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Unharmed in the Flames

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Hanguang-Jun, the Chief Cultivator, called a discussion conference at the Cloud Recesses. Rumors abounded that it was possible Lan Wangji was giving up his position after two years, as unthinkable as it seemed. But the stony-faced Lan cultivator had not proved a comfortable fit for the post, with his unyielding principles and complete disinterest in playing politics. Furthermore, word had spread that Lan Wangji’s brother, Lan Xichen, had recently ended his seclusion and might soon retake his place as Lan Sect Leader.

Jiang Cheng felt his mood lift somewhat upon receiving this news. He hadn’t looked forward to this discussion conference at all, with it promising to be full of fools trying to argue with the implacable face of Lan Wangji, while Wei Wuxian looked murderously at them all from the sidelines. He desperately wished those two would just go away together, but they persisted in carrying on their sickening love affair from the middle of the cultivation world, bold as anything.

He missed Lan Xichen’s calm peacemaking, which the cultivation world had sorely lacked the last two years. So he was rather disappointed to learn, upon arriving for the conference, that Lan Xichen would not be appearing. He was informed, by a bowing Lan disciple, that he was still in seclusion. Jiang Cheng clenched his teeth and the disciple quickly fled.

It was his nephew who told him the truth, when he complained to him later that evening. According to Jin Ling’s friend in the Lan Sect, Lan Xichen had broken his seclusion for family and close acquaintances, but not yet for the world at large. A sense of loss flooded him at the news, though outwardly only his aggravation showed.

“He might see you, if you wanted,” suggested Jin Ling with some doubt in his tone.

Jiang Cheng shook his head impatiently. “Don’t be ridiculous. I was just hoping we might have someone sensible back in charge one day,” he growled.

“Uncle, you must admit Hanguang-Jun is sensible. He’s instituted some needed changes.” Jiang Cheng cut him off with a hand. He grumbled into his wine. “I could ask Lan Sizhui to take a note to Lan Xichen for you, if you want,” Jin Ling offered.

“Hmph. Fine. It’s polite, I suppose.” Inwardly his mood lightened. He wrote a brief letter asking after the First Jade’s well-being and expressing his disappointment that he wouldn’t be at the conference. The words sounded hollow and perfunctory as he read over them, but he couldn’t think of what else to say. Jin Ling bowed over the parchment as he took it and ran off.

Jiang Cheng was surprised to receive a messenger the following morning. The letter he received from the young Lan disciple was from Lan Xichen, and to his surprise, invited him to visit the other man that evening after the close of business. And so after dinner, he followed the directions in the letter and asked an attendant to guide him to the Gentian House, which was evidently where Lan Xichen currently resided.

The attendant led him past all the main buildings of the Cloud Recesses, towards the rear part of the mountain. A path branched off quite a ways away from the lanterns of the guest quarters. This smaller path climbed through bamboo, turning until the rest of the world was screened from view. A small cottage appeared over a rise, lit warmly from within. His attendant knocked on the door, which was opened by the elegant figure of Lan Xichen, lit from behind in the doorway.

“Sect Leader,” he greeted, bowing. Jiang Cheng returned the gesture. “Come inside. I’ve just made some tea.” The attendant returned the way he came after a quick bow and Jiang Cheng moved into the house. Lan Xichen invited him to sit at a table in the center of the room and began pouring tea for both of them.

Meanwhile, Jiang Cheng looked around the cozy space, looking for clues about the other man from the furnishings. He utterly failed, not seeing anything that looked personal or revealing in the slightest. At least not in this room.

“I hope your trip was pleasant,” said Lan Xichen, ever polite, as he set the cup in from of him. Jiang Cheng nods. “And your clan continues to fare well?” Another nod, and Jiang Cheng shifts awkwardly. Perhaps this was a mistake. But…

He clears his throat. “What about you?” he asks, voice quieter than he’d intended. “How...are you doing?” He hadn’t intended to be so blunt as to ask, but he’d never been good at subtlety. He sighed quietly, his mouth curving into a frown, and then looked up to evaluate Lan Xichen’s expression.

