Fall Into Place
Sunlight batted insistently against the back of Liu's eyelids, dragging him from the cradle of sleep.
Cracking one green eye open, he winced at the harsh glare coming in from the window, hastily shading his eyes.
Except, he couldn't quite lift his hands. They were tucked underneath a long, pale, muscled arm, a pattern of light blue lines tattooed onto the smooth skin.
"Gah!" Liu tried to fling himself from the bed, very nearly succeeding. But Luo-Tao tightened his grip, hauling Liu back from the edge of his bed and firmly back onto the mattress.
Upon closer inspection, Liu realized, he was naked. But that wasn't important. The important part was that Luo-Tao was in his bed. And Luo-Tao was naked. He sat against the crisp linen sheets, dark hair sleep-tousled and with such a casual carelessness that Liu could trace every line of his tattoo on his body. All the way down. Not that he was doing that. No. Not at all.
His mind, recently acknowledged to be one of the best tactical ones in the land, was too busy thinking about Luo-Tao naked in his bed.
"Are you alright, Venerable One?"
"Stop that," Liu squeaked.
"Stop what?" Luo-Tao asked calmly.
"Stop sounding like the Elder's Aide while you're in my bed! N-naked!"
"But you are the Elder and I'm your Aide," Luo-Tao pointed out. "And I am naked," he added, as an afterthought.
Liu whimpered a little, his head hurting. Actually, that wasn't the only thing that was hurting.
Someone Up There had seen fit to give Liu a brain that could connect dots with speed and accuracy. Liu had never really thought about how much he wished it were otherwise until now.
"Please, please, please tell me I didn't do what I think I did last night."
"Then you didn't, Liu-Shen."
Liu blinked, looking up at his right hand Scribe. He hadn't heard that name in a while. He'd insisted on being called Liu if anything at all.
"I believe Musician Ramin was playing a particular song, last night."
"Oh well, that makes me feel better!" Liu snorted. "I'm surprised you even… you know, went along with it." Liu looked down, feeling the flush creep up his cheeks.
"Shouldn't I have?"
"Of course you shouldn't have! I mean, just- ugh!" Liu collapsed suddenly, his back cramping up.
"Perhaps last night was a bit hard on your body…" Luo-Tao gently turned Liu over, sending electric jolts of pain directly up Liu's spine.
"T-tell me something I don't know!"
But Luo-Tao's hands touched his shoulder blades, stroking firmly down and
Hands on his waist, gripping firmly, his thighs spread and his entire body feverish, the floor underneath all the colder.
Liu shuddered, his cheeks flushing hotly. That. Just… what did he do last night?
Luo-Tao held a hand to Liu's forehead, brushing back strands of green hair, without the bandana. "Are you cold or running a fever?" Luo-Tao asked calmly. "Perhaps I should find some medicine for you."
"I- I'm fine!" Liu said quickly.
Luo-Tao's hands went back to massaging his back, skillfully kneading the tenseness away like he often had these past few years when Liu would end up sleeping on a desk, only to wake up with the papers filed neatly away and a soft woolen blanket draped over his shoulders.
But he had never done it while in Liu's bed.
And naked, his mind helpfully reminded him.
Luo-Tao's hands dipped into the small of his back, skirting dangerously close to his bottom and Liu tensed back up.
"Is there something wrong?"
"You're taking this too calmly," Liu pointed out, feeling childish.
Luo-Tao paused, his warm hands still on the small of Liu's back. "How much do you remember of last night?"
"N-not much," Liu admitted. It wasn't like he could just tell him that all he remembered was… his hands, and the floor, and the feel of his tongue inside his mouth, dragging down his chest. The slender, sure fingers slipping inside him and touching deeper than anyone had ever had.
"I see," Luo-Tao said.
Blinking, Liu looked up, and for a moment, he thought… he thought something, some expression flitted across Luo-Tao's face, and then the calmness resumed.
"Do you know why I followed you, Liu-Shen?"
Liu blinked, taken aback by the sudden change in conversation. "Because I was the Venerable One… I guess? I mean, it was a pretty nice political stroke, showing your support for me, even if it didn't work right away. The Scribes trusted you more."
"Then, do you remember the day you left?"
"…Sure I do."
Liu-Shen crept through the empty streets, glad for a clear night. Tomorrow would be the adulthood ceremony, the moment when he, along with all the other kids his age, would be given the Scribe's distinctive tattoos and bound forever to the tribe. If what the Wanderers had said, the few times they came, was anything to go by, after he got his tattoos, it'd be impossible to see the world without being spotted as a Scribe. Impossible to blend in.
Len-Lien wasn't around at the School anymore, newly inducted to the group of Scribes who personally cared for the Elder. She hadn't believed that Liu would do this- he had seen it in her eyes, and she had shook her head at the invitation to see the world with him.
And that had hurt. But Len-Lien wasn't like him, after all, in the end. Liu thought maybe she was right. Maybe he was being crazy. With nothing but a makeshift sack from a rough woven blanket filled with food quietly stolen from the table these past few week and the clothes on his back, the warm green stone in his pocket, he would be running away from the Woods forever. Never to return.
