The Release of Thunder

Zhao Yunlan may have finally figured out a way to get Shen Wei to relax completely. Fluff with Characterization, I-3

Character(s): Shen Wei, Zhao Yunlan

Zhao Yunlan had never been a big fan of meditation. His mind tended to have a lot going on, and he’d always found it way harder than everyone else seemed to think it should be to quiet his thoughts unless he had something else to focus on. He could meditate with his punching bag just fine, but sitting down? Not very well.

He had yet to decide whether focusing on the change in his own senses was easier or harder than his moving meditations. The changes were not insignificant, but they were subtle enough that he had to hold still to focus on them—unless he was faced with something as intense as, just for example, a gateway to another realm. Since there was not going to be one of those in his apartment unless xiao-Wei was in a tearing rush to get to or from home, Yunlan was currently stretched out on the couch with his eyes closed, mentally poking at his sense of the world around him.

The apartment building was filling up with quiet life as the evening drew on, a little weight in his senses like a stone held in his hand. But not hard like a stone—lives were bright and a little skittery, like sparks on water. Taken together, though, all those little bits became a glare of brightness that flowed and pooled across the plain at the foot of the mountains, themselves a much deeper weight.

Which was actually really disorienting, because Shen Wei, currently wiping down the kitchen counters less than four meters away had almost as much weight in his senses as those mountains. The moment Yunlan let himself focus on xiao-Wei, the depth and brilliance of his presence overshadowed most of the rest of the city. The first time he’d done this with xiao-Wei nearby, Yunlan had been stunned, wondering how he could possibly have not noticed before, how he could see anything but xiao-Wei every time he looked around. After weeks of practice with his own perceptions, though, Yunlan thought he might know why.

Shen Wei’s presence was deep and vast, but it didn’t reach outward much. He stayed wrapped tight in on himself, only a few layers unfurling even for the SID or his students. That little bit floated out like the silk layer of his black cloak—only so far and no further before it settled close again. More of him unfolded for Yunlan, especially when they were alone, but even then the feel of him in Yunlan’s senses stayed taut, poised to coil in again.


It was giving him a bit of memory clash, because everything he’d seen in his current life said that of course this made sense. Xiao-Wei seemed to have a lot of people just itching to stick a knife in his back at the first opportunity, plus the whole secret identity thing. Of course he wouldn’t give himself to the world easily. At the same time, there was a very persistent memory echo that said the shape of xiao-Wei in his senses was wrong. That it should be reaching out to touch every new thing, brightening with the pleasure of simply tasting what the world was.

The knowledge that that was how xiao-Wei used to be made Yunlan’s throat tight, made him twice as determined to stay by xiao-Wei’s side and give him a partner who could guard his back. And the more he got reacquainted with his own power, the more it made him wonder if he could maybe do something more to help.

Shen Wei glanced around the kitchen, letting the order of it soothe him—one of the tactics he’d used over the years to stay sane. He still liked the simplicity of keeping order in his surroundings, even though the real source of peace was finally back in his life again. He stepped around the attached table, lower than the one in Yunlan’s apartment which he approved of, and felt a helpless smile taking over his face at the sight of Yunlan stretched out on the couch, the feel of Yunlan’s attention curling around him. He liked that familiar weight, and it still didn’t happen as often these days unless Yunlan was thinking about it.

“Hey.” Yunlan’s eyes were half open, and he held out a hand. “Come here.”

Shen Wei crossed the room to wrap his fingers around Yunlan’s hand, sitting on the edge of the couch beside him. “Yes?”

Yunlan made a dissatisfied face and tugged him further down, nudging him around until Shen Wei was stretched out on the couch with him, resting against his chest. Shen Wei was laughing by the time Yunlan seemed content with their arrangement. “Better?” he asked, sliding an arm behind Yunlan and settling against him.