The First Jade of Lan wasn’t looking at him, but rather stared at the surface of the table. Eventually, after a moment in which Jiang Cheng felt he had to hold his breath, he smiled. It’s a small thing, that smile. Sad, wistful, and didn’t reach his eyes. “Better,” he said, and something in Jiang Cheng’s chest throbbed.

“Good,” he replied, then coughed because it came out strained. They sat in awkward silence then for another long moment, neither of them looking at the other.

“Would you like some wine instead?” inquired Lan Xichen finally, voice more solid than it had been before.

“Uh...alcohol? In the Cloud Recesses?” he asked, genuinely shocked.

Lan Xichen smiled and gave a small shrug. “I try not to indulge often, but sometimes...” Another shrug. Jiang Cheng nodded, thinking of all the nights he’d spent drinking alone, when the grief and the rage and the loss overwhelmed him.

“Then...yes, thank you,” he answered, belatedly. Lan Xichen stood and fetched a jug of wine and two bowls from a cabinet at the side of the room. He returned to the table and poured for both of them. Jiang Cheng took up his bowl and raised it in a silent toast to Lan Xichen, who nodded with his own bowl in hand. They both drank, though he noticed that Lan Xichen only takes a small sip, while he himself drank more deeply.

Another silence fell while Jiang Cheng continued to down his wine. Finally, he felt forced to speak. “I was pleased to hear you had left your seclusion, though I understand it is limited.”

Lan Xichen inclined his head in acknowledgment. “I...have not yet resumed my full duties to the clan.” Jiang Cheng nodded, feeling the shared burden of leadership.

“I...” he began, then had to lick his dry lips. “I know what it’s like.” Lan Xichen met his eyes, raised his brows. “To lose...someone. To be betrayed.” He stopped, wincing. “To feel betrayed by someone you trusted.” He swallowed, closed his eyes for a moment. “To lose them, too.” He felt Lan Xichen’s eyes on him, but couldn’t look up. “Anyway,” he continued roughly, “I’m sure you’re handling it much better than me.” He downed the remainder of the wine in his bowl.

Lan Xichen surprised him with a huff of laughter. It sounded dry, twisted, more bitter than he could imagine a noise coming from the First Jade could ever be. He looked up in startlement. Lan Xichen’s face was strained, almost a grimace twisting his lips. Without meaning to, Jiang Cheng reached out to the hand clenched into a fist on the surface of the table. He covered the fist with his hand, lightly gripping Lan Xichen.

“Zewu-Jun,” he whispered. The other man flicked his eyes up. Those beautiful dark pools were filled with emotion and Jiang Cheng felt a lump rise into his throat. The moment stretched between them and grew awkward and Jiang Cheng leaned away, retracting his hand.

“Hardly,” said Lan Xichen. “Two years in seclusion instead of leading my clan.”

Jiang Cheng drew a long breath. He reached for the wine bottle and refilled his bowl. “I didn’t have a choice,” he said. “No one else to take over. remember how I was.” Lan Xichen had been there for him, had tried to help him with sect politics, had offered assistance with his characteristic calm and patience. Assistance Jiang Cheng had mostly been too proud to accept, but he still had appreciated the gesture.

“You were grieving,” replied Lan Xichen.

“I was nearly mad.” Jiang Cheng shrugged. “Maybe I still am.” He knew what others said about him. About his rage, his obsession with Wei Wuxian. There were things...memories of things he’d done, in his frenzy to find his brother, to punish him again...he avoided thinking of them now. There was too much shame there, waiting for him if he ever truly examined them. And as soon as he’d found him, known Wei Wuxian to be in front of him, what had he done? Nothing.

