They share their first kiss when they’re en route to Banyue Pass. Xie Lian and San Lang have fucked off to who knows where, and Mu Qing is just relieved he can’t hear anything other than the wind and the sands shifting. The desert has gotten cold enough after sundown that he doesn’t protest when Feng Xin shifts closer to him. Even as Nan Feng, he throws heat like a freshly lit fire.
They would be warmer, probably, if they shifted back to their true forms. There’s no one around for miles, who knows when Xie Lian will come back, and the arrays they set before making camp would let them know well in advance if any humans came near. It’s a waste of power, Mu Qing tells himself, to switch needlessly back and forth, so he lets Feng Xin huddle close.
“Do you think it’s more efficient?” Feng Xin asks.
Mu Qing sighs. Feng Xin does this all the time, starting conversations in the middle like everyone around him is privy to the two thoughts tumbling around his head. “Is what more efficient?”
“When His Highness and that— that brat… share spiritual power like that, could it be a better way to do it?” Feng Xin asks, something desperate in his voice.
He wants there to be an excuse for Xie Lian’s behavior around San Lang so badly he’s worked himself into this mess. Mu Qing laughs.
“You’re asking if,” he laughs again, he can’t help it, “if when His Highness and that ghost—”
Feng Xin protests. “We don’t know for sure he’s—”
“—when that ghost kiss, it’s not just an excuse to get their tongues in each other’s mouths?”
Feng Xin has gone satisfyingly red, and Mu Qing counts it as a victory. He doesn’t like thinking about it or saying the words or especially not seeing it either, but he’s not stupid enough to think Xie Lian is kissing his precious San Lang for any reason other than he wants to. No matter how Xie Lian lies to himself about that fact.
“You don’t have to be so lewd,” Feng Xin says, shifting uncomfortably in the sand. His arm rests against Mu Qing’s now, but he doesn’t seem to notice because he doesn’t immediately jerk away.
“I’m not the one being lewd!” Mu Qing says. “I’m not the one going around kissing that abomination.”
“Don’t talk about His Highness that way,” Feng Xin says, but it sounds rote, uncertain.
Mu Qing shrugs. “Whatever. Stop thinking about it if it’s making you so upset.”
“Can you?” Feng Xin asks. He gestures out at the moonlit dunes. “They’re out there, somewhere, they could be doing— doing anything right now.”
“Stop making me think about it,” Mu Qing says, wrinkling his nose.
Feng Xin shakes his head but quiets down finally, and they watch the small fire burn down together. Xie Lian and his new friend don’t come back, and Mu Qing tries not to worry about the Crown Prince. He can take care of himself, especially if he’s borrowed more power. Plus he has that deadly silk spiritual device, he’ll be fine.
“We really don’t know, though, right?” Feng Xin pipes up, and Mu Qing barely stifles a groan. “What if it really is more efficient?”
“Why are you so— fine! Fine, let’s try it out if you’re so set on getting to the bottom of this!” Mu Qing cries.
Feng Xin looks back at him, Nan Feng’s eyes wide, reflecting the fire. “Try it out like, like we try it out?”
Mu Qing flings his arms wide. “Do you see anyone else around?”
“You… you really don’t mind?” Feng Xin asks.
Mu Qing hopes Fu Yao doesn’t blush as easily as his true form does. “If it will get you to shut up about it, I’m on board.”
They’re awkward, clumsy when they bend forward but try not to touch otherwise, rushed and too slow at the same time. Mu Qing finally grabs Feng Xin’s chin to hold him still. In the moment before their lips meet, Feng Xin’s eyes flutter closed. In the moment before their lips meet, Mu Qing wonders if they should have shifted forms, so they could be themselves for this.
No, he tells himself, no this is easier. Maybe it doesn’t count if they’re wearing different faces, or maybe it’s better they’re wearing bodies that echo their teenage selves, reflecting all the possibilities that Xianle and Xie Lian’s early ascension stole from them.
Feng Xin’s lips are soft and dry, pleasant even, but when Mu Qing tries to push spiritual power to him, he’s blocked. He pulls back slightly, his lips a hairsbreadth from Feng Xin’s. “You idiot,” he breathes, “are you trying to give or to receive?”
“Give!” Feng Xin says, his eyes snapping open. They’re so close that Mu Qing can hardly make out his expression. “That was the whole point!”
“No, I’m giving! Just accept it!”
“That’s not fair,” Feng Xin says.
Mu Qing pulls back for real, glaring at Feng Xin. “How is it any different?!”
“We’ll both do it,” Feng Xin says decidedly. “That’s the only way to properly test it.”
Mu Qing feels foreboding trickle down his spine. He feels lightheaded. How many times are they going to kiss like this? How will he be expected to stop after another and another? Will Feng Xin have to push him away?
Feng Xin yanks Mu Qing in close again. “Go on, then. You first.”
Mu Qing has loaned and been loaned power in the past, even from Feng Xin himself, but feeling it flow this way is different, it feels different. He can feel the smooth warmth and swell of it pooling in his throat, and he opens his mouth on instinct, ready to let it out. Feng Xin follows his lead, swallowing the power down.
Feng Xin is breathing hard when they pull back. “Now me,” he says gruffly. The kiss is more forceful, and Feng Xin opens his mouth right away, his lips wet against Mu Qing’s. Mu Qing slips his tongue forward as if he could collect the power Feng Xin is handing back like that, as if he could savor the taste before it settles into his veins, into his bones.
