There were giggles coming from the bamboo house.
Luo Binghe paused, one hand on the door, sharing a look with Mobei-Jun. They had been away longer than they'd liked, beating back a herd of Fire Drakes in the south. Their husbands had come with them (Luo Binghe had suffered two nights alone in a cot after trying to keep his precious Shizun away from the migrating beasts), but even Shizun had to admit defeat when the very air they breathed was starting to cause their throats to crack and bleed.
(Luo Binghe remembers quite well the way Mobei-Jun had cradled Shang Qinghua in his arms after the man had fainted from the heat, far too pale and dry under his robes, even for a cultivator. Shen Qingqiu had been almost as bad and that was the night the pair had gone back to their peaks to rest and recuperate.)
It turned out to be a large breeding season for the pests and it had taken them weeks longer to clear out the infestation. While they both now had several fortunes in hides and scales and other trophies from their kills, it was always a nagging worry that someone or something would try their hand at their husbands yet again while they were away.
(Not that Luo Binghe doubted Shizun's prowess! He had been in awe of the shredded bodies and sheer amount of carnage his beautiful husband had cut down in defense of himself. It's just. Luo Binghe wanted to be the one to protect Shizun for once.)
Mobei-Jun tilted his head to one side as Luo Binghe opened the door, the well-oiled hinges silent. More giggles spilled out. The sitting room was dark, save for one lamp that...had the strangest shade design Luo Binghe had ever seen.
“No, no, look, like...” He could hear Shang Qinghua's giggles coming from the bedroom. “Faster! You gotta do it faster!”
Luo Binghe felt his eyebrows shoot up. Mobei-Jun made an interesting sound next to him.
“I am doing it faster – stop wiggling!”
“If you don't quit it, I'll stop.”
“No, no, you gotta put it all in!”
Feeling his eyebrows rise higher and higher, Luo Binghe paced to the door of the bedroom, which stood ajar – and was completely dark. Mobei-Jun was a chill presence behind him. Luo Binghe pushed the door open to see...
His husband and Shang Qinghua in a nest of pillows and blankets, surrounded by the remnants of what might have been every lamp shade in the peak. Shizun's hair was done up in a bun again, strands coming down to hang in his eyes. There was a smear of ink on his cheek. He was in another of Shang Qinghua's strange outfits – they both were – in matching blues and greens. There looked to be at least two ink brushes pushed through Shizun's bun and another in his hand. Both Shizun and Shang Qinghua had ink stains on their hands, heads bent close as they painted the largest lamp shade Luo Binghe had ever seen in...he tilted his head to one side. Was that a mural?
He watched as Shizun groped for a cup on the ledge near the window and drank, all without his other hand stopping the elegant artwork spreading across the shade. Shang Qinghua had his face scrunched, the tip of his tongue peeking out from between his lips as he squinted at something and made tiny adjustments with a fine brush near the base of the shade. Shizun upended the cup and set it down just as Shang Qinghua slumped sideways into his lap, brush lifting clear of the shade.
“Would you stop that?” Shizun bopped Shang Qinghua on the nose with the end of his brush. “I'll paint you next if you don't.”
“Oh, man, that would be fun!”
“Not with this ink!”
“Yeah but we could –”
“You keep that thought to yourself.”
Luo Binghe couldn't help his smile as he watched Shizun and his friend dissolve into more giggles. He had so enjoyed Shizun's openness after his experimenting with alcohol – it was a shame Shizun thought he could only share such a silly state with his friend and not his husband.
Perhaps it was time to... encourage Shizun to have more than a few sips of wine here and there.
(But only when it was they two alone. No one else deserved to see such beauty and grace as his Shizun, with his open smiles and gentle hands and touch. And the way Shizun liked to climb into his lap and touch with a openness that he never usually had in the bedroom, free with his desires once his defenses came down.)
“Mmm,” Luo Binghe heard Mobei-Jun take in a sharp breath at the way Shang Qinghua stretched out over Shen Qingqiu's lap. “Do you think it will work?”
“I don't see why not,” Shizun's hand swept strands of hair from Shang Qinghua's face. “You're a mess.”
“No, you're a mess.”
“No, you're a mess.”
“No, you're ...” they dissolved into giggles again. Luo Binghe glanced at Mobei-Jun. The ice demon had the softest expression he had ever seen on his face before. “Don't you dare!”
“I told you I'd paint you.”
A rush of giggles and snorts came from Shang Qinghua. “Oh, paint me, paint me, paint me like your –,” his head tipped back. “My king!”
Luo Binghe stepped in when Shen Qingqiu turned to look. “Shizun looks comfortable.”
