Give One Heart, Get Back Two

Lan Sizhui and Lan Jingyi decide it’s time to let Jin Ling know how they feel about him. Romance, Porn, Fluff, I-4

Lan Sizhui was not used to exasperation being his predominant feeling while night-hunting, but it was happening more and more often lately.

Sizhui knew that Jin Ling was under a great deal of pressure, now he’d had to take up the responsibilities of sect master, and do so without much real support from within his own clan. He knew that Jin Ling’s eagerness to accept his own or Ouyang Zhizen’s invitations to hunt together was because these night-hunts, just the junior disciples among themselves (politely ignoring the times that Wen Ning or Wei Wuxian shadowed and watched over them) were Jin Ling’s only real opportunity to relax, to be the junior that his lack of experience still showed him to be. He knew that it was for exactly these reasons that Jin Ling could get a little reckless, on their night-hunts, and he appreciated the implicit trust Jin Ling showed them all by leaving himself so unguarded. He really did.

He just wished Jin Ling would take a few more moments to think, first, before acting. Even one moment might do, really.

Sizhui exchanged a speaking look with Jingyi as Jin Ling dove straight for the corrupted river-spirit, sword out. Jingyi rolled his eyes mightily, but he also nodded and matched Sizhui stroke for stroke as he inscribed a freezing seal and drove it, glowing, into the body of the creature.

Jin Ling’s sword struck a breath later, shattering it, and Sizhui couldn’t help smiling back at the delighted grin Jin Ling gave them as he turned, face bright with uncomplicated happiness that never failed to warm Sizhui almost as much as Jingyi’s rare quiet smiles did.

In that moment, he decided it was time to say something.

That night, once they were all settled in the town’s small inn, Sizhui laid his head on Jingyi’s shoulder and asked, soft in the darkness, “Do you ever think Jin Ling needs something to anchor him, these days?”

Jingyi tilted his head to look down at him for a long moment and then flopped back with a soft snort. “You and your taking care of everyone habits. I think you must have gotten that part from Wei-qianbei.” He hummed thoughtfully, ignoring it when Sizhui poked him in the ribs. “On the other hand, Hanguang-jun did agree to take over as Chief Cultivator; maybe you get it from both sides.” He squawked as Sizhui poked harder and grabbed for his hand, laughing under his breath. “All right, all right. I’ve noticed, yeah.” After a long, quiet moment, he laced his fingers with Sizhui’s and asked, low, “Do you think it should be us?”

Sizhui settled back against him, thumb stroking back and forth over Jingyi’s knuckles as he searched for words. “I think,” he finally said, slow and careful, “that Jin Ling needs very badly for someone in his life to show him gentleness. And for that to be someone he can trust, after what his Jin uncle turned out to be. I also think he needs someone to… well, to not stifle him. To let him be mischievous. To tease him out of it when he’s acting spoiled, but not try to just… just cut him off.” He smiled softly and curled a little closer. “And I think that sounds like you.”

Jingyi made a thoughtful sound. “And someone to be a good example, maybe, considering both his Jin and his Jiang uncles. Someone who won’t let him go the wrong way, even if there’s people saying it’s the right one.” His hand tightened on Sizhui’s. “Which sounds like you, to me. And, wow, did you definitely get that one from both sides,” he added with a low laugh.

Sizhui felt his face heat. “I’m not that stubborn,” he mumbled against Jingyi’s shoulder.

“You really, really are.” Jingyi turned his head to press a kiss to Sizhui’s hair. “It looks good on you. Pretty sure we both think so. Me and xiao-Ling both.”

Sizhui tried to stifle a burst of half delighted and half horrified laughter against Jingyi’s chest. “Jingyi! Don’t call him that!” The tantrum would be epic, even if Jin Ling was a full year younger than the next oldest of them. Or rather, quite likely, because of that.

“No?” Sizhui could hear the wicked grin in Jingyi’s voice.

Sizhui leaned up on an elbow to smile down at him in the dim room. “Well, at least not until after we’ve convinced him.”

Jingyi laughed and pulled him down to a kiss.

At breakfast the next morning, Sizhui asked Jin Ling, “How is the Jin sect doing?”

