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September Song

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Guo Changcheng's POV:

The crime scene was relatively quiet with the only noise coming from the police officers and the SID agents that milled about. Two of the SID agents were currently combing through the mess on the ground, while the other two stood off to the side, managing.

Guo Changcheng, who just so happened to be one of the ones supervising, watched silently as the other agents worked. He already had an idea of what they would find and he was hopeful they would figure it out on their own.

It hit something deep in his heart seeing their interactions and briefly Guo Changcheng looked away. His gaze skated over to Chu Shuzhi who stood opposite of him, the other man’s expression stern, those strong arms of his crossed. Much like him, Chu Shuzhi's attention was primarily focused on the newbies and what they were doing. Attention that was probably frightening, all things told, or so it had felt when Guo Changcheng had once been as painfully new as they were.

He smiled slightly at those thoughts before his wandering attention snapped back to Chu-ge when the other man shifted slightly. He found Chu Shuzhi already looking at him and when their eyes met the Dixingren raised one eyebrow in silent inquiry. That unspoken question caused Guo Changcheng to shake his head ever-so-slightly in answer.

Chu Shuzhi gave a nod and then returned his attention back to the activity before them.

Guo Changcheng continued to gaze at Chu Shuzhi for a few breaths longer, his thoughts rambling around his skull. The two of them were so different. Chu Shuzhi taciturn and gruff. Guo Changcheng practically an open book. The dichotomy between the two was what made their partnership work so well, wasn’t it? Together they found balance and filled those missing pieces within each other.

Much like how Shen Wei and Zhao Yunlan once had.

He bit his lip as the now-familiar stab of pain welled up within him, but today, it didn’t overwhelm him as it once previously would have.

Instead, he allowed himself to feel what he needed to feel, but he also allowed himself to remember happier times.

Before the two had died.

He couldn’t say time had healed the wound completely, but it had helped blunt some of the terribly sharp edges of it all.

Resolutely now, Guo Changcheng dragged his thoughts away from such things. He pulled in a steadying breath and refocused his attention on what needed to be done. “So," He called out to the newbies, ", what have we learned?”

And as expected the two agents straightened up and eagerly walked over to Guo Changcheng, giving quite the impression of excited ducklings. They clustered around him already chattering away with their thoughts and findings and after half a dozen questions Chu Shuzhi’s comforting presence settled behind Guo Changcheng.

*

“I think they’re doing okay.” Guo Changcheng spoke as he and Chu Shuzhi stepped outside and away from the noise and busyness of the SID bullpen.

Chu Shuzhi gave a vague sort of grunt. “They could be better.”

Guo Changcheng grinned, “Well, sure, but they’re still learning, and none of them fainted, right? That’s something.”

Which earned another noise from Chu Shuzhi, but Guo Changcheng could see one side of the other man’s mouth twitching upward.

“Or vomited.” Guo Changcheng continued in that same amused tone of his.

There was a ghost of a chuckle from Chu Shuzhi and affectionately he growled, “Idiot.”

The two fell into a companionable silence, until perhaps suddenly, Guo Changcheng said, “I miss them.” Possibly a non-sequitur to their conversation at hand, but one he couldn't stop himself from voicing aloud.

Thankfully, he needn't have worried whether Chu Shuzhi understood or not, for when he met the other man's eyes he found an answering emotion there. It made him smile a tremulous thing, both to comfort Chu-ge, but also in thanks for the comfort the other offered him.

Guo Changcheng knew that when most people looked at Chu Shuzhi, they only saw what he wanted them to. Most people never tried to look beyond that snarly surface of his. To the casual observer, it probably seemed as if Chu Shuzhi felt nothing more than anger and irritation, surely they told themselves, that this Dixingren never felt anything so keenly as loss, rejection, love, or hope. That he was impervious to all those complicated things, but the truth of the matter was far different. It was only those deemed as friends, or better yet, the few named family, that Chu Shuzhi offered a glimpse of that soft vulnerable underbelly of his and to be one of those was something Guo Changcheng would be forever grateful for.

The silence between the two stretched steadily onward as they walked. There was very little else that could be said that hadn't already been and so, Guo Changcheng asked, “Dinner? It’s my turn to cook, isn’t it?”

