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What don't we do in the shadows

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“Have you ever felt indebted to someone, Zhao Yunlan? So deeply indebted that you can’t say no to any request, no matter how wretched it makes you feel?”

Zhao Yunlan wasn’t expecting any anShen Weier when, frustrated at his lover’s hot and cold attitude, he demanded to know why Shen Wei couldn’t just make up his mind about being a dickhead. If he’d asked during one of Shen Wei’s cold days, his only anShen Weier would have been a firm spanking and a ruined orgasm. Hot, if incredibly frustrating.

The anShen Weier he’s getting right now is only frustrating.

“Never mind, forget I asked. I’m not in the mood for one of your slippery non-riddles, Shen Wei.”

Zhao Yunlan rattles the cuffs pointedly. It gets him a concerned look from Shen Wei, as he was hoping.

Zhao Yunlan has met plenty of mercurial people; they’re not that hard to figure out if you’re sharp, which Zhao Yunlan is. Shen Wei isn’t mercurial: it’s not his moods that change from one meeting to the next, because he’s capable of being sad or happy or angry on any day — it’s his whole personality. He goes from quick to anger and slow to apologise to the reverse. On hot days he’s full of concern for Zhao Yunlan, on cold ones he treats his concern like a privilege to be earned.

Zhao Yunlan knows full well what he’d say if a friend told him their lover was pulling this kind of bullshit. But hey, it’s his love life, he gets to excuse whatever shitty behavior he wants, right?

“It’s not a riddle,” says Shen Wei desperately, “I just — sometimes life is complicated, and you can’t — you can’t do your best by every single person you care about.”

“Oh yeah?” Zhao Yunlan says, aiming for sarcastic and landing on weary, “what’s more important than me, honey? You got some other lover in the other room?”

For all that Zhao Yunlan knows Shen Wei cares about him, he also knows Shen Wei could easily have a hundred other lovers. Their lives are so cleanly partitioned that Shen Wei could be a full time mafia boss and Zhao Yunlan, who sees him twice a week in a shitty hotel in the middle of nowhere, would be none the wiser.

“Never,” Shen Wei breathes, “never, my love, You’re the only one for me.”


Zhao Yunlan would gesture with his arms if they weren’t restrained right now.

For a moment it looks like Shen Wei is going to avoid giving a straight anShen Weier like he usually does.

“Family,” he says quietly.

There’s a steady dripping sound. Probably a leaky tap in the bathroom. The drops follow each other unhurriedly - one every second or so.

Drip. Drip. Drip.


Zhao Yunlan is starting to get a headache.

“You know, Shen Wei,” he starts slowly, “the way you change personalities every time I see you, it’s as if you were a different —”

An icicle of pain through his temple cuts him off.

“Yunlan — let’s just drop it. I’m sorry I hurt you, but let’s not ruin the evening —”

Shen Wei’s voice sounds distant. In one hand, Zhao Yunlan is holding the contrast between Shen Wei on his good and bad days — two faces of one coin, no overlap. On the other, he’s holding Shen Wei’s heavy face right now, as he uttered the word “family”. Zhao Yunlan tries to push both thoughts together, but it’s like trying to push together the south poles of two magnets. The harder he tries, the more his head hurts.

“Yunlan! Yunlan, you need to stop thinking about this right now. Why do you insist on —”

He feels Shen Wei start to untie him but doesn’t react. It feels vitally important all of a sudden to see whatever epiphany he’s having through to the end, but it’s all he can do to keep focused through the headache. Something warm trickles down his nose.

Family. Something about Shen Wei, something about family —

Just as the thought is almost within his grasp, the world starts to go dark.



The first thing Zhao Yunlan sees when he comes to is Shen Wei’s concerned face. There are worse things to wake up to.

“Hey there, gorgeous,” he says, and is surprised when he hears the hoarseness in his own voice.

“Yunlan,” Shen Wei replies, relief evident in his voice.

He passes Yunlan a glass of water.

“Did I pass out?”

“I — yes, you did. Did you skip dinner again?”

He did, but there’s no reason to tell Shen Wei.

“Was I out for long? Wait, don’t anShen Weier that. We’re not in a speeding car on the way to a hospital, so it can only have been a few seconds.”

“It was not long,” Shen Wei demurs, brushing Zhao Yunlan’s hair away from his forehead.

Zhao Yunlan frowns.

“Were we talking about something important? Feels like we were, but my head is full of cotton right now.”

“It was important, my love. You confronted me about how poorly I’ve been treating you, and you were right. I’m so sorry. You deserve better. Things will be better from now on, I’ll make sure of it.”

He bends down to kiss Zhao Yunlan’s forehead. Zhao Yunlan accepts it, his mind somewhere else. The formless sense of urgency he woke up with is dispersing, gradually.

Reality sharpens with no little reluctance. Has his nose been bleeding? His head is pounding; his shoulders feel sore. There’s a tap leaking somewhere. One cuff of the abandoned manacles peeks out from below the rumpled sheets, the open halves glinting at Zhao Yunlan like twin smiles.

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