Tied up in knots
Shao Fei had been to five dry cleaners with the tie. He had left the first three without telling them what he wanted them to clean. He had no idea why. He was a cop. It wouldn’t be too weird for him to have blood on a piece of clothing…
He had left the fourth cleaning business because a little child had stood beside the woman, looking at him with big eyes, hiding behind the counter. Shao Fei had tried to explain what had happened (and he had no idea why he had the need to justify himself) but his eyes had wandered to the child all the time and then he had left.
Should he even clean the tie and give it back to Tang Yi? Tang Yi had a suit shop. It wasn’t irrational to assume that he had a big pile of ties. Would he even notice this very tie was missing?
The old lady in the fifths dry cleaning store had taken one look at it, had snatched it out of Shao Fei’s hand and had said: “Blood, right? I can get the stains out in three days. Cash only!”
Shao Fei had not dared to disagree, so he had been back in three days and had paid for the cleaned tie. And it was clean, as far as he could tell. It was black, so he hadn’t really seen the bloodstains in the first place but Tang Yi had carried him down the mountain to safety and had made sure that he was taken care off in the hospital so the least Shao Fei could do was to give him back a clean tie.
He looked down at it in the little plastic wrap and felt silly. Zhao Zi had said to just buy Tang Yi a new one.
“Whatever,” Shao Fei mumbled and threw it on the passenger seat of his car and tried to get all the weird thoughts out of his head. It laid there for over a week and every time he climbed in his car, he saw the tie and shook his head and didn’t know why he wouldn’t drive to Tang Yi’s shop or office or home to just throw the tie at him? He had thought about holding it hostage until Tang Yi told him what happened four years ago, but he was relatively sure that that would be the first time Tang Yi would openly laugh at him. Not just a smirk but a full-on belly laugh. It was almost tempting for that sight alone…
“Again… a very weird thought,” he said to his steering wheel after he wanted to drive away from a witness interview. Tang Yi’s shop wasn’t far away so maybe he could just give his store manager the tie? She already knew him. She was the one who had measured his body so they could rip him off a little fortune. He still had no idea what to do with the suit he had bought. The captain had forbidden him to annoy Tang Yi at his home or office anyway so what choices did he have?
The empty parking spot in front of the shop was like a sign and he stopped questioning himself and entered the store.
It always felt like time worked differently in Tang Yi’s shop. It felt old, but more ancient then outdated and Shao Fei felt out of place. He never liked chasing Tang Yi down to this shop. Or maybe it was because of all these expensive suits and how they didn’t really seem to fit him.
“Officer Meng.” The store manager bowed in greeting and smiled politely. Shao Fei was convinced that her smile became more and more strained the more he visited, and he was secretly pleased about it. She could strangle him with her measuring tape, he was sure of it, but annoyed people tend to snap at some point and snapping meant saying things they don’t want to say… he firmly believed that she knew more about Tang Yi and his ‘real’ business than she let one. Maybe one day she would crack.
He smiled his most polite smile and offered her the tie.
“I just wanted to bring this back. Your boss lent it to me.”
She looked at him for a moment and he felt a bit silly thrusting out the tie to her.
“I brought it to a dry cleaner first of course. It’s clean now.”
“What is clean now, Officer Meng?”
Shao Fei and the store manager turned around in unison to Tang Yi, and Shao Fei may have laughed at the synchronicity of their movement if Tang Yi’s appearance hadn’t made him a bit speechless. He had been so sure that Tang Yi wouldn’t be in his store today. Did he have his timetable wrong? It was Thursday morning… he wasn’t supposed to be here!
He opened his mouth to say something, to ask Tang Yi why he wasn’t at the Metro Business Hotel, but Tang Yi made a gesture with his hand and the store manager disappeared on light feet. In his head, Shao Fei had given the tie to her and left and now he was standing in front of Tang Yi, who wore a black tie with a crisp white button-down, less colourful and less patterned than he was familiar with and he felt really silly with the tie in his hand.
