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Yunlan had known, intellectually, that Shen Wei could be hurt. He’d even considered the fact that Shen Wei could be hurt badly. For all his power and skill, Shen Wei is after all still alive in the world, and nothing alive in the world is truly immune from harm.

He’s so good at shaking everything off, though. Or at least putting up such a good facade that it amounts to the same thing.

Now… now he’s pale, and moving like someone who is in enough pain to be constantly mindful about minimizing it. He’s so exhausted that Yunlan feels tired on his behalf. He looks fragile, and Yunlan keeps finding that he’s automatically moved into a good position to catch him in case he collapses. Every time he looks at Shen Wei his heart clenches painfully and he can’t seem to stop looking, as if his attention alone can keep Shen Wei’s condition from becoming critical.

He hadn’t realized how much he relied on Shen Wei being untouchable.

But there’s nothing he can do about it until they’ve delivered Guo to the SID. Secretly, shamefully, Yunlan is grateful for how quickly Chu snatches Guo from him and bolts for the lab. He would have carried Guo there himself. He should probably stick around now and make sure Chu and Da Qing have everything in hand.

Instead he does an about-face, pushes past a startled Zhu Hong, and straight-up grabs Shen Wei before he can fall over.

“Shen Wei’s hurt. I’ll take him home.”

Shen Wei barely manages a protest, which is a whole new level of worry, but he seems to rally a bit once he hits the sunshine.

“I’d rather walk, if you don’t mind,” he says as Yunlan takes out his keys.

Yunlan very much fucking minds, but when he turns to look Shen Wei has his face tilted towards the sky. His eyes are closed in relief, and Yunlan remembers the oppressive eternal night of Dixing and finds his resolve crumbling.

“Fine. But I’m holding you up.”

Shen Wei protests but holds his arm tightly when Yunlan insists and does it anyway. Pressed up close against him, Yunlan can feel a fine, constant tremor running through his body, like a high-tension wire under too much stress. As worrying as Shen Wei’s insistence on suffering in silence can be, it’s somehow even worse to see him try to do it and fail.

Yunlan rapidly evaluates potential routes based on directness versus number of available places to sit down and turns them left.

Sure enough, a street and a half later Shen Wei musters up a smile from somewhere and says “Sit with me for a little? I missed the sunlight here.”

And you’re about to fall over, Yunlan finishes for him. He guides Shen Wei over to a bench. They can sit for a while, and then if Shen Wei isn’t moving any better Yunlan will just carry him or make one of his subordinates come pick them up and to hell with Shen Wei’s sense of dignity.

Everyone at SID had been worried about him too. Chances are they won’t even bother making a token protest.

It’s actually quite nice, sitting there in the sun with Shen Wei beside him. Yunlan doesn’t know the last time he did something like this when it wasn’t also tied to some kind of surveillance or stakeout. It would be a pleasant place to take a nap.

Sure enough, when he turns to look Shen Wei has fallen asleep, his head tipped back to rest on the brick wall behind him.

It’s weird to see Shen Wei sleep. It’s not the first time Yunlan has seen it - although technically before Shen Wei had been unconscious, not sleeping - but it still seems a little unnatural. Too unguarded. Too human.

The angle of his neck looks kind of uncomfortable. Moving with excruciating care and slowness, Yunlan slides his arm behind Shen Wei and then, when Shen Wei doesn’t stir, feels bold enough to gently tip him over to lean against his shoulder.

Shen Wei probably wouldn’t allow this if he was awake.

He probably wouldn’t be in this shape at all if he hadn’t spent himself to repair Yunlan’s eyes.

Shen Wei’s head settles against Yunlan’s neck. His hair smells like Dixing, but he also feels solid and alive and Yunlan can feel his ribcage expanding as he breathes, so it’s okay.

They’re okay.

They sit there and breathe together until the sun starts to go down.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

How long he sleeps there on the bench Shen Wei doesn’t know, but when he begins to be aware of the fact that Zhao Yunlan is tapping the side of his face to wake him the sun is already low in the sky.

The disorientation is unexpected and unwelcome. What time had it been when they’d left SID? He doesn’t remember. It had seemed unimportant.

“Are you feeling better? Do you think you can stand?”

