One evening, Shen Wei brought home a paper bag with a string handle, stamped with a paw print. A thin black wand jutted from the corner of the bag. He set it on the coffee table and went to get dinner started.
"What's that?" Zhao Yunlan asked, looking up from the couch. He was filling out paperwork for their last case. Da Qing was beside him on the couch, dozing, with his legs on the arm of the couch, ankles crossed. Zhao Yunlan's laptop was slightly askew because Da Qing's head was resting against his thigh.
"One of my students found out I lived with a cat and brought me toys as a gift." Shen Wei said. "It was very sweet of her and I didn't want to refuse. I'll drop them off at the shelter this weekend.”
Zhao Yunlan stretched his arm out, careful not to disturb Da Qing, and pulled the black plastic wand from the bag. It had a blue and white cord dangling from the tip and an improbably feathered mouse attached to the end of the cord. Zhao Yunlan noticed a plastic tab among the feathers and pulled it out. The mouse's eyes flashed blue and it chirped. Da Qing's eyes snapped open. Zhao Yunlan laughed. "I guess the kittens will have fun with this." He bounced the wand so the mouse dangled over Da Qing's face, then started to put it away. He stopped when he realized Da Qing's pupils had grown huge and he was watching the mouse with the intensity of a born predator. Zhao Yunlan bounced the mouse experimentally. Da Qing's eyes followed the mouse.
"Damn Cat," Zhao Yunlan said, with amusement.
"Hm?" Da Qing didn't take his eyes off the mouse.
"You can play if you want," Zhao Yunlan said. He lifted the mouse higher, and shook it. The mouse chirped. Da Qing surged up, shifting form smoothly, and swatted the mouse with outstretched claws. Zhao Yunlan yanked it higher and Da Qing landed directly on Zhao Yunlan's lap, just barely missing his balls. "Hey, Fatty!" Zhao Yunlan yelped.
Da Qing rolled on his back and extended his claws, all four feet out. His eyes remained fixed on the toy. His pupils contracted, then expanded, as Zhao Yunlan swung the toy. Zhao Yunlan lowered the toy and Da Qing swatted it hard enough that it smacked against the back of the couch. The eyes flashed and the soundbox chirped. Zhao Yunlan pulled the mouse higher. Da Qing stretched out both forelegs and extended his claws. Zhao Yunlan dipped the toy into range, then snatched it away again. They played like this for a few minutes until finally, Da Qing moved fast enough to get both front paws on the mouse. He dug his claws in and he and Zhao Yunlan played tug of war briefly, until Zhao Yunlan's grip slipped and Da Qing claimed the toy. He grabbed the mouse with his mouth - it chirped in protest - flipped onto his feet and dashed off with his prize, the plastic wand dragging behind him, thumping the floor as he ran. He hid the toy behind the bed and bounced up in human form. "Can we keep this one?" he asked, grinning.
"I don't see why not," Shen Wei said. "Dinner's ready."
A few days later, Shen Wei was marking papers at the dining table when Da Qing sat down beside him, his hands to his side. "I put away the groceries," Da Qing said.
"Good, thank you," Shen Wei said, not looking up from his paper. "I'll start dinner when Zhao Yunlan gets home."
"Could we play?" Da Qing lifted his hand and put the toy he'd been holding on the table, just at the edge of Shen Wei's paper. The mouse chirped and the eyes flashed blue.
"Ah, not at the moment," Shen Wei said, apologetically. "I need to finish these tonight." He wrote a note in the margin of one paper, his handwriting swift and neat.
Da Qing nodded. He transformed into cat form, leapt up on the table, and flopped on his side, lazily batting the mouse between his paws. It chirped and flashed, and crept steadily crept closer to Shen Wei's papers as Da Qing played. Just as it touched the edge of one page, Shen Wei reached over and pushed the mouse across the table, without lifting his pen or smudging his note. Da Qing heaved a great sigh and rested his head on the mouse, watching Shen Wei with big, sad eyes.
