WHEN AN ALPHA IS MARKED BY ONE OF HIS OWN KIND

Chapter 57

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Lu Zhe's breath hitched.

Clearly, Shen Qiao hadn't started anything. And the distance between the two of them was still quite substantial. But men were like that. Sometimes, the slightest provocation was enough to fill their minds with lewd and suggestive images.

The sound of rushing water, intertwining bodies, loud and uneven gasps…

Lu Zhe's throat bobbed when he swallowed. He looked at Shen Qiao and found a faint twinkle in Shen Qiao's eyes, as though fragmented scenes from an R18 movie were racing through his mind as well.

In the end, Lu Zhe breathed a laugh and leaned one shoulder against the wall. He called out softly, "Qiaoqiao. You do realize… if you give me a 'hand', it won't just be a bath anymore, will it?"

Lu Zhe's words set Shen Qiao on fire. A red flush climbed from Shen Qiao's neck to his cheeks and ears. He slowly exhaled before lifting his eyes to meet Lu Zhe's gaze.

"I'm just saying your hands are out of shape right now. If you want to continue playing professionally, you should be good and recover well."

Lu Zhe said nothing for a moment.

Tsk.

He looked down at his own gauze-wrapped hand and suddenly felt a bit reluctant to comply.

Shen Qiao noticed that faint reluctance on Lu Zhe's face. He made his way into the bathroom on his own and turned on the shower, adjusting the temperature before glancing at the towel rack mounted on the wall.

He came back out of the bathroom to ask, "Where are the towels and pajamas?"

Lu Zhe tried to move his injured hand. Although the wound wasn't deep, he had gotten a few stitches after having the wound cleaned, just to facilitate a quick recovery. If he moved too quickly and put too much pressure on his hand, there really was a risk of the wound opening up again.

He mumbled, still a little discontentedly, "The closet, probably. I'll grab them myself later."

Shen Qiao could hear the frustration and sullenness in Lu Zhe's tone, and he couldn't help but find it a bit amusing. He was inexplicably reminded of videos he'd seen of people's pet Samoyeds. When those beautiful dogs were happy, they would always prance circled around you. And when they were dejected, they would flop down and sulk, occasionally casting dispirited looks at their owners.

Lu Zhe was just like that when he was unhappy.

The resemblance was so uncanny to Shen Qiao that he couldn't help but soften his gaze and reassure, in a slightly awkward way that clearly showed he wasn't used to comforting people, "It'll be fine soon."

Hearing that softened voice, Lu Zhe held out his left arm, indicating he wanted Shen Qiao to come closer for a hug.

Shen Qiao walked up to him and took the initiative to wrap his arms around Lu Zhe's waist. As always, Lu Zhe settled his hand at the nape of Shen Qiao's neck, where his glands were located. Lu Zhe tipped his head to the side and pressed his nose to Shen Qiao's hair, softly whispering, "Not soon enough."

His voice was tinged with an indescribable sort of longing, similar to that of a traveler in the desert, thirsting for a sparkling source of water.

He continued, "I want to wrap you up in a stronger embrace."

Shen Qiao knew exactly what he meant by 'embrace'.

His breath hitched suddenly, and he lowered his gaze to Lu Zhe's shoulder and throat, bare above the collar of his short-sleeved shirt. After a few seconds, Shen Qiao softly answered, "As long as you get better, you can do anything you want."

You can do anything you want.

These six little words filled Lu Zhe's mind with a one hundred thousand word tale of explicit content that could never be allowed to see the light of day. In his head, he could already see light and shadow dancing over entangled forms as the scents of cedarwood and mint mingled and intertwined…

His breathing grew hotter and heavier, but he only breathed out a laugh.

It was a low laugh, filled with both helplessness and joy.

"Better not say anything else," Lu Zhe cautioned. "If you keep talking, I'll have to get new stitches tomorrow."

He was worried he would lose control of his inhibitions, even if it meant opening his wound again.

After all, he wasn't any sort of gentleman. The pain of his injury and the scent of blood only rattled the cage of the beast he kept locked up inside. His wound only provoked that beast and stoked the fire of his ferocious desire.

Lu Zhe was at least faintly aware of how terrifyingly forward his true self could be, and he didn't want to scare Shen Qiao away. He didn't want Shen Qiao to keep worrying about him either. After a moment, he steeled himself against his frustrations and desires and slowly released Shen Qiao.

