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Jiang Cheng can’t find the words to adequately express how much he wants to never again read a night hunt report that opens with Lan Wangji and Wei Wuxian were discovered while engaging in marital relations.

It speaks to the ongoing tragedy of his life that this particular night hunt report is relevant. Usually, the unfortunate disciples stumbling across Jiang Cheng’s shiftless brother and his good-for-nothing husband will simply cough loudly, turn their backs, and walk away to wait for an incense stick’s time while the pair of them disentangle and decide to make themselves useful. In this case, after waiting for nearly half a shi, the disciples in question had returned to the scene and been advised by Wei Wuxian that Lan Wangji was under the influence of some kind of curse, which required him to undertake prolonged marital relations.

The curse was, according to the account, resolved by between six and eight hours of marital relations. Wei Wuxian had never been good at keeping track of time, and Lan Wangji reported feelings of disorientation and distractibility which had marked the onset of the curse, so there’s some confusion as to when the onset occurred. Ultimately, though, it’s harmless enough, and chalked up as an isolated incident, perhaps the result of a flawed talisman or array. The Lan sect arranges a few additional patrols in the area around Tanzhou, just in case, but don’t find anything out of the ordinary.

Then the curse hits a Nie disciple on a night hunt, who propositions the nearest members of his hunting party. Then it hits a Jiang disciple while she’s returning alone from visiting her family, who is found delirious with fever and might have died if they had been a few hours later. Then it hits three Jin disciples in a row, and then Jiang Cheng’s life goes completely to shit.

The curse seems totally indiscriminate. It will strike any cultivator, without regard for their age, gender, or cultivation level. It will not affect people without a golden core. It will strike anywhere in the jianghu: more common in open fields, slightly less common in forests, and rarest, but not unheard of, in towns and villages. It will cause the same symptoms without exception. It will affect the same people repeatedly, with past exposure providing no protection whatsoever. It will only release the victim from its grip when the victim engages in sexual activity, with or without dual cultivation, repeatedly and over a prolonged period. Cases appear to be increasing in frequency.

A discussion conference is rapidly convened for the sects to coordinate their response. At the conference, several sect leaders are struck down by the curse while in attendance, and discussions are repeatedly delayed or confused by the matter, especially in the instances where those sect leaders are unmarried or have spouses or concubines who cannot easily be summoned. For the most part, this causes little enough trouble, but the third day of the conference features Lan Xichen – who had, apparently, been attempting to meditate his way out of the curse for at least three hours beforehand – losing his composure entirely shortly after lunch. Luo Qingyang had stepped in and rendered emergency assistance right there in the great hall. No one had wanted to ask why she had the tools on hand – Jiang Cheng privately thought the answer seemed obvious – and no one wanted to ask about the mechanics of dual cultivating with a polished wooden phallus, except for Huaisang, who had been both shameless and openly intrigued.

Jiang Cheng did not need to know that Luo Qingyang had... experience in such things. It’s knowledge he can never unknow, and he considers it deeply unprofessional to be – interested in people he might work with.

After the dust has settled, the sects come to an agreement – rapidly, by necessity, since any of them could be distracted at any moment. There will be a collaborative effort to find the source of the curse and resolve it as swiftly as possible. There will be a roster of volunteers from each sect who are willing to follow the curse to its source, knowing that they may be affected at any time. In the meantime, to enable better logistical management, every cultivator will create a list of the people they consent to… receive assistance from in the event they are afflicted by the curse. Nie Huaisang, with uncharacteristic solemnity, agrees to take up this duty, and swears that he will guard the private records of cultivators with the greatest care and discretion.

They end up using Jinlintai as a staging ground, which means that everyone has very comfortable bedrooms appointed with everything they might need should they be required to attend to someone in a hurry. The roof of Jinlintai is also a convenient launching point for hurried sword flights out to afflicted cultivators, should one be summoned. Having them all in one location also means Huaisang can easily collect the relevant information for his records. He shows a frankly disturbing knack for it – more than once, Jiang Cheng sees a messenger rushing over to him in a panic, met by Huaisang, entirely unflappable, listening intently and dispatching his retinue with a handful of brusque orders before he sits the messenger down and gets them a drink.

Huaisang, Jiang Cheng reflects, is probably going to be Chief Cultivator one day. The thought gives him no small amount of despair.

Jiang Cheng gives orders to his disciples that no one is to travel anywhere alone, and that anyone leaving Lanling should travel in a group of at least three in case of curse – one to stay with the victim, one to rush back to Jinlintai and get additional help. For his part, Jiang Cheng elects to serve the cause by staying in his rooms as much as possible. He has no desire to see any of his peers or subordinates in a state of nature.

The only problem with this is that it makes him easy to find when Huaisang comes asking for his list.

The first time he comes by, Jiang Cheng can fob him off by saying he needs more time to think. The second time, he has to distract Huaisang by inviting him in for some wine; this is a miscalculation, because a drunk Huaisang is a chatty Huaisang, and now Jiang Cheng knows far more than he wants to about the art of tapestry weaving. The third time, he simply refuses to answer his door. Huaisang resorts to shoving paper under it, demanding in large, aggressively blocky characters that Jiang Cheng provide his preferences as a matter of urgency.

Jiang Cheng does not wish to provide his preferences. Even if Huaisang has – so far, at least – followed through on his promise of being above reproach with his handling of the information, it’s far more than Jiang Cheng wants Huaisang to know about him. It’s more than Jiang Cheng wants anyone to know about him. If Jiang Cheng gets cursed, he’ll probably end up masturbating himself to death. He has resigned himself to this outcome. There’s no call for Huaisang to be getting snippy about it.

It doesn’t occur to Jiang Cheng that he might appear on other people’s lists until, a few days later, Huaisang actually manages to kick his door in. 

Jiang Cheng is standing in an instant, Zidian alive and crackling, Sandu leaping to his hand.

“How dare—”

“Someone’s been cursed,” Huaisang says. His voice is sharp as a fishhook and more viciously barbed. “You’re needed.”

Jiang Cheng stares blankly at Huaisang. HIs mouth probably falls open. Zidian, disgruntled, stings him once and falls dormant against his hand; it’s enough to jolt him out of his state of shock.

I’m needed? What can I do?”

Huaisang, despite being nearly a head shorter than Jiang Cheng, gives the distinct impression of looking down on him. “You can save a human life. Is that not enough for you?”

Jiang Cheng gapes at him a moment longer, then forces his mouth shut. “Right. Fine. Where am I going?”

Huaisang jerks his head at the door. “Come on. We need to move fast. I’ll explain on the way to the roof.”

Only now does Jiang Cheng become aware of why Huaisang had been so insistent on everyone completing the forms.

“Let’s say that Nie Qinglian is afflicted, and her first choice is Jiang Zhilin,” Huaisang says.

“Jiang Zhilin is a cutsleeve,” Jiang Cheng says. “I don’t think he’d be able to dual cultivate with a woman, no matter how dire the situation.”

“Precisely,” Huaisang says, “although I would advise against being so willing to say that in public! Not every sect is so enlightened as yours and mine. Anyway, if I was to see that Jiang Zhilin’s list included only strapping young men, it would be very easy for me to draw a certain inference, and simply go to the second choice on Nie Qinglian’s list, or the third, if the second was similarly unsuitable. Whereas you, Jiang Cheng, have given me nothing to work with.”

 ” Ah.” Jiang Cheng can see how that would be inconvenient. “Couldn’t you have told us that??”

