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By the time Shen Qingqiu found the entrance to the naga’s lair, the sun had started to set. He cleared the overgrowth from the entrance of the tunnel carefully, peering down into the darkness. The toss of a nearby pebble told him the path was long and steep. Common sense told him it would be incredibly stupid to venture down alone. Shen Qingqiu glanced at the sky. He took a moment to reason with himself -- if he turned back now, it would be dark before he made it back to the last little river town he’d passed through, and he wasn’t sure how receptive the villagers would be of him the second time around -- before he swept his sleeves decisively out of the way. 

Shen Qingqiu had to take the journey slowly. One wrong move and he would tumble all the way down. He was able to shuffle his feet down the first portion, but after that the incline increased dramatically, so he had to sit and let gravity pull him down, keeping his feet planted firmly on the smooth surface to control his descent. He was glad none of his peers were here to watch lofty Division Head Shen descend in as close an approximation to a crab-walk as he could allow himself to do. He was sure he looked ridiculous, but needs must and all that. His path was lit sporadically by clumps of hanging moss that sprouted thin bioluminescent spores. He was glad for their light but avoided touching them. He’d learned that lesson one too many times. 

Eventually, Shen Qingqiu reached the end of the tunnel. He peered over the edge, relieved to find the ground wasn’t too far down. He slipped from the mouth of the tunnel, his light landing echoing across solid stone. Shen Qingqiu stayed in place for a moment, ears strained, but he was met with only silence. He’d dropped into what seemed to be an endless abyss, the only light the dim glow of the tunnel behind him. He turned his palm up in the air, forming a small ball of qi in his hand. It sparked with a dull, green glow, illuminating the path before him. Gray, stone floors stretched out toward the darkness, tangled weeds and moss growing up from the cracks and crevices between them. Stone pillars were hidden beneath creeping vines, their empty sconces rusted through. The ceiling was high enough above him that it was lost to darkness, the air warm and utterly still around him. He had the distinct feeling he was further underground than he’d thought he was.

He couldn’t stand in the entryway forever. His footsteps echoed across the stone floors as he passed through the columns. Shadows were chased away by the torchlight hovering above his palm, revealing more of the same gray scenery. Shen Qingqiu turned and strode in a new direction with the same result. He didn’t feel as if he’d entered a maze, but the room, for lack of a better word, seemed as large as his bamboo forest back home. Eventually, Shen Qingqiu began to feel the melancholy drag of failure creeping over him. He was diligent in his studies, but diligence didn’t make him infallible. According to what few texts they were mentioned in, naga traditionally followed a seasonal schedule: hibernate during winter, mate during spring, gorge themselves during summer, rinse, repeat. It was entirely too dangerous to approach one in the summer, and was plain stupid in the spring, but before that? In the days that didn't quite fit into either season? This was Shen Qingqiu's chance. His calculations should have meant the naga was wide awake, shaking off its lethargy and setting up safeguards around its lair for the time it would be away, ideally amenable to a few questions, but at least not ready to descend into a lust-fueled or murderous rage. Of course, if it had woken early, it might have already departed, striking out to search for food or companionship. It was even possible that the villagers that had pointed him this way were mistaken about it being a monster's den. The tunnel could have been made by some other creature, or the naga could have migrated away long ago, or been slain by some hunter or greater beast.  

Shen Qingqiu lowered his hand, wondering if he should return to the surface and try again in the morning, when something nearly hidden in the darkness caught his eye. He moved cautiously closer, encouraging his little flame to float forward and light the way. Its green glow uncovered the thin, coiled end of an obsidian tail. Shen Qingqiu stepped carefully over it as he followed its long, winding path. He was quickly led to what he could only describe as a messy heap of scaled coils. Shen Qingqiu kept his distance this time, letting his light float overhead as he dug his field journal out from his sleeve, keeping a wary eye on the mass. He licked his forefinger, ready to flip through it until he reached the first blank page, eager to jot down every detail of the vague red pattern he could faintly see on the scales, when the fine hairs on the back of his neck stood on end. 

Shen Qingqiu lifted his gaze slowly. There, just above the looming pile, were two red eyes peering at him from the darkness. 

Despite Shen Qingqiu’s lifelong study of creatures of all kinds, his immediate instinct was to turn and flee. It was a knee-jerk reaction, evolution reminding Shen Qingqiu that there were still creatures far above humans on the food chain. The more grounded part of his brain reasoned that he hadn’t come all this way just to run, and wouldn’t that just make things worse? But Shen Qingqiu wasn’t listening to either argument. He was rooted in place as the coils before him shifted, the sound like summer rain falling over him. He didn’t feel afraid. He felt-.

Mesmerized. 

Slowly, a humanoid shape rose from the scaled mass. One smooth arm draped over the tail, followed by a second, shiny red scales flickering on the skin like scattered freckles. Long, dark hair was pinned up by an ornate crown, the beaded tassels on either side of the pin swaying with each subtle movement the creature made. Its - or, rather, his? - complexion was enviable, as smooth and pale as jade, except for two conspicuous spots on his very bare chest that Shen Qingqiu immediately tried to avoid staring at. Head tilted to the side, the naga looked like a lethargic young master rising from bed. He blinked slowly, sleepily, eyes narrowed in Shen Qingqiu’s direction as if he wasn’t sure what he was seeing was real. 

Sheng Qingqiu blinked right back, feeling similarly. He was torn. On one hand...there was a naga here! That was great! On the other… Shen Qingqiu had decided the risk of exploration was worth taking because even if he was wrong, the worst-case scenario was that the naga was gone. Not this! Beasts didn’t oversleep! They ran on incredibly accurate internal clocks for this sort of thing! It was biological! If Shen Qingqiu had thought there was even a chance it was still in hibernation he would never have come searching for it! Never wake a beast from its slumber . Shen Qingqiu had been taught that from the moment he’d joined the guild. He even taught his own students that. While he believed beasts were more than their base instincts, he knew they were far more prone to them if they were disturbed, by, say, waking up with a stranger standing in their lair not two feet from where they’d been peacefully slumbering. If Shen Qingqiu was lucky, the naga would be angry. If he was unlucky, the naga would be angry and hungry.  

No, Shen Qingqiu’s mind helpfully reminded him, There was a third thing. 

...Yeah. Alright. That third thing. There was no getting around it. This close to spring, the naga might also be, ah, needing to deal with certain urges. Of the mating nature. And. There were, allegedly, people within the guild that had certain reputations when it came to the handling of such urges. But Shen Qingqiu wasn’t like that! He wasn’t like Liu Qingge, who attracted monsters like a particularly good-looking magnet -- and Shen Qingqiu would have been convinced he used his looks as a lure just to find himself bigger, better creatures to slay for fun if only he had the faintest idea of his own appeal -- and he definitely wasn’t like Shang Qinghua, who spent half his time as part of a greater dragon’s treasure hoard. He was Shen Qingqiu: dignified scholar and excellent field researcher. He was-. He was-. 

