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Inextricable

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Zhao Yunlan ducked back from the window so that he was out of sight, swearing under his breath. Damnit, Guo Changcheng just had to fall from the window right when someone who looked like he was in a position of authority was walking by. If that person lodged a complaint against the S.I.D. for reckless behavior, he would be in deep trouble. At the very least, he would have to write a report. Uggh, please, no. 

Well, okay, Wang Zheng would write the report, but still! It was the principle of the matter! More reports were always A Bad Thing. 

Time to smooth down some potentially ruffled feathers. 

He was dashing down the stairs with Da Qing by his side when an idea occurred to him. “Hey, go down there and act cute.”

“What,” Da Qing said, offended.

“You know, act cute. Distract the guy a bit. We need to soften him up,” Zhao Yunlan told him. “Meow a little or something.”

Making a sound of disgust, Da Qing nonetheless transformed into his cat form mid-step and bounded the rest of the way down the stairs ahead of Zhao Yunlan. 

With the distraction in motion, Zhao Yunlan made his way out of the building at leisure, casually strolling up when he saw the man bending down to pet Da Qing. Looked like the damn cat’s charms worked after all.

“Aiyo, I’ve never seen him behave so cat-like before,” Zhao Yunlan said as he approached them, crouching down to stroke Da Qing’s furry head. He noticed that the man was scratching under Da Qing’s chin, quite expertly too. Clearly he was familiar with cats. “Hey, what happened?” he murmured to Da Qing, pretending that this hadn’t been his plan from the start. 

Then he looked up to see the man looking right at him, before the stranger ducked his head. 

Holy fuck. 

Zhao Yunlan wished the stranger hadn’t ducked his head, because Zhao Yunlan needed at least another ten hours of staring at that face. 

This person, crouched down in front of him, petting Da Qing with gentle hands, was easily the most beautiful man Zhao Yunlan had ever seen in his life. 

With his dark hair neatly parted to the side and thin wire-framed spectacles sitting on his straight, high nose, this stranger looked to be every inch a respectable professor. If respectable professors also looked like they were ready to step onto a catwalk at any moment. He had unbelievably smooth, pale skin, and cheekbones to murder for. His dark eyes were framed by lovely long lashes, and they seemed impossibly deep and soulful from the much too brief glimpse Zhao Yunlan had caught of them. Those pink lips that had been parted with surprise looked like they should be kissed every single hour of every day. Preferably by Zhao Yunlan. 

A beautiful man, with a beautiful face and beautiful eyes. 

Zhao Yunlan willed him to look up, so that he could see more of him. 

“He’s very intelligent. What’s his name?” the man asked, glancing up from beneath his lashes. That look combined with that deep, delicious voice… It was a bit much. It didn’t seem fair that someone like this even existed

“Yes, his name is Da Qing, nicknamed Damn Cat. You can also call him fattie,” Zhao Yunlan said as he watched the man in front of him. 

The stranger looked up again, smiling almost involuntarily before looking away. 

Zhao Yunlan’s heart thudded in his chest. Was he having a heart attack? Not that it mattered. The more important question was how could he get this person to smile at him again? 

He shooed Da Qing away absent-mindedly, knowing he would pay dearly for that later, and straightened up. The other person followed suit. Zhao Yunlan’s eyes did a quick once-over and what the hell, did all professors dress like that nowadays? The man had on tight tan pants with a form-fitting gray vest over a white dress shirt, his sleeves folded up to reveal lean but muscled forearms. And there were these sleeve garters. Zhao Yunlan didn’t even know such a thing existed, but now that he did, he knew they were going to be starring in several of his fantasies from now on. He wanted to bite them. 

He needed to know this person’s name, the better to know what to call out in his fantasies. Putting on his most charming yet professional smile, Zhao Yunlan said, “Oh, I forgot to introduce myself, my surname is Zhao, and I’m here for the case. What’s your name, sir?”

The faintest smile touched the man’s lips and he said, “My name is Shen Wei, and I teach here.” He held up the files in his hand as if to prove his words.