Jin Ling’s head shot up, eyes wide over a mouthful of noodles. Sizhui waited, patiently. He knew they’d never asked about sect matters before, but he’d thought more than once that maybe they should. And if Jingyi was behind him in this, he was willing to press a little.

“It’s… I mean…” Jin Ling hesitated, wariness in the faint hunch of his shoulders. Sizhui tilted his head in an encouraging nod. Slowly, Jin Ling’s shoulders eased back down and he looked away with a shrug. “It’s hard,” he admitted artlessly. “There’s a lot of people who think one of the cousin branches should have taken over. Someone older.” He sniffed over the idea with a flash of his old arrogance, and Sizhui couldn’t help smiling at it, reaching over to rest his hand on Jin Ling’s before it could curl into a fist. Jin Ling looked around, eyes wide all over again, staring at their hands for a moment before he ducked his head, coloring.

If he was honest with himself, Sizhui had to admit that it was partly Jin Ling’s shyness over the slightest expression of care that drew him. It was all tangled together, the wanting to take care of him, and the bright anger on behalf of someone who was so genuinely good-hearted, and the quiet satisfaction when Jin Ling let himself be guided. “You can always call on us, if you need help,” he said quietly, tightening his hand on Jin Ling’s for a breath. And then he smiled. “We won’t be such complicated political support as Jiang-zongzhu is.”

Jin Ling gave him an exasperated look, though he didn’t pull away. “Lan Sizhui, you’re the adopted son of the Chief Cultivator.”

“Well yes, but almost no one outside of the Lan sect itself knows that,” Sizhui pointed out. Not that a judicious revelation at the right moment might not be a very useful approach to keep in reserve, now he thought about it, especially if he needed to back someone away from Jin Ling.

“So, what, you want to lie to everybody?” Jin Ling looked dubious.

“It’s not lying,” Sizhui explained patiently. “It’s just not saying everything. Zewu-jun does it all the time; I can teach you how, if you like.”

Jin Ling sputtered, and Jingyi burst out laughing. “Everyone notices he’s the one who gets us out of trouble, and never figures out how many of the ideas are his to start with.”

“Just as many are yours,” Sizhui returned.

Jingyi grinned. “Yep. And that’s why you love me.”

Sizhui smiled at him, knowing it was soft with the warmth in his chest. “One of the reasons.” Jin Ling was looking at them with more longing plain to see on his face than he probably realized, and Sizhui stroked a gentle thumb over the back of his hand. “You can always ask us, if you need help or just want company.”

At that, however, Jin Ling’s eyes fell and and the faint tension of reserve returned—the reserve that he used with friends, instead of the arrogance he used with everyone else, which was a little progress at least. Sizhui glanced over at Jingyi, who gave him a tiny, helpless shrug. Sizhui nodded and patted Jin Ling’s hand before letting him go. He’d think over what Jin Ling might be doubtful about as they traveled, today.

“Shall we get going?” he asked.

He watched Jin Ling out of the corner of his eye as they gathered their things and set out. As they walked, he turned over what he knew about Jin Ling’s life. About the uncle who had raised him kindly but in isolation from the rest of his clan, never wanting competition for the sect’s leadership. About the uncle who had raised him strictly, perhaps as the only memento of a lost sister and perhaps trying to never let him be too like a lost brother, but always in reference to someone else. Never as Jin Ling himself. About Jin Ling’s deep attachment to the dog who loved him unconditionally. And when they stopped for water, he went to stand beside Jin Ling, looking out over the little lake that the spring fed down into.

“Is it that you want to not have to ask for our help or company?”

He’d spoken quietly, but Jin Ling jumped as if he’d shouted, head whipping around to stare at Sizhui. “I don’t…!”

Sizhui knew it might not be quite the right moment, but he couldn’t bear to just stand and watch his friend panic, either, and he reached out to lay his hands on Jin Ling’s shoulders. “Jin Ling,” he said softly, holding those wide eyes, “I’m saying you can have that, if you want.”

Jin Ling chewed on his lip. “But… why?” he finally asked, voice small.

Sizhui shook his head chidingly, though he also smiled to soften it. “Because we like you. You’re a good friend, Jin Ling.”