“It’s a bit early for one of your delightful interrogations,” Tang Yi drawled and the eyebrow he raised was blatantly mocking Shao Fei. They hadn’t seen each other since they had tried to flee from the mountain and Shao Fei had a bit of a problem matching the Tang Yi he knew and had chased for more than four years with the Tang Yi he had met in the little abandoned house next to a fire. It was like trying to fit two cut-outs over another until you must admit that you can’t move the scissor the exact same way twice.
“Your tie,” Shao Fei said instead of the questions he really wanted to ask, like, how Tang Yi had been, if he slept better and why he wouldn’t talk to Shao Fei!?
“It’s clean, obviously.”
Shao Fei prided himself in knowing Tang Yi’s micro-expressions but maybe his fluttering heart made it impossible to read Tang Yi’s mimic. There was a rush in his ears, and it got worse because Tang Yi stepped closer and took the tie out of his hand.
Shao Fei was someone who ripped up packages and presents. Tang Yi, apparently, needed to take his time opening the little plastic bag the tie was wrapped in. He folded the tie out and the fabric slid through his fingers making Shao Fei feel like he was seeing something obscene. His chest felt tight with some unnamed emotion, or better, an emotion he couldn’t stop feeling since their night in the mountains.
Shao Fei wanted to say something, anything, but he could just stand there and watch as Tang Yi opened the tie he already wore and put on the other one. He didn’t even need a mirror; his fingers unknotted the old one with deft movements and he knotted up the new one even faster.
Shao Fei blinked and blinked because there was no space between them to look anywhere else and if he would take a step back, he would be enfolded by a rack of suits. Why was this store so small? Why was Tang Yi changing ties? Why was he not finding words? He was good at talking! He knew how to avoid silence with mindless chatter and…
“Thank you for bringing the tie back,” Tang Yi said and then he flattened the tie on his body with his hand and who did that? Shao Fei wanted to throw up his arms in confusion.
“You’re welcome, I mean… that’s the least I could do. It’s your tie, it was my fault it got blood on it, wasn’t it? You carried me down the mountain and got me into the hospital and…”
“How’s your wound?”
“What?” Shao Fei had talked himself in a kind of frenzy and had thought his last words could be something like ‘however, have a nice day, bye’ and he could leave this very confusing situation, but Tang Yi didn’t get the memo.
Shao Fei touched his right arm as if he had to remind himself that yes, he had a wound there. He had a bandage over it during the day so it wouldn’t tear open.
“It’s okay. It’s almost healed. The stitches are out, and it looks good, I guess.”
“I’m glad,” Tang Yi said.
“You sound surprised? Do you think I want my favourite policeman injured, Officer Meng?”
“Your favourite…? Are you mocking me?”
There was a grin hiding in the corner of Tang Yi’s mouth and Shao Fei had the sudden urge to hunt it until it became a full-fledged smile. The more he thought about it, the more he looked past the case of Li Zhen, the more he realised how much of his urge to chase Tang Yi was because of the man himself and not because of the knowledge he had.
It was an unsettling thought.
Tang Yi didn’t seem to notice that his person was about to claim every thought in Shao Fei’s mind. He just stepped closer, closed the distance between them and Shao Fei took a step back.
“What I always wondered”, Tang Yi said, and Shao Fei felt the suits touching his back.
Normally, Shao Fei was the one getting up into other people’s spaces. It was a great intimidation tactic and he had the feeling he got a good grasp on what a nervous gulp, the widening of pupils or the thrumming of a pulse under the skin meant. He had no problem breathing down someone's neck and it was a bit eye-opening to see how it felt when he wasn’t the one initiating the close-up. He couldn’t even remember the last time he had stepped back from a suspect.
“I always wondered,” Tang Yi said and suddenly his fingers were around the collar of Shao Fei’s denim jacket, pulling at the material. “Why don’t you have a dress code as detectives? You run around in uniforms otherwise but the moment you get promoted it doesn’t matter anymore? Your appearance?”
