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Extremely attractive and highly suspicious

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"Chief Zhao, fancy meeting you here."

Zhao Yunlan suppresses a wince, pasting a casual grin on his face as he turns back to the bar. He'd seen Shen Wei too late to avoid him and Shen Wei knows it, an amused curl at the corner of his mouth. He'd been hoping to observe him from a distance, but, well. Best laid plans.

"Are you following me?" Shen Wei continues, leaning in, and raises one perfect eyebrow. "Did you have more – questions?"

If he wasn't the prime suspect in several murders, Zhao Yunlan would have told Shen Wei exactly what he has for him; he has eyes, after all, and Shen Wei is – exceptionally beautiful, always, but especially tonight in a white tailored suit that looks practically painted on, a few strands of hair escaping his short ponytail to feather softly around his face.

But Shen Wei is, to Zhao Yunlan's deep and abiding regret, also a very suspicious person and Zhao Yunlan's personal pick for the identity of famed assassin Heipaoshi – and after The Hotel Incident last year Zhao Yunlan has a new personal rule that he doesn't sleep with suspects, no matter how attractive they are.

"No, no more questions," Zhao Yunlan says, because the memory of Shen Wei sitting calmly in the SID interrogation room and verbally eviscerating his team one by one is extremely attractive and one he treasures every time he brings it to mind – but the reality isn't something he wants to put the team through again. "I'm actually here to speak to Zheng Zhongyuan – have you seen him?"

Shen Wei thinks for a moment. "I have seen him, but not recently," he says. "He greeted me when I arrived, but that was – at least half an hour ago."

"Camera footage checks out, Boss," Lin Jing's voice says quietly in Zhao Yunlan's ear. "Professor Shen enters forty-five minutes ago, speaks to Zheng Zhongyuan for ten minutes, and hasn't left the bar since."

"Ah, thanks anyway," Zhao Yunlan says, turning to go, and stops as Shen Wei's hand drops delicately onto his shoulder.

"Do you have to go?" Shen Wei says, tongue caught just behind his teeth; the curl in the corner of his mouth is widening into a real smile, blinding. "I'd rather talk to you."

Zhao Yunlan's previous interactions with Shen Wei have been a lot more – restrained; Shen Wei has never smiled so carelessly, been so forward. Is he drunk?

"Ah," Zhao Yunlan says, and the regret in his voice is real, at least. "I really can't-"

"Get upstairs now," Da Qing says in his ear, sharp. "Heipaoshi's here."

"Excuse me," Zhao Yunlan says, Shen Wei's fingers sliding from his shoulder like raindrops as he whirls toward the stairs, cutting through the other guests and taking the steps two at a time.

"Where," he says, popping the button on his suit jacket as he comes up to the first floor landing. He'd been so sure-

"First floor study," Da Qing says immediately, and Zhao Yunlan draws his gun, heading down the passage at a flat run; he'd memorised the blueprints this afternoon, and the study is – there-

Checking to see if the door is locked is time he can't afford, not when Heipaoshi is already here, not when Zheng Zhongyuan could already be-

The wood splinters around the lock with a single kick, door flying open hard enough to lodge the handle in the wall; Zhao Yunlan takes two steps into the room, gun first-

He sees several things all at once:

Zheng Zhongyuan, in the process of falling to his knees, blood seeping through the hands clasped across his throat-

A girl – ten? twelve? – huddled against a bookshelf, eyes wide and terrified in the warm light from the desk lamp-

A dark, hooded shadow, already halfway out the window-

"SID! Freeze!"

Zhao Yunlan is already aiming, finger tightening on the trigger; the shadow doesn't even pause, and he fires-

The crack of the gun echoing in his ears isn't quite enough to mask the impact of a bullet hitting flesh – and then the shadow drops out of sight, and Zhao Yunlan sweeps the room even as he dashes to the window-

"He went out the window," Zhao Yunlan says urgently, hearing Da Qing's on it, Boss in his ear as he strains his eyes to see something, anything in the darkness – but there's nothing there, not even the slightest hint of movement.

"Fuck," he hisses, takes a breath; holsters his gun as he turns back to the room. It had already been too late for Zheng Zhongyuan before Zhao Yunlan had even kicked down the door, but he makes himself go over to the body anyway, trying not to step in the slowly spreading pool of blood as he reaches in with two fingers to try and fail to take a pulse against the ruin of his throat.

"Zheng Zhongyuan is dead," he says. "Lin Jing, call it in."

"Yes, Boss," Lin Jing says, solemn, and Zhao Yunlan pushes back to his feet, and looks over at the girl.

She's still in the corner, eyes wide; she tracks Zhao Yunlan as he comes towards her.

"Are you hurt?" he asks, voice carefully gentle. He stops a few feet away; she just saw a man murdered in front of her and Zhao Yunlan is a stranger – he doesn't want to crowd her.

She shakes her head, and Zhao Yunlan blows out a breath.

"Okay," he says, relieved that at least one thing in this disaster of a night is going okay. Heipaoshi had never hurt or killed kids before, but there was always a first time; and what does Zhao Yunlan know, anyway, since he'd been so sure that Shen Wei was Heipaoshi-

He had to have been wrong, though; he'd been talking to Shen Wei downstairs at probably the exact moment Heipaoshi had been here, slitting Zheng Zhongyuan's throat, and no-one can be in two places at once. Shen Wei has always had an alibi, and tonight with Zhao Yunlan himself as witness, it's even more ironclad than normal.

"Okay," he says again, because Shen Wei is no longer a suspect, can't be, and he needs to focus – there's a traumatised child, here, and he needs to find out who she is and why she was in here with Zheng Zhongyuan, along with a hundred other things before he can even think about putting this day behind him. He's going to have to throw out all of his assumptions and start all over again.

"My name is Zhao Yunlan, and I'm with the police-"

The girl turns out to be Zheng Zhongyuan's daughter, just Zhao Yunlan's luck – but she doesn't say much. Just her name, Zheng Yi, and the name Tan Xiao, who turns out to be a research assistant of Zheng Zhongyuan's. When Zhao Yunlan tells him what happened Tan Xiao instantly volunteers to look after Zheng Yi, and when Zhao Yunlan asks her about it her face brightens up and she nods as fast as she can, and who is Zhao Yunlan to stand in the way of someone she wants to be in the care of after she just watched her father murdered in front of her?

And then Lin Jing turns up a connection from the research lab to who else but no longer a suspect but still extremely suspicious Professor Shen, and Zhao Yunlan-

Well, he can't leave that alone, can he?

"Why were you at the party?" Zhao Yunlan asks, leaning forward across Shen Wei's desk. He's forgone the official route this time; there's no point in dragging Shen Wei into the station, not again.

Shen Wei pushes up his glasses, a quirk pulling at the corner of his mouth. He's back to being reserved today, crisp white shirt buttoned all the way to his throat, a patterned waistcoat peeking out of the V of his pressed suit jacket. He looks incredible. Zhao Yunlan wants to press him back in his chair and-

"Zheng Zhongyuan was a colleague, even if his research is primarily in a different field," Shen Wei says. "We spoke perhaps only every month or two, but he always invited me to his gatherings."

"Would you say you were friends?" Zhao Yunlan asks. He unwraps a lollipop and tucks it into his cheek, leaning back in his chair.

"Ah, not – precisely?" Shen Wei demurs, and Zhao Yunlan rolls the stick from one side of his mouth to the other, watching Shen Wei's eyes stutter and drop to follow the motion, and then jerk back up to Zhao Yunlan's face.

Shen Wei swallows, faintest dusting of pink on his cheeks, and that's – interesting, that someone who had leaned close to Zhao Yunlan at Zheng Zhongyuan's party, someone who had put his hands on Zhao Yunlan's shoulder with invitation in his eyes, might now be so shy as to find Zhao Yunlan's lollipop habit problematic.

Zhao Yunlan pulls the lollipop out of his mouth with a pop, pointing it at Shen Wei. "Not precisely?" he asks, and Shen Wei blinks, blinks again, pushes up his glasses.

"I knew him quite well when we were both students," Shen Wei says. "That was some years ago; our contact has been brief and mostly of an academic nature since. I wouldn't – no, Chief Zhao, I wouldn't say we were friends."

Zhao Yunlan nods, puts the lollipop back in his mouth, and tucks it into his cheek. "Do you know of any reason someone might want to kill him?" he asks, and Shen Wei-

Shen Wei hesitates.

It's only a fraction of a second, but it's there – Zhao Yunlan saw it. Shen Wei knows something.

"I wouldn't want to speculate-" Shen Wei says, demurring again, and Zhao Yunlan leans forward.

"Anything at all," he says, holding Shen Wei's gaze. It'll be more than what they have currently, which is absolutely nothing.

"Ah, well, there's always intellectual property theft," Shen Wei says. "My understanding is that his research had the potential for multiple high value real world applications, and he was getting very close to practical trials – he had the potential to make a lot of money. Other than that – as I said, I didn't know him that well, so I couldn't speculate on his personal life."

He's good, Zhao Yunlan will give him that – the barest hitch of breath before the words personal life all that gives him away. Shen Wei doesn't think it's about the research lab; Shen Wei thinks-

Zhao Yunlan doesn't know if he's crazy or not, planning to follow up a lead that definitely knows more than he should Shen Wei has inadvertently given him – but right now it's all he has, and he doesn't have anything else to lose.

"Thank you, Professor Shen," Zhao Yunlan says, and pushes to his feet.

"If you have any more questions," Shen Wei says, standing as well. It really is criminal how his suit jacket hugs the line of his hips; how his trousers cling to the front of his thighs. Zhao Yunlan wants to climb him like a tree.

"Of course," Zhao Yunlan says, dragging his eyes slowly back up to Shen Wei's face; he's blushing again, and Zhao Yunlan smiles. "I'll call you."

Zheng Yi still refuses to talk, but when Zhao Yunlan drops hints about getting the authorities involved, Tan Xiao is more forthcoming.

"Do you have proof?" Zhao Yunlan asks when he finishes, stomach churning, and Tan Xiao nods.

