Tigers, being solitary creatures, usually kept to themselves in their own slightly introverted world, only coming together for small periods of time to get their full of social interaction. Lions, in their filial glory, had their Pride. These collections were often in clusters that spanned whole streets, one abnormally large Pride in America had a whole block as their territory.
It was a shock to see a tiger and a lion in one place, their demeanours and diverging social constructs made them too different. Yixing's Pride prowled through a handful of streets in a modern housing estate, their patriarch and matriarch taking the larger home at the far side and the rest scattered through as they pleased. Yifan, by contrast, lived solely with his mother in a large home on the outer edges of the city.
Their tall walled and fenced garden was a stark shift from the communal gardens Yixing shared with over thirty different people, Yifan's whole life thrived from independence where Yixing's was all codependency. They needed different things, when Yixing had a bad day he was in need of care and attention; when Yifan had one, he needed to be left alone.
There were so many contrasts, too many differences, that Yifan and Yixing shouldn't have fit. Their attitudes towards life were completely abstract from one another and yet, they found something rare in one another. Yixing didn't necessarily need his Pride when his day, or mood, took a dip. He needed Yifan with his tiger form's soft fur against his skin, his tongue swiping over his face and large paws on the ground with their claws out ready to attack anybody to tried to remove Yixing from his possession. Yifan, much like many others, was wrapped tightly around Yixing's finger. The lion had an unwavering ability to soothe Yifan when he was close to the edge. When they were cubs, it was the way Yixing would try to roar or would let Yifan try to catch his tail that lifted his mood. But, as years wore on, Yixing would let Yifan treat him like a mother would a cub, the younger adored when Yifan was angry and would take it out on Yixing by demanding that he must groom Yixing's ever growing, dark mane.
It was a strange relationship, their friendship with each other's understanding of wanting a group and craving solitude worked out. There were days when Yixing needed his large collection of friends to satisfy his more primally driven instincts and Yifan would shift to run for miles on end on his lonesome. They found each other easily after their separation, either Yixing shifted into his lion form and popped out from behind trees to have Yifan chase him. Or, Yifan appeared in his human form outside of where Yixing had been with his friends.
Their friendship remained strong, their cub forms built a bond because they played a little more roughly than the others. With Yixing having the genes of a black-maned lion, he was that little bit stronger and faster than his paler haired companions and Yifan was a Siberian tiger through and through. Sometimes their roughhousing actions went a little too far, as Yifan was always going to be more powerful, and they came away with numerous scrapes and scratches. They watched each other turn from chubby in their cub years, to their lean teens and up into their muscular adulthood. Yifan was constructed for speed, strength and precision and Yixing was all power.
While their similarities diverged early on, they both understood when their friendship shifted into something much more scandalous. Yixing, even in his alpha male state, loved being wrestled to the ground by his much stronger opponent and he wanted Yifan. The elder knew this when Yixing reveal his throat to him when the tiger was angry, the fast sign of submission made the tall feline preen with happiness. Yixing acted somewhat like a lioness would, it often drew gasps from people close by if they had caught the scene.
Yixing adored that Yifan's human form was larger than his own, it felt incredible to be towered over and made to feel a little smaller.
They were two alpha males of different stock, they should have clashed with one another. They should have been fighting to draw blood if the other stepped on their territory but their mothers had been friendly, not friends but more than acquaintances, and had raised them within relatively close proximity.
Like many male tigers, Yifan's father didn't stick around to raise him and Yixing's mother, the lioness who lived closest to Yifan's home, had thought the whole thing to be damaging. Tigers didn't mate for life, much like their wholly animal counterparts, but lions often did. Yixing's father, a lighter maned man, was a constant presence in Yixing's life. While their relationship always seemed a little strained to Yifan, Yixing was close to his father and the elder of the two lions was often heard boasting about Yixing's dark mane.
It had, however, been Yixing's mother who had suggested that Yifan should be raised with Yixing at his side. She had coaxed Yifan's mother into believing that a little companionship would help to ease both her own, and Yifan's, burdens. She was not wrong but she wasn't right either.
Yixing verged on burdensome on the nights when he would stroke teasingly at Yifan's human form tail and would have him rutting against Yixing's firm, muscular thigh until he came in his own underwear. Yifan knew that the two dominant males shouldn't have become that near to one another but when Yixing purred or mewed like a little kitten under the pressure of Yifan's lips and tongue on his neck, Yifan wanted to relinquish himself to the lion.
