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Moments of Truth

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Luo Fei increased his pace and gripped his umbrella more tightly. The person following him was good, good enough that anyone less observant wouldn’t have known he was there. He was staying just out of sight, around corners and behind walls. Luo Fei hurried down the street and felt a wash of relief as he finally made it to the police station. His shadow didn’t follow him, but hovered just out of sight as he crossed the street and climbed the steps.


The next day, the shadow was back, and the day after that. The man - Luo Fei was fairly certain it was a man, not a woman dressed as one - never approached him. Yet he dogged Luo Fei’s steps whenever he went out at night or early in the morning, whenever he was out after dark or somewhere that could be dangerous.

After a week of this, Luo Fei was no closer to discovering the man’s identity than at the start. He’d tried to extrapolate what the man’s purpose could be - was he tracking Luo Fei’s movements? Had he been sent to intimidate him? (Surely not, or he would have actually shown himself.) Luo Fei had given him ample opportunity to approach him directly, but the man never had.

As he sat at home, sipping tea and considering his next move, the phone rang. It turned out to be the chief, summoning him to another whirlwind case, distracting his busy mind for a time and nearly making him forget about his follower.


The case ended up being a mess of tangled ends it took days to unravel, and resulted in Luo Fei being cornered alone in a dark alley. He cursed himself as a fool and wondered if this was truly how he was going to meet his end. The suspect grinned and brandished a knife.

Then an arm came around the suspect’s throat, a knee sank into his back, and the suspect crumpled. Luo Fei looked up into wide, dark eyes. Familiar eyes. “Luo Fusheng?”

Luo Fusheng jumped, glancing from side to side as though searching for an escape. He took a step back into the darkness.

“Wait!” Luo Fei leapt forward, heedless of the suspect passed out on the ground between them. “Why are you following me? Why did you save me?”

There was a breath of hesitation. “I owe you,” came Luo Fusheng’s voice.

Luo Fei frowned. He’d intervened in a case where Luo Fusheng had been accused of murdering several other men. It had been an obvious case of self-defence, and so Luo Fei had proven. “For what? Uncovering the truth?”

He’d meant it sarcastically, but the man in the shadows nodded, barely visible. “You didn’t have to do that. You could have let them blame me, jail me, kill me. Instead…” The word hung in the air, pensive. “ believed me,” he finished at last.

“Uncovering the truth is my job,” Luo Fei said. He felt an uncomfortable tightness in his chest. At the time he’d assessed Luo Fusheng and dismissed him: the young man had recently come from Dong Jiang, where he’d worked as a thug and second in command of one of the more notorious Families. He’d insisted he’d come to Shanghai to “get a fresh start”, and that the men who’d attacked him had followed him there looking for revenge. Luo Fei had been able to prove every word of his testimony, but once the case was over, Luo Fei had moved on to the next problem to be solved without a second thought. It hadn’t even occurred to him that Luo Fusheng might somehow feel beholden to him.

A snort. “The police are never interested in the truth.”

A thread of loyalty tugged at Luo Fei’s heart. Despite everything, he found himself saying, “Maybe not where you come from.” Dong Jiang’s police force was notoriously corrupt. “We do things differently here.”

“We?” there was a sardonic note to the word. “You’re not the police. You quit the police. Why?”

Luo Fei tensed. Because my superior didn’t want to see any more girls murdered, while I wanted to find the truth, he admitted in the privacy of his own head. “None of your business.”

Another snort. Luo Fusheng sidled forward into the light and lifted his head, giving Luo Fei a bright smile. “You’re different. You care.”

Why was his heart beating so hard? “Lots of people care,” Luo Fei said.

The smile twisted and became a grimace. “Not about someone like me,” Luo Fusheng said. He dropped his eyes, his posture shifting into something less aggressive. “Y-you’re the only one who e-ever-” he looked away and swallowed.

Stammering. That’s interesting. “Why did you leave Dong Jiang?” The question came from out of nowhere. Luo Fei knew the ostensible reasons why Luo Fusheng had left, but for the first time he suspected that there might be more to the story.

Sure enough, Luo Fusheng’s expression darkened. “There was nothing left for me there.”

“Why Shanghai?”

