WITHDRAWAL

Chapter 21

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Speaking of that study guide…

Truth be told, Fu Shizhou had prepared several gifts for that occasion, but when a person had secrets and ghosts in their heart, they saw ghosts wherever they looked. He couldn't help but feel that every one of his gifts carried a subtle, hidden, and inappropriate meaning.

In the end, he'd gone with the perfectly safe and desire-free choice—an entrance exams study guide.

When this subject came up, Fu Shizhou's adoration gave way to rationality. He blurted out a question that absolutely crushed the atmosphere: "Did you do your homework today?"

Qiao Luo jolted with surprise. He looked up at Fu Shizhou with immense incredulity in his eyes. "You… you're holding your boyfriend, who you just confessed to, and you're thinking about whether or not he's done his homework?"

"I'm also thinking about the fact that he has to get up at six for school tomorrow," Fu Shizhou said.

Qiao Luo instantly remembered the horrors of having to wake up at six.

The atmosphere was thoroughly decimated now. Qiao Luo practically wanted to cry, but no tears would come. Sullenly, he mourned, "Why do I need that stupid study guide?"

Those words had no effect on a certain someone. Fu Shizhou sternly answered, "Because you'll be a third year next year. Be good, hurry up and sleep. Do you have any idea how late it is?"

Qiao Luo flipped over in Fu Shizhou's arms, putting his back to Fu Shizhou's chest. He huffed, as though thoroughly irked, and accused, "A certain someone says such nice things with his mouth, but in reality he only knows how to bully little boys."

Really, what was Fu Shizhou going to do with this brat? He smiled and wrapped his arms around Qiao Luo's waist, pulling him back into his embrace. He gently stroked Qiao Luo's hair and said, "Little boy, you're aware that you're still little? Sleep now. I'll take you to… no, your boyfriend will take you to school tomorrow. Okay?"

Qiao Luo curled his fingers around the arms Fu Shizhou had around his waist. He petulantly complained, "Not super okay. He has to at least show his affection a little. He has to give me a kiss or something."

He flipped around to face Fu Shizhou again, closing his eyes and tipping his little face up. His lashes were like fans, trembling faintly against his cheeks and betraying the fact their owner was actually quite nervous and expectant.

Fu Shizhou brushed Qiao Luo's nose. Smiling, he murmured, "Aren't you a little embarrassed? Asking for a kiss?"

Qiao Luo instantly opened his eyes and huffed. He was so irritated that he puffed out his little cheeks as he glared at Fu Shizhou. "You're so annoying! I should just dump you!"

He was way too cute.

Fu Shizhou felt like his heart was a piece of candy that had been placed on a heater. It had softened and melted, turning into something sticky and sweet.

Well, playing the part of a demanding tyrant was his boyfriend's right. Fu Shizhou indulged the little brat and let him throw his fit. He pinched Qiao Luo's puffed up cheeks, smiling softly as he curled a hand at the nape of the little brat's neck. He pressed their foreheads together and softly echoed Qiao Luo's earlier words.

"I confessed, you accepted. It's too late to start regretting it now. If you do, I'll die of loss and grief."

Qiao Luo had been so vexed that he wanted to thump his fist against Fu Shizhou's chest. But then he remembered that Fu Shizhou was hurt, and he couldn't bring himself to land the blow. His fist changed its trajectory halfway, and he ultimately only laid a hand against Fu Shizhou's wounds, gently rubbing over a hidden bruise.

He was so cute that it made Fu Shizhou's chest ache. It was enough to make Fu Shizhou think that fate was fair after all. Fate had taken his family, but it had given him this love of his.

The biggest and brightest treasure in the world… was now his.

From that day on, Fu Shizhou could boldly and righteously hug that treasure, and kiss him, and protect him. At every important turning point in their lives, they would have a partner walking at their side.

