Mobei-jun stepped through the shadows into Shang Qinghua's house long after darkness had fallen. Dawn was only a shichen away. He was tired, irritated; he'd spent all day dealing with a problem Lord Luo had dropped in his lap without warning, since Lord Luo was disappearing into the wilderness again with his precious Shizun and was thus far too busy to bother himself with the disputes of his vassals. In his absence the burden fell to Mobei-jun instead – and who cared if he'd barely seen his own husband in three weeks?
After that kind of day the thought of crawling into his large empty bed, alone...
He didn't want to.
So despite the lateness of the hour, or the fact Shang Qinghua would by now be fast asleep, Mobei-jun had made his way to An Ding Peak.
The Peak Lord's house was quiet and still. Mobei-jun crept silently through the small front room to the private room at the back, where Shang Qinghua kept his desk and his bed, along with all the mess he felt the need to hide away from visitors.
To Mobei-jun's surprise, a faint light was flickering from under the door.
Shang Qinghua was slumped over a mess of papers, elbow on the desk, one hand clutching his head as the other clutched a brush. He wasn't writing. Just sitting there.
“It's late,” said Mobei-jun.
Shang Qinghua jumped with a yelp and almost knocked over his candle.
“My king!!” He dropped the brush and put his hand over his heart. “My king, ah, you startled me...”
Mobei-jun stepped closer, shutting the door behind him. “It's late. Why are you still awake?”
“Hm? Oh, ah... I need to, you know, all this...” Shang Qinghua waved his hand vaguely at the piles on his desk. “It's – really very boring, my king, you don't need to trouble yourself with it.”
“I wasn't.” Shang Qinghua straightened as Mobei-jun stopped right behind his seat. He picked the brush up again and fidgeted with it. His shoulders were tense; Mobei-jun dropped his hands to them and squeezed. “Nor should you. Surely none of this is so important it can't be left for daylight.”
“Yeah, daylight, when there'll be a million other stupid things to do,” Shang Qinghua muttered. He pinched between his brows and rolled his shoulders, shook Mobei-jun off. Just go sleep, my king. I'll get this done quicker without you nagging me...
Mobei-jun caught the back of Shang Qinghua's robes in his fist and hoisted him to his feet. Shang Qinghua squawked and flailed so Mobei-jun pulled him close, trapping Shang Qinghua's arms between their bodies and wrapping his own around him to keep him still, one around the waist, one across the back. He cupped his palm over Shang Qinghua's nape and gently pressed down.
It was a gesture meant to calm, to soothe, but Shang Qinghua was too agitated and wouldn't be soothed. He squirmed and spat.
“Hey! I need to – fucking let go of me, you--!”
Ah. Cursing. He wasn't excited, so that meant he was feeling a large amount of stress. Mobei-jun adjusted him more comfortably in his arms, held him tighter, and waited.
Shang Qinghua pushed against his chest, his small body stiff with resistance.
Mobei-jun started counting down from ten in his head. As he reached zero, Shang Qinghua let out a wobbly sigh. All the steel thawed from his spine and he melted against Mobei-jun, dropping his head to his collar. His cheeks were very warm where they pressed into the bare skin of Mobei-jun's chest.
Small arms snuck under Mobei-jun's cloak to clasp around his waist. Mobei-jun balanced his footing, let Shang Qinghua lean all his weight into him.
They stood there like that for a while.
Two writing brushes were pinning the mussed bundle of Shang Qinghua's hair back from his face. Mobei-jun plucked them out and set them on the desk. Shang Qinghua's hair drooped around his shoulders, as limp and tired as the rest of him. Mobei-jun set about neatening it with careful strokes of his claws through the strands.
Shang Qinghua hummed. He sounded on the verge of sleep.
“Qinghua.” Mobei-jun pinched his cheek. “Bed.”
Shang Qinghua wrinkled his nose and grumbled. He batted Mobei-jun's hand away and tottered over to the bed, falling into it face first. He was already dressed down to socks and inner robes; he must have prepared for bed and then gotten distracted, and ended up working all night.
His thin robes had slipped up to expose a sliver of soft, pale thigh.
Mobei-jun closed his eyes and breathed out slow and deliberate, pushing down the rising hunger that always simmered inside him, eager to devour.
Patience. Patience. This separation would be over soon enough, and then he would feast.
He kicked off his boots, dropped his cloak and outer robes to the floor and blew out the candle.
He clambered into the narrow bed behind Shang Qinghua, curling around the shape of him in the dark, and pulled the covers over them both.
Shang Qinghua's scent enveloped him. His warmth.
His arm slid back around Shang Qinghua's waist. Shang Qinghua covered it with his own, slotted their fingers together over his chest. Mobei-jun tucked him close and buried his nose in his hair.
“How long more of this,” he murmured.
Shang Qinghua sighed. “Well, the peak competition is in two days, and then we'll need a day after that to tidy up, so, three? Three more days.”
“When you left you said it would take two weeks,” Mobei-jun grumbled. It had been almost four.
“It should have! But there was an explosion on Zui Xian Peak – fireworks got taken there by mistake, long story – and hundreds of wine barrels went up in flames, and can you hold an event without any alcohol? No! You can't! It would be an even huger disaster than normal! So then we had to rush to find suppliers who could deliver bulk orders on a short timescale, and that meant everything else got delayed, and--” Another heavy sigh. “It's all been. A lot.”
“...I'm sorry it's taken so long, my king.”
“Haha, okay okay, husband.”
Mobei-jun found the curve of Shang Qinghua's ear beneath his lips and nipped it lightly. “You'll come home soon,” he mumbled.
“Yeah. Yeah, I'll be home.” There was something odd about Shang Qinghua's voice, something throaty and soft, but Mobei-jun was drifting off and couldn't make sense of it. Maybe it had been his imagination. “Goodnight, husband. I'll see you in the morning.”