December 2nd, 2022
Well, whether or not the business trip was giving him a hard time was a debate for another day; being forced to be away from the handsome doctor at home was indeed taking a toll on him.
The space on the bed beside him was empty, and even as his heart yearned he could only gaze at his phone screen.
In the dark, all that Tao Xiaodong could sense was Tang Suoyan.
He felt around for the pillow and hugged it to himself, groaning.
He was like a child these days.
Tang Suoyan called him out smilingly, “Enough of that, you.
Why are you grousing when you are the one with a young lad entering your room”
“I don’t want to take another business trip in the next good while.” Tao Xiaodong’s voice was muffled by the pillow.
“What young lad… Who likes that.”
Tao Xiaodong at thirty-six was unabashedly sticky sweet in love.
Listening to him be sweet over the phone, Tang Suoyan felt that a night like this was quiet and beautiful.
The power tripped for roughly forty minutes that night.
The next day, Tao Xiaodong went to Xiao Kai’s studio, and Xiao Kai did a double take when he saw his face.
“Shit, Dong ge, what happened to you”
Tao Xiaodong rubbed the spot, smiling blasely.
“The power went out last night, I couldn’t see stuff so I hit my head.”
“What did you hit Did you fall” Xiao Kai furrowed his brows.
The bruise was so shocking it looked more as though he had been beaten up.
“A wall sconce.” The room was fitted with European-styled metal wall sconces, and he had hit a curved hook that jutted out.
The pain from the collision had dizzied Tao Xiaodong so badly that he was stuck on the spot for some time.
The guy from last night shot Tao Xiaodong a few glances.
At noon, he went out for a bit and came back with two ointment jars.
Tao Xiaodong, “Thanks, doll.”
The other flapped his hand and set them to the side without a word.
Tao Xiaodong didn’t talk much today, doing a few small tattoos that suited his mood.
He didn’t do a video call but a short phone call with Tang Suoyan, during which a call from Tao Huainan came in.
Tao Xiaodong informed Tang Suoyan before picking up his brother’s call.
Tao Huainan missed his brother.
He was being clingy over the phone, wanting to prolong the conversation and not letting him hang up.
Smiling, Tao Xiaodong asked him, “What’s going on”
“Nothing.” Tao Huainan paused, then said quietly, “I miss you, that’s all.
I wanted to hear your voice.”
“Are you not in a good mood” Tao Xiaodong asked gently, “Are you burnt out from studying”
“Not at all,” Tao Huainan smiled again, “Why don’t you believe me when I say I miss you.”
Tao Xiaodong said that he did.
He stayed on the phone with him for a long time until Tao Huainan eventually fell asleep, then called Tang Suoyan again.
Tang Suoyan was also getting ready for bed.
“What happened to Xiao Nan”
Tao Xiaodong said, lying down, “Maybe he’s tired, he wasn’t in much of a mood.”
“I don’t give him any pressure.” Tao Xiaodong considered it before saying, “There shouldn’t be much pressure anyway, our family is well to do.”
The boy had received a lot of freedom growing up.
Tao Xiaodong and Tang Suoyan had provided him a safe environment where he could freely grow in his own world.
If there was any exam stress, perhaps it was pressure that he was putting on himself.
Tang Suoyan understood this better than he did, having had more experience interacting with blind youths.
He suggested, “Let’s go over on Sunday and chat with him.”
There were no video calls in the subsequent few days, so Tang Suoyan didn’t know that Tao Xiaodong had hit his head that day.
On Sunday at the airport, as soon as Tao Xiaodong got into the car, before he could get a single word in, Tang Suoyan parted his hair with a frown.
“Hit my head,” Tao Xiaodong smiled and said, “it’s fine.”
With a few days to settle in, it now looked even more appalling than when it did right after the initial hit.
The bruise became even worse, swelling at the tail of his eye, suffused with burgundy.
Tang Suoyan leaned in, fingers brushing the area, asking him, “How did you get this”
Tao Xiaodong dropped his gaze.
“I accidentally hit the wall sconce, I didn’t notice it.”
“Didn’t notice it” The furrow in Tang Suoyan’s brows deepened.
“How old are you now Don’t you watch where you’re going”
“I’ll take care next time.” Tao Xiaodong smiled.
The distance between them was close; he made use of the close proximity to peck Tang Suoyan’s lips.
Tang Suoyan continued to stare at that spot, asking, “Have you applied medicine”
“No, I didn’t dare to use the medicine that the kiddo gave me,” Tao Xiaodong confessed with alacrity, preening at how good he was being.
Tang Suoyan raised his brows.
“You couldn’t buy any yourself”
Actually, he was just lazy.
What medicine did he need for such a tiny boop, it was not worth the expense.
He had stumbled and bumbled his way to adulthood, he could take it.
