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What a Sword Can Win

Chapter Text

Shen Wei stares. For a moment he can't quite help himself. He doesn't know what magic is responsible for this. He has no idea how it's possible at all, but he would recognise that bright soul anywhere and he has no doubts. It doesn't matter how it happened his heart insists, he doesn't care, because it's his Kunlun.

Then Kunlun is talking, introducing himself. He's Zhao Yunlan, not Kunlun at all. Except Shen Wei knows him, will always know him. He has never before been quite so thankful for the mask that hides his face as he is now. He inclines his head at—Zhao Yunlan, gathering his composure and hoping that no one noticed his momentary lapse in control.

"It's good to finally meet you, Chief Zhao." Of course, Chu Shuzhi had reported on the Chief of SID, but Shen Wei hadn't known— He's avoided any unnecessary contact with the SID for a while now. "You summoned me."

Just a common fairy to hand over, but the SID has no jurisdiction over any of the fae. Shen Wei should be glad that there's been no reason for the SID to call for him in years, but he suddenly finds himself regretting how zealous he has been in taking care of any unruly fae on his own.

He takes the fairy with him, and thanks Zhao Yunlan. He glances at Chu Shuzhi before he leaves. They will see each other later.

The little fairy is quite surprised when Shen Wei lets it go.

"I'm feeling magnanimous today, little one," he tells the fairy. It looks at him with wide eyes, its wings beating frantically as it hovers in front of him. "Just stay out of the mortal world."

It nods its head jerkily over and over, too scared to say anything. He makes a dismissive gesture at it. It manages a decent bow in mid-air and then quickly flies away. Shen Wei watches it go. It's not like he can tell it why he feels grateful enough to let it go.

Shen Wei will need to talk to his brother, but first, he'll see what Chu Shuzhi has to say.

"My Lord," Chu Shuzhi says, falling to his knees in front of Shen Wei, and bowing down onto the ground in front of him. Shen Wei hardly requires that level of subservience, especially not here. But since it always seems to make Chu Shuzhi more amenable, Shen Wei can suffer through some unnecessary formalities.

He gestures for Chu Shuzhi to stand up. Chu Shuzhi has taken well to his exile, all things considered. Shen Wei is—glad for it. Shen Wei might have saved him and sent him to the SID because it was convenient, but he hadn't been sure he was doing Chu Shuzhi any favours.

"Tell me more about Chief Zhao," Shen Wei orders. He could request a formal report on the Chief from the Ministry, it is well within his rights. Perhaps he still might, but that will tell him little of the person he is.

He is Kunlun, Shen Wei's heart insists. It is all that Shen Wei needs to know.

His brother is—surprisingly supportive of his plans.

"Gege, you're in love. I can hardly stand in the way of that."

Shen Wei snorts and ruffles his brother's hair. His brother pulls his head back and gives him an affronted look. "Didi, you'll stand in the way of anything." Especially if that something threatens to take Shen Wei away from him.

His brother sets his head back down against Shen Wei's chest. "Maybe," his brother admits while winding strands of Shen Wei's hair around his fingers. "But gege, I like to see you happy." That, at least, is something Shen Wei can believe. "And you will come back regularly to see me," his brother says, yanking at the strands of Shen Wei's hair to emphasise his words.

"Of course, didi," Shen Wei says, stroking his brother's arm. "You couldn't keep me away." His brother never could, even when he had wanted to.

It's been a long time since Shen Wei was this small. He flutters his wings and flies a few loops in the air and grins. He's almost forgotten how much he likes flying. It doesn't take him long to adjust to his small form, it's as natural to him as any of his other ones. It's slightly harder to figure out how to navigate the mortal realm like this. It's not designed for anyone this small. Even with his normal strength intact it makes things unnecessarily difficult, especially since he really should stay hidden. He can't be setting a bad example for his fairies.

The SID's shields are no problem for him of course. And doors and locks are for—other people. Staying hidden inside the SID is, of course, a little harder, since these people actually are trained in finding things like him, as hard as that is to believe the longer he observes them. But they don't expect anyone inside their headquarters and as long as he stays out of the way it's not impossible to stay unnoticed.

Shen Wei really does mean to just observe, but then he overhears Zhao Yunlan talking about a case and not having enough information and— Well, Shen Wei has had some time to go through their library and it's so easy to just fly in there and pick the right book and leave it on Zhao Yunlan's desk, open to the relevant page. Once he finally sees it, Zhao Yunlan is too busy to question how the book got there.

When the team comes back a few hours later, Zhao Yunlan is dirty and bruised, but grinning widely. Shen Wei is happy to have been of help but horrified that Zhao Yunlan came back hurt. Clearly, he'll have to keep a closer eye on him.

Zhao Yunlan's home is—a mess would be a generous way to put it. Shen Wei is surprised that Zhao Yunlan can even find clothes to wear in all of it. His fingers itch with the need to organise and clean, his magic hovering just beneath the surface before he shoves it away. That would probably be a bit too suspicious.

So Shen Wei contends himself to the small things like he does at the SID, leaving things that Zhao Yunlan needs where he can easily find them. Maybe—once or twice—when Zhao Yunlan doesn't have the thing he needs, Shen Wei acquires it for him. But surely, Zhao Yunlan wouldn't even remember the things that might be found in his apartment. It shouldn't be suspicious.

Maybe Shen Wei gets a bit too comfortable because he's just leaving some of Zhao Yunlan's now clean clothes in a convenient place to be found when he hears a hiss. He drops the clothes and just barely has time to flutter upward to avoid the pouncing cat. Once Shen Wei is paying attention though Da Qing really has no chance of catching him. It takes a bit for Da Qing to realise this too, and Shen Wei admires the cat's sudden determination as he chases Shen Wei through the apartment, leaving it even more of a mess as Da Qing accidentally knocks some things over. Da Qing is usually not prone to quite such vigour.

Shen Wei hovers just far enough away that Da Qing's annoyed swipes can't quite reach him. The cat keeps hissing at him, eyes narrowed and ears flat.

"Are you ready to calm down now?" Shen Wei asks once he thinks Da Qing might actually listen to him. "I'm not here to cause any harm," he says quite sincerely.

Da Qing makes one last, futile, attempt to swat him out of the air. "What do you want?" Da Qing asks a few moments later, sounding grumpy.

To his utter embarrassment, Shen Wei finds himself blushing. "I—" he starts to say, suddenly completely at a loss for words. "Eh, like your human," Shen Wei mumbles quickly and has a sudden urge to fly away somewhere to hide. He's not the young fae he was anymore, suddenly head over heels in love with a human. But—well, he's still very much head over heels in love.

Da Qing looks at him for a bit and then giggles. "Only Lao Zhao," he mutters. Shen Wei blushes harder. Here he is, King of Faerie, being laughed at by a cat. "You're the one who's been leaving all those things for Lao Zhao to find."

"He's noticed?" Shen Wei asks, and it sounds a lot more excited than he meant it to. Shen Wei shouldn't be noticed at all. For a moment Shen Wei urgently misses the times where things were simpler, where he could be himself and Kunlun had been—right there. But no, that's a horrible thing to miss. It had not been a good time for anyone, and Shen Wei had still been keeping secrets even then.

"Well, he's definitely suspicious," Da Qing tells him, and Shen Wei deflates a little. He doesn't want to cause Zhao Yunlan any additional worries. He'll probably have to keep more of a distance again.

