After getting through the initial few days, everything went back to normal; the meals that should be shared were shared, and the things that should be done were done.
As adults, they didn’t stay fixated on this hiccup for too long.
They’d be heading back in another three days.
Tao Xiaodong had a whole bunch of stuff awaiting his return over there.
Actually, he didn’t have to stay until the end.
He was where the money came from; it was no issue for him to cut it short.
But whatever the reason was, Tao Xiaodong never left.
Besides, Tao Huainan was having fun, causing Tao Xiaodong to wonder if he took him out too infrequently.
This was Tao Xiaodong’s second trip with the hospital, and by now everyone was comfortable around one another.
Someone even suggested inviting Tao Xiaodong to hang around their department after getting back.
Everyone was huddled together to have their boxed lunches.
Seeing that Tang Suoyan had yet to come over, still engaged in conversation a distance off, Tao Xiaodong shushed them.
“Would Consultant Tang be happy to hear you say that He’s rather stern at work I expect”
“It’s just an offer.
Besides, you wouldn’t really, you’re too busy!” the other said with a laugh.
Probably sensing their gazes, Tang Suoyan turned his head over, by happenstance locking eyes with Tao Xiaodong.
And so he laughed along, saying, “You never know.
When I’m free I really would.”
Tao Huainan’s lunch was different from others; he liked eating noodles and starchy food.
As such, Tao Xiaodong ordered noodles for him.
At this time, he was holding the boxed lunch and picking at his noodles with chopsticks, eating quietly.
It wasn’t too convenient for him to eat food from the container, and he wasn’t too fond of how it tasted.
“Remember to eat your greens.” Tang Suoyan touched Tao Huainan’s head when he came over.
Tao Huainan docilely hummed in assent.
“I usually do at home.”
“Not from what I hear,” Tang Suoyan exposed him, “your brother has me informed that you’re a picky eater.
How many times have I told you You can’t skip your vitamin As.”
Tao Huainan turned towards his Ge, frowning.
“You sold out your little brother.”
Tao Xiaodong drew a piece of tissue and helped him dab his mouth, evenly replying, “You sold yourself out; I never said a word.
Tang pulled one over you.”
Gaping, Tao Huainan wanted to turn towards Tang Suoyan, yet not knowing where the other was seated, paused for a second before bowing his head to continue eating his noodles.
A young nurse listening in from the side laughed at their antics.
“Xiao Nan, speak less, you can’t out-talk them.”
Tao Xiaodong was a fast eater and was done even before Tang Suoyan had come over.
He was just drinking water over there.
It was rare for them to catch a short break at noon.
After eating, the doctors and nurses could sit around, chatting as they rested.
There was a young female nurse that said to Tao Xiaodong, “Director Tao, my boyfriend is your die-hard fan.
He’s crazy in love with you.”
Tao Xiaodong laughed.
“Yo I’ve actually run into a fan’s girlfriend”
The young lady nodded brightly.
“Actually, I’ve snuck quite a few shots of you in the past few days and sent them over to him.”
He didn’t mind at all, even saying, “Go ahead, take as many as you want.”
“He’s also been trying to book an appointment with you, but your schedule’s already blocked until the end of the year.
He’s been crossing his fingers every day.” She winked at him and asked, “Can you let me go through the backdoor Let him make an advance booking, and that’ll be my gift to him, saving me the need to get him a birthday present.”
Tao Xiaodong clicked his tongue.
“Very crafty, huh, are you taking me as the present here”
She didn’t deny it, still laughing, “Just help me pinch a penny, pretty please”
He shook his head, smiling.
“Uh-uh, not for you.
I’m not close to you; we have rules.”
The cogs of her brain turned swiftly.
The moment that Tao Xiaodong uttered this sentence, her head immediately whipped towards Tang Suoyan.
“Consultant Tang, help me!”
Tang Suoyan was just minding his meal when he was cued out of nowhere.
He looked over and said, “There are rules, I won’t be able to get through either.”
This young lady was sharp and quick-witted, immediately bouncing back, “You can do it! Director Tao isn’t close to me but he’s closest to you.
Help me ask him!”
Tang Suoyan looked at Tao Xiaodong, lifting his brows.
“Would it work if I ask, Director Tao”
Director Tao lifted his brows too.
Why don’t you give it a try”
The surrounding people softly tittered with laughter; Tang Suoyan as well.
He asked, “Then, can Director Tao make an exception Please help our fellow colleague set aside some time.
Would that do”
“Pfft,” Tao Huainan snickered, the two strands of noodles on his chopsticks falling back into the bowl.
Tao Xiaodong ducked his head and chortled.
