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“And so, gege?” Hua Cheng said, drawing Xie Lian away from the door of Pu Qi Temple and closing it firmly on their departing guests. He’d poured wine, he’d cooked and allowed Feng Xin and Mu Qing to evade Xie Lian’s cooking, he’d tolerated the small talk and his husband’s divided attention. Finally the dinner had ended and his cunning plan was coming to fruition at last. “Did I do well?”

Xie Lian sparkled up at him, smile incandescent, and rose on tip-toe to press a quick kiss to the corner of Hua Cheng’s mouth. “San Lang was perfect.”

“And I get my reward?” Hua Cheng teased, pulling Xie Lian to him as he deftly wove them through the screens and offerings of the temple towards their personal quarters. “Gege promised.”

“Of course,” Xie Lian said easily, going a little pink, and settled easily onto one of their couches. He opened his arms, making a space for Hua Cheng who happily filled it, curling in. “Anything San Lang wants.”

“A generous offer,” Hua Cheng noted, and nosed along Xie Lian’s jawline, breathing in the scent of sweet skin, of the drifting fragrance of the flowers tucked into his hair. “Is gege sure?”

“Mm,” Xie Lian agreed, already dreamy-eyed and going pliant against him. He tilted his chin back to give Hua Cheng better access to kiss his throat, the delicate perfection of the skin beneath his ear.

“In that case… tell me what I did to gege the night Mt. Tonglu opened,” Hua Cheng said into that skin, voice as rich and seductive as he could make it, a curl of languid smoke, and pulled back to look his beloved in the eye. Xie Lian was already responding to the tone, leaning in, when suddenly he froze, eyes huge and staring up at Hua Cheng.

“I—” Xie Lian huffed out a breath, chin ducking back down and shoulders hunching. “San Lang! That’s all? You could have just asked. You didn’t have to be—” he paused, clearly considering and discarding adjectives. “—polite. You know I don’t mind if you tease my friends. Are you sure you don’t want something else?”

“Pray forgive me, gege,” Hua Cheng said, sliding down and laying his head carefully on Xie Lian’s leg, looking up at him through his lashes. Xie Lian’s cheeks flushed a darker red, and his thigh muscles flexed under Hua Cheng’s cheek. “It’s only I’ve asked so many times, and gege has always changed the subject. But now he’s promised, so I’m sure he’ll finally describe the fight we shared.”

“It wasn’t a fight,” Xie Lian admitted, finally, and Hua Cheng employed an expectant silence, letting the seconds tick past as they stared at each other. Xie Lian fiddled absently with his sleeves, hands restless until Hua Cheng pushed his head against one. He hummed smugly when Xie Lian laughed a little and began combing through his hair with his fingers. He’d taken to saying Hua Cheng was like a temple cat, always asking for petting and cream, and obviously Hua Cheng couldn’t resist the opening. On top of the innuendo, and the sweet, flustered way Xie Lian stammered once he’d heard himself, it was a comparison too good not to lean into. Hua Cheng did want to be petted and spoiled, to always be in Xie Lian’s lap.

“You didn’t do anything to me,” Xie Lian continued finally, a familiar refrain from previous attempts at questioning. “San Lang would never hurt me.”

“Not on purpose.” Hua Cheng grimaced guiltily up at him, his frown half-put upon and half-genuine. There were many hurts he’d failed to prevent, many years and months and minutes he hadn’t been there, when his beloved was alone and lonely.

He heard a soft sigh above him, and strove to smooth his frown back into something more teasing, alluring. Xie Lian’s hand was fully stroking now, no longer just finger-tip touches, but nails scratching deliciously against his scalp.

“You didn’t hurt me on purpose or by accident!” Xie Lian insisted firmly, and bit his lips until they were enticingly rosy, before finally saying quickly, “And it wasn’t, it wasn’t all your idea, what happened. I should apologize—I do apologize, I just…”

A tension Hua Cheng had been unaware of melted slowly out of his shoulders. Xie Lian’s voice was full of a sweet, familiar embarrassment, of the kind Hua Cheng was now delightedly familiar after several giddy months spent exploring his husband’s body, his abashed wants and shy greed.

So it had been like that. Thank god, thank this god.