Jin Ling turned very pink and ducked his head. Jingyi grinned wickedly, from behind Jin Ling, and Sizhui gave him a scolding head shake. There would be time for teasing later. Jingyi folded his hands and tried to look innocent, which he was very bad at. Sizhui stifled a laugh, and looked back at Jin Ling’s bent head. Their friend was still hunched in on himself a little. Perhaps he needed to be even more plain about this.

“Jin Ling,” Sizhui said softly, stepping closer, “just because I don’t approve of everything you’ve ever done doesn’t mean I don’t like you, and respect your abilities, and want to be with you. I do.”

Jin Ling blinked up at him, looking very confused. “But…”

Sizhui lifted one hand to cup Jin Ling’s cheek, and he quieted at once, face just a bit flushed. Sizhui made a note of that. “I like you. I want you to be well. And I think you’ve been without what you need, for a long time. Am I right?”

Jin Ling was chewing on his lip again. Behind him, Jingyi rolled his eyes and came to stand right up against Jin Ling’s back, arms wrapped around him, which made Jin Ling’s whole body stiffen. “Of course he has, we all know that perfectly well, Sizhui. The question is whether he wants what he needs from us.”

Sizhui laughed softly. “You see,” he told Jin Ling, “this is another reason I love Jingyi. He always gets to the point.”

Jin Ling was still standing far too still, but his mouth finally tilted in a crooked smile. “I guess I can see it.”

Sizhui smiled and slid both hands up to cup Jin Ling’s face, stepping in close enough for their breaths to mingle. He observed how Jin Ling’s breath caught with satisfaction; he’d judged this right. “You are worthy of love and admiration too, Jin Ling. Perhaps not always for the reasons you’ve been taught, but for your true strengths and true nature. Will you accept that from us?”

Jin Ling opened his mouth and closed it again. “I…” He wet his lips, and Sizhui really couldn’t help the way that drew his eyes. “Yes?” Jin Ling whispered.

“Good,” Sizhui murmured, and leaned in the last little bit to kiss him, gentle but sure.

Despite how obvious he was pretty sure he’d been, Jin Ling still made a shocked sound into his mouth, and Sizhui entertained a brief moment of fury at both Jin Guangyao and Jiang Cheng. He set that aside for later, though, concentrating on the slow softening of Jin Ling’s mouth under his, and the sway of Jin Ling’s body as Jingyi crowded closer, enclosing him between them. When Jin Ling jerked against him with a breathless sound, he lifted his head and smiled to see Jin Ling’s lips parted as Jingyi pressed a kiss to his neck. It started gentle, but after a moment Jingyi’s eyes darted up to meet Sizhui’s, gleaming with mischief, and his cheeks hollowed a little as he sucked hard on Jin Ling’s neck. Jin Ling elbowed Jingyi and gasped, “What are you, a carp?” Jingyi dissolved into laughter, and Jin Ling straightened up in their arms, resettling himself with dignity despite the pinkness of his cheeks. Sizhui made a pleased sound.

This would work.

When they stopped that evening, it was at a larger town, and the inn had furniture in the rooms. Jin Ling took one look at the bed and promptly turned pink again. Sizhui batted Jingyi’s elbow before his grin could become laughter. The time for teasing was still later, he was pretty sure. He went to Jin Ling and gathered him close, satisfied when Jin Ling slowly relaxed against him. “It’s all right,” Sizhui said, running his fingers gently through the length of Jin Ling’s hair. It barely took any pressure at all to urge Jin Ling’s head down to his shoulder, and Sizhui made a soft, encouraging sound as Jin Ling’s arms wound tight around him. Sizhui glanced over that bent head at Jingyi, who was frowning a little, brows pinched together as he watched Jin Ling. When their eyes met, Jingyi nodded short and sharp, and Sizhui smiled. They were in agreement that Jin Ling needed some taking care of. They would probably do it in very different ways, of course, but Sizhui didn’t think it was a bad thing.

The less cooperative members of Jin Ling’s clan might, but that was their problem. If they didn’t want Jingyi’s inventive wrath to descend on them, they should have behaved better toward Jin Ling.

Sizhui rubbed his fingers up and down the back of Jin Ling’s neck while Jingyi quietly unfolded the bedding. Slowly, the lurking tension in Jin Ling’s muscles eased, and he finally snuggled against Sizhui. Sizhui firmly suppressed the urge to comment on how adorable that was. Later. “Better?” he asked instead.

