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Inner Nature

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Zichen wears black, but when Xingchen looks at him, Zichen is the warmest red Xingchen knows. The warm-red light of fires, or iron as it cools, or the intensity of yang energy.

Zichen has a kind mouth, and is good to look at. Xingchen thinks sometimes, ruefully, of Nie Huaisang telling him that with Song Zichen's name coming out of his mouths so many times in a single conversation, that it would surely someday be love. It already was, in the stomach-flutter hunger to be around him sort of way.

Xingchen loves him still: loves Zichen's grumpiness when it's been too long between meals, loves his clever long-fingered hands, loves the sound of his voice as they speak long into the night. Zichen, with his black robes, and the warm center of him where all his energy flows, that Xingchen would like to kiss.


"It is not because of what you are," Zichen said quietly, from the other bedroll, closer to the fire.

"What is not?" Xingchen asked.

"That I do not permit your touch," Zichen said. "It is not because of your form. It is because I do not like unclean things, and I cannot trust others' sense of cleanliness."

"I understand," Xingchen said, and watched Zichen's shoulders ease.


Zichen wept blood when they first met. Xingchen watched it well up from his eyes, trail liquid-warm down his cheeks, and drip plink-plink on the earth, and then realized that humans did not weep blood. He masked himself, and healed Zichen's meridians.

Zichen was not afraid, and for this Xingchen was glad. A friend who knew that he begat madness when beheld, and who did not flinch from him as if he were a monster! A friend who smiled at him, and called him by name, and sought to better the world, as he did! Zichen, of the warmth so red inside him that only Xingchen could see with his myriad eyes. A precious treasure indeed.


Xingchen was fresh from a bath, in clean clothing, and drinking tea, when Zichen asked to kiss him. It was as simple and quiet as that: may I kiss you.

"Please," Xingchen breathed, and leaned forward. He kissed Zichen's mouth and his cheeks and his lovely strong hands, and Zichen shivered a little, and Xingchen kissed his palms and his eyelids and the back of his neck, and Zichen with only the one mouth kissed him back.

"How many of those do you have?" Zichen said, when they parted.

"Almost as many as I have hands," Xingchen said.

"And how many is that?" Zichen asked, smiling a little with amusement.

"Enough to hold you with," Xingchen said, very forward indeed.

Zichen's cheeks heated bright-warm. "I'll take your word for it for now."


Xingchen would kiss the speech from Zichen's lips if he could. If it were safe - but it is not. Someday perhaps it will be: Zichen cultivating himself to something stranger than humanity, more aligned with the world. Zichen with the red warmth spun through him, able to bear the sight of all Xingchen's nature as they share themselves.

Xingchen dreams of it, and for now, he contents himself with knowing Zichen's laughter, his sense of honor, his dreams of the future that they will make together. They are skilled cultivators. They have time.