A part of Zhao Yunlan was still annoyed at Shen Wei—a part of him thought he might never forgive him for terrifying him like that, when he'd caught him slicing his own wrist in Zhao Yunlan's kitchen—but after today, after disarming the bomb held in Shen Wei's too steady hands, after watching Zuma die—well, Zhao Yunlan wasn't going to reenact the argument. He desperately needed to focus on something positive for once.
And for once, there was a wonderful distraction waiting tonight that had nothing to do with drinking too much in seedy clubs.
"I'm excited for the blue eclipse," he said as they walked down the corridor to both their apartments. "Wait, have you seen it before?"
It seemed like a perfectly reasonable question, considering that he didn't know how long Shen Wei had stayed on the surface and the last one was over a hundred years ago, but Shen Wei went pale next to him.
"Blue eclipse," he repeated.
"Yeah?" Zhao Yunlan raised an eyebrow. "Don't tell me you haven't heard of it?" It was rare, that was the point—the smaller of Haixing's moons eclipsing the other—but everyone had been going on about it for months.
"Damn it," Shen Wei said under his breath. It took him less than a second after that to turn a wide, fully fake smile at Zhao Yunlan. "It's okay. You don't need to worry."
Zhao Yunlan hadn't even known there actually was something to worry about, and now he was very, very sure he was not letting Shen Wei out of his sight anytime soon.
He opened his door because he knew that if he tried to say something first he'd end up yelling in the corridor and held it for Shen Wei, who just shook his head. "I—have to prepare for class."
"Your study materials are still in my flat," Zhao Yunlan snapped. "Pick a better lie next time, eh?"
"Zhao Yunlan—" Shen Wei's eyes darted around, settling everywhere but on Zhao Yunlan's face.
Zhao Yunlan sharply gestured inside. Shen Wei went this time, looking very much as if he was being led to an execution.
"So!" Zhao Yunlan opened his arms wide. Belatedly he remembered that lao-Chu had taken the day off. "Want to tell me what the eclipse does to Dixingren?"
Shen Wei sighed. "Not any eclipse," he said.
"But the one that does something is happening in a few hours, so stop the evasions and just tell me." Zhao Yunlan took a deep breath. "I'm the Chief of the SID, if nothing else it's related to my job, but I thought friends told friends things."
Shen Wei flinched.
It wasn't that Zhao Yunlan really doubted Shen Wei's feelings. He knew Shen Wei cared for him; cared to a horrifying, upsetting degree. He knew Shen Wei had secrets; centuries worth of them. He just didn't want every single one to turn into a fight. He wanted Shen Wei to trust him to help, when Shen Wei needed it.
"It won't be a problem to the SID," Shen Wei said after a moment. "It's—moon phases have influence on the dark energy. Usually it's barely noticeable, but . . . Blue eclipse blocks dark energy."
"Is that harmful?"
Shen Wei hesitated again. "Not to most Dixingren."
"Is it harmful to you?" Zhao Yunlan asked, even though he knew the answer already. "No, forget it. It obviously is. Can't you—is it the same in Dixing?"
"It's too late for me to go there," Shen Wei explained. "And it's—not permanent. Just unpleasant."
Unpleasant covered too vast a territory. Not permanent was not a reassurance at all when someone was all but immortal.
Just how could Shen Wei be so unprepared that he'd forgotten it was happening? But Zhao Yunlan suspected he knew this answer, too. Shen Wei had spent the majority of the past two weeks taking care of him almost every waking minute when he couldn't see.
"Okay," he said, trying to sound calm. "Let's sit down and you'll tell me what you need."
"I'll make food first," Shen Wei offered.
Zhao Yunlan thought of Shen Wei holding a knife in his kitchen and emphatically shook his head. Too soon. "Let's order in," he said. "It was a long day."
He could see that Shen Wei wasn't happy with it, but he didn't argue. "Tea, then," he just said, and Zhao Yunlan trailed after him to the kitchen.
A lot of Shen Wei's kitchen equipment had made its way from Shen Wei's apartment to Zhao Yunlan's, including one of his tea sets. He measured the right amount of leaves into the teapot and then poured water into a clean jug. Zhao Yunlan raised an eyebrow, but he understood when Shen Wei pressed his hand to the jug. Why use a kettle when you can Dixing-power your water to the right temperature? He didn't expect it—Shen Wei rarely used his powers at home—but it made sense.