There was the light touch of Tang Yi’s finger on his neck and Shao Fei felt it all the way down in his stomach. A buzzing feeling spread through his whole body. He knew he was being insulted, but Tang Yi stayed way too close and his eyes, deep and dark, travelled from Shao Fei’s jacket to his own hand as if it was fascinating what his fingers were doing.
Shao Fei swallowed.
A phone rang and destroyed whatever spell Tang Yi had woven around them. Shao Fei wasn’t even sure what he had said to escape the situation or if he had just fled without a word, but he found himself back in his car with a wild pounding heart and a dry throat. He raised his own hand to touch the patch of skin Tang Yi had… caressed. There was no other word for it. It hadn’t been an accidental touch.
He was flustered about it he realized and with a groan, he put his head against the steering wheel.
“Is everything alright?”
Shao Fei blinked and looked up at Yu Qi who frowned in concern at the chocolate wrappers decorating most of his desk. He was a stress eater.
It was just a tie, he wanted to say to her.
He looked back at the document open on his computer and saw that he had written tie in the report about an attempted robbery.
“Just a bit tired,” he said and closed the file. It was almost the end of his shift, but it felt like he had been awake for days. Had the encounter with Tang Yi really happened this morning?
“I think I’m going home for today.” Yu Qi smiled at him and nodded in agreement. She took the files he had worked on and dumbed them on Zhao Zi’s desk.
“Take a good rest,” she said cheerfully and now he had no choice but to shut down his computer and take his jacket. Suddenly he stood outside of the building and looked up at the darkening sky. The weather was still pleasant, and he thought about taking a stroll through the market a few streets over when he saw a familiar figure at the edge of his vision.
Shao Fei was devoted to his work. He knew that and the emotional shortcomings he had related to that. Sometimes it took him a long time to realize what was going on, but he was quick to accept those feelings because why dwell on something his heart knew all along?
Realizing that everything wasn’t as black and white as he had thought took time and, as he now grasped, also a bit of pain. He massaged the skin above his heart and knew that he could decide. He could ignore Tang Yi leaning against his car or he could walk up to him.
He still wore the tie.
“Officer Meng,” Tang Yi said as Shao Fei approached, and it sounded more like a pet name than an insult. It started an ache in Shao Fei’s stomach.
There was no one around besides them and the sinking sun highlighted Tang Yi’s hair and made his eyes shine. Was he now allowed to think about how breathtakingly beautiful Tang Yi was?
“What can I do for you, Tang Yi?”, Shao Fei asked.
“Today is my birthday,” Tang Yi said, and Shao Fei blinked. Oh… Oh, he knew that. He opened his mouth to say, ‘Happy Birthday’ but Tang Yi interrupted him before he could: “And I have a wish.”
It felt like he was finally able to see, as if there had been a veil over his eyes and Tang Yi’s little touch, had lifted it. Shao Fei could see the want in Tang Yi’s eyes, even though his face was as impassive as ever. Had he always wanted Shao Fei that way? The thought made him breathless.
“Okay,” Shao Fei said easily and didn’t hesitate as Tang Yi opened the car door for him.
They ended up in a little apartment. A secret hiding? A safe house? Shao Fei knew that Tang Yi lived in a big mansion on the outskirt of Taipei, but he wouldn’t ask if this was a lover’s nest rented for the purpose of one-night stands.
Was he a one-night stand? Shao Fei didn’t do casual. He had no idea how to be casual.
Shao Fei hovered in the hallway and watched as Tang Yi slipped out of his suit jacket, hanging it, like the neat freak he probably was, on a coat rack. Shao Fei slipped out of his shoes and had the urge to kick them in a corner.
“I didn’t know about this apartment,” he blurred out and thankfully Tang Yi just smiled at him.
“No one besides me knows about it,” he answered and helped Shao Fei out of his jacket.
“Not even Hong Ye?” Shao Fei doubted that those two did anything without informing the other.
Tang Yi laughed soundlessly and tilted his head. It made him look young and mischievous and it threw Shao Fei off a little bit. Sometimes he forgot that Tang Yi was two years younger than him.
They stood close now.
