Tang Yi’s heart was still pounding hard, sweat cooling on his skin and his entire body heavy with the pleasant strain and exhaustion which only a rather satisfying bout of love-making could cause. Next to him, legs tangled with Tang Yi and in a similar state of contentment, lay his lover, and Tang Yi couldn’t stop himself from smiling dopily.
Two months since Tang Yi had been released from prison, thanks to the most expensive lawyers could buy, his good behaviour and Meng Shao Fei, decorated captain of the homicide division, “volunteering” to monitor his parole. Two months of living together, sleeping together, waking together. It was a domestic sort of happiness that Tang Yi had never expected for himself and was now cherishing more than he could say.
Which was of course when Shao Fei asked breathlessly, “Oh, by the way, are you free tomorrow evening?”
“Hm? Yes – for you, always, Ah-Fei.”
The next moment, however, Tang Yi’s warm smile faltered as he took in the carefully innocent expression on his lover’s face. Uh oh. This could only mean trouble. Shao Fei had the worst poker face, and usually he didn’t even attempt to bullshit Tang Yi.
Rolling onto his side, Tang Yi asked with mild exasperation, “What is it?”
“Nothing.” The too-bright smile on Shao Fei’s face wouldn’t have fooled anyone and definitely not his boyfriend, so Tang Yi just fixed him with a firm stare until Shao Fei ducked his head and mumbled, “Just, Zhao Zi... wantstogotodinnerwithusandIsaidyes.”
Ah. There it was. Because of course Shao Fei’s partner didn’t want only the three of them to hang out. These days, unless he was working – and sometimes even then – Zhao Zi was rarely encountered on his own, having acquired a very possessive, absolutely shameless red-headed ex-merc around the same time that Tang Yi and Shao Fei had put aside their differences.
Tang Yi heaved a sigh and turned onto his back, directing his gaze at the ceiling. Ever since his release, Shao Fei and Zhao Zi had been none too subtle in their attempts to bridge the gap between their respective boyfriends, but so far Tang Yi resisted stubbornly, being icily polite on the few occasions his path had crossed Jack’s.
He was aware that he was being a bit childish, yet he couldn’t help himself. Just hearing the name set his teeth on edge, and he was pretty sure he knew why, although he wasn’t proud of the reason.
It was just that sometimes when he had visited him in prison, Shao Fei had mentioned Jack in passing, usually in connection with some funny story about Zhao Zi. And it wasn’t that Tang Yi was holding a grudge, at least not a real one; however, he couldn’t help being at least a bit annoyed that his former lieutenant had not only sold him out but was still out there, enjoying his freedom - and an apparently incredibly lovey-dovey relationship with Shao Fei’s best friend and partner. He even got to spend time with Shao Fei, the three having apparently become what Shao Fei called movie buddies.
All the while Tang Yi’s own relationship was restricted to talks across a table, strictly no touching allowed. If Shao Fei hadn’t been a cop, they’d even be separated by glass, but even so Tang Yi had yearned to be close to his lover. To hold him, kiss him, cook with him. Worship his body the way Shao Fei deserved.
So yes, maybe Tang Yi was still holding a grudge.
Unfortunately Shao Fei was at least as stubborn as him, as he’d amply proven during the four years he’d hounded Tang Yi like a terrier with a bone. Also, Tang Yi found it impossible to deny him anything – at least, anything that mattered. And for some reason Shao Fei had decided that it was important to him that the four of them were, if not friends, then at least cordial.
While Tang Yi’s mind had followed these well-trodden paths, the silence between them had stretched but not yet turned strained. Considering how chatty Shao Fei was, the two of them were surprisingly good at comfortable silence, and it never failed to warm Tang Yi all the way through to be the only person who got to see his lover this way.
In the end, there had never been any doubt about his answer. Pulling Shao Fei close, Tang Yi shook his head ruefully. “Alright. I’ll play nice. You better make it up to me, though.”
“Great! Thank you, you won’t regret it.” The happiness on Shao Fei’s face alone was almost worth it, but Tang Yi made sure it didn’t show on his face. No reason to give him any more ideas about the extent to which he, former feared gang boss, was putty in the hands of one particular homicide detective. Putty that was currently being kissed to within an inch of his life, and Tang Yi submitted happily.
A grateful Shao Fei was always a treat, and while they’d made love only a short while before, Tang Yi’s body soon caught up with his desire. He’d go to dozens of dinners with Zhao Zi and Jack if the reward was Shao Fei between his legs. For a while Tang Yi lost any ability to think clearly, familiarity having only improved Shao Fei’s ability to drive him out of his mind.