"He forbade it, of course, but I kept a record of her injuries," he says. "And if it might help her stay with me, I'm sure I can convince her to see a doctor for an official report."

"Do it," Zhao Yunlan says immediately, because this – this is what Shen Wei had given away, a reason why someone, at least, might want Zheng Zhongyuan dead.

Zhao Yunlan isn't eager to charge a twelve year old, though, and there are other questions, too. Zheng Yi had every reason in the world to want her father dead – but Zhao Yunlan is pretty sure that children don't generally know how to contact the criminal underworld. Someone else must have gotten Heipaoshi involved, and Tan Xiao seems a little too straight-laced.

Shen Wei, on the other hand-

Shen Wei can't be Heipaoshi, not after Zhao Yunlan saw him at the party; but that doesn't mean he doesn't know Heipaoshi.

Zhao Yunlan gives a sigh of regret as he mentally shifts Shen Wei back into the suspect column.

His stomach is still churning hours later.

It's late, and he's tired; he left his team at the office combing through Zheng Zhongyuan's personal life – and while they were at it, the personal lives of all the other victims of Heipaoshi, too – while he went to a bar with the higher ups and made nice. He's been working almost non stop since Zheng Zhongyuan's murder; sleeping in snatches, and barely eating. Da Qing keeps telling him he can't live on tea and lollipops, but Zhao Yunlan has made it this far. And he definitely ate – yesterday?

His legs wobble, and he sinks to the kerb before he falls, one hand clutching at his stomach as a spike of pain burns up his oesophagus. He just needs to get home, needs to take his medication, needs-

"Chief Zhao?"

-Shen Wei.

Well, no, he doesn't need Shen Wei, he just wants Shen Wei-

"Chief Zhao? Are you okay?"

Did he – make Shen Wei appear? With his brain?

"Shen – Wei?" he mumbles, slitting an eye open, but no, he's not hallucinating. Shen Wei is actually here, crouched next to him on the kerb. He looks-

His eyes are wide behind his glasses; Zhao Yunlan feels like death warmed over, and his eyes are bleary – but he blinks, blinks again, and Shen Wei still looks concerned.

"Chief Zhao, what's wrong?" Shen Wei says, hand landing lightly on Zhao Yunlan's shoulder. "Have you been attacked? I'll call you an ambulance."

Da Qing would never let him live it down if he ended up in hospital. Worse yet, they might take this case off him, and Zhao Yunlan is so close to figuring it out. No, he just needs-

"Home," he manages. "I need – medication. At home."

He blinks, and Shen Wei is in front of him, hands under Zhao Yunlan's elbows. "I'll see you home," Shen Wei says, and Zhao Yunlan wobbles to his feet, clutching at Shen Wei as he staggers; Shen Wei hisses in a breath and then turns, slinging Zhao Yunlan's arm across his shoulders.

There's something about that, something Zhao Yunlan should pay attention to, but his stomach hurts and he can't think-

Shen Wei gets him into a taxi, and Zhao Yunlan can't stay upright, can't keep his eyes open. He sways sickeningly, swallowing against a surge of nausea, feels Shen Wei prop him back up – and then Shen Wei shifts closer, long line of heat against his side, his thigh, and gentle hands guide Zhao Yunlan's head onto his shoulder. And it feels-

Zhao Yunlan has been on his own for a long time. He's had Da Qing, of course, but Da Qing is different. Da Qing's family was – well Zhao Yunlan only had to meet them once for him to understand why Da Qing likes to claim he was raised by feral cats. Da Qing worries about him, but he generally leaves Zhao Yunlan to get out of his own messes. Da Qing is his brother in all but blood, but they don't-

They don't do this.

Zhao Yunlan relaxes into the warmth of Shen Wei's body, solid and comforting against him, and breathes.

"Chief Zhao," Shen Wei says, some time later, and Zhao Yunlan lets himself be moved, lets Shen Wei manoeuvre him out of the taxi and towards the apartment. His limbs feel clumsy, uncoordinated like a newborn kitten; his stomach burns with fresh waves of pain that had been momentarily calmed by Shen Wei's warmth.

"Keys," Shen Wei murmurs in his ear; he's slung Zhao Yunlan's arm across his shoulders again. He's so close Zhao Yunlan can smell him; if Zhao Yunlan turned his head, they could be-

"Pocket," he says, or tries to say; his tongue feels as sluggish as the rest of him – and then there are hands patting him down, hands sliding into his jeans pocket, and Shen Wei is a suspect and Zhao Yunlan has a rule, but Shen Wei's hands are a literal inch from his cock and it's probably for the best that Zhao Yunlan's flare of gastritis is debilitatingly painful because otherwise Zhao Yunlan would already be hard, and Shen Wei would have put his hand into Zhao Yunlan's pocket and felt-

He stumbles as Shen Wei walks him across the threshold, and then he's being lowered onto the bed, body melting into the familiar dips and curves of his mattress, the comforting scent of home, and that's it – he can't move anymore, boneless against the sheets.

"Where is your medicine?" Shen Wei asks, voice muffled like Zhao Yunlan is underwater.

"Fridge," he mumbles, sighing into the pillow, and he must be losing time; Shen Wei is back, pushing the bottle into his hands, and Zhao Yunlan fumbles at the cap-

"You need to take them with water," Shen Wei says as he tries to tip pills straight into his mouth, bottle vanishing from his hands, "you'll irritate your stomach-" but Zhao Yunlan can barely hear him over the roaring in his ears-

Zhao Yunlan surfaces from sleep like crawling out of quicksand; he feels sluggish, limbs heavy with fatigue. His head aches, and he pushes up from the bed, swinging his legs around and rubbing at his face. His stomach and throat still feel delicate, but at least the all encompassing pain from last night is gone; he should probably try and eat at least one meal today, and take his medicine.

He opens his eyes-

Zhao Yunlan flinches backwards on the bed, catching himself against the comforter. Shen Wei is right there, sitting next to the bed just staring at him; extremely suspicious Shen Wei, definitely a suspect Shen Wei-

Shen Wei has his legs crossed, dark blue fabric of his tailored trousers pulled tight across the breadth of his thighs, the muscles of his calves; his sleeves are rolled almost to the elbow and he's wearing sleeve garters for fucks sake, stretched tight over muscled biceps, broad shoulders straining at the smooth cotton of his shirt. There's a chain hanging from his belt, looping casually around the curve of his ass, and Zhao Yunlan wants to follow that curve with his teeth. He looks-

Zhao Yunlan takes a breath, scrubs his hands over his face again, and tries to get his brain to function. He remembers Shen Wei finding him on the street, getting him into a taxi – remembers Shen Wei's fingers sliding against the vee of his hip as they dipped into his pocket for his keys-

-remembers Shen Wei is a suspect, and therefore firmly in Zhao Yunlan's do not sleep with category, and takes another breath.

When he meets his eyes again, there's a tiny curl at the corner of Shen Wei's mouth.

"Have you just been sitting here all night watching me sleep?" Zhao Yunlan asks, and Shen Wei shakes his head.

"Of course not," he says, and tilts his head from side to side. "I also cleaned."

Zhao Yunlan blinks, blinks again. His apartment is spotless.

"You-" he says, and Shen Wei picks up a bowl, holding it out; steam gently rising from the top.

"You should eat breakfast," he says as Zhao Yunlan reaches out; the bowl is warm, and their fingers brush as he takes it. "And then take your medicine." Shen Wei is going faintly pink; he stands, smoothing his hands across his thighs as though trousers that tight could ever need smoothing. "I have a class."

"Shen Wei-"

Shen Wei is still turning towards the door, belt chain swinging against his hip, and Zhao Yunlan scoots to the edge of the bed.

"Shen Wei – how did you know where I live?"

Shen Wei pauses, shoulders tight under his shirt. "Your license was in your wallet," he says, and sure, he probably could have checked Zhao Yunlan's license, but Zhao Yunlan would definitely have remembered Shen Wei's hands going into his pockets more than once.

Definitely a suspect and probably the middleman for Heipaoshi Shen Wei knows where Zhao Yunlan lives – and he already knew before today.

"Ah, Shen Wei-" Zhao Yunlan says, because he really doesn't want Shen Wei to walk out the door. He's always been attracted to danger. "Please let me – I'll drive you."

Shen Wei turns, pinning him with a look. "Eat," he says firmly, and Zhao Yunlan raises the bowl, spooning congee into his mouth, and fuck, Shen Wei can cook. This is better than the congee the breakfast aunties at the shop over the road make; if only Shen Wei weren't almost certainly a criminal, Zhao Yunlan would sleep with him every night just to eat his congee every morning.

He tips the rest of the congee directly into his mouth, taps out some pills and tosses them in after; catches Shen Wei's eyes narrowing and quickly drinks some water to wash them down.

"Just – one second-" Zhao Yunlan says, and points at Shen Wei, hovering in the middle of the room. "Don't go anywhere."

He scuttles into the bathroom, and yes, Shen Wei definitely cleaned in here, too, smell of cleaning products almost but not quite overpowering. Zhao Yunlan flushes the toilet, washes his hands, and checks his reflection in the mirror; he looks presentable enough, and if he takes too long-

Shen Wei is still there when he emerges. He's put on his suit jacket in the meantime; Zhao Yunlan spends a moment to mourn the disappearance of Shen Wei's muscles and instead contemplates the way the vee of the jacket neatly frames the standing collar of his shirt, top button undone and a silk ascot tucked delicately in the hollow of Shen Wei's throat.

Zhao Yunlan's memory of the previous night is hazy, but he remembers some things – remembers the important things. Remembers Shen Wei's hand sliding into his jeans, fingers separated from skin by only the worn-thin cotton of Zhao Yunlan's pocket; remembers the warmth of Shen Wei's body against his as his head was guided down to rest on Shen Wei's shoulder, the point of his folded collar brushing gently against Zhao Yunlan's forehead as the taxi bumped over the cobblestones-

Remembers Shen Wei hissing out a breath as Zhao Yunlan stumbled into him, unsteady on his feet; remembers being so close to Shen Wei he could smell him-

Remembers, even now, the metallic scent of blood, faint but unmistakable, thick against the back of his tongue.

