After dinner, Fu Shizhou drove everyone home with Qiao Luo sitting in the back seat with his parents. Behind Fu Shizhou, two skinny little arms were wrapped around the headrest of the driver's seat. Qiao Luo pointedly asked, "Zhouzhou-gege, a real man is a man of his word, right?"
Fu Shizhou glanced at him through the rearview mirror and admonished, "Sit down. You'll complain if you hit your head when we brake."
Mama Qiao also said, "Luoluo, settle down. It's dangerous to sit like that, you know?"
Old Man Fu was always the one who spoiled Qiao Luo the most. He said, "It's because someone never comes home that Little Luoluo always wants to stick to him."
Qiao Luo was a little embarrassed. He settled back in his seat and said, "Grandpa Fu, I'm already sixteen. How could I still be Little Luoluo?"
"Oh, sixteen?" Old Man Fu echoed. "Your grandpa here is already seventy-six! Now, you tell me. Are you still little or not?"
Qiao Luo suddenly had a very good idea of the matter at hand. Seizing upon a bolt of inspiration, he said: "Little Zhouzhou…"
The driver's face instantly darkened.
This little brat was about to get out of hand again.
…and that foreboding premonition quickly came true.
Qiao 'Out of Control' 'Little Brat' Luo giggled to himself and squeaked out a deliberate mispronunciation, willfully changing the way he said 'Zhou' to call out: "Little Jiujiu."
He was so amused that he repeated, "Jiujiu~"
Fu Shizhou was so pissed that he grabbed the bag of dried plums from the box of junk he'd prepared. Tossing the plums into the backseat, he snapped, "Eat your food!"
Grandpa Fu was thoroughly entertained. "Our Luoluo is the only one who can get away with this. Tsk, tsk. Shizhou, don't pull that sort of face. Our little friend is just having a little fun. You're too serious!"
After saying that, Old Man Fu sighed to himself and muttered under his breath, "I suppose it makes sense. That old thing's grandson… how could he not be serious?"
The family in the back seat didn't catch what the grandpa and grandson in the front were saying. Fu Shizhou reached over and squeezed his grandfather's hand. "Grandpa, you're thinking about pointless things again."
Old Man Fu was, after all, over seventy. After an eventful night, he went home first to get some rest.
Fu Shizhou helped Qiao Luo's parents take their luggage back into the Qiao family's house. Then his shirt sleeve was caught by Qiao Luo.
"You promised," Qiao Luo said. "You said we could play after I got back."
Although Fu Shizhou had a bit of a bad temper, he'd never once broken a promise he made to Qiao Luo.
This time was no different. Even though his expression remained cold and indifferent, he said, "Mm. I'll come back over the weekend."
Excitement and a bit of deviousness flashed through Qiao Luo's glittering eyes. He moved his hand from Fu Shizhou's sleeve to Fu Shizhou's arm, shaking him a little as he whined, "But I wanna go to your school."
Fu Shizhou tried to yank his arm back, but couldn't pull it free. After remaining in a stalemate for a moment, he questioned, "Where are you going to stay, if you go to my school?"
Qiao Luo didn't even need to think about it. "Your dorm! We sleep together when I stay over at your house anyway, don't we?"
Fu Shizhou had to pardon this little idiot who'd never stayed in a dorm before. He patiently explained, "My bed at home is two meters. The one in my dorm is just one meter. Are you sure you won't fall off?"
Qiao Luo didn't really have a sense of how wide or narrow a meter was, and he didn't really care. "I'll sleep by the wall. That way I won't fall off!"
Fu Shizhou twitched.
Do you think you're funny?!
Through gritted teeth, Fu Shizhou said, "And then you'll kick me off the bed, is that right?"
Qiao Luo giggled and blinked innocently at Fu Shizhou. "I only kicked you once when I was little. How come you're still holding a grudge?"
There was an ache building behind Fu Shizhou's temples and in his chest.
Years ago, this little brat had somehow managed to do a 180-degree turn in his sleep and forcefully boot Fu Shizhou out of a two-meter bed. When he woke, he had blinked blearily and innocently and asked, "Were you hot? Is it cooler sleeping on the ground?"
As if anyone could forgive and forget something like that!
However, this little brat was looking at him with those innocent eyes again. And he looked even more innocent and more naive and more cute and more moe than he did all those years ago. Fu Shizhou took two deep breaths and failed to resist. Ultimately, he offered a compromise:
"Forget it. It's summer break, anyway. I'll ask my roommate if you can use his bed."
Qiao Luo jumped for joy. He leapt straight into Fu Shizhou's arms, wrapping his own arms and legs around him as he shouted, "Mom! Dad! I'm going with Zhouzhou-gege!"
Ever since he was little, ever since he was little, ever since he was little! This little thing would leap onto Fu Shizhou whenever he was happy. What was wrong with him?!
This little brat was pissing him off so much tonight that Fu Shizhou could practically feel his blood pressure rising. He deeply, vehemently hated his past self, who'd agreed to hang out with Qiao Luo just because the kid had sounded so weak and sickly.
Through gritted teeth, Fu Shizhou warned, "Qiao Luo, if you fall, don't come whining to me. Get down."
Qiao Luo's arms around Fu Shizhou's neck were like a vise. "Don't wanna."
When they were little, Fu Shizhou had grown quickly. Qiao Luo had always been a tiny little thing compared to him, and he could climb Fu Shizhou however he wanted. But now, Qiao Luo was already 1.7 meters tall. He was skinny, but he still weighed something.
Fu Shizhou was worried about him falling. He tensed, about to explode.
"I can just take my suitcase with me," Qiao Luo said, urging Fu Shizhou to head to the door. "Hurry, hurry. Carry me out."
Fu Shizhou finally couldn't withstand any more. He grabbed Qiao Luo by his slender waist and hauled him off his shoulder. Darkly, he snarled, "I'll carry your head off!"
Qiao Luo instantly stuck his shaggy little head out. "Go ahead."
He was just tall enough that his head came up to Fu Shizhou's chin. When he lifted himself up on his toes, he could rub his hair against Fu Shizhou's throat. "Carry me, carry me."
His hair was soft and silken, tinged with the faint scent of shampoo. The way each strand rubbed against Fu Shizhou's throat made his skin itch. His expression darkened even further. Deep creases appeared between his brows. He let Qiao Luo rub against him for a long while, as though he were frozen in place.
Finally, he lifted one single finger and pushed Qiao Luo back by the forehead. He was exhausted beyond repair.
"I'll pick you up tomorrow. I'm spending the night with my grandfather. You be good and stay home."