Fu Shizhou took Qiao Luo's hand in his own. He lowered his head towards Qiao Luo's face and lightly, ever-so-lightly, brushed his lips over Qiao Luo's eyes. His lips grazed those soft and long lashes. Then, to fulfill Qiao Luo's wish, he touched his lips to Qiao Luo's.

It was the chastest kiss imaginable, like a soothing rush of pure, distilled water.

It conveyed love and adoration, and it conveyed exactly how much Fu Shizhou wanted to treasure Qiao Luo. But that kiss didn't contain even the slightest shred of lust.

Fu Shizhou lightly patted the back of Qiao Luo's head and whispered, "Sleep now. Good night."

Qiao Luo was happy now. He hummed his acknowledgement and brushed his hair over Fu Shizhou's chin a few times before settling in Fu Shizhou's arms, like it was his natural right, and falling asleep.

Fu Shizhou kept an arm wrapped around Qiao Luo as he gazed into the pitch black night and though, Fuck. The little brat started dating early after all.

 

The two of them had endured a tumultuous night, and they'd even confessed their innermost feelings to each other. All that activity kept them up until two in the morning. The next day, something unprecedented happened—

Qiao Luo woke naturally, on his own.

Love had struck him like a charged shot of adrenaline to the heart, filling him to the brim with energy and vigor.

In the past, even with Fu Shizhou's long-distance service of calling to wake him, Qiao Luo would laze in bed until the last ten minutes before he had to leave for school became a chaotic battlefield. The family's housekeeper couldn't come so early in the morning, so Qiao Luo's parents had to take turns getting up early to prepare breakfast for him to take to school. They had to keep an eye on him at the same time, to make sure he didn't conk out on the couch.

But since they were worried about Fu Shizhou that morning, both Papa Qiao and Mama Qiao got up early. They were surprised to discover, at the same time, that the Fu Shizhou who'd retired to the guest room last night was emerging from Qiao Luo's room in the morning.

Fu Shizhou had just stolen their son. He actually felt pretty guilty, but he kept a completely calm and unperturbed expression as he said, "Just went up to wake Luoluo. I'll take him to school later."

Papa Qiao protested, "Let him take the subway. You're still hurt. You should make a trip to the hospital."

Once again, something unprecedented happened. Qiao Luo sided with his dad: "Yeah, you should go to the hospital."

Fu Shizhou picked up Qiao Luo's boxed-up breakfast and said, "No one's on staff at the hospital right now. I'll take Luoluo to school, then get myself checked out at the hospital back at my university."

Qiao Luo was a complete opportunist. After hearing that, he amended, "I guess that works too."

Mama Qiao came over with a pouch stuffed full of all sorts of medicinal patches and ointments. She sternly instructed, "Shizhou, don't treat this lightly. If you feel uncomfortable anywhere, anywhere at all, you give me and Luoluo's papa a call. Uncle Fu is already getting on in years, so let's not worry him, but don't try to bear this all by yourself."

Fu Shizhou was a little embarrassed to accept all this concern from his future mother-in-law and father-in-law. He took the medicine pouch and started leading Qiao Luo to the door. "I'm really okay, Uncle Qiao, Auntie Qiao. You guys relax."

Qiao Luo spiritedly followed Fu Shizhou, and he shoved his head towards Fu Shizhou's shoulder as they walked. "Are you really okay?" he mumbled. "Does anything hurt? How about I take the subway after all…"

Mama Qiao watched their retreating backs, looking like she wanted to say something but couldn't quite find the words. After a long moment of hesitation, she did still ask Qiao Luo's father, "Do you ever feel like… these two kids are too close?"

Papa Qiao hadn't slept well either. He yawned loud enough to reach the sky and didn't really get her meaning right away. "Huh? Isn't it good to be close?"

Mama Qiao furrowed her brow. There was a feeling in her heart that she didn't know how to describe. After another long pause, she sighed and said, "Maybe I just didn't sleep well. I'm overthinking it."

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Chapter 21

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