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Apotheosis

Chapter Text

It was a lovely morning. Gentle sunbeams filtered through the flowers of the plum blossom tree next to the round window in Shen Jiu’s bedchamber, transforming part of the marble floor into a muted, dappled tapestry of light and shadow. Shen Jiu stretched and climbed out of bed, movements lithe as a panther as he sauntered over to the window. Inhaling the fresh, sweet scent of plum blossoms, he smiled.

Today is a good day for murder.


Qiu Jianluo wore a convoluted expression as he was forced to his knees in the middle of the Hall of Mountains and Seas, trussed up like an animal sent for slaughter. Shen Jiu thought he looked like he couldn’t decide whether to growl at the upstart who usurped his throne or to sob and grovel (in vain) for mercy.

“Qiu Jianluo.” Qi Qingqi’s voice cut through the air, steady yet dripping with disdain. “You abused your previous position of power to commit atrocities upon the nation. You let your government grow rife with corruption, squandered the wealth of the country on useless constructions and entertainment, overindulged in a cesspool of carnal pleasures, engaged in countless instances of abuse and torture, and sucked the faith of the people dry. Your crimes are listed here.”

She held a scroll in one hand and imperiously let it fall open, one end dropping to the ground and unrolling to extend several feet. One corner of his lips turning upwards in a minuscule action, Shen Jiu mentally awarded her a few points for drama. Unbeknownst to him, the tiny change in his expression was perceived by the trusted advisor at his side, whose attention was divided between observing him and the proceedings led by Qi Qingqi below.

“You have lost the Mandate of Heaven, and now, the people demand that you pay with your life.” Lightly, Qi Qingqi tossed the scroll and let the whole thing hit the floor. The thump was soft, but echoed heavily in the hearts of those who had suffered at the hands of Qiu Jianluo and his allies.

Shen Jiu rose from the gilded throne, drawing the Xiu Ya sword in a fluid motion. Qiu Jianluo’s beady eyes followed Shen Jiu as he walked towards him, but did not dare to directly meet Shen Jiu’s gaze.

Shen Jiu bent down and gripped Qiu Jianluo’s chin, forcing him to look at Shen Jiu. Look at Shen Jiu and see the person Qiu Jianluo had destroyed again and again, see the person from whom he had torn away dignity and family once upon a time. See the person who was reborn from the ashes, and who will kill him in the place where he first laid his dirty hands on Shen Jiu.

“It’s too easy on you to just kill you and be done with it, don’t you think? We have so much negativity to resolve between us,” said Shen Jiu, smile warm but eyes flinty. “I think we should let it out bit...” he drew a long cut on Qiu Jianluo’s calf, eliciting a whimper—any remaining aggression by Qiu Jianluo now nonexistent in the face of imminent suffering—“...by bit.” Shen Jiu let go of Qiu Jianluo’s chin and aimed his sword at Qiu Jianluo’s left eye.

"I wish I had more time to break you."

A flash of a blade. A piteous howl. Red, spattered across the floor like a painting of the plum blossoms outside Shen Jiu’s window.

Then a hand wrapped around Shen Jiu’s own. It did not apply any force beyond a light pressure, but surprise at the sudden warmth stilled Shen Jiu’s next strike.

Yue Qi looked at him earnestly. “Xiao Jiu, I think it would be best to kill him straightaway.”

Shen Jiu bared his teeth in a snarl. “After everything he has done?” After everything you know he did to me? You would deny me this? These were words Shen Jiu would never say out loud—they smacked of weakness, betrayed the fact that Shen Jiu was affected by his past, implied that that man still had some degree of control over him, but Shen Jiu was not controlled by anyone, he controlled others, whether by manipulation, coercion or force...

Yue Qi’s thumb brushed against Shen Jiu’s fingers from side to side, disrupting the increasingly angry train of his thoughts. “Today is the day of your coronation. I think that in the future, you might appreciate remembering that this day was mostly filled with joy rather than screams.”

“The two are not mutually exclusive when it comes to dealing with scum like him,” said Shen Jiu.

“Okay,” said Yue Qi. He pressed his forehead to Shen Jiu’s own. In a voice so low that it was audible to the two of them only, he said, “But hear me out. People might be happy now to see Qiu Jianluo mutilated to death by the new emperor, but I’m worried that later, when troubles and challenges arise in your reign, some of them may use your acts today to paint a picture of you as a ruler as cruel as his predecessor. They do not know, or may deliberately choose to omit, the reasons for your actions.”

“But if you think it’s what you need to do, I will fully support you. I am always on your side.”

Yue Qi withdrew his hand and stepped back, bowing his head slightly in a show of deference for the sake of the spectators in the hall. Shen Jiu’s grip tightened on Xiu Ya’s hilt as his brows drew together. He remained silent for a few moments.

Just as the first few government officials started to fidget nervously, Shen Jiu let out an exasperated snarl and struck.

Qiu Jianluo didn’t even have time to blink before his head was disconnected from his body.

Shen Jiu took the cloth handed to him by Yue Qi and wiped his blade. “It is done.”