He was being looked at like he would make a very satisfying appetizer. Yet, the naga didn’t look like he was readying himself for an attack. He’d settled back into his coils, one arm still hanging down while the other was tucked under his chin, his elbow hiding the lower half of his face from view. His eyelids kept lowering, giving Shen Qingqiu the impression he was trying very hard not to fall back to sleep. Or Shen Qingqiu was misreading the entire situation and he was waiting for the perfect moment to strike. 

Maybe it was wishful thinking, but Shen Qingqiu was willing to take that chance. He closed his field guide slowly, then tucked it under his arm so he could bring his hands together and bow politely. He was unsure if the naga would recognize the elevated formality, but it couldn't hurt. “Hello.”

There was no answer. At least, there wasn’t at first. The naga stared at him, apprehension warring with what Shen Qingqiu hoped was curiosity. Then: “Hello.” Soft. Deep. A very pleasant sort of voice. Not what Shen Qingqiu had been expecting at all. 

Shen Qingqiu cleared his throat. “Did I wake you?” 

Another slow blink. “Yes.” 

Normally, Shen Qingqiu might have felt it was the creature’s own fault for oversleeping. Instead, looking at that drowsy face, he felt a nagging sense of guilt. “My apologies,” he said sincerely. “I wasn’t sure you’d be here.” 

Those red eyes narrowed. 

“I’d hoped to find you on the surface,” Shen Qingqiu added quickly so that the naga wouldn’t assume the worst. Opportunists were a dime a dozen; Shen Qingqiu had met his share of thrill-seekers that thought empty lairs were easy pickings. “But I suppose this works just as well.” 

“You…” that pleasant voice was tinged with confusion “...were looking for me?” 

“Yes. I’m from the Cang Qiong Mountain Guild-.”

That brief vulnerability lapsed immediately. Shen Qingqiu watched with, admittedly, no small amount of fascination as the loose coil of the naga’s tail seemed to tighten all over, fraught with tension. He was familiar with the guild, then. That was disappointing. Diplomacy was much more difficult when Shen Qingqiu had to clean up the messes his peers had left behind. He could claim not everyone in the guild was as battle crazy as the Bai Zhan division, but if a creature had already met them, it was like arguing that because a particular poison hadn’t killed you that first time it was totally fine to take another swig. Guardedly, the naga said, “You don’t usually introduce yourselves before attacking me.” 

“Ah. Yes.” Shen Qingqiu shifted. “My colleagues can be…” 

The naga stared at him. 

"Bullheaded," he finally said. It was a more generous description than he tended to give them. Barring Liu Qingge, who could at least be reasoned with some of the time, the kids the Bai Zhan division tended to pick up were battle-crazed and mannerless, much to Shen Qingqiu's frustration. “They rarely think before they act. If they’ve harmed you or any of your kin, there are-.”

“I have no kin,” the naga interrupted, sounding defensive. He set his chin down on his arm. “If you're not here to fight, then why are you here?"

“Ah.” Shen Qingqiu hurried to introduce himself and explain the finer points of his job. As the head of the Qing Jing division, it was his responsibility to collect any and all data possible on the various creatures that lived in the world. He believed that by imparting such knowledge, humans and beasts could find some sort of common ground. Foster better communication. Achieve some version of peace between the species. 

The expression on the naga’s face went through several changes as Shen Qingqiu spoke. He looked dubious at first, but Shen Qingqiu’s geuine passion turned that doubt into tentative interest. That interest became more prominent as Shen Qingqiu slipped into a tangent about his hope to one day publish and widely distribute a manual that might serve as a mediatory guide of sorts. That look blossomed into something briefly breathtaking before shuttering back, turning into hesitation as Shen Qingqiu finished his lengthy introduction. “You don’t think all beasts are unpardonably evil?” 

“Of course not,” Shen Qingqiu said immediately. “There are good and bad humans, aren’t there? Why wouldn’t it be the same for beasts?” 

“Oh.”

Was it Shen Qingqiu or did the naga look a bit misty-eyed? “Don’t you think so?” 

“Mm.” The naga tapped his fingers together, then stopped when he seemed to realize what he was doing. “I’m... This one is called Luo Binghe, Division Head Shen.” 

Shen Qingqiu waved his hand dismissively. “No need to be so formal. You can simply call me by name.” It wasn’t as if Luo Binghe was one of his students. How did he come by his name, anyway? It was surprisingly human. On the few occasions a beast's name could be said in a human tongue, it usually referenced great feats or the territory they'd claimed.

“Shen … Qingqiu.” 

On second thought, maybe it would be better if Luo Binghe called him by title. It was more professional. It wouldn't send the same kind of shiver down his spine. Of course, Shen Qingqiu couldn't say that. It would be impolite. He would just … suffer. 

Still, despite the fact that Luo Binghe’s voice caused Shen Qingqiu’s stomach to twist itself into knots, talking with him was no chore. He was extremely forthcoming, answering each of Shen Qingqiu’s questions in what others might consider excruciating detail, but Shen Qingqiu was riveted by. He had no shortage of his own questions either; Luo Binghe was apparently just as interested in humans as Shen Qingqiu was in beasts. Though...Luo Binghe’s questions seemed oddly targeted. He didn’t seem to care too much about culture or traditions or the fundamental differences between their species that Shen Qingqiu found so fascinating. No. Instead, Luo Binghe wanted to know all about Shen Qingqiu. Where was he from? When did he join his guild? How long had he been teaching other humans to be compassionate toward beasts? Had Shen Qingqiu encountered many different beasts on his travels? How many exactly? What did he think of them? Had he spent as much time speaking with them as he was with Luo Binghe? Shen Qingqiu was sure he was answering far more questions about himself than he was asking Luo Binghe about hunting patterns and preferred climates, but he found he didn’t mind. It was worth it to watch Luo Binghe light up over little, tedious details about himself that Shen Qingqiu had never thought of as anything particularly special. 

He wasn’t sure how long they spoke. He’d had to recast his palm-torch a handful of times until Luo Binghe finally waved a hand and the sconces on each column in the underground lair burst into flame. He’d paced relentlessly while scribbling in his field journal, stumbling into the end of Luo Binghe’s tail so often that he shifted from apologizing each time to absently patting it, committing its placement to memory, then somehow doing it all over again. Eventually, Luo Binghe shifted a substantial mass of his tail and offered it as a seat for Shen Qingqiu, who adamantly refused -- he couldn’t sit on Luo Binghe! -- until the silly snake looked like he might take Shen Qingqiu’s rejection personally and start to cry. 

