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Don't Know Why

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He knew this relationship was not about love. It was about grief and loneliness, the need for comfort. When everything was so different from a home that was no longer home.

But sometimes it was hard to remember that when the sex was over, when he was deliciously tired and warm… it must have been a bad day for the envoy, he was still holding onto him tightly after they finished, as the sweat dried on their skin. The bed was too small for the both of them, squeezed tightly together. It was dark in his little, bare apartment, and somehow that made everything more intense. The taste of salt on his lordship’s skin, the lightning and burned stone scent of him. How solid he felt under his hands, strong and very male.

This relationship was not about love, but to use each other for their own ends. But something built in his chest, threatening to spill over and he wanted to share it, to give it to someone.

“Are you hungry?” he asked without thinking, “I could cook something for you.”

The envoy stiffened against him, recoiling away and he realized he’d crossed some line.

“I should go.” he said quickly, pulling away from Chu to reclothe himself.

“I’m sorry, I-” if he could pull those words back he would. But the envoy was gone in a snap of ozone, and left him empty and grieving all over again.
They had only come together a handful of times, mutually desperate moments when they both needed something from the other. But laying there alone… it felt like loss. It hadn’t been about loving each other but-

---

He was still a good spy and soldier for the Envoy. He was happy to be his weapon, his life to be used as the Envoy please. It was not his place to ask for-

----

Zhao’s professor seemed very familiar. Elegant, quiet, polite. His chief flirted shamelessly with Shen Wei and watching that… it made something sour and angry roil in his gut. It made no sense, he had never met this man before and he had no reason to be jealous.

(he may have imagined it, the professor giving him a quick glance. Familiar, warm brown eyes looking at him with- concern? desperation?)

He missed those brief moments of intimacy, and maybe that’s what was wrong. Zhao had something he wanted, someone to openly flirt and smile with- and he was so… hungry. A gnawing so strong it was a physical pain, no matter how much he ate. He needed something.

---

He kept his gaze down on the ground as he knelt to give his report to the Envoy. That voice, low and calm, still sent something akin to desire down his spine. He wanted to- he was this close to throwing himself at his feet and begging forgiveness for being so….

He brushed the tips of his fingers over Chu’s hair, barely a touch. He didn’t dare move, didn’t dare look up and risk meeting his eyes. He’d be undone with a glance, he wanted nothing more than to press those fingers to his lips and kiss the smooth skin on the inside of his wrist. Feel the flutter of his pulse against his lips.

He did no such thing, keeping his eyes firmly on the ground until he was dismissed.

---

He was too tired and sore to make it very far into his apartment when he came back. The couch (picked up cheap, it was a horrible color but comfortable) was close to the door and he collapsed on it. Didn’t bother taking off his coat, scarf or even his boots, plopped face down into the cushion. He’d used a lot of dark energy with his puppet today, maybe too much. His head ached horribly. He would stay right here, it was as good of a place as any to sleep.

“Shuzhi?” the envoy asked softly, but he just buried his face into the cushion of the couch, sure he was dreaming. There was a soft, almost fond huff in response. “Don’t sleep in your clothes.”

He was too tired. He was going to sleep right here, just like this.

Another fond huff, and his boots were being pulled off, his scarf and coat wrestled off because he didn’t want to move. Cool hands checked for injuries and he wasn’t hurt, he was just exhausted and a little sick from this headache. He grumbled, burrowing back into the cushions.

He woke up when light hit his face the next morning, still on the couch but wrapped up in a blanket. Like he’d been tucked in. He was warm and comfortable, too much to really wrap his head around how it happened.

On the floor next to him was a glass of water and a small ceramic bottle of medicine. He frowned at it for a moment, sleepy brain trying to catch up.

Someone had been in his apartment. Took off his boots, tucked him in, left him medicine for when he woke up.

A ball of something was stuck in his chest as it sank in. if only he was sure what it meant.

 

“You looked rather exhausted after the fight with the youchu last week.” Zhao’s professor politely commented. “Have you recovered?”

“Yes.” Then after a moment, he remembered to be polite back. “Thank you.”

“You weren’t injured, were you?” there was a tight, confused feeling in his stomach. The professor had warm brown eyes, framed with long eyelashes which only made the feeling worse.

“No, I was only drained… someone brought me some medicine to help.”

“Good.” a smile flickered across his face. “You will be careful?”

He wanted to say, ‘anything for you.’

He wanted to say, ‘my life is yours.’

But instead he nodded in agreement, not trusting his voice.

His… Zhao’s professor, he could not forget that, reached for him, pulling back before he could make contact and looking away. He wanted… he did not deserve it. That warmth of skin to skin contact, that noise he’d make if he put his mouth on his neck. The care of someone tucking a blanket around him, that he hadn’t had since...Care. That's what he was feeling, that’s why he offered to cook for him, that's what he wanted so badly. To care, to be cared for.