“Oh?” Hua Cheng commented lightly, eye closed, head still pushing against Xie Lian’s fingers. “What wasn’t my idea? What did gege do to my poor, defenseless body?”

“San Lang!” Xie Lian protested, and smacked his shoulder lightly when Hua Cheng laughed.

“Gege couldn’t have done anything to me that I would mind,” he assured Xie Lian, opening his eye and smiling up at him. He was still worried – there was no way he hadn’t been embarrassingly forward, or slobberingly desperate, or just generally obnoxious. But he trusted, now, that Xie Lian mostly had held back from speaking of it out of his own embarrassment, rather than trying to shield Hua Cheng from shame or guilt.

“I only want to know. What did gege do?”

“I—you know already,” Xie Lian protested, cheeks flamingly red. “With what, Heavenly Eye said, about—my, my mouth. That he saw—that he knew we—"

“What about your mouth?” Hua Cheng inquired innocently. “Remind me, it’s been so long. Help your husband remember. Something about your lips, and the essence of evil inside you?”

“Why do you always make me say these things out loud?” Xie Lian despaired.

“Sometimes gege needs a little extra encouragement to be honest with me,” Hua Cheng said, and stretched his arms over his head, watching Xie Lian’s pupils blow dark and wide as he arched his back a little. Xie Lian liked it, somehow, liked the lanky length of Hua Cheng all stretched out, and Hua Cheng didn’t understand why, but he was happy to take advantage of it. “Is gege ready to share?”

“You—ahh, uh,” Xie Lian stammered, and uttered a few more incoherent syllables and simple words, but stayed where he was, playing with Hua Cheng’s hair and flicking his eyes over Hua Cheng’s mouth, his neck, his legs, back to his mouth. Practically lewd, for his shy husband. “I’ll—show you.”

Better than he’d hoped. “Please do,” he purred, and Xie Lian’s strong, careful hands tipped his chin up, and he bent down and pressed their mouths together.

“Just that,” Xie Lian murmured against his mouth, pulling back. He was bent over still, hair curtained around them, position awkward yet still graceful as he held in place, lips close and noses brushing.

“Surely not,” Hua Cheng said. “Gege promised, so show me what really happened. Here, I’ll help.”

He closed his eye a moment and summoned the memory of that heat, volcanic and demanding, desperate and lashing. He couldn’t quite simulate that, didn’t want to, but he burnt some spiritual power to heat up his own tepid blood. What might he have begged for? What would he ask for, at his most mindless and needy?

“Gege, please,” he said, low and rough, and clutched at Xie Lian’s robes shamelessly. He looked through his lashes and saw Xie Lian’s shocked, open mouth. “Don’t leave me.”

“San Lang!” Xie Lian breathed out, and then bit his lip and made a fascinating series of faces before breathing out. Then he pulled Hua Cheng up and around so that they were facing each other directly, Hua Cheng on his hands and knees, half over Xie Lian.

“I won’t,” he said seriously, hands cupping his face, devastatingly sincere. “I won’t leave you, San Lang, I’m here.”

Oh, Hua Cheng thought, and it was startlingly easy to encourage the false heat in his body to flare up again. “Please,” he said, and waited, and this time when Xie Lian kissed him it was deeper, and when Hua Cheng let his own mouth move desperate and clumsy, Xie Lian took it sweetly, pulling him up and over until they’d slid down on the divan with Xie Lian beneath him. But then, it would have – would have been on the altar, Hua Cheng thought. The ink everywhere, sheets smeared and brushes and seals flying and clattering on the floor.

“Shh,” Xie Lian said, breath shuddering, hands in Hua Cheng’s hair. “I’m here, San Lang, you have me.”

“Gege, gege,” Hua Cheng panted, clutching, holding on, trying to hold back, he would have been trying so hard to remember to hold back, and Xie Lian’s hands were almost cool on his skin, for once. They must have been so sweetly cold back then, back when he was burning. The kisses grew sloppy, but Xie Lian never stopped, only opened his mouth, and drank down the energy spilling out of Hua Cheng. “I need, I need—“

“Whatever you need,” Xie Lian murmured, clinging tightly to him, hands clenched in his robes.

“Was it like this?” Hua Cheng managed to ask, between frantic kisses, desperate and rough like he never let himself be most of the time. “Gege, was it?”

