Actions

Work Header

Muddied Waters

Chapter Text

There had been a tradition, ages and ages ago, where a common-law marriage was sealed by sharing three things; a meal, a bed and a hearth. Simple things in turbulent times.

Shen Wei doubted anyone nowadays remembered such a thing. Even as little as a hundred years was enough to forget such traditions. He didn't know why he was thinking about it, here in Shuzhi’s arms, only the vague thought that if the bed was bigger, he wouldn’t have to leave. His limbs were loose, that pleasant sort of fatigue that came with a good orgasm. And Shuzhi was running his hand up and down his back, and he didn’t want to move. It felt so very good in the afterglow of sex. This bed was too narrow to be comfortable, but the one in his flat was wider, with good sheets. Next time, maybe they should try-

“Are you hungry?” Shuzhi asked, voice drowsy and full of affection. “I could cook something.”

A meal, a bed and a hearth.

It was not the question that made him run away, it was the warmth he felt in return for it, that he wanted to say yes.

This was supposed to be about sex, pure and simple. A distraction, a way to burn off stress and tension. Something to help them stop thinking for a little while, forget what they had lost. Shen Wei had forgotten how nice it was to touch someone, to be touched-

(that worry that he might have been hurt-)

So he fled, terrified and embarrassed. Because he had wanted to say yes.

 

It was an inappropriate relationship. It could be considered an abuse of his position, really. It was more than time to put an end to it, it was only proper to put an end to this affair.

(it hadn’t been about sex, it had never been about the sex.)

He couldn’t think about this now. There was the new semester to plan for and new graduate students to work with. There was Chief Zhao and the new appearance of the Hallows to consider. Work was the best way to blunt the edge of loneliness.

(even if a few hours in Shuzhi’s arms had been so-)

 

It was hard deceiving Zhao Yulan when he looked so much like Kunlun- it was harder to deceive Shuzhi when he was right there. So close.

(he should stop calling him that inside his head. But he wanted to cradle that intimacy they had for a little longer)

(he really should stop thinking about him, it was making it harder to let go. He should let it go. Pretend it never happened.)

He could feel the other Dixingren’s puzzled gaze follow him, as if he recognized something about him. The way he moved? No, not under all those robes, and he was naked with him in the dark. Not his voice, he made sure to speak differently in those two identities. Maybe something in Shuzhi recognized Shen Wei, just as his own heart had recognized Kunlun.

(when he had touched his bare skin to see if he had been hurt, Shuzhi’s dark energy responded to his and welled up-)

He tried to stay away from Chief Zhao and the curious eyes of his team when he was the professor.

 

He left Yulan as soon as he could, taking himself straight into Shuzhi’s flat. The other Dixingren was sprawled face down on his couch, still fully clothed.

“Shuzhi?” he touched his back, feeling the warm pulse of his dark energy responding to his own. Shuzhi grunted at him, burying his face into the ugly cushion.

“Don’t sleep in your clothes.” he said, almost laughing in relief. Shuzhi had been pale and unsteady on his feet after finally bringing down the fugitive Dixingren. And while he was very skilled, something in Shen Wei’s chest had been tight with concern-

He shook his head, wrestling him out of his coat and boots. And when he couldn’t convince him to wake up enough to go to bed, grumbling and burying his head in the cushion, he tucked a blanket around him. It only made that fond bubble in his chest grow and he found himself straightening up the flat. Shuzhi didn’t have much, and the flat was very neat, but it helped a little, the guilt he carried.

A bed, a meal, a hearth.

He and Kunlun had shared them, so long ago. A bedroll, a bowl of stew and a campfire, rather than the hearth of a home- it had been the happiest day of his life.

He ran his hand over Shuzhi’s hair, the guilt back. He shouldn’t be here, betraying Kunlun’s memory. But…

He made sure to leave a glass of water by the couch, along with the Dixing medicine he had brought along. A tonic to help him recover from the overuse of his dark energy.

He… he still wanted to care. He could still care for him, and not-

---

It was worse when Shuzhi figured it out. Because… how could he miss him when he had Yulan, had his Kunlun back? The one he’d waited for for so long and now- a constant current of missed touches, not quite brushing against one another. Where hands might have touched, but pulled away at the last moment. Close enough to feel the warmth of the other. To avoid their eyes, but checking to see if they were looking anyway. And that jump in the chest when their eyes met-

The body in his arms was wrong. It was male, but smaller, more wiry than what he was expecting as he woke up.