Feng Xin pulls back and leans his head against Mu Qing’s, and Mu Qing realizes they’re clutching at each other’s arms. He clears his throat and puts distance between them, shivering when the wind sweeps past.
“I couldn’t tell,” Feng Xin says. For a wild moment, Mu Qing imagines Feng Xin suggesting they test the theory again. “How about you?”
Mu Qing shakes his head. “I think it’s the same.”
Feng Xin hums thoughtfully and they go back to watching the fire. Mu Qing’s eyes are heavy, exhaustion from the long day warring with the warm thrumming in his chest from the power exchange. From having his lips on Feng Xin’s. He always gets more tired as Fu Yao, more prone to sleep even though he doesn’t need it.
“Go on,” Feng Xin says softly, scooting close enough that Mu Qing’s head can rest on his shoulder. “I’ll take the first watch.”
Thanks to Jun Wu’s cursed shackle on his wrist, Mu Qing likely needs to borrow spiritual power to make it out of Tonglu Mountain alive. Feng Xin hardly seems inclined to lend him any now, regardless of how it’s given, even though Mu Qing saved his fucking life by knocking him upside the head. He refused to let Feng Xin die for something as stupid as honor to a woman who doesn’t need him, a child who’s more than capable of taking care of itself.
After, when they’re bruised and bloodied and burned and hanging on by the skin of their teeth. when Xie Lian is staring into the distance as though Hua Cheng will suddenly reappear in a cloud of butterflies and all they can do is make him comfortable, Feng Xin visits Mu Qing’s tent as the Medical Masters finish treating his hands and legs.
“Yours came off, too, right?” Feng Xin asks, squinting at Mu Qing’s bandaged wrist like he’ll be able to see through the cloth somehow.
Mu Qing nods. His power is building back up without the shackle, but it’s slow-going thanks to his extensive injuries. He hasn’t felt pain like this in centuries, and he won’t pretend that he missed it or it makes him feel more alive or any of that bullshit. Feng Xin sits on the edge of his bed, and Mu Qing tries not to wince when it jostles him.
“How’s your— just come here,” Feng Xin says, grabbing Mu Qing’s hand with more care than Mu Qing thought possible. He’s not entirely soft, his rough edges are impossible to completely file down, just like Mu Qing’s sharp ones.
Mu Qing holds his breath as Feng Xin’s fingertips slip under the edge of his bandages at his wrist, feeling for his pulse. Feng Xin’s eyes close as he prods at Mu Qing’s meridians, and Mu Qing doesn’t bother pulling back. His weakness should be obvious from how pitiful he looks lying here unmoving anyway.
Feng Xin lets him go and studies him, his eyes searching all over Mu Qing’s tired face. He leans in, and he’s close, too close, but Mu Qing has nowhere to move. “Mu Qing, I—” He seals his lips over Mu Qing’s, cradling Mu Qing’s face between his big palms.
The heat of his mouth cuts through the haze of pain, and, for a moment, Mu Qing wants to sink into it. He pushes Feng Xin back, the movement sending spikes of pain through his arms.
“The Masters already gave me power, you dimwit,” he says, his voice breathy and high much to his chagrin. “It won’t do anything until I’m healed more. It needs to circulate. And you need to conserve it! You’re healing, too!”
“Did I transfer any power?” Feng Xin asks with a flat look, and Mu Qing’s eyes widen when he realizes that he hadn’t felt Feng Xin doing so after all.
“I was so scared,” Feng Xin says, and Mu Qing shuts up. “You can’t do that again.”
Mu Qing licks his lips. “I’ll try not to fall into any more volcanoes.”
Feng Xin shakes his head and looks toward the tent entrance before looking back to Mu Qing. “You know what I mean. You don’t get to fucking die on me.”
“Oh, why, so you can do the honors yourself?” Mu Qing tries to joke, but his voice is thin.
Feng Xin laughs, and it sounds distinctly watery. “Sure, yeah. If that’s what you want to hear, then yeah.”
Mu Qing slides his hand forward until his fingers touch Feng Xin’s, wincing as his bandages rasp against the bed. “I’m not apologizing for knocking you out.”
Feng Xin’s laugh sounds more real this time. “I wouldn’t know what to do if you did. Can I kiss you again?”
Mu Qing rolls his eyes. “I already told you—”
“Not to transfer power,” Feng Xin interrupts. “Just because I— I want to.”
“Oh,” Mu Qing breathes. He watches Feng Xin from the corner of his eye. “Just… ah, just right now?”
“All the time,” Feng Xin says in a rush, “or whenever you want.”
Mu Qing feels his eyes widen. “Okay. And now?”
Feng Xin is careful with him, pulling back every time Mu Qing tries to deepen the kiss, pinning his shoulders to the bed to make sure he doesn’t upset his injuries any further. It takes a conscious effort not to grab Feng Xin back, to try to keep him close. Kissing Feng Xin feels heady, easing his pain more than any tonic he’s been given.
Feng Xin kisses him until Mu Qing starts to feel drowsy, his healing skin itching beneath the bandages. “When you’re better, I want to take my time with you,” he tells Mu Qing.
