It is not unusual for Liu Kang to wake up in the middle of the night with a start, his skin hot and prickling, his breath caught in his throat like a stone.
But this time it is not horror that shakes him from sleep, but an aching, unsolved, throb between his legs, like his heart has moved down there, straining inside flesh too narrow to hold it.
Across from him, on his own pallet, Kung Lao stirs.
He usually does, by now as attuned to Liu Kang’s nightmares as he is. They’ve become fewer and further and further between with time, as they’ve gotten older and the demons in his past more firmly buried.
But as much as they’ve grown, Liu Kang still always runs from the terrors into Kung Lao’s arms, who has never begrudged him the space beside him, no matter how short the blankets or tight the squeeze.
They had been boys when they first met, Kung Lao’s training hardly begun and Liu Kang’s not at all, but even then, his arms had felt strong, like a fortress between Liu Kang and the fear, the brutality of the world outside.
Tonight, he feels like he could burst open at a touch, face hot and raw, like the skin is boiling, every hair standing up.
Like maybe he’s the intruder.
“Liu Kang?” Kung Lao whispers behind him, voice rough with sleep and rolling over him like a gloved touch Liu Kang flinches, like he never has from his oldest friend. His closest.
Many times, when he wakes up screaming, he doesn’t remember what was haunting him, chasing him through dreamscapes back into waking.
Only that Kung Lao can be counted on to chase the fear away.
He does not think he will ever forget this dream, torturous in different, excruciating way.
The miles of skin, tangled with his, Kung Lao smiling and flushed in a way he’s never been in life, pupils swallowing his eyes with their deep black.
Like a devil, devouring Liu Kang, who splayed out to be consumed.
It means that he’s shaking now, in need and shame, turning his back on Kung Lao and hoping he won’t notice, will slip back into sleep.
That is not what Kung Lao does.
He tries once more, asking, “Shi di? Are you well?” And when Liu Kang doesn’t answer, shoulders hitching up around his head as he stares at the wall, willing his blood to settle and the ache to disappear, Kung Lao sighs and rises.
Liu Kang should say something, lie that he’s taken ill, anything.
Instead, he waits, traitorous, for Kung Lao to do what he does on the nights that Liu Kang feels too scared, too cold, too shamed and too needy to move into Kung Lao’s bed.
He crosses the little gap between their pallets, closer than they need to be, feeling sleep warm and soft despite the corded strength of his training hardened muscles.
He presses the tips of his fingers to the small of Liu Kang’s back and it’s like getting hit by lightning.
He arches and Kung Lao thinks, probably, that he’s crying, from the noises he makes.
Kung Lao settles quickly, pressing against Liu Kang’s back like a stalwart shield, the heat coming from his skin, his open nightdress, stoking the fire in Liu Kang’s blood.
“It’s alright” Kung Lao says, “I’ve got you” folding a solid arm around Liu Kang’s middle, which dips, sucking inward, in an attempt to keep him from noticing the hardness at his pelvis, intoxicatingly close.
“I am sorry” he wails, feeling like he’s coming undone, like his skin is sloughing off in layers in front of the one person he had always felt safe with. Cared for. And always doubted he deserved.
“Forgive me, please” he begs and Kung Lao shakes his head, nose brushing the slope of Liu Kang’s shoulder, where it crests into his neck.
“Shh” Kung Lao says, nuzzling into him, “it’s alright” making it worse and Liu Kang doesn’t have the words, wants to drown in this, Kung Lao’s body and scent and breath, all around him, mind and body warring inside him.
“I will always be here” he says and the guilt wins out over the lust.
“No, you don’t understand-” he hisses, arching like a wet cat, which doesn’t help either, nerves going wild with the feeling of Kung Lao’s body rocking against his, a wet spot growing on the cloth straining between his legs.
