WITHDRAWAL

Chapter 9

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Qiao Luo liked to sleep in. When he woke and found that Zhouzhou-gege had all but curled into a V-shape to wrap Qiao Luo up in his arms in the middle of the night, Qiao Luo wanted to laze around in bed even more.

He reached out and brushed his hands over Fu Shizhou's face, running his fingers over Fu Shizhou's unshaven stubble. He proudly murmured, "See? We can sleep together."

Fu Shizhou was afraid of crowding Qiao Luo. He'd stuck to the edge of the bed all night. He had been afraid of falling off in the middle of the night, too. He'd slept like a steel wire pulled taut, and he woke feeling exhausted and completely unrefreshed.

He pushed Qiao Luo back and abruptly sat up. He muttered darkly, "Can we? You really wanna call this a success? My waist is about to snap in half."

Qiao Luo dragged himself up into a sitting position as well. He rubbed his sleepy eyes with one hand and reached out to touch Fu Shizhou's waist with his other hand. "I'll massage it for you."

It was bright and early in the morning. What kind of massage did Qiao Luo think he could get away with?

Fu Shizhou threw off Qiao Luo's hand and got to his feet. He warned, "If you whine about sleeping together again tonight, I'll send you home."

Qiao Luo gave Fu Shizhou a pitiful look and complained, "Why are you being so mean again? When I woke up scared last night, you comforted me, didn't you?!"

Fu Shizhou froze for a second, then hurriedly dragged a dark expression back onto his face. "You're dreaming!"

The room was air conditioned; it wasn't anywhere near as dry or hot as the summer air outside. But after spending the whole night curled up in Fu Shizhou's arms, Qiao Luo's little face had turned red and ruddy. He gazed up at Fu Shizhou with his eyes still a little hazy and dewy from sleep.

It really hadn't been a dream, though. His Zhouzhou-gege had been super warm and super gentle last night. His Zhouzhou-gege had comforted him when he felt worse than ever.

Just as he wanted to say all that, he was interrupted by Fu Shizhou.

"Don't even think about throwing a tantrum," Fu Shizhou said as he picked up a change of clothes and headed into the bathroom that Qiao Luo had mocked for being so small. Before closing the door, he warned, "It won't do any good."

"Oh," Qiao Luo huffed. He cocooned himself in the covers again and flopped back down in bed. He grabbed his cell phone and started kicking his little legs as he resumed his game from last night.

He played until the bathroom door opened again. Until Fu Shizhou came out, holding in his hand…

Qiao Luo nearly leapt straight off the bed.

Fu Shizhou was holding a grayish, cotton ball of something… some fabric…

It was Qiao Luo's underwear!

Qiao Luo couldn't even speak fluently anymore. He stammered, "Zhouzhou-gege, y-y-you… I-I-I… you… mine… what are you doing with my underwear?"

Fu Shizhou shot him a dark look. "You didn't wash it after taking a shower. You just left it there. Weren't you waiting for me to wash it for you?"

Qiao Luo was silent.

Letting Fu Shizhou personally wash his sensitive garments was just t-t-t-too embarrassing!

Qiao Luo's face was flamingly red with shame. He buried his head under his pillow, frantically kicked his little legs, and shrieked, "Ah, ah, ah, ahhhhhh! Why didn't you call me in to wash it myself?!"

Fu Shizhou dried his hands and uprooted Qiao Luo from under the pillow. "Stop screaming. Let's go eat."

Qiao Luo's face was still bright red. That fierce blush didn't recede even after they finished breakfast. Whenever he saw his underwear fluttering on the balcony where it was hanging up to dry, his face heated up again. He would take a look, and his cheeks would flame. He would take another look, and his cheeks would flame again.

As a result, when Qiao Luo slipped into the bathroom that night, he washed his underwear before he even washed himself.

Qiao Luo stayed with Fu Shizhou for over ten days. He didn't ever, ever forget about that little chore again.

For three whole years before then, Mama Qiao had constantly badgered Qiao Luo about washing his underclothes right after showering. But those words had always been like a soft breeze to Qiao Luo, going in one ear and out the other. He'd never gotten into that habit, until now.

It was all thanks to Fu Shizhou.

