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the tide brings you back

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Wei Chen knew that messing around with his phone when he was drunk and sad was a terrible idea. It always ended in half-coherent texts being sent to various people or he did something stupid that he regretted the moment his brain was working well enough to process information. The aftermath of his latest session in the bar was that he’d actually deleted Fang Shijing’s number from his phone, the empty contact mocking him.

Arguably this didn’t matter.

After all, it’s not like the two of them were in contact these days, the last message exchange being a few days before Wei Chen had walked out of Blue Rain and not looked back.

He ignored the little voice in his head that pointed out that sitting in bars and letting himself get swept away by what could have been was the opposite of not looking back.

The point was, Wei Chen was not affected by the loss of Fang Shijing’s number. He had no reason to get worked up over what his drunken self had decided to do and there was nothing he could do about it anyway. He should just go to work and forget about it.

He couldn’t forget about it. His phone was mocking him, sitting there with its missing contact. Never mind the fact that Wei Chen couldn’t actually see the missing contact, but he knew it was there and it was taunting him.

The fact that he couldn’t text Fang Shijing kept his focus on his phone, noticeable enough that his employee nudged him during their break, concern flickering in his eyes.

“Hey boss, are you waiting on a call or something, you keep staring at your phone.” Wei Chen waved one hand, movement casual and dismissive all at once, leaning back with a laugh.

“Ahh, I deleted someone’s contact yesterday and I can’t remember the number, it’s no matter at all.” His employee hummed thoughtfully after taking a drink, digging through his bag for his lunch.

“Ah you should go tell your friend; they’ll give you their number again.” He clapped Wei Chen on the shoulder before focusing fully on his lunch, not knowing that his words would be replaying in Wei Chen’s head on repeat for the rest of the day.

“Would he really give me his number?” Wei Chen couldn’t help but wonder, couldn’t help but think that Fang Shijing might not want to give him his contact information anymore. After all, it had been over half a year since he’d had any contact with Blue Rain, something that was for the best, leaving the rookies room to grow into their new roles.

Wei Chen carefully didn’t think about how he’d repeated those words to himself dozens of times and yet they still felt like a weak excuse. His departure was for the best. There was nothing more to be said. It was for the best that he’d lost Fang Shijing’s number. No opportunity for drunken early morning texts if he couldn’t text in the first place.

Wei Chen shoved his phone to the side, satisfied with his decision. It was a good thing he’d deleted Fang Shijing’s number, it was something he should have done a long time ago. There was nothing more to be said and he wouldn’t dwell on it any further.

This was a terrible idea.

Wei Chen was standing awkwardly in the foyer of Blue Rain, the receptionist was eyeing him suspiciously, likely wondering if it would be necessary to call security. Blue Rain did have their overzealous fans and Wei Chen, scruffy and unkempt, did not inspire confidence. He wished he could smoke but the no smoking sign was obvious and he continued to agonise over approaching the receptionist.

He wasn’t entirely sure why he was here. To find Fang Shijing and say- say what?

That he was sorry for not calling or texting in over half a year but he was here now because he deleted his number in a fit of drunken sadness only to regret it the next morning? That he’d like to keep in contact this time? That he wanted his number back because upon realising he’d deleted it he was suddenly hit with a wave of remorse? That it felt like he’d left Blue Rain all over again?

Wei Chen scoffed at himself, scoffed at the idea, scoffed at everything that brought him to the conclusion that coming back to Blue Rain was a good idea. He turned towards the door, intent on leaving, intent on not looking back this time.

And he would have, he’s certain he would have. If it wasn’t for the voice that rang out behind him.

“Captain Wei?” It’s tempting to walk away, so tempting to pretend he didn’t hear the words, pretend that he’d never come back, never decided to stir up old ghosts. But the next voice stops him cold.

“Wenzhou you can’t take advantage of your long legs to walk off without me, just because I wasn’t paying 100% attention doesn’t mean I deserve to be left behind-“ Something clattered to the ground and Wei Chen knew that he couldn’t leave now. “Captain?” Wei Chen turned around and there they were. Huang Shaotian and Yu Wenzhou with matching shocked expressions on their faces.

There was a long moment of silence.

Huang Shaotian moved first, stumbling over his own feet until he was right in front of Wei Chen, as if he couldn’t quite believe he was there and he grabbed Wei Chen’s wrist, grip firm as he began to talk, words coming out faster and faster as if he thought this was his last chance to say them.

“Captain, captain you’re back, you’ve come to visit, you’ve come back to us, I’ve been good, everyone will tell you that I’ve been good since you left, just like you told me to be, I’ve been listening to Captain Fang, listening to all his instructions and been working hard to improve so I can help bring a championship to Blue Rain, are you staying? You have to be staying, Captain Fang misses you I bet, we all miss you, did you miss us too- is that why you came back-?” Huang Shaotian went silent when Yu Wenzhou’s fingers brushed against his wrist and both were looking up at him expectantly, waiting for his answer.

“I missed you too.” The words, though hard to admit, were worth it when Huang Shaotian’s face lit up in a wide grin, eyes bright with joy while tension eases from Yu Wenzhou’s shoulders. Wei Chen doesn’t miss the way the boy’s eyes linger on Huang Shaotian and he wonders if his mentee knows.

“Captain Fang is in his office, we’ll take you to see him.” Wei Chen wondered if Yu Wenzhou meant to entrap him like that, if the boy knew that Huang Shaotian would latch onto the idea and begin to tug him through the corridors.

From the slight quirk to his lips, Yu Wenzhou had definitely planned that but accusing him of this would just make Wei Chen look insane. He shot a glare at the boy but he simply got a polite incline of the head in return, pleasant expression not budging from his face and Wei Chen was thoroughly distracted from the fact he was about to face his friend that he’d dumped all his responsibilities on before absconding without another word.

