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Still Want You By My Side

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There’s a blanket draped over him that definitely hadn’t been there when he’d fallen asleep. He should be used to it by now. No matter where he falls asleep, if Shen Wei is around, he’ll wake up covered in a blanket or a jacket. One time he woke up with a pillow tucked beneath his head and when he asked about it, Shen Wei had simply averted his eyes and said he’d have woken up with a stiff neck otherwise.

It’s nice.

A quick glance at his phone tells him he’s slept for about an hour. He hadn’t actually intended to fall asleep, he’d just closed his eyes for a moment to better try and understand the strange energy field he’d seen in his kitchen. He hadn’t reached any conclusions and apparently he’d fallen asleep while thinking about it. Perhaps Shen Wei had a point about needing more time to recover. He’s not even sure if the energy field was real now. It could just as easily have been a hallucination brought about from using the awl.

His stomach rumbles, reminding him that Shen Wei had said something about food before Zhao Yunlan had fallen asleep. Shen Wei cooking for him is another thing he’s still getting used to.

He slides his feet into his slippers and pads towards the kitchen, pausing when he sees Shen Wei still bent over the counter just as he had been when Zhao Yunlan had gone to bed. He can’t help the fond smile from tugging at his lips. When he’d lost his sight he didn’t think he’d ever get to see this again, Shen Wei in his kitchen looking like he belongs here in Zhao Yunlan’s apartment.

“I will attend to you for one last night.”

Zhao Yunlan isn’t sure what he’s going to do when Shen Wei stops spending every moment at his side. The very idea of Shen Wei spending his evenings in his own apartment across the hall just feels wrong when he could be here enduring Zhao Yunlan’s endless teasing and flirting.

Well, if he’s going to have less time to tease Shen Wei in the future he should enjoy it while he can.

“Midnight munchies?” he asks with a grin.

He doesn’t expect the sound of his voice to startle Shen Wei so violently that he spins around and drops the knife he’d been holding.

The smile fades from Zhao Yunlan’s lips. Shen Wei looks guilty, with one arm hidden behind his back like a kid caught stealing cookies. Only he hadn’t been holding a cookie, he’d been holding a knife.

Now that he’s looking more closely Zhao Yunlan can see just how pale Shen Wei is, and that he’s leaning heavily against the kitchen counter not just because he was startled but to stop himself from falling.

He’s never seen Shen Wei look like this before, not even when he was masquerading as an innocent university professor. He’s used to Shen Wei being constant and strong, and right now he looks like a soft breeze might knock him over.

He strides into the kitchen and takes hold of the arm Shen Wei is trying to hide from him. It takes little more than a firm tug to pull Shen Wei’s arm from behind his back, and that alone makes alarm spike through Zhao Yunlan.

Shen Wei refuses to look at him, defeat and shame evident on his face as he slumps more heavily onto the counter while Zhao Yunlan inspects his arm. The wound is deep, clearly self-inflicted, only instead of bleeding it’s leaking dark energy.

Zhao Yunlan still doesn’t fully understand Shen Wei’s powers, but he understands enough to know that this shouldn’t be happening.

It takes a moment. The injury, the guilt on Shen Wei’s face, and then just like that Zhao Yunlan knows.

“Don’t even think about lying to me,” he says in a dangerously soft voice. “What did you do to heal my eyes?”

Shen Wei still won’t look at him, which only further confirms Zhao Yunlan’s suspicions. Instead he pulls his arm free from Zhao Yunlan’s hands and walks towards the door. As though Zhao Yunlan would just let him walk away from this.

“You used the Longevity Dial, didn’t you?”

That, at least, stops Shen Wei in his tracks. Zhao Yunlan presses on, determined to get to the truth even though he’s not actually sure he wants to hear it.

“You shared your life with mine,” Zhao Yunlan says softly, as he walks over to stand in front of Shen Wei. There are tears in Shen Wei’s eyes, and Zhao Yunlan has to resist every instinct he has to just pull him into his arms and hold him. “You used your power to repair the damage done to my body. Right?”

“I…” Shen Wei finally says with a trembling voice. “I…”

Zhao Yunlan half expects him to deny it, and he honestly doesn’t know what he’ll do if he has to listen to yet another flimsy excuse. He stares at Shen Wei, willing him with everything he has to be honest just this once.

“The energy structure of my body has suffered a severe blow,” Shen Wei finally says softly, still refusing to look at Zhao Yunlan. “I need to exchange all of my energy.”