 

Qiao Luo had spent over twenty days in Europe, and then he'd gotten to spend nearly two weeks with Fu Shizhou. His summer break left him feeling both happy and fulfilled.

But his happiness was short-lived.

On Qiao Luo's first day of high school, a teacher expressionlessly recited their schedule—

Morning self-study started at 6:45 AM and ran until 7:30 AM. At that point, they would eat breakfast at school, and their first class of the day would start precisely at 8:00 AM.

As soon as Qiao Luo got home, he flung himself onto his bed and wailed, "Six! I have to get up at six! I can't, I can't, it's impossible!"

Papa Qiao and Mama Qiao ignored him. Once he was done wailing, he gloomily slunk downstairs to have some fruit. It was only then that his mother asked, "Will you set an alarm, or would you like us to wake you up?"

After asking that, Mama Qiao immediately ruled out one of the options she'd proposed. "Never mind. I'll wake you up every morning from now on. If you set your own alarm, you'll definitely be late every day."

Qiao Luo dejectedly mumbled, "I don't want to go to school anymore. School is a demon. It's sucked out all my strength and joy."

He continued muttering to himself—

"Ah! Doom! And gloom! Getting up! At six o'clock! Woe is meeeeeeeee!"

Mama Qiao was in stitches. She passed over a small box of strawberries. "That's enough, darling. Finish your fruit and go to sleep. Tomorrow is your first full day of school. Don't be late."

The next morning, chaos descended upon the Qiao family's house.

Mama Qiao got up early and knocked on Qiao Luo's bedroom door. The person inside was sleeping like the dead; he didn't stir at all.

Papa Qiao had to use the spare key to get in. He yanked Qiao Luo out of bed, but the second he turned his back, Qiao Luo melted into a puddle on the rug and nearly fell asleep again.

In the end, Papa Qiao and Mama Qiao had had no choice but to drench a towel in ice cold water. They wound up having to freeze Qiao Luo awake.

Waking Qiao Luo up had been an endeavor in and of itself. Getting him dressed and equipped with his backpack was another life-or-death struggle entirely.

Once they got Qiao Luo out the door, Papa Qiao and Mama Qiao exchanged a look and finally, mutually came to understand an old saying:

A child's high school career is also a test to their parents.

However, Papa Qiao and Mama Qiao only had to weather that challenge for one day.

 

To Qiao Luo, having to get up so early was nothing short of a heinous crime against him. He had to complain to his Zhouzhou-gege to make his early start worthwhile. Without any regard for the fact that it was only 6:30 AM, he got on the subway and called Fu Shizhou right away.

"Zhouzhou-gege…"

Fu Shizhou had answered the call very quickly, but his tone was fierce when he spoke: "What are you fussing about now?"

Qiao Luo was so sleepy that his eyelids kept drooping. His voice was still hazy with lethargy as he mumbled, "I have to get up so early for school."

Fu Shizhou was unmoved. "Each and every one of your classmates has to get up early, and I spent three years in high school too. You think you're the only one who gets to complain?"

Qiao Luo had already felt aggrieved over having to get up early. After being scolded by Fu Shizhou, he felt even worse. Qiao Luo cradled his phone to his face and tugged on the strap of his backpack with his other hand.

He muttered blearily, "I just can't get up, y'know… but it's not like I didn't get up."

Fu Shizhou leaned against the wall outside his own dorm building and asked, "Why are you calling me just because you can't get up?"

Since his brain was still mushy from sleep, Qiao Luo couldn't think of a good excuse for calling Fu Shizhou. All he'd thought before calling was that he felt aggrieved, and when he felt aggrieved, he absolutely had to complain to Fu Shizhou.

After thinking for a while, he said, "Then I'll hang up now."

Fu Shizhou was silent.

The little brat was really starting to grow up. He thought he could hang up on Fu Shizhou?

Fu Shizhou glowered for a moment, then resigned himself to his fate and said, "Then if I tell you to get out of bed, will you be able to get up?"

Qiao Luo was too sleepy to react quickly. He took a moment to process the question before he asked, "How would you do that? You're not home."

Fu Shizhou was about to boil over. Qiao Luo sounded so dazed and confused, and his problematic IQ…

After taking a deep breath, Fu Shizhou said of his own volition:

"I'll call you."

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Chapter 9

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