“Yes,” Xie Lian panted, and Hua Cheng pulled back to look at him and his mouth was so red and wet, and he thought, then—he’d have been unable to resist biting that lower lip, and then – if Xie Lian made that aching sound, he’d have – would he have?

He could now – he has kissed every inch of this beloved body, places that the Hua Cheng from a few years ago could only have sculpted from imagination, dreams. He’d been jealous of his past self, those early fumbling kisses that he’d lost, that he’d never know for himself, but there was something so sweet about this now.

“You liked it,” he said, wonderingly, and felt Xie Lian’s skin start to flare hotter beneath him than his own simulated heat could match. “Gege, gege, do you like it?”

“I do,” Xie Lian whispered, agonized. “I did, I do. I liked it so much, San Lang.” He was trembling under Hua Cheng. “I wanted so badly to—I liked San Lang’s hands on me, but I couldn’t—”

Hua Cheng would have been even more desperate, he concluded, than he’d previously realized. He rolled them now, let them fall off the couch and onto the floor and grunted as his back hit and Xie Lian landed on top of him with a startled sound. But he knew what he’d have wanted, he knew what he wanted now, and it was to give up, give in, slide his hands down Xie Lian’s back, the sweet slimness of his waist, grab his hips and the plush roundness of his ass and pull it down.

“Ah! Oh, oh—”

“Gege,” Hua Cheng mumbled, agonized for his past self, sure now. “Were you hard for me? Did you want it?”

“Yes,” Xie Lian gasped. “I didn’t know until then, I didn’t, I thought I—I just, wanted to—help.”

“Except you wanted more,” Hua Cheng crooned, and wondered how he’d managed to keep sane with this provocation, with actual flames licking from within and his skin threatening to erupt. He already wanted now to bite and claim, to see that white skin redden for him so that everyone would know what had happened. “You liked it. Mine, mine. Don’t go—ah, gege, please.”

Xie Lian couldn’t have rocked down against his hips, hard length against him, back then. There was no way Hua Cheng would have withstood that; he’d have died again, or exploded. He struggled even now to keep his hands respectful and above cloth, to resist ripping robes and finding skin. Xie Lian panted into his mouth, and he tried to focus on that instead: on their mouths connecting, the wet heat, the click of their teeth when Hua Cheng tried to drink too deep. On Xie Lian’s soft sounds as Hua Cheng stroked the roof of his mouth with his tongue. He couldn’t bear to pull their mouths apart for long, just barely detached, wet and slick, to tilt his head and try to get a deeper angle. It felt like gulping in air after coming up for breath from beneath a deep sea, it felt like drowning.

“Gege, can I touch you?” he asked, pulling Xie Lian’s hips down against him and pushing his own up at the same time, marveling at the tiny, helpless sounds each push and pull coaxed out of Xie Lian’s mouth. “Gege, please, don’t go, please.”

“Shh,” Xie Lian sobbed, hands knotted in Hua Cheng’s hair. “Shh, San Lang. It’s okay, I’m here, shh, I won’t go.”

“Promise?” Hua Cheng said, and hoped he didn’t beg like that then, but thought, maybe, he probably did.

“Always,” Xie Lian told him, and kissed back so hard there was blood in their mouths, and then suddenly his hands were everywhere. “Sorry, sorry, San Lang, I can’t—can I, please, can I touch you? It’s not… I didn’t, then, I promise! It’s just, I wanted to so badly then, and I couldn’t, but—I can now, and—please, can I?”

“You can always touch me,” Hua Cheng managed, and arched his back, tried to remember where his hands were and found one inside Xie Lian’s robes, palming a perfect handful of warm muscle and tender skin. Had he done this back then? How had he survived? How had he dared? “Don’t apologize, fuck.”

“But it’s not how it was,” Xie Lian insisted, eyes all pupil, and he was so hard Hua Cheng could feel it through all their robes. Xie Lian was somehow managing to talk about verisimilitude now and Hua Cheng didn’t know if he wanted to laugh or cry, but settled on kissing him instead.

“That’s right. How was it,” he asked, pulling back and resting their foreheads together. “Tell me. I want to know.”

“It was awful. It was so good, it was so—good, it was awful,” Xie Lian said, voice equally hoarse, and low. “I realized… I couldn’t deny it anymore, that I loved you. I wanted you. You were so careful with me, even when you were so desperate. You were—so sweet, and so hot. My San Lang. I didn’t know you were mine, and I wanted you so badly.”

