Wetness seeped through his shirt, carrying Tao Xiaodong’s body heat.
He said Yan ge, save me.
Said I don’t want to go blind.
Tang Suoyan shut his eyes.
The growing spot of hot wetness on his shoulder seared through his bone marrows and into his chest cavity, the type of heat that could wrench a hole in his heart.
Tao Xiaodong had always been as tough as steel that was cast perfectly straight, oblivious to pain and exhaustion, meeting challenges with headstrong obstinacy.
Tang Suoyan could count the number of times he had seen the other’s eyes redden with one hand.
After so many days, he eventually collapsed under his own weight.
Face burrowed into Tang Suoyan’s shoulders and no longer hiding his frailty, he gasped for breath, sobs involuntarily escaping his throat, all of his naked vulnerability entirely exposed to Tang Suoyan.
“I don’t want to call things off with you, either, I want to be with you until death do us part.
Sometimes, before I sleep, knowing that you’re beside me… I would open my eyes just to see you again.” Tao Xiaodong was shaking against Tang Suoyan’s back, his voice wracked with sobs.
Some words couldn’t be said until emotions were forced across a certain threshold.
Tao Xiaodong struggled for a long time, before murmuring quietly, “…I really like you so **ing much.”
Tang Suoyan’s arm went around his waist, his Adam’s apple rolling non-stop, rendering him incapable of speech.
“I can’t take it… My heart has broken into pieces.
Nothing I do works.” The second half was almost swallowed in his throat, wheezy.
He turned his head from side to side uncomfortably.
“Why me I have done so many good deeds, I have saved so many pairs of eyes… Is that not enough to save my own”
It was unknown who he was directing these accusations to, but every word from his lips pierced the heart like a blade.
“What will happen to Xiao Nan after I go blind I’ve had to worry about him for so many years…” Tao Xiaodong leaned his cheek into Tang Suoyan’s shoulder, his eyes staring vacantly into space.
“Do I throw it all to you Like it’s not enough that you have me to worry about.
The handler of two blind brothers and never a day with fair weather in your future, always straining to catch your breath.”
“Why should you have to deal with that” Tao Xiaodong leaned there, voice low.
“Who would want that Even I didn’t want that; why did it have to be me”
Tao Xiaodong often wrestled with himself, stuffing his chest full of complicated emotions that he couldn’t unravel.
Tang Suoyan kept his back constantly towards him and also didn’t turn his head around, not letting Tao Xiaodong glimpse his face.
Tao Xiaodong was hyperventilating, and when his sobs subsided, exhaustion set in.
He kept leaning his cheek against Tang Suoyan’s shoulder and didn’t say anything else.
The two men were silent.
Ten minutes later, Tang Suoyan turned around, hands reaching up to embrace Tang Suoyan.
This time, Tao Xiaodong didn’t duck away.
He allowed the embrace.
Tang Suoyan held him with only one hand while the other hand went to wipe his face.
He smiled gently.
Now that the emotional turmoil he had been suppressing was fully vented, his entire being sagged.
The hand that Tang Suoyan had around him didn’t move, but the other reached over to grab two pieces of tissue for him to wipe his face with.
Tao Xiaodong took them from him, blowing his runny nose.
Then, as he had no other tissue within reach, he folded the used tissues in his hand and tried to wipe his eyes with them.
“Hey.” Tang Suoyan hurriedly stopped him and took the tissues from him, discarding them, then taking another two tissues for him.
After discarding those as well, Tang Suoyan kissed his eyes, holding the back of Tao Xiaodong’s head to his body.
He stroked the back of his head, chuckling.
“Look at our big baldie.”
Tao Xiaodong, chin wedged against his shoulder, hummed lowly.
“It would have been hard to wash my hair in the future.”
“I told you that I would do it for you.” Tang Suoyan gently scraped his fingertips on his head.
“It’s a waste of time.” Tao Xiaodong was so snug that his eyelids were closing on him, deep exhaustion suddenly crashing over him as he leaned against the other.
“It’s less trouble like this.”