Lan Xichen reached out a hand to him then, placing it gently on his shoulder. “You’re not,” he said gently. Jiang Cheng just drank his wine. Lan Xichen settled back into his place. “And you seem...more at peace now?”

Jiang Cheng gave something between a nod and a shrug at that. He hoped he was. He...he couldn’t forget the past. Couldn’t forgive Wei Wuxian...not now. But he’d learned some kind of acceptance of things as they are. Had his world turned upside down along with the rest of the cultivation world. He caught himself pressing a hand to his sternum over his scar and jerked his hand away.

Both he and Lan Xichen drank from their bowls in silence for a while. He looked over to the Lan Sect Leader and thought perhaps he looked slightly flushed. He wondered how easily he got drunk, how much wine he could take after a lifetime in the Lan Clan.

“The worst part,” said Lan Xichen suddenly, “is looking back and seeing things I could have done to stop him.” Jiang Cheng looked down but nodded. “I feel like a fool for not seeing it.”

Jiang Cheng hesitated and then opened his mouth before he could stop himself. “Zewu-jun, may I ask you something impertinent?” Lan Xichen raised his eyebrows but nodded.

“Were you...lovers?” He forced himself to keep his eyes on Lan Xichen’s face and so he saw the pain that flashed across it. That was all the answer he really needed. “I’m sorry,” he said hurriedly. “I shouldn’t have--”

Lan Xichen raised a hand to cut off his apology. “It’s alright. I...” he took a breath and exhaled. “Yes, we were.”

“I’m sorry,” he repeated. He’d wondered, more than once over the years, seeing the two men together. Sworn brothers and yet not just brotherly. After the scene at the Guanyin Temple he’d wondered even more. Yet, for Lan Xichen’s sake, he’d hoped it wasn’t true. He’d hated the way Lan Xichen had looked on that day, the sight of a heart breaking written plainly across his face. And the dead look in his eyes after it all. Jiang Cheng had always admired Lan Xichen, always thought him the ideal Sect Leader. Had envied his poise and his calm confidence. He was everything Jiang Cheng could never be, the things he wished for deep down. Seeing him brought so made him hate Jin Guangyao even more.

Lan Xichen finished his wine and set down the empty bowl on the table with a heavy thud. “Have you ever loved anyone?” he asked.

Jiang Cheng felt his mouth open in surprise. “ depends...” He sighed. “Not...not like you mean, I don’t think. family, of course.” Lan Xichen looked at him, searching his face for something. Then he looked away and sighed.

“I’ve loved two people. And they are both dead now.”

“Two?” he asked, confused. Lan Xichen looked up at him from under his lashes and nodded.

“Meng Yao,” he said with a twist of his lips, “and Mingjue-xiong.” Jiang Cheng sucked air in through his nose.

“Oh,” he said. He didn’t know what to think of that revelation, but he realized from Lan Xichen’s manner of speech that the man was growing rapidly drunk. He’d only had one bowl, and yet he was almost slurring his words, speaking as if he’d forgotten his audience. Surely he’d never confess these kinds of things to Jiang Cheng if he were sober!

“Zewu-Jun,” he said, reaching out to grasp the other man’s forearm.

“You can call me Xichen,” he said, his hand closing tightly around Jiang Cheng’s wrist.


“Xichen,” the other man repeated, fervently.

“X-Xichen,” he said. “Have you had too much to drink?” Lan Xichen looked surprised at that and his eyes looked from the wine bottle to his bowl and back again.

“Have I?” he asked. Then he looked back at Jiang Cheng and smiled, swaying towards him unsteadily. “Thank you for visiting, Jiang Cheng. It is very kind.” Jiang Cheng couldn’t help smiling back at him, this genuine smile so good to see on the other man’s face.

“Of course. I was worried about you,” he admitted. Lan Xichen’s smile widened and he leaned even closer to him.