He thought he’d be relieved at hearing the truth, but he’s not. He closes his eyes and takes a deep breath. How is he supposed to process the fact that Shen Wei has done so much damage to himself just to help him? In what world does a man like Shen Wei, who is the model of perfection, rate Zhao Yunlan’s sight above his own life? It doesn’t make any sense!

When he opens his eyes his gaze drops to the knife wound on Shen Wei’s wrist, which is still oozing corrupted energy.

“It must hurt a lot.”

Clearly whatever Shen Wei had been expecting him to say it wasn’t that, because he huffs out a surprised laugh and actually looks at him. Zhao Yunlan can’t bring himself to look back, however, scared of what he might see in Shen Wei’s eyes.

“Fortunately I’m used to getting hurt,” Shen Wei says nonchalantly as he heals himself, and it’s like a kick to Zhao Yunlan’s gut. Getting injured while fighting rogue Dixingren is one thing, but this is different. This is an injury that Zhao Yunlan, indirectly or not, is responsible for, and the cut on his wrist is only an outlet for a much larger underlying issue.

He forces himself to make eye contact with Shen Wei. He needs him to understand.

“I’m not worth what you’re doing for me.”

“You’re worth it,” Shen Wei replies with absolutely no hesitation and clear certainty in his eyes. Zhao Yunlan has no doubts that Shen Wei would make the same choice over and over again, always putting Zhao Yunlan ahead of himself.

Shen Wei would let himself die if it meant Zhao Yunlan could live. How is anyone supposed to accept that?

It’s too much.

“So what do you want me to do?” The words explode out of him unbidden, but he can’t hold them in any longer. “Be indebted to you? Should I formally kneel and kowtow? You’re not immortal! Why should I so casually owe you a life?”

Shen Wei steps forward, crowding into Zhao Yunlan’s space and staring at him with an intensity that has any further words drying up in Zhao Yunlan’s throat.

“This life,” Shen Wei says quietly, but firmly,“is what I’m returning to you.”

What does that even mean? From the look on Shen Wei’s face he’s said more than he meant to. Zhao Yunlan can almost see the shutters coming down as he closes himself off.

“You should rest soon,” She Wei says in that same quiet voice, and before Zhao Yunlan can say anything he turns and walks away.

“Wait.”

Zhao Yunlan hadn’t intended to call out, but he knows that in spite of everything, he still can’t stand the idea of Shen Wei not being around him. Maybe this whole situation is at least in part of his own doing. If he hadn’t become so used to Shen Wei always being there for him…

Shen Wei stills, his hand resting on the handle of the door.

“Zhao Yunlan?” Shen Wei’s voice is soft, hopeful. How could Zhao Yunlan even think about letting him leave?

“We still haven’t eaten,” Zhao Yunlan says with a wry smile. “After you went to so much effort to save me, are you really going to leave me to starve now?”

Shen Wei huffs out a laugh. He still has his back to Zhao Yunlan, but he hopes he’s smiling too. This is good, or at least familiar. He can deal with familiar for now. Everything else can wait until they’ve rested and recovered.

“The food I prepared earlier is in the fridge,” Shen Wei says. He doesn’t move back towards Zhao Yunlan, but he doesn’t leave either. He just stands there, his hand resting on the door handle. Well, if Shen Wei won’t come to him then Zhao Yunlan will just have to go to him.

He walks slowly, as though approaching a skittish animal, until he places his hand on top of Shen Wei’s. As soon as their skin touches, Shen Wei flinches and gasps softly.

“Come and eat with me, Xiao Wei,” Zhao Yunlan murmurs gently.

Shen Wei exhales, nods, and his hand drops away from the door handle.

They move in silence, their routine a familiar one by this point. Zhao Yunlan fetches bowls and sets the table while Shen Wei gets the food from the fridge and reheats it. Zhao Yunlan doesn’t comment on the fact that Shen Wei uses the stove to heat the food rather than just using his powers.

They don’t speak during the meal either, each lost in their own thoughts. Occasionally Zhao Yunlan glances at Shen Wei and their eyes meet, but he honestly doesn’t know what to say. All he knows is that he doesn’t want to be alone, that when Shen Wei isn’t with him it feels like part of him is missing.

When they’re done eating, Shen Wei does the dishes while Zhao Yunlan brushes his teeth and gets ready for bed. He’s half expecting Shen Wei to be gone by the time he’s done, but when he emerges from the bathroom Shen Wei is standing in the middle of the apartment looking almost lost.

