Lu Zhe was silent.
In the dark, he couldn't help but crack a grin. Just as he was about to say something, he heard the sound of Shen Qiao shifting and rustling the covers next to him. And Shen Qiao's movements weren't subtle. He was wrapping himself up tighter and sending a clear message—
I'm going to sleep.
But how could Lu Zhe possibly let him get away with this? He reached out and lightly shook Shen Qiao by the shoulder. "Who's the daddy?"
Shen Qiao flatly answered, "Whoever you ask. That's who."
Lu Zhe breathed a laugh. In that room, with only the soft whir of the air conditioning in the background, his laugh was especially clear. The feelings carried on that laugh were crystal clear too.
"Qiaoqiao, remember what you said tonight," Lu Zhe warned.
Shen Qiao could tell there was a meaningful promise of future retribution in Lu Zhe's words. He turned his back to Lu Zhe and scoffed, showing his own blatant disregard of that threat.
Lu Zhe lifted a hand and gently brushed his fingers over Shen Qiao's nape. His fingertips ghosted over Shen Qiao's glands, and he took back his hand before Shen Qiao could even react. Quietly, he whispered, "Sleep now. Good night."
He didn't try to scoot any closer to Shen Qiao. It was best to be cautious. Their combined body heat, under the covers, in the summer… it was just better to keep a safe distance to avoid getting fired up.
Shen Qiao shifted his shoulders, then tugged on the covers again. He cocooned himself like a caterpillar and mumbled, "Good night."
In the scorching hot summer night, the air conditioner continued to whir, blowing cold air out from the overhead vent. That cool air swirled through the room, carrying and mixing the scents of mint and cedarwood until it was nearly impossible to distinguish between the concepts of 'your scent' and 'mine'.
Lu Zhe listened until he heard Shen Qiao's breathing even out. A smile touched his lips as he finally moved to grab his cell phone. He turned the screen brightness down to the lowest setting, put in his earbuds, and loaded up the video of a previous match Team XHG had played.
Originally, they should have reviewed that video with Coach Fang and their teammates. But due to Shen Qiao's condition, the two of them had both missed out on the review session of XHG's tactics.
Lu Zhe was used to studying an opponent before a game; if he didn't go through that routine, he would feel like he was forgetting or missing something. Since it was still relatively early at night, he figured he may as well make up for that review session now.
The dim, rectangular screen of the cell phone was the only light source in the room. Lu Zhe was careful not to disturb Shen Qiao's rest. He even hid his phone under the blankets, using the fabric to further obscure the light of the screen.
He stayed on his side, facing Shen Qiao, so that his phone's light wouldn't spill towards Shen Qiao. It was always difficult for people who were awake to lie still for long periods of time, but Lu Zhe stubbornly held that same position and watched the footage for more than two hours.
During that time, Shen Qiao rolled over twice. The second time he shifted, he practically threw his whole self into Lu Zhe's arms.
Lu Zhe lifted his phone and pulled out his earbuds. He thought Shen Qiao had been woken by his cell phone. But when he lifted a hand to wrap an arm around Shen Qiao's waist, he found that he was met with no resistance.
The person he loved had taken the initiative to burrow into his arms—
Who could possibly resist a tempting invitation like that?
Lu Zhe certainly couldn't.
He turned off the video and put away his earbuds. After placing his cell phone back on the nightstand, he gathered Shen Qiao up in his arms and got him settled in his embrace with his head pillowed on Lu Zhe's shoulder.
Shen Qiao's sleeping posture… Lu Zhe really couldn't find the words to describe it.
Could he say Shen Qiao slept well? Shen Qiao was curled up tightly in a ball, bundled up in the blankets, with his head drifting off the pillow. It wasn't the most relaxed posture. But could it be said that Shen Qiao slept poorly? Well, he didn't grind his teeth or snore or kick either…
In any case, this was Lu Zhe's very own bride, of his own choosing. Of course he had no complaints.
Lu Zhe was completely fulfilled.
When Shen Qiao curled up, he really stuck his butt up quite high.
