The first time Shen Wei did it, he vowed to himself it would never happen again. He reasoned that if he relieved the pent up tension of ten thousand years of yearning for the man before him, then he would be able to see Zhao Yunlan without laying Kunlun’s image over his smiling face. There were only so many times he could imagine those lips parted in passion before he would reach his limit. That was how Shen Wei justified leaning down and pressing a reverent kiss to unresponsive lips while Zhao Yunlan lay in bed passed out from gastritis pain.
His lips felt as soft and as plush as Shen Wei remembered and for a moment he thought that he could feel the wild winds of the open plains bringing with them the smell of distant battles, but his transgression did not have the effect he hoped. Instead of slaking his thirst, the gentle press of lips only served to further dry his mouth and deepen the well of his longing. Now, in addition to his rampant desire, there was guilt twisting his stomach.
He quickly straightened and turned his back to the bed, pressing his palm over his chest. He took a measured breath and looked around the small apartment taking in the piles of laundry and various scattered detritus. Clenching his jaw, he diverted his pent up energy into something productive.
When Zhao Yunlan woke the next morning he clung to the dregs of a dream so sweet that his lips tingled with the memory of loving kisses. He stretched, fingers chasing the ghost of sensation then sat up with a sigh finally letting the dream fully dissipate. When his eyes focused enough he leapt back on the bed when he noticed the figure of Shen Wei sitting peacefully by his bed, a book resting in his long fingers.
His mind worked overtime, piecing together the events of the last few hours. He had a brief, wild thought of his dream and how vivid it had felt- as if someone had really kissed him and now Shen Wei was there before him. He dismissed the thought just as quickly and pointed a finger at the other man.
“You didn’t sleep and stayed by my side the whole night?”
The second time it happened, Shen Wei blamed it on his uncontrollable love for the selfless man that slept soundly before him. Zhao Yunlan had willingly given up his eyesight once more after learning the true cost to return his vision. He had not even hesitated to face a potential lifetime in darkness once more, guided by his unwavering sense of justice.
Still, as Shen Wei stood by Zhao Yunlan’s bedside after a night of attending to his needs, he broke the promise he had made to himself the first night he entered Zhao Yunlan’s apartment. Shen Wei dropped to his knees, his face twisted with anguish and his heart broken, he pressed a gentle kiss to each of Zhao Yunlan’s closed eyelids. The sleeping man’s eyelashes tickled slightly as Shen Wei laid the barest brush of dry lips to the eyes he would give anything to heal.
For what felt like the thousandth time, Shen Wei pushed healing energy into Zhao Yunlan in a vain attempt to help regain his vision. Even through the kiss he could tell there was no effect and Shen Wei sat back with a defeated sigh.
The first night Zhao Yunlan lost his sight, Shen Wei had poured so much energy into trying to heal him that he had nearly drained his entire supply. The only thing that had stopped him was Zhao Yunlan putting a gentle hand on his cheek and wiping away the blood that was dripping from Shen Wei’s nose. When Zhao Yunlan had realized what the liquid on Shen Wei’s face was, he demanded that Shen Wei stop trying- though he should have known that it would be easier to demand that Shen Wei stop the ocean tide or the sun from rising in the East.
He looked down at the sleeping figure before him once more- so vulnerable yet so strong at the same time- and the next vow came as easily as breathing.
I will save him even if it means that I have to trade my own life.
Shen Wei considered his restraint around Zhao Yunlan commendable. So much had happened since he last gave into the temptation of his feelings for Zhao Yunlan, yet he had held himself in check at every opportunity. After the sound of a knife clattering to the floor of Zhao Yunlan’s kitchen had echoed in the small apartment like a gunshot, he did not grab Zhao Yunlan by the front of his shirt and kiss him until he believed that Shen Wei thought he was worth everything- even his dying breath. Even when Zhao Yunlan had knelt before Shen Wei with a pair of wire cutters, eyes cocky and full of flirtatious promise as if their lives were not hanging in the balance- Shen Wei did not carelessly discard the bomb into the nearest portal and pull Zhao Yunlan into the hospital bed. Not even the joking flirtation in Zhao Yunlan’s office while his team had seemingly switched bodies had broken Shen Wei’s resolve.
Shen Wei sat on Zhao Yunlan’s coffee table after carefully draping his jacket over the sleeping man and watched the gentle rise and fall of his chest. Pulling the pendant out from under his shirt, Shen Wei ran his thumb over the familiar surface and lost himself in memories- cold nights spent pressed together, chasing release from the pressures and heartache of battle and death. He could still feel Kunlun’s hands sliding over his skin as he taught Shen Wei how much pleasure the deep hours of the night could offer.