No, Jiang-xiong,” Huaisang says wearily, “because then people get anxious. They start to think about what they could do, if they knew someone’s life was at stake, and then they overestimate themselves. Honestly, it’s lucky we’re old friends; if I didn’t know you were just as much of a hormonal monstrosity as the rest of us when we were teens, I would have struck you off everyone’s lists, and then what would we do?”

Jiang Cheng opens his mouth and promptly closes it again. And then opens it anyway. “How many lists could I possibly be on?” he demands.

“That information,” Huaisang says, prim as any maiden, “is confidential.”

They start climbing the stairs to the Jinlintai roof. Jiang Cheng keeps shooting glances at Huaisang; Huaisang keeps serenely ignoring him. It’s only when they’re at the final door that Jiang Cheng hesitates.

“Who – who is it?”

“Lan Jingyi,” Huaisang says. “You should count yourself lucky, Jiang-xiong. There are a lot of people who would kill to be number one on his list. I wonder what you did to earn it?”

Jiang Cheng doesn’t have time to react to that before Huaisang opens the door and strolls out onto the roof, as though he hasn’t just shaken Jiang Cheng’s world with that statement. Jiang Cheng follows, more out of a desire to give Huaisang a vigorous shaking than anything else, but then his eyes fall on Lan Sizhui, standing in the pose the Lan adopt when at rest; hands folded away inside his sleeves, feet shoulder-width apart, face blank. Except that Jiang Cheng knows Lan Sizhui, even if only a little – technically, now that Wei Wuxian is married and the adoption is formalised, Sizhui is his zhizi -and he can see Sizhui’s fear in the angle of his shoulders, the tension around his mouth. It is, for better or worse, the same way Wei Wuxian shows fear, except that Wei Wuxian would cover it with coarse humour and silly flirtations. Sizhui covers it with calm Lan serenity.

Jiang Cheng always thought he would like that better, but as it happens, he hates it every bit as much.

“A-Yuan,” he says gruffly. Sizhui startles, and some of the fear melts a little bit. “Are you all right?” 

“I’m worried about Jingyi, shushu,” Sizhui says, and despite the situation Jiang Cheng’s heart does a happy little double thump. “He was coping well when I left him, but we have been actively hunting for some time. None of the disciples are at their best.”

“Hmm.” Jiang Cheng casts a critical eye over Sizhui even as he unsheathes Sandu and prepares to fly. “You’re far too skinny. When this is all over, come to Lotus Pier and let me feed you properly. That rabbit food you have in Gusu isn’t doing you any good at all.”

“I will, shushu,” Sizhui says obediently.

“Not to interrupt a charming family moment, gentlemen,” Huaisang drawls, “but if I may remind you: the overwhelming time pressure.”

“Of course,” Sizhui says, and takes off, Jiang Cheng following.

Jiang Cheng is... perhaps not pleased, but gratified to see that his method of travelling in groups of at least three has caught on. When they find Jingyi, he’s sitting beneath a tree, meditating, the only signs of his affliction a sheen of sweat across his brow. He’s already removed his forehead ribbon. Jiang Cheng’s eyes snag on the pale line of skin where it usually sits. The other Lan disciple is one Jiang Cheng doesn’t recognise, more junior than Jingyi and Sizhui by the styling of her robes; she stands in front of Jingyi, sword drawn, ready to defend him. As they descend, she turns to them, grim and ready to fight; as they land, she slumps in relief.

“Go ahead,” Sizhui says quietly, and gestures to where Jingyi sits. “He’s waiting for you. We’ll give you some privacy. Lan Zhongji, with me.”

Jiang Cheng is barely aware of Sizhui and Lan Zhongji leaving. He approaches Jingyi slowly, the way he might a wounded dog. “Lan Jingyi,” he says. 

Jingyi’s eyes snap open. 

For a moment, he just stares at Jiang Cheng. His eyes are wide and very dark. Jiang Cheng notes, in an abstract sort of way, that he’s already stripped down to his innermost layers, and that his sweat is starting to make them stick to his chest in a narrow wedge down the front of his chest.

“Jiang-zongzhu?” He sounds – not confused, exactly, but sort of disbelieving. “You said yes?”

“Of course,” Jiang Cheng says. What else could he have done, especially once he knew it was Jingyi? “Why wouldn’t I?”

Before Jiang Cheng can quite process what’s happened, Jingyi is scrambling to his feet and leaping for Jiang Cheng, thumping into his chest, wrapping his arms around Jiang Cheng’s torso. “Sorry,” Jingyi says. His hips are moving against Jiang Cheng, a steady roll, and Jiang Cheng is pretty sure that’s not a dagger he can feel rubbing up against his thigh. “Sorry, I’m – I need – to take – the edge – off—”

Distantly, Jiang Cheng can hear Lan Sizhui saying, determinedly cheerful, “A little faster, please, Lan Zhongji.”

Jiang Cheng has no idea what to say. He has no idea what to do with his hands. Jingyi’s open mouth is pressed to Jiang Cheng’s chest, right above his nipple, and he can almost feel Jingyi’s hot, wet breath even through the layers of his robes. His hips move faster, and he stutters out, “I’m sorry,” again before going rigid, pressed tight to Jiang Cheng, and then slumping in his arms.

With what could be either fascination or horror, Jiang Cheng realises: Lan Jingyi just came in his robes. Lan Jingyi just came in his robes on Jiang Cheng’s thigh.

He clears his throat. “Better?” he asks, perhaps a little brusquely.

“Not really,” Jingyi mumbles. His face is still pressed into Jiang Cheng’s chest. “I mean, physically, yes, but mentally and emotionally I think I would rather just be dead.”

Jiang Cheng pats Jingyi’s shoulder, the way he does for Jin Ling when he’s having too many emotions. “There’s nothing to be embarrassed about.”

“Not yet there isn’t,” Jingyi says. He grimaces as he eases his hips away from Jiang Cheng’s leg. “This is only the second shi. Three to go.”

“Well,” Jiang Cheng says. He clears his throat. “I am... here to assist.”

Jingyi makes a little whimpering noise. “I didn’t think you’d actually come.

That stings a little. Jiang Cheng doesn’t fold his arms only because Jingyi is still pressed up against his chest. “You’re the one who put me on the list,” he says, only a little defensively.

“Yeah, but you’re Sandu Shengshou,” Jingyi says. “You’re probably on everyone’s list. I didn’t think you’d be available – oh no.” The oh no, Jiang Cheng assumes, is the curse taking over again. Jingyi’s hips come back into contact with Jiang Cheng’s leg and he starts to rub frantically, breathing hard, clutching Jiang Cheng tightly.

With exaggerated caution, Jiang Cheng sets his hands on Jingyi’s waist and tenses his thigh. Jingyi’s legs part easily at the first nudge of Jiang Cheng’s knee, and then Jiang Cheng can lift Jingyi up and forward, so Jingyi is riding his thigh properly instead of just rutting against it.

“Oh, that feels good,” Jingyi says, garbled by his mouthful of shirt. “Touch me more.”

Jiang Cheng runs a hand from Jingyi’s waist up to his armpit, curls it around to cup his shoulder blade. Jingyi sighs, and then giggles, biting at his lower lip. His mouth, Jiang Cheng observes with as much distance as he can manage, is sweet and pink and plush, the line of his lips like a recurve bow, giving his lips a permanent brazen twist. He wonders how much of Jingyi’s reputation as brash and outspoken comes from that single quirk, the way he always looks like he’s smirking, just a little bit.

