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blue like that before

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It felt like stolen moments, all of it. Both with the professor, who was so painfully bad at lying for someone who did it so much, and with the young warrior who kept looking at him like he hung the moon.

A tangled mess of secrets to start with, so endless it stopped being fun after a while; so ever present in Shen Wei's tentative touches, his hopeful gazes. Even when all of Yunlan's pushing and poking and prodding was finally rewarded, a small part of him kept waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Then the final piece of the puzzle was thrust into his hands, and with it so much uncertainty about the hours or days or weeks he'd get to spend with this achingly honest version of Shen Wei. Every smile he managed to tease out of him felt like it could be the last he saw.

There was just never enough time.

He remembers dragging his nose up the side of Shen Wei's neck, kissing the soft, soft skin below his ear; the small sounds Shen Wei made as Yunlan ran an impatient hand down his front, as he finally wrapped it around his cock. His hips bucked up and Yunlan shushed him, whispered soft things into his ear, even though he wanted him to lose control, to be loud, to finally break open in Yunlan's messy bed and give him more.

Everything about Shen Wei was frustrating and beautiful, all versions of him were endlessly fascinating, and Yunlan drank it all up, took whatever Shen Wei would give him. The civilian, the envoy, the general.

It was never enough. It all came with caveats.

And then Shen Wei died, and Yunlan followed shortly after.

"Here?" he says, pressing a kiss against Shen Wei's side, just below his ribs. He's drifting closer to the waistband of Shen Wei's underwear, but it's such a lazy Sunday morning, even that can wait. "Or here." He kisses a spot just a little further down, then slowly licks his way upwards again.

Shen Wei sucks in a breath. "Yes," he says, his hand coming up to stroke over Yunlan's hair. "There too."

"You're not taking this exercise seriously," Yunlan says. He leans into Shen Wei's hand anyway, pouting at him a bit. "It's a scientific endeavor, you should be more supportive."

"You'll never get this through peer review," Shen Wei says, and then he pulls Yunlan up to kiss him, his tongue sliding into his mouth like it always belonged there. "But do go on," he adds when they break for air.

Yunlan grins at him, the happiness just bursting out.

He wants to be grateful for this second chance, humble in the face of this much grace. They escaped death, the two of them, both in their own painful ways, putting themselves back together again from all the broken pieces.

They earned this, he thinks. They belong here.

He slides a hand down, pulling Shen Wei's thigh up against his hip, holding it there. His fingertips ghost over the back of Shen Wei's knee and he twitches, his leg escaping Yunlan's grip.

"Ooh, ticklish?"

There's something like actual fear in Shen Wei's eyes, and Yunlan laughs.

"I am filing this away for later," he tells Shen Wei, because he likes to model honest communication in this relationship. Then he leans in to lay kisses in an unhurried trail from Shen Wei's clavicle to his shoulder, brushing his lips against perfect skin over perfect bones. He dips his tongue briefly into the warm juncture of chest and underarm, presses another kiss there. "Here?"

"Good," Shen Wei says, a little shakily. "Everywhere is good."

Yunlan lifts his head. "Professor Shen," he chides. "You're completely ignoring the parameters I set for this study."

Shen Wei surges up to kiss him, and Yunlan follows him back down, chasing his mouth. "Anywhere you touch me," Shen Wei whispers against his lips, "is perfect."

Yunlan kisses him for a long time. His eyes are still closed when he can bring himself to speak again. "You're introducing so much noise to my chart."

There's a pause. "You didn't say there were charts."

Yunlan scoffs. "Of course there are charts." He ducks down again to lick at Shen Wei's neck, but there's a hand in his hair, pulling him back up.

"All right," Shen Wei says, his voice low. "Start over."

Yunlan smiles at him, then slowly shakes his head, letting his gaze go dark and promising. "Turn over."

There's a flash of heat in Shen Wei's eyes before he shifts underneath Yunlan, giving him a perfect view of his even more perfect backside.

"New chart," Yunlan informs him, then pushes his fingers into Shen Wei's hair, making room to lay a kiss against the delicate nape.

"Seven out of ten," Shen Wei says, a little muffled against his arms, so Yunlan presses his teeth into the flesh of his shoulder, hot and insistent. "Eight."

Yunlan smiles, drawing a slow, meandering pattern down Shen Wei's back with his fingertips, listening to his soft inhale.

He'll get to ten yet.

They have all the time in the world.