So Shen Qingqiu sat. It was nothing like the cushioned daybed he lounged on back home. Luo Binghe's tail was firm and cool, taking his weight easily and holding strong. It was better than continuing to stand, at any rate. As their conversation continued, he found himself writing less and less of Luo Binghe’s answers in his journal, pulled into the easy flow of Luo Binghe’s apparent desire to get to know each other as people rather than as representatives for their species. Beloved as his notes were, they wound up all but forgotten as Shen Qingqiu simply enjoyed their exchange. He chatted openly with Luo Binghe as he scratched his blunt nails back and forth over his scales, happy that Luo Binghe didn’t seem to mind the petting. He seemed overjoyed to answer questions about his personal life, isolated as it was. His parents had raised him in this underground palace -- to which, Shen Qingqiu assumed by the title alone there must be much more of it he hadn’t yet discovered, so why was Luo Binghe sleeping in the entrance hall of all places? -- until he was old enough to be on his own. It wasn’t exactly a warm family, like in human storybooks, but it was rather standard for his kind. His human (!!) father, a man with self-proclaimed eccentric tastes, had fallen in love with his mother at first sight and pursued her relentlessly and was still apparently pursuing her now, following her around from lair to lair, writing songs about her beauty and grace and unflinching violence. His mother, Su Xiyan -- the Su Xiyan, arguably the most famous naga in the world! Shen Qingqiu had devoured the stories about her when he was young! His favorite had been the origin of her human name. One day, while hunting, she'd-. Well. Shen Qingqiu could reminisce about the legends later -- had named Luo Binghe for the river he’d been born beside, much to his father’s disappointment, who’d wanted as peculiar a name as possible for his son. They visited Luo Binghe from time to time, but the conversation topic usually turned to a subject that Luo Binghe wouldn’t disclose. It left him looking embarrassed at whatever memory they’d sparked in him, so the subject was quickly changed. 

Minutes or hours later, Shen Qingqiu began to notice a faint twitch beneath him. Luo Binghe was still wholly focused on their conversation but his eyes kept drifting down, focusing somewhere between Shen Qingqiu’s nose and chin, and each time, his tail would subtly spasm beneath Shen Qingqiu like he was shaking off a thought, or shaking himself out of some stupor. Shen Qingqiu ignored it at first, but after several more times wherein he was nearly shaken off Luo Binghe’s tail entirely, he asked, “Are you alright?”

“Yes. I’m fine.”

Not at all believable. Had Luo Binghe ever lied to anyone before? Didn’t he know he couldn’t immediately drop his gaze like that? “You’re not.”

At least Luo Binghe had the decency to look sheepish about being caught out. “...But I want to keep talking.”

Oh. How sweet. Shen Qingqiu felt a little … charmed, actually. His peers tended to see him as acerbic and argumentative or bookish and strange. When he wasn’t pouring over some text in the library, he was wandering the world on his own. It was actually kind of nice, this whole conversation thing. Still, Shen Qingqiu studied Luo Binghe through narrowed eyes. He didn’t seem ill. Uncomfortable, perhaps? They’d been talking for so long like this. Maybe he needed to stretch out? It couldn’t be comfortable to be weighed down by Shen Qingqiu for this long. Or restless? His tail fidgeted beneath Shen Qingqiu and his fingers seemed to twitch every time Shen Qingqiu glanced at them. 

“I’m okay,” Luo Binghe said again. “I’m just a little... Um.” He hunched his shoulders, pink-cheeked. “I was trying to sleep through the season.” 

“The season?”

“Spring.”

Shen Qingqiu blinked. His mind was slow to connect the dots, but when it did-. “O-oh.” 

“Mm.” 

Shen Qingqiu looked up at Luo Binghe curiously. “You can do that?” 

Luo Binghe nodded silently, still looking sheepish. 

And Shen Qingqiu had interrupted him. Just bumbled right on in while Luo Binghe had been trying to avoid his biological urges. His guilt from before had nothing on this. Mating season was a big deal for beasts of any kind, but he imagined it was doubly so for creatures that lived in isolation the way Luo Binghe did. Why was he trying to sleep through it? Were there no suitable candidates nearby? ...Well. That wasn’t so bad? It was probably a good thing Shen Qingqiu had woken him. Now Luo Binghe could slither on up to the surface and go find himself a companion. Regardless of what the naga considered desirable, Luo Binghe’s human half was sure to turn heads. Shen Qingqiu supposed the rest of him wasn’t bad either. His scales were pleasing to look at. His tail was … long? Flexible? Strong? Shen Qingqiu wasn’t an expert here. “There aren’t any young ladies you have your eye on?” 

Luo Binghe seemed to shudder. “No.” 

No? But Luo Binghe was nearly a perfect specimen? So, if the problem wasn’t him, then… “What’s wrong with them, then?” 

Luo Binghe muttered, “Big. Hard.” He made a face. “Clingy.” 

Of course they were! Even Shen Qingqiu knew that female naga far outclassed males in half a dozen categories. They were larger, fiercer, and more territorial. Some were even rumored to be cannibalistic, which, yeah, okay, now that Shen Qingqiu was thinking about it he could see why there would be a lack of interest there. But that was how they’d evolved! Shen Qingqiu would have assumed that, biologically, that was the sort of thing they found desirable in a mate. The way Luo Binghe acted, it was like he thought they were closer to bullies than potential partners. He sounded like a scandalized maiden! 

Shen Qingqiu eyed him surreptitiously and cleared his throat. “So, then, what does Luo Binghe like?”

“...Small,” Luo Binghe said. “Soft.” 

“Well,” Shen Qingqiu began, “I don’t mean to make generalizations, but I think you’ll have some difficulty finding that among your kind.” He would have to lower his standards. Or listen to his instincts a bit more closely. “And since you’re awake now, isn’t this a bit of a pressing matter?” Luo Binghe had just been letting him yammer on! “There must be someone you like enough to … you know…” After all, wasn’t it a universal rule that beautiful people were never lacking in love interests? If Luo Binghe had had a bad personality, that would be one thing, but he was totally approachable! He was an attentive listener! Charming and cute! Shen Qingqiu had met several young women during his travels that would make a stunning vision at Luo Binghe’s side. Of course, Luo Binghe was the first naga he'd met, but Shen Qingqiu knew a handful of spirit foxes...a dragoness...even an ifrit! Though...now that Shen Qingqiu thought about it, he wasn't sure any of their aggressive personalities would suit someone as innocent as Luo Binghe, either. It just-. Wasn't it unfair that someone like Luo BInghe was hiding out here alone while the rest of his kind got to party it up together? 

“Not among my kind,” Luo Binghe repeated slowly, interrupting Shen Qingqiu’s thoughts. He blinked at Shen Qingqiu. “...Are all humans so tiny?” 

“No,” Shen Qingqiu said, a little annoyed with the sudden change in subject. What about him was tiny? He was perfectly average-sized. There was an equal number of people looking down on him as there were looking up to him.

“Just Shen Qingqiu, then?” 

“Excuse me?” 

“You’re small,” Luo Binghe said, sounding awed. “You’re soft.” 

