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Protagonist Rehabilitation Programme

Chapter Text

The fun fair was loud and bright. Shen Yuan leaned on his cage and let a gaggle of people walk past him, while Luo Binghe stared at the bumper carts with a look of mistrust. 

After much cajoling and bribery, Shen Yuan got them in the cue for a small rollercoaster. He figured that Luo Binghe could handle a little adrenaline, but still, he made sure to sit by the poor guy and watch him closely as the rollercoaster started. 

Luo Binghe was stone faced the entire time. When they got off, Shen Yuan, feeling slightly deflated, asked him if he didn't enjoy it. 

"I can fly faster than that." 

Shen Yuan laughed. "I bet you can. That was only a small rollercoaster. There's a bigger, faster one too – it goes so high you can see parts of the city from above..."

Luo Binghe consented. 

This time, he did not remain stone faced. When they got off the ride, his teeth were bared, his beautiful hair was blown back from his face, and there were red marks on his hands from where he clutched the bars too tight. 

Reaching up to tidy his hair, Shen Yuan couldn't help but laugh. He looked like he had been caught in a hurricane. "I did warn you it goes high!" 

Luo Binghe looked at him, and it held such a sense of betrayal that Shen Yuan laughed again. It was like looking at a dog that learned it was going to the vet, not the park. 

"You're still alive, aren't you? I wouldn't take you on something that could genuinely kill you. Look, here's a more sedate one – it's just a big set of swings..."

This one was indeed much slower. The seats hung from chains, and when the ride span around in a circle, the seats were pulled up into the air through centrifugal force. 

Luo Binghe looked much more at ease. He held the chains loosely as his feet dangled through the air. He was dressed nicely today, taking full advantage of the wardrobe that Shen Yuan had furnished him with, and now he once again looked like a listless male model on a fairground themed photoshoot. 

No, more than that – he kind of looked like...

He looked like the love interest on a date! He had main love interest written all over him! 

Shen Yuan fumbled with his phone and quickly took a few selfies, eyes gleaming. POV: You Are Going On A Date With Luo Binghe (Modern AU). The PIDW boards would go wild for this – if only they knew. 

He considered setting a particularly pretty picture of Luo Binghe as his background photo. His hair was tumbling across his face and he was looking away at the view, handsome and mysterious, perfectly poised as if someone had carefully pointed a wind machine at him in a carefully controlled photo studio...

"Laoshi?"

Shen Yuan put his phone back in his pocket. "Yes?"

"You... enjoy this kind of thing?" 

Shen Yuan waggled his hand vaguely. "Actually, rollercoasters make me nauseous. I don't mind the scary parts, but the last ride was... well, a little rough."

Luo Binghe tilted his head. They were having to raise their voices slightly to hear each other as the seats span around. "Then why are we on here?"

The ride finally came to a stop. Shen Yuan took a few wobbly steps off and held his hand up, before straightening out. He wasn't going to let his delicate tummy get in the way of a good time. "Because I never got to do this kind of stuff very often when I was younger, and I want to know what it's like," he said once Luo Binghe was back at his side. "And you didn't either. I wanted to find out whether you enjoyed it or not."

Luo Binghe laughed once in disbelief. His hand came to rest under Shen Yuan's elbow, supporting him as they walked along, possessively clinging to the crook of his arm. "I see."

"Did you enjoy it?"

"I enjoy anything that I do with you, laoshi."

Shen Yuan hit his shoulder lightly. "You old charmer. Since you're going to act like a protagonist, let's go play some games. I never get any prizes, you'll have to win them all for me..."

 

Perhaps a little predictably, Luo Binghe was very good at fairground games. Shen Yuan got a sick sort of satisfaction from watching the sour faces of the vendors behind the stalls as he exposed their games for the rigged scams everyone knew they were. 

If there was a ring, Luo Binghe would always land it on a pole. 

If there was a duck with a huge prize on the underside, Luo Binghe would always hook it first time. 

If there was a coconut on a stick, Luo Binghe would always knock it off with a beanbag – and reveal the glue that had been holding it in place. 

Shen Yuan's arms were stuffed with plush toys. He felt faintly ridiculous as they walked around the fair, and people kept staring at his collection, and then at the exceedingly handsome man walking beside him. 

As they made a beeline to another vendor (who, to his credit began to look nervously at their plushie collection), Shen Yuan tugged on the venerable demon lord's sleeve and coughed. 

"Perhaps we have enough prizes now."

Luo Binghe gave him a smile that made it clear he was having an inordinate amount of fun. "I'm not sure we do. A-Yuan looks so pleased every time I win – all I want to do is keep making you have that expression. Indulge this lowly one, I beg."

