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Returns Are Worse

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When Zhao Yunlan is pulled away by the Hallows, the worst thing is that he knows what waits for the twins. He hadn't known how it would happen or when, but ever since they found Ye Zun the knowledge has settled like a heavy weight on his chest; a rock trying to squeeze the life out of him.

He'd wanted to say something. He'd wanted to warn them and yet… he'd been too afraid to. Just like neither of the twins had ever come out and actually told him about the time travel. Admittedly, Ye Zun hadn't cared too much about dropping rather blatant hints that Zhao Yunlan never figured out simply because time travel isn't really an explanation he would think of. But still, they'd never told him. Reminding himself of that doesn't really make him feel any better.

But what if he tells them and it makes things worse? Or what if nothing changes at all and all he manages to do is ruin whatever time the twins have together before things go to shit?

What if you make things better? The thought keeps echoing in his brain, making that weight on his chest all the more crushing, to the point where he thinks he really can't breathe. Do the twins really have to go through all of that because Zhao Yunlan is afraid that he won't meet them? Is it really worth it?

And somehow, by the time he's pulled away, he still doesn't know the answer. He still hasn't said anything.

He stumbles into the twinkling void and wants to turn back and throw himself into the past. Maybe he could still change something. Maybe it doesn't need to end like that.

But Shen Wei is there waiting for him. His Shen Wei, with red-rimmed eyes, looking at him like he's Shen Wei's entire world and all Zhao Yunlan can do is fall into his arms and whisper, "I'm sorry, Xiao Wei. I'm so sorry."

And somehow, with Shen Wei's arms around him the weight on his chest isn't quite so crushing.

It's been so long since he was here, but suddenly it's like he can hear Ye Zun scream his name again, when the Hallows ripped him away from the present. Like the sound of it might have been trapped in this glittering void, waiting for Zhao Yunlan to return.

"Ye Zun… is he…?" Zhao Yunlan tries to ask, but the words keep catching in his throat.

Shen Wei pulls away a bit, and Zhao Yunlan can see that he's crying. He blinks his own eyes, trying to dispel the blurriness and only then realises that there are tears falling from his own eyes too.

"He's waiting with Da Qing," Shen Wei says. He sounds a bit choked, but at least he's still managing actual words.

Zhao Yunlan nods, and a moment later Shen Wei has pulled both of them out of that void and to the same place where Zhao Yunlan left from, to the lab at SID. The Hallows fall down with a clatter, and for a while Zhao Yunlan just stares at them. It's like he can't even manage to form any actual thoughts.

Then suddenly, with a loud, "Lao Zhao!" there's a black cat running at him and instinctively Zhao Yunlan opens his arms to catch the cat as he jumps at him. He grunts slightly at the impact, wrapping his arms around Da Qing and pressing him against his chest. The weight pressing down on him seems to lighten just a bit more.

"How long was I gone?" Zhao Yunlan asks, and then tries to snort out some stray cat hair from his nose.

"Three days," Shen Wei answers him quietly, sounding like what he means is 'an eternity' and Zhao Yunlan quickly swallows any comment about how that doesn't sound all that long.

There's movement from the doorway and Zhao Yunlan looks at Ye Zun standing there, looking at them. His head is held high and when he looks at Zhao Yunlan there's disdain in his eyes. Zhao Yunlan breathes out slowly.

"I'm sorry I left," he says. I didn't mean to. I didn't want to, he thinks but doesn't quite manage to get any of those words out. His throat feels tight and there are tears prickling at his eyes again.

The look on Ye Zun's face wavers.

"Could I… I don't know, hug you or something? I really wanted to when…" Zhao Yunlan says with a shaky grin and then shrugs a bit. Talking about what had happened in the past feels like too much, and it's easier to leave some things unsaid. Everyone here knows what he's talking about anyway. Probably. If they remember.

Ye Zun huffs and rolls his eyes and then in a blur transforms into a tiny white dragon, before flying closer. Zhao Yunlan's hands are a bit full holding Da Qing at the moment, but Ye Zun just lands on his shoulder and briefly nuzzles against Zhao Yunlan's neck before reaching up and nipping at his ear.

Zhao Yunlan yelps, even if the bite is light enough that it hardly even stings. And somehow the last of that weight falls off his chest and he finally feels like he can breathe again. He turns his head to look at Shen Wei.

Shen Wei's eyes are still a bit red and Zhao Yunlan really wants to hug him. He looks down at the cat in his arms and then looks up at Shen Wei and smiles sheepishly at him. Shen Wei's hand wraps around his arm and it's not enough, but at least it's something.

"If there isn't anything…" Zhao Yunlan tries to say, but he feels choked suddenly and has to stop. He swallows, and then tries again, his words a bit shaky. "Would you mind taking me home, Xiao Wei?"

He really would like to go home now. Maybe sleep for the next week.

"Of course, Zhao Yunlan," Shen Wei says.