“Yeah,” Jingyi says, and sighs gustily. “Feels nice. Hmmm. I think... this might... be.” Jiang Cheng wants to ask what that means, but it becomes obvious when Jingyi turns his face so he can rub his cheek against Jiang Cheng’s robes and sighs again. “Everything feels so nice, Jiang-zongzhu, it’s. It’s something. Is it bad? Maybe?” His face slides slowly along Jiang Cheng’s chest, towards his arm.

“I don’t know,” Jiang Cheng says, bemused. It’s hard to maintain any dignity when Jingyi is pushing his face determinedly into Jiang Cheng’s armpit.  “Do you feel bad?”

“Noooo,” Jingyi says, and giggles again. “Don’t feel bad.”

“You feel good, huh?” Jiang Cheng shifts his weight a little, easing his leg out from between Jingyi’s legs. Jingyi whines at the loss of contact, but then Jiang Cheng sets a hand on the back of his neck and he shivers and goes liquid, leaning the whole weight of his head into Jiang Cheng.

“Yeah... yeah. Feel good.” Jingyi blinks up at Jiang Cheng and grins. “I was meditating! It did not work, Jiang-zongzhu, I don’t know why Zewu-jun kept trying it.”

“Why don’t we sit down,” Jiang Cheng says, trying to keep his lips from twitching into a smile, “and you can tell me all about it.”

“But.” Jingyi looks all the way to the side without moving his head, then blinks and looks up at Jiang Cheng, faintly cross-eyed. “That’s over there. And you are here. Jiang. Zongzhu.”

“I’ll come with you,” Jiang Cheng says, “if you start calling me Jiang Wanyin instead of Jiang-zongzhu.”

“I can do that,” Jingyi says. He tries to walk towards the tree, but he refuses to lift his head out of Jiang Cheng’s hand, so he just sort of – stumbles, staggers, and ends up slumped against Jiang Cheng’s chest again. “I can’t do that. Stupid curse.”

Jiang Cheng looks at the sky, as if a better answer will somehow descend from the heavens. None comes, so he resigns himself to what must happen and swings Jingyi up into his arms. Jingyi squeaks and then giggles with delight, still utterly relaxed, and Jiang Cheng carries him over to the tree.

Jingyi’s outer robes are already laid out on the grass, like a blanket, so Jiang Cheng kneels on them and sets Jingyi down. He shrugs out of his own outer robe and lays that out too, an extra layer of protection for them both, nudging Jingyi from side to side to get the cloth spread beneath him. Jingyi manages to haul himself up to a sitting position with what looks like a monumental effort and slowly crawls back into Jiang Cheng’s lap.

“I need,” he says, almost a whine. He would sound pitiful if he weren’t trying and failing to grind his cock against Jiang Cheng’s hip; he’s too uncoordinated to make it work and keeps sliding backwards. “I need, I need – Jiang Wanyin, please? You came, you said it was okay—”

“I did,” Jiang Cheng says. He tries not to sound grim or resigned; it’s not Jingyi’s fault Jiang Cheng is unequipped for this situation. He hooks an arm around Jingyi’s waist to start with and pulls him up to sit on Jiang Cheng’s lap properly, letting Jingyi straddle his thigh. Jingyi moans and immediately starts to rock against Jiang Cheng again, that same immediate urgency as the first time. Jiang Cheng is sure he’s supposed to do something – take Jingyi’s clothes off, maybe, or touch him somehow – but with Jingyi totally lost in what he’s doing, it seems safer to just wait it out, and ask him afterwards.

It seems like no time at all before Jingyi’s coming, and this time Jiang Cheng can feel it, heat puddling against his thigh; he’s made such a mess in his robes that it’s started to soak through. Jingyi inhales deeply and tilts his head back afterwards, exhaling in a long, controlled stream.

“Okay,” he says. “Okay. I can – think a bit, now.”

“Good,” Jiang Cheng says, and then, because he needs to know—”Are you all right?”

“What? Oh, yeah. No injuries, except for my pride.” Jingyi lowers his chin enough for Jiang Cheng to see his wry grin. “So I think – we have a while to go, and based on what I’ve heard from other disciples, we’ll need to, um. Pace ourselves. So we should – you know, prepare? Before I get all...” He waves a hand around in a floppy sort of gesture, apparently to indicate the way he turns pliant and boneless when the curse sets. “You know. Again.”

“Right.” Jiang Cheng focuses on his breathing, focuses on flexing and relaxing his hands. “So, can – tell me about what you like, then. So I know, for when you’re.” He makes the same kind of floppy gesture at Jingyi and raises his eyebrows at him for good measure.

Jingyi, much to Jiang Cheng’s pleasure, laughs. “Oh, your face – perfect. Ten out of ten. Very intimidating.” He waggles his eyebrows at Jiang Cheng in turn. “Honestly, I’m, uh. Easy to please. Especially if it’s you. Not that – actually, you know what?” Jingyi snorts. “I was going to be all resolute and whatever about this, but I’m cursed and I might die, so, fuck it. I’ve wanted to fuck you for, oh, at least five years now. You barely even need to do anything. As long as you’re here, I think I’ll be fine.” He looks away from Jiang Cheng and whistles a jaunty little tune – not spiritual music, but the kind of thing fishermen sing as they haul in their catch. “And we can never speak of that again, after this, if you would. You know. Prefer that.”

“Who prefers that?” Jiang Cheng snaps before he can stop himself. He rubs his forehead, grimacing. “I mean – thank you for telling me. I... am very flattered. And surprised.”

“I don’t know why you’re surprised,” Jingyi says. “You’re gorgeous, you’re talented, and even when you’ve been an asshole, you’ve always been fair to me.” He pauses, contemplative. “I think the curse is coming back. I can’t seem to stop myself from saying mortifying things.”

Jiang Cheng considers this for a moment, then hauls Jingyi closer, turns him around so his back is fitted to Jiang Cheng’s chest. Jingyi yelps but doesn’t resist. He fits there so well, Jiang Cheng’s chin resting on top of his head. Jiang Cheng wraps his arms around Jingyi’s torso, undoing the last handful of ties holding his robes together, and lets them fall away. Beneath them, Jingyi is flushed and gleaming a little with sweat, his cock resting against his belly, already wet with his own come.

Jiang Cheng reaches down and cradles Jingyi’s balls in his hand, tracing them with the tips of his fingers, running his thumb over the tender skin just behind them. Jingyi arches, trying to push down into Jiang Cheng’s hand, but Jiang Cheng presses his other palm against Jingyi’s belly and forces him back down.

“Yeah, yeah, like that,” Jingyi says, and giggles again, dreamy and dazed. “Can I use my mouth on you later? I really want to. I want to know what you taste like. I always think you should taste like lightning, you know. Like the air after a strike. Clean and sharp. Oh, can I have more, please? I’ll be good, only touch me more, please?”

“All right,” Jiang Cheng murmurs. “As long as you’re good.”

He slides the hand on Jingyi’s belly down, down, smoothing over the trail of hair that runs to his groin, and curls his fingers loosely around the base of Jingyi’s cock. Jingyi’s hips hitch and stutter like he can’t quite help himself. He stills with a grunt of effort, pushing his spine into Jiang Cheng’s chest like it can ground him. Maybe it can. Jiang Cheng strokes Jingyi’s cock, keeping his grip too light and teasing; he makes his other hand just a little less gentle with Jingyi’s balls, squeezing and massaging, letting his calluses drag against the soft skin. Jingyi makes a low noise, almost startled, but his hips stay in place, even though Jiang Cheng can feel the way his body thrums with tension, the way his breathing goes ragged.

