Wei Wuxian admires the birds that chirp excitedly along the worn dirt path to the cold springs, charmed by their bright colors and sweet voices. Chittering grey and brown squirrels dart up and down the trees on occasion, and butterflies flit among the white flowers that grow at the edge of the forest. His wounds hurt, of course, the cloth of the disciples’ robes pulling uncomfortably at his back, but out here, the world seems so much bigger than that pain, and it’s easy to lock it away in his mind.
The burble of water in the distance captures his attention and he hurries down the hill faster, starting to skip. What he finds in the water is just what he’d hoped for - the Second Jade of Lan himself, so cold and rigid towards his peers, and so fascinating Wei Wuxian can’t seem to help poking every pressure point just to watch what he’ll do next. He’s completely nude in the cold spring, facing the opposite bank. Wei Wuxian admires his lean muscles and the sweet curve of his ass as he stands in the shallows, preparing himself to wade into the deeper, colder water. Then he turns around, facing Wei Wuxian, and for a second Wei Wuxian thinks he’s been caught, but Lan Zhan appears to be off in his own world, eyes closed as he meditates.
He raises a hand to hail the Second Jade, but freezes when he catches sight of what Lan Zhan is wearing.The glint of sunlight off metal is unmistakable, but what exactly is it? And why is it right ... there? Right at the juncture of Lan Zhan’s thighs, constricting his most intimate parts. He sticks to the shadows of the trees, unmoving and fascinated by his discovery.
As Lan Zhan leans and settles on his back, letting the icy water soothe his wounds, Wei Wuxian gets a better look at the device. From here, it appears intricate, delicate, firmly entrapping Lan Zhan’s genitals, the sheathe tight around his soft cock. His balls, too, are held in place by a thin extension wrapping around to his perineum. It all looks so strict; it must hurt any time Lan Zhan wakes up in the morning, or exercises too hard, or even has a stray thought, assuming he thinks of such things. Wei Wuxian’s own cock stirs in sympathy.
He isn’t sure what to do. There’s nobody else around; he could theoretically sit and stare all day long. But that isn’t what he wants; what he wants is to know why, and how, and - heavens above - has Lan Zhan ever known pleasure? Has he ever had the opportunity to touch himself, to let himself go and untether his connection to the earth, even for a few moments?
Coming to a decision, he steps back into the sunlight and hails Lan Zhan with a wave. “Ji-xiong! It’s me!”
Alarm flashes across Lan Zhan’s face, quickly followed by his default annoyance whenever Wei Wuxian is around. He stands up and covers himself until he can take a step backwards into deeper waters, then scowls and asks, “Who let you in?”
“Ah, Zewu-Jun let me in.”
Wei Wuxian keeps bounding down the path like he doesn’t have a care in the world, but he’s itching to get a closer look at the contraption. He wants answers, too, but knowing Lan Zhan, he’ll just end up with a bunch more questions instead.
Once he’s at the water, he quickly disrobes, stepping free of his trousers and making his way next to the Second Jade, who is watching him with dismay. Wei Wuxian catches the quick once-over Lan Zhan gives him, including the pause when he sees Wei Wuxian’s free penis. He can’t help but stir once more under the scrutiny.
“Say, Lan Zhan, I...”
Lan Zhan takes a hurried step back when Wei Wuxian steps closer. He turns to flee back to his robes, slung carefully over a branch on the opposite shore, when it becomes clear Wei Wuxian is not going to stop. But Wei Wuxian reaches out and grabs hold of one arm, and Lan Zhan doesn’t fight to get free. He freezes. Wei Wuxian watches his back, flushed from their punishment, admires how the tight muscles swell with his breath.
“Will you look at me?” he pleads.
Lan Zhan slowly turns around in his grip, staring at him like he’s a nightmare made flesh.
“Come on, Lan Zhan,” he coaxes, softening his tone, “I can’t be that bad, can I? Don’t run away.” Lan Zhan doesn’t say anything - not that Wei Wuxian had expected him to - but he doesn’t flee, either.
So what happens now? He’s got Lan Zhan’s attention, and he wants to know about that thing that’s holding his genitals hostage, but Lan Zhan is like a fawn who’s survived three hunts, liable to bolt at the first sign of discomfort.
