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Take This Longing

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Shen Wei is trembling ever so slightly, but as close to him as Zhao Yunlan is right now, all but carrying him up the stairs and into Zhao Yunlan's apartment, he feels every minute shiver going through his body. Zhao Yunlan isn't sure how he manages to get the door open without dropping Shen Wei, but the important thing is that he does, and then it's easy to manoeuvre Shen Wei into sitting down on the bed. Shen Wei lists dangerously to one side, and Zhao Yunlan swears, sits next to him to help prop him up.

"Rest," he says.

Shen Wei shakes his head, stubborn as ever. "I need a shower."

Fair enough. He's been in that suit for days; he's covered in Dixing dust and grime. Zhao Yunlan knows he must hate it, but he's not keen on having Shen Wei drown after only just getting him back from Dixing.

There's really nothing else he can do about it.

"I'll help," he says, expecting arguments, because Shen Wei is fiercely independent, but instead Shen Wei just nods. It's more than a bit worrying, that Shen Wei must feel so bad that he's not even insisting he can do it all alone anymore.

Zhao Yunlan hesitates a bit before telling himself to get it done with and pushing the suit jacket off Shen Wei's shoulders in what he hopes is a steady movement.

This very much isn't how he wanted to undress Shen Wei for the first time, but he can't really even think about it, worried about Shen Wei as he is. He's never seen him like this, hurt and exhausted, not even that horrible night in his kitchen. He'd thought, at the time, that that was the worst state he'd ever see Shen Wei in, hated how weak he'd been because of what he'd done for Zhao Yunlan—but Shen Wei could still stand then, even if he looked unsteady.

He manages to remember to slide off Shen Wei's (ridiculously hot at any other time) sleeve garters first and, still supporting him, proceeds to open his shirt buttons, revealing an undershirt beneath. Shen Wei hisses as he pulls the shirt completely off, and then Zhao Yunlan has to stop and breathe for a moment and tell himself he cannot run back to Dixing, find whoever did that to Shen Wei, and hurt them, because there are actual welts on Shen Wei's arms, raised where the chains were digging into his flesh.

He almost reaches to touch, stops himself in the last moment.

Shen Wei looks at him with his eyes not quite focused. "It's okay," he murmurs.

If he looked any better, Zhao Yunlan might just jab him in the ribs for that. "Do you need any medicine? Ointment?"

"Time," Shen Wei says quietly.

Zhao Yunlan is patently not good at waiting.

He eyes Shen Wei's undershirt dubiously.

"I'll just cut it off," he says. It's just an undershirt, the kind you can get at any shop, unlike Shen Wei's perfectly tailored suit, and none of his clothes are salvageable anyway. He can't imagine so much as looking at this suit again.

Shen Wei nods at him. And then he raises his hand, just barely, and he summons his fucking sword.

Zhao Yunlan yelps. "What the hell, Shen Wei!"

Shen Wei looks almost feverish. "To cut?" he explains like it makes any kind of sense. He's leaning more heavily against Zhao Yunlan again. There's a slow trickle of blood running from his nose.

"Shen Wei, don't take it the wrong way, but I don't want to see your sword in my bed ever again." His mouth runs from him as usual, but Shen Wei either doesn't notice or is too tired to react.

Put it away, Zhao Yunlan almost orders, but that requires dark energy usage too, and that's the last thing that Shen Wei needs now, so he plucks the handle from between his fingers and firmly sets it where Shen Wei can't reach. He has to get up for scissors, but he's damned if he'll put that blade anywhere near Shen Wei's body.

"Can you sit by yourself for a moment?" he asks, and Shen Wei nods, because of course he does; why did Zhao Yunlan even bother asking? He lets him go experimentally, and Shen Wei slumps, but doesn't look like he's going to fall. He half-expects Shen Wei to be lying down and asleep when he returns not even a minute later, but Shen Wei keeps himself stubbornly awake. Zhao Yunlan pats Shen Wei's face clean from the blood—he'll get him in the shower soon, hopefully, but he hated seeing one more reminder of Shen Wei being hurt and this one at least easily wiped away.

Finally, he cuts through the material of the undershirt, careful not to hurt Shen Wei. His uncovered chest bears a multitude of bruises, and honestly Zhao Yunlan wouldn't be surprised if some of his ribs were broken. He doesn't ask if it hurts because he doesn't need to. Shen Wei's breathing is laboured.

He seems worse off than he'd been in Dixing even moments after being freed, but Zhao Yunlan understands why. Shen Wei had been running on adrenaline and his feeling of duty then. He wouldn't have let himself stop moving when he felt like he had to get Zhao Yunlan safely back to Haixing, with xiao-Guo who had been in no state to walk himself.

He doesn't let himself think at all when he undoes Shen Wei's belt and takes his trousers off. Shen Wei had helped him with so many things when he was blind—had, in fact, had to save him from his first pathetic attempt at a shower—and it's not like either of them doesn't understand the necessity, but it's plain wrong for Shen Wei, always in control of the situation, to be this vulnerable. Zhao Yunlan is doing his best not to panic here—and oh, he used to think he was good at keeping his head cool in stressful situations, but there's someone aims a gun at you stressful and then there's Shen Wei, the Black-Cloaked Envoy, is hurt and too weak to stand and you can't make him heal faster stressful.

"Still up for that shower?" Zhao Yunlan asks.

Shen Wei immediately nods at that. "Yes."

He doesn't seem bothered by his own nudity as he leans on Zhao Yunlan all the way to the bathroom, finally slides down to sit on the floor of the shower stall. Zhao Yunlan has never before wished for a bathtub quite so desperately.

