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the shadow of you lingers in my soul

Chapter Text

“The minute I heard my first love story,

I started looking for you,

not knowing how blind that was.

Lovers don't finally meet somewhere.

they're in each other all along.”


  Mawlana Jalal-al-Din Rumi



Zhao Yunlan squints against the harsh glare of the sun as he takes another sip of his rum and coke.

He’s been on the surface for two days now, and of all the things in Haixing, this — the sun — has been the hardest to get used to by far. Even under the protection of the climate dome, it’s too bright against his eyes and too hot against his skin — nothing at all like the soft, ambient light he had grown up under in Dixing.

It had been Zhu Hong’s idea to meet here, at this place surrounded by nothing but glass walls. The view is great, she’d said, and sure, Zhao Yunlan can make out the outlines of the impressive buildings that loom all over the city, showing off Dixing’s finest technology and architecture, but the last thing he wants to do right now is look outside.

Then of course she cancelled on him at the last minute, so here he is, stranded by himself, nursing an over-priced drink, trying not to be blinded by the great fire ball in the sky.

He downs the last drops of booze and is just about to pay through the service panel when he hears a voice nearby.

“Care for another round of that?”

The voice sounds very familiar, but Zhao Yunlan can’t place it for the life of him. He turns around…

And in front of him stands quite possibly the most gorgeous man he’s ever seen.

He’s tall and trim yet clearly well built, with hints of shapely muscle filling out a pristine white suit. And his face is practically a work of art — perfectly chiseled cheekbones, full brows, and a tall nose, balanced by surprisingly soft, doe-shaped eyes half covered by long, sweeping lashes —  all of it framed by dark chestnut locks that flow down to his shoulders, half tied back loosely while the rest of it sweep over the sides of his face.

Zhao Yunlan is certain he has never seen this magnificent beauty before. And yet all at once, he’s hit by a feeling of recognition so poignant that he can’t help but feel like they must somehow know each other.

The stranger tilts his head quizzically, and Zhao Yunlan realizes that he had been offering to buy him a drink. And here Zhao Yunlan’s been just gaping like a fool.

Hurriedly throwing on his most charming grin, he leans forward and peers up through his eyelashes. They aren’t anywhere as luscious as Mr. Beautiful’s, but this pose at least makes him look cute.

“How can I refuse such lovely company?” Zhao Yunlan bats his eyelashes a bit before gesturing at the seat across from him. “Please have a seat, Mr…?”

“Oh, I’m sorry. How rude of me.” The other man smiles self-deprecatingly as he reaches out an elegant hand. “I’m Ye Zun.” 


As they wait for their drinks, Zhao Yunlan learns that Ye Zun is an interior designer who lives in the area and frequents this bar often. Zhao Yunlan just offers that he’s a public security officer. The SID is not meant to be public knowledge, and he prefers not to divulge any other notable information about himself right away.

Their drinks arrive. Another rum and coke for him. A dirty martini for his new companion.

“Welcome to Haixing, Officer Zhao,” Ye Zun says warmly, lifting up his glass. “I hope you find your new home a welcome one.”

Zhao Yunlan raises an eyebrow as he clinks their glasses together. So much for keeping that a secret. “It’s that obvious, huh?”

Ye Zun smiles wryly as he takes a sip. “It’s easy to spot the newcomers, especially here. They’re always sensitive to the sunlight.”

Zhao Yunlan winces, recalling now how in the past five minutes, he’d been constantly squinting and shielding his eyes with his hand. He’s going to have to work on that.

“Don’t worry,” Ye Zun continues, as if reading his thoughts. “You’ll get accustomed to it in no time.”

“Well, thank god for that,” Zhao Yunlan smiles ruefully as he gulps down more of his drink. “Can’t have everyone figuring out I’m a newb. I’ll get taken advantage of.”

Ye Zun’s eyes crinkle a bit. “Somehow I doubt that, Officer Zhao.” He pauses for a moment, then adds, “You’re not Dixing-ren though, despite being from underground.”

“Oh?” Zhao Yunlan’s eyes widen as he sets his glass back down. This interior designer is far more observant than he expected. “You’re right…I’m actually a Haixing-ren raised in Dixing. But how did you know that?”

The other man gives him a look. “The Dixing-ren from below, when they first come here, always have a certain…” he waves vaguely at the air, “attitude. You don’t have it.”

He doesn’t elaborate any further, but Zhao Yunlan understands anyway. Back in Dixing, whenever someone found out he was actually a Haixing-ren, he’d always felt…it. Some combination of morbid curiosity mixed with a hint of condescension.

He doesn’t feel it from Ye Zun though.

Zhao Yunlan smiles. Time to do some deductions of his own. “You’re Dixing-ren though, aren’t you? But…” he narrows his eyes. This one was more of a reach, but he’s sure of it all the same, “you’re not really fond of underground.”

Ye Zun laughs. It’s a bright, beautiful, melodious sound. “All correct, as would be expected from an officer such as yourself. May I ask how you figured all that out?”