He softly stroked Shen Qiao's hair and said, "Help me find a plastic bag, or cling wrap. I'll cover up my hand to not get water on it."

Taking a shower with just one hand wasn't all that difficult. Their team uniform pants had elastic waistbands, and their shirts were pretty loose—it would have been easy enough to get changed. The bathroom was also well-stocked with cleaning supplies, as well as clean towels that were changed every day. Lu Zhe might have been a little more clumsy in the shower with just one hand, but it was certainly doable.

Shen Qiao furrowed his brow. He was worried, but he also knew that the two of them had just gotten back together. At this point in their relationship, the slightest spark was enough to set ablaze a roaring wildfire.

He didn't dare offer his help again, because…

Well, Lu Zhe wasn't the only one with desires.

And it wasn't appropriate for Shen Qiao to take advantage of this situation.

He could only fulfill Lu Zhe's request. After stepping out to ask Manager Zhou, who asked the hotel's kitchen staff, he did manage to procure some cling wrap for Lu Zhe.

Shen Qiao didn't rush to leave after helping Lu Zhe wrap his wound. Instead, he watched Lu Zhe move towards the bathroom. When Lu Zhe was at the door, Shen Qiao spoke again—

"I… I'll help you pack?"

Lu Zhe nodded. "Sure."

……

The water in the bathroom continued running.

Shen Qiao gazed at the frosted glass of the shower door, through which only the faint shape of a person's figure could be seen. The glass did an excellent job of protecting the privacy of the person inside. Shen Qiao stared for a long while, feeling restless.

He was starting to understand why Lu Zhe had come to his room a while back, helping him clean up like he had nothing better to do.

Because if they didn't find something to keep themselves busy…

Their minds and their 'lower halves' wouldn't be able to settle down.

Shen Qiao wandered around the room, then finally found Lu Zhe's suitcase in the closet. After taking it out and opening it up, he stared into the empty case for a while.

Judging by the way Lu Zhe had thoroughly cleaned Shen Qiao's room last time, he… probably wouldn't be satisfied with Shen Qiao's usual packing method of just shoving everything in and calling it a day, right?

Shen Qiao furrowed his brow with deep concentration. He looked like he was in high school again, facing a complicated homework problem that he didn't know how to start to tackle.

He stooped down next to the suitcase and hesitated for another long while. In the end, he got up and simply grabbed all of Lu Zhe's clothes and basic possessions, piling them up on the bed and table. He would wait until Lu Zhe got out of the shower, then pack everything according to Lu Zhe's instructions. That way, Lu Zhe could have everything as neat as he liked, and Shen Qiao wouldn't just be working blindly without knowing what he was doing.

……

At some point, the water in the bathroom was shut off.

Lu Zhe pushed open the door and came out with a cloud of billowing steam around him. Right away, he saw that all the clothes he'd put in the closet were piled up on the bed, and the laptop, keyboard, and other stuff he'd put into his bag were sitting out on the table.

He blinked, baffled.

Shen Qiao, hearing his movements, turned and looked at him. He checked Lu Zhe's bandages first, noticing that Lu Zhe had already taken off the cling wrap. The bandages were still clean and dry. After confirming that, Shen Qiao did his best to don an unconcerned expression as he said, "I don't know how you want to put everything in your suitcase, so I took it all out. Let me know how you want everything packed, and I'll do the packing."

Lu Zhe could only stare for a while after hearing those words, before he burst out laughing. He still felt warm and flushed from the shower as he took a seat at the edge of the bed. "You can actually just pack however you want. I wouldn't have a problem with it."

Shen Qiao studied him for a moment to make sure he really meant that. Then he turned back to the suitcase and put in Lu Zhe's team uniform and casual summer clothes first, leaving the team jacket out for last.

Lu Zhe sat on the bed, watching Shen Qiao all the while. There was a gentle glow in his gaze, perhaps because of the soft overhead lights in the room, or perhaps because of the soft affection in his heart.

While folding Lu Zhe's jacket, Shen Qiao looked back over at him and asked, "Why are you looking at me like that?"

Silently, Lu Zhe thought—

Because I think you're cute.