“Shen Wei,” Zhao Yunlan repeated, his mouth moving on autopilot as he drank in this Shen Wei’s face and voice. “That is a good name.” And it really was. A good strong name to match a masculine beauty such as this. 

Shen Wei looked a little dazed at that, lashes lowering as he blinked slowly. Zhao Yunlan wondered if he was laying it on a little thick, so he hurriedly handed over his business card. 

Deciding he should retreat now and gather his thoughts, and okay, maybe also because he did have a case to get back to, he held out a hand for a handshake and said, “Please contact me if you want to discuss anything...about the case I mean.”

Shen Wei clasped his hand and smiled warmly. “Alright.”

His grip was firm, a good handshake. Under Zhao Yunlan’s palm, he thought Shen Wei’s skin felt smooth, a little cool for the temperature outside. Then he realized that Shen Wei was still holding onto his hand even as Zhao Yunlan started to pull away after the requisite amount of time generally involved in a handshake. 

Zhao Yunlan looked at Shen Wei in surprise, and was amused to see Shen Wei staring at him, as if entranced, before his expression shifted to startled embarrassment, and he quickly let go of Zhao Yunlan’s hand. Now, Zhao Yunlan was very intrigued. Was Shen Wei just as interested in him? But it seemed more like Shen Wei was looking at him with...expectation. Which was strange. He could have sworn he had never met Shen Wei before, but there was something in the way Shen Wei looked at him…

It was possible that he had just forgotten this particular pretty face… Possible, if he had met Shen Wei and then immediately been hit by a car, leaving him with brain damage, which was the only conceivable way he could ever have forgotten such a person.

“Is he alright?” Shen Wei asked, looking at Guo Changcheng who was dusting dirt off his pants and giving Zhao Yunlan a hurt look. Zhao Yunlan ignored it. 

“He’s fine,” Zhao Yunlan said dismissively, smiling. He turned. “He’s good at—” Zhao Yunlan cut himself off abruptly. 

Because he had just turned around to come face-to-face with Shen Wei again. Was he seeing double? Seeing the same beautiful man everywhere? Was his mind that obsessed already?

But then his dumbfounded brain kicked into gear. This wasn’t Shen Wei, but it was someone whose face looked almost exactly the same as Shen Wei’s. The similarities were just as breathtaking, the differences were startling. This person had longer hair, an eye-catching shade of silver, pulled into a short ponytail. His features were just as fine, his skin just as inhumanly beautiful, his soft lips just as sweet and pink. But his expression was far less reserved, shock written all over his face. 

Unlike Shen Wei’s well-tailored formal clothing, he was wearing a pair of form-fitting dark jeans with an open-collared white shirt tucked into the waist, and a long thigh-length jacket over the top. He looked more casual but no less beautiful than Shen Wei. 

The longer Zhao Yunlan stared, the more he realized it wasn’t just a resemblance. Their beautiful faces were exactly the same. 

Twin brothers? 

This other person who was also the most beautiful man in the world stared at Zhao Yunlan with complete surprise on his face. Zhao Yunlan had no idea what he had done to have earned this amount of scrutiny, but he was glad it gave him more time to think this through. Now he knew for sure he hadn’t met these two before. There was no possible way he had met a pair of twins as beautiful as these and forgotten about them. Not even a head injury would be sufficient to induce such memory loss. 

The other person opened his mouth. “Kun—”

Shen Wei interrupted. “Ye Zun, this is Chief Zhao from S.I.D. who is working on the murder case on campus. Chief Zhao, this is my brother who also teaches here, Ye Zun.”

Ye Zun’s open mouth audibly snapped shut. He stared at Zhao Yunlan with an intensity bordering on violent, his eyes boring into Zhao Yunlan’s face before giving him a very distinct, deliberate look from head to toe. 

What on earth was going on?

