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The sunlight had tinted to orange, its rays reaching sideways through the doorway through which Xie Lian swept the accumulated dirt from Puji Shrine, when he heard a soft but very familiar metallic jingling sound.

In another moment he could see, just stepping out from behind some foliage, Hua Cheng’s form. He felt the smile spread across his face as he set the broom to the side. Hua Cheng grinned back at him, his hair gleaming in the setting sun. He had the air of a self-satisfied cat, but that was hardly uncommon.

“Gege!” he greeted as he drew near. “I’m come to abduct you.”

“Oh?” Xie Lian turned away from the door to continue his cleaning, smiling to himself as he did so.

“Mmm-hmm.” San Lang followed close behind him, his jewelry giving away his position, though his steps remained light.

“Why? Is there some danger?” He tossed a glance over his shoulder, then hid his wide grin behind the fall of his hair.

“Yes, grave danger of your San Lang growing lonely,” his lover replied a hint of a pout on his lips.

“Well, perhaps I should leave a note in case someone comes looking for me,” Xie Lian said, or began to say, because by the time the sentence was halfway out, Hua Cheng had already grabbed him by the waist and begun to lift him. Xie Lian broke into laughter as he was swung into a bridal carry.

“San Lang! Wait, I--” But the other man had already thrown out a pair of dice and was moving through the portal that opened. Shadows and sound moved around them and then they were in a much larger and grander room, which Xie Lian recognized as part of Paradise Manor.

“Yes, gege?” Hua Cheng asked, to all appearances extremely concerned. “What were you saying? Was there something you needed to do?”

His innocent act didn’t fool Xie Lian, but he couldn’t truly be annoyed by it. “Forget about it,” he said, and reached up to pull his lover’s head down into a kiss.

Every time they met each other after being parted, even only for a span of hours, it felt like this. Like coming home again. When their lips met, when they were alone, they could be their truest selves together. They always took their time, settling in against each other, tasting each other, welcoming each other back. Sometimes they passed from kissing to touching to lovemaking without pause or delineation. But sometimes, like today, they parted after a time, no rush towards more.

Hua Cheng still held Xie Lian in his arms, untiring. Xie Lian looked around them, down at the floor for a moment. “So did you have some plan in mind, that required my abduction?”

Hua Cheng’s eyes danced. “I think first you need a bath.”

This was not precisely what Xie Lian had expected to hear. “Oh. Well, I was cleaning. Am I that dirty?”

The Ghost King’s smile widened and he shook his head. “Gege is never dirty,” he asserted, which was patently untrue, but Xie Lian wasn’t able to object before the other man continued, “but please allow this servant to bathe Dianxia all the same.”

Xie Lian felt his eyebrows raise at this, but he only nodded in slightly bemused agreement. He wasn’t sure what was going on precisely. It seemed like some new game Hua Cheng had devised. Well, he was certainly willing to play along.

Hua Cheng carried him into the next room, where a large wooden tub sat waiting, full of steaming water. The surface was littered with flower petals. Hua Cheng set him down gently on his feet and began carefully untying his belt. Xie Lian remained still, watching the other man carefully as he disrobed him.

Hua Cheng had removed his clothing many ways. On occasion, he’d ripped the layers of cloth to get to his body underneath more quickly. Other times, he would tease and proceed slowly, rubbing at his most sensitive spots through the silk. But this...this time his manner was different. Hua Cheng’s hands were gentle and careful as he eased each layer off his shoulders. He carefully folded the robes and placed them on a wooden stool nearby. When Xie Lian’s chest was bare, his lover’s eye roved appreciatively over his skin, but his hands remained impersonal. Xie Lian was transported almost 800 years back to his youth in the Palace of Xian Le, being attended by highly trained servants.

His thought was reinforced when Hua Cheng next dropped to his knees, but instead of reaching to expose Xie Lian’s sex, he lifted his left foot and began to remove his boot. It was odd, but there was something...affecting about this. Something about looking down at Hua Cheng kneeling in front of him, that was making Xie Lian feel warm. When his boots were removed and set aside, Hua Cheng smiled up at him and reached for his trousers. He pulled them down and there was a moment when Xie Lian was certain that Hua Cheng was going for his cock. But then nothing happened, and the absence of touch nearly left him reeling. He felt his member twitch and grow heavier even without the physical contact, even as Hua Cheng stood and turned slightly away.

“Here, gege, let me help you in.” He directed Xie Lian towards the waiting bath, holding him by the hand to help him balance. Xie Lian climbed into the tub and lowered himself down. The water was perfect, just hot enough to sting his skin. The scent of the flowers rose around him, sweet and full of life. Another scent, something musky and heavy also swirled around him, almost incense-like.