Jiang Cheng presses a kiss to the top of Jingyi’s head and focuses on that – on the smell of Jingyi’s hair, on Jingyi’s body heat, on his silky skin – because the alternative is thinking about what Jingyi said, before the curse came on again, and Jiang Cheng is not prepared for that. He firms his grip up around Jingyi’s cock, finally starting to stroke him properly, and the sigh that elicits from Jingyi sounds so relieved Jiang Cheng almost relaxes too.

It’s almost no time at all before Jingyi starts to make soft noises of pleasure, little ah ah ah sounds that seem to mean he might be close to coming. Jiang Cheng squeezes his balls just a little bit harder, rolling them ungently between his fingers, and forces a moan out of Jingyi – and then he takes his hands away. 

Jingyi mewls, twisting in Jiang Cheng’s lap. “I was good!”

“You’re the one who said we had to pace ourselves,” Jiang Cheng reminds him. “I’m just doing what you wanted.”

“Oh, shit, you totally are.” Jingyi slumps against Jiang Cheng’s chest. “I have... some regrets.”

Jiang Cheng shifts his position so he’s more comfortable, legs stretched out, Jingyi perched on his thighs. Jingyi tips his head back to rest on Jiang Cheng’s shoulder, and doesn’t resist when Jiang Cheng rearranges his limbs, when Jiang Cheng pulls him closer, pulls him upright.

“Time...” Jingyi says, vague. “Time? Time.”

“Don’t worry about it.” Jiang Cheng reaches up, hesitant, brushes his fingers across Jingyi’s cheek. “I’ll take care of you. No matter how long it takes.”

“Mark your words,” Jingyi mumbles.

He stays like that – slack and loose and lovely against Jiang Cheng, a steady weight against his chest – even when Jiang Cheng runs a single finger over the length of his cock. It feels like it takes no time at all for him to be panting again, no time at all for his hips to start moving; Jiang Cheng feels every bit as cursed as Jingyi is, lost in the most minute movements of his body, the tiniest changes in the way he breathes. He can tell Jingyi’s getting close even before he starts to make those sweet hitching gasps again, feel it in the tension building in Jingyi’s thighs, but he waits it out, lets Jingyi spiral higher and higher, almost to the peak, before he takes his hands away.

“Rude,” Jingyi says, but he doesn’t sound upset. Jiang Cheng studies his face; Jingyi looks almost like he’s in a trance, eyes only barely tracking movement when Jiang Cheng waves a finger in front of him, mouth slack.

“You good?”

“Mm. Very cursed.” Jingyi sighs and turns his head so his nose is pressed against Jiang Cheng’s neck. “Good.”

“All right then,” Jiang Cheng says, and sets to work again.

They repeat the process three more times – Jiang Cheng bringing Jingyi to the brink and then denying him before he can topple over it – before Jiang Cheng senses something amiss. Jingyi’s breathing has changed, no longer entranced, but the harsher pants of someone who’s under stress or in pain. Jiang Cheng sets his fingers to Jingyi’s wrist and hisses; Jingyi’s qi, far from a steady flow, feels somehow jagged.


He wraps his hand around Jingyi’s cock without preamble, jacks him firm and steady and maybe just a little too hard, but the way Jingyi reacts, gasping and throwing his head back and wailing as if Jiang Cheng has shocked him with Zidian, his whole body jerking – Jiang Cheng wants to see it again, wants to make it happen again. He twists his wrist, rubbing ruthlessly over the head of Jingyi’s cock, and Jingyi comes just like that, spurting over Jiang Cheng’s hand, over his own thighs, with a satisfied groan that Jiang Cheng is going to be hearing in his dreams.

Jiang Cheng wipes his hand on the grass, all his awkwardness rushing back now that Jingyi’s actually come. Jingyi is slumped forward, bent almost double, breath coming in harsh gasps. When Jiang Cheng brushes a finger over his wrist, he finds Jingyi’s qi is settled again, flowing smooth, although the curse is certainly still in place.

He stretches out and then leans back until he’s lying on the grass. There’s a rustle and a thud and then Jingyi joins him, curling into Jiang Cheng’s side.

“Hug me,” Jingyi says. “I’m cursed, you have to.”

“I would anyway,” Jiang Cheng says, snippy, but he rolls on his side and opens his arms. Jingyi pillows his head on Jiang Cheng’s bicep and hums happily as Jiang Cheng folds his other arm around him, running his fingers over Jiang Cheng’s collars.

“So,” he says.

“So,” Jiang Cheng replies, trying not to stiffen at Jingyi’s tone. He doesn’t sound unhappy, exactly – more like he’s come to a decision.

“So,” Jingyi affirms. “I have come to the realisation that I will die if I don’t get your cock in me. Not for curse-related reasons. We can definitely fix the curse with like, hand stuff. Maybe some mouth stuff for variety, make sure no one ends up with sore wrists. But I will definitely, absolutely die if I am denied my one chance to fuck you, Jiang Wanyin, and I’m cursed, so you can’t call me out on my hyperbole.”

Jiang Cheng’s brain narrows in on the least relevant and helpful part of that sentence, and opens his mouth, and has him say, “Who says it’s your one chance?”

“Wait, it’s not?” Jingyi struggles out of Jiang Cheng’s grip, bracing himself on his hands and looming over Jiang Cheng. “Wait, wait, wait. Just to clarify. You’re interested in fucking me, potentially while neither of us are cursed?”

Jiang Cheng groans and covers his face with his clean hand. “I wasn’t going to say anything.”

“Why not?” Jingyi gasps. “Wanyin! You should have said something! We could have been having sex this whole time! Do you know how boring it is at Jinlintai? Wouldn’t you rather be spending time with me? And my ass?”

It takes a lot of effort for Jiang Cheng to hold back his sigh. “It’s not – I didn’t want to make you deal with my. Feelings.”

“I realise this was – um. Some period of time ago,” Jingyi says, “and a lot has happened since then, subjectively. But did you miss the part where I said I’ve had a crush on you forever? Because that seems like relevant information, vis a vis the pros and cons of me dealing with your feelings.” 

Jiang Cheng takes his hand away from his face and Jingyi swoops down and kisses him.

It’s pretty great, honestly. Jiang Cheng doesn’t do a lot of kissing, as a rule, but even he can tell this is a damn good kiss. Jingyi’s mouth is so soft. His tongue teases against Jiang Cheng’s, runs playfully along the line of his teeth, flicks against the roof of his mouth. Jiang Cheng just lays back and lets it happen, following Jingyi’s lead. One of his hands somehow ends up on Jingyi’s face, his thumb rubbing back and forth over Jingyi’s cheekbone.

Jingyi pulls back and presses his forehead against Jiang Cheng’s. His eyes are closed. “Damn,” he says. “I’ve wanted to do that for a really long time, and it was still better than my ridiculous fantasies. Do you know how improbable that is? I mean, there isn’t a lot of empirical evidence to go off, here, but things you fantasise about are never as good in reality as they are in your head. Except that that was. What the fuck.

It feels as though a weight Jiang Cheng hadn’t even known he was carrying has been lifted away, leaving him suddenly so light gravity can’t quite catch him. Jiang Cheng can’t help it – he starts laughing. Jingyi, still pressed against Jiang Cheng’s forehead, snorts, and then kisses him again, licking the laughter out of his mouth.

Jiang Cheng tugs Jingyi down to lay on top of him and they spend a while like that, Jingyi plying Jiang Cheng with sweet, lazy kisses while Jiang Cheng strokes Jingyi’s shoulders, his back, his neck. Jingyi is still, somehow, hard, despite coming three times so far – the curse at play, probably – and Jiang Cheng has been hard for a while, but there’s no sense of urgency.

