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The first time they did more than kiss it was because Luo Fei mislaid his eyeglasses.

Luo Fusheng was soaking in the bathtub, filling his mind's eye with vague fantasies about Luo Fei and jerking off, when Luo Fei entered the washroom, saying, "Have you seen my..." He stopped and stared. "...eyeglasses?"

Luo Fusheng, sucking in a breath and releasing it slowly, paused but did not let go of his erect cock. He was too far along for that to be an appealing option. Luo Fei stood very still, observing him, his initial look of surprise replaced by one Luo Fusheng couldn't decipher. A taut moment passed.

"No," Luo Fusheng answered him, because he hadn't noticed any eyeglasses lying about.

Luo Fei nodded once and turned around, left the washroom and closed the door behind him. Luo Fusheng took another deep breath, sank lower in the water, and finished beating off. When he emerged from the washroom a little while later, wrapped in his bathrobe, Luo Fei was sitting at his desk, wearing his eyeglasses and engrossed in a case file.

"Found them, then?" Luo Fusheng said brightly.

Without looking up, Luo Fei made an affirmative noise and sifted through papers in the file. Luo Fusheng watched him for a moment and padded into the bedroom to get dressed.

Although Luo Fei consulted Luo Fusheng on most of his cases, Luo Fusheng didn't always have useful insights and he didn't mind when Luo Fei kept cases to himself. At those times Luo Fusheng viewed his assistant role as one of support to keep the work going smoothly. He brought up the meals and made sure Luo Fei took a break to eat them. He picked up the laundry and dry cleaning. He conveyed messages to Qin Xiaoman, Ben Jie Ming, and Detective Superintendent Savoy as needed. When Luo Fei was deeply in thought, Luo Fusheng sat close at hand and whittled pieces of wood, ready to provide a listening board when Luo Fei needed to talk through a puzzle or a new theory. It wasn't so different from his former life as the Hong family's second-in-command: Luo Fusheng kept the day-to-day running, freeing Luo Fei from needing to.

So he wasn't concerned when Luo Fei didn't share his latest case file with him, and wasn't concerned at Luo Fei's reticence for the rest of the day. After their evening meal, Luo Fusheng left him to his thoughts and went up to the rooftop. It was a pleasant, cool night with hints of the approaching spring in the air. After taking a moment to marvel at Shanghai's dazzling lights -- a sight Luo Fusheng never tired of -- he lowered his suspenders and took off his shirt. He and Qin Xiaoman had rigged up a boxing dummy on the rooftop several weeks earlier. After wrapping his knuckles in bandages he kept up here for the purpose, he got in some practice time to work on his right hook. His right shoulder had healed from its vicious stab wound but still nagged him from time to time.

After the workout he wound down and cooled off on the rooftop ledge, hoping Luo Fei would come up for a cigar. Luo Fusheng had never been a big smoker, but he liked when Luo Fei relaxed with a smoke, and sometimes they shared a cigar between them.

When the night air got too chilly, Luo Fusheng went back to the apartment. Luo Fei was busy in his laboratory area, mixing something in a glass tube, and Luo Fusheng left him to it. He washed up, put on his pajamas, gave Luo Fei a goodnight kiss on the cheek, and went to bed, leaving one bedside lamp on.

He was dozing lightly when Luo Fei moving about the bedroom nudged him awake. He rolled onto his back and opened his eyes and folded back the blanket on Luo Fei's side of the bed. Luo Fei stood by the bed and methodically undressed, something he had never done in Luo Fusheng's presence before. Luo Fusheng watched him, pulse stirring when Luo Fei, facing away, shed his undergarments and turned around.

Luo Fusheng had seen Luo Fei naked once before, in the bathtub, but not fully exposed like this. He was tall and slim with a narrow, wiry frame. An unobservant glance could dismiss him as delicate but Luo Fusheng was not unobservant. Luo Fei was graceful but strong, neat but masculine. Hair dusted his legs and he had a long, slender cock.

Beautiful man, Luo Fusheng thought, swallowing. Ready for whatever Luo Fei wanted, he unbuttoned his pajama top.

Luo Fei got into bed, leaving the blanket folded open. He lay on his back and looked at the ceiling, and although his body was not exactly tense, it was not exactly relaxed, either. Luo Fusheng finished sliding out of his pajamas and paused.

"Boss?" He hoped the nickname would lighten the mood. It didn't.

Luo Fusheng propped up on his side, watching, waiting. After a few moments Luo Fei glanced at him briefly before looking at the ceiling again.