“You can have me,” Hua Cheng breathed, and Xie Lian shuddered over him, then opened his eyes and started laughing. “What’s so funny,” Hua Cheng breathed out, laughing helplessly along with him.

“I just—I wondered, if—what I’d have done,” Xie Lian laughed. “Back then. If I’d—known you… wouldn’t mind me... That… ah!”

What he’d have done? Hua Cheng rolled them again, burying his face in Xie Lian’s throat and groaning, wondering now, too. He nuzzled under Xie Lian’s chin and mouthed at the throbbing pulse there.

“What would you have done, if you knew you were my special someone, my beloved god,” he said, almost too low to hear himself, and felt Xie Lian shudder and arch up, and mouthed again at the impossibly smooth skin, the drumbeat pulse under it. Now he knew how Xie Lian loved it, wanted it, begged for marks and teeth and more, but back then—he’d have been terrified to leave marks on that beloved skin, to stain it. He’d somehow kept from anything deeper than kisses, than bruising that pretty mouth a rich, dark, used red. “But you didn’t know, and you were so good, weren’t you? You let me do this, and held yourself back?”

“San Lang,” Xie Lian moaned, and tangled his hands in Hua Cheng’s hair, arching his neck up into Hua Cheng’s mouth. He let his teeth nip, and when Xie Lian groaned, bit down gently, and the sweet sound Xie Lian made then made him feel genuinely unhinged, feral.

“Gege,” he murmured into that soft skin, the shivering pulse. “How did I keep from devouring you then? How?”

“You didn’t know I wanted you to, then,” Xie Lian said simply, tipping his chin up to look at him. “So San Lang didn’t.” Then he looked away, lip between his teeth, looking shy again. Hua Cheng wanted to paint it, to see that look forever, his ridiculous, perfect prince. “You only—ah. You did, you—liked holding me down. You wanted—ah. To feel me.”

Did I.” Now that he knew Xie Lian wanted it too, how can he not but give his prince what he wanted? Truly, he was selfless.

“I’ve changed my mind,” Hua Cheng said, licking his teeth and looking up through his lashes to meet Xie Lian’s eyes. Xie Lian’s pupils were blown, his gaze bright and dark all at once, and it gave Hua Cheng the strength to hold back, to slowly smirk as he drew a single finger down the front of Xie Lian’s robe, parting it with a sharp fingernail, then captured Xie Lian’s hands in one of his, pinning them above their heads. “Don’t give in, resist me, gege. Be strong, no matter how I beg.”

Xie Lian’s jaw dropped. Hua Cheng’s smirk widened before he shivered and panted, shimmying and rubbing against Xie Lian’s body. Half for show and half genuine desperation, want, need. It still felt so good, to see reciprocated want in those eyes, to hear it in that beloved voice. He couldn’t imagine what he’d have done if he’d seen and heard it then.

Xie Lian’s hands flexed in his grasp. “San Lang! Resist you? Resist you?”

“Gege, please,” Hua Cheng coaxed shamelessly. “I can’t, ah—gege, touch me,” he begged, rolling his hips again, tossing his hair so it fell over his shoulder at his best angle.

“You’d have to let me go, first,” Xie Lian laughed breathlessly, and Hua Cheng grinned, rubbing their noses together.

“But I don’t want to,” he pouted between kisses. He kept forgetting he didn’t need to breathe and sucking in air, panting into Xie Lian’s mouth, against his cheek. “I don’t want gege to get away.”

“I won’t get away. I won’t go.”

Reluctantly, Hua Cheng loosened his grip on Xie Lian’s wrists, bringing them up to kiss the reddened imprint of his hands there, to rub his face against them, before letting them go. It was honestly, strangely, a little harder than he’d expected, to let go. He’d wanted to hold on. It was too easy to remember that headspace, that desperate, feral place where everything was instinct and ferocity and teeth and need. And how could Xie Lian stay, if he didn’t hold him there? Why wouldn’t he flee and go?

“I won’t, San Lang,” Xie Lian repeated softly, catching his chin again and drawing him into a kiss. “You have me, I’m here.”