Oh no. “That’s-.” 

“You’re interested?” 

Oh no. “No! I mean, I guess maybe from a research standpoint, but-.”

Luo Binghe frowned. “But you were asking so many questions-” 

“I’m a scholar-.” 

“-about me.” 

Luo Binghe looked like he was going to cry. Shen Qingqiu was going to have to watch this giant snake burst into tears. His lip was wobbling and everything! Shen Qingqiu couldn’t do that to him. He couldn’t handle it. Hurriedly, he said, “Yes. Yes, okay? Yes.” 

“Yes?” Luo Binghe asked hesitantly.

“I find Luo Binghe interesting,” Shen Qingqiu said vaguely. 

It was hardly a glowing compliment, but Luo Binghe blossomed like a sunflower under the midday sky. His eyes seemed to lighten, the warm red of them reminding Shen Qingqiu of the sky just before the sun disappeared below the horizon. His tail seemed to vibrate beneath Shen Qingqiu, not so much that he was in danger of slipping off, but enough that it was clear Luo Binghe was failing to restrain himself. “Me too!” he said. “I find Shen Qingqiu very interesting!”

“Ah. Thank you, I suppose-.”

“You’re very elegant. And kind. You’ve traveled to so many places! And you’re-”

It was a charitable description of him despite its inaccuracy. Shen Qingqiu was sure if Luo Binghe had known him more than a single day, he’d also throw lazy, petty, and slightly vindictive in the mix. 

“-beautiful,” Luo Binghe breathed. 

Shen Qingqiu’s casual rejection in his throat. Luo Binghe was looking at him with naked affection, so genuine that Shen Qingqiu itched to find something to hide behind. He had nothing but his field journal, though, and it made a measly shield when he hid his traitorous mouth behind it. It was all over if Luo Binghe saw him smile. He tried to look disgruntled as he peered at Luo Binghe but he wasn’t sure it worked. “That’s kind of you to say,” he managed, “but humans don’t usually, ah, do such intimate things with people they just met.” 

Luo Binghe blinked. “They do in books.” 

Well. Luo Binghe had him there. Not just in books, either. Brothels existed, after all. “Humans are all different though…”

Luo Binghe nodded as if Shen Qingqiu was only proving his point. “I haven’t met any humans like Shen Qingqiu.” 

Shen Qingqiu blinked warily. “Right…”

Luo Binghe finally seemed to catch on to his reluctance. “Do you not want to?” 

How could a grown beast sound so heartbroken over such a simple thing? What gave him the right? “It’s not that.” It was kind of that, though. Shen Qingqiu wasn’t sure he could say he was completely uninterested -- he’d have to be made of ice to be so boldly propositioned by someone with a face as handsome as Luo Binghe’s and feel nothing -- but Shen Qingqiu hadn’t set out with seduction in mind. Yet, if he kept walking back his words, what was Luo Binghe supposed to think? “It’s complicated?” he tried. 

Luo Binghe looked crestfallen. “Because I’m not human.”

“No! No, it’s not that! Plenty of humans would still-.” Shen Qingqiu cut himself off with a sigh. This back-and-forth was giving him a headache. Okay. He could figure this out. On one hand, Shen Qingqiu did not want his reputation to join the likes of Shang Qinghua. On the other hand, Luo Binghe seemed sincere in his interest. And. It was kind of Shen Qingqiu’s fault that he was in need anyway, so shouldn’t he be the one to fix it? And Luo Binghe was so earnest. It felt like a physical blow each time Shen Qingqiu rejected him, no matter how gently he was trying to do it. Shen Qingqiu hadn’t expected to feel guilty about it. It wasn't as if he had an endless list of suitors, but he'd never felt guilty when rebuffing any of them. Mostly Shen Qingqiu had just been annoyed that they'd interrupted him to ask such a pointless question. But Shen Qingqiu didn't want to see that same disappointment on Luo Binghe's face any longer. It didn't belong there. 

So. 

Maybe.

Just this once

Shen Qingqiu swallowed. His instinct was to continue stalling, but if he was going to do this, the only question left on his mind was whether they’d be biologically compatible, and Luo Binghe answered that question with his existence alone. Shen Qingqiu rubbed at his forehead, then set his journal aside. “I don’t do things like this.” 

Luo Binghe nodded sullenly. 

“Luo Binghe should keep that in mind,” he said. “That I don’t do with just anybody.” Or ever. “Understand?” 

Another depressing nod. 

Shen Qingqiu nodded, satisfied that Luo Binghe wouldn’t think Shen Qingqiu just went roaming around the countryside looking for a quick romp. He crossed his legs primly and turned up his head. “Well?” 

Luo Binghe blinked at him. 

“Aren’t you going to kiss me?” 

“Really?” Luo Binghe asked, voice wavering. 

“Yes-”

Shen Qingqiu didn’t have a lot of experience, but he was pretty sure kissing involved less lunging. And fewer fangs. Luo Binghe’s tongue was longer than Shen Qingqiu expected and felt slightly forked. It was flexible, too, wrapping around his and squeezing. Luo Binghe didn’t seem to mind when their mouths clashed awkwardly or their teeth clacked together. He nipped and bit a little too eagerly, sparking a flash of pain that made Shen Qingqiu grunt. Shen Qingqiu wasn’t keen on letting go of Luo Binghe’s tail and falling to the ground, but this was too much, okay? They could do better. He lifted his hand slowly, to keep his balance, and brought it to the sharp curve of Luo Binghe’s jaw. He cradled it in his hand, gently turning Luo Binghe’s head until it was tilted at a better angle. “Softer,” Shen Qingqiu mumbled against Luo Binghe’s lips. “Don’t bite.” 

Luo Binghe hummed and licked the seam of Shen Qingqiu’s lips before kissing him again. It was better this time. Luo Binghe didn’t keep his teeth entirely out of the mix, but the subtle hint of them made something hot curl up in Shen Qingqiu’s chest. And as it turned out, Luo Binghe was a fast learner. Every kiss was better than the one that came before it. The slide of Luo Binghe’s tongue only grew wetter, and bolder, and deeper, reaching places that Shen Qingqiu hadn't thought it should be able to. He wasn’t deep-throating Luo Binghe’s tongue, but, well, it was near enough to make buzzing waves of embarrassment run through his body. Shen Qingqiu felt like his head was spinning. Oh. His head was spinning. He broke away from Luo Binghe to gasp for air, the hazy sheen to his vision ebbing away with each breath. Luo Binghe didn’t wait long before launching himself at Shen Qingqiu once more. He kept the kisses shorter this time, dotted with plenty of opportunities for Shen Qingqiu to breathe. One of his hands found Shen Qingqiu’s wrist and tugged it away from his face, trailing it down his body in a clear invitation to touch before settling it below the place where his navel met his tail. Shen Qingqiu kept his hand there, not confident enough to feel around the way Luo Binghe was doing. His hands were everywhere. On Shen Qingqiu’s face. His shoulders. Twining through his fingers. Squeezing his waist. Slowly running up his thighs. Luo Binghe couldn’t get enough. 