The silk texture of the pyjamas slid smoothly under Tang Suoyan’s hand as he stroked Tao Xiaodong’s back.
Eyes heavy-lidded, Tao Xiaodong went “Yan ge” again.
Tang Suoyan made a sound of acknowledgement, and Tao Xiaodong said, “Don’t be angry at me.
I really didn’t know what to do.”
Tang Suoyan patted him and said, “I’m not angry at you.”
“When you gave me the cold shoulder.” Tao Xiaodong shut his eyes, whispering, “I felt so awful.”
Tang Suoyan smiled again.
“Am I not allowed to be angry when you’re breaking up with me”
“You can.” Tao Xiaodong added, “Don’t be sad.”
Tao Xiaodong was exhausted; his whole body lacked strength, like all of him had wizened with his emotions earlier.
Tang Suoyan still wanted to speak with him, but Tao Xiaodong was already dropping off.
It had been too long since the last time he got a good night of sleep.
He was often up the entire night with his eyes open, and even if he shut his eyes and dozed off, his sleep was fitful.
Now, snug in Tang Suoyan’s hold, feeling his warmth and breathing in his scent, he was so tired that he couldn’t keep his eyes open.
Tang Suoyan carried him to bed after and hugged him to sleep.
Tao Xiaodong was out like a light as soon as his head touched the pillow.
Tang Suoyan stayed with him for a while, then slowly rose.
He was still in his dress shirt and slacks, not yet changed out of the clothes that he wore out to attend the meeting in the afternoon.
The shirt had already been terribly creased by Tao Xiaodong, and sitting had also rubbed many wrinkles into his slacks.
After taking them off and changing into pyjamas, Tang Suoyan didn’t do anything in particular.
He washed his face, returned to the bedroom, then looked at Tao Xiaodong, holding him gently.
It was a deep and restful sleep without dreams, and he didn’t toss and turn either.
He unknowingly slept for a long time.
The tension in him had finally been released, and the fatigue he had accumulated finally came back to find him.
He woke up once in the night.
The small lamp at the doorway was on.
Tao Xiaodong touched the space to his side, and Tang Suoyan took his hand, voice slightly husky.
“Awake Are you hungry”
Tao Xiaodong said that he wasn’t hungry, and Tang Suoyan told him to go back to sleep.
Tao Xiaodong turned around and pressed closer to Tang Suoyan, tucking his face against his body, shut his eyes, and then was immediately asleep again.
His hand loosely curled around a fistful of Tang Suoyan’s pyjamas, and his grip loosened further the deeper he slept.
In the past, whenever they slept holding each other like this, his hair would tend to tickle Tang Suoyan, either on his neck or on his chin, and Tang Suoyan would gently brush it down.
Now, it didn’t tickle; there was nothing touching his chin or neck or clavicles.
It was Sunday noon by the time Tao Xiaodong awoke.
He was shocked when he checked the time; he had slept for almost twenty hours straight.
His legs were even slightly weak as he got up from the bed, with not much strength left in his body.
He was tired.
Tang Suoyan heard his footfalls from the study and came over to check on him.
Tao Xiaodong smiled when he saw him, a little abashed by his breakdown yesterday.
Tang Suoyan smiled as well.
Tao Xiaodong went to the bathroom, needing the toilet after sleeping for so long.
Tang Suoyan didn’t leave either, squeezing out toothpaste for him at the sink.
Tao Xiaodong cleared his throat.
“It’s difficult to pee when you’re around.”
Tang Suoyan raised an eyebrow.
“I wasn’t looking at you.”
Then, seeming to think of something, he dropped his gaze and smiled, saying in a low murmur, “Besides, it isn’t as though I haven’t seen you…”
Tao Xiaodong hastily interjected, “Shh, shh!”
He didn’t have to finish before Tao Xiaodong could guess at the rest of it.
The words were too sudden a blow.
They had really gone too far that time; embarrassing things shouldn’t ever be repeated or thought about.
Tang Suoyan smiled to himself for a while, then turned and left.
“Carry on, then.”