Zhao Yunlan drags his eyes up the line of Shen Wei's throat, the curve of his jaw; Shen Wei's cheeks are pink, because Zhao Yunlan has never been subtle about his interest, even if he has no intention of acting on it, but his eyes behind his glasses are heavy, intense.

If Zhao Yunlan steps in close, leans in to take a breath off Shen Wei's skin, would he smell of antiseptic, like Zhao Yunlan's bathroom had under the harsh odour of chemicals? He hadn't seen a bandage through his shirtsleeves, but Shen Wei is definitely wearing a different shirt this morning, and if he's spent all night here, in Zhao Yunlan's apartment, cleaning-

It's not like Zhao Yunlan keeps anything sensitive here; he leaves all of that at the SID. Shen Wei is welcome to snoop all he wants. But that shirt had to come from somewhere – and if Shen Wei is injured-

If Shen Wei is injured in roughly the same place that Zhao Yunlan shot Heipaoshi earlier this week-

"Chief Zhao?" Shen Wei says, breaking eye contact to look at his watch, and Zhao Yunlan smiles, crosses the room and claps Shen Wei on the shoulder.

"Ah, sorry, Professor Shen," he says. "Let's go."

His boots are by the door; he stamps into them, bending to tie the laces. He still can't feel a bandage, only those sleeve garters – but he definitely didn't imagine the tiny flinch, the faintest of shivers under his fingers, ruthlessly suppressed almost instantly.

Shen Wei is injured, all right.

Zhao Yunlan leans back in his office chair, feet on his desk, and slides a lollipop into his mouth.

It doesn't make any sense.

If Shen Wei is Heipaoshi like Zhao Yunlan's gut has been telling him all along – why would he cozy up to Zhao Yunlan?

He could have gotten Zhao Yunlan home and then left him there; he could have called Zhao Yunlan a taxi and waved him goodbye, could have simply not approached him last night at all. Zhao Yunlan would never have noticed him, curled up on the side of the road as he was; Shen Wei could have walked right past him holding a sign that said "I'm Heipaoshi!" and Zhao Yunlan wouldn't have paid any attention.

It doesn't make any sense that Shen Wei, extremely suspicious and definitely a suspect Shen Wei, injured in the same place as Heipaoshi and absolutely hiding it Shen Wei, almost certainly Heipaoshi except for the way he can't be in two places at once Shen Wei, would actively choose to stay the night.


Except he'd already known where Zhao Yunaln lives; has been blushing at Zhao Yunlan's suggestive remarks and lollipop habits but not looking away – or at least, always looking back; has been raising Zhao Yunlan's suspicions from the first, when they'd shaken hands and Shen Wei hadn't let go.

The only thing that makes sense is if he's somehow – attached to Zhao Yunlan, and that, too, doesn't make any sense, because sure, Zhao Yunlan is devastatingly attractive in a rough kind of way, twenty eight and a police chief with a good salary-

But he's also an absolute disaster of a human being who – prior to last night – had a barely livable apartment and a disappointed and emotionally distant father and a proven inability to keep or maintain any kind of relationship that wasn't either with Da Qing (raised by feral cats) or his team (no choice but to put up with him).

And Zhao Yunlan knows Shen Wei is possessed of an incredible amount of self control; if it were only because he found Zhao Yunlan attractive, that wouldn't explain such an attachment – to risk discovery of his secrets by staying close, instead of keeping his distance.

Zhao Yunlan, after all, has managed not to sleep with Shen Wei despite desperately wanting to, and sure he has to constantly remind himself that Shen Wei is definitely a suspect and therefore not available for Zhao Yunlan to fuck, but that doesn't stop him from thinking about pressing Shen Wei into every nearby surface and licking at the column of his throat until-

Zhao Yunlan shifts in his chair, tongue curling around the lollipop, and wrenches his thoughts back in order.

The evidence is conflicting, but last night is the closest Zhao Yunlan has been to Shen Wei, the closest he's been to the secrets behind his eyes; he's inclined to give those observations higher weighting.

So, if he starts with that, with what last night and this morning's evidence are pointing towards:

One, Shen Wei is Heipaoshi.

Two, Shen Wei has some kind of attachment to Zhao Yunlan.

Three, Shen Wei has an accomplice, someone who is available in the middle of the night to bring him a new shirt and help treat his injury in Zhao Yunlan's bathroom-

Zhao Yunlan stills.

Four, Shen Wei can be in two places at once.

"What have you got?" Zhao Yunlan asks, sprawling onto the couch. The table is full of documents and folders, witness statements and photographs of Heipaoshi's victims and associates, but there's just enough of a tiny space free in the corner for him to prop his boots.

"It's bad," Da Qing says, and Zhao Yunlan looks up at his team arrayed around the table, faces ranging from distressed to openly upset; even Lao Chu – who normally has a very narrow range of expressions between probably not contemplating murder, but you might be unlucky to definitely contemplating murder, probably yours – has reached a hitherto unseen level of murderous that Zhao Yunlan very much hopes he won't ever see again.

"Tell me," Zhao Yunlan says, and they do.

It's bad.

Zhao Yunlan has no idea how the previous department of DCPD missed it, because it's so obvious when his team lays it all out, starting at the Zheng Zhongyuan case and working chronologically backwards through Heipaoshi's murders. But it's there, pattern unmistakable, even as it makes Zhao Yunlan nearly as sick to his stomach as he'd felt last night-

Because for every murder Heipaoshi has committed, for every body found crumpled on the ground with their throat slit-

For every one of those parental figures, there's a corresponding child.

They're not all as bad as Zheng Yi's case; but some of them are worse, and by the time Zhu Hong finishes detailing the earliest murder, Zhao Yunlan understands to his very soul just why Heipaoshi had marked the victims for death.

"W-What are we going to do?" Xiao Guo stutters, one hand clutching Lao Chu's sleeve; Lao Chu, somehow, has reached new heights of muderousness.

"Heipaoshi did us a favour," he growls, and they're the police, they know better – but Zhao Yunlan looks around at his team and doesn't see a single dissenting face.

"I know," Zhao Yunlan says, safe in the knowledge that Lin Jing does regular sweeps of the building and they are definitely speaking in confidence. "With this kind of pattern, it seems likely that Heipaoshi is picking the victims rather than them being contract kills – do we know how he's finding them?"

As soon as he says it, Zhao Yunlan knows – it's the kids, of course. Heipaoshi finds the kids first, somehow, works out who's hurting them – and then makes it so they can never hurt anyone else ever again.

"It's the kids," Zhao Yunlan announces for the benefit of his team, and takes his boots off the table. "Xiao Guo, Da Qing, go and interview some of the kids – try the earlier cases, where they might have had more time to recover. Zhu Hong, Lao Chu, go with them – you can run interference if needed."

The field agents head to their desks in a flurry of motion, and Zhao Yunlan points at Lin Jing, tipping his head toward the lab.

"I need you to look something up for me."

Lin Jing's information raises more questions than it answers.

Zhao Yunlan had been right – because on Lin Jing's screen is Shen Wei's birth certificate, side by side with the birth certificate of his twin brother Shen Ye, born half an hour later.

But Zhao Yunlan is also wrong – because on Lin Jing's other screen is a death certificate.

Shen Ye, age fourteen; cause of death: head trauma.

"There was no autopsy," Lin Jing says, "but I've got hospital records going back to when they were eight-"

The hospital records paint a bleak picture; the adoption records are even worse. The Shen twins had been orphaned at seven, taken in by a temporary foster family at nine-

Separated at ten.

Shen Ye went to a Zei Qiu; Shen Wei to a Professor Zhou.

Shen Wei's hospital records are almost nonexistent, but nothing unexpected from an ordinary childhood; Shen Ye's a mirror of all the other children, not thorough enough. And then-

At fourteen, Shen Ye is dead; a year later, Zei Qiu dies of an overdose in his home.

That can't be a coincidence; and Zhao Yunlan knows without needing any proof at all that Zei Qiu was the first victim of Heipaoshi.

"Is the death certificate real?" he asks, and Lin Jing leans in to squint at his screen.

"It's real," he says after a moment, and Zhao Yunlan nods. At fourteen, the twins wouldn't have had many resources; it's much more likely they'd found a sympathetic doctor rather than knowing how to fake a government certificate.

"Is the doctor still practising?"

Feng Qubing answers the door promptly.

"Zhao Yunlan, SID," Zhao Yunlan says, and Feng Qubing slams the door-

It's a good thing Zhao Yunlan's boots are steel capped.

He shoves the door back open and steps across the threshold, but slamming the door had apparently been the limit of his resistance; Feng Qubing is cowering back against the wall.

"You're not in trouble," Zhao Yunlan says, and kicks the door closed behind him. "I just have a few questions."

"No-one I asked would say anything," Xiao Guo says miserably as soon as Zhao Yunlan walks in. "Sorry Chief – even after I asked Lao Chu to wait in the car-"

Zhao Yunlan waves him off; it's not surprising that the kids are tight lipped, not when talking might get their saviour arrested.

Da Qing just shakes his head, shoulders slumped as he perches on the arm of the couch, but Zhu Hong steps forward, lowers her voice even though there's no-one around to overhear.

"The second girl," she says, and the rest of the team leans in. "She didn't go looking; Heipaoshi found her."

The girl's information is minimal; willing to talk a little more than the other kids, but nothing too specific, nothing too incriminating.

She liked to visit the library and read until closing time, because it was better than being at home; the man had always been wearing a face mask and bucket hat, and she couldn't – or wouldn't – identify him.

They'd spoken several times; finally the man had told her to stay with a friend the following night.

By the time she returned the day after, they were dead; she never saw the man again.

"Good work everyone," Zhao Yunlan says, because in one day they've done significantly more than everyone else that's ever even looked at the case since the very first murder. He 's hard on them sometimes, but he trusts them implicitly, and they've earned it; he wouldn't trade his team for anything. "Go home, get some sleep."

