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Still Something New After All These Years

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Ryokuryuu has started flirting with him.

Which in and of itself is strange, and new, and alarming. Zeno will laugh, rock from side to side. Baby chick, baby chick. So many years since he’s wrapped his arms around a Ryokuryuu ever at all, and he’s never been that close to any of the younger dragons, and it had never been like that with Shuten, of course, that would’ve just been strange. Zeno will laugh, flick Ryokuryuu’s ponytail around. Deflect, deflect. Only yesterday he’d found the little half-grown dragonling shackled to the floor, tenderly lifted a strand of green hair between his fingers as he slept.

Only that can’t be the problem at all, can it? Zeno has been a cradle robber for a long time now. It can’t be that weird.

Only yesterday he’d left the little half-grown dragonling shackled to the floor.

Ah.

Zeno feels old, familiar shame gnawing at his stomach, and turns circles inside himself as Ryokuryuu slings an arm over his shoulders, and smiles automatically, bright and brittle.

 


 

Zeno can’t count how many years it’s been since he’s come close to somebody. Can’t even take a guess. Loneliness bubbles in his chest like boiling lava, bursting to puffs of scorching poison, burning him from the inside out. It’s been a while since he’s swum in lava too. Probably longer than since he’d let himself love.

Probably.

Hiryuu’s flames and all his brothers’ love, and the black fire in the mister’s eyes and the warmth of the lad’s back as they cuddle at night, and the miss, the miss, the miss—it’s all stirring up lava, and Zeno can barely tell what he feels anymore, except that he loves them all so much it hurts. He knows he can love mortals with ease, with joy, find happiness without thinking of the future—he will treasure learning that forever, and Kaya will be first and special forever, and he will try not to be alone—but he’s floundering towards it this time. It’s too much, and they’re dragons, and they know him; Ryokuryuu knows he’s older than Kouka herself, Ryokuryuu has seen his head chopped off and his arms crawling dismembered in the dirt, and still he purrs and makes cracks about what an old man could’ve gotten up to over all these years, as if it had never bothered him at all, even though it clearly had.

Ryokuryuu knows he’s got more secrets than a king—he’s not a fool—yet that doesn’t seem to bother him either.

Zeno aches to fling himself at him, and that’s alarming too. He’s gotten far, far too old to bother with wanting such things very much. Take them when they come his way, certainly, but not—this. It’s not even entirely personal, which is a little unfair to Ryokuryuu. Not impersonal, either, exactly—he’s handsome, he’s a very kind person—but Zeno’s turning into a cauldron all of a sudden and Ryokuryuu’s stirring it.

It’s a little unfair, too, he realizes eventually, to keep thinking of him only as Ryokuryuu.

 


 

All in all, it comes to a head a little unexpectedly, because Hakuryuu remembers his visit. It’s vague, of course. Even more vague for Seiryuu, since he’d been quite small, but it was apparently the only time someone besides his predecessor had been kind to him.

Which Zeno hadn’t even quite known.

So there’s a very awkward dragon council, and Hakuryuu and Seiryuu take it in stride and there’s a lot of hugging, and Ryokuryuu—Jaeha—watches him with drooping eyes and finally asks, almost casually, if he’d made the rounds.

Zeno lies, easy as juggling. It’ll be messy if he doesn’t.

Ryokuryuu teases him for being an absent-minded old fart, and they leave it at that.

 


 

In the night, Zeno finds him fiddling, settled against the trunk of a tree, and makes himself a ball in the grass to listen. And applauds very nicely at the end, because really, Jaeha is very good at that. There’s so much emotion in the python-skinned voice of it, and he plays with such grace, and Zeno smolders and simmers in the grass, and still can’t forget why he’s here.

Jaeha demurs, gracious with praise, and asks if he’d ever learned, and they chat for a while about forgotten instruments, and then Zeno shuffles closer on his butt and wraps his hands around his ankles to brace himself and says, quietly, “Zeno lied.”

