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bite my tongue, bide my time

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It’s all a shitshow. One moment Zhao Yunlan is fighting Wu Xiaojun with Guo Changcheng, the next Shen Wei is there, ending the fight. There is no relief to seeing him—Shen Wei doesn’t look good at all. Battered and bleeding, his clothes torn, Shen Wei is a nightmare. The only words that manage to come out of Zhao Yunlan’s mouth are an incredulous call for him, “Shen Wei?” 

“Zhao Yunlan!” Shen Wei replies in kind. He sounds pissed when the next sentence rushes out of his lips, “Didn't I forbid you to come?”

“Professor Shen, what happened?” the kid asks before Zhao Yunlan can say anything. At least he’s demonstrating he’s learned to seek information. 

“Don't talk now. We have to leave. Come on,” Shen Wei says as he pulls Zhao Yunlan out of the throne room and the palace. 

They run through the dark streets like that, Zhao Yunlan’s arm firmly held in Shen Wei’s hand, Guo Changcheng following behind them. They’re too slow; Shen Wei should be much faster, Zhao Yunlan knows, but tries not to think about the fact too much. He’s more concerned about all the wounds that refuse to close and instead just drip blood everywhere. 

Soon, they run through an archway, taking a harsh right turn into a narrower street, and it seems like they might be able to hide somewhere. 

But Shen Wei slips on the gravel, falls to his knees, and Zhao Yunlan can only call for him again, grab onto his hand and not let go. He and Guo Changcheng help prop him up against the side of some stairs and then the kid says he’ll go check ahead. 

Damn. He’s learned so much. Soon the kid might become a man. 

“Shen Wei?” 

Now that Zhao Yunlan can look closer, he can see all the lacerations, all the cuts and bruises, even a few scabs. It hurts seeing Shen Wei in this condition. “What happened to you? Why aren’t these wounds healing?” Shaky, weary, hesitant words. Even Zhao Yunlan himself can hear the pain in his voice. 

“These wounds are nothing,” Shen Wei tells him and then changes the topic, “Go, quick, Zhao Yunlan! Go. Go! Go!” his voice rising as he repeats his plea. 

It’s just too bad that Zhao Yunlan isn’t very good at following orders. Against Shen Wei’s wishes, he stays, holding onto him, focusing on nothing else. 

“Who hurt you? I will kill him,” the words come easy and now Zhao Yunlan’s voice is level, full of hate. They’re a vow Zhao Yunlan is certain he will fulfill. 

Shen Wei doesn’t answer, of course. Instead, he says, “If a time comes, when I have to use my injuries in exchange for everyone's lives...” 

Terrible understanding begins dawning on Zhao Yunlan and he looks away, momentarily unable to look at Shen Wei. Unable to look at his beloved. 

But that’s a mistake because when Zhao Yunlan looks back at him, Shen Wei is smiling, real and true, and Shen Wei has never looked more alien. Their gazes lock onto each other’s again and Shen Wei continues, “I believe that’s when you’ll have your answer.” 

In the silence, Zhao Yunlan sees a look of exhaustion in Shen Wei’s eyes that matches the way Zhao Yunlan suddenly feels. 

Shen Wei has slid down against the short wall and is now looking up at Zhao Yunlan, miserable and afraid. The sight captures Zhao Yunlan’s attention so fully, he almost doesn’t react when Guo Changcheng returns and warns about a patrol unit. Zhao Yunlan waves him away, pointing him to an alley. 

At that, Shen Wei tries to tell him to leave but Zhao Yunlan bends down to shut him up with a kiss. 

It’s not pleasant. Shen Wei doesn't respond at first and Zhao Yunlan, desperate, almost bites him. He sucks at Shen Wei's upper lip, feeling tears gathering in his eyes. His focus is split between the rough gravel under his palm and knees, trying to keep himself from falling on top of Shen Wei, the icy feel of Shen Wei's hand in his, and the wrong taste in his mouth. 

Sighing, Shen Wei parts his lips, licks into Zhao Yunlan as he pushes himself up from the ground, resting his back against the wall again. His mouth is full of blood, the taste all iron and steel and Zhao Yunlan is reminded of the smell of a particularly gory murder crime scene he’d worked as a rookie cop. He grabs onto Shen Wei freely now, embracing him, but refusing to tug him too close, lest he aggravate his wounds. 

Zhao Yunlan expects Shen Wei to try to push him away, but instead Shen Wei grabs Zhao Yunlan's coat lapels and pulls him closer. In response, Zhao Yunlan slides a hand up Shen Wei’s neck, slow but unrelenting, cups the back of Shen Wei’s head, his fingers combing through soft hair, holding him near. Shen Wei arches up into him, apparently uncaring of his cuts, because Zhao Yunlan feels his blood seeping through his own clothes and marking him. 

When Shen Wei finally begins to push at Zhao Yunlan’s chest, he whines, a terrible, wretched sound that Zhao Yunlan never wants to hear again. They part, Shen Wei whispers in a hoarse voice, imploring, "You have to go! You can't stay here! Yunlan, go!" 

Zhao Yunlan doesn't want to and Shen Wei must somehow see that, perhaps his expression is showing more of his feelings than he wants it to, because Shen Wei smiles again and makes everything worse. 

Forcing himself to stand up, Zhao Yunlan tells him, “I’ll draw the soldiers away. Meet up at the portal!” Then he rushes off, trying not to think about the barely hidden sorrow in his beloved’s eyes.