Zhao Yunlan sits back nonchalantly, as if he’s not eager to impress this man. “Well…your clothes are a big giveaway. They’re Haixing clothes, but the style is very Dixing, especially your hair. As for the second bit…Ye Zun obviously isn’t your original name. It’s unconventional — the kind of name that Dixing-ren who want to cut ties to their family and culture tend to choose for themselves.”

“How do you know I’m not one of the surface Dixing-ren? They often have names like this.”

Zhao Yunlan shakes his head. “Nah. Your clothes are too nice, not to mention you come here often. You’ve obviously got money, and that’s not the Surfacers.”

Ye Zun grins with obvious delight. “All right, I concede. Well, I feel safer knowing someone of your caliber will be investigating our crimes from now on.”

Zhao Yunlan snorts, even though he’s secretly preening a little inside. “This is all basic. Although…” he peers at Ye Zun again, “you’re quite sharp yourself, Mr. Ye. Ever thought of consulting for public security? We’re quite desperate for people.”

And even though he was joking, for some reason Zhao Yunlan suddenly thinks that it isn’t that farfetched. That it would be fitting somehow, for this elegantly dressed man to be in law enforcement.

“You flatter me, Officer Zhao. But I prefer work that doesn’t involve physical danger.” And as if to prove his point, Ye Zun wraps his long, graceful fingers around his glass and raises it delicately to his lips.

Yeah, he definitely doesn’t look like the kind of man who likes getting his hands dirty. Zhao Yunlan’s doesn’t know what he was thinking.

“Well, I’m sure a good eye also serves an interior designer as well,” Zhao Yunlan replies. He actually doesn’t know a thing about interior design, but he’s pretty sure that part has to be true.

Ye Zun just smiles back at him.


They chat idly a bit more after that, mostly Ye Zun telling Zhao Yunlan about all the good restaurants in the area, as well which business owners are friendly and honest versus which ones are out to take advantage of their customers. He’s obviously lived in Inner Haixing for quite awhile.

Then there’s a lull in the conversation and Ye Zun turns his gaze towards the window. His eyes suddenly light up.

“Look outside, Officer Zhao. You won’t ever see anything like this in Dixing.”

Zhao Yunlan does…and is greeted by a magnificent sight.

The sun is no longer a piercing white light in the sky, but has transformed into a crimson orb floating near the horizon, almost bearable to the naked eye. But what really blows him away is the sky, washed in pink and purple hues and lit up with an orange glow. It reminds him of the light in Dixing, but much warmer, and much more vivid.

He’s finally getting an inkling as to why some people might prefer this fire ball after all.

“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” Ye Zun whispers reverently, his face glowing. “There’s nothing quite like it.”

Zhao Yunlan looks at him across the table, at his flawless features shining in the waning sun, the dark pools of his large, doe-like eyes glimmering with golden light, the tresses of his luscious hair streaked with fiery strands…

“Yes,” Zhao Yunlan agrees as his heart suddenly seizes with a fierce ache that he can’t name.

All he knows, staring at this beautiful stranger in white, with a certainty down to his bones, is that whatever it takes — he can’t let go of this man.



Ye Zun is spread out over the thick white duvet, his silky hair unfurled into a dark halo on the pillow. His silk shirt is splayed open, revealing his lean but toned chest, covered in flawless skin, pale as jade except for a light pink flush and a pair dark, erect nipples. His long, naked legs are wrapped around Zhao Yunlan, sending shivers all throughout him wherever they graze his bare skin.

His cock sits hot and heavy in Zhao Yunlan’s mouth, where Zhao Yunlan is caressing it with his lips, stroking it with his tongue.

Ye Zun writhes and moans loudly as Zhao Yunlan licks a particularly sensitive spot, not remotely holding back how much he’s being affected, and Zhao Yunlan can feel his own cock straining tightly against the jeans that he’s foolishly yet to remove.

Everything about this is hot and amazing, and he can’t quite believe that he’s in bed with this glorious sight before him. And Ye Zun is just how Zhao Yunlan prefers his lovers…sexually confident and expressive yet receptive and pliant at the same time.

Zhao Yunlan should be…he is…greatly appreciating it all, but…

Somewhere at the back of his mind, even though he doesn’t know why, a part of him keeps wanting the other man to be a little bit more…restrained. And at the same time, paradoxically, also a little bit more…forceful.

(Like a ferocious beast bursting through an absolutely civilized veneer.)

Never mind that there’s nothing at all about Ye Zun to suggest that he would be like this. Never mind that how the man actually is matches much better everything Zhao Yunlan knows about him so far.

Well, there is one thing that doesn’t quite fit. Something that Zhao Yunlan keeps catching a glimpse of.

Beneath all the passion and lust, there’s something in Ye Zun that seems almost…fragile. As though with the wrong move, he would splinter into a thousand pieces.

(And one of those pieces may just cut Zhao Yunlan.)

He’s been trying to ignore it and focus completely on lavishing Ye Zun’s cock, but it keeps niggling at the edges of his awareness, despite his best efforts.

Ye Zun’s breaths are coming more and more rapidly now as his balls tighten up in Zhao Yunlan’s hand. Zhao Yunlan seals his lips around Ye Zun’s shaft, hollowing his cheeks to suck harder, bobbing his head faster as he steadily swirls his tongue around the pre-cum leaking out…

Suddenly, there’s a hand tugging insistently on his hair. He hurriedly stops and pulls off, then looks up carefully at the man before him.