Though. There was one thing Shen Qingqiu couldn’t help but notice. “How-.” He swallowed his mortification at having to ask. “How does this work? For you?” Luo Binghe didn’t seem to have, ah, any genitalia at the moment, though cursory research told Shen Qingqiu that wasn’t a permanent state. Shen Qingqiu didn’t know exactly how this worked for his species, much less what might have to be changed for a naga and human to come together. 

“It. Um. Comes out.” Luo Binghe didn’t sound unsure but his tone didn’t inspire confidence. He looked hesitant, worried. 

“From where?” Shen Qingqiu asked. 

Luo Binghe looked down at where he’d placed Shen Qingqiu’s palm. “Oh,” Shen Qingqiu said. Luo Binghe was a bit more forward than he let on, wasn’t he? 

Luo Binghe looked nervous again, so Shen Qingqiu tilted his head back up to kiss him. It worked well as a distraction. Luo Binghe was happy to devour him again, picking up right where he’d left off. It was easy to lose himself in the press of Luo Binghe’s mouth. He wasn’t sure how long they were at it before the scales beneath his hand began to shift and something smooth and blunt nudged into his palm. Shen Qingqiu tried to duck his head to watch but Luo Binghe pulled him into a deep, wet kiss. Shen Qingqiu made a tiny, disapproving noise in his throat at the presumption -- did Luo Binghe think he wouldn’t want to study that, too? -- but he didn’t relent. Instead, Shen Qingqiu was treated to being thoroughly devoured as his hand was nudged aside by something solid and hot. Was it kind of sexy that Luo Binghe could suck on his tongue like that? Sure. Did Shen Qingqiu have a bit more interest in seeing what was probably about to be inside him? Absolutely. 

With a bit of maneuvering, Shen Qingqiu managed to break away from Luo Binghe’s aggressive kiss, offering up his neck as a substitute. When Luo Binghe took the bait, Shen Qingqiu dropped his gaze between them and stopped short. He tried not to stare. He was a professional, after all. Luo Binghe had already revealed that he was a little nervous about their obvious species-related differences and Shen Qingqiu didn’t want to make him feel judged but-. Well. Ah. Luo Binghe was… His dick was...

Wow. 

It emerged from a slit not too far below where Luo Binghe’s waist transitioned from skin to scale. Or. Rather. They emerged. Because Luo Binghe didn’t have one massive pillar. He had two. Shen Qingqiu felt faint. Once, a long time ago, Shang Qinghua had dragged him out for drinks and told him in a sagely voice that some people just wanted to fuck monsters. He’d said it so matter-of-factly that when, months later, the news of his draconic affair was made public, Shen Qingqiu hadn’t been at all surprised. But he hadn’t understood it then and he didn’t understand it now. Two dicks? Two giant dicks? How was that appealing? How was that even survivable?? 

They were stacked on top of each other, the top one admittedly smaller than the bottom one--but even so, the small one was still bigger than Shen Qingqiu’s! Both had deep red tips that were wet and drooling. Both gradually darkened to an obsidian hue that matched Luo Binghe’s scales. But the second, bigger pillar seemed to have an additional swell at its base, making it seem monstrous in comparison to its twin. They were easily the largest pillars Shen Qingqiu had ever seen. Alone, they were each substantial, but together

And Luo Binghe wanted to put those inside him? 

“They won’t fit,” Shen Qingqiu said immediately. 

Luo Binghe detached himself from Shen Qingqiu’s throat and followed his gaze. “Yes, they will,” he said. 

“They won’t.”

“...But they have to?” 

Virgin! Luo Binghe was a total virgin! He was clearly not speaking from experience. Shen Qingqiu might have been right there with him, but he could do basic calculations. Two huge pillars + one tiny opening ≠ pleasure. 

“No.” 

“But-.” 

“No.” 

There it was again. That quivering bottom lip. Those misty eyes. “But-.” 

“Absolutely not.” 

“But Shen Qingqiu said I could,” Luo Binghe mumbled. 

What a brat! Ugh. Shen Qingqiu was not normally weak to that kind of behavior. What was it about Luo Binghe that made him so susceptible? That voice? That face? The whole package? He sighed. “...One .” 

Those gray clouds vanished. Luo Binghe nodded eagerly and determinedly.

“Be careful.” 

“I will!”  

“Use your fingers first. Don’t just shove it in.”

“Mm!” 

Shen Qingqiu sighed, feeling swindled. He slid off Luo Binghe’s tail, ignoring the brief look of dismay on that pretty face, and set to work undressing himself. It was a bit … embarrassing. He’d never been self-conscious about his body before. Growing up within the guild meant getting used to casual nudity in shared quarters. Then again, Shen Qingqiu had never wanted to fuck any of his guildmates, so. He turned away to untie his robes, but Luo Binghe crept around to watch, continuing to circle Shen Qingqiu until he was surrounded by that long tail on all sides. “Binghe.”

“I want to see,” Luo Binghe said. 

Shen Qingqiu sighed and relented. It was best just to do it quickly, like throwing back medicine. He couldn’t doubt himself too many times that way. If Luo Binghe thought he looked weird… well, he just wouldn’t ask. There. Easy solution. Shen Qingqiu avoided his gaze as he stripped out of his robes, trying not to fumble. He wasn’t aware of the image he made, the coy flash of pale skin beneath his layers demanding Luo Binghe’s attention. By the time Shen Qingqiu was bare, Luo Binghe was gripping his tail with white knuckles, shifting like a child that had been told to sit still and wait for dessert. Shen Qingqiu looked at him warily. Luo Binghe didn’t say anything … though, he didn’t really have to. His eyes were wide and dark, jumping all over Shen Qingqiu’s body before they settled between his legs. 

Shen Qingqiu didn’t blush. He didn’t. “Well?” He snapped. 

He shouldn’t have. Luo Binghe mistook his deflection for impatience. He pulled Shen Qingqiu to him roughly, toppling him over so that he landed in a clumsy pile on Luo Binghe’s lap. Shen Qingqiu scrambled for purchase along Luo Binghe’s sides but there was none to be found. Only smooth, dry scales covering surging muscle. He managed to right himself by straddling the thick body of Luo Binghe’s tail, thighs spread wide and ass seated firmly on twitching muscle. Luo Binghe barely waited for him to balance himself before he was reaching out and wrapping his fingers around Shen Qingqiu’s half-hard pillar. Shen Qingqiu felt his mouth drop open, a little shocked moan tumbling out of his throat.  

“So small,” Luo Binghe marveled. 

Shen Qingqiu had half a mind to whack him over the head. “It is not!” 

“It fits in my hand.” 