Zhao Yunlan was not modest about his own good looks, but he had never garnered this kind of stunned rabbit surprise followed by intense interest from anyone he had just met. Not even when he squeezed into his sluttiest jeans and went on the prowl for a quick fuck. The mysterious lingering gaze coming from Shen Wei was strange enough, receiving it from his twin Ye Zun as well was downright bizarre. 

“Chief Zhao. From S.I.D.,” Ye Zun repeated, a strange emphasis on Zhao Yunlan’s department. 

“Yes,” Shen Wei murmured. 

Finally, Ye Zun stopped staring at Zhao Yunlan and instead looked over at Shen Wei. They exchanged a long, wordless conversation before Ye Zun started forward towards Shen Wei. Except Zhao Yunlan was standing between the twins, so Ye Zun ended up brushing right against Zhao Yunlan to get to Shen Wei’s side. 

It wasn’t a testosterone-driven collision that some men did to prove that they had bigger dicks. No, Ye Zun angled his body slightly so he wasn’t slamming into Zhao Yunlan, but he didn’t step to the side to avoid contact either. It meant he brushed right up against Zhao Yunlan’s side as he passed. He was close enough that Zhao Yunlan breathed in his sharp cologne, felt his firm body press fleetingly against his own, before Ye Zun was by Shen Wei’s side instead. 

When Zhao Yunlan turned after a brief moment having frozen in place, he saw that Ye Zun had put an arm around Shen Wei’s shoulders, his face bent unusually close to his brother’s. 

“Are you alright, gege?” Ye Zun murmured, his tone so concerned and warm that Zhao Yunlan felt inexplicably like blushing, like this was much too private for an outside observer such as himself. 

Shen Wei turned to Ye Zun and smiled. “I’m alright. What about you, didi?”

“A little surprised, but I’m fine as well. Don’t worry about me.”

Were all twins so...affectionate with each other? Did they all go around draping themselves over each other, saying ‘gege’ and ‘didi’ with that deep warmth in their voices? 

Zhao Yunlan tried to tell himself not to indulge in base fantasies in broad daylight, but it was much too late for his perverted brain. 

He tried to wrench his mind back into work mode. Why were they asking each other that? Why were they both so concerned? It seemed a little much for it to be over this brief encounter with the head of S.I.D., unless they had something to hide. But why would they openly talk about it in front of him?

Oh wait, maybe their concern was over the dead body found on campus. Right. Yes. Not everything was about him. Zhao Yunlan really needed to stop thinking with his dick. 

And he really needed to stop thinking about his dick with two hot twins in front of him. 

Feeling faintly embarrassed at his own train of thought, Zhao Yunlan decided it was high time to escape and said, “I had better get going.”

“Yes, of course,” Shen Wei said, nodding. 

Ye Zun looked at him with an inscrutable expression, before saying, “We’ll be in touch.”

In touch over what? 

Zhao Yunlan decided if he asked, he might never leave. He might ask never to leave. 

He most definitely needed some time to put his brain in order, as best as he possibly could. With that in mind, Zhao Yunlan promptly turned on his heel and fled. 

~ * ~

“Get your mind out of the gutter, Lao Zhao,” Da Qing hissed at him, slinking out from behind a tree, already back in human form.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Zhao Yunlan proclaimed loftily as they headed towards the science faculty building to speak to the witness who had found the body. 

“Please, you smelled like you were in heat when you saw the twins,” Da Qing said, making a face as he waved a hand in front of his nose. 

So Da Qing must have scampered up a nearby tree and eavesdropped instead of leaving. Damn. Zhao Yunlan continued to feign ignorance. “So what if they’re twins. That’s not so strange.” 

“They’re hot twins,” Da Qing insisted. “And you’re you. You know you can’t get involved right?”

Zhao Yunlan frowned as they pushed open the main door of the building, making their way to the office where apparently they should be able to find the witness. “Who said anything about getting involved?”

“Your face said. And by getting involved, I meant fucking. You can’t have sex with someone, or two someones, so closely tied to the case,” Da Qing pointed out. 

“How are they closely tied to the case? Just because they’re professors here?” 