“Shuzhi? He murmured, opening his eyes. No, it was Yulan’s apartment, he was sleeping with him. Yulan sleepily nuzzled against him, settling in with a happy sigh. This was good, this was perfect. But- he’d wanted this so badly, waited so long and now he was thinking of someone else.

He pushed away jealousy when he noticed that Xiao-guo was hanging around Shuzhi so closely. And he was rather protective of the young man in turn. No, this was a good thing. He would have Xiao-guo to care for and Shen Wei would have Yulan. He wouldn’t feel this guilt if Shuzhi had someone too.

(but Xiao-guo was too young, too- no, he was not jealous. He would not be jealous of him looking at someone else.)

Shuzhi set a plate by his elbow with a cup of tea, without a word, avoiding his eyes. A stuffed bun, slightly lopsided and homemade. There was an odd feeling in his stomach, a lump in his throat as he took a bite.

It tasted like Dixing, the earthy taste of the dried fungi seasoning coating his tongue before changing into something sweet as it hit the back of his throat. He tried to eat it slowly, to savor it because… it tasted like home, like warmth and comfort and his eyes wanted to well up.

Shuzhi was staring hard at his desk, but flicked his gaze up- their eyes locked for a moment and his heart jolted into a faster rhythm. The other man’s face turned faintly red and soft, watching him finish the bun. This was wrong, he shouldn’t have accepted it. But how long had it been since someone made him food like this, made with so much care?

(Yulan’s terrifying attempts at instant noodles notwithstanding.)

A meal, a bed and a hearth.

Shen Wei was a monster.

---

“Oh, babe, remind me to pick up something for the team for sweetest day.” Yulan asked, patting down his pockets as he tried to make sure he had everything.

“I could make something.”

“It doesn’t have to be fancy, they’ll eat anything that stands still long enough. You’d think I don’t pay them the way they inhale free food.” he grumbled pleasantly as he looked for his keys. Shen Wei found them on the counter and handed them to him.

“Miniature custard tarts?”

“Thanks babe!” he leaned over for a kiss. “You’re the best.”

He was rather proud of himself that he did not ask himself if Shuzhi liked sweets, or what sort he might like. Nor did he think of him as he arranged fruit on the tops of the tarts after they cooled, covering them with a shiny sugar glaze. He was making them for the team, because Yulan asked. He did not think of the bun Shuzhi had made for him that day, that quiet declaration of care and love, or the face he might make when he ate one of these tarts.

(eyes closed, a delicate bite. Or he might pick off the fruit to eat first before biting into-)

He was making them for everyone, and Yulan was sure to eat three or four before they left the house. None of them were made especially for him in mind.

He passed them out, Shuzhi again glaring at his desk as if it had insulted his ancestors. He pushed the little dessert towards him and he looked up, expression melting into something soft and something in his chest hurt so bad, so happy to see that rare expression on his face aimed towards him.

(oh no, he missed Shuzhi, he missed him so much.)

“Are you doing anything for the holiday, Lao-chu?” he found himself asking, merely polite small talk. Not to make sure he wouldn’t be alone tonight.

“Dinner with Xiao-guo’s second aunt.” Shuzhi said softly.

“Good. I hope you have a nice time.”

“And… you?”

“Yulan’s taking us to a restaurant. He says it’s a very nice place.”

“Good.” his gaze dropped to the desk again, as if hiding his own jealousy. Or maybe that was Shen Wei's wishful thinking. “That… sounds nice.”

“I… please take care.” it was the most words they had exchanged in months, they had done such a good job at avoiding each other. And it made his chest ache to touch him, to… he thanked Xiao-guo for taking him with him and meant it.

(he was happy that Shuzhi would not be alone on this Haxingren holiday, happy that someone was taking care of him. He did not quietly wish...)

---

Shuzhi’s face was pale and covered in sweat, leaning against the abandoned concert stage as he clutched his belly.

“Lao-chu.” he looked up at Shen Wei, breath coming in short gasps. “Where are you hurt, let me see-”

The Dixingren looked at him in confusion, as if he couldn’t parse his words. He pulled Shuzhi's hand away from his stomach, revealing the heavily bleeding wound.

