King-Lu’s always had good instincts. In each new place he visits, he picks up quickly on the local customs, and his instincts tell him how to navigate, how to make friends, which rules to follow and which to break. Following these insights always leads him down the right path; when things don’t go his way, it’s only because the world is unforgiving.
He’s certain his instincts will lead him to success and prosperity eventually, and he relies on that certainty the way a sailor relies on his compass. It’s the only way he can keep going.
It’s only recently that he’s felt the clutch of uncertainty, on nights when he wakes before dawn and lies next to Cookie in the dark.
He and Cookie sleep next to each other. That, in itself, is no violation of any rule. Warm beds are hard to come by, and sharing with a compatriot is normal – both dressed, each with his own blanket.
But the nights are cold, and sometimes when King-Lu wakes up, he and Cookie are tangled together: their legs entwined, or Cookie’s body curled around his, Cookie’s arm thrown across his waist. In the dark, the press of Cookie’s body kindles an ember-hot glow of desire in King-Lu’s belly. He wants Cookie. He can feel his body yearning for Cookie like a compass needle trembling towards a magnet.
And yet he lies there, hesitating.
In his imagination, it’s as simple as everything else is between him and Cookie. He imagines pressing close, waking Cookie with a gentle touch, and Cookie would open his eyes and smile – he does smile, in the mornings, when they wake at a respectable distance from each other, a soft, private smile – and King-Lu would lean in and kiss him. It would be that easy. They’d roll over, and beneath the weight of Cookie’s body and the warmth of his skin, the ache of King-Lu’s desire would bloom into sweet pleasure, like a hibernating seed unfolding its first flower.
But he doesn’t know if Cookie would want that. He thinks he would – he sees the way Cookie looks at him, his eyes dark and frank – but for once, instinct alone is not enough. The risk is too great.
The thing is, King-Lu normally never lets fear stop him. He trusts his instincts – and anyway, he’s used to failure. He’s always been able to pick himself back up and keep going.
He doesn’t think he’ll be able to keep going if he loses Cookie.
So he doesn’t reach out. He makes it a rule not to let his mind wander to such things. And if it does, when he wakes up curled up with Cookie, watching the gentle shapes of Cookie’s face in the moonlight, imagining the strong, gentle touch of his hands – then he only allows himself a minute before he takes a deep breath and rolls away.
In this world, some rules are worth following, and some can be bent, and some are best when they’re broken.
The Chief Factor’s monopolization of the cow is definitely in the latter category. King-Lu feels a giddy sense of triumph as he and Cookie return home with their first pail of milk – the prize may be simple, but that doesn’t make the heist any less thrilling.
They’re laughing at their own daring as they return to the cabin. As soon as Cookie sets the pail down on the table, King-Lu catches his arm and pulls him into a hug. They’re both still laughing, cheek to cheek, chests pressing together. It feels like there’s nothing in their way anymore, no rules holding them back.
Desire rushes up through King-Lu like a breaking wave.
He should kiss Cookie. When if not now, when they’re triumphant and free and together, when the pail of milk stands as one more piece of evidence that his instincts never let him down.
He’d planned to kiss Cookie on their first night in the cabin, too. He’d been nervous and excited and a little tipsy, his chest glowing with the thought of Cookie staying with him. He’d been talking about the excitement of being here, where the land was still new, and the space between him and Cookie felt equally thrilling, equally rich with possibility.
But then, as now, King-Lu hesitated.
Now, he’s frozen as Cookie draws back from the hug. Their arms are still around each other and their faces are very close. Cookie is smiling, his cheeks flushed, and King-Lu wants him so much he can’t breathe.
And then Cookie leans in and kisses him.
The kiss is brief and warm, the soft press of Cookie’s lips, the friction of his beard. It sends a thrill through King-Lu like lightning through a stormy sky.
He kisses back.
It’s so simple.
Why didn’t he realize how simple this would be? Why didn’t he kiss Cookie a hundred times before now?
Although, if he’d kissed Cookie first, he’d never get to feel Cookie kiss him first. Would never get to measure, in the warm, deliberate press of Cookie’s lips, precisely how much Cookie wants this too.
He’s smiling when they break apart. Cookie smiles too, but cautiously, like he wants to make sure of this before he continues.
King-Lu’s never been more sure of anything.
He kisses Cookie again. It feels like jumping off a cliff, like diving into the sea when you’ve been in the desert for weeks. His hands are tangled in Cookie’s hair. He kisses Cookie like he can make up for all the time he spent not kissing him.
Cookie is more careful. He deepens the kiss in increments, like he’s testing each step down a steep hillside. King-Lu doesn’t rush him. Cookie isn’t hesitant, just deliberate. His hands, when they curl tight around King-Lu’s waist, are firm.
