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between you and me

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Shao Fei doesn’t think he’s been surrounded by this many people in his life ever since Ah Ma and Ah Gong died. When his parents left him in that diving accident when he was seven, it was his grandparents who took him in, who made sure that he was never left wanting for anything he needed. They weren’t the most wealthy of people, but Shao Fei remembers being loved throughout his years in elementary and middle school.

 

Then Ah Ma got sick, and passed away in his last year of middle school. Ah Gong followed her two years later, never having quite gotten over Ah Ma leaving before him.

 

He fended for himself after and got used to it - got used to not having anyone waiting for him at home with a meal, to having to take care of himself when he got sick because no one was going to nurse him back to health, and he spent many important festivals and days on his own. Chinese New Year, his birthday, Christmas, New Year…

 

It would be a lie to say he wasn’t lonely, or that he didn’t spend some nights in bed sniffling alone under the covers, missing his grandparents and parents so much it hurt.

 

Still, Grandma and Grandpa Meng raised no weakass kid. So Shao Fei got by, and when he entered the police academy he found a kindred spirit in Zhao Zi. From then on, Shao Fei had someone else in his life. At the very least, the both of them could now spend holidays together and even their birthdays, whenever they remembered. And when they actually began to work in Team Three for real, they had Li Zhen Jie and Boss, who acted as pseudo mom and dad to most of the team.

 

Now both Li Zhen Jie and Boss aren’t around anymore, but Shao Fei still has Zhao Zi. Most importantly, he now has Tang Yi.

 

Tang Yi. His boyfriend- no, his fiancé.

 

Aside from Tang Yi, there’s Zhao Zi’s scary ex-mercenary of a boyfriend-turned-house-husband of sorts, Tang Yi’s ridiculous sister, that sister’s fiancé, and some of Tang Yi’s friends, too. Suddenly, he has people in his house for meals again, even if it doesn’t happen everyday. He has people to spend holidays and festivities with, and while his birthday this year was missing Tang Yi, Jack did bake a cake that looked like Tang Yi, and Hong Ye started that food fight after half the cake was eaten.

 

Sometimes, Shao Fei can still smell the whipped cream from that day in the house. Only the lord knows how huge a mess they got into that evening.

 

In any case, Shao Fei has a family again, and family means that they all take good care of each other, because they’ve been taking really, really good care of him.

 

Shao Fei isn’t used to having so many people to take care of, but he tries his best.

 

===

 

Jack & Zhao Zi

 

“Ah Fei, I think… do you think…” Zhao Zi says out of the blue one day during lunch.

 

Shao Fei looks up, the noodles he was slurping at earlier falling from his mouth as he stares at his best friend and partner. A brief glance at Zhao Zi’s troubled face and his untouched beef noodles has Shao Fei pausing as a million possibilities run through his head.

 

“Are the beef noodles no good?” Shao Fei asks, putting down his chopsticks and wiping at his mouth. He picks up the mug of green tea sitting to the right of his elbow on the table and continues, “They were your favourite from back in school . It’s still pretty good… just as I remember it.”

 

Zhao Zi shakes his head, sighing. “Ah Fei… do you think Jack is cheating on me?”

 

He regrets drinking immediately because Shao Fei chokes on the hot tea, turning to the side immediately to spit it out and cough, beating at his chest.

 

“What?” Shao Fei asks, his eyes wide, the moment he regains his composure.

 

Zhao Zi, the asshole, doesn’t even bother to check if he’s dying from choking, so wrapped up in his thoughts of Jack apparently cheating on him.

 

He sighs again, supporting his chin with one hand as he looks away. “It’s just, Jack’s been coming home late recently, and when I ask him where he goes, he doesn’t even say! He even missed opening his food cart yesterday! I waited for him, and I was so worried when I couldn’t reach him on the phone, and then he returned home so late last night too. No explanation as to where he disappeared to.”

 

“Does he not want me anymore?” Zhao Zi asks finally with wide eyes, his bottom lip quivering.

 

Judging at the way Jack only a few days ago broke a perp’s wrist for daring to lay his hand on Zhao Zi’s ass and making a quip about how Zhao Zi looked delicious enough to eat, Shao Fei can and will bet his entire fortune that what Zhao Zi is thinking of is not it.

 

Still, his best friend looks the most distraught and worried Shao Fei has ever seen him. Shao Fei doesn’t think Zhao Zi would be this panicked and depressed even if Shao Fei got kidnapped. He’s speaking from experience, unfortunately.

 

“I’m very sure that’s impossible,” Shao Fei says, rolling his eyes. “Zhao Zi, the man broke that perp’s wrist just for touching your ass, and Jack’s hand was on his knife the very next second. If Yu Qi hadn’t stepped in knowing what he was going to do, he would’ve probably cut off the guy’s hand. That doesn’t sound like a man who doesn’t want you. He’s probably… just busy, or something.”

 

“Is he doing something dangerous again?” Zhao Zi asks next. “Why doesn’t he want to share it with me? Why is he keeping secrets from me? Ah Fei, is it because he doesn’t find me attractive anymore? We haven’t even gone to… bed together… the past few days.”

 

Shao Fei is very glad he isn’t drinking, because he would’ve choked again, and then who would lead Team Three if he dies? He shudders at the thought of leaving the team to Zhao Zi.

 

He comforts Zhao Zi as much as he can for someone who actually has no clue as to what’s going on in their relationship. If Shao Fei quietly pushes more glasses of alcohol to Zhao Zi so the man can drown his sorrows and finally just pass out so Shao Fei doesn’t have to listen to any more details of his and Jack’s sordid sex life, then no one but himself is any the wiser.

 

When Shao Fei calls Jack to come pick his boyfriend up, the ex-mercenary doesn’t pick up. Not on the first try, or the second, or third.

