Warnings: Not worksafe. Lots of dragon yang relations.
Summary: Servants, stilted conversations, and smut.
Series: Part 4 of the Dream of the Butterfly Series. Takes place some time after Rules of Engagement.
Disclaimer: Standard disclaimer thingee. Not mine, hers. Kenren as dragon catnip is mine, blah blah blah.
Yozakura (Evening Blossom-viewing)
The first indication that things had not gone as planned was when the page had taken his cape. The boy bowed low and mumbled an obviously rehearsed message about a guest. Guest, not guests. That the job was given to the hall boy meant it was a message no one else wanted to deliver; the current theory in the household staff being that he was less likely to shoot the messenger if the messenger was young and insignificant. Goujun never understood their reasoning. Logic would dictate that something defenseless was simpler to eliminate. It was also much easier to replace a page than a valet.
Of course, their reluctance could have been put down to the fact the entire household was forbidden to mention the guests he had been expecting. He had originally given the gag order to minimize the gossip the servants were forever engaging in, but an unfortunate side effect was that the staff had trouble distinguishing between what they could and could not talk about, and Goujun was forever having frightened youths thrown at him stammering cryptic little messages like "a guest was sent to the gardens."
Just who that guest was wasn't immediately evident as he stepped into the courtyard. The place seemed abandoned. The lamps illuminating the center walk around the pond had been lit for the evening, but most of the surrounding gardens were heavily shadowed. Goujun peered past the lantern lights into the semi-darkness. He caught the scent of the visitor the moment before he saw the glove and cigarette give a little wave from under the shadow of a flowering plum against the garden wall.
"Yo. Sir." Kenren took a final drag and dropped the butt. Goujun's nose crinkled as he watched it ground into his carefully raked pea gravel. He'd have to send the gardener out to deal with that in the morning.
"General. I see you've taken to the hardy plum in lieu of your favored sakura. It's rather late in the evening for a blossom-viewing party, one would think."
Kenren began to pick his way in a bee-line towards him, straight through the carefully manicured plantings. Goujun stiffened each time a foot was set down.
"One of the maids sent me out here. I don't think she liked me smoking in the house very much."
"I'm afraid I am the one who objects to it. Having the one chimney was bad enough."
Kenren's boot squeaked by the edge of a rock that had taken the former gardener 100 years of painstaking care on which to accumulate the proper level of moss. Goujun's sharp intake of breath at witnessing the near calamity only managed to give him a dose of Kenren which he had assiduously been trying to avoid. His extremities started to tingle in that way which always plagued him when downwind of his subordinate.
"Speaking of the chimney," Kenren lunged over a row of peonies, "Tenpou can't make it tonight. His official explanation is, and I quote: 'Being unable to pencil these evenings into my calendar naturally risks the occasional double-booking.' Something like that anyway."
"And what is this auspicious occasion?" Goujun felt somewhat put out he hadn't been aware of whatever soiree it was.
Kenren paused, considering his next step. "Something with the Bosatsu involved. Claims he can't get out of it." He nudged his way through a bank of decorative ground cover. "I tried convincing him a hot and a heavy ménage à tois automatically trumps Titsnballs and her faithful sidekick El Mustachio, but you can't account for taste. Some people's kids."
Indeed. "So you're here as the messenger boy?"
One last hop and Kenren had finally reached the courtyard in the center of the gardens. He had done so without crushing anything of importance, so Goujun could not blame his rising irritation on either clumsiness or property damage. More's the pity, he thought. He coolly assessed the man now standing in front of him.
"I see you're out of uniform, General."
Kenren frowned in confusion, looking down at his leathers. Goujun basked momentarily in the satisfaction at having bewildered his eternally cocky subordinate before he went in for the kill. He nodded at Kenren's hip.
"Your wine flask seems to be missing. Hopefully it was not left by the tree. I doubt I could survive watching you tromping back through the flower beds again to retrieve it."
For a moment Kenren stared at him in dumb shock. Then a slow, delighted smile snaked its way across his face. His eyes lit up with the challenge.
"The dragon made a funny! Nah, don't have it. Figured you have the better suppliers. If I brought it you'd just make me drink my own stuff."
Goujun was not disappointed in the comeback, though he bridled at the familiarity. Still, he could not hide the growing awkwardness he was feeling over the entire situation. He had never been alone with General Kenren in a social setting before this; Tenpou had always been around as a welcome buffer. Without the Marshal they were forced to actually interact with each other. If previous encounters were anything to go by, the two of them left unchaperoned would quite likely end with one of them either in the stockade or dead.