Zhao Yunlan hates this. Any day prior to this Shen Wei would be grading papers or tidying the apartment or finding some other way to keep himself busy while Zhao Yunlan got into bed and slept.

“You should rest,” Shen Wei says when he realises Zhao Yunlan is staring at him. “I’ll just…”

Zhao Yunlan scoffs and strides over to his drawers, pulling out a fresh set of pajamas and pressing them into Shen Wei’s arms.

“You look terrible,” he says by way of an explanation, and it’s true. He’s even paler since he healed the knife wound, his lips white and cracked.

“I’m fine.” The look of disbelief on Zhao Yunlan’s face can’t be very subtle, because Shen Wei takes one look at him and amends his words. “I will be fine. I just need to rest.”

“Good. Get changed and get some sleep.”

Shen Wei looks down at the pajamas as though he’s not entirely sure what he’s supposed to do with them.

“My apartment is only across the hall,” he protests weakly. “I can just as easily rest there.”

“Well, I can’t,” Zhao Yunlan snaps, more harshly than he’d intended. Honestly, for all the effort Shen Wei makes to take care of him, he’s remarkably resistant to being taken care of himself.

Shen Wei blinks at him in surprise.

“What I mean is, I won’t be able to rest properly if I’m worried about you, so you should just sleep here.”

It’s probably a dick move to use his own health as leverage, but after tonight he figures he’s allowed to be a bit of a dick if it gets Shen Wei to actually take care of himself.

To demonstrate that the subject is no longer up for discussion he walks past Shen Wei and climbs into bed, scooting over to the far side so that there’s room for Shen Wei. When he glances back Shen Wei is still stood in the middle of the room, pajamas clutched to his chest, staring at Zhao Yunlan.

Clearly a little more persuasion is needed, so Zhao Yunlan fakes a yawn and blinks sleepily at Shen Wei. “Are you going to stand there all night?”

Shen Wei disappears into the bathroom without a word and emerges a few minutes later wearing Zhao Yunlan’s pajamas. They don’t exactly fit. Shen Wei is broader but shorter than Zhao Yunlan, so the shirt is tight across the shoulders and the trousers are too long, but they’ll do.

Shen Wei puts his carefully folded clothes in a neat pile on one of the chairs.

When he reaches the bed he hesitates, staring at Zhao Yunlan as though he’s everything he wants and everything he’s afraid of all rolled into one. Zhao Yunlan doesn’t know what to do to make this easier. He doesn’t want Shen Wei to ever be afraid of him, so he pulls back the corner of the covers and gives Shen Wei what he hopes is a reassuring smile.

“It’s okay.”

As soon as Shen Wei slides into bed Zhao Yunlan flips off the lamp, figuring maybe Shen Wei will feel better if it’s dark.

He rolls onto his side. It's so dark that he's barely able to see the outline of Shen Wei's face, but there's enough light to tell that he's lying on his back and staring at the ceiling.

“Are you alright?” He’s not sure why he’s asking. Shen Wei could be bleeding from multiple wounds and still insist that he’s fine.

“Yes,” Shen Wei replies, and it’s a good thing it’s dark so he can’t see Zhao Yunlan rolling his eyes. He’s starting to wonder if Shen Wei is actually capable of telling the truth or if he’s just so used to lying at this point that it comes naturally.

“I can feel you shaking,” he points out. “Do you need another blanket?”

“No.”

Zhao Yunlan sighs and shifts closer to Shen Wei but draws short of actually touching him. Another thing that tonight has changed. In the past he would, and has, thrown himself against Shen Wei with reckless abandon. Plenty of times he’s woken up from an impromptu nap with his head resting against Shen Wei’s shoulder or leg. But that was before. Before Shen Wei had shown just how far he was willing to go to keep Zhao Yunlan safe, before Zhao Yunlan felt like he had to prove himself worthy of Shen Wei’s feelings.

“Shen Wei?”

“Zhao Yunlan.”

For once he is actually lost for words, so instead he reaches for Shen Wei’s hand, which is resting on top of the covers between them.

“Thank you,” he says softly, giving Shen Wei’s hand a gentle squeeze. “If you ever do anything like this again I may just kill you myself, but thank you.”

Shen Wei squeezes his hand in return. An acknowledgement, Zhao Yunlan hopes.

He doesn’t let go of Shen Wei’s hand, and Shen Wei makes no attempt to extract himself.

They fall asleep like that. Warm and whole, ready to face whatever challenge awaits them next.