At his age, Tao Xiaodong was by no means a bashful youth.
Since Tang Suoyan had put it that way, he’d just go ahead, then.
The new set was left untouched, and he wore the set that was spread on the bed.
It was that or not at all; in point of fact, how could pyjamas be as comfortable as going to bed unclad But wearing Tang Suoyan’s was a separate matter entirely.
When Tang Suoyan stood at the door to wake him up the next morning, Tao Xiaodong wasn’t even covered by the quilt.
Tang Suoyan, having guessed that he would choose to wear that set, called him up with a smile.
Tao Xiaodong wasn’t a slow riser.
His response was immediate and his eyes snapped open the second he heard the other.
“Time to get up.
Give me a moment to warm some milk, then I’ll help you wash your hair.”
Tao Xiaodong sat up and said, “I can wash it by myself.”
“I’ve already made the time,” Tang Suoyan said.
He turned to leave but stopped almost immediately after, seeming to think of something.
He asked smilingly, “Were the pyjamas clean”
Having just awoken, Tao Xiaodong’s instinctive reaction to the question was to feel the cloth at his torso.
Then, pulling away from the memory, he got up and put on his slippers.
“Its cleanliness doesn’t matter, it’s gonna get soiled anyway.”
Startled, Tang Suoyan raised his brows.
Staying over a night really did wonders in loosening him up, it seemed.
Tao Xiaodong dissolved into snickers at his own words.
He headed to the bathroom.
“I hadn’t recovered before.
Just wait till I get back to max health, you’d better stop teasing me then, Yan ge.
You won’t be able to out-talk me, I’m a man who has mucked around in the pits of society.
Pure filth, I’m telling you.”
Him calling himself filth stirred unknown imagery in Tang Suoyan’s mind.
Either way, he didn’t take the other up on his challenge, smiling as he went to cook congee for their breakfast.
And just like that, Tao Xiaodong wound up staying at Tang Suoyan’s place.
Every morning, Tang Suoyan would wash his hair and help him blow it dry.
Then, they would share breakfast and head to the hospital together.
Tang Suoyan would go to his office and Tao Xiaodong would get his shot.
After the shot, he’d go do what he had to do, and Tang Suoyan would pick him up in the evenings.
Before the kitchen closed, the chef would prepare dinner for Tao Xiaodong and Tang Suoyan, packing it neatly for them.
That day, Tao Xiaodong was meeting a client on the ground floor.
The chef stuck his head out after the client left, reminding, “I’ve already packed your food, don’t forget to take it with you.”
Tao Xiaodong echoed, “Gotcha.”
“What special treatment,” a female tattoo artist who happened to be on the ground floor joked with Tao Xiaodong, “it’s as if you’ve become royalty overnight.”
Da Huang said, “Wasn’t he always”
“Maybe for you, but now he’s got people waiting on him every day,” she said.
“I’m living it up,” Tao Xiaodong said, grinning.
Tang Suoyan would always call him before he arrived.
When he did, Tao Xiaodong would head out with his stuff.
It wasn’t too convenient to stop the car in this area, so, this way, Tang Suoyan wouldn’t have to find a place to park.
He’d usually sneak out, the people in the store who noticed him would poke fun at him otherwise.
Sometimes there would be a crowd around the window watching the action, not afraid to be caught.
Tang Suoyan said, “You don’t have to pack food tomorrow.
You need a light diet, I’ll whip up something for you.”
“Aren’t you exhausted” said Tao Xiaodong.
Tang Suoyan smiled and said that he wasn’t.
The next day was a weekend.
Tang Suoyan didn’t have to go to work.
At night, they watched a movie together.
Tang Suoyan prepared a hot towel for him as well; his hand had to be heated frequently to get the blood pumping.
Tao Xiaodong asked, “Must I still get an injection tomorrow It should be enough already, right”
“You don’t want to go anymore” Tang Suoyan asked him.
“Not really,” Tao Xiaodong confessed, “It’s along the way if I follow you to work, but I don’t want to specially make a trip to the hospital when you don’t have to head in.
It’s troublesome… and tiring, sitting there for two hours.”
With him staying at Tang Suoyan’s place, the two of them have been spending all their free time together every day.
He probably didn’t notice the ease with which he spoke to Tang Suoyan.