Without saying whether or not it worked, he fished out his phone and fiddled around on it, then tossed it over to the nurse.
“Send this guy your name and contact details.
Right, your boyfriend’s birthday and whatnot as well.”
She beamed and cheered, “Wah! You’re too charming!”
She took the phone and sent over the information.
“Your Consultant Tang is the charming one,” said Tao Xiaodong.
Tang Suoyan shook his head, chuckling, carrying on with his meal.
The afternoon break was a time to laugh and let loose, but when back to work, they were again sombre-faced angels in white coats.
Tao Xiaodong had always held the medical profession in high esteem.
As Tao Huainan started to feel drowsy in the afternoon, Tao Xiaodong brought him back to the hotel to sleep.
Tao Xiaodong still had an interview to attend outside.
Sometimes when slammed with work, Tao Huainan would stay alone in the room; considering his age, there wasn’t too much to worry about leaving him to his own devices.
When Tao Huainan roused from his nap, he had lost track of time.
He touched his watch.
It just reached six o’clock.
He called Tao Xiaodong on his phone, saying that he wanted noodles for dinner again.
Tao Xiaodong said sure and told him to hold on.
Tao Xiaodong and Tang Suoyan returned together.
Tao Xiaodong reached his door first, and both said see you later to each other at their doors.
Carrying the noodles, Tao Xiaodong pulled open the door, but when he saw the situation inside, he immediately yelled, “Don’t move!”
It was too late, however.
Before he could even complete his words, he heard Tao Huainan gasp softly.
Haven’t yet opened his door, Tang Suoyan followed the noise over.
In the room, Tao Xiaodong had just set down the kettle, whereas Tao Huainan’s hand was drenched.
Tang Suoyan ran over and grasped that drenched hand, quickly taking him to the bathroom to flush it under cold water.
The back of Tao Huainan’s hand had reddened.
Tang Suoyan told him, “It’s okay, don’t be afraid.”
Tao Xiaodong had come over as well.
He checked inside the bathroom, whilst Tao Huainan said, “I’m not.
It’s really nothing, it’s not boiling water.
I let it cool down for a long time already.”
Tao Xiaodong sighed in relief.
“That almost scared me to death.”
“I never touch boiling water, what are you so scared of…” Tao Huainan grumbled under his breath.
“If you hadn’t called out just now I wouldn’t have missed my cup.”
“I called out because I saw that you were off,” Tao Xiaodong frowned, “don’t hold the cup when pouring water.”
Tao Huainan pursed his lips, not saying a word.
While the water wasn’t boiling, it still scalded him.
The skin was still somewhat reddish despite the length of time that Tang Suoyan put Tao Huainan’s wrist under running water.
Tao Xiaodong went out to buy burn medication.
His cadence earlier was rushed, and Tang Suoyan, seeing that Tao Huainan had his head bowed, never speaking a word throughout, said to him, “Your brother is worried about you.
Don’t be upset at him.”
Tao Huainan blinked owlishly.
“How can that be I’ve never been upset at my Ge before.”
“Really I saw that you weren’t saying anything so I assumed that you were.” Tang Suoyan chuckled.
“That’s impossible,” Tao Huainan shook his head.
“I just feel a little bad for him.
Sometimes it feels to me like… he’s stuck with me for all of his life.”
Tang Suoyan looked at him.
His voice was calm and gentle.
“You don’t have to feel bad for him.
Nobody in the world will ever be more dear to him than you.
It goes the same both ways; you’re a gift that your parents have bestowed to him, and with you around he’ll never be alone.”
Tao Huainan didn’t speak, only smiling in his direction.
“In this world, how dear it is to have a brother with the same blood coursing through your veins.
Isn’t that really romantic, don’t you think”
Tao Huainan nodded.
“Children with brothers have the best of luck.”
Tao Xiaodong pushed open the door, asking them, “What are you talking about”
Tao Huainan said, “Talking about something quite romantic.”
Tao Xiaodong arched his brows.
“You What of romance can you talk about with Dr.
Tang Suoyan took the burn cream and applied it with a cotton swab, not saying a thing, though the faint wisps of a smile hung on his lips.
Tao Huainan hummed in assent and said, “Dr.
Tang and I can’t talk about that, so you two go ahead.”
A good and proper conversation was led astray by his words.
Neither Tao Xiaodong nor Tang Suoyan made an utterance.
It was right in this room about three days ago that Tao Xiaodong had flashed his almost-nude body.
It hadn’t occurred to anyone at first, but at this time, with no one speaking, the atmosphere quieted down—and this little episode was recalled by all.
Tao Xiaodong coughed and drew out a chair, sitting by the side.