From now on, his name was Shen Qingqiu. Qing, meaning “clean”; Qiu, referring to the Qiu despots—according to his twin brother at least. Shen Yuan had thought that name up as a joke, saying that once Shen Jiu killed Qiu Jianluo, he’d have cleaned the world of the filth that was the Qiu dynasty. Yet to outsiders, the name was an elegant one—Clear Autumn. Just like Shen Jiu, it was an elegant package hiding murderous contents...according to Shen Yuan, that disrespectful bugger. Though he spoke the truth.

Shen Qingqiu grudgingly admitted that he hoped Shen Yuan and Luo Binghe would return from their mission soon, though Shen Yuan would complain a bit about missing his coronation ceremony. It was Shen Yuan’s own fault for allowing Luo Binghe to sidetrack him. Shen Qingqiu was not going to think about how exactly the sidetracking took place, or he would want to stab something again.

Yue Qi—no, Yue Qingyuan now—gave him a smile that was unfairly radiant. Shen Qingqiu adamantly refused to be blinded by it and turned away before his heart could skip a beat. (It shivered anyway.)

He and Yue Qingyuan were the last ones to take on their new names. The naming system had started like this: the founding members of the Cang Qiong rebels took Shen Yuan's joke too seriously and one of the idiots—Shen Qingqiu couldn't remember which one—came up with a plan for all of them to adopt new names with "Qing" as the first character of each given name. The same-character concept was apparently intended to "enhance solidarity" as a group, since they fought too much among themselves (Shen Qingqiu thought it was a wonder they managed to overthrow a government while he and Liu Qingge were clawing at each other's eyes). At each successful stage in the process of overthrowing the Qiu dynasty, one founding member would adopt a new name to celebrate the progress of the revolution. In this sense, the name game evolved into a symbolic representation of the country's rebirth.

Now rebirth was complete. It was the beginning of healing, of nation-rebuilding, and of peace.

A deafening chorus rang through the hall and quickly spread to the troops and nobles in the palace grounds, boiling over into a roar loud enough to shake the heavens.

“May our Emperor live ten thousand years!”

Chapter Text

Shen Qingqiu was in heaven.

This bed was heaven. Pale silken sheets slipped through his fingers like shimmering water; thick cotton layers kept him warm despite the chill in the air; a fluffy pillow cushioned his head like a cloud in a dream. A light fragrance wafted from the potpourri sachets hanging from the top of the four-poster bed, sweet and fresh, reminiscent of verdure.

After two and a half months of sleeping in this bed, Shen Qingqiu was still in awe of it. Street urchin Shen Jiu would never have imagined that he’d ever experience such blissful sensations even in his wildest dreams. (Not that his wild dreams consisted of sumptuous comforts often. No, they were often quite nasty and vengeful, because Shen Jiu mostly ran on spite.)

Languidly, he rolled onto his left side. Ah, if the bed was heaven, then this here, this man gazing at him contentedly, was paradise.

Yue Qingyuan smiled softly, eyes half-lidded, clearly luxuriating in the sense of stillness and calm. Shen Qingqiu felt an answering smile creep up his lips. The two of them probably looked daft. If Yue Qingyuan knew what he was thinking, he would say that being happy does not automatically equal being daft.

Shen Qingqiu traced Yue Qingyuan’s faint dark circles with a finger. Yue Qingyuan let his eyes fall shut at Shen Qingqiu’s ministrations, but not completely. Just open enough to peek at him.

“Thank you for your hard work.” Shen Qingqiu felt a twinge of guilt in his chest. “Now that we’ve gotten most institutions up and running, the worst is over. Get lots of rest.”

Yue Qingyuan was a highly capable statesman, and importantly, he was likeable. The latter was not within Shen Qingqiu’s own repertoire of skills, though he was working on learning at least a semblance of it. That meant that in the meantime, Yue Qingyuan not only had to share Shen Qingqiu’s decision-making burden, he also had to take on the responsibility of polishing up the image of the new leadership in the eyes of the officials who still remained from the previous government.

Cang Qiong could not afford to replace every single authority figure who had stuck their hands in the cookie jar at some point – it would take too much time and effort – and they didn’t need to. Shen Qingqiu’s exhibition of near-ruthless efficiency in lopping off heads and throwing the main troublemakers in prison made sure of that. But it took some effort to convince the anxious, numerous small fry that there was no need to revolt or flee death, that the new government would let bygones be bygones (though some officials would inevitably be slapped with reparations) unless they retained their sticky fingers.

In this respect, Yue Qingyuan was a blessing. Courteous yet authoritative, his presence calmed the feathers of harried and fearful officials in the wake of dynastic change, allowing them to focus on rebuilding the livelihoods of a weary but hopeful people.

Shen Qingqiu thought he might make a better ruler than himself. Sometimes it felt strange to Shen Qingqiu that he was the one whom Cang Qiong supported as emperor; it was true that he started the cogs of the revolution turning with his creation of a secret network dedicated to overthrowing the Qiu empire, but he knew that someone who excelled at political machinations and martial strategy was not necessarily the best person to ensure the flourishing of a country in peacetime.