Once he regained his faculties, Tang Yi made sure to repay the favour, the sight of Shao Fei coming undone in the coupling of their bodies always a reward in itself. Still, when they were once more resting with sweat cooling on their skin, limbs entangled, he made sure to catch Shao Fei in a kiss that was all teeth before saying in a low, dangerous voice, “Don’t think this is enough. You still owe me, Ah-Fei, and I’ll collect once we get back tomorrow night.”
“Sometimes I almost forget that you ruled one of the fiercest gangs in the whole city,” Shao Fei whined, patting his abused lip, but there was a smile dancing in his eyes. “And then you do something like this and I remember.”
“Good thing you like me like this.” Tang Yi smirked, smoothly rolling out of reach when Shao Fei half-hearted slapped his shoulder. Catching his hands and cradling them against his chest, he added more seriously, “A very good thing indeed. For me, I mean. I feel lucky every day.”
“How can you say such things with a straight face?” Shao Fei was adorable when flustered, his ears red as he beamed at Tang Yi, causing his heart to do the familiar little skip. “If you hadn’t tired me out already, I’d show you how lucky we both are.”
“Then how about a shower?” Tang Yi suggested, already knowing the answer before Shao Fei practically bounded out of bed, pulling him along. Needless to say, it was a good while before they finally fell asleep, wrapped around each other. Tang Yi hoped he would never get used to the happiness of such moments.
Even if said moments meant being on his best behaviour when they entered the restaurant the next evening to find Zhao Zi and Jack already there.
“Ah-Fei, Tang Yi, over here!” Zhao Zi exclaimed, waving so excitedly that Jack only just managed to rescue the glass in front of him. At least those ex-merc reflexes were good for something, Tang Yi pondered as he deftly pulled a distracted Shao Fei out of the way of a tray-laden waiter, avoiding a catastrophic collision.
They reached their table without further incident, and Tang Yi slid out Sheo Fei’s chair, absentmindedly noting that their alcove was strategically located near the rear exit, with a good overview of the entire restaurant. Jack’s choice, doubtlessly, and one Tang Yi approved of, old habits dying hard. One never knew if someone out there was still harbouring a grudge against either him or either one of the homicide detectives at the table. Well, against Shao Fei more likely, considering that it would be difficult even for criminals to bear Zhao Zi any ill will, but Jack was obviously as loathe to take any chances as Tang Yi.
A waiter materialised, and they ordered their drinks and accepted the menus. Zhao Zi was prattling happily about the good reviews he’d read about the food here, and Jack was regarding him with such fondness, Tang Yi felt himself thaw a little.
“What do you want to eat?” Zhao Zi inquired from his boyfriend.
Smirking, Jack leaned in and stage-whispered, loud enough for everyone at the table to hear, “You, of course.”
He cackled, self-satisfied, while Zhao Zi sputtered and blushed, and Tang Yi’s annoyance was back in full force. He frowned, but Shao Fei’s hand gripped his thigh under the table. Forcing himself to relax, he tangled their fingers together and was rewarded with a smile, which made it impossible not to smile back.
Jack had watched their little exchange with a raised eyebrow and an insinuating smile, but Tang Yi refused to be baited. Instead he flagged down a waiter and ordered, the others following suite. Shao Fei of course picked the spiciest dish he could find to go with his coke, Zhao Zi ordered what seemed like half the menu, with Jack ordering the other half – probably so Zhao Zi could eat from his plate should his own selection prove insufficient.
“One of these days you’ll eat so much you won’t be able to chase criminal anymore, and then what will Jack do?” Shao Fei teased his best friend. “Because as I understand it, you’re the breadwinner.”
“Yes, I’m the house husband.” Jack grinned and pulled a squirming Zhao Zi into a half hug, ruffling his hair playfully. “And I’m very good at it, aren’t I?”
Zhao Zi tried to hide his bright red face in Jack’s chest, mumbling, “Yes, you’re the best.”
Then he quickly lifted his head and kissed Jack’s cheek, shooting Shao Fei and Tang Yi a half-defiant glance out of the corner of his eye before going back to hiding in Jack’s embrace. Shao Fei laughed, and Tang Yi couldn’t help but chuckle as well, charmed against his will.
“They’re always like this,” Shao Fei stage-whispered. “And sometimes they’re worse.”
“Ah-Fei!” Zhao Zi protested, finally sitting back up straight. “We’re not!”
“We are,” Jack interjected, sounding strangely proud. If one looked at the dictionary definition of shameless, Tang Yi was fairly certain there’d be a picture of the red-headed merc. “You really can’t blame me, everything he does just turns me on.”
This bit of oversharing earned him a smack on the arm from his boyfriend, which he accepted with a shrug. Still smirking, he redirected his attention to Tang Yi, who returned his gaze with his most unimpressed stare, the one that Shao Fei claimed could induce terror or at least respect in almost anyone. It had never worked when Jack was still part of his organisation, and it didn’t work now.