Liu Kang’s form is messy, undone by sleep and desire, moving haphazardly to try to shake him off as Kung Lao reacts without thinking and with honed instincts spring into action, older and wiser and longer trained and awake in a way Liu Kang isn’t, locking their legs and pressing Liu Kang down flat.
There’s no avoiding the way the movement provokes the brush of Kung Lao’s knuckles where he’s soaked and straining, or pretending he didn’t feel the effect, Liu Kang’s whole body shivering from the touch.
For a second, there’s a shocked sort of silence and Liu Kang feels miserable, aching with desire and sure he has just ruined everything.
And then Kung Lao breathes a surprised little laugh right into his ear, a tickling gust.
“You little imp” he whispers, lightly slapping at the flat of Liu Kang’s stomach above where he’s burning, like he’s a misbehaving horse.
Like they’re only teasing each other.
“Here I thought you were hurt” he says, but his hand hasn’t moved back, the tips of his fingers grazing back and forth on the fabric of Liu Kang’s night dress, stretched taut over his belly.
A tiny motion, that feels impossible magnified lower down, where the cloth is stuck to where he’s leaking and needy.
Kung Lao isn’t holding him to the ground, now, form gone loose as soon as he noticed Liu Kang wasn’t struggling.
If he wanted, Liu Kang could get up and away, take care of this himself or, more likely, sit on the cold dark stone of one of the windier tunnels until his entire body wilts and chills.
But he doesn’t want that, already suspended somewhere by the way Kung Lao is breathing at his neck, cheek brushing at his ear lobe.
His body is alive with it, straining to be touched, overwhelmed, loved.
“Do you?” Kung Lao says suddenly, the movement tickling through Liu Kang’s hair like fingers.
“What?” he says, feeling punch drunk and knowing that he’s not, that this is something else that can steal his mind and reason make him like it.
“Do you need help?” Kung Lao says, low and furtive, “My help?” and there’s no mistaking what he means, the way his fingers dart and feint a little lower on Liu Kang’s stomach like they have a mind of their own that Kung Lao can’t control either.
They’re both lost in the dark woods now.
“I-” Liu Kang tries, needs to swallow and try again to keep from whining or begging.
“I do” he says, and Kung Lao’s hand goes flat on his middle as he sucks in a sharp breath.
It pulls Liu Kang closer to him.
His hand drags as it moves, over the hard plane of his training-taut abdomen and grazing where his bones curve and dip and turn into the place where he is aching and throbbing.
The cold air of the night bites his overheated skin when Kung Lao’s hand pulls the fabric of his nightdress over his hip and he shivers. It’s not from the chill, which feels good on his skin, but from the way it tugs over the head of his cock, dragging over it like a wet lick from how badly he’s been leaking.
Kung Lao doesn’t know it and rubs a soothing thumb over the crest of his hipbone and then down, careful, to where Liu Kang is burning.
“Is this alright?” he whispers, careful and caring as he wraps a solid hand around Liu Kang.
His only answer is a punched-out groan and the way his hips jerk, up into his grip.
Across the close air they share, he feels Kung Lao’s tongue dart out, streak over his lower lip and rest at the corner.
Meticulously, he drags his fingertips down Liu Kang’s length and around his girth, grazing the head and the weeping slit, using the slick to keep moving, learning him.
It’s clear that this is the first time he’s touched anyone but himself this intimately. Never had another chance, sheltered in the temple.
Liu Kang has had a hand on him like this, before, and those memories should have his skin crawling, stomach heaving. trying to get away.
But surrounded by Kung Lao, his scent and his body and his breathing, the most familiar that Liu Kang has ever known; he could not mistake Kung Lao’s touch for anyone else’s if he tried.
There is no fear, just want, just the drawn-out whine that pull from his lungs when Kung Lao finally tightens his grip and strokes.
Liu Kang can feel Kung Lao’s breath catch at the sound, that he’s also affected, and then he really gets to it, finding a rhythm, twisting his wrist on the way down in a way that has Liu Kang’s hips arching up to meet him.