Jaeha’s face shutters serious in an instant, and he sighs and lays the erhu across his knees. “Really.”

Zeno squeezes his eyes shut and keeps going, even if he has to hold his heart in with one hand. Talking like this—isn’t usually a Zeno thing, is it? “Zeno…made the rounds. Ryokuryuu was. Nine, maybe. Asleep. Zeno came, and was sad, and left.” His voice is very small. Jaeha is very silent. “Zeno…isn’t a very kind person,” he goes on, very slowly. “Zeno isn’t always everything Zeno wants to be. Sometimes…Zeno doesn’t even know what Zeno wants to be, until much later.”

“Damn it,” Jaeha hisses at last, and Zeno doesn’t dare look up, and there’s more awful silence, and Zeno begins to worry if he’s really messed things up with him, and how could he possibly bear it if he had, and…

“Zeno is sorry.”

“Get out,” Jaeha says at last. “Before I do anything either of us regret. Get out.”

Zeno scrambles to his feet and runs, feeling sick.

 


 

Being old doesn’t make messing up with people you love that much easier. Zeno manages not to cry, at least. That would be a little awful, seeing as it was his fault. He finds a nice spot to stew in, in a lightning-cleft tree, and mostly tries not to think about anything. It’s on Jaeha now. It’s all on Jaeha.

He watches the moon set in a daze, watches the stars tick down past the treetops, one constellation after another. The same march they’ve marched for century after century. His eyes dry, burn, stop hurting. His limbs go numb, motionless. He stops thinking, because it’s on Jaeha now and he’ll just make himself wretched if he gets worked up about it. The fear of losing—any of them—could eat him alive. He knows that well enough already. So in the absence of thought, he simply. Exists.

One star never moves, always north forever and ever, and he stares at it, statue-still, until it’s burned into his eyes.

Light rises, slow, from the left horizon down. The stars fade. Late night chill soaked into his clothes along with the dew, and the world is beautiful, and the dawn is red as the miss’ hair.

He hears footsteps, and voices he can’t quite make out, and it’s Ryokuryuu and Seiryuu, looking for him. Ryokuryuu looks a little rumpled, underslept, subdued. He murmurs something to Seiryuu, and Seiryuu stops, and slowly shakes his head, and holds out a hand to guide Ao to Ryokuryuu’s shoulder.

Ryokuryuu comes up, slowly, Ao swinging between his fingertips with little needle claws, and Zeno almost wants to move—closer or further, he’s not sure—but he’s too stiff.

“Don’t tell me you’ve been here all night.”

He cracks a sad smile for him, and has to lick his lips and swallow a few times before he has a voice back. “Zeno doesn’t want to lie anymore?”

“Ah, damn.” Ryokuryuu. Jaeha. Plops down to sit in the cold dew between the roots of his tree, and holds out a hand for Ao to scamper up. He looks strange. Not angry. Almost fond. Ao nests warm and soft in the crook of Zeno’s neck, and bats at the medallion. “Why do you have to be so cute?”

“Zeno…doesn’t know?”

Jaeha runs fingers through his bangs. “I was…hard on you last night. I’m sorry. It wasn’t particularly beautiful.”

“That wasn’t hard at all,” Zeno whispers. “You can’t hurt Zeno. I was just. Scared I’d messed things up.”

Jaeha watches him keenly in dead silence for a long moment, and then says, quietly, “Caring hurts. Even Zeno, I’d wager. Maybe especially Zeno.”

Zeno squeezes his eyes shut like he’s just been stabbed, and finally manages to move a hand to pet Ao, who nuzzles his cheek as he shudders.

“I can’t hold it against you,” Jaeha says after a time, quietly. “There’s a part of me that’s very upset about that. I’m not a forgiving person. I don’t value it, I don’t want to be somebody who trusts and cares for a man who’d abandon a child in that position. And yet I do, here and now. I can’t escape that.” He’s silent for a moment, tilting his head a little to study him. “Are you more of the Zeno you want to be now?”