It didn’t. Luo Binghe could wrap his fingers around it, but it wasn’t like he covered the whole thing up! “It’s not too small,” Shen Qingqiu muttered. “You’re just too big.” 

Luo Binghe hummed nonchalantly. He clearly didn’t agree with Shen Qingqiu. He stroked him a few times, the dry friction of his palm not painful, but not particularly pleasant. Shen Qingqiu batted his hand away, only for Luo Binghe to shift his tail up and send Shen Qingqiu sliding forward. He braced himself on Luo Binghe’s shoulders, kneeling precariously above those proud pillars. The thin end of Luo Binghe’s tail curled around his ankle, wrapping itself around and around until it tickled the back of Shen Qingqiu’s knee. One of Luo Binghe’s hands steadied his waist, but the other...

It shouldn’t have been enticing to watch Luo Binghe drool all over his fingers. It wasn’t . Except. Shen Qingqiu couldn’t look away. His saliva was thicker than a human’s would be, sort of viscous and shining with an opalescent sheen. Shen Qingqiu’s stomach clenched as Luo Binghe wiggled his fingers together, spreading his spit between them. He had a sinking feeling that he didn’t know what he’d considered enticing before now. Luo Binghe seemed to be hitting a lot of buttons he hadn’t known he’d had. 

He flinched away when Luo Binghe’s finger dipped behind his stones. Luo Binghe reeled him back in, his tail tugging on Shen Qingqiu’s leg until it was pulled wide open. Shen Qingqiu squirmed as best he could in Luo Binghe’s grip as the slick pads of his fingers rubbed across his hole, an involuntary noise slipping from him. Luo Binghe ate it up, putting the slightest bit of pressure behind his movements, the tips of his fingers catching on Shen Qingqiu’s rim with every other pass, teasing without pushing inside. 

“Binghe!” Shen Qingqiu tried to frown sternly. He imagined the effect was ruined by his heated cheeks. “Do it already!”

There was a brief flash of discomfort from the sudden intrusion that pulled a grunt from Shen Qingqiu’s throat before it faded, replaced by an unfamiliar sensation that swept through the lower half of his body like a tingling wave. Shen Qingqiu pressed the back of his hand to his mouth preemptively, brows furrowing as his cock stirred between his legs. He hadn’t thought Luo Binghe was a venomous creature, but he felt like his body was under some kind of paralysis. Or … aphrodisiac? He could still move, and Luo Binghe’s fingers weren’t uncomfortable inside him, but they were incredibly present. 

“Oh,” Luo Binghe said, oblivious to Shen Qingqiu’s confusion. “Warm.” 

Shen Qingqiu flushed. “Don’t say that.” 

Luo Binghe blinked those doe eyes at him. “You are, though.”

This brat was going to kill him. Shen Qingqiu ducked his head to escape that earnest expression and closed his eyes. He didn’t know what his face was doing but he doubted it was anything dignified. Luo Binghe’s fingers were longer and slightly thicker than Shen Qingqiu’s own. They could reach so much deeper, able to nestle up against that sensitive spot without any trouble at all. 

Shen Qingqiu kept his mouth firmly covered as Luo Binghe worked those fingers inside him. He couldn’t keep his reaction off his face, though, and felt like a butterfly pinned on a board each time Luo Binghe turned that singular focus to his expression. If Shen Qingqiu so much as furrowed his brow, Luo Binghe changed the angle of his fingers. If Shen Qingqiu’s breath hitched, Luo Binghe paid close attention to the place that had caused it. When Shen Qingqiu was finally panting into his hand, hips grinding down on their own, Luo Binghe withdrew them completely. 

Shen Qingqiu shot him an annoyed look, to which Luo Binghe only smiled. He didn’t yelp when Luo Binghe began to shift again, laying back in a lazy arc so that the bulk of his abdomen could fit snugly between Shen Qingqiu’s legs, the rest of his tail spooled up beneath them. He slid his hands up Shen Qingqiu’s legs, gripping his thighs and arranging Shen Qingqiu the way he wanted. Shen Qingqiu had only a moment to wonder when Luo Binghe had decided to act so spoiled before he felt the first touch of that thick tip to his entrance. Shen Qingqiu had enough time to remember there was no possible way that Luo Binghe was going to fit inside him, but that information was useless now. He wasn’t going anywhere. He wanted to hide, but Luo Binghe was holding him too closely, so all he could do was drop his forehead to Luo Binghe’s chest and clench his jaw in nervous anticipation. 

When Luo Binghe finally pressed in, Shen Qingqiu gasped. He couldn’t help it. Lips parting in a perfect little oh, vision going hazy at the edges. It … didn’t hurt?  It didn’t hurt! How could it not hurt? Luo Binghe was unyielding. He was solid heat, opening Shen Qingqiu up little by little, reaching deeper than it should have been possible to go. He could feel the heavy weight of Luo Binghe inside him, flush against his inner walls, stretching him beyond belief. He could almost feel Luo Binghe in the back of his throat, and he hadn’t stopped yet, still easing inside as Shen Qingqiu shuddered above him. It felt like hours before Luo Binghe finally came to rest, the final swell of his pillar teasing the outside of Shen Qingqiu’s rim. Shen Qingqiu clutched Luo Binghe’s shoulders, dazed.  

Luo Binghe squeezed Shen Qingqiu’s hips. “Look.” 

Shen Qingqiu shook his head. He couldn’t. He wasn’t sure he wanted to know what he looked like down there right now. Luo Binghe’s saliva took away the pain, but a body was still a body, and Shen Qingqiu’s wasn’t built for this. He doubted it was a pretty sight. 

“Look,” Luo Binghe said again. 

Shen Qingqiu cracked his eyes open, peering at Luo Binghe’s pleading face. He looked. His thighs were parted obscenely wide to allow Luo Binghe between them, dry scales rubbing against his sensitive skin. Luo Binghe’s first cock was hard and wet, nestled beside his, leaking more than Shen Qingqiu would have expected. Despite being the smaller of the two, it still dwarfed Shen Qingqiu’s pillar. It seemed to pulse slightly in time with Luo Binghe’s heartbeat, which made it look rather needy in comparison. But. That hadn’t been what Luo Binghe was referring to. Shen Qingqiu blinked hard at the sight before him. Was that-. Was that- ? There was a small, barely-there swell to his belly. Shen Qingqiu stared at it with wide eyes. No, no, no. That couldn’t be real. There was no way that could be real and not have sent Shen Qingqiu into a fit of nausea. He traced over it with shaky fingers, startling at the low moan it pulled from Luo Binghe’s throat.

