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softly, you tread (into my heart)

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Podfic Length: 0:08:14
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Zhao Yunlan can’t sleep that night.

A part of it’s due to the events of the day. The emotional rollercoaster of finally, finally getting his sight back, from anticipation to disappointment to delight. Even the multitude of reports he no longer has a reason to put off can’t put a damper on his buoyant mood.

But if that had been all, he’d have welcomed sweet somnolence a long time ago. One did not become the head of the SID without the ability to set the events of the day aside, and Zhao Yunlan had long mastered the art of falling asleep at the drop of a hat.

No, the reason why he’s still grudgingly awake after such a tiring day is standing in the middle of his living room, staring at him so intently that Zhao Yunlan can feel goosebumps breaking out over his arms. It’s all he can do to pretend to be asleep and hope like hell that Shen Wei’s powers don’t include a fake unconsciousness detector of some kind, because this staring has gone on for so long it’s bypassed ‘awkward’ and taken a nose-dive into ‘creepy’ territory.

He has no idea why Shen Wei’s doing this, all of a sudden. Nothing’s changed between them, as far as he can tell. Dinner was the same as usual, yet another of Shen Wei’s sumptuous home-cooked meals, comprising four dishes and a soup like there’s someone he’s trying to impress.

Well, Zhao Yunlan’s the only person present, and colour him impressed all right.

No, he doesn’t recall anything special happening during dinner. Zhao Yunlan had retired to bed a while ago, pushing his luck with Shen Wei as he always did, but Shen Wei simply turned to the sink to do the washing up without a single grumble. He’s so accepting of the whole matter that it’s starting to make even someone as notoriously shameless as Zhao Yunlan feel guilty about it.

He’ll help Shen Wei the next time, Zhao Yunlan promises silently, and lets himself be soothed into a light doze to the soft sounds of cleaning coming from the kitchen.

He can’t say what woke him, at first.

The lights are still on, he notes through his closed eyelids. Shen Wei must be still around; he always turns the lights out when he leaves. But the apartment is eerily silent – no clatter of dishes in the sink, no rasp of a broom against the floor, no squelch of a rag against the table.

Zhao Yunlan almost opens his eyes to check, but all his senses are on high alert, screaming at him danger, danger

There’s an intent gaze boring into his side, and Zhao Yunlan only knows of one person with that kind of laser focus. He’s seen hints of it, now and then, but Shen Wei has always dredged up a harmless smile and turned away whenever he realises that he’s been spotted. Zhao Yunlan can’t help but wonder what he’d do if he thinks there’s no one watching, and so he keeps his eyes shut and his breathing even.

Come on, Shen Wei. Show me what you’re hiding.

He’s almost fallen back asleep when finally, he hears the softest of creaks.

Zhao Yunlan is wide awake in an instant. An outsider would probably have dismissed it as just ambient noise, but he’s lived in this apartment for the past eight years, and he knows every floorboard.

On their own, Shen Wei’s footsteps are inaudible, but the groan of the panels under his feet give him away. Zhao Yunlan tracks his passage through the apartment by those noises, until he can determine Shen Wei’s route: he’s approaching the bed.

Zhao Yunlan is suddenly seized with indecision: should he open his eyes? Continue faking unconsciousness? Reach for a weapon ?

A shadow falls over his closed eyes, and before Zhao Yunlan could react, he feels soft lips brushing over his cheek, like the gossamer touch of a butterfly, there and gone again.

His eyes snapping open, Zhao Yunlan snags Shen Wei’s wrist and turns his face to meet Shen Wei’s lips in a proper kiss.

Shen Wei’s eyes are huge in his face, his face so pale he’s like a statue carved out of white ivory, completely motionless except for the rabbiting of his pulse under Zhao Yunlan’s fingers.

Zhao Yunlan considers his response. Here’s where he’d normally say something purposely trite like, ‘Gotten lost on your way out, Professor Shen?’ or something even more shameless like, ‘ Does Professor Shen need a hands-on tutorial on kissing? Then you’ve come to the right guy!

But somehow, Zhao Yunlan feels that none of his usual deflection strategies would be a good idea here. They’ve been dancing around this something since the first day they met, and he is just so tired of the three steps forward, two steps back pattern that they’ve been engaged in.

“Xiao Wei.”

Shen Wei doesn’t answer. Zhao Yunlan is not sure he’s even breathing.

“That diminutive... it means something to you,” he probes.

This time, he can hear Shen Wei’s throat work on a swallow.

“... yes,” Shen Wei finally whispers.

A name given by a long-deceased family member, Zhao Yunlan deduces. Or... someone who meant something more, once upon a time.

It had stopped Shen Wei in his tracks when he’d been about to kill Ya Qing. Zhao Yunlan hadn’t been able to see his face at the time, but even someone from Haixing like him could feel the dark energy gathering in Shen Wei’s hand, like a brewing storm ready to be unleashed.

Truth be told, he didn’t even know why he’d said that in the first place, but it just sounded like the right thing to say. Zhao Yunlan has made it a habit to listen to his gut feelings – and it had been right . The oppressive feeling had vanished almost immediately, like Shen Wei had been so stunned that he couldn’t even keep his scythe manifested.

Using Shen Wei’s hand as a counter-weight, Zhao Yunlan sits up, propping one foot on the bed.

“Shen Wei, ah, Shen Wei.”

Shen Wei says nothing, nor does he make a move to struggle free, his arm hanging limply in Zhao Yunlan’s grip.

“Surely you didn’t think you’d need to wait until I was asleep to steal a kiss?” Zhao Yunlan asks rhetorically, intentionally hitting the target off-centre. “Don’t tell me you haven’t figured out that I’ve been flirting with you?”

He’s rewarded a few seconds later when Shen Wei blinks and offers him a tentative smile, like he thinks Zhao Yunlan will let it go again this time.

Zhao Yunlan doesn’t.

“You’re hiding something from me,” he accuses bluntly, studying the emotions playing out across Shen Wei’s face. Guilt, he expects, a tiny hint of shame, and a longing so intense it makes even Zhao Yunlan’s black little heart stutter – but no flash of malice.

There are two paths laid out in front of Zhao Yunlan that he can see: he can either let Shen Wei go, upon which Shen Wei will leave, and pretend this has never happened – or he can take a leap of faith.

Let it never be said that Zhao Yunlan is a coward.

Shen Wei has his head bowed, as though he is awaiting Zhao Yunlan’s verdict, and the irony of the Black-Cloaked Envoy in this position is not lost upon him.

“But that’s all right!” he declares, his tone intentionally pitched at a ridiculously cheerful drawl, because he will never tire of watching Shen Wei’s reactions. “I trust that whatever you’re hiding, Brother Black, it’s not something detrimental to Haixing?”

“I would never –” Shen Wei affirms, his tone full of affront, not a single hint of deceit in his voice, and the last of Zhao Yunlan’s reservations fall away.

“Which is why –” Zhao Yunlan grins roguishly, just to watch Shen Wei blink and his mind almost visibly change tracks “– the next time you want a kiss, you can just ask.”

The smile on Shen Wei’s face is the sweetest thing Zhao Yunlan has ever seen.