From behind them, a voice stammered out, “A-A-Actually, the victim is also in Professor Shen’s class.”

Zhao Yunlan had forgotten all about Guo Changcheng, who had apparently been trailing after them the whole time.

“I’m sure she was in many professors’ classes. After all, she was here at university to attend classes,” Zhao Yunlan pointed out. Then he wondered aloud, “Why ‘Ye Zun’? They’re brothers with different surnames? And Ye Zun is...certainly unusual as a name, although it does seem to suit him.”

Da Qing groaned. “Have you heard anything I said? You’re meant to keep your distance, not get more intrigued.” 

“I’m getting intrigued from a distance,” Zhao Yunlan insisted. 

Sighing, Da Qing rubbed a hand over his face. “This is doomed. You’re going to get involved with a pair of murder twins.”

“Professor Shen seemed nice,” Guo Changcheng suggested meekly from behind them. 

“Murderers can seem nice,” Da Qing sniped at Guo Changcheng, but by this point, Zhao Yunlan was lost in thought, ignoring their bickering. 

Nice wasn’t exactly the vibe he was getting from either twin, but that just made them all the more intriguing.  

~ * ~

Zhao Yunlan was sitting on the desk, legs crossed, well-aware that he was being a little too intimidating for the witness. Li Qian hadn’t thought they would believe her story about a large shadow murdering Lu Ruomei, and she had only unthawed when he told her that their department investigated less than normal crimes, usually cases related to Dixingren with powers. Even after she had told them what she saw, he knew Li Qian was still hiding something. It was clear from the way she was behaving. She was scared of something specific, not just frightened by some mysterious shadow in the night. 

But despite her fear, she wasn’t spilling her secrets.

Then he heard a familiar voice and when he looked to the side, Shen Wei was walking through the door. Well, at least Da Qing couldn’t blame Shen Wei’s presence here on him. Shen Wei had walked right in on his own!

Zhao Yunlan had wondered if his overactive brain had exaggerated Shen Wei’s looks at their initial meeting. But no, he was just as beautiful under the harsh fluorescent lights as he was when bathed in natural morning light. 

“I assumed we would meet again,” Zhao Yunlan said, knowing he sounded unprofessionally flirtatious, especially with a lollipop sticking out of his mouth. “But this is still much sooner than I expected.”

Shen Wei gave him a steady look, unruffled. “Li Qian is my student and she has a lesson later. I’m just here to fetch her.” 

Well, that was a bullshit reason if Zhao Yunlan ever heard one. Professors weren’t going around fetching each student for their classes, so this must be Shen Wei shielding her from further questioning. But why?

Immediately, Li Qian was on her feet, clearly seeing Shen Wei as a savior of sorts compared to the less than kind S.I.D. investigators.  

“Since we’ve asked all our questions, you can go ahead,” Zhao Yunlan said amiably to her. “Although if we come up with any more questions, maybe we can speak to you after your class, Li Qian.”

“I have work after class,” Li Qian said in a wavering voice, an implied denial. 

“Maybe another day, Chief Zhao. Thank you,” Shen Wei said firmly, closing the door on the topic and turning to go as Li Qian scuttled to his side. 

Casually, Zhao Yunlan spoke to Shen Wei’s back, “The dead victim Lu Ruomei was your student as well, am I right? You must have seen her body.” Almost as if he was making a passing observation, he added, “It’s strange that you don’t seem to have a reaction to her death.”

There was a pause.

Shen Wei started to speak without turning, “That’s because I understand that—”

“Gege is just in shock,” a voice interrupted from the doorway. 

Zhao Yunlan had been so busy staring at Shen Wei’s slim hips, emphasized by that well-cut vest, that he had missed Ye Zun entering and leaning against the doorframe. Zhao Yunlan shot Da Qing a look for not stalling Ye Zun, but Da Qing didn’t notice, too busy staring strangely at Ye Zun. Didn’t Da Qing just warn Zhao Yunlan not to get involved with the twins? Why was he so riveted by Ye Zun? 