“Very sweet,” he said, patting Jiang Cheng’s face with the hand that wasn’t still clutching onto his wrist. He felt his face flush red and he coughed, trying to hide his embarrassment. Lan Xichen was so close to him now, leaning his weight against his shoulder, his face ducking nearer. So close Jiang Cheng could felt the warmth of his alcohol-scented breath on his lips.

He looked up, meeting the other man’s gaze. His breath caught. For a frozen moment they breathed into the same space, neither moving. His heart pounded in his chest. And then Lan Xichen moved, just a slight press forward, and their lips touched.

Jiang Cheng’s head swam. He couldn’t believe his senses, couldn’t believe this situation was real. Lan Xichen’s lips were soft against his, pressing gently, and then he moved away. Jiang Cheng watched as the beautiful man in front of him raised a hand to his lips and held it there.

“Xichen,” he whispered, voice shaky. And suddenly, looking at the smooth curve of the man’s cheek, the elegant line of his neck, the way his long body swayed so close to him...Jiang Cheng wanted. It made him tremble it was so strong, this desire. Yet… “You’re drunk,” he said.

Lan Xichen met his eyes and smiled. “Perhaps,” he said. “Enough that you’ll forgive me for that, I hope. For taking the liberty.” His eyes came to rest on his lips and a shudder went through Jiang Cheng.

“I...yes...” he muttered, and then lifted a hand to Lan Xichen’s jaw, brushing his thumb against the other man’s soft lips. Then he leaned forward and was met halfway by those lips on his own once more. This time it wasn’t tentative, but passionate, desperate, needy. Lan Xichen kissed him with skill and hunger, sucking his lips between his teeth, sucking on his tongue, demanding and open.

Jiang Cheng hadn’t done a lot of kissing before. His past sexual encounters had been bought and paid for, to tell the truth, and there hadn’t been that much kissing involved. And they’d been women. This...this was entirely different. The strength in the arms that came around him, that squeezed at him made him shiver. The hard chest under his hand. The deep moan that reverberated from the long throat. The prickle of stubble under his lips. All new. All different. All making him aware of just who it was he was kissing.

He should stop. Lan Xichen was drunk and this was taking advantage. But Lan Xichen began to pull him down, lying back onto the floor and insistently pulling Jiang Cheng on top of him. And that...that was breathtaking. Feeling the taller, larger man under him, writhing and clutching at him. Panting against his mouth. And...and hard, against his thigh. Jiang Cheng felt that and gasped and then rubbed his thigh past the hard length again, just to be sure. Lan Xichen arched up and moaned.

This felt too good. It had been so long since anything had felt like this...if anything had ever felt like this, and it was like a dam breaking. He needed. Needed those hands on him, that mouth on his, that body under him. Needed like he’d never needed before. Wanted like he’d never wanted before. Like he’d been starving without even knowing it and suddenly he was presented with an emperor’s feast and he couldn’t stop. It was alright. He’d never been that good of a person anyway. He definitely wasn’t good enough to resist this.

They kissed and rutted and rolled together on the floor until Jiang Cheng thought he might burst, but he didn’t know what to do next. And then thankfully, finally, Lan Xichen rolled them over so he was on top and he pulled back to look at him.

“Jiang Cheng,” he said, his eyes sparkling. Jiang Cheng liked the way his name sounded in his pretty mouth.

“Hmm?” He reached up and stroked the side of his waist, fingers catching on the ties of his outer robes. Lan Xichen’s hands did the same, trailing down his chest to the belt at Jiang Cheng’s waist.

“Will you allow me?” he asked, tugging at the belt. Jiang Cheng quailed a bit, nerves washing over him, but he nodded eagerly.

“Please,” he said and it was nearly a command rather than a plea. Lan Xichen gave an adorable shiver and set to work getting his robes open. Jiang Cheng’s heart pounded loud in his ears as he lay there, passively, allowing the older man, the more experienced man take the lead. He thought about it, about Lan Xichen with Jin Guangyao, with Nie Mingjue. The images...were both disturbing and arousing. He wondered what roles they took. He wondered if Lan Xichen had been lover to them both during the same period. He wondered if they’d been together, all three of them at the same time. He suppressed a whimper at the thought, feeling his cock twitch.

