It's been a fairly silent week for Zhao Yunlan and Co. Though it has been rather relaxing as of late case wise, it doesn't hide the fact that their beloved bastard Chief is growing more agitated everyday and is running them to the ground doing useless unnecessary shit.
Guo ChangCheng who is terrified of Zhao on his best days, just about always nearly pees his pants whenever he is in the same room as Zhao ever since Shen Wei left.
Professor Shen, as a paid consultant for the SID has told them beforehand that he was going to be gone for a two-week conference a few continents up North. Zhao clearly didn't want him to leave, firing up lame excuses and magnifying Shen Wei's importance to the team. Though Da Qing is sure the Professor is more of a glorified babysitter slash eye-candy (for Zhao anyway) at this point in their work relationship.
It wasn't like Shen Wei just disappeared out of thin air for their Chief to be acting the way he is. The leave was filed and he'd gone to the conference with promises of souvenirs. They even went as far as sending him to the airport by Zhao's strict command (endless pouting).
Da Qing, to his chagrin, is quite convinced the Chief's foul mood isn't going to go away at least for another week. It's like Zhao's making sure everybody's feeling as miserable as he is while missing his Professor.
He still doesn't quite understand what's really going on between Zhao Yunlan and Shen Wei (other than the blatant flirting from Zhao and the dodging from the Professor). But the last time he'd seen them together, he was pretty sure the good Professor had shown the slightest bit interest back for their Chief. The look on his face was clearly fond and no longer coming off as if he was questioning his life choices whenever Zhao shamelessly flirts with him in front of everyone or making heart eyes at the stern-looking scholar from across a room. Despite Zhao always touching whatever part of Shen Wei's body he could whenever he is in grabbing... really, more like groping distance, as if he's never heard the term personal space before, against all odds, Shen Wei seems to have warmed up to him.
Humans and their mating rituals are so exhausting to look at.
But back to the point. Zhao Yunlan has been a particularly grouchy motherfucker since Shen Wei's absence and Da Qing's patience is really being put to the test. One more glare from that lovesick fool at a wall as if the universe somehow offended him by keeping Shen Wei away, and another careless comment about his weight in cat form, he's going to be digging his claws into that mango-shaped mug.
Three days now, he can't even enjoy his stash of dried fish because Zhao's desk is directly across his, and every time, he's met with the picture of Zhao looking particularly pathetic staring down at his phone, (if he's not glaring at the world) creepily caressing Shen Wei's photo no doubt, and sighing listlessly like a bride left at the altar. If anyone asks Da Qing, Zhao's reaction is more fitted for a wife whose husband just got drafted for a two-year service in the military, than a two-week excursion to some University conference outside Mainland HaiXing.
"He's actually not going to be gone indefinitely, you know. There's really no need to act like this." Da Qing states sagely, propped against the Chief's desk, a contradiction to the heavy exasperation he feels inside. Though he knows that Zhao will most definitely not stop being an ass until Shen Wei returns, he thinks it probably would not hurt to at least try to talk reasonably with the emotionally-compromised Chief.
He's pretty certain it's his duty as the Deputy to ensure no mutiny is to be happening anytime soon. Zhu Hong, Old Chu, Lin Jing, Gelan, heck even her boyfriend Sang, look about ready to beat the living daylights out of Zhao for all the rude and hurtful nonsense he's been spouting as of late, (when he's not too busy being a depressed mushroom) but unlike them, he'd been living for thousands of years maybe longer, perfecting self-control. He'd really prefer Zhao to stay in one piece.
Da Qing had grown to like Shen Wei, he would even say he's comfortable around the Professor, so he's pretty sure Shen Wei's going to be quite sad and disappointed to come back from the conference only to be greeted by a bruised and blooded Zhao Yunlan.
And brotherly love for Zhao aside, Da Qing is really looking forward to the souvenir presents Shen Wei promised, which will be impossible to achieve if Zhao had even one hair out of place. Because as much as the Professor dodges Zhao's advances, there is one thing that has been glaringly obvious in Da Qing's eyes since day one.
Shen Wei absolutely goes livid when Zhao manages to get hurt in any way, shape or form.