Ye Zun didn’t come in any further, but he continued talking, “When gege is in shock, he internalizes all his reactions. It’s a common coping mechanism.” The look he gave Zhao Yunlan was dark, almost challenging.  

Hah. What nonsense. He had never seen anyone calmer than Shen Wei in his life. Even Ye Zun, riding to his rescue, was displaying more agitation than Shen Wei. Zhao Yunlan didn’t bother engaging in a glaring contest with Ye Zun, knowing that the dark look was only an attempt to provoke him and draw attention away from Shen Wei. He had only known the twins for five minutes but he could already read that much into their interactions. 

Pushing himself off the table, Zhao Yunlan sauntered over to Shen Wei’s side, turning to stare at his profile. “Is that so? Are you in shock, Professor Shen?”

There was a heartbeat of silence, before Shen Wei turned to Zhao Yunlan. He was smiling calmly, eyes earnest as he replied, “In some ways, very much so.”

Something about those wide eyes, something about the way Shen Wei had hesitated to look at him initially, made Zhao Yunlan think that wasn’t a lie. But there was also something about that placid smile, impenetrably calm and radiating ‘nothing to see here’ that made Zhao Yunlan think that it wasn’t the whole truth either. He held the gaze for a moment longer than polite decorum dictated, because screw polite decorum, before Zhao Yunlan let out a soft sigh and shook his head, smiling. 

“What about you, Professor Ye?” Zhao Yunlan asked, before slowly turning to look at him, taking in the way he was languidly leaning against the frame. “Are you in shock as well?”

Ye Zun touched his chest with his hand, the move entirely affected as he said in a deadpan voice, “Extremely so.”

This, Zhao Yunlan thought, was actually a more honest reaction than Shen Wei’s, despite how false his behavior was on the surface.  

But Zhao Yunlan had nothing on them, so he smiled wide around his lollipop and said, “Alright then. When you’re both less shocked and if you remember anything, remember to call me, okay? I will respond right away, without any delay.”

Shen Wei looked away, but then surprisingly added, “Then please find the murderer as soon as possible, Chief Zhao, to bring my student’s killer to justice.”

“Of course I will, protecting the citizens is our duty,” Zhao Yunlan said, and then for reasons he himself couldn’t comprehend, he reached out and patted Shen Wei’s shoulder. 

Yep. He patted Shen Wei’s shoulder. Awkwardly.

After the previous flirtation, the intense eye contact, how was awkward shoulder-patting a reasonable follow-up to all that? What happened to his much-vaunted flirtation skills? 

Mind, if anyone asked Da Qing, he would testify that they never existed, because putting on the sluttiest jeans he owned didn’t count as flirtation, according to Da Qing. Zhao Yunlan wanted to bury his face in a pillow at his utter lack of game. 

“Gege, let’s not disturb the extremely busy S.I.D. officers any longer,” Ye Zun interjected, looking like he was very bored, but his gaze was intense as he stared between Shen Wei and Zhao Yunlan. 

“I can always spare some time for you both,” Zhao Yunlan said, voice dropping a little in automatic flirtation. Maybe it wasn’t too late to redeem the situation. 

For some reason, Ye Zun seemed to relax at that, while Shen Wei stiffened. 

Zhao Yunlan sent them off with a jaunty wave, watching as Shen Wei and Ye Zun brushed shoulders as they walked down the hall, leaving a clear gap between them and Li Qian. 

Thoughtfully, Zhao Yunlan went through what he knew about them so far. Shen Wei was a professor of Bioengineering, apparently a brilliant young genius in his field, much beloved by his students. Ye Zun was a professor of Psychology and almost better known for his role as the Dragon City University’s Drama Club supervisor, helping the club put together very popular amateur plays at the university. Their records were so clean and dull that they just couldn’t be real.

Both Li Qian and Lu Ruomei were in Shen Wei’s class. Both Shen Wei and Ye Zun were unnaturally calm in light of these stressful circumstances. 