His tone now was slightly mellow, obliging even.
What could Tang Suoyan say when the other was even resorting to using that tone He could only nod.
We won’t go, then.”
Tao Xiaodong looked at him and grinned.
“I’d thought that you would reject me super coldly.”
“I couldn’t bring myself to say no.” Tang Suoyan was slightly resigned.
“How can I harden my heart and force you to go when you put it that way You should have told me earlier today, though, then I could have taken the injection home to administer it for you tomorrow.”
“You’re too good to me.” Tao Xiaodong was the picture of obedience as he took an apple from the table.
Normally, he would split the apple into half, but since his hand couldn’t do that now, he passed it over.
Tang Suoyan asked, “Aren’t you going to eat it”
Tao Xiaodong said, “Nope, I’m too full from dinner.”
Tang Suoyan didn’t eat it either, setting it on the coffee table.
They weren’t sitting particularly close to each other at first; there was some space between them.
Taking a long pillow, Tang Suoyan propped it against Tao Xiaodong’s leg, and before the other could ask a thing, he lay down.
With his head on the long pillow, it was tantamount to resting his head against Tao Xiaodong’s legs.
All of a sudden, their positions became so much more intimate.
Tao Xiaodong moved his injured hand to the side, making space.
Now that Tang Suoyan was lying down, the entire length of the couch was occupied.
He had nowhere to put his hand, and his hand hovered indecisively at the side.
Without lifting his eyes from the television, Tang Suoyan took his wrist and placed it on himself.
Tao Xiaodong was truly stunned.
Although he didn’t show any visible sign, his heart was thudding furiously in his ribcage.
His hand barely placed any weight on Tang Suoyan where it rested just slightly beneath the shoulders.
Tang Suoyan acted as if nothing was amiss, even drawing him into conversation during the movie.
In any case, Tao Xiaodong couldn’t really use his hand now; he couldn’t really feel much with that hand.
Both of them had showered and changed into pyjamas.
Tao Xiaodong was still wearing that set of pyjamas from Tang Suoyan, though they were wearing different colours of the same brand.
The image of a man lying down with his head resting against another’s legs made them look as though they were loving partners in a committed relationship.
It was quite an enjoyable night.
Tao Xiaodong eventually relaxed and leaned back, and they chatted while watching the movie.
Before the movie ended, Tang Suoyan shut his eyes.
Tao Xiaodong asked him, “Tired”
“Headache,” Tang Suoyan said with his eyes shut.
Tao Xiaodong quietly asked, “Shall I rub it away”
With his right hand, he gently kneaded the temples, then massaged the scalp.
The force exerted was controlled, lighter when pressing the temples and harder against the scalp.
A blissful sigh escaped Tang Suoyan’s throat.
Tao Xiaodong kept going, and Tang Suoyan’s eyes remained shut all the way.
Tao Xiaodong thought that he had fallen asleep.
“Director Tao.” Tang Suoyan called, out of the blue, causing Tao Xiaodong to start, not expecting that he was still awake.
Tao Xiaodong answered, “Yeah”
“How do you feel living here” asked Tang Suoyan.
“It’s pretty nice…” Tao Xiaodong was amused.
“Why the sudden question”
“I’m doing a satisfaction survey.”
Tao Xiaodong gently scratched his scalp and said, “I’m satisfied.”
“That’s good.” Tang Suoyan caught hold of his hand, stopping the massage.
“Take a break, your hand must be sore.”
“It isn’t,” Tao Xiaodong said, “I work with my hands, after all.”
At these three words, their thoughts deviated as one.
Tang Suoyan opened his eyes, and their eyes locked onto each other, neither uttering a word.
Tao Xiaodong still wasn’t over the last time, and thus he didn’t dare go wild this time.
“Mm-hmm,” Tang Suoyan agreed.
“So I’ve learned.
It’s not sore.”
Tao Xiaodong slapped a hand over his mouth.
“My good man, kindly spare me.”
Contrary to the hand over his mouth, the amusement in Tang Suoyan’s eyes was bright.
He winked and moved away Tao Xiaodong’s hand, saying, “I’m no respectable man, it’s useless to call me that.”
“Yan ge,” Tao Xiaodong conceded.