It was tense whenever somebody brought up Yixing searching for a lioness to place his mark on, even more so whenever Yifan was in earshot. En plus, it wasn't much different when tigresses of any age propositioned Yifan.
Big cats were covetous, not as possessive as canines and lupine creatures, but they knew what was theirs and would fight to keep it that way. Yixing used his dark mane lion aura to push tigresses into submission and Yifan used his large frame, intimidating gaze and deep, rumbling tiger's growl to keep talk of Yixing's suitors at bay. To anybody who didn't know them, they appeared like protective friends.
To those who knew them best, it was impossible not to smell the scent of something taboo between them.
Their parents ignored it, they hoped it was selfish rebellion from the two young felines. Yixing's friends tolerated it, too scared to take on their two most powerful peers. Their neighbours shielded their children from it, the scent of hunger always warned the others that Yifan and Yixing weren't just being friendly with one another anymore.
That being said, they had never once had sex. They had teasingly touched until the other came, had kissed and had spent hours coating the other in their scent. Sex was too much for Yixing, he knew that and Yifan certainly did. For tigers, sex didn't mean so much. Lions, on the other hand, took the physical union of two creatures with the utmost seriousness.
Yixing wanted Yifan, the lion wanted that level of connection but he feared what Yifan wanted. Tigers didn't stay and even given the years of history, Yixing couldn't be sure that Yifan would in the future.
One night, the shift between them was plain as day. They'd spent hours in the sun, soaking in the rays in hopes of drawing in warmth and nothing had bothered them for the entire day. Their parents weren't searching them down. It was only Yixing and Yifan, a lion and tiger sprawled out with their tails entwined. And yet, when they arrived in Yixing's bedroom after having eaten, Yifan was different.
He held the younger tighter, his lips were sweeter and their bodies were wrapped around one another with the want to be closer than skin. It was the reverse of the normal clinging horniness that they both exuded. Yifan pushed him down to the mattress softly, his hands drifted and Yixing melted down to almost nothing. His fear of Yifan's commitment to him faded as the tiger's mouth drifted from his lips and ebbed down to his neck, the tiger was so self-assured as he undressed them both. His confidence spoke to Yixing's nervousness, it soothed it like they were whispering to one another in the dim light.
The lion yelped when the tiger, muscular and large, moved back away from him and Yifan laughed a little at the younger's startled expression. He drew the younger towards him again, bringing Yixing between his legs and confusion flooded through his body as the tiger purred up at him.
And just like that, Yixing knew. Yifan was laying everything out to the younger, he was shaking off every ounce of the personality given to him by his tiger instincts. Yixing kissed him then, gently and sweetly as they shifted awkwardly around the bed and Yifan let Yixing's fingers wander down to undiscovered realms.
Yixing had never expected for Yifan to relinquish some of his solitary dominance; he hadn't thought he would be the one to take Yifan. Despite his status, Yixing had always expected himself to be taken on their first time, yet that's not the way things unfolded. Yifan was expressing his devotion to Yixing through the seemingly simple act because he knew it meant everything to the lion. It was their defining moment of love against the odds of the world.
They came as teeth sunk into the skin on the left side of each other's necks, marks to brand them as one another's and Yixing felt everything Yifan did as they connected in a way that was rare for a tiger to think about experiencing. Loyalty, dedication, fidelity and love. Yixing knew the feelings radiating from his own half of the bond would have reflected the elder's but it was the intensity in which it was felt that sealed Yixing's entire heart.
To use the word scandalous would have been an understatement when the pair emerged from their own little bubble and their marks, still red and raw, screamed out to the world that the two apparently dominant males had claimed one another during their absence from the sight of others. There wasn't a person who wasn't struck into stillness to see the strangely close tiger and lion flitting around each other like infatuated school children. Yifan's mother had almost fainted on the spot. Yixing's parents harboured a quiet kind of fury.
Still, there was a level of feeling untouchable as their hands entwined for everybody to see. No single person could erase the bites on their necks, they were permanent tattoos that ran right into the soul that bound them together in a way that couldn't be broken. Despite the anger, the pain, the scandal, nothing could be done to change what they'd done. It was permanent. It was public. It was ignominious. Nevertheless, neither of them cared.
