Ye Zun has always been complicated. Has always known his relationships with everyone (but especially his Gege) were practically destined to be laced with strife and stained with blood… among other bodily fluids.
The relationship with his big brother has perhaps always been the strangest of all.
No matter how hard he lashes out, how sharp he makes his tongue, how much blood he draws (always secretly waiting to be abandoned like a kitten that can't learn not to claw) his brother stays, steady as a pillar of the earth. He hurts, yet is paid back in love and kindness.
And he grows to resent it. To fear it, no matter how desperate the craving for it to be otherwise.
Even now, this new half-life, the beautiful man they share and share a home with is unusual, always giving Ye Zun what he demands while also trying to give what is needed- no matter how many times the reaching hand is slapped away or shied from.
He wants, and does not know what to do with that but fight or run.
Today it has all spiraled into a nebula of nervous energy with nowhere to burn off safely. Zhao Yunlan is out, will not be back for hours yet - and Ye Zun would not have claimed him in such light hours anyway.
The problem is he has no occupation, nothing in the house with which to distract himself. To walk along the garden path would be to wreak havoc on the tendrils and blooms, and he finds he has no real desire to attack that which has done him no wrong. (That it would also distress Gege and Xiao Yunlan unnecessarily is summarily ignored.)
Despite his well-honed ability to lie in wait, Ye Zun cannot sit still as his brother does, deep in thought or with a book in hand and all right within his world. Movies or programs hold little interest without someone to share them, even if he could be made to settle long enough to enjoy something. If anything even exists that could stake the barest claim to his interest.
He has no patience for swordplay nor his brother’s accrual of skill with a glaive and staff, has gone through his tai chi chuan already when further sleep had proved elusive, and a shadow opponent for his other martial arts will not help combat the true lurking darkness.
Despite being clad in a soft flowing robe loose over white cotton sleep pants embroidered with dragons and gold filigree coils, he feels compressed. He feels like a panther in a zoo, not caged but restrained all the same, the barriers no less present for being invisible. Every muscle in his body is tense and coiled, and before thought could be had in opposition, he stalks toward the heart of the household, padding silently on bare feet.
And stops, toes flexing at the edge of the plush white carpeting where it gives way to the checkerboard marble tiling that lay between their halves, that leads to Zhao Yunlan’s quarters, that seems to meld the colors on his side into the inviting gloom of his brother’s domain.
When Shen Wei comes upon him at the borderland of the foyer wearing a plain white buttondown over dark lounge pants simply tattooed with dark embroidery, daring to step into the space between them like it is a mere floor and not an impassable chasm, Ye Zun seizes both the opportunity and his brother's wrist with the speed of a striking viper. Shen Wei allows himself to be towed along without word or resistance, even when Ye Zun slings him into his chamber. The door is kicked shut so hard it judders back out of the jamb, but Ye Zun fails to notice as he stalks towards his brother, who stands in silent expectation in the center of the room. His feet are also unexpectedly bare, the house slippers he’d been wearing lost in the shuffle to regain his balance. It makes sense.
But the bare feet are still strange, enough that it draws Ye Zun up in the space between two heartbeats before he snarls and pushes forward again, anger flaring at being so easily thrown. Time to disturb big brother’s equilibrium and regain the upper hand. And so he rushes at Shen Wei, claiming his lips in a bruising kiss that is (remarkably) their first.
The kiss - just the simple touch of his brother’s mouth against his - almost stops his heart. It has turned… gentle, despite Ye Zun’s savage prelude, as though his brother were a prism, bending and refracting and redirecting his dark energy into light. The soft touch of a hand on his face, holding him without restraint, the affection and reverence he could feel within it… nearly shatters the poor organ, long-withered from lack of use. It should hurt, a stinging pain like the pins and needles of a limb waking after being pinned… but it doesn't.
(Gege would never hurt him.)
Aiyo. Enough! He has to make Shen Wei fight, to turn the soft strange into the bloody familiar.
So he strips off his brother's shirt, buttons turning to ivory projectiles by force. Throws the shredded fabric to the floor, strips off his own robe, crowds close and shoves hard, watching with predatory stillness as Shen Wei lands with a flump onto the plush bed like a jewel in a case.
Gods, he is stunning, truly radiant. The light negative to himself: dark hair and paler flesh versus his own silvered locks and more tanned skin.
(But then, Ye Zun does not wear his scars on the outside.)
The pants must have slipped down when Shen Wei landed, revealing the razor juts of his hipbones, and Ye Zun’s eyes hungrily track over every micrometer of flesh bared to his gaze, reading their history in the roadmap of scars on his brother’s beautiful body. There was the cut by his left hip from their teen years when they’d escaped over a fence from a man Ye Zun had incited to a rage, the slash to his right collarbone that Ye Zun still wishes had been made with teeth instead of the knife he’d kept under his pillow during the months of night terrors he’d eventually conquered.
Tiny pale lines from bushes and thorns and rocks where he’d pushed Shen Wei down more than one hill. The abraded patch he knows to lurk over Shen Wei’s left shoulderblade where he’d hit the edge of a pool Ye Zun tackled him into.
The row of pinpricks low on his ribcage from a fork that had narrowly missed puncturing a lung, the result of a dumb argument at their first birthday on their own. (Shen Wei had been so stupidly proud of the little cake he’d made, tasting far better than it had any right to. The single candle split in half, the shape of a Y topped with twin flames. He doesn’t even remember what set him off, only the aftermath when the kindly nurse that lived upstairs had accepted Shen Wei’s claim of a clumsy stumble into the dinner table and taken them to the free clinic where she worked, not even the worry of a bill to run out on. Sometimes, when he makes a fist, he feels the phantom of that night, the way Shen Wei’s hand had stayed in his. The perfect seamless fit. He hadn't hated it then. He still doesn't.)
