For all that he wants to recruit Shen Wei to be their consultant, Zhao Yunlan should've remembered that the man—even though he might not exactly be of Haixing, if Zhao Yunlan's instincts are right—is not a trained field agent.
A trained agent, for one, would not get in between Zhao Yunlan and a truly massive maniac with a sword, trying to deflect the blade with nothing but his arm. Except then Shen Wei makes him doubt that untrained moniker, because he twists around, fast enough that even though the sword cuts him, he still manages to do something with his hands that ends with the attacker dropping his blade and falling to the ground, hard.
Zhao Yunlan blinks. He can't quite make logical sense of Shen Wei's movements. But he can see the sleeve of Shen Wei's shirt slowly turn dark red with his blood.
Lao Chu's strings come—too late, but still welcome as he restrains the man. Hopefully, it's their perp; the sword at least fits the descriptions. Nothing else about the two murders screamed Dixing at them, but they got the case anyway. And then Shen Wei insisted on following the SID team to the park where Lin Jing's cameras spotted someone fitting their descriptions.
And decided he should defend Zhao Yunlan with his own body.
"What the hell was that?" Zhao Yunlan turns on Shen Wei. "You're a civilian, it's literally my job to protect people like you!"
Shen Wei doesn't look contrite. "You wouldn't have been able to dodge in time, Chief Zhao."
"And you didn't try to dodge at all!"
Even if he had disarmed the attacker in a scarily efficient way, once he'd gotten himself hurt.
Zhao Yunlan turns to Lao Chu. "Take the perp back to the SID," he says. "Check if he's from Haixing or Dixing, find out what it's all about."
Lao Chu just nods, but of course Damn Cat has questions. "And you, Lao Zhao? You always take the lead at questioning."
"Someone has to take the Professor to hospital after he so bravely defended me, don't you think?" Zhao Yunlan asks. Da Qing gives him a look. Zhao Yunlan gives him a look back, the one that says I'll hide all your fish snacks. Da Qing's look turns offended, and then he follows Lao Chu.
"I'm okay. I don't need a hospital," Shen Wei says mildly once they're left alone. His hand is pressed to his wound and he looks remarkably unconcerned at bleeding from a sword wound for someone who's claiming to be a normal academic.
A normal academic who can drop a man twice his size to the ground.
Except he's clearly in shock, because, again, bleeding from a sword wound. He needs medical attention.
"Don't worry, Professor Shen. Dragon City Hospital is close—"
"Chief Zhao. You can't take me to hospital," Shen Wei repeats through gritted teeth.
"Okay. Sure." Zhao Yunlan gives him a fake, wide smile. "Give me one reason why I shouldn't get a stabbed man to a doctor."
Shen Wei glares at him. "I'll be okay," he repeats like he thinks he's making any sense.
And then his legs fold underneath him, and Zhao Yunlan only just manages to slow down his fall.
Shen Wei seems confused more than anything. He tries to get back up, because he clearly has zero common sense. Zhao Yunlan yelps and firmly pushes him to sit the hell down. "Yeah, so. Ambulance might be better."
"No." Shen Wei is looking at him with an almost scary intensity.
"What, do you have a fear of needles?"
"How do you think, Chief Zhao? All this time investigating me and no ideas why medical examination isn't an option for me?" he bites out, but Zhao Yunlan is getting the impression that Shen Wei is mostly mad at himself.
Zhao Yunlan blinks.
Shen Wei is right—Zhao Yunlan has suspected, of course he has, there have been too many unexplained things happening around Shen Wei for Zhao Yunlan to discard them all as accidents. It's not really a surprise, but hearing Shen Wei all but admit it out loud is still somehow unexpected.
Zhao Yunlan debates pushing now, making him say it, following with more questions, but even if Shen Wei is Dixingren—and there's no if about it anymore—he is also injured because he tried to save Zhao Yunlan, so. Zhao Yunlan figures he can get a pass just this once. Plus, yes, he wanted to figure out Shen Wei, but not like this. Not when the answer is torn from him.
"Your apartment, then? I seem to remember a very well-supplied first-aid kit," he says, trying to put Shen Wei at ease. I won't summon the Black-Cloaked Envoy to take you away, he tries to communicate wordlessly in case Shen Wei's clear annoyance is masking a worry underneath it. (He wonders when exactly he'd decided all Dixingren were not, in fact, a threat; when he'd understood that no matter what Shen Wei's hiding, once discovered, his secrets would become Zhao Yunlan's too. He won't ever give him away. It should be scary: he still barely knows him, and yet . . . Trusting Shen Wei only feels right.)
He pushes Shen Wei's sleeve up to finally take a look at the wound. It's shallow and the cut is clean. Shen Wei will probably be fine with some bandages.