Kenren had obviously noticed his discomfort, because the smile and easygoing manner had disappeared and his normal look of defensive distrust had slid back into place. Goujun pinched his eyes shut for a moment in an attempt to center himself. The Kenren tingle had already spread through his groin and he felt his member starting to go rigid. He had no idea what to do next, so he asked the obvious question hanging in the air between them.
"Was the Marshal expecting us to carry on without him tonight, then?" He hadn't meant for it to come out so exasperated, but it too often did when talking to the man.
Kenren's face clouded as he crossed his arms over his chest. "Listen, Commander. Sir. If you want me to go, I'll go. Tenpou was on about some kooky idea about bonding and made me promise I'd come tonight. Trust me, this was NOT my idea."
Before Goujun could respond a small feminine voice cut him short.
"A thousand pardons, your majesty."
Kenren's gaze flicked over Goujun's shoulder and the dragon craned his head to follow it. A servant was kowtowed in the archway.
"What is it?" The girl was new; Goujun wasn't sure of her name. He was under the vague impression she was a daughter of the cook. Her forehead remained firmly planted on the ground as she answered.
"His majesty's honored advisor Bao requests your presence in the library, your majesty. A messenger from home has arrived and requires your immediate attention."
Goujun growled low in his throat and the servant girl noticeably trembled on hearing it. His eyes narrowed in irritation. Bao almost certainly knew who he was with at the moment, and had timed the interruption to be as irritating as possible while keeping within full deniability. Earlier he had the effrontery to speak of his misgivings over 'his king's preference for dragon yang relations,' and had even shown open hostility to Tenpou on one occasion. Something needed to be done about this continued insolence, no matter how useful the man had once been to his father. It was a pity that Bao was already a eunuch.
"Tell him I will be there directly. You may go."
The girl bobbed her head with a mumbled "Yes your majesty" and began backing out of the courtyard on her knees. He turned back to the General, and found the man engaged in watching the servant's retreat. Goujun studied his face, but found the expression to be unreadable. Something in that made up his mind.
The girl stopped and returned to kowtow. Kenren looked back to Goujun in curiosity and found he was being stared at. They continued to look at each other for a few long uncomfortable moments as the girl waited in a servile lump on the ground. Finally Kenren took Goujun's stare as his cue to leave.
"I'll just let myself out the back, no need to get anyone else involved," Kenren offered, glancing briefly at the poor girl.
"No." Goujun kept his eyes locked on Kenren's as he raised his voice to the servant.
"Child, after you deliver your message to Bao, have someone bring the General some wine and a robe. See to it that a pallet is dressed and brought to the garden. Also, ask the groundskeeper to light the incense burners. Tell him to use the aloeswood. The General and I will be blossom-viewing tonight. Can you remember all I am asking of you?"
"Yes, your majesty," the girl told the walkway.
"Good. You may go then, child."
"Thank you, your majesty."
Kenren looked faintly stunned. The dragon counted it as another small victory. He gave the man a stiff bow.
"General, I have unexpected business to attend to, but plan to return shortly. I daresay you can find something with which to entertain yourself until I return."
With that Goujun turned abruptly, leaving before the man could form a suitably sarcastic response. He wanted to celebrate his triumph a little while longer.
Fortunately the meeting with the messenger had been short and pleasant. It served to put Goujun in a good mood in anticipation of the remainder of the evening. He decided to take the time to wash and change into a dressing robe before returning to the garden.
By the time he finished it was late and most of the household had already retired. He found himself alone in the empty halls, silk whispering about his feet as his unbelted robe billowed about him. While he walked he mused on how the sound of the silk coupled with his growing excitement would make for an interesting haiku. His fingers tapped out a few tentative phrase counts in the air. He had no illusions as to his abilities to write anything beyond passable verse, so he decided that in the morning he would ask the court composer to write it for him. He could always partly claim it as his own.
The smell of incense met him first. He had discovered some time ago that using it helped to subdue the General's scent, and in that way he was able to keep his head for much longer during their evenings together. The aloeswood matched with Kenren beautifully. Taken together it was a scent that long before he came to Tenkai he had imagined the heavens would smell like. He stopped in the archway, closed his eyes, and let the distant memory take over for a moment.