“Binghe!” Shizun's face had gone quite red. “You're back!”
“Yes, Shizun,” Luo Binghe couldn't bite back his smile in time. “Are you and A-Shang having fun?”
“My king!” Shang Qinghua crawled across Shen Qingqiu's lap, the thin shirt covering him rucked up and – those were not pants he was wearing. The cloth hung just to the knee, showing a long length of calf and delicate ankles that...had markings on them?
Luo Binghe looked to Shizun, who... also had those same short pants on and had strange inked markings along those long, long legs. And marks up and down his pale arms, as if someone had painted on him.
Like A-Shang had painted on him. Which also meant...His gaze slid to Shang Qinghua's markings. They had the same elegant hand as his husband's.
Their husbands had...marked each other. With dark sweeping strokes of ink. All over their bare skin. In...delicate places.
Luo Binghe could feel the sound he made in his chest echoed by Mobei-Jun.
“My king!” Shang Qinghua seemed unaware of the sound. “Look, look at what we made for you both!” The man darted forward to grab at Mobei-Jun's hand before letting go and turning back to Shen Qingqiu. “Do you think it's dry?”
“It should be, if we used the right ink,” Shizun was looking at the strange lamp instead of him. This was not acceptable. Shizun needed to be looking at him right now. So he could see all the markings on his husband's skin. Then Shang Qinghua climbed on top of Shizun and their hands were all over each other as pens went flying and what might have been an ink stone slid off the bed to splatter onto...were those more sheets on the ground? What in the world had they been doing ?
“I got it!” Shang Qinghua said as he sat up, straddling Shizun's lap. Shizun had his hands on Shang Qinghua's hips. Luo Binghe drew in a long, deep breath. “Now where's that wick?”
“Ah, here,” Shizun leaned forward – they were touching each other from shoulders to knees – and found something on the bed. “Where did you put the – oh, perfect.”
“Shizun...” Luo Binghe stepped forward, but had to stop and watch as Shang Qinghua started to giggle, again , and leaned back in Shizun's hold, back curving into an arch that made Mobei-Jun's growl grow louder, as he fiddled with the strangle lamp in front of Shizun. There was a flare and then it was lit, throwing strange patterns on the wall from the markings they had put on the shade.
“Look! Look, my king!” Shang Qinghua rocked forward with a laugh, almost headbutting Shizun! The pair instead fell backwards, giggling, arms around each other. “You have to spin it!”
“Shizun...” Luo Binghe stepped closer to the bed, but his husband just continued to laugh, lifting one – uncovered! Mobei-Jun was in the room – leg to gently set the lamp to spinning.
“Do you like it, Binghe?” Shizun smiled up at him, strands of hair coming out from his bun, falling around his face. He was covered by a still giggling Shang Qinghua. “We made it just for you both.”
“I...” He shared a look with Mobei-Jun. He didn't know what to say. Then he actually looked at the walls and felt his brows draw together. The spinning shade and the way the candle flickered made the strange shapes...made the strange shapes look as though they were moving . Like there was a parade of monsters marching along the walls. “This is amazing.”
“See, I told you they'd like it,” Shang Qinghua shifted to Shizun's side, snuggled up under his arm and really, Luo Binghe needed to stop that sound in his chest. The way Shizun had his arm around Shang Qinghua was loose and relaxed, ink splattered and comfortable, like...like they knew each other so well they could be nak-
He stopped that thought right there .
It got worse though, when he noticed Shang Qinghua's eyes narrow, and then the An Ding Peak Lord was arching up against Shizun, whispering into his ear, hand cupped over his mouth. Shizun's eyes narrowed as well, nodding slowly to whatever Shang Qinghua was saying. Luo Binghe felt a chill run down his spin at the way the two men were starting to smile at them. He heard Mobei-Jun shift on his feet.
“Binghe,” Shizun said and – and – was that a pout on Shizun's face? “Don't you like it? We spent so much time practicing and making sure it would work.” Those beautiful eyes went wide and – were those tears ?
“My king?” Luo Binghe had never heard Shang Qinghua sound like that before. Both their husbands had solemn expressions now, giggles gone as they stared up at them, eyes larger than Luo Binghe had ever seen and glossy too. “Do you like it? Do you like what you see?”
It was too much. It was too much . Luo Binghe lunged forward, Mobei-Jun at his back as they grabbed their husbands and pulled them apart. He heard Shizun make a startled sound as Luo Binghe hauled him close and took that lush mouth in a desperate kiss. Mobei-Jun had Shang Qinghua pinned to the bed, covering his smaller husband with his larger frame, hands in ink-dark tangled hair. The lamp went flying, but a distracted wave put the candle out and tossed the room into darkness.