He had said so to Yue Qingyuan in private once, to which Yue Qingyuan had replied, “A need to improve your mastery of social graces – which I’m sure you’ll manage, in time – does not mean that you are less capable than me or anyone else at governing the country in the long run.”

Shen Qingqiu considered this seriously. “That is a very diplomatic statement,” he commented. When Yue Qingyuan looked like he was going to argue, Shen Qingqiu quickly said, “I’m not saying that you’re deliberately trying to avoid offending me. I’m just saying that it’s a genuinely nice way of expressing a nasty reality,” he pointed at himself.

“Your…sincerity and pleasantness,” here his eye twitched at the unfamiliarity of expressing positive words, “just goes to show that it might be better for everyone if you were to lead the country.”

“I don’t make better decisions than you do. You’re sharp at figuring things out and you’re very decisive, which I think are important qualities in a leader.” Yue Qingyuan patted his head. It crossed Shen Qingqiu’s mind that it was unbecoming for an emperor to be patted on the head by his grand chancellor, but then again, it didn’t make him or Yue Qingyuan inherently better or worse at their jobs, so he shouldn’t be bothered by it. (He couldn’t not allow it when Yue Qingyuan looked so blissful.)

“No one is infallible. We in Cang Qiong cover for each other’s shortcomings, so it’s okay if you’re not so good at some things right now. You’ll get better, and I’ll help you.”

Shen Qingqiu didn’t know what he did in his past life to have someone like this by his side. “Okay,” he said.

Then Yue Qingyuan’s eyes crinkled in a smile. “You can start by not trading veiled insults with Liu Qingge when he returns from surveying the northwestern troops tomorrow.”

“……”


Shen Qingqiu closed his eyes. It would not do to spoil the experience of this lovely bed with distasteful thoughts about military brutes. It was over, he had successfully not blown up at Liu Qingge, so enough about him. Just focus on the sleepy man in front of him right now…

…who wasn’t as sleepy as he seemed, judging by the hand wandering across Shen Qingqiu’s waist, dangerously close to his backside.

 “…Weren’t you tired a few seconds ago?”

Yue Qingyuan chuckled. He locked fingers with Shen Qingqiu, pulling his hands to his chest. “If I look pitiful, Xiao Jiu will let his guard down.”

“You don’t look very pitiful now.”

“I don’t,” said Yue Qingyuan agreeably before he flipped over, deftly covering Shen Qingqiu’s body with his own.

“And critics say I’m the fox,” complained Shen Qingqiu without any real displeasure.

“Just like you’ve learned some things from me over the years, I’ve learned some things from you too,” returned Yue Qingyuan smartly.

“Good, you should,” Shen Qingqiu grumbled as Yue Qingyuan placed a kiss on his nose. “If only you had been half as – mmph!” He was cut off by a mouth forcefully sealing away the rest of his sentence. A clever tongue pushed his words down into muffled cries that made a fire spark in Yue Qingyuan’s eyes. Licking and sucking to his heart’s content, that infuriating man revelled in the taste of Shen Qingqiu’s mouth, enjoying the way his eyes turned hazy.

He felt Yue Qingyuan pin his hands to the mattress on each side of his pillow, felt his body pressing and rubbing against him in slow, deliberate movements, skin searing hot through their nightclothes. A shudder ran through his body as Yue Qingyuan’s hips ground against his groin and he let out an involuntary whimper, trying in vain to suppress it. Encouraged, Yue Qingyuan did it again even as his tongue continued its assault inside Shen Qingqiu’s mouth, his grip on Shen Qingqiu’s fingers tightening as Shen Qingqiu let out another helpless sound.

He struggled, tossing his head to the side in an attempt to be free of kisses that refused to let him catch his breath. Stopping to admire the way Xiao Jiu’s porcelain skin became tinged with an adorable shade of pink, Yue Qingyuan let him gasp for a few heartbeats before devouring his mouth again.

Shen Qingqiu knew all sorts of dirty tricks that could get him out of such a vulnerable position, but all of them resulted in considerable pain for his assailant and he had no real desire to escape. He liked being caged in by Yue Qingyuan’s arms and his reassuring weight even while the predatory threat of a taller, more muscular body bore down on him.

For the longest time, he had hated – absolutely hated – being held down, unable to do anything about it because they outnumbered him or because they were stronger, but most often, because they were somebody and he was nobody, just a pretty thing to be toyed with, to be used by beasts and derided for their sins and cast away to fix the broken parts of himself alone.

Even while he plotted to bring each of them to a gruesome demise and carried out his plans with increasing success, his loathing of any show of helplessness on his part, especially in regard to intimacy, remained strong.

Two years ago, Yue Qi’s hand wrapped shyly around his and got promptly shaken off. Yue Qi apologised. A week later, Shen Jiu tentatively grasped Yue Qi’s fingertips and was rewarded with a surprised smile and a reassurance to not rush, Qi-ge was already very happy to be around Xiao Jiu.

A year ago, Shen Jiu deigned to stalk over to Yue Qi’s bed and aggressively pretend that he belonged there. Yue Qi pretended with him. He fell asleep knowing that Yue Qi was wide awake and watching over him.