Hua Cheng closed his eye and leaned into the kiss, pushing his face against that hand cupping his cheek. His beloved was trembling under him, and so hard, they were both so hard against each other, but both holding back. “Gege. What did I beg you for, then? What did you want to give me, that you didn’t?”

“San Lang didn’t beg me then,” Xie Lian protested. A lie, that they both recognized—he’d begged, desperate, keening. Don’t go. Don’t go. Don’t leave me. Stay with me. But he didn’t have to ask for that now, to beg for it — his ring hung on Xie Lian’s neck, they’d done their bows, their statues stood together across the realms.

He didn’t have to beg for that anymore.

“He didn’t beg for anything else,” Xie Lian corrected himself softly, and his deep, dragging breaths moved his chest up, up, and his cheeks were a dark pink, the same dark flush as his open mouth. “Not—he didn’t ask me for more.”

Oh. “But you wanted me to ask for more, didn’t you?” Hua Cheng managed to say, calm and smirking, as though his heart hadn’t just forgotten it no longer needed to beat, as though he wasn’t about to melt the ground and bedrock beneath them into magma and beget a new volcano, here, right now. “Did you want me to beg?”

“…yes,” Xie Lian said, into the flickering darkness of the candlelit shrine.

They both breathed a moment together in the silence, amidst the creaking of wood and soft hush of wind outside the walls. Hua Cheng closed his eye and felt his limbs shaking as he summoned up more heat, more shamelessness, more open desperation. Like finding an open well inside, and falling in it.

“Gege,” he said into the soft dark, and begged. “Gege, please, I need you.”

“What do you need,” Xie Lian whispered.

“Your mouth,” Hua Cheng breathed, and Xie Lian surged up beneath him like a wave breaking, both hands holding him, and then Xie Lian rolled them over, on top of Hua Cheng, holding him down and dragging his mouth over Hua Cheng’s neck, his jawline, the tip of his ear.

“Good, San Lang is doing so well,” Xie Lian praised, still beneath him, and Hua Cheng realized he was making low, continuous sounds now, clutching at Xie Lian’s hips and flexing his fingers desperately. “So good for me.”

“Nn,” Hua Cheng managed, shivers real, now, and tried to reel himself in—but wasn’t he supposed to be desperate? Didn’t his beloved want him to beg? But he shouldn’t—he didn’t deserve, he couldn’t pressure—but Xie Lian liked the teasing, needed coaxed—

Xie Lian, he suddenly realized with a shock, was easing Hua Cheng’s robes off. “I can do it,” Hua Cheng protested, and Xie Lian shushed him.

“Let me take care,” he murmured, and traced cool hands along Hua Cheng’s burning skin as he bared Hua Cheng deftly, and Hua Cheng arched up into the touch. “I can take care of you. Good. Is it better? What do you need? You can have anything, if only you ask.”

“Gege isn’t resisting me at all,” Hua Cheng protested, shivering under Xie Lian’s cool touch and hot gaze.

“How could I have resisted, if you’d asked me to touch you,” Xie Lian said softly. “If you’d asked me for anything. Look at you, so beautiful.”

“I’m not,” Hua Cheng protested, dimly aware he’d made an error somewhere in his calculations —this was not how he’d thought, hoped, the evening might go, but also—if this was what Xie Lian wanted, Hua Cheng stretched out and panting for him in the moonlight, in their home, their shrine...

“Gorgeous,” Xie Lian asserted with a sigh, and tilted his chin up for another kiss that started soft and ended bruising, drowningly deep. “Do you remember—afterwards,” he whispered, pulling back only enough to speak, so their wet mouths brushed. “My mouth was so tender, after a night spent kissing you. It must have been so red.”

Hua Cheng lifted a hand, pressed a thumb to that pink lower lip, not yet raw—it hadn’t been hours, yet. Xie Lian shivered and then, lashes dipping briefly, met Hua Cheng’s eye again and mouthed at the pad of Hua Cheng’s thumb.

“Ah,” Hua Cheng breathed. Xie Lian smiled, and he could feel it, the wet shift of lips on sensitive skin.

“You did that then, too—kissing my hand, touching my mouth. Your hands were everywhere, I thought I would die,” Xie Lian said, blinking slowly, and kissed down the side of Hua Cheng’s thumb, to where it met his palm. Hua Cheng’s face was on fire; Xie Lian was seldom this forward, this intent outside the battlefield. “I didn’t stop you—I didn’t want to stop you—your hands felt so good on me.”

