Since in this fix, neither of them could really afford to be picky.
After Tang Suoyan drank some, Tao Xiaodong finished the rest of it and set the bottle aside.
It was dry and tedious to wait twiddling thumbs like this, only exacerbated by the heat and their impatience.
Tao Xiaodong started to dive for topics, asking, “You’ve never had an experience like this before, right”
Tang Suoyan asked, “Which type Being stuck on the road”
Tao Xiaodong said yeah.
And Tang Suoyan said he had.
Tao Xiaodong looked over, but Tang Suoyan didn’t turn his head, staring at the mountains ahead as he said that he had been in a car accident.
Startled, Tao Xiaodong unconsciously went “Huh”
Tang Suoyan recalled, “It was on a mountain pass, too.
When the ambulance arrived, I was also sitting by the roadside, though it wasn’t as hot that day.”
Hearing this alarmed Tao Xiaodong.
He asked him, “Was it serious”
Tang Suoyan shook his head, saying calmly, “It wasn’t.
You see, I can still sit here and wait for help, how bad can it get”
“Was there anyone else with you Or were you alone”
Tang Suoyan said there was.
Tao Xiaodong asked was that guy okay, and Tang Suoyan said he was fine, it was just a bump on the head.
It was an accident of many years ago, and Tang Suoyan had only brought it up in passing, yet listening to it discomfited Tao Xiaodong.
After a while, he lifted his arm and stroked the length of Tang Suoyan’s back twice with the force that men used to reassure others, muttering “stay safe”.
Tang Suoyan chuckled, looking at Tao Xiaodong.
The frown that marred Tao Xiaodong’s features was so slight that he might not even have realised it himself.
Tang Suoyan averted his gaze, saying with a faint smile on his lips, “Now you’ve gotten the sweat on my back onto my clothes.”
Tao Xiaodong had worked up a sweat all over his body as well; they were both a little run-down.
The grain of ethereality that Tang Suoyan radiated was completely gone.
His shirt, after being smoothed down by Tao Xiaodong, now clung to his body, and sweat daubed his forehead.
He sat on the ground with his arms propped on his knees, losing any semblance whatsoever of a learned scholar.
Tang Suoyan reached behind to pull his shirt in order to keep it from sticking to his back.
He was in a dress shirt and slacks; the section of his shirt around his waist stretched taut when he sat slouched slightly forward like this, held in place by his belt.
On the other hand, Tao Xiaodong fared much better.
He was in short sleeves and exercise shorts.
The clothes hung loosely on him, so if he really couldn’t take the heat he was still able to fan himself with his shirt.
Later, Tao Huainan awoke, groggily calling “Ge.”
Tao Xiaodong called back to him and said, “Awake I’m outside, next to the car.”
Tao Huainan shuffled to sit on the far side next to him, asking, “What happened”
Tao Xiaodong said, “The car broke down, so we’re just waiting around.”
“Oh.” Tao Huainan didn’t fluster, after all, his Ge and Dr.
Tang were both by his side.
Tang Suoyan turned his head to look at Tao Huainan, asking him with a smile, “You can’t smell me now, right It’s all buried under my sweat.”
Tao Huainan smiled and shook his head.
“Nope, can’t smell it anymore.”
“He keeps saying that he can smell your unique scent, but exactly what that scent is I’ve never been able to smell it even up to now,” said Tao Xiaodong.
Tang Suoyan said, “I can’t either, I’m used to it.
It might be the herbs that my mother mixes; after so long the fragrance has saturated my clothes.”
The sun moved a step westward, and the shadows slowly shifted forward as well, merging with the small shadowy patch that they’d just barely managed to construct before.
By the time the car arrived, Tao Xiaodong and Tang Suoyan were both standing and the clothes that were hung up were kept.
The three of them changed vehicles, and the driver changed as well.
As soon as they got into the car, air conditioning blasted at them, and Tao Xiaodong exclaimed, “I am alive.“
Tang Suoyan chuckled.
The driver this time was a young guy sent over by the previous county hospital.
While driving, he apologised to them for the inconvenience.