Shuzhi dropped into his arms and there was so much blood, panic welling in the back of his throat. His breathing had a wheezing, bubbling noise and he was looking up at Shen Wei like… like he was seeing his god. That dying here in his arms was the most blissful ending he could imagine. He was slipping away, bleeding to death.

No.

No, it couldn’t end like this.

He was exhausted, but he gathered every scrap of dark energy he had left, and forced it into Shuzhi. He forced his body to stop the bleeding, his heart to keep breathing. He didn’t have enough left to heal him all the way, but enough to keep his life from slipping away.

Blood was filling his mouth, dripping from his nose and there was nothing left to give him. But Shuzhi was breathing, irregular and weak, but breathing.

“Zhi’er…” he murmured, cradling his head, hot tears finally falling. “Please wake up.”

“Professor?” Xiao was next to him, touching his shoulder.

“He’s… I stopped the bleeding, but the blood loss…”

“Why don’t you go get help? I’ll stay with him.” the young man said gently. He was wearing Shuzhi’s scarf and he wanted to laugh a little hysterically at that. But he was right, he needed medical treatment.

Shuzhi was starting to shiver from shock, so he slipped his jacket off and put it over him as best he could. It wasn’t much but…

He was lightheaded and unsteady, but he found an EMT and pointed him towards Shuzhi and Xiao-guo. Another took one look at Shen Wei, dusty and bleeding from the nose and made him sit down despite his protests. Sitting… felt rather good. Laying down on the bench felt much better. Just for a moment to gather his strength and then he’d go back and…

“Babe?” he blinked at the voice. He’d just closed his eyes for a moment- “damn babe, what happened?”

Yulan was sitting on the edge of the bench, rubbing his shoulder. Someone had put a foil blanket over him and it disturbed him that he hadn’t noticed when it happened. Yulan reached up and wiped his face with his thumb.

“How bad?” His voice was rough.

“No one’s dead, but a few were hurt pretty badly when the speakers blew up.”

“Chu Shuzhi, he was hurt, I- where is he?” something flickered across Yulan’s pretty face.

“Xiao-guo went with him to the hospital.”

“I need to go see him.” He didn't care right now who knew what, he just needed to see that he was okay. “Please, Yulan.”

He hesitated for a moment before giving in, helping him up. He was unsteady, dizziness threatening to drop him back onto the bench, but he fought through it. He’d hurt himself with that last effort, to heal Shuzhi- but he made himself walk to the jeep despite the pain.

Chu Shuzhi was in surgery by the time they got there, so they had to wait. A nurse took one look at Shen Wei and made him sit down, convinced he needed to see a doctor too.

“Maybe you should let someone look at you.” Yulan sat next to him, wrapping an arm around him.

“It’s busy here. I promise I’ll rest at home once I see Shuzhi.” he didn’t mean to let it come out that way. He felt dizzy, slightly out of breath, everything somewhat unreal. He just had to make sure he was okay, then he’d rest.

“Xiao-wei, what-”

“He doesn’t have any family, I’m all he has.”

(a lie, a terrible lie and as true as anything else.)

“It’s alright babe, we’ll see him.” he glanced at his buzzing phone. “It’s uncle Guo, I have to take this.”

“Of course.” and he huddled in his uncomfortable chair, waiting. Hoping for good news.

Chapter Text

They ended up heavily drugging Shuzhi. Waiting up disoriented and in pain, he’d fought with the nurses and doctors until they sedated him. This was how Shen Wei and Yulan found him, more than a little loopy on the drugs.

“Hi.” he said cheerfully, grinning at him.

“Oh, they gave him the good stuff.” Yulan commented, grinning back at his employee. He’d be more amused if he still wasn’t so worried.

“Stuff, good stuff, yes-” he slurred before coughing and grimacing. Shen Wei set down the food he brought, helping support him until the fit passed. Even with the pain medications in his system, his lips were white, a faint sheen of sweat on his forehead.

“Do you need a nurse?”

“No, I’m fine.” he settled back with Shen Wei’s help, a bit of a hitch to his breathing.

“Do you feel up to eating? I made you a little food, some mushroom porridge.”

Despite the pain he must be feeling, that rare smile spilled across his face, eyes warm. “Yes, I could eat.”

Yulan nodded to him and slipped away, possibly to annoy the nurses. He was thankful for this moment of privacy he could have with Shuzhi.

