He sees Tang Yi everywhere even several months later.
Shao Fei was more or less used to his new routine now — after his promotion to Captain of Team 3, taking over Boss’ position at the man’s request and also, now that Tang Yi would serve a two-year sentence in prison — he spends his every day burrowed into cases and investigations at the station (he didn’t realise just how much paperwork the Captain had to do, really) before going to the home that Tang Yi shared- shares, with him.
Every Thursday afternoon without fail, Shao Fei visits Tang Yi for that precious, allotted time of 30 minutes with his boyfriend. He’s been doing this for the past few months, ever since they parted ways at the entrance of the prison that day.
The thing is, it’s been almost three months of this. 90 days, give or take. 2,160 hours. 129,600 minutes. And more than 7 million seconds of this — not having Tang Yi at his side.
Shao Fei wonders for a moment if he will ever stop seeing Tang Yi in every corner of the house. When he comes down the stairs in the morning, some part of him expects to see Tang Yi standing at the kitchen island with a bright smile, asking him if he wants jam with his toast that morning. Shao Fei sees Tang Yi in that apron he loves, cooking at the stove when he fixes himself dinner, alone in the spacious kitchen. Seeing Tang Yi’s favourite blue bathrobe, Shao Fei can almost see Tang Yi leaving the bathroom, his hair all wet and falling over his eyes.
Tang Yi’s car is a dream to drive and Shao Fei would enjoy it a bit more if he didn’t see Tang Yi’s soft eyes and the curve of his lips in the rearview mirror. Technically, Shao Fei no longer has any reason to hang around the tailor store that Tang Yi owns, but he finds himself there at least once a week to browse through suits.
As if Tang Yi would walk through the doors at any moment and say, if I’d known you were coming over, Officer Meng, I would’ve cancelled my appointments for the day and come here straight.
The thing he hates most, Shao Fei thinks, is reaching out across Tang Yi’s huge bed whenever he wakes out of habit, then feeling the disappointment slam right into him when he realises Tang Yi isn’t in bed. And won’t be, for a long, long while.
He knows why Tang Yi had to do it. And on most days, he’s glad that Tang Yi made his choice. Shao Fei loves him immensely, deeply for doing what he did. This is Tang Yi doing penance for his mistakes and they’re both working towards a new beginning. It’s not an end, but-
-but for once, Shao Fei just wishes that when he turns around, Tang Yi is right where Shao Fei wants him.
If this is what losing a limb feels like, Shao Fei doesn’t want to feel this way ever again.
Staring at the neat, untouched rows of Tang Yi’s impeccable, crisp suits, shirts and turtlenecks, Shao Fei is suddenly left breathless as the weight of just how much he yearns for Tang Yi with every fibre of his being slams right into him. If this is what three months feels like, how the hell is he going to deal with two fucking years?
129,600 minutes so far, and he’s only seen Tang Yi, in the flesh, for 360 minutes in total. Even then, they’re separated by a glass wall, and Shao Fei shared a few of those precious minutes with Tang Yi’s family and friends.
Meng Shao Fei, he chides himself, slapping his cheeks with his hands suddenly and the sting helps him gain clarity for a second, get a grip.
Tang Yi’s not on vacation in prison — his boyfriend is suffering way more than he is. For Tang Yi, Shao Fei knows he has to be strong. He has to keep it together for Tang Yi, for the team that’s relying on him right now to lead them, for Zhao Zi, for Hong Ye, for all the brothers that are counting on Tang Yi to come back and finish reforming Xing Tian Meng. He’s sure they all miss Tang Yi too, especially Hong Ye.
Shao Fei knows he’s not alone in this. So no matter what, Shao Fei cannot- must not crack.
Still, later that night, he falls asleep in a bed that feels horribly empty, hugging one of Tang Yi’s white turtlenecks.
Zhao Zi is the first to notice, of course.
He admits that he isn’t always a good friend, and yes, he’s put Ah Fei aside for food and Jack more than once, but Zhao Zi is still Ah Fei’s best friend. It takes him a few weeks to realise that Ah Fei is sleeping and eating less, working more, and smiling less.
To be fair, ever since Ah Fei became Captain, the team has been buried up to their necks in cases. It’s partially because somehow, criminals decided that this period would be great for them to commit crimes in droves, and also because with the internal investigation that began with Captain Shi’s confession, the police station found themselves missing quite a number of police officers — all in the same week.
Unfortunately, while they were scrambling to ensure that each department had enough manpower, criminals didn’t actually take holidays, so the shortstaffed Team 3 and other teams still had to work.
