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oh captain (let's make a deal)

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Jing Yuanzhou leaned back in the bed, his eyes falling onto his boyfriend as he slept through the sunrise, stubbornly clinging to a pillow to hide his eyes from the light. It felt like molten honey was in his chest, warm and soft and unbearably sweet as he watched the sunlight creep up Lin Yan’s body.

Laying at the foot of the bed, his daemon was watching them with half-lidded eyes. Jing Zhouxiao was stretched out to her full length, her blocky head laying on Lin Yan’s leg. Even with the covers separating them from making full contact, Jing Yuanzhou felt like a current was running through his body, all of his senses electrified. He reached out a hand to rub against Jing Zhouxiao’s ears, and the tiger pushed into the touch with a quiet sigh. “Must we go out?” She asked, and he smiled at her but didn’t say anything. She knew that arguing was futile and nuzzled Lin Yan’s leg before slipping off of the bed.

Lin Yan’s breath hitched at the feeling and while he didn’t wake up, his daemon stirred from where she was coiled up on his still warm laptop. Lin Yanxiao yawned, her fangs flashing, before she turned to them. “Going out running?” She asked, and Jing Yuanzhou hummed. Her tongue flicked out to taste the morning air and looked at them, unblinking. “Be safe.” She said, and he smiled at her quietly before he and Jing Zhouxiao left.

They did their usual morning jog and he picked up some drinks for Lin Yan and himself while out. By the time he’d returned to their room, the coach was awake on the bed and reviewing yet another video, fiddling with a pen while Lin Yanxiao was draped on a stand Lin Yan had set up in his room a long time ago, watching the video over her human’s shoulder.

They both looked up when he closed the door and Lin Yan quickly paused the video and moved the laptop aside. Jing Yuanzhou waved him away and placed the bag on the bed. “Don’t stop for me, I need to shower.” He saw his boyfriend nod in understanding and went to do just that, Jing Zhouxiao settling back onto the bed beside Lin Yan who was now looking through the contents of the bag.

He returned to the bed when he was done, the warm air from the shower forming a mist that dissipated around the room and gave a hazy quality to everything. He kissed Lin Yan as he settled beside him and tasted the mint and sweetness of the drink Lin Yan had been sipping on a moment ago. His chest felt fuzzy and he lowered his head to nuzzle at Lin Yan’s neck. “Done soon?” he asked, and he felt Lin Yan pause to think, the hand that had been reaching for his hair stopping at his shoulder.

When he came to a decision he pushed lightly at Jing Yuanzhou’s shoulder to shift him away. “Can be, if there aren’t any distractions.” Lin Yan said, and Jing Yuanzhou affected a look of confusion as his arm wrapped around the other’s waist.

“What could possibly be distracting you?” he asked, pinching him in the side. Lin Yan jumped at the sensation before he laughed a little and pushed at him again.

“I can’t imagine.”

Feeling the fuzzy warmth in his chest spread out, Jing Yuanzhou left him to his research and went to eat whatever the cooking auntie had prepared for the day before streaming. As he ate Jing Zhouxiao laid by his feet. He checked his WeChat only to see that the rest of the team wasn’t up yet and laughed quietly to himself.

As he was finishing his food Lin Yan walked in, his journal pinned to his side by an arm, with Lin Yanxiao looped several times around his neck like an oversized scarf, her black and grey scales highlighted in the sunbeams that lanced through the room.

Jing Yuanzhou couldn’t help but stare at both of them, his eyes torn between simply appreciating his boyfriend’s form and wanting to trace Lin Yanxiao’s body to see how she’d ended up with her head tucked into Lin Yan’s stark clavicle. It was his own daemon that broke the silence, stretching out from where she laid as if trying to subtly cross the distance to where Lin Yan was standing. “Did you finish your review then?” She asked, Lin Yan turned to look at her, a smile in his eyes.

“I did.” He said, carefully stepping over her to get to the pot of congee that was simmering on the stove. They both politely ignored the way the cooking auntie’s daemon flinched away from Lin Yan, the pika’s eyes locked warily on the pit viper that was ignoring it. “I might even be able to play a bit today, if you’ll have me.” He laughed a little as he said this, but Jing Yuanzhou could feel his eyes light up, and beside him his daemon made a pleased chuffing noise.

“Always.” He promised.

They had finished two matches when the rest of the team came in, Bi Huaxiao leading the way with his flash of blue feathers as he teased Chen Shenxiao, the other daemon content to remain perched on her human’s shoulder as she ignored the bird fluttering around her. Jian Yexiao was walking in the back behind the humans, listening to Gu Luxiao with a content look on her face. At the moment Gu Luxiao was in the form of a Linsang, clearly trying to see if she liked it.

Gu Luo was the only one in the group whose daemon, be it by age or circumstances, hadn’t Settled yet. But none of them really talked about such things amongst the group, their comfort with each other extending to how their souls came to be the way they were.

The stream barrage was not nearly so kind as they caught sight of them.

[did Gloy settle? What is that thing???]

[hahaha no way look at it]

[a Weasel?]

[my cousin has one of those! it’s like a cat-weasel thing]

[upstairs, we have eyes. That didn’t help]

[weird to see daemons so comfortable around an Early-Settled daemon. I thought they didn’t like that?]

[Who told you that?]

[idk no one I just thought it was obvious when a daemon Settled early]

[don’t be stupid]

[stop speaking ill of my baby Abyss and his little ball of armor]

[it’s a pangolin]

[yeah a ball of armor]

[so did BB’s daemon Settle first or did he dye his hair first?]

The chat was quickly distracted by that question and began arguing amongst itself. Jing Yuanzhou skimmed it for a moment longer before glancing at Lin Yan.

His boyfriend looked very docile at the moment, clearly reading through the chat himself on his phone while he waited for Jing Yuanzhou to start up another game but, draped on the back of his chair, Lin Yanxiao was nowhere near as calm. She’d stopped moving entirely, with the exception of the flicking of the pink tip of her tail. Jing Yuanzhoul had read up on mountain pit viper behavior, to give him an edge on reading her moods, and right now she was displaying clear “baiting prey to come closer” behavior. “Need to stop?” Jing Yuanzhou asked, and Lin Yan hummed a little before turning off his phone again when chat devolved into a cascade of pleas for Titans to stay on longer.

“Nope, I’m good.” Lin Yan leaned back a little in his chair and Lin Yanxiao stretched to meet him, her tongue flicked out to better monitor his heat output and to brush gently against him. He smiled at her before looking at Jing Yuanzhou again. “Queue us.”

Jing Yuanzhou heard him and did so after one more look at Lin Yanxiao.

They were still trying to improve Lin Yan’s ability to play for long periods of time, but there was something Lin Yan had shared with him that would never leave Jing Yuanzhou’s mind and consideration. “Watch Yanxiao.” He’d said. “She’ll tell you when I’m at my limit.”

And he’d seen that, when she silently coiled underneath Lin Yan’s chair during the variety show when the coach had been forced to play. He’d almost been distracted by Jing Zhouxiao trying to talk to her, only for the pit viper to never respond, her eyes locked onto Lin Yan’s leg.

The same leg where he later - much much later and much more intimately - found a series of small scars running down his calf. They looked like old bites.

Jing Yuanzhou let these thoughts fade away as the queue popped. Lin Yan was responding better. They were working on it.