Shao Fei saw how Tang Yi scanned his face with his eyes and even though Shao Fei got into his car and followed him to this apartment he still seemed to think the ball was in Shao Fei’s court.
Was he supposed to say it out loud? That he was ready for whatever they were going to do here? Of course, he wasn’t ready, but he was willing to fake his confidence until he knew how to stop his heart from bursting out of his chest. He bit his lips and his eyes travelled down from Tang Yi’s face to his neck down his chest.
The tie was still around Tang Yi’s collar.
Shao Fei took it and caressed the fabric. It was nice, he had to admit and with his eyes stubbornly on the task at hand, he loosened the knot. It opened quickly and as he pulled the two strands apart his eyes fell to the skin above his fingers, still hidden by the collar of Tang Yi’s shirt. He put one finger against Tang Yi’s neck and smiled helplessly as he felt his racing pulse.
“Happy birthday,” he said and felt a heavy surge of arousal and confidence as he saw and felt Tang Yi swallow. Tang Yi’s pupils were blown wide open when Shao Fei looked back at him.
He grabbed Tang Yi’s face and kissed him.
There was a softness to Tang Yi’s lips he hadn’t expected, and he chased it frantically. Tang Yi’s hands slipped under his shirt and gosh he hadn’t known. Why hadn’t he known?
It was a learning curve to kiss Tang Yi and he hesitantly tried to deepen the kiss, licking at Tang Yi’s upper lip, biting and sucking until Tang Yi moaned and Shao Fei felt his fingers tighten on his skin. This was good, he thought dizzyingly as Tang Yi put kisses on his jawline up to his ear and Shao Fei buried his fingers in Tang Yi’s hair when Tang Yi bit him playful in one earlobe. So good.
And he felt powerful. Not in a way as if he suddenly had the upper hand on Tang Yi, but in a way that made him realize how big his heart could feel. He felt powerful and scared and vulnerable. Tang Yi undressed him and that was another kind of vulnerability. He buried his face in Tang Yi’s neck and tried to hide from his thoughts and Tang Yi’s gaze but that made it impossible for Tang Yi to unbutton his shirt. But maybe Tang Yi knew him better than he had thought because he didn’t try to look at Shao Fei’s face, instead, he hugged him and caressed Shao Fei’s back in long, soothing strokes. From his neck to his tailbone, with pressure, but gentle. Up and down.
Why? Why did he feel so comfortable in the arms of a gangster, someone who was a potential murderer, who had answers to Shao Fei most burning questions? Why was he not running away?
Why – Tang Yi kissed him behind his ear and a full-body shiver ran over Shao Fei. He grabbed Tang Yi’s face again and kissed him deeply. There was a desperation to it he couldn’t stop. He pushed Tang Yi backwards, towards the bed he had seen the moment he had stepped a foot into this tiny apartment. They bounced a little when they fell on the mattress and Shao Fei laughed breathlessly against Tang Yi’s skin. The skin of his neck, soft and addictive and Shao Fei might have touched other people before, but Tang Yi felt so knew as if Shao Fei had unlearned anything from before Tang Yi.
“What do you want?”, he asked while they tried to undress each other. It wasn’t an easy task; mostly because they needed to kiss and caress every bit of skin which got uncovered.
“What do you want?”, Shao Fei asked again and unbend to wriggle out of his jeans. He almost fell off the bed but, in the end, he smiled triumphally and then smiled against Tang Yi’s lips as he pulled him down to him again.
“So much,” Tang Yi answered, and Shao Fei got lost in the expression in his eyes, the naked lust in them and the way his fingers ran through the hair on the back of his head. Tang Yi kissed him, kissed him slowly, kissed him deliberately as if he wanted to make sure Shao Fei was going to remember how it felt to be kissed by him. How could he ever forget? Shao Fei melted against Tang Yi, his body weak and at this moment, he knew that he had been born to be kissed by Tang Yi.
Shao Fei had no clear memory on how they got undressed, where their clothes landed or whose hands opened whose buttons but he remembered the gasp he let out when they embraced each other naked, the way Tang Yi’s skin felt under his hands, silky and smooth.