Hua Cheng knelt next to the bath, face turned to Xie Lian. “Does gege require assistance in bathing?” He sounded rather eager, but Xie Lian felt a flush pass up his body and he looked away.

“N-no, I can manage myself.” He looked around for soap and Hua Cheng’s hand lifted, holding a pristine bar. Xie Lian took it and then the washcloth which also appeared with alacrity in Hua Cheng’s hand. He hurriedly washed himself, his cheeks remaining flushed from the strange sensation of being watched so intently. He wanted to ask what this was all about, but he assumed his lover had some sort of plan, so he suppressed his curiosity and played along.

When his bath was finished he got to his feet and Hua Cheng was waiting with a large towel. He stepped out of the water and was immediately swathed in the cloth, Hua Cheng patting him dry everywhere. It was an efficient experience, and once again awoke very old memories of being attended to by palace servants in his youth.
Once he was dry, Hua Cheng led him into the next room, which turned out to be his bedroom. The layout of Paradise Manor was always shifting, with rooms changing depending on Hua Cheng’s need, so while Xie Lian of course knew this room well, he was used to it being in a slightly different location. A fire blazed in the hearth at one side of the room, bathing the entire space in warm glow.

Hua Cheng led him to the bed. “Sit and let me comb gege’s hair.” This wasn’t uncommon, though it usually occurred after Hua Cheng had made a thorough nest of it through enthusiastic play. Still, he enjoyed it. So he sat on the corner of the bed and patiently let Hua Cheng comb his hair. He still felt unsettled, however. Hua Cheng was far too quiet. Far more reserved than normal.

Normally he would be saying soft things that made Xie Lian blush: compliments and flattery. And his combing was usually interrupted constantly by darting kisses and touches to whatever parts of Xie Lian he could reach. And here he was, wrapped only in a towel, but Hua Cheng touched his hair alone. It made his skin prickle with tension, uncertain the reason for the shift in mood. It wasn’t unpleasant, however. Elegant fingers ran through the strands of his hair, eased the comb through carefully. Xie Lian relaxed into the feeling of being cared for, of having someone who he trusted entirely.

Finally, his hair was as neat and smooth as possible. Hua Cheng had bound the top part up in his ribbon securely. The tall ghost king rose and stood just at his side.

“Lie down, gege,” said Hua Cheng. His tone made it a request rather than an order. A flutter of anticipation rose in Xie Lian’s stomach. Now they were getting to it! Xie Lian obediently laid down on his side, propping up his head with one arm so he could watch what Hua Cheng did. His lover walked over to a table against the wall and lifted a wooden tray. There was a soft chime of glass against glass as he moved. When he approached the bed Xie Lian saw a variety of glass bottles on the tray, which Hua Cheng placed onto the floor next to the bed. He looked over the assortment for a moment and then selected one, a tall green bottle. He removed the stopper and held it out for Xie Lian to smell.

“Do you like this one, gege?” Xie Lian sniffed and then nodded. It was another floral scent, sweet and light. But Hua Cheng seemed somewhat displeased. He settled back onto his heels where he knelt next to the bed. “Hmm,” he said, looking to the bottles again. “What about this one?” He held another bottle under Xie Lian’s nose. This one was fruity and perhaps nutty. Xie Lian shrugged.

“It’s nice,” he said. Hua Cheng shook his head almost violently and replaced that bottle on the tray. He selected a dark amber colored one next and presented it for Xie Lian’s approval. The scent was one that instantly reminded him of temples and incense: smoky and rich.

“Mmm,” he said, taking a deeper inhale. A satisfied smile bloomed on Hua Cheng’s face and he took the bottle back.

“Turn onto your front,” he said. “If you will, Dianxia.” The second half of his request was delivered more softly, almost timidly. Xie Lian smiled to himself as he rolled, pillowing his head on his crossed arms.

Hua Cheng climbed onto the bed next to him and settled near his hip, and then he felt his lover’s hands press into the muscles of his back, near his shoulder blades. Those hands were coated with oil and the incense-scent of it hit Xie Lian. Hua Cheng began to massage his muscles with firm and assured strength. It felt lovely, though Xie Lian wasn’t really in need of this pampering. He hadn’t been exerting himself recently much at all.

Still Hua Cheng worked the muscles of his shoulders and neck and he made appreciative sounds as he went. His lover seemed in no hurry to proceed to more intimate parts of his body and this was so relaxing and pleasant that Xie Lian was perfectly content as well. Hua Cheng spread the oil everywhere on his bath-clean skin, until Xie Lian felt like a pampered royal maiden.