 

Huh, he thinks, staring at his phone screen with a frown.

 

Jack is nowhere to be found hours later, when Shao Fei finally deposits an unconscious Zhao Zi on his bed. While he thinks Zhao Zi is worrying unnecessarily, he does have to admit that this is very uncharacteristic of Jack.

 

Since the both of them began to live together, Shao Fei doesn’t think he’s seen Jack too far apart from Zhao Zi. Even during work hours, Jack would turn up at lunch time with his food cart and feed them all (mostly Zhao Zi, but since the rest of them are all paying, Jack might as well feed them too).

 

It is after tucking Zhao Zi snugly under the covers that Shao Fei realizes something is amiss. Call it a police officer’s intuition, or maybe it was the silence that got to him, but it takes him only a few seconds to realize that something isn’t quite right.

 

Shao Fei switches off the lights, plunging the room into darkness. One more glance at Zhao Zi tells him that his partner isn’t going to be of much help, as drunk as the man is. In the dark, Shao Fei moves out of the bedroom and the door closes shut softly behind him.

 

He sees their shadows from the streetlamp outside, even if the entire house is shrouded in darkness. When the first one breaks through the door, Shao Fei is ready. He makes quick work of the first intruder’s gun, disarming him before slamming his elbow into the man’s face. Shao Fei’s reflexes quickly take over, and while he is no ex-mercenary or assassin or any of that nonsense, he is trained to take down perps effectively.

 

By the time he gets through three of them, Shao Fei is ready to deal with the fourth leaping in through the window, and has his own gun in his hands the next second.

 

The familiar sheen of bright red hair stops him from yelling at the supposed fourth intruder, but Shao Fei tenses as the other man raises his own gun at him as well.

 

After a stressful moment, he speaks, “What the hell are you doing here?”

 

“I should be asking you that!” Shao Fei exclaims all the same, then glances at the men littered on the ground. “Are you actually in trouble like Zhao Zi said?”

 

At that, Shao Fei leans over and slams his hand into the light switch. The first floor is flooded with light the next second.

 

Jack has a split lip and a bruised cheek from what Shao Fei can see. His usual leather jacket is dusty, while his jeans are ripped on the right knee. More than that, Jack actually has a gun. Of course Jack does, just like how the Xing Tian Meng brothers and Dao Yi-ge don’t have their guns anymore, but this is the first time in a long while Shao Fei has seen Jack with an actual gun in his hands.

 

Shao Fei can feel the headache coming on.

 

Seeing that all the intruders are incapacitated, Jack sighs, lowering his gun down. “Where’s Zhao Zi?”

 

“I can’t believe you still have the cheek to ask. Do you know he’s been drinking for a whole two hours telling me how his boyfriend doesn’t want him anymore- you know what? You better have a really good explanation for this. Zhao Zi’s been going into detail about you and your pecs and your chest and how you don’t want him anymore and I did not need any of those details!”

 

Jack pales a little at Shao Fei’s exasperated lecture.

 

“Some trouble from the past caught up with me,” Jack finally explains, looking more tired than Shao Fei has ever seen him. “I’ve been cleaning house, so to speak. I was going to do that before they actually found out where I was living, but it seems I was a step too late. Don’t tell Zhao Zi. He’s going to worry-“

 

“You think?” Shao Fei snorts, incredulous. “You’ve got a split lip and a bruise on your cheek. Zhao Zi’s not an idiot, he’s going to know if you say you knocked into something. Just tell him the truth, geez. If this is going to be happening often, Zhao Zi is better off knowing there’s a possibility of a threat. Did you forget that he’s actually a police officer? Don’t insult him by trying to lie to him.”

 

Because if Zhao Zi really gets pissed off then he’s going to turn up at my house with his bags and sulk for at least a week, Shao Fei thinks.

 

They stare at each other for a moment.

 

“I should call it in,” Shao Fei says, just as Jack comments, “You should probably call it in.”

 

Jun Wei turns up 15 minutes later with Yu Qi and one of the rookies, Xiao Fan. As both Shao Fei and Jun Wei put the seven intruders (Jack took out four earlier before they even hit the front yard) into three police cars, including Shao Fei’s, Yu Qi definitely looks exasperated as she briefly takes Jack’s statement.

 

She should probably be less comfortable with an ex-mercenary who can slit her throat easily before she even blinks, but Yu Qi has seen the man spoon-feeding Zhao Zi. Ex-mercenary her ass. The man is so whipped for Zhao Zi, and once Zhao Zi finds out what happened tonight, Jack’s going to be grovelling his way back into Zhao Zi’s good graces.

 

None of them envy Jack, or Zhao Zi, for that matter.

 

Just as they’re all about to leave, heavy footsteps echo down the stairs. Two seconds later, a bleary-eyed Zhao Zi appears at the door, all sleep-ruffled and confused.

 

“Jack?” he asks, before his brain finally processes the presence of three full police cars, half his team, and worse, an injured Jack.

 

“And…. we’ll settle the rest of them,” Shao Fei says in a hurry. “Swing by the station for a full statement tomorrow first thing in the morning.”

 

The four of them flee as if they are facing a soon-to-explode nuclear bomb.

 

Back at the station, Shao Fei works efficiently during the interrogation, and in the next few hours, the rest of Team Three pull overtime to grab the partners of the men they just caught. Shao Fei figures that he might as well save Jack some trouble and continue to keep Zhao Zi happy.

 

The next day, Zhao Zi turns up at work too cheerful, and Shao Fei snorts when he sees the red spot peeking out from under Zhao ZI’s collar.

 

“I see someone has been properly assured of their relationship,” he comments nonetheless.