Nothing bad could touch them.
Yixing's voice purred through the trees, his hearing open and sensitive to hear if the tiger would approach him from the undergrowth, "Yifan."
The rustling he got in return was enough to make him smile, the larger than average tiger appearing betwixt some barky trunks and the furred creature chuffed air out of his nose happily in greeting. Yixing's fingers dug into his fur, delighting himself in the warmth there and basking in the way Yifan's head pushed lovingly against his legs, causing him to drop the backpack he was holding down to the ground.
"You've been laying in the sun, haven't you, Paws?" Yixing laughed out as he found areas of Yifan's fur were far hotter on one side compared to the other. "I don't understand how you're such a furnace all the time."
Yifan's responses weren't verbal, or even noises Yixing could decipher, but he knew that the grumbling sounds in the elder's feline chest were ones of affectionate annoyance. As if Yixing was judging him for how he had spent his day whilst the lion was off socialising with his own kind. It made Yixing laugh as the tiger circled around him with gentle licks and scenting nudges of his head.
Yixing stepped back, finding a tree behind himself and slipping down it until he was placed firmly on the ground with the large cat looming over him. The tiger tilted his furry head to the side and placed a few short welcoming licks to where his bite mark rested on Yixing's flesh, causing the lion to shudder with affection. Yixing's human form tail settled on his thigh, resting there and he saw how Yifan's eyes followed it until they came to the black hair covered tip that stood out in contrast to the sandy colour on the rest of Yixing's fur.
Whilst his markings weren't as striking a Yifan's, the tiger always complimented him on how wonderfully Yixing suited his colouring. He always made comments on how the golden parts represented his angelic qualities but the darker hair of his mane and tail tip showed the devious qualities of his character. They were Yixing's perfect mixture of somewhat innocent appearance and the darkness he kept only to show Yifan when he was feeling confident enough.
"You're such a handsome beast, Paws," the lion joked and another of Yifan's rumbles vibrated in his throat. However, the gentle purring noise he made told Yixing that he preened inwardly at the compliment.
As if by a natural reaction, Yixing's own body reacted to Yifan's noises and his purring was triggered by that of his mate's. Yifan's large paws went either side of Yixing's hips and he collapsed down onto the human's legs with a huff that rustled on Yixing's shirt hotly. The younger let out a shocked yelp as he took the most part of Yifan's weight on his legs, instantly whining about how heavy tigers were and Yixing could have sworn he heard a cat-like snicker leave Yifan's mouth.
They laid like that for over twenty minutes, Yixing was close to sleeping when Yifan's weight and warmth disappeared from his legs and the telltale noises of bones creaking and fur shifting to skin appeared. The lion leant over and unzipped the bag he had tossed to the ground upon his arrival, he pulled out a loose pair of shorts and a severely oversized sweater that he knew his mate loved. He tossed them over his head, smiling when he heard them hit Yifan's back that was most probably more sensitive from being in his animal form for so long.
"I hate it when you do that," a deep, human voice muttered but the two of them knew it was more than loud enough for Yixing to hear over the gentle noises of the world around them.
"You should be used to it by now, I have been doing it for a good handful of years now," was the smart retort Yixing supplied.
He had barely finished talking before hoody covered hands slipped around his waist and a nose ran up his hairline to draw in the scent he naturally released. A happy hum from Yifan's mouth made Yixing feel warm inside, it never failed to do so in all the times Yifan had completed the action.
"What are the plans for this evening, kitten?" Yifan's voice always sounded so much huskier after he'd shifted, the ripple effect it caused Yixing to feel was almost too much for the younger to handle as he pressed back against his mate's chest.
"I don't know, we could go out somewhere for food?" Yixing suggested and he was shocked when Yifan didn't reject the idea instantly. Which he always did when Yixing recommended doing anything where others would be.
Yifan's rumbling timbre had Yixing purring loudly as he spoke, "If that's what you want to do."
"Have I ever lied to you before?" Yifan turned Yixing around by his hips, forcing the younger to bend his neck to look up at him. "And don't you say that one time I told you the river was warm because we were ten and I didn't understand why lions didn't like swimming as much as tigers."
