Jin Guangyao held Nie Huaisang as he yelled for his big brother who couldn’t recognise him. He held him as his brother screamed, bleeding from all the holes in his head. He held him that day and the days that followed, as he cried and mourned.
Huaisang took comfort in Jin Guangyao's arms. It gave him something to focus on besides the ache in his chest and the image of his brother’s body tearing itself apart that kept playing over and over in his head. The light pressure of an arm around his shoulders; the gentle rise and fall of the chest he had nestled his head into; the undeniable proof that someone, at least, was still here for him. Alive.
Huaisang was the sect leader now. He knew this was coming, but it had come so much sooner than he expected. He didn’t want this; he wasn’t a leader. He had to be strong for the clan but he didn’t know how. All he could do was keep it together long enough to make the arrangements for Mingjue's funeral and delegate any other tasks that needed doing before slumping into Jin Guangyao's arms at the end of the day.
“I’m sorry, san-ge, I’m getting your robes all damp.” Huaisang sniffed one day.
“Don’t worry Huaisang, it’s okay.” Jin Guangyao replied quietly, stroking his arms soothingly. “You’re doing a really good job, A-Sang.”
“Really?” Huaisang looked up at Jin Guangyao with his eyebrows knitted together. He nodded and Huaisang leaned his head back on to his shoulder. “I’m barely holding it together even with you and er-ge helping me.”
Jin Guangyao hummed, “It’ll get easier, A-Sang, and we’re not going anywhere.”
Huaisang glanced up at Jin Guangyao’s face again. He was looking at him with kind eyes, and a gentle smile that made his dimples appear. He was the closest person Huaisang had left and he was here and his arms were around him and he wasn’t going anywhere.
Huaisang leaned up and slowly, gently pressed his lips against Jin Guangyao's. Just for a moment. When he pulled back the kindness in Jin Guangyao’s eyes was replaced with confusion. But he didn’t pull away from him.
Huaisang bit his lip and blinked at Jin Guangyao. After a few seconds of looking at each other, Huaisang leaned back in. Their lips met for the briefest of seconds before Jin Guangyao pulled his head backwards.
“San-ge, I...” Huaisang started to say.
“A-Sang, you’re upset, I don’t think-"
“So what?” Huaisang protested, “You’re upset too, aren’t you? I know you and da-ge didn’t get along but you were friends once, you’re sworn brothers, you cared about him too, I know you did.”
A strange look passed over Jin Guangyao's face, for just a shadow of a fraction of a moment, then it passed and he nodded. “Yes. I did.”
“Please, san-ge,” Huaisang begged, “I want to think about something else, I want to feel something, please, san-ge, A-Yao, I need something, I need you.” Huaisang blinked and tears built up in his eyes again. He was pleading, desperate to distract himself from the grief eating away at him.
Jin Guangyao reached out with the hand that wasn’t wrapped around Huaisang's shoulders and tucked a strand of hair behind his ear. Huaisang closed his eyes and took a shaky breath. The tears pushed their way out of his eyes and down his cheeks.
Jin Guangyao leaned forwards and kissed the tears from Huaisang's face, one at a time. Huaisang clutched at his arm, trying to keep him close before he could pull away again.
“A-Sang, are you sure?”
Huaisang nodded, “Of course.” He insisted. “Are you?”
Jin Guangyao hummed in agreement, and this time it was him who moved in and pressed their lips together, gently at first. Huaisang sighed into the kiss. It had the same effect as having his arms around him, only more. Jin Guangyao's lips were soft and warm and alive. It was hard to think about anything else with their mouths moving together and their bodies close- Huaisang was still clutching at him and the arm around his shoulders pulled him even closer.
Huaisang wanted to run his hands through Jin Guangyao’s hair, wanted to feel every part of him, but when he reached out he was met with an obstacle. He leaned away to pull Jin Guangyao's hat off- carefully, since he knew it was important to him- but his eyes went straight to what was underneath.
“You still put your hair in braids?” Huaisang asked incredulously, eyes wide.
Jin Guangyao had his hair styled in the same way he had worn it when he was part of the Nie clan. The braids Huaisang had taught him how to do himself.
Jin Guangyao blushed a little. He smiled earnestly, making his dimples reappear, “Yes, it’s... Nice. Familiar.”
Huaisang smiled for the first time in days. He reached out and ran his fingers over the bumps of the braids, carefully, so as to not disrupt the intricate design. Then he tangled his fingers in the back of Jin Guangyao's hair and pulled him into another kiss, deep and urgent.
It wasn’t long before Nie Huaisang discovered the truth behind his brother’s death; what his sworn brother had done to him.
Somehow things got even harder. He could no longer take comfort in Jin Guangyao's arms, or his lips. Now his only comfort was the promise of revenge.
Jin Guangyao had truly taken everything from him.
Huaisang returned to his room, weary. Weary from grief, weary from anger, weary from meticulous planning. He leaned against the wall and sighed. It’ll be worth it, da-ge, I promise.
Jin Guangyao appeared in the doorway, right on cue. “You don’t have to be alone, A-Sang.”
Huaisang looked at him with innocent eyes. He had wondered at first how Jin Guangyao had done it, fooled them all, but he was starting to get it. People saw what they expected to see, what was easy to understand.
Jin Guangyao: the honourable chief cultivator who tried so hard to please everyone.
Nie Huaisang: the know-nothing good-for-nothing who had no business being a sect leader.
Nie Huaisang stepped towards Jin Guangyao and folded himself into his arms once again. For a moment, with his head nestled into his shoulder, Huaisang could almost pretend that the arms wrapped around him belonged not to Jin Guangyao but to Meng Yao, his friend, someone who would never hurt him or Mingjue. It was almost too easy to pretend. Part of him wanted to slip into that fantasy and never let go. Everything was easier there.
He sighed and nestled his head deeper into Meng Yao's shoulder. A thumb gently stroked his back.
“It’s okay, A-Sang.” Jin Guangyao said. “It’s going to be okay.”
Yes. Nie Huaisang thought. Yes it will be.