“Yes.” Chu Shuzhi said and the two continued on their way to the small apartment they called home.

*

“I definitely burnt the meat.” Guo Changcheng bemoaned as the two of them cleaned up the dishes. There weren’t many and while it wasn’t really a two-person job, they still completed the task together. “I swear the recipe said it was a never fail.”

“Not like we haven’t had worse.” Chu Shuzhi intoned and when Guo Changcheng turned around with an affronted ‘Chu-ge!’ he found the rest of his words stuck in his throat at the sight of Chu Shuzhi’s smirk.

Guo Changcheng couldn’t help but return that playful expression with one of his own smiles. “Next time I’ll do better. Promise.”

That declaration of his caused Chu Shuzhi to snort an amused sound even as Guo Changcheng found his personal space invaded by the other.

"Like I'm worried." Rumbled Chu Shuzhi as he wrapped an arm around Guo Changcheng to pull him close.

Guo Changcheng allowed himself to be pulled into that embrace and briefly, he dropped his gaze. When he had the courage to look up he found the expression on Chu Shuzhi's face softer, warmer, and awkwardly, because that's just how Guo Changcheng was, he leaned into the other man's embrace and angled his head for a kiss. Thankfully, Chu Shuzhi dipped his head down and obliged him with one.

It didn’t take long for Chu Shuzhi to deepen the kiss, or to turn it rougher, needier, and before the last dish could be called dry the two found themselves occupied with other things.

*

Afterward, when the sun had dipped low, and the sky had darkened to night, Guo Changcheng found himself tucked neatly against Chu Shuzhi’s side. His muzzy thoughts simply pinged 'happy' in his head. Safe too. Though honesty made him admit that he always felt safe whenever Chu-ge was around, but right now, with how they were Guo Changcheng especially felt like nothing could hurt either of them.

He pulled his arm free from the thin blanket that covered them and snaked it across Chu Shuzhi’s broad chest, then he squeezed tight.

His touch prompted an answering one from Chu-ge, as he felt the other man’s arm briefly tighten around him. The easy silence between the pair was only broken when Chu Shuzhi asked softly, even if soft for Chu-ge meant there was still a certain throaty edge to it, “You, good?”

“Oh!, yes, sorry.” He murmured back, “I didn’t mean to wake you. I was just thinking.”

“You didn’t.” Came the simple response from Chu Shuzhi, “What were you thinking about?”

It took Guo Changcheng a little bit of time to answer, as he sorted through the breadth of emotions that swirled within him, but eventually, he decided to go with the easiest ones first. “About you. Us. How happy I am.”

Chu Shuzhi made a noise of agreement to his words, to the feelings represented behind them. Guo Changcheng was glad of Chu-ge's arm around him, as he found the next words harder to say and that touch helped ground him. Helped to give him strength, even if it was only borrowed. “Guilty too. That we’re happy and we get to be happy.“

While Shen Wei and Zhao Yunlan were gone.

He couldn't finish that thought and the silence was thick until the bed dipped as Chu Shuzhi rolled onto his side. With an economy of movements, Chu Shuzhi wrapped his other arm around Guo Changcheng and he found himself securely cocooned within the curve of the other man's body. It didn't help the words to come, but it allowed him to tuck himself tightly into the hollow of Chu Shuzhi's body. A shelter against all his thoughts.

Eventually, though, the darkness and Chu Shuzhi's presence lulled him into a half-sleep and peripherally he felt Chu Shuzhi shift again to pull the covers more securely around them.

*

Guo Changcheng couldn’t move. No, wait, that wasn’t right. He could move. He was moving now, walking down a stone pathway, but he wanted to stop. He wanted and needed to stop and turn around right now.

A flash of white caught his attention and Guo Changcheng focused ahead. Oh no. No. There in front of him walked a figure in white. The glint of torchlight, of candlelight, bright upon the man’s bone-white hair.

He knew with a certainty that he needed to run, but his legs wouldn’t listen as they continued to march forward.

Following after Ye Zun.

Laughter echoed in front of him. Around him. Within him and Guo Changcheng knew despair.