Hua Cheng moved lower, rubbing at the globes of his rear, but moving down to his thighs without lingering or delving between. Having his hands so close to such sensitive areas made Xie Lian’s skin pull tight and a frisson of desire sprout from his core. He felt his cock twitch against the bedding and he shifted a little as strong fingers dug into the backs of his legs. Hua Cheng continued to work his way down, until he reached his feet, where he spent a long time working oil into the rough spots and drawing moans of appreciation from Xie Lian’s lips.

He thought of all the years he’d spent on his feet, wandering from one town to another, and the way his feet had often ached when he stopped for the night. He wished, extravagantly, that he’d had Hua Cheng then to rub them this way.

When he was done with his feet, Hua Cheng slid his hands back up to the backs of his thighs. ‘Now,’ thought Xie Lian, and he sucked in a breath when he felt Hua Cheng bending down, his hair brushing against his skin, and then soft lips pressed right into the crease where his legs met his rear. Hua Cheng reverently kissed him on both sides, and he braced for his hands to delve between his thighs, to press his cheeks apart, but instead the other man sat back.

“Turn over,” he said. And Xie Lian did, his face burning with his desire. When he’d finished rolling onto his back Hua Cheng looked down at him, appreciation written on his face, his lips quirking just slightly at the sight of Xie Lian’s growing arousal.

But he only reached for more oil and began to massage the muscles of his chest. Xie Lian began to feel dizzy with need and longing, the more time passed without Hua Cheng touching him where he expected, the more he prolonged the delicious anticipation. Slightly roughened fingers swiped across his left nipple and he gasped aloud. He had his eyes closed so he didn’t see if Hua Cheng reacted to his exclamation or not. He fought against the embarrassment that being watched like this tended to foster in him.

Was that the point? Was he trying to torment him? To make him squirm and suffer and eventually beg? As if to confirm those suspicions, his lover’s hands skirted his aching member, working carefully and without haste back down to his toes.

And then, surely out of ways to put off what they both most desired, Hua Cheng still didn’t move to press Xie Lian to the bed with his body, to devour him hungrily, to part his legs and slide between.

He stood. Xie Lian opened his eyes in surprise and saw his love’s teeth pressing into his bottom lip for just a moment, before he dropped to kneel beside the bed.

Xie Lian pushed himself up to one elbow, concerned. “San Lang?” Hua Cheng kept his eyes averted almost entirely, only flicking to his face for the briefest of moments.

“Dianxia,” the other breathed. “Gege.”

“What is it?” He sat up fully, alarm growing in his chest. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing, gege. Nothing.” Hua Cheng took a visible breath. “I only want to serve you.”

Xie Lian frowned, not understanding. “Serve? San Lang--”

“Gege, are you not pleased?” Hua Cheng looked at him, distress clear in his eyes.

“I—I’m perfectly pleased. I’m just...confused.”

Hua Cheng’s eyes darted away again. “I—this is what I want.” He waved a hand, indicating himself, his kneeling position. “Tonight. Just…” He closed his eyes, inhaled again. “To worship you, to please you, to serve you.” His breath stuttered. “For you to command me as you like…use me as you like…” He broke off and Xie Lian thought if he were alive that he would be blushing.

His words made Xie Lian blush on his behalf. His breath felt short, too. “San Lang…” he said, and heard the waver in his voice. Hua Cheng looked at him, something like fear on his face.

Xie Lian stretched out a hand towards him, was met instantly with Hua Cheng’s hand coming to rest on his. “San Lang...this gege is honored.” Once more Hua Cheng looked down like a shy maiden. Too cute! thought Xie Lian.

But even as he considered the adorable picture Hua Cheng made, he was also considering the way that he’d asked Xie Lian to “use him.” That thought conjured much different, much more explicit images in his mind, and reminded him of how desperately inflamed he’d felt just moments before.

He swung his legs over the side of the bed, just beside Hua Cheng. Then he stood and turned to face him, which placed Hua Cheng eye to eye with...well, with the proof of his ardor. It felt odd, to be completely bare and yet for his lover to remain fully clothed, but the novelty of the situation only served to increase the thrill that shivered down his spine.

He reached out and cupped Hua Cheng’s cheek, stroking softly along his jaw with his thumb. Those deep eyes sparkled in the dim light, turned always up towards him. All Xie Lian saw on his face was eagerness to serve, to help. It was a look he’d become very familiar with since his last ascension. He moved his hand until his thumb found the plump bottom lip, running across it, just tugging his mouth open. He could feel his own heartbeat pick up its pace in anticipation. He inched forward, until he thought he should be able to feel the other’s breath against his rigid length, if he had breathed.