"Will you tell him? About me?" Shen Wei asks, and for a moment he's not quite sure what he wants the answer to be. Maybe if someone took the choice away from him— But he supposes then he'd have to stop Da Qing, and that would not endear him to Zhao Yunlan.

Da Qing lets out a puff of air. "As long as you keep being harmless. No, I won't say anything. But I want something in return."

Shen Wei smiles, this at least is familiar ground. He gives Da Qing an approving nod, it's good that the cat knows not to give promises without asking for something in trade. It's heartening to have proof that Zhao Yunlan's people know what they're doing.

The deal they strike is harmless enough, Shen Wei has no wish to deal unfairly with the cat. Da Qing will keep his secret, and Shen Wei will keep him well supplied in fish.

There's something attacking Zhao Yunlan and Shen Wei doesn't stop to think. He flies straight at the thing, blinding it with a burst of fairy dust before flying for its throat. He's aware of the other beast, but it's further away and he bites into this one's jugular with needle sharp teeth. He rips into the flesh with small claw-tipped fingers and strength enough for several grown humans. It's surprisingly easy to rip out its throat. He hears the shot as this one starts falling, and turns to look at the other beast running away.

He rides this one down to the ground, his hands still clawing at its throat. The fetid stench of its last breath wafts out of its open throat and against Shen Wei's face. He feels the thing start to shift as its life leaves it. Shen Wei finally let's go and only then pays attention to the fact that he is covered in still steaming hot blood. He flits his wings furiously, trying to shake the heaviness off of them. Spitting out the blood in his mouth he scrambles to the shoulder of this dead body now turned human.

"It's you," he hears Zhao Yunlan's voice say and looks up to see Zhao Yunlan looking down at him. He's covered in blood from head to toe and this—this isn't the way he wanted Zhao Yunlan to see him. Not this vicious little monster that all humans seem to think faeries are. Not that they're entirely wrong, but—it's not the first impression he wanted to make. But he's viciously glad about saving Zhao Yunlan, satisfied about the dead thing beneath his feet that dared try to touch Zhao Yunlan.

"You should be more careful," Shen Wei tells Zhao Yunlan tightly, trying to keep that vicious satisfaction out of his voice at least.

It makes Zhao Yunlan laugh, relief and amusement mingling in the sound and making Shen Wei's insides flutter in rhythm with it. Zhao Yunlan crouches down to look at Shen Wei, and the body he's standing on.

"I really wish you hadn't killed him," Zhao Yunlan says, eyes firmly on Shen Wei. "But thank you, for saving me." Shen Wei smiles up at him, his face flushing under all the blood. He's aware that the sharp teeth and the blood covering his face doesn't make it look like the friendliest expression, but he can't help himself.

"You're the one who's been rearranging my things, aren't you?" Zhao Yunlan asks.

Shen Wei sighs and gives a little nod, there's not much point in trying to hide it now. "You can't find anything in your home. How can you live there? Don't you want to just—clean it? I've wanted to, but—" Then Shen Wei cuts himself off, ducking his head. He's hardly going to endear himself by criticising Zhao Yunlan's living habits.

Zhao Yunlan grins in amusement, and Shen Wei is relieved he wasn't offended. "Well, now that I know you're there—you can clean as much as you want," Zhao Yunlan says with a little shrug.

Shen Wei blinks in surprise. That's not the response he expected. Then he narrows his eyes in disapproval. "You shouldn't invite strange fairies into your home so easily."

Zhao Yunlan snorts. "You're right, I shouldn't. But you seem able to get in easily enough even with my wards. I'm not sure I can exactly stop you without going to—unpleasant lengths." Zhao Yunlan turns his gaze to the dead body. "It seems a bit harsh to repay you like that."

Oh. Shen Wei hadn't really paid that much attention to the wards, he hadn't been quite aware that they should have been able to stop someone. No wonder Zhao Yunlan had gotten suspicious. "You could—ask me not to come inside," Shen Wei says reluctantly. He doesn't want to stay away, but if Zhao Yunlan doesn't want him in his home, then that is something Shen Wei will respect. He's not always good with boundaries, but he has tried to learn.

Zhao Yunlan looks back at Shen Wei. He seems surprised. "That's good to know," he says slowly. "Can you wait here for a while?" Zhao Yunlan adds, standing up. "Oh, and what should I call you?"

It makes Shen Wei smile a little. Of course, Zhao Yunlan would know not to ask a fairy for their name.

"My name is Shen Wei," he says because if anyone deserves his real name it's Zhao Yunlan. It is, after all, a name he gave Shen Wei.

It makes Zhao Yunlan stop. He looks at Shen Wei with wonder, and Shen Wei has to force himself to stay still because he's forgotten what it's like to be looked at like that by this man.

"You probably already know, but—I'm Zhao Yunlan."

A name for a name, of course. Shen Wei nods and wipes at some of the blood on his face with his equally bloody sleeve. It's going to start drying soon, and that's always the part he dislikes. It itches. "I'll stay," he tells Zhao Yunlan.

Zhao Yunlan pats at his pockets and pulls out a few crumpled paper napkins. He crouches down briefly to give them to Shen Wei. Shen Wei takes them rather gratefully, it's far better than nothing. Zhao Yunlan steps away to make some phone calls and Shen Wei takes the time to wipe away as much of the blood as he can. It's soaked into his clothes and hair and there's not much to be done about that. There's always magic but—he tries not to be excessive about it in the mortal realm. Besides, little fairies are supposed to have limits. He dabs at his long hair to get as much of the blood out as he can, and then with a sigh leaves the now blood-soaked napkins and flies over to hover close to Zhao Yunlan's head.

He's done with his phone calls, so Shen Wei doesn't think he's interrupting anything. "Do you know what this is about? This type of shapeshifters are rare. They were mostly eradicated a long time ago."

Zhao Yunlan blinks, and then his sharp gaze focuses on Shen Wei. "What do you know about them?"

Right, he's just a little fairy. But it's information that might help keep Zhao Yunlan safe. "They're—much like your werewolf legends. But the change makes human minds unstable and, as I said, this—infection was mostly eradicated a long time ago," Shen Wei says, not quite able to keep the distaste out of his voice. "You might encounter some pockets of it sometimes, but it's rare."

Zhao Yunlan makes a little thoughtful noise. "That's more than I knew," he admits. "Aren't you going to get tired just hovering there?" Zhao Yunlan asks out of nowhere. "Wouldn't it be easier to sit down on my shoulder or something?"

Shen Wei blushes again, and by now he almost expects it. He's not going to get tired, but it's a very nice offer. Shen Wei yearns to take Zhao Yunlan up on it. To touch Zhao Yunlan.

"I'll get blood on your clothes," he says regretfully.

Zhao Yunlan smiles in amusement. "I don't mind. You've seen my home, I'm not very good at caring about that sort of thing." He rubs the back of his neck, seeming a bit embarrassed about that last admission.

Shen Wei purses his lips, but really, he can't resist. Quickly he flies over to Zhao Yunlan's shoulder, settling there gently. He sits down, pressing his hands down against Zhao Yunlan's jacket, against his shoulder, and closes his eyes. If he's maybe shaking a little, he hopes Zhao Yunlan won't notice.

