Tong Yan declined several times, but failed to persuade Zhuo Xiang Ming to not pick him up. Hoisted by his own petard was the perfect way to describe this outcome.
If only he hadn’t tried to delay the time till night. To be honest, Tong Yang was home tomorrow, he would’ve probably sent him over at 4 or 5pm. Now, Zhuo Xiang Ming was coming for him at noon. What time was noon? It depended on when Zhuo Xiang Ming finished his meeting.
Zhuo Xiang Ming always got up early, by estimate, he would come pick him up at no later than twelve o’clock.
However, Tong Yan wasn’t tangled up with whether or not Zhuo Xiang Ming came for him early, it was the fact that Tong Yang was obviously home, but he’d dragged Zhuo Xiang Ming to come pick him up from so far away. He felt very ashamed.
Tong Yan clenched the cellphone in his hand, and said in a barely audible voice: “I, I was lying.”
“Huh?” Zhuo Xiang Ming didn’t seem to expect him to say this.
“Tong Yang has nothing to do tomorrow, he can drive me … I, I wanted to leave a little later, I didn’t mean to deceive you.” Tong Yan paused, then said sincerely, “I’m sorry, I won’t do it again.”
Zhuo Xiang Ming also paused for a while, remaining silent. Tong Yan waited nervously, but unexpectedly, the other man just chuckled, and there was no reproach in his tone: “Okay, then Tong Yang will drive you over tomorrow, I won’t meddle.”
Tong Yan felt even more ashamed: “I didn’t mean that …… Brother Xiang Ming, I’m sorry.”
“Is there something to apologize for?” Zhuo Xiang Ming said, “I wasn’t being considerate. I forgot that children will always be reluctant to leave their home.”
Tong Yan didn’t know what else to say, just as he was thinking about ending the call, Zhuo Xiang Ming said seriously: “Your brother is driving you over tomorrow because you want him to, but it also isn’t strange for me to come pick you up. You don’t have to feel embarrassed, or think that you’re inconveniencing me, okay?”
After thinking about it, Tong Yan also said very seriously: “I understand.”
“Good.” Zhuo Xiang Ming’s gentle tone returned as he said to him, “It’s late, go to sleep.”
For the two days he stayed at home, except for the dinner with Zhuo Xiang Ming, Tong Li Qin was absent. Before leaving the next day, Tong Yan waited all day for him. He called him several times, but only his assistant answered, saying that he was in a meeting. It wasn’t until after five o’clock, when he couldn’t persuade Tong Yang any longer, that they finally left.
Halfway through the journey, Tong Li Qin called Tong Yang, Tong Yang unplugged his headset, and his voice came out from the car stereo. He spoke directly to Tong Yan: “Tong Tong, dad forgot that today’s Sunday. I can’t come back right now, let your brother take you there, OK?”
Tong Yan didn’t want to talk to him, Tong Li Qin also didn’t take offense, patiently warning him: “The hospital called about your physical condition, they said you can start school tomorrow. Listen to whatever the doctor says. Didn’t they order you to carry a medicinal spray bottle and the sign? When you get up tomorrow morning, remember to check your school bag. I’ll help you cancel all your Phys ed classes, you’ll re-take the exam next year.”
Tong Yan only lowered his head, Tong Yang elbowed him, but he immediately leaned away.
Tong Li Qin: “Tong Tong, you haven’t replied to Dad, Dad is getting worried, Tong Tong?”
“I got it.” Tong Yan said.
“Good.” Tong Li Qin smiled. “Listen to Brother Xiang Ming, and study hard, Dad will call you when he has time.”
Before Tong Yan could reply, there seemed to be someone calling “Mr. Tong” on the other end of the line, and Tong Li Qin hung up.
The car fell into silence. After driving for a while. Tong Yang freed one hand and reached over to vigorously rub Tong Yan’s head: “It’s okay.”
Tong Yan dodged his hand and said: “Don’t mess with me.”
“Am I the one who angered you?” Tong Yang said, “Brat.”
Tong Yan pretended to browse his classmates’ activities on OUKM. Tong Yang said to himself: “Don’t ignore me, we won’t be able to meet for another week, you’ll definitely regret it.”
Tong Yan didn’t look up, scoffing.
The road to return home was always long, and the road to leave home always felt short. While Tong Yan unreasonably gave Tong Yang the cold shoulder, the distance to Zhuo Xiang Ming’s house got shorter and shorter, and he was getting farther and farther away from home.
It didn’t take long before they arrived.
Tong Yang had an appointment in the evening, so he was in a hurry. He didn’t pull into the driveway, stopping at the curb.