Because of the sentence that Tang Suoyan didn’t finish, Tao Xiaodong had lost all urge to use the toilet, his entire mind filled with that memory.
When he came out of the bathroom after freshening up, Tang Suoyan gave him a bowl of porridge that he had prepared earlier.
Tao Xiaodong was still on edge when lowering his head and eating the porridge.
“That’s enough, stop savouring the memory.” Tang Suoyan put a vegetable in his bowl, saying with a smile, “I won’t talk about it anymore.”
Tao Xiaodong almost choked on his porridge, stifling his coughs.
Tang Suoyan poured some water for him, looked at him, and just chuckled.
Tao Huainan had phoned over in the morning; Tang Suoyan took the call and told him that his brother was still asleep.
It had been a while since Tao Xiaodong had last returned, so, after doing the dishes, they made a trip over.
En route, Tao Xiaodong said, “Yan ge, I don’t want to tell Xiao Nan.”
Tang Suoyan said, “You don’t have to.”
“He… he won’t be able to take it.” Tao Xiaodong bit his lips, looking out of the car.
“It really scares him.”
“We won’t tell him.” Tang Suoyan said it matter-of-factly.
“We don’t have to tell him.”
Tao Xiaodong watched him and didn’t say anything else, nodding quietly.
But Tao Huainan was too perceptive.
Less than three minutes after Tao Xiaodong stepped in, he could feel that something was off.
At the door, there was a surprised “Ge” from Chi Cheng and two seconds of silence proceeded.
While everything went normally after that, Tao Huainan still knew that something was off.
He went over to touch his brother, hand feeling upwards from the arm.
Tao Xiaodong sighed, then directly placed his hand on his own head.
Tao Huainan gaped in surprise.
Tao Xiaodong said with a smile, “I shaved my head.”
Tao Huainan touched his face and frowned.
“Why have you lost weight What happened to you”
“No biggie, I got a cold and lost my appetite.
You should stay away, it’s contagious,” said Tao Xiaodong.
From the frown on his face, Tao Huainan didn’t look convinced.
Tang Suoyan took him by the hand to the couch, then said, “We had a small fight; your brother got really upset.”
Tao Huainan didn’t say anything at first, asking softly after a while, “What’s up with you guys”
Tang Suoyan said, “Your brother wanted to call things off.
He even shaved his head to cut all ties with me.”
Tao Huainan’s jaw dropped in shock, and his eyes turned as wide as saucers.
He whipped his head towards his brother.
“What were you thinking”
“I had a brain-fart moment.”Tao Xiaodong looked at Tang Suoyan, saying with a hint of exasperation, “You’re too good at tattling.”
“I learned from you.” Tang Suoyan then told Tao Huainan, “He really wounded me.”
Tao Huainan spluttered, holding Tang Suoyan’s hand.
“Tang ge, ignore him.
He really cares about you… He has got a problem with his head.”
On this day, while Tang Suoyan and Chi Cheng were cooking in the kitchen, Tao Huainan worriedly sat on his little stool, quietly offering advice.
Tang Suoyan reassured, “I didn’t take it seriously.
Don’t worry, Xiao Nan.”
“Tao Xiaodong is a little bit foolish sometimes, he’s not always the sharpest tool in the shed.” Tao Huainan whispered from beside him.
Tang Suoyan laughed.
Tao Xiaodong groused from the living room, “Tao Huainan.”
Tao Huainan said, “He can hear me when I’m speaking so softly”
Tang Suoyan ruffled the boy’s hair.
The excuse just barely made it past Tao Huainan, but Chi Cheng kept watching Tao Xiaodong, turning his gaze onto his body from time to time, and Tao Xiaodong knew that it hadn’t escaped him.
After all, Tao Xiaodong appeared too haggard now.
All it took was one look to know that something must have happened.
Tao Xiaodong shook his head at him, and Chi Cheng frowned.
“They’re both too smart.” That night, on the road home, Tao Xiaodong said, reclining in his seat.
It could also sometimes get quite tiring to be too smart, such as when there were things that one wanted to hide.