Zeno clutches the medallion instead, so tight his knuckles ache. “…yes.”

Jaeha blows out a sigh, face softening, and holds out his arm. “C’mere.”

Zeno squeezes out of the tree and tips forward into Jaeha’s chest with a little keening noise of relief, and for a moment, they just hug, Zeno bodily a pile in Jaeha’s lap and Ao snuggled between them.

“It’s also good you told me sooner rather than later,” Jaeha murmurs. “Anything else I should know?”

Zeno fumbles for a moment, wondering how even to answer that. “Zeno…doesn’t think so? There’s a lot Ryo—” The name dies in his throat, and after a long silence, he continues. “Jaeha doesn’t know about Zeno. But nothing else…between us.” Another long pause, and he swallows. “Zeno has fought and killed and lied to and run away from many, many people. But those are…the only ways in which Zeno is cruel. The only ways ever.”

“There are far worse ways.” Jaeha nudges his cheek up to look at his face, and sighs and shakes his head, fond. “There’s still a Zeno after all this time. God, I can’t even begin to imagine what that’s like. It’s not just that it’s hard to hold those things against you, it’s that—I can’t. Not without being rather ugly by my standards. Not fair to expect somebody as messed up as you to be perfect. So no. You haven’t messed this up.”

Zeno feels joy bubble up inside him, burning just as hot as the rest, and squeezes him tight, and Ao squeaks in distress.

 


 

Seiryuu doesn’t say anything, just walks with him when they set out for the day, and at some point sneaks a hand over to grab his, fingertips cool and glove-leather soft, so Zeno squeezes back and guesses that nobody resents him.

 


 

Things go as usual, minus Jaeha flirting with him, for about a week, and then they get in a lot of trouble with bandits who turn out to be supporting a drug ring by ferrying packages through the mountains, and this time it’s Zeno jumping in front of a bear for Jaeha, if a crazed Kai fellow with two axes counts as a bear, and Jaeha makes some terrible choking noise as Zeno catches the ax with his hand. Half-biting into the bones of his palm, blunt from carnage, and Zeno grits his teeth and digs his heel in and wheels him around just enough to for Jaeha’s white-booted foot to send the guy flying with a crunch of collarbone.

It was out of consideration for the lad, Zeno explains after the fight’s settled, shaking blood into the leaves as his fingers knit themselves up crackling. “He’s had to sew this sleeve back up once already.”

“You’ve still stained it,” Jeaha mutters, brow furrowed, and tucks Zeno under his arm, crushing tight, hiding his face in his hair. “I don’t like this.”

Zeno feels his eyes go wide, and he shivers, and burrows close. His hand bubbles and snaps, and he almost doesn’t feel it, and holds it away from Jaeha so he doesn’t pus on his lovely silk coat.

“Zeno heals,” he says, almost too softly, because he still wishes, sometimes, he could say it to Hiryuu.

“I don’t like using you as a shield just because of that.”

Zeno clutches a fistful of Jaeha’s shirt in his clean hand, head snapping up. “It’s my wish!”

Jaeha’s eyes widen.

“‘I am the dragon that was born to be your shield!’ That was the first time, Jaeha, the first time in all these years that I’d been granted the chance to say that. To even realize it! This existence, this monstrous existence—if this body can protect the miss and the rest of you when nothing else can, then at least I have a point.

Jaeha’s still for a moment, stricken, and then crumples around him, burying a hand in his hair and clutching him tight. “You precious idiot,” he whispers into Zeno’s hair, and it’s the fondest thing he’s ever said, and Zeno melts. Clutches back, even with drying blood on his clean-healed hand.

Jaeha might have kissed the top of his head. The miss might have noticed him shouting, when she was done shouting at the surviving bandits herself, and clamped her hand over her mouth with her eyes a little damp. Zeno can’t bring himself to fuss about either of those things right now.

 


 

Jaeha more or less keeps a distance for the next few days, until Zeno finds himself casting glances after him nearly as often as the miss, and wondering. Almost wondering what would happen if he—asked, if he’d let himself want him that much.