Rebuilding the heavens is an intense, grueling effort even though they’re all either gods or heavenly officials. It turns out all the gods are picky about their new palaces, and everyone has an opinion about what the streets should look like, and which flowers and trees should grow where. When he’s healed, Mu Qing takes over the books, and doing the figures and arguing with everyone about those figures takes up any free time he might have.
Feng Xin is always there, though. He’s there to coax Mu Qing away from the reports when he’s been at it all day, there to make sure he’s supplied with tea and food. There to let Mu Qing rattle off everything he’s adding up, to be a sounding board when Mu Qing needs to rant about absurd expenses and merits.
Their touches are fleeting but they’re there, behind closed doors, just for them. Feng Xin brushes his lips against Mu Qing’s cheek and the corner of his mouth, and Mu Qing kisses Feng Xin’s forehead before retiring for the night. When Feng Xin is sent down for missions, they keep in contact through the array. It’s nothing so passe as keeping tabs on one another, it’s just an excuse to bully Feng Xin when he’s not there.
If he can’t help but react every time Feng Xin rears up to shout back in their private array, no one else needs to know why he’s smiling.
Ling Wen being captured and assigned her old job as punishment frees Mu Qing from the endless drudgery, and he’s finally able to start protecting his own region again. Feng Xin and Quan Yizhen have been stepping in when they could, and Mu Qing’s deputies are holding their own despite the influx of ghosts and monsters that escaped imprisonment during the last days of Jun Wu’s reign.
Xie Lian and Feng Xin accompany him on his first mission back, despite him insisting he doesn’t need the help. He and Feng Xin don their false deputy skins, and Xie Lian just smiles at how transparent their disguises are.
Mu Qing rolls his eyes. “No one knows what we look like, it’s not a big deal.”
“That’s bullshit. You haunt people into getting your statues exactly right,” Feng Xin points out.
Mu Qing blushes. “It’s not the same! Fu Yao isn’t a carbon copy.”
“If I hadn’t known you when you were Fu Yao’s age, I’m sure it wouldn’t be so obvious,” Xie Lian offers, placating as always.
“What about you?” Mu Qing asks. “Are you not bothering to take on a disguise at all?”
Xie Lian shrugs, something wistful in his expression. “No one knows what I look like anymore anyway.”
Mu Qing blinks and looks away. It’s true. The only statues of Xie Lian that still exist are the ones carved by Hua Cheng’s hands.
“If anything,” Feng Xin says, “you look like the cultivator and we look like your disciples.”
Mu Qing wants to argue, but Feng Xin isn’t wrong. He pushes memories of sweeping the halls of the Royal Holy Pavillion to the back of his mind. Xie Lian’s face is undeniably youthful, but he is noticeably older than them when they’re Fu Yao and Nan Feng. If anything, Xie Lian should look younger given when he ascended, but maybe the banishments and his hard life over centuries played into it. Mu Qing isn’t going to ask.
“It’s still my mission,” Mu Qing says.
Xie Lian smiles and nods. “Lead the way!”
The Savage they’re after doesn’t make an appearance throughout the day, and Mu Qing feels like they’re following shadowy rumors more than any real evidence. It feels good, though, to be active again. To trust that his body can and will do what he needs it to. They camp out for the night, and, after being shooed soundly away from the cooking fire, Xie Lian stands to take a walk.
Feng Xin stands, too, and Mu Qing rolls his eyes. “Are you sure, Your Highness? I can—”
Xie Lian shakes his head. “I want to be alone,” he says firmly.
Feng Xin opens his mouth, but Mu Qing tugs him back down. “He has his powers again, and that silk has more killing intent than you ever will,” Mu Qing says, watching the fire and carefully not looking at Xie Lian. Feng Xin grumbles beside him.
“Mu Qing is right,” Xie Lian says, and when Mu Qing glances up he gets a nod in thanks. “I’ll be back soon.”
“You don’t have to be his guard dog,” Mu Qing says to Feng Xin while they eat.
Feng Xin sighs. “That’s not— I just want him to be safe. I want you both to be safe. Don’t pretend you don’t want the same.”
“You didn’t see me trying to follow you around these last few months.”
“You would have if you weren’t chained to a desk,” Feng Xin jokes, bumping his shoulder against Mu Qing’s. “And if I’d asked for help, you would’ve come running.”
Mu Qing sniffs and refuses to answer, spooning more stew into his mouth.
“How long do you think he’ll be gone, anyway?” Feng Xin asks.
When Mu Qing looks up in question, Feng Xin is wearing a knowing smirk. Mu Qing frowns. “Feng Xin, we— mmph!”
Feng Xin’s mouth tastes like the leeks and roasted meat in the stew, the spices hotter on his tongue than in Mu Qing’s dish. They haven’t kissed in these bodies since the very first time, before they got used to the press of each other’s mouths. Mu Qing finds himself struggling to breathe earlier than he normally would, and he feels hot and uncomfortable, his stomach swooping.
Feng Xin looks as flushed as he feels. He laughs when he takes in Mu Qing’s appearance and kisses him again before Mu Qing can get angry.
“I guess it makes sense, right? These forms are younger, more… excitable.”