“Binghe – Binghe what are you –,” Luo Binghe latched onto Shizun's throat and sucked, desperate to put his own mark on that pale skin. “No, no wait – not with – oh, oh ...”
Luo Binghe heard tearing sounds, but he wasn't sure if it came from Shizun's pants or Shang Qinghua's. From the corner of his eye he could see Mobei-Jun push Shang Qinghua's head back, long fingers slid inside his husband's mouth as Mobei-Jun bit down on the man's throat. Luo Binghe turned back to his husband and helped him out of his shirt, fingers drifting down warm skin, searching for signs of ink. There weren't any. Luo Binghe bent his head and marked him up, instead. He felt Shizun's hands in his hair, heard Shizun's faint and fading complaints as Luo Binghe slicked up his fingers and slid inside his husband's warmth, finding him loose and relaxed, as only such drinking could make him.
It made Luo Binghe hot just thinking about it. Thinking about Shizun so loose and comfortable with Shang Qinghua, so open and trusting. The heat rose as he freed himself from his pants and slid inside his husband, pushing the oil towards Mobei-Jun when the demon put his hand out for it. A solid thrust had Shizun pushed up the bed, head angled towards his friend as Luo Binghe bottomed out inside. Shizun's head was tipped back, enough to see Shang Qinghua's mouth stuffed full of Mobei-Jun's free fingers, the An Ding Peak Lord's face gone red and his eyes tearing. Luo Binghe felt the moan that left his husband at the sight, before Shizun ripped his gaze away. Luo Binghe rewarded him with a solid thrust against the spot that made Shizun shudder every time.
He gathered both of Shizun's wrists in one hand and pinned them over his head, pulling until Shizun's back was in a fine, pretty arch, perfect to slip his hand under and tilt Shizun's body just so, just enough so that Shizun was shuddering at every thrust, head tipped back so he could see how Mobei-Jun had Shang Qinghua on his knees, chest pushed to the bed, hands pinned behind his back. Then Mobei-Jun bent forward and the sweep of his hair fell around his husband, hiding him from view.
Luo Binghe pulled out long enough to roll Shizun to his side, away from the other pair, and then hooked his leg up with his elbow and slid back in, just hard enough to hear his husband gasp his name. Those dark markings were clearer now, swirls of ink on pale skin, not quite proper characters but close enough that it made Luo Binghe want to bite at them, to mar those clean lines so that only he and Shizun could read them. He could hear Shizun moaning his name again and again as he thrust inside, harder and harder until Shizun cried out and shuddered through his climax without a touch to his cock.
That drew a snarl out of him and he bent close, biting marks into his husband's flesh and tangling a hand into Shizun's hair so that the only person he could see was Luo Binghe, so that he was the only point of reference for Shizun in the entire world.
“Well, that...kind of worked?”
“ Shut up ,” Shen Qingqiu couldn't look his friend in the eye. They were both draped in the remains of the ruined bedding, tucked close together as their husbands went in search of food and the special soap needed to clean ink stains from skin. Shang Qinghua kept most of it at An Ding Peak, since he and his disciples used most of it. “Fuck, I think I'm still drunk.”
“I know I am.”
“Shut up .”
“Hey, it wasn't that bad.”
Shen Qingqiu couldn't help the strange whistling sound he made. “We just – we just – on the same bed – and you're saying –!”
“It wasn't that bad,” there as a bump to his shoulder. Shen Qingqiu looked over to see his friend roll his eyes at him. “We're dead body bros, man. What's a little sexy times with our husbands –”
“Oh my god, shut up .”
“Anyway, it's not like you saw much.”
“I saw enough!”
“But it totally got them in the mood, did you see?”
“I saw us damn near get mauled by our husbands in the same bed as each other when you decided it was a great idea to use puppy dog eyes on them!”
“Yeah, so it worked .”
“It was supposed to make them do what we wanted!”
“Yeah. And. It worked .”
“Oh my god, shut up .”
“We gotta try it again.”
“Like hell we do!”
“Not on them ,” Shang Qinghua bumped his shoulder again. “We can try it on the other peak lords if you're up to it.”
“Why would we?”
“Well, you did say you wanted more funds for –”
“I'm not going to pout at Yue-shixiong!”
“It's not pouting, it's puppy dog eyes!”
“It's the same thing!”
“Pouting means sexy times. Puppy dog eyes means you can get all new instruments for your disciples.”
Shen Qingqiu...had to think about that for a moment. “No. We can't.”
“New instruments, no more begging Mu-shixiong for ointments forty times before he hands it over...”