Seven months ago, Yue Qi, with red ears and an endearingly determined manner, suggested that if – if – Xiao Jiu ever wanted to, Xiao Jiu could top him. That was the first time he ever referred to the possibility of sex with Shen Jiu. Shen Jiu regarded him with the solemnity of an immortal delivering judgement upon a puny human, then leaned forward and breathed into the shell of Yue Qi’s ear: “That’s an attractive proposition. But are you sure you’d rather not have it the other way round?”

Yue Qi’s ears burned even brighter. “…Anything that Xiao Jiu is happy with, I’m happy with,” he mumbled earnestly.

“What if Xiao Jiu wants you to fuck him after he deposes that piece of scum?”

“...It might be better if I just…hugged you to sleep that night? Because it’s probably…better for you if you take some time to, um…” Yue Qi stopped and considered his words carefully, aware that he was walking on thin ice at the implication that Shen Jiu couldn’t handle bad memories, “…enjoy the fact that Qiu Jianluo is long dead before, before we do anything.”

Shen Jiu regarded him expressionlessly for a moment, then tugged him closer and leaned his head against Yue Qi’s chest, hearing the fast-paced thump thump thump hammering away. “Thank you for being nice to me.” He sniffed at Yue Qi’s neck, making him jump. With more bravado than innate courage, he whispered against the tender skin there: “You can have me tonight. But,” he faltered, but pushed on, “I might be…jumpy, so I may…I may…”

Accidentally knee you in the balls and flee into the sunset, Shen Jiu didn’t say.

“I think I get the message,” said Yue Qi anyway. “I might not leave with every part of me intact.” He grinned at Shen Jiu’s grimace. “I might not be safe with you…” He shushed Shen Jiu’s protest, and continued:

“But you’re safe with me.”

Chapter Text

Yue Qingyuan mouthed at the sensitive skin beneath his Xiao Jiu’s chin, on his neck, between his collarbones. It sent a delightful thrill up his spine to see Xiao Jiu willingly bare his throat, albeit with some hesitance and almost-sulky contrariness.

No matter. Qi-ge will have him wholeheartedly opening himself up to him soon, will give him pleasure after pleasure until he has no choice but to relinquish all control and let Qi-ge do whatever he wants with him.

Yue Qingyuan unwound the sash of Xiao Jiu’s robe, allowing his clothes to part in the middle, revealing clean, pale skin. As he pressed a string of slow kisses down Xiao Jiu’s torso, he felt Xiao Jiu grasp his hair and comb through the raven strands with fingers that were trembling ever so slightly.

Brushing a hand across Xiao Jiu’s chest, he rubbed a pert nipple with a thumb, feeling it become stiffer in response. Xiao Jiu made an impatient noise of protest, too proud to express his embarrassment in words. From past experience, Yue Qingyuan knew that he was most self-conscious when his nipples were played with, much more so than when he was spitted on Yue Qingyuan’s cock. So Yue Qingyuan didn’t let his fingers linger too long at the brown nubs; just enough to make Xiao Jiu feel slightly discomfited and thrown off guard, to subtly impress upon him who was in charge at this moment.

Kneeling between Xiao Jiu’s legs, he rubbed his nose lightly along Xiao Jiu’s stomach—up, down, and up again…scenting him, marking his territory. Xiao Jiu had once said he was like a little dog when he did this. Yue Qingyuan said it was Xiao Jiu’s fault for being so thin since they were kids, this little dog had long mistaken him for a meal of skin and bones. But now, Xiao Jiu was healthy and strong, lean muscles padding the sleek contours of his body. Seeing him safe and well-cared-for suffused Yue Qingyuan with warm content.

Without warning, he surged upwards and pinned both of Xiao Jiu’s wrists above him. Startled, his captive’s eyes flashed, but Xiao Jiu admirably maintained his composure. He had come so far; Yue Qingyuan still remembered the times when he jumped at friendly touches and looked ready to scratch someone’s eyes out.

At that thought, he almost wished that Xiao Jiu had ignored his advice and subjected Qiu Jianluo to death by a thousand cuts, or turned Qiu Jianluo into a human stick. Almost. He still didn’t want it to come back to bite Xiao Jiu in the form of twisted accusations by ill-intentioned, backstabbing officials.

Enough about that beast. He was dead anyway.

To show that he was proud of Xiao Jiu for not attempting to headbutt him, Yue Qingyuan rewarded him with a kiss.

Then he pounded Xiao Jiu’s hips into the mattress.

Prising Xiao Jiu’s legs open wider, Yue Qingyuan rammed his cock between his thighs, grinding enticingly close to Xiao Jiu’s entrance, making him feel Yue Qingyuan’s hardness through the thin fabric of their trousers. Gratifyingly, he heard a gasp, quickly repressed, and felt Xiao Jiu’s legs tense up and subconsciously try to wrap around him.

