Luo Wenzhou maintained his composure for all the time it took to hobble (without hobbling) his way up the steps to his house, keep his gaze unswervingly forward (to keep from looking helplessly, yearningly backward), and calmly (calmly!) open his door. I have given myself away, he thought idly to himself, when the door slammed into the wall without much of this calm at all.
With his door shut firmly behind him, he felt he deserved some small measure of relief and let his head slump backwards with a satisfying thunk. This was, however, not nearly enough; Luo Wenzhou deliberated for another moment, then lifted his hands and scrubbed at his face. Only then could he groan miserably, a sound wrenched from somewhere deep: “That asshole.”
As if summoned, there was the slight skittering of claws. Here, enter stage right, yet another asshole; if this one had eyebrows, they would be raised. All things being said, even without having turned on the lights, Luo Wenzhou could sense the distinct airs of judgement.
“Scum,” Luo Wenzhou informed his cat, Luo Yiguo, who tilted his head further. “Fei Du—he—that—” he took a fortifying breath and concluded, fairly articulately, “Scum.”
Luo Yiguo, having determined just how concerned he should be—which was to say, not at all—turned and padded away.
This suited Luo Wenzhou perfectly well. He peeled himself off the door, tripped out of his shoes, and went on. “What's he playing at?” he said, following Luo Yiguo into the afternoon sun that was making its valiant incursion in through his balcony. “Driving me home, he thinks I’ll forget how much of an irresponsible brat he is.”
A scrape of metal; Luo Wenzhou paused to watch Luo Yiguo curl up around his food bowl and make beseeching eyes in his direction. He turned without a word and wrested his jacket off, ignoring the distinctive sound of claws making their devilish and angry presence known.
“And who has perfectly fitted jeans?” he demanded somewhat forcefully of the TV. The TV did not supply an answer, but he didn’t need one. It was quite clear that Fei Du had perfectly fitted jeans; one car ride’s duration had been more than enough time to observe evidence in support of this finding. With several repeated trials, of course, to ensure reliability.
Luo Wenzhou threw himself down onto the couch with a huff. “But his cologne…” he mused.
And also his everything, whispered some dearly depraved part of Luo Wenzhou, possibly his hormones, possibly the ghost of his distant and disreputable youth. Niche interests, and all that.
“His cologne,” Luo Wenzhou maintained stubbornly, silencing these treacherous thoughts. “Maybe—maybe his face. That’s all he has going for him.” He slapped the couch to punctuate this pronouncement. Luo Yiguo leapt up onto the coffee table and looked at him expectantly, appearing not unlike a therapist in dramas making note of their patient’s every bemoaning remark, or maybe as Fei Du had earlier, leaning against his car, the faint wind making something very charming of his collar and the wisps of hair not pushed back.
“Love is fake,” Luo Wenzhou said aloud, quietly contemplative. After all, who was it that was listening to Luo Wenzhou pour his heart out, who had been doing so for the past seven years? Certainly not any of his slew of ex-lovers. No, it was Luo Yiguo, who was capable of love but refused to bear up to it (a quality Luo Wenzhou had benevolently come to accept). Luo Yiguo, who now gave a mewling laugh.
Luo Wenzhou sat up at this. “Hey,” he said. Luo Yiguo laughed on, tiny hitches and hisses of sound. “Luo Yiguo, hey. This isn’t funny.”
The stupid cat rolled onto his back and blinked up at Luo Wenzhou, stupid eyes stupid wide in amusement. “You’re right,” said Luo Yiguo, with all the glee of a cat who had gotten the cream, “I think this is fucking hilarious.”
Unlovable asshole. Unloving scum.
“Language,” Luo Wenzhou muttered darkly, and stalked away, head held high.
Luo Wenzhou, 29, was not looking to have children. This fact had been especially true and was perhaps even more so, seven years ago, when a hassled Tao Ran had forsaken a tiny slip of a cat in the splay of Luo Wenzhou’s two outstretched palms.
