When Jing He got up the next morning, he noticed a package lying on the table.
“Qiu Ling …”
“What is it, my love?” Qiu Ling pulled him up against his chest, his fingers combing through his hair, and his lips very dishonestly brushing his cheek down to his jaw.
“It’s me showing my love for you, of course! How about —”
“I was talking about that package.” Jing He motioned over and gave his husband a pointed look.
“Oh.” Qiu Ling very unhappily stepped back from him and went to examine the package. Whatever it was, he already disliked it! This would have been the perfect opportunity to snuggle up with his beloved for a while longer and showing their affection for each other. Stupid package!
There wasn’t much to see from the outside other than that their names were written on top in slightly familiar handwriting. “Seems to be from the old geezer.”
Jing He glanced at Qiu Ling with resignation. “If father-in-law sent it, we should open it and send our thanks.”
Qiu Ling pursed his lips but still extended a claw and opened the package. A letter was lying on top that Qiu Ling handed over to Jing He while he looked at the rest of what was inside. It seemed to be … books? They were looking strange though. There was a drawing on the front.
Meanwhile, Jing He had opened the letter and read it out loud. “‘Dear Jing He’.” He stopped awkwardly. How come his father-in-law had left Qiu Ling out? “‘While Jin Yu and I were traveling one of the lower realms, we came upon these books. I figured that you might enjoy reading them so I bought you a copy. Tell that bear child not to skip any chapters.'”
Jing He looked up, sighing to himself. Well, he should probably get used to this family’s way of addressing each other. “It seems we’re supposed to read them together?” He stepped closer and looked at the book in Qiu Ling’s hands. His husband had taken all of them out and opened one of them at random. When he looked more closely …
Jing He’s cheeks flushed pink at the words written on the page. He glanced over the next few paragraphs and his embarrassment only deepened.
‘Tian had probably given up hope already that anything would happen this night and Jing He who wanted something to happen didn’t dare to bring it up.
Yes, he had decided. If Tian took the first step, he would allow him. But it still required Tian to take the first step. He himself … he couldn’t bring himself to do it. After all, even if he had decided, he didn’t want to give his lover cause to think of him differently. There was a chance that he already would when he embraced him before their wedding but he definitely didn’t want to make it worse.
In his lover’s eyes, he wanted to remain pure. Tian should think of him as perfect, as someone worthy of his love.
At the same time, Tian seemed to decide that he had waited long enough for his beloved to calm down. The arm that had been calmly lying around his waist started to move and finally found Jing He’s hand in the dark. “My love, don’t you want to see me?”
Jing He shuddered. Tian’s voice sounded so close, even more so because of the darkness around them. There was nothing but that gentle voice behind him, the warmth of the chest in his back, the heavy arm circling his waist, the slightly rough skin of that hand … Jing He closed his eyes and let himself fall. Maybe his lover wouldn’t embrace him tonight but … he could still be his in a sweet way.
“Was what I did this unforgivable?” The person slowly moved, propping himself up on one arm and slightly bending over his lover, his breath caressing Jing He’s cheek.
Jing He’s eyes opened only to see the vague silhouette of his lover above him. His heart leaped. If Tian bent down now and their lips met, then … then maybe …
“Jing He?” Tian indeed lowered himself a little but didn’t try to kiss him.
“Mn.” Jing He waited with bated breath but his lover didn’t even seem to think of continuing. In the end, he himself turned to the other side. Jing He slid closer in lieu of an answer and snuggled up against his lover’s chest.
“It’s alright.” Tian once again hugged his waist and pulled him closer, even bending forward to lightly kiss his cheek. “As long as you’re happy it’s alright.”
Jing He nodded and leaned his head against his lover’s chest. Hearing his heartbeat a sweet feeling emerged in his own heart. This was his lover, the man he had decided on, the one and only man he would ever accept at his side.
‘I love you.’ Jing He silently mouthed those words he had longed to say for so long already. For now, he couldn’t say them aloud. That would have to wait until after their wedding.
But someday he would say them. Someday, he would look up, directly into his lover’s, no, into his husband’s eyes and would declare his love for him. And maybe he would even be bold enough to tiptoe and kiss those thin lips.’
Qiu Ling turned to look at Jing He, having read the very same paragraphs. “This …”
Jing He was anxious to explain himself. He indeed vividly remembered that night and that these thoughts had gone through his head. But what did they have to do with the supreme ruler?! Obviously, he had been thinking about his fiance!
Before he got even a single word out, the book fell to the ground with a thud and he was pulled up against Qiu Ling’s chest, his lips smothered with a kiss. Jing He gave a hum but then just melted into his husband’s embrace. Most likely … he had understood already?
Qiu Ling embraced him tightly, his hands rubbing his back in an intimate manner. “I should have known …” He couldn’t help but whisper those words between kisses.
Even though he had not figured out what this book was, the fact that this night had happened like that, his own memories from Jing He’s trial, and his beloved’s reaction told him that every character was true. Those had been his true thoughts, a sign of his deep-seated love that he had hidden oh-so-well.
Reading them let Qiu Ling understand what he already should have back then: His beloved’s fear had been rooted deeper than he thought and overcoming them was far from easy. But his beloved had been willing to do so. For him. For their future together. All it had required was him trying yet a little harder.
He finally stepped back but cupped Jing He’s cheeks. “I love you.” Even though he had failed to understand completely back then, they had made it work. There had been more sacrifices along the way than there might have been if that night had gone differently but, in the end, they had emerged stronger from this.
Jing He’s lips curved up into a sweet smile. He reached up, likewise cupping his husband’s cheeks. Just as he had promised himself back then, he looked directly into his eyes. “I love you too. I always have. I always will.” And then he tiptoed and kissed him back.