"You coming?" Da Qing asks as the team starts to disperse, and Zhao Yunlan smiles, shakes his head.

"Go on without me," he says. "I'll see you tomorrow."

He has nearly all of the pieces now; if he's patient, if he waits, everything should fall into place.

Shen Wei marks student assignments in his office until a little after seven. Zhao Yunlan would find it boring, doing the same thing over and over again, but Shen Wei clearly doesn't; on several occasions he even smiles at the paper in front of him, before making carefully neat corrections in red ink. There are no students about, but Shen Wei has made absolutely no concessions for comfort; he's still wearing the same suit as this morning, not a single additional button undone, patterned silk ascot still perfectly snug against his throat.

Finally, he finishes the last assignment in the stack and sets it aside; collects his suit jacket, his leather briefcase, his keys.

According to his paperwork, Shen Wei lives in the faculty dorms at Dragon City University. Tonight, Shen Wei leaves the Biology building and walks briskly in the complete opposite direction.

He moves fast, with purpose, but not excessively so; blending in perfectly with the evening crowds on the streets. With his crisp suit and leather briefcase, he looks harmless; just another businessman returning home after a late night at the office. Shen Wei doesn't stop at any of the roadside stalls, though; keeps walking, weaving through the passersby until the crowds start to thin. Shops and bars are replaced with apartment blocks and houses; soon they're well into the residential district, and Zhao Yunlan lets Shen Wei get some distance, keeps himself to the shadows.

Shen Wei turns onto a property, keys jingling for a moment; Zhao Yunlan peers over fences from two houses down, keeping low even though he must be barely a shadow at this distance, and watches as Shen Wei crosses the small front yard to the door.

There's another soft jingle of keys, and then the door opens, warm light spilling out, glimmering off Shen Wei's glasses, the soft sheen of silk at his throat – and then Shen Wei steps inside, and the door closes.

Zhao Yunlan skulks a little closer. It's dark, but from what he can see the yard looks well kept; the house two storey, but small and modest for all that. He pulls out his phone.

Off the record, he texts Lin Jing, who owns this house? He appends the address and hits send.

Lin Jing calls him back five minutes later.

"Boss, you can't say off the record in writing," Lin Jing says instead of saying hello like a normal person. "If it's in writing, there's a record!"

"Yes, yes," Zhao Yunlan says, and waves a hand even though Lin Jing can't see it. "You have my permission to delete the message from all phones concerned. What did you find?"

"The house is owned by a Ye Zun," Lin Jing says. "He has identity documents on file, but they're-" his voice lowers. "Boss, they're very good, but they're forgeries. And no photo ID."

Zhao Yunlan hums. "Speaking absolutely hypothetically-" he says, and Lin Jing squawks.

"This is not a secure line," he hisses. "Boss, don't you dare-"

"Aiya, so little faith," Zhao Yunlan says, like he hadn't absolutely been about to suggest something completely and definitely illegal to Lin Jing. "Maybe I should have Wang Zheng cut your bonus for this month."


There's no movement from the house overnight.

Morning dawns bright and cold. Next time he decides on a spur of the moment overnight stakeout, Zhao Yunlan is absolutely going to bring a warmer coat – and maybe have someone meet him at the destination with a vehicle, too.

He chafes his hands together, shoving them between his thighs, and thinks about which roadside stalls he's going to visit on the way back to the office. There's an auntie two streets from the SID that makes the crispiest youtiao, and she always sneaks him an extra; maybe he'll stop there for breakfast on his way in.

The door opens, and Zhao Yunlan looks up.

Shen Wei steps out, leather briefcase in hand, and Zhao Yunlan forgets to breathe.

He hasn't seen this suit before; it's navy, double breasted, and it fits him like a glove, emphasising the breadth of his shoulders, tucking in at the waist. It's gorgeous, and not only that-

Shen Wei's shirt collar is unbuttoned, but unlike yesterday he doesn't have anything around his neck; Zhao Yunlan can see the hollow of his throat, right where he wants to bury his face and lick.

It's criminal, how beautiful Shen Wei is – and Zhao Yunlan has to laugh at himself, because Shen Wei is also an actual criminal.

Shen Wei passes his position on the other side of the street, none the wiser; and Zhao Yunlan is suffering, because those trousers are the usual tailored style that Shen Wei favours, and his ass is amazing.

He watches Shen Wei walk away until he turns the corner, out of sight. He doesn't need to follow him this morning; Shen Wei has an early class at the University, which Zhao Yunlan knows because he had Lin Jing look up his schedule on the University website, and not because Zhao Yunlan is a stalker.

Shen Wei is a suspect in multiple murders, and his University schedule is publicly available. Zhao Yunlan refuses to feel bad about the fact he has Shen Wei's schedule memorised.

With Shen Wei gone, Zhao Yunlan turns his attention back to the house. He'll have to leave eventually, because he needs food and sleep, and he'll come back another day, if nothing else happens – but if he's very very lucky, before then-

If he's very very lucky, Zhao Yunlan might just get some answers.

Nearly an hour later, the front door opens again.

The man has long silver hair, a few strands loose around his face, and as he turns to pull the door closed Zhao Yunlan can see an intricate braid worked over the crown of his head, tied off halfway with the rest of his hair falling in a silken wave past his shoulders.

He turns back, and Zhao Yunlan has only about a second's worth of a clear look at his face before he pulls up a face mask and slides on a pair of sunglasses, but it's enough.

Zhao Yunlan has spent a lot of time recently staring at Shen Wei – and despite the hair, despite the casual clothes, it's him, unmistakable.

Shen Ye, Ye Zun.

Shen Wei's identical twin.

He walks into the SID slurping soy milk through a straw, a rolled paper cone of youtiao in the other hand.

"Lao Zhao!" Da Qing calls, and the team gathers around; even Lin Jing, who normally can't be pried out of his lab without a direct order, arrives unbidden.

"Well?" Da Qing prompts, and Zhao Yunlan swallows a bite of youtiao; makes eye contact with Lin Jing and then tilts his head left and right, looking up.

Lin Jin nods, solemn. "I swept again this morning, Boss," he says. "We're clear."

Zhao Yunlan leans a hip against the side of the couch. He's been awake for over twenty four hours, now; he's tired, and his brain hurts. He's been a policeman a long time, but he's never had a case that's tied him in knots like this; that has him so conflicted about what's right and what's wrong.

"I know who it is," he says, and sighs. "I just – have to decide what I'm going to do."

Because Lao Chu hadn't been wrong, yesterday; Heipaoshi has been doing them a favour – and that's setting aside Zhao Yunlan's more personal interest.

Because when it comes right down to it, the facts of the matter are simple: those assholes deserved it, but most importantly-

Most importantly, Zhao Yunlan doesn't want to put Shen Wei in jail.

"Whatever you decide, Lao Zhao," Da Qing says, and bumps their shoulders together. "We'll follow you."

His team murmurs agreement, and Zhao Yunlan glances up, startled; meets determined eyes and faces full of resolve. Lao Chu even gives him a nod.

"Ah," Zhao Yunlan says, because if he says anything else his voice might break, and laughs so he doesn't have to cry. He wouldn't trade his team for anything. "Of course you will," he says, making a valiant attempt at his usual teasing tone. "I'm the boss!"

Da Qing knocks his shoulder again and makes a grab for his last youtiao; Zhao Yunlan sidesteps out of reach and watches Da Qing nearly fall off the couch.

"Go home, Lao Zhao," Zhu Hong says from his other side, putting a hand on his shoulder and neatly breaking off two inches of youtiao with the other. "You never would have let me this close if you were paying attention."

Zhao Yunlan pulls his hands in toward his chest, belatedly protecting the rest of the youtiao from thievery; Zhu Hong is right, though. His reflexes had barely twitched.

"I'm going, I'm going," he says.

Zhu Hong salutes him with the purloined youtiao, and Zhao Yunlan heads for the door.

Zhao Yunlan sleeps until mid-afternoon.

It's only a few hours, but he's stayed up all night before on the job; he knows if he sleeps too late he'll absolutely ruin his sleeping schedule.

And besides, he wants to take his time getting ready.

So he shaves, careful with the razor, neatening the clean lines of his beard and moustache; showers, lazily fisting his cock while he thinks about Shen Wei – about the strength of his shoulders, the line of his jaw, the bare stretch of throat in this morning's suit-

Zhao Yunlan isn't a hypocrite – he's still not going to actually sleep with Shen Wei. But thinking – thinking is fine, thinking is allowed – and right now Zhao Yunlan is thinking about how there's two of Shen Wei, and he's never been that kind of adventurous before but he's got four limbs and is pretty flexible: there's plenty of him to go around.

Zhao Yunlan props his arm against the shower wall, breath coming faster as he pictures it, pictures Shen Wei at his front, Ye Zun at his back, warm skin and roaming hands and fuck, fuck, what if they didn't just kiss him, what if they also kissed each other-

Zhao Yunlan comes, legs shaking as pleasure rolls through him in a wave, and the world goes away; when he comes back to himself he's on his knees on the tiles, slumped against the wall, still gasping for breath.

He waits until his heart rate slows down before he tries staggering to his feet, legs wobbly, and right, that's it – he needs to get this case sorted out as soon as possible, because he desperately wants to try that in real life, and Zhao Yunlan doesn't sleep with suspects.

He knows Shen Wei is interested; he might blush if it was just disapproval of Zhao Yunlan's shamelessness, but Shen Wei has always looked back.

Ye Zun, on the other hand-

Zhao Yunlan reaches for the soap. He's only met Ye Zun when he's been pretending to be Shen Wei; his obvious interest could just have been feigned, a more forward performance of Shen Wei's desires. No, Zhao Yunlan will have to get to know Ye Zun as himself, first, before he can make a decision.

He steps under the spray, rinsing off. Tonight-

Tonight is going to be interesting.