“What the fuck,” Luo Wenzhou had said to this small cat, who was asleep to the world. Then, lifting his head to Tao Ran, he drove the point home with a single-minded intensity: “What the fuck.”
Tao Ran grimaced at him and ran his fingers through his hair. Clearly, he had only deposited the cat in order to momentarily free up his hands. Now, of course, this was the saintly Tao Ran. Of course he would promptly take back this cat, and—“Fei Du doesn’t want it anymore.”
Luo Wenzhou was for a moment overcome with the force of his scoff. “Fei Du, that child—”
“Doesn’t want it,” cut in Tao Ran, firm. “And I’m still renting. So please, Wenzhou. It’s in your hands now.” He looked down. “Literally.”
“You are so funny,” Luo Wenzhou told Tao Ran, who was not so funny, but with grudging respect for his friend’s nefarious ways. It was Tao Tan’s fault Luo Wenzhou was so whipped for him, but the oblivious idiot couldn’t get a handle on his charms. He was like a kitten, new-born and indolent with it, so unthinking was he in the art of manipulation.
Luo Wenzhou cast another doubtful glance over the cat. This did not take long, for it was a minuscule thing. It was also very warm, and very soft, and very.
He froze in place when the cat began to stir, butting into his palm and curling up into itself oh so slightly. Then, like sunrise over a mountain range, finding footing and landing in the snow with nary a disturbance in the force, the cat’s eyes opened. They blinked at Luo Wenzhou, a placid one-two. Luo Wenzhou was, against his better judgement and good breeding, drawn deeply into them. He couldn’t help it—he issued out an emphatic, “What the fuck.”
This had hung in the air for only a moment when the cat, not even half the span of Luo Wenzhou’s hand, opened its mouth in the beginnings of a yawn and uttered: “F’ck.”
As tends to happen, Luo Wenzhou and Tao Ran were both violently stopped in their tracks.
“...A hiccough,” Tao Ran ventured after a moment’s pause.
“...Yes.” Luo Wenzhou nodded in earnest. “Obviously.”
Here were two policemen, the best of their graduating year. They were not to be defeated by something so inane as a talking kitten. Obviously, it was a hiccough. A sneeze, distorted by some previously undiscovered phenomenon of acoustics. Alas!—these dreaded auditory hallucinations that come with age.
“Wenzhou,” Tao Ran said, all of a sudden contrite, “I’m sorry.”
And the cat, displaying a remarkable sense of timing, had piped up here. “Wenzhou.”
Luo Wenzhou’s hands were very much occupied at that moment, so he looked at Tao Ran with some gravity and felt this was an acceptable compromise for being unable to pointedly stab a finger into Tao Ran’s chest. “A month,” he said. Stab. “If you don’t find another home for this cat”—stab, stab—“I’ll stew this four-legged nuisance in a pot.”
A month later, Luo Yiguo was, in a truly beautiful rendition of Luo Wenzhou’s dialect, cursing him out for not cleaning the litter box.
So, seven years ago. Luo Wenzhou held Luo Yiguo in his hands, and hadn’t known peace since.
“Oh?” Luo Yiguo said before Luo Wenzhou could even register his presence, which meant his honed sense for danger was clearly on its downwind. “Oh? What’s this?”
“Nothing,” Luo Wenzhou replied, but he raised his eyebrows meaningfully. Being roommates for as long as they had, there was always the rare opportunity for a harmonious co-existence. Luo Yiguo, catching on, stalked in a circle around Luo Wenzhou and prodded, “Go on. Tell me.”
Luo Wenzhou pretended to dither for a few seconds. Then he said, “Well,” and made a grand show of flourishing the bouquet of roses in his arms.
A bouquet. His first bouquet. He was smiling intolerably too widely—more than enough for Luo Yiguo to pounce on. “Do I need to set a curfew?” Luo Yiguo said, mock-outraged. “Has he met your parents?”
