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Walk With Me Awhile

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Wen Ning smooths his robes for what has to be the fifteenth time since he hid himself in the shadows of the tea house awning.  Gracious, to be this nervous over nothing more than a glorified trip to the market; what would his jie think if she could see him now?

 

She would think I'm overdressed for a trip to the market, he acknowledges to himself, a soft, embarrassed sound catching in his throat.  Perhaps he shouldn't have let Wei WuXian dress him.  Should have refused the hair ornament lent to him.  And he should not have arrived so early, thereby giving himself far too long to think.

 

Not that he minds thinking.  Thinking is fine, of course.  As fine as the robes carefully draped over his carcass.  Gods, he definitely should have worn something else.  He feels like a pheasant trussed up for feast, glazed and too-shiny and adorned with appetizing baubles and maybe it isn't too late to just… sneak off?  Slink back to Cloud Recesses and hurl these ridiculous garments at the Wall of Discipline and bolt naked into the underbrush?  Less mortifying, probably, than standing around looking brutally out of place amongst the colorful, cheerful life of Caiyi Town.

 

He has very nearly convinced himself to flee when a disturbance at the end of the street catches his attention.  A man is walking along the center of the road, and even at this distance, Wen Ning can see the way the crowd yields to him, parting to allow his passage.

 

A cultivator, Wen Ning surmises based on the weapon at his side, though certainly not a Lan.  The man's robes are dark, either grey or black, though it's difficult to tell with the way they shift in the sunlight.  Goodness, and the man is BIG; his height would draw attention on its own, but the sheer breadth of him is—

 

Ah.  It is ChiFeng-zun.   Feeling a bit foolish for failing to recognize the very man he is here to meet, Wen Ning drops his gaze, teeth gritting in his skull.  So much for escape, then.  Why did he agree to this?  At the time, with ChiFeng-zun smiling down at him, grasping his hands so carefully, softly asking Wen Ning to join him as if it mattered to him whether Wen Ning said yes…  It had seemed a glorious idea.

 

Unfortunately, Wen Ning had been too flustered to do much more than agree.  For not the first time today, he wishes he'd have mustered the courage to ask if this was a 'friendly' stroll through the market, or something more.

 

Wei WuXian had surely seemed to think it was more.  Which is how Wen Ning was convinced to wear such ridiculous finery, encouraged to comb and style his hair a bit more carefully than he normally would, and gently coaxed into bringing the gift tucked into his sleeve.  

 

Perhaps he could beg off, say he isn't feeling well and just…  

 

Squeezing his eyes shut, Wen Ning knows he will do no such thing.  'Feeling well' is a relative term, anyhow, as far as fierce corpses are concerned, and he's never been a proficient liar.  He will spend some time with his new friend, and will be happy with whatever ChiFeng-zun is willing to give.  Even his company is a balm; while Wen Ning has no complaints about his usual companions, it is nice to have someone around who understands the peculiarities of being dead.

 

The murmurs of nearby merchants force Wen Ning's eyes open once more; ChiFeng-zun would cut a striking figure even without the ghostly pallor of his skin, without the black veins and stitching upon his neck, and he's drawn quite a bit of attention.  Their eyes meet, and ChiFeng-zun's cheeks do their best to stretch into a grin.

 

"Wen QiongLin!" he booms, speeding his steps, and Wen Ning hopes he does not visibly flinch at his approach.  Wen Ning's general mode of operation is 'remain undetected', so the whispers and looks are… not helpful to his overall unease.

 

"ChiFeng-zun," he responds at a much more reasonable volume, and salutes.  A broad hand shoots out, lifting him from his bow, another landing at his waist, and gods above, why are ChiFeng-zun's lips pressed to his cheek?!  It's over before Wen Ning can fully process it, and ChiFeng-zun steps back, smile still in place.  "ChiFeng-zun!" Wen Ning hisses, grateful he can no longer blush, and darts a glance to their surroundings.  "P-people are staring!"

 

Clearly amused, ChiFeng-zun nods and takes his hand.  "They were already staring, Wen QiongLin," he murmurs, fingers squeezing.  "We make quite the imposing pair, you know."

 

Wen Ning is so gobsmacked, he's certain a breeze could tip him over.  Kissing, and hand-holding, and pair, Chifeng-zun had referred to them as a pair—

 

"You look stunning," the man continues, and Wen Ning has to stop himself from squeaking in surprise.  "Did you go to all this trouble for me?"

 

Wide-eyed and embarrassed, Wen Ning stares until ChiFeng-zun begins laughing.  "Okay, okay," he chuckles, and begins pulling Wen Ning toward the street.  "I'll stop teasing you.  You look as if you've seen a ghost."

 

"Haven't I?" Wen Ning whispers, and allows himself to be tugged along.  ChiFeng-zun's head whips around.

 

"Was that a joke?"

 

"I'm dead serious, ChiFeng-zun."

 

ChiFeng-Zun's surprised, happy guffaw is the most beautiful thing Wen Ning has heard today.  "WAS THAT ANOTHER?"

 

Smiling as best he can, Wen Ning entangles their fingers and hustles to match ChiFeng-zun's longer strides.  The sun is out, the market is bustling, and he received his very first kiss.  Maybe today won't be so terrible, after all.