Eventually, though, Jingyi starts to tense, fingers clutching at Jiang Cheng’s robes. He breaks away from the kiss and huffs irritably.

“I can’t believe this,” he mutters. “I just want to make out with my – uh—”

“Partner?” Jiang Cheng suggests. “If you want?”

“That, yes, good, perfect,” Jingyi says, and kisses him again. “Absolutely. We can talk more later, I’m about to get the fuckstupids again.”

Jiang Cheng stares at him. “The what.”

“The fuckstupids! It’s what we’ve been calling, you know, what happens to your brain when – well, when this happens.” Jingyi sighs and sits up; Jiang Cheng comes with him, pulling Jingyi in until he’s cradled in Jiang Cheng’s lap again. Jingyi’s mouth twists into a moue of discomfort. “Uh, maybe, like, don’t touch my dick for a bit, this time? It’s kind of. Sore.”

“I’m not surprised.” Jiang Cheng pats Jingyi’s chest. “I’ll take care of you.”

“Okay,” Jingyi says, and then, “oh, here we go,” and then he’s rubbing his face against Jiang Cheng’s robes again. “Hhhhhh. Can I take these off?”

Jiang Cheng hesitates, but he nods. The odds seem good Jingyi will get distracted before he gets Jiang Cheng out of his underclothes, and then they can just – avoid Jingyi ever looking at or having opinions about Jiang Cheng’s scars.

Jingyi’s hands fly to his belt immediately, surprisingly nimble on the fastenings, even as the rest of his body seems to go lax and slow. “Tell me what you like,” he says, looking up at Jiang Cheng through his lashes. “Before I get too – you know.”

“I don’t know,” Jiang Cheng says. “I don’t, uh. Do this a lot.”

Jingyi freezes. He tips his head up and squints at Jiang Cheng with open suspicion. “Define a lot.”

“At all,” Jiang Cheng admits. “Ever. Previously.”

Jingyi writhes, his whole body curving sinuously as his hips buck frantically against Jiang Cheng’s lap, and then he comes again, wet and messy and all over Jiang Cheng’s robes. He makes a tremulous little noise when he’s done and almost topples sideways into the grass; Jiang Cheng saves him by grabbing him around the waist and hauling him closer, which makes the come stain situation substantially worse.

“Never? You’ve never?” Jingyi asks, in a voice that, despite being the volume of a whisper, sounds like a shriek. “Not even one time? And now you – with me? Are you sure?”

There’s only one thing Jiang Cheng can say to that. “Yes, you little idiot.”

“Wow,” Jingyi says. He still looks stunned, like he’s stepped on a rake. “I – wow. You want to?

“Stop asking,” Jiang Cheng snaps, “or I’ll stop wanting to.”

Jingyi giggles. “Wow. I’m gonna pop your cherry. Wait, that’s not it. What do they say for tops? I’m gonna – I’m gonna make a man out of you. That’s so good, Wanyin. I’m going to write a song about it.”

Jiang Cheng rolls his eyes. “Whatever. Turn over.”

“Are you sure, Wanyin?” Jingyi asks, batting his lashes coyly. “Aren’t you a blushing virgin? Do you know how to treat my delicate chrysanthemum?”

“This may shock you, Jingyi,” Jiang Cheng says dryly, “but people who haven’t had sex still know how to masturbate. Turn over and hand me the oil.”

Jingyi turns over and hands Jiang Cheng the oil. He starts on all fours, then folds down onto his elbows so he can rest his cheek on his forearms. Jiang Cheng kneels behind him and runs a hand over his ass, petting the soft, pale skin there.

It’s been a long time since Jiang Cheng has done this to himself – he figured out early on he liked the thought of giving more than the thought of receiving – but he remembers the mechanics. He starts by just spreading Jingyi’s cheeks apart, running his thumb around the edges of Jingyi’s pretty little hole, pressing lightly without trying to enter. Jingyi starts whimpering almost immediately, and a fresh crop of sweat has sprung up on his back, trickling down the broad muscles there, so Jiang Cheng is pretty sure the curse is back in full swing.

“Easy, Jingyi,” Jiang Cheng says, and presses a kiss to the small of Jingyi’s back. “I’ve got you. Just relax. You’ll be fine.”

The oil Jingyi has is the kind Huaisang had insisted on issuing to every cultivator working on the problem, unscented and thick and almost silky when Jiang Cheng rubs it between his fingers. He touches his tongue to it experimentally. It doesn’t really taste like anything, although the texture seems to cling. He wouldn’t want to drink it, but for his purposes, it’s fine.

He presses his oiled thumb to Jingyi’s hole and rubs in tight circles, light at first, slowly increasing the pressure until he’s just barely breaching the entrance. Jingyi sounds like he’s going back into his trance again, his breathing going syrup-slow and evening out even as Jiang Cheng presses in a little more. Jingyi’s hole almost flutters under the pressure. 

“You good?” Jiang Cheng asks. His voice has gone hoarse, rasping over the words.

Jingyi gives Jiang Cheng the night hunting signal for all clear. Jiang Cheng slowly, carefully, starts to slide his finger in and out, keeping the movements slow and smooth. It’s almost obscenely easy, like Jingyi’s body is trying to draw him in, closing around him whenever he presses deeper like it wants to keep him there.

“Another,” Jingyi gasps.

“We’re not on your schedule,” Jiang Cheng says – rude, maybe, but true, if Jingyi is in no danger. “You’ll take what I give you and like it.”

“Oh, fuck,” Jingyi says, and just like that there’s come splattering onto the grass underneath him, Jingyi trembling all over, moaning in a way that’s somewhere between pain and pleasure.

Jiang Cheng stares at him, then pulls out his fingers and wipes them roughly in Jingyi’s crease, smearing oil there. “Okay, no. Come here.”

“What?” Jingyi says, dazed.

Jiang Cheng knocks his elbow into Jingyi’s hip, and Jingyi obediently tips onto his side, sprawling on the ground. Jiang Cheng removes Zidian from his hand and coaxes her down onto Jingyi’s body. She curls around the base of Jingyi’s cock, under his balls. At Jiang Cheng’s silent command, she tightens until Jingyi gasps and writhes a little. Jiang Cheng tucks the chain and ring safely under Zidian’s coils and, on a slightly unfriendly impulse, gives Jingyi’s cock a few rough strokes. Jingyi groans enthusiastically, pushing up into Jiang Cheng’s touch, but doesn’t come. His cock looks, if possible, even more swollen now, the veins standing out a little more.

“Better,” Jiang Cheng says. 

He takes hold of Jingyi’s hips and pulls him in closer, until his lower back is resting on Jiang Cheng’s knees, legs splayed wide around Jiang Cheng’s waist. His hole isn’t quite as much on display as it was when Jingyi was on his hands and knees, but it’s still easy for Jiang Cheng to gather up some of the oil he’d smeared there and push his finger in, all the way to the second knuckle.

“Oh fuck,” Jingyi whimpers, “oh fuck, oh fuck. Is – is she going to shock me?”

“Zidian?” Jiang Cheng snorts. “Not unless I tell her to.” He looks at Jingyi’s face – his wide-blown eyes, fixed on the gleaming silver snake curled around his cock. He doesn’t look scared. He looks... almost hungry. Jiang Cheng takes a shot in the dark. “Do you want that? For her to bite you?”