Instead, he hears him playing again when he’s out on an evening wander, and wanders in his direction, and this time Jaeha gives him a faint smile without missing a beat, and drops his gaze to the grass next to him, so Zeno curls up at his feet.

The tune’s familiar. Aching familiar, creeping into his hindbrain, and making him shiver and think of older years. Not as old as him, certainly. Music changes, same as anything else. But…centuries, perhaps. Zeno asks what it is when he’s done, sitting up a little and resting his cheek on Jaeha’s knee, and Jaeha stares off into space like he isn’t quite sure. “Bellflowers, I think. That’s what the fisherman I learned it from called it.”

“It’s…old.”

“Haah.” Jaeha carefully stows the erhu, and settles a hand in Zeno’s hair, warm and broad. “Memories?”

“Not particularly…? Zeno can’t place it. But music…sticks deep.”

“That it does.” Jaeha’s hand wanders, ruffling through his hair, smoothing out folds in his headband. Fingertips sliding down his cheek. Zeno basks in it, purrs, turns his head a little to nuzzle Jaeha’s hand without even thinking about it much. Mouthes at Jaeha’s thumb as it drags across his lips, and there’s a soft haah from above him, and Jaeha spreads his knees a little so Zeno can fit between them, a tidy bundle. “If I didn’t know better,” Jaeha murmurs, soft and teasing, “I’d think you were flirting with me, old man.”

“Oh, dear. Zeno might be confused. Zeno thought Jaeha was flirting with Zeno.

Jaeha laughs softly. “Oh, did you?” The faintest of pauses, and he tugs at Zeno’s shoulder. “You’re not wrong. Get up here. If you want to.”

Zeno’s insides turns one little cartwheel, and he stares off into the woods for a moment, and then clambers up to sit in Jaeha’s lap. Baby chick, baby chick. His heart’s going fast, and he rather earnestly hopes Jaeha isn’t teasing him, because he’s all expectations, even when he tries to expect nothing. Jaeha knuckles under his chin to draw his head up, study him with lazy purple eyes that see through so many things.

“Do you? Want me? You seem pretty nervous for an older fellow.”

Zeno laughs, a little too bright. “Zeno seems nervous? Yes. Yes I do. It’s just. Been a while since Zeno wanted anybody.”

“I’m flattered,” Jaeha murmurs, mouth curling into a slightly fiendish smile.

“Zeno is having a lot of feelings about everybody,” Zeno says, a little harried. “Is it—fair? That it’s not just about you?”

“Do I look like a high-commitment kind of guy,” Jaeha mutters, in good humor. “Is it just because I’m a dragon?”

“No,” Zeno blurts, and then pauses for a very long time, and looks him carefully in the eyes. “Zeno wouldn’t know you well if you weren’t, and your hair makes Zeno nostalgic, but…not aside from that.”

“Who knows? You might have run into me if you wandered through Awa.”

“Awa…” Zeno feels some peculiar, tender ache at that. At the certainty, that even if he’d had such a different life, he would have found his place in Awa, of all the thousand towns of Kouka. Or even beyond. “Well, Zeno…hasn’t gotten close to people much for a while, so even if Zeno ran into you…”

“I’d kind of gotten that impression.” Jaeha’s silent for a long moment, and reaches up to brush a thumb over Zeno’s cheek, and asks, “Were you with any of them? The original dragons?”

Zeno has to squeeze his eyes closed, and feels like he’s being strangled, and croaks out, eventually, “Not…my brothers.”

Jaeha breathes out in surprise, silent. “Yona must be strange for you.”

Zeno tips forward into Jaeha’s chest. He didn’t even know the half of it—Hiryuu, now a girl nearly as cute as his wife. Zeno doesn’t even know where to start, even speaking Kaya’s name now is too high a mountain to climb, so instead he buries his face in the side of Jaeha’s neck and breathes deep in green hair, and Jaeha’s arms close around him. He really is an excellent size to wrap around him, and Zeno fits against him just so, and he can feel the pulse in his neck and almost feel his heartbeat in his chest, and he’s very warm.