The servants had taken his blossom-viewing seriously and had lit and hung the paper lanterns amongst the branches. Kenren was on the other side of the courtyard, and Goujun was pleased to see he had changed into the robe. He had assumed that he would find the General lying on the pallet drinking to the moon. Instead, he was to be found at the far end of the pond, studying the carvings at the water's edge.
The man had his hands spread across the back of one of the two large stone dragons, slowly feeling his way up its spine. It struck Goujun that he had never met as tactile a creature as Kenren before. He seemed intent upon taking in everything about him through his skin, as if blind from birth. The fingers closely followed the ridge of hair to the tail and dipped to trace along the scales at the haunches. Goujun's body arched slightly as he watched the slow delicate touch ghosting along the statue's belly. He wasn't aware of the long growl that escaped him when the General's hand slid over the stone equivalent of a particularly sensitive spot.
Kenren turned suddenly at the sound. "Hey, hi." He smiled and stepped slightly away from the statue. After Goujun nodded in greeting the General turned his eyes back to the figure.
"I see you're enjoying the evening." Goujun took his time as he crossed the courtyard in an attempt to hide how aroused he'd become while watching the art appreciation session. Kenren looked up into the stone dragon's face.
"This is of you, isn't it?" He looked to Goujun and then back to the sculpture. His smile was pure in its joy, like that of a small child. Goujun had never seen the general's face so open before. He should have realized that Kenren wore masks like everyone, but it instead caught him by surprise. He looked up at the statue's serpentine face, trying to see it as Kenren did.
"Yes, it is. I'm surprised you could tell. The other is of my first wife."
"The artist is very good. He did a great job of capturing your personality. It would be something to see you like this, as yourself."
Goujun felt rather touched at what he took to be a compliment. Kenren stretched his hand up the belly.
"Damn, but it must be hard for you to live here. I think I'd hate it. Absolutely hate it." There was a lightest flush to his skin, so the man must have been drinking. Goujun wondered which wine the servants had chosen to bring. Kenren's hands caressed a stone claw pensively.
"What does it feel like, to change?"
Goujun was taken aback by the question. No one, not even Tenpou, had ever asked him before. He was caught without an answer.
"I- I'm afraid I can't describe it."
"I'd always imagined it would be something like putting your foot into a boot that's too small. Only it's your entire body that you're shoving into it."
"It's somewhat like that, yes." Goujun felt as if he was talking to a complete stranger. He studied Kenren's face as it studied his counterpart, and began wondering if he had ever really met the man standing before him. He had no idea Kenren had a single passing thought about him outside of the bedroom, let alone any outright contemplation. Yet, he had in effect just admitted as such.
Kenren switched gears suddenly, eyes still on the carving.
"The pond is different. Not the usual koi party. I was beginning to think there was some sort of rule about 'gotta have koi.' Even the one in front of the officers' mess is crawling with koi."
Goujun glanced at the pond as he struggled to keep up. He was still pondering what he was seeing in the General tonight, and why he had never been privy to it before. Why he was privy to it now. This simple guilelessness was not at all what he expected from this man. Was this some sort of attempt to honor Tenpou's request for them to bond? Why would he feel the need to do so?
"Yes- it's sea water, actually. Takes quite a bit of work in upkeep. Why, did you try swimming in it?"
The General laughed. "Sea water for the sea dragons, I get it." He looked up into the statue's face once again, smiling. "Well, I'm sure the two of them appreciate it."
Goujun shook his head in an attempt to clear his senses. During the course of the conversation Kenren's scent had been slowly insinuating itself, taking root around them. It was beginning to muddle his thoughts, forcing its way to the forefront of his attention. The dragon closed his eyes and indulged himself by scenting it, letting the incense and the sea water combine with the man. So very intoxicating. In his already aroused state it raced through his blood and hit him like an orgasm. There was such a heightened sense of blissful awareness that occurred whenever he would first give himself over to it. He could almost see why his brother had a hard time controlling himself, for want of this.
He opened his eyes to find Kenren studying him. Goujun breathed him in again sharply. His eyes dilated further, his senses intensified and altered. Kenren began to look faceted. His qi glimmered and pulsed around him, calling for the dragon to swim in it with him, promising a warm ocean of pleasure. Answering the urge he reached out and touched Kenren's cheek with the back of his fingers. The look on the man's face told the dragon that he could see what was happening.