Except then the water boiled in a second, and the jug—shattered.
Zhao Yunlan yelped. Shen Wei looked at it, completely still, his eyes opened wide in shock.
Okay, so the moons clearly could mess up with his powers big time. But Shen Wei said the eclipse would block them, not that it'd make them out of control first. He said it was too late for him to portal back to Dixing, so why did he try to . . .
First things first.
"Are you hurt?" Zhao Yunlan demanded.
"Okay, good. Don't move, there's glass everywhere. Second question—have you actually been in Haixing during a blue eclipse before?"
Shen Wei looked at him the way he did sometimes, like Zhao Yunlan should remember something. "Not in a very long time," he admitted.
What did a very long time even mean to someone like him?
"Okay," Zhao Yunlan said aloud. "Let's sit down. Careful—" Shen Wei still looked vaguely shell-shocked at having his powers escape his control, but he followed Zhao Yunlan to the sofa and they managed not to step on glass. "Wait here," Zhao Yunlan said.
"I'm sorry," Shen Wei said quietly. "I didn't—I should go before—"
"Don't even try leaving." Zhao Yunlan glared at him. "You took care of me for weeks when I was blind; do you think I won't try to help you?"
That Shen Wei was a better caretaker than Zhao Yunlan went without saying, but fuck that, Zhao Yunlan was going to try his best anyway—and not because he was returning the favour, or whatever. Shen Wei clearly felt that Zhao Yunlan was worth opening his veins for and didn't expect any level of reciprocation. That he apparently expected to be left alone was both insulting and really, really heartbreaking.
Zhao Yunlan hated whoever had made Shen Wei believe that he was someone who could just be abandoned.
Zhao Yunlan shook his head to clear it. He ordered something from his favourite restaurant—didn't even pay attention to what he chose in the app past quick, warm—and cleaned up the mess in the kitchen. At least Shen Wei's tea set survived, so Zhao Yunlan took a moment to prepare the tea the way Shen Wei liked it. While it brewed, he checked his phone—an hour and a half till the eclipse. Soon, and he still didn't know what to expect. Worrying at his lower lip, he carried the tray with the tea to the living room.
Shen Wei had taken his suit jacket and glasses off. It was a relief to see that he didn't go back to wearing his armour near Zhao Yunlan.
"Thank you," he said when Zhao Yunlan passed him his tea cup.
Zhao Yunlan looked at him expectantly.
Shen Wei sighed. "My dark energy is—stronger than most others'. It's . . . physically upsetting when it's gone."
Zhao Yunlan said, as gently as he could, "Can you tell me plainly what to expect?"
Shen Wei shook his head.
"Shen Wei, baby—"
"I don't know," Shen Wei snapped. "I can't remember the details."
Another one to the list of reasons of why Zhao Yunlan would certainly, one hundred percent not leave him alone tonight, not that it made him feel any less like an ass for pushing. He might've been just a little bit terrified, too. He didn't like to think of Shen Wei as someone who might be hurt.
Were you alone the last time he wanted to ask and feared the answer.
"Okay," he said instead, hoping he sounded steady. "Okay. Anything you need—tell me."
Shen Wei nodded, but Zhao Yunlan doubted he actually would listen to this particular request.
They drank their tea. It was almost normal; almost as if they weren't waiting for something to happen to Shen Wei.
The doorbell rang. Zhao Yunlan sprang to his feet to get their food delivery. They ate in silence, or rather, Zhao Yunlan ate. Shen Wei claimed no appetite. He did clean up, and then he actually started going through his class preparation. Zhao Yunlan stayed near him, checking the time. Shen Wei never asked how long was left—either because he didn't want to know or he could feel it, Zhao Yunlan had no idea.
Then Shen Wei dropped his pencil.
He was pale as a sheet, and for all that he clearly tried to keep still, shivering lightly. He was gulping down air like a person who'd just escaped suffocation.
Zhao Yunlan's phone buzzed to tell him the eclipse started, as if he couldn't tell.
Zhao Yunlan moved closer to Shen Wei, wanted to touch and ground him—he was so much better at physical comfort, which might have been Da Qing's influence, now that he thought of it—but Shen Wei flinched away from him.