"I don't want you to be frustrated," he said, speaking uncharacteristically slowly.

Luo Fusheng frowned. "So this is... for me." He could not keep the edge out of his voice, but he softened it by adding with a sigh, "Luo Fei."

Luo Fei glanced at him again and looked puzzled, making Luo Fusheng's heart ache for him. He moved closer, close enough to take his hand and thread their fingers together.

"Don't do anything you don't want to do," he said. "Not for me." He squeezed Luo Fei's fingers. "I mean it."

Luo Fei's eyes -- beautiful eyes -- widened slightly before skepticism encroached. "But clearly you have needs which are not being met."

Luo Fusheng didn't know what he meant at first, then remembered Luo Fei walking in on his bath that morning. He didn't laugh -- nothing about the way Luo Fei was right now was funny -- but he shook his head.

"I'm a guy. I let off steam sometimes." He looked at Luo Fei curiously. "Don't you?"

Luo Fei found the ceiling fascinating again, blinking at it. "That's different."

"How is it different? Because I've never stumbled across you doing it?" And although the timing was inappropriate, his mind's eye filled with fantasy images of just that, sending a jolt of heat through his body.

"I..." Luo Fei stopped and sighed deeply, staring at the ceiling. "I haven't had much luck -- any luck -- with this sort of thing before. When I've been with someone, it was brief." He looked at Luo Fusheng. "It wasn't something that developed over time. I thought the progression would become apparent, but it seems I was wrong."

"Luo Fei..." Luo Fusheng let go of his hand and lightly stroked Luo Fei's cheekbone. "I don't know about any progression. I'm not sure how it's supposed to happen, either."

Luo Fei's soft smile was rueful. "We started our bedroom life by kissing. By traditional standards, we're already as intimate as possible. And yet."

Luo Fusheng rubbed Luo Fei's sideburn with his fingertip. "Princess, I don't think either one of us is traditional."

"No." Luo Fei touched his hand and held it to his cheek.

Luo Fusheng frowned a little. "But as for our progression, I don't think you getting naked and lying as still as a corpse on the bed is the way to move forward."

Luo Fei sucked in a breath and exhaled. He glanced away. "With others, if it wasn't a spontaneous act lasting only for the duration, the expectation was, ah, as you said. Though more animated than a corpse, I'd like to think," he added with a sly, amused look.

Luo Fusheng was not amused. He rubbed Luo Fei's cheek and neck. "Then those others were dumb, selfish men who didn't treat you well. Some men are like that. I guess I used to be like that, too."

Luo Fei regarded him curiously. "What changed? You have always treated me very well."

"Because you're you," Luo Fusheng said. "But back in Dongjiang, I changed because I met a girl. Nothing like that. We never... Well, I did kiss her, but it wasn't like that. She was sweet and kind and strong, and I wanted to be someone she'd choose. I guess that's how I changed." He smiled wistfully, thinking of Tianying.

"What happened, if I may ask?"

Luo Fusheng shrugged. "She chose my best friend and they ran off together."

Luo Fei reached to cup his cheek and brought him to a soft, slow kiss. They kissed tenderly and their bodies touched, warm and bare. Luo Fusheng couldn't mute his reaction and moaned into the kiss. Luo Fei matched his moan, deepened the kiss, and drew Luo Fusheng closer until they were wedged together. Following each kiss with another, they slid and moved against each other. Their cocks touched, and Luo Fusheng's stiffened, feeling Luo Fei's grow hard. Luo Fei caught his breath, gave Luo Fusheng a biting kiss, and shifted onto his back, pulling Luo Fusheng over him.

Luo Fusheng kissed his throat and neck and licked the line of his beard along his jaw and chin. Any momentary doubts he had about their position -- he did not want to be one of those dumb, selfish men -- were dispelled by Luo Fei writhing and arching forcefully against him, pushing his cock against Luo Fusheng's belly. He dragged his fingers down Luo Fusheng's back and bent one knee up to hold Luo Fusheng in place.

Senses overloading, Luo Fusheng captured his mouth in another deep kiss and thrust against the tight flat of his stomach. They were both slick, wet, and slippery now, and their cocks pressed together, thrusting, stroking. Luo Fei broke from the kiss with a harsh gasp and thrashed as he came, digging his fingers into Luo Fusheng's back. The hot jolt of it propelled Luo Fusheng's climax, and he rammed and came in shudders.

