Sizhui had always been fascinated by the collection of Lan writings about the history and disciplines of their clan. They were so varied. Some were chilly and precise, some were zealous, and some, in Sizhui’s opinion, really wanted to go back and be monks and not deal with worldly matters at all. All of them, though, seemed to stumble when they tried to talk about intimacy and passion, and started talking around the details. It was really quite frustrating for a studious young man who just wanted to learn. So, in pursuit of learning, which the clan rules enjoined them all to in any case, Sizhui had put together the things he’d noticed his foster father never forbid, done a little personal research, and concluded that yes, he probably did want to do this with his best friend. More importantly, if the way Jingyi’s eyes lingered on Sizhui’s mouth and the way his ears then turned red were anything to judge by, Jingyi wanted the same thing.
So, really, all Sizhui had to do was wait for Jingyi to be ready.
Really, quite patiently.
They were in the bath house, scrubbing off after some extra evening practice of their sword forms when Jingyi’s sidelong glances finally resolved into words.
Honestly, it was just a good thing Sizhui got plenty of practice interpreting the small nuances of expression from his foster father.
“Hey. Sizhui?” Jingyi scrubbed industriously at one leg. “You know how the Lan Discipline says not to wallow in pleasure?”
He seemed to run out of words, there, and Sizhui hid his smile by reaching around to soap his back. “Yes?” he prompted.
“Well.” Now Jingyi was scrubbing between his toes with great concentration. “That means some pleasure is okay, right?” His eyes slid sidelong toward Sizhui. “Have you ever…?”
“Not with anyone else.” Sizhui slanted his own glance at Jingyi, under his lashes. “Did you want to?”
Jingyi promptly turned red, but there was also the glint in his eyes that often preceded his most entertaining ideas. And frequently Sizhui having to talk their way out of trouble, but if he minded that he wouldn’t be best friends with Lan Jingyi, after all. “I was thinking about it,” Jingyi admitted, with the artless honestly that Sizhui had always liked in him.
“Well, then.” Sizhui left off working up lather in one hand, since he thought he’d got enough now, and stepped over to curl his other hand around the back of Jingyi’s neck. “Let’s,” he murmured and tugged Jingyi close enough to kiss.
It took a breath for Jingyi to stop grinning, but when he did the slide of lips against lips turned soft and warm, and Sizhui could absolutely see why people did this. Jingyi’s hands closed around his hips, tentative at first and then firmer when Sizhui made an approving sound into his mouth. Body against body was a little awkward, a little bit of angles bumping against each other, but he liked being so close; it felt good. He slid his soapy hand down Jingyi’s chest and gently over his stomach, halting when he felt Jingyi’s breath stutter. “May I?” he asked softly.
Jingyi pulled back enough to look at him, eyes wide. “I, um.” He swallowed and huffed out a laugh. “Yeah.”
Sizhui smiled back and wrapped his hand around Jingyi’s cock. He was a little surprised by how different it felt, doing this for someone else, from doing it for himself. The smooth texture of Jingyi’s cock against his palm, and the way he hardened in Sizhui’s hand, caught at his senses without his own pleasure to distract from them. The way Jingyi gasped, hands tightening sharply on Sizhui’s hips, the way his lips parted under Sizhui’s, pulled at his attention, made him listen closely as he stroked Jingyi, trying to tell what he liked.
Jingyi definitely seemed to like a firm grip, that made him moan low in his throat, and Sizhui smiled as he kissed Jingyi again, coaxing; he might have known. Jingyi’s hips rocked up into it, when Sizhui turned his wrist, fingertips pressing down the underside of Jingyi’s cock. “Sizhui!” he gasped, and Sizhui pressed closer, hand moving faster. He liked hearing Jingyi like this; liked knowing he was part of Jingyi’s pleasure. It was like the first time they’d worked as a pair during a night-hunt, relying on each other, on how well they knew each other—like that, only with a hotter, heavier edge.
“I’ve got you,” he told Jingyi softly, out of that feeling, and drew in a quick, startled breath at the shudder that rolled through Jingyi in response, the way his cock pulsed against Sizhui’s palm as he came, swaying, hands flashing up to catch Sizhui’s shoulders. Sizhui pulled him close, arm tight around his waist, and said again, more certain, “I’ve got you.”
“Yeah,” Jingyi said against his neck, a little hoarse. “Yeah.” After another breath or two, he added, “Wow.”
Sizhui laughed softly, holding him close. Something gleeful curled through his chest, like triumph but lighter, sweeter. Jingyi laughed with him, getting his feet under him again, hands sliding down Sizhui’s arms. “So,” he ducked his head a little, smiling. “Your turn?”
“I’d like that.” Sizhui thought he’d probably like it very much; he was already more than half hard, just from touching Jingyi.
Jingyi looked around and tugged Sizhui toward the nearest bath bench. “Come here.” He sat and tugged on Sizhui’s hands again, grinning up at him. Sizhui’s face was a little hot as he settled himself over Jingyi’s legs, straddling his lap, but it did feel nice when Jingyi’s arms settled around him. He slid closer, experimentally, and made a pleased sound at how nicely they did fit together, like this, his arms draped over Jingyi’s shoulders, Jingyi’s face tipped up to kiss him.