Shen Wei opens the door, registers just who is standing on the doorstep, and his entire body goes still; and Zhao Yunlan had known that Shen Wei was Heipaoshi, but it's one thing to have figured it out on an intellectual basis, and quite another to suddenly and viscerally realise you're standing two feet from a killer.

"Chief Zhao," Shen Wei says after an endless frozen moment, slightly louder than necessary for how close they're standing, and the soft domestic noises from further into the house abruptly cease. If Zhao Yunlan hadn't been paying attention, he would have missed it.

Shen Wei is on a hair trigger, uncertain and off balance; Zhao Yunlan moves very deliberately to avoid startling him. He lifts his free hand to pull the lollipop out of his mouth – that's always diverted Shen Wei's focus before, and Zhao Yunlan would rather Shen Wei think about Zhao Yunlan's mouth than whether Zhao Yunlan might be about to arrest him – and hefts the heavy bag of takeout into Shen Wei's peripheral vision.

"Please ask Ye Zun not to go," Zhao Yunlan says first, because if Ye Zun moves anything like how fast he's seen Heipaoshi move when properly motivated, if he waits any longer Ye Zun will be out the back door and over the fence, and he needs both of them here for this conversation. "We need to talk."

Ye Zun is standing in the middle of the living area when they emerge from the passage. Shen Wei had gestured for Zhao Yunlan to precede him, and maybe Zhao Yunlan shouldn't find having an assassin at his back kind of thrilling, but he's never claimed to be normal.

Ye Zun opens his mouth, and Zhao Yunlan raises a finger before he can speak.

"Is this house secure?"

Ye Zun closes his mouth, gaze lifting over Zhao Yunlan's shoulder to look at Shen Wei, and raises his eyebrows.

"I don't – know," Shen Wei says slowly, and Zhao Yunlan puts the takeout on the kitchen counter and starts to reach inside his jacket-

Ye Zun goes absolutely still in front of him, in almost the exact same way Shen Wei had at the door, and then Shen Wei's hands are on his shoulders, spinning him around-

Shen Wei crowds him back into the counter, one hand at the base of his throat, the other on his hip. Zhao Yunlan has had thoughts about being in this exact position before, and his body is abruptly and unfortunately very enthusiastic about the possibility of them becoming imminent reality. (Zhao Yunlan knows he can't sleep with suspects; sadly, his cock has yet to get that memo.)

"I'm unarmed," Zhao Yunlan says, staying as relaxed as he can with Shen Wei's body all but pressed against his, with Shen Wei's hands holding him down. He's not here to be a threat. "If you don't know if this house is secure then I need to do a sweep for bugs."

Shen Wei's mouth twists, unhappy, but he doesn't stop Zhao Yunlan as he slowly withdraws his hand from his jacket, Lin Jing's boxy electronic bug sweeper tight in his grasp.

"Chief Zhao-" Shen Wei starts, and Zhao Yunlan smiles, leans in to Shen Wei's grip.

"We can revisit this later," Zhao Yunlan says, low, and Shen Wei flushes pink and lets him go like he's on fire.

From somewhere off to the side, Ye Zun lets out an inelegant, snorting laugh. "Go on then," he says, and that's interesting: when he's not pretending to be Shen Wei, his natural register is slightly lower, tone a little quieter.

Zhao Yunlan presses the buttons Lin Jing had told him to press, waits until the bug sweeper lights up, and then does a slow circuit of the room with the twins' eyes heavy on his back. The bug sweeper stays quiet, though, and Zhao Yunlan nods.

"This room is secure," he says, powers down the device, and tucks it away. He turns to Ye Zun, holds out his hand. "Zhao Yunlan," he says. "It's a pleasure to meet you properly."

Up close, the braid set into the upper half of his silver hair really is very impressive, and the hair itself looks real, hairline natural. He must wear a wig when he's pretending to be Shen Wei, and maybe that's why Shen Wei's hair is a little longer than would be usual for a professor, if it might make Ye Zun's disguise more realistic.

Ye Zun raises an eyebrow, but reaches out for the handshake. "Ye Zun," he says. "But you already know that."

"I already know a lot of things," Zhao Yunlan agrees. He turns back to the kitchen counter, starts taking containers out of the bag. "I don't know what dishes you prefer, though, so I just brought a variety."

There's a pause. "Is he always like this, Gege?"

"Yes," Shen Wei says, tone resigned, and Zhao Yunlan half turns, pulling his lollipop out of his mouth with a pop.

"You love it," he says, pointing with the lollipop, and winks – and watches Shen Wei go red.

Ye Zun laughs again, and Zhao Yunlan turns back to the food so Shen Wei's brain can have a chance to reboot.

"Where do you keep your plates?"

There's a table, but it's barely big enough for two; Ye Zun fetches plates, and Shen Wei dishes the rice into bowls, and they sit at the kitchen counter instead.

Shen Wei's still moving a little stiffly, like he has to be on guard, like he's expecting Zhao Yunlan to whip out a hidden gun even though he'd said he was unarmed – and really, Shen Wei should know better; if Zhao Yunlan was going to do that, he'd have kicked the front door in with two squads from DCPD behind him and Lao Chu and Zhu Hong covering the backyard, not arrived alone claiming he wanted to talk.

Ye Zun obviously feels the same way; he transfers some beef and ginger onto Shen Wei's plate, dropping a few spring onions on top. "Gege, eat," he says.

Shen Wei's expression flickers, conflicted, and Zhao Yunlan sighs. "I really am just here to talk," he says. "I'm – this is off the record, for now."

"Why?" Shen Wei asks, and that's the question, isn't it; Zhao Yunlan is still figuring out the actual answer from the mess of the last few days, chains of thought tangled and snarled.

Because the system failed Shen Ye and Shen Wei, just like it failed all those other kids; because Zhao Yunlan doesn't want to put Shen Wei in jail; because there's a difference between what's legal and what's right.

Zhao Yunlan didn't join the police just to uphold the law; he wanted to make a difference.

Wanted to help people.

And that's the crux of the matter, when it comes right down to it: Shen Wei and Ye Zun – they're just trying to help those kids the only way they can.

Zhao Yunlan sets his chopsticks down, meets Shen Wei's eyes.

"You helped all those kids," Zhao Yunlan says, and cuts his eyes sideways to make eye contact with Ye Zun, "even though no-one helped you."

Ye Zun freezes with his bowl raised, chopsticks halfway to his mouth and loaded with noodles; his hand shakes as he carefully and deliberately lowers both bowl and chopsticks back to the table.

"You are-" he swallows. "Irritatingly perceptive, aren't you?"

Zhao Yunlan smiles. "You'll learn to like it," he says confidently; picks up his chopsticks again to put some chicken into Ye Zun's bowl, and more mushrooms into Shen Wei's. "Eat first," he says. "Talk later."

They move to the living area after dinner. The twins sit side by side on the couch; even here in his home, Shen Wei sits forward, back straight and hands on his knees, while Ye Zun leans back into the corner, socked feet nudging against Shen Wei's thigh.

Zhao Yunlan settles cross legged on the low table in front of them, pulling a lollipop from his pocket and peeling off the wrapper.

"Why the lollipops?" Ye Zun asks, and Zhao Yunlan bites back his instinctive response of sometimes I just need to have something in my mouth, no matter how satisfying it might be to watch Shen Wei blush again. Now that they've shared a meal together, now that the twins are hopefully a little more at ease, they really do need to talk, and that means Zhao Yunlan should probably not flirt quite so outrageously.

"I quit smoking," Zhao Yunlan says, and pops the lollipop into his mouth, rolling it across his tongue and into his cheek. "This is healthier."

"Didi-" Shen Wei says, and Zhao Yunlan waves his hands.

"It's okay," Zhao Yunlan says. "Ye Zun can ask whatever he wants. You can both-" he takes a breath, reins himself in. He doesn't want to play that hand too early; doesn't want to scare them off with I want you both to know me as much as I want to know you. "If you have questions, ask," he finishes, and leans his elbows on his knees.

"What did you come here to talk about?" Shen Wei asks immediately.

Zhao Yunlan grins, takes out his lollipop to point at him. "Good question!" he says, and tucks it back into his cheek. Trust Shen Wei to cut straight to the heart of the matter, as always.

"I am currently working from a set of assumptions," Zhao Yunlan says. "I need to verify whether those assumptions are correct before I can decide my next course of action with regards to Heipaoshi and the ongoing murder investigations."

Being the recipient of Shen Wei's intense gaze has always felt like a physical weight. Ye Zun's is just as heavy, and Zhao Yunlan can feel the hair on the back of his neck stand on end. It's terrifying and thrilling in equal measure to be the sole focus of both their attention, and he takes a fortifying breath before he continues.

"Shen Wei," he says, meeting his gaze, steady. "Are you Heipaoshi?"

Shen Wei's throat bobs as he swallows. He's so tightly controlled on a good day; Zhao Yunlan wonders if he's ever said it out loud before.

"Yes," Shen Wei says, and Zhao Yunlan nods.

"Okay," he says. "The people you – have you ever killed anyone who wasn't hurting kids?"

He needs to know whether Shen Wei and Ye Zun have only ever acted in defence of children; his team will back him up either way, but Zhao Yunlan needs to know he's making his decisions in good faith. Needs to be sure he's doing this for the right reasons, that his conscience can be clear.

Shen Wei shakes his head immediately, and something eases in Zhao Yunlan's chest. "No, never," Shen Wei says.

"Good," Zhao Yunlan says, and turns to Ye Zun. "Have you ever killed anyone?" he asks, and Ye Zun's throat works for a moment, soundless.

"No," he says after another moment. "I was there when – but I didn't-"

"Your-" Zhao Yunlan starts, because Ye Zun has been Shen Wei's alibi for all of his recent murders; there's only one that he could have been present for – the very first one, when the twins were fifteen.

Shen Ye's adopted parent, Zei Qiu.

"Don't say his name," Ye Zun cuts him off, sharp, and Shen Wei reaches out a hand, Ye Zun already reaching back, and tangles their fingers together.

"Didi," Shen Wei murmurs, and Ye Zun closes his eyes, takes a deliberately slow breath, blows it out.