He extricated himself carefully as Luo Fei sank into the mattress. Luo Fusheng leaned up to look at him: his eyes heavy-lidded, his lips red and plump from kissing, his skin gleaming with sweat and come, his cock spent and soft, its blush fading.

"Look how beautiful you are," Luo Fusheng said, sighing as he drank in the view. Luo Fei gave him an ironic smirk.

Luo Fusheng rested until his breath and senses calmed, then got up and padded to the washroom to shower quickly and start a bath running. He returned to the bed with a damp washcloth and gently wiped Luo Fei clean. He kissed Luo Fei's temple. "Your bath's ready."

Luo Fei turned, grasped the nape of his neck, and gave him a strong, generous kiss. When he let go he murmured, "I think we made progress."

Luo Fusheng grinned at him. "I think we made wonderful progress."

The first time they fucked it was because they played mah-jongg with Susu and her cousin.

They had just wrapped up a grueling case involving a lost son and opium smugglers, the type of case that was depressingly common. Luo Fusheng had his first taste of undercover work, infiltrating the smuggling ring on the strength of word-of-mouth about his exploits in Dongjiang. Fortunately, no one in this ring knew that the Hong family had never traded in opium.

Supplied with Luo Fusheng's information, the police had broken up the smuggling ring and prevented a shipment of opium from entering Shanghai. However, the lost son was a casualty of the drug and the violence surrounding it.

Luo Fei hated being too late to prevent tragedy. He hid it, of course, masking his sense of helplessness by decrying the waste of his talents on trivial cases that even Ye Changqing could handle alone. He tossed the closed case file to Qin Xiaoman, said some tactless things, and left the apartment to visit his barber.

Qin Xiaoman straightened the papers in the file and said disgustedly, "I hate when he pretends he doesn't care. Does he think he's fooling anyone?"

"I doubt it," Luo Fusheng said, perching on the edge of the desk. "He just doesn't like to show how upset he is."

"We're all upset." Qin Xiaoman hugged the file in her arms. "There's nothing to hide."

They talked about the case for a while before she returned to her own flat. She was going out to the cinema this evening in hopes of escaping the early summer heat. She gave Luo Fusheng a cute smile. "Why don't you come with me? You can be my bodyguard."

Luo Fusheng laughed. They were sparring partners, using her punching bag and the boxing dummy on the roof. "You don't need any bodyguards. You just want free candy." The last time they'd gone to the cinema together, Luo Fusheng had unintentionally charmed a bag of chocolates out of the concessions girl. "I'm surprised it doesn't go against your cop principles."

Qin Xiaoman shrugged. "They were good chocolates," she said with a grin, crossing the hallway to her apartment.

When Luo Fei came home sometime later, his hair, mustache, and beard impeccably groomed, Luo Fusheng announced, "We're invited to a mah-jongg game with Susu and her cousin." Luo Fei made a face and Luo Fusheng pressed, "They need four and I already accepted for us both."

Luo Fei grudgingly followed him downstairs, remarking, "You are too pliable around Susu's feminine charms. I thought you learned your lesson after the incident with the piano."

Luo Fusheng ignored him since Luo Fei wasn't entirely wrong, although Luo Fusheng was nice to Susu because she was their landlady, not because of her feminine charms. It seemed like a good idea to be friendly with the landlady. And he would've helped any neighbor move a heavy piano.

The cousin was from a small town and shared only small talk, occasionally gossiping with Susu about their relatives. The parlor was stuffy even with the windows open and the ladies fanned themselves as they arranged their tiles. Luo Fei, after his initial resistance, focused on the game and fell silent. He watched the tiles as if capable of controlling them to his will. Luo Fusheng knew a few ways to cheat at mah-jongg but out of deference to Susu and her guest he played honestly.

He mentioned Qin Xiaoman had gone to the pictures and suddenly the cousin flared to life. "Those awful, corrupting movie shows!" she huffed, shaking her fan violently. "Filth. Absolute filth."

Luo Fei roused from his meditative state to regard her impassively. "Oh?"

"Oh, yes," said the cousin, warming to her topic and eager to share her views. "The foreign ones, especially. The things they show on screen for anyone to see! Crude and shocking. And the stories are worthless. No traditional values. No traditional morals."

"No traditional morals," Luo Fei repeated quietly. Luo Fusheng, watching him, cleared his throat and turned to Susu with a bright smile. "May we have some water? It sure is hot this evening."

Susu smiled back. "Of course. Water, unless you'd like something stronger...?"

"Water's fine."