Oh. Oh . He’s afraid , not annoyed.
“If I ask you a question, will you answer it honestly?”
Lan Zhan looks down, first to the clear water where he can plainly see Wei Wuxian’s body, then to the hand still gripping his arm like he can’t believe it’s still there. “Lying is prohibited in the Cloud Recesses.”
“Ah, yes, that’s true. But will you run away instead of answering it?”
Lan Zhan raises his head and says nothing. So: probably.
“I just want to know, okay? What is the thing on your cock? Can I see it?”
At first, Lan Zhan remains rooted in place, as though shocked that Wei Wuxian would have the gall to ask such a thing. Then he shakes off his hold and lunges for the shore and for his clothes.
Wei Wuxian, relentless, follows right behind. “Hey! I’m just curious! I don’t know anything about this. Please let me see it!”
“No,” Lan Zhan says coldly, turning to give Wei Wuxian the most burning glare he’s received yet.
Wei Wuxian hops in front of him so that he is between Lan Zhan and his clothes. Lan Zhan’s angry eyes bore into him, but he remains undaunted.
“Why do you wear it?” he asks, reaching out curiously. Lan Zhan quickly covers it even as he stumbles in his haste to get away. “Is it something all Lans wear or just you?”
Lan Zhan backs up, looking desperate now. He trips over a root and falls sideways into the trunk of a tree, a branch scratching his face.
Wei Wuxian pushes the leaves aside as he steps in close once more. He makes to grab hold of the contraption, but stops mid-action, hand hovering cautiously as he comes to a realization. “It... it’s locked?” he asks, surprised. “Did they force this on you?”
Some part of him is outraged at the idea. Not indulging oneself in pleasure as a rule is cruel enough, but to cut off access to any touch whatsoever seems the height of sadism. Arousal is not merely physical, it is also a function of the mind, and how are Lan Zhan’s uncle and the rest of the Elders supposed to control that? Why do they think they have the right?
His mind spins with outrage while he inspects the device closer. The material is silver, light and thin but sturdy, as fine as any sword, befitting the Second Jade of Lan, the pattern as intricate as he’d first thought. Delicately carved flower petals extend between the latticework, allowing only minute glances of the stirring flesh trapped within the cage.
Lan Zhan is close enough for Wei Wuxian to notice his stuttering breaths. Is he... becoming aroused from this? He could easily push Wei Wuxian off of himself if he truly wanted to, or Wei Wuxian wouldn’t have gotten into his personal space to begin with. He tears his gaze away from the cage to see Lan Zhan curled in on himself, drawn taut as a bowstring with shame or perhaps apprehension.
“Lan Zhan,” Wei Wuxian says seriously, “were you forced into this by your uncle?”
Lying is prohibited at the Cloud Recesses, and Lan Zhan is at his mercy. If he hears a yes, he might be ending his trip to Gusu quicker than expected.
“No,” Lan Zhan whispers.
Lan Zhan’s lips tighten like he doesn’t want to answer, but he continues anyway, “All Lan disciples receive one at coming-of-age.”
“And you just... live like that?” Wei Wuxian asks, gesturing with exasperation.
“Until our wedding day.”
He huffs a humorless laugh. “Well I guess that’s good. Not much point of a wedding night otherwise. Doesn’t it, you know, hurt?”
Lan Zhan doesn’t respond, which means yes. He’s a difficult man to read, but his silences aren’t meaningless, and Wei Wuxian thinks he is getting the hang of it.
“Oh, Lan Zhan. I’m sorry they did this to you.”
“Why?” Lan Zhan asks, forgetting his shame and annoyance for a moment in favor of genuine curiosity.
Wei Wuxian swallows his pity. “Because you can feel so good. You can feel good without overindulging. Do they not want you to feel any joy?”
Lan Zhan’s lips part, and Wei Wuxian’s eyes follow the movement. Those lips look so soft, he can’t help but yearn to feel them against his own. Lan Zhan’s skin is clean and free of blemishes, so pure , like him, and suddenly Wei Wuxian can’t let it stand like this. It’s not fair to anyone to keep them in this state, unable to understand what their bodies are capable of, but Lan Zhan deserves so much more. Rigid and unreasonable he may be, but underneath that rough exterior is a heart of gold Wei Wuxian is determined to bring into the light.