Tang Suoyan hummed and shut his eyes with a smile without pressing further.
At first, Tao Xiaodong was unable to think about that incident.
It was unsightly, an utter disgrace.
But Tang Suoyan’s constant teasing these days was changing the memory slightly.
While he was still mortified, the thought of it wasn’t as suffocating as before.
That was the way people were.
It might have been an embarrassing event that one wanted to keep hidden, but after being put out on display and sharing a laugh with everyone, it would seem almost trivial.
Neither of them paid much attention to what happened in the movie afterwards.
After it ended, Tang Suoyan then sat up.
“We should sleep.”
Tao Xiaodong hummed in assent and rose to his feet.
After this night, the two of them had become much closer.
Tang Suoyan didn’t have to go to work the next morning so he didn’t have to rise early.
Tao Xiaodong had to go to the parlour today, but he woke up with time to spare.
He freshened up first.
Even after washing his hair, Tang Suoyan had yet to awaken.
Tao Xiaodong watched him from the doorway.
Seeing that Tang Suoyan didn’t seem to be getting up any time soon, he decided to prepare breakfast.
But Tang Suoyan abruptly called his name.
“Huh.” Tao Xiaodong stood there and asked, “What is it”
Tang Suoyan was silent.
Tao Xiaodong went over, then heard Tang Suoyan speak, slowly and quietly.
“Who let you wash your hair.”
Tao Xiaodong laughed.
“What’s wrong with that”
“I wanted to wash it.” Though Tang Suoyan’s eyes stayed closed, a frown marred his forehead.
Tao Xiaodong sat down and said, “It’s too much trouble.
I can wash it myself, so I did.”
Tang Suoyan didn’t speak.
Tao Xiaodong really adored moments like this where Tang Suoyan lazed in bed.
The usual appearance of composure and strictness had been stripped bare.
Instead, he appeared slightly wilful, tinged with childlike obstinacy.
Tao Xiaodong tentatively asked, “You can wash it for me once more later”
Tang Suoyan was silent still.
Tao Xiaodong leaned in closer to him, smiling gently as he relented, “I won’t wash it by myself anymore.”
Only then did Tang Suoyan hum in assent.
It melted Tao Xiaodong’s heart.
He adored it so much that he wanted to squeeze the other’s cheeks, only refraining as it wasn’t too appropriate, huffing in laughter instead.
By now, his hand didn’t hurt that much if he didn’t move it, especially if he set it aside.
Now that the pain was lessening, he was getting slightly restless.
The days had been too idle; his hands were itching to work.
It so happened that they had an urgent client lately, a student who hoped to get the tattoo done before she went home for the winter vacation.
Tao Xiaodong scheduled her to come by today.
After breakfast, the two men headed out together.
Tao Xiaodong’s hair was tied up.
He couldn’t leave it loose when working as it would get in the way when he lowered his head.
He washed his own hair earlier.
In recent days, they had done hair communion every morning.
Tang Suoyan would help him wash and blow-dry his hair; he was especially fond of playing with Tao Xiaodong’s hair.
Since Tao Xiaodong had single-handedly completed the process today, as compensation, he fished out a hair tie from his jeans pocket before they left, letting Tang Suoyan tie his hair for him.
This was truly asking much of a pair of doctor’s hands.
It was a breeze to handle complicated machinery, but the ponytail was a brand-new challenge.
They wrangled with it for at least half an hour.
Tang Suoyan tied his hair in the style of historical swordsmen.
Tao Xiaodong doubled over with laughter, saying, “It’s so tight that I can feel the tails of my eyes getting sharper.
By the end of the day, my scalp will be a goner.”
Tang Suoyan was laughing, too.
Allowing him to haphazardly tie a ponytail would be the death of the image that Tao Xiaodong had cultivated.
Tang Suoyan asked between his laughter, “Why can’t I just let it poke up This ponytail of yours… how do you get it to stick”
Tao Xiaodong was getting breathless from laughter.
“If you’re stumped, then just let it poke up.
It’s just that it looks way too playful, like a tiny tuft.”
Because of this one sentence, the two mature men in their thirties burst into peals of laughter.
Later on, with tremendous difficulty, his hair was passably tied into a ponytail that stuck up.
Tang Suoyan himself was rather satisfied, declaring that it looked good.