“Never any of my brothers.” He laughs, a little scattered. “Baby chick.”

“Do you dislike the idea of changing that?” Jaeha asks, voice low enough that it curls to his toes, and he’s just callous enough that it’s wonderful, really, Zeno doesn’t want to drag him down and leave him making sad faces about somebody else’s loss. Jaeha leaps forward and pushes everyone with him, but he’s sweet too, and smart about feelings, and takes care even for monsters, and Zeno loves all of that. And how sensual the man is, how sexual; it makes him want things, and Zeno nuzzles the hot skin of his throat with his life beating all through it.

“No. But…is it fair?”

“Doing that when you ask me?” Jaeha purrs. “Not at all”

Zeno stops, and pulls back, feeling his blood heating like it hasn’t in years. “Jaeha…”

“I don’t know what I’m doing,” Jaeha blurts, sudden, face turned away so Zeno can only see his hair. “Not anymore. Different reasons—probably slightly more foolish reasons—but I try not to let myself be this. Compromised. Same as you, more or less.” He laughs, a little frayed, cheeks faintly pink. “This makes, what, four people in this crowd who I’d take up with in a hot second if they liked?”

“Ahahah…” Zeno drags a hand through his hair and shakes his head. “We are…a little alike, yes.”

“At the rate I’m going, about all I can ask if that you’re not seeing somebody else when you look at me.”

Zeno frowns, shakes his head. “No, I—”

He can’t finish, because Jaeha is kissing him, and he makes one desperate muffled whine of relief and kisses back. It isn’t particularly sweet right from the start, and that isn’t surprising at all. Jaeha’s made it clear enough what he likes. Zeno closes his eyes and loses himself in it, deep and intense, feels almost giddy. Jaeha’s fangs against his tongue. Jaeha’s low growl as Zeno’s own fangs scrape his lips, and his throaty groan as Zeno quite deliberately bites him, tugging at his lips.

“Fucking hell,” Jaeha breathes, breaking the kiss for just a second to stare at him, subtly flushed and bright-eyed. “Old man.”

Zeno blinks at him innocently, curling his tongue around one of his fangs. “Jaeha…likes that, yes?”

Jaeha attacks him again with little warning, and promptly, like the dignified dragon warriors they are, rolls him off the log.

 


 

It really isn’t just posturing: Jaeha likes pain. Jaeha glows with his lips bitten red and fang-spotted bruises all down his throat and red lines from nails criss-crossing his ribs. Not that he rolls over; he gives as good as he gets, relentlessly curious about Zeno’s body, and Zeno’s grinning like he can’t stop and sporting some nibbles of his own and warmer than he’s felt in a long, long time. Little whines of pleasure as Jaeha slides hands into his baggy clothes, tests the sensitivity of his nipples—he’d always made noises like that, he never stopped making noises like that, high-pitched and squirming, and people either tended to think it was adorable or creepy, but clearly Jaeha doesn’t mind, so that’s good. Jaeha, in turn, doesn’t seem to notice anything about his nipples until Zeno pinches them very tight, and then he moans and arches, lush and loopy.

“Old man…nngh…would never have expected you to be so aggressive…”

“Is it—?”

“Don’t stop,” Jaeha pants, almost pleading, sliding his hands down to grab Zeno’s ass quite firmly and drag him close for grinding.

“Zeno just wants to make things good for you, whatever you like…” Zeno lets him drag him down, and flops forward a little, kissing his cheek messily and then watching his eyes as he gets his nipples snug between finger and thumb and pulls.

“Fffuck,” Jaeha groans, eyes hazing with pleasure, and Zeno smiles with genuine, bubbling joy and kisses his cheek again.

“Jaeha is really cute like this!”

