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taste (you on my lips)

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Zhao Yunlan is used to seeing Shen Wei buttoned up to perfection. He’s pretty sure that he can count the number of times he’s seen Shen Wei with his sleeves rolled up on one hand and still have fingers to spare. So when a student directs Zhao Yunlan up to the roof when he asks for Shen Wei’s whereabouts, he’s not expecting to find Shen Wei leaning back against the railing, looking more dishevelled than Zhao Yunlan has ever seen him. His sleeves are haphazardly rolled up, his collar is unbuttoned by at least two or three buttons, and his vest is undone. His hair is ruffled like he’s been running his hands through it, maybe even pulling at it, and his glasses are nowhere to be found. And what more, he’s holding a cigarette.

He stops and stares as Shen Wei raises the cigarette to his mouth and takes a long pull from it. The smoke that leaves his mouth a second later is nothing short of mesmerizing.

Then Shen Wei is opening his eyes and looking right at him. He takes another pull from the cigarette before tapping off the embers into an ashtray by his elbow, all without looking away from Zhao Yunlan.

“Zhao Yunlan.”

“Shen Wei.”

“Were you looking for me?”

Zhao Yunlan can’t keep his eyes from flicking to where Shen Wei’s fingers are curled around the end of the cigarette.

“Yeah,” he says when he finally remembers to speak. “Just wanted to check on you, considering how the case wrapped up.”

Shen Wei’s mouth goes thin.

Things have been different since Zhao Yunlan made Shen Wei reveal himself. Shen Wei is more open around Zhao Yunlan now, but only with Zhao Yunlan. The SID still doesn’t know that Professor Shen is the one hiding behind Hei Pao Shi’s mask. Personally, Zhao Yunlan is looking forward to Chu Shuzhi’s reaction, but that’s a matter for the future.

And yet, it also feels like Shen Wei is keeping more from him. He’s freer with his words in a professional capacity, but in still feels like something else is holding him back. Zhao Yunlan wishes he knew what it was so he could pluck that mask from Shen Wei’s face as well.

Their previous case wasn’t a particularly tough one, but Zhao Yunlan may have thrown himself into danger when he strictly didn’t need to. But if he can take a shot meant for someone else, especially someone on his team, then he will. And considering the Dixingren’s power seemed to cause a far stronger reaction in Dixingren than in Haixingren, Zhao Yunlan doesn’t regret stepping between Chu Shuzhi and the blow. When the choice is between getting knocked out for a few hours and for Chu Shuzhi to be feeling the effects for at least a couple of days, Zhao Yunlan will always choose the former.

Shen Wei, though, was visibly displeased when Zhao Yunlan saw him after the fact. He came in just at the right time to see Zhao Yunlan take the hit. Zhao Yunlan doesn’t remember much after that. He woke up on the couch at SID Headquarters, feeling a little like a truck ran him over. Shen Wei, still dressed as Hei Pao Shi, lingered just long enough to give the SID a run-down of the Dixingren’s power and motivation before disappearing into a portal that somehow felt colder than usual. The way the team eyed him afterwards was enough to let Zhao Yunlan know he wasn’t the only one that noticed Hei Pao Shi’s unusual behaviour.

“I am well.” The way Shen Wei is looking at him feels like a physical caress, like he’s trying to check Zhao Yunlan for injuries without asking him to get undressed first. “And yourself?”

“Same, fine.”

Shen Wei doesn’t look like he believes him. He takes a long drag from the cigarette instead and lets it out, all without looking away from Zhao Yunlan.

Zhao Yunlan thinks he’s gotten less heated looks from people actively trying to hit him up, and he doesn’t even think Shen Wei’s trying to seduce him. He’s just quietly smoking, dressed more scandalously than Zhao Yunlan has ever seen him. It’s enough to make Zhao Yunlan’s mouth feel dry and desperate for anything to fill it.

He nods at the cigarette in Shen Wei’s hand. “Can I have a drag?”

Shen Wei frowns. “Smoking is hazardous, Yunlan.”

Zhao Yunlan arches an eyebrow. “Really?”