But his attempt to distract fell short. When Susu left to get water, Luo Fei said, "Traditional morals such as disowning a son for daring to marry the woman he loved, turning him into an outcast in his own village, causing him to arrive in the city destitute and desperate. Easy prey for gangs and criminals. Easily led into dark warrens of opium dens. How wonderfully traditional."

The cousin blinked at him and opened and shut her mouth, unable to speak. Luo Fusheng wished he could hug him close and rock him in his arms and hold him until the lingering bad taste of their last case faded. Susu returned, carrying a tray with four glasses and a pitcher of water, her smile fixed as she surveyed the scene. "And what have we been discussing while I was away?"

Luo Fei took the glass she offered and smiled coolly. "Traditions."

Luo Fusheng won the game even without cheating. Susu vowed a rematch. Luo Fusheng suspected the cousin would be happy never to see them again. Luo Fei, after his speech about traditional morals, had retreated into his meditations but not, this time, about mah-jongg tiles, because he lost badly. When they returned to their apartment, Luo Fusheng wrapped him in his arms from behind and said, "I shouldn't have accepted the invitation. Sorry."

Luo Fei relaxed a little to lean into his embrace. "Not at all. It was a most entertaining game."

Luo Fusheng rocked him and nuzzled his neck. "Hush. 'Entertaining.' You hated it."

Luo Fei examined his fingernails. "Susu's cousin has been forsaken by her husband, did you notice? The way she kept rubbing her jade bracelet, no doubt her marriage token. And she wasn't dressed for traveling, but wore those clothes when she arrived today -- there was dirt on her hem -- and has not changed them, suggesting she left home without packing. Susu was not expecting her until she received a telephone call last night. But no doubt the cousin is very satisfied, since her husband is following traditions."

Luo Fusheng felt sorry for the cousin, but let the subject drop. "Do you want a bath? I'll start the water."

"No. I'm going to bed now." Luo Fei pulled away from Luo Fusheng's hug. He glanced back over his shoulder. "You?"

Luo Fusheng recognized the fiery look in his eyes and it caused his pulse to jump. "Oh, yes."

He opened the windows in the bedroom, though there was not much breeze tonight. They had purchased a small, metal, electric fan and set it on the chair. It moved the sluggish air without bringing any noticeable relief.

Luo Fei neatly removed his clothes and rolled the blanket to the foot of the bed before lying down on the mattress. Luo Fusheng stripped and climbed into bed with him, and instantly they were kissing, pressing together, naked, hungry, enjoying each other. They touched and rubbed, growing hard together. Luo Fusheng drew back to feast his eyes on Luo Fei -- beautiful man -- and wanted to ease his mood, bring him distraction and pleasure. He slid back into place on top of Luo Fei, and kissed his neck.

"I want to tell you something crude and shocking," he murmured and licked Luo Fei's perfect sideburn.

Luo Fei skimmed his fingertips down Luo Fusheng's back. "Oh?" He rubbed his lips against Luo Fusheng's shoulder.

"Princess," Luo Fusheng whispered against his ear, "I want your cock inside me."

Luo Fei had two reactions. His cock stiffened and throbbed. The rest of him went still and he stared at Luo Fusheng. Luo Fusheng knew which reaction he trusted more. He smiled and brushed his lips against Luo Fei's.

"You didn't expect this?" he asked, thinking that for a man as observant as Luo Fei was, he didn't always notice what was closest to him.

"I..." Luo Fei paused and swallowed. "Yes. I mean, yes, I would like that."

Luo Fusheng grinned and kissed him again. His whole body vibrated, alive with anticipation, and he rolled off of Luo Fei to settle on his stomach. Luo Fei sat up and looked him over. Luo Fusheng leered encouragingly at him. Luo Fei swallowed again. "Just a moment."

He opened the drawer of his nightstand and hunted through whatever he kept in there, bringing out a tin printed with foreign words. He opened it and touched his finger to it, saying, "This is a French cream. It smells nice." He held it out and Luo Fusheng sniffed. It smelled okay. "It's used for such occasions."

Luo Fusheng's previous encounters had been in storerooms and deserted alleys in Dongjiang, with only spit to ease the action. He bemusedly watched Luo Fei's elegant, expressive fingers dab at the fancy French cream. The effect, however, when Luo Fei touched and caressed him, opening him, was incredibly sensual. He clutched his pillow and glided back and forth with Luo Fei's fingers.

Luo Fei made a rough, throaty noise and withdrew his fingers. Luo Fusheng readied himself, his heart racing and body begging for satisfaction.