Shen Qingqiu should have kept his hands to himself. Luo Binghe took his cautious exploration as permission to let loose. He rocked his hips -- sides? Shen Qingqiu didn’t have the presence of mind to deal with naga terminology at the moment -- eagerly, withdrawing and spearing back inside in one long thrust. Shen Qingqiu braced himself for discomfort, but again, none came. Instead, Shen Qingqiu felt dizzy with pleasure as he was stretched open by the hard length. He hadn’t noticed before, concerned as he’d been with the double vision of it all, but there were ridges. They did delicious things to Shen Qingqiu’s insides, sending wave after wave of pleasure to his brain with each thrust. He couldn’t withstand such an assault for long, collapsing into Luo Binghe’s chest with a weak moan. He couldn’t even try to work back against the excited pace Luo Binghe struck up. He could only cling to his neck and take it. Every time Luo Binghe pulled out, Shen Qingqiu’s ears burned from the deafening squelches as his body fought to keep Luo Binghe in place. Every time Luo Binghe pushed back in, the last swell of his cock bumped into Shen Qingqiu’s hole, sinking part-way inside before Luo Binghe was pulling out again, the tease of more buzzing through Shen Qingqiu’s veins. He tried to squirm down against it when Luo Binghe drove inside him, but it was too big. He couldn’t do it on his own, and-. And-. 

And it was driving him crazy!

“Binghe.” His voice came out entirely too weak but he couldn’t bear to start over. Luo Binghe made a questioning noise in his throat and Shen Qingqiu felt a little validated that it didn’t sound as put-together as he’d been when he was smooth-talking his way between Shen Qingqiu’s legs earlier. “Don’t stop!” Shen Qingqiu snapped. “Take me properly!” 

“Are-.” Luo Binghe looked at him with wide, blown eyes. “Are you sure?” 

Shen Qingqiu tried to grind his hips down meaningfully. Luo Binghe got the point. He kissed Shen Qingqiu messily, making excited little noises that didn’t seem to entirely correlate with how little left there was to go, but Shen Qingqiu couldn’t find it in himself to examine him too closely. Luo Binghe twisted them around without warning and Shen Qingqiu’s back met the cold floor. He shivered from the chill but wasn’t cold for long. Luo Binghe wrapped Shen Qingqiu up in his tail, coiling them together without even bothering to pull out. Shen Qingqiu spared a moment to worry that Luo Binghe seemed to be trapping him in extremely strong, extremely flexible muscle, but then Luo Binghe shifted inside him and his thoughts dissolved again. 

Shen Qingqiu’s breath picked up speed when he felt the largest part of Luo Binghe nudge against him. Luo Binghe worked it inside him in short, sinuous circles. There was another barely-there spark of discomfort before it was chased away. Shen Qingqiu blinked rapidly at the ceiling, then peeked down, equal parts glad and disappointed to see that the rest of his body was blocked from view by a thick band of Luo Binghe’s tail. 

Well. At least Luo Binghe sounded as wrecked as he felt, panting in his ear like that. It was a small victory, but Shen Qingqiu would take it. 

Shen Qingqiu ran his fingers over Luo Binghe’s scales. It seemed to shiver beneath his touch, relaxing and flexing around him until it was almost too tight. His hand drifted lower, skimming across his skin until he found-. There it was. It was a little higher up than before, but it was there, the shape of Luo Binghe’s cock creating an unmistakable bulge in his stomach. Shen Qingqiu pressed down, morbidly fascinated with the sheer impossibility of the situation. Luo Binghe moaned, tail squeezing Shen Qingqiu harder. 

After that, it was. Well. A bit quick. Luo Binghe fucked him hard and fast, driving that giant pillar deep into Shen Qingqiu’s body, his cockhead bumping against Shen Qingqiu’s palm through his skin with every brutal thrust. It felt startlingly good to be pounded into, sharp pleasure lancing up his spine and tingling across his scalp. It wasn’t just that, either. Every time Luo Binghe sunk inside him, his first, slick cock dragged along Shen Qingqiu’s pillar, the teasing pressure making Shen Qingqiu raise his hips in a desperate bid for more. He didn’t know which felt better. They were both so, so good. When Shen Qingqiu reached between them, he could barely wrap his fingers around the two of them together, but it was enough. He pumped his hand clumsily, drinking in Luo Binghe’s low moan, and then it was all too much. Shen Qingqiu was overtaken by sheer pleasure, coming messily over his fist and Luo Binghe’s shaft. He clenched tight around Luo Binghe, sensitive walls squeezing tight around Luo Binghe, body shaking as he was fucked through his orgasm. Luo Binghe didn’t last much longer after that. He buried himself as far as he could go, tail squeezing around Shen Qingqiu until his ribs bones creaked in protest. Shen Qingqiu barely noticed. He could only feel the slow heat building inside as Luo Binghe spilled deep inside, filling him... 

And filling him. And filling him. 

By the time Binghe relaxed around him, Shen Qingqiu was shaking. He felt like he might burst, fingers flitting nervously to stomach. It was tender to the touch, possibly a bit swollen, but nothing like the outrageous picture that had started to form in his mind. He was surprised, and a bit touched, when Binghe’s hand found his and squeezed. But Luo Binghe hadn’t pulled out yet. He hadn’t gotten any softer, either. Neither of his pillars had. If anything, it almost felt like there was something slightly bigger pressing against Shen Qingqiu’s entrance. Shen Qingqiu shifted, brow furrowed in confusion. It wasn’t too large, but it wasn’t small. It felt round, maybe around the size of his fist...

No. No way. It wasn’t…? 

Shen Qingqiu whipped his head up, wide-eyed. “Don’t you dare!” 

“I-.” Luo Binghe looked torn. 

“Luo Binghe!”

But it was too late. Shen Qingqiu could feel that pressure bearing down on him. He clenched down on instinct, his body immediately refusing entry. Shen Qingqiu might have thanked it if such a tactic actually worked, but with that huge pillar in the way, all it served to do was excite Luo Binghe. Shen Qingqiu grunted as Luo Binghe rocked his hips again, as if there was any deeper he could go. Except-. Except-.

Shen Qingqiu felt himself stretch impossibly wide where Luo Binghe and he were connected. It was as if Luo Binghe was getting bigger, except that swell was traveling up through his cock, up through Shen Qingqiu, dragging along his channel and grazing slowly over his prostate. His vision blurred, hot tears pricking at the corners of his eyes. His body wasn’t ready for more stimulation so soon. It was too much. It was too slow. It felt like hours before that large, round swell was slipping free from Luo Binghe’s cock and settling deep inside him.

After a long, tense moment, Luo Binghe relaxed his vice grip around Shen Qingqiu’s body. He almost cried in relief. It was over! Okay. Okay! It was just one! That wasn’t so bad. He could handle that. Now that the- the egg was actually in, it wasn’t as present as he expected. He could feel it, but it was muted, probably, ugh, cushioned by the ridiculous amount of come inside him. “Binghe,” he said slowly. “Pull out.” 

Luo Binghe looked at him meekly. “I can’t.” 

“Luo Binghe!” Shen Qingqiu warned. 