“Tonight, I want you to come for me without touching yourself,” he said in a low tone, nibbling Xiao Jiu’s ear. “Don’t worry, this lowly minister will help bixia with it.” Keeping one hand on Xiao Jiu’s narrow wrists – Xiao Jiu’s hands were so deceptively slim, it was almost like Yue Qingyuan could accidentally snap the bones if he wasn’t careful – and reaching under his own pillow with the other, Yue Qingyuan drew out pale green ropes, soft to the touch but sturdy enough to withstand more force than they looked like they could.

Even while fighting to keep his breathing steady, Xiao Jiu gave him a judging look that plainly read: “Someone’s well-prepared.” Yue Qingyuan quirked a recalcitrant eyebrow at him, wordlessly responding: “Someone has to be.”

In no time, Yue Qingyuan had Xiao Jiu’s wrists bound together, fastening the ropes to the bedposts. With anticipation, he removed Xiao Jiu’s trousers, revealing his half-hard cock. Pressing a kiss to the tip, he felt a tremor run down Xiao Jiu’s thighs.

Yue Qingyuan reached for a beautiful red sandalwood box under the bed, dipped his fingers into the clear gel inside it, and brushed Xiao Jiu’s cock. However, he never applied a greater pressure than teasing strokes from base to tip.

“Yue Qingyuan,” he heard Xiao Jiu complain.

He pretended to suffer from temporary deafness, running flitting fingers across Xiao Jiu’s balls and the head of his cock, giving one light squeeze that made Xiao Jiu jolt.

After a period of tension, Xiao Jiu’s restraint broke.

“…Qi-ge…”

Yue Qingyuan smiled at his tremulous voice. That was more like it. In one fluid movement, he pressed his middle finger deep into Xiao Jiu’s hole.

It was hot. Wet. Clenching around his finger, refusing to let go.

Xiao Jiu made a choked sound, hips twitching. Pushing his finger in and out in an imitation of copulation, Yue Qingyuan paid attention to Xiao Jiu’s expressions, memorising the bow of his panting, half-open lips, the black hair splayed across the pillow like swirls of ink on a painting, the stubborn endurance that was fading away. He added another finger, and then another, savouring the feel of being wanted, being needed. A lovely crimson colour bloomed across Xiao Jiu’s cheeks as Yue Qingyuan scraped the walls inside him, curling his fingers one moment and scissoring the next, making room for himself in this tight heat.

When he hit the right bundle of nerves, Xiao Jiu let out a whine and tried to chase after the tantalising sensations. A dark satisfaction curled in Yue Qingyuan’s stomach as he pushed Xiao Jiu’s hips back down and pulled his fingers out. “Don’t be impatient, Xiao Jiu, or there will be consequences.” He enunciated each word slowly and steadily as he gripped Xiao Jiu’s chin, making him focus on Yue Qingyuan’s face.

“You may only take what Qi-ge is willing to give.”

Xiao Jiu didn’t verbally rebut him, but Yue Qingyuan could see intransigence in his eyes.

Very well.

Yue Qingyuan pressed his fingers into Xiao Jiu’s hole again, but no matter how much he wriggled, Yue Qingyuan refused to touch the sweet spot inside him, though he rubbed the soft areas around it in an unrushed, subtly mocking act. A corner of Yue Qingyuan’s mouth turned upwards, smugness bubbling within him as he felt Xiao Jiu’s walls contract, trying to tempt him into capitulating to Xiao Jiu’s desires.

As time passed, Xiao Jiu became more and more agitated. Making increasingly distressed noises, he tossed his head from side to side, knuckles white as he gripped his bonds.

“Qi-ge…”

“Qi-ge, I’m sorry…”

Yue Qingyuan remained unmoved, fingering him in a leisurely manner while assiduously avoiding his prostate.

“Please…I won’t, won’t...”

“Please don’t ignore me.”

The last sentence came out sounding small.

It made Yue Qingyuan stop and survey his Xiao Jiu, slightly concerned. Xiao Jiu was trembling, valiantly trying to keep his gaze on him through a sheen of moisture even though he looked like he would much rather hide his face.

Yue Qingyuan got up and went over to an oak cabinet. Inside it were some cloths, a basin of water, and other supplies. He wetted a cloth, wiped his hands, and returned to the bed.

Xiao Jiu was quite the sight; prettily flushed cheeks, arms pulled up and robes dishevelled and open to offer up a pale body for him and him alone, a forlorn stare directed at him. Irresistible.

Yue Qingyuan pressed his palms to Xiao Jiu’s hot cheeks, trying to cool them down a little. He brushed damp locks of hair away from Xiao Jiu’s forehead and laid an apologetic kiss on his brow. “Ah, Xiao Jiu, I really can’t deny you anything, can I…”

He felt a soft nip on his nose.

“You’re right,” breathed a voice, “you can’t.”

Xiao Jiu was smiling at him, eyes damp but shining. Victorious. “Caught you.” He nuzzled Yue Qingyuan’s face in a self-satisfied manner.

He wasn’t wrong. Yue Qingyuan had been caught by him years and years ago, ensnared by this fox demon even before he cast his net.

“You little minx.” Yue Qingyuan pinched the tip of Xiao Jiu’s nose and caught a teardrop from the corner of his eye. “Are these crocodile tears?”