His head has been resting on Zhao Yunlan’s shoulder while he slept. That’s… fairly embarrassing. He vividly remembers Zhao Yunlan falling asleep on him twice in the same way, and to be on the other side of the experience is deeply strange.

Zhao Yunlan probably doesn’t have the same hopeless ache through his chest that Shen Wei had had then, though. Zhao Yunlan acts on his feelings rather than deny himself and settle for desperate yearning.

“Hey. Professor Shen. One of your students set his textbook on fire.”

Shen Wei stares at Zhao Yunlan in astonishment. “What?”

Zhao Yunlan grins. It doesn’t quite touch the worry in his eyes, but it still looks nice on him. “Figures that would wake you up. How are you feeling?”

“I’m all ri- all right.” He makes the mistake of straightening up when he speaks, and his voice catches in the middle of the word. He does feel less exhausted, but his body has stiffened up while he slept and the sudden sharp pain takes him by surprise. The angle he’d been leaning at hadn’t helped, either, although he’d rather stab himself than tell that to Zhao Yunlan.

Zhao Yunlan’s hand tightens on his arm. “I’m taking you to the hospital.”

“You know I can’t do that.” He forces a smile onto his face, forces his body language to relax and look less hurt. “A little rest and I’ll be fine.”

The reassurance only makes Zhao Yunlan look more upset, but he nods jerkily. “We’ll get a ride the rest of the way.”

“Oh, that’s not -”

“Or I could carry you,” Zhao Yunlan snaps, and he looks so fierce that it’s not only the mental image of himself being carried through the streets of Dragon City that makes Shen Wei swallow his protest and acquiesce with more meekness than he’d intended.

It’s not difficult to figure out why Zhao Yunlan’s emotions are volatile right now. He’s a protector by nature, and that nature comes through even more strongly when it’s to do with one of his own people. It’s probably also disturbing to his equilibrium to see someone like Shen Wei displaying as much distress as he is, for all that Shen Wei is taking pains to hide it.

He redoubles his efforts to appear unaffected on the way home, but Zhao Yunlan’s hovering only grows worse. He barely takes his eyes off Shen Wei, and he never lets go of him. He’s so focused that Shen Wei suspects a nearby explosion might not even distract him, and the end result is that by the time they finally enter his apartment Shen Wei is so worn out by the strain of maintaining his pretense that he’s nearly shaking and Zhao Yunlan still looks miserable.

It’s agonizing. What else can he do to ease Zhao Yunlan’s unhappiness?

Zhao Yunlan immediately tries to walk them towards the bedroom, which is so far away that it might as well be a return trip to the SID. Shen Wei knows, down to his bones, that he’s too close to the end of his endurance for those last three meters.

“I would prefer to sit on the couch,” he says, planting his feet. “Thank you for your help. I’m sure I’ll be fine from here if you’d like to go get some rest yourself.”

Abruptly, Zhao Yunlan lets go of him entirely. Shen Wei’s knees give out immediately, and he makes an undignified and somewhat painful landing on the couch. He can only stare up at Zhao Yunlan in shock, his glasses crooked on his nose from the abrupt fall.

“Why won’t you admit you’re hurt and let me fucking help you?!” Zhao Yunlan yells.

Shen Wei flounders for a response. “I - I-”

“I’ll tell you what,” Zhao Yunlan continues, “get up and walk to the bed under your own power right now and then I’ll leave you alone!”

“I can’t,” Shen Wei admits, wide-eyed. “I just didn’t want to be a bother.”

Zhao Yunlan’s mouth moves soundlessly for a moment, and then he lets out a bark of half-hysterical laughter and leans down, hands braced on the back of the armchair. “You didn’t… okay.” He straightens up. “You’re going to sit there, and I’m going to make you something to eat.”

“That’s really not -”

“Are you going to bother me about this?” Zhao Yunlan says, glaring.

“...No?” Shen Wei guesses.

Zhao Yunlan snorts and stalks over to the kitchen, then wheels around and heads straight back to the couch. Shen Wei braces himself for more fireworks, but instead Zhao Yunlan grabs the blanket off the back of the couch and throws it over Shen Wei, tucking it around him and then readjusting the couch pillows so Shen Wei is comfortably supported.

Feeling slightly disconnected from reality, Shen Wei mostly just lets it happen. When the bedding is apparently adequate, Zhao Yunlan steals Shen Wei’s glasses, points at him, and says, “Rest. I’ll cook.”