With the response taken from his mouth, Yixing couldn't do anything but shake his head, causing the purring between them to increase by a few decibels.
"We've been mated for six months, I think the shock has worn off and people don't care so much anymore," the elder reasoned simply, without being prompted. "You're social and I'm solitary, I can't expect you to always just be with me because I'm reluctant to do anything but be like what's expected of me. And, if I'm brutally honest, I get jealous of all the people you socialise with because I want to be there too."
"So, you want to be a lion?" Yixing teased, lightening the suddenly deeper mood and Yifan's arms tightened around him, lifting him from the forest floor and making Yixing squawk.
"I can't think of anything worse," Yifan laughed out as he began to haul Yixing over his shoulder. "If I was a lion, I wouldn't be able to drag you around like the little kitten you are."
"I'm not a kitten," Yixing yowled, his playful growling tremoring on Yifan's back.
"Why are you the size of one then?" It was a low blow, Yifan knew Yixing wanted to be taller than he was and the younger instantly sunk his teeth into his mate's hip. Yifan's coo of, "Such cute nibbling from the cub," only served to rile him up further.
"You tigers are no good," Yixing huffed. "I should have listened to my father when he told me about your sort."
"My sort?" Yifan scoffed, jolting Yixing towards the ground causing a giggle to erupt from the smaller's stomach and Yixing only laughed more when the tiger's hands began to tickle the backs of his knees. "You, Zhang Yixing, are a pain."
"It's a shame you're stuck with me, then," Yixing squealed out as he was dropped over Yifan's shoulder completely, his reflexes catching with enough time to easily break his fall. "That's what you get for mating a lion, a lifelong bond."
"Mated or not, I would be stuck with you forever anyway," Yifan looked over his shoulder, Yixing could see the smiles in his eyes and something that read, 'even if you didn't want me, I'll always be yours.' "I just feel bad you have to put up with me and 'my sort,' if it's really that difficult for you."
Yixing didn't respond but closed the distance between himself and his mate, rubbing his cheek gently on his shoulder and Yifan's finger's scratched at Yixing's rounded lion ears.
"Thank you," Yifan suddenly whispered over the wind gently blowing the autumn leaves, "for believing and trusting that I won't leave you."
"Like you said before, you've never really lied to me in the past," Yixing hummed softly. "You're the most important person to me."
"Maybe one day we can have other important people around, maybe ones even smaller than you," Yifan's voice trailed off but his purring only grew louder. Yixing felt his stomach drop down slightly and his own throat constricted to vibrate with happiness.
"Are you trying to tell me in the least subtle way that you'd like cubs?"
"Who wouldn't want some with such a cutie kitten like you?" Yifan's smile was wide, probably far gummier than Yixing had ever seen before and that was more than enough to have him melting on the spot.
Yixing looked over his shoulder, checking if anybody else could be seen in the empty forest. "People wouldn't like that, they've only just stopped staring at me in the Pride for having your mark..."
"I don't mean right now," Yifan rubbed his thumb over Yixing's forehead affectionately. "In the future, when things have calmed down a lot more."
"But wouldn't that just cause more trouble...?"
"Little kitten, if you don't want cubs with me, we won't have them," Yifan stepped closer, drawing the lion in by the waist and leaning down to kiss the side of the shorter's mouth. "It's okay. You're more than enough for me, you are an endless supply of my joy."
Yixing couldn't help the colour that rushed to his cheeks, his purrs gave his contentment away and Yifan nuzzled into the part of Yixing's throat that could be seen to tremor with satisfaction.
"I do want them," the younger confessed and Yifan's lips pressed to his collarbones through his shirt. "Do you remember when we were in school and I had that talk with the other lions about raising cubs? All I could think about was having some with you."
"Kitten," Yifan hummed against his neck as he moved back up to kiss at his jaw, Yixing's hands on his shoulders and their chests completely flush together, "you're such a perfect creature."
"Stop calling me kitten, I don't like it," Yixing whined as Yifan straightened his back, however, the noises emanating from Yixing's throat gave away just how weak he was for the pet name. It was something he outwardly hated, but inwardly it softened up in his stomach. He adored how small and loved it made him feel by the taller, larger feline he had mated with.
"You are a cute kitten, though."