Lu Zhe took a deep breath and pressed a kiss to Shen Qiao's neck. Softly, he whispered, "I'll let you off easy tonight…"
The next time this person fell asleep in such a provocative pose, no one would be able to blame Lu Zhe for not holding back.
Shen Qiao slept until the heat woke him up.
He'd dreamt. He'd dreamt of a grilled octopus wrapping its eight long arms around him. No matter where he ran, one of those arms would stretch out and reel him back in.
Maybe he had slept in a position that he was too unaccustomed to. When he woke, he was beset by a low, burning sense of irritability.
He reached out and felt around, trying to find the nightstand. But after flailing around a bit and finding nothing, he cracked open his eyes and looked up to find that the ceiling didn't look quite the same as it did when he usually woke.
He looked left and right, then realized he was sprawled out in the middle of the bed. The pillow was gone. Lu Zhe was right next to him, so close that his breath landed on Shen Qiao's face. His eyes were peacefully closed, long lashes sweeping over his cheeks and casting shadows across his skin. He looked exquisitely delicate and beautiful, like a perfect doll.
But Shen Qiao wasn't in a state of mind where he could just appreciate that beauty. He was possessed by the sensation of not quite being able to breathe. When he shifted, he found the light blankets tangled around his waist. And when he lowered his head and reached out to untangle himself, he bumped against a soft warmth around his waist—it was Lu Zhe's arm.
That explained last night's octopus-themed dream.
He was a bit amused and a bit annoyed. After slapping Lu Zhe's arm, he hoarsely rasped, "Let go."
Lu Zhe had fallen asleep late last night, and it wasn't yet the time of morning when he usually got up. He hazily detected some sort of movement nearby. But not only did he not let go, he even tightened his grip a little. With his brows furrowed, he mumbled a few bewitchingly reassuring words in his low, soft voice—
As he spoke, he subconsciously nuzzled his head against the crook of Shen Qiao's neck.
At that moment, Shen Qiao felt like he was completely locked up in Lu Zhe's embrace. He could feel the heat of Lu Zhe's body seeping into his own. It was like they'd turn on the air conditioning for nothing. Shen Qiao started to overheat.
He endured it for a few minutes, but ultimately couldn't stand the heat. He pushed at Lu Zhe's shoulder and spoke in a tone that was milder and more patient than before. "Let go of me. I want to get up."
Lu Zhe didn't say anything, and he didn't move. There was no way to tell if he hadn't heard, or if he was just pretending to have not heard.
Shen Qiao took a deep, long breath. Then he took matters into his own hands. He went to tug at the arm around his waist, but Lu Zhe—with his eyes still closed—actually put up a fight. He'd originally had only one arm wrapped around Shen Qiao, but when he sensed Shen Qiao trying to break free, he wrapped his other arm around him too.
The covers were completely mussed up by the two of them. The fabric was rustled again and again by their tussling until, suddenly, everything went still.
Underneath the covers, the vague outline of their intertwined bodies was visible—
The two had wound up so close that their breaths intermingled between their lips.
Shen Qiao narrowed his eyes at Lu Zhe. At just that moment, he saw the other party lazily blink open his own eyes. A radiant light of joy swirled through Lu Zhe's dark eyes. In a split second, that beautiful face came to life, like a gorgeous painting suddenly becoming animated. Expressive vigor filled up every crinkle of Lu Zhe's smiling face.
His voice was full of mirth as he hummed and asked, "Not going to keep struggling?"
Shen Qiao felt a heat press up against his own leg. His breathing slowed.
However, just trying to use rationality to stay calm in a situation like this was pointless.
His own body's instincts had been awakened, leaving him unsure of whether he wanted to escape or counterattack. In any case…
He was unable to control his body's natural reaction, which matched Lu Zhe's.
With the way they were facing each other, it was as though they were saluting each other with their erected 'flags' like two members of the Young Pioneers.
Lu Zhe sensed the change in Shen Qiao. The corners of his lips curved up. His brows arched and his gaze traveled down, lower and lower, until he said, "Even though I haven't let go, didn't you 'get up' anyway?"