He twists his wrist in the air around the cage, using his spiritual energy to feel for its weak points. Lan Zhan gasps and grips his forearm to stop him. His eyes are wild. Afraid like all of him is in that cage, terrified of what may happen if he is set free.
“Lan Zhan,” Wei Wuxian says, pulling the hand away from his arm. “Let me show you how good you can feel.”
Lan Zhan is shaking, breathing heavily through his mouth, seeming desperate to speak but unable to utter a word. A whine escapes his lips.
“I can’t,” he eventually manages. “Please. It’s forbidden,” he adds desperately.
Wei Wuxian studies him, his brown eyes now blown black with desire. “If you really want me to, I’ll back off. I won’t release it. But I think you don’t want that.”
Hands curl around tree bark. Breath speeds up. Wei Wuxian fancies he can hear Lan Zhan’s heart racing. Impulsively, he places his palm against Lan Zhan’s chest to feel it, to let him know he’s there and won’t let anything bad happen to him, if only he’ll let go.
All at once, Lan Zhan’s body loses its tension. He leans his weight against the tree, letting it hold him up. His legs shift and widen slightly; he pushes his chest out and keeps his hands at his side.
Wei Wuxian makes a deep, pleased sound, and bites his lip when it makes Lan Zhan shudder. “Is that a yes?”
Lan Zhan swallows and closes his eyes to shut out the world. “Yes.”
Lan Wangji remembers the day he received his cage as if it were yesterday. His shufu had gifted it to him with a stern expression and explained, in no uncertain terms, that it was not to be removed except in the case of serious injury or on his wedding night. And Lan Wangji, having never looked at a girl twice in his life, had asked and what if I never get married? His uncle had explained that it would stay with him for the rest of his life in that case, while his brother had smiled encouragingly at him from the sideline.
Lan Wangji had known the rule about indulging in pleasure the same as he’d known all three thousand of the sect rules, but only about six months before his coming-of-age had he understood it. He’d wake up in the morning with an ache between his legs, insistent as anything he’d ever experienced. Once or twice he’d given in and stroked himself, but had quickly run a bath just on the edge of freezing, because that was the pleasure he’d been warned about his whole life, and he’d never even dreamed anything could feel that good.
Now, three years later, the cage feels like a second skin. Oh, there is a part of him that hates it, the part that has to channel spiritual energy to stop the chafing, the part that itches with need every time the flesh tries to stir. The part of himself Wei Wuxian has so rudely awakened with his smiles and sunny disposition, with his clever swordsmanship and even more clever mind. Nevertheless, it has become a comforting weight keeping him from temptation.
He winces when the lock clicks, destroyed by Wei Wuxian’s magic. Wei Wuxian carefully unwraps him, pulling his rapidly filling cock from the confines of the cage and pulling the silver extension away from his balls. Everything between his legs feels unbearably heavy, dragged down by gravity. The warm summer air that had him sweating just a few moments ago feels cool against his cock, but there is a burning fire in his center that Wei Wuxian and his newfound freedom have lit.
Wei Wuxian is so near, Lan Wangji can almost taste him. Opening his eyes seems like a bad idea, so he doesn’t, instead choosing to stand there, naked and vulnerable, letting Wei Wuxian see every inch of his body. He couldn’t bear to watch it; it’s bad enough to feel that assessing gaze. It’s unsettling and shameful, and he is so hard, the pit of his belly hurts.
It takes him a while before he realizes the low-pitched whine at the edge of his hearing is coming from him. Heavens, he must be flushed from head to toe; he feels warm and weightless, light-headed from overstimulation and lack of stimulation all at once.
“Please,” he finally mumbles, barely coherent, not even knowing what he’s asking for. “Please, Wei Ying.”
Wei Wuxian - Wei Ying - draws a quick breath, and Lan Wangji realizes he’s never called him that before, never called him by his familiar name the way Wei Ying does to him. But if any moment is the time to start, this is it. He has never felt so vulnerable in his entire life. He has never felt so alive in his entire life, and it’s all because of Wei Ying.
“Lan Zhan.” Wei Ying’s hand, callused from swordplay, gently grasps his chin and raises his head. “Look at me.”
