WITHDRAWAL

Chapter 23

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Fu Shizhou had told Qiao Luo about the days he would be gone in a very clever way. Qiao Luo had been dizzy with elation over the news that Fu Shizhou would be spending most of his winter break with him. It wasn't until New Year's Day approached that Qiao Luo realized… Fu Shizhou wouldn't be able to ring in the new year with him.

They'd only been dating for less than two months, and Qiao Luo was at the age where he simply loved love. He wanted to spend every single holiday with his lover.

Qiao Luo had always clung to Fu Shizhou. He'd never been ashamed of whining to Fu Shizhou in front of Papa Qiao and Mama Qiao, saying things like, "Zhouzhou-gege, spoil me~"

But now things were different. Now, Qiao Luo felt a little guilty about acting all clingy with Fu Shizhou in front of his parents. Now, he wouldn't call Fu Shizhou in front of them.

Everyone got three days off for New Year's. High school teachers knew this would be the last New Year's break during which their students could truly relax, so they all assigned less New Year's homework. A day ago, Qiao Luo had already finished those assignments while Fu Shizhou supervised over a video call. Afterwards, Qiao Luo's parents gave him permission to watch TV and play video games, but Qiao Luo's heart wasn't in it.

Missing Fu Shizhou was normal for him. But this time, he missed Fu Shizhou to a tortuous degree.

In the past, when Qiao Luo missed Fu Shizhou, he just missed Fu Shizhou. But now, when he missed Fu Shizhou, he missed the way Fu Shizhou held him. He missed the warmth of Fu Shizhou's chest against his back. He missed the way Fu Shizhou's arms felt around his waist.

And he wanted Fu Shizhou to kiss him. He could sense, from the warmth that Fu Shizhou gifted him with his lips, that Fu Shizhou really, really, really liked him. And he wanted, more than anything, to wake up early in the morning on New Year's Day and hear Fu Shizhou personally tell him, 'Happy New Year, Luoluo.'

Qiao Luo's mother, upon receiving her surprise New Year's gift from Qiao Luo's father, let out a delighted gasp of surprise that traveled out of the master bedroom and reached Qiao Luo's ears. That made Qiao Luo miss Fu Shizhou all the more.

He sneakily sent Fu Shizhou a text on WeChat: The romantic Mr. Qiao prepared a gift for Mrs. Qiao. Hateful Fu Shizhou didn't even say Happy New Year to Luoluo.

Fu Shizhou must have been with his other grandpa at the time. He didn't answer.

Qiao Luo huffily sat in front of the TV for a while, until Papa Qiao washed a box of strawberries and brought them over to them.

"What are you spacing out for?" Papa Qiao asked.

Qiao Luo stuffed two strawberries into his mouth at once. His little mouth was stuffed so full that he could barely move his jaw to chew. It was only then that he remembered, during their video call yesterday, Fu Shizhou had said he might not have a lot of time to chat that day.

And so, Qiao Luo asked his father, "What should I do? This time next year, I'll have my professional dance exams."

Papa Qiao was deeply moved when he heard that question. "You've finally learned to worry about your future."

In truth, Qiao Luo wasn't actually worried about his future. He was just changing the subject. He stuffed two more strawberries into his mouth. Then, after he finished eating, he said, "I'm gonna go to the dance room. I'll come out for dinner."

The third floor of the Qiao family's home had been remodeled into a dance room. It saw a lot of use; when Qiao Luo was little, it was common for all three members of his family to practice in there at the same time. Qiao Luo would practice his dance number for Children's Day, and his parents would practice a duet for their upcoming tours.

Qiao Luo tossed his cell phone onto the floorboards by the door after checking one last time to make sure Fu Shizhou hadn't texted him back. Then he threw himself into the music and practiced rigorously for several hours on end, until he was exhausted and his stomach was rumbling with hunger.

Their New Year's Eve dinner had been ordered from and delivered by a restaurant, and they'd invited Old Man Fu over to celebrate the new year.

Qiao Luo was almost dizzyingly hungry, and he didn't have Fu Shizhou to stick to that year. So he concentrated fully on eating. He didn't talk much, and his chopsticks never stopped moving. He ate until his stomach was practically bulging.