Shen Qiao was silent.
He was rendered completely speechless by Lu Zhe's brazen words. Heat climbed into his face, reddening his cheeks.
His throat began to itch for no apparent reason. Shen Qiao's gaze drifted to the side. His deep voice was still a little raspy as he mumbled, "We have a game today."
Lu Zhe laughed. One of his hands, under the covers, crept towards Shen Qiao as he curtly answered, "I know."
Shen Qiao, hearing Lu Zhe's acknowledgement, prepared to lift up the covers and head to the bathroom. But who could have known that Lu Zhe's searching hand would find something that made Shen Qiao instantly freeze and tense up all over.
The mouth said, 'I know'. But the hand… what was the hand doing!
Lu Zhe softly shushed him.
Then he pulled up the blankets and covered their heads too.
Half an hour later.
The sound of running water drifted out from the bathroom sink.
Shen Qiao stood at one side, repeatedly pressing down on the liquid hand soap dispenser. He glanced at Lu Zhe out of the corner of his eye. Lu Zhe was holding a cup and brushing his teeth. His lips were so outrageously beautiful that Shen Qiao had to look at him twice.
Lu Zhe felt that gaze on him. After rinsing and spitting out the water in his mouth, he crinkled the corners of his eyes and turned to look at Shen Qiao. His words were sultry and seductive as he asked, "What? Do you want a taste of yourself too?"
Shen Qiao instantly looked away and concentrated on washing his hands.
By the time Lu Zhe finished washing up, Shen Qiao had long since finished washing his hands. He leaned against the sink and studied Lu Zhe. In the end, he couldn't help but ask, "Your lip… do you want to apply some medicine?"
Lu Zhe's lip had already been cut from the time Shen Qiao bit him. The cut had scabbed over in the past few days, but after their morning of messing around… Shen Qiao just couldn't help but feel bad at the sight of it.
He suddenly understood how Lu Zhe felt when he saw all those scratches on Shen Qiao's body.
It was a sight that spread unease in his heart.
When Lu Zhe caught sight of the look on Shen Qiao's face, he lifted a hand and tousled Shen Qiao's hair. "Don't worry. This'll heal in just a bit."
Without waiting for Shen Qiao to say anything else, Lu Zhe started to head out of the bathroom. He called back, "After you finish washing up, let's go have breakfast. Remember to bring your medicine. Later, we can review HXG's plays together."
"Mm," Shen Qiao answered, humming his acknowledgement.
And so, Lu Zhe exited the bathroom to help Shen Qiao make the bed. He casually ran a hand through his hair to straighten it out. Then, just as he was about to take a seat to wait, he heard Shen Qiao's cell phone ring.
He walked over to the nightstand and called out, "Qiaoqiao, you have a call."
"Who is it?" Shen Qiao asked.
Lu Zhe picked up the phone and checked the caller ID. It was just a string of numbers. The phone number was domestic, but it wasn't registered as a contact.
"Unknown caller, no one I recognize," he said.
"Oh. Answer for me. If it's spam, you can just hang up."
Lu Zhe swiped a thumb across the screen to accept the call. Before he could even utter a greeting, the person on the other end of the line said, "May I ask if this is Shen Qiao?"
Instantly, Lu Zhe's expression froze over.
It was Lu Chengzhen's secretary.
"President Lu has been very concerned about you and Young Master Lu as of late. He has asked me to remind you that he hopes you remember what you promised Mrs. Shen back then. He hopes you'll remember to keep your distance from the Lu family, or else…"
Just then, Lu Zhe noticed that the sound of running water in the bathroom had stopped. Footsteps were approaching from that direction.
He swiftly hung up without bothering to listen to what came next.
When Shen Qiao emerged from the bathroom, Lu Zhe handed him the phone and casually said, "Just spam. I already hung up."
Shen Qiao nodded, not doubting him for a second. He took his phone and said, "Let's go. Breakfast."
Today, a pedal car slowly passed by… listen! Listen carefully!