Luo Wenzhou looked down upon him and said imperiously, “No, and yes.”
His cat stumbled back, a hacking sound located somewhere in his throat that spoke to his many years carefully practicing his theatrical gasp. Luo Wenzhou made for the study, too busy with the sweet fragrance of the roses to feel duly concerned by the gleam in Luo Yiguo’s eyes. “But he hasn’t met me yet.”
“Oh, he has,” Luo Wenzhou informed him, “but you were tiny. A baby. The littlest little man.”
His legs were mercifully spared as Luo Yiguo contemplated the first part of that. “I see,” he said, watching as Luo Wenzhou arranged the flowers in a vase on his desk. “Well, he doesn’t know that I can talk.”
Luo Wenzhou hummed in agreement, then stopped to shoot Luo Yiguo a glare. “And he won’t find out until I tell him.”
“Hm,” said Luo Yiguo. “But imagine how funny it would be if—”
“Yes,” said Luo Wenzhou, because he could imagine, “but no.”
Though, how it comes out is nothing outrageous. In retrospect, it’s a little embarrassing, and not at all the solemn undertaking such a matter should have been revealed in, but. Well. Luo Yiguo had been a disrespectful little beast from the moment he first opened his mouth, so more fool Luo Wenzhou to have been surprised when his cat made the arbitrary decision one unassuming morning to give Fei Du a heart attack.
Because, really, where was the creativity? Rousing him from his cuddling Fei Du with a phone call from Tao Ran, who was never one to falter as the bearer of bad news? Okay, fine, have at it—and now, what’s this about the missing students?
Some might think it a stretch to say his cat had anything to do with the criminal enterprise in Yan City, but Luo Yiguo, who was a master of psychological manipulation, would never be wholly clear of Luo Wenzhou’s suspicions.
In short, Luo Wenzhou was skillfully cleared off the chessboard that was his house, leaving behind one ravished Fei Du and his keys in the front door. The unwitting victim Fei Du was singularly unprepared, the poor thing, as he glanced over at Luo Yiguo and said mildly, “At his age, your dad should be a little steadier.”
Luo Yiguo licked at the fur along his paw. Without looking up, and, as one does, he said, “Yeah, tell me about it.”
Fei Du froze. Okay, he thought to himself, with some care. Time to reassess my mental state. This was no huge inconvenience; he had been due the biannual observance any day now. “Luo Yiguo?”
Fei Du’s gaze flicked over to the liquor cabinet, whereupon he confirmed that it was still quite locked. This was an unhelpful observation. He had certainly not imbibed any alcohol, not least on such a volume as to addle his mind, but he could’ve sworn that this cat—by all accounts a very normal cat, fearing nothing so mundane as death—had spoken. “I’m not entirely sure what’s going on right now.”
“Can you do something about that?” said Luo Yiguo, who, following Fei Du’s line of sight, had suddenly displayed a great deal of interest in the conversation. He got up and slinked over to the cabinet, then turned a searching look Fei Du’s way. “I won’t say anything if you don’t.”
Fei Du considered this proposition. There was much to accomplish today. He would likely be getting a phone call any second now. There was, also, the very small matter of this talking cat. He said, decidedly, “Deal.”
And then, later:
“You sure about this one?” Luo Yiguo asked scornfully, apropos of nothing except Fei Du disappearing into the bedroom again, or perhaps Luo Wenzhou starting to ignite the bottom left stovetop. He frowned—was there something wrong with this stovetop then?—and snatched up his chopsticks when Luo Yiguo batted them across the counter. “He can’t pick a lock to save his life,” the cat continued, judgemental as ever.
Ah. “Yes, I am, shut up,” said Luo Wenzhou in an undertone, absentminded. Then, upon registering these words, he backtracked quickly: “Wait. Lock? What lock?”