Shen Yuan hit him with a plush dog. "Don't–! Don't just–!"

Don't use your lines from your wives on me! Saying you like to win just to see me smile, what the hell kind of gooey nonsense is this! 

"Which one does a-Yuan want from this stall?"

"The wall-eyed blue tiger," Shen Yuan said immediately, before slipping back into being flustered. "When I said win me prizes, I didn't actually mean all of them!" 

Luo Binghe picked up the pellet gun and held it in his hands. He moved it back and forth, testing the weighting of it, before holding it up and looking down the sights. 

Shen Yuan knew for a fact that those little guns had a crooked barrel. The barrel and the sights were misaligned in such a way that it was almost impossible to get a bullseye, no matter what kind of marksman you were. 

Luo Binghe took a single breath, aimed the gun, and fired. It was a bullseye. 

"Fuck yes!" Shen Yuan shouted despite himself. "Eat that! My Binghe is the best!" 

Luo Binghe had to forcibly pull the blue tiger out of the resentful stall holder's hands. He handed it to Shen Yuan with a palpable air of smugness. 

"Hardly a challenge," he sniffed. 

 

All good things had to come to an end. Even Luo Binghe's deep tissue massage blood parasites could only do so much, and after a solid day of wandering around the fun fair, Shen Yuan knew he only had a few more things in him before his back twisted up again. 

Looking around, he wanted to find a bench – but then his eyes landed on something else. He stared for a moment. Could he...? It wasn't a very exciting ride, and he wouldn't blame Luo Binghe for getting bored halfway through, but it would be nice... 

Luo Binghe noticed that he had stopped moving and his attention was diverted. He stopped also, and stared at the ride thoughtfully. 

"... do you want to go on that ride, laoshi?"

Shen Yuan shook his head and turned away. He had seen far too many couples in the queue, taking photos for their social media feed and holding hands and being all cute. "Ah, I'm not sure that ride is any fun..."

"Shen laoshi doesn't like the fun rides," Luo Binghe said smartly, and began insistently tugging them both towards the ride. "Let's go on it."

"Binghe!"

 

That was how they found themselves in a snug little compartment steadily climbing up a huge Ferris wheel. 

 

The ride was going to last around fifteen minutes in total, so Luo Binghe took the opportunity to unpack the lunches he had made and serve them up as well as he could considering the lack of a table. 

Shen Yuan sat, surrounded by plushies, a plastic bowl of exquisitely cooked food in his hand, and felt like something was off. 

A private, concealed place... Just the two of them alone together... Surrounded by a breathtaking view of the city and complete with a bowl of Luo Binghe's cooking...

"Is something wrong, a-Yuan?" Luo Binghe asked innocently. 

Yes. Something was wrong. He just couldn't put his finger on it. 

After all, if one of them was a girl, this would definitely be a date. This scenario was straight out of a shoujo manga! The only thing it was missing was fireworks and random roses blooming in the background! 

(On the wind, Shen Yuan's mind helpfully supplied the ghostly echo of the words "Binghe... both...")

"It's fine," he said firmly, and began to eat. "I hope you're also enjoying yourself as much as I am."

"Very much so."

"Look at the view... I wonder if you can see my apartment from here."

Luo Binghe looked out the window. He looked down. He kept looking. 

Shen Yuan assumed that it was just a lull in the conversation, but after a full minute of staring, he began to grow nervous. He cautiously cleared his throat. 

"... Are you nervous about how high we are?" 

"Nervous?" Luo Binghe's voice was distant. "Not at all."

Ah, of course. He wouldn't be nervous of heights, that would be silly. After all, it wasn't like he ever... fell from a great height...

Oh shit. 

Shen Yuan shuffled closer, taking the seat next to Luo Binghe and wincing at how it made the compartment shudder. "I'm sorry. I wouldn't have brought you up here if I remembered that, ah, well... you're uncomfortable."

Luo Binghe laughed. " Uncomfortable , he says. No. Not uncomfortable. Not at all. Just marvelling at what a world this is. Loud and busy and filled with so many people, and all unremarkable, all mortals without a spiritual vein in their body...”

Rude. Shen Yuan just so happened to be one of those unremarkable mortals. He tried not to take it personally. He opened his mouth to say something, when Luo Binghe turned back around, his gaze heavy. 

They were both sitting on the same side, and as a consequence, when they looked at each other, their faces were very close. If Shen Yuan leaned forwards just a little, they could rub noses. 

Luo Binghe seemed to pause as well, taking in their closeness. Shen Yuan watched him swallow. The wind started blowing in those unhelpful words again, itching the edges of Shen Yuan's consciousness. Main love interest... Binghe... both...