“Please take care of yourself, Chu Shuzhi.” he murmured before walking away.

Chu closed his eyes and leaned up against a wall, trying to figure out how he could miss someone so badly when they were in the same room as him.

---

Chu placed the cup of tea and the stuffed bun at Shen Wei's elbow, ignoring the offended noise Zhao made.

“What, none for me?”

“Get your own.” he grunted.

“Thank you, Chu Shuzhi. Yulan, you can have half if you’re hungry.”

“Oh, thanks babe!”

He did his best not to watch, to see what face Shen Wei would make as he ate his part of the bun, to see if recognized the taste. His stomach twisted in unhappy anticipation, trying not to think about the sheen of oil on his lips, his long lashes as he closed his eyes to savor the bite. Oh, that was… what would it be like to cook for him all the time? To watch the pleasure on his face as he ate? The unhappiness changed into a warmth, imagining it as he watched him take another bite.

“Chu-ge?” he realized he was smiling and went back to his usual scowl at xiao-guo. “Did you make professor Shen some stuffed buns?”

He tried to shrug casually. “I thought he might like something that tastes more like Dixing food.” He'd been practicing that lie all night, making sure not to say home. (because it was no longer home to either of them.) But xiao-guo, in all his innocence, saw through it.

“You must like him a lot to make him something like that, chu-ge. To make food for someone you-” and then he stopped, realizing something with the word he was about to say. “Oh no.”

“Don’t you dare say anything.” he hissed, his face growing hot.

“Oh, I’m so sorry.” his face scrunched up, as if he would cry. “He and lao-zhao and you…”

“It’s fine. As long as I..” he took a deep breath, holding onto that warm feeling in his chest. “It’s fine. I can serve him, help him. This is enough.”

“You deserve more than that.” he flinched under those words.

“I don’t. I really don’t.” and it ached again, watching Shen Wei finish the bun with a smile. “This is enough.”

---

It was hard to keep his distance, to watch him smile adoringly at Lao-Zhao, to fuss on him. What would it be like to be so free with one’s affection in public?
It was better to focus on work, to try and get Xiao-guo into some sort of shape than to think about it. Better Than to imagine Shen Wei coming up to him, curling a warm hand on the back of his neck, to lean into him.

He tried to avoid looking at them, Shen Wei and Lao-Zhao. He had no claim other than as a servant, so it was not his place to be jealous. But he kept glancing over, and Shen Wei turned and met his eyes. It was like a jolt between them, his heart squeezing like it was trying to crawl out of his ribs. It was so hard to not reach over for him- he turned back to his desk, hoping his face was not red.

---

“You’re hurt.” Shen Wei's face was tight and pale. Chu wanted to protest that he was fine, it really didn’t hurt. He just… couldn’t get enough air in to make words. “Where are you hurt, Let me see.”

He shook his head, holding his stomach. It really didn’t hurt, it wasn’t that bad. But Shen Wei pulled away his hand, showing blood soaking into his shirt, dripping down onto the ground.

Oh, he thought fuzzily. That looked worse than it felt.

His legs suddenly wouldn’t hold him up, and his lordship caught him, guiding him to the ground. It still didn’t hurt, he just felt cold. It was harder to breathe, getting air in short gasps.

“Hold on, lao-chu.” That name felt strange coming from his lordship. Not right. “Hold on, I can-”

He coughed, mouth filling with blood. Shen Wei's eyes grew larger, putting his hands over the wound.

“/please/ zhi-er.” he said softly… or maybe he thought he said it. It was hard to tell, but it would have been nice, someone calling him something sweet like that.
He coughed again, feeling himself start to slip. But he kept his gaze on Shen Wei's face, trying to memorize every plane and curve. He would have liked to kiss him again, cup his cheek and feel the warmth of his skin. If he could take his fill of him, just the two of them like this… to die in his arms, that wouldn’t be so bad. A better way to go than he’d ever expected.

And suddenly his belly /burned/, heat and pain growing as Shen Wei, as the lord envoy’s power forced his body to heal itself. He tried to scream, to pull away from the source of pain. Too much, too much-

Things came back bit by bit. Still laying down, cold, in pain. His head was on something soft, a gentle hand petting his hair. A coat was covering him, attempting to keep him warm.

“Chu-ge?” xiao-guo asked softly. “Are you awake?”

He tried to say something, but it came out as a grunt and a coughing fit.

“Shhh, don’t move. Professor Shen went to get help.”

“I…” he moaned again, unable to find his voice as he coughed and choked.

‘It's okay,” Guo tried to soothe him, patting his face and hair. “It’s okay, just try to stay still.”

“I’m sorry.” he slurred, “I-”

“Don’t try to talk.” his face was making that sad, scrunched expression. Was he? It was hard to tell, his vision blurring and fading. “He’ll come back, he’s bringing help. He stopped the bleeding, you’ll be okay.”