Zhao Yunlan froze immediately. "Shen Wei?" he asked.
"It's gone," Shen Wei gasped out. Zhao Yunlan wasn't sure if Shen Wei was actually aware there was someone next to him, with the way he pressed one of his hands between his collarbones and the other to his face. "It's gone—it hurts, it hurts, it—"
And—fuck, Zhao Yunlan knew it would get bad—Shen Wei's admission that he couldn't even remember the details was chilling all on its own—but he hadn't expected it to be quite this bad. Or instantaneous. He'd thought—he didn't know what he'd thought; Shen Wei clearly had tried his best to ignore what was coming and so Zhao Yunlan had followed his suit but maybe he shouldn't have.
Then again, could he have prepared for this?
Shen Wei was shaking all over now. He lowered his hand from his forehead and kept opening and closing it in a gesture that was now familiar to Zhao Yunlan, only this time nothing happened; no dark energy coalesced around his hand to do his bidding.
Zhao Yunlan wanted to hold him so badly. "Shen Wei," he said. "Shen Wei, listen to me—it's the eclipse, okay, you're fine, it'll come back, you'll be better in a few hours—"
Shen Wei didn't react. He curled in on himself, receding into the corner of the sofa. He closed his eyes, but he was still breathing too fast, and he kept twitching.
This was the man who'd cut through his own wrist and smiled at Zhao Yunlan, said he was used to being hurt.
Zhao Yunlan had never felt so helpless in his life.
He got up to turn off the lights in case Shen Wei minded the brightness but he left the one in the kitchen so that it wasn't completely dark. Shen Wei might be able to see in the dark but Zhao Yunlan wasn't, and he wasn't that comfortable with darkness anyway ever since his blindness. He grabbed a blanket from the bed and hesitated. Shen Wei didn't want touch—the state he was in, he probably thought he was being attacked—but Zhao Yunlan always felt better when he was wrapped in a blanket . . . He didn't want to risk it. He set it down near Shen Wei, mindful not to touch him.
He settled into the opposite corner of the sofa. He looked at his phone.
It'd been five minutes.
The dim light reflected weirdly on Shen Wei's face. It took Zhao Yunlan too long to notice that there were tears on his cheeks.
He wished desperately that he could switch places with Shen Wei. Seeing him like this was—a part of him, a part that Zhao Yunlan was deeply ashamed of, wanted to run. Wanted to close his eyes and pretend everything was fine. There was nothing for him to do but bear witness, and he knew, he knew that Shen Wei would tell him to go, to do something, anything else but stay and watch him—but that was exactly why Zhao Yunlan had to stay. So that Shen Wei would know he didn't always have to be alone. And it wasn't like Zhao Yunlan could focus on anything else even if he tried.
Shen Wei was saying something, quiet enough that Zhao Yunlan had to strain to hear.
"Give it back, please—it hurts—"
"I'm sorry," Zhao Yunlan said wretchedly. "I'm sorry I can't help—can't make it better."
That Shen Wei wouldn't remember it was actually a comfort, but there was still such a long time until it'd be over.
Shen Wei kept up his pleas and sobs, and Zhao Yunlan's heart kept breaking into ever smaller pieces. Throughout it, Shen Wei kept his hand pressed to his upper chest where Zhao Yunlan had glimpsed the jade pendant once or twice. He hoped that whatever it meant to Shen Wei, it could provide some comfort.
When Shen Wei finally fell silent, Zhao Yunlan hoped he'd drifted off to sleep, exhausted, but one look at his face told him it wasn't that.
Shen Wei was observing him, his expression scared and lost. "Kunlun? Is that—do you prefer me without powers?" His voice was rough.
If someone had ever made Shen Wei think he was anything else than wonderful because he was a Dixingren, Zhao Yunlan was going to find them and ruin them. Who was this Kunlun, for Shen Wei to go to all this length to try any mentions of him from Zhao Yunlan and then call on his name when he was in pain?
Zhao Yunlan couldn't sit there and stay quiet. "Never," he said fervently. "Your powers are brilliant."
"It hurts," Shen Wei said again. "But if it's for you—"
"No! No, Shen Wei, it'll pass soon, you'll be okay in the morning-- "
But Shen Wei wasn't listening to him. He pressed his face into the back of the sofa. It was obvious he tried to keep himself still, but every now and then a shudder went through him. He looked frighteningly pale.
