The Moon is full and bright in the sky when Xie Lian descends from Heavens on the moonrays.
Sure, a distance-shortening array would be faster and just as effective. But, first and most important reason of all: it is quite easy to keep track of who gets in and out of Heavens through arrays, and Xie Lian is trying to be discreet right now. He is- and the thought makes him giggle at the silliness of it- sneaking out like a teenager in those plays he enjoyed as a kid. Xie Lian never got to do that before! What with the whole, being a prince and then a god and then depressed. If Heavens must forcefully drag him back up there, he might as well make full use of the opportunities.
The second reason is much simpler. It’s been a while since Xie Lian has been able to admire the Moon like this, is all.
(One comes to miss the Moon, after spending a few years in the kiln. Days. Years? Times become funky when you’re immortal. Point being, even centuries after his original turning, Xie Lian still finds himself appreciating the gentle rays over his skin more than he ever has as a human. But then again, maybe it’s just his demon side vibrating with kinship; he is Broken Mirror Reflects Heaven, after all. The Moon and himself are of the same cloth.)
Besides, it is so much easier to spot the one in red clothes from up there.
“San Lang!” He calls, waving as he slides down. “San Lang, I’m here!”
He’s too far to see Hua Cheng smile, but he can imagine it all too easily; the glint of the fangs between his lips, the joy in his eye, the love in his face-
It’s so easy to imagine, but Xie Lian is so, so eager to see it again, and suddenly the moonrays aren’t anywhere fast enough.
“San Lang!” He calls again, hears his own name in return. Then, as easily as rolling over, Xie Lian jumps off the moonray.
Gravity is a much, much faster ally than the Moon.
Xie Lian is not afraid, though. Not even afraid bruising his new skin. Why would he be? The wraith butterflies are faster than any misfortune could ever be, coming to him in legions to greet him. Their tiny legs take hold of his old robe, one butterfly, then two, three, a hundred, a thousand,
“Gege!” Ah- there is it, Hua Cheng’s smile. He opens both arms wide, and the butterflies safely deposit Xie Lian in them.
Heavens, he’d missed this embrace. Not scorching hot, like most livings are; it’s cold and tight just right, pressure and love just how he likes it.
Xie Lian isn’t even touching the ground; Hua Cheng is holding him up a few centimeters off the ground, so they’re hugging face to face.
“Hello, gege.” he leans his forehead against Xie Lian’s. “Seeing such a lovely face in such a lovely night. Why, this San Lang truly is blessed.”
And Xie Lian can’t help but laugh, at his husband’s dorkiness. “ Shameless is what San Lang is!” But there is no heat in his voice, and soon enough he’s tilting his head to catch Hua Cheng’s lips in his.
It’s not a lustful kiss. It’s brief and tender and quickly followed by a dozen more, on Hua Cheng’s sharp cheekbones and the bridge of his nose and his eyepatch and closed eye.
“San Lang, San Lang.” Any other word, Xie Lian would get tired of it, after a few centuries. But his husband’s name, Xie Lian could sing it a thousand times, and it would still taste like honey and trust. “Ah, San Lang, I missed you so much.”
“I missed you too, Gege.” Slowly, Hua Cheng lets Xie Lian down. He keeps his arms on the god’s shoulders, though, hungry for any kind of contact after so long being apart. “I was this close to pulling a He Xuan and sneaking into Heavens myself, you know. I could have whisked you away, gotten you some vacation for a while.”
Xie Lian chuckles in his chest, nose buried in the red robe (Hua Cheng smells like smoke and iron and Ghost City, all things Xie Lian had missed dearly. Heaven is so pristine, always so bright it hurts the eye, always pretending to be holier and better than anyone else. It’s no place for a scavenger god like Xie Lian; Ghost City is much better, purer and more honest in its vices.)
“You probably would have succeeded.” he muses. “The Heavens are so blind , San Lang. They still haven’t caught on that I’m a supreme!” And all this time he’d been wondering how Black Water could have snuck in. HeavenlyOfficials s, it turns out, are a lot like human adults; at first, it looks like they know what they’re doing, and everything is planned and written down. But as you get older, you realize that they’re all just pretending. Even Ling Wen isn’t as keen as seventeen-year old Xie Lian remembered her to be.
“I might still do that, you know.” Hua Cheng runs a hand through his hair, and Xie Lian leans into the touch. “Someone has to make sure you’re treated correctly up there, who am I supposed to rely on for such a thing? Those two guards of yours who can’t even pull a simple disguise? ...ah, you have a knot there.”
Hua Cheng’s unhidden disdain for Feng Xin and Mu Qing makes Xie Lian laugh again. He turns around and sits down right there, on the bare grass, to give his husband better access to brush his hair. “They’re trying their best, you have to at least give them that, San Lang.” He hears a shuffle behind him, then San Lang’s legs come frame his hips, and he can feel fingers gently brushing his hair again. “They don’t mean any harm, they’re just… painfully awkward.”
“That is certainly one way to put it.” Dear gods, Hua Cheng’s claws are heavenly against his scalp. Xie Lian closes his eyes and sighs in contentment. Paperwork sadly gives very little time for Xie Lian to take care of himself, and besides, it’s not like he’d brought even a hairbrush with him when he’d first ascended.
(... okay, that’s a terrible excuse. The truth is: one, Xie Lian much prefers his hair to be pampered by his husband than by himself. Hua Cheng has a way to things, in how he undoes the knots, in how he massages Xie Lian’s skull and ties the strands into a small bun. And, two, Xie Lian finds it endlessly funny to play along the expectations that he is but a weak and foolish god. Their faces when they realize what he’s capable of are always priceless.)
(Becoming a demon did a lot of damage to Xie Lian’s sense of humour, but in his defense, Heaven could use being the butt of the joke more often.)
“All done, Gege!” The hands pull away from Xie Lian’s hair, though it’s immediately replaced with the pressure of Hua Cheng nosing his back. “Ah, your highness, you look so pretty like this. You ought to let me dote on you more often.”
Xie Lian raises a hand to run it through his own hair- it’s like running it through water, now. “I really do, huh. Next time I drop by Ghost City, you can pamper me as much as you like.” He moves his hand to rest it on Hua Cheng’s head, gently petting it. “Thank you, San Lang.”
Hua Cheng moves his head to rest his chin on Xie Lian’s shoulder, grinning. His arms slide around Xie Lian’s waist, pulling him close. “Did I do good enough to warrant a reward?”
A few centuries ago, Xie Lian would have stammered and blushed at the blatant extortion of affection. Today, Xie Lian only rests his palms on Hua Cheng’s hands and smirks back. “Mh, I wonder, did you?”
“Oh?” Hua Cheng slides his fingers between Xie Lian’s. “Is my god unsatisfied? Should I show more of my devotion?”
“Mmh, perhaps.” Xie Lian tilts his head and pecks his husband’s cheek. “But don’t worry, San Lang. You have all night long to convince me.” He leans back against Hua Cheng, against this large chest. “You could start by hugging me tighter.”
Hua Cheng laughs, the way only people in love do; and, softly, he tightens his hold. “I am but your humble servant, your highness.”
His lips graze Xie Lian’s ear. “And the world’s luckiest husband.”