Shen Wei’s lips pulled into a smile as he remembered their first kiss under the stars as they kept watch a few weeks after Kunlun’s arrival. His lips had been sticky from the lollipop that Kunlun had offered which Shen Wei had greedily devoured like a spoiled child. Shen Wei had been so startled when Kunlun’s hand slid up his jaw and drew their faces close that he had forgotten to breathe let alone move back to a respectable distance.
Kunlun had moved slowly, eyes darting between Shen Wei’s eyes and his lips, giving him the opportunity to pull away, then he had laid a gentle kiss to the side of Shen Wei’s mouth and repeated the process on the other side. His top lip had received the next kiss and by the time Kunlun kissed Shen Wei’s bottom lip, pulling it into his mouth to suckle the plush flesh, Shen Wei’s brain had finally caught up with what was happening.
At first Shen Wei had pulled back, placing his fingers to his mouth with wide eyes and a racing heart. Then he had taken in Kunlun’s rapid breathing and hungry gaze and found that he couldn’t stop himself from swaying forward to press a messy, inexperienced kiss to Kunlun’s mouth. They had stayed on the ridge well past their watch that night, but no one seemed to mind.
It was the first of many nights together in the year that Kunlun had spent in the camp, but that first kiss would always hold a special place in Shen Wei’s heart. He looked to the sleeping man before him who had opened his home to Shen Wei after his own had been compromised. Of course, Shen Wei had spent many nights in Zhao Yunlan’s apartment by now, but the way Zhao Yunlan had simply walked up to his own door like it was the obvious place for Shen Wei to be shot straight through Shen Wei’s heart.
This man who had no memory of their history together, had looked at Shen Wei with so much of Kunlun’s open expression that Shen Wei was not surprised that he found himself leaning over Zhao Yunlan once more. He watched the way Zhao Yunlan’s eyes danced behind his eyelids, already dreaming despite the short time asleep. Zhao Yunlan’s face twisted into an uncomfortable pout and Shen Wei knew the angle would leave him with a sore neck. Carefully, Shen Wei guided Zhao Yunlan to stretch out on the couch, gently resting his head on the cylindrical pillow. He glanced up at the bed on the other side of the room, then back to the sleeping Zhao Yunlan. Nostrils flaring, it occurred to Shen Wei that he would have to take the bed tonight- the bed that was saturated with Zhao Yunlan’s scent- and an involuntary shiver ran through Shen Wei. When Zhao Yunlan’s head rolled to the side, bringing his face tantalizingly close, Shen Wei’s restraint crumbled once more.
He lowered himself slowly and laid a gentle brush of lips on each corner of Zhao Yunlan’s mouth, followed by the scratchy hair on his upper lip then leaned away. Swallowing thickly, he looked at that plush bottom lip, slightly shining in the light of the living room. Did he dare?
In the end, Shen Wei compromised with himself. Rather than sucking on his bottom lip, which certainly would have awoken Zhao Yunlan with more questions than Shen Wei felt like answering, he pressed a kiss to Zhao Yunlan’s bottom lip and added a gentle swipe of his tongue along it’s plushness. Shen Wei rocked back on his heels, carefully watching Zhao Yunlan’s face for any kind of response but found none. He licked his own lips and huffed out a laugh. Strawberry.
Shen Wei wondered how many times he would find himself watching over Zhao Yunlan after the man he loved did something so blatantly desperate and utterly stupid. He assumed he would eventually find his limit and just keep Zhao Yunlan in some tall tower away from the world- all to himself. Then at least he wouldn’t be tempted to touch the Hallows again after dozens of Shen Wei’s warnings fell on deaf ears.
He bit back a sigh as he watched Zhao Yunlan recover.
He wondered if Zhao Yunlan knew how precious he was to Shen Wei- if he would ever understand. Glancing down, he picked up Zhao Yunlan’s hand that had slipped outside of the blanket and gently held it in his own. He observed the way the fine bones of his hand were slightly visible under the soft skin which thickened over the prominence of his knuckles which bore the scars of more than one fight.
