Lan Wangji has been counting, even if he never says it out loud. It has been a month since they met on the mountain over Gusu, since they found their way back to each other and swore to never part again. Two weeks since they first made love in a small inn to the sound of raindrops falling against the roof and thunder rolling in the distance. Two weeks since he kissed every inch of Wei Ying’s body, swallowed the sound of laughter from Wei Ying’s lips and found out his smile indeed tasted as sweet as it looked.
They were hesitant back then, and are still hesitant now, both too new to this to really know what they are doing. Lan Wangji has read numerous books of questionable nature, but still his theoretical knowledge failed to prepare him for the overwhelming reality of it. There was nothing in the books about spending hours just kissing each other, hands never attempting to stray below the belts. Nothing about how exhilarating simply holding hands felt, the intertwining of fingers as intimate as intertwining of bodies. Most days, that’s what they do: hold hands as they walk, get lost in kisses when they are resting, and whenever they spend a night indoors, lie together in the same bed, gently exploring each other’s bodies with lips and careful fingers.
Sometimes, he’d kiss his way down Wei Ying’s chest and take him into his mouth to hear him moan and babble and laugh. Wei Ying always laughs: not to mock but to hide his embarrassment, because he’s not nearly as shameless as he paints himself to be. And this, the unexpected shyness of him, is what makes Lan Wangji’s own feelings all the more indecent, because sometimes – oftentimes – the sweetness they share is not enough.
Sometimes he wakes up at dawn hard and breathless from a dream where he was holding Wei Ying down and slamming into him hard enough to make him cry out with every thrust. Sometimes he’d look at the way their hands fit together and wonder what it would feel like to wrap his fingers around both those wrists and press them down to a bed, a wall, a patch of wet grass, to feel Wei Ying struggle against his grip and lose. He wants to bind those wrists tight with his own forehead ribbon, like when they were schoolboys, but this time with a different purpose. Wants to leave marks on the pale column of Wei Ying’s neck where everyone could see, and in places no one else is allowed to see, too; wants to press a hand over that lovely mouth to muffle his screams as Lan Wangji takes him again and again: in a bed, on hard ground, in a bathtub, over the windowsill for every passerby to stop and stare. Wants to see him wincing as they sit down to breakfast, every small movement a reminder of who Wei Ying belongs to.
In reality, however, he can’t bring himself to be anything but gentle. Wei Ying has suffered enough pain in both his lifetimes: he ought to be worshipped and treasured, so that’s what Lan Wangji does, in every way he can.
The first time they do make love in that way, he presses his lips to Wei Ying’s shoulder instead of sinking his teeth in, listens to his every soft gasp for signs of pain, and holds himself back as much as he can. And it feels good, it feels amazing once they’ve both figured out how to move together, even though it takes Wei Ying a much longer time to find release than him. Lan Wangji kisses him afterwards, cleans him up as best as he can when his own legs are still shaky, and this is the best part, it really is: treating his beloved the way he deserves to be treated. Nothing else is necessary.
Careful as he was, Wei Ying still can’t quite hide the pained grimace next morning when he tries to climb onto his donkey’s back, and Lan Wangji can’t help how it makes him feel hot all over and desperately ashamed of his own reaction.
“Yeah, no, I’d rather walk today,” Wei Ying pats Lil Apple’s neck and sends a small, almost embarrassed smile his way. “Hanguang-Jun here was a little too passionate last night.”
“I apologize,” Lan Wangji forces out even as his ears start burning, and sees Wei Ying’s smile briefly replaced by another wince, this time of discomfort that’s not physical.
“I was joking, Lan Zhan. You know that nothing you could ever do can hurt me.”
Do I? he thinks as he lets himself be drawn in and kissed, warm and tender and loving. Do you really know?
It only gets worse from there. Lan Wangji is no stranger to denying himself what he wants – is well used to it – but his self-control is fraying, challenged by every insignificant little thing that Wei Ying does. In the middle of a day, Lan Wangji would be watching Wei Ying haggle with a seller over the price of potatoes and be suddenly struck by a vivid sense memory of the way he moaned and came apart around him, and then he’d have to look aside and try to will away his arousal. That happens far more often than he’d like it to.
Now that they are more confident about touching each other, Wei Ying smothers him in physical affection: embracing him every chance he has, peppering his cheeks with chaste kisses, curling up with his head in his lap when he’s tired. Every time, Lan Wangji runs his fingers through the black tresses of his hair and tries not to imagine wrapping the strands around his fist, tugging hard enough to bring tears to Wei Ying’s eyes. And then he’d have to subtly adjust his sitting position, because Wei Ying would be smiling, half-asleep and much too innocent to find out what’s been running through his head.