Jin Ling’s color was still a little high, when he raised his head, but his eyes were clear and steady. "Mm."

Sizhui smiled and curled his hand over Jin Ling’s nape, leaning in to kiss him. This time, Jin Ling leaned in to meet him, unpracticed but sweet and open, and Sizhui made a pleased sound, tilting his head to kiss Jin Ling deeper. He didn’t quite realize he’d let his hand tighten until Jin Ling gasped and swayed against him, suddenly pliant. “Jin Ling?”

Jingyi, at least, seemed to know exactly what was going on, coming to stand at Jin Ling’s back again and squeezing his shoulders. “Feels good, doesn’t it? Knowing for sure that Sizhui has you. Someone you can really trust.”

Jin Ling wouldn’t look directly at Sizhui, but he nodded. “Yeah. It’s… yeah.”

Sizhui thought his heart might melt right then and there, and he gathered Jin Ling closer. “I’m honored by your trust,” he said softly, meeting Jingyi’s eyes over Jin Ling’s head, making sure he said it to both of them because it was just as true either way. Jin Ling ducked his head again, but Jingyi just smiled, perfectly calm the way he only ever was when it was just the two of them.

Or three, now, it seemed.

The thought sent a sparkle of pleasure and anticipation down his nerves, and the way Jin Ling was quiet under his hand gave him an idea. He squeezed the nape of Jin Ling’s neck, careful and gentle, and nodded to himself at the quick breath Jin Ling took in. He still asked, of course, when he stroked his hands down the collar of Jin Ling’s robes. “May I?”

Jin Ling wet his lips and nodded, letting go enough to lay his fingers on Sizhui’s sash, eyes questioning. Sizhui smiled, soft, glad that this wasn’t overwhelming enough to quell all of Jin Ling’s boldness. “Please do.”

“He likes to take his time about this part,” Jingyi supplied as he tugged the loosened robes off Jin Ling’s shoulders and shrugged quickly out of his own. “You can get around that by not bothering at all, though.”

Jin Ling got a speculative gleam in his eye, at that. “Really?”

Sizhui laughed, folding his underthings over the room’s bench. “Yes, sometimes. We can show you on the road, tomorrow, if you like.” He held out his hands to Jin Ling. “For now, though, come here and join me.” He drew Jin Ling down to the bed with him and settled back against the coolness of the wall, tugging Jin Ling in to settle between his legs and lean back against his chest.

“Ah,” Jingyi sounded enlightened. “Versatile.” He knelt on the bed between Jin Ling’s feet, sliding his hands slowly up Jin Ling’s legs.

“I thought so,” Sizhui murmured, folding his arms around Jin Ling and cradling him close, trailing soft kisses down the line of his neck. “Relax,” he added softly, when Jin Ling turned stiff and uncertain in his arms. “I have you.” He could feel the warmth of Jin Ling’s flush against his cheek and smiled, tightening his arms gently.

The real point of which became apparent when Jingyi sprawled out on his stomach between Jin Ling’s legs, and Jin Ling started—or tried to. The sound he made when he didn’t go anywhere was sharp and wordless, but not a protest. “Shhh,” Sizhui said against his ear. “I said I have you. It’s all right.” He felt the slow shudder that rolled through Jin Ling and made a soft, satisfied sound as Jin Ling sagged back against him, breath coming quick and deep.

His foster father had taught him to be careful with his strength, and perhaps that was why it always seemed to surprise people, despite core and upper body development being one of the central physical disciplines of Lan. Sizhui had guessed that Jin Ling would find it reassuring to be held firmly, and it looked like he was right given how lax Jin Ling was in his arms, now.

“So, are we ready?” Jingyi grinned up at them, chin in his palms, and Sizhui couldn’t help laughing.