“I do not smoke,” Shen Wei says even as he raises the cigarette to his mouth.

Zhao Yunlan looks pointedly between Shen Wei’s eyes and his hand. “Uh-huh.”

When Shen Wei sighs, a thin trail of smoke escapes him. He lowers his hand and lets the cigarette dangle almost precariously between two fingers. “It is...a stress response.”

“So, you’re stressed?”

“Very.” Shen Wei places the last of the cigarette into the ashtray and reaches up to start rubbing at the back of his neck. The tension is oozing off of him in waves.

Zhao Yunlan ambles over to lean back against the railing beside him, keeping one eye on Shen Wei to make sure his presence isn’t unwelcome.

Shen Wei is looking back at him. While his shoulders remain tense, he’s not angling himself away from Zhao Yunlan and hasn’t tensed up further. He lowers his hand instead and slips it into his pocket.

The scent that clings to Shen Wei’s clothes is a familiar one. Zhao Yunlan is more used to smelling it in the dingy bars he used to frequent and on himself before he quit the habit. It’s nostalgic in the best and worst way. It’s difficult not to close his eyes and simply breathe it in.

“Tell me your woes, then,” he offers. “Let me lighten the burden.”

Shen Wei is silent for a long moment. He moves his jaw in a way Zhao Yunlan doesn’t think he’s ever seen before. The tightness around his eyes speaks of a deep-seated frustration.

“There is a person in my life,” Shen Wei says finally, surprising him, “that does their best to ensure that my life is very stressful.”

Zhao Yunlan tries to keep himself from frowning openly. He’s a little ashamed to say that too many people come to mind, and that’s if it’s even someone that Zhao Yunlan knows.

“Is this person worth keeping around, then? If they cause you so much stress, I mean.”

Shen Wei just keeps looking at him. His expression is heavy in a way it rarely is unless he’s wearing his Hei Pao Shi robes. It makes Zhao Yunlan’s breath catch, just a little.

The tension between him and Shen Wei is nothing new. It’s existed practically since their first meeting – when Shen Wei looked at him with something indescribable in his eyes. If Zhao Yunlan thinks back, he can almost feel Shen Wei’s hand still clasped around his. No one has ever made such a strong impression on him, not on their first meeting or even their twentieth. What Shen Wei makes him feel is, in one word, unique.

Shen Wei looks him right in the eyes as he says, “I would not trade them for the world.”

Zhao Yunlan swallows.

Shen Wei’s eyes flicker to watch the movement.

He can’t be wrong about this. He can’t be. At the same time, it’s a little hard to believe that they have been through so much together and that Shen Wei, for some reason, still hasn’t made a move. Short of bending over, Zhao Yunlan has done everything he can to tell Shen Wei that he’s interested. No, that word doesn’t cut it. What Shen Wei makes him feel is something far more than simple interest. Shen Wei has slipped into the cracks of Zhao Yunlan’s heart and helped him realise what it means to feel whole. He can only hope that Shen Wei feels the same.

Zhao Yunlan decides to take a gamble. They’ve danced around the topic long enough, surely. “I think you should tell this person how you feel.”

Shen Wei tilts his head ever so slightly. His open collar is terribly distracting. Zhao Yunlan is torn between wanting to pull the collar further apart and bite at Shen Wei’s collarbones, and buttoning him up on the off-chance of someone else walking in and seeing Shen Wei like this.

“Zhao Yunlan,” Shen Wei murmurs, and Zhao Yunlan actually stops breathing. “I would not trade you for the world, but your recklessness and inability to listen is a great cause of stress in my life.” He flashes a hint of something that could perhaps be called a smile. “I would appreciate it if you could perhaps reconsider a few things.”

“Reconsider?” The word comes out far rougher than he intends it. Zhao Yunlan clears his throat and tries again. “Reconsider what?”

The hand dangling off the railing twitches slightly, like Shen Wei wants to curl it into a fist but is stopping himself for some reason. Zhao Yunlan wants to reach out and take Shen Wei’s hand in his, maybe rub his thumb along Shen Wei’s knuckles and see if it will soothe him a little.