Shen Wei reaches and pokes at it with his finger, proving that biology professors know all of nothing about first aid. "This is nothing. You should return to your team, Chief Zhao." But he's less stern than moments ago, and his eyes seem strangely unfocused.
"I thought by now you'd get it that I'm not leaving you alone when you're bleeding, Professor Shen." Zhao Yunlan tries to keep his voice light, but he's pretty sure he fails. "Come on. We need to get that bandaged."
But Shen Wei ignores his outreached hand. He frowns, still looking at his wound.
"Professor Shen?" Zhao Yunlan asks. "Shen Wei? Is there something—"
"I think the sword was poisoned," Shen Wei admits very slowly.
"You think—" Zhao Yunlan stops himself. Yelling at Shen Wei won't help, no matter how much he wants to do just that at the moment.
"I can't access my dark energy," Shen Wei says, and now his voice sounds off: not worried, but amazed, like he's experienced a beautiful miracle and not something possibly very dangerous. Just how intrinsic is the dark energy to Dixingren? They're okay at the SID, but the shield is external something, like putting on muffling headphones. It doesn't interact with their biology, doesn't actually take one of their senses away. Not like this poison clearly does.
And their only expert on the matter is currently under its influence, and possibly not thinking entirely straight, judging by the expression on Shen Wei's face as he's staring at his own hand, opening and closing around nothing. And Zhao Yunlan might not know him very well, but he's sure he wouldn't normally admit to something like being cut off from his dark energy. Especially since he'd been doing his damn best to deny he had any dark energy at all for months before.
Zhao Yunlan really must him get somewhere safe now. He fires off a text to Lin Jing to analyse whatever substance there is on the blade and be careful not to touch it—if something else than Shen Wei's blood even remains—and loops an arm around Shen Wei's shoulders.
"Come on. Let's get you into the car."
Shen Wei raises willingly enough, but his legs buckle underneath him again. Zhao Yunlan braces himself, tries to steady him; after a moment Shen Wei regains enough control of his own body to move forward with Zhao Yunlan, albeit slowly.
When Zhao Yunlan glances at him, Shen Wei's eyes seem glassy, and he's staring into the distance instead of minding where to step.
Back at the car, he puts Shen Wei into the passenger seat and after a moment of consideration, buckles him in. No protest comes, and Zhao Yunlan drives to their apartment complex without care of any pesky traffic laws. Shen Wei doesn't even complain, his hand holding tightly around the wound, his eyes closed.
When Zhao Yunlan helps him walk once he parks, he can feel Shen Wei's warmer than he was moments ago. Frowning, he manages to deposit them in front of Shen Wei's door.
Shen Wei doesn't move.
"Keys," Zhao Yunlan prompts.
Shen Wei startles as if woken up, but reaches into his jacket pocket and pulls out a simple keychain with a few keys attached. Zhao Yunlan takes it from him and manages to get the right key on the second try.
Shen Wei's flat is exactly the same as the last two times he's been inside: perfectly tidy, with nothing out of place to suggest someone even lives there. It's less of a surprise after seeing Shen Wei willingly clean up Zhao Yunlan's mess of an apartment in one night. The swords are decidedly less surprising this time, too, considering his little display with the attacker.
He pushes Shen Wei in the direction of the bathroom, guiltily grateful that Shen Wei's in no state to ask why Zhao Yunlan doesn't even need to hesitate to find it.
"Jacket and shirt off," he orders, before ducking back out to get Shen Wei's first aid kid from where he remembers seeing it.
He is very much not prepared for the sight of Shen Wei in only a black undershirt that greets him when he returns to the bathroom.
Get a grip, he orders himself. Shen Wei might be...unacceptably hot, really, is his Dixing superpower his looks? The undershirt clings tight to his body and shows off his muscles nicely, but it also shows off the cut running over his wrist, and Zhao Yunlan is definitely a responsible police officer who will not ogle his (really too hot) neighbour when he's hurt.
The bleeding's slowed down to almost nothing, at least. Shen Wei is definitely too warm when Zhao Yunlan grabs his hand to pull him closer to the sink, opening cold water to wash out the wound, and looks rather disoriented at what's going on around him, but he doesn't try to argue he was fine alone, and really that's all Zhao Yunlan can hope for now.
Well, that and for him to get better quickly, because if this fever keeps climbing, Zhao Yunlan is woefully unequipped to take care of an injured Dixingren that he should turn in to the Black-Cloaked Envoy instead.
But the Black-Cloaked Envoy has shown mercy. Maybe if Zhao Yunlan summoned him—plead for Shen Wei—maybe he could help?
He can't risk it.
