The noodle stand they were sitting at hadn’t many customers at this hour of the day but Shao Fei, nonetheless, had the feeling that there was a deafening noise making his thinking harder.
“So, you have to move in with him.”
Or maybe it was just Zhao Zi’s voice.
Shao Fei almost lost his grip on his chopsticks. He tried to swallow down his noodles to answer, but Zhao Zi was quicker.
“You have no choice, really.”
“Are you going to protect Tang Yi in the time you aren’t at work and then find the time to go home to shower and change and sleep?”
Shao Fei stared at Zhao Zi.
“Who even said that I was going to play bodyguard?”
Zhao Zi blinked at him, slowly, and then tilted his head.
“But you are, aren’t you?”
Shao Fei tried to stare Zhao Zi down, he really did. He even put one elbow on the table to have more momentum, but Zhao Zi just blindly heaped another portion of noodles in his mouth and looked at him while he chewed. Unimpressed. Without blinking.
Shao Fei had no other choice but to groan in frustration and hide his face in his arm.
“I can’t do it. I really can’t do it. If the captain finds out I’m dead.”
“But you are going to…”
Shao Fei quickly moved his head up and hissed at Zhao Zi: “Do you know how long the list is of things I have to hide from Captain Shi, otherwise I’m dead, arrested or fired? It’s long Zhao Zi, long!”
“But…” Zhao Zi paused and took a sip from his soda, “you are going to.”
Shao Fei’s chopsticks clattered on the table and he put his head in his hands, massaged his temples, and tried to inhale the soothing smell of the noodles, but it was clear that nothing was going to be soothed on this day, least his nerves.
He was going to.
Who did he want to fool? He had gone to Tang Yi when he had phoned him, had agreed to his plan, had met with him to exchange information, had rushed to the hospital…
And now he was going to play bodyguard. He really couldn’t excuse his behaviour with love anymore… he was just an idiot.
When he told Zhao Zi that, his supposedly best friend and partner just took another sip from his soda and didn’t say a word.
Tang Yi didn’t say a word, too. The smugness radiated from him like cheap perfume and Shao Fei just pursed his lips and crossed his arms because kicking someone who had been in a car accident wasn’t nice.
“This is a temporary solution,” he repeated himself. He had said the same when he had entered Tang Yi’s house with his little suitcase and backpack a few minutes ago. This had to be a temporary solution because Captain Shi was like a bloodhound and would sniff out where Shao Fei spent his nights.
“You know the way,” Tang Yi said, the satisfaction lurking in the little uplift of his mouth. He was on the verge of grinning and Shao Fei huffed. He passed Tang Yi with his head held high and ignored the glance that was following him.
The room was still the same; only the bed had been made.
He felt a bit silly as he put his suitcase next to the closet and eyed the hangers there. Should he even bother unpacking? What kind of sign would that send to Tang Yi… if Tang Yi would ever go into this room and snoop around in the closet?
Which he wouldn’t.
Shao Fei was almost sure of it.
He sat down on the bed and allowed himself to just bury his head in his hands.
A knock interrupted the inner discussion he had with In-Love Shao Fei and police officer Shao Fei about how much he was allowed to enjoy this new development.
Tang Yi stood in the door after Shao Fei told him to come in and Shao Fei hadn’t had the time to look him over before. They hadn’t been separated for a long time, but it looked like the bruises on Tang Yi’s face were fading already. His eyes quickly darted to Tang Yi’s chest, but he wasn’t going to ask how his ribs were doing. He wasn’t prepared for something like: “You want to take a look?”
“I made dinner,” Tang Yi said, “you can take a bowl, I have some work to do and will be in my office.”
“The office with the big windows on almost every side, good for whoever wants to hurt you to see you bright and clearly?”, Shao Fei said just to be obnoxious. He felt a bit bereft of the opportunity to refuse to eat with Tang Yi and he still couldn’t believe that he was exactly where Tang Yi wanted him.
“I have a bodyguard now, haven’t I?”, Tang Yi replied and the smile he sent Shao Fei was a real smile, with teeth showing and crinkles around the eyes. He left and Shao Fei fell back on the bed.
Tang Yi had cooked… Was he already well enough to cut everything by himself? Or had he finally asked one of his subordinates to help him out? Was Shao Fei supposed to help out? He was good at chopping stuff and following orders which the delicious breakfast they had made proved, but it wasn’t like he wanted to be used as a kitchen knife…
He groaned as his mind jumped to other things he could be used—
“Stop this,” he told himself and quickly jumped up. He had to find Tang Yi and tell him how this bodyguard business was going to go. He didn’t have the time to cater to his every whim, so it was best to tackle that discussion heads on.
“It’s open,” Tang Yi said when Shao Fei knocked on his office door, and when Shao Fei entered, he saw how Tang Yi wasn’t sitting on his desk but standing before it with a folder in his hands.