A few people from the SID arrive soon after. They look at Shen Wei with surprise, but surprisingly no one says anything about him. Da Qing looks over to the body and then back at Shen Wei before giving him a grateful little nod. Shen Wei nods back, this is after all something they share, the desire to keep Zhao Yunlan safe.

"I still want my fish," Da Qing calls out before going to take a closer look at the body.

"I don't go back on my word," Shen Wei calls back, loud enough to be heard. "But you'll have to give me something else in exchange."

That makes all of them freeze. Where he's sitting, Shen Wei can feel how still Zhao Yunlan goes. Shen Wei sighs. There's no reason for him to feel hurt at the lack of trust. It's only sensible to be wary, Da Qing should not have been so stupid as to give a fairy an open deal like that.

"Only this, Da Qing, that if I give to your care one secret of mine, that you will keep it, even from your human, until I tell you otherwise." It will do for a harmless enough request and it's a backup, he supposes, if he needs it.

Da Qing grimaces and then glances over to Zhao Yunlan before nodding. They know there are worse things Shen Wei could have asked for. "Fine," Da Qing says, shortly.

"Then, the deal still stands," Shen Wei agrees.

Da Qing turns on his heels, going over to the body. Shen Wei thinks if he was in his cat form, his fur would be standing on edge.

Zhao Yunlan clears his throat. "So, you and the damn cat—" he says, leaving the question open.

"He caught me once, in your home," Shen Wei says, still feeling a bit embarrassed about that. "We made a deal, for as long as I did no harm. I will never do you harm, Zhao Yunlan," Shen Wei says solemnly. It's the first time he says the name out loud. Zhao Yunlan has granted him permission to his name and Shen Wei relishes the shape of it on his tongue.

Zhao Yunlan jerks his head to the side, trying to look at him. Shen Wei laughs a little—he feels oddly light—and flies away from Zhao Yunlan's shoulder and stays in front of him, where Zhao Yunlan can meet his gaze. Zhao Yunlan just looks at him for a bit, and Shen Wei is uncomfortably aware of the drying blood on his clothes, and in his hair, the mess he must look like.

"Is that a promise you should make?" Zhao Yunlan asks. Shen Wei feels his heart warm at the worry.

Shen Wei tilts his head, and then smiles at him, blushing lightly. Again. "It's just a truth spoken out loud, whether I say it or not, will not change the shape of it in my heart." Maybe the confession is unwise, but he can't lie about it either. It makes Zhao Yunlan look at him with wonder again, and Shen Wei quickly ducks his head, blushing more fiercely.

"Thank you," Zhao Yunlan says quietly.

Shen Wei opens his mouth to answer, but there's nothing to say. Then he quickly flies back to Zhao Yunlan's shoulder instead. He can't bear Zhao Yunlan looking at him like that for much longer. Shen Wei might do something—stupid.

Chapter Text

When they eventually get to Zhao Yunlan's apartment, Zhao Yunlan runs him a bath in the bathroom sink. It's quite nice of him, Shen Wei thinks. He even finds a clean hand towel—which is a miracle in itself in Zhao Yunlan's apartment—for Shen Wei to use.

"I'm sure you can manage the rest on your own," Zhao Yunlan says, with a teasing grin before he leaves Shen Wei alone. Shen Wei tries to ignore the way it makes his stomach flip. As soon as he's on his own he pulls off the bloody clothes and sinks into the warm water. He takes a moment to just breathe, letting the warm water soothe him. None of this has gone as planned.

He sighs and gets on with the slow task of washing the blood from his hair. At least it gives him something else to concentrate on. He'll have to conjure up some new clothes, the ones he was wearing are probably only fit to be burned by this point. The water around him has turned pink by now. He sighs again. He'll probably have to change it a few times before he'll be rid of all the blood.

Shen Wei flies out of the bathroom eventually and settles on Zhao Yunlan's nightstand. Zhao Yunlan, lollipop in mouth, turns his head to look at him from the bed. Shen Wei thinks he looks a bit like he's considering petting Shen Wei, and really, Shen Wei should feel indignant—he's not a cat. Shen Wei's knees suddenly feel a bit weak, and he swallows, trying to think of anything else.

"You really don't mind if I clean this place?" He knows Zhao Yunlan already said so, and usually, Shen Wei would take the promise as given. But this is Zhao Yunlan, and he doesn't want to get things wrong.

Zhao Yunlan just grins. "Go right ahead."

So, Shen Wei does. He forgets himself for a while, caught up in the frenzy of finally getting to put this place in order like he's wanted to from the moment he saw the mess. When he's done with the last part—the refrigerator, and that was mostly done by a liberal application of magic, because Shen Wei has some limits to what he's ready to touch—he settles back down on Zhao Yunlan's nightstand.

Zhao Yunlan keeps looking at him, and Shen Wei wants to fidget. "You need to go grocery shopping," he tells Zhao Yunlan.

"You just cleaned out the refrigerator," Zhao Yunlan says slowly. "I think you know I have no idea what to do with groceries," he says, followed by a little embarrassed laugh.

Shen Wei flies over to where Zhao Yunlan is sitting propped up against the headboard and pets his hair. It makes his stomach do flips, but at least Zhao Yunlan can't look at him like that anymore. And well, Zhao Yunlan did say he didn't mind Shen Wei touching him—sort of. He had invited Shen Wei to sit on his shoulder, after all. Shen Wei gives it another thought and then sits down on Zhao Yunlan's head.

"I'll cook, of course," Shen Wei says, winding a hand into Zhao Yunlan's hair.

Zhao Yunlan sighs but gets out of the bed. "Fine, I guess after all the work you did, I can do that much." He walks over to get his shoes. "Are you going to stay there?"

"No one will see me," Shen Wei promises.

Zhao Yunlan laughs. "Well, if you say so."

Zhao Yunlan keeps watching Shen Wei as he cooks, just like he did while Shen Wei was cleaning. It's more distracting now that he's not quite as absorbed with what he's doing. But Shen Wei enjoys cooking, even with—inferior ingredients and with the added complication of being smaller than some of said ingredients.

Zhao Yunlan doesn't say anything, just sits there with his elbows on the breakfast bar, chin resting on his hands. Like Shen Wei cooking is the most fascinating thing he could imagine. He does help Shen Wei set out the table though, even if he clearly has no idea where to find anything in the kitchen.

Then Shen Wei settles down on the table and mostly watches Zhao Yunlan eat while nibbling on some of the meat. The slightly disturbed look Zhao Yunlan gives him as Shen Wei bites down on his food reminds Shen Wei that Zhao Yunlan has just recently seen him bite into someone's throat. Probably not the thing to remind any human about while they're eating.

Before Shen Wei can do anything, Zhao Yunlan flashes a quick smile and takes a bite of his own food. Shen Wei turns his head to hide his smile.

"The shifters—I think they might be connected to our current case," Zhao Yunlan says suddenly. Shen Wei looks up at him questioningly. "We've been looking into a fighting ring. At the best of times, those aren't entirely legal, but not something for the SID to worry about. We haven't found anything, it's all just—humans. But there's too many rumours for there to be nothing."

"What kind of rumours?" Shen Wei asks.

"Fights to the death, with participants that are—well, not human. It would make sense, wouldn't it, if those two were sent by—?" Zhao Yunlan makes a small grimace and shrugs.