“Cute,” Jaeha echoes, laughing faintly. Laughter blurring into a moan and growl as Zeno twists, sending little shivers down his long arms, and blurring right back into laughter. “God, you’re ridiculous.”

“But it’s true! Zeno doesn’t like hurting people, but you really like this, so it’s different.”

Jaeha catches his next kiss with his mouth, and that gets them lost for a while, even as Jaeha rucks Zeno’s clothes into a half-naked mess, baring the thin arch of his back and chest to the night, and Zeno tries to get Jaeha further out of his robe. It’s heavy, the inside of it lined with sheathes and little knives, and Zeno traces fingers down soft-worn leather hot from Jaeha’s skin, and trails off the kiss to sit up and straddle him, tilting his head to study him, because he has a crazy little idea.

“Does Jaeha…like scary things too?”

“Jaeha likes a lot of things, kiddo, what are you…”

He trails off as Zeno slips one of his throwing knives an inch free of its oiled leather sheath.

“Fuck,” he breathes. Their eyes are locked. Zeno feels his heart pounding in his throat—this is reckless, this is strange even for him, but if Jaeha likes it, if Jaeha will light up for it—that’s all that matters, that’s all he wants right now. Jaeha licks his lips, and grins like a mad thing. “Not on my throat. Nothing Yun’ll have to tend to. Oh fuck yes.”

“Promise,” Zeno whispers, sweet, and has to kiss Jaeha again, almost tenderly, because he aches for it. Even as he slides the knife free. He strokes Jaeha’s cheek with his other hand as he breaks the kiss, and drowns in his eyes, and all but purrs as Jaeha’s hands slide down his back and start wrestling with the rest of his clothing. Has the sudden impulse to cut Jaeha’s sleeves off to give him more skin to work with, slide the knife under the knot and pop it, but that would just be rude, they can’t be easy to come by. So instead he traces down his collarbone, between the sleeves, outlining ribs. The ridged sides of it are blunt, and he can press hard, threatening. The point is sharp as winter, and leaves vivid red lines with almost no pressure, and he has to be careful with it, slow. He doesn’t want to cut skin by accident.

Jaeha goes still, and pants deep and even like he’s wrestling with his own mad arousal and instinctive fear at once, and keens in the back of his throat, and looks transcendent. He writhes slow and subtle, like he’s dancing with the blade, with Zeno, stretching out underneath him. Dancing on the edge. Never surrendering. It’s so lovely that Zeno feels like his heart’s going to pop out of his chest.

So cute,” Zeno breathes.

“How is this cute?” Jaeha murmurs, shivering with crawling delight at the blade smoothing over his face—just the ridged flat of it there, Zeno’s never going to take that risk—and turning to mouth at it, breath fogging the metal, like he hadn’t even realized he’d been talking.

“Because you’re happy,” Zeno says, like it’s the simplest thing in the world, because it is. He is too—really, genuinely happy, and it’s bubbling up fast and vivid, and he hopes Jaeha can see it on his face. He wants him to, very badly, wants him to know, because he worries so much.

From the look in Jaeha’s eyes, he probably does.

 


 

Jaeha winds up coming in Zeno’s mouth as he sprawls over him like a satisfied cat, five beads of blood trickling from a feather-light cut on the very tenderest meat of his inner thigh, flat of the blade pressed to his balls, red lines from his fangs on his dick, howling and clutching at Zeno’s hair as he shakes to pieces under him. It’s incredible to feel. To watch as much as he can. He swallows every drop.

Jaeha insists upon returning the favor, and it’s pretty obvious he’d like it to involve Zeno grabbing him tight by the ponytail and fucking his throat until he gags and tears up and moans in sheer bliss with his wrecked voice, but Zeno can feel the satisfaction rolling off of him like the sea, and doesn’t let himself fuss, and really, it does feel amazing; Zeno’s not a masochist in the way Jaeha is, but the scrape of fangs make his heart flutter.

 


 

Zeno, of course, is forever seventeen and ready again in five minutes. Jaeha has a long, long laugh at that, shaking his head, voice still rough, lips red and well-used. “Is it actually physically possible to tire you out?”