Instead of the comfy trousers he had worn when Shao Fei had been in his home the first time, he was now wearing suit trousers and, again, a turtleneck which was far too tight for Shao Fei’s comfort and have Tang Yi’s shoulders always been so broad?
“What can I do for you?”, Tang Yi asked and closed the folder, “have you eaten something?”
“I want to continue investigating the case,” Shao Fei interrupted him because Tang Yi was too good at tangling him up in meaningless conversation. “The quicker we find the mole and whoever wants to hurt you, the faster I can go home again.”
“Sure,” Tang Yi said.
Shao Fei blinked.
“What is that?”, Tang Yi asked, and Shao Fei saw how he eyed the paper in his hand. He had almost forgotten about that Shao Fei realized and cleared his throat.
“My schedule,” he said and laid the piece of paper on Tang Yi’s desk. “You should organize your appointments around my schedule so that I will actually be able to protect you. My shifts are decided by Captain Shi and I have not much wiggle room to argue with him about them.”
Which was a lie. They all argued with the Captain about their schedules. The hour after the Captain put the new schedule up on the notice board and they started to swap shifts while promising all kinds of favours was sacred.
Tang Yi moved back to his desk and studied the schedule.
“What does the green colour on Thursday mean?”
“Paperwork,” Shao Fei answered with a sigh, “once a week we are encouraged to finish our paperwork.” This was most likely the Captains revenge because they argued about their roster all the time.
“Do you have to be in the precinct for that?”, Tang Yi asked, “I have to be in the office for a few hours on Thursday.”
Shao Fei blinked. That sounded like agreement. He had thought that Tang Yi would argue with him about the schedule. He had been ready… with arguments.
“Ehrm… I can take my laptop and work in your office.”
Tang Yi nodded. “Good, that’s decided then.”
A few seconds later Shao Fei was out of the room and wasn’t quite sure what had happened.
Just for that, he decided, he was going to eat everything that was left over from dinner.
Which was, as he had predicted, delicious, and as he scrapped the last bit of rice out of his bowl, he felt stuffed, but the empty plates felt like a victory. Maybe he would get heartburn later, but that was worth it.
The evening went on and as it got darker and darker outside Shao Fei walked across the property and nodded towards the men and women clad in black, who tried their best to ignore him. Tang Yi had bodyguards en masse, so why did he insist on having Shao Fei close?
He looked up when he was at the pool and saw the lights in Tang Yi’s office. He sighed. Really. He had seen the heavy curtains, but they were apparently just for decoration when Tang Yi didn’t close them. Someone just had to find a high enough spot, point their weapon at that room and Tang Yi would be the perfect mark.
He needed to tell him that he decided and walked back into the house, put off his shoes impatiently, and was ready to storm the office when, as he stomped over the soft carpet in the hallway, the office door opened and Tang Yi appeared as if summoned. Shao Fei stopped short, but Tang Yi didn’t leave his office, he just waved towards Shao Fei.
“Come in, I have something to show you.”
Shao Fei stayed rooted to the spot.
“What do you want to show me?”, he asked, and it felt a bit silly to almost shout that over the hallway towards the office. Tang Yi just waved again.
“I found a board for you,” he said before he disappeared back into his office and left the door open.
An investigation board? Tang Yi had listened when he had told him that he wanted to continue working on Li Zhen’s case while he played bodyguard?
He stepped closer, his curiosity stronger than any kind of self-preservation skills. The carpet swallowed the sounds of his steps and he slowly, very slowly peeked inside the office.
There really was a board. Where had Tang Yi found a board that quickly? Shao Fei hadn’t heard him leaving his office for the whole evening.
“What is that?”, Shao Fei asked, slowly, carefully. He was afraid to go deeper into Tang Yi’s office because for whatever reason he was convinced he would see his investigation board.
“You said you wanted to work on our case when you’re here. So…” Tang Yi made a broad gesture with his arm and Shao Fei, still rooted to the spot, blinked nervously. His eyes went back and forth between the bord and Tang Yi and he tried to figure out what he would see if he went into the room without actually needing to go into the room.
“Take a look,” Tang Yi said, and Shao Fei was a detective for a reason, which meant that he was curious, so he tentatively took step after step until the board got into his view. It wasn’t his board he realized relieved and took a closer look.
On the left side of the board Tang Yi had pinned the picture of Tang Guo Dong and Li Zhen, under that, an article with the phantom picture Tang Yi had provided after the attack. Other pictures were on the wall as well. Shao Fei recognized a drug lord and wanted to ask about that, but the way Tang Yi had arranged everything was an immediate itch in his mind.
Shao Fei frowned. “That’s not going to work.”
“Why?” Tang Yi asked.
Shao Fei’s frown deepened, and he took the picture of Tang Guo Dong and Li Zhen and pinned it in the middle of the board.
“It’s about the visuals. You have to do it right or it won’t work,” he said and rearranged the other clues. He saw how Tang Yi looked at him. Then he hid his mouth behind his hand, pretending to cough, pretending not to laugh. Shao Fei didn’t care. This had to be done right! When he was satisfied with his work, he took a step back and admired his efforts.