“Open,” Xie Lian said, very softly, nearly a whisper. Hua Cheng obeyed, his jaw dropping, eyes never leaving his own. Xie Lian released his hold on his face to aim, then directed his cock between the other’s soft lips. He wasn’t forceful, careful not to surprise or startle Hua Cheng, despite the unlikelihood of such a thing actually happening. Indeed, the other took him in easily, leaning forward and sucking until Xie Lian’s breath caught.

This was familiar, to a certain extent. Despite the strange mood, the hushed reverence that seemed to have enveloped the two of them tonight, Hua Cheng liked to use his mouth on him. Usually, however, Xie Lian didn’t take such an active role, mostly lying back while Hua Cheng’s enthusiasm overwhelmed him. He had no complaints. There was little in all his time on earth that had even hinted at the happiness he’d found in surrendering to his lover’s desires.

But tonight, it seemed, it was Hua Cheng’s desire to surrender, to be the one overwhelmed. With that thought in mind, Xie Lian shifted forward, thrusting himself as deeply as he could. He could feel himself hit the back of the other man’s mouth and began to pull back, but Hua Cheng chased him, shoving himself forward until Xie Lian’s cock had slid into his throat.

He remained there for a few heartbeats before he pulled back more sharply. Hua Cheng made a sound of dismay in his throat, or started to, but then he thrust back, as deeply as possible. He felt the tissues around him vibrate, almost purr with pleasure. Xie Lian began to feel dizzy and weak in the knees.

The spiraling need rose in him, as if sensing his self-control beginning to splinter. He buried a hand in Hua Cheng’s hair, holding his head still, and began to rock into his mouth again and again. He heard more contented sounds from his lover’s throat as if from a distance, nearly inaudible under the pounding of blood in his ears. He was close, on edge from such a long, teasing preparation. And the truth was he’d never learned to hold himself back. His San Lang always wanted to see his enjoyment, always encouraged him over the edge again and again. And so he let loose, spilling hot and heavy down his lover’s throat, shaking and clutching the other man’s head to his body with an iron grip. It seemed almost an incense’s time before he could relax his muscles and let go.

Hua Cheng sucked the last of his release from him as he pulled back: a long, obscene sound. Xie Lian’s face was fire hot and he let himself half-collapse onto the bed behind him.

“Mmm, gege…” Hua Cheng’s eyes sparkled and appeared to glow in the firelight. “It’s a good thing I don’t need to breathe, or gege would have choked me to death on his cock…”

The words sent another flash of heat through Xie Lian: belated embarrassment at his behavior, but he knew Hua Cheng was merely teasing him. That he loved to be vulgar on purpose to make him blush. There was no real shame between them, couldn’t be after everything they’d been through and done together.

Another moment passed and Hua Cheng didn’t join him on the bed. “San Lang?”

“Yes, gege?”

“Are you going to stay on the floor all night?”

“If Dianxia wishes.” Xie Lian caught of flash of something glinting in his lover’s eyes, a humor just hidden, a hunger.

“Mmm, I want you to come up here with me,” he said. And as soon as Hua Cheng sat down on the edge of the bed Xie Lian moved over to him. He caught his chin in a hand and kissed him, slow and deep. He let one of his hands roam with intention, down over the firm planes of Hua Cheng’s chest and further down, to just tease below his waist. “Do you want me to return the favor, San Lang?”

But, to his surprise, the head next to his own turned away sharply. “San Lang?” The other seemed to be avoiding his stare with determination. “What’s wrong?”
Hua Cheng shook his head. “Nothing is wrong. Whatever gege wants.” Xie Lian frowned and looked at him down his nose.

“Come on, San Lang, can you not tell me?” Those fierce eyes flicked to his face and then away again.

“It’s not important.”

Xie Lian pressed himself even closer to his lover’s body. “I don’t believe you,” he said, kissing him gently on the cheek, bringing up his hand to stroke along his jaw. “I think there’s something you want very much…” He felt the shift in the other’s body. “San Lang,” he said, softer, moving his lips closer to his ear. “Do you want me to fuck you?” The vulgarity nearly caused him to stumble over his words, but the low banked fire in his belly, the looseness of his limbs, the knowledge of how it would affect his San Lang carried him through.

The body against him shuddered violently and a wide smile curved Xie Lian’s lips. “Gege,” moaned Hua Cheng. Xie Lian pulled him around and kissed him hungrily. They lost themselves to it for a while and he was breathless when he finally sat back.

