheng likes to think about. Even so, Wei Wuxian stumbles, and Jiang Cheng finds himself supporting his other side automatically. Lan Wangji shoots him a furious look; Jiang Cheng lifts his chin and glares right back. He says, “It’s foolish to waste money on an inn. Lotus Pier isn’t far.” It’s true, he tells himself, even if the words came from the way his heart twists at the thought of letting Wei Wuxian out of his sight. Didn’t you want time to process? he tries to remind himself, but the idea now seems so foolish as to be unworthy of consideration. Wei Wuxian is here, swaying between them regardless of his cheerful words, and Jiang Cheng is damned if he’s going to let this go again.
Lan Wangji opens his mouth, probably to say something about how the cost of an inn is nothing, or perhaps about how he will be damned if he is going to let Wei Wuxian anywhere near Jiang Cheng for longer than he has to. That would, Jiang Cheng thinks, be perfectly reasonable. He remembers the last time they were all in Lotus Pier: his own words, harsh and awful in his mouth even as he said them; Wei Wuxian’s failure to even fight for the right to step inside what should have been his home; Zidian crackling in his hand as it had crackled in his mother’s. Regardless of anything that Lan Wangji might think, Wei Wuxian has every reason to stay away. Jiang Cheng looks away from both of them, hating himself for even imagining it to be his decision.
Wei Wuxian says, “Please, Lan Zhan, don’t.” He is going to be gentle about it, then, Jiang Cheng thinks. He doesn’t know whether that makes the coming refusal worse or not. But Wei Wuxian’s voice is shaking when he asks, “Jiang Cheng, really?” Jiang Cheng’s head whips around. Wei Wuxian is staring at him, face open and desperate in a way that he doesn’t think he has ever seen. “You—” Wei Wuxian swallows hard. “You have to say it. You have to ask properly, or I won’t know—” His voice cracks; there are tears in his eyes.
Jiang Cheng stares back, stricken momentarily speechless. Then the words come frantic and rapid over his tongue. “Come back to Lotus Pier,” he says. “I’m sorry, about before, I promise I’ll never—please come home.” Wei Wuxian is crying properly now, but he is smiling through it. “Not forever,” Jiang Cheng adds, unable to stop himself. Wei Wuxian’s expression flickers. “I mean—obviously forever if you like, I just know you two are—I don’t care. He can come too, or you can visit, or—or whatever. Anything you want.” He gets control over himself and stops, finally. Lan Wangji is staring in what, for him, is open astonishment; for once, Jiang Cheng doesn’t care, because Wei Wuxian tugs free and lunges sideways in a sort of directed stagger. Jiang Cheng gathers him close and hangs on fiercely.
“Yeah, okay,” Wei Wuxian mumbles into his shoulder. “I mean, Lan Zhan and I will have to figure out the rest of it. But yes. I want to come home.”