There is one time when he is not successful. Lan Wangji tries to shift to mask his arousal, and Wei Ying decides to move at the same time, and his arm comes into contact with the hardness beneath his robes. Wei Ying’s mouth falls open for a brief moment, then he’s grinning and shifting to run a hand along the same path again, slow and with purpose.
“Happy to see me, Lan Zhan?”
He doesn’t know how to answer it except for “Always”, and Wei Ying beams at his again before starting to undo the fastenings of his robs, barely even hesitating now. Wei Ying drags his underwear down, licks his lips and takes him in hand, and it’s all Lan Wangji can do not to grab his hair and force him down until he chokes.
These things, they were often described in the books he used to furtively read as a teenager. Even then, he wasn’t stupid enough to think they were the norm. Even then, when Lan Wangji was doing his best not to attach a face and a voice and a name to his fantasies, he felt slightly sick at himself for enjoying them. Intimacy was supposed to be about love. Love was supposed to be about giving the other person freedom, not holding them down in any way, literal or figurative. But he’s always been selfish deep down, has fought it harder than anything but never quite managed to drive it away. Something about Wei Ying always brings that selfishness in him out, makes him feel like it’s all right sometimes, and still. And still.
A few days later, in another inn, Wei Ying climbs into his lap and guides him inside, biting his lip in concentration. He pins Lan Wangji to the bed and rocks down onto him, flushed and gorgeous, and Lan Wangji lets him take pleasure from him the way Wei Ying wants it, rolls his hips in small thrusts to meet him, and thinks he could live with this, too.
Next day Wei Ying is oddly silent as they leave their room. He’s distracted as they walk along the road to the next settlement, smiling at rare passers-by in an absent-minded manner and cracking jokes that sound a little more strained than usual.
“Is something the matter?” Lan Wangji finally asks, when he hasn’t said anything for the better part of an hour. The silence is worrisome in its uneasiness. He’s been watching Wei Ying surreptitiously to see if there is any sign of him being sick or in pain, but there doesn’t seem to be. He just looks lost in thought, and thoughts that he is unwilling to share are never of the good kind.
“I’m just thinking,” Wei Ying says, as if reading his mind. He glances at Lan Wangji out of the corner of his eye and sighs before reaching out to take his hand. “You do like me, Lan Zhan, don’t you?”
It almost makes him halt. Ever since they met again, he has been doing everything to show Wei Ying that he indeed likes him, trying to do it better than he managed before. His every touch says it – says much more than that.
“Yes,” he says without hesitation. “Only you, Wei Ying.”
For a moment, the brilliant smile he loves so much is back. Then it slightly dims.
“But do you like me that way?”
Lan Wangji blinks at him, not sure which way there is left to like Wei Ying that he doesn’t. “Elaborate?”
“It’s just that whenever we are – together, it feels like you’re only indulging me,” Wei Ying says, and at that, Lan Wangji does stop. He’s still holding Wei Ying’s hand, so it makes him stumble slightly, too. Lil Apple wanders on as they stand there by the side of the road, looking at each other.
“Like it’s an effort for you,” Wei Ying squeezes his hand and tilts his head, lips curling slightly. “The dreaded Yiling Patriarch is not actually that repulsive, is he? Or is it that you’d rather have a woman after all? I can understand that you’ve never tried…”
“Nonsense,” Lan Wangji cuts him off before he can finish. He doesn’t know whether to laugh or be horrified. Does Wei Ying not feel his desire in a very literal way, every time they are together? “There is no one I would rather have. It’s only been you, always.”
There is a blush spreading across Wei Ying’s cheeks, and Lan Wangji thinks about kissing him right there to prove his words with action. But before he can take that one final step forward, Wei Ying lays a hand on his chest.
“Then what is the problem? Is it that you want to do it the other way? Because I love it when you have me, so very much, but we could try anything you want. Everything.”
The blush looks deeper now, and Lan Wangji is probably wearing a matching one, if the way his ears feel burning hot is any indication. It’s on the tip of his tongue to deny the existence of a problem, but he knows Wei Ying will not believe him. They both know each other too well for that.
Saying it looking him in the eye is too hard, though, so Lan Wangji tugs on his hand gently, urging Wei Ying to walk with him. They take several steps along the road before he manages to say:
“I am afraid.”
