December 27th, 2022
Tao Xiaodong still felt warm when recounting the encounter to Tang Suoyan.
Tang Suoyan asked him, “Who”
Tao Xiaodong described her.
He vaguely remembered from a quick look at her name tag that her surname was Li.
Tang Suoyan said that he knew who that was.
“She is soft-hearted, she cried a couple of times when shadowing me at outpatient services last week.”
“Are people who are too soft-hearted unsuited to become doctors” Tao Xiaodong said, “She must feel depressed every day.”
“You get used to it with time.” Tang Suoyan’s voice didn’t carry much emotional inflection when he spoke, saying evenly, “There’s too much that we’re powerless to do anything about.”
Smiling, Tao Xiaodong asked, “Does that include me”
“No it does not.” Tang Suoyan said.
“It includes Xiao Nan, but it does not include you.”
Tao Xiaodong looked at him, still holding today’s flowers in his hands.
Tang Suoyan said, “Your condition is in the early-stage.
With you constantly under my watch, how can I be powerless to do anything”
Tao Xiaodong was unprepared for the suave declaration.
“Wow, you suddenly became super handsome.”
“Suddenly” Tang Suoyan arched an eyebrow at him.
“I question whether you’re using this adverb appropriately.”
“Every day!” Tao Xiaodong was in stitches.
“Handsome at every moment and every minute of the day.”
Because of his condition, Tao Xiaodong had been staying in lately.
He hadn’t visited Tian Yi yet, simply processing his emotions alone.
Now that the maelstrom had passed, he couldn’t continue to sequester himself.
Thus, his new appearance gave Tian Yi a huge fright.
“What sparked you off”
Tao Xiaodong was wearing a duckbill cap, cooing at the baby cradled in his arms, one hand supporting the rear and the other hand supporting the neck.
The baby felt tiny in his arms, and his features seemed much softer with the little one in his arms.
“What’s with you” Tian Yi pestered, frowning.
“I’m talking to you.”
“It was too hot, and summer is coming.” Tao Xiaodong said dismissively, “It feels more cooling like this.”
“Cooling When you’re wearing a cap” Tian Yi rejected his excuse.
“There’s definitely something up with you.”
Tao Xiaodong’s head was lowered as he kept his eyes on the child.
At first, he didn’t feel that the boy looked like Tian Yi, but the more he looked, the more he spotted the resemblance.
The boy’s limbs rocked back and forth, his legs softly kicking in Tao Xiaodong’s arms.
Tao Xiaodong’s heart was melting into putty.
Tian Yi kept on nagging next to him, and Tao Xiaodong said, “There’s really nothing, if there is you’ll be the first to know.”
Tian Yi was grudgingly convinced.
Tao Xiaodong didn’t tell him not because they weren’t close enough, nor because he feared that Tian Yi would pity him.
There wasn’t that between them.
It was purely because there was no need; he didn’t want him to worry.
It wasn’t affecting his vision much yet, and he didn’t know when it would start to affect his central vision.
Therefore, it wasn’t necessary to have the people around worry along with him.
It wouldn’t be too late to tell them when it progressed further.
Something like that was a stone that would only weigh down heavily on the minds of the people in his close circle when they learned about it.
Now, Tao Xiaodong had also had to set aside time for weekly or twice weekly acupuncture sessions, which lasted slightly over an hour each.
Jiang, the traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) physician, was friends with Tang Suoyan, and used to study under Professor Tang in university.
Tang Suoyan accompanied him for his first session.
He had given the other a heads-up, so the physician didn’t inquire overly much when they went.
During Tao Xiaodong’s subsequent visits, Dr.
Jiang remained cordial to him.
They would chat from time to time, and Dr.
Jiang would occasionally reassure him, allowing him to set his mind at ease.
There were many people doing acupuncture at the TCM clinic; some would do treatment and take herbal products, and the long-term results were fairly good.
A few of the patients were in their twilight years, but their conditions were still rather optimistic.
Tao Xiaodong hardly thought about it now.
He was still trying his best to alleviate the symptoms, but he stopped worrying about it.
He was doing everything that he should be doing; the rest of it was up to fate.
“Suoyan didn’t really want me to talk to you about this, but I think you’re coping well.” Dr.
Jiang leisurely chatted with him while inserting the needle.
Lying there with his eyes shut, Tao Xiaodong said, “I’m already past it.
I didn’t handle it well at first, but after that I started to think that it isn’t anything much.”