Zhao Yunlan checks the water temperature before turning it on Shen Wei, and Shen Wei doesn't quite relax under the stream of water, but something clears in his expression anyway. Zhao Yunlan starts with putting shampoo in his hair, slow and gentle like he never is when he's washing himself. Shen Wei sighs and leans into his touch, and something curls tight around Zhao Yunlan's heart at this show of trust. Shen Wei still has so many secrets; will always have them, but he still lets Zhao Yunlan take care of him.

They manage to get Shen Wei clean of any reminders of Dixing other than the physical injuries, even if Zhao Yunlan gets completely wet in the process. He dries Shen Wei off, leads him back to the bed, and tells him to wait. He means to bring him back pyjamas immediately, but his clothes are drenched, his hair dripping water, and so he quickly returns to the bathroom to get dry and changed before creating puddles everywhere he steps.

Shen Wei's not there when Zhao Yunlan returns.

It takes him barely a second to spot him, but it's long enough for the panic to set in and a number of scenarios flashing through his head, starting with someone from Dixing kidnapped him back and going to he portalled somewhere and passed out because he's never heard of limits before.

Well, the second is half-true, anyway. Shen Wei clearly felt very done with his current situation, as he's standing next to Zhao Yunlan's wardrobe, leaning on the door, halfway through pulling on Zhao Yunlan's pyjama trousers. Of course he knows where to look for clothes in what's nominally Zhao Yunlan's apartment; he'd probably folded them himself.

Zhao Yunlan wants to help, but he makes himself stay put. Shen Wei isn't very steady on his feet, but he keeps himself standing, and he clearly needs some autonomy here.

Shen Wei doesn't even try to reach for any of Zhao Yunlan's tops. Instead, he visibly steels himself and wobbles the two steps necessary to sit back down on the bed. It would be a domestic, wanted picture, Shen Wei getting ready to sleep in Zhao Yunlan's bed, but the bruises are startlingly dark against his skin, his face pale as a sheet; worry grips at Zhao Yunlan but there's nothing else he can do to help.

He's glad Shen Wei doesn't argue that he could stay in his own bed on his own, at least. He'd all but moved in when Zhao Yunlan couldn't see; rarely spent the night away even later. But he always kept to the sofa at night; Zhao Yunlan isn't even sure if Shen Wei needs to sleep, normally. Right now, he clearly does.

Shen Wei winces when he finally lies down. There really must be no comfortable position in his current state. Zhao Yunlan hopes that when Shen Wei said he needed time, he meant hours rather than days. He used to heal in seconds.

Zhao Yunlan pulls the blankets over him. "Is there anything else you need, xiao-Wei?" The nickname escapes unbidden, much like the last time.

Shen Wei goes utterly still; doesn't even breathe.

There's a very complicated expression on his face that Zhao Yunlan has no idea how to read; hope or heartbreak or both.

". . . stay with me?" Shen Wei asks after a long moment.

"Ah, Shen Wei. You never need ask for that." That's saying too much, perhaps, but it's not as though it should come as a surprise to Shen Wei. Zhao Yunlan isn't what anyone would call subtle, unless their dictionary definitions got really messed up.

Grateful that he'd already taken the time to change, he slips into his bed on the other side. Another day, he might hesitate, but tonight feels like it exists in its own bubble of intimacy and closeness, so he scoots closer to Shen Wei. He stops short of holding him, mindful of the injuries, but stays close enough so that his presence is obvious.

Shen Wei turns on his side to face him; the slightest hiss escapes him.

"Sleep," Zhao Yunlan tells him. "I'll be here."

"Zhao Yunlan," Shen Wei says with something akin to wonder. Zhao Yunlan imagines he says Shen Wei's name exactly the same way.

And then Shen Wei leans in and kisses him.

With how slow Shen Wei is moving, each movement clearly costing him, Zhao Yunlan has no excuse for not stopping it sooner, before Shen Wei even touched him, only he's too shocked to act.

It's not a surprise that Shen Wei wants to kiss him. That much has been obvious to him for almost as long as they've known each other. Zhao Yunlan would kiss him back, enthusiastically, if he'd ever acted on it before. But Shen Wei never has—until now, when he's hurt and possibly feverish and definitely not in the right state of mind to be kissing anyone. Half an hour ago he summoned a sword when Zhao Yunlan only wanted to cut through his t-shirt. He seems more lucid now but it doesn't mean anything.

Zhao Yunlan tries to be gentle as he pushes him away, but he's pretty sure the hurt expression on Shen Wei's face will haunt his nightmares.

"I'm—"

"I want to kiss you," Zhao Yunlan speaks over him, because he can't bear to hear Shen Wei apologise any more than he can bear to see this look on him, like the rejection is worse than any of his injuries from Dixing. "I want to," he repeats. "I wanted to for months, and I waited for you, and you never—"

"Zhao Yunlan, I—"

"—and you never did, Shen Wei, and that is okay, whatever you want is okay, but you're hurt and tired and—kiss me again when I know you can think straight and you want it, xiao-Wei."

Shen Wei is still looking at him with no comprehension, but at least the hurt look is gone. "I always want you," he says in a tone one would use to say "the sky is blue" or "two plus two is four".

And it warms something in Zhao Yunlan to hear it, it does, but the point remains that Shen Wei has always kept himself apart before, so. Zhao Yunlan won't betray his trust like that right now.

He touches his fingers to Shen Wei's cheek for a moment, very softly. "Then get better quickly so that you can show me," he says.

Shen Wei doesn't look amused, but the tension leaves him. He looks like he wants to say something else, but the conversation must've taken away the rest of his energy: barely moments later, he's asleep.

He's very still in his sleep; his face almost ashen. Zhao Yunlan doesn't let himself drift off, watching the whole night, making sure Shen Wei's breathing; guarding that he's safe.