Tao Xiaodong said that it wasn’t too shabby.
They were still chuckling at the underground car park.
When out of the elevator, Tao Xiaodong asked, “Shouldn’t doctors have very nimble hands”
“Isn’t this rather well done” Tang Suoyan looked over at him.
They walked towards the car as they conversed.
Tang Suoyan said that after sending Tao Xiaodong to the store, he’d make a trip to the hospital to collect the injection for him.
Tao Xiaodong still needed anti-inflammatory for his hand; it was still swelling badly as the injury had gone for too long without immediate attention.
While talking, they didn’t pay much mind to their surroundings.
It was when they walked up to the car that someone suddenly went “Dr.
Startled, they looked over.
It was a man who looked to be in his fifties.
His bloodshot eyes were fixed on Tang Suoyan.
Tang, it’s me.
We met in the hospital.”
Before Tang Suoyan could speak, Tao Xiaodong unconsciously pulled Tang Suoyan behind him, asking in a low voice with a frown, “Who are you”
Tang Suoyan looked at the other party and asked coldly, “How do you know I live here”
The stranger rambled incoherently, “I don’t, I know you live here.
I don’t mean any harm, I’m begging you to save my wife, that’s all.”
As he got closer, Tao Xiaodong shielded Tang Suoyan, stepping between them.
Tang Suoyan gently clasped his wrist, tugging it, signalling that it was fine.
“I’ve already said all that should be said,” Tang Suoyan said calmly to him.
“You, too, are aware of your wife’s condition.
Her surgical indications are poor; there isn’t much surgery can do.
Furthermore, the operative risk is too high.
I’ll stop being repetitive.”
“We have cash.
Please save her, please.” The man’s voice was completely shot.
“Don’t they say that you can save those that others turn away Save her, please, Dr.
Tang, have mercy on us, have mercy.”
Tang Suoyan had no intention of speaking more to him here.
All that could be said had already been repeated more than once.
“How do you know that I live here” Tang Suoyan asked him.
“Did you follow me”
The man didn’t answer his question, only muttering to himself.
Tang Suoyan simply stated, “It’s no use hounding me.
If there’s any meaning in surgery, rest assured that I would have arranged it for her.
I never give up on a patient of my own volition.
If you have more that you want to say, say it at the hospital.
I’m calling the police the next time that you intercept me here.”
The man still insisted on surgery.
Unable to get through to him, Tang Suoyan ultimately said, “If you must have your wife admitted, register at the outpatient area and enter the queue for a bed.”
“All right, all right.
Thank you, Dr.
Tang, you’ve saved her.” The man clasped his hands tightly together in prayer, effusively expressing his gratitude.
It was a damper on the mood to encounter such an incident.
After the man left, the two of them got into the car.
Tao Xiaodong asked, “What does she have”
Tang Suoyan said, “She has a metastatic tumour in her liver, lymph nodes, vessels, and nerves, fluid build-up in her chest and abdominal cavity, and a heart rate higher than 120 beats per minute.
She can’t be operated on.
Even removal of the entire eyeball has no practical significance.”
Tao Xiaodong sighed, but his brows were still knit.
“How did he find this place Could he have stalked you from the hospital”
“Maybe,” said Tang Suoyan.
“That’s too much.” Tao Xiaodong still felt discomfited.
Tang Suoyan thought back to the incident just now, then turned over and told him, “Next time, don’t shield me.
Your hand is still injured, you could have gotten hurt again.
Moreover, I don’t need you to shield me.
I have experience, you don’t.”
Tao Xiaodong responded that it was okay.
Because of this brief interlude, the good mood from tying his hair that morning had diminished significantly.
However, Tang Suoyan said that it wasn’t a big deal, there were all sorts of patients and their loved ones, and not to take it to heart.
“Yo Got yourself a little ponytail, huh” The moment Tao Xiaodong entered, Dyer was onto him.
Tao Xiaodong said “un.”
Dyer eyed his immobilised hand.
“You can tie a ponytail with one hand Colour me impressed.”
Tao Xiaodong waggled his brows.
“Look at this wee brat talking in circles.”
Dyer cackled in wicked glee.
Tao Xiaodong remained unfazed.
“Someone tied it for me.