“It really isn’t.” Dr.
“Furthermore, Suoyan is a specialist.
With him around, what have you to fear”
Tao Xiaodong smiled.
Tang is great.”
“How long have you known Suoyan” It was inevitable to have to chat about other topics.
Jiang had known Tang Suoyan for a long time, so he was more friendly towards Tao Xiaodong.
“Quite a number of years.
My younger brother is one of his patients.
We didn’t know each other that well at first,” Tao Xiaodong replied.
When speaking of Tang Suoyan, he’d only ever say that they were friends, not the truth of their relationship.
It wasn’t that he was in the closet; he couldn’t care less if the world knew that he liked men.
However, Tang Suoyan’s identity was different from his, and Tao Xiaodong had always been careful in that regard, thus was unwilling to be too open.
Jiang was something of an extrovert and was a good conversationalist.
After a while, out of the blue, he said, “The two of you are rather compatible.”
Tao Xiaodong froze for a beat before saying, “Doc, you seem to be misunderstanding something.”
“Misunderstand what” Dr.
Jiang said with a smile.
“Did I misunderstand that you are his partner”
Tao Xiaodong stayed silent, but Dr.
Jiang said, “He’d already told me that you are his lover the first time he called.
Did you really think that I don’t know just because I haven’t called you out on it”
Tao Xiaodong was slightly surprised.
It was true that Tang Suoyan had never hidden it, but neither did he expect him to speak of it so openly.
Jiang putting it that way, Tao Xiaodong simply said with a smile, “I was afraid that it would impact him.”
The physician carried on to say, “What year is it now Mindsets have changed ages ago.”
Lover; the word in and of itself carried a classic romanticism, confidence and forthrightness.
Apart from ‘boyfriend’ and ‘partner’, when properly making introductions to others, homosexuals were only left with ‘other half’ and ‘lover’.
Because of this simple word, Tao Xiaodong’s heart was left fluttering for days.
“Stop daydreaming, have you taken your medicine yet” Tao Xiaodong was using his phone on the bed.
When Tang Suoyan came out of the shower, he patted the other’s leg, going around him to grab the charger from the nightstand drawer.
“Yep.” Tao Xiaodong, busy typing on his phone, didn’t look up, simply smiling.
Tang smells so good.”
They had recently changed the shower gel.
Tao Xiaodong bought the wrong brand during a massive online sale last year, which they had just opened to use.
At that time, he had also tossed a lot of other stuff into the shopping cart, some of which they had yet to start using.
“I stayed under the shower but I couldn’t get rid of it.” Tang Suoyan said, exasperated, “If the smell is still there tomorrow, you can keep it for your own use, I won’t help you finish it.”
“Doesn’t it smell good” Tao Xiaodong grinned cheekily.
“You can smell good yourself.”
Tang Suoyan connected his phone to the charger, while Tao Xiaodong was still lying there and replying to messages.
Tang Suoyan gave a reminder, “Watch the time.”
Tao Xiaodong hummed and said, “I still need five minutes, Yan ge.”
Tang Suoyan said, “All right.
The moment five minutes was up, without another word, Tang Suoyan immediately turned off the lights; as before, leaving only the small light at the door.
Tao Xiaodong, not done replying to his messages yet, groaned from the bed.
Tang Suoyan stood by his word.
Five minutes was five minutes.
When the time was up, he turned off the lights without further negotiation.
Tao Xiaodong had already been staring at his phone for half an hour this evening, and he had even been given a little leeway; normally, Tang Suoyan wouldn’t let him use his phone before bed.
Tao Xiaodong just barely managed to send out a voice message, telling the other that they would discuss it tomorrow.
After that, he set the phone aside and shifted next to Tang Suoyan, hugging him, the picture of sincerity, mirroring an obedient little child.
“Yan ge, I was wrong.”
Tang Suoyan spread his arms towards him, and Tao Xiaodong catapulted himself over, head nuzzling everywhere.
Tang Suoyan petted his head and commented that it was really spiky.
Tao Xiaodong had become less independent after discovering his condition, depending on Tang Suoyan a lot.
In the past, with his younger brothers, Tao Xiaodong was not quite able to act spoiled; due to his personality and having gotten used to playing the role of the older brother, even when dating, he wasn’t really able to open up completely.
This time, his worsening eyesight brought out not only a more vulnerable side of himself, but also a touch of childlike wonder that he had long forgotten.
Outside, he was still the indomitable Director Tao.