Old Man Fu was already too old to stay up into the wee hours of morning. For him, celebrating New Year's was just a matter of chatting for a while. At around ten, he started to feel drowsy and excused himself to go home to sleep.

Qiao Luo played along and echoed the sentiment, almost belligerently insisting that he was also dead tired. After seeing Old Man Fu off, he slipped upstairs and into his own bedroom.

Fu Shizhou had texted him back.

In his last message, Qiao Luo had called Fu Shizhou 'hateful'. And so, Fu Shizhou's response contained a little mini program titled 'Hateful Fu Shizhou's New Year's Gift to Baobei Luoluo'.

As soon as Qiao Luo saw that name, he was thrilled to the point of rolling around on his bed. Then he initiated a video call.

Fu Shizhou picked up very quickly, but he didn't look very good. He had a towel wrapped around his head, which made him look pretty funny. He must have just stepped out of the shower.

Qiao Luo didn't really care about that. He instantly whined, "What are you supposed to call me?"

Fu Shizhou played dumb. "Luoluo? Qiao Luo?"

Qiao Luo rolled over on his bed again and persistently asked, "What about the modifier?"

Fu Shizhou ignored that and changed the subject. "Did Gramps have dinner with you guys? I called him, but his cell phone is off, and the auntie and little ge who attend to him have both gone home for the holidays. Gramps probably forgot to charge his phone. Was he pretty happy?"

Qiao Luo was still hoping to hear 'Baobei Luoluo' from Fu Shizhou's lips. With a little bit of moodiness in his tone, he answered, "Grandpa Fu was super happy, but Luoluo isn't happy."

To Fu Shizhou, that was almost too funny. He grinned as he continued drying his hair. After scrubbing it with the towel a few more times, he tossed the towel aside and took a seat in a chair. He settled his gaze on Luoluo through the cell phone screen and asked, "My unhappy friend, have you said Happy New Year to your mom and dad yet?"

Uh-oh. Qiao Luo actually had forgotten all about that.

The Qiao family had many romantic traditions. During times like New Year's, everyone in the family had to get together and wish each other well.

Qiao Luo had only been thinking of Fu Shizhou. He'd completely forgotten.

He climbed out of bed and said to Fu Shizhou, "Wait for me. I'm going downstairs real quick!"

"Mm," Fu Shizhou acknowledged. "Hurry."

Qiao Luo's slippers slapped the stairs noisily as he made his way down. He put on a sleepy act, rubbing his eyes and even yawning as he entered the living room.

"Papa, Mama, I forgot something."

Then he wrapped his own father up in a huge hug and said, "Papa, Happy New Year!"

He hugged his mother next and continued, "Mama, Happy New Year! Mama, you'll always be young and beautiful!"

As the only woman in the family, Mama Qiao would always be pampered and spoiled on any holiday. Old Mr. Qiao and Young Mr. Qiao would both flatter her endlessly.

The always young and beautiful Mama Qiao tapped Qiao Luo on the nose and said, "Hurry up and go to sleep."

Qiao Luo zoomed back into his bedroom. He still had a little something on his mind. Once he picked up his phone and pointed the camera at his own face again, he deliberately put on a displeased expression and said, "Your unhappy friend is back."

Fu Shizhou really wanted to stroke Qiao Luo's hair, but that was impossible. He could only stroke his own fingers as he said, "Luoluo, go look at that mini program."

The mini program was one Fu Shizhou had coded himself. Upon launch, the interface displayed the words 'New Year's Checkpoint No. 1'. Qiao Luo tapped in and found that it was a little game where he could move his character around to light fireworks. It wasn't very difficult; he tried three times and managed to clear the task, receiving the game's reward.

It was an audio clip. Qiao Luo brought his cell phone to his ear and hit play. Instantly, Fu Shizhou's warm and soft voice drifted out: "Baobei, Happy New Year."

Qiao Luo nearly shrieked in glee. He clutched his cell phone to his chest and started rolling around in bed again. The thumpthumpthump of his heart went wild.

Baobei. Baobei. Baobei.

He repeated that affectionate nickname in his heart over and over and over again. Every single time, it was just as sweet.

Uh-oh, he thought. Now I miss him even more.

 

Author's Notes:

Programmers are so impressive. They'll even write programs to show PDA. ╭(╯^╰)╮

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Chapter 23

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