Shen Wei doesn’t really require food, not in the way humans do. He enjoys eating and he likes to cook, but even in his currently reduced state a meal won’t contribute anything to his recovery. Neither, to be frank, will the blanket and pillows - it takes extremes to make him feel heat or cold unduly. His current ailment will be solved by time and the appropriate application of his own energy, which he is doing now anyway, albeit at a slower speed than normal.

He doesn’t need to be taken care of. That’s not... what his purpose is. More to the point, he has absolutely no idea how to respond to it. He has no framework for this - this new dynamic. Should he say thank you for the blanket? Should he try to help with preparing the meal? How, exactly, does one “rest”? Just sitting here seems awfully passive.

When he takes care of Zhao Yunlan, it mostly involves providing the basic amenities that Zhao Yunlan has, for whatever reason, been remiss about providing for himself (food, sleep, common sense) and then sitting by the bed ready to murder the first enemy who comes through the door. In response, Zhao Yunlan mostly seems to take advantage of the situation or use it as an excuse to flirt, neither of which Shen Wei feels comfortable about doing himself, and none of which gives him any insight into how to behave now.

Mild-mannered very human Professor Shen would smile ruefully and pretend he’d only gotten bruised, but that ship has, unfortunately, sailed, plus now that he knows the truth, Zhao Yunlan would probably see through the act anyway.

The Black Cloaked Envoy would never allow himself to be seen as anything less than supernaturally impervious and in control. He would portal out before anyone got a chance to be curious, ideally leaving sighs of relief at his absence behind him.

So where does that leave Shen Wei?

“Hey. Tea.”

Shen Wei blinks. He must be tired indeed if he hadn’t noticed Zhao Yunlan coming closer. Even when he’s shutting out the rest of the world he is always aware of Zhao Yunlan.

He takes the tea. The cup is warm against his fingers and the smell of it is soothing. He does, at least, know what to do with a cup of tea.

“All right, spill. I can hear your brain shorting out from the kitchen.”

Well, that’s insulting.

“Don’t give me that look. Cough it up.”

Shen Wei takes a sip of tea to buy time. It tastes under-steeped, but not too horrible. Zhao Yunlan had been rushing when he made it.

Now he’s waiting. Patiently.

Oh no, Shen Wei thinks as he caves.

“I apologize,” he says stiffly, dragging each word out against 10,000 years of inertia. “I don’t… know how to do… this. It’s. Probably going to be very annoying for you.”

There’s a long pause while Zhao Yunlan parses this statement. Shen Wei waits in agony.

“‘This’ meaning… rest? Take it easy? Let someone else take care of you?”

Shen Wei nods miserably at his blanket-covered lap.

There is another long silence. Shen Wei seriously considers using the last dregs of his energy to portal through the floor.

“Nobody’s ever -” Zhao Yunlan cuts himself off sharply. Shen Wei risks a glance up. Zhao Yunlan is looking away, jaw muscles tight, his fist clenched.

Does he have enough energy to…?

No. Damn. He probably couldn’t even extinguish a candle in this state.

“Okay.” Zhao Yunlan’s voice is soft now. He sounds tired. “Drink your tea. When you’re done with it close your eyes and see if you can take another nap. Deal?”

Something in Shen Wei’s chest loosens a fraction. He nods and takes another sip of tea. “Thank you. And thank you for the tea.”

Zhao Yunlan scoffs. “It’s shitty tea, but you’re welcome. Now rest.”

Shen Wei’s had worse. He finishes his tea and obediently closes his eyes to the sounds of Zhao Yunlan making exasperated noises at the contents of the refrigerator. He doubts he’ll sleep, but the pillows are comfortable.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The sound of the front door opening and shutting wakes Shen Wei from his doze. He’s certain he hadn’t been sleeping very deeply, but there’s a second blanket spread over him and, unless he’s mistaken, more pillows around him than before.

He frowns at the blanket. It looks a lot like the one he keeps having to fold in Zhao Yunlan’s apartment. Also, his boots are gone.

Perhaps he was sleeping a little more deeply than he’d thought.

“Perfect timing!” Zhao Yunlan says. He’s regained his usual brash cheer, and he gestures expansively at the coffee table. “Your meal awaits, honorable sir.”