"Oh, hey, I should tell you," he said. "However you want to do it is fine by me."

"However...?" Luo Fei rested his hands on Luo Fusheng's backside.

"Yeah. If you want to go slow. Or if you want to, you know, go fast."

Luo Fei's hands abruptly left him and Luo Fei dropped back against the mattress and stared at the ceiling. Luo Fusheng, his body thudding from sudden disappointment, gazed at him wildly. "Luo Fei? What is it?" Luo Fei didn't answer, and Luo Fusheng shifted to curl against him, kissing and caressing him soothingly. "What is it? Tell me."

"How can you say that? How can it not matter to you?" Luo Fei asked sharply, still staring at the ceiling. "Why does only what I want matter?" He gave Luo Fusheng a sidelong look.

Luo Fusheng bowed his head, shaking it. "That's not what I meant. I... I just didn't want you to... to hold back... anything..."

Luo Fei took a deep breath and released it. Luo Fusheng looked into his eyes. "I want you. You know how much I want you. You can feel how much I want you."

Luo Fei touched his cheek. "Yes." He paused, then smiled softly. "Luo Fusheng."

Luo Fusheng smiled back and shifted over, settling on his stomach again. When Luo Fei thrust inside him, he was careful and slow, sliding back and pushing forward. Luo Fusheng angled his hips and pressed back to show him how good it felt, how much he wanted it. Luo Fei's breath caught and he matched Luo Fusheng's moves, steadily increasing the rhythm until his long, hard cock was ramming into Luo Fusheng, filling him with electric sparks of pleasure. Luo Fusheng groaned and his body shuddered as he gripped his cock and came. Luo Fei thrust faster and harder, pulling out at the moment of ecstasy, his hot come pouring over Luo Fusheng's back.

Luo Fusheng buried his face in the pillow, breathing harshly. "Oh, Princess."

Luo Fei fell onto the mattress beside him, gasping. "That... Oh..."

Luo Fusheng turned his head to look at him and smiled, feeling drunk. "Yeah."

After some time, Luo Fei left the bed to run a bath. While the tub was filling he lavished attention on Luo Fusheng, kissing and caressing him, tending to him with a warm washcloth. When the tub was full he took Luo Fusheng's hand and pulled him upright and led him to the bath. Luo Fusheng sank into the water with a satisfied sigh. When Luo Fei turned to leave, he caught Luo Fei's wrist.

"Hey, Boss. Get in here with me."

Luo Fei cocked his head, eyes traveling the length of the tub, and climbed inside. Water splashed over the sides onto the tiled floor. Luo Fei fit himself between Luo Fusheng's legs and leaned back. Luo Fusheng wrapped his arms around him and kissed his cheek.

They stayed in the tub until they both started drowsing. Luo Fusheng, who had a horror of falling asleep in the bath and drowning, roused Luo Fei so they could go back to bed. They collapsed together and fell asleep in each other's arms.

The first time they switched it was because Susu's new tenant moved out.

Susu's cousin stayed for a month before she was established in a place of her own. That Susu was supporting her became apparent when Susu suddenly decided to rent out the back parlor to add to her income. Luo Fusheng and Qin Xiaoman helped her clear out the room and ready it for tenants. Within a week it was rented to a sweaty man who'd just relocated from Nanjing.

He was nice and wanted to make friends. He worked in a commercial bank. He spoke fluent French. On that strength alone, Luo Fusheng thought he and Luo Fei would hit it off. They did not. Luo Fei didn't find him interesting and didn't make much effort to converse with him. Luo Fusheng chatted with him a few times and was happy that Susu had found a decent tenant quickly.

A few weeks after the new tenant moved in, Luo Fei, Luo Fusheng, and Qin Xiaoman were working on a gruesome murder case involving body parts found near the docks. There were two victims and they hadn't identified either of them yet. They returned to the Sullivan Apartments after spending hours in the morgue with Ben Jie Ming. It was cool in the morgue, a break from the relentless, humid, midsummer's heat.

As soon as they reached the apartment, still talking about the bodies, Luo Fusheng wanted to go to the rooftop. It wasn't cooler up there, but it wasn't as stuffy as staying inside. Qin Xiaoman, gloomy about the lack of progress in the case, shook her head and crossed the hall to her own flat. Luo Fei went inside to fetch a cigar and Luo Fusheng leaned against the wall, waiting, with his hands stuffed in his trouser pockets.