“Of me?” Wei Ying tries to stop again, but Lan Wangji keeps walking, and he has to follow.
“Not of you. Afraid of myself with you. The things I want to do to you are…” Violent. Abnormal. “Unbecoming."
“Unbecoming?” Wei Ying shakes his head with a laugh. “Lan Zhan, none of the things we’ve done so far are exactly becoming. Unless you want to – to tie me up or something.”
Lan Wangji’s fingers twitch in his grip, but he doesn’t say a word. It turns out he doesn’t need to.
“Oh,” Wei Ying’s voice goes small for a moment.
He swallows and repeats, as if it can be an excuse: “Unbecoming.”
For a few steps, Wei Ying’s hand is lax in his. Then, just as Lan Wangji is about to let go, it tightens again.
“I want you to. Whatever you want.”
Just like that, his entire face is on fire. “Wei Ying,” he manages through the mad beating of his own heart. “You don’t have to.”
“Why? I did say anything, and maybe I want it too. Maybe I’m curious, Lan Zhan.”
Lan Wangji fumbles for words, can’t find any other than: “It’s not supposed to be like that.”
Now Wei Ying lets go of his hand to take a step forward and turn around, grabbing him by the shoulders and forcing him to stop and meet his eye.
“Who cares how things are supposed to be? I didn’t fall in love with who you were supposed to be, Lan Zhan, it’s the real you I want. Everything you have to give me, I’ll take. Tie me up, hold me down, be rough, I’ll…”
He makes a choked sound as Lan Wangji tugs him forward and catches his lips, but immediately kisses back, throwing his arms around his neck. It’s sloppy and rough, and Wei Ying bites at his lips before running his tongue over them, again and again, until Lan Wangji does the same thing in return, and then Wei Ying melts against him, all of that strength going pliant in his arms. It leaves him dizzy with want, and with relief too.
“How long until the next village?” Wei Ying mutters, breaking the kiss only to bury his face in Lan Wangji’s neck. The skin feels hot to the touch.
“Don’t know,” he manages, looking around. They are at the edge of what looks like a small forest. The donkey has stopped a little further away, lazily nibbling at the grass. There doesn’t seem to be any sign of human activity here, and in the surrounding area as well. “Too long.”
They exchange a look, and somehow Wei Ying manages to understand him perfectly, because he grabs Lan Wangji’s wrist and tugs him away from the road, deeper into the trees. Then they are kissing again, hands already at the fastenings of each other’s robes.
“Do you remember,” Wei Ying says into his mouth, “the night hunt on the Phoenix Mountain? You found me in the forest and told me you were still my soulmate. I wanted you to push me up against a tree and kiss me senseless.”
“I remember. I wanted it too.”
Wei Ying lets out a small “oof” as his back hits the trunk of the nearest tree, and draws him in closer with a quiet laugh. “If you’d done it, I would have run away, though. I was scared of how much I wanted you, back then.”
“Are you still scared?”
“No,” there is a moment’s pause as Wei Ying reaches up into his own hair, and Lan Wangji watches as he undoes his red ribbon and his hair falls down around his face. Then Wei Ying shoves the crumpled fabric into his hands, followed by a light squeeze of his fingers. “But just in case, you better make sure I don’t run.”
Despite the half-joking tone, his eyes are serious, pupils blown wide. The hands are slightly shaking – just as his own are when he accepts the ribbon.
Still looking him in the eye, Wei Ying shrugs the outer robe from his shoulders, letting it fall to the ground, and raises both arms to hook them over a thick tree branch, fingers curled into loose fists.
And of all the things, it’s the formal title that breaks his resolve. A glance is enough to make the ribbon wrap itself around Wei Ying’s wrists and the branch, making him startle. The knot is loose enough not to cut off circulation, but Lan Wangji checks just in case, reaching his hand up to run a finger along the edge of the fabric.
“So far. Although I don’t know how long a person can stay in this position without – mmmph!”
He struggles a little when Lan Wangji kisses him again, as if trying to wrap his arms around him in return and failing, then swears when Lan Wangji unties the inner robe and tugs down his underwear.
“Lan Zhan – oh…”
“Be quiet,” Lan Wangji murmurs, wrapping a hand around his hardening length, and for once it works.
A couple of slow strokes have Wei Ying arching into his grip, straining against the tie. The flush has spread all the way across his chest now, and it’s beautiful: everything about Wei Ying is beautiful and radiant, and has him overwhelmed every time they touch. At least they both seem equally overwhelmed now, and they’ve only just started.