It was virtually impossible to keep every trace hidden.
“They got it from you,” said Tang Suoyan.
Tao Xiaodong had managed to relax significantly after the uncontrollable breakdown yesterday afternoon.
The loss of tension in his body was palpable, just that from the time he woke up today, he was especially clingy to Tang Suoyan.
Not in the sense that he must always be around him, but when they were in the same area, Tao Xiaodong’s gaze would often follow him, as though not having had his fill, constantly looking at him.
Before sleeping, Tao Xiaodong took his medicine without prompting and returned to the bedroom.
Tang Suoyan was sitting on the side of the bed.
Seeing him enter, he extended his arms towards him, and Tao Xiaodong smiled, bounding over into his arms.
Even then, he held back so that he wouldn’t actually collide with Tang Suoyan.
He was basically going over for a hug.
They held each other, Tao Xiaodong leaning above Tang Suoyan, looking at him always, reluctance brimming in his eyes, taking in all of him, making Tang Suoyan’s heart twist and turn tight.
Tang Suoyan laughed, letting him look.
“Hurry it up if you want to kiss me.”
At once, Tao Xiaodong dipped his head and kissed him, after that said, “I wasn’t thinking about kissing you, I just wanted to look.”
“Why not just kiss me instead” said Tang Suoyan.
And so Tao Xiaodong ducked down and kissed him again.
Tang Suoyan leaned back.
Lying down like this, the lines of his brows and nose bridge were even more prominent, and the angles of his face were hard.
He didn’t move, letting Tao Xiaodong look his fill, even calmly asking him, “Am I good-looking”
“Of course,” Tao Xiaodong’s voice was slightly hoarse.
He cleared his throat.
“Then can you stop looking at me like there is no tomorrow” Tang Suoyan cupped his chin, a small smile on his face.
“The look in your eyes is making my heart sink to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.”
Tao Xiaodong answered with unexpected composure, “But I may not have a tomorrow.”
Tang Suoyan didn’t speak.
In a low voice, Tao Xiaodong added, “I’m afraid that I’ll forget it one day.”
Suppose that one day he was no longer able to see his partner’s face, there was no telling how deep the impression had to be for the memory to last.
So, he could only make his own effort.
Tang Suoyan let him drink in the sight, then wrapped an arm around him, pulling him down.
He quietly chuckled and said, “Xiaodong.”
Tao Xiaodong gave a muffled hum in response.
“There’s something that I’ve wanted to ask you recently.” Tang Suoyan stroked his smooth head; it was a curious sensation now that he had gotten more used to it.
“Do you still know who I am”
“I’m not stupid.” Tao Xiaodong inhaled his scent, answering.
“Do you know” Tang Suoyan repeated.
And Tao Xiaodong said I do.
Tang Suoyan said, “I told you not to keep thinking about this, and I’m serious.
If you do know who I am, then you should trust me.”
“Just do as I say and follow my words closely.” Here, Tang Suoyan even arched an eyebrow.
“Do you need me to step in”
“I do.” Tao Xiaodong learned better now.
He said at once, “I’d dump you if you didn’t.”
Now that he had come clean and talked about the problem, it was even harder to let go.
The proverbial milk was spilled.
Since it had already come to this, this man was destined to be dragged down by him, he stopped resisting, and accepted it.
Tao Xiaodong said in a weak voice, “Don’t leave me alone.”
People were always particularly well-behaved after making a mistake, even if he was helpless in the mistake that he made.
Tang Suoyan pressed a kiss to his ear, then slowly murmured in his ear, “Yesterday you questioned why you had saved so many eyes, yet were unable to save your own.”
“How can that be It is because you saved so many eyes that you have me.”
Tao Xiaodong raised his head from his shirt, and their gazes met.
There was a composure in Tang Suoyan’s eyes that was as assuring as it always was.
“You were so conflicted over whether to push me away or weigh me down, but you got it wrong from the start.” Tang Suoyan stared into his eyes, the smile on his face slowly receding.
He looked at Tao Xiaodong and said plainly, “You should think—you are meant to be mine.”