He still remembers the look in his eyes when Zhao had managed to scrape his arm from trying to save that Li Qian student. He looked like he was ready to wrap the Chief in cotton and stuff him in a box where he couldn't be hurt by the outside world. And when Zhao had been having nosebleeds because he kept messing around with the Hallows, more than once, Da Qing noticed the Professor visibly restrain himself, (amidst the verbal reprimand) like it was taking all of his self-control to not hug Zhao and make sure he is really okay to within an inch of his life.
Bewildering reaction yes, but Da Qing's been done trying to understand the nuances of human relationships years ago because it only ends up giving him headaches. All he knows is that, Shen Wei seems rather protective of Zhao and well, he'd really rather not get on the Professor's bad side if he could help it, threats of digging claws to faces notwithstanding.
Though to be honest, Da Qing's all for having one more person to look after Zhao because that man just doesn't have much self-preservation to speak of. Da Qing's actually surprised he lasted as long as he did in his line of work because he can be a complete self-sacrificing fool sometimes. He's crude and ill-tempered, filled to the brim with sarcasm and rude jokes but when it really matters he'd readily run to the line of fire, even if it might mean death to save an innocent life.
Da Qing uncrosses his arms and snaps his fingers in front of the Chief's face to get his attention. That seems to do the trick as Zhao's eyes find a point of focus that isn't his phone and is next dumbly looking up at Da Qing like he's just first seeing him.
The vacant expression is quickly wiped away as soon as Zhao seems to realize he's under scrutiny. The scruffy brunette jerks upright, hurriedly locking and holding the phone to his chest like a weapon. His eyes shift uneasily for a second or two before he clears his throat and straightens in his chair, projecting the perfect picture of a Department head. He shoots Da Qing a bored look, but there is no denying the flush of embarrassment on his cheeks because he's been caught with his head up in the clouds imagining god knows what about Shen Wei while gawking at his photo.
"Uhh," Zhao licks his lips, the ever present lollipop stick dangling from his pursed mouth. "You needed anything, damn cat?"
Well, he clearly didn't hear a thing of what Da Qing said going by that question.
Dat Fat Fuq sighs.
Hands coming up in the air, Da Qing looks up to the heavens, praying for strength. "Zhao Yunlan." he starts, directing the Chief with a somber look. "You do realize you've been an even bigger pain in the neck to us, your subordinates, the ones who actually love and respect you despite all the character defects pointing to the contrary, this past week right?"
When he's still met with nothing but silence, Da Qing adds scowling. "I know you miss Shen Wei. Everyone sees it. And we get it, we do. But you've been impossible to be around Lan Ge. When you're not being an asshole, you're being a recluse. And frankly, I fear for Guo. The kid looks one breath away from a nervous breakdown. That much fear and stress just by seeing you at a distance is not sustainable."
Zhao blinks, fidgets minutely in his seat and Da Qing is pleased to see hints of shamed self-awareness for the first time in days creep across the Chief's face. There's a definite wince. He looks faintly apologetic before he glances up to meet Da Qing's calm gaze.
Da Qing very rarely takes his position as Deputy seriously when dealing with Zhao, content of simply breezing along to whatever orders or rules the Chief has to give. He never challenges him, very rarely calls him out on his bad habits and less-than savory character traits, so the fact that he is doing that now, cornering him in the head room and acting like a mature responsible adult, Da Qing knows that Zhao knows he means business.
Zhao's lips quirk self-depreciatingly. "That bad huh?"
Da Qing vigorously nods.
Zhao sighs dejectedly and drops his forehead against the desk, but since Da Qing's seated directly in front of him, Zhao's face gets smushed against the cat lord's denim-clad thigh instead. He groans pitifully, and Da Qing's fingers twitch, fighting the strongest urge to run his fingers through Zhao's unruly black hair to comfort him. He can't get any lower than this. Here he is, King of Cats, at the top of the food chain, reduced to wanting to pet a human.
This brotherhood thing is such a nuisance.
He lets Zhao stew on his leg for a good minute before jerking his thigh and pushing the other man backwards with a finger on his forehead.
He sighs yet again.