Jingyi makes a wilting noise. “Don’t judge me. She’s beautiful, and you look really hot when you’re doing the thing.” He makes a little whip crack gesture.

Jiang Cheng uses the hand not currently in Jingyi to lift his thigh up, until Jingyi’s knee can rest on his shoulder; it leaves Jingyi more exposed, and conveniently also means Jiang Cheng just needs to turn his head a little to press a kiss to Jingyi’s inner thigh. He keeps moving his finger, slow and steady. When he’s ready – when Jingyi looks like he might cry if Jiang Cheng makes him wait any more – he magnanimously pulls away to add more oil to his hand and presses two fingers into Jingyi. The stretch makes Jingyi gasp, but he just lifts his right leg up over Jiang Cheng’s shoulder too, so he can cross his ankles behind Jiang Cheng’s neck. Jiang Cheng takes that as permission to shuffle forward on his knees, just a little, just so he can get his fingers a deeper inside Jingyi.

“Feeling good?” he asks.

“Mmmrrnnnhhhh,” Jingyi says, which seems like a good sign.

Jiang Cheng hesitates for a moment, then pulls his fingers out and sets his hands in Jingyi’s hips. “I’m going to try something. Just relax, okay?”

Jingyi hums affirmatively and tips his pelvis up, pushing into Jiang Cheng’s hands. It seems as good a sign as any. Jiang Cheng lifts him up by the hips, pulling him closer to Jiang Cheng’s face, letting his legs slide over Jiang Cheng’s shoulders until his thighs are bracketing Jiang Cheng’s ears. Jingyi giggles a little as his back leaves the ground and crosses his arms behind his head, looking up at Jiang Cheng.

Jiang Cheng leans in and licks a broad stripe from Jingyi’s hole to his perineum. Jingyi tenses, and Jiang Cheng pulls away.

“Is that—”

Do it again,” Jingyi says urgently, so Jiang Cheng does it again.

It’s so easy to lose himself in it. Jingyi tastes of sweat and skin, the faint citrus tang of the curse, the oil Jiang Cheng has already pushed inside him. He can feel Jingyi’s pulse hammering under his tongue, feel the raw heat of him. When he circles his tongue around Jingyi’s hole, Jingyi bucks so hard Jiang Cheng nearly loses his grip, wailing.

“Put it in me put it in me put it in me—”

Jiang Cheng could deny him, but he’s pretty sure Jingyi won’t come from this – can’t come from this, maybe, now that Zidian’s in play – and so he does, pushes his tongue in, just enough for Jingyi to feel it before he withdraws again. He shifts his shoulders a little, bracing Jingyi’s thighs, and works his oiled fingers back into Jingyi’s hole, stroking gently, then spreading them apart so he can push his tongue between them.

Jingyi is shaking, a fine tremor running all through his body, like the leaves of an aspen tree. Jiang Cheng can’t look at him, not with his mouth where it is, but he can hear the way Jingyi shifts and thrashes, hear his hands clenching and unclenching on their blanket of robes. He pushes in deeper, licks more, sucks.

He thinks he could spend the whole day like this, Jingyi arched into a bridge, his hole pressed to Jiang Cheng’s mouth. He thinks, for a while, they could even ride the curse out this way, if they had to. He mouths at Jingyi’s balls, nuzzles his perineum, kisses his way towards Jingyi’s lower back, only to return to his hole again and again.

Eventually, though, his jaw starts to ache, and Jingyi’s trembling becomes less like pleasure and more like straining muscles. He eases back, lowers Jingyi into his lap, rubs a hand apologetically over his belly. Jingyi’s qi is starting to return to that jagged quality, so Jiang Cheng eases Zidian’s tension and reaches for Jingyi’s cock. He barely touches it before Jingyi is coming all over his own chest, sobbing a little. At least there’s less mess this time; Jingyi seems to be running out.

Jiang Cheng waits for him to settle before he has Zidian tighten up again. Jingyi’s eyes are glassy, and a few tears have spilled out. Jiang Cheng reaches forward to brush them away. 

“Are you all right? Did I hurt you?”

“No, no.” Jingyi seizes Jiang Cheng’s hand, kisses the palm, licks his own tears from the thumb. “Just... a lot. Everything’s a lot. Curse. Oh, fuck, I’m tired.”

“You can rest for a minute,” Jiang Cheng says. “We probably have some time before you need it again.”

He looks at the sky and blinks, startled by how much time has passed. When he arrived, the sun was almost directly overhead; now, it’s far to the west.

“One more round,” Jingyi says. He sounds hoarse, fucked out. “I can do one more round. And then when we get back to Jinlintai, I’m gonna eat all the tofu they have, and then I’m gonna have a bath, and then I’m gonna suck your cock, okay? Maybe not in that order, but preferably in that order.”

“I’m sure that can be arranged.” Jiang Cheng pats Jingyi’s thigh.

“Seriously though.” Jingyi shoots him a look. “Take your clothes off.”

Jiang Cheng sighs and starts taking his clothes off. He doesn’t have many, not like the Lans with their ridiculous layers. He only has to undo a few ties before he’s shrugging out of his robes, nothing but his zhongyi between him and Jingyi’s eyes.

Jingyi holds out his hands to Jiang Cheng, who takes them, and uses the leverage to haul himself up to sit. He strips Jiang Cheng out of his underclothes with casual ease. Jiang Cheng swallows, braces himself for whatever the reaction is going to be, but there isn’t one; Jingyi just leans forward, rests his head against Jiang Cheng’s bare skin, wraps his arms around Jiang Cheng’s ribcage. It takes a moment for Jiang Cheng to unfreeze enough to embrace Jingyi in return. He strokes Jingyi’s hair gently.

“So I want you to fuck me,” Jingyi says conversationally. “Like, the sooner the better.”

“I can do that,” Jiang Cheng says.

“But,” Jingyi says loudly, “I don’t want to pressure you into something you’re not ready for.”

“Oh, fuck off.” Jiang Cheng shoves at Jingyi’s shoulder. “I’m fine.”

“I will take your word for it. But if you want to stop! If you hate it! Don’t let the curse make you keep going!” Jingyi drums his fingertips against Jiang Cheng’s collarbone. “I will live if we do not fuck in a field today. We can save it for later. There are lots of other things.”

“Jingyi,” Jiang Cheng says, “I want to fuck you. Here. Now. Today.”

“Oh!” Jingyi beams. “Oh, well. Problem solved.”

Jingyi reaches up, or maybe Jiang Cheng reaches down – either way, they’re kissing again, sunshine-warm, languid. Jingyi’s hands skate over Jiang Cheng’s back, fingernails scratching lightly against his ribs. Jiang Cheng breaks the kiss and squeezes Jingyi in a hug, as hard as he can, just for the pleasure of hearing Jingyi’s joyful laughter. They kiss some more. Jiang Cheng leans forward, pressing Jingyi down onto his back, and stretches out on top of him, pinning Jingyi with his bodyweight.

Eventually, though, Jingyi groans and shoves at Jiang Cheng’s shoulder. “Okay. Let’s – yeah.”

Jiang Cheng kneels between Jingyi’s legs. He finds the oil, abandoned among their discarded clothes, slicks up his fingers again. When he presses his thumb to Jingyi’s hole, Jingyi whimpers and spreads his legs wider. He still feels soft and open; Jiang Cheng slides in one finger, then two, stretching him carefully. 

He turns his hand over and strokes along Jingyi’s inner walls, searching until he finds the place that makes Jingyi seize up, and then abuses it mercilessly. Jingyi’s gasps and moans of pleasure quickly turn to something close to sobs. Jiang Cheng reaches out and finds that Jingyi’s qi is still flowing, unsteady but not yet jagged. Not the curse demanding more attention, not yet; just normal overstimulation.