“And if we're lucky we can get Liu Qingge to spit take.”
“...Okay, I'm in.”
They didn't have the chance to test it out immediately. Instead Shen Qingqiu found himself washed quite thoroughly by his husband and scrubbed until all of Shang Qinghua's marks were gone from his skin.
Then he found himself getting even more marks from his husband, in their place.
It was a few weeks later at the peak lord's monthly meeting that they had a chance to test out their plan. Yue-shixiong was nominally in charge of the budget for all the peaks, though why that was the case was anyone's guess since Shang Qinghua did most of the work really. Yue-shixiong had veto power, though, and had been vetoing Shen Qingqiu's requests for more funds for musical instruments for the last four months. The last time Shen Qingqiu had gotten funding it had taken him going to Qi-ge in person at least five times and once with dinner and snacks made by Luo Binghe in order to get that funding.
And that was just for an increased string budget! This time he needed actual instruments! He might need a feast! Or three!
Shen Qingqiu was, however, somewhat sure their plan might work. He...might have tried a little, already, with his own disciples here and there, when Luo Binghe was away in the demon realm for a few days. The way Ming Fan had tripped over his own feet had been rather funny, but it was Ning Yingying's strange reaction of going quite, quite red and running away that made him question his ability to pull off the look. It couldn't be that horrible to look at, right? Right?
They were already at the budget portion of the meeting. Yue-shixiong had shot down his first request for funds with a gentle smile that Shen Qingqiu wanted to smack right off his face. Bai Zhan Peak got thirty new training dummies, but oh, no, Qing Jing Peak would have to make due with ten year old instruments and fraying strings. Over his second dead body .
“But Yue-shixiong,” he tilted his head forward and looked up at their sect leader, letting his shoulders round just a touch and widened his eyes. “Have you ever been hit by a broken guqin string? My poor Ning Yingying had to go see Mu-shidi just last week after being cut almost to the bone!”
Yue-shixiong was going an alarming shade of red. As well he should! Shen Qingqiu had almost fainted when he saw the amount of blood his poor disciple had lost!
“You're going to complain over wounds done to your disciples by instruments? What kind of weaklings –”
Shen Qingqiu turned to look at Liu Qingge, who cut off quite nicely. Maybe his glare was working for once. Not that he realized he hadn't changed his posture, or that his eyes had gotten even wider. “Have you ever been struck by a guqin string, Liu-shidi? Been struck to the bone by one?”
“N-no. But –!”
“Then I'll thank you not to have an opinion on this until you have,” he turned back to Yue-shixiong, whose color had settled down a bit. “Yue-shixiong, Qing Jing Peak has been limping along with old instruments for years. My disciples need to learn on them, yes, but they also need quality pieces they can play when they leave our Peak to represent ourselves. I can only lend my own instruments so many times before they, too, get damaged!”
Like his favorite erhu and his most elegant liuqin. Ming Fan had apologized on his knees for that one, but it still infuriated Shen Qingqiu to no end.
“I...I don't think...”
“Each peak has their own strengths, Yue-shixiong. Qing Jing Peak needs those instruments so our strength does not fade, so that we can hold our heads up with pride.”
“Yes, I understand...”
“At least one new instrument each, so that the disciples can share them,” he blinked up at their sect leader, not noticing how his lower lip pushed out, just a bit. Nor did he notice Shang Qinghua's wide-eyed stare and the rapid notes he was making. “Please, Yue-shixiong. It would make us strong again.”
Annnnd he got his funding! Just like that! Well, not quite just like that. Yue-shixiong was still quite red by the end of the meeting and had wanted Shen Qingqiu to schedule several more meetings so that he could see exactly which instruments and from which buyers they were going to choose from, but he got the go ahead! No more string injuries for his disciples! And no begging Luo Binghe to make Yue-shixiong several feasts!
Now if only he could figure out why Liu Qingge had rushed out of the meeting so fast. Or why Qi Qingqi had also been so red. The heat of the summer was passing! In fact it was almost chilly when he and Shang Qinghua walked back to Qing Jing Peak together!
“Bro,” Shang Qinghua said as they stepped off the rainbow bridge that led to Qing Jing Peak. “Remind me to have more good ideas in the future.”
“What do you mean?”
“Nothing, nothing,” Shang Qinghua patted his shoulder. “Wanna go get drunk again?”
Shen Qingqiu eyed his friend but let it slide. Who knows what that man was thinking. “Sure. Luo Binghe and Mobei-Jun shouldn't be back for a few days, right?”
“I think so, why?”
“Well, I kind of wanted to try that seal thing again...”
“Dude, admit you were a Naruto fan. Just admit it.”