Luo Fusheng shrugged. He smiled again, though it didn’t reach his eyes this time. “It seemed as good a place as any to start over. Figured there’d be lots of work for someone like me.”

“That’s the second time you’ve said that about yourself,” Luo Fei said. “What do you mean, ‘someone like you’?”

Making a derisive noise, Luo Fusheng said, “You know what I mean. Someone who only knows violence.”

“Is that really all you know?” Luo Fei moved closer. Luo Fusheng blinked down at him and stilled as though he was trying not to scare away an inquisitive animal. “You haven’t joined any of the gangs since you arrived. You aren’t wearing any of their insignia, and haven’t been involved in anything other than that one incident as far as I know. What have you been doing since you got here?”

Shrugging again, Luo Fusheng said, “I worked at a nightclub for a while. “Made sure that no one harrassed the singers. Kicked out the drunks if they started to make trouble.”

He couldn’t be working nights if he’d been following Luo Fei around all the time. “You worked there until when?” he pressed. “Until ten days ago, when you appointed yourself my bodyguard?”

A flinch, tiny but undeniable. Luo Fusheng’s wide eyes darted to him, then away again.

“Well,” Luo Fei said tightly, “You saved my life tonight, so now we’re even. You can go back to work and stop following me around.”

Luo Fusheng didn’t nod and retreat as Luo Fei had half expected he would. Instead he took a step closer, stepping over the body of the man he’d knocked out and crowding Luo Fei until he took an involuntary step back. Luo Fusheng leaned in and whispered, “Is that really what you want?”

“I don’t need a bodyguard,” Luo Fei snapped. He moved to duck away, but Luo Fusheng’s hand whipped out and slammed into the wall next to his head. Luo Fei found himself gazing up into Luo Fusheng’s eyes, his heart pounding, his palms sweating, his mouth dry. “You don’t need to follow me anymore,” he croaked. “You can get on with your own life.”

“Maybe I like following you,” Luo Fusheng said. He searched Luo Fei’s face and grinned. “How you gonna stop me?”

“I-” Luo Fusheng’s face flickered as Luo Fei blinked rapidly. “I won’t have to. You’ll tire of the game soon enough.”

It was a misstep, he realized at once. Luo Fusheng clearly took the statement as a challenge. His eyes gleamed and his grin widened into something wild. He leaned forward, his lips just grazing Luo Fei’s ear, and whispered, “Wanna bet?”

The words died in Luo Fei’s throat. He fought the urge to reach out to grab, to cling - or perhaps to fall to his knees. His breath came short and hot and fast. Luo Fei’s lips brushed his earlobe, the lightest of touches, but it sent lightning through his veins.

Then Luo Fusheng pulled back with a smirk. “I’ll be seeing you, Luo Fei.”


Luo Fei had hoped that when Qin Xiaoman returned from visiting her aunt, Luo Fusheng would stop haunting his footsteps. After all, the policewoman was both a competent officer and also a perfectly capable bodyguard in her own right.

Now, surrounded by large, violent, angry men, he was regretting telling the former criminal to leave him alone.

Qin Xiaoman said quietly, “Stay behind me.” Then she stepped in front of him and, like the incredible and valiant woman she was, told the men to disperse or they would be arrested. They glanced at each other and snorted.

She could take on five or six men at a time, Luo Fei knew. But there were more than ten here. Even Qin Xiaoman had her limits. He could already see the outcome: she would begin to tire, someone would get in a lucky hit, which would cause her to be vulnerable, which would lead to another hit, until she finally fell.

But what could they do? Their back-up hadn’t arrived yet and likely wouldn’t until after it was over. These were not men who could be bought or reasoned with. Luo Fei hefted his cane and prepared to fight.

One of the men went in swinging and Qin Xiaoman put him down quickly. Two others converged on her and she started fighting them in earnest, throwing punches and kicks with devastating efficacy. Luo Fei stayed back, using his cane to strike at anyone who got too close. He watched as Qin Xiaoman knocked out both of her assailants and started to hope that they might actually be able to hold out until help arrived.

There was the sound of running footsteps, and Luo Fei looked up gladly-

-only to realize that the men running in were reinforcements for the other side, not theirs.