They probably weren’t. Despite his confident words, the tremor in Xiao Jiu’s voice betrayed the fact that he wasn’t as unaffected by Yue Qingyuan’s efforts as he tried to seem.

“They’re my tears, so you’d better treasure them. I don’t cry for just anyone.” Xiao Jiu raised his chin arrogantly.

He really was lovely when he cried. Even more so when he had that defiant spark in his eyes.

Yue Qingyuan admired that untamed beauty, that streak of unstoppable tenacity that enabled Xiao Jiu to reach the pinnacle where he stood today. But more than anything else, right now, that look made Yue Qingyuan want to fuck him until his eyes went from challenging to docile, until his clever mouth abandoned coherent sentences for cries of rapture.

Like a wary deer, Xiao Jiu’s gaze tracked Yue Qingyuan’s movements as he removed his clothes. With amusement, Yue Qingyuan watched his eyes grow marginally wider as they fixed on his cock.

Yue Qingyuan prowled over to settle between Xiao Jiu’s legs. Smearing a layer of precum around Xiao Jiu’s entrance, he earned himself the sound of a shuddering intake of breath and the sight of Xiao Jiu’s pink hole twitching. As he wiped a generous dollop of lubricant on his own cock, his voice took on a dangerous timbre.

 “In exchange for Xiao Jiu’s grace…”

“…I’ll give him what he wants.”

With a punishing grip on Xiao Jiu’s waist, Yue Qingyuan dragged him towards himself as he roughly pushed into the slick, fluttering heat.

Ha-ahhhh!” Xiao Jiu’s voice cracked as he thrashed about, wrists twisting in his restraints.

Yue Qingyuan didn’t stop, forcing him to take him all the way in until his balls were pressed against Xiao Jiu’s ass.

Heavens, Xiao Jiu was burning inside, constricting around him like he would never let go. At that thought, his cock hardened even more. Xiao Jiu whimpered as he felt it grow bigger, filling him up until Yue Qingyuan could see a faint bulge in his abdomen.

“You – nghh!” Xiao Jiu failed to continue as Yue Qingyuan pulled out a tiny, tiny bit, leaving most of his length inside, and drove back in again, somehow reaching even greater depths than before.

“Did Xiao Jiu call me?” Yue Qingyuan uttered with some effort. He gave another harsh thrust, eliciting a broken noise from Xiao Jiu. “If Xiao Jiu can still talk, that means Qi-ge should take better care of him.”

Yue Qingyuan rolled his hips, his cock grinding against Xiao Jiu’s squeezing walls in a circular movement, giving him a bit of time to adjust to his girth. Then he started moving for real, withdrawing almost completely and rapidly driving back in, enjoying how Xiao Jiu’s searing heat enveloped him, how those clenching walls were forced to make way for his desire.

“You’re so tight,” he murmured. “I thought I’d have fucked Xiao Jiu loose over the months, but no, he is still so eager to keep me here,” he ran a hand across Xiao Jiu’s stomach, and down to where they were connected, “so reluctant to let me leave.”

His groin slapped against Xiao Jiu’s ass, adding to the wet sounds of slick as he moved in and out, in and out of Xiao Jiu’s hole in an unforgiving rhythm. Xiao Jiu’s breaths hitched in tandem with every thrust as he squirmed helplessly underneath Yue Qingyuan, those usually sharp eyes misted over and gentled with tears.

Seeing him rendered so uncharacteristically raw and vulnerable, his reactions honestly revealing his emotions, caused the primal creature in Yue Qingyuan’s chest to purr in satisfaction.

One particularly hard thrust made Xiao Jiu growl at him and try to retreat. Yue Qingyuan merely smiled, locking Xiao Jiu’s hips down and aiming at his prostate. Immediately, Xiao Jiu emitted a cry, limbs sapped of strength. Tears slipped down his temples and vanished into his dark hair as he threw his head backwards, arms quivering above him.

Softly cupping Xiao Jiu’s face, Yue Qingyuan mouthed the salty wetness at his eyes away, gently shushing him. But at the same time, his hips kept up the relentless pace, pistoning into Xiao Jiu hard and fast.

This contradiction seemed to frustrate Xiao Jiu. “Yue Qingyuan!” he protested, voice rough from involuntary sobs.

Due to his past, Xiao Jiu still found it somewhat difficult to let go of his aversion to being overwhelmed even though he enjoyed it once he actually got into the swing of things. Yue Qingyuan was here to help him learn how to give up control to a trusted person, so he was entitled to ignore certain kinds of protests.

Also, he especially wanted to turn a deaf ear in this instance because…wrong name. Really, Xiao Jiu should know better than that. Since he wouldn’t call him Qi-ge, Yue Qingyuan should just keep him from talking.

Sealing his lips over Xiao Jiu’s, Yue Qingyuan swallowed Xiao Jiu’s desperate noises and licked deep into his mouth, into his throat, mimicking the way Yue Qingyuan’s cock was fucking into his hole. He tasted sweet and a little sharp, reminiscent of mint.