Only to see, with great alarm, that at some point, the hint of fragility he noticed earlier has blown into full vulnerability.

Ye Zun is staring at him as if he’s afraid of him getting any closer. But when Zhao Yunlan starts trying to move away, the hand that’s still in his hair grips even more tightly and Ye Zun’s eyes widen with what almost looks like panic for a moment.

Right afterwards, he immediately releases Zhao Yunlan and drops his eyes, clutching the sheets nervously as all traces of the previously composed and assured man completely vanish. 

The sight of it stirs up something painful in Zhao Yunlan’s chest, and before he can think about it, he’s thrown himself over the other man to kiss him desperately, as if by doing so he can rid him of all his anxieties.

“It’s all right. I’ve got you. I’ve got you,” Zhao Yunlan hears himself soothing between kisses, running his fingers softly through Ye Zun’s mussed up hair, rubbing his hands up-and-down Ye Zun’s clammy sides in reassurance. “Just tell me what you want, ok?”

Never mind that Zhao Yunlan doesn’t do this. Never mind that he’s never this gentle, never this tender, never this full of feeling, especially not with someone he’s just picked up. He can’t seem to stop himself. This man…this stranger…keeps bringing up a yearning within him that he didn’t even know existed.

Ye Zun gradually relaxes underneath him, and then he’s kissing back with abandon. And Zhao Yunlan decides to stop thinking about it all and just lose himself in the sensation, let it smooth away some of the sharp edges of his confusing emotions.

But then Ye Zun is abruptly pushing him away again and Zhao Yunlan worries for a moment that he’s overstepped again, until he realizes that the other man is reaching for something on the nightstand. Before he can fully register what it is, a container of lube slaps into his hand.

Ye Zun peers up at him with wide, red eyes. “Fuck me,” he whispers hoarsely.

Zhao Yunlan hesitates. He’s no stranger to doing this with people he hardly knows, but Ye Zun’s unstable state is making him more cautious than usual.

“Are you sure? We really don’t have to do anything…”

“Please.” There’s naked need written all across Ye Zun’s face. “Please.”

Zhao Yunlan relents. If this is what Ye Zun really wants, then he’s not going to refuse. He unzips his pants, pushing them down just far enough to finally free his frustrated cock, before popping open the cap and squeezing some of the lube onto his fingers.

A sharp gasp escapes Ye Zun as Zhao Yunlan reaches into him, his ragged breathing echoing all around the room as Zhao Yunlan carefully opens him up. And he’s nearly sobbing with relief by the time Zhao Yunlan finally enters him.

Everything about this is way too much and way too intense. Zhao Yunlan should be weirded out by it…except that he also feels it himself.

There’s something building up in his chest, too big to hold, and tears even start welling up in his eyes as he moves inside Ye Zun. He’s swamped, not just with pleasure, but with this immense sense of…he doesn’t even know what.

(Of things finally being right after having been wrong for so long that he didn’t even notice anymore.)

(Of finally coming home to where he belongs.)

It’s an enormous wave they’re riding and Zhao Yunlan can only let himself be caught up in it, thrusting with an increasingly frantic pace that he has no control over.

Beneath him, Ye Zun is practically keening as tears stream freely out of his eyes. Zhao Yunlan is half-worried that he’s hurting him, but Ye Zun has his legs wrapped so tightly around his waist that he can’t pull away even if he wants to.

There’s nowhere to go except forwards, and so Zhao Yunlan keeps pushing and pushing, driving them both closer to the edge. He can feel Ye Zun getting tighter and tighter around him as his own breathing becomes shorter and shorter, his vision turning whiter and whiter as the wave crests higher and higher, relentlessly carrying them over…

Until it crashes.


White cum streaks out across Ye Zun’s chest as he calls out and Zhao Yunlan…hearing his name in that mouth, as if it belongs there…feels as if his heart is going to burst.

He’s coming as well, his whole body convulsing as he releases. He just manages to pull out before everything within him gives out all at once and he collapses completely on top of the other man.

His entire being feels like it’s on fire, overstimulated at every point where they’re touching. But it’s even more agonizing where they’re not touching, so he doesn’t move.

Zhao Yunlan has no idea what’s remotely going on anymore. All he knows, is this enormous feeling in his chest, that Ye Zun is infinitely precious and needs to be held safely in his arms forever.

So he does. For now, at least.

He strips off the rest of their clothes, and then draws Ye Zun into him. And something within Zhao Yunlan finally calms and settles as they touch again, skin-to-skin, completely bare, with nothing between them. 

Whatever this is that’s happening, it’s crazy and it’s way too much and it doesn’t make any sense.

But it also feels like the most natural, most comforting thing in the world.

And Ye Zun doesn’t pull away or throw him off or tell him to go home or even stiffen. Instead, he practically melts against Zhao Yunlan and clings to him as if his life depends on it.

So they stay like that until Zhao Yunlan falls asleep, tangled up with this man he’s only met today but feels like he’s known forever.