He stayed like that for a long time. Zhao Yunlan, unable to look at him and unable to look away, stayed near him.
More time passed. Shen Wei didn't move but for heartbreaking little whimpers. Zhao Yunlan had to go to the bathroom, and he hated leaving Shen Wei even for a moment even as he welcomed a rational excuse to escape, if for a few minutes only.
(Escape, exactly the way Shen Wei couldn't escape his own pain.)
When Zhao Yunlan came back, Shen Wei wasn't on the sofa anymore.
He couldn't have teleported away and he hadn't seemed to be in any condition to move. Where—
Feeling a horrible sense of deja vu, Zhao Yunlan realised Shen Wei was in the kitchen. He was holding a knife in his hand.
Zhao Yunlan ran.
He wasn't fast enough. Shen Wei cut from his elbow down his wrist to his palm, right through his shirt. By the time Zhao Yunlan reached him, Shen Wei had dropped the knife, and he was definitely unsteady on his legs, leaning against the kitchen cabinets, looking at his wrist like—
Like he was expecting it to heal. As if he thought he could force his dark energy to come out if he was injured and needed it to help him heal.
But it wouldn't, not now, and blood quickly stained his shirt.
Zhao Yunlan swore. He pivoted on his feet back to the bathroom.
It took him barely a moment to grab the first-aid kit and towels, but in that time, Shen Wei fell to the floor. His uninjured hand was wrapped around his midsection as he breathed hard, as if he couldn't even feel the pain of the cut compared to the loss of his energy.
"Let me." He reached for Shen Wei's hand, but Shen Wei moved away.
Zhao Yunlan was not prepared to have to fight Shen Wei to help him.
"I'm sorry," he said. "I'm so sorry—you can hate me later, just—"
He grabbed Shen Wei's arm, firm but as gentle as he could.
"Don't," Shen Wei whispered as if he expected Zhao Yunlan to hurt him. He tried to push him away, and Zhao Yunlan knew that under normal circumstance he wasn't a match for Shen Wei's physical strength, but right now it was no effort at all to immobilise him. (No effort, except he'd never forgive himself for it.) Effectively pinned, Shen Wei stopped struggling and just froze under Zhao Yunlan's hands. Zhao Yunlan told himself to get it over with fast.
He cut through Shen Wei's sleeve—and really, he should've insisted Shen Wei change into something more comfortable before it all even started, only Shen Wei would have said that a button-up shirt with sleeve-garters was comfortable—to reveal the wound: long, but not deep. Cleaning it now would be impossible, and Shen Wei should be able to heal any damage tomorrow anyway. Zhao Yunlan set about bandaging his forearm.
He immediately let Shen Wei go when he was done. Ideally he'd try to get him into bed or at least back to the sofa, but he didn't thought that was an option at the moment. Only, contrary to his expectations, Shen Wei didn't immediately flinch away from him again.
"Kunlun?" he asked. "Can you make it better?"
What was the correct answer here?
Whatever would help Shen Wei.
"Yes," Zhao Yunlan lied.
And Shen Wei, still hurting—still crying, for god's sake—visibly relaxed.
"Come," Zhao Yunlan said. They were both covered in blood but it didn't matter. He gathered Shen Wei and helped him stand, and if Shen Wei only could walk bent in half, leaning on Zhao Yunlan, well, at least they managed to move to the bed. He set Shen Wei down on it. "It'll pass, xiao-Wei. You just have to make it till the morning. Can you do it for me?"
Shen Wei nodded. He was holding on to Zhao Yunlan hard enough to bruise, but there was nothing in the world that would make Zhao Yunlan push him away if Shen Wei didn't want him to go. (Shen Wei wanted someone else entirely, but as long as his belief that Zhao Yunlan was this Kunlun let him focus on something but the pain, Zhao Yunlan would pretend to be whoever Shen Wei needed him to be.)
If Shen Wei never forgave him for it . . . It would only be fair. If not for Zhao Yunlan, Shen Wei wouldn't have been so distracted as to miss the date of the eclipse..
Shen Wei wasn't still. He was icy cold, and he kept trembling; he made Zhao Yunlan lie down next to him and where his face was pressed against Zhao Yunlan's neck, Zhao Yunlan could still feel his tears.
