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gently, softly

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Of all things taken away from him, the comfort of heavy pressure is one of those he misses most dearly. Xie Lian always liked it, sought it – loved the feeling of his parents holding him close at night, back when he was little; thrusting, shoving, jabbing of the swords as he trained, pushing the handle hard into his palm as he got older; the rich, heavy royal clothes weighting on his skin.

It changed when he roamed the world. The pressure only started to be associated with pain. Heavy boots as they kicked him, his bones crushed by stones and rocks – things he wishes not to think about, not to dwell on them nor recall more examples. He just felt, deep inside, that at some point touch meant to hurt and nothing else.

On rare occasions, when his thoughts didn’t listen and took him to these old, old memories, he almost cried with frustration and Ruoye curled exceptionally tight around his body in attempt of silent comfort.

He thinks now, though, that this deep bone feeling might be able to settle eventually.

Because now there is Hua Cheng and it changes everything.

As much as Xie Lian likes to indulge his husband, Hua Cheng seems keen on making his heart flutter in delight just equally. His touch is always kind, so caring, making Xie Lian melt into it like a puddle; always happy to hold him just a bit longer, a bit tighter, squeezing so close that he might actually vibrate out of his skin from pure glee and contentment. The robes he drapes Xie Lian in after baths – just then, for now, as he doesn’t feel ready to meet the outside world in such fine, precious clothing yet – settle on his arms, his shoulders and back like another warm embrace, press into him with this deep, calming weight. His body, piece by piece, just so slowly, starts to feel content again.

They lay on a simple bed in Puqi shrine and the stars move above them.

“I love you, I love you, I love you,” repeats Xie Lian in a sleepy, dreamy manner while clutching hard at his husband’s slowly warming up body. Such evenings always leave him like this, soft and mushy, a little less flustered to say these kind of things. “My dear San Lang.”

Hua Cheng’s arms are long and slender, and they curl around Xie Lian’s waist just perfectly. They pet and roam his back, shoulders, everywhere they can reach, scrape the tender skin – and to make up to Xie Lian’s pure, relaxed bliss, every few moments they cradle him whole in a long, tight embrace. He can feel every single move of his husband’s muscles, their heavy, constant pressure, and he melts into them blissfully.

He feels so safe, safest in his eight hundred years life – like everything is just alright and nothing can hurt him in his dear San Lang’s warm embrace.

Tension from the whole day leaves his body in slow waves and he sighs with contentment every few moments when Hua Cheng hugs him exceptionally close. Xie Lian’s mind is static with no thoughts of past or insecurities, or worries of losing everything close to his heart again. The only thing he can focus on is the deep, cozy sensation of his husband’s body against his own skin. He drifts out and everything is okay.

.

Stepping into Paradise Manor’s armory always evokes the special kind of emotion in Xie Lian.

Swords had a very dear, important place in his heart ever since he first held a little wooden replica in his chubby hand. Nothing else made him so emotional and passionate, hands trembling and fluttering at the mere thought of it.

He wished, sometimes, in his eight hundred old life, that people would stop asking him anything about weaponry. He just couldn’t stop babbling and getting himself riled up once he started, and having to physically hold up from talking others’ ears off about the smallest details of his fascination made his heart sink in a particularly painful way.

Hua Cheng, though, always listens to him talk with utmost interest. Never mocking, never ridiculing, always happy to see the wide, relaxed smile on his beloved’s face as he gushes over the newest weapon in collection.

“Ah, the blade’s magnificent!” Xie Lian runs an unsteady hand over the said part of the sword, overwhelmed with emotion. “Such a sheen! I can’t remember ever seeing anything like that, oh,” he makes some sort of dazzling, complex moves, weighting the weapon in his arm, “San Lang, this is extraordinary!”

“Is it to gege’s liking?” Hua Cheng’s eye gleams in doting affection, following the flow of his husband’s motions.