Heat spills through King-Lu like honey. He likes the way Cookie’s hands feel on his body, broad and solid, like they belong there. He likes the soft heat of Cookie’s mouth. The kiss blossoms into something deep and indulgent, a stolen pleasure in a world that offers so few.
But if this moment feels stolen, it’s in the same sense that the milk sitting on their table feels stolen: like it was theirs all along. Like if the universe didn’t want them to have it, it shouldn’t have offered it up so readily, shouldn’t have made it so rich and sweet and easy.
When they break apart, they’re both smiling, both breathing hard.
“I should’ve done that earlier,” says Cookie. “I didn’t know that I could.”
King-Lu shakes his head, insistent. “I should have done it a long time ago. I should have kissed you that first night, Cookie, when you brought in those flowers.”
Cookie smiles at that, ducking his chin. In the flickering light from the lantern, his face looks soft, his cheeks pink.
King-Lu’s heart flips in his chest. Desire is beating against his ribs like a low, insistent tide. “It’s late,” he says slowly. “We should go to bed.”
Cookie says nothing. He’s fallen still. King-Lu tilts his head. “Or do you need to bake right away?”
“No,” says Cookie carefully, his eyes flicking up to King-Lu’s. “I thought I’d wait until morning.”
“Good,” says King-Lu, and reaches up to untie Cookie’s scarf.
Cookie catches King-Lu’s hand. “You know – I’ve never –”
“It’s all right,” says King-Lu, pulling Cookie’s hand to his mouth and kissing it. “It’s easy.”
Cookie, naked, is gorgeous.
King-Lu can’t look away. Cookie’s body is broad and solid, soft at the edges, punctuated by dark hair. His face is gentle and open, but there’s a yearning in his eyes that almost hurts.
King-Lu, who always dreamed of new territories, of untapped riches, of opportunities that open at a touch, wants him desperately.
They’re facing each other on the bed. King-Lu sits up on his knees and takes Cookie’s face in his hands and kisses him.
It’s a hard, eager kiss, taut with the thrill of breaking the rules, of taking what they want. Need twists in King-Lu’s stomach, and he wants to push harder, to claim every inch of this. But he makes himself go slow. He makes himself yield, and lets Cookie claim the space between their mouths. With Cookie in the lead, the kiss turns into something slow and deep and hungry.
It’s perfect. King-Lu feels drunk on the slow wet heat of their mouths together, the warm press of Cookie’s body. Their nakedness feels like a revelation. He can’t stop touching Cookie, his hands on Cookie’s sides, running up his back, curling around his arms. And Cookie’s hands are on him, warm rough friction against his skin, pulling him close.
They’re both hard.
King-Lu’s breath catches at the feeling. Eagerly he reaches between them to curl around Cookie’s cock.
Cookie pulls away from the kiss with a gasp and looks down between them, watching as King-Lu drags his fist up the length of his cock. King-Lu watches too. Cookie’s cock is thick, heavy and warm in his hand, and when he gives it a tight stroke, Cookie’s whole body shudders.
King-Lu strokes Cookie with a tight, urgent rhythm. Cookie, gasping, curls one hand around King-Lu’s upper arm, and reaches for King-Lu’s cock with the other. His touch is cautious, but when he curls his fingers around King-Lu and gives him a slow stroke, his grip is sure.
Pleasure sparks up King-Lu’s spine. “That’s it, Cookie,” he murmurs, and Cookie looks up at him, his expression half desperate, like a starving man given a taste of food.
“Cookie,” says King-Lu again, curling his hand around the back of Cookie’s neck to pull him into a kiss. Cookie leans open-mouthed into the kiss, his breath shuddering.
There’s no grace to this – both of them on their knees, pressed close, arms caught awkwardly between them – and yet it works perfectly. It’s easy, like everything has been between them, simple and yet taut with possibility. King-Lu can’t help kissing Cookie greedily, licking into his mouth, biting the gentle curve of his lower lip.
Cookie gasps. He’s clinging to King-Lu as if for balance, one hand on King-Lu’s arm, but his hand on King-Lu’s cock is warm and strong and even. King-Lu’s rhythm is less consistent. He strokes Cookie’s cock tight and desperate, panting into the kiss, his hips stuttering into Cookie’s touch.
Finally he grabs Cookie and pulls him down onto the bed. They fall back into the tangle of blankets, Cookie on all fours above King-Lu.
King-Lu looks up at Cookie, trying to catch his breath. Cookie looks half wild, his face flushed and his hair tousled, his eyes wide and dark. But when their gazes catch, he smiles, slow and soft. King-Lu smiles back. The air is cool on his bare skin, and between the rush of their breathing, he can hear the gentle rustle of the forest outside, the distant coo of an owl.