Lan Xichen got his robes open, despite an increased clumsiness from the wine, and he parted all the layers until Jiang Cheng was covered only by his trousers. They could both see the tent made by his erection straining against the fabric and Xichen looked from his cock to his face and back again.

“May I?” he asked, and why was he being so gentle? It was Jiang Cheng who should be asking permission. Jiang Cheng who had no right to be with Lan Xichen. Who was taking advantage of the other’s intoxication.

He must have frowned because Lan Xichen’s expression changed from teasing to concerned and he pulled his hand away. “Shall I stop?” he asked, already shifting his weight away from where he straddled him. Jiang Cheng’s hand shot out and he stopped the movement, gripping his thigh hard.

“Don’t!” he said.

“Alright.” Lan Xichen lifted an eyebrow and Jiang Cheng was struck all over again with how beautiful he was. How this was real: he was really sleeping with the First Jade of Lan. Or hopefully he would be. He moved his hand from his thigh to Lan Xichen’s hand.

“Whatever you want,” he said, and felt a shudder move down his spine. He’d never imagined...but…

“Have you ever done this?” Lan Xichen seemed more controlled than he had before, and he wondered if the alcohol was wearing off.

“Uh, that depends on what this is,” he said with a wry laugh. He took a breath. “In general...yes. With...a”

“Ah,” said Lan Xichen. “Then, are you sure?” Jiang Cheng nodded, not sure precisely what he was agreeing to, and yet, completely unwilling to let things stop. “Well, then.” Xichen smiled and slowly reached down with his free hand until it hovered in the air right over Jiang Cheng’s straining bulge. Then he stopped, looking back up at him.

“Argh,” he growled. “Get on with it, already!” Lan Xichen laughed, high and bright, and let his hand fall to cup him through his clothes. Jiang Cheng hissed and threw his head back. He squeezed Lan Xichen’s other hand hard. The hand on his cock began to move, stroking up and down, wringing groans and moans from his throat.

“Fuck,” he said under his breath. “Fuck.” He saw that amused Lan Xichen, who gave his hand one last squeeze before dropping it to take a hold of his trousers. The ties were loosened and the fabric tugged down, exposing his hot length to the air. Lan Xichen took in the sight and then he licked his lips. Actually licked his lips while staring at Jiang Cheng’s cock. A loud thunk filled the air as Jiang Cheng let his head fall back, striking the floor. It wasn’t his fault, he couldn’t cope with a sight like that.

“Jiang Cheng? Are you okay?”

“Yeah...yeah,” he assured him. “Just...please...” Lan Xichen smiled and then shimmied down his legs, bending low. Belatedly, Jiang Cheng realized what he was doing, and he trembled. Lan Xichen opened his mouth and took the head of his cock between his lips.

Jiang Cheng groaned and grabbed onto the other man’s shoulders, burying his fingers in his robes. He thought he honestly might die, his heart was beating so hard. That mouth was hot and wet and perfect, and Lan Xichen swallowed him down, slowly lowering until his lips almost reached the curls at his base. Then he slowly lifted back up, dragging his tongue the whole way up the underside. Jiang Cheng sobbed with pleasure and need. He thought there was a very good chance he was going to just come any moment, filling Lan Xichen’s mouth with his release.

“Xichen,” he groaned, trying to keep his hips still, but thrashing his head from side to side. “Fuck.” He thought Lan Xichen smiled around his cock, but couldn’t be sure because he was going down again. And this time it wasn’t a slow tease, but he set to work, skillfully taking Jiang Cheng apart with his mouth. Dear gods, who could have imagined the First Jade of Lan could suck cock like this! He wasn’t an expert, but he was pretty sure this was an exceptional performance. It wasn’t long at all before he gave a choked warning and then came deep into the other man’s throat.