Shen Wei is quiet for a moment, thinking it over. "You're saying they might be deliberately infecting their own people." Shen Wei thinks he might never quite understand humans. Because—well, Shen Wei knows he's a black-hearted, cruel thing, but even he wouldn't— Not to his own people, not for entertainment. "There are certain—rituals," Shen Wei says reluctantly. "They would make it possible to do that."

"So someone is cursing people?" Zhao Yunlan asks.

"Maybe," Shen Wei says slowly. "And maybe not. There are some remnants of the infection here and there. The magic of it, it gets—diluted as it spreads. If they found one the remnants, and if they keep the rate of infection limited—" Shen Wei makes a little gesture with his hand, and sighs. He feels kind of sick, like something has gotten inside him and is making his guts twist and turn. "I hope that's what it is," Shen Wei says, voice grim.

Zhao Yunlan lowers his chopsticks and looks at Shen Wei. "Why?"

"It's old magic, Zhao Yunlan," Shen Wei tells him. "Designed to be cruel. To drive humans insane and make them attack their own, and in turn make the humans that survive do the same. And even with its limits, some of it still lingers after so long."

"It's fae magic," Zhao Yunlan says in realisation. "From the War?"

Shen Wei smiles mirthlessly. "Yes. Hopefully, no one has unearthed that."

Now, Zhao Yunlan is looking rather grim as well. Shen Wei is—relieved that he's treating this with the seriousness he should.

"I'll go back to Faerie and talk to—people," Shen Wei says, making a decision. Not that he has much choice. "Just— Be careful, Zhao Yunlan, while I'm gone. Please?"

Zhao Yunlan looks at him quite seriously and then nods. "I will be. As much as I can." Zhao Yunlan hesitates for a moment, "I promise," he adds. Shen Wei closes his eyes briefly. The deal is made, Zhao Yunlan, he thinks to himself, but he only nods at Zhao Yunlan, and then flies away.

Hopefully, Zhao Yunlan will clean up after his meal, but if not, Shen Wei will take care of it later.

His brother is sympathetic, but he wasn't there. He wasn't there when Shen Wei made that thing, or when he let it loose on the mortal world. He doesn't know the pure, cruel satisfaction Shen Wei felt when he watched it rip through the human ranks. How his heart sang with vindication. He's tried to stamp it out over the years, but still, it lingers. It resurfaces seemingly spontaneously in places, like the magic once let into the world, refuses to die entirely.

His brother strokes his hair gently. "We all have our regrets, gege. Don't think about it too much, it's not good for you."

Shen Wei lets his head fall against his brother's shoulder for a moment. Then he pulls away with a sigh. "Very well, didi. Better to do something about it instead."

He takes his brother's hand and takes both of them to the palace library. They step through the warding to the hidden books. Shen Wei plucks the right one out of a shelf, and rifles through it. Then he closes his eyes and takes a breath.

"The pages are missing. It's just the prototype, I didn't—the full curse was never recorded here." At least Zhao Yunlan should be able to narrow things down with this, the requirements for this version of the ritual are specific and cumbersome.

His brother takes his hand again. "I'll find the thief here," his brother says, with a flash of sharp teeth and a wicked glint in his eyes. Betrayal like this can't be tolerated. "You take care of things in the mortal realm."

"Thank you, didi."

In a way, it would be simpler if the Black Cloaked Envoy was the one who went back to the SID, but that would be an official involvement from Faerie. It's better that they don't give the impression that this magic might have been leaked from Faerie. So, Shen Wei takes back his fairy form and returns to Zhao Yunlan.

He tells Zhao Yunlan about the specific requirements of the ritual. It had been such a crude prototype, but he hadn't been at his best and he'd been willing to take shortcuts. But there are geographic constrictions that will help Zhao Yunlan, like the need for live, running water for the grounding and all that open space for the amount of sigils to keep the wild magic—barely—in check. The final ritual had been—well, more efficient at least. He doesn't want to think about the price he paid for that.

"Is there any way of reversing—?" Zhao Yunlan starts asking.

Shen Wei cuts him off before he can finish the question. "They're gone, Zhao Yunlan. Once the curse takes hold, there's no way of saving anyone." Shen Wei had made sure of that. He has so many regrets, but his brother is right, there's no use in dwelling on them.

It turns out Zhao Yunlan has already been following some leads of his own, and the information from Shen Wei is enough to narrow things down. This is a good thing, Shen Wei reminds himself. It needs to be dealt with, he just—wishes Zhao Yunlan wasn't the one to do it. At least there will be more police than just the SID, since they don't know for sure how many people—infected—there will be. It does make some things more complicated though.

"I'm coming with you," Shen Wei tells Zhao Yunlan. There's no way he's letting Zhao Yunlan out there without him. No matter how much backup he has. But also, Shen Wei really needs to find those missing pages before anyone else. Thankfully, at least copying them shouldn't be so easy, if it was they wouldn't have had to steal the pages themselves.

"You can't just—" Zhao Yunlan starts to say.

"I'm coming with you," Shen Wei repeats, staring at Zhao Yunlan levelly.

He can see how tense Zhao Yunlan is. The way he swallows and clenches his fists to avoid taking it out on Shen Wei. This case isn't easy on anyone. Shen Wei flies over to sit on Zhao Yunlan's shoulder.

"I'm sorry, Zhao Yunlan, but I'm not asking for permission." Zhao Yunlan can either let him come with him like this, or Shen Wei will follow him anyway. Zhao Yunlan turns his head away from Shen Wei and sighs heavily.

"Shen Wei, I—" he says, annoyance simmering beneath the words, and something cold wraps a hand around Shen Wei's insides. "Fine, we don't have time for this anyway."

The raid goes—fine. Shen Wei can see some people get injured, but at least they were smart enough to put everyone in gear that's mostly bite-resistant. Hopefully, everyone will be fine. Anyway, clearly most of the infected are still in their cages.

Shen Wei sees the horrified reactions. The way the police take them away. It's not like most of them seem entirely inhuman yet, and Shen Wei understands why it's easy to empathise. Some of them are even quite human still, but Shen Wei knows that if he went to take a look, he could see the insanity behind their eyes. There's no stopping it once it's there and it will only get worse.

Shen Wei wants to tell them, like he did Zhao Yunlan, that there's no use in trying to help them. In taking them away. The only merciful thing to do is put them down. But there's no point trying to tell the humans anything, they won't listen, and Shen Wei has more important things to do. He just hopes they're careful enough.

Then Zhao Yunlan is inside the house. It's dark, unlike the warehouses with the cages. They find what must be the boss in his office, trying to grab some papers— He's just a human. A human too full of himself, too arrogant to— But Zhao Yunlan is handcuffing him and Shen Wei needs to concentrate.

He dashes through the papers, trying to find— There. They're there. And then they're burning. The house is burning. They're hurrying outside and the man is on the ground with Zhao Yunlan's knee on his back. Someone comes to take him away and—and—

Zhao Yunlan is glaring at Shen Wei.

Shen Wei takes a shaky breath. "I'm sorry, Zhao Yunlan, but no one—no one, could see those things. It's better it's all gone."

Zhao Yunlan looks at him and sighs. The fire roars behind them and its orange glow reflects on Zhao Yunlan's face. Shen Wei feels tired, and Zhao Yunlan looks—beautiful, surrounded by violence and despair and if this is the last he'll be allowed to—

Zhao Yunlan holds out a hand to him. His palm up, right in front of Shen Wei, and Shen Wei just—falls onto it. Exhausted and relieved and—

"Next time you plan on doing something like this," Zhao Yunlan says, not unkindly. "Tell me first," Zhao Yunlan says, his voice firming into a demand.

