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Of Shapes and Shadows

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Yè Zūn hears Gēgē and his human shut the apartment door behind them. They are going out for the evening on one of their date nights and Yè Zūn will have uninterrupted time to himself.

Usually, Yè Zūn doesn’t mind the quiet, he spends it napping or watching people passing below the window. Tonight, he paces the apartment, first on two legs, then on four. He finally goes into the bathroom and hops up on the sink so that he can stare at himself in the mirror under the bright lights.

He is an attractive looking feline–bright eyes, pointy nose, and long, well groomed fur. Gēgē is a better looking Dixingren, even if they are twins.

Yè Zūn’s dragon…

The dragon hasn’t felt like his other self since he was first taken by the Rebels millennia ago. Yè Zūn had put that form away in a bid to protect himself from further harm, but that hadn’t worked, not really. The damage just took other forms.

The Rebel Leader was nothing if not inventive.

Gēgē hasn’t said a word since that night, the night of the fire when he had seen Yè Zūn’s dragon for the first time since they were children. He and his human have been surprisingly patient given the former’s protective streak and the latter’s curiosity. Yè Zūn has waited with trepidation for one of the two of them to break and demand answers, but instead he has been surrounded by almost choking levels of affection from them both.

Even though he tries to hide them, Yè Zūn is having nightmares again, surfacing memories of the Rebel Leader, the feel of a dull blade against his horns, the ripping pain in his head. Gēgē knows, as he always has, and cuddles the small grey cat closer on those mornings, spending time grooming Yè Zūn’s fur gently.

Yè Zūn dislikes the sad shadows that have come back into Gēgē’s eyes. Hates that he himself is the cause of it.

But he doesn’t know if explaining will make Gēgē feel better or worse considering how prone Gēgē is to adopting guilt and responsibility for all Dixing and Haixing. Even though Yè Zūn was angry at Gēgē for so long, they reconciled and Yè Zūn doesn’t want to go back to where they were.

It was Gēgē’s incessant talking and reassurance that had gotten them through it the first time. Now Yè Zūn suspects that it is his turn, even if he doesn’t want it, even though he’s bad with words when they matter.

But it would be worth it to see Gēgē’s eyes clear again.

Yè Zūn shifts back to his Dixingren form and puts on his baggiest, fuzziest sweater for self-comfort. Then he sits on the couch to wait, however long it will be until Gēgē and his human get home.

Too soon, it turns out. Yè Zūn hasn’t figured out how to do this, only that he must.

The door opens and Yè Zūn hears Gēgē and his human are laughing quietly together, touches and murmurs mingling as they try to make their way to their room without disturbing Yè Zūn. Gēgē glances at the couch, his habit to check on Yè Zūn ingrained despite current distractions. The laughter dies.

Gēgē puts his hand out to stop his human and then approaches the couch with careful deliberation. “Dìdì? What’s wrong?”

Yè Zūn opens his mouth, but the words aren’t there. Instead he lets himself sink into his dragon form. He was always better with actions anyway, and there’s enough light in the apartment for Gēgē to see. See… everything.

“Dìdì–” Gēgē’s voice breaks as he kneels down in front of Yè Zūn. His hands hover uncertainly, obviously wanting to examine, to stroke, to comfort, but not sure whether such a gesture would be welcome.

Yè Zūn chirps and raises his head up so that Gēgē can cup his chin with two fingers. He strokes another finger over the top of Yè Zūn’s head from forehead to crown, where the finger pauses, just between the rough stumps where Yè Zūn’s horns used to be. Then the fingers continue, stroking down along Yè Zūn’s spine, lifting to brush gently over the ridges of scars where a harness had been wrapped too tightly for too long.

“Xiǎo Wēi. A-Zūn,” Gēgē’s human murmurs as he comes to kneel beside Gēgē. He wraps an arm around Gēgē in support, and it is only then that Yè Zūn realizes that both he and his twin are trembling.


Yè Zūn grumbles in agitation and then clambers his way up to Gēgē’s neck, where he slips inside the collar and rests against the thin skin of Gēgē’s throat. He wants to hide, can’t talk with them looking at him like that.

“Can you tell us?” Gēgē’s human asks when Gēgē remains painfully silent.

“The Rebel Leader. He. Didn’t like my dragon,” Yè Zūn mumbles, words partly lost in the cloth of Gēgē’s coat. He’s glad that he can’t see either of their expressions.

Gēgē doesn’t answer, just vibrates with rage, dark energy clinging to him in expectation of a target. Yè Zūn can feel the feral growl building in Gēgē’s chest and rubs his head against Gēgē’s neck to calm him.

“I killed him. Years later, but I did it.”

“He took your dragon from you,” Gēgē snarls, unappeased. “He’s the reason you hid.”

“The scars don’t show under the fur,” Yè Zūn agrees. “I missed flying.”

With gentle hands, Gēgē fishes Yè Zūn out from his hiding spot and holds him up in his palms so that they’re eye to eye. “You don’t need to hide your pain from me. I should never have let him take you.”

“There’s nothing you could have done. If you had, we’d both be dead.” Yè Zūn stretches out so that their noses bump. “I’m glad you’re not dead.”

“And I’m happy you’re both here with me,” Gēgē’s human breaks in, kissing Gēgē loudly on the cheek and then pressing a kiss to the top of Yè Zūn’s head that he’s too slow to avoid. “And that Rebel Leader is lucky he’s dead.”

Yè Zūn hisses at Gēgē’s human and shows off his sharp teeth in warning. Gēgē’s human might appreciate such sappy shows of affection, but Yè Zūn is not in the mood. Looking back at Gēgē, though, he sees that some of the tension has bled out of his face, the storm of dark energy dissipating before being released. Perhaps Gēgē’s human is not as stupid as he looks after all.

Gēgē doesn’t chide him for his bad manners, though, evidence that his twin is still feeling guilty.

With a quick lunge, Yè Zūn nips at Gēgē’s thumb in rebuke. “No wallowing.”

One of those expressive eyebrows raise and Yè Zūn is pinned with an intense stare. “You first.”

Huffing, Yè Zūn darts back to his favorite place, draped around Gēgē’s neck. It was where he had rested when they were children and he was too tired to walk anymore. He likes the sound of Gēgē’s heartbeat under his ear, reassurance that he’s not alone.

Gēgē’s human laughs. “I’ll make tea. We can cuddle on the couch for a bit.”

Gēgē makes his way back to his feet and then settles onto the couch. “Thank you, Yúnlán.” Gēgē’s familiar, deft fingers start to stroke along Yè Zūn’s back, slightly awkward at first with the angle.

It is different from being petted as a cat–Yè Zūn is even smaller like this so Gēgē only uses two fingers. There’s no fur ruffling, just scales. Contented, Yè Zūn sinks deeper against Gēgē and is vaguely surprised to feel a rumble begin in his chest. He’d forgotten. Whether a cat or a dragon, he can still purr.