Mu Qing covers his face with his hands. In their true forms, Feng Xin has touched the bare skin of his wrist and his inner arm, pushing up his sleeves. He’s kissed Mu Qing’s neck where his collar parts. He’s skimmed a hand down Mu Qing’s clothed back, and even that made Mu Qing shiver. He’s felt Feng Xin’s strength and his touch in his true form, and he can’t help but wonder how it would feel now, in this other body. Here, now, when even Feng Xin’s knee digging into his thigh makes his blood run hot
Mu Qing has to know. “Is this how you felt when— back then?”
Feng Xin’s eyebrows climb. He’s holding Mu Qing’s hand in his, stroking his thumb over the back of it in an unconscious movement. “I’m guessing you didn’t because of your cultivation path?”
Mu Qing shakes his head. When he first started training alongside Xie Lian, maybe, but never anything this developed, this — needy.
Feng Xin scratches the back of his neck and looks away. Nan Feng’s ears turn just as red as the real Feng Xin’s do. “After Xie Lian ascended, before the… before everything, I used to watch when you went through forms with your sword, when you and Xie Lian would spar.”
Something feels heavy in Mu Qing’s stomach. “You watched Xie Lian,” he says dismissively.
Feng Xin pulls Mu Qing’s hand up and kisses his knuckles, and then his palm. “No, I watched you, and I felt—” he kisses Mu Qing, a dry brush of lips — “like this.”
“You hated me,” Mu Qing says. They’re sitting so close that even in the fading daylight he can see how much darker Feng Xin’s eyes are as Nan Feng.
Feng Xin smiles, a rueful thing. “You drove me crazy, yeah, but maybe how badly I wanted to bend you over the nearest flat surface was part of it.”
Mu Qing chokes on air. He’s so warm he’s sweating, heat racing through his body. “Maybe you should, um. Should do that? We should… do that.”
Feng Xin kisses him again, groaning when Mu Qing moves closer, trying to crawl into Feng Xin’s lap without knocking them both off the fallen tree they’re perched on. “Not here,” Feng Xin gasps, “I want to, to make it good for you. I want to lay you out and take my time.” Mu Qing shudders against him, trying not to whine. His pants feel tight. “And I want it to be you, I want to see you.”
“Okay, okay, we should— ugh, get away from me.” Mu Qing shuffles back, smoothing down his clothes. “Don’t look at me like that!”
“I’m not doing anything,” Feng Xin says, still looking at him like Mu Qing is worth looking at, or like he wants to devour him. Maybe a mix of both.
Mu Qing shields his face with his hand so he can’t see Feng Xin, staring into the fire. “We should be respectful of Xie Lian, too. He doesn’t need to see this.”
Especially not when Hua Cheng is taking his sweet time reanimating from his murder butterflies or whatever it is he has to do to come back.
“I think he’d be happy for us,” Feng Xin offers thoughtfully, and Mu Qing hums in agreement. He still doesn’t want to see Xie Lian’s soft smile when he finds out, knowing he’s thinking of Crimson Rain Sought Flower. Knowing how much he’s grieving.
“It’s good he came with you,” Mu Qing says. “Even if I don’t need the help.”
Feng Xin kicks at his foot, and Mu Qing scoots farther away, eying him warily. “It is good. Thanks for letting us tag along.”
“As if I had a choice. You were so pushy about it.”
“You love it,” Feng Xin says with a grin. Mu Qing blushes and uses a long stick to poke at the coals, rousing the fire.
“Mu— Fu Yao! Nan Feng!” Xie Lian’s voice rings out from very nearby. Mu Qing is glad he put space between him and Feng Xin already. Xie Lian runs into the clearing, smiling wide. “I think I found some tracks!”
Having Xie Lian along on the hunt keeps any urges Mu Qing experiences soundly in check, and he and Feng Xin manage to keep their hands off each other except for a handful of stolen kisses. Once they finally deal with the ghost, Mu Qing shifts to his true form when they say goodbye to Xie Lian at his small cabin on Taicang Mountain before ascending.
They’ve only been in the human realms for a few days, but it feels like weeks that he’s been stuck in his other skin. He feels the need to stretch, to make himself bigger, to test out all of his joints and muscles and fully be himself again.
He’s also thinking of what Feng Xin had said, and the way Feng Xin watches him after they ascend leaves no doubt of whether or not he meant it.
Mu Qing swallows and tilts his head in the direction of his new palace. “Come over, I have something I need to show you.”
The short walk is enough time to tell his deputies to clear out of his private rooms and make themselves scarce in the entryway. When Feng Xin follows hot on his heels deeper and deeper down the sparkling halls, they don’t encounter anyone else, and Mu Qing centers himself in the long, even strides he takes through his new home.
Feng Xin makes good on his promise once they’re in Mu Qing’s bed-chamber. He takes Mu Qing apart so slowly and so thoroughly that Mu Qing loses all sense of time. Feng Xin spreads him out and grounds him in his body, showing Mu Qing the pleasure that it’s capable of, the euphoria hidden beneath his skin.
They spend hours in bed, exploring each other in every way they can think of, at turns desperate and urgent, at others sated and slow, and always persistent in a way only gods can be. Mu Qing learns what he likes, which seems to be pretty much everything with Feng Xin. He likes when Feng Xin weighs him into the bed, regardless of if he’s inside Mu Qing or riding his cock, urging Mu Qing to thrust up into him. He likes it when Feng Xin holds him down or up or any way at all, likes to feel the strength in his corded muscles that Mu Qing knows he can match but gets to choose to be pliant for.