It was another half an hour before Shen Wei finished his work. Da Qing was dozing on the mouse, but woke as he heard Shen Wei packing his students' assignments back into his briefcase. "All right," Shen Wei said, when everything was packed away, including the pen. "We can play now." Da Qing leapt up and batted the mouse at Shen Wei, cord and wand skittering across the table with it.
Zhao Yunlan woke up late one night, so late that dawn was threatening to creep over the horizon. He'd been out until two trailing a suspect and he was trying to get as much sleep as he could before Shen Wei had to be up for classes. He never slept as well in an empty bed. He tensed, trying to determine the source of the noise, then relaxed when he recognized the sound of Da Qing returning home. He rolled over and pressed his face against Shen Wei's shoulder and dozed off.
He woke again a few minutes later to the familiar chirp-chirp, chirp-chirp and the flash of blue lights in the dark. "Damn Cat," he groaned, and tossed his pillow at Da Qing.
"Sorry," came the muffled response. Then, a moment later, "Do you want to play?"
"He needs sleep," Shen Wei said, without opening his eyes, apparently woken by the noise as well. "Please silence that toy. There will be time to play tomorrow."
"I need sleep," Zhao Yunlan echoed drowsily. He felt around for his pillow, remembered he'd thrown it at Da Qing, and settled for rearranging Shen Wei so he could be used as a pillow. Shen Wei made no objections, and curled his arm around Zhao Yunlan once they'd settled in place.
Da Qing sighed, shifted to cat form, and leapt onto the bed to curl up on Zhao Yunlan's feet.
Shen Wei caught Zhao Yunlan around the waist and pulled him in for a deep kiss.
"Rough day?" Zhao Yunlan asked, when he had a chance to speak.
"Mn," Shen Wei said. He slid his hands over Zhao Yunlan's chest and pushed his jacket off his shoulders, then brought his mouth down to nip his boyfriend just below the ear. Zhao Yunlan, never a man to hesitate, was already unbuttoning Shen Wei's vest.
Shen Wei stepped forward, gently, but firmly, pushing Zhao Yunlan towards the bed with his hips. Both were bare-chested and breathing heavily by the time they hit the mattress. Shen Wei straddled Zhao Yunlan and unbuckled his familiar belt with one hand.
Something prodded Zhao Yunlan in the back, and not in the fun way. He fished around underneath him and pulled out the cat toy. It chirped brightly and the eyes flashed.
Before Zhao Yunlan could toss it aside, Da Qing dashed out of the back room in cat form and leapt on Zhao Yunlan's chest, his tail smacking Shen Wei in the face and his paw smacking the mouse. Shen Wei snatched him up by the back of the neck and deposited him on the floor. Da Qing hit the ground in human form. "Um...," he said sheepishly.
"Get. Out," Shen Wei said, with the full force of the Black-Cloaked Envoy in his voice. Da Qing fled the apartment.
The next morning, Zhao Yunlan picked up the cat toy before going to work. “This is so fun, I think we should share it with the whole office,” he said to Da Qing, who shrugged and didn’t argue. When they arrived at the SID office, Zhao Yunlan pushed the toy into Xiao Guo’s hands. “You are responsible for this,” he told the boy.
Xiao Guo’s eyes widened. “W-what does it do?”
“We’re not sure yet,” Zhao Yunlan said. “I want you to have it out and visible at all times, but - and I cannot stress how important this is - do not allow Da Qing’s paw to touch it. You got it?”
Xiao Guo nodded furiously. He held the toy out at arms’ length. Da Qing shifted form and leapt. Xiao Guo yelped and jumped up on the table. Da Qing followed. Xiao Guo jumped off the table, stumbled, and lost his grip on the toy. He flung himself at it and yanked it away from Da Qing before the cat could get his paws on it.
Zhao Yunlan walked to his office while enjoying the sound of Xiao Guo flailing up the stairs, Da Qing hot on his heels. Da Qing really did like that toy. Maybe he should send Shen Wei’s student a thank you note.