He looked over into Zhao Yunlan’s sleeping face and knew that any resolve he thought he had to withstand his need for this man was simply fallacy. He rubbed his thumb in light circles over the back of Zhao Yunlan’s hand and told himself once more that this would be the last time. Lifting Zhao Yunlan’s hand to his mouth, he pressed a kiss to each knuckle then left a tiny trail of kisses down each finger. His restraint held just enough to keep him from darting his tongue out to taste the skin there. He absently wondered if he would taste the Hallows’ energy lingering there.
Turning his hand over, Shen Wei dropped a lingering kiss to the center of Zhao Yunlan’s rough palm, slipping his eyes closed. He poured all his love into the kiss that had to be the last- this act of stealing affection that was not freely returned was only hurting him and taking advantage of Zhao Yunlan. If he was going to kiss Zhao Yunlan, he wanted to be kissed in return- to feel like if they didn’t kiss they would not survive.
Shen Wei thought of the ten thousand years he had waited so far and finally pulled away from Zhao Yunlan’s hand, tucking it carefully under the blanket. He had waited this long, he could keep waiting until Zhao Yunlan was ready.
Shen Wei stirred from the depths of his restless sleep to the feel of warm breath across his face. His dreams had been plagued by memories of ice cold chains and his energy draining from his body. He slowly came to awareness, first feeling the warm blankets tucked around him and the familiar smells of Zhao Yunlan’s apartment. Then a feather light brush of lips against his own slammed him into full wakefulness.
Shen Wei’s entire body flooded with panic as he wondered if somehow he had forced himself upon Zhao Yunlan in his sleep. After they freed Shen Wei and finally returned to Haixing, Zhao Yunlan had not let Shen Wei out of his sight, dragging him into Zhao Yunlan’s apartment and nearly shoving him into Zhao Yunlan’s bed. Shen Wei took a deep breath and slowly opened his eyes when he felt something drip onto his cheek.
“I’m sorry, did I wake you?” Zhao Yunlan whispered into the darkness, but Shen Wei could still see the glimmer of tears standing in his eyes. It was still the deepest part of the night and the air was cool and crisp as it flowed in from the open window. Zhao Yunlan was also under the blanket, his upper body draped over Shen Wei with his hands planted on either side of Shen Wei’s shoulders holding him upright.
Shen Wei tried to shift into a sitting position, but Zhao Yunlan remained hovering over him, refusing to move.
“Zhao Yunlan? What’s going on?” Shen Wei asked, a rising panic tightening his chest.
A laugh that sounded more like a sob escaped Zhao Yunlan’s lips. “I thought I lost you,” he began, but immediately paused to take a steadying breath, shifting to lay on his side facing Shen Wei. When he continued his voice still held a ragged edge. “I missed you so much,” he brushed his fingers over Shen Wei’s jaw, eyes shining.
The tension in Shen Wei’s shoulders bled out and his eyes softened. The lingering tingle on his lips credited to a dream, he let himself lean slightly into the touch.
“I knew you would come,” Shen Wei said earnestly, rolling over to face Zhao Yunlan in the near darkness.
“I was terrified that I would never see you again,” A tear slipped down Zhao Yunlan’s cheek and Shen Wei’s fingers darted out to brush it away. “There was no way that I was going to leave you down there for one moment longer. It must have been terrible- your nightmare woke me up,” Zhao Yunlan searched his face for a long moment until his gaze landed on Shen Wei’s mouth and he swallowed. “And I thought that if you were only going to kiss me while I slept, that I could return the favor- that maybe it would ease your dreams.”
Shen Wei’s entire body went cold, numbness creeping up from the tips of his fingers. When he sat up and shifted to move out of the bed, Zhao Yunlan caught his wrist before he could stand. Normally, Shen Wei could have easily broken the hold, but in his weakened state, Zhao Yunlan held him firmly in place. Shen Wei turned his body as far away as Zhao Yunlan’s grip would allow and stared at his feet, focusing on breathing.
“Hey, it’s okay,” Zhao Yunlan said gently, rubbing his thumb over the pulse point on Shen Wei’s wrist.
Recalling the night Zhao Yunlan found him in the kitchen with a knife to his flesh, Shen Wei’s gut clenched and he tried to pull away once more. This time Zhao Yunlan released his wrist and moved to sit up, facing Shen Wei’s turned back.
“I’m a light sleeper most of the time,” Zhao Yunlan explained. “The day I woke up with you sitting by my bed, I assumed the feeling on my lips was just a dream. But it wasn’t, was it?”
Shen Wei felt as though barbed wire was wrapped around his chest, piercing his heart and lungs with every breath. He opened his mouth to answer, but the words would not come.