“Take me,” Wei Ying gasps and almost hits his head against the tree. “Right here, like this…”, and Lan Wangji has to sink his teeth into his shoulder to keep from moaning. That makes Wei Ying jerk in his grip, and it seems he has no qualms about making sounds.
“Yes,” Lan Wangji grits out, and then halts. They have oil in the bag with the most essential supplies. The bag is attached to the donkey’s saddle. The donkey is – not here right now. “No. We don’t have…”
“I don’t care, you just had me last night, it’s good. Please,” he adds when Lan Wangji still hesitates. “I don’t mind if it hurts a little.”
And Lan Wangji should be the responsible one, the one who makes sure Wei Ying is safe and whole and not tied to a tree mostly naked and about to be ravished at the side of a road, but he also wants him exactly like this, so very much, and Wei Ying wants him back. Exactly like this.
“Lan Zhan, ple-“
Lan Wangji presses a hand over his mouth, cutting off his words. Then nudges his lips open with his fingers.
“Wet,” he says, and thankfully, Wei Ying gets him, like he always does. He takes the fingers into his mouth and closes his eyes, and rocks against Lan Wangji as he curls his tongue and sucks.
It’s easy enough to maneuver one of Wei Ying’s legs around his waist and reach down until he finds the place he’s looking for. Easy enough to fit the first finger in with only slight resistance. The second one is a tighter fit, but Wei Ying urges him on, squeezes around his fingers and squeezes the leg around his waist, and breathes into his mouth, little sighs that are half pain and half pleasure.
When he pushes in, Wei Ying cries out loud enough to send some birds flapping away from the tree. They stare at each other, breathing hard, Wei Ying’s eyes wide open, lips bitten red and puffy. The forest has fallen silent again, but they are still too close to the road. Anyone who happens to wander by will be able to see the picture they make.
“I promise to be quiet,” Wei Ying says hoarsely, shifting around him with a slight wince.
Lan Wangji gives him a moment to adjust, then says: “Don’t”, and hoists his other leg up too.
The angle is awkward at first, until he presses Wei Ying’s back to the tree and lets the branch his hands are tied to take part of his weight as he holds him by the thighs and slides deeper in. It’s almost too tight; Wei Ying’s eyes are squeezed shut and he is breathing in pained gasps now, but not asking him to stop. Lan Wangji kisses his cheeks, the tip of his nose, kisses the tears from the corners of his eyes, kisses everywhere he can reach, until he feels Wei Ying slowly relax around him. Until he finally can move.
There is not much new about the sensations, except that Wei Ying can’t move freely to meet him in this position, but something feels fundamentally different still. Something feels different as Lan Wangji pulls most of the way out, then thrusts back in, as his fingers slip on the sweaty skin, as he can’t find it in himself to care that Wei Ying’s feet must be leaving dusty prints on the white robes that he’s only undone at the front. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that right now, he’s as close to free as he has ever been in his entire life.
He bites Wei Ying’s shoulder as he comes, buries a cry in his skin and shudders all over to the sound of Wei Ying’s low moan. Then, with hands still shaking, he lowers one of Wei Ying’s legs to the ground and strokes him a few more times until Wei Ying cries out, spasms around him and goes lax.
He looks half-conscious as Lan Wangji undoes the ribbon and catches his arms, then slowly lowers them both onto the ground before carefully pulling out. There doesn’t seem to be any blood, but Lan Wangji sends a little healing spiritual energy through him just in case, sparing a fleeting thought that his elders would be horrified by this use of the sacred power.
“You broke me,” Wei Ying groans, and all thoughts of Lan elders fly right out of his head. “I want to do it again. If I manage to recover.”
Lan Wangji pulls him against his chest, and rubs his wrists, and kisses his temple. “Every day, if you want to.”
“Nah. Every day is a bit too much.” Wei Ying says drowsily. “Although – no, definitely too much.”
They stay like that for a few minutes, propped up against the tree and curled around each other, getting their breaths back. Then Wei Ying starts giggling.
“Lan Zhan, I hope you know that you’re carrying me to the next village, because I don’t think I’ll be able to move any time soon.” He flops one arm and lets it fall limply into Lan Wangji’s lap. “See?”
So Lan Wangji takes his hand, and raises it to his lips, and says: “I’ll carry you anywhere.”
It is a promise.