"I'm all right, Gege," he murmurs back, and Zhao Yunlan watches them breathe in sync for a minute until Ye Zun opens his eyes again, equilibrium restored.

"I'm sorry," Zhao Yunlan says immediately. "It won't happen again."

"Good," Ye Zun says, but he doesn't let go of Shen Wei's hand, and Shen Wei makes no move to take it back.

"Okay," Zhao Yunlan says, getting them back on track after his misstep. "Ye Zun, you've never killed anyone – that's good, it makes things easier. Where did you get your identity documents?"

"We – paid someone a lot of money," Ye Zun says slowly. "I don't remember his name; it was a long time ago."

Zhao Yunlan waves a hand. "That's fine," he says. "They're not quite perfect forgeries, but that's not a problem, we can take care of that. Is the only reason you don't have photo ID so that you don't compromise your ability to be Shen Wei when he needs a Heipaoshi alibi?"

Ye Zun blinks, huffs a laugh. "Yes," he says. "Did you just say the police can help with my forged identification?"

"Yes," Zhao Yunlan agrees, grinning at him. "Why do you think I wanted to sweep for bugs?"

Ye Zun blinks at him, apparently momentarily speechless, and Zhao Yunlan turns back to Shen Wei, smile sliding from his face.

"Shen Wei," he says. "I need to ask – with the people you've killed – have you ever felt, compelled, like you had to kill them? Could you have – chosen not to?" There's no easy way to say tell me you're not a serial killer; Zhao Yunlan is pretty sure Shen Wei isn't, but he's so locked down half the time that it's impossible for Zhao Yunlan to be absolutely certain.

And if he's going to do this, he has to be sure.

"I-" Shen Wei looks down, fingers tightening on his knee; lifts his chin and meets Zhao Yunlan's gaze without flinching. "No," he says. "It makes me – I feel sick, when I think about what they did; it hurts me to think of other children suffering how Ye Zun suffered. But I don't – have to. It's not a – a need. It's always been a choice," and Zhao Yunlan can't help the way the corner of his mouth quirks at that, at Shen Wei's confirmation that Zhao Yunlan is right.

"Shen Wei ah, Shen Wei," Zhao Yunlan says softly, a flood of gentle affection washing through him – because this must be so difficult for Shen Wei, and he's sitting here and talking to Zhao Yunlan anyway, trusting him just because he said he was only here to talk without any scrap of proof. He lets his mouth curve up into a full smile. "You're doing so well," he adds, glances at Ye Zun too to include him. "Both of you."

"We're just talking," Ye Zun mutters, and Zhao Yunlan takes out his lollipop to point.

"Ye Zun ah, don't you know?" Zhao Yunlan says. "Sometimes talking is the hardest thing in the world."

He tucks the lollipop back in his cheek, turning back to Shen Wei.

"I have one last question," Zhao Yunlan says. "And this one I don't already know the answer to."

Shen Wei's gaze – deepens somehow; as though reaching out to Ye Zun earlier had diverted some of his attention, and now it's all flooding back at Zhao Yunlan, inescapable.

"The other night, you already knew where I lived," Zhao Yunlan says. "I'm the Chief of the SID, in charge of investigating you, and you still scraped me off the side of the road and cared for me even though it would have been far safer for you to just leave me there."

He takes a breath. "I can tell you've formed some kind of attachment to me," he says, and here it is: the one thing he hasn't been able to figure out.

He has to know.

"How do you know me?"

Shen Wei tells him, and Zhao Yunlan-

Zhao Yunlan remembers.

He's thirteen; his mother only six months dead, his father away more nights than not.

He's taken to roaming the streets at night, getting into fights; it's not like his father cares what he does, and if he gets hurt, well, that's why he carries his own carefully stocked first aid kit – because watching his father choose a criminal over his mother has only driven home that Zhao Yunlan has no-one to rely on but himself.

So when he stumbles across the kid in the park, a full grown adult holding him by the throat, he doesn't hesitate.

He barrels into the adult, ducking his head and slamming his shoulder right into their midsection; the adult wheezes out a breath, dropping the kid, and Zhao Yunlan goes to town with his fists and elbows as they stagger back.

He's yelling, mostly incoherent, but more than loud enough to make a racket; and they're in a relatively decent neighbourhood still, the kind where someone will pay attention – or at least call the police. The adult clips Zhao Yunlan around the head, throwing him back onto his ass and stunning him for a moment, and takes off into the night, clearly deciding he's more trouble than the other kid is worth.

Zhao Yunlan gasps for a second, and then scrambles on hands and knees over to the other kid; there's red marks against his throat, and he's bleeding from a scrape across his forehead, blood streaked down past his ear – but he's breathing, and then his eyes open, dazed and unfocused.

"Hey, can you hear me?" Zhao Yunlan asks, waving his hand across the kid's face, and the kid blinks, blinks again – and then his eyes go wide and he tries to scramble to his feet.

He only makes it halfway before he has to sag back down, one arm clutching his middle, a hiss of pain escaping him. He's about the same size as Zhao Yunlan, maybe a bit shorter – they're probably about the same age, too.

"Hey, what's the rush?" Zhao Yunlan says, reaching out, and tilts the kid's head so his forehead is more in the light. The cut looks pretty nasty, but Zhao Yunlan has been practising his stitches; he thinks he could do a much better job than the ones he put in his own leg last week.

"He has my brother," the kid gasps, and Zhao Yunlan winces, because yeah – the man is long gone by now.

"He's gone, sorry," Zhao Yunlan says, and watches the kid's face fall. "But I'm sure you'll find him again!" he adds, trying to be encouraging. "Just maybe – don't try and fight him alone next time?"

The kid nods seriously. "I should not have attempted to confront him," he agrees, and damn, the kid had just gone for it? Even when Zhao Yunlan gets into fights, he tries to pick realistic targets. Zhao Yunlan hadn't even come up to the man's shoulders, and he'd been heavyset, arms thick with muscle.

"If he has your brother, just follow him home next time," Zhao Yunlan says. "Then you can get your brother out when he leaves again."

The kid nods again. "Thank you for your advice," he says solemnly, more blood sliding down his face, and they really need to get out of this park before someone comes looking.

"My name is Zhao Yunlan," Zhao Yunlan says. "If you come with me, I can stitch you up."

He holds out a hand, and the other kid studies him for a moment, blinking slowly; finally he reaches out, taking hold.

"Okay," he says, and together they wobble to their feet.

"That was you," Zhao Yunlan says, staring.

He'd taken the kid home, because his dad was guaranteed to be overnight at the station; pushed him down on the closed toilet lid and washed off the blood; put four careful stitches in the side of his face with hands that didn't shake.

He remembers saying you can sleep here, remembers settling in on the couch under a blanket, kid warm all down his side-

Remembers waking in the morning, alone.

He'd never seen the kid again.

"Yes," Shen Wei says, and yeah, Zhao Yunlan can see it now; the same careful, solemn manner, recognisable even fifteen years later and through a pair of glasses that he increasingly suspects are just for show.

"So because I helped you then-" Zhao Yunlan says, mind whirling, and Shen Wei leans forward, earnest.

"Zhao Yunlan," he says, and Zhao Yunlan stills; he's only ever called him Chief Zhao before, and hearing Shen Wei say his actual name sends a shiver down his spine. Shen Wei says it like it's precious, like it's something he treasures, and Zhao Yunlan never wants him to stop.

"You didn't just help me," Shen Wei says. "He was going to kill me; he told me as much just before you arrived. Ye Zun and I have always been identical – he knew who I was, knew I was looking for Ye Zun. If you hadn't come when you did-"

His eyes are intense; Zhao Yunlan can't look away.

"You saved my life," Shen Wei says softly, reverently, and Zhao Yunlan blows out a breath.

"I was just a kid," he says. "I'm not worth-"

"You are," Shen Wei says instantly. "Because of you, I was able to save Ye Zun. I've always known you were a good person, Zhao Yunlan."

It's heavy, the weight of Shen Wei's regard, settling on Zhao Yunlan's shoulders as the final puzzle piece clicks into place.

"Okay," Zhao Yunlan says, and sweeps a hand across in front of him; they can discuss what Shen Wei thinks he's worth once everything's over. "Let's come back to that later. For now – I have several open murder investigations, and I need to close them in a way that satisfies the Ministry."

"I assume you can't just abandon them," Ye Zun drawls from the corner, and Zhao Yunlan points, grinning.

"No!" he says. "No, that would be too easy; the Ministry won't be satisfied unless I bring Heipaoshi to justice."

"I assume you have a plan?" Ye Zun asks, raising an eyebrow, and Zhao Yunlan laughs.

"Ye Zun ah," Zhao Yunlan says, "of course I have a plan."

He looks back at Shen Wei, holds eye contact; because Zhao Yunlan has plans and backup plans, but it will all be for nothing if Shen Wei doesn't – if Shen Wei can't-

"Shen Wei ah," Zhao Yunlan says, tone low; takes a breath.

"Do you trust me?"

A week later, Zhao Yunlan kicks in the door to a dockside warehouse with Zhu Hong and two squads of DCPD at his back.

A hooded figure leaps up from a chair, racing into the shadows, and Zhao Yunlan and Zhu Hong give chase, DCPD fanning out and clearing the warehouse behind them, room by room.

They chase the figure up rattling metal stairs, floor after floor, until finally, they reach the roof-

The figure pauses right at the edge, and Zhao Yunlan's hands are steady on his gun as he aims.

"There's nowhere to go," Zhao Yunlan calls, sees Zhu Hong in his peripheral, gun level; hears the rustle of movement and thud of boots as DCPD spill out of the stairwell to take up flanking positions.

The figure turns; the hood keeps his face in shadow, but Zhao Yunlan can just see the edges of the mask that covers his features.

"Heipaoshi," he says, "you're under arrest. Put your hands up and come quietly."

He takes a step forward, slow, takes another; the shadows under Heipaoshi's hood are deep, but Zhao Yunlan can just make out the unblinking gaze, matches it stare for stare.