There are five containers of instant noodles laid out on the table. In direct contravention to their humble origins, Zhao Yunlan also managed to dig up some of Shen Wei’s nicest dishes and linens. The effect is quite odd.

“All the food in your apartment is…” Zhao Yunlan searches for the right word, “...disassembled, so I brought something from mine. But! I have made it special!”

Shen Wei feels a frisson of apprehension. But perhaps Zhao Yunlan has in fact found a way to elevate instant noodles? He certainly eats a lot of them. He’s had the opportunity to experiment.

“In the first position, we have braised beef noodles, boiled in water - tasty, but traditional. Therefore, in second position we have old-altar pickled cabbage noodles boiled in milk, suitable for a more refined palate. In the middle are mushroom and chicken stew noodles, microwaved in water with some butter because I nearly forgot about them, but don’t worry, they’re good enough that it doesn’t matter. Fourth are assorted seafood noodles, which were boring until I added a spoonful of sweet sauce and now they’re…” he kisses his fingertips, as if the delectability of the dish is beyond mere mortal words. “And finally, in the final position…” he pauses do to a drumroll on the edge of the table. “Bacon cream noodles, boiled in hot coffee!”

Way, way too much time to experiment, and apparently completely dysfunctional tastebuds. “Oh!” Shen Wei says, buying time to find something to say that isn’t You are never allowed to prepare food again, ever, for the safety of humankind. “You’ve gone to a lot of trouble.”

“Nah, I can make these in my sleep,” Zhao Yunlan says, shrugging. “I’m not expecting you to eat everything, you know, I just wanted there to be some variety.” He grins. “And I‘m hungry too.”

His mood has certainly improved. It makes sense when Shen Wei considers it. Zhao Yunlan is a man of action. Doing something is much more suited to him than sitting idly by, and with the best of intentions Shen Wei has been asking him to do exactly that.

He musters up his courage. “May I try the first one?”

“Tasty but traditional!” Zhao Yunlan says, already serving.

Shen Wei takes a tentative bite. The noodles are mushy and the broth is far too salty. By the second mouthful there’s a weird film forming over his tongue. By the third, he has to admit that there’s actually something strangely compelling about them.

A nearly indiscernible line of tension in Zhao Yunlan’s shoulders eases as Shen Wei eats. He picks up the seafood-and-sweet-sauce noodles and tucks in with every evidence of genuine enjoyment. Shen Wei fears briefly for the future of humanity.

For all that Shen Wei knows that the noodles are of no benefit to him and, if he were human, could very well be causing health problems, he does feel… better afterwards. There’s a warmth in his stomach that’s comforting, and the way Zhao Yunlan smiles at him when he finishes his meal and allows morbid curiosity to drive him to try a tiny bite of the bacon-cream-and-coffee noodles makes his chest warm, too.

“Think you can make it to bed now?”

The idea of being horizontal is very appealing, and he thinks it will put Zhao Yunlan’s mind to rest as well. He nods.

“Okay. We’ll go nice and easy.”

Zhao Yunlan untucks the blankets and shoves them aside, sliding his arm around Shen Wei’s back to support him as he stands. To his embarrassment Shen Wei finds that he requires that help, but Zhao Yunlan just holds steady until Shen Wei has his feet under him, and then helps him gently over to the bed.

“Brace yourself on the wall for a minute,” Zhao Yunlan says, letting go of him long enough to throw the covers back.

Shen Wei had never realised how beautiful a bed could be. He just had a nap, how can he still be so tired? Tragically, he’s actually too tired to think about how tired he is beyond how nice it will feel to lie down on that mattress...

“Wait, hold up,” Zhao Yunlan says, reaching for Shen Wei’s belt.

Caught completely by surprise, Shen Wei tries to back up, stumbles, and nearly falls. Zhao Yunlan swears and grabs him.

“Relax! Your virtue is safe, tonight at least, but your anatomy won’t be if you try to sleep in those pants.”

Shen Wei’s face heats. “I can do it myself,” he insists.

Zhao Yunlan gives him an utterly dubious look, but he steps back, spreading his hands as if to say Fine, fall on your face if you feel so strongly about it.