“Much.” He could hear the answering grin in Yunlan’s voice, and that was reason enough for him to tuck his head into the curve of Yunlan’s shoulder and lie quiet with him for a while. The slow slide of Yunlan’s fingers through his hair was an even better reason.

The rise of Yunlan’s power around them, in the middle of that peace, startled him.

“Yunlan?” He started to look up only to hesitate as Yunlan’s arms tightened a little around him, hand pressing his head gently back down.

“Will you do something for me, xiao-Wei?” Yunlan asked softly, lips brushing his forehead, and he settled a little more at the feel of Yunlan turning toward him, curling around him.

“Anything. You know that.”

Yunlan’s voice was still soft but also a little wry. “Yeah, I know. But this one might be kind of hard.” Shen Wei felt the breath he took, felt the almost-actual weight of Yunlan’s power fold closer around him. “Will you relax for me? Just for now; let me worry about the rest of the world, and making sure we’re safe, and all that, and… just relax for a little while?”

Shen Wei held very still, trying to deal with the sharp conflict between his desire to say yes to Yunlan and his reflex resistance to the very thought of lowering his guard like that. Yunlan’s hand rubbed up and down his back, slow and easy.

“If you can’t it’s all right. But xiao-Wei…” Yunlan’s power surged up around them, heavy and deliberate, “I’m here. I’ve got this.”

If there was one being in all the world who he could trust that to be true of, it was surely Yunlan, especially if he was willing to purposefully reach for that much of his power. The hand resting over Yunlan’s heart tightened in the fabric of his shirt, and Shen Wei took a slow breath. “You’ll keep watch?” he asked, low.

Yunlan’s hand covered Shen Wei’s, green curling around his fingers. His voice was just as low, but far more certain. “I will.”

Shen Wei closed his eyes and nodded, trying to breathe out the tension of his body, to let Yunlan’s solid warmth under him, wrapped around him, take his weight. Bit by bit, he let himself stop listening to the sounds of the building around them for one out of place, listening instead to the steady rhythm of Yunlan’s heart under his ear. As his body eased, Yunlan held him closer, one hand sliding up to curve around the back of his neck. Focusing on that touch helped. Slowly, Shen Wei managed to relax physically, and with each little bit, each layer of waiting tension unwound, Yunlan gathered him in, every line of his body promising protection. When Shen Wei laughed, against his shoulder, it was unsteady.

“You already do so much of this. Why—?”

Yunlan didn’t even let him finish the sentence. “Because you never get a chance to stop doing this. There’s so much weight on you. Do you know how rarely you even sit without being braced?”

Shen Wei blinked. “I suppose… not very often.”

“Almost never, unless we’re alone together, and not even then if you’re thinking about work.” Yunlan’s hand tightened on his nape, kneading the muscles there, fingers warm and steady on his skin. As far as he’d already relaxed, it drove a gasp out of Shen Wei. “Shh,” Yunlan whispered against his hair. “Let me?”

Shen Wei closed his eyes and pressed closer, feeling rather unsteady without his awareness spread out and ready. “All right.”

Yunlan shifted, settling Shen Wei a little more comfortably over him, and worked his hands slowly up and down Shen Wei’s back, not digging into the muscles but stroking along them, sure and easy. It felt very good, and it was getting easier to relax against him. To let the warmth of Yunlan’s presence sink into him.

Actually… that was more literal than he’d thought. Now he was paying attention to more than the fight to release some of his vigilance, he could feel the slow caress of Yunlan’s power, his intention nudging at Shen Wei’s own tight-coiled potentiality. He stirred against Yunlan, startled. “What…?”

Yunlan’s power tightened around him, tucking in around the corners and edges of his being. “I’ve got you, xiao-Wei,” Yunlan said softly, against his hair. The taste of his power, the push toward actuality, turned fiercely protective, the weight of it sheltering. “I promise.”