Well, Shen Wei hadn't exactly planned on doing what he did. And it's a promise he can't really make, but it's not— Zhao Yunlan doesn't know what he's asking. Shen Wei looks up at Zhao Yunlan. "I'll—try," he says.

Zhao Yunlan makes a wry snort and looks away. He lifts his hand to his shoulder, and Shen Wei moves to sit there instead. "I know," Zhao Yunlan says, sounding as tired as Shen Wei feels. "I shouldn't ask for promises from the fae."

I'd promise you everything if I could, Zhao Yunlan, Shen Wei thinks. But instead of saying anything he just moves closer to Zhao Yunlan's neck and reaches out to touch. Zhao Yunlan doesn't say anything more, just goes to talk to some of the other police. Shen Wei cloaks himself with magic, to hide from those who don't know about him and rests his head against Zhao Yunlan's pulse point, listening to the rush of blood in Zhao Yunlan's veins.

Chapter Text

It turns out that the little fairy is around most of the time. Zhao Yunlan doesn't honestly mind all that much, even if he's still not entirely sure about why Shen Wei wants to be there. Sure, Shen Wei has made it clear that he likes Zhao Yunlan, and he's a fairy so it's pretty safe to say he's telling the truth about it. But somehow Zhao Yunlan keeps thinking there should be more to it than that. Surely a fairy can't have just seen Zhao Yunlan and decided he likes him enough to set up house as his personal help. That sort of thing just doesn't happen in real life.

The thing is, Shen Wei pretty much does act like some sort of benign household spirit. He makes food for Zhao Yunlan, and by extension Da Qing of course. He even makes sure to stock the refrigerator with ready-made food if he's staying away for even slightly longer. Sure, Zhao Yunlan has to listen to someone nag at him whenever he forgets to eat—really, it's not that big of a deal—but it's kind of nice that someone cares enough to worry about it. It goes without saying that the food is excellent, and Zhao Yunlan supposes he should be more worried about accepting food from a fairy, but— Well, Zhao Yunlan is the one buying the groceries and after all the promises Shen Wei has made of meaning Zhao Yunlan no harm, he's pretty sure he's safe.

Shen Wei keeps Zhao Yunlan's home clean as well. Really, Zhao Yunlan thinks that's more for Shen Wei's own benefit than his. The little fairy is ridiculously organised and neat, which is, as far as Zhao Yunlan knows, not something common to fairies, it's just Shen Wei. Zhao Yunlan tries not to make too much of a mess, just to keep Shen Wei happy. It's a lot easier when everything seems to have its own place now.

He gets kind of used to having Shen Wei sitting on his shoulder at work, and to talking over cases with Shen Wei. For a little fairy, he knows quite a bit, and usually has some useful knowledge to share, especially when it comes to magic. Not that Zhao Yunlan has ever really been friendly with any other fairies, so maybe it's not as unusual as it seems. He supposes he could ask Chu Shuzhi about it, but the grumpy fae doesn't exactly like talking about Faerie if he doesn't have to.

Even when Shen Wei doesn't know anything useful, he's still ridiculously smart and talking things through with him usually helps Zhao Yunlan. Granted, Shen Wei is very bad at figuring out humans, but—he is a fairy.

So yeah, altogether Zhao Yunlan is surprisingly fine with a fairy hanging around, just like he's fine with Da Qing sharing pretty much all parts of his life. But having both of them around basically means he has no privacy at all anymore, which makes for a—frustrating time. He supposes he could go somewhere and find someone to spend a night with, he's done it more than enough times to know it's not that hard. But just thinking about it leaves Zhao Yunlan feeling hollow. Having Shen Wei around with his ridiculously insistent caring has made Zhao Yunlan realise that maybe he wants that, instead of some nameless fuck that doesn't mean anything.

Fuck, if Shen Wei was— He is a ridiculously pretty little thing. But yeah, the main word there is little. Also, for fuck's sake Zhao Yunlan, he's fae, that way only lay trouble.

Zhao Yunlan tries to hint that he might want to spend the night alone, to—well take care of things on his own. He can just tell Da Qing to spend the night somewhere else, and honestly, Da Qing has seen him do more than just have some fun on his own anyway. He's not quite sure how to put it to Shen Wei though.

It turns out the little fairy catches on pretty quick, except then he just stares at Zhao Yunlan. Maybe half sprawled out on his bed in a t-shirt and boxers was not the right place to start this conversation, because, well—hunger is a mild word for the look in Shen Wei's eyes. Apparently, whatever feelings Shen Wei has for him, aren't platonic. Zhao Yunlan has no clue what to do with that.

Shen Wei flies over to Zhao Yunlan's shoulder, settling down in that familiar place. "Please, Zhao Yunlan. Let me stay?" Shen Wei begs in a low rumble, that really shouldn't be possible for a small thing like him. "I want to watch you touch yourself. To hear the noises you'll make when you stroke yourself. Please, Zhao Yunlan, let me see the look on your face when you come."

Zhao Yunlan bites his lip, trying to keep any noise from slipping out, his breath going unsteady. Because, fuck, that voice saying those things— He's getting hard just from the sound of it. Well, fuck.

"Just—keep talking, okay?"

Zhao Yunlan pulls his cock out of his boxers, palming himself as Shen Wei keeps talking in that low rumble.

"I want to see all of you, Zhao Yunlan. Will you please undress for me?"

Zhao Yunlan's breath hitches. Without giving it any more thought he quickly pulls off his t-shirt—Shen Wei flutters to hover over him—and kicks off his boxers. Then Zhao Yunlan is lying naked on his bed, hand on his cock while Shen Wei watches.

He lands on Zhao Yunlan's chest, and Zhao Yunlan can't help but feel weird about it. Except then Shen Wei's hands are on his nipple, squeezing and Zhao Yunlan gasps and starts stroking his cock again.

"Give me a moment, Zhao Yunlan," Shen Wei says suddenly, flying off. The surprise of it makes Zhao Yunlan stop, his hand grasped around his hard cock. The next thing he knows, Shen Wei has dropped Zhao Yunlan's box of toys on the bed and Zhao Yunlan's brain—stalls for a moment. He didn't even know Shen Wei knew about that—except, right, Shen Wei is probably more familiar with the contents of Zhao Yunlan's apartment than he is.

"Did you have something in mind?" Zhao Yunlan asks, with a little laugh. Because well, this entire situation is kind of funny. But also, fuck if Zhao Yunlan is stopping now.

Shen Wei hovers over the box and then dips in to pull out a pair of nipple clamps, the chain connecting them dangling in the air. "I've been learning what to do with some of these—toys," Shen Wei says, flashing his sharp little teeth as he smiles.

Zhao Yunlan is utterly charmed by the whole idea of the little fairy putting effort into learning about his sex toys. His cock twitches in his hand. Also, a lot turned on. "You should try out some of what you've learned then," Zhao Yunlan says, grinning at him, as he slowly strokes his cock.

Shen Wei's wings make a quick little flutter as he dives at Zhao Yunlan, gently landing on his chest. The sharp bite of pain as the clamp closes over a nipple makes Zhao Yunlan bite his lip and moan, his hand speeding up a bit as he keeps stroking his cock. He's expecting the second one, but the sting still makes his breath hitch. There's a small pause, and then Shen Wei tugs at the chain and Zhao Yunlan's breath catches.

