Warning: SLASH! Follows a Closed Fist romance between Furious Ming and Sky.
Written for LiveJournal's 30_kisses challenge. This features prompt #21 "violence; pillage/plunder; extortion."
The Edge of a Precipice
Sky watched Ming, as he was accustomed to doing, as the man fought his way through the ranks of the Imperial Arena. The Bronze Division was his, and at a price that gave Sky pause.
It wasn't the worst of Ming's crimes, neither against mortals nor gods. Sky had seen him take the Jade Heart to ruin the people of Tien's Landing forever; Sky had been there when Ming decided that the Forest Shadow was too weak, too arrogant, to be worth saving. He would have hated Ming for it, and he should hate Ming for it, but he knew why Ming did it. Tien's Landing and the Great Southern Forest both would be strengthened by these acts in the long run.
And so, Sky could barely bring himself to fret more than he did over the slaying of Crimson Khana. Ming surely saw good reason to bring her down. By now, Sky knew better than to question the boy. Nothing good ever came from it, a lesson he learned over and over again but finally sank in last week, when Sky dared asked him about his disinterest in Dawn Star and Silk Fox.
There's a very good reason. You.
Sky never heard fewer words that made his head spin. He wondered if it would have been better if he never asked. Perhaps then he could question Ming's actions better than he had been since arriving to the Imperial City.
He had suspected that Ming's coldness towards his childhood best friend had been on the order of stress and Dawn Star's outspoken disapproval towards his tactics. Sky thought that Silk Fox's attempts were thwarted by Ming's never wavering eyes from the goal of rescuing his master. He was nearly convinced that the reason why Ming only seemed to relax around him was because he was the one who did not question, who did not criticize, because the one time he did caused such a rift in the group that Sky knew could not be risked.
Vengeance is more effective than sorrow. Ming certainly proved as much with each trial he faced. He spent no time dwelling on the loss of his home; he spent all of his time getting revenge on those who were even in the slightest bit responsible. It did him more good than harm.
Ming went back towards the fighter's arena and arena workers carried Crimson Khana's body behind him. The Arena itself was very nearly silent, with the occasional murmur of discontent. Well, maybe the Lotus Assassins would approve of Crimson Khana's murder. Maybe that was why Ming did this. He had to gain their trust, after all. Prove that he could be one of them.
Maybe this was a step over the edge of a precipice. Maybe this was a bad thing; maybe this was a good thing.
Sky sighed and made his way out of the arena and towards the tavern. Yes, Ming truly knew how to make his head spin in many kinds of directions. It never helped that as soon as Sky thought he knew the boy, Ming surprised him.
The thought that Ming was interested in him had only crossed his mind once, and he had quickly squashed the notion, until Ming very seriously told him otherwise. Sky would have thought that Ming was playing him for a fool if not for his awkwardly hesitant and, dare he think it, terrified escape plan from the admission.
If this makes you uncomfortable, we can pretend this conversation never happened.
What surprised Sky more was that he did not want to pretend that the conversation never happened. That he was not uncomfortable with Ming's attraction towards him, that his heart had skipped a beat when he said it.
By the Great Dragon, what was wrong with him?
They had not talked since. Sky showed up to his matches in the arena and followed him around the city when his presence was requested, and he was very glad for it. He could study Ming more closely, pay attention to the nuances of his words and actions, to the subtly in his blows against his enemies, to the point where Sky found his eyes wandering in places they should not have been.
At the counter, Sky waved the tavern keeper over and ordered rice wine. He had filched some coin purses off nobles earlier in the morning, and with coin to call his own the tavern keeper did not hesitate to accept him despite his affiliation with Ming. He could not get wine otherwise, thanks to the Black Whirlwind running up Ming's tab as though he were the Emperor himself. Sky thought about getting enough silver to pay off the tab--the tavern keeper knew better than to cut Whirlwind off, no matter how high the expenses rose--but he knew Ming would not appreciate the unsolicited help. He knew the boy at least that much... at least, he hoped he knew the boy that much.
The tavern keeper slid a bowl onto the counter, and Sky bowed his head in gratitude and took a swig. He needed to clear his head, and though the others would disagree, a bowl of wine was enough to do the trick. Watching Ming fight rigged matches or Forgotten Spirits confused him more than helped, and he was never quite good at the meditation Dawn Star often sought.
Furious Ming, their fearless and ruthless leader, was attracted to him. Ming, who had no compassion for the plight of others; Ming, who was so dedicated to his goal that he cared little for the destruction left in his wake. Ming, another man.
Sky had no doubt that if Ming had been a woman, he would not be in such turmoil. He had bedded many dangerous women before, and he always expected to bed many more.
But... there was turmoil, and that troubled Sky. If only he knew what the turmoil was, what he was hesitating over, and then he can come up with an answer and tell Ming either yes or no.
Wait. Was that it? He imagined that same conversation with the Black Whirlwind, and he nearly choked on his wine. Bad example. Kang was even worse. Sagacious Zu would rather spike his head on a spear, and Sky found himself agreeing with that sentiment. And then he remembered the conversation with Ming in full, and he wondered... maybe? Possibly?
The doors to the tavern slid open and a woman excitedly ran up to the man who had just entered and planted a kiss fully on his lips. The man held her tight, and in their embrace Sky saw himself and Ming. Sky felt his face grow red and hot, and he scowled and waved the tavern keeper back over.
"More wine," he said.
Maybe the time had come once more not to think, but drink. He would figure the rest out later.