Shuzhi fed himself, it was warming to watch him eat, see him without the barriers he usually kept up between himself and the world.

“It’s okay if you can’t finish it all.” he said, when it was clear he was starting to nod off between bites. “I’ll give it to the nurses to keep for later.”

“Thank you.” he murmured, slumping back into the bed. “It was good.”

Shen Wei hesitated, then took his hand to hold. Shuzhi blinked at him, but squeezed it back.

“Are you okay? You’re pale.”

“I’m just a bit tired. Nothing to worry over.” it was clear Chu didn’t believe him, but he didn’t have it in him to do more than frown at him. “You should try and rest, Zhi’er.”

And Shuzhi’s face crumpled. “Don’t go.”

“I won’t.” he slipped an arm around him, half holding him against his chest. “Here, I’ll keep watch while you sleep. You’ll be safe.”

“Thank you.” he mumbled, exhausted and drugged enough he was falling asleep as he spoke. A nurse warily came in to change out his IV bag, adding a bag of antibiotics and another dose of pain medication. Shuzhi didn’t wake up, but his breathing evened out with the additional dose. It was a relief to be able to do this and… not feel guilt. For now, he could openly care for him like this and Yulan would not be upset because he knew.

He dozed off himself, cheek resting on the top of Shuzhi’s hair.

A soft rustle at the door brought him back to wakefulness. Xiao-guo was standing there, shuffling in place.

“Professor?”

“Come in. Lao-chu is sleeping.” he answered softly.

“How is he?” Xiao-guo’s body language was of a small dog, much aware of the teeth of the elder.

“Stable. They are giving him medicine for pain and he ate a little.” he kept his voice low and non-threatening.

“I brought some fruit.” he inched towards them. He was wearing Shuzhi's scarf and he should not be jealous. It was good that Shuzhi had- and if he kept saying it, he might believe it. He should let Xiao-guo sit here. But Shuzhi mumbled and nuzzled into his shoulder when he tried to slip his arm away. He was trapped.

“Chu-ge and you…” he sat the fruit down on the side table before sitting on the foot of the bed.

“It's…” how to explain it. Telling Yulan was one thing. But Xiao-guo was another. “I’m his family.”

The young man shook his head, not convinced. “He’s in love with you.”

“I know.”

“Does… the chief know? He twisted his fingers in the scarf.

“He knows Lao-chu has feelings for me.” He didn't want to have this conversation, not with this child. He found himself pulling Shuzhi closer, and made himself relax. He blinked awake, confused at Guo’s appearance.

“Hi Chu-ge. How are you feeling?”

“...Shiny.” he blinked sleepily before noticing the texture of shen wei’s sweater under his cheek and hand. “Soft.”

“The nurse gave him some pain medication.” he explained as Shuzhi patted the sleeve of his sweater. “Lao-chu, Xiao-guo wants to spend some time with you.”

“Oh.” he dug his fingers into the fabric as he tried to pull away, face crumpling. “Don’t go.”

And his heart broke.

“I’ll stay, don’t…. I’ll stay.”

 

He returned the next day, bringing more food. Shuzhi’s condition wasn’t much better, but he was sitting up in the bed, face tight and holding himself very still.

“Are you hurting?”

“Not really.” Shuzhi gave him a strained smile, lips pale as he breathed shallowly. His eyes were dark and glittered glassily in his pale face. He started coughing, grimacing in pain.

“Shuzhi-” helped him sit up better, supporting him until the fit passed, leaving him panting and wheezing. He felt much too warm through his clothes, face grey until Shen Wei put the oxygen mask on him.

“I’ll get the nurse, have them get you something for the pain.”

“I’m fine.” he said as he kept trying to stay as still as possible.

“You’re hurting” and it hurt to see him in so much pain.

“Been through… worse.”

“Zhi’er.” and he flinched under the pet name.

“Okay.” he finally relented.

The nurse gave him the medicine through his IV and it didn’t take long for it to work. His face went soft, his body and breathing relaxing as Shen Wei patted his hair.

“Is that better?”

“Hng.” he said drowsily, fighting to keep his eyes open.

“Go to sleep, Zhi’er.”

“Don’t…” he slurred, losing the fight and drifting to sleep.

“Xiao-wei? How is he doing?” Yulan joined him, pulling up a chair.

“Not well.” he admitted, as Shuzhi coughed and grimaced in his drugged sleep. “He’s spiking a fever, infection might be setting in.”