When they finally got some downtime, that was when they were faced with the addition of a few new rookies to the team and, Ah Fei, Zhao Zi, Jun Wei and Yu Qi — they’ve barely had any time to breathe.
So it takes him a while to see that something’s wrong with Ah Fei. The reason dawns on him shortly after making that observation.
After a third all-nighter in a row for Ah Fei, his best friend staying in the station after everyone has left, Zhao Zi brings it up to Jack.
“I think… Ah Fei isn’t doing too well,” he says, playing with his food.
Jack, who’s noticed his boyfriend’s peculiar mood ever since the shorty stepped through the doors of their house, only blinks. “…. Captain Meng?”
“Ah Fei’s been kind of quiet recently,” Zhao Zi nods, concern written all over his face as he puts his chopsticks down.
“And he hasn’t been home in three days! He hasn’t joined the team for team dinners and drinks either these few weeks, and I think he’s been skipping lunch here and there. Usually when he goes to see Tang Yi on Thursdays, he comes back all smiles, but recently… I haven’t seen him smile properly in a while.”
Jack can’t say he knows what to say in reply — it’s a given that Meng Shao Fei would miss Tang Yi. After all, Jack himself cannot imagine going without seeing Zhao Zi for more than a day, much less weeks, and years.
The thought of going without Zhao Zi makes him a feel sick, to be honest, and he’s going to do everything he can to make sure he’s at Zhao Zi’s side, always-
His thoughts interrupted, Jack looks up with a soft smile, attention all on Zhao Zi again.
“Jack, maybe you could cook for Ah Fei? Some of Ah Fei’s favourite dishes for dinner tomorrow? I know what he likes!”
Zhao Zi looks really excited and hopeful, and although Jack’s gut reaction is to say no because he will cook only for his precious Zhao Zi, Jack finds himself agreeing to it anyway. Is there really anything he wouldn’t do for Zhao Zi if he asked? Besides… this was for his ex-boss’ boyfriend.
Fine, he could sacrifice an evening for Meng Shao Fei.
The next evening, as Zhao Zi drags an obviously reluctant Shao Fei into the house, Jack finally gets what his boyfriend means.
Meng Shao Fei looks like a trainwreck.
In the short time Tang Yi’s been away, the man looks like he’s lost a few pounds, and his cheekbones are even more obvious against his now even paler skin, than before. The dark eye circles too, the way Meng Shao Fei is hunched in on himself, his hands buried in his jacket’s pockets. And even as the Captain smiles at him sheepishly, the smile doesn’t quite reach his eyes.
He looks exhausted.
“Sorry about this,” Shao Fei apologises. “I told Zhao Zi that it’s not necessary, but he took the car keys from me and… sorry to intrude.”
Their last meeting was outside of the police station when Jack basically kidnapped Zhao Zi right before Shao Fei’s eyes. Jack wouldn’t say that he and Tang Yi are friends, much less himself and Meng Shao Fei. However, he is Zhao Zi’s best friend, someone who commands Zhao Zi’s absolute loyalty, and for that alone, Jack can respect Meng Shao Fei. Besides, as long as he’s cooking, no one is going hungry in his house, ever.
“Not at all,” Jack grins, gesturing to the table. “I’m almost done cooking. Just have a seat first.”
Zhao Zi fills up the ensuing silence by talking, and Jack half-listens as they talk about their most recent case, as Shao Fei looks through Zhao Zi’s shelves and says hello to Grandma’s picture.
When Jack places the dishes on the table a while later, he sees Shao Fei pause for a moment. At Zhao Zi’s suggestions and from what Jack knows Tang Yi ate from his time working with the man, today’s menu consists of omelette rice, fried morning glory with chilli, chicken cooked in a spicy, creamy tomato sauce and finally, fried tofu with broccoli, egg and minced pork. Shao Fei is already halfway through a can of coke, and he looks, in a word, stunned.
“I’m very confident in my cooking,” Jack feels the need to say, when it’s obvious Shao Fei isn’t going to say anything, or even move. “Zhao Zi says you’ve been eating store-bought lunches and suppers. I can safely say my cooking is much tastier and healthier than whatever junk you’re eating. Hope this suits your tastes.”
Shao Fei picks up his chopsticks slowly, and both Jack and Zhao Zi try to pretend they’re not staring as the man reaches for a dish. He eats hesitantly, almost reverent, in a way, in the beginning. Before long, he’s shoving spoonfuls of rice into his mouth.