“This is how an investigation board should look like,” he said. Tang Yi came closer and even the brush of their shoulders couldn’t shake Shao Fei because he had missed having that kind of visual representation of his mind.
“Say, Officer Meng,” Tang Yi started, and Shao Fei knew that something was going to happen because he had realized that every time Tang Yi called him Officer Meng, it was the beginning of internal…trouble for Shao Fei.
“Do you have such a board about me?”
Shao Fei pressed his lips together because he was on the verge of sputtering nonsense to deflect from the current topic, and that never had worked well for him.
“No,” he said, stared hard at the board, leaned forward, and then he flicked a non-existent spot of dirt from one of the pictures.
“Such a bad liar,” Tang Yi murmured, more to himself than for Shao Fei’s ears to hear and Shao Fei couldn’t disagree. He really was a bad liar. Or a half-bad liar because he had a board with Tang Yi no longer. But still, even the fact that he had had a board about Tang Yi in the past wouldn’t come to light no matter how much Tang Yi would pry.
“I have to go through everyone who worked closely with Li Zhen before she contacted Tang Guo Dong,” Shao Fei said, because he had to say something, and it wasn’t like the reason for this board was a silly little thing. They investigated murder and most likely a mole in the police force. He was still shaken about that information.
If she had found out about a mole it had to be connected to a case she had been investigating.
“Wouldn’t that include you?”, Tang Yi asked, his voice all silky-smooth and Shao Fei refused to turn his head because Tang Yi stood entirely too close for comfort and he wasn’t going to risk being caught staring at Tang Yi’s mouth when he looked at him.
Instead, he frowned at the board.
“Then who is investigating you?”
The old question. Who investigates the investigator? He could tell Tang Yi how, after Li Zhen’s death and the way she had been found, their team had been under scrutiny and intense interviews, but… it wouldn’t mean much, wouldn’t it? If the mole was still out there, it didn’t matter how much the internal affairs department had questioned them. Someone had come out of those interviews with a clean slate.
“Aren’t you the one?”, he asked and had to look at Tang Yi. “Or why else am I here?”
That was the reason, right? Yes, Tang Yi needed someone inside the police department Li Zhen had worked at, but he also needed him close to make sure he wasn’t the mole. It was a fight between needing to trust Shao Fei to a certain extent and not trusting him at all because, in the end, he was still a cop.
Tang Yi looked at him. And as if someone had suddenly burned down a barrier in front of Shao Fei’s eyes, he realized that the ice he normally found in Tang Yi’s eyes was gone. Only the deep dark pools of a man, looking at him, with warmth and intent… and desire?
Tang Yi moved his hand slowly. Shao Fei saw how he reached up and he could have taken a step back, out of reach. It even seemed like Tang Yi was waiting for it because he got even slower, but Shao Fei didn’t move and then he felt Tang Yi’s fingers around his jaw, warm, calloused and Tang Yi’s eyes wandered away to stare at his on hand on Shao Fei’s jaw.
It was different this time. While Tang Yi’s fingers on his stomach had felt like they had a direct connection to every nerve in Shao Fei’s body this time all the sensations gathered on this one spot on Shao Fei’s jaw.
Shao Fei couldn’t think, or rather, the way his brain was still processing the investigation board made no way for processing what was happening now. He swayed a bit, he realized, and then as if a flash had hit him, he saw the strain around Tang Yi’s eyes, the implication that it must hurt to hold his arm that way.
He quickly stepped back, and Tang Yi’s arm hovered in the air for a moment and then fell to his side.
They stared at each other, just stared and Shao Fei waited for the inevitable excuse Tang Yi would make. A joke maybe, something about why it hadn’t been on purpose staying so close, touching him. But there was nothing. He just looked at him as if he wanted to dare Shao Fei to try and find an excuse and yes, Shao Fei had been the one who had kissed Tang Yi on that day in the hospital and had buried the memory in the furthest corner of his mind and…
“I have to go,” he said, and he wouldn’t even try and made this anything else than him running away.
He closed the door behind him and leaned back against the door, his hand on the handle and he never had been as happy about a door that he could close as now.
Had Tang Yi wanted to kiss him?
He fell, face first, on the bed and almost got a heart attack when his phone on the nightstand vibrated.
‘How are the lovebirds?’, Zhao Zi had written, and Shao Fei huffed at the message. He wasn’t going to answer that and put the phone back onto the nightstand.
But… how was he?
Troubled. Confused. Aroused.
He could still feel Tang Yi’s breath against his lips, the way his fingertips felt on his jaw. Warm and a bit rough. The way he felt them twitch as if Tang Yi wanted to put more pressure in his hold.
Shao Fei wasn’t sure if someone had ever looked at him like Tang Yi had looked at him in that moment. Heat had been there, desire and warmth. And he couldn’t…
With a huge sigh, he fell back on the bed, his hands over his eyes, rubbing, trying to stop thinking.
to be continued.