“Maybe we should start a club for unemployed police spouses, eh, old boss.” Jack was as irreverent as always. But then, Tang Yi had always appreciated Jack’s manner, it had made for a refreshing change to the fawning of his underlings and the fear of his enemies. Not that Tang Yi was going to admit this, especially not now.
He did, however, find it much easier to be civil than expected when he corrected, “I’m not exactly unemployed. I’m helping Hong Ye with the legitimate side of the business.”
“He does have an actual MBA, after all,” Shao Fei proclaimed, beaming up at him and sounding so proud that Tang Yi’s lips twitched in an involuntary smile. Their eyes caught, and as always the world dropped away for a moment, reduced to Shao Fei’s shining eyes and the naked love on his face. Without thinking, Tang Yi lifted their still-entwined hands up and brought them to his lips, pressing a kiss to Shao Fei’s palm.
They returned to reality at the sound of an incredibly fake cough from the other side of the table. Refusing to be embarrassed Tang Yi kept a hold of Shao Fei’s hand, setting it down on top of the table between them, caressing it with his thumb. Warmth flooded him when Shao Fei didn’t pull away, even when the waiter came with their food.
“Thank you,” Tang Yi said politely, wondering if there would be a problem because they were very obviously two gay couples. However, to the restaurant’s credit, she didn’t bat an eyelid, simply served them with a smile. It was something else Tang Yi had had to get used to since leaving the gang life behind, when he’d mostly frequented places that were in some way affiliated with Tiangmeng and wouldn’t have dared comment on his love life or sexual preference. It was… nice, this way, and Tang Yi squeezed Shao Fei’s hand once more before beginning to eat.
There was silence as they all dug in, at least until the first hunger was satisfied. Tang Yi couldn’t help but smile, however, when he noticed Jack depositing choice bits of his meal onto Zhao Zi’s plate or directly into his mouth. Unlike before, there was no posturing in this, just habit and a domestic tenderness Tang Yi would never have expected from his brash former underling.
“Food is totally their love language,” Shao Fei interrupted his thoughts, having obviously realised which direction they’d taken. “It really is quite sickening.”
Zhao Zi’s mouth was full, so all he could do was widen his eyes and make outraged noises, but unsurprisingly Jack was not in the least embarrassed. “I got him with food, I’m keeping him with food.”
“I just wish you’d keep him with foot at home, not at the precinct.” Shao Fei gestured with his chopstick. “I always feel as if I’m walking in on the two of you having sex.”
At this rate, Zhao Zi was probably never going to stop blushing. Amused, Tang Yi leaned closer to his boyfriend and offered with mock-seriousness, “I could always visit and have actual sex with you, Chief Meng. Would that make up for it?”
Dropping his latest offering for Zhao Zi in surprise, Jack burst out laughing, even as Shao Fei, already flushed from his spicy food, turned bright red and glared at Tang Yi. “See if I’m taking you anywhere public ever again!”
“Didn’t you say that this was a dinner among friends?” Feeling quite satisfied with himself, Tang Yi grinned and offered his boyfriend some of his own meal as a peace offering. It was accepted with only the slightest hesitation, Shao Fei’s eyes warm on his own, telling him that all was forgiven.
“Friends, huh?” he asked after he’d swallowed, a serious question underneath his teasing tone.
Tang Yi met Jack’s perpetually-amused gaze across the table. He’d left the gangster life behind, he’d been released from prison and started life with Shao Fei. He wanted to focus on that and not on old grudges. They might never be confidants, but they both loved their boyfriends, and maybe that was enough.
“Maybe,” he finally said, shushing Shao Fei’s excited exclamation with a finger against his lips. “Don’t push your luck now.”
Shao Fei’s tongue flicked over the pad of his finger, sending Tang Yi’s mind straight to the gutter. Before he could react, however, his boyfriend had pulled away and pretended to be entirely engrossed in his food, although Tang Yi could clearly see the laughter in his eyes.
Well, there was always later, when they were back at home. Or the bathroom, should Shao Fei continue to rub his foot against Tang Yi’s leg. Smiling to himself, Tang Yi picked up his chopsticks again.
“Oh, I see how it is,” Jack commented with a wink. “Just don’t expect me to stand guard in front of the men’s room. Ex-boss.”
“What? Why?” Of course this was when Zhao Zi decided to pay attention.
“Nothing.” Tang Yi glared at Jack, but there was no heat in it. He was with the man he loved, the food was good, and the company less annoying than he feared. As if to prove his point, Jack actually closed his mouth without further comment. Yeah, maybe this could work.