Jack and Zhao Zi exchange a look, and Jack supposes that this was worth it just to see that little, happy smile on his boyfriend’s face.
A full stomach often reminds the human body just how tired it is. It’s very interesting to see Zhao Zi bully Shao Fei into taking a shower, to pulling on some of Jack’s shirts much to the Captain’s embarrassment, and being urged into the guestroom bed upstairs.
Shao Fei is asleep in seconds, buried under the thick duvets Zhao Zi so helpfully threw on him earlier. Coming up to stand next to Zhao Zi, who’s watching Shao Fei finally, finally, rest, Jack smiles.
He feels Zhao Zi leaning into his side, and Jack lifts an arm for Zhao Zi to press closer to him.
“We did good today, huh?” Zhao Zi asks.
Jack presses a kiss to Zhao Zi’s forehead.
“That we did, shorty. That we did.”
If Jack finds himself agreeing more easily to Shao Fei turning up at dinner every time after that, no one but Zhao Zi is any the wiser.
“Get up! Geez, do you have any idea what time it is? Meng Shao Fei, get up right now!”
Shao Fei sits up blearily, rubbing at his eyes and squinting at her as if she was a ghost, and seriously how did her brother ever fall in love with this idiot? His bed hair is entirely ridiculous, with that single lock of hair curling up against gravity and the law of physics which he calls FiFi for some dumb reason. Her eyes fall onto the bed, where peeking from the covers is definitely Ah Yi’s bedrobe.
Her eyes soften immediately at the sight.
“Hong Ye? What are you doing-“ Shao Fei glances at the clock on the bedside table, “It’s 10.20am. I thought you were in Hong Kong for a meeting? When did you get back-“
She is here on a mission today, and no one is going to get in the way. Behind her, she can almost feel Dao Yi’s amusement as the man stands at the door, watching everything unfold before him.
“Exactly. It’s 10.20am, the sun is literally shining on your ass. Get up! We’ve got things to do today. Shower first, then breakfast downstairs.”
“Wh- Hong Ye, what’s going on-“
Shao Fei is moving too slowly for Hong Ye’s liking, so she grabs his hand and with all her strength, hauls him out of bed, pushing him in the direction of the shower. “Clean up, then food. In that order. We’ve got a lot of things to do today, and we’re already late!”
Her brother-in-law (not really, but semantics) is confused enough to stumble into the bathroom with just a few squawks, the door shutting behind him. Hong Ye will give him 15 minutes, and then she’s barging in to grab him again if he takes too long.
“Are you sure you don’t want me to drive you both around today?” asks Dao Yi, coming to stand in front of her. He raises his hand to caress at her cheek. “I’ll be as invisible as I can. You can do whatever you want to.”
His desire to keep close is not unwarranted — two times without Dao Yi around, Hong Ye almost got shot, and then she really was kidnapped the second time. Although the danger is more or less over now and they are for all purposes, now normal civilians, Hong Ye understands why Dao Yi wants to keep her close. It’s the same reason why she wants him to keep him close too.
“Not today,” she smiles, squeezing at his hand. “I’ve got to take care of him, don’t I? For Ah Yi. Look at him, if he goes on like this for any longer Ah Yi’s going to come home to a corpse. We can’t have that. Besides… I kind of owe him.”
She’s told Dao Yi about the shooting incident, the truth of it. That she and Ah De at least planned for Shao Fei to be attacked in that parking lot that afternoon, even if the shooting was unexpected. Dao Yi, to his credit, already suspected that she had something to do with it.
One day, when Ah Yi is out of prison, she’ll tell him. In the meantime, all she can do to make it up to Shao Fei is try to be nicer to him. He’s here to stay, after all.
Besides, no one told her how much nicer she has to be to Shao Fei. A little, tiny bit still counts, right?
Her boyfriend — after so many months, she still wakes up sometimes smiling so widely at the fact that Dao Yi is now her boyfriend, that he loves her too — leans down, kissing her softly. They are both smiling when he pulls back after.
“Alright. I’ll be nearby. Call me if you need anything.”
Hong Ye’s idea of cheering Shao Fei up involves her favourite activity — shopping.
Shao Fei sighs and grumbles the entire way, but he still takes her bags and sits outside while she tries on outfit after outfit. It’s really like having another brother, she supposes. A brother that sulks and pouts a hell lot more than her other brother, but one that indulges her all the same, at least begrudgingly.