"Luo Fei!" Susu marched up the stairs and down the hallway, the heels of her shoes clanking. She stopped when she saw Luo Fusheng and instead of gracing him with her usual charming smile, she narrowed her eyes at him. "You, too!" she accused. "The two of you!"

Luo Fusheng shifted on his feet. He had a bad feeling about where this was heading until she cast a sharp glance at Qin Xiaoman's apartment door and added, "The three of you!"

Luo Fei wandered out of the apartment, unlit cigar in his hand, and regarded Susu with raised eyebrows. "The three of us... what?" he asked mildly.

Susu raised herself to her full height and rested her hands on her hips. "You drove him away, that's what! He packed up all his things and moved out this morning. And why?" She glared at them. "Because of you and your experiments! All hours of the day. All hours of the night. Dragging and banging and pounding on the walls. The poor man couldn't sleep, he said, because of the commotion."

Luo Fusheng frowned, thinking back over the weeks since the new tenant had arrived. Aside from one crime scene reenactment involving Qin Xiaoman, a heavy pair of boots, and one of the leather chairs, he couldn't recall any loud experiments.

Luo Fei shrugged nonchalantly. "To do our work, we need to carry out certain tests from time to time. I have made that clear to you before."

Susu regained her composure but pursed her lips in a moue. "Before, I didn't need to rent out the back parlor. Now what I am to do?"

Luo Fei shrugged again. Luo Fusheng nudged him and said, "We'll find you a new tenant."

Susu smiled widely at him, all charm. "Really? You will? But no one too rough. Or messy. Or too fussy." Her eyes slid to Luo Fei. "Or too loud. And someone who'll pay on time."

Luo Fusheng nodded, smiling at her. "Don't worry about a thing." He had absolutely no idea how they were going to find a perfect tenant. Or even if it would be 'they,' because he suspected Luo Fei would happily delegate all responsibility to Luo Fusheng. Perhaps Qin Xiaoman would help.

Susu, placated, returned downstairs, and he and Luo Fei went up to the roof. It was a hot, lazy night. Luo Fusheng sat on the ledge and admired the lights. Luo Fei lit his cigar and puffed on it. He sat down and offered it to Luo Fusheng, who took a few savoring puffs before handing it back.

"How do you plan to find Susu a new tenant?" Luo Fei asked, a trace of amusement in his voice.

"You won't help?"

"Why should I? Susu should never have rented the room to that man in the first place." Luo Fei parted his lips -- beautiful lips -- and smoke uncurled to dance sluggishly in the air.

"Why not?" Luo Fusheng was fascinated to hear Luo Fei's recitation of the man's telltale clues and the portrait they painted of someone nefarious, someone with horrible secrets and an awful past. A murderer? An embezzler? A spy?

Luo Fei held his cigar and looked at it with interest. "Because he was dull."

Luo Fusheng sat back. That was it? Not that it wasn't true, but... He smiled to himself and shook his head.

They relaxed on the roof while Luo Fei smoked half of his cigar. Probably meditating on the case, though he didn't talk about it. Luo Fusheng worried about how to find a new tenant. Something Susu said niggled at him...

"The back parlor," he said. "It's underneath our bedroom."


They looked at each other, reaching the same conclusion. Luo Fusheng's cheeks flushed with warmth and he laughed softly. "Oh, Boss."

Luo Fei pursed his lips a little and stubbed out the cigar. He licked his fingers and dabbed at the end and tucked the rest of it into his vest pocket.

When they returned to the apartment, Luo Fusheng went into the bedroom and turned on the fan, which at least gave the illusion of relief in the oppressive heat. He moved the bedside tables out of the way and shouldered against the bedframe to push the bed away from the wall. Luo Fei, attracted to the noise, wandered in and helped him reposition the tables.

"Do you think that's far enough?" Luo Fusheng asked, panting and wiping sweat from his brow.

"I think it's unnecessary while the back parlor is vacant," said Luo Fei, "but as the exertion has already been expended..." He checked the distance between the bedframe and the wall. "Yes."

Due to the heat, even on nights when they did not share carnal pleasures they went to bed naked and slept without a covering sheet. Luo Fusheng settled comfortably on the mattress next to Luo Fei and closed his eyes. He thought about the departed tenant and chuckled to himself.

"What?" Luo Fei asked.

"Banging and pounding, Susu said."

"Yes. We are rather..." Luo Fei paused. "You do enjoy it." He did not ask, yet the question was there. Luo Fusheng opened his eyes and glanced at him. Luo Fei lay on his back, relaxed, gazing down at his hands clasped across his chest. In the muggy air, his hair rebelled against attempts at control and blossomed wildly.