The two highschoolers had the Sunday off.
Chi Cheng and Tao Huainan were both studying, Chi Cheng in his room and Tao Huainan at the dining table.
When the two men went back, Tao Huainan slowly circled around the dining table, quietly reaching out to feel his way with his two hands.
Tang Suoyan extended a hand to him which Tao Huainan took.
Tang Suoyan softly grazed a thumb over the back of his hand, and Tao Huainan pressed his lips together in a smile.
Chi Cheng emerged from the room.
When he saw the bruise on Tao Xiaodong’s face and was right about to speak, Tao Xiaodong made a shushing gesture at him, glancing towards Tao Huainan.
So Chi Cheng shut up at once.
He took the bags from their hands—the two men had gone to the supermarket earlier to buy cooking ingredients for Tang Suoyan to whip up a meal.
Tao Huainan was constantly smiling and laughing.
While Tang Suoyan was cooking, he sat on his little stool and waited docilely in the kitchen at a spot where he wouldn’t get in the way.
When Tang Suoyan touched his forehead with the back of his hand, Tao Huainan opened his mouth at once, and Tang Suoyan popped a cherry tomato into his mouth.
It was fresh and sweet, drawing another laugh from Tao Huainan.
Chi Cheng softly asked Tao Xiaodong in the living room, “Ge, what happened to your face”
Tao Xiaodong’s voice was even softer.
“Smacked it, it’s fine.”
Chi Cheng pointed near his own eye.
“It’s so close to your eye.
Did you get into a fight with someone”
“Psh,” Tao Xiaodong laughed, “why would I be getting into fights”
Chi Cheng unconsciously shot a look at Tang Suoyan and Tao Xiaodong hurriedly said, “Don’t look at him like that, what has your mind come up with”
Chi Cheng wanted to help Tang Suoyan prepare the food, but Tao Xiaodong stopped him, asking, “Have you been tired lately”
“I’m doing okay, not too tired,” said Chi Cheng.
He knew that Tao Xiaodong wanted to ask about Tao Huainan.
He looked over to that side and said, “He’s doing okay, too.”
“You can tell me if there’s anything bothering you, don’t hold it in.
You can also tell me if he’s getting on your nerves,” said Tao Xiaodong.
Looking at Tao Huainan in the kitchen, Chi Cheng silently nodded, then said, “There’s nothing, Ge.”
In the other room, Tang Suoyan was also chatting with Tao Huainan while cooking.
Tao Huainan was jubilant without the slightest sliver of a downcast mood.
He simply missed his brother that day, nothing more and nothing less.
Tao Xiaodong had thought too much.
That night, Tao Xiaodong pillowed his head on Tang Suoyan’s leg, sighing.
“They’ve grown up, they aren’t as easy to read as before.
Years back, whenever he said that he missed me, I would know that he really did.
Now, I have to guess if it is because he’s having a bad day or some other reason.”
Tang Suoyan dabbed the medicine on his temple with a cotton swab.
His movements were gentle when applying them at the tail of his eyes, making sure not to smear too much lest it entered his eye.
“It’s not easy raising a younger brother.”
“It’s not, but it’s pretty meaningful.” Tao Xiaodong was lying down cooperatively, even holding his hair away from his face while Tang Suoyan applied the ointment.
The surrounding area was discoloured and a distorted reddish lump dead centre.
The skin had broken slightly at the spot where he had suffered the direct hit.
Tang Suoyan sighed and gently smeared medication on it.
“It must have hurt, right”
Tao Xiaodong went yeah.
“I hit it so hard my scalp went numb.”
It was rare to hear him so candidly make an admission of pain.
After applying the medicine, Tang Suoyan brushed a finger over his face.
“Be more careful in the future.”
Because of the injury near his eye and the inflamed tail of his eye, tough guy Xiaodong actually made for a beguilingly piteous sight on the bed.
Looking at him, Tang Suoyan was slightly reluctant to take it further.
He kissed him and, at last, broke the mounting tension with a chuckle.
His laughter baffled Tao Xiaodong.
“Is it that comical”
“Not at all.” Tang Suoyan touched his face with a smile.
“It’s like looking at a kicked puppy.”
“Should I turn over” Tao Xiaodong was minutely unsure whether to laugh or snap.
“Put on a blindfold”
At this, Tang Suoyan chuckled even more.
“You don’t have to.”
It wasn’t a good time to pull the brakes, what with the mood being there and the momentum being in full swing.
They’d been kissing for a long time when Tang Suoyan’s unexpected levity derailed things.
Tao Xiaodong smiled as well, “If you laugh again I’m going to shrivel up.”
Tang Suoyan kissed him again, and Tao Xiaodong flopped over, lying on his belly.
“You’d better avoid looking at my face.”