Shen Wei does not fall on his face, but by the time he’s divested himself of pants, suit jacket, and shirt (tragically all discarded in a heap on the floor… for a moment he nearly tries to pick them up and put them away before realizing it’s physically impossible) he’s about ready to. He’d never realized how many muscles it took to take off a jacket, and how many muscles those muscles were connected to. He really feels quite unwell now.

“That’s a bullet hole,” Zhao Yunlan says in a strained voice.

“Bullet wound,” Shen Wei corrects absently, eyeing the messy pile of clothes with resignation. “And it’s mostly healed.” It’s a good thing he kept his undershirt on. Not only is he not sure he can raise his arms high enough to remove it without significant discomfort, it covers the worse injuries.

Zhao Yunlan’s hand comes up to touch it, right below Shen Wei’s left clavicle. It stings a little, but Shen Wei keeps from flinching. From this close he can feel Zhao Yunlan’s body heat and he has to remind himself sternly not to lean closer.

Zhao Yunlan’s hands drift down, over Shen Wei’s chest, and Shen Wei realizes just in time that his aim is investigation rather than seduction.

“I think I need to sit down.” It’s not entirely a lie.

Zhao Yunlan immediately lets go of the hem of Shen Wei’s undershirt and steers him towards the bed. “I bet. I can feel you shaking.”

Damn. He thought he’d covered that up. “I’m just worried you’ll make me eat more noodles,” he jokes.

“You could use more noodles,” Zhao Yunlan says, fingers skating over Shen Wei’s ribcage. “Come on. Lie down before you fall over. If I let your face get banged up half the student body of Dragon University will probably be out for my blood.”

Shen Wei frowns. “My students aren’t that overprotective.”

Zhao Yunlan stares at him for a moment and then laughs helplessly. “Overprotective. Right. That’s totally why every class you teach is overenrolled.”

“I try to give interesting assignments and grade fairly…” his voice trails off a little as he finally gets to lie back on the mattress. He can actually feel the bones in his spine shifting into better position. It’s such a relief that he has to just stop and breathe for a moment.

Zhao Yunlan pats him fondly on the chest. “Yes, yes, I bet you do.”

“I do, I’ll show you my syllabus some time.” How has he never realized how soft and amazing this pillow is?

“Great, I bet it will come in handy the next time I can’t sleep.” Zhao Yunlan’s voice fades a little as he turns away to get up.

Before he knows what he’s doing, Shen Wei grabs Zhao Yunlan’s wrist.

They both freeze, Zhao Yunlan in surprise and Shen Wei in crippling mortification.

“Shen Wei, would you like me to stay with you?”

Shen Wei forces his hand to open. “It’s fine. I’m fine.” He can’t look at Zhao Yunlan’s face, he just can’t. Maybe he can blame this on a head injury. Maybe he can give himself a head injury.

Zhao Yunlan runs his fingers through Shen Wei’s hair and cups the side of his face. It feels… Shen Wei doesn’t have words for what it feels like. It’s too far outside his normal realm of experience. Good, but almost painful, like something deep down inside himself that he’d long forgotten just woke up and is aching from disuse.

Grudgingly, he looks at Zhao Yunlan.

“Hey.” Zhao Yunlan smiles. “It’s a good idea. Body heat helps injuries heal faster. It’s science.”

“I don’t think -”

“Science!” Zhao Yunlan says, already off the bed and divesting himself of clothing with astonishing speed. He kicks his clothes off to the side and climbs over Shen Wei to the unoccupied side of the bed.

“You could have just walked around,” Shen Wei points out, amused despite himself.

“Boring.” Zhao Yunlan wriggles down under the covers, tugging at Shen Wei until he gives in and rolls over into the position Zhao Yunlan wants.

He’s pressed up against Zhao Yunlan now, legs tangled together, head on Zhao Yunlan’s chest. He can hear Zhao Yunlan’s heartbeat. The suddenness and breadth of the physical contact leaves him shaken. It’s surprisingly emotional to lie like this, so close to the person he loves most in the world and never thought he’d be lucky enough to find again.

He’d hoped, of course he’d hoped, but it had been ten thousand years.

Ten thousand years, and Zhao Yunlan is here, pressed up all against him, his chest rising and falling under Shen Wei’s head.

He could lie here for another ten thousand years and it would probably still take his breath away.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Yunlan rubs Shen Wei’s back as he shudders. What emotions he’s feeling right now Yunlan can’t guess, but there are a lot of options. Relief at having been rescued, shame at being needy enough to ask Yunlan to stay, a delayed reaction from whatever they’d done to him in Dixing besides try to fill him full of bullets.