Everyone in the Special Investigations Department is aware of how gone Zhao is for the Professor but even this level of depressed moping seems just a bit excessive. After all, he thinks, even with the distance, it shouldn't really be a problem on this technological day and age. Though Shen Wei only had a land-line, Zhao had bribed Da Qing to come with him to the mall to shop and wasted around 3 hours until he was sufficiently satisfied of the item he wanted. Zhao Yunlan had spent that day buying Shen Wei his own smartphone, loaded up his prepaid plan, all paid for from the Chief's own paycheck, and had handed the device to Shen Wei's startled gaze and slack grip before boarding the plane,
Something tingles at the back of Da Qing's neck. Shen Wei couldn't have ignored all of Zhao's calls this entire time. He has vivid recollections of Zhao stressing to Shen the importance of tapping the green call button. Da Qing never pegged the Professor to be the heartless type. Not to Zhao at least. He's seen how good he treats the Chief since day one.
He decides to test the waters.
"So any news from Shen Wei?" Da Qing asks haltingly. "Has he given you any updates about his stay there?"
He looks at Zhao's seemingly perpetual crestfallen expression, the way it seems to impossibly fall deeper still, with traces of worry and fear, for the Professor's safety most probably, (he's had too many close encounters with Dixingians for an ordinary human being) before rising to an abrupt flash of anger.
He guesses he would be a grumpy cat too if his perceived mate doesn't even bother to check up on him after painstakingly going through all the trouble of making sure their communications were open.
Its really all the answer Da Qing needs.
Yunlan storms out of the department building as soon as his shift is over, changing quick pleasantries with his subordinates, who, going by the conversation he's had with Da Qing that morning, currently wants to bury him with his head sticking out of the ground with how awful he'd been to them lately. Save for Guo whose eyes literally rolled to the back of his head when Yunlan had stalked over and placed a firm hand on his shoulder.
He swears he would make it up to them when he's a lot less angry and worried for one Professor Shen who is constantly turning him into a fretting, infuriated mess. Yunlan perches himself on his bike, engine sputtering to life and heads for home.
He's pissed. God he's still so pissed, and he can't even hate or blame Shen Wei because knowing the man, Yunlan had kind of expected he might have forgotten that he had a phone in his possession; had forgotten that Yunlan had made sure, though it was last minute, that they could still check up on each other even if they were a few continents apart.
He's a level-headed guy. He knows it's none of Shen Wei's fault, and the beautiful man clearly didn't promise Yunlan anything. And yet he just can't shake off the feeling that something bad has happened to Shen Wei, that somehow he's in danger and Yunlan can't come to his rescue. All the messages that Shen Wei was out of coverage area has been throwing him into a tizzy. He keeps having flashbacks of Shen Wei's close encounters with Dixingians, of what happened in the alley that night, how Shen Wei isn't the type to fight at all. He had given his wallet and his watch willingly and the gangsters had still wanted more. Had dared put their grubby hands by the skin of Shen Wei's pale throat which made Yunlan see red.
It's really pissing Yunlan off how he hasn't received any news and has no way to make sure if he's okay. For all he knows, Shen Wei could be choking on his blood in a ditch somewhere.
The horrifying thought has Yunlan abruptly killing his motorbike's engine as he hurriedly parks by the sidewalk. He suddenly can't seem to take a good breath in, hating his overactive imagination. He's grinding his molars painfully and has to will himself to stop. He rummages through his pockets until he finds a lollipop. After unwrapping it, he just about jams the sweet treat into his mouth, sucking on it earnestly like he would take fast puffs from a cigarette, needing something familiar and calming to keep him from screaming.
Shit, he's so wound up.
When he finally arrives at his apartment building and on his floor, he stops by Shen Wei's closed door and finds himself seriously contemplating whether breaking in to the man's home (again) would be considered a breach of privacy. It absolutely is. Who is he kidding. Besides it's not like he's still playing the pretense of investigating Shen Wei and trying to connect him to the serial murders that has been happening in Dragon City mainly because he wanted to be able to spend more time with the Professor. Putting it that way, Da Qing was right. He's such an opportunistic asshole.