 

“Ah Fei! Jack told me what happened yesterday. Thanks for helping him out,” Zhao Zi grins, like the lovesick fool he is. “And I scolded him for not telling me that he was in trouble, but he promised me he’ll never hide it from me again! Ah Fei, you’re the best-”

 

“Yeah, remember that the next time I get kidnapped,” Shao Fei mumbles, more to himself than anything.

 

As Zhao Zi continues recounting the conversation he had with Jack last night, Shao Fei relaxes, glad that everything is right with his best friend and his beau again.

 

===

 

Hong Ye & Dao Yi

 

As a bullet flies over, striking the table he’s hiding behind, Shao Fei wonders if it’s too late to change his mind about his newfound family of sorts.

 

“Who did you offend this time?!” he yells over the noise.

 

Hong Ye, who was just minutes ago trying on her fifth wedding dress and is now crouched behind a pillar with Dao Yi covering her with his body, scowls at him.

 

“Why do you always assume that it’s my fault?!”

 

“Because when you’re involved, the chances of you having pissed someone off is actually at 95 percent!” Shao Fei shouts back, sliding his gun from his holster.

 

Just three hours earlier, Shao Fei found himself rudely awakened with the covers vanishing away from over him, leaving him to shiver in the cold of the winter season in Taipei. Even before opening his eyes Shao Fei already knew who it was. Only one person in the Tang family would be this rude to him.

 

“Meng Shao Fei! Wake up!”

 

The earthquake continued.

 

“I cannot believe you, did you forget what you promised me last week? So I see my brother has picked a liar for his boyfriend? Get up! It’s such an important day today-“

 

Amidst the bed shaking as someone attacked him with a pillow, Shao Fei blearily peered at the clock on his bedside table, and groaned as he saw that it was only seven in the morning.

 

“Hong Ye,” he mumbled, glaring at the woman who’s kneeling on his bed with a pillow in her hands. “I didn’t forget. Your appointment is at 2pm. Give me my blankets back, I had a late night yesterday and I can at least sleep for another three hours.”

 

Hong Ye huffed, then poked at his arm. “Don’t you dare go back to sleep. You need to wake up now, so you can freshen up and look presentable. There’s a cake tasting at 9.30am, and you have to come with me too.”

 

“Since when?” Shao Fei asked, and that got him up, sitting and frowning. “You only said wedding dress try-ons last week!”

 

“Yes,” Hong Ye rolled her eyes, exasperated. “But you were the one who said you had the whole day free today and would accompany for as long as I want!”

 

“For the wedding dress! I’m not interested in the cakes or anything-“

 

“You’re already awake. Might as well get up and start your day. And after you test everything out you have to help me ask Ah Yi, so you have to be there!”

 

As Shao Fei was once again dragged to and pushed into the bathroom, he wondered how this was his life now. Hong Ye had a really bad habit of barging into his room in the early hours of the morning demanding he go have breakfast with her, or to look at her try on some clothes as they shopped at every floor of a new department store each month.

 

A few weeks back, Shao Fei woke to sniffles and nearly shocked himself into cardiac arrest when he opened his eyes to see Hong Ye seated behind the table in the room, staring into space as she tried not to cry after an argument with Dao Yi, something that Shao Fei only found out later.

 

So nearly six hours later, they finally arrived at some fancy wedding dress store on Zhongxiao Dunhua street. Hong Ye, as always, was quick to pick some that she liked and begin her try-ons. Shao Fei liked all of the dresses so far, but Hong Ye was determined to find the perfect one.

 

Sitting right next to him, Dao Yi-ge only had an expression of bliss on his face, his eyes softening every time Hong Ye left the fitting room to show off the next dress.

 

Nauseating, the both of them.

 

It was through dress number five that Shao Fei saw something amiss in the mirrors surrounding the fitting room that were facing him.

 

“Dao Yi-ge, is that…”

 

There was no time to think or hesitate, and Dao Yi dove for Hong Ye as Shao Fei grabbed at the shop assistant standing next to him.

 

“Get down!”

 

So here they are, dealing with approximately five gunmen and two others holding just bats in their hands as they make their way through the store. Shao Fei peeks over the top of the table they are hiding under to confirm what he saw earlier, before ducking back down just as another bullet hits the couch next to him.

 

Quickly, Shao Fei calls for backup on his phone, and watches as Dao Yi-ge pulls his own gun out from the back of his pants. With wide eyes, Shao Fei stares.

 

“I thought you guys surrendered everything to the police!”

 

“Is this really the time to ask about that?” Hong Ye shouts, before screaming again as a bullet hits the pillar on her left.

 

Dao Yi looks at him, and Shao Fei exhales sharply, knowing what the man is about to do.

 

Why did he decide to date a mob leader? Why exactly? Couldn’t Tang Yi have been a baker? An accountant? A lawyer? Shao Fei would even take a noodle shop owner, or a chef. At the very least, Shao Fei is sure the number of shootouts he could potentially be involved in would decline significantly.

 

“Zuo Hong Ye!” one of the bellows from the store’s entrance. “Guo-zong sends his greetings!”

 

Hong Ye and Shao Fei’s gazes meet, and she looks entirely innocent as she shrugs, “How would I have known that he was going to take the rejection to a merger this hard?”

 

“Dumbass,” mumbles Shao Fei, because now he knows where to look and who the hell to arrest. “Are gangsters getting dumber nowadays? You don’t announce your employer’s name to everyone, damn it.”

 

At that, Dao Yi springs out from this hiding spot to tackle the tallest and largest assailant of them all, and Shao Fei straightens immediately to cover him.

 

“Dao Yi, get him!” Hong Ye shouts.