For a while, Shen Wei is content to play with his nipples. Tugging at the chain first, making Zhao Yunlan moan. Then he touches Zhao Yunlan's nipple, a warmth spreading out from his hand that soothes the sharp bite of the clamp before he does the same all over again. The contrast between that soothing warmth and the sharp bite of pain soon has Zhao Yunlan whimpering.

Zhao Yunlan has let go of his cock at some point, too lost in the feeling of what Shen Wei is doing. He yells out when Shen Wei tugs at the chain again, his oversensitized nipples burning with pain. "Is it too much?" Shen Wei asks in that low rumble that makes Zhao Yunlan's insides quiver.

Zhao Yunlan doesn't know what to answer, because yes, but he also really doesn't want Shen Wei to stop. The moment of indecision is enough for Shen Wei to open the clamps. The pain of blood flowing back into his abused nipples is enough to make Zhao Yunlan make another choked off yell. And then Shen Wei is there, trailing a soothing coolness over first one nipple and then the other. Magic again, Zhao Yunlan thinks, once he's feeling a bit more coherent. He should definitely feel more worried about that later.

Zhao Yunlan blinks as Shen Wei flies over to get the lube. "Open yourself up," Shen Wei tells him, and Zhao Yunlan has no idea what the fairy is thinking, but fuck if that voice doesn't make him want to just do whatever Shen Wei wants him to. He takes the lube, his hands a bit unsteady, and then watches as Shen Wei lifts out the—oh, Zhao Yunlan thinks.

He squeezes out some lube on his fingers and then reaches down, lifting his ass a bit to—

"I want to see how you open yourself up, Zhao Yunlan," Shen Wei says. Zhao Yunlan whimpers a bit and then turns around on his belly, before pushing two fingers into his ass. He doesn't have the patience to take things slowly. He scissors his fingers impatiently while pressing his hips down against the bed, trying to get some relief for his neglected cock. "Calm down, Zhao Yunlan, there's no hurry," Shen Wei admonishes. And Zhao Yunlan would, but he needs to— He sticks a third finger into his ass, wiggling his fingers around to widen the stretch, it burns a bit, but that's fine.

"I'm good," Zhao Yunlan says, his voice coming out hoarse. He pulls his fingers out. "Shen Wei, I need—" He feels the vibrator pushing up against him, and the sentence stutters to a halt. The vibrator is thicker than his three fingers and Zhao Yunlan gasps as it pushes into him, stretching his hole wider until it's pushed all the way inside. The vibrator turns on and Zhao Yunlan moans as it presses up against his prostate.

"You can turn back around now, Zhao Yunlan."

Zhao Yunlan moans again as the vibrator jostles inside him when he moves, as he helplessly, does what Shen Wei wants him to.

"Touch yourself, Zhao Yunlan, please," Shen Wei says, sounding a bit breathless now.

Zhao Yunlan wraps his hand around his weeping cock. He thumbs the tip of it, spreading the precome for a bit of lubrication, before stroking the length of his hard cock.

"You're beautiful like this," Shen Wei's voice says in that low rumble, and Zhao Yunlan gasps. The vibrator is providing constant stimulation to his prostate, and he pumps his cock a bit harder—faster. The pressure builds at the base of his spine as he chases his climax with almost frantic need. He watches with half-lidded eyes as Shen Wei flies over to his shoulder.

"One day Zhao Yunlan, I promise, it'll be my cock inside you, making you feel like this," Shen Wei whispers next to his ear, in a low, silky voice, and Zhao Yunlan's spine arches from the bed as he comes, his release falling over his hand and belly in milky strands. He flops back down, the vibrator still going inside his ass. He draws in a shaky breath, and before he can quite do anything about the vibrator Shen Wei flies over to his belly, and Zhao Yunlan watches as he kneels and licks at the come there. Heat flares inside him, and he moans as the vibrator keeps buzzing inside him, his cock twitches slightly despite the fact that he just came.

Okay, fuck, yeah Zhao Yunlan is so into this now. Or into Shen Wei anyway. Everything is a bit too much right now, and Zhao Yunlan turns to his side—Shen Wei flitting off of him as he does so—and a bit desperately reaches to pull the vibrator out of his ass. He turns it off and then just tosses it on the bed. Then he lies down on his back, he's just going to stay there for a moment.

Shen Wei appears with a wet cloth and starts wiping off the come from Zhao Yunlan. He feels like he should maybe be doing something, but he's feeling lazy and satisfied and Shen Wei doesn't seem to mind. Then he watches in bemusement as Shen Wei picks up the vibrator, flying off to get it cleaned, before returning and boxing everything up again and then returning the box to its place under the bed.

Shen Wei settles down finally, landing on Zhao Yunlan's chest. Zhao Yunlan isn't exactly sure where to go from here. It's not that he's feeling awkward about the situation, just—

"How about you, Shen Wei?" Zhao Yunlan asks. "I can't really do much for you, I think and—" He's not used to not reciprocating, and maybe he really fucking likes Shen Wei and wants him to feel good. Not that Shen Wei hadn't made it pretty clear that he liked what they were doing.

"Oh," Shen Wei breathes out and then ducks his head and blushes, which is utterly adorable after what they've just been doing. "Well, you could—hold me and stroke my wings?" The last comes out a sort of breathless whisper like Shen Wei almost doesn't manage to get it out at all.

Zhao Yunlan feels a warm fondness settle in his heart, and he wishes he could just cuddle Shen Wei. "Aren't your wings kind of delicate? I mean, are you sure? I don't want to hurt you."

Shen Wei blushes a bit harder. "I trust you, Zhao Yunlan. Just—be careful."

Zhao Yunlan's skin tingles with the need to touch Shen Wei, and he nods quickly. Pushing himself up so he's sitting in the bed, Shen Wei flying up to look at him while he props himself against the headboard.

"Well," Zhao Yunlan says, looking at Shen Wei. "Hold you, how?"

Shen Wei holds out his own hand in front of him, with his palm up, saying nothing. Zhao Yunlan takes the hint and repeats the same gesture. Shen Wei lands on his hand and lays down on his palm, spreading his wings out. Without any more prompting Zhao Yunlan very carefully strokes a finger down one wing, and Shen Wei's whole body shivers, his breath hitching. And well, damn.

"Do I get to see you naked?" Zhao Yunlan asks, his voice suddenly a bit rough.

Shen Wei sits up and then his clothes vanish like they were never there. Zhao Yunlan laughs lightly. "So eager, xiao-Wei?" And because he's watching he can see the way Shen Wei's eyes go wide in that tiny, perfect face. All of him is perfect, in a tiny little form. "You're beautiful, xiao-Wei," Zhao Yunlan says, deliberately using the spontaneous nickname again. Shen Wei blushes and then smiles shyly at Zhao Yunlan.

Then Shen Wei is lying on his palm, shivering and moaning as Zhao Yunlan very, very carefully strokes his wings.

"Fuck xiao-Wei, you're amazing. So damned beautiful—" Zhao Yunlan murmurs as he keeps petting those delicate wings. Shen Wei, takes his own cock in hand, pumping it in rhythm with Zhao Yunlan's caresses, and then, with one last stroke he's coming, moaning Zhao Yunlan's name.