“Don’t worry about it,” said Tao Xiaodong, “it was pretty nice enjoying the scenery.”
The remaining half of their journey went smoothly.
They arrived at the small, old county town as per the programme.
Those on the hospital side had been waiting for him, and Tang Suoyan had to head over to make pleasantries regardless.
Thereafter, the driver took Tao Xiaodong and Tao Huainan to a four-storied hotel in the county.
The establishment didn’t look big.
The rooms were handled as a whole.
Tao Xiaodong offered his name, and the young lady managing the front counter checked the sheet, mumbling, “Is it 403 or 404… oh, it’s room 403.”
She swiped a room card then handed it to Tao Xiaodong, beaming.
Tao Xiaodong thanked her.
He pushed his luggage with his left hand, pulled Tao Huainan with his right, and clipped the card between his fingers.
After entering the room, Tao Huainan exhaled and said softly, “I’m so tired.”
Tao Xiaodong brought him next to a chair and got him to take a seat, saying, “I’m going to take a shower, I’m all sweaty.”
“‘Kay,” Tao Huainan responded and sat down obediently, fishing out his phone.
As Chi Cheng was still in class at this time, he was unable to respond.
Tao Huainan tapped aimlessly around his phone, but finding nothing much to do, tucked it away again.
Tao Xiaodong headed straight for the shower upon going in.
There was a small water heater installed on the wall.
The water temperature wasn’t steady, oscillating between cold and hot.
Tao Xiaodong washed his hair as well.
The shampoo provided by the hotel was sticky and didn’t foam well.
Tao Xiaodong spent a long time in the shower before he felt refreshed enough.
He took a towel and haphazardly wiped the moisture from his body; just a general sweep, really.
A lot of water droplets still clung to his body, on his neck, on his back, and on his legs.
He was in too much of a hurry just now and hadn’t taken any clothes in, nor could he re-wear the clothes that he had taken off.
So, he looped the towel around his hip.
He was more casual in this aspect since his brother couldn’t see him.
Nevertheless, his sight or lack thereof was irrelevant; Tao Xiaodong still made sure to at least have a towel around him to hide what ought to be hidden, but was quite unconcerned about his state of undress otherwise.
Tao Xiaodong opened his luggage, squatting as he rummaged around for clothes.
Tao Huainan asked, “Is there hot water”
“There is,” said Tao Xiaodong, “but it isn’t very stable.
Just keep adjusting it as you shower.
Be careful not to catch a cold.”
Tao Huainan replied in assent.
Tao Xiaodong fished out his underwear and slipped it on, then pulled off the towel loosely wrapped around his hips.
But before he could even set the towel aside, the door emitted an electronic beep of a successful card swipe, and then opened without giving Tao Xiaodong any time to react.
Four eyes met.
Tang Suoyan was instantly stupefied.
Tao Xiaodong’s mouth parted.
The two of them stared at each other blankly, both slightly dazed.
Tang Suoyan had opened the door and took only a single step in before being rooted directly to the spot.
Tao Xiaodong had even less of a clue what was going on; he blinked, and then called “Yan ge“.
“…Sorry.” Tang Suoyan was the first to recover.
“I might have gotten the wrong room.”
With that, he hurriedly retreated and shut the door behind him.
After the door was closed, Tao Xiaodong put the towel he was holding onto the table and looked down at himself.
His upper half was nude, his lower half was nude, and only smack in the middle was he dressed in a pair of underwear.
All of a sudden, Tao Huainan’s laughter came from the side.
He asked, “Ge, are you dressed yet”
Tao Xiaodong, “I am.”
Tao Huainan stood up to go to take his shower.
When he passed by his brother, he traced a finger from the side of his waist all the way down to his leg, and with that done he laughed brightly and said, “Uh-huh, so awkward.”
Tao Xiaodong flicked his head, caught between amusement and vexation.
Translated by luckykoi
Tang Suoyan stood stunned for two seconds after closing the door before heading back down.
He returned the room card to the front counter.
“Please help me check the room number.”