Hua Cheng’s eye went wide and he shook, slightly, before he could stop himself, as one perfect, callused hand palmed his bare chest, the heel of it rubbing hard on his nipple. “Ah!”

“Does it feel good?” Xie Lian asked nervously, and something on Hua Cheng’s face must have reassured him, because a pleased smile appeared, and he pressed harder, fingers tracing and pulling and plucking. At the same time he pressed an open-mouthed kiss to Hua Cheng’s wrist, the thin, sensitive skin there. When he moved lower down, tongue lightly tracing the ink of his own name, Hua Cheng’s hips jolted. He was drippingly, embarrassingly hard now, leaking against Xie Lian. “Oh,” Xie Lian breathed.

“Dianxia,” Hua Cheng panted, trying to get up. Xie Lian held him down easily, and his dick twitched visibly, embarrassingly, and Xie Lian saw it, felt it. Hua Cheng saw him realize it and somehow felt even hotter. “You don’t—you don’t have to, I don’t—” I didn’t mean to ask for this, not this, exactly. He’d imagined—chasing Xie Lian around the room, a little. Playing. Not Xie Lian’s hot-eyed gaze pinning him down.

“I didn’t touch you, then—I didn’t think I could,” Xie Lian said, watching him. His mouth was redder now—Hua Cheng remembered the agonized terror of that red mouth, when he’d woken up to see the array of broken cups and overturned tables around them. What had he done, what had Xie Lian let him do? “But I wonder if it would have helped—if you’d have been safe sooner. If I’d let you… ah, if...”

“Gege,” Hua Cheng moaned, and arched his back, and thought of Xie Lian in that cave, hundreds of years ago—the hot, shameful need, the want to touch and soothe, and couldn’t sort out his own thoughts. It was all a jumbled mess of hope and need and worry, and beneath it all, feeling sure—sure that Xie Lian had him. That it was okay to lean into it a little, the flushed half-real, half-exaggerated writhing. “No, don’t… not if you don’t want to, you can’t—”

“San Lang,” Xie Lian said, taking his hands off Hua Cheng to hide his face for a moment, peeking out at him. On top of him, Hua Cheng froze, unsure, suddenly, flickering with heat like a flame. “I do want to!” Xie Lian said, laughing, looking out between his fingers. “I did, I do want to. I just hate to say it, can’t you just ask me?” Hua Cheng stared at him blankly. “You could, ah… you could use my mouth? Or, ah… my, my—”

If Hua Cheng had heard those words, back then, he’d have driven himself insane, wanting it and wanting to shove Xie Lian away, to safety.

“Are you sure, gege,” he interrupted, and Xie Lian nodded, earnest, eyes wide, agonizingly sincere.

“San Lang can have anything he needs,” he said. “And… I want it. I want it, too. I want you to, to let go. To take what you need. I want to give it to you.”

He shuddered, and rubbed his face on Dianxia’s chest, faintly dewy with sweat, listening for and feeling the thudding of the heart within. “Ah, gege. I can’t hold back anymore, you should go—”

“I’ll never go,” Xie Lian said, a hand in his hair, petting, strong fingers digging in. “Wha—oh? San Lang, you’re so hot, are you—really okay?”

“Gege,” Hua Cheng panted, and lifted his head and snarled his way up into a biting kiss, radiating heat and energy, and dimly heard Xie Lian squeak. This time, when he pounced, Xie Lian went pliant beneath him, blushing and arching, and let Hua Cheng kiss blooming red marks down his chest, pushing heat in with each bite. It was easier, simpler when he tasted Xie Lian’s hardness, when he licked in beneath into cool wet tightness, it was everything he wanted, Xie Lian’s thighs around his ears and Xie Lian’s keening, whining pants, as though all he could say was San Lang’s name.

“Let me, let me,” Hua Cheng heard himself rasping, and worried at Xie Lian’s inner thigh with his teeth while Xie Lian arched and came for him. He heard Xie Lian saying yes, over and over again, petting him and holding his head down as he scraped Xie Lian’s perfect belly clean with his teeth and tongue and left behind gleaming red traces in the moonlight. Then he dipped his head back down and worshipped the darkest places, the shadow-scented spots that only he would ever get to see. He held Xie Lian open and licked, long and deep, moaning and wet.

