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For Good Health

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The whole thing began as a joke, something Shen Wei had intended as a private laugh with his husband.

He realized his mistake mere seconds after making it.

“Ah, Shen Wei, you spoil me,” Zhao Yunlan said. “Let me put it on and we can have our date night.”

If Shen Wei hadn’t been distracted by Zhao Yunlan’s exposed chest, he might have reacted sooner, but it wasn’t until Zhao Yunlan had the new shirt buttoned that Shen Wei realized what had happened.

“You’re wearing that. Out.” He’d meant to pose it as a question, but maybe his mind knew there was no point in asking. The fact that Zhao Yunlan had fixed his hair from where he’d mussed it pulling off his old shirt was confirmation enough that the new one was staying.

“Of course. My loving husband bought it for me. I’ll wear it with pride.”

“You don’t have to…” Shen Wei began, not quite sure where he was going. He had been the one to buy the shirt, a white button-up a broccoli print. It was supposed to be a reminder to eat more vegetables and stop sneaking the foods that set off Zhao Yunlan’s gastritis. Shen Wei had expected Zhao Yunlan to whine or pout or beg for noodles, not wear the shirt out in public.

“I know I don’t have to. But I want to! Now let’s hurry. The sooner we leave, the sooner you can take me home.”

“And get you out of it,” Shen Wei answered. Lost in regret over his decision to buy the damn shirt, he hadn’t meant for the words to sound suggestive. But Zhao Yunlan was smirking at him in a way that made Shen Wei forget about anything but getting them both stripped down.

Later, when they’d left the bed so he could cook them a late-night dinner, Shen Wei thought that would be the end of it.

But it wasn’t.

Zhao Yunlan kept wearing the shirt. He wore it to work, where he was ridiculed mercilessly by the rest of the SID staff.

“Maybe you should bring him a new one,” Da Qing said when he called Shen Wei at home. He’d left work early, claiming to be ‘sick’ to avoid a meeting with the chancellor. “Lin Jing’s getting downright brutal.”

What choice did Shen Wei have but to rescue his husband? He arrived with a new shirt, one he helped Zhao Yunlan put on. Eventually. If it them took half an hour, that was their own business. (The walls of Zhao Yunlan’s office might not have done much to muffle sound, but Shen Wei had a power for that.)

It was a power that proved useful a week later when Zhao Yunlan arrived at Shen Wei’s university office, wearing the shirt with no jacket to conceal it.

“I spilled something on it,” Zhao Yunlan said, pointing at fabric that appeared free from stains. “I know you keep a spare in your office. Can I borrow it?”

Shen Wei knew he should say no, but Zhao Yunlan licked his lips and so, for the first time ever, Professor Shen’s office hours were cancelled.

As they (thoroughly) tested the structural integrity of the office desk, Shen Wei reminded himself that he needed to confiscate the shirt before this became a regular occurrence. Then Zhao Yunlan did something with his tongue that shut down Shen Wei’s rational thought for the rest of the afternoon.

Zhao Yunlan even wore the damn thing on a trip to Dixing that Shen Wei had tried and failed to prevent.

“Let me go with you,” Zhao Yunlan begged.  “I miss you when you're gone plus you need someone to distract the Regent. I’ll keep him occupied while you audit his accounts.”

Shen Wei hated to admit it, but the tactic worked. The Regent kept his eyes off the Envoy and on the Lord Guardian’s shirt. If he was being honest, Shen Wei didn’t like the way the old man was staring at his husband. But at least they were able to leave Dixing faster since the Regent wasn’t there to get in his way.

If, in a fit of what Shen Wei would never admit was jealousy, he portalled them directly to their bedroom, well, Zhao Yunlan hadn’t complained.

It was three days later, when Shen Wei had gone shopping alone, that he realized there was a problem.

“You’re back early!” Zhao Yunlan beamed when Shen Wei stepped through their door emptyhanded. “It’s a good thing. I missed you so much I was about to put on my favorite shirt and go looking for you.”

“Hand it over,” Shen Wei demanded.

“Hand what over?”

“The shirt. Give it to me.” He hated that he sounded stern but the situation had to be dealt with.

“Why?”

“Because you’re not allowed to wear it anymore.”

“Why not?”

“Because it’s causing problems. I bought it as a joke. I didn’t think you’d actually wear it. And now every time that you do… anyway, it’s time to get rid of it.”

“Oh.” All the light faded from Zhao Yunlan’s face. “I’ll go dig it out of the hamper.”

He sounded so defeated that Shen Wei reached for him before he could leave.

“That’s not… I don’t mean… it’s just…” Shen Wei had to be honest. Zhao Yunlan already had the wrong idea and the situation needed to be fixed. But that didn’t mean he was looking forward to the reaction he knew he would get. “There was an incident. While I was out shopping.”

“Oh? What kind of incident?” That tone meant trouble and Shen Wei knew it. “What could possibly have happened to my dear, sweet, sexy husband that would make him come home ready to take back my most favorite gift from him?”

The beginning of a smile was dancing at the corners of Zhao Yunlan’s lips. Shen Wei wanted to kiss it. But that would only delay the inevitable.

“We were out of fresh vegetables,” Shen Wei began, trying to steel himself for what was coming. “I went to buy more. And while I was looking at the broccoli… I had a reaction.”

“A reaction,” Zhao Yunlan said. He leveled an insufferable grin at Shen Wei. “That’s rather vague. What kind of reaction?”

“A… biological one.”

“I see,” Zhao Yunlan leered. “And this biological reaction was so severe that you had to leave without buying any food. That sounds serious. You can’t leave something like that untreated, Shen Wei. Maybe you need someone to take a look at it. We could get you to the hospital or—”

Shen Wei cut off Zhao Yunlan’s teasing with a kiss, grabbing him by the shoulders to back him toward their bedroom. If Zhao Yunlan was so worried about the situation, he could take care of it. After all, it was, sort of, his fault.

“If it’s really causing problems, I can stop wearing it,” Zhao Yunlan offered a couple of hours later. They were sitting in bed, eating a delivered takeaway meal. Shen Wei knew he should object but it wasn’t like the sheets weren’t going to need a wash anyway. “You probably regret buying it for me.”

Shen Wei considered this as he chewed his food.

“No. There are times when I find it distracting. But I don’t regret buying it. You wear it so often that I imagine I’ll soon become desensitized to it.” Shen Wei wasn’t sure he believed that, but he wanted to reassure Zhao Yunlan.

“Hmm.” Zhao Yunlan slowly shoved a bite of broccoli in his mouth and Shen Wei began to choke. Zhao Yunlan gave him a slap on the back. “You know,” he said when he’d swallowed the broccoli, “maybe you went about this all wrong. I mean, the point was to get me to eat healthy, right? So maybe we need to reverse things – let you wear the shirt for a while.”

“You want me to…” A horrible image, one of Shen Wei standing in front of a crowded lecture hall wearing the awful shirt, flashed through his mind. “No. I refuse.”

“But, Shen Wei, think about it. This could completely change my attitude toward vegetables. I understand that you have your sense of style to think about, but now the sight of broccoli makes you want to come home and rail me. If you were to wear it enough—”

“I’ll need to buy a new one. Yours is too tight for my shoulders and it can only survive a few more trips through the wash.”

So what if the broccoli shirt was hideous? Weren’t professors meant to be eccentric? Besides, Shen Wei had plenty of suits that could cancel out the shirt’s garishness. And even if they didn’t, it was a sacrifice he was willing to make for Zhao Yunlan’s health.