“I think so. Yes?” he asked against Jin Ling’s ear. Jin Ling swallowed and nodded, and Sizhui exchanged a look with Jingyi and saw agreement in his eyes. When Jingyi bent down over Jin Ling, he moved slowly, making it clear what he was going to do. Jin Ling made a very breathless sound as Jingyi’s mouth closed around him, but he also leaned deeper into Sizhui’s arms, letting his head fall back against Sizhui’s shoulder. That open trust stirred a deep tenderness in Sizhui and he pressed soft kisses to the curve of Jin Ling’s shoulder as Jin Ling started to move with the slow pressure of Jingyi’s mouth. Jingyi’s eyes flickered up to meet Sizhui’s in another question and Sizhui thought for a moment, balancing the way Jin Ling had been responding to him, today, with the way Jin Ling and Jingyi usually rough-housed. He suspected the direction had better still come from him.

He nibbled on Jin Ling’s ear to draw his attention and murmured, “Jingyi is going to hold you still.”

Jin Ling’s breath caught, and Sizhui could see the way the long muscles of his thighs flexed tight for a moment. Jin Ling’s bared throat worked as he swallowed and whispered, “All right.”

Jingyi’s eyes were dancing as he slid his hands up Jin Ling’s thighs, and Sizhui could tell he was probably in for some teasing, later, about people doing whatever Sizhui said. It wasn’t as if he’d set out to be in charge of everything; it just happened! Usually because someone needed to be sensible, or someone needed to be calm. Today, it was because Jin Ling needed someone to be see what he wanted and act on it, without Jin Ling having to fight for the attention. As he felt Jin Ling tense and then relax into Jingyi’s hands settling over his hips, Sizhui loosened his own hold and stroked his palms slowly up and down Jin Ling’s body. That still seemed to fit what he needed, if the way he melted back against Sizhui’s chest was anything to judge by, and Sizhui exchanged a satisfied nod with Jingyi before Jingyi closed his mouth back around Jin Ling’s cock. This time, Jin Ling moaned out loud and Sizhui hummed to him, pleased, kneading gently over the taut muscle of Jin Ling’s stomach. The trusting ease of Jin Ling in his arms felt like it might be all he needed this evening.

At least until Jingyi shifted his grip and lifted Jin Ling just a little higher against him—just enough for Sizhui’s cock to slide between Jin Ling’s cheeks. “Jingyi!” he gasped, catching Jin Ling’s hips to hold him still. Jingyi drew slowly back and looked up at him with a tiny grin.

“You were thinking about it, earlier.”

“Well yes, but not if…” Sizhui trailed off, looking down at Jin Ling as it finally registered that Jin Ling’s body was arched taut in their hands but his head was still laid back against Sizhui’s shoulder. Open. Trusting. And also quite flushed, lips parted on each quick breath. He turned his head a little away, as Sizhui watched him, but only a little—as if he’d stopped himself. As if, the thought formed slowly, as if he were waiting.

Slowly, Sizhui bent his head, ready to draw back if Jin Ling tensed, and pressed an open mouthed kiss to the exposed arch of Jin Ling’s throat. Jin Ling gasped and tilted his head back further, back arching a little higher, and when that pressed his rear against Sizhui’s cock, Sizhui felt a shiver run through him.

Well, then.

Sizhui tightened his hands on Jin Ling’s hips, pulling him back snugly, and smiled at his breathless moan. “Yes,” he said softly against Jin Ling’s throat. “We will.”

Jin Ling’s throat worked under his lips as Jin Ling swallowed. “Yes,” he whispered.

Jingyi positively smirked. Sizhui rolled his eyes. “Yes, you’re brilliant. Help me out here, then.”

“Sure thing.” Jingyi sprawled off the side of the bed to rummage in his bag, coming up with the jar of very-definitely-medicinal gel that they had both agreed some time ago it would be more plausible for him have, if it were ever found by their elders.

Sizhui lifted Jin Ling up gently and spread his thighs over Sizhui’s own, pressing a kiss to Jin Ling’s temple. “Jingyi is going to get you ready for me.” Another shiver went through Jin Ling, and Sizhui folded his arms around him, cuddling him close again. He made low sound of satisfaction at how Jin Ling relaxed for him, and stayed mostly relaxed even when Jingyi slid slick fingers between Jin Ling’s cheeks, rubbing his entrance firmly.

And, not coincidentally Sizhui was sure, also stroked the backs of his fingers against Sizhui’s cock, which was very hard by now. The pleasure of his touch shivered up Sizhui’s spine, winding together with the pleasure of having Jin Ling in his arms, increasingly flushed and breathless as Jingyi’s fingers worked into him. “Tell us,” he started, and then paused, remembering. What Jin Ling wanted was all their attention, without having to ask for it. “Jingyi,” he corrected himself, “tell me when Jin Ling is ready.”