Grimly, he swung his cane at another assailant. He heard Qin Xiaoman give a grunt of pain, though she fought on gamely. They weren’t going to make it. Their back-up would arrive to find them dead, if they found their bodies at all-

A shout echoed through the warehouse, sending dual spikes of hope and fear into Luo Fei’s heart. A man jumped into the fray, quickly turning the tide. He fought his way to Qin Xiaoman’s side and stood back to back with her, fists flying and knives slashing in an orgy of violence. Luo Fei didn’t have the chance to use his cane again. No one even got close to him.

As quickly as it had begun, the fight ended. Those of their attackers who still could turned and fled. Luo Fusheng shouted after them, daring them to come back, to face him. Then he turned to the two of them and smiled, his eyes bright. “Sorry I’m late.”

Qin Xiaoman eyed him, panting. “You’re...Luo Fusheng. Luo Fei...proved your innocence in that case of the men who attacked you.”

He gave her a bow with a flourish. “Very good, Lady Officer.” He straightened and added respectfully, “You’re a good fighter.”

“So are you.” She folded her arms across her chest. “We appreciate your help. But what are you doing here? And what did you mean by, ‘sorry I’m late’?”

Luo Fusheng cocked his head to one side and glanced at Luo Fei. “You didn’t tell her?”

“Tell her what?” grimaced Luo Fei. “There’s nothing to tell!” Turning to Qin Xiaoman, he spread his hands and said, “He thinks he owes me somehow for figuring out the truth about that attack on him. I told him that’s not how it works, of course, but-” he shook his head and gave an exasperated sigh.

“Well, we were glad of his help tonight,” Qin Xiaoman said diplomatically.

“Yes,” Luo Fei admitted grudgingly. He looked back at Luo Fusheng and said, “Thank you.” The other man beamed at him. “Now you definitely don’t owe me anything, given that you’ve saved my life twice.”

“Twice!” Qin Xiaoman frowned. “What happened?”

Before Luo Fei could reply, the sound of running footsteps came down the corridor. This time, it was their own men. Luo Fusheng gave the two of them a wink and a wave before slipping out the back door.

Luo Fei stomped firmly on his feeling of disappointment as his self-proclaimed bodyguard disappeared through the doorway.


His shadow disappeared a few days later.

Luo Fei tried to tell himself that it didn’t matter, that Luo Fusheng had tired of the game as Luo Fei had predicted. But the absence ate at him like a sore tooth, keeping him awake at night and robbing him of focus during the day. Qin Xiaoman complained that he was in a foul mood. Benjamin quietly asked him what was wrong.

He couldn’t tell them. If he did, he would be admitting that-

That what?

That Luo Fusheng was important to him?

That he was worried about him?

He found himself searching out the nightclub where Luo Fusheng had worked. He’d left their employment weeks ago, they said. Though if he wanted his job back, he would be welcome any time.

Finding the flophouse where he’d been staying took longer, but Luo Fei was a detective, after all. He was a little shocked at the small, squalid room. It was a far cry from the luxury he’d deduced Luo Fusheng had been used to. There was a small box under the bed with photos and letters in it. Some were signed “your younger sister, LanLan”. Some were simply signed, “Tianying”.

A dead end.

Luo Fei went back and started again, this time from the other end. Who might want to go after Luo Fusheng, and why? This tack bore fruit almost at once, though the reason for the antipathy toward Luo Fusheng made Luo Fei’s blood run cold: it had been his rescue of Luo Fei that had earned the price on his head.

From there it was easy to follow. A drugged drink. A few men ‘helping’ him into a car. And then…

It was time, Luo Fei decided, to tell Qin Xiaoman and Benjamin.


Rage surged through Luo Fei’s veins. Luo Fusheng’s wrists were bound together with thick rope, which had been looped over an iron hook affixed halfway up the wall. Luo Fei’s erstwhile protector was on his knees, his shirt ripped open, bruises covering his chest, a streak of blood dripping from his mouth. He looked up at them with a feral gleam in his eyes that turned to shock as he blinked in the sudden light. “What are you doing here?” he croaked. “You need to leave!”

“I came for you,” Luo Fei said, then wondered what could have possessed him to say it.