Accepting Shen Wei’s silence as confirmation, Zhao Yunlan hummed and continued on. “The night I lost my sight for the second time I hadn’t actually fallen asleep yet when you…” He cleared his throat and Shen Wei’s throat constricted in a vain effort to fight back tears. “That’s when I started to doubt my amazing kissing dream from that day was actually a dream,” Zhao Yunlan sighed. “It was such a sweet gesture that I couldn’t bring myself to tell you that I was awake.”
Zhao Yunlan paused and Shen Wei longed to see the expression on his face, but he couldn’t bring himself to turn. When Zhao Yunlan spoke again, there was a forced lightness that Shen Wei immediately hated.
“Obviously, it hurt you to see me like that, or else you wouldn’t have…” he trailed off, not wanting to bring up just how much Shen Wei had given in exchange for his sight, though the unspoken words still hung in the air. This Shen Wei refused to feel guilty about- he had done what needed to be done and he would do it again without a moment’s hesitation if it meant saving Zhao Yunlan.
One thought was ricocheting around Shen Wei’s mind, getting louder with each new admission. Zhao Yunlan had known - he had known the whole time - and he never said a word.
“Now, if I had any doubts about these phantom kisses, they were gone after the night I fell asleep looking over those papers when you covered me with your jacket and laid me back on the couch.” There was a trace of humor in Zhao Yunlan’s voice. “I think that one might count as four,” He shifted forward until his breath brushed over Shen Wei’s ear, making him bite back a moan. He held his breath waiting for the inevitable damnation from Zhao Yunlan for taking such liberties.
“Did you really think that I could sleep through something like that? I laid awake for hours after that, willing myself not to get up and join you in the bed.” The breath that Shen Wei had been holding left him in a gust and he became keenly aware of Zhao Yunlan’s warmth at his back, intimately close but not touching. Shen Wei longed to simply lean back into that heat, but he had already taken too much.
A hand ran down Shen Wei’s arm slowly, following every curve and dip of Shen Wei’s muscles until it wrapped around his fingers. Zhao Yunlan slipped his fingers in between Shen Wei’s with his hand resting on top. The position was a little awkward with both their right hands, but Zhao Yunlan didn’t seem to care. He ran his thumb along Shen Wei’s lightly, tracing the shape of his knuckle with the pad of his thumb. Shen Wei was too stunned to pull away as his focus narrowed to that tiny point of contact.
“I did wonder if it was just lust,” Zhao Yunlan’s breath tickled the nape of Shen Wei’s neck, making him shiver. “Not that I would be against a good tumble, but-” He lifted Shen Wei’s hand to wrap both their arms around Shen Wei’s chest, bringing their hands to his heart and pulling him tight to Zhao Yunlan’s chest.
He spoke directly against Shen Wei’s ear, lips brushing the sensitive shell. “When you kissed my hand like that after I touched the Hallows… I knew it was something more than just physical attraction,” He splayed his fingers over Shen Wei’s hand where it rested over his heart and hummed. “It was like I could feel warmth spreading from my palm up my arm until my whole body was flushed with it.” Zhao Yunlan dropped his head to nuzzle the spot where Shen Wei’s shoulder met his neck and all the air dissipated in Shen Wei’s lungs. He could feel Zhao Yunlan’s heart hammering against his back and it was locked in sync with his own.
“Nearly losing you solidified a lot of things in my mind and it all comes down to this.” Zhao Yunlan said into his shoulder, lips teasing the skin there as he spoke, then he shifted on the bed until he was sitting beside Shen Wei. He reached up to turn Shen Wei’s face towards his, staring intently into his eyes. “The only thing I have that’s worth anything is my heart. If you want it,” Zhao Yunlan paused and Shen Wei felt the world stop spinning in that instant before he finished. “Take it.”*
Shen Wei’s breath was coming in rough, shallow gusts as he stared at the man he had loved with his entire being for ten thousand years. He glanced at Zhao Yunlan’s mouth for an instant before he looked back into his eyes.
“I want it more than anything on Haixing or Dixing.” Shen Wei breathed then closed the distance between them, swallowing the quiet sob that tore from Zhao Yunlan’s mouth.
Though it had been centuries since he last held Zhao Yunlan in his arms, their movements felt like coming home. He slid a hand behind Zhao Yunlan’s head, pulling him close and tightening his grip on the hair at the nape of his neck. Using the hold on Zhao Yunlan’s hair, Shen Wei angled his head until he could perfectly slot their mouths together, tongues tangling in a sweet slide.