“Whether all the risks you insist on taking are truly necessary.”

Zhao Yunlan folds his arms over his chest and leans in until their shoulders are almost brushing. He looks at Shen Wei through his eyelashes as he says, “Aren’t you being a little hypocritical, Hei Lao-ge?”

Shen Wei doesn’t so much as blink. “I have a duty to Dixing.”

Zhao Yunlan shrugs. “Just as I have a duty to Haixing.”

Shen Wei moves his shoulders in something that looks like a silent sigh. “Then it seems we are at an impasse.”

Zhao Yunlan nods. He leans closer and brushes their shoulders together. “We could always promise to do better, together.”

Shen Wei looks at him with lidded eyes. It’s almost disastrous to see him looking like that, especially paired with how he’s dressed. Zhao Yunlan doesn’t know how he’s meant to recover from this, or if he even can.

“You know, I’m not used to seeing you like this.”

Shen Wei’s mouth curls faintly in the corners. He pulls his hand out of his pocket to start fixing his sleeve. Zhao Yunlan would be sorrier for pointing it out if Shen Wei had been tugging them down rather than rolling them up properly. “Do not get used to it.”

“Why? Are you always buttoned-up at home too?”

Shen Wei pauses in the middle of fixing his sleeve. He turns towards Zhao Yunlan so quickly that Zhao Yunlan almost stumbles into him without Shen Wei’s shoulder there to lean on. They are so close that Zhao Yunlan swears he can hear Shen Wei breathing. And he doesn’t stop there. Zhao Yunlan’s mouth almost drops open when Shen Wei reaches up to rub his thumb over Zhao Yunlan’s bristles. “Would you care to find out?”

Zhao Yunlan sucks in a breath. “Hei Lao-ge. So you can flirt.”

Shen Wei strokes his thumb over Zhao Yunlan’s bottom lip next. “When the occasion calls for it.”

Zhao Yunlan almost doesn’t want to speak in fear of dislodging Shen Wei’s thumb. “And the occasion called for it?”

“Yes.” Shen Wei moves his hand to cup Zhao Yunlan’s chin. “Zhao Yunlan. May I kiss you?”

Zhao Yunlan can’t help the way he licks his lips. He can’t think of anything he wants more. “Not afraid that I’ll start craving cigarettes again if you do?”

There’s something that can only be called a smirk tugging at Shen Wei’s lips. “I am confident I can keep you too occupied to think of smoking.”

If Shen Wei keeps this up, Zhao Yunlan’s going to get hard before they’ve even kissed. And that just won’t do.

Zhao Yunlan leans in and presses his mouth to Shen Wei’s. Shen Wei tastes of nicotine and something else, something deeper that Zhao Yunlan can’t quite put his finger on. All he can say is that he likes it – wants more of it, even. Though that could just stem from the fact that he’s kissing Shen Wei. Shen Wei, who is kissing him like someone gave him a manual on the best way to reduce Zhao Yunlan to a puddle.

Shen Wei’s other hand makes itself at home on Zhao Yunlan’s hip, fingertips digging in like he knows exactly how Zhao Yunlan likes it. Zhao Yunlan can’t be blamed for throwing his arms around Shen Wei’s shoulders after that, and not just to chase after the taste on his tongue. Nicotine has never tasted sweeter than paired with Shen Wei’s kiss.

Zhao Yunlan is breathing heavier when Shen Wei separates their mouths. He desperately wants to lean back in and keep kissing until all they can taste is each other. He buries his fingers into the short hairs at the back of Shen Wei’s nape and forces himself not to start tugging. It’s probably better to wait with things like that until Zhao Yunlan knows Shen Wei welcomes it – and until they’re technically not in public anymore. But all the same...

“You’re going to have to distract me a lot more than that to stop me from thinking about smoking,” Zhao Yunlan tells him, only lying a little. He wants to lean closer and keep chasing after the nicotine on Shen Wei’s tongue.

“No worries, Yunlan,” Shen Wei says, breath fanning over Zhao Yunlan’s lips. “I have you well in hand.”

And Shen Wei wastes no time in proving it.