"Where are you going, Liu-Shen?" That calm voice spoke in the darkness.
Liu's heart stopped.
"L-Luo-Tao!" Liu whirled, sure that his adventure was over before it begun. In the pale glow of the lamps, he could see Luo-Tao's back, sitting on a tree branch and facing away from him
Of all the people he could've run into, it was straight-laced Luo-Tao,only a few years older and the bright shining star of the Scribes. People were always talking about how he'd eventually become Elder.
He was so busted.
At least he'd go down with his pride.
Lip trembling, Liu straightened and told him. "I'm running away!"
"Aren't you scared?"
"O-of course I am! I'm scared and I'm lonely and I don't know what will happen once I get out of here!"
Luo-Tao didn't speak.
"…but. I want to know what else is out there. What kinds of things aren't we learning here, in the Village? We keep hearing about all these things about Chronicles and people who make their own destiny, but we never even bother to look at what's all around us!"
Liu took a deep breath. "I want to see what the world is like. I want to taste different kinds of food and meet other people. I want to know what we're missing. "
"But the people outside can't be trusted."
"W-we don't know that for sure! It's only Hao-Shi and his friends who keep saying stuff like that!" Liu said hotly.
Never mind that Hao-Shi and his friends were most of the community, or that their thinking had filtered down to most of the children in the same way. Never mind that Liu had always been the weird one out, an odd duckling with no friends but for Len-Lien who cared for everyone.
Never mind that he didn't fit in, no matter what he did, and that he was hoping, somewhere, out there, he would. That somewhere, out there, he would be accepted.
"Is that really what you want?" Luo-Tao shifted on the tree branch, his face still turned away, so Liu couldn't see his expression.
"I just told you, didn't I?" Liu said stubbornly.
"You'd better go. It won't be long until supper is over."
"Y-you're not going to report me?" Liu asked, so surprised he nearly dropped his sack.
"I didn't see anything tonight," Luo-Tao said.
Startled and reluctant to question his good fortune, Liu turned and ran into the Woods. He'd gotten a map that had fallen from a Wanderer's pack, once, but the furthest he'd ever gone was the very edge of the Noslaw Woods, where the forest emptied into plains.
But he would make it. He'd go out and find people who would be his friends. He'd go out and find new things and see new sights and taste new food.
He would leave behind everything he had ever known, when everything he had ever known had rejected him.
"…I never could find out what you were thinking that night." Liu said, finally.
"I decided I would follow you, then."
"What? But- I was running away! I wasn't even planning on going back!"
Luo-Tao shrugged. "All Scribes return, if they can. The Tatau Chronicle calls to them, subconsciously or not."
"That's why I ran before I could get my tattoos," Liu grumbled.
A finger gently ran up his spine, tracing the lines of violet ink. "And yet, the Chronicle called you home."
Liu shuddered. "S-stop that. I- I don't… it's not… proper…" Liu trailed off helplessly.
"It's been three years since I declared my intention, hasn't it?"
Liu nodded, a little nervous. He'd never seen Luo-Tao act like this. " 'to walk the path alongside' me."
"That much will never change. It is what I owe to the Elder, the Venerable One. To the boy who left the tribe."
"So you accepted me as Elder because I talked to you when I ran away?"
Luo-Tao smiled faintly. For some reason, it made Liu's stomach twist.
"That is correct, in part. You talked to me before that."
"I did?" Liu asked, looking up at him. And had he ever noticed, how Luo-Tao's lashes were so long? Dark against the paleness of his skin, his eyes bright against them.
"Yes. But this," Luo-Tao grasped Liu's chin, leaning over him and suddenly close. "Is a declaration of what I owe to Liu-Shen, the one whom I've spent three years alongside."
Luo-Tao kissed him, his lips firm, but the touch gentle, lingering and warm. Their breaths mingled, and their noses brushed.
"Ah," Liu breathed, mind tumbling over memories he had forgotten and those he had chosen to forget, supplanted by the fresher images of Luo-Tao, bumping foreheads with him over the same blue print for the Scribes' new homes, walking alongside him in the halls and paths, and drawing a blanket over his shoulders; memories bleached by the vivid color of blue eyes.
Sunlight was streaming into the room, wind blowing against the white window curtains.
Liu looked up at Luo-Tao and kissed him back.
In the end, I wrote another drabble-et in order to have a backstory for Luo-Tao I could base this on. I'll probably post that when I have the time to finish it up. I thought about making this NC-17, but yes, in the end, I settled for flashbacks. The prompt IS the past, after all. XD
Also, does anyone know why this keeps showing up in italics on FFN when published?
I know the Scribes are closeted, but for Liu to know that there is an outside world, I thought he'd need something like the Wanderers.
Re: Luo-Tao's straightforwardness. What I remember about first meeting him is that someone said something about Elder Kwan being wrinkly and Luo-Tao being all why should he take offense? She is old and has many wrinkles.