Yixing scoffed and groaned, still Yifan smiled and still the younger purred like he really was a house cat.
"Anyway," he switched conversations, "how much do you think our parents would want to kill us if we did have cubs?"
Yifan didn't reply at first, he let out a short hum and took Yixing's hand in his own to lead him back out the forest, "It depends on how we'd have them."
Yixing had his legs dangling from the kitchen counter, his tail was wrapped around his thigh and his eyes couldn't help but stare at the way Yifan's tail swished behind him as he got Yixing's favourite cereal out from the top shelf of a high cupboard. He had always expected to grow out of the urges to catch tails when he got older, and he had, for the most part. There was just something about Yifan's that made his pupils go wide and the coil in his stomach tighten to pounce.
"Milk?" Yifan queried.
Yixing didn't even have to say a single thing back for Yifan to automatically head over to the refrigerator and get the milk out, he filled the bowl with Yixing's breakfast and took it over to the younger with a grin. The lion took the bowl and scooped the food into his mouth with fast spoonfuls, his eyes still never straying from Yifan's fluffy appendage as it swung from side to side.
"Can you stop that?" Yixing whined, nudging Yifan with his feet.
Yifan shrugged easily, "I can't help it, kitten."
"It's distracting me from eating my breakfast."
"Don't look at it then. Simple," Yifan's response was snorted, a shuddering in his nose and Yixing huffed out, deflating around his filling stomach.
For the rest of his meal, Yixing pouted and refused to look at his mate in petulance. He failed whenever he caught sight of the orange striped tail moving naturally behind its owner's back as he cleared away everything that was on the draining board next to the sink. He didn't like not looking at Yifan when they were in the same room. It was like his brain and body always wanted to have his mate in sight or within touching distance.
"Come here," Yixing caught his foot around Yifan's thigh, halting his steps towards the other side of the kitchen. He clasped around the tiger's tail, smiling at how his ears turned towards Yixing before his face did and he obediently made his way between the younger's legs.
"Your tail drives me insane," he huffed out, keeping hold of the appendage in his hand. "You move it too much."
"It does it on its own," the elder shuffled forward as Yixing clamped his legs firmly around Yifan's hips to stop him from moving away. "I don't move it on purpose."
"I know but it's so...mesmerising."
"Maybe you should call me tails instead of Paws then?" Yifan suggested and Yixing shook his head, touching Yifan's hand that rested on the counter next to Yixing in a quick brush.
"But your paws are cute, so tufty," the lion cooed. "Your human paws are handsome, too."
Yifan smiled and Yixing felt his brain evaporate at the sight, he rose upwards with a straighter spine and took Yifan's lips between his own.
Every time they kissed, their bond made it feel so much more intense than it ever had been when they were younger, it was a gentle movement that had Yixing's entire soul leaving his body to flow into Yifan's. The tiger's hands moved up from the granite counter to grip on Yixing's hips, pulling the younger closer to the edge for their bodies to be as close as they could be.
There was nothing but love in the kiss, their mouths moulding and fitting together like the pair were made for one another. Yixing could feel Yifan's tail straining in his hand, the muscles twitching to be able to sway it from side to side in an expression of his happiness. His purring, however, had to suffice with how loud he was being. The echoing vibration from both of their throats rumbled like thunder against the four walls.
Yixing could have continued tasting and licking the inside of his mate's mouth for hours without tiring or feeling the urge to stop, that wish wasn't fulfilled when the muted clicking of the door filtered through their connection. The lion was reluctant to let go of the tiger. A short gasp was what had the elder recoiling from Yixing and the growl that escaped Yixing was instinctive.
"Yixing," he could feel the scolding tone in his mother's voice, "don't growl in the house."
Yifan leant away from Yixing, hiding his face away from the frown that was surely directed at him and the lion whined at the feeling of his mate moving further from him. His clutch on the tiger's tail grew tighter, so much so he could feel the warning look from his taller mate.
"Let go of his tail. Don't be so vulgar in public areas of the house."
"I'm just stopping it from moving, I'm not trying to do anything intimate." He didn't want to let go of his mate.
"That doesn't matter, it makes me uncomfortable to see it," Yixing looked at his mother over Yifan's shoulder and her face showed masked disgust towards her son's actions. "We let you do whatever you want in your room because it's out of sight, don't show us any more of it. If you want to do whatever you want. wherever you please, then do it somewhere else."