He got out first and pulled Tong Yan’s luggage out of the trunk. He’d brought back his favorite pair of pajamas, and some sneakers with his name on it, packing them all in the 20-inch suitcase. Except for his school bag, his water bottle, stationery and so on were all new, still wrapped in the supermarket’s paper shopping bag.
While Tong Yang was busying himself, Tong Yan stayed in the car, not certain what he was angry about. A few moments later, Zhuo Xiang Ming walked out, and he got out of the car. However, Zhuo Xiang Ming was already carrying everything, the big paper bag in one hand, and pulling the suitcase with the other. He was listening attentively to Tong Yang’s instructions.
“This is his clothes, stationery, etc. Everything is all laid out, he can manage it by himself, but I must trouble you to remind him to carry his warning card every day. The school also said that he must wear it on the front side of his uniform. Also, because the classes are AO mixed, he can’t take any Phys ed, he won’t be able to handle the scents. We’ve already applied for it in the system, but you still need to sign it off. Each course needs to be signed off on, Tong Yan will give you the list. What else … if he’s naughty … … “
Tong Yan thought that Tong Yang would tell Zhuo Xiang Ming to lecture him as he saw fit, but unexpectedly, he said: “He isn’t very naughty, just talk to him if he makes a mistake, he’ll get it right away.”
Zhuo Xiang Ming nodded along, when he heard this, he confirmed, “Tong Yan is very obedient.”
“Yes.” Tong Yang’s expression suddenly lightened up, he smiled, his face full of pride. He turned to look at Tong Yan, but Tong Yan turned his face away.
Having said all that needed to be said, Tong Yang said, “I have something to do tonight, so I’ll leave first.”
“Okay, drive safe.”
Zhuo Xiang Ming sent Tong Yang to the car. The car was started, and it made a U turn, as it started moving away, Tong Yan’s sadness also reached its peak.
But the car suddenly stopped, and Tong Yang poked his head out of the car window: “Good-bye, Tong Tong. I’ll pick you up at the school gates on Friday afternoon.”
Tong Yan had already forgotten his inexplicable grumpiness, and took two steps forward. However, Zhuo Xiang Ming grabbed his arm, stopping him from walking in front of the car. He stood next to Zhuo Xiang Ming, and obediently nodded at Tong Yang.
“Good-bye.” Tong Yang said again.
Tong Yan felt like he was going to cry. Afraid of losing face, he lowered his head, but when the car drove out, he couldn’t take his eyes off the car’s tail lights until Zhuo Xiang Ming called out to him: “It’s cold outside, let’s go in.”
Xuan Gui had been waiting at the door for a long time. When he saw Tong Yan, he immediately went up to say hello: “Welcome home! “
It followed behind Tong Yan and roved around: “Did you watch Sailor Moon? I asked you to share episode progress with me, did you forget?”
Tong Yan said: “I forgot. I watched a few episodes on Friday, but not later.”
Xuan Gui sighed grumblingly, pretending that it didn’t matter, it said in a businesslike manner: “I heard that you’ll start school tomorrow, I need your schedule.”
Tong Yan was about to agree when Zhuo Xiang Ming said: “Xuan Gui, be quiet for a moment.”
Xuan Gui answered “Yes”, and sure enough, it didn’t talk anymore, silently hovering behind them as they walked upstairs.
The two carried the luggage to Tong Yan’s bedroom on the second floor. After asking Tong Yan’s permission, Zhuo Xiang Ming opened the suitcase and started to tidy up.
Tong Yan was indeed depressed, but he still wouldn’t go as far as to treat Zhuo Xiang Ming coldly.
After putting the paper bag aside, he also squatted beside the suitcase, took out his socks and three pairs of athletic shoes, then got up to put them into the shoe cabinet.
“They’re very pretty.” Zhuo Xiang Ming said, adding when Tong Yan stared at him, “Your shoes.”
Tong Yan also looked back at his shoes: “Tong Yang bought them.” He picked out a sequin on the laces of one of the shoes, not sure where it came from, then said, “This pair is from his university days. His team won the match, and the sponsor gave each team member a pair of shoes embroidered with a name.”
Zhuo Xiang Ming: “He gave them your name?”
Tong Yan nodded: “Uh-huh.”
“Your brother loves you very much.”
Tong Yan hummed, saying in a low voice, “I love him too.”
He arranged his socks, and closed the small drawer, then he turned back to sit on the bed, trying his best not to droop his head, or expose an unhappy expression.
But, he thought, vexed, isn’t Zhuo Xiang Ming’s EQ very high? Why doesn’t he see that he urgently needed to be alone right now?
Fortunately, a few moments later, Zhuo Xiang Ming opened the door and left.