“He looks bad.” he looped an arm around Shen Wei. “I’m sorry.”

“Thank you.” he murmured, not very hungry. Shuzhi would glare at him for not eating, and Yulan would pout and wheedle him until he did. He was holding Yulan’s hand much too tightly.

“You’re really worried.”

“He’s.. he’s fighting hard.”

“Lao-chu is tough, he’ll be fine.”

“Thank you, Yulan. You’re being very… reasonable about this.” reasonable to find out he had strong feelings for a former lover, to spend so much time and worry on him.

“I’ll be jealous when he’s back on his feet.” he said softly, hugging him to his chest. “I’ll fight him then because I won’t give you up.” he tried to grin, but it faded at Shen Wei’s worried face. “Babe, he’ll pull through.”

“Right.” and he tried to smile, but it didn’t feel right on his face. “He’ll pull through.”

Xiao-guo was sitting on the side of Shuzhi’s bed, feeling him ice chips. Shuzhi looked faded, weaker than the day before. But he brightened at the sight of Shen Wei, struggling to sit up and greet him.

“Sir.” he fell back against the pillow, coughing. “Sorry…”

“Chu-ge, it’s okay.” Guo fussed, hands fluttering. Shen Wei frowned, cupping Shuzhi’s cheek. He was clammy, flushed where he was not pale. There were new IV bags hanging, different things running today. His skin was practically transparent as his eyes fluttered closed.

“He keeps going in and out and getting confused.” Xiao-guo commented, picking up a wet cloth to wipe his face. Shuzhi made a small noise of relief, shifting against the pillow.
He could make bone knit together, repair muscle and skin. He could not fight infection… he could not fix this.

“I’ll talk to the doctor. Stay with him.”

The surgeon was hesitant to discuss Chu Shuzhi’s case with him, until Dr. Cheng vouched for him as a family member.

(family.)

The surgeon wanted to take him back to the OR, see if there was shrapnel he’d missed the first time causing the infection. Different antibiotics had been ordered, something for the fevers he kept spiking.

Shuzhi was struggling to sit up again when he returned, but was so weak that Xiao-guo could easily push him back down into the pillows. He looked so betrayed even as Xiao-guo apologized.
“Shuzhi, what are you doing?” he asked softly. He gave up struggling, looking up at him in glazed confusion. The expression on his face was so… he huffed a little in amusement. “Ah, Zhi’er…”

He smiled back, blinking sleepily. “Where... What’s going on?”

“You’re in the hospital, Chu-ge.” Xiao-guo explained. “You’ve been pretty sick.”

“Sick, I don’t…” he struggled to keep eyes open, head sinking back. “Wei…”

“I know. It’s okay, go to sleep.” there was more he could say, more he wanted to say…. But not in front of Xiao-guo.

“Professor?” he would be kind to this child, even as much as he wanted him to go away, let him spend some precious time alone with Shuzhi. “What are you going to do, after-” he shrank down and Shen Wei made himself take a calming breath. It was good that Shuzhi had a friend, he reminded himself.

“I don’t know yet.”

“I just-” he looked like a terrified rabbit, hands twisting in Shuzhi’s scarf that he was still wearing. “I don’t want him to be hurt.”

“Neither do I.” he said softly. “I want him to be happy.”

“Then why do you two keep-” he made a frustrated noise. “He loves you so much.”

He wanted to reach for Shuzhi, touch him. But Xiao-guo was there in the way and he was just out of arm’s reach.

Wasn’t that the metaphor for the last few months? Just out of arm’s reach, close and far away.

“I love him as my family. And I love Lao-Zhao, I’m with him. He’ll be happy with you, Xiao-guo. I know you’ll take good care of him.”

“But you’re in love with him, I know you are.” his face was crumpling, on the edge of tears. “Why are you lying?”

“I should go. If he wakes up, please tell him I’ll be back after my morning classes.”

“Professor!” he ducked his head, avoiding looking at him as he fled the room.

A bed, a meal, a hearth. What if he hadn’t met Kunlun again? Would he have put aside his fear and tried to make a home with him? Would it have worked, would they have been happy?

His eyes burned and he found an empty waiting room to hide in. It was useless to worry or think about it, he kept telling himself. Xiao-guo was sweet, he’d be good for Shuzhi. Help take down his barriers, soften the harsh edges of him.