 

Shao Fei takes down the two closest to Dao Yi and his two chosen opponents with precise shots, before sliding across the floor to shield Hong Ye with his own body while Dao Yi is otherwise occupied.

 

The expression on the man’s face is anything but friendly, and Shao Fei wonders just what kind of gangster he’d been when he was younger. Hong Ye told him some stories, but it’s hard to imagine the cool, calm and gentle Dao Yi who personally feeds Hong Ye ice-cream whenever she gets angry, as a person who gets into fights.

 

Well, Shao Fei doesn’t have to imagine any longer —  both he and Hong Ye wince as a punch collides with a nose, and they hear the distinct crack of bone.

 

“Dao Yi-ge, careful!” Shao Fei shouts then, and then he jumps out of his crouch to dive at the fifth guy originally heading for Dao Yi.

 

Two punches knock the man out cold, and both Shao Fei and Dao Yi look up as Hong Ye screams again. They both turn, their limbs growing cold as they hear a crash and are prepared to rush back to Hong Ye when they see her standing over a groaning man on the ground with the remnants of a broken vase in her hands.

 

“Huh,” Shao Fei blinks.

 

Relief floods him, but at the same time, seeing the men actually go for Hong Ye makes him furious.

 

A figure darts past them, but Shao Fei is faster as he leaps to his feet and grabs the last assailant’s arm before he even takes two complete steps. With one smooth move, the last man flips over Shao Fei’s shoulder and lands hard on the hood of a car on the curb.

 

“Are you guys kidding me? It’s broad daylight in a popular shopping district and you guys turn up with guns to kill someone?! Do you know how many people could’ve been hurt?” Shao Fei says through gritted teeth, slamming the guy against the car window once he slid from the hood to the ground, back on his feet.

 

They have good timing, for he hears the unmistakable blares of the police siren the moment he stops talking.

 

“Who the hell hired you to take out my sister?” Shao Fei snarls.

 

He doesn’t see it, but Hong Ye looks up at Shao Fei when he says that.

 

“Are you stupid? Xing Tian Meng might have reformed but did you think you could come in and have any chance to hurt her? And bringing guns and bats with you, what do you think this is? Some bad 80s gangster movie? How did you guys even intend on getting away after this? There are surveillance cameras in this store and on the two street lamps opposite, are you looking down on the police?!”

 

Shao Fei is still angrily lecturing the assailant when Team Three and two patrolling units nearby turn up. He’s huffing and puffing, and even Jun Wei doesn’t dare to interrupt when he gets all righteous and angry like this. The police officers round up the seven men, and get ready to go back to the police station.

 

He’s seething with anger, wondering just how much paperwork he has to do and how he has to explain this Chief Ma. More importantly, it’s going to be a pain in the ass to reassure Chief Ma that no, Xing Tian Meng and Shi Hai Corporations are legal, that Hong Ye and Tang Yi aren’t secretly trying to rule the underworld again. After that, they have to tabulate the damages to the store, put out some statement to the media because this happened very publicly and all in all, Shao Fei is not looking forward to the rest of his day.

 

“Hong Ye,” Shao Fei says, turning to glare at her. “Are you hurt?”

 

“I’m good,” Hong Ye replies with a confused look. “I- I’m not that weak, okay? I grew up in a gangster family, I can at least take care of myself when someone is coming straight at me.”

 

There are a lot of things Shao Fei can say in retort, but he takes a deep breath to rein it all in. After all, he does remember the first time the both of them were in a situation like this together, and how scared she’d been.

 

“Okay,” he forces himself to say instead. “If the dresses survived the gunfire earlier, dress number two looks great on you.”

 

The ensuing silence is deafening.

 

“What-“

 

“Great,” Shao Fei cuts Hong Ye off and walks in the direction of his own car without waiting for her to respond. “I’m going back to the station first to deal with the mess. Zhao Zi and Yu Qi will take your statement so I know exactly why the assholes are after you.”

 

One of the patrol units are staying behind to cordon off the store and ensure that the surroundings are clear, while Zhao Zi and Yu Qi do as Shao Fei says. Shao Fei drives off after one last look at the rearview mirror to ensure that Hong Ye and Dao Yi are still okay.

 

As he expected, dealing with the case takes a gruelling 20 hours. Interrogating the seven men, tracing them back to their employers and also matching their statements to Hong Ye and Dao Yi’s statements. And also as he expected, Shao Fei spends two hours trying to convince Chief Ma that nothing underhanded is going on, that this is entirely the fault of a jealous business competitor who apparently resorts first to hiring dumb gangsters for a shootout rather than negotiate like a regular businessman does.

 

By the time he reaches home early in the morning the next day, Shao Fei is ready to crash. He’s really hungry too, but his need for a shower and his bed is way greater than the need to sate his hunger.

 

Shao Fei lets the door lock behind him and tosses his keys in the bowl on the cabinet to his right. Yawning loudly, he makes a beeline for the stairs.

 

“Hey! You’re back. I made breakfast,” comes a familiar voice.

 

Shao Fei turns around to see Hong Ye seated at the dining table, with covered plates laid out on the glass surface. She looks a little apprehensive and hesitant, but she’s there, waiting for him.

 

“Uhh… Dao Yi made it. Your favourite scrambled eggs and porridge,” she continues.

 

Sighing softly, Shao Fei feels every ache in his muscles, but…

 

“For a moment I was ready to reject your breakfast because you said you made it,” he comments.

 

As he turns away from the stairs, something white and sparkly catches his eye.

 

It’s dress number two, the one that Shao Fei thought she looked really nice in.

 

Shao Fei moves to sit opposite her and lets her rip off the cling wrap over the plates for him, and scoop out a bowl of his favourite fish porridge. As he begins to eat almost ravenously, Shao Fei snatches a look at Hong Ye, before smiling to himself.