There was something about these twins…

Maybe Da Qing was right. No matter how beautiful and intriguing they were, he needed to be on his guard around them.  

~ * ~

He was not at all on his guard around them.

That was mainly because it was very difficult to be on his guard when he was sitting on the sidewalk, curled up over his stomach, trying not to die. Fuck, fuck, fuck… He tried to remember what could have caused his gastritis to flare up. 

There was the alcohol he had downed yesterday, quite a lot of it in fact, as part of his usual efforts to grease the wheels of the departmental social network. The people at the bar had been old pals of his from the police academy, now in various positions in the police force and even in the government. It was important to maintain those contacts in his position as the S.I.D chief. 

Then today, he had eaten…

Nothing. He had eaten nothing. Ah, he had drunk lots of tea and eaten lollipops when he had felt his hunger flare up. Right. Well, no wonder. He had been fine though, until he exited the Ministry of Supervision. Standing in the cool night air, he had suddenly been taken over by nausea and a terrible cramping in the pit of his stomach. 

He might actually be dying. 

Wait, dying would probably be preferable. Dying wouldn’t be so agonizing, he was sure. He needed to call a cab, but that would involve standing up. The idea of uncurling made him feel like passing out from pain. 

“Chief Zhao.”

That voice… Oh god, please don’t let it be one of the most beautiful men in Haixing, seeing him in this terribly embarrassing and embarrassingly terrible condition. Zhao Yunlan squinted up and there was definitely no god, because his wish was not granted. 

It was Shen Wei and Ye Zun. 

Even through his fog of pain, he didn’t fail to notice that Shen Wei was dressed in a beautiful, blue three piece, a silk scarf tucked under his white collar against his pale neck. Ye Zun was wearing a white suit with a black shirt, the collar open and his throat bare. They were a balm for his tired eyes, but still not enough to overcome his pain. 

Waving weakly at them, he just pressed his face back down to his knees, not up for any talking. 

“Are you unwell? Do you need to go to the hospital?” Shen Wei asked, crouching down beside him. 

Zhao Yunlan shook his head, really not wanting to deal with a hospital right now. “It’s just gastritis. I’m fine,” he managed to croak out. 

Before he could say another word, he felt Ye Zun crouching down on his other side, placing a hand on his shoulder. He sounded acerbic when he said, “You clearly don’t know what ‘fine’ means.”

“I just need to go home. I have medicine there,” Zhao Yunlan mumbled, not up for any witty banter. 

There was a moment of silence as the twins presumably did some of that creepy silent communication again. Then he felt hands supporting him by the elbows on both sides, arms curled around his shoulders and waist as they helped him to his feet. He didn’t even really need to employ his own muscles here, because they were both lifting him bodily, supporting his entire weight without the slightest effort. Damn, they were strong. 

Everything passed in a blur of pain and dizziness as they got into a taxi. At some point, he thought his head rested on someone’s shoulder, thought he felt a hand in his hair, another on his stomach. But perhaps it was just extremely wishful thinking in the face of that much pain. 

He didn’t remember much of how he got home, was pretty sure he hadn’t even told anyone his address. He didn’t remember how he got his door open or what, if anything, was said. All he knew was that he was finally on his soft comfortable mattress, that he could lie down and close his eyes and relax. 

At some point, he thought Shen Wei scolded him. And Ye Zun mocked him. How did he know which was which, when they had the same voice? 

But they sounded different, he knew that much. 

Zhao Yunlan’s eyes stayed closed and he thought vaguely that maybe he should be worried that he was defenseless with two potential suspects in his home. But he let himself drift into sleep, knowing somehow, that he was safe with them.

~ * ~

Zhao Yunlan woke up feeling warm under his thick duvet, comfortable like he had had a really good night’s sleep. He frowned, thinking it was unusual for him to be tucked in like this, with the duvet right up to his chin. Even though he loved burrowing into warmth, he also knew he was a restless sleeper who tended to throw off his blankets during the night. 