Luo Yiguo gave him a Look, but Luo Wenzhou, exercising the presence of mind and deductive reasoning that he was so widely revered for, had already turned to scrutinise the liquor cabinet. Firmly locked, key nowhere in sight—this, however, did nothing to allay his fears. He twisted back around to glare at Luo Yiguo with a not unreasonable amount of suspicion, as befitting any dealing with this bastard of a cat, and hissed, “What are you talking about?”
“Yes, Luo Yiguo, what are you talking about?” came a voice from the hallway, because of course it would. “I thought we had a deal.”
Luo Yiguo paused and averted his gaze, squinting off into the range hood; Luo Wenzhou did the same. The latter very sincerely felt that turning around was the last thing he was going to do, ever. How unfortunate, that his life might end in such a dishonorable way.
“Dare I say,” Luo Yiguo began, to which Luo Wenzhou, with a deep sense of foreboding, cut in, “No, don’t—”
“The cat is out of the bag,” Fei Du finished.
Luo Wenzhou needed a drink. Without such a resource considerately at hand, he was forced to say, “Fuck.”
“Language,” Fei Du and Luo Yiguo chimed in together.
“Fuuuck,” Luo Wenzhou said in response, louder. He resolutely did not turn around.
Instead, Fei Du came to him, nudging his chest up against Luo Wenzhou’s back and looping his arms around his waist with a drawn-out sigh. “Shixiong.”
“...Yes.” And then, taking a page out of Fei Du’s disgraceful book: “I love you.”
Fei Du was smiling. Luo Wenzhou sensed this without looking, because his heart didn’t feel at all settled, wouldn’t be at all settling, and this had become an unsettlingly common occurrence as of late. He’d have to resign from the City Bureau, he couldn’t go and be seen by his subordinates like this: all light and tender and glowy. No, Fei Du was definitely smiling, because his voice was entirely too pleased as he said, “That’s nice, shixiong, but Luo Yiguo can talk.”
Luo Yiguo can talk. This was an issue. Luo Wenzhou gave Luo Yiguo a look, meaning no dry food for the rest of your miserable life, and Luo Yiguo gave Luo Wenzhou a look in return, meaning die.
Luo Wenzhou sighed, gesturing helplessly to Luo Yiguo. “Look at this asshole,” he said, and found this to be a compelling explanation. The asshole, in one of his rare moments of goodwill, kindly did not curb his murderous intent in the least.
Fei Du rested his forehead against the back of Luo Wenzhou’s neck and laughed into his collar. Even—perhaps, especially—now in this great moment of weakness, President Fei was seizing upon the opportunity to seduce Luo Wenzhou’s poor, defenceless heart away. Luo Wenzhou leaned into the warmth of this opportunistic pathogen and announced to the ceiling, “You can’t ask me about it.”
“Why?” Fei Du murmured, which was unreasonable, because it was made something terribly sweet in their close embrace, the nerves of his skin that were just shy of Fei Du’s mouth alight with anticipation. “I feel that questions about this sort of thing are justified.”
“Yes,” Luo Wenzhou conceded, because they were, “but I wouldn’t know the answers to them.”
Fei Du paused at this. Luo Wenzhou considered his words again and winced. Plaintively, when Fei Du’s silence stretched unusually long, he said, “He was like this when I got him?” and when this seemed a touch uncertain, revised, “he was—like this. When I got him.”
Luo Wenzhou felt Fei Du straighten up to look at Luo Yiguo, so he twisted his head around and did the same. Under the sudden onslaught of two unscrupulous gazes, his cat got to his paws and curled backwards in the unmistakable manner that certain asshole cats might adopt in order to leap, claws first, at their undeserving targets.
Luo Wenzhou reached behind him to cover Fei Du’s face, stumbling gracelessly over his heels as Fei Du tugged him away by his waist. Together, they collided with the fridge, magnets skidding off and scattering across the floor, the fridge itself jostled in a way that boded well for all the glassware inside. When the last magnet came to a rest at the foot of the sink and, heartbreakingly, what Luo Wenzhou was certain to be his jar of hoisin sauce concluded its exploding in the fridge door shelf, Luo Yiguo surveyed this tableau, nimbly jumped down from the counter, and stuck out his tongue. “Good talk,” he said, and then charged out of the kitchen without so much as a backwards glance.