His body obeys without conscious thought. Wei Ying is so close so close so close; Lan Wangji tries to step back on instinct, but it does him no good. The tree behind him is a solid presence blocking his path. He has no choice but to give in to Wei Ying’s magnetic pull.
The desire, the wonder on Wei Ying’s face makes him, if possible, even harder, makes him squeeze his pelvic muscles together in a desperate effort to push himself over the edge. Just a touch, even a glancing one, would send him careening off a waterfall, flailing helplessly, and he is molten with the need to experience it.
“Please,” he whines, no longer caring how pathetic it sounds. He has become stupid, a slave to his desire, just what the Elders had feared when they gave him the cage, but he feels free, so free, he doesn’t ever want it to stop - he just, he needs -
“Look at me,” Wei Ying commands, firm, and Lan Wangji opens his eyes once more, not realizing he’d even closed them. “Look at me when I touch you, can you do that for me?”
Lan Zhan nods, speechless. It takes every ounce of focus he has just to keep his eyes on Wei Ying’s, to share this moment’s intensity, overwhelming as it is.
Wei Ying finally, finally takes him in hand. Lan Wangji’s fingernails scrape the tree bark as his entire body tenses, utterly taken over by the hot pulse of pleasure riding every fiber of his nerves. When he starts to scream with the force of it, Wei Ying leans in and swallows the sound, pressing their lips together, an open-mouthed kiss consisting more of exchanging air than anything else. For several moments, he freefalls into blissful nothingness.
Wei Ying does his best to let him down gently, or as gentle as someone can get after such an experience. Lan Zhan sags forward once it’s done, absently mouths at Wei Ying’s shoulder, boneless and feeling oddly affectionate. Wei Ying has his arms wrapped around him, solid, so wonderfully solid .
When his brain finally starts to unscramble itself, Lan Wangji realizes that Wei Ying is poking his thigh with his own arousal. Open and curious, he looks down to see the evidence for himself. The skin of Wei Ying’s cock is smooth and unblemished, flushed a deep red, several shades darker than the rest of him. The trail of hair traveling down below his belly button is thick and black, ending in a thatch of hair more impressive than his own, providing a perfect frame for Wei Ying’s jutting, proud manhood.
He touches it without thinking to ask; Wei Ying gasps in surprise. “You... Lan Zhan, you don’t have to.”
Lan Wangji meets his eyes, no longer ashamed. “I want to.”
Wei Ying opens his mouth. Closes it. Opens it again when Lan Wangji strokes him experimentally. “Ahhh... it’s... it’s... wow, ” Wei Ying breathes eloquently, and Lan Wangji feels a little smug at making him speechless for once. “You’re... you. Lan Zhan, Lan Wangji, you - “
Instead of continuing his attempt at speech, Wei Ying reaches between them to grasp Lan Wangji’s cock, which is almost completely hard again. It’s Lan Wangji’s turn to gasp his surprise as he tries to focus on pleasuring his friend. He’s lost in it again, hanging on for dear life as the need rises, more gradual than before but no less intense.
“Here, let me,” Wei Ying pants, pulling them flush and grabbing Lan Wangji’s hands in his so that they’re both holding their cocks together. Lan Wangji immediately starts thrusting upwards, weak little circles of his hips, marveling at the soft skin of Wei Ying’s cock. The come from his earlier orgasm, still covering Wei Ying’s palm, eases the friction between them. Surprisingly, Wei Ying bites back his own noises, little mewls that are dying to be released, even as he takes the lead in helping Lan Wangji set a rhythm.
Lan Wangji winds up with his head on Wei Ying’s shoulder again, biting until he tastes iron, desperate to hold on. More than anything, he wants them to come together, to fall off the precipice together, because even though Wei Ying is no stranger to this solo, Lan Wangji is willing to bet he’s never done anything like it with another person.
“Kiss me,” Wei Ying gasps, tugging on Lan Wangji’s hair with his free hand. The sting feels so good, adds to the pleasure in his gut; he’d return the favor, but both of his hands are tight around their cocks. He has just enough presence of mind to do as Wei Ying commands.