"Put your hands up," he repeats, takes another step-


Heipaoshi moves in a blur, flash of metal as he draws a weapon-

Zhao Yunlan breathes out, squeezes the trigger-

Puts three bullets centre mass into Heipaoshi's chest.

Heipaoshi staggers, free hand coming up to clutch at his chest, dark liquid trickling over his fingers; takes a step back, stumbles-

Zhao Yunlan races forward, shoving his gun into his holster to free up his hands, but he's too late-

Before he can close the distance, Heipaoshi stumbles again, puts his foot straight into empty air, and falls.

"Yes, Minister Gao," Zhao Yunlan says, leaning back against the wall of the warehouse. Lin Jing and DCPD are still crawling over it, but he doesn't think they'll find anything; Heipaoshi had always been careful to never leave traces behind.

"DCPD divers have been in the river for the past hour," Zhao Yunlan says. "They haven't found anything so far, but I'm told the river has a strong current, so they may not be able to retrieve the body."

He tilts his head to squeeze the phone between ear and shoulder, freeing up his hands to dig for a lollipop as the Minister drones on. He likes Deputy Minister Guo much better; he at least has a more comprehensive idea of the realities of Zhao Yunlan's job.

"I don't think you need to worry," Zhao Yunlan says when Minister Gao pauses for breath. "I shot Heipaoshi three times in the chest, and he was definitely bleeding – no sign of any body armour. I'm certain he's been taken care of."

His searching fingers finally retrieve a lollipop, and he unwraps it to shove in his mouth.

It's over, finally; Heipaoshi has been appropriately and publicly dealt with, and now all that's left is the paperwork, which Zhao Yunlan's team should already be preparing for his signature.

"You should have my final report tomorrow," Zhao Yunlan confirms, and it's over, it's over – but he still feels jittery, adrenaline thrumming under his skin. He needs-

"Yes, Minister Gao, thank you-" Zhao Yunlan says, and finally, finally, the Minister hangs up.

He checks his phone again – but there's nothing, not since Da Qing's nice shooting Boss! twenty minutes after Heipaoshi had hit the water.

And that's – fine, it's fine, but Zhao Yunlan needs-

"Zhu Hong-" he calls, pushing off the wall, and shoves his phone in his pocket. "Where are we at?"

"Lin Jing says he'll be another hour," Zhu Hong says promptly, coming over to him. "Anything from Minister Gao?"

Zhao Yunlan rolls his eyes "Just the usual," he says, works his tongue around his lollipop. It's a poor stand-in for what he needs, but he can't teleport so the lollipop is just going to have to do for now. "Take over here," he adds, "I'm going-" and Zhu Hong nods before he can finish.

"Of course, Lao Zhao," she says. "I'll see you tomorrow."

Ye Zun opens the door.

"Chief Zhao, what a pleasant surprise," he says, and steps back, holding the door open. "Please come in."

Ye Zun closes the door behind him as he kicks off his boots. "I swept as soon as I got home from the University, the house is secure," he says immediately, and then, "Gege is upstairs," and Zhao Yunlan breathes out.

He still needs to see, though, because only a few hours ago he pointed his gun at Shen Wei and pulled the trigger, and even knowing that Shen Wei was wearing SID quality body armour doesn't change the fact that Zhao Yunlan shot him, and he needs to see with his own eyes that Shen Wei is fine.

"This way," Ye Zun says without making him ask, and leads him up the stairs and down a corridor.

They go through into a bedroom; Zhao Yunlan registers spotless and glasses on the nightstand and ends up at Shen Wei's bedroom before Ye Zun is pushing open the door to the attached bathroom.

"Gege, Zhao Yunlan is here," Ye Zun announces, and there's a splash of water, and is Shen Wei in the bath?

"Didi-" Shen Wei says from the bathroom, and Zhao Yunlan takes a step back.

"I can wait out here," he says, because this is absolutely Ye Zun having some fun at his expense, but he also doesn't want-

When he sees Shen Wei naked for the first time, he wants it to be Shen Wei's choice – wants it to be something they do together.

"Spoilsport," Ye Zun sniffs, and his face really is far more expressive than Shen Wei's – although as Zhao Yunlan is quickly discovering, he uses those expressions as masks just as effectively as Shen Wei's controlled calm.

"Didi-" Shen Wei says again, and Ye Zun sighs.

"Coming, Gege," he says, steps into the bathroom, and closes the door.

Water sloshes from behind the door, soft voices indecipherable below it, and Zhao Yunlan needs-

He fumbles in his pocket, pulls out another lollipop, rips the wrapping off; his hand shakes as he gets it into his mouth. He heard Shen Wei talk, and he sounded normal; Zhao Yunlan shot him, but Shen Wei is talking, Shen Wei is alive-

"-okay, okay-" Ye Zun says, louder, and then the bathroom door opens, and Shen Wei limps out.

Zhao Yunlan takes a step toward him, and stops-

Shen Wei is shirtless, soft pyjama bottoms clinging to his legs, feet bare; and on any other day Zhao Yunlan would be more appreciative of all the lean muscle on display, but today his eyes are drawn inescapably towards the horrific bruising on Shen Wei's chest.

"Shen Wei," Zhao Yunlan says, frozen – he can see exactly where each of the bullets had hit Shen Wei's body armour, three pitch-dark centres amongst the web of bruising covering his torso.

"I'm fine," Shen Wei says, and Ye Zun snorts, coming out of the bathroom to take his elbow.

"Sit down," he says, helping Shen Wei limp to the bed, piling all the pillows together as Shen Wei eases back so he can recline comfortably.

"Did something go wrong?" Zhao Yunlan asks, hovering; he wants to touch, but they haven't – they've never-

They haven't discussed anything for the last week that wasn't resolving the murder investigations.

"I hit the water somewhat awkwardly," Shen Wei says, "but your officers were able to retrieve me with little difficulty."

No wonder Shen Wei is so stiff, falling from that height; the water must have been a full body impact nearly as hard as Zhao Yunlan's bullets. At least he'd had Da Qing and Chu Shuzhi standing by.

"Gege has just come from an ice bath," Ye Zun says, and presses a jar into Zhao Yunlan's hands. "Here's the bruise ointment, and he should keep warm after," he says. "I'm going to start dinner."

"Didi-" Shen Wei says, but Ye Zun is already out the door.

Zhao Yunlan blinks, looks at the jar in his hand; blinks, and looks up in time to see Shen Wei duck his chin, cheeks flushed.

"Shen Wei-" Zhao Yunlan murmurs, and Shen Wei flushes darker. "I-"

"Zhao Yunlan, you should not feel obliged-" Shen Wei says, and Zhao Yunlan-

Obliged? Zhao Yunlan has never felt obliged when it comes to Shen Wei.

"Shen Wei ah, Xiao Wei," Zhao Yunlan murmurs. "You have no idea how long I've wanted to put my hands on you."

Shen Wei's head jerks up, eyes wide without the protection of his glasses, and Zhao Yunlan takes a breath, forces himself to calm through the need surging through him.

"If you have an objection, tell me," Zhao Yunlan says, because he needs Shen Wei to know that he has a choice, too; that for all he thinks he owes his life to Zhao Yunlan, Zhao Yunlan doesn't want this as some kind of recompense. "You can do it yourself, or I'll go and fetch back Ye Zun. Just – tell me."

"No, I-" Shen Wei ducks his head, a shy smile curling at the corner of his mouth. "Zhao Yunlan, I – I want it to be you," and Zhao Yunlan can feel an answering smile bloom on his face.

"All right," Zhao Yunlan says softly. He crosses to the bed, takes a second to think about the logistics, and plants a knee on the mattress next to Shen Wei's hip. "It will be easiest if I kneel over you," he says, and Shen Wei nods, eyes widening as Zhao Yunlan straddles him. His calves are pressed against Shen Wei's thighs, still slightly cool to touch from his ice bath.

Zhao Yunlan cracks the ointment open; it smells earthy, fragrant and herbal. It comes easily onto his fingers, and he rubs his palms together, warming it up.

"Tell me if I press too hard," Zhao Yunlan murmurs. It seems right, to speak quietly when he's so close to Shen Wei; it's like they're in their own little bubble, and if he speaks too loud it might fracture.

"I will," Shen Wei says, breathless, and Zhao Yunlan lowers his hands.

Shen Wei's chest is firm under his fingers, all solid muscle. Zhao Yunlan focuses on spreading the ointment evenly across the bruising, a thicker layer over the three impact points where the internal bleeding is worst.

"Ah, Xiao Wei, I'm sorry," Zhao Yunlan murmurs as he covers the last of the bruising, at the lower end of Shen Wei's ribs. "I wish I hadn't had to hurt you."

"You did everything you could," Shen Wei murmurs back. "Zhao Yunlan, I don't blame you."

"It was my plan," Zhao Yunlan says, fingers stilling against Shen Wei's skin. "My finger on the trigger."

"And you did it to save my life," Shen Wei says. "Again."

Zhao Yunlan glances up; catches Shen Wei's gaze, deep and enduring and full of trust, and can't look away. And the thing is-

The thing is, it was a good plan – the best of all the options, the one that leaves Shen Wei his civilian life, Heipaoshi assumed dead but without an official body to make things difficult later; that doesn't implicate Ye Zun. And Zhao Yunlan had known, intellectually, that shooting Shen Wei would involve Shen Wei being somewhat injured – Zhao Yunlan has worn body armour before, knows what it's like to be shot in the vest and carry bruising for weeks. It's just that when faced with the reality of the situation, with the very real cost bleeding under Shen Wei's skin-

"Ah, Xiao Wei," Zhao Yunlan murmurs, lays both hands, fingers spread, across the bottom of Shen Wei's ribcage. "I just don't like that I'm the one to cause you pain."

"If it's forgiveness you need, you have it," Shen Wei says, and that – does, actually, make Zhao Yunlan feel a little better.

"Shen Wei ah, you spoil me," Zhao Yunlan says, and Shen Wei smiles – out in the open, this time, not ducking his head or looking away.