 

She’s smiling a little at him too, and they complete the meal in companionable silence.

 

===

 

Andy & His Boyfriend

 

“Who the hell is ringing the doorbell at this hour,” mumbles Shao Fei with his face hidden into the pillow.

 

He hopes the noise will go away and whoever is at the door will just disappear, but the ringing persists. Irritated and a little angry, Shao Fei sits up at the five minute mark, and is forced out of bed.

 

Wrapping a bedrobe around himself as he trudges downstairs with the darkest scowl on his face, Shao Fei’s ready to yell at the lunatic at his door at 3.27am in the morning, in the middle of one of Taipei’s monsoon season storms.

 

Only to stop when he pulls the door back to find Andy, of all people, standing there.

 

He’s entirely drenched from head to toe, wearing a half see-through shirt, with his arms hugging around himself tight as he shivers on Shao Fei’s doorsteps. And the worst part is that Andy has a small luggage with him.

 

“What the hell-“ Shao Fei says, his eyes wide.

 

“I’ve got nowhere else to go,” Andy says. “Can I come in?”

 

Half an hour later, with Andy out of the storm and fresh out of a hot, hot shower as well, Shao Fei passes him a hair dryer and a mug of hot honey lemon tea in the guest room on the first floor. The man hasn’t spoken since entering the house, and he looks like someone murdered his dog.

 

Shao Fei looks at the clock, and sighs to himself. This really isn’t the hour for this, and he still has work tomorrow morning.

 

“What happened?” Shao Fei asks hesitantly, not sure if he should. “You said you had nowhere else to go?”

 

Andy suddenly thrusts the hair dryer in Shao Fei’s face, and the police captain is not proud to say he actually startles at the movement.

 

When the man doesn’t say anything else but continues to nudge the appliance towards him, Shao Fei scoffs, “What, now I have to blow dry your hair for you? You can do it yourself. Wait, did Tang Yi do this for you before?”

 

“I can’t dry my hair and drink at the same time right,” Andy mumbles, looking to the side. “And I won’t tell you, what are you going to do about that?”

 

“You-“

 

He breathes in deep, once, then lets it out. Fine, Shao Fei thinks. The sooner he finishes this, the sooner he can go to sleep because he has to get to the station early tomorrow.

 

It’s halfway through drying Andy’s hair, a little haphazardly, when the man talks.

 

“I broke up with Ah Hui,” he says.

 

Shao Fei switches the hair-dryer off, staring at the back of Andy’s head in incredulity, sure that he’d heard wrong. “What?”

 

“Ah Hui’s been working for the past three months in Guangzhou on an assignment,” sniffs Andy as he sips at the drink. “I thought I’d go surprise him after so many months apart, and my birthday is coming up too, so I… bought a plane ticket without telling him and turned up at the apartment he was staying at.”

 

Shao Fei resumes his previous ministrations, but with the hair dryer turned on low so he can still hear Andy talk.

 

“He told me he was home when I checked with him after arriving at the airport, so I went there. And then I rang the doorbell a few times, but he didn’t come to the door, so I tried the knob, and it was unlocked.”

 

“Ah…” Shao Fei grimaces, almost able to see what happened next like watching an imminent train wreck, “What… happened then?”

 

Andy’s hands tightens imperceptibly around the cup and his eyes sharpen as he recalls what he saw.

 

“I open the door, and there that asshole is on the couch, kissing some other young guy!”

 

“What, and then you… fled the scene? And came here straight from the airport?”

 

Andy twists his neck to glare at Shao Fei, “I did come here straight from the airport, but do I look like the kind of person who’s just going to go without a fight?”

 

He snorts, “I pulled at the vixen’s hair and removed him from Ah Hui. And then I told Ah Hui that we are over, and if he knows what’s good for him he will never show his face in front of me again.”

 

“I thought he was the one.”

 

Shao Fei isn’t sure how to respond. Once again, he’s shite at dealing with these kind of situations. He doesn’t know Andy very well, and Ah Hui he’s seen only the few times Andy brought him along as a plus-one to group dinners. He does remember Tang Yi mentioning that Ah Hui is one of his most trusted friends, though.

 

“I’m… sorry that happened and that you saw that,” Shao Fei comments awkwardly, scratching at the back of his head. “Look, you can stay for as long as you want. We’ll… figure this out tomorrow? You should rest early.”

 

“You’re right,” sighs Andy. “Staying up all night will not change the fact that we’re done.”

 

“I- Yeah, rest early, okay?”

 

Shao Fei retreats, glad to head back to bed because it’s too damn early for this, and maybe after Andy sleeps, Shao Fei can fire a text off to Zhao Zi and Yu Qi to ask what the hell he should do in cases like these.

 

He pauses in his footsteps suddenly on his way up the stairs, and something crashes into his back.

 

“Ouch! Why did you stop walking for?”

 

Shao Fei frowns at Andy, who has apparently been following him.

 

“What are you doing?”

 

“Going to bed!”

 

“Your bed,” Shao Fei enunciates and points downstairs, “is downstairs. What are you following me up here for?”

 

Andy blinks, then shrugs, “I can’t sleep alone. Whenever I slept over here Tang Yi and I would share a room, he knows I’m scared of the dark.”

 

“Wh-“ Shao Fei tries to breathe, “What do you mean you and Tang Yi shared a room?!!”

 

The man rolls his eyes. “Relax, we slept on separate beds, geez. I’ve never liked Tang Yi like that. Sure, he’s hot, and I’d probably kill for him because that’s what loyal friends do, but my type is the type Ah Hui is.”

 

Then Andy frowns at the mention of his ex-boyfriend. “Well, or at least it used to be.”