And if he told himself that enough, he might believe it.

 

The hospital called him at his office, to tell him that Shuzhi was out of surgery. He was stable, he was resting quietly. Shen Wei could come see him anytime.

He hung up the phone, feeling like he shouldn’t go. The more time he spent with him, the hard it was… the harder it was to let go.

No, he should see this to the end. And when Shuzhi was recovered enough they would put a line through it.

Shuzhi was still asleep, fever still high. His color was bad, his energy flickering and weak. It was… possible that he didn’t have the strength to recover. His body was putting up a good fight, but the infection was draining him.

It wasn’t even a question if Shen Wei would try whatever he could for him, even if his own supply of dark energy was still deeply depleted. He’d do anything to help.

He took Shuzhi’s hand and made himself comfortable in a chair, noting the scrapes on his knuckles were healing. It’d been a little thing that had absurdly upset him and he wanted to kiss them.
No, he was supposed to be- he shook his head and focused, carefully passing him energy. Slowly, to not overwhelm his system.

“Sir?” he blinked to awareness, he’d sunk so deeply he’d lost track of time. A nurse touched his shoulder gently. “Sorry to wake you up-”

“No, it’s okay-” he stood up- and blinked, finding himself being propped up with his head between his knees, several concerned nurses around him. One handed him some orange juice and he accepted it, drinking it down. He… might have overdone it.

The juice helped and the dizziness faded enough he could manage into the chair.

“I’m sorry to have worried you all, I missed lunch and supper.” he lied. Someone brought him cookies and under the nurse’s close watch he had no choice but to eat them.

But Shuzhi's color was already better, the fever flush gone. It had worked and something in his chest loosened. Without thinking he reached over to touch his face, cup his cheek.

“Your partner is doing much better now.” a very young nurse said, trying to be comforting. “He’d be upset to find out you didn’t eat and fainted. So you should take better care of yourself.”

“Yes, he would.” he found himself smiling a little at that. “He would be very upset.”

Zhao was waiting for him when he arrived back at their flat. His delighted grin dimmed, taking him in.

“What happened? you look awful.” he took him by the arm, leading him to the couch. “Is it Lao-chu?”

“He’s doing much better now, his fever broke before I came home.” he gave Yulan a smile. He didn’t want to tell him what he’d done, or how weak he felt now, with a pounding headache and a gritty ache in his chest.

“Yeah? That’s great!”

“Would you like me to cook supper?” He wanted to sleep there on the couch. Yulan picked up on it, checking his forehead for a fever, then shook his head.

“Naw, I’ll order something. You relax, it’s been a long week.”

---

He did not go back to visit Shuzhi. Now that he was stable, he should put some distance between himself and him and then maybe all of this… the ball of messy things in his chest would go away.

(it’d been months. Why did he think it’d go away on its own? Maybe he was a coward.)

“Lao-chu’s back at work.” Yulan commented as Shen Wei cooked dinner for them. “Back to his usual antisocial self.”

“That’s good.” he focused on cutting up a large radish, trying not to put too much force into it.

“You… want to come over to Bright street and see him?”

“No, it’s not a good idea.”

“Babe, you were worried sick over him, why not?”

“It’s better to have some distance for a while.” he’d see him, then he’d realize how much he missed him and then he’d want to…

(he’d want to feel him under his hands, in his arms. Kiss him one more time. Make sure he was eating, make sure he was taking his medications like he was supposed to. He’d come so close to losing him, he wouldn’t be able to let-)

He kept cutting the vegetable into thin slices, avoiding looking at Yulan.

But he sighed, shaking his head. “Babe, sometimes it’s better to talk about it. Not ignoring it and hoping it goes away.”

“It was just an affair. Just sex, just a few times. It hadn’t been serious, just…”

Two people. Lonely, needing comfort. Seeking out warmth and gentleness from the other. Offering to cook was more than just cooking, it was a way of… saying he loved him. And if he hadn’t panicked in that moment and ran away… maybe given more time, maybe if not meeting Yulan… he kept his face down, tears dripping onto the cutting board as he set down the knife. He felt so guilty, it sat heavily in his chest. For letting it happen, for still feeling… for still caring and wanting someone else as much as he loved and wanted Yulan.

Yulan hugged him tightly from behind, saying nothing.

“I don’t know what to do. I don’t… I don’t know what to do-”