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The Shape of Introduction

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1.
Gēgē is spending entirely too much time at his human’s place of work–that Special Investigations Division which had been run by a xenophobic bigot of a man before Gēgē’s human became chief. He doesn’t understand the appeal of working in that office since it sounds like a disaster filled with people and creatures as undisciplined as their chief, but Gēgē seems to find some enjoyment from it.

Gēgē says it is about helping people–Dìxīngrén, Hǎixīngrén, Yashou.

Yè Zūn believes that Gēgē thinks that–Gēgē has always been too idealistic for his own good–but suspects there is something more.

He doesn’t like it when Gēgē keeps things from him. Even if Gēgē doesn’t realize that he is hiding secrets, it is just something he does.

As soon as Gēgē has left, following his Hǎixīngrén out the door for a ride to the University, Yè Zūn unlatches the porch door and sneaks out, a tiny grey cat easily overlooked.

***

Yè Zūn finds the building that houses SID easily enough despite never having been there. The skinny young man who seems too timid to be part of an investigative service doesn't even notice when a small cat follows him through the door.

Yè Zūn feels the dark energy barrier trying to keep him out and suppresses a growl as he walks through regardless. He shrugs it off and resettles his fur with a shiver.

The main room of the SID is large and open, but the way it's set up makes it easy for him to sneak around the edges. Yè Zūn finds himself a shadow underneath a workout bench in order to observe for a few minutes before continuing his explorations.

The frail looking young man goes straight over to a desk that is occupied by a glowering Dìxīngrén dressed all in black. The dour expression lightens only slightly when the Dìxīngrén man looks up; the young Hǎixīngrén beams.

Huffing, Yè Zūn decides to ignore them. From the smell, he knows that they’re more than mere colleagues, regardless of the fact that they’re very carefully not-touching. Looking around further, he sees an energy being floating around the upper story, white dress fading at the edges and feet walking above the ground. Depending on how attuned she is to her surroundings, Yè Zūn knows he’ll need to avoid her otherwise she might feel his energy.

Following his nose, Yè Zūn makes sure to avoid Gēgē’s human’s office. Instead he follows the hallway around to a lab filled with odd smells and noises. A Hǎixīngrén man with hair sticking straight up is sitting at a desk filled with monitors and muttering to himself. He wouldn’t notice if Gēgē in full robes appeared behind him.

Knowing himself safe, Yè Zūn takes the opportunity to survey the room. It is a laboratory of sorts, filled with tables, lab benches, devices, and the carcases of any number of discarded projects. This is the place where Gēgē spends time instead of at home with him? Yè Zūn growls.

Hopping up on one of the benches, Yè Zūn starts moving things, batting tools into corners, pulling out wires. When he spots the cellphone that is plugged in to monitor some strange box that is running lights and numbers across a small screen, Yè Zūn can’t suppress the urge.

He disconnects the phone, grabs it in his jaws, and hops down from the table to go hide it elsewhere in the building.

A few hours later, Yè Zūn is grooming himself and waiting for Gēgē to show up here after finishing office hours at the university. The screeching from the lab can be heard to the rafters and then the lab rat comes storming out—hands tugging at his hair, eyes wild—to demand his cellphone back.

The timid one stutters his innocence, the glowering one scoffs and doesn’t bother answering.

Yè Zūn watches the chaos ensue and decides that he might also enjoy spending time in this office.

 

2.
It takes the lab rat—Lín Jìng apparently—over two hours to find his cell phone. Yè Zūn didn’t think he’d made it that hard, but he still snickers to himself watching the young man lose whatever cool he may have had.

When he sneaks back into SID the next morning, Yè Zūn doesn’t waste time. He goes straight into the lab and pulls all of the power cords out of their outlets.

Lín Jìng stumbles in, yawning, and sits down at his computer. Clicking the mouse, he stares at the screen. It stays black. More clicking, a shake to the monitor. The man starts muttering.

Yè Zūn crouches under one of the lab benches to watch.

The lab rat figures out the power cords faster than he’d found his phone the day before, but then he starts playing a silly game with geese instead of actually working.

Well. That is par for the course with Gēgē’s human as this man’s supervisor. There’s no supervision whatsoever.

Yè Zūn will see about that.

He waits until Lín Jìng takes a break, heading for either the kitchen or the washroom and then rearranges everything on the man’s desk. A small but distinct annoyance that is quickly rectified, but leaves Lín Jìng glaring around the room in search of the culprit.

The next time Lín Jìng leaves the room, Yè Zūn changes the settings on the monitors so that each has a different color temperature and brightness.

Swearing, Lín Jìng puts everything back, tea forgotten and cooling beside him as he continues to stew.