“I can’t. I’m sorry.” Luo Binghe’s voice dropped to a shameful whisper. “There are more.” 

Fucking-! “How many?” 

“I don’t…”

Shen Qingqiu swatted at his stupidly firm chest. “How many?” he demanded. 

“Four or five?” Luo Binghe had the audacity to pout at him. “It might be different with someone?” Different how? Different from being alone? Hell, was that why Luo Binghe had been trying to sleep through it? Did-. Did it hurt, if there wasn’t someone to take them for him? Did Luo Binghe have to just-? Curl in on himself? While he waited for it to be over? “Are you mad?” Luo Binghe examined him, a genuine frown pulling at his mouth. “But you told me to.” 

“When?” Shen Qingqiu demanded. He was pretty sure he’d remember saying something like yes, Binghe, I'd love some eggs, go right ahead. He would never-! 

“When you-.” Luo Binghe’s voice faltered. “You asked to be taken properly.” 

This was properly?! Shen Qingqiu wanted to smack his past self in the face. He’d thought that last bump was just part of the experience! He hadn’t thought it was some kind of-. Of-. Of ovipositor! Shen Qingqiu wasn’t some peachy maiden begging to be filled up with Luo Binghe's clutch! He’d known, peripherally, that such maidens did exist -- there were plenty of books written about them if one knew where to look -- but he’d never once dreamed of himself in their place! 

Luo Binghe was watching him closely, face scrunched up in worry. He looked like he was waiting for Shen Qingqiu to lose it and scream at him. Well. More than he already had. Shen Qingqiu forced himself to take deep, steadying breaths. It wasn’t entirely Luo Binghe’s fault. They weren’t from the same species, so miscommunication was bound to happen. “...You really can’t stop?” 

Luo Binghe shook his head. 

Shen Qingqiu held back a deep sigh. He was going to regret this. If not his back, then certainly his...ahem, lower bits. This was some sort of rotten luck. This was his first time, too! He had never, not once, imagined it involving snakes and eggs and two fucking dicks. “Just-. Don’t break me, okay?” 

Luo Binghe’s eyes flashed, a misty sheen spreading over them. “I won’t. I’ll take care of you!” He said it like a vow. 

Shen Qingqiu let his head thunk forward into Luo Binghe’s sternum. He was still tense all over, which certainly didn’t help when the second egg struggled to sink inside him. 

Luo Binghe made a soft, plaintive noise, grinding against him desperately. “Please,” he whined.

That should not have sent shivers down Shen Qingqiu’s spine and yet-. Shen Qingqiu swallowed. It wasn’t like anyone else was here. If Shen Qingqiu … tried to … enjoy it a little … nobody except Luo Binghe would know. He deserved at least a little pleasure in return, right? Shen Qingqiu wet his lips and slowly, slowly let the tension drain from him. He wrapped his arms around Luo Binghe’s neck, hiding his embarrassment in the juncture between his throat and collar, muffling a whine when the egg finally pushed past his rim and traveled up Luo Binghe’s shaft. He felt Luo Binghe’s arms slide around his waist, pulling him in close, and though it was juvenile to think of it as a hug, it did make Shen Qingqiu feel a little better. This time, Shen Qingqiu could feel the egg settling inside him. One hadn’t been that bad, but two was… Shen Qingqiu could feel them knock against each other, smooth and heavy weights inside him. 

By the time the third egg was glancing over his prostate, Shen Qingqiu was hard again, cock pressed against Luo Binghe’s sticky, softened pillar in front of him, breathing hard and grinding back uncoordinatedly. He was only distantly aware of Luo Binghe wrapping one hand around them again, squeezing without moving, giving Shen Qingqiu a tight ring to rock forward into. His pleasure built quickly, the friction and drag of Luo Binghe’s cock blending deliciously with the hot grip around him. He felt the telltale fluttering of his hole around a new intrusion, four??, but lost count immediately after. He couldn’t think beyond the rough tug of Luo Binghe’s hand around them and the increasing fullness in his belly. He came once when Luo Binghe called his name in a low, sweet moan, and again when Luo Binghe found a second release, coming so hard inside him that Shen Qingqiu could almost taste it on the back of his tongue.

When it was over, Luo Binghe slipped out of him with a rude, wet squelch, but the hot rush of seed that Shen Qingqiu expected to flood out of him didn’t come. Instead, he remained impossibly full, belly striped by his own release. He felt good. Too good. It almost amazed him, that he could be so full, feel so bloated, and yet still be shivering from the remnants of pleasure lingering in his body. 

Then, Luo Binghe’s hand skimmed over his tender belly. “It’s big,” Luo Binghe said quietly. There was an undertone to his voice that Shen Qingqiu didn’t quite trust.

Shen Qingqiu pushed his hand away, shutting that idea down before it could fully form in Luo Binghe’s head. “It’s not,” he rebuffed. 

“You took them all.” Luo Binghe still sounded too thrilled. Like the sight was enough to get him going again. “They fit.” 

“Binghe-.” Shen Qingqiu said tiredly. 

Luo Binghe blinked at him. “Do you … not like them?” he asked. 

Shen Qingqiu wanted to sigh. He knew Luo Binghe was new at this--they both were, though Luo Binghe didn’t seem to be under that impression--but why was it his job to assure Luo Binghe he’d liked being stuffed full of eggs? It should be Luo Binghe’s job to gather him up and pamper him a bit! “Binghe…”

“You don’t,” Luo Binghe said. His tone was unsettlingly blank. 

Shen Qingqiu pressed his hand against his stomach. It certainly felt… swollen. He could feel the vague impression of something uneven beneath his skin. Pressing down made his stomach flip, a sloshy feeling that Shen Qingqiu could only attribute to Luo Binghe’s copious release, and the heavy shift of the eggs inside him. He didn’t want to think about what came next, when whatever it was that was holding everything inside him dissolved and it all came rushing out. It was sure to be an embarrassing, undignified mess. “They’re fine,” he mumbled, tucking himself into Luo Binghe’s welcoming chest. Oh. Hm. He would have to be more careful with how he twisted himself around for the next few hours … or days … however long this was supposed to last. 

“Did you like it?” 

“Binghe-.”

“Did you?” 

“I would have stopped you if I didn’t.” 

Luo Binghe made a sweet, happy noise that Shen Qingqiu felt vibrate through his chest. “I liked it, too,” he said.

Shen Qingqiu huffed, ignoring the warmth in his cheeks. Gravely, he muttered, “Then this is your responsibility.”

To Shen Qingqiu’s tired mind, Luo Binghe almost looked happy about that. He elected to ignore it. Nestled in Luo Binghe’s arms and tail, Shen Qingqiu forgot to open his eyes again the next time he blinked. He forgot to be angry with Luo Binghe, too, curling up closer to him as the world faded around him. He also forgot, as he fell asleep, that the mating season for naga tended to last much, much longer than a single night.