 

It is too damn early for this! Shao Fei can feel a headache coming on, and honestly he needs to be at work early tomorrow with maximum focus because there’s a huge inter-department meeting at 8am, and he can’t afford to fuck up.

 

“There’s only one bed,” he points out. “There’s nowhere for you to sleep.”

 

“The bed is big and Ah Yi isn’t around.”

 

“I’m not sharing the bed with you-“

 

They end up scuffling all the way into Tang Yi’s room, now Shao Fei’s, and it ends with Shao Fei cursing and swearing at Andy in his head as he tries to fall asleep on the ground with only one pillow and blanket to spare, because he’s definitely not going to sleep in the same bed as Andy. One of these days he’s going to set fire to Andy’s favourite mesh shirts just for payback.

 

It takes him a long time to fall asleep, because Andy obviously hasn’t fallen asleep, instead making noise every time he turns over.

 

Shao Fei barely gets two hours in before having to get up at six, and glaring at the finally-asleep figure under the covers, he really hopes Andy and Ah Hui get to the bottom of this, because he’s not sure how long he can stand this arrangement.

 

The sky is still dark when he’s ready, and careful not to wake Andy because he’s considerate like that, Shao Fei heads downstairs, ready to depart for work. Only when he gets to the door, the police captain finds himself squinting at the door, doubting his eyes for a second.

 

When his brain finally catches up with him, Shao Fei presses his face into his hands. Of all days, this drama has to happen on the morning he’s due for what is probably the most important meeting of the year.

 

“What’re you doing here?” Shao Fei asks, pulling the door open.

 

Ah Hui stands outside, looking a little stricken, and like he hasn’t slept in the past week.

 

“Is he here?”

 

Shao Fei leans against the door, and considers the man. “I’m kind of obligated to say no.”

 

“I swear it’s not what he thinks,” Ah Hui breathes, running a hand through his hair. “I know what he saw, but I swear to god it isn’t what he thinks it is.”

 

“Then what was it?”

 

Even though Shao Fei doesn’t think it’s his place to pry, he just spent the better part of the night dealing with Andy, and he’s both tired and cranky. Crossing his arms, he continues, “Because from what I heard, it’s a little hard to explain it. You better have a good story, otherwise you’re not getting in.”

 

“I swear there’s nothing going on between that guy and I. I had no idea that he liked me, and I left some important folders in the office leaving that evening, and he brought it by my house. It was raining and I went inside to get a towel for him. He was in the midst of confessing when Andy turned up, and I was also in the middle of pushing him off me. I feel nothing for him! If I have to quit my job and come back to convince him, I’ll do it.”

 

Shao Fei squints at Ah Hui for a few awkward seconds, to which Ah Hui adds, “I’ll quit today. My job and career isn’t as important as Andy is. I would drop all of it in a heartbeat. I’m sorry I got myself into that situation, but how was I to know that he likes me? I haven’t spoken more than… maybe five times to the guy, and I’ve only ever seen him in the office! All my colleagues can vouch for me.”

 

Hmm, Shao Fei thinks. It’s quite convincing, and the man really looks like a wreck. He doesn’t have naturally devilish good looks like that vixen upstairs has, so it’s hard for Shao Fei to even look at him.

 

“He’s upstairs,” Shao Fei sighs finally, stepping aside. “You’re going to have to do some grovelling.”

 

“I will,” Ah Hui promises, thankful, “I will do whatever it takes-“

 

“Just…” Shao Fei shakes his head, stepping out, “Don’t do anything on my bed, you got that? I swear, nothing funny. Grab him and go home! I can’t stand his moping face any longer. Fix it!”

 

It’s a miracle he gets to work on time with two minutes to spare.

 

When he gets home, Shao Fei notes the lack of Andy and his things with satisfaction, happy that everything is settled and that he's getting his bed back tonight. Rooming with Andy is something he never wants to do again.

 

As he passes the bed, Shao Fei pauses.

 

The sheets have been changed. He’s very sure the sheets were gray this morning, and they’re now a navy blue. Why would they have changed the damn sheets-

 

“That Andy I’m going to kill him-“ he yells, digging around his pockets for his phone.

 

===

 

Jin Tang & His Xiao Shu Gong

 

Andy looks up as he descends down the stairs that lead to the man’s new club, Double X, and immediately gestures to the guy seated at the counter. It’s a very drunk and dazed Jiang Jin Tang, who’s mumbling and generally making a nuisance of himself.

 

As Jin Tang picks up the almost empty whiskey bottle again, Shao Fei reaches him, and puts out a hand to take the bottle away.

 

“You’ve had enough,” he says, passing the bottle to Andy.

 

Jin Tang peers up, his lips pressed out like a duck’s beak, and squints. “What- What’re you… doing here?!”

 

“Andy called me,” Shao Fei sits down next to the doctor. “Let’s get you home.”

 

“I’m not going anywhere!”

 

“How much has he had to drink?” frowns Shao Fei, trying to avoid Jin Tang’s flailing arms.

 

“Three bottles before you turned up. This is the fourth,” Andy waves the half empty bottle in front of him. “I kept his phone from him, in case he does anything stupid like call his Xiao Shu Gong.

 

Shao Fei frowns, taking the phone from Andy. The screen lights up, revealing 34 missed calls from Jiang Zhao Peng. He feels the urge to bury his face in his hands. It’s a feeling that’s becoming increasing familiar to him, dealing with this bunch.

 

“Has anyone talked to him yet-” he sighs, just before Jin Tang knocks his head against Shao Fei’s hipbone, and the both of them yelp out in pain.

 

Andy stares at them, not quite amused, but he doesn’t do anything to help at all, the asshole.