Kenren's mouth was moving, but Goujun's focus was no longer on the conversation. He stroked his hand through the short black hair behind the ear. Kenren turned to face him, leaning back on the statue. Goujun closed the distance for the kiss, pressing them up against his stone self. He tasted the sweet wine the servants had brought, and underneath it the sweeter taste of the man. It was a long and slow joining, lips touching and tasting. With no competitor tonight to lay a claim against, there was none of the harshness he so often found himself compelled to when they were the three of them. Tonight, this was his alone to indulge in.
The hands that had captivated him moments before began caressing his torso, as if comparing him to the stone. Strong arms pulled him in to increase the points of contact as his mouth wandered to taste the jaw and pulse point. He licked up the salt and the scent, pressing his face against its source. He felt Kenren stutter in a breath as sharp teeth grazed against skin. Goujun did it again and was rewarded with a throaty moan. He played there awhile, reveling in the heat and the heartbeat pressed against his flesh.
Before he lost himself in it the dragon stepped back. Kenren remained draped against the statue, eyes shining. Goujun imagined the stone scales as his own, and ached with a longing to feel his true body wrapped around his General. It would be glorious, taking him with no boundaries between them. The dragon he was wanted out and his mind struggled with the change he was feeling within. He willed it down. Instead, Goujun stepped back further and held out his hand.
"I believe there is a pallet waiting, my dear General." His voice was already becoming clouded with lust, what Kenren called the purr. Kenren paused briefly, studying him, before he took the offered hand and pulled himself up.
Goujun turned to look for the makeshift bed and found it in the spot he traditionally used for hanami under a lantern-draped plum. He pulled his General along to the spot while the man pulled back in a modicum of mock resistance. The playfulness of the moment made Goujun smile. Truly, he had no idea why it was coming to the fore here and now, and with this man. He rarely indulged in it with anyone other than his second wife. At the edge of the pallet he let go of the General's hand, and slipped the robe off his shoulders to pool at his feet. He turned to repeat the process with his subordinate. It allowed the man to catch sight of his grin for the first time.
"Shit, I'm in deep trouble, aren't I." Kenren returned the smile with a faltering one of his own. Goujun sensed the concern under the nonchalance. The man seemed somewhat lost.
"Ah, but trouble follows you, General Kenren," Goujun purred, stroking the biceps and chest now bared in front of him.
"Damn, you got that right," Kenren murmured as he pressed his face into the long hair, his arms wrapping around to play in the fall of it down the back. The dragon leaned in and breathed deeply. His breath caught with the intensity of it and he leaned in to steady himself. Kenren jumped slightly as a horn slid across his cheek.
Goujun broke away from the embrace and crawled into the center of the pallet. Lying on his back, he once again put out a hand in invitation. Kenren knelt on the bed's edge. Goujun could sense the pheromone spike and the uncertainty. His smile widened; yet another victory. Kenren was not naturally inclined to be the one to submit, but rank had its privilege. It only made his taking all the sweeter and Goujun's hunger for it greater.
"Sorry to disappoint, General, but that's not what I had in mind. Come here." Kenren crawled into the bed beside him. His free hand slid up Goujun's thigh.
An exaggerated sigh. "A man can always hope."
Kenren's head dipped out of view as he began kissing along the rib cage. Pale fingers moved to comb through the soft dark spikes of hair. He arched into the mouth as a clever tongue teased the edges of the scales on his belly. His toes curled with the effort of trying to hold off as long as possible before the scent took him in again. The lanterns glowing above them refracted in his dilated eyes as a kaleidoscope of colors as he purred out his pleasure. Another shift down, then suddenly lips and teeth played over a sensitive spot along the fold of his thigh. A hand slid up along its twin. Hot breath and the slightest ghost of a touch along his member. Goujun inhaled sharply with the sensation, breathing Kenren in deeply. The battle ended instantly as the dragon took over in a rush of lust. Growling low, his hand tightened in the hair. Kenren's head was forced up to look into glazed and wild eyes.
He pulled hard to bring that face to his. Kenren tumbled up with it and searched for a hand hold to keep from collapsing. The kiss was demanding and drew blood as sharp teeth caught Kenren's lip. The dragon growled low as the intensity of the smell and taste washed over him. It was overwhelming. He began licking the blood off with long, deep strokes, hunting for more. Both hands wrapped around the head tightly for better control.
Goujun stopped licking and opened his eyes to a panicked face inches from his own. It took a moment to clear the blood haze and register the situation. Kissing the bloodied lips gently he loosened his grip, caressing both cheeks with his thumbs reassuringly. He felt the body above him relax slightly, but the eyes still betrayed their fear. It was not what Goujun wanted to see lying there.