Tang Yi had found his favourite spot on Shao Fei’s collarbone, nipping and nuzzling at it while their bodies began to get slippery from sweat. A bittersweet ache swept through Shao Fei’s body and when Tang Yi’s clever hands found his dick, he had to take a deep breath because suddenly it all got too overwhelming and he had the feeling he could come on the spot.
“Oh fuck,” he said breathlessly, and Tang Yi smiled against his lips as if he was delighted by Shao Fei’s inability to control himself. Shao Fei held his breathe and wanted to push Tang Yi gently away, but he already rolled to the side and his mind had just stopped spinning when Tang Yi put a bottle of lube into his hands.
“You want to kill me,” he groaned but Tang Yi only smiled at him, a regal smile, an ‘I want you to pleasure me’ smile and leaned back, obviously comfortable in his nakedness and his desire to get Shao Fei’s fingers on him. Shao Fei climbed on top of him to kiss the smug smile from his lips and the lube fell from his hands because kissing Tang Yi was heaty and distracting and good.
He decided then and there that he needed to travel down Tang Yi’s body with his mouth because his fingers weren’t to be trusted for remembering Tang Yi correctly. Tang Yi was encouraging every lick and every bite and every kiss with his fingers in Shao Fei’s hair, caressing or pulling, with the roll of hips against him. He gasped – shocked - when Shao Fei began to tease him with his wet fingers, and it was Shao Fei turn to feel smug that Tang Yi hadn’t been able to keep track of the bottle of lube, but the intimacy took his breathe away, how Tang Yi opened to his fingers, writhing on them and Shao Fei said “Fuck” but what he wanted to say was: ‘If we never going to do this again, I will die.’ Tang Yi arched his body towards him, and Shao Fei was lost in the smell and feel of him. He mouthed along Tang Yi’s hipbone and tried to get a grip on his impatience, he wanted to slow down, but Tang Yi commanded to be faster, or slower or ‘Yes, right there’.
Tang Yi buried his hands in Shao Fei’s hair to pull him up to him and then it was a mess of sorting limbs, the condom wrapper and Tang Yi turned on his side and Shao Fei began to press into him and knew that he hurt Tang Yi with his fingers which dug into his tight and he moaned his pleasure against Tang Yi’s back, helplessly, utterly wrecked.
Then Tang Yi’s hand was on his buttocks and Shao Fei had to press forward and Tang Yi just held him there, and the pressure made Shao Fei see stars. “Fuck”, he whispered and looked up. Tang Yi had bent his head back, the bliss clearly visible on his face and Shao Fei jerked, the upward thrust almost impossible with the way Tang Yi held him still with his hand. He put tiny, little bites along Tang Yi’s neck until he was at his ear and whispered, “let me”.
He loosened Tang Yi’s hold on his butt and Tang Yi’s mouth fell open in a silent moan as Shao Fei started to move in short jerky moves. Tang Yi met him in a slow, deliberate rhythm and when Tang Yi cursed as Shao Fei snaked his hand around his hip to get a hold of his erection Shao Fei laughed, a punched-out breathe of air. He felt flushed and hot and indescribable happy and it was a revelation to see Tang Yi caught in the throats of passion, uninhibited, his moans loud in the room while he moved his body to take what he wanted. Shao Fei held himself still and let Tang Yi use his body, let him move on his dick, let him use his hand to get pleasure at the forward thrust and when Tang Yi moved his head Shao Fei got the note and put his mouth behind Tang Yi’s ear, coaxing husky sounds of pleasure out of him.
It felt incredible and time became a blur, they got lost in the back and forth of their bodies, the slide of Shao Fei inside Tang Yi; sometimes smooth sometimes erratic and when he felt his orgasm approach he hugged Tang Yi tight, his mouth open against his shoulder blade, pushing and pushing and it was still a shock, the wave of pleasure sweeping through his body, the pressure suddenly gone, his body felt numb and alive at the same time, was he shaking? His heart raced and he laughed helplessly and groaned when he felt Tang Yi stiffen and then the warm release of his orgasm on his fingers.