Luo Fusheng’s eyes went wider. His lips parted, and for a moment, he looked very young. “For me?

Instead of answering, Luo Fei started tugging at the ropes. The knots were tight and difficult to reach. He grunted in frustration and began to saw through one of the strands with his pocketknife.

“Luo Fei.” He glanced over to meet that wide-eyed stare. “Y-you really came for me?”

Pressing his lips together, Luo Fei went back to cutting. Luo Fusheng didn’t speak again.

When Luo Fei finally succeeded in freeing him, Luo Fusheng collapsed with a groan. Luo Fei caught him before he hit his skull on the stone floor and gathered his head into his lap.

“Thank you,” murmured Luo Fusheng. Luo Fei just shook his head and looked away.


Luo Fusheng bounced back quickly, Luo Fei noted with a mixture of trepidation and relief. In a remarkably short time he found himself being shadowed once more, unmistakably by Luo Fusheng. Luo Fei wondered how the man was living if he wasn’t working. Even the tiny flophouse room required a little money for rent, and surely Luo Fusheng needed to eat.

Not knowing gnawed at Luo Fei, until he finally confronted the other man, trapping him in an alley very like the one where Luo Fusheng had first saved him.

“Are your ribs fully healed?” Luo Fei demanded, dispensing with formalities.

Shrugging, Luo Fusheng said, “They’re healed enough.” He cocked his head to one side, regarding Luo Fei with sharp eyes. He looked like a bird of prey, thought Luo Fei, except when he looked like an eager puppy. There was always a moment of cognitive dissonance when Luo Fei mentally compared the man who’d fought off multiple gang members and the one who’d looked at him with such disbelief when he’d told him that someone had cared enough to come for him. He had to remind himself that they were the same person.

“How are you living if you’re following me around all the time?”

His eyes sliding away, Luo Fusheng said, “I brought some money with me. And my - my older brother, he-” He made a jerky little movement, then stilled with a quick inhale. His ribs were still paining him, then. “He’s been helping me out. I don’t need much.”

Luo Fei sighed. “Will you tell me why you really came to Shanghai?”

Mouth hardening, Luo Fusheng said, “Why should I?”

Because I want to know! But that wasn’t a good enough reason, he supposed. “Never mind.” He fiddled with his cane. “Listen, you can’t stay at that terrible flophouse while you’re healing. My landlady has an extra room for rent. You can stay there.”

Snorting, Luo Fusheng said, “I can’t afford that.”

“You’re acting as my bodyguard anyway and you got hurt because you were protecting me.”

“I didn’t get hurt protecting you,” Luo Fusheng said stubbornly.

“Ultimately, you did. You were targeted because you rescued Qin Xiaoman and myself. But you already knew that, didn’t you?” Luo Fusheng’s jaw tightened, but he didn’t reply. “You’ve decided you owe me, very well. But if you’re going to insist on protecting me, then I ask you to let me do what I can for you in return. I can’t stop you from following me around, but I can at least make sure you have a place to sleep where you don’t need to worry about bedbugs or getting knifed.”

Luo Fusheng frowned, apparently mulling this over. Finally, he gave a nod. “All right. For now.”

“For now,” agreed Luo Fei, and felt something loosening in his chest.


Qin Xiaoman accepted the new development with an unexpected level of equanimity.

“You don’t mind?” Luo Fei asked her.

She raised her eyebrows. “Mind? He saved my life. He saved yours twice. Why would I mind?”

So that was that.

It was strangely easy. He saw Luo Fusheng frequently. The other man would come ‘to check up on him’ at the slightest odd noise, day or night, and since his room was directly below Luo Fei’s, he tended to show up even when Luo Fei was actively trying to be quiet.

The company was...nice. Luo Fusheng was different from Qin Xiaoman. She would pester Luo Fei endlessly, asking him what he was doing and why. He enjoyed confounding her, and enjoyed it even more when she figured things out on her own, but she was exhausting.

Luo Fusheng, for all his restless energy, could be quiet. He would sit and watch Luo Fei so silently that Luo Fei would forget he was there. Sometimes Luo Fei would pause and ask him what he thought of something, and his answers were almost always useful for starting new paths of thought.