Jiang Cheng eases his fingers out and spends a while playing with the rim of Jingyi’s hole, enjoying the view. A blush covers Jingyi from his forehead to his belly, and curled up like this he looks strangely soft, entirely too easy to touch and pet and stroke. His eyes are half-closed, occasionally blinking dazedly at the sky, or at Jiang Cheng; he keeps catching his lower lip with his teeth, only for his mouth to fall open whenever he gets distracted. Jiang Cheng presses kisses along one of Jingyi’s thighs.

“You need a minute, sweetheart?” The endearment slips out without Jiang Cheng meaning to say it, but Jingyi doesn’t seem to notice. He just shakes his head. Jiang Cheng takes a moment to admire the way Jingyi’s night-black hair spills out across the grass, burnished faintly gold under the sun, and then pushes three fingers in. Jingyi grunts a little, but he’s relaxed and moaning again soon enough, rocking his hips into Jiang Cheng’s hands, whining when Jiang Cheng pulls his fingers out. 

“Good for you?” he asks, or at least, Jiang Cheng thinks that’s what he’s saying; the words are slurring together a little, though whether from exertion or the effects of the curse or the stimulation it’s hard to say.

“So good, Jingyi,” Jiang Cheng says, embarrassingly sincere, and covers for it by nipping Jingyi’s other thigh. “Do you want more, or do you want to stay like this a little while?”

Jingyi hums and stretches, arching his back, spreading his arms wide. Jiang Cheng swallows at the casual display of all that velvet skin, the musculature that appears when Jingyi flexes and vanishes again as he relaxes. He sets a hand on Jingyi’s belly, petting softly over the trail of hair leading down to Jingyi’s cock, feeling the way Jingyi’s whole body flutters when he giggles.

“That tickles,” Jingyi says. “Don’t tickle me, Jiang Wanyin, that’s mean.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Jiang Cheng says, “were you under the impression I would be nice to you?”

“Not even for a second,” Jingyi says, and though he still sounds a little bleary, though his eyes are still glassier than they ought to be, Jiang Cheng can see his usual exuberance under there, the cheerful bluster that used to drive Jiang Cheng up a wall until he came to enjoy it. “I was hoping you wouldn’t be, actually.”

“Good,” Jiang Cheng says. He digs his fingers into Jingyi’s belly and drags his hand downwards, scratching a little with his nails, making Jingyi giggle and squirm under his touch. It leaves four clear red lines behind on Jingyi’s skin, and Jiang Cheng is struck with the desire to go over them again, maybe a few more times, just to make sure they’ll really stick – to give Jingyi something to remember Jiang Cheng by. He has to drag his eyes away so he can find the oil again, so he can drizzle it over his cock without making a complete hash of it. He pours a little over Jingyi’s cock, letting it trickle down his creases, just for good measure; the cool oil makes Jingyi jerk, startled, but he doesn’t have time to complain about it before Jiang Cheng is lining up and pushing in.

It’s – not what he expected. It’s not earth-shattering. Tighter and hotter and better, so much better than his own hand, but some of the spring books describe it as a life-changing experience, and Jiang Cheng’s life just... isn’t really changed. He leans forward, rearranging their bodies until he’s braced above Jingyi and Jingyi’s legs are hooked around his waist, until he could, in theory, bend down and kiss Jingyi.

“Talk to me,” he says, rough, because Jingyi is beautiful, and even if this isn’t exactly transcendent, Jiang Cheng will still come in three seconds if he doesn’t find a distraction.

“Don’t – think – I can,” Jingyi says. His flush is getting worse. 

Jiang Cheng manages a grunt of acknowledgement and shifts, bracing himself above Jingyi, using his thighs to nudge Jingyi’s legs further apart. He rocks in, pushing deeper, deeper, Jingyi’s body clenching around him. Jingyi is so beautiful spread out under him, faintly gilded by the sun, sweaty and come-stained and smiling. Jingyi’s eyes are half-closed – Jiang Cheng can’t tell if that’s pleasure or the effects of the curse or something else entirely – but he’s still watching Jiang Cheng, eyes making a leisurely study of Jiang Cheng’s arms, his neck, his face.

“You’re so hot,” Jingyi says blearily, and hitches his legs up higher, around Jiang Cheng’s waist. “I feel very lucky right now.”

Jiang Cheng wants to respond to that, to say me too or you’re gorgeous or anything that might even come close to expressing what he feels, but he can’t. He goes to his elbows and kisses Jingyi, a little clumsy until Jingyi takes over and smooths the way.

His next thrust makes Jingyi’s eyes roll back in his head. Jiang Cheng grins. He might not have experience, but he’s been doing sword drills his whole life; he knows how to replicate the correct manoeuvre over and over, and that’s the skill he applies now, thrusting into Jingyi at the same angle. Jingyi starts to shake, tipping his head back to expose his neck, the perfect angle for Jiang Cheng to press his mouth against Jingyi’s pulse.

“Yeah,” Jingyi breathes, wrapping his arms around Jiang Cheng’s chest. “Yeah, put it in me, that’s good – I just want – can you – oh...” He shifts a little under Jiang Cheng, who pulls back, but then Jingyi’s hands thread into his hair and pull him down into another kiss.

Jiang Cheng starts to move a little faster, a little harder, trying to focus on the feeling of Jingyi’s mouth moving sleepily against his and not the way Jingyi seems to get hotter and tighter with every stroke, not the way Jingyi’s trembling feels amazing around his cock. Jingyi pants against Jiang Cheng’s mouth and kisses him again, open-mouthed, messy, lips dragging down over Jiang Cheng’s jaw.

“I want,” Jingyi mumbles, “I want, I want...”

“What do you want, sweetheart?” Jiang Cheng asks, trying to keep his breathing controlled. This isn’t about him. Jingyi’s the one with the curse – the least Jiang Cheng can do is take care of him without regard for his own pleasure.

“I want – let me—”

Jingyi squirms in a way that feels like discomfort, and Jiang Cheng lifts himself up, only for Jingyi to growl and yank him back down. There’s a confusing moment where Jiang Cheng isn’t entirely sure whose limbs are going where, and then Jingyi’s pushing Jiang Cheng away and rolling him onto his back. Jingyi clambers on top of him a moment later, planting his hands on Jiang Cheng’s chest. His cock looks painfully hard, but there’s no sign of the narrowing or the bruised colouration the spring books warned Jiang Cheng to be wary of, so he leaves Zidian where she is.

“Are you all right?” he asks, cautiously. “Did I—:”

“You’re fine, you’re great,” Jingyi says, and swoops down to kiss him again. It doesn’t really work – Jingyi tries to talk directly into Jiang Cheng’s mouth, gets distracted by kissing him again, and the whole time keeps working his cock against Jiang Cheng’s stomach, which isn’t doing anything for Jiang Cheng’s focus either. Jiang Cheng grips Jingyi under his armpits and pushes him up and back, and Jingyi blinks, like he doesn’t quite understand how he came to be upright.

“Jingyi,” Jiang Cheng says. “You wanted something.”

“Unh,” Jingyi says, which could be an affirmation or could just be that he’s discovered Jiang Cheng’s cock, hard against his crease. From the way his hips start to shift, Jiang Cheng suspects the latter. “Mmm.”