“Does it feel good?” he crooned and flexed his shoulders beneath the heels that were digging into his back. “My dianxia. Mine. Is this what you want? What you wanted?”

He looked up and saw Xie Lian push himself up on one hand. The flowers in his hair had been crushed, white and gold petals scattered in the dark like stars. He stared down the ravaged length of his body at Hua Cheng’s wet face, and then he said, “More.”

Everything went very still for a long, crystalline moment, and then without being aware of any transition, he moved, and Hua Cheng’s filthy mouth was suddenly on Xie Lian’s, and he was whining and growling all at once. Xie Lian was taking it, biting back and sighing and snarling and whimpering, bright-eyed and shivering. His prince, his god, his.

“More,” Xie Lian said, pushing their foreheads together, and Hua Cheng couldn’t stop himself, had to, had to shove Xie Lian’s legs up and over his shoulders. “Yes, like that, just like that. Fuck!”

“Gege’s filthy,” Hua Cheng murmured between kisses, hot and fiercely, ferociously happy. The blush on Xie Lian’s cheeks spilled down Xie Lian’s neck and he turned his head. He was hiding his face in his hair even as his body opened like a flower for Hua Cheng, his legs falling open, hips tilting up. It was even easier, now, to pour in heat, energy, to fill Xie Lian up, and up, and up, and Xie Lian kept taking it endlessly, drinking more in.

“San Lang,” Xie Lien moaned, arching for him. “It’s so—it’s too much, what’s—oh, you’re… yes, like that, like that—again. Don’t stop. In me, I want to feel it, aren’t you going to come? You’re so hard, San Lang, please, please!”

“Gege,” Hua Cheng breathed, and mindlessly got to his feet, still buried inside Xie Lian’s perfect ass and registering the sweet, short breathy sounds Xie Lian made with each step. He crowded Xie Lian onto their bed, the nest of their sheets, and kept going again and again until Xie Lian was dripping, wet and gleaming everywhere and glowing. Each kiss felt cool and sweet, the sizzle in his blood banked and quiescent once more.

“Did you know you could do that?” Xie Lian asked drowsily afterwards, petting Hua Cheng’s head where it was pillowed on his stomach, nuzzling through the mess left there. “Get so—worked up. Was it good? Did you like it? Can we do it again?”

Hua Cheng traced his fingers through the slick mess between Xie Lian’s thighs, pushing a fingertip inside occasionally to feel Xie Lian shiver and sigh for him. So pretty and pink, and sensitive, and used, and his. Probably sore. He should probably stop. “It wasn’t too much?” he asked, voice rough and used.

“San Lang could never be too much,” Xie Lian yawned, jaw creaking. “It was just what I wanted.”

Hua Cheng shivered, and then laughed as Xie Lian frowned and clucked his tongue and began dragging blankets ineffectually around them. As though he was worried about ever feeling cold, ever again.

He woke in the morning to Xie Lian’s fingers petting through his hair, gently detangling the dark strands of it, and rolled onto his back and butted his head against Xie Lian’s hand, blissful and boneless in the warmth of that gaze, that smile.

“You really are, you know,” Xie Lian laughed, and kissed him gently. “Just like a cat.”

“You’ve fed me now,” Hua Cheng warned, yawning and stretching. “You’ll never get rid of me.”

Xie Lian wrinkled his nose and wriggled a little, looking to the side. His face had gone pink again, over the bridge of his nose and the tops of his cheeks. There was a garland of red along his neck, blooming bruises and red pinpricks of teeth where black curse marks used to be. The sheets were pooled around his waist, and he was sticky and smelled richly of sweat, of sex. He looked like a feast—no, like a banquet table set and laid again, and again.

“Don’t you know,” he said, one hand over his face, peeking out shyly, even as Hua Cheng stretched and felt the fingernail scratches he’d left in Hua Cheng’s back last night. “I’m always here waiting for you, whenever you’re hungry.”

“Gege is shameless,” Hua Cheng teased, mouth dry. Xie Lian said his name, huffing and exasperated and dear, and Hua Cheng couldn’t help but lean over for another taste. Again, and again, and again.