There were other options to look at besides his face.
Tao Xiaodong muttered into his pillow, “I’ve lost my charm.”
Ten minutes later, Tang Suoyan stopped again.
Tao Xiaodong asked, muffled, “Is it still not working for you”
He was fully undressed now.
Tang Suoyan stared without speaking.
Tao Xiaodong glanced over his shoulder.
“What’s wrong, Yan ge”
Tang Suoyan reached out and pressed where Tao Xiaodong’s lower back and legs joined.
Tao Xiaodong frowned, and Tang Suoyan pressed his calf.
And then Tao Xiaodong went completely still.
“How did you get those” Tang Suoyan took the remote from the nightstand and changed the settings; light instantly flooded the room.
While Tao Xiaodong remained silent, Tang Suoyan got up to stand beside the bed.
“There’s nothing in front,” Tao Xiaodong said, still face-down.
“I asked you to turn over.”
Tao Xiaodong paused for a few seconds without moving; Tang Suoyan stood to the side, neither speaking nor touching him, waiting in silence.
Eventually, Tao Xiaodong blew out a breath.
He shut his eyes and turned over.
The light was too bright.
Tang Suoyan picked up his pyjamas for him to block the light from his eyes, then took stock of him from head to toe, pressing a spot beside his knee.
Tao Xiaodong covered his face with the pyjamas, confessing resignedly, “Just knocked into stuff.”
“What did you hit” Tang Suoyan asked him, “How did it happen”
Tao Xiaodong said, “Xiao Kai has stuff littered all over his studio.”
“Run me through how you’d get injuries all over your body.” Tang Suoyan left the room to get a first-aid kit.
When he returned, Tao Xiaodong hadn’t moved from his previous position.
“You went out on one trip and came back with your body like this.” Tang Suoyan applied the cream and massaged his body.
Tao Xiaodong removed the pyjamas from his face and lowered the brightness of the lights.
“Did you get into a disagreement with someone” Tang Suoyan asked him.
“Nah.” Tao Xiaodong smiled and put on his underwear before putting his leg back where it was.
Tang Suoyan continued with his attentions.
“Then did you sleep with someone Or get into a fight”
“Christ, I didn’t…” Tao Xiaodong gaped at Tang Suoyan, and when he finally got over his shock, anger filled him.
“You were the same after our first night together,” Tang Suoyan said tonelessly.
The force of his hands increased slightly and the massage started to hurt a bit.
Tao Xiaodong’s voice dimmed.
“Don’t call me that,” said Tang Suoyan, “my heart will soften.”
“Let it soften just this once, how about that” Tao Xiaodong sat up and said with a smile, “It was really an accident.
Remember when the power went out That’s the day I got the bruise on my face.
The rest were from a fall in the shower, it was too embarrassing for me to talk about.”
Tang Suoyan hummed.
“I didn’t sleep around, I wouldn’t do that,” Tao Xiaodong said, looking straight into his eyes.
Of course he didn’t, he wasn’t the type.
Tang Suoyan wouldn’t believe him even if he claimed that he did.
“Turn over.” Tang Suoyan sprayed more medicine on his hand.
Tao Xiaodong obediently turned over.
When Tang Suoyan pressed the spot on his lower back, Tao Xiaodong let out a hiss.
Actually, he hadn’t even realised that he had injured his back.
He couldn’t see them when he showered; he was careless.
He caught hold of Tang Suoyan’s wrist, rubbing it soothingly.
Tang Suoyan said, “Tell me where it hurts.”
“It doesn’t hurt anywhere, I didn’t even realise bruises had formed.” Tao Xiaodong was still able to smile.
“I shouldn’t have made you worry.
Can I make up for it”
He had a knack for coaxing people.
Tang Suoyan replied, “Yes, you shouldn’t have.”
“The shower room in the hotel was too slippery.
I was just getting out of my shower when I slipped.” Tao Xiaodong’s eyes were cast down as he recollected.
“It was a hard fall.
The bang when I hit the ground was so loud that it startled a laugh out of me.”
Even just hearing the story tugged at his heartstrings.
Tang Suoyan massaged his hip.
“You weren’t wearing slippers”
“No, the slippers were made of cloth, I went in barefooted,” said Tao Xiaodong.
Tang Suoyan continued to knead his body for a while more, making sure to massage the spots suffused with broken vessels.
Then, he tidied up the first-aid kid and got up to wash his hands.
The moment he got on his feet, Tao Xiaodong followed him, pouncing from behind, hanging onto Tang Suoyan by wrapping arms over his shoulders.
Tang, are you feeling distressed for me”
Tang Suoyan glanced back at him.
“If you’re not then why are you unhappy” Tao Xiaodong kissed the nape of his neck.
Tang, dote on me.”