Xie Lian woke to a knock on the door of the shrine. San Lang was sprawled across him, body pressed against his side, arm around his waist, and leg thrown over Xie Lian's legs. His head was tucked under Xie Lian's chin. Xie Lian didn't want to move, or even open his eyes. He just wanted to stay where he was with his arms wrapped around San Lang.
The visitor knocked again. "No," San Lang said firmly, without moving.
A minute later, Xie Lian heard the hinges on the door creak as someone started to push it open. San Lang lifted his head. "NO," he said, loud enough to be heard outside. He threw a handful of energy at the door and it slammed shut. San Lang pressed his nose just above Xie Lian's collarbone and tightened the arm around his waist.
"Your Highness?" came from outside. "Is everything all right?"
Xie Lian reluctantly stirred. He'd forgotten that he'd made plans with Feng Xin and Mu Qing to investigate an issue in the southwest. "I'll be out in a minute!" he yelled. San Lang made a plaintive noise against his neck. Xie Lian smiled and stroked his hair lightly. "I promised I'd help," he said.
San Lang pushed himself up on one elbow. "I know," he murmured. "But what's the rush?" He kissed Xie Lian, slow and languorous, and Xie Lian barely noticed the pounding on the door.
"What the fuck?"
"That one's enchanted it!"
San Lang gestured with one hand and the sound outside faded away. "One incense stick's time." He pressed a kiss against Xie Lian's throat.
Xie Lian laughed. "When I get back, you can have me as long as you want."
"Forever," San Lang murmured. He kissed Xie Lian again. “I want you forever.”
The door blew open.
Or rather, blew up. Mu Qing strode through the opening. San Lang sprang to his feet, and with one smooth motion, he placed himself between Mu Qing and the mat where Xie Lian was still lying.
Xie Lian realized two things in quick succession. One, his beautiful door was ruined beyond repair. Two, he and San Lang were both completely naked! It had been a warm night, so they did not think of covering themselves with a blanket. As for their clothes - Xie Lian wasn't sure, but he thought a couple of layers might be scattered outside.
"Get. Out," San Lang growled.
"We're here for His Highness," Mu Qing said. He kept his chin up and his eyes on San Lang's face. He held steady in the face of a furious, naked Ghost King.
Feng Xin followed Mu Qing through the door frame, shaking his head. "I could have just taken out the hinges - oh fuck!" He clapped his hand over his eyes. "Oh, I didn't need to see that."
"No, you didn't," San Lang said coldly. "You should have stayed out." And then E'Ming was in his hand, pointed at Mu Qing. The scimitar's eye spotted Xie Lian, widened, then squeezed shut.
"Hahahaha, it's okay!" Xie Lian leapt up. Feng Xin and Mu Qing had seen him naked plenty of times, so there was no need to be shy around them. And of course he didn't mind San Lang seeing him. San Lang, who had no shame in his nakedness, and stood in a fighting stance, wearing nothing but an eyepatch, while the morning sun outlined his muscled limbs and the curve of his - Xie Lian yelped. He snatched his bamboo hat off the wall and covered his visible appreciation of San Lang's beauty. "It's fine!" he gasped. "Haha, San Lang, it's fine. Feng Xin, Mu Qing, I'll get dressed and - what?"
Mu Qing and Feng Xin wore similar expressions of horror. Xie Lian looked down at himself. "Oh." Bites and bruises covered his chest and legs. Teeth marks were clear in a few places and one batch of bruises were very obviously from a hand that had gripped him tightly. Xie Lian felt the blood rushing upward and moved the hat to cover his face. "It's okay," he said, before there could be any more misunderstandings. "I said he could. I mean, I wanted him to-" He was never coming out from behind this hat. Maybe he could have a basket woven for his head. "Hahaha," he laughed weakly.
"Let's just go," Feng Xin muttered to Mu Qing.
"Do you have any idea what this will do to his cultivation?" Mu Qing demanded. Xie Lian pulled the hat down a little so he could peer over the edge. Mu Qing was glaring at San Lang.
"Better than you do," San Lang said.
"I doubt it," Mu Qing snapped. "You can't just throw away centuries of keeping a pure mind and body and not have there be consequences."
"Oh, fuck your cultivation method," Feng Xin snapped.
Xie Lian blinked. Why was Feng Xin suddenly hostile to their cultivation method?
"I wouldn't expect you to understand," Mu Qing snapped back, keeping his eyes on San Lang.
"How could I not understand? You explain it to me every time we-" Feng Xin's mouth suddenly snapped shut and his eyes darted to San Lang and Xie Lian.
"Oh," San Lang smirked. He relaxed his stance slightly. "I see."
What? See what?
"His Highness has been learning alternate methods of cultivation. I'm sure he can instruct you," he said. "You might enjoy it as much as I do," he added. The last was to Feng Xin.
Xie Lian was about to correct San Lang - Feng Xin wasn't a cultivator - but he saw Feng Xin turn bright red. Mu Qing was trying not to look at anyone's faces while keeping his eyes off San Lang's body, so he was staring up at the ceiling.
"My - my cultivation isn't anyone's business," Xie Lian said. He gave up on the hat and handed it to San Lang, who put it on his head. "And neither is Mu Qing's." He was still confused. If it had been anyone else - but it was Feng Xin and Mu Qing! And if things had progressed to where Mu Qing's cultivation was in question - Xie Lian wasn't sure he knew how to handle that!
"We'll wait outside," Feng Xin said firmly. He grabbed Mu Qing's hand, realized what he'd done, and jerked away like he'd been burnt.
"Yes," Mu Qing said. He swung his gaze away from the ceiling, grabbed Feng Xin by the elbow, and dragged him out the doorway.
"We'll fix the door when we get back!" Feng Xing called out as they left.
"That's -" Xie Lian pointed out the door. "Are they? They are, aren't they?"
"Don't talk about it, gege, I'm trying to forget," San Lang said. He strode across the room to kiss Xie Lian. E'Ming's eye opened a crack, then quickly shut again. "Yeah, you better not look at him," San Lang growled at his weapon.
"I'll put some clothes on," Xie Lian sighed. "Maybe they'll fight less now?"
"When you said 'we'd' fix the door, you meant me, right?"
"Help. You mean watch."
"You are the one who broke it!"
Xie Lian sighed again. He found a fresh set of clothing and dressed quickly. San Lang leaned against the wall and watched. Xie Lian looked up at him while he was tugging on his boots. "Wouldn't it be a better show if I were taking my clothes off?"
"Gege is always beautiful to watch," San Lang said. He gave Xie Lian a hand to help him to his feet, then placed the bamboo hat on his head.
"It's okay to look, E'Ming," Xie Lian said. The scimitar's eye opened, and went crescent shaped when it saw Xie Lian smiling at it.
San Lang scowled and tossed the weapon on the sleeping mat. He put his arms around Xie Lian's waist. "I'll fix the door," he said softly, and kissed Xie Lian deeply, pulling their bodies close together. San Lang murmured against his lips, "Couldn't you stay just a few more-"
Xie Lian laughed. "No," he said softly. "But Ling Wen found that dual cultivation scroll I'd asked her about." Asking Ling Wen about new cultivation styles had been terrifying at first, but she hadn't asked questions or made jokes about it, and she knew where to find books even San Lang couldn't hunt down.
San Lang arched his eyebrow. "Really."
"I thought when I got back-"
"I will do whatever is necessary to assist your cultivation, gege," San Lang said solemnly, and kissed him again.