"I'd like to spoil you more," Shen Wei says earnestly, and Zhao Yunlan clutches at his chest dramatically, almost certainly getting ointment on his T-shirt.

"Xiao Wei," he groans, "you're killing me," and Zhao Yunlan wants this, all of this – now, tomorrow, next week, next year-

For as long as the twins will have him.

By the time Ye Zun returns, laden with a heavy tray of steaming dishes, Zhao Yunlan's hands are clean and Shen Wei is tucked under a comforter to keep warm. Zhao Yunlan is sitting cross legged on the bed, one knee brushing Shen Wei's hip; it's soothing to keep a point of contact, a reminder that Shen Wei is alive, is here, bruised but unbroken.

"Dinner," Ye Zun says, and puts the tray down unceremoniously – but very gently – in Shen Wei's lap. "Gege, can you manage yourself?"

Shen Wei sneaks his arms out from under the comforter and picks up a set of chopsticks, clicking them together a few times; he looks a little stiff but he moves well enough. "I can manage," he says; Ye Zun nods and passes him a bowl of rice.

"Eat first," Ye Zun says, climbing onto the bed to settle next to Zhao Yunlan, and picks up his own bowl. "Talk later."

Ye Zun asks Zhao Yunlan to carry the tray downstairs; he sets it on the kitchen counter and turns – only to have Ye Zun press him back into it remarkably similarly to the way Shen Wei had done so a week earlier.

"Ye Zun?" Zhao Yunlan asks, keeping relaxed against his hold; he doesn't think Ye Zun is going to hurt him.

"What are your intentions with Gege?" Ye Zun asks. "Because he's already half in love with you and if you – you keep – if you're just going to break his heart-"

"Ye Zun ah," Zhao Yunlan says, "I'm not – I won't. I wouldn't."

"But you-" Ye Zun starts, and Zhao Yunlan slowly raises a hand, lays it over Ye Zun's against his throat.

"I think this is a conversation we should be having with all three of us," Zhao Yunlan says quietly.

"Fine," Ye Zun says, and releases him. He turns, takes two steps toward the stairs, and stops, shoulders tense. "Just – tell me," he says. "Do you – you know I'm not-" He exhales a sharp breath, fists clenching.

"I know," Zhao Yunlan cuts in gently, to save him the frustration of trying to put it into words. "As soon as I knew about you. I know. Ye Zun ah, Xiao Ye – you're your own person in your own right. I know that."

"Good," Ye Zun says, shoulders easing slightly, and leads the way back to the stairs.

Settled back on the bed, Zhao Yunlan looks from one anxious twin to the other, and huffs a laugh. He's never met an awkward silence he wasn't prepared to break.

"All right!" he declares. "I'll go first."

He looks at Shen Wei, huddling under the comforter; there's a pinched tension to the set of his jaw, and that just won't do.

It's fine if Shen Wei has doubts; Ye Zun complicates things in ways that are probably confusing to anyone not living in Zhao Yunlan's head, and Zhao Yunlan has been too busy getting the murder investigations squared away to be able to provide clarification. Zhao Yunlan is a naturally tactile and affectionate person even when he's not aggressively flirting with someone, and for the past week he's been full of casual touches and smiles for both twins. But Zhao Yunlan isn't really that complex a person, when it comes to this; for someone who once claimed the concept of love beyond him, he's discovered within himself a boundless well of tenderness for both of the men in front of him.

"Shen Wei ah, I hope you already know – I like you. I really, really like you."

Shen Wei goes pink, and Zhao Yunlan turns to his other side to where Ye Zun is lounging, face for once carefully neutral, and takes a breath.

"Ye Zun," he says, and lays his last card on the table. "I like you too." He spreads his hands in front of him. "I like both of you!" he says. "I want to move in with you and kiss you goodnight and wake up beside you in the morning. I want – a lot of things!"

He lowers his hands, resting them onto his knees. "And this is – the opposite of a problem for me. But I know it might be a problem for one or both of you."

He looks from Ye Zun to Shen Wei and back, and it's kind of exhilarating, to have finally laid himself bare; all he has to offer is himself, but he's theirs for the taking, if they want – however they want.

"Why didn't you say anything earlier?" Ye Zun asks. "You've been flirting with Gege for weeks, but you never-"

"Ah," Zhao Yunlan says, and raises a finger. "For weeks, Professor Shen has been an extremely attractive but also highly suspicious suspect in an open and active investigation of multiple murders, and I have an unfortunate personal rule that I am no longer allowed to sleep with suspects."

"No longer allowed?" Ye Zun says, raising an eyebrow, and Zhao Yunlan laughs.

"It's an extremely embarrassing story that I'm sure my team will delight in telling you at their earliest available opportunity," Zhao Yunlan says cheerfully. "I wouldn't want to spoil their fun."

Ye Zun snorts, and Zhao Yunlan turns back to Shen Wei.

"Shen Wei ah," Zhao Yunlan says. Shen Wei's brow is furrowed, and maybe this is too heavy a discussion for a day in which Shen Wei has been shot and also fallen off a building, emotional upheaval on top of physical injury. "Xiao Wei, tell me what you're thinking."

There's a pause, and then Shen Wei raises his head – and his face is soft and open like Zhao Yunlan has never seen before, something vulnerable and very much like hope in his eyes.

"Zhao Yunlan," he says, voice reverent. "You have always held my heart."

"Xiao Wei," Zhao Yunlan murmurs, because he thinks he's starting to feel the same way, but for Shen Wei to just come out and say it like that – say it so easily-

The surge of emotion is almost overwhelming.

"And I – I can't speak for Ye Zun," Shen Wei says, eyes flickering past Zhao Yunlan to where Ye Zun is sitting and back. "But I – Ye Zun and I – we've spent almost our entire lives together. And I – to do this, too, with you – to do it together – it feels-"

"You were upset before," Ye Zun says quietly, and Shen Wei glances back at him.

"When I thought you might be Zhao Yunlan's choice," Shen Wei says, corner of his mouth quirking in something rueful. "I was upset – not because of what you would gain, Didi, but for what I might be losing." He pauses. "You were upset too," he says, and Zhao Yunlan glances sideways just in time to see Ye Zun's mouth twist down.

"I've spent so long pretending to be you that sometimes I don't know who people see when they look at me," Ye Zun says, and Shen Wei makes a hurt noise and then he's leaning forward on the bed, comforter shoved out of the way down to his waist as he reaches for his twin.

"Didi," Shen Wei says, voice shaking, "I have always seen you," and then they're hugging, Ye Zun's face pressed into the curve of Shen Wei's shoulder, Shen Wei's cheek pressed to Ye Zun's hair.

A moment later one of Ye Zun's hands snakes out from the crush, finds one of Zhao Yunlan's dangling hands, and tangles their fingers together; Zhao Yunlan strokes his thumb across the back of Ye Zun's hand. While he didn't always know at the time, when he thinks back, it's obvious in retrospect.

"Even when I thought you were Shen Wei, I could tell something was different," Zhao Yunlan murmurs. "You have always been you, Xiao Ye."

Ye Zun takes a deep, shuddering breath, and then another; pushes up from Shen Wei's shoulder. He's still holding Zhao Yunlan's hand; if Zhao Yunlan just doesn't say anything about it, maybe Ye Zun won't notice or take it back.

"I'm not – I don't – know how I feel, yet," Ye Zun says. "I – we only really met a week ago, and this is – very sudden, but I-"

He takes another deep breath, squeezes Zhao Yunlan's hand. "I've been sharing with Gege my whole life," Ye Zun says, "so I don't mind that. I just-"

Zhao Yunlan squeezes his hand back. "We can't all make declarations of love like Xiao Wei," Zhao Yunlan agrees. He might be starting to feel it, but as shameless as he is, even he can't just say it so easily. Not yet, anyway. "The important question is: do you like me?"

As Ye Zun has said, they only properly met a week ago; but Zhao Yunlan has started to learn Ye Zun like he's learned Shen Wei, and what he knows is this: Ye Zun has never met a direct question he doesn't want to deflect around. He wants people to see him, but he doesn't want them to know him.

Zhao Yunlan loves a challenge.

He doesn't think Ye Zun will deflect this time, though, no matter how much he might want to; it's too important to Shen Wei's happiness, to what they might be deciding to build together.

It takes another moment, two, and: "Yes," Ye Zun answers, tone grudging, and Zhao Yunlan beams.

"Excellent!" he says, and reaches out with his free hand to carefully curl the palm of his hand around Shen Wei's shoulder.

"Xiao Wei, you should lie down again." Zhao Yunlan says. "We've established that we all like each other, and now it's time to snuggle."

"You said something earlier," Shen Wei says, looking sideways at Zhao Yunlan; he's flushed pink, and that in combination with the sideways look through his eyelashes is very nearly lethal. "About kissing."

"Ah-" Zhao Yunlan says, and now he can't stop thinking about it; it's a struggle not to let his eyes slide down to Shen Wei's mouth, soft and pink and slightly open. Zhao Yulan swallows through a throat gone suddenly dry- "Xiao Wei-" he manages, voice rough.

"I want you to kiss me," Shen Wei says, and Zhao Yunlan is only human.

He's wanted this for so long-

Ye Zun is sitting practically in Shen Wei's lap, but there's enough room for Zhao Yunlan too. He slides his hand across Shen Wei's shoulder, up his neck, and curls his fingers around the line of his jaw, thumb stroking across the apple of his cheek; leans in-

Shen Wei's mouth is soft; Zhao Yunlan kisses him gently, close mouthed, once, twice – slow, lingering. He's wanted this for so long, and Shen Wei even longer – but there's no rush. Shen Wei is injured, and Zhao Yunlan, for this, can be patient a little longer.

He kisses him again, feels Ye Zun squeezing his hand; and it might be him kissing Shen Wei but Ye Zun is here, too; they're all here, together.

He breaks the kiss, tipping their foreheads together; Shen Wei's breath is trembling on every exhale.

"Are you okay?" Zhao Yunlan murmurs, and in the small space between them, Shen Wei smiles.