“To my- San Lang, ah, it’s- I love it, absolutely, it’s just wonderful!” At this point, Xie Lian feels like he might literally be glowing; face flushed with excitement, hair slightly disheveled from all the swaying, eyes a reflection of the sword’s shimmer and heart full of elation. He marvels at the weapon in his hand once more, yet straps it to his belt in quick movement and picks up E-Ming, cradling it close to his chest. “You too, sweetheart. Nothing can beat the good, brave and reliable E-Ming”.

And then he goes off about more specifics of the newest sword, gesturing animatedly with his one free hand while gently holding E-Ming in the other and petting it aimlessly every so often.

Such a delight fills his entire soul – to talk to his heart’s content and to be actually heard. It makes him feel present, truly alive, something he hasn’t experienced in so long, just passing through the time for so many centuries. He talks about sturdiness of the grip, sharpness of the edge, fine details of the scabbard, and with every word he becomes more and more simply, yet extremely happier and fulfilled.

E-Ming rattles gently, so Xie Lian presses his lips to its radiant blade and his heart grows fonder.

.

Hua Cheng takes him to a garden where a stray swing stays.

He doesn’t know for sure if it’s stray, really. Amidst the flowers, each fuller, softer, than another, above which the precious butterflies rest, it is truly easy to miss it. Sweet scent fills the air, makes it almost impossible to see, to focus on anything other than the white, silk petals. Xie Lian greets them, of course, touches the delicate joy with utmost care, so softly, not to disturb their silent growth. Many silver creatures brush his fingers with their translucent wings, their tiniest legs, their antennae. Their touch is making him feel like his soul might join them in air any moment, but also grounds him in this particular, delicate way. There are so many of them. If he closes his eyes, he can hear their gentle flapping. He wants to do it, too. Has no reason not to. One hand joins their gentle movement.

As he moves, full body, through the softest pleasures, he is drawn to the swing, like by some invisible force. It is wooden, looks old, but safe still. He feels nothing here could harm him. Supported on a single, curvy maple – truly a beautiful sight. One hand joins San Lang’s, other marvels the worn, yet smooth surface. Maybe it was always here, for centuries, as the flowers overgrown whole area. Maybe it came later. Maybe a hand, with long, calloused fingers, hung it as if it was just a paint drop put with a brush on canvas. He wants to hug whatever force that placed it here.

Xie Lian’s body moves almost on its own, placing him on the seat, soft hum of happiness vibrating gently in his throat. He remembers, although very faintly, the deep feeling of pure bliss from his childhood that filled his entire being every time he was swung by his mother exceptionally high or when he finally managed to build the whole golden foil palace and he wonders if he’s still able to feel such deeply heart-warming things.

Hua Cheng’s hands find his shoulders, kneading on them absently, and it makes something click in his mind. They gently move then down his spine, at which Xie Lian shudders with pleasure, to rest just above the small of his back. Xie Lian exhales. The hands gently push him. The world explodes.

In a good way, of course. Nothing Hua Cheng makes him feel could be any less than good. Every single nerve in his body is rapidly being filled with such simple yet genuine happiness it almost knocks the wind out of his lungs. He goes up, and down, and then Hua Cheng’s hands just above his waist again. And they push, again, and again, and again. Something settles inside Xie Lian’s heart, something very small, but now making him wonder how did he managed so long without it; he feels like he just managed to take a breath for the first time in eight hundred years.

Up and down he goes, over and over, the simple repetition soothing his old, shattered with age nerves. So few things were a constant in his long life and he clinged to the crusts of stability with all of his force, so now even more he relishes in the overwhelming feeling of safety provided by repetition. Hua Cheng’s hands are a quiet anchor.

His face starts to pinch a little from all the smiling, corners of his mouth raised up so very high he might have assumed before it’d be impossible. He feels so very light and then there is a thin, wet patch on one of his cheeks. Ah, he thinks absently, I thought I would never get this again.

Vast sea of flowers beneath, flutter of silver butterflies’ above, steady presence of pure love behind and suddenly Xie Lian sees the light in horizon.