He wondered if Yu Wenzhou planned that too.

Fang Shijing’s expression when he walked in was gratifying, his eyes widened and he choked on his drink, coughing violently for a few moments while Huang Shaotian and Yu Wenzhou hover by the door. No one seemed inclined to break the silence and after a few minutes Huang Shaotian’s voice rang out.

“Captain Fang look who we found, he was just standing in the foyer like he was lost, probably because he hasn’t been to Blue Rain in such a long time, this means you need to visit us more often old man, you can’t just expect to know the building well if you don’t bother to visit, it’s because of your poor memory as you’re so old, don’t worry, because I’m so kind, I’ll send you reminders from now on!” Wei Chen couldn’t help the smile even as he swatted at the boy for suggesting he was old.

Yu Wenzhou’s fingers were gentle on Huang Shaotian’s shoulder as he leant in to murmur something and Wei Chen panicked slightly when they both slipped out of the door. He cursed them in his head before cursing himself for coming back to Blue Rain and getting scammed into visiting Fang Shijing via weaponising his emotions-

Wei Chen was pulled out of his thoughts by Fang Shijing cuffing him around his head and he felt like a chastised child, hands in his pockets, refusing to meet his old friend’s eyes.

“I put up with your moods and terrible sulking for years and this is how you repay me?” Fang Shijing’s hands flicked around in the air, gesturing wildly to convey his displeasure. “You leave me with your kids and your captaincy and expect me to just figure everything else out?” Wei Chen opened his mouth to speak but Fang Shijing’s kept his mouth shut. “And to make it worse you never even visit us!”

“I’m sorry-“ Fang Shijing scoffed before he tugged him into a hug, motion surprising enough that Wei Chen stood frozen for a few moments before he returned the gesture.

“Asshole.” The words are muffled against his shoulder but arguably warranted and they break apart before Fang Shijing’s eyes narrowed. “Why are you here? You don’t visit for months and suddenly your conscience wakes up?” Wei Chen mumbled something under his breath and his friend’s eyes narrow further, “speak up, I can’t hear you.”

“I deleted your phone number. And then I wanted it back.” Wei Chen had anticipated a range of reactions to his confession: anger, incredulity, disbelief. He hadn’t expected laughter but Fang Shijing was laughing.

The laughter continued for a long time, long enough that Fang Shijing was wheezing for breath, face flushed red as he tried to get himself under control. Wei Chen patted him awkwardly on the shoulder which only had him swatting at the offending hand.

“You deleted my number and felt sad about it.” Fang Shijing managed to get out around his wheezing and Wei Chen could only nod helplessly, “you probably deleted it while drunk and then you came here but only stayed because you got caught by the kids.” When Blue Rain’s former captain refused to answer, Fang Shijing simply took that as confirmation.

“We’ve been friends for years and you never memorised my number,” Fang Shijing shook his head in disbelief as he whipped out his phone and tapped violently at the screen. “Look, there. Don’t delete it again.” Wei Chen’s phone chimed and he looked down to see a notification.

Fang Shijing: Don’t delete me again asshole.

The sight of it loosened something in his chest, made him relax and he nodded at Fang Shijing, unsure of what to say, unsure of what the right words would be. His friend merely clapped a hand on his shoulder, slipping his phone back in his pocket.

“Come on, if you don’t give Huang Shaotian your number before you leave, I’ll never hear the end of it, that brat is persistent.” Wei Chen let himself get led to the common room and Huang Shaotian’s grin is bright as he insists that he get Wei Chen’s number to “remind him to visit”. Wei Chen braced himself for a deluge of messages but the thought made him smile.

Yu Wenzhou was quiet beside his friend but his smile, though smaller, was no less warm and Wei Chen thinks that this is a chance. A chance to leave again but better this time. Leaving Blue Rain always stings but knowing that Huang Shaotian and Yu Wenzhou are growing, nearly ready for their roles- it’s reassuring.

As he left, his phone lit up with a dozen notifications and Wei Chen sighed, even as something in his chest warmed.

Huang Shaotian: When’s your next day off old man?

Huang Shaotian: Wenzhou and I have one soon!

Huang Shaotian: We could come see you!

Huang Shaotian: Unless you’re always working but I don’t think you would be.

Huang Shaotian: sent 9 more messages

Yu Wenzhou: Shaotian is free next Tuesday, if you don’t visit, I fear he’ll track you down.

Wei Chen shoved his phone back in his pocket, rolling his eyes at Huang Shaotian’s persistence when the noise only continued and he yanked his phone out to dash off a quick message, if only to shut him up.

Wei Chen: I’ll visit next Tuesday let me have some peace until then you brat!

Huang Shaotian: You’ve had so much peace, you’ve been left in peace for so many months, you don’t get peace now, you have to put up with this!! I’ll see you next Tuesday, I’ll even make sure we have coke!

Huang Shaotian’s messages continued to chime at various times throughout the day. Occasionally it was just photos of members of Blue Rain, training, eating or trying to swat the camera out of his hands. A lot of the photos were of Yu Wenzhou and Wei Chen wondered if he’d have to bring that up soon.

Fang Shijing messaged often as well, updates on the team, inquiries about whether he’d become drunk and mopey and deleted everyone’s contact information again, it all came with regularity and it became familiar. Routine.

Yu Wenzhou’s messages were inquiries about his playstyle, questions about Swoksaar and Wei Chen was glad to answer them, glad for the purpose it gave him.

He may have left Blue Rain, but he’d not been forgotten. And that? That reassuring knowledge? It was everything.