His hands slid up and down Shen Wei’s back, not minding when Shen Wei stiffened again, flinching back from the very idea. “Yunlan…”

Yunlan’s power built higher around them, deeper and more solid than stone itself, in Shen Wei’s senses, heavy enough with Yunlan’s intent on what would be to make even Shen Wei breathless. “I know,” Yunlan said, achingly soft. “I wasn’t there, for so long. There was no one to guard your back or take your hand. But there is now.” For all the ferocity that Shen Wei could taste in the almost-actuality around him, it was gentle wherever it touched him, still coaxing and tender. He pressed his forehead against Yunlan’s shoulder and took a slow, unsteady breath in and out.

It felt so good.

Bit by bit, Shen Wei relaxed the tautness of his attention, the waiting whiplash of his power that the past few years had only pulled tighter. Yunlan made soft, encouraging sounds, one hand kneading the back of his neck. He could feel Yunlan’s own power doing something very similar—curling under each loosening of Shen Wei’s potential action as he let it ease further back into potential, tasting of warm invitation. And all the while, the sense of Yunlan’s readiness to act, to protect, stayed wrapped around him, certain as stone and even more immoveable. It made easing down from his own edge of readiness easier, but Shen Wei was still shaking against Yunlan before long, half with the release of tension and half with constant half-formed urges back toward vigilance.

“Shhh, easy, easy,” Yunlan murmured, holding him close, taking the sharp flexes of Shen Wei’s power against his own without stirring. “I’ve got you.”

“Yes,” Shen Wei whispered against his shoulder, agreeing and accepting, because as difficult as the process was, he was dizzy with the rush of release, with the feel of his very being flowing more freely along the contours of the world around him. Gradually the tremors eased, as they lay together and he felt the poised potential of Yunlan’s power folded around him like mountains sheltering a valley, and he let out a long, slow breath, eyes drifting closed. The brightness on the other side of his lids was soft, late afternoon sun glowing gold off the wood of the floor and the pale walls. The velvety moisture lingering in the air from the recent rains lay soft against his skin.

It had been a long time since he’d actually noticed such things.

Slowly, halting because he hadn’t done this just to touch and taste for so very long, had kept himself contained so carefully, Shen Wei reached out with his power—not just his sense of the world, but his capacity to change what he touched. Beyond his skin. Beyond arm’s length. Beyond the room. He flinched back reflexively at the taste of human lives, bright and rich with the generative core of their natures, but Yunlan curled closer around him, catching his recoil.

“It’s okay, xiao-Wei,” he said against Shen Wei’s ear. “You won’t hurt them, not any more.”

Shen Wei pressed closer, and took another breath. “All right.” He leaned into the steadiness of Yunlan’s support as he reached out again, letting the depths of himself slowly unfurl into the world. The city rang in his senses like a song, so many notes together that it became a complete thing of its own, and oh, he remembered this, reaching out to taste the way lives lived together blended like cooking spices into something rich and new, leaning against Kunlun’s support to keep from drinking any of them down all the way. Yunlan’s touch ran deeper now, less overwhelming but more complex, woven deeper into the world. The change reminded Shen Wei with every breath that he needn’t fear what his own touch would do to other lives, and he let himself reach further, light-headed with that freedom.

“Yes,” Yunlan whispered against his hair, cradling him close. “This will always be yours.”

Already unstrung, that promise was all it took to overwhelm him completely, and Shen Wei pressed against Yunlan, gasping for breath as shock and desire and release shook him. Yunlan held him tight through the tangled surge of emotion and response, and when Shen Wei could think in a sensible order again, the taste of his power still hovered around them, sheltering.

“Always,” Yunlan reiterated. Shen Wei laughed, faint and unsteady, because he could hear absolute intransigence in that quiet tone. It had already become so familiar. “All right,” he agreed, softly.

Yunlan made a satisfied sound, hands sliding slowly up and down Shen Wei’s back, and Shen Wei settled against him, content for now to be held. Perhaps, in time, it would even be something he could get used to.

The thought was almost as warm as Yunlan’s arms around him.