Tong Yan could finally throw himself into the mattress. The sky was already dark, but the lights in the room still hadn’t turned on. The September temperature wasn’t that high, and in the dimly lit and slightly cold room, he felt a burst of intense discomfort.
But Zhuo Xiang Ming was back again very soon, and the mattress next to him sank. He’d taken a seat on the bed next to Tong Yan.
Tong Yan thought that he probably hadn’t noticed his gloomy mood. Although he knew that it was rude, Tong Yan didn’t sit up immediately.
Then he felt a warm palm on the crown of his head: “Tong Yan?”
“Hm?” Tong Yan turned his head, exposing his profile, which was half covered by messy hair.
Zhuo Xiang Ming had a bottle of coconut milk in his hand. He pushed aside his disheveled hair, then handed it to him. Tong Yan whispered, “I don’t want it.”
Zhuo Xiang Ming silently took away the coconut milk, but, shocking Tong Yan, he switched hands and handed over a bowl of mashed potatoes and gravy.
Tong Yan couldn’t hold back a smile, turning around completely, he faced Zhuo Xiang Ming on his side: “What are you trying to do?”
Zhuo Xiang Ming was originally sitting upright, but Tong Yan’s bed was too soft, so his posture was a bit distorted. But when he looked down at Tong Yan, his expression was still as convincing and dependable as it has always been: “I’m trying to make you happy. At least a bit.”
Tong Yan was silent for a moment, not denying that he was upset, he lowered his eyes and said: “Thank you.”
Zhuo Xiang Ming touched his head again: “Can you tell me why you’re sad?”
Tong Yan covered his face with his hands, his voice muffled: “I don’t know.”
“There’s only the two of us here, are you lonely?” Zhuo Xiang Ming tried to guess.
Tong Li Qin and Tong Yang were very busy people, at home, Tong Yan was frequently the only one present. So, when it came to more people or less people, his home might probably lose to this one.
Tong Yan shook his head.
“You haven’t gone to school for a while, are you afraid you won’t fit in?”
Tong Yan still shook his head.
Zhuo Xiang Ming’s voice lowered, smiling as he said: “You’re making things awkward for me.”
He leaned closer to Tong Yan, gently poking the isolation patch on Tong Yan’s nape: “Does it feel painful here?”
“Tong Yan?” Zhuo Xiang Ming sensed that something was wrong, he turned towards Tong Yan’s face and lifted his bangs, revealing his tearful eyes, “Why are you crying?”
Zhuo Xiang Ming was also anxious, he pulled Tong Yan up and hugged him. Tong Yan was immersed in crying, so he let him shift him around, putting his chin on Zhuo Xiang Ming’s shoulder. After the tear gates opened, it was difficult to close them. Later on, even he wouldn’t be able to explain what was making him upset, in brief, he was just crying incessantly.
Why did Zhuo Xiang Ming feel like the more he coaxed him, the harder he cried? He had a younger omega brother, but the brothers were only a year apart. He’d never cared for someone as young as Tong Yan before. He could only pat Tong Yan’s back, flustered: “What’s wrong? Tell me, do you want to go home? I’ll take you back, okay?”
“But it’s still going to be like this.” Tong Yan leaned back and touched his neck, sobbing.
Zhuo Xiang Ming understood, and immediately said, “That won’t take much longer. I’ll pick you up after school and take you home, okay?”
How could Tong Yan be capable of this? He had already calmed down from his sudden cry session and now felt embarrassed, how could he really make such an unreasonable request?
But Zhuo Xiang Ming was obviously still worried: “Why did you cry?” After asking this, he added: “As soon as you returned today, you looked miserable.”
When he said the last part, Tong Yan thought he heard a hint of… hurt? But his eyes were blurred from the tears, he couldn’t see clearly, and Zhuo Xiang Ming had spoken too quickly, so Tong Yan soon dismissed this idea.
Besides, he was now facing a more important problem, which was, he was sitting on Zhuo Xiang Ming’s lap while he hugged him face to face. Tong Yan wasn’t considered short among his peers, but Zhuo Xiang Ming was almost 6’3, with long arms and legs. Inside his embrace, Tong Yan looked like a child being held by an adult. It was very easy to move him around … Tong Yan didn’t realize that he was blushing until Zhuo Xiang Ming frowned and said: “Your pheromones are coming out again. This isolation patch needs to be replaced before you go to school tomorrow. It’s not very effective.”
Meddle – lit. to go beyond the sacrificial altar and take over the kitchen (idiom); fig. to exceed one’s place and meddle in other people’s affairs
I get it TongTong. Been there, done that. Sometimes you just miss your family.