Luo Wenzhou and Fei Du stared after him, caught in their awkward, half-stooped huddle. For lack of a better response, Luo Wenzhou gave in to the mounting sense of deja vu within him and cursed, “That asshole.”
Fei Du patted Luo Wenzhou’s side, which was nice, before this rapidly devolved into feeling him up—which, regrettably, was also nice, but Luo Wenzhou would be damned if he allowed President Fei any more ammunition against him. He stilled the wandering paw against his hip, then used it to pull Fei Du around from where he had been curled against his back.
Luo Wenzhou hadn’t been too worried, Fei Du the thoroughly discerning gentleman that he was, but when he managed to curl a hand under Fei Du’s chin and found no trace of panic in his face, the last bit of his mind could finally quieten down (for all that it was able to while he was pressed up against a handsome man). With Fei Du not readying to abscond into the night despite these revelations about Luo Yiguo, there were now other pressing matters for him to resolve. For example, a certain cat who did not have nearly as many lives as he thought he did.
Come to think of it, Lang Qiao had just last week expounded on the merits of sweaters for cats, and who was the thoughtful Captain Luo to deny his hardworking subordinates?
He was stalled in his recollection of idle yet deadly bookmarks made on Baidu when Fei Du lifted a hand to catch at Luo Wenzhou’s, holding it fast to the curve of his cheek. Smiling, he said lowly, “Baobei’er,” which was the exact moment Luo Wenzhou realised, how now!—he had lowered his guard too soon by far! Fei Du somehow managed to draw closer, forging ever onward where Luo Wenzhou had previously and mistakenly assumed there was really nowhere else to go, and tilted his head to peer mournfully into Luo Wenzhou’s eyes. “How could you keep this from me?”
Luo Wenzhou refused to feel anything at all about this turn of events, and this went marvellously until his shoulders were pushed against the fridge once more. Poor fridge, he thought to himself, and then, wait, the hoisin sauce, and then, more appropriately, oh no, as Fei Du leaned in and kissed him.
Against his lips, Fei Du breathed out, “You’ll have to make it up to me.”
Luo Wenzhou, never one to be outperformed in shamelessness, wrapped his hand around the back of Fei Du’s neck. He opened his mouth to inquire just how he was expected to go about this when he felt Fei Du recommence in his ministrations around his belt, untucking the shirt there. Bracing for touch was a farce, he was well aware, even as he did it. His stomach jerked at the press of Fei Du’s cold hand, seared in any number of ways.
Luo Wenzhou’s eyes slipped shut. He tipped his head back; all the better for Fei Du to kiss down his neck as he stroked his long fingers over Luo Wenzhou’s bare hip. “You—”
“Me,” Fei Du agreed cheerfully, and lightly bit down.
Luo Wenzhou’s eyes opened, half-mast, and then they focused on something over Fei Du’s head.
“You tried to get into the liquor cabinet.”
Fei Du froze. His pulse, from where Luo Wenzhou’s hand still lightly rested around his neck, jumped.
Luo Wenzhou could have bared his teeth, given into his base desires to laugh maniacally, crowed to the heavens, What fruitful pickings indeed! Delighted, he instead went on: “You made a deal with Luo Yiguo to keep quiet about it.”
“Shixiong,” Fei Du said after a pause, then lightly licked his lips—truly a devastating thing when his breath was very much still coming hot and hard against the column of Luo Wenzhou’s throat. “I was wrong. Let me make it up to you.”
Luo Wenzhou rolled his eyes, if only to cover up the uncomplicated way his heart felt fit to burst. “Now, here is a cat crying for a rat,” he jeered, and smothered Fei Du’s protests with a kiss.