By the time the SID breaks for lunch, Yè Zūn has Lín Jìng muttering about a haunting, or a poltergeist, or a malevolent Dìxīngrén who has taken over his office.

Instead of working, Lín Jìng pulls out his dark energy scanners, checks the security feeds, but Yè Zūn has been careful. If he doesn’t use his dark energy as a cat, it can’t be detected, and he has been careful to avoid being caught by the cameras.

Yè Zūn takes an unexpected amount of pleasure in watching the lab rat dissolve in frustration and annoyance. He decides that he’ll just keep coming back until it becomes boring.

It isn’t like he has anything better to do around the apartment when Gēgē is at work or “consulting” for his human.

 

3.
Yè Zūn finds that he likes watching the SID members when they squabble like children. It’s far more interesting than when they’re actually working. There isn’t much to observe when they’re all at desks or out collecting evidence. When they’re sitting around the table and tossing popcorn, or passing insults, there are so many dynamics to follow.

He’s careful to avoid Dà Qìng, who is aware of his existence as a cat and could possibly identify him by sight or scent. If that means he hides out in the lab and continues to torment Lín Jìng, it’s really only Yè Zūn being practical about his entertainment.

The longer he spends in the lab, the more creative he has to be about pulling the lab rat’s tail.

Gēgē would call it an abuse of his powers, but Yè Zūn doesn’t want to shift to do things manually. And really, they’re such small uses of power. Adjusting the seat on Lín Jìng’s horrendously bizarre chair, changing the language on the computer, setting off one of the motion sensor alarms whenever Lín Jìng tries to take a nap…

And each and every time, Yè Zūn follows the frazzled man out into the main room to watch him try to accuse his comrades of playing pranks.

Yè Zūn wonders whether there is a history there that he should try to investigate.

He’s crouched underneath one of the exercise benches again to watch the latest explosion when he senses someone behind him.

Fingers touch his fur and Yè Zūn slides out from under them, scooting under a low bookshelf before the hands can pick him up.

“I wonder if this stray followed the Deputy in. Here, kitty, would you like some fish snacks?”

Peering out, Yè Zūn can see that he’s been cornered by the timid human, the one with the too-earnest face who usually tries to console the lab rat when Yè Zūn plays a trick on him. The young man stares back, smiling reassuringly as he holds out a piece of dried fish.

Yè Zūn huffs and retreats. He knows what those taste like.

“Aww, don’t be scared.”

“Leave it alone,” the grumpy Dìxīngrén orders. “Let the Cat deal with it when he gets back.”

As soon as the coast is clear, Yè Zūn escapes and returns to the apartment to consider. He isn’t bored of the game yet, and he still hasn’t quite figured out what Gēgē sees in them because Yè Zūn doubts it's the same amusement he gets from it. Looks like he won’t be able to return in cat form for a while—not with SID watching out for him and Dà Qìng to be sent after him. Thankfully being a cat isn’t his only option.

 

4.
It is almost…itchy, or traumatic, or something in a way that Yè Zūn would rather suppress than consider to slip into SID as a cat and then transform into his dragon.

Even though Gēgē knows it still feels like a risk to show off how vulnerable he used to be.

But. Being a dragon makes the use of his dark energy so much easier. Yè Zūn delights in the ability to deftly craft annoyances for Lín Jìng; it is a limb that has been restricted, finally able to stretch to its fullest extent.

Now Yè Zūn doesn’t have to wait for Lín Jìng to leave the lab. He can watch the havoc in real time.

He starts with the dark energy detectors—which is of course quite simple. Yè Zūn merely has to send a delicate stream of dark energy right to it to set off the alarms and the lights. He prompts the sensor whenever Lín Jìng is either starting to nod off or sink into concentration. And because the foolish human lab rat never bothers looking up, Yè Zūn is safely tucked away among the rafters overlooking the space.

Each time Lín Jìng bounces up from his chair, his face gets redder, his hair and eyes more wild.

Yè Zūn decides that it might be good to try a few other tricks; not that this one isn’t working—it is, perfectly—but because it is starting to get repetitive. Though he isn’t bored exactly, it is just not as rewarding to get the same response each time. And after three days of this…

So Yè Zūn makes it rain on Lín Jìng’s computer. Just the computer. And then he slips out of the room while the lab rat squawks in horror and confusion.

Sneaking into the iguana’s cage, Yè Zūn curls up and enjoys the most peaceful company in this insane office. He likes the iguana. Even though the others are fun to stir up and distract, Yè Zūn can’t say he likes any of them particularly well after the last weeks of skulking around the SID.

Instead of examining why exactly he’s not as entertained, Yè Zūn falls asleep.

 

5.
“You’re not an iguana.”