It’s… a lot. A lattice network of shiny testimony of their life, the pain he's inflicted that his brother has always absorbed, as if taking it would remove it from Ye Zun, drawn away like poison from a wound.
He is wrong, of course. Shen Wei could not, would not accept that Ye Zun's well of rage runs too deep to ever be emptied, that the more he dishes out the more he has in a seemingly infinite loop.
The thought sometimes crosses his mind - when he smells his brother's jasmine shampoo in Zhao’s hair instead of the typical citrus, when the fresh linen scent Shen Wei prefers for his sheets clings to Yunlan’s skin instead of the honeysuckle surrounding Ye Zun's nest or the clean mountain spring scent of his own bed - that he might... try. That it might be worth it to answer the plaintive siren call hiding in two pairs of dark eyes and let himself be embraced, held, steadied. Loved.
But no. He knows it would feel too much like shackles, like being pinned down and having his wings forcibly clipped, leaving him a grounded pet when he would soar cloud high.
He could not bear it, so he does not make the attempt.
Shaking off the creeping miasma of memory, he climbs onto the bed, over his brother like a lion (though the metaphor goes fuzzy when his hormone-fogged brain tries to decide if his brother is mate or meal) and descends on him, until every inch of them that could be touching is, from the tangle of their toes to the fluttering brush of their eyelashes.
And he bites. He pushes. He ravages. He claws and drains and wounds.
And his brother, damn and bless him in measure, takes it all. Merely strokes soothing palms over Ye Zun's body and teases whatever skin comes close with little flashes of tongue and plies his didi with kisses that feel like a quenching rain upon a barren desert. He makes no attempt to roll them, to gain the advantage, to take control. He just… lies there, lips curved in a soft smile, faintly glowing with something that looks suspiciously like happiness.
By unspoken agreement, they keep the basic traffic lights they'd played with as children, made grownup with new context. Through everything he throws at Shen Wei, the man stays stubbornly green. Only once in memory had there come an amber, when Ye Zun almost shattered a bone with the force of his blows in training, and never a red. Never a plea for cessation, never once a full stop- no matter that he could easily have killed his brother and dealt with the fallout later.
(No matter that they both know it would have been as simple and as impossible as that.)
They're rutting like animals, bodies sliding together through a film of perspiration and the teasing barrier of their pants.
It feels glorious. It's nowhere near enough. The breeze wafting through the gauzy canopy from the balcony doors is perfumed with sunshine and earth and a faint salt tang of hope, tainted with the heady haze of desperation and frantic lust and something deep and red whispering in the dark like a jungle's heartbeat.
They're panting, flooding the atmosphere with each other. He can feel his brother, taste his brother, smell his brother. It's overwhelming, sensory overload he doesn't know if he can handle. If he wants to. (He doesn't. He does. He needs-)
The touching is so- (too much. not enough. make it stop. give me more.)
The kisses are- he can't take them right now. He wants this. He doesn't want this. He hates this. He loves Shen Wei. He wants it all. He doesn't know what he needs except more.
So he goes harder, breaks free of their kiss, feels the glorious moment when Shen Wei arches into his clawing grip and the hold of his fangs- right before they come crashing down.
He feels the spray of blood as the skin gives, the hot rush like a vile orgasm, and his stomach plummets into a pit of ice. Those lips still move over the same 2 words: didi and green, like some sick mantra, even as they fade from plush, perfect, kiss-bruised pink to a thin pale pair of dying... things. Didi, green, didi, green.
He doesn't realise he's screaming until the echoes of it return to taunt him. He screams until his voice is almost gone, and no one comes. He can't move, can't take his hands away from Shen Wei's neck or he'll die. He needs help.
(He can't die. It will kill us both.)
Then Zhao Yunlan arrives like a dashing hero in an adventure comic, come to save the day in the nick of time. But it hurts, his miraculous appearance, the very sight of him - even if Ye Zun doesn't realise it hurts, can't understand why it hurts because he is way too focused on his brother not dying to do more than sublimate the sudden flash of devastation on those beautiful expressive features.
Yunlan takes control, calls the paramedics who take his brother away, Shen Wei pried out of his blood-stained hands only when Yunlan hauls him off the bed into a bear hug to let them work. They take Shen Wei away, clinging to life by the fingernails the way he would cling to Ye Zun if allowed.
And when the house is quiet, he falls back onto the bed where his brother had lain, feels the damp crimson turn sticky and dry beneath his palms, feels the crushing weight of it all, and just curls up into a ball of misery, awaiting the rage and blows he's so clearly earned. It's only fair.
But they... don't come. Zhao Yunlan is furious and sad and beautiful and devastated, grabbing him up, shaking him, throttling out the words stuck in his chest like barbed arrows with hands somehow still so tender in their brutal hold. This, on top of everything else that has transpired in the 10000 years that have passed in the span of an hour, is what breaks him.
The final piece of the puzzle slides into place with a sickening click of fatal finality, like the lock on a prison cell slamming home. The picture was a family portrait: three men sharing a home, a heart, three lives braided into a coexistence stronger than steel, unable to be severed by anything so mundane as death.
He could have had both. He could have had them. He could have had it all. They could have had it all.
Instead, he has nothing. He has lost everything.