“That’s too… no, pick something else,” Shao Fei objects on the fifth dress, turning around to the nearest rack and grabs something without really looking. “This one! Try this one instead.”
It’s all too reminiscent of the first time they went shopping together.
“You’ve got no taste,” Hong Ye sticks her tongue out at him, but takes whatever Shao Fei is shoving at her anyway.
Later, it’s Shao Fei’s turn to model for her instead — she picks out nearly 20 shirts and a few bottoms, a few more jackets. Although the man is a Captain now, Hong Ye finds herself grimacing at the grandpa jackets Shao Fei wears to work, and then grits her teeth when she sees one of Shao Fei’s many bomber or military-style jackets.
She refuses his attempts to pay for all the clothes she’s forced him to buy — and she throws a sized S pack of printed red boxers into the pile when he’s not looking for good measure.
As Shao Fei is driving them both to dinner with the backseat and boot of the car squashed with multiple bags, Hong Ye takes one good look at Shao Fei. He’s still a little bit too skinny for her liking and he spent the entire day alternating between pouts and small little smiles, but the exercise has left some colour in his cheeks. The tension in the back of his shoulders seem to have disappeared, too.
This is a man who’s in love with the brother she loves most in this world.
Much to her own surprise, Hong Ye’s hand finds its way to Shao Fei’s, which is resting on his lap. He freezes momentarily, before turning to look at her.
“I miss him too,” Hong Ye says quietly, resolutely not looking at him as she holds firmly onto Shao Fei’s hand. “We can miss him everyday together, you and I.”
She knows what he’s doing. And Hong Ye wants to say, you don’t have to do this alone, you have me now, we can be sad together, and you don’t have to be strong all the time.
The words don’t leave her mouth. But somehow, Hong Ye figures that Shao Fei hears her anyway, as he squeezes her hand back. She looks over just in time to see his lips curve, and in the same way, Hong Ye hears his soft whisper of a thank you.
A loud and rude honk from behind ruins the moment. They both break apart, and Shao Fei sees the green light and cars already moving off in the lanes next to theirs.
“Could you please pay more attention to the road?!” Hong Ye huffs, rolling her eyes.
Shao Fei tosses her an incredulous look in return, even as he steps on the accelerator. “Are you kidding me? You’re the one who distracted me!”
“As the driver, you’re supposed to multi-task properly and keep an eye out on the road as well! Are you going to be responsible if we both get hurt? Dao Yi will murder you, and so will Ah Yi when he finds out-“
“Excuse you, I’m a perfectly good driver!”
“Dr. Jiang,” one of the nurses interrupts as he’s briefing another two doctors on a complex surgery they’re about to have in a couple of hours, “He’s here again.”
Jin Tang resists the urge to sigh and slam his head down on the table, because then he would need medical attention, and who was going to treat the idiot if Jin Tang himself was injured? Sighing, he tosses his file on the table.
“We’ll continue this a bit later. If I’m late, Dr. He you should start on the surgery first.”
He doesn’t wait for the man to reply, moving out of his office quickly. “What is it now? Another bullet wound? Okay you’re not panicking, so he’s not in critical condition. A knife wound? A sprain? A concussion?”
Unfortunately — and Jin Tang blames Tang Yi entirely for this — he promised Tang Yi that he’d look after Shao Fei’s injuries personally for life, especially when Tang Yi can’t take care of Shao Fei himself while he’s stuck in prison, so Jin Tang finds himself dropping everything on hand whenever the idiot comes in with even the smallest of injuries. Better small injuries than a gunshot wound, of course.
If this keeps up, Jin Tang will suggest at the hospital board’s end-of-year review to create a VIP membership just for Meng Shao Fei.
“Well, you’ll probably want to see this yourself-“
The nurse trails off just as Jin Tang opens the door to the VIP room that Shao Fei more or less owns now every time he comes in, and he opens his mouth to sneer at Shao Fei for being careless again, only for the words to die on his tongue as his eyes land on the Captain.
“What happened to him?” Jin Tang frowns immediately, quickening his footsteps.
Shao Fei’s clumsy best friend is here too. Zhao Zi has his arms crossed in front of him and his worry is apparent as he rolls back and forth on his heel. “He’s having a fever. I don’t know what happened either, but one moment he was briefing everyone during a meeting and the next he was… he just fainted. I don’t know- is he okay?”