He bandages Shen Wei's wrist skillfully, and then looks him up and down. He reaches for his other hand and washes it of blood. Shen Wei just lets him, which is the truly scary part. Yeah, insisting he's fine to be on his own was idiotic, but really, he has no reason to trust Zhao Yunlan. Maybe Zhao Yunlan should've asked him to contact a friend instead.
Then again, Shen Wei had taken him home and spent the night watching over him not even a week ago, and an external observer would probably say Zhao Yunlan shouldn't be okay with that either.
"Let's get you to bed," he says, and then, "Shen Wei? You with me?"
Shen Wei leans his head to the side and smiles in a way Zhao Yunlan has never seen him smile before. "Of course, Kunlun," he says.
Zhao Yunlan swears. He puts his hand to Shen Wei's forehead and hisses. His fever is rising fast. What even is safe for Dixingren? Why does Zhao Yunlan have no idea, with a Dixingren agent on his payroll? He can't randomly ask Lao Chu now; he'll suspect something and then he'll tell the Envoy, and then Shen Wei will be at risk.
Fuck. Zhao Yunlan is good at improvising, but he hates flying blind.
Shen Wei's bedroom looks as lonely as the last time Zhao Yunlan has seen it; no personal effects, nothing. Not for the lack of money, as Shen Wei's entire wardrobe proves, and Zhao Yunlan thinks the emptiness of the room is intentional. Or maybe if you illegally left your homeland you couldn't take important stuff with you anyway.
This still doesn't explain the sad state of Shen Wei's bed with only one blanket on it though. Maybe Dixingren don't get cold as easily or maybe they sleep less or maybe—why was Zhao Yunlan's interest in Dixingren up until now limited to how best to send them back to Dixing?
He kneels to take off Shen Wei's shoes; vaguely remembers Shen Wei doing the same for him when he was sick. Shen Wei's shivering when Zhao Yunlan pulls the sad lone blanket around him.
He checks his phone—still nothing from Lin Jing aside from a confirmation that he's started his investigation.
"Be back in a moment," he says. He dashes back to his flat, takes a moment to change into something that's not bloodstained, and then gathers all his warmest blankets into a pile, leaving only Da Qing's favourite behind, and walks back across the corridor with it. Shen Wei's curled into on himself, still shivering, and Zhao Yunlan all but dumps all the blankets onto him.
Shen Wei opens his eyes and gives him that wide, too-honest smile again. Zhao Yunlan barely suppresses a shiver. Shen Wei's emotions aren't meant for him; he doesn't deserve to see him like this. But he can't leave him alone now.
His phone buzzes in his pocket, and he hurriedly picks up, going to the corridor to talk.
"It's weird," Lin Jing says immediately, sounding as usual inappropriately excited. "Harmless to humans, but it reacts with dark energy, the more of it the worse but it wears off with time. Lao Chu said most Dixing poisons reacted the worst with the strongest Dixingren, which makes sense for assassination attempts."
"It wears off with time," Zhao Yunlan repeats the important thing.
"Yeah, really quickly—less than an hour for most cases, I'd say, but why—is there someone—"
"But would leave the victims helpless in the meantime," Zhao Yunlan says, thinking of Shen Wei, still vulnerable under all the blankets. Another thought dawns. "Did we check if the victims were of Haixing? Look into it."
He hangs up. He pours a glass of water for Shen Wei, and then sits on the edge of Shen Wei's bed. He's relieved by Lin Jing's discovery, but while it's good to have a confirmation Shen Wei will get better on his own and they don't have to try and devise an antidote for him, at the moment he's still hurt, and Zhao Yunlan maybe isn't dealing well with it. Less than an hour is obviously not true, or Shen Wei would be fine already, unless he's not only Dixingren, he's a strong one too—
There's something just at the edge of Zhao Yunlan's understanding, an answer to all his questions. He frowns, but he's too distracted to follow it now.
Harmless to humans. He'd have been fine if only Shen Wei hadn't gotten between him and the blade. Injured, maybe, but not a shivering, feverish mess.
Shen Wei's hand shoots out from under the blankets and closes around Zhao Yunlan's wrist.
"Why did you leave, Kunlun?" he asks, and the longing in his voice hurts almost viscerally.
Whoever this Kunlun that Shen Wei keeps calling for is, Zhao Yunlan would like to punch him. Who would make Shen Wei feel so strongly about him and then leave him?
I'm not him, he thinks, but he can't bring himself to argue with a delirious Shen Wei.
"Not leaving," he says instead. He hopes Shen Wei won't remember it when he recovers. He'd hate to let him hope for something that's not true.
Shen Wei tugs at his wrist insistently. Zhao Yunlan hesitates. He understands what Shen Wei wants, but—he's not seeing Zhao Yunlan. He's seeing an old friend; probably a lover. What right has Zhao Yunlan to be here?