Jiang Cheng tries to sit up, but Jingyi pushes him down with surprising force – that famous Lan arm strength at play – and shuffles backwards. He reaches behind himself. Jiang Cheng feels fingers around his cock, and then suddenly he’s engulfed in slick heat, and Jingyi is sliding down.

“Yeah,” Jingyi says, shifting his hips back and forth in tiny rocking motions, working to seat Jiang Cheng’s cock comfortably in him. All Jiang Cheng can do is hold on, grabbing frantically for Jingyi’s hips, for his thighs, as Jingyi takes him to the hilt.

“You okay?” he asks, more for something to say than anything else.

“Mmhmm,” Jingyi says, dreamy, and then he starts to bounce on Jiang Cheng’s cock, and Jiang Cheng really can’t cope with this at all.

He can’t move his hands. If he moves at all, if he even looks at Jingyi – at his face, screwed up in pleasure, at his strong arms, his tapered waist, his skinny legs – he’ll come immediately. Jiang Cheng tries closing his eyes, but somehow not being able to see Jingyi is even worse, so he opens them again and tries to focus on his breathing, tries to find some kind of meditative state.

“Oh, fuck,” Jingyi says, and almost seems to convulse above Jiang Cheng. “Oh, fuck, I wanna come, I wanna—”

“What, already?” Jiang Cheng says, like the enormous hypocrite he is.

“It feels good!” Jingyi wails. He’s still riding Jiang Cheng’s cock, his voice rising and falling in time with each bounce. “I’m cursed, Wanyin!”

“I already told you,” Jiang Cheng says, “I wouldn’t be nice just because you’re cursed.” He grabs Jingyi’s hips, hard enough to bruise, and bucks his hips up.

Jingyi squeaks, all his rhythm vanishing as Jiang Cheng rocks into him again, and again. 

It takes a monumental effort, but Jiang Cheng manages to keep from coming, manages to focus on fucking Jingyi. One of his hands goes to Jingyi’s face, traces the lines of his cheekbones, his impertinent mouth, feeling the way Jingyi’s lips fall open as he mewls. Jingyi’s eyes are glassy, his breathing ragged. Wherever Jiang Cheng touches him, Jingyi leans into his hand, like a puppy wanting to be scratched.

“Hey,” Jiang Cheng says, a terrible, wonderful idea coming to his mind. “Remember how you wanted Zidian to bite you?”

Jingyi’s eyes snap open. He stares at Jiang Cheng in something like horrified glee. “Oh, no—”

Jiang Cheng directs the smallest flicker of spiritual energy towards Zidian, the tiniest piece of intent. She unwinds, just a little, just enough to relieve the pressure, and purple lightning sparkles around her inner edges, dancing up Jingyi’s cock.

Jingyi’s mouth opens wide, a silent scream, and he comes, and comes, and comes, pulse after pulse splattering across Jiang Cheng’s belly, across Jiang Cheng’s chest, across Jingyi’s own torso. Jiang Cheng finally, finally lets himself relax, hips snapping up hard into Jingyi for a moment before he comes like a geyser and falls back, ruined and satisfied. Jingyi falls forward, smearing the mess on both their bellies hopelessly between them, and Jiang Cheng kisses him.

Even after Jiang Cheng slips out, even as their breathing slows and their pulses settle, Jiang Cheng can’t help but keep kissing Jingyi, over and over. Jingyi doesn’t object, his gentle mouth sliding easily against Jiang Cheng’s, his tongue coaxing Jiang Cheng’s mouth into opening for him. Strong fingers stroke over Jiang Cheng’s shoulders, smoothing away the tension there.

Eventually, they must break away from each other, if only to breathe. Jingyi puts a noisy smacking kiss on Jiang Cheng’s cheek, then another one higher up, then starts pressing them all over his face, until Jiang Cheng has to push him away, lips twitching as he tries to stifle the urge to laugh.

Jingyi sighs heavily and rolls onto the grass, stretching all his limbs out as far as they’ll go. Jiang Cheng sits up and rolls his neck, rolls his shoulders, scratches at the come drying on his belly.

“We should get you back to Jinlintai,” he says. “You need to rest.”

“What? No. I feel fine.” Jingyi stands up and immediately stumbles, almost tumbling into Jiang Cheng’s lap again. He catches himself before Jiang Cheng can and grins, sheepish.

Jiang Cheng rises to his feet and starts pulling his clothes back on, slow and methodical. His lotus guan has lost a pin at some point and now sags out of his hair – he shoves it into the qiankun pouch in his sleeve rather than try to get his hair back under control. Jingyi grimaces at his zhongyi and discards it entirely, instead tying his robes over his naked skin. Jiang Cheng gets a glimpse of Jingyi’s naked calf flashing through the gaps in his robes as he moves around and has to swallow and look away.

A whistle comes from somewhere further away, a short musical trill, four repeating notes. Jingyi whistles back, and a moment later Lan Sizhui and Lan Zhongji are returning. Lan Zhongji bows to Jiang Cheng and hands him a flask of water, which Jiang Cheng drinks in one go; he hadn’t realised how thirsty he was until he was given the chance to sate it. Now that he thinks of it, he’s starving, as well. He turns to give the flask back to Zhongji, but she’s already taking it and pressing a small sack of dried fruit into his hand. Jiang Cheng would thank her, but he’s already devouring them.

Beside them, Sizhui is giving the same treatment to Jingyi, who is somehow managing to keep up a stream of chatter even as he drinks and eats. It’s not an account of what he and Jiang Cheng have spent the past several shi doing, at least – he’s complaining about getting grass stains out of his clothes, and segueing from there into a discussion of how the talismans woven into their robes should include things to make them harder to stain.

Jiang Cheng rolls his eyes and looks at Lan Zhongji. “Did we miss anything?”

“Yes, Jiang-zongzhu,” Lan Zhongji says, polite and proper. “We believe we have tracked the curse to its source and may now be able to resolve it.”

“Really?” Jiang Cheng frowns. “What was the source?”

“Shushu,” Sizhui says, “you may be aware of an encounter Yiling-laozu had when he was a young man. An entity known as the Flower Damsel. She maintained a significant dislike for him afterwards.”

Jiang Cheng presses his fingers to the bridge of his nose. “I already don’t like where this is going.”

“Well,” Sizhui says, “it was determined that the location in which the first, ah, instance of the curse occurred was a grotto in which the Flower Damsel was known to reside from time to time. Hanguang-jun and Senior Wei were, um, engaging in... certain activities...” Sizhui grimaces, and Jiang Cheng feels a pang of sympathy for him. Being Wei Wuxian’s brother can be unbearable; being his son must be far worse. “And displeased the Flower Damsel still further. The curse appears to have taken the form of pollen, which was subsequently spread on the winds, just as with ordinary pollen.”

Jiang Cheng looks at Sizhui, whose stare is fixed on a point somewhere over Jiang Cheng’s shoulder. He looks at Jingyi, who looks back at him, cheeks bulging out with the number of dried plum slices he’s tried to fit into his mouth at once. He looks at Lan Zhongji, who looks as though she would rather be anywhere else on the planet.

“So, you’re telling me,” Jiang Cheng says, as conversationally as he can manage, “that, once again, this is all Wei Wuxian’s fault.”

“I’m afraid so, shushu.” Lan Sizhui does sound genuinely regretful.

“Right,” Jiang Cheng says. “I’m going to kill him.”

“Don’t be mad, Jiang Wanyin,” Jingyi says brightly, although a little garbled by the food in his mouth. He sidles over and leans into Jiang Cheng’s side. “Besides, you can’t do anything yet. Zidian’s still wrapped around my—”