Kung Lao might be inexperienced, but he’s not clumsy or fumbling. He knows what to do. Knows Liu Kang.
His nails tease carefully, dancing along Liu Kang’s shaft as deftly as their owner does in the training arena.
The scrape of his callouses, patterned from the hard brim of his hat, is just this side of too firm, making Liu Kang’s back arch, enjoying the shift of Kung Lao’s chest, his racing breathing against his back.
The barely there stutter of his hips.
Liu Kang knows Kung Lao does not mean to do it, that it is his body acting alone, probably for the first time in years, honed to perfect obedience by training.
But Liu Kang writhing in his arms has him undone enough that he now thrusts, just a little, hips canting forward.
He barely lets them get an inch forward, but it’s enough that they press, bringing him hard and close, for a glorious moment, against Liu Kang.
There’s another pause, and this time Kung Lao is the one that can’t breathe.
And then Liu Kang is the one that moves, letting his own hips push back, just enough.
Kung Lao’s hand moves, more like twitches, but Liu Kang feels it all over his body.
Kung Lao squeezes, enough to have him moan, and picks the rhythm back up, harder and faster.
Behind Liu Kang, his hips hitch forward again.
A little more firmly, his hand jumping forward with it.
It feels good, the way he never suspected it could, to feel Kung Lao’s hardness pressed against him, panting in his ear with pleasure.
A moan slips out between his lips, and Kung Lao moves pushing Liu Kang further into his tight grip, sliding against his callouses, ensnaring him on both sides.
He keeps going, sliding against Liu Kang’s body like he would if they were well and truly doing this.
Liu Kang gasps, flails, and his hand reaches out, past the hard, desperate iron of the line where Kung Lao is grinding against him, to grasp Kung Lao’s hip, digging into the strong muscle behind it.
He’s trying to anchor himself, but his body knows better, matching the roll of Kung Lao’s hips with his press of his palm, rocking their bodies together.
The sounds he’s making are desperate now, like they’re coming from somewhere outside him, filling the air.
It’s embarrassing, flushing his cheeks, and it’s enticing, making him thrust harder into the cradle of Kung Lao’s fist and then roll back into the heat of his lap.
Kung Lao’s tongue is tracing the ball of his shoulder, where his nightclothes have slipped.
He must already look a mess, wet and sweating and moaning, wanton.
He loves how Kung Lao moves him, the grip he has around Liu Kang where he is sore and red and begging for more, for his touch all over.
His body feels alive, alert, and ready to explode into sparks, waiting only for Kung Lao, who is starting to feel like a closer conduit to divinity than anyone, even the actual gods, he’s known.
“Please” he says, not knowing what he’s begging for. Kung Lao does.
Just as his teeth dig into the curve of Liu Kang’s neck, his fingers circle the head of Liu Kang’s cock, pressing the blood up, and then he strokes his thumbnail up, skating hard over his slick slit and Liu Kang’s whole body jerks and tenses from the sting of bright pleasure and prickling pain, shaking apart as he comes.
Behind him, Kung Lao surges then stops, like he’s not sure he’s allowed anymore, trembling on the knife’s edge, breathing hard against Liu Kang’s hair, gasping ah ah ah.
Liu Kang digs his hand in Kung Lao’s flesh and grinds his hips back, and Kung Lao almost screams, muffling it in Liu Kang’s hair and skin.
He doesn’t stop, not until he feels Kung Lao arch, up, until the tension snaps and he melts against Liu Kang’s back, a wet spot growing at the small of it where he spurted.
As he comes down, Kung Lao’s hand is fisted in the cloth still roughly over Liu Kang’s middle, even though it’s well and truly soiled now.
He’ll have to manage to sneak it into the laundry in the morning, or find a way to wash it himself.