She huffed, her pale golden ears flicking around and her tail whipped around as she turned on her heels to leave the room.
"Maybe I should go home," Yifan whispered when they heard Yixing's mother's feet disappear up the stairs. "I know being here makes your parents discomfited. I'm the one they think ruined their perfect son."
Yixing wanted to argue back to his mate, he wished his parents were more welcoming to the tiger, like they were when they were cubs, but Yifan's presence in the house was an unspoken reminder of the fact their child had such a frowned upon relationship. The two older lions didn't take well to Yixing's mating with Yifan—their pride and joy who could have had any lioness he wished chose another dominant as his mate, one of another species at that. Two male dominants weren't supposed to be together, it was something they'd always been reminded of.
"I don't want you to go," Yixing felt clingy, his instincts told him to bring Yifan closer whenever Yixing's parents had knocked his confidence. "I want you here."
"Yixing, this might be your home but it isn't your house, your parents don't want me here. I shouldn't be here, kitten."
Yixing pouted and Yifan kissed it away as best he could without engaging like they had before. He was always so kind and gentle to Yixing, it warmed his heart to see how much his mate cared for him.
"I wish we had somewhere of our own, I don't like it when we sleep apart. I get nightmares without you, Paws."
"I know you do, kitten," Yifan nodded, nuzzling into the fluffy edges of Yixing's ears.
"Maybe we should do that?" Yixing queried. "You know, get our own place."
Yifan was quiet, he wasn't purring nor was he recoiling away from the lion. It made Yixing feel nervous, slightly more on edge than he ever thought he could be when it came to anything to do with their relationship. His mind always produced images of Yifan lounging in a cosily decorated bedroom in his tiger form, maybe laying on the floor in front of a large open window to soak in the sun.
"Maybe somewhere with a few bedrooms for when we...um..." Yixing couldn't stop himself from trailing off as he blushed to a sunset shade of red.
The tiger still didn't speak but his hands took Yixing's jaw within them and their eyes met in a serious and intense moment. There were so many emotions swirling around Yifan. None of them were negative but the nerves in Yixing's stomach were churning his breakfast around. It was like the moment they had bonded, Yixing could feel Yifan's affection flowing through him but disbelief was surrounding them.
"You want that?" The tiger's voice cracked, his eyes dark and loving. "You want that, with me?"
"I wouldn't have anybody else," Yixing leant forward to press his forehead against Yifan's. "How could I not want everything with you?"
They were children when they first kissed. It was childish and bracketed with giggles as their tails were held nervously in their hands. It didn't stop Yixing from wanting to move closer to the cute tiger he could call his best friend. They were teenagers when they kissed like they loved each other in each other's darkened bedrooms. It never felt like they shouldn't, so they always did.
Yixing could remember Yifan's face when he told him that any lion, male or female, could have cubs. The tiger was shocked, male tigers couldn't do such things and Yifan's nine-year-old hands had instantly gone to Yixing's stomach in wonder.
The lion had blushed when the tiger had pressed his furry ears to his stomach, childishly thinking Yixing actually had cubs in his stomach at that young age.
It had only taken three minutes for Yifan to burst into tears, hands still on Yixing's puppy fat covered stomach and his tail dangling limply by his legs. Yixing hadn't known why his best friend had cried, leaving him to helplessly say, "Paws, what's wrong? Tell me, Paws?"
Yifan had been hysterical, not uttering a word as he took Yixing in his arms and held the eight-year-old closer to him. Yixing had gone into shock, he didn't know how to make his tiger feel better. It took ten minutes before Yifan finally mustered the ability to tell Yixing that his heart was broken.
"You're having cubs in your tummy without me," he had blubbered and Yixing remembered being frozen in his place. "They aren't my cubs in your belly."
Yixing had crawled onto Yifan's lap, wrapped his arms around his best friend's neck and leant against his chest.
"There aren't any babies in here, Paws," he pouted, his own eyes watering to match his best friend's.
They should have known by the reactions of their mothers the next morning when Yifan had demanded to carry Yixing everywhere he could saying, "I need to keep Yixing safe, so he can have our cubs when we're older," that their relationship would always be a shock. Especially surrounding the subject of cubs.