But Lu Zhe knew Shen Qiao didn't enjoy being praised like that, so he simply extended a hand and offered, "Give me the jacket, I'll fold it."

Shen Qiao could tell right away that Lu Zhe had seen his embarrassing struggle with the jacket. "It's fine," he said. "Just sit there and tell me how to do it."

Lu Zhe shook his head. "I can't teach you that."

Shen Qiao was a little confused by that. "Why not?"

Lu Zhe answered with a cheeky grin. "If you learn how, doesn't that mean there'll be one less thing I can do for you in the future?"

There was no way Lu Zhe would teach him.

In Lu Zhe's perfect world, Shen Qiao wouldn't know how to do anything, and Lu Zhe would take care of everything for him when they lived together in the future.

Lu Zhe knew that nearly everyone had an innate sort of laziness, and that they would take it easy if they got the chance. That wasn't something that would change just because you were in love. In order to avoid both of them falling into a lazy slump in the future, Lu Zhe felt it would be better for him to learn how to do all these things, so that he could also take care of Shen Qiao and never let him tire himself out.

Shen Qiao didn't know why Lu Zhe was so proud of something as simple as being able to fold a jacket. He blankly handed the jacket over and watched as Lu Zhe folded it super neatly with just one hand. Shen Qiao watched on from the side, and just as he was about to say it didn't look too difficult, he heard Lu Zhe ask—

"Are you going to sleep here tonight?"

That really did the trick in distracting Shen Qiao. He instinctively averted his gaze, and after a long while, he finally managed to mumble, "Sure, I guess."

'Sure' meant 'sure'. Did he really need to tack on 'I guess'?

Lu Zhe moved over to the suitcase and placed the folded jacket on top of the other clothes that had already been placed inside. With a smile crinkling the corners of his eyes, he straightened up and looked at Shen Qiao, asking, "You're that put out about sleeping with me?"

Well…

Shen Qiao thought back to the events of the last time he shared a bed with Lu Zhe. When he glanced at Lu Zhe's expression, he was a bit afraid Lu Zhe would see the slight bit of reluctance in his own eyes. He deliberately looked away, acting like he was looking for something.

His gaze fell upon the gift box he'd brought in earlier.

"I'll open this for you to take a look."

He crossed the room in a few short steps, keeping his back to Lu Zhe. He lowered his head to get the box out of its packaging.

Naturally, Lu Zhe saw right through him. He knew exactly what Shen Qiao was thinking. As he fixed his gaze on Shen Qiao's back, he silently thought—

Worried about pitching a tent when we share a bed?

I'll remember that.

Next time, we'll take care of it together.

A moment later—

Shen Qiao opened the gift box for Lu Zhe and held it out at his side, letting Lu Zhe take a look at the watch inside.

Exquisite diamonds were inlaid around the watch face. The deep blue of the watch face itself was painted like a starry night sky. A delicate bridge was painted beneath that starry sky, and on the bridge, a small figure holding an umbrella slowly made its way across the watch, moving towards another figure holding a single rose.

Lu Zhe raised his eyebrows.

This was clearly a depiction of a lovers' bridge.

Although these watches were made in both men's styles and women's styles, it was typically women who liked the design.

Lu Zhe had never expected…

It seemed his Qiaoqiao had quite delicate tastes.

He couldn't suppress the smile that tugged at the corners of his lips. Lu Zhe moved over to Shen Qiao and picked up the watch, admiring the solid black strap. He handed the watch back to Shen Qiao and said, "I love it. Will you help me put it on tomorrow?"

Shen Qiao, hearing that, breathed a sigh of relief.

He had originally planned on buying a Rolex or Patek Philippe, but when he passed the VCA store, he had been drawn to that watch right away. Somehow, for some inexplicable reason, he just felt like that delicate, beautiful thing was a perfect fit for Lu Zhe.

Shen Qiao nodded, then took the watch back and placed it back inside its box. "I knew you'd like it."

Lu Zhe took in the sight of the satisfied smile on Shen Qiao's lips. He leaned closer and pressed a kiss to those lips, murmuring, "Of course."

It was a gift from the person he liked. How could he not like it?

 

Author's Notes:

Gift successfully given! Congratulations!

Translator's Notes:

This is the watch (men's style, $125,000 USD), though the version described (with diamonds) seems to be this version (women's style, $137,000 USD).

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