Stretching, he sat up, turning to get off the bed when he suddenly realized there were two figures right in the periphery of his vision. He flung himself back with a cry, staring in shock at Shen Wei and Ye Zun both sitting by his bed. 

Well, Shen Wei was sitting. They had both pulled chairs right up to the side of Zhao Yunlan’s bed. Shen Wei was upright, back straight in his chair. The second chair was pressed right against Shen Wei’s, and Ye Zun was practically draped over Shen Wei, his head on Shen Wei’s shoulder, both arms wrapped around Shen Wei’s waist. Even though Ye Zun was slumped over and loose limbed, he wasn’t asleep. Two sets of beautiful dark eyes were staring right at Zhao Yunlan. 

Despite Shen Wei’s upright, perfect posture, he looked entirely comfortable being hugged like that and even had one arm around Ye Zun’s shoulder to hold him close. Was this really normal behavior for adult twin brothers? Zhao Yunlan felt like he was losing his mind a little, staring at the two of them curled close together, and trying not to think of anything inappropriate. He forced his mind back on track. 

“You both didn’t sleep and stayed by my side all night?” he asked, a little incredulous, desperate for a distraction.

Shen Wei didn’t reply, his face mostly blank, like the question didn’t make sense to him at all. Rubbing his head into Shen Wei’s shoulder like an oversized cat, Ye Zun said, “Gege didn’t sleep. I slept most of the night.”

Zhao Yunlan wanted to ask where Ye Zun slept, because he couldn’t see someone like him taking the couch, but he was afraid to hear the answer. Mostly because he really didn’t need more fantasies involving these two and his own bed. He also wanted to ask why Shen Wei hadn’t slept at all, but then he was suddenly distracted by how Ye Zun’s black shirt was open down to the third button, revealing the long line of his throat and his lovely collarbones. And there was a glimpse of a lovebite almost hidden by his collar, the dark red mark peeking out from beneath silky black fabric. It looked fresh, like someone had just sucked on his pale skin mere hours ago. Except...there had only been Shen Wei and Zhao Yunlan in this apartment with Ye Zun, and Zhao Yunlan hadn’t turned into a sleep-vampire last he checked. 

Zhao Yunlan looked up to see Ye Zun staring right back at him, lips spreading slowly into a sly smile. 

It absolutely could not be what Zhao Yunlan’s fevered imagination was conjuring up. Definitely not. No way. It was probably a large mosquito bite, not a lovebite. Get your act together, horny brain!

Eyes darting away, Zhao Yunlan desperately sought something else to look at and surprisingly, found that there was a lot to look at. A lot of clear empty space. The wide wooden desk between his bed and the window was completely clear of clutter. Looking around, Zhao Yunlan realized that everything was clean and tidy. His home actually looked respectable and more like a home rather than a garbage dump, in Da Qing’s words.

“This is repayment for your hard work investigating the case at the university,” Shen Wei said calmly, face placid. 

Ye Zun smiled, his arms tightening around Shen Wei’s waist. “And because he couldn’t  bear to think of you living in what looked like a trash heap.”

“Yes, I’m the only one who cares how he lives,” Shen Wei murmured drily. 

Making a face, Ye Zun looked away, not answering.

Wait, what did that mean? Why should they care how Zhao Yunlan lived? It made Zhao Yunlan feel like wriggling around with a burst of joy, the idea that they were worried about him, but at the same time, he didn’t understand why they worried about him. They barely knew him. He rubbed at his forehead, feeling a headache growing. 

A white bowl of congee was held out under his nose, and he looked up to see Shen Wei offering the food while saying, “The congee is still warm, eat it and then take your medicine.”

When was the last time Zhao Yunlan woke up to someone handing him hot breakfast, worrying over his gastritis? He felt warm even before trying the congee, just cradling the bowl of home-cooked food in his hand. 

He sighed, looking up from beneath his lashes at Shen Wei and Ye Zun. “You’re both so nice to me... I’m not going to be able to let either of you walk away.”

At that, Shen Wei’s bland expression cracked and his lips curved into a small smile as he let out a huff of disbelief at Zhao Yunlan’s shamelessness. 