Their lips meet again, frenzied. They taste each other’s need, moving their heads at the same time as though reading each other’s mind, deepening the kiss. Wei Ying tastes faintly like the chili oil he’d smuggled in for lunch, like egg noodles and chrysanthemum tea, and Lan Wangji is starving for it. He lets Wei Ying guide the kiss, chases him when he pulls back, doesn’t let him get away when his body tenses up and his cock starts to pulse. Wei Ying keens into his mouth, unable to do anything but let the pleasure carry him away.
His release coats their joined hands, and soon, Lan Wangji flies over the edge after him, loving the slick slide of their combined spend. Once it’s over and he’s had a moment to catch his breath, he sticks a finger in his mouth, tasting them both.
“Ah? Lan Zhan .”
“Mn?” Lan Wangji asks, still savoring.
“If I hadn’t just come, I’d do it just watching that.”
“Don’t mn me.” He leans in and kisses Lan Wangji again, slow and deep, until they’re both breathless. Lan Wangji doesn’t want to have to breathe ever again, not if it means ending this. He doesn’t ever want to pull away.
But reality has a way of crashing down, and it does so with a vengeance. He staggers back into the tree again, gripping it with palms sticky and already scratched from doing so earlier. A thousand panicked thoughts flash through his mind: his cage, his chastity is gone; he’s been with someone else, with a man, no less; he’s broken the rules; he needs to be punished; he doesn’t want to be punished.
He enjoyed it. More than he’s ever enjoyed anything in his life. How can something so beautiful bring him such shame?
“Lan Zhan, hey, Lan Zhan. Look at me. Can you do that, hm? Look at me.”
He zeroes in on Wei Ying’s voice, that focal point that had kept him safe when he finally gave in and let go. It takes effort, but he’s finding it easy to be good for Wei Ying when he makes demands in that firm, confident voice.
Wei Ying meets his eyes and nods once, decisively. Then he places both hands on Lan Wangji’s face and leans in for one last kiss, barely open-mouthed and sweet. Lan Wangji is overcome with feeling for this man, this impossible person who had walked into his life and commanded his attention in a way he was helpless to ignore.
“You’re not going to freak out,” Wei Ying tells him. Lan Wangji shakes his head numbly. “We are going to put our robes on and bathe in the cold springs together, and things will go back to normal. The only difference is that... now you know. Now we know.”
“What it’s like to be with each other.”
“What it’s like to be with each other,” Wei Ying confirms.
“Will you... want that again?” Lan Wangji asks, unsure of what he wants the answer to be.
“Will you?” Wei Ying asks quietly.
“I... don’t know. I think so,” he responds, hesitant but honest. “I can’t... I can’t go back to before.” Not now that he’s had this. Not now that he knows how good it can be. Wei Ying had been right. He can’t, no matter that it’s against the rules. “No one can know.”
“I’m not telling,” Wei Ying says wryly. “I’d rather not be punished again. Especially not for defiling the Second Jade of Lan himself,” he adds, shaking his head as though shocked even at himself.
Lan Wangji wraps his underrobe around himself and wades in after Wei Ying. He feels numb, sated but still in disbelief.
They are silent for a while, almost comfortable, even, before Wei Ying speaks again. “I hope you don’t regret this. I won’t, but if you do... Lan Zhan, I recognize you as my match. I’d rather annoy you than make you feel ashamed. The latter will make me stay away from you, and let me tell you, I very much do not want to stay away from you.”
Lan Wangji, unsure what to do with this information, latches onto one piece of it. “You’d rather... annoy me? On purpose?” He squints at Wei Ying, who gestures nonchalantly. There is already a bruise forming on his shoulder from where Lan Wangji had bitten him.
“You’re easy to rile up.” He shrugs and picks at his nails, seeming strangely embarrassed.
“And this is... fun? For you.”
Wei Ying bites his lip, considers Lan Wangji for a moment, then squares his shoulders and faces him, once more decisive. That confidence does things to Lan Wangji. “Lan Zhan. Every moment I’ve had with you here has been fun for me.”
Lan Wangji did not know that. He can’t exactly say the same, though the amount of times he’s caught himself thinking of Wei Ying certainly says some thing. He remains silent, unsure how to address the issue.
But when they move to leave the cold springs, he nods at Wei Ying - not a promise, not exactly, but an understanding. He’ll process this and piece his mind back together, but he’ll be forever changed by what they’ve shared today, and while he can’t say anything for certain yet, he doesn’t think there will be any regrets.