Baffled, the young lady looked wide-eyed at him.
She took out the sheet and checked it again.
“Yeah, yours is room 404, there’s no mistake.”
Tang Suoyan looked at her, saying helplessly, “You said 403 just now.”
“Ah…” She immediately went, “Sorry, I’m so sorry.”
Tang Suoyan sighed.
“Just help me swipe it again.”
“All right.” The receptionist immediately reset the card, apologising profusely.
Tang Suoyan said that it was fine and turned to go back up.
When he passed by room 403, he unconsciously glanced at the door, and remembering the scene just now, he quickened his pace.
Actually, given that they were both men, a mere glimpse like that counted for nothing.
It was rather normal for friends to go to the sauna together or suchlike.
Besides, Tao Xiaodong was still wearing his underwear, and it wouldn’t mean much either even if he wasn’t; Tian Yi had seen him exposed god knows how many times already.
The problem was—both of them were not straight and were both well aware that the other wasn’t straight.
With that, an otherwise ordinary incident was perfused with awkwardness.
It might have been even worse for Tang Suoyan than it was for Tao Xiaodong, after all, he was the one who had opened the wrong door.
It was too indelicate.
As a result of this tiny little episode, whether by accident or conscious choice, they didn’t have dinner together that night, though they surely would have were it under normal circumstances.
When evening came, neither looked for the other.
Tao Xiaodong went down to collect the take-out for himself and Tao Huainan, taking it back to the hotel room, whereas Tang Suoyan went to a restaurant on his own.
At night after turning off the lights, Tao Xiaodong checked his phone, which was slammed with messages sent in the day awaiting his response.
On the other hand, Tao Huainan was lying on the other bed chatting with Chi Cheng on the phone.
Tao Huainan impishly told Chi Cheng, “Dr.
Tang saw Ge without clothes on today.”
He had his earphones on as he whispered this to the wall.
Chi Cheng asked, “What happened”
Tao Huainan cackled.
Tang got the wrong door after Ge was done showering.”
Chi Cheng, “What about you”
Tao Huainan sang, “I hadn’t showered yet; I was still seated.
But Ge was completely shaken up.”
He went on without deliberating keeping his voice down, unafraid that Tao Xiaodong would hear him.
Whatever was said on the other end, Tao Huainan laughed, and after his laughter subsided, said, “Who knows what he thinks.”
Listening to their conversation, Tao Xiaodong chuckled as well.
After showering at night, he’d immediately put on his shorts before leaving the bathroom.
When he came out, Tao Huainan felt his leg and had a good laugh at him again.
The next morning, Tao Xiaodong called Tang Suoyan on the phone after he got up, checking if he was ready to go yet.
Tang Suoyan said that he was already at the hospital; he had left early in the morning, reaching at six.
They each busied with their own business at lunchtime and didn’t see each other the whole day.
As Tang Suoyan was tied up by the many patients, he casually grabbed a quick bite and they missed each other at dinner again.
Tao Huainan ate a big portion of noodles for dinner.
After the meal, Tao Xiaodong brought him out for a walk to aid digestion, strolling a fair distance through the alleys.
The county wasn’t big.
Tao Huainan rather enjoyed strolling in this foreign environment so Tao Xiaodong took him out longer.
He’d even bought some snacks for Tao Huainan; Tao Huainan liked to eat beef jerky.
After they returned and Tao Huainan went to shower, Tao Xiaodong knocked on the next door.
Upon seeing that it was him at the door, Tang Suoyan sounded quite natural, greeting, “Xiaodong.”
And Tao Xiaodong appeared all the more natural, handing him two paper bags of beef jerky, saying with a smile, “It’s quite tasty.
When you don’t have time to eat you can nibble on a stick or two to stave off your hunger.”
Tang Suoyan took it and said, “Will do.”
One passed and the other received, and during the exchange their fingers inadvertently brushed against each other—but neither lifted their eyes, both seemingly nonchalant about the touch.
Tao Xiaodong said, “I’ll be going back, then.
Have an early night.”
Tang Suoyan nodded.
“Mm, you too.”