If he had to guess, though, he’d say Shen Wei is just plain overwhelmed. He’s had a rough couple of days that would leave anyone feeling done in, and he’s up close and personal with Yunlan’s amazing self right now to boot. It’s got to be a pretty disorienting combination.

(In the back of his mind, always, is the possibility that it could be something else entirely. Shen Wei still keeps a lot of secrets, for all that Yunlan has tried his best to knock those walls down.)

Flippancy aside, it probably actually is more about the current snugglefest than it is about anything else. Torture and pain are things Shen Wei is obviously very used to, but how many people take a look at the Black Cloaked Envoy and think He seems cuddly and approachable, I bet he’d like it if I caressed his scary mask? Even as Professor Shen he looks so clean and orderly that people are probably afraid of getting him grubby if they try to put their hands on him.

It’s no wonder he always has that split-second moment of total stillness every time Yunlan touches him unexpectedly.

Shen Wei takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly. The shuddering stops. Yunlan can only hope it’s because Shen Wei feels better and not because he forced himself to regain control. Yunlan often finds himself impressed and appalled in equal measure by Shen Wei’s level of self-mastery… and also really, really, keen to break it.

Usually, that’s because Shen Wei is ridiculously hot when he’s annoyed (or happy, or thoughtful, or concerned, or doing that thing where he just kind of exists and is alive).

Right now, though… right now, that iron-hard reserve doesn’t feel hot. It just feels kind of sad.

“Hey. Let me see the bullet wounds?”

Shen Wei leans back, moving his head from Yunlan’s chest to the pillow so he can look him in the eyes. He doesn’t try to create any more space between them, though. Yunlan can still feel him breathing. “It’s healing.”

“I know.” He takes his own deep breath, holds Shen Wei’s eyes, and thinks You can have this too. “Let me in. Please? This isn’t something you have to do alone.”

Shen Wei watches him for a long moment, emotions flitting across his face to subtly for Yunlan to read, and then something seems to give. He looks away and nods, rolling onto his back with a wince so he can pull up his undershirt.

He stops with his fingers just touching the hem of his shirt, his face expressionless in a way that some deep-buried part of Yunlan’s brain registers as frozen, or maybe afraid.

“Shen Wei.” He doesn’t look up, and Yunlan rests his hand on Shen Wei’s uninjured side, rubbing a little with his thumb. “Do you want me to do it?”

Shen Wei nods jerkily, still not looking at Yunlan. Yunlan slides his hand down to touch Shen Wei’s, going slowly, trying to make it as intimate and just them as he can.

Shen Wei turns his hands suddenly, grabbing Yunlan’s and preventing him from going further. “They’re healing,” he says again. His eyes meet Yunlan’s this time, watching him carefully.

Yunlan’s not sure which of them he’s trying to reassure, or if maybe he’s apologizing for not healing faster, but he knows this moment has to be hard for Shen Wei. Unlearning anything takes time, and for as long as Shen Wei’s been on his own it’s got to be a million times worse.

“I know,” he says. That should cover everything, hopefully, and sure enough after a beat Shen Wei moves his hands out of the way.

Yunlan slides the shirt up, going slow and careful to avoid spooking Shen Wei or aggravating whatever mess is beneath. He sees the muscles in Shen Wei’s stomach clench, just a little, and then relax.

Yunlan feels his own muscles clench as he sees Shen Wei’s chest.

It’s… not good. Not good for Shen Wei, anyway - on anyone else this would be a miraculous level of fast healing. On Shen Wei, though - on skin that some part of Yunlan had always thought was simply unbreakable - it’s pretty bad. Two big wounds, one near his waist where he keeps pressing his hand when he thinks nobody’s looking, and one higher up and slightly to the left of his sternum. They’re closed over, just barely, but they look red and angry and there are deep bruises bleeding through the skin all around them.

The cop part of Yunlan’s brain is thinking about the placement of the chains Shen Wei had been bound with and the way he’d had to slump over and completely understands why these wounds are worse.

The rest of his brain is terrified. And angry that someone would do this to Shen Wei, his Shen Wei, who upholds justice with all his might and still tries to slip all the mercy in his big stupid heart in around the edges.