Speaking was near impossible through the lust, but he needed it to prove he was not yet gone.
"I want to watch you." Goujun ground out through the purr. He was having trouble forming words, and paused with the effort. "Ride me."
Kenren seemed glad to be out of the head lock as he reached for to the oil. Goujun closed his eyes again as a slippery hand slid along his hardness. He breathed deeply and let his consciousness float in the heady pleasure until the feeling of being straddled brought him back.
He opened his eyes. Kenren was poised above him, glittering sharply among the lanterns and glowing plum blossoms. Goujun slid his hands up along the strong thighs in anticipation. He wanted to watch the man fuck himself, riding him until the pleasure was too great to deny. He wanted to see his General's head thrown back moaning in lust at being taken and filled by his commander. His desire felt so much purer, so much sharper than he thought possible. He locked eyes with the man above him as he felt the pressure begin. The moment the tightness gave way to penetration his heart turned over in his chest and he arched up into the incredible heat. They moved together slowly, once, twice. Exquisite. Again. He saw Kenren's eyes close. He made one of those soft wanton noises which always drove Goujun to the edge.
All too quickly the dragon uncoiled from his belly to lay claim to what was his. The coupling turned to a frenzied taking with eyes tight shut, thrusting wildly upward and rushing to the orgasm. He drove into that hot perfection one last time as it took him over with a howl. The dragon purred contentedly inside as he pulled his mate down into a tight embrace, burying his nose in the heady scent. He could feel the man hunching against him, rubbing against his belly until he cried out and covered them both with that beautiful sweetness. The smell and taste of it drew him like a magnet. Lust rattled loudly in his chest as he rolled the still twitching body onto its back and went to work on cleaning them both.
He woke suddenly to find himself on the pallet. Goujun looked about to assess the situation. It was still night. Kenren was curled up under the sheets beside him. Goujun was relieved to see he hadn't killed the man. He sat up and stretched his cramped limbs, shaking off the haze in his head. Frowning, he sat there a moment contemplating the sleeping form under the silk. He was forced to admit he had lost himself in it tonight. His response to Kenren in general seemed to be intensifying and becoming increasingly harder to control. He did not even recognize himself in some of what had happened between them. There were also gaps in his memory of the evening that were deeply disturbing. It was all somewhat dismaying to think about. His brother's face flashed briefly in his mind. Shaking his head, he banished that fear along with the image. He was not his brother. This was not insurmountable. They would simply need to keep Tenpou involved in any future evenings, for safety's sake if nothing else.
As he yawned he began to pick up the scent again. He rubbed his nose against his arm to kill it. The arm smelled of Kenren as well. A bath was needed, soon. Hopefully the servants had the foresight to draw one tonight, or he'd be forced to awaken the attendant. He had gotten as far as the edge of the bed before the other man stirred.
"Mmh. Hey." Kenren looked about as if unsure of his surroundings. "Sorry, Commander. Didn't mean to fall asleep there."
"I'm afraid I did as well." He moved to pick up his robe. Kenren sat up and winced. Goujun watched him scrub his face as he tried to wake up. Leaning back and blinking sleepily, the man looked freshly licked clean and thoroughly debauched. Goujun felt a possessive tug in his stomach. His heart sank when he noticed the bites and scratches he did not remember giving. Kenren rubbed at one of the deeper bites distractedly, but otherwise seemed oblivious to them.
He put on his robe and sat back down next to the General, trying to keep his breathing shallow. The smell of sex and Kenren was everywhere.
"The front gate is locked, so you'll need to let yourself out through the servant's entrance. Remember there's an assembly at oh eight hundred. I expect to see you there."
Kenren nodded groggily, looking about for where he had left his uniform.
"Yeah. Sir." He placed a hand on Kenren's shoulder, waiting until their eyes met. He saw no fear or recrimination in them.
Goujun regarded him for a moment longer, wondering what it was he had wanted to say. Instead, he leaned in and pressed their foreheads together. Then put his lips to the General's and held them there for a brief moment.
"I will see you tomorrow." With that he left and did not look back.
Four days later a red silk box was delivered to the General's office. Inside Kenren found a small piece of neatly folded mulberry paper. A small ivory dragon was hidden underneath. On the paper was written a somewhat passable haiku. Kenren kept them both on his night stand. He named the little dragon 'Pooky.'
The final victory was his.