Jingyi smiled, pressing his fingers slowly deeper. “I will.”

Jin Ling tipped his head back a little further to stare up at Sizhui, eyes wide and dark. Sizhui bent his head to catch Jin Ling’s mouth in a soft kiss. “Jin Ling, xiao-Ling,” he murmured, “of course we’ll do this for you. You’re precious to us.” Jin Ling’s amazement over that was really starting to make Sizhui think rather violent things about Jin Ling’s family and clan.

“Why?” Jin Ling whispered, voice breaking in the middle of the word as Jingyi twisted his hand slowly, sending another shiver up Sizhui’s spine too. “I’m not your sect, or your clan…”

Sizhui gathered him closer. “You stayed with us,” he said softly, against Jin Ling’s shoulder. “Even though you’d obviously been taught to stand alone far too often. You tried to do the right thing, even when the people who should have guided you were holding their hands over your eyes, instead. And you never let go of your own heart, even when those around you denied it.” He lifted his head and smiled at Jingyi, who rested his cheek against Jin Ling’s thigh and smiled back. “I was taught to value that kind of integrity very highly.” He looked back down at Jin Ling, who seemed to be having trouble catching his breath, maybe for more than one reason, now, and dropped a kiss on the tip of his nose. “I love what you are. That’s all.”

Jingyi laughed softly. “I think he’s ready for you, Sizhui.” He leaned in and kissed Jin Ling himself, gentle even if his voice was still teasing. “In more ways than one.” Jin Ling batted at him indignantly until Sizhui caught his wrist and pressed a kiss to the inside of it.

“Come here, xiao-Ling,” he coaxed, and Jin Ling smiled and settled back against his chest, tugging out of Sizhui’s hold to thread his fingers into Sizhui’s hair and, a little hesitant, a little shy, draw him down to another kiss. Sizhui positively purred, and kissed him slow and deep, gasping into his mouth when Jingyi’s fingers stroked over his cock, slick and deliberate. Want curled low and heavy in his stomach, and he slid his hands down to cage Jin Ling’s hips again. “Now,” he said softly, and Jin Ling relaxed into his hold with a quick nod, maybe a little nervous. Hopefully not for long.

Sizhui lifted Jin Ling up and made a pleased sound as Jingyi’s hand slid over him, guiding his cock against Jin Ling. Jingyi leaned in to kiss him, over Jin Ling’s shoulder, and mouthed gently against his lips. Sizhui smiled at that, happy warmth settling deep inside him at the way he and Jingyi thought as one, on this. He slowly, carefully, drew Jin Ling down onto his cock, letting Jingyi guide them together. Jin Ling moaned out loud, and his body worked around Sizhui, tensing and releasing and tensing again. Sizhui’s breath caught at the fierce pulses of pleasure that shot up his spine, holding himself very still, focusing on the slow, firm stroke of Jingyi’s hands up and down his legs. Slowly, bit by bit, he eased Jin Ling down further, breathing through the rush as the heat of Jin Ling’s body closed around him.

Finally Jin Ling’s body relaxed and he settled back against Sizhui with a breathless gasp. “Oh…”

“You feel so good,” Sizhui whispered against his ear, lifting Jin Ling slowly and drawing him back down again, savoring the way Jin Ling moaned, the way he relaxed into this immense intimacy.


“The two of you are beautiful, like this,” Jingyi added, watching them with dark eyes, hands sliding over Sizhui’s hips, up Jin Ling’s rips, slow and open and caressing. Jin Ling bit his lip, tipping his head back to look up at Sizhui. Sizhui paused to kiss him until he stopped.

“Anything,” he said firmly. “It’s all right.”

Jin Ling smiled at that, so sweet that it made Sizhui’s breath catch. “Okay.” He held out his arms rather imperiously to Jingyi, who laughed as he settled close, closing Jin Ling between them. Jingyi rocked against Jin Ling, driving him back onto Sizhui’s cock, all three of them moving together, and Sizhui let his eyes drift closed so he could focus on how good that felt. “Mmm, yes.”