Finally free to unchain the desires that he’d held in check for so long, Shen Wei’s passion overflowed as he dominated the kiss. He firmly sank his teeth into Zhao Yunlan’s lip before soothing it with his tongue once more, drinking in the ragged breaths he was pulling from the other man like he was dying of thirst. Zhao Yunlan yielded so perfectly under the onslaught, letting himself be lowered to the bed once more with Shen Wei in his previous position hovering over him.
When they broke apart, Zhao Yunlan was gasping for air and Shen Wei continued his siege of Zhao Yunlan’s body, sucking and biting his way down Zhao Yunlan’s neck. Shen Wei knew they would bloom into beautifully delicate bruises against his pale skin - the evidence of his claim displayed for all the world to see- and a moan escaped his lips.
“How do you know exactly how I like to be kissed?” Zhao Yunlan panted, squirming under Shen Wei’s relentless attack.
Shen Wei gripped both his wrists and pinned them to the bed above Zhao Yunlan’s head with one hand, barely lifting his face from the other man’s skin. He knew that one day he would need to explain everything to Zhao Yunlan about their time together and how long Shen Wei had waited to have him in his arms once more, but not today- not when Zhao Yunlan was beneath him and pressing himself into Shen Wei’s touch.
“Less talking,” Shen Wei growled and used his free hand to slide Zhao Yunlan’s shirt up his chest. When Shen Wei’s mouth locked onto an exposed nipple, Zhao Yunlan arched off the bed with a whine.
Neither of them spoke for a long while after that.
Zhao Yunlan couldn’t help but laugh when he gave into his desire to kiss Xiao Wei.
They were sitting on the ridge overlooking the roads and fields below, but Zhao Yunlan- Kunlun here in this time- couldn’t tear his eyes from the young man opposite him. Xiao Wei had worn his lollipop down to the smallest nub, eyes sparkling with joy as he scanned the area for intruders. Zhao Yunlan noticed the way his lips shone in the faint moonlight and he knew that if he were to taste that mouth he would get a burst of sweet strawberry and suddenly everything clicked into place.
No wonder Shen Wei knew what he liked.
He moved before he could think better of it, crowding Xiao Wei against the boulder he was leaning against and cupping his hand on his jaw. He thought of the way Shen Wei had kissed him while he thought Zhao Yunlan slept- the one that had felt almost ritualistic in the careful placement of his lips. He moved slowly in case he was reading this situation incorrectly and tenderly laid his lips to one side of Xiao Wei’s mouth, then the other.
Xiao Wei’s breath stilled in his chest as Zhao Yunlan continued onto his top lip until he reached his plush bottom lip. The painfully slow movements were so constrained that Zhao Yunlan was almost shaking with his desire for more. He couldn’t help himself from taking the kiss a little further than Shen Wei had that night, pulling Xiao Wei’s entire lip into his mouth and sucking it gently but purposefully.
When he sat back, his breath was ragged and his chest burned with the need for the young man in front of him. He held himself back allowing Xiao Wei to make the choice to push him away or to proceed. Zhao Yunlan’s heart sang when Xiao Wei took just a heartbeat before pouncing on Zhao Yunlan to kiss him enthusiastically, if a little sloppily.
He’d been right- his senses were flooded with the artificial strawberry flavor and he couldn’t get enough.
Later that night as the sky began to lighten with the first hints of dawn, Zhao Yunlan sat with Xiao Wei’s head in his lap, idly playing with his hair as the younger man shyly fiddled with the jacket Zhao Yunlan had laid over the both of them.
Zhao Yunlan recalled his first kiss with Shen Wei of the future and how it had morphed into a beautiful dream full of soft kisses and sweet sighing. He was still a little put out that Shen Wei had taken that first step while Zhao Yunlan still slept; though his secrecy made sense now that he knew what Shen Wei had gone through, he still wished he had been more conscious at the time.
“Maybe I should have just kissed you while you slept,” Zhao Yunlan chuckled fondly to himself, and Xiao Wei sat up with his brow furrowed, the jacket slipping down his bare chest.
“Nothing, nothing,” Zhao Yunlan waved off his concerns. “Get back over here,” he ran a hand down Xiao Wei’s neck the way he knew his Shen Wei liked and pulled him in for a quick kiss before settling back down under the jacket to watch the sunrise together.