Zhao Yunlan takes a moment to just look at the fairy laying sated on his palm, because damn, but that was hot. Apparently, Zhao Yunlan has a whole bunch of new kinks, but mostly just—Shen Wei. Shen Wei smiles at him languidly, and again Zhao Yunlan's heart melts and he's hit with the urge to touch without needing to worry about how to do it.

"You'll probably appreciate being clean, in a moment or two, once you get back to yourself," Zhao Yunlan says, feeling a bit amused at the way Shen Wei doesn't seem to care at all about the come splattered over his belly, or how his long hair is a complete mess.

Shen Wei just hums contentedly, and Zhao Yunlan laughs before getting up from the bed, holding Shen Wei very carefully on the palm of his hand. He walks over to the bathroom, and then somehow manages to one-handedly get a tissue—something he has now, apparently—and wet it slightly. He proceeds to very delicately wipe away the come from Shen Wei. It makes Shen Wei shiver, but he seems more than content to let Zhao Yunlan do the work.

"How the hell are we going to make this work, xiao-Wei?" Zhao Yunlan asks quietly, not quite sure if he's even looking for an answer.

Shen Wei turns his head to nuzzle his cheek against Zhao Yunlan's hand. "You worry too much, Zhao Yunlan," Shen Wei says. Zhao Yunlan snorts, that's definitely the first time Shen Wei has said those words to him.

When Da Qing gets home later that night, jumping through the open window, he takes one sniff at the air and then turns accusing eyes on Zhao Yunlan. Zhao Yunlan looks up from the phone he's been idly fiddling with.

"Did you seduce the fairy? Really Lao Zhao?" Da Qing asks, his voice landing somewhere between disbelief and disgust.

Shen Wei is lying sprawled out on Zhao Yunlan's head, nuzzled into his hair, and amazingly still sort of blissed-out—Zhao Yunlan's going to ask about that, as soon as he thinks he'll get an answer that is more than a mumbled, 'You, Zhao Yunlan.' He can feel Shen Wei moving lazily, rising up slightly.

"I'm pretty sure I'm the one who was seduced," Zhao Yunlan says, with faked indignancy. Shen Wei tugs at his hair, and Zhao Yunlan feels how a soft smile spreads over his own face. "I definitely don't mind," he adds.

Da Qing makes an absolutely disgusted noise. "Both of you! You're going to be like this all the time, aren't you?"

Zhao Yunlan grins at his cat, and Shen Wei flops back down, nuzzling at Zhao Yunlan's hair and making a contented hum.

Chapter Text

"No," Shen Wei says, the moment he realises what Zhao Yunlan is thinking. Before Zhao Yunlan can even ask the question.

Chu Shuzhi looks between them, bows his head shortly and then grabs Guo Changcheng by the arm and drags him away with him. Shen Wei feels a flash of irritation at Chu Shuzhi, but it's not really his fault that he's the one who brought Zhao Yunlan the information. Even if Chu Shuzhi should know better than to tell Zhao Yunlan anything that might make him want to—

"Xiao-Wei, I didn't even—"

Shen Wei flies off Zhao Yunlan's shoulder just so he can glare at him. "Even if your witness is in Faerie, you can't just go there Zhao Yunlan!"

"You can take me, can't you Shen Wei?" Zhao Yunlan asks, and Shen Wei clenches his fists. It's like he isn't even listening.

"It's dangerous, Zhao Yunlan. You can't— If you need the information so badly, just—call the Black Cloaked Envoy," Shen Wei bites out the last between clenched teeth. He has too many secrets to keep and he— He needs Zhao Yunlan to stay here. Needs to stay with Zhao Yunlan.

"I wouldn't want to bother Brother Black with something so small," Zhao Yunlan says. Right, he doesn't want Faerie to know. And he's trusting Shen Wei not to say anything to anyone. Shen Wei loves him for that trust, he does, but sometimes he thinks Zhao Yunlan is trying to drive him crazy. "I know the Faerie Realms are dangerous to humans, but I'll be—"

"No," Shen Wei interrupts him again. "Dangerous to you!" He's desperate to make Zhao Yunlan see reason, and he doesn't really think about what he's saying. It makes Zhao Yunlan stop for a moment.

"To me?" Zhao Yunlan asks, that sharp mind of his making connections. "Why?"

Shen Wei's wings—droop, and he falls for a heartbeat before he starts beating them again.

"Shen Wei?" Zhao Yunlan asks worriedly, cupping his hands under Shen Wei's hovering form. Shen Wei closes his eyes for a moment and lets himself fall into those waiting hands. He sits there quietly for a bit before saying anything.

"I—" he looks up at Zhao Yunlan, feeling like his heart has fallen somewhere into his belly. "I don't know if I can let you go if you step into Faerie."

"Xiao-Wei," Zhao Yunlan breathes out, and he sounds—pained. Zhao Yunlan's thumb presses gently against the side of Shen Wei's face, and he leans into the touch. "I trust you, Shen Wei, you wouldn't keep me against my will."

Shen Wei's heart leaps at that. But he should tell Zhao Yunlan that he doesn't know—that he can't just—that he shouldn't— "I'm fae."

Zhao Yunlan makes a little huff. "I'm aware," he says, and Shen Wei looks up at that amused little smile.

Shen Wei sighs. "Alright, I'll take you," he says because sooner or later he'll do as Zhao Yunlan wants anyway. Still, he can't quite shake the dread in his heart at his own words. "I just hope we both know what we're doing."

Shen Wei flies a bit ahead of Zhao Yunlan, who he's given strict instructions not to touch anything, and preferably not speak to anyone either unless Shen Wei says it's okay. Zhao Yunlan is looking around with wonder, and Shen Wei's heart warms at the way he can look at Shen Wei's world even when he knows how dangerous it is.

Little fae creatures scurry away from them, and the bigger ones just look at them quietly. It's market day in the small town, and the people are a bit more varied than they would otherwise be, coming in from the surrounding areas to trade their goods. Zhao Yunlan doesn't flinch even looking at some of the more—monstrous-looking of the fae folk.

Zhao Yunlan does stop when he sees another human. Humans in the Faerie Realms are—well, it's complicated, and not the time to get into it. It's not the one they're looking for anyway. "Zhao Yunlan," Shen Wei says firmly, and Zhao Yunlan pulls his eyes away, his expression going tight as he gives Shen Wei a little nod.

Shen Wei wants to swoop to his side, sit on his shoulder like he usually does, and—that wouldn't do here. He nods in the direction they should be going, before taking off again. The pixie they had talked to hadn't been too exact about which building it would be, but Shen Wei doesn't want to ask for more instructions if he doesn't have to.

Then in the next heartbeat, before Shen Wei has the time to do anything but watch, there's a spiral of magic that pulls Zhao Yunlan into it and then vanishes. Shen Wei screams, a wordless, pained noise. He screams until the fae in the street are covering their ears, cowering in fear, blood trickling from their ears and eyes and noses.

There's a flash of white and a fairy just like Shen Wei crashes into him, wrapping his arms around Shen Wei as they fall to the ground, landing in their full High Fae forms. The crash is enough to make Shen Wei go quiet. His brother is lying on top of him, holding on to Shen Wei.

"I'm—sorry, gege. I need him to save both of us."

Shen Wei closes his eyes, tears trickling down the sides of his face. There's a black empty hollow under his breastbone. It had always been his brother.