“Okay,” he said, moving back from his lover. “Take off your clothes, then.” Hua Cheng’s eyes burned as he complied, hurriedly stripping the robes from his back and tossing them aside. When he was bare at last, Xie Lian smiled at him.

He moved forward and reached for his lover’s leg. But Hua Cheng pulled back from his touch. Xie Lian stopped, surprised.

Hua Cheng shook his head. “Lay back, gege. Let me...get ready for you.” Those last words carried the tone of dark promise that always set Xie Lian’s blood alight so he merely nodded in a daze and retreated. “Watch me,” commanded Hua Cheng.

So he settled back against the pillow and did, while Hua Cheng oiled his fingers and began stretching himself, angling to make sure Xie Lian had the best view. And those dark eyes stayed on his face, watching Xie Lian watch him. It seemed almost more intense, more intimate to watch such an act than to be the one to do it. This moment of passive viewing, of a performance put on for his enjoyment, was unique. His role was normally to feel, to experience, to be watched. Seeing Hua Cheng touch himself, staring hungrily at the place where his fingers slipped into his made him feel like a patron at a brothel watching an obscene show. Almost against his will, his hand slipped down and touched his hard length.

“Gege,” moaned Hua Cheng, clearly pleased.

“San Lang,” he returned shakily. He took several shallow breaths. “Hurry.” Hua Cheng’s eyes widened and then he smirked and twisted the hand he was using to open himself. Another few movements and then he stopped, rushing forward all at once towards Xie Lian. Before he could really react, the larger man had climbed onto him, straddling his hips and leaning down to capture his lips.

The kiss burned, both of them moving messily, teeth and tongues and lips everywhere. Hua Cheng barely pulled back, blowing hot air across his mouth and then with a fluid motion reaching back to grab his cock. Xie Lian cried out but then broke into a strangled gasp as the body above him lowered, opening to take him smoothly.

He turned his face away, overwhelmed. The sensation of it...he brought his hand to his mouth and bit into the heel. It wasn’t a surprise to him when his lover grabbed his arm and pulled it away. He always insisted on hearing the sounds Xie Lian made.

“Gege,” Hua Cheng sighed. “Gege feels so good. Does your San Lan feel good, gege?”

Xie Lian’s only response was a broken whimper. The body ensheathing him rose and fell again, driving the air from his lungs. Again and again. Looking back up, he could see the long length of Hua Cheng’s body, spine arching slightly as he moved, the muscles of his thighs and stomach working. He was dangerously beautiful, and Xie Lian couldn’t help reaching for him with the hand that wasn’t still held down to the bed in a tight grip. His fingers slipped across the smooth ridges of his muscular abdomen, then, with a sudden impish smile he brought them to Hua Cheng’s cock, huge and proud between them. He stroked it and the body over him bucked, so he did it again. Suddenly he wondered what it would feel like if Hua Cheng came while he was inside him, so he began pumping him fiercely.

“Gege!” the other cried, but didn’t force his hand away. He just redoubled the rocking of his hips, fast and shallow now, and Xie Lian felt like he was somehow riding a frantic beast, clinging for dear life, despite the fact technically he was the one being ridden.

“San Lang,” he panted, forcing his lungs to work correctly, “I want to feel you...feel you…” but before he could manage the words he felt the muscles surrounding him squeeze and contract sharply and there was sharp slapping sound as Hua Cheng’s thighs impacted his body and he felt the man above him shaking apart. The cock in his hand began to spurt thick scalding hot ropes onto his chest and then the moment seemed to stretch somehow—it seemed almost Xie Lian was occupying two bodies at once, both locked into ecstasy, both expelling their seed, both twitching and shaking.

It was only after a long, long time alone in the dark behind his eyelids that he finally felt able to open them. Hua Cheng had collapsed on top of him, smearing them both with messy release. His body was loose, ever looser around Xie Lian’s member and finally he felt himself slipping free.

“Ah,” he managed as he did, shifting their bodies to a slightly more comfortable position. “San Lang.” He petted the other man’s hair, pushing it back from his temple. “San Lang, are you alright?”

“Gege,” the other whispered against his throat. “Thank you, gege.”

“San Lang,” he replied, face heating. “ you.

“Mmm, gege treats me so well.”

“San Lang!” he protested, since this was patently the wrong way around. But his further protests were cut off by the press of lips against his mouth. He sighed to himself.

Later, when Hua Cheng showed no inclination to move off him, he commented, “San Lang, you have made a mess of both of us!”

“Mmm, time for another bath,” his lover replied lazily, no trace of apology in his tone. “This time, though, you have to let gege wash you.”

Xie Lian blew out a breath, half sigh and half laugh. “Fine,” he agreed. “Whatever San Lang wants.”