*

Chu Shuzhi's POV:

Chu Shuzhi cracked his eyes open and considered the darkened bedroom around him. Something had caused him to wake and it prickled along his senses like danger, but when he assessed the room he couldn’t find anything out of place. A glance at the clock and its bright red numbers confirmed that the sun was still hours from being even a thought upon the horizon.

It wasn’t until he pushed himself up on an elbow that a noise captured his attention.

He turned then to where the noise came from and leaned closer to the sleeping form of Changcheng. Even in the darkness of their bedroom Chu Shuzhi could see the quick rise and fall of the other man’s chest, the rapid flick beneath his eyelids.

“Changcheng.” He said quietly, “Wake up.”

It wasn’t often (anymore, at least) that Guo Changcheng had nightmares, but sporadically they still cropped up.

His words didn’t provoke any sort of response from the other man and so, Chu Shuzhi reached over, "Changcheng, you’re dreaming.”, and this time as he spoke he placed his hand on Guo Changcheng’s chest. “Come on, wake up.”

And whether from his voice or the weight of his hand, Guo Changcheng suddenly awoke with a jerk and a breathy sort of gasp. There wasn't any sort of acknowledgment of Chu Shuzhi's presence as Guo Changcheng stared up at the shadow-draped ceiling.

Chu Shuzhi's frown deepened, "Changcheng?", and with the continued silence, he carefully brought his hand up and placed it upon Guo Changcheng's face. With the barest of pressure, he turned the other man's head so that their eyes could meet. What he found there was a vacant sort of fright carving stark lines into Guo Changcheng's face. Gently Chu Shuzhi began to rub the pad of his thumb against the curve of Guo Changcheng's cheek. "You're awake now. You just need to figure that out. You're ok."

Slowly, he watched the haunted look ease and after a handful of minutes, Guo Changcheng asked, "Chu-ge?”

Being so named Chu Shuzhi nodded, his thumb continuing its back and forth motion. “Bad dream?”

Guo Changcheng's brow furrowed and when he found his words again they tripped haphazardly over one another. “Yeah. S-sorry. I-I didn’t mean to wake you.”

The reappearance of that familiar stutter caused Chu Shuzhi's voice to drop lower. “You don’t need to apologize. Not like I haven't done the same to you.”

“Sor-.” Began Guo Changcheng, only managing to stop himself midway.

Chu Shuzhi didn’t miss that half-aborted sorry, but neither did he bring attention to it again, instead he asked, “You want to talk about it?”

Those were the same words Guo Changcheng often said to him when he had struggled with his own bouts of bad dreams and afterwards, when their world had changed so drastically, and Guo Changcheng found himself plagued with similar dark dreams, Chu Shuzhi couldn't help but offer them back. Hoping they afforded the same sort of comfort to Guo Changcheng.

He waited, now, to see what Guo Changcheng said, even as all of his instincts yelled at him to find what had hurt Guo Changcheng and to kill it. No matter that what (who) had hurt Changcheng was no longer a danger.

He watched as Guo Changcheng closed his eyes and drew a few deep breaths in.

“It wasn’t anything new.” Guo Changcheng said quietly, eyes opening with his words, “It's ok. I'm ok.”

With that (false) assurance given, Guo Changcheng tugged on his arm, which Chu Shuzhi answered by lowering himself fully back down upon the bed. Once situated he reached for Changcheng and found the other man doing similarly. He gathered Changcheng into his arms and said simply, if a bit roughly, "It's ok if you're not."

"It was just a dream." Guo Changcheng whispered, the quiver in his voice giving his words a slight tremble. "I really am okay, Chu-ge."

Chu Shuzhi grunted his response and stroked the other's back. He didn't quite believe Changcheng, but he let it slide.

Eventually, he felt Guo Changcheng's breathing slow and become less sharp, and he thought (hoped) that Guo Changcheng had fallen back asleep. It was only with the other man's next words that Chu Shuzhi knew his assumption was wrong.

"Do you think they're okay?" Guo Changcheng asked his question a thread of a whisper that was barely above the ambient noise of the room itself.

But Chu Shuzhi heard his question and answered in the only way he could, for the sake of the man in his arms. "Yes."