 

“I’ll call Jack,” he says instead, leaning over the counter. “I’ve found some things that could be helpful for him, but we’ll probably need Jack to go take a look before the whole thing can be handed to the police.”

 

“Who the hell did he piss off?” Shao Fei asks, pulling an inebriated Jin Tang up to his feet.

 

“Someone with a lot of money, obviously,” Andy scoffs. “Don’t worry about it, just send him home please. You settled things at the hospital?

 

Shao Fei eyes Andy with a warning look, “Of course I did. When you ask me not to worry about it, you mean…”

 

“Nothing too illegal,” the man smiles innocently. “I promise.”

 

“I don’t want to hear a word about it,” Shao Fei mumbles, then pulls Jin Tang’s arm over his shoulders none too gently because the man is still flailing about, more likely to hurt himself than anyone else.

 

He’s still not used to the way Andy, Jack, and even Hong Ye, do things. Although they’re more or less reformed gang members in a sense, there are some things that can be more easily done by going under the table. It hurts Shao Fei’s principles because of the way he’s been trained, but after meeting Tang Yi, he knows that some things aren’t so clear cut.

 

And the rest of them know him well enough to know what he disapproves of as a police officer, so Shao Fei can only trust that they know where to draw the line.

 

Jin Tang lives in an expensive penthouse suite downtown, and it’s a very nice place that Shao Fei has been to only once. It’s easy enough to fish the man’s building key card out of his pockets and then it’s a matter of pressing Jin Tang’s thumb to the fingerprint scanner at the door.

 

Shao Fei dumps Jin Tang onto the living room couch, shaking his head.

 

“I want… want… water!” the doctor sulks face down in the couch.

 

He grabs a glass of water for the man, before returning to the living room, and settling down on the couch next to Jin Tang.

 

“Jack, Andy and I will figure it out,” Shao Fei says, unused to seeing the man this depressed. “Just sit tight and stop creating trouble.”

 

Jin Tang sits up suddenly, glaring at Shao Fei with glassy eyes. “You try getting accused of malpractice over six patients and see if you can sit tight!”

 

Then he flops over with a burp, “Argh… I don’t feel so good…”

 

In a rare turn of events, Shao Fei had to visit Jin Tang’s hospital not because he had an injury, but because he was called there. When he arrived, there was already a mob of angry parents and relatives protesting outside of the hospital, and Shao Fei was honestly just confused. Normally, these types of cases are not in his jurisdiction, but Team Seven who are in charge of that were swamped with a large case, and Shao Fei was in the vicinity when the call came in.

 

Shao Fei never thought he would have to handcuff Jiang Jin Tang, and it’s an experience he’s keen to not repeat.

 

The three nurses that accompanied him on all six cases are standing against Jin Tang, however, which makes the whole case even more complex. Shao Fei doesn't even have to think about it - Jin Tang is annoying but exceedingly competent, it’s hard to imagine that the man would experiment on his patients, testing out new equipment and medicine before they even hit the market as he’s been accused of.

 

Besides, the man runs a mob hospital, and he’s no dumbass. If he really was to do that, Shao Fei is a little reluctant to say that the man knows how to cover his tracks properly.

 

Not to mention how strange the whole case is — how did a mob of protestors turn up even before the police got there? Shao Fei rushed over as soon as he received the call, and, he was there for fifteen minutes at most, with Zhao Zi and Jun Wei turning up five minutes after he arrived.

 

There were only the six patients’ families yelling outside Jin Tang’s office and none of them were exactly putting up their phones to record the confrontation. And by the time they took Jin Tang back to the station, online news media were already reporting on how a predatory doctor took advantage of his vulnerable patients for fame.

 

Not even the paparazzi are that efficient.

 

Once the news hit the internet, Hong Ye called him. Good timing too, because Shao Fei was still contemplating a few options for Jin Tang.

 

“I’ll talk to Andy and you talk to Jack,” she said simply. “And make sure he doesn’t do anything stupid. I’m also sending a lawyer.”

 

“What about on the hospital’s side?” Shao Fei asked.

 

“I’ll contact his secretary separately.”

 

The lawyer turned up in 20 minutes, and Jin Tang was out on bail in twelve hours. In between, Shao Fei had to deal with two interrogations for their own cases, and by the time he was out, Jin Tang was long gone and there were three messages on his phone. All from Andy, asking him to please get rid of the drunk asshole sitting at his counter tonight.

 

Jin Tang’s reputation has gone through the mud in the span of 24 hours, Shao Fei supposes he’s entitled to a tantrum.

 

He unlocks the doctor’s phone with his face, and then types a brief message to Jiang Zhao Peng, telling him not to worry and a promise to get Jin Tang to call him back tomorrow when he’s sober.

 

That night, he decides to stay and watch over the doctor. Jin Tang mumbles in his drunken sleep and tosses and turns a few times, but he stays mostly asleep. Shao Fei is not that lucky, trying to sleep in an upright position, but after a while it becomes clear that he’s not going to get an sleep tonight.

 

In those few hours, Andy and Jack work swiftly, and by the time Shao Fei leaves the shower, there are a few texts on his phone. The gist of it is that Jack is handling the suspected culprits behind this scheme, and Andy will make sure proper evidence gets sent to the police station. There's one last text from Andy as well.

 

His Xiao Shu Gong booked a flight home from Beijing, I’ll leave him to you~

 

Sometimes, Shao Fei feels like he’s running a crime syndicate.

 

By the time the sun peeks out over the horizon, Jiang Zhao Peng has arrived at Jin Tang's house and is busy pampering him, who reacts to the man’s presence and concern like a preening peacock, the injustice dealt to him put out of his mind.

 

Shao Fei thanks the heavens when Jun Wei texts to let him know that three beaten up men with their hands and legs zip-tied were found outside the station.

