It’s nighttime in the Cloud Recesses and Jiang Cheng and Nie Huaisang have been drinking since before curfew. Long enough that Jiang Cheng has mostly lapsed into silence, simply watching Nie Huaisang as he giggles and rambles.
“Oh!” He exclaims, pushing himself to a sitting position from where he was mostly sprawled on Jiang Cheng’s lap. “Remember when we were three? That time Wei Wuxian…”
Jiang Cheng frowns, a sharp pang cutting through the pleasant buzz of alcohol. He’s not really listening to what
Nie Huaisang is reminiscing about.
“I miss him sometimes,” Nie Huaisang as he collapses into giggles, and Jiang Cheng feels something dark and ugly settle in his belly. He pushes Nie Huaisang off and crosses his arms.
“You know,” he says, wishing his voice wasn’t slurred. “You don’t have to keep doing… this”
Nie Huaisang blinks at him, confused. “Doing what, Jiang-xiong?”
“This!” Jiang Cheng says, hearing between them as his voice rises. “Hanging out with me now that… HE’s gone.”
He looks away, frowning, already feeling the sting of rejection. Nie Huaisang doesn’t need him. Everyone likes him here.
It takes him a moment to register that Nie Huaisang hasn’t moved or said anything in reply. He glances back, to find hiss head bowed, a curtain of dark hair hiding his face as he clutches his closed fan so hard his knuckles are white. Jiang Cheng’s heart speeds up, panicking.
“I didn’t realize—“ Nie Huaisang starts, then cuts himself off sharply. His voice sounds funny. “If you didn’t want me around, you could have…”
And then he looks up, and his eyes are big and full of hurt and maybe a little too shiny, as if he might cry?
Jiang Cheng realizes he may have fucked up.
“No!” He says (yells?) quickly. “That’s not… don’t put words in my mouth, I didn’t mean…”
He trails off as Nie Huaisang frowns.
“Fuck!” He lets himself fall on his back against the floor. Nie Huaisang really will leave now.
“What exactly did you mean then, Jiang-xiong? Because I sure don’t understand.”
Jiang Cheng covers his face with his hand in frustration.
“Just… you’re HIS friend. I know I’m not as fun. You don’t have to hang out with me out of…obligation.” Or pity. But he can’t bring himself to say THAT.
There is silence again. Jiang Cheng really doesn’t want to open his eyes.
And then he feels Nie Huaisang punch him in the arm. “What the fuck? That’s what you think? You’re… I can’t believe you’re this dense.”
Jiang Cheng peeks at Nie Huaisang through his fingers. The other boy is glaring at him.
“I’m not here out of obligation!” Nie Huaisang exclaims and he sounds indignant. “And I never—“ He cuts himself off, abruptly opening his fan and raising it to hide his face.
Jiang Cheng pushes himself into a sitting position. “You never what?”
“Nothing!” Nie Huaisang yells, turning away, but Jiang Cheng grabs him by the shoulders. They struggle drunkenly a moment, lose their balance, and Jiang Cheng winds up starting down at Nie Huaisang, on his back beneath him, his hair fanning out against the floor.
“You never what, Huaisang?” He asks, his voice soft, barely a whisper. He can’t help himself and brushes a stay lock off Nie Huaisang’s cheek.
“I…” Nie Huaisang bites his lower lip briefly. His cheeks are rosier than the alcohol should account for.
“I never hung out with you because of Wei Wuxian,” he admits softly. “It was the other way around. I thought if… maybe you’d like me if he… I mean, yeah, he’s fun, but you…”
“Oh,” Jiang Cheng says, not certain he’s understanding correctly.
They stare at each other in silence for a moment. And then, slowly, deliberately, Nie Huaisang’s gaze drifts to Jiang Cheng’s lips and back up to meet his eyes again. And well, he knows what THAT means, at least. So he lowers his head and brushes lips against Nie Huaisang’s.
“Did you REALLY think I only spent time with you because of Wei Wuxian? Even though all those hours he was copying the rules in the Library Pavilion I was with YOU alone?”
“No. Maybe. I don’t know.” Jiang Cheng has to admit it sounds really dumb when you say it like that.
He frowns again, embarrassed, but then Nie Huaisang laughs fondly, his eyes crinkling at the corners, and he wraps his arms around Jiang Cheng’s neck.
“Oh, Jiang-xiong,” he whispers, and his breath tickling Jiang Cheng’s lips before tugging him down into a deeper kiss.
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