"Did you— Did you always know, didi?" Shen Wei asks in a broken voice, just lying there, under his brother.

"No, gege. Back then, I didn't even know what happened. I was lashing out, and he was unmoored in time."

"Do you think he'll come back?" Shen Wei whispers, more tears spilling out of his eyes.

"I don't know," his brother answers, burying his face in the crook of Shen Wei's shoulder. "Please, don't hate me, gege," he begs Shen Wei.

Shen Wei—moves. He wraps his arms around his brother and holds on tightly enough to hurt. "I could never, didi."

He looks up from under his hood at the human who—saved him. Belatedly he realises his mask has fallen down and he reaches for it on the ground in front of him, but the human is already staring at his face. Instead of putting the mask on, he straightens up from his crouch, keeping the mask in his hand. The human keeps staring at him with this look of surprise on his face.

"Xiao-Wei," the human whispers, frowning. There's a sort of—hope on the human's face. He has to look away from that, no human should look at him like that. He dusts off his cloak.

He didn't need to be saved from a group of bandits, he was just— He was trying to distract himself by fighting with his glaive, instead of calling for more magic. It's so—violent lately like all the hatred and death has seeped into the magic of this world.

He looks back at the human, who seems to have schooled his features into something more neutral finally. He flashes his sharp teeth at the human as he smiles, just to see how he'll react. The human just smiles back.

"I suppose, I should thank you, human." Even if he might not have needed the help, there is a debt between them now. He will have to honour it, and maybe afterwards, once it's settled he can claw the human's throat out. The thought of it feels surprisingly empty.

"I'm called—Kunlun," the human says. "Who are you?"

He laughs. "I don't have a name." He only has descriptions. The ones humans give him are not—nice ones. He could give this—Kunlun one of those. Surely then Kunlun would stop looking at him with eyes that— "I've never needed one."

"Really?" Kunlun asks, sounding surprised. Kunlun takes a few steps closer, slinging his bow over his shoulder. Kunlun dares to reach toward his face, and he snaps his sharp teeth at Kunlun's fingers. "Sorry," Kunlun says, pulling his hand away, and laughing a little. "I guess you should get back to your people."

He should. He still has a brother to avenge. After all, there are still humans alive in the world. But Kunlun is the first thing to make him feel something that isn't— Well, Kunlun is interesting, that's all.

"I'll come with you," he declares. "I'll need to repay my debt."

Kunlun grins, delight dancing in his eyes. He makes a little hum. "Well, if that's what you want. But I'll have to give you a name, you know," Kunlun says as he turns around and starts to walk. "I'll need something to call you," he says over his shoulder.

Shen Wei can only wait. Remember and wait. His brother holds him, his fingers tangled in Shen Wei's hair, his leg draped over Shen Wei's thighs. If losing Zhao Yunlan is the price he has to pay for having his brother back—that's not a choice Shen Wei could ever make. And this is the second time it has been made for him.

All those long years after the War, with Kunlun gone and his brother there, but—still recovering, still hating Shen Wei. All those years of struggling to keep everything together, of keeping the peace, of helping his brother—just for that promise of a future where things would be—different.

He cries into his brother's shoulder because that future is now, and Zhao Yunlan isn't here.

Days pass and Shen Wei waits. And waits.

Then finally there's that dreadfully familiar magic somewhere far away, sending ripples through all of Faerie. His brother envelopes them both in magic and moves them before Shen Wei can do it himself.

And there's Zhao Yunlan. Looking a bit worse for the wear, but—just like Shen Wei remembers him. Shen Wei is holding him and sobbing and he's there and real and not a memory. "Zhao Yunlan," he whispers, his voice shaking with his tears. He kisses Zhao Yunlan, hands framing Zhao Yunlan's face and tears running down Shen Wei's cheeks.

"Xiao-Wei," Zhao Yunlan says when they break apart. "Hey, don't cry," he says, wiping at the tears on Shen Wei's cheeks while tears start falling from Zhao Yunlan's own eyes. "There's no reason to cry."

Shen Wei smiles at him, wetly. "I waited for you, Zhao Yunlan," he says. "For so long."

Zhao Yunlan laughs shortly. "I know."

"You're—different," Zhao Yunlan says after a while when they've both calmed down a little. He pulls away a bit to look at Shen Wei. Shen Wei isn't sure if he means different from back then in the War, or different since Zhao Yunlan had last seen him in the present, both are true after all. "Will you tell me the truth now, Shen Wei?"

Zhao Yunlan looks—hurt. And why wouldn't he, now that he knows how much Shen Wei has been keeping from him.

"Please, xiao-Wei, tell me. Who are you, really?"

"You know I'm the Black Cloaked Envoy," Shen Wei says because that's something Kunlun had seen. "I still am." Shen Wei takes a breath, and Zhao Yunlan squeezes his hand and waits. "I'm—the King of Faerie," he says, quietly. Zhao Yunlan stays quiet, and the yawning black pit of fear inside of Shen Wei grows wider.

Zhao Yunlan had been there, he'd seen some of the War. Knowing who Shen Wei is now, it will mean more to him than just a piece of ancient history. He's seen the consequences of Shen Wei's decisions.

"Will you still let me out of Faerie?" Zhao Yunlan asks quietly.

Shen Wei isn't sure he'd known the answer himself, until Zhao Yunlan asks him, looking at Shen Wei with his tear-filled eyes. "Yes," Shen Wei says, even though it breaks his heart. "If that's what you want, Zhao Yunlan."

Zhao Yunlan's smile is small and wavering. "For now, Shen Wei. One day, I'll stay, I promise."

Shen Wei—smiles. Suddenly, his heart feels like it might burst, relief and joy mingling until he can hardly contain all of it. The field they're in is bursting into bloom, riots of coloured flowers sprouting up. Zhao Yunlan is laughing.

"Really, gege. That's such a cliche," his brother's amused voice says. Both Shen Wei and Zhao Yunlan look toward him, surprised at the presence of someone else.

"Meet my brother, Zhao Yunlan," Shen Wei says, with a little sigh. "He's the King of Faerie."

His brother smiles, sharp and full of teeth. "Ye Zun," he says with a small bow. That's a name that Kunlun would recognise.

"Nice to finally meet you. I'm Zhao Yunlan," Zhao Yunlan answers, stepping away from Shen Wei so he can make his own bow. Shen Wei sees the amused smile on his brother's lips, but his eyes look thoughtful. Shen Wei is glad his brother approves.

"I really need to get home, I think. People will be worried by now," Zhao Yunlan says. Then he looks at Shen Wei, hope in his eyes. "Are you still coming with me?"

Shen Wei lets out a surprised breath. He hadn't been sure— "If you'll have me."

"Gege," his brother says, sounding exasperated. "Take him to the palace and fuck him until he can't walk straight. I'll get you the human you were looking for, and then you can leave for the mortal realm."

Shen Wei blushes at his brother's crude words. There's a faint blush staining Zhao Yunlan's cheeks as well, but he just laughs. "I guess we're not in that much of a hurry," Zhao Yunlan says, waggling his eyebrows in a ridiculously suggestive manner.

Shen Wei takes his hand and pulls him closer. He presses a kiss to Zhao Yunlan's forehead. "You definitely need a bath before going anywhere."

Zhao Yunlan hugs him, resting his head against Shen Wei's shoulder. "As long as you're there with me, xiao-Wei."