Gradually they found a rhythm, a slow flex and hard grind of bodies, a cascade of gasps and moans tangling together, a scatter of messy kisses pressed to any mouth that was close enough, and Sizhui sank himself into the pleasure of it, the sweetness of Jin Ling’s trust and Jingyi’s desire, the heat in his body slowly winding tighter.

It was Jin Ling who came apart first, a desperate gasp captured in Jingyi’s mouth, and then his body tightened fiercely around Sizhui. Sizhui shuddered and pulled Jin Ling down hard against him, grinding deep into him until the pleasure of it raked through him, hot and intense. Jingyi groaned, low and velvety, whole body one long, sinuous flex of muscle as he scattered kisses up Jin Ling’s throat to catch Sizhui’s mouth, and Sizhui freed one hand to tangle together with Jingyi’s own on his cock and stroke him hard until he came, too.

They subsided into a tangle of limbs, all of them breathless and flushed and messy, and Sizhui couldn’t stop laughing, soft and light with the lightness in his chest.

“Is he always like this, after?” Jin Ling mumbled into Jingyi’s shoulder, and Jingyi snickered.

“Sometimes. When he’s gotten something he really wants.”

Jin Ling lifted his head, looking startled, and Sizhui put another mark on his very private internal list, next to ‘Do something about Jin’, before turning Jin Ling’s chin to kiss him, slow and gentle. “Yes, you are,” he murmured.

Jin Ling smiled, bright and shyly pleased. At least until Jingyi ruffled his hair, cooing, “Xiao-Ling is so adorable!” The ensuing wrestling match tumbled them both off the bed, and Sizhui shook his head, laughing again.

Yes. This would work.


Sizhui paced across the first courtyard of the Jin compound at his seniors’ heels, Jingyi at his shoulder, carefully composed despite how much he was looking forward to seeing Jin Ling. They had to be decorous during the yearly meetings, and it was Jin’s turn to be host so Jin Ling would have extra responsibilities to take care of. Of course, he could enjoy the sight of his lover being the competent sect master he was, too.

He stood patiently while Jin Ling greeted Lan and the Chief Cultivator, and Wei-xiong, who smirked at how Jin Ling tried to make him sound like an afterthought, and ruffled Jin Ling’s hair in revenge. Eventually, though, formal greetings were done and he let himself smile warmly at Jin Ling and enjoy the bright smile Jin Ling always had for them in return.

From the side of the courtyard where some Jin disciples stood, quiet but carrying words cut through the air and froze that smile. “Looks like Lan really will pick up any stray dog that walks past them.”

Jingyi’s sword rang free as he whipped around to glare at them. “If you think you can criticize Lan, get out your sword and do it that way!” He lunged out of line, straight for the one who’d spoken, who fell back with a startled yelp.

For one breath, the eye of every Lan disciple, and most of those from other clans who were still in the courtyard, turned to Sizhui, expectant. Sizhui looked at the paleness of Jin Ling’s face and the tight set of those normally-soft lips.

He calmly folded his hands, and said nothing.

Quick breaths drew in, all around him, rippling out like the mark of a raindrop on water. Every junior disciple in the court, and not a few of the seniors, rocked a step back from him. Sizhui stood still, hands folded, and watched until Jingyi had kicked the Jin disciple’s feet out from under him and pinned him against the flagstones with a sword at his throat before he finally said, softly. “Jingyi. I’m sure he misspoke himself.”

Jingyi raised a brow and prodded his captive lightly with the point of his sword. “That so?”

The other young man swallowed, looking more than a little wild-eyed, and nodded as vigorously as he was currently able. “Yes! Definitely!”

Sizhui smiled faintly. “I was sure it must be. Please do be careful, in the future, Qianbei.”

There was silence in the courtyard as Jingyi came back to his side, which Sizhui approved of almost as much as he approved of the mixed amusement and exasperation that had displaced the tight hurt in Jin Ling’s expression. He smiled at Jin Ling, calm and immovable, and Jin Ling rolled his eyes.

“The Lan Sect is welcome at this conference,” he repeated meaningfully, sweeping a hand at the inner doors.