“A well constructed fantasy. Truly, a puzzle like none I have ever come across before. Shen laoshi... Shen laoshi...”

He reached up, his hand landing on Shen Yuan’s cheek, his thumb brushing the soft skin just beneath his eye. 

“... is this world made of the last dying fantasies of your mind, or mine?”

Too close. Shen Yuan’s face went pale as he realised just how heated the little compartment had become. With a cough, he wheeled backwards, away from the warm palm that felt like it was burning his skin and leaving a red mark behind. He thought everyone might see it when they got off the ride, and his mind reeled with mortification. If he didn’t move away, everyone would know that he sat there and let his face get cradled like... like some kind of tender maiden!

“Neither of us are dying,” he said in exasperation, quietly covering his cheek with his hand as if to wipe off the trailing sensation of Luo Binghe’s thumb. “It’s just a Ferris wheel.”

“... is this what you wanted from me? Just to do things like this?”

“Mmn. Just like this. Why?” He fixed Luo Binghe a cautious look. “You don’t like it?”

“I like it just fine,” he replied, low and even. “I like it just fine.”

He went back to staring out of the window, and Shen Yuan let out a sigh of - relief? Definitely relief. No more risk of kissing. Definitely a relief. 

 

After twelve more minutes of only slightly awkward companionship, they both stumbled out of the compartment, and Shen Yuan quietly suggested that they go home. The bus was quiet. The sun was going down, slowly, and the bright glow of the city waking up contrasted against the dusky blue sky. 

“That was nice. We should do it again before you go,” Shen Yuan said, feeling sleepy. 

Luo Binghe nodded. “Yes. Before I go.”

When the bus pulled in at the station, it was only a short walk back to the apartment, so they waddled along saddled down by the many many plush toys that they had won. He gave away a few to people who had been passing by, much to Luo Binghe’s displeasure, but he kept the ones that he liked best - especially a fluffy dog with beady eyes and a lolling tongue. He decided not to tell Luo Binghe about the uncanny resemblance. 

As they went along, Shen Yuan leaning on his cane, Luo Binghe laiden with stuffed toys, two men stepped out of the shop and crossed their path. There was a taller man with long hair, his face stern as if someone had just made a particularly offensive joke about his mother, and then there was a much shorter, round faced man with his hair in a messy bun. He was chattering away, his arms full of grocery bags. Neither of them had spotted either Shen Yuan or Luo Binghe. 

Kill Bill sirens went off in Shen Yuan’s head. Airplane Bro

He was about to say Airplane Bro’s name out loud, when Luo Binghe must have spotted them at the same time, because he came to a complete stop. Before anyone could do anything, he took a step forward. 

“Binghe, no,” Shen Yuan said sternly, hitting him across the stomach to prevent him from going forward. “I am not going to allow you to murder that horrible little man in public.” He took a step forward instead, rolling up his sleeves. “Allow me.”

In less than five steps, he strode up to Airplane Bro and socked him right in the eye. 

 

It was possibly the most pathetic fistfight in history.

Neither of them were especially athletic or strong men. Shen Yuan had seen er-ge, da-ge and even his sweet little meimei get into bloody battles with each other, but as soon as he tried to join in, Papa Shen would usually pick him up by the back of his collar and put him back on the hospital bed. He didn’t know how to throw a punch. 

Luckily, neither did Airplane Bro. 

The initial hit mostly took him by surprise, but as soon as he recovered, he started hitting right back, letting a hail of blows start raining down on Shen Yuan. It was not dignified. There was biting. Someone hit someone else with a stuffed giraffe. 

Shen Yuan distinctly remembered the tall strange man looking like he wanted to step in, but Luo Binghe said “no, let them, I want to see how this goes” in that horrible delighted voice of his. In the end, what stopped them was the fact that a passing delinquent who looked about thirteen years old started laughing at them. 

There was nothing quite as scathing as the derision of a pre-teen. 

Once they had separated, Airplane Bro raised a finger and pointed at Shen Yuan in disgust. He had a very mild black eye. 

“You’re insane! What did you do that for!”

“You know what you did,” Shen Yuan replied. His collar had been ripped open. “You’re lucky I didn’t sic Binghe on you!”

Luo Binghe presumably did something suitably threatening over Shen Yuan’s shoulder, because Airplane squeaked like a rat and scurried behind his mysterious companion’s back, peeking out like a scolded child behind his mother’s skirt. 

“And who the hell is this?” Shen Yuan demanded icily. 

He didn’t expect Luo Binghe’s voice to come from behind him. “Mobei Jun.”