"Yes, I enjoy it," Luo Fusheng said. "You know I do, or else you're not much of a detective, if you can miss something so obvious."

Luo Fei smiled softly. After a long silence he said, still looking at his hands, "Do you want to make love to me?"

Luo Fusheng watched him. He swallowed. "Yes. Is... is that... something you want?"

Luo Fei didn't answer immediately. He rubbed his thumb back and forth over his knuckle. "It is..."

Luo Fusheng held his breath and released it. "But?"

"But... You may be disappointed by the experience. Others were, in the past."

Not for the first time, Luo Fusheng wanted a list of these others so he could hunt them down and thrash them for treating Luo Fei so shabbily.

He licked his lips and said, "I'm not those others. I won't be disappointed. But I don't want you to be disappointed, either, so if you're—"

"Luo Fusheng." Luo Fei cut him off and rolled onto his side, facing him. He cupped Luo Fusheng's cheek in his hand. "Make love to me."

Luo Fusheng sucked in a breath. "Yes," he said, releasing it.

They kissed and caressed, and Luo Fusheng pulled Luo Fei on top of him to hold him as they slid together, growing hard. Luo Fei leaned sideways across the bed to reach the bedside table drawer. He brought out the tin of fancy French cream and opened it. The scent of it had formed strong associations for Luo Fusheng and his pulse thudded. He took the tin from Luo Fei's hand and swirled his fingers in the cream.

When he touched Luo Fei with the cream, Luo Fei tensed instinctively. Luo Fusheng soothingly stroked his back, nuzzling and kissing his cheek and neck and shoulder. Luo Fei relaxed gradually, in stages, accepting his caresses. Luo Fusheng took his time -- he would take all damn night if necessary, to make it good for Luo Fei -- until Luo Fei brushed his lips across Luo Fusheng's and murmured, "I'm ready."

Luo Fusheng gazed into his eyes -- beautiful eyes -- and was almost lost, drawn in by the desire, the passion, he saw in them.

He slid his fingers out and rubbed Luo Fei's hips. They could do it like this, he thought. It might even be better for Luo Fei. But Luo Fei moved off of him and positioned himself face down on the mattress. He took a deep breath and said, "I should've mentioned this earlier. At the moment of completion, if you could... not stay inside. If possible. I don't like the feeling." Luo Fusheng had guessed as much, since Luo Fei would pull out until Luo Fusheng, who liked how it felt, had convinced him it was all right. He smoothed his hand down Luo Fei's back and kissed his cheek.

Luo Fei was not tense, but there was something wary about his position and the way he waited. Luo Fusheng again silently cursed those dumb, selfish men from Luo Fei's past and moved behind him. He sat up on his knees and slipped his hands down Luo Fei's sides, easing him back. Luo Fei made a quiet, inquisitive noise, and the moist tip of Luo Fusheng's cock touched him.

"Yes," Luo Fei sighed. He leaned back against Luo Fusheng's chest, taking him in as Luo Fusheng pushed inside.

Luo Fusheng held him on his lap as they fucked, thrusting slowly, taking his cues from Luo Fei -- his gasps and moans, his body's pulling and writhing, his cock stiffening to full hardness. He ran his hands down Luo Fei's chest, over his thighs and hips, kissing his shoulders, his back. He rubbed Luo Fei's balls and Luo Fei arched against him powerfully, churning his hips. Luo Fusheng took his time, drawing out Luo Fei's pleasure before wrapping his hand around Luo Fei's cock and pumping until Luo Fei came hard, shaking.

Luo Fusheng, feeling him, had to bite the inside of his mouth to keep his control. Luo Fei's shudders subsided and Luo Fusheng carefully pulled out, his cock thickly throbbing. He pushed it twice against Luo Fei's lower back and came, clutching Luo Fei's waist and biting his shoulder.

Luo Fei sagged in his embrace then slid sinuously to the mattress, sprawling on his stomach with his arms outstretched. Luo Fusheng winced from the pins and needles in his legs as he shifted to lie down next to Luo Fei. Luo Fei turned his head against the mattress to look at him. He smiled. Luo Fusheng reached over to brush the hair out of his eyes and smiled back.

"I bit you," he said.

"I don't mind."

"It might leave a bruise."

Luo Fei shrugged against the mattress. He gazed at him, glowing, happy. "You're not disappointed."