He really likes it when he gets to be the one to force Feng Xin down, to crawl on top and take him in hand, saying slyly, “Ju Yang indeed,” as he sinks onto his cock, just to watch Feng Xin’s face contort, torn between anger and lust.
“I’ll show you Ju Yang,” Feng Xin mutters, which is exactly what Mu Qing had been hoping for.
It’s easier than Mu Qing thought it could be, to give himself over like this and to have Feng Xin in turn. It’s as simple as breathing, letting his body take what it wants. He feels filled up and glowing with it, the edges of his body blurring with Feng Xin’s, transcending this time and this space like the immortals they are.
“I didn’t know it could be like— like, I don’t even know. You’re amazing,” Feng Xin says later, his head on Mu Qing’s chest.
Mu Qing tugs on Feng Xin’s hair. “What, you’re that desperate for compliments?”
Feng Xin props himself up next to Mu Qing, trailing his fingers down Mu Qing’s bare, damp chest. “I’m serious. It’s only been you since, well— you know. Since then.”
Mu Qing’s eyes widen. “Really?”
“Yeah.” Feng Xin shrugs. “And that was only the one time.”
“What,” Mu Qing says flatly.
“Yeah, we usually just talked,” Feng Xin says.
“What?!” Mu Qing says, dislodging Feng Xin’s hand when he sits up. Feng Xin sits up next to him. “You’re telling me you and Jian Lan fucked one time and you got her pregnant?”
“You had sex one time, with one woman, and you knocked her up,” Mu Qing says. He can hear his voice getting louder. “But you can’t help with virility prayers?!”
Feng Xin goes red, the color staining down his neck to his chest. “Shut up, that doesn’t mean anything.”
“You— you—” Mu Qing can’t stop laughing.
“It’s not a big deal,” Feng Xin mumbles sullenly. “I don’t know why you’re making it such a big deal. It’s not like I got you pregnant.”
Mu Qing laughs so hard his stomach hurts and tears gather in his eyes. “I don’t know if I trust you now, maybe you’re more powerful than you think!”
When he looks up, Feng Xin isn’t glaring at him anymore. He’s staring at Mu Qing with his mouth open. “What is it?” Mu Qing asks defensively.
“I’ve never seen you laugh like that,” Feng Xin says, hushed. “Ever.”
“You’re beautiful,” Feng Xin says, and he gathers Mu Qing back into his arms, their skin sticking together, tacky with drying sweat, and kisses him until laughter is the last thing on Mu Qing’s mind.
It seems like all bets are off for Feng Xin now that they’ve thoroughly enjoyed each other in their true forms. The next time they descend, he’s happy to tumble Mu Qing onto the grass during a mission, tussling quickly turning into furiously moving against each other amongst the flowers and weeds despite them being in their deputy forms.
Mu Qing can’t stop kissing him for anything, moaning into his mouth as Feng Xin’s fingers tighten on him. They’re face-to-face on their sides, and Feng Xin pulls Mu Qing’s leg over his hip so he can grind their hips together.
“We could—” Mu Qing gasps and throws his head back when Feng Xin bites his throat. “Animal,” he accuses. “We could go to an— an inn.”
Feng Xin pulls back. “Is that what you want?”
“It’d be easier than rutting in the dirt like—”
“Fine, fuck!” Feng Xin is halfway through drawing a Distance Shortening Array by the time Mu Qing stands and gets his clothes straightened.
Mu Qing smirks. “Eager?”
“Tell that to your erection,” Feng Xin says without bothering to even look at him. He’s not wrong. Mu Qing readjusts his robes, his cheeks hot.
Feng Xin rushes him through the array, and then through buying a room for the night. The innkeeper asks if they need dinner or wine but Feng Xin brushes him off so fast that Mu Qing can’t meet the old man’s eye. It’s the middle of the afternoon, the sun hours from setting, but that doesn’t stop Feng Xin from pulling Mu Qing’s clothes off as soon as they’re alone.
He pushes him down on the hard, narrow bed, holding him there as he looks his fill. His hands are spread wide across Mu Qing’s ribs, and Mu Qing can’t help but look at the span of them. He’s smaller like this, as Fu Yao, just as Feng Xin’s hands are bigger when he’s his true self. He can’t help but think of the picture they could make, with Feng Xin’s large, thick fingers spread around Fu Yao’s slender waist.
Feng Xin raises his eyebrows, looking at Nan Feng’s gloved hands on Fu Yao and back to his face as if he knows what Mu Qing is thinking.
“Take off your gloves,” Mu Qing says, fighting to keep his voice even.
Feng Xin’s real hands aren’t the only things that are smaller on Fu Yao’s body. Nan Feng’s cock isn’t unimpressive by any means, but it’s not absurd like Feng Xin’s. It’s still a lot for Mu Qing to take, especially like this, in a slighter form, and Mu Qing can’t stop wondering if —
“I’m going to move now,” Feng Xin says, and he does, pressing in so deep that Mu Qing arches to meet him, holding Feng Xin to him as his hips roll again.
Mu Qing doesn’t know if he expected it to be different like this, in their deputy forms, but it’s still — good. So good. Sublimely good. They get worn out faster, but that doesn’t stop them from having each other over and over, taking turns with their mouths and cocks and hands.