He can feel the weight of Shen Wei’s gaze on the side of his face, wary and watchful.

“Regular bullets?” he asks.

“Regular for the Dixing palace guards,” Shen Wei says, voice devoid of inflection.

Fuck. That’s not good. He’s seen Shen Wei shrug off a lot worse than this.

“You’re changing. Aren’t you.”

Shen Wei’s stomach moves as he takes a sharp breath, and then he reaches up and brushes his fingers against Yunlan’s arm. “Yes,” he admits. He tilts his head a little, forcing Yunlan to look away from the angry purple-red marks and up at his face. “But it’s on purpose.”

He’s not going to say why. One look at his calm expression tells Yunlan that much. It’s the same look he had when he told Yunlan he was returning a life Yunlan doesn’t remember giving to him, and it fills Yunlan with equal parts foreboding and frustrated resignation.

He wants to yell at Shen Wei for this - the secrets, the whatever he’s doing to himself, the unthinking extremity of his devotion. He wants to push him, needle him, make him angry, make him see that this - this all-consuming love he has for Yunlan is misplaced and illogical.

He also wants to wrap Shen Wei in blankets and never let him go. He wants to build that damn perfect world Lin Jing was nattering on about where it’s just him and Shen Wei. He wants to bind Shen Wei to him and say Forever. Deal With It.

He sighs, letting his head hang down, and after a moment feels Shen Wei lightly touch his hair, as if Yunlan is so wonderful that Shen Wei is afraid to damage him.

“I would never do anything to hurt you,” Shen Wei says softly, voice aching.

Yunlan knows that in the same way he knows about gravity and sunlight - instinctively, and without thinking. He also knows that Shen Wei’s intentions may only carry him so far, and that there are more kinds of hurt than there are ways to look out for them, and that Shen Wei will use himself up trying to keep those hurts from reaching him.

Shen Wei’s hand withdraws from Yunlan’s hair, uncertain, and dammit, as much as he wants to fight Shen Wei on this point, yell at him for valuing himself so little, Yunlan can’t bring himself to let Shen Wei hurt either.

He leans down, slow and careful, and presses the gentlest kiss he can manage against the worst of Shen Wei’s bullet wounds. It’s not an agreement with Shen Wei’s tactics, but it’s not a condemnation, either.

Shen Wei gives a little gasp, so Yunlan kisses the other wounds too, and then eases Shen Wei’s undershirt back down over his chest, smoothing out the fabric so it doesn’t bunch up. You are worth taking care of, he thinks with each movement.

“Come on. Put your head back down.” They can argue in the morning, maybe, when Shen Wei’s had some sleep and can put up a proper fight. For now… for now Yunlan just wants to enjoy the moment, dammit.

Shen Wei hesitates for a second and then complies, relaxing against Yunlan by centimeters as if he has to convince each muscle in turn that this is okay.

Yunlan turns his head to the side so he can put his face in Shen Wei’s hair. There’s a particular smell to Shen Wei - slightly acrid, like the air during a heavy rain. Yunlan used to associate that smell with getting soaked and being pissed about it, but now every time he smells it his chest clenches in that Shen Wei-specific combination that’s equal parts eager anticipation, bloodlust, and arousal.

(Look, watching Shen Wei fuck shit up is really impressive, okay? Yunlan’s not going to analyze it too heavily, he’s just going to enjoy it. And whatever Shen Wei’s changing into, he’s still going to be dangerous. Yunlan knows that down to his soul.)

It will probably be okay.

“Yunlan.”

Yunlan’s eyes, half-closed as he starts to drift off himself, shoot open. Just ‘Yunlan’? No formality?

Be cool, be cool. “Yeah?”

“Stop thinking so hard. Go to sleep. We have troubles to face but I’ll take care of them.”

Shen Wei’s tone is drowsy and half-asleep, and Yunlan’s heart swells in his chest. He feels suddenly, incredibly privileged to get to experience Shen Wei like this. Even the slightly worrisome spectre of whatever Shen Wei might come up with to take care of all their problems fades behind the unbearably huge swell of fondness.

Yunlan swallows hard and kisses Shen Wei on the top of the head.

“Okay. Sleep well.”

As long as they can face what’s coming together he knows they’ll muddle through somehow.