Entering his apartment door, like clockwork, Yunlan gravitates toward the chair by the bed where Shen Wei's suit jacket, the one he'd forgotten and left the night before leaving for the conference, the same jacket that Shen Wei had asked if Yunlan had seen the morning of his departure to which Yunlan had conveniently said no, sat innocently enough and yet seems to be still beckoning him like a siren's call.
Yunlan picks up the jacket off the chair and sits on the bed. He takes a whiff, burying his nose by the collar of the cloth and is saddened to find that the smell of Shen Wei's cologne, of the distinct scent that is him, of sandalwood and lavender with hints of a sweet spicy musk that Yunlan can't quite place but has been addicted to all the same is nearly gone.
He groans loudly, tipping backwards on the unmade mattress, the jacket thrown over his face as he simply breathes deep, chasing the traces of Shen Wei's fragrance on the material. How is he going to survive another week without Shen Wei's scent on the only piece of item that has served as some form of solace for Yunlan in the place of its owner.
Yunlan for the life of him can't pinpoint a time when his crush turned to a near unhealthy case of obsession. Was it when Shen Wei had helped him in saving Li Qian (and saving him in the process) at the University rooftop? Or was it when Shen Wei nearly lost his life courtesy of the Dixing girl that can accelerate aging? Or maybe it was during the aftermath of the face-snatching Dixing boyfriend and girlfriend combo, seeing Shen Wei get out of the car, alive and well (though sporting a headache since the woman had apparently knocked him out cold) and Yunlan had been just so so relieved to see him relatively unharmed. Or maybe it was on their trip to the Hanga Mountains, sitting by Shen Wei's bedside and feeling like his heart was three times larger than what it should be as he gazed lovingly down at Shen Wei's pale face, IV drip in his arm after having fallen unconscious from one measly cup of alcohol.
There are a lot of tender moments in between the memories that he shares with Shen Wei. Smiles and glances heavily laden with something that neither of them seem brave enough to give a name to, holding entire silent conversations with just one look.
Despite only knowing each other for several weeks, three months at most, they already had a tried and tested pattern when investigating cases, working so good together like a well-oiled machine as if they've known each other for thousands of years.
Yunlan has never been short of always showing and telling Shen Wei how much he appreciates all he's done for the team and for Yunlan, of how much he is adored. Yunlan thinks he'll never tire of showering the Professor with daily compliments from his beauty to the clothes he's wearing.
Shen Wei keeps dodging his affections however, and has more than once in no uncertain terms told Yunlan how he can only ever treat him as a friend. Nothing more. So he can stop the courting now. And yet Shen Wei seems to always take care of him, patching up his wounds after cases when he's managed to hurt himself (again), getting mad when Yunlan acts like a careless fool, sporting unflattering nosebleeds, (he still hasn't returned Shen Wei's handkerchief), or simply just listening with rapt attention to whatever Yunlan has to say as if Shen Wei is the planet orbiting Yunlan, the sun. Frankly, he's giving him whiplash.
The times that Yunlan manages to pull a bashful little shy smile, cheeks turning a pale pinkish hue from the pretty scholar, whether it be just from plain flirting or that he's said or done something that Shen Wei deems of high praise, Yunlan has to do his hardest to not just say fuck it and pull the slighter man in his embrace, cup his cheeks, trace the line of his smile and kiss him senseless.
Yunlan believes with all that he is that they would compliment each other so well if Shen Wei would just give him a chance. They're quite literally a perfect match. So perfect in fact that everybody in the office has a collective agreement about him and Shen Wei being the mom and dad to the children that is the employees at SID.
Shen Wei likes him more than a friend, he knows it, sees it in the warmth of his eyes when he thinks Yunlan is not paying attention, in the way his fingers linger on Yunlan's skin when attending to his scrapes and cuts. So why? Why can't he just come out and say that he feels the same way too and put them both out of their misery? He doesn't understand it.
Yunlan kicks at the air childishly, grunting and moaning his frustrations out to no one in particular and nearly falls painfully on his ass when his front pocket goes vibrating like crazy, followed by the ringtone that he'd specifically set up for Shen Wei suddenly blasting in the silence of the room.