Jin Tang doesn’t bother replying. Instead, he checks Shao Fei over. Shines a torch into his eyes, takes his temperature and ascertains that yes, the man is running a really high fever. Judging from how pale Shao Fei is and what he’s heard from Hong Ye, that madwoman, Jin Tang has a few guesses as to why Shao Fei collapsed at work. Something nags at him though — this is too reminiscent of the first time Shao Fei was brought to him, by Tang Yi.
That’s when he sees it, the darker patch on Shao Fei’s abdomen. It’s a little hard to see because it’s a darker patch on a black shirt, but Jin Tang sees it anyway. Quickly, he pulls the shirt up, and there it is.
A sluggishly bleeding wound on Shao Fei’s stomach, close to where he was shot before, protecting Hong Ye if Jin Tang recalls correctly. And as he expected, the wound is definitely infected.
Behind him, Jin Tang can literally feel the blood drain out of Zhao Zi’s face even without looking at the man.
“Shit- Ah Fei- He didn’t- he didn’t tell me he was hurt! This must be from the raid yesterday evening, I can’t believe I didn’t notice, did he just… was he going about like this the entire day today?!”
VIP membership, Meng Shao Fei. At the end of the year, I swear I’m going to bring this up at the board review, Jin Tang thinks.
His nurse is already prepping the equipment and materials needed without Jin Tang asking. He gets straight to work, easily tuning out Zhao Zi spluttering in anger and upset behind him, that Shao Fei would take so little care for himself, and who the fuck cares that he’s Captain now, I’m banning him from going to work for the next week and he can’t stop me-
Jin Tang can’t say that the police officer’s sentiments don’t echo his own.
Meng Shao Fei, what use is waiting for Tang Yi to come out of prison when you’re not going to stay alive long enough for that time to come?
Jin Tang didn’t work so hard and dispense so much free advice to Tang Yi only for this idiot to ruin everything. Whether Meng Shao Fei likes it or not, it seems Jin Tang has to play Dr. Love Guru again when the idiot wakes up. On top of getting Shao Fei a VIP membership at this hospital, he thinks he should just go ahead and start charging for relationship consultations as well.
“Oh no,” Zhao Zi says suddenly, followed by a very heavy sigh, “Who’s going to tell Zuo Hong Ye and Tang Yi?”
He’s going to let the police officer figure that one out.
When Shao Fei wakes a few hours later, Jin Tang is already there, seated on the comfortable chair next to the bed. He slants an almost disdainful look at the stupid idiot and watches as the confusion on Shao Fei’s face shifts into a sulk as he recognises the person here with him.
“What are you doing here-“
“You know,” Jin Tang cuts him off smoothly, turning around to face Shao Fei fully, “This really isn’t your private care facility. Do you know that whenever you come in, because I promised Tang Yi that I’d personally see to you always, I drop everything to come see you? And if you keep this up, I’ll not be just handling your injuries, but your lifeless corpse in the morgue downstairs. Then what am I going to tell Tang Yi on Thursday, huh? Do you think this is fun?”
“I don’t-“ Shao Fei chokes, his voice hoarse from disuse.
Taking pity on him, Jin Tang reaches over to the table and pours Shao Fei a glass of water. Shao Fei takes it, reluctant,, but grateful at the same time. After a few sips, he asks, “… does Tang Yi know?”
“Why, are you afraid?” Jin Tang rolls his eyes. Sighing, he adds, “Meng Shao Fei, I’ve said this so many times, you need to be more careful. You know if you get hurt, you’ve got a bunch of people around you who’re going to worry, right?”
“What do you know,” Shao Fei sulks. “I’m fine. I was just a little careless and forgot that I was injured. Do you think I’m doing this on purpose?”
“Maybe not. But think about how Tang Yi would feel, knowing that you’re hurt out here and he’s stuck inside prison. How long do you think you can hide your injuries from him for? Don’t cause him and yourself any more grief, I think we’ve all had enough losses to last us a long time.”
This reminds him of something not too long ago — Tang Yi seated outside in handcuffs after having shot Shao Fei in the shoulder, and Jin Tang knows he’s made this speech to Tang Yi too.
What a pair, he sighs, looking upward and praying for some strength. Just as he’s about to open his mouth and dispense some last bits of advice, a shout sounds from the door-
“Meng. Shao. Fei!”
Both Jin Tang and Shao Fei grimace at the high pitched yell, and before Shao Fei can duck to hide, the door slides open to reveal Hong Ye standing outside with a furious expression on her face. Dao Yi stands behind her, to her right, looking all affable and patient, totally unruffled by Hong Ye’s yell.