After a long while, Xiao Jiu stopped struggling as the realisation of futility sank in. His lips gradually became pliant, yielding to Yue Qingyuan’s demanding ministrations.

When Yue Qingyuan finally released his mouth, Xiao Jiu was glassy-eyed. There was no trace of fire; any resistance had long since been fucked out of him. Humming in approval, Yue Qingyuan dabbed Xiao Jiu’s damp forehead with a cloth he had fetched earlier, as his hips slowed into a smooth, unhurried glide, more comforting than domineering.

Xiao Jiu’s eyes focused on him; a meek, beseeching gaze. Perfect. He was now in the exact state of mind that Yue Qingyuan wanted him to enter.

“There you are. Very good, Xiao Jiu.” Yue Qingyuan rubbed soothing circles on his cheek. “Just let Qi-ge take responsibility. Xiao Jiu’s only duty is to listen to him.”

Xiao Jiu blinked at him slowly. “Qi-ge,” he repeated, sweet and soft.

“Yes.” Yue Qingyuan gave him an encouraging smile. “Qi-ge will take care of you.”

He pulled his cock out, eliciting a whimper. A trickle of clear fluid leaked out of Xiao Jiu’s entrance. Yue Qingyuan lovingly pushed all of it back in, running his fingers along the puckered rim.

Then he untied the ropes restraining Xiao Jiu and gently massaged his wrists to alleviate any stiffness and to help his blood flow smoothly. “Does it hurt?” he asked, just in case. He had been careful in adjusting the tightness of the bindings, so he didn’t expect any problems, but he wanted to be sure.

Xiao Jiu shook his head.

“Good.” Yue Qingyuan turned Xiao Jiu’s right palm upwards and kissed the thin skin of his wrist. Then, he helped him slip off his robe and carefully manoeuvred him to crouch on all fours, facing away from Yue Qingyuan.

He inspected Xiao Jiu’s hole. It was pink and puffy, looking well-used, well-loved. It stoked the flame in Yue Qingyuan’s belly, and his semi-flaccid cock hardened a little. Reaching to the front to touch Xiao Jiu’s length, he slowly rubbed a finger against the slit, smearing the pearly droplets on the head.

A shudder ran through Xiao Jiu’s body.

“Remember, you are not to touch yourself,” Yue Qingyuan reminded him. He leaned forward, pressing against Xiao Jiu’s back, and breathed into his ear: “I want you to come by taking me inside you.”

He slathered more gel on his cock and guided it to Xiao Jiu’s entrance, prodding once, twice, before slipping the glans in. Before long, his entire length was sheathed inside Xiao Jiu’s wet heat.

Xiao Jiu breathed heavily, shaking, but bore it without compliant as Yue Qingyuan moved. To reward his obedience, Yue Qingyuan went slow, giving him ample time to get used to the stretch.

Xiao Jiu’s cock was swollen, dripping, but he made no move to touch it. He didn’t even try to discreetly slip down to rub into the sheets. He could be highly disciplined when he wanted to.

“Xiao Jiu is so good to me. So good, so obedient,” sighed Yue Qingyuan, noting the way Xiao Jiu shivered in delight. Neither Shen Jiu nor Shen Qingqiu would condescend to be pleased by such infantilising praise, but Xiao Jiu…in this condition, Xiao Jiu could let loose and be as needy as he liked with Qi-ge and only with Qi-ge. Yue Qingyuan felt honoured, truly. He liked pampering Xiao Jiu, liked giving him what he needed; liked withholding it too, and providing it only when Yue Qingyuan deemed it appropriate.

“Qi-ge loves you very, very much,” Yue Qingyuan murmured as he rocked back and forth, sedate and sure. He petted Xiao Jiu’s hair, stroked his back, bent forward to kiss the nape of his neck. “He wants to keep you here with him, for always.”

He had lost Xiao Jiu once before, partly due to his own incompetence (though Xiao Jiu would disagree, if made to speak honestly). After years of struggles, desperation, and mulish clinging to a sliver of hope, he had Xiao Jiu back with him, within his grasp, and he would kill anyone who attempted to take him away again.

Xiao Jiu stirred, fumbling for Yue Qingyuan’s hand on his waist. “Qi-ge, I…I love you too,” he said, a faint hint of timidity in his tone, brushing clumsy fingers across the back of Yue Qingyuan’s hand.

This made Yue Qingyuan incredibly happy. Carefully, he pushed Xiao Jiu down so that he was lying on his front, cock pressed into the mattress, with Yue Qingyuan above him, caging him in. After a moment’s thought, Yue Qingyuan placed a pillow underneath Xiao Jiu’s groin. He had obeyed Yue Qingyuan’s instructions just now, so Yue Qingyuan could give him this.

Nuzzling his neck, Yue Qingyuan said, “Bear with me.”

He picked up the pace, hearing the huffs of Xiao Jiu’s breaths speed up in response, feeling Xiao Jiu’s channel pulse around him. Eventually, Xiao Jiu ended up panting into the mattress, elbows too weak to prop himself up, Yue Qingyuan’s movements driving his dribbling length into the pillow and making him choke back sobs.