Lan Zichen swallowed down every drop and then sat up, looking pleased. Jiang Cheng could only stare at him, dazed, while he shuddered through the aftershocks of his orgasm. “Uh, thank you,” he muttered and Lan Xichen smiled widely.

“You’re very welcome,” he said, sliding up his body to claim a kiss from him. He could taste the bitter tang of what he assumed was his own cum and it made him moan into the kiss. Lan Xichen covered his body with his own and he could feel the prod of the other man’s erection. He reached down as they kissed and grabbed for it through his robes. Now it was Xichen’s turn to moan into his mouth. Encouraged, Jiang Cheng reached through his robes until he found his trousers. He began stroking him through the fabric.

Lan Xichen’s cock felt pretty big in his hand, tilted to the side by the tight fabric stretched over it. Xichen panted against his lips in time with his strokes. Suddenly it wasn’t enough and Jiang Cheng rolled them until he had the other man on his back. Then he shoved the layers of robes up and went to work on his trousers to free his cock. When he tugged the cloth down he realized he’d been right: Lan Xichen was big. Long, at least, a few inches longer than himself. So hard, with veins standing out prominently, and a good amount of moisture smeared across the head. Part of him wanted to taste him, but he quailed at the thought, unsure of his own ability, so instead he licked his palm and grabbed onto him again.

Lan Xichen didn’t seem to mind, his eyes falling shut and soft moans escaping him. He pressed his body to the long length of the other man, then began kissing him again. He kissed his lips, his jaw, down his throat, scraping his lips on his stubble. All the while he kept working his hand on his cock. Lan Xichen thrust his hips up off the floor, the sounds he made growing in volume. He grew more and more breathless, and Jiang Cheng thought he could almost get hard again from those noises.

“Is that good?” he asked, hoping for any guidance.

“Yes,” hissed Xichen, arching his neck.

“Are you getting close?” Xichen nodded. Jiang watched his face intensely, not wanting to miss the moment. “I want to watch you come,” he whispered.

Those words seemed to have a strong effect because Lan Xichen let out a loud moan and then a series of hitched breaths. He looked like he was right on the edge. Jiang Cheng worked his hand furiously, his wrist aching, but he didn’t care. “Come on,” he urged. “Do it.”

And then he was, Lan Xichen’s back bowing off the ground as he thrashed. Hot streams of white shot from his cock, onto his robes and all over Jiang Cheng’s hand. He didn’t stop stroking, but kept on, never taking his eyes from the other man’s face. It was the most intense expression he’d ever seen on the First Jade’s face, desperation and ecstasy and pain and relief all at once, twisting his features, but never for a moment into anything that wasn’t beautiful.

He released his hold on the other man’s cock and sat back, looking around for something to clean himself with. He settled for wiping his hand on his inner robe. Lan Xichen still lay sprawled across the floor, blinking in the wake of his orgasm. In another moment he snapped back into focus and sat up, tucking his softening member away. He smiled at Jiang Cheng, and then stood. He knelt by the table where they had sat earlier, pouring some of the now-cold tea from the pot and drinking it thirstily. Jiang Cheng joined him to slake his own thirst.

Neither of them spoke, other than to murmur automatic words of politeness. Jiang Cheng wondered what in the world one said in a situation like this. What kind of situation was this, even? He stayed silent and the awkwardness grew.

Lan Xichen looked peaceful and happy, but Jiang Cheng knew that to be a mask. Or if it wasn’t, it was indistinguishable from his normal expression. Finally, he cleared his throat and spoke. “I guess I should go. It’s getting late.”

There was an echoing silence for a minute. The smile had dropped from the other man’s face. “If you wish,” he said at last. Jiang Cheng’s eyes lingered on his face, trying to read the inscrutable expression.