“You’re on your own,” Jin Tang backs off, because while he’s not one to run away from a fight with Zuo Hong Ye, he really can’t be bothered to put in the effort today.
Not when his Xiao Shu Gong is waiting for his call.
“Dr Jiang- You-“ Shao Fei looks at him helplessly, desperate, but it’s too late. Turning to Hong Ye, he puts both hands up, placating, “Hong Ye. It’s not what you think-“
“Sao-sao, do you know what I was hoping for today? That after that meeting with that fucking asshole from Tian Ji Shipping, after so many hours of pointless discussions and him insulting me, that I would get to go home peacefully-”
Something dangerous flashes in her eyes, and Shao Fei grimaces again, willling the ground to swallow him up right now.
“-take a nice shower, and just rest with my boyfriend. But what do I get? I get all the grief from work, and then I get a call from the quack here that you’ve managed to land yourself in the hospital again, and that you were reckless. And now I have to come pick up your sorry ass!”
Under Hong Ye’s sneers and sarcastic veneer when it comes to Meng Shao Fei, they’ve all long since seen the fondness and grudging respect she has for her brother’s boyfriend. It means Shao Fei has one more person yelling at him, but that there’s one more person to distract him from Tang Yi being in prison.
Still, after all these years, how does Hong Ye yell so loudly and speak at someone this long without so much as taking a breath? Shao Fei, on his part, looks properly chatised and sheepish.
Yes, Jin Tang thinks, he’s not going to involve himself. At all.
Regardless, when Officer Meng comes in as he expected a few weeks later, Jin Tang only sighs as he treats the minor wound and hands Shao Fei a lanyard.
“What’s this?” Shao Fei asks, frowning as he turns the card over.
“VIP membership to the hospital,” Jin Tang rolls his eyes. “Keep it. Because of you, I’m starting to think about a point-based reward system on your membership.”
Shao Fei looks at the card, decorated with gold star stickers too. Also as expected, the man begins to yell, indignant. Jin Tang takes it all in stride, only shushing him to make him sit down again.
When the man leaves half an hour later, he takes the lanyard with him.
Jin Tang considers that a win.
“What a surprise, I didn’t think I’d ever see you here again,” Andy grins from behind the counter. “Officer Meng, wasn’t it?”
Tang Yi’s cute little boyfriend is here on what seems to be a mission. Andy saw some familiar figures via the cameras in his little surveillance room earlier, and while Meng Shao Fei didn’t say hello, Andy would never pass up a chance to tease the man. It’s therapeutic on some levels, even though he does get pretty mad when Shao Fei calls him a vixen.
Although, if the police begin using his bar more frequently for undercover missions, he’s going to start charging a fee. While his bar is situated in a neutral territory, it is open to both the upstanding and also the more shady members of the public.
Everyone knows that if they value their lives, they do not start fights or conduct any sorts of illegal business here on his turf.
And with the police coming so frequently to catch drug dealers and other criminals, if his bar starts getting a bad reputation, it’s hardly good for business.
Then again, if anyone is really dumb enough to do something stupid in his bar, Andy supposes they deserve to get caught.
Andy smiles politely at one of the police officers from Shao Fei’s team - Jun Wei, if his memory serves him correctly from the information he compiled a few years ago for Tang Yi - who’s undercover behind the bar counter again, then turns to look at Shao Fei properly.
Hmm. He takes back what he said. Meng Shao Fei looks less than cute right now, toeing the line of ugly. Shao Fei doesn’t look much different, of course, but it’s the air about the captain right now.
Shao Fei looks at Andy, and his mouth twists into a little pout as he retorts, “If it wasn’t for work, I wouldn’t want to step in here either.”
He then squints, “Why don’t you just… not wear anything? Your shirt doesn’t leave much to imagination. What a waste of a shirt.”
Andy gasps, a hand going to his chest. “This is fashion, what the hell do you know? Plus, my baobei likes seeing me in this shirt. You only wish you could pull this look off, better than the bomber jackets and frog shirts you’re wearing.”
“That was one time and it was for a mission! Also, Tang said that I looked cute in it so if you insult the frog shirt you’re insulting my baobei, are you the only one with a baobei-”
At that, both of them freeze. Andy watches as Shao Fei cuts himself off, his eyes widening for a second as what he said dawns on him - the realisation that Shao Fei doesn’t actually have his baobei with him right now, because his baobei is sitting in jail.
Next to him, he feels Jun Wei’s glare.