But at home, once his coat was off, he would lose all sense of maturity.
Tang Suoyan disliked how prickly his growing hair was, but Tao Xiaodong just had to arch his head against Tang Suoyan’s neck.
Annoyed, Tang Suoyan pushed him away, and Tao Xiaodong chortled and repeated the action.
Tang Suoyan chuckled at his harassment, saying, “You’re so annoying.
Take your bald head away from me.”
“Aren’t I still handsome even bald You said so yourself.” Tao Xiaodong planted a kiss on him, fighting back with Tang Suoyan’s own words.
“Still doesn’t mean that I’m willing to let you prickle me.” Tang Suoyan continued to push him away, shunning him.
“You’re like a piglet digging the earth with its snout.”
Tao Xiaodong kept arching his head on purpose for a while, but eventually stopped.
Tang Suoyan held him, and he casually pressed a kiss to the nape of his neck, breathing in his scent.
Both men smelled the same, the shower gel lingering the same way cologne did.
When Tang Suoyan necked him, Tao Xiaodong asked, “Wanna **”
They had just done it yesterday, and Tang Suoyan didn’t usually do it two nights in a row.
They tended to have rough sex; as such, he was afraid to injure Tao Xiaodong if they went at it again a second night.
He didn’t want to hurt him.
Tang Suoyan said not tonight.
But his arousal was apparent.
Tao Xiaodong said with a smile, “It’s okay, come on.”
“Go to sleep.” Tang Suoyan gently nipped the nape of his neck.
Not doing it despite being aroused made him petulant.
No grown adult would want to suffer that aggravation.
Tao Xiaodong reached over to first lift the pyjama top before sliding his hand into the trousers.
In the dim light, the two men’s breathing deepened.
After a while, Tang Suoyan moved his hand away.
“What is it” Tao Xiaodong asked huskily.
Frowning, Tang Suoyan said that it was chafed in a low voice.
“Shall I get lube” Tao Xiaodong asked quietly.
“It’s fine.” A slight frown still marred Tang Suoyan’s forehead.
He breathed in deeply and said, “Go to sleep.”
Tang Suoyan didn’t generally like hand jobs as he felt it chafed.
In the past, he was willing to bear with it, but his appetite had since been spoiled by Tao Xiaodong.
Who would want to eat the side dishes when one was accustomed to feasting on the main course
Tao Xiaodong thought about it, eyes blinking in the dark.
After a while, he suddenly smiled cryptically, then whispered a few words into Tang Suoyan’s ear.
If the hand chaffed, weren’t there other options still When it came to hooligans, Director Tao was always up to task.
After they spilled, Tao Xiaodong went to the bathroom without waiting for Tang Suoyan to turn on the lights.
Tang Suoyan got up to search for the remote.
Tao Xiaodong washed his face in passing after rinsing his mouth.
Tang Suoyan had just found the remote when he heard a muffled thump from the bathroom.
“Xiaodong” Tang Suoyan stood up at once, getting the lights.
“I’m all right, I’m all right.” Tao Xiaodong held his forehead.
“I was looking down, I didn’t raise my head.”
Tang Suoyan went over to check on him.
He turned on the lights and pried his hands away, looking with furrowed brows.
“I’m all right, really, Yan ge.
I just wasn’t looking up.” Tao Xiaodong’s forehead was red.
“It sounded loud but it doesn’t hurt much.”
Tang Suoyan gently rubbed the spot for him, then led him to the bed to sit down, silently continuing to rub it for a while.
Tao Xiaodong smiled up at him, asking if he was satisfied.
Tang Suoyan didn’t speak, but lowered his head and kissed the throbbing spot on his forehead.
That night, sleep eluded Tang Suoyan.
His hand was constantly kept on Tao Xiaodong’s head, at first to massage the spot for him, later on simply brushing it gently with his fingers.
Tao Xiaodong was drifting off into sleep.
Tang Suoyan kept watching him.
The small night light at the doorway was bright enough for most people.
Tao Xiaodong was sound asleep, facing Tang Suoyan, a relaxed, peaceful radian tugging at the corners of his lips.
Tang Suoyan caressed his face, then, very quietly, left the room.
Tao Xiaodong opened his eyes in the darkness.
He heard Tang Suoyan open the balcony door, and a few seconds went by before a muted “chhht” broke the still night.
—the flick of a lighter.
Tao Xiaodong shut his eyes again, the apex of his heart wrenched in a grip so tight that his nose twinged, stinging.