“I...” he said and stopped. “If I’m not in my bed in the morning, there would be talk, right?” Lan Xichen raised an eyebrow.

“Perhaps. But you don’t have to leave just yet.” He didn’t look at Jiang Cheng’s face as he spoke. “If you wished to stay here, I could ensure you wake up before dawn. I don’t sleep very much,” he added.

Jiang Cheng took a breath. Looking at Lan Xichen at that moment, he looked quite fragile...vulnerable. He was all but begging him to stay with him. In truth, there was no way Jiang Cheng could refuse. He had no desire to hurt this man’s feelings. Especially not after everything that had passed between them.

“Alright,” he said. “I’ll stay then.” And now Lan Xichen smiled, and met his eyes. His beauty when he smiled, when it reached his eyes, was breathtaking. No painted flower in a brothel could ever hope to compare to him. When Lan Xichen rose and took his hand to lead him into his bedroom, Jiang Cheng felt greatly honored.

They stripped off their clothing, all of it, by unspoken agreement, and lay down together. Lan Xichen curled against him, his head on Jiang Cheng’s chest. It felt strange, to have someone taller than himself lying on him, huddled against him. And yet it made his heart race. Lan Xichen could probably hear it.

“Mmm,” hummed the man lying on his chest. “This is nice.” Jiang Cheng moved his arm and stroked his hair softly.

“Yeah,” he agreed. It was true. As incredible and exciting as it had been to have Lan Xichen take him in his mouth, there was something about this quiet intimacy, this physical comfort, that was even more precious. He couldn’t remember ever having something like this...not since losing his family… He tore his mind away from those memories.

“Thank you, Xichen,” he said. “For tonight.”

“Thank you, Jiang Cheng. I really needed this.” Lan Xichen’s voice was soft and distant, as if he were thinking of painful memories as well. Well they both had enough of those. He tightened his arms around the other man and tried to relax into sleep. It was a while before it came, but eventually he drifted off, the warmth of Lan Xichen still wrapped around him.

When Jiang Cheng awoke he wasn’t sure where he was. The room was dark and someone was moving in it. He sat up, automatically directing energy towards Zidian, which began to crackle with light.

“Jiang Cheng,” said a soft voice, and all at once he remembered. Who that was, and where he’d gone to sleep. What they’d done together. The lightning faded from his hand, leaving the room darker.

“Xichen,” he said. “Sorry.”

“Not a problem. I didn’t mean to wake you yet.” The figure of the tall man approached the bed and came into focus. Jiang Cheng could see Lan Xichen wrapped in simple robes, his hair loose.

“I suppose I should head back to my room,” he said, pushing himself up. But a warm hand fell to his shoulder.

“It’s still early yet,” said Lan Xichen. He sat on the bed next to Jiang Cheng. “We can still have a moment.” He slowly reached a hand out to cup his cheek and pulled him into a kiss. Jiang Cheng became aware of his cock, stiff from waking, and now suddenly interested in their actions. Lan Xichen’s mouth tasted fresh and slightly of tea. He didn’t seem put off by the Jiang Cheng’s sleep-sour mouth, however, delving deeply into him. Jiang Cheng really liked the way Lan Xichen kissed, he decided. With abandon and full commitment.

Gradually they let themselves fall back into the bed, Lan Xichen lying half on top of him, his leg coming between his thighs. He evidently felt the hard length because his lips curved up. And then his hand crept lower until he could grip his cock. Jiang Cheng moaned gratefully as the hand began to gently tease him. Light touches up and down his length, a loose circle around the head...just enough to tantalize and increase his need.

Jiang Cheng growled. He’d had enough. So he grabbed Lan Xichen by the shoulders and rolled them until he had the other man pinned beneath him. He ground his erection down into Lan Xichen’s hips, thrilled to feel an answering hardness. He ripped those pristine robes open, not busying himself with ties. And then drove his naked body against the one beneath him over and over as he claimed his mouth roughly.