Ye Zun smiled lopsidedly and said in a low voice, “I don’t do cooking and cleaning, but I’ve got other talents you might find interesting.”

The synapses in Zhao Yunlan’s brain short-circuited as he drew in a sharp breath at those clearly flirtatious words. It was very hard to figure out what to think, with Ye Zun draped all over Shen Wei in a way that didn’t read as particularly familial so much as possessive, but at the same time, Ye Zun was also flirting with him while Shen Wei had cleaned his whole apartment and cooked for him. What was a simple man like Zhao Yunlan supposed to take from all this? 

Zhao Yunlan didn’t feel like he was awake enough to deal with this so he started spooning congee into his mouth. And damn, it was the best congee he had ever had. The texture was smooth and silky, with just the slightest hint of salt to flavor it. For his poor abused stomach and his mouth that tasted like death after a night of drinking, it was like food from the heavens. 

As he ate with deep appreciation, Shen Wei said quietly, “Zhao Yunlan, any time you want to eat anything, just come over and knock on our door. I advise that you take your meals more seriously.”

“Yes, be more careful, you idiot,” Ye Zun scolded more forcefully. “We don’t want to have to pick you up off the street anymore. So troublesome.”

Zhao Yunlan drank down the congee in the bowl, too greedy to take it slowly and lowered the bowl in time to see Shen Wei stroking Ye Zun’s hair before squeezing his shoulder, as if encouraging him to play nice. Right at that moment, Zhao Yunlan decided that he was just going to pretend he didn’t see that. There was just no way this was normal, but he was going to park this for later contemplation. Maybe in the shower, where it would be easier to clean up. 

Deciding to combat the twins’ outrageous behavior with some outrageous behavior of his own, Zhao Yunlan said with an unrepentant smile, “If you care about my meals and you want to ensure I eat on time, why don’t you visit me more? Consider my place open to you. You can even drop in at the S.I.D. offices if you like.”

“Are you looking to hire a nanny?” Shen Wei asked with a deadpan look. 

“Are you looking for a side hustle? Because I wouldn’t say no to be taken care of,” Zhao Yunlan responded with a shameless grin. 

Ye Zun arched, before straightening and releasing his hold around Shen Wei’s waist. But somehow it looked even more provocative since he seemed to be rubbing the side of his torso all up against Shen Wei in that stretching motion. His hand came up to run affectionately through Shen Wei’s hair, the neat hairstyle that had valiantly remained intact the whole night completely mussed up under Ye Zun’s fingers. Ye Zun murmured, eyes sliding back to Zhao Yunlan, “Gege is very good at taking care of people, Chief Zhao, if you’re really up for it.”

Wow, okay, that alone was enough wank fantasy for a year

Zhao Yunlan was going to go for broke and say something about a care package and if he could ask for extra personalized benefits, in his most suggestive voice, when something Shen Wei had said earlier finally registered in his drowsy and horny brain. 

“Wait, rewind. What did you say about me coming over and knocking on your door any time I want to eat something?” Zhao Yunlan asked, frowning. That was definitely a strange thing to say, because from official investigations — not private ones, no matter how much he was tempted — he knew that they both lived on campus in Dragon City University’s lodgings for the academic staff. Inviting him to just pop over there any time for food was a little unusual, not to mention hardly convenient considering the distance.

As if in sync, Shen Wei and Ye Zun got up from their chairs, still standing far too close together. 

“Our accommodation at the university was becoming a little cramped so we just moved to new lodgings yesterday,” Shen Wei explained politely. 

Ye Zun smiled angelically. “Who knew that when you gave the cab driver your address, we would find out that our new place is right across the hall from yours. What a coincidence, neighbor.”

Zhao Yunlan could only stare as they both turned and made their way out of his apartment. Even as he tried to untangle his messy thoughts, he couldn’t help but enjoy the doubly exceptional view from behind as they left. 

How was he actually going to survive being neighbors with these twins?