When Jingyi’s fingers stroked over his cock, Sizhui’s breath drew in sharply and a tingle of heat rushed through him head to toe. He hadn’t realized how intense it would feel, to be touched by another, to feel such an intimate caress and not know quite what it would do next, keeping the awareness at the front of his thoughts—this was someone else touching him. “Oh.”
“Is it good?” Jingyi asked, and Sizhui smiled, remembering how much he’d liked knowing exactly that. He leaned against Jingyi.
“Very good.” He bit his lip at the thought that came next, but it felt right, so he murmured against Jingyi’s ear, “A little harder?”
This close, he could hear the way Jingyi swallowed. His arm tightened around Sizhui and his hand tightened around Sizhui’s cock, and oh but that felt good. “Mm, yes,” Sizhui agreed, increasingly breathless. “Right there,” as Jingyi’s fingers stroked back behind his balls before sweeping up again, “do that again!”
Pleasure curled through him, hot and heavy, and he let his eyes slide closed to concentrate on sensation, found his arms winding tight around Jingyi’s shoulders as Jingyi stroked him, found the encouraging words he meant to offer getting jumbled and husky. “Ahh, yes… further down oh, yes…!”
When the heat burst through him it was sweet and intense and swept up all his senses for long moments. He was very glad, when it ebbed, to feel Jingyi’s arm tight around him. For a while all he wanted to do was lean against his friend and be supported while his senses settled. When he thought he could manage coherent words again, he murmured against Jingyi’s temple, “Thank you.” He could feel it, against his own cheek, when Jingyi’s face heated.
“You too. I mean. You’re welcome?”
Sizhui smiled, easing back a little, only to pause and glance down. Jingyi was half-hard again, already. Sizhui’s smile tugged wider. “You liked me telling you what to do that much?” he teased gently.
Jingyi sputtered, and finally huffed, looking aside as he settled both arms around Sizhui’s hips. “Well. That’s not any different than usual, is it?”
Sizhui laughed. And people wondered why he was such good friends with Jingyi. They fit together, was all.
This way, too.
He leaned back in for a soft kiss. “Let’s finish getting cleaned up, then.”
Jingyi grinned up at him, eyes glinting. “You know, I bet the waterfalls around back don’t have many people passing by.”
“It’s probably been a while since anyone inspected the bounds there, then,” Sizhui pointed out, obliging, as he stood and reached for the soap again. “We should check on that.”
Jingyi laughed as he poured one of the rinse basins over himself, shaking wet hair back. “Good idea.”
The familiar warmth of knowing they were thinking the same thing settled in Sizhui’s chest, anchoring the unfamiliar excitement still fluttering through him. They would fit together this way, too. Maybe they would even be partners for good.
And if he felt a twinge at having something he was pretty sure his foster father had lost, the thought of staying with Jingyi still felt right.
After all the mysteries were resolved, and temporary farewells said, one certainty stayed with Sizhui—he needed to do right by his past, as right as he could, before moving forward again.
Jingyi gave him a long look and rested both hands on his shoulders. “You’re sure?”
“I’m sure,” Sizhui answered, quietly. Jingyi squeezed his shoulders and gave him a firm nod.
“All right. We’ll be there, when you get home.” Before Sizhui could do more than smile for the quiet certainty of that reassurance, Jingyi turned briskly to Wen Ning. “So, the thing you have to remember is, Sizhui likes to fuss over people. Just let him feed you; it’ll make your life easier.”
“What you have to watch out for is that he doesn’t sleep enough,” Jingyi went on as if he hadn’t heard a thing. Sizhui put a hand over his eyes. It didn’t really help; he could still hear Lan Fengli and Lu Anbo grinning. “If it gets to midnight and he still isn’t asleep, put another blanket over him and stay nearby, so he can tell you’re there.”
Sizhui was never going to stop blushing, at this rate.
“Thank you.” The quiet sincerity of Wen Ning’s words stilled them all. When Sizhui looked, Wen Ning was holding Jingyi’s gaze, eyes as sure and steady as his voice. “For helping me take care of my family. Thank you.”
Jingyi was very still, watching Wen Ning.
Wen Ning’s smile was gentle. “And I’ll take care of your partner; I promise.”
Some of the straightness eased out of Jingyi’s shoulders, and Sizhui blinked at him. He’d had Jingyi be protective before, but never possessive. Perhaps it was simply the newness of this new relative? He nudged Jingyi’s shoulder with his, and Jingyi ducked his head a little, glancing at Sizhui sidelong. Sizhui smiled and stroked his fingers over Jingyi’s wrist, hidden by the folds of their sleeves.
He wasn’t going anywhere. Or, perhaps more accurately, he was always going to come back.
Jingyi relaxed and nodded faintly.
Wen Ning’s expression had turned downright indulgent, and Sizhui did his best to stifle any further blushes as he picked up his sword. “I’ll see everyone in just a little while.”
The chorus of cheerful goodbyes was heartening, of course, but it was the steadiness of Jingyi’s gaze on him, as he turned to leave, that Sizhui wrapped up in his heart to carry with him.
“You found a good partner,” Wen Ning remarked, apparently to the trees, as they made their way back onto the main road.
Sizhui smiled, satisfied with the feeling of his old-new life fitting in solidly around his current one. “Yes. I did.”