 

He leaves the lovebirds to their own devices.

 

===

 

Tang Yi & Shao Fei

 

“Are you wearing this to see Ah Yi?” scoffs Hong Ye the moment he turns up downstairs.

 

Shao Fei frowns, looking down at his denim shirt and pants, “What’s wrong with this? Also what the hell are all of you doing here?”

 

Jack and Zhao Zi are in the kitchen, although the only one cooking is Jack. Andy has his eyes closed, sitting on the couch, as if meditating, while Jin Tang is busy face-timing someone on his phone, someone that Shao Fei is pretty sure is Jiang Zhao Peng. It’s 8.30am and Shao Fei recalls Hong Ye saying that only she would be accompanying him today.

 

“I’m here for the free food,” Jin Tang, Zhao Zi and Andy chorus, the latter without even opening his eyes.

 

“No, the question is why’re you cooking in my house-“

 

“Stop wasting time, come on,” Hong Ye interrupts gleefully, her grip around his arm tightening as she drags him back upstairs.

 

As he changes into the pants and top that Hong Ye tossed at him, Shao Fei cannot help but ask, “Thought it was only going to be you and me today.”

 

“They’re his old friends too,” Hong Ye replies with a smile. “Well, we also know that if we leave the both of you alone, we probably won’t get to see him until next week. Nervous?”

 

Nervous? How could he not be?

 

It’s been two years since he was last able to see and touch Tang Yi, and after so many sleepless nights, of him coping in various ways, Tang Yi is finally being returned to him.

 

Shao Fei leaves the bathroom in a tighter pair of jeans and a white collared shirt, plus a navy blue bomber jacket thrown over to keep him warm in the autumn season. Sitting down next to Hong Ye on the bed.

 

“Where’s Dao Yi-ge?” he asks instead.

 

“He’ll meet us there, there was some urgent paperwork to handle today,” Hong Ye answers, leaning her head on Shao Fei’s shoulder and interlacing her fingers with his. “We made it. We’re finally getting him back.”

 

In a rare show of affection for her, Shao Fei ruffles her hair and sighs, “We really are. You can now go bother him with the details of your wedding, since you’ve bothered everyone else in this house.”

 

Hong Ye reaches up and pinches at his cheek suddenly, “You’ve got complaints?! When you see Tang Yi later, he’s going to wonder why you put on so much weight-“

 

“I didn’t!” Shao Fei grumbles back. “You’re lying!”

 

Later on, the six of them pile into the car. Zhao Zi, ever the glutton, passes packets of chips and drinks to everyone in the car as Jack drives, not forgetting to lovingly feed the driver. Shao Fei looks at the group of people surrounding him with a perplexed frown.

 

“Guys, we aren’t going for a picnic, you know that right?”

 

“Aiya, Ah Fei, we must see Tang Yi in our best forms, and we can’t be at our best if we are hungry,” Zhao Zi grins sheepishly.

 

“…but Jack literally just fed us all with breakfast and you had six pancakes.”

 

“Zhao Zi, you better get some more exercise in,” Jin Tang pipes in from the back of the car. “Be careful you don’t end up with some health problems from all the eating you do. Six pancakes are ridiculous-“

 

“You had five,” Hong Ye rolls her eyes at Jin Tang, but munches on a few chips herself anyway.

 

“Oh, I’ll make sure he has plenty of exercise,” Jack interjects with a sly look in the rearview mirror.

 

Collective groans sound in the car as Zhao Zi blushes.

 

It’s a ruckus, the group of them standing outside the prison exit with some other family members waiting and milling about. Dao Yi does turn up fifteen minutes after they arrive, and when Shao Fei sees the bubble tea he brought in two bags, he shakes his head.

 

This bunch takes partying at inappropriate times and places to a new level, but Shao Fei can’t deny that it’s… nice. Hong Ye clings onto Dao Yi when he joins them and everyone digs into the two bags to find a flavour they like. Andy fans at himself as he drinks, looking as if he would rather be anywhere other than under the hot sun, but he makes no complaints. Jack and Zhao Zi are quietly discussing what dishes Jack’s food cart stall should sell tomorrow, while Jin Tang begins chattering with Dao Yi on how detrimental tapioca pearls are to the body even as he chews on the brown sugar pearls his drink has.

 

Shao Fei inhales deeply, angling his head upwards.

 

“It’s a nice day out today,” he murmurs to Andy.

 

Andy glances upwards for a bit, and to his credit, he doesn’t say anything scathing. “Hmm. It really is.”

 

The skies are clear today, the breeze just on the right side of cooling.

 

He’s interrupted when a loud clang sounds, and he finds himself tensing. His breath catches as he looks towards the exit.

 

One, two, three people stroll out of the exit, into the waiting arms of their family members. When he finally, finally sees him, Shao Fei swears his heart stops.

 

He’s dressed in the clothes he wore to the courthouse two years ago, his hair much shorter than it was since last week when Shao Fei saw him during his visit, and he definitely looks much skinnier than he did when he walked in.

 

When he went in, Shao Fei was the only one who watched him do so and today, Tang Yi’s family is here, not one of them missing.

 

Tang Yi’s eyes find them almost immediately, but after a sweep of the people who came to fetch him home, they land on Shao Fei, meeting his gaze head on.

 

His lips curve until he’s smiling wide, standing right there. Shao Fei’s heart thunders inside his chest, every throb of the organ loud in his ears. It’s as if he’s seeing Tang Yi for the first time, and he really, really, really-

 

There are no words to describe just how much he adores the man.

 

As everyone runs past him to rush at Tang Yi, Shao Fei finds himself answering Tang Yi’s smile.

 

He was right, it is a nice day.

 

A perfect day to welcome Tang Yi home.