Then there were the times when Luo Fei’s mind spiralled to the point where he couldn’t think anymore and was almost ready to throw himself off the roof in frustration. The third time it happened, Luo Fusheng seized him, dragged him to the bedroom, threw him onto the bed, and shouted, “Get some sleep!”

“No!” Luo Fei sat up. “I don’t need a bodyguard, damn you!” Luo Fusheng made an exasperated sound and shoved him down again, his hands on Luo Fei’s shoulders.

“You need a keeper!

Luo Fei stilled as the weight came down on his shoulders and Luo Fusheng’s face hovered over his. Suddenly he could feel his heartbeat pounding in his ears. After a moment he remembered to breathe and sucked in a shaking lungful of air.

A strange expression crossed Luo Fusheng’s face, something startled and hungry. He squeezed Luo Fei’s shoulders. “If I let go of you,” he said, his words slow and careful, “will you stay down?”

“No.” The word was out before Luo Fei could think about what it meant. Didn’t he want Luo Fusheng to let him go?

“Then I’m going to stay right here. Is-is that what you want?” Luo Fei didn’t answer. Of course it wasn’t what he wanted, he told himself. He wanted - he needed - to get back to work. The busy part of his mind, the part that never stopped, would whirl itself into a frenzy if he stayed here. But somehow, Luo Fei couldn’t say anything. All he could do was stare up into Luo Fusheng’s face.

Luo Fusheng’s eyes were dark, the room’s light casting odd shadows from this angle. He bit his lip and searched Luo Fei’s face. His next words were softer. “If you’ll agree to stay on the bed, just for a few minutes, I’ll let go.”

“No!” Why did he sound so panicked? Luo Fei made himself take a breath. All he needed to do was to promise to stay still and Luo Fusheng would let him go. Luo Fei opened his mouth, but still the words wouldn’t come. Instead he shifted, not struggling, exactly, but testing Luo Fusheng’s strength.

“You know I’m stronger than you,” Luo Fusheng said thoughtfully. A shiver coursed through Luo Fei. He swallowed. “If you struggle, I’ll,” Luo Fusheng frowned slightly, as though considering his next words, “I’ll have to pin you down. So don’t struggle if you don’t want that.”

Luo Fei immediately began to push harder against the implacable grip on his shoulders. He knew a single word would be enough to stop Luo Fusheng and make him back away. Instead he found himself shifting and writhing. Luo Fusheng’s grip tightened. Moving with careful but irresistible purpose, he climbed on the bed, slung one leg over him, and very slowly lowered his full weight onto Luo Fei’s body, finishing by wrapping his arms and legs around him.

Luo Fei’s head went quiet. He stilled, his limbs going limp.

It should have been uncomfortable. Physically it was, a little, being pressed into the mattress. But he found he didn’t care. He - he wanted this. Wanted it too much. Craved it like a man might crave whisky or opium, he admitted to himself.

It should have terrified him, that he needed this so much. It probably would, at some point. But not now. Not with Luo Fusheng’s body holding his down, anchoring him, grounding him until the tension bled away from his neck and back, his heart and breathing slowed, his eyes sank closed.

“You like this,” whispered Luo Fusheng.

“Yes,” admitted Luo Fei, almost drugged with it.

“Why?” Luo Fusheng pressed a kiss into his hair.

“You make me feel…” Luo Fei drifted for a moment, “”

“You are safe. I’ll protect you,” whispered Luo Fusheng.

Luo Fei felt a smile curling his lips as he sank deeper and deeper into the comforting darkness behind his eyelids. “I know,” he murmured.


The next morning, Luo Fei awoke feeling more refreshed than he had in weeks. He stretched and smiled at the ceiling, not thinking about anything in particular. The sound of his door opening and closing drew his attention, and he lifted his head to see Luo Fusheng standing there with a tray of food in his hands.

The previous evening came crashing back to Luo Fei. He froze, staring at Luo Fusheng, but the man just gave him a small smile and casually set the tray on his lap. “Eat before it gets cold,” he said, giving Luo Fei’s shoulder a nudge.

Then he settled next to Luo Fei on the bed, the newspaper in one hand.

Luo Fei picked up the fork. “Did you want any?”