What right does he have to leave, though? Shen Wei, while trying to keep his secrets, clearly welcomes his presence under normal circumstances. Cares for him in some fairly obvious ways. They might not have history between them, but the connection between them is undeniable.
Shen Wei makes a small, unhappy sound, and Zhao Yunlan has his answer.
He toes off his own shoes and slides under the blankets, hugs Shen Wei back to chest. Shen Wei's burning up, trembling as if he were barefoot in a blizzard. Between him and the blankets, Zhao Yunlan is too warm to be comfortable, but it doesn't matter. He can deal with it; the important thing is to make sure Shen Wei feels better.
"I missed you," Shen Wei whispers.
Zhao Yunlan stays quiet, just tightens his arms around Shen Wei. After a while, Shen Wei settles against him. His shivering subsides gradually, and Zhao Yunlan lets himself run his hands up and down Shen Wei's side in what he hopes is a soothing movement.
He loses track of time.
At some point, Shen Wei falls into a fitful sleep. He thrashes through his dreams, but he never actually tries to push Zhao Yunlan away, only tries to press even closer against him.
At some point, Zhao Yunlan sleeps too.
Zhao Yunlan opens his eyes. He yelps, reaches to Shen Wei, and finds the bed cold next to him. He sits up.
The blankets he'd brought over are all neatly folded at the foot of the bed. Zhao Yunlan isn't cold without them, and he realises there's a heavier white quilt over him—so Shen Wei must've had it somewhere. An unfamiliar scent reaches him, and he leans over the folded blankets—freshly washed, it seems.
Oh, Shen Wei.
Zhao Yunlan checks his phone. There are messages from Da Qing--the perp and the victims were all from Dixing, clearly an old feud that they took to Haixing when they left, though they'll confirm that with the Envoy later.
Zhao Yunlan finally gets up, stretches, and tells himself he's ready to face a hopefully recovered Shen Wei.
He opens the door to the bedroom and sticks his head out. Shen Wei's in the kitchen, doing something clearly mysterious with too many pots. He's back in a suit, but at least he's not wearing a suit jacket in his own flat.
"Professor Shen? How are you feeling?"
Shen Wei turns to him slowly. After a moment he quirks an eyebrow. "I rather think we're past titles, Chief Zhao."
Zhao Yunlan jabs a finger at him. "Sure, but you go first, Professor Shen." Zhao Yunlan can be inappropriate when he wants. He can also be the most formal, even if he usually hates it. Not now--flustering Shen Wei is fun, and he wants to hear his own name from his lips. Wants to keep hearing it, too.
Shen Wei ducks his head. "Very well, Zhao Yunlan."
Zhao Yunlan grins. "Shen Wei," he says back. He walks into the kitchen. "You haven't answered my question."
"I'm perfectly fine, thank you."
It might sound more convincing if he didn't say basically the same thing while still bleeding yesterday, but he looks fine, so Zhao Yunlan decides he can trust him this time.
"I feel like it should be me cooking," he says.
Shen Wei gives him a flat look. "Weren't you trying to help me recover from a poisoning?"
"Ouch!" Zhao Yunlan exclaims theatrically. "I'll have you know I make fantastic ramen."
"Like I said, you can come over any time you want to eat actual food," Shen Wei replies. He seems okay, health-wise, he's chatting with Zhao Yunlan like everything is okay, but . . . There's a tense set to his shoulders that shouldn't be there.
Or maybe it should, considering what he'd admitted yesterday to the Chief of the SID.
Zhao Yunlan sighs. "You know you're safe with me, right."
Shen Wei frowns. "Yes?"
Well, here's something the Lord Guardian of Haixing should never be caught saying. "I won't tell the Black-Cloaked Envoy," he clarifies. "If that's why you're so worried."
For a split second, Shen Wei actually looks surprised. Then his face clears. "Ah. Yes. Thank you," he says.
Zhao Yunlan tilts his head to look at him closer. There's something he's missing here. Something big.
Shen Wei swallows. "Did I—yesterday, did I say anything . . . untoward?"
Aside from calling for someone who clearly broke your heart? But Zhao Yunlan just shakes his head with an easy grin. "You weren't very talkative, no."
Shen Wei relaxes fractionally.
"And you're not off the hook, you know," Zhao Yunlan continues.
Shen Wei raises an eyebrow.
"I won't tell anyone, but there'll be questions, Shen Wei. Numerous questions." Starting with what is your power because that's something he actually needs to know, but. One day won't hurt. He doesn't want to make Shen Wei distance himself again right now, immediately.
"I see." Shen Wei turns back to his cooking. "Right now?"
"Nah. Fresh convalescents get a day off."
"Generous," Shen Wei comments. He sounds like he's smiling.
Zhao Yunlan lets himself smile too. Shen Wei's okay. They're still okay.
And moving forward.