While he doesn’t like Meng Shao Fei all that much, he knows how much Ah Yi loves him, and when Shao Fei isn’t all sad like this, it’s quite fun to tease him. Andy is not a person to kick a man when he’s down, immediately regretting the turn of their conversation.
Slowly, he mixes a whisky sour for the lovesick man, and places it in front of the captain.
Shao Fei glances at Andy again, then purses his lips, “Thanks.”
Andy wonders if Ah Yi would murder him when he finds out what Andy’s about to do. Looking at Shao Fei’s sad, puppy dog look, however, Andy supposes the both of them could call a truce until Ah Yi comes back.
“Did I ever tell you how I met Ah Yi?” Andy begins, already pulling up the memory in his head and chuckling.
“I don’t want to know how you met Tang Yi from you of all people-“
“He threw up on me, actually,” Andy continues as if Shao Fei didn’t speak.
Shao Fei stares at him, eyes wide.
Hook, line and sinker.
Andy moves on to recount how they first met in high school, at some classmate’s birthday party. They obviously weren’t supposed to have any alcohol there, but someone snuck it in and long story short, Ah Yi then got incredibly drunk and sick. Andy happened to be seated right next to him when he threw up, and it was absolutely disgusting.
They got to know each other a little better after with Tang Yi throwing up in the toilet bowl properly as Andy yelled and nagged at Tang Yi at the sink, trying to clean the puke off himself. Not only that, but Andy ended up carting him back to his own home too.
“… and he had the gall to yell at me the next morning?” Andy scoffed, rolling his eyes. “Accusing me of taking advantage of him because he was half naked and wearing my joggers. He was all covered in puke, you know. And I was yelling back because he did ruin my favourite shirt. We almost got into a fight.”
“And then?” Shao Fei prodded, snorting at the picture of young Tang Yi and Andy having a face-off in Andy’s room.
“I chased him out, of course! But a week later he came to see me and gave me a bag. And guess what, he actually bought me the exact shirt he ruined! I forgave him out of pity. And we’ve been friends since, but I try not to sit next to him when he’s drinking.”
Shao Fei nods, his grin so wide. Seeing that the man’s shoulders are less tensed, and his eyes a little more lively, Andy launches into other memories — of Tang Yi oversleeping and getting to school late only to be laughed at by everyone for wearing his shirt inside out, of them getting into trouble painting the school’s grandstands, of them getting into fights.
“You should ask Zuo Hong Ye for Ah Yi’s photos,” Andy adds, tapping at his chin. “He had the ugliest buzz cut ever-“
“Ah Fei,” Jun Wei interrupts their conversation, and both men look up. “Two o’clock.”
They look over subtly, and true enough, the mark is settling in one of the booths.
“Duty calls,” Shao Fei says, attention all on the case now.
He glances at Andy again, then with his ears tinged a little red in embarrassment, Shao Fei digs around his pockets for some change.
“On the house,” Andy sighs. “If you’ll bring him out quietly.”
Shao Fei’s next smile is a little more genuine, a little less hostile.
As the man rushes off for the booth, Andy shakes his head. There’s no way Shao Fei is bringing the suspect out quietly, and as glass shatters and shouts echo through his bar, Andy wonders if he sent Shi Hai Corporations the bill for damages in his bar on behalf of one Meng Shao Fei, if Ah Yi or Zuo Hong Ye would pay him.
A few days later, Andy receives a text, with a photo attached.
It’s a photo of him and Ah Yi in school, in those ugly ass uniforms, and Ah Yi with his buzz cut. Andy’s about to laugh when he sees the message that came with it.
Tang’s buzz cut isn’t quite as bad as your center parting.
Pissed off, Andy nearly throws his phone onto the ground.
“So I hear you’ve been on shopping trips with Hong Ye,” is the first thing Tang Yi says when Shao Fei sits down for his weekly alloted session with him. “She’s been buying you clothes. Good choice, the jacket looks great on you.”
“Your sister is a menace,” Shao Fei rolls his eyes, then he smiles, “How’re you?”
“Same old,” Tang Yi replies, because nothing much happens in prison.
He drinks in the sight of Shao Fei, because he takes Shao Fei’s weekly visit seriously. Every minute is precious, and he wants to know everything about his boyfriend. If he’s been eating well, if he’s been sleeping well, if he’s gotten hurt. Tang Yi’s not dumb, and hardly blind.
Him being in here is taking its toll on Shao Fei, and seeing Shao Fei less than his usual self breaks his heart.
The urge to just reach across the glass and just hug Shao Fei, just once, to touch him — it’s times likes these that Tang Yi regrets being in here.