“I ate already,” said Luo Fusheng. “I wouldn’t mind stealing a sip of your coffee, though.” He grinned at Luo Fei, his eyes bright and mischievous. Luo Fei handed him the coffee cup with a roll of his eyes, unsurprised when Luo Fusheng took a large gulp before handing it back.

They sat in companionable silence, Luo Fei eating and Luo Fusheng paging through the newspaper. When Luo Fei set down his cutlery with a sigh, Luo Fusheng folded the paper and started to get up, but paused and settled back down when Luo Fei caught his wrist.

“Last night…” Luo Fei began, then trailed off uncertainly.

Luo Fusheng looked at him intently. When Luo Fei stopped speaking, Luo Fusheng put one hand over his. “When I lived in Dong Jiang,” he said quietly, “I fell in love with someone. She was very beautiful and very strong, but a lot of bad things happened to her. Eventually she had to leave the city. I begged her to stay, but,” he sighed and shook his head, “I couldn’t convince her.”

He stopped and closed his eyes for a moment, then swallowed and went on, “Before she left, she made me promise that I would try to stop being a criminal. She said she was afraid for me and wanted me to find a happy life without violence.” He looked down at their joined hands. “I didn’t think I could. There were people I owed. People who depended on me. But…” He trailed off in turn, giving Luo Fei a sad smile. “Things took an unexpected turn. So I ended up here, trying to start a new life. Maybe not without violence, but at least not as a criminal. So I could keep my promise.”

Nodding, Luo Fei mulled this over. Finally he spoke. “Why are you telling me this now?”

“You wanted to know,” Luo Fusheng said. “And I - I want you to have everything you want. Anything you want. I want to take care of you. T - to protect you.”

Luo Fei dropped his eyes. The declaration was too much, too passionate, and he didn’t know what to do, what to say.

Letting his thumb trail over the back of Luo Fei’s hand, Luo Fusheng added, “I’m not very good at being alone, I think.”

“I thought I was.” The words were out before Luo Fei could call them back. “I thought I was better off alone.” He drew an unsteady breath. “But I believe I may need to re-evaluate that conclusion.”

“Oh? Why is that?” Luo Fusheng smiled at him again, wide and bright as the sun. Luo Fei turned his face away from the brightness, but Luo Fusheng just laughed and said, “You make me so happy.”

Luo Fei turned to stare at him, thunderstruck. “I make you happy? How?”

Shrugging, Luo Fusheng said, “You’re a good man. You make me feel like I can be a good man, too.”

Clutching at Luo Fusheng’s hand, Luo Fei said, “You are. You are a good man, Luo Fusheng.” There was no stopping the tremor in his voice

“No.” Luo Fusheng shook his head, his expression turning pensive. “I’m not. Not yet. But maybe I can be, someday. Maybe if I save enough people to make up for all the ones I’ve killed. Maybe if I save you enough times, because you have the power to save others.”

It was a strange way of thinking about things, but not illogical - except that the central premise was flawed. “I’m not as selfless as you seem to think I am.”

“You helped me,” Luo Fusheng said, a stubborn note entering his voice. “You saved me when you didn’t have to.”

“Your case was interesting,” retorted Luo Fei. “Don’t make more of it than it was.”

“It doesn’t matter why you did it,” Luo Fusheng said. “You helped me, and you’ve helped others, and you’ll help more people in the future.”

Luo Fei opened his mouth, realized he had no real answer to that, and closed it again. Luo Fusheng grinned.

“Maybe you don’t have to be selfless to be good,” he said. “I want to protect you. I think that’s a good thing. But it’s - it’s,” he faltered and ducked his head, the smile never leaving his lips, “it’s not all for selfless reasons.”

“I’m not a good choice of person to,” Luo Fei hunted desperately for the right word and settled on, “care for. There are others who are much better-”

A breath of laughter interrupted him. “Even if that were true, does your heart give you such a choice? Mine doesn’t.”

“No,” admitted Luo Fei after a moment. He closed his eyes. “It gives me no choice at all.”

There was a touch against his cheek, brief and butterfly-light. And then-

And then, Luo Fusheng’s body pressed up against his, hard and strong and warm.