Jingyi nudged him, as they walked on, and flicked his eyes at Wangji-yifu’s back. Sizhui considered the relaxed, if straight, line of his foster-father’s shoulders and the ever so faint forward tilt of his head, and stifled a laugh. He shook his head just a little at Jingyi, reassuring; Wangji-yifu wasn’t upset at them, not at all. Jingyi looked dubious, but subsided.

As they all filed into the wing set aside for them, Wangji-yifu did lay a hand on Sizhui’s shoulder to hold them back, and Jingyi looked nervous again. Sizhui just looked up at his foster-father, perfectly steady in his determination to take care of the people who were precious to him, and Wangji-yifu nodded to him, lips curving faintly, and let him go.

That apparently made it Wei-xiong’s turn to drape an arm over his shoulders. “A-Yuan’s grown up so much!” His words were light, but the steady approval in his eyes made Sizhui duck his head, pleased.

Before Sizhui could answer, though, Jin Ling darted through the screens and banged them shut behind him. “I cannot believe you!” he hissed.

That immediately revived Jingyi, who smirked. “What? He didn’t do anything at all.”

Sizhui patted Wei-xiong’s arm to be let go so he could go to Jin Ling and catch his hands before he started really yelling. “Xiao-Ling,” he said, very softly, which got Jin Ling to pause. Sizhui smiled softly. “If you really want us to not defend you, I’m afraid that’s going to be a bit difficult.”

Jin Ling looked down at their hands. “Mm.” After a moment to compose himself, though, he looked back up and added, “I need to stand on my own as sect master, though.”

“I was avenging a slight to Lan,” Jingyi said in a virtuous tone. “Nothing to do with Jin.”

Jin Ling rolled his eyes mightily, and Sizhui squeezed his hands. “There’s still nothing political about it. Jingyi and I support you personally. That’s all.”

Jin Ling chewed on his lip, and Wei-xiong finally spoke from where he was leaning against the wall beside Wangji-yifu, with no trace of the teasing tone he usually took with the younger disciples. “No one stands completely on their own, a-Ling.”

Jin Ling stilled at his serious tone, suddenly looking uncertain and even younger than he was. “Really?”

“Really,” Wei-xiong said, absolutely certain.

Jin Ling looked down at their laced hands with a tiny smile. “Oh.”

Jingyi came to sling an arm around him. “Quit sulking and I promise I’ll save some for you, next time.”

Jin Ling’s smile turned sharp and wicked. “Deal,” he agreed.

Sizhui sighed, but didn’t protest, and Jingyi’s grin got a somewhat bloodthirsty edge to it. Sizhui didn’t actually disapprove, so he said nothing of it, and after a long look at him Jin Ling laughed and threw his arms around them. Sizhui smiled and gathered him in, leaning against Jingyi. This was what he wanted. This was what he would defend.

He glanced over his shoulder at the rustle of robes, and caught his foster-father’s eye as he started to turn away down the walkway, one hand at the small of Wei-xiong’s back. Wangji-yifu gave him a faint nod, quiet approval in the relaxed lines around his eyes. And also in the grin Wei-xiong threw over his shoulder, for that matter. Sizhui ducked his head, feeling the happy warmth of their support settling in his chest.

“It’s so cute, how he takes after you,” Wei-xiong said as they walked away.

“He takes more after you,” Wangji-yifu returned, sounding perfectly sober but obviously teasing back. Well, obviously to Sizhui anyway. Somehow, no one else ever seemed to get it.

“Lan Zhan, how can you be so blind about your own child?”

Sizhui tried to swallow a laugh, and Jingyi shook his head. “Hanguang-jun doesn’t get any less scary just because Wei Wuxian is teasing him, Sizhui.”

“He isn’t scary at all,” Sizhui protested, only to get disbelieving looks from both of them.

“He doesn’t see it because he’s scary the same way,” Jingyi told Jin Ling, who nodded wisely.

“That sounds about right.” He paused and added, “Especially after today.” A smile was creeping over his face again, though, and he slanted a sidelong look at Sizhui. “It was actually kind of…”

Jingyi was grinning again. “It kind of is, isn’t it?” he agreed. “Hey, you’re being a good host, right? Why don’t you show us our rooms?”

“Good idea.”

Sizhui laughed as he let them drag him off, bright and open.

Yes. This was what he would defend.