Zhao Yunlan had never realised how intrinsic dark energy really was to him.
He wanted to check the bandage on Shen Wei's wrist, but when he started to move Shen Wei let out a low, upset sound, so Zhao Yunlan obediently stopped moving. He had no idea what time it was and his phone was all the way at the sofa table—might've been broken at the SID for all the use it was to him now.
Zhao Yunlan held Shen Wei and waited.
It must've been hours when Shen Wei, at last, went completely limp against him. Zhao Yunlan waited until he was sure that Shen Wei was asleep (he hoped it was asleep and not unconscious) and then extricated himself from his grasp. His phone confirmed his suspicions—the damn eclipse was at last over.
Zhao Yunlan felt wrung out. He made himself take a shower—he badly needed one. He wet a cloth after that and wiped Shen Wei's face clear, then his hands. The bandage on his wrist didn't bleed through. Zhao Yunlan wondered if his healing power could kick in when he was asleep. He hoped so.
He wanted to keep watch until Shen Wei woke up, but in the end he couldn't. He curled up on the sofa and was out within minutes.
The room was bright with sun when Zhao Yunlan opened his eyes. There was a crick in his neck and he didn't feel any more rested than before, but he forced himself to get up and go check on Shen Wei.
He was still asleep in Zhao Yunlan's bed, but he looked better, no longer deathly pale. His breathing was regular. The blue eclipse's influence really seemed to be all gone.
Zhao Yunlan sighed in relief. He kinda wanted to go back to sleep himself, really, but then he remembered the state the kitchen was in. He didn't want Shen Wei to see it, and so, for the second time in the same damn week, he cleaned up Shen Wei's blood from the floor tiles.
A noise from the room caught his attention. Zhao Yunlan turned just in time to see Shen Wei sit up, blinking his eyes open. He raised his right hand and dark energy danced around it.
He seemed—normal. Not like a man who'd been reduced to crying in pain for most of the night.
"Zhao Yunlan?" he asked when he saw him watching. "What—" He looked at his left arm, the cut off sleeve and bandage around his wrist.
Zhao Yunlan bit his lower lip. "How're you feeling?" He shook his head immediately. "No, you'll just say you're fine anyway. What do you remember?"
A shadow passed through Shen Wei's face. "Not much," he admitted. "Nothing concrete. Just—a feeling. Like a dream."
Nightmare, more like, in Zhao Yunlan's opinion. "Well. Do me a favour and make sure you're never in Haixing for it again."
"I'm sorry," Shen Wei muttered. "I—you shouldn't have had to see—"
"Xiao-Wei, we've been over this," Zhao Yunlan snapped. "You're not some burden to me. I will always want to help."
Even if it almost ruined him last night. He was so glad that Shen Wei couldn't remember in detail. He probably would've claimed the same even if he did remember, just so he wouldn't worry Zhao Yunlan, but Zhao Yunlan didn't think it could be faked. Not something like this.
He almost expected Shen Wei to ask him, but Shen Wei didn't; not even about his wrist, after the first moment of surprise. Zhao Yunlan knew he should still apologise, though. "You—I don't think you knew it was me there, and—"
Shen Wei stood up and walked over to him. Zhao Yunlan couldn't help but scan his movements for any hidden signs of pain, but Shen Wei moved like he always had before, like a warrior and not a professor, fully aware of his own body. "Zhao Yunlan," he said, "while I really can't remember the details—and from what I know, I am sorry that you do—the one thing I am one hundred percent sure of is that I knew exactly who was near me." He ducked his head and added, quieter, "It's always been you."
Always. More of his secrets, but Zhao Yunlan was sure as hell not going to push now.
"Can I—" He reached for Shen Wei and he didn't have to finish the question. Shen Wei wrapped his arms around him, strong and safe, and fully all right. Zhao Yunlan doubted he'd ever forget last night and was impossibly grateful that there was zero chance of another blue eclipse repeating in his lifespan, but Shen Wei's touch assured him of what just seeing with his own eyes couldn't promise him: that Shen Wei survived, that whatever he could remember wasn't enough to torment him, that he still wanted to be near Zhao Yunlan.
That the eclipse hadn't destroyed them both when Zhao Yunlan had feared, at the worst of it, that it would.
He let himself hold Shen Wei back.