The good thing is, his family seems to be taking good care of his Ah Fei. The dark eye circles have almost disappeared, the weight he’s lost is back. His smiles are a little brighter than before, and Tang Yi hasn’t heard Jin Tang complain much about Shao Fei turning up at the hospital, which means Shao Fei’s been staying safe.
As Shao Fei goes on and on about his week, Tang Yi feels his heart squeeze.
“Ah Fei,” he calls suddenly, “When I get out, let’s get married.”
Shao Fei stills, his eyes going so wide and Tang Yi sees him take in a sharp breath.
“I know I’m still in here, and… I’m an ex-gangster, and a felon with a criminal record, but if you’ll have me, and if you’re ready, let’s get married when I’m out. I don’t want to spend another day without you. And I want to be with you, as your husband. Forever, for as long as I breathe.”
Shao Fei is still silent.
At Shao Fei’s prolonged silence, Tang Yi panics. What was he thinking? Proposing in prison? With a piece of glass between them? When Hong Ye hears of this she’s going to fucking murder him.
“We don’t have to, so fast, of course-“
“Yes,” Shao Fei whispers, putting his hand up against the glass. “Yes to now, yes to later, and yes to forever.”
With his answer, Tang Yi feels all the worry from before vanish immediately. He’s not sure how he looks right now to Shao Fei, but he can feel how wide his smile is. All he knows is that there’s something squeezing tight in his chest, something akin to happiness, to relief, to gratefulness.
This is what being in love with Shao Fei feels like, and he wants it for as long as he can have it.
Placing his own hand against the glass, Tang Yi leans his forehead against the cool, smooth surface.
The very last five minutes of Shao Fei’s visit they spend with their foreheads and hands pressed against each other. This is as close as they can get, and will get, for the next few months.
Right before their time together ends, Tang Yi says, “So hang in there, until I get out, okay?”
Shao Fei only laughs.
“Of course I’ll wait for you to get out. You owe me a ring now, Tang!”
It always makes him sad, leaving the prison, leaving Tang Yi and thinking about how he’s going to pull through the next week before his next visit.
Today, Shao Fei leaves with his heart bursting with warmth. Absolutely nothing can change the fact that Tang Yi proposed to him, and with Tang Yi waiting for him just as Shao Fei’s waiting for him, he feels a lot lighter.
Half an hour later, he parks the car outside of the house. Shao Fei frowns slightly as he sees that all the lights in the house are on. For a moment, he wracks his brain for his schedule for the week. This only happens when Hong Ye and Dao Yi Ge come over dinner and arrive before him, but he doesn’t recall Hong Ye telling him that she’s coming over this week.
Shao Fei slowly makes his way to the door, carefully entering.
“Ah Fei! You’re back!” Zhao Zi suddenly appears in the doorway, and Shao Fei almost drops his keys from the shock. “Great, I was getting really hungry. Jack! Ah Fei’s back, we can start frying the fish!”
Bewildered, Shao Fei takes quick steps into the living room, only to see… everyone, in the kitchen.
Jack and Dao Yi Ge are at the stove, and from the aroma wafting through the air and the number of plates laid out, they’re definitely cooking up a feast. Andy is there with Ah Hui, his boyfriend, and Jiang Jin Tang is seated on the counter talking to them both, glasses of wine in their hands.
Jack turns around at the stove and grins. “I’ve got two bottles of coke, and we’re having curry chicken and mala hot-pot. Extra spicy.”
As soon as Jack says that, everyone else except Zhao Zi blanches at the thought of the combination.
“You wore this jacket out today?” Hong Ye comments, coming over to him. “Hmm, not bad. I was beginning to wonder if you wear anything I buy you. I should’ve known that you only wear the nicer ones to see Ah Yi. How’s he?”
“He’s good,” Shao Fei answers quietly.
Hong Ye frowns at him, mistaking his stunned, quiet self for sadness. Sadness for leaving Tang Yi during his visit today. Concerned, she asks, “You okay?”
Shao Fei has so many more people in his life that care about him because of Tang Yi.
He smiles, content, “Never been better.”
After so many months of moping, Shao Fei feels like he finally means it.
Hong Ye seems to sense this as well, and the frown relaxes into something happier, a little more relaxed. She loops her arm through his and drags him over to the kitchen.
As the chatter gets louder, filling Tang Yi's house- their house, with life, Shao Fei knows they're all waiting for Tang Yi to come back.
And until then, they have this.