He slides comically all the way down to the floor, fishing the phone out of his pants pocket as if its a matter of life and death. He looks down at his mobile, mouth dropping open in shocked happiness before a huge grin is next splitting up across his face as he sees Shen Wei's contact photo and the contact name "My Xiao Wei" flashing on the screen.
Yunlan forces himself to dial down the giddy excitement that he feels. He can't sound too happily desperate to finally hear Shen Wei's voice after a whole week of nothing. He has a reputation to maintain as the Chief of the SID after all. Whatever is left of it anyway after the whole department had seen their sorry-excuse-of-a-Chief pining pathetically for their consultant.
He clears his throat and presses answer. "Hello?" he says as if distracted.
There's only silence on the other line, and Yunlan forgets to breathe for the whole three seconds that follows until Shen Wei's hesitant, "Zhao Yunlan?" goes through loud and clear.
Yunlan releases the breath he doesnt remember holding. "Oh, yeah. Speaking. Shen Wei?" he asks as if there's a chance he couldn't recognize Shen Wei's voice anywhere. Maybe even with a strong wind whipping in the background along a highway.
"Did I catch you at a bad time?"
No time is a bad time for you babe. And what the hell took you so long?
"Oh no. I just actually got home so I was simply sitting on the bed, contemplating cleaning my room." He says nonchalantly, turning around and leaning against the edge of the bed. His gaze settles on the various stuff littering his floor, and the unwashed dishes on the sink. He hasn't done his laundry so he's running out of things to wear and yeah, if Shen Wei were here he'd most likely be chastising Yunlan for being such a messy slob. "It's kind of a mess."
The SID Chief can almost feel Shen Wei's disapproval through the phone lines.
"Have you been taking care of yourself?"
Yunlan is intimately familiar with that judging tone, like Shen Wei is questioning what he did wrong in his past life to deserve being stuck with a man as irresponsible as Zhao Yunlan.
"Errr... not exactly." Yunlan reluctantly admits. "I've been busy." Thinking about you, Yunlan doesn't say.
And still he wonders why Shen Wei doesn't consider him as a suitable suitor. Shen Wei probably sees the train wreck that is being in a relationship with one Zhao Yunlan and decided he doesn't want the headache.
There's no immediate reply that for a second Yunlan has to strain to hear anything on the line. Then he hears a gust of breath as if Shen Wei is trying to maintain some level of control and is doing calming, breathing exercises.
It doesn't work.
"Have you not been eating well, you fool?" Shen Wei's voice merely rises a notch though its already practically an explosion for the usually reserved scholar. "I swear to all that is holy if you've been forgetting to eat on time again, I'm going to hit you as soon as I'm back. You have gastritis you overgrown child, how many times do I have to tell you-"
Just when Yunlan thinks he may give the idea of giving up his courting of the Professor some consideration, Shen Wei suddenly says such ridiculously warm and cute things that makes Yunlan's pathetic little heart flutter in his chest and really, how is he supposed to believe that Shen Wei only ever wants to be friends when he already acts so much like a doting and worrying, exasperated husband whenever Yunlan forgets to take care of himself.
"...of all the reckless, irresponsible things that you do. Don't make me kick you in front of your employees."
"Yes, dear." Yunlan replies instantly, trying and failing to hold in his laughter which he knows is not the best reaction to Shen Wei legitimately fretting over Yunlan's continued health. It's mean to make light of Shen Wei's worry for him, but he's too cute for his own good in that moment and Yunlan is only human.
God how he loves this man.
Yunlan almost forgets how miserable he'd been the past seven days.
"Zhao Yunlan, stop laughing." Shen Wei says dryly.
Yunlan forces himself to sober up, delicately wiping a tear at the corner of his eye. He smiles, soft and doting and just stupidly inlove. "You can always cook for me and feed me again when you return."
"I still have a week left." Shen Wei informs him, and now that Yunlan is fully paying attention, his initial giddiness mellowing down, he can hear a tired note in Shen Wei's voice. He sounds exhausted. Yunlan quickly rises to his feet and dives for his bed, clutching Shen Wei's suit jacket with his left hand to his chest, the phone pressed against his right ear. He makes himself comfortable. Doesn't want to miss a single word that Shen Wei has to say.