“Happy birthday,” he said, and Tang Yi laughed as he found his hand and squeezed.
Shao Fei woke up to the soft lighting of the dawn. He felt disorientated for a moment, turned around and almost hit Tang Yi in the face… Tang Yi. Shao Fei stared at him for a few seconds.
He looked soft, with his hair falling in his face, his mouth slightly open, while he breathed evenly. Shao Fei wanted to touch him, but he had no idea if the rules had changed, what had changed between them, what was he allowed to do?
He slipped out of bed and found his underwear. His phone was in his jacket and it showed him that he had to go home and change if he wanted to be ready for work on time. Tang Yi was still asleep, sprawling across the bed and Shao Fei had to think about their conversation in the mountains. Was this one of the rare times Tang Yi allowed himself to sleep?
Shao Fei tiptoed around the room and dressed. He suppressed the urge to go back to the bed to look at Tang Yi because he had no idea what to say if he woke up. On his way out of the apartment, he spotted the tie and whatever urge made him pick it up and put it in his pocket he didn’t question it.
Shao Fei stared at the glass of water in his hands and since he had left Tang Yi’s apartment, he wasn’t sure how he should feel. Guilty, indifferent, ecstatic?
The day had passed in a haze of cases, interviews, and paperwork and he had remembered the night with Tang Yi at the weirdest times. It had always been as if time stood still, or maybe more of a slow-motion of the reality around him while he remembered the way Tang Yi’s hair had tickled his face, or the weight of his dick in his hand, the taste of his lips, their fight with the blanket, all tangle up when they had wanted to slip under it to sleep.
His doorbell rang. Shao Fei frowned at the clock. It was past midnight and he couldn’t think of someone who would visit him at this hour… maybe somebody had used the wrong doorbell, but he pressed the intercom button anyway.
Shao Fei felt that his pulse took up speed and he realized how much he had wanted it to be Tang Yi.
“I have to report a robbery. You’re really brazen for a detective to steal from me.” There was a growl in Tang Yi’s voice and Shao Fei smiled.
“Everyone has layers,” he said and pressed the buzzer. He opened the door to listen for Tang Yi’s footsteps on the staircase and felt agitated but in a good way. Were those the famous butterflies doing looping’s in his stomach?
Tang Yi frowned up at him the moment he spotted Shao Fei and Shao Fei knew that he probably shouldn’t smile at that, but he found it sexy.
“Come in,” he said.
Tang Yi’s frown deepened when he saw his tie around Shao Fei’s neck and Shao Fei knew that it must look weird but he hadn’t been able to suppress the urge to wear it after he had found it in his trousers while he had changed for work. He was driven on instinct when Tang Yi was concerned.
Tang Yi slipped out of his shoes and pushed them next to Shao Fei’s as if it was the most natural thing in the world. He glanced around, scanned Shao Fei’s little apartment, but his eyes landed on Shao Fei again quickly, his look intense and dark as he eyed him from head to toes.
I have your fingerprints on my butt, Shao Fei wanted to say and hid his smile behind his hand, masking it as a cough. Tang Yi squinted at him. Maybe he should feel anxiety or embarrassment, but he just wanted to smile.
“Do you want something to drink?”, he asked but Tang Yi shook his head.
“No. I’m here to complain about Taipei’s police force. It’s an abuse of power.”
“Stealing a tie and then wearing it yourself.”
It wasn’t about the tie; Shao Fei knew that. It was probably about the way Shao Fei had disappeared in the morning, without a word. But as a defence: Shao Fei had no idea how to act around a one-nightstand. What were the rules? Should he have left a note?
He had a decision to make, he realized. Like he had done when he went into Tang Yi’s car. And like then it was a one-time offer. Yes or no.
The water spilt out of the glass when he put it on the kitchen table, but he didn’t care.
He spread his arms and said: “You’re more than welcome to get the tie back.”
Tang Yi began to smile.