“Qi-ge, Qi-ge, I, hmmh…”

“Qi-ge, I want to…”

Seeing the stains on the pillowcase, Yue Qingyuan knew: ah, he wants to come. He considered withholding what Xiao Jiu wanted for a while longer, but at that moment, Xiao Jiu raised his head and turned back to look at him.

“I want to see you…”

Oh.

Yue Qingyuan really couldn’t deny this man.

Abruptly, he pulled out and flipped Xiao Jiu over, climbing above him. Before Xiao Jiu could catch his breath, his legs were thrown wide apart and he was speared on Yue Qingyuan’s cock once more, his wail smothered by the mouth covering his own.

Lacing their fingers together, Yue Qingyuan devoted himself to invading Xiao Jiu’s body, relishing the freedom of simply taking what he wanted. Copious amounts of slick dripped onto the bedsheets every time his cock withdrew, the head catching on Xiao Jiu’s swollen rim. Xiao Jiu’s length was trapped between them, adding to the dampness on their stomachs and on the sheets around them.

Trapped under Yue Qingyuan like a dying butterfly pinned beneath the paws of a feral cat, Xiao Jiu’s lips parted, releasing broken, feeble noises of ah, ah, ah each and every time Yue Qingyuan penetrated him. Unbidden, tears escaped his half-shut eyelids and were lapped up by his captor.

Pulling out until only the tip remained in that twitching hole, Yue Qingyuan guided one of Xiao Jiu’s hands to Yue Qingyuan’s cock, gently wrapping his limp fingers around the thick girth. There was a sharp inhalation when he was made to touch the bulge of a rapidly throbbing vein. “Can you feel that, Xiao Jiu? Can you feel how much Qi-ge loves you, how much Qi-ge wants you? All of this,” Yue Qingyuan brushed Xiao Jiu’s fingers along the entire length of his shaft, “is going inside you.” In one smooth motion, he plunged straight back into Xiao Jiu’s welcoming warmth, directly at Xiao Jiu’s prostate.

Xiao Jiu screamed, entire body spasming. Yue Qingyuan felt Xiao Jiu’s cock twitch, weeping on him.

“Do you want to come, Xiao Jiu?” asked Yue Qingyuan. Panting, Xiao Jiu fixed bleary eyes on him and jerked his head in a semblance of a nod. “Mm,” he said shakily. Then, as if he was worried that Yue Qingyuan wouldn’t be satisfied with such a vague affirmation, he whispered, “Yes…Qi-ge, please.”

“Very well.”

Yue Qingyuan was all too happy to oblige this request; he too was at the brink.

“You may come whenever you’re ready.”

As Yue Qingyuan resumed moving to a primal rhythm, Xiao Jiu rocked his hips to meet him. Yue Qingyuan let out a heavy breath as Xiao Jiu’s tight little hole embraced him unguardedly, quivering around his rock-hard length – like Xiao Jiu was a little shy, embarrassed, but very determined.

Encouraged, Yue Qingyuan pressed kisses to Xiao Jiu’s mouth, tongue exploring the sweet, wet cavern as he pounded into him again and again and again. Held down, Xiao Jiu writhed uncontrollably, bliss teetering on the edge of agony searing through his veins.

“Qi-ge, I—"

When Yue Qingyuan hit the electric bundle of nerves inside him, Xiao Jiu’s walls constricted. With a cry, he shuddered and his cock finally discharged its load.

Yue Qingyuan fucked him through the aftershocks, chasing his own pleasure. He savoured the final moments in the build-up to climax: the unique smell of sex, wet sounds of skin slapping on skin, the feel of Xiao Jiu’s slim hands on rumpled bedsheets, the contented haze in Xiao Jiu’s eyes.

A deep noise rose from Yue Qingyuan’s throat. Stabbing his cock into the innermost part of Xiao Jiu’s channel, he released his seed, eliciting a gasp from Xiao Jiu as the gush of fluid filled him up.

Yue Qingyuan shifted so that he wouldn’t squash Xiao Jiu with his entire weight, but made sure that his cock remained settled in that comforting warmth.

They simply lay like that until their breaths evened out, happy to wallow in each other’s presence.

Languidly, a hand stroked the back of Yue Qingyuan’s head. He returned the affection by cuddling Xiao Jiu, tucking his face into the crook of Xiao Jiu’s neck.

After a while, Xiao Jiu broke the peaceful interval by asking in a slightly raspy voice: “Are you dead?”

His acerbic tongue was back. He tended to be pricklier after a bout of submission during intimacy, as if he had to compensate. Yue Qingyuan didn’t mind at all, because Xiao Jiu was still petting him tenderly in contrast to his blunt words, and because Yue Qingyuan loved the different facets of him. But he hoped that one day, Xiao Jiu would come to feel secure about the different facets of himself too – even the softer ones.

Yue Qingyuan said, “If I pretend that I am, can we stay like this longer?”

Xiao Jiu huffed. “So needy.”

Yue Qingyuan resisted the urge to grin at the hypocrisy. Instead, he put on a pleading face.

As expected, Xiao Jiu gave in. “…Let’s stay like this longer.”