“Ah…sort of?” Zeno scratches his head, a little sheepish. “Like eating too much, more than anything. You don’t have to…”

Jaeha rolls on top of him with a wicked grin in one smooth motion, and whispers, an inch from his lips, “Are. You. Kidding.”

 


 

Jaeha lays him out naked with his jacket for a bed and takes it slow, and tender, and it’s devastating. Like he’s mapping every inch of Zeno’s skin, cataloguing his reactions, his squirms, his gasps, his noises. Or like he’s realized Zeno doesn’t want things much, and is determined to make him want this. Really want this. Make him writhe under him with precum heating the tip of his cock before he even touches it. Make him—not quite beg, does it count as begging if one desperate whisper of please is all it takes, but Jaeha still refuses to move on until he hears it?

He comes from sheer overload when Jaeha still has just one finger up his ass, hooked forward and fucking him painfully slow and relentless, slipping almost all the way out every time, and it catches him entirely by surprise and leaves him breathless, toes curling and leg shaking against Jaeha’s shoulder, gasping and wailing into his own knuckles until Jaeha, gently but inexorably, pulls them out of his mouth and catches him by the hair so he can’t look away.

Cute,” he murmurs, and Zeno bursts out laughing even as he flushes, really helplessly laughing, full-throated and nerveless from orgasm.

“Yay! Yay, I’m cute, you’re cute—oh ffffuck—

“Mm…god, you feel good. I need to make you laugh once I’m inside you, I can feel it…”

Jaeha isn’t stopping. His finger’s still sliding in—he really does have very nice fingers, long and agile. He isn’t even slowing his pace. Or speeding up. Zeno loses words for a moment, legs rubber, ragged full-body shudders as the realization kicks in. It’s too much. Too much for him to stay calm for. It’s perfect.

By the time Jaeha’s fucking him, folding him into a bony bundle underneath him where Jaeha has all his weight and gravity behind him to drive him breathless deep and the angle’s just right to wreck him on every stroke, he’s completely incoherent, clawing at his back and screaming, and this moment is the only moment, the only one in all the world, that he’s alive in. Right now. There’s his body, raw-nerved and aflame with pleasure and all his own; and there’s Jaeha, and Jaeha kissing him, and fucking him, and holding him close, and muttering lusty nonsense in his ear; and that’s all. He’s floating, and everything is light, and when they’re done, he refuses to let go of him for hours.

 


 

Jaeha makes it sound like he’s barely tolerating the cuddling, but he breathes deep and even and is bonelessly relaxed under him, and sighs with satisfaction, and pulls the muddled pile of their clothing into a nest around them both. Zeno smiles bright and sappy into the crook of Jaeha’s neck, and pulls out his ribbon, and plays with his hair as the moon sets. They had been, he vaguely hopes, far enough from camp, but he can’t quite bring himself to care.

Jaeha traces gold dragons with his fingertip, playing with the medallion which has dislodged a little, fallen down to Zeno’s shoulder with his headband half-coiled round his neck. Somehow that feels more intimate than his hands on any bit of his skin. Zeno can’t quite bring himself to care about that either.

“So, we gonna do that again?” Jaeha asks eventually, trailing a finger down the side of Zeno’s throat.

“Oh, yes, that would be very nice. This was very nice. Zeno really likes you. Cuuuuuute.”

Jaeha laughs, starts finger-combing out the worst of the sex knots from Zeno’s scruff. “Heavens, what have I gotten myself into?”

 


 

They sleep like that, bundled in the grass, and it’s the warmest and deepest Zeno’s slept in a long time.

 


 

Zeno slightly regrets the amount of screaming the next morning, when Yun and Hak greet him with identical slot-eyed stares of judgement.

Only slightly.

At least they probably don’t know why Jaeha gives Zeno a private, utterly wicked grin at the sting of fresh-cleaned cuts against the seam of his trousers.