Yè Zūn blinks awake and is staring into red snake eyes peering at him through the cage. He glares back, unwilling to admit that it was his own fault that he got caught.

Without breaking eye contact, Zhù Hóng raises her voice so the rest of the room can hear her. “Did anyone get the iguana a companion and not tell me?”

The timid human immediately hurries over to peer at him. “No, Hong-jie, we didn’t but it’s awfully cute… what is it?”

Zhù Hóng frowns. “I don’t know.”

Yè Zūn hisses at them and races down to hide among the foliage at the bottom of the cage. He could fit through the bars the way he’d entered, but they’re all watching now.

“Not like any lizard I’ve ever seen.”

“Lizard?”

Gēgē’s human. Yè Zūn is so very caught.

“Mmmm. No one is admitting that they stuck it in the iguana’s cage, though it looks small enough to have gotten in on its own,” Zhù Hóng hums. “It’s in the bottom now, white, small, looks like it has fur as well as scales.”

Looking up, Yè Zūn knows the exact moment Gēgē’s human spots him. He can’t help but scowl, wrinkling his muzzle up to show his teeth when he realizes that Gēgē’s human is amused.

“Don’t worry about him. I’ll get him home,” Gēgē’s human assures his underlings, shooing them away and ignoring their protests and curiosity.

Once they have space, Gēgē’s human crouches down and holds open his jacket pocket. “Come on. Your brother’s been worried about you.”

Yè Zūn hisses, but crawls into the pocket to curl up.

“Good job with Lín Jìng,” the man murmurs as he heads for the door. “I won’t tell if you don’t.”

Maybe Gēgē’s human has some better qualities after all. Even above and beyond being in love with Gēgē.

 

+1.
Yè Zūn is not sulking.

Really.

“Look a little less excited, why don’t you?” Gēgē’s human teases as he leans in to peer into Yè Zūn’s face.

Gēgē frowns, looking between his beloved and his twin. “I thought you liked the SID, Didi?”

Meaning that Yè Zūn had disappeared there often enough in the last month until Gēgē’s human had caught him. Yè Zūn just shrugs. Teasing SID is fun, but having them know he’s there rather defeats the purpose.

Gēgē wants his human to introduce Yè Zūn to the team, so that Yè Zūn will be officially welcome. He wants to share this with his brother, because he thinks that Yè Zūn needs this.

Maybe he’s right, but Yè Zūn won’t admit that aloud.

So now they’re standing here on the steps leading into SID, and Yè Zūn is neither a cat nor a dragon, but dressed in his most comfortable sweater and jeans, the sleeves pulled down over his hands and the cowl neck standing up just enough that he can hide half of his face in it if he dips his head.

He can express himself as a cat much more easily than in this form.

Gēgē slips his hand into Yè Zūn’s and squeezes gently. “They’re good people.”

“They’re idiots,” Yè Zūn mutters.

“They’re my idiots, so watch it,” Gēgē’s human corrects.

Yè Zūn walks with Gēgē who follows his human into the building. He barely feels the barrier anymore, which causes Gēgē’s human to raise an eyebrow.

The Cat Yashou sees them first and comes up to Gēgē’s human with no regard for personal space. Then he’s circling around the twins, and reaching to card his fingers through Yè Zūn’s hair. They’ve grown comfortable enough with each other that Yè Zūn allows it. “Never thought I’d see you here,” Dà Qìng comments, tugging on a strand.

Yè Zūn shrugs, which makes the Cat Yashou grin.

“Yeah. Sounds about right.”

“Everyone, I want you to meet our consultant’s twin—this is Yè Zūn. We have two consultants for the price of one.” Gēgē’s human gestures grandly in their direction and Yè Zūn can feel all the curious eyes.

“This mean you’re going to pay at least one of them?” Zhù Hóng snipes.

“No.”

Yè Zūn blinks and hides his smile in his collar. The unanimous protest from Gēgē and his human was perfectly in character for them both, and has the echoes of an old argument that he may be able to poke at later.

Over the next few moments, Yè Zūn officially meets the Snake Yashou—Zhù Hóng, the timid one—Guō Chángchéng, the grumpy one—Chǔ Shùzhī , the energy beings—Wāng Zhēng and Sāng Zàn, and the lab rat.

Lín Jìng doesn’t seem suspicious.

Yè Zūn’s fingers twitch in his overlong sleeves and he sets off the dark energy alarm in the lab.

Lín Jìng goes running, but his eyes narrow in suspicion at the coincidental timing.

Gēgē’s human notices. “You’ll just have to work harder at it now that Lín Jìng knows who you are,” Gēgē’s human murmurs with eyes creased into crescents with the level of his amusement.

Yè Zūn will happily take that challenge.

He just won’t tell the human.