Lan Xichen clutched at him, small encouraging noises escaping his throat. He seemed to like this, Jiang Cheng thought. Liked being held down, dominated, overpowered. That thought made him growl again and sink his teeth into the soft skin under the other man’s perfect jawline. Lan Xichen keened. He reached down and wrapped a hand around both of their lengths together, increasing the friction deliciously. Jiang Cheng kept thrusting, his hips snapping, his control fraying. If he’d known how to go about it, if he weren’t so desperate to come, he thought he’d stop and push Xichen’s legs up, fuck him for real. The thought drove him closer to release.

“I want you,” he growled.

“Yes,” hissed Xichen in his ear.

“Going to come on you.”

“Yes, do.” Lan Xichen’s hand tightened. “Me, too.” Nails dug into Jiang Cheng’s shoulder as they grew more desperate. He hoped they left marks.

In another few panting breaths his hips stuttered and he thrashed down, exploding messily all over Lan Xichen’s hand, his cock, his stomach. He didn’t stop, hearing the gasps from beneath him, and in another few moments Xichen stiffened and more hot liquid joined the puddle between them.

Jiang Cheng remained propped above him for a minute, panting and shuddering, and then he pushed away and fell onto his back next to Lan Xichen. They stared at the ceiling together for a while, and then Lan Xichen’s free hand found his own and they laced their fingers together.

Jiang Cheng’s mind wandered. He thought about how good this had been with Lan Xichen, and wondered if it meant anything about himself. Or maybe it was Lan Xichen. He was just skilled, obviously. He wondered what it would be like to do more with him. How good would the rest of it feel?

Was this how Wei Wuxian felt with his Lan brother? Maybe they had some kind of special seductive ability: turning men to them. That made them sound like monsters in a fairy tail. Some kind of sex spirits, luring the innocent to their deaths with their gorgeous bodies.

“What are you smiling at?” asked one of the dangerous, seductive Lans from next to him.

“Nothing,” he replied, huffing a laugh. “Just, uh, wondering if there’s something about Lan brothers that makes them impossible to resist...” He didn’t finish the thought, or mention his former brother’s name, but thought Lan Xichen understood him from his ‘Ah’ in response.

“You’re not regretting anything, are you? Feeling like I took advantage?” Lan Xichen’s words were light, but carefully so.

You took advantage? If anything I was the one taking advantage. You were far drunker than me!” He turned to look at Lan Xichen, frowning.

“True. But last night was far more in character for me than for you, I gather.” Lan Xichen’s face was serious, with perhaps a touch of sadness.

“In character?” Jiang Cheng considered. Well, given what he’d said about both Nie Mingjue and Jin Guangyao, he guessed that might be correct. He took a breath. “Well, no, it wasn’t...uh, the usual way I spend a night at a conference.” He shifted closer to Lan Xichen. “But no, I don’t have regrets.”

A smile spread across Lan Xichen’s face. “Good,” he said, and lifted his head for a kiss. Jiang Cheng didn’t linger on his lips, trying not to seem too needy. Part of him really wanted to, though. Wanted to grab the back of his head and devour him, kiss him until they were breathless and hard again, and then take him thoroughly.

He pulled back. “I suppose I really do have to go now, though,” he said. Lan Xichen nodded and they both climbed out of bed. They cleaned themselves up hastily and Jiang Cheng hunted down all his robes and accessories from the floor where they’d been cast aside. Finally, he was presentable enough to try sneaking across the Cloud Recesses to the guest quarters before anyone else woke up.

Lan Xichen stopped him at the door for a last kiss. It was sweet, and lingered for a few moments. They parted and nodded to one another before Jiang Cheng ducked through the doorway and began walking. He looked back over his shoulder to see the elegant silhouette watching him. He lifted a hand and then turned onto the path that curved back towards the main area of dwellings. His heart felt somehow both heavy and light at the same time. Lighter than it had in some time, actually, but it still ached.