After applying the cream, Tang Suoyan stood up and cleared his throat.
“I’ll be going back, then.”
Tao Xiaodong rose to his feet as well, grabbing the ashtray on the table.
“I’ll show you out, have a cigarette too while I’m at it.”
Though Tao Xiaodong smoked, it wasn’t often, so he wasn’t addicted to it.
There was a door at the end of the corridor which led to a balcony.
Tao Xiaodong stood there, smoking in silence.
Before he finished the cigarette, the door behind him opened.
He looked back; upon seeing that it was Tang Suoyan, he subconsciously wanted to stub out the cigarette.
“Don’t mind me,” said Tang Suoyan.
Tao Xiaodong immediately made space for the other.
“I was afraid that you’d mind the smoke.”
“What’s there to mind I’ve also smoked back in school when I couldn’t get the data to finish my dissertation.” Tang Suoyan hadn’t changed out of the clothes he wore during the day yet.
His words tossed Tao Xiaodong off-beat.
He never imagined that someone like Tang Suoyan would smoke.
“What’s with that look” Tang Suoyan burst into laughter.
“What kind of person have you made me out to be”
“How am I supposed to answer” Tao Xiaodong shot a look over out of the corner of his eye.
“I’m going to start praising, okay”
Tang Suoyan chuckled before saying, “There should be a very big discrepancy between what you think of me and what really is.
I’m not as… as you think.”
Unable to find the right words to use, Tang Suoyan paused here.
Tao Xiaodong nodded.
The words didn’t need to be said.
After Tao Xiaodong finished his cigarette, Tang Suoyan asked him, “Tired”
“Yeah, I really am.” He openly confessed with a nod.
“I’m not afraid of how tiring it can get, that doesn’t bother me.
But deep inside, I lack the confidence.”
Tang Suoyan listened to him speak, and Tao Xiaodong set the ashtray aside, gazing into the distance.
“I’ve never had a day that I felt steady on my feet.”
This type of insecurity was baseless.
In fact, it was difficult to even pinpoint where this insecurity was derived from, yet still never once was he able to feel grounded to the earth.
“The year that my parents put him into my hands, my mom had sighed, saying that she felt sorry for me.” Tao Xiaodong wetted his lips and paused, then carried on, “What’s there to be sorry for That’s my brother.
If there ever comes a day when there’s a way to treat him, that the retina can be transplanted, I’ll be the first in line to give him mine.”
“It takes far more patience to take care of children like this than other families’.” Tang Suoyan said, “Actually, they themselves can live quite independently.
They aren’t as fragile as you think, so you don’t have to feel insecure.”
Tao Xiaodong shook his head, saying solemnly, “Look at how carefully I’ve been bringing him around, yet he still stumbled so many times and got so many injuries on this trip out.
Every bruise on him pains me.
It’s this sort of powerlessness that makes me feel that way.
Afraid that he’ll fall, afraid that he would be unable to find anything.
No matter what I do, there’s always a part of me that is just waiting for the other shoe to drop.”
“Is it hard on you” Tang Suoyan asked him.
Tao Xiaodong shook his head with a smile.
“What’s so hard about that It’s just a bit worrying.
It’s my fortune that my parents have brought him into his world.
If you ask me, he’s a gift.”
Tang Suoyan said, “There was a time back in middle school that I really wanted my parents to give me a little sister, but it never came to be.”
“Mm,” hummed Tao Xiaodong.
“Then you must be really envious of us, huh.”
The two of them spent a long time chatting in the evening breeze.
Tao Xiaodong told many stories.
This younger brother, Tao Huainan, had a healing presence.
There were many things he said and did that, no matter how arduous the journey, brought Tao Xiaodong warmth to recall.
After retelling these, there was a long spell of silence between them.
Tao Xiaodong suddenly changed the subject, looking at Tang Suoyan.
“I’d thought that we wouldn’t be able to talk like this for a long while.”
Tang Suoyan lifted his brows, asking, “Why Because I entered the wrong door”
The words were quite direct, and they both chuckled, in tune with each other’s thoughts.
Tao Xiaodong scratched his nose.
“Bet you got a shock that day, right I did, anyway.”
“Mm, it was quite sudden,” said Tang Suoyan.
Since the topic had already come to this, there was nothing much else to it.
They were well into their thirties; it was more than normal to crack jokes about it.
Tao Xiaodong said, “I seriously got the short end of the stick.”
Tang Suoyan nodded and said, “You have a good figure.”
Such an improper remark from him was said with a complete poker face.
Their eyes met, and Tao Xiaodong burst out laughing, saying, “Fuck.”