As they breathe, evening the pace of their lungs and minds, Kung Lao’s elbow is a heavy weight against his side, one of his knees digging awkwardly into his thigh.
His nose is pressed too heavy into Liu Kang’s neck, his pulse slowing underneath, throbbing too close to the surface from the pressure.
Liu Kang thinks, at no deity in particular, let him stay.
He does, for a moment, and another, and another and Liu Kang’s eyes are beginning to close, even though he’s grimy with sweat and worse, clothes tangled and too tight.
Kung Lao always brings him peace.
Until he moves, dragging his nose down the ridge where his spine grows out of his skull and down between his shoulder blades, and then he’s moving far and away and Liu Kang is cold and sticky and alone.
He rolls onto his back, feeling bereft, watching Kung Lao awkwardly strip his own ruined clothes, wincing when he has to peel back the places that had begun to stick.
His body is beautiful, long and lean and toned, even as the angry looking dragon mark stretched over the hard crest of his hip bone bares its teeth at Liu Kang.
This is not for you
Kung Lao’s eyes meet his, for a moment, and then the line of Liu Kang’s eyes is stolen by the interested twitch between he’s legs where he’s just spent.
Against Liu Kang, who writhed against him without any shame.
He doesn’t look up again, afraid to meet the dragon’s gaze.
Kung Lao bridges the gap, back to his own cold bed, and slips in with a hiss.
The idea of cold linen grazing his own body now makes Liu Kang shudder, with want and repulsion.
“Well?” Kung Lao says, and Liu Kang can see that his nipples are pebbled up, chilled, because Kung Lao is still sitting up and holding up the bedcovers.
As Liu Kang stares back, his eyes dim, burning even in the low light.
“That is to say, if…” and Liu Kang can only nod, watch the relief loosen Kung Lao’s shoulders.
He stands quickly, pulls off his own clothes, maybe beyond salvaging now, sloughing off of him like snake skin.
The cold bites him quickly and he slips in between the sheets faster than he means, tangling his feet with Kung Lao’s.
He finally lays back and Liu Kang lays a hand on his chest in apology, trying to warm him.
Kung Lao runs a careful finger through Liu Kang’s hair, like he’s still afraid he might be pushed away.
As if he’s the one out of his role, the one that does not belong, the one that trespassed.
Liu Kang still moves closer, presses his cheek closer to Kung Lao’s heart, eager to feel it.
To know that tonight, at least, this is real.
Softly, like there’s anyone to hear them, especially after their display earlier, Kung Lao calls his name.
Liu Kang looks up.
He really is beautiful.
Wary, Kung Lao presses soft lips, long and low, to Liu Kang’s forehead.
Liu Kang waits for him to pull away and tilts up his chin, slides his lips along Kung Lao’s.
He startles, and Liu Kang draws back.
“Forgive me” he whispers.
“It’s only —and his cheeks go red and hot, and Liu Kang marvels that he can feel the heat, this close— I have never done that before”.
Liu Kang runs a light finger over Kung Lao’s lower lip.
“Would you like to try again?”
“What if I’m bad at it?” Kung Lao says and Liu Kang laughs out loud.
He wonders if Kung Lao has ever doubted his body and its abilities before. So far, he’s proven himself even in this.
“Then I will teach you” he says and Kung Lao nods, then purses his lips, eyes sliding up and away. Shy.
Liu Kang smiles, cups his jaw, and waits for his eyes to close, his breathing to even.
Only then does he lay his lips on Kung Lao’s and they kiss, soft and slow and new.
“Better?” Kung Lao asks.
“Better” Liu Kang says and he feels Kung Lao’s grin against his mouth, happy and relieved.
“But you could improve” he adds and watches the challenge flicker to life in Kung Lao’s eyes.
“Lead the way, shi xiong” he says, brazen and bold again, smiling with the joke, and Liu Kang kisses him again.
Until morning creeps up on them at last, fast asleep in each other’s arms, breathing the same air.