Shen Wei probably barely had time for anything else while on the conference. Yunlan suddenly feels guilty for throwing a temper tantrum the whole week.
"I'm sorry." Shen Wei says, voice sorely apologetic as if reading his mind.
Yunlan swallows past a lump in his throat. "What for?" he asks even though he fully knows what Shen Wei is referring to. "I don't remember anything you did wrong to warrant an apology."
"Don't try to be cute with me. You know what for." Shen Wei says, elegantly calling Yunlan out on his passive-aggressive bullshit. "It's been hectic. And I never had the chance to take out and charge the phone you gave me. I didn't remember where I put the device, not used to having it on hand, until the fifth day. I had to ask for help from a colleague to figure out how to navigate the phone. It took a day in between all the meetings for me to have a sufficient grasp on how the basic call function works. You know I know nothing about electronics. I initially couldn't figure out for myself how to get to the green call button you kept stressing about." Shen Wei pauses, sounding a bit out of breath, making Yunlan wonder, has he been getting enough sleep at all? "Then I saw all your 87 missed calls and I hated the thought of you probably going crazy wondering if I was mugged and dead in a ditch somewhere. I called as soon as I'm able."
Yunlan listens, stunned at the man's words. Just how familiar is Shen Wei with his thought pattern? Wasn't Yunlan just thinking of the exact same horrible scene earlier in the night? Is he really that transparent?
"That sounds oddly accurate." Yunlan mutters.
He absolutely does not melt at the fact Shen Wei immediately called him, worried for his mental health, upon realizing Yunlan's been bombarding his call log.
"It hasn't been that long ago since you saved me from getting robbed in that alley and afterwards kept insisting that I have Old Chu as a bodyguard 24/7 like some delicate flower."
Yunlan winces. Huh. So he's still not over that.
"Hey, don't get mad at me. I was just worried about you. If I hadn't passed by that night, who knows what would have happened." Yunlan says, his tone playful even if his chest twists painfully at the thought of what if he didn't in fact pass by that night. It bears no thinking.
Yunlan changes the subject. "Shouldn't you be sleeping right now?"
There's a rustle on the other line and Yunlan wonders if Shen Wei is also already in his hotel room, getting ready to sleep for the night.
"I could say the same for you." Shen Wei returns.
"I'm in bed." Yunlan says and is about to make some perverted joke about them cuddling under the sheets but his words dissolve into a rather big yawn. Just listening to the soft cadence of Shen Wei's voice is already making all the stress and anxiety he's been carrying all week pour out of his body and float into the ether.
He feels relaxed. At peace.
"You should sleep, Yunlan." Shen Wei says, voice low and soothing as if he's speaking to a newborn.
Yunlan shakes his head slowly and promptly feels silly because it's not like Shen Wei can see the action. "I still want to talk to you." he says, eyes fluttering close. "I missed you."
"You sound tired."
Yunlan snorts. Yes, he's tired but it's the nice sort of tired now that he knows Shen Wei is safe. He's lying down on his bed, body comfortably sinking against the mattress with Shen Wei's barely there scent in his nose and his soft voice in Yunlan's ears. There's nowhere else he'd rather be right now.
"So do you." Yunlan says, lips curving into a pout despite his already half-asleep state. "Why dont you say it?"
Silence, then. "Say what?"
The SID Chief huffs faintly. "You know what I mean."
There's more silence this time.
Yunlan patiently waits for Shen Wei to say the words, stubbornly holding onto the waking world as he comes in and out of sleep. A small part of him is annoyed and bewildered why of all the times, it has to be now that he can't seem to stay awake for Shen Wei.
He nearly misses it when the Professor speaks, low and gentle, warm like the feel of a lover's embrace, the deep silky tone of his voice reverberating in his bones, like a lullaby pulling Yunlan to a dreamless and restful slumber.
"I missed you too, Yunlan."
Yunlan falls asleep with a smile on his face, missing the rest of Shen Wei's tender, heartfelt words. "Good night my love."