He reaches up to touch Cookie’s face. Cookie leans into his hand, his eyes closing. In the angled light from the lamp on the table, his lashes cast strange, soft-edged shadows, and King-Lu wants him so much it hurts.
He slides his hand around the back of Cookie’s neck, and Cookie leans down and kisses him. King-Lu kisses him back fiercely, wrapping his arms around Cookie and pulling him close, relishing the weight of Cookie’s body on his, the warmth of his skin. When Cookie presses down against him, their cocks slide together, and they both groan.
For all the times he’s imagined it, King-Lu has no grand plan for tonight. He doesn’t need anything more than this. It’s enough to kiss Cookie, wild and messy, his breaths shuddering unevenly between them, and to grind up against the weight of Cookie’s body.
Cookie groans, curling a hand around King-Lu’s hip and rocking down against him. He’s shuddering. He drops his head, pressing his face against King-Lu’s shoulder, open-mouthed, panting. King-Lu turns his head and nuzzles in to the side of Cookie’s face, feeling the rough drag of his beard, the flushed warmth of his skin.
His heart is racing. This thing between them feels like something wild, something raw, as old as the land itself. But, in the trembling, friction-hot space between their bodies, it also feels like something new: small and delicate and precious, like a rare flower unfurling velvet-soft petals.
King-Lu threads his fingers into Cookie’s hair and holds him close. Cookie shudders. King-Lu can feel the tension coiled in Cookie like an animal poised to spring, and it makes him feel hot and desperate in turn. He’s right on the edge of climax, like a diver on a cliff, his body trembling with the potential of it.
With a groan, he reaches a hand between their bodies. Cookie shifts up and King-Lu manages to curl his hand around their cocks – both together, a clumsy but urgent grip, so that each roll of their hips translates into a hot, desperately intimate slide.
Pleasure surges through King-Lu, but all he can focus on is Cookie, who’s shuddering helplessly against him, panting against his shoulder. He turns his head and kisses Cookie’s cheek, his ear, gasps his name: “Cookie – my Cookie –”
Cookie comes moaning – a raw, helpless sound, the kind of sound that belongs in the wild, hidden places of the world. King-Lu feels it like a vibration through his whole body. All he can do is hold tight to Cookie as Cookie trembles.
Finally Cookie falls still, then sits up to look at King-Lu. His hair is clinging to his forehead and his eyes are wide, almost awed. King-Lu grins helpless up at him, caught by desperate swell of affection, and Cookie smiles back at him, breathless.
Then Cookie’s eyes slide down over King-Lu’s body. King-Lu shivers, pleased, under the heat of his gaze. The night air feels cool against his bare cock, and the thought of Cookie’s hand around him sparks a hot rush of anticipation under his skin.
There’s a long moment where Cookie doesn’t move. And then he shifts down the bed to kneel between King-Lu’s legs, and when he leans in, King-Lu can feel his breath against his cock.
Cookie looks up at him. “Can I –?”
“Yes,” pants King-Lu, and Cookie takes him into his mouth.
King-Lu forgets to breathe. All he can feel is the heat of Cookie’s mouth around him. Cookie is still for a moment, holding King-Lu deep in his mouth, his eyes closed. And then he starts to move, sucking King-Lu with an even, deliberate rhythm, slow enough that King-Lu can every inch of the wet slide of his mouth.
It’s too much. King-Lu wants to make this last, to remember exactly how this feels, and exactly how Cookie looks right now: his eyes closed and his cheeks flushed, utterly focused, like King-Lu is the only thing in the world.
But it’s too much.
Pleasure grips King-Lu like waves beating against the shore, and he can’t help drowning in it. He can’t help coming, groaning, his fingers twisted in the blankets. Cookie keeps his head down, swallowing, as King-Lu shudders through it, pulse after pulse of pleasure, until finally he falls still.
Then Cookie pulls off carefully and wipes his mouth with the back of his hand. King-Lu grins at him, breathing hard. “Come here.”
Cookie does. It’s a narrow bed, and they tangle together out of instinct, one of Cookie’s thighs pressing between King-Lu’s, King-Lu’s hand tracing Cookie’s spine. Cookie smiles, dazed and happy, and King-Lu presses close and kisses him. It’s a slow, satisfied kiss. King-Lu doesn’t mind the taste of himself in Cookie’s mouth – he likes it, the raw intimacy of it, the reminder of how good it feels to break the rules.
King-Lu is not a man who’s easily satisfied. Life has rarely afforded him enough to be satisfied with. Right now, though, he holds Cookie close and feels satisfaction glowing in his chest, warm and new.