It wasn't a question. Luo Fusheng laughed softly and ran his thumb along Luo Fei's jaw, rubbing his beard. "I'd ask if you were, but I think I know the answer already."

Luo Fei quirked an eyebrow. "If you didn't, then you wouldn't be much of a detective's assistant, if you can miss something so obvious."

Luo Fusheng grinned at him and kissed him softly.

The first time Qin Xiaoman walked in on them it was because Luo Fusheng left the bedroom door open.

He often did. It didn't make sense to him to close the bedroom door when they were alone in the apartment. He'd forgotten about Qin Xiaoman's propensity for entering Luo Fei's apartment on her own initiative.

Had she walked in on them an hour earlier, it would've been much worse. An hour earlier, Luo Fusheng had been biting the pillows and writhing in bliss while Luo Fei pounded him into the mattress with an exquisite, hard fuck.

As it was, what she walked in on was Luo Fei sitting up, leaning against the bedframe, wearing only eyeglasses and his unbuttoned pajama top, reading a book about American detection techniques. Luo Fusheng, naked, nestled against him, resting his head on Luo Fei's midriff. Luo Fei's fingers absently combed through Luo Fusheng's hair, lifting only when he needed to turn the page.

Luo Fusheng heard the floor creak outside the bedroom and opened his eyes. Qin Xiaoman stood in the open doorway, frozen in place, her eyes wide. Luo Fusheng smiled sleepily at her and said, "Good—" The greeting cut off when Qin Xiaoman turned on her heel and quickly left the apartment.

Luo Fusheng blinked after her. "That was Xiaoman."

"Yes." Luo Fei lifted his hand to turn a page. He replaced his hand, gently stroking Luo Fusheng's hair. "She must've solved the puzzle I gave her. A case from this very book, in fact."

"Oh." Luo Fusheng closed his eyes and napped, lulled by Luo Fei's slow caresses.

Later that day, while Luo Fei was at his tailor's, Luo Fusheng found Qin Xiaoman on the rooftop. It was late afternoon, warm and hazy, a slight breeze bringing the promise of autumn. Qin Xiaoman sat on the ledge, looking out at the city. From the state of the boxing dummy, she'd had a good practice earlier.

Luo Fusheng sat down beside her. She spared him a glance. "I thought you were just friends."

Luo Fusheng picked at the knee of his trousers. "We are friends."

"But more than that," she said, looking at him.


She frowned slightly. "I'm a policewoman. I know about... such things. I should've known, should've observed..." She looked down at her hands and rubbed her fingers. "You looked happy," she said finally.

Luo Fusheng watched her. "I'm very happy."

"Is he?"

"I think so, yes," Luo Fusheng said. "That's not to say there isn't some darkness in his life. There always is, always will be. Just as there is in my life. Just as there is in yours."

She nodded and met his gaze. Luo Fusheng said, "I love him."

Her eyes widened briefly, then she smiled a little. "Yes. I knew that."

"Xiaoman," Luo Fusheng said. "He would do anything for you." She looked away. He added, "So would I."

She glanced at him, about to speak, then something on the street below caught her eye. She smiled. "There he is."

Luo Fusheng looked down and, indeed, there was Luo Fei, striding up Fuxing South Road, casually swinging his walking stick and looking trim and dapper in a grey suit and blue vest. Beautiful man. They both watched him approach, and Luo Fusheng murmured, "Some detective. He can't even tell when he's being spied on."

Qin Xiaoman grinned at him and they continued watching until Luo Fei stopped in front of the laundry next door and stepped into the street, looking up and shading his eyes. He waved his arm at them once. Luo Fusheng and Qin Xiaoman waved back.

"I'm glad he has you," she said, gazing at him steadily, serious.

"I'm glad he has us," Luo Fusheng said, smiling.

They sat quietly on the ledge, waiting until Luo Fei met them there, carrying a stained, lumpy sack. He dropped this on the rooftop in front of them and announced, "I've just read about a technique to identify different knife blades based on the types of cuts they leave. We'll each take several of these knives and practice on this hog's head I procured from Susu's cook. Fusheng, I took the liberty of bringing your flick-knife, though no doubt you're already familiar with the characteristics of its cuts. But for my and Xiaoman's edification...?"

Luo Fusheng and Qin Xiaoman glanced at each other and laughed. Luo Fei smiled at them, his eyes bright and eager, and set out the instruments for their experiment. The city lights turned on one by one, and the warm afternoon faded into a peaceful night in Shanghai.