“I want to try,” Feng Xin starts after he comes inside Mu Qing for the second time, but he doesn’t bother to explain any further before he pulls out, hikes Mu Qing’s hips up, and licks into his dripping hole because, apparently, that’s something that people do — that Feng Xin does.
His mouth is hot and wet against Mu Qing, and he groans as he licks into him, tasting his own spend. He's insatiable, lapping at Mu Qing like he's some kind of delicacy. Mu Qing comes for the third time with Feng Xin’s tongue inside him and Feng Xin’s hand wrapped around his cock, feeling filthy and embarrassed and so aroused he’s dizzy with it.
As gods, even as gods masquerading as their own deputies, they don’t need sleep. They could even head back to the heavens instead of staying the night. Feng Xin shrugs, his sweat-damp shoulder moving under Mu Qing’s head. “We already paid for the room, though.”
Neither of them would miss the money, but Mu Qing doesn’t argue. They’re crammed together in this small bed, but if Feng Xin wants to stay, Mu Qing won’t complain. There’s something almost nice about the warmth and weight of Feng Xin next to him, quiet besides his unnecessary breath. It’s a moment of peace, a door between them and the rest of the mortal realm with no one in the heavens trying to get their attention.
“Your hair’s so much shorter like this,” Feng Xin mumbles, carding his fingers through it, carefully teasing out tangles from their recent activities. “Was it this short before, when we were in Xianle?”
Mu Qing says nothing, and Feng Xin does him the kindness of pretending he’s already asleep.
They wake tangled together before dawn, and Mu Qing is annoyed with how well-rested he feels, even with the dip in spiritual power from breaking his cultivation method. It affects him less and less every time they do this, and Mu Qing can’t name the feeling that rushes through him when he realizes that soon his body and his spirit will be so used to this it won’t affect him at all.
“Should we go back?” Feng Xin asks, a slightly higher croak than normal in Nan Feng’s voice.
Mu Qing nods. “Yeah, get dressed.”
Feng Xin leaves coins in their rented room, and the inn is dark and still when they depart. Feng Xin has his tunic slung over his shoulder, dressed in only his undershirt and pants even though he put his little gloves back on. “What?” he asks when he misinterprets Mu Qing’s long look. He gestures at the empty village road. “No one’s around.”
Mu Qing crosses his arms, content and wrapped in his layers. “Nothing. Are you ready?”
As soon as they’re back in the heavens, Feng Xin shifts back to his true form. He grows taller and wider, and, afterward, he stretches his arms to the sky and groans. Mu Qing understands the impulse. The time spent in Fu Yao’s body always leaves him feeling tight and a little unsettled in his own body.
He doesn’t change back yet.
“Want to come back to mine?” Feng Xin asks, looking back over his shoulder at Mu Qing. Like this, he has to look down slightly. It makes something spark in Mu Qing’s belly. Feng Xin touches his fingers to his temple. “I’ll make sure everyone clears out.”
Mu Qing swallows. “Sure. Fine.”
Feng Xin doesn’t seem to realize that Mu Qing hasn’t resumed his true form until they’re in his palace. He furrows his brows, glowering at Mu Qing. “Are you okay? Are you hurt?” Feng Xin takes a step closer, crowding Mu Qing against the wall. “Do you need to borrow power?”
Mu Qing shakes his head. “No, I— I’m fine. Is there a reason you brought me here?”
“I thought we could… you know.”
Mu Qing rolls his eyes. “Can’t we?”
Feng Xin’s eyes sweep down his frame. “Like… this?”
Mu Qing is used to being Fu Yao, and he’s had this disguise for a long time. Much longer than Feng Xin has had Nan Feng, and much, much longer than he needed it with Xie Lian. Even if he’s just as irascible as Fu Yao, he seems to have an easier time talking to people in this shape. Maybe it’s because Fu Yao is shorter and smaller, altogether younger and softer looking. Maybe it’s because while Fu Yao has the same sort of cold good looks Mu Qing had as a teenager, they’re arrested in time as a youth, not sharpened into Mu Qing’s untouchable beauty.
In short, Fu Yao is pretty.
Feng Xin looks down at him. “Are you— you’re okay?”
Mu Qing is smaller and weaker like this, with some of his spiritual power locked away. He scoffs and tosses his head, looking away. He can feel the blush creeping into his cheeks. “I’m fine, don’t make it a thing.”
Feng Xin leans in, and Mu Qing slouches back against the wall. Feng Xin reaches for his face and then seems to think better of it, wrapping a hand around Mu Qing’s hip instead. He bows his head, his lips against Mu Qing’s temple. Mu Qing bites down the noise he wants to make.
“I don’t want to make you uncomfortable,” Feng Xin says lowly.
“You couldn’t,” Mu Qing snaps. He’s choosing to be — to be vulnerable right now, but Feng Xin doesn’t need to know that. And, also, Feng Xin couldn’t make him uncomfortable, not really. Feng Xin is always so conscientious, and right now that quality is annoying.
Feng Xin tips his head to the side, his other hand coming to ruck up Mu Qing’s robes, going straight for his belt. “You want this,” Feng Xin says.
“Take off your gloves.”
Feng Xin smirks. “No, not this time.” He releases Mu Qing’s hip to stroke his face. Mu Qing shivers at the touch of leather. “I think you like it.”
“Fine,” Mu Qing says through gritted teeth. He tips his jaw up and bites at Feng Xin’s fingers. He means it as a joke, but Feng Xin moves his hand closer, tracing Mu Qing’s lips and his bared teeth with his fingertips.
He moves swiftly, and Mu Qing feels stunned by it, by his hands at the ties to Mu Qing’s robes, and then at his hips, shoving down his pants before Mu Qing can say anything. Feng Xin’s clothing is gone just as quickly, a sloppy pile on the floor of his palace. Everything but the gloves.
“You don’t need me to stretch you out anymore,” Feng Xin says, and it’s not a question. “What if I do it anyway?”
Feng Xin grabs his hips again, hoisting Mu Qing up easily. Mu Qing wraps his arms and legs around him so he doesn’t fall, and then he shudders when Feng Xin traces his hole with gloved fingers.
“Already so wet for me,” Feng Xin says, biting the words into Mu Qing’s shoulder. “So ready. I can still feel where I—”
“Shut up,” Mu Qing whines, thumping him on the back. “Shut up, you— ah!”
Feng Xin pushes two fingers inside Mu Qing like it’s nothing, like Mu Qing is always this ready to take it. Mu Qing gasps, tightening around them. The leather heats quickly in response to his body temperature, and the drag of the fabric, of the soft, worn-in archer’s gloves, makes Mu Qing shake.
“Just, just put it in!” Mu Qing says, clutching at Feng Xin’s shoulders.
“I’m going to,” Feng Xin says, and when he kisses Mu Qing, he has to lean down a little. As promised, he pulls his fingers free and shuffles Fu Yao’s body around like he’s as light as a feather. The head of his cock is thick and warm and Mu Qing can’t catch his breath for wanting. “You’re sure?”
“Yes,” Mu Qing gasps, “yes, Feng Xin, you have to, you—”
“I’ve got you,” Feng Xin says. He kisses Mu Qing again, rubbing his cock back and forth against him. “Got you, sweetheart.”
It takes so long for Feng Xin to sink inside. He’s so long, so thick, and Fu Yao’s smaller form struggles to accept him inside. It feels like the press of him lasts for an eternity, and Mu Qing’s head tips back, clunking against the wall in defeat. He hovers right on edge of pleasure-pain, but Feng Xin looming over him, holding him up like this, only pushes it toward the former.
“I— you,” Feng Xin says, and Mu Qing laughs at his inability to form a sentence. “Would you have felt like this— then?”
Mu Qing screws his eyes shut. “How would I know? Were you this… massive, then?”
“Shut up, I don’t know!” Feng Xin says.
“How do you no— mmph!”
Feng Xin kisses him, deep and sure, and he’s still buried inside Mu Qing’s body. Mu Qing can be quiet, for now. Or, at least, he can stop antagonizing Feng Xin while he grabs Mu Qing’s hips and pulls Mu Qing’s smaller body down onto his cock. Mu Qing whines into Feng Xin’s mouth, holding onto Feng Xin’s shoulders as he moves Mu Qing up and down like he’s weightless. Feng Xin’s muscles bunch underneath his hands, but he’s not even breaking a sweat in his true form.
He bounces Mu Qing on his cock like it’s as easy as carrying an empty quiver, like it requires no extra effort, extra strength, to move Fu Yao wherever he wants to.
“So tight like this,” Feng Xin groans, and he holds Mu Qing up with one hand while the other traces down to where they’re connected. “So fucking small and, and—”
“Then why are you trying to add more,” Mu Qing whines, shuddering at Feng Xin’s artless poking around. The leather is still smooth and strange.
“I’m not,” Feng Xin argues, but the press of his fingertip alongside his large cock says otherwise. Mu Qing shouts into his shoulder, burying his face in Feng Xin’s broad chest. “Shh, you can take it. So good for me, even like this.”
He keeps his finger pressed inside, stretching Mu Qing out even further. Mu Qing can tell it’s not even all the way inside, but he feels so full already, like he’s never been empty, ever. Like Feng Xin has always been this perfect for him. He clenches down, trying to make Feng Xin feel as lost as he does, and then moans pitifully when he realizes his body — can’t. Feng Xin has him stretched so open that Mu Qing can’t possibly take any more, and he can’t tighten up any further, either.
“Fuck me,” Mu Qing moans, hating the pleading note in his voice. “Feng Xin, fuck me, fuck me.”
“What do you think I’m doing,” Feng Xin grumbles, but he obeys anyway, moving Mu Qing faster, using the hand on his ass to help lift and lower him, keeping his gloved finger pressed tight beside his thick cock.
Mu Qing wails, holding on tighter, his nails raking across Feng Xin’s shoulders. “I— I can’t, you have to make me, I—”
“Come, then,” Feng Xin says. “Come like this, taking everything I give you. You’d take more, wouldn’t you? You’d let me stuff you so full, even like this, so small and needy.”
“Shut up, shut— ah, ah!”
“You would,” Feng Xin says, somehow moving Mu Qing even faster, slamming him down again and again. “You’d beg for it.”
“I never— fuck, fuck, Feng Xin, I—”
Feng Xin bends down to kiss the side of Mu Qing’s neck, to whisper in his ear. “Go on. Come for me, Fu Yao.”
Mu Qing bites Feng Xin’s bicep to muffle his scream, pleasure tearing him apart so thoroughly that he’s almost not annoyed at coming as soon as Feng Xin told him to. Feng Xin is saying something to him, the words misshapen and slurred to Mu Qing’s ears as he tries to blink back into existence. He’s trembling in Feng Xin’s strong arms, that much he knows, and Feng Xin has stopped moving. He strokes Mu Qing’s back, long, even motions that make Mu Qing want to curl up on his chest.
Mu Qing releases his hold on Feng Xin’s arm, smiling when Feng Xin hisses at the sting of it. There are two rows of imprints from his teeth. Mu Qing kind of wants to bite him again, with his own mouth, to see if the new marks would swallow up these smaller ones.
“You maimed me,” Feng Xin says, but he’s grinning, his eyes shifting from Mu Qing’s face to the mess he’s made between their stomachs. “I’m going to pull out now.”
“You don’t have to announce— ah, ah, slower!”
Mu Qing’s legs shake when Feng Xin sets him down. He lets Feng Xin steady him, mostly because he’s distracted by Feng Xin’s flushed erection. “You didn’t—”
Feng Xin kisses him, wrapping his big hands around Mu Qing’s jaw to hold him in place. Mu Qing moans and kisses back, covering Feng Xin’s hands with his own.
Feng Xin pulls away. “Turn back,” he says, desperation in his voice. “I want to see you, I want to kiss the you that I— you.”
Mu Qing feels heat rush to his face. “Why? What’s the big deal?”
“I wanted to see you, the you that’s… for me,” Feng Xin says with a stupidly hopeful smile.
“None of me is for you,” Mu Qing says without thinking, but Feng Xin only laughs.
“All of me is for you,” he says in-between kisses. “I was then, and I am now.”
“You’re such a hassle,” Mu Qing says, but he holds onto Feng Xin tighter all the same, letting Fu Yao melt away so he can assume his true form.
Feng Xin adjusts easily, holding onto Mu Qing and kissing him deeply once they’re the same height again. “I like you like this,” Feng Xin says, kissing Mu Qing’s cheek, “and the other way,” he kisses his other cheek. Mu Qing wants to hide his face. “All ways.”
“Fucking sap,” Mu Qing accuses.
Feng Xin shrugs and bends down, sliding a hand around Mu Qing’s knees before he can protest. He lifts him like that, one arm under his knees and the other around his back, like Mu Qing is some princess to be toted around.
“You’re heavier like this,” Feng Xin teases.
Mu Qing pokes the bulge of his bicep, right in the center of the bite mark he left. “You don’t seem to be having an issue, throwing me around like a sack of grain.”
“My sack of grain,” Feng Xin says, like an idiot, and Mu Qing has to kiss him despite himself.
Feng Xin walks them blindly to his rooms, refusing to stop kissing Mu Qing now that they’ve started again. Mu Qing’s bare feet knock into the wall more than once, but he only digs his nails into the back of Feng Xin’s neck in protest.
Feng Xin lays Mu Qing out on his bed, fisting his cock while he drinks in the sight of Mu Qing’s real body. He’s still wearing the stupid gloves. Mu Qing squirms beneath him.
“You’ll let me have you again, like this?” Feng Xin asks.
Mu Qing doesn’t say, Like this and like any other way, because he has, somehow, a few wits left about him. “Go on then,” he says instead. He aims for bored, for flippant, but the hungry way he drags Feng Xin down on top of him tells the truth.
“We’ll have to do this again,” Feng Xin says, kissing his way across Mu Qing’s collarbone.
“Yes,” Mu Qing gasps.
“And the other way, too,” Feng Xin says, licking at the defined lines of Mu Qing’s hard stomach, the muscles that shake beneath his tongue.
“The— the other way?”
Feng Xin looks up, his lips so close to Mu Qing’s hardening cock that Mu Qing doesn’t care what he has to say. He wants to grab a fistful of Feng Xin's hair and pull his mouth onto —
“Reversed,” Feng Xin clarifies, “with me as Nan Feng.”
Mu Qing has to bite his lip at the sound he wants to make, thinking of himself in this body with Nan Feng above him, riding his cock and whining in that higher-pitched voice. “If you want to,” Mu Qing says, breathless.
“I want to.” Feng Xin laps at the head of his cock, and Mu Qing whines. “I want to, every way you’ll let me.”
“You’re relentless,” Mu Qing gasps.
“Only with you,” Feng Xin says with a smirk, and anything petty Mu Qing might have said is lost in a groan as Feng Xin takes his cock in his mouth, comfortably pushing down and down as Mu Qing gets harder, longer.
“Fine, yes,” Mu Qing says, hands tight in Feng Xin’s mussed hair. “Anything, as long as it’s with you.”
There’s something soft in Feng Xin’s eyes when he glances up at Mu Qing in surprise, something gentle, even while he has to look up the length of Mu Qing’s body, even as Mu Qing’s cock edges into his throat. It makes Mu Qing’s chest tighten, and he can’t look anywhere else. Maybe he never could, he thinks, with Feng Xin in the room. Maybe, every time they fought head-to-head or back-to-back, every time they argued or strategized, every time they trusted each other more than the rest of the heavens combined — maybe, in any and every form they’ve ever taken, they were always only looking at each other.