“OW!” Su Mucheng’s wings twitched out of her brother’s grasp and she twisted around to smack at him arm in protest, scowl etched across her features. “How are you so bad at this?!”
“I’m doing it the way I’m supposed to!” Su Muqiu retorted, folding his arms and glaring at his sister, convinced that she was just being fussy about her wings.
“So you think this doesn’t hurt?” Su Mucheng reached out and grabbed a handful of her brother’s feathers, yanking on them, making him howl and jerk away, hand moving to soothe the sting.
“I didn’t do that! You just pulled out the feathers!” Su Mucheng’s wings bristled at the accusation, standing abruptly and sticking her tongue out at her brother.
“That’s all you were doing, yanking out my feathers-!” She was cut off by the lock clicking and Ye Xiu came into view, humming something under his breath as he deposited the bags on the table. His head tilted to the side and Su Muqiu couldn’t help but think that he looked remarkably birdlike. Though the similarity might only be due to the wings.
“Why are your feathers all over the floor?” Both siblings glanced at the ground and winced at the number of feathers decorating the floor. Su Muqiu had thought they had grown out of yanking out feathers as retribution years ago, but clearly not.
He moved to start gathering them up, frowning as he tried to separate out his feathers versus his sister’s, cursing the similarity between their wings. Su Muqiu paused when Ye Xiu knelt down beside him, already sorting through the pile he’d collected, discarding the broken ones and seemingly having no issue in discerning which feathers belonged to who.
“How do you know which are which?” Ye Xiu shrugged casually and Su Muqiu caught sight of his sister turning to listen from where she was unpacking the food shop.
“Well these are obviously yours, see there’s the edge of gold against the orange, so the ones with the pink tinge have to be Mucheng’s.” Ye Xiu held up two feathers for inspection and if Su Muqiu concentrated, he could see the difference between the colours. When Su Mucheng coughed pointedly behind him, the rest of what Ye Xiu had just said clicked.
“You can tell our wings apart?” Ye Xiu nodded, seemingly aiming for casual, but the slight flush creeping up the back of his neck made Su Muqiu grin. “I didn’t know you cared so much.” He edged closer, grin widening when Ye Xiu’s tongue flicked out to wet his lips, gaze fixed on Su Muqiu’s mouth before Su Mucheng’s voice rang out, breaking the spell.
“Ye Xiu are you better at grooming than Muqiu?” Ye Xiu blinked at the question before the all-too familiar smug expression appeared and he nodded.
“Is there anything your brother can beat me at?”
“Cooking.” Su Mucheng’s response was precise and aimed perfectly, making Ye Xiu mime being shot, clutching at his chest while she aimed an unimpressed look at him. “Will you groom my wings?”
“Of course, your brother can watch and learn.” Su Muqiu rolled his eyes but he didn’t leave, if only to prevent more taunting.
Su Mucheng tugged her hair over her shoulder, presenting her wings for Ye Xiu to groom, for once being particularly in need of brushing due to the fact that Su Muqiu had manged to yank out a few of her feathers in their struggle. Ye Xiu’s fingers were gentle as they began to card through her fingers and Su Mucheng aimed a superior look at her older brother.
“See? This is how you groom someone!” Su Muqiu had to admit that it looked a lot less uncomfortable than when he did it and he swallowed down his retort in favour of watching how Ye Xiu eased each feather back into place, fingers elegant as he did so. He ran a brush over the underside of Su Mucheng’s wings, carefully avoiding putting pressure on anywhere sensitive and his sister’s wings seemed to gleam in the low light when Ye Xiu was finished.
“Thank you Ye Xiu! Can you teach Muqiu how to do it now?” It was really unfair, Su Muqiu mused to himself, really unfair how attractive Ye Xiu’s smug look made him.
“Are you willing to learn from your elders?” Su Muqiu shoved at Ye Xiu’s shoulder, even as he took the proffered seat, much to the other two’s amusement.
“I’m older than you.”
“And yet I’m so much wiser, it is so fortunate I am here to help you.” Su Muqiu decided that because he was older, he wasn’t going to kick Ye Xiu for his blatant and obvious mockery, even if Su Mucheng was openly laughing at him as she vanished into her bedroom. “Okay, don’t pull on the feathers so hard, just brush over them and see if they are loose enough instead of tugging.”
Su Muqiu followed Ye Xiu’s instructions, feeling a burst of pride when the other’s wings went limp in his hands, seemingly content to relax into his touch. It was soothing, grooming Ye Xiu’s wings, he would usually chat with Su Mucheng, plan what they were going to eat or argue over whose turn it was to do the laundry, with Ye Xiu, the only sound was of the feathers shifting quietly.
He moved on to the underside of Ye Xiu’s wings and the moment his fingers brushed against the feathers there, his friend shuddered and Su Muqiu stopped for a moment before Ye Xiu shook his head, urging him to continue.
The gold edge to Ye Xiu’s wings was more pronounced on the underside, unlike Su Muqiu’s, whose wings were less brightly coloured there. Su Muqiu’s touch was gentle, knowing that the underside of wings was more sensitive, but forgetting that it was normal for friends to use a brush when grooming here.
Time seemed to fade away as Su Muqiu lost himself in the sensation of running his fingers through Ye Xiu’s feathers, not noticing the way his friend’s breath kept hitching. Ye Xiu’s wings were as neat as they could be, but Su Muqiu didn’t move away and Ye Xiu made no move to stop him.
And his feathers were so soft there, so very soft to the touch, that Su Muqiu wasn’t thinking straight, world hazy around him and he leant in and pressed a kiss against the underside of Ye Xiu’s wings.
The noise that left Ye Xiu was close to a strangled gasp and Su Muqiu yelped when Ye Xiu shifted, pressing his back against the wall as he straddled his lap, eyes dark.
“Let me kiss you.” Ye Xiu’s voice was insistent, but Su Muqiu was a little distracted by having Ye Xiu in his lap, “let me kiss you Muqiu.”
The moment he nodded, Ye Xiu pressed his lips against his, eagerness clear in the way his fingers were curled tightly in the short hair at the back of Su Muqiu’s head. Su Muqiu tilted his head up into the kiss, wanting more contact, hands stroking through Ye Xiu’s feathers, undoing all of his careful grooming; not that either of them cared.
When they broke apart, their lips were swollen pink and Su Muqiu couldn’t resist the urge to brush his fingers against the swell of Ye Xiu’s lip, something that had them both flushing slightly.
“You messed up my wings.” Ye Xiu’s eyes were bright with affection and Su Muqiu was certain that his expression was stupidly lovesick as he reached up to trace the path of Ye Xiu’s flush from his cheeks down his neck.
“I can always groom them again, I can do it very well.” Su Muqiu grinned when Ye Xiu’s laughter rang out, filling the room and he realised that in this moment, Ye Xiu in his arms, his sister safe, in this moment, he had everything he thought he could ever want.
Su